Race: Fast Freddie Five Mile Foot Feast
Place: New Albany, Indiana
Date: November 28, 2012
Thanksgiving morning ushers in what I like to call “The Least Stressful Race I Run All Year.” Why? Because on Thanksgiving, our local “Turkey Trot” is held right across the street from my apartment. Which means, I don’t have to rush around in the morning trying to make sure I have everything in order and time to get there, stretch, etc. I don’t have to worry over parking or any of that. All I have to do…is get up…get dressed…stretch in the comfort of my own home, and then about 15 minutes before the start, meander down to the starting line.
I. LOVE. THIS. RACE.
BUT…this year I was doing something special at the Fast Freddie. I wasn’t running it for my own personal satisfaction or a PR or to not feel guilty about indulging at dinner. Nope. This year…I was running it for a group I joined called Brain Cancer Share Your Shirts, that my friend Joanne directed me to one day. Her brave daughter is one of my heroes…and at the age of 16, conquered brain cancer. Cailin is amazing and continues to show how truly awesome she is. For real. So, I contacted this group and they paired me with a little girl, ironically from Dothan, Alabama. Her name is Trinitie and she is 12 years old. Trinitie was diagnosed at the age of 11 with Stage 4 brain cancer known as Glioblastoma Multiforme.
She is a beautiful little girl and has become such an inspiration and one of my personal heroes. I wanted to make this race special for her.
You know what that means? SIGNS! Cathy and I made signs that morning to tote over to the fairgrounds and have some fun taking some pictures. With the signs made, I went and changed into my racing gear. It was a bitterly cold morning that day…with temperatures in the low 20s…but with the very strong 14 mph wind gusts, it felt like 16 according to The Weather Channel. I can believe it. It was really cold.
Once I was dressed and got my bib pinned on and used the provided twist tie to attach the timing chip to my shoe (which didn’t actually serve a function as the race goes off gun time, not chip time…), it was time to brave the wintery chill and head out to the start of the race.
Despite the cold morning, there were a lot of people hanging around outside. I was surprised. But, this race draws a lot of very fast, very talented, and very amazing people. Everyone who shows up fits into one of those categories. Trust me. This race is awesome and one of my favorites to do year-after-year…and not just because it’s so convenient. Anyway…after a few poses with the signs, I went on a mission with Cathy to find groups of people who would hold the sign that we made wishing Trinitie a Happy Thanksgiving. Everyone was happy to do so and we got a lot of great pictures. We were finishing that adventure up when everyone started to fill in Green Valley Road. The start of the race was close.
It seemed a majority of people were hanging back away from the pink tape that marked the start line. I moved up toward the front, but know from the past 2 years I have run this race that there are a lot of super-speedy people here. In fact, a lot of track teams turn out to run this race. And trust me…it is a challenging course. I think the Fast Freddie people set out to find a course that pretty much would have runners tackle every hill in New Albany.
Eventually, the space in front of me did fill in. And we were all tightly packed as people finished up their strides and warm-ups. Fred, himself, came out with the bullhorn to make a few announcements and said that he would say, Runners Set…and there would be a whistle. Except…all we got was the whistle. So, for a brief moment, no one moved. Then we heard Fred yell, “GO!” We were off…
Now, this course is no stranger to me. I run it a lot, especially in the summer when I do runs around my neighborhood. I ran it Wednesday morning with my friend Natalie…keeping an easy and leisurely pace though, so as not to burn out my legs the day before a race. Actually, it was really nice to be able to change up my morning route, throw in a bit more of a challenge, and do it with the lady I call my sole sister…because we hit it off so well and are so much alike. Anyway…I run this route often…normally not at race pace. And…I also know which sections slow me down. I was mentally preparing myself for it all…but telling myself to run hard for Trinitie.
Within the first half mile, runners are already plodding up the first of three major hills in the race. This one takes the crowd over the highway and often we get people honking as we race above them. This climb is no joke, but you get rewarded with a nice downhill on the other side. It all levels out and you round the corner and hit a couple of slight hills, but nothing too hard.
Mile 2 starts shortly after the turn, and this one does bring the ups and downs of New Albany. And train tracks. Just for that extra challenge. This stretch of road is nice though, and I do love running it. I enjoy a challenge and mentally trying to push myself a little harder. I usually save it for later in the course though…and you’ll understand why. Mile 2 was a breeze. As we were about to turn onto Grant Line Road, a guy began running next to me and said, “Hold this pace!” I was like…”Ummm…okay…” But…after making the turn and knowing we had another minor hill and then the turn into the community park…I was ready to run.
The last half mile leading to Mile 3 is a tough incline up inside the park. The first year I ran the race I had the worst side stitch coming up the hill. Last year…no such problem. This year, it slowed me down slightly, as it always does. I’m halfway through the race and my legs are burning, but I press on, and I push them…and I get up that hill and head past the clock at Mile 3. That’s good because heading toward Mile 4 takes you on the toughest portion of the route…Schell Lane.
