I’ve in the past been against Thanksgiving runs, in theory and in practice. I mean, why would you get up early to run in the cold on a holiday, especially if you got drunk with people you went to high school with the night before or if you have a turkey to emergency defrost?
Obviously a lot has changed for me. I am now a runner who likes to run with people. I wasn’t exactly planning on doing a Thanksgiving run this year—I hadn’t ruled it out and was kind of assuming I’d probably do one—but I saw the shirt for the Iroquois Hill Runners Thanksgiving 5 Miler and was smitten. So many ugly shirts from races I’ve done this year made me a sucker for a cute shirt and this one was adorable.
A word about Iroquois Park. It’s part of Louisville’s Park System and is located south of the city. It’s kind of a heavily wooded, big hill, with a path/road of rolling hills around the outside and an interior road going more or less straight up to a scenic overlook of the best views in the county. I’ve done the loop a few times. It’s a fun place to run. I’ve only done the inside road up to the top once, and it was amazing. Hard, but the view and sense of accomplishment was worth it. The route for the 5 mile race was basically up a hill for two and a half miles, then down the same distance.
I ride shared with a couple friends from my running group. We got there plenty early and found other people in MRTT/SRTT. Always good to see running friends. Lots of fun costumes in general—turkey hats, autumn-colored tutus, even a guy dressed up like a pilgrim. It was chilly, but the energy from everyone was infectious. Everyone was so happy! Yay Thanksgiving!
I hooked back up with the friends I came with and one of their close friends, and we started together with an easy pace. About a mile in, we started doing intervals. Lots of laughing and joking. I was having such a good time. After what seemed like not very long, a truck with loud horns started coming toward us, signaling to everyone to get over because the leaders were on their way down. Amazing how fast they were.
Soon we were at the top, where we took a break for a group photo in front of the beautiful view. Then it was time to go downhill! We kept our easy pace and skipped a few intervals. At the last mile, one of my friends held back, I think because of a cramp, and another friend stayed with her. The other guy and I wanted to get it over with, so we just kept going and went faster. He finished a few seconds before me, then a minute or so later, the other two friends crossed the finish line. I got my fastest split ever on that last mile, 8:44. It was almost all downhill, but it was the fifth mile after almost 300 ft of elevation gain. The race was so incredibly fun. Running it with friends made it the best, and I can’t wait to do it again next year. Hopefully I can get my husband to do it too.
After a week off to rest my wonky hamstring, I finally felt
like I could run this morning. I had
three group runs to choose from. The
first was a five miler that will be the same course for the Thanksgiving Run I
signed up for. I was planning on going
until I noticed that it was at 3pm. I am
much more of a morning runner, so when someone from the Beginner Trail Running
Group posted a morning run at Cherokee Park, I switched my plans. That run would start at 7:30 and if trails
were too muddy, then it would turn into a road run. Then, one of my running friends asked if
anyone would like to join her in Cherokee Park at 8:30. An extra hour in bed? Sold!
I picked out my clothes the night before, so this morning went
smooth. Of course I forgot my hankie and
I forgot to put on lip balm but whatever.
The “feels like” temperature was 30 degrees. A little colder than I prefer, still it was
I ran the .80 mile to the designated meeting spot and
realized how fucked I was. It’s really
sad how much stamina and conditioning one can lose in a short amount of
time. In the two months since Urban
Bourbon Half Marathon, I had only run 38 miles, 13 of which were one run. Not too good.
And it showed. Ragged breathing,
tired instantly, absolutely hating everything about running. My first mile is usually an exercise in
telling myself it gets easier. This almost
mile was pure trash.
My friends (there was another running friend with her dog)
got there right at the same time as I did.
The first thing I did was confirm that this would be with intervals and an
easy run. One of my friends hadn’t run
much since she completed the New York City Marathon, so she reassured me that
yes, we would do the usual 2 minute run, 30 second walk intervals that we often
run together and yes, no one was looking to set any records.
It ended up being great.
It was nice to chat (or try to chat as I suck at running and talking)
and have company. The hills were hard,
but I didn’t die. The organization that
manages Cherokee Park has just started this program where they make Cherokee
Park pedestrian only on the last Sunday of the month. It was a little early and quite chilly, so
there weren’t a bunch of people, but I have to say not having to worry about
cars was nice. This will be awesome when
it starts getting closer to spring.
