Tuesday, May 20, 2014

River Town Run Half Marathon Race Recap

On Sunday morning I had another scenic drive to Washington.  I arrived around 7:30 a.m. which was a bit later than I wanted, but the drive ended up taking a bit over an hour, even without the cycling event.  The half hour I had before the race went by quickly and before I knew it, the National Anthem was being sung by NFL Hall of Fame tight end Jackie Smith.  Just a few minutes later, the half marathon and 5k were underway.

Runners waiting at the starting line

I honestly can't remember how the race course was described (I generally don't pay attention anyway) but it included pretty constant hills.  This race was probably the 2nd hilliest race I have run after the Adventuremax trail half marathon at Innsbrook, MO.  The course took us on some very scenic hills, by many farms, through a several industrial parks, along the Missouri River, throughout downtown, and then back to the fairgrounds.  Traffic didn't seem to be an issue along the course and volunteers were stationed at all of the turns.  The water stops seemed well-placed and were staffed by very vocal volunteers.

My right hamstring was bothering me the last half of the race so my time was not great, but I really enjoyed the course and the weather was perfect.  There was a decent gap between the runner in front of me and the next runner after me, yet the crowd cheered loudly every time it saw another runner approaching.  The post-race food and water were directly behind the medals, so you didn't have to wander around or walk a great distance to refuel.  

Later that afternoon, I received a congratulatory email from one of the directors as well as a personalized email with my finish time, a link to my official stats, and a link to the overall results.  The first email mentioned that over 300 runners participated in the two races, which is great for an Inaugural year.  I thought the organizers and the volunteers did an excellent job in the planning and execution of this race.  It was a great idea to have the race on the same weekend as the Art Fair and Winefest, because it gives runners who travel specifically for the race more to do and it helps us learn more about the community.  Proceeds from the race benefit the Foundations for Franklin County, which is a non-profit agency that supports substance abuse prevention programs, enforcement, and recovery.  By talking to one of the race directors a few weeks prior to race day, I learned that the race came about as a new way to raise money for this non-profit and also offer a closer half marathon to local runners.  So by running this race you get to run through the scenic town of Washington, receive a great tech shirt and medal, get cheered on by countless strangers, and support a great cause.   I hope that the volunteers and race crew were as pleased with the race as the runners seemed to be, and I hope to see this race on the Fleet Feet St. Louis race calendar next year!

The River Town Run Half Marathon Medal

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Packet Pick-Up today in Washington, MO

I am running the River Town Run Half Marathon tomorrow in Washington, MO.  The original plan was to pick up my packet on Friday evening at the Fleet Feet in Fenton (South County) and then relax on Saturday in preparation for the race Sunday.  Mid-week I was given tickets to the Cardinals-Braves game from my job at the gym, and I couldn't say no.  You can't beat this view!

Since I missed the Friday packet pick-up, I ended up going to Washington today.  The "most direct" way to get to Washington from St. Charles is to take Highway 94, which is one of the most curvaceous roads I have ever been on.  It is really a shame that I have lived in St. Charles for over a year now and never driven down this stretch of 94.  This area of Missouri is called the Missouri Rhineland and I can honestly say that for a while, I felt like I was no longer in Missouri.  There was a cycling event on the highway as well, so you really felt like you were in Europe and every few miles you would see another sign for a winery.  At one point we were stopped for the cyclist, so I was able to take a photo of one of the vineyards.  Beautiful!  As I said, this is the most direct way to Washington but it is also considered the scenic route, so you just can't plan on getting anywhere quickly because you never know what you will come across.

Once I finally crossed the bridge into Washington, I quickly picked up my packet which included a tech shirt, frisbee, fliers for other races, chapstick, sunscreen, shoe laces, various coupons, information on local organizations and businesses, a nail file, and a red bracelet from Curiosity+Heroin whose website provides information about the dangers of heroin.  I then headed downtown to check out the Art Fair and Winefest.  I parked near the river, and got a great view of the bridge and the park. 

The festival had many tents with arts, crafts, food, wine, and beer.  Live music was also playing throughout the day.

You probably did not know that Washington is the Corn Cob Pipe capital of the world.

So now I am relaxing and planning on going to bed soon.  The journey back to Washington will take me no less than an hour and the race starts at 8:00 a.m., but I like to be there early with plenty of time to kill.  

Good luck to anyone racing this weekend!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

YMCA Schoolhouse Rockin' Half Marathon Race Recap

Yesterday was a very long day!  I woke up at 4:00 a.m. so that I could be on the road to get to the pre-race packet pick-up at the YMCA Schoolhouse Rockin' Half Marathon in Maryville, Illinois,  which is on the other side of the St. Louis metro area.  I ended up arriving a lot earlier than expected and was left with an hour to kill.  I asked a few questions when I picked up my packet, and the volunteers said that a little over 100 runners had signed up and there was only the half marathon, no 5k.  In lieu of a shirt you get a "custom buff" which was something totally new to me.  The instructions on the packaging showed that you could wear it as a headband, a scarf, armband, and anything else you could think of.  Think of a long sleeve not attached to the body of a shirt, made of stretchy fabric and then you have the "custom buff."

