Monday, April 21, 2014

Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon Race Report

Race Week
It was a short week for me at work as I took Wednesday and Thursday off (Friday was a holiday).  We were traveling out to Louisville mid-afternoon on Wednesday.  After taking TKB to work in the morning, I got in a short bike ride despite the super windy day.

I honored my travel destination race nutrition plan used for Beach2Battleship 140.6.  This race wasn't an ironman, but I kept with the plan of boiling a pot of rotini and shredding a smoked chicken from the store.  I also bought some carrots and snow peas for... well, keeping the bad eating habits away. I would eat a couple servings as a snack each day leading up to race day.  I also packed liters of bottled water and gatorade to drink that week, too.

Nom nom nom
We drove from KC to Louisville in one day and arrived at our hotel around 11:30pm.

Thursday we found a delicious place to eat breakfast, Wild Eggs, and then we drove the course.  A few sections of the course were on one way streets or closed to cars, so I couldn't evaluate those, but I was more concerned about big elevation changes than anything else.  We finally got to about mile 11 where the entrance to Iroquois Park waited.  That was the hill I referenced in my Race Preview.  I was happy to see that it wasn't as bad as I had thought.  I noted that at the top of the hill was a stop sign, so I knew that as soon as I hit that, I could enjoy some downhill.

Entering Iroquois Park.. this is the race course.
A view from Iroquois Park from our hotel.  It's that mountain looking thing in the distance!
There was another hill near the end that was going to be deceivingly tough as it was at mile 23.

As it turns out, I was using a course map from the website which was actually last years.  They had adjusted the course this year so that hill at the end was shortened and not as bad as I had seen driving.

After the drive, we went back to the hotel and napped for a bit.  Packet pickup opened at 4pm, so we went there next.  Once I got in line, I noticed that the person in the front was wearing a very familiar blue track jacket.  Sure enough, it was from last year's Hospital Hill Run!  We chatted a little bit before heading our different ways.

TKB's parents arrived while we were at Packet Pickup.  We met up with them, then took off for dinner at Guaca Mole -- also delicious!

Friday morning I got up and did a quick shake out run.  I ran about a mile on the course.  Though our hotel was about 4 miles from the start, the course ran within a few blocks of it.

We elected for a riverboat sightseeing tour as our first touristy endeavor for the day.  This was perfect as it allowed me to sit for a couple hours.    Our next stop was the Louisville Slugger factory, where we were able to see bats being made for major league baseball players.  It was very cool (and a short walking tour)!

Found something taller than me.
After the tour, we went back to the hotel where Karen, a friend that we have gotten to know through Heather and Shane, was arriving to cheer me on and hang out for the weekend.  For dinner, we hit up Cafe Lou Lou for some traditional pre-race pasta partaking.  I had a linguine carbonara and a Bourbon Barrel Stout (you know, to help with the nerves).

Taking a cue from Vicki, my ironman partner-in-crime, and enjoying a beer the night before a race.

I bought 12 of these to drink back in KC.  So good.

I was starting to drift into my own thoughts during dinner.  I still didn't have my pacing figured out for the first few miles.  I knew I wanted to go out slow but not too slow.  How long would I run before I start to race?

I decide to stay between 7:20 and 7:30 for the first few miles and then 7:05 - 7:10 until I caught the 3:10 pace group.  I would stay with the 3:10 pace group through Iroquois Park (to pace me through the hills) and then the race to Boston would be on!

I hit the bed once we got back while Karen and TKB went up to Mike and Susan's room to play games.

I normally take a melatonin to help me sleep because my heart was pumping inside my throat!  I knew what was at stake the next day.  It's been a long time that I've had a goal like this on the line.  Sure, I was nervous the night before my first half ironman and my ironman.  This was still different.  I was shooting for a specific time, not to just finish.  Chicago Marathon was close but I knew I didn't have the training down to truly qualify.  The pressure wasn't there.  So as my heart was pumping, I was concerned it was chewing through all my carb loading!  But, alas, I had forgotten to bring the melatonin sleep aid with me!  Eventually the wave of sleep overtook me and I slept... for about an hour.  1:30am... then 4am... then 4:30am... then finally 5:45am

Race Day
Shower, dress, then out the door at 6:30am.  I had one banana as soon as I woke up then a second before leaving.  My concern was eating too soon and then feeling starved immediately before or during the race.  That is truly an uncomfortable feeling, not just for the stomach but for the psyche.  It makes you think you've hit "the wall" before you even get started.  So I left my bagel and PB for the 4 mile drive to the start line.  We (Karen, TKB, me) stopped at Starbucks for my ceremonial and traditional, if not superstitious, frothy milk caffeinated hot beverage.

We had left the hotel room an hour before the race start.  I knew getting to the start line wasn't going to be that big of a deal but I didn't know about parking nor what the port-a-potty situation was going to be like.  Supposedly around 18,000 participants were there between the full and half marathon (i.e., miniMarathon).

