Saint Louis Rock and Roll 1/2 Marathon Recap

I’m still processing the race yesterday — and going through all the thoughts and things that came up during the 13.1

I am going to save my post half thoughts for another day (soon), but today I want to recap the actual event ūüôā

The Night Before

I was a bundle of nerves Saturday night. ¬†Let’s be honest. ¬†It’s how I always get the night before a race — and this one was no exception. ¬†I felt a little unprepared, detailed wise, as to logistics of getting there, getting started, etc, but was hopeful that there would be no issues (and there weren’t).

For dinner, I had pad thai, which actually set well in my stomach that night and the next morning.  I had no stomach issues pre race, and think the pad thai was a descent choice.

The Cardinal’s game was on — so I stayed up watching it with my parents until about 9:30, when I went upstairs, prepared my gear, and laid down. ¬†I intentionally decided to turn off the game, in hopes that I would be able to sleep — but no such luck. ¬†I tossed and turned until about 11 PM, when I got up to finally just use the restroom and check on the game.

Unfortunately the game was tied at that point, so I watched it until the end, when the Cardinals took it on an “obstruction” call (weirdest end to a game ever), and after that I actually fell asleep without problem. ¬†I guess I just needed a distraction.

Morning Of:

I had an alarm set for 445 AM. ¬†The race packet said to be there by 530, because roads closed around 6 and I took them seriously. ¬†I slept in my gear (that’s right. ¬†Well sports bra and shorts) to speed up the morning. ¬†I started tossing and turning a little before 430, so by my alarm I was ready to get up. ¬†I got on the rest of my gear, and was ready to go by 5.

Saint Louis traffic isn’t bad at 5 AM — and we were over the river and near the race start by 530. ¬†Gear check was super simple, and there was no line for the porta potties so I jumped in right away.

Unfortunately, this left me at 545 AM.  An hour and 15 minutes to FREEZE in the dark, 30 degree temps.  Thankfully I did chat with some nice people to distract me.  At about 615 my parents found me and stook it out with me near my coral until about 5 til 7.  They were even nice enough to give me their coats, and help me take off my throw away pants without shivering my tail right off.

They left me to head to watch the start, and I got to the front of my Corral, which was 5.

The start was staggered, so about 10-12 minutes after the gun went off, corral 5 was released. ¬†Thankfully, this was all VERY organized and I still felt that surge of excitement from the countdown, even though we weren’t released by the gun.

I saw my parents and just like that, we were off.

The Race

It was still fairly dark at the start, so we headed towards the arch for the first half mile or so before making our first turn.  At this point I felt really strong and was moving at a good clip.  I was cold, but still in my throw away jacket, gloves and hat, so not too cold.

I saw my parents at about 1.5, a turn around, which gave me a little extra boost to keep moving. ¬†My mind always plays tricks early in long runs, probably because I’m anxious at how much there is left to go.

After that point, I started to feel sweat a bit in my chest so decided to ditch the jacket. ¬†My reasoning was that I didn’t want to sweat, then find miles and miles of shade and just freeze. ¬†While I think that may have been true, I am not sure how smart my clothes for the day were overall.

By the 5k mark, I officially starting doubting myself. ¬†I knew I’d see my parents at mile 6, and thought about just telling them today wasn’t my day. ¬†The cold was REALLY getting to me. ¬†Even though I wasn’t necessarily cold through my body, my lungs weren’t used to the air.

For whatever reason, I ditched my gloves about mile 4 <—biggest mistake of the day. ¬† I think I regretted this automatically. ¬†For the rest of the race, my hands were FROZEN, and literally cramping around my Ipod.

At mile 4 I also remembered to start taking in fuel, so started eating my Larabar. ¬†While this had worked in the previous week, I was NOT excited about eating it on this race. ¬†I kind of wished that I had brought something else, like Gu’s or chomps that would run through me right away — but again this could have been mental, who knows.

I saw my parents between 5 and 6 and thankfully that pulled me through to beyond the 10k point. ¬†I had noticed about mile 5 that my garmin and the race course were about .2 miles off, so I just kept pace according to the Garmin, figuring the race was just a little long (it was, .12 miles I believe) — and knowing that I could pace by minute, mile, half mile, etc, regularly by my watch.

I think mile 5ish was also the first time I walked.  This is BY FAR the earliest I have ever walked in a race, but I knew I was struggling and I was facing a HUGE hill.  I decided to take 30 seconds at the hills steepest point to speed walk it up, then pick it back up on the downhill.  I honestly think this mentality saved me, as I saved what energy I DID have and never actually fully bonked the entire race thanks to conserving.

I hit the 10k point and that is when the relay broke off from us. ¬†That actually gave me a bit of a mental distraction. ¬†I kept chuckling to myself, thinking how nice it would have been to be DONE by this point, and watching everyone take off so strongly. ¬†I wasn’t really envious, but it did give me a chance to not think about my own race, which was helpful.

