Sunday, May 29, 2016

On the Run: River Bank Run 25K 2016

For the past three years I've wanted to run the Fifth Third River Bank Run in May but forgotten about it until the last minute.  It creeps up on me and all of a sudden I think, "Crap!  It's THIS weekend?!"  To ensure that didn't happen for a fourth year in a row, I signed up when registration opened in November.  Brian and I booked The Holiday Inn shortly after.  Grand Rapids has been on our list of weekend getaways for a while so this would be a perfect excuse to go there.  There are countless breweries (several of Brian's favorites) and many vegan dining options in the city.  Beer, good food, AND a race?  I could hardly wait until May!

The race fell on May 14, just 4 weeks after Boston, which I hoped was enough time for my legs to recover.  Unfortunately, after my marathon my hamstrings weren't in as good of shape as I had hoped.  My right was decent but my left was giving me trouble.  I spent the 4 weeks babying them by easing back into longer runs and quicker paces.  I wasn't able do get any speed workouts because I didn't think it was worth the risk.  My goal was to enjoy the race and run happy; not to run my fastest paces.


It took us an eternity to get to Grand Rapids on Friday night because of traffic.  Brian dropped me off at the expo while he went to check in at the hotel.  Maybe it was because I was at the tail end of it but the expo wasn't much to speak of.  I picked up my bib and shirt, grabbed a free water bottle, and headed out.  I met Brian back at the hotel (only a 10 minute walk) and we went straight to dinner.  

Dinner was at The Mitten Brewing Co.  It was small, crowded, loud, and had a 2-hour wait.  At that point we didn't know where else to go so we waited.  Drinks were good and people-watching was fun, plus the all-vegan menu was worth the wait!

BBQ Chicken Pizza (yep, all vegan!)


Saturday's weather was overcast and in the 40's - absolutely perfect for racing.  Also a far cry from Marathon Monday's sunny 70's one month prior!  I dressed in my usual shorts and RUNdetroit singlet but this time I added an ear warmer and arm warmers.  For my warm up I also had a long sleeve and pants.  It was windy, making it feel even colder that it actually was.  

While I ran my mile warm-up I started to get anxious.  My stomach was a wreck.  I'd been having some digestive issues again and eating that late-night pizza surely wasn't helping matters.  My legs weren't good either.  Glutes, hamstrings.  Oh I was a mess.  It was a long, slow, painful mile.  I had no idea what was going to happen on that course.

Brian went with me to the start line.  I love having him with me as long as possible.  We found a spot to meet after the race and he snapped a picture of me before I found my way into the corral.

I took Brian's advice and started conservatively with the 2:00 pace group.  I didn't want to end this race like my last two races - miserable, sore, and regretting starting too fast.  It was a good group of people, many of whom were from the area and knew the course well.  I got a few pointers but was mostly told to enjoy myself and it would be over before I knew it.  Sounded great to me!

The race starts downtown and has a pretty good crowd.  The course exits downtown Grand Rapids pretty quickly, however, and the crowds thin.  I stayed near the pace group and around the same group of runners for the first 3-4 miles.  My pace was holding around 7:35/mile, which felt nice and easy.  I was closely monitoring my hamstrings to be sure they were feeling okay.  

The first 6 miles of the course takes runners down Indian Mounds Drive, a beautiful tree-lined stretch of road.  I loved this section of the race and took in the scenery as I ran.  By then I'd dropped my pace a little bit and although I was feeling okay, I was still being cautious.  

At the end of Indian Mounds Drive was an aid station with cheerleaders.  I could hear them before I saw them!  After the cheerleaders the road was lined with spectators cheering as we curved around into Johnson Park.  As peaceful as Indian Mounds Drive was, it was about time for some noise!  I said something to a guy next to me about the crowd.  A moment later he asked my pace because he wasn't wearing a watch.  For the next 4 miles we stuck together, chatting about running and averaging a 7:10/mile pace.  There were a couple of hills in miles 8-10 but nothing significant.  

