I realize that this race took place on Thanksgiving morning, and here I am, just 5 days post-Valentine’s Day and I am just now getting this post up. But trust me…life has been crazy and busy and just…exhausting. BUT…here we go.
First of all…NEW COURSE AND 5 MILE RACE PR!! I feel like I should have been shouting this from the hills after it happened, but the weather was so terrible that day. Legit a cold and rainy morning. And, I honestly didn’t realize I had a PR until much later that evening when I was putting up my Christmas tree. Didn’t register. It was only after my training partner asked about the race that I looked up my time and went to compare it to the past few years. This beat my former 5 mile race PR (let’s face it…there aren’t a lot of those in the world) from this race in 2017. I was only a couple of weeks off running the Monumental Marathon (got a BQ but a big margin), so I hadn’t thrown in any speed workouts and wasn’t really being guided by a coach because we had decided to part ways.
I should also mention, that I ran this one, unofficially, last year virtual. It went virtual due to COVID, and since I run this route all the time…I didn’t officially sign up for the race. I, instead, ran it with my friends Melissa & Paul, who pushed a stroller on those crazy sidewalks and roads!
Woke up Thanksgiving morning to cold rain. It was still shorts weather though, so I couldn’t be too mad. This just meant that I stayed in the apartment until the very last moment. As I have mentioned in every blog about this race – the start line is basically at the base of my apartment complex. It’s the least stressful race of the year. It’s a one minute walk at most…but this year faster because rain makes me move faster.
I got down to the start line with just one minute to spare. Per usual, I let the elite runners that can run this in like 25 minutes in that first row and was somewhere around row 2-3 with the runners. I try to start as close to the start line, because while the race is now time chipped, there isn’t a start mat so the minute we are sent off…that’s it. That’s when timing starts.
I took off strong, getting passed by many but not caring, honestly. This happened every year, and for the most part, I catch up or pass at least half of the crowd. Besides, we immediately go up a hill and hills suck. But I honestly run this route a lot because it’s an easy and measured route…so I am at least used to the hills. This was a splish-splashy run for sure, and after going across the overpass I went down the hill and made my way to the stop light to turn and hit that first mile. It was faster than I anticipated, and was the fast mile of the day. After that, my legs remembered I hadn’t run fast in quite some time…but they worked hard.
Mile 2 is always where I settle in, and I did just that, running strong and doing my best to avoid puddles (because the game puddle or pothole is never a fun one!). I always feel like Mile 2 goes by fast. I think it’s more downhill and flat than uphill. But it was here and gone as I pressed on to Sam Peden Community Park. This is where I have to deal with THE HILL. It’s half a mile up to the top, where you sort of get a false flat. It was my slowest mile of the race…because hills are stupid. I climb this hill a lot in training, specifically in the summer, which at times was an ego check…but today my focus was on getting up it and getting to the next mile. I clicked it off…wand headed into the rollers of Schell Lane.
You start off with a downhill, but immediately go back up…then back down…then the hardest climb back up. This road is fun on Thanksgiving because the people who live in the houses lining the street come out and cheer. And even though it was POURING down rain…this still happened. And it made me smile. And when you smile…you run better, right? Sure. Lets go with that.
Turned onto Daisy Lane and get to go down a BIG hill. If I run UP the hill, this is my least favorite hill (which now I know is about 200 meters from doing hill repeats there). But running down is a nice speed boost and it levels out just as Mile 4 beeps on the watch. That flat stretch after that downhill always feels terrible, but the legs adjust. One more mile to go, and it’s the main road that I run (the opposite way, but still) every training run.
I was confident in my ability to keep the momentum going and I just pushed with whatever I had left. The 4-H Fairgrounds were in view and I made the turn to head into the finish line. Crossed it. I don’t even think I threw my hands up this year…I was just over being in the rain.
The award ceremony was happening much later, and with the rain and cold air, I didn’t want to stand in that any longer. My roommate agreed. I snapped a quick picture in the rain jacket she brought for me…and we headed out, crossed the road, and went home.
It was definitely still a different experience in 2021. No indoor awards ceremony because of COVID and a different place for packet pick-up. But it all worked out. And while it took me, legit, the rest of the day to realize I had a PR…I was super happy with the race, and just happy to be inside and out of the rain.
I later found out I placed in my age group. I contacted the race director, and while he wasn’t terribly happy that I didn’t stay for the awards (I host each year and usually can’t stay long after because cooking has to happen on a schedule…but he said if you don’t stay you don’t get the award…but I swear, I have picked up my mug in the past at the local running store), but he did deliver it to the local running store and I went and picked it up that day. So, I was thankful for that.
The official results of this year’s Fast Freddie Festive Five Mile Foot Feast was that I finished with an official time of 36:19…a new PR by 17 seconds. WOOHOO!! Still shocked that this race went as well as it did this past year. I felt highly under-prepared for it, but honestly, 2018, 2019, and 2021 have all happened post-Monumental Marathon. I was 81/431 finishers this year (this also means that everyone make’s the t-shirt next year). I was the 12th female to cross the finish line. And I was 2nd in my age division. You know…maybe going sub 36 in in my future? Will have to talk to my NEW coach. More on that another blog…sometime in the near future.
I finally returned to an in-person half marathon – and it only seems fitting that it was a local one! Hello, Urban Bourbon Half Marathon. This year, however, the race looked a little different. Because of COVID, the course and the swag that the race offered.
Packet pickup remained the same…being held at Slugger Field. This was a good, open space that allowed people to not be crowded in on each other. That was nice. I wore a mask as it was an indoor space (despite having just been boosted earlier that week), but most people opted not to. And, for the first time in the history of EVER when attending this packet pickup…I had to stand in a line. Normally I can walk right up to a table and get my bib number, wristband, and shirt. It was fine. I actually knew a few of the ladies working the tables, so it was fun to catch up while they strapped a wristband for the after party on me and assigned a bib number.
This is where my first complaint came. I thought the second line at the merchandise tent was to pick up the race t-shirt. Except it turns out that this time, we were only getting a UBHM buff in lieu of a shirt. Shirts were there to purchase, with the option of getting a phrase screen printed onto it. But the line was long and I didn’t want to pay extra for a race shirt. I usually LOVE the shirts for this race…and I did love a few of the options hanging up, but not enough to pay extra. I know some people don’t want the shirt and medal these days…but they are both things I look forward to.
Another big change was the race course. Normally this race traverses downtown Louisville and takes you into the beautiful (and hella hilly) Cherokee Park, before returning you to downtown. This year, the course ran over the Big 4 Pedestrian Bridge and into Jeffersonville, Indiana. You ran down to the Falls of the Ohio, before turning and heading back to the bridge and coming back across into Kentucky. It was fine…but those last couple miles winding up and down the waterfront were terrible. And it was a super windy day, so being right on that water with the wind wasn’t fantastic either. But I’ll get into that a little later.
Race morning. I woke up early enough to get dressed and eat something ahead of time. Then I got on my Peloton app, and did a stretch with Becs Gentry and a 5 min pre-run warm up with Adrian Williams. Then I mixed up my Maurten 160, brushed my teeth, let my roommate pin my bib on, and we were out the door and on our way across the bridge to Louisville.
Parking was super easy, as there were many options that were near both the start and the finish. Once we were parked, we stayed in the car for a few minutes before heading out, as I had to meet both the local She Runs This Town (SRTT) and BibRave people for pre-race photos. It was so much fun standing around and meeting and talking to friends and new friends. It’s one of my favorite parts of race day. And it was then that I realized…
I really missed race days.
