run, rest, eat, bitch, buy things, cross-train, blog, repeat.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Race Report: St. Louis Marathon

After running 4 previous marathons, I knew better than to get my hopes up for the "perfect race." Because, you know what? You can't set yourself up for a perfect race. Sure, you can train right and taper right and do all the things that everyone tells you to do, but at the end of the day... you never know what might happen the day of the race. I've learned this the hard way. I'd ran 4 marathons before St. Louis, two of which I finished and was pleased with my finish and two where I cried at the finish line from disappointment (and puked after one of them).

And I had no idea how this #5 was going to tip the scale... and I tried not to stress out about it.

Vandy-Montana and I headed to St. Louis at 6am on Friday morning. We rolled into town, had lunch at Pappy's Smokehouse, picked up our race packets at the expo and made it in time to catch our 1:00pm tee time.

Friday night was low-key... we had a hearty, but healthy dinner and after that, I tasted the sweet, sweet nectar of the gods known as frozen custard.

Seriously, Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, is the best thing I've ever tasted in my entire life. Probably not the best choice for carb-loading, but, I didn't care. Thank God I don't live in St. Louis, or I would seriously be 700 pounds. No lie.

Saturday we went to the zoo, which was cool. I hadn't been to a zoo in about a zillion years.

It was a beautiful day and it was fun to meander around the park and stretch the legs a little bit. Plus it was a nice distraction, spending time with friends, and not worrying about the next morning. (It did suck that I couldn't get a good Otter picture, cause we couldnt get 2 other people in on the action. Ugh).

And Saturday night, I indulged in what had become mine and Vandy-Montana's pre-long run ritual... pizza. And not just any pizza... Imo's Pizza. A thin, but chewy crusted St. Louis style pizza that is cut into squares and has the most Ah-mazing melted cheese on top. After an early dinner, we retired to our room early to get everything squared away and ready for the next morning.

The alarm was set for 4:22am, which gave us enough time to get through our pre-run rituals and hit the road around 5:15. The drive into St. Louis was a quiet one. I had a lot of thoughts going through my head and was still nervous about how in the hell I was going to be able to maintain a 9:07/9:10 pace throughout the entire race. By the time we got parked, hit the porta-potties, and checked our rain gear into baggage check the nerves had passed. We walked into the starting line and I stopped and chatted with Vandy-Montana for a minute or two in his corral. We wished each other luck, fist bumped and I walked back and found the 4:00 pace group.

In the few minutes that I stood there, waiting for the gun to go off, I prayed to God for safety for all the runners, including Vandy-Montana and myself, and held back a couple of tears of emotion. I immediately called myself a pansy and tried to toughen up before the gun went off.

The first thing I have to say, is that the first 14 miles of this race absolutely sucked. I struggled in the congested crowd, constantly passing people, trying to keep with the pace team. It was shitty. Really shitty. It was a mental fight for the first 14 miles. I realized how much I hate running in big crowds, how un-prepared I was to endure the massive crowding and narrow streets for such a long period of the race. The first few miles? Sure. The first 14 miles? Um. No.

And it was raining and wet. Ohhhh the puddles. All I can say is thank god I'd raced a half marathon in the rain the month earlier and I knew how to dress for a rainy race.

My stomach did surprisingly well. I did stop at a porta-potty right before mile 16 or so. And this is when I finally lost the pace group. There was one guy getting into the porta-potty as I stopped, so I figured I wouldn't lose too much time. I ended up standing outside the porta potty for 3+ minutes. And then I was in there for about 45 seconds. But, it was worth it, cause my stomach held up after that...

Up until that stop, I had been running and chatting with a lady from IL. She was running her first marathon and she was running strong. I figured when I stopped at the porta potty, I wouldn't see her again...

After that porta potty stop, the roads seemed to clear, I was no longer pushing to keep up with the pace group (keeping up with them felt like I was accelerating constantly and it was bringing me down mentally to see that sign get progessively further and further ahead) and I started to run my own race. By mile 18 I was feeling really good. I didn't push myself at this point, I kept on trucking nice and steady.