You see, after you exit the park you are put onto what I think must be the road with the steepest uphills in New Albany. The downhills are slight, but these uphills are killer. This is one reason I both love and hate this route. Hills make me stronger, but I hate hills. Go figure. Anyway…this is the part of this run where I always choose to push myself. It’s the most challenging…so why not?
And push is what I did. Every uphill I battled up, pumping my legs and getting to the top. The one at the very end is the worst one, and even in training runs, I congratulate myself when I reach the top. I did the same thing on Thanksgiving morning. The best part is once you make the turn onto Daisy Lane, you have a nice downhill before it levels out. Whew. I love that downhill. It makes all the effort I pour into that mile worth it. Mile 4 is near the bottom of the hill, just after it levels off. With one mile to go, I know the route well. I often run the street in the morning and know where the hillier portions will find me. Luckily, these hills are nothing compared to what we already ran through previously.
I really just wanted to finish strong. My goal was to run for Trinitie…and maybe even beat last year’s time. I wasn’t sure how the time thing would work out because my muscles hate the cold weather and when it is as bitter cold out as it was on Thanksgiving…well…sometimes it just hurts for me to breathe. But I could see it ahead…after I ran past the cemetery, the turn towards the finish at the 4-H Fairgrounds. I was about a half mile out. So, I just thought of Trinitie and said I was going to finish strong.
And I did…crossing that finish line never felt so good. I know I can run that route faster than what I managed…but with the wind and the cold, I just wanted to finish that race and do a good job for a little girl in Dothan, Alabama. I managed that…and set a new PR for 5 miles for myself. Happy about that.
Afterwards, I went back to the apartment to make some hot apple cider. Then Cathy and I trekked back over to the fairgrounds to watch the winners get the awards. I love watching runners collect their prizes for being so amazing. We left after that as I was hosting Thanksgiving and needed to hop in the shower and finish up the rest of the meal (including making sushi!).
I will say this…the Fast Freddie Five Mile Foot Feast had the most people register in the 25 years it has been running. However, due to the cold, both finishing times and turn-out were lower than previous years. In fact, this year apparently tied for the coldest year the race has run. Go figure. All proceeds from the race to benefit the Type 1 Diabetes Education Program at Floyd Memorial Hospital.
It was a great way to start out Thanksgiving, for sure.
Official results of the Fast Freddie Five Mile Foot Feast are that I finished it in 36:54 based on gun time! Yes…my fastest 5 mile time to date. I was 113/935 overall; 22/448 women to cross the finish line; and I was 5th in my division. Of course, after reading some of the times my running friends turned out on their Thanksgiving races, I feel rather slow. But…like I said…my body hates cold weather so I can only do what I can do. I was on my feet for 4 hours the night before doing TONS of Thanksgiving prep as well, but…you know what? I had fun. Bonus…what I did was run a great race for a brave little girl named Trinitie. And on Tuesday, I am sending her a package with my race shirt, my race bib, a special gift from me, and a note. She is an inspiration, a fighter, and definitely one of my heroes.
It was a great day and a great way to give thanks!
Race: Marshall University Marathon
Place: Huntington, WV
Date: November 10, 2013
Yep…just like the movie. And as a self-proclaimed lover of Matthew McConaughey, who starred as head coach Jack Lengyel in the film about the 1970 plane crash that killed 37 football players on the Marshall University Thundering Herd football team, as well as 5 of the coaches, 2 athletic trainers, the athletic director, 25 boosters, and a crew of five. I loved this movie and watching how the university, the football program, and the community begins to rebuild and heal from the tragedy.
So, here I am…just a month from my first marathon (Chicago), and I find myself in the city of Huntington, West Virginia. Aside from Marshall University being located there, some of you may recall that Huntington got a lot of notoriety back in 2010 when Jamie Oliver rolled into town for the television program, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, in which he set out to reform the school lunch programs, help American society fight obesity, and change their eating habits in order to live healthier and longer lives. Why Huntington? Because in 2010, Huntington, West Virginia was recognized statistically as one of the unhealthiest cities in the country.
So, ultimately, I knew about Huntington, West Virginia. Because…well…I watch anything with Matthew McConaughey and I am a foodie and totally drank in everything that happened when Jamie Oliver rolled into Huntington, West Virginia to attempt to change the way people there lived.
I also was unaware that Marshall University hosted a marathon, half marathon, and 5K…until my roomie, Cathy, stumbled upon it.
So, I signed up.
And that’s why, after a very fast 3 mile shake-out run on Saturday morning, a shower, and some gluten-free pumpkin chocolate chip pancakes (homemade because…I’m chef-y like that), Cathy and I finished packing, loaded up the car, and made the almost 3 hour drive to Huntington, West Virginia.
