Wednesday, April 13, 2011

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again

I am sitting here holding the Go! St. Louis Marathon medal and recalling this past weekend's events.  I am just overwhelmed with thankfulness to my husband for suggesting that I head back to St. Louis this year to try again in the marathon.  And I am hoping that this will make a great "If at first you don't succeed..." story for my children one day.  This marathon had lots of ups and downs, but in the end, my ability to not give up is what I hope to remember most.

Friday and Saturday Before
We left Madison at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, April 8th for a 6 hour drive up to St. Louis.  The day started with me jolting awake and realizing that I'd forgotten to set my alarm clock for my 4:45 a.m. run with my friends.  I settled for 30 minutes on the elliptical machine instead and considered it good tapering. 

We made it to the arch by mid-afternoon.  I don't think there's a better way to be welcomed into St. Louis then by riding up to the top of the arch and looking out at the city below.  But our 3 year old had had enough of sitting still.  She made her point to us by loudly squeaking throughout the tour.  "Squeaks" was getting quite a few stares and annoyed glances.  Here are pictures of the view from the arch and of "Squeaks" as she takes in the view (while squeaking loudly in protest and clinging to the wall for dear life):
View from the arch
Our little tree frog "Squeaks" holds on for dear life.
We also were able to fit in the Expo that same day.  "Squeaks" had gotten blisters after insisting on wearing red dress shoes on the trip up, so I agreed to carry her in her baby sling.  Well, it is good for up to 35 pounds, and I am glad to say that it passed that test with my 31 pounder that day!  I felt like I got quite the workout traveling with her on my front.  Don't be fooled by how easy it looks in the picture below--that thing will kill your back.
Heading to our car from the Expo.
On Saturday, we visited The Magic House children's museum for free using our local museum's reciprocal membership.  I think we may try to visit a children's museum in every state we run in too!
The Magic House fun

That night I carbo-loaded on pizza from Imo's Pizza that we ate in a nearby park.  Maybe not the best choice, but it worked.  We got more snacks at a Target.  The children marveled at the escalator that even had an adjoining escalator for your cart!  We took a quick dip in the pool (the highlight of the hotel or "hoe-tail" as my daughter calls it). 

Race Morning
As usual before a marathon, I tossed and turned quite a bit on Saturday night.  I got up at 5:20 a.m. to take a shower and get ready to go.  Rick had decided to drive me to the start line, a wonderfully chivalrous thing for him to do--and much appreciated!   Of course, the children had to get up and come too.  They were surprisingly chipper for such an early morning!  The traffic was pretty heavy going onto the exit ramps near the start line, but since we weren't parking he drove me right to the start area to drop me off.  I left my drop bag with him before he pulled away.  Not needing a drop bag was another unusual luxury for me!  I had about 45 minutes to wait in line for the port-a-potties, stretch, and find my corral (B) before the 7 a.m. start.  I positioned myself near the 3:20 pacer but tuned him out after noticing his tacky skirt (yes, skirt) and his talk about walking through the water stations.  Not for me.  The temperature was in the high 60s, and it was nice to start without being cold.  This would not feel so nice later on, though.

The Race
UPDATE: I have since learned that "Cliff Blocks" is actually spelled "Clif Bloks."  I like my way better, so I'm leaving it!)
My first mile was a fast 7:21, and things were going well until I noticed something in my pants!  My Cliff Blocks were crammed into a tiny jewelry baggie and safety-pinned to my shorts and tucked inside.  Well, at the last minute, I added 3 more Blocks to my original 6 (I just couldn't finish them before the race and didn't want to waste them).  I guess the baggie couldn't hold them all, so it busted from the bottom.  Two Blocks were dancing all over my shorts, and the rest were not far behind.  I fished them out (feeling sorry for those who saw me!) and debated about what to do.  So here I am, my sweaty hand holding 9 melting, sticky Blocks designed for mile 20, and I'm at mile 2 of the race.  A photographer happened to be right there, and I held them out for a picture to preserve the fiasco!  I decided to eat them slowly, thinking that taking them too early was better than not taking them at all.  I struggled to use my sticky fist to grab waters, hit "lap" on my watch, and hold the Gu given to me at mile 8 (which I had absolutely no use for at that point).

I still managed to fall into a nice rhythm for the first 9 miles.  Though I did have one foolishly fast 6:56 mile, the rest were a little closer to the 7:30's I was shooting for.  I was majorly buoyed by seeing Rick and the children at miles 11 and 13.  I felt the need to try to tell him the Cliff Blocks story upon seeing him the second time (see below). 
The children playing in the nearby park while waiting to see me running.

