2015 Go! St. Louis Half Marathon Recap

For as hard as I’ve been on myself about this race, the Go! St. Louis Half Marathon was actually quite a good race. We especially lucked out with the weather, considering St. Louis weather is consistently unpredictable.

Go! St. Louis Half Marathon Recap

 

Oh my goodness do I need to work on my form. That’s a lot of tension I’m holding in my shoulder. I raced in my Brooks Pure Flow 3s, Oiselle Distance shorts, and Brooks seamless arm warmers.

Before the Race

As soon as Sunday got into the 10 Day Forecast, the forecast for Sunday literally changed several times a day. The last time a forecast was this back-and-forth was on our wedding day, and that day started out with beautiful weather, then had winds so severe they blew away and broke our tents, and then super humid weather with some rain. Thankfully, by Friday it looked like the weather was going to be ideal for a race: 50s, low humidity, partly cloudy, and no precipitation.

On Saturday I started out the day with a 20 minute shake-out run before Ryan and I went down to the expo to pick up my bib and shirt. The expo was at the Saint Louis University arena and was open all day Friday and Saturday. We had to pay for parking, but at least we were able to park right across the street. They didn’t have the option of race day bib pick-up or registration, but the expo was really well put together and you could pick up your bib without even having to go into the crowded expo area (although you had to do so to pick up your shirt). I’ve never been to a race with an expo before, but I was not super impressed with this one. They did have plenty of vendors for picking up last minute items like gels, headphones, and hydration packs, along with shoe companies and plenty of clothes from the local running store. My favorite part was the Brooks truck that was set up outside and giving away freebies such as sunglasses, hats, and T-shirts. Of course, I’m always going to be biased towards Brooks because I {heart} everything they make.

I spent the rest of Saturday hydrating, eating simple carbs, and relaxing. I admittedly was anxious about this race, especially since the elevation map was not perfectly clear and I was worried about unexpected hills or false flats. I had my usual pre-race meal of two heavily salted eggs on a plain homemade bagel and a bowl of Chex cereal right before bed, along with as much water as I could drink.

Go! St. Louis Half Marathon Recap

The race started Sunday morning at 7 am, and all participants had to be in the corrals by 6:40 at the latest. So Sunday I woke up at 4:20 am, drank some coffee and Nuun, ate half a bagel and a banana, and got ready for the race. Since we were staying with my parents and they live about 25 minutes from downtown, we left the house around 5:30. Parking in downtown St. Louis is never fun, but we were able to find a lot right by the starting line and pay about $10 to park off-street in a church parking lot. 

The starting line area was clearly marked and there were plenty of restrooms around. I got into my corral around 6:30. I was in corral A, which was super exciting since that meant I got off right at 7. There were nine corrals total, since the half marathon, full marathon, and marathon relay were all starting at the same time.

Go! St. Louis Half Marathon Recap

The gun went off exactly at 7. The course was clearly marked; I never had any trouble knowing where to turn or anything. The first 4 miles took us through the Bridge Challenge: over one bridge, through East St. Louis, and back over another bridge for a “race within a race.” Those bridges were HARD and I took them too fast. This part of the race was not very scenic; the Mississippi River isn’t exactly pretty and the part of East St. Louis we went through looked abandoned.

Go! St. Louis Half Marathon Recap

Once we crossed back into Missouri, I began to feel the effects of taking the two back-to-back bridges too fast. The 1:40 pacer passed me at about mile 5, and I never caught up to them. I didn’t follow them because I didn’t know their strategy, but the pacer clearly knew what he was doing by taking the first 5 miles slow.

They had at mile 7 (which was also near the start/finish lines) a spectator tent that provide Panera coffee and bagels to family and friends of runners. I saw Ryan at this point and began to focus on just finishing the race and getting to him. Honestly, my legs felt like lead at this point, my hip flexors were burning, and my right calf had cramped, and each hill felt progressively harder.

The rest of the race had plenty of rolling hills and lots of false flats. It was advertised as being flatter and faster than in previous years with a net downhill, but there was still plenty of climbing. The final section of the half marathon went out to the Anheuser-Busch brewery and back, and I honestly felt like I was going uphill both ways. I really slowed down during this portion. 

Go! St. Louis Half Marathon Recap

One thing I desperately need to work on in racing is drinking water. After this race I actually am considering carrying my own fluids for the Portland Marathon, although I am very hesitant about any added weight or awkward things to carry. At the Go! St. Louis race, they were never clear about what side water was on and what side Gatorade was on, and there was no consistency to the aid stations. One volunteer told me water was in white cups and Gatorade was in the Gatorade cups, but then I lost several seconds (probably 30 seconds or more) at one aid station when I went to grab a white cup only to find out that water was in the Gatorade cups at this station and had to cut to the other side of the station for water! It was frustrating, especially when I always already feeling frustrated about not being prepared enough for the hills.

They also had vanilla and chocolate GU offered at the race, but I chose to carry my own Salted Caramel GUs. Definitely the best fuel for me – unlike my last race, I did not feel nauseous afterwards. At mile 11 some volunteers were handing out chocolate from a popular local place, but I didn’t see a single runner take a piece!

