This race is part of the Polar Bear Grand Prix, a three-part race series that lasts through the winter, with each race increasing in length a bit. It is also part of the Run 502 series and I totally signed up for this because I need all three races to get the big Fleur de Lis hanger medal. Not just bling, completist bling.
Back sometime this summer or early fall, there was an email that the deadline was approaching to register for the series and get the extra swag. I asked Spouse if he wanted to do this series with me. Arguments for: 1) in our neighborhood park (literally a 15 minute walk from our front door) 2) nothing longer that 4 miles 3) extra swag Arguments against: 1) running
Spouse is not a runner. He does but does not enjoy cardio. He far prefers lifting weights while understands cardio is necessary a few times a week. So he does cardio a few times a week and hates every minute. For whatever weird reason, he said “sure!” when I asked him if he wanted to do this series with me. The morning of the race I asked him if he was drunk when he agreed to this, because he looked so regretful.
At least the swag was good! The race shirt was a long-sleeved grey tech shirt, men’s and women’s styles, with a small logo. I have so many ass-ugly race shirts—loud colors, huge and hideous pictures—so this was welcome. A bunch of my shirts I have turned into tank tops, with varying degrees of success. Long sleeves are fine, but regular t-shirts tend to not get worn. Any runner who signed up for the three-race series got a zip-up tech jacket, which is pretty decent quality and, again, not ugly. And any runner who signed up by the cut off got a red and white stocking cap. I don’t really wear stocking caps, but they’re nice to have around for cold-weather dog walks.
Our biggest discussion pre-race was whether to drive or walk and when to leave. I prefer to be early. It lowers my general anxiety level about parking and random snafus when I know I will be leaving with lots of time to spare. I don’t mind just sitting in my car for a bit before a race. I also tend to get a good parking spot, which makes getting out easier. Spouse is typically a very On Time person, but he did a 5K downtown with me in February and was not a fan of the waiting around for the race to start. I didn’t blame him—it was cold as fuck that morning and that particular race had a DJ playing loud pop music, which neither of us enjoy.
When we got there, I chatted with people from my running group, but I missed the group photo because I waited too long to make a decision about getting in line for the portapot.
The race start and end is at the top of a hill. The first at least quarter mile is downhill and we didn’t do any walking intervals, so that mile was pretty speedy. Then I became aware of my poor clothing choices.
I had gotten a Lu Lu Lemon gift card for my birthday back in April, and I had just used it to buy a fancy new warm jacket for cold-weather running. My North Face jacket is past its prime and I figured I should replace it before it died all the way. I had a few doubts about how warm the new jacket was, so I figured this 30ish degree morning would be a good test. Again, don’t ignore the wisdom of “nothing new on race day”. I need to either wear fewer layers under it or straight up save it for actual cold. I started overheating shortly after the first mile and had to do intervals the rest of the race.
Spouse on the other hand was doing fine. He powered up the first big hill, where I was cursing and paranoid about my wonky hamstring. Apparently not skipping leg day paid off for him. I was mostly fine though until the last hill. It was rough. So rough. Spouse was ahead of me and I told him not to wait, but he said he wanted us to cross the finish line together.
I managed to not die and finally the end was in sight. There was a woman just ahead of me, and she and I had been passing each other most of the last half mile. I wanted to finish ahead of her. I’m apparently a petty, competitive bitch. So I sprinted at the end, but didn’t tell him to keep up with me. So I finished a second ahead of him. After he specifically told me he wanted to cross the finish line together. He was irritated with me. I felt bad.
I can’t remember our finish time; the pace was around 10 minute mile I think. A bit skeptical because on Garmin, Strava, and Map My Run, the distance was longer than 2.4 miles. Yes, I use three gps trackers. I have a Garmin Vivoactive 3 that seems the least accurate in the park, where I mostly run, but it’s fine everywhere else and it gives me cues for intervals, as well as other features I appreciate. I started using the Map My Run app years ago and I’m not even sure why I still turn it on, as I don’t really look at the data all that much any more. I guess I like the audio announcement of mileage, total time, and split pace. I’ve used the Strava app for a while now and find it accurate, and I get what I need from the free version.