We rolled into town around 1:15 p.m. and immediately set out to find the expo. We weren’t staying in Huntington, rather just across the bridge in Ohio. And check-in time at the hotel wasn’t until 3 p.m. We had some time to kill. The directions to the expo were quite vague. All we had was that it was located on the corner of 5th Avenue and 29th Street. Should be easy to find, right? I saw it…but Cathy said it wasn’t there and kept on driving. So we made a couple of loops before I told her to head back to the corner of 5th and 29th. She spotted it this time. So, we pulled in…parked…and headed to the very small expo. Oddly enough, the Website for this marathon said the venue for packet pickup was moved to a more spacious area…we were in a hallway…so I wonder how small it has been in the past few years…
Anyway…the longest line in there was for the half marathon, which seems to be the most popular of the races that they offer this weekend. I stepped in and was asked which race I was running. I said the marathon and they directed me to the table immediately to my left, that had virtually no line at all. None. Just a few people getting their bags with their swag inside. Oh…and their bib number. I gave my name and they grabbed my t-shirt and jacket…yes…jacket and passed that over to me with the little backpack. My number (#529) was given to me and I snagged a few safety pins. That was done. Having learned my lesson at previous races, I pulled out the t-shirt and noticed that the medium was definitely going to be too big for me. So…I went to find where to exchange it for a small. Unfortunately…there were no more women’s smalls. There was an extra small…so I tried it…and it’s a perfect fit. They did say the shirts were running big this year. No kidding. My jacket is a little big…but I like it that way. Room for layers. It’s an official Asics branded jacket with the marathon logo on the back. Oh…but the fun doesn’t stop there, friends…
Because Marshall University is known for its football team…the Thundering Herd…you also get the opportunity to purchase a Marshall University football. It was $30…but I had to have one. I mean…who else does this?!! I love something unique with a race. Even better…you could have your football tossed to you as you run into the finish line. That’s actually one of the draws of this race. About 100 yards from the finish, you have the choice to carry a football with you. Some you can keep…some you have to give back. I wanted mine. So…I was given a green ribbon to hook onto my bib that said “FOOTBALL” on it. GAME ON. I was way too excited for my own good. Over a football.
Oh…and it just so happened that Bart Yasso was at the expo as well. He was near the table with the footballs, and as no one was in his line I stepped over to talk to him. I told him that I had missed the chance to see him in Chicago, my first marathon, so I was excited to get to meet him now. He was very nice and we spoke a lot about races and upcoming events. He was so easy to talk to. I asked to get a picture and he graciously complied. SO much love for this guy. Makes me want to give those Yasso 800s a real try.
That was pretty much all there was to the expo…so Cathy and I left and headed downtown. I really wanted to see Huntington’s Kitchen (formerly Jamie’s Kitchen from the aforementioned Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution television series. It was closed, but we did find it and I got my foodie nerd on by taking a picture out front. Then, we headed across the street to the small little shopping center and went into a bookstore and just walked around. The wind was gusting hard at this point, so stepping into a shop was nice. I ended up purchasing Bart Yasso’s book, ironically. Go figure. It was still too soon to check into the hotel or get dinner, so we decided we’d hit up the local frozen yogurt place for some dessert. I mean…break the rules at times and get dessert first. It was really delicious…and they had so many gluten-free options. I was in heaven. After getting dessert, we headed to the hotel in Ohio and checked in…watched some Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on Food Network…then…around 4:30, left to go get my prerequisite gluten-free pizza from a place called Husson’s. It was recommended to me by my friend Keith…and I trust Keith (he is also a gluten-free runner). Cathy and I split the 10 inch gluten-free pizza, which we topped off with tomato and pineapple…and it was…okay. I’ve had really, really good gluten-free pizza…so this was just mediocre. The sauce, however, was killer. With that taken care of…it was time to get back to the hotel so I could foam roll and relax before getting to bed. I even laid out my race outfit and had everything ready to go for the early morning alarm. Then, I settled in to watch more Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives…because that’s how I do race weekend!
At 9 p.m., however, it was lights out. And I actually fell asleep in good time. However, around 2 a.m., I woke up from a dream where I was 20 minutes late for the race. No joke. Restlessness set in the rest of the night, because while I knew I had an alarm set for 4 a.m., I was now worried I’d not hear it or just not make it to that start line in time. Stress!
That alarm went off at 4 a.m., and I had a bit of trouble turning it off, but I managed without waking Cathy up. I think she’s immune to my alarm on my phone now. Anyway…I got out of bed, went into the bathroom and began to go through my race morning routine. I got dressed, did my hair, and then got out some water and the cereal I brought with me. This race it was Van’s Gluten-Free Cinnamon Heaven cereal. I ate it dry, as I always do on race morning. Cathy got up around 4:45 and she fixed herself up some food to eat and then went and got dressed. I got my water bottles loaded with regular water and one with electrolytes, then loaded up my GU packets to take at similar intervals as I did Chicago. I grabbed some wet wipes from our bathroom and tissues…just in case. Then, I laced up my Newtons for the first time I’ve worn them over 13 miles. I was ready. So was Cathy. So, she got her hotel key and I grabbed the bananas for pre-race fuel. We were out the door and down to the car to make the short drive over to Huntington.
