A foot of snow fell in upstate New York last weekend, completely blanketing much of the region and wreaking havoc on everyone’s travel plans, mine included. I was headed to sunny Florida with my colleague and friend Traci to race her first-ever half marathon. Nothing would stop us from getting there. Not even Snowmaggeon 2013, which blessed me with a 70-minute commute home Friday afternoon. (It normally takes about 15 minutes)
Somehow, our flight south was not canceled. It wasn’t even delayed! We headed to Buffalo (with a generous snow-buffer delay) early Saturday morning. By early afternoon, we were in Tampa. We cast our snow boots aside and welcomed the sunny skies.
We stopped by the Rock n’ Roll Marathon race expo at Tropicana Field and collected our bibs and a few other choice goodies. We also stalked the PowerBar booth for their delicious new banana blueberry Performance Energy Blends. Apparently, it will be sold in stores soon, but I haven’t been able to find it just yet.
Fast forward to race morning:
We left our beachfront hotel around 5:30, which allowed plenty of time for us to drive the 12-mile route back to Tropicana Field, battle any potential race traffic and park before the VIP parking lot closed out.
Purchasing VIP parking tickets was hands down one of the best race decisions we made. We arrived minutes before the lot closed and parked within a 100 feet of a row of portable toilets. I know, that doesn’t sound stellar at all. But it WAS! We hit the bathrooms not once, but twice without waiting in any lines. Anyone who has been at the start of any race knows what a luxury this was.
We soon dropped off our shared check bag, and anxiously awaited our 7:30 am race start. Soon enough, we hopped into the corrals.
At the starting line
We’re so excited! And we just can’t hide it! (pre-race, of course)
Before we knew it, the race was underway and our corral was released.
We were off! We took the first mile a wee bit too fast. We were excited and ready to go, go, go! We rounded the first turns, which looped us around the baseball stadium, and up a hill to our first water stop.
It was going to be a warm day, so we had to hydrate early on, I told Traci as we headed toward the water station.
Then, Traci was body checked by a massive linebacker reaching for water. I dodged around more arms and legs. Grabbed water, drank water. Didn’t trip.
But I lost Traci.
I am the worst coach ever.
I repeatedly yelled her name. I frantically scanned the crowd. Then I finally realized she must’ve kept running. I start running again, whipping out my cell phone and I prayed. And yes, I was the jackal talking on my cell while running a race.
“Oh thank God!” I gushed when Traci picked up.
“I lost you,” she replied.
We chat for a few more moments, she tells me where she is on the course and I realize I am way behind her, so I tell her I am on my way and speed up to catch her.
Huff huff. Puff puff.
Damn, my legs are not pleased about this sudden sprint.
Where is she? There’s mile 2. Annnnd queue Traci’s smiling face. THANK GOODNESS!!!
Sadly, though, I am basically wheezing since I ran at 8:30 pace to find her again. And this was just a few weeks after my Disney marathon. Phew! It took me several miles to get my breathing pattern back to normal. Well, as normal as I was going to get for this run.
We didn’t chat much as we ran those next few miles — ya know, since I was trying not to die and all. We passed a few bands, some less-than excited spectators and repeatedly dodged a runner who stopped dead in the middle of the course to snap pics.
We also honored our wonderful nephews. At miles 6 and 10, we thought of Traci’s nephews and at 3 and 8, we thought of mine. It’s a wonderful way to pass the time while paying special attention to those you love most. Right, smiley Riley?
Soon enough, we passed an air field and dreamed of flying to the finish. Next, we raced onto The Pier, which was quite breezy. Stellar views but boy was it getting HOT.
Soon after we left The Pier, we started dumping water on our heads instead of drinking it. We were hurting. But let’s be realistic, it was in the teens yesterday and we were racing in 75 degrees. Given all that, we were still on pace for our projected goal time. Not too shabby.
Three more miles and we started to fade a bit. But we kept plugging away.
As we rounded a corner toward final mile – mile 12 – I encouraged Traci to run ahead. She was close to her goal and had a bit more spring in her step than I did. She didn’t want to, but finally did.
That last mile was rough. The cramp I’d been harboring much of the race felt like a dagger in my side. All I wanted to do was walk. But I didn’t I kept going. Soon enough, the finish line was straight ahead.
I sped up, at least that’s how it felt. I can’t even imagine how I must’ve looked at this point. But soon enough, I crossed and moments later Traci and I found one another.
We collected our post-race treats and sat along the beach. A slice of heaven.
Our view. I like oceanside runs!
Traci conquered her first half-marathon and is weeks away from her second race. I’m so proud of her!
PSA: I am not one to endorse running with a cell phone, since running is truly my only time to unplug. But our cells saved our butts here.Hands down. I will never run a race without my cell in tow again.