Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I Survived the Cooper River Bridge Run!

Want a break-down of what the Cooper River Bridge Run is really like? Are you sure, because it's pretty lengthy... Here it is:

The Expo
After my math class on Friday, John and I headed to Charleston. We went straight to the Expo at the North Charleston Convention Center, because it closed at 8, and we got there at 7! It was open Thursday and Friday, and although people recommended to go on Thursday, it was not too hectic by the time we got there. We went, in got our bibs, got our goodies (a bag with our t-shirt, a towel, and a flash drive with what I'm assuming contained info... I don't know, we didn't use them), and roamed. There were lots of booths selling head bands, pouches to hold your valuables while you ran, and protein shakes galore! The most crowded booths were Blue Moon's and Front Porch Ice Cream's... Hmm, wonder if it had to do with the fact that they were handing out free samples ;)
After we had scoped the place out, we went to "carbo-load" as John wanted to do; I obliged, as long as we could go to the nearby Carrabbas, which is by far my favorite Italian place. It was pretty crowded, but because their bread is to die for, so we stuck around. John wasn't as impressed, but we both finished the race, so I'll let that speak for itself...

check in expo

Rise and ShineI'm normally a happy morning person. Not so much when you wake me up at 4:30 AM and I've gotten 6 hours of sleep. What can I say, I'm a sleep diva who needs her 8 hours! It took me a while to really wake up, but John and I were checked out of our hotel and on our way to the North Charleston Convention Center (same place as the Expo) by 5:15! We sleepily got in line for a shuttle bus to the start of the race. It was pretty cold outside, but thank goodness we didn't have to wait more than an hour. Sadly, I accidentally left my phone charger in John's car the night before the race and I wanted to save my energy for the next morning, so I didn't go out to get it (aka I'm so lazy sometimes). I really wished I had my phone during our wait, because I got a little bored and focused too much on the annoyed "cheaters" who cut in front of us in line. At first, I wasn't going to let them bother me.... until we were the first ones stopped because the bus had reached its limit. If we had just sassily told them to get to the back of the line and wait like everyone else, we wouldn't have been in that situation. Luckily, the people on the bus saw the steam coming out of my ears, and there were three unoccupied seats on the bus. Woohoo!

Bus Ride
We were all shocked when we noticed that one of the five or six bus lines wrapped around the convention center. This line wasn't just long; it was the longest line I'd ever seen in my life. And I've been to Disney World four times. The bus driver even seemed a bit skeptical that the race would start at 8 am... We were in the front row of seats and heard him walkie talkie his driver friends and tell them "there's probably 'bout 50,000 people in line for a shuttle!" Now obviously he was exaggerating, because 50,000 people didn't even run, but the problem was that people couldn't see around the building to see there were other lines they could stand in!
Since the three empty seats were obviously not next to one another, I sat next to a nice local who had run this race seven times before, and I was able to ask her a few questions. She said the race started an hour late last year, and she was a little worried it might happen again this year, because this was the first year shuttle buses came from the convention center, and it wasn't looking too promising...

Pre-race Jitters...I hopped off the bus when we got to Mount Pleasant and waited for John. We walked our way to the start of the race, passing a line of porta-potties, where we quickly made a pit-stop. From where the bus dropped us off to the starting line was a little walk, but it helped pass the time. There were so many people that it was hard not to get a little excited, or in my case, a lot nervous! John and I dropped his book-bag off at one of the drop-off stations in what looked like a big moving-truck. John then walked me back to my corral.  I was in the last corral, or running group, of runners. I estimated I would finish in an hour + time, so I was in Corral H. Corrals A-D were all 45 min- an hour, E-H were an hour up, and I-K were the walkers. The Kenyans and other super-freaks who finished under an hour (the quickest time was under thirty minutes) didn't even have a corral. John saying, "I'll walk you to your corral" inspired us to joke about different running pick-up lines. My other favorite was "Can I have your bib number?" Yeah, we're as dorky as they come.
I realized I was going to have to potty again, so I found another set of porta-potties, and wow, were their lines long. I waited there for about thirty minutes, and I was starting to get nervous that I was going to miss the start of the race! It was perfect timing though, because I got back to my corral just as the third corral started. That meant I got to hear the announcer call out John's corral's whole "One minute... Fifteen seconds.... GO!" thing, and that got me pumped. I was excited, and as we kept inching up to the starting line, I soaked it all in. Some people were dressed super crazy, like the guys that wore a submarine as a costume... They were in my corral, and before the race began, I made sure to get past them so that I wouldn't have to worry about avoiding them later in the race!