Naturally, we got caught at a train crossing.  No big deal.  Once we got on the interstate, I saw a huge line of cars near the exit we needed, so I took an earlier exit and followed other cars to the start.  We ended up pulling over into a business drive a few blocks from the start line where I got out.

Off to the races!!
After saying our parting words, I started walking with a few ladies talking about the race and the beautiful weather when I realized I didn't have my sunglasses!  Fortunately, TKB wasn't far behind and I motioned to my glasses and she had my sunglasses ready for me as they drove by.  I love my support crew!

Walking around the start area of beautiful downtown Louisville.  Note the helicopter in the air.
Within a couple blocks I found the port-a-potties and a short line.

I'm not going to get into it, but I felt like I needed a second port-a-potty stop almost immediately so I snuck into a second one to make sure I was in good shape.

I started walking up stream to get to corral "B".  I found the very front of corral "B"... or was it corral "C"? I skipped into the next corral anyway.  After a few moments I heard Karen and TKB yell my name! They managed to park and find me in the corral.  We chatted for a bit but soon it was time to get ready for the countdown.

Once we got started, I made sure to keep track of my gun time start.  It took me 45 seconds to cross the start line.

Miles 1 - 3:

Love this photo as I started the race.  Thanks TKB!
It was pretty packed and I did feel like it was taking some energy to get an open lane.  I eventually made it to the sidewalk and ran there for a while behind some others.  Doing this isn't smart because you sometimes have to dodge spectators (which there weren't many at this point in the race) and the sidewalk may not be in as good shape.  Either way, it worked to get me in an opening without killing too much energy.

Mile 1: 7:44 - Slower than I wanted but at least it wasn't faster!  It's a long race.  I'm going to get that time back.

Mile 2: 7:10 - There were some turns here and I was cutting them whenever I could.  Seconds may matter so I'm taking them whenever I can.  This was faster than I planned but it's the pace I wanted to run for the first half.  I just caught up the time I lost in mile 1.  Let's not speed too much faster.

Mile 3: 7:06 - Alright.  Let's settle into a pace.  A couple more turns, a couple more corners cut.

All systems were in check.  I'm enjoying this day.

Miles 4 - 6:
My mile splits were clicking off after the mile markers.  This could be due to my excellent route running, inaccurate Garmin tracking, or poor mile marking.  I should have setup manual lap marking on my watch but was concerned I would miss a mile marker.

Mile 4: 7:05
Mile 5: 7:02
Mile 6: 7:07

Still feeling great.  I took in a gel around mile 4 to 5.  Course support was great during these stretches as we were going through residential and a few blocks from the University of Louisville.

Mile 7 - 10:
This section included Churchill Downs.  If I find the opportunity to hop on a race horse, I just might do that!

Mile 7: 6:58 - A bit too fast.

Mile 8: 7:10 - Churchill Downs is in sight and so is the 3:10 pace group!  I'm hitting my plan!

Mile 9: 7:02 - Running through Churchill Downs was pretty cool.  Unfortunately I didn't take it in as much as I could.  The first "hills" were here as you enter a tunnel under the track.  Nothing major.

I caught up with the pace group and tucked myself in behind the leader.  Being in a group, I have a tendency to be a bit chatty.  There was a guy chatting with the pace group leader nearly the entire time and I held back joining the conversation.  It's all about conserving energy.  Yes, I held back high five-ing every spectator too.

Mile 10: 7:15 - Slower, as this was the pace for the 3:10 group.  I was fine with that.

Mile 11 - Mile 14:
This is the Iroquois Park section of the course.

Mile 11: 7:03 - We hadn't quite entered the park and I was still with the 3:10 group.  I think this was faster because the mile 10 was slower than the pace group leader had planned.

Mile 12: 7:24 - We've gone up the hill and I've only lost 14 seconds on my pace.  The pace group leader said he was planning to go even splits through the park.  Apparently not because at this point I was actually in front of the pack.

Mile 13: 7:08 - I was working to get back those 14 seconds on the downhill sections.  The park was very pretty, even at this early point in the spring.  The guy that was being chatty with the pace group leader earlier was with me at this point (not chatting, but running).  Our paces were pretty much in sync.  We had pulled ahead of the 3:10 pace group.

Mile 14: 7:10 - Still pushing along through the smaller hills of the park but not that bad.

Mile 15 - 17:
We've exited the park at this point and heading back towards the city!

Mile 15: 7:08 - I saw Mike and Susan as I exited the park.  It was awesome recognizing people on the course and very energizing!

Mile 16: 6:54 Pace - it was at this point in the race that my watch was clocking off the mile splits about .15 miles after the race mile markers, so I hit the lap button manually when I crossed mile 16, which was 6:20 into the mile.  I was running a 6:54 pace.  This level-set it with the race markers.

Mile 17: 7:04 - Running through some familiar streets as this was where I did my shake-out run on Friday.

I kept switching places with that other gentleman through this section.  It was good motivation when he was pulling ahead.

