This was a good one. My finishing time of 1:54:58 was a new personal best (by about a minute), and I ran the course four minutes faster than I did last year. That finishing time put me 13th out of 46 runners in my age group (male, 60-64). If I’d been one age group up (65-69), my time would have made me 8th out of 31. I turn 65 in June. So there’s hope for me yet.
The race started, as it did last year, at 7 AM, about half an hour before dawn. That meant starting in darkness, which always feels a little odd to me. Not bad, not good, just odd. The great thing about it was that the sun came up as I was heading back across the John Ringling Bridge, at about the 6.5K mark. That was quite a sight. About half a kilometer later, I saw, hovering over the big pack of runners on the bridge, an octocopter with a camera mounted on it, exactly like this one.
Someone was having some serious – and very expensive – fun!
After the bridge, the route turned north, along Tamiami Way (Route 41), a nice stretch of barefoot-friendly road where I settled down to my target pace. North along that flat, straight stretch, then left towards the Ringling Museum of Art, then left again and into the Neighbourhood of Rough Asphalt. OK, that’s not entirely fair – it’s actually an upscale community, called Indian Beach/Sapphire Shores, of lovely 1940s and 1950s Gulf Coast-style homes.
It’s very pretty (I wouldn’t mind living there), but the road surface isn’t comfortable on bare feet, especially ones that are trying to go quickly. The problem, you see, is that, back in the day, pavement here was made with crushed coral as part of the asphalt mix. It was probably inexpensive, and it seems to have lasted well, but it’s hell on the soles of the feet. It slowed me down, just as it did last year (but not quite as much, because I was expecting it this time).
After about 5K of that challenging nonsense, the route got back onto Tamiami Trail, and we were on our way to the finish. More spectators and more comments (“Omigod, he doesn’t have any shoes!”, “Badass!”, “Awesome, dude!”, “Yay Canada!” and the like). I tweaked my pace just a little bit in order to finish well and in style.
After crossing the finish line and accepting the humungous medal, I happily consumed a cup of yogurt, granola, and fruit, drank a bottle of water, and waited for my amigos Chris G. and Marcus C. to pull in. Here we are, in front of the beer truck after the race finish. They’re still wearing their medals. I’m wearing pink stains from chafed nipples.
Did I mention the nipple chafing? No? Well, I made a bad rookie mistake, and forgot to BodyGlide the nips. Didn’t notice it at all while running, but someone pointed out the telltale pink stains after the finish. Argh.
I also finished with a blister on each heel, and my feet were pretty tingly. Otherwise, I was in good nick. The weather was near perfect for this traveler from the frozen north: 10C at race start, 21C at the finish, sunny, 17 km/h wind, 56% humidity.
What worked well for this one? Well, my heart rate-based training program paid off big time. Because of it, I was able to manage my pace well, even through the gnarly bits. I adapted to the Florida heat quickly and well. My fueling protocol was spot on. (Whey protein isolate drink 2 hours before race start; two electrolyte tabs 1 hour before; 1 Hammer gel 5 minutes before; Hammer HEED throughout race; 1 Hammer gel at halfway mark; Hammer Recoverite immediately after the finish.) And my running kilt was absolutely the right choice. It was far more comfortable than any shorts I’ve ever worn, and will be my drug of choice for all future races.
I think I’m finally becoming a runner! Or, more correctly, I’m discovering a joy in racing that I hadn’t thought possible. And, if I keep to a similar pace and finishing time next year, I may even be able to break out of my long-standing “I’m just a mid-pack runner” habit. Turning 65 and moving up an age category might just do the trick. Older and quicker would be perfectly alright with me.
By the way, this is the only race I’ve ever run where I was paced by pelicans. This pic was taken by one of the official race photographers at about the 16K point of the race, right in the midst of the “Bad asphalt, go to your room!” section of the route. We don’t get pelicans back home in southern Ontario, so I was delighted to see them.
I want to do Sarasota again next year. Bad asphalt and all, it’s still a good course, and a great race. Maybe I’ll be even quicker. Old dog, new tricks, that sort of thing.