November 22, 2011

Women's Half Marathon, St. Petersburg, Florida, Nov. 20, 2011: race review (Part 2)

I woke up at 5 a.m. on race day. Normally, I hate waking up early. I wouldn't say it was my favorite thing this day either, but I was happier than most days.

First thing: toast an English muffin, spread with a little peanut butter and slice a half a banana on it. Second thing: eat this.

Due to the aforementioned car starting problem, as soon as I ate my runner's breakfast of champions, I headed out with my dog to see if my car would start (oh, and to let my dog go to the bathroom). The car started! My dog went to the bathroom! Hooray on both accounts!

Knowing my car would start made the morning a little more relaxed. Of course, I thought that even though it started that time, it may not start the next time. Sheesh! I always think of something to ruin my relaxedness.

After getting ready (handy that I set out the clothes the night before and packed everything I needed ... I should do this every day) and after Chloe wished me luck, I headed out the door.

I still left in enough time that, if necessary, I could call a taxi. I was a little nervous starting the car, but thankfully, it started without issue. Whew!

Since my running buddy, Caroline, lives close to the course, I parked at her house, and we walked to the start line (probably about a one-mile walk). We left her house at 6:30 a.m. for a 7:00 a.m. start time, and even with a stop at a porta-potty on the way in a park (not a race porta-potty, thankfully; this one smelled like cinnamon and had hand sanitizer) and a stop for a quick photo, we made it to our corral by 6:52 a.m.

This was just enough time. I didn't get nervous about not making it, but I also didn't have too much time to stand around and get nervous about the race. Although, one thing did trouble me: I started sweating on the walk there. Yes, a walk. Before sunrise. I was afraid bad things were to come.

I was extremely impressed with the organization of this race. About 7,000 runners fit easily into their corrals for an on-time start. Almost three minutes after the horn to start the race, Caroline and I crossed the start line to "Going the Distance" (I love some Cake. I'm glad the race organizers do, too.)

The first few miles were a breeze. The street was crowded, but it wasn't too difficult to pass someone if necessary. There was a ton of fan support at the start, so that helped pass the time, too.

Miles 4-5 got a little hot and boring. We ran through a neighborhood with little crowd support. But, we did hit our first water stop of the day, and we ran into the race photographers. I tried to keep my vow to myself: look happy in all of the photos. I started off on the right track.

Even though you can already see my shirt is soaked with sweat, I'm still happy (or pretending to be). Caroline is still really happy, too (I love this picture).

I don't really remember being that happy from this point in the race forward. Oh, wait. I was happy when I saw Caroline's husband and parents. That was fun. But, that was probably the last memorable happy time during this race. We kept trudging along until we took our first walk break (about the 6-mile mark). It was then we decided if we wanted to finish, we needed to walk some. It was freakin' HOT and HUMID, and it was barely 8 a.m. Oh, and it's November!

We kept going. Hit the next water stop hard. I took water (sometimes two or three) from each stop (The water stops were plentiful and well-stocked. I am extremely grateful that this was the case. Thank you, Women's Half Marathon organizers). I drank some and poured the remainder on my head.

I think miles 8-9 (I may be off on my miles because I was somewhat delirious from the heat)were the toughest of the course. It involved running The Pier. No trees. No shade. Out and back. Extremely hot. I almost had a meltdown when I realized we had to run around the stupid thing as opposed to turning around in front of it. This was really probably only an additional 0.1 mile, but this explains my level of hate of this portion of the race. We ended up walking a portion of this stupid pier, too. Maybe our longest walk break of the day. Stupid, stupid pier!

After the stupid, long, hot pier, we headed up to downtown St. Pete. At this time, we saw our coaches (both guys; they probably felt like pimps) and yelled at them, so that was a nice distraction. It was fun and all smiles until I realized they were finishing the race. Then, I got angry and bitter. I wanted to be them, but we still had 4 miles to go. Ugh!

The coaches saw this; we did not for another 4 miles
I knew that we were headed to Tropicana Field (home of the Tampa Bay Rays), but I didn't realize that we weren't taking a direct route there. So, when we had to turn to run around a lake in a park, I almost had another meltdown. I was also literally melting. I was hot. Really hot. As in, getting dizzy hot.

