Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Race Report: GO! St. Louis Marathon

Nice aerial view of downtown from
my plane, as we come in for a landing.
I added the Go! St. Louis Marathon to my 2018 calendar roughly a month before the race, making it part of my preparations for a double marathon weekend in late April between the Revel Mt. Charleston Marathon and Big Sur Marathon on consecutive days. My "training" consisted of getting myself ready to do lots of mileage over consecutive days, pulling in two "Goofys" - 39.3 mile weekends with a full and half marathon on a Saturday and Sunday - a term coined from the Disney Marathon challenge of doing both distance races a day apart. This was my second Goofy weekend before my big double, having run a half and full in Pennsylvania just two weeks earlier.  This would be my third distance race in St. Louis, having completed the Rock 'n' Roll St. Louis Half Marathon twice - in 2014 and 2016.

Mmm... Imo's Pizza!
I got to St. Louis on Saturday afternoon, after a very busy morning, running a half marathon in Charlottesville, Virginia, then getting on a plane to fly to Atlanta then to St. Louis.  At the St. Louis Airport, my friend Kimberly picked me up, and we dropped my bags off at her house before we headed to our friends' Eddie and Natalie's in the suburb of Chesterfield for a delicious dinner with other runner friends in town for the race. There, we met up with our friends Donna and Georgia who were also staying at Kimberly's, who had driven over from Springfield, Illinois where they ran the Lincoln Presidential Half Marathon on Saturday morning.  After a great time spent with friends, and a full belly from the delicious dinner at Eddie and Natalie's, we headed back to Kimberly's and had some more food before the night was over - needing to stop at Imo's Pizza, a local St. Louis favorite, famous for their St. Louis style pizza - a very thin cracker-like crust made without yeast, Provel processed cheese, and slices cut into squares or rectangles instead of wedges.

Sunrise alongside the Mississippi River
We had an early morning 5:15am wake up call on Sunday, with the temperatures very cold at only 30°F. After waiting for our other friend Hollie to arrive and park her car at Kimberly's, our carpool traveled in one car toward downtown St. Louis and the parking location we were provided a pass for.  We were all bundled up and with tired legs from racing the day before.  After parking, we walked down to the cobblestone streets of Laclede's Landing, already dreading the possibility that we'd have to run over these ankle twisting terrain and met up with other runners who had gone to the dinner the night before.  We also found Ken and Ryan from Arkansas, who were in the corrals preparing to pace the 4:45 marathon group. I decided to start alongside them, knowing full well my finish times in recent memory were not going to be able to keep up.

About to start!
After the anthem, the gun set off and being far back in the corrals we got a good vantage point of the runners as they began to run overhead on the span of the Martin Luther King Bridge into Illinois.  Our start was a bit late, going off some 23 minutes after the gun, but off we went, heading up Sullivan Boulevard alongside the Mississippi River for about a tenth of a mile before taking the abrupt and slightly severe uphill along Carr and North 4th Streets to get up to the Martin Luther King Bridge. We were halfway across the bridge and technically in the state of Illinois as we hit the first mile mark, making it to the other side and arriving in the city of East St Louis, Illinois.  My legs already began to ache as we made our way across the concrete.

Running across the Martin Luther King Bridge into Illinois
Crossing state lines!
Running through East St. Louis
East St. Louis was once a bustling industrial center, but like many cities in the Rust Belt, it was severely affected by the loss of jobs due to industrial restructuring during the second half of the 20th century.  Consistent with the growing poverty and unemployment, the city maintains a seedy reputation as one of the most dangerous cities in the US.  As we made our way off of the bridge's span, and then ran briefly through the city's downtown, we saw many abandoned buildings and strip clubs along Collinsville Avenue.  Our time here in this desolate ghost town was thankfully shortlived, spending roughly 2.5 miles on this side of the border, eventually taking River Park Drive onto the Eads Bridge as we ran back over the river toward Missouri.

Being stupid in front of an East St. Louis strip club...
Leaving East St. Louis, I see the arch!
The Eads Bridge was opened in 1874, the first bridge erected across the Mississippi River south of the Missouri River, and one of the oldest bridges on the river. At the time of its construction, it contained the longest rigid span and the deepest underwater constructions for its foundations. The bridge was also an iconic image of the city of St. Louis, up until 1965 when the Gateway Arch was completed.  Upon crossing back into Missouri, the half marathon and marathon runners continued on down Washington Avenue, eventually turning left onto Broadway. Enthusiastic cheers of spectators welcomed us back to the Missouri side of the course, with runners doing the 7k ramping off of the bridge to the right and to their finish line.  Despite clear signage along the course directing traffic, some 7k runners got confused and kept running with us!

