Monday, February 10, 2014

Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge Run

Fair warning, this post is very picture heavy!  Wow, yesterday's 6K was an awesome race and I was so glad to be a part of a little slice of St. Louis history.  As I've mentioned, participating in the race on Saturday afforded us the opportunity to cross the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge before it opened to vehicular traffic on Sunday.  How many times in your life can you say that you walked on an interstate?  Not many.

My mom and I headed down to the race site early, since my mom was volunteering and needed to get there to help set-up the water station.  Luckily, I stayed in the car for a little while to stay warm, because it was about 17 degrees when we got to the race site with a windchill of 9.  For some reason, it felt so much colder than that.  I'm fairly certain it was colder the day that I ran the Hot Chocolate Race in December, but yesterday's race felt much colder.  We also had a dusting of snow on Friday night, so the roads were a little slushy (does anyone else feel like telling old man winter to bite it?).

After hanging out for a little while in the car, I headed down to the starting line.  Despite the cold weather, there was a large crowd gathering at the starting line.  Everyone was in good spirits and anxious to start the race and get warm.  After the playing of the national anthem and a few words from a special guest, Stan's daughter, Jean Musial-Edmonds, we were off!

The starting line
For some reason, the roads were much slushier near the starting line/finish line area, but that actually worked to my advantage. I almost always start off too fast during a race and I have a hard time pacing myself, but having such slushy conditions yesterday helped me slow down.  I settled into a good groove and made my way towards the bridge. I was able to see my mom on the way up to the bridge and she reminded those of us running that we would be running downhill on the way back.  It took me a minute to realize what she meant, but then I saw all of my fellow runners heading up a bit of an incline.  It wasn't too bad, though, because I think the excitement of seeing the bridge helped us get up the hill.

Laura, meet bridge.  Bridge, meet Laura.
Approaching the bridge
There were a lot of photo opportunities during this race and also a lot of reciprocal photo taking.  I took a few selfies, but otherwise, I was able to lend a hand to someone taking a photo and they always returned the favor, which was really nice.  I knew that I wasn't trying to PR in this race and I really just wanted to enjoy the unique opportunity that it presented, so I walked nearly the entire time I was on the bridge just soaking in the sights.  The bridge was a little slushy, too, so I didn't mind slowing down at all.
The bridge design is really neat, with two triangular towers with cables stretching from the top to the deck

View from underneath one of the towers.  Not a view you would typically see!

Another neat shot from the underside of one of the towers.
Another neat part of this race was that it involved crossing state lines.  I've mentioned before that I have a hankering to do a race in each of the 50 states and after yesterday's race, I can add Illinois to the list of states that I have raced in.  Technically, I was only in the state of Illinois for a few minutes, but I did cross the state line!  In all honesty, though, if I actively pursue my dream of running a race in each state, I will run another race in Illinois.

There it is peeking behind the stage for the ribbon cutting; the IL state line!
This is probably one of my favorite race pictures, so thank you to the nice lady who took this for me!
While the official name of the bridge is the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge, I am curious to see what name will stick in our lexicon.  As one of our traffic announcers pointed out recently, rarely do we call a bridge by its formal name.  For example, if you listen to a local traffic report, you will frequently hear about delays on the Poplar Street Bridge.  Everyone can tell you where the Poplar Street Bridge is, but I doubt very many people know its real name.  The Poplar Street Bridge is actually the Congressman William L. Clay Sr. Bridge and before that, it was known as the Bernard F. Dickmann Bridge.  I've heard a lot of references to the new bridge as the Stan Span, which I think is pretty clever, so we will see if that name sticks.
View from the IL side heading back into MO.  There was a lot of ice moving down the river. 
Re-entering MO; welcome to St. Louis!
As the conversations about naming the bridge took place, another man's name and story were mentioned.  A construction worker named Andy Gammon died in March 2012 while the bridge was under construction.  It was a tragic accident and his family has been very passionate about having his name memorialized in connection with the bridge and rightly so.  I admit that I was a bit torn about my thoughts on naming the bridge.  Stan the Man was, and is, a huge part of St. Louis Cardinals history and the city itself, while Andy gave his life building the bridge.  I knew that eventually the bridge was named the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge, but I didn't realize until yesterday that Andy was also memorialized.  As I came back into the city on the return leg of the race, I noticed a sign that said Andy Gammon Memorial Highway and I was glad to see that he was honored, too.
Andy Gammon Memorial Highway sign
Home Sweet Home 
I resumed running after I made my way back across the bridge and it was around this time that I realized my MapMyRun app hadn't been giving me the 1 mile, 2 mile, etc. updates.  It had stopped working at some point and while I'm sure it was user error on my part, it was still frustrating.  It wasn't really that big of a deal, though, since I was definitely not running this race for time.  As I came down the ramp from the bridge, I ran into the world's best race volunteer, my mom!  The volunteers for this race were awesome and I appreciated them so much!  I made sure to thank everyone I saw for coming out on such a cold, yucky day!  The volunteers were joking with us as they passed out the water cups by advertising "ice cold water" and they weren't kidding.  I grabbed a water cup (and a hug!) from my mom and I ran with it for a little while and it froze in just a few minutes.

Best.race.volunteer.ever.
Not too long after the water station, I crossed the finish line and grabbed some post-race snacks.  My official finish time was 57:53 (3K split 29:19), so not a PR by any stretch of the imagination, but an amazing race nonetheless.
Hello, finish line. 
On the way back to my mom's car, I met a really neat man.  There was a gentleman in bright orange coveralls walking a bit ahead of me, but I ended up catching up to him.  As I began to pass him, he asked me if I was doing the bike ride.  As part of the festivities yesterday, recreational bike rides across the bridge and six-mile timed trials were available for cyclists to participate in.  I mentioned to the man that I had just completed the run and he told me he was scheduled to participate in the 10 a.m. bike ride.  He said he thought he was overdressed for the occasion and I assured him that he wasn't and that, in fact, I was under-dressed for the weather (more on that soon).  He told me that he was turning 75 tomorrow (Sunday) and he thought it would be an amazing, once in a lifetime opportunity to bike across the bridge.  He said his grandkids thought he was crazy and I told him that he really showed them!  He was really excited to participate and I just thought to myself if I have half as much zeal for life as he does at his age, then I will be lucky.     

After the race, my mom and I went to Starbucks to get some liquid warmth and by then, it was pretty clear that I had not dressed properly at all for the weather.  It was clear before then, I suppose, but there wasn't much I could do about it by the time I got to the race.  I plan to write an entire post about this later in the week, but after doing some research, I've come to the conclusion that I had frostnip (it's a thing), which is the mildest level of frostbite.  I am ok, but I definitely learned a lesson!  

"A single run can take you many places."