The more I think about it today, the more I realize that we probably should not have run the race last night. But, luckily no one was struck by lightning, so it’s all good! =)
The Picnic Island Adventure runs are a series of three races in May, June, and July that take place on an “interesting island” called Picnic Island in Tampa near the Gandy Bridge. Each race is approximately 3.3 miles long and includes running on the soft, choppy beach, uneven grass (watch out for those holes!), through mangroves on a single lane track with trees and shrubs thrashing you the whole way, and let us not forget the real fun stuff…crawling in sand under a cargo net, running through tires, the giant hurdle, and the crazy, steep hills at the end. The races usually end with a short run into waist deep water and back out to finish on the beach. Each race is different depending on how high or low the tide is…example: May’s race was pretty dry except for the plunge into the bay before the finish yet July’s race was super wet with deep water all throughout the mangrove trails.
July’s race was even more interesting due to the thunderstorm. They delayed the start of the race about ten minutes to really let the storm roll in. I guess they were hoping it would head the other way, but no luck. Anyway, the entire race was in a full blown thunderstorm with the rain and lightning getting worse as the race progressed. Oh, and just before firing the starting gun, the starter said “run at your own risk.” Like anyone was going to walk away at that point.
As we were heading towards the cargo net, I saw a huge crack of lightning that looked like it hit near the corner of the island where we would be running in about 2-3 minutes. I have to admit that this scared me a little, but I went under the net, through the tires, and over the hurdle and then was gasping for air a bit as I headed to the single track through the flooded and muddy mangroves.
The first race in May was my first Picnic Island race so I had no idea what to expect of the course. I loved it. This time, I knew what to expect, which wasn’t quite as good especially since our feet were soaked and weighed about ten pounds each after just one mile of the race. I did like knowing where the hills were at the end so I could push the pace there. Since there was so much lightning, we did not have to run out into the bay and back in before the finish. After the hills it was a straight shot to the finish on the beach and of course the beach was all soft, choppy sand and there was nowhere to go to find good footing. I actually felt that lung burn after the hills on my way to the finish like I did coming out of the water in the May race. Ah what a feeling!
There were nine people from our group in the race: Alex, Anthony, Franz, Nicole, Di, Caroline, Jennifer, Lauren, and me. We all finished and had a blast. Luckily no one in the race was hit by lightning. Could you imagine a more horrible thing? Anyway, we survived and I think everyone had the most amazing time.
I like running in adverse conditions, especially the rain, but I could definitely do without the lightning!
Hope to see everyone at Picnic Island next summer!
Photos from the May & July races: