Holy Cow(bell)!! When I started signing up for races back in February, I marked this one on my calendar as a must. It looked like a fun, well supported, rowdy race in a beautiful area. It lived up to all of that and more!
I left my hotel this morning at 6:35. Almost a whole hour before the race, and only a 7 minute drive from the start line. Well, it would have been… until I pulled up toward the interstate off ramp and found this:
Yeah, the green sign up ahead is the one mile mark BEFORE the exit. By the time I took this picture it was 45 minutes before the race. Also, there was probably another mile of cars behind me at that point. I waited. And, waited. And, waited some more. At 7:10, 20 minutes before the race, I got to the general race area. Now, I just had to find parking. Eventually, I made my own parking spot in the semi parking area of the nearby casino. I only had about a mile of walking before I made it to the start line exactly 1 minute before the gun. I missed the part of the race I had been looking forward to all along. You see, at the expo they hand out cowbells to everyone and before the race everyone rings them to “Don’t Fear the Reaper”, ala Will Ferrell on Saturday Night Live. I’m sure it was a rousing scene. One that I missed.
Not only did I miss the cowbell song, but I was now in complete mental meltdown mode. My running over the last 2 weeks had been going so well, that I thought for sure I could break two hours today. And, at the start with the 12 minute milers, you know… cuz I was so late, I was already putting myself at a disadvantage.
I made it to the start line with the crowd about two and a half minutes after the gun went off. Immediately, I started working my way forward. It was quite challenging with so many people in front of me. But, I kept repeating to myself “stay calm, relax, starting slow will help you in the end”. I finished mile one in 9:03 and it felt easy. That was the first positive all day.
All of a sudden, I was flying. Positives were happening at every turn. This course was amazing. The temps were perfect. Everywhere I looked it was beautiful. In the first mile we ran through a quaint downtown area and only up one short little hill. The rest of the course would be the flattest course I’ve ran on all year long. Here’s a pretty picture:
Mile 2 took us along the Katy Trail and through a park.
Miles 3-5 took us out into the “country”, even though it didn’t really seem very country. There were fields and corn, but you still felt like you were near town. Lots of locals were out cheering on their people. The Lindenwood (the college in St. Charles) student athletes seemed to do a lot of the volunteering at water stops and cheer stations. At mile 5 was probably the hardest of this section: The High Five Zone. I felt like I needed to give everyone a high five, but couldn’t get to ’em all! What a challenge! Plus, it was on gravel, and we all know how my feet like to find the big rocks.
Miles 5-8 ran through an idyllic subdivision named New Town. Beautiful. It seemed as though every resident was on the street and cheering. One man had set up and unofficial water stop. He and his son were passing out water like crazy. He had a heck of a time keeping up. But, he was doing great! And, he was much appreciated. Another group had set up a DJ. Dude was pumping out some serious pump up tunes. That kept me going, too. It was around this point that I experienced what they call “runner’s high”. I’m sure I’ve been through it before, but this was the first time it was evident. I felt fantastic. I was cruising. My 4th mile was my fastest, but miles 5-8 were all under 8:43. I was feelin’ no pain!
By this point, in my head, I had realized that I had banked about two and a half minutes on my quest to break two hours. By this, I mean, if I ran every mile from 9-13.1 at 9:09, I’d have broken 2 hours by 2:30. But, this was also the point of the race where we hit the only uphill section of the race. From miles 10 through 11 the course was a slight challenge. It would go uphill for a quarter mile at a time, with the longest uphill section being during mile 11. It turned out to be my slowest mile, at 9:32. I gave back 30 seconds. I had 2 minutes to spare.
I’m not going to lie. At this point, mile 11 had taken its toll. The rest of the course was downhill. I enjoyed that… to an extent. Coming back into town we again ran past lots of green spaces and down some great hills. The last hill, down 5th St., was brutal on my legs. I had imagined it feeling great to bomb down that hill. I was wrong. But, I didn’t care. I was on my way to breaking 2 hours again for the first time in three races. I was pumped. Mile 12 was back to 8:53. Mile 13 headed back through the cute downtown and down the last hill toward Frontier Park. It took me 9:02. I crossed the finish line in 1:57:58. My 3rd best time of the year.
The good things about this race: Pretty much everything. The “free stuff” was top notch. The course was amazing. The support was wonderful. The people were friendly. Tons of people out cheering loudly and ringing cowbells. Even the MC at the start/finish was funny and on the ball. I don’t think I’d change a thing about this race. MAAAAYYYYBBBEEE add a water stop or two? But, even that is being nit-picky.
The bad things: Ummmm…. I think we know how I feel on this one.
Would I do this race again? Yep. In fact, I’m considering training for it next year to set a PR. I really think this course would set up well for a PR for pretty much anyone. Most of us can handle a flat course that only has one set of hills at mile 10. From there, it’s all about how much time do you need in the last 2 miles?
Pics you’ve been looking for:
A bag for my stuff and a free cowbell? Will Ferrell would be happy.
Good Looking long sleeve shirt that actually fits.
Ok! That’s a wrap on Number 11! Only 26.2 Miles left in the challenge! I’m getting pretty pumped! Next question: Can I play in Peoria? Check back in 2 weeks to find out!!