Saturday, March 1, 2014

Gasparilla Half Marathon

I traveled to sunny, beautiful Florida to conquer 13.1 miles with a friend of mine from grad school, Alyssa.

I have named this race "Proud Disappointment."

In the weeks leading up to the race, my training was struggling.  Not hitting all the runs I needed to with snow, slush, cold, and laziness.  I went into the race unprepared, but knowing that I would take this race easy.

I made it to Florida, headed to the expo, and got ready for the race.  The next morning, the alarm sounded at 4:15AM.  Alyssa and I headed to downtown Tampa and made our way to the starting line.  With bag checks a couple blocks away at the convention center, and with just a few minutes to go before race start, we had to hurry up and get ready.  Even at 6AM, the humidity was awful - I was sweating before the race even started, as we hit the starting line almost 10 minutes after the race started.  Because of the huge race size, there was still a steady flow getting started when we did.

The race course was beautiful - a five mile loop of Davis Island before the sun rose, and a four mile out-and-back stretch along Bayshore, a road that follows along the Tampa Bay.

Alyssa and I made it to the halfway point with relative ease, but then I started getting overheated.  The switch from zero humidity in Colorado to sauna was getting to be too much, and with every step, I was fading more and more.  At about mile 9, I had to stop to take a walk break.  At about 9.5, I started to feel the beginnings of some cramps.  The rest of the race was just that.  Run for a bit, walk for a bit, legs tighten up for a bit, repeat.  Lots of time to think about how much torture it was.  When we rounded the final corner, saw the finish line, and trudged our way toward the end, I don't think I've ever been more excited to see a finish line.  When it ended, it became one of the worst races for me, being my slowest half marathon by about 20 minutes.

My friend Alyssa and I are smiling because it's over!

But the race was more important to me for a different reason.  Three years ago when I started running, it was on that same route in Tampa.  So as I was running, I was thinking about the journey I have been on since then.  Down 60+ pounds, running almost 1000 miles, 47 races- including 5 half marathons, a Tough Mudder, and a marathon.  I have found a love for running, and it all started across the bay in St. Petersburg and along the exact route on Bayshore.  I kept thinking about the dozens of runs I had along the route when I couldn't even run two miles.  For me, this was my full circle run.  To return to the place it all started with how far I have come meant the world to me.  And as I crossed the finish line, I said a quick prayer of gratitude, not only for surviving the humid torture run, but for the journey I have been on these last 3+ years.  I am the person I am today because of the sweat that was poured on that concrete.  I am stronger.  I am faster.  I am more resilient.  I am better.  And because of everything I am because of it,

I am proud.

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