I signed up for this race around the time I did the Mo’ Cowbell Half Marathon, and at that time I was still in long distance running shape. I kept up with my short runs and devised a plan to do 6, 7, and 8 mile runs in the weeks before the race.
Then a few weeks ago I began experiencing pain in my left knee. It started out as mild soreness but during my 7 mile run it was so sharp I knew I had to stop, just before 2 miles. Oddly enough, I could walk with no pain, so I finished the 7.5 miles walking. But that was my last attempt at long distance before the race, and not much short distance either, opting instead for icing and rest. As a result, I had very low expectations for this race, and threw caution to the wind and broke nearly all of my personal racing guidelines.
- Race Rule #1: Run several times a week, including a long run on the weekend in the weeks leading up to the race.
Not only had running nearly disappeared from my routine, but other than a brief bike ride and a swim at the gym, I wasn’t doing any other exercise, either. Not ideal.
- Race Rule #2: Eat a high carb, lower fat familiar meal the night before the race.
The night before we went to Ricardo’s, a great Italian restaurant in Lafayette Square, and I ordered linguine asparagus in a heavy cream sauce. It was delicious but very heavy and my body let me know it was ready for it to be out of my system first thing race morning. Better then than during the race. 🙂
- Race Rule #3: Stay off my feet the day/night before the race.
Saturday night we went to the Anheuser Busch Brewery where we walked around for several hours and looked at the pretty lights.
- Race Rule #4: Don’t drink the night before the race.
Being AB, they of course had free samples, five per person. Tracy didn’t want hers so I ended up drinking about six of these.
Given the small size, it probably amounted to two regular beers, but I never drink the night before a race.
- Race Rule #5: Try on race clothes at least 24 hours before the race start and once I’m sure my outfit works, lay everything out neatly.
I waited until we got home around 9pm to try on my clothes, pin my bib, and lay everything out. I had to act really quickly rather than debate my choices all day because I wanted to maximize my sleep. I was able to fall asleep by 10:30pm! Amazingly enough, I slept through the night (a first for the night before a long race!) and got up shortly before my alarm went off at six.
- Race Rule #6: Arrive at least an hour before race start.
I headed downtown at 6:30am, found street parking, used a Port-a-Potty right away, and lined up in corral D around 7:15am.
It was around 50 degrees at the start, which is great running weather, but chilly to wait around in. I wore my compression socks like I did for the Go! Halloween 10k, which helped keep me warm. I also wore my new Asics GT-1000 2 running shoes, the style of shoe I wore for my first half marathon several years ago.
- Race Rule #7: Don’t race in new things.
I’d only run a total of about four miles in these shoes before this race. I knew my feet probably weren’t adjusted to them yet, but I figured the extra cushioning of new shoes would be beneficial to my knee, so I wore them anyway.
I got a guy to take this photo of me and my new pal, runner 52226, before they started releasing corrals.
I like the organization of corrals, but it took almost ten minutes before my corral, D, was released. That’s a lot of chilly wait time. I think the corrals went up to I, so those people must have been really ready to get moving.
As I said, I had very low expectations for this race. I thought there was a good chance I’d have to walk most of it if I felt the sharp knee pain. So I decided to start with a slow, even, pace with the goal of running as long as I could. The exceptions would be any stands where food or drink was offered. I would walk through those stands and I would eat and drink everything given to me. (Now that’s a race goal!)
- Race Rule #8: Don’t eat new things during the race.
At almost two miles was the first station…chocolate chips.
The eating provided a nice distraction from my anticipation anxiety about my knee (or my mind) giving up at mile two, and instead I got into a nice pain free rhythm. When the 5kers split off from us 15kers, I wasn’t even jealous.
The next food stop was strawberry marshmallows.
I got passed some on downhills but I passed others on uphills, like heading toward Broadway and the Arch/Old Courthouse.
Once you get past Busch Stadium, Broadway is a bit boring. It’s a long stretch of road in an area with not a lot of interesting stuff to look at. So I was happy to read the back of this woman’s shirt for some motivation. It says, “you’ll survive”.
Then we passed a tootsie roll station. Again, not a huge fan, but…
I ate about four and stuffed the rest into my flipbelt. Then I saw this guy–the Grinch?
And the Brewery in the distance. As I passed mile five, still running and feeling great, it occurred to me that beer the night before might be my new secret weapon.
We turned around on Broadway and eventually hung a left into Soulard, past Soulard Market and up a really long hill.
This hill nearly caused me to walk, just ’cause hills are hard, but I didn’t. Yay!
My reward, around mile 7.5, was a chocolate marshmallow.
That was the last stand and it’s a good thing because I was pretty over sugar by that point. We headed back up Truman and toward the finish.
The Rock ‘n Roll half marathon finished this way the first two years I did it so I was prepared for the hills by Union Station and continuing on Chestnut. But the finish was near so I used the last bit of energy (thanks, sugar!) I had and crossed it feeling strong.
I was thrilled to have run the whole course.
I got my finisher’s mug which I took home and ate the next night (the stuff in it, not the mug) because it was a bit of overkill after all the other treats. I did drink the hot chocolate right away, and that was comforting.
And the medal is one of the coolest ones I’ve gotten.
I ran the Mo’ Cowbell half averaging 10:22 per mile, and even though that race was over two months ago, I was able to finish this race averaging 10:21 per mile.
I’m very happy with my overall time, but I’m most pleased with my splits…I nailed my goal of starting conservatively and going faster once I’d gotten some miles banked.
I think my biggest takeaway from this experience is to not be so uptight about running; it’s not about following a bunch of rules perfectly, it’s about having fun. I can do what my body is capable of and enjoy the experience.