Friday, April 21, 2017

Foiled Again!

Once again bad weather threw a monkey wrench into my plans. Weather cancellations were becoming a trend and it's almost comical, really. These cancellations have really played havoc with my plans to nail down which race would be my Fifty States Half Marathon Club 100th half marathon.

Alamo Dome, San Antonio, where packet pickup was held for the HEB Half

So imagine my disappointment when my 99th race in San Antonio, the HEB Marathon/Half Marathon, was cancelled literally at the last minute due to severe weather. We were all at the start line waiting, delayed, as the staff struggled to make the cancel decision. It was the right decision, despite the grumblings of many of the runners, because a very severe front moved through about 1.5 hours after the start time of the race, bringing heavy rain, strong winds, hail, and a couple of tornadoes. It was a long, sad, disappointing drive back home.

Back when things were finally starting to settle down on my race calendar, it began to look like the Go! St. Louis Half Marathon was going to be my Fifty States 100th. This was actually perfect, since running friend Colleen, with whom I've done several previous half marathons, was finishing her 100th at this race. We were excited at this prospect. It killed me to have to message my friend to let her know the bad news about the San Antonio race cancellation. Now Go! St. Louis would not be my 100th.

Colleen is a supreme planner and organizer, and she had begun working in earnest, making reservations for a pre-race dinner, having a special cake made, even thinking of a cute theme for the group of us. She and I were going to be "Thing 100's", a play on the Dr. Seuss Thing 1 and Thing 2. She had bought us blue wigs, had signs made to pin to the front of our shirts that said "Thing 100" and had Thing 100 Crew signs made for all of the other runners in our group to wear. I had even bought a red running shirt to complete the Thing 100 outfit. Now I was going to be on the outside looking in on my friend's celebration, rather than being a co-celebrant.

This is what Colleen made me to wear on the front of my shirt

One week later, I flew into St. Louis on Friday, getting there early afternoon. I took a cab from the airport directly to the Chaifetz Arena where packet pickup was being held. It was a quick grab of my race bib and race shirt, then back outside to the shuttle bus stop, where free shuttles were bringing runners back to the downtown area. I got checked in to my lovely room at the Hyatt Regency, dropped my bag, and immediately grabbed a Starbucks at the shop off the hotel lobby.

I wandered outside and took some photos of the Old Courthouse and of the Gateway Arch. At this point I had no idea how I was going to get to the group dinner. It was being held 25 miles away, west of the city in Chester. It would have cost a fortune to take a cab or Uber. I didn't know who else was here for the race that I could call to make transportation plans

So in the end, I'd pretty much decided I wasn't going to make that dinner at all. Now, feeling sorry for myself that this wasn't going to be my 100th, that the celebrations weren't going to include me, and that I couldn't figure out how to get to the dinner, I eventually returned to my hotel room after going off on an unfruitful search for post-race cupcakes, to charge my phone. It had died while I was out and about taking photos.

When I plugged it in and turned it on, I saw that I had a message from my friend Colleen, offering to pick me up at the hotel. Well, crud! But she'd left that message at 3:30, probably about the time my phone was dying, and it was now 4:30 and no way was that going to work out. I had dinner at the Brewhouse downstairs off the hotel lobby and called it a day, but not before laying out my things for the race in the morning.

Race day morning, I was up, fed, dressed and out the door about 15 minutes  before the start of the race. It was a short walk down to Leonor K Sullivan Boulevard, below the Arch park. We had to walk north to Lacledes Landing Blvd in order to gain access to the boulevard and then had to walk south along the edge of the corral fencing to gain access to the corrals. It was tight, and jammed with other runners trying to get into their corral. It was reminiscent of the logjam of bodies at the Little Rock race. Eventually, as the front corrals were released, the congestion eased and I was able to squeeze into my corral.