After the race we were offered fruit snacks and rock-hard granola bars. We stuck around a bit for awards then went home. It was a fun race with good organization and free race photos. My wonky hamstring didn’t bother me as much as my recent lack of running hills regularly. I need to let it heal, but I also don’t want to lose the training and fitness I’ve managed to claw back in the last few weeks.
This race was part of the Run the 502 series, where you run at least 8 races and get a special big medal. I probably wouldn’t have signed up for it otherwise, but I’m glad I did. It was organized fine and a nice wake-up call for me. I had to go looking for information on packet pick-up and the correct start time, though it wasn’t hard to find. My only complaint is that the shirt was fugly.
It was a chilly morning, in the mid-to-upper 20s. The sun was shining bright though and there was no wind. I dressed in a warm, wicking long-sleeved shirt with the race long-sleeved t-shirt over it, with a lightish jacket with good pockets and my new fleece-lined Skirt Sports Toasty Queen leggings. It was the first time to wear the leggings, maybe not too smart to wear something new on race day, but it was just a 5K. So if I’m miserable, it’s only for half an hour tops.
The starting and ending point was at Barrett Middle School, and the pre-race was in the gym. It was nice to not have to freeze waiting around. Santa was inside, met up with people from my running group, talked to some neighbors, got the group photo. Then everyone went outside for the start of the race.
This was a hard race for me. The course was flat and fine, down Frankfort Avenue, which had been closed to traffic for the duration. I started out at a comfortable pace, skipping intervals for the first almost mile. But the cold air was like breathing fire. I did not have a neck warmer to pull over the bottom half of my face, which would have helped, but I knew it would make me warm after not too long, so I elected to skip it. Probably not the smartest decision but whatever.
The last two miles I mostly did my usual 2 minutes run/30 seconds walk intervals. I felt somewhat better, my lungs were no longer going to explode, but it was rough. The sun was right in my face and my sunglasses kept fogging up. I think my main problem is the “it’s just a 5K” mindset. I hadn’t really hydrated or eaten well in the days leading up. I drank beer and bourbon and red wine the evening before—an unholy combination of poor choices. My training had slowed way down while I rested my stupid hamstring. I just felt unprepared in general.
I finished with several women from my running group, so that was cool. We took some pictures afterward, then went back into the gym. They had coffee, bagels and cream cheese, and donuts for participants. After indulging in a really delicious bagel and chatting, I went home. By that time, I was melting. My new leggings are heavy and warm and probably only appropriate for very cold mornings. It would have been better to wear something lighter and been chilly for a short quarter mile, but live and learn. Those leggings will be great when it’s for-real cold and I’m looking for excuses to skip a run.
Later in the day, the race results went online, and I was surprised to find out I took third place in my age group. That was somewhat gratifying, but I feel like I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me to get back to where I was in October and keep improving. I’ve got a race tomorrow morning—the Reindeer Romp 4K—a short race in the neighborhood park and the first race in the Polar Bear Grand Prix series. I somehow convinced, without much arm twisting, my husband to sign up too. Now I just need to decide if I’m going to run the course with him and chat and have fun…or push it and see if I can stay in the top 3 of my age group.
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.
So I started running for real last summer. After a while, I found out about Trail
Running. I thought there was only running
running, not running in the woods or running offroad. Trail running seemed amazing and awesome and
kinda forbidden, like it was only for the cool kids. Then I realized that at least in my running
group, there are no cool kids. There’s
just a big sand box where everyone is welcome, no matter what. Occasionally someone from some other sand box
may wander by and tell us we’re doing it wrong, but we resoundingly tell them
to leave our toys alone and go back to being miserable with the other
Two Sunday races in a row and so different. Last week I was dreading the Louisville Half
Marathon like a root canal. I hadn’t had
a decent run in weeks and was worried about lack of training and healthy living
in general and sad hamstring specifically.*
The night before the Harrod’s Creek Trail Bash, I was excited to get back
*it went okay—I finished with a better time than I
thought possible, but I could barely walk afterward
Yesterday morning I went out with the Alpha Run meeting of
my women’s running group. I ran three
Seneca Loops (1.2 miles per loop) with the other people (mostly post Monumental
Marathoners) who wanted to take it easy.
