Race: Big Hit Half Marathon
Place: Louisville, Kentucky
Date: October 26, 2013
Ah…the Big Hit Half Marathon (and Quarter Marathon). It’s come around again. This is the third year these two races have run and this is my third year running it. The only difference this year…I chose to do the Big Hit Half Marathon as opposed to the Big Hit Quarter Marathon that I ran the two years prior.
Because last year when I ran the Quarter Marathon, I placed first in my division. So, when you conquer one thing…you move to the next, yes? So…instead of 6.55 miles this year, I opted for the full 13.1 miles in the half. I was very excited to be changing it up this year and going for the full. While I absolutely love the Quarter Marathon…I was ready to see the course for the Half. So, with a Groupon that gave me half off registration, I signed up…treating this as a training run as I’m still in recovery from the Chicago Marathon.
And then…the weather reports came in.
Every day, the Facebook page for the Big Hit Half Marathon posted the temperature at race time…and it would get colder and colder each time. I was unamused. Because…I hate running in pants. But it does get to the point where it’s just stupid to wear shorts. And when it hits 30 degrees…feels like 29 degrees with the wind…it’s stupid to wear shorts. Although I had a big debate with myself about this…and on the morning of the race, opted to be smart and put on capris at least.
But I’m getting ahead of myself…as usual. This tale begins on Friday…at lunch time. That was when I headed over the river to get to Slugger Field to pick up my packet. There wasn’t much of an expo for this one. It was much smaller than the two years previous. In fact, while there was never a huge expo for the Big Hit…it actually had some vendors the two years prior. This year…there was a table with the awards…and there was also a table from our local Fleet Feet store. Other than that…the small space that the packet pick-up was held this year had the tables with the race numbers for bib and t-shirt pick up. The race bags also contained a few snacks. So, that was nice. But, I wasn’t used to the much downplayed for this race. The Louisville Sports Commission…yes…but not the Big Hit.
But…you can’t judge a race by its expo…or lack thereof.
Anyway…after work that night, I was committed to attending a fun little Halloween party at Louisville’s very own allergy-free bakery, Annie May’s Sweet Café. Friday happens to be gluten-free pizza night there…and the pizza at Annie May’s is the best when it comes to gluten-free. We all know, the night before the race is gluten-free pizza night for me. Keeping the flavors simple, Cathy and I split a gluten-free pizza with Daiya vegan cheese and tomatoes. Nothing spicy or heavy. And we each also got one of the gluten-free soft pretzels. If you are in Louisville in January when Annie May’s brings these back to the weekly rotation…GO AND GET ONE!! Carbed up…the next plan was to go to the pumpkin walk at Iroquois Park…but we were in costumes…and having fun with that, so instead we went to the mall and walked around. So much fun.
But…alas…there was a race the next morning…so we needed to get home so I could turn in and get some much needed rest before the race. I had laid out shorts…being optimistic about the weather. However, when I woke up the following morning and went to do a temperature check…I knew shorts were not happening. Nope. So…out came the capris.
Did I mention that I hate wearing pants? I was totally not feeling like running that morning. But…when you pay good money for a race, unless there are extenuating circumstances…you get your ass to that race. Even if this was being treated as an easy run…since recovery is important…no all-out racing until I recover from Chicago completely…I really, really wasn’t feeling it…at all. Dressed, I ate my cereal and got my change of clothing and whatever else I might need together. Cathy eventually got out of bed and downed some breakfast as well.
After some manic morning stuff, as usual, I got pinned up and let it be known to Cathy that I just wasn’t having a good morning. You know how I mention how amazing I felt at Chicago for the marathon. Yeah…this was the complete opposite. Cold weather and I are arch nemesis’…and today…the cold weather was winning. Especially since the wind was going to pick up and get stronger as the day went on. That being said, we grabbed the race bag, the sign, some snacks, and I filled my fuel belt (one bottle with water, one with Gatorade), snatched up the pre-race banana…and we were out the door, making the drive to Slugger Field. That ride was one of the easiest we had going to a race in Louisville. Honestly. At least there was that. We parked in the lot at Slugger Field and went to go inside, only to have signs directing us to the very small area where packet pickup occurred the day before. This mean…we had to walk around the building, still in the cold, and duck inside. It wasn’t too crowded…but we got away from those doors and ducked into this middle section. I immediately went to use one of the flushing toilets in the stadium…and to my surprise…there was no line. Business taken care of, it was back to shivering and playing the waiting game. It was cold…so when I finally decided I needed to be stretching…it was my half-assed “I’m too cold to stretch” kind of stretching. Good times.
