The weekend of the Gasparilla Distance Classic in Tampa is quite the spectacle. This year they estimated over 28,000 people participated in the the two day event offering four race distances including the 15k and 5k Saturday and the 1/2 marathon and 8k Sunday. Our team had someone racing in each event and I ran the 5k and 8k. This race weekend always offers so many ways to celebrate health and competition and this year did not disappoint.
Besides the normal preparation for a race, Gasparilla offers a significant Health & Fitness Expo where packet pickup is located so that is where it started for me and many others Friday. Saturday morning I ventured out to Bayshore Boulevard to meet Celia Dubey at 5 AM and put up our team tent, flags and signs. When I arrived the feels-like temperature was 37 degrees with the wind at 18 miles per hour. At one point early in the morning I had to go back to my truck to turn the heat on so I could get feeling back in my fingers and toes.
The 15k race was first up Saturday. We had several teammates participating. While waiting for the start and during the early stages of the race it was just Celia and I at our team tent. We had such a great chat about life, challenges, successes, people, and the list goes on. This is a fantastic element of participating in what we do here. It’s not just the running or swimming or biking or training or racing. The life lessons that come from being a part of this community and team is priceless. Celia and I have such a cool relationship. I trust her like a sister…we can say anything to each other, know everything is meant with positive intent and we support each other 100%.
As racers passed us we cheered them on and on and on and on. With 28,000 total participants for the weekend each of these races had an endless flow going down and back on beautiful Bayshore Boulevard. I had several layers of clothes on to start and also had my head and neck covered. I admit I am quite the softie when it comes to cold temperatures. I accept it when competing but when I’m standing around I’m a wimp. With about 45 minutes prior to the second race of the day, the 5k, I had to start removing some layers to warm up. I chose to run the 5k and 8k distances as they match the run distances in the duathlon races I’m competing in currently.
I was excited going into the 5k as it was my first 5k race in quite some time running on mostly fresh legs. Three weeks earlier I ran the 5k at the Best Damn Race but it was about an hour after running the 10k so my legs were toast going in. This would give me an opportunity to see where I was with my current fitness. We would have a wind at our back for the first part of the race and then head back into the wind for the second half. With that in mind and listening to the body my first mile was faster than my target for the first mile and I was feeling in full control meaning I didn’t feel I gassed myself with the potential of blowing up at some point.
The second mile which is the make it or break it mile for me in a 5k traditionally went pretty well. I knew when making the u-turn on Bayshore Boulevard the wind was going to be tough and knowing that plays a big part in a race strategy and execution. Know it, embrace it, and deal with it. I was happy with mile two as I kept a tight rein on my pacing and I ended mile two ahead of my mile two target pace. That fueled the fight for mile three and I came through 21 seconds ahead of my goal for the race and my second fastest 5k time placing 2nd in age group.
After that it was back to coach and be a cheerleader. What an awesome morning it was and then I began preparation for Sunday. I got home, did laundry for some of the repeat gear and got the legs ready for the fast turnaround. With the Normatec boots, hot tub, and stretching I would be ready for the 8k Sunday morning. Both Friday and Saturday nights I fueled myself with acai bowls from SOHO Juice and Karma Juice Bar & Eatery. I feel so clean racing the morning after my acai bowls…plant power!
Back at the race site at 5 AM Sunday and to my delight, warmer temperatures. It was 50 degrees when I arrived with still a wind but the feel was significantly better than Saturday morning. This was a special day as my daughter, Morgan, ran her first half marathon. While racing cross country and track in high school and college, they don’t compete in those distances so this was something new for her and she was excited. Her boyfriend, Lachlan, also came up to run the 1/2 marathon from Boca Raton where they attend Florida Atlantic University (FAU).
With any race distance and especially as you get to the longer distances the first race can go really wrong. I was so happy to see Morgan pass me with under a half mile to go looking strong and in full control. She was hurting but wasn’t in survival mode. She was pushing her effort and looked great! Earlier, Lachlan, passed us who was running this as a training run as part of his FAU track team schedule and busted out a 1:17:49 placing third in his age group. Just think if he chose to race it…
Morgan in her first 1/2 marathon placed 6th in her age group among 86 competitors and beat her goal pace significantly ending with a time of 1:42:01. As Elia Luti mentioned later, “Welcome to the club! Now you’ll be hooked! When is the next one? Great job!!!” Pretty cool to watch your kid performing at such a high level and enjoying the first time experience. That was special…
Another pretty cool thing to watch unfold was Dan Radde whom I’m coaching 1:1 destroy his 1/2 marathon personal record (PR) set one year earlier at the same race. On Saturday Dan set another 5k personal record finishing 7th in age group (of 424) and on this day he beat his 1/2 marathon record time by 51 seconds per mile making that an 11 minute PR!!! #determined
As the morning went on it was then time to begin preparation for the 8k (5 mile) race. I was again excited to see where my fitness was at this distance and coming off of the 10k run at the Best Damn Race three weeks earlier I had an idea. With that information and reviewing my race last year at the same event I was targeting to beat that time.
With similar conditions as the 5k the day prior with the wind at my back for the first half of the race I planned on listening to my body and if I was slightly faster than my target paces going out I was going to be ok with that knowing I would face the wind wall coming back. I went out feeling much better than I expected and went with it even though I was questioning if I just sabotaged my race with a first mile pace 21 seconds ahead of the first mile target. That is significant but I went with my gut. The second mile I was 10 seconds faster than my mile two target and now total for the two miles I was 32 seconds ahead of my total race pace goal.
The mile three effort certainly became much more difficult but when I made the u-turn coming back into the wind at 2.25 miles I kept the pace pretty tight and that was uplifting. I finished mile three picking up another seven seconds from my overall goal pace and with that adrenaline I continued to push. I thought to myself at this point of the simulations I had been incorporating late in training runs so far in this training season to push the effort and having done one successfully the previous Sunday all I had to do was match that intensity to the end. That really helped drawing from that recent experience getting through mile four picking up another four seconds on my overall goal pace.
Now the final mile – as I approached 4.5 miles I saw a few young gentlemen that I was closing on and kept working at what I was doing hoping I could close to make a final push. I closed and within the final 300 meters which was a bit early I passed them with one final kick. As soon as I passed them looking at the finish line I had a quick thought that I passed them a bit too soon but I didn’t want to break my stride. At that next quick instance I just went with it and ran like hell through pretty high discomfort to finish ahead of them. The final mile was 21 seconds faster than my goal pace and I know most of that was in the final 300 meters. I finished 2nd in my age group with my own personal record by 1:26 at a 6:19 pace.
Reflecting back on the race I was extremely happy with how I flexed during the race to my body, conditions and competition. Working on pain tolerance has been a big focus this year and that went well too so I really can’t complain where I’m at right now with the big duathlon races coming in May. I’m a long way from where I need to be but I’m in a good place at this point in the season.
So many cool things about this race too. Morgan was there cheering me on and as a dad there really isn’t anything more special than that. To talk shop with her about the experience for both of us was just so super cool as well.
Before, during and after all of the races I was able to cheer and spend time with amazing friends, teammates, and family. The race days took up a significant chunk of the weekend but I couldn’t think of any better way to spend my time…
Whatever it is for you, find your joy, make it a priority to live it as much as you can and do it now…not tomorrow. #tomorrowistoday
– Add Health to Your Life