Thursday, April 16, 2015

Wrong Way Ferreira Strikes Again! St. Louis Style

Only a week back from South Africa and I was back in the airport, this time to St. Louis for my first marathon of the season. Arriving at the start line wasn't easy(more on that later) but I was ready to run. The race combined the marathon, half-marathon and marathon-relay so the start line was crowded with some super-fast guys but as I looked around I could see the bibs of the marathoners and tried to keep them in my sights as we took off.

Probably due to those same super-fast guys, I went out a little fast but felt comfortable and strong. I slowed it down a bit to get back into marathon pace, and enjoyed the run. In the first few miles we cross over into Illinois and into East St. Louis(Who knew it wasn't in Missouri?). The welcome we got was amazing! The crowds, even in the most run down sections, were very supportive. We crossed back into St. Louis and started around the city. This race is one to PR at. Very flat, plentiful aids stations and a good amount of rabbits to run after. A must do race.

I had a vague idea where I was in the pack, probably 7 or 8th running hard but comfortable. Around mile 12, I felt strong and was in a good pack of runners many of whom were running the half. A bunch accelerated but I just let them go as I still had 14 miles to go. Cresting a little hill, I had realized why they had accelerated. Just ahead was the finish line! I must have missed the turn!

Okay so that didn't happen. Sorry about that. I came up with that story around mile 5 when I realized that I wasn't going to finish the race. It is always easier to blame it on someone or something else rather than yourself but this race it was all about me. Within the first mile of the race, I knew my heart and head wasn't in it. I continued running but didn't feel any better. Physically, I was fine. I was clicking off marathon goal pace miles with ease but I had no desire. Hollow. All I wanted to do was to shower, curl up under a blanket and sleep away the day. So I DNF'd. Which wasn't easy. Not because I have too much pride(I lost that at the VT88.6), but because the volunteers were all so good that they kept on trying to get me to continue on the marathon course rather than stop at the half's finish. Despite their best efforts, I quit at 13.1 and frankly don't feel too bad about it.

So I may be revising my 50 marathons challenge. As I don't really have any interest right now in that but still love traveling, maybe I will do something like: visit every baseball park in the country, drink at every brewery(I realize I'll have to set very specific guidelines since micro and nano-breweries are popping up on every corner). Or maybe I can just travel for the sake of traveling and not have a challenge attached to it at all? Interesting thought.

Okay, back to the trip!

My dad dropped me off at the Manchester Airport where I met up with my friend Kendra who was using the St. Louis half as a training run and fitness test for the Delaware marathon where she hopes to qualify for Boston. As the airlines recommend we got there about an hour early for our flight, during which time there was no mention of delays. However, as we were preparing to board a woman came on the intercom saying there would be a 2 hour delay! Which was just long enough for us to miss our connecting flight in Newark and therefore not be able to get to St. Louis.

No! Not again, after the Mississippi trip, I thought for sure that the bad flying luck was behind us. Not so. I rushed to the front of the line and the woman behind the counter said that there was no other options out of Manchester but if we hurried down to Boston we could make a flight that connected in Chicago and would bring us in to St. Louis around midnight. Better later than never! We sprinted back to Kendra's car, paid the full day rate for parking and hustled down to Boston.

We arrived in Boston only to find that our new flight was now also delayed(again no email updates informing us of this) and we would most likely now miss our connecting flight by 5 minutes. Can’t they hold the flight for us? To which the response was, probably not. We would have to hope that the pilot could make up the time in the air to get us there. The woman was nice enough to get us seated near the front of the plane so at least we could get off quickly.

Nothing like a little speed work two nights before a marathon, right? We got off the plane and sprinted to our gate hoping to get there before it closed only to find that not only did they not wait for us, they actually left ahead of schedule! Craaap! Now it’s 11:30pm and we’re stuck in Chicago with no flights to St. Louis until the next morning. I briefly toyed with the idea of renting a car and driving it down that night but after getting stranded in the airport rental car lot last time I did that, I opted to sleep over in Chicago and take the first flight out the next morning. By the time we had gotten to our over-priced hotel room(apparently United didn’t think comping us a room was an option), it was well after midnight and we had a 7am flight. Suffice it to say we didn’t get an ideal night’s sleep for a marathon taper.

We arrived in St. Louis around 9am and headed immediately to the Gateway Arch. It was very impressive and I bet will look even better when all the construction around it is done. It is pretty cool how you can see it from pretty much everywhere in the city so serves as both a physical landmark as well as the metaphorical one that the architect had envisioned(to symbolize the St. Louis as the gateway to the west). If you want to do the trip to the top, arrive early because as we were coming back down the line was out of sight. Does afford good views of the city and helps you get your bearings. However if you are at all clastrophobic, you may want to stick with viewing it from the safety of the ground. The elevator shafts(more of a tight-fitting gondola) is best described as snug.
Kenny and the arch


The rest of the day was spent in a whirlwind of exploring a new city. Anheuser-Busch may be the most famous brewery in the town but definitely not the only one. Both Schlafly's and Kirkwood Station are well worth a stop over. Also needed to sample the local cuisine which high on the list was toasted ravioli. We went over to Cahokia Mounds State Park which was the site of an ancient Indian city that in 1250AD(or is it CE?) had more people than London! In fact, Cahokia's population at its peak in the 1200s would not be surpassed by any city in the United States until the late 18th century. It is considered the largest and most complex archaeological site north of the cities in Mexico. And yet Columbus "discovered" America. It is a pretty amazing place where you can walk around this field with high mounds on it that was once an impressive city.
Cahoxia Mounds-Monk's Mound
After the race we explore Forest Park and had time to see the Cathedral Basicila which boasts the largest collections of mosaics in the world. Not my cup of tea but impressive nonetheless.
The Cathedral Basilica

The architecture throughout the city has also very impressive and lots of nice green spaces throughout the city. The botanical gardens and Forest Park are great and if I hadn't just come back from Africa, I probably would have been more interested in the St. Louis zoo which I hear is nice.
In all, St. Louis was far nicer than I had expected with a good selection of places to eat and drink, and explore. Actually very similar to Pittsburgh where I hadn't heard many nice things but was pleasantly surprised.

Up Next: Not quite sure. The Emerson Trail Race is May 2nd and you will see me there volunteering. It's a great race and supports a local pre-school.

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