Once photos were taken, race start was getting close, so everyone scattered to get into the corrals. I walked the long way around (I was anticipating a 1:45 finish)…and went into the corrals from the back instead of the front. Whoops. But it was fine. People were spaced out enough that moving up in the corrals wasn’t anything like 2019…where I literally had to elbow my way up to a spot further up in the corrals. So, that was nice. The Churchill Downs bugle player played the national anthem and soon…the starting pistol was fired…and we were off.
The start of the race is pretty fast. It headed straight down East Main Street, taking you out of the downtown area toward the waterfront and to the pedestrian bridge. You are heading into Mile 2 when you make the spiral climb up the ramp on the Kentucky side of the bridge. When you reach the top, it’s a straight shot across the river. The mile marker for Mile 2 was early on the bridge. I actually uncovered my watch because I had passed it and it had been longer than I expected to hear my watch beep. But the rest of the mile markers were pretty spot on.
The Indiana part of the run was pretty straight forward, and really damn flat. YAY! In fact, a good chunk of it ran the 5K course I did awhile back (which I didn’t blog about…but here we are…). You basically turn and run parallel to the Ohio River until you turned around at the Falls of the Ohio visitor’s center. It was somewhere heading out that way that the leader of the race passed going the opposite direction. He had so much space behind him. Legit…daylight. I said something to the effect aloud to the people running near me, but they didn’t seem to care about my statement. LOL! When the loop to turn around happened, the fun really started. It was at this point that, with the sun blinding me, I got SO MANY shoutouts from my friends who were racing and heading to the turn around point. I couldn’t see any of them, but I waved and woooooo’d accordingly when someone shouted my name. It was such a highlight of this race. We looped through a different section of Jeffersonville and then headed back to the bridge. This was Mile 6. I fueled here and started up the ramp to the bridge once again.
Crossing the bridge was easy. You can’t get flatter than a pedestrian bridge. The legs recovered from the climb and settled in. I was looking forward to the descent down the winding side back into Louisville. Because if you know anything about me…it’s that I love downhills. Downhill is my favorite speed. The small crowd at the bottom of said descent was amazing. Someone shouted out my bib number and told me I looked strong. Over half the race was done. Settle in. Run strong.
From here, ran up a road that was mostly open to traffic, save for a lane made with cones for the runners to run safely in. We turned and headed back on a road we had previously run heading to the walking bridge. But this time we turned and made our way up a small hill to run past Lynn Family Stadium, home of Louisville’s two professional soccer teams, Louisville City FC, and Racing Louisville FC. I’m a season ticket holder…that’s a second home, it seems.
The next stretch of race was hopping onto the Beargrass Creek Greenway. This was a shaded section on a narrower path. It had been closed for awhile, so I hadn’t run it in YEARS. But I remember enjoying it in the summer because of all the shade on those hot morning runs. You come out of there and turn right and head down a straightaway toward Mile 10. I fueled one last time before the final 5K push to the finish.
This is where it got a little crazy. The last 3 miles were on the waterfront…but this made for some confusing turns (they were labeled with yellow arrow things on the ground, but legit, some ladies just ahead of me almost went the wrong way). And no one was at the point to really direct. But, we all got it sorted and started along the path. In these last 3.1 miles, there were a lot of 90 degree turns and even some loose gravely, bumpy path. That being said, the local SRTT (She Runs This Town) chapter had some ladies at the last water stop that created a fun scream tunnel as we all came into the last 1.5 miles. That was a much-needed and appreciated pick-me-up that late in the race. I still felt amazing…so, I plugged into the final miles and before I knew it, we were turning to run up a hill and start down the straightaway to 4th Street, where the finish line was.
The crowed at and near the finish was great…and I crossed feeling amazing still and smiling. I smiled so much, because I have missed doing endurance runs. I realized, as I saw the clock though, that I was much faster than my marathon pace, and had kept it pretty steady on the final half of the run. A nice volunteer put a medal around my neck and I went to meet Cathy, grab a Kind Bar and some water and head to the after party.
The band hadn’t started just yet, but there was pizza and beer. I can’t have either, so I gifted mine to Cathy. She gladly enjoyed both of those things. We headed back to see about getting my medal engraved and discovered that I had come in 2nd in my Age Group. I rarely place in races that are half marathon or marathon distances. So that was a nice surprise. With the medal engraved, I went to stand in line to buy a t-shirt, but then opted against it.
I was getting chilled just standing there in the wind, and we had some errands to run, so we left as the after party was starting up to hike back to the car. Honestly, the years I have done this and stuck around to enjoy more of the after party…it’s a fun time. It’s a great time to meet back up with friends post-race.
In the past, age group winners were given a custom bourbon-themed award. This year they were given a voucher to get something from the t-shirt booth. Since I didn’t stick around, I never got mine and I was going to say no one reached out to me about it. But this week, I received an email from the UBHM asking those who weren’t able to stick around for the awards to email them and they would get us in touch with someone at the company. They did that, and I am currently still waiting to hear back from Fine Design (the company that did the merchandise). So we shall see if I hear back.
So, my official results of the 2021 Urban Bourbon Half Marathon are that I finished in I finished in 1:41:09. I was definitely running it faster than my coach wanted me to, but I never felt like I was pushing it. I felt like it was comfortable and occasionally comfortably hard. Maybe I am fitter than my summer running made me believe. I was 146/1755 finishers overall. I was the 31/929 female finishers. And I was 2/251 in my age division (which went 41-50 and not the standard 5 years). Very proud of the way I ran this race and how I felt the entire time. I dialed in my nutrition and hydration and felt amazing the entire time. While I am kind of over the Kentucky/Indiana combo races, I get why I had to happen that way this year. I hope to return to a more traditional course next year. Fingers crossed.
I raced. I raced in a non-virtaul, real life, in person race!
It has, legit, been…19 months since I raced all out in any distance. It’s been 16 months since I participated in an in-person racing event. And, wow, have I ever missed it! I never got nervous or felt like I needed to prove myself to anyone. I just wanted to get out there and run hard and have fun. I never once stopped smiling. Even when it was 80° F out at the start. I knew going into this that this wasn’t PR weather…at least not for me. So I was just going to push myself more than I would if I were doing speed work on my own and hope for the best. So, yeah…I wore that smile the entire time.
While the race did offer an option for race-day packet pick up, it was encouraged that runners stop by the PNC Pavillion at Beckley Creek Park on Friday to make race day a little less hectic and easier for everyone. I ended up leaving work a little early on Friday to make this happen. It took about 30 minutes to get out there, but the packet pickup process was smooth and easy. Louisville Running Co Owner, Michael Clemons, recognized me on sight (Cathy said some things don’t change…people just know me in this area) and made the process super quick, writing my start time (I went with the first wave at 8 am, hoping to run with fast people and hopefully have the coolest temperatures of the morning at the start) on the back of my bib before handing me a t-shirt and an envelope with race information and some goodies from The Parklands. Got back into the car for the ride home, and of course ordered my Magic Sushi for dinner that night.
I had to wake up early on race morning to not only get into my race outfit and gear, but to bathe in some sunscreen as well. If you think I’m being sarcastic, guess again. I wear sunscreen every time I go out for a run in the daylight. I never get a Garmin tan line like many runners brag about in the summer because, let’s face it, tan skin is damaged skin. So, on went the sunscreen…and then I ate a little something with my vitamins and then got to stretching. My roommate woke up soon after I finished that up and ate her breakfast while I made her some coffee and then went to make a few minor changes to my running outfit for the day. I brushed my teeth. I went to grab a banana from the kitchen. My roommate grabbed the donkey race sign (IYKYK). And we were in the car and making the drive from home to Beckley Creek Park in The Parklands. We got there and had absolutely no trouble getting parked. I ate the banana and took…you guessed it…a power nap!
