Event: Inaugural Across the Bay 10K
Event Date: November 9, 2014
Event Location: Annapolis, Maryland
Why I decided to run this race.
I may have mentioned once or twice that I’m a little obsessed with tunnels and bridges. When I saw the announcement for this race shortly after I got home from a fairly disappointing 2013 runDisney Wine and Dine Half Narathon, it made me excited about running again. I knew I wanted to run this. I stalked the event’s webpage waiting for them to announce the next round of registration, and eventually got in in January 2014.
Getting there/the lead-up to the race
Apparently, back in the day, there was a big annual event to walk across the Bay Bridge that links Annapolis to Maryland’s Eastern Shore. I’m not sure why they stopped doing the bridge walk, but I think it’s been quite a while since they’ve done it. Recently the same race director who does the Boston Marathon decided to set up a bridge run. This year was the inaugural race under this race management.
Everything was on track for this to be a good race for me. Jeff Galloway had worked it in to my training plan as a “short run” weekend between my first and second back-to-back long run weekends (in preparation for all of the runDisney challenge runs I’ll be doing in 2015). But then I managed to badly sprain my ankle 2 weeks prior and wasn’t even sure I’d be able to walk, much less complete a 10K.
After a week on crutches and RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation), Jeff and my doctor agreed that I should be OK to start walking and light training again. I did one 2-mile “run” in the week leading up to this race just to test how my foot would react, after which I assessed that I could complete the race within the allotted 19-minute/mile time requirement even if I had to walk the whole thing at a slower-than-normal pace. My race plan was to take it easy, walk the first mile or two, and then experiment with light interval running if it felt good. I vowed that my only goal for the race was to finish and to get some great pictures from the bridge. I had my GPS running (of course…I’m as obsessed with numbers as I am with bridges and costumes) but I told myself that I wouldn’t look at it during the race—the time didn’t matter, the only thing that mattered was completing the mileage without pain.
I have to compliment the race organizers on their communication leading up to the race. They ran a survey regarding the parking situation and then used the input to determine how best to address it. They let us know what wave we would be in several weeks in advance and let us know what time we needed to be on a bus to the start. We knew exactly where to go for the expo and what to expect in the finisher’s village. Most importantly, they told us that the water stops would be cup-less, and what we needed to do to take advantage of this unique and eco-friendly plan.
The race Expo
The expo was held over 2 days at the Naval Academy football stadium. Although I’ve completed two races that started and ended here, I’d never been inside the stadium.
Packet pick-up was at the very front of the stadium. There were dozens and dozens of tables set up, organized by bib number. Our bib numbers had been emailed to us in advance, so we knew what line to get in. I went fairly early in the day on the first day, and there were no lines. I parked and had my bib within 5 minutes.
Next I came to the table for parking passes. Because there would be no parking at either the start or the finish of this point-to-point race, participants and spectators would use one of 8 or so different parking lots (various college campuses and stadiums, and the like) where we would catch shuttle buses. In order to park, we had to buy parking permits. We could pre-order them online or purchase them at the expo. This issue caused a bit of commotion on social media in the week leading up to the race as there was some confusion whether they were all sold out and what the rest of us would do if we didn’t have them. As it turned out, I didn’t see any indication that running out of parking permits was a problem. I hadn’t pre-ordered my pass, so I just walked up to the table, laid down my money, and had a pass 30 seconds later. In fact, it seemed it was faster and easier to purchase them at the expo since the people who pre-ordered had to get in line to verify their name and that seemed to be taking some time.
After the parking passes, we were directed around the end zone to the other side of the stadium, where we would pick up our race shirts and find all the fun things to buy. I don’t usually purchase items at expos because I know what I like and tend to see the same vendors at all the expos, but I did end up picking up a long-sleeve half-zip jacket with the race logo and a magnet commemorating the inaugural race (because I think it will look nice in a scrapbook).
The swag at this race was pretty minimal: just a short sleeve tech shirt. That’s part of the reason I bought the additional jacket and magnet.
I had not intended to wear a costume for this race. But when my favorite meteorologist forecasted cool temps and possible wind, I figured I’d pull out my Grinch ski hat and put together an all-green Grinchy outfit. (Random note: Seriously, if you live in the Baltimore area do yourself a favor and follow “Justin Berk, Meteorologist” on the social media of your choice. Not only is he spot-on with his forecasts, he’s a runner and always does special forecasts for local races so we know how to prepare.)
I wore a Grinch fleece-lined knit hat, green skirt from Sparkle Skirts, black Under Armour running capris, green long-sleeve Nike running top with built-in neck gaiter, blue Adidas sports bra, Injinji socks, Brooks Adrenaline GTS 14 shoes, Garmin Forerunner 620 and Gymboss interval timer, and Amphipod running belt.
I was scheduled to start in Wave 7 (of 10), and they recommended I be on a bus from my parking lot an hour before my wave start. Instead of causing myself unneeded stress by sitting in long lines to get into the parking lot and then long lines at the busses, I arrived about 30-45 minutes earlier than I needed to and beat all the back-ups. I had a book with me and finished my breakfast while staying warm in my car. After a final post on Facebook I wandered over to the busses. I shouldn’t have worried about lines at the shuttles, as there were at least 20 or so waiting to take us to the start. It was really quite impressive how well they planned.
