Sunday, October 8, 2023

Half Marathon #57 - MO' Cowbell

I am obviously way behind on my blogging, but I completed half marathon #57 on Sunday, October 1st.  I had started training with the Big River Running training team this summer but got thrown off course by a week long illness and then too many weekends out of town or with overnight visitors.  I knew that I still wanted to do MO' Cowbell because I love the course and it's so walker-friendly, so I ended up run/walking the first couple miles and then completely walked the remaining mileage.  It was warm this year, but still a beautiful day.  

I always highly recommend this race for many reasons including:

  • Start/finish line is easy to get to and near several hotels
  • Expo is also easy to get to and easy to get through quickly
  • Plenty of delicious and unique restaurants near the expo and the start/finish line
  • VIP option with separate porta potties, bag check, food (Chris' Cakes catering, Bike Stop Cafe pre-race caffeine and pastries), and beer but you can also partake in the other post race food
  • Post race food included bananas, breakfast bars, salty snacks like popcorn and chips, chocolate milk, and beer
  • Pacers for the half and full marathon
  • Swag this year included a hooded sweatshirt, sticker for your distance, a cowbell, drawstring bag, and a finisher's medal for your distance
Here are a couple pictures from this year's race:

Sunday, June 11, 2023

The Big Run 5K Training Program Review

I remember overhearing two colleagues talking and one of them mentioned that she was sore because she had just started a 5k training program through Fleet Feet - St. Louis.  The other colleague remembered that I ran and recommended that she talk to me about her soreness.  As I overheard the conversation pretending to not pay attention, I wondered if my sore colleague was shocked that I "ran" or not.  I still don't look like a runner, I may never look the way that I think a true runner should, but I had been working my way through the You Can Run program through Peloton in preparation for summer races.  The Peloton program was going ok, but I just wasn't all that motivated yet.  Within a few days of the conversation I overheard, my sore colleague approached me and started telling me all about the 5k training program she had started on April 11th.  I had seen the email from Fleet Feet about the program but I thought "why would I pay $100 for a 5k training program" and I just deleted the email without a second thought.  But when my colleague described it to me, I was suddenly interested.  Maybe I needed the accountability of meeting a group for a run on Saturdays and a track workout on Tuesdays because I wasn't forcing myself to do those runs on my own.  The benefit of this particular program was that it was training for The Big Run 5k on June 7th, which was a race that I had already registered for AND the best part was that they were still allowing people to enroll several weeks into the program at a discounted rate.  Since I am somewhat frugal, I waited until the price went down to $52 and I registered on May 10th.  Here is a description of the program from the Fleet Feet website:

The Big Run 5K Training Program program is a learn to walk, run/walk or run program designed for the true beginner.  During this 8-week program, participants are surrounded by a team of dedicated, motivated people all working toward the goal of becoming healthy and strong. By the time they cross the finish line of The Big Run 5K, team members will have learned the importance of proper form, stretching, hydration, and nutrition - all the tools needed to maintain their new fitness routine.

In addition to the accountability of two group runs a week and the discounted price, I also loved that the weekend long runs rotated between three parks that were all near my home.  Within a day of registration I received several emails with information about the training schedule, coaching assignments, and other useful websites.  I was all set!

My first group run was on May 13th and even though the mileage that day was two miles, I was as nervous as I was at the start line of my last marathon.  Maybe it was because my colleague had been in this training program since the beginning and she was now in the same pace group as I was.  Maybe it was because I am an introvert and joining this group meant meeting a lot of new people. I don't know what made me nervous but I did end up having a great time!  My pace group was great (some talkers and some quiet runners like myself), the pace physically felt good, the distance was completely comfortable, our pace group leaders were very upbeat and helpful, and the Fleet Feet staff were very welcoming and answered all of my questions.  

Each week leading up to the Tuesday track workout and the Saturday long run, we received a reminder email with detailed instructions about the upcoming run.  In addition to the two group runs, the training schedule also included one run on our own plus suggested workouts for the other days.  I find it very helpful to have a schedule and have someone else telling me exactly what to run and when.  Since I joined the training program halfway through, I only made it to a few Saturday long runs and two Tuesday track workouts but in that short amount of time, I felt really connected to my group and the program.  Now that The Big Run 5k is over and the training program has concluded, I am left feeling sad but also so grateful that my colleague talked me into joining.  I feel more motivated now to continue running on my own and am really trying to stay in the same pace and run/walk interval that we trained in.  

