last year and really had no complaints, other than my less-than-stellar performance, obviously. With registration being capped at 5,000 and the race itself designated towards Women, it appeals to a lot of first-timers. I was excited to register for the event, again, and
aren't they cute?
Side Note: I am way more proud of their training and race than I am of my own. However, that's their story to tell. If they want to share it with the world, they need to start a blog.
The Site & Pre-Race: After your register for a Women's Half Marathon race, you receive email updates. I think I got them once per month, or so, and then a bit more frequently as the event neared. They contain updated information, special promotions and offers, training links, etc. You definitely feel "in the loop". The final emails contain extremely detailed last-minute instructions, your confirmation sheet, bib number, etc. The company does a good job of keeping the participants pepped up and informed, in my opinion.
Travel : We only live about 2.5 hours away from St Petersburg, so we drove down Saturday night and stayed at one of the host hotels. There are plenty within walking distance and many others that offered a free shuttle to and from the race. We stayed at the Renaissance Vinoy both years. The hotel had made some improvements, decor and service-wise, and we liked it even better this year than last. The room was spacious, amenities were above average (free toothpaste, even!) and it was less than a mile from the hotel to the start line.
Saturday: the boys worked on a word search
I worked on my water-chugging skillz
Locale: The race is located in a tourist-friendly spot. The Pier, Salvador Dali Museum, Museum of Fine Arts and tons of local shopping and restaurants are all within walking distance. There are even horse-drawn carriages for those who like that sort of thing. (more on that later) We didn't take advantage of anything other than restaurants, but it was peaceful and scenic walking through the parks and streets to transport our family from place to place.
you have no idea how many attempts there were at a decent pic of the 4 of us
Bonus : cool, nearby, playground with rock climbing wall for the kidlets to play on while my sissy and I went to the ...
Health & Fitness Expo/Packet Pickup: There is no race day packet pickup, but the expo is open Friday and Saturday. It's pretty typical : hand the friendly volunteer your confirmation sheet, receive cool personalized bib, move to another (short!) line for your well-stocked goody bag, another for your (very nice) tee shirt and then proceed to wander the expo at your leisure. The volunteers were all very efficient and happy-looking. The Expo, itself, featured tons of vendors and a couple freebies. Publix (supermarket) was a major sponsor and handed out cool little cart/refrigerator clips and coupon organizers. There were some drink samples and long lines for free headbands, but we were a bit limited on time, due to our large group.
I forgot to take a picture of the contents of the bag, but it included a Luna Protein Bar, a Perform (like biofreeze) samples, very little in the way of race flyers, the latest issue of Women's Running magazine, some sort of Vitamin powder/mix and probably some things I've forgotten.
love the shirt. love the re-usable canvas bag. love the random lego.
Dinner : We ate at this restaurant because we'd done it last year and liked everything about it. It's a cool, local place but nice and loud so no one notices your wild children. The food and service are above average and it's all decently priced, as well. I had some crusty bread, one pre-race Stella Artois, tons more water and a Garden Veggie Pasta dish. (carb-loading at it's finest)
Cheers to my old lady hands and the chance to run together!
The Husband was kind enough to secure reservations for all 15 of us to dine together
fun/weird fact: we had the same waiter we did for our pre-race dinner, last year
We all split and headed back to our hotels to get kids to bed and try to sleep, ourselves. While I was tossing and turning and trying desperately to shut off my Race Mode brain, the menfolk went out for a Frozen Yogurt Eating Contest.
I was receiving play-by-play texts of the action
Race Day: I got up at about 4:45 am for a quick bagel, PB, honey, chia and raisin breakfast. I kinda choked it down, as my nerves were starting to kick in.
My sis-in-law(ish) and I were at the same hotel, so we met for an early cup of coffee and calming conversation. I'm not used to having friends being with me on Race Day mornings. It was such a necessary and wonderful addition to the day. We finished getting ready and met back downstairs to walk to the Start Line, together. There were more than enough "facilities". There were even tables set up with tons of waters, bananas and muffins.
Somehow, in the dark crowd, (and after numerous port-a-potty trips) we found the rest of our group, plus some extras, and hung out 'til it was time to go to our corrals. The race started, on time, at 7:00 AM with plenty of energy and excitement. The sun was finally out, but it was still nice and overcast. The weather was actually pretty darned perfect, for a Florida race. (minus the wind)
The Course: I loved the fact that I was familiar with the course. I was able to break it down into sections : "1 more mile 'til we circle the lake...Tropicana Field at mile 11"...etc. My only complaint is that we torture our knees and hips with a brick/cobblestone section. Twice. Last year, a big group scooted over to the sidewalk, but no one was venturing over, this year, that I saw.
Besides that, the only "obstacles" were the giant piles of horse poo (see. told you there'd be more about the carriage rides!) and the incessant, debilitating wind on The Pier. Pretty sure the race director(s) haven't much control over those annoyances.
There were lots of areas for spectators and the crowd support was really good. Another nice feature of the layout : We pass one little area, three times. (it doesn't seem monotonous...for real). This means our family could basically stay in one spot, with a couple minor adjustments, and see us several times.
