Lewis & Clark Marathon

I love races- travel to and from, packet pick up, exploring a new town, pinning the bib on, chatting with others at the start, and challenging myself at a distance that never fails to humble. As such, I usually schedule 2 races per 15ish week training period. I am not Speedy McSpeedson, but my body recovers quickly…so physically, it suits me. Mentally, it limits the amount of performance pressure I experience in each race.

Having just done well but not gone all out in the Tupelo Marathon a week prior, I was ready for the Lewis and Clark Marathon. Ideas of requalifying for Boston Marathon or PRing even entered my head. The timing of the race was perfect and the location in St. Charles, Missouri was significant because it is the hometown of a very dear friend, Jen. Also a frequent racer, this would be the 4th race Jen and I have done (we have an unwritten rule that each runs her own pace throughout, but the travel/pre/post is always together) and a great way to celebrate our 5th friendship anniversary.

After a great pre-race dinner and 8+ hours of sleep, we enjoyed the convenient 5 minute walk to the starting line from our hotel. 65 degrees was a bit hot for our 7:15 start, but I was certainly not complaining, as last year’s race was cancelled 10 miles in due to heavy rainfall and flooding from Hurricane Ike. The starting area was well organized and I was glad to hear the National Anthem, as 2 of my last 3 races have been without. Judging by the laughs and fist pumps from those around me, I was not the only one who really enjoyed going through the starting chute and running the first quarter mile with the Chariots of Fire theme blaring from the speakers.

We began on the eastern side of the river in the part of town known as Riverport. Sounded cute in the marketing materials, but in reality it is actually a business park. Whatever. From there, we ran on closed roads through Earth City and onto a highway. I love running on the highway during a race- perhaps since it is the one place I can’t run during training, I feel like a rebel doing it.

Making our way into downtown St. Charles via bridge, we got the best view yet of the city's riverfront along the water. These first few miles were exactly what I envisioned for this race: steady 8 minute miles, perfect weather, friendly people to talk to. Unfortunately, my legs were definitely feeling the week prior- they were heavy and noodle-y all at once. It was definitely too early in the race to feel SO tired; my time reflected this too, as I had gone straight to 10 minute miles with no “in between”.
When another runner pointed out the 81 degrees on one of those digital signs, my suspicion that the temperature had shot up quickly was solidified. This wouldn’t have been so bad if we would have had shade every once in awhile. The sun was just beating down and by mile 12, I saw 1:52 and realized this was not going to be a PR. Or a Boston qualifier. Or sub-4. Ugh, should I just stop at the half??

Upon entering the city of St. Charles, we ran through a combination of open greenspaces and areas of the river floodplain. We went into city parks and through Frenchtown, which is positioned nicely to overlook the Missouri River. As luck would have it, this scenery wasn’t quite distracting enough to avoid the celebration at the half marathon finish line at Frontier Park. Although directed to a separate chute, full marathoners actually SEE halfers cross the finish, receive their medal, hug family and friends, and celebrate their accomplishment. The course at my very first marathon was set up similarly; I have never been so grateful for experience of resetting mentally and soldiering through for another 13.1 miles.

The next 6.5 miles took us along Katy Trail, a railroad turned greenway with mostly dirt and gravel, for an out-and-back stretch. I like passing out thumbs ups, greeting other runners I had chatted with in the early miles, and seeking out other Marathon Maniacs. This time, I was especially inspired during this race by seeing Kristyn Birrell of Bozeman, MT pushing her 12-year-old cousin, Chessa, in a specially-constructed jogger. I found out later that Chessa, who has no use of her legs and extremely limited use of her arms, has spinal muscular atrophy- just like my niece Katelyn.

This is SO DUMB (especially after the inspiration provided by the gals above) but I got annoyed at seeing two older, slower-looking people in front of me around mile 19. I had just run a marathon 7 days prior, so I don't know why I expected to be faster in the first place, but I just felt like hands down- these two should never have been in front of me. Around this same time, another girl who had a “my first marathon” sign on her shirt passed me. She shouldn't have been in front of me either. My rational self said, “Suz, you have 6 more miles to go. The race begins here, so run your OWN pace. Don’t worry about anyone else.” I ignored her and sped up to get ahead of all 3 of these people.

