On Saturday, May 11th I ran my first ever 25k race in Grand Rapids, MI where the weather ended up being great for running. Prior to the race the Grand River had flooded leaving mud on the roads along the course. Luckily they got that cleaned up in time because I was told the alternate route was hilly. The course was already deemed hilly, but I’ll get to that in a minute. A running friend, Larry Smith, that I met on Twitter and lives in Holland not far from Grand Rapids said it always rains on this race. He even sent me a graphic showing the past ten years showing that. The week leading up to race day looked like it would not be out of the ordinary, but this year it was dry! I feel it’s because I was there. It was in the chilly 40s, but for this runner it was perfect conditions. I drove up Friday to meet Larry at the expo and to pick up my packet. I was going to stay for the pasta dinner at the expo, but the place was a madhouse. Did I mention that this is one of the largest 25k races in the country? Close to 23,000 runners for all of their races combined (25k with over 5 thousand runners) including 10 and 5k distances. So after quick hellos with Larry it was off to Grand Haven where my wife’s cousin lives. I tried to find a pasta place, but the closest thing I could find was a little hole in the wall pizza place called Fricano’s Pizza. It was hysterical in that it was like sitting in someone’s living room which technically you are since it is in a converted house. I sat at the bar and the menu was on the placemat as explained by the bartender which made perfect sense since the only thing they sell is one size of pizza with seven toppings to choose from. It was absolutely incredible. That’s all I can say. Great fuel the night before the race.
Larry on the left and me on the right.
I got to bed at my usual time around 10 and I slept like a rock. Even woke up before my alarm at 5:40 AM. Got my breakfast of a Stingers chocolate waffle and also their peanut butter energy bar. I love their honey powered foods. Not full of crap that you’ll burn through quickly. Check them out if you haven’t heard of them. I also had their cherry cola chews to have during the race. A cup of coffee later and we hit the road just before 7 for a 8:20 race time. Grand Haven is about 30-40 minutes northwest of Grand Rapids so not a bad commute.
6:00 AM “game face.”
Many roads were already blocked off when we arrived, but found a close place to get dropped off. I walked through a plaza and right next to the starting line is a parking garage which provided shelter from a brisk breeze. Nice since I was sporting shorts sleeves and shorts. Did my yoga like pre run warmup stretch in the garage. I can only imagine how I look doing that while others were doing their typical stretches or sprints up and down the road. I then get a txt from Larry trying to track me down. What was comical is that we were literally in the some area right across from each other, but we it several minutes to meetup. Now let me say this I respect Larry for his dedication to running. I’m dedicated, but he’s on a whole other level. He’s fast. Like seriously (he finished it in 1:45 for 15.56 miles). We shook hands and he went towards the front while I stuck with the 2 hour pace group. I planned on finishing anywhere from 2 to 2:15.
And we’re off. Sort of. The slow walk to the starting line timer strips may be annoying, but with 5,000+ runners it has to start slow. I stuck with the 2 hour pace group for the first four to five miles. We hit the stretch along the park that was covered in mud which was quite pungent, but I understand it was just covered in a swamp just a couple of weeks before. The water stations were perfectly placed, well stocked (thanks volunteers) and plentiful. We hit the bridge to cross the river where cousin Ben was standing passing out donuts! He’s such a hoot. I’m glad him and I have become great friends. Similar personalities and always looking for the next laugh. Donuts halfway on a 25k race is a riot. And BTW I was informed that several runners did take a donut from him. That is awesome. Anyway. This is where the “hills” start. I will say I am so glad I train on hills because it pays off every time. Passing other runners up a hill is kind of fun. After awhile I noticed the 8:00/mile pace group which I hung with them for the next sixish miles. At the halfway point I used good old Siri on my iPhone to tweet “Halfway there” which was kind of a funny thing to do.
I was still feeling great. Continued to control my breathing. Heart rate was higher than I wanted it to be, but that was from the fast 7:30/mile pace for the first four miles (the two hour pace group was moving too fast IMO). I would say for 95% of the race I felt great. Once we got to the one mile left ar I felt I had to take it down a notch. I was pushing it too much. Glad I did because on the final stretch up the hill to finish line I felt better and strong. Done. 2:07 for 15.56 miles. I was spent. Pushed myself and happy with the results.
After the difficulty of finding each other before the race, after the race it was as if it was planned because down the walkway I see Larry.
Post race smiles.
I love Grand Rapids. It’s a great artsy, clean and a craft beer drinkers delight. It’s a perfect place for post race rewards. Craft beer. Congrats on Grand Rapids for being voted as Beer City USA again. We hit up Hopcat for lunch. Their food is outstanding. Then Ben and I hit up Grand Rapids Brewing Company since it’s right next door to Hopcat. We got our samplers then headed to a newer brewery called Harmony Brewing Company. Oh my, this place is awesome. They have bacon nuts! Got a growler of their grapefruit shandy to bring home with me. Love it. The last stop on our brewery crawl is my favorite GR brewer, Brewery Vivant. This place is stunning. Love their Belgian ales. That’s all I can say.
All in all. It was another fun race. Meeting new people and pushing myself is what I love about running. There is a runner’s high you feel after you’ve accomplished something so great so intense. This is why I run. To push myself. It will be a repeat race, but not next year since I will be running Flying Pig 2014. More to come on that.
I was sore for maybe 2 days max after the race. Used rollers and it’s now time to do some recovery runs.
My race results. (This is a PR since it’s my first 25k right?)