22 March, 2014

Sarasota Half Marathon 2014 Recap

I'm a little delayed on writing up this post.  It's been a heck of a week, but I'm going to do my best to put together a coherent recap.

Fresh from my great experience at the Winter Park 10K (and maybe a nap...) I loaded up the car and set off on my solo road trip to Sarasota.  I left home way later than I'd originally planned, and was worried that I wouldn't make it to packet pick-up in time.  However, minimal traffic on I-4 and I-75 put me at the pick-up location 20 minutes before they closed.  Phew!

I picked up my bag and, just like Melbourne, was informed that they were out of XL shirts.  No worries - I'm now a fan of the large anyway. I really like the shirt, though since it's navy blue and all of my running bottoms are black I'm not sure when I'll ever get the chance to wear it.  It's cute paired with jeans, which I found out later in my trip, so maybe it'll just be a normal shirt for me.

After I got my race gear, I hopped back into the car and drove back north 20 minutes to get to my motel.  I waited way too long to book a room, and ended up at a place I was really concerned about.  It turns out my concerns were completely unfounded.  Though VERY no-frills (hair dryers and alarm clocks "available upon request"), the property and my room were clean and well-maintained.  I got the impression it's a mom & pop sort of place.  I also never felt unsafe, which as a solo female traveler speaks volumes. I checked in, popped over to Cracker Barrel for dinner (hello, plate-o-catfish-and-carbs), and then ran to Publix for breakfast and some forgotten things like sunscreen and water.

On race morning, I woke up with the alarm and got myself ready to go in plenty of time.  I followed my directions to the race start and was incredibly annoyed to find myself pretty much in a traffic stand-still long before there should've been such heavy traffic.  The pre-race materials all recommended arriving an hour early, and I was even earlier than that!  I finally got myself parked not too far from the race start, oriented myself to the surroundings, and headed toward the start area.

...and the 30-minute line for the port-a-potties.

I have literally waited less time for Space Mountain (without FastPass) than I did in this line.  And the people around me were getting more and more worried about the length of the line.  We had over a half hour - I didn't know what the problem was.  And then I heard the National Anthem and couldn't figure out WHY they were doing that so far in advance.  I pulled out my phone and opened the pre-race email, and that's when I realized the only reason I hadn't been freaking the heck out this whole time was because I thought the race started at 7:30, not 7:00.

Oh.  My.  God!!

Luckily for me, a lot of people bailed, and the line moved much faster at the end.  And luckily again, some guy handed a pile of napkins to the line in general because most of the stalls no longer had toilet paper.  That might have been my fastest pre-race pit stop ever!  I actually did make it to the start with the group, but only because it seems we started 10 minutes late.

Sunrise over the John Ringling Causeway -- beautiful time and place for a run

As for the actual race, I really enjoyed the first 4-5 miles.  We went over a causeway bridge (...and you know I love a good bridge!) at about mile 1, ran through some fancy shopping district, back over the same bridge at mile 4, and then into downtown Sarasota.

I was also able to maintain a really great (for me) pace for the first half of the race.  I passed the 3-hour pace group sometime in the first mile, and never looked back.  Even the second bridge crossing didn't bother me.  Unfortunately, I failed to realize just how much longer this race was than the previous day's race.  This was my first half marathon with my new intervals, a fact that became abundantly clear the longer I ran.

From miles 5.5 to almost 9, the route took us straight up the Tamiami Trail, which is pretty much interchangeable with 192, 50, OBT, or any other highway dotted with strip malls, dollar stores, and other assorted chain stores.  In other words, blah - I can't believe I paid to run this route.  However, because Sarasota is such an artsy locale, there were random sculptures dotting the otherwise mundane roadway.  Even the abortion clinic had a metal sculpture (ironically, of a stick figure woman holding a baby) out front.

Just after mile 8, the 3-hour group caught up to me.  And within a half mile, they were gone from sight.  That really did a number on my psyche, as I realized that particular goal would continue to elude me.  By mile 10, I was drained.  I couldn't remember the last time I felt like my feet were lead and my legs just didn't want to keep going.  But I soldiered on, occasionally skipping an interval, doing mental math on my pace at each mile marker I came to.

By the 12-mile marker, I realized that the 14-minute pace would require me to do the last 1.1 miles in 13 minutes.  That was a total impossibility.  And I gave up.  I kept moving, because I certainly wasn't going to quit, but I walked most of that last mile.  I did get one burst of speed to go past a pair of photographers, and I dug deep to run the last 100 yards to the finish line.  I got my medal, my water, posed for a few photos, and headed to the post-race area for some breakfast.

This race had a pretty cool feature I hadn't seen before.  There were two people at the results tent who typed your race number into a laptop, which spit out a receipt telling you your preliminary results.  Once back at the car, I looked up my results from Princess and realized I actually did PR this race, but I really didn't feel like I deserved to.  My brain just wasn't where it should've been at the end, and I wasn't proud of the way I just gave in.

My Race Stats:
Chip Time: 3:07:19 **PR** (by 91 seconds)
Pace: 14:18 min/mile
Overall Place: 2940/3237
Gender Place: 1812/2059

My Splits (according to RunKeeper):
mile 1: 12:12 min/mi
mile 2: 13:05 min/mi
mile 3: 12:48 min/mi
mile 4: 13:12 min/mi
mile 5: 14:02 min/mi
mile 6: 13:22 min/mi
mile 7: 13:46 min/mi
mile 8: 14:11 min/mi
mile 9: 14:08 min/mi
mile 10: 13:59 min/mi
mile 11: 14:42 min/mi
mile 12: 15:11 min/mi
mile 13: 15:33 min/mi

I didn't like this year's medal.

I was pretty frank about the fact that I was signing up because I wanted the big shiny dolphin medal (image search for the medals from past years).  The race organizers advertise the "largest race medal in Florida," which isn't important to me at all.  I want pretty medals that look awesome hanging on my wall.  This one looks more like a dark blue saucer on a ribbon, and you really have to squint to even see the dolphins.

I guess it was important for me to learn that lesson.  You don't sign up for the "bling;" you sign up for the race experience.

I liked this race, and I'll definitely do it again.  I was planning to sign up for next year this week when it was 50% off, but ended up with a very sick kitty and no spare money for race registration.  I really do feel like I have something to prove to myself, like I need to conquer the last 5 miles of this race and prove I can do it strongly.  I also liked the post-race party, even though I didn't visit the "beer garden" or seek out any food past the (delicious) yogurt parfaits.

Aside from the bridges, the course is flat.  And there aren't a whole lot of choke points on the route. The water stations are well-staffed, and in addition to some weird gummy candy fuel at two stops, there were volunteers handing out fruit (hello, giant strawberry!).  I strongly recommend putting it on your race bucket list, just not for the giant medal!

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