Iron Girl Half Marathon Clearwater

April 13, 2014

As I continue to try to fill my race calendar for the year, I found the Iron Girl half marathon in Clearwater. I had originally planned to volunteer at the Haines City Half Ironman but, alas, I need races before it gets too hot.

I registered for this one only a few weeks before the race. It’s going to require an overnight stay as well. So, I searched the area and found a hotel not too far from the race start (about 10 minutes). I’m not overly familiar with the area either so I’ll give myself extra time.

I ran the Citrus Classic 5k yesterday morning and set a new PR. I’m hoping that will translate into another good race day. I didn’t feel like I pushed yesterday at all. I’d love if that carried over into the Iron Girl.

I drove over yesterday after getting my stuff together and dropping my pups off at the kennel. I went straight to packet pickup so I could get a feel for the area. I need to figure out where I’ll be able to park tomorrow.

Packet pickup was fairly easy. There was a small “expo” more like a bazaar in the park. Vendors had tents set up so I stopped in a couple of them just to check out the merchandise. I didn’t really find anything that I just needed to buy. So, I picked up my bib and race shirt and headed back to the car.

I am not fond of the race shirt for the Iron Girl. It doesn't fit me well and the shirt itself is kind of thin.

I am not fond of the race shirt for the Iron Girl. It doesn’t fit me well and the shirt itself is kind of thin.

I’m so thankful for Waze; my map app of choice; on my phone. I use it to go just about everywhere! It gets me to my hotel easily. I check in and get to my room and relax a little. I will need to grab some dinner soon and I want to stop by a grocery store to get some breakfast items for tomorrow morning. I do a map search of the area and find that there is a mall nearby and a Red Robin. That sounds tasty to me so I head over there.

After dinner, I find a Publix that is near the hotel so I stop and pick up a few breakfast items as well as a chocolate milk for after the race. I love chocolate milk as a recovery drink. When I get back to the hotel, my room is really hot. I had turned the air down before I left but it is still hot. I called the front desk and they sent a maintenance person to check the AC for me. Ultimately, the end up moving me to a different room. It actually works out nicely because now I’m on the first floor instead of the second; no stairs to climb after running!

I move to my new room and it is immediately better. I get my stuff sorted for the morning and then hop in the shower. It’s early but I need to get sleep. I set my alarms and I’m out fairly quickly.

The alarm sounds so early. Not Disney early but still early. I get up and get myself dressed. I’m not sure how bad the parking situation will be. The area around the park will likely be crowded and there are roads that will be closed. I don’t know registration numbers but I figure there is likely to be a lot of traffic. I don’t want to get stuck so I give myself plenty of extra time.

I eat my breakfast and then head out the door. I use Waze to get me close and then manage to get a parking spot near where I parked for packet pickup. This is fairly near the start/finish area so I won’t have too far to walk when I finish my run.

It’s already pretty crowded around the start area. I make my way into the start block. There aren’t corrals but the general rule is to line up by pace; slower runners and walkers towards the back and faster runners to the front. I’m a middle of the pack runner, so I line up just in the middle. In fact, the 2:30 pace group lines up just in front of me. I’m going to hang with them as long as I can. I am desperately trying to break 2:30 for the half. I’m so close and I’ve been doing speed work. My fingers are crossed that today is the day. The weather is cool but it will get warmer; that will certainly be a factor.

After a few announcements and the National Anthem, we are sent on our way. The 2:30 group is going to run even splits, slightly faster than pace so we can walk through the water stops. The group is fun and there is some great conversation amongst the girls in the group. I find it difficult to talk and run this pace but I manage to interject here and there. This is a fast pace for me but I am not uncomfortable.

The first mile or so takes us across a bridge. It’s a slow building incline and it seems to last forever! My legs are on fire by the time we get to the top. The downhill is long as well but my legs relax a bit and I am able to catch my breath some. The first water stop is just at the bottom of the hill. I’ll get a quick walk break there.

