Monday, October 20, 2014

The Great GO! St. Louis Halloween Race Recap

I've had a great, relaxing week following my second half marathon!  Last week, we celebrated my mom's birthday on Tuesday evening, Wednesday evening was Parent/Teacher Conferences at Nick's school, and on Thursday evening my mom and I went to a fun event at a local movie theater for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  I've been hitting the hay fairly early each night and letting myself relax mentally and physically, which has been nice!

Last Sunday morning (race day) when I woke up, I felt significantly better than the morning of my last half.  I had some pretty intense nausea before my last half, so I was quite relieved to not have the same issues this past Sunday.  I ate a bit of oatmeal and a string cheese after I got dressed and then headed to pick up my mom.  The weather was great temperature wise, but it was definitely gloomy out.  I checked the weather religiously in the days leading up to the race and the reports called for varying chances of rain.  At one point early last week, there was a 60% chance of rain, but as the race date drew closer the percentage dropped down to 10%.  Naturally, it started to spit as we drove downtown, but mom and I hoped that the rain would pass.

We parked the car and started to head to the starting line and I was definitely feeling chilly.  I hadn't brought a jacket, because I didn't anticipate being cool and I didn't want to fuss with handing it off to my mom before the race started.  As we started walking, I warmed up and had my mom take a quick pre-race picture.

Feeling a bit nervous pre-race!
I headed to the starting line and said good-bye to my mom.  As I waited near the start line, I had a blast looking at all of the costumes.  I saw a unicorn, a guy dressed as bacon, two women dressed as Mario and Luigi complete with denim overalls (I really hope they had running gear on underneath. The thought of running 13.1 in denim gives me the willies), and two clever runners dressed as pacers.  I thought they were official race pacers (I should have noticed that they weren't wearing the Michelob Ultra singlet!) until I saw the signs that said "Pace:  BEER" and "Pace: WTF?"  I think the pacers were my favorite costumes!

The (rainy) starting line for the race
After the playing of the National Anthem, we were on our way!  In the days leading up to the race, I was incredibly nervous about the 3:15 time limit for the race, because I was convinced I ran my last half marathon in 3:30 and would thus have to shave 15 minutes off my time.  It always helps to look up your last race time before you work yourself into a panic.  It turns out that I ran my last half in 3:16:40, so I really should not have been worried about the 3:15 time limit!  I did not realize that, though, until well after the race.  Near the beginning of the race, though, I heard a woman tell her friend that they would not sweep people off the course at 3:15, especially if you were near the finish line, so from that point on, I did not worry about my finishing time.  I had been stressed out all week about it and there was no sense worrying about it throughout the entire race.

I had my Garmin set to time me for 4:1 run/walk intervals and I felt good as I set out.  My "better" goal for this race was to stick to said 4:1 intervals, however, let the record reflect that I am the worst plan follower ever.  My run/walk interval plan did not last long, but instead, I listened to my body and ran/walked when needed.  Sometimes I ran for more than 4 minutes and sometimes I walked for more than 1 minute and I felt really good.

At some point early on in the race, I noticed a woman in front of me wearing a super cute Sparkle Skirt and I excused myself (I'm fairly certain I was somewhat interrupting a conversation she was having with another runner) and asked if she liked her Sparkle Skirt since I have been going back and forth about getting one.  I truly don't know why I have been holding out, though, because everyone I've talked to has raved about them and this runner was no exception.  She assured me that the skirts were worth the price and did not chafe whatsoever.  She also spoke highly of the pocket on the shorts.  I thanked her and went on my way.

I had an uneventful, and really great, first half of the race. I kept the 3:00 pacer in my sight lines for the better part of 5 miles and I started to feel a bit too confident about my finish time.  It was still raining somewhat but it was more of a mist than a real rain shower and it felt rather good.  Around mile 4, I took a Salted Caramel GU (still my favorite flavor!) and shortly thereafter, we parted ways with the 10K runners.

At mile 6, I had somewhat of a brain fart (I should mention again that I am not good with math) because I saw my time and I started to get really excited thinking that since I was halfway through and my time was 1:20 that I could easily finish in 3 hours.  Duh, Laura.  Mile 6 is not the halfway point of a half marathon.  Mile 6.55 is halfway!  Oops!

Unfortunately, around said halfway point (or rather a bit before), my IT band decided to throw a temper tantrum.  I was really pleasantly surprised at how well my IT band had been in the first half of the race.  Although I was keeping the 3:00 pacer in my sight, I did not feel like I was overdoing it.  My pace was conservative and I felt good, so I hoped that my IT band would cooperate.

I kept up my run/walk intervals despite the IT band pain, but it was definitely becoming more walking and less running.  I managed to smile triumphantly for my pictures at the halfway point, which amused the race photographer.  I told him I was trying to get a good race photo for once and it worked!  I'm hoping to download the official race photos soon.

I took another GU near mile 7 and I tried the Peanut Butter flavor.  It was ok, but it had a gritty consistency and it wasn't nearly as good as Salted Caramel.  I'm anxious to try Chocolate Peanut Butter, though!  It had started raining quite a bit harder at this point and while I had been thanking the volunteers all throughout the race, I definitely made sure to profusely thank the volunteers at this point.  I am always impressed by race volunteers, especially when the weather is less than ideal, like the rainy race day I had!

