What an amazing, amazing weekend my little family and I had last week. And it all ended with something I’d worked hard for — a new personal record at the 5K distance!
Let me back up. When FitFluential and the Women’s Running Series offered me the chance to work with them as a race ambassador (disclosure: I was given a free entry to the St. Petersburg even and was compensated for my posts; see here for my full disclosure policy) I jumped at the opportunity because:
a) the race was essentially in my backyard (about 90 minutes away)
b) I really wanted to see if I could push past my previous PR
c) the timing was perfect to take Lucas and Audrey with me and make the weekend into a staycation
It got even sweeter when Ford (disclosure alert number two!) invited me to be a part of a truly amazing, heart-warming charity project and gave me a Ford Escape to use for a week — the same week we were making a long drive. I’ll have more on that project in a future post but it was just one more reason to get excited for our adventure.
Lucas and I had to work on Friday, but we were able to wrap things up a little early — so we threw some stuff in a bag, took the dogs to their daycare and then grabbed Audrey from her school. And off we went! We booked a room at the swanky Renaissance Vinoy because of its proximity to the race start, and while it was definitely fancier than we normally go for, we were able to get a very good rate and it turned out to be perfect because Audrey was able to toddle and walk all around with plenty of space.
We checked in on Friday night and I immediately headed to the expo to pick up my packet. It was so fun to see all of the happy people, many of whom were doing their first 5Ks (I am nosy, so I asked!).
The 5K and 1/2 marathons were open to men, but the organization urged them not to consider this a real race, and instead to run for other women in their lives (there was a large charity component) or as support to another participant.
Once I got to the room, we scarfed down some dinner, enjoyed the cable TV (we don’t have it at home) and all hit the pillows pretty early.
Then on Saturday morning, we snuggled in the big comfy beds for a few extra minutes before heading off to grab coffee and then to the Zoo.
That was an absolute blast — Audrey is finally old enough to really understand some of what is going on, and now that she’s walking, she was able to run around looking at all of the animals. And I’ll admit that I fell in love with the 1-year-old pygmy rhino who was celebrating her first birthday.
After the Zoo, we hit up Tampa’s Taco Bus (we’d heard so much about it!) and then, despite the fact that I had to run the next day, decided to brave the Aquarium.
I’m thrilled that we did, even though we were pretty tired at the end, because my little girl didn’t stop smiling. She loved to walk up to the glass windows and squeal at the fish and sharks — how did she get so brave?!
On Saturday night, I set out all of my race gear and spent just a little bit of time trying to game plan my run. As expected, I fell asleep pretty early and then all of a sudden — it was time to get up!
The race start was about a mile away from our hotel, which was perfect. I’d consulted a few running gurus on Twitter and asked about doing a short warm-up run (I have a tendency to start slow and thought the warm-up might engage my muscles before the start) and they all advised me to do about a mile. So I did, enjoying the view of the boats bobbing in the water and shaking out some of my nerves.
I had plenty of time (too much time — oops!) to use the bathroom and to stretch before entering the corrals. And that also gave me time to give myself a tough love pep talk.
I run because it makes me feel good. I run for those who want to but can’t. I run in honor of my role models. I run to be a role model to others. I run because I CAN.
I said that and other mantras over and over as I lined up. Normally, I line up at the 8:00 or 8:30 pace line but they didn’t have those marked, so instead I took a deep breath, went to the very front of the pack and lined up with the 1:30 half marathon pace group. My strategy was that the 5K and 1/2 marathon started together for the first mile, so I’d at least go out fast for the first third of my race. Then when I broke off, I could either stay at that pace or pull back a little and still leave myself some room at the end to PR even if my legs gave out.
After the anthem, we counted down — and headed out!
FAST. I knew it was fast. I felt great but nearly stumbled when I looked at my Garmin and saw a 6:XX. For the first 200 yards or so, I hovered around a 6:50 and 7:00 pace then settled in around 7:20. Still fast for me, but it was a beautiful morning and I decided that I was going to leave it all out on the road. For 3.1 miles, I was going to forget the pain.
(Easier said than done, but…)
At the first mile marker, we split off and I only saw one other woman ahead of me. I knew that there may have been others and I also knew that the odds of me chasing her down were slim, but for as long as I could, I was going to keep her in my sights. I stuck with my rabbit, probably at about a 7:45 pace, until mile 2 when I felt someone coming up behind me. I smiled at her and gave her a thumbs up as she went by me, then I swore THAT WAS IT. It was going to end with Rabbit, Black Shorts Girl and then me.
Mile 3 was difficult, and I felt a side stitch coming on, but I could also hear cheering from the finish line (and even saw Lucas and Audrey, who came down from the hotel room to watch me at the end!) and that kept me pushing. Truly, I dedicated every step of the race to my friend and colleague Wendy, who is battling cancer (and is one of the most inspirational people I have ever met) but I dug even deeper with that last half-mile.
As I came through the chute, I had my one and only disappointment of the race — a woman came speeding by with the fastest kick I’ve ever seen and beat me to the line by about 15 steps. I never knew she was there and I don’t think there is any way I could have held her off, but still…bummer!
My Garmin said 24:02 and the official results matched it — so I got my PR!
It was a great race — very well organized, along a beautiful course — and it’s definitely going on my calendar for next year. Flat, along the water for the start (and for most of the 1/2 marathon distance) in a gorgeous and family-friendly city.
(The race even had a freshen-up station at the end with deodorant and wet wipes — genius!)
DISCLOSURE: This was a compensated project through FitFluential and Women’s Running Series. I was thrilled to be a race ambassador!