Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Day 4 - White Nights Marathon (Race Recap)

Sunday, June 26
Marathon #4
St. Petersburg, Russia
Weather - Low 60's, overcast, rain

Why the White Nights Marathon in St. Petersburg, Russia? Well, to be honest, it was a "spur of the moment" decision to sign up for this one. That, and I've always wanted to go to Russia. I almost didn't go on this trip at all when I realized I would be going 100% alone. Then I figured... what's the worst that can happen? And as you know, the rest is history...

Like yesterday, I woke up just fine without an alarm. Got out of bed just before 7:00 and took my time getting ready. I was hungry so I had my bagel and peanut butter early. Taped both of my ankles and got dressed.

Red & Blue - USA!!

Debut of the running dress!
Love my Razzy Roo band!
Last minute updates on Facebook and I was out the door at 8:20, which would give me plenty of time before the race started. I had found the start area by accident my first day here so there was no stress about where to go. I arrived and it was still pretty empty. With over an hour until the start I had time to kill. Wandered around a bit hoping to find some Powerade or water, but no such luck. Used the port-o-potty which was decently clean and had no line. As expected no toilet paper but I had come prepared.

Still lots of time to kill. Checked out the “locker” room because I thought I might have my compression shorts on backwards because they kept riding up. Nope, they just do that apparently. With about a half hour to go I finally did bag drop. Not too optimistic about getting it back, not too organized. My hotel key was WAY too big to carry on me though and I had worn my hoodie so I had to do it.

Starting Area - Winter Palace
Starting Area - Alexander Column
Starting Area - Winter Palace Square
Somehow I managed to run into just about EVERY American right then. I saw a woman that had USA on her back, she was from New York. Then a couple behind her heard me talking. Jeff and Susan from… INDIANA!! Then another couple came over, students from Texas A&M who were studying in Russia for the summer. So nice to finally talk to people!! Time flew by after that. Jeff and Susan had done the Incan Trail marathon in Peru that I’m dying to run (with the same group I had looked into) and I learned that it is in fact harder than Great Wall (Jeff had done both). Hmmm. They both said it was awesome and to add 3ish hours to your marathon time.

There was also a speed skating marathon
Starting Area
Jeff & Susan & Me
Before I knew it, the race was starting. Balloons freed at the start line and off we went. Jeff had commented about a 4:30ish finish so I figured I’d try to run with him and see what happened. He and Susan took off pretty fast. I had set my Garmin for km and in the first km I did sub 6. Faster than I think I wanted to be running. I was feeling good and since I don’t seem to remember how to race, I just went with it. I was feeling pretty good, and was grateful that it was not raining but that It was overcast. I hoped the weather would hold and it wouldn’t get too hot.

I took a lot of pictures the first few km, and stayed behind Jeff and Susan for a few miles. I lost them in the crowd and the next time I saw Jeff, he was alone (Susan had said she was slower and was only running the 10K anyway). The split from the 10k and marathon was pretty well marked. Shortly after the split I took my first GU, about 45 minutes into the race. I was pacing really well (a bit fast, but feeling good still). The crowd was obviously very thinned out and I didn’t encounter any crowding problems.

Jeff & Susan

Senate Square

The beginning of the course was in an area of St. Petersburg that I hadn’t been to yet, so everything was new to look at. Still feeling good and I think it was about an hour in that I started thinking “if I can keep this up, I can PR!” And I was still feeling good. The aid stations were well stocked, but only with water. They had no sports drink of any kind and I personally thought that being placed every 5k was WAY too far apart. On the entire course I’d only have EIGHT stops. Madness.

At the second aid station I also took a piece of banana. There was a short out and back and I saw Jeff at the turnaround. He was already walking and not looking so great. I was STILL feeling good and pacing well. Mentally? I was starting to feel… blah. I hate doing the math in my head of how far I’ve gone and how far I still have left. I hate it. So discouraging!

Some people should wear more than underwear when they race. Just sayin'.

One of my best race pics!
The course was closed to traffic, although we had to cross quite a few streets that WEREN’T closed, but the volunteers did a great job of making sure that we crossed safely. Take another GU at 90 minutes and am still feeling good, pacing pretty good – although again, still concerned that I’m going too fast. 15k and I’m still feeling good. Take a walk break and I think to myself, wow, I don’t even have to use the bathroom yet. Excellent.

