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Winter Wrap-up: Unexpected PR, Age Group Placement, and Brewery Run

Now that we're well into spring, I may as well post about winter. That is, Florida winter. So here's a three-in-one.

I missed the Gasparilla half marathon--the local race I look forward to all year. And it was for a silly reason. I had trained well and felt good the week prior to the race, but at a bootcamp class the Wednesday before the race, I did an exercise the totally killed my hamstrings, only I didn't know it until the next day. And they weren't just sore; I could hardly straighten my legs to walk, let alone use my hamstrings to propel me on a run. But feeling this kind of extreme soreness is not unusual for me after this particular bootcamp class; it's certainly happened before. So I thought by the time Sunday rolled around, I'd be fine. But then as Friday passed, and soon Saturday, I was far less confident that I'd be healed in time to race Sunday. I did everything I could think of to expedite healing: massages, smelly muscle rubs, foam roller, static stretches--in fact, I probably overdid it, when what I really needed was rest (but what runner ever resorts to that in a panic?).

But when Sunday morning rolled around, and I drove to the race site, I got out of my car to try a warm-up run and knew immediately that it just wasn't going to happen. I could probably have jogged the race, but in the end I would have only hurt myself more, and I would've had a crappy race. So I bailed on it and went home and back to bed. I did, however, decide to sign up for a half-marathon the following weekend, the Best Damn Race in Orlando. I wasn't entirely sure I'd be healed in time for this race, but it was worth the chance; I wanted redemption.

I spent more time resting in the week leading up to the race, which made me a little nervous; I wasn't sure how much training I might have lost with what felt like so much time away from running. But it turns out, it did me good. I went into the race not expecting to PR, but when I realized I was able to hold a good pace for half of the race--about 8:36 min/mile--I decided to try to hold that pace until the end. And despite, or maybe because of, some inclement weather, I didn't have the sun to contend with (just some slippery cobblestone). As I approached the finishing chute, having seen both my parents there to support me, I was ready to make my big push. But it seems my big push prompted another woman's big push, and suddenly we were battling each other to cross the finish line first. She got me by a hair, I admit. But it was a fun push.

Some friendly competition.

Not as bored as I look.

Next was a five-miler, the annual Bolt Run, hosted by the Tampa Bay Lightning (believe it or not, we have hockey in Florida!). I hadn't done this distance race in quite a while, and I wasn't even sure of what my PR was. So I went in with no expectations. I'd been training at decent paces, but nothing like what I was able to pull off at this race: an average 7:55 pace, 39:31 finish time, and--here's the real surprise--second place for my gender/age group (out of 46). 

And, done.

And this was just the start to a long day of running. And some drinking. Later that afternoon, I jumped into the already-in-progress first annual Tampa Brewery Run, which was not anything "official" but something that a group of running friends planned--an approximately 20-mile route around the streets of Tampa, coordinated around nine different local breweries as stops along the route. For the hardcore in the group (not me), the rules for successful completion were to (1) start from the beginning, and (2) drink a pint at each brewery. Since I had no ambition to run 20 more miles that day, and I couldn't drink a single pint of beer let alone nine, I decided to jump in with a couple of girlfriends at what seemed like a more reasonable point, giving us about nine miles total to complete. Here are the breweries (I jumped in at Ulele):
  1. Start: Angry Chair 
  2. Florida Ave
  3. World of Beer
  4. Ulele 
  5. Copper Tail
  6. Tampa Brewing
  7. Cigar City Cider & Mead
  8. Southern Brewing
  9. Finish: MERMAID!

Just getting started! Yes, the river is green behind us.

This was mid-March, which means pretty warm in Tampa. And we were running in the middle of the day. And drinking. It seems like a really bad idea, and I don't deny that it was. But it was also a ton of fun. Once we got past the first five-mile leg from one brewery to the next, things got a little bit easier. But I wasn't really drinking, save for the cocktail I split at the first location and sample I had at the second, so I can't speak for others. One place I did indulge more at was Cigar City Cider and Mead. I probably had half a glass of cider, which was pretty tasty--better to my palate than a traditional beer.

The cider place. Everyone looks quite happy!

By the time we hit the second-to-last brewery, it was getting dark out, and some folks who'd been along for the whole ride--including the Bolt Run that morning--were clearly worn out, and just about everyone was a little woozy, but not terribly drunk. So the final push to the finishing point required a lot of effort (but since I'd cheated and abstained from drinking very much, I felt pretty strong). The experience overall was a fun time for bonding, urban running, and sampling some local Tampa flavor. In the end, I think maybe five people finished the course properly--and I give props to them. I would definitely do it again, maybe even with more mileage, but still without much drinking.

Speaking of running and drinking, in a few weeks some of these same friends are hosting a Margarita Mile. The rules involve drinking a margarita, running a quarter mile, and repeating three more times, all for time. I signed up to do it, so if I actually go through with it, I'll be sure to report on it.

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