On Saturday, I ran my first Rock ‘n’ Roll race. I was expecting it to be poorly run, crowded and generally annoying as I’ve read some poor reviews of these races. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised and race day was great. I rode my bike to the start, which was an awesome decision because it was an easy ~4 miles mostly downhill to the race, and I could park my bike right near the start/finish area. I’m sure trying to find parking would have been stressful.
As I went to check my gear (which is actually something I’ve never done at a race before because I’m a weirdo) I realized I had left my shoe timing chip at home. I started to freak out when a kind volunteer directed me to the Rock ‘n’ Roll “solutions” tent. Even though I had no cash on me, they gave me a new timing chip and bib and asked me to come back at the end with money. That incident made me feel like the Rock ‘n’ Roll team was well-organized.
I had originally been put in corral 2, but with the new bib I was bumped back to 8. There were over 15,000 runners and 17 corrals! They did wave starts, and I crossed the start line around 10 minutes after the first wave. Because of this setup, I really didn’t have to do much weaving throughout the race. On the other hand, I was always surrounded by people throughout the course.
As the race started, I was feeling pretty good but I could “feel” my IT band, if that makes any sense. I promised myself that I would take walking breaks if that escalated into discomfort. And if discomfort escalated into pain, I would drop out of the race.
I’ve been using Neil’s old iPod for the last few weeks since I couldn’t find my clip on shuffle (I found it after the race in my make-up bag, which tells you how often I wear makeup). I just hold it my hands, and somewhere along mile 3 I dropped it. Although I quickly picked it up, my heart rate felt really high and off after that, so I decided to take a walking break for 30 seconds to calm down.
As the miles continued, I paid close attention to my IT band. Around mile 9 it started to feel more uncomfortable. I expected this, as this is the part of the course where a few rolling hills begin to show up. My lack of training past 10 miles probably didn’t help either! I decided to take 30 second walking breaks, plus walking through some of the water stops. I’m happy to report that this kept the IT band level at “slight discomfort” and it never crossed the line to become painful. By the last mile, it was feeling a lot better and I was able to cruise into the finish.
This may sound lame, but I’m pretty proud of myself for taking this race approach. A few years ago, I would have convinced myself that it is stupid to walk with only four miles left in a race. Then I would have probably re-injured myself and complained when I couldn’t run the next week. I feel like I’m a much smarter runner nowadays, and I can focus on the big picture (running injury-free for a long time) instead of short-term goals (making a certain time in one race). Thanks to big picture thinking (and foam rolling), my IT band feels completely fine today.
I also had two reoccurring thoughts throughout this race. One, I was grateful not to have any time goals. It made the race so much more fun and less pressure. Two, I was very happy to be running 13.1 instead of 26.2. Another sign I’m not quite ready to pull the marathon trigger again.
Considering the race itself, I loved this course and plan to do it again next year. Compared to Colfax, there were a lot more people out cheering (of course, I have no idea if this continued for the full marathon runners). The race started/finished at Civic Center Park, and wound through downtown, some nice neighborhoods, City Park and Cheesman park. Plus the last few miles are slightly downhill, with a steep downhill at the finish line.
This race has confirmed that my love of running and racing has returned. I have another half in early November, and I’m excited that my endurance is well on its way after this weekend. AND I’m actually excited to do some speed work.