Hopefully the program will still be going then.
When it was time to part ways, we stopped to take a group
photo and chatted a bit longer about marathon running and training. I haven’t decided to upgrade Kentucky Derby
Festival Mini to the full marathon, but I think in January when the Norton Health
Training Program starts, I will train as if I’m running the full. See how it goes before committing.
After that I ran home, for a total of 5.2 miles, average
about 10 ½ minute mile. Nice easy
morning run that felt hard as hell, but I know I can get back to where I was
two months ago if I keep at it. My
hamstring was fine during and afterward.
Got home and stretched and was really pleased, but over the day it started
getting sore again. I was doing chores,
lots of up and down stairs, but I’m not sure if it was that or the running that
did it. Unless it gets worse, I’m just
going to keep on. Maybe do a short run
Tuesday if it feels right, join some trail runners on Wednesday, and Thanksgiving
five miler on Thursday. Friday I’m
volunteering at an Irish Dance event, so that will be a non-running day. I’m happy to be back in the saddle.
I had signed up for 2019 Indy Women’s and Urban Bourbon Half Marathons months before those races. They were long-term goals that I set for myself last year. I signed up for this race on a whim a few weeks ago mostly because a bunch of women from my running group were running and pacing it. FOMO is apparently a motivator for me nowadays.
So Urban Bourbon Half Marathon was three weekends ago. As I wrote about in an earlier post, it was a great time, so fun, so perfect how prepared I was and how the things I couldn’t control turned out just fine. This race was a bit different.
I’ve had left hamstring soreness since UBHM, though I noticed it several days after, so I’m not sure it was because of that race or something else. Could be too much sitting; could be my obnoxious pulling dogs. Consequently I had only run a few times in the past three weeks. In addition, I hadn’t been keeping up with cross training like I should, eating a lot of shitty food, not drinking enough water. So in the week leading up to this race, I just generally felt not great and was full of ambivalence.
I simply didn’t want to run it. Mostly because it could potentially be a shitshow, for above reasons. Also I didn’t want to make whatever was going on with the hamstring* worse. The icing on the Meh Cake was a friend’s fiftieth birthday party at a local bar the night before the race. This party would be full of close friends and people I like whom I hadn’t seen in a while. I knew I would either leave before I was ready or stay longer than I should.
*back of the knee, feels more like weakness rather than pain; gets worse throughout the day, especially after a dog walk; consulted dr google and got more confused; had a different chronic hamstring injury 12 years ago and would really like to not deal with that bullshit ever again
Also the weather forecast was annoying, specifically the temperature. I know how to dress for 50 and above. I know how to dress for when it’s actually cold. The 40s though. It’s not rocket science, but the right number of the right layers continues to baffle me. Especially in a race, where there’s a bunch of standing around in the beginning. When home, I just leave and I’m warmer in a couple blocks, and I typically only go for 30-60 minutes. Being chilly before the race, then overdressed for more than two hours of running is not fun. So Saturday evening I picked out some clothes and spent the rest of the night second guessing myself. Like I lost sleep and had stupid Dressed-Wrong Dreams. The amount of bourbon I drank at the party didn’t help, and in general I don’t sleep well on the night before a race.
The dogs got me up earlier than I wanted, but I wasn’t asleep anyway. Coffee, English muffin, half a leftover Cuban sandwich; pooping happened. I got dressed in what I had originally planned and left. The Parklands of Floyds Fork is this huge and beautiful park system in eastern Jefferson County. It’s really four connected parks, about 4000 acres, with woods, trails, creeks, roads for biking and running and walking. I wish it were closer than the 30 minute drive. I’ve run and raced here before. It’s nice, though the concrete road isn’t the friendliest for runners. This particular race is actually marathon, half marathon, and 10K distances. All start together, run the same direction, and have different turn around points.
I thought about downgrading to the 10K in the interest of my sore hamstring but decided not to. Probably because it was not horrible all the time. If I had been in constant pain, I probably would have downgraded. I would like to say I would have not run at all if the pain was that bad, but in reality I tend not to do that. I didn’t pay $80 to not run dammit!
