Iron Girl Half Marathon race recap

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This will be a pretty brief recap, but I did want to post something about the Iron Girl Half in Clearwater last week. As I had previously blogged, I was diagnosed with pneumonia a few weeks ago and it’s been a real struggle trying to get back to a healthy place. For that reason, I took the entire week before this race off. No running, walking or biking. In hindsight, I think the rest actually did me good. Besides needing to recover from being sick, I think my body needed a break after the past 2 months.

Because I was sick, we decided against getting a hotel in Clearwater as I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy a weekend at the beach anyway. So at 4am on Sunday morning I woke up, jumped into my clothes and headed on out. The drive from Brooksville to Clearwater was easy-peasy thanks to sparse traffic and a straight-shot down I75. By 5:15 I had arrived at Coachman Park and found easy parking right across the street. I had already picked up my race packet and was ready to go. Around 6:10 I met some girls from PbRC and we got a group picture. I know I sound like a broken record, but it’s always SO nice to meet these people that have become friends over the past months! Every single person I meet is even more amazing in person, and that’s saying something!

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After that it was time to head out to the start line. This was a mass start, no corrals, so I shuffled on to the very back knowing that I was going to be slower than normal due to being sick. As I stood there waiting for the start I heard someone calling my name and turned to see Melissa, an old sorority sister from college. Such a small world! Chatted with her for a few minutes then we were off!

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Part of the reason I decided to go forward with this race despite the pneumonia was because of the generous pacing requirements. The course was open for 4 hours, meaning you simply had to maintain an 18:18 mile to stay in the race. This race was billed as being very accomodating both to beginners and walkers so I wasn’t worried. Until we started.

The first mile was a blur. The pack surged out fast and I got swept up with it. As we raced towards the first bridge I remember thinking that my lungs were hurting worse than normal and I felt slow. Until I took at look at my watch and saw I was running a 10 minute mile. Ummm, No!!! My plan was to stick right around 14-15 and take it easy. It was hard but I decided to slow down to my pace and let the majority of the pack pass me. Good strategy. We immediately passed over the first of 2 large bridges and I got winded quick. What I found throughout the course is that a lot of people went too fast and had to start slowing down. I caught up to the pack a few miles in and stayed consistent from that point on.

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At one point I heard somebody calling my name, looked back, and saw my friend Shelley from my running club. She and her friend, Susan, caught up with me and we began a comfortable run together. Shelley eventually broke off to go use a bathroom (and stop at a convenience store among other things!) so I kept running with Susan and we met a first-timer, Suzanne, who ran with us. That’s the beauty of this sport: I found myself running with two complete strangers and they felt like old friends by the end of the race.

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The course was beautiful. We went over the 2 bridges, past the public beaches, through a park, then down the hotel strip. At the point we turned around and headed back. The downside was that meant crossing the bridges again. Brutal!!! We caught up to Annette, another friend, along the way and ended up a pack of 5 heading down towards the end. After descending from the last bridge I decided to pick up the speed a little and ran it in to the finish. My time was 3:32:18 which I was happy with. That included liberal walk breaks and a few stops for pictures along the way on top of dealing with the pneumonia. When I think back to my first half back in November, I remember feeling like I was dead after finishing in 3:23 and I was healthy then and didn’t make stops. It’s nice to see the consistent training paying off. I had a very easy recovery from this race because I hadn’t pushed. If I had raced it I think I could’ve come in under 3hrs. Baby steps!

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The Good:
– super easy packet pick-up
– beautiful course
– the medals are gorgeous
– nice mental boost to know I can do this even when sick
– hanging out with some lovely PbRC ladies and making some new friends

The Bad:
– the expo was pretty lame, nowhere near RunDisney standards
– the hydration stops were a little spotty
– my lungs are going to sue me for putting them through this
– the bridges. oh my word! the bridges…

Take-aways:
– Shelley was running a 30:30 interval and I’m interested to start trying it in training runs and see if it might work better for me
– The KT Tape again provided me with a pain-free run on my knee. This time I left it on for a few days post-race and it was amazing. Not one bit of pain post-race. That stuff is a miracle!

I’m feeling a little out of sorts because there’s no more distance runs on my radar until November. But marathon training will start before I know it and there’s plenty of time and opportunity to see some big improvements. Excited to see what the future brings!

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