Monday, October 31, 2016

State #32 GO! St. Louis Halloween Race Half Marathon, St. Louis, MO 10.23.16: Part Three

I slept better the night before the race than I had the previous night, but I still experienced some restlessness. I woke up around 3:30 am to use the bathroom and then tossed and turned until my alarm at 6:00 am. Tired again, but at least I had the adrenaline of race day to get me through. I was looking forward to having my own bed back at the end of the day.
I went through my usual pre-race steps after waking up: coffee, oatmeal, yoga. The weather was pretty much perfect, low 50's, but because I am usually always cold, I erred on the side of caution and went with long pants, a short sleeved shirt and a long sleeved half zip and cheap gloves I purchased the day before at a convenience store. I also had a large black garbage bag to protect against cold and wind (should I need it) while waiting in the starting corral. 
Funny story about that black garbage bag...I meant to bring one from home to have on hand, but of course, I forgot. The first night I was in St. Louis (rooftop deck night), when I was heading back to my room for the night, I found myself in an elevator with a bunch of people who were in town for a school marching band competition. High school musicians (and their chaperones) were everywhere! Anyway, we were in the elevator heading up to the rooms. The elevator made a stop at a lower floor before I had to get off, and when the door opened, there was a woman standing in the hallway (presumably one of the marching band chaperones) holding a box of black garbage bags. When I saw her and the bags, I remembered that I'd forgotten to pack one for myself. I got very excited and asked her if I could have one of the garbage bags. She obliged, thank goodness, but she must have thought I was an absolute lunatic! I laughed and laughed the rest of the ride up to my room. What a good samaritan she was for helping me out! 
Walking up Market Street to starting line area.
The race start time for the half marathon was 7:30 am, so I headed out around 7:00 am to get down to the starting line. The atmosphere was festive, as people were dressed in costumes and the announcer was reminding folks that there was a place to get photographed if you wanted to be considered for the costume contest. Halloween music was playing, the sun was just coming up behind the Gateway Arch, and the crowd was lively and ready to run. The races ended up starting a little later than planned with the 5K going off at 7:30 and the 10K/Half going off around 7:45. It wasn't a big deal though because the weather was warmer than I expected, and waiting around wasn't bad at all (plus I had the extra protection of my garbage bag).
Selfie with garbage bag!
The starting line was on Market Street, just a few blocks from where my hotel was located. The street was lined with beautiful buildings. They looked like a bunch of Federal buildings (courthouse, etc.). 
In the corral just prior to start.
As the race stepped off, we headed west on Market Street running past all the nice architecture. We turned right and then right again on to MLK Blvd which ran parallel to Market Street but had a much more industrial feel. We followed that stretch for a couple of miles until we reached the Mississippi River and made a right hand turn on to the access road that runs alongside the river. It was absolutely gorgeous during this stretch of the race and was my absolute favorite part. Miles 3-4.5 brought us along the river on the left side and passing next to the majestic Gateway Arch on the right side. It was an exquisite view, one I felt extremely lucky to experience on such a glorious morning!
As we continued along the river, the touristy area gave way to a wall painted with (at first) a fish mural which eventually morphed in to more graffiti laden spots. Just past the 4 mile mark was the "Zombie Zone" which I thought was going to be a bunch of people dressed like zombies chasing runners, but thankfully it was just a water stop manned by volunteers dressed in zombie costumes. At this point in the race, my bladder was not going to let me ignore it any longer, so I made a porta-potty stop. I generally try to never stop during a race, as it is such an interruption to my pace and momentum, but when ya gotta go.... The bad thing is that after you've been running and sweating, it isn't easy to negotiate the porta-potty. I also had removed my half-zip around mile two because I was hot, so that was tied around my waist along with my cheap gloves tucked in to my pants. I felt like a pack animal with too much stuff on me. The toilet break took me way too long, and I knew I lost a couple of minutes of time, but I felt better after emptying my bladder and was happy once I was back out running, feeling lighter and more comfortable. 
Around the next corner, we hit mile 5, and this area was still very industrial in landscape. Train tracks crossed the area and ran alongside. Not much seemed to be out this way, but there were some side streets that led to residential areas. A couple of people were miffed that they couldn't drive through the area due to the race and street closures. 
Around mile 6 we passed the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, home to Budweiser and other beers. It was a big brick factory, really a network of factories with a big iron fence around it that made me think if the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory. It was interesting to see, but (no offense, Budweiser) I thought the Miller Brewery out in Milwaukee looked more historic. About another mile and a half after the brewery was the turn around point for the race at mile 8. This turn around came in the neighborhood where the Alexius Hospital was located. It looked to me that this neighborhood was pretty hip and was in a transition of renovation. I suspect it will be the next up-and-coming place to live. 
We hairpin-turned and then took a sharp left before the return past the brewery through a historic neighborhood called Cherokee Antique Row. The small side street was lined with brick row-houses and several store fronts that were antique shops, art stores and cafes. It was quaint and lovely to run through this neighborhood. We took a right hand turn out of this area on to S. Jefferson Avenue which was a main thoroughfare featuring traffic and the bus route. This section of the race was not fully closed off, so it was busy and traffic was moving. It was a mix of commercial, single home residences and apartments. We turned right and ran through the Sidney Street area which was a much quieter residential area. The homes here were so nice, but it still had a distinct city feel to it. As we came out of this neighborhood and made the turn on to S. 12th Street, a guy in one of those inflatable costumes was standing there giving high fives. He looked so funny, but I can't even remember what his costume was (a pig, maybe?).  Anyway, he mad me laugh and helped give me a new burst of energy to get to the finish. 
This race was largely flat, except for a couple of minor hills near the brewery. It was nice not having to struggle through late mile elevation. My legs appreciated that. From S. 12th Street, we were set on basically a straightaway path to downtown. I don't remember much about the surrounding area in this last two miles except for the bridge we ran over that crossed the highway just prior to getting to the downtown finish area. We came out back to Market Street and had to run one loop of a block around before hitting the finish line. As I crossed the finish, the announcer called my name, "Kristen Frost from Enfield, CT, welcome to St. Louis!" What a terrific way to finish. 
Post-race photo with Arch in background.
I walked through the finishing chute, collected some water and my very cute Halloween-themed medal. While I struggled to take a finish line selfie, a nice woman came along and offered to help me out. I made my way over to the family/trick-or-treat area located in a small grassy area in front of one of the St. Louis University buildings. It was a nice finish line space with games for the kids to play, tables giving out candy for trick-or-treating and just some open space to stretch. I stretched out and then headed back up the street to my hotel. 
Park/finish area.
On my walk back, I passed through the City Garden which was a lovely corridor garden and sculpture park. I snapped a few photos of some of the statues there. 
City Garden sign. 
City Garden statues.
City Garden statues.
City Garden statues.
City Garden statues.
City Garden statues.
Back at the hotel, I finished my stretching, showered and made it in time to still catch my breakfast in the hotel restaurant. A made to order veggie egg-white omelette and a glass of chocolate milk for added protein and recovery. Yum! I went back to my room to pack and rest a little while before catching the 1:20 pm shuttle to the airport.
I checked my results on line and my official finish time was 2:02:37. Even though that's a little slower than I prefer to be, I knew I killed a couple of minutes with that bathroom break, so all in all, I was happy. 
Finisher's medal, race shirt and number.
More importantly, it was a wonderful trip to Missouri and so excellent to meet up with my old friend and meet his husband. Thanks for the fun, Will and Zak, and thanks St. Louis for the fantastic experience!
Missouri card.

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