The Go! Mississippi 7k 4/9/17

Yesterday morning I raced a new to me distance on a familiar to me course. I normally run the Go! Half Marathon, but since I ran the Alton Half Marathon a couple weeks ago I decided to try the shorter distance this time. 

I parked at my friend Brian’s loft downtown, which was awesome because I could use a real bathroom before meeting the Big River Training team at 6:15am. 

This is me in the elevator, not the bathroom.

We were supposed to be in our corrals at 6:45am, so it wasn’t long before we headed down the cobblestone roads of the landing to get to the riverfront start. 

At 7:05am they began releasing corrals with about a minute break in between. I was in C so I didn’t have to wait too long, which was good because even though it was about 60 degrees it was a little windy and I was chilly in my tank top.

I started the race with my training team friend Jill who is a lot faster than me but when I’m running a little over 4 miles and she’s running a little over 13, our paces are similar. The 7k, half marathon, marathon, and marathon relay all start together, which I liked because it made me feel very fast to be running with sub 2 hour half marathoners. 🙂

Immediately after rounding the first corner it felt like we were climbing out of a hole, the elevation change was so dramatic. But that was to be expected as I knew we were running to the bridge that was above us. 

And this was *after* the steepest part.

Humans of St. Louis.

This is the reverse of the way the course went last year, so it was familiar territory, but it felt new because of the people below at the new start line. 

Then a barge honked at us!

And then we were in Illinois. 

It’s neat to run on roads like this that normally only have cars on them, but it was a lot of up and down until we arrived in East St. Louis. 

East St. Louis has a lot of cool looking buildings that need some work. It had a bit of a ghost town feel until we approached some volunteers. 

One of these kids, I think the first one, said “Hey! He’s walking!” as if he wanted to report him for cheating. Lol!

I passed the water station since I was halfway done with my race and proceeded toward the Eads bridge. 

Around this time I hear “hey Nora!” It was another Big River friend, Shaunta. We ran side by side briefly, which is a cool thing to do when you’ve raced to another state, and then she moved on. 

Note the mile 3 sign up ahead. My watch and everyone else’s around me beeped for mile 3 a couple minutes before we got to the sign. We all agreed that we hoped it would even out over the course of the race, and I was thinking I hope it evened out in the next mile because my race was about done. 

Race participants were still coming in to Illinois as my side of the course was leaving it. 

More uphill to get on the bridge. 

A semi had just given an extended horn blow for us and I may be making this up but I feel like this Metrolink car did the same. Lots of communication from transportation during this race!

Back on the bridge for lots of cool views of St. Louis. I love my city. 

It’s hard to tell, but there was a trash truck at the very end of the line of people on the other bridge. I wouldn’t like the feeling of being followed by that. 

Meanwhile, I was almost to the end of my bridge. 

I was a little concerned about missing the turn for the end of my race (I saw two women later who did just that), but it was clearly marked. 

Having never done this race before and not remembering how many miles are in 7k, I had no idea how far the finish line was until I turned the corner. 

If I do this race again I’ll know to pump the gas when I’m midway through the bridge. I didn’t have a lot of time in sprint mode before I finished. 

Cool medal. 

Cool view. 

Official results:

Alton Half Marathon 3/25/17

Yesterday I headed to Alton, Illinois for a new to me race, the Alton Half Marathon. I’m from Illinois and this was my first race in Illinois. It also only has a few hundred people and starts at 8am on Saturday, all new experiences for me. 

I arrived just before 7am and picked up my packet, an easy process. Then I used the port a potty (no line!) and headed back to my car to wait. That was a real luxury–in downtown St. Louis races I can never park close enough to wait in the car. Around 7:40 I made another port a potty stop. Even with the short line I had no issues getting to the start well before 8am. Another luxury of a small race–I just walked up to the start and could have positioned myself as close as I wanted. 

My race game plan was to start around 10 minute miles and as I warmed up if I felt strong I would push the pace to the high to mid 9s. 

We started out running through the parking lot of the downtown amphitheater. 

