Pre-Race: 5 am bright and early we were up and at 'em, got ready and then were out the door to pick up her friend Corrina and head over to Jacksonville to PR the Gate River Run 15k! With her insider knowledge, Christy got us to the race early enough to avoid the inevitable crazy race traffic and we pulled into the parking lot outside of the Jaguars Stadium with plenty of time to spare. Once we were geared up we headed over to the Finish Line to snag a pic and then lucked out and found no lines at the Porta-potties. Sweet!
Start Corral: Because we had FAIL'd to notice that she could qualify for seeded corral placement we were stuck in open corral with the general population. We passed the time amusing ourselves with people watching, snapping a few pre-race shots and fighting the urge to give into the nervous pees. Nerves were a little high because Christy was shooting for a PR (my ultimate job as pacer to help her achieve) and it was Corrina's first time running a 15k. (Guaranteed PR!) I reassured them both they'd do great and for added measure I reassured them some more!
Ready to rock this 15k!
Start to 5k: It took us about 2 minutes to cross the start mats and once we had I was surprised at how speedy we were going. I had figured on us getting caught up in the inevitable cluster f*ck that is the start of a race so I had strategized us to take the first 2 miles conservatively... except we were speeding along at pace almost instantly! I credit this to having the entire width of Bay St. at our disposal. Despite this though, not even a few minutes into Mile 1 this giant of a guy trips up on the middle line reflectors directly in front of us and eats it like you wouldn't believe, almost taking a few other runners with him. It was luck alone that we avoided the pile up and our hearts skipped a beat when we watched him simultaneously hit his head while sliding across the pavement. His friends and a few runners that were in his immediate fall area helped him to his feet but we're both pretty sure there's no way he could've finished the race. Ouch. :(
Mile 1 breezed by and into Mile 2 we passed this lady that looked so much like Betty White I go to comment on it and Christy finishes my sentence! LOL! That kept us giggling as we approached the first bridge, the Main Street Bridge, that runs over the St. John's River and into Mile 3.
Bridge #1 - Main Street Bridge
From 5k to 10k: We crossed the 5k mark right on schedule and shortly thereafter ran a brief stretch along the river where the view and breeze were amazing and we were equally amazed to see not only a "Mimosa Station" set up but also spectators handing out Dunkin Donut holes to the runners! LOL! As we headed into Mile 4 and through a beautiful historic looking neighborhood Christy took advantage of a woman using her hose spraying runners. Then we saw a Hillary Clinton look alike which caused us to giggle straight into Mile 5. Between the random sightings, our constant chatter and the awesome bands playing along the course we were definitely entertained but by this point we were also feeling the heat, (Read: Hot, Sweaty Messes) struggling to keep the pace and as a result Christy tried to trip me!!! (J/K it was an accident but would've made a funny story) Turning on to Beach Blvd a woman pushing a jogging stroller with her toddler in it totally smoked us and we both just shook our head in amazement. That gets the Hardcore Stamp for sure! As we trudged on trying not to melt on this completely exposed stretch along a busy thoroughfare we came up on Mile 6 and celebrated only having a 5k left to go!
From 10k to 15k: We finished up 10k still looking good time wise but Christy was struggling and nervous about the impending Mile 7 stretch and beyond that, the infamous Hart Bridge. I wasn't too worried about Mile 7 but I was anxious about the bridge too and admitted as much. As we wound through another gorgeous neighborhood we saw a man dressed as a Banana handing out Oranges and people handing out ice pops before turning onto Atlantic Blvd and into Mile 7. I quickly put my Peppy Pacer Pants into full effect, insisted on more Cowbell from the spectators and chatted away to keep her mind off her nerves and the heat.
Soon enough we were on the ramp up to the Hart Bridge Expressway and beginning our climb of the bridge... I'm not going to lie, it was a monster of a bridge! Much higher and far more steep then the one Jill & I tackled during the Donna Half but at least this time I was ready. I had given Christy a few pointers on tackling it without burning herself out and told her not to let me get more than a runner ahead of her. I felt great and I was hoping my energy could pull her up...
We plugged in our iPod's and homed in on making it to the top. I was rocking out, enjoying the view and keeping Christy in my peripheral. Before long we crested and having done so achieved her first goal of the day: not walking the bridge! SUCCESS!!!
That really boosted her confidence and we settled in to coast the downhill. Check this awesome shot I snagged of the runners heading towards the Finish Line at Jaguar's Stadium:
Christy: Oooo go right there and take a pic! Hurry!
Morgan: OK! (Darts in front of runners to snap perfect shot)
15k PR's for All!!!
Post Race: After we rounded up Corrina (she totally killed it too!) we headed over to the Post Race Party to gather up some eats and H2O before heading back to the car. Once we were all situated we settled in for the drive back and I decided to review the pics we had taken along the way... And that is when I realized I was unknowingly the victim of unfortunate sweat patterns and Christy was a bad friend! Real Runner Friends tell their friends when they're running in shorts that give them unfortunate sweat patterns!!! Readers be warned, not only did she not tell me this horrible situation was occuring, but she proceeded to take action shots of me from behind that documented it! Needless to say I put my cropping skills to use on the bridge shot above so you wouldn't be subjected to the FAIL that was my new green shorts. Bad Christy!!! :P (Truth be told its not like telling me would have made a difference during the race but still!!! LOL!)
Post Race Thoughts: First and foremost I can not say enough how much I love running with friends and especially at races! Christy is such a doll, loved her and loved running with her! I had so much fun giggling it up pacing her and would do it again in a heartbeat! (If she lets me of course!) I really hope she makes it down for the 5k I talked her in to joining me to run next month!
The course itself was so picturesque and only had a few stretches that were lackluster; It started at the Jaguar's Stadium, wound thru downtown Jacksonville, over and along the St. Johns River, through some gorgeous neighborhoods before wrapping around to run the Hart Bridge back over the river to finish at the stadium. Overall I just kept commenting how beautiful and what a great course it was. The distance itself was awkward to me, as it was my first time, but by the end I was digging it. Initially I wasn't sure how to strategize for it and had I been racing rather than pacing I'm not sure how my time would've ended up; I hit the bridge wanting to charge it but had I been racing prior I might not have had as much energy by that point. I would def run this course again and suggest it to others. My only real complaint was that an 8:30 am start time was WAY too late for a race here in Hades. The day itself was BEAUTIFUL but had we of started earlier we wouldn't have caught so much beat down from the sun and would have crushed her PR by even more but all things considered I think we did excellent and I'm so proud of her! We have a speedy runner in the making here folks!
With that I have a new distance raced, another running friend paced and will head into the Week 'O Xtraining basking in the after glow (or maybe that's just the sunburn) and hoping it tides me over...