RACE REPORT: Gasparilla Distance Classic 2009

admin | March 8, 2010 in Endurance,Race Report,Running | Comments (9)

Last weekend was the Gasparilla Distance Classic, the celebrated half marathon held in Tampa, Florida.  I wanted to be there – I ran it last year with Tom Karpowich, one of our dedicated Team McGraw crew – but we had a concert the night before in another state, and I just couldn’t get there.  Dang it.

Tom had stumbled onto Team McGraw at the 2008 Country Music Marathon in Nashville, Tennessee.  We hadn’t met, but he had seen our shirts.  Our signs.  Our supporters.  He knew we were out there, and he knew our mission – to support quality of life brain tumor research through the Tug McGraw Foundation.

[NOTE: As with many of our Team McGraw runners, Tom’s appreciation for our mission stemmed from his own journey; his wife, Mary, was in her own battle with a brain tumor, and his running was to be a part of his fighting on her behalf.   She lost her battle this past January 2010…but her memory lives on as Tom continues to honor her through his support of the Tug McGraw Foundation as a dedicated member of Team McGraw.]

(Left) Tom Karpowich and me at the starting line of the Gasparilla Distance Classic Half Marathon on February 28, 2009.

He tracked us down after that race and signed up to join our team for the ING New York City Marathon 2008.  As it happened, I was rolling through Tampa, where he lives, only days after he contacted us about the New York race…so he stopped by our hotel and grabbed a quick run with my bandmate Deano and I the morning of our show.

Long story short, he joined Team McGraw for the New York City Marathon in 2008…we remained friends afterward…and when the Gasparilla Distance Classic Half Marathon came around on February 28, 2009, he thought I needed to fly into Florida to run shotgun with him at the race.

Well, I didn’t have a concert that weekend.  I was anxious to run another race, especially after a surprisingly strong finish at the Sarasota Grouper Half Marathon two weeks earlier.  Okay…surprisingly strong for me…and for me, that works. Besides, Tom figured, of the folks he knew, I’d be the one to say, “Jump on a plane and shoot over to Florida this weekend to grab a run?  SURE!”

I guess he was right; sure, I’ll run shotgun.  I’m that kinda runner.

I blew in the day before.  He met me at the airport, we shot through the expo, and I embraced my inner pirate as the Gasparilla festivities heralded the legendary buccaneer Jose Gaspar, famous for terrorizing the coast during the late 18th and early 19th century.  Gathered my number, snagged some photos, and picked up a bright red headband complete with skull and crossbones; I WAS READY!

We got to the race early the next morning.  I always get there early.  Keeps the jitters down to know we are parked, I’ve found the start, and if anyone is stuck in the wrong place waiting on a shuttle, it ain’t me.

We line up in the dark, both of us ready to rock the course in our red Team McGraw jerseys.  Someone wandering through all the runners insisted they take our picture.  They were shooting for the race.  Lesson learned: even two people, when they are both wearing their team jerseys, are a team worth noting.

I locked that little nugget away for future flag-waving.

The race got off with little event.  My watch was charged and prepared for scrutiny.  My plan was simple; I was going to try to duplicate the 2:10 I ran in Sarasota to determine if it was an accurate measuring stick for my fitness level or a fluke.  Tom was in…and we were off.

The first half was smooth – not much really worth remembering.  The main effort was to keep my pace consistent.  The start was very much in the dark; I was sorry to find that when I finally found my way to the fire juggler along the sidelines, the sun had come out and sapped some of the “cool” out of his act…but I still appreciated the show.

The weather was calm enough, kinda cloudy, cool, but not cold.  But again…that was the FIRST half.

Clouds started moving in and the wind started picking up around the halfway mark.  Then it started to rain.  Ugh.  The “much more of a gale than a breeze” stood me straight up.  I wanted to relish the run along the water – but I had my head ducked and just wasn’t paying much attention.

I was still trying to hang onto my plan…but it was slipping away.

