Yesterday I ran the 40th Marine Corps Marathon. I had an excellent first half… I even was on PR-breaking pace. But, like they usually do, things came crashing down. I know what I did wrong.
1. Poor training season (I had my Mom spend time in and out of the hospital until she died… her death, two weeks after my wedding, wasn’t unexpected, but it still hurt),
2. Lack of training at the level I needed to be at for the PR attempt (I refer above),
3. I was an idiot and, although it felt amazing at the time, running super fast times at the Bourbon Chase a week before attempting PR times at a marathon is a bad strategy (For injury-prone me, at least).
4. Poor choice of shoes. I wore a newer pair. They were field tested, yes, but not at the long distances. I think the longest I put in them was about 8 miles. 26.2 was too much, and my muscles and ankles took the beating for it.
5. High stress from work, which was compounded by false accusations on the day before I left for D.C.
6. And poor sleep the days leading up to race day (Because, although I am working on it, and getting better, I do have a serious problem just letting things go. Especially when I feel wronged and hopeless).
Hopeless is not a good emotion to go into a marathon with.
I’ll have a recap of the race – which was a good one, though not at all to the level I actually expected. Today’s post is about my recovery day. I’m pretty sore and beat up…walking is a bit hard, but I need to do it. So I took the pup, Dante the Dog (He’s world famous in Cincinnati), for a walk in a new to him park. He’s a cheeseball and knows a photo op when he smells it.
The trees are changing color here, and the sun is rising at just the right angle now that it hits the world and the color just… pops. Wonderful.
Eden Park is a wonderful overlook, and, up those stairs in the first photo is more overlook and park. I guess they’re working on the ponds, since the water was all drained out. Want to see this park? Come visit Cincinnati! Even better, come run the Flying Pig half or full marathon. It passes right through here.
I hate to have to say it, but it’s not legal unless it’s put there: All photos are copyright folks, and these are property of me. Wanna use or buy one? Hey, drop me a note. We can chat. 🙂
The time spent with 7 wonderfully hilarious and kind people, cramped within a vehicle for over 30 hours created some wonderful memories. It also created stories that want to be told but would take more than one entry to share. I ran three legs of the relay. Each one was beautiful in it’s own way, each one taught me something about me as a runner. And each was it’s own experience, bundled up under the umbrella of relay racing.
For this reason, each leg has it’s own entry here.
Part 1 is HERE
Part 2 is HERE
Part 3 – my run through Midway and the van shenanigans before and after, and, BONUS: The finish line jog, follows below. Enjoy!
Part 3. The search for more sleep.
My second leg was complete: A little over 6 miles at 0330 AM – dark hillsides, and long hill climbs to the stars. I had views of the sky that were, frankly, moving. I experienced all kinds of ‘the feels’ (probably exacerbated by the theory that I was actually still sleeping while I ran). I’m sure anyone running that portion of the race (a 4-lane highway) in the daytime would’ve felt cheated. There’s no way it was as pretty in the sun as it was in the dark.
After I took my seat on the van, I plunged into a restful position, my eyes closed and earbuds in. Like the rest of my team, we were trying to get as much rest as possible. I dozed, but never quite fell asleep. The sleep isn’t all that important, but the rest is. I opted to sleep through the next two runner exchanges. Mostly because it was feeling bitter cold out and I didn’t pack anything really warm enough for it, and because with the van mostly empty (another runner remained behind to doze too) I was able to stretch my legs out – and that was the most comfortable thing about it.
I do regret skipping the runner exchange at Four Roses Distillery. Apparently they gave out bourbon balls. Luckily, our Captain deemed that there was “too much bourbon” in the treat and gave me hers. Silly, Captain. There is never too much bourbon!
The next exchange I woke for, and participated in (Mostly because of a need to hit a restroom) was at Wild Turkey. This was a big exchange, where we handed off to van 1 and they made their final cycle of runners before the finish. After pushing a van out of a ditch and wandering toward the runner exchange, I was treated to a beautiful sunrise, complete with fog. It. was. stunning.
Around that factory-like distillery was the runner exchange and the gift shop. I almost felt really jealous for the first runner in van 1, who would get the timer thingy from us here and take off into this beautiful morning. Alas. With the beauty comes the suffering. It’s also one of the shortest but most difficult legs in the route.
We poked around the distillery a little. I considered buying something for my husband (again) and decided against it (again). Prices and logistics just didn’t work for me on this trip.
All back together, we wished van 1 good luck, hit the real restrooms at the distillery (yay) and piled back into the van for a real breakfast (super-yay!). We pulled into town at Versailles and plopped down at Madison’s on Main.
