Tag Archives: races

Race #71 – Rock ‘n’ Roll 5K

In the second of my back-to-back downtown weekend runs, today I completed the Rock ‘n’ Roll 5K here in Da Lou.

This race started out with some crunky packet pickup woes.  For some reason, the folks that run the race only had the expo open on Friday from 1pm to 6pm, with no same-day packet pickup… for a race that started at 8am on Saturday.  To say the least, this was pretty inconvenient, given that I work for a living, and live about 30 miles away from America’s Center, where the expo was held.  However, knowing I wanted to get this one done, I took off from work a little early, drove to the train stop, and rode Metrolink into town.  The only nice thing about having to deal with this on Friday was that it allowed me the opportunity to pick up train tickets for this morning, and to fill up the Jeep in preparation for the race.

The clock went off this morning at 5:20, and I started my normal race day routine — big glass of water, and an English muffin with peanut butter and honey.  I’d gathered everything up last night that I’d need, and got on the road at 6am, knowing that I had two hours to get to the race site.

I arrived at the Brentwood Metro station, and waited for the train.  And waited.  And waited.  Eventually the train came, but only after I learned that there was track maintenance going on downtown, and that I would have to change trains in order to get there.  This made for some long delays, causing the other runners on the train to wonder if some runners conspired against us by sabotaging the train system so there’d be less competition!  🙂

I got in place in my corral just about 7:30, which was cutting it a little closer than I’d care for, and I awaited the start of the race.  I’d re-aggravated a minor foot injury this week, and with that in mind, I knew I was gonna take it easy today, so I went over my game plan for the day.  I was gonna walk a lot of the course to lower the potential for really tweaking my foot, and be happy with anything just above fifty minutes.

Sunrise on the Start Line
Sunrise on the Start Line

Quickly, the race start time approached, and just as the National Anthem began to play, folks began to move up in the corrals.  I stood still, hat over heart, and facing the flags around us.  I know this is the grumpy old man in me rearing his ugly head, but it really bothered me that folks weren’t respectful of the anthem and flag, and were walking around, chatting among themselves, and carrying on.  It wasn’t exactly like the recording was being played softly!

Once I got past my little grumpy event, the corrals started being released.  I was in the third (and slowest) corral, and got to watch the expanse of folks in the other two corrals ahead of me.  By the time we were released, people stretched for almost a kilometer, in a head-bobbing mass of running humanity.  Pretty dang cool to see.

I crossed the start line, and jogged as I started.  And with no pain in my foot, I kept jogging.  Quickly, the first kilometer was behind me, at just under nine-and-a-half minutes.  Not wanting to press my luck, I slowed to a walk for the second and third kilometers, each of which were around 10:30.  However, the landscape changed, and began to be mostly downhill as I headed to toward the river and finish line.  And with that slight downward incline, I kicked into a jog again, with my last two kilometers coming in at just a wiggle over nine minutes each.


I’d expected a slow race, and had prepared myself for something just over fifty minutes.  As it ends up, I cruised into a finish just under 49 minutes, which I was thrilled with.  I grabbed my medal, and started making my way through the “secure” runners area.

There were a couple of disappointments on the course.  First, the one and only water table was just before 4km into the race, which is far too late to be worth much.  The second was the availability of snacks at the finish line.  I had a bottle of water, a bag of pretzels and a banana by the time I’d walked through the line.  Frankly, that was a little disappointing, as I was really expecting chocolate milk at the finish.  The chocolate milk folks had a huge display at the expo, which led me to expect chocolate milk would be lying in wait at every corner.  Ah well.

A Year Ago - Race #17
A Year Ago – Race #17

What’s kinda interesting is that Facebook reminded me that a year ago, I was running the first of two back-to-back Rock ‘n’ Roll 5K’s.  It’s kinda nice to reflect on that race weekend, and contrast it against this one.  That was the first time I’d run two 5K’s back-to-back, and it was tough.  I suffered through that first race, finishing just barely under 51 minutes, and feeling lucky for that time.  The second 5K on Sunday was nearly ten minutes slower.

This year, I cruised through the course, finishing easily under 49 minutes.  And that coulda been much faster, had I not been taking it easy.  I’ve talked about this before, but I think plenty of practice this year has bred some real self-confidence.  By the time of the RnR last year, I’d only run nine races all year.  This year, the RnR was my 50th race of the year.  I’ve learned to be comfortable in my running skin, and know that I can do this.  I’ve figured out a nice pace that works well for me, and I’ve really gotten focused on making a race plan, and running that, regardless of the folks who pass me.  Shedding all that mental baggage has helped me enjoy running, and look forward to every run.  And yeah, it’s nice to see some improvement in my times, although that’s not really the goal!

This race benefitted Our Little Haven, TASK, and Unlimited Play.