On Broadway, headed south
We headed south along Broadway, reaching the mile 5 mark just past the I-64 overpass and Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals.  We continued on south, as our surroundings became more drab, especially to our left, as we passed by the largely non-residential industrial neighborhood of Kosciusko.  To our right was the neighborhood of Soulard, one of the oldest communities in the city, and home to the North American headquarters of Anheuser-Busch.  A group of fun spectators out cheering us on in the cold provided us some snocaps - an old fashioned, small dark chocolate disc shaped cookie sprinkled with small white candy balls on top.  Somewhere near the Anheuser-Busch headquarters, I ran into Pam from Mississippi, who I met at Eddie and Natalie's house the night before, and we would run together from miles 6 to 9.5, taking us all the way around Soulard and over the confusing interchange of the I-44 and I-55 highways, before following the perimeter of the 29.95-acre Lafayette Park. The nicely restored homes in the charming neighborhood of Lafayette Square surrounded the park, an area I've been through during both half marathons I've run in this city.
Running through Soulard
With Pam in front of the Anheuser-Busch headquarters
The full and half split
We began to run due north along Jefferson Avenue, taking us over the railroad tracks and I-64 before I split off from Pam underneath a massive American flag, as the half marathoners continued on straight up the avenue to run the remaining 5K to the finish.  Marathoners turned left onto Market Street, and with the crowd thinning out considerably, we were treated to a nice downhill for a short length of expansive road. Around the 10.5 mile mark, just as we were turning left to head down Compton Avenue, and back over the railroad tracks and I-64, my cellphone buzzes and find out that Hollie was not far behind me, so we meet up and decide to run together for as much of the next several miles as we could.  We would end up running the next eight miles together. The route then turned onto Chouteau Avenue, an area of St. Louis I was very familiar with, having run along this stretch of road during both of the previous halves I've run.

Enjoying The Grove
After continuing through a largely industrial part of the course, we found ourselves running over a small overpass over more railroad track, just as faster runners aiming for a 3+ hour finish were coming up the avenue on the other side of the road.  Among them was my friend Marc, pacing one of those faster pace groups.  The course then veered left slightly, as we ran through the more commercial Manchester Avenue in the bustling Grove Entertainment District, home to several LGBT friendly businesses, several of which led the initial wave of investment in the area. We turned right onto Newstead Avenue, making our way toward Chouteau Park and eventually up toward Clayton Avenue, as we ran past the halfway point of our race, recording a split time of 2:45:32.  Nearby, we could see the behemoth towers of St. Louis' hospital quarter - passing by the Shriners Hospital, Barnes Jewish Hospital, and the Washington University School of Medicine as we made our way under Kingshighway Boulevard into St. Louis' famous Forest Park.
Posing in front of one of the gay bars on Manchester Avenue. LOL
Passing Pagoda Lake
Over the next several miles, we wove through the asphalt roads of Forest Park, considered the "Heart of St. Louis," and was home to several significant events since its opening in 1876 - namely, the 1904 World's Fair and the 1904 Summer Olympics.  We first passed by Jefferson Lake along Faulkner Drive, before turning onto Wells Drive, and skirting alongside the Highlands Golf and Tennis Center. We then passed by the Jewel Box, a stately glassed-in art-deco greenhouse that operates as both an event space and horticultural facility on McKinley Drive. We then followed Union Drive up to a left turn onto Theatre Drive, looping ourselves around Pagoda Circle past the St. Louis Municipal Opera Theatre (better known as the MUNY), an 11,000 seat amphitheatre that totes itself as the oldest and largest outdoor Broadway-style musical theatre in the country.  We also ran around Pagoda Circle, encircling Pagoda Lake, with an island at its center that houses the classical-style Nathan Frank Bandstand.

