Oh, Gate River Run: breakers of h(e)arts, crusher of dreams. I just can’t quit you. This past weekend was the annual running of the Gate, the largest 15K in the country, and I showed up, lacking, once again. Let’s dive in.
Here’s The Context
Every year, I register for the Gate River Run with the highest of hopes. I have a good attitude, and a plan: after all, if I can’t be fast, I can be fun. There’s a period of hyping myself up, arranging a cute outfit, and getting in the headspace.
And it seems that every year, something happens. In 2020, I was literally in a boot on race day and couldn’t go. The next year, I was too nervous of the huge crowds to make an attempt. Last year, I had tendonitis in my knee. And this year? Well, this year, I was down for the count the week before, leaving me weak, discouraged, and not super well-hydrated. Boo.
Expo + Packet PickUp
My new way of handling the Gate is to approach in stages. Since I’ve paid, and packet pick up is a few days prior to race day, I might as well get my bib, shirt and commemorative pint glass. Just in case.
Mr. PugRunner joined me for the adventure and we arrived a little after the Expo opened its doors. Parking was more of a hassle than the actual Expo, and we moved through the stations quickly. I brought a pair of shoes to donate, as always, and spent a little time looking at the retail and vendors.
Honestly, the Expo wasn’t super exciting this year. I was able to get a new running visor (the forecast threatened rain), and some HoneyStinger gels, but there wasn’t much else grabbing my attention.
The Night Before
I confess I was super out of sorts and anxious on Friday night. I lounged around, ate pasta, drank water, and tried to get in the right frame of mind.
After some consideration, I made my final packing and fuel choices. It was going to be hot (74F at the 8AM start), with nasty humidity. Sigh.
I woke up super early, and felt fine. So, I figured I could just head over to the start line and see how it went. After all, I had my bib and had been hydrating. Off I went, stopping for a plain bagel along the way.
I arrived at the Jaguars Stadium around 6:30, and got a parking spot, although it was already pretty crowded. Parking makes me nervous, and I always like to make sure I have a comfortable spot. To take up some time, I used the portapotties and read some of my book, while nibbling my bagel. I was more nervous than unwell, so I figured I would just go for it.
The local running group organized for some photos, so met up them and my friend A. I knew a lot of people were out running, but my anxiety kept me from being super social. It happens.
It was time to move into corrals. With over 16,000 registered runners, it’s a fairly big process. I wasn’t feeling anything heroic, so I lingered in the back of my wave. Emily Sisson was among the elites who would start first, followed by several timed waves and then everyone else. The wheelchair athletes typically start a little before 8AM, but we got an announcement that there was going to be a delay due to traffic on the course.
Personally, I think this race starts too late anyway, so the idea of a delay on a historically hot day was soul-crushing. I have no idea what happened, or where the confusion came in, but there was nothing to do but be patient.
Finally, we started moving. I crossed the start line almost 20 minutes later than anticipated.
Miles 1 – 3
Off I went at a run. Whether or not I’m doing intervals, I always try to run the first mile straight through. There is usually a ton of energy and a super upbeat vibe that helps carry the runners along, but today was different. I ran (slogged), but there were so many more people walking earlier than usual. I’m sure it was the weather.
I just kind of went on autopilot, keeping an eye on my heart rate. Everything felt heavy and my body wasn’t happy, but I was out there.
The Main Street Bridge looms at the end of mile 1, and I charged into the ascent. I like this bridge, with the exception of the grating on the vertical lift portion, but it’s always good to be careful.
Once I got over the first major hurdle, I really considered turning back. I was hot, and I just hated everything. But then, some of the small spectator crowds started up, and I told myself to just get over it and move.
I cleared the first 5K with some help from generous bystanders. You may remember me seeing that this s is a race with two personalities. The first is a fast race, attended by elites, with hats for the first 10% of finishers and a 1600m challenge to see who runs the last downhill mile the fastest. Ok, that’s never going to be me, but it’s super cool. The second side of this race is a giant tailgate of sorts, with cheering spectators handing out a literal buffet of snacks and drinks (and “drinks”).
If I want to race the Gate, I take things like otter pops and pickle juice from spectators. On days when things aren’t going well? I beeline for the other things, which is why I had a shot of Fireball at mile 4. And again at mile 6. I skipped the tequila. I know my limits. Was there a beer and donut hole in there, too? Sure was.
And just when everything was super awful, the rain started. I knew rain was on the forecast, and even picked my older shoes to wear, but I thought it was going to be a drizzle. Yeah, I was wrong. Nothing will make me love the rain, and it didn’t even make it that much cooler.
What the rain did do was slow me down. The Hart Bridge is the last major hurdle on the course, and is has super slippery grates and painted lines. In addition, the road leading to the finish line is pretty new and new asphalt equals slick asphalt.
So I did what any discouraged runner would do: I grabbed a cup of rummy bears and stomped forward, with a grumbling heart, to embrace my inner drowned rat.
The last stretch of road leading up to the bridge is super awful and boring, so I just focused on the turn up the ramp. I was able to make the climb at a decent clip, only slowing down when I got to the grating. It’s hard to tell but it is POURING rain here.
By this point, my shoes and socks were soaked, my visor was dripping, and the liner of my shorts was collecting water. Let’s talk about how fake my smile is.
Finally, I found myself on the downhill and heading in to the finish line. I couldn’t get there fast enough.
So usually, there is an awesome post-race party with beer and pizza and music, but I just wanted to go home. Somehow, I forgot to pack a towel, so I had to dry myself off with tissues, blast the heat and seat warmers, and sit on my expo bag in the car.
I snapped a couple of quick pictures, but nothing cute.
So, NEXT year will be my year. That’s all there is to it.
As far as the race, my regular commentary holds true: the race should start earlier, and electrolytes should be offered on course. This is an event that advertises itself to all abilities and paces (the cut off is a 20 minute mile), and it’s just too hot for only water, in my opinion.
Other than that, it was another solid year. I really loved the medal design and colors. I’m glad I didn’t skip it, but I am really, really looking forward to a redemption on that course.
Do you have a race that is just in your head where you need a redemption?
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