Cooper River Bridge Run has become one of my favorite races, and I can’t say enough good things about it. This is the second year my sister Lesley and I traveled to Charleston to celebrate our “Sister Day”–a totally awesome excuse to be together and run some. We left Friday, later than I would’ve liked, but with plenty of time to get to the expo, grab dinner, and get some rest.
The race is the 3rd largest 10k in the country, and is logistically complicated–35,000 runners going point to point over a huge bridge. They made some major changes this year to avoid a similar scenario to last year’s debacle that included the race going off an hour late. (note: i still enjoyed myself thoroughly last year, despite the delay). This year they changed the expo to a roomier convention center in North Charleston, which was nice–it felt a little less frenetic, and was easier to navigate. The other big change was that they had three locations in different parts of the area for shuttle departure to the race, as opposed to one, in downtown Charleston, as they had done prior.
The shuttle changes didn’t really affect us, since we stay downtown, right at the finish line, and take the ferry across the Cooper River. I love it; such a nice way to start a race day. No real line to stand in, there’s coffee on the boat, and if you time it right, you can see the sun rise, silhouetting the bridge. You still have to hop a bus to the start line, but it’s all just people who got off the boat with you, so no big deal.
We did get to the boat earlier this year, which made the start experience a lot less rushed. We were dropped off the bus the end of all corrals, at about 7:20, which gave us plenty of time to walk allllll the way to corral A to use the portapotty. We were in corrals C&D, but this area has the least crowded portapotty area, but don’t go telling everybody and crowding it up for me next year, ok?
YOU GUYS. GUESS WHO WAS THREE PEOPLE IN FRONT OF ME IN THE LINE FOR THE PORTAPOTTY. Remember the World’s Most Photogenic Guy? This one? Zeddie Little? I saw him and thought it was him, but without the smile, wasn’t sure it was the same guy. My sister said no, but I had hop over to him and ask his name. He told me “Winston,” so I told him I thought he was someone else, but he wasn’t. He kind of mumbled “I have another first name.” I cocked my eyebrow at him and he told me. He was super nice, we talked about the picture, and he took a picture with me. Fun!
So, with our bathroom-ing and Zeddie Little-sighting complete, we headed back to the corrals. I got in right as they were starting the elites off (at EXACTLY 8AM–they were clearly not going to mess this up this year), and with very little fanfare or lag time, I was running.
I hadn’t really set a goal for this race, as my 10k PR was set just a few weeks ago, and on a downhill course with nothing like the monster that is the Arthur J. Ravenel bridge. I figured I’d give it my all, shoot for 8:30-ish miles and treat it as a tempo training run in anticipation of the miles I’ll run with Katie in Wisconsin. I started my Garmin as we went over the mats, I KNOW I DID but at .5 in it beeped as it started to go into Power Save mode.
I started to get mad, but then decided I’d just reset and start my watch again when I heard everyone else’s watches chirp near the Mile 1 marker. Which is what I did. But having no real gauge for how that first mile went, I knew the PR thing might not happen, unless I wanted to REALLY push the pace to be on the safe side of a PR. With a huge course PR certain (last year I finished CRBR in 1:00:13), and with it being Sister Day and me wanting to enjoy my time with Lesley, I pretty much knew I wasn’t going to push. I wanted to do well on the race, but sometimes, there are just other things going on. I could be happy with a fat course PR, and with the Garmin fail, I decided just to lay it out and let the (timing ) chips fall where they may. Heh. Get it?
Before I knew it we were moving up the bridge! I had forgotten how huge it is. And how very crowded it is, and hard it is to navigate the folks who walk on the uphill. But I hadn’t forgotten how hard it had been last year to make it up the thing. This year, I felt… strong. Last year it took me a little over 10 minutes to get up to the top, this year, it took me under 9. I love it when speed training pays off–it makes me want to do even more!
I had also forgotten what a lovely, long descent you get on the bridge. If you haven’t shredded everything up it, it’s great to go down. The slope is short and big going up, and long and little going down. It can definitely be used to your advantage.
When we hit the bottom of the bridge, back in Charleston, was when I felt it in my legs. Like they were leaden. I honestly wanted to walk–I felt that sloggy–but pushed through. They really lay on the water stops in the second half of the race, and I was thankful for the distraction. We made our way toward the historic area, and the finish. Here is where the cheers pick up, and it’s so beautiful. I wanted something there for the last two turns before the finish, and when I made the next to the last turn I kicked it in. I made it across the finish and didn’t feel like puking–hurrah! My Garmin read 44:53 for 5.23 miles. I knew I’d only have a PR if I’d killed the first mile, which I didn’t think I had. And I was right–my official time was 53:38, exactly one minute off my existing PR.
Mile 1 8:45, by my calculations.
Mile 2 8:50
Mile 3 (the bridge) 8:54
Mile 4 8:14
Mile 5 8:36
Mile 6 (.2 miles) 8:09
Average pace: 8:38
4166 of 31467 runners
1138 of 18493 females
Do I wish I’d run those first 2 miles faster? Of course! But I don’t know that I could’ve powered up the bridge if I had. I honestly have no real regrets about the race. I finished with a course PR of 7:30+–that’s a huge difference year-to-year. I felt strong, and I feel ready to run with Katie in Wisconsin, and I feel ready to work toward more PR’s. With some more speedwork, I can practically taste my sub-25 5k goal.
Post-race, I got some water and a banana, and went over to the edge of the park where you can cheer the runners on as they hit mile 6. I scanned and scanned for Lesley until I found her, then jumped in and ran with her till the finish line was in sight. She always looks like she’s about to kill somebody when she’s at the end of the race, so I chirped some happy things at her and hoped her victim would not be me. Yikes! (In truth, she has said she loves it when I run her in, so I’m kidding there.) She had a huge PR herself, about 7:00 or so, too.
We hustled back to our hotel for some breakfast, but not before I met up with another Ragnar ambassador who had come in from Tennessee. I’d helped him out in getting his packet as he was late getting to Charleston, and so it was nice to put a face to the random number I’d been texting with on Friday. 🙂
After showering and stretching, we walked to Husk for lunch–do eat there when you are in Charleston. Though they claim their schtick is Southern, I will tell you, as someone who grew up in Kentucky and has lived deep in Appalachia, that their schtick is actually Refined Hillbilly. AND I LOVE IT. Our dishes included bacon, pork belly marmalade, more bacon, and pork. WINNING.
We also visited Fort Sumter (this felt familiar as our father is a historian and we spent our youth visiting landmarks and tombstones) and ate at an AWESOME cafe called Five Loaves. I recommend that, too.
We were beat on Saturday night and in bed early. Happily. It was a great race, a great weekend, and a great Sister Day.
I love ya, Charleston! Kisses! Save some pig for me for next year!