After arriving at the start line, I walked right up to a port-a-potty for some last-minute business, then continued around to the corrals. In theory we were supposed to wait for our designated corral, but when I got to the entrance they were letting anyone through. Perhaps it was because the race had already been going on for an hour and all of the elite runners were already on the course. Perhaps it was because there were some delays from the other parking lots so the earlier corrals were a little emptier and they wanted to avoid having the last waves be unmanageably huge. I’m sure someone is going to find a reason to complain about this, but I didn’t have a problem with it. Each wave was still a reasonable size and from what I could tell no one was prevented from getting into the wave they thought they should be in.
Along the course
The course was pretty easy to follow: You aimed for the bridge and stayed on it. It was a point-to-point course from the Annapolis side to a state park on the Eastern Shore side. Race Icon. Along the way we were treated to a beautiful, clear sky and lovely views of boats on the water. The temperature was perfect (for me) and wind did not make an appearance while I was on the course.
As I mentioned, this was a cup-less race. The organizers did this for two reasons: One, for security reasons as they wanted to limit the chances that something could be slipped into the trash that could damage the bridge or hurt the runners. And two, they wanted to limit the environmental impact. With 20,000 runners, there could have been up to 60,000 cups thrown around and some of those would have ended up in the water below. I was unsure how they would manage water stops using this model. We had been warned to bring re-fillable bottles, but in my imagination I saw hundreds of people lined up to fill their bottles from the orange coolers you always see at sporting events. Instead, they had a really smart system of large blue water silos connected to PVC pipes with multiple spigots. I never saw a line at any of the water stops and there seemed to be a good amount of water pressure so it didn’t take long to get a drink or fill a bottle. I would like to see more races adopt this model because loose trash at water stops is one of my pet peeves.
I was really proud of myself for setting a conservative race plan and sticking to it. At so many of my races this year I’ve said that I wanted to meet a specific goal (keeping to an interval or improving a specific aspect), but I’ve always had an unreasonable idea that I should be PR’ing at every race. And when I didn’t PR at every race, I dismissed all of the great things I did accomplish and only focused on the disappointment. Somehow I was able to convince myself that time really didn’t matter at this race. All that mattered was finishing without pain. I gave myself permission to take pictures without looking at the clock and to stop and marvel at the water below from the top of the bridge. I ended up walking the first 2 miles (through most of the incline up the bridge) and then ran 10/30 intervals at an easy pace for the remainder.
This was a really fun race. People were stopping to pose for pictures, wave at the traffic on the next bridge span, and watch the boats cross under us. There were no spectators allowed on the bridge for safety reasons, so I think most of us focused on the novelty of the course itself to keep ourselves going.
After we got off the bridge, we wound around to a state park where the finish line was. Finally we had some spectators on the road! We also passed some of the shuttle busses filled with people heading back to their cars, who would wave and cheer for the runners still making their way to the finish. This part of the race wasn’t exactly the most scenic road I’ve ever run, but we were less than a mile from the end so I think the anticipation of getting to the finish line made this section a little less monotonous than it could have been.
Many 10Ks don’t give medals, so I was pleased that we got a medal for this race. Actually, even while we were running I wasn’t sure we were getting anything since I hadn’t remembered seeing a sneak-peak in any of the pre-race communications. What we got were heavy and square-shaped, with a picture of the bridge over some sparkly blue water. I like it, but it’s probably not my favorite medal though I like it more now that I understand…
There was a weird notch out of one side that didn’t make sense with the design. I didn’t understand why until a few days later when the event managers announced on Facebook that all of the medals for this and future races will be a puzzle piece. Each year the new medal will connect with the old medal. What a great motivator for people to come back year after year! You don’t want to miss a connecting piece in the puzzle!
The post-race experience
It was a fairly cold day, and once I slowed down and my adrenaline dropped, I started feeling it. I shuffled my way through the line for my food and then wandered through the celebration village a bit. There was a live band that was pretty good but I was still half-listening to my IPod so I didn’t really appreciate the live music as much as I should have.
There were beer tents, and I saw a lot of people grabbing drinks and sitting on the lawn in front of the band. I wanted to see the finishers merchandise, which had not been available prior to the race, but the lines were loooooooong. I did sneak in the back of the tent just to see what they had, but even if I’ve wanted to buy something I don’t think I would have stayed in that line to get it. This is probably the one thing I would recommend they fix for next year: either plan for more/larger tents, or figure out a way that finishers could purchase things online later.
We had a sick puppy at home, so I hopped on a bus probably about 30 minutes after I crossed the finish line so I could get back to my car and come home. I had seen the back-ups of cars trying to cross the bridge while we were running, so I figured it would take up to an hour to make the short trip back. TMI Alert. Apparently others hadn’t taken this into account and we had several people hop off the bus to make a potty stop at a gas station while we were stuck in traffic…we only moved about 10 feet by the time they came back to the bus. Once we got past the chokepoint at the foot of the bridge, it was a smooth ride back to the parking lot and then home.
My IPod was on a country kick for this race. It played a bunch of stuff like “Wide Open Spaces” by the Dixie Chicks and “That’s Just About Right” by Blackhawk…songs that just seemed really appropriate for running under beautiful blue skies and appreciating the world around me. I set the same playlist on shuffle for every race, but I love how fate seems to know the difference between races where I need hard, driving rap, and ones where I want to just celebrate and appreciate life.
Looking back now
I would definitely do this race again and I’m bummed that it will likely conflict with my runDisney race goals next year, so I will probably miss it (I think it will fall on the same weekend as the 2015 Wine and Dine Half Marathon, like it did this year). I really liked how this race was organized and I loved running over the bridge. Also, by removing any time goals from the race, it helped me remember why I like running. While I wouldn’t recommend injuring yourself, it seemed that’s what I needed to force me to slow down and refocus.