We made fantastic time, pulled into the stadium and parked without a problem. It was chilly out that morning, so we sat in the car with the heat going until around 6:15 a.m. After that, I finally knew it was time to get out and get acclimated and ready to race. We headed toward the stadium and stopped to admire the really cool statue built into the facade. I had to get a picture with it. Then we stepped inside out of the cold. I made use of the flushing toilets and then came out to get some stretching done. It was still chilly inside…because stadiums aren’t full enclosed, but it was better than being completely out in the air. Around 6:30 a.m., I ate my banana, did a little more stretching…then stepped out to honestly get acclimated.
Runners for all the races were beginning to line the sidewalk on 3rd Avenue. I kept getting asked if this was where the start of the race was. I kept saying I had no clue…but this was where the pacers were, so we were in the right spot. Soon, they completely closed the road and runners took over the entire width of 3rd Avenue. I wasn’t lining up with pacers at all, so instead I met some new friends who were so much fun to talk with at the beginning. It really just kept nerves down. The announcer came on and gave a few short announcements. Bart Yasso came on the speaker to wish everyone luck. The national anthem was sung…although I couldn’t find a flag. And then…we were given a blessing for a safe race for all. Then…we were given a count down and a horn.
All the runners around me were asking where the start line was. Apparently the timers were off to the side near a flag, but everyone was looking for the strip on the ground…and there wasn’t one. I just started my Garmin and hoped for the best. Off I went…Marshall Marathon!
The first two miles of this race were really, really bottle-necked. I mean, runners were running tight, so there was really no getting around them. You just had to wait for a break and hope you could make it through. I did a little bobbing and weaving, but this did help me keep my speed in check coming out of the gate. So there is the positive. The course for the marathon was a loop that is run twice. So, even though this course was advertised as fast and flat (which…it is not flat! Remember…if a race says it has a flat course, you better believe there will be some hills!), there were some more challenging aspects. The roads were not completely closed throughout the course, for one thing, so we were running in one lane. The streets in Huntington are really, really, banked, and with the road partially open, I couldn’t switch sides like I did in Chicago. UGH! But, you just make it work as best you can. As I rounded into Mile 2, Cathy was standing on the corner, waving my sign, and screaming at me. It was awesome. Of course, then a little further in, the road changed from pavement to brick. Not just that…we tackled the first hill.
There wasn’t a lot of crowd support in this race, which definitely makes it more of a mental challenge. In Chicago, I forgot I was running at times. There was just so much going on and so much to drink in. At the Marshall University Marathon, while there were some clumps of people here and there, much of the race was pretty solitary. Just you…the other runners…and the road. It was a huge challenge.
As I rounded out of Mile 6, we entered onto the park area, which meant we went from pavement to this sort of worn dirt trail. There was loose gravel and it just really meant changing up the stride. It was around here that I had one of the worst side stitches ever. It was painful. So, I eased up on my pace, pressed on my side, drank down some water, and breathed deep. It last through around Mile 9, and I was just focusing on the path I was running. The side stitch did subside, just as I neared Mile 9. Which was perfect timing because who was standing at that mile marker? Bart Yasso!! He spotted me, pointed at me and said, “You’re looking good, girl!” Pardon the minor fangirl runner squee. We were finally dumped back onto the actual road soon after that, thank goodness!! I was already dreading that portion in the second loop. But, it was best to focus on the task at hand. The next few miles were enough to get my warmed up enough to ditch the gloves after we ran by the Ohio River. This was around Mile 12. I figured I wouldn’t need them anymore. Lesson…learned! But, I reached the split where the half marathoners were sent into the stadium to finish and the marathoners were sent through campus. I went the way fewer people were going. I was told at the entrance to follow the green arrows, so…I did. And eventually I came out of the campus grounds and onto the road. Mile 13…and who is standing there? Cathy. And she is screaming. And she has people standing with her who are screaming my name and cheering me on. She recruited people…that’s awesome! I hit the halfway point with a great time, I felt, at 1:43:43. Not too bad.
Fierce, strong, and crazy winds that stuck with those on the marathon from Mile 13 to Mile 19. A strong headwind that was 14 mph with gusts up to 21 mph. It was stupid insane. At points, I felt like I wasn’t even moving. I saw some runners come to a walk because they didn’t want to expend too much energy just battling the wind. I eased up. I drank some water. I just was determined to finish strong. The wind, however, was definitely adding a new level of difficulty to the course. And I was not happy about it. It was a cold, strong wind…that apparently, according to Cathy, was ripping down the banners inside the stadium. I saw some runners lose their bibs. It was stupid strong. I did have one more Cathy sighting at Mile 15 where she shouted and screamed and waved the sign…but after that…the crowd support was pretty much limited to the volunteers and maybe the people in the park. When you’re running 26.2 miles, that crowd becomes your lifeline. And I definitely missed having that noise and distraction this time around.
