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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Rock and Roll St. Louis 1/2 Marathon Race Report

Half marathon Number 2 is officially in the books. How did it go? Well you're about to find out.

I mentioned in my last post that I was a wee bit concerned about how my IT band would act during this race. I had issues in my last training run last Tuesday that left me thinking it might not cooperate. I was worried because I had no problems during training and I'd trained hard, in search of a huge PR. Any kind of PR was going to happen, weather conditions and IT band problems during my last(and only) half left me with a finish time of 2:48, so I was bound to do better than that. How much better was the question. Many months ago, I planned on being very happy with anything under 2:30. As I trained and I got faster, my anticipated finish time got lower, to hoping for under 2:20, then hoping for under 2:15.

During my last training run, I did 13.1 miles in 2:16. Add in my last race, a 10k, being done in less than an hour, and I knew I could finish in less than 2:15, if conditions were right. The pain I began feeling Tuesday night in my right knee had me worried that I'd be kissing that dream goodbye. I hoped that my chiropractor visit on Wednesday, lots of stretching and foam rolling would be enough to keep my IT band happy.

I made sure to go to bed nice and early on Saturday night, as a 4:30 am wake up call Sunday morning was in my future. By some small miracle, I fell asleep and stayed good and asleep until my alarm went off at 4:30. I woke up feeling nice and refreshed. I ate my banana and drank my trusty Carnation Instant Breakfast, took my Energy Bits and got dressed. As luck would have it, getting dressed left my back hurting. 2 weeks ago, during my last long training run, I hurt the same spot in my back brushing my teeth. Is this how it's going to be? I injure myself before running by brushing my teeth and getting dressed? Either way, I was left unable to turn my head without pain. Lovely.

I had laid all of my gear out the night before, so after I was dressed, I was ready to grab my gear, just in time for my running partner, Amy, to pick me up. I opted for a running skirt, a long sleeved running shirt, my compression socks, and a throwaway jacket. It. Was. Cold. The temps were in the upper 30s. Coming from NC and coming off of summer, I wasn't used to this cold. I'm not a fan of the cold anyway, so this made things so much worse.

We made the drive, in the dark, to downtown St. Louis. The streets were empty and it was really hard to get out of her car, with the heated seats, once we got parked. But we did and the cold got to me quickly. My teeth began chattering in a short amount of time. We walked the few blocks to the race area.

The race area is much smaller than the Disney race areas and we didn't have to walk a lot to get where we needed to be. Bag check was close to the corrals and everything was pretty centrally located. On the way, we found piles and piles of the space blankets they hand out after the race, just waiting for us to take them and use them for warmth. They really came in handy. We checked our bags and headed to the Porta-Potties. More people started showing up, but lines for the bathroom facilities were not bad. After that we headed to our corral.

We were in corral 11 but Rock and Roll corrals are extremely relaxed. Nothing more than signs separate them and you are pretty free to roam about, moving up in corrals if you want to. We did end up walking up to corral 10. The sun was just starting to peek up and we were facing the St. Louis Arch, a very lovely view.

At 7 am, after the National Anthem, they started letting the corrals go. Now there is little pomp and circumstance, certainly not as magical as the beginning of a Disney race. Just an announcer on a microphone counting down from 10. No Fairy godmother and no fireworks. The corrals are released much faster than they were during PHM, with only 30-60 seconds between each one. We moved to the front very quickly and soon it was our turn. I was thankful, as I just wanted to get moving, since it was still pretty cold. I ditched my throwaway jacket right before our corral was let go.

Just like that, it was our turn. Since this was my 2nd half marathon and I felt very well trained, my nerves were pretty calm. I was just nervous about how my IT band would treat me. We set off and I felt good. I warmed up quickly and wasn't feeling the chill by the time I'd hit my first mile. The course was lovely, we ran by Busch Stadium, home of my beloved St. Louis Cardinals. We wound all around downtown. My first mile was slower than I wanted it to be, at close to 10:30, but I knew I could bring my splits down as I went, and I did. Miles 2 and 3 were both well under 10 minute miles.

After about 5 miles, my running partner started to have knee pain and slowed, I went ahead without her. Within a mile or so she caught back up to me. We stuck together until around the 8th mile, when my left arch started to hurt, badly. My normal strike was causing a sharp, shooting pain with each step and I had to modify to strike on the inside of my foot. Luckily by mile 9, the pain magically went away. I was still hovering around the 10 minute mile pace, give or take, but I was keeping around my goal.

