Race: Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon
Place: Lexington, Kentucky
Date: March 30, 2019
You remember (probably not, but throwing it out there anyway) how last year I said I was going to return to the Run The Bluegrass Half Marathon? Well, I was certainly good on my word. Prior to my blog even being posted last year, I was already registered to run in 2019. And at the end of March…it was time to go.
A couple of things though…
Remember that knee bruising I had from my fall at the beginning of March? Well…that was better. The problem was…the week of this particular half marathon, my knee started to really be painful when I was out running…but mostly just when I would go up and down the stairs. You know me. I went into full panic mode and texted my coach. He’s a physical therapist and he told me to rest it up until race day. I did exactly that. Slept in. No spin. No weights. Rest. So, essentially, I took off Thursday and Friday. The race was Saturday. And though this, I felt like my knee…SORT OF felt better. A little. It still twinged whenever I went down or up the stairs (more so up), but for the most part…better. So that was a good thing. I guess?
I had to work a half day on Friday, and left the office just shortly after eating my lunch. It was something simple. Soup, I think. It isn’t important. I had snacks packed for the car to have prior to going into the expo. And my roommate (who was participating in the Yearling, which is 3.65 miles, on Saturday morning) and I got into the car and started to make our way to Lexington.
The trip was easy and this time we didn’t take the weird back way that put us on some of the course. This was direct to Keenland. And I was ready to get my bib and shop the expo. That, in and of itself, is dangerous, because I tend to throw away a lot money at this particular race expo. The swag is just that good!! I ended up getting my bib at the first little stand (my number was in the 1000, so I was in the first wave) and then proceeded to look at all the merch, ended up purchasing a cute sweatshirt and the official Run The Bluegrass Ponya Band (I did the Ponya Band last year too), and then tapped out to head into the actual expo part and peruse the booths. I had come in 13th in the Director’s Challenge, so I had a few prizes to pick up as well, including some free socks at one of the booths in the back. I got my official race shirt, then the upgrade to the really nice race jacket with the heat sheet inside (SO HAPPY). And then decided I had done enough damage for the day and went back up front to snag the rest of my Director’s Challenge swag (ear buds, Road ID gift certificate, gloves, and a couple of other nice things). I ran into a couple of friends and then we went to drive into Lexington to stop into Ethereal Brewing to pick up the glass I won in the Director’s Challenge. Cathy was very tempted to get a beer, and spotted one that looked interesting, but decided against it. I boooooooed her for that decision. But we needed to hit up the hotel, drop stuff off, and relax before meeting up with our friends Ron & Shawn Steve for dinner at Bella Notte (of course).
Upon arriving at the hotel and starting to unload our luggage, Cathy realized that we didn’t have the cooler with us (the one she moved off the kitchen counter and set by HER luggage) that had my fuel, my BCAAs, my snacks…all the things. THIS…was a HUGE problem.
I might have shouted at her for a long time about it. And instead of relaxing in the hotel, we now had to head into Lexington and attempt to find fuel for the half marathon tomorrow. The problem being, most places don’t sell my fuel of choice, UCAN. NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE carries it in stores. We first went to a sporting goods store, and all they had was Sword. I don’t use Sword and have only used it in a half marathon I was pacing as fuel. And while I had no issues with it…I was trying to put some effort into this race. No good. We were getting close to dinner time, but we spotted a Vitamin Shoppe, so we took a chance and pulled in there. They had less options for me to really use. But we looked around. Lots of electrolytes but nothing that was actually good for me to use as fuel.
We left emptyhanded from there too, and I was in full-on pissed off panic mode. But dinner time was nigh, so we pulled into Bella Notte just minutes before Ron and Shawn showed up. It was perfect timing. No reservations were being taken, but we had no problems getting seated. They no longer have a separate gluten free menu, but I know what I always get here. And this was no different. Ron got the lasagna, both Cathy and Shawn got the Spaghetti & Meatballs, and I got…the Gluten Free Pasta Arrabiata. It came with a salad ahead of it…so I got that minus the croutons and with the balsamic.
