Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon

A few months ago, my friend Liz (the same girl who I ran my first race ever with) told me that she and her husband had signed up to run their first marathon in June. She followed that up with saying that she was looking to do a half marathon sometime around March/April, and would I be interested. Silly question, of course! Except that this friend lives in DC and I’m on the complete opposite side of the country. So we started looking into some options that would be convenient for both of us….and we found one! The Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon in Kentucky. Not only did it look like a great race, it would be a new state for me and my friend had someone we could visit and stay with.  Sounded perfect! So we signed up.

I ended up getting to Lexington Friday morning and had all day to explore before Liz and her husband arrived later that evening. After stopping by the expo to pick up our packets (and the commemorative bottle of bourbon that they had offered for sale!) I drove around the countryside, stopping at a few of the bourbon distilleries since I was in the neighborhood. I didn’t bother taking the tour since I had already done that during the great RV Bourbon tour of 2009 with friends (an awesome time!)  I headed back to the hotel to take a nap before Liz and Bill were to arrive. Unfortunately I got a message from them that their flight was late! Their direct flight from DC was so delayed that at the end they could have driven there faster! But they eventually made it, at some point after 10:30 I think. So we went down to the hotel bar, grabbed some food and drinks and caught up.

Fortunately the race didn’t start until 9am, so we got to sleep in a bit.  The race director had warned everyone to leave a bit earlier to avoid back-ups due to the construction on the main highway leading to the race. We left about 45 minutes in advance thinking that should give us plenty of time to drive the 5 or so miles there, and stop for breakfast. The breakfast option were pretty limited. We ended up stopping at the most random grocery store ever. We were looking for something simple, like a granola bar…but none were to be found. We finally settled with a bunch of muffins and some bananas.  Then we continued our way. Shortly after leaving the grocery store, we came to a standstill. Traffic was backed up so far! Fortunately we could tell that most of the people in the cars were runners, so there was the hope that the race would be delayed a little bit so that everyone could get there in time. We actually ended up getting there with a few minutes to spare – but then had to stand around for about 10 minutes while they waited for others. It was a bit chilly but at least the sun was out and it wasn’t raining.

Finally the race started! We were off. It was a gorgeous day and a gorgeous course. Within the first few miles we saw a couple dressed up, one as a horse and the other as a jockey. Very appropriate given where the race was being held (it started and ended right at Keeneland, where the horse races are held!)  They were in good spirits, although you could tell they were starting to warm up a bit now that they were running and the sun was coming out.

The course was full of rolling hills, something that neither Liz nor I had realized since we didn’t really even consider looking at the elevation map (mental note – be sure to do that for all future races).  The hills definitely made it challenging but we seemed to stay with a group who was perfectly fine with taking it easy (walking) up most of the hills and running the rest of the way. Everyone was in good spirits and super friendly.  I was wearing my Fueled by Fine Wine race shirt and got a lot of comments on it.

There were tons of horses all along the course. Some of them seemed to be running along with us. Others seemed to be watching us wondering what the heck was going on!

At one point as we were running there was a little jack Russell just sitting in the middle of the course with the cutest look on his face. Then he bravely started running against the crowd! Kind of have to wonder where he was going and who he was looking for.

After what seemed like a million and two hills, we finally made it to the finish line. The friend, Jenny, that we would be staying with that night was at the finish line with her son. So great to have fans in the crowd! We got our medals (pretty cute!) and some goodies (chocolate milk, bananas, M&Ms) and made our way to see Jenny and head back to the crowd to see Bill cross the finish line. Poor guy this was the farthest he’d ever run in his life…..and probably the hilliest!  But he did great.Image

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We all sat down and recovered for a bit, took one look at the long beer line and decided to call it a day!  Overall a great race, although a bit hilly.

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Shamrock Run 15k – 2013

The Shamrock Run in Portland seems like the biggest race in town.  Or at least it sure felt that way on Sunday!  Talk about masses of people.  I ran it last year for the first time and maybe it was because everything was still just so new or maybe because of the weather not as many people showed up, but it didn’t seem nearly as bad.

I woke up feeling a bit sluggish.  I had slept in a little later than planned, but figured the few extra minutes of sleep would be worth it! Unfortunately at one point I looked at the clock and realized I’d better get out the door, so I rushed out and headed downtown.  Unfortunately in my rush I somehow ran out of the house without my watch!  I was already just about to downtown when I realized it and was having a serious debate with myself whether I’d have enough time to go back home and get it.  Realistically I knew I didn’t.  So I’d have to just run it based on how I felt.  Luckily it wasn’t a big race for me and I didn’t have any major goals I was aiming for (I mean a PR is always nice, but I hadn’t been aiming for it)  Also since we had run an “easy” 9.5 miles the day before, I wasn’t expecting anything spectacular.

So I dropped my stuff off and started making my way towards the craziness. I ran into one friend (amazing considering how many people were around!) and we chatted as we headed towards the start.  He is quite a bit speedier than I am, so we parted ways for the start.  Getting to the start was chaos.  There was no way to actually get into the starting lane! It was already jam packed with people and they had the barriers up. Even if I was brave (or coordinated) enough to jump over one of them, there was just no room! So I just waited patiently with a ton of other people as the wave of runners slowed moved forward and spots opened up.  This made for a bit of a frustrating start – dodging runners and walkers.  Not my favorite thing to do.  Especially in such a crowded race. But once we got off of Naito Pkwy I felt like it had thinned out a bit and was able to get a pretty steady pace going.

It was great seeing so much green and festive outfits.  There was one girl running in a full shamrock costume. I have to wonder how that held up for the entire race – especially on the hills!

