It had been a while since I visited relatives in Florida and my brother in particular had been inviting us to come down for a visit. I told Ron that we needed to plan a trip. Ron immediately asked if there were any half marathons scheduled in Florida coming up soon. I Googled it and came up with the Gasparilla Distance Classic in Tampa. Gasparilla was scheduled for the weekend near our anniversary. So….our little trip ended up turning into a race, family visit, and an anniversary getaway all in one.
We got to Tampa early in the afternoon on Saturday and checked into our awesome hotel.
We didn’t know our way around Tampa very well so we decided to just book one of the sponsoring hotels. This way we would be near the race starting line. The Marriott Waterside was perfect. Ron and I don’t splurge too often and a hotel with valet parking, porters, and bellmen were quite the novelty to us. Ron gave the valet a $5.00 when he took our car to the parking lot. Ron gave the porter a $5.00 when they unloaded our bags and wheeled them into the registration desk. Another $5.00 was given to the bellman when he took our bags to our room. That’s $15 bucks just to get in and then when we left the next day it was the same 5-5-5 to get out. A total of $30 and I think that is really on the low side. Ron saw many others tipping with $10s and $20s.
(the view from our window)
The expo was right across the street at the Tampa Convention Center. It was a very nice expo. Big, but very nicely organized and not a bit of waiting in line.
My BFF from high school lives near Tampa and I was thrilled that she was free for dinner. Dee-dee found an awesome pizza place not too far from our hotel. She even drove right up and chauffeured us to and from the restaurant. I felt so spoiled!
We had an awesome time catching up and reminiscing about old times.
Love ya Dee-dee!
We made it an early night due to the 6:00am race start. Luckily, I slept like a baby. (Sometimes I get so anxious about races I can’t sleep a wink.)
My pre-race breakfast was just a Clif Bar I had brought from home. I missed my normal peanut butter on bagel, banana, and coffee but I figured a Cliff Bar was just as good.
Ron and I got to the starting line and boy was it crowded! Gasparilla was the biggest race we have ever run.
I don’t want to give TMI but just as the race was beginning I realized that needed to find a bathroom. I spotted a port-a-john at the mile 1 water stop and I bid Ron adieu. I didn’t stop my Garmin and I estimated I wasted about 6 minutes waiting in line. (I couldn’t believe so many other runners had to stop at mile 1 too!) When I came out, the volunteers at the water station were beginning to clean up and most of the racers were way ahead of me. After 6 minutes I was sure there was no way that I would catch up with Ron.
I settled into an easy pace and enjoyed the peaceful scenery. I started catching up with a few runners but was still glad that the crowd had thinned out so much. At about mile 4, I came around a curve and saw the bay. It was so pretty!
I hopped up on the step of the bridge and started snapping pictures.
Right about then, Ron smiled at me as he passed. I thought he was just glad to see me and a little amused that I was stopping to snap a picture. Later he told me that he thought I was a nut to have stepped up on the edge of the bridge like that.
I was thrilled that I had caught back up with Ron and my energy was renewed! We ran together for a bit. Ron had on his headphones and since we weren’t talking anyway, I tapped him on the shoulder and said I was going on ahead. I started calculating that I might make it in around my normal 2:20s. This thought exhilarated me and I concentrated on keeping up my pace.
It was a nice morning at 70 degrees but with the 95% humidity, it really was a hot one. I started getting 2 cups of water at the water stations and dumping one on my head and sipping the other. Occasionally I’d get a Gatorade and sip that instead of the water. I took my one GU around mile 6. They were handing out Gatorade shot blocks and I accepted one and took about half of that at mile 11 or so.
At mile 12 I saw a street sign that read, “Mason Street,” and I thought about our precious grandson. That’s when I started playing the count my blessings running game. I started with A and was working my way to Z when out of nowhere 2 paramedics rolled a stretcher with a young woman on it right in front of me. I must have been zoning out because I literally did not see them until the last second. The young woman was obviously hurting badly. I couldn’t tell if she had fallen or is she had a terrible cramp. I began praying for her right away.
Oh and speaking about falling, I saw one other man fall. Lots of other runners stopped to help him and he was ok and only a little scraped up. He was running on the middle lines on the road and he tripped over one of the reflectors. I’ve almost tripped on a reflector before and I’ve seen countless others do the same thing. Please, please, remember this and keep away from the reflectors!
Sometimes when I get down about not getting faster, God sends me a message about how thankful I should be. That day it was seeing the young woman. Other days it has been seeing a man on crutches getting his mail or seeing someone in a wheelchair.
The finish area was lined with hundreds of cheering spectators and other racers that had finished already. They handed out the medals and gave us water bottles and cold washcloths. Then it was a never ending walk to what I thought would be the party area. I waiting around the finish line and after only 10 minutes, my phone was buzzing. Ron had run his 2nd fastest half marathon ever! He was on cloud nine!
We kept following the crowd and found the food but the beer party was nowhere in sites. We saw the signs for it but since it was only Michelob Ultra, Ron suggested we just head for our room. We had about 2.5 hours until checkout and we both wanted to get a shower.
All in all I loved Gasparilla! The race is a big one but they really have everything down like clockwork. I loved the shirt and medal!
My official time was 2:26:22……and Ron’s was 2:36:32. Spot on to what our Garmin’s had recorded.