Yesterday I ran the 4-mile Ringling Bridge Run. I figured it would be a good way to cap off my month-long vacation in Sarasota and to celebrate getting back on my running feet.
The race started at 7:30, meaning my race crew (Dad) was not thrilled to depart the house at 6:15 am. It was still pitch black when I was dropped off and went to retrieve my race bib, but U2’s “Beautiful Day” was blasting over the loudspeakers and hundreds of participants were already congregating at the bayside start location.
In the early morning light I embarked on my pre-race routine. I don’t care what state of fitness I am in, I will always follow the same warm up before lining up. It is familiar. Makes me focus. It releases my desire to compete.
I found my niche towards the front of the start corral, up near the sinewy singlet-wearers with chirping GPS watches, eager youngsters who will sprint out of the gate and die before the first block, hobby joggers who know (?) they should be starting farther back, and Resolution-makers wearing the brand new activity tracker they received for Christmas. The start line works like clockwork in this way. Always the same cast of characters.
It was humid, and one of the first sunny days we’d had in a while. We hit mile 1 before the base of the bridge, and I passed a girl who I remembered seeing at the start and had expected to be pretty fast.
As soon as I began to climb, I could sense a little shoulder demon wagging its finger that I had started too fast and wouldn’t survive going up and over this bridge twice. The bridge was lined with spectators and when I hit the crest I heard someone tell me I was the 5th woman.
The turnaround was a tight hairpin and a kid two paces ahead of me ate it. We passed mile 2 and began the return trip up and over. I locked my eyes on a girl ahead of me and chipped her off before I reached the plateau.
When I reached mile 3 at the base of the bridge, I realized I was in a competitive dead zone as I could see none of the three women ahead of me. Lactic acid was pulsing through my forearms. I glanced at my watch. 20:50… three minutes to go, I thought, although I knew it was more like four. I reeled in some guys ahead of me and watched the flashing escort lights sailing over a small hump far ahead of me.
At the finish line turn I heard someone tell me I was the 4th woman with 100 meters to go! I rounded the corner and saw the finish chute but there were no women to catch, so I was only fighting for time now.
I grabbed a water bottle at the finish and staggered around. The girl I had passed at mile 1 caught me when she finished and asked suspiciously why she had never seen me at a race before. Because I’m snowbirdin’ it, OK?? You can have your rightful finishing place back next time. A guy in a spiked camo bike helmet that I had passed during the first bridge ascent told me he was trying to catch me at the end of his race. I asked if he got hot in the helmet; he said no. You do you, dude.
Dad intercepted me at bag check and said he’d just missed my finish (I had told him to occupy himself at a coffee shop). We walked to the car, and I recounted the race for him. I was already feeling stiff in my lower back and I was unsure if a spot above my left ankle was swollen or just very sore. Otherwise, I realized that I had felt great throughout the race despite feeling some joint soreness over the last few days due to the several weeks I’ve now spent pounding concrete down here.
When I dug up the results later on, I discovered that the top three women had finished all very close together, about a minute ahead of me. I ran 25:11 and averaged under 6:20 per mile, which strikes me as incredible after running up and over a bay bridge twice.
We hit up Millie’s for breakfast (I inhaled some stuffed French toast), and I spent the afternoon getting slightly burnt on the beach. Shockingly, Sarasota suffered somewhere between 1-4 tornadoes last night and they ripped through Siesta Key where I was lizarding around yesterday. I went on a walk this morning to survey the damage (Dad lost two trees) and to loosen up my aching post-race muscles. I feel OK and ready for an easy jog later if the wind ever dies down.
So, for a recap, I’ve been logging 25 easy miles a week since the first of the year. I take walk breaks when I want and run fartleks if I feel like it. Strength and core are definitely on the back burner until I get home (can’t. focus. unless. at gym.), but I’ve managed to keep injuries at bay. I could also use some impact-free cross-training.
It’s been refreshing to use running to get outside, especially while I am down here. The tricky part is keeping up with it when I return to Wyoming. As part of the #runlovechallenge that Oiselle has put on, I am obligated to do something productive for half an hour each day until Feb 14, so hopefully I can keep the momentum going beyond that date.
xoxo run lovers!