20k. Aid station looks like there is something besides water??? I take a cup and slam it… hot tea. That’s unexpected. But good. I’m watching my Garmin for my half marathon split… 2:06ish??? WTH? I haven’t run a half marathon that fast since… NYC? I’ve been DYING to run a sub 2:10 half for months. Now two thoughts are running through my head. One, I am DEFINITELY going to fast, and two, I can totally PR even if I slow dramatically. A few km later is when I start to doubt my strategy. Shortly after that, it starts to drizzle rain. Not a downpour so the added moisture and cooler temps feels pretty good. About 23k and I want to take my first unplanned walk break. I am able to talk myself out of it, it is too soon. Love running in Europe where no one wears deodorant. Everything smells like funk, then I have to wonder… maybe it’s me? I am SATURATED with sweat.

25k. I take a piece of bread that is doused in salt. It is ridiculous. It is the saltiest thing I have ever had. Ever. So gross. I drink almost an entire bottle of water just trying to get it down. Bleh. Keep going. Getting tired. Pace starts to slow. I think I’m about 20 seconds slower per km. That is ok, I can still PR. Legs still feeling ok, but my ankle is aching a bit and I’m just getting a bit tired. Force myself to run to the next aid station at 30k. More people are walking now, and I want to SO bad. About 32k it all goes to crap. I take my first walk break and it’s one of MANY I will have at the end of the course.

Every time I walk I feel better while I’m walking and the second I start to run again I just ache. My pace is now about a minute slower per km. I want to force myself to keep going. Even a slower jog is faster than walking and I can still get a PR if I will just keep moving. It is just not my day though. I am taking a walk break every km for about 30 seconds. Even when I am not walking, my pace is SLOW.

Pretty much everyone in front of me is also walking. 35k. Is it over YET??? I swear the second half of this course is going on FOREVER. Trying to translate in my head… 7k is only about 4.5 miles. I can do that. Slowly. And with difficulty. I feel like I am barely moving and my legs feel like lead. Why am I doing this? Struggling.

I hit the four hour mark and have a little less than 4k to go. On a normal day I could do that in under 24 minutes. This point of the race? I am thinking if I can PR, it is going to be JUST barely. I force myself to move. I have been walking so much that I have been drinking a lot more and I’m starting to cramp up. I look at my watch and I’m not moving ANYWHERE close to fast enough to get this done. I still would like to go sub 4:30 so I keep going… but MAN I am just so tired. My legs suck!! 40k. Please let there be another aid station. Please. Sure enough, there was one, and I walk yet again. I don’t even care at this point. I know I will finish, just a bit disappointed from how well the first half went.

I get passed by a blind runner with no lead. Sigh. Just a few km to go, and I can’t even manage to run that without walking. With about 1.5 km to go my side is aching and for the first time my thighs start to tighten. I CAN DO THIS!! I finally see familiar area and I know I’m close to the end. I of course have NOTHING left at the end, but at least jog through the chute. Finish just over 4:32 (4 minutes off a PR, but still a time I am mostly happy with). Excited to get a medal, but am concerned that I can barely move with my thighs being so tight. For the first time ever after running a marathon, I wasn't "happy" to be done. I enjoyed the first... 30k of the race, but didn't enjoy the end. Which was disappointing. I struggle to get the chip off my shoe and then wander around wondering who I am supposed to give it too. Finally see a volunteer wandering aimlessly and she takes it. Hopefully she is who I was supposed to give it to.

Official Time - 4:32:19
Garmin Time - 4:32:04
Garmin Distance - 26.34 miles
Garmin Pace - 10:19
1km - 9:25 pace
2km - 9:24 pace
3km - 9:23 pace
4km - 9:31 pace
5km - 9:37 pace
6km - 9:59 pace (aid station)
7km - 9:36 pace
8km - 9:35 pace
9km - 9:29 pace
10km - 9:37 pace
11km - 10:11 pace (aid station)
12km - 9:25 pace
13km - 9:27 pace
14km - 9:25 pace
15km - 9:44 pace
16km  10:18 pace (aid station)
17km - 9:22 pace
18km - 9:24 pace
19km - 9:30 pace
20km - 10:31 pace (aid station)
21km - 9:49 pace
Half marathon split - just over 2:06 (!!)
22km - 9:36 pace
23km - 9:50 pace
24km - 10:20 pace
25km - 10:16 pace
26km - 11:23 pace (aid station)
27km - 10:06 pace
28km - 10:09 pace
29km - 10:29 pace
30km - 10:43 pace
31km - 12:07 pace (aid station)
32km - 10:45 pace
33km - 10:29 pace
34km - 11:28 pace
35km - 11:17 pace
36km - 12:33 pace (aid station)
37km - 10:53 pace
38km - 11:34 pace
39km - 11:47 pace
40km - 11:26 pace
41km - 11:45 pace (aid station)
42km - 11:46 pace
42.195km - 10:23 pace

**About the Running Dress** - I must be crazy that I wore a running dress (made by running skirts) for the first time to a race. Not just any race, but a MARATHON. I had enough confidence in it that I didn't even bring a back up outfit if I were to change my mind. I will say this... I LOVED IT. I didn't have to wear another sports bra underneath, and the support was great. I normally find myself CONSTANTLY adjusting my shirt because my race belt makes it bunch up. Did NOT have that issue with the dress. Of course it still has the pockets, so that is a bonus, and I will say that it is CUTE, FLATTERING, and a very comfortable fit.