Around mile 7.5, the course made a U-turn, so runners were running side by side and as I was coming back down the stretch of road I just ran down, I saw the girl in the Sparkle Skirt and told her "good job" as we ran by one another.  My IT band was really acting up at this point, but the enthusiastic volunteers at the water station near mile 8 helped keep my spirits high.  In this particular neighborhood, some of the residents were sitting out on their porch enjoying coffee and they asked me what mile I was on.  I told them I was at mile 7.94 and they said "Wow!  How far are you going?"  I told them 13.1 and they wished me good luck on the rest of my race.  It's always nice interacting with residents as we run through different neighborhoods.  I'm sure it is a bit of an inconvenience having road closures and the normal sounds of race day merriment, so I appreciate their support and encouragement!

By mile 8, my right IT band was screaming at me and I knew that I would be walking the rest of the race, but I was ok with that and tried to keep my pace brisk.  As I started mile 9, I heard someone approach me from behind (not an unusual occurrence, though) and a voice said "I've been trying to catch up to you!" and it was my friend in the Sparkle Skirt!

I learned that her name was Brigitte and this race was her 19th half marathon!  She completed a half the weekend before (the MO' Cowbell Race) and she was registered to run the Rock 'N Roll St. Louis Race the following weekend, which would be her 20th half.  She is also a Run Disney runner and is training to do the Dopey Challenge in January.  The Dopey Challenge includes a 5K, 10K, half marathon, and full marathon all in the same weekend!

It was great talking to Brigitte, but I felt like I was slowing her down.  I told her my IT band was agitating me and mentioned that if I was slowing her down to feel free to continue ahead.  She indicated that she was having some ankle issues and that she enjoyed getting to know new people at races.

I was really in pain at this point and it was so nice having someone to chat with to keep my mind off the pain.  I truly think the last few miles of this race would have been miserable were it not for my new running friend.  We talked about running, our families, and our careers and found out that we had so much in common.  We are both only children who've lost our dad's and we work blocks away from each other.  I really feel like Brigitte and I crossed paths for a reason.  Not only did she help me through the last difficult miles of the race, but she also talked to me about her dad's passing and let me talk about my own grief and losing my dad.  We talked and walked during the last 4 miles and as we approached the finish line, we jogged the last few steps across the finish line.  We've made plans to have lunch soon and meeting Brigitte reminded me how much I love the running community.  I am always blown away by the support and encouragement I receive from fellow runners and Brigitte was truly an angel on race day!  She said it best when she told me that running to her is never about the finish time, but rather, it's about meeting new people and supporting and encouraging one another across the finish line.  Amen!

I met up with my Mom after I crossed the finish line and it should be noted that she is the most amazing Mama ever!  She got up incredibly early on a dreary Sunday morning to come downtown with me, wait nearly 3 and a half hours in the rain for me to race, and cheered me and Brigitte on for the last few blocks!  Thank you, Mama!  I love you!

My official finish time was 3:25:22, which I am incredibly proud of.  My 5K time was 44:37 and my 10K time was 1:29:32.  While my finish time was nearly 10 minutes slower than my last half, given all of the IT band issues I was having, I couldn't have asked for a better time.  Even with the IT band pain, my walking pace towards the end was, on average, 15:40.  I started the race with an average pace of 14:22, so my IT band didn't slow me down too much.  I'm glad that my first half of the race was pretty solid, though, to help make up for the last, and slower, half.

Half Marathon 2 is in the books! 
After I got my medal and met up with my mom, I hobbled over to a bench to eat a few of the post-race snacks.  After my first half, I had a terrible dizzy spell (several really), but luckily, other than my IT band, I felt pretty darn good after this race.  When I stood up from the bench, though, I knew it was going to be a long walk to the car.  My mom offered to go get the car, but I figured it would do me some good to walk it out a bit.  It was a long walk back to the car, though, and I had to stop several times on the way.  It felt so good to sit down once we got back to the car! 

My mom and I went out for breakfast after the race and I had a big glass of chocolate milk and a stack of delicious pancakes and a side of bacon.  It hit the spot! 

I've never been a big chocolate milk fan, but lately, after long runs, it tastes so good!

One of my pancakes was Mickey shaped!  A lovely, unexpected surprise! 
After breakfast and a nice, hot shower (I could not get warm after the race between my wet running clothes and soggy shoes from the rain), I took a post-race nap, which was delightful.

 I love this spooky  medal!

Back of the medal
Overall, I had a really great experience and this race is once again at the top of my list.  I love the spirit of the race and the Halloween theme, plus the people watching is prime with all of the costumes!  Technically, I did not meet my better or best goals and I only halfway met my good goal, which was to not get swept by finishing in 3:15.  I did not finish in 3:15, but I did not get swept and I finished, so I call that a win!  

I'd love to train hard for my next half and aim for a 2:45 - 3:00 half.  It will be a challenge, but I'd love to push myself to train (mentally and physically) for that goal.  

"Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up."