Thursday, February 27, 2020

Gasparilla Distance Classic 2020 15k

Sometime after Ragnar, Jessie and I got to talking about running another race together. She already had the Gasparilla 15k on her docket, and it barely took any convincing to get me signed up. The plan was always to meet her in Tampa, stay at her parents' house in St. Pete, and run the race "together".
As race day loomed, I was feeling a bit anxious. My training didn't look how I wanted it to but I really didn't want to drop out. In the end, I was able to figure out a fast-and-dirty plan that left me feeling pretty mentally prepared and physically ready for race day.

Leading up to the race, I'd been hoping for one more cold front. Gasparilla is historically a hot and humid weekend, but as I kept my eye on the weather, it looked like I was about to learn a lesson a la "be careful what you wish for."
Despite packing Thursday and having everything in the car, I left work early Friday and made a pit-stop at home for more cold-weather clothes. As I've proven over the last few months, I'm really bad at layering. I tend to listen to my body's initial reaction to cold weather and ignore the sage advice to dress in anticipation of warming up on the run. My goal in choosing my outfit was to avoid feeling overheated mid-race.

Friday we met up and went to the expo, which is always completely organized and run like a well-oiled machine. Bibs and packets in hand, we browsed the stalls but didn't find anything noteworthy.
Why is the lighting at the expo always so bad?!
After stopping at the home base to put our bags down and put on some warmer clothes, we met Jessie's husband for dinner at Casita, where I had some tacos that were seriously delicious. I try to avoid spicy food before a race, so I stuck to one of their milder hot sauces, although I had to try all of them.
One of these tacos is a BLT made with pork belly and I nearly died from happiness when I took my first bite.
After dinner, I pretty much went straight to bed. It had been a long week and our day was going to start early. I was up a few times throughout the night, but mostly I slept pretty well.

My alarm went off at 5am on Saturday. I checked the weather: 41º. That was a few degrees colder than expected, but I reminded myself that I would warm up along the way and that the last time I ran in 50º, I was too warm when I layered a vest over my Watch Me Go.
I was glad I'd brought so many options for clothes, but did regret not packing a hat.

Like I had practiced with all my morning long runs, I opted to forgo coffee and breakfast, but I packed a Gu in case I got hungry. (I ran my 8-miler completely fasted but started to feel hungry around mile 6.)

Dressed and ready, we left the house around 5:45. Jessie works in Tampa, so we had the luxury of using her office building as our own personal staging area. We hung out in the car (which we were able to park for free in the building's garage) until we felt time was getting slim, then used the office bathrooms and had plenty of time to walk over to the start. The walk over was the worst part of the morning - it was like walking down a frigid wind tunnel. I was really starting to regret not wearing more layers.
We got to the start with five minutes to spare for Jessie's start time. She was in wave 1. We shared a parting hug and went our separate ways to get into our corrals.

Huddled in the corral, I didn't really feel anything. I didn't have a sense of excitement, anxiety, or any other jittery emotions that usually course through me before a race. I think I was too numb to feel anything!
With 6000 of my closest friends!
At 6:50, the race finally began. I tried to tell myself not to go out too fast (I was listening to a podcast rather than music to try to curb that desire), but my body just wanted to get warm. The first two miles flew by; I found a comfortable pace, keeping the10:00 pacer right in front of me, but soon passed them. My hands warmed up a bit and I tossed my Hot Hands.

Around mile 3 I saw someone in Skirt and complimented her taste. I paused to take a photo of the sunrise. Around mile 4 I started to feel hungry and broke out my Gu. It was the Birthday Cake flavor, which reminded me that this was my birthday race. I had kind of forgotten!
I continued to feel really good. I felt like my pace was just the tiniest bit challenging but I definitely wasn't racing. 
Let's play I-spy.
At a certain point, you turn off Bayshore and run down Gandy, turn around, and then come back down Bayshore for the last part of the race. Around that time (mile 5.5 or so), the cold wind that had apparently been at our backs was now head-on. (And I'm not just being a whiny baby about it - the wind was newsworthy for the winners, too!)

