Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Neuse River Bridge Run Half Marathon Race Report Part II

After a near pre-race meltdown, no matter how much I wanted to focus on the start of the race and just fall into a nice groove, I found that I was still trying to reassure myself that everything would be alright.  I had toyed with the idea of running without Old Bob and my I-pod before the race, but had decided that I should run with them because that's how I had trained.  Also, I was afraid of going out too fast and blowing up.  Now, I would have to rely upon my own best judgement rather than Old Bob's hard data.  I felt just a little bit doomed because my judgment . . . umm . . . not always the best in the world.  I started out much closer to the front of the race field than I wanted too, so that any splits I got along the course would be as close to accurate as possible.
Runners Crossing the Drawbridge across The Trent
The first three miles of the the race would be the most challenging of the course because they mainly consisted of three bridges that also formed the only hills on the course.  The first drawbridge across the Trent river, which was still rather flat was our first bridge. Once we crossed the starting line I just let people stream past me and tried to stay out of the way.  I was running fairly well, but left knee was feeling a bit of soreness during the first mile; however, I was confident that I would soon fade.  I had the notion that I was going out too fast, but the pace felt right so I went with it for the time being.  I knew that the Highway 17 exit ramp the Neuse River Bridge was coming and would quickly sort out any pacing issues for me real fast.  The off ramp was a long sustained incline and formed the only real hill on the entire course.  However, I wasn't anything that difficult when compared to the hills I had been running in Umstead, so I was sure that I would handle it just fine.  When I made the turn onto the off ramp, I was that a few people had already begun to walk as they climbed the ramp.  Other people continued to pass me as I made my way up the off ramp, but I still wasn't in my part of the field and most of the folks going past me were clearly stronger runners, so I didn't let it bother me in the slightest.  It was right around sunrise and the view from the bridge was just stunning.  Once we reached the top of the off ramp we made a button hook turn and head back toward the shore along the bridge rather than crossing the full span of the bridge.   The climb was no problem at all, and I even made a silly attempt to ham it up for the race photographer waiting for us as we made the turn onto the highway.

The Bridge was still open to traffic, but the road had been coned off and police officers on motorcycles were running back and forth along the course as we ran along the Neuse River bridge and the Highway 70 bypass bridge spanning the Trent River.  I felt totally safe on the course and was able to enjoy an awesome view, which helped to steady my nerves.  Once we crossed the brides and left the highway the remainder of the course was totally flat.  I had my Nathan's hand held H20 bottle, so I skipped right past the first H20 stop at the three mile mark.  I had hoped that there would be someone calling out splits but no such luck!  My left knee was doing all right and fewer people were passing me at this point.

Miles 3 through 6 were nice and flat.  The went by with relative ease.  I sipped from my H20 bottle a bit, but the morning was near perfection for running: Cool, hardly and breeze after the bridges, and clear blues sky.  I I asked another runner for the time at Mile 4, and it was around 36 something, so I was right on pace for my goal of finishing in 2 hours.  A large group that had slowed for the H20 stop caught up to and passed me around this time.  I continued to feel good and run strong, and my difficulties of the morning were fading from mind.  I took my first Gu as close to the 45 min .mark as I could figure.  At mile 5 we had another H20 stop and the port-a-potty both of which I skipped.  My pace was still good, and I again gave my thanks to the volunteers but declined H20.  At the 6 mile mark, I began to feel like I was in a sort of No Man's Land.  There were few runner's around me and the area was the least interesting part of the course visually.  The few spectators were waiting for their friends and family.  I picked up my pace a bit and hoped that this wouldn't come back to burn me later. At the next H20 stop I grabbed a cup of water and added it to my hand held as I continued to run.  Removing the cap and pouring in the water running wasn't an issue at all, but the maneuver did seem to impress some of the volunteers.
I didn't even notice the palace as I ran past it..
After mile 6, I realized that I was now in the midst of my longest race to date.  Mentally I was beginning to struggle, and the only person  running with consistently was of course running intervals.  I swear that we passed each other at least 8 times from mile 6 to mile 10, which was annoying because we were running a narrow portion of the roadside.  I was starting to get cranky and a bit goofy as the miles clipped off.  I kept hoping that the next mile marker would read on more mile than it actually did.  I Guued again before the 9 mile mark and felt much better.  Miles 6, 7, and 8, were lonely, and long straight lines, which really added to the fraying of my nerves by the interval guy.  Just before the mile 9 mark, we got back into the Historic portion of New Bern and the course had more volunteers and was more engaging.   I was coming out of my funk, but my right leg was getting sore from having run on the sloped edge of the road for so long.  I began to talk to the volunteers as I passed them and decided that one way or another I was going to rid myself of the interval dude after the 9 mile marker.
Hiro Waiting at the finish.
I manged to stay right on him and was waiting for him to stop, so I could go past him and try to get enough distance between us, so that he would still be behind when he began walking his next interval, when my race nearly fell apart. At the H20 station at the colonial governor's palace I decide to grab a cup of H20.  Rather than unscrew my H20 bottle lid and dump it in like I had all race, I decide to just drink it.  BAD IDEA!  REAL BAD!!