Thank you Fleet Feet - St. Louis for allowing people to join the program late (even half way through) AND at a discounted rate.  I had a blast and I feel ready to continue running 5k's this summer. 

Monday, October 3, 2022

Half Marathon #56 MO' Cowbell

This was my 5th time completing the MO' Cowbell half marathon:

MO' Cowbell has been my 21st half, my 45th half, my 51st half, my 54th half and 1st virtual half marathon, and my 55th half marathon.  Of all of the St. Louis are half marathons, MO' Cowbell is my favorite!  If you haven't read my previous MO' Cowbell race recaps, I will just summarize by telling you exactly what I told the runner from Southeast Missouri and the runner from Dallas, TX in the VIP tent on race morning:

  • The course is mostly flat
  • There is plenty of race day parking and the parking and start/finish line is easy to get to
  • The course, hotels, and restaurants aren't far from the airport
  • Gorgeous fall foliage!  (Apparently the trees aren't starting to change in Dallas yet) 
  • A scenic course including downtown St. Charles and the riverfront, the countryside, and a variety of neighborhoods including NEW TOWN (my personal fav)
  • Great crowd support
  • The most reasonably priced VIP area
I am also a fan of this year's swag as it was a very lightweight, tech, long-sleeved, hooded shirt with a front pocket and thumb holes.  You also received a swag bag, a sticker for your race distance, and a cowbell.  This year's medal had a spinning piece that showed '22 on one side and 13.1 on the other.

This year's experience was similar to last year's in that I walked over 50% of the race BUT I used the Galloway Method for the first 10k or so.  This combination shaved 29 minutes off of last year's finish time!!!  I still finished over three hours, but I was SUPER excited about my finish time and look forward to actually training for the 2023 race.

Here are some other pictures I took on the course, mostly approaching and within New Town.

I hope that you will consider running (or walking) this race in 2023, especially now that they offer a 10k option as well.  Check out their website and save the first weekend in October for a trip to St. Charles, MO. 

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Girl Scouts Go: Run for the Cookies 5K Race Recap

The Saturday after Thanksgiving I ran the Go Scouts Go: Run for Cookies 5k in Maryland Heights, MO.  Just like the Olivette Turkey Trot, I have known about this race for years but just ran it for the first time this year.  Also like the Olivette Turkey Trot, this race course was VERY close to where I live.  

What I really loved about this race was the option to save money by not getting a race t-shirt.  If I remember correctly, it saved me $5 (which I just used towards my pre-race Starbucks).  I opted to pick up my packet on Saturday at the Des Peres Fleet Feet and it only took a matter of minutes to get my bib.  

This race course is close to my home but it is also right off of I-270 and Page Avenue, so it is super convenient for locals.  The race started at 8 a.m. so I was parked by about 7:15 a.m.  It was a bit chilly again that morning, so I just waited in my car until 7:50 and I walked right up to the start line.  This race had corrals that were released roughly three minutes apart.  Since I couldn't remember which corral I signed up for,  I just started in corral two.  The race course took us through the industrial park area of Westport Plaza, which was surprisingly hillier than I expected or was prepared for.  

Right off the bat I felt slower than I did at the Turkey Trot.  I just felt sluggish, so I started my intervals a lot earlier at this race.  Once the flow of runners started to thin out, I kept pace with a couple pre-teen Girl Scouts.  They would run while I was walking and I would run while they were walking.  Eventually there was one Girl Scout running alone after her friend ran ahead, and we started talking.  We talked about the hot chocolate at the finish and she reminded me that there would also be Girl Scout cookies.  We talked about the new Girl Scout cookie, which I had not tried yet.  Talking to someone else, especially about Girl Scout cookies, was a welcome distraction from feeling sluggish and it honestly helped me finish the 5k faster than I would have otherwise.  Despite feeling much, much slower than I did at the Turkey Trot I ended up only being 34 seconds slower, so I was very happy with my time.  Once you crossed the finish line you were greeted by volunteers, a medal, and water.  Then back in the parking lot were the much anticipated Girl Scout cookies and hot chocolate.  They had my favorite cookie the thin mints, so I was beyond excited!

