Monday, March 5, 2012

Gasparilla Recap: Part 1 The Race

I left you hanging for what must have seemed like an eternity, right?  (Just kidding, Mom I already told you I survived it).  

Well, I did it!  I ran my first race!

I want to recount my experience in a multi-part series to share all the details.  If you have no interest in reading about it, that's totally cool, I'll get back to posting amazing clean and healthy foods very soon, I just want to revel in my runner's high for a little longer so bear with me!

For the first part in this series I'd like to talk about the race itself:  how it went, the Expo, and what I experienced on race day.  Then, I'll take a step back and talk about how I prepared for the race:  what I ate, drank and what my training looked like (Part 2).  After that, I'll devote a post to my gear and what I wore on race day (Part 3).  And last, I'll discuss my recovery and share some of my reflections on the race (Part 4).

The Expo

The Gasparilla Distance Classic was a full weekend-long event starting with the Fitness Expo on Friday and Saturday, a 5K and a 15K which were run on Saturday morning and then concluding with the Half Marathon and the 8K on Sunday morning.  There was a distance for everybody, and some (amazing) people even did 2, 3 or all 4 of the races.  

The Expo itself was a mixed experience.  I had read the experiences of some local running bloggers who attended the Expo on Friday and they walked away with all kinds of freebies and cool swag so I was really expecting it to be awesome but unfortunately when Brian and I went on Saturday morning, there were barely any samples left!  That seemed like a pretty big oversight on the part of the vendors since the Expo was supposed to go all the way until Saturday evening at 6 pm and we were there at least 8 hours before the end.  I guess I'm just peeved because I had heard there were gelato samples from Talenti but when we came to their booth, the girl (smugly) informed us that they were out of samples.  Harumph.  I still took a coupon for $1 off though.  

At the Expo.  Didn't notice this til now but I think I'm doing the "Angelina Jolie Leg".

I had also read that Nike+ was going to be there doing gait/stride analysis which I thought would be really cool to hear their opinion since I've had so many lower extremity biomechanical issues lately, but we walked all around and couldn't find it anywhere :-/

Some cool things at the Expo:  I got to try on some Newton running shoes, which I really liked.  I tried the Lady Isaac"S" (stability shoe, because I pronate) and felt so springy and like such an efficient runner.  I could tell I was running with a forefoot strike.  I guess the Lady Isaac's are the "beginner" Newtons, they have beveled lugs under the metatarsals to help gently encourage pose running without being as drastic as some of the other Newton shoes.  I really liked them but I would still like to try out some other shoes before committing to something so different.

True story.

We also picked up our race bibs, race t-shirts, reusable tote bags and snagged a few freebies: a couple of Detour bars - lower sugar protein bars, kind of like ThinkThin, a cool fridge magnet and some low-calorie sports-drink mixes.  I also purchased an iFitness belt (I'll talk about this a little more on my post about Gear and What I Wore) and a headband to wear for the race:  it had skulls on it which went with the whole Gasparilla/Pirates theme :-)

     

Even though the vendors were out of most of the samples, I still had a good time at the Expo.  The mood was one of excitement and it helped me get amped up for the race to come.

Outside the Tampa Convention Center, psyched for the run tomorrow!

The Race

I have heard from locals that Gasparilla is always a really well-organized race and that they do such a great job with everything from the Expo to all of the races.  That being said, it's still a "local" race so you just have such a great crowd, Tampa has a very active community which is really cool and one of the things I love about it here.  

The Gasparilla 5+3K started at 9 am yesterday morning and exactly 44 minutes and 13 seconds later it was over, for me at least.  I was able to run the whole race, all 4.9 miles without stopping which is the farthest I have ever run without stopping to walk.  And I was able to maintain a sub-9 minute pace for the entire run which was my goal when I started training back in January.  

At the starting line!

As of Friday and Saturday when I checked accuweather.com, the forecast for Sunday morning was iffy with a cold front coming in overnight and bringing thunderstorms, possible hail, rain and 40 mph wind gusts.  It made me a little nervous but since I knew I would only be running in it for an hour or less, I figured I could deal with it for such a short amount of time if I had to.  The rain and hail, thankfully, never materialized so on Sunday morning the temperature was around 58-60 degrees and totally dry but those 40 mph winds were definitely there.  I'm used to running on Bayshore with some fairly high winds so it didn't bother me too much (I think I was running on a LOT of endorphins!) but I know a lot of people had trouble with it.

The temperature felt really really cold (because of the crazy wind!) on our walk from the car to the convention center where the race was starting, and really cold as we were waiting at the starting line but I had bought a throw-away sweatshirt knowing that I wanted an extra layer until my body warmed up.  I actually was able to ditch the sweatshirt pretty quickly, about a quarter mile into the race, because the sun broke through the clouds and helped warm me up from the outside while my effort warmed me from the inside.  