I did eventually have to get out of the car, shed the t-shirt I was wearing to keep from freezing in the car air conditioning, and get a little acclimated to the outdoor temps that morning. We had about 15 or so minutes until the start of my wave. I should probably mention that the race was using a wave start, so a wave of up to 40 runners would go off every 5 minutes. Cathy and I went to look at the start and finish area so that she could get an idea of where she wanted to stand for the start and finish. While we were waiting, my friend Dennis, who talked me into doing this 5K, arrived. He was starting at 8:15 so he got to see me start and I got to see him finish. As I said, because of the heat and humidity that morning, I didn’t have an specific time goals, but told Cathy I would be happy if I came in around 23 minutes (my 5K PR was set in 2013 at the Pro.Active for Life 5K in Frankfort, KY).
Cathy suddenly alerted me that it was almost time for my wave to go off. I didn’t even realize how close to the start time it was. I still had to turn on my Garmin and get it ready to go. Luckily, it found it’s satellites pretty quickly. They made the call for the 8 am wave to line up on the left hand side of the street (making sure we understood that we were running out on the left hand side and returning on the left hand side). Michael Clemons went to get on the bike to lead the first wave out on the course. And the countdown from 5 seconds started, the horn blared, and we were off!
I legit just went for it at the start. I bounded over that start line and focused on just pushing myself. I knew I was going to be running with a lot of very fast, very talented people. I also know, from pacing a race that started in this park, that we have a few bridges that come at us in the form of hills, that aren’t exactly easy climbs. But I’ve also been running hills on pretty much every run I go on in training. There is no avoiding them around here, to be honest. I felt strong and confident and ready to just leave it all out there. I rounded the corner and was greeted with that very first hill. They do slow me down, but I kept pushing, because my specialty is, and will always be, that downhill. I gained some ground there and kept my feet turning over as much as I could. The second hill came in this first mile as well. There was a water stop at the crest of it, but I powered through, hitting that downhill and cruising through the first mile. I was slower than I had hoped to be at that point (I didn’t know until after the race because I don’t look at my watch…because I’ll stress out if I do), but I wasn’t dying in the heat. The run out to the turn around point was without shade, but it felt flat. I made the tight turn and started back toward the start. Halfway through.
It was fun to see the runners coming up onto the turn around point because we could cheer each other on. I knew that once I got back up the hill to the water stop, that we had to hop off the asphalt and onto the concrete of the Louisville Loop. I crested the hill, feeling the heat and fatigue setting in. But it was down a hill. And right at the Mile 2 marker, I passed the woman who was right in front of me. Did I mention that I love a good downhill? I figured she would catch me when things flattened out, but I never saw her again after that. I just focused on following the guy in front of me as we pounded down the concrete and baked in the hot sun.
One more hill. I struggled on this one. But I got up it and came down the other end, passing the guy that had been in front of me as I did so. Downhills are my jam! I turned the corner to head into the finish line. Cathy was screaming at me to run. I could hear the guy I just passed at the Mile 3 sign trying to get past me again. I don’t like getting outkicked at the finish line. It happens to me a lot because I usually just don’t have that finisher’s kick. But I found one more gear and managed to hit that finish line just before he did. Arms up in the air. Still smiling.
I got my finisher’s medal and went to drink some water while waiting for Dennis to finish. He knew the heat was going to be a factor today, but he was going to go for a PR anyway. I love that about Dennis. He will always just run as hard and fast as he can for as long as he can. No fear. No worries. It seems so easy for him. I envy that. I got to ring a cow bell as he came into the finish, not sub-22, but still sub-23. Win!
So, my official results of The Parklands 5K Walk & Run are that I finished in I finished in 23:10. I was 26/438 finishers overall. I was the 6/240 female finishers. And I was 2/27 in my age division. I couldn’t wait around that morning for the age group awards, so I’ll have to go and pick mine up next week at Fleet Feet. This was a good return to racing for me. This was a good confidence builder.
I can’t wait to do it again! And do it faster next time. I know I’m older. I know I have a problematic hip at times (thanks hip labrum tear in 2015). But I know I can get a PR in some distance this year. It’s time some of those old records fall.
For the first time in forever, Louisville, Ky. served up perfect temperatures for a Hot Chocolate race. While this year was virtual, again, it didn’t make the experience any less fun. While some people are going through “virtual race burnout,” I am quite the opposite. I was a fan of virtual races before they became the norm. And one of the biggest pluses of signing up for the AllState Hot Chocolate Louisville Virtual 15K/5K race is…that since that it is part of Louisville’s very own Triple Crown of Running…you got three races for the price of one. As a bargain shopper…this was winning.
So, in the weeks leading up to the April 3 race day, I also ran the 5K Fitness Classic and the City Run 10K. Any virtual race that I participate in is normally treated like a training run…and these were no different. However, when the 15K rolled around yesterday morning, my coach decided to let me run the first 10K however I wanted to…but that last 5K he wanted me to push the pace a little bit and speed up. He’s been on a “run faster at the end” kick. I don’t know if I like that or not. HA!
A few weeks before the big day, I received my race packet in the mail. This contained my Triple Crown of Running t-shirt, hat and medal…along with the amazing swag that the AllState Hot Chocolate races provide. This year…a nice jacket (with a removable hood and LOTS of zippered pockets), a medal, a Nuun tablet, race bib, chocolate, and the ever-important double chocolate hot chocolate packets. If you have never had this hot chocolate, you’re missing out. The race fee is worth it just for those little packets of chocolatey goodness. Trust me. It’s my absolute favorite. And with a starting temperature of 28 degrees…the perfect weather for a hot chocolate finish line treat.
My race morning went well. After spending some time with the foam roller and a pre-run warm up, I laced up my shoes, donned my hydration pack, and headed out the door with no route in mind. This worked out great to start with. Since I was just making it up as I went, I enjoyed the peaceful, cold morning weaving through the streets of my neighborhood. But, because I went into this without having mapped out a course, my fast finish 5K at the end of the 15K run…were on hills. Whoops. But, for having to navigate some steep climbs, I was pretty pleased with my overall performance for this virtual race.
Once I was done, back home, I popped a piece of chocolate and made myself a hot cup of that hot chocolate (and added some vegan marshmallows for good measure). This was a pretty big training week for me since getting back with my coach. I didn’t mind it. By breaking up the race, it really helped me have a fun and enjoyable time…even if I was in my own neck of the woods, and not downtown Louisville. Next year!
Never count a virtual race out. The AllState Hot Chocolate 15K/5K people really know how to give you an experience without it being the full experience. I can’t wait to be able to safely race with large groups of people again…and really test these legs for some speed and endurance. I’m very proud of the work I put in yesterday though to earn my hot chocolate medal…and the actual hot chocolate, of course.
Will run for chocolate. Always. Forever. Even virtually.
Thanks for another great year of virtually racing this series! I’ll be hitting those Louisville streets next year for sure!
Well, during all this quarantine time, I have finally gotten around to writing about the final race that I ran before everything shut down. It was the first leg of the Louisville Triple Crown of Running, which had been saved from extinction and re-branded with a new company overseeing it. The City Run 10K and the Allstate Hot Chocolate 15K/5K would both be moved to virtual races during the pandemic.
Covid-19 really messed up this year’s race plans.
If you read my blog on the 2020 Publix Atlanta Half Marathon, you know that I was working my way back from another hip issue (it’s always my hips). I had physical therapy the day before, but was cleared to run this however I wanted to…but carefully. I knew my friend, Melissa, was signed up to run with one (no husband or baby in tow)…so I asked if she wanted someone to run with that morning. I would go at her pace…and hopefully help to motivate her all the way to the finish line. I love when I get to run with my friends, and maybe even help them reach their goals.
