Okey doke...here's the race report update I promised. I know you all have been on the edge of your seats (sarcasm), waiting in anticipation and I've been a tease and just kept you waiting. Well, the wait is over...
Race #1: O'Fallon Fall Finale 15K (er...Super 15K=9.5 miles)
This race locale has tortured me for the last couple of years. I started off with a bang, sizzled and fizzled in the middle, but ended the trio on the right foot. There isn't much to report (a.k.a. remember) about the race. I came, I ran 9.5 miles of hills, I finished. I felt great. I'm terrible at keeping track of my random race distance times, so I don't know if I set a PR or not. I do know that I beat my Sizzler time by 8 minutes and 38 seconds. Yipee!
Race #2: St. Louis Track Club Half Marathon
-This was the second time I ran this course. The first time was my very first half marathon, which I ran in 2:18.10. Granted, that doesn't seem that impressive, but I used it as part of a 20 mile training run in preparation for my first marathon.
-This year I ran it as part of a 14 mile training run. I just did a mile a warm up before the race. I wasn't trying to push myself too hard since I was only using it as my long training run for the week. The race is pretty brutal because it starts on
the hills of Clayton at Shaw Park, runs to and through Forest Park, and loops back through Clayton to finish where we started. I felt really good through the whole race.
-I was VERY excited to see my first joggler! I resisted the urge to point and cheer when I saw him (I've always wanted to see this in person). After all, I didn't want to throw him off his rhythm.
-I experienced a random act of runner kindness. Around mile 11ish, a fellow runner turned to me and offered me one of her Power gummythingys. I didn't want to be rude, so I took one and thanked her happily.
-The race also had an aid station that was staffed by a troop of Girls on the Run. Giving all the wee ones high fives as I ran by and getting to see all those young girls excited about running brought tears to my eyes.
-Last, but not least....When I ran through the finish and looked at my watch, I couldn't believe my eyes. I had made a new PR by 4 minutes and 41 seconds and I ran 6 minutes and 10 seconds faster than my last half marathon!
Race #3: Mountain Home Half Marathon
I was invited by Cheri, the leader of my run club at the Y and a Team in Training coach, to join their merry party of runners to this event. Donna and Jim were former trainees of Cheri's for Team in Training, and Adrianna was a friend of Jim's. Oddly enough, three of the five of us are Special Education teachers (What are the odds?). All of us were unfortunate victims of the Hurricane Ike mishap at the Lewis and Clark Marathon in September. My fellow runners had all signed up to do the full marathon, and I registered for the half.
We set off on our epic running road trip on Friday, in a fully stocked van of running gear, air mattresses, and lots and lots of food. Cheri made three CDs worth of songs in honor of the trip, all with "running," "mountain," or "hill" in the titles. Believe me, that was one random musical journey...where else would you hear John Denver and Ozzy Ozbourne within the same ten minute time period?! Cheri pretty much spent the entire trip scaring the poop out of everyone with how bad the elevation map looked for the race course and how freakin' cold it was supposed to be on Saturday. Once we entered Arkansas, someone bet a dollar to whoever spotted the first washer/dryer on a front porch. I said, "Aw come on guys, we can't be that judgemental! It couldn't possibly be that bad!" Dang it...I was so wrong. Rural Arkansas DOES have a plethera of large appliances as lawn art. We were about ten minutes past the state line, and wouldn't you know it, we saw about 5 stoves and a washer/dryer set. I stand corrected....they were right. About 45 minutes and several mispelled road signs later*, we had arrived at our destination....Mountain Home.
We checked into the hotel, dumped our gear, and headed out to the high school for packet pick up and the pasta dinner. Upon arrival at the high school, we discovered that they are the home of the Mountain Home Bombers. Yes, that's right friends. Their high school mascot is a plane that drops explosives on poor unsuspecting civilians. We should have seen this as a sign.
The pasta dinner and the post race lunch were both provided by the local church ladies (so cute). After we browsed a bit at the single vendor expo, we went to the cafeteria for our pasta and race-course briefing. They made a very heart wrenching presentation about the village in Kenya we were running to support the following day. Next, one of the race directors walked us through a power-point presentation of the course map. This summary included advice and words of encouragement such as, "If you go past the haunted house, you have gone too far," and "We hope you don't get any frost bite in any of ya all digits [pronounced DIIIIIDDDGGGGETS]!" They were very cryptic about the changes they had made to the race course, and almost seemed to take great joy in alluding to the torturous hills that were waiting for us in the morning. They had re-routed the race from last year and kept warning everyone that it wasn't the same course. I was in a state of happy ignorance. Donna went off to talk to one of the organizers about the course. When she returned she reported that, when told that we were going to drive the race course when we left the dinner, the woman had looked her right in the eye with a dead-pan face and said, "It's best not to, dear."
