Tag Archives: racing

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 #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 #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

Race #53 – Take Your Kicks to Route 66 5K

St. Louis — like much of the midwest — has a thing about Route 66.  The Mother Road ran right through town, and just past where I live out here in the ‘burbs.

And with that has come some historical preservation, and some growth of the road.  The Route 66 State Park, for example,  memorializes both the route of Route 66, and the town of Times Beach and its ecological disaster.  And Manchester Road, where I’ve been running a lot lately, is on the route of the old road.

When I saw this virtual medal come up through Full Medal Runs, I knew I had to get it, and I knew where I’d have to run it — right alongside Route 66!  The city of Wildwood has built the multi-use Wildwood Greenway as a connector to other trails in the area, and included a pedestrian bridge over the Manchester Road (old Route 66) to provide access between the north and south trails.  This is a paved trail, and while a little hilly, isn’t too awful.  Folks walk, run, and cycle on this trail seemingly every day.

When I first started running — three years ago — this trail was my go to place.  I knew where the 5K turnaround point was, and there’s no vehicular traffic to deal with.  It’s still the site of my PR in the 5K distance back in 2012.  (Picture a turtle being chased by a slightly faster turtle to whom he owes money.)

Thursday, at lunch, I decided to put this trail to good use, and earn this medal.  I was coming off the color run over the weekend, and a terrific interval run on the Greenway (0:30/1:30 splits), and figured it was a cooler day, and would be a great experience.  I was a little over expectant!

I got to the trail, stretched, and got moving.  And unfortunately, in the first ten minutes, I knew this wasn’t gonna be good.  The sun was much hotter feeling than I was expecting, and my shins were already starting to complain.  What I thought was gonna a be a great interval run turned into “just” a walk, with some real slow parts for me.

I don’t know if I started out too fast, didn’t stretch enough, or if the conditions were just that bad for me… regardless of the cause, the going was slow and methodical, with a mantra to “get ‘er done.”  And ultimately, I did finish — I haven’t “not” finished yet — and secured another medal (which should arrive next week!) for my medal display, and chocked up more miles for me this year.

This race benefitted the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

Race Course


Race #52 – The Color Run Night 5K

I’ve said it before, I’m not much for “novelty races” — mud runs, cave crawls, and the like.  It’s not the I mind the events too much, but a lot of them are nationwide touring events with no medals.  However, there are a few things that’ll trip my trigger, and pique my interest.  One is NASCAR tracks.

When I found out that the Color Run Night was gonna be held on the track at Gateway Motor Speedway, I was in.  There was no medal, but it was on the track!  And then, I discovered that they also had another race from these folks in September, the Color Run Shine, that would have a medal.  Woot!  I signed up for both.

Unfortunately, I got an email a couple of days ago that the Shine race in September was gonna be cancelled.  No real explanation, just due to “circumstances beyond our control.”  There went my medal, but I still had the race on the track, so that was good.

I went out Saturday morning, and started gathering the things I’d need for the race — goggles (to protect my glasses and eyes), a couple of cowbells, and lots of glo-sticks.  I wanted to be dressed right for this event!

Drag Strip
Drag Strip

I got to the track a couple of hours ahead of the race start, as suggested, and wandered around the facility.  This track is both an oval, as well as drag strip.  When I was a kid, I liked drag racing, and it was extremely cool to stand at the start line, and look down the track.

As it was really hot — about 90° — I figured I needed hydration and a little food.  The concessionaires were dealing, so I scarfed a big ol’ soft pretzel and a bottle of water.

And knowing there was no medal, I went to the “company store” and picked up a keychain.  I figured I could get some ribbon, and make a medal out of that little plastic do-dad.

The stage group were whipping the growing crowd into a frenzy, with music, swag flung into the crowd, and group Zumba.  It was looking to be a good-sized and energetic group as the sun set, and we got closer to the start time.

Start Line
Start Line

We started to corral near the start line, and it was evident that this was gonna be fun.  Folks had their lights, glo-sticks and glow-in-the-dark stuff revved up, and little by little, we were released in waves onto the course.

Shortly after my wave took off, we turned, and found ourselves on the drag strip.  Although it was dark, you could still see the dark rubber from all the burnouts.  Walking on that, however, was anything but fast.  The rubber laid down by all those tires was tacky, and it felt like you were walking on fly paper.  Probably the weirdest thing I’ve ever walked on!

One after another, the throng I was with crossed into color zones where we were doused in colored powder.  There was also a zone with bubble machines, and another with black-light messages on the pavement.  From the flats of the straightaways to the banks of the turns, the course was great, and loads of fun.

