07 April 2008

St. Louis 1/2 Marathon Race Report

April 6, 2008
Chip Time 2:13:25
Overall place 4258/9747
Gender place 1968/5501
Division place 446/1084

Well, I am really struggling to write this race report because I have some very mixed feelings about this race and I haven't really resolved them yet, so I'm not sure how great of a race report this will be. It will also probably be edited as I re-read it and as I hopefully start to resolve some of my feelings surrounding this event. Oh, and it will probably be very long, so be warned...

When I signed up for this race, it was an A-priority race and I had very high hopes of posting a PR, with one of my goals being to finish in under 2 hours. I was sick through the end of December, all of January and February and didn't feel completely "well" until the middle of March, so my training was seriously lacking. I knew this going into the race, but I was also hoping that I might surprise myself. I did change my goals before the race and decided that I wanted to try to run a negative split and I even had a plan to use my HR monitor to help me gauge my intensity.

I should also mention that this race was a TNT Winter 08 season reunion event. Several of the participants, their families, the coaches, and myself decided that we wanted to race together and we ended up picking St. Louis. We arrived on Saturday afternoon, carb loaded on Saturday night at a great restaurant called "Ragazzi's," raced together Sunday morning, and spent the afternoon at the Arch (yes, we rode to the top) before heading back home. It was so fun and there were several people who PR'ed the course. I think we're planning on racing together each year, so we'll be at the Indy Mini in 2009.

On Sunday morning, I woke up feeling a little tired, but not any more tired than I've been feeling most every other day. I got dressed (I grabbed my tri-shorts instead of running shorts, so I ended up wearing them), ate my blueberry bagel, drank some water, met the team, and then we headed off to the start. I checked my gear and found my corral and was feeling very zen about the whole race. I did experience my normal pre-race euphoria and was totally excited to be there doing one of my most favorite things in the world. The race started and we headed towards the Arch before heading out to the Anheuser-Bush properties.

View Interactive Map on

My plan was to run the first half of the race with an HR of 160 and I was carrying out this plan. In fact, my first mile my HR was 157, which was a small victory for me, since I always start off too fast. My time at the first mile marker was right at 10 min, so I figured I was doing okay. I missed mile marker 2 and grabbed some water and gatorade, while continuing on to mile 3. At mile 3, I was feeling like a port-a-potty might be nice, but it was definitely not an emergency. Miles 4 and 5 were good and I was right on the 10 min/mile pace, so I was moving steadily along. At mile 6, I stopped to use the port-a-potty, and to take off my UnderArmor. I ended up being there for about 3 min.

From mile 6 to mile 10 was the never-ending hill. I should mention that the course is full of rolling hills and since I dig the hills, I was totally enjoying the race. Between 5 and 6 I took my first Gu of the day and was feeling good. I started cruising up the hill and was feeling good. I was passing people and felt very strong. I wasn't struggling to breathe and I didn't feel like I was pushing too hard, so I kept up the work. At mile 10, we got to turn around and head back down the 3 mile long hill and I started to pick up the pace. I took my second Gu right before mile 10. I was feeling great and was totally in the zone. I should mention that I missed mile markers 7, 8 and 9, so I have no idea what my splits were.

At mile 10, I knew that I had a 5k left, so I picked up the pace a little more, and really was completely focused on my running, so much so that I don't remember much of the course. Around mile 11, Coach Terry picked me up and pushed me a little harder, but definitely not puke pace harder. I was still cruising up the hills and was feeling very strong. My split for mile 11 was 9:47 and mile 12 was 9:45. I finished the race feeling great, except for my incredibly disappointing time of 2:13. This was my slowest 1/2 marathon that I had run for time. I was baffled and frustrated and angry and puzzled.

The finish line had lots of goodies, but not much organization. I couldn't find where to pick up my medal or where chip removal was, and I wandered around for quite awhile in the runners area trying to find a way out. Finally, I saw a very small gate with lots of people crowded around and headed that way. By this point I was shivering something fierce and was very glad for the mylar blanket. I headed back to the court house to pick up my gear, changed clothes and hit the port-a-potties, then went to the TNT tent to meet my teammates. Most of them had outstanding days and there were some good PRs on the course, which of course made me even more frustrated.

So, that was my race. Last night before I went to bed, I sat on the couch and thought about the positives and the negatives from the race and came up with this list. As far as negatives go, I'm not happy with my time. I obviously should have worked harder since my average HR for the race was 162. In my head, I've gone back over what went wrong as far as pacing went and all I can come up with was that I got lazy at some point. It could also be general fatigue from the 1/2 IM training, although I did try to change my training around so that I would be recovered for the race. My other negative was the chafing around my waist that of course wasn't discovered until I got in the shower. I just to need to remember to use the BodyGlide liberally there since this has happened in the past. I now have a nice line of scabs across my waist.

There were quite a few positives from the race and I am trying to remind myself of them because I'm really struggling with the results of this race. So, here's my list of positives. I nailed the nutrition on the course perfectly. I took my Gu at the perfect times and never had that "Gu hitting the bottom of my stomach" feeling at all. My fluid intake was great and I actually skipped the last fluid station because I was feeling so good.

Another positive moment during the race was not starting off too fast. I really held myself back (apparently too much) and tried to make my plan happen. My first mile was about 20 sec. slower than my last mile, so I am pleased with that.

I also totally rocked the hills. I passed people up every hill and never had to stop and walk except to get my fluids in. Someday, I'll master the art of drinking and running, but for now it's better to get the gatorade in then on my shirt. While I was running up the hills, I felt strong and even had some bounce to my step and actually never felt poorly on the hills. The long 3 mile hill was can you not notice when you're running uphill and you can't see the top, just people running and running up and up, but wasn't painful, which means I probably wasn't working hard enough.

My biggest victory for this race was that I was able to center and focus myself for the entire race. The only negative thoughts I experienced were when I realized that my time was not where I wanted it to be, but even then, out on the course, I accepted it and kept moving forward. I never hit the wall and felt strong throughout the entire race. I actually don't remember much about the course because I was totally in my zone. In fact, I almost missed some of my teammates at the turnaround because I was completely focused on my running. When I started to feel something aching or sore, I accepted it and then forgot about it. I was able to turn up the intensity on the last 2 miles and have faster times then at any other point during the race. I have been working on my focus and obviously it's paid off, but I'm wondering if being in my zone contributed to not working as hard as I could have/should have or wanted to.

So, there's my very long race report. I will be running this course again because now I have this need to defeat it or something. Perhaps I need to prove to myself that I can push myself harder or that I can really eat up the hills. So, I guess that means next year, I'll be running the hills of St. Louis, with hopes of actually setting a PR. Oh, the other good news is that I have two 1/2 marathons in May, along with the start of tri-season, so hopefully, there will be some improvements on the time!


Ladyrunner said...

Oh AJ! I'm sorry it didn't turn out like you wanted. (((HUGS)))

That's great that you are able to find the positive in the race, though. Next year you are going to tear up the course!