Where do I even start?? This was in fact THE Best Damn Race for me!
Friday morning I loaded up my stuff and my pup and headed to Tampa. I dropped off the pup at my bestie’s house (her husband was going to be watching her) and we started on our adventure. We had lunch at PDQ (man I love that place) before starting our drive over to Safety Harbor.
We got there about an hour before check in and they told us our room wasn’t ready. I didn’t really believe the girl, but I wasn’t in the mood to argue. We headed over to the race expo so that I could pick up my packet. Oh, did I mention that it had been raining ALL DAY? It finally let up just before we arrived. The expo was outdoors and the rain had caused a few problems. Most of the vendors stuck it out, but a few actually had to pack it in and go home (some didn’t even come back for race day). It was quite the bummer, but there wasn’t anything the race director (or anyone else) could have done about it.
After picking up my packet and talking to some fellow race ambassadors, we went back to the hotel in hopes of getting into our room. We were supposed to work packet pick up at 4 and I wanted to get settled before then. We talked to a different person and were able to get into our room with no problem. It had only been 30 minutes since we first tried, so then I REALLY felt like the first chick was just being a punk… especially when the next morning the cleaning lady was promptly at our room at 11:15 to kick us out so she could clean. Anyhow. We dropped off our stuff and went back to the expo to help with packet pickup.
Packet pickup went fairly smoothly and we had a lot of fun. We got a big rush right after 5 and then again around 6. Since it was Friday most people just came after work to pick up their packets. It rained a couple more times but only for a few minutes each time. We finished up around 7:15 and were pretty beat. We decided to walk to a pizza place nearby for dinner. We got 2 slices of pizza and a drink for $6 and were pretty happy folks. The ENTIRE place was full of runners and a few more even came in while we were eating. I guess pizza was the go-to runner meal that night.
After dinner we went back to the room to relax. I got all my race day gear laid out while my bestie made posters for the next day. We exchanged Christmas presents (hey, at least it was still January) and then actually got to bed on time. It was nice when my alarm went off at 6:30 and I realized I’d actually gotten 7 hours of sleep.
One of the BEST things about this race is staying at the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa. Not only is it a great resort, but the start line in right outside the front door. This means I have to get up only about 30-45 minutes before the race start. Get dressed, walk downstairs, and I’m ready to go. No getting up hours before the race, no parking issues, no freaking out that I won’t make it to the start on time.
The plan was for all the BDR ambassadors to get together at the start and take a group photo. Do to a couple of race related issues (the races started a little late due to a truck breaking down) we weren’t all able to meet up. 4 of us did and at least we got that picture. We will just have to try again in Orlando! After the picture I said good bye to Laura and made my way into the corral. I decided to try a pace group again (2:45) and see how it went. My last 1/2 marathon was just SO bad for me and I really wanted this one to go better. I found my way to the group and decided to stay with them for as long as I could. They were running straight through and only walking through water stops. I usually do intervals so I wasn’t sure how it would work for me. Worst case, I would take off on my own doing my intervals and as long as the pace group was behind me I would be fine. The pace group would take me to a PR and that was what was important.
I stayed with the group for about the first 4 miles. Their pace was a little slow for me since I’m used to running faster and then walking a bit. After the first 4 miles I decided to go on my own. It went great and for most of the race I was ahead of them. Go me! I saw my bestie around mile 6.5 I think and it really lifted my spirits. A friend of ours was a race photographer and she was standing with him so I made sure to smile for the cameras. I saw her again just before mile 9 (she switched sides of the street) and then not again until the end.
Around mile 11 I hit a great big wall. I mean a HUGE one. Part of the problem is I thought I’d already made it to mile 11. I guess when I saw the mile 10 sign I misread it. This was a HUGE blow. For the last mile I’d been thinking I only had 2 miles left when in fact I had 3. Around the last water stop the 2:45 pace group caught up with me. Around mile 12 I asked if they were ahead of schedule. They were, but I didn’t ask by how much. I was pretty certain that as long as I could still see them during that last mile I would still PR. But it was rough. I would run a little bit and then walk. I was in a lot of pain, but most of my problem was mental. Amy, one of the pacers, realized this and refused to let me fall behind. During that last mile she pushed me and helped me get out of my head. As we were approaching the final turn that would take us to the finish line we saw Laura and her “Go Meghan!” sign and we both about lost it. Amy gave me one final “You got this!” and I took off for the finish line.
Everything hurt and I just wanted to cry, but I knew how close the finish line was. And possibly that PR I was hoping for. When I got to where I could see the timer I couldn’t believe it. I was going to PR by at LEAST 4 minutes. FOUR FREAKING MINUTES PEOPLE! I gave it all I had and ran across the finish line and to someone holding a medal. I took my medal and burst into tears. I took a minute to try and calm down before Laura showed up. She showed up and I just cried some more. Then Amy showed up and she was crying too. I would never have been able to push myself through that final mile if it hadn’t been for her and Christina. And great big thank you to to BDR and FitNiche for providing such amazing support for runners.
Even though people tell me how proud they are after I finish a half marathon and how I KNOW that its a pretty impressive accomplishment, this was the first time that I was really proud of myself. I knew I could do it and I pushed myself to that PR. Even now I’m starting to tear up just thinking about it. It was an amazing race! Once I had a banana and some water I hopped in line to get my picture taken. Afterwards Laura asked what I wanted to do and I said “I want to ring that DAMN PR bell!” We walked over to it and I wasn’t the only one that wanted to ring the bell. I waited my turn and then I enjoyed the hell out of ringing that bell.
We walked around for a bit and then headed back to our room. I was beat and all I wanted to do was get the bottom half of my body into the freezing cold spring fed plunge pool. Laura and I enjoyed some time in the spa area of the resort before heading out. As we were going to the car I realized that I was hungry but had now clue what I wanted to eat. Laura mentioned that the cuban restaurant I liked in Ybor was open until 3. Score! We got ahold of her husband and met him there for lunch. I LOVE Tropicana Cafe in Ybor and it was the perfect post-race lunch.
I ended up heading home Saturday night because all I could think about was sleeping in my own bed. It was a GREAT day/weekend, but I was beat. I enjoyed some snuggle time on the couch with my pup and then slept a full 10 hours. It was magical!
I have so many people to thank for this amazing weekend! First and foremost, my best friend Laura for always being so supportive of my crazy running habit. I mean she got up with me at 6:30 am and then hauled around cupcakes for 4 hours just so I could have one after the race. She is amazing and I love her! I have to thank Nick and the Best Damn Race crew for putting out another great event! I know there were a few small issues here and there, but the overall race and day was amazing. I have to thank Amy & Christina, my pacers, for getting me through that final mile and to a 5 minute and 18 second (I found out it was MORE than 4 minutes when I got home) PR. You ladies are amazing! And last, but certainly not least, my fellow Best Damn Race ambassadors. This is a great group of ladies and they just made this whole experience that much more fun!
BRING ON BEST DAMN RACE ORLANDO 🙂