I’ve run the Princess Half races the last two years and had tons of fun, but this year I decided to head a little further west to run the pirate races instead at the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic series in Tampa. This series offers four races over two days and three different challenge options to choose from. The Ultra Challenge has some amazing medals, but requires you to run back to back races both mornings (15k and 5k on Saturday and half marathon and 8k on Sunday) which is a little much for me!
I signed up for the Lime Cactus Challenge which consisted of the 15k on Saturday morning and the 8k on Sunday morning. We booked a room at the Westin which was just over a small bridge from both the Expo and the race start line. We drove in on Friday evening, slogged through some awful traffic near the Expo and made it to our hotel. After checking in, we walked over to the convention center (it was nice that the Expo was open until 8pm) and got our bibs and race shirts. There were lots of freebies and a pretty great selection of vendors to choose from. I bought three new pirate themed headbands from the BondiBand booth and got some really nice free ice packs (with little pea shaped balls in them) from the local hospital and the Bucs!I’m not really familiar with the area, but I was surprised there weren’t more restaurants to choose from around the convention center. We walked around a bit, but ended up going back to the room and getting room service (which was actually pretty good). I did my normal pre-race craziness, setting up my race clothes, bib and accessories (watch, fuel, breakfast bar) and got to bed pretty early. Which was good because I had to get up at 5:30am for a 6:45am race start. Being able to walk to the start line meant I didn’t need to leave until 6:00am (unlike a runDisney race!).
It was ridiculously cold (for a Florida race) and I put on arm sleeves and gloves and wrapped up in a cheap blanket I got at WalMart just for that purpose. It was easy to find the start line and I was happy to meet up with some friends to pass the time while we shivered in the corrals.
There were no official corrals for this race, so I just looked for the pacer signs to put myself in the right location. Once I started going, the temperature felt pretty good for the first half of the race. It was really pretty to run along the water as the sun rose.
I had to make a port-a-potty stop in the third mile which meant I ended up in a more crowded section. I was also right behind a pacing group. I know that pacing groups are really helpful for runners, but they drive me nuts! The pacers are usually really peppy and do lots of cheering which I’m sure some people love but I like to run alone without being part of a chatty group. Pace groups are also usually pretty crowded, so it’s hard to get around them if you want to go a little faster.
Once I got past that pace group, it served as an inspiration to keep my pace up so I wouldn’t fall back and get caught up with them again. There were lots of water and gatorade stops along the course, so many in fact that I ended up skipping a lot of them towards the end of the course.
I did the first few miles at a straight run, the middle few miles with a 5 minute run/ 1 minute walk interval and the last three miles at a straight run again. The entire second half of the race had a chilly headwind coming off the water which slowed me down a little bit, but wasn’t really too bad.
While this pace isn’t what I want to run (I have a 15k PR from pre-kids of 1:30 that I really really want to beat), I’m still happy with it considering how sporadic my training has been this season between illnesses and injuries! I felt pretty good at the finish, although I tweaked my left hip a little somehow. The finish line area was smooth and easy to get through. I loved these signs painted on the road showing how to get to the post race celebration!
I ended up skipping that although it looked fun because we were planning to head over for a quick day trip to Walt Disney World. So I headed back to the hotel to shower and change. Here’s my race pirate outfit (thanks Patty for the loan of the shirt!) and 15k medal!
Overall I really liked this race. It was a lot easier logistically (travel, wake up times, registration costs) than the Princess Half weekend, but I sure did miss my friends who were running Princess. And I was surprised by how few runners actually dressed up for the pirate theme. Come on…pirates! So much fun! I’m not sure what I’ll do next year because I really enjoy both race weekends. I’m really glad I gave Gasparilla a try, and I’m thinking I need to come back next year to run the half marathon so I can get the awesome skull medal!
And because this is a Tuesdays on the Run with the topic of favorite post race treat, here’s what I enjoyed at the Magic Kingdom as my post race delicious snack! It was absolutely perfect with the combination of fruit, nutella and a fresh made waffle! Mmmmm. Thanks, Amy for the photo (I ate mine before I got a photo of it!).
My other favorite post-race treat at a runDisney race is the iconic Mickey Waffle!