Monday, April 7, 2014

Race recap: State #2: Missouri

Race: Go! St. Louis Marathon
Date: April 6, 2014
Result: 5:05:39

Charity: National Children's Cancer Society, Inc.
Amount Raised: $270

The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Me Struggling

Not sure if a steak dinner was the best idea the night before a marathon, but I kind of didn't do anything right prepping for this race, so why start now? We attempted to have dinner at the Old Spaghetti Warehouse but the two hour wait was a bit much so we said screw it and drove back to the hotel and ordered room service.  I chilled in bed with a belly full of ribeye and put my race gear together while watching and ultimately dozing off to the two NCAA Final Four games.

About the gear – I planned on wearing my charity shirt that I picked up the day before for running for team National Children’s Cancer Society, but it was too tight (read: I was too fat) and a bit chafe-y.  Luckily I had one other clean technical shirt left in my luggage so I ran with my Ragnar shirt.  I was upset because I left my Adidas running shades at home, so I had to pick up a pair at the Expo.  As for the shoes, the NB 980’s which I bought for this race were heavier than the racing flats I've been used to, and the extra cushioning didn't really offset this fact, because they just got heavier and heavier as the race went on. 

It was a great move to book the Sheraton which was two blocks away from the start corrals so I didn't have to worry about getting there on time. I woke up at 1:30 in the morning but just couldn't fall back asleep. Tossing and turning for the next five hours, I finally wandered up 14th street from the hotel at 6:30 while the kids were still knocked out from two days of museum exploring and decided to take a selfie while the runners began to assemble at the start line.   

After the anthem, Jackie Joyner Kersee had a few words at the start and before I knew it the race was underway right at 7 am and Coral C started to work their way to the start line.  I had time to check and make sure my GPS watch was working and off I went, hanging with the 4:00 pace group throughout the downtown area until I felt the need to slow down a bit.  And that point was right after running through the Budweiser Brewery around mile 5.
The Budweiser Brewery
At the bottom of Holy Hill, which is actually a 2.2 mile long stretch of three consecutive hills, a priest was sprinkling runners with holy water at mile 6.  I instinctively did the sign of the cross as I was blessed and started working my way to the top.  It’s actually a race within a race where you get a separate time for this stretch.   I could really feel myself expending so much more energy versus running on flat ground and even though I knew there were hills, I was just not experienced enough to successfully tackle them. 

I was also getting worried that I would miss the point where the marathoners and half marathoners would split their course and didn't study the maps well enough to remember where it was so I kept checking around me for other marathoners who had on gold bibs.  All I could see behind me was a sea of bouncing blue bibs and began to freak out.  There weren't many full marathoners to begin with (1394 finished); the event is heavily geared more toward the half marathon where there are about 12,000 runners.  Turned out the volunteers did a great job at the split and at mile 9.5 I was pointed to run towards the park ahead as the half-ers were turned around for their home stretch run.        

Seeing my entire family in Forest Park at mile 12 was one of the coolest things ever.  I actually didn’t see the kids right away, and spotted Mae first about 10 yards down course taking pics when I look off to the side and saw I had just about passed them.  A nice lady next to the kids was frantically pointing my own kids out to me like I was long-time estranged to them.  It was kind of a funny moment.  I ran back and picked up Maya and gave her a hug.  Miles and Marcus were cheering me on and gave their hair a quick tussle.  Ah, my family, I thought.  I handed off my hoodie to Mae, gave her a quick kiss and kept going.  Immediately everything felt lighter and more comfortable in the 48 degree air as the sun began to break through the solid cloud cover.

The morale boost I got from seeing my family lasted for about 5k and I hit my half split right around 2:14. But exiting the park going west into the ritzy neighborhood nearby lined with beautiful old houses began another uphill battle.  At this point I began to curse my weight and every extra pound of pizza and cheeseburger I was carrying and after mile 15 I adopted a run quarter mile/walk quarter mile pattern for the next mile.  I felt defeated.

That’s when an angel in Sauconys swooped in to help me out.  “Come on, keep running, let’s go.”  I looked over my shoulder and noticed this runner was directing her words of encouragement toward me and so I pulled out my ear buds and tucked them into my pocket and began running with her.  The person she was originally running with was well ahead of her and I guess she needed to adopt a new running partner.  I reluctantly agreed.

Small talk revealed that she was running her first marathon and was looking to knock a few items off her bucket list in her midlife crisis.  I told her about my quest for 50 and couldn't tell if she believed in my goals since I was in such bad shape at this point in the race.  But her determination kept me going and I kept running, abandoning my walk/run approach and managed to keep running for the next 5 miles because of her.  Every time I wanted to stop, her vocal support made me keep going.  Turned out she was a 20 year veteran, an Army Captain Commander about to make Major, and thought her can-do personality was perfect for what she did. I did my best to reciprocate the encouragement, as she was battling her own problems with calf cramps, but it wasn't easy.

Around mile 21 my left quad really decided to shut down on me and just absolutely had to walk it off.  I told my temporary bff to run her race and thanked her and off she went.  She probably would have finished 10-15 minutes faster if I didn't hold her back, and I’d probably still be out there somewhere between miles 17 and 18 if it wasn't for her positive mental attitude.  She really wanted me to finish with her and I feel sort of bad that I couldn't, but when running a marathon, you really do need to run your own race.  But I’m grateful for the time she spent running with me.  Thanks Debra!   

The home stretch - all downhill from here
I saw the 4:45 pace leader run past me around mile 23, a cute brunette wearing pigtails, and laughed because she was running all by herself.  I thought about following her to the finish but just didn't have the legs.  The final mile was all downhill and I could see the finish line from really far away so I would run at about an 8 minute pace until I cramped up then walked till the cramps subsided.  Then run, then walk.  Lather, rinse, repeat to the end.  I can’t wait to find my professional pics so I can see just how uncomfortable I must have looked crossing the finish line. 

Frozen custard sandwich in hand
Because my late check-out time was 1 pm and it was already creeping on 12:15 I had to high-tail it back to the hotel so I could shower up before the long drive home but first I got my medal, a banana and this AMAZING frozen treat from local joint Ted Drewes – frozen custard sandwiched by two oatmeal cookies.   That alone was the single most rewarding prize anyone has ever received in the history of the world.      
A post-race injury self-assessment revealed a slightly sprained big right toe and nothing else.  The hip I was so worried about and coddled over the last three months didn't really bother me and I didn't get calf cramps until my mad dash the last 0.2 mile.  Although it took me over five hours to finish, I really was pleased to just finish without injury considering how little training I did.

My favorite sign I saw on the course: "DO EPIC SHIT."  I laughed and high-fived the sign holder because I thought to myself, that was what I did in Madison and it didn't work out so well.

Registration: $0
Flight: N/A
Hotel: Sheraton St. Louis City Center $214

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