Once I got there, I found M/SRTT (Moms Run This Town/She Runs This Town), my running group. Greeted people, talked about goals, injuries, clothing, pooping, snot rockets–ya know, runner stuff. Got in the group picture. I had a friend pacing the 2:20 finish, and she encouraged me to run with her. I had my doubts about keeping up that fast. Even though I had just finished with 2:06 a few weeks before, I did not feel good enough that I could get close to that. A couple other women from the group were pacing 2:45. I was planning on running with them and having a good time, but when it came time to corral, I was kind of in the middle of both pacers. I decided to just stay put, somewhere between 2:20 and 2:45 and see what happened.
We started off pretty tightly packed. I started slow, testing to see what my hamstring would tell me. It told me I was stupid. But! It didn’t tell me I was fucking stupid, so I just kept running. Finally the crowd started to thin a little, and I settled into a rhythm around mile 2. There happened to be a hill right here. More or less straight up. Like you see it and think it’s a joke.
So one thing different about this race is intervals. Normally I do intervals. When I started running last year after surgery, I needed to start slow and also I really wanted stick with it. I had done Couch to 5K the year before (didn’t stick) and my favorite part of that program was the middle weeks, when you run for several minutes, then walk for a minute, repeat. I read up on the Galloway Method, a run-walk-run program designed to prevent injury, and decided to try that. I used it for the last few weeks of June, when I was being gentle on myself during recovery. It got me through the early weeks of running, when historically I would have quit. It got me through the heat of summer, when a short break to walk help me calm down enough to keep going. I played with frequency and length of intervals and settled on 2 minutes run, 30 seconds walk as my goldilocks spot. This training got me through my first half marathon, and even though I’d recovered from surgery and seemed to have integrated running into my lifestyle, I felt like if it was working for me, why change? This fall I started skipping intervals, especially if I was running down a hill, and shortening them. So I was doing like a 18-26 second walk and correspondingly longer run. It was all fine. This race…not sure why, I hadn’t planned on doing it this way, but I didn’t run intervals. The first mile of a race, I often don’t do the walks. It’s crowded, my heart rate is fine. All good. Same for this race, but then I ran the second mile. Maybe because my pace was slower I thought I should go for it. Then that hill. If there was a time and place to start walking intervals, it was looming in front of me. But I kept running. I ran up the hill. And didn’t die! So I ran the third mile and kept running.
The giant hill was followed by a long less-steep climb, then a long wooded downhill with occasional flattening out spots. By this point the people in the lead for the 10K had turned around and were now running toward us. This is where I was less satisfied with the race organization, about which until this point I had absolutely no complaints. The road had narrowed and there were no cones. Tons of people not moving over, getting in each other’s way. I’m sure very irritating for the folks in the front of the 10K pack who were hoping for a top 3 finish or whatever. Several people were forced into the grass, others cut people off. Could have been ugly. I just hate seeing so little self-awareness.
Anyway, finally got past the 10K turn around, so there were no longer people running at us. I passed the 4:45 marathon pacer (2:23 half pacer for those not inclined to do the math) and saw my friend pacing 2:20 up ahead. I ran a little faster. I realized my hamstring was fine. Twingy, but not painful. I caught up with her and the other 2:20 pacer around mile 5. I was nice to run with pacers. It was also trippy to realize that this was the farthest I’d ever run straight, no walking. And I still had eight miles to go! I felt good for a while. Chatting with the other people hanging with the 2:20 pacers. Giving myself little pats on the back for not walking. Happy that problematic hamstring was not asserting itself. We got to the half marathon turn around! Only another six and a half miles!
And then, like clock work, the Mile 8 Struggle Bus showed up. For every half I’ve run, somewhere between mile 8 and mile 10, I want to give up. Whether it’s tired legs, tired everything, racing heart, hungry tummy, burning lungs, low energy, whatever, I find myself saying “let’s just walk, running is hot bullshit” It’s totally a mental game at this point. For Filly Women’s and KDF, it was low energy, so I experimented with adding runner candy (Honey Stinger Energy Chews). This worked for UBHM and a few long runs. This race though, I had been eating a few pieces every 40 minutes, which had worked for me before. It was less low energy and more just super tired legs. My hamstring wasn’t necessarily that bad; more like all of both legs were fucking done.
