Gasparilla Distance Classic Half Marathon Race Report
Conditions were almost perfect, so I was pumped. Still very windy, but I'd take this any day over heat and humidity. About 10 degrees warmer than yesterday, so it was easy to get to that start line. Despite racing yesterday hard and long, my goals today were still pretty serious- a 1:09:50, a top 2 in prize money, and a top 5 overall. This is NOT the race I am ever going to be fast enough to be in the top 5 for real, but with the Olympic trials literally a week away, they forego offering the real professional prize money so it was a possibility. Also, they only offer local money- since all the pros are racing the OTQ marathon this Saturday, so I only had to worry about local talent. Works for me!
I was feeling VERY beat up from yesterday's 15k race. My warmup was atrocious, and my body was hurting. I couldn't even manage proper striders without feeling pains. I just said, 'forget it' and walked to the starting line. I hoped my body would survive without any large damage, but I was already a bit gimpy so I had some definite uncertainty. I hoped the pain hopefully go away after a mile or two once my brain release some endorphins.
The pre race was fun! I knew a ton of people, so I was chatting away until the gun went off. As soon as it did, I jumped right out there in the beginning and was in third place right behind the top two guys with another pair of runners at my side. Usually I can just ease into running these long distances, but now that I am running these faster paces, I can't just throw away 30 seconds just to feel more comfortable so I was checking my watch pretty obsessively. Miles 2 and 3... I don't know what I was thinking. Those couple of seconds matter and 5:16s aren’t exactly slow, particularly the day after a 15k where I gave a hard effort. Oh well, I felt great. First 5k was a 16:28 or so.
Miles 4 and 5 I finally got my head under me, but it was too late. By the midpoint, I still felt in control, but I knew I wasn't going to get it, not with a headwind on the return journey. I was barely at pace with the wind at my back! Halfway split was 34:57, and I was firmly in third place, 27 seconds back of 2nd and 49 seconds off the leader. I did not pay any attention to if there was anyone behind me, but I never heard footsteps the entire race.
The second half of the race started off promising- I was under pace entering mile 10 and felt fully in control, but man, that wind must have been really aiding me. I literally just finished the turn-around and it was like a proverbial wall. My effort increased dramatically, yet the pace was a 30 second swing in a mere mile! Unbelievable. I still felt strong, I still felt fast, it just wasn't there. Just like yesterday, I hit the ‘split’ after mile 9 and was looking down at the pace and didn’t believe what it was telling me- I thought it was wrong. Nope. Slogged through that mile in 5:45. I was really upset seeing that 5:45 on my watch, and quickly refused to accept those paces. I dipped back down to 5:30 and sped back up from there, which was nice to see.
The finish line crept up quickly. I was stalking the second place guy, but never really closed the gap I developed from mile 3 to mile 5. I had rescinded my effort until about 30 seconds from the line and saw I had a shot at getting under 1:11 again- second time in two weeks! I sped up my effort and lengthened my stride, but literally missed it by a second.
Results- 1st- 1:09:20, 2nd- 1:10:24, Me- 1:11:00
Splits- 5:23, 5:16, 5:16, 5:29, 5:29, 5:19, 5:25, 5:24, 5:15, 5:45, 5:30, 5:28, 5:26, 0:26
Some extremely selfish afterthoughts
I finished 3rd overall at gasparilla! I am still in awe of my luck. Also I was 1st local, the proud owner of another $2,000 in prize money, Meb Keflezighi signed my plaque at the awards, and over the course of 2 days of running, I was fortunate enough to take in $4,000 in prize money. Some important points: A) the local running scene is very weak if a runner like me is winning, I realize this. B) Top 3 is amazing, but this never would happen in a normal year- ever- the announcer multiple times even commented on how slow our times and splits were compared to last year- I mean, we tried our best- lol! C) I did miss my goal handily of getting under 1:10. But you know what- D) For 120 minutes of running, I averaged $33.33 per minute or $0.55 per second. That’s crazy. I did something I loved and someone effectively paid me to do it! These race directors for Gasparilla are not only generous, but they may be the only ones offering such a gracious prize to local runners anywhere here in the southeast. I don’t deserve that money, but when they mail the check, you better believe I will accept it!
So that’s it! That’s my race season. I do have Boston in April, but I am just destroyed and need to take this recovery seriously. I will reassess in a couple weeks, but I am just going to shoot to re-qualify as of now with a 2:55.