race report: gate river run 15k

As always, the alarm rang much too early on Saturday morning.

Mr PugRunner had woken up at 4:00 AM, and I wasn’t far behind him at 5:00. He took the first shower, and I went last. We dressed, I taped, and we checked to make sure we had everything we needed. I was hoping to get downstairs by 6:00 AM because the Hyatt was providing a breakfast for the runners: coffee, juice, water, bagels, granola bars, croissants, oatmeal, bananas, and other goodies. It was a really nice spread and we were one of the first ones there, so we had a table to ourselves.

I had a banana and a plain croissant, while Mr PugRunner opted for a bagel and coffee. I also had my granola bar to take with me to the staging area.

The shuttles were supposed to be departing from the hotel’s entrance starting at 6:00, as well. We made our way to the pickup point close to 6:30 and the first two busses, which were apparently reserved for the elite runners, still had not left. They didn’t go until almost 6:45, and I was getting a little edgy. I like to get to the starting line early to give myself time to use the restroom (many times) and settle down. I was also freezing and I thought maybe I had made a bad choice with a running skirt. I kept trying to hurry back up to the room to change into my capris but Mr PugRunner talked me out of it (in hindsight, I’m glad. I would have been way too hot later).

Finally, we boarded the (yellow school) bus, and we were on our way back to the fairgrounds. The expo center was open, which was awesome because it meant we got to use real bathrooms. It’s the little things that mean so much.

We started walking over to the stadium, where some of our friends had parked and were setting up camp. The sun was starting to rise and we got our first look at the Green Monster (aka the Hart Bridge) for the day.

As we continued searching for our friends, one of my favorite bloggers, Idiot Runner Girl, came walking by, on her way to a meet up. She and her friends were all decked out in St. Patty’s Day green, complete with tutus. Loved it!

 After we wished each other luck, we found our group and got our game faces on. By chatting, taking some portapotty breaks, and getting pictures.

K from A Mom On The Run, A, Me & A from Once Upon A Run

At around 8:15, we started making our way to the corrals. A and I were in Wave 2, so we stuffed ourselves into the already full area, as everyone else found their own start areas. It was packed, and although I tried to find my friend S, there was just no way it was happening.

The start of the race had been delayed by six minutes, due to an earlier accident along the route, so we were cramped in that holding pen for a good while before the National Anthem began. The speakers didn’t reach back to us, so we didn’t really get to hear it.

And then, we started walking up to take our position at the starting line.

So ready to run this thing!

I’m not sure exactly what time we began, but the crowd started moving towards the timing mats, and then we were over the start line and running into the heart of Jacksonville.

A little about the Gate River Run. 2014 marks the 38th year for this huge 15K – the largest in the United States. Almost 18,000 participants come out to run the 9.3 mile course through the city of Jacksonville and surrounding neighborhoods. The challenge is not the distance, however, but the two bridges that span the St. Johns River.

The Main Street Bridge, about 1.5 miles in…

And the Hart Bridge (or Green Monster) at mile 7.5

No joke.

This is the sea of people at the start, and I’m not sure it ever really broke up.

I’m going to be honest. Much of this race is a complete and total blur. I don’t know if I was in a zone or I was just delirious with the effort of running on my hurt foot. Usually I am really good at compartmentalizing the actual running and taking in everything that is going on around me, but this time, everything kind of collapsed in on itself in my head.

My first five miles were golden. I actually ran the first two miles, including most of the Main Street Bridge (I got hung up after a woman fell on the grate and there was some congestion getting her safely to the side). I didn’t intend to, but my foot was feeling ok, and quite frankly, there was just no way that I was able to move to the right to start my intervals. I felt like I was carried along by the crowd, and I wasn’t hurting, so I went with it. We came down off the bridge and turned into the San Marco area.

There were so many spectators out. I remember seeing people and a lot of dogs. There were a lot of fun signs and noisemakers and whistles, and it was such great motivation to keep pushing. I completely lost all sense of direction (I’m not familiar with the area to begin with, and without the directional signs and force of the crowd, I would have been utterly lost). I fell into my usual 2:00/1:00 intervals.

I think it was around mile 5 that I saw a woman holding up a sign with band-aids stuck to the edges, that read “free band-aids!”. Which I kind of thought was hilarious and random. Until I got attacked by a ginormous cactus 1/2 mile later, and found myself bleeding from a nice scratch on my hand. For a minute, I actually considered going back for some first aid, but I rinsed the cut off with some water at the next stop and kept pushing.

