Friday, October 26, 2012

Rock n Roll St. Louis

Brooks ID program sent a notice early in the year letting us members know that they had "x" number of comped entries to the various Rock n Roll Marathon races around the country.  It was a first come first get scenario, and I didn't jump quick enough to get my first couple of choices but on the third try got the go ahead for St. Louis.  The date worked well as it was a few weeks after the Bourbon Chase and it was a Sunday so was feasible during the height of XC season.  So, directly following a Saturday morning XC meet, it was off to the Gateway to the West.

The goal was pretty simple - PR.  My best of 2:44:59 (sounds better than 2:45) was an eight minute improvement achieved in April on a fairly challenging Derby Festival Marathon course in Louisville.  Looking at past results and hearing the horror stories of how hilly this St. Louis course was had me thinking it would be a tough day that might yield a top ten result if I was lucky.   

Coming off the line with the 1/2 marathoners is always tricky business in terms of keeping yourself in check, but I stayed well under my threshold and, despite a tight hip/hamstring combo, the miles ticked off pretty easily.  I was feeling strong fitness wise and made the turn at the 1/2 mark in the 1:21 range, and was curious to hear for the first time what position I was in now that we had left the halfers.  I saw my girlfriend right where she was supposed to be she said "you're fourth!"

Fourth?  I double-checked my watch to make sure I hadn't gone out stupid fast.  Nope.  Right where I should be, but I knew more hills were coming and just kept my focus up the road ahead and on running efficiency.  Probably over-compensating for the leg tightness, I was drinking at every aid station and eating lots.  It was working.  My energy levels were high, and I was getting used to the fact that I had a personal bike escort showing me the way.   Then, running through Forest Park, I saw a strong looking guy coming the other way on a two-way section of course.  A minute later, I was rounding a 180.  That meant the guy I just say was right in front of me.  Could this be happening?  A shot at third place?  Finally we exited Forest Park, my bike guy told me that it was a straight shot back.  I looked up the wide rolling highway and saw the third place guy and his bike escort.   Maybe needing some conversation, I told my bike guy "it's a hard place to be - just wanna make it all up at once."  To which he replied, "man, you look better than he does - just keep doing what you're doing."  I took his advice.

With about 5k to go I pulled even with my target then rolled away.  My bike guy went with me and his stayed with him.  It was a little surreal.  Was I really running 3rd in a huge city marathon being escorted by a medical bike?  The legs were really really tight, but my head felt good so I just concentrated on not blowing up.  A couple twists and turns downtown and I was looking at the shoot.  One more look over my shoulder and a glance at my watch.  2:43!

Shortly after crossing the line, a lady with the promotions company Competitor Group handed me an envelope and told me to make my way to the VIP tent.  Was this happening?  There were umpteen thousand people on the street and we were headed to the VIP tent?  Sure enough, catered food, private porta-potties, a clean up station and chairs - crazy!  A quick interview with the MC, then it was off to the main stage for the awards presentation.  On stage I was handed my award by Frank Shorter.  This was just too surreal.  I woke up that morning thinking a PR would be nice - then there I stood holding a boquet, in front of thousands of onlookers, and next to Frank Shorter.  Not as prepared as my fellow podium placers, I didn't even have a Brooks shirt with me.  While I was prepared to go out and battle, I wasn't ready to be wishing I had my Brooks podium shirt.   I'm not an elite runner by any stretch, but some days it's kind of nice to feel like one - if even an unprepared one.

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