Race #68 – Heart & Sole 5K

I’ve needed to get this virtual race done for a couple of days, but reveling in the glory of my conquest of the Cowbell on Sunday, I slacked.  So sue me.

I went out today to just walk and recover, and as it ends up, take a new path on the Greenway.  Over the summer, I’ve been largely doing my stuff on the south side of the Greenway.  Today, I took to the north side of it.

The nice thing about the northern leg is that there’s very little vehicle traffic that crosses it.  There’s only one big intersection, and one little one.  This is great, as it keeps me focused on the path ahead of me, and keeps me from having to look over my shoulder for cars.

The downside is that it’s hilly.  Much more so than the southern trail only a couple hundred feet away.  Nonetheless, I had a great walk, and explored parts of the trail that I’ve never been on before.  In fact, some of what I explored today will probably be a big part of some longer distances in the future.

Today’s race benefitted the American Heart Association.

Race Course

Race #67 – Mo’ Cowbell 5K

This is the third year I’ve run in the Mo’ Cowbell 5K.  It’s a great race, well supported, and draws big crowds.  This year, there were over 5000 folks running across the four events (5K, half marathon, marathon, and relay).

Parking, however, is a challenge.  There’s plenty, but most of it isn’t close.  Rather than fight the crowds, I park at Ameristar Casino, and walk up to the race course, about a mile away.  It’s a good warm-up and cool-down, and gives me some quiet time to either plan or reflect, depending on which direction I’m headed.

I got to the course a little later than the last couple of times I’ve run the Cowbell, which was fine as far as starting the race was concerned.  I was there fifteen minutes or so before the marathon started, with the 5K starting thirty minutes after that.  No biggie.  But by coming a little later, the lines were amazing.  For example, there seemed to be plenty of port-o-potties, but the lines for those were staggering!  I’m so glad I’d taken care of business before leaving the house.

The organizers had erected a giant cowbell in Frontier Park, with the promise that you could ring it after the race if you did something notable in your race. There were photographers there, posing you with the bell pre-race, and I grabbed the cord, telling myself that today was gonna be something big.

Oddly enough, they didn’t play “Don’t Fear the Reaper” pre-race.  That’s been traditional, with 5000 little cowbells ringing right along.  Not sure what happened there, but I missed that this morning.

The marathoners started, and we began lining up in our corrals.  Of course, there were so few of us doing the 5K (compared to the marathoners), we started to creep up toward the start line rather than staying near our designated pace corrals.  After a group photo by the organizers, we were off!

Now, my last three weeks’ running have been amazing.  The last two in-person events had great finish times with strong splits, and Wednesday, I came within thirty seconds of a PR.  I’d done the math, and figured out what I needed to do in order to PR in the race today.  In fact, I’d gotten myself so worked up about that, that I had butterflies last night before going to bed.  I hadn’t been this nervous before a race in a long, long time.  I even woke up around midnight, not exactly feeling well.  If it’s possible to overthink a race, I did it.

I tried to keep a reasonable pace as we got started, shooting for somewhere around 9:20/km, which would put me in PR territory.  In truth, I probably started a little fast, finishing the first km in 8:52.  I did to myself though.  There’s only one decent hill on the course, and is in the first kilometer.  Historically, it’s kicked my butt, but not this year.  I kicked into a gear that I’ve been working on at the Greenway, and ran my fastest pace of the whole race going up that stupid hill!

Just past midway, we transitioned from the roads to the Katy Trail, a crushed limestone railbed.  There is no question about it, I am nowhere near as fast on that surface as I was on the roads.  My two slowest kilometers were on the limestone, and that had me worried about whether I could get to a new PR.

The last kilometer was back on the pavement, and I started seeing a little faster pace again.  I started crunching numbers in my head as I felt like I was creeping toward the finish line.  As I approached the finish, I noticed the clock at the line, and it said an hour, twelve minutes and change.  Really?  Over an hour?  How’d I screw this up?  And then I noticed that there were two lanes, one for the marathoners, and one for the 5K runners.  I saw my clock sitting below 46 minutes, and I knew I’d done it…

I had the PR I’ve been working so hard for this year!

So how big a deal was this?  Well, I’d set my previous PR on the Greenway back in 2012, and shaved nearly 1:30 off that time today.  Compared to last year’s run on this course for the Cowbell — 56 races ago! — I cut just over six minutes from my time.  For me, this really was something big, and a huge accomplishment.

Ring That Bell!
Ring That Bell!

