Gate River Run 2014: Conquering the Green Monster

This was my third running of the Gate River Run.  The recaps of the first two runs (in 98 and 13) are here.  When I ran it last year, I was suffering from a terrible head cold and almost didn’t even start.  I managed to finish with a 1:50 in 2013 but felt like I really could have done a lot better if I had been well.

This year, I originally wanted to finish in less than 1:30, but I focused most of my training over the last six months on distance training, not speed training.  And I gained ten pounds.  The combination of these factors means that a 1:30 was an unrealistic goal.  I revamped my goals for this race last week to:

  • Program my Garmin for 5 minute run/ 1 minute walk intervals. I may skip some walk intervals but having them preset will give me the chance to recover if I need it.
  • Do the first 5k no faster than a 10 minute mile pace.
  • Do the second 5k no faster than 9:45 minute mile pace.
  • Do the last 5k as fast as I want.
  • Let go of the need to finish under 1:30.  My new goal is to finish under 1:45.  My time from last year is 1:50 (but I was sick).
  • I’m in the 4th of 5 seeded corrals and I still want to start in the seeded corrals, but I’ll start in the very back.

We drove up the day before the race to visit with family (I grew up in Jacksonville) and checked into the host hotel, the Hyatt on the river, and hopped on a bus to go to the Expo.  Eli was very excited again this year to be able to ride a school bus to and from the expo.

The bus dropped us off at the Fairgrounds where the expo is held.  It was a quick walk to the expo building.

Once inside, you need to know your bib number to be able to pick up your packet.  I downloaded the Racejoy app for my phone, which had my bib number, but they also e-mailed us our bib numbers a few weeks ago.  Packet pickup was very quick and easy.  I picked up my race shirt which wasn’t a tech shirt but a really soft cotton woman’s style v-neck which I LOVE!
The shopping part of the expo was big but really crowded together and kind of overwhelming (to me at least).
We did get a very nice free pint glass with the River Run logo on it which was a nice surprise to me.  Publix had a booth there and they were giving out these great salad shakers and snack holders.  Great swag!
We walked around outside a little and then got back on the bus to go to the hotel.

We visited with our family, got some amazing BBQ from Willard’s, went to Boone Park to play for a while and then we headed back to the hotel to tuck in for the night.  The blue bridge is the Main Street Bridge and it’s the first one we run over for the race.

I don’t usually sleep well my first night in a hotel, and this was no exception.  I’m a worrier and I worried I’d oversleep, I’d get sick, that Eli would get sick or have a bad night and cry and wake everyone up and we’d have to sleep in the car…  Yes, I need a bit of help, I know.

I woke up bright and early and got ready with no trouble.  I headed downstairs and happened to get to the lobby just as the bus was pulling up, which was perfect timing.   I was a little chilly so I wore my arm sleeves and a “disposable” jacket.  I found hoodie jackets on sale at WalMart for $4 each so I grabbed a few for wearing in the corrals.

We got dropped off at the staging area and I wandered around for a bit.  I hate it when races don’t have big obvious signs showing where the start is.  I know they put out maps, but as I explained in an early post (referencing Joey from Friends), I have some kind of map reading disorder.  I need signs and arrows!  I remembered having trouble finding the start area last year, but eventually found it again.

Due to my map reading disorder, I also had trouble finding the photo meetup, but I eventually (after probably walking a 5k!) found the right spot and got this great photo taken:

I decided to reuse my Dr. Who themed running outfit that I wore to Space Coast last year.  It’s really comfortable and I love it, but I had exactly NO ONE who even referenced it.  It says Companion In Training on the front and Allons-y on the back.  People of Jacksonville, you need to expand your TV viewing habits.  I wore my Bondiband compression socks and they did great with support without being too hot.

I managed to get in the “seeded” wave 1 start section this year with a great 5k time (about 5,000 runners are in that wave).  I originally planned to actually run the 15k at a much faster rate when I registered, but they are kind of weird about moving corrals (last year they actually stopped people at the start line, while people were running, because they were in the wrong corral.  It was not a good situation and I didn’t want to risk it, so I just went into my assigned corral and lined up at the very back and side.

I’m sorry I don’t have any photos during the race, I knew it was going to be tough to make my time goal and I didn’t want to risk stopping to take photos.  I was also pretty focused on the race and keeping my pace steady, so I kept thinking “I should take a photo of that” and then not bothering to pull out the camera.  Bad blogger!

I saw some great costumes though.  A guy in an Elvis costume, two girls dressed as the wicked witch (complete with green body and face paint) and Glenda the good witch, a guy in head to toe red white and blue, and a guy carrying this huge firework/sparkler thing for a local charity.

