Friday, May 6, 2011

Bloomsday 12K Race Report - Finally

Bloomsday has been a big deal in our family for as long as I can remember.  I'm 36, this was the 35th running of Bloomsday, and my dad just completed is 30th consecutive Bloomsday.  My step mom, while only having been in my life for the past 20 Bloomsdays, also just completed her 30th consecutive.  I myself just completed my 4th Bloomsday.  But this was the first time I actually went out with a goal in mind.  The last time I participated was in 2000 and my time was somewhere around 1:45.  During that time I had been running a little bit in the morning, but I was nowhere capable of running the entire 7.46 miles.  But still, I was proud of that time because the two prior finish times were both well over 2 hours each.  One, in 1989, when I was 13 was 2:35 and the other in 1994 was about 2:15!  Anyway, lets just say I have a history with this event and my family takes it seriously.

Last year, I had been running for just a couple months when Bloomsday came along and I didn't feel like setting my sites on that distance would be a positive thing for me to do.  So I didn't sign up.  I'm still glad for that decision, although the shirt last year was seriously cute.  But even last year I knew that I would participate this year, so you could say the event has been on my calendar for over a year, looming up ahead.

As the event approached I did begin to feel a bit apprehensive.  I didn't know if I could complete it in my goal time of 1:25 and I was completely freaked about "Doomsday Hill" which starts at around 4.25 miles and finishes just after 5 miles.  All of my "long" training runs ended up being 5 miles or less (usually less) and I never hit my goal of running a 10K in the weeks leading up to the race.

What I was excited for was the Bloomsday trade show!  On Friday, the 19th, I headed down to the trade show with my parents (my dad and step mom).  There was no line for my age group/last initial so I was able to head right over to the trade show while they picked up numbers for every Tom, Dick and Harry they knew!  I ended up buying some running clothes from the Nordstrom Rack booth (that I would later discover were too small) and a new Bondi Band to match.  (Side note: the Bondi Band booth was a joke.  One person working there, who was wearing a strange combination of Bondi Bands.  All of the bands were just heaped into two piles, solid and color, and the prices were more than on the website.  There was no one even looking at the booth when I went by.  Had I not known about the, I would probably ignored too just because the presentation was so bad.)  I also found the Fuel Belt handheld water bottle that I wanted for cheaper than it was online-score!  I also found the iFitness booth and picked up a new running belt.  Unfortunately, they have been sold out of the black with purple zipper on their website for weeks and also didn't bring any to the trade show.  I was bummed about that, but I picked up the breast cancer awareness addition and it's pretty sweet (review and giveaway to come).   All in all it was a successful day and really added to the momentum of the race.  I was pumped after seeing all the gear and picking up a few pamphlets for upcoming events.  I was really wishing the race was on Saturday, but instead I had a whole day to wait.

I know you're not supposed to wear a new outfit on race day, but I really had my heart set on wearing my new clothes.  Unfortunately, given the fact that they were too small left me with little choice but to find something in my own closet.  So I spent about two hours on Saturday modeling all my clothes and coming up with something.  The weather was supposed to be sunny with a high of around 60 degrees, but I knew that standing at the start would be chilly at 8:30 in the morning.  And I wasn't sure if I wanted to wear long sleeves during the whole run!  I finally decided on wearing a short sleeve shirt with a long sleeve shirt over the top with capris.  I also took a sweatshirt which I planned to leave at the starting line.  Unfortunately, my husband slept through my departure so I have no prerace photos except for those that I took of myself.  (Apparently I was too focused on the fact that my husband was in bed that I didn't even think to have my handy-capable son do the job. Oh well.)

Another piece of anxiety for me was parking.  I wanted to park in my office building since it is right next to the starting line.  However, since I didn't plan to arrive until after 8:00 a.m. I was afraid it would be full. (I found out later I could have easily parked there saving myself some time.)  Instead I parked at one of the pay lots about a half a mile away. I set off from my car with my race belt and my sweatshirt, headed for my office building where there are real toilets and windows overlooking the start.  I planned to wait up there until it was race time.  That idea proved to be smart and dumb.  Smart because of the bathrooms, smart because it gave me a place to leave my long sleeve shirt which ended up being too warm even for the walk down there, and smart because I could drink a quick half a cup of coffee.  Dumb because I was up there for awhile and ended up getting to the back of my starting group.  I didn't think this would be a big deal because of the chip timing, but I quickly realized the error in that theory.

When I finally lined up, it was rather lonely because I was all by myself.  You might wonder why I wasn't with my parents and that is because they had a whole agenda for the morning which included picking up Tom, Dick, Harry and Sally, and attending a worship service in the park.  There were no real bathrooms on their agenda and whole lot of dilly dallying--not my style!  Anyway, it took about 45 minutes from the time I lined up until our group started moving, and about an hour until we actually started.  I had my sweatshirt with me and that was warm enough and with all the people it was quite pleasant.  I was ready to go, however!  The longer I stand there, the bigger chance I have of needing to pee during the race and that was making me anxious. 

Finally we were off and this is when I realized I wished I would have been further to the front.  This race is well organized and though out with the color groups and staggered starts, but this race also has over 50,000 people, so there is bound to be gridlock no matter what.  The further you are towards the front, based on your color group, the better your chances of being held up.  You estimate your finish time and they assign your color group based on that, and also your past finish times.  Although my estimate was 1:25, I still ended up in orange due to the lack of race history.  Orange is one of the largest groups and is in the middle of all the color groups.  And it was elbow to elbow for quite a while after the start.  I didn't want to waste energy weaving around people so I just tried to keep steady until the crowd thinned out. 