The heat was a factor. As was the fact that there was absolutely no gatorade or electrolyte replacer at any of the water stops. This was absolutely baffling to me. I generally alternate between the two in races, and I can’t fathom not having an option at a longer race in Florida.

We came to some beautiful neighborhoods, and I loved that the residents were out en masse. They had tailgate type parties set up for themselves, and were offering refreshment to the runners in the form of strawberries and oranges, beer and mimosas, eggs and sausages. Some had their hoses out and were creating little misting stations if you wanted to run through to cool down, and others were just calling out encouragement. I really kind of wanted a beer but I was afraid of how it would sit. I did take an Otter Pop though, and it was incredibly refreshing. I wanted to take some pictures of everything going on, but I didn’t want to waste time pulling out my phone to do so.

After the first five miles, I started slowing down. My left arch and heel were really hurting and I know I was compensating in my gait. I could feel my mental resolve draining away, and it was awful. There were a lot of negative thoughts rattling around in my head, including rethinking signing up for that marathon in January. Obviously, if I was struggling this badly for less than 10 miles, how on earth was I going to handle more than twice that?

Maybe at around mile 7, I saw an encouraging sight: there were four spectators sitting in camp chairs on a corner, with two dogs. And one of those dogs was a sweet fawn pug!  I ran right up to the owner, told her that they had made my day and asked if I could get in a quick pet. She must have thought I was insane, but she said yes, and I got some sweet puggy snorts, which gave me just enough of a boost to get back out there.

More running in the sun, and then it was there, looming in front of me. The Green Monster.

I was just starting on the ramp, when my right shoelace suddenly felt ridiculously tight (I guess my foot must have suddenly swelled?), so I had to pull off to the side to adjust. Twice. Ugh! Maybe I should have tried out those new laces after all. But I took a deep breath, got some final high fives from the crowd, and started up, up, up.

A lot of people slowed to a walk. At some point, I did, too. K texted to say she was finished, and I wanted nothing more to be down there with her. I texted back that I was on the bridge and walking because of the pain, and she told me later that she thought I meant I was still on the Main Street Bridge at the beginning! Fortunately not. Whew.

Speakers lined the bridge. A bizarre, almost military cadence type piece was playing. I remember wishing it was something more upbeat and inspiring, and then I realized that I was in so much of a daze that I didn’t even recall hearing much of my playlist. I turned up the volume on my iPod so I could be prepared for the descent.

I could see the finish line in the distance near the stadium, but it still felt like a long way and I just really, really wanted to be done. I wanted to do a straight run for those last .5 miles, but I was limp-running and it wasn’t happening. I stuck to the outside edge of the crowd and managed to get enough gas to run over that last timing mat and into the finisher’s chute with a time of 2:00:10 (I am pinning that :10 and a bit more on the pug. No regrets).

I think I cried a little.

I did my best to stretch out my calves as I walked past the medical tent (I considered stopping but I didn’t think they would be able to do anything for me), and through a field to collect my water bottle and then through a line to get my medal. I wasn’t sure where Mr PugRunner was, but I was closer to our meeting point than to the finish line, and I thought it would be best to wait for him at our friend’s car where I could sit down, stretch and rest.

All blinged up.

Mr PugRunner appeared shortly after. I am so incredibly proud of him. This was his longest and biggest run to date, and I know he will be in great shape for his first half marathon in November.

We settled in to bask in the post-race triumph.

We had a 1:00 PM late check out, so at some point, we said our goodbyes and made our way back to the fairgrounds, where we thought there would be a return shuttle to the hotel. On our way, we ran across E and her family, in their group’s tent. It was so nice getting to see so many familiar faces. There was no shuttle to be seen and Mr PugRunner called the hotel, only to find out that no return transportation would be provided. Interesting. We thought about calling a cab, but a police officer gave us directions to the hotel (it was literally two blocks, turn right and then another four blocks), and I figured it couldn’t hurt to walk another mile.

So we did.

It was kind of slow going, but the hotel extended our check out time so we didn’t worry about it. It felt amazing to take a hot shower and get into some clean clothes, and by the time we were driving out of the city, traffic was nonexistent.

Neither one of us really wanted to make a decision about lunch – we were both ravenous and at the point where nothing and everything sounded good. Finally, we agreed on M Shack for some delicious cheeseburgers.

Just what the doctor ordered.

And then, exhausted, we headed home to lounge around, watch some movies and sleep. We talked to little man and he begged us to let him spend Sunday night at his grandparents, too. They all sounded like they were having a wonderful time, so we said yes.

(A text from my mother the next morning made it perfectly clear that he was, in fact, having the time of his life.

