April 17, 2008

Race Report: Cooper River Bridge Run

Sorry this is so delayed… I really need to get better about these reports or it will be July and you’ll be reading about my Turkey Trot! What can I say, work has been absolutely crazy lately (14+ hours/day!).

On Friday, the Charlotte airport had a lot of delays, which pushed me about 3 hours back from my expected 1 PM arrival in Charleston. When my flight from Charlotte was finally boarding at 2:30, they asked for volunteers to step off and take the 4:30 flight instead. I seized the opportunity for a free roundtrip ticket anywhere in the country, figuring I can save it for when I’m on a local project and can’t just alt-travel on weekends. However, due to more delays, I didn’t get to my brother’s condo until about 7 PM. We immediately headed off to downtown Charleston for the race expo and packet pickup.

Due to some difficulties with parking, my brother’s girlfriend Jen and I went in to pick up our stuff while he waited in the car. This meant we couldn’t really spend much time at the expo, which was a little disappointing since it looked like they had some good deals on running gear. I almost bought a Stick, because it’s more portable than my foam roller, but at the last minute decided to forego it because I haven’t really needed a roll out lately. I’ll probably regret that decision someday…

When I got my packet, I discovered that I was in the “competitive” division, and given the “low” number of 3777. (It was in fact very low compared to Jen’s number in the 38,000s). The next morning when we got to the race start, I found that this meant I was in the third corral, and only about 100 yards from the start (before they collapsed the corrals, which put me about 100 feet from the start). I’m not sure what the official corral designations were, but the first corral seemed to be the Kenyan elites while the second was local elites (high school/college cross country stars, etc). I found out that I had “qualified” for my corral (meaning, put down an estimated finish time, which I totally could have made up) by only a few seconds, but that didn’t stop me from lining up in the very front of my corral (I know, I’m a bad person).

Speaking of the corrals, when we got to the race, we were slowly making our way through the crowd when the national anthem started being played. I was with Jen, my brother’s girlfriend, and her friend Candace, but they were in the walkers’ division in the back. I didn’t know what time it was, but I was really far back and nowhere near my corral, so instead of standing still in reverence, I was jogging through the trees on the side of the road, trying to find the green corral. I got there just as the mayor (I think) was giving a speech thanking everyone for coming and wishing us luck, and I was thrilled to make it in time. Then I looked up at the big clock counting off the minutes/seconds to the start… and I still had a half hour! I felt really guilty, but was confused as to why they were doing the announcements and stuff so early.

When the race finally started, it was a bit odd. Someone announced “we’re less than two minutes away from the race start,” but then… nothing more until the gun. No countdown, nothing. The volunteers who were holding up the orange fence to serve as barriers between the corrals seemed similarly confused, as 30 seconds before the start they still hadn’t gotten instructions to take the barriers away and collapse the corrals. Finally, when the gun went off, they were yelling down the line “just drop them and get out of the way!” I found myself hopping over one pile of fencing and then holding another over my head as I limboed under it.

It was a really cool experience to be starting so close to the front, though a bit disheartening when we actually started, because everyone was passing me and I was passing no one. I settled into what I thought was a really easy pace, because I wanted to save my energy for the bridge uphill. However, I did the first mile in 7:35! I think my running is getting faster, because a few months ago, I wouldn’t have been able to do 7:35 as a sprint mile, let alone an easy run. Yay! As I approached the ramp to the bridge, I felt good, and as soon as we started heading uphill, I found that my pace was matching that of people around me, which I was happy about. It’s just too discouraging when everyone is passing you.

