Whether it was cruising around St. Armand’s Circle, patio dining downtown, squishing my toes in the silky Sarasota sand, or running over the John Ringling Causeway, my Sarasota race weekend did not disappoint.
I signed up for this race last March after seeing its adorable dolphin medal on Pinterest. And for the bargain price of $50, I anxiously awaited March 2015. So, one year later my race buddy and I hit the road. What should have been a two hour drive easily stretched to three due to numerous accidents on both I-4 and I-75. We passed the time playing the license plate game (finding 34 states), catching up, and discussing our other upcoming races (Chicago, and Disneyland).
Arriving in Sarasota, our first stop was packet pick-up at Fit to Run downtown Sarasota. The line looked rather long, so we ignored our growling stomachs in order to get bibs and t-shirts. After a 30 minute wait we held our swag bags equipped with the most obnoxious neon green shirt. The bright spot in the bag was an adorable light blue race jacket and First Watch coupons.
Leaving Fit to Run, we headed past the growing line which had doubled in size since we had entered it and began our search for lunch. We settled on Mattison’s City Grill with it’s charming outdoor patio. While the location was quaint, the service was less than desirable. Our burgers were tasty, but our server was overly busy and not as attentive as one would like.
Stomachs satisfied it was time to hit the beach. We decided to hit Lido Beach which was closest to our hotel. It also allowed us to drive the race course and see the dreaded bridges we would be running over the next morning.
Lido Beach was pretty crowded considering it was already 5:30 when we arrived. We walked away from the crowds on the silky sand looking for shells. However, high tide isn’t conducive to shell collecting, and alas, we came home empty handed.
Dinner was at a locally owned place called Joey D’s, a Chicago-style restaurant. We both love our Chicago dogs and thought they would make the perfect pre-race dinner. Not disappointed, we scarfed down our Vienna dogs and headed back to the hotel to turn in for the night.
Race morning started at 4:15 with a quick breakfast of a banana. By 5:15 we were in the car heading to the start line. The race didn’t start until 7, but parking was rumored to be difficult, so we arrived early as not to stress. Getting there so early allowed us to move to the front of the corral, use the port-a-potties before long lines formed, and relax.
The temperature hung around 66 degrees, but the humidity was 100%. So while it wasn’t hot, it didn’t take long after starting for my face to turn bright red and the sweat to cling to every inch of my body.
My running buddy stayed with me for the first two miles so we could snap a picture on the causeway. Then she took off and I kept to my 1:1 intervals. I hadn’t run in three weeks due to a terrible case of bronchitis, so I was a little nervous about being able to breath.
Miles one through six had me on pace to break my half marathon record by 15 minutes. I took the bridges in stride running up them as much as I could and running down them without stopping. However, around mile seven I hit both a physical and mental wall. The physical wall being that I did not honor the cardinal rule of running: thou shall not introduce anything new to your run. I tested out a new pair of socks on this run which caused me to get four terrible blisters on both feet. Three days later they are still very painful to walk on.
Mentally, the humidity was making me miserable, and several times I wanted to stop at a water station and wait for race support to transport me back to the car. I trudged along watching my pace slow from turtle to snail. Any ground I had gained in the first half of the race was slipping away in the second. By mile 11 my mantra switched from one more mile to one more step as my lower back tensed up, my knees ached, and feet burned. Seeing mile 12 was the greatest relief as I knew I could walk the entire thing in no more than 15 minutes. At this point my feet were in such pain I could no longer run. Finally, I passed the mile 13 sign and turned to see the blessed finish line. I did not want to walk across the finish line so I sucked up the pain and ran the last tenth finishing only five minutes longer than my personal record. If only I hadn’t worn those stupid socks.
After crossing the finish line a volunteer put the comically large dolphin medal around my neck. Grabbing a bottle of water I hobbled over to the grass to get off my feet for a little while. My running buddy found me, and we watched the final runners come in.
First Watch was the sponsor of the race and provided a post-race breakfast of some of their menu items. I scarfed down a Siesta Key Cocktail and a blueberry muffin. We stopped for a few post-race photos, and I swapped out my jacket for a larger size. Then it was back to the hotel for quick showers before driving back to Orlando.
Overall, I really enjoyed the Sarasota Half Marathon. The 5000 runner cap made the course comfortable. The race route was scenic and portions were shaded which was quite appreciated once the sun was blazing. The bridges were difficult but not impossible and provided for a great view of the sunrise. While mostly the race was positive, it would have been nice to have a few more water stops along the route. I had brought my hydration belt, so it wasn’t an issue, but with the humidity I would have struggled more without it. My other complaint is the starting time. Although it would mean getting up earlier, I would have preferred a 6 A.M. race start in order to avoid the sun at the end of the race.
It’s nice to have another half under my belt. And now that I’m healthy again, I can get back on the training band wagon to prepare for the Iron Girl in Clearwater next month. As for Sarasota, I’m still contemplating whether or not I want to sign up for next year. For $50 it’s hard to ask for a nicer race.