Cathy and I woke up early that morning to eat breakfast and dress warmly (it was C-O-L-D) for the run. I, once again, decided to deck out in my BibRave gear (this time the 1/4 zip top…because again…COLD) and found some fun leggings to wear that morning that were also warm. I have a few with lining in it…so…I went with one of those.
We headed out and went to pick up Melissa to drive into Louisville, find a parking spot, and get to the start line. We managed to do all of that without too much hassle. I was wearing my MRTT/SRTT jacket before the race and a member of the group came up and said she’d just walk with us as she was a part of the group too and was trying to get to where the picture was being taken. We told her we would probably not get to the photo op in time…so instead we just took a photo together. She went to go find her friends and Melissa and I got called over by our friends, Chris and Christy. YAY!
Christy asked how fast I intended to run this course, and I told her that I was racing with Melissa that morning. We hopped into a corral…shed our extra clothing…listened to the national anthem…and waited to be sent off. And when we were…I fell right in step with Melissa.
She was on a mission that first mile. We blazed up East Market, but the bitter air really hit us when we rounded the corner onto S Brook Street. It was here my neighbor, friend, and sometimes training buddy, Kristi Roach, saw me in the crowd and said HI. I had a short conversation with her and turned around to find Melissa behind me, having a hard time breathing as the sudden rush of cold air to her lungs kicked off some asthma. YIKES! We eased it back to see if she could get her lungs to respond and get acclimated. We still managed a decent first mile…even with the slow down to wave and thank Course Marshal Stephanie heading into the first mile marker.
We hit it, and we took a short walk break to let her catch her breath and get those lungs expanding. It wasn’t a long walk, and when she was ready, we picked it back up and started in on our second mile. I could already tell the walk break did her good, because she was looking so much stronger and better afterwards. I let her know that, and apparently a homeless man on the side of the road told her I was lying. Dude! Whatever!! Honestly, she pushed back and came back and was doing awesome. I spotted the water stop just ahead of Mile 2 and asked if she wanted water. She nodded and I ran up ahead to snag a cup for each of us and passed it off to her. We took a short water stop walk, and when we were done, we were back on.
We hit the second mile and now we were into the home stretch. One more mile to go. This was a new course for this race, so I had no idea where we were going…I was just following everyone else. As we always do, we took our final walk break at the mile marker just to attempt to get lungs working in Louisville’s polluted city air. When Melissa was ready…we were back on.
Unfortunately, it was here that a course marshal said, “That’s it…walk it in.” Melissa said, “Nope…just on a walk break!” And the course marshal said, “OH…I’m an interval runner too.” MEH! How about not making any comments on whether people are running or walking, and simply just encouraging them to get to that finish line.
We made the turn onto the final stretch. Here I heard music behind me and turned to see Melissa Joyce!! So I went and said “HI” and told her she looked great. I rejoined my running best friend, Melissa, and we hit that final stretch hard. We hit Mile 3 and she glanced at her watch and got a little upset that she didn’t hit a goal she had set, but she put it behind her and we took it into the finish line together. I think she beat me by a second.
We made our way through the finisher’s area, getting our medal and our free Chick-Fil-A sandwiches, which we gave to Cathy for breakfast. They were out of coffee, so we didn’t get that for ourselves…but we tried.
I did get to meet up with Stephanie and another BibRave Pro who was visiting (and not racing) and got to chat for a little while. But it was still cold, and Melissa needed to get home to her family…so we eventually made our way back to the car, which we parked at Slugger Field. We took some photos together before calling it a day and taking her home.
This was a fun and flat course, so I know a lot of people got PRs. Hopefully, racing will restart at some point and maybe next year, both Melissa and I can hit our own PRs. We’ll just need the weather and our bodies to cooperate a little more. But, I couldn’t have imagined running this race any differently, even if it ended up being my last in-person event before the shutdown. Being with my friend and seeing her from start to finish was the perfect way to do this race. Sometimes, we run for ourselves. Sometimes we run for others. Sometimes we run with others. I was proud and happy to have been able to run with one with Melissa.
So, my official results of the Chick-Fil-A 5K Fitness Classic are that I finished in I finished in 39:51. I was 2868/3846 finishers overall. I was the 1458/2196 female finishers. And I was 238/338 in my age division. I can’t wait to take on this flat and fast course again next year.
I won’t lie…that was how I felt at the very, very end of this race. I felt so strong and amazing, and at the very end…I felt like everything I worked hard for was taken from me.
Does this sound dramatic? I’m sure it does.
But it is the honest truth. And I’ll get to why as I give a little run-down of this race.
So, a big shout-out to my amazing friends, Melissa & Paul Nolan, for not only paying for my registration for this race, but for telling me about it last year and really peaking my interest in it. For one thing, the proceeds of this race go toward a really good cause – The Crossroads Pregnancy Resource Center. They were even kind enough to pick up my bib and sweatshirt the night before the race and bring it with them on race morning.
The night before the race I should have had my “magic sushi” that has worked for me in the past when training for a marathon and racing. But I didn’t. I cooked up a homemade Mushroom Masala, serving it over rice. I have to get used to that though. I can’t have my sushi before a few races I am traveling for this coming year – the biggest of which is the Berlin Marathon.
I might just be making excuses. HA!
I woke up to give myself time to figure out what I wanted to wear that morning (it was pretty dang cold), stretch, eat something, prep a bottle of Maurten 160 Drink Mix to bring with me for 30 minutes before the race, and…make the drive to LaGrange, Kentucky.
We got there with lots of time to kill. Per usual. So, after parking the car, my roomie and I wandered inside to stay warm. I made use of the indoor bathroom (twice…lots of water that morning because hydration!) and Cathy went exploring or something. That being said, as I wandered out, I was greeted by some members of the Louisville She Runs This Town Group, and we all sort of gathered together, admiring festive attire, talking about race strategy, possible races coming up, and how bright my pants were. That really was a thing. We all admired the cute Christmas tree awards that would be handed out to the Top 2 overall for the 6K and the 12K. They were truly stunning. Then, with 10 minutes to go until race time…we took the group photo.
Melissa arrived soon after the photo was taken, bringing my bib and her cute little bundle of joy (and her husband, for good measure, LOL!). I got pinned up and with 3 minutes to go finally headed outside. At this point, Lynn Riedling, a local runner, wandered past and I looked at Cathy and said, “Well…I won’t take overall here anyway!” I stepped out into the cold morning air. No one was really out there yet. It was weird. A lady asked which way we were heading out on the run, and I said, “I guess this way…because that’s how everyone is facing. Usually I don’t have to worry about it because I’m not really speedy enough to lead a race.” She said that was the same with her.
With just seconds to go, there was a countdown to the start of the race. People didn’t really line up right on the line…but we all took off when we told to go. My legs felt fast to start, but I didn’t know how fast they were as we took off from the church and headed down to Commerce Parkway. We were given instructions at the start of the race to return on the path, not the road when we turned around. Noted. I was feeling pretty strong as we made our way to the first turn and hit Mile 1. It was my fastest mile of the day…around a 6:50.
But here is where I now get why my LaGrange friends always talking about the hills. Because after that turn, the hills definitely started. Immediately. We climbed the first one on New Moody Lane. I wasn’t sure who I was running with was doing the 6K or the 12K, but I knew that I would continue to run straight down a road. Anyone doing the 6K would turn at Mile 1.86.
