Race Report: 2017 Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon

Alternate Title: Winning Despite Conditions

Sometimes things just click. They just work right, despite the conditions, despite circumstances beyond your control, despite wondering if you can really do it. This past Saturday in Louisville, Kentucky, was one of those times. While it wasn’t an ideal situation, I somehow managed to not only hit my goal, but I blew past it. Finally a sub-2 hour half marathon! I knocked off six minutes from my PR and over nine from Little Rock. But first…

Friday: The Expo
We left Memphis early Friday morning to make the 5.5 hour drive to Louisville. We swung by the expo to pick up our packets and shirts first, as this was outside the city a bit and made the most sense. Pretty standard expo, though very confusing to find anything. We had to drive all the way around the exposition center to enter our designated gate, then no real directions from there to find the specific hall we needed. We followed what looked like runners and eventually found it. Once you got your bib and shirt, you snake your way around to the exit. Odd thing: they had TWO different gutter guard companies. At a race expo. Since, ya know, when you’re about to run a marathon or half marathon, all you can think about are ways to keep leaves out of your gutters.

Yeah I’m a turtle all right

The t-shirt was actually pretty solid. Tech, a nice gray color, and I like these types of maps that basically show the course and different highlights around it.

Pretty nice (and wrinkled!)

After that, it was time to fuel. We had a pasta buffet at a nearby hotel (not ours, but next door). It had the standard stuff, but was pretty tasty surprisingly. And of course, you gotta hydrate!

Beer: the fuel for all serious athletes

And with that, we headed off to watch TV and go to bed. The weather had looked to be warm and humid, so we didn’t think any PRs were gonna happen. Additionally, there was a very slight chance of thunderstorms overnight, but the race twitter feed assured us everything would be fine. Oops.

Saturday: The Race and The Aftermath
We woke up and started getting ready. It definitely stormed overnight, as I was awoken several times by thunder (and the loudest A/C unit ever!). We ate, got ready, and headed down to get in our corrals. We made it to the lobby before we heard that the race was delayed 30 minutes. So we chilled for 30 minutes and started heading out to the corrals again.

A storm’s a’brewin’

We didn’t even make it around the block before we saw a tweet that it was delayed another 30 minutes. So back into the hotel we went. And after 20 minutes, they announced ANOTHER 30 minute delay. What was supposed to be a 7:30AM start was now pushed to 9AM. Which meant that we would be running in a hotter part of the day. Which meant those in the later corrals running the full likely were screwed if the race couldn’t keep the course open for the allowable time (note: they did not). Finally, at 9:10 or so, the race began and we were off!

The look of pure humidity

The race was very crowded for the first two miles or so, before it opened up. It took me until mile 3 to start getting close to 9:00/mile pace. The humidity wasn’t too bad surprisingly, and the clouds definitely kept the temps cool. I made the right choice in clothes for once!

The course

You run a bit downtown, then straight out towards Churchill Downs, the famous horse racing venue. You run on the inside portion of it, then the half and full marathons split, with the half (or miniMarathon as they call it) heading back up towards downtown. It was here, starting at mile 8.5, that it was basically uphill the whole way home. I was holding a good pace between 8:30-8:50 for most of it, which was awesome! I was alternating between water and powerade at each aid station, and took some Gu blocks at mile six.

I kept doing mental math the whole time, and when I hit mile 11 I knew I had my goal in sight. I managed to keep the pace until the very end, pumped my fists as I crossed and couldn’t believe I had hit 1:55:40. My goal coming in was simply to beat two hours, and I destroyed that goal. I was so thrilled with my performance!

Afterwards, I waited for Ro to finish, we took our official finisher photos, grabbed some waters and food and headed straight to the hotel. Sure, we were tired (she got a PR by two minutes!), but we had brunch to get to!

The best way to refuel!

After this, I felt human again

After food, it was time to do what they do best in Kentucky: bourbon! We went straight to the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience to take our tour and taste some delicious bourbon! It was awesome!

So good!

After that, we hopped around a bit more to check out other spots, had a yummy dinner, then went back to the hotel to finally crash. We both slept very well that night, then headed back to Memphis in the morning. That was not a fun drive.

All in all, it was a fantastic race weekend. We both PR’d and I managed to crush my goal and FINALLY get a sub-2, something I’ve tried unsuccessfully to do for several years now. Just goes to show that the work I’ve been putting in has made massive improvements. Now I just need to keep it up for MCM in October!

Making Impossible Goals Less Impossible

The other day, I was going through my normal routine of websites. Via lifehacker I came across this article about impossible goals and how you shouldn’t do them. The five goals are:

1. I have to make everyone happy
2. I have to be perfect and never make a mistake
3. I have to never fail
4. I have to sell 100% of my prospects
5. I have to reach all of my goals by the time I’m [insert age here]

To me, these are not “impossible” goals. These aren’t even goals, really. Rather, they are guiding principles for life. A goal should be measurable and actionable. Go here to learn about SMART goals. Of the five goals the author brings up, only two (#4 and #5) are measurable in any realistic sense. You can’t prove #1; are you going to survey every single person that you have ever tangentially associated with to verify that you made them happy? You can only measure #3 after you are dead. Guiding principles are things we should always be going after, using them to dictate how we act in life. We should never give up on them. As far as the two measurable goals, I don’t have a problem with them. I personally have used #5 to set some deadlines to spur myself into action. Without that deadline, I wouldn’t have signed up for a race. This only works for some goals; don’t set an age deadline on something like marriage or you’re likely to make a bad decision to accomplish it.

That gets to my second criticism. The author, Noah St. John, says that you should stop going after those goals immediately. Why? Shouldn’t these be exactly the sort of goals that we go after in our lives? Shouldn’t we want to make people happy? To try and not make mistakes? To not fail? To me, these are EXACTLY the types of goals that can lead to a successful life.

If I could change something about the article, it would be to eliminate the absolutes. Change “have” to “strive” and drop the “never.” Go through the list again with that simple replacement:

1. I strive to make everyone happy
2. I strive to be perfect and not make a mistake
3. I strive to not fail
4. I strive to sell 100% of my prospects
5. I strive to reach X goal by the time I’m [insert age here]

Looks much better, doesn’t it? Striving to make people happy is a great principle to follow in life. Striving not to fail seems like such a no brainer; who sets out to fail? You will fail in life, for sure…that’s unavoidable. But you can seek to limit your failures by planning ahead and making smart decisions. Again, seems like a good way to live a life to me. If you’re in sales, shouldn’t you strive to close every sale that comes up? If I had a sales staff, I certainly would want them to do that. A job interview is selling yourself to the hiring manager. Shouldn’t you strive to always successfully sell yourself in that instance? I’ve never gone on a job interview where I didn’t!

Always be aware of absolutes like the first version of these goals. In fact, always be weary when someone tells you not to have a certain goal. It’s dangerous, pessimistic and limits character growth. The “goals” in the article are not even goals, but guiding principles in life that are actually a GOOD thing to push for.