On Saturday, May 14, 2011, I did something I said I'd *never* do. I ran 15.5 miles. I set 2 PRs that day - distance and time. A pretty good way to start off a Saturday morning.
But this journey really started over a year ago while training for the 2010 River Bank Run. I'd decided to start running again and set my sights on the 10k. After that race, I literally just kept on running. Another 10k in July and then the Grand Rapids Half-Marathon in October. A few weeks ago I ran my first 10 mile race. All in preparation to run the 2011 Fifth Third River Bank Run 25k, the largest 25k road race (participant-wise) of it's kind in the country. Saturday morning, I set out with nearly 21,000 of my *closest* friends. Of these 21,000 people, around 5600 would run the 25k race. (There are also 5k walk, 5k run, 10k, and 25k handcycle & wheelchair races.) With that many participants, plus around 30,000+ spectators and volunteers, you can imagine how insane the energy was.
I started off the week making sure to eat lots of good carbs and get my hydration taken care of. This included the obligatory giant plate of pasta the night before the race. (This might explain the slight bump on the scale.) I also had a great time wandering around the expo. I got all my gear situated and crawled into bed by 10:00.
Somewhere around 0-dark-30, I woke up and started getting ready. I was less than thrilled to hear the rain hitting the windows, but for the past several years, the weather has been pretty cruddy for RBR so I really wasn't surprised. Plus, I had been stalking the weather channel, so I knew not to expect sunny skies. Early morning prep followed my usual long-run M.O. I had a bowl of oatmeal with butter and brown sugar for breakfast (don't knock it till you try it!) and made up a 32 oz pitcher of Fruit Punch Nuun. I also spent some quality time with Mr. Foam Roller. (Isn't the hubby a great photographer? - Wait, don't answer that.)
We headed downtown around 6:30 am and found a great parking spot at our church. Since the rain was coming down VERY hard and neither of us thought to grab an umbrella, we waited for a bit in the car. I played some Angry Birds and Mike took a nap. About 10 minutes after 7, the rain let up and we decided to make the walk down to DeVos Place. As we were walking down the hill toward the expo center, we got to see the lead runner in the men's 5k race go flying by (literally - the dude finished in 15:04!). We made our way into the expo center and met up with our neighbor, who was also running the 25k. Scott is hilarious but I needed to find a potty, so we wished him luck and were off. Since I was signed up as a member of my school district's team, I was allowed access to a special "hospitality" area. The best thing I ever did was ask what was involved in being on the team. I never received a response until my name showed up on the roster. Apparently, nothing is involved - except perks like women's bathrooms with no lines and snacks before the race! Mike couldn't come in the room, so he stayed out in the main area and kept texting me the number of women in the bathroom lines - 40, 50, 60. In my line? Zip, Zero, Zilch! but the men's line had about 20-30 guys! Think the teams were a little testosterone heavy, maybe? Needless to say, I will be a proud member of Grandville's team again next year :)
Anyhoo. I spent some time stretching and using the facilities, then headed back out to meet up with Mike. The rain had slowed to a drizzle at this point (it's now around 8:10) and so after one more trip into the "good" bathroom, we headed outside to line up for the 25k race. I decided to line up with the 11 m/m pacers to keep myself from starting out too fast.
Here I am, in the rain, waiting for the start!
In reality, it took about 5 minutes after the gun went off to actually cross the starting line. Lots of starts and stops. There was a bunch of good natured mooing and bleating as we all felt like livestock being lead to the slaughter. I finally got close to the starting line and I hear Mike yell my name and tell me good luck. He got a great picture of the dude next to me starting his race :)
I had my playlist all set to go and mapmyrun started, but I had decided a couple days before the race that I wouldn't put in my earbuds until at least mile 3. I wanted to enjoy the energy of the crowd and just "be" while I settled in. The race headed down Market Avenue and into the Kent Trails system. I never saw the 1 mile sign and started to get a bit worried when I checked my watch and it said "18-something". I thought, "Crap, I'm doomed" but a few minutes later, there was the sign for mile 2. I hit the split on my watch and clocked 22:17:02 for the first 2 miles. These first couple miles had a slight downhill grade, which was nice. Shortly before (or maybe it was after) the 2 mile sign, I struck up a conversation with a woman named Kim from Kalamazoo. We chatted about our jobs and she told me she had run the Kalamazoo 1/2 Marathon the previous weekend. We asked each other about pace and both said we were looking to stay around 11 m/m. It was fate :)
Before we knew it, mile 3 passed (10:56:17) and so did mile 4 (11:04:48). We are cruising right along under the tree canopy on Indian Mounds Drive, with the Grand River on our right. Along this path, we were passed by several myTeamTriumph groups. Everyone would cheer and yell out the "Team Captain's" name. Watching these groups push their Captains along the route was truly inspirational. I was wondering if I should put in my music at this point. I didn't really feel I needed it, but I'd never run this far before without music. All of a sudden, I notice a spectator on my left wearing his new Kalamazoo Marathon shirt. It was Pete! (@pmumbower on twitter) I got a great, double high-five a high ten? from Pete and a TON of high-fives from the Grandville Varsity cheerleaders and football players (including one from the preschool teacher at my school - she's the cheer coach!). Go Bulldogs! Those cheers and high-fives kept me going.