Right at the bottom of Terwilliger, I caught up with some of the girls from my run club. It was perfect timing. My legs were starting to get a bit tired and my motivation was fading.  Those ladies were just what I needed to make it up that hill!  We ended up staying together for the rest of the race. Running with friends always makes races more fun (in my opinion!)

After finishing we made our way to get our medals (which was much smaller than last years….) and to get our “free” beer. We found some other folks from the run club and tried to stay warm as we were hanging around. But for me, I was in my skirt and compression socks and was starting to freeze! So as much fun as the after party was I just couldn’t take it anymore. I went back to my office to change and then made my way to join the other Saturday run folks for brunch.

The Shamrock Run was a fun time, but I wonder if I’m going to bother with it next year.   It’s just such a crowded mess. Maybe I’ll just volunteer next year instead….

 

Little Rock Marathon Race Recap

This weekend, my friend and I headed to Little Rock to run the long awaited (we started planning this back in September!) marathon.  The number one question I got when I told people where I was going was “Little Rock? WHY?”  But the answer was simple: the medal. It’s HUGE!  But we’ll get to that later….

The expo was fairly small compared to others I’ve been to, but had enough to be worthwhile. The part that I was most impressed with was the wide selection of race schwag that was available to buy.  Seriously, you could get anything! From tank tops, dresses, key chains, shorts, button up shirts, cowbells! They even had BATH ROBES!  I ended up getting just a simple magenta long sleeve shirt with the logo on the bottom (which funny enough, when I met up with my friend later, turns out she had bought the same exact one! We’ve got such great taste J)   There was also a cute tank top that I was considering, but since I wasn’t so sure how the race would turn out, I decided against it.

The shirt that we got with registration is AWFUL. Plain awful. This is one shirt that will probably end up being a junk shirt that I wear while painting, gardening or tear up to use as a dust rag.  It was apparently unisex, which = not flattering for women at all! The color and print were a bit off as well. Such a shame too, given how cute the rest of their marketing stuff was.

After the expo, my friend and I met up with another friend (who I know from way back in DC and is now living in Texas).  We headed out for some pizza and beer (not the greatest pre-race fuel, but it did the trick). I think the beer actually helped me a lot. I was having serious stomach issues all day. I think I broke a major rule in marathon preparation – Avoid sushi the week before the race!!! Yes, my smart-self went to a conveyer belt sushi restaurant for lunch on Friday. Brilliant, I know.

I didn’t sleep the greatest, but woke up the next morning feeling pretty well rested.  My stomach wasn’t 100%, but was much better than the day before.  Unfortunately I had forgotten to pack any pre-race snacks, so I just had one of my Gus before we headed down to the start.  Our hotel was just blocks away from the starting line which was nice, since it was quite chilly! We dropped our bags off at the gear check and tried to find our way to the corral entrance.  This part was a bit confusing. They had the entrance blocked off so tons of people were trying to jump over the barricade (this always makes me so nervous for people to do right before starting! I guess that’s just because I’m a bit clumsy myself).  Once we finally made our way in, we waited about 10 minutes before actually crossing the start line. But then we were off!

All 3 races (the full, half and the 10k) started at the same time. This was a bit annoying.  Particularly when you’ve got 26.2 miles ahead of you and you have to spend the first half mile dodging people walking in the middle of the lane, TEXTING!!! This happened to us back in Miami at the ING Half and happened here again. I don’t understand why anyone would be texting right after starting a race.  Were they updating their facebook status? If so, couldn’t it wait a few minutes? Or if not, please be considerate and move to the side of the lane.   Ok, that’s enough of my rant.

The first few miles felt good. At some point we were running along with these young guys wearing sweatpants! They were clearly enjoying themselves.   And then later on in the race we came across Marathon Man. This guy was wearing a full on superman costume (tights and cape and all).  He was quite a riot to run with for a bit. He’s also a bit crazy. He’s on a mission to beat the Guinness World Record for number of marathons run in one year. As of the race in Little Rock he had already run 23 races!!! And it was only the beginning of March. Insane, but admirable.  We eventually lost him and kept on.  Around miles 14-16 (I think!) we hit a pretty serious hill. It felt like it was going on forever! Luckily there was a ton of crowd support (those people in Little Rock sure know how to support the runners).

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Feeling pretty good as we ran past the State Capital.

Around mile 20, my friend’s ankle started acting up. I was surprisingly still feeling pretty good and was being tempted by the possibility of a PR, so I kept going.  The last 6 miles were actually pretty boring. It was the last part of an out and back, so at least you could see the other runners passing by (which always keeps me entertained and motivated seeing so many people doing such a great thing!)

So finally came Mile 26.  The last push.  I felt a great burst of energy and pushed across the finish line with such a big smile on my face.  After so much doubt in myself and worry, I finished the race feeling great, and with a new PR! My official finish time was 4:23:47 (about 9 minutes faster than my first marathon in October).

After finishing I went to get the whole reason why we had gone to Little Rock in the first place….the medal. Seriously, it’s HUGE! And heavy. It was hard to wear.

I got a few drinks of water and then headed back to the finish line to watch my friend finish. She also finished with a great big smile on her face! We had done it!!!

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We finished!!! Check out that bling 🙂

Thinking back on the days leading up to the race, I’ve realized several things. First, I need to have more confidence in my ability as a runner. I was so worried about the lack of training that I had done in preparation for this race – my longest training run was only 14 miles back in January and my mileage had dwindled from being in Nigeria for work and then the jet lag afterwards.  But I still managed to finish and finish well, and most important, finish without injuries!

Looking forward to the next few (ok MANY) races, my goal is to focus on believing in myself and what I can achieve. I’m excited about the possibilities of what I will be able to achieve if I can stay on track with training and finally get serious about my nutrition.

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Having some fun at the photo booth at the post-race party!