The race started and I headed out with the speedsters.  We passed the Maxwell House factory and ran through downtown Jacksonville. The entire course had spectators cheering and they were all awesome except for two guys in the first mile who were smoking.  Seriously, if you’re going to spectate at a race, please don’t smoke.  Cough, cough!

About half a mile in, as I was being passed I started feeling like I was going soooo slow but it was kind of hard.  I glanced at my garmin and say 9:00.  What?  I don’t run that fast.  Not for 9.3 miles for sure!  So, I got my ego in check and slowed down to my actual pace which was around 10:00 to 10:30.  And got passed by more people, but that is ok.  I stayed to the side and it wasn’t too tight, so I don’t think I was in too many people’s way.  There were other people running at my pace with me, but there were a lot of really fast people out there!

Here’s the course:

It’s all downtown Jacksonville until you get to the Main Street bridge.  It’s not too steep, but it’s a drawbridge, so you run over fairly wide grating.  Every year I make the mistake of looking down while I’m running over the grating and every year it makes me nauseous!  The grating was pretty rough on my feet.  I was wearing my Altra Torins for their very first race and they have a lot less cushioning than my ASICS Nimbus 14’s.  I didn’t feel it too much, but on the rough grating, it was noticeable.

After the bridge, there is a little more industrial/business zone, then you run past some small businesses.  Soon after that, you head into some really nice neighborhoods that always have lots of spectators.  The first spectator food/drink offering was free donuts.  There were bands playing every mile or two along the course too.  The race had tons of water stops, I skipped several just because there were so many.  I don’t think they had any gatorade, but I might have just missed that.

The next spectator offering was a beer and sausage combo.  Although those sausages smelled delicious, I skipped those too.  And beer is gross even when I’m not running (sorry, I don’t have very mature taste buds!).  Not too long after that, we got to my favorite spot, the lady spraying the water mist and her family giving out Otter Pops.  And I missed them!!  I think they were refilling their stash and I didn’t get my Otter Pop!  Well, I made up for it by taking the next spectators up on their offering of mimosas.  That was actually pretty delicious (sorry to my friend Amy who is now cringing because I’m eating and drinking food from complete strangers!).  And I really enjoyed the orange slices from the next group too.

Most of the race, I did 5 minute run/1 minute walk intervals although I skipped a couple of walk intervals at the beginning of the race and if the walk interval came on during one of the rare sections where the course was narrow.

I also ran the entire way from the start of the Hart Bridge to the finish.  That’s kind of a must do for me.  When I ran this race for the first time in 1998, I ran the whole thing and when I got to the top of the Hart Bridge, I knew I was going to be able to meet my goal of running it all and I was so elated.  It’s one of those golden moments in life where you just feel invincible and so very very happy.  So now, it’s my rule that no matter how the rest of my race goes, I’m running that stinking bridge.

They line the Hart Bridge with speakers the whole way and this year they were playing “Shout” and everyone threw their arms up with the music on the way up.  It was pretty fun, although after a few arm pumps in the air, I decided to save what little oxygen and energy I had left for keeping myself running in an upright position!

After reaching the top of the bridge, it’s basically downhill the rest of the way.   I checked my time and saw that I had a decent chance of making my 1:40 time goal if I really pushed it.  I knew my Garmin was reading more distance than the mile markers (probably from weaving and taking wide corners) so I wasn’t sure exactly how far I had left but I wanted to push it.  I really didn’t have too much gas left in the tank but I gave it what I had, rounded the corner to the finish and met my goal with an official time of 1:40:11.

My Garmin says:

With the extra distance on the Garmin, it brought my average pace down to 10:34, which I’m pretty happy with.  And I’m really glad to see that I was able to do the last 1.5 miles at a faster pace than my average for the race.   Even with the downhill, I’m kind of shocked I was able to do the last 1/2 mile at a sub 9:00 minute mile pace.  Maybe I’m faster than I think (if I put in the necessary work!).

It was much warmer than I expected, I was glad I’d shed my arm sleeves in the corral (I’d donated my jacket to a nonprofit booth collecting clothes and shoes at the staging area).  There were several stretches of the race on the highway with no shade where the sun was just brutal.  I should have worn sunscreen!

The finish area of this race is my least favorite thing about Gate River Run.  It is crowded and slow moving.  I got my water, then walked forever to get my medal.  It is a pretty nice medal though, much nicer than last year’s.

And then they herd the masses of runners down and around the staging area to get back to the Expo area.  I did get a banana, a muffin and some chocolate milk.