Race Course

Race #70 – Great GO! St. Louis Halloween 5K

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a fan of racing downtown.  The roads are rough, with lots of variations in the surface from repeated work and patching, and plenty of ridges from years of traffic.  And, historically, I haven’t done well downtown.  Add all that together, and you have a pretty reasonable set of excuses for my dislike of running downtown.  What possessed me to run back-to-back races downtown is a mystery to me.  (Yes, next week’s race is down there, as well.)

The one thing I have always enjoyed about downtown races is the travel.  I drive about halfway to downtown, park for free, and then pay five bucks for a roundtrip ticket that takes me almost all the way to the start line.  No parking downtown, some “me” time to think about strategy or recover, and (usually) trains full of other runners… that rocks.

It could be worse...
It could be worse…

Today, I got downtown about 45 minutes before the start of the 5K, and wandered around the “runner’s village.”  A little bit of Kaldi’s coffee, and it quickly became time to line up.

This was a Halloween race, so there were tons of costumes.  I didn’t get dressed up — only maybe 20% were costumed — but I enjoyed those that did.  There were butterflies, demons, cartoon characters, and superheroes, all there, like me, to put their feet on the ground.

Indy and his boulder
Indy and his boulder

The horn sounded, and we were off.  I had a pretty good idea that I wasn’t gonna set a PR downtown.  The hills and road conditions just take time for me to navigate, and I knew my history downtown.  With that in mind, I figured I’d be happy with a sub-50 minute finish for this race.  I happened to find a good tune on my iPod at the beginning of the race, and I chugged out onto the course.

I started running, and I just ran into a rhythm — much the same way things have gone the last month or so — and it just came easy.  My kilometer splits were all sub-10 minutes, with the first and last under nine minutes.  It just came together… again… and in what seemed like no time, I was at the finish line.

Somehow over the last month, I’ve learned to quieten the little voice in my head that tells me I have to walk instead of run.  I’ve squelched the nerves, knowing that if I’m running a 5K, I’ve got it covered.  That’s confidence that’s come from week-after-week of getting out on the trails and courses, practicing, pushing myself, and learning how to manage me during race conditions.

I know and support that if you get out there on-course, you’re a runner.  For the first time since I started doing this almost four years ago, I feel like a runner, and that’s a feeling I can’t even describe.

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 #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

Race #58 – Patriot Day 5K

With all the running this year, I began looking for Patriot Day-themed races.  This is an especially meaningful day for me, and I love the thought of doing something in honor of all those lost.

Today, I ran the Frogman Charities’ Patriot Day 5K.  Frogman Charities was formed by a former Navy SEAL, and benefits several Navy SEAL charities.  Add to that a medal and challenge coin (both shown in the header above), and suddenly I found myself signing up for another race!

I couldn’t have picked better weather for today’s run, which I did at lunch.  The beginning was awesome… temps in the 60s, clouds and breeze.  Mother Nature only suckered me in though.  By the time I hit my turnaround point, I was dealing with some sunlight breaking through the clouds, and a crazy amount of humidity as the morning’s rain began to suck back up into the atmosphere.

My first two kilometers were really amazing, and were some of the fastest times I’ve had in a while.  The last three kilometers, and in particular, the last kilometer, were pretty ugly.  Too much speed up front, and worsening conditions (for me, anyway!), and that spelled a tough second half of the race.

But done is done, and every mile matters.  I can live with that.  And I had some time to reflect on the meaning of today.  As I wrote a long, long time ago, I think 9/11 was my generation’s Pearl Harbor, and I know I still think back to that day, and the weeks after, and it’s as clear as day to me.

This race benefitted UDT-Seal Association, Navy SEAL Museum and Foundation for Navy SEAL Veterans.

Race Course

Race #57 – Smile Run 5K

While on our cruise in April, we met a wonderful couple, MaryBeth and Mike, who were deeply involved in suicide prevention causes in the northeast.  After hearing their story, I knew I needed to run this race to benefit AFSP.  This one’s for y’all…

Hot day again, with temperatures about like they were yesterday, but without my nemesis, Mister Sun.  However, his evil compadre, Señor Humidity, made an incredible appearance.  I had great intentions of running more and faster than yesterday, and while I did both of those things, I only ended up with an “average” run.

However, it wasn’t all bad.  I met Becky and our new puppy, Roxy, at Starbucks for a little coffee, and some time to catch up with an old friend.  And lemme tell ya, if you sit outside a Starbucks with a puppy, you will be the center of attention!  Doubly so when it’s a big fuzzy Bernese Mountain Dog.  Roxy loved it, and so did we.

So another tough-ish race in the books, and more miles in this crazy year of running!

This race benefitted the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Race Course

Race #56 – RNMP Centenary 5K

This race was the second of three I’d signed up for from Vacation Races, and commemorates the 100th anniversary of Rocky Mountain National Park.

It’s hot here in Da Lou.  Today’s high is 97.  Did I mention that it’s hot?

Fortunately, I got out around 7:30 this morning, while it was only 76. Still hotter than I care for, but things weren’t going to get any better today.

