I now can add another long-distance race to my growing list of races!
At the start of this year, I thought my big race for the year would be the Oshkosh Half Marathon. But part of the way through training for that race, Andi and Mindy
conned me into convinced me to add the 5/3 Bank River Bank Run to my schedule. And near the end of training for the half marathon, I convinced Christopher, who had been training with me all the while, to run it, too.
I trained pretty well for the half marathon, took the obligatory week off and then slacked on training for the 25K (15.5-mile) race. I was sick with a cold and/or allergies most of the month between the half marathon and the 25K. I felt unprepared, but I went into it with a good attitude—that I wasn’t going out there to set any personal records or meet any specific time goals, but to have fun and finish with a smile on my face.
Christopher and I headed out to Grand Rapids on Friday evening after work. We met up with Andi and popped by the race expo to pick up our packets and browse around for a while. I scored a sweet white mesh running hat for $10 as it was supposed to rain at the start of the race the next day, and we indulged in several free samples, including wild berry smoothies, flavored popcorn and chocolate-covered cherries.
The three of us headed away from the pre-race madness downtown and landed at Salvatore’s for dinner. We then headed back home to get organized and got some shut-eye.
We planned to wake up about 5:30 a.m., just enough time to get dressed, get our things together and head downtown to find a parking spot. We drove downtown and found a street spot within minutes. We sat in the car for about 45 minutes; first, the three of us ate bread with a schmear of peanut butter and sliced bananas, and then Christopher napped while Andi and I played on our phones.
We got out of the car and headed to the starting line, so Andi wouldn’t be late for the start of the 10K and so Christopher and I could use the bathroom and find Mindy. We stood around in the light rain and took in the sights and sounds of the very electric environment around us.
Andi took off at 8 a.m. Christopher, Mindy and I headed to the starting area about 8:15 a.m. and found a spot near the 12-minute-per-mile pace group. We took off at 8:20 a.m., made our way through the chute and across the starting line and settled into a comfortable, yet fast pace.
I felt like the first five or six miles flew by! The three of us were running fast (We passed the 12-minute group and landed somewhere between it and the 11-minute group after a while.) and soaking in the sights. We ran along the river (Duh!), through the downtown area, through a beautiful natural area (Link to Hopewell Indian Mounds Park), through the zoo (Link to John Ball Zoo) back through the downtown area.
We walked through every water stop as planned. I took in water and/or Gatorade at every station. I took my first four Honey Stingers (which I discovered during the half marathon are the best long-run fuel ever) at about the 5-mile mark; I took another four at about the 9-mile mark and another four at about the 13-mile mark.
I felt great through the first five or six miles. We maintained an excellent pace and stayed right in between the 12-minute and 11-minute pace groups. We also were fortunate that the rain stopped.
I felt pretty decent through the next three miles. We maintained a pretty good, yet slightly slower pace. We also ascended our first hill at about the 8-mile mark.
I started to get really fatigued after during the next three miles. We slowed our pace a bit more to ascend a couple more hills. We continued to walk through the water stops, and I started to stretch at the water stops, too. We also lost Mindy somewhere in these three miles; she was struggling with some pain in her knee, especially on the hills, and told us to go on ahead without her. I hated leaving her behind, but I trusted her.
I felt my worst in the last four miles. I was getting really sore hamstrings and hips, and I felt my chest tightening and my breath struggling, like I would hyperventilate if I didn’t stop running. I sobbed and realized I neglected to take my inhaler that morning. Christopher stuck by my side and encouraged me through the end.
I managed to set a personal record for the half marathon, despite the struggles with hills, stiffness and shortness of breath.
We ran through a residential area and neared downtown. We could see and hear spectators and the finish area ahead. We passed the 15-mile marker, ascended a small hill and pushed through.
I was overcome with emotion. I saw the clock, the finish line, the people lining the street. I couldn’t help but smile and run.
We crossed the finish line, I threw my arms in the air and exclaimed, ‘Yes!’ I wrapped my arms around Christopher and declared, in disbelief, ‘We just ran 15-and-a-half miles! Holy shit!’
I was so overcome with pride and happiness and shock—just like I was at the finish of the half marathon—that I felt like I could have laughed, screamed and cried all at the same time.
Christopher and I cheered Mindy across the finish line and found Andi in the finish area. We grabbed chocolate milk, granola bars and fruit and made our way to the post-race party on Calder Plaza. We got beers and food and chowed down. But we soon tired of the windy, suddenly chilly air, so we bolted and stopped at a local hole-in-the-wall for one more celebratory beer.
Christopher and I headed back to Muskegon to shower and unpack. We quickly collapsed on the couch for much of the rest of the night; we ordered a very well-deserved pizza and watched the Brewers game, and we both fell asleep by about 10 p.m.
All in all, I was so pleased with the race; it was, perhaps, the best organized and managed race I have ever run—complete with a well marked, well stocked course; a beautiful and diverse course and amazing ambience. I was even more thankful to have had Christopher to run alongside me, talk to me, encourage me and motivate me through the entire race.
I was pretty proud of myself after the half marathon. After all, I had accomplished something incredible, something seemingly impossible. But I now am pretty amazed at myself after the 25K. I didn’t think I had it in me…but it turns out, I did. And I can’t even begin to put that feeling into words.
Without further ado, here are the details (which are not to be taken as Gospel, of course):
Distance: 15.5 miles
Duration: 3:21:26 chip time (3:26:23 clock time, 3:21:56 Nike+ time)
Average pace: 12:58 per mile
Mile 1: 11:37
Mile 2: 11:46
Mile 3: 11:43
Mile 4: 11:40
Mile 5: 12:23
Mile 6: 12:14
Mile 7: 11:55
Mile 8: 12:57
Mile 9: 11:51
Mile 10: 12:41
Mile 11: 12:44
Mile 12: 11:46
Mile 13: 13:03
Mile 14: 12:58
Mile 15: 12:13
River Bank Run: Thank you, thank you, thank you for an incredible experience. And my sweet Christopher: Thank you for being my rock, in running and in everything else we do. 🙂
(Source for all photos, except the second-to-last one)