Lemme tell you about this place.
From the eclectic dishes, to the waitress bringing one of our guys what amounted to a bowl to drink coffee from (because he kept saying “more coffee”), to her telling us about how the place was haunted and joking with us, and on to the elderly waitress being motherly over our Captain when she put her head on hands to rest. This. Place. was lovely. This place was wonderful. The food was…it was food. But the staff? Perfect. Just perfect for a group of tired, stinky runners among dozens of the same. Food took a while, but we weren’t in a hurry and they were so swamped that one waitress didn’t even work there! She was a family friend who came out on her Saturday morning to help out.
After breakfast we, like every other team out there, tried to find the right place to settle in and get some sleep. People were out in sleeping bags everywhere. I felt pretty rested – having actually done better about getting sleep when we were at the lake house, and then resting during the dark hours in the van.
Soon enough we were gathering everyone into the van and heading out to meet up for our final legs. Van 1 had some runner issues, and so they swapped out runners and were going a little slower coming in.
I read the description on my route while we traveled to where we were going to meet up with runner 7. As we passed her we saw that she was “chatting it up” with a guy, and so hollered appropriately at her as we passed. We are terrible people. 🙂
The route description said that I would be running past limestone fences and thoroughbred farms, making me wish I were one of the horses. I believe it. Waiting for our runner at the exchange, I was looking down a tunnel of autumn trees and limestone walls. I couldn’t wait!
When I got the timing chip, I slapped it onto my wrist and took off, quickly overtaking three runners. Look. It didn’t escape my attention that I was listed on our team roster as the fastest-pace runner. I didn’t intend to be like that. But I have since figured out a few things about myself as a runner: First. I do not like running in silence and alone. Second. Music moves me. Normally I listen to audio books, but on occasion, when I’m just doing something “as fast as possible to get it over with”, I play music. I guess my body just responds to music as, “go fast” now. Third. I feel good when I pass people. I try to chat some, but I like going past folk. Fourth. I don’t handle being passed very well. I got passed by a speedier runner, and he was very polite about it, but I caught myself trying to speed up, up hill, to keep up with him. There was no way. I was already killing my pace prediction, running 7:34min/miles. The Captain was going to strangle me.
I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t stop. And the route description was right. It was freaky how beautiful it was out there.
I also wanted very badly to be like the horses. The horses I saw were leisurely wandering their fence lines, enjoying the scenery…eating the scenery… not running a hilly route.
This run was a 4.8-ish mile leg, with a “difficult” category on it. Yet, it felt like the easiest run I had the whole time! I heard myself over and over, “You can do anything for four miles”. Unlike all the other times, I wasn’t nervous about this run and I wasn’t feeling any concern for how fast or slow I would run. In the end, my average pace was a stellar 7:27 min/mile pace.
Fifth lesson? I run faster when my muscles are tight.
I rolled into Midway 12 minutes faster than I was predicted. I got guilted by the team that I couldn’t have a video of that hand-off because I was so early. I didn’t care. My runner’s high was all-encompassing. And I was hungry. Very hungry. And very thirsty.
I popped into line for the free massage (What a mistake! I hurt so badly after that!) and finally bought something for my husband! Bourbon honey. I asked the lady selling it which bourbon she used and she simply stated, “We’re in Woodford County” (That means Woodford Bourbon, for you lovely readers not steeped in Kentucky Bourbon knowledge. Woodford is not a brand you mix with Cola, fyi. Or, at least, you shouldn’t. It’s too good for that).
Sixth lesson? I had no idea where I was for the entirety of this run.
We made our way, runner by runner, up to Lexington, where we met our final runner about a quarter of a mile…probably much less… away from the physical finish line. There we ran as a group across the line and cheered ourselves into a frenzy. The time? 5-something PM.
After the group photo, and obtaining our “Bourbon Trail Passports” and our t-shirts for completing the full trail, we headed over to the party area and obtained our free bourbon shots (we got 4). I had three – my favs: Woodford, Bullet Rye, and Maker’s Mark. By the time I got most of the way through the third one, I realized I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast that morning.
A few of us piled into one of the two team vans and traveled back north, to our homes and our lives. Just before we turned onto the lot where we met to carpool down, one of the women said, “Look! That car has writing all over it! I wonder if they were in the race too!” We all watched, on the edges of our seats, as the SUV passed- it’s windows proclaiming, “GO UK”. I leaned back against my seat and commented, “It’s sad, coming back to real life.” The van hummed with everyone’s agreement.
So. I’m here. Back in real life. With all these wonderful memories and stories and jokes! And not a