After the race as I was stretching, I was approached by a fellow runner who thanked me for keeping her at a good pace.  I guess she is like me and tries to find someone to pace with to avoid running too fast, and also finding someone to follow for motivation.  It was a nice compliment and I even turned around to make sure that she wasn't talking to someone behind me.  I am normally silent and don't talk to anyone during a race unless I am running it with a friend. This was a nice change and I just left the race feeling really happy and excited for the next 5k. 

Olivette Turkey Trot Race Recap

Thanksgiving Day seems like ages ago already, but I am still on cloud nine about my Turkey Trot finish time.  Now 37:49 is likely slow for a 5k to most runners reading this, but that is my fastest 5k time since 2017!!!  

In 2020 I just ran a virtual Turkey Trot due to Covid and I think all of the local Turkey Trots were virtual last year too, so it was nice to have an in-person option close to home.  The race started and ended in Stacy Park in Olivette, which is near my home and my work.  This park is very easy to get to since it is just off of Olive Boulevard between I-170 and I-270.  

Before Covid I had run the Turkey Trot downtown, the St. Charles Turkey Trot, and the black Friday Turkey Trot in Town and Country.   The Olivette Turkey Trot is technically the closest race course to my home, so it has been on my radar for years and I was happy to finally be able to run it.  Packet pick-up was held on the Tuesday and Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving at Olivette City Hall. Since I picked up my packet on Tuesday, it wasn't busy at all.  There was also a race day option for packet pick-up.  Swag included a long sleeved blue tech shirt and you had the option to purchase previous years shirts for $5, which I took advantage of again. 

I often run and walk in Stacy Park, so I knew that it had a small parking lot and I wasn't sure where overflow parking would be, so I arrived around 7:10 a.m. to ensure that I would snag a parking spot.  Upon arrival, several Olivette fire trucks and police vehicles were already on-site and the music was going.  The mayor was present as was our St. Louis County Executive (he's become locally famous during Covid).  Hot chocolate, coffee, and tea were available adjacent to race day packet pick-up and there were plenty of porta-potties available in addition to the park's permanent restrooms.  Stacy Park has a nice walking path, and I saw plenty of people warming up before the race.  As the parking lot filled up, I realized that overflow parking was being directed to the grass in between the ball fields but I loved that I was able to park right at the start/finish line.  As a result, I was able to stay in my warm car until five minutes before the race started.  

The race course was basically one large loop with a few small hills.  I was so pumped about this race that I didn't even switch over to my intervals until about halfway through the race.  I just got into a good pace and was fueled by all the people around me.  The other runners and walkers were people of all ages and abilities, a lot of strollers, and lots of dogs.  Spectators along the course were friendly and were cheering us on, despite the cold morning.  Waiting at the finish line were snacks like hot chocolate, coffee, tea, water, beer, bloody mary's, and chips.  The Olivette police department opened a separate exit for people to be able to easily leave the park, and it was actually a breeze leaving the park which is one problem I came across at the downtown and St. Charles Turkey Trots. I would highly recommend this race to anyone living or visiting the St. Louis area for Thanksgiving.  It really was a great race!

Sunday, October 10, 2021

MO' Cowbell Half Marathon - #55

Last Sunday I walked the MO' Cowbell Half Marathon with my running/walking buddy Stephanie.  It was technically her 2nd half marathon but 1st in-person half marathon, having completed the virtual Single Chuck Challenge with me in 2020.  We decided to walk this race since our training was not consistent this summer and I was bouncing back from an injury incurred during my last 5k, more on that another time.  I told her that this half marathon was very walker friendly and she was pleasantly surprised to see that I was right!  Despite walking the entire race, we were constantly passing other walkers and also being passed by faster walkers.  The original forecast was not looking good going into the weekend, but the weather ended up being very pleasant for our long walk and I've included a few photos from the course below.

This was the 10th year for the MO' Cowbell Marathon weekend and my 5th MO' Cowbell half marathon.  I also ran the 5k two years back when the 5k was also on Sunday, and then I volunteered instead of running for a couple years as well.  I've been involved in this race in some way since 2013 and I just love it!  This year, I volunteered at bib pick up at the expo on Friday and at the post-race food tent for the 5k on Saturday night and I included a few photos from those volunteer shifts below.

