St. Louis Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon 10/27/13

I’m not going to bury the lede…I did it! I broke 2 hours in the half marathon and now am the proud owner of a 1:59:37 half marathon PR.

My day started early. Per usual I woke up every hour after the time I went to bed, midnight, (thanks Cardinals, but worth it), thinking it was time to get up. I was always surprised it was not, went back to sleep, and repeated the process. Plus I had a dream I arrived to the race late, so even my sleep wasn’t all that relaxing. I finally got up when my alarm went off, 5am.

I drank about 20 ounces of Gatorade, ate half a banana, a clif bar, and two ibuprofen. I got into my carefully planned outfit of running capris, the race t-shirt, a long sleeve shirt, an earband, gloves, and a throwaway jacket. It was in the 30s (supposed to be 35 but I never checked what it actually ended up being) and while some people on the training team’s Facebook page advocated wearing shorts and a t-shirt I just couldn’t do it. I left at 5:40am, before everyone else (Tracy, my mom, Tony) got up.

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We’re fortunate that our friend Brian has a loft downtown, a few blocks from where downtown races start, and he always lets us stay at his place before my halfs. He was in Hawaii this time but still let us stay there. It’s so convenient.

I met the training team at 5:45am. We went on a warm up run shortly after. It was led by speedy Michelle and a speedier guy whose name I don’t know. The warm up was (surprise!) speedy but we hung in there on the run from Tucker to Broadway and back. I don’t time warm ups because I don’t want that to get in my head but it was probably about a mile. When we were almost back to Chestnut and Tucker a sparrow flew off a building right between Jenni and I. I was nearly hit by a bird. So there’s that.

It was now around 6:30am and with the race starting at 7am it was time to unload that 20 ounces of Gatorade. The lines to the Port-a-Potties were ridiculous, maybe fifty people in each line, but we waited anyway. And waited. We were a few people away when it was around 6:50am. There was a girl behind me voicing every anxiety I had about being late. I told her they release corrals every minute or two so even if the race started we could probably still make our corrals. Mind you, I am generally corralled up for races half an hour before start so cutting it this close was crazytown for me. I finally got my turn and was out by 6:55am and then I ran to my corral, corral 7. So that’s even more running before 13.1 miles. Fortunately I made it in time.

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There were lots of corrals behind me that I could have joined had I actually been late.

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I saw my friend Jen in the corral in front of me (no photo). I keep seeing her at races but this was even more unlikely since there were 12,000 or so people running this race.

I set my throwaway jacket on the railing (what I wore ended up being perfect for the race; I was ready to get rid of the jacket after the warmup), the corrals were released, and finally it was my corral’s turn. Last photo before the start!

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I love the way this course starts, going toward the Arch. After a few blocks I reached Citygarden, where my mom and Tony were waiting. I was worried about them seeing me in the sea of runners, but fortunately I found them and got their attention.

Then we turned right and passed Busch Stadium, another part of this course that I love. This was extra special because the Cardinals are in town playing in the World Series and there was all this special media stuff set up by (what will eventually become) Ballpark Village. I’m usually pretty great at taking on the run photos, but I realized quickly that was not the case today, so these are the only ones I took:

The first band
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Blurry Busch Stadium
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Rounding the corner
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Media stuff/Ballpark Village on the left
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I decided to stop taking pictures after this because it kept messing up my Nike+ app and I wasn’t doing that great of a job anyway. I felt really good at this point; I was trying to even my breathing and get into a nice even 9:00 mile pace (the Nike app was still helpful with that).

My mom and Tony walked north on 10th street where I saw them around the 1.5 mile mark. Tracy was waiting near Park Avenue Coffee and I was happy to see her (and throw her my gloves).

10th Street Runners (before me)

10th street runners

Runners rushing past (again, not me)

runners blurred past 10th street

And here I am!

me on 10th street

I felt really good at this point. My leg wasn’t bothering me at all. The cold must have acted as a giant ice pack for it. 🙂

Paul was a couple corrals behind me and Tracy got to see him too. He got a lot closer than I got (I believe Tracy’s exact words were “he scared the crap out of me”). I wasn’t willing to sacrifice any time and simply smiled, said hi, and kept going.

paul on 10th street

Tracy also saw Meredith, so she had a pretty productive day of runner spotting.

meredith on 10th street

After this point I had no else waiting for me on the course so I focused on running. We went down Washington avenue and there was a water station that I skipped. With the low temps I didn’t need as much water as the Go last April, which was hot.

We made a turn and then were going west on Delmar for a couple miles. This is the most boring part of the route for me. There was a band but not as much crowd support or interesting things to look at. We crossed the 5k mark and I was at 27:52, right on 9:00 pace. We made a left to Olive and as we crossed the 4 mile marker my watch said 36:38, basically on pace to break 2 hours once I consulted my handy 2 hour pace tattoo.

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This tattoo was a nice distraction. Get to a mile marker, consult the tattoo, check out my watch, adjust pace accordingly. I didn’t want to cut it too close so I tried to speed up a bit once I saw I was on target for exactly 2 hours.

We ran around SLU and up the giant hill on Laclede. I tried not to get psyched out and repeated to myself “the ground is rising to meet your feet” and “once I get to the top running on flat ground will seem easy”. This worked for me. At the corner of Grand and Laclede there was flat ground and a band called Surrender Dorothy who were really rocking out. The lead singer was walking toward the runners rather than just staying on the stage. They were fun.