We were so glad that he was in such good hands and having so much fun.)

But I digress.

I loved this race. I loved the size and the excitement and the sense of community. I HATED the fact that I wasn’t in top form. I loved being there with friends and seeing so much amazing crowd support. I cannot wait to return next year, pain-free (knock on wood) and ready to dominate.

This was an automatic PR for me, since it was my first 15K, but I feel the need to redeem myself next time. Even though I finished, I was disappointed and I’m going to channel that into making 2015’s performance stronger.

How do you get past post-race disappointment?

Do you have any “redemption races” planned?

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32 Responses to race report: gate river run 15k

  1. WOW! That is so nice that the Hyatt provided runners w breakfast (can all races do that?). I know what it’s like when a race is really crowded and you can’t start your intervals. I always have a little panic moment but like you said, the crowd carries you.
    I’m sorry to hear that your foot was hurting! Way to stick in there and finish. That’s definitely something to be proud of 🙂 🙂
    Karen @karenlovestorun
    Karen @karenlovestorun recently posted…MomentumMy Profile

    • runswithpugs says:

      It was really nice. I guess because it was a host hotel? I think it was about $5.50 for a combo of coffee and one of the main items, which wasn’t bad. I was just glad that they were offering something (and they had my brand and flavor of granola bar, so I didn’t have to stop to buy one the night before after all!). When we were at Space Coast we were also at one of the host hotels and even though it was a complete dive, they were handing out complimentary bags of muffins, bananas, apples and bottled water to the runners. I thought it was a thoughtful touch.

      I was really proud of myself for forgoing the intervals for so long. Part of my long-term goals are to get back to running straight through for a longer period of time, so at least I had that going for me. I’m just disappointed that I couldn’t keep it going and I couldn’t ignore what was going on in my foot. I talk a good game about being realistic and practical, but obviously, I fail when it comes time to put that into practice. This is something I need to really work on in my off time.

  2. Diana says:

    I think you did really well, in spite of your injury!! I think the hardest part of any race is the mental part, and though you struggled with that, you got back on track and that shows your strength. Well done!
    Diana recently posted…The Good, The Bad, and The UglyMy Profile

    • runswithpugs says:

      Thank you, Diana. It was a difficult morning in a lot of ways. I still really loved it and I can’t wait to give it a second go, but this is not the way I wanted my year to shape up. 🙁

  3. Jess says:

    I’m glad I am not the only one disappointed by the weird music on the Hart. You’d think they could play we are the champions or eye of the tiger or some other cheesy stuff. That popsicle in St. Nicholas was the best ever.

    I’m impressed at your time! Especially factoring in a hurt foot. The graded downhill on the hart hurt my ankle and I thought I would cry. I can’t imagine being in pain for longer than a half mile!

    • runswithpugs says:

      I heard they were playing Shout earlier. I could have gotten into that. At that point, even the Lego “Everything Is Awesome” song would have been welcome. That downhill meant business. I had to slow up a few times to keep my balance. I probably should have sat this one out, to be honest, but I just don’t think I could deal with the what-ifs I know I would agonize over if I did. Congratulations on your race!

  4. Nice work! Injury and all, way to push through!
    I’ve been struggling with disappointing race times lately. My last two half marathons have been progressively SLOWER. (I’m pretty sure that’s not how it’s supposed to work!). But you have to step outside the I-wanna-run-faster mentality and take everything into consideration. First, the route. For me, both of these two half marathons were HILLY. Yes. Caps lock hilly. Just like for you with those bridges! And I was somewhat under trained for both due to weather and running mainly on a treadmill. When you consider all of that, you start to feel better about the time, and realize that despite what the clock says, it’s still an accomplishment!
    Stacie Seidman recently posted…Mani MondayMy Profile

    • runswithpugs says:

      You’re right about looking at the factors. Sadly, the bridges wouldn’t have been all that daunting, had it not been for the injury. I actually kind of like bridges, and I was looking forward to conquering that final beast. I don’t know why I can’t shake the bummed feeling. I have to see what caps lock HILLY looks like. These bridges are pretty much the worst of what the area has to offer. Everything else is flat flat flat.

      • To give you an idea, here’s the course description of the most recent one:
        USTAF Certified, 13.10938 hilly miles. There will be three water & Gatorade stations, professional computerized chip timing, mile marks painted on the road, volunteers on every turn, lots of hills, dirt roads, cows, rural scenery, and more hills.
        I know what you mean about looking forward to the bridge. My first half was the Princess half at Disney, and I was super excited to have a little hill up to the overpass after running nothing but flat for 11 miles!
        Stacie Seidman recently posted…Truthful TuesdayMy Profile

  5. Angie says:

    You did awesome!

