Last weekend, my husband and I raced the Pensacola Double Bridges 15k. We heard from various people that it was a fun, well put together race. I hadn’t raced a 15k in a long time. They are more common in Upstate NY while 10 milers are more common in New Jersey.
Due to our schedule, we weren’t able to leave Montgomery until 5:30 pm. We arrived in Pensacola around 9 pm, checked into our hotel and immediately went to bed. I woke up around 4:30 am, got ready and headed to the shuttle by 5:30. The only race I’ve also used a shuttle was the Phoenix Full marathon. Since my hotel was essentially at the end of the race, the shuttle drove us the 15k backward. Once we arrived, we realized how cold it was. Originally the weather was supposed to be 55, but it turned to 38 and windy.
The hour before the race there was little to no shelter from the wind. Even through my layers and jacket, I was both miserable and freezing. If I had known about the start conditions, I probably would have driven to the start, sat in my car and taken a taxi back after the race to get my car. It would have been a pain, but I wouldn’t have been cold.
The restroom lines were long, and I found myself in line 5 mins before the start. I was lucky my husband dropped my bag off, and I sprinted into the corral less than 30 seconds before race start. It was nowhere near ideal, but I made it to the start. Out of any race, this one cut it the closest.
Because my adrenaline was pumping from nearly missing the start, the first mile went by quickly. I was running in a pack of people including my husband. His plan was to take it “easy” the first half and then finish strong the second. We hit the first mile in 6:17.
During the second mile, the pack began to spread out I got my bearings of the area, and I found myself 5th woman overall. I passed a couple of women and grabbed water. I was hoping for Gatorade, but it was water only. I crossed the second mile in 6:24.
We entered “3 Mile Bridge” which is exactly as the name indicates. A three-mile long bridge. You could see the first “hill” up ahead. Since there are no tunnels, the bridge hill is what allows Navy ships to pass through, so it was pretty steep. I crossed the third mile in 6:20.
I wasn’t feeling bad during the race, but I definitely didn’t feel amazing either. To be honest, I had hoped I would feel amazing and have a magical race. I didn’t feel awful, but I did not feel as though, I had cut miles and tapered. My calves were extremely stiff.
My husband was still several feet in front of me. As we climbed the bridge hill, I knew exactly what he would do. He was going to power up the crest of the hill and surge downhill and leave me. He did just that, and I was proud because I knew he was going to have a great race. I found myself alone with two women directly ahead. I ran mile 4 in 6:27 and passed the remaining two women.
The fifth mile was boring. It was the last mile of 3-mile bridge, and I was running alone. Just me, staring out over the water looking for manatees. It was windy but not bad, and I ran it in 6:18.
As we entered onto land, my body began to feel worse. I became and more stiff. Typically in the 10-13.1 mile distance, I end up feeling better towards the end. I’m not a fast race starter, and I’m not a runner who “counts down” miles. So when I didn’t feel great at mile 6, I knew immediately it was going to be a pain train finish.
We passed the 5k race start, and they were chanting “first lady”. All I could think was WTF, how did this happen. I thought there must have been a couple of women out of my line of sight. I had looked at race results from the previous years, and female overall had sometimes won in 55. Despite feeling stiff, I tried to focus on the finish. I crossed mile 7 in 6:23.
The second bridge also brought a drastic banked turn which felt extremely uncomfortable. I can run uphill, and I can run downhill but running up banked hill always seems to shred my legs. It did in the Philadelphia half marathon, and it did during the Double Bridges 15k. That mile hurt, a lot. I crossed mile 8 in 6:28 and thought: “just one mile to go.”
During the final mile, a police motorcyclist approached me and told me to show my bib so he could radio to the front. My bib was directly on my top but because it was windy, it was hard to read the numbers. I honestly didn’t have any energy at all, and the police officer weaving in and out because he could not see my bib was the last thing I wanted to entertain. I just wanted to finish. I knew the second place woman was quickly approaching.
She caught me around mile 9, and I tried desperately to hold on. I didn’t feel great, and my legs were stiff. I had led the race for the last 5 miles and wanted to hang on. Unfortunately, even with powering my strongest, it didn’t happen. She outkicked me in 9.2 out of a 9.3 race and broke the tape. I finished the last .3 in a 5:50 pace. I won’t pretend as though I’m satisfied to be outkicked in the final strides of a race, but she was faster that day. I gave that race everything I had!
There were a lot of minor issues that happened during the race. I’m happy with it and how I performed under the conditions but I was hoping for a faster time which I do believe I’m capable of. I ran Broad Street at a 6:11 pace.
While the race went pretty well under the cold conditions, I don’t believe it yet shows where my fitness is. My calves were stiff the entire race and didn’t feel as though they had their usual “pep”. Luckily, the Double Bridge Run was just one of many races in my 2017 Goals.
Questions for you:
Have you run over a bridge before?
Have you been to Pensacola?