We really lucked out with the weather. All week the forecast was not just rain, but thunderstorms, all day Saturday. But by race day that changed to cloudy from the morning to early afternoon. It had rained, so it was wet in places, but it was also cool (50s with wind) and occasionally sunny. 

I got swept up in the excitement of the crowd (and likely incorrect starting chute placement on my part) and ran mile 1 in 9:17. Not the plan. I had that in mind for mile 13, not 1. My recent race trend is starting fast then burning out, so I dialed it back a bit. 

When I was driving in to Alton I noticed a bunch of cones in the middle of the road. It took me a minute to realize “oh god, this is the race course.” I had that reaction because that road has nothing to look at. 

Not super interesting. But I knew we had crossing the Clark bridge to look forward to. 

That bridge was a focal point of the race. Much like the Arch, it was almost always in view, it’s beautiful, and it was an anchor that gave me an idea of the direction the course would be heading at some point. 

Note the cones–most places on the course still had one lane of traffic open. Also a new to me experience. We had plenty of room though. 

I was happy to get to the middle of the bridge because I knew I’d be able to recover from the gradual increase in elevation. You never think about bridges being steep when you drive across them, but when you run them, you feel it. 

After the bridge we were in Missouri!

There were a lot of worms on the road because of the rain. So those plus the road skid marks (there must be a better name for those) were obstacles to avoid. 

We turned left at the Phillips 66 station, which was peak rural America. 

On the left was some sort of wildlife preserve which I’d like to know more about. 

This road was one they’d closed entirely for the race. It was an out and back, which sometimes I hate, like when the Go! course goes on Broadway, but during this race I liked it. The sparse crowd made it easy for me to spot people I know from Big River Running’s training team. 

That’s Rob Harrison, who in addition to being speedy (I think he’s running 8 minute miles) also takes photos of every runner finishing at the end of our training team runs and posts them to our group Facebook page. It’s the nicest gesture and everyone loves it. So when I took this I said “got you!” because he’s nearly always the taker of photos and not in them. 

This is Jill Will, who in addition to having a fun to say name, has also gotten quite speedy herself–8:30 miles!

Shaunta Pleasant. She was using this as a training run and ran 9ish minute miles. She looks like she’s standing still but is so fast. 

Looking for people I know really made the time fly by. After I saw all those people I’d completed about 5 miles, all in the high 9s. I was feeling good and not alarmed by that pace, so I kept it.

I turned back and saw a couple cyclists ahead. They were passing out twizzlers and provided some entertainment. 

That guy had been holding the twizzler just out of my reach and running backwards, saying I had to run to get it. I took this picture and he didn’t hand me the twizzler. So I said “hey! I want that!” and turned around and got it. I thanked him and went on my way. I’d taken a salted watermelon Gu about 45 minutes in and the twizzler became part of my fueling plan about an hour in as we continued back to the Clark bridge. 

I’ve said before I enjoy a race course with lots of spectators so I can feed off their energy, and while that’s true, there’s something to be said for exploring a more rural area. It’s very peaceful. I mean look at all the space I have. 

The sunglasses were for the wind. At this point the wind was at my back but on the way out it was all over my face which makes my eyes water if I’m not wearing sunglasses. 

It was windy coming back to the Clark bridge too. 

If you have a car and want to spectate, it was pretty easy for people to just pull over. The cars on the right belonged to volunteers passing out water ahead. There were some little girls in one blaring the horn. 

I wasn’t crazy about cars coming up behind me. They all stayed in their one lane, but I prefer to have them facing me so I know how much space I have. 

The Mississippi River was pretty. 

Running over bridges is kind of brutal. I’m really not a fan of gradual uphills. I just kept telling myself to get to the middle and the uphill would be over. 

Back to Illinois!

Downtown Alton is on the left. 

After the bridge we headed right to the second out and back of the course. This one was a little different because the out was on the road and the back was on a bike path on the levee. But I could still pretty easily identify people coming back. This was a welcome distraction as the out was slightly uphill with wind in our faces. 

There’s Rob and his speedy pack again. 

This was my view. This is another part of the course I saw on my drive in. Not scenic. I just focused on the people in front of me to forge ahead. I think this is around mile 10. 