We all live in a... black submarine? The Hunley  
We all live in a... black submarine? The Hunley

Run, Chelsea, Run! 

Soon, it was Corral H's turn to start. Each corral had a song they played while they started the run. John's was the Harlem Shake, and mine was "Jump On It". Obviously I did the little dance as I started jogging. I couldn't wipe the excited smile off my face (which was okay, because mile four or five did that for me).
The first mile was seriously smooth-sailing. I had so much adrenaline running through me, I felt like I had just started running around mile 2. However, because I'm a stickler for the rules, I couldn't believe people in my corral were: a. listening to music (frowned upon, because then you can't hear other runners trying to communicate with you), b. trying to run with strollers (also frowned upon, because it's kind of inconvenient to try to pass ), and c. coming to a dead halt in the "left lane". First of all, you should probably not sign up for a running group if you know you will be walking within the first mile, because there are different corrals for walkers. It makes it hard on everyone when people start walking unexpectedly because everyone around you has to dodge you and weasel their way into another space to keep their groove.

I stayed towards the left throughout most of the race, not because I'm fast, but because it was easier to focus on running when I wasn't focusing on running into people. I totally understood people stopping to take a break in the "left lane" towards the middle to end of the race, because everyone gets tired! I also avoided water pit stops, because I suck at multi-tasking, and I knew I couldn't try to keep running, grab a cup of water, proceed to drink that water, and avoid hitting someone. I'm not graceful, but hey, at least I'm self-aware!

Screen shot 2013-04-10 at 3.04.53 PM 
No, I am not paying for an ugly sweaty picture of me, and yes I am a cheapo. Actually, I LIKE that it says proof on it, because that's exactly what it is: PROOF that I did this race! Ha!

My favorite part of the race (other than finishing it) was when we came up to the bridge. The bridge marks the start of the incline, which seems kind of steep for a little bit, but it's the only incline of the whole race! (Technically, here it is: the bridge is limited to a 4.1% slope. On the Charleston side of the main span, the long approach is a 1.8% slope. On the Mount Pleasant side, there is a section three tenths of a mile long that has a 5.6% slope.) Along the route, there are multiple bands playing. From an African drumming group to Justin Timberlake-crooners, they keep you entertained when you pass! When we came to the bridge, a band was playing "Chariots of Fire", which is the ultimate running-in-slow-motion song. I thought it was hilarious, and it gave me a surge of energy when I started the bridge.

We did it!The last mile was pretty brutal, but I wouldn't allow myself to give up and walk. I'm so glad I didn't, because finding John and telling him I did it was so exciting! There were tons of tents giving away free food, but I wasn't that hungry, despite all my running and very little breakfast (I didn't like the breakfast bar I picked out the night before). John, on the other hand, got a hotdog, trail mix, two Muscle Milk shakes, and two fruit cups before I even finished the race. He somehow managed to find time to pick up his backpack with our belongings before we met up.
To be honest, I am so proud of myself, and I can't wait until the Cooper River Bridge Run next year. The event-planners did a great job, and for tens of thousands of people, they did a great job making things run (almost) seamlessly. The shuttle line to get back to the convention center seemed a bit disorganized, but overall, it was awesome. I highly recommend anyone who is interested to walk, run, or crawl their way to the finish line next year; I know I will!

end of race end chaos

Song of the blog: "Jump On It" by The Sugarhill Gang
Lyrics of the song: "Jump on it, jump on it, jump on it!" while dancing, obviously

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