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Monday, June 8, 2015

Crescent Connection Bridge Run

The Crescent Connection Bridge Run is a 4-mile race over the Mississippi River, held on a June evening. This race used to be in late August, but after several cancellations due to hurricanes (including Katrina!), it was moved to earlier in the year. Still hot as heck, though.
This year, for the first time, the start time was pushed back from 6 pm to 7 pm in an effort to give participants some relief from the heat. The course is entirely in the sun (obviously - it's a bridge) and the heat can be brutal - especially since you have to get in line for a shuttle to the start, then wait around at the start, and neither area has any shade. By the start of the race, you're already pouring sweat!
Nice tech-T with raglan sleeves.
Notice that the bib says "Eastbank" - you get
to pick your side, eastbank or westbank!

My race was not that great. I started out with a bad attitude about it: I don't like that I've gotten slower, and it annoyed me that David signed us up when I knew I wasn't race ready. So in defiance, I decided to run 8 miles that morning. I ran them slow and easy, but I'm just not in the conditioning to run that kind of distance before a race. I probably could have a few years ago, but now those miles really tire me out. My prep wasn't the best in other areas, either: I struggle with stomach cramps any time I run after eating, and I definitely ate too close to the race start. Then, we were too early, and waited at the start for over an hour in the heat. I could definitely have planned things better!
David took this picture of a tug pushing a barge under the bridges at the after-party

Pre-race, I did a mile and a half warm-up to get my heart rate up,  followed by two 100-m strides, then scooted up to the start. There were about 4,000 runners, and the start is narrow, so it can be congested: I tried to get close to the front. I was probably ten or twelve rows back.
The race starts with a flat first half-mile before you hit the bridge. I ran that at 6:58 pace, and it felt hot and difficult. I had many women ahead of me at that point, but couldn't see my place. Things started to string out a little as we hit the incline. A frustrating aspect of this race is the number of people dropping off in front of you - people tear out of the gate, then slow to a walk at the bridge! The incline is very hard for me. I run on totally flat surfaces, so a 2.5 mile incline is no joke for my legs! I saw my pace leaping up into the 7's, and knew this was no PR for me. But instead of giving up totally, I decided to practice race technique. I've been doing that recently, rather than waste these slower races. For this race, I decided to practice passing! 
I had three women in my sights at this point, about 1.5 miles in, and I could tell that the one closest to me would be an easy pass - she was slowing down. I passed her just by holding a steady pace. The next one was charging up the hill, but I hoped she'd fatigue at the top, and she did: as soon as I saw her start to slow down, I surged forward and passed her on the uphill. The bridge flattened out, now, and I kept on the gas to make sure I had her firmly passed. I also used this brief flat section to make up ground between myself and the last girl I could see. I got right on her tail, then mustered all my energy to pass her and hold my speed for a good 100 yards until I dropped her. She didn't drop easy, though!
After that, I was just holding on. We were screaming down this incredibly steep, banked spiral and I was definitely braking to stay upright. I'm pretty dissatisfied with how I handled the downhill portion: it's just a mile, and you really have to use gravity to get back the time you lost uphill, but I didn't do that very well. Finally we were off the bridge, and after two short turns, bam, you're at the finish line. I'm also not happy with my zero kick at the finish: I have been noticing my slow leg turnover lately, and it really shows at the end of a race. 
I crossed in 28:55, and just about puked. For such a slow time, I was dead! My legs hurt, I was dehydrated, and my head was burning hot to the touch. The late race start did help the heat a little, but I was still very warm. I dumped water on my head and wallowed in my disappointment for a while, until I was approached by one of the fast guys. He asked if I wanted to come along on a cool-down, and given how tight and sore my legs felt, I decided that a cool-down was a great idea. We did two miles and the guys talked to me about how they stayed healthy, got back in shape after injury, etc. It made me feel a little better. I checked the results the next day, and I was 5th female and first in my AG. 
With our friend and race-buddy, Joseph (we drove together: it's our tradition)
Race take-aways for me:
1. Miles prerace matter. Eight miles the morning of was stupid. 
2. Evening races are hard - I need to work on nutrition prior. 
3. I need hill practice! How I'm going to get that, though, I have no idea. 
4. I'm slower now. I need to accept that. 
5. My leg-turnover is incredibly slow. Any tips for working on that? 
6. I'm happy with my passes. I think passing actually takes technique, and this race was a good opportunity to practice that. 
7. I'm starting to feel close to physically ok. My left leg has been more of a problem than my right, and it keeps tightening and developing niggles, aches, and pains. But I didn't hurt much after this race. It's getting better and better. 


  1. Awesome race! I had a 4 miler too, and was hoping to run it easy because it was by far the hottest and sunniest run of the year so far for me. I took mile 1 easy, tried to go hard for mile 2 since it was downhill, uturn, then I planned to go easy on mile 3 since it was uphill, but I seemed to be passing people, so I tried to pass more, then for mile 4, I tried to do what you did -- focus on passing people one at a time. Ended up with mile 4 being my fastest of the day, which surprised me. I like the idea of different tactics so you get something out of even a slower race.

  2. I'm still super impressed with you even though you felt like crap. You're 6 months post-surgery, right? I think it's just going to take time, but I have no doubt that you will likely get back to where you were with more time + a smart training plan. As far as hills go, the girl that beat me at the Zulu 5k race (Antigone Pierson) told me that she does a bridge run with friends on Thursday mornings. I could maybe hook you up with her? I have yet to text her back because I am not in any shape to do any sort of real training right now (sigh...), but let me know if you are interested and I'll e-mail you with her #. Or maybe I'll actually text her back and find out when/where she trains. I think she trains with a crew that's in pretty decent shape. She's a 3:2X something marathoner. (Of course I have looked her times up on Athlinks. Stalker!!)

    1. I know Antigone! Or know of her. She beats me routinely!

    2. Yeah, she blew past me at around the 2.5 mile point of that 5k. I had nothing left in the tank! Have never run such a huge positive split in my life.

  3. Evening races are incredibly hard. Getting everything right - resting, fuelling, hydrating before the race just seems impossible to me so I don't ever run them. Still, you did a great job under difficult circumstances and made lemonade out of lemons. Congrats on the age group win!

  4. "So in defiance, I decided to run 8 miles that morning" ... you're just like my wife. Exactly what point were you supposedly making? Ha. Sometimes races like this are fun when you aren't as focused on the time, but usually if they're going to keep time, I'd like to run it as hard as possible. Good job on the AG win!