I chose this race specifically because I wanted one more long, harder effort before the Boston Marathon. I’d met one of the organizers about a year ago at a running club meeting and was inspired by his story, from which the name of the race is derived. Back in February 2013, Damian was riding his bike in Griffith park when a car hit him and dragged his body a quarter of a mile down the road and onto the 5 freeway. He broke 20+ bones, lost his leg, but didn’t lose his will to survive. He created the Finish the Ride race series to raise money for SAFE (Streets are Safe For Everyone) and to build awareness around bicycle and pedestrian safety. According to the website, there are three different FTR events: Griffith Park, Santa Clarita, and The Valley/Van Nuys. Each one includes cycling races/rides and runs.
With a 9:00am start, I didn’t have to leave until later in the morning, but I still ended up arriving almost 2 hours early. Parking was easy, plentiful, and very close to the festivities. I read the newspaper, picked up my bib, used the bathroom, reviewed the course map on my phone, and dawdled around until about 8:30am. After a 1 mile warm up, I walked over to the start line and immediately spotted a friend who was actually timing the event. I asked him if he knew what the course was like as I wasn’t too familiar with the trails in Griffith Park, but he didn’t know. I had NO idea what to expect…
While I was in line for my last bit of porta potty action, it sounded like a race started, but it wasn’t quite 9:00am yet. We were all slightly confused as to whether the running races had indeed started (early)? Fortunately, it was a cycling ride which had begun and the runners still had a few minutes. I briefly debated sprinting to my car to change shirts – the temperature had gone from high 50s to mid 60s rapidly and I was wearing a long sleeve. Too late, the herd of eager runners was released!
Since the 5K, 10K and half marathon runners all started together, I found myself running too quickly with a group of Students Run LA kids. I prefer to spend the first two miles finding my legs and pace, but I made the mistake of chasing these young-ins. I knew that at some point, the half marathon runners would split from the shorter distance competitors, so I just went with the flow of the group until then. We were together for about 2-2.5 miles, and then the half marathon runners went off for a short out-and-back. I was less than 3 miles into a 13.1 mile run and already contemplating just running back to my car and going home. My legs were tired, I was overheating in the long sleeve, and my heart wasn’t into it that day.
I decided that “finish the run” would be my mantra for the rest of the run. This, plus seeing an old friend on the course (he was doing a training run), gave me a boost of hope. After the out-and-back, I felt like I started to drag along and slow with each mile. It also felt like we were running ever so slightly uphill. This, coupled with the fact that I was at the tail end of a 90 mile week, left my legs begging me to stop doing this to them! Sorry legs, you will be much more tired after 20 miles of running, so learn to deal with it and continue moving. Miles 3-6/11-12 were on a horse trail next to the freeway and though the footing was a bit uneven in some spots due to the dirt and sand surface, the scenery was nice and I was making an effort to enjoy the run. Part of the route was actually the same as the Griffith Park Trail Half Marathon.
According to Google Earth, we started to climb gradually right around mile 4.5 and crested the steepest hill right around mile 7.7. There was a water station at the top of that hill and I stopped to gulp down a cup of water. I actually felt better after that climb than I’d felt at mile 2, probably because I (felt like I) was averaging 9+ minutes per mile or so up the hill. I knew that this next section was an out and back, so I just focused on getting to the turnaround. Cruising downhill for one mile felt good, but I knew that it would mean coming back up for one long mile. The return trip wasn’t actualy bad at all and my legs finally seemed to be getting on board with this run. I estimated that there were 3-4 miles to go after the top-of-the-hill water station and set my cruise control on.
Right around mile 11, two SRLA runners blazed past me. They were running so fast, there was not way I going to chase them. However, their pacing was really erratic so I ended up catching both of them right before the finish line. With about .15 miles to go, one of them started to pick it up and I told him to go get it. He flew past me and charged the finish line, after which I ambled my way in, finishing in 1:33. I expected to run between a 1:35-1:40 (leaning more toward 1:40 as the race went on), so I was ecstatic to finish in 1:33!
After finishing, all I wanted was a bottle of water. Gatorade and chocolate milk were readily available, but I never did find any water. As a runner and an event management professional, I believe that a cup/bottle of water is an absolutely essential finish line offering. In fact, it should be the very first PF&F (Post Race Food & Fluid) item taken into consideration when planning. I traded Eli a bottle of chocolate milk for one of water, and then hung out with him in the timing tent for a few hours. I also received my first place overall female award (raffle tickets) and ended up winning a $50 gift certificate to A Runner’s Circle! I was ravenous when I left, so I stopped at Whole Foods and hit the hot food and salad bars hard. I hit my bed even harder when I got home and took a 2 hour nap.
I ran easy on Monday and then did a few speedy miles on tired legs on Tuesday. I will probably start to lower my daily mileage tomorrow in preparation for The Boston Marathon, which is only 4 days away!