With just over 15 miles already logged in, we ran up Cricket Drive, momentarily being misled partway through an adjacent parking lot due to some misplaced barriers.  We eventually realized that the course didn't mean to take us through the parking lot, and we turned left onto Grand Drive, seeing the mile 16 marker a little out of place, but where we needed to be.  On the other side of the road was another friend Ed and his 5:30 pace group, not too far in front of us. I also happened upon my new friend Lara, who I met at the Two Rivers Marathon a couple weeks prior.  After introducing her to Hollie, the three of us would run together for the next couple miles, playing a bit of leapfrog once we felt a little kick in our step.  Lara would end up running with me all the way to the finish for the second time in two weeks!

The Grand Basin and Art Museum
Grand Drive became Lagoon Drive, and at some point along the way (past the Emerson Grand Basin with the St. Louis Art Museum in the background), we finally reached the turnaround, where we would head back in the direction we had just came.  Hollie would leave me at mile 18, and I would continue on with Lara along Grand Drive to Jefferson Drive.  The course would then retrace our steps from the time we had entered the park near its southeastern entrance.  We were now about 18.5 miles into the race, and would retrace the next 4.5 miles along the route that cut through the center of the city, past the hospitals and back over Manchester and Chouteau Avenues, and then through Midtown all the way back to the huge American flag that stood at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Market Streets.  This time, we continued up Jefferson Avenue, along the route the half marathoners were continuing on some 13 miles ago.

Nearing the end.. and I found Gay St!
We headed up Jefferson Avenue past the 23 mile mark, then turned onto Washington Avenue as the course cut its way east back toward Downtown St. Louis.  My watch read 5:00 as we had 3.1 miles to go.  We actually had a nice steady downhill as we came down Washington, playing a little bit of "run two blocks, walk one block" intervals.  On Tucker Boulevard, we turned left, having reached the 24 mile mark, and followed the route northward as it ran along the border between the Columbus Square and Carr Square neighborhoods. We then turned onto Cass Avenue, as the route then veered back onto the riverfront on Sullivan Boulevard. The last mile seemed to take forever as the arch got closer and closer, but as I knew the race would be over just in front of the arch, we pushed as best as we could.  I crossed the finish line in 5:41:25.  My second half was only ten minutes slower than my first, so despite the less than stellar time, I was pleased with my consistency over running so much distance over the course of the weekend.  I had completed 39.3 miles of running for the second time in two weeks!
Bling with the Gateway Arch!
Victory Headstand with the Eads Bridge and MLK Bridge in the background
Bailey's Range!  YUM...
There to give me my medal was my friend Brigitte, a fellow distance runner and local to the area.  After getting my headstand photo with the bridges we ran across early in the race in the background (already having gotten headstand photos with the arch in the background in my two previous St. Louis races), I headed off to local haunt Bailey's Range, always a must for me when I'm in town.  This restaurant has fantastic burgers as well as delicious alcoholic milkshakes! I met up with several friends who had finished the half hours before and were already a few drinks into their afternoon.  After spending a good amount of the afternoon with them, we made our way to the airport for our flights home.  I had finished another 39.3 mile weekend, and I felt good going into the home stretch with three weeks to go before my Revel Mt. Charleston/Big Sur Marathon double!

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Race Report: Charlottesville Half Marathon

In preparation for a double marathon weekend at the end of April, I decided to load up my March and April schedules with weekends where I'd do 39.3 miles - a marathon and a half on successive days.  That way, my body would be attuned to the wear and tear of the amount of mileage I'd be putting it through.  I did a full and half a few weeks earlier with the Two Rivers Marathon and Philly Love Run, so this time I decided to switch them around to do the half first, and the full second. At the same time, I got to book a national anthem gig to check off the state of Virginia in the process.  First up was the Charlottesvillle Half Marathon, home of the University of Virginia.

The weather forecasts in the week prior to the Charlottesville Half Marathon seemed pretty dire. With temps seemingly plummeting, high winds, and precipitation ranging from rain to snow, it was difficult to determine what to wear for the race, let alone where I was going to stay.  Initially, I had gotten in touch with my friends Patsy and Kerry, parents of my friend Caitlin, who would house me the night before the race in Staunton, about 45 minutes west of Charlottesville.  But with the weather forecast as it was, they suggested I look at alternative means of accommodation (the road from Staunton to Charlottesville was over a mountain pass that could close for inclement weather.) With most of Charlottesville hotels booked up or super expensive, I ended up last minute contacting another friend Glen, who lived 45 minutes to the east, in the town of Kents Store. He had told me a couple weeks before at the Two Rivers Marathon that he was going to be in town to do the race, and that if I needed a place to stay, that he had a spot for me.  The route from Kents Store in Louisa County to Charlottesville was significantly better and did not have mountain passes to deal with, so I came into Virginia with the plan to stay at Glen's.

