Winter usually means it’s the off-season for most runners. However, I am discovering that winter in St. Louis actually provides a lot more races than pretty much any other time of year. If you check out the local race calendars, you will see several races to choose from every weekend from November through March. Of course, there is really no “big” races – no marathons or half marathons, but you can definitely find a race of any other distance of your choosing.
Typically, I take the winter season as my off-season since I am not particularly fond of running in the cold. But, I wanted to change that this season. I’m tired of being wimpy and I’m learning more and more that if I have something I’m “training” for, I’m a bit more motivated to actually get in good, quality workouts. I’ve been attempting to run outside more, but I also needed a few good races to fit into my running calendar.
Since St. Louis doesn’t take the winter off of racing, I decided to go with a few races in one of the newer race series: the Winter Park Race Series. These races take place about every other weekend and vary in distance from 5K to 5 miles. I was planning on signing up for the entire series but forgot and didn’t get registered in time for the discount, so I decided to just pick a couple to race.
This past weekend’s Reindeer Run took place at Tower Grove Park in St. Louis and was a 5K run. I had signed up earlier in the week, not realizing that the weather conditions were going to be less than ideal for racing. However, I actually feel like they could have been a lot worse than they were.
I was actually woken up by MacKenna Saturday morning at 5:30 AM, but thankfully she went back to sleep in bed with us and I was able to sleep until my alarm went off at 6:30. I got ready, checked the weather, and bundled myself up ready to not only be cold, but also be wet. Rain and 34 degrees out does not make for a fun race. On my way out, I also stopped by the gas station for some pre-race fuel: a KIND bar and a small pumpkin coffee. Normally, I would go without a pre-race snack, but with a later race (9 AM start time), I knew my tummy wouldn’t be able to handle being empty.
After getting to the park and picking up my bib number and t-shirt, I headed out for a quick 1 mile warm-up. I had only been to Tower Grove once or twice before, but I was pretty sure it was going to be flat course since I didn’t remember any hills from the 2 prior visits. Um, I was wrong. I ran about the first half mile of the course before turning around and that whole half mile was totally uphill, although it wasn’t a very steep hill, but not what I was expecting at all.
By the end of my warm-up, I was wet and freezing, but smart enough to not wear my running shoes, so at least my feet wouldn’t get too soaked. I talked with some of Matt’s runners who were also running the race and then headed to the start line. There were about 300 racers total, so not a huge amount of people, but the fact that there were high school cross country and track runners there always gets me a little more nervous.
I started the race the way I normally do – slow. Maybe a bit too slow as I really had to play catch up after the first half mile or so. There were about 5 girls in front of me to start, and within the first mile, it was down to 2 girls ahead of me. I could tell the girl in front of me (who was in shorts, by the way) was within reach, but at the turn around point, I knew there was no way I was going to catch the lead girl as she was at least a good minute ahead of me. (Turns out, I would have had to pull some amazing speed out of my booty – she ran an 18:39! Only in my dreams…)
The half way point was also when the rain really started to get to me. I didn’t really mind it at first and I wasn’t necessarily cold, but I was just sort of sick of being wet and not being able to wipe off my face since I was trying to keep my hands warm. It was just getting obnoxious and I really just wanted to be done. It made the race seem longer for sure!
I slowly inched my way up to the 2nd place girl and past her right at the 2 mile mark. I told myself that I just had to keep pulling away from her – I didn’t want to stick with her at all because I knew that would mean I would have to slow down a bit and I wanted to at least get a good time if I couldn’t win the race. Thankfully, she wasn’t able to keep up with me and I was able to gain a comfortable lead on her that I was able to keep until the finish.
That last mile was definitely the most difficult. Couple the rain with the rolling hills (seriously, I forget that St. Louis is definitely NOT flat) and I was just ready to be done. The last part of the race was uphill and I knew I really needed to push to finish strong. She wasn’t far behind me and I just really didn’t want to get passed in the last 300-meters (I’m not a strong finisher at all). I caught up with a high school boy and just tried to stay with him the rest of the time – he of course out kicked me to the finish, but I was happy to see a time in the low 20s as I crossed the finish line.
Official time = 20:09
2nd overall female
1st in age group (20-29)
I hate not winning since I’m super competitive, but I am really happy with my time. Not a PR (about 20 seconds off) but about 5 seconds faster than my last 2 races. I was actually really surprised to find out the 1st place girl was in my age group – I actually thought she was older than me! I think that would have made me even more mad! Now, I have a new goal – to eventually run in the 18s! I’m still a good minute away from that time (my PR is a 19:50) but I think if I train (and fuel myself) right, I can get myself there.