Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Rock N Roll St. Petersburg - First Race of 2012

OK, so I am behind on blogging. I started this race report back in February. The first race of the year was the inaugural Rock N Roll Half Marathon in St. Petersburg, Florida in February. This was my annual Girls’ Trip to Florida. Normally we run the Gasparilla Half Marathon but felt that maybe we would go out on a limb and try something different. The last couple of months have been busy with family stuff, the weather in Illinois has been crap, and I hadn’t seen my running buddy Karen since Thanksgiving, so I was really looking forward to getting away, even if only for three days.

Half the Fun is Getting There

Rather than drive to St. Louis, we opted to try DirectAir out of Capital Airport in Springfield. There’s something appealing about simply parking your car and walking a few hundred yards to the terminal. It beats the hell out of driving 1 ½ hours on the interstate, parking in a desolate lot, hauling luggage to a shuttle, riding the shuttle with a bunch of other travelers to the terminal, spending half an hour going through security and then having to haul everything for what seems to be at least a mile to the gate.

It was bitter cold and a little icy when we got to the airport. Reindeer Mary rode with me and we snagged what was probably the last available parking spot at the airport. Froze our asses hauling our luggage up to the terminal. Stood in line for boarding passes. Stood in line through security. Stood in line for Subway sandwiches. Found our friend Penny, who was going to Florida to do some condo shopping.

The flight was delayed for unknown reasons so we were an hour late boarding. Based on what I have heard about this airline, that was probably some kind of record in efficiency. I had an aisle seat in the row in front of Reindeer Mary and two rows back from Penny. There were babies on the plane. 

Flying into Lakeland, the plane pitched and bucked through a thunderstorm. It was the first time I have ever been on a plane during a thunderstorm and it was not all that much fun. There was some pretty exciting lighting outside and driving rain. Karen was waiting for us in the lobby and we dashed through the downpour to her car. I noticed that it was really not very warm.
How Much to Park Here?
Saturday we drove over to the expo at the Tropicana Dome in St. Petersburg. We had to pay $15 to park at the stadium, which was a bunch of crap because it was already an expensive race. Karen had to buy a $10 parking permit for race day as well. And then because the finish was some distance from the start, you also had to purchase a "shuttle pass" for $5 to get back to your car.
Expo was great, we killed a couple of hours there. I bought one of those hand-held water bottle thingeys and let Reindeer Mary and Karen talk me into parting with $65 for a Day-glo yellow Brooks sleeveless running vest. I will say that this was a great investment but didn't even have the Rock N Roll logo on it. I loved the zip-up pockets all over the thing.
Karen drove us all down to Pass-a Grill and we had lunch. It was unbelievably cold and windy at this point, way too cold to walk the beach. The only consolation was that it was colder back home in Illinois. I had a great grouper sandwich and a couple of margaritas. Things were getting off to a great start.
With temps predicted to be in the 30s for the start of the race, the topic of the evening was cobbling together a cold weather outfit from Karen's stash of winter running attire that she had hauled down to Florida. She found some of those little knit gloves and a pair of tights that I could borrow. Karen is 5'2" and I am 5'8", so capri length on Karen just barely covered my knees. Still it was better than nothing.
Reindeer Mary made skillet lasagna, which is basically lasagna made in a skillet on the stovetop. It tasted just like regular lasagna and was quite simple to make.
I slept on the couch in Karen's living room. There is a rather large picture window in this room and during the night I could hear the wind screaming and see the tree branches whipping back and forth. Things were not looking real promising weather wise.
Temps were in the 30s with a wind chill in the high 20s on race morning. We piled into Karen's PT Cruiser and drove over to St. Pete. Found a parking spot at the Tropicana and sat there in the dark watching the palm trees being lashed by the wind. Ugh...With 45 minutes to race start, we made two trips to the porta potties. Standing in line was brutal. It was just so f'ing cold.
The race went off without a hitch. It was early in the season so no way would this be a PR race, but a girl can always hope. I hung with Karen the first three miles but had to hit the porta potty AGAIN around the 5K mark. That added about 5 minutes to my time, so then I had the "oh well, it's just a training run" mentality.
The race course was beautiful and once the sun was up, the temps warmed SLIGHTLY. I found a good sized older gentleman to tuck in behind and kind of drafted off him for miles. With him blocking the cutting wind, I actually started to think I might be able to salvage this race.
Around mile 9 or 10 the course took you out onto the famous St. Petersburg pier. On a better day this would have been very cool but now it was just cold and windy and exposed to the ocean. And it was here that my big draft-buddy started fading. I went around him and at that exact moment he stubbed his foot on a plank and started to fall. There was a young woman on his right side and somehow both she and I caught hold of him and kind of turned him so that he at least fell onto his side and did not face plant.
Shaken, the man got up and we hung around for a few seconds to make sure he was all right. He thanked us profusely.  It was the least I could do after shamelessly using him as a human shield for miles.
My windbreak was gone and I was getting tired. I saw Karen at mile 11 on one of those out and back sections where you can see people who are running the opposite way. She was looking really strong and possibly geared for a PR. I was half frozen.
I jogged it in and finished in a most unimpressive 2:40.  Reindeer Mary and Karen found me and we got mylar blankets and went to go listen to Flo Rida, the feature band. Beer lines were long, tooooooo long, and even with the sun out, it was miserably cold.
We piled back in the PT Cruiser and hit McDonalds on the way back to Karen's. French fries are a great way to get some hot food and salt.
The rest of the weekend was pretty low key. Of course the day we flew back to Illinois, the weather improved and was up in the 70s in Florida.