Tag Archives: racing

Race #26 – MoDOT Work Zone 5K

The first full day of Spring found me hitting the pavement again, in my fifth race in as many weeks.

I’d heard about the MoDOT Work Zone 5K last year, but for some reason, I never signed up for it.  But I remembered the race, and added it to my “Conquer St. Louis By Foot” tour.

Selfie with Cone Man
Selfie with Cone Man

I picked up my race shirt and bib yesterday.  I really wish more races would do race-specific bibs for their races.  This one, like an awful lot of races I’ve run over the last few years, had a generic Fleet Feet bib. Nothing against Fleet Feet, but a race-specific bib would mean a lot more.

And then there was the shirt.

This race was to promote work zone safety.  I don’t know what I should’ve expected, but the shirt is bright enough that it can be seen from space.  I’m sure someone on the International Space Station gazed down upon St. Louis this morning, and wondered why all those extraordinarily bright yellow traffic cones were all moving around.

One of the problems with running 5K’s around St. Louis — when I can find ones that have medals — is that there’s a few venues that get used all the time.  Forest Park.  Downtown.  Old town St. Charles.  I’ve run ’em all.  A lot.

This race was held on roads I’d never run upon, which was awesome. It paralleled I-64 on the northside, crossed over the interstate, and then paralleled the interstate again on the south.  I liked that!  From anywhere on the course, you could see the whole course.  I really like seeing the water stops, the halfway point and the end of race as I’m moving along the road.  For this, MoDOT scores with this race course!

However, there were hills.

This Is Far Too Much Credit!
This Is Far Too Much Credit!

Have you driven through Missouri recently?  It ain’t exactly flat, and while rolling hills are cool in my Jeep, they’re a pain when I’m running up them.  The first kilometer was an awesome, fast downhill run.  But when you go downhill, and have to return to the start line, it’s a fact that you will go uphill at some point.

And so we did.

I started getting close to the finish, and I’d already relegated myself to a “goldilocks” race time — not too slow, not too fast, just right.  I turned the corner, saw the clock at the finish line, and couldn’t believe the time.  It was much lower than I was expecting.  Huh?  I looked at my watch (and yeah, there was that whole deal again with chip time and gun time, but you’ve read that before) and realized that the course was short by about a tenth of a mile.  That’s not a huge thing, but it definitely made me feel good coming across the finish.

Normally, I don’t hang out for the awards.  I already have the only awards I’m gonna get — a race shirt, a finisher’s medal, a bottle of water, and a snack of some kind — and I know I’m not getting an age group award.  However, the dude that won my age group did the course in less than half my time.  That is stunnnnning.  Somehow, I’ve gotta find some speed!

So today was another good race, with good weather, a good course, and another medal on the medal tree.  Next week, it’s back-to-back races to close out my winter-into-spring racing until sometime in May.

Race Course:

MoDOT Work Zone 5K

Race #24 – Shamrock Shuffle 5K

Nothing Like Bagpipes
Nothing Like Bagpipes

My third race of the year was a repeat of an inaugural event I ran last year, the Holy Infant Shamrock Shuffle 5K.  Last year’s course was tough, with lots of hills, and plenty of folks coming forth from their homes to cheer us on.

And it was cold.

I’d seen this year’s course, and while I didn’t know the neighborhood well enough to know the terrain, I knew the course was… well… convoluted.  So.  Many.  Turns.  To say I wasn’t excited about running this new course is an understatement.

I showed up early (typical for me!), and found a food truck serving coffee.  It was tasty, warm, and just what I needed to get me moving.  I watched the Fleet Feet folks set up the start/finish line, and listened to the dj start the music.  It was crazy loud, which I’m sure the neighbors of the race site thoroughly enjoyed!  🙂

And, the bagpipes were cool to listen to.

The race kicked off, I hit the button on my race watch as I crossed the finish line, and we were off.  In fact, I was zooming.  For some reason, I had some good energy, and tore up my first two kilometers (8:35 and 9:37).  That’s crazy fast for me, and set me up for a great race time.

I would my way through the weird course.  At every turn, it seemed like I was meeting folks that were turning in the opposite direction.  It was very, very hard to get a sense of where you were in the course, and whether folks you were encountering were ahead of you on the course, or behind you.

