This is one of those races I have wanted to do for years, but until you actually know someone there or a group is planning on going, its not something I would have done by myself.
A huge shoutout of thanks to Suzanne and her husband Steven and their wonderful kids for hosting me this past weekend. Without them, I know the weekend would not have been as much fun. And with my own personal tour guide, it gave me a more up-close-and-personal look at Lou-a-ville.
I arrived Friday early afternoon, and actually found my way through the city and to Suzanne's front door by myself! That was huge in and of itself. And once again, had I relied on Mapquest to get me there, I would have found myself on a circuitous route around the city. Like I said, it helps to know someone there.
By the time I arrived in Louisville, the temperature was already in the 80s. I actually turned on my air conditioning about the last 50 miles because it was so warm and I was starting to feel a little sick from the sun beating in on me. As I crossed the Ohio River from Indiana to Louisville, I was reminded of IMKY from last summer, seeing the Great Lawn below.
The area where they live reminded me quite a bit of an area close to where I live and run through on occasion, only on a bigger scale. And it was nice finally getting to put faces with the names, meeting Suzanne's husband and kids.
We went to packet pickup which was downtown at the convention center, same place where the IM takes place. Saw Gault House down the street, and the building that overlooks the Great Lawn, so all that was familiar from my last trip.
I wasn't sure how many people were going to be in this race, but my number was 12061. We browsed, got my packet, bought some things, and just as we were leaving, I heard a voice that was familiar, looked over, and said to this woman, "Hey, what's your name?" It was Mary, from Northville, MI, whom I hadn't seen in about 5 years. What a coincidence! So we chatted a minute and went on our way. I knew she would run faster than me the next day, there was no doubt.
Then it was back to Suzanne's to meet the kids, who were now home from school, Henry, who is (almost) 12, Annabelle, who is 8(?), and Claudia, 6. These were the sweetest kids you could hope to meet. The girls were just precious, and Claudia had made me a welcome card.
Then it was on to the kids' cyclocross. Annabelle had just started the week before. There were probably 20 kids of all ages and levels of experience, and Belle did very well. She is very coordinated for her age, and I'm sure her ballet training helps. Henry actually learned to ride a bike that day as well, and Claudia got her training wheels off that weekend. So now they were truly a biker family!
After this, we went back to their house to make dinner and relax. It was still quite warm, with the temperature having reached 86 by mid afternoon, but by early evening, you could feel the humidity lifting, fortunately for all the runners the next day. I tried not to think of the possibility that it would be a bakefest the next day, knowing that would be my biggest problem.
Over the past 2 months, my training leading up to this race had not gone well, what with one thing or another, starting with our craptacular weather that lasted until the end of March, and my ITB problem, that also lasted until the end of March. So I was going into this with only one good run behind me. I have run the half marathon distance many times, have run farther in fact many times over the years, but I still would have preferred having a couple of more weeks to train. So it was going to have to be what it was. I had no real goal at that moment but to just finish.
We had a nice dinner, did some chatting, had a little wine, and then it was time to get to bed. I went to sleep fairly easily and was glad for that. Sometime in the night though, the wind started blowing hard, and then it started raining hard also. The air coming in the window had cooled off considerably, so I wasn't going to have to worry about hot weather for the race. In fact, I fell back to sleep and dreamed that it snowed overnight, probably about 5 inches, but it was still 90 degrees. Weird!
Morning came and it was cooler yet. Then I started worrying I would be too cold. I debated over what to wear and finally decided to go with just the sleeveless shirt and hope for the best. I had to laugh to myself, because had I been home and doing a training run, I would have ended up wearing a jacket and probably gloves and an earband! So it really was a big chance I was taking with my choice of clothes. As it turned out, it worked fine for me.
We picked up a couple of Suzanne's friends, Marcia and Michael, who were also running the mini. Suzanne, as it turned out, was not running that day but was available as our personal chauffer instead. Lucky for us! Michael had just run Boston on Monday of that week but was going to run with his wife, Marcia. They started talking about pacing and finishing times, and I knew then I would not be running with or even near them! My goal then popped out of my mouth and it was there, out in the open: 2:45. My last half back in October was 2:46, so I had to believe I could do better than that. I didn't know this course, but you go with what is and do with the course what you can. There never is any other way.
Suzanne left us about a 1/2 mile before the race site, because most streets were now closed off. We walked past a park, which later we would run through, and used the bathroom facilities there, which as it turned out was quite a good thing. The lines were only about 10 deep, and when we got to the race site, about 1/4 mile away, there were thousands of people in line and from what I could tell, people were quite grossed out by the condition of the porta-potties. Eww. Glad I got to miss that. As it was, that smell stayed in my nose almost the whole race, it was that bad.
Then I just had to find a place to get into the corral where we started on Southern Parkway (?), which is a very long, tree-lined street. I didn't know the number of runners, but I got in somewhere around the middle of the crowd and I couldn't see to either end. At least it was warmer standing in the crowd. And of course, in that kind of weather, people are dressed every which way, from shirtless (men of course) and shorts to full jackets, long pants/tights, gloves, hats, etc.
When we started, and I'm not sure there was a gun start or not, no one moved for at least a minute or more, then there was a slow shuffle forward and stop, shuffle forward, stop, and on and on this went. I decided then there was no point trying to run, but would walk to the start, since it was a chip start anyway. Once I hit the mat, I hit my watch and started running.
It was very, very crowded. Its really annoying with walkers who walk 3 or 4 across and don't seem to realize people cannot get around them that easily when there are that many people, so you find yourself darting in and out around them. So I was quite surprised when my first mile was 11:15. I don't see how, but I went by watch time, not clock time, so it had to be right. Mile 2 was pretty much the same thing. I didn't feel like I was running too fast, but I did consciously decide to slow down, and once we hit the hills shortly after 2 miles, that was decided even more for me by the course.
We ran through Iriquois Park, very nice, but very hilly. I had just heard about the hills the day before, and decided to do what I could with them. I was happy I didn't have to walk up any of them, like a lot of people were doing. The little bit of hill training I had done helped apparently. Not to make me faster, but at least to keep me moving.
Leaving the park, it was on huge downhill, about 5 miles into the race. All I could think of here again was anyone with knee problems would get beat up by this part of the course. The downhills were actually worse than the ups. At this point, there was an OLD woman and maybe her young grandson (or great) running with her. I'd guess she was in her 80s at least, and I can't help but admit my twisted pleasure on passing her! Then it was back to the street where we started, and here I finally ran through the corral area. I was really hoping we weren't doing that hill loop again!
I was planning on hitting the 10k mark and then stopping to take a gel and water, but somehow forgot and did it at 6, so when I hit the 10k mat, my time was probably a couple of minutes slower than it otherwise would have been. I had the worst time getting the strip off the gel packet, probably because my hands, like usual, were so sweaty, and I had nothing to wipe them on that wasn't sweaty. So I struggled with that also longer than necessary, and then was mad at myself when I realized I goofed on the 10k calculation. Oh well, on to the next mile. I did have a serious foot cramp about mile 7 and figured it was from the downhill pounding, but it went away after a minute or so and never returned.
I am easily amused by all the things going on in races, but I can focus on only one mile at a time. And up to this point, the only walking I did was through the water stops. And what's up with that anyway? This was the oddest thing. They handed out at every stop a small bottle of water. Warm. Caps on. Weird. That was a huge mess. I usually carry my partially frozen water bottle, so I would add part of the bottled water to that, drink it when it got cold, and go on to the next. The stops were every 2 miles from what I remember.
Shortly after 8 miles, we came up to this area where I could see people running through a gated area. I was wondering what that was, where were they leading us, until I looked up as I passed under the gate and noticed it was Churchill Downs. Oh cool, I forgot all about that.
They had a speaker system set up with Derby race commentary on horses, placement, etc., and there were also jockeys exercising and practicing with their horses, so that was a nice little distraction. Here though was the first real walk break other than getting water. When you enter the park, to get out onto the track area, there is a tunnel you run through with a steep downslope/upslope on each end. It was short but steep, and I could feel it in my Achilles, so decided to walk down, run through, and walk up. I actually passed people who were running the entire thing, so no time lost there. When we got through the second tunnel, on the way out of the park, we hit 9 miles, and then it was back into the street again.
One other thing that keeps me going in new races is not knowing the course. Since you don't know what lies ahead, you have no preconceived ideas of how you will feel, good or bad. So again, it is easy to just focus on each mile.
At 10 miles, we went through another tunnel under a bridge, but the down and up was not as steep and it wasn't time for any walk break, so I just kept going. Just before 10 miles I hit the 2 hour mark, and it was here that I decided to take official walk breaks each mile, mainly to keep myself on an even keel. In races, two issues I tend to have are breathing and stomach, neither of which bother me if I keep my pace slow enough. And now with the walk breaks, I was also finding, as usual, that my pace was not slowing between miles. I would pass people when I started running again who passed me while I was walking.
My next plan on taking in food was at 11 miles. Like I said with the stomach thing, it was going okay, but I was afraid if I took in another gel too soon it would upset things. And I also forgot that Hammel Gel does not work for me at all, which is what the second gel I brought was. I really like the chocolate ones, but they inevitably cause stomach problems. Somewhere between 10 and 11, they were handing out sport beans, so I decided to grab a pack and tried them at 11 miles. I figured they probably really wouldn't kick in until 12, but that was okay. I actually ate them a couple of times between 10.5 and 12 miles and after that I ditched the rest. My walk breaks were initially run 8 min. 30 seconds, walk 1 min. 30 seconds, and that worked well until close to 12, and then it got to be 6 min. 30 seconds, 1 min. 30 seconds. I could tell my breathing was a little harder and I needed to keep things calm. There was one bright spot here though. The White Castle people were out with ice cold CUPS of water, so even though my water I carried was still cold, it wasn't ice cold, which I really prefer. That was like being in a an oasis in the desert, getting a nice cold drink. I really think this kept me going to the end without needing another break too.
There was a split somewhere after this I think for the half marathon and the full. They had it color coded, and since I couldn't read the signs from a ways back, I started wondering what color my bib was. I couldn't remember! And if you went the wrong way, you would immediately know, which makes me wonder why a woman in my age group who apparently did the half ended up with a time of 6:51. Whoa! Makes me wonder if she actually did the full without intending to.
By the time we got to where the clock was placed for 26 miles, I was looking for the 13 mile marker. I really wanted to take a break but thought if I was that close I should really keep going. So then I did the math and figured if I was at 26 miles, that meant it was only .2 to go for the half, and sure enough, right around the corner was the finish. I picked it up here (I suppose you could call it that) because I really just wanted to be done. I hadn't looked at my watch since about 6 miles, so didn't even realize what my time was.
When I crossed the finish line, I stopped my watch and it said 2:45:04. Eh, good enough I thought. I only found out later that my official time was actually 2:44:58. So I made my goal after all.
After the race, they gave us mylar blankets, and I was very grateful for this because even though the sun had come out toward the end, it was extremely windy being by all the tall buildings, like a wind tunnel effect, and cold. I began immediately looking for Suzanne, realizing then we hadn't discussed any plan for where we would meet and I hadn't brought my cell phone, and now couldn't even remember her phone number. I continued walking through the corraled area where they had chip retrieval, medals, food, drinks, and the beer tent. Might as well use my beer ticket I thought while there wasn't a line. I walked around looking at everyone who passed by outside the fence, trying to be sure I didn't miss Suzanne. I stood still for periods of time too trying to focus on people walking by, but no luck. I then went in the convention center and was grateful for the warmth here, but soon realized there was no way she would find me in there probably. So I went back outside and walked down the street toward the finish line again and right then we both just about ran into each other!
I know she was as glad to find me as I was her. I really didn't spend too much time worrying what I would do if I hadn't found her. I was just glad I had.Here's my finish picture.
We had a nice warm afternoon again that day, a nice evening, and then Sunday morning it was time to leave to head north and home again. I really liked Louisville, and hope I can get back there sometime in the future.
As for how I felt after, not too bad really. Some hip stiffness, getting down steps, etc. All I can say for today though is I hope we don't have a fire in my office!