I ran the Gasparilla Ultra Challenge in Tampa last month, and moved only a couple weeks later. I’m finally wrapping up my race experience. Read my recap of Day #1, if you missed it!
Day #2 included a half marathon and an 8k. This would be my 4th half — my last half marathon was in September (when I was training for the Niagara Marathon). I couldn’t find any record of running an 8k race, but I had a couple 5-mile races to compare pace to and plan out my strategy. This experience was no comparison to the day before — my knee felt GREAT using a brace, but I was definitely feeling my body fatigue in the second race and the heat was borderline unbearable. I won’t underestimate it, the last few miles of this Challenge were pretty rough.
Start Line and Course: It wasn’t as cool as Day #1 at the start, but I still wore a long-sleeve throw-away to the start line. We began earlier, and it was SUPER dark for a few miles into the course — at one point we were running on brick or cobblestone roads, and I thought we were all going to trip over one another. It took a while for the course to thin out too.
While the start line and beginning of the course were different than the first day, the end of the course and finish line of the half and 8k were the same. At the start line of the 8k, there were several of us that were randomly clustered together who were running our last race of the challenge. It was a fun group, and it was awesome to commiserate over our experience so far (and our will to finish). Though, the course: same fan groups, same lady shaking her poms, same music guy… I was definitely cranky by the end of the 8k.
I stuck with the 2:15 pacer for the half marathon for a couple miles, until I realized that I was running his race strategy instead of my own. I didn’t feel bad about walking through a water stop and letting them run ahead (it seemed he was skipping water stations every 2-3 miles). I would gain some traction further on in the race. Later in the half — around Mile 10 — I saw the 2:20 pacer pass me and decided that I was going to attempt a PR and knew it was maybe possible to gain a few minutes but STAY AHEAD OF THAT PACER (at the time, I had zero idea what my total time was, as I only watch pace for the current mile on my Garmin watch).
Medals and Swag: Like the previous day, these medals do not disappoint. The half marathon medal and shirt are my favorites.
Bonus: That Ultra Challenge finishers medal is something else. SO HEAVY.
Random Bullshit: Uh, my “bonus” from the day before (the cold towels at the finish) were not available on Day #2. Now that I was used to that perk at this race… that’s some bullshit! It was longer distance on Sunday AND hotter. I just couldn’t understand the reasoning (plus, you know, HOT and I was cranky AF).
Also BS, the volunteers had already packed up the water stop at Mile 4 of the 8k. I was sincerely ready to lose it and stopped dead in my tracks. The water stop ended up somewhere a quarter of a mile later or so, but… WHY?! I was definitely feeling dehydrated.
After Party: We packed up and drove to Sarasota after Sunday’s race activities (thankfully, I had enough time to take a shower before checking out).
The Great: Honestly, summing up my entire Gasparilla experience, this was one of the best-managed races that I’ve ever participated in – especially considering the logistics of some 30k+ runners and four different events over two days.
The Good: Both days, I had pacers from Pittsburgh. I met a few others on the course, too, with the same randomness of location.
The Bad: One bloody sock, a couple of blisters at the tips of my toes and a bruised toenail. This challenge wrecked my feet.
The Ugly: Those last few miles, man. ROUGH.
Some people have asked if I would do this race again. Heck yeah, in a heartbeat. Though, I really wish that I had friends running this one with me. There are definitely other challenges out there that I’d like to add to my trophy room first before going back to Tampa. I learned that I really like challenge/multi-day races, and even though the mileage was split between two days, finishing gave me a little more confidence to pursue a 50k.
Half marathon official finish time: 2:17:17 — a new PR!
Splits: 11:07 (1) / 10:27 (2) / 10:27 (3) / 9:59 (4) / 10:21 (5) / 10:16 (6) / 10:45 (7) / 10:20 (8) / 10:46 (9) / 10:32 (10) / 10:31 (11) / 10:31 (12) / 9:46 (13)
8k official finish time: 54:00 ON THE MONEY (but nothing that makes me rich! lol)
Splits: 10:06 (1) / 10:40 (2) / 11:11 (3) / 10:36 (4) / 11:17 (5)