There are some mornings when I get up, and it’s just tough to get out and run.  This morning, however, I’d read some things on Facebook that just inspired me to get out there and move.  Facebook is sometimes the worst of the world, and sometimes the best.  As I drank my morning coffee, I read some of the uglier things I’ve read in a while about my chosen sport and more significantly, about the way I approach and execute my running.  So yeah, I went out the door in a bit of a snit.

Some days, you run for the health and peace that it brings, and some days, you run to just clear the muck, and today was the latter.  I tromped around on the Greenway, and got through my miles, plus a little extra, putting the Facebook-induced ick behind me.

That’s one of the huge benefits I get from running.  I kill my stress.  I clear my brain.  And, I can put things into perspective.

That’s something you just can’t put a price tag on!

Race Course

Race #55 – National Park System 99th Birthday 5K

A company called Vacation Races puts on some great races in our national parks.  They’re largely longer distance races — half and full marathons — and most of ’em have been way far away from here.  However, they also do some virtual races, and I’ve signed up for a few of them.

The first of these is the National Park System 99th Birthday 5K.  This race celebrates the anniversary of the creation of the National Park System, and is part of a trifecta of virtual races from Vacation Races for me.  I’m also running the Rocky Mountain National Park Centenary 5K (next week) and Public Lands Day 5K (in late September).  I mean, why wouldn’t you wanna celebrate all these beautiful places?

This morning, I returned to the Wildwood Greenway, site of wonderful and awful runs of late.  I struggled to get motivated, but walked straight to my running clothes when I got up, and put them on.  Somehow, I knew that donning my “superhero uniform” would help slide me out the door.  An English muffin and part of a bad cuppa joe later, I was out the door, and headed to the Greenway.

It was chilly this morning, with the air temperature around 53 degrees.  With the doors off the Jeep and the roof down, it made for a very cool short drive to the Greenway.  I love that though, and I think that just primed the pump for a good morning.

I stretched, and started on trail.  I had some good music in my ears, and felt like I had a pretty good pace going.  I’ve striving to get below fifty minutes regularly, which is sub-10mins/km.  My first split was a few seconds over ten minutes, and my second was a few seconds under, which put me in a good place.  My third kilometer was slow though, at 10:22.  There’s a long upward slope at that point, and frankly, I slowed my pace a bit to rest as I went.

And then, it happened.

As I got into my fourth kilometer, I glanced at my watch and noticed that my overall pace was sub-10min/km.  I had just powered up a short, steep hill, and it really affected my overall time.  Suddenly, I was inspired, and paid attention to the run/walk intervals my watch was driving me to.  And the running felt good… really good.  My fourth kilometer split was 9:14, which inspired me even more.  My fifth kilometer was 9:08, which is screaming fast for me, especially in the last part of the run.

I don’t know what happened, but I wish I could capture it in a bottle, and use it again.  It all just clicked for me this morning, and gave me one of the fastest times I’ve ever had on the Greenway.  In face, this morning was many minutes faster than most of the runs I’ve had up there since I returned to it.

As the front of my Jeep says, “Happy, happy, happy!”

Race Course




Race #54 – The Galaxy Run 5K

Another day, another virtual race!  🙂

I found The Galaxy Run a few weeks ago from the Will Run for Bling folks, and given the design of the medal, I couldn’t pass it up!

This morning, I took myself up to the Wildwood Greenway yet again, trying to redeem myself after Thursday’s debacle on the Greenway.  Once again, the conditions were kinda tough — 70°, but close to 100% humidity — but I was determined not to let that deter me.

Lately, I’ve been treating these virtual races without the same rigor I’d have for an “in person” event.  Several months ago, I learned that treating a virtual race like an in-person race put my brain in the right place, and helped me to do the right things before going out… eating right, dressing appropriately, using my braces, etc.

This morning, I did all the right things, and went in with the attitude that I was just gonna walk today, and put good, solid miles under my feet.  And basically, that’s what I did.

I’m still tuning my music for my pace, and probably will keep doing that for a while.  I found a few tracks that have a little faster pace than is comfy for me, but others are becoming regular favorites.  I really do believe that’s helping me quite a bit with my movement.  Heck, “Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas floated across my iPod, and I starting singing along.  I think there’s a law in support of that behavior!

More and more, it’s obvious to me that the biggest enemy I have in my racing is me.  I’m quick to just “settle” for a walking pace, and can be sometimes self-defeating.  These are just little mental games that I need to grow past, and more success will squeeze that out of my noggin, I’m sure.  Walks like today — tough, but successful — are foundational for putting my brain in the right place as I take on these challenges that three years ago, I would’ve never ever attempted.  This kind of mental gymnastics on the positive things I’m doing is every bit as important as any physical stretching I might do before I run.

I’ve just gotta keep that mental finish line in front of me!

This race benefitted Easter Seals.

Race Course