Well, I did it. My first race post-baby is in the books, and while I could not be happier about my time, I made some crucial mistakes along the way.
I really hadn’t planned on doing this race at all. There are 2 St. Patrick’s Day races: 1 downtown (the big one) and 1 much closer to home (and much smaller). I had been thinking about doing the smaller, closer to home race when I received an email from Girls on the Run St. Louis offering SoleMates runners the opportunity to run the race downtown FOR FREE! I talked to Matt about it and he thought I should totally take advantage of a free race entry. So, I signed up and I’m glad I did!
My morning started with a 5:30 AM wakeup call (which, fortunately, is sleeping-in these days). I quickly got ready and ate a bagel with peanut butter before getting MacKenna up, changed, dressed, and fed before we headed out the door. When I originally registered for the race, I had planned on going downtown by myself, but after talking to Matt on Friday night about not knowing where to park and not wanting to take the MetroLink by myself, we decided to go as a family. We made sure we left early enough so we made the 7:35 AM train and could get downtown in plenty of time.
MacKenna LOVED her first ride on the MetroLink and especially loved all the attention she was getting from the other runners headed down for the race. I’m considering taking MetroLink for all my races now as it was super convenient and we didn’t have to fight any traffic getting in and out of the city (not that St. Louis traffic is bad, but with roads closed for the race + parade, it just made life much easier).
We got downtown around 8 AM with plenty of time to spare for the 9 AM start time. I made a quick pit stop in the bathrooms of the Hilton Ballpark hotel – much better than portapotties! – before heading to the starting area. I ran up and down one of the roads a few times to warm up my legs, ate a banana, and about 15 minutes before the start time, made my way to the start line.
Here’s where mistake #1 comes in: There were 4 different starting corrals based on your bib color. Orange for the elites, yellow for the competitive runners, white for non-competitive runners, and green for walkers. I guess when I registered I had either marked that I wasn’t running competitively or my predicted finish time (between 39 and 45 minutes – I estimated on the slower-for-me side because I knew there would be 14,000+ runners) put me in the non- competitive category. However, I saw a ton of people with yellow bibs that I was pretty positive were NOT competitive runners (if you know what I mean). Maybe I didn’t need a yellow bib, but I definitely needed to line up a LOT closer to the competitive runners as once we started, I was among a bunch of runners slower than me, as well as several walkers. Not good. I had to dodge around several walkers just to get a clear cut path on the road.
Which leads to mistake #2: Since I was trying to go around a bunch of people and make up time from being too far back, I went out WAY too fast. I ran my first mile in 7:19. TOO FAST. I do this Every. Single. Time. Someday I will learn to start slower. I just knew there was no way I was going to be able to keep that past for 4 more miles. No way.
I’ve ran the streets of St. Louis several times (3 GO! St. Louis races and the St. Patrick’s Day run 2 years ago), and it never ceases to amaze me just how tough these runs are. Being close to a river, you would never expect the city to have hills, and really, it isn’t that hilly. What the hills don’t have in elevation, they surely make up for in length. The hills are far from steep, maybe an 8% grade at the most, but dang they are loooooong hills. Hills that go on far a half mile or more easily. And they Tear. You. Apart. It definitely makes these races tough. The downhills are a nice break and I used them fully to my advantage.
This was a tough race. Not only did the hills kills me, but it was HOT. And humid. And foggy until the sun came out. I was soaking wet after just the first mile. I’m thankful I decided to wear shorts and a dry-fit shirt, as I’m pretty sure the capri tights I thought about wearing would’ve done me in. Plus, Target socks I bought to be a little festive.
I talked myself through every single hill. “Just push up this hill and you’ll get a down hill.” “Just take it one mile at a time.” I’m also one of those people who visualizes doing my every day runs. I know my 3, 4, and 5-mile routes like the back of my hand, so I know exactly where I am at every point on those runs. 2 miles in, I’m at a large intersection. 2.5 miles is the turn around. I was counting down every half mile on the course, visualizing exactly where I was on my everyday runs. It really helped me mentally pass each mile and keep up a decent pace.
Mile 1 = 7:19
Mile 2 = 7:23
Mile 3 = 7:37 (mostly uphill)
Mile 4 = 7:16
Mile 5 = 6:36 (mostly downhill)
The last half mile was the best and worst of the race. You round a corner, knowing you have a half mile left. There’s a slight downhill, then the last 400 meters in is all uphill. Kill. Me. As much as I was dying to sprint it in, my body just didn’t have it. However, I ran it in as fast as I could and was more than happy to cross that finish line.
So, like I said, I made 3 crucial mistakes, each stemming from the first. The last mistake was probably my worst one. Since I was trying to make up time and go around people, I definitely did not run the tangents. (Tangents are running the shortest distance between 2 points, so on a turn, you want to be closest to the inside of the turn. This is also how race courses are measured.) I was on the outside of each turn and sometimes on the sidewalks just trying to get by people. So, instead of running a 5 mile race, I ended up running a quarter-mile extra. Oops.
Mile .26 = 6:16
Now, here’s my issue. According to my Garmin, I ran 5.26 miles in 37:47; however, my official race time was 5.00 miles in 37:45. Which time do I go by? On one hand, my pace was much faster with the longer distance and technically I would have PRed without the added 0.26 on the end of the run. But, anyone who looks up my time is going to see my 5-mile time as 37:45, not knowing I ran that extra 400 meters. I think I am going to keep in the back of my mind the extra distance I ran, but still not call it a PR, just because it wasn’t official. I have plenty more races in my future to PR at the 5-mile.
It was a hard race, especially since I haven’t raced in almost a year and a half. But, it was nice to be back and I’m excited for my future races!
(Thanks to Girls on the Run St. Louis for the awesome opportunity! And remember, there is still time to donate and support Girls on the Run at my charity running page!)
After the race, I found a cozy little chair and corner in the Hilton Ballpark lobby where I nursed MacKenna – definitely new to the racing experience and great experience for future races! And she did great during the race: she slept while Daddy explored the race festivities and the old courthouse.
We decided not to stay downtown for the parade and instead went to the parade closer to home. Only to realize it was way too hot for MacKenna and we didn’t come prepared with a hat and sunscreen for her. Luckily, we chose to leave just in time and avoided getting completely soaked in the storms that came through.
I spent most of the day laying on the floor, more sore than I expected from a 5-mile run. Turns out, I was coming down with something and woke up with a 101.1 degree fever on Sunday morning. I haven’t been this sick in a long time and have spent most of my Sunday laying on the couch, trying to break my fever. Apparently my body was trying to tell me something when I couldn’t kick it in those last 400 meters!
How was your St. Patty’s Day? Did you do a race? Which time would you count – the official or you Garmin (unofficial) time?