Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Race Recap: The Bloomsday Run

Ever since my in-laws moved to Spokane a couple years ago, they have been pressing me to run in the Bloomsday Run, one of the biggest road races in the world. It's just a 12K (7.46 miles), but for decades, tens of thousands of Northwesterners have been converging on this event in early May.

This year I finally had the chance to do it. Unfortunately, the corrals for the race are seeded a little oddly. Instead of going by straight pace, behind the elite runners, Corporate Cup runners get the next placement. Thousands of runners, from Alex the department assistant who's only run 7.5 miles once in his life, to some guy in accounting who is three years out of college when he could run a 30-minute 10k, all line up together in what can only be described as pandemonium.

Next to the Corporate Cup runners are about 500 folks like me, who aren't fast enough to be elite but are faster than most of the Corporate Cuppers. Here I am lined up at the start of the race:

This is about 15 minutes before the start. It was totally packed when the gun went off!
When the gun sounded, it was pandemonium as the crowd struggled to sort itself into proper pacing groups. I've heard horror stories about this race being clogged up for the first two miles. I managed to fall in with folks running my pace after about a half-mile, but it still wasn't ideal. I don't see why Bloomsday can't sort people better according to pace. They do it at Peachtree (an even bigger race), breaking runners into much smaller groups of like-paced runners, and the start is much more organized, allowing folks to start running at their target pace right away.

My goal for this race was a 7-minute pace, which would mean finishing in just over 52 minutes. This is considerably slower than I would be running if I hadn't gotten injured in February, but it would represent my fastest run since the injury over this distance. Since it was a hilly course, the plan was to run the flat Mile 1 at about a 7:00 pace, then bank some time in Mile 2 which included a huge downhill.

After starting the first mile at about a 7:30 pace I ended up running it in 6:55. This means I probably ran the second half of the mile too fast. Mile 2, however, went as planned, and I finished it in 6:38. During Mile 3 I knew I'd probably see my friend Barb, who is a sports-med doc and was working the medical tent. Sure enough, she saw me and got a photo as I climbed some of this mile's 85 feet of gain:

So far, so good!
Mile 3 went by in 7:08, about right since it was mostly uphill. Mile 4 rolled by in 7:06. Next was a dramatic downhill followed by the first half of "Doomsday Hill," the legendary 140-foot climb under the pounding sun. I tried to bank some pace on the downhill, then crossed the Spokane River and headed up Doomsday. As I climbed, I motivated myself by the fact that I could see the top of the hill, and maintained a steady pace all the way up. Pace for Mile 5 was a respectable 7:33. Now all I'd have to do was pick the pace back up to 7:00 for the final 2.5 miles.

Checking my watch. I'm surprised all my race photos don't look like this!

The problem with Doomsday Hill isn't so much the hill, it's the fact that you don't get any relief after the hill. At the "top," the road actually continues gradually uphill for another half-mile. It was excruciating trying to pick up the pace. I could only muster a 7:31 for Mile 6. Mile 7 wasn't any better despite finally flattening out: 7:34.

I knew Greta, Jim, and Marion (my mother in law) would be waiting for me around Mile 7, so I kept watch for them. I finally spotted them at around 7.2, and Greta got a picture:

I'm trying to smile through the pain

Now it was just a matter of the sprint to the finish. I picked up the pace as best as I could, but others around me did much better; I was probably passed by 10 guys in the final quarter-mile, and I only mustered a 7:07 pace for that last half-mile. Overall my official time was 53:53, a little slower than planned, with an average 7:14 pace. This was good for 40th in my age group (out of 1,241), so still fairly respectable given my injury. If I had been injury free I think I might have been able to finish about 7 minutes faster, which would have put me in the top 10. Maybe next time!

But I wasn't the only person who struggled over those last 2.5 miles. A guy came up to me at the finish and told me that he had been just a few steps behind me the entire race. So it wasn't just me who found those final "flat" miles to be the toughest.

Here are a couple of shots of me after the finish:

Walking across the bridge after we've finished

That's the start line behind me. I had finished but thousands were still just getting started!

Me and the Bloomsday sculpture; the runners are sporting previous years' finisher shirts!

All in all it was a fun experience! It was awesome being a part of such an epic event! Details of my race are below.

No comments:

Post a Comment