Race Recap: River Bank Run 25k
In lieu of a 25k Monday training post, today is all about the 25k race recap! It was an unbelievably emotional, challenging (mentally and physically) day and I’ve got lots to share, so buckle your seat belts!
After work on Friday, I walked over to the race expo which is pretty stellar in terms of expos. There are tons of companies and organizations represented, which means lots of free stuff! I try to stay away from trying too many samples for fear of something new that upsets my system. But, free stuff to take home? Absolutely! I managed to walk away only spending about $25 which is a miracle in and of itself. I bought some Gu for the race and a container of Nuun because it was on sale (LOVE this stuff for after long runs or hot yoga sessions!). I got a couple new Bondi Bands, too. Oh, and my race packet (!!!). I laid pretty low that night: ate some dinner, watched a movie, and went to bed at a decent time. Oh and I almost forgot to set my alarm. How tragic would that have been? Six months of training gone to waste because I didn’t set an alarm.
The morning of the race, my goal was to leave the house by 7:20, which would give me an hour on the nose to park, go through gear check, use the bathroom one last time, and line up. My timing worked out pretty much perfect.
As I was driving downtown, I realized that I left my Garmin sitting at home. I contemplated going back to grab it, but ultimately decided that I would be cutting it way too close for time if I did. I wasn’t super thrilled about running “naked”, but such is life. I’m still not sure if running without it was a help or hindrance to my final time, but in the glass half full optimist outlook of life, let’s go with help.
The weather forecast called for mid-to-high forties during the race and overcast. In other words, pretty much perfect weather for race day. It got a bit chilly at some points, but after running throughout the winter, it wasn’t terrible. I left my Camelbak at home because if there’s one thing the Riverbank Run does well, it’s aid stations. There was water, Gatorade, and ice every 1.5 miles, and orange slices at a couple points in the second half. With the cooler temperatures, I knew I would be okay with just that, plus it would help me from over-hydrating. I ran with Bari for almost the first half of the race; we planned to start out together and part ways once one of us needed to fall back. Rather than think about the race as a whole 15.5 miles, I broke it up into five 5ks. It seemed a lot easier to think about a 5k at a time. So, I’m going to break down my recap in the same way.
5k 1 (start – 3.1 miles): feeling awesome! The race crowd is still pretty packed together, which is a good and a bad. Good in that it is so cool to just see a sea of people in front of you, but bad because it’s several miles of weaving in and out of the crowds as the pace groups form a bit more organically. By the time we hit the second mile marker, my knee was starting to hurt and I knew it would be a long morning ahead of me. Seriously, six months with next to no pain, and it starts acting up a week and a half before the race? Not cool. I didn’t run much in hopes that the rest would help. Turns out, not so much. I tried not to think about it and hoped it would pass. Compared to how it’s bothered me in the past, this pain was quite mild, but still enough to make things tough.
5k 2 (3.1 – 6.2 miles): A good chunk of this 5k is through a bit more of a wooded area with a cambered road, so the road is highest in the middle and slopes down to the sides, and in the middle of this particular road is a rumble strip. Not exactly ideal for running, especially on race day, as “the leg that is closer to the center of the road will feel like it is a “longer” leg than the other to your body, so your body will compensate through the way that it bends at the knee, how much your foot flattens on impact, and how much your leg rotates inward as you are running. This can lead to knee or hip soreness” (source). Because it’s not as publicly accessible, spectators are pretty scarce in this leg, mostly just the volunteers at the aid stations. It was a good chance to just zone into my run.
5k 3 (6.2 – 9.3 miles): so, we’ve officially crossed over the Grand River and headed back towards downtown Grand Rapids. Bari started to pull ahead at this point and I knew that I need to run my own race. At the halfway point, there are two massive signs proclaiming “you’re halfway there”. I know it’s meant to be encouraging, but all I could think was “seriously? Only halfway?!”. I took a deep breath and started to dig deep. This is the section of the course where the rolling hills start. Having run this race twice and done a few training runs on this part of the course, I knew what to expect and in the grand scheme of things, the hills weren’t too terrible. I still didn’t enjoy them, but they didn’t feel so much like climbing Everest to me this time around.
5k 4 (9.3 – 12.4 miles): this was, hands down, the hardest part of the course for me. I couldn’t help but think about two years ago, when right around mile 9, I told Kayla and Christopher to go on without me because things were starting to fall apart. I still struggled a lot mentally and emotionally during this section. The aches and pains were starting to get to me, and my spirit was lagging. Despite being surrounded by a lot of people, I felt acutely alone. My plan at the start was to keep the 11 minute/mile pace group behind me and right around mile 11, I saw the pacers go by. It was, hands down, the last thing I needed in that moment and I started crying. Right around this time, I passed medics helping a runner who was on the side of the road. I wanted nothing more than to sit down and call it a day, too. Load me up in that ambulance, too, kind sirs. But, I kept remembering the amazingly encouraging words Heather emailed me earlier in the week, for that exact moment when I wanted to quit. I thought of those words, of everyone who has been so encouraging throughout my training, and for everyone who donated to my fundraising efforts. In those moments, I couldn’t help but think that this race was so much bigger than me, which was such an encouragement.
5k 5 (12.4 – 15.5 miles): finally, flat ground! It’s such a relief to be out of the rolling hills, but disheartening at the same time to know there’s still a bit to go before the finish. I had to keep reminding myself there was only a 5k left. The finish was so close! This is also the point when the course weaves through a local neighborhood and it feels like such a mean trick to seemingly go back and forth for a couple miles. All of the people that kept yelling, “you’re almost there” are also not cool because I know where the finish is. I really wanted to yell back “you sit on a throne of lies”, but bit my tounge. There were a bunch of cute kids along the way, giving high fives. They were a huge mood booster! With about a mile to go, I saw my (amazing, wonderful, awesome) friends Katie and Michaeleen. They had run the 10k earlier in the morning and stuck around. I had to fight back more tears when I saw them and they asked if I needed them to run with me (yes!). After having already run their own race, they started running without hesitation, and talked me through that last mile to the finish line. Thank you, thank you, thank you friends! Thanks to them, I ran so much more of that last mile than I would have on my own. Love you both! Just after those two joined me, I saw my dad who came into town to cheer me on! It was such a sigh of relief to round that last corner and see the finish line. This time, there were tears of happiness.
Right around mile 9, I knew that I wouldn’t reach my A goal for the day, but started shooting for my B goal, a sub-3 hour finish. I had a general idea of what my time was compared to the clock (there was a clock at every single mile marker, which was awesome!), so I knew it would be close. When I found out that I missed my goal by 36 seconds, I was initially really disappointed. I spent quite awhile on Saturday afternoon thinking “what if I had taken one less walk break?” and so many other what ifs. I forced myself to snap out of it, though, because at the end of the day, it’s not going to change anything. Even more, missing my goal by ONLY 36 seconds is still really damn good, especially when there’s a bigger thing of the TWENTY MINUTE PR to think about.
This course will forever be one I love to hate. It’s an extremely challenge route for me, both mentally and physically. Yet, it is those challenges that keep me coming back. Sure, it’s a challenge, but I know that every single time I face that course head on, it makes me not only a stronger runner, but a stronger person.
My legs are still pretty tired and sore, but I already know that I’ll be back again next year. I’ve still got that sub-3 hour finish to knock out of the park, after all. And it will happen. Just wait and see. But for now, I sit back, relax, and relish in the achievements of this year. Oh, and start thinking about that little marathon coming up in October.