My first ever Gate River Run 15k is in the books! It was a great time and I’m already looking forward to next year’s event. I ran with 18,000 of my closest friends through the streets of Jacksonville!
A huge benefit of being in a town like Jacksonville is the fact that you can enjoy major races and still sleep in your own bed. I haven’t had this luxury in quite some time but I really enjoyed it! I woke up just before my alarm so around 4:45 am and started my coffee immediately. I made my Honey Stinger waffle sandwich with almond butter and watched an episode of Parenthood while enjoying two hot cups of coffee. I had my clothes and items all laid out from the night before so it was pretty easy to get ready in the morning. I left my place around 6:30, got gas and was heading towards EverBank Field with plenty of time to spare.
The race didn’t start until 8:30 am which is rather late for Florida races. I kind of missed the earlier start because the heat and humidity definitely showed up on race day. The Gate attracts over 18,000 people but thankfully the stadium has tons of parking so it really wasn’t an issue.
I met up with the group of folks I had been doing long Saturday runs with to say hi and take pictures. They were led all season by a top BQ runner so I kind of did my own thing as they warmed up at about 7:15. I made my way to the porta potties just before the lines got long and on the way back ran into my Vero peeps and snagged a quick picture with them.
Eventually, I bid the group adieu and dropped off my gear back and headed out for my warm up around the stadium. I felt really good during my warm up but knew the heat would play a factor especially given the fact that we haven’t been really training in these temperatures yet. I stretched and headed for Wave 1 and to my specific corral. We enjoyed a nice national anthem, some drones taking videos overhead and the excitement of race morning.
Soon, it was our turn to head to the start line and roll through the chute. The first mile of the Gate goes down Bay Street past the baseball stadium, Foldgers Coffee factory and towards downtown Jacksonville. I really tried to stay slower but the first mile came pretty effortlessly so I just went with it. We made a couple of turns downtown and then headed onto the downtown bridge for the first of two bridges. Our Tuesday evening run goes over this bridge and I had no problem with it except that when you are actually on the bridge and there is a giant grate and water underneath. That was a little unnerving as I didn’t want my toe to get stuck and catch me up.
As the we started the down hill I was glad to be back on cement and let myself use the momentum of the downhill. At the bottom of the bridge, we stayed left and looped around so that we turned towards San Marco and one of my favorite areas of town. By this point, my stomach was kinda goofy and tight but not enough to have me seeking out the porta lets (thankfully). I ran with music for this race and I’m glad I did but in the 3rd and 4th miles the songs became too slow so I had to switch stations on Pandora so that kinda messed me up.
As we wound through San Marco, a lot of the residents were out making it a block party. I saw lots of offerings of donuts, beer, gatorade, and even sausage on a stick. There were a lot of dogs hanging out lawns even a giant wolfhound that had its own sign saying how much he weighed. The signs people made were great and provide a nice relief from the humidity.
After several miles around San Marco, we started trek north along Atlantic Blvd. which I had never been on but it was a stretch of major road exposed to the sun. A lot of people were walking by this point but I felt ok. I recognized my friend’s Soul Sports jersey and discovered it was my friend Mark’s son Dylan. Dylan is a tremendous athlete at all of 11 years old but it just shy of my height. He was struggling with the heat so I got his attention and he ran with me for almost the rest of the race. It honestly helped me knowing he was there because it kept me going. We took water and just kept moving, preparing mentally for the “Green Monster” that comes at mile 8.
Not having done this race before, I didn’t know how much to leave in the tank or what to expect from the massive bridge as you aren’t allowed on it except during race day. The onramp portion is long with a slight incline and then you get to the real bridge and people are walking everywhere. I tend to go up hills slower than my running partners but fly down them so I wasn’t worried but I swear, if you took a video of me, I probably looked like an eighty year old woman shuffling along. By this point, I also had a nice blister going on one toe and heavily drenched shirt. Dylan stayed with me until we crested the top where he said he was going to take off and go for the special one mile race within a race where they set up two timing mats.
As I started downhill, a girl who was very pale was being held up by two other people on the side of the bridge. Thankfully the paramedics were right at the bottom of the hill and several of us got their attention as we ran towards them. I tried hard to go fast on the downslope but it didn’t feel like I did. My legs were tired!
The last 1.3 miles is on the off ramp and then back around the side of the stadium to the finish. There was a large crowd waiting which was fun but boy did it hurt getting in that last .3 to the finish line. The race had a large video feed of you as you crossed which was cool and as I finished I tried to enjoy it and not worry about stopping my watch.
We had a long ways to walk to get water and medals but I first picked up the coveted Top 10% Finisher hat for the women’s line! Last year’s cutoff was 1:25 which is a 9:09 pace so I made that my goal this year. I finished at 1:25:10 and got the hat. I don’t know what this year’s cutoff was but I would imagine it was a couple of minutes more due to the heat.
I met up with Tom who was in the corral behind me after I got my picture taken and picked up a bag of ice. We shared our war stories as we headed to the race village and food. It was great to have access to the JRC tent where there was cold sodas, water and beer plus cookies, brownies, sandwiches and more. I told Tom as we were walking over there that all I really wanted was a cold Coke and they delivered. That soda tasted amazing. During the run, I had two Huma gels (at 4.5 miles and 7 miles) plus some water. I occasionally got some chills so I think I need some more salt during the run.
At the tent I was able to hear about everyone’s day and share funny times. I caught up with some folks I hadn’t seen in a while and took some pictures before I headed out for the day. I would have loved to stick around to enjoy the festivities as it really is a big runner party but my good friend Chelsea was getting married later that day so I had other priorities including a nap!
Overall, I’m very pleased with how this race went. I achieved both of my goals:
1. Time of 1:25
2. Get a 10% finisher hat
Mile by mile times:
Entire Workout 1:25:11
- 09:24.96 (Green Monster!)
Place: 138/1208 age group
I enjoyed the course and know what I can do differently next year and now have a solid base of what I can expect for my run in the triathlon season. One thing I really want to focus on now is to get some more weight off and keep my speed up. I know I can hold a faster pace if I shed some lbs so its time to get serious and quit making excuses for “treating” myself.
This week is race week with the first triathlon of the season kicking off in Clermont, FL. I’m excited for the race and what’s in-store. I’m focusing on getting my workouts in this week but with a lower intensity as today I am pretty tight in my quads and I want to ensure I am recovering properly. With the warmer temperatures comes a non-wetsuit legal swim Sunday but we’ll see what ends up happening. For the first time ever, I’m not worried about it!
So overall, if you get the chance to do the Gate River Run I definitely would recommend it. I know it’ll be on my calendar for next year.