My calves were tempted to cramp up about this time though, but amazingly they held up for me with only a few twinges every now and then.

Around mile 23 I caught back up with the gal that I had previously been running with. She was walking and I encouraged her to start running with me again. She did and I noticed that she was running a lot slower than she was previously. I told her not to let me push her, and she responded by saying no, that she wanted me to push her.

Well, unfortunately... she was running slower than I wanted to. I still had some energy and knew I didn't have much further, so I had to tell her... I'm sorry, but I've gotta go. I felt bad. But, I mean, you gotta run your own race. She ended up stopping and walking when we parted, but I'm confident that she finished.

All I could think about at this point was... "holy shit, I can't believe how good I feel." The last couple of miles I was running 9:30/9:15 splits and feeling awesome. I even grabbed a bud light from a dude around mile marker 25 and had a couple of sips (best bud light I've ever tasted). I even had energy at the end to push it to the finish line.

I finished with an official time of 4:12:57. I was thrilled. Not only with my time, but with the fact that I felt like I finally trained well. I finally realized that the last few miles don't have to feel like you're going to die. I missed my 3:59 goal. But, I shaved 30 minutes off my previous PR in 5 months. Honestly... I can't ask for much more than that.

The end of the race sucked ass, too. Cause it was still raining and the park where the "refueling" zone was was all mud. It was miserable. The medal is pretty kick-ass, though.

Overall, I don't really suggest the St. Louis Marathon. Even though my actual race turned out awesome, I feel like it's just way too congested and can't imagine someone trying to BQ at this race.

Regardless of the crowds, the crappy weather... this was my most perfect marathon experience, yet. Sure, the first 16 miles were terrible, but I'll take a great ending over a good beginning anyday. I know that I have the serious training to thank for that, in part. The high mileage weeks, the 3 20 mile training runs. The awesome running partner who kept me accountable and always believed in me when I didn't. It all added up to a new PR. I also have to thank the running gods for smiling down on me, too. Because the training can only take you so far...

Marathon #5 is in the books... and I've already got my sights on #6 (more on that, later this week).


Chic Runner said...

Great post, bummer that the end sucked. I'm scared about that for my first too... but hey! oh well. thanks for the imodium advice too :)

Anonymous said...

30 minutes off the AMAZING!! :) Congrats on a great race And a great race report!! I love reading these and just feeling like you're right in the action. Good stuff!

maria k said...

congrats on your great run! i want some of that frozen custard, too.

April said...

Awesome race report and congrats again on that PR! Wooo Hooo!!! Go Amy!!!

Erik said...

Congrats Amy!! I'm going to have to put this one on my list. Awesome finish!! 30 minutes off your PR is a sweet run!!


Rhoni said...

How exciting! Woot! Gooooooo, Amy!

J said...

Congrats on the marathon finish! That is such a great time and I know that marathon #5 will be even better!!! You are an amazing runner!!!

StangLuvr said...

Congrats on finishing #5. I knew you would do it!!!!

And look at the hardcore, bad ass runner chick already setting her sites on #6.

You going to hook up with Vandy-Montana for an Aug. 1st dynamic duo run again?

Spike said...

congrats on destroying your old PR, what a great race. I know the crowds bothered you, but you did such a wonderful job running your own race. encouraging the IL runner was very selfless of you, and don't feel bad for leaving her.

all of your hard work and the 20 mile runs gave you the strength to finish strong.

Dave said...

A 30 minute PR, that's great! Congrats!

I'm with you on congested running...always end up burning myself out trying to catch back up to my pace too quickly. :P

johnking said...

awesome on the PR....30 minutes is a huge chunk...keep chippin away!

Melanie said...

I know this is belated, but way to go! That's a terrific time and I'm so happy for you!

Vandy-Montana said...