Race Report: Urban Bourbon Half Marathon

UBHM 2018 was my first half and my first big goal when I started running post surgery last summer. My only aim was to finish and not die trying. Training for it got me beyond the point where in past years I would have stopped running. It’s the race that turned me into a real runner. It was great–organization, crowd support, after party, course, everything.

So I was really looking forward to UBHM 2019! Training had gone well, no injuries, plenty of long runs, lots of running up hills. The extreme heat persisted well into October, but I just kept trying to get out as early as I could. Even though the temps were in the 90s almost every day for the beginning of October, it was getting into the 60s at night, so morning runs were totally doable. Everything about the week leading up to the race was ideal. I felt well rested, well hydrated. The stars were aligned to have a great race. Last year’s UBHM time was 2:12. Kentucky Derby Festival was 2:11. I was hoping to get under 2:10, with a dream goal of 2:07. This would be the race I had been hoping Indy Women’s Half would have been if not for the obnoxious heat and humidity.

The morning was chilly but fine, mid 40s. I wore capri-length tights and a tank top, with a light jacket on top of that. I met my running group for a picture, then went straight to the portapotty line. It took forever. I would have skipped, but I did need to pee. I got out and into the sea of humanity way toward the back of the pack, but I didn’t have time to move up. The call to the post had happened minutes before. I got my jacket off and tied around my waist right around the time I heard the starter’s pistol. Then we were off!

The race started downtown and first went toward Waterfront Park. We had the whole width of the street, so plenty of room to pass people. I went past the 3:00 pacer, then the 2:50 pacer quickly. I met up with a group of the friends I run with, but they had no time goal and encouraged me to go for it. After the course looped around waterfront park, it cut back up toward downtown, then turned to go east. It was there, around a mile and a half into the race, that I passed the 2:10 pacer. I had a few lingering doubts about my speed, that I was doing too much and I wouldn’t be able to keep it up. I thought to myself that I did not want to see that pacer again, and if I did, it would mean I was in trouble.

The course made its way to Lexington Road, along Cave Hill Cemetery’s long brick wall, and into Cherokee Park. Cherokee is where I go almost every time I run. I usually run counter clockwise, but I had been running clockwise, the direction of the course, to hit the hills the right way. I was ready. It was still hard as fuck. That first hill that goes up the “back way” to Hogan’s Fountain is no joke. But then there’s a nice long downhill. At that point I saw a running friend and her little girl, cheering people on. That was awesome. I was half hoping, half expecting to see Stuart and the dogs somewhere around there, as it’s a half mile from our house, but no luck. Mile eight was right around the time we were leaving the park. Over half done!

At eight and a half miles, water stop # 5 happened. This water stop was staffed with volunteers from my running group. It was so fun to see so many familiar faces! They had music blaring and horns and some of them were in costumes. Lots of high fives and cheers and enthusiasm. Best water stop! It was a good point in the course to see noisy fun friends. I was feeling good, under five miles to go, but I had been running hard for almost an hour and a half and the mental boost was nice.

After that it was up hilly Grinstead Drive. I run up Grinstead regularly, so I was prepared. Last year it seemed like a lot of people hit a wall at Grinstead because they thought the only hills were in the park. Or something. The hills going up Grinstead aren’t bad, but if you aren’t ready, they seem like they go on and on, and when you’ve already run over eight miles, it’s easy to get discouraged. Soon though we were by Cave Hill again, then down Baxter Ave to turn back toward downtown. Only a few miles left and no more hills! I was starting to get tired and sore feeling legs, but my energy level was okay. And the pain wasn’t too bad. Nothing I hadn’t felt before on a long run.

The finish line was near Fourth Street Live, a touristy commercial area in the middle of downtown Louisville. I felt good enough to push the last quarter mile with no intervals. I had been skipping a lot of intervals for most of the race, but at this point, I had been taking every one. Finishing was such a relief! I knew I was close to my pie-in-the-sky goal time. I grabbed a bagel to gnaw on while I checked the race results webpage to see what my time was. 2:06! What an amazing feeling to squash a challenge. I saw some running friends, who had also met and exceeded their goal times. So much celebrating!

The UBHM after party is the best race after party. Bourbon, beer, pizza, burgoo (Kentucky’s version of the regional stew that is made in a huge pot and contains every type of meat from chicken to venison and every vegetable lying around the kitchen and pantry; called booyah in the area of the country I grew up in). It took place at Fourth Street Live, which I normally avoid like the flu, but it’s kind of a perfect place for this event. I saw a bunch of friends from my running group, got in lots of pictures, but I had to leave to go get ready for another event on the calendar. I’m already looking forward to next year’s race, and my running group is talking about getting a couple hotel rooms to continue the celebration.

So now that I’ve accomplished a running goal, I need to figure out the next milestone. Should I try for a sub-two hour half or think distance and shoot for running a full marathon? I’ve got a few trail races lined up over the next several months, a bunch of short races this winter, 2020 Triple Crown and KDF Mini. I could upgrade KDF to the full or really work on speed this winter and early spring. Decisions, decisions. I’ll be turning 50 in there somewhere, so there’s also that to contend with!

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