Mile 1: 11:43

I was feeling great when I saw the mile marker and was really glad to see the distance on my Garmin at 1:04.  The crowd was still fairly congested so you had to pay attention to where your feet were landing and if someone was slowing down in front of you.  I have to say I am one of those runners who gets very irritated when walkers don't keep right.  Slower traffic, keep right!  Anyway, I just paid attention and kept running.

Mile 2: 11:06

The pack is thinning out a bit, but now it's more common to be impeded by walkers.  Still, I don't want to do the weave and sprint routine because I do not want to get tired out before I reach the big hill.  I am still scared of the hill.  I know that once I am to the top, I can give it all I've got, or at least not have to worry about it anymore.  For now I am content to just keep an easy, energy saving pace.  The course up until Doomsday is far from flat so I don't want to use up all my strength too early.

Mile 3: 11:25

Mile 4: 10:52

When I saw the mile 4 sign I knew we would be getting towards Doomsday fairly soon (I'm also familiar with this town so I know the course), but seeing the sign for mile 4 put things in perspective.  I felt great, number one.  I knew I was over half way to the finish and that gave me such peace coming up to the hill.  And I start running up the hill feeling fairly strong and the crowd is really thinning out which I like, but again, the walkers are not on the right which I don't like!  About halfway up, my legs feel strong, but my lungs feel tired and I am breathing too heavy.  I decide to walk to the top.  First I'm taking big, long strides and then I remember that's dumb and I start quicker, shorter strides.  Much better.  I walk to the top of the hill water station, drink about half a cup, and set off running again.

Mile 5: 10:45

Mile 6: 10:59

I notice per my Garmin I am still on track for pace/finish time and by now I feel like I have this race in the bag. There are less than 2 miles left, it's relatively flat to the finish and I am ready to put a little more energy into it.  The weather is gorgeous and the temperature is perfect.  The crowd is thinned out and if I pay attention I will not run down any walkers.  The only draw back are those spectators who came out of their houses to cheer on the runners, with their cigarettes.  Not a wonderful thing to smell while running.

Mile 7: 10:17

I am feeling awesome, a little tired, but not in pain or anything.  I make sure and drink water at the final station so that I can keep pace to the finish.  By now I have to pee and I am cussing out my bladder.  Near the finish are hundreds of spectators cheering, I smell barbecue, and I see the lilac and purple balloons (it's the Lilac Bloomsday Run)  flanking the finish line.  I am ready to finish strong.

Mile: .46 of 7.46 5:43 (a pace of 10:15)

I try and smile when I cross the finish so I can have a good picture, but I have no idea on what side the camera is or if it's both.  Mostly what I know is that I feel awesome.  I remembered to stop my Garmin about 10 seconds past the finish and see the time is 1:22:55 for 7.58 miles.  I had surpassed my goal of 1:25.  And I felt great.  I was noticing many people around me complaining about their legs, their hips, their feet.  But me?  I think I probably had a smile plastered on my face all the way through the T-shirt lines.  I was amazed at how awesome I felt, seriously.  Not only had I achieved my time goal, but I ran Bloomsday!!  It is hard to explain what that feels like, but having been around people for years and years who run or walk this event annually, I am so proud to have completed this event with a time to be proud of.  For some, 11 minute miles are laughable, but for me, it is success.  For me, it means that I'm living my life instead of watching it go by.  I went to go to the Bloomsday after party (read: food fest) at my parents as a real participant, not just as someone who likes to eat.  No other race finish has had such a profound effect on me.  I loved every minute of this race, even dodging the walkers.  I am a runner!!

Purple shirt, purple Bondi Band, purple Ryders glasses--this is the Lilac Bloomsday Run, after all.
Looking back on the event, I think I could have pushed myself more in the beginning if I weaved through crowd.  I am already planning on returning next year with a goal time of 1:15.  Hopefully my goal for next year along with my time from this year will put me in a more forward color group.  If not, I'll just have to get there earlier to line up!

I'm disappointed that I don't have a good race photo, or any race photo really.  There is a couple of the entire finish line which I am in, but I am a speck in the crowd.  I can order it and crop it, but there is no way to view it cropped to even see how it looks.  And since I had no cheering section I didn't get any race photos along the way either.  I didn't meet up with my parents at the finish which turned out to be a good thing since they didn't get home until about two hours after me!  Dilly dallying I tell you!

My official finish time was 1:22:40. The only drawback to the day: a tan line on my face from the ol' Bondi Band.  Oops.

Whew!  That was long.  Thanks for reading!


  1. That was just a flat out inspirational post! Thank you for sharing. I have a friend who normally participates in this race but couldn't this year and she was so bummed. It is quite the event and you should be very proud!!!

  2. Yay! This was my first Bloomsday and I ran 1:22:27 - almost identical to you! I usually run 12 minute miles, so 11 minute miles were quite the accomplishment for me too. Not laughable at all! Congrats to beating your goal time :)

  3. The dreaded Bondi Band line across the forehead...I know it well! :-) :-)

    Congrats on not only meeting your goal, but blowing past it, with gas left in the tank!!! You'll hit 1:15 next year with no problems!!!

    I don't get many race pics family all support my running, but think I'm nuts getting up at 5 and 6 am on the weekends. (hehehe)

  4. I love the honesty in your post and feel inspired having read it. I would be so proud if I were you! Way to go!!