Saturday, March 15, 2014

I Slayed the Green Monster! Gate River Run 2014 Race Report

(Before beginning, I would like to apologize to everyone who actually LIVES in Jacksonville – I am not familiar with your city, so my description of locations or roads are probably off!)

Today is the day – my first 15k. Yes I’ve done three – THREE! – half-marathons, but I’ve never done a 15k, so I wasn’t quite sure how I would handle it. 

37th Annual Gate River Run
I didn’t want to make a weekend of it, so we just drove to Jax that morning, leaving really early (I think we left at 5).  I greatly overestimated how long it would take us to get there… Since I’m so used to driving to Disney, I just automatically calculated that I’d need two hours to get to Jax from here. It only took a bit over an hour, especially because traffic was pretty nonexistent until we got pretty close to the stadium.

We drove around a bit, looking for parking (I’d left my Parking Diagram in the trunk, which wasn’t helping me at all…) and we found a parking lot near the After-Party area, so we ended up parking there. There were only a few other people in the lot with us. We headed towards the After-Party area because in there somewhere was where packet pickup was. I’d paid the extra $5 to have Race Day packet pickup (rather than spend $100 on a hotel for the night). We also walked around just to check out the start line. 

Huge Start Line
Inside the Expo building, my first stop was the potty, of course!  When I got there, they were full, with a line of maybe 2 or 3 women ahead of me. When I got out, however, that line had grown to over 20 women! Glad I got there when I did!

I met back up with the family, and headed in to pick up my stuff. I got my bib and a cool bag, then over to pick up shirts. I love the shirt, but unfortunately, it doesn’t fit. They had no XXL, so I was stuck with an XL, and I look like a stuffed sausage in that thing! It’s super-comfy and I wore it to bed that weekend.

Once I picked up my goodies, we walked over to the Veteran’s Memorial Wall, where I was going to meet up with some of my Princess Posse folks. 

Veteran's Memorial Wall with Eternal Fire - really nice memorial
While there, I checked out my goodies.  I got a fun string backpack, my shirt, a green “I Beat the Green Monster” bracelet, some sort of shaving goo, and other stuff I can’t remember right now. It was a good goodie bag!

Sun is coming up - the Start Line is across this retention pond
After checking out the gooidie bag, I began gearing myself up – I changed out of my flip flops into my Brooks, stuffed my pockets, etc – while I waited for some of my Princess Posse gals.

The first Princess I saw was Jennifer. She lives near me in Green Cove Springs, and we talked for a bit. Then April found us, and the three of us walked over to be closer to the wall so we could get a photo taken, courtesy of the Kiddo.  We all stayed over there for a while, having fun and taking photos.

Me, Jennifer and April (AKA Princess Posse Sparkle Skirt, Princess Posse Sparkle Skirt, Thunder Goddess Sparkle Skirt)
Eventually, Betty found us, and we got another group photo, before it was time to start heading to our corrals. 

Betty, Jennifer and Me - I'm so jaunty!
April was in one of the super-fast corrals (I don’t recall if she was seeded), and I think Betty was in the 2nd or 3rd.  However, Jenn and I were in the last corral – pink – for walkers.  We all went our separate ways, wishing each other good luck.

Sunrise over EverBank Field (Previously Alltel Stadium)
So, if you are in one of the first 3 waves, you get to line up behind the start line, and run under the great arch. If you are a walker, however, you are sent far away to another block entirely, to wallow in your shame of slowness, and you don’t get to cross under the start line (there was even a separate start mat for us). 

Looking far more relaxed than I was feeling (and leaning on someone else's car)
The Kiddo makes a rare appearance!
This was highly uncool.  I felt like we were an afterthought. 

I guess we don't get to be cool like the rest of the runners?
We were ‘kept’ in the corral by someone on each side of the road stringing an orange electrical cord between them.  I felt like a cow.

Seriously?  A reel of electrical cord?  Come ON!
Anyway, we were in there for quite a while, but I was up near the front, so I could see each wave go by and then finally, some guy who didn’t even have a bullhorn made us all shove backwards so that everyone was all the way behind that fancy electrical cord (I already was), then did a 3-2-1 countdown and they dropped the orange cord and we could go.  Not the most grandiose start to a race this big.

