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Gasparilla Marathon – Older , Wiser, & Faster

Active ImageI just returned from Tampa , what was I thinking coming home to this weather?

 

I participated in the Gasparilla Marathon which is one of several running events held over the course of a weekend. The feature race is the 15K which is held on Saturday and a half and full marathon are run simultaneously on Sunday.

 

Although I have done 9 marathons they have all been in NY, 8 times at NYC one in the Ironman at Lake Placid . My competitive itch needed to be scratched and I decided last November to do some off-season run focused training with an objective of running a winter marathon and trying to qualify for Boston, which I have never done. To achieve this would require me matching my PR of 3:30 which was done 15 years ago and quite honestly was probably the poorest race I ever ran from a strategy and execution perspective. So the challenge boiled down to a simple question of whether proper training and execution could offset 15 years worth of aging.

 

I arrived in Tampa and it was 85 degrees and humid, fortunately I had a couple of days to acclimate. I started with a four mile tempo run that had my heart rate skyrocketing and sweat  pouring profusely, this was my workout prior to race and I really believe it accelerated my acclimatization.

The rest of the pre-race activities were more touristy in nature. The 15K on Saturday had an elite wheel-chair division that was racing for $10,000. Most of these athletes were staying at my hotel, it was exceptionally motivating and it was very cool seeing a storage room at the hotel chock-full with race wheel chairs fully equipped with Zipps! I had the best pre-race meal when I took a short drive to Plant City , the strawberry capital of Florida and went to Parkesdale Fruit Market which has a stand that sells fresh strawberry shortcake, trust me you will not find a better way to top off your potassium levels. It is in the middle of nowhere but can have lines of up to an hour for one of their world famous shortcakes.

 

The race began at 6 AM and the humidity was 100% and about 55 degrees, the native Floridians were complaining it was cold. The course is very nice and covers an island, the downtown Tampa area and the last half is waterfront along the Bay; quite scenic. Surprisingly there were less than 1000 participants. {josquote2}I set out to try to keep a 7:55 pace as I needed an 8:00 pace to hit 3:30{/josquote2}. I was very diligent about hitting all the fluid stops and taking salt caps each hour. The race had a 3:30 pace group that I tried to stay ahead of.  I wound up at the first half with an average pace of 7:48 and was very comfortable. There was a rough patch for me between 21 -22 miles but I stopped, had a full Gatorade reload and got out of the funk. Last 4 miles were into a 20 MPH headwind, a front was moving in and the humidity was gone but we were fighting the wind. It was a more than fair trade for this heavy sweater, a bit more work and drop off in pace for the cooling effect that eliminated  the possibility of a dehydration induced meltdown. I crossed in 3:27 PR'd by 3 minutes and qualified for Boston. I realized, hey this old dude has finally learned how to do these events and could spank my younger self in a race. What a great feeling!

 

A final thought for you Big Blue fanatics. Super Bowl is in Tampa next year the week before the marathon,  if you can swing it there is no better place to be this time of year.