In case you missed a moment, you can read about the first day of Gasparilla here….As I mentioned previously, we had dinner plans with the Sub30 club that evening. Dinner was at the Columbia, which apparently is the hot spot for pre-race carb-loading as Meb Keflezighi and Joanie Benoit Samuelson both walked by our table at one point throughout the evening…oh did I forget to mention that they were in town for this event?? Meb ran the half marathon and Joan the 15K, 5K and Half! Dinner with the Sub30 crew was so much fun, and they kept it relatively relaxed with an early 5p reservation. Montana and I paid for our checks around 7p and were home shortly after 7:30p.
I was less then thrilled about the earlier start time next day, yet was happy that the longest leg of this challenge was set to start bright and early before the sun. 3:30am came all too quickly, in fact when I first woke up and walked out to the living room, I remember asking Montana why we thought this was such a great idea, lol. Other than the exhaustion I was feeling pretty good, my legs weren’t experiencing any soreness. Just as I did the morning prior I ate my honey wheat bagel with peanut butter about two hours prior, followed up with a banana about an hour leading up to the start. We were able to successfully drop our stuff with bag check and meet up with the Subbers with ease.
Shortly there after we started to make our way over to the start area. They had two different staging areas setup, one for the elites and under 2 hours, and then 2+ hours. Montana and I lined up with the 2:30 pace group, though we still planned to do our intervals. We both want a good, strong half, deep down a possible PR. Mine is 2:28 and hers a 2:27, so we were right there, neck and neck, and if we paced each other right a PR could be in the works for both of us. Since Montana earned her last PR using the interval :75/:30 she wanted to use those same numbers here, while she offered to let me do my own thing I wanted us to do this together and finish together, plus what’s give or take :15?
The weather that morning was much cooler than the previous day by nearly 10 degrees. I opted to wear a tank and shorts because I wanted to wear my compression gear, yet not get overheated. While I was cold at the start I knew I’d be thankfully about a mile later when the sun had risen. Not too much longer the gun went off and the runners ahead of us started to make their way one step closer over the start line. Though there was a good turn out for the half, a much larger size group compared to the 15K, the first few miles didn’t feel as congested as the 15K, which was great! About a quarter mile in we ran a stretch of cobblestone and lacked some serious lighting so we tried to take it easy, last thing we needed was a rolled ankle right off the bat. About a mile and a half in, Montana and I both pulled off the course to use the port-a-potty. We were keeping really good pace, especially with the 2:30 pacer, however we both had business to attend to and the lines were super long…let me tell you I am glad we used the stalls at this stop. Had we waited till the next stop we would have been a good 25-30 people deep in line, and I’m not exaggerating. I guess everyone else had the same thought process I did to wait a bit further in where there wouldn’t be a line, but that was not the case here. We jumped back on course and about another half mile later did we make a right hand turn on the course and come face to face with a Norwegian cruise line docking. It was actually a nice view, with the sunrise shy in the background and the lights off the ship, it painted quite a picture. Then not far behind was a Carnival cruise ship idling to allow the Norwegian ship ahead. By mile 2 we were in a comfortable position as far as crowding on the course. The next few miles flew by with ease, we took our first extended walk break around mile 4 to take some fuel.
About mile 5 we were back on Bayshore and we could see the elites in the distance coming in for the finish. They make it look so easy, one girl was smiling – how? Our pace was maintaining consistency until about mile 6 we took it up a notch slightly and Montana reeled us back in. She reminded me again that if I was feeling it to go ahead but I wanted us to finish together first and foremost over a PR. As we passed made our way on the out loop on Bayshore I was keeping my eye out for my trainer and a former co-worker who was running this race, let me tell you looking for a familiar face really helped the couple of miles go by even quicker.
At point miles 8 and 9 we felt like we were flying with ease and that’s because we had a bit of wind that morning and currently we were running with it. But come the turn around point on Bayshore leading into mile 10 we were hit with a rude awakening as now we were running against the wind. When we came to a walk interval I pull my phone out to text our friend Barb who was coming out to cheer us on at the finish, to let her know we had a 5K left. I mistakenly tried to read off her message to me in the span of less than :30 and when we started the next run interval paid for it with my off breathing pattern. Thankfully Montana was ok with taking our walk break about :30 earlier to allow me to try and regain my pattern again. When I looked down at my watch we were at about 2 hours with less than 11 miles down, was this really going to happen? Was a PR in our future? I had the sense Montana was thinking the same thing but neither of acknowledge the thought for fear of jinxing ourselves. As we progressed into mile 12, the wind was really putting a damper on my strong finish **cough, cough** PR plans **cough,cough** At this point we are 23 miles into this whole challenge and I was starting to feel it in my legs, especially my calves. I remember I started to get those negative thoughts in my head that I wouldn’t hold out the last few miles and I needed to be head accountable to what we were trying to accomplish so I told Montana that I didn’t think I would have enough gas to sprint it out the end but she wasn’t taking no for an answer, and pushed me in the right way I needed. Every time a run cycle would start she would pushed me in the best way possible by not letting me extend the walk break.
We came to our last walk interval right around mile 13. When the watch signaled for our run interval, I pushed the discomfort aside as we picked it back up. I kept my eye right on the finish sign, but not before spotting our friend Barbara standing off to the side with a big sign for us. As I shifted my focus ahead of me, I saw the 2:30 pacer cheering us on as we were ahead of the 2:30 mark. Montana crossed just seconds ahead of me. Official watch time – 2:26:32!! Not only did I crush goal A) which was to have fun and enjoy the miles and finish with a smile on my face. But I also accomplished goals B) and C) have fun, enjoy the miles and finish with a smile on my face and beat my previous time for this 15K event of 1:41:07 and beat my overall half marathon time of 2:28:08.
Upon crossing we collected our medals and myler blankets and went in search of Montana’s parents who came out to support us, this was their first time coming to one of her races and what better race to come to than Gasparilla?!
While Montana was catching up with her folks I caught up with Barbara. It was such a great feeling to have the love and support that we did not only throughout the training but in those final moments of this challenge.
Before getting all of our finisher pics we walked a couple blocks over to get some much needed grub! We found a cute little cafe, which thankfully had no wait to be seated and then the food was turned around in reasonable time. After breakfast we made our way back over to the convention center where we parted ways with Barbara and Montana’s parents and then capture our huge accomplishment, again in front of the pirate ship!
Overall this challenge, was truly a test of will power and endurance, but a huge confidence boost as we both set our eyes on full marathon training next!
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