The DOMS is still real.
Let me start off by saying I knew exactly what to expect with Rock the River, because I ran this last year. That however did not change the fact that I was still nervous at the starting line because I knew I had to face that colossal hill within the first (approximately) 0.1 miles. I’m not talking like those minor hills you encounter, I’m talking like Mount Everest (okay, now I’m exaggerating) but you get the picture.
The course runs along Henry Hudson Drive, but in order to reach that runners must ascend the giant hill. According to the elevation chart, there is a 127ft gain while runners make their way onto HHD. From the start, the hill is approximately 0.1 miles in. I started off with a pretty steady pace until I approached the hill in which I took it down to nearly a halt. There was a girl in front of me who briefly stopped to walk before picking up her feet to run again. I turned around to look at the people behind me, and their faces just said it all. Oh the struggle up mega hill. (Believe me, this was no joke) I’m sure the rest of them wanted to walk it up as well, but no one wants to embarrass themselves by walking too early in a half marathon.
I had settled into a pretty good pace around mile 2 1/2, and felt good. The only thing that bothered me was the fact that my bladder was already full. At mile 3 I passed 2 porta potties that were up on a hill. I remember seeing on the race site that there were some at mile 6, so I made the decision to hold my bladder until then.(As I ran past them looking bad wondering whether that was a smart decision or not) With that I kept going, but I knew was dehydrating myself. I didn’t wanna take water/Nuun at every aid station because I had to pee and if I kept drinking, I’d be in trouble. So I alternated aid stations until finally I got to mile 6. A little further up at the turn around, FINALLY a porta potty. I waited in line with a few ladies (the man in line said F this and ran to pee in a bush) The only problem was they only had one for us to use. WHY?! The clock was still ticking, but when you have a 6 mile trip back to the finish line, gotta do what you gotta do. After I emptied my bladder, It was back on the course and time to head back to Fort Lee.
On the way back I was feeling much better and it felt great taking in fluids at the aid stations. I kept a good pace while keeping Billy Joel’s “River of Dreams” on repeat for a mile or two before switching to another song. It was easy to lose track of what mile we were in because not all of them were marked. Last year I remember there being signs for mile markers but this year they were drawn in red right on the road (and again, not all miles were marked) So After mile 9, it was anyone’s guess as to how far we had to go. All I knew was once you could see the George Washington Bridge on the horizon, you were getting close. That’s usually about 5k out from the finish when you catch a glimpse of it. It got closer and closer and I began to recognize the area.
Mount Everest was right around the corner, which meant the finish line was as well. I had 2 people in front of me and the cones kept the course narrow so I couldn’t pass them. The three of us ran together until the end, when as we came around the bend, they announced our names. Then finally, the finish line. Another year, another victory in the Palisades. My goodness, what a race!
I wandered and walked around Ross Dock for a bit after to shake out my legs. The bus back to the parking deck can only be reached by climbing Mount Everest again. Ugh. I boarded the bus and sat in the very first seat up front. The bus driver felt bad for the runners getting on, as the step up was not so forgiving on our exhausted legs. One girl in the back said aloud, “I’ll never rock the river again” and all of us had a laugh. Another guy got on the bus dropping F bombs because oh my God why do we have to walk up anymore stairs! Well who cares about what times we ran that day, it is satisfying enough knowing we got out there and kicked some ass.
Why do I like this race so much? It’s challenging. A half is 13.1 miles, but you come out of this race feeling like you ran about 16-17 miles, because that’s how your legs feel. Finishing this race feels so amazing because you can look back and say “Man I can’t believe I just did that.” That goes for any challenging race but especially this one.
Will I return to Rock the River again next year? Highly likely. Love this race, and thank you to all of the race organizers and volunteers out there as well. I had a blast. Can’t wait to see the professional photos.