Michelob Ultra Challenge at Gasparilla Festival



We got to the Convention Center nice and early. I picked up my race packet, and was told that they were out of finisher’s vests! I was kind of sad about this, but they promised to mail one, so we’ll see.

We made our way to the starting line, and I decided to hang with the 10:00min/mile pace group. The starting horn sounded with seemingly no warning because I was so far back in the corral! In just over a minute, I was crossing the starting line. The 15k was an out-and-back along Bayshore Dr. The pacer for the group, Ken, was awesome. He had a little external speaker and a playlist that cycled through the decades. We played games trying to name artists while I struggled to not RACE.

During the 15k

At a water station around mile 3, I found myself ahead of the pace group. I started talking to Eve and to another woman whose name I can’t remember, but it also started with an E! We chatted and ran together, hanging under a 10:00 pace. The other woman stopped to use a port-a-potty, and we pressed on. The support on the course was pretty good, and I was just trying to keep going. With just under a mile to go, Eve took off to finish strong. I hung back to conserve for the 5k.

Rocking the 15k

1:31:45 (9:50 pace – total run time: 1:31:45)


After the 15k, I had some time to kill. I had a fruit cup, a banana, and water. I stretched out a lot. I wandered over to the start corral and tried to position myself under the “30 minute and under” sign. This race was a total cluster! I spent the first half of the race dodging traffic. I skipped the first water station because I didn’t want to deal with traffic. This was when I ran into Norm. He’s a police officer from a local city, he was doing the entire challenge, and he was cruising the 5k, too! We chatted, mostly about triathlons. I was happy and feeling good, despite racking up the miles.

Me and Norm during the 5k

30:00 (9:39 pace – total run time: 2:01:45)

After the races, I walked around a bit, and headed back to my friends house. After a long shower, I walked to the store and back to pick up a sandwich and some beer! My legs were tired, my knees were sore, but all of my pain/discomfort/soreness/stiffness seemed to be symmetrical. I figured if I was injured, one leg would feel different than the other.  The only exception was my left hip, but that always bothers me in the same spot when I get sloppy and tired, because it causes me to heel strike.

We made tasty food and lounged around with movies and books!


Half Marathon:

My first EVER! We parked a few blocks away and wandered towards the start corrals. I was really excited because Ken, the fun pacer with the music, was doing the 2:10 goal group (9:55 pace). My plan was to start with the 2:20s, but I liked Ken and I felt ok! I ran the first five miles with Erin. It was crowded at the start! They sent us around a corner and over a one lane bridge right after we started. Some creative running (and maybe cutting a few people off) and we were 10:30 for the first mile. GPS watches with set pace goals were beeping everywhere.

Trying to dodge traffic

We were still close to the pace group, and as the course opened up, we made up some time. Mile 2 was around 10:00, then mile 3 was 9:30! By mile 4, things had opened up a bit and we were back on pace. The first few miles were rough. My hip was sore, but that vanished by mile 5. After mile 5, we were back on the same out-and-back route all of the other races were on. I also barely glanced at my watch. I was with the pace group, and I had started about 10-15 seconds after them, so I was golden. There was a lot of complaining about paces being off by people with GPS watches! I was annoyed, because if you have one of those, you don’t need the pacer. Go do what you want. Ken was a touch fast at times, but he’d make it up at water stations. I don’t remember hitting mile 6, but at mile 6.5, someone annouced we were halfway!

Me and Ken

At mile 7, I was still with the group, but starting to get tired. At that point, I knew I’d make it near 10min/miles, and I wasn’t worried. I had my Clif Shot at the water station at mile 8 and waited for it to kick in! Course support was awesome. There were high school bands, cheerleaders, XC teams, and spectators everywhere. It was a really fun crowd! The turn around was just before mile 9. On the route back, all of the water stations had sprinklers. Our pace group mostly stayed together, though I’m sure we dropped a few. We had a lot of first-timers, which was cool. I wasn’t alone! At mile 10, I remember thinking that I only had a 5k left. Just after mile 11, we passed the 5k timing mat for the 8k (they were calling it the 5+3k and giving 5k splits) – that meant under 2 miles to go! Right around mile 12.5, Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run came on Ken’s playlist, followed by Weezer’s Buddy Holly. I was home free! I can’t wait for pictures to be posted. Ken and I ran through the big photo spot together, before I pushed a little for the last 1/4 mile or so.

Finishing the Half!

2:09:05 (9:51 pace – total run time: 4:10:50)


I was starting to feel the miles. I drank as much water as I could without getting full. I guess I ate, though I can’t specifically remember. I grabbed my Clif Shot Blocks. I stretched as much as I could. I headed to the start line one more time… No pace groups this time. I struggled to find a running buddy. The miles blurred together. I saw Erin’s sister on her way back before I was even at mile 2! She’s a speedy one. Around mile 2, I ate some blocks. I was probably rude to runners in the aid stations. The weird part about running at that pace is you get a lot of people that want to walk the aid stations. I had been sub 10 minute miles all weekend, and I wasn’t letting anyone get in my way! Don’t worry, I was nice to the volunteers! The cheering crowds had subsided. It was the mentally toughest one, because I felt alone on the course… but I made it!

My GIANT finisher's medal!

49:12 (9:54 pace – total run time: 5:00:02)

Overall Challenge Scoring:

178/290 finishers (another 55 did not finish)

12/18 female 25 to 29 finishers (another 4 did not finish)

I'm finished! Why are you still taking my picture?

I’m impressed with my body. It was treated nicely with an Epsom salt soak, biofreeze, sushi with brown rice, and lots of water and healthy food!

On the drive home (4hrs on Sunday evening), my ankles really started bothering me. I stopped at CVS and go Salonpas patches and Futuro compression socks. Much better!

I’m actually doing ok today. The knees are stiff, the muscles are a little achy, but I’m planning on going on a bike ride!


One response to “Michelob Ultra Challenge at Gasparilla Festival

  1. Nice work, Elaine! Great races and great writeup. I love the symmetrical-pain-is-OK idea…. will keep that in mind.


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