Last weekend Lauren and I made our annual "winter getaway" trek to Tampa in an attempt to conquer the winter blues. This was our fourth trip and fourth time pacing the Gasparilla Distance Classic which consists of a 15K and 5K on Saturday and a Half Marathon and 8K on Sunday. It's a large event with nearly 40,000 combined entries for the entire weekend. The race is very well run, add a large expo, free beer and a riverfront hotel with a pool and you've got a running couple's dream getaway!
Our pace team was pacing what is called the Michelob Ultra Challenge, all four events over the two days. Yup, that's nearly 50K! It typically spells a great long slow distance weekend of training, although heat, humidity and the concrete surface can put a hurting on those legs. We've got a great group, a mix of "locals" and "snowbirds" who seem to come back year after year which makes it nice to catch up and reconnect.
|Here's our crew, bright and early at 5:30am prior to the start of the Half Marathon|
It was HOT, even the locals were complaining about it. Both morning's we woke up to temps in the high 70's and humidity >80%. Our bodies definitely weren't acclimated, but I must say that heat and the sweat felt good! This year's pacing duties were simple, 7:30 goal pace for the 15K, 5K and 8K and 1:40 (7:38) pace for the half.
I was a little rusty starting out the 15k, I hadn't paced in a while. By the 3rd mile we were on track and both Saturday races were consistent, 7:26 average for the 15K and 7:25 for the 5K. I didn't have much of a "group" or "team" in either event, more of what I would call a "following". That's fine with me, I'm there to provide a service and hopefully help the runners meet or exceed their goals.
The Half is always tough to pace. It's dark for the first 5 miles (starts at 6am), there's a sharp turn about 1/3 of a mile into the race and there are plenty of turns in a dimly lit residential area. I started off with three miles in the 7:44 range, hit the 5th mile about 18 seconds behind goal. We gradually caught up, averaging 7:33-7:35 for the remainder of the race. I had one of the best groups I've ever had for a half, a great mix of people who kept the conversation going and the miles flying by. As we hit mile 11, I "released" those in the group that were looking good and finished off the last two miles with a couple of runners who would eventually sprint ahead in the final stretch. Crossed the line and congratulated many of my group members who either ran PR's or ran much better than they expected. The true reward of being a pacer doesn't come until those moments after you cross that finish line, hearing all of the stories and seeing the excited runners who experienced more than just a race.
|Crossing the line....right on time!|
|Abe run just about every step of the weekend with me, and finished a rewarding 22nd in the Michelob Ultra Challenge!|
|A big smile post race!|
I hit the ground running this week with a great 14 mile run on Tuesday AM where I hit 12 miles at 6:20 pace. I'll do a threshold workout on Thursday, likely a 3 x 3 mile workout. I'll do a 20 mile long run over the weekend with 5-8 miles at marathon pace. I continue to ride on the bike trainer on my "off" running days and hopefully I'll get a longer outdoor ride in this weekend if weather permits.
I'll gradually increase my mileage in March, hitting the mid 60's per week while getting 3-6 hours of cycling in as well. My next race is the Caesar Rodney Half Marathon on March 16.
In other news, I had hoped to make it to Rev3 Knoxville the first weekend in May to open my triathlon season, but now Lauren will be out of town so that is not going to work. Knoxville is going to be a great race this year, and a great opportunity to get a look at the course before next year's Rev3 Age Group Championships on the same course. If Knoxville interests you at all, here's a link to last year's female winner's (Kelly Williamson) detailed review of the race: http://rev3tri.com/2013/02/26/kelly-williamson-dissects-rev3-knoxville-what-you-need-to-know/
There are a few athletes that I know of from the Northeast who are driving down, let me know if you're interested and I can get you in contact with them.