Yep. I’m a wimp.
One of my BlueMile peeps, Kathryn, spotted Cathy and I and we stood around talking. She was in search of Harry, one of the best people in the world to run with, as she was hoping to run with him during the half marathon. We hadn’t seen him, but he wandered through shortly thereafter. Then Terry, another one of my running peeps, stopped by to talk. He had just been diagnosed with a torn meniscus in his knee, but it was his birthday…and he had a cortisone shot, so he was prepped to give the half marathon a go. He was also in search of Harry, so when he wandered back through…and went to follow him. Cathy and Tarry managed to follow him through the crowd of gathering runners. Somehow, Kathryn and I lost them. How we lose a girl wearing a blanket is beyond me. But it happened. And it took us a bit of time to find them again. Soon after we did though, the running group peeps joined up. Tammy, Laura, Mike…it was awesome.
Although we were all quite warm standing inside the stadium…the start was about 10 minutes away. We knew it was time to head outside and down to the start line. So, together we all braved the cold morning air, left the comfort of the inner sanctum of Slugger Field, and stepped out into the wintery air of downtown Louisville. It wasn’t a long walk to the start line…but it sure was cold. Cathy and I sort of led the way for the group, but we paused at the start line to take a group shot of those who managed to stick with us. I finally unzipped my hoodie…so the race bib was visible. I think that was out of habit, LOL! Damn you MarathonPhoto!!
And then…we were off to spread out and get to about where we needed to be for the start. Little purple balloons hovered over the sea of runners doing both the half marathon and the quarter marathon. I lined up just slightly back from the 1:45 pace balloon. When I ran Disneyland as a training run, I came in just after 1:42…so I knew this would be a good spot for me to keep me at my training pace.
Some announcements were being made…and I heard Laura and Mike behind me. Laura spotted Natalie, who we were missing at the start. She hadn’t been feeling well, but she was here. So, I went over to give her a good luck hug. Also found Michael and Patrick with her too. Okay…everyone was present and accounted for. That was good. I sneaked back to where I was for the start, finding Dennis from my Saturday running group…and when the announcements none of us could actually hear were done…we were off.
The wave of runners at the beginning of most races in Louisville is chaos. While pace groups dotted the start of this race…not everyone really adheres to where they need to be. I was just doing this for training…so I didn’t care. I just bobbed and weaved through the sea of people as best I could as we traveled down River Road. We were sent that way for about half a mile then we were turned around at a traffic cone and sent back the way we came, going by the start line, and clocking in for the first mile. This year’s course was changed slightly due to the construction going on for the new bridge. Hence…the wonkiness of the start. I was feeling good, but I knew I went out fast and was just trying to get ahead of some of the people I was dodging. So, I eased up…wanting to really abide by my training. I tucked into a nice spot, about 20 feet behind Tammy and two of her friends. I remained there up until about Mile 3…when I pushed past. Tammy was running the Quarter Marathon, so she was halfway there. I still had 10 miles to go. As I passed, she said, “Go Karen! Get it!” I love her!
The thing about the Big Hit Half Marathon and Quarter Marathon is that there isn’t a lot of crowd support happening. Nope. It was very desolate throughout much of the race. Those who volunteered at the aid stations were fantastic…there were even little children who came up with cheers for the runners as they ran by. That was so good. But for much of the time on the road…no crowds. Maybe a pedestrian who was happening by would stop and clap and cheer…but that was it. It made this half marathon more of a mental game than anything. I’m used to at least having some crowd support throughout most races…so this was a bit more like a Disney race…just…with even less support than you find during Disney runs. Because at least when you are in the parks you have a crowd. We were on the roads…and there wasn’t much going on. At Mile 5, the courses split. The Quarter Marathoners went to the left, heading into their last bit of their race, ending at home plate in Slugger Field. Half Marathon runners went to the right, taking Third Street all the way down to Central Avenue. We turned around again, with a quick switchback on Central Avenue before hitting Mile 8.
