Marathon from heaven: Clearwater Part II

At 6:30 AM on Jan 19th, hubby dropped Alyssa and I off at Coachman Park. A ride to and from any race is such a blessing. Alyssa and I have decided it's essential for a marathon. We don't recommend driving yourself if you don't have to.

A side trip about my pre-race eating habits: I have finally learned what works best for me and my uber-tender running stomach. It tells me loud and clear what it does and doesn't like.

The problem? During long runs when I haven't eaten the way my body wants me to, what I have often felt is motion sickness. At least, that's the closest thing I can compare it to.

Once in the fall during a late evening run with Hea (18 miles), it felt like that creature from Alien was about to burst through my diaphragm. Mainly because I ate a sea salted almond around mile eight. Body rejected. It should've been an unsalted almond, but now I can't eat any type of almonds before or during a run. The other thing I've learned is that my stomach doesn't like evening runs longer than twelve miles. Anything longer I have to do in the morning on a mostly empty stomach.

Two days prior to the marathon, I ate a large dinner (carb up). The day before, I ate something small every two hours (usually starting around 9 AM and ending by or before 9 PM). I should also mention water consumption is crucial. The week of the race, I was drinking a lot of water daily.

My menu the day before the Clearwater Marathon:

9- oatmeal with a little butter and brown sugar
11- smoothie made of frozen fruit (lots of variety), Greek yogurt, baby spinach, Dole Paradise Blend juice, and banana
1- chips and salsa and guacamole
3- apple and PB
5- scrambled eggs
7- rotisserie chicken and yellow rice (lots of rice)
Water consumption: over half a gallon by 9 PM

The morning of the race, I ate three slices of apple (not at once). That was it. I'm sure that sounds like not enough, but I've learned the hard way that if I eat more, my stomach will punish me. For the race, I brought two Cran-Raz Clif Shot Bloks. Not two packages, but the little individual squares in a baggie. I would only need one of them during the race because I started nibbling around mile 16 and finished it by the end.

The package contains six Bloks, but I only ate one during the race
Back to the race:

As soon as we arrived, Alyssa and I used the bathroom and got our chips. Surprisingly, the chip line turned out to be really long. We ran into Terry McGory, a fellow Calvary Chapel runner who was doing the half. Sadly, we didn't find the rest of the CCRT. But we made it to the start, and we were so proud of ourselves for being on time.

Funny thing happened. Due to traffic backing up for people still trying to get to the race, the director moved back the start time. Neither of us had ever heard of that happening at a race before, and we thought it was really neat. Why? Because that would usually be us running late!

Alyssa was dealing with some pain on the right side of her right foot, and that worried me. I didn't want her to get injured, and if she felt like that was happening during the race, I wanted her to feel like she could stop. She promised to keep me updated on how it was feeling.

We prayed, and then we were off. Luckily, she was staying at my pace so there was potential that her foot would be okay. The race started at 7:20 (instead of 7:05) with all of the events combined: marathon, half, five miler, and 5K walk. That also was a first: to have so many races, including a full marathon, starting together. I believe about 1,800 people in total participated.

The first bridge was within the first mile. Although somewhat steep, we took it at an easy pace. The causeway crosses an inlet, and you can see the Gulf when you reach the top. The sun had just risen, and it was breathtaking. We guessed we were at about an 11:30 or 12 pace, but we weren't sure. There ended up being only one clock at the halfway point. As far as I was concerned, that was okay because I just wanted to enjoy the time with Lyssi. Yes, I hoped to get a PR, but that wasn't essential.

Weather-wise, it was perfect. When we got there, it was low forties. We had some throwaway clothes from a thrift store (jackets and Lyssi wore gloves). We both wore 3/4 length compression pants and tank tops. When the race started, it was somewhere in the fifties. After the bridge, we tossed our jackets, though I hoped to recover mine afterward because it had turned out to be so warm and comfortable. We ran by the Clearwater Aquarium where they filmed Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2. I have yet to go there, but it looks like what we remembered from the first movie with the little boathouse out front.

Once we reached Pier 60 on Clearwater Beach, the route turned south along Gulf Blvd. We followed that all the way to about mile fourteen. The CCRT who volunteered at the first water station cheered us on. We weren't ready for water until about mile nine.

The second bridge, also fairly steep but shorter than the first, led from Clearwater Beach to Sand Key. That also had a breathtaking view with the Gulf just off to our right. The route at that point was basically the bike lane next to Gulf Blvd while regular traffic flowed past us. That was a little tight, but we also had the option of jumping up on the sidewalk directly to our right if we felt nervous about the cars. There was a constant stream of orange cones that alerted them to our presence, and the speed is only about 35. We used the sidewalk off and on simply to stay side-by-side the whole time.

We took a slight detour off the road into Sand Key Park, but the rest of the route was a straight shot south along Gulf Blvd. We passed gorgeous mansions that lined the road in Belleair Beach and wondered who lived there. In Indian Rocks Beach, we passed our friend, Robert's, house right at Mile 10 and yelled, but we're pretty sure he didn't hear us.

The timer at Mile 13 said 2:42 and that was just fine by me. Alyssa's foot, she said, wasn't really bothering her, so that made us both happy.

We had a lovely first half. As usual, we caught up and chatted the whole time. I've never done a marathon without Alyssa, and I realize that it wouldn't be much fun for me by myself without someone to talk to. The time flies when I'm with her.

Coming up next time: the final installment!