I took a walk break to switch from podcast to music and then just kept trucking.
I began to play some mental games with myself, promising myself I could walk at mile 7 if I wanted to, but mile 7 came and went. I paused once more to throw out my Gu, but essentially ran the remainder of the race without another walk break. I'm floored just thinking about that, because those last four miles were tough. The wind added significant resistance to every step and the cold was absolutely battering my lungs.
I never truly warmed up all the way on the course, which was optimal because I prefer to be a little cool rather than overheated, but at times it was really tough.

The 15k distance kind of plays with your mind, because you think you're done when you get to mile 9 but you're not quite there yet. In the last mile, though, Gasparilla never fails to disappoint. The crowds are constant; you don't want to walk with so many people around cheering for you.
The beads are untucked, which means the end is near!
The straight, flat route also gives you a clear sightline to the finish from about half a mile back. It really gives you something to work toward.
I crossed the finish line at a sprint and nearly crashed into the woman in front of me, who had slowed to a walk immediately. I was immediately freezing; the wind was up and my body was cooling down.
All smiles!
I found Jessie and we were both too cold to get pictures; we walked back to the car, cranked the heat, and headed home.
Indoor finisher pic!
It was only later, after I checked my stats, that I saw how strong I had actually run. I'm amazed that I ran such a respectable race on such meager training. I can't believe I pulled it off after having to MacGyver together a pathetic excuse for a training plan!

I finished in 1:34:05, which is a three minute course PR and a 44 second distance PR.
116/280 AG
Gasparilla is always a fun race, and it was a perfect one to ring in 34. It left me with some complicated feelings about races and training and long distance I'll have to explore all that later.
For now, I'm happy to add another medal to my collection and celebrate my first official race of 2020!


Thursday, February 20, 2020

(Unofficial Virtual) A1A Fort Lauderdale 5k

I mentioned this "race" briefly in passing, but I feel it deserves a recap of sorts.

Last year, I ran the A1A half marathon as my goal race after recovering from compartment syndrome.  As I've mentioned on this blog numerous times, I've run one of the A1A races every year for the last five years; it's always on my birthday weekend and is such a special race and experience each time.

Last year, I knew I probably wouldn't run it again. They had moved the 2020 race to a random weekend in January rather than its usual February weekend, and I just knew I wouldn't be able to make it work. I made my peace with it.

Then, I saw the medal.
I mean, this is about more than the medal, but really, it's kind of a lot about the medal.
Despite being overwhelmed by FOMO, I didn't sign up. I put my desires for that adorable turtle behind me. I thought I was okay with it. Then, race weekend came. And with it came photos. Hundreds of smiling Florida runners with their turtle medals crossed my Instagram feed and stories; one of those smiling runners was Kristina.

I was just coming back from having the flu and was feeling envious of the race on a couple levels. Kristina, being the most amazing and supportive friend I could ask for, made me an incredibly kind offer.
Usually I'd be horrified that someone just tosses their race medals, but in this case I am grateful!
So, that Monday, I ran a 5k. I'd been on complete rest up to the previous Saturday, when I ran one measly mile and felt winded and wheezy, but I needed to get that 5k done.

I met Matt at his studio and we ran together through an unexciting, nondescript neighborhood nearby. Every step felt tough; I was really struggling. At exactly 1.55 miles, I saw a sign.
No, not "no outlet"...the other one!
Literally, I saw a sign that made things seem like the stars were aligning. The race I'd been hoping to get back on track for, the one I was so worried I'd have to DNS, was staring me in the face.

The last half of the 5k was just as tough as the first. I didn't magically feel light on my feet, but as I finished the distance - wheezing and worn - I felt committed. The medal was a carrot I needed to get back on my feet after being sick; the "race" was rough but it rekindled the desire to train that my fever had snuffed out.
Since running the A1A unofficial virtual 5k, my training has been excellent. I've stuck to my new plan and now feel excited and ready for Gasparilla all over again.

A week after my "race", a package arrived in the mail. I hadn't really forgotten it was coming, but I wasn't expecting Kristina to rush out and send the medal quickly; after all, she was doing me a big favor. When it arrived, I was ecstatic.
I have Kristina to thank for stoking my renewed training energy, and now I have a sixth A1A medal to add to my collection. I may not have a bib and I may not have been there at the starting line, but I'm grateful beyond measure for this gift. It ended up meaning more to me than I could have expected.


