Race: Urban Bourbon Half Marathon
Place: Louisville, Kentucky
Date: October 19, 2019
Oh, Urban Bourbon…it’s been a hot second. I haven’t run this race since 2016. Not because I haven’t wanted to. Probably mostly due to training for other things, or injury…or whatnot. Honestly, when races happen in my own backyard, I try to make a point to show up to them when possible.
So, trust me, I was happy when my coach gave me the green light to include this race into my training cycle as we began to head into taper. Kinda. Because I was under the impression that I would get to basically cruise through these additional races on the calendar, using them as easy training runs, right?
Nope. Marathon pace. That’s what I was told. For both this one and Fort Ben. Well, we all know I ran a little too fast at Fort Ben (despite the hills). But, that wasn’t all bad. Except my fast finish run on Sunday the following day pretty much felt like trash. So…we repeated the hell week of speed work pretty much every day. I did this just before Fort Ben too…but he really wanted me closer to my actual marathon pace this time. So, I worked out a plan in my head to line up with the 1:45 pacer and stick with them. I’d be slightly faster, but it would keep me steady and on pace.
Friday just after I ate lunch…I stopped by the coffee shop next to my office to say “HI” to my friend, Melissa. Then, my roommate and I headed down to Slugger Field for packet pickup. Melissa, her hubby, and their baby were coming down shortly behind us. Picking up the packet was a breeze. I was bib 306…first window. AND…to make things better, my personal trainer and friend…and the Volunteer Coordinator for the Louisville Sports Commission, Corey, was right there to give me a hug. We chatted for a few minutes, but Cathy and I needed to skedaddle back to the office (BOOO!). As we were leaving, Melissa, Paul and the baby were arriving. We were going to give them our parking space, but one opened up just slightly closer. That being said, Melissa still managed to give my SRTT magnet a flip before we parted ways.
Finished up the day at work before heading over to Dragon King’s Daughter. Because that’s where the “magic sushi” combo is. I had my usual…the Gluten Free Spicy Tofu and the Gluten Free Green Acres Rolls. Devoured them. Went home to stretch and get to bed. It was going to be an early morning.
Race morning came…and I think I actually slept well going into it. YAY! I didn’t lay anything out the night before. Didn’t think to do it. Oh well. I wasn’t too worried about it. I took my vitamins and ate my overnight oats that I had prepared the night prior…sticking with my fueling plan I am using for my marathon in November. I stretched. I hydrated. I changed. And, yes, I even put on sunscreen. All the things. I remembered my anklet and my race bib (long story, but both of those involved turning around and heading home at a different local race soon after I got back into running after the hip labrum tear). On track. The original thought was to come home after the race so I could shower and we could make a brunch happen…but I packed a backpack with a change of clothes because Cathy was kind of leaning toward staying over on that side of the river post-race…getting brunch, picking up a Cinnamon Roll & Donut from Annie May’s (for breakfast on Sunday), and getting some of our grocery shopping (it ended up barely being any of it) done while there. I was game to come home and save a bit of money…so we decided we’d pack for options.
It was a bit on the chilly side that morning…but I was planning on wearing what I wanted to wear for my marathon. It’s what I’ve been wearing at my races…so I know it works. I was just concerned about freezing near the start. Luckily, Cathy wasn’t doing a 5K at this one and I could shed clothing just before the start (so I could stay semi-warm leading into it) and leave them with her. I like when that happens. I know I have throwaway items for a reason…I just hate leaving them behind when I could probably get use of them again down the line. So…that was a plus. She pinned my bib on…I went to mix up my Maurten 160 Drink Mix…and we were out the door.
