After two weeks of rest after completing the Booby Trap Challenge in Jacksonville, it was time to complete the coast to coast Treasured Chest Challenge with the half marathon at the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic, so this weekend, I woke before the sun to rock out 13.1 miles in Tampa!
Race morning started practically “runDisney early” as the race start was scheduled for 6 AM, so I was on the road by 3:45 AM to do race morning packet pickup. The drive was very smooth (no traffic at o’dark thirty!) and I valet parked at the Embassy Suites, since my VIPinks teammates were staying there.
I give the race a major kudos for a super smooth packet pickup, as I was in and out of the convention center in less than 5 minutes! After receiving my bib, shirt, and awesome swag bag (benefits of Publix sponsorship: a reusable shopping bag as the race bag!) I met up with Mitzi and Erin in their room. Mitzi had created our awesome “Treasured Chest” tanks (as pictured above) so after I changed into mine, and sprayed on about a gallon of sunscreen, we headed back down to the lobby to meet up with Chris, Marcia and Barbara.
I knew this race was a popular one, but I had no idea how crowded it would be walking up toward the starting corrals! Wow! There were so many people, but even in the dark, there was this feeling of energy in the air. Before long, we had all bid each other a great race, and I walked over to the “sub-2” starting area.
Oddly enough, there seemed to be a glitch with the PA system so the anthem didn’t play at first, but the runner crowd showed their patriotism by singing it out, anyway. It was kind of neat! Soon, the blowhorn went off, and we were unleashed on the streets of Tampa!
The course took us over to Davis Island for the first five miles, which was a nice way to start the race. My first mile was by far, my slowest of the morning, as the first half mile were very congested. However, I was pleasantly surprised how the course opened up by Mile 2, and from that point, it was very manageable.
Although those early miles were in the darkness, it was kind of meditative and relaxing to just run with the crowd down those quiet streets, flanked by water views and residential neighborhoods. Mile 5 took us back toward town, up the on-ramp, and back toward Bayshore Boulevard, which I am now quite acquainted with in racing (recent runs: 2016 Hot Chocolate 15K and Fit Foodie 15K).
Back on Bayshore, the sun was now peeking through the clouds, but the temperature was still quite nice and cool. I took some energy chews from a volunteer a little after Mile 6, and walked through each water stop, as I had done from the second stop of the race (I skipped the first one because it was crowded). I wasn’t focusing too much on pace (in fact, I had not even looked at my watch on Davis Island, since it was so dark) but in the daylight, I was pleasantly surprised to see my pace in the low-mid 8’s with just moderate effort.
At Mile 7, I had the awesome honor of seeing Stephanie Rothstein Bruce tearing it up and heading back on the course! She looked amazing! Her inspiration translated into my fastest mile (a flat 8:00).
I got another boost at the turnaround point, which was definitely beneficial since a headwind blew toward us on the return. IT WAS SOOOO WINDY! I had my iPod with me for this race, and my darn right earbud kept flying out, which was a bit annoying. I fixed it a few times, and then, what do you know, the left one popped out. I tried not to let it bug me too much though!
This was also the point in the race that I was glad that I decided to carry my DONNA pom pom (I wanted to have it with me to cheer at the finish line, post-race) but the side benefit was that I got lots of cheers (“hey pink pirate pom poms!”) and I was able to shake the pom pom to thank volunteers and police with a little pep!
The last 5K of the race was really exciting to me for some reason…heading back toward the city skyline felt like the true “mark” of finishing my 48.6 mile journey!
One foot in front of the other…one foot in front of the other…
Before I knew it, I was headed up that last leg of the race, and, after summoning the last bit of energy I could to surge toward the finish line…I was done! Earning that half marathon medal was satisfying, but taking a few steps further to collect my “Treasured Chest” medal…now, that was an INCREDIBLY proud moment!
I grabbed a picture with one of the pirates before heading to the post-race area for some delicious finisher food from the Columbia Restaurant (including 1905 salad!) and a Coke, before I walked back to the finish to cheer in my teammates.
The sun was shining, and the weather still felt pretty darn perfect, and watching so many proud finishers coming in was the best way I could imagine spending my Sunday morning. You know that quote, “If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon,” – well, it may not have been an actual 26.2 finish line that day, but seeing the pride in people’s faces, their celebrations of their accomplishments, along with the spectators – adults, kids, and pets – it was just a real celebration of the human spirit – all narrated by finish line announcer and awesome runner himself, Bart Yasso.
The timing turned out that I was able to see almost all of my teammates run in, and once I cross-checked their finishes with the results in the app, I walked back up and over the bridge to meet up with everyone, and grab some pictures with the Gasparilla pirate ship!
All in all, it was the perfect celebration of many miles run, fundraising dollars rayised, and laughs shared. I am so proud to have been a part of it all.
My fundraising page will be active through the end of March, so please, consider a donation to help FINISH breast cancer for good – and THANK YOU so incredibly much to the many friends, family and total strangers who have supported me since 2013 in raising more than $6,600 toward the cause!