Thursday, March 3, 2011

Gasparilla Half Marathon: Race Report!

Whew! What a week! I'm still not caught up on sleep and I keep smiling thinking that today is Friday. Well, it's Thursday, but I'll chose to continue smiling anyway! :)

As you know I've both raced and ran several half marathons in the past 3 months - 5 or 6 total. I can't really remember! Regardless, as I was analyzing the races in which I felt the best and ran the best compared to the races in which I either crashed and burned or just felt "heavy", I saw a trend. For the "good" races, I had taken the Thursday and Friday before the race completely off! Then, I ran 2 miles on Saturday: 1 easy, 1 at goal pace. The other races, I didn't taper at all. One of the races, I thought running 6 miles at almost tempoish pace on the Friday before the race wouldn't affect me . . . I learned my lesson. On the other, I chose to run 5 miles and lift legs on the Friday before, but I was just "running" the race and not racing. You can only get stronger if you push on tired legs, right?!

So, without rambling on too much more, I opted to take off Thursday and Friday and run 2 miles on Saturday. Before Saturday's run though, I was a spectator for the Gasparilla 15K. Oh my Goodness! So.Much.Fun!! I had a blast cheering on all of my friends! It was a great time! The 15K started at 7AM and boy was it warm!! I was a little nervous about our race, but very thankful that we had a 6AM start. By the time I ran my 2 miles it was 10AM and 85 degrees outside. I made it, though! 8:16, 7:14

But, then the fun begins! The sun keeps shining and the temperture keeps rising. David and I decide to go to Busch Gardens (for the first time) along with another couple and his parents. I LOVE amusement parks and all things related to adrenaline and roller coasters. I'm not sure that this is the best idea, but I'm having a hard time saying no (not that my voice would have been heard).

So, we arrive at Busch Gardens at noon! I wear tennis shoes and drink water the entire time. Otherwise, I walk, walk and walk more, in the sun, for the next 6-7 hours!

By 7PM, I'm exhausted to say the least. My legs are hurting and I'm tired and I'm beginning to think that I just made a really dumb decision. I kind of whine a little. I know 3:45AM will come super early. This was the race that I was the most excited about. It's basically in my backyard and is my long run course!! I'd been waiting all year to have the home town crowd support of my coach and all of my running and track friends. UGH! I pick up 2 10lb bags of ice and tell the fam that we aren't going out to eat. We can order pizza and eat left overs. I've had a GREAT day, but it's time to get home.

I take an ice bath, eat left over grouper and veggies, then 3 pieces of veggie pizza and am in bed by 8:45PM! :) I sleep like a rock.

3:45AM - My alarm goes off

I'm in downtown Tampa around 4:50AM. I park and get to the expo. I sit around and stretch and then make my way down to the start around 5:30AM. I warm up for about 10 minutes and keep telling myself that "I am much stronger than I think." I've got to forget about yesterday. It's a new day and I am trained. My only goal: to feel good. I want so badly a sub 1:37, but would be happy with anything 1:36-1:39:59 I want my first 5 miles around 7:30 and then I want to be able to pick it up.

6:00AM - The gun goes off and we begin. It's a little warm, but the sun is still down. I start slow and am running around an 8:00 minute pace a quarter of a mile in! :) That's exactly what I wanted. It's pretty dark for the first 4 miles or so. This entire stretch is a loop around Davis Island. I've run this loop a million times. There is already ample water stations and I take a sip each time, knowing that it will warm up soon. The music is pumping in my ear and I smile everytime I hear a new song that David downloaded for me. The first 4 miles I keep checking my Garmin to keep myself on track. I'm happy. 7:24 7:21 7:22 7:28

As we approach mile 5, we come off of Davis Island. The ramp off of the island was a downhill and was lined with spectators. Some how, I was running solo at this point. This was truly my favorite part of the race. I felt like such a celebrity. At the end of the bridge, I was .3 miles into a particular mile and was running a 6:50 pace. I backed off drastically to conserve energy. I wasn't ready to "pick it up" yet. I wasn't quite half way done. Mile 5: 7:21

At this point, I knew I was going to have a good day! It definitely wasn't "cake" but I could do it. I've never talked to myself more during a race. The entire race, and I'm not kidding when I say entire, I spent telling myself "You are tough, Jaime" or "You're tougher than you think, You're tougher than you think." or "Run, Jaime" or "Keep going, you can do this. Tough. Tough. Don't give in. You want this, BAD." I've never really used a mantra, but this worked wonders for me. I guess if you tell yourself something for an hour and a half, you're mind will actually start believing it.

