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.
Saturday 10/22: I took an early Saturday flight from Logan to Lambert on Southwest. There’s a very new looking & shiny metrolink train from the airport that runs you straight downtown. I wandered around a bit, finding America’s Center & the race expo. This was the inaugural year of the race being Rock ‘n’ Roll series event which means loud radio-style rock blasting everywhere. It was crowded and I had all my luggage with me so people kept asking if I was from out of town. Yes, I am.
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.
Post race – I find Natalie almost immediately in the finish chute, she’s beat her goal of 4:00, by 10 seconds. I see a few moments of the “rock ‘n’ roll” headliners, Sugar Ray. There’s some requisite stumbling around before we find Monica and Lyds. Some celebratory photos later – and that’s it. I bummed a ride to AZ’s place where there was celebratory pizza and beer and watching the Cardinals lose and embarrassingly falling asleep on the floor in front of her friends.
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.