Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Gasparilla Distance Classic in Review

Gasparilla Distance Classic 2014
I first heard of this event several years ago. I have put it off for this reason or that one. Finally,  it made it on my schedule for this year. It fit into the plan rather nicely. Additionally, my brother Hernando lives in Tampa and he has run this before. It would be a great opportunity for me to run with him again.

The Gasparilla Distance Classic consists of a 15k and a 5k for Saurday, in that order, back to back, and a Half Marathon and 8k on Sunday, again in that order and again, back to back. I had never heard of an 8k. I guess it's a fancy way of calling a 5 miler. 8 seems longer than 5, so I get it.

I opted for the 5k on Saturday and the Half Marathon on Sunday, although the original plan was to just run the half. I added the 5k late, mostly because I learned my nephew Tony would be running as well. As I thought I would, I wished I had signed up for all of them, but later I was really glad I did not.

First, I have to give many kudos to the organizers. This was a high quality event with no apparent glitches. Everything seemed to run smoothly and on time. On time is always good.

The packet / bib pick up, however was somewhat backwards. Not anything like I've been used to. You had to go to the back of the Expo to do this. In the whole scheme of things, not a big deal. We were in and out in no time flat. Bibs, tee shirts and goodies in hand. The expo was just like any other. After awhile, they all seem to be the same.

Tony, Mauricio and Hernando
Saturday morning was an ealy morning. My brother was running the 15k which was scheduled to start at 7am. We left his house at 5am. Do the math, we were up very, very early. The 5k would start at 9am.

The temperature was in the mid 70's, the humidity was in the high 90's. The fog was thick and low. I was very glad I did not register for both. 

The announcer mentioned that over 12,000 runners would be participating in the 5k. That's 12k folks in a very short route. This proved to be very interesting. From start to finish, it was shoulder to shoulder, no way to get a move on. I guess this turned out to be a blessing because I had to take it easy, very easy, and that is exactly what I was supposed to do.

'cuse me... 'cuse me. On your left. On your right. Behind you. Oh, please don't make any sudden stops. If you're walking, please move to one side. Thank you, thank you" These and other thoughts entertained me the entire route. 

The course was flat, humid, crowded, sticky and a bit smelly. It went along the water. It was beautiful and fun.

Gasparilla 5k Bling
At the finish line, they moved us through pretty quickly. I was surprised. The line for food was however, long. I settled for a smoothie, a banana and a yogurt.

The Half marathon, on Sunday, was scheduled to start at 6 am. This made it for another short evening. After a glitch with the parking payment machine, we made it to the start with about ten minutes to spare. Again, the field was crowded. I'm not sure how many, but if I were to make an educated guess, I would say that there were close to ten thousand runners. 

Once again, the weather was very similar to Saturday's. Very humid. I now understood why the early starting time.

And just like that we were off. The field remained crowded for about 3 to 4 miles, then space opened up. There were water and Gatorade stations every mile. This was very much needed. I walked through all the stations and ran the rest of the race. My pace was slow. I have lost some speed. I was however, very pleased with my endurance. But, as expected, my ankles began to ache around mile seven. This I have learned to accept.

Gasparilla Half Marathon Run Course
Crowd support was terrific. People every where. About 60% of the course was along the water's edge. Beautiful sights. BUT, an issue with the sewer around mile seven made it for a very unpleasant moment. 

My brother, five years my younger, wanted to push his limits. We started together and I asked him, before the race, to drop me when he needed to. He would not. Kept looking over his shoulder, looking for me. I did not want to hold him back, so to get rid of him, I went to use the porta-potty. That did it. He took off. He had a great race.

With about 2 miles to go, I hear someone say to me: "hey, fancy meeting you here!" 

"WoW, Janice, This is unreal." Janice is a friend from Hendersonville. She's one of my wife's training buddies. We crossed the finish line together. I was thankful she saw me. I was more thankful she pushed me through.

Gasparilla Half Marathon Bling
If I were to rate this event, I would have to give it 5 stars. Yes, 5. Everything about it was just right. This one, I must come back and repeat. However, next time I will run all four races. To all my friends in Hendersonville, TN... can we say: "Road Trip"?