I am not sure what I was looking forward to more – this race or leaving the cold NE for 6 days in Florida!!
Half Marathon Training
But lucky for me, I was able to train well since we had a rather mild winter in the Northeast (until now.) In other words, I was able to fit in ALL my long runs (6-12 miles.)
I don’t ever follow a serious training schedule. I don’t do sprints, hill repeats, intervals and all those things a runner is supposed to do. I just make sure than I do my long runs on the weekends and run a few times during the week (usually for 3 miles.)
And of course, I planned my race outfit keeping my fingers crossed that it would be warm enough to wear it.
It had been warm in Florida UNTIL I arrived. While I was there, it was cool (40-50 degrees), cloudy and windy, very windy.
It even rained the day before the race.
I usually rush to a race and then rush home. This time, I flew down to Fort Myers, Florida on Thursday (3 days before the race), rented a car and drove to my friend who lives 1 1/2 hours away in Cape Haze. I spent a relaxing Friday with friends. I even went for a short run.
I left Cape Haze on Saturday and drove an hour north to Sarasota (in the rain). I picked up my race packet at the New Balance store. It was well-organized and not crowded at all. All you got was a shirt and a bib. That was fine with me. I was able to get out of there quickly and head to my friend’s place.
So what do you do on a rainy day? We visited some art exhibits and then went out to dinner. I had pizza – my traditional carb loading pre-race meal. (And I had a cannoli for dessert. Why not?)
I went to bed early but sleeping the day before a race?? Well, you know how that goes…
It wasn’t nerves that kept me awake. My ankle started throbbing!! It was the one that has 8 pins and a plate in it but it has never hurt like this in 4 years!! I attributed the pain to the weather – cold, rainy but secretly I was kinda worried.
I took some Tylenol and the pain went away.
I got up early (like 5 am) and had my usual race breakfast of cream of wheat and tea (which I brought from home.)
The wind was howling and it was in the 40’s. For some reason in Florida, it feels colder than the temperature. Maybe it is the dampness from the Gulf or Ocean.
And I was FREEZING!!
I put on sweatpants, DIY arm warmers, long sleeved cotton shirt, a wind breaker and gloves. That was about all I had. (I was after all in Florida!!)
My friend’s husband was nice enough to drive me to the start. (I could have driven but he knew a shortcut.) I arrived there around 6 am. Though the forecast called for 0% chance of rain, it was raining lightly. (I had left my umbrella & rain poncho at my friend’s place too.)
It made me laugh to see how bundled up everyone was – wool hats, scarfs, down jackets, etc.
I knew that I couldn’t run in everything I was wearing so I checked a bag with my sweat pants and windbreaker and kept on the rest.
The best part was that the Van Wezel Arts Hall was open and warm. I hung out there, used the rest rooms and chatted with other runners until it was time to line up.
There were pacers so I lined up behind 2:10. (Wishful thinking on my part after my last half.) We all shivered together until it was time to begin. At least the rain had stopped. Some runners were even wrapped up in a blanket. It did take several minutes (not sure how many) for my wave to cross the start line.
As with any race, it was very crowded in the beginning. The race closed out with 3000 runners (double the number that ran it last year, its inaugural year.)
The race course began by heading down Tamiami Trail and then turning right to run over the HUGE Ringling Bridge.
The course map is below. It is similar to First Watch Half Marathon that I ran in 2013 but after running over the bridge twice, you run a completely different loop back to the start/finish line.
Miles 1 -4:
9:35, 9:47, 9:43, 10:17
Saturday night’s ankle pain turned into just annoying stiffness. It felt like my gait was off and I was limping. I made the decision to run as long as I could without pain. I never looked at my Garmin to see my pace but I felt like I was running very slowly when actually I was not.
Running over that huge bridge was tough. It was very windy. I had to hold my hat on. My skirt was blowing up. My bangs were covering my eyes. But, the first time over, I actually ran most of the way up. I was proud of myself.
It seemed like it took forever until we were running downhill. This was the hardest part of the course.
After crossing the bridge the first time, we ran and circled St. Armand Circle. It was familiar to me since when I travel to Naples with my tennis friends, we come here to lunch and to browse in the shops.
I got tired of carrying my gloves so I tossed them here.
Next we headed back over the bridge for the 2nd time. It was even harder this time. I just couldn’t muster the wind and the hill so I walked on and off.
10:46, 10:02, 10:46, 10:50, 10:37.
We were finally done with the bridge but it really tired me out. My pace was slowing but I was still enjoying the course so much. And my ankle? By mile 5, it felt normal again. I didn’t think about it for the rest of the race.
The sun even came out and it felt less cold. In fact so bearable that I threw away my shirt. (I would regret that later.) I just wore my DIY arm warmers to keep my arms shielded from the cold wind.
