I had low expectations for my performance going into this race, because my foot had been bothering me and I took a week off from running prior to the race, so my main goal was to have fun. I accomplished that and surprised myself a bit considering the course and weather I had to deal with.
Pre-Race: The race was in Clearwater, about 2 hours away, so we stayed with a friend at Land O' Lakes, which is only 1 hour away from the race start. I woke up at 4 am and went about my pre-race routine. It was going to be a hot and humid day, and I was running in a sleeveless shirt, so I generously applied bodyglide everywhere. I also redid some of the KT tape on my right foot. Grabbed a banana to eat later, packed the car, and were on the road by 5 am.
The Outfit: For my race outfit, I wore the team sparkle traveling skirt, with Skirt Sports shorties underneath, a C9 black tech tank top and run love bondi band. I skipped the knee high socks because I knew I'd get too hot, and I'm really glad I did. I wore my Amphipod hydration belt to carry my iPhone, which got really hot after a while. I opted not to bring any of the water bottles since the course had plenty of water stops, but I wish I had because it was so hot. The skirt is adorable, but the tag kept scratching me until it finally dawned on me to flip the elastic band over. I'm not sure if I'd wear one of these again, but it was perfect for this race and it got a ton of compliments from volunteers, spectators, and fellow racers.
Parking/Race Start: The race started at 7 am, but I had to take a shuttle from Downtown Clearwater to Clearwater Beach no later than 6:15 am. We arrived at one of the parking lots at 5:50. Jason dropped me off to get in line for the shuttle while he parked the car and unloaded his bike; he biked the course and took photos while I ran. The line was super long, but I made onto the shuttle before 6:15 and arrived at the start line with plenty of time. I ate my banana while I waited for the shuttle, and when I got to the beach got in line for the potty. There were plenty of them, but still long lines. I made it out and onto the start line with 2 minutes to spare.
Course: The course was very scenic with 3 bridge crossings and rolling hills throughout. You can see the course and my splits at http://j.mp/hhlVIU. I ran into Kathy and Martha at the start, and we ran together enjoying the gorgeous scenery and music for the first 4 miles but I was feeling really good and pulled ahead around mile 5. Not wanting to overdo it and make my foot worse, I ran with 2/1 intervals for the first half of the race, and walked up every bridge / significant hill and through the water stops. I saw Jason around mile 3, then he disappeared for a while when he decided to return to the car to get the real camera because the iPhone wasn't cutting it. The water stops were frequent and well stocked with water, gatorade, granola bars, and fruit snacks! They also had powerbar gels at mile 8; I brought my own, but took some for later use just in case.
The heat and the hills made this race really tough, and my knee started hurting along with my foot. I don't think they appreciated the bridges/hills and I really should have run in new shoes but didn't have the time to break them in before the race. Despite the pain in my foot and knee, I was feeling really strong but the stop and go from the run/walk made it worse, so around mile 8 I abandoned my run intervals and just ran as much as I could only walking for a few minutes at every mile marker or water stop (every 1/2 - 1 mile) and up the last bridge.
Geocaching: Since I knew I wasn't going to PR at this race, I wanted to make the most fun out of it. I saw that there were several Geocaches along the course route, so I told Jason to find one and lead me in the right direction so I could find it during the race and continue my streak. I noticed his bike helmet bobbing up and down behind some bushes before mile marker 10, but he had not found it yet, so I kept going. He gave up and biked ahead in search of another one.
At the top of the last bridge, just before mile marker 12, I saw Jason with his camera straddling the concrete wall that separated the sidewalk from the road. Some runners were running on the road while others were on the sidewalk. Luckily I had chosen to walk up the bridge on the sidewalk because unbeknownst to me Jason had posted for me to get on the sidewalk because he found a cache on the bridge. As I passed him, he mentioned it and pointed in it's general direction. I stopped, quickly found it and it totally made my day! I handed it to him to sign for me while I finished the race, gave him a kiss, and ran the rest of the way to the final water stop and then onto the finish line. I really wish I had thought of having him taking a pic of me with it, but I was focused on finishing the race and getting out of the hot sun as quickly as possible.
Finish and Post Race: As I neared the finish line, I saw Jason taking pictures and cheering me on. I was hurting, but I gave it my all and sprinted as best I could across the finish line as the announcer called out my name -- LOVE THAT!
I was in a bit of a daze, but got my chip removed, grabbed some water and my medal, then found Jason. We waited to see Penny finish and then headed to get some food and put my name on the wait list for a massage. The list was super long, so we pulled some chairs in the shade and ate our food. The food was just ok.
Since it would be a while before my name was called for a massage, I found the medical tent to get some ice for my knee. I was so tired and hot that was about ready to give up on the massage, so Jason offered to bike back to the car and come pick us up so we would not have to wait in line for the shuttle. This turned out to be a blessing as the lines were super long and with no shade. While Jason got the car, they called our names for the massage and it was wonderful! The lady finished with my massage (legs and feet!) just as Jason pulled up to pick us up. We all piled onto my car and got real cozy, then had a little photo shoot when we got back to the parking lot. See all the crazy photos.
After the photo shoot, I changed out of my sweaty clothes, put on my calf sleeves, and got ready for our 2 hour drive home. We stopped at Perkins to refuel, then took a nap when we got home before meeting my parents for dinner to celebrate my Dad's birthday. After dinner, we all visited my sister to get some baby squeezing time. :) Bella is just about the most adorable baby girl, even though she is so grown up. They put some music on and she was just spinning and falling over saying "woah" Too hilarious!
Final Thoughts: Despite the challenges I faced during this race, I really enjoyed it. There is something a little bit magical about running an all women's race. Everyone is there to have fun and the enthusiasm is contagious. I would certainly consider doing this race again, but I really wish they would change the date to March when is not as scolding hot and I'd need to train better for the hills :)