Race Recap: Go! St. Louis Marathon
Sometimes poor decisions still work out. They also make you wonder what could have been.
Let me start by saying I am ecstatic about my performance in this race. After 2014 came to an end with only one 5k and marathon DNS’s (Did Not Start) to show for it, my main goal for this race was to make it to the finish line under my own power. Because I needed a goal to pace to, I gave myself an A-Goal of 3:00:00 (if everything went my way… body, weather, course, etc…), and a more reasonable 3:10:00 B-Goal. A couple solid training runs to wrap up the training cycle left me feeling pretty good about my chances for race weekend.
The Friday before the race, a simple 2 mile walk with my wife managed to irritate my hip. Fearing my race was suddenly in jeopardy, I spent as much time stretching and resting as possible.
Saturday morning was spent driving 5-hours from Chicago to St Louis with a couple other runners. The afternoon started with a quick trip to the expo, followed by a late lunch, and a couple of hours laying on the bed in my hotel room. Dinner was my standard pre-race meal of spaghetti with plain marinara and bread (though it wasn’t my usual Olive Garden trip!). Back in my room the evening, I was surprisingly hungry, but only had fluids to fill the void. My hydration seemed to be pretty good as I was forced to wake up a couple of times throughout the night.
So where were the bad decisions? Race morning! I failed to stop and pick up my usual pre-race breakfast bagel. The only food that made the trip was a package of Pop Tarts, a banana, and some drinks (V8 Fusion, Gatorade, and an FRS). My nerves were acting up as usual so eating didn’t come easily. I managed to force down one Pop Tart, a banana, V8 Fusion, and FRS, then hopped into the shower to help wake myself up. My running group met in the lobby of the hotel and most of us jogged to the start line.
The race started at 7:00am on the dot, and early on the roads were packed with roughly 1500 marathoners, and 12,000 half-marathoners. The course had a bit of roll hills from the start. A couple turns in downtown St. Louis lead us to the Eads Bridge and on to East St. Louis. I can’t say I plan on heading back there any time soon! Two miles later and another bridge (the MLK Bridge) and we were back in Missouri. The bridges we long and had a steady uphill followed by a steady downhill. The ups went by quickly, and didn’t seem to take too much out of my legs. With my fear of what was waiting for me later in the race, I decided to let it fly on the downhills to bank a little time just in case (another bad decision!).
Just before mile 6, the first marathon relay exchange, and younger guy started running on my shoulder and we had a quick chat. He was doing the relay, and was pacing a friend (who was just behind me) for the first ¼ of his marathon. He asked my goal, to which I responded 3:00. He said I was killing the pace, and split off for his exchange point.
The race rolled back through the downtown area and headed south for an out and back with the turn around point in the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. I was surprised with how scenic the area was. As we headed back, the course doubled back on itself and I was able to see most of the guys who I went down with, and I was able to shout a couple of words of encouragement. Again the race headed back downtown before turning west and heading out to Forest Park. Before we left the city (Mile 13), the half-marathoners turned right and into their finish. As is usually the case, the road emptied at this point. This was also when the rolling hills started to burn in the legs.
With another running not far ahead of me, the race made a couple turns and briefly took us onto a merge lane. Over my shoulder came a kid on a bike and I heard, “Man, you are nailing that 3-hour pace!”. It was the same runner from mile 6. He was on his way to pace his friend who happened to be the runner in my sight. He wished me well and caught up to his friend.
Mile 17 brought us to the entrance of Forest Park. It was about this point that the lead women caught me, and slowly pulled ahead. This was also the point where my time banking start to take its toll on my legs. Mile 18 was on top of a pretty steep hill, just where you wanted it to be! The path twisted and turned around the park before heading back the way we came. Just before heading out of the park, the 2nd place woman began to fall back, and I managed to pass her.
Again we took the same road back as we took out, and I was able to spot a friend of mine who was attempting to break 4 hours for the first time. We shared a laugh and it gave me a hop in my step. Despite the burning legs, the miles heading back downtown ticked by. I slowly pulled back the guy with biker friend. We share a couple of words and I pressed on. As we re-entered the city around mile 26, at the bottom of a big hill, I saw a friend of mine who had run the path. I gave him a thumbs up and he made a comment about #1 woman being just ahead of me. I made some joke about breaking 3-house to which he replied, “Shut up and run!”. So I did… unfortunately, the course took a sharp up hill, turned left (joining the half marathon course) and continued uphill for a short segment, turned right and hit a slight downhill into the finish. I crossed the finish line in 2:55:38. It truly felt great to get another race under my belt after a year without completing a marathon. The following is the pace and elevation chart from my Garmin.
Despite finishing nearly 5 minutes faster than my A-goal, I still look back a my nutrition leading into the race, and my decision to bank miles on the early hills, and wonder what could have been. I am also filled with excitement as I begin to plan the next marathon. I had a sinking feeling that my PR days were behind me due to injuries that will likely never heal, but this race gives me hope that I can keep improving, and this past year was only a slight set back.
On a side note, the first place female finished just ahead of me. She was standing near the finish line as I crossed, and I patted her on the shoulder and told her she had a great run. It wasn’t until the next day that it struck me as odd that no one seemed to care that she had just won the race. A hoax runner managed to cross the finish line several minutes prior and had stolen the attention of the race directors. Fortunately the fraud was uncovered, and the race organization made things right. It is just sad that someone stole the glory from someone who earned it.