Around mile 23, I paid dearly for that move. My legs, still heavy noodles, were the least of my worries- my back was throbbing, my breathing was off, and I had a collection of Katy Trail gravel in my shoes. My thoughts at this point were poisonous: Why can’t I feel my legs? Is my Garmin lying? Am I some slow machine that can't move? Shouldn’t the Tylenol have kicked in by now? I seriously wanted to just quit. I didn't care that I only had 3 more miles. With hopes of a PR or BQ way behind me, the only reason I didn’t stop was because I wanted to earn my Missouri. Plus I never want to see “DNF” beside my name in race results.

By the finish, I was all sorts of foul stankness, almost unable to walk. Trifling. I clocked a 4:09:08- putting me at 216 of 688 overall, 41st of 262 females, and 11th of 47 in my age group.

Despite it being a bad running day, my spirits were quickly lifted when Jen and I were reunited and began trading tales. We were in different places along the course having the exact same thoughts and being amused, annoyed, energized, inspired, and surprised by the same things! Although it would have been nice to have during the race, I’ll take a second wind where I can get it….Jen provided exactly that. We spent the rest of the weekend celebrating our 5th friendship anniversary, appreciating another gorgeous medal, and a great overall experience!

Tupelo Marathon

Nothing against the good folks of Mississippi, but this was just one of those states where I just didn’t care. No race had really caught my eye and there wasn’t a particular city I wanted to go to. Other than a cute 3rd grade spelling association, I had no ties to Mississippi whatsoever. I chose Tupelo based solely on the rumor that “Crazy Jimmy” designs a skull and crossbones finishers’ medal each year.

Trey decided to go with me at the last minute, despite not being exactly thrilled with my travel plan- drive 6 hours to Tupelo, spend the night, run the marathon, beg the hotel for late checkout in an effort to shower, and drive 6 hours back to Kentucky.

We were pleasantly surprised by the hospitality of the people in Tupelo and enjoyed our afternoon exploring downtown and learning about its most famous former resident, Elvis Presley. No, I didn’t make Trey go to his birthplace…I figured he deserved an “out” after 6 hours of the alphabet game on the trip down.

After being forced to do my first paper registration ever, I knew information about the race beforehand would be limited. I did my own research. Reviews on Marathonguide.com were insistent on two points: “have a light source for the early miles” and “bring your own water”. Check, check.

The race began at 5 am on Sunday morning to avoid the heat, but there wasn’t really a way to control the humidity. Even at the start, I was sweating…or as a Mississippi gal would say, “glistening”! There was a full moon out, which was actually quite beautiful in the pitch black of the first 7 or so miles. I was grateful to be one of few who actually had a headlamp; many were attempting unsuccessfully to light their path with handheld flashlights. As predicted, water stops were scarce and I was glad that I had opted for my camelback. Other than at the North Face 50 miler and Dances with Dirt 50K ultras, I have never used it during a road race. Nonetheless, I was glad I had it- your girl has to hydrate.

This course was somewhat of an out and back, which I always enjoy because you get to see the runners ahead of you and behind you. For me, this meant seeing many of my fellow Marathon Maniacs and getting bursts of energy as we exchanged waves, fist pumps, and “MANIAC!” yells. At the half-marathon point, I was at 1:55:42...within range for my desired sub 4 hour marathon.

Something I hadn't realized was that there were going to be so many hills. The course description said "a rolling course..." but I didn't pay much attention to it and during the first half I could not SEE any of the terrain. Out of sight, out of mind. On the way back in the daylight, I saw what I had covered during the first half and it squashed my mentality. Suddenly I had a bajillion excuses as to why I wasn’t feeling well- for every ache and pain, I was all “well, it must be because of the hills earlier!”

Around mile 20, my mp3 player went dead. Only a few years ago, this would have been enough to really put me over the edge- there was a point where I needed music as a distraction and could not run without it. This time, perhaps as a testament to “growing” within the sport, I didn’t care. I decided to just focus on moving, picking up the pace along the way. I even began passing several people around mile 22!

I remember hearing some guy at one of my first races saying: if you happen to catch up to other runners, you better pass them; don't start running at their pace with them. The fact that you caught up with them means that you're faster than them, so keep on going forward. That rationale seemed to work, got me out of my mind funk, and helped me focus on something during the final miles. I kept telling myself, "If I can see them, I can PASS them"...and I did.

I finished the Tupelo Marathon in 3:55:18. This put me at 68 of 258 overall, 13th of 70 women, and 3rd of 9 gals in my 25-29 age group. The best part? Crazy Jimmy’s medal!