It’s 4am and the snow seems to have stopped outside. Here’s some summertime running inspiration for anyone else who is awake.
I was in the South End last night watching the Cardinals win the World Series (!) when it came out that my oldest friend Nate hadn’t realized that I was in St. Louis last weekend. Or that I had run a marathon there. Both of these things are true. So for posterity, a recap.
I decide to wait for Monica at the expo, but that means I have to kill a few hours. The arch is not far from the convention center and the sun is shining so I go hang out with the rest of the STL tourists for a while. I’ve been to this place so many times – I went up with my family as a kid, stopped here with Jill after a post-college road trip, came here to get dizzy with AZ. Lots of strange mashed-up memories of love & loss.
I find Monica, we get her number but frustratingly they won’t let us have Lydia’s. After that a long drive out to O’Fallon where we meet up with the rest of the cousins & kids and dogs and husbands of cousins. We chat about life & the race and then I’m off to my hotel for an early bedtime, despite the Cardinals/Rangers game. I get to see Pujols hit two of his three home runs, one of the best personal performances in World Series history. FORESHADOWING.
Sunday 10/23: Up at 3:20am. I didn’t really sleep much after 1am, waking up every few minutes to check my clock, eventually getting up well before the first alarm went off. Natalie & a friend of hers picked me up and we drove the 40 minutes down to the start, luckily finding a free meter within a block of the action. It’s still dark out still but there are runners massing everywhere. There’s a stage set up and inappropriately loud music being blasted for the hour – presumably Rock ‘n’ Roll people can only have events where there aren’t residential neighbors. All the cousins met up for one last photo.
I decide for one last cycle through the bathroom lines after we split for our respective corrals – this turns out to be a mistake because the line takes more than 30 minutes, pushing me past the 7:30am start time. It takes a long while to get this many people started (half & full marathoners all start together here) but still I’m on the wrong side of the start line when the gun goes off for the wheelchairs. I work my way back to corral #11 which is really too slow for me – my pace group is two ahead in #9. Lydia is supposedly in #11 with me but it’s too packed, I can’t find her. I’m actually in the overflow off the course at the very back of the pack.
We get rolling maybe twenty minutes later, in my mind I’m estimating two minute gaps between corrals. By this math, if I can catch & hang with my pace group (4:10) I’ll finish well under that. The first few miles are downtown, near but not quite to the arch, tall buildings. I find and pass both 4:20 and 4:10 pace groups, trying to put some distance between myself and them. A bigger problem is the half pace groups – I get stuck behind 2:05 for a while as these guys cork up the entire width of the course.
The biggest difference between St. Louis and Baltimore the week prior is I don’t really have anyone to look for on this course. So it’s much more focused on distance, my splits and breathing properly. I’m definitely more tired in this race than last week – I notice myself dragging by the half mark, but my time is still good, under two hours. I’m more or less successfully trying to keep all my splits between 9:00 and 9:30 – each mile in this range means I’m moving incrementally ahead of my pace group. It’s a bit like the swimming events in the Olympics where they have the colored bar in the pool trailing the swimmers with the record time – I know there’s a invisible line sweeping along behind me and I know that I’ll drop off near the end so need to be as far ahead of that as possible before that time comes.
Anyway – race highlights. Mile 5 we pass through SLU, I recognize this from my previous visit and realize I’m not far from AZ’s house. Mile 8 we dump the half marathoners, which turns out to be the vast bulk of the field. From here on we’re a straggly group running through residential neighborhoods. Somewhere around Mile 11 I see some fat guy on the front porch who has set up a bunch of angry signs in his yard (“26.2 Miles – No One Cares”, “You’re Wasting Your Sunday And Mine”, etc). Mile 15 is the start of the loop-back part of the course in Carondelet Park. At Mile 18 right before the overlap ends I see Monica (actually, she sees me) – she’s about 3 miles behind at this point which is about what we thought would happen. I’m about 100 meters from the Mile 22 marker when I realize I’m running even with the 4:10 guys – I had hoped to put them off for at least one more mile. I push ahead of them past that marker and keep them off for another half mile, but I’m fading and not able to run with them anymore. Just after this we meet up with the tail end of the “half marathoners”, quotes necessary as these are all overweight walkers. It’s tricky to maneuver through this slow field. The last few miles are mostly downhill, I’m constantly doing the calculations on the shrinking gap between my projected finish and my goal. This is much, much harder without SMHB to double check my math. I had almost 13 minutes to spare at mile 25 which even I can tell is more than an easy 10:00 split – I kick that home with minimal trauma. Final chip time, 4:09:21, 136th of 339 in my M35-39 division. I could not be happier than I am, solidly under my goal of 4:10 and with considerably less sickness than I did the week prior in Baltimore.
So, there’s the St. Louis Rock ‘n’ Roll. Marathon #2 in two weeks. Tomorrow will be my third and final of the month, if the pre-Halloween snow storms and coastal flooding and 55mph(!!) expected wind gusts will lighten up a bit. I definitely don’t expect to set another PR and will be happy to finish strong in non-frozen form. We shall see.
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
I was last in St. Louis back in 2008 – I can’t decide if this was only three years ago, or holy moley three whole years ago. Either way, I’m heading back for phase III of IV my ‘Audacious October’ plan whose future-tense details cannot be specified at risk of jinxing the whole damn thing. Coincidentally, the Cardinals are back in the World Series starting tomorrow, making my one-off hotel reservations infinitely trickier, meaning I’ll likely end up staying in outer burbia. From what I’ve heard, there are fewer roving packs of wild dogs out there anyway.
