September 7, 2009
For my half birthday and Labor Day Monday, I joined a group of ARECers on the Conquer the Bridge 5M race. This is a comeback of sorts for this race. In 2000, Todd Byers and I ran the Storm the Bridge race, which began in Ports o’ Call in San Pedro, and then ran over the Vincent Thomas Bridge and back.
I am not certain if they held the race in 2001, but certainly not for several years after September 11, because of the security issues with a major bridge over the Port of Los Angeles.
We had a nice crowd from AREC – one of the members coordinated collecting entrance fees so that we could get a small discount off the cost of the race.
The course was pretty much identical, except that we started on Harbor Blvd., rather than in the Ports o’ Call parking lot and the crowds were MUCH bigger. In point of fact, it was almost zoo-ish, because the slower crowd (who, of course, lined up at the front) were taking up most of the street. Many of us, myself included, were running on the center divider to avoid the crowds.
Then, as before, we turn to head up the steep (for runners) on ramp to get onto the bridge. I managed to run the entire length up to the bridge, and all the way to the top (I don’t usually run extended uphills – a function of my ultra training). They covered the bridge gaps with carpet… though you can still feel the depth of the grate if you don’t step JUST right (with Storm the Bridge, I think we crossed on plywood sheets which was awkward, but you definitely didn’t step on the grates). I should point out that on any suspension bridge, the sections are connected with metal “teeth” and they expand or contract in different temperatures (keeps the bridge from collapsing). When the gap is widest, one’s shoe would definitely go between the teeth (but you wouldn’t fall through – not THAT wide). The carpet at least stops runners from hesitating too much (and your feet don’t fall THROUGH the carpet!).
At the top of the bridge, I resist the temptation to gun all the way to the bottom of the hill (because I know I still have 2.5 miles to go, and at least 3/4 mile is back up that same hill). We run a short flat section on Terminal Island, turn around and head back to the bridge.
I decide to walk up the bridge to the top and then run in. I am counting the number of runners that pass me as I climb up the hill, with the intent of passing all (or at least an equal number) of those who pass me.
By the time I reach the top, I have been passed by 45 runners (and at least 15 of them asked if I was OK – why yes, and should I ask you the same when I pass you on the way down?).
As with the outbound trip, I try to not go all out on the downhill, because there is still the half-mile section on Harbor Blvd. to the finish. However, since I don’t have to reclaim the hill, I decide to at least stride it out (because I can use these long legs to bound down the hill in fewer steps than anyone else).
I finish in a little under 43 minutes (and pass 49 runners on the way in). I would definitely be up for this challenge again next year!