There were plenty of well-manned water and gatorade tables, live music, big cheering sections and lots of beautiful scenery. (pleasantly vague recap? That's my specialty!)
My Goals: With this race being sandwiched between my 1st and 2nd marathons, ever, I wasn't sure how fast I'd actually be able to run this race. I was perfectly content to stay with my girlies and enjoy their race, with them. When I realized that I was actually going to be in good shape to "race" it, though, after the marathon, I adjusted my goals, somewhat.
A Goal : 1:35. A stretch, for sure, but it doesn't hurt to dream, right? It wasn't entirely far-fetched and I firmly believe I WILL see this time, one day.
B Goal: Sub 1:40 and/or a PR. According to Garmin, my best half marathon finish is 1:40:06. I choose to stick with the (stupid) race results, though, so it's 1:42xx. With those times in mind, it would be difficult to PR and avoid a sub 1:40, so I kinda lumped those together. Spoiler : I found a way to screw that up...
C Goal : Beat my finishing time from the 2011 race. At first glance, this seems easy, given that I beat my 1:45:35 finish, the following month (Dec. 2011), by over 3 minutes. However, the last half-marathon I raced produced a horrific (for me) 1:49xx time, so I wasn't necessarily brimming with confidence...
I huddled up with the 1:35 pace group but was immediately let down. The pacer, who I'm sure is a very nice gentlemen and a speedy runner, never even acknowledged any of us. The other ladies didn't really talk to each other, either, so it was more of a "every girl for herself" sort of feeling, rather than the encouraging camaraderie I was hoping for. My plan to hang on as long as I could, with this group, was definitely foiled by the fact that the pacer didn't seem to notice or care if any of us were running with him, or not.
In addition, we were told the 1st mile would be a slow 7:30ish, and that we'd eventually ease into the 7:14 average pace needed. When mile one clocked in at 7:08, I was frustrated and panicking.
I dropped back, right around the 5k point (after seeing my cheering section...thanks guys!!) and turned on my ipod.
Call it a cop-out, but my decision to keep the pace group in sight, and make sure the race was actually a fun one, felt like the best thing I could've done, at that point. It's not anyone's fault, but my own, that I didn't stick with that 1:35 pace group, but it just wasn't the experience I'd been expecting.
I never really got terribly fatigued. My hips got a bit achy, and I definitely felt like I was in "race mode", but there wasn't any point that I felt discouraged or like I needed to walk. Night and day experiences from last year to this.
I didn't carry a water bottle, but forced myself to take a couple cups along the way. I had a GU at the 10k point and am pretty sure I had another after mile 10. For some reason I didn't really have much of a fueling or hydration plan. Couldn't even begin to tell you why that would be. Either way, it worked. I didn't feel nauseas, hungry, empty, sloshy or dehydrated.
Maybe no plan = good plan?
Here's what is NOT a good plan : trying to type an extensive Race Recap while your children are home and there are one million things you need to be doing other than typing an extensive Race Recap. Holy cow, I just want to be done with this!
I'm sure you're thinking something similar...lets wrap this up.
I realized, at the 10 mile marker, that my sub 1:40 goal was not likely going to happen. Looking back at my splits, miles 8 and 10 were my downfall. Eight was due to the epic Runner vs. Wind Battle around the pier, Ten, I have no explanation for.
I lacked focus, as usual, but had so much fun I could've cared less. At one point, I realized that I probably shouldn't be able to smile and high-five as much as I was, if I was hoping to reach my lofty goals. In the end, fun 13.1 miles won out over hard-fought ones.
I maintained my pace from 11-13.1 and finished with a huge, happy, weepy smile knowing I'd finally beaten a personal record, in a race.
I don't know how to steal photos from this page , but you're more than welcome to view my race day pics. (search for bib #1035 and click on my name to see them) Most are funny/dorky, but note the 2nd one. That happy shot was taken at the END of my fastest 13.1 miles, ever.
No room for regrets with a finish like that.
The Finish/After Party: Runners are corralled through an area to receive water, gatorade, packs of muffins, pretzels and bananas. Medals are hung, photos are taken and then you're out with the non-running family and friends.
Tent-folk offered massages, Publix gave away cookies (the line was too long for our tired legs, though) and there were high-top tables to relax and enjoy your snacks on. We brought our own entertainment/beverages and tried to out-complain each other with how sore we were. The walk back to our hotels was particularly unpleasant. Apparently we all, at one time or another, tried to convince our spouses to figure out a way to get a vehicle to us.
In the end, we made it, changed clothes, re-fueled and headed home.
that little circle in the middle is a removable charm. Mine will soon become a necklace
If you've made it this far, welcome to The End!! I love having an outlet to share my racing experiences. I love, even more, when people take the time to share them with me. Thank you for your encouragement, support and comments.
As a reward, I'll make my next post considerably shorter.
ps : I've gotten some feedback that people have had difficulty leaving comments. I changed some settings and am hoping that helps.