The Iron Girl Clearwater 2012, between the mile markers

April 23, 2012 at 1:09 pm

Today I can barely walk, so I drove the boys to school and I am spending the day at home doing laundry and not much else.

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Yesterday I recapped my experience at the Iron Girl Half Marathon as briefly as I possibly could. I realize it was still a pretty long post with a ton of pictures, but that’s just what you get around here. It’s going to take two more posts to get through all the rest of the pictures and words I want to share about the day, so feel free to just skip this one (and the next one) if you have had enough. I just want you to know that I realize that most of my posts are tl;dr (that’s too long; didn’t read, Mom) types of things. It’s my blog, so whatever.

Kathy and I arrived in Clearwater around 6 a.m. and it was still dark out. We knew where we wanted to park after having scoped it out the day before, but just in case, Iron Girl had put this small sign in the bushes near the parking deck (we never saw the sign before actually parking).

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After meeting up with the IRunMommies for pre-race motivation and group photos, we headed down to the starting line, where the excitement was palpable.

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Everybody was so grateful that it wasn’t raining.

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There were no corrals, so people just sort of piled into the starting chute and tried to gather around their desired pace group. We just joined the back of the queue…the small white sign you see below says “3:15”, which I think was the last pace group.

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After the start, Kathy and I were actively looking around for Mitzi, and we still hadn’t found her as we passed the county courthouse.

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Luckily, we found her before the first mile marker, where we were heading into Belleair.

 

 

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There are some gorgeous homes in Belleair, and there were a few spectators out in their yards cheering us on. I refrained from asking any of them if I could use their bathroom. We ogled the houses and considered whether we could buy this tiny lot, which was so reasonably priced:

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This is where Hulk Hogan used to live:

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We passed the Belleair Country Club…

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which was gorgeous. We were so thankful for the nice weather at this point!

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Mitzi snapped this picture of me actually RUNNING.

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I was running ahead to pose by the mile 3 marker.

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I didn’t do much running during the half-marathon, but a couple of times I stopped at port-a-potties, then ran to catch up with the girls.

 

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A few times I ran ahead for photos, and then near the end I jogged some just to relieve my walking muscles and to keep up with Kathy and Mitzi, since I couldn’t walk quickly any more.

 

Kathy and me running ahead for a picture at the mile 5 marker:

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It was great to have two friends to walk 13.1 miles with. We never lacked for conversation and it was fun to have two other people to hand the camera off to. Thanks so much Kathy and Mitzi for sticking with me and for being willing to be in the pictures and to take pictures for me as well!

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The route through Belleair had many twists and turns and there weren’t that many spectators along the route. We were very grateful to the volunteers who urged us on and gave their time for the event.

 

Just after the mile six marker we did run into some very special spectators…Mitzi’s husband and 10-month-old baby boy!

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Mitzi is the mother of three girls and two boys, ranging in age from 16 years to 10 months! Her baby boy was all smiles as he and Dad walked the next quarter mile or so of the course with us. It was a great morale booster. While they were still with us we ran into the St. Pete Road Runners Club. Their music and hand-slaps and cheers were extremely welcome. Being in the back of the pack with all the walkers means that many spectators had probably moved on, so we appreciated ever bit of encouragement that we could get.

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Here’s me running again to get ahead to take some pictures of the Belleair Causeway Bridge:

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Just at the foot of the bridge was the mile 7 marker. It was super windy, and although the police officer there kept setting the mile marker up, it kept blowing back over. We thought this would be a funny picture, but it was seriously hard for me to get back up and walk up that bridge after laying down like that. Walking up the bridge with the high winds while trying to keep the pace up was tough, but we made it.

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Walking back down was awesome.

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After the bridge we passed the eight mile marker and then went through a Girl Scout gauntlet where they were passing out Girl Scout Cookies. Thank you Girl Scouts!

 

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After the Girl Scouts we arrived at the city of Belleair Beach (the other side of the bridge is Belleair Bluffs).

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This was the beginning of a super long stretch of the course along Gulf Boulevard, running parallel to the Gulf of Mexico. The beach and ocean are just on the other side of that line of trees and buildings on our left below:

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Here is the entire course from my Garmin…that long straight stretch on the left is Gulf Boulevard:

route

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Soon after the mile nine marker we entered the City of Clearwater. It was raining when Kathy took this picture of me with the welcome sign. We did have to walk through several patches of light rain and one patch of heavy rain, but they were all short and we never really got soaked (except for Kathy’s right shoe when she stepped into the squishy grass for a second).

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All along Gulf Boulevard the roads were completely open and basically just a small portion of the right lane and gutter were marked off with orange traffic cones. There were some close brushes with cars through here and we definitely got sprayed with dirty road water by the cars. Soon we were approaching the Sand Key Bridge.

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Just past the eleven mile marker this lovely lady was entertaining the race participants with her juggling, and she was thrilled to pose for me.

 

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The Sand Key Bridge.

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The Clearwater Memorial Causeway and downtown Clearwater off in the distance from the top of the bridge:

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Sand Key on the west side of the bridge:

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Yay for going down the other side of the bridge! I jogged down the bridge which felt great as my walking muscles were spent.

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The bridge dumped us out into the City of Clearwater Beach.

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Throughout the last little bit of the race in Clearwater Beach we were dodging cars and bitching and moaning about how much our legs were hurting. We were so glad to turn onto the beach walk where there was no traffic and where we knew we were in the home stretch.

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After we passed the mile thirteen marker, we thought we should have been able to see the finish line, but we couldn’t. We kept saying, “Where is the finish!” We were so ready to be DONE. Finally we realized that they had taken down the inflatable finish line arch due to the winds and that is why we couldn’t see it.

Mitzi’s mom snapped this photo of us just before we crossed the finish line together:

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See the bent palm trees behind us illustrating the heavy wind? We are smiling, but we were all in pain. Walking a half-marathon means over three hours on your feet and we were feeling every minute of those 13.1 miles. But we did it!

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Mitzi had a big support crew at the finish, including her mom, her sister, and her three daughters (the littlest being just four years old!), all of whom completed the Iron Girl 5K that morning!

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After we got our medals we headed over to the post-race festivities, of which there were actually none. They were supposed to have a post-race breakfast with tables set up on the beach, but apparently it got rained out. The awards ceremony also got cancelled due to the rain. All they had was one sad tent where they were handing out these boxes:

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Inside the box was a bunch of “healthy” snacks, which I would not consider a post-race breakfast.

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But that’s okay, because after Chad drove us back to our car, Kathy and I hit up the Wendy’s drive-thru on our way home. Salty French fries and a big burger were an awesome post-race “breakfast”.

Here are my stats, according to my Garmin:

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My official chip time was 3:28, but my Garmin auto-paused whenever I completely stopped (like to use a port-a-potty or to take a picture), so that accounts for the six minute difference. This half-marathon was very challenging in a different way than my first two, but I’m glad I did it.

Okay, just one more post about this amazing day (from the spectator’s perspective), and then I will be all out of pictures. That is, unless I actually buy the official photos, which I doubt will happen. If you actually hung in there for all of this, you are a true friend and thanks.

Other posts about this race:

Iron Girl Clearwater 2012 Expo

Athleta Iron Girl Half Marathon Clearwater 2012, mile by mile

The Iron Girl Clearwater 2012, spectator’s perspective