Mile 18 - 20:
It was about this time that the legs were starting to get cranky.  But at this point in Chicago my legs had already given out on me.  In Chicago my calves were screaming at me and then I got a bad cramp in my hamstring.  Comparatively, the fact that I was just starting to get sore in this section was great!  Granted, I would prefer it to have started about 6 miles later!

Mile 18: 7:03 - The marathon route met back up the half marathoners here, and one of my biggest concerns was settled - they had barricades in between the full and half.  Thanks to folks on twitter for helping figure this out in advance too!  It was awesome hearing encouragement from the half participants.

Mile 19: 7:02 - Pace is still swift and I'm still mentally in charge.

Mile 20: 7:08 - Wall?  What freaking wall?!

The screen I had on my watch only contained "in the moment" information.  Meaning, I didn't have Total Time or Total Mileage on the screen.  It was current lap time, current lap pace, current lap distance, and previous lap time.  There were times when I couldn't remember if I was running mile 19 or mile 20.  I didn't care.  It was all about how I was doing right now and, right now, I'm doing great!

I elected not to have heart rate on my main screen but I did peek a couple times and it was always in check.

Mile 21 - 23:
The marathon route departed from the half marathoners at this point, and it suddenly got very quiet.  The other gentlemen and I are still swapping positions.  We are starting to hit the final hills.

Mile 21: 7:07 - Still on pace with 5 miles to go!  It was at this point that I started doing calculations in my head.  It was aided by having a race clock at the mile marker.  It was around 2:30, which meant that if I stayed under 7:30's the rest of the way, Boston was mine!

Mile 22: 7:15 - Pace is slowing with the hill but I'm still on target!

Mile 23: 7:30 - Legs are angry... very angry.

My legs were starting to loosen up, but not in a good way.  I had to focus on my feet landing each step. My ankles were feeling loose and I became concerned I would land poorly and screw up my race.  The calves were starting to get sore, too, but the calf sleeves kept them from flying off.  I simply kept picking people off ahead of me to defer concentration away from my legs.

Miles 24 - 26:

Mile 24: 7:14 - Happy to see my pace pick back up, but it was due to a downhill.  I'm still on target.  I did have a concern because the mile marker for mile 24 was off by a block.  Had I manually marked the miles on my watch, I would have been extremely disappointed with Mile 24.

Mile 25: 7:34 - The mile markers got back on track as it clicked off as I passed the mile 25 marker sign.  Now I'm back in the heart of the city!!

Mile 26: 7:46 - I didn't see this split on my watch.  I didn't care.  I was almost there!!!

Making the second to last turn allowed me to see the building near where the finish line waited.  I was kicking up the pace.

Mile 26.2: I was booking again.  I felt like I was sprinting with ease and it felt great.  I made the final turn, and running the last 100 yards I could see the time clock and it was showing just over 3:08.  I knew I had this!!!

It was over and I had made it!  I checked my watch and it read 3:08:13!  Boston... here I come!

I'm going with running a great route, not that the course was short!
Time: 3:08:13 / 7:10 Pace
Age Group: 8 out of 174
Overall: 54 out of 2,029

After grabbing a couple bananas, PowerAde, and a few bottles of chocolate milk, I met up with TKB and Karen.  Then the onslaught of text messages, Facebook posts, twitter tweets, and phone calls...  it was an awesome feeling to have all of that support!

We walked around the post-race area to find my official time.  One way to get it was to get your medal engraved, which I had planned to do anyway.  Unfortunately, I wasn't the only one with that idea, and it took about 30+ minutes to do it.  I just kept walking around and stretching while waiting.  I was actually keeping my eye out for that gentleman that I was running with for most of the second half of the race to thank him for helping me push through.  I had lost him in the final hills as he fell off the pace. Once the engraving was done, it confirmed my time at 3:08:13!

Afterward, we did some post-race celebrating by heading out to the Buffalo Trace bourbon distillery!

Tiny cups, big taste

It was a perfect day for running.  The weather could not have been much better!  Race support was great.  Obviously I'm happy with my performance.  Could I have managed my race better and improved my time?  Probably, but I'm loving the 21 minute PR and a trip to Boston!

Louisville is a great town and this is a great course.  I'd highly recommend it to anyone looking for a destination race.

Thanks again to Karen, Mike, and Susan for coming out for the weekend!  Thanks to Coach Ken for training me up to this level!

Endless thanks to TKB for being the support person I need at my side at all times -- especially during the 26.2 miles.

These signs were all over, as you can imagine.

Found in the lobby of our hotel.  Maybe I'll be on the bike next year!
TKB giving me a hug post-race... but not my funk..

In the "Runner's Reunite" area.

Outside the Buffalo Trace Bourbon distillery.


  1. I'm still in awe. You did amazing. Was glad to be there for it! - KG

  2. Great job and a wonderful report, felt like I was there...

    1. Yeah, it takes about as long to read this as it does to run the marathon...

  3. Awesome recap and congrats on qualifying!! That's amazing!