We ate, we talked work, life, and racing (of course). It was sometime in the restaurant that Daniel, my coach, sent me the race plan for this particular half marathon. To be fair, I don’t think he understood how difficult this course actually is. He wanted me to use the first mile as a warm up, then push for 8-10 miles at a 7:45 pace, then use the rest to either continue that pace or to ease back and use it as a cool down, depending on how I felt. And I might have scoffed and laughed out loud when that text came over my phone. I told him I would try, but made no promises with the hills. He told me it was about effort, not pace. We all still got a laugh though about my race plan. Inside, I think I was starting to panic more than a little. We all passed on desserts and headed out, giving hugs and wishing everyone luck on their races the following morning. Cathy and I had just enough time to swing by John’s Run Walk Shop, hoping to get something to use for fuel. Again, we found a lot of Sword (Sword must be the sponsored fuel of Lexington, Kentucky), but thankfully they had some Honey Stinger gels in there too. I haven’t fueled with Honey Stinger gels in a while, but had in the past…so it was what I had to work with. I bought two of them, plus the Gluten Free Mint Chocolate Waffle. And it was going to have to work. We finally headed back to the hotel so we could cycle through showers and get everything ready for the morning. Stretch. Foam rolling. And eventually get some sleep. Our time was definitely way more constricted now thanks to The Great Search for Runner Fuel.
The alarm went off that morning and we immediately began to get ready for our respective races. The weather looked perfect for running. It was in the high 50s, so tank top and shorts were the obvious choice. There was a chance for rain, but it was supposed to kick in later on in the day. So, that was a plus. I was supposed to be done long before that kicked in and started. The half marathon started at 9:00. The Yearling kicked off at 8:50. And all the photos were to be done at 8:30 with groups like Mom’s Run This Town/She Runs This Town. I texted my friend Melissa (who was about 5 weeks off of having a baby) and she was here, but down near the start. I wanted to get my pre-race hug she always gives me, so I forwent the official photo and headed down to the start area. And never found her or met up with her. Cathy did run into one of her high school friends though. So at least she got a pre-race hug.
I walked Cathy into the corral for the Yearling and hung with her there. My friend Michael, who came in from New York to run this, found me there and we stayed there up until we had to clear out so that only Yearling runners were in there. I wished Cathy luck, gave her a hug, and went to wait for Wave 1 to be moved up to the start.
The Yearling was sent off after the singing of the National Anthem…and it was to “The Greatest Show” from The Greatest Showman. Which…I knew Cathy would love. And it turns out…she did.
The wheelchair racers were sent off next. I could not even imagine racing Run The Bluegrass in a wheel chair. The hills in this race as massive and hard enough to run up. More on that later. LOL! Michael and I lined up and wished each other good luck on the race. It is really one of the most stunning and beautiful half marathons around, so I told him to take it in and enjoy it…and if by chance he caught up to me because my race plan wasn’t going well, we could maybe run it in together.
And then we were off…to AC/DC’s Thunderstruck. Which, for the record, is one of my favorite race pump-up songs. I ran easy (well, I thought it was easier than it actually was, apparently, for that first mile, which takes us up our first major climb. I clocked that one in 7:58…so definitely faster than I anticipated or meant to be for my warm up. Now it was time to kick it and see what I could handle.
Mile 2 and Mile 3 were right on pace. But they were hard. This race has somewhere between 33 and 37 hills (it depends on who you ask), and some are manageable, and some will completely kill your speed. I felt good for those miles, but as I went into Mile 4, my heart rate was really high and I took a walk break. And it pretty much broke me to do that so early in a race. I knew I was now completely off my race plan and, you know how much of a perfectionist I am…it bothered me. A lot. I had been training really well, save for the fall that screwed with my knees, but this…this just destroyed my confidence. I know that this is a difficult course, and tried to keep reminding myself of that, but, dammit…I know I am better than that.
