Monday, November 11, 2013

St. Louis Track Club 1/2

On November 3rd, I ran the St. Louis Track Club Half Marathon.  I decided to make an event out of it by running over to the start line, then running back home after I finished.  It would be about 17 miles total.  Piece of cake.

It was cold in the morning (I think around 36 degrees) and would raise to the high 40's by the end.  This presented a wardrobe dilemma.  I would need to wear warmer clothes while running over there (and waiting around at the start line), but I knew I would get to hot if I kept the outer layers on during the race. I decided to wear capris, a singlet, a thin long sleeve shirt, my Buff headband as an ear-warmer, and a pair of SmartWool gloves.  It was a good choice.

There were over 800 participants in the half marathon, and they had signs at the start line to help you line up by your projected pace.  I think this helped a lot to eliminate congestion.  I had this sort of vague idea that I wanted to run about 8:00 minute miles, but I had no idea if that was really feasible.  It has been years since I've run a half marathon, and the more I get into ultras, I have very little sense of what I am capable of over short distances on the road.  I think at when I was 22 or 23, I ran a half marathon in something like 1:42.  I figured for this one I'd end up running around 1:48, and that would probably make me feel old and slow, but whatever.  Life goes on.

It was weird to be at the start line of a road race.  For most of the people around me, this race was a big deal-- something they'd been training for and not just entered on a whim, and for many of them it would be the farthest they'd ever run in their life.  I felt out of place in my New Balance Minimus WT 1010 trail shoes and Farmdale 30-Mile Trail Run shirt.  There was a different kind of nervous energy here than at the start line of an ultra.  People were getting ready to run fast.  I wondered if I could do that anymore. 

Photo credit: Tykanoya.

Almost before I knew it, we were off.  I'd been worried that the start would feel congested with that many runners, but it went very smoothly.  I'd lined up at a good place.  I slipped by some runners, and others slipped by me, but overall, there was very little jockeying for space.  I felt like I was on my pace almost immediately.

The first mile was a slight uphill, I think, and within a few minutes I began to worry that I'd started out too fast.  I was having trouble getting enough air, I was heel-striking instead of forefoot-striking, and my quads felt like complete jelly.  This is the way I feel (or so I recall, as it has been a while) during a 5K, and it is not the way you want to feel 2 minutes into a half marathon.  

I kept my cool and ran.  I got to the first mile at 7:48.  Decent.  Not too fast, not too slow.  Probably right where I wanted to be.  The problem was: it felt hard to go at that pace, and this did not bode well.  But what could I do?  I decided to just see how long I could keep this up.


HMCourse web

Rob and Will had walked over to the Wash-U campus, and I saw them shortly after mile 2 (which I'd hit at 7:35).  That, and a long downhill must have bolstered me, because I did mile 3 in 7:15.

Holy shit, this was bad. I did two 10K's over the summer, and I did not run a mile that fast in either of those.  This time I had more than twice as far to go, and I was running faster than my 10K pace.  Things were bound to explode.

Mile 4 was 7:23 in Forest Park.  My legs stopped feeling shaky and I thought, well, there is less than 10 miles left.  Maybe I can pull this off without falling apart.  But then there were hills and miles 5 and 6 were 7:36 and 8:05, respectively.  I told myself to get it together-- I didn't want to finish this thing by slogging 10 minute miles for the last half.  I did the best I could, alternating some faster and slower miles depending on the configuration of the hills.

By this point, I was feeling too hot to keep running comfortably.  I decided I needed to take off my long sleeve shirt and run in just my singlet.  This seemed weird because every other runner I had seen was dressed in complete winter gear.  Hats, gloves, tights, jackets.  Meanwhile, I was burning up.  I managed to whip off my shirt and tie it around my waist while only dropping to an 8:00 mile.  I picked it back up to 7:29 for the next.

It occurred to me that the way back to the finish had a very long (but gradual) uphill for about a mile or so right around campus.  I've run this route hundreds if not thousands of times before and know that this hill is exhausting even when you haven't been going faster than your 10K pace for over 10 miles.  I could only hope it didn't ruin me.

I survived the hill, with a pair of 8:05 and 8:09 miles.  This hurt like hell.  The wheels were beyond falling off.  I was losing my freaking mind. Will and Rob were on campus again, and even though I saw them, I could not talk to or even acknowledge them.  I was digging deep, putting myself into a world of hurt-- completely different than the hurt I've become accustomed to in ultras.  I threw my wadded up (and no longer needed) gloves onto the ground for Rob and Will to pick up and tried to keep going as fast as I can.

Several people passed me in the last mile, and I powered through downtown Clayton hell-bent on beating the clock. I felt completely out of my mind, but estatic when I crossed the finish line in 1:41:34. Even though I'd slowed a bit during the latter miles, this was without a doubt, the fastest half marathon I had ever run.

I ate some orange slices and just basked in that for a while.

1 2 Marathon

I had left every ounce of myself out on the course and there was nothing left in the tank for me to run home on. So I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, and eventually I made it there.

Mass was letting out at the Catholic church just a block away from our house about the same time that I arrived. I saw one of our neighbors walk out of the church and into the parking lot, get into his car, and drive home. A block away. Less than a quarter mile.

I had just covered 17 miles on foot, including the fastest 1/2 marathon of my life, and our neighbor was driving one freaking block to church. I started to cry. When I got home, I told Rob about it, about how I can no longer stand to live in a place where people think it is okay to drive when your destination is one block away.

"But it is probably the same everywhere in the US," I lamented. "Where can we go where people don't drive when it is completely unnecessary?"
"I don't know," he shrugged. "Maybe Amsterdam."

Thanks for reading.

What I learned from this race:

Road races are very different than trail ultras, but that doesn't make either of them "bad." I listen to several ultra running or trail running podcasts, and I can't stand it when the podcasters berate the shit out of road runners (which they do all the time). I grew into this "sport" as a road runner, and I will never leave the roads completely behind. That being said, I do not really feel comfortable in the road racing scene anymore. This was an extremely well organized race, but there was really nothing enjoyable about it, except crossing the finish line. It was an all-out, balls-to-the-walls effort for over an hour and forty minutes. That is really freaking intense, in an entirely different way than when you are pacing yourself to cover 30 or 50 miles. I definitely like the trails and the longer distances better, but I also think it is important to throw in events like these at least every once and a while. It helps to remind you why you run.

Mile 1: 7.48
Mile 2: 7.35
Mile 3: 7.13
Mile 4: 7.23
Mile 5: 7.36
Mile 6: 8.05
Mile 7: 7.28
Mile 8:  8.00
Mile 9: 7.29
Mile 10: 7.47
Mile 11: 8.05
Mile 12: 8.09
Mile 13: 7.58
Total: 1:41:34 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

YOU ARE A RUNNER IN YOUR SOUL!!!!!!!!!!Congrats on a great race! luv you mama