Hey, I'm in the front of the corral!  Hubby is up there on the left with the camera.... Somewhere. 
I ran by the family, smiling to Hubby (who had my Nikon), and I was off, turning right at the corner and coming onto the actual road that we were racing on.  The weather was gorgeous (so far), the sky was blue and had wispy, scaly clouds, and I was ready to kick this race’s butt!

Nice and spread out
LOL - Running gives me gas...
I passed whatever this building was (Police station? Courthouse?) and it was fun to see some folks out to watch us. 

I wonder why the flags were half-mast?
We came up to an intersection that had a single guy playing the guitar, and I joked to myself that, if that was the caliber of “band” we’d get at each mile, I was in for a pretty boring race.  I didn’t see a mile-marker though, so I wasn’t sure if it was even an actual band, or some random dude!

Lone dude with a guitar!
After Mile 1 (I never saw a mile marker), we soon turned onto the road that would take us to the Main Street Bridge, the first of two bridges on this race. 

Up we go!
The ascent was easy, and as I looked to my right, I saw Jacksonville Landing (never been there) and a bus that may or may not have been a sag wagon.  No worries, up the bridge I went.

Jacksonville Landing on left - Sag Wagon (?) in the middle
I tried to watch my feet as much as possible as I climbed the bridge. Not because I was scared of falling, but because this bridge is a drawbridge, so you could see the grates straight down to the river! How often do you get to do that, I wanted to enjoy it as much as possible!

I love the architecture of steel beam bridges - reminds me of the old Suwannee Bridge in Branford, FL
Yep, that's the St. John's River under there. So cool!
After I took that photo, a volunteer offered to take my photo (I don’t think he realized I was taking a photo of my feet and the water below), so here – bonus shot!

Still fresh-footed and ready to go!

Soon... The Green Monster as seen from the Main Street Bridge
Anyway, it was a small bridge and I was over it quickly, then back on land, through nicer neighborhoods and finally – Mile 2 and a water stop!

First water stop, and an artsy one at that!
Nice BIG Mile Marker Signs (but hard to see the numbers)
Adequate signage for when to turn
Interesting way to carry a sling bag!  He crisscrossed the straps (right strap on left arm, left strap on right)
Past Mile 2, we walked underneath a Malfunction Junction, and then through a different area of town, which had multiple Medical Centers.

One of the many bands that entertained us on our race
At one point, I saw three ladies (well, a lady and two girls) sit down at a median – I wondered if they gave up and were waiting for the sag wagon…

Perhaps they should have spent more time on training than on tutu-making (says the girl in the skirt)
We passed Peterboro Chocolatiers and many other runner/walkers joked that they should be giving out samples. I could agree with that!

Hey, where's my chocolate?  
Dance Trance was really supportive!
Fun signage, a dance stop, photos on Facebook after - great support!
And then there were these folks who were paying more attention to their iThings
Oh nothing - just out for a walk with the baby!
Mile 3 down, and I made my way to the river section of the race. 

Hello spectators!
It wasn’t a long portion of the race, but it sure was pretty!

The guy on the transformer had the best photo spot!
Well, maybe these guys did... A boat on the river in the Florida sunshine? Oh, yeah.
What a view!
Well, except for this tacky sign… Really?  I’m sorry your kid got hit by a speeder, but really?

Do you feel better now? Should I pity you? This is just tacky. 
I didn’t let it bother me, I just enjoyed the scenery and the pretty houses.

This house reminds me of the "Father of the Bride" house
We turned on to another road, and whoa! There was a lot of traffic on this road.  You could see some people in their cars being pissed off at us. But you could see other people standing outside of their cars and watching. 

What a backup! The view in front of me...
And the view behind me
On the other side of the road, more spectators, including this awesome sign!

You bet your ass I am!
We’re coming in to the fun neighborhoods now, where lots of homeowners have Race Viewing Parties, and everyone was outside cheering us on!  Lots of families, lots of signs.  I was looking for one “fun” stop – the Sausage Stop!  I’d read up on this race, and many people mentioned that one house would give out sausages and beer (yes, at a race!).  I love sausage, so I couldn’t wait to find this guy.

I did find this guy (thanks to the smell, and this beer sign), but he was out of sausage.

I don't want the BEER - I want the MEAT!
I got a long, slightly vulgar looking hot dog though!

