Gasparilla Amber Challenge race weekend report, bear with me this is long. The challenge consisted of a 15k then hop into a 5k on Saturday and the half marathon on Sunday. I had been sick with upper respiratory issues that have seemed to have gotten to many of us. I was down for 25 days with that. I was able to recover and do the last long run with race paces before catching norovirus from my son that spread to the rest of the family up until the Monday before races. I felt confident I could complete everything strong with a smile on my face but my other goals might be out the window for time.
My secret goals even after being sick
2:30 ½ marathon or better
2:45 ½ marathon or better
Complete all races with a smile and feeling strong
Race plan was 140 heart rate cap on the 15k, try for 130 heart rate cap in the 5k, and follow the race plan for heart rate for the half marathon. Prior to the 15k and the ½ marathon I listened to a voice memo I had made of Dr. Justin Ross doing this 3 minute meditation. It really helped to keep my heart rate down as there were many emotional starting moments (everyone singing the National Anthem together at the ½ distance was amazing!)
For the 15 K & 5 K I had such a hard time holding back since I was on fresh legs and people were starting to walk and hurt by mile 3. Saturday was a more humid day with a higher starting temperature but it did not bother me as I kept with my heart rate cap. I had so much fun since I was not going for a PR. It was great to cheer for the professional athletes (Joan Benoit Samuelson & Bill Rodgers to name a few) and locals with the out and back course set up. There were rough riders handing out beads and doughnuts, pirates, and ladies with boob costumes to remind us to get checked.
It did not hurt any to be greeted by Meb Keflezighi after completion of the 15K who took some post race pictures before gearing up for his ½ marathon competition the next day.
For the ½ marathon I could tell my legs were tired but in a similar way to the sandwich runs which were essential in my training for this race weekend. It was really dark in the first four miles but there was a fire juggler at mile 1.5 and 3 as well as the beautiful cruise ship and then as we came back around to the sunrise on Bayshore.
I could see Meb Keflezighi trying to catch the guy in front of him Christo Landry.
I shortly after saw Stephanie Rothstein Bruce (the pace car blocked my perfect camera shot) on her way to win the half. I saw Jonnie again she was crushing it with her paces (all of her races she was with the 6-7 minute runners).
Seeing all these amazing people was like watching Olympic events while running and it pushed me into mostly negative splits until the turn around when I realized there was a headwind (seriously never felt it as a tailwind). I was able to take my paces from close to 12 minutes to somewhere in the 9 minute mile + change paces. I finished with Bart Yasso calling me in just one minute from my PR ½ marathon pace and under 2:30 time, A goal achieved!
To be clear I never ran these paces on my training runs. I did not think those paces were going to come out having been sick for a month of training. I was only able to push at the end because of the conserve in the beginning. I did not leave anything in the tank for the last 3 miles and pushed harder than I ever had but felt so fulfilled and happy after. I was able to enjoy, really enjoy and take pictures during all the races.
I wish I had been able to more fully complete the program but life and my health decided otherwise (but I wonder how much more amazing it would have felt/been). I had some spikes in my HR, I think was from the caffeine in the gels and I had worked on staying away from any extra caffeine in the past two weeks prior to racing and think that may have affected my heart rate.
I love this race series. It is my third time to Gasparilla and my second challenge. I am deciding if I will do the Ultra Challenge next year which would add on an 8K distance on Sunday after the ½ marathon. Will see how I feel when sign up comes around.