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Race #2: 2010 Gasparilla Distance Classic 5k

March 3, 2010

Gasparilla Distance Classic 5k

Bib Number: 875
Overall Placement: 3441 / 9650 (35.7%)
Age Group Placement: 160 / 785 (20.4%)
Gender Placement: 1359 / 5585 (24.3%)
Chip Time: 31:40

Are you looking at those numbers? This race was huge! I never choose to run big races–even with my half marathons and last year with my first 26.2, I tend to choose events capped at 2,000 runners. Though I’m told I’ll eventually want to run one of the major marathons like New York, Chicago, or Marine Corps, I have to confess I have an aversion to running with a couple dozen thousand of my closest friends.

After running this race, I know why.

First, let me say my family wisely decided to return to the hotel instead of staying to cheer for me during the 5k as the Boss and I had originally planned. Part of the family (read: the Monkey) was single-minded about avoiding another encounter with a scurvy pirate, and in addition the weather seemed to be turning sour. After I changed into a dry shirt, therefore, I kissed them goodbye and got in line to use the facilities at the Tampa Convention Center, which was race headquarters for the weekend. The line was long, but it was definitely preferable than being outside, where temperatures were in the mid-40s, as they had been for the 15k, the wind was definitely starting to pick up, and the skies were getting darker. I figured any time spent indoors was a plus. When I train I usually wear tights any time it’s below 45 degrees, but wearing tights was not an option for this race–I hadn’t brought them with me.

I headed down to the start with about 20 minutes to spare and was amazed at the size of the crowd. Seeded bibs were instructed to enter the corral from the front, as was anyone expecting a sub-20 or sub-30 time. Had I been racing this, I would definitely have followed those instructions. But since I was planning to run easy, I hovered just to the back of the “sub-30 finish” sign.

I tried as much as possible to keep my legs from racing, and the sheer size of the crowd was helpful at that. The first mile came in at an incredibly slow 10:42. After the crowd began to spread out somewhat, I felt I was running more easily–mile 2 in 10:04. After a third mile at sub-10, I let loose for the last tenth and came in at a woefully slow near-32 minutes.

In spite of the fact that a 32-minute 5k feels incredibly, almost punishingly, and embarrassing 5k, this race is one I’m actually proud of–because I did what I set out to do. Though I was paying to race, I promised myself I wouldn’t–because I knew doing so would put my Sunday half marathon at risk. Instead, I intended to run this 3.1 miles easy, and that I did–in fact, my 10:13 overall pace is almost exactly what my average training pace is, so I’m happy with myself for sticking to the plan.

The sheer size of the crowd made the race a little nutty. It took me over seven minutes to cross the start mat–the longest interval of shuffle-walking I’ve ever endured. Even at the Gasparilla marathon last year I was only 90 seconds off the clock.

If there were water stations, I never saw them–it was just too crowded to try to get to the side of the road for a drink.

Outbound runners were running south along Bayshore, but the crowd was so wide that a few runners were running either on the median or on the north side of the street. Well, this became a problem when, a mile into our slow jog, the leaders came back on the home stretch. For the leader it wasn’t a huge issue, since he was led by the electric car with the giant clock on the roof, but by the time the rest of the lead pack got to us, we heard cries of “Get on your own side!” which I’m sure did nothing for the oxygen content of those poor runners’ lungs.

At the finish, another finisher’s medal, a 5-block walk to the hotel, and more water and bananas. When I got back to our room I didn’t take an ice bath, but I put my legs up against the wall and rested for a few minutes before taking a shower. I had an energy bar and as much water as I could muster, but we didn’t have lunch until two hours after I’d finished running and I paid for it with a migraine. I took attack meds and laid down for a nap while the Boss and kids watched tv and went down to the pool for a little while.

Dinner was at Chili’s with family, and I got ready to turn in early and run again on Sunday. I was nervously excited about the conclusion of my Challenge.

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