I wanted to run, but not aggravate my stupid hamstring. We had a fun lovely run. I adore my running group. My wonky leg did not seem to be any worse after
a little over three and a half miles at sexy pace. I decided I would be just fine for the trail
Harrod’s Creek Park is in Prospect Kentucky. It’s a hidden gem of trails and a creek, snuggled
in a subdivision. I ran there several
weeks ago with a few other women from my trail running group. The trails were rocky and full of tree roots,
which were all covered by a thick blanket of leaves. Kinda scary but I managed to not fall. I am not the most experienced trail runner,
and even though I grew up in a rural area and spent a lot of time in the woods
as a kid, I am as an adult still pretty intimidated by the thought of falling
in the woods.
The race this morning was a 5K and a 10K. It’s the first in a three-part trail bash series. The next race is in late December, half and quarter marathon distances. I signed on with the short series. I hate cold weather and did not want to commit to training for a longer race if there was a chance the temps were frigid. This Wisconsin girl left all her cold tolerance up north. This was my third trail race; the first two were a five miler in May (it was muddy and crazy and incredibly fun) and a quarter marathon in mid-July (it was a million degrees but still so fun).
It was quite chilly, but I was dressed for it. I’ve got a North Face jacket that Spouse gave
me for Christmas years ago. I wore it
some over the years, but it has become my best friend for winter running. Caught up with friends from the running
group, including a few women I hadn’t seen in a while, so the pre-race chilly
standing around was really nice. Got the
group photo, off we went!
The race was fine and fun. I felt my hamstring almost immediately, but it was never what I would describe as pain. It didn’t slow me down at all, not that I was going fast. Those leaves that scared me a few weeks ago had scattered or been broken down, so the obstacles in the path were clearly visible. Some good hills, slippery bridges, frosty ground. It was a good time. Three miles went by quickly, then I hung out and chatted with my running friends for a while after. The morning was sunny and it was just overall a fabulous day for an early run. Each finisher got an awesome mug to take home. The race t-shirts were cute. Age group winners’ prizes were super cool bird houses. Really neat race.
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.
So this race was originally the Pumpkin Spice 5K, but the organizers changed the name when they partnered with Tyson’s Chance Animal Foundation. It also became a dog friendly race. Costumes were already encouraged.
I signed up for this race because 1) near my house 2) something easy and fun to do shortly after UBHM 3) River City Races does this thing called Run the 502 (Louisville’s area code) where if you participate in 8 of 11 or so races beginning in the summer and going through winter, you get this big fleur de lis (Louisville’s symbol) medal on which to hang the little medal charms from each individual race. And since this year I am apparently a crow and attracted to shiny things, I am all about the race bling of this series.
I was pretty ambivalent about the costume aspect of this race. I love dressing up for Halloween parties…but not to run in. My running group was doing an October Scavenger Hunt Challenge and one of the items was “selfie running in Halloween costume”. Sold. I kinda already knew that my costume would be a last-minute, low- energy effort. The running-with-your-dog part was a bit more complicated. Kira loves to run but she has a bum knee and she is not reliable with other dogs. Also she’s a little crazy under perfectly controlled circumstances. She was staying home. Camp Randall on the other hand is a well-behaved, mostly chill little dude. But he is only good for running like a mile before he starts slowing waaaayyyyy down. So Kira was a Sorry No and Camp was a game time decision. Everything was made worse by the weather forecast–lower 50s and 100% chance of rain.
