race recap: go! st. louis half marathon 2016

The Concrete Runner - gostl race recap

I don’t even know really where to start with this race recap.  I guess we can go back to my racing goals.  Remember, my brother had the bright idea of running a sub-1:30 half marathon?!  Being the realist that I am, I knew that, at least for me, that was not going to happen this time.  Sure, he might be able to do it, but I knew full well that my body was not going to be able to handle 6:51 miles for 13.1 miles.

Instead, I adjusted my goal and felt that a sub-1:40 half marathon seemed much more realistic.  My PR is a 1:35:36 that I ran with my brother 3 years ago.  You know, before a second kid and turning 30.  Sure, it would’ve been nice to PR, but a 1:40 was also 7 minutes faster than my last half marathon way back in July.  I’d definitely be happy with a 1:40.

But, I think overall, I really just wanted to run a good race.  I had a plan set in my head (thanks to Coach Jenny) on how I wanted to run the race.  I communicated that goal to my brother as we road downtown race morning.  The plan:  run at a comfortable pace for the first 8 miles, then pick up the pace for 3 miles, and leave nothing left in the tank the last 2.1 miles of the race.  That was the plan and I was sticking to it.  I didn’t want to worry about my splits or paces so much, but more base how I ran on how I was feeling.  Because, no matter how much we train and practice, you just never know how race day is going to go.  There are just way to many things that are out of our control.

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Thankfully, we really couldn’t have asked for much better weather.  I know a lot of people will disagree with me on that, but really, for the rain that was forecast, we ended up getting a pretty nice morning.  (Although, I know several people who had to deal with thunderstorms and stopping because they were running the marathon and out on the course much longer than I was.)  It was about 45 degrees, overcast, and, while there was a good breeze, it was nothing compared to the wind we had been having earlier in the week.

Brian and I dropped off our bags, used the portapotty, and headed to the starting line.  We were in Corral B, which was pretty much anyone running between 1:35 and 1:45.  We lined up right in front of the 1:35 group and knew full well that if we stayed with them, great.  If not, that’s fine too.  We started about a minute after Corral A and found ourself at a comfortable pace.

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I think one of the things I was most excited about was that this was a new course.  This is the second year they’ve used this course, and let me tell you, I HATED the old course.  Anytime someone would ask me about GO!, I would always comment on how much the course sucked.  You weaved through downtown and spent the entire race going up and down hills.  There weren’t a lot of good places for spectators either, and after mile 9, marathoners were on their own for the rest of the race.

This course, however, was infinitely better!  I absolutely LOVED the course!  The course now stays downtown for 1 mile before crossing over the bridge into Illinois.  You run through a part of East St. Louis before heading back across the MLK, Jr. bridge into Missouri and the Lacledes Landing.  After that, you make your way back towards the start and spend the rest of the race in Soulard, running through the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, which was always one of my favorite parts of the old course.  Basically, it’s 2 out and back loops, which is exactly what works in my head for me to stay mentally focused.  I hate loops and not knowing exactly where I’m at.  Out and backs are where it’s at and make the miles tick by so much faster.

The only bad part about the new course are the bridges.  While I love going into (scary) East St. Louis (definitely not known for being the safest area), 2 bridges meant some longer hills right at the beginning.  But, that was also the good news.  We got those bigger hills over with early, while we were still feeling good.  I checked my watch a few times and I remember right around mile 4, glancing down at my watch and seeing a 7:30-ish mile.  Perfect pace for us – we were comfortable and were making good time.

After we headed back toward the starting area, I could tell my brother was just not feeling great.  He said his stomach wasn’t quite right and his hip was starting to cramp up a little bit.  But, we were still holding a pretty good pace and miles 5 through 7 seemed to fly by, as we headed down to the flattest part of the course and into Soulard.  I also liked this part of the course because we were able to see the top runners heading back toward the finish, which I always think is really cool.

Right around mile 8, Brian started fading on me.  He was about a step behind me and I knew he just wasn’t feeling it.  We ended up walking for about 30 seconds and the started running again.  But, there were a few more times he needed to stop to fix his shin sleeves.  After I last little stop, I started pulling ahead of him pretty easily.  Once I realized he was no longer right next to me, I turned around, only to get the “go ahead” wave from him.

I was at mile 8, so I knew I needed to start picking up the pace, especially since I knew there would be several rolling hills the last 3 miles of the course.  I made it my goal to pass at least 3 people every mile and to catch up to the group of runners in front of me by mile 10.  This really helped me keep my mind active and off the pain I was feeling.  However, it was also at this point where my stomach started sloshing.  I ate a protein bar a few hours before the race and drank a little bit of Nuun, but I hadn’t drank anything during the race because that is how I had trained.  But, I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it without something.

Luckily, the Chocolate Station was during mile 10.  Volunteers were handing out nonpareils from Crown Candy Kitchen, and I knew I would be kicking myself if I didn’t take one.  I popped the whole thing into my mouth and quickly realized that I probably should’ve sucked on it instead of chewing it, because it made it a little hard to chew and breathe at the same time.  (The picture at the top of this post, I actually have a whole nonpareil in my mouth – thankfully my teeth aren’t covered in chocolate…) However, that was definitely my saving grace and gave me the energy I needed to get through the last few miles.

Mile 12 was where I really started to pick up my pace.  One mile left and I knew I was feeling strong.  But, of course, the course was tricky and you run parallel to the finish for a good half mile before turning toward the finish line.  Ugh.  That definitely messed with my head a little bit, but the announcer yelling, “Under 1:40!  Under 1:40!” was enough to get me to go all out to the finish line.  I crossed the finish line with a little time to spare…

Mile 1 – 7:43
Mile 2 – 7:10
Mile 3 – 7:17
Mile 4 – 7:33
Mile 5 – 7:28
Mile 6 – 7:31
Mile 7 – 7:31
Mile 8 – 7:40
Mile 9 – 8:08
Mile 10 – 7:28
Mile 11 – 7:11
Mile 12 – 7:33
Mile 13 – 7:39
Mile 0.18 – 1:12

Finish Time – 1:39:07
Average Pace – 7:31/mile

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I ended up downing an entire bottle of water while I waited for my brother to finish.  I knew, no matter what, he wouldn’t be far behind me.  And sure enough, Brian finished just under 1:45!  I’m so proud of him – he’s had a very busy and tough year so far and training definitely had to take a backseat.  But, he totally killed it in his second half marathon!  I see many more races together in the future!

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Overall, I’m definitely happy with the race.  It’s in my top 3 finishes and I ended up in the top 10 in my age group, which I think is pretty gosh darn good!  I think the thing I am most excited about was that my race plan WORKED!  I felt so confident and comfortable throughout the race – it really made me feel pumped for the next half marathon, when usually I promise to never run another half marathon again.  But, BRING ON THE NEXT ONE!  Because I’m ready for the sub-1:30 now…

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  • Trish

    Great job on your half finished. I have only done the Go! marathon once in 2014 which I guess is the old course and I loved it! I am a native St. Louisian who lives elsewhere now but I loved all the hills and running through The Loop. Most of my marathons are super flat but Go! was my fastest marathon to date.