As I was heading back up Third Street, Harry spotted me as he was running the other way. So did Kathryn soon after that. And after her…Terry. All of them shouted my name and we waved and cheered for each other. I love my running peeps. I was feeling good as I headed into Mile 9 and 10, so I picked it up a little…hitting a brilliant Mile 11. I was two miles out. Still feeling good. The sun was out…and despite the very strong headwind now, I was having a good run and a good time. I was actually starting to feel like I was too warm for my liking. This is what happened at Chicago too. I really need to figure out my running comfort zone when it comes to temperatures. Regardless…the last mile was in reach, and as I turned onto Witherspoon, I could see Slugger Field and even hear the announcer in the distance. LOVED that.
This has always been my favorite part of the Big Hit race. As you come onto Witherspoon, you turn and run into the back entrance of Slugger Field. This puts you on the very back out of the outfield, near the wall. You can see the Finish Line at home plate and you just pick it up, and you run like you just hit a grand slam home run. You round the corner onto the third base line, and you hit the white cover that is laid out. You’re almost to the finish. And for me, I was looking at that clock over the finish line and pushing and pushing and pushing. I touched home plate…and was done.
I paused my Garmin and received a temporary finisher’s medal. Yes…temporary. As I slipped it over my head, I heard, “Karen…let me get a picture!” I looked at it was the MarathonPhoto photographer I got to know really well during the Louisville Triple Crown of Running this past winter. So that was awesome! I posed and then moved on to get the timing chip cut off my shoes. Cathy was waving my sign at me and I pointed at her and screamed, “PR!!” It wasn’t planned, but man…I felt so good. After getting the timing chip removed, I grabbed some of the offered snacks. I got a granola bar for Cathy, and grabbed a half banana and an slice of orange for myself. Along with some water. Then, I made my way up the steps, feeling my knee once again aching, but ignoring that. I stopped off at the results tent and they printed up my real-time results…and without even looking at them, I went to find where Cathy was camped.
She and Natalie (who ran the Quarter Marathon) were standing there and ready to give me hugs. I handed the results off to Cathy while I chatted up Natalie about how her race went. She did amazing. Even came in first in her age division. In fact, a lot of my group placed in their divisions for each race. I didn’t…but I wasn’t aiming to. All I knew was somehow I managed to clock a new fastest half marathon time. I didn’t know what it was officially, but it beet Lake Minnetonka…but at least a full minute. So, after I managed to eat my banana and orange, I asked Cathy for the results and we finally took a look at them.
My official results for the Big Hit Half Marathon are that I finished this 13.1 miles in 1:39:00. Holy cow!! And yes…that is my exact time. LOL!! A new PR!! I was so very proud because I wasn’t even aiming for a new PR. I was just running a comfortable pace and enjoying my run. Love when magic happens. I was 57/799 finishers overall. I was 10/440 females to cross the finish line and touch that home plate. And…I was 4/92 in my age division. I couldn’t have been happier with those results.
As much as I wanted to hang out and see my peeps get their awards for their division placements…I was cold and hungry. We walked Natalie to her car, as we had wrapped her up in the warm Sherpa blanket. And then…after congratulating her again, we headed to our car to get over to Annie May’s Sweet Café for some post-race food.
I always have a good time running in the Big Hit races. I was so happy to step up and move to the Half Marathon this year. I knew I could have rocked that Quarter…but since I needed 12 miles anyway…paced…this was the perfect opportunity to test it out. I stayed at my race pace the entire time. And even had negative splits. Can’t argue with those results.
Oh, and as for the finisher’s medals…it seems that they didn’t ship in time, so they hadn’t received them yet. As a consolation, the race provided temporary ones that we get to keep and will mail the official ones to us this week. I thought it was great of them to have medals to supplment for the runners. They didn’t have to do that, but they did. And that’s part of what makes this race so amazing.
Big Hit Half Marathon…I do intend to run you again next year. Thanks for always being awesome.