The next mile I managed to pick it back up. A little. But it did help to see that 7 pace again. I hit it at 7:55…so not in the range he wanted me at, and it was the last 7-something pace I would see that day. Walking the hills became my method of survival. I would run up some of them, but I was being very careful since I could tell my heart rate wasn’t in a good place and I didn’t want to push it. I fueled at the halfway point with my Honey Stinger gel. And I do get the ones with caffeine, but I don’t think it made any difference. My legs weren’t going to wake back up. At least I was running when I went past the photographer around Mile 7. HA! And, thanks to a friend of mine, I got the shirtless thumbs up guy behind me edited out of my picture. YAY!
Mile 9 is the roughest. You hit it just as you start up with hill. This massive hill. And just when you think you are done with it, it turns and goes up some more. This is the infamous S-turn hill…with drums that sort of inform you of your impending doom. This hill did me in and I took the lonest walk break I have had to take just to get up it. And, the entire time, I was just getting madder and madder at myself.
Does anyone else do this?
I had a 5K left, and I gave myself the pep talk…that a 5K wasn’t far and that I could do this. And I took only a few more walk breaks in that time, trying to hydrate myself well (I was racing with my hydration pack). I think I did okay with that. It also rained at this point. Yep. Rained. It was brief…but unexpected as ran wasn’t supposed to move in until later than that. I hit the Mile 12 marker and attempted to pick it up again. When you get to 12.1, you go over a mat, and you get timed on your final mile. Some of this does go uphill, and I told myself this one I couldn’t walk. This one I had to run in. And I managed to mentally push myself to do just that. The official results clocked my final mile as a 7:06. My Garmin had me at a 8:59. LOL!!
This time, Cathy did happen to catch me at the finish line and snap some photos. I made sure to snag a Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg (I can’t eat them, but Cathy can) and high five the race director on the way to the finish line. Did I meet my goal for this race at all? Not even close. I gave up on myself and the plan in really early on. But I needed to take care of me, and that high heart rate had me concerned. I still hate that I walked so much. That being said, I had a strong finish and at least I did finish. So, there is power in that, for sure.
I met up with Cathy at the end of the chute. She said she had a really good race, even on her challenging hills, and even took beer at the beer/water stop that we all come across in our respective distances. She does it all. HA! We made our way over to the starting gates to get the required photo inside. I managed to get myself up, but getting down is always an issue. Cathy carried me down like a child…per usual. But this year, she got to understand the struggle as she had to do it too, as she finished the Yearling. Afterwards, I gave her my free beer (she had one of her own ahead of me) and I snagged her a free breakfast sandwich as well before we went inside. My friend Michael finished about 8 minutes behind me and he came to find us. I asked if he got his photo in the gates, and he hadn’t so I took him out to be sure we got him that.
Soon after, I found myself purchasing more stuff at the expo. HA! I bought the most stunning pair of leggings with “Dream Big” on the side and pockets from Bend Active. They are super comfortable too. I snagged the last in my size and couldn’t have been happier about that. You don’t realize how important pockets in leggings are until you need a pocket. They are my favorite pair of leggings I own now.
After that, we headed back to the hotel so I could shower and change and we could pack up and head out. Thank God, this hotel had late checkout. We gathered our belongings and packed up the car. We were going to meet up with Michael back in Louisville later for sushi before heading to the Louisville City FC Soccer Game. But the rain had moved in at this point, and sitting out in the cold wet…sounded awful. They ended up postponing the match until Sunday, but Cathy and I had other things going on that day. Michael ended up going Sunday, but we did get him to my favorite Sushi joint…Dragon King’s Daughter, and took him back to his hotel afterwards.
So, my official results of the 2019 Run The Bluegrass Half Marathon are that I finished it in 1:51:14, pretty far off of what I know I am cable of, honestly. Meh. You win some, you lose some, you walk more than you want to on really big ass hills sometimes. I was 233/2635 finishers overall. I was the 53/1660 for women finishers. And I was 12/321 in my age division. So, I mean…not great. But not bad either. This wasn’t the mental boost that I was hoping it would be…but its done. And, yes, I’m already registered for next year. Time to run more hills. For real.