Near the end, the wind had let up, and I was able to stretch back out and finish strong.  I had lost some time in the back half of the run, but it didn’t seem like too much, all things considered.  I still felt okay, and the 2:10 from two weeks earlier was still the only measuring stick I had.

I finished the race with a 2:15: 39.  Not bad.  I thought I had warmed up as the rain stopped…but when I was offered up a reflective space blanket after receiving my medal at the finish, I wrapped myself up in it tightly to fight back the wind that remained.  The cold wasn’t ready to abate quite yet.

And then the rain…resumed.  P-p-p-perfect.

9 Responses to “RACE REPORT: Gasparilla Distance Classic 2009”

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  1. Comment by Stacy Jo KimbroughMarch 8, 2010 at 7:46 pm  

    Hmmmm, I seem to remember this day you speak of! 😉
    Tom is definitely “good people!” Not only did he put me up for race weekend – (he makes killer meatballs by the way) – but he completely threw his whole race time out the window to lag behind and encourage me to finish…..stuck by my side the whole way! I met some great folks and we absolutely had a blast!!!!!! We missed ya, wish you could have made it! Hope you are well…….see you in May!

  2. Comment by JulesMarch 8, 2010 at 10:08 pm  

    Hello My Little Gypsy Pirate,
    Cool headband! Sounds like you had a blast and made p-p-p-perfect time even if Mother Nature wanted to play that day. LOVE the picture of you and your space blanket. Nice to see your goofy side! Thanks for sharing yet another adventure big brother!
    Big Hug,
    Jules 😉

  3. Comment by KimmyT — March 9, 2010 at 1:25 pm  

    Thank you for your inspiration. and God bless Tom K. Best wishes to him:)

  4. Comment by Genvieve GoldsteinMarch 9, 2010 at 3:49 pm  

    Thank you to all who completed Gasparilla this year as part of Team McGraw! And a special thank you to Tom for his true dedication to our cause and his leadership in Tampa this year (both on and off the course). Tom is truly a hero and I am grateful that he has shared his story with Mary with us. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!

  5. Comment by brenda — March 10, 2010 at 6:18 am  

    Sorry you weren’t able to run it this year. Loved reading last year’s memory of it. Love the medal, skull and all. 🙂 So sad Mary lost her battle. Tom sounds like a true hero. Keep on runnin!!

  6. Comment by ChristineMarch 10, 2010 at 10:32 pm  

    Thank you, Tom, for your continued dedication to Team McGraw and the TMF by running Gasparilla last month and in the future. This is an honorable way to keep Mary’s memory alive, and at the same time help others who are living with brain tumors. Much more work needs to be done.

    Jeff, thanks for running “shotgun” with Tom last year. Like you wrote above, “Even two people, when they are wearing both their team jerseys, are a team worth noting.” I like that Team McGraw Spirit.

    Ya Gotta Believe!

  7. Comment by Stacy — March 11, 2010 at 10:18 pm  

    I love the whole “pirate” theme they have there. And might I add, the foil wrap suits ya, McMahon! You folks are a great inspiration! Keep on runnin’!!

  8. Comment by Michael P. — March 13, 2010 at 4:08 pm  

    Jeff, I was so excited and honored to be a part with the Tug McGraw Foundation; it was through my coaches, Dan and Goette, I first met Tom and learned of this cause and the recent passing of his wife. I ran my 2nd marathon this year at Gasparilla and too was so inspired to run in the memory for Mary. This organization means a lot to myself now; as long as the good Lord gives myself the ability to continue to run, I will always be supportive. I’ve haven’t had the chance to meet all of our Tampa team, but I looking so forward to meeting you in May as well. We missed having you here, but of course understand the reasons why. Thanks for your continued support.


  9. Comment by KevinApril 8, 2010 at 10:10 am  

    Would love to run with the pirates one day! Tom K. is one of those special folks who make Team McGraw what it is…..

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