Then we headed south on Grand toward the Grove. I started taking my Shot Bloks after about 45 minutes of running, one every couple of miles. At the corner of Grand and Chouteau there was the most adorable pack of little girls doing some type of routine. I still felt strong but I was getting a little bored mentally so I welcomed the entertainment.

We ran through the Grove, one of my favorite parts of the course because there’s so many businesses and people, partially because the relay transition is here. At the 10k mark I was at 56:17, still on target. There we lots of cheerleaders which made me feel great.

cheerleaders in grove

We continued to Tower Grove Park. When we reached the park we’d gone 8 miles. I thought to myself “great, only 4 more to go!” See what I mean about math being hard when you’re exhausted? I stopped thinking about what was left and instead focused on getting to the next stop light. Also around this time I spotted a girl holding a sign that read “touch this sign for power!” Obviously I touched it. I think that was key.

Going east on Magnolia there’s another really long, gradual hill. It was around this point that I started feeling a bit nauseous. I figured it could be from not timing Shot Blok intake to when I was drinking water, but it was probably just from the exertion. The run felt hard, especially the hills. When we reached Grand the elevation evened out and I felt slightly better. I was soon rewarded with some downhills through Benton Park. I walked a couple seconds at the water station there to try and recover. Also, another bird flew right by me, the second of the morning. Odd. At the 10 mile mark I was at 1:30:57. Now I was close enough to the end that I starting thinking about my time in terms of how many miles I needed to get done before my watch reached 2 hours. I knew 3.1 in 29:03 was really doable for me, so even though I was tired that gave me motivation to keep running.

The 11 mile mark was next to Lafayette Park, where Paul’s wife Christine and their two kids were waiting. I didn’t know they’d be there and completely missed them saying hi. (All my energy was going toward not walking and not puking at this point.) This is what it would have been like, had I seen them:

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Adorable.

After we passed the park we got to enjoy a really nice downhill on Missouri. I reminded myself to relax and catch my breath because I knew we’d be heading uphill on Jefferson right after this. And that uphill was horrible. This was probably my low point. I nearly walked up the hill but I knew I’d narrowly miss my sub 2:00 goal if I did that. That would be worse for me than missing it by a lot, so I didn’t allow myself to walk. I did slow down a bit; I knew a had a little wiggle room. Mile 12 was near the top of the hill and my watch read 1:50 something. I was so so close!

We turned right on Market and went downhill then uphill. There was never relief from hills for very long. At some point during this time the last song of my playlist, “The Cup of Life” by Ricky Martin, came on. When he said “Do you really want it?” it was like he was talking to me and I kept telling myself yes, I really want this, yes, I can keep going. I knew as awful as I felt in that moment the pain of narrowly missing a goal is something far worse because it lasts longer. So I kept going. We turned onto the final street, another uphill of course, and eventually I could see the finish at the end of a downhill. I looked at my watch and saw I was in the 1:59s so I focused straight ahead and plugged away until I crossed the finish line.

I normally try to look graceful at the finish, knowing lots of photographers are there, but that did not happen this race. I left it all out there. (I’m in the middle of this photo with my mouth hanging open gasping for air.)

me finishing

After I crossed the finish line my watch showed a time under 2 hours but I didn’t trust it so I waited until I got my text alert and saw I finished in 1:59:36. (My time listed on the website is 1:59:37 but I’ll take that too.) Pure elation.

After catching my breath.

me after finish

Then I got my free stuff–water, gatorade, chocolate milk, a banana, a clementine, a fruit cup, a powerbar, pretzels, jamba juice, and my beer. My mom brought me a bag so I didn’t have to carry it awkwardly. Paul finished shortly after me and we eventually found each other.

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Close up of the medal:

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I’m now realizing how funny it is that there’s a bird on the medal given I nearly got hit by birds twice this morning.

I was pretty chilly by this point so we left and I had one of the greatest showers of my life. Then we went to Uncle Bill’s where we saw royalty:

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My mom curtsied; I pretended I didn’t know her.

Then I ate (almost) all this.

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The rest of the day was spent relaxing, hydrating, and feeling satisfied with meeting a goal that’s been in the works for 2 years and 4 half marathons. 🙂

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16 responses to “St. Louis Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon 10/27/13

  1. Awesome Job! Congrats on the PR and getting that sub 2 hour time! What a great race and recap.

  2. I know how hard you worked for that. Congratulations!

  3. Woo hoo! Way to go, Nora! I’m so proud of you! Does “throw-away” jacket really mean you throw it away??? BTW, loved the cheerleaders!

    • Yep. A lot of people hit Goodwill to buy throw away clothes for races since you’re often waiting in the cold for a long time before the race begins.

  4. Great job and congrats on the PR! I’m so happy for you and I really enjoyed reading your recap.

  5. p.s. I love the bath you drew yourself!!

  6. Congratulations again, Nora! You rocked it!

  7. Great recap, and congrats on the speedy finish!! 🙂

  8. I have been thinking of doing the RnR full marathon. After doing the half would you recommend doing the full? Would you do the half again?
    Congratulations again!

  9. Pingback: Go! St. Louis Half Marathon 4/12/15 | The Rockin' Runner

  10. Pingback: My Race Calendar | The Rockin' Runner

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