On Saturday night, my boyfriend and I enjoyed a delicious, carb-tastic meal. One of our favorite restaurants does an all-you-can-eat pasta special every Saturday night, which is every runner’s fantasy the night a big race. My choice of pasta was Carmine’s Creami Crimini dish, which is linguini with broccoli, mushrooms and chicken tossed in an Alfredo sauce and topped with shaved Parmesan cheese. The special also comes with a house salad, fresh baked rolls, and a sampling of appetizers and soup. There is so much food that I never get more than one order of pasta but you can’t beat the price. Did I mention that you also get a choice of dessert? Both of us were stuffed so we took our cheesecake to go. After dinner, we went home, changed the clocks for Daylight Savings Time and went to bed.
On Sunday morning, the alarm went off at 5 AM and I woke up ready to go. Really … I honestly did. While my boyfriend was in the shower, I changed and made sure that everything was ready to go. I debated between wearing a tech shirt and a tank top but ended up wearing the same white shirt I wore at Disney. The weather was supposed to be cooler cold that morning but I knew I was going to warm up while running. Before leaving the house, I grabbed a Clif Bar for breakfast.
We left just before 6 AM and headed to the race location. As soon as I stepped outside, I was freezing and incredibly grateful for the sweatshirt I was wearing. Unlike the other three races in the Aces are Wile Series, this one was held in Downtown Palm Harbor. I knew parking would be a premium so we wanted to get there as soon as possible. We arrived with plenty of time to spare and even got a fantastic parking spot right next to the start/finish line.
Packet pick up was supposed to start at 6:15 but the volunteers weren’t quite ready so I headed inside the café hosting the post race breakfast to use the bathroom. There was no freezing port-a-potty toilet seat for me! I picked up my race bib, long-sleeved tech shirt, visor and timing chip before heading back to the car. Just after I attached my timing chip to my shoe, my friend Justine sent me a text message letting me know she was in the packet line. I left the warmth of the car and met her over there. After she picked up her packet and dropped the miscellaneous stuff off in her car, we went back to my boyfriend’s car to wait for the race to start.
At 7:15, we left the car and went to wait in the starting area. I don’t remember hearing the national anthem but I am assuming that it was played. The race was supposed to start at 7:30 but the race director was took the time to try to explain one of the most complicated courses I have ever experience. The half marathon course consisted of a 4.33 mile loop that I had to repeat 3 times! I am not even joking with you! Shortly after 7:30, the gun went off and we were off.
Ready to get this race going!
Loop 1 (Miles 1 through 4.33): Once the race finally started, Justine and I put our game faces. We had 13.1 miles ahead of us and we were going to rock it. The start of the race was uphil and it felt like it went on forever. The downhill wasn’t nearly as long as the uphill, which meant I wasn’t able to pick up any time lost going up. We pased the first water stop just after the Mile 1 Marker. Neither one of us stopped though. It was pretty crowded and I didn’t want to stop running so early in the race. Around the end of Mile 2 (no marker), I realized that my pace was too fast for me to maintain. I slowed it down a bit and let Justine go on ahead of me. I stopped at the next water stop and took a 30 second walk break. My plan for the race was to run to every water stop and then take a 30 second walk break. Just before Mile 4 (no marker again), I ate my first energy gel. When I got back to the start/finish area, I could see the stop clock and it read just over 45 minutes.
The face of a runner trying to do math in their head during a race. I didn’t even know my boyfriend was standing there taking this picture.
Loop 2 (Miles 4.33 through 8.67): The second time around the loop is a bit of a blur. Probably because I was running the same thing all over again. I actually found myself to be really annoyed by this fact. As I was plodding along, I heard someone calling behind me “Elite runners coming! Stay to the right!” Now I have complete respect for elite runners but it can be really disheartening knowing that you are getting passed by them. I had just passed the Mile 5 Marker and they were on their last loop. I didn’t let it bother me for too long. I felt really good throughout this second loop. I took my second energy gel at the same location as the first one. It was a water stop so I was able to take in some water after “eating” the gel. As I approached the start/finish area, I realized that I only had one more loop to do. I also saw my boyfriend and the smile on his face reassured me that I could do this! I didn’t see the time on the stop clock this time so I wasn’t sure what my finishing time would be.
The face of a runner who knows she has the support she needs to finish the race.
Loop 3 (Miles 8.67 through 13.1): The third time around was the easiest one and the hardest one all at once. I knew the route very well and I felt like my pace was staying pretty consistent. My plan was still working and I hadn’t taken any extra walk breaks. As I approached the very last turnaround before heading back to the finish, I faltered a bit. This turnaround was on a hill and my legs were tired of going uphill. I ended up taking a few extra walk breaks during Mile 12. Finally, I was making my way to the finish line. One of the cops blocking traffic said to me “I hope this is the last time I see you.” I responded back with “It certainly is!” When I crested the final hill and saw the finish line, I kicked it into high gear. I gave it everything I had left, which was fueled by the time on the stop clock. As I crossed the finish line, the stop clock read 2:25:31! My official chip time was 2:25:08! Justine finished just before me with a chip time of 2:22:28 and was waiting with her fiancé and my boyfriend at the finish line.
After the race, Justine and I decided that the post race breakfast just wasn’t appealing so we hugged, smiled a lot and took a few pictures before saying good bye. It was an amazing race experience. I wasn’t a huge fan of the course but I never imagined I would knock 16+ minutes off of my time. My first half marathon was only five weeks ago!
Photos and video were taken by my amazing boyfriend! I promised him that I would give him credit for helping me out. He doesn’t like being in front of the camera but he is awesome behind it. He also rocks at coming up with playlists on the fly and I have already asked him to make me one for my future marathon.