There’s Jill again, completely by herself as I often was. This type of running is not for everyone, but I liked it. 

After a pretty long time on boring road of nothingness I finally got to the turnaround and was on the bike path. 

The wind was at my back for at least part of the time and it was nice to see the river again and of course, the Clark bridge. 

The bridge is deceiving though. I knew the end was just past it, and it seems pretty close, but I was around mile 11 here, so there was a lot of race to go. My watch had been beeping about 0.1 before every mile marker so I knew I’d likely be running 13.2 total miles, not 13.1. But mile 11 seemed like a good point to increase my speed a bit, so I upped my effort from what had been getting me miles around 9:40. I also focused on passing people. I think I passed about 10-20 people in the last couple miles, which is an awesome feeling. Lots of people passed me early in the race but I love finishing strong and passing them. 

I ran mile 12 in 9:18, almost exactly my pace for mile 1, but at a far more reasonable time in the race to do that. 

After mile 12 I really pushed it. I figured no matter how bad I felt I could power through it for a mile. I was listening to music and I told myself that it would only be painful for 2-3 songs, and the faster I ran the faster it would be over. We had to go up a sharp hill to get back in the parking lot (the reverse of what we did at the beginning) and it was awful but short, and then I caught my breath on the downhill. I didn’t look at my watch at all at the end–I didn’t want my pace to get in my head. During the whole race I only looked at each mile. It helps me to take the race mile by mile rather than big scary 13.1 miles. Finally I turned the corner and saw the finish. And Rob was there, done with his race and taking pictures! I was so happy. 

That photo may be my favorite running photo ever. I look like I’m flying. And my face does not at all express the pain I am feeling inside. 🙂

Done! Looking at my splits, I really was flying at the end. 

And my official results (their mile 5 split is off):

I’m so happy with my results. I train with the 10:30-10:45 pace group, so averaging a minute faster is a great outcome. Especially since other than a long run where I finished the last 6 miles in the high 9s, I did no pace runs. I also didn’t do any structured speed work. What I did do is a lot of treadmill runs that I finished fast, which is kind of speedwork. And I think that really prepared me to finish this race fast. 

At the finish they had bananas, pretzels, doughnuts, bagels, water, and Gatorade. 

I also got a pretty nice medal. 

And a nice collection of other stuff. 

I’ve now run 10 half marathons. My PR from October 2013 is 1:59:34. I’d just started training with Big River and was running with the 9:30-10 group (!!!). My second fastest time is from October 2012, when I did all my runs by myself. That time is 2:06:25. And now this race gave me my third fastest time, 2:06:47. I spent some time obsessing over the fact I was 22 seconds from a new second fastest time, but I’m going to try to let that go and enjoy the fact I’m running faster than I have in years.

St. Patrick’s Day Parade 5 Mile Run

I ran a race this morning! I ran the St. Patrick’s Day Parade 5 mile run in downtown St. Louis for the third time. Last year I wore shorts; this year there was snow on the ground. St. Louis!

Jenni, Jill, Ginny and I in a snowy pot ‘o gold before the race.

Running is going well for me lately and thanks to participating in a series of 30 day challenges on Facebook (currently abs), I feel more fit overall than I have in a long time. So I wanted to race this event, not just run it. Last year I averaged 8:55 miles so I decided to aim for that range again with a possibility of PRing. 

The four of us lined up pretty close to the front in what turned out to be a section for people with yellow bibs but we didn’t move. Last year I got trapped behind a lot of walkers and I didn’t want that to happen again. 

Then we waited for the 9am start. It was cold. Photo credit to Ginny. 

I didn’t do any type of warm up, which was fine. When the race started I shot out pretty fast, taking advantage of the downhill and the fact I was freezing and needed to move. 

After we passed Busch Stadium I was by myself and dealing with the first uphill on Chouteau. This hill is part of many downtown races and not my favorite. But I got up it and turned right. Mile one was around 8:50, pretty similar to last year. I felt ok; a little concerned about maintaining my pace, but I reminded myself I often need two miles to feel good, so I kept at it. A boy riding a scooter passed me and we turned left onto Market St. and the start of another long uphill. 