Is that a hot dog in your hand or are you happy to see me?
Too bad it was burnt on most sides.  I took a few bites, but ended up having to throw it away (I was hoping to find someone with a dog to offer it to, but no dogs!)  Oh, well – I really just got it to say I got a hot dog during a race!

Mile 5 was up ahead, and I realized that I was over halfway done!  

Woo hoo! Over halfway done!
That also meant that I was only a few miles from the Green Monster.  We crossed under I-95, with another water stop (there were I think SEVEN water stops in this race, which was GREAT), and then we turned on to Atlantic Boulevard. We had 2 lanes blocked off for us, but traffic had a lane for them, so we had trucks and cars passing us on the right. This made it hot and stinky (lots of big trucks, it seemed like).

My hair did look amazing!
Turning back in to neighborhoods at mile 6, I saw this sign:

Nah - she's really more oldies than rock
Um, no she doesn’t. Carole King sucks. Oh, wait …. Perhaps they weren’t talking about THAT Carole King…

Anyway, I crossed the 10k mat and kept going.  

2/3 of the way done
A lovely homeowner had set up their sprinklers for us.

I didn't want to get my iPod wet, so I stayed to the side of the sprinkler
But the next neighbor took it up a notch – look at that gleeful smile!

She was only hosing those who asked for it
Looks like I missed out on oranges. I missed out on frozen ice pops too, but I can’t find my photo of that.

So many orange peels
At the end of the road, I encountered this rockin’ duo. Um, okay!

Coming back to Atlantic Boulevard, I passed a pretty bridge that overlooked The Green Monster, so I took a selfie and steeled myself for this Monster.

Pretty.... Soon....
One more mile along Atlantic, and I saw a gentleman in front of me who kept stopping to stretch his leg against a wall (calf stretches).  He’d stop, then go, then stop. I caught up with him when he was stretching again, and I asked him if he was okay, and when he looked at me he was crying. Whether he was crying from pain or from the thought of not being able to finish, I don’t know. All I knew was that I needed to help him, so I took out my little packet of BioFreeze (i always keep one in my Nathan water bottle pocket) and gave it to him. He didn’t know what it was, so I told him that he needed to rub it where he was cramping and he could keep going. I don’t know if he did or not, but I moved on – I was really hoping to get this done in 2:30.

There was on more water stop right before the entrance ramp.

All those yellow balloons were actually big smiley faces and kind of creepy
 Then, it was just the bridge.

In the words of Al Bundy - "Let's Rock"
Halfway up, these two women came up on my left. The bigger one was crying and saying that she couldn’t do it, she wanted to quit, she was done. Her friend just held on to her and said that she was strong, she could do it, she’s so close. It was really inspirational to see such a good friendship. 

Best Friends Forever!
Back to the bridge – they set up speakers to blare out some rock ‘n’ roll, but someone set the volume to “earbleedingly loud”.  It was crazy loud, almost painfully so.  I was glad to push myself up that entrance ramp just to get away from AC/DC!

There were speakers about every 100 feet - and cranked to 11!
I made it to the middle of the bridge and I gotta say that the view from up here is pretty nice!

Fun fact about this bridge:  It is 184 feet from the St. John's River - Cinderella Castle is 189 feet tall. So, basically, I walked to the top of the Castle!

I also have to say that this was not nearly the monster that they make it out to be. I’ve done Disney overpasses. I’ve done the Gainesville 8th Avenue Hill. This was NOTHING!

Top of the bridge, only 1.3 miles to go
See that stadium? That's the finish line!
This 1600m marker was pretty handy too! I assume it was telling me that I was 1600m from the finish line (as in an 8.3 mile marker of sorts).

1600m = 1 Mile, or 4 Laps on a track
However, at this point, I was ready to be done. I was hot, getting a sunburn and I was only a mile or so from the finish…

Look at all those people behind me! I'm so tired...
Once I cleared the bridge and on the downhill I picked up my intervals again, gaining momentum due to gravity! 

Downhill! (I got some crazy looks when I ran past some of these people)

800m (2 laps, 1/2 mile) to go!
Mile 9! Only .3 miles to go!

So close!
Finally, I can see the finisher area. There were balloons up in the sky and I followed them in.  On my left, the two from the bridge earlier were behind me a bit, but I could hear the friend tell the other one that they were so close, and the bigger one was all “oh, thank God!”