The "custom buff"
This race was a bargain compared to many of the other races I have run this year. In fact, I only ended up paying $3.35 per mile whereas the January races at Disney were $10.86 per mile.  When you run a smaller/bargain race, you can't expect to receive the same course support and swag that you get at the larger/more expensive races.  I like running both large and small races not only for budgetary reasons, but also because it is nice to be able to see both ends of the spectrum, and it keeps me grounded so to speak by not allowing me to "expect" certain things at each race.  It basically allows me to still be surprised even after 30 races.

The course was set primarily on local asphalt trails so that traffic would not be disrupted.  This was nice because the trails were shaded by mature trees and there were other runners and bikers using the trails so although the race was fairly small, it somehow felt larger.  The course also had multiple loops, which made it easier to manage the water stops and volunteers.

Runners at the start line

The turtle that crossed my path on the trail, and was apparently camera shy.

The finisher's medal
I heard one runner mention that this was her first half marathon, and then there were other runners who were clearly veterans so there was a wide range of experience on the course.  It was nice to run a race on the Illinois side of the metro area, and I really couldn't complain about the price after going out of town to Indianapolis last weekend.  I am now half way to earning my Half Marathon Fanatic status!  Until next week.....

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

My 30th Half Marathon and a Mother's Day Dedication

As you can read from the About Me section to the right, I started running while living in DC and I now live in St. Louis.  I LOVED living in DC being surrounded by landmarks and museums and the St. Louis skyline makes me smile every time I lay eyes on it.  Last weekend I fell in love with a new city four hours East of here; Indianapolis!

The One America 500 Festival Mini Marathon was the 3rd race that I have run in Indianapolis but this time, I saw the city from an entirely different perspective.  Each time we have come for a race we have stayed downtown, which is well worth the extra money.  Indy is a very walkable city and the downtown area is filled with great hotels, restaurants, museums, various monuments, a zoo, pro and minor league sports venues, and a shopping mall with a movie theater on the top floor.  The downtown area is also connected via skyways so that in bad weather, you can get to a lot of buildings without ever having to go outside.  We did not stay at the host hotel , which was the Westin Indianapolis.  Instead, we typically stay at the Crowne Plaza which was across the street from the race expo.  In general, I recommend staying downtown for this race but I also recommend this hotel specifically because of the historical significance, the train rooms, and the ghost people (see picture below).

The expo was one of the largest I have been to and there was no shortage of things to snap pictures of, see, and purchase. 

This way to the expo!
Official Mini Marathon Race Vehicle
Pace car for the Indy 500

The swag: The t-shirts were long-sleeved and although they weren't the mesh/tech fabric that I am used to, I loved the design and the color!

Shirt front
Shirt back

More swag!

 I LOVED that the bibs had maps of the corrals in the context of downtown streets on the back.  What a great idea, yet I have never seen this done before.

This race was the only one I have seen that started the 5k before the half marathon.  Mom and John started their race around 7:30 a.m. and since I was staying so close to my corral, I was able to stay in the hotel and watch the start of the 5k and even the start of the half marathon before I had to get to my corral.  The weather could not have been more beautiful, so I snapped quite a few photos along the route.

Indiana State Capitol adjacent to the corrals
This half marathon had no age minimum and while I was waiting to start I met these guys.  Graham (12248) is only 9 years old and this was his first half marathon!  His older brother who is just 14, was running his 4th half marathon.  I was able to talk to their father for a few minutes and he said that as a family, they started a challenge in October 2013 to run a race each month for a year.  Last month they were in St. Louis for some of the GO! St. Louis races.  I thought that this was such a great idea, especially doing the challenge as a family. Wow!  Way to go guys, you are an inspiration!

Entering Speedway, Indiana.

Be sure to kiss the bricks!  I missed this when I ran the race in 2011, so be sure to get to the side (for the safety of the other runners), stop, and kiss the bricks.

Heading back downtown
Nearing the finish line.  Checkered flags guiding us in.

At the finish you receive the coveted medal.  You also received a plastic bag, courtesy of Finish Line, to put all of your post-race snacks in.  Again, this seems like such a simple idea but I have never seen it done before this race.

Overall, I would recommend this race to locals and out-of-towners and I would recommend spending a few extra $ to stay downtown.  You can't beat being able to walk to the expo, dinner, entertainment, and the start line.  Then you can get back to your hotel for a post-race shower in no time.  Being that this race is marketed as the largest half marathon in the country, expect constant runner density during the race equal to Disney or Rock and Roll races.  Even though there were around 30,000 finishers, there was never a shortage of water or Gatorade and volunteer support.  The race weekend discounted rate for the 2015 race just ended but when registration opens up again this fall, seriously consider registering for this race.

Mother's Day Shout-Out
This Sunday is Mother's Day and I have to take a second to thank the woman that carried me for almost 10 months.  That same woman flew to Baltimore to cheer me on for my first half marathon.  She has been at every Disney race I have run and she was in Indianapolis when I crossed the line at my 30th half marathon.  Thanks Mom for always supporting me and the crazy/random goals I set.

John and Mom waking up early for my first marathon at Disney.
Mom, Donald, and I post-race

At the U.S.A.F. Museum post-race
Mom races for medals too!

Happy Mother's Day to my Mom as well as all of the other Moms who are runners, or support their loved ones at races.  We couldn't cross the finish line without you!