After mile 7, I started giving myself 30-60 seconds of walking at the beginning of each mile. ¬†This was mentally what I needed to push through. ¬†I didn’t USE it every mile, but I was giving myself the OK, which made the 6 miles I had left seem much less overwhelming.

By the grace of race gods, the second half of the course had BEAUTIFULLY placed downhill portions and I got-to-moving. There were .5 mile stretches straight of downhill with beautiful park scenery, and that honestly is what pushed me through 8-10.

I don’t believe I walked more than a minute between those miles, because of the fact that the downhills miraculously showed up every time I needed them. Thank you God!

When I hit mile 10, I started realizing that while a sub 2:00 half wasn’t in me, a PR still definitely was. ¬†Unfortunately there were some hills, but I took the same strategy of walking a minute, then killing it on the downhill, and I kept my pace well under 10 minute miles, which was all I cared about at that point.

Mile 11 I believe was fairly hilly, and I did stop TWICE to walk a minute, thanks to the hills.  But again, my pace never dropped, and mile 11 was actually a speedier one thanks to a major downhill in the second half of the mile.

By mile 12 it started hitting me how close I was to the end, and I began to get excited and emotional.  Right when I got ready to walk, we turned the corner to another long stretch of gradual downhill, and I just coasted in.

According to Garmin, we made the final left turn at 12.9, straight uphill, until about 13.1, when we coasted a BEAUTIFUL downhill straight to the finish line, right about 13.22.

You could see the finish line for about .2 miles, which was AMAZING. ¬†I also ran into some AMAZING friends who came out (shout out to Laura and Nick, AND JP!), who I didn’t expect to see, then my family, which gave me an ULTRA boost to the finish.

I can’t wait to see finish line pictures, because I was SO happy. ¬†But the one and only picture I have at this point was me heading on that FINAL stretch to the finish past my Mom.

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I was in pain, and EXHAUSTED physically and mentally by this point…but that finish line was in front of me and I had amazing fans cheering me on — I HAD THIS.

And 206:50 minutes after I started, I had finished my 3rd half marathon.

I was in pain like I don’t remember being after my first two. ¬†I think the cold air really hurt my lungs and chest having not trained in temperatures below 40. AND my sleeves rubbed some really nice chafe marks on the inside of my arms, but I didn’t care. ¬† I did it! ¬† A race that I was convinced by mile 3.1 that I wouldn’t finished, I not ONLY defeated, but managed a PR. ¬†Thank you perseverance.

The finishers shoot was long, and from what I saw had lots of water, Gatorade, fruits, pretzels, power bars, etc for the taking.  I took a Powerbar and water, then headed straight to gear check and the Miller Light tent.

I have never wanted a beer after a race, but today I did. ¬†While I only drank maybe 1/5 of the beer, it was the best tasting thing I’ve had in a long time.

Unfortunately I had a flight to catch, as did my parents, so we weren’t able to hang out long, but I was A-OK with that because it was still VERY cold and my mylar blanket was only going to do so much for me by that point ;).

Course:

BEAUTIFUL course. ¬†I highly recommend this course. ¬†While it does have rolling hills, some fairly large, it isn’t anything unmanagable and you have enough downhill to make up for the ups.

While it was FREEZING, it was the PERFECT time of year in Saint Louis to be running this course, foilage wise.  I have never seem such beautiful trees, leaves, and fall colors on a race in my life.

There wasn’t nearly as much fan support as there was for my Chicago RnR, but there was TONS more than at Steamboat. ¬†I never felt overwhelmed by fans, and actually thought it was a nice balance of spectators. ¬†I didn’t notice as many funny race signs as I thought I would, but that could be because I was so focused.

Management

I actually thought the race was very well organized and I noticed not a single huge hiccup worth mentioning. ¬†There were plenty of porta potties, water/sports drink stops, and the finish, while crowded, was well organized. ¬†It was easy to reunite with my friends and family and I had no issues with gear. ¬†I expected more security, but there wasn’t any real issue at all. ¬†You better believe I’d run this one again, without a second thought. ¬†But I’d train in the freaking tundra…

OK — so this is by far my longest post ever :). ¬†I’ll shut up now! ¬†I’ll be back later in the week with thoughts POST race, as I have MANY of them and would love to share and get YOUR thoughts on them as well.

Please respond with any reactions/thoughts you have to the recap! ¬†I’d love to hear what you have to say!

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Steamboat Half Marathon (June 2, 2013) Review

My boy comes home tonight (yes he’s only been gone for 3 nights, but I am excited to touch his little face again ūüôā so I’m not sure how much time I’m going to be able to dedicate to an evening post tonight.

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Because of that, and because it’s slow at work, I thought I could write a random post now to give you all a little peek into my passion for running.

On June 2 of this year, I ran my second half, The Steamboat Half Marathon. ¬†For those of you who haven’t heard of this wonderful little town and/or race, please do me a favor and look into it.

