It’s been a while since I’ve drafted a race recap so I am elated to write one!
Conquer the Bridge is one of my favorite races of the year for a few reasons:
- It is a tough 5.2 mile course and a great workout if I run it hard
- It is a very pretty and one-of-a-kind course
- A large amount of AREC (my running club) members run it, so it feels like a giant party!
- It is local and has a small, home town-y feel
- It is managed well and travel/parking logistics are simple
Historically, I’ve run decently at CTB:
- 2012: 35:17 / 3rd OAF
- 2013: didn’t run
- 2014: 37:59 / 3rd OAF
- 2015: 42:12 (walked a LOT)
- 2016: 37:15 / 3rd OAF
Since I am just getting my legs back after the injury and break, I was on the fence about running this easy with a friend or trying to push myself. My runs felt good the week prior, so I decided that I didn’t want to run it easy. While I’m not running any intense workouts yet, my weekly mileage is climbing and I can tell that my fitness is returning. I knew that I wouldn’t run my fastest CTB time, but I was curious to see how I’d do. I did a short hill circuit the day before the race just to make sure my legs still knew how to climb (they did). I decided on two goals going into the race: 1) sub-40 minutes 2) not fall apart on the second climb.
The course heads straight for about .4 miles before a wide turn onto an on-ramp and the Vincent Thomas Bridge ascension. After the first up, comes the first over, followed by another slight uphill toward the u-turn. Every year, I feel like I run the first up-and-over too fast, and end up falling apart while going up the other side of the bridge. It’s all fun and games until I hit that u-turn and I remember what lies ahead. The return trip begins with a slight downhill and the second up-and-over. Cresting that second time is a glorious feeling and made even better by the fact that a fair amount of downhill follows. Unfortunately, the last .4 mile stretch feels like 2 miles after the hard effort of the bridge.
Race day started out as a typical one does: wake up, pee, prepare, stop at 7-11 for a coffee and breakfast bar, and drive to the race. I love traveling with others to races, but I also really enjoy listening and singing along …loudly… to my favorite songs while driving there. I packed a post-run breakfast as well which was a really good idea since I was ravenous afterwards! I arrived at about 6:00am and started my 2-mile warm up at about 6:15am. I ran through an interesting part of the Port of Los Angeles which felt eerily deserted and like I probably shouldn’t be there. It felt like I was running through the set of a creepy movie. I made sure to park right next to a porta potty so that I could hit it when I finished my warm up and so I would also remember where I’d parked. I pinned my bib on before jogging over to the start line area.
My timing was perfect because I arrived just in time for the AREC club picture! I chatted with a few friends and my co-worker Phyllis while waiting in the start line corral. I started too far back last year and did not want to make that mistake again this year, so I made sure I was only 3 or 4 people deep. At 7:00am, we were off!
“Stay controlled and smooth” I told myself during the first .4 mile stretch. I decided to wear my Garmin during this race to see what my splits on each section were.
Mile 1: 7:14 (first .4ish flat, gradual incline starts)
Mile 2: 7:12 (uphill on the bridge)
I felt great for the first 3 miles and was pushing just hard enough to feel like it wasn’t easy, but also saving myself for the second climb. People were flying past me for the first 2-3 miles and especially on the first decline, but I knew that I would end up re-passing them as we went back up for the second time.
Mile 3: 6:45 (downhill, small uphill, u-turn, small downhill)
“Get ‘er done.” I thought to myself as I glanced up toward the top of the bridge. I settled into a pace and tried to ignore the lactic acid building up in my legs. I focused on waving at AREC runners on the other side of the median, yelling names when I saw a familiar face, or just yelling good job to random groups of runners. I didn’t care if my pace slowed – my goal was simply to run strong to the top. I passed 4-5 females and wondered if they’d pass me back on the downhill. This portion felt very long and my legs felt like jello at the top, but I had a huge smile on my face when I reached the apex.
Mile 4: 7:41 (up up up)
I just leg my legs do whatever they wanted for the next downhill section and they surprised me with a fast mile.
Mile 5: 6:09 (downhill, flattening a bit at the end)
During this downhill stretch, I spotted a ponytail up ahead. I suddenly found myself neck-and-neck with a girl who was about half of my height, and I guessed to be about 11 years old. I felt silly “racing” this little girl, but the competitive little devil on my shoulder decided at about the mile 5 marker that I wasn’t going to get beat by someone who had 50% less weight to carry up that damn bridge than me. I activated my rocket boosters right making the turn into the straight away and just tried to run fast. I was determined to not get passed by mini-Shalane. J.T. got some good pictures of me!
Last .34 miles: 6:22
Upon crossing the finish line, I came face-to-face with a giant news camera. I found out later that I had video-bombed the first place girl’s post-race interview.
I met my goal of sub-40 with a 37:15 finish time, which was good for my third 3rd place OAF finish since 2012. Yet again, I felt like an old woman, finishing behind a 12 and 17 year old.
J.T. rode alongside me on his beach cruiser while I completed a cool-down mile and then I hung out with my fellow AREC-ers for a while. I absolutely love the post-race hang-out parties and sharing race stories with my friends! I finally completed the rest of my miles and started to make my way home.
As my first race back after being injured, I am happy with the way that it went and with my current running. I made sure to run EASY today and not make the same mistake that I did after Mountains 2 Beach. I am also making every effort to be diligent with daily foam rolling and “pre-hab” exercises. Despite going into my 9th year of running, I still learn something new with every race and every injury.