One of my favorite milestones in the half marathon is the half way point. It's never marked, but I wear a Garmin. So, I see my friend Jen at around mile 6. I give her a thumbs up and tell her I feel good and keep running. Mile 6: 7:25

We start running into the wind and I can't figure out how to draft to save my life. It doesn't matter though because everyone is fading and I'm passing people left and right. I hit that "half way" point at 48:29. I had hit that point at the Women's half at exactly 49:00 and ran a 1:37:35 (and the course was long). I had negative splits galore on that race, but I felt good, so I knew if I pushed that the sub 1:37 was within reach!

I kept running. I saw some more friends between miles 7 and 8. It made me smile! :) 7:23, 7:22
Those miles again were against the wind, so I was happy with the times.

After Davis Island, this was an out and back course. Basically, we ran down Bayshore for 4 miles, turned around and ran back. When I saw my friends at different spots, I was excited because I knew that I'd see them again at the same spot on the way back. What I didn't expect was to see Penny near the turn around point!! This soooo made my day! Not only was I excited to be at the turn around point, but I was thrilled to see her. Made me so happy! I picked up the pace without realizing and ran the next mile (9) in 7:13. I hit the 15K mark in 1:08:34

The next milestone for me was taking a gel at mile 10 and only having a 5K left. I hit 10 in 1:13:41 and was happy. I quickly compared it to my Women's Half (1:14:07) and keeping telling myself I was tough!!! Mile 10: 7:18

It was getting hot, but I knew I had some more spectators to look forward to. On top of that, I had seen my coach and another friend on a bike earlier in the race. I knew they'd be on the course again sometime soon. I knew David and his parents were at the finish and I really wanted to finish well for them, too! It's silly ... because I'm very selfish with my running, but I really wanted to run well for everyone else, too!

I slowed down a little with the heat. I didn't get water in the last two miles because it was going to take to much energy to swerve and get on that side of the road. Ha. I ran miles 11 and 12 in 7:25 and 7:25.

When I had about a mile and half left, I saw my coach again. He told me to push. It was that finally little "talk" that I needed. I ran the last mile in 7:10 even though I didn't feel like I had a huge push and then the last .17 at a 6:16 pace.

I finished and was so HAPPY!!! I had hit that sub 1:37. The clock still read sub 1:37 and I had started about 5 seconds after the gun. My time: 1:36:47

Though, I had already receive my sub 1:37 for NYC, it was on a "short" course. This course was long and I rightfully ran at least the entire distance under that time. This wasn't a PR, but all things considered, it was the fastest I'd run the distance!!! Not to mention, it came the day after spending 7 hours in the sun at Busch Gardens.

I am tougher than I think!!! :)

8/399 - age group
43/2890 - women
239/4801 - total finishers

I can't figure out a way to post/save my pictures from online, but you should check them out! The got a lot!! Just don't mind my "rat's nest" hair. Did I mention the humidity was at 90% when the race started?!

If the link doesn't work: Choose "Gasparilla Half 2011" My last name is Winchester and my bib # was: 25439



  1. I cannot say it enough - OUTSTANDING and well done. Congrats!!

  2. Yay!! Fantastic job!! Congrats!!!! Awesome splits!

  3. you are incredibly tough! way to go! and any wake up time with a 3 involved is SO early - way to go!

  4. Nice job on staying strong in the heat!

  5. ice bath before the race? interesting. but i bet it helped you keep strong! congrats :)