These temps don't look promising.
Three days out, and the weather on Saturday was looking to be pretty wet, turning into snow at 10am. As the weekend was going to be a double weekend for me, I was slated to fly out of Charlottesville at 12:30pm after the race to get down to Atlanta before connecting on to St. Louis for my Sunday race.  I was landing pretty late on Friday night, and upon landing, the pilot had warned us of high winds, warning us to be careful as we exited the plane down the stairs and onto the tarmac. I drove through the hilly back country roads carefully, as I made my way to Kents Store, and promptly went to bed in the detached single room "cabin" behind Glen's house.  Through the night, I could hear the wind pick up and the rain start to fall, making me very anxious about the weather on Saturday morning.

When I woke about five hours later, the wind had died down (mercifully), but it was still raining a little bit.  Glen, and his two houseguests Cade and Jennifer, all running the marathon, were up and getting ready for the race. I decided to leave first and took Glen's advice to park somewhere near the First Presbyterian Church along Park Street - my initial research revealed that parking in downtown Charlottesville was complex and subject to potential fines for parking without a permit in certain designated areas.  I decided to park a couple blocks from the start in street parking, knowing that I could get a fine, but it would only be $25, if anything.

Meeting up with Patsy, pre-race
It was actually quite nice in the morning prior to race - only 48° with thankfully no rain - I dressed in a single longsleeved shirt, and some long tights.  I headed over to the start area in the Historic Court Square area, the oldest portion of the City of Charlottesville, where some of the buildings date back to the early 1800's. The start and finish line was located directly in front of the Albemarle County Courthouse.  There, I met up with Patsy, who was preparing for the 8K. She was able to make it with no problems from the weather over from Staunton. Patsy was going to wait for me to finish, and I estimated that I would be done at about 9:30, 2 1/2 hours after the start.  I made myself known to the race director, Francesca, located at the startline, and at about 6:45, readied myself for the national anthem - effectively checking off the state of Virginia with my rendition.  After singing, we were off!

West on Jefferson Street
We headed west along Jefferson Street, past Justice Park and Emancipation Park (the two parks with controversial Confederate statues that dominated the news media in 2017), before taking a steep downhill road as we ran along Preston Avenue past several old buildings in Charlottesville's historic district.  At the bottom of the hill was the Albemarle County Office Building, a building which used to house the main high school up until the 1970s. The route then had us turn left along Ridge McIntire Road, and then right through the West Main Street Historic District, a commercial corridor and important connection between the University of Virginia and Downtown Charlottesville, and to its surrounding neighborhoods.  As we passed through another commercial district known as The Corner, we gradually climbed up along University Avenue until we reached the 1 3/4 mile mark near the University of Virginia's Rotunda, about 125 feet higher in elevation than at the bottom of the hill.
Past the Albemarle County Office Building
Uphill climb along University Avenue
The Rotunda at UVA's Campus
The Rotunda, a building located on The Lawn on the original grounds of UVA, was originally designed by Thomas Jefferson in 1822, later rebuilt in 1898 with a modified design by Stanford White after it had burned down in a fire, and then gutted and completely rebuilt once more in time for America's Bicentennial in 1976 to Jefferson's original design.  It is also, along with Jefferson's home at Monticello, one of only three modern man-made sites in the US to be internationally protected and preserved as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.  Modeled after the Pantheon in Rome, it was designed to house the library and be flanked on either side by faculty pavilions, interspersed with student rooms.

Along residential Northwood Avenue
We turned right onto Rugby Road, taking us past the Fralin Museum of Art, before turning right once more onto Gordon Avenue, as well as the highest point in the entire race, at 574 feet in elevation.  After taking a short turn that took us along Grady Avenue, we had a nice steady downhill as we returned back to the corner of Preston Avenue and McIntire Road, where the Albemarle County Office Building was.  I reached the 5k mark at around 33 minutes, as we turned left onto McIntire Road.

