If you follow me on social media you are probably aware that the last two weeks have been hard for me. Four days before this race we had to put my grandfather into Hospice care. My grandpa has lived in Florida since I was around 10 years old and with my mom for the last eight years or so. To say we were close with him would be the understatement of the year. I think my mom and grandpa got to know each other better over the last 10 years than they had during the first 50+ years of my mom’s life.
Even though my grandpa was near the end of his life, my parent encouraged me to take my trip to Safety Harbor for the race as planned. My grandpa had always been proud my running and they knew this was what he would have wanted me to do. So even though I wasn’t 100% on board with the idea, I got in my car the day before the race and made my way over to Safety Harbor.
Thankfully the moment you walk through the doors of the Safety Harbor Resort & Spa, the host hotel and my digs for the night, you start to feel relaxed. I also felt better knowing that in a few short hours I’d be seeing my friend Haley who I don’t get to see often enough. I spent the time before she arrived picking up my race packet, enjoying a beer outside in the beautiful weather, and getting us checked into the spa. Having the race expo and finish line out one side of the resort and the start line out the other is one of the BEST things about staying there.
Once Haley arrived the rest of the evening was spent eating, drinking, and catching up. I love spending time with Haley and boy do I wish she still lived in Orlando. Our night gave us both a chance to disconnect from “real life” for a bit and enjoy each others company. After a stop at the pool bar for one last drink we called it a night and headed back to the room to prepare for the race the next day.
Have I mentioned how awesome staying at the resort is yet? Well another perk is you don’t have to get up stupid early to make it to the start AND you don’t have to worry about parking. And on those few race days where the temps are a little chilly (for us Floridians at least) you have the option to hide in the hotel lobby until the very last minute.
Haley and I said our good-byes around 6:30 as I was running the 10k, which started first, and she was pacing a group for the half marathon. As I stood in at the start line by myself I started to think a little too much. I suddenly felt like I didn’t want to be there and I didn’t want to run. But I reminded myself that I was there for my grandpa and to suck it up!
Best Damn Race Safety Harbor is my current favorite of the Best Damn Race series for a lot of reasons, but the main one is that it has the best damn views. You start off running along the water, make your way through some neighborhoods, and then finish the last few miles along the water before crossing the finish line at the marina. I went out strong but it didn’t take long for my under trained body to be ready to quit. But I couldn’t quit. I had to keep going. After the first four miles or so I decided that my “forward is a pace” motto was perfect and started to walk. I just needed to make it to the finish line.
As I approached the chute to the finish line I knew I had to start running again. I had to RUN across that finish line. The tears started flowing before I even got there. I collected my medal, headed to the water, and just cried. I had finished. When I’d run out of steam I ran with my heart instead of my head. I didn’t have a PR, I didn’t feel like I did well at all, but it didn’t matter. I did the race for my grandpa and that was all that mattered.
After the race it was a bit chillier than I’d expected so I changed into some warmer clothes and found some friends to hang out with. We enjoyed all the post-race festivities, which include a nice selection of food and alcohol, while I waited for Haley to finish. She did an AMAZING job pacing her group and I was so proud of her. I was happy for my friend, but even more happy that she was there with me. Is that selfish? Probably. But I didn’t care.
We found some of our fellow BDR ambassadors and enjoyed a beer together before heading inside. It was cold, we were hungry, and we needed to check out of the hotel. We enjoyed a tasty lunch together before we both had to head back to the real world. I wish we could have spent more time together, but the time we did spend together was just what I needed. The experience was just what I needed.
I went home and after a nice warm shower I took a nap. The week had taken its toll on me (driving back and forth between my house and Hospice plus working all week) and I needed some extra sleep. I was watching some TV when the call came from my mom. My grandpa was gone. As I stood next to him a little while later saying my goodbyes I pulled the medal out of my purse and laid it on his chest. I told him that I wasn’t there that morning because I was running a race, for him.