I kept going though! Around mile 10 we were back into the long wooded area, but this time we got to experience it going up hill. Joy. I walked twice, about 10 seconds each time, because I wanted to get my heart rate down a little. These were the only two times I walked the entire 13 miles. I caught back up with the 2:20 pacers. I stuck with them and their motivation really kept me in it. Around mile 11, the huge downhill, my knees started to hurt. Around mile 12, I needed a toilet. I was seriously afraid I’d shit my pants otherwise. Luckily there was a portapotty just a handful of yards off the course. I lost at least a minute, but it was absolutely necessary.
Back on the road! One mile left! It was not a fun mile. I was no longer running with my pacing friend. My legs hurt. I was tired. Finally the end. I did not sprint to finish, but I did manage to get my arms up like I wasn’t about to crawl the last yards.
My time was 2:22. Not the best, but way better than I thought I was capable of. Hell, I didn’t know I was capable of running for more than a few miles without walking, much less a half marathon. I didn’t see anyone I knew around the finishers’ area. There was Derby Pie as an end-of-race perk, but it was so sweet, I could only choke down a few bites. There was also beer (provided by Goodwood Brewery, a race sponsor), but at that point I think anything other than plain water would have made me vomit. I just wanted to go home and lie in a bath tub full of hot epsom salt water.
So that’s what I did. I was moving like a 90 year old. The walk back to the car was comical. Very stiff, very sore. My hamstring didn’t seem any worse than every other sore, agonized part of my body. I ate the other half of the leftover Cuban while the tub was filling up and had a bottle of water mixed with electrolyte replacement. The soak in the tub was perfect.
I ran three half marathons in six weeks, five this year. One was a PR and one was with no walking intervals, something I wasn’t sure I could do. I’m kinda proud of myself and my training. I look forward to all the shorter races I have lined up over the winter, mostly just fun stuff nearby, a few of which I’ve gotten Spouse to sign up to run with me. Lots of group runs with M/SRTT. I have some trail races coming up too. And a Thanksgiving Morning race, which I have always been opposed to in theory and, until now, in practice. I guess I’m a real runner, for good or ill. Now I just need to rest this stupid hamstring. At least it’s taken my mind off my stupid fat thumb.
I should have written this up two weeks ago, but better late than never!
I’ve been running with Moms Run This Town/She Runs This Town for a year and a few months. It is a free women’s running group that is organized on facebook and it has changed my life. The support, the group runs, the fantastic women are why I am still doing this running, instead of bailing after completing the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon last year. I’m not 100% positive I for sure would have quit, but I started and gave up on running too many times to assume I would have persevered on my own. I do know that the women in my group made continuing much easier. I know I would never have given trail running a try if not for the group. I know I would not enjoy running as much as I do.
Anyway, so can’t overstate how important M/SRTT is for me.
About a year ago, one of the members came to a group run on a weekend morning wearing the Indy Women’s Half tank shirt and telling tales about how nice the race was. We all admired the cute shirt, a bit of a novelty as race shirts are, in my opinion, frequently boxy, ugly, and garish. It could be just me, who hates HATES tshirts and turns her race shirt into tank tops, but I think in general women like tanks or tshirts that fit well. The cute color and design elements didn’t hurt.
So a bit after that, she posted on the group’s facebook page that the 2019 Indy Women’s Half was having a limited time $30 entry fee. $30 for a half is pretty cheap. Indianapolis is a less-than-two-hour drive from Louisville. A fun time for a little group of us crazy lady runners. That was the first thought, but within a few days, 100 of our members had signed up! I guess we really wanted to go on a field trip.
I’d been looking forward to this race for months. Both because I would be taking over Indianapolis with 100 of my best running buddies and because I was hoping for a PR.
I did the Filly Women’s Half at the beginning of April and the Kentucky Derby Festival Half at the end of April of this year. I felt undertrained. Not enough long runs, not enough cross training. My time for Urban Bourbon Half last year was 2:12. My time for the Filly Women’s Half was 2:13 and KDF was 2:11. I thought this was an opportunity for improvement. Training this summer had gone well, despite the heat, and I began to experiment, seemingly successfully, with nutrition during a long run. I’d been better with cross training and did lots of hill work. I was hoping I could get under 2:10, maybe even under 2:07.