After more walking and more water, we dragged ourselves to Tropicana Field. I should have enjoyed this. I love baseball in a serious way. I love the Rays in a serious way. I should have been super-pumped that we got to run around the warning track of the stadium. I DID NOT CARE. I just wanted this race to end.

On the field at a much, much happier time
We walked some in Tropicana Field and some outside of it. Down to our last two miles, I thought I felt a surge of energy. I was wrong. Or it only lasted 0.5 mile. We walked some more and ran some more.

Thankfully, we ran into another coach at about the last mile of the race. She finished the race (in 1:44, no less), and then kept going out to find people in our group and run them almost to the finish line before she ran back for the next group. This was the sweetest thing ever and exactly what we needed. She had us running and running at a pretty good pace for the last mile. As she left us, she said the finish is just around the corner. She lied about that (or our ideas of "just around the corner" are different). But, we finished, and we finished strong!

My official time: 2:48:26 (Oh, my gosh. I am slow, but not that slow. Except on this day). I was really hoping for a  2:35 finish, and based on my training runs, I could do that (of course, our long runs were on 60-degree mornings with no humidity, and this was an 84-degree day with high humidity). I really think the heat and humidity were to blame. My body felt great. I was prepared. Nothing hurt. I just felt out of it. Dizzy. Nauseous.

After about the 6-mile mark of the race, I started feeling disappointed. I wanted to run the entire thing. I wanted to feel good throughout the race. And, things were falling apart fast. I had this feeling the entire race until the finish. Crossing the finish line strong really made these feelings go away (somewhat). I guess I'm still kind of disappointed, but hey, it was my first half marathon. It was unseasonably hot and humid. And, I finished. And got a cool medal. I now remember that this is part of the reason I signed up for this race.

It's so big and shiny! And, it has a detachable charm that you can add to a necklace or charm bracelet ... still haven't decided how I feel about that.
After getting our bling, we headed to the post-race refreshment area. First stop: ice bags. Oh, this felt glorious on my head and chest and neck! I finally could cool down.

After sitting on the asphalt (sitting on the hard ground never felt so good) applying the ice bags for awhile, we decided hit the snacks. I really wanted an orange. They didn't have oranges. But, they did have bananas, frozen strawberries, granola bars, pretzels and yogurt. I took some for later, but couldn't even think about eating anything at this point. All I wanted was liquid. So, I drank more water and more Gatorade along with more water and more Gatorade.

We finally found Caroline's parents and husband and got the cameras out!

Even though the race didn't go as I wanted it, there were a lot of great things about this race:
  • Extremely scenic, beautiful course. Sometimes I forget how beautiful it is since I live and run here all the time.
  • Well-organized race. Everything seemed to go the way a race should.
  • Well-manned and plentiful water and Gatorade stations. This was a lifesaver on this hot day. I really don't think I could have finished without the many, many water stops.
  • Great crowd support. It was pretty awesome hearing people you don't know yell your name.
  • The Bondi Band did the job! I love this thing! It stayed in place (no headband ever stays on my head), and it prevented sweat from going in my eyes. Amazing!
Really, the only negative things I can think of had nothing to do with the race itself:
  • HEAT AND HUMIDITY (Oh, did I mention this before?!?)
I'd definitely do this race again ... on a much cooler day. And, I'm looking forward to my next half marathon in February, when it better be cooler.


  1. GREAT JOB!! Those are really cool medals and I LOVE CAKE! What an awesome song to start the race to!

    Heat and humidity are a b*tch I swear. They ruin everything!

  2. @Happy Healthy Runner Thanks! The medal rocks!

    I got so irritated at the weather. It's Novemeber! It's not supposed to be 84 and humid. Argh! I'm looking forward to my next race being cooler (and getting a much better time).

  3. Congrats Jina!
    You did an amazing job considering the heat. Heat really slows you down so just think about how well you'll do when you run your next race!
    I think the charm is a really neat idea!
    Sounds like a great race to run and I'm so happy for you!! :)

  4. @Jenny @ The Little J-Bird You are so sweet, Jenny. Thanks!

    I definitely have a LOT of room for improvement, but I'll take it for my first half.


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