Last weekend, I spent a few days in beautiful Tampa Bay visiting my best friend! We had the trip planned for a few months and initially she asked me to run the Clearwater halfathon while I was in town. Knowing I was just getting off the MCM training and the subsequent let down to letting that go, I knew Clearwater would be more of a fun run than a seriously trained for and run race. But I didn’t care! Any excuse to get out of the wintery cold was welcome 🙂
The race was held on the Sunday of MLK Jr. weekend alongside the running of the St. Pete Beach Half, 10K, and 5K, therefore making it a small destination race. This also made for minimal race day traffic and free parking 3 blocks from the start/finish line! With only 2000 runners, we arrived about 20 minutes prior to the start. It was a balmy 58 degrees to me (yet I still wore a throw away long sleeve) . Sunrise was at 7:20am and the start was 7am, therefore I was itching to get started and see this gorgeous sunrise over the first (hill) bridge.
Since it was small, they didn’t have pace corrals. The lady announcing the start of the race said “if you run a 5 min mile, you should be among the first 3 people lined up. Everyone else should be behind them!” I loved the relaxed feeling of the race, and it was perfect considering I was doing it for a fun long run!
I was right! The sunrise was breathtaking. Despite the first mile being the bridge and one of the tougher parts of the race, we had so much scenery to take in. We went over the bridge towards Clearwater beach.
The course was an out and back, therefore the bridges we would run twice, with the longest one being at mile 12. My hips were already mocking me.
After the bridge, it took us down a long straight away that connected to the resort area of Clearwater. It was lined with palm trees and each side of the road was surrounded by water. I couldn’t get over how beautiful the day turned out!
We looped around the round about and were taken along the beach. There was a light breeze that despite the sun made us feel cool. I could run near the beach everyday…just sayin’. 😉
Next up at mile 4 was another bridge. This one was shorter yet slightly steeper than the first. After this bridge, it was tough to see the ocean. We passed mainly near the resorts and beach homes of Clearwater. When we got to the turnaround point, the race directors didn’t completely shut down the road, therefore we were on the shoulder sharing it with cars trying to make their way to the beach for the day. I think because the race was smaller and the fact that the road was the only way to these resorts, they couldn’t completely shut down parts of it. I didn’t have an issue with it because by the turnaround, the runners had thinned out.
On the way back, I felt great. I decided to pick it up a little and test out what I think would be near the race pace I want at the Philly Love Run in March. I had about 5 miles on tired legs to get a feeling for it. Miles 8 through 10 were a breeze.
Then came the bridges.
If I were smart, I would have taken the bridge a little slower, but I didn’t. I was feeling good and decided to just hammer through. When I started the descent on the other side, my legs felt like they could cramp. Full disclosure, I’ve only ever cramped in one race so I knew I was in for a little bit of hurt through the rest of the mileage. I slowed down a bit and then got my legs back. From mile 10.5 – 12 I was motoring at race pace again. Then came the 2nd and last bridge. I knew from the first, I’d be better to walk. Yes only a mile left, but remember, this was a long run for me, not a PR course.
So I walked half the bridge. Long runs are just time on your feet right…?
Either way, I came into the finish and was really pleased with the beautiful course, terrific weather, and amazing post race snacks. Pasta, croissants, bagels, and beer! Yes please!
The medals were also awesome – it’s the biggest one I have earned to date, even bigger than the one from the Pittsburgh Marathon! After I finished, I headed to the stage area to await Shawna and find Colleen. The weekend before, Colleen and I found out we not only were going to the same part of Florida but that we’d be running the same race! Small world! Her and her husband Jim were listening to awards (they’re fast..) and enjoying all that post race celebrations offer.
( Don’t ask me why I thought pants were a good idea. )
After the race, Shawna and I headed back to well earned showers, food, and a post race nap. We weren’t up for much more that day, so by the time we woke up, we decided to head to the beach to read, stretch, and take in the sunset.
Thanks to Shawna’ parents, we were treated to a delicious seafood dinner to celebrate our accomplishment and also 12 years of friendship! Snappers is definitely a restaurant I’d recommend if you’re ever in the St. Pete area. The food is fresh and uniquely prepared. I had snapper, shrimp, asparagus, and lobster risotto. It was so much fun spending the weekend with Shawna and getting out of the winter misery of DC.
Here’s to more fun long run races and Florida visits with great friends!
Have you ever run a race as your long run? What’s your favorite destination race?