I manage to hang with 2:30 group until about mile 3 or so; when we hit the second bridge. I tried to run up it but my legs were having no part of it. I opted to walk it. I feel I’m more efficient at walking up the hill and my legs don’t burn out. I got up the hill and managed to catch the 2:30 group on the way back down. I hang with them for another half mile or so and then I fall back. The pace is a little too fast for me today. I’ll do my best to keep them in my sight but I’ll switch to my intervals and see how it goes.

This is the second of two bridges that we had to cross twice during the out and back course.

This is the second of two bridges that we had to cross twice during the out and back course.

The course takes us along the waterfront, down the main road through the towering hotels. Many people are along the sidewalks cheering for the runners and giving high fives as we run by. We make a loop through a park and then head out and back on the street. We will also be going back over both of those bridges. Drat.

I managed to keep the 2:30 group in my site for a little while but the sun is in my face and I can’t really see that far ahead of me. I should be able to see them at some point when we pass each other on the out and back so I can time how far behind them I am.

Somehow, I miss them completely though so I have no idea how far behind them I am. I know that I am ahead of the 2:40 group though. I keep chugging along. I run my intervals until I get to the first bridge on the return. I’m going to walk up it and then pickup my intervals again at the top. The 2:40 pace group passes me on the way up. I’m not happy about this but I know I will catch them on the way down. I also recognize that I haven’t lost ten minutes on the 2:30 group since the 2:40 group started about 15 seconds after I did ( I saw where they were behind me in the start block).

I did catch them on the downhill and stayed ahead of them until just before the final bridge. I don’t know that I’ll catch back up to them but I shouldn’t finish too far behind them. I know I’m not going to hit 2:30 but I would like to keep in the 2:30-ish range. I can still do that if I maintain my interval pace. I resolve to keep my intervals over the last bridge. I do and my legs are burning. Hills are tough and even though I do some incline training on the treadmill, I’m just not well trained on hills. I really do need to add incline training more frequently (occasionally is not enough!).

The downhill for the bridge is quick and I’m in the final half mile or so. The course goes down a winding sidewalk (think winding staircase but without stairs) to a street below the bridge. Then I’m back to the park and on the final 100 yard or so stretch to the finish. I cross the finish line and the 2:40 pacers are standing there cheering. They give me a high five as I walk by. I look at my Garmin time and I’m right at 2:40. I grab some water and a chocolate milk (yay for chocolate milk at the end of the race!). There is also a post race breakfast for runners. I head over to the tent and get some potatoes, bacon, and a biscuit. The food is pretty good; a really nice perk actually. Actual food is way better than some granola bar and pretzels and such.

Finished the Iron Girl half! It was a tough run; very hot and those bridges were killer!

Finished the Iron Girl half! It was a tough run; very hot and those bridges were killer!

I find a spot to sit so the sun won’t be right in my face. I eat and stretch out for a bit. I am ready to take my shoes and socks off but I don’t have flip flops with me (I do in the car though!). After I eat, I head back to my car. I need to get back to the hotel so I can shower before I drive back home.

The finisher's medal for the Iron Girl half is very pretty and the sun in the middle spins.

The finisher’s medal for the Iron Girl half is very pretty and the sun in the middle spins.

My official finish time was 2:40:00. It wasn’t what I was hoping for but I am happy with it. I was completely unprepared for the hills. Aside from the bridges, the course was great. It was fairly well supported with water stops and the crowds of people from the hotels and such were fantastic. The race was well organized and the runner perks, like the breakfast, were pretty good. I wasn’t a big fan of the race shirt but the medal was great. I would certainly consider this race, or any other Iron Girl event, again.

Iron Girl Dollars:

Registration: ~$111 (on the more expensive side of half marathons; race perks were pretty good though)
Hotel: ~$95
Gas: ~$20
Food: ~$30
Kennel: ~$55
Total: ~$311

Gotta run.

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