Lets get right to the point here: This may have been my 9th half marathon…but it was the hardest I’ve done yet – physically speaking.
The morning started like many other race mornings with a 3:30am wakeup call and an hour long drive to the event site.
Upon arriving at 5:45am we met a loooong line for the Trolley to the starting line.
Trolleys were scheduled to transport runners & spectators from a “mainland” parking lot over to Clearwater Beach which is actually on a barrier island (where there isn’t much parking). We waited for over 50 minutes to get onto a trolley & luckily made it to the starting line with about 10 minutes to spare. (Rumor has it many runners missed the start.)
As with last year, I could see over just about everyone’s head in the crowd at the start – for real, this picture was taken with my phone just barely above eye level!
I mean, I know I’m tall, but it’s events like this that remind me just how tall I actually am!
Once the gun went off, I quickly settled into a comfortable pace. I wasn’t shooting for any dramatic records here, just wanted to run (read: jog) as much as I could & only take walk breaks at water stops.
I knew that the course had three bridges but that’s about all I knew – I didn’t know when the bridges were, nor what the rest of the course would be like.
The first bridge came right around the 1 mile marker. This one I knew from last year’s event – so I was prepared for it! I made it up and over keeping my average pace at 12:00/mi which is right where I wanted to be.
From here the course took us through various neighborhoods & golf courses – it really was beautiful…and surprisingly hilly. It seemed like every corner we turned brought us to the base of another hill! Honestly, we’re in FLORIDA – there shouldn’t be hills here!!
Nonetheless, I maintained a steady pace between 11:45 and 12:15 for the first 6 miles.
Then we approached mile 7 and could see this sucker looming in the distance:
Yep – a HUMUNGOUS bridge that took us from mile 7 to mile 8. This bridge was even steeper than the first one. This picture does NOT do it justice!
Evil. PURE EVIL!
There was no way I could deny it – I knew I would be walking up this sucker. And that’s just what I did. Walk up, jog down. My heart may or may not have been beating faster while I was walking up than when I was jogging down…
I made it from 8 to 9 with no major hiccups. Then the heat started kicking in.
Temps had soared to above 80* & I was sweating out water, Gatorade and Chomps faster than I could get them in!
At mile 10 I knew I had to back off – so I started alternating walking with running. There was absolutely no method to my madness – I’d pick a sign & run til I got there, then catch my breath, pick another sign & start running. Eventually I was walking more than running.
I drug my ass to mile 11 thinking there as NO WAY it would get any worse.
I was wrong.
Enter: Bridge Number Three.
This effing thing was so bad I couldn’t even muster the energy to take a friggin picture of it! There’s no doubt about it – this HAD to be the steepest bridge in North America!
My pace slowed to 16:00/mi. And I didn’t care. I just wanted to finish.
I trudged over that bridge & kept turning corners as spectators kept telling me “you’re almost there” – they were effing LYING! LYING I tell you!!!
After what seemed like an eternity I came up on the glorious 13 Mile marker and spotted Diggity in the crowd.
And then I somehow managed to jog the rest of the way to that effing finish line.
My official time = 2:58:34 = One of my slowest yet.
I was NOT a happy camper. I was hot, sore, sweaty and pissed off.
But I was PROUD that I didn’t fall apart (read: cry) out there. I kept my head up and made my way to the finish line one step at a time. (Of course, with my core engaged!)
That’s definitely a first for me – not falling apart mentally I mean. Usually if I’m struggling physically I lose my mind on the course & barely make it through. But not this time baby!!
After giving Diggity the thumbs down we immediately got in line for the trolley back to our car. I may or may not have almost passed out in line – meaning tunnel vision may or may not have set in and my lips & nose may or may not have started tingling. Nothing a little bit of juice can’t handle.
I was sick the rest of the day – presumably from dehydration and heat exhaustion. All I could manage to eat after that grueling 13.1 was a biscuit w/ apple butter, a glass of Coke and some water.
But never fear – by 6pm my appetite came back! (read: I ate an entire pizza by myself.)
All in all, I’m calling Iron Girl a success. Yes, I struggled with the hills, the heat and the humidity. But I didn’t give up or struggle mentally.
And that my friends, is good enough for me!
So now I’ve got just ONE half marathon left in my self imposed “Three in Three” challenge.
Here’s to another 4.5 weeks of training!