    I was annoyed by the music on Hart because the speakers were crackling. I did hear Shout, but I focused on my music at that point.
    Angie recently posted…Gate River Run 2014 RecapMy Profile

  6. Kristen says:

    Whoa those bridges look like fun to run through, but super hilly! I think you did awesome and I’m glad you were able to pet a puppy during the race!
    Kristen recently posted…How Running Is Making Me A Stronger PersonMy Profile

  7. Briana says:

    Nice recap! Crazy about the cactus attack… nice job, especially considering your injury. Any bridge running tips (or is it the same as any old incline)? I am doing my first bridge run next month! 🙂
    Briana recently posted…Get in gear… Running SkirtsMy Profile

    • runswithpugs says:

      Since I don’t really get the chance to run inclines on the regular, I would say that they are similar. Lean a little forward and take smaller steps on the uphill. Control your speed on the descent. Some bridges have grating, so I would definitely recommend to be careful about your footing and, for the love of all things holy, don’t look down LOL!

  8. I apparently zoned out on the Hart or had my music cranked up because I didn’t hear the annoying music at all! And I somehow missed the popsicles even though I was looking for them!

    I’m glad you came out and ran, it was a fun morning!! Hopefully we’re all healthy next year and can have an amazing Gate!!
    Kristin @ A Mom on the Run recently posted…Worn Out, What I’m Up To, GiveawayMy Profile

  9. This is so exciting – I’d love to be able to come to FL for this race!

    As far as redemption races, I think I’d like to try my hand at the Women’s Running Half in Nashville again since I sabotaged myself last year ;(
    Kristen @ The Smith Summary recently posted…Maximize Your LifeMy Profile

  10. jan says:

    I’m amazed you were able to run so far injured. I’m positive I would’ve wimped out (or probably not even started!!). Great job to your hubby!! I think I’d like to try a 15k sometime. It sounds not as daunting as a half but still a distance race.
    jan recently posted…The Divergent Series & Some Good Writing TipsMy Profile

    • runswithpugs says:


      I am so proud of my hubby! He is going to kick butt at his half, and I can't wait to see it happen!

      15K was a good distance. Just the right balance between the 10K and the half. I don't know that they are easy to find, but I'm glad this one is a sure thing for my area.

  11. Yeyyyyyyy!!!!! I have been waiting for this post! I am so, so, so happy you like Gate!

    It definitely is a tough race, dealing with the unpredictable Florida weather, but the support makes it SO worth it! You totally rocked it, that bridge is no joke! Congrats lady, maybe I’ll see ya there next year 🙂

  12. Andrea says:

    You did so great and I’m so glad we got to hang some before and after. I too was so perplexed by the fact that there was no Gatorade. In fact, the ONLY picture the photo people took of me was after the race, when I already have my medal and just found out there was none at the finish line. I have this totally pissed off look on my face. OOOPS!
    Andrea recently posted…Orlando Yelp Event- The Thirsty TopherMy Profile

    • runswithpugs says:

      I mentioned the lack of Gatorade to my marathoner brother-in-law and his jaw hit the table. I just didn’t think it was smart. Since this was my first time running, I don’t know what they did in years past, but I think it was a bad move. Hopefully, enough people complain and it gets fixed for next year. Although next year, I’ll know to carry my own. I hate carrying during a race because I typically don’t drink a lot on the way, but my safety is more important, you know?

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  14. Jenn says:

    Yay! I did Gate also, and the no Gatorade was really weird to me. I carry two bottles in my Fuel Belt – one water and one Gatorade, so I was prepared. I would have been ticked off if I didn’t have the option.

    The music on Hart was terrible and LOUD. I know a lot of runners don’t run with headphones, so that music was to pump them up. It was playing “Shout” when I was crossing it, but it was so loud that I couldn’t hear my own music, which I specifically picked out for that part of the race.

    I’ve had a few post race disappointments, but I honestly don’t have any good advice on getting passed it, especially if it’s a race you trained long and hard for. I guess let yourself be upset for as long as it takes, and then get back out there!
    Jenn recently posted…Oh, Self…My Profile

    • runswithpugs says:

      I wonder if the organizers were just relying on the “kindness of strangers” as it were, in the form of the spectators. Kind of a dangerous risk to take, in my opinion. I guess we will see what they do next year.

      I am trying to shake off my pity party. It’s not easy, but there’s always 2015!

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