Some time around this point I saw Ginny, who’d passed me at some point. I said hello and she continued on ahead of me. I was at my limit for speed, especially on such a long uphill. As I was fighting the urge to walk, a man pushing a stroller passed me, helping me to stay humble about my abilities. 

Eventually we were done with Market St. and turned through Harris Stowe. More uphill here but I knew we’d soon get a downhill on Olive so I stayed focused. I was so ready to reach Olive and catch my breath a little on the downhill. I also hoped to make up a little time because mile 3 was around 9 minutes for me, a little slower than PR pace. 

Around mile 3.5 I felt out of breath and just wanting to be done. I was questioning why I even run short races that I feel pressure to go all out in because there’s always a point that’s miserable. And this was that point for me. Very helpful dialogue I was having with myself. 

I tried to focus on things around me instead. I came upon two guys pulling a wagon with a case of Miller Lite and some type of hard liquor in it. They didn’t look like typical runners but also didn’t look winded, unlike me. I passed them and said “I don’t know how you’re doing that!” One guy replied and said “because we’re awesome!” And then he followed up with “Plus it’s a lot easier when you’ve only run a mile.” Lol! They joined the race after the half way point. Apparently that’s a thing.

We passed the mile 4 marker and I saw the clock was just around 36 minutes. There was a delay between the race start and when I crossed the starting line so I knew I was averaging less than 9 minute miles and could PR. I was actually feeling better by this point (thanks, long runs!) and really poured it on. I haven’t run this hard for a sustained amount of time in quite a while. I love that going all out feeling. 

Finally I reached Market St. again, turned left onto it, and enjoyed a brief downhill before the uphill to the finish. I saw a guy carrying a running flag ahead of me. He’d been ahead of me all race and I focused on passing him. He seemed to be speeding up too but I eventually reached him and passed him. Then I saw a woman who appeared my age and chased her down. When the finish was truly within reach (seemed to take forever), I sprinted. No one passed me, which hasn’t happened in a while. I crossed the finish line and caught my breath before taking a look back. 

The hills never look as bad in photos as they feel running up them. 

I found Ginny, who finished just ahead of me, and we celebrated our great races. 

How great was my race? I cut a minute off my PR from this race last year!

More exciting to me, I finished super strong. 

An 8:14 mile at the end of a 5 mile race? Who am I?!? I am pretty sure I owe that finish to all the treadmill running I’ve been doing lately. My favorite way to make it interesting is to increase the speed at regular intervals. So that’s probably another reason I felt better in the later miles than at the beginning. I’m curious as to how that will translate to my next race, the Alton Half Marathon, at the end of the month. 

By the way, that race will be my first of two in my home state of Illinois this year. This fall I’m running my first marathon, the Chicago marathon. Go big or go home! 

Hot Chocolate 15k 12/11/16

I ran my favorite (only) winter race this morning, the Hot Chocolate 15k. This is the third year in a row I’ve run it. 

The morning got off to an inauspicious start as I got downtown around 7am but circled the area multiple times, looking for parking. I was determined to find free street parking with high visibility which apparently is a tall order for a popular race like this. I eventually settled for a spot several blocks away on Chestnut. I may or may not have ripped off a do not park here sign. It was almost 7:30; I was desperate!

I ran to the start area as the national anthem was playing. There’s about a zillion corrals for this race and if I couldn’t get closer to my assigned corral, B, I ran the risk of being behind walkers and being pissed off the whole time. 

Unfortunately a lot of people needed to move up, and the crowd wasn’t moving. Then I saw the corrals were moving and knew if I didn’t get in, they’d all pass me. The corrals were closed, so I squeezed in through a trapezoid in the gate and ended up here. 

Not great. So I went to the left side and squeezed through another trapezoid. A spectator saw me and said “no way!” Way. It was much easier to move on the left side of Market and I was able to reach corral E. I’ll take it. 

Mile one is the long uphill along Market to Compton. It’s pretty soul crushing since it’s the start of the race, but I was steady Eddie and handled it well. I’m part of a Facebook group where we do a physical challenge each month; it’s currently jumping jacks and we are up to 100. I honestly believe the strength I’ve gained from that helped me on the hills. 