Go! St. Louis Half Marathon Recap

After a rough last few miles, I crossed the finish line in 1:43:12 (7:53/mile average). I totally missed my goal of a sub-1:40, but I still ran a 3 minute PR and finished in the top 100 overall women and was 430th overall out of over 6000 – not too bad for my second half marathon. I was SO glad to be done with this race.

It’s weird how ideal my pacing can be in my workouts but not in a race. A few weeks before the race, I ran 7 miles at goal pace with barely any variation in my splits (and I was outside, not on the treadmill). My splits for this race were all over the place: 7:43, 7:20 (over the bridge), 7:32, 7:54 (over the other bridge), 7:43, 7:41, 7:44, 7:59, 8:27 (slowed down for water), 7:48, 8:35 (another water station), and 8:06.

Go! St. Louis Half Marathon Recao

I finished 430th out of 6253 half marathoners, 93rd out of 3789 women, and 24th out of 606 in my age group (female 25-29). 

One of the boasts of the Go! St. Louis Marathon and Half Marathon is the post-race food. They have lots of traditional St. Louis treats, including Ted Drewes frozen custard, Crown Candy chocolate, toasted ravioli, and tons of other foods, but I just grabbed a banana and water. 8:45 AM is way too early for me to eat those foods! My mom and sister went ahead to grab a table at a popular nearby brunch place while I got my finisher photo taken and met up with Ryan. We had brunch at Rooster and I devoured a big plate of eggs, potatoes, and bacon. 

What the Go! St. Louis Half Marathon did great:
  • The course itself was clearly marked and it was easy to run the tangents. My Garmin read 13.15 when I stopped it right after crossing the finish line.
  • As I mentioned above, the spectator tent was in a great location and I know Ryan was super happy to have coffee and food while I raced.
  • Tons of bathrooms before the race.
  • My chip time was up on the website very shortly after I crossed the finish line.
  • The bibs had first names in addition to numbers, so spectators could cheer for us. Everytime I heard someone cheer my name, I was like, Someone I know? and then got confused.
Where the Go! St. Louis Half Marathon could improve:
  • I was personally not a fan of the Bridge Challenge. Two bridges that early in the race wrecked my legs, and there are so many more scenic places to run through than East St. Louis.
  • The aid stations. As I mentioned above, it was not consistent which side of the street or in which color cups water and Gatorade were. The aid stations were also super slippery already when I went through them, so I can’t imagine how they got worse as the race continued.
  • The runner tracking for spectators was delayed. Ryan got my 10K update after about an hour, and I crossed the 10K mark at 47:28.
  • The elevation map lead on that there was a lot more flat area than there really was.

 Go! St. Louis Half Marathon 3

 

 A huge thanks to Ryan, who took all these photos, travels with me to races, holds all my stuff so I don’t have to gear check, and makes sure I eat and hydrate afterwards! Best husband ever! 

Also a huge thanks to my mom, for the awesome running gear, and to her, my dad, and Anna for cheering me on!

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10 Responses

  1. Congrats to you! That’s a BIG PR and you should be very happy with that! I love that the race starts so early–I wish they all would do that.

    As to the water situation…I really wouldn’t worry about not getting enough. We tend to overemphasize the need to drink and often overdo it. Drink to thirst–not to stay ahead of thirst–and you’ll be fine.

    1. Thanks, Amanda! I loved the early start of this race – and my first marathon (Portland) is supposed to start at 7 also! And thank you for the advice on the water – I don’t hydrate tons during training runs but worry so much about dehydrating during a race (you can tell I’m still a rookie at racing!).

  2. Congrats again on your PR! I know it must be really hard to have missed your goal time, but 3 minutes off your personal record is phenomenal. It sounds like a challenging race, and I’m surprised the water / aid stations weren’t better organized (or at least on one side of the road!). When you’re training, do you usually run with water? Wonder if that makes a difference.

    Bridges early in a race are the worst! You won’t see me running in Pittsburgh again any time soon…

    1. Thank you, Jess! I usually only drink water on long runs or speedwork and never carry my own (I just rely on water fountains), so I’m not sure what difference that makes.
      I’ve thought the same thing about NYC…too many bridges!

  3. Congrats again! With regards to water, I hate aid stations. I don’t take in much water in general, and during races, I don’t take in any until about halfway through–by then the crowds have usually thinned out, and you have better clearance. Then it is usually just sips. But I am catastrophic with regards to actually drinking it. I tend to refrain from taking in water during shorter races–I don’t really need it, and also it can slow you down, which for such a short race can add up if you aren’t careful. But a marathon? You should be ok.

  4. 3 minutes is an awesome pr- congrats!!! I’ve had races like that too that are not nearly as consistent as training runs. You never know what race morning will bring! I’m considering signing up for another spring half before it gets too warm around here.

  5. Awesome job and congrats on the PR!! And by 3 minutes!? That is something to be proud of. I hate slowing down for aid stations so I usually just throw the water at my face and hope some of it gets in my mouth. I think I’ll work on that technique…

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