Head to the tent to pick up my bag and am relieved that it is there and nothing is missing. By now it is raining pretty good, but I don’t want to put on my only sweatshirt because I think I’ll have to wear it later with the cooler temps. It’s only a 15-20 minutes walk to the hotel, and I stop along the way at a street vendor to get a soda, and she has… POWERADE!! Yay! She also tried to buy my medal for 10 rubles. Is she insane?? No way.

So here I am, drenched, covered in salt, walking through a downpour and it feels good. Only my legs are super tight and I’m struggling. I get to the hotel and decide to take a shower before heading out for my lunch/dinner. I want to sit down and NOT get back up. Shower is awesome. I sit down for a minute, then decide if I don’t get up and go now, I might never leave.

I had picked Carl’s Jr. for dinner. Don’t judge me. It was also about a 20 minute walk from the hotel. I had accumulated quite a bit of change over the last few days and the cashier was nice enough to help me use it. Got a cheeseburger and fries and it was DELICIOUS.

After eating, it was about 4:45 and since I was close, I thought I’d head over to the awards ceremony which I thought started at 5:00. After waiting 40 minutes I had to use the bathroom. I was happy to see that there was a communal roll of toilet paper at the entrance AND hand soap. Take that, China.

Which way to the bathroom...
Waited until about 6:15, then got annoyed at the uncomfortable seating and decided to head back to my room.

Griffon Statue on Bank Bridge behind my hotel
By then it had stopped raining. I got on the internet and did some reading, but finally decided I needed a nap. Rested on and off for a few hours, finally getting up again around 10:00 pm.

I don’t know if the problem with my sleeping here is that it never really gets dark. Anyway, I had trouble getting back to sleep. I was a little hungry but my legs were feeling SORE and I didn’t want to walk anywhere to get food. Instead I read a bit more and didn’t head off to bed for real until about 1:00.


  1. Congratulations! You took some great pictures too. :) Those french fries look delicious!

  2. You seriously always have the best reports. I get so tense like I am running along with you and dying to know what is going to happen. Sorry you didn't PR, but you are still super fast and awesome in my book! Congrats - and seriously, is that the largest medal ever or what?

  3. Wow, solo travel to St. Petersburg - that's brave.

    And the running dress makes perfect sense as a functional garment in my mind. A shame that I will (probably) never get to wear one.

  4. Thank you so much for your wonderful blog. You're writing is so interesting and I'm so impressed that you just zip all over the world - to say nothing of your running prowess. You're a hero for sure!

  5. Nice job completing another marathon! So interesting. It looks like the scenery was nice anyway. Solo traveling in Russia seems intimidating. Very brave.

  6. You are seriously my idol, girl. Love this race report.

  7. Holy first half of your race! You were killing it! I wonder if the lack of sports drink or the strange food on the course had anything to do with your struggle at the end...

    Your pictures are fabulous, as always, and thanks too for the running dress review - I'd been curious about it.


    (and how hilarious that the girl tried to BUY your medal!)

  8. Hey there!!!

    It's a nice surprise to see your blog reporting how Saint Petersburg Marathon was!
    I was there with some friens and we could meet and talk a little with Jeff and Susan on the registration day.
    What made me really surprised is that my 2 friends, who were also running, appear in one of the pictures here, right below the one with "Senate Square" caption. One of them is with a Brazilian flag on his back.
    Anyway, I just stop by to say hello and congrat you for the words you're writing here. Really good! :)

    Cheers from Brazil!

    Everton Schneider

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Thank you for the post! I have been training for the White Nights marathon 2013 for months now but I just started really looking into it. Your account of the race made the whole thing so much more real :)To run 42.195 k in “the most abstract and intentional city on the entire globe”! I will be traveling from Florida. Is anyone doing it this year?


I adore comments and I read every single one. Thanks for reading :)

Week in Review (July 10 - July 16)

Tuesday  (16,949 steps) - Barre Express with Gabi! Best class in a while, I was actually able to get through most of it. After work I met up...