Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Race Recap: Rock 'n Roll St. Louis

Sunrise in downtown St. Louis as we wait to start the race.
I couldn't have asked for anything more at Rock 'n Roll St. Louis on Sunday.  Delightful weather, upbeat crowds, good bands, terrific volunteers.  Oh yeah, and a smoking new PR :)

Emily and I arrived downtown just before 6:00am and found rock star parking near the starting line.  We took our time stretching, visiting the porta-potties (so many available!  Kudos to the race organizers), and eating one last bit of banana.  Nerves mounted as we waited around in our corral, but overall we were just excited about our day.

Nervous smiles as we hang around in our corral.

We wanted to beat Emily's half marathon PR of 2:08.  To do so, we planned to run the early miles at a 9:45 pace, kicking it up to 9:15-9:30 around mile 8, and drawing closer to 9:00 for miles 11 to the finish.  A thick crowd and an early restroom stop threatened our plan at the outset, but we weren't rattled.  We hit the 5k checkpoint at 30:29, which was certainly slower than we anticipated.  At that point, however, the crowd had thinned a bit, and we could make our way through the field with less weaving.  The slow early pace didn't bother me, as I hoped we were conserving energy and would have more left in the tank for the later miles.

Feeling strong at mile 8.

We faced an unexpectedly long climb at mile 4.5 (with the early morning sun in our eyes), but we cranked that mile in 9:30.  Entering mile 6, our energy flagged a bit, and we embarked on the part of the course that did not have live entertainment.  (Citing respect for the neighborhoods, race organizers informed us that there would be no bands from miles 6-9, an unfortunate point in the course to be lacking distraction.)  We kept a good pace, however, and hit the 10k checkpoint at 58:58.  Mile 8 brought us to a familiar park where our families were waiting for us.  Seeing their happy faces and stopping for a quick hug gave us an extra spring in our step.  We logged the next two miles at about 9:20 each, and we agreed to try to hang at that pace until the mile 12 marker.

My sweet cheering section :)

While miles 1-6 were rather urban, starting in downtown and then traversing some industrial areas, miles 7-12 took us through beautiful neighborhoods and along well-maintained parks, and many of the residents came out to cheer us on.  As we were kicking up the intensity of our effort, I was grateful for the distraction of lovely houses and cheering fans.  The band at mile 11 was my favorite of the course, for no other reason than their rendition of "Run Around Sue" made my heart happy and gave my tired legs a little extra pep.

As we planned, I pushed the pace as soon as we passed the mile 12 sign.  Emily stayed a step behind me but promised that she was ok.  Mile 12 took us across an overpass into downtown, and the view of downtown and the other runners in the field was fabulous.  Pushing uphill at the end of that mile, however, I could tell that my energy was waning.  We saw my parents right at the 13-mile mark, and I mustered a smile and a wave for them.  As we neared the why-does-it-still-seem-so-faraway finish line, Emily stepped ahead and took the lead.  "Let's go," she said.  "Let's get it!"  I didn't know I had any gas left in the tank, but I found just enough to turn in a strong finish alongside her.  We couldn't believe our eyes when we saw the official time: 2:03:58!  More than 4 minutes faster than her previous record, and 8:21 faster than our April race.

This giant street marking totally messed with my carb-starved brain.
This faux finish was at the 13-mile mark, and that final .1 seemed endless...

Full of pride and finish line adrenaline, we walked to the car discussing possibilities for our next race.  One good finish line deserves another, right?  We will plot our spring race soon enough, but for now, I'm going to bottle up the excitement of this finish and savor the sweetness of hard-earned victory.

Elated at the finish line!