After I crossed the line, I got my medal, water, chocolate milk, and went in search of that big bell.  I found it, told the photographers about my PR, and found a mallet on the ground.  I told ’em I was gonna ring the bell, Thor-style.  I walloped that thing, and let everyone in the park know that I’d beaten the course, beaten the little voices in my head, and began October on an incredibly high note.

Race Course

Race #66 – Race Like a Pirate 5K

For the last day of September, I had one more virtual race up my sleeve, and one I shoulda done a week or so ago… Virtual Run Events‘ Race Like a Pirate 5k!

Weather in Da Lou has just made a move from “too hot” last week, to “just right”.  The temps were in the low 60s at lunch time yesterday, without a cloud in the sky… perfect weather for me!  I went up the Greenway, stretched, and set about to making the course mine.

For Saturday’s race,  I’d planned to go out, and own the course.  And I did, until my knee started bothering me.  Once I “walked it off”, I was able to get back to some speedy splits, and still finished with one of the best times I’d had all year… and that was on a flat course.  That inspired me, though, and I decided that I was gonna put everything I had into this run.

I started my run, and it was like someone else was making the moves.  Everything came sooooo easy, and pretty dang quickly, I found that I’d run the first kilometer, which brings me to a little plateau.  I walked the plateau a bit, and as the trail fell away on the other side of it, I ran down that side.

And that’s how it went for the whole distance.  Way more running than walking, and everything seemed to hold up.  And by the time I was at 5K, I was within 30 seconds of a PR (which was also set on this course).  A fantastic run on a pretty hilly course!

This weekend, the Mo’ Cowbell 5K takes place, and it’s a very, very flat course.  If yesterday’s run was any indication, I may have a PR opportunity come Sunday!

This race benefitted the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

Race Course

Race #65 – Public Lands Day 5K

After running in Flat as a Pancake this morning, and having some concerns about my knee, I decided a walk tonight would be a good thing for me.

The folks at Vacation Races have put together quite a few virtual races this year that have been related to our National Parks and public lands.  Today’s virtual race was in celebration of those lands.

Since the theme was public lands, I walked my neighborhood, trying to hit public trails that are closely.  Ellisville has a ton of multi-use trails, which is an awesome thing to have so close by.

I walked down our street, and started down Quailwoods Trail.  This trail has a huge downhill on the front side, and winds through a beautiful wooded area.  It’s serene, without too many houses along the way, and a couple of benches, in case you wanna just hang out and listen to the birds.

After exiting Quailwoods Trail, and a little more street walking, I walked down a familiar trail, Wren Trail.  I walk this one quite a bit.  It’s just a flat paved trail, in a generally wooded area, and is used by a lot of folks to cut through the neighborhoods.

All good things have to come to an end, so my public lands stroll wound back through to neighborhood, I finished by going the other direction on Quailwoods Trail, this time climbing the hill, before returning to the house.

In all, a nice stroll!

Race Course

Race #64 – Flat as a Pancake 5K

I’d heard about this race somewhere along the way, as I was scouting new races (to me, anyway!) close to home.  Like the All American 5K earlier in the year, this race promised fast speeds because the course was so flat.  I was intrigued, and went into it planning to leave nothing on the course.

On Thursday, we picked up my bib and shirt from Cabela’s at the St. Louis Outlet Mall, site of the race.  Cabela’s is very pet friendly, so we hauled Roxy up there for a little face time with shoppers in the store.  She did really well with everyone she ran into, and got all the attention a pup of three months could possibly want.

This morning, I headed back to the outlet mall, and got ready to race.  As is pretty common for me, I got there early, and got to watch the volunteers set up.  This race reminded me why “in person” races have such appeal.  There were some vendors, a wall of velcro to stick yourself to, hot coffee… it was a very nice set up.

Old Glory
Old Glory

Race time came pretty quickly.  Someone led us all in prayer.  We released balloons, remembering the losses and celebrating the victories of those with lymphoma.  The National Anthem was played, and we were shooed to the start line.  With the crack of a small cannon, we were off!

The conditions couldn’t have been better.  The sun was just coming up, and temperature was hovering around 60°.  And this place was flat.  We were largely running on the road that surrounds the mall, and from the race results I saw, the course only rose and lost three feet of elevation.  That’s crazy flat!