My second mile was around a 7:44. Hills. They get me every time. I had a few people pass me, but they were either men or dogs at this point. I did reach the turn around point and only a few turned. I stayed the course with the rest and just really was feeling strong at the moment. And I knew all I had to do was run straight down LaGrange Parkway to the turnaround at KY 53. But, in all cases, I just turn around when everyone else does.
Soon after the 2.5 mile point…Lynn passed me. I knew that was coming. She’s stealth and fast and an amazing runner. I expected it. But I knew I’d now be working for that 2nd overall female position. I was able to push a little more and sped up for the rollers on the road, reaching the turnaround point a little sooner than I should have. After I turned and started back, the next female behind me was coming toward the turnaround. I had a bit of a buffer, but not much.
Time to dial it in.
Miles 4 and 5 went by quickly, and I was able to maintain that pickup I had once Lynn passed me. That made me feel pretty good. But coming into Mile 6, we had to make another hill climb, and that definitely slowed me down more than I wish it had. But we were nearing the end of the race, so I knew my legs were not feeling as peppy. It was my slowest mile of the race, and it ended on a downhill, so that was a bit of a surprise. I made the dash across the road to continue on the path. That did mean some running on some grass, but it was only for a few strides. Someone said they heard jingle bells and turned to see me coming up behind them so they moved out of the way. Oh yeah…decided it would be fun to wear socks with bells on them for this run. HA! Someone else a bit further up the path was blocking the way while walking, and they turned as I was coming up behind them and stepped right in front of me. I had to hit the brakes and dodge around them. They did apologize. But I was in the homestretch. I could also tell at this point that the course was definitely going to be short.
I made the turn into the church parking lot to come up the hill. I had 0.05 miles to go to the finish line when…right there a woman sprinted right past me and up the hill. I tried to go with her, but she pressed on and I saw her round to the finish line. The fight I had left and I really slowed down because I just felt disappointed. It was the last race of the year for my mom and I got outkicked fight at the end after being 1st or 2nd overall for ALL of the race. I felt so much anger when I crossed the finish line that I paused my Garmin, said a few not safe for church words, and might have fought off tears.
It felt like I had been cheated right at the end. And I won’t lie. I was mad. I was also mad that the course was about .30 miles short. Looking back at the course, the original one had us doing this little duck into a parking lot thing and doing a loop in the first mile…and that didn’t happen. I guess that’s where it all went wrong. The good part was that I crossed just after my friends Melissa, Paul and their baby Carrick (in a stroller) crossed for the 6K. But Melissa wasn’t happy with her finish either, and she tried really, really hard to lift my spirits. I wasn’t having it as much as she wasn’t having my words of praise for her run. Cathy made a point of telling me that I was coming off a week that included two 10 milers before this race whereas the other woman was probably on better rested legs. It almost made me feel better.
At this point, a child walked an ornament over to me for finishing. Just as I was handed it, I just passed it off to Cathy. But then Lynn Riedling (the overall female winner) came over to me and said such nice things to me. I think she could tell I was upset. She told me that I really pushed her and that I ran really well that day. Honestly, that was such a show of sportsmanship that it really warmed my heart.
Cathy noticed people weren’t coming up the path the right way so she went to direct them and I wen to go add on to my distance to get the proper 12K. I kept it really easy. Cried a little from anger, disappointment, and just feeling like I let my mom down on the last race of the year.
And then…my mom called. I had just finished my cool down and my phone rang. I told her about the race and she said someone should have tripped that woman. My mom has a dry sense of humor. She told me she was proud of me for being 3rd female or 1st in my age group. And I told her…that didn’t matter at this race, because no one got awards for that. Now, I know awards and accolades aren’t everything, but I literally thought I had it for the ENTIRE race until that finish.
I finished talking to her and all of us went inside for the awards. I was nice and applauded everyone, including the lady who outkicked me (she was also the one I spoke with at the start of the race) right at the end. I’m not unsporting. She earned it. I just am still a bit bitter. HA! I’ll get over it…eventually. Although, I did find out that if I had opted for the 6K option, I would have crushed the competition going away. Let that be a lesson…there is sometimes more magic in that shorter distance. Hindsight is 20/20.
Afterwards, the Nolans, Cathy and I went out for brunch at Wild Eggs. I then had to finish up some shopping and head home to pack because I was heading to Alabama early on Sunday morning for Christmas with the family.
So, my official results of the 12Ks of Christmas are that I finished in I finished in 53:53. That’s a good baseline to work on should I run this again next year…unless I opt for the 6K option. We’ll see. Also…maybe not…because the course was short, as I mentioned before. I was 8/54 finishers overall. I was the 3/29 female finishers. And I was 1/3 in my age division. So, it might not have been the finish I thought I had earned, but in the end, it was a good race (next time I hope the course is more accurate), and the proceeds definitely went to a good cause. And, honestly, when all was said and done…I had fun, even on the challenging hills. And that wrapped up a year of racing…so in 2020, I’m going to work on that finishing kick. Getting passed at the finish line is really getting old.
Okay…the way I had been racing prior to my Monumental Marathon, I was hoping for some Thanksgiving magic when I set out to run Fast Freddie’s this year. I wasn’t expecting anything great. I wasn’t quite 3 weeks off my BQ finish, and the legs had only a little punch in them at this point. So…let’s just say I felt like I had been racing well, so a PR wasn’t out of the question, but it was going to be up to the legs.
But I digress.
You guys already know the history of this tradition. I have run it every year since I started running (except in 2015 when I was injured from the hip labrum tear, but we don’t talk about that year). When I moved into my apartments, I had no idea a Thanksgiving race happened just across the street. My parents found out that year though (prior to me even becoming a runner), when they were visiting for Thanksgiving and were caught on a street that was semi-closed to traffic for this race in question. They showed up a little late going, “Are you aware a race is happening outside on the street.” Little did they know that a few years later, they’d be spectating while I ran it.
But yes. I do this one…EVERY YEAR!
And why shouldn’t I? It’s the least stressful, most convenient race on my race calendar every year. The later start time sort of messes with my hosting responsibilities, but with my mom and dad around, we make it work. My mom is a HUGE help in my tiny kitchen on this holiday! I give major props to her every year. And since I wasn’t sure they would make the trip this year with her treatments and all, it was even more special this year when they said they were coming.
They arrived right around dinner time on Wednesday…bearing gifts (not really, it was a lot of my stuff that I had left with them in their attic, but they are downsizing their house (and it makes me sad, because the house they currently have is STUNNING) and the new house doesn’t have an attic (what kind of house doesn’t have an attic!?) so they needed to offload it…but news flash…I live in apartment with NO storage space that is free). I had already stopped by the Floyd County 4-H Fairgrounds on the way home from work (we got out early at 3:30 pm) to pick up my race bib and shirt. This year, the shirt was this gorgeous pumpkin color. I’m in love with it. I also delivered some gluten free stuffing I made for my friend Melissa to her husband, who we ran into at the packet pickup. Go figure.
The most difficult decision that night was where we were going to grab dinner. We finally decided on Core Life. Perfect. A great, healthy dinner before the holiday feast. I had my usual: the Siracha Ginger Tofu + Ancient Grains Bowl. So yummy! We ate, got caught up, and drove home, where my mom and I did some major meal prep…making the dessert (pink salad), and then chopped the veggies for the Shrimp Creole (What? You expect us to have turkey on Thanksgiving? Not in my family!) and the stuffing that would cook up in the crockpot while we were at the race. We also hardboiled the eggs for the Deviled Eggs (which she whipped up while we were waiting on awards at the race). We were pretty set for a less-stressful Thanksgiving. We put on pajamas and settled in to an episode of Holiday Nailed It on Netflix. My parents don’t have Netflix and had never seen Nailed It. I think they’re hooked now.
