Last week, mom and I had a wonderful time at the Gasparilla Distance Classic. Our path to Gasparilla fun started last year. Last year, mom and I did the 5k and immediately after the 5k, mom said she had a great time and wanted to participate in 2013. Soon enough, registration day rolled around. I called mom to confirm that she wanted to run in the 5+3k (the Gasparilla version of a 5 miler) and she surprised me by suggesting that we both sign up for challenges. Gasparilla offers three challenges – events in which one runs multiple races during the two-day festival. Mom signed up for the Mini Challenge and I signed up for the Ultra Challenge. Mom would do the 15k and 5+3k and I would do all four races – the 15k, 5k, half marathon, and 5+3k. Yay!
After quickly and easily getting our gear at the race expo, we explored the shops. Everything at the expo was well organized and helpful volunteers were everywhere. We got some super cute loot.
Race day dawned bright, sunny, and humid. It was a hazy start to the day with high humidity and warm temperatures expected. We had stayed in a nearby hotel and were ready to go bright at early. We did have a few challenges with the water situation – the city of Tampa was in a boil water advisory thanks to a mischievous squirrel gnawing through a power line. Undeterred, we used our bottled water and headed to the starting line. As usual, everything at Gasparilla was exceptionally well organized. We easily made our way to the start line. There were rows of port-potties, helpful volunteers, and clear signage.
The 15k was really fun. The course was lovely. It was an easy down and back on Bayshore Boulevard – gorgeous homes on one side, the river on the other side, and the city of Tampa in clear view. The course was well supported, with aid stations every mile and a half. There were cheering fans, friendly volunteers, and clear course markings. I loved the course.
Mom had this to say about her first 15k:
The first race on Saturday morning was a 15 K, Rachel and I were doing it together dressed in matching Lululemon shirts. Usually I’m a person who likes to check out the route and the maps so I know where to go but this isn’t necessary at Gasparilla . We followed the crowd, stood around people who were weren’t wearing a Garmin, looking as if they might’ve dressed without looking in the mirror that morning (the back of the pack). A roar and we were off shuffling slowly to the front and then finally the pack opened up and Bayshore was before us. The Boulevard is lined with huge homes that overlook Tampa Bay making it a beautiful route. There was music and people cheering, encouraging those of us at the back of the pack. It seemed a long time to get to the turn around and then suddenly we were on our way back towards the finish line. Rachel kept me on my goal pace as my legs got tired and I began to wonder where the finish line went. People were cheering louder as we neared the finish. Rachel and I made the short dash and it was fantastic! I did a 15K! A finishers medal was mine and I wore it proudly.
Here’s what I learned:
1. Don’t sweat, there’s always someone to direct people.
2. You can pretty much tell just by looking, where you should be in the starting lineup.
3. Make use of the bathroom before the race and the water stops during the race.
4. Take time to look at the view, the race is over before you know it.
5. Have someone take your picture after you cross the finish line. There’s a certain smile that comes from people who successfully cross that line.
I had such a good time I’m already signed up for my next race. It’s in October, a half marathon. Let the training begin! (Go Mom!!)
Mom and I finished the 15k with smiles on our faces and I immediately lined up for the 5k. The 5k course was the same as the 15k course, just shorter. So, I headed back out, passing the same homes and scenery as the first race. I hadn’t made it back for the start of the wave of the 5 I was supposed to be in, so I trotted along in a much slower wave. I enjoyed the chance to take it slow and enjoy the view.
Both races were wave start, with very well organized starting lines and plenty of volunteers to ensure things went smoothly. The courses were well marked, properly supported, and extremely scenic. Overall, I loved Gasparilla Day 1. Stay tuned for my recap of Day 2!