The uphill wasn’t bad at all – my legs weren’t tired and I felt great. Unfortunately, the heat started getting me. Had I been in what’s become my normal 20 degree Fahrenheit weather, I’d have been fine. Unfortunately, this being the south, it was about fifty degrees hotter. I had worn as little as possible (short shorts and a tank top), but was still sweating like crazy and feeling ridiculously overheated. I don’t like drinking when I’m running (water, that is… we all know how I love my vodka), and there wasn’t any water on the bridge anyway… so up I went, just trying to keep pushing my pace. I hit the two mile mark at 16:30, which meant I had done the 4% incline at about a 8:50 pace… not too bad for how steep it was and the fact that I hadn’t done any hill training. On my way up, I didn’t have any problems with the walkers, which I had been worried about, and it was easy to keep running the whole way. I passed just one guy who was walking, so I clapped him on the back and said “come on, you can do this.” He then took off running way faster than me, until I couldn’t even see him anymore. Maybe I should not help people beat me šŸ™‚

At the top of the bridge, it flattened out and I took some time to look around and enjoy the view. I noticed that there were soldiers stationed every 200 feet or so, which was a bit odd to me. They were guarding the bridge, which just made me wonder… are runners a known terrorist target? Or are they a known disguise for terrorists who want to blow up a bridge undetected? Is there a terrorism alert scale for road races? Are we red, yellow, or orange? So many questions…

The downhill was a bit windy, but good. At the bottom of the bridge was one of those big balloon arches that normally signifies the finish, but this was actually just a water stop. And by water, I mean Red Bull. Way to go getting us all excited, Red Bull Company. Having mapped out the race beforehand, I knew it wasn’t the end, but I talked to some runners after the race who hadn’t prepped as well, and they were thoroughly disappointed to find they still had another 3 miles to go. So misleading! For my part, I was disappointed that there wasn’t water – I really don’t like Red Bull. And not even with vodka.

The rest of the race was fairly uneventful. We ran through downtown Charleston, with people lining the streets to cheer us on. Oddly enough, on upper King Street, the crowds were several deep… but two blocks further down King, there was almost no one. It surprised me that people wouldn’t be lined up closer to the finish, and also that they would bunch up in one spot but leave such prime cheering space empty.

I tried to kick it at the finish, but had a lot of trouble because I was just hot and tired. I made a good effort though, and I’m sure I shaved a few seconds off – it was just wasn’t my normal sprint. I don’t know if they had Brighthouse or anyone taking pictures, but my face was pretty contorted into one of those “I am dying” expressions as I did the last 1/10 of a mile. I didn’t see my brother in that last stretch, but he was watching on King Street and snapped a lot of pictures of the Kenyans (who finished almost 30 minutes ahead of me). I’m glad he missed a picture of me because it would not have been pretty šŸ™‚

Race stats:
Distance: 10K (6.2 miles)
Time: 52:08
Pace/mile: 8:23
Overall place: 2215/29251
Age group place: 82/2176

Other race reports:
Mendy at A Side of GRITS

And pictures with captions are below:

My brother, Jen, and I the night before the race

The lead pack of Kenyans coming around the corner

It’s crazy how you can take one picture when they’re coming at you but by the time you can take another one they’ve already blazed way past you!

What it looked like by the time the Kenyans were already showered, back to the airport, through security, and on their plane… while the rest of us were starting to approach the finish line.

A lot of people dressed up in costumes. This guy was an illegal immigrant, and the guys behind him had dressed up as border patrol (they looked kind of like mounties). My brother said it was funny to see them chasing him through the race.

I found this sign really funny. The race organizers knew it was going to happen, so they figured they ought to prepare for it.

Me with Jen and Candace after they had finished. See if you can spot where I carry my cell phone while I’m running.

We tried to get my brother to sign up, but he wouldn’t do it this year. However, he was exhausted from “having to get up so early to drive you girls to the race.” Oh, poor baby!


5 thoughts on “Race Report: Cooper River Bridge Run”

  1. I know this is soooo late!!! But, I’m just now getting caught up from being MIA for class, work, life stuff…

    GREAT race report. and loved seeing the pictures. Thanks for the link to mine. Although, I wish I’d been fast enough to run with you. Maybe one day. My husband was in your corral.

    Good seeing a pic of you; You are so very pretty and fit!!!

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