Sometime, a few months ago, my friend/coworker Whitney mentioned training for a winter marathon…which then became talks about an ultra…which led to a discussion about a road 50K (my only other was trail)…which became the basis for registering for the Clearwater Distance Classic.
Sure, it was the weekend after the Goofy Challenge, but it was a chance to run with friends and enjoy scenic views, so I was in.
Fast forward to yesterday…
Whitney, her friend/neighbor Darcie and I arranged to carpool up to Clearwater (about 1.5 hours away) and stay overnight so we could have as much sleep as possible before the big race. So, we left around ~3ish from Sarasota, and drove straight to Coachmen Park (where the race would start/end, and served as packet pickup). Although we hit quite a bit of traffic, we made it in right before they closed, and then headed over to our hotel for the night (the Hilton Clearwater Beach) to check in, before hitting dinner.
After a delicious sushi nosh and a quick stop at what was quite possibly the largest and nicest Walgreens we had ever seen (it had two levels, an escalator and frozen yogurt dispensers!) we changed into our PJs and settled in for the night at the late late hour of about 8:30 PM.
After drifting off to sleep (with Blended on the TV, which I laughed -loudly- at) I slept pretty soundly until the 5 AM alarm went off (with just one wakeup – at 11:54 PM I thought it was time to get up!)
The race start was 7:05 AM (which felt like sleeping in, after Disney last week!) and we wanted to have ample time to get ready, head over, and find a good parking spot.
Once on site, we dropped our bags and lined up for the portapotties (x2) before it was time to get running. The start was pretty weird – no official line ups, and all distance events started at the same time (5M, 13.1, 26.2 and 50K) which was a little annoying, but not too bad (the cool thing was that they let walkers start early – 6:45 AM, I think).
The first few miles were a bit congested, but beautiful, as we ascended the first bridge over to the Clearwater beach area, rounded the resort section, and hit the second bridge. The 5 Milers were split off at that point, and after an out and back portion by the residential condo area, the halfers headed back, and the marathoners and ultra runners kept on.
By Mile 8, we had stopped twice for potty breaks (Darcie has the world’s smallest bladder, lol) but otherwise, were maintaining a pretty good 9-10 minute pace and were still all together. We had been moved over to the shoulder of the road, marked off with cones (kind of narrow, but not terrible) and had to stay vigilant about crazy drivers. It was a beach road though, so there were a few nice views, as well as sights of fun kitschy beach cafes, shops and inns.
Mile 15ish, Darcie needed another potty break, so I stopped with her, but Whitney said she wasn’t feeling the idea of stopping, so she moved on and so we had to then pick up the pace to catch up with her – that was a little rough! For about .75 miles, we had to juice it up under 9 minute pace, which felt fast after the easy pace we had been going!
A little after 16, there was another fork in the road – straight for ultra, left turn for marathon – this was a ~5ish mile out and back to add the distance on the Pinellas Trail (which, P.S. was a little boring and shady – and I don’t mean covered with trees – I am talking stray cats and dogs, trailer parks, etc). It got really sunny at this point, and we were hoping for some cloud cover! We had to ascend two somewhat steep overpasses on that route!
Thankfully, the ‘back’ portion to the merge point felt easier (and the clouds came out to play) than the ‘out’ portion, and we were at Mile 21 then. After taking Gatorade and water at a handful of stops, I finally felt like I had to pee, and thankfully, there were ‘real’ bathrooms!!
And that’s when it went downhill for me…
Yup, at Mile 21, I found out that my *ahem* Aunt Flo was (unwelcomingly) visiting me early, and with her, a whole arsenal of related ailments, aches and pains. UGH. It was like being hit by a truck, and despite our thus-far pact of staying together, I told Darcie and Whitney to forge ahead.
We all stayed in relative eyeshot of each other for the next 2 miles or so, but then, their figures faded away. I was run-walking (2/:30ish), and took a moment to call hubs and let him know what was going on so he wouldn’t worry about me out there.
At Mile 27, I had to walk, the pain was so bad. Then, it subsided a bit and I did run/walk. Then Mile 29…walk. I have to admit, I was getting so frustrated. My legs felt great – amazing, even – and here I was, having to walk (though, I did run up every overpass – the seemingly endless overpasses).
At Mile 30, I knew I wanted to get it done in less than 5:30, so I kicked it in, and was happy to see the same finish of this race as Iron Girl – down a rounding walkway, then straight to home!
Official finish: 5:28:28
It was definitely not an easy finish, but it was a satisfying one. I had a huge smile, and felt triumphant (and even happier when I reached the ONE AND ONLY medical tent and was saved by a female paramedic who had extra feminine products – my hero!!) Plus, I found out I wasn’t as far behind as I thought (Darcie finished around 4:13ish, Whitney 4:25) so I hadn’t made them wait forever, like I had feared!
Overall, it was a nicely organized race – I had fun with friends – and I got some pretty sweet bling. I don’t think I’d run it again (the course was just “okay”) but I have memories I won’t soon forget!
Other notable things:
- The Script’s “Superheroes” totally made the end of my race with these lyrics: “Every day, every hour, Turn the pain into power.“
- Mile 29 was when I laughed so hard after asking a fellow runner (who looked good and strong!) how he was feeling. He said, “I feel great!” / Me: “Well, you look it!” / Him: “I always feel great!!” / Me: “Good!” / Him: “I also always lie!” 😉
- Outfit was a win – Oiselle Distance shorts + Bibrave racerback tank + Brooks Glycerin 12 + Sparkle Athletic headsweats visor
- After today, I plan on taking a week off running as double recovery from this weekend + last weekend – my legs feel great, but I know it’s the smart thing to do, if I want a successful February. So Day 1 is tomorrow!
Where did your running shoes take YOU this weekend?