Monday, October 26, 2015

A spectating report and a race report

The past 2 weekends have been freaking awesome, running related, and involved frolicking around New England with some of my favorite people. Both involved races, one of which I ran, one of which I spectated, and both I think deserve a recap. Ready? OK!

MDI Marathon weekend
Back in the day when I was still deciding on a fall marathon, a couple of my teammates signed up for the Mount Desert Island Marathon. As it turned out, I chose the much flatter (and family friendly) Lakefront, but we had already kind of started planning for a fun marathon getaway weekend to Maine, so another teammate (Brenda) and I decided to go along for the ride. I had originally planned on racing the half, but then it sold out and I wasn't really that sad about it...spectating is WAY more fun, and Brenda and I have demonstrated our amazing spectating abilities together in a couple of past marathons, so we were excited to get to do it again.

I've never traveled to spectate a race before, but let me tell you: it's AMAZING! I didn't have to worry about what I was eating, what to wear, etc, but I felt great to be able to support my friends as they went through the typical insane emotions that come on the night before a marathon. We stayed at the world's most adorable Air BnB, which included a selection of games (Candyland was a thing that happened) and DVDs such as 127 Hours. This turned out to be the most hilariously semi-inspirational movie we could have watched ("Hey, when you're running tomorrow, just least you're not sawing off your own arm!") I don't think I'm ever staying in a hotel again.
Sorry, hotels. I'm over you.
Just the lake behind the cottage, whatever.

We were up before sunrise on race day and it was fun sharing the nervous energy of the two girls who were racing - I swear, I may have been more excited to watch them run than I had been for my own marathon! Brenda and I dropped them off at the start and then went off to figure out our spectating plan. The marathon runs from Bar Harbor to Southwest Harbor, and kind of squiggles around in a way that really only gives you one option for where to drive. Still, we managed to pick out 3 solid spots at the 15K, 16.5 mile, and 25 mile and hit all of them perfectly! I'm not sure I can really explain how much fun I had cheering for this race. Not only for my friends, although going absolutely INSANE when we saw them in the distance was an absolute blast. But I think having just run a marathon recently, and remembering how much it meant to have spectators telling me I looked strong or making me laugh, it felt pretty amazing to be able to pay it back and do that for this group of runners. The race was relatively small and everyone had names on their bibs, so I was calling everyone out by name and giving them something that I thought they might want at that point in the race. At the 15K, we were near the bottom of a pretty nasty hill. At that point in the race though, everyone is still looking pretty strong and happy, so there was a lot of "this hill is nothing!" and "keep smiling" and "looking awesome!" going around. Mile 16.5 was a little more quiet, so basically excessive screaming and cowbelling and hopping around and just being like "YEAAAAAH STEEEEVE!" felt useful. And then, mile 25, was at the top of this gradual 3 mile incline. That was my favorite spot, because we were all alone at the top of this hill and you knew everyone was almost there - I kept saying to people "THIS IS IT! NOW IS THE TIME!" By this point we were so giddy with adrenaline that at one point we were just running around in circles with airplane arms. It was absolutely awesome.
The scenery also did not suck.

What was also awesome was having our teammates look amazing and strong every time they passed us! Despite the hilly course, one teammate placed 2nd overall and broke 3 hours for the first time, and the other ran her second best marathon out of 15. All in all, it was a really amazing day! Much as I love racing for myself, I also think it's really special to get to support my friends and teammates (plus a whole bunch of other runners!) and help them to have a great race day too. The camaradrie and support that runners give each other is just one of the coolest things about the sport, and I'm so grateful to be a part of such a supportive team and to have such cool friends who happen to be pretty great runners as well.
I also partook in the post race celebrations. Because, I mean, when in Maine.

Pell Bridge Run
So THEN, this past weekend, I decided to hit up the other end of New England and actually run a race vs. spectate. Joy, one of the MDI marathoners and my marathon/ridiculous racing buddy, had at some point in the last few months talked me into signing up for something called the Pell Bridge Run. This is a race that involves, as the name suggests, running over the Pell Bridge! Which is a very large bridge (~2 miles long and 400 ft high) in Rhode Island connecting Jamestown and Newport. As I am pretty much incapable of turning down a racing opportunity in the off season, especially when it's a novelty race of sorts, I signed up. After a 4:45 am wake up call (the earliest I've been up in recent memory), we drove to Newport and got on the shuttles to Jamestown. Compared to my only other pre-race shuttle bus experience (Boston) this one was hilariously short, although still slightly disturbing hearing the bus vroom vrooming up the hill that I knew I would need to be running up shortly. We were dropped off in a dark grassy area around 6:10 and waited for the start. Now, this is the same race company that put on the 10 miler that I had so many complaints about back in June - surprisingly I have only one major complaint about this race. And that was the fact that although we had to wait over an hour at this grassy field and there was coffee and hot chocolate to drink (which ran out by 6:30) and the website had said there would be water...there was NO WATER. I asked a volunteer and she was like "no...there's supposed to be some...but I haven't seen any...." As a result I went into the race with a dry mouth and a bagel sitting like cement in my stomach...oh well. Thankfully it was a pretty warm morning for late October, in the mid 50s already by 6 am, so we weren't freezing in the field, but with nothing else to do Joy and I decided to go warm up a little bit on the other side of the road. That's when by far the coolest part of the day happened. We turned down into a random hotel parking lot, and in front of us was this:
Worth the 4:45 wake up!

