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!

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2017 Running Plans

I think it’s wise to document the idiocy that I’m sure to be in for this year, so here goes…

Sure, 2017 is already a quarter over, but never too late to talk about races and plans, right? This year was going to be a year of half marathons, in search of the ever-elusive sub 2 hours. It was to start with the Walt Disney World Half Marathon this past January. The wife and I were there, we were ready to go…and then mother nature showed up in a bolt of lightning, and the race was cancelled. Queu sad faces and scrambled plans.

We did run the Little Rock Half Marathon in early March. We both rocked it! The wife had a nearly 10 minute PR, and I was only three minutes off of mine. Though, I will say, I felt 100% better during this one, ran the entire thing and got a negative split (10k pace was 9:51/mile, total race pace was 9:31/mile). Still working towards that sub-2 goal though…

As mentioned in my previous post, the wife convinced me to run the Dopey Challenge in 2018. Why, I don’t know. Silliest decision we have ever made. For those that don’t know, the Dopey Challenge is to run all four runDisney races during the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. So, a 5k on Thursday, a 10k on Friday, a half marathon on Saturday, and the full marathon on Sunday. Four races, six medals, 48.6 miles covered. Oh, and four straight 3AM wake-up calls.

Beyond that, we’ve got the Kentucky Derby Festival Half Marathon in late April for my next attempt at sub-2. Once that’s done, it’s time to buckle down and start stretching out, because we will be running a fall marathon….somewhere. Hopefully we figure it out soon, but we both need to do it to get our confidence back up after the Chicago debacle (more to come on that).

I look forward to sharing my training mishaps with everyone once again!