Yesterday I finished the St. Louis Frostbite Half Marathon on my 30th birthday. It was an adventure, to say the least; an adventure I shared with my brother-in-law, Ray.
Honestly, it was not the best training cycle. Training for a long distance road race over the winter in the Midwest is just stupid. Yeah, I said it. Stupid. Being a busy guy with work, school, and family to preoccupy the majority of my time, the mornings before I go to work is the optimal times for me to get my run in. Unfortunately, that is also the coldest part of the day. Some days when I got up, it was in the single digits with the windchill in the negatives. The treadmill was used whenever I could, but I had to get used to the cold weather for the race. I would do a few runs after work, before dinner when I could. By the time Christmas came around, I had a decent base.
New Years Eve brought about the drive for me to take my running a little more serious. I wanted to be as regimented as possible leading up to my race so I could perform well. My run on the 3rd of January ended with me clutching my right calf. A strain, same as last training cycle. I knew what this meant. 7-10 days off of running, if not more. All of my base-building long runs in the weeks prior to the race would not happen. The 13.1 mile race was going to hurt. That was something I was looking to avoid.
A week prior to the race, my actual calf was feeling better, but I had a dull ache in my lower leg. It wasn’t always there, and never extreme, but it just lurked. I was wondering if I had a stress fracture. I did a really easy 5 mile run with a DailyMile friend, Jason Smith. He was nice enough to run at my pace versus his pace. By the time I finished, I was very nervous about the race. At this point, 6 days from the race, there wasn’t a thing I could do about it. There’s no catch-up, no make-up, no extra credit. It is a pure reflection of the hours you put in. Decided to rest for the week.
The weather on the day of the race (and the day of my 30th birthday) could have been a lot worse. We had worse around here the few days prior. Driving to the race with Raymond, it was 22 degrees Fahrenheit at 7:30am. The race began at 9, so we might see a few more degrees before then. We parked, registered, then chilled out before the race. We met up with Michael Yoon and his friend Jenny, both local, accomplished runners. We had to run back out to the car before the race began for me to get my belt and drop off my money and ID. Decided to call an audible on my choice of running clothing.
Originally, I had on my Saucony Kinvara Vizi-Pro’s, short running socks, Zensah calf sleeves, Starter tights, Adidas shorts, C9 baselayer, long sleeved-tech shirt, Old Navy running jacket, Saucony Neckwarmer, and Saucony DryLete hat. I decided I didn’t need the tights. So, back in the car, I shed the tights. I can tell you that taking tights off inconspicuously in the passenger seat of a Mazda 6 is not easy. I kept the Zensah calf sleeves on as a means of keeping my legs warm as well as compression for my calf. We met up with my wife and kids, Ray’s wife, and our mother-in-law, all of which were braving the cold to cheer us on. Ray and I said our goodbyes and walked down to the starting line, which was about 1/4 mile from the parking lot.
Waiting for the race to begin, we run into Michael and Jenny again. We take a group picture, and Jenny convinces us to move to the front. The race was small (800-1000 runners) and gun-timed. Basically, we all had race bibs with chips in them. The time started for everyone when the gun went off, regardless of when you crossed the finish line. The time stopped when you ran through the finish chute. So, Ray and I move closer to the front. The gun goes off, and we have 90% of the racers run past us. Awesome way to start.
Like most people, we started out to hot. Both Ray and I decided to run between 11-12 min/mile pace for the race. The first half mile we ran close to a 9 min/mile pace. Kind of got caught up in all of the hoopla. We pass by our families 1/2 mile in and go around the first loop. We pass by the families again at mile 2 and head towards the large part of the loop. The big part of the loop was 4 miles of rolling hills. I didn’t really know there would be so many hills. There were 4 hills in the 4 miler part. Up and down – flat – up and down – flat. We pulled back in by the families around the 6 mile mark, feeling ok. Well, I was a little haggard. We did the small loop and came back by the family spectator area. They weren’t there. Bummer. Last time around the big loop, then we were done. Let’s do it!
The hills seemed to have grown since the last time we came through. Running an average pace around 11:30 min/miles, Ray had the idea that we would start gunning it around mile 11. By mile 11, my legs were shot. I told him he could go for it if he wanted, but my foot was aching. We had picked up a couple of other runners near the back of the pack suffering with us. Four of us in total counted down the remaining mileage and hills. One hill down, one hill (and 1.5 miles) left. I had to take two walk breaks in the last 1.5 miles. The last walk break with 3/4 mile left in the race helped tremendously. I was ready to be done, I started to run. The final 1/4 of a mile, I managed to hit a 9 min/mile pace. I ran through the chute with my family cheering me on. I slumped over a trash can to give my legs a relief from gravity and pressure. Turning around, my eyes caught Ray sauntering through the chute less than a minute behind me. Both of us finished in 2:29 minutes. It was Ray’s first, and a PR of 8 minutes for me. After some stretching, we both chugged a Honey Milk on the way to McGurk’s Irish Pub. Had some lunch, I had a couple beers, then home to nap – for 2 and a half hours. Basically, I passed out for the same amount of time I ran. Don’t know what I’ll do if I ever move up to an ultra….
All in all, a successful run and a great birthday. My foot is still aching with some PF type pain, but I’m hoping for that to subside within a few days. Oh, and as for a birthday cake, my wife made me a good one. What do you think?