The route took us through the largely residential part of the North Downtown neighborhood of Charlottesville, curving from McIntre Road onto Perry Drive, then a short steep climb up to Northwood Avenue and Evergreen Avenue, past many beautifully restored homes, replete with the character of the history that defines the city of Charlottesville. We curved our way around to Lexington Avenue, and then turned left onto Poplar Street, while we could see the 8K runners continue straight up a rather intimidating looking hill.

The neighborhood of Locust Grove
The marathoners and half marathoners alone now, we would begin a long out-and-back section that would be roughly 4 miles to the turnaround point for the half marathon runners.  From Poplar Street, we were turning left onto the continuously rolling Locust Avenue, beginning a one mile long straight shot into the the residential neighborhood of Locust Grove.  Most of the homes here were built between 1940 and 1970, and you could tell the difference as we got to the end of the section on Locust Avenue before turning left onto Locust Lane. We reached a cul de sac, and ended up having to run through a very narrow pathway between houses before emerging on the other side onto St. Charles Court, which after a slight curve became St. Charles Avenue. The course zigzagged as we progressed further into the neighborhood, passing Northeast Park.  As I made my way past the 6 mile mark, the fastest runners of the day were on their way back, some five miles in front of me.  We completed a short out and back along Sheridan Avenue (which ultimately got really confusing with runners going out to the turnaround in different directions), before curving up to Holmes Avenue.  The road rolled up and down quite a bit as we made our way further up along Agnese Street, then finally emerging out of the residential neighborhood onto Rio Road (pronounced Rye-oh, as we are in the south), a road that connected to Park Street.
It's pronounced "Rye-oh," not Rio like Rio de Janeiro.
The Rivanna Trail
Before it became Park Street, though, we turned right onto Melbourne Road, proceeding half a mile up the road to the John W. Warner Parkway, where we would get onto a section of the Rivanna Trail that skirted Meadow Creek.  The asphalt trail rolled as well, unsurprisingly, as we continued north up the path up to the turn around point a little over a mile later.  Ultimately, the Rivanna Trail is a 20-mile rustic "urban wilderness" hiking trail built and maintained by volunteers that encircles the City of Charlottesville.  It meanders through forested buffers that protect the City's streams and rivers, serving as a community-wide resource for play, exercise, relaxation, and nature-related recreation and education. The Trail passes through many neighborhoods and connects six City parks, but for the half marathon, would only run along this roughly one mile section of trail.  The marathon would continue on north, completing an eight mile loop around the suburban community of Rio, northeast of Charlottesville.

Coming into the finish
(Photo by Patsy Alexander)
The trail crosses Meadow Creek on the Parkway Trail Bridge, then does a couple switchbacks heading uphill before a downhill section toward the turnaround point for the half marathoners.  The four mile return back felt easier, as there seemed to be more downhill sections to run; but perhaps because there were far fewer runners to encounter on the running back? As we made our way on the one mile section on Locust Avenue, I managed to run some of my fastest continuous pace of the whole race. To make matters worse, it began to rain for the first time in the whole race. It continued to rain as we hit Poplar Road and returned back onto the path that we had seen the 8K runners continue along. All the way to the end, as we zigzagged back toward Historic Court Square, it was a gradual uphill, climbing 80 feet over the last 1/2 mile.  We made the right turn from Lexington Avenue onto Maple Street, passing Maplewood Cemetery, Charlottesville's oldest cemetery, as we continued to struggle up the hill, charging ever so closely to the finish line.  A few more slight turns, and we were back to where we started, and I crossed the finish line, fantastically predicting my finish time in a nearly precise 2:30:15, just as I told Patsy I would be finishing in.  This finish time on a hilly race (which I'd later analyze to include some 930 feet of elevation gain and 945 feet of elevation loss), would bode well for me in preparation for the fact I had another race the next day.

2:30 on the dot!
(Photo by Patsy Alexander)
Patsy met with me after the finish chute as the rain continued to fall onto Charlottesville.  I was super hungry, and quickly gobbled down a couple slices of pizza as I contemplated where to take my headstand photo, and ultimately decided to take it near the Albemarle County Court Building, and in front of the historic old city center of Charlottesville.  It felt fitting to make my headstand photo here, and not in front of a controversial statue. Also I didn't think to have it done in the more contemporary center of town at the Downtown Mall, a pedestrianized street only a few blocks away, since the course didn't go anywhere near it or even on it (unlike some other races that did go through main city centers like Burlington or Knoxville).  The rain continued to fall, and I still had to gas up the car and return it, so I decided to just head back to the airport with about two hours to spare.  With my flight still scheduled for departure at 12:30, and the temps staying steady, I was feeling good about an on-time departure, and being able to get out of Charlottesville before any chance of potential snow would come through. At 12:30, I was off to Atlanta to connect to my flight to St. Louis, ready to take on race two of the weekend.

