Saturday night, I set my alarm for 4 am to give myself plenty of time to get ready and get to the race. I learned from last year’s event that I needed to get there as early as possible. I didn’t actually get out of bed until 5:07 and somehow still managed to get out of the house by 5:20. I was seriously flying this morning and was so thankful that I had laid everything out last night before I went to bed.
I arrived at Coachman Park around 6 am and easily found a parking spot. Before leaving my car, I made sure to smear on the sunblock because I knew that certain areas of the course were not going to shaded or protected from the sun. The race didn’t start until 7 am so I had plenty of time to walk over to the staring line, use the port-a-potties and meet up with a friend.
It was absolutely amazing to see so many women getting ready to tackle this race. It was inspiring to be surrounded by women of all shapes and sizes and levels fitness ready to run a half marathon.
For this race, I changed up my normal routine. I know, I know. I am not supposed to do anything different on race day but this different. I decided to listen to music during this race because I have no luck whatsoever with electronics and water and I didn’t want to ruin my fairly new iPod. I also wore my new headband that I purchased after the yoga class at my Lululemon Store on Saturday. By the way, I absolutely love it!
After the national anthem was
sung played and the timing system was ready to go, the race started. The first three miles were my fastest miles of the entire race. I am not sure if I just started out too quickly or I underestimated my abilities. Both of which I am known to do.
Mile 1: 10:57 min/mile
Mile 2: 10:28 min/mile
Mile 3: 10:31 min/mile
The first mile was filled with twists and turns through the streets of Clearwater. I am honestly glad that I am not an elite runner because I would have gotten lost if I didn’t have the crowd of women in front of me to follow.
Miles 2 and 3 were not nearly as complicated to follow and went through some beautiful residential areas. Thankfully, the sun was shining and the temperatures weren’t terrible yet. I was warm but not unbearably so. I felt really, really good during the first 3 miles of the race. I only took a brief walk break through the water spot after Mile 2.
Mile 4: 11:20 min/mile
Mile 5: 11:45 min/mile
Mile 6: 11:24 min/mile
When I got to the water stop after Mile 3, I took my first serving of Clif Shot Bloks and decided to take an extended walk break. I knew that I had started out too fast and really needed to slow down if I was going to finish the race strong.
The course continued through some residential neighborhoods of Belleair and past a very beautiful golf course. The views of the Clearwater Harbor were absolutely beautiful.
By the way, do not tell someone that a mile marker is just around the corner when it really isn’t. There was a man telling everyone that the Mile 5 Marker was “just around the corner” but in reality it was around the corner and down one block. It was not nice for him to do that at all.
As I approached the end of Mile 6, I could tell that the weather was not going to hold out long enough for me to finish the race. The rain clouds were forming across the Gulf of Mexico and headed straight for Clearwater!
Mile 7: 11:27 min/mile
Mile 8: 12:19 min/mile
Mile 9: 11:35 min/mile
I took my second serving of Shot Bloks at the water spot after Mile 6. My energy level was still pretty high and my legs weren’t doing to bad yet. I was definitely in my head though and couldn’t figure out how to combat the negative thoughts. By the end of Mile 7, I could feel the 2:30 half marathon slipping away from me. I came to terms with that and decided to enjoy the rest of the race and run it to the best of my ability. My training didn’t go nearly as well as I had hoped so I just wanted to have fun and finish strong.
I knew the bridges were coming at some point. At the end of Mile 7, I approached the Belleair Causeway, the first of two monstrous bridges I would have to tackle during the race. I have driven over this bridge before but had never realized how BIG it really was until I was faced with the task of running over it.
I tried to run the bridge. I thought that if I took it slow and easy I would be able to get to the crest without too much difficulty. I was wrong and really underprepared for these things. I ended up walking up the bridge and then running down it to make up some time. It started to sprinkle just a little bit as I reached the crest of the bridge and the wind really started to pick up.
After I got off the bridge, my legs really started to hurt. I could also tell that my body was a little dehydrated even though I had done my best to drink as much water as possible last week. I continued running and taking extended walk breaks at the water stops. At the water stop during Mile 9, there was a Girl Scout troop passing out cookies. Normally, I would be all over those cookies (I am a former Girl Scout and LOVE those cookies) but they weren’t very appealing to me at this moment in time.
Mile 10: 12:28 min/mile
Mile 11: 12:21 min/mile
Mile 12: 12:58 min/mile
Mile 13: 12:37 min/mile
The first round of rain clouds passed by but the wind continued. The temperature also started to drop. My pace slowed down even more and I was taking more and more walk breaks. I was a little disappointed in myself for allowing my fears to get the best of me. At the water stop during Mile 10, I took my third and final serving of Shot Bloks.
Normally, I only drink water during races. I don’t like the lemon-lime flavor of sports drinks and that is usually what they have available at the water stops/aid stations. At the water stop during Mile 11, I decided to have the sports drink in addition to the water. I knew that I was starting to get slightly dehydrated and I was hoping to combat that until I crossed the finish line. I was hoping that the sports drink would make me feel better but instead my stomach started to cramp. The wind increased and the rain started again.
As I approached the end of Mile 11, I saw the second bridge. I decided to walk to the top of the Sand Key Bridge just like I did for the Belleair Causeway. I am very glad I made that decision because the wind was very strong on the top. The rain also started to pick up just a little bit more.
When I got off the bridge, I was relieved to know that I was almost done with the race. My stomach wasn’t cramping anymore and I was sure that I would cross the finish line before the rain clouds opened up. After the Mile 12 Marker, I started reminding myself that I only had another mile to go. Then I got to the water stop and the rain clouds opened up. It started to pour just as I grabbed my two cups of water. I quickly put my camera away, drank my water and trudged forward towards the finish line.
Just as I made the final turn on Gulfview Blvd. towards the finish line, the rain stopped but the wind didn’t. The crowds as the finish line were just as cold and wet as I was. In front of me, I saw a daughter run onto the course to join her mother as she crossed the finish line. I wasn’t quite sure where the finish line actually was because the white arch (similar to the starting line) had blown over. I didn’t have it in me to pick up the pace but I didn’t stop running as I crossed the timing mats.
When I crossed the finish line, I felt strong and accomplished despite the fact that the timing clock said 2:35. I didn’t PR and I didn’t run it faster than 2:30 but I did conquer those bridges and I did deal with the weather conditions. I finished my fifth half marathon and I couldn’t be happier with the race I had. My official finish time was 2:34:20!
I walked through the finish area and received my finisher’s medal, which I absolutely LOVE. I also really love the fact that there was a sand castle that matched it.
I grabbed a water bottle, sports drink and meal box before heading towards the trolley. This was the first time I have had one of these FitFul meal boxes and I really enjoyed it. I missed my post race banana but giving me a piece of dark chocolate totally made up for it.
It wasn’t my best race or my fastest but I really did enjoy running it. I struggled at times but persisted and made it across the finish line and feeling strong. I am fairly confident that I will be running this race next year and will definitely be adding some training runs on those bridges to better prepare myself!!