Monday, February 11, 2008

RR Tampa

Race Report
Gasparilla Marathon
Tampa, FL
Sun, Feb 10/08
Marathon #298
3:42:06 – 1 AG

Marathon #298.
That was about the only significant fact on this marathon going into the race. In fact it was actually a make-up or substitute marathon to replace the Taiwan marathon that I had postponed in Dec 07. Fortunately there are lots of marathons in FL during Jan & Feb and I selected the Gasparilla marathon in Tampa because it is the closest to home and I had run it a few times before. The marathon is a part of the Gasparilla Festival and the Gasparilla Distance Classic – a series of road races. On Sat there were 5/10/15km races with several thousands of runners including elite runners in the flat and fast 15 Km. On Sun the Half/Marathon attracts about 3,000 runners.

I planned to use the marathon as a 20-mile tempo run (i.e. run the 1st 20 miles as hard/fast as possible and then just hold on to finish the final 10Km and race) as a tune up for my home town race in March where I plan to run marathon #300! Thus I convinced a few friends from the local running club to run the race too. Charlie and Linda wanted/needed to run a 3:45 marathon to qualify for Boston and I promised them that I would pace them through 20 miles at a 3:45 pace but after that they were on their own? However Mother Nature had other ideas as both Charlie and Linda came down with a very bad flu.
Luckily Charlie recovered the week before the race and decided to try running it but Linda was too sick and offered her race bib to Frank –‘the only other sane person in the world’. So Frank ran the Half as a young, beautiful blonde female! He offered to wear a blonde wig but when you look at the picture you will also agree that no disguise could help him?

Frank and I drove up to Tampa at 4 am on Sun and met Charlie at the start line. Since there were only 3,000 runners and no start corrals we were able to position ourselves on the start line to make sure that we didn’t get boxed in and had a fast start. The race started at 6am in the dark in downtown Tampa. The weather cooperated – it was 56 F and low humidity and the temps never rose above the low 60s during the race. I did not make the same mistake as Miami two weeks ago and wore a race singlet to reduce the risk of overheating! Charlie and I took off like scared rabbits and passed mile 1 in 7:50. Obviously way too fast! So I immediately threw out an anchor and slowed our split over mile 2 to 8:30. By the time we reached mile 6 on Davis Island in 50:14 we had settled into an easy/smooth 8:30 pace. At that point an old fart from TX passed us and asked if we were pacing each other? We explained that Charlie was trying to run a 3:45 to qualify for Boston. He then asked our age groups and we quickly realized he was in my AG. He then made a kind of sarcastic remark about not having to worry about me since I was running so slowly and took off. I wished him luck and let him go for two reasons: 1) I wanted to stay and pace Charlie and 2) I wasn’t foolish enough to get into a pissing match only 6 miles into a race!

At mile 7 the Half and Marathon courses split off and we had more room to run and my pace dropped to an 8:18 split on the next mile. At mile 9 the 3:40 pace group passed us and I dropped in behind them. I noticed that Charlie was starting to fall behind but I stayed behind the pace group hoping that Charlie would be motivated to keep them in sight. I followed the pace group through Mile 10 in 1:24:28. I was right on target but Charlie was already starting to fade? At Mile 11 the marathon course rejoined the Half marathon course back at the 7mile marker of the Half. This was a change in the marathon course and it was very confusing and annoying! There were runners merging and turning in all kinds of directions. Luckily I could still see the 3:40 pace group and just followed them. However we were now passing Half marathon runners who were running/walking a 12/14 min pace. For the next three miles we had to pay close attention to many slower runners on the course and weave around them which used up energy!

I passed the Half in 1:49:43 and a split of 8:35. I was on target and felt much better/stronger than I did in Miami two weeks ago. I was confident I could hold the pace through 20 miles. Finally at mile 14 the Half runners turned back on Bayshore Blvd towards the finish line and I was running by myself. I had lots of room, felt good/strong and decided to lower the pace to 8:20s. I passed mile 16 in 2:14:21 and a split of 8:21 and mile 18 in 2:31:17 and a split of 8:17! At that point the course started to loop through residential areas next to MacDill Air Force Base before returning to Bayshore Blvd at mile 20.
I passed mile 20 in 2:48:21 – 01:40 ahead of pace! It was time to do a gut check. I still felt good/strong and was confident that I could hold the pace through the final 10 Km. There was only one slight/potential problem? The course was now heading north on Bayshore back to the finish line in downtown Tampa and a strong wind had seemed to come up during the loop through the residential area? It was gusting about 20/30 mph – into our faces! I managed to hold an 8:35 pace for the next two miles into the wind. Around mile 22 I noticed a runner coming from the other direction and acting very weird. He had veered into our lane and was heading straight for me? As I veered to avoid him he veered to collide with me? Only at the last second when he started laughing did I recognize my good friend Edson from NYC! Friggin idiot! He cost me valuable seconds and energy!

When I reached mile 22 in 3:05:25 I was in for an even bigger surprise! The course had left the protection of the expensive homes along Bayshore Blvd and the final 4 miles along Tampa Bay had nothing to protect/buffer us from the wind. It was now howling about 30mph off Tampa Bay down Bayshore Blvd and directly into our faces! It was brutal. I searched desperately for another runner to hide behind and draft but the wind was standing everyone straight up and slowing them down! I figured I would be lucky to manage a 9/10-min pace into that wind? But there was nothing to do but hunker down, make my body as small a target as possible and push on. At mile 23 a young buck blew by me and I dropped in behind him to draft but he was running an 8:15 pace and I couldn’t stay with him. When I passed mile 24 in 3:22:57 I became determined to average at least a 9-min pace for the final 2 miles to finish under 3:45! I dug deep, ignored the wind and pain and pushed on. In the final 1 ½ miles I passed two old farts but never even gave any thought/concern to my position in the race? I hadn’t seen the old fart from TX and assumed he was ahead of me and a 3:45 finish would probably not be good enough to place in the top three? I pushed across the finish line in 3:42:06!

Needless to say, both Maddog and I were very happy. I had run a smart race, stuck to my strategy and was pleased that I had been able to push the pace through the final 10 km. I was ecstatic about my finish time – I would never have believed before the race that I was ready to run a sub 3:45! I walked back to the car to find Frank napping. He had finished the Half in 3:15 (15 min faster than Miami) and was once again happy and proud that he had beat me back to the car! We walked back to the finish line to take some photos and look for Charlie. No Charlie so we took the photos and headed home. I didn’t even check the results at the finish line because I didn’t believe I had placed in my AG. I headed straight to the hot tub with a six pack of Labatt’s Blue for a much needed, much deserved hot soak to rejuvenate my tired old legs.

After the soak I was curious about how I finished in my Age group so I checked the results on the NET. Holy Crap! I won my AG by 50 secs – the two old farts I passed in the last mile finished 2nd and 3rd. The old fart/jerk from TX must have crashed big time because he finished 17 minutes behind me! Retribution can be nice/enjoyable! I also learned (via email) that Charlie had realized at mile 14 that a 3:45 marathon wasn’t going to happen so he wisely slowed down and jogged to the finish line to save his legs and energy for our hometown race.

I have one more ‘training’ marathon to run in Jacksonville, FL next weekend to complete marathon #299 and a final tune up to prepare me for #300! I plan to stick to the same strategy but go out at a faster (8:15 pace) for 20 miles and then try to hang on for the final 10Km.

Stay tuned!

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