Victory Headstand near the start/finish line!

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Race Report: Carmel Marathon

I booked a late flight getting into Indianapolis on Friday, knowing that the race would be on Saturday morning.  I left NYC around 7:30pm, we landed in Indianapolis a little after 10pm, one of two flights arriving right around the same time.  I picked up my rental car and drove to my friend Angela's (and her husband T.R.'s) house in the cute little historic district of Herron-Morton in Downtown Indianapolis, roughly 20 minutes away. I promptly went to bed, knowing I'd be up early the next morning at 6am for the race.

Singing at the start
(Photo by Carmel
Like clockwork, I was up at 6, and out the door by 6:35.  The drive was roughly half an hour north to the city of Carmel, and one of the things I noticed on my drive in once I arrived in Carmel was the fact that there were SO many roundabouts within the city center.  The City of Carmel is actually nationally noted for having over 100 roundabouts within its borders, with even more presently under construction or planned for the future. I was able to park in one of the parking garages in Carmel Town Center, barely a five minute walk to the start.  Not long after I arrived, my Black Sheep Run friends Amy, Greg, Mitch, and Drew drove into the garage, and after handing me my bib they picked up from the expo the day before, we all walked together to the start.  It was pretty cold outside - the temps were at a balmy 36º, but with the steady wind it felt below 30º. We were only a short walk away from the start area, located next to the Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts, a beautifully designed concert hall modeled after Andrea Palladio's Villa la Rotonda in Vicenza, Italy.

I had booked the National Anthem for the race in September of the previous year after getting connected to the race director through a mutual friend, but upon coordinating with them in the weeks prior to the race, I was informed that a daughter of one of the race sponsors wanted to sing, and given their relationship with the sponsor, they were wanting to give the role to her to sing the anthem. I offered to sing God Bless America instead, and they made room to add that in the pre-race program, getting the chance to do just that before the anthem was to be sung.

Sunrise at the start
After I did my thing, I jumped back into the corrals and we were off, with the beautiful Indiana sunrise in our faces.  I crossed the start mat just after 8am and began a labored and somewhat slow run, as we turned right off of City Center Drive, heading south along Rangeline Road. We made our way past a couple roundabouts as the road became Westfield Boulevard after 116th Street, continuing our straight shot southward as a mix of commercial and residential surroundings gave way to an almost exclusively residential area near Woodland Country Club.  As had been common for the last few weeks, my first six miles were a barrage of pain.  Probably needing to get used to the cold (and likely still a little sore from the previous week), I ended up walking quite a bit, with pain and tense muscles along my calves and ankles.

Running down 106th Street
A little after the two mile mark, we turned left onto 106th Avenue. I knew I was in for a slow race, because my 9:55 first mile gave way to a 12 minute second mile, and would never dip below an 11 minute pace for the remainder of the marathon. At around mile 3 on the pastoral 106th Avenue, I found my friend Joan from Rhode Island, and we decided to run together and catch up for the next 4-5 miles.  Suddenly, out of nowhere, a herd of deer charged past the runners, crossing 106th Avenue, and thankfully not taking out any runners who were trying to get by.

OORAH indeed...
Eventually, we found our way to Hazel Dell Parkway, a meandering road, heading northward for two miles past more residential subdivisions. While running with Joan, I found another friend, Carol from Arkansas, who I got to run with for a bit, as well. As we continued along the route, a group of guys (who I assume were military) were running together with rucksacks, and braving the cold weather while wearing SHORTS!

Running through neighborhoods
Just before the 7 mile mark, we made a left turn into one of the residential subdivisions, with sections of main road peppered in between. We ran a small segment onto 126th Street, and passing a local middle school, before returning through a curvy residential street called Limberlost Drive, coming back out onto Main Street, then turning right onto Hawthorne Drive, as we made our way to Smokey Row Road, and eventually the football stadium for Carmel High School.  All the while, we passed by homes where the mailboxes out in front were all uniform, with the full address written in the same uniform font (something like the Monotype Corsiva font seen in Microsoft Word) on the side of the box.  We also dealt with a huge amount of concrete, rather than asphalt roads, which unfortunately made it a lot harder on my knees and joints, and I was definitely feeling it.