I just can't say enough good things about this race and if you haven't run with us yet, go ahead and flip to the first weekend in October of 2022 and plan to make the trip to St. Charles for one or two of the races.  I hope to see you there!

Monday, May 31, 2021

University City Memorial Day 5k

I finally felt comfortable enough to run an in-person 5k this morning, the annual University City Memorial Day 5k!  I last ran this race in 2019 when there was also a 10k option and my running buddy and I decided that running a 10k untrained was a good idea.  Oops!  So this year's 5k race was much more manageable and we felt great afterwards.  

We initially rushed to register for this race because there was a lower cap of around 300 runners but with the updates to the CDC recommendations for vaccinated individuals, the cap recently increased to 700 runners.  This year the start line and finish line were separate, porta-potties were spaced out, volunteers and police officers were all wearing masks, runners were assigned to corals based on their estimated pace, and four runners started at a time and were staggered a few seconds apart.  In the Covid-era I have been overly cautious and basically became a hermit, but this race setup felt safe to me.  

There were two packet pick-up options available: one the day prior (Sunday) and on race day.  Both packet pick-up options were outdoor this year as well.  Our start time was at 7:30 a.m., but we still arrived and parked around 6:30 a.m. since Coral 1 was supposed to start at 7:00 a.m.  The start ended up being delayed by 15 minutes due to a police situation on the course, but everyone went with the flow and our coral ended up starting just eight minutes late.  The delayed start gave us some time to take pictures of the area and explore a bit, which was nice.  We estimated that our overall pace would be in the 14:00 range, but we ended up with an overall pace of 12:57 so we were pretty excited.  Unfortunately all of the snacks were gone when we finished, so we just celebrated with breakfast at a nearby Starbucks instead.  

The University City Memorial Day 5k is a great race to kick off your summer with.  It's usually humid and warm on race day but in 2021, it was absolutely perfect with temperatures in the high 70's and low humidity.  I highly recommend this race and hopefully in 2022 they are able to get back to having various food and beverage vendors on-site after the race, ESPECIALLY Fitz's!

University City's beautiful city hall

Monday, February 22, 2021

LoveStruck Run Indy Virtual 5k

I'm going to be honest.  I signed up for this race because of the sweet SWAG!  In the virtual race era that has absolutely exploded due to Covid, I find that signing up for virtual races fuels my motivation to run consistently.  Pre-Covid, I would sign up for races based on the location more than anything.  Since I choose to only run virtual races until I am fully vaccinated, the location of the virtual races is always here in St. Louis County, although I may drive across the river to St. Charles County from time to time for a little variety.  There are no runcations right now, so the SWAG matters more now than ever before!  

This particular race was put on by a company called Racemaker Productions, based just outside of Indianapolis in Plainfield. In 2014 I ran their Litchfield Route 66 Half Marathon in Litchfield, Illinois and ABSOLUTELY loved it!  I have followed them on social media for years now so when they posted pictures of their SWAG options for the LoveStruck 5k, I immediately fell in love!  I'm guessing that was their intent....

They offered two colors of the hoodie, a sweet medal, and a customizable race bib that is color-coded to the relationship status that you selected. 

Their in-person race took place in downtown Indianapolis on February 13th.  Virtual runners complete the 5k anytime between February 13 and 28th.  My intent is always to run virtual races outdoors but the St. Louis area was hit with a snowstorm on February 14th and temperatures stayed WELL below freezing for several days afterwards, so I opted for completing the mileage on a treadmill on February 16th.  So although the scenery was limited to watching traffic attempting to drive in the slushy remains of the snowstorm, I can honestly say that I would not have been motivated to run a 5k that day had I not had a virtual race to complete.

Those who know me (or read my blog regularly) know that I consider it bad luck to wear the race shirt (or even wash it) before completing the distance.  So as soon as I completed the virtual 5k on February 16th, I laid out the SWAG to take a few pictures before washing the hoodie.  My cat had to get in on the photo shoot as you can see below.  I also opted for the blue hoodie because I rarely wear pink.

