Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Insanity, Katy 80, Summer Speedwork Sessions, walking club, an interview with a race director, and a marathon bracelet = a few busy weeks

This morning I took my 4th Insanity class at the gym that I work at part-time.  I convinced a co-worker to go with me for accountability and so far, we have both loved the class!  The class is as intense as it sounds.  From the warm up to the finish, you only get a few 30 second breaks which fly by.  The remainder of the class is completely exhausting.  One of my New Year's Resolutions was to become a regular in a class at the gym, finally I can mark that resolution as "complete" or at the very least, "in progress."

Katy 80:
Back in 2012, I ran in the River to River Relay in Southern Illinois.  The relay race is so popular that I did not even get into the race with my original team.  I found a spot on a coed team that needed women.  I had not met any of the runners pictured below until the weekend of the race.  Until that point, I had also only run races for myself so to speak, and being part of a team racing to get to the finish line by dusk was an amazing experience.  Although we are all now friends through social media, I tend to keep in contact with Tim the most (back row, far right).

Out of all of my former teammates, Tim lives the closest to the St. Louis metro area.  We keep meaning to cross paths at a race, but we have yet to make it happen.  We have been talking about getting on another relay team together but every race he mentions, I am unable to run because I am already booked.  Recently Tim send me a text about a relay in my own backyard on the last Saturday in May.  It is the Katy 80 which is an 80 mile race on the Katy Trail, which is a State Park in Missouri.  Each team has six runners who complete three legs each, finishing in Augusta at the local brewery.  I convinced the co-worker who takes Insanity with me to run the relay, and then Tim found the remaining runners.  So I will know two of the runners, and will likely not meet the other three until race day.  Tim gave me the shortest "legs" in the race since I am likely the slowest and each team's average pace must be 10:30 per mile.  I am completely excited, not only because I get to see Tim again, but also because I get to spend an entire day bonding with a new team as we race to the finish line at the Augusta Brewery.

Summer Speedwork Sessions:
To help with my speed issue briefly mentioned above, I signed up for Big River Running's free summer speedwork sessions.  I have attended Big River Running's spring half marathon training program, and this summer I will finally take advantage of their track work sessions. Even if you are not a local, the link above still provides you with enough information for you to implement the same training at your location.  I am hoping that implementing the track workouts into my summer training will help shave some time off of my fall half marathons.

Walking Club:
It wasn't until Monday, that I realized tomorrow was May 1st.....that is how busy I have been lately.  May 1st is when I begin volunteering with a walking group for people with developmental/intellectual disabilities.  I am very excited about this opportunity.  So excited in fact that I forgot when it started!  The walking club will become part of my cross training schedule in May and June, and it will help me to slow down and smell the roses so to speak since I am often so focused on the end result and not the journey itself.

Interview with River Town Run Half Marathon race director:
I am running a brand new half marathon May 18th called the River Town Run Half Marathon in Washington, MO.  When I received the first race update email, I responded to see if I could email them questions I had about the planning of the race.  I thought that this would be a great opportunity to get some insider information on a race before I actually ran it.  Last week I was able to touch base with one of the people involved in the planning of this race.  She offered to answer my questions over the phone rather than email and when all was said and done, she had given me an hour of her time and offered to answer other questions I have along the way.  Look for more information in the race recap a day or two (maybe three) after this inaugural race!

New bling that isn't a race medal:
After a very busy couple of weeks, the bracelet that I had ordered through a local boutique finally arrived.  I wanted to support a local store rather than ordering the bracelet online, but you can click here to order yours.  I think of it as a way to show my runner pride in a way that is more modest than a race shirt or medal.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Rock the Parkway Half Marathon

This weekend Dan (the boyfriend) and I headed three and a half hours west to Kansas City.  Not only was it the 1 year anniversary of our first date, but it was also the Rock the Parkway Half Marathon that I had signed up for with one of my best friends, Michele.  Michele and I have also run the Baltimore Half Marathon in 2010 and the Rock and Roll St. Louis Half Marathon in 2011 together, so we were overdue for another one.  The Rock the Parkway Half Marathon is apparently a very popular race, because it sold out back in January and they advertise themselves as the "area's largest half."

We arrived in Kansas City by lunch time on Friday and at the recommendation of a friend, we immediately went to Oklahoma Joe's for barbeque.  It was amazing!  We headed to packet pick-up, which was larger than I expected.  There were three long rows of booths with the t-shirts, bibs, and timing chips at the back.  After visiting most of the booths (and seeing a lot of medals), I came up with a list of several other Kansas City area races that I would like to do:

Our hotel was right off of Metcalf in Overland Park, which was right by my friend's house, the expo, the start/finish line of the race, and plenty of restaurants and shopping.  That night we had great pasta at a place called Bravo, which they also have in the St. Louis area.  After allowing a couple of hours to get caught up and discuss race day logistics, we headed to bed at a decent hour.

The race began at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, but we arrived around 6:30 in order to get a good parking spot and avoid traffic.  The picture below is of my friend Michele and I at the start line shortly after arrival.

My boyfriend Dan (below right with the sign) and Michele's boyfriend Travis (left, with his arm in the air), got up bright and early to support us throughout the morning.

Kansas City is known for their fountains. In fact, tourist guides and marketing materials state that "only Rome has more fountains than Kansas City."  Pictured below are a few of the fountains I saw along the race course.

The half marathon is run along the Ward Parkway, which is a beautiful area on the Missouri side of the Kansas City metro area.  The farther North we ran on the parkway, the bigger the lots and the houses got.