By this point, we had passed 3 water stops twice (so that’s 6). I made sure that I stopped at each one and had water. At mile 5, I even had a GU.
Now we were running on Bayfront Drive along the water. It was so beautiful. We ran past my favorite statue, Unconditional Surrender.
Then we turned onto Mount St. and then onto Orange Avenue. A priest threw holy water on us. Even in these cold temps, there were crowds along the whole course. I can’t tell you how many times, kids high fived me.
Since this was a MUSIC half marathon, there were over 20 bands along the course. Most of them, you passed twice. There was never a point when you didn’t hear music – rock, folk, jazz, all types and sizes. This helped you to forget that you were running 13.1 miles in the wind.
After we passed by the entrance to Selby Gardens, we entered some pretty neighborhoods. Here there were even more people cheering on the runners.
Mile 8 was the Girl Scout Mile with cookies, of course. I had to have one.
Eventually we turned around and headed back to and into Selby Gardens.
10:29, 11:02, 10:49, 11:11
Selby Gardens was free today for spectators and it is one of my favorite places in Sarasota.
It was a little crowded running on the narrow path through the gardens but I loved the scenery.
However, I was very tired at this point. I wished that we could have run through it when we were fresher. (My friends were supposed to be there to watch but I told them that I would be with the 2:30 pacer and they missed me.)
After we exited Selby Gardens, we ran along the water for awhile.
I continued walking through all the water stops (5 more and each twice) and ate another Gu around mile 11.
Mile 12 was the Beer Mile but I abstained.
Next we ran along side the bridge and through Hart’s Landing. The wind picked up and I started to get very cold. You could even feel sprays of water from the bay.
The last mile was uphill too and into the wind. I gave up here and walked and walked. I even had a hard time walking, the wind was so strong. (35 mph with gusts up to 50 they said – ugh!)
Nevertheless, I pushed on through and smiled for the photographers (of course.)
I sprinted as fast as I could. I hadn’t been looking at my watch and although there were clocks throughout the course, I didn’t know how long it took me to get to the start line in the beginning of the race.
I was shocked to see the clock at the finish line. I thought my time was going to be a lot slower. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have been surprised since I had lost the 2:10 pacer but never saw the 2:20 pacer.
My chip time was 2:17:56. Woo Hoo!! (And the course was long according to my Garmin.)
I made my way over the obligatory finish wall and took a picture and then headed to bag check to put on some warm clothes.
Van Wezel Art Hall, where we started and ended, overlooked Sarasota Bay and there was a beer tent and a band but unfortunately, it was too cold to enjoy the view or music.
Instead, I went inside to enjoy the best post-race buffet I’ve ever had.
There were the usual scones, muffins, pastries and bagels plus eggs, potatoes, French toast, sausage, bacon, fresh fruit.
I sat and ate and ate while chatting with other racers until I got a text from my friends who were waiting for me outside.
We drove back to their place and after a long hot shower, I felt energetic enough to walk around Anna Maria Island. More about the rest of my race-cation in another post.
Additional race reflections:
- No rain!!
- Well-organized race.
- Pacers (at 10 min intervals.)
- Timing clocks throughout the course.
- Great crowd support.
- Many Gatorade & water stops (8 and you passed them twice so 16.)
- Warm place to wait before and after.
- Real bathrooms.
- Awesome post race refreshments – best buffet I’ve ever seen.
- Gu at 2 water stations
- Girl Scout cookies and beer on the course
- Scenic course with water views and a tour of Selby Gardens
- Music – over 20 bands and most of them you passed twice
- No injuries. Nothing hurt.
- I finished.
- My second fastest half Marathon time without trying
- Colder than normal temps for this time of year
- Ran over that Bridge twice (the biggest hill of the race)
- I wasn’t sure how much I should push myself so I walked..too much
- Windy windy windy
So there are many more positives than negatives!!! Overall, a great race!!
Would I recommend this race?
Definitely. If I lived in Florida, I would do it again and again.
I think I preferred this one to the one in Sarasota that takes place in March (First Watch Half Marathon). Though it started and ended in the same place, I liked this course better.
This shows that I was on pace for a PR at the halfway point. Who knew?
And I definitely walked more and slowed down (as usual) during the 2nd half of the race.
I was thrilled with the results. Even though, my time was 8 minutes slower than my PR, it was 12 minutes faster than my last half marathon!!
It was a confidence boaster, for sure. My ankle, the bridge and the weather conditions definitely impacted my ability to run faster. I was not disappointed that I didn’t go for a PR. I actually felt that I could have maybe if I pushed it and didn’t walk so often. That feeling itself made me happy.
And nothing hurt. My ankle pain left after 5 miles. Every time, my lower back started to ache, I fixed my form and stopped hunching over my shoulders. And my awful feet only received some minor blisters.
Since it is Thursday, I’m linking up today with Amanda for Thinking Out Loud Thursday.