We all turned in that night. I set an early alarm that would give me time to do my stretches and work on some Thanksgiving things prior to the race itself. And when everyone was up and had their coffee (not me…I had that post-race)…I went to go change, opting for some shorts because it was right on the cusp of it being too cold for shorts. But I went with it. I also had on a short-sleeve shirt (pink, of course) with arm warmers. It was going to have to be enough to keep me warm that morning. And it was cold and windy this Thanksgiving. Oh, to have the year where it was 60 degrees back.
We were all bundled up and I realized we almost did what we did last year…forget to put my bib on. HA! Just before walking out the door, I realized it. My roommate played it off like she was about to pin me up…but we all know better. We almost forgot. Again. But, crisis averted. Got pinned up, zipped back up, and we headed out into the cold Thanksgiving morning air.
I knew that the local MRTT/SRTT chapter was doing their pictures at 8:45…and as we got over to the 4-H Fairgrounds, I spotted Leah…and soon more people followed. We did get our photo taken, but then we all went our separate ways to get lined up at the start. This year they did something a little different (which I personally appreciated)…if you were bib 1-99…you got to start in a green box at the start line. I was Bib 90…and I took advantage of this. I knew this wasn’t going to be an astounding race for me, but I appreciated not having to bob and weave through the kids (admittedly, a lot of them are pretty fast…but some are not) this year.
We took over the road and somehow I ended up right by the front. Oh well…I planned to run this one has hard as I could that day. And we were off. The first part of this first mile felt…okay. I got passed by a lot of people, but I was just going to see what I had. We went up the hill leading to the overpass and I felt spritely enough to push a bit through that hill. It isn’t one of the bad ones. And the downhill on the other side was a nice way to balance it out. The course flattened out as we hit the turn onto Mt. Tabor Road. I ran past Mile 1 and soon after my watch beeped. This is the first time EVER that my watch has been off on this course. I didn’t look at it…I just kept going. They had repaved the road earlier in the year, so maybe the mark was off when they went through to put up the mile markers. I pressed on, but as I headed up a bit of a hill to turn onto Grant Line Road, I started to feel the inkling of a side stich.
I haven’t had a side stitch on this course since the first year I ran it, I think. And I train a lot using this course, so…what the hell? I tried to just slowly breathe through it, and I passed Mile 2…my watch beeping soon after that. Just as I was coming up on the rail road tracks, someone sprinted past me really fast. All I could think in my head was, “And the coffee apparently just kicked in…”
I made the turn into Sam Peden Community Park, which I felt was wrong this year…and we turned too early from where we usually do on the course. But, I mean, you go where you’re directed. And I could be wrong. Needless to say, the hardest parts were here…and I started up that damn hill. I hate that hill because it literally goes on for about a half a mile. UGH! I told myself I had run this hill so many times this year…and I pushed myself to keep my legs churning up it. It felt like an eternity, but I got to where it leveled out for a moment. And my side stitch went away too, so BONUS! As I ran past the Mile 3 marker I waited for my watch to hit it too. It came a moment later (again). BUT…this is also where my Wednesday spin teacher spotted me in the park and gave me a shoutout. I sort of needed it after that hill, and knowing one of the hardest parts of the race, the hilly Schell Lane, was just ahead.
I exited the park and headed down a hill. I have a love/hate relationship with this stretch of road. I hate the hills. I love that the people who live along this stretch come out and cheer, play music, whatever. I made it up the first hill and started back down…crossed that 3 1/2 mile marker…and then headed up the short, but steep hill at the very end of that road. Made the turn onto Daisy Lane…and enjoyed my favorite part of this race…the downhill.
Mile 4 was in sight, and I could tell I was behind where I had been years previously, when I saw the 29 minute mark. I usually hit this around 28 minutes in this race. That being said, Mile 4 was my fastest mile of the race. Even with all those hills. Go figure. When that part of the course levels off from that downhill though, the legs really have to fight to get that momentum again. I knew this wasn’t going to be a spectacular last mile, but I went all in, as much as I could.
I made the turn onto Green Valley Road and immediately got hit with the headwind. UGH. I could feel my body just tense up because me and cold winds are not BFFs. Not at all. I put my head down and just fought it the best I could. I was tired. My legs felt tired. But I really wanted to put in a good time. I really wanted to have a great finish for my mom. I have run EVERY race this year for her (always wearing pink to honor her battle against breast cancer), and when my legs were slowing down, I was literally getting mad at myself.
I could see the fairgrounds and focused on that. My dad was down near the road, and I heard him cheer me in. I made the final turn, where my mom and Cathy were cheering and just ran it as hard as I could at that point…across the finish. I slowed down and a few seconds later, my watch clicked to Mile 5. I stopped it then.
I snagged a couple of water bottles and made my way to the other side of Newlin Hall, meeting up with my mom, dad, and Cathy. Cathy was kind enough to take a photo of me with them, before we headed over to the road to cheer in some of my friends. My dad wasn’t feeling well, so my mom ended up taking him back to the apartment, where she got to work on the Deviled Eggs and a few other things, while I cheered people in. Cathy kept going in to check official results, but none of them posted at that point. Once I saw my friends Paul and Melissa come in (with Melissa pushing the stroller), I went to head inside and find them for the awards ceremony. Before I got in there, though, I was spotted by the pacer from the Monumental Marathon. I once again took a moment to thank him for helping me hit my goal, and he said 15 people in the 3:35 group got that BQ time that day. It was awesome. I also got to introduce him to Cathy. We all headed inside together. Paul found me and Cathy and we went over to see Melissa and the baby as the awards were starting up. My age group came up…and my name wasn’t announced. Knowing my parents were back at the apartment, we ducked out before the raffle tickets were drawn and headed home. Cathy checked the results as we left…and I was 4th. Again. Getting outkicked by A LOT. Again.
I went inside and took a quick shower before hopping back into the kitchen to work on more of the feast for Thanksgiving. Our friend and neighbor, Laura, stopped over with her boyfriend for a moment to say HI and give hugs. She didn’t get to spend the day with us this year, but I was so glad she stopped by. Soon after…we set up the table and feasted, thankful for a lot this year. But, as always, I was thankful to have my parents with me this year.
SO…here it is. My official results of the Fast Freddie’s Festive Five Mile Foot Feast this year is that I finished in 36:57…three seconds slower than my 2013 and 2018 finish times. No new PR. No age group award (again!). But, let’s remember that I had run a BQ qualifying time at a marathon on November 9th…so these legs were peppier than I expected. Will I ever beat my 2017 time? I bet I can. Just not this year. I was 118/692 finishers this year. There were 100 fewer finishers this year. That is surprising. I was the 19th female to cross the finish line. And I was 4th in my age division. To be fair…those who came in ahead of me kicked my ass time-wise once again. Like…2 minutes faster than me ass kicking. I’m definitely hoping to kick it next year and maybe get a new PR on this course. I incorporate it so often into my runs, that I figure my body would just be used to those hills. Next year, no side stiches or wind, please!
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!
This is how my week started out. My training plan came through Sunday evening, before I had gone to bed. I opened it…expecting a lot less intensity and fewer miles. What I got was a repeat of the week of speed work. I actually replied to my coach’s message with, “Well, this wasn’t the week I was expecting.” He knew I was fresh off a 22 miler, and told asked me if I felt like I was too beat up to do it.
Honestly, I knew I could do it. Mentally…I didn’t want to. This was taper. Right? Physically, though, I knew I could do it and told him as much. And so…the week of speed work returned…with a vengeance.
Let’s get into it…because while the workouts are all a repeat…how I ran them definitely was different.
