Saturday, April 5, 2014

Run the Bluegrass Review Part 2

I suppose I ought to finish my race review. It's only been a week. Ha. So here we go.

Saturday morning came sooner than I would have liked, but since I had my race gear all laid out, I was ready pretty quickly. The weather forecast was questionable so I was struggling with long sleeves vs. short sleeves and shorts vs. capris. I ended up going with short sleeves and a shorts simply because I knew it was going to rain and I didn't want anything to weigh me down.

The race begins and ends at Keeneland Racecourse which is about 15 minutes away from my house. So I left at 7:40, since the Pace Team was planning on meeting for a picture at 8:15 and then head to the start at 8:30. I figured I'd be there in plenty of time, even though only one of the entrance gates was open. Well, I was wrong! I sat in a long line of traffic outside Keeneland from 7:55 to 8:40! The whole time I was so anxious. I hate being late! Plus, I missed the group picture and was late to the starting line.

Once I got set up and met with the other 2:45 pacer, E, I was ready to go. Waiting at the start it was so windy. I immediately began to regret my short sleeve choice, but it was too late to make any changes so I had to go with it. We were in Wave 6, so after the first 5 Waves started, it was finally our turn. I was just thankful to get moving so we could warm up! We planned to alternate carrying our 2:45 sign which worked out really well. Like I said it was really windy and it was tough to hang on to the sign for too long. As we were pacing for a 2:45:00 finish, our average pace was to be 12:35 minutes per mile. The second half of the course is much more challenging than the first, so we planned to run 12:00/mile for the first 5 miles so we could walk up some of the hills through miles 9-11.

We followed our plan just about perfectly and got to the 5 mile mark averaging a 12:00/mile. At mile 6, silly me stopped to use a porta potty, while E continued on. I told her I'd catch up, but I soon realized that was not the best idea. I ended up being 2 minutes or so behind her. This is the part where the course begins its rolling hills. Trying to catch someone while running hills is not the easiest thing in the world, but I had to do it somehow. It took me nearly 2 miles to find her and there was a moment when I just wanted to give up while running up a steep hill. I was afraid that by running hard this early in the race, I'd have nothing left at the end, but I kept going anyway. I ran into a friend and asked if she'd seen my Pacer. I found out that she was close by so I kept moving forward. I had to run hard up the hills and run even harder on the downhills, but I finally caught her. I was so relieved! I found her just in time to get to the toughest part of the course.

Fortunately we'd planned on walking up the toughest hills and we'd banked a few minutes so I was able to really catch my breath. The last few miles felt so easy and it was a nice way to finish the race. We were in no hurry and had an "easy" last couple of miles where we averaged 13:00/mile. We got to the finish line in 2:45:47. Only 47 seconds off! I had been so nervous, but everything went so well. 

I was thankful for having a pacing partner, since it was nice to have someone keep me on track and also have someone to chat with.

Crossing the finish! All smiles!

Close up of the medal! Beautiful! The horse is Zenyatta. Her career record is 20-1. The race t-shirt and medal's ribbon colors are based off of her jockey's silks.

Everything went well except for the fact that mother nature did not cooperate. This was easily the worst conditions I have ever raced in. The first couple miles there was no rain, just wind. It started raining more around miles 4-5 and then continued through the rest of the day. The wind was bitter cold at 12mph and it was raining sideways some of the time. The temperature at the start of the race was 50 degrees, by the time we finished it was 40 degrees with a "feels like" temp of 36!  Lots of people were running in ponchos and trash bags, but since we had special Pace Team shirts, we couldn't have those covered up. We got soaked! By the time we finished, I was freezing! My wrists hurt a lot and my fingers didn't work; they were like claws. I had to use my teeth to open my chocolate milk and banana. The post race party was moved indoors, but it was still freezing. I would have just left, but I felt compelled to stay for the awards and to see if the race director needed anything from the Pace Leaders. I wandered around a little while trying  to get my hands working again. I found the free massage tables and ended up getting one, hoping that this would loosen me up a little bit. Once the awards were over I couldn't wait to get out of there and get into a warm shower and dry clothes. I got to my car, put on dry clothes, and blasted the heater. I sat in the driver's seat and I just broke down and cried; partly because I was so cold for so long and partly because I was so relieved that it was over. All the questioning of my ability, all the doubts I had, "was I ready, had I trained enough?" they were all over. I had done it. I made it to the finish line.

The race was mentally and physically challenging, but the rewards were sweet! Each Pace Team Leader received an authentic bourbon barrel top that was refinished and engraved with the race logo! It's probably the coolest thing I will ever get for running. Even though the conditions were not great and the course is super challenging I would do everything over in a heart beat. In fact, I've already registered for 2015! Mother Nature owes us big time!

My next half marathon (Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon) is in less than two weeks! I'm so excited and I hope I'll be ready. I know I'm not going to PR (2:25:25), but I'm shooting for 2:30:00 or under. I'm feeling a little more confident now that the first race is over, so we shall see how the last two weeks of training goes. 

Happy Sunday friends! Have a great week!

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