Day completely made, we headed back to the start line, kind of laughing at the fact that maybe 20 out of the 3000 runners had seen this view because no one seemed to be bothering to warm up. To be fair, this is not a race that's designed to be crazy competitive - the "elite" (lol) wave was 9 minute miles and faster and there are a lot of walkers, kids, etc. I mean, hell, if I was a recreational runner, this is DEFINITELY a race I'd do multiple times - it's a pretty cool concept! Still, we lined up maybe 1 row back from the front, surrounded by a variety of people, none of whom were wearing hardcore club singlets. Two things came to my mind: the first was how glad I was that I wasn't racing Mayor's Cup (big XC meet held the same day), the second was how glad I was that I had chosen to race in a ridiculous neon ensemble instead of my GBTC singlet, because I think if I'd showed up in that singlet people would have expected me to try to win the thing. 
Not pictured: neon orange shorts. Pictured: vest that is FAR too warm for current ambient temperature

The race started at 7:15 and off we went! It's billed as a 4 mile race, and I was pretty aware given the layout of the bridge what the elevation profile would be: 2 miles basically uphill, 2 miles basically downhill. Whee! Coming off the line, I actually felt shockingly good. I immediately found myself in maybe 8th or 9th position for women with not all that many runners ahead of me overall. Neat! I had no concept of how fast I was running but felt reasonably relaxed. There was actually bit of a downhill right away, followed by the beginning of the slow, gradually increasing grade towards the bridge. For a few minutes, this grade was OK. Then it started to get unpleasant. By the time we actually got ON the bridge and the grade increased again, I was seriously questioning my life choices. Running 2 miles uphill? Have I ever done that? WHY am I doing that? I felt like I was going to vomit up my bagel and like I was moving approximately at the speed of a sloth. I cursed my stupid vest that felt like it weighed 16 pounds. I got passed by at least 4 women on this stretch and I felt kind of annoyed at myself about it. Never mind the fact that my running (hill running especially) has been minimal over the last month, or that I didn't get to drink any damn water before the start - WHY CAN'T YOU GO FASTER, SELF? The higher we got the worse the wind became, which also didn't help the situation. Oh well. I focused on just making it up to the top of the bridge and made an attempt to look around. It was pretty neat being up there and also sort of'm basically running on a freeway right now?
Almooooost at the top. Photo by Joy, who apparently is skilled at not throwing her phone off the bridge while running up it. I was scared that that's what would happen to me (and also focused on not puking), so no photos were taken by me. 

FINALLY we hit the crest of the hill - there were no mile markers but this happened somewhere around mile 2 - and got to start running downhill. Whee! My original plan had been to try to really pick it up on the downhill but when it actually got to that point in the race, just trying to recover from the beating I had just taken and letting gravity do all the work for me seemed like a better option. I passed back a couple of people on the down slope of the bridge, just to be overtaken by 2 more women. GAAAAH. I stuck with both of them as we continued to run down. As we came off the bridge, things flattened out for a second, only for us to have to run up another hill and onto a freeway off ramp. Uggggh. My legs actually felt OK, but my stomach was having strong feelings about my current life status and I was just ready for this to be over with. I kind of laughed because they stuck a water stop at the bottom of the on ramp and I was like oh...great...NOW you give me water, when I have like 4 minutes left to run. Thanks. There was another slight downhill into a flat after that, and I started trying to accelerate a little bit which got me a pass on one of the two women in front of me. I actually put some effort into trying to chase down the other one - my legs definitely had something left - but in the end I couldn't get her. As the clock came into focus I realized we were still in the 27 minute category, and considering I though a reasonable goal given the elevation profile of this race and my current training status would be to break 30 minutes, I was shocked! I gave it a little push then and managed to squeak in just under 28 minutes at 27:57. FINALLY got some damn water and waited for Joy, who came in about 30 seconds behind me.
Well that was difficult.

Results-wise, it was a pretty solid performance. I was 12th woman overall out of 1855 and 58th overall out of almost 3000, not too shabby. Unfortunately 6 of those 11 women above me were in my age group - bah! So 7th in the F25-29 age group I was. When there are 5 year age groups I feel like top 15 women will usually net you something, but I guess it serves me right for getting cocky! The official results have me at 6:59 pace, but my Garmin clocked the distance at 3.92 which given how I felt probably makes more sense.  Though my Garmin also seems to think that I ran uphill for a little bit, then possibly jumped off the bridge and then ran a flat course on top of the water for the rest of the it's uncertain that it can be trusted either. However, this is technically a 4 mile PR! So that's neat. Either way my splits definitely tell the story: 6:53, 7:55 (HAHA, this is what happens when I run an entire mile uphill apparently!), 6:47, 6:57 for the last bit. All in all, I had a pretty good time at this race. It's definitely a fun, unique experience, and while it may be a one time thing for me I'm glad that I did it once. Also, if someone could remind me how unpleasant I found running for 2 miles up a 4.5% grade the next time I put my name in the lottery for Mount Washington (7+ miles up a grade that goes up to 11%....) that would be GREAT.

Pell Bridge Run - Official Distance 4M
27:57 (6:59 pace), PR?
58/2828 OA, 12/1855 F, 7/175 F25-29

1 comment:

Gracie said...

There's a race in New Orleans that's also a 4-mile race over a bridge, which is hilarious, since none of us form NOLA EVER run on any hills at all. But the bridge design goes up, up, up, then sharply corkscrews downward as runners run down an exit ramp. It's so hard because you spend the whole downhill portion braking! It's tough!
I'm glad you enjoyed MDI marathon - that route sounds gorgeous, especially in the fall. But I'm sure it was super hilly, too.