I wasn't feeling wonderful in the days leading up to this race, and all along I said I wasn't going to "race" it. I really just wanted to prove to myself that I could push myself through the distance and not get hurt doing it. Also, I was adamant about going by myself; if I fell apart, I didn't want any invited witnesses present.
So on race morning, I got myself up, got dressed, headed out the door on time, and after driving away realized I'd forgotten my GPS watch. I panicked for a moment, as I've come to rely so heavily on my watch during both training and racing. I started to turn around, but then decided I didn't need it. If I wasn't really racing, it didn't matter whether I knew what my pace was at every moment. (On the other hand, not having the watch could have made me run faster than I intended, which could have caused re-injury, but I wasn't banking on that.) I parked relatively easily, in a parking garage whose fee had been lifted for the event (hooray for small victories!). I was a little chilly in my tank top, which was good; the only other time I'd raced Iron Girl was in 2010, and I recall that it was deathly hot. So I was glad for the nice weather; while I knew we'd spend some time in the sun once it rose, I also knew it wouldn't get too hot or humid.
I lined myself up in the starting corral between the 2:00 and 2:10 (finish) pace groups, to give myself an idea of what pace I was running, as I didn't have my watch. While waiting in the corral, I saw long-time runner, coach, and organizer Debbie Voiles (of Run Tampa) in line ahead of me, who took this shot of a still-sleepy Lee:
A peculiar thing about women's races: I get very emotional. Maybe it's the abundant estrogen floating around. I always think about Katherine Switzer, which makes me think about the Boston Marathon, which made me particularly sappy, given the close proximity to the anniversary of last year's horrific event. And then the "Star-Spangled Banner" played (or was sung; I couldn't see or tell), and I started thinking about the lyrics. Then I was reminded of when I learned about the lyrics and creation of the song in a middle-school history class, which made me think about war and triumph and inspiration. And I almost started sobbing, all before the horn blew.
But thankfully I was able to hold it together once we started. The course was basically an out-and-back, with two bridges, which we repeated (so four times running on a bridge). And these bridges aren't meager; especially the Clearwater Memorial Causeway (a.k.a. the Clearwater Bridge, 75 ft. high), which is where we started and finished the race. I started out feeling just so-so, which kept me from trying to go too fast--that simply wasn't an option. I was actually grateful for the bridges, because they gave me a challenge to focus on since I couldn't really focus on racing hard. I was feeling pretty stable in whatever pace I was at--I knew it was faster than a 9:55 min/mi, because I made sure to stay in front of the 2:10 pace group, but the 2:00 pace group was out of sight, so it was slower than a 9:23 min/mi.
|See how there's lots of blue surrounding the green? That means BRIDGES.|
After finishing the second bridge, Sand Key Bridge (65 ft. high), what felt like the longest part of the race ensued, which was mostly a straight-away on Gulf Blvd. During this part I was just anxious to turn around and go back over the bridges again. I guess they were giving me anxiety, just sitting there waiting for me. I didn't know how much energy I'd have once I got back around to them; I had barely trained for this race and was afraid I'd give out toward the end. But that didn't happen. In fact, I found some reserves to use, and because my foot and ankle were feeling pretty good, I decided to push a little bit once we did get back to Sand Key. I knew then it was a short distance over, and then the next and final bridge would be just around the corner. And once I got to the top of that one, I knew it was literally downhill from there. When I had the finish sign in sight, I gave a big final push and blew past a couple of other runners. I actually hate when other runners hold out throughout a race and then do that same thing to me at the very end, but because I was being cautious, it was the only chance I would allow myself to full-out race (so I forgive myself that lapse in etiquette).
I finished in 2:04:18, at an overall pace of 9:30 min/mi. I was very happy with that. It's a ways off from my PR of 1:53:29, but everything considered, I'm still proud of my effort. This was by no means a PR race for me. And on the plus side, I totally beat my time for the 2010 Iron Girl, which I ran, uninjured, in 2:13:41.
|Other stats that I don't really care about.|
I didn't waste much time getting back to my car, where I took this selfie in the parking garage to prove I survived:
|I was as happy as I look.|
In the few days that have passed since the race, I biked one day, rested (i.e., napped through my run) another, and did bootcamp last night. Because I blew off my run on Tuesday, I got up this morning to run with Tim (OK, Tim got me up). It didn't feel wonderful, but that was to be expected. It's also tough to run the morning after bootcamp. Plus, there was fierce wind. Etc., etc. I still have some mild pain in my left foot, but the more nagging problem now seems to be in my right ankle, which I think is from the time I spent in the boot, walking unevenly. I know I need to be careful and still take it easy when I do run. I've got a marathon to start training for in a couple of months, and I want to feel good starting out.