Friday, May 6, 2016

Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon

Some time ago I got the bright idea of running two marathons in one weekend. Kentucky Derby and Flying Pig seemed like the perfect set up since the races were only about 80 miles apart. I soon signed up and all was well until race weekend approached. I was never able to properly train for the double, so that had me a little worried heading in.

I drove down to Louisville on Friday afternoon. It was largely uneventful except when it came time for lunch and the realization there is almost no where to eat on the drive between Chicago and Lafayette. We finally got to Louisville which featured nearly as much road construction as Chicago and headed to the convention center for the expo. I picked up my stuff which included a hat that I wasn't expected then headed out. The only route out of the expo snaked you through all the exhibits and had narrow corridors full of people gawking over stuff. Not fun. Next was over to a friend's place that we crashed at and dinner and finally bed.

The original forecast was for a wet and stormy morning. I checked the weather once again when I woke up and saw that the rain was going to hold off until later in the morning. I brought my hat in preparation, but this was much preferred to having the race potentially canceled. After parking somewhere in the vicinity of downtown Louisville we made our way to the start line. I soon found Amanda and line up in the corrals with her and Julie. The race started and sent us down the main drag past bourbon places and the Louisville Slugger museum.

It wasn't long before I left Amanda behind as she was making sure to take things slow to survive the double as well. I ran past some girls where one was explaining to the other what the different bib colors meant and that some of the people were running a marathon. I announced to them I was running two. They asked if my 2nd one was Flying Pig and I said yes. They were excited since they were from Cincinnati and love Flying Pig. They were shooting to get the girl a sub 2 hour half so I ran for them awhile to try and keep them on pace. I tried coaching the girl a bit as she was running far to tense and it showed. The miles ticked off and soon we were doing a quick lap around Churchill Downs. A bit after this the course split so I said good luck and good bye to the girls and was on my way.

There were far fewer marathoners than half runners. It didn't take long to spot some Maniacs though. I found a couple who were also trying to be 50 Staters. There was a sprinkle that started at mile 8 that was now turning into heavier rain. It was refreshing and I picked up the pace a little. At mile 11.5 we entered Iroquois Park which featured a lot of ups and downs, especially compared to Chicago. I swallowed my pride and walked a bit of the uphill portions knowing full well that even though I wasn't tired, I wasn't even 1/4 of the way through my weekend mileage yet. One of the Maniacs, Steady Eddie, saw what I was doing and joined me to conserve some energy as well. He told me about another group he's in that I should join - 50sub4.  You need 10 states at sub 4 hours to get in and the goal is to his sub 4 hours in every one, which only 84 people have completed to date. We were still on sub4 pace for KDF so that would give me my 10th state if I kept it up.

As we finally hit some downhills and left the park I also left Steady Eddie to greet his wife. Back on the streets I picked up the pace a bit. The trip through the park meant some splits closer to 10 minutes with the walking. While still on sub 4 pace, I wanted a little more cushion. Once we reached mile 18 the half and full course merged once more, but had dividers splitting the 2. The marathon side was a bit narrow and I soon found myself weaving around a lot of the marathoners who had faded. I was still running strong and enjoying myself in the rain. I cleared 20 miles in 2:56 and knew I could practically coast to the finish line under 4 hours. I finally realized how dumb I was being and slowed things down at mile 22.

I nearly made it through the entire race without using the facilities, but decided to stop during the 23rd mile because I had time and there was no need to run with discomfort for the next few miles. When I slowed down I switched to monitoring my heart rate. Once I hit the threshold from moderate effort over to hard effort I would walk myself down to and easy level heart rate and then start jogging again. The system worked out pretty well even if I did have a 10 minute and 10:30 mile doing it. I soon found myself on the home stretch and with a large group of people yelling my name. It was the girls from earlier and their friends with them out there cheering me on. That gave me a little pick up for the home stretch as I crossed the line in 3:55:59.

Don't think I've ever looked this strong at the finish (in yellow)

I soon got my medal, water, Mylar blanket, and a chocolate milk. The finish area was under an overpass so it stayed mostly dry. Unfortunately the area was sandy which was a mess to walk through. My friends found me and after a bit we decide to grab lunch at a local bbq/microbrewery. By this point the rain was a complete downpour. Lunch was good, but I wasn't very hungry. My tummy was a little out of whack still from the running. One of the girls from earlier actually came in and she ran over and hugged me. She PR'd and was happy about that but missed her sub 2 half by 33 seconds.

After lunch it was time to put on some dry clothes and head to Cincinnati for the next part of this epic journey.

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