I didn’t have high expectations for this race given how my hip has been playing up the last 6 weeks. It fell apart during the Orlando 50K and 10 miles into the 6 hour Durty Beer Run it went again and I was forced to walk for a couple of hours but managed to run again at the end. Last weekend I went out for an easy 10 mile training run just on the flat road rather than my usual bridge repeats, but 6 miles in my hip gave up and I was forced to run/walk the remaining 4 miles home. So going into the PTC this year I knew I wouldn’t be able to compete to win the race and the chances of me being able to complete the race were pretty low. I decided I was still going to go out and hope that I could finish ahead of Brian C Heeren and Scott Bauer Hoover who me close to me for the Summer Slam award. I planned to run 5 minutes, walk 1 minute and see what I could do. I told Luis A. Gomez before the race I was not going to be able to compete and word got to Jeff Iosa who was expecting to battle me and Brian Sharbono for first place. Jeff saw me at the start line talking to Brian Heeren and said he had heard the bad news, I hadn’t told him as I didn’t want to encourage him to go after me and win the slam as I knew this was going to be the last year I compete in the slam series. So I said I was just going to aim for a 7 1/2 hour finish time which I was hoping was going to be too fast for Brian to chase me. In my mind I had no confidence in that time as I didn’t know if I could even finish.
The hip pain continued to get a little worse as we ran into the Clever Training Run and Triathlon Club aid station at mile 13 which is the run group I’ve been part of since I started running 11 years ago. I stopped for a minute, grabbed a couple of orange slices, and had my pickles and pickle juice which I always get from them and then off we went again. By this time there was a group of about 5 of us that I kept passing as I ran and then they would pass me again when I walked. Within that group was Scott who was ahead of me at the aid station and now in poll position to win the slam. As I came to any of the overpasses, I would adjust my run walk a little so I just walked up the overpass and then use that as my minute walk. By now I couldn’t see Scott so I assumed he had pulled a lead on me and that with my hip it probably wasn’t going to be my day. Little did I know was that he had actually gone into the bathrooms there and I was no in front of him, I was chasing a ghost. As we got to mile 15 I felt my hip go, again it’s not the actual socket but I just lose my ability to push off on it and then I have to compensate on my right side which then causes my hamstring to be overworked and tight. I told Luis my hip had gone and in my mind I was thinking about calling it a day as we got to Taylor Park at mile 17 which is near my house. He had got some ice from Clever Training so he put it in a freezer bag I had and from that point I ran with a bag of ice on my hip. We reached there and I continued and as we crossed the overpass at West Bay again my thought of calling it went through my mind as that’s the closest point to my house, just 4 miles away. I knew I would be disappointed if I didn’t at least run a marathon distance so continued to push ahead as best as I could, each walk break helped but as soon as I started to run again the pain started again.
I ran through the F45 station at mile 18 and Luis refilled one of my water bottles. I remember running pass Janae Havill a couple of miles later, she was on the side of the trail I guess waiting to crew Trixie, she asked how my hip was and I said not good. In my mind at that point I knew I couldn’t finish the race and was just hoping I could make it to Dunedin. As we ran through the road crossings in Clearwater I saw Chad who was the bike crew for John and he said I was looking strong. I told him my hip was hurting and it wasn’t going well. John was a little ahead of me but I was closing on him as I was still running about an 8:30 pace on my 5 minute segments. At mile 22 we reach the Pinellas Trail Buddies aid station and again I run through and Luis refilled my water bottle. For the most part I was only consuming 1 20 ounze bottle between each aid station but I felt great, from a fitness level I still felt strong but my legs were trashed. My left leg was in pain and my right hamstring was suffering, I didn’t know how much longer I could continue. I still hadn’t seen Scott so I assumed he was still running strong but didn’t know how far ahead of me he was, or in fact behind me. As we got close to Dunedin I knew I was going to quit at Vinny Vercamen‘s aid station at mile 26 and call it a day, Scott was ahead of me and I wasn’t going to win the slam and I couldn’t finish anyway. When I got to his aid station my watch was at 25.5 so I had to continue just a little further. When we got to Weaver Park I told Luis I was done, by this time his phone had died and the music that had been playing and keeping me distracted had died. I stood off the track just before where they were putting the finish sign at the edge of the trail, my race was over. We had just passed the bathrooms and then I said to Luis, let me just go to the bathroom and rethink it. I sat down for a couple of minutes and by the time I got up and back on the trail I felt a little easier so I told him let’s go on, now my goal was to see if I could run a 50K.
