Race recap: Neither of us thought St. Louis would be a really hilly, humid and windy place to run - but boy were we wrong. Race weekend was marked by consistent thunderstorms, but fortunately by Sunday morning the rain stopped, just leaving behind some serious humidity. Less than a mile into the race I was starting to sweat pretty heavily (normally I start to break a sweat around mile 1), and I turned to Kristin and said "this is going to be a survive it day." Little did I know how true that statement would be. Mile 2 was the first climb ~50ft over about ~1/4 mile. The payoff for the first hill was awesome though – the streets were lined with fans dressed up and cheering so loud it sounded like we were approaching the finish line. The next few miles were through and around the Anheuser Busch brewery – the smell of brewing beer was amazing. At mile 5 we ran past Busch Stadium (home of the St. Louis Cardinals) and the giant Kraft macaroni and cheese sculpture. About this point I started to get really hot and began dumping water on my head at every water station. The next 2.5 miles were tough - all uphill and into a 20-25mph headwind. The winds were so strong that at one point a piece of cellophane blew across the street and actually wrapped around Kristin’s legs! Apparently Mother Nature was telling Kristin to stop for a second – thankfully she didn’t trip though. At some point during the endless uphill battle a priest was on the side of the road cheering and throwing holy water on runners, which immediately made us smile. By mile 9 I felt more like I was at mile 22, my body was overheating and I was struggling. I repeatedly told Kristin to go on ahead, but being the awesomely supportive wife she is, she declined and spouted encouraging phrases in my ear for the last 3 miles. It was a complete mental battle to keep going (I wanted to just stop and throw up), but Kristin stayed by my side and helped me slay some demons on the course that day.
Highlights: Rounding the final turn past the Anheuser Busch brewery was an awesome sight – a Clydesdale in full gear to our right and the St. Louis Arch in the distance with thousands of runners in both directions.
Tips: Do some hill work before this race – you’ll be glad you did!
Day 1 (Friday):
After grabbing our rental car we headed to Dutch Town for lunch at Urban Eats, a restaurant focused on trying to help people maintain a healthy lifestyle, starting with healthy food choices. The chicken and rice soup was absolutely awesome and the strawberry banana smoothie was good, but unfortunately the main dishes (I had the bacon, pepperoni and mushroom wrap and Kristin had the Italian chicken rice bowl) were not that great. The meat was pretty fatty and both dishes were covered in way too much sauce. If you do make the voyage here, make sure to check out the incredibly bizarre art on the walls.
The Anheuser Busch brewery tour was pretty cool. We’ve been to a number of microbrewery tours and tastings and it was fun to see how a behemoth beer makers production differs from a small batch operator. After a walk through the brewery, which was pretty entertaining – we learned that Budweiser uses rice to make its beer lighter and smoother – we headed to the tasting room and enjoyed a few fresh beers, some pretzels and a lot of great time just talking.
630 feet above the perfectly good ground is the top of the Gateway Arch (aka St. Louis Arch). When we approached the elevators, I realized I had not put enough thought into how scary it would be to sit inside a four foot tall hockey puck shaped elevator on our journey to the top of the arch. The top of the arch proved just as weary, when I realized there was absolutely no structure below us. All that said, it was pretty awesome to visit the top of the Arch – we could even clearly watch the Cardinals baseball game from our vantage point too! On the way down, the elevator doors closed and then nothing happened. Needless to say I was not too happy, but fortunately within a few minutes the doors opened up and the engineers fixed the problem and we were back on steady footing once again.
Tip: If you're brave lean over the railing at the top and if you position your camera just right you can get a picture that shows there is literally nothing between you and the ground 630 feet below! (Check out the last picture below; the sliver on each side is actually the arch from above).
At dinner we met up with our grad-school friend, Mike Renieri, at the Morgan Street Brewery. After trying a sample-ski (the beer samples actually came on a miniature ski), we shared some hot pretzels and ordered a glass of our favorite brew - Brown Bear Beer, which was a smooth and very tasty brown lager. For dinner we split a Greek salad and the bacon wrapped meatloaf, which many restaurant reviewers had correctly hyped as insanely good. Good beer, great food.
Day 2 (Saturday):
We were forced to cancel our planned morning run through Forest Park due to severe thunderstorms, so we made due with a short treadmill run in the super humid basement of the hotel next to the pool (the humidity turned out to be a foreshadowing of what we would encounter on race day!) Forest Park is massive and really pretty – designed by the same guy who created Central Park in New York. Definitely worth a drive through at a minimum.
Gourmet crepes and gourmet coffee were the name of the game at City Coffee and Creperie. This place was so good that we actually ate breakfast here Saturday and Sunday! Between the two days we tried the Sante Fe – chorizo, Pepperjack, avocado and tomato and the traditional egg, ham, cheese, tomato and mushrooms. Everything was super fresh and delicious. The lattes were also very good and complemented the crepes quite well. The restaurant is a bit small, so seating is sometimes a bit challenging.
The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis is pretty extraordinary. The entire ceiling of the cathedral is covered with beautiful handcrafted mosaics depicting various events of religious significance. We’ve seen a fair number of churches, but this is a real stand-out. Just walk around and make sure to look up, down and side to side as the decorations, sculptures and architecture are everywhere. This is a don't miss destination.
At packet pickup at St. Louis University we rubbed the Billiken for good luck, and what do you know – it was pouring when we walked into the expo and sunny when we came out! Check out this article, which is an interesting read regarding what a Billiken is and how it became the mascot for St. Louis University.
We stopped in Dog Town (no idea why it’s called Dog Town) at Nora's for lunch. With the first real sunshine since we arrived, we enjoyed our turkey sandwich on the outdoor patio (the white bread was great). Nora's does offer a variety of more exotic sandwiches, like "For Pete’s Sake": apple smoked pork loin, caramelized onions, melted brie, bacon and apple sauce, but we were really in the mood for something traditional.
After lunch we stopped by Schlafly's Bottle Works to help celebrate the Repeal of Prohibition Beer Festival. This was a great chance to try a ton of different beers on tap (a number of the pours were actually from small breweries in Texas) without worrying about drinking a beer we didn't like. We found a couple good choices, but nothing that totally knocked our socks off. We also stuck around for the guided brewery tour, which was incredibly lame (pretty sure we walked 6 feet to the left, 6 feet to the right and then out the door). Fun time!
Our pre-race dinner was served up just outside Lafayette Square (a collection of really old French style homes surrounding Lafayette Park at Eleven Eleven Mississippi. We had a great time catching up with our friends Ken and Kelsey and enjoyed meeting their little pride and joy Lillian; we'll be down to Jefferson City to run an Ultra relay before too long! :) We scored an outside table, which was really nice and made for a very relaxing environment. The beef medallions and halibut were both extremely well prepared and tasty. It's no surprise this is a local favorite, it's a great restaurant.
Day 3 (Sunday - Race Day):
We tried to get a table at Half and Half (a local brunch hot-spot), but the 45 minute wait didn't work with our growling stomachs or our looming flight departure, so we headed to City Coffee and Creperie again! This time we tried the buckwheat crepes, which were good but seemed a bit heavier than the traditional crepes. You can’t go wrong here, everything was great.
Missouri Half Marathon Medals
April 15, 2012: Go! St. Louis Half Marathon