Trail junction
I knew I was having a rough time when 5:45 pacers Ed and Bonnie passed me around mile 8 with a large group of folks. We found our way onto the first of several paved trails that the marathoners would be running on, the Greyhound Trail, as we passed by Carmel Stadium. At about the 11.3 mile mark, the trail merged with the Hagan-Burke Trail, then turned onto the Monon Greenway, which eventually found its way out to 2nd Avenue NW in downtown Carmel.  The fastest marathoners, who are just about the finish their race (a whole half marathon ahead of me!) begin to pass me on the greenway, including the first female finisher.

Main Street Carmel
Knowing full well I'd be retracing these steps in about thirteen miles, we took a turn onto Main Street, then back onto Rangeline Drive and smack dab into the middle of the Carmel Arts & Design District. We heard the sound system grow louder as we continued our way south, then passed through the halfway point onto City Center Drive alongside finishing half marathoners (and marathoners finishing well under 3 hours.)  Hungrily, I yell out to passersby how much I wanted a donut.  I clocked in a SLOW 2:51 first half, one of the slowest I've done for a fairly flat race. However, now with my legs feeling a bit better... "warmed up" you could say... I start to catch a second wind as we make our way through the second half of the race.  There's something in the back of my head that makes me think I have a good chance of doing a negative split with this second half.

This dog had faith in me that I could negative split my second half.
Along the Monon Greenway
We made our way around the Palladium, and eventually, I end up catching right back up to Ed and Bonnie with their group of runners who had passed me about five miles earlier.  Now on the Monon Greenway, it's much more quiet, especially with the fewer amount of runners taking on the second half of the race around me.  I find a sense of calm as we take on this fairly flat section of course, posting some of my faster miles (as the pain in my legs began to go away), and begin to take more notice of my surroundings; I realize that a couple red cardinal birds are flying amongst the trees on this peaceful segment of the Monon.  Truly a peaceful and beautiful part of this race!

Nice long straightaways along the Greenway
Mid race (Photo by
Carmel Marathon)
We run on the Monon Greenway, a popular trail that serves walkers, joggers, runners, bicyclists, rollerbladers and nature enthusiasts alike on the former Monon Railroad, for roughly three miles of the 5.2 mile portion that Carmel maintains within its borders. My mile 16 split was an 11:19, which I'd realize later would be my second fastest mile of the race other than my opening mile.  We turn right onto 96th Street (the southernmost section of the greenway), then run toward College Avenue, where we turn right and then follow Pennsylvania Parkway into a very business park like area.  Still into this second wind, I continue to pass some slower runners making up valuable time.

I really wanted a donut.
At mile 18, as we pass by the business park, I notice volunteers at the aid station with a box of Dunkin Donuts, so I kindly ask if I could have one... I end up running with one in my mouth for the next half mile.  God, that donut was good... I could've used it 6 miles ago!  We continue northward along the largely soulless Pennsylvania Street, past lowrise commercial on our left (abutting the highway) and non-distinct single family homes on the right, then turn left onto 111th Street, going over the highway (US 31.)  We eventually curve around to Illinois Street, passing near big construction projects.  This section of the course is incredibly boring.

As we see the Indianapolis Mormon temple in the distance, we continue our way northward, then pass through a short out and back section (perhaps just to add a fraction of a mile?), with a food truck at the end of the road, being used as the turnaround marker.  However, NO FOOD.  Maybe they had some earlier?  Who knows.  Now something like 19.5 miles into the race, I just want this thing to be over.

Still hungry, and seeing a sign for Pho. So cruel. Are you for real?!? ;)

Back on the Greenway for the last bit!
The largely empty Illinois Street heads northward as we pass IU Health North Hospital.  At mile 20, it started to rain, which we had to deal with for roughly the next two miles.  We returned to residential areas between the 22 and 23 mile marks along Oak Ridge Road up to Nevelle Lane, where we turned right, then took an out and back along Rohrer Road with the Monon Greenway visible to our right.  At the end of the turn around, it was so cruel to see a ramp upwards getting ourselves back up to the greenway.