Monday, February 17, 2020

Birthday Run & Festivities

I may actually pull this off.

Since coming up with my last-minute-most-abbreviated-training-plan-ever, I've successfully done what I needed to do.
Last weekend I ran six miles. Elizabeth joined me for the last two. It was rough and I walked a lot, but I got it done.
Despite a busy week, I got my weekday runs in, even if I didn't quite get the full 5 miles in I had planned for Thursday.

That was probably for the best, as I moved my 8 miler from Sunday to Saturday so I could fully enjoy my Saturday night birthday dinner, and I didn't want to tire my legs out too much. Despite some self-doubt creeping in, I was up early Saturday and ready for eight miles.

It was a beautiful, wonderful run. The weather hovered in the low-mid 60s, the sun only breeched the clouds in the last two miles, and my legs and lung felt surprisingly fresh. It was much easier than the previous week's six miler.
It was everything I could have wanted in my last long run (and longest run) before race day.

After a shower and nap, Matt and I went to Skillets for brunch. I had been looking forward to gluten free pancakes all week. Later, we picked up Elizabeth and Matt dropped us at Rocco's Tacos for our birthday dinner with Stacey and Jess.
Having gotten my long run out of the way, I was able to fully enjoy the table-side guac, two margaritas (Jalapeño and Black Diamond), tacos, and complementary flan without concern about how I'd feel in the morning.
Sunday, the festivities continued. My birthday is always on a long weekend, but of course this year we didn't celebrate with the usual trip to Fort Lauderdale and the A1A race, so we had to extend the festivities at home somehow.
These vegan nachos are the best!
Our friend James met us at the vegan festival downtown, then we all went to the Wonder Gardens where my birthday wish came true and I got to hold lots of birds and feed them and basically enjoy a little piece of heaven.
It should go without saying that this was a wonderful birthday. I feel ready for Gasparilla, more ready than I thought I would, and March has some exciting things in store. I think this year is going to be a good one for me.


Thursday, February 6, 2020

Cautiously Optimistic

I think I may be able to pull off the Gasparilla 15k after all.

Despite a real lack of training in late December/early January, followed by the flu and subsequent diminished lung capacity, I was having my doubts. I put aside any idea of a time goal, knowing that was out of the question, and I changed my estimated finishing time on my registration, thus changing my starting corral.

All of this was kind of risk-management, but I was still feeling pretty hopeless until this past week.
My string of good runs started because Kristina offered to bribe me with a coveted A1A K5 medal if I ran a 5k, and that was an offer I couldn't refuse!
I finally had a week of three good runs, including a "long run" (meaning I actually got up early and ran as if I were training for something) of four miles. On that run, a plan formed in my head.
Morning run glow!
If I can manage a 6-mile long run this weekend and 8 miles next weekend, then by February 22 (race day!) I should be able to run 9.3 miles. Even if it's slow. Even if there's walking. I can potentially see a positive outcome here!

My mindset had to shift. Rather than implementing a training plan, I am instead implementing a preparation plan. There will be no base-building, speed-work, or taper. Instead, I will build my milage so that race day is my longest run of "training", but it isn't a complete over-extension of my current capabilities.
Pictured here: that fateful 5k; my inspirational "long run"; my first run back with Elizabeth; and my plan to get myself to Gasparilla in okay shape.
In short, I'm "training" for Gasparilla the way I used to train for 10ks, where my longest run was somewhere around 5 miles and I hoped adrenaline would get me through the last 1.2 on race day. 

It's not ideal, but it's a plan, and at this point my renewed excitement and determination are proof enough that it's a good one. It will make my performance at this race salvageable, and at this point, three weeks out from race day, that's all I can ask for!
And yes, PS, I sacrificed some distance on a run this week to be able to run with Elizabeth and it was WORTH IT.
Now, full disclosure: I woke up this morning super congested, but as long as whatever I have stays firmly in above-the-lungs-common-cold territory, I should be good to stay on track!

Wish me luck!