The second loop felt so much harder than the first one did. The wind was part of it, and I did have to push harder than I would have liked to get through. But, you just do what you can. Race day can be so unpredictable. I actually welcomed the trail this time because at least the wind was no longer at my head. It was coming at me from the side. It was a little reprieve. I ticked off those miles as well as I could, but I was really starting to feel the lack of oomph in my stride. What I needed was a crowd. Some cheering. Something. But…there was none to be found.
Instead, I put my head back into the game and focused on the task of finishing. Miles 22 through the finish were back on the streets and off the path…which made it a little easier to run. I did what I could…but knew the magic I felt in Chicago was not coming back for this race. I pressed on, feeling determined to reach that finish line. I’d go mile by mile…taking it one step at a time. I had no time goal for this one, being that it was so close to my last marathon…so that was not an issue for me. I just felt a little let down with myself. Like…I could have done so much better.
Finally, the stadium came into view and I knew I was nearing the end of the race. We were sent back through campus and then turned to the left this time to head toward the stadium. Almost there. I pushed as much as I could at this point. At least there was a crowd here. The steep hill down into the stadium made me pull up. I didn’t want to tear up my quads…and it was really steep. Once I hit the AstroTurf, however, I was ready to cross that finish. I rounded the corner and headed toward the guy passing out footballs. He tossed it to me. Somehow my hands functioned enough to hold onto it and I ran it all the way to the finish line. I wanted to spike it, but I had people in the way, so, I simply held onto it and “Bolted” as I said I would. Then I handed it to the guy collecting footballs and moved on.
Cathy met me at the end of the chute. I looked over at her and said the first thing that came to mind:
“That one hurt.”
And it did. My knee was twinging at me, but I made my way over to the big vat of ice that held water bottles. I grabbed two of them and went to move out of the way. I wanted to get my feet up. First things first…I put my name on the list for a massage. Then, it was over to the dirt path to settle in and put my feet up. I called my mom at this point, but she was busy doing inventory at her job so I kept it short and she promised she would call back later. After about 5 minutes, I sat up and drank down some water. Cathy had my phone and was checking the results.
Despite having one of the hardest races of my life…struggling with the wind and my own mind…I placed third in my age division. IN. A. MARATHON. I was elated. I was shocked. I was ready to get up and move around some more, because I knew that after the race and a quick trip back to the hotel, the car was my destiny, which meant I wouldn’t have the opportunity to stretch it out and keep moving like I did in Chicago. I moved around the field for a bit until it was time for my massage. I, thankfully, got the guy with the giant heating pad, which he put over my back. The massage felt awesome and I was so glad I got one. While that was going on, Cathy set out to find out about age division awards. She wasn’t successful, and returned just as my massage was finishing.
After that, we set out on a mission to find out about awards. It took awhile, but we finally spotted a guy carrying an award and talking to one of his buddies about it. Cathy asked where he got it and he directed us to the other side of the red tent on the field. I went over there and spoke to the gentleman behind the table. He only had the half marathon results so we had to wait. They were having printer problems trying to do the full marathon. About 20-30 minutes later, it was resolved and I received my age division award…a gorgeous blown glass vase done by a local company. It is really beautiful. I had to stick around to get the award because they weren’t mailing them this year. The staff of this race is all volunteers and it makes that task nearly impossible.
After I picked up the award, it was time to head back to the hotel. I made it up an incline, past the statue in the side of the building and to the car. I got inside and it was a quick zip over the river to Ohio and the waiting hotel. We asked for a late checkout time, but it was going to need to be later now since we had to wait on the age division award. I went up to the room to shower…Cathy made arrangements for us to check out at 1 p.m. Except the hotel key wasn’t working. So when she got up there, she had to go back down to the desk and get the key working again. Finally…I was in the room, heading for a nice, hot, relaxing shower.
I was dreading the car ride…but it had to happen. I was also craving grapes. So we stopped off at a travel center and I managed to find this huge cup of grapes. I had to have it…and some more water. Then, the car ride to Lexington. I was starving and while I had wanted to stop frequently to stretch out my legs…I wanted to get to my gluten-free pasta for lunch more. So…we drove through to Lexington, stopping at Bella Notte, my favorite place to eat in Lexington, where I can safely get gluten-free pasta. After that, we walked over to the nearby Half Price Books, where my mom called me back. I talked to her and shopped…and ended up buying a couple of things. Then, it was a hike back to the car, and our last leg into Louisville. We got into town, went to Whole Foods to finish up grocery shopping for the week, hit up the Comfy Cow for some ice cream as a reward for a great race, and then…HOME!
