I don't think this race could have gone any better. Lots of things seemed to come together. When I woke up at 4:00 I had a pretty good feeling about the day. We left the house at 4:30 and were making pretty good time when we hit a lot of traffic at the downtown exit. Fortunately, we were pretty close to the start so I got out of the car and went over to the starting area while Jenny found a place to park the car. The weather was a nice 45ish degrees and clear. I found my way to the starting area. The quick brisk walk was a good warm up. Once there, I jogged up and down a side street for just under a half mile and practiced accelerating up to race pace. I was wearing shorts and a sleeveless shirt with an old larger t-shirt on top for the warm up which I ditched right before the start.
I had lined up a little bit ahead of the 3:20 pace group, so didn't have too long to wait to cross the starting line. This is the last year they are doing the full marathon here, so attendance was the highest it's been. There were 2000 marathon finishers and over 3000 half marathon finishers all starting at the same spot and same time.
Miles 1-6 Davis Island: 7:21, 7:01 (+:14), 7:01, 6:56 (+:10), 7:02, 7:03
I was kind of stuck in the pack for a bit, but we were moving pretty good. My plan was to take the first mile somewhat easy before settling into the pace I wanted. Crossed over the bridge onto Davis Island for the first part of the race which was a 6 mile loop around the island. Finished the first mile in 7:21 which would end up being the slowest mile of the race (one of my goals). Then, I was on my pace, I feeling pretty good, the line was thinning into a more reasonable amount. Still very early on in the race, but I felt like I had a good shot at a PR today. Twice, my garmin mile was a little bit short of the mile markers, possibly due to the twisting. I ran by a person juggling with flaming batons which looked pretty cool in the early morning darkness. When I finished mile 4 in 6:56, I was a little worried I had started speeding up too early, but decided not to worry about it. At one point a big group of people made a wrong turn before volunteers and police could block off that road. Fortunately for those people, I think it just added a little bit of distance onto their route before joining back up with the real route.
As I neared the end of Davis Island it was starting to get light out and the downtown Tampa buildings were just ahead, it was a beautiful morning, I could hear the birds singing (I had my ipod but hadn't turned it on yet). We crossed back over the bridge to the mainland. Going up the bridge (about 25 feet high), I slowed down a little, but gained it back on the way down. We were soon approaching the marathon/half marathon split point.
Miles 7-11, Downtown Tampa: 7:03, 7:00 (+:12), 6:51, 6:55 (+:15), 6:48 (+:17)
Shortly after crossing back to the mainland, I saw David and Karen (they raced the 15K yesterday and were here today for moral support), then a little bit later I saw Jenny and the boys, always a huge boost! We were heading north now, there was some wind but nothing too bad. Turn around point was at about 9 miles. Not sure when exactly, but sometime before then, saw the lead pack heading south (maybe about 5 guys stuck together). This section of the course had a good amount of turns, several bridge crossings over the Hillsborough River and running underneath some buildings, so the pace seemed to be off a bit, but at least one of those miles seemed to be legitimately under 7:00 pace. Sometime around mile 11 we joined back up with the half marathoners. I saw Kathryn's husband Chuck, and then shortly after that saw Jenny and the boys cheering again! Towards the end of this section, the marathon route joined back up with the half marathon route and it became crowded again.
Miles 12-14, back in the crowd: (7:02, 7:05, 7:07)
I had to do a lot of weaving here to get through the half marathoners. I passed by the 2:20 half marathon pace group. It was hard to not slow down because most of the people were not going at your pace. There was another marathoner wearing a green shirt who I had been tag teaming, so I tried to keep my sites on him for a frame of reference which seemed to help.
Miles 15-20, Bayshore Blvd and a park: 7:05, 7:08, 7:05, 6:52, 7:06, 7:08
About mile 14, the half marathoners were at their turn around point, so the crowd was once again very thin. I think about mile 16 the top of my left foot was hurting and I decided to retie my shoe. I stopped, checked it and realized it wasn't too tight. A few people passed me when I stopped but I think I caught back up to them. We turned into a park which looped around a small lake circled by a jogging trail. I had one more under 7:00 mile (another goal, one sub-7:00 in second half). Just before mile 20 I came up behind Pat (who I often run into in races). We stayed together for a bit under just after mile 20. I was looking forward to the mile 20 sign, but knew there would be some wind, heading back north on Bayshore.
Miles 21-26.2, Bayshore home stretch: 7:10, 7:08, 7:16, 7:17, 7:18, 7:09, 1:36(.23@6:58)
Ok, just trying to hang on here. Not exposed to the wind until about mile 22 or so. Was determined to not let my pace drop too badly (like I did for the last 6 miles of Spacecoast marathon which were 7:38ish). Took it mile by mile and was careful not to follow anyone that I came up behind. Feeling hopeful at the last mile and managed to pick it back up a little bit. I was so relieved I hadn't fallen apart. I wasn't sure about my actual finish time until I saw the clock because I had just been looking at the mile splits. I don't think anyone passed me for this final stretch. I heard someone cheer and some more people joined in (it was Jenny again but I had trouble seeing here). Great feeling to cross over the finish line!
Met up with Jenny and the boys after the race, then stood in line for some food from the Columbia restaurant (a very popular landmark here in Tampa), they had salad, bread, black beans and rice and paella - I know, a little odd to be eating this at 9:15 in the morning, but why not?
We went back to the finish line and saw several of our friends cross the finish line, lots of people we knew had a good race today.
I was in 75th place at the halfway point and finished in 42nd place, so I'm pretty happy about that.