Mile 5 passed by (11:04:15) and we hit mile 6 just before Wilson Avenue (10:58:04). On Wilson, we crossed the Grand River and I saw another one of my friends spectating. A quick right on Butterworth and we started a gradual uphill that would last for about 3 miles. We passed mile 7 (11:23:83) and 8 (11:11:97) and we were over 1/2 way there! Cue mile 9 (11:05:78) OMG am I really maintaining this pace and have I really not walked??? Kim and I are still chatting on and off and I haven't plugged in. I've given serious thought to walking, but so far, have only walked thru aid stations for water (I was carrying Nuun and eating a couple Sport Beans every mile or so). At this point, we hit the big hill that is Maynard Avenue. Our pace slows a bit, but we hit mile 10 (11:28:59) without much of a slow-down.
Now it's time for a nice downhill and the rollers (little bunny hills for a couple miles) of Butterworth Drive. Mile 11 (11:09:52) and mile 12 (11:13:57) go by. We are now heading into town toward the zoo. The spectators are great - even the senior citizen who said he'd like to chase a couple of cute girls (yep-sped up a bit there). Mile 13 (10:59:16). I look at my watch a minute or two after mile 13 and I realize I've just probably set a 1/2 marathon PR by about 2 minutes! We run past the entrance to the zoo and I see a family with a sign that says "Go, Mom, Go". I've seen them 3 times now! They've been booking from place to place to cheer on Mom, but this Mom appreciates it too. There are also lots of kids giving out high-fives and a live band playing :) We pass mile 14 (11:19:21) and I think to myself, "uncharted territory" and start to get choked up a bit. Right at this point, Kim says, "2 and a half more miles. We've GOT this." My legs are fried, but at this point, there is NO WAY I'm slowing down to walk. I got a bit lightheaded somewhere around mile 14 and take some more Sport Beans. All better. We are headed down Lake Michigan Drive to Fulton Street and around the Grand Valley State University downtown campus. Mile 15 (11:03:83) - holy crap we've sped back up. I see a couple people down on the bridge back over the Grand River. I'm so sad for them that they are a 1/2 mile from the finish line and aren't going to finish their race. As we cross the bridge, another band starts playing "Don't Stop Believing". I about lost it. No, Bari, you will not start to cry. We round the corner and start heading UPHILL to the finish line. *Note to race organizers - this is just plain cruel. Lucky for those mean (not really - they're awesome) organizers, there are thousands of people cheering and yelling us on to the finish line. I hear Mike and my friends Joe and Angie (who finished in 1:59!!!!) screaming my name. Mike even manages to take a decent picture as I "pose" while running :) The finish line is in sight (last 1/2 mile in 5:44:28). I hear the race announcer call my name. I have just finished a 25K! Let the waterworks begin.
Official Time: 2:52:55
248/295 age group
Our Grandville team finished 7/17 in Corporate Division 1
(a note about our team-8 women, 1 man - GIRL POWER!)
After I crossed the finish line and a really hot volunteer put the medal around my neck, I grabbed a carton of chocolate milk and a piece of watermelon. I turn around and see 2 of my friends from church who had finished a little bit before me. In a sea of literally thousands of people, I run into ones I know. Mike, Joe and Angie find me and we walk around for a bit until I start feeling like I'm not going to keel over. At one point, Angie points out that my lips are completely purple and grabs my hand. My nails are also completely purple. She advises me to get my inhaler, so I take a few puffs. I also never *felt* cold, but I stripped out of my wet shirt and put on a dry shirt and Mike's coat. By the time we got to the car about 20 minutes later, I was feeling good, but still a little purple. Hypothermia? Low oxygen? Who knows. In any case, it was a wonderful experience and I will definitely run this race again. Maybe next year we will break the RBR weather curse and have 50 and cloudy. Wouldn't that be great?!
Posed for a picture in front of the Calder
I'm a 25K finisher and I have a shirt and medal to prove it!
Thank you to everyone for your words of encouragement throughout my training, all the tweets on race day, and for the great comments on facebook. Getting in the car after the race and reading all of your posts meant the world to me. On Thursday, I fly off to Baltimore for Fitbloggin, where I get to hug IN REAL LIFE many of the women who convinced me to start running again and eventually take on this challenge. I am so blessed to have such an amazing support system. I could not have done this without you.
Is there a marathon in my future? I honestly don't know, but I do know this...never say never.