I can't drink from cups while I am running -- not at all.  I ended up spilling it on myself and what water I did get went down the wrong pipe slightly.  I was alright for about a block, and then . . . I coughed!  And it hurt.  It hurt lowReal low!  It felt like some one pulled on some internal band in my low low abs right below my waste band.  I immediately slowed down as my brain sought damage control reports from all departments.  I managed to keep running, but I knew that 2 hours, which had been slipping away since the no man's land of miles 7, 8, 9 was officially gone.  Also, interval dude was most definitely out of my life forever, which was a good thing.  By  midway through mile 11, I knew that I had tweaked something, but it wasn't bad enough to stop me from running. 

I passed a another guy cramping along the road and tried to give him an encouraging word as I passed, but in hindsight, those things probably don't help.  The course had now merged with the 10k course and there were more people around.  Just at mile 12, a lady wearing a shirt from Raleigh Running Outfitters passed me, and I chatted with her about the Raleigh 8000, which I had run in the midst of Hurricane Irene.  I was able to my mind off of all the soreness that I felt and pick my pace up a bit.  The last mile was difficult, but I got excited the closer that I got to the finish line. 

My pace picked up and the pain faded as I made for the finish line.  I saw Hiroko waiting for me just before the finish and picked up my pace even more.  As I pasted her, I took off my Raiders hat and yelled out "THIS RACE IS FOR AL DAVIS!"" 
Yes, I a wearing A Krispy Kreme Challenge Shirt

I didn't actually finish in anything near a sprint, but I had picked up my pace enough for the person on the micorphone to comment on how strong I was finishing and for a few people in the crowd to notice.  I was beat by the time I crossed the finish and I hardly remember the volunteer putting on my medal  I staggered about for a while trying to remain on my feet rather than sitting down.  Hiroko met me pretty quickly and helped might fight off the temptation to sit down.  Mentally, I was drained and it took me a few minutes to real be able to do much beyond stand there a smile!  I later found out that my time was 2:06:07.

The look on my face must have been one of exhaustion, confusion, and pure silly joy.  The run didn't go as I had planned, but it went well enough.  Afterward, I had plenty to think about and have come to some very significant conclusions, which I'll go into in the final part of this race report.  I am very proud of this run and can't wait to run this race again next year.  Hiroko and I both were very happy that we chose The Neuse River Bridge Run and New Bern is a great little town, which I will always remember as thr place that I completed my first Half Marathon!


  1. Drinking and running is tough. Someone once taught me a trick: pinch the cup so it forms a spout (like a milk carton) and then pour it into your mouth.

    Running isn't pretty so expect to get water, Gatorade, sweat, tears, spit, and snot all over yourself. :)

  2. Greg, you should be SO proud. I know I'm eons late, but I still enjoyed reading your tale! Your view from the bridge was pretty awesome.
    Drinking and running = fail for me also.
    Thanks for your note, too. I'm okay, just been in a weird funk. I think I am seeing the light though. Can't wait to read what else you've been up to, my friend!