The drive into Louisville wasn’t bad at all. We didn’t even hit traffic. Cathy found a parking garage that was a bit of a walk to and from the start and finish area…but it would allow for easy exit as no roads would be blocked. We found a spot and sort of hung out in the warm car for a little while. Eventually, we did decide to start heading toward the start of the race, which was on W Jefferson Street. It was here that I met up with my training partner, Ron. He wasn’t sure what his plan was for this race, but he was going to line up with the 1:40 pacer. It was at this moment, I realized there was no 1:45 pacer. There was a 1:40 and a 1:50. So…I decided I would just have to line up in between them and try not to pass or be passed.
I mean…that seems like a logical and good plan, right?
As the race start drew nearer, and the sky turned BEAUTIFUL shades of cotton candy pink and purple (Louisville was showing off!), Ron went to go shed his layers and I went to go see if I could make the MRTT/SRTT Louisville photo. It was at Panara Bread. I noticed how full the corrals were getting as I headed that way, and after a short walk and not seeing where I needed to be…I opted to instead turn back and try to find my spot for a good start to the race. I never seem to make photo ops before races unless they are right near the start line.
This turned out to be a good decision. The only way into the start area was through the back of the corral. I had to shed my warm outer layer and go try to find a spot. It was REALLY crowded and I entered, finding my friend Tracy and tapping her on the shoulder, and she said, “Hey…shouldn’t you be further up.” HA! She wasn’t wrong…and it was really hard to move through the tight crowd of people. There was a lot of me tapping people on the back, asking them if I could slide through, saying a lot of “Sorry” and “Thank you.” BUT…I got there. Whew.
Ron gave me a high five and told me that if I passed him, he was going to yell at me to slow down. Which was the best idea ever. Fun fact…I never passed him so he can save yelling at me for another day.
The National Anthem was played and we all moved up toward the start line. A gun went off…and so did we. I gave a wave to Cathy on the sideline as I ran past…and really just felt good that morning. YAY! To be honest, while it was chilly (41° F) at the start, it was ideal running weather and was supposed to warm up as the morning went on. That being said, unlike at Fort Ben a couple of weekends before this race…I ended up keeping my gloves on and not shedding them.
So, there are actually quite a few turns in the first mile of the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon. It starts off nice and flat and fast…and you don’t even realize you’re running that fast until you hit that first mile marker. It was, as I said, the perfect morning for a half marathon. The sun was coming up. It was crisp and cool.
And I settled in pretty quickly into a rhythm. It was, for the first mile and a half, with a tall guy who was constantly commenting on how he couldn’t believe how far up the 1:40 pacers were at the start. Let it go, dude. Let it go. They have a pace they are going to run. Those who can go faster…will. We also had to run past EMW Women’s Surgical Center, which meant we were greeted by a guy with a speaker and a microphone basically preaching to us about why abortion is bad. Dude…we’re running a race here. Go do something useful with your time.
I knew I was pretty fast on my first mile, so I made a point to back off as we the loop leading into the second mile, and taking us back onto E Witherspoon. We turned this time though, heading onto Preston before turning again E Muhammad Ali Blvd. A couple more turns, keeping my pace in the mid to low 7:40s…which was still faster than I should have been…but I hadn’t passed Ron yet and 1:50 wasn’t coming up on me. It was still early, and I knew the hardest part of the race would happen once we got into the park. For now, I’d just soak it in. Once we got onto Lexington Rd I was in some pretty familiar (even though it had been ages since I’ve run it) territory! YAY!
It was along this stretch between Miles 4 and 5 that I high-fived some kids, tried to find a spot on the road where I wasn’t running on the shoulder (that had lots of debris from trees) but also not running on the grade of the road, which is kinda tilted at this point. My watched beeped a bit before I saw the Mile 5 marker…and I was questioning how I screwed up the tangents already (NOTE: I don’t actually run tangents…but my watch was WAY ahead of the mile marker). As we crossed Grinstead, we had to avoid the rubble and construction stuff (there were LARGE concrete tube-things (technical term) on the side of the road, and lots of dust and stones in their wake), but this is also where we turn and head into Cherokee Park.
Welcome…to the land of hills.