Mile 11

Telling my story at Mile 13 (and I'm sure making no sense!)

Oh my gosh, am I still talking?
My half split was roughly the same as my Myrtle Beach split time, but I didn't feel as confident at all at keeping that pace up for another half.  Looking back at my splits, I began to slow down around mile 14---way too early to be getting tired.  This course was hilly and the temperature was so much warmer than what I'd trained in.  My body was just trying too hard to keep it up in the heat.  Honestly, I felt a little dejavou about the whole race--in a bad way.  Could a race really beat me down twice?  In the war between me and this race, this race had already won one battle! 

I continued on with a sub-9 minute mile pace until mile 22.  Seeing the spot where I'd dropped out was such an emotional experience.  And Rick was there!  He was holding two cups of Gatorade for me (the person in front of me in the picture below--I guess--thought Rick was an aid station and tried to take one!).  I was so tired by then, so I croutched on the spot to drink the Gatorade.  I was thinking about how 365 days had passed over this very fateful spot.  "You spilled," mumbled my daughter, and I thought, "Baby, that's the last thing on my mind right now."  I must've said something like, "I don't think I can finish today either," and Rick used the opportunity to say, "Oh yes you will!" and swatted me on the bottom as I slowly began walking.  I was now wearing his hat, which he lent me for a bit of relief from the heat.  That mile was a 10:12.
I am pointing to the spot where I dropped out last year. 
I'd like to say that there was some crescendo moment as the last few miles passed by me, but that just wasn't the case.  They were very tough, very slow miles, though I appreciated seeing the part of the course that I'd so longed to see the year before.  I started pouring a water cup over my head at each aid station and even had a volunteer pour an entire pitcher over my head near the end.  I later learned that the course was closed to those people who hadn't yet made it to mile 9 by 9:15 a.m.  Strong, very fit men all around me were walking, (I guess) also surprised by the heat that I now knew would keep me from entering any more April marathons.  I walked two more times in this race and saw several women pass me by, along with my top-20 finish.  It didn't matter today though.  This race was about retribution, and finishing was the way I would get that.  I was pleasantly surprised to see a 3:35 time on the clock at the finish line and managed a faster trot to get under in 3:35:43.     
Rick calls this picture, "Take that, St. Louis, and your heat!"
I ended up going to the medical tent due to a pretty persistent volunteer who wouldn't let me sit down on the ground like I wanted.  My legs were hurting and my stomach was a little tight (probably from excessive Cliff Blocks).  I lay down in there for about 5 minutes, but I knew I felt fine (well, much much better than Myrtle Beach) so I left there quickly and went to find Rick and the children.  Rick took the picture above of me, capturing what can only be called a smirk of triumph.  We stopped for a post-race tradition of ice cream, this time at the "famous" Ted Drews for melty concretes.
"Necessary" post-race ice cream
Do you think the race shirts could get any greener?  Am I a highlighter or what?
I must admit there's a bit of a let down after so much anticipation over this race.  We don't have another marathon planned until October, which is fine since it is too hot for them anyway!  I surprised myself with a 6 mile run on Monday (I can't ever remembering running the day after a marathon before) and an 8 mile run today.  My sore muscles are returning to normal.  Three black toenails remain, little reminders of a story that was over a year in the making--one with a very good ending. 
1 7:21
2 7:10
3 7:24
4 7:12
5 7:28
6 7:29
7 6:56
8 7:19
9 7:17
10 7:34
11 7:33
12 7:39
13 7:28
14 7:51
15 8:05
16 8:14
17 8:23
18 8:18
19 8:38
20 8:48
21 8:50
22 10:12
23 10:43
24 8:43
25 11:55
26 8:16
.2 2:39    

3:35:43 27th Female


  1. I am literally crying like a baby. Not just teary eyed, but wiping my face.

    Okay, the shot-block story has to be one of the best I've heard yet!! That's HILARIOUS. I wonder how much of an impact having to take those in so early had on the overall run? Do you think if you'd have had them later it would have made a difference? ((Did you take in any fuel later on??))

    I'm so happy for you. You did an amazing job conquering this race. 27th female in a race that was shut down for the heat?? YOU ROCK!!!

    And...I love your race recaps!!

  2. Thanks, Dana. I did fuel with Gus (about 2 1/2) in the later miles. I just felt a little more full while I was running and a little blah afterwards, and I attribute that to the Blocks (or Bloks as I now know they are called!). I don't think it made a huge difference--the heat was just too much for me. I am still happy with how I did--and I'll learn to test out how I am carrying my fuel from now on!

  3. Spending my pre-race time reading your blogs...I LOVE the blocks story...makes me laugh every time!! How truly funny!