Disclaimer: I was provided with a race entry in exchange for my honest review of my Iron Girl Clearwater experience. The opinions shared are my own.
Prior to Iron Girl, I came down with a nasty chest congestion related to my allergy-induced asthma. With difficulty breathing, tightness in my chest and a wet non-productive cough, a forced rest was my only option. Sadly, the congestion forced me to take two weeks off from running.
By Sunday, I still couldn’t breathe and I still continued to cough. During that drive down to Clearwater, I doubted myself and questioned my actions. “Why am I here? Why am I doing this?” The questions played over and over in my head as I puffed my inhaler. I had trained so hard for this moment; I couldn’t throw in the towel.
In an attempt to motivate myself, I bought myself a new outfit the day before the race. The pink would at least help me look like an Iron Girl when I passed out on the course.
Finding it difficult to move that morning, I arrived in Clearwater about 15 minutes before the start of the race. Then, like a ironic repeat of Sarasota, I needed a bathroom immediately, but the lines were so long. I spotted one woman forming her own line in front of the porta potty and I waited behind her for the next available one. I may cough the whole way, but at least I would start on time which was a relief in so many ways.
At the start corral, I found my friend, Leah. It lifted my spirits to see a familiar face in the crowd.
After the national anthem, we were underway and I spotted Mike with a funny sign, of course.
We ran through downtown Clearwater and circled around to the Memorial Causeway. With only a mile into it, I was already experiencing a cough fit. I simply kept my pace slow and steady. I tried not to push myself.
By mile two as we headed into Clearwater Beach, I followed the advice of a random road sign and decided to take advantage of all the water stations along the course. With my hacking smoker’s cough, I walked each of the water stations as I rehydrated.
We ran through the roundabout past Pier 60. It was a gorgeous morning to be on the beach. Just past mile three, we faced the second bridge leading into Sand Key with mile 4 at the top and I coughed the entire climb.
Once we reached Sand Key Park, I stopped for another water walking break. The volunteers shouted, “You’re looking great!” But I knew this was not my greatest performance. At least I was ahead of the 2:30 pace group. The next mile and half led us through Sand Key Park, another training route for me.
After mile 6, we were back on Gulf Blvd when the 2:30 pace group passed me. For a brief moment, I hung my head in disappointment, but I quickly shook it off. This was not my best moment, but I was finishing something that others wouldn’t have even dared to do given the same conditions.
A little past mile seven, we turned to return back to Coachman Park. With only less than half way to go, I coughed and continued on my way at an even slower pace. At mile 8, we were offered Girl Scout cookies and I couldn’t stomach them. I just wanted to finish.
The St. Pete Road Runners and Team Psych greeted us at Mile 9 with high fives, big smiles, lots of cheers and cold wet towels. Now that was a treat that hit the spot!
Feeling refreshing and rejuvenated, I was ready for the Sand Key Bridge that lay ahead.
On the other side, we were led through the backstreets of Clearwater along Bayway Boulevard and Hamden Drive. Upon our arrival, anxious and lovely little girls offered us water, but I politely declined. As a wise mom of three children, I chose to pass on the finger water and waited for the next water station.
At the end of Hamden Drive, we turned the corner with only two miles left to go, which included the final causeway. Even with only short distance left, my body needed longer walking breaks.
Just after mile 12, we reached the Clearwater Memorial Causeway and I tried my best to run up the steep incline. I trained on these bridges and yet, I couldn’t find the steam to make it to the top. I felt like I was going backward.
Finally I reached the top and I posed for a Causeway Kodak moment with the Sandy Key Bridge behind me and a palm tree as my hat.
A few steps later, I bumped into the Best Damn Race crew. “We were wondering what happened to you!” Haley said as she hugged me.
One last loop stood in front of me and the finish line but not before one more photo with a spectator and a sign. Some may call me crazy and mental, but if anything, I am certainly tenacious. Just call me Tenacious D.
At the bottom of the circular ramp, there was only a quarter mile left to go. Normally, I save a sprint for the finish line, but not this race. With staying steady at a 12:00 mm for the duration of the race, I couldn’t put forth anything faster than a 9:30, my normal race pace. I tried but I just couldn’t push it harder than that.
Ave Pace 11:53
Div Pace 133/202
That tiny, little push at the end put me over the edge and I couldn’t catch my breath. I needed help. Once the medal was placed around my neck, I walked over the medical tent for assistance. For the first time in my running career, I needed a breathing treatment. The paramedic advised me to carry my emergency inhaler with me next time, which was some great advice.
Despite needing help at the end, I am glad I didn’t defer. I trained so hard for this race and its tough course. Although I didn’t earn the time I hoped for and even did worse than last year, I’m glad I didn’t give up. There’s always next year.
Because I am an Iron Girl.