Regardless, I’m very much looking forward to it. Fun will be had.
My rough recollections of yesterday’s Baltimore Marathon with highly inaccurate mile marker estimations.
Mile 0: The 8am start was cool but not quite chilly, a beautiful day to run. YJP, VK & I start together, but I lose them within the first few hundred yards.
Mile 2: Without a lot of forethought I had decide to try to run with the 4:15 pace group. I lose them ahead when the leader puts his sign down. I catch & pass them, and decide to run & time my own splits rather than worry about hanging with them.
Mile 3: The first three miles have been great, negative splits as the crowd thins. Into the zoo – the entry gate is flanked by two ravens. No Orioles in sight.
Mile 5: Team HB is there cheering, for me! I am lucky. There’s an absolutely gorgeous lake here, particularly given the early morning light (Druid Lake). I’m giving back a lot of the early elevation gain which makes these miles fast.
Mile 6: Johns Hopkins. The neighborhood here is not nice, lots of boarded up townhouse but the locals are out and cheering for us. There are several stretches throughout the race like this, obvious pockets of poverty. Somewhere around here I notice the Federal Land Bank of Baltimore building which makes me wonder how many of these empty buildings will be condemned or taken via eminent domain. Across the street from the land bank building is a large empty fenced lot, no urban farming here. Later I find out that particular building is actually luxury condos now, go figure.
Mile 9: Back to the inner harbor to find CNHB & Ebs! Chrissy told me later she had been in that spot for only one minute before I came by. Lots of energy in the air here, the half-marathon is getting ready to start. It was around here I realize the field for the half is bigger than full – the area is packed.
Mile 10: Federal Hill is a gorgeous neighborhood. This is one of the areas we had been considering living in had LZ & I moved here back when Johns Hopkins was on the table.
Mile 11: We loop around the Under Armour headquarters. There’s a DJ here, far too loud, painful to the ears. Regardless, a good sponsor, the shirt is cool.
Mile 12.5: I see YJP across the way, heading the other direction. I shout but she doesn’t hear me.
Mile 13.1: I reach the half-way mark in under two hours, about 4 minutes slower than last week’s half. I’m fairly sure I’m running too fast, lessons from NYC unlearned. I see all of Team HB for a happy high-five.
Mile 16: Here we merge with the half-marathon field. There are tons of them. Given how stretched out the marathon field is by now, it feels like they outnumber us 20:1. In reality the numbers are more like 5000 full, 11,000 half.
Mile 17.5: I pick up my pace runner. This is against the rules and turns out to be absolutely necessary. I feel no guilt.
Mile 19-20: This is where things start to fall apart. I have 19 in my head as a goal since that’s where the NYC meltdown happened, but passing this mark does not help as it’s been mostly uphill since mile 16. There’s another lake here (Montebelo) and it’s beautiful, but suddenly very windy, challenging. Our mile splits are plummeting to the 10:30 range, I’m forced to give up my fleeting delusions of sub-4 hour grandeur.
Mile 24: We cross a bridge (in retrospect, the pretty cool looking Howard Street Bridge) and even that little incline kills me. SMB tells me later about the cool views of the city coming in but I’m only watching the ground.
Mile 25: I know it’s all downhill from here, but it’s not easy. Feeling really, really sick, hard to catch my breath.
Mile 26: The finish is just beyond Camden Yards. I touch Cal Ripken’s #8 on the way through. I remember seeing Christine shout but am having a hard time not crying, emotions & body chemistry are way out of whack. There are two instances when I think I’m having an asthma attack, my lungs grasping for air and not able to take any in. My right calf has a sharp cramp at 25.8, the left at 26. I think I might fall but don’t. Then, just like that, we’re under the last bridge and it’s all over.
After some time passed out on the concrete behind the bagel tent we recover enough to cheer for the others. Later we saw a mysterious dumpster fire behind my hotel (a metaphor for something), had a very many bananas and somewhat fewer celebratory beers and tried not to fall asleep at dinner. Ain’t no party like a post-marathon party!
Tomorrow is the Baltimore Marathon, my third attempt at running that distance. CNHB & I ran in the New York City Marathon in 2005, where I proceeded bust out a fast first half in route to a devastatingly sucky DNF. Some years of bitterness later, SMB helped me find redemption when we ran the San Francisco Marathon, which I finally if slowly finished. Tomorrow YJP, VK & I will try for the best of three, with the rest of Team HB & wee Ebs coming down as a travelling cheering squad. The emergency mixcorps 2011 is thankfully complete & distributed, and I’ll be running to that, sight unheard, if I can score some new headphones at the expo tonight.
My excitement about the race is tempered somewhat by the death of my uncle, who passed away suddenly a few days ago. My parents are in Louisiana for his funeral today. I was not as close to him as I could or should have been, and I (perhaps naively) hope that my nieces and nephews will be tighter with me some forty-odd years from now. There’s a bunch of nervousness & hopeful joy and sadness all mixed together in me today.
Regardless. To tomorrow!
The marathon itself is six day hence, Saturday the 15th, starting at 8am. I’m going to try again to get Glympse to sync to Facebook if you’re interested in tracking along. Until then, short runs & rest, no twisting of the ankles. I’m mostly trying not to psyche myself out mentally at this point.
Six days to go.