From the race, this was probably around Mile 1.

The whole race itself was an awesome experience:  the vibe from other runners and the spectators was totally positive and encouraging.  It meant so much to see people out there along the race course cheering for anybody and everybody.  There were a ton of other runners (thousands!) of all different shapes, sizes, ages and ability levels so there was NO judgement:  we were all out there to do our best, whatever that might be.  I had been worried about being one of the slowest but I definitely wasn't, not even close! Some people even walked the entire race and that was totally fine too!  I just didn't know what to expect and my experience just blew me away.  

One thing I experienced was that there was quite a bit of congestion at the start of the race where we were running super-close to other runners but I don't have any other races to compare this to, so I don't know if Gasparilla was better or worse with the bottleneck at the beginning.  It didn't seem like it took too long for things to open up though and I was just in such a great mood that I didn't care about being shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the other folks out there.

"Brian, let's hold hands and wave!"

The race was held on Bayshore Boulevard, a flat stretch of road along the Tampa Bay where Brian and I love to go running.  It started downtown by the Tampa Convention Center and ran straight down Bayshore until a little past Bay to Bay Boulevard where the course made a buttonhook to turn around and come back the same way.  I loved running a familiar course and especially one that is so scenic, with water views in one direction and mansions in the other.

There were at least 3 or 4 hydration stations, which I didn't use, since I have never trained with water before.  There seemed to be plenty of volunteers (wearing plastic gloves) handing out cups of water so the water-stops seemed to run pretty smoothly for those who did choose to use them.  I was also impressed with their effort to keep things sanitary for the runners, as well.  I don't know if that's common practice for the volunteers to wear gloves, but I thought it was pretty smart.

I look like I'm walking...DEFINITELY not walking!

Also set up along the course were tents with musicians performing live music and some sound systems playing upbeat songs to keep the runners motivated.  I appreciated that little gesture and I'm sure others who weren't using mp3 players did too.  There were also at least 8 or more photographers set up along the course and at the finish line on both sides of the road taking photos so most people probably got at least a couple of (dorky-looking) photos of themselves taken.  

Something else cool was that as you crossed the finish line, a guy with a microphone said your name!  Unfortunately, since I gave it 150% and sprinted out the last few hundred meters with every ounce of strength I could muster, I passed a bunch of people and didn't get to hear my name called.  It's OK though, I was just so glad it was over!

Sprint to the FINISH!  Even though the clock says 45:46 my official time per my Chronotrack Tag was 44:13 because I was near the back of the pack at the starting line.  

Once you finished, you just kept walking and you were immediately handed your finisher's medal which is AWESOME, definitely one of the coolest keepsakes I will treasure for a long time.  Just past that were more photographers who would take your picture wearing your medal, people handing out the foil blankets (which I initially refused because I was so hot, but luckily Brian grabbed one because he knew I would eventually cool down and need it!), and some post-race fuel:  nice ripe bananas, fruit cups, bottles of water, cups of gatorade, plain and whole wheat bagels and even a local cuban restaurant The Columbia was serving bowls of their rice and beans.  There was also a table with cups of soda and one with bottles of 5-Hour Energy which I was pretty irritated by actually.  (Um, why would someone who probably cares about their health and wellness who just ran a race want to do that to their insides?!  Anyway, I'm sure there were plenty of people who were into that kind of thing, it's just not for me.)


I was actually feeling kind of nauseated right after the race ended, probably because I pushed myself so hard and was starting to come down off of my adrenaline rush.  I did manage to down a bottle of water but I had no interest in eating anything and just wanted to stretch and get somewhere out of the wind.

After the race, realizing it's actually kinda cold outside.

I'll save a full recap of my reflections on the race for another post but I'll just say I feel proud of how I did especially considering my recent issues with painful tendonitis in my left foot, a painful bunion on my right foot and the several weeks of rest I had to take from running in the last month.  Luckily, the tendonitis and the bunion didn't bother me in the least yesterday and I was able to run pain-free the entire race (not sure how much of that was due to the endorphins blunting my pain perception,?!) All I know is, for a girl with asthma who just took up running last November, I surprised myself with how well I did!


If you're interested in the rest of my experience with my first race, make sure to check back to read Part 2:  Preparation, Part 3:  What I Wore/My Gear  and Part 4:  Recovery and My Reflections.  


What makes a good race, in your opinion?  What were the best races you have ever done and what is your favorite distance?  


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4 comments:

  1. Wow Jules!! I am super impressed!! Keep up the awesome work. I bet you could kick my butt right now in a race :)

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  2. Congratulations! What a great achievement. This definiltey has motivated me to sign up for some races this spring.

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    1. That's awesome Jen! I am looking to sign up for another one too, it's a little addictive :-)

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