Despite the conditions with the wind (you can’t predict mother nature!), I did enjoy this race. The lack of crowd support does mean you are quite aware of every moment you are actually running in this race. So, if you love to have that crowd as a distraction…this is not the race to run. It was very well organized, however, and it was a lot of fun. The course, while not flat as advertised, wasn’t bad. Loops are a bit daunting though…because you know what’s coming the second time around. But that’s both good and bad. I fought hard for this one and am quite proud of what I accomplished in Huntington.
Official results of the Marshall University Marathon are that I finished in a time of 3:35:55…which I’ll take with a smile on my face. Considering I was down and out for that second loop, the fact that I finished in sub 3:40:00 is still a mystery to me on how I manged it. I do wonder, though, had conditions been different, had that wind not been so defeating, would I have bettered my Chicago time? I can’t dwell on that, however. Because this race wasn’t meant to be run for time. And as disappointed as I am with some of my mile splits, I fought for this one. I dug deep and I really found my strong. I was 84/614 runners overall. I was 10/235 women to cross the finish line. And I was 3/35 in my age division. Despite it all…I’m still smiling.
I’m also enjoying my rest days. I’ve earned them.
Running two marathons within a month of each other will tear you down, and now I am in the rebuilding phase. This marathon really got into my head. It was a mental challenge and a physical challenge. And when I am back out on the roads, I am going to keep in mind how much I fought on this one…and come back ready to get stronger and better. Part of me feels defeated by this one…like it bested me…but the other part of me reminds me that I finished and I finished strong. And while this wasn’t a “good” race as far as how I felt during the event, it was a good reminder that good days and bad days happen…you just roll with it. And if the results you get aren’t want you hoped for…adapt and overcome. It’s hard…but it sure beats the “WHAT IF…” questions your mind will throw at you. I hold my head high and stand proud. This took a lot out of me and showed me just what I was made of.
Huntington, West Virginia…thank you for giving me this opportunity. I will forever treasure the lessons I learned on the roads through your city.
Race: Big Hit Half Marathon
Place: Louisville, Kentucky
Date: October 26, 2013
Ah…the Big Hit Half Marathon (and Quarter Marathon). It’s come around again. This is the third year these two races have run and this is my third year running it. The only difference this year…I chose to do the Big Hit Half Marathon as opposed to the Big Hit Quarter Marathon that I ran the two years prior.
Because last year when I ran the Quarter Marathon, I placed first in my division. So, when you conquer one thing…you move to the next, yes? So…instead of 6.55 miles this year, I opted for the full 13.1 miles in the half. I was very excited to be changing it up this year and going for the full. While I absolutely love the Quarter Marathon…I was ready to see the course for the Half. So, with a Groupon that gave me half off registration, I signed up…treating this as a training run as I’m still in recovery from the Chicago Marathon.
And then…the weather reports came in.
Every day, the Facebook page for the Big Hit Half Marathon posted the temperature at race time…and it would get colder and colder each time. I was unamused. Because…I hate running in pants. But it does get to the point where it’s just stupid to wear shorts. And when it hits 30 degrees…feels like 29 degrees with the wind…it’s stupid to wear shorts. Although I had a big debate with myself about this…and on the morning of the race, opted to be smart and put on capris at least.
But I’m getting ahead of myself…as usual. This tale begins on Friday…at lunch time. That was when I headed over the river to get to Slugger Field to pick up my packet. There wasn’t much of an expo for this one. It was much smaller than the two years previous. In fact, while there was never a huge expo for the Big Hit…it actually had some vendors the two years prior. This year…there was a table with the awards…and there was also a table from our local Fleet Feet store. Other than that…the small space that the packet pick-up was held this year had the tables with the race numbers for bib and t-shirt pick up. The race bags also contained a few snacks. So, that was nice. But, I wasn’t used to the much downplayed for this race. The Louisville Sports Commission…yes…but not the Big Hit.
But…you can’t judge a race by its expo…or lack thereof.
Anyway…after work that night, I was committed to attending a fun little Halloween party at Louisville’s very own allergy-free bakery, Annie May’s Sweet Café. Friday happens to be gluten-free pizza night there…and the pizza at Annie May’s is the best when it comes to gluten-free. We all know, the night before the race is gluten-free pizza night for me. Keeping the flavors simple, Cathy and I split a gluten-free pizza with Daiya vegan cheese and tomatoes. Nothing spicy or heavy. And we each also got one of the gluten-free soft pretzels. If you are in Louisville in January when Annie May’s brings these back to the weekly rotation…GO AND GET ONE!! Carbed up…the next plan was to go to the pumpkin walk at Iroquois Park…but we were in costumes…and having fun with that, so instead we went to the mall and walked around. So much fun.