Get out of my way, I can see the finish line!
I came around the corner, and into the finisher chute and crossed that line! I finished!!!!!  My official time was 2:48:53.  I wanted SO bad to finish under 2:45, but that was not to be. I’ll just do it next year.

Time shown is Gun Time
I eyeballed the crowd, looking for the family, but I didn’t see them, so kept walking, picking up my water, and more importantly, my medal!

This place was probably a lot busier an hour ago...
Hey, look what I got!
It's a cool medal, but what's up with the "finisher" font?
Still no sign of the family, so I kind of stood around a while.  I saw the two girls again. I couldn’t hear what either of them were saying, but the face on the bigger girl was so happy!  I think she conquered something a lot bigger than the Green Monster that day. 

I got to the end of the Finisher Chute Area and finally, my phone rings. It’s Hubby – he and the Kiddo are outside the fenced area. I told him I’d head that way after getting my Official Finisher Photo.

Official Finisher Photo
I met him outside of the gates and got hugs from both him and the Kiddo. 

We walked over towards the After-Party area, stopping halfway because I didn’t realize my BondiBand had fallen off my water bottle til we were a ways away. They retraced their steps til they found it, while I sat on a tiny ledge and changed into my flipflops.

Sorry for the icky toes (I had taken off my red polish right before taking this photo)
Apparently, Florida Blue has some ideas on how to fit fitness into your tailgating or sports-watching experience:

Umm, just no - "cornhole" means something totally different to me....
Anyway, together again, we made our way to the party – what was left of it. I grabbed a water and a banana (for the Kiddo), but all the Gustafson’s chocolate milk was gone, the Jack Links people were gone and there was pretty much nothing there for me.  That was pretty crappy.  I feel even worse for the people who hadn’t even finished yet.

Luckily, we had a good parking spot, so it was a quick walk through the party to the car and finally a comfy seat!  And air conditioning! Time for LUNCH!

After some heavy traffic and getting lost, we got to our destination:

Yeah – that’s right, I went to Dairy Queen after running almost 10 miles! Earned it! (After we ate, we saw another family, with medals, going in, so I wasn’t the only one with this idea)

I changed in the bathroom, then we all ordered. The Kiddo got shrimp and an oreo milkshake.

Popcorn Shrimp Basket with Fries
Cookies & Cream Milkshake
Hubby got a cheeseburger.

Cheeseburger and Fries
I got a $5 Box, which came with 3 chicken fingers, fries a drink AND a dessert. (Okay, I won’t lie – I’m here for the caramel sundae).

Chicken Fingers with Fries
Lunch was good, but dessert was better. That is a LOT of caramel!

Caramel Sundae
After lunch, I still needed to walk around a bit to get the crap out of my legs before we got in the car to drive home, so we went to a local mall.  We did some window-shopping for the Kiddo at JCP, but that was really about it. We walked the length of the mall and back but didn’t go in anywhere (it was a crappy mall), and eventually left the way we came in.

One last stop, at 7-Eleven for some gas station nachos and a slurpee and we hit the road, headed for home.

At home, I hit the potty and while I was washing my hands, I saw just HOW badly sunburned I’d gotten…

My chest /decolletage
My back, which got the worst of it
No worries (well, some worries)… Suave Advanced Therapy Lotion (with the purple stripe) will take care of that – if you keep a sunburn moist, it won’t hurt as much, it will heal better and you won’t peel or itch.

Keep your sunburn moist! No itching, no peeling, minimal pain
So, my official times were 52:53 (5k), 1:48:45 (10k), with an average pace of 18:09.  I came in 15,180 out of 15,491 total finishers.  This means that I beat 312 people (remember my goal is always Never Finish Last).  For this being my first ever 15k AND a 15k of this caliber (Shalene Flanagan won this race), I’ll accept these times. I’m not overly happy about my slow pace, but I didn’t quit, so that’s something!

Later checking the results, I saw that Betty finished 2:23:07, Jennifer finished 2:25:26 and speedy April finished at 1:40:11(before I even finished a 10k!).

Would I do this race again? Oh, hell yeah!  I put it on my calendar as soon as I got home that night. Great organization (for the most part), lots of water stops, lots of spectator support, two bridges (neither of which were ‘monsters’), and a great after-party (or so I’ve heard).  Pretty cheap for a great race, too. Can’t wait to do it again - but next time, I'll plan on being in Wave 3 so I can run under the Start Line!

Yeah I did!