Unfortunately as we began mile 2 I felt a burning in my left shin muscle. I’ve gotten that in the past but this time it was enough to make me walk. The timing was good, as I could get a shot of these guys. 

The middle guy. I mean that’s basically an arrow to his penis. Good for him. 

Anyway, running. I tried to get back into a groove but decided to use the first candy station as another walk break. 

Then I walked at the water station right after. I was thinking “here we go again” as my recent trend is to walk early and lose all motivation. I was happy to get through that mile around 11 minutes. 

But it got better after the hill. I got into an even running pace and only walked to get candy or water. 

When we turned onto Chestnut I realized why I wasn’t supposed to park in the spot I chose. I parked on the course!

I said hi to my car and was relieved I got no ticket. I’m not going to make a habit of parking in race closed spots but I’m glad this worked out. 

I was really enjoying the run by this point. I love winter running. Once I get into my groove I feel like I can run forever. I only looked at my watch at each mile but the pace I settled into was around 9:45/mile which is unheard of for me lately. 

More candy as we approached the brewery. 

I ate everything I picked up. As we turned back from the brewery I realized I was running so well that a PR might be possible. So I skipped the last candy station, more marshmallows. 

Mile 8 is just mean, an uphill on Chouteau. I kept telling myself I could slow down but I could not stop. I didn’t want to throw away all my 9:xx miles because I’d be disappointed in myself. It’s been so long since I’ve had a strong race that I really wanted it. I was thinking a race where I averaged 9:xx miles would be awesome. I couldn’t remember what my previous times were; turns out this is what they were:

The end was hard but I was so happy to finish feeling strong. 

And it turns out, a PR!

And here’s my detailed splits because I’m so proud of what I did after that rough mile 2:

So happy!

Then I got my finishers’ mug and got the hell out of there because my sweat was making me freezing in windy downtown. 

In my car I checked out my medal and noticed something odd. 

No city or year on my medal! I double checked the event page and they are supposed to have that info. I messaged them on their FB page and they’re mailing me a new one. Problem solved. 

I know there’s plenty to dislike about winter but I’ve come to realize I do my best running when it’s cold. I’m excited about training team in January!

St. Louis Turkey Trot 8k 11/24/16

On Thanksgiving morning I ran my first 8k, the St. Louis Turkey Trot 8k. This was a new to me race but I have heard of it before due to the fact they give all finishers cinnamon rolls at the end. Cinnamon rolls are one of my favorite things in life and now that I’m done with Whole 30 there was so reason not to do this race. Plus like the Hot Chocolate races, everyone got a really nice article of clothing, a snuggly fleece. 

The race was supposed to start at 8:45am and I got there at 8am, which was way too early for 40 degrees. It was in Forest Park and I misjudged how far I’d parked from the Muny parking lot. So I did a lot of standing around until my running friends arrived. 

Sarah, me, Meghan, David. Photo courtesy of Sarah.

The race organizers made some announcements, including that the race course may not match up to what was posted online. So we should just follow people in front of us who look like they know where they’re going. LOL. Also, they didn’t start the race until 9am. Normally I wouldn’t care but I was so cold and also needed to drive two hours to southern Illinois by 1pm, so I’d be cutting it close. 

At 9am the four of us took off. We all were running for fun, which is a really nice way to do it. We could just talk and have fun and not have race stress. I hadn’t run 5 miles in weeks so I was about concerned about stamina, but it ended up being no problem. We stopped for water in the middle, but other than that, just ran. And toward the end I felt strong so David and I broke off from the group (and eventually he broke off from me) and finished fast. 

Meghan and Sarah were just behind us so we collected them and then collected our cinnamon rolls. 

These were giant and great. The only thing that would have made them better is if they were warm, but they’re serving thousands of people in a park so I get the constraints. 

My official results:

My next race is the Hot Chocolate 15k in two weeks. I love how I’m just going to run 9.3 miles in two weeks without following a training plan. LOL. At least there will be chocolate!