And then I went to look for the hotel bus, couldn’t find it, so I walked the 1.2 miles back to the hotel.  My foot was feeling pretty bad by this point.  I think my Torins are a little too short so my second and third toes were banging against the end and feeling kind of bruised (guess I have to keep an eye out for toenail issues) and I’m not sure if the bridge gratings or the miles of uneven and slanted pavement did it, but my arch was hurting a lot too.  I have lots of issues with the back of my right leg and it was acting up a bit too.  I thought a short walk might help shake it out a bit, but I’m not sure it helped.

A quick shower later, we were checked out and headed to visit more family.  Then a delicious, very bad for me lunch at Famous Amos (fried pork chops were involved) and then we drove back home.

It was a good trip but very very busy.  I really love this race, it is well organized with enthusiastic volunteers and lots of course entertainment and support.  And I just love how the neighborhoods get out there and cheer on the runners (and give us free refreshments!).  The course has some long boring stretches, but also lots of gorgeous homes and some waterfront stretches, plus I really enjoy running over the bridges.

The funniest signs I saw were one lady holding one that said “Keep Going, Harder, Faster!” and the lady next to her had one that said “That’s What She Said!”.  It cracked me up.  Another guy was standing alone with a sign that said “I’m your fake family, they couldn’t make it but I’m here!”.  And a lady with a sign around mile 7 that said “You have stamina!  Call me!”.  There were lots of kids giving out high 5’s, I was surprised by how many runners just went by leaving them hanging.  I made sure to give a high five to each each one I passed.

Next year, I’m going to beat this year’s time, hopefully by another 10 minutes!  Here are my official results from Racejoy:

Lots of room for improvement, but I’m pretty happy with what I got done out there.  Not bad for a non-skinny runner!


Gate River Run 2014: Conquering the Green Monster — 23 Comments

  1. Congrats on the PR! It sounds like a fantastic race! Careful with that back of leg/achilles, you really don’t want to be my twinkie on this one. 😉

    • Thanks! It was fun! I’m focusing on strengthening that area and am getting massage every week for a month to help clear it up. Maybe we can be twinkies on getting fast and uninjured! Let’s try that, ok? 🙂

  2. Congratulations! I am pretty sure I saw you today around mile 3. I am not sure where exactly, but towards the beginning. I couldn’t get over fast enough to say hi.

    This was my first time running this race, and I have to say I loved it. The spectators were awesome! I was nervous about the bridge, but I was able to run it. One of my goals was to run the bridge since I suck at hills. I need to find some hills around Jacksonville so I can do some hill work if I ever want to run outside of Florida.

    • It was hard to shift from one side of that course to the other in some places! I’m so glad you had a good time. I’m terrible about hills too, I tend to run on really flat courses which can bite me in the butt when I encounter hills in a race. Great job running the bridge!! 🙂

  3. Great job!
    I’m so bummed that I didn’t get to go to the expo 🙁 I really want that pint glass and Publix stuff! Also, us slow folks in the back didn’t get any Otter Pops, Oranges, Mimosas during the race – they ran out I guess. And by the time we got to the finish, the muffins and milk were both gone, but they offered us CASES of bananas and water, if we wanted it!
    Loved this race, and can’t wait to do again next year… Faster.

    • It was great to see you again before the race! I had no idea we were getting the pint glass until we got there and Publix really stepped up their game with the swag too. I want to explore the expo next year without my kids, I think there were some great giveaways, but it’s so crowded and hectic that Eli gets really overwhelmed and just wants to go.

      Sorry the spectators ran out of the fun stuff, I suspect the mimosas in particular were in limited supply! Did you take home a case of bananas? 🙂

    • I really wanted to be much faster by now, but I didn’t put the work in (diet or speed). Once I readjusted my expectations, it really was a great race!

  4. Congrats on your PR – that is so exciting!! I’ve never ran over a bridge before, but it sounds really cool. The photos you took of it look gorgeous! I laughed so hard at the “That’s what she said!” sign. I told my husband about it and he had a good laugh too!

    • I did LOL while running at that set of signs. The first one was so serious looking and then ba-dum-dum the punchline one. I grew up in Jacksonville, so running over those bridges is really fun for me!

  5. April, i’m so happy for you that you reached your goal! This sounds like a great race. I’m a little confused, we’re spectators giving sausages out to runners? Is that really a good idea to eat a sausage during a race..haha. I hear ya on the spectators smoking too. When we ran on the boardwalk in Atlantic City last year folks would be coming out of the casinos to watch and they would be smoking. I can remember trying to hold my breath as I ran by! And on a side note, when did school buses start having seat belts?

    • Thanks! It is a fun race and the spectators do hand out sausages, donuts, lots of beer and other treats to the runners. Crazy tradition, but it is a lot of fun! Yeah the seat belts on school buses is a new thing!