But…alas…there was a race the next morning…so we needed to get home so I could turn in and get some much needed rest before the race. I had laid out shorts…being optimistic about the weather. However, when I woke up the following morning and went to do a temperature check…I knew shorts were not happening. Nope. So…out came the capris.
Did I mention that I hate wearing pants? I was totally not feeling like running that morning. But…when you pay good money for a race, unless there are extenuating circumstances…you get your ass to that race. Even if this was being treated as an easy run…since recovery is important…no all-out racing until I recover from Chicago completely…I really, really wasn’t feeling it…at all. Dressed, I ate my cereal and got my change of clothing and whatever else I might need together. Cathy eventually got out of bed and downed some breakfast as well.
After some manic morning stuff, as usual, I got pinned up and let it be known to Cathy that I just wasn’t having a good morning. You know how I mention how amazing I felt at Chicago for the marathon. Yeah…this was the complete opposite. Cold weather and I are arch nemesis’…and today…the cold weather was winning. Especially since the wind was going to pick up and get stronger as the day went on. That being said, we grabbed the race bag, the sign, some snacks, and I filled my fuel belt (one bottle with water, one with Gatorade), snatched up the pre-race banana…and we were out the door, making the drive to Slugger Field. That ride was one of the easiest we had going to a race in Louisville. Honestly. At least there was that. We parked in the lot at Slugger Field and went to go inside, only to have signs directing us to the very small area where packet pickup occurred the day before. This mean…we had to walk around the building, still in the cold, and duck inside. It wasn’t too crowded…but we got away from those doors and ducked into this middle section. I immediately went to use one of the flushing toilets in the stadium…and to my surprise…there was no line. Business taken care of, it was back to shivering and playing the waiting game. It was cold…so when I finally decided I needed to be stretching…it was my half-assed “I’m too cold to stretch” kind of stretching. Good times.
Yep. I’m a wimp.
One of my BlueMile peeps, Kathryn, spotted Cathy and I and we stood around talking. She was in search of Harry, one of the best people in the world to run with, as she was hoping to run with him during the half marathon. We hadn’t seen him, but he wandered through shortly thereafter. Then Terry, another one of my running peeps, stopped by to talk. He had just been diagnosed with a torn meniscus in his knee, but it was his birthday…and he had a cortisone shot, so he was prepped to give the half marathon a go. He was also in search of Harry, so when he wandered back through…and went to follow him. Cathy and Tarry managed to follow him through the crowd of gathering runners. Somehow, Kathryn and I lost them. How we lose a girl wearing a blanket is beyond me. But it happened. And it took us a bit of time to find them again. Soon after we did though, the running group peeps joined up. Tammy, Laura, Mike…it was awesome.
Although we were all quite warm standing inside the stadium…the start was about 10 minutes away. We knew it was time to head outside and down to the start line. So, together we all braved the cold morning air, left the comfort of the inner sanctum of Slugger Field, and stepped out into the wintery air of downtown Louisville. It wasn’t a long walk to the start line…but it sure was cold. Cathy and I sort of led the way for the group, but we paused at the start line to take a group shot of those who managed to stick with us. I finally unzipped my hoodie…so the race bib was visible. I think that was out of habit, LOL! Damn you MarathonPhoto!!
And then…we were off to spread out and get to about where we needed to be for the start. Little purple balloons hovered over the sea of runners doing both the half marathon and the quarter marathon. I lined up just slightly back from the 1:45 pace balloon. When I ran Disneyland as a training run, I came in just after 1:42…so I knew this would be a good spot for me to keep me at my training pace.
Some announcements were being made…and I heard Laura and Mike behind me. Laura spotted Natalie, who we were missing at the start. She hadn’t been feeling well, but she was here. So, I went over to give her a good luck hug. Also found Michael and Patrick with her too. Okay…everyone was present and accounted for. That was good. I sneaked back to where I was for the start, finding Dennis from my Saturday running group…and when the announcements none of us could actually hear were done…we were off.
The wave of runners at the beginning of most races in Louisville is chaos. While pace groups dotted the start of this race…not everyone really adheres to where they need to be. I was just doing this for training…so I didn’t care. I just bobbed and weaved through the sea of people as best I could as we traveled down River Road. We were sent that way for about half a mile then we were turned around at a traffic cone and sent back the way we came, going by the start line, and clocking in for the first mile. This year’s course was changed slightly due to the construction going on for the new bridge. Hence…the wonkiness of the start. I was feeling good, but I knew I went out fast and was just trying to get ahead of some of the people I was dodging. So, I eased up…wanting to really abide by my training. I tucked into a nice spot, about 20 feet behind Tammy and two of her friends. I remained there up until about Mile 3…when I pushed past. Tammy was running the Quarter Marathon, so she was halfway there. I still had 10 miles to go. As I passed, she said, “Go Karen! Get it!” I love her!