I jogged the first mile.  I know that doesn’t sound like much, but that’s a big deal for me.  It’s probably been a year since I’ve done that.  The body is capable, but my brain always sabotages me, telling me I need to rest my legs.  At a jogging pace (~9 min/km or so), there’s no reason my body needs to rest, because I’m just gonna walk at ~10 min/km — not that big a difference!  I was thrilled, and started to do the math, and it looked like I was on pace for a PR.  I slowed to my walking pace for the second mile, thinking I would save some energy, and plan for a third mile streak.

The course had a little pylon-made cul-de-sac through an intersection to help put the extra distance in to get us to 5km.  Coming out of the cul-de-sac, I found my left knee was in excrutiating pain.  I adjusted my knee brace, which provided no help. I removed my brace, and again, there was no relief.  I stop against a tree, and rubbed my knee, and still, there was this awful pain.

I kept walking, but my pace had dropped from about 15 min/mi to about 22 min/mi, and I was facing the second half of the race taking almost twice as long as the first half.  And I really thought that I was facing my first DNF since I started doing these events over three years ago.  And after a few very awkward moments of walking a major hitch in my giddy-up, my knee settled down, and I slowly increased my pace, and was back to my normal walking speed of ~10 min/km.

As inexplicably as this pain came on, it was just as inexplicably gone.  i still don’t know what happened, but I was able to knock out the last two kilometers not too far off my jogging pace.  Obviously, this has me concerned, but I’ll just keep an eye on that for now.

Breakfast of Champions
Breakfast of Champions

Post race, the organizers had arranged for Chris Cakes to provide an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast for the runners.  The guys on the griddle were flipping pancakes onto plates, and saw me coming up, and flipped four pancakes on my plate.  Obviously, they’d dealt with my kind before.  :-)  Add to that some sausage links, orange juice and chocolate milk (YES, THEY HAD CHOCOLATE MILK!!!!), I sat down at a picnic table under an awning, and inhaled my breakfast.  I know I coulda done more pancake damage, but I also knew that I really didn’t need to do that.

All told, this was a great event, and one that’ll be back on my calendar next year.  Flat course, breakfast provided, and the potential for some speed… how can I go wrong?

This race benefitted Race to End Lymphoma.

Race Course

Race #63 – Garden of Reflection 5K

Twenty.  It’s a great number.  The number of sides on a gamer’s die.  Almost the age to drink. A score of things.  And twenty degrees makes a miserable difference between my last run and this one.

The weather sites this morning indicated it’d be about 73 at 11am, and I vowed I would do this race at lunch.  I got myself ready, and jetted out of the house just past 11am… and realized that I’d been lied to.  It was well over 80°, with a nary a cloud in the sky.  Nonetheless, I kept on keepin’ on, and made my way to the Greenway.
I ran for a while, and then the heat caught up with me, and it became a pretty slow walking slog.  Still, finished is finished (I say that a lot!), and I was happy to put another virtual notch in my virtual race belt.  :-)
Race Course

Race #62 – Beat the Blerch 5K

What a difference a day makes!

Last year, at the Hospital Hill 5K, I saw someone sporting a shirt that read “I Believe in The Blerch”.  I had no idea what that meant, so I hit up Uncle Google when I got done, and found a webcomic about The Blerch.  Essentially, it’s the amalgamation of everything that sabotages your running.

There are “in person” Beat the Blerch races on both coasts, but they’ve added a virtual, and I couldn’t resist jumping in.  It’s kinda pricey, but you get a medal, shirt, real bib, stress ball, snacks, stickers… a Blerchucopia of goodies.  :-)

Last night, I committed to running my Blerch race, and this morning, when the Sun started to peek out, I got up.  We’d had thunderstorms come through over night, so this morning, instead of facing 75° and icky humidity, it was about 64°, sunny, and slightly windy.  Great conditions!

I took off, westward, with the Sun at my back, and enjoyed some quick splits, and hit the halfway point, turning around into the Sun.  it was around this time that I decided to try another energy packet.

Last weekend, I tried a Gu root beer pack, and liked it quite a bit.  This morning, I took a Huma mango gel with me.  Unlike the root beer, this stuff was nasty.  I love mangoes, but this was pretty awful tasting stuff.  Of course, YMMV.  Part of what I’m having to learn to get past is the texture of some of these.  The root beer Gu was like the stuff you squeeze out of a bug, and this Huma was like baby food.  Frankly, the texture may be the thing that drives to using one brand versus another!

All that said, another 5k is in the books, early in the day, leaving me with the rest of the day to fight the Blerch!

