Another year, another pace job. I was a little less nervous coming into this race being my second pacing experience, but still nervous enough :) I was under the impression I was going to be pacing 4 hours this time around and Pacer Jim gave me the go ahead to "race myself into the ground" at Buckeye 50k. Thankfully I did not race myself into the ground because Tampa had a few tricks up it's sleeve to make today a bit tough, in addition to the fact that I got moved up to 3:50.
We woke up around 4:30 to leave the hotel by 5:20. Race start was at 6AM. It was cool out but I was nervous it would get brutally (to me) hot and humid before long. I had a decent sized group at the start. Three girls aiming for Boston, a few going for PRs, a few just looking to run a good race. I also had 3 or 4 half marathoners. I got a few jitters and was nervous about making sure we were all ready to go at the start. But after a country style star spangled banner and about a 5 minute wait we were off. It was completely dark out and there were lots of turns in the first few miles. A bit treacherous (especially when trying to maneuver around those tuned into i-pods so loud they couldn't here you).
I was a little nervous about talking this race as I have been a bit quiet on my runs lately, but it was apparent when I got to the expo this weekend that talking would be no issue :) I was right and was gabbing away and before we knew it the sun was up and it was almost time for our half marathoners to pull away from us. The half marathoners split from us around mile 7. We were back into downtown here and then we headed out for another small loop until about mile 10.
The first 10 miles went well. Pace was good and I was feeling good about the race. Then all of a sudden the next two miles were fast, really fast (relative to what we want which is to be within 30 seconds of total time every mile). All of a sudden I hit the half and was almost 60 seconds ahead of pace. I did my best to ease pace and asked if there was anyone with a Garmin on to try and see if the markers were accurate. (Post race I think they may have been a bit short, and it turns out there was a strong tailwind which you didn't really notice until you were heading back into it)
We got back within our 30 seconds range of overall as we headed out along the harbor. The sun was out but thankfully it wasn't as hot as I feared it would be. After mile 14 or so we headed back into this beautiful park like neighborhood with these "100 year old"trees with these fuzzy hangings on them. Very neat. I forget how fascinating tropical plants are! There was plenty of shade in this section and I still had a fairly strong group with me. Around 18, just like in San Fran, I started losing a few and gaining a few people. I lost one to cramps, and most others just quietly fell off the pace. It's hard to realize when they fall back unless you were specifically talking to them, and I am not confident any amount of encouragement from me could pull someone through from 18 or 20 if they are already feeling a bit bad or cramping.
W picked up some more people as we came around a little pond and park that was lined with pirate flags. As we rounded the pond the wind kicked up. It was pretty apprent the last 4 miles of the race were going to be tough. The wind was supposed to get up to 14 mph, direct headwind. We were a bit ahead of pace as we ran back through the fuzzy tree park and I wasn't worried about it as a 30 second cushion sounded really nice heading into that wind.
About mile 22 is where things got tricky, we had one slow mile into the wind and all of a sudden we were right on target pace, and I was extremely nervous about holding perfect pace for the last 4 miles into this wind. It was ridiculous, I couldn't imagine how hard it had to be for my group. At this point I was down to two women and one younger guy as well as a Boston bound gal just ahead of us who had been with the group the whole way. I kept encouraging them, letting them know at this point it was painful but it was all in your head now. The body would respond if you willed it forward. The next mile I pushed a bit as it was hard to tell if I was keeping pace. I lost one female and the young guy this mile and ended up being a tad quick, but was happy to have a few seconds to work with the next 3 miles. Thankfully at this point a young man who had run the 15k the day before decided to tag along with us for a way and started chatting us up. This saved me from talking and let me focus on the pace this mile. It was a great distraction from carrying my sign in this crazy wind.
Around 24 the wind dies down for about a mile. After that it came back with about a mile to go. At this point we had ushered our Boston bound gal ahead and our new friend ran ahead to pace her in cheering loudly and telling the crowd that she was headed to Boston. What an awesome guy!
I had one female runner left with me from Minnesota. Let me tell you they grow them tough in Minnesota, because she did such a great job the whole day, especially in that wind! About a half mile from the finish we picked up a TNT guy who had been with the group at the start. He was cramping, but with some water from my handheld and a little "tough love" I got him and my Minnesota gal in under 3:50.
Again no 26 mile sign (whats up with that?) and I was dissapointed to see that I would be coming in a little faster than San Fran. 3:49:44 was the official chip time. I hung out after the finish to chat a bit. My boston bound gal was quite a hoot. Her first marathon and still tons of energy left, very happy and bouncing around, she was ready to go out dancing! Hopefully I'll catch up with her in the future, we may have a pacer in the making! My Minnesota gal did great and we took a photo, not sure I hope to get that or not, my face and hair were covered in salt by the end of the race. I did a good job of making sure my runners got their nutrition in but I definitely should have found a way to get a bit more salt in myself. A few other runners who were with us for the first 10 miles came up to tell me how they did and it was nice to see they went on to have great finishes! Again it was sad that I couldn't get everyone in at their goal but it is such a great feeling when you help the ones that do get in.
The race was very nice. Other than the wind the weather was perfect. Never hot enough that I had to go with the sports bra, so that was good! The Gasparilla Pirate theme was very cool. Cute hats that said "Will Run for Booty," shirts that said "hooked on running," and since the race had decided to go green recycle bins at the finish that said "hooked on recycling." Publix sponsored the race and we got reusable grocery bags instead of the regular plastic goody bag. And at the expo for the low low price of $99 you could get your teeth profesionally whitened. (Am I the only one that finds this bizarre?)
All in all a very nice weekend and another great pacing experience. Met some very fun pacers and runners, and managed to snag closest to the pin despite not being as close as in San Fran!
The legs feel pretty good. Got a few nice blisters and my lower back and quads are a bit stiff, but not too bad. Looking forward to a few easy weeks as I ease into Boston training, but I am not looking forward to the 9 degree weather I am going home to tonight. On that note I think one more swim in the pool is in order before I head to the airport!