I missed having folks cheering us along the course.  While there were plenty of volunteers making sure we stayed on course (and were safe from traffic!), there weren’t many folks out cheering us along.  I miss that.

Finally, I turned the corner back toward the race site, and crossed the line.  I looked at my watch, and it showed I finished in 50:16, which was a terrific time, and about 50 seconds faster than last week on an easier course.  I was thrilled.

Finisher's Reward
Finisher’s Reward

There were plenty of food trucks around, so I got a bacon melt from The Meltdown.  This was a delicious grilled cheese with American cheese and bacon on the inside, and a parmesan cheese crust on the outside.  Exceptional!  I paired that with a free beer (the best kind), and had a pretty good recovery.

I walked to the Fleet Feet booth to see my official time, and noticed that it was about 50 seconds SLOWER than the time on my watch.  They claimed this was chip time — the time measured when the timing chip on my bib crosses the line at the start and finish of the race — but I believe this was actually gun time, which is measured from when someone says “go.”  Since it takes a while for everyone to wind through the start line, gun time is always slower than chip time when you start at the back of the pack like I do.  My Garmin is typically within a second or two of the official chip time, so I’m really confident in my 50:16 time.  That’s the time I’m claiming!

So, another race down — the third in three weeks, with three more to come over the next three weeks.  Next week is the Pi Day 5K in Columbus OH!

Race Course:
Shamrock Shuffle 5K Course
Shamrock Shuffle 5K Course

Race #23 : Scenic City 5K

A Major Award!A few weeks before the Scenic City 5K, my mother taunted me, sending me info about the race and asking if I was gonna come to Chattanooga for it.

How could I turn that down?

So, yesterday, I ran my first race on the streets of the city in which I was raised.  And frankly, it was a great experience, aside from the weather.  It was a very, very cold 27 degrees at racetime.

The race was “out and back”, with Finley Stadium (home of the Mocs) serving as the home base.  The race both started and ended on the 50-yard line, which probably made this the first time I’ve ever been on a football field.

Frankly, the size of the field surprised me.  At one time, it both felt immense and tiny.  Football fields look so incredibly large on TV, but your brain says it’s just an optical illusion.  And your brain is right, but it’s still really, really large.

The course itself was pretty unremarkable, except that it was really flat, which is something that surprised me about a course in The ‘Noog.  With all the hills in Chattanooga, I fully expected the course should be hillier.  It wasn’t, and I was thankful.  I do wish it had been more picturesque.  Chattanooga has so much beauty to it, and having this race run through essentially an industrial area didn’t do it much justice.

However, every race should start and end on grass.  The feel of that field beneath my shoes was amazing, and so much easier on my feet and knees.  I could certainly get behind a full course run on close cropped grass!  Might be a good use for golf courses.

After the awards ceremony, I wandered around the site, and found someone handing out drinks.  I guzzled one while I walked, and heard someone say, “Hey, want a beer?”

The answer to that question is almost always “yes”.

I didn’t recognize (nor retain!) the name of the beer, but it was cold, dark and delicious.  I started to drink it, when another runner facetiously asked after getting his cup of beer, “Where’s the pizza?”

And that’s when the beer guy said, “It’s right over there.”

Yes, there was a table with about 40 Little Caesar’s pizzas!  Slices and beer.  Every race should end like that.

And that was really that.  It was a great race, I had a good finish, and I had pizza and beer.  What’s not to like?

 Race Course:
Scenic City 5K Course
Scenic City 5K Course

Race #22 : SpeRUNking Sandmine Challenge

SpeRUNking Sandmine Challenge
SpeRUNking Sandmine Challenge

I’ve never raced in a novelty race.  No paint.  No glowing.  And no obstacles.

Until yesterday.

Somewhere recently, I’d heard about this race.  An old mine with temperate conditions in the dead of winter.  I looked at some of the race coverage out there, and found the CNN had called it one of the ten ultimate US adventures, right up there with the Iditarod, climbing El Capitan, riding the “vomit comet”  or accomplishing the Triple Crown of Hiking.  That certainly had some appeal.