Coming around a curve and up a hill, I saw the 7:30 pace group ahead.  I was feeling good so I picked it up a bit and joined them.  My plan was to stay with them for the last 5 miles but that pace felt easy so I moved on.  I was comfortable to push a bit more as I neared the final third of the race.  

Unfortunately, my stomach was starting to act up.  It had been iffy the whole time but I was starting to worry with each passing mile.  4 miles to go.  I was eying every porta-potty I passed.  Should I stop?  I kept going.  Maybe that one.  No.  I was afraid of losing valuable time on the clock.  What if it was a false alarm?  What if I ended up being in there forever?  

As I approached the 20K, I started to think I had no other choice.  There was a porta up ahead.  I had to stop.  No way I could make it 3 more miles.  So I got to it . . . and kept going.  For a few feet and turned around.  Screw it.  Not worth it.  

After I stopped I caught up to and passed several people I'd been running with, including the whole 7:30 pace group.  My last 3 miles were the fastest of the race.  In fact, mile 14 was a full minute faster than mile 1!  It was definitely worth the stop.

Right after I stopped the course took a turn through John Ball Park.  It was a beautiful little park that I later found out has a zoo.  It reminded me of a mini central park.  From there we ran past some historical homes and before I knew it I was back into town, near our hotel, and turning toward the finish line.  I was smiling and waving to crowds, so grateful to be finishing strong and happy!  

Other than some slight hamstring pain on my right side in mile 15 when I pushed the pace, everything felt good.  It has been a long time since I've run smart and pulled off negative splits.  Right now, a smart race is more important a fast pace.  






CLIF Banana Maple Oatmeal, banana (pre-race)


Riptide / Vance Joy
The Valley / Mayer Hawthorne
The Joke Explained / Wilco
Black and White / Parquet Courts
Ex's & Oh's / Elle King
Something About You / Lucius
I'm Shakin' / Jack White
Born Again Teen / Lucius
Pedestrian at Best / Courtney Barnett
Swell Content / Speedy Ortiz
The Wolf / Mumford & Sons
S.O.B. / Nathanial Rateliff & the Night Sweats
Shut Up and Dance / Walk the Moon
St. Cecelia / Foo Fighters
Counting Stars / One Republic
You've Got Time / Regina Spector
Elevator Operator / Courtney Barnett
I'm a Wheel / Wilco
The Innocent / Mayer Hawthorne
Lately / Soul Asylum
Deceptacon / Jessica Hernandez
Spark / Fitz & the Tantrums
Just a Kid (with The Blisters) / Wilco
Mallie Chan / Otto Vector
Lust for Life / Iggy Pop
Rattlesnake / St. Vincent
Blood for Poppies / Garbage
The Walker / Fitz & the Tantrums
Turn it Around / Lucius
Ship to Wreck / Florence & the Machine
Race for the Prize / Flaming Lips
Brave / Sara Bareilles
Uprising / Muse

What's a race without a banana photo?

Brian and I met at Starbucks.  I was STARVING because I wasn't able to take any gels during the race.  Then we headed out to some breweries.  We went to Brewery Vivant, Founders Brewing Company, and The Hideout Brewing Company.  Vivant was Brian's favorite; I loved my Mango Magnifico at Founders.  Hideout was okay.  I had a good spiced pumpkin cider.  Here are a few pictures from our morning of brew-tasting:




After, er, lunch, we figured it was time to get something for dinner and ended up at Stella's Lounge.  I saw it had many vegan options - burgers, sandwiches, appetizers - so it sounded perfect.  We walked from our hotel, giving us a chance to check out a bit more of the city.  Stella's has a fun and funky vibe, from the arcade games to the murals on the wall. The food was really tasty.  We had beer-battered avocado bites to start (The Avocado Nugents).  Following that I had the sweet potato burrito and Brian had a burger.  Everything was delicious.  I will have to go back to try more of the menu.  


The city was quiet on Sunday.  We ate at a small, casual breakfast at The Kitchen Counter, just a short walk from our hotel.  After breakfast we walked around a little bit but it was a cold day so we didn't stay long.  We made plans for the next time we visit Grand Rapids - museums, parks, gardens, and more breweries.  It is a wonderful city!

Photos by Brian Wolski

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