Or: What It Feels Like to Be an Elite Athlete
Or: I’m Famous!
I took it easy on Friday after my 10 mile run on Thursday. I did an easy long swim before heading to the expo for packet pickup. I got downtown at about noon which was apparently when the rest of the world decided to do packet pickup as well. However, because of my new VIP status, my line for packet pickup was only 2 people long. Now, before I go too much further, allow me to explain my VIP status. The River Bank Run has a 2 Hour Club for any runner who completed the previous year’s race in under 2:00:00. As I finished in 1:55:59 last year I was allowed into this private club. Here is a copy of the email I received welcoming me to the club.
After getting my packet, of which, I only needed my number and shirt and not the 2 dozen fliers included. They certainly aren’t going to be winning any green status with that packet. But I digress. I wandered through the expo and checked out the booths. Nothing too exciting. Nice to see that the Grand Rapids Marathon, Brooksie Way, and 3Disciplines all had booths though.
I woke up at 6:00, had a bowl of Cheerios and a banana and we were off. Having done this race a few times before, I already knew where the best parking was. We got there with plenty of spots left and plenty of time to spare. The weather was less than optimal; cold, windy, and sprinkling, so Jennie and I headed over to the Two Hour Club room. It was 39*F with a 29*F wind chill because of the 20mph winds out of the west. Thankfully, the hospitality room was nice and warm. We hung out there for a few minutes before heading to the starting line. The weather, despite sounding miserable, was in reality perfect for the race. The strong winds were blocked almost entirely by the tree lined roads and the only portion of the course that was open to the winds was when the wind was at our back. In the end, there was probably a head wind for less than a mile of the entire course.
Which brings me to another perk of the Two Hour Club – premium start position. In a field of 6,500 runners, the Two Hour Club corral is directly behind the elite athletes. I was literally 3 feet away from actually toeing the line myself and rubbing shoulders with Stephen Shay (the late Ryan Shay’s brother), Rockford native, Jason Hartmann, and Dan Browne.
The gun went off promptly at 8:20 and we were off. Starting with the elites was a nice perk, but not something I’ll ever do again. Going out with them caused me to go out WAY too fast – my first mile was 6:45 – YIKES. Plus, I would rather start further back and have more opportunities to pass people than to be passed.
Miles 1 – 5
As I said, I went out way too fast: 6:45, 7:08, 7:07, 6:58, 7:18. About 3 miles in, the 7:00 min/mile pace group went past me. I did my best to keep them within sight, but eventually the round yellow sign become a tiny dot in the distance before disappearing completely around mile 7. Despite the fast pace, I was feeling pretty good. At the second aid station, I was running along and a guy cut me off to get a water. I was slightly peeved about it until the woman in front of him botched grabbing a cup causing the water to splash down the front of the cutter. Karma’s a bitch.
The next five miles (7:09, 7:12, 7:17, 7:21, 7:34) was a roller coaster of mental strength. Just after the 6 mile mark, the course turns around and starts to head back in the direction of the finish line which gave me a mental boost. It felt like the halfway point – but it wasn’t. When reality sunk in, I trudged along another 1.75 miles to the actual halfway point and my mental strength returned. I passed the halfway point at roughly 55 minutes which meant that I was well on my way to another sub 2 hour race. Then the course turned into the wind and faced an uphill just before mile 10 – there goes the mental strength again. At the corner, just before mile 10, I saw the lovely Jennifer taking pictures and cheering. She was accompanied by a co-worker (and fellow runner/triathlete) who came out to cheer me on (Thanks David!). And back came the mental strength.
Miles 11 – 15
This is by far the hardest part of the course (7:38, 7:35, 7:15, 7:42, 7:35). Not only is it the end of the course, but it is the hilliest portion. Every year, the Hills of Butterworth catch me off guard and always seemed longer and harder (TWSS) than the previous year. With the prospect of another sub 2 hour race, I wanted to keep a relatively fast pace, but I didn’t want to go all out because this was only supposed to be a C race, not an A race. I have a triathlon in a month and didn’t want to run so hard as to jeopardize my training. I saw my dad was at the end of his street near mile 13 cheering me on which gave me another boost of energy. After seeing my dad, it was a quick run through the zoo before finally turning back towards the finish line.
The Final .5
The finish of the River Bank Run is one of the hardest final stretches I have ever done in a race. The last half mile climbs 60 feet which is about a 2% grade, but after 15 miles, it feels like much more than that. I picked up the pace as much as I could and finished strong with a final time of 1:54:38 – a PR!
The race refreshments and post race party are very well organized. The food is great and beer is cold. I had my annual first piece of watermelon which means that summer is right around the corner. We then headed over to the beer tent and found our friend Kelli Jo – the best beer girl ever – for some Michelob Ultra. Not my first choice for a beer, but they are race sponsors and beggars can’t be choosers. As I was enjoying the beer, I had someone walk up to me and ask me if I had a blog. I said that I did and then he asked if I was Ironman By Thirty. Holy cow! My first blog recognition!!! I’m famous! It’s like being a rock star (without the uninhibited sex and drugs)!! Ryan stumbled across my blog and is a newbie triathlete. He did his first tri at Reeds Lake last year and I am sure there are plenty more in his future. This was definitely one of the highlights of the day.
Overall, I am very happy with how the race went. I really didn’t have any firm goals going into this race. The PR was nice, but not necessary. I guess, if anything, my only goal would have been to stay under the 2 hour mark – check. One lesson I learned was to not start with the 2 Hour Club in the future. Sure, I’ll take advantage of the hospitality room and private bathroom, but when it comes to starting, I’ll position myself in a more realistic pace group to prevent myself from going out too strong.
|Overall Place:||597 / 5461|
|Gender Place:||516 / 3055|
|Age Group Place:||91 / 410|
|Run Pace:||7:24 min/mile|
In elite racing news, the US swept the field for the first time in the past 2 decades taking the top 13 spots! It doesn’t hurt that A) Ethiopia’s Siraj Gena (the favored winner and recent winner of the Rome Marathon) never made it to GR due to Visa issues and B) the Kenyan men traditionally do not perform well in the colder weather. Go USA!
Fifth Third River Bank Run winner Andrew Carlson, far right, talks with third- and second-place finishers Nicholas Arcininga, left, and Brett Gotcher after the race. (Courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press)
Also, Jennie spotted a few characters that finished just ahead of me. First, I give you body suit man:
He ended up a finishing in 1:47:55 (6:56/Mile). Maybe the suit is aero dynamic. Regardless, I don’t think I’ll be giving it a try.
He was followed up by our second costumed friend of the day; Eagle Man:
Thanks for reading!