Both the hoodie and the medal have the Indianapolis skyline in the background.  The back of the medal has the name of the race engraved on it and it is reflective, hence my cat admiring her reflection. If you've never visited Indianapolis, you have to find a reason to check it out! You can read more about why I love visiting Indianapolis in my 2014 One America 500 Mini Marathon race recap or my 2014 Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon recap.  I can't wait to visit Indy again, but I will try to schedule my next visit around a race of course!

You still have time to complete the virtual 5k and you can find more information by clicking here. I also recommend checking out Racemaker Productions Facebook page and their event calendar for upcoming race.  I'm really excited to see what they will do next!

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

MO' Cowbell Single Chuck Challenge - Half Marathon #54

On a cold Christmas Eve morning in St. Louis, my runner friend and I finally completed the Single Chuck Challenge for the MO' Cowbell Virtual Half Marathon.  Since summer we had trained and were working our way up to running at least 10 of the 13.1 miles, if we couldn't run the entire distance.  We were on track and had a great eight mile run on November 7th, but soon after that our training got derailed due to a couple Covid scares and crazy work schedules.  The rest of November and the 1st half of December, we hardly ran at all.  Since our training had completely derailed, we settled for walking the entire 13.1 miles.  

Once we saw the forecast for Christmas Eve we knew that despite the cold, the weather was otherwise beautiful and sunny.  My friend asked me how long I thought a walking half marathon would take and in my experience as a race sweeper, I told her four hours.  We finished just under that, around the 3:52:00 mark.

Our finish time

Our course was beautiful and almost completely clear of any other humans, partially due to the holiday and partially due to the bitter cold.  We started at Longview Farm Park in Town & Country, walked several loops through Drace Park, down Bopp Road where we felt tiny as we walked by mansions, and then repeated the same course back to Longview Farm Park.

Drace Park along the course in Town & Country

We even passed several holly bushes along the course, which made the race feel more festive. 

Holly along the course

As we got back to Longview Farm Park to finish the 13.1, we were cold but we were not sore.  We were the only two cars in the parking lot when we left, which was a completely different view from when we started training together this summer.  We had picked up our race SWAG back in October and normally I refuse to wear race SWAG until I complete the race, but I've actually been using this year's race SWAG ever since packet pick-up.  I wear hats much more often now since I primarily work from home in the Covid-era and I LOVE the face mask because it is perfect for workouts.  I actually wore my MO' Cowbell face mask during the entire virtual half marathon not only for safety, but also because it protected my face from the bitter cold!

Single Chuck Challenge SWAG

Normally my runner friend and I volunteer on race weekend, so it was nice to be a participant again this year.  Be sure to stay tuned to the MO' Cowbell Marathon website to see what they have in store for 2021.

See you next year!

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Virtual Stranger Distances 6.7 Mile Race

Although there have been a couple in-person races in the St. Louis area, I still just prefer virtual races for now.  Due to Covid, the race market is suddenly flooded with virtual races so when I received an email about a virtual race with unusual distance options, I just knew that I had to sign up.  The race was called "Stranger Distances" and it offered a 3.2 mile, 6.7 mile, and an 11.11 mile option that was offered through an organization called All Community Events.  My friend and I have slowly been building our mileage since this summer so although I wanted to sign up for the 11.11 mile option, I decided that the 6.7 mile option was much more attainable.  

Once you registered, you had up until Halloween to complete your selected mileage.  I selected a random weekend with warm weather to run the 6.7 miles with my friend.  We didn't do anything special to prepare other than setting our long run goal for 6.7 miles that day.  We started the race from a gorgeous park in Town and Country, MO called Longview Farm Park.  It connects to a wide asphalt path that runs along Clayton Road and connects to several other parks.  Since I have never run this distance before, our finish time was definitely a PR for both of us.  We actually completed the race on October 10 and then a week or so later, the race shirt arrived.  For this race, I opted not to pay the extra $10 (I think) for a medal and the bib was emailed to you to print at home.  What I like about the shirt is that it is long sleeve, so it will be perfect to wear this fall and winter on my long runs.

Below are some pictures from the Stranger Distance 6.7 Mile race

Beautiful Fall Colors

Race shirt and printable bib were included in the registration fee