One thing I’ll mention is that the course was short of 5K — my Garmin measured about 4.3km, but with the walk from the parking to the course, and back, I’m counting it as a 5K!

Crossing the finish line, I was handed a bag, filled with the same colored powder that was covering everyone.  This was for the after-party.  And then, someone put a medal in my hand.

Now, the medal was a “Shine” medal, not a “Night” medal, but that was fine with me.  My guess is that the medals for the Shine event on September 19th were already in town, so they were just used for this event.  Works for me!

The after-party was a blast.  People were everywhere, all covered in every color of the rainbow, and all having a great time.  Every ten minutes or so, the announcer would countdown to another “color blast”, which is when those bags of color would be launched among the crowd.  It’d look like a massive fog falling from the sky when folks would fling their colored powder in the air.  It was really cool, and gave a great medium for the lasers from the stage to shine through.

And finally, they had a fireworks show.  And not just bottle rockets — real good fireworks that went on and on.


When I got home, I got a good look at my clothes, and man was I a mess!  I had color-covered arms.  I had a color-covered belly — I have no idea how that happened!  My shoes were orange.  I was a mess.

After I got in the house, and figured out how to keep from tracking color all over the place, I hopped in the shower, and began to try to scrub off all the color from me.  Frankly, I was surprisingly successful, although there’s still a little color on me.  During the shower, though, it looked like someone was wringing out a Smurf — so much dirty blue-ish colored water!!

Yeah, I don’t usually do this kind of race, but I believe this may be a return event for me.  It was that fun!

EDIT:  Here’s the video from the race.  Warning… it’s kinda long!

This race benefitted the American Red Cross of Eastern Missouri.

Race Course

Race #51 – Quest for the Golden Pearl 5K

With exceptionally cool morning weather this week, I resolved last night to get up early today, and run.  It didn’t hurt that the Perseid meteor shower was also coming up on its peak (which is tonight).  So,  at 4:30am, I drug my tired self out of bed, threw on my running gear, and walked out on the deck, both to confirm the temperature was as predicted, as well as to see if there were any streakers in the sky.  The temp was great, but I saw nothing of the Perseids.  🙁

I scarfed a little breakfast (water and an English muffin with peanut butter and some wonderful honey from the pantry — this stuff was kinda green colored, and crazy sweet!), and trucked out to the site of my last awful run… the Wildwood Greenway.

This time, Mr. Sun wasn’t gonna harsh my buzz.

Last night, I set up my Garmin a little differently, albeit still for intervals.  In the ill-fated run on Monday, I set up intervals in the Training set of menus.  This was the way I was accustomed to doing intervals with my old Garmin, so I thought that was right.  When doing it like that, however, you can only specify a specific number of cycles of running and walking, and in the online app, splits are shown as a function of those cycles, rather than kilometers or miles.  Not great, but the price of entry.

Playing around with the menus, I saw that I could set up an alert for my running/walking intervals, and after a little testing from the couch last night, I knew I’d found the right settings — prompting for run-to-walk transitions (and vice-versa!), as well as preserving my kilometer splits.  Perfect!  With my intervals set to 30secs of running and 90secs of walking, I was ready.

So this morning at the Greenway, I exited the Jeep, stretched, and hit the magic button on the Garmin to start timing whatever was to come.  I knew that I’d use the first three cycles (six minutes) to warm up and wake up.  Those passed quickly, and I made a commitment…

I was gonna let my Garmin have its way with me, and make me its whiny bitch.  When it said “run”, I’d run.  When it said “walk”, I’d think about it.  🙂

And that’s what I did.  I powered up some hills that usually cause me big grief.  I ran down the backside of some hills, extending my running cycle into my walking cycle because it felt good.  In fact, I ran up some of the hills faster than I ran down them.

It didn’t hurt that the temperature was twenty-five degrees cooler than Monday night, or that I only had the sun on me during the second half of the course.  It also didn’t hurt that I found a commitment this morning that’s been lacking lately.  Yes, I’ve been finishing my races, but on the terms my weak gray matter has been dictating, not at the level of capability I know I have.  This morning, I gave up control of that to a little plastic widget on my wrist, and it forced me to run more consistently than I have in a long time.  In fact, today was sub-50min moving time (those stupid traffic signals pushed me to 50min overall), and that was tremendous, especially after Monday’s debacle.

I’ve never tried running before my workday began, but this just might be a good thing for me!  Now, to go off and reward myself with coffee and Cap’n Crunch…

This race benefitted Water.org, which pioneers innovative, sustainable solutions to the global water crisis, giving women hope, children health and communities a future.

Race Course