I had a tough training session, 12 week which were preceded by 4+ weeks off running due to a bad case of runners knee. ¬†Literally up until the week before the race – I was unsure if I was going to run it. ¬†That is until the Saturday BEFORE the race…

We happened to be home in St Louis for my good friends wedding. ¬†I made a deal with myself that weekend: ¬†if you can run 10 miles, you can do the race (the race itself was paid for, but it is a 3.5 hour drive and we’d have to pay hotel). Well, because my lungs and legs are used to Denver and altitude, I was able to bust out 10 and decided I was going to do it, and do it I did.

Thank god I have an amazing fiance who was along for the ride, through the entire roller coaster of a training session down to the actual race finish line.

I’m SO thankful I did this. ¬†The race was honestly one of those moments I will never forget in my life. ¬†It rekindled my love for running, and reminded me that I am stronger than I give myself credit for.

After the race, I really wanted to hold onto those emotions and feelings I had crossing the finish line. ¬† I wrote it down in my journal (I carry a notebook around with me at all times to document my exercise/food, as well as any notes I may need to take through out the day. It’s helpful and I recommend it if you have space!)

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Anyways — as long as you can dismiss the poor grammar and emotional spewing of the entry, I’d love to share with you all my recap of Steamboat ¬†Like I said, it was an amazing moment and one that I hope may inspire others to step out of their comfort zone and push the boundaries of our own personal expectations!

I did it.  

I wish I could remember more . . . but¬†I’ll start from the very beginning: The wake up. ¬†One snooze and a tummy full of butterflies later, I was anxious but ready to DO THIS.¬†I got dressed (easy as I prepped it all the night before), prepared and drank a cup of coffee, quick bathroom break, and then we were off. ¬†

The bus to take us to start was waiting, warm and ready for the runners.   I ate my Larabar on the way up and watched the same course Zach and I had just driven 12 hours beforehand.   We got to the start with about 45 minutes to wait.   It was almost surreal, freezing cold, uncomfortable, but we were all in it together. All for 13.1.  

While I froze and searched for sun, I was motivated!  I put my bag in the van, and hoped to see it again at the finish.  With about 3 minutes left, we all lined up.  I put in my music, and with the countdown, we were off.

As to be expected, I was stoked at GO! ¬†The first few minutes were great . . .I was warming up and just being with all the runners was amazing. ¬†I do remember the early hills, but mile 1 came fast. ¬†930 pace…good but there are hills, save it!

By mile 2 I had some anxiety about how far I still had to go, but another 940ish mile. At least I knew at the 5k point I’d get water and start to fuel. ¬†Continuing the under 10 minute miles through out the first rolling 5k, I hit the downhills right before mile 4. ¬†I think this was the point I zoned out and just RAN. ¬†I used the runners around me to help with pace, but this really was my race. ¬†

There were still some rollers, especially by mile 6, but I was so in the zone. ¬†I knew this was going to be tough, but I also knew by this point I’d finish. ¬†After the 10k, I knew shi* was about to get real with the major hill. ¬†I had begun fueling at the 5k, slowly taking bites of gu when I needed it. ¬†

I hit mile 8, the 2 mile incline, and planned to start a walk/run method.  I saw the aid/water station, and began to walk through it.  I knew I had the uphill coming, but also knew following that was a major downhill at 10.   I began running 1 minute, walking 1 minute (I wanted to save my legs).   I surprised myself as this method had me passing consistent runners.  

I really think this method is what helped me PR, as it kept me at a higher overall general pace and allowed me to slam the downhill at mile 10, which was actually my fastest mile of the race at 9 minutes flat.   I knew I was getting close to the town, so I banked that downhill through mile 11.  

The aid station before the turn into town at just past 11 was great: music, water, energy. ¬†I knew I was closing in. ¬†The town run was kept to a shoulder of the road, so cars were VERY close. ¬†It was also around this point that I remember hearing “Come on Ashley! One mile left!” ¬†See, Steamboat is a very small half, and hardly any crowd support until you reach town. ¬†If’s really you and the mountains up until that point, which is surreal and a memory I will cherish forever.

There was a downhill right before the final up hill to the finish line, and I was STRUGGLING at this point. ¬†I knew I was in for a PR, and just wanted to walk it in. ¬†Until I saw my boys. ¬†Zach and Gus were waiting for me, right before mile 13. ¬† Zach and Gus were that emotional push that kept me on my feet and pushed me to end this amazing race as strong as I had begun it, 2:10 hours before. No I didn’t come close to winning, and no I’m not crazy fast. ¬†But that didn’t matter. ¬†This was my race, and I DID IT.

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The beauty of the course, the amazing runners, everything about that race was an amazing experience I will never forget.   To this day I feel the effects of this race, and am motivated to keep pushing.  I hope you all enjoy this recap and if nothing else get the message that

It really is amazing what we can do when we put our minds to it.  

QUESTION OF THE DAY:  Share with me a life changing experience?