Three weeks out, the weather looked favorable. The low for Indianapolis the night before was predicted to be in the upper 50s. Perfect! Unfortunately as the date drew closer, a heat wave fucked everything to hell. We would be lucky to see 68 degrees the night before, which meant at least mid-70s by the time I would be finishing the race. Ugh.
I used to be the kind of person who preferred hot to cold. I guess I still am, as I loathe cold and being cold. But I no longer have my tolerance for heat. I don’t know if it’s my age or the tamoxifen, but heat and especially running in the heat is the worst. So yay. Probably no PR. I was already getting in the mindset that I would just be happy to be there and finish with a smile. Let’s hear it for low expectations!
Normally I don’t get nervous before a race, but packing up the car, I realized I was kind of anxious. I assume it was because this would be my first out of town race. I often have some anxiety when I go out of town, but usually it’s when Stuart and I go together and have to leave the pets behind. He was staying though. I think really my two fears that would make the race go badly were related to not being home, namely sleeping poorly in the hotel and not pooping in the morning because my routine was thrown off.
I slept not great but not horrible. Pooping did not happen at the hotel, but the walk to the start got things moving and I had some success at the portapotty. No complaints. M/SRTT did a group photo, another just-in-case stop at the portapotties, then off to the start line.
It was hot and humid but so much great energy! Lots of people, tons of excitement. Time to do the thing! I quickly caught up to some friends I often run with. We ran together a couple miles, but I was ready to skip an interval, so off I went. Everything was going well. My first few splits were right where I wanted, around 9:50 pace.
Around mile 4, disaster struck. I started getting stomach cramps and had to slow down, convinced I was about to shit my pants. At 4.5 water stop, there was a portapotty. I don’t think I’ve ever been more relieved. Another woman went in right ahead of me, and she was in there for at least two minutes. It was a torturous two minutes. I saw my friends I had been running with go by. We waved. I contemplated saying fuck it and just going back to the road. My stomach wasn’t cramping much. But it seemed stupid to have stood there for nothing. The woman inside came out eventually. And of course all I did was fart. But I physically felt better and I now had the confidence that I was not going to poop my pants.
Back to the road! I met back up with my friends and ran with them for another couple miles. They had joined up with a couple other women from other states. The course had a section with a turnaround, so we got to see a bunch of our group members who were faster, then after we turned around, we got to see a bunch more friends. So fun to cheer everyone on! It was getting really uncomfortable, and seeing people was such a boost. Again I started to break away from my friends. All was good. Mostly good. The road was not the best. Very broken up in spots, with some actual giant pot holes. And I confess, stretches of the course were boring. So yeah, everything was good for a while. I knew my time standing by the toilet had pretty much tanked my hopes of a PR, but I wanted to see what I could do with the situation.
Mile 7 was a tiny glitch. I started feeling hot and tired. Nothing I couldn’t talk myself out of. But then mile 10 happened. So hot, so tired. All I could think was running is stupid and all the people around are stupid just like me because we are running and it’s so so stupid. Oh the mental state of a runner who is battling doubts. And the heat/humidity. Physically I was doing okay. Tummy issues were over and I was drinking at each walking interval. I just wanted to be finished running. I actually thought about walking the rest of the way. Like, what’s the worst thing that could happen? PR is out fo reach…why suffer? Well, I kept going. Around mile 12, my body started to hurt. RIght hip, my usual nemesis, was yelling at me. My pace slowed, but I was still running.
My finish time was 2:13:17. Not too bad considering I wasted a couple minutes with my pooping false alarm and in general the weather was not ideal. A couple of my favorite running friends finished right around when I did, so we went into the party area and decompressed and drank mimosas together. The after party was fun. Every few minutes someone from our group would finish and join us. Lots of celebration for being done with a hard race, lots of camaraderie. Several of our group were running their first half, so extra celebrating with them.
Back to the hotel for showers and relaxing. We said goodbye to some friends who weren’t staying a second night and did some room switching. I walked around downtown Indy with a running friend and we got a late lunch, then shared an Uber with a couple other friends to a brewery for a group meet-up. Good beer, good company. We walked through a cool Indianapolis neighborhood to get back to the hotel area, then got ice cream.
It was a hard race, but a great weekend overall. Lots of fun with this group of women who have come to mean so much to me. Urban Bourbon Half Marathon is in 3 days. Can’t wait!