Cooper River Bridge Run Debrief

We headed out of town mid-morning on Friday.  We anticipated a decent amount of traffic due to the high volume of people that head to Charleston for the event.  We opted not to pay the extra money to have our packets mailed to us.  That said, we were required to report to the Charleston Convention Center by 8 PM on Friday to pick up our bib and packet at the Bridge Run Expo.

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I typically hate going to these types of Expos.  There is an overwhelming amount of running “stuff” thrown in your face just hours before your competition.  While I get the purpose, the day before the race is not the best time to start contemplating changing your original plan.  With that in mind, my husband and I picked up our packets and cruised around the various booths.  The first thing we noticed was the deals on gear and fuel.  Therefore, if you decide to do this race next year, keep this in mind.  You can definitely restock on Gu packs and try out various technology.

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We didn’t spend a lot of time at the Expo.  Instead, we headed to our hotel in Downtown Charleston.  Since we were on a trip by ourselves, we opted to stay right near the race finish line at the Francis Marion Hotel.  Great location, not so great room.  For the price we paid, there was not much room to move and there was a lot of noise.

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The forecast for Saturday morning called for thunderstorms and wind. At least it was going to be warm right? After going back and forth with my husband about our race wear plan, we came up with the following:  If we were going to get rained on, we wanted to have the least amount of clothes on as possible (especially since it would be warm).  Hence, no shirts.  That said, what would we wear on the bus over to the start and during the transition time from drop off to start line?

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Yup – that’s what we came up with.  We couldn’t find ponchos, so we bought some 55 gallon trash bags at the local Walgreens.  We cut a hole large enough for our head to fit through the top of the bag.  We would put the bags on in the event of a down pour.  We also brought with us old t-shirts that we could wear underneath, take off 5 minutes prior to the start, and leave on the fence of the corral.  If you are not aware, a local charity does come around and collect the leftover shirts after the race starts.  

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We left our hotel to walk to the bus to take us to the start line at 5:45 AM.  It’s a school bus.  I don’t know why I thought it would be a chartered bus.  The ride took about a half hour.  We were dropped off at the Harris Teeter (former Piggly Wiggly) in Mount Pleasant.  From there, we walked at least 20 minutes to our start corral.  It was 6:45 when we got there.  Race starts at 8 AM.  Since the roads are closed, we hunkered down under the wide spanning roof of a gas station right outside of the competitive corral.

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We stretched and we put on our bags.  We waited.  The buildup for the race is pretty incredible.  Controlling your nerves is essential to saving energy for the actual race itself.  For those wondering, the competitive heats (i.e. times under 50 minutes) start at 8 AM.  The remaining groups are held back until 8:05 AM.  There is a gap.  Since we are running the Spartan Race in Charlotte this coming weekend, my husband and I both treated the race as our last very hard tempo run before the Spartan.  We were not running this together.  We wished each other luck as the gun went off and didn’t see each other until I crossed the finish line.

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The things that stood out to me the most in the race?  I am happy that I had my Garmin with me.  It was windy as hell.  It was 6.2 miles.  Where are the obstacles?  Now the details.

  • Mile 1 – 7:27 mile. Flat, somewhat downhill. Everyone started too fast.  That’s why I’m glad I had my Garmin.  I knew I wanted to run 7:30’s.  I studied my watch to ensure I didn’t push too soon.
  • Mile 2 – 7:20 mile.  Flat, somewhat downhill.  Still not on the bridge.  I knew I was going to slow down as soon as I hit the uphill.  Since I was feeling good, I decided to press a little the second mile to compensate the amount I would slow down mile 3.  People were still running too fast.
  • Mile 3 – 7:52 mile.  Yup – it was harder than I thought to run up the bridge.  It was like   tunnel vision.  The end felt like it could never get closer.  As much as I tried to tell myself I would never walk in a running race, I did.  Twice on the uphill (right near the top), I stopped, took 10 walking steps, and then kept running.  I was red lining.  If I had any chance of pushing on the downhill, I had to drop my heart rate.  As I watched my pace drop to 10 minute miles on my walk, I had the sinking feeling that this was going to be a BAD day.
  • Mile 4 – 7:20 mile.  Get your shit together Jen.  Part of racing is convincing yourself the negative things going through your mind are not true.  As I started my downhill, running into a serious headwind, I looked for people to draft off of and thought about the positives.  NO MORE UPHILL.
  • Mile 5 – 7:25 mile.  I’m over half way.  I’m in Downtown.  I grabbed a cup of water from the water station and poured it on my head.
  • Mile 6 – 7:25 mile.  Tunnel vision.  Again.  Running through the crowds on Kings, makes you feel like you will never get to the final chute.
  • Mile 6.2 – UM excuse me.  I thought this was a 6 mile race.  Why didn’t I think about the fact that it was a 10K?  When I ran through the 6 mile marker and the race wasn’t over, I thought I might throw up.  That feeling continued to last as I ran through the finish.

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I ran into my husband almost immediately.  A lot of people have asked me how he did.  He doesn’t put anything on social media.  This guy ran 6:30/mile and almost broke 40 minutes.  I am so proud of him, as was he of me when I crossed the finish line.  They say couples that sweat together, stay together.  I think that might be the case.  We bonded over details of the race and our similar experiences while working through the course.

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The rest of the weekend was about food and drinks – Blood Mary’s at Burns Alley, Lunch at Pearlz, Ice Cream at Kilwins, cocktails at O-Ku, Steaks at Halls Chophouse and Sunday brunch at Charleston’s Cafe.  Hard work should be rewarded.  We had a great time seeing friends, yet spending time together.  We will most certainly do this again at some point.  Hopefully as a family one day!

 

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