Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Half Marathon in my Backyard - an Interview with our Tri-Athlete

This past week I met with Kevin, our resident tri-athlete at NBwebexpress.com to hear all about his half marathon experience over the weekend. July may seem like a ‘not-so-ideal’ time for a half marathon in St Louis, but he decided to go for it despite the heat. Hoping for a temperately mild morning, Kevin conceded “July in St Louis can be a bit extreme and is definitely not too inviting, but with a 7:00am start time, I was hoping for the best.”

The Joker’s Wild Half Marathon consisted of two laps around the six and a half mile loop in Creve Coeur Park, a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri. Each lap had about 1/3 shade and 2/3 of direct sun…very important to a half marathoner the weekend after the 4th of July.

“Last weekend, I walked from my backyard to the start line,” he said. Kevin actually lives within a few miles of the park and puts in most of his training miles there, so it was a no brainer when he heard about the event. Kevin is also no stranger to multiple events and many miles. This year he has already completed the St Louis Half Marathon, a Rec-Plex Quarter Max Triathlon and is ‘in-training’ for the Lake St Louis Triathlon as well as the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon. He thought a mid-summer half would be the perfect addition in his training schedule. “After I did the Spirit of St. Louis Half, I thought July would be an appropriate time to do another.”

Once Kevin arrived, he took stock of the runners and began to search for a starting spot. After a bathroom pit-stop, he happened upon the bright colored wigs of the 1:45 pace team. “My St. Louis Half time was 1:46, so I knew that 1:45 would be an aggressive goal considering the heat, but I felt it was right for this race.” At the start, Kevin was accompanied by about 30-40 runners with the 1:45 pace team.

Kevin started out feeling relatively well. The first couple of miles were primarily in the shade and runners in his pace group were chatting away, even having entire conversations as they ran. He was a little taken back by how social the group was, “I was surprised how much people were carrying on during the race.” He answered the typical “Where are you from? What do you do?” questions, but other than a few words here and there, Kevin mainly kept to himself and concentrated on his breathing and gait cadence.

At the halfway point and after a solid 5 miles in direct sun, the original pack of 40 had dropped to 7 or 8 runners. Kevin started to think that he, like the other runners that had pulled back, may have been a bit too ambitious in the 90 degree heat, “halfway through the race I started to think a goal of 1:45 was aggressive... and finally at mile nine, I guess you could say I hit the wall.” The lack of shade and heat got to be overwhelming, and with the 1:45er’s way ahead, Kevin was now running by himself in the sizzling sun. “Each mile felt like 2 or 3 miles worth of effort.” His wife Donna had put together an inspirational song list for his i-Pod, perfectly timed for 90 minutes into the race. But to Kevin’s dismay, no i-Pods were allowed on the course, “Since it was a public park, and bikers would be on the same route, no i-Pods allowed. I could have really used that inspiration about then.”

As he gutted out the final few miles, he thought of his wife and kids cheering him over the finish line. “The last few were killer (hard), and my legs were toast.” His family did not disappoint… as he came down the last stretch he could see his son and daughter holding signs with his wife cheering him on. It was over and he was glad. Now it was time to cool off and relax. He had finished the Joker’s Wild Half Marathon in 1:51, not too bad considering the morning heat and sun. The winning time of the race was 1:15.

Kevin had some tips for runners training for a half marathon; he encourages trying new hydration strategies out before race day, “Whatever you do in your training, feel confident to do on race day! If you are used to eating the goo (energy gel) then eat the goo. You may need more than just water. But only try the gel if you know what to expect from it. Otherwise, I saw more than a few runners drop out with upset stomachs.” He also mentioned that although there were plenty of water stations, with the hot temperature, he needed more to finish, “a lot of the people on the course were having hydration issues.” Always keep hydrated, especially when racing in the hot summer months.

While running in the heat of July might not have been the most desirable experience, Kevin doesn’t regret racing that day. On racing next year? “I’m going to have to say ‘no’ as of today, unless they alter the course (to offer more shade)” But he will keep pressing on for the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon on October 7, 2007. His goal is 4:00.

Kevin is an avid tri-athlete with aspirations to complete a half Ironman competition next year, and a full Ironman within the next three years. Kevin resides in Creve Coeur, Missouri, with his wife, Donna, of seven years and two children, Felina (6 yrs) and True (3 yrs).

No comments: