Race: Papa John’s 10 Miler
Place: Louisville, Kentucky
Date: April 6, 2013
I hate not being at the top of my game for a race. It doesn’t happen often. In fact, this year has marked the first time since I took up running where I have actually run while sick. It just hasn’t happened to me before. But these past two races in the Louisville Triple Crown of Running have proven that even when my body is fighting off sickness…it can do amazing things. Even when I doubt it.
Bronchitis sucks. It sucks regardless, but it sucks even more when you are a runner. Breath control is so important when it comes to running…and when each breath is a wheezing gasp, it sort of makes an easy run feel that much harder. I started to come down with bronchitis on March 17th, just after the Run For The Gold 3K in Frankfort, Kentucky. Since then, it has been a struggle for me to train for my upcoming races, particularly my half marathon in 27 days up in Minneapolis, Minnesota. But, I’ve trained through it. I’ve slowed down…because I don’t like breaking into a coughing fit…and I’ve come to terms with between the end of this bronchitis and the start up of allergy season…this might turn into an interesting spring racing season for me.
To put it bluntly…on Saturday morning, when I woke up and got dressed to go run in the Papa John’s 10 Miler…I felt off. I felt very off. I’d take a step and I’d lose my balance. This hadn’t happened before. But, no time to worry with it. I had cereal to eat, coffee to make and then consume, and a race to get to.
My roommate work up about 45 minutes after I was up. I usually like to get up over an hour ahead of her so I don’t feel rushed, but she wanted to be down at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium at 7 a.m., and she is notoriously S-L-O-W in the morning and I really, really, really didn’t want a 4 a.m. wake-up. So, I set my alarm for 5 a.m., told myself that I would immediately get up and make coffee (she can’t drink hers right from the pot…it has to sit and cool down for like 20 minutes…but, get this, she doesn’t like cold coffee either…) so it would be ready. I got the coffee pot working and went to go slip into the other uniform my company purchased for me to run in. NCL representing in Louisville! WOOT!
This uniform is red…and…as this was Saturday, the Louisville men’s basketball team was attempting to make their way into the Final Four…so I knew red was going to be one popular color. So that Cathy would be able to spot me at the end of the race, I decided to wear my pink compression socks and a bright orange BondiBand. This BondiBand just happened to be the exact one I wore to last year’s race…that declares: Beat The Hill! It seems fitting, given that the 3 middle miles of this race are spent inside one of Louisville’s hilliest parks: Iroquois.
I figured my clashing, but colorful, attire would at least make it a bit easier to see me coming as I rounded into the stadium and headed for that finish line. Hey…runner’s don’t have to match and I love being, as my co-worker puts it, “Rainbow Brite.” Which means…the more colors, the better. And the brighter…the better. I laugh at people who are afraid of being a riot of color. Running isn’t about being a fashionista, it’s about being a fastiniesta!
So, when Cathy dragged her hiney out of her room, I handed her a bowl of cereal and sat down with my own and a cup of coffee. I ate and got my small dose of caffeine then went to clean my dishes. I was pretty much set to go, except to brush my teeth. So, I did that, gathered up what I needed and let her pin my bib onto my shirt. She scrambled around making last minute additions to her packing in her backpack, added my SmartWater and my Arbonne vegan chocolate protein shake. She grabbed the sign and we headed out to make the drive over the river to Louisville and attempt to find parking around Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.
Believe it or not, parking was super easy. So, we were now down there with plenty of time to kill. Oh well. We wandered up toward the stadium and I ducked inside to use the bathroom, you know…the kind that has a flushing toilet and running water (I am a princess!). With that, we went to take the stairs up to the bridge that would then take us over a hill, around a corner, past the busy Starbucks and a line of port-a-potties to about where the start was going to be. The starting gate was inflated and ready to go…but no one was really up that way yet. Everyone sort of hung back and did their stretching and whatever pre-race rituals they have.
I moved away from the wafting air of the port-a-potties and began to do my usual pre-race stretches. I wanted to make sure I got plenty of stretching in because I knew those hills at Iroquois Park were going to be difficult, even on the tale end of bronchitis. I don’t run Iroquois Park much due to it being way out of the way. Cherokee, Seneca, and the little park over near where I live…I run those often. Not Iroquois. It isn’t in the best part of Louisville for one thing…and it just, as I said, isn’t really convenient for me to run in. I think I should start doing more of it so I can really work on those hills.
With my muscles stretched, I finally saw some movement of runners up toward the starting line…so Cathy and I made our way up that way as well. I shed the hoodie I was still wearing, given the air was still a bit chilly at that point. Just nudging up toward 50 degrees. It was perfect weather for the run. I was just going to run what felt comfortable to me. No sense pushing too hard and throwing myself into a coughing fit. That was the plan. The National Anthem was sung and we all stood there, with no flag, but still respectful. And then…we were told that we had about 10 minutes to the start of the Papa John’s 10 Miler. So, Cathy gave me a hug and told me to have a great run…and then she disappeared, leaving me standing with my peeps…the other runners who were just as eager to get underway.
The wheelchair racers (there were two of them this year…one in a racing chair and one in a regular chair) were sent off a minute before the rest of the pack was. The countdown was on. And soon, we had the “Runners…set.” And the air horn sent us off on our way once again.
It took about a minute to get up to the starting line. I hit my Garmin and stepped over the sensor. And I never heard my Garmin beep, so I hit it again…saw Cathy…waved…and kept on trekking with the group I was with. I glanced down once at my Garmin and noticed it wasn’t even counting my time…so I restarted it and was now a bit off for the rest of the race. But…I wasn’t going to utilize the Garmin. I just wore it because…I always do.
And so, we wennt down Third Street, where Churchill Downs was visible in the early morning light. The first mile had us winding through neighborhoods and down the streets toward Iroquois Park. A water stop came up very early and I think most runners chose to bypass it and keep on trekking. The first three miles of this race are relatively flat, except for a few minor inclines in the road. Nothing too taxing. But after you wind down Southern Parkway and over on to New Cut Road…Iroquois Park is straight ahead. And that means…it’s time to run for the hills.
The route through Iroquois Park was winding and hilly. We enter the park near a small playground and immediately hit the path that will take us by the beautiful amphitheater and into the wilderness. Don’t get me wrong, I find Iroquois Park stunning and beautiful. The races I run there are always challenging and push me to the very brink of my ability. And I always tell myself to dig deep and find my strong. But today…I was being zen…this race was just about getting to that finish line. And that seemed daunting when my legs got their first taste of the hills that awaited me. Not only did my legs feel the burn, but so did my lungs. For the first time since starting the run, I was no longer breathing easy. I had that lingering phlegm in my throat, that no matter how often I cleared it…would come right back. The lungs were definitely not happy with the additional effort. But, when I signed up for the Triple Crown of Running, I didn’t count on having bronchitis either. You just do what you can and hope for the best.
Somehow, I managed those hills and fought the burn in my chest and throat and rocked out those three miles through the park. I pushed myself just enough to feel the effort on the uphills, and I coasted on the downhills. I grabbed a water bottle just after Mile 4 and took a sip just to get something wet in my throat. I tossed the rest of it and continued on. And that was all it took. With a great deal of determination, I made the turn out of Iroquois Park and back onto Southern Parkway. That meant that I was down to the final four miles. I knew I could do this. I was suddenly feeling a lot better about the race now that I was through the most challenging part.
There is one thing that I will always applaud this race for, and it is the scattered entertainment along the way. The various DJs that spun out tunes as we ran past were very much appreciated. I no longer run with an iPod in races, finding that it is more of a hindrance than a help. I run better without a pace being set for me. I know, I used to whine and complain about not being able to wear my headphones…now, I’m happy to leave them behind. The evolution of a runner. Anyway, the music was great and some runners, like Fleet Feet Louisville’s very own Jeff Wells, hopped out of the course to go and boogie to Love Shack. It made me smile and I was having a blast.
Before I knew it, I was coming up on Mile 9, right at the corner of the Starbucks…the very one we started near. I could see Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium and knew I just had to get up that hill and from there, it was straight on down, into the stadium, and across that finish line. It was hard. My legs were not feeling the last hill here…but I was so close. I pushed, and I fought my way up that hill and when I crested it, I coasted down with other runners and pressed on toward the turn that would take us toward the stadium.
I remembered how difficult it was to go from asphalt to AstroTurf from the previous run, but I still hit that softer surface and had to regather my footing a bit. That is NOT an easy transition. That being said, the finish line was a short spin around the football field. I rounded that first corner…and could hear Cathy yelling at me. I rounded the next corner and the finish line was ahead. I attempted to give some kick to my step…whether that worked or not, I don’t know. I’m still working on that final kick at the end of the race. And with bronchitis…I wasn’t pushing it.
And I finished. I finished strong. And smiling. And I felt great. The Brightroom photographer up on the ladder leaned down and said, “Congratulations, Karen!” No, my name is not on my bib…he notices my sign at every race. Does that mean you’re famous when the race photographers recognize you and can call you by name? LOL!
Anyway…the official results of the 2013 Papa John’s 10 Miler were that I finished in 1:18:52 seconds, shaving over 10 minutes off my time from last year. I couldn’t believe it. Especially since I felt I ran Iroquois much better last year. Shaving 10 minutes off of a finishing time is awesome. And that happened when I was having gluten issues, retaining water, and fighting bronchitis. ROCK ON!! I was 525/6108 overall, the 91/3466 female to cross the finish line, and I was 20/600 in my division. I couldn’t be more proud of myself.
After the race, I made my way out to the recovery area and spotted Cathy with the sign. I ran up a hill and we celebrated with much screaming and jumping over my new PR for a 10 mile race. I enjoyed a banana and my Arbonne protein shake. And then…we made our way out to attempt to get to our car.
If I haven’t said it enough, I am going to say it again…the Louisville Triple Crown of Running is such a great race series. This is the second year I have participated in all three races and I am very much looking forward to doing it again next year. Maybe even getting a little faster…a little stronger…and a little bit better on those hills. But of all the races, I’ve always loved the 10 Miler the most. Why? I love distance races so much better than 5Ks and the like. Which makes this race so ideal for me…not a sprinter…but one who is in it for the long run.
One thing I did notice, though…last year I stated in my blog that at each of the Triple Crown races, I set a new PR. The same held true this year. How awesome is that? Oh yeah, I’m already gearing up for next year!