Over the summer I found out about the Best Damn Race in Safety Harbor, FL. We had just been there in July for a birthday spa day and I just thought it was the cutest town. So when I hear there was going to be a race there I was very intrigued. The cool thing about the race is when registration opened the price was very low and kept increasing after so many people registered. Even with the register day hiccups I still only ended up paying $8 to register for the 10k. Sweet!
I registered for the 10k race hoping that I would be back to running and able to complete the race by February. It was a good 6 months after my back injury so I just pulled the trigger and would have to wait and see what would happen. In the fall my bestie and I made plans to turn it into a bit of a girls weekend. The plan was the stay the night before at the Safety Harbor Resort & Spa (the location of the race start), do the race on Saturday, then have a spa day afterwards. By January the plans included 2 more friends and we were all getting pretty excited! Who wouldn’t be??
Laura and I arrived at the resort around 1:30 on Friday afternoon and we able to check into our room. We were quite impressed with our room and the view. It was a lot bigger than we were expecting. We were sure if all the regular rooms were this size or if we ended up with a bigger room because our reservation was for 4. Regardless, we had plenty of space for 4 ladies to enjoy themselves.
Once we got checked in we headed down to the Safety Harbor Marina for the race expo and packet pickup. The expo was held outside which I thought was awesome. It was a beautiful day to be outside checking out the vendors. Packet pickup was a breeze and took no time at all. There were around 12-15 vendors who would all be there again on race day which I thought was pretty cool. There was plenty of room to move around and plenty of room for more vendors in 2014.
After the expo we had a few hours before our friends were going to join us so we decided to throw on our bathing suits and enjoy some of the spa amenities. We enjoyed the turkish steam bath, sauna, mineral pool, jacuzzi, and indoor swimming pool. One of my favorite things about the afternoon was the 10 person jacuzzi with a “deep end.” It is kinda hard to explain, but the jist is that there was one spot in the jacuzzi that dropped down so that you could stand there and still have the water go up as high on you as it would if you were sitting. It was amazing.
Once we showered and changed for dinner I realized that I hadn’t been on the west coast at sunset time in years. On a whim we hopped in the car and made a bee line for Clearwater Beach to watch the sunset. We didn’t quite make it there to see the sun go down, but we still got to see an amazing view and enjoy the beach for awhile. We got back to the hotel just in time to meet up with our other “roomies” and head to dinner. We enjoyed a very tasty meal at the Whistle Stop Grill before heading back to the hotel to be silly for awhile before heading to bed.
My 5:30 wake up call came much sooner than I had hoped, but I enjoyed being on site and not having to get up any earlier than that and/or drive to the start. Once I had laced up my running shoes I just had to walk out the front door and I was at the start line. I was able to meet up with a new running friend (HI LISA!) and we chatted until the race started. It was very cool getting to meet some of the other folks from the Run Tampa group. It made this Orlando runner feel a little less out of place.
Once the race started I decided to stick with Lisa. I found out her average mile time was close to mine and since the whole point of this race was to see if I could finish, I decided that having a buddy to run with would be helpful. This was my first “long race” since my back injury and the main thing I wanted to do was make sure that I could finish. I really wanted to start signing up for more races but I needed that assurance first.
Running with Lisa was great! It gave me someone to talk to and it kept me moving. I tend to try harder when I feel like there is someone holding me accountable (even though she really wasn’t). A couple of times I felt like I could be going a little faster on my own, but if I went faster it would just mean that I’d probably end up walking more in the end. So I stuck with Lisa and probably ended up running the entire 6.2 miles save a 1/4 mile or so. This is a BIG deal for me. I usually do the run/walk method which means that I usually don’t continuously run multiple miles of a race. Even if I had finished dead last I still would have been proud of myself.
My three friends came out to the course once we got started and were there at around the 2 mile mark with some awesome signs! I have to mention that one of my friends is just 2 weeks from giving birth. We joked the whole time that she just needed to hold out until after our spa appointments and then the baby could come whenever (my bet is on Thursday – not sure why, I just think Thursday). I really appreciated them dragging themselves out of their super comfy beds and into the cold to cheer me/us on. I went from never having had anyone cheer me on at a race to having it happen at the last 3 races in a row. I kinda like it :)
Back to the race… around mile 5 we were right along the water and heading north towards the marina where the finish line was. The sun was out but the wind had picked up. I still can’t figure out if it was warmed than at the start or not, but the sun was great. The whole course was beautiful and I enjoyed all of it (even in the dark). The closer we got to the finish the more we were able to hear. The wind was carrying the announcer at the finish line’s voice and it was motivating us to keep going. It also helped that one of the on course photographers was a friend. I gave him a cheesy grin and 2 thumbs up as we passed him on our final mile!
As we rounded the corner to head into the finishers shoot (is that what they call that thing?) we saw my friends again on the sidelines and I decided to book it to the finish. I crossed the finish line with a smile on my face, and not in pain, and headed over to get my Best Damn Race medal. It is a bottle opener! I knew my time wasn’t a PR but it wasn’t a horrible time either. I knew it was slower than my 10k last year, but I really didn’t care. I finished, I wasn’t in pain, and I had a great time. It was a win in my book regardless! But imagine my surprise when I got home and checked my finish time against my previous 10k and realized that I was only 57 seconds slower than last year! A year and 2 injuries later and I only finished 57 seconds slower. Go me!
We waited around for Lisa’s friend to finish, took some pictures, and then headed for the food tent. They had the usuals (fruit, cookies, and water) but also had pizza and subs. I’ve never been so happy to see a sub at 8:30 in the morning in my life! Thank Jimmy John’s for hooking us up :)
I was pretty cold at this point and all I could think about was putting on my bathing suit and standing in the deep end of the jacuzzi, so we didn’t stick around too long before heading back to the resort. The rest of our day was spent in our bathing suits or robes – we went to the steam room, the jacuzzi, the pool, lunch, and then to get massages. It was a GREAT way to round out my race day/weekend.
The Best Damn Race was pretty amazing and I’m looking forward to doing it again next year. I was quite impressed with how smoothly everything ran for a new race in a small town. I guess that is what happens when you have runners running the show huh? Thanks to the folks at BDR for a great time! See ya next year for sure :)