More of me in motion
(Photo by Carmel Marathon)
We ran along the greenway, and eventually found ourselves back on the familiar route that we saw from mile 12 to the halfway point -- this time, I was finally getting myself to the finish line.  Along the short out and back section near the turnaround, I saw Ed and Bonnie roughly a mile behind me, so by then I knew I could still hit a 5:35 or so for my finish.  By the time we got back onto Rangeline Road, the wind had picked up significantly.  While I knew they were providing a challenge to runners to take on a 1/2 mile "sprint to the finish," I knew it wasn't going to happen for me the way this headwind was pushing back on me.  I eventually crossed the finish line in a highly respectable 5:34; I joked that knew I wanted to look like Beyoncé when I finished, but I didn't mean this... not with sand in my mouth! And I definitely could foretell that the second wind was a thing for me this race, as I did record a negative split: 2:51 for the first half, and 2:43 for the second half!  I gladly received my medal for the race, in the shape of the state - a medal design I covet whenever I do races in new states!

Victory Headstand!

Fun medal! Love the design...
Dinner with family friends
Feeling super cold, I hurried myself along, getting someone to take my customary headstand photo with my background as the Carmel City Center's distinctive architecture, reminiscent of the Georgian style like the nearby Palladium. I drove back to Indianapolis ready to warm up as much as possible with my rental car's heater, before a much needed shower. Later that night, I met up with a family friend (my mom's medical school classmate) for dinner with family friends at The Journey, an eclectic sushi, prime rib, and seafood buffet northeast of the city.  That same evening, I was checking the scores to the Michigan/Loyola Chicago Final Four basketball game, as the winner would punch their ticket to the NCAA Basketball Championships, which my alma mater (Michigan) won!  To celebrate, I joined a couple my Black Sheep Run friends for some local brews at Sun King Brewery. Afterward, I returned back to Angela and T.R.'s to watch the KU/Villanova game to determine Michigan's opponent for the title. After watching KU sadly lose to Villanova, we set up a fun Easter "display" in the kitchen for Angela and T.R.'s young son Lucas to enjoy when he woke up the next morning.
Sun King Brewery with Black Sheep friends!
Walking around downtown with
Angela, T.R., and Lucas
Sunday was Easter morning, and I joined Angela, T.R., and Lucas, to have brunch at Mesh, a contemporary American restaurant on Massachusetts Avenue in bustling downtown Indianapolis. After the delicious meal, we decided to walk around on the avenue, to admire the major developments happening in this area, known as the Bottleworks District.  Slated to open in Spring 2020, the $300 million project that sprawls over 12 acres in the north end of Massachusetts Avenue, is anchored by the nearly 100 year old Coca-Cola Bottling Company factory building, an art-deco style landmark being repurposed into a center for commerce, history, and arts. Also planned for the area are 180,000 square feet of office space, 175,000 square feet of street retail, a 30,000 square foot food hall, upwards of 240 condos and apartments, a 150 key hotel, and an entertainment complex featuring a dine-in movie theatre.  One of the boutique stores that has been in the area for awhile, which we popped into, was Homespun: Modern Handmade, a fun boutique, gallery and workshop space devoted to contemporary handmade goods and all things Indianapolis.

One of the delicious stouts at Metazoa
With my flight later on that evening, and my friends having plans with T.R.'s family, I set off on my own for the rest of the afternoon, hitting up another local brewery. It became one of the highlights of my quick weekend trip, visiting Metazoa Brewing Company. 5% of their profits are donated to animal and wildlife organizations, and they seemed to specialize in stouts, my favorite beer! Among the ones featured in the menu were "Kitten Slumber Party," a Chocolate Milk Stout; "Puppy Slumber Party," a Chocolate Peanut Butter Milk Stout; "Irish Setter," a Dry Irish Stout; "Black Chai Affair," a Chai Oatmeal Stout; and "Chocolate Charlie Imperial Stout," a Chocolate Cherry Imperial Stout. And fittingly, as I was there, the place got more and more crowded with beer enthusiasts and their pet dogs... in fact, at one point there seemed to be more dogs than humans in the brewery!  The place definitely became a spot to hit up the next time I would be in town.  After I had my fill, I headed to the airport for my quick flight home, and my Indianapolis/Carmel weekend came to an end!