I want to give a shout-out to one of my training partners this past summer…Christine…because she had us running these hills pretty much every weekend. And I think that, while I slowed down some on these climbs, I handled them better than I would have. So…thanks, Christine! That being said, I have run in Cherokee Park so many times, that I know what the hills entail. So, I respected that. And I respected the goal of this race, which was not to kill myself trying to race it, but to aim for marathon pace. Slowing down, if necessary, was perfectly fine. And the hills were my reminder of that. While I still pushed up them, I didn’t push too hard…I let it be a hill and allowed my work, but not overwork. There was nothing to prove at this race. I was just here to finish.
We go into the park just before Mile 6 and we exit the park just before Mile 10. So, that’s about 4 miles inside Cherokee Park. And this is where you get to experience the major climbs, but also, the best part of the race. Cherokee Park, no matter how many times you run it, is beautiful. And in the fall, I think it’s even better. Highlights for the race all happened inside the park. I do want to say, I appreciate the photographers inside the park being just before that HUGE, winding climb to Hogan’s Fountain. You still look good, because when you get to the top, you pretty much feel and look like death…except you go downhill after that. Making the turn, my friend, Dan, was at the bottom. I heard him cheering for me and I high-fived him as I ran past. Up another hill. THE BEST water stop around was Water Stop 5…run by MRTT/SRTT Louisville. Costumes, cheers, and a whole lot of noise. My name was in chalk on the ground. My name was shouted and I had LOUD cheers as I ran through. Just the boost you need after all those killer hills. Itw as phenomenal! I love being in a girl gang! Around Mile 9, my friend Simon caught up to me. I could hear him coming though…because he was complimenting everyone on their dogs. I got to hear that for the rest of the race, and it kept a smile on my face.
We head out of the park and head back downtown. At this point, I was ready for my legs to just pick it back up, but after Cherokee (and this seemed to be a sentiment shared by lots of runners that Saturday)…the legs just had no go. The hills ate them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. So, I just pressed on, once again reminding myself that having no go here was fine. This wasn’t my goal race. I just settled in, and eventually my legs picked it up a little, just not much. I was ready to be done.
The last few miles went by relatively quickly, and when I hit Mile 12, I did start to pick it up a little more. There was more of a crowd, there were lots of encouraging cheers…and I could almost feel the electricity of that finish line. Making the final turn to run it in felt amazing…and, per usual, I threw my arms up as I crossed…because every finish line, whether you are first or last, should be treated like you won the damn thing! Always celebrate that finish line.
My training partner, Ron, had made it in exactly a minute ahead of me. We high-fived and hugged, collecting our medals, and making our way through the snacks to go to the afterparty (where I promised my roomie my beer and pizza…I can’t eat them…because gluten), and I was hoping to give away my bourbon tags…but I ended up having no one to share them with. It was pretty windy and chilly. I put my sweatshirt back on after standing around for a moment. Eventually, Cathy and I needed to go. We decided to grab a real breakfast at North End Café…then get some goodies for my post-run breakfast on Sunday (another 13.1 miles) from Annie May’s…and grab some groceries before heading home.
It was a great day to have a great race. I need to just keep this one on my radar every year, because Michael Clemons is phenomenal as a race director and ALWAYS puts on a great event.
So, my official results of the 2019 Urban Bourbon Half Marathon are that I finished in 1:42:48. Not mad at all at that time, because I finished within my goal range, between the 1:40 and 1:50 pace groups. I was, technically, only 5 minutes faster than my marathon pace, and my coach said I maintained a great pace on this (aka: he wasn’t mad at it). I was 208/3026 finishers overall. I was 40/1739 female finishers in this race. And I was 6/301 in my age division! Sometimes, working in some races to the training plan is a great way to figure out where you are with your training…or a good way to squeeze in a training run (keep that pace easy and controlled) and earn a medal in the process. Definitely coming back next year!