The thing about the Big Hit Half Marathon and Quarter Marathon is that there isn’t a lot of crowd support happening. Nope. It was very desolate throughout much of the race. Those who volunteered at the aid stations were fantastic…there were even little children who came up with cheers for the runners as they ran by. That was so good. But for much of the time on the road…no crowds. Maybe a pedestrian who was happening by would stop and clap and cheer…but that was it. It made this half marathon more of a mental game than anything. I’m used to at least having some crowd support throughout most races…so this was a bit more like a Disney race…just…with even less support than you find during Disney runs. Because at least when you are in the parks you have a crowd. We were on the roads…and there wasn’t much going on. At Mile 5, the courses split. The Quarter Marathoners went to the left, heading into their last bit of their race, ending at home plate in Slugger Field. Half Marathon runners went to the right, taking Third Street all the way down to Central Avenue. We turned around again, with a quick switchback on Central Avenue before hitting Mile 8.
As I was heading back up Third Street, Harry spotted me as he was running the other way. So did Kathryn soon after that. And after her…Terry. All of them shouted my name and we waved and cheered for each other. I love my running peeps. I was feeling good as I headed into Mile 9 and 10, so I picked it up a little…hitting a brilliant Mile 11. I was two miles out. Still feeling good. The sun was out…and despite the very strong headwind now, I was having a good run and a good time. I was actually starting to feel like I was too warm for my liking. This is what happened at Chicago too. I really need to figure out my running comfort zone when it comes to temperatures. Regardless…the last mile was in reach, and as I turned onto Witherspoon, I could see Slugger Field and even hear the announcer in the distance. LOVED that.
This has always been my favorite part of the Big Hit race. As you come onto Witherspoon, you turn and run into the back entrance of Slugger Field. This puts you on the very back out of the outfield, near the wall. You can see the Finish Line at home plate and you just pick it up, and you run like you just hit a grand slam home run. You round the corner onto the third base line, and you hit the white cover that is laid out. You’re almost to the finish. And for me, I was looking at that clock over the finish line and pushing and pushing and pushing. I touched home plate…and was done.
I paused my Garmin and received a temporary finisher’s medal. Yes…temporary. As I slipped it over my head, I heard, “Karen…let me get a picture!” I looked at it was the MarathonPhoto photographer I got to know really well during the Louisville Triple Crown of Running this past winter. So that was awesome! I posed and then moved on to get the timing chip cut off my shoes. Cathy was waving my sign at me and I pointed at her and screamed, “PR!!” It wasn’t planned, but man…I felt so good. After getting the timing chip removed, I grabbed some of the offered snacks. I got a granola bar for Cathy, and grabbed a half banana and an slice of orange for myself. Along with some water. Then, I made my way up the steps, feeling my knee once again aching, but ignoring that. I stopped off at the results tent and they printed up my real-time results…and without even looking at them, I went to find where Cathy was camped.
She and Natalie (who ran the Quarter Marathon) were standing there and ready to give me hugs. I handed the results off to Cathy while I chatted up Natalie about how her race went. She did amazing. Even came in first in her age division. In fact, a lot of my group placed in their divisions for each race. I didn’t…but I wasn’t aiming to. All I knew was somehow I managed to clock a new fastest half marathon time. I didn’t know what it was officially, but it beet Lake Minnetonka…but at least a full minute. So, after I managed to eat my banana and orange, I asked Cathy for the results and we finally took a look at them.
My official results for the Big Hit Half Marathon are that I finished this 13.1 miles in 1:39:00. Holy cow!! And yes…that is my exact time. LOL!! A new PR!! I was so very proud because I wasn’t even aiming for a new PR. I was just running a comfortable pace and enjoying my run. Love when magic happens. I was 57/799 finishers overall. I was 10/440 females to cross the finish line and touch that home plate. And…I was 4/92 in my age division. I couldn’t have been happier with those results.
As much as I wanted to hang out and see my peeps get their awards for their division placements…I was cold and hungry. We walked Natalie to her car, as we had wrapped her up in the warm Sherpa blanket. And then…after congratulating her again, we headed to our car to get over to Annie May’s Sweet Café for some post-race food.
I always have a good time running in the Big Hit races. I was so happy to step up and move to the Half Marathon this year. I knew I could have rocked that Quarter…but since I needed 12 miles anyway…paced…this was the perfect opportunity to test it out. I stayed at my race pace the entire time. And even had negative splits. Can’t argue with those results.
Oh, and as for the finisher’s medals…it seems that they didn’t ship in time, so they hadn’t received them yet. As a consolation, the race provided temporary ones that we get to keep and will mail the official ones to us this week. I thought it was great of them to have medals to supplment for the runners. They didn’t have to do that, but they did. And that’s part of what makes this race so amazing.
Big Hit Half Marathon…I do intend to run you again next year. Thanks for always being awesome.