I was starting to feel like my legs weighed so much more and felt like I was slowing. We hit mile 10 and I knew I'd have something to look forward to. My best friend of 23 years(we met in 2nd grade) lived right along the race route and she was planning on coming out. I have never had anyone come out to any of my races to cheer me on before. I don't dare make my husband drag all 3 kids out to any of my races, so I've always done them on my own. The sun was up and in my eyes but I scanned both sides of the street as I ran. Then finally I saw it. A big yellow sign that said "Go April Go". I had tears in my eyes, I screamed and moved to that side of the street and came barreling towards her and her husband. Her husband screamed for me as I approached, I gave him high 5s and I crashed into her, stopping just for a short time to hug her and tell her I loved her. It felt so good to have that support and it really gave me a boost.
My splits for the 10th and 11th mile came back down to under 10 minutes a mile. I didn't go through my typical mile 11 pit of despair. I felt good.

Until I hit mile 12. Amy, my running partner, had pulled ahead of me. We faced another uphill climb and my legs had that heavy feeling again. I'd had enough Gu, they just felt like lead. I wasn't out of breath, I wasn't sore, my legs were just stuck. Trough the race, I had kept pace with two official pacers. They were carrying signs that said 2:15 and they had started about a minute in front of us. I knew if I could keep up with them, I could get in under 2:15. I struggled to keep up next to them and around 12.75 miles, I came very close to asking if I could just hold onto one of the guys' arms and have them pull me along. I refrained. REO Speedwagon's "Keep Pushing" came on my IPod and I picked up the pace, passing the 2:15 pacers. I came up, crossed the finish line, and paused my Garmin.
I had done it. I came in under 2:15. My official chip time was 2:12:45. I was slightly disappointed that I hadn't gone to 2:10 but I really don't feel like there was a point that I could have picked up the pace and cut 3 minutes off my finish time. The hills were rough but they didn't really slow many down. Most of the miles that were uphill I still stayed around 9:45 per mile. I didn't stop for pictures(which accounts for the complete lack of pictures for this report). While there were a lot of runners, the course was never crowded. I did have to move around a few people here and there, but the course was always wide enough and bottle necking wasn't an issue. Most slower people stayed to the right as proper etiquette dictates. I really enjoyed the complete lack of crowding compared to PHM. So aside from the maybe 5 seconds I slowed to hug my best friend, I don't feel like I could have pushed myself anymore. My IT bands cooperated and I had no pain, except for the arch pain I felt for about a mile. I was pleased with myself.

The post race goodies were abundant. Chocolate milk, Gatorade, water, energy drinks, bananas, protein bars, pretzels and more. I grabbed it all but chugged my chocolate milk first.

We grabbed our checked bags, a lady covered my with another space blanket and we hobbled back to her car. I'd forgotten how cold it was, especially walking in the shade. We headed over for a celebration breakfast with my bestie and her hubby, where I enjoyed blueberry pancakes and bacon. I'd earned it.

So my thoughts on this race:
1. Well organized. Everything was close to each other and well laid out. We never had to walk far.

2. Big lack of celebrations. There were bands at every mile but I paid little attention to them. The start of the race wasn't all that exciting, at least compared to a Disney race.

3. The course was nice, but St. Louis city streets are poorly maintained. Many potholes, rough patches and other areas that I was afraid I'd hurt myself on. Luckily I did not. While the running surface left something to be desired, the course was at least wide and went through nice areas.

4. I had worried a bit about the free range corrals and the ability to just move up as you felt, but it honestly wasn't a problem. I was afraid I'd have to dodge a lot of people who moved up to walk, and starting in a corral for faster people. This wasn't the case at all. I don't know if there was just a difference in the field of people who were participating, but I was very pleased with the fact that pretty much everyone that surrounding me was at least close to my pace and I didn't have dodge walkers. I respect everyone's individual paces and 13.1 miles is 13.1 miles whether it's done in 1:30 or 3:30, but at the same time, if you plan on completing a half in 3:30, it isn't fair for those of us running faster to have to weave through that traffic. This was a problem I had during PHM, I ended up running 13.45 miles because I spent a good amount of time dodging walkers and zig-zagging along the course. I didn't have this issue at RnR.

5. I liked the post race refreshments. The box we got after PHM left me disappointed but I felt like I had a lot of options after this race.

6. Running in the cold is much better than running in the heat. Normally I hate the cold, but my last half was done in 70 degree weather, with nearly 100% humidity. This was done in the upper 30s to low 40s with no humidity. I barely drank any of the water I had with me and I liked not being soaked in sweat.

7. The medal is very nice. Certainly not as nice as a Disney medal, but lovely nonetheless.
So overall, I would definitely do another race in the Rock and roll series. I liked the course, I liked the race. The only things that were lacking to me was the expo(and I think that was just because there were other big races that weekend so vendors were at other, bigger expos) and the lack of hoorah compared to a Disney race. This was a good experience, and now it's time to look forward to the Disney Wine and Dine 1/2 Marathon in just 10 days.


  1. Awesome job, April!! I have similar goals (2:15-2:30), but I think my PRs will have to wait until next year.