I so desperately wanted to see my friend before the race started but felt there was no chance of that. I had no idea what corral she was in. But then, as my corral began to move forward toward the start line, there she was, unmistakable in her blue Thing wig! I caught up with her, gave her a hug and then stayed with her and a few of the "crew" in the first mile, but then pulled ahead of her as we began our ascent over the Mississippi River bridge toward the Illinois side.

It was a beautifully laid out course, with lots of enthusiasm from the volunteers and great support at the water stations. The route took us back over the river to St. Louis after about 4 miles, giving us a breathtaking view of the Gateway Arch, the Old Courthouse and the skyline along the river (many runners were stopping to take photos and selfies), then headed south of the city toward the historic Anheuser Busch brewery. 

Original Brew House at Anheuser Busch..dates back to 1880's.

The race route took us through the brewery campus and we could see the beautiful old red brick buildings, the historic Brew House, build in the 1880's with it's imposing Gothic architecture, the roundhouse used to keep the wagons and a group of horses that are rotated in for viewing.

A few Clydesdales out in a paddock for our viewing pleasure.

When we exited the brewery campus, we passed through the historic Soulard neighborhood where the infamous "pajama brigade" greeted us with raucous cheers and offers of free beer. This large group of spectators, dressed in pajamas, robes, slippers and drinking beer early in the morning really got us energized again. This historic French neighborhood hosts the annual Mardi Gras so they definitely know how to party!

The middle miles of a race are, for me, always the hardest, especially when the race route has been taking me in the opposite direction of the finish line. But now we were more than half way finished and heading north, back toward downtown. We ran through the lovely Lafayette Square neighborhood, one of the city's oldest with its beautiful park lined with gorgeous mansions, then continued north to Washington Ave where we could now see the Gateway Arch in the distance. Less than three miles to go to the finish line!

The last miles went quickly as the race course took a few turns then headed down to the Mississippi River's edge. This really was one of the best race courses I've done, for it's continually changing scenery, interesting turns, not to mention running across two giant bridges across the Mississippi River!

And then there was the finish line!! As I crossed the line and then began walking to the end of the finisher chute I heard my name called. It was a few of our Thing 100 Crew, sitting on the curb, eating decadently delicious ice cream sandwiches made especially for this race with Ted Drewe's frozen custard and fresh oatmeal cookies from Dad's Cookie Company, waiting for our friend Colleen to cross the finish line so that we could congratulate her and get photos.

Finishers at the finish line!

I walked back to my hotel room, got cleaned up, then headed for the Brewhouse restaurant for a late lunch and a beer, grabbed a cappuccino at the Starbucks afterward, and then waited to hear from Colleen about plans for dinner that evening.

The race route, data from my Garmin GPS watch

Dinner was at a really great little neighborhood restaurant called Tucker's Place. It's in the historic Soulard neighborhood of St. Louis (same neighborhood where the pajama brigade were that morning). There were three of us and the food was great! I had grilled shrimp and a baked potato, more than enough to share some with Colleen.

Cute little Thing 1 and Thing 2 toys

I was able to give her the gifts I'd brought with me, meant for the pre-race dinner, but better late than never. I'd gotten her a pair of 100 Halfs glasses, made by another running friend Ali, and some really cute little Thing 1 and Thing 2 soft dolls. She loved them!!

Afterward, Colleen took us to local tradition for frozen custard at Ted Drewe's Frozen Custard stand. It was beyond an experience to remember! The lines for the walk up windows were 20-deep with people, all cramming into the space between the building and the road.

Huge crowds waiting in line at Ted Drewe's

But the lines moved quickly and the folks waiting were all pleasant and friendly. I ordered a Cardinal Sin, made with vanilla custard, tart black cherries, and hot fudge. It was sinfully good and a cute nod to the home team,

Kathleen and I enjoying a frozen custard

Then it was back to the hotel to pack and get ready for my cab ride to the airport the next morning for my flight back home. It was a memorable race and good trip!

A really great race!

1 comment:

  1. I'm sorry that wasn't your 100 race, but at least you were there among friends and got another finish. Mother Nature just doesn't care what our plans are when the skies open up.