This past Sunday, I ran the Relay and Run for 21K. This was my first time ever running this race so I really didn’t know what to expect. A few days before the race, I went online to see how many participants were in it, and saw there was about 300. So obviously, this was a relatively small race. It also started in Clayton, and since all my races in the St. Louis area have all taken place downtown, this was going to be a totally different experience for me. I don’t normally look at the course map before the race (I know, it’s bad!), and I tried to look at a video posted of this route but it wasn’t working on my computer so I decided not to worry about it. Now, I wish I would have tried harder so I would have been more prepared for how hilly this course would be!!
Saturday night before the race, I made some spaghetti for dinner and went to bed around 9PM since I had my alarm set for 5:30AM for the next morning. I took another look at what the weather was supposed to be for the next day, and decided to stick with the outfit I had bought for this race – short sleeve top and capri pants.
I woke up the next morning SUPER early! Around 3:30AM! I was so excited/nervous for the race and I tried to go back to sleep, but it just wasn’t possible. So I laid in bed for another hour just looking for my phone and then I decided I might as well get up. I had breakfast – whole wheat toast with natural peanut butter and half a banana. Then I took a shower, foam rolled a little bit, and put on my outfit. I was very concerned with what to wear because I looked at the weather more closely and realized that even though the high was 41 degrees and sunny, at 7:30AM when the race started it was only going to be 30 degrees. But the forecast still said it would be sunny, so I thought that would heat me up and I would be fine. Man, was I wrong!
At about 6:45AM, Justin and I left for the race. It took about 20 minutes to get to Clayton, and once we were there it was a bit confusing to find exactly where the start was even though we were in the exact area it said on the website. The start line wasn’t exactly as big as what I’m used to, probably due to the fact it was a much smaller race than I am used to running in. I realized there was no rush to get there that early and just wait in the cold, so we stopped at a nearby grocery store where I grabbed a Gatorade and went to the bathroom one last time before the race. Then we drove back to the starting area, and Justin dropped me off. I joined a crowd of people standing against a building in order to get out of the cold and wind. OMG, was it so cold! I don’t know what I was thinking not wearing any jacket or long-sleeves, or something to cover my ears. I felt pretty stupid looking around and noticing I was the ONLY ONE without long sleeves on! People were bundled up for winter weather and I looked like I was ready for a summer race haha. I thought I would be ok because I tend to really warm up and sweat when I am running, but that definitely did not happen in this race!
It was about five minutes until the race started and I was surprised that everyone was still to the sides by buildings and not anywhere near the start line. I asked a fellow runner what was going on and she was confused as well. But then about 3 minutes later, the race director blew a whistle and everyone came to the start line. He had a few instructions, and then we were all off! It was kind of nice to be in such a small race that everyone could start at the same time and we didn’t have to wait or anything.
From the start, I was immediately concerned with a few things:
- It was so cold. And so windy. I would say it felt about 15 degrees, even though the temperature was about 27 degrees. LUCKILY, I had grabbed gloves before I left, but still I was freezing cold and knew this would not be a comfortable race at all. But I really just had to suck it up, because I knew there was nothing I could do about this now and I just needed to be better prepared next time.
- The race course was MUCH different than anything I was used to. Most races I have done are large so the entire roads would be marked off and we don’t have to worry about cars hitting us. Not in this race! At the start, we had to be on the side of the road and there were cars to our left going both directions. This kind of freaked me out and I knew I would have to be really cautious so that I wouldn’t get hit by a car! I definitely did not enjoy having to worry about this, but again I just had to adjust and deal with it.
- Wow, were there hills! From the start there were huge hills we had to run up and then we would have steep downhills and then a large uphill right after! I knew Missouri was hilly, but these hills were nothing like the lower rolling hills we have in the city. I read something about how this was a hilly course, but I read that about the Rock n Roll St. Louis too, and that ended up not being that bad. But this was the total opposite. These hills were no joke!
Once I really grasped what challenges were ahead of me, I just decided to run the best I could. Even though one of my goals was to start off slow and finish strong, I did not end up starting slow at all. I feel like this was because I was so anxious with everything I was having to deal with and I probably just wanted to get it done with as quickly as possible!
My first mile ended up being my fastest at 8:35 (according to my Nike+ app), but surprisingly I was not that tired and it didn’t seem THAT fast. I thought my pace would be average about 9:45/mile, but the faster pace didn’t feel bad so I ended up just trying to go fast instead of worrying about being slower. I can try that strategy in my next race 🙂
The first five miles went pretty well, and it wasn’t until about mile 7 that I started getting tired. I was getting really worn out from all the hills and the winding around throughout the course. Also, I felt like every time we were running against the strong wind, we were also running up huge hills! I was simply exhausted!
The course was kind of strange because you would go from a main street to a neighborhood to a trail and then back again. It started to not really feel like a race, but more of just a training run. It really felt like this when there was part of the pack farther ahead of me and then the rest of the pack far behind me. At times, I was worried I was going to go the wrong way, so I tried to keep the front of the pack in my sight the best I could! This was hard with all the winding through neighborhoods, but luckily I did not get lost! There was also an awesome amount of volunteers on the course, so if I was ever worried about getting lost at least I knew they wouldn’t be that far away!
When I finally made it to mile 10, I told myself that I only had 5K left, so it wouldn’t be too much longer until I was done. All I could think about was getting into my jacket that I had left in the car with Justin! That must have been some great motivation because I just kept going and finished with my best time ever for a half marathon – 2:03:02 (9:24/mile pace)! This was 9 minutes faster than my previous PR from last October, so I was very happy with my time, especially given the grueling conditions. My Nike+ app told me I ran 13.4 miles altogether, and here were each of my miles according to the app:
- 1st mile : 8:35
- 2nd mile: 9:05
- 3rd mile: 8:55
- 4th mile: 9:07
- 5th mile: 8:54
- 6th mile: 9:26
- 7th mile: 9:17
- 8th mile: 9:13
- 9th mile: 9:04
- 10th mile: 9:24
- 11th mile: 9:39
- 12th mile: 9:35
- 13th mile: 8:48
Once I crossed the finish line, I pulled off my iPhone holder and called Justin to see where he was at. Just using my phone was hard because my hands felt like they were frozen and they really hurt to move! It was so awful. I found Justin after a few minutes and I started crying because I was SO cold. I felt silly, but I could not help it! I was exhausted from the hills, wind, and cold and I just wanted to bundle up by a fire! He was very nice and blasted the heat in the car even though he obviously wasn’t as cold as I was. He was worried I had frostbite because I could not move my fingers, but I started to thaw out after about 10 minutes and began to feel much better. It was then that I could really soak in the race and how happy I was with getting a new PR!
Overall, I am happy I ran the race because it was for a great cause and I ended up running really well. I also learned many things from the race – prepare better for the weather, study the course map so I don’t have any surprises, how to persevere through tough conditions, and that I am able to keep up with a faster pace than I even realize.
I am now focusing my training even more for the Nike Half Marathon in DC on April 27th. I am really hoping to get another PR there, and end up with a sub-2 hour half marathon!