Race Course

Race #61 – Time Lord Charity Run 5K

I’d gotten wind of this race somewhere along the way, watching for interesting virtual races.  An outfit in Utah, Geek’d Out Running Club, put it on, and they seem to have a lot of these science fiction themed races, this one being Doctor Who themed..  In fact, this race also has a “in person” event this weekend in/near Salt Lake City.  I signed up for this, thinking that this weekend was a pretty quiet one for me.  However…

This morning, I kinda didn’t wanna get up.

Darla had an outpatient knee procedure yesterday, and I took both yesterday and today off to help her out.  I slept just a little bit late yesterday, and when sunrise came this morning, I tried hard to kick it to the curb.  However, I’m just a bug compared to the Sun, so it won, and I got up, pulled on my running duds, and went out.

It was hot yet again this morning in Da Lou.  This past Sunday, my race started at 48° in the sun.  This morning, it was 75°, cloudy, and ohhh so muggy.  Not great conditions for this running dude.

However, I drove up to the Greenway, and put my happy face on the morning.  And it really ended up being a pretty good trek.  I kept it slow, knowing that the heat can debilitate me pretty quickly if I’m not respectful of it.  And I put a carrot at the end of my stick…


I’d gotten a couple of offers from Starbucks, one for a free drink, and another for a free breakfast sammich.  Conveniently, my 5K course ends at their door, so that worked really well.  I picked up a bacon-egg-cheese croissant and a Frappucino, sat outside, and had a nice little reward for morning well-started!

This race benefitted the American Childhood Cancer Organization.

Race Course

Race #60 – Arnold Days Root Beer Foam Fest 5K

I’d heard about this race a month or two ago when I was looking for “in person” events near Da Lou.  I was kinda saving this weekend for Patriot Day races — and a Cardinals 6K race — but once I got my schedule figured out, this race got in scope for me.  And once a Groupon deal came up for the race entry fee, it became an easy decision to get this on my calendar.

I’d done a little research on this race, and I thought you had to chug root beer periodically along the course.  As it ends up, that wasn’t the case at all.  At the first and second mile, there were tables with little cups of water or root beer, whichever you’d like.  I stuck with the root beer, and kinda liked that little boost of sugar during the race.

I’d never run in this park before.  The course was paved, mostly shaded, and really flat.  And with that flatness, I put a little speed into play during my first kilometer, running the first kilometer.  That’s a little unusual for me lately, as I’ve been more focused on intervals.  However, with the temperature at the start hovering below 50°, it felt pretty comfortable, and I ran my first sub-nine min/km split in quite a while.

My other splits were pretty good, with the third and fifth kilometer in the sub-ten minute range.  I was way pleased with that, and wonder if this is a sign that my winter holds some better splits as I take on some longer distances.

Post race, the race organizers laid out quite a spread… including White Castle’s breakfast sandwiches!  Not healthy, I know, but a wonderful finale to a good race.

Race Course

Race #59 – 9/11 Memorial 5K

After yesterday’s late-race debacle, I wasn’t feeling good about this morning’s 9/11 Memorial 5K.  This race was to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project, though, and I figured I owed it to our heroes to get my lazy butt out of bed, and on the trail.  :-)

After getting dressed and a little breakfast, I pointed the Jeep to the Greenway.  It was surprisingly chilly, even with the sun already up.  The Jeep’s thermometer read 54°, and at speed on Highway 100, it felt every bit of it!

I stretched out, and got on course.  I’d already decided to just walk today.  I needed the miles, but I needed to recover too, so it was a planned slow go.  With the great temps, the walk went very, very well, and I finished in about the same time I did yesterday, but feeling very much better upon completion.  Success!

I did add something to my journey this morning.  I’d talked with the folks at Fleet Feet a few weeks ago about my upcoming half marathon in Tulsa — just two months away!  We talked about in-race nutrition and fueling.  From that conversation, I picked up a handful of Gu packets.  I’ve never used any kind of race nutrition before, and I was nervous about some of the things I’d heard about it:  not hitting the stomach right, weird textures, and flavors that weren’t exactly great.

Well, I open a root beer flavored Gu about 15 minutes in, and while the consistency was indeed odd — like a really thick honey — the flavor was kinda like a slightly weak root beer barrel candy.  I felt no ill effects, and while I can’t point to any specific help it brought, I did finish feeling well.

More racing to come tomorrow!

This race benefitted the Wounded Warrior Project.

Race Course

can·a·peel (noun) ˈkan-ə-pēl – A meal with a lot of variety, where each participant finds and cooks their own food.