Race recap: Cooper River Bridge Run 10K

Sigh, sigh, sigh. Another race thwarted by my awful asthma and allergies. I'm about sick of writing these types of recaps. It's been a full year now (almost to the day), starting with Skidaway last April, of dealing with this mess on and off. 

So here we go the bad, the ugly, and the wheezy...

cooper-river-bridge-run

The week leading up to the race was fairly crazy for me - job interviews, meetings, wrapping things up with another project. Basically complete chaos, which meant I didn't really feel like dragging myself all the way over to North Charleston to the expo. Pro tip #1: An extremely helpful, but well-kept, secret: if you're in town early or if you're local, you can pick up your race packet at the Cooper River Bridge Run store on S. Shelmore Ave. in Mount Pleasant.

And that's what I did. The Saturday before the race (yep, a full week before), I drove a few minutes down the road and picked up my packet. No lines, no parking hassles, no traffic. While I sometimes enjoy expos, I had no intention of shopping or wasting time that week, so this was a wonderful alternative for me. 

 The Bridge Run's Best Kept Secret: Packet Pickup at the Bridge Run Store

The Bridge Run's Best Kept Secret: Packet Pickup at the Bridge Run Store

Initial weather reports for the race forecasted rain and thunderstorms for the race. Thankfully, those held off, but it left the wet blanket of humidity heavy in the air. Temps were decent, at just around 70 degrees, but the humidity was at 100%. These are the absolute worst conditions for my asthma, and were nearly identical to the conditions at Skidaway last year. At least this time around, I was only hauling butt for 6.2 miles instead of 13.1. 

Since this was my first time running this race, I got there pretty early so I could get myself to my corral and situated. My husband dropped me off so I didn't have to deal with parking or shuttles. Pro tip #2: if you're looking for a good drop off point and want to get around the traffic, cut into the back roads of the Old Village and you'll miss all of the lines of shuttle busses trying to get to the start. 

After stopping at the porta potties, of which there were plenty and the wait was short, I found my way to my corral - the 45-5o group, and just chilled out from there. My corral was pretty empty, even up until the race start. It was one of the three corrals where you had to provide time validation. I used a few 5Ks, a previous 10K, and a half marathon time as my proof of time. You really only need one race, but hey, I just wanted to make sure I covered my butt! It was an easy process as well. I submitted one time on the website when I registered, then followed up with an email (as instructed) with the additional races and results links. Pro tip #3: They'll take 5K race results as proof of time.. It doesn't have to just be a 10K race. 

starting-corrals

I had no real goals for this race, other than to just come in between that 45-50 minute mark, which based on my training and previous race times, that shouldn't have been an issue. And it would have probably been a PR, too, since my current 10K PR of 49:25 is rather outdated. I've run very close to that pace in half marathon splits and my 5K times, even the crappy recent ones, predict I should be at least that fast (and my training indicates I should be faster than that).  

Despite not having any hardcore race goals, I had taken it pretty easy with running the week before to try to get my legs refreshed since I've been having issues with my legs just feeling so heavy. I'm not training particularly hard right now, but with all of the stress I've been under, rest and recovery has been difficult. But my week of rest seemed to help my legs on race morning. At least I had that going for me. 

The Bridge Run has wave starts and the first wave to go off after the wheelchair athletes was the elites (sub-40), competitive (sub-45 minutes), and my group (the semi-competitive?). I was apprehensive about the humidity (and my general lack of adrenaline and motivation), but once I started running, I was shocked by how good I felt. My legs felt light and my pace felt great. 

I clocked my first mile in at 7:15, which would have brought me in around 45 minutes. Excellent. I was still feeling great and like I was going to be able to maintain that pace, or at least very close to it for the entire race. I felt better than I have in months. 

I continued through mile 2, and the wheels started to fall off and my asthma kicked in hard. Not long after, and just as the intensity of the hill on the bridge hit, I was wheezing and couldn't get any air in. I used my inhaler and slowed down significantly to see if I could try to pull myself together. I knew I just had to get up that hill and then I hoped my breathing would regulate. Mile 2 was a disappointing 8:20 pace. Ugh. Close to my regular run pace. 

Mile 3 was entirely on the hill and I completely fell apart. I just couldn't get in air. It was like breathing pudding through a straw, and the lack of oxygen drained all of the energy from my body. I was using everything I had to just get in air and to not stop and walk. I used my inhaler again, hoping it would help, but it didn't. I was too far gone. Mile 3 was a completely abysmal 9:23 - almost full minute over half marathon pace from the Myrtle Beach Mini and well into my normal easy run pace. But I guess there isn't really an easy run pace when you're mid asthma attack. 

Mile 4 gave me a little bit of relief since it was downhill. I didn't go all-out like I had originally planned on doing on the downhill because I didn't have the energy and I was still wheezing (and used my inhaler again). But at least I managed a sub-8 minute mile (barely), coming in at 7:58. Still ugh. 

It started to warm up in the last two miles and I was really minding it because of my breathing issues. At this point, I was thinking anything sub-50 was out the window, but I at least wanted to come in faster than my first 10K ever back in 2012, which was 54:22. I figured if I just went easy, I'd still be able to do that. By this time, I was so disappointed that I just wanted it to be over. Miles 5 and 6 were 8:27 and 8:24 respectively (and I used my inhaler again during each mile). My "kick" (ha!) at the end was 7:11 (gross).

 Yep, there's three of me there - a nice little panoramic shot thanks to Google Photo Assistant

Yep, there's three of me there - a nice little panoramic shot thanks to Google Photo Assistant

I crossed the finish line in 52:05, an 8:23 pace, and just wanted to collapse. This is not anywhere close to my current 10K fitness level and it's only a few seconds faster than my current PR half marathon pace. Heck, I ran 16 miles a few weeks prior at the Palmetto Relay close to that pace (and it was a moderately easy pace for me with no asthma issues).  

But when asthma shows up, there just isn't anything I can do. It sounds so inexplicable to people without asthma, but it really is the worst, and I'd love to asthma to not be a part of my running story. But it is. And really, considering I had such a bad attack, this pace isn't half bad. While it's not close to what I should have or could have run, it's an improvement over my asthma attack pace from a year ago. Sad isn't it? I have healthy pace and "asthma attack" pace. Sigh, sigh, sigh. 

In addition to the humidity setting me off, I also had an upper respiratory infection and sinus infection, which I found out when I finally went to the doctor and got lots of meds. I got two shots, a round of prednisone, antibiotics, and a new asthma medication that's supposed to be a godsend for people with exercise- and allergy-induced asthma (hey, that's me on both counts!). 

cooper-river-bridge-run

D and Little B met me at the finish line, but I was so annoyed and sick by that time that all I wanted to do was go home. D had parked on the wrong side of Marion Square, where the race ends, so we had to walked several blocks out of our way (probably at least a mile) to get to our car. Pro-tip #4: Park on the water side of Marion Square off Bay Street if you want to make a quick exit. 

Even though the race didn't go as I'd hoped, I'm still glad I ran it. It's been on my race list for a while, and as runner and resident of Charleston, it's practically a right of passage. It's a fun, well-executed race with gorgeous views and scenery the entire time, starting with the beachy suburb of Mount Pleasant (my town!) passing over Shem Creek, crossing the bridge and then coming into Charleston on King Street and ending in Marion Square. I'm not sure I'll do it again, but at least I can say I managed to #GetOverIt at least once.