December 6, 2011

Phinley's Holiday Run Phor Phun 10K and 5K, Clearwater, Fla. Dec. 3, 2011: race review

OK, I'll admit it. The reason I ran this race is because it had a finish on a baseball field. A baseball field where the Philadelphia Phillies play spring training and the Clearwater Threshers play Single A baseball. And, this girl loves baseball.

Phinley is the Threshers' mascot. A shark named Phinely. Get it?
I was a bit concerned because I saw three different start times for this race. After emailing the race organizers, I was assured the race time was 4:30 p.m. for the 5K (4:00 p.m. for the 10K). Then, they sent out a mass reassurance email about the start time. Other people must have been confused, too.

Since I knew right where I was headed (I hang out at this stadium a bunch during the spring and summer), my boyfriend and I arrived at the stadium about 4 p.m. Parking was super easy (ideal site for a race since there are many parking lots).

Threshers game with dad
Threshers game with friends
Threshers game with Chloe (bark in the park night)
We walked in the stadium and into a super-long check-in line. Soon, I heard the announcement that the start of the 10K was delayed, and the 5K would start about 20 minutes after the 10K. So, no need to worry about the long lines. And, not really a surprise.

After checking in, getting my number and chip, I still had plenty of time before the race. And, I could use an actual restroom (not the typical race porta-potty situation) since we were in a baseball stadium.

About 20 minutes after the 10K start, they asked all 5K participants to head outside the stadium. So, we all trudged outside to a sidewalk. They asked anyone who ran 7-minute miles (yeah, so not me) to move to the front. Soon after, there was a commotion and the race started. I actually think someone just said, "Go." Seriously.

Even though we had timing chips, we never ran over a mat, so I was kind of confused how they were keeping time or where the race technically started. I started my Garmin watch when I got to the "start line" (where those speedster 7-minute milers started).

The course wound behind the stadium on a trail and under an overpass and into a park. It was really pretty and hilly (for Florida). I was happy with how I handled the hills and with how this race started. I kept a pace under 11 minutes, which is good for me.

Almost the entire course wound through this park. There were two water stops, which I really didn't need, but it's nice that they were available.

At one point, a Frisbee almost hit some runners in front of me. Oops. Apparently, this trail went right through a disc golf course.

I kept up my under-11-minute-mile pace, and I felt really great throughout this race. I was getting anxious to really push myself the last mile. I knew I still had a lot of gas left in the tank, and I knew I could fly through it (I use "fly" rather loosely here).

Then, we made a turn off the trail and onto an uneven grass area behind the stadium. Uneven as in you had to be careful with each step or else you might topple over. For someone who sprained an ankle almost two years ago, and who still feels it, this made me extremely nervous. So, unfortunately, I had to slow down considerably instead of really making that push at that end.

After the uneven grassy area, we turned into the stadium for the lap around the warning track before third base finish line. I could finally pick up my pace, and I was really happy with my strong finish.
I'm in blue

Making the final push amidst all the Santas who yelled "Ho! Ho! Ho!" a good portion of the race
My Garmin time: 33:09, which is 1:23 faster than my fastest 5K time.

The third base finish line (apparently, I was so fast my boyfriend couldn't get a picture of me from the front ... this is obviously a joke)

After turning in my chip (I still didn't understand how it was a chip-timed event), we headed to the post-race party to grab post-race goodies.

Yes, a beer and a hot dog
I loved hanging out at the stadium after the race. Baseball stadiums are my happy place.

There were definitely some issues with this race: three different advertised start times, long check-in line, delayed start, odd start with no official start line and a rough course (uneven grass) with obstacles (Frisbees). That said, I'd do this race again in a heartbeat. This was a fun race for a baseball-loving girl (good thing since it's billed as a Run Phor Phun). I even got a really cool medal.

Remember how I said I was confused about the chip timing? Well, obviously, the race organizers were too. The results have me running a 58:35 10K. I'd love that, but I didn't do it.


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