Friday, October 28, 2011

First Step After the Finish Line is the First Step onto the Next Race...

Last weekend was my first official half marathon, and thinking back it couldn’t have gone any better.  Perhaps that’s dangerous, as now I’m going to expect all of my races to go this well!

I ran the St. Louis Rock and Roll half.  It was the inaugural for the race.  I arrived the day before and hit a lot of traffic around the downtown St. Louis area, so I decided that my son and I should park in our hotel (about 3/4ths of a mile from the expo) and walk to the expo.  All was good, until I realized that I had forgotten my race paperwork when we were almost at the expo, so we had to trek back to the car.  A little extra warm up for the legs, I guess!  Come to find out, I could have filled it out manually at the expo, but no big deal. 

Got my number and tag

Beer sample; carb loading pre-race

Registration was quick and easy, as was picking up my swag.  We were then diverted into the Rock and Roll merchandising area.  I had no interest in the stuff.  After that, you’re moved to all of the other merchandisers.  Now this area was too small, with too many people.  Funny that the RnR merchandise area was quite big, with lots of room, but all these other vendors were packed.  It was a bit uncomfortable.  I wanted to find one of those 13.1 stickers for a vehicle placarding ceremony after the race (if all went well).  I did, and also bought a race medal hanger; optimism!

Then it was back to the hotel, where the son agreed we would just room service our evening meal and take it very easy.  My legs needed some rest.  Like many, I had some difficulty sleeping.  I was focused on the next morning, but also we had a domestic disturbance down the hall in the hotel.  Security finally came and quieted them down.

I woke up on race day and walked a half mile to the starting line.  Aside from the expo, I have to give the race organizers credit.  I didn’t have any problems from there on out.  Pre-race, there were bagels, bananas, some water; all I really needed.  I decided to have a half a bagel to ward off any potential hunger.  I was armed with my mp3 player (I could still hear the bands as I ran along with my Yurbuds in), a SpiBelt running belt with my cell phone and some Clif Bloks inside (margarita flavored), a short sleeve shirt, shorts, an Ace bandage around my bad left ankle, and my black Kinvaras with about 80 miles on them.  It was a bit chilly and overcast at first, but the short sleeve shirt was a good call as the weather soon warmed up and the sun broke out.  The weather was just about perfect.

Starting line pre-race

I was in corral 19; way at the back because my predicted running time from 6 months prior was 2:45.  I expected to finish under 2:30 now, but didn’t feel it was worth the hassle to move corrals.  I’d make it work.  It was a wave start anyway, which meant that I had to wait about 30 minutes before my group was able to go. 

View my my corral...waaaayyyyy back!
Sure enough, my pace was faster than many within my group, so I spent the first several miles dodging walkers and the handful of folks slower than me.  I kept an even pace throughout most of the race; about 10:30 or so, stopping and walking at each aid station for water, Cytomax (a nasty Gatorade-type drink), and after the first aid station one Clif Blok per stop. 

We passed fairly close to the arch, by Busch stadium, through an arts district, and into various parts of St. Louis I don’t know much about or couldn’t tell you much about today.  Along the route were several rock bands.  They all sounded good, but I didn’t stop to listen!  I tried to acknowledge some of them as I went by.  Also several groups of cheerleaders dotted the path, which was encouraging as were the spectators.  Received some high fives from several kids and one dog along the way. 

Bottom line is I never felt like I’d have to quit.  The most significant pain, and it wasn’t too bad, was in my mid-back.  I need to strengthen my core for a full marathon.  My legs felt great and my ankle held up nicely.  My conditioning seemed just fine.  My last mile was my quickest; I dropped under a 10:00 minute pace there.  I felt pretty good crossing the line.

I hate to sound like a wuss, but in a couple of spots I started thinking back over the last eight months, all the support I received, all the times I got up at 5 am, all the training runs, and I started to get a little emotional.  I’ve been proud of this journey, and I learned so much along the way.  This was the culmination of a year’s worth of effort.  I hit the finish at exactly 2 hours 17 minutes chip time.

As I crossed the finish line, I thought of John Bingham’s words that one foot across the finish line is one foot into the next challenge.  I know it will be much tougher, but I feel like I’m ready to try and tackle a full marathon.  I’m still ironing out my game plan, but without a plan I feel absolutely lost.  Since this race completed, I feel like I need some direction.  I’ve had some trouble taking some days off, and have only had a run of three miles since.  I know it is good to take some time off, but I’m ready to keep pushing forward.  This experience was fantastic, and I’d recommend it to anyone. 

I am so thankful to my wife and family who put up with my absences during my long runs, my gripes about my aches and pains, and my obsession with my challenge.  I’m also thankful for all of my friends, online and in person, who have encouraged me to keep going.  To hear someone call your efforts “inspirational” is probably the best compliment you can receive, and I’ve heard that from a few.  I tell them that there are inspirational people all around them; you just have to look or ask. 

The all-important sticker!

The bragging rack

On to the next challenge! 

Enjoy your progress,



  1. Congratulations on a nice finish! Nice sticker and awesome brag rack! That is too cool!