In addition to the great course support, there were also some great signs.  I love the "Hurry up I'm hungry" sign.

Nearing the finish...........

And we finished!!!!!


After we cleaned up, we spent the afternoon being tourists as tour guides Michele and Travis showed us around Kansas City.  The weather was perfect, so we spent as much of it outside as possible.  I would definitely recommend spending time in the Power and Light District which contains many restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues.  

Overall, the Rock the Parkway Half Marathon was a great experience.  The expo was quaint yet I left with a list of other Kansas City area races to add to my list, the race course was scenic with manageable rolling hills, and the t-shirts and medals were top notch.  I would do this again, and I really enjoyed running yet another race with my friend Michele .

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Go! St. Louis Half Marathon

The weather for this weekend's race was PERFECT!  I was able to get a great parking spot downtown and I made sure that I had plenty of time to kill before the race started at 7 a.m.  As I was heading towards my corral, I was able to see the sun rising behind the Arch.  Beautiful!

The Go! St. Louis Half and Full Marathon courses give a great view of the city for out-of-towners.  You briefly get to run through the Budweiser brewery, but if you are coming from out of town I recommend taking a free tour.   

Budweiser Brewery

Budweiser Brewery

You also get to run by Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals.  They also offer tours for a small fee, or you could always try to catch a game.

 I haven't even been to the new Ballpark Village yet, but I did make sure to stop and take a picture.  I must have looked exhausted because two bystanders asked if I was ok.  When I told them that I was just stopping to take a picture, they asked if I wanted to be in it.  I HATE pictures of myself during a race (in fact I cover my bib in most cases when I see a photographer on the course), so my answer was, "no thanks!"

St. Louis is surprisingly hilly.  In fact, there is a portion of the race (feels like an eternity but I think it is around a mile long) called Holy Hill.  At the beginning of the hill is a priest that blesses the runners with Holy water as they pass by.  You are not only timed for the overall race, but you also get a time for the Holy Hill portion of the race.

Another great thing about this race, the Crown Candy Kitchen chocolate stop. 

The finish line food was AMAZING and included local favorites like Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, Pasta House toasted ravioli,  pretzels, graham crackers with peanut butter and jelly in addition to your typical fruit in a cup, bananas, and chocolate milk.

Despite my right hamstring being tight again this weekend, the race was an amazing experience that I would highly recommend to out-of-towners as well as locals.  The shirts were great as were the medals.  

GO! St. Louis Marathon Weekend in the news.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The tale of two races and two non-profits

Last weekend I went home to Central Illinois.  I had signed up for another half marathon and I had convinced my mom to sign up for the 5K so that we could have quality time on a little road trip.  Now I swear that when I signed up for the race and calculated how long it would take to get to the race from my hometown, it was only 45 minutes each way.  Friday night as we were determining what time to get up to leave for the race, I realized that the trip would take an hour and a half each way on two lane highways through remote sections of Illinois.  In fact, the location of the race was not far from Vincennes, Indiana.

The race is called the Southern Illinois Spring Classic and it is held in Lawrenceville, Illinois.  I sent an email to one of the race directors last Saturday night to get more information because I was so impressed with the volunteer presence on the course and at the finish.  I found out that the 2/3 to 3/4 of the proceeds from the race directly benefit the Kids Shopping Day of Lawrence County (a 501(c)3 non-profit), which provides not only school supplies to children at the beginning of each school year, but they also provide things such as hair cuts, toiletries, clothes, and shoes so that children have everything they need to start school.

I don't have any pictures of the course because it rained that morning and the course was rural, much like the Adventuremax Half Marathon.  But for being a rural race, the course support was AMAZING!  The water stops were frequent and they were staffed by happy and peppy volunteers, which was much needed on a rainy day.  Once you finish on the Lawrenceville High School track, you receive your typical post-race snacks.  But back in the school cafeteria, a full breakfast awaits you.  Pancakes, sausage, biscuits, gravy, and yogurt were waiting as were more friendly and peppy volunteers.  I was one of only 74 half marathoners so this was perhaps the smallest half marathon I have run, but the amazing volunteer support,breakfast, race swag, and quality time on the road trip with mom were worth it.

Southern Illinois Spring Classic Half Marathon Medal

The SISC swag

I had an amazing day today.  I volunteered at the GO! St. Louis Health and Fitness expo at the marathon shirt distribution table.  What I love about Go! St. Louis is that it too is a non-profit that promotes healthy lifestyles by offering a wide-range of races throughout the year.  I have run the spring GO! St. Louis Half Marathon and the GO! St. Louis Halloween Half Marathon and loved them both.  As I was digging more on their website searching for ways to get more involved, I came across the Volunteer page.  By volunteering through GO! St. Louis, you can earn free apparel race entries.  I want to give back to the running community and see the flip side of a race by volunteering, but by doing so I can also work my way towards a free race.  What a great idea!

I enjoyed my experience today so much that I will likely volunteer again next year.  By being at the t-shirt table, I was able to see where the runners were from, which sparked many conversations.  I came across only one runner who was not happy with the shirts.  The other runners were either very excited or nervous.  Fredbird even stopped by the expo.

 View of the expo after I left my shift.  It was so exciting to get this view.

One of the booths at the expo had apparel for the children of runners.  Super cute!

So now it is time to make my pile of gear and get some sleep before tomorrow's half marathon, but volunteering today gave me a different perspective and a new-found appreciation for a sport I love.