Iron Gril Half...and my struggles with running...

This past Sunday was the Iron Girl Half Marathon. I had went back and forth in my head about whether or not I should run this race for a while. I was signed up for Savage Race, which was the day before the half. Last time I did Savage Race I was sore for a few days and brutally sunburned. I was pretty sure the race would take way too much out of me to run a half the next day. I continued to toy with the idea of running both and eventually registered for Iron Girl. 

How could I not? Iron Girl was my first half marathon, I needed to do it again, just on that principle alone - the same way I had to run Gasparilla, since that's what got me into racing. Plus, I had this secret goal in my head to run 12 half marathons in 6 months. This would be my 12th in the 6 month time frame. The first of the 12 being Frankenfooter back on Oct 28, 2012. Six months later makes April 28th...and this would be my last chance. Bring on the bridges!! I HATE running bridges! 

Fast forward to this past weekend. The Thursday prior I had a bad race. I ran the Tampa Bay Corporate 5k. The race itself was awesome, but my body was not. I had my personal worst 5k time, my body felt like crap - I was having trouble breathing, I felt exhausted, dehydrated, and dizzy. I was disappointed in myself and wondered how I could run a half marathon. I tried to think more positively. I had changed my eating completely, it had been hot and humid, and I hadn't run in 2 weeks. I'd do better at the half, even though it was a challenging one. I just needed to stay positive. 

Race weekend rolled around, and I had already realized the fact that I was unable to run Savage Race. They had put us in the 1:40pm wave and I had a dinner party to attend at 6:30. There was no way I was making it to both. Knowing that I had Iron Girl the next day and considering the events of the weekend, I chose to give up running Savage. Although the weekend didn't go quite as planned regardless, I'm happy with my decision not to run Savage Race and put my focus on Iron Girl. 

I headed to Coachman Park early Saturday morning for packet pickup. It was a beautiful, sunny morning in clearwater. Everyone was excited and energetic. I got my packet and shirt and picked up a sparkly headband to match the outfit I was planning on wearing. Unfortunately I couldn't stay to look around too long, so after some quick glances I headed back home. 

I made sure to get my pasta in for the night - and my diner was pretty awesome. Then it was an early bedtime for me. 

Sunday morning I woke up bright and early and headed back over to coachman park. I saw some Run Tampa friends and chatted for a while before the start. I was nervous about the race because of my previous race problems and because of the bridges. I have trouble with bridges because my heart rate always gets really high every time I try to run them. I usually just walk up the bridges, and run down them. 

Run Tampa before the race

After some motivation I found my friend Joanna and we headed into the start line. There was a lot of excitement in the air as we all waited for the 7am start. And then we were off.

Joanna and I at the start

The first two miles felt really good. We were running a fast pace and I felt pretty strong. I was especially surprised and quite happy with myself because I decided to try to run up the Clearwater bridge. I payed attention to my form running up, made sure to control my breathing, and started to get tired towards the top. I felt like I should stop and walk, but I knew it was all downhill from there - literally. We picked up a lot of speed on the decline, and since I was controlling my breathing it went back to normal. No walk breaks through the bridge. This was a first for me, and a huge accomplishment. 

I started getting tired around mile 3. Not a good sign when you have another 10 miles to go, and when you usually get tired around mile 9. After this point it pretty much became intervals of run walking. No matter how much I tried to push myself, pace myself, breathe, or anything else, my body couldn't take it and I'd have to stop and walk every so often. Joanna stopped and walked with me. I felt bad because I knew I was slowing her down. Her goal was 2:30 and I knew she could make that time. Me however, that wasn't in the cards for me with the day's race. I told her I would be fine if she ran ahead, but she didn't and stuck with me the whole time. Amazing.

Joanna and I - at least I look happy during this part

Also at mile 3, were friends of mine manning the Run Tampa water stop. Apparently the volunteers meant for that stop had pulled out at the last minute and they jumped in to volunteer. It was great seeing friendly faces to give you motivation during the race. 

Special thanks to the Run Tampa water stop!

Somewhere around mile 10 I believe, I started experiencing terrible cramping in my right leg. My calf was tensing up and my toes were curling under. A few times the pain got so bad it stopped me mid stride. At one point I stopped so suddenly that Joanna ran right into me. There was a photographer in the area and I joked that it would be funny if that was caught on picture. Since there are still sorting them out I guess we'll find out. 

Around mile 11 we ran into the Run Tampa group again. Torami had his "tired legs are sexy" sign. Well, my legs must have been pretty darn sexy then. They were tired. And hurting. I saw Kurt, and joked about him not chasing us earlier in the race. He said he wasn't going to leave us this time, and ran with us for part of mile 11. I wasn't feeling too hot, I was discouraged by my race time, my leg was hurting, and I kept having to stop to walk. He gave us some motivational words, some advice on the bridges, and told us we rocked - as he always does. Thanks Kurt for the encouragement and kind words! And for sticking with us for part of the race!

Joanna, Me, Kurt - Kurt ran part of mile 11 with us

I tried running back up Clearwater bridge with a slow and steady jog. It had gotten pretty hot by the time we were on the bridge, and it was sunny. Joanna was motivating me because I told her I NEEDED to at least finish with a better time that last years. I made it half-way up the bridge and walked the rest. I tried to pick up speed on the way down, but at this point,, even that was taking the energy out of me. Halfway down my leg started cramping again. There's a muscle right above my knee on the inner part of my leg that started spasming. You could see it twitching. It hurt. I stretched for a bit and kept running down the bridge.

We got to the circular part of the bridge with probably .2 miles to go and I was in terrible pain. With every step I took I wanted to scream. Had I not been able to see the finish at this point I might not have been able to finish. I walked to the 13 mile marker. 

With .1 miles to go I ran. All I could think about was being done and resting my legs. I didn't know why the cramping was happening so badly. I needed it to stop. I also needed to finish the race. 

Nearing the finish

Struggling a bit to finish

We finished in 2:49:55. My personal worst half time. But I finished. I made it through the bridges, the tiredness, and the cramping. I finished. 
We earned that bling!

After the race I talked to Debbie for a bit about my problems during the race and she gave me some advice. Then I met back up with Joanna. I cannot thank her enough for the support and encouragement she gave me during the race. She did not have to stick with me during this race at all, because I know she would have been able to do it so much quicker on her own. But, she chose to run the race together, and I thank her so much - because I honestly don't know how I would have made it without her. I could honestly say that was probably the most challenging half I've run so far. 

Joanna and I chatted with some Strider friends for a bit as well too.
J to the 3rd =)

With David - our Strider Captain =)

After all is said and done, I'm ok with how the race went. Yes, I may have struggled, but I had a great time. I realize I have the support of a lot of people and that helps. I know not every race is going to be the best, and for every race I struggle through it makes me a stronger and better runner. And I also know that any accomplishment I have after this will be even sweeter. 

Clearwater Bridge - I ran it this time!

2012 and 2013 medals.