Monday, August 13, 2012

The BoF

Over the weekend I did something that I had always wanted to do. I was asked if I wanted to go on a little running road trip with my running friends and tackle The Bridge of Flowers (BoF) 10K, in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. Now, I know what you are thinking "Hollie, The Boilermaker is a running road trip." That it is, but the Boilermaker started out as a running trip with friends I had before I started running. When I joined BeRunning, I saw these groups of adults making friends and doing stuff outside of BeRunning. I was super jealous.

When I was asked if I wanted to go, I said yes instantly. I actually think I stopped listening to the rest of the race description. As the weeks crept up towards the race, I would ask how some of the hills we were running compared to the giant hill. The word "worse" kept being repeated. Still, I pressed on thinking, really how bad could it be?
This is the elevation

I looked at the course elevation profile. I don't know why it didn't register with me. Perhaps those little stick figure men running at the top of the hill had me in disbelief.

It was an early morning as we headed out of Albany at 5:30am to get to Shelburne Falls by 7:30am for the race at 9am. It was a lot of normal pre race jitters that were going through my head. I made the comment several times that I thought I would be finishing in dead last place. Prior to getting our packets I was given the option to see the "hill". I am glad I said no, because if I saw it, I doubt my mind would have battled it and I would have given up too soon.

There is this thing that happens prior to races (of all distances) - hardcore runners do a little warm up run. I have never done a warm up run. Why? Because I am usually tired after .5 miles, so doing that before having to run 6.2 miles seemed counter intuitive. However, I was peer pressured into a little warm up run of the beginning of the race route, which has an incline. Hollie is not great at hills but I trucked along giving it a shot.

I'm on the right in the purple, camel back guy passed me later.
The race started and as usual the distance between the pack and myself lengthens very quickly. We ran up the incline and it "looped" around a neighborhood in town. It was at this point that camelback guy passed me and I could hear the faithful sounds of the diesel ambulance truck. I went up around the corner and the ambulance went straight. When I approached them on the loop, I waved and shouted "come on boys!"

The race volunteers were really great and very supportive. As we ran back through town to approach the hill, my name was shouted out from the announcer. I was last place and my name was still shouted out (it's the little things I love) The day was hot and very humid. My asthma was sure to flare up at some point, so my inhaler was in my little silver pouch.

I made it to the beginning of the Crittenden Hill. I haven't been able to effectively describe this to anyone. Even the video I took does not describe it. The amount of curse words that come out of my mouth when talking about the hill give you the gist. There were several points in the hill that I just kept pumping my arms with the notion that my feet would indeed follow. I used my inhaler several times. I doubted myself, several times. My calves were burning. Each level of the hill was followed by an even more abusive section. For fit and fast runners, it seems like I'm making up how hard this hill was. However, I challenge any fast runner to strap on the amount of weight needed to make them the same weight as me and try to run up that damn hill.

When I got to the top of the hill I was relieved. Until, I realized how much strength it would take for me to run down the angle of the hill. It didn't feel as steep as the incline but it was much steeper than the Boilermaker hill. It was also dirt/trail terrain, something I'm not used to. The police car was right behind me the entire hill with his silent siren on.I was glad I couldn't hear him but still aware that there was someone driving less than 3mph to make sure I finished the race.

I had to use my quads more in the last 3 miles of the race. My calves were so tired and heavy. My intervals were all way off base. We had to run on grass for part of the race (i don't like running on grass). There was one point of the race where I got to see Kim running towards me. It was after the hill, so I'm sure she was relieved to see I had made it through that.

Kim, Jenika, & Me
I kept saying, it's only 3 miles, a total of 6.2 miles, you ran 7 last weekend, why is this so hard? At this point, cars were let back on the race route. Some were nice and honked and shouted support, others flew by me very close to the orange cones. Race volunteers were applauding me and shouting out things like "I'm so glad you are running this race!" or "I wouldn't have even made it up the hill, I'm proud of you!" I kept checking my watch to see how many miles I had left. Somewhere around the last .5 mile I just stopped doing my intervals and I ran slowly.

I was coming back into town and I could see the Iron Bridge I ran over earlier. People who had finished the  race a long time ago and their race supporters just stopped and started clapping for me. This cause a surge of clapping to start at the finish line. I rounded the corner and there was the orange and the green! Jenika and Kim met me on the bridge and started to run me in. Then somewhere I found enough energy to pick it up to the finish line. The announcer fully shouting my name the entire time. It was like I was the first place finisher!

I crossed the finish at 1:45:10 - For me, that was an awesome time. My regular 10K time is around 1:35:00 so that damn hill only added 10 minutes.

We took a little time after the race and walked over the actual Bridge of Flowers. It's an old railroad bridge that the town decided to plant trees and flowers on. While we walked on the bridge people congratulated me by name. Like a miniature celebrity, I said thank you and smiled at them. Not going to lie, it was a really cool thing.

Actual view from the Bridge of Flowers
After the race, both Kim and Jenika were dedicated to running The Bridge of Flowers again next year. I could not make the commitment out loud yet. However, I fear it will be similar to The Boilermaker. How I sign up for it again but have no idea why and I curse at myself halfway through the race.

It was the toughest race I've ever run. For me it was tougher than the Boilermaker. Still, I finished it. The trip was worth it in so many ways.

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