In my mind the next aid station at mile 30 mile Wall Springs Park, it would be an easy stop for Judy to pick us up. Luis said his phone had 2% battery so it maybe enough to call Judy, I thought about how nice it would be to call her now and for her to be there when we arrived so I didn’t have to wait, but I wasn’t sure if it would take me 40 minutes or an hour so I decided to wait until we got there. It wasn’t actually Wall Springs, it was the Running For Brews and DCR Group aid station, my legs were toast, I was done, I was hoping the aid station was closer but we carried on until now I could see the tent on the left in the distance. Ahhh, the end is in sight, as we ran up to the station there were probably 30 – 40 people split between the 2 sides of the trail, everyone cheering, cow bells ringing, the noise and energy were so powerful. I couldn’t stop and let these people down. So I just carried on running, cursing them in my mind, I wanted to stop, I needed to stop, but the energy level was so intense I had to keep moving. Luis stopped and refilled my water bottles and caught up with me a little later down the trail. I told him I had to walk the next run segment, I couldn’t run any more. Each time the run segments started it was harder to get going, my body was telling me to stop and my mind was also siding with it, but somehow I overrode it every time and started again. Luis had asked me if I wanted to take a Tylenol but I said no, I don’t like taking them during a race, I need to know how my body is feeling. After walking the run break and the following minute I felt a little better and my pace picked up again. It was in the low 8’s rather than 9’s again and I had renewed energy. Now on to Wall Springs for a respectful finish.
As we approached the Loud Runners aid station at mile 33 I told myself to get over it, there’s only a half left to go now, you can’t give up, you have to try. I figured even if I had to talk a few miles I could probably run again at some stage and probably finish. I still hadn’t see Scott or any of the leaders on their way back, so I also wanted to see how the leaders were doing. I was hoping Jeff, would be leading the race, I know he had a stela crew to pace him in on the final 26 miles. If I quit now I wouldn’t get to experience this so I continued running. I think it was shortly after this I saw the leader come through, I didn’t recognize who it was but it ended up being Rich Garcia, not Jeff or Brian. It only felt like a minute later I passed Jeff and his posse and I shouted encouragement to him. I told him he was only 1 minute or so ahead and he told me I was running strong. I felt for sure he would win, Rich was running by himself and Jeff had a squad with him. Next up was Katie whom I had exchanged places with here about 20 miles earlier and then Jo was a minute or so behind her, closing her down as she does with her determined laser focus, then Brian was in 5th place. As each male runner passed Luis would ask me is that Scott, and I said no. By now I had a couple of miles to the turnaround and I told him if I was with a mile of him I would try and chase him down. I eventually arrived at mile 36 Brighter Days turnaround and now realized that Scott must have dropped out of the race, I was back in with a chance of winning the summer slam and that motivated me to keep pushing on.
As we started the final 10 mile leg back to Dunedin, I was in 6th place, I had no idea how I could still be here and would be ecstatic with that, but even if a couple of people caught me a top 10 finish would still be okay as long as none of them was Brian to take the slam. Probably about half mile down I passed 7th place Nikki and a little behind her was Nicholas, okay I have about a mile total on them and if I could keep a good pace I thought I could hold this position. However it was only a couple of mile before I had to walk another run segment, my hip was hurting, the ice although helping wasn’t enough, and my right hamstring had now been doing double duty for about 23 miles, it needed a rest. Once again I felt better after the walk and was able to pick up the pace again as we came back to Wall Springs and I ran through.
The race experience doesn’t end there, you have Andy on the grill, spending his birthday supporting the community. Ice Bath Mama once again to relax your muscles, although it’s so hard to get into the freezing cold water. Then this year there was Julie Donnelly giving post race massages. I could hardly walk and she spent at least 15 minutes giving me a massage and I felt much better. If you’re in the Sarasota area you need to check her out. Then there was Tonya treating peoples feet, mine were okay so I didn’t need her services. When you look at all of this, the aid stations, the shirts, the encouragement, the post race and all of this for a free race. No wonder the race gets more popular every year. Also thanks to everyone that took pictures and shared them so we can look back on the experience. Also great to see everyone the day after the race at the post race party to recap stories, everyone looks so different cleaned up. I also enjoy reading everyone’s posts after the race and what they had to overcome to finish.