But… the obstacles!

I exchanged Facebook messages with someone close to race, trying to understand if it was friendly to walkers (it was), and what the time to complete the course would be for a walker (two hours or less).  I was sold, and signed up.

But… the obstacles!

I’d been both excited and apprehensive as the race approached.  We had awful weather the night before the race, and I thought that might keep me away from the site (about an hour away).  But, the weather held out, and I made the trek to Crystal City MO, and Crystal City Underground.

After a really icy approach to the mine, I walked into the maw of this enormous abandoned sand mine, and was struck by the size of the place.  The ceilings were dozens of feet tall, with a great room that is used for parties and events… when there’s not a race going on.

With the weather, I’d left the site really early, but with the decent roads, I arrived about two hours ahead of my starting wave.  So I waited.  And waited.  And waited.  And soon enough, it was time to swallow my fear, turn on my headlamp, and head into the mine.

I’m glad I had the headlamp (which was highly recommended by the organizers).  Almost as soon as we left the start line, the lighting was gone, and the only illumination was what I was carrying with me.

And after the darkness, came the water.

I hit the water, taking big, careful steps, and little by little, the water was deeper and deeper, eventually gaining about three feet of depth.  And even with my headlamp, I couldn’t see the end of it.  I waded and waded, and eventually started climbing up and out of the underground lake.  Little did I know that I’d just begun to climb.

The next obstacle was a dark hill of solid sand.  This hill was almost six feet tall, nearly vertical, and with no steps or hand holds.  You had to run … fast … and let your momentum carry you up the hill.  My first attempt had me landing right on my knees.  My second attempt had me almost get up the hill.  After that, I heard someone behind me tell me that they’d cup my feet in their hands to help me up.

And that was really the way the race went.  At every obstacle, and all throughout the course, the course stewards and participants were encouraging everyone, cheering them on.  And occasionally, someone would lend a hand to help you through something.

Two more significant water crossings, an ascent and descent on an A-frame about ten feet tall built from 2×4’s, balance beams, a tire course, another six foot leap atop a stage platform and a floor made entirely of loose sand… that’s what this race entailed.  If I’d heard about all that, I likely wouldn’t have signed up.

But I did, and I finished.

In fact, I finished with a time right in line with a “regular” 5K.  Given the delays on the obstacles, and the challenging landscape, I fully expected to finish somewhere between ninety minutes and two hours.  To finish under an hour was truly stunning.

So I’ve added another race completion, another medal, and the first of six back-to-back races taking me to the end of March, with travels to both Chattanooga TN and Columbus OH to come.  It’s a good start to this year’s races, and a real boost to my running confidence.

2014 Races — By the Numbers

2014 was the first year that I was serious about running races.  Frankly, if I’d been more serious about training, my races would’ve been dynamite!  As it was, my fastest time for the 5K was in April, with a few other races approaching that time.

Unfortunately, the end of year brought a foot injury that hobbled me after a race in Shawnee KS, and left my skipping my last race of the year (and first of 2015).  That’s a subject I’ll address when I work on my resolutions for 2015.  🙂

So, this year’s numbers:

  • 13 Races
  • 11 races @ 5K, 1 race @ 4K, 1 race @ 4M
  • Slightly more than 40 miles of racing this year
  • 3 destination races (Kansas City MO, Tulsa OK, Shawnee KS)
  • 1 “delayed” race run in the Caribbean
  • Shortest time between races:  24 hours (Rock and Roll 5K Remix)
  • Lowest bib number:  9 (Tap ‘n’ Run 4K)
  • Highest bib number:  31212 (Rock ‘n’ Roll 5K)
  • Closet parking to start/finish line:  Operation Jack KC 5K (about 50 feet)
  • Farthest parking from start/finish line:  Mo’ Cowbell 5K (about one mile)
  • Kudos for Becky for winning “Best Costume” at the Undy 5000
  • Only one weather-impact race:  Route 66 5K (Tulsa OK), with some rain
  • LOTS of new attire:  new shoes, jacket, running pants, toque, neck gather, running socks
  • Met Fredbird
  • Three races in Forest Park, two in St. Charles, one in Soulard, only two in downtown St. Louis