The night before the race, I pulled out some stuff from the costume closet that Spawn had bought a few years before for Halloween. It was goggles, a tool-type belt, and work-type gloves to be Tara from Teen Titans. Tara wears yellow shorts and a black, long-sleeved belly shirt with a yellow T in a circle. No yellow shorts (went with black capri running tights) but I did have a plain black tech shirt (full coverage, thanks). I cut a T In A Circle out of bright yellow fabric that was Praise Be! toward the top of a fabric pile and used a glue stick to attach it to the front of my black shirt. All set!
The morning of the run was as wet as was predicted. If it wasn’t for the giant medal-medal charm bauble and my completionist needs, I would not have gotten out of bed. Coffee, toast, pooping like clockwork. I put on my costume, which was all fine except my tights had no pockets and I couldn’t carry my hand-held water bottle because of the gloves. This was bad because I had no way to accommodate my phone. The compartments on the tool belt thing were big enough for my car key, but nowhere big enough for the necessary phone. Leaving it at home or in the car was not an option, as I wanted to take pictures.
So cue last minute destroying my closet and the coat racks looking for my flip belt (stretchy fabric waist band thing with interior pockets). I found it right before I gave up (not sure what I would have done with the phone…worn a jacket? stuck it down my pants?). The flip belt fit under the tool belt thing and I was able to squeeze my phone in. Yay! Also found cheap yellow poncho thing for if I wimped out and needed protection from the incessant rain.
It was time to leave. Camp or No Camp? I checked the radar and it was solid green. All rain. I hate being wet, having wet feet, wet shoes, being wet and cold. Everything about doing this run was going against my instincts, so I decided “goddammit if I’m gonna do this, I want a friend.” Spouse was still in bed and both dogs were there with him. I did not want Kira to know she was about to miss out on something adventurous. Camp has Toast Radar, so I opened and closed the bread box, then slid the toaster around. Sure enough, he came bouncing down the steps, expecting food to happen soon. Instead I put a doggie tie around his neck (he was in costume too!), leashed him, and off we went!
The drive only took a couple minutes. This is literally my neighborhood park. I saw some people from my running group immediately. Some in costume, some not. Some with dogs, some not. It was nice to see MRTT folks and catch up with a few people on post-UBHM feels. Pictures were taken, costumes admired (yall, some people had a goat with them), doggie-costumes awarded.
It was coming down steady at race time, so I donned my poncho. Camp went pee on command on the way to the start line because he is the best. The run was fine. Very wet, pretty fun. Thankfully it was mid 50s and no colder or I would be bitching nonstop about the temperature. The only thing of note–about 4 tenths of a mile before the finish, there is an exit out of the park. It is the exit I most often take when I’m in the park with the dogs, which is several times a week. Camp, who was completely and utterly soaking wet at this point and, keep in mind, *not a runner*, seemed to think that perhaps it was time to Later The Fuck Out Of This Noise And Go The Fuck To Our Dry Home. I enthusiastically told him NO! KEEP GOING GOOD BOY WE’RE ALMOST DONE! He said “bitch, I’ll show you how done I am.” He got slower and slower and I basically dragged a doggie anchor up the last hill.
Then we were done! We went back to the shelter and talked to friends and Camp got treats and I got coffee. We placed a 3rd in my age group. Lots of wet, happy people and pets. It was time to go home. On the way back to the car, I noticed how dirty Camp had gotten. Not from the run, but from the dirty floor of the Witches Hat pavilion shelter area. Like, seriously the floor was so damn nasty and because of the rain it was gummy and sticky and just overall ugh no. And it was all over Camp’s back legs and tail because he had been sitting so much. Thank gods I remembered to throw some towels in the car!
When we got home, Spouse had already left for the gym. The Camp and Kira reunion was insane. HE HAD NEW SMELLS. As soon as they mellowed a little bit, I put Camp’s leash back on and dragged him up to the bathtub. I’m sure he at that point was convinced he should never leave the house with me again. A big day, and it was comical how hard he crashed the rest of the afternoon.
The race seemed well organized. Packet pick-up the day before was fine, awards went quick, free photos afterward were awesome. The Heine’s Coffee was a blessing. Bummer about the weather–it would have been much funner without the rain and I’m sure more people would have been there and more people in costume.
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!
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!