I have to say that I was very excited, but also pretty nervous, to compete in the Athleta Iron Girl Half Marathon.
Not being a fan of inclines of any sort since my achilles tendon injury of 2 years ago, I usually avoid them like mosquitoes, bees, large birds, and bears. However, I also tend to be a sucker for a challenge and what better challenge than running over 2 huge bridges…TWICE, am I right? I knew with basically no bridge training runs and the humidity at 93% that I wasn’t going to PR, but my goal was to finish in under 2:30 and I figured if I played it smart and went out steady, I could do it.
So, the night before I got my typical pre-race, can’t sleep jitters but eventually I drifted off and not very long before my alarm rang out. The music started at 4:30 AM, time to get up! After having my pre-race meal of 1 cup of coffee, a small glass of water, and a bagel with peanut butter, I rallied the troops and we headed out. Luckily the race is less than 15 minutes from my house, big bonus!
We arrived at Coachman Park around 6AM and I immediately hit up the porta potties. No lines at that time but when I had to go again at 6:30, (yes, I pee a lot), the lines were insane. I actually stood in line for 25 minutes but at 6:54, I decided to head on over to the starting line and give up on the potty. Besides, I lived on Sand Key for 4 years and I’ve run through Sand Key Park before and I know there are a few bathrooms along the route so no worries.
I got to the starting line a bit late and because I was a little nervous about the bridges, I ended up in the 2:30 pace group. We started, and I kept my pace with the 2:30 group through downtown Clearwater, but it felt really slow and even though I didn’t want to go out too fast and tax myself, I quickly passed them and made my way over the first bridge.
On my descent I passed the 2:30 group and was easing up to the 2:15 pacers. I felt great running through Clearwater Beach and the views were pretty nice. There was a guy cheering us on who had a sign that said, “This is the best Parade EVER!, HUBBA HUBBA”, I laughed out loud and it was just the motivation I needed to get me up and over the Sand Key Bridge. Thank you random spectator!
I ran the entire second bridge and pretty much propelled myself downward and then realized I was running at around a 9:50 pace! I knew I was hitting it too hard and I needed to slow down or there was no way I would finish in under 2:30. So I started slowing down, way down, and I stopped at every water stop along the way, and I walked through them, and I made sure to down as much water as possible.
By the time I got through Sand Key Park I was feeling the exhaustion of coming out too fast. I took a gel around mile 6 or 7, can’t remember when exactly, but it did give me a little blast of energy to make it around Sand Key. As we approached Mile 8 I realized it was almost time to start climbing those bridges again and I was slowing down a lot.
I ran only part of the Sand Key Bridge this time, I had to walk a big portion of it, but I sprinted down it to make up time. The run back through Clearwater didn’t seem so easy, breezy this time. I was suckin it. Negative Nancy was all up in my ear, (“slow down girl, it doesn’t matter when you finish as long as you do”..).
But as we made our way toward the Memorial Causeway, a spectator said to me, “you may finish in under 2:21 at this pace”.
Well, my competitive side took over and Positive Polly starting shouting, “2:21? Hell no, I’m going for 2:15”. And it was on, right then I pushed it, hard. I ran over that last bridge as fast as I could and I ran down the helix like a crazy woman. I’m sure I must have looked insane because I sorta felt insane at that point and I ran across the street to the finish line, and guess what?
I finished in 2:15:51. Yeah, not the best time ever, but not too bad, either. Overall 410/1257 in my division 53/164!
What I loved about this race is that it is for women only. The promoters and exhibitors alike were all very supportive. I also loved the fact that the race was challenging. We may be flat in Florida, but we have some hellacious bridges!
What I didn’t love about this race was the lack of water stations. I didn’t feel like there were enough. This could be because I sweat like a freak of nature; or the fact that it was 93% humidity and hot. I found myself looking for water in between stations and just before the last bridge I actually took 2 Gatorades and 3 waters, and I NEVER do that. So, if I could offer some advice, I’d say add more water stations. Please?
Other than that, I loved this race and I’m looking forward to running it again next year and just maybe I’ll do even better than this year.
Have you ever run an Athleta Iron Girl half marathon?