Monday, March 01, 2010

RR Tampa

Race Report
Sun, Feb 28/10
Gasparilla Marathon
Tampa, FL
Marathon # 326
3:48:53 – 1 AG

Several months ago I selected the Gasparilla Marathon as a race to run for two reasons:
1) It was billed as the ‘final voyage’ of the Gasparilla Distance Classic Races because the marathon is being discontinued after this year.
2) I wanted to ‘key’ on this race for a fast time because the course is fast and flat and times can be good if the weather cooperates.
However reason #2 started to fall apart when fate and circumstances didn’t seem to fall in my favor? First there were the disappointing races in Jan followed by the week of ‘Gluttony & Sloth’ on the cruise followed by a week of illness (cold and congestion). After the Bahamas Marathon I was only able to complete a few LSD (Long Slow Distance) runs before I suffered another setback with a minor stomach virus. Thus I did not have much confidence or motivation going into this ‘key’ race!

A number of friends and fellow runners from our local Club planned to run the race also and on Fri I accompanied a few lovely young ladies to Tampa to pick up our race packets and buy a few items of gear at the race expo. We all agreed that we preferred to stay at home and drive into Tampa early on race day so we met at 4am on Sun morning and I drove three lovely ladies into Tampa. When we arrived at the Tampa Convention Centre near the race start at 5 am the weather was perfect for racing - a temp of 45 F, dry and a light breeze. During the race the weather became sunny and the temps never rose above the mid 50s!

My good friend Linda and I had decided to run together. I had researched the winning time for my AG last year (3:50) but did not have any confidence that I could run a sub 3:50 race to be competitive? Thus I volunteered to pace Linda to a sub 4-hr finish so she could qualify for Boston. However she declined stating that she didn’t want to put any stress/pressure on herself because it messed with her mind. Instead we decided to go out at an 8:45 pace, do a gut check at 5 miles to see if we could hold that pace and just let the chips fall? However we made a slight tactical error by waiting too long in the Convention Centre to avoid the ‘brisk’, cool temps outside and when we finally tried to get to the start line we had to fight/elbow our way through 20,000+ runners (in the Marathon & Half). We ended up about 500 ft from the start line and it took three minutes to reach the start line after the race started. Then we were completely boxed in and that cost us a 10:12 split for the 1st mile! Fortunately the course opened up at that point and mile #2 was an 8:38 split. Linda then lowered the hammer and dropped the pace to sub 8:30s and I was just tried to hang on? When she passed mile 5 in 44:35 and a split of 8:16 I shouted that she needed (read- I needed) to slow the pace down! Although my legs felt good/fresh I knew I couldn’t hold an 8:15 pace for another 21 miles so I decided to slow my pace down to 8:30s and just try to keep Linda in sight. I managed to keep her in sight through 10 miles (1:27:29 and a split of 8:23). At that point the course looped back and she had about a 500-ft lead on me. I shouted to her that “she was doing great and to run her own pace and not to worry about me”. I kept her in sight until the marathon course rejoined the half course (11M in the Marathon and 8M in the Half) where the course became a mass of humanity – many Half participants walking and marathoners trying to pass them. I lost sight of Linda and never saw her again?

I passed the Half in 1:53:51 and a split of 8:41. I did another gut check and my legs still felt amazingly fresh so I decided to push the pace down to sub 8:30s to see if I could get sight of Linda again? I expected to suffer my usual energy ‘lull’ or low around 16 miles but it didn’t happen so I continued to push the pace. Still no Linda? Around 18 miles the course has a 2-mile loop around a residential area and a park before it loops back on Bayshore Blvd along Tampa Bay to finish in downtown Tampa. I was hoping I wouldn’t meet her on the return leg because that would mean she had a 2-mile lead on me? Nope - no Linda! I passed mile 20 in 2:54:04 and a split of 8:51. My final gut check- the legs still felt good! I calculated that if I could hold a sub 9-min pace for the final 10K I could finish under 3:50! I decided to push the pace and go for it! I managed to lower the next mile split to 8:42 but then the course emerged from the residential area at mile 21 and dumped onto Bayshore Blvd. I knew what to expect at that point and I was not surprised! The final 5 miles on Bayshore are along Tampa Bay and there is no shelter from a wind that always seems to be there and blowing from the North – which means it is a headwind!

Fortunately I still felt strong and was cruising – unfortunately I was passing many runners and there was nobody to hide behind and draft. I started to whine and moan and feel sorry for myself until Maddog handed me a dose of reality. He reminded me that EVERY runner had to face the same course – the same wind – the same obstacles – and to get over it – suck it up and push on to the finish line. He was right of course (it is nice to have a Maddog riding along to provide support when needed) so I lowered my head, tucked in my shoulders and arms to reduce wind resistance – sucked it up, dug deeper and increased my effort to maintain a sub 9-min pace into that friggin headwind! As I approached mile 24 in 3:29:31 and a split of 8:56 I thought I saw Linda up ahead – about 500ft in front of me? I dug deeper, pushed harder and caught the female runner at mile 25 – but alas it was not Linda! However I decided to hold the faster pace until I crossed the finish line in 3:48:53.

Still no Linda? I figured she had either whupped my ass or had stopped for a potty break and I had missed her? About 30 minutes later the group finally met up again at our designated spot and I learned that Linda had indeed whupped my ass – by 1 minute! She finished in 3:47:39 – a PR and a BQ time – a fantastic performance and time! We decided to wander over to the awards ceremony to check the results and our standings. I thought that Linda must surely have won or placed in her AG? I wasn’t so sure about my time because I figured that some of the ‘top dogs’ in my AG would have shown up since it was the ‘final voyage’? Surprisingly it was the opposite? Linda’s great performance and time was only good enough for 5th place but my time won 1st place (21 runners) in my AG!

Needless to say I was pleased with both my performance and time! Both were much better than I expected and I never experienced any problems during the entire race. I have regained confidence in my conditioning and once again have the motivation needed to continue training hard to key on one final race for the Spring season – in late March in Washington State.

Stay tuned!

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