So, we didn't. We made a few stops to pick up some supplies and headed back to the hotel to try to get some sleep. The next morning we awoke to frigid temperatures and a bitter wind. We traveled back to the high school and started the race. I hung back with Adrianna for the first 8 miles until I had to turn around a double back along the half marathon route. Jim was a few paces behind us. We ran along a two lane highway for most of the race, with police cars racing up and down next to us, lights flashing, and the officers yelling at us through megaphones to stay on the other side of the fog line (Who knew the white lines are called fog lines?!). The hills started almost immediately and did not stop. We saw several runners who had quit doubling back (now walking), shaking their heads and muttering, "There's no way!" Eventually, it started to sleet and snow. Adrianna and I were pretty upbeat and were trying to trick ourselves by calling the needle-like sleet "angel kisses" or "cotton balls falling from the sky" and the wind was "invigorating." We had a good time making a game of the torture. We even were able to add to our running total of porch/lawn appliances as we ran. As we approached an aid station** at around mile 7, I had dropped behind Adrianna to avoid being repremanded by the approaching cop for crossing the forbidden fog line. Suddenly, Adrianna started screaming at the top of her lungs and jumping up and down. I noticed a snake on the road, so I jumped into the road, thinking she knew something I didn't about venomous snakes. As we were doing the heebie geebie run, I noticed that the snake was dead. Ya, the race officials got a few giggles out of that one. When Adiranna and I approached my turn around marker, she turned to me and pointed to several female runners ahead of me and said, "Catch those ladies and beat them." We high fived each other and parted ways. I turned around and ran a bit down the road and saw Jim heading up the hill. He greeted me with a loud, smiling "F*@# YOU!" and a single finger salute. He wasn't too happy that I got to turn around. I merrily told him I loved him and gave him a pat on the back...and was on my way.
Remembering my promise to Adrianna, I kicked it into high gear and went on a one woman mission to beat every woman I could see ahead of me on the race course. I was a woman possessed. I knew I had lost a lot of time pacing with the marathoners instead of the half mary's, so I had to push it the last 5 miles. I knew my secret weapon would be to run the upside of the hills while everyone else had given up and had started walking them. I was slightly distracted by the elderly man runner I saw in purple spandex shorts and pink flamingo glasses, who was taking pictures of everyone as we passed. Otherwise, I was a running fool. As I sprinted to the finish, I glanced down at my watch and knew that I hadn't been able to make up enough time to make another PR, but I was pretty dang proud of myself for running such a tough course under less than desireable conditions in 2:15.10.
After I finished, collected my medal, and took advantage of the free massage, I quickly returned to the hotel to shower and change before cheering my friends through to the finish of the full marathon. To kill time while I was waiting, I watched the awards ceremony for the half marathon. As they started to read the age group winners and their times, I realized, "Hey, wait a minute. My time wasn't that far off of their times!" Sure enough, when they got to my age/gender group, they announced my name...I had won second place in my age group! I picked up my commemorative key chain and happily returned to the finish line to wait for my friends.
They came hobbling and cursing across the finish line, which ironically had an ambulance ready and waiting. They all did a fantastic job! Cheri and Donna placed first and second in their age group, and Adrianna placed second in her age group (and set a PR!). In other words, the women of Illinois represented! Medals and commemorative key chains in hand, we checked out of the hotel and I drove the van home. Now, believe me, there is nothing funnier than listening to a van full of marathon runners whine and moan about their sore arses (from running all those hills) and recap EVERY mile of the race. Well, there might be something funnier...watching the same van full of runners try to get out of the van and walk into a gas station to pee after their muscles and joints have all stiffened up over the course of a 5+ hour road trip....sigh....I wish I had that documented on film...good times, good times.
*One such sign was for a restaurant called the Blu Pig. Apparently they think the silent "e" is unecessary since you don't actually say it.
**I'll say one thing for this race, they had AMAZING aid stations-fully stocked with beverages, snacks, gels, and the friendliest, most encouraging volunteers I've ever met!
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