Gasparilla was a unique and challenging event! The weekend consisted of 4 road running races in 2 days, with a variety of challenge options to choose from. I participated in the Michelob Ultra Challenge, which included a 15k and 5k on Saturday, followed by a Half Marathon and 8k on Sunday (30.4 total miles).
Race Registration: I paid $205 for all 4 races. Online and super easy- the website is very thorough and easy to navigate. Athlete check-in was quick and VERY well organzied. Registration included all the usual race support and A TON of cool swag! Medals and towels for each race, a windbreaker jacket for challenge competitors, bandanas, and coffee mugs for top 10% finishers in each age group (I was lucky to earn a couple of these!)
Venue: The Tampa Convention Center was the main hub of the event. This housed the expo, athlete check-in, gear bag check, and most importantly- BATHROOMS! This was a first for me- I didn't have to use a porta potty once all weekend (although there were plenty located along the courses) due to the convenient location of the bathrooms. It was great to be able to go inside before and between races to keep warm- yes, that's right...it was 39 degrees on Saturday morning!! Coming in from NY for the weekend, I definitely did not pack for cold-weather running but luckily the expo had a ton of great vendors so I was able to pick up some warmer gear. The expo was open all day Friday through Sunday which made it easy to purchase gels, blocks, race belts or any food/gear needed. The start and finish lines for all races was a short walk from this building.
Race Courses: Flat, fast, and scenic. 99% of the course is right along the water. It was very windy on Saturday so the headwinds were pretty tough and cold at times. There seemed to be fuel stations every 1-2 miles and there was a good amount of crowd support, especially for the 5k and half marathon races. The event is pirate themed so there were a lot of entertaining costumes in the crowd and on the course! The course maps for each race were basically the same with some added loops for the longer distances- I thought this was nice in a way because I knew what to expect after the first race, but I could see how that could be boring for others.
Schedule: The challenge of this event was certainly unique and new to me. I'd run each distance before but never back-to-back with breaks between! Saturday: 15k at 6:30am, 5k at 9:00am; Sunday: Half Marathon at 6:00am, 8k at 9:15am. All races started EXACTLY on time. Seeded starts if you requested in advance, which I did and I was super grateful for- the race starts were a little narrow and there were thousands of participants (I think someone said registration capped at 10k per event)
Results: This was my first race of the season so I was excited!! As a result I probably went out a little too hard day 1 and my times on day 2 reflected that, but overall I was happy with my performance. Top 10% finishes for both races on Saturday :)
15k: 1:15:08; 5k: 25:20; Half Marathon: 1:54:23; 8k: 44:27. Ultra Challenge total time: 4:19:18, average pace 8:42- good enough for 26/432 overall female and 7/56 age group.