Monday: INSTRUCTIONS: BASE RUN 6-8 MILES – GOAL 7 MILES + 4-6 STRIDES – EASY EFFORT – TRY NO WATCH AGAIN
I woke up on Monday morning feeling restless and tired. It’s been happening a lot this training cycle – I’m just not able to sleep well after long or hard workouts. And that, my friends, sucks! A LOT! So, I was tired. But on top of that, my left hamstring (which apparently wants to be tight after every long run I do on hills) was tight and sore. AND…on top of that, I had a few other aches that were niggling at me. I got dressed, feeling moody, and went out for my base pace run…not even sure if I’d actually be able to do it…and not really sure I could do the strides at this point. The good news is…after about 2 miles, it all felt better and I really started to flow. I didn’t push the pace at all this time…but I did decide that things felt good enough to do those strides. I knocked them out, feeling a bit of speed in my legs and was grateful that everything seemed to work itself up as I warmed up. I did my additional hip strengthening exercises afterwards when I was working in my morning stretches. And later that day, I met with Corey for my personal training session. He, being an athlete himself, was very considerate of my hamstring and we worked with it and around it. Later that night, I made sure to foam roll everything really well. I had commented on my training plan that my hamstring was bothering me, and Daniel (my coach) did reply with that if I still felt beat up, to cut out the speed work tomorrow and just do a base pace run. I went to bed early, per usual, uncertain of how my morning run would go.
Tuesday: INSTRUCTIONS: SPEED WORK – MONA FARTLEKS W/ 1 MILE HARD EFFORT
Well, my hamstring felt much better when I woke up on Tuesday morning. That was a good thing. And while I had an out…I decided that unless something didn’t feel right on the 2 mile warm up, I would do the speed work exercise that day. And this particular day was none other than – Mona Fartleks. If you’re an avid reader, you’re very familiar with these by now. If you’re just joining me on this journey…here’s how these work: 2 mile warm up, 2×90 sec, 4 x 60 sec, 4×30 sec, 4×15 sec (with equal recovery after each at a pace faster than base pace), 1 mile hard effort, 2 mile cool down. I felt good this morning. Really good. I hit all my paces hard and fast. I recovered, keeping it faster than base pace. And I managed to hit 3 new records on my Garmin. Of course, I deleted these because they weren’t under race conditions (this is just how I do it…some people would have kept them, and that’s fine). So, you could say I was feeling much better. I surprised myself that day, even managing a 6-minute something mile for my one mile hard effort. I don’t know HOW I did it…but I did. And I won’t argue with the data. After a shower, I did my second day of additional hip strengtheners with my morning stretches.
Wednesday: INSTRUCTIONS: NO WATCH ALLOWED! FOCUS ON THE GOAL OF THE RUN = RECOVERY! GO AS FAR OR SHORT AS YOU NEED, AS FAST OR SLOW AS YOU NEED, WALK OR RUN AS YOU NEED.
I was looking forward to Wednesday. I really was. Because this was the morning I got to chill. I actually slept in an hour later, knowing that my run would be shorter and easier. This was the one day this week that would not have some speed element in it. And I was going to chill and just enjoy it. And while some of my splits registered faster than they felt (not that that is a bad thing…but I really try to keep easy miles easy on these days), I didn’t want to overdo anything. I ran 5 miles, nice and easy. That was my day. Just my morning and evening stretches and some foam rolling. I went to bed just after 7:30 pm because I knew what hell awaited me in the morning. And it was a double-digit weekday run.
Thursday: INSTRUCTIONS: 11-13 MILES WITH 3 MILES FAST FINISH – GOAL 12 MILES – EASY DOES IT UNTIL FAST FINISH AT THE END.
I slept really well coming into this workout. For that, I was relieved. But, I still woke up sort of dreading this run. First of all, it was cold outside, in the low 40s. It was windy. And I really hate double digit runs on weekdays. I work very hard and sometimes put in long days, so when I have to wake up 30-60 minutes earlier than I normally would to squeeze in marathon training…it makes me grumpy. I get the value of an occasional mid-distance run during the week, but as someone who already runs pretty early in the morning…these get really hard to fit in more often than not. My body felt good, and I made sure that I kept my pace truly easy for the first 10 miles. Then, I just pushed it on the last 3 miles. I did this better than I had the week previously that I had done this same week of workouts…which was nice, because I was also fighting headwinds on my uphills (that’s not an exaggeration…my hills all had me running INTO the wind). But I got it done. And it was a relief to put it behind me. I showered and started to do my stretches (which I had intended to do twice because I had plans that evening), but remembered that I needed to make Friday’s lunch for the office because I wouldn’t have time to make it tonight before we’d have to head out the door to Derby Dinner (I won tickets). So, I did that…then finished my stretches…but never did get to foam rolling or the second round of stretches.
Friday: REST/RECOVERY DAY!
Thank God for rest days!! I was up WAY past my bedtime on Thursday night with Derby Dinner Playhouse. It was fun. But I was tired and really ready for bed when I got home (and still had to change, brush my teeth, take out contacts, etc)…so I crashed hard. I set an alarm for my usual Friday morning time and woke up with the alarm, but wasn’t ready to get out of bed. Fifteen minutes later…I did haul myself out of bed to shower, stretch, drink coffee, and get ready for work. I left the office shortly after lunch to head to Slugger Field to pick up my packet for the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon. I met up with my friends Corey, Paul and Melissa…and that was fun…but I sadly had to go back to work. I finished up the day, went over to Dragon King’s Daughter for “magic sushi”…and then went home to settle in, stretch and foam roll. I went to bed at normal time…and set an alarm with enough time to get up and get ready without feeling rushed.
Saturday: URBAN BOURBON HALF MARATHON AT MARATHON PACE
I’ll have an entire blog on this race. Let’s just say, I still finished sooner than I probably should have. But my plan to line up with the 1:45 pacer was thwarted by the fact that there was a 1:40 pacer and a 1:50 pacer. So I figured if I stayed in between them…I’d be doing fine. I forgot how much the hills in Cherokee can beat up your legs. Thankfully, my training partner, Christine, often had us run that particular way and route around the park, so even though it had been awhile, my legs had done it often enough. I started off way too fast…eased it back…got killed by the hills (thank goodness my marathon is flat)…ran through the best water station run by MRTT/SRTT Louisville where I got a ton of screams and cheers, and then…finished strong, even though the legs were pretty much done by the 15K mark. Press on. Get it done. I officially logged a 1:42:48 half this week, purposefully easing back on the pace. I’ll take it. OH…and this was my 40th half marathon I have run to date. And that was with 2 years of little to no running due to injuries. Not too shabby!
Sunday: 11-13 MILES WITH 3-5 MILES FAST FINISH – EASY DOES IT UNTIL THE FAST FINISH AT THE END
Ever have one of those days where you want to be excited about the run that is assigned to you, but just can’t. That was this morning. I really, really, REALLY didn’t want to run a third 13.1 miles for the week. I was fighting it all morning. And I was in a very bad mood when I realized that the sunrise wasn’t until 7:59 am. I hate this time of year ONLY for that reason. That and winter coming too soon. But the temps today were a beautiful 57°-60° in the morning. I decided not to wait until it got light out, but to go ahead and put on some reflective gear, get some mileage done, then ditch it at home before finishing it up. That’s exactly what I did. And I kept a pretty steady pace for those first 8 miles. Then…I picked it up. The first two fast finish miles felt fine. It got hard after that. The legs were not wanting to push and I just had to keep giving myself those pep talks and letting it feel hard. I was glad to finish up that run, for sure.
For it being taper, I logged 60 miles this week. I’m really hoping the intensity and mileage start to go down from here. I feel like I’m getting stronger, but I’m feeling pretty beat up at times…so a nice taper would feel amazing right now. And I love long runs, but I just want to be sure I feel ready, able, and rested for November 9th’s starting line.
Feeling very inspired, confident, and ready right now. Three more weeks. Let’s do this thing!
Sometimes the race isn’t about who crosses that finish line first. Sometimes the race is surviving. Thriving. Proving that there is life after breast cancer.
If you ever want to feel uplifted by the strength of the human spirit…do one of these events.
I ran the Race for the Cure back in 2011, when I was new-ish to running. My mom and dad were visiting and they got to see me run across that finish line. It was the first time they ever got to see me run. And my mom said to me, “Baby, you don’t run…you fly.” I ran that year to honor my my friend’s mom. Back then, it was an officially timed event. This year…there was a clock, but unless you were a survivor…your bib strictly gave the year…2019.
In case you are new to the blog, my mom, Dottie, was diagnosed with breast cancer back in January. She’s been through chemo and radiation, and will be finishing up this round of chemo in late January. Her journey hasn’t been easy. She’s had good days, bad days, good months, bad months, bad side effects, people who cut her out of their lives as the treatments took their toll on her. But through the entire process, she’s been positive, kept a good attitude, and just done everything in her power to look on the bright side…even when there wasn’t a lot of good happening.
So, when I saw that the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure was happening on a weekend where I could slide it into my training schedule, I decided to put together a team who could run not just for my mom, but to honor those they know who have battled through breast cancer, and maybe those at the race who are survivors or still in the midst of their battle.
Guys…I have amazing people in my life, because I had a lot of people sign up to run for my team: The Brady Bunch.
This is also where I give a big shout-out to Kelly, because she picked up packets for everyone at Oxmoor while she was there. That saved me a trip and made it SO easy on race day. So…get yourself a friend like Kelly. Or meet Kelly. Because she’s the best.
Normally before a race, I would get my vegan sushi combo that has been working for me this training cycle…but…I also had a 22 mile run on Sunday, which I figured would be the better option for that. And, since we were meeting up with my roomie’s sister, Amanda, to go to the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular at Iroquois Park (TRADITION), we went out to our favorite Indian restaurant in Louisville – Shalimar. I got the usual (since my run was short and not long) of Broccoli Masala. Extra spicy. My favorite. Then it was off to get hot apple cider at Highland Coffee and head to Iroquois Park, where we had kettle corn while waiting for our time to head into the path with all the pumpkins.
This did make for a late night, and I went to bed the moment we got home because I had to get up early enough to stretch and figure out what I was going to wear. A front moved through with the rain overnight, so we suddenly were plunged into the 30s in the morning. My original plan to wear shorts was tossed out the window. But, our theme for our team was wear something pink (of course), green (my mom’s favorite color), and/or something with polka dots (since my mom’s name is Dottie). And I happened to have a pair of green leggings with polka dots on them. I had bought some pink compression sleeves that had polka dots on them. I had a pink short sleeve shirt. Green arm warmers. And pink gloves. I even had a Bondi Band with polka dots on it. I was covered. So, I got dressed and made sure I had my anklet on and my hair pulled up in proper pigtails (with pink and green hair extensions, naturally). I ate a quick breakfast of gluten free cereal (short race) and my roomie (also running, so no cheer squad and finish line photo for me) and I headed out the door to get to Cardinal Stadium.
Remember…it was cold outside. So, Cathy and I basically hung out in the car for as long as we could (we got their earlier than expected). My runner’s metabolism kicked in, because suddenly I was starving and I had over an hour until race time. I knew I should have brought backup. We got out of the car and donned some trash bags to insulate. Then, we meandered our way toward the team meet-up spot…Gate 4…which just happened to be near the start/finish and the stage. We were there for about 10 minutes, and then, one-by-one, my team started to arrive. Kelly and Elizabeth arrived, toting the bags with bibs and shirts. Then Tiffany and Kaleigh arrived as well. Dennis was the last one to arrive (we had more people registered, but other commitments and/or sickness took some out at the last minute). We wrangled everyone together for a group picture, then Dennis went to go warm up and the rest of us watched some of the Parade of Hope (Survivor’s Parade). The national anthem was sung, and all runners and walkers lined up to await the 9 am start of the race. As I was standing near the front, a woman (definitely a survivor) looked over at me and said, “Are you a runner? Are you running this?” I said, “Yes ma’am.” And she said, “Run for me.”
We had a fun countdown from 10 seconds to go…and then we were all off. I was only under orders to not run all out on this race, so I decided to run comfortably hard, aiming for around a 23 minutes. I felt strong, despite not being able to feel my feet/toes due to the cold air. I passed a few people as we headed down the corridor and made the turn onto S. Floyd Street. That put me up front as the first female and I was feeling pretty good. We rounded onto Central Avenue and up, up, up the hill we went. I usually get slowed down by hills, but my legs wanted to go. I powered up it, and rode that downhill on the other side (downhill, after all, is my favorite speed), making the turn onto S 3rd Street.
I ran through the water top, minding the bump of the casing over the cords. Then through the tunnel I went. I popped out, somehow missing that first mile indicator on my watch. I made the turn to run down and around Eastern, looping back and then heading down to make a loop of a small section of the U of L campus. Then, I was heading back toward the finish line (same as the start). Back down S Third Street I went. Still felt amazing and strong. And I was lifted even more as I hit Mile 2 and got shout-outs and waves from teammates Kelly and Elizabeth. Then Tiffany. Then my friend Jamie gave me a shout-out. I headed down the hill to go under the overpass and I could see Cathy coming down on the other side. She must have seen me too, because as I am running through, she literally stops to poke her head through and shout at me, “FIRST FEMALE.”
This is what friends do.
It was just before I made the turn back onto Central that I caught up to the man ahead of me. He told me “good job.” I kicked it past him and started up that stupid hill. I did push the hill, mostly because I tend to get passed on hills and I really didn’t want to be passed again. The people who were doing the walk were cheering and screaming at me as I crested it and headed down the hill to make the turn back onto S. Floyd St. More cheers of encouragement as I headed down the road and turned back toward where the start/finish line was.
My watch beeped the third mile as I was heading in, way too soon before I would hit that finish line…but I just ran it in. There was no timing mat or anything…but here was this race…this amazing race…that I signed up for to honor my mom…and I crossed the finish line as the 3rd overall (there were 2 other guys ahead of me) and first female. I have no finish line photos, because my race photographer (aka: Cathy – the roomie) was in the actual race itself. I was announced as the first female and was complimented on my hair. A woman came over and asked me if I had run the entire race. I nodded and I told her I had done it to honor my mom and she pulled me in for a tight hug. I needed it.
I grabbed a bottle of water and went to the other side of the finish line to cheer in everyone, including the first survivor to cross the finish line. The survivors got medals, and it was just so amazing and moving to see them all come in. I cheered in strangers, team members, and just enjoyed this part of the race. And, even though I had one of my strongest races, one of my best 5Ks in years…this wasn’t one giving out age group awards or placement awards. And none of it mattered to me at that moment. My mom was the reason I was there, knowing all that she had gone through over the span of the year, and was still currently fighting through…and that finish line moment was for her. Knowing I raced the best I could that day to honor her battle was award enough. Third overall…first female…strong day that morning.
So, the reason I have the asterisk by my time is not just because the race measured short on my watch…but because it was honestly not timed, and truly…the real finishes that we should celebrate are those who crossed that finish line having gone through or are currently going through treatments. I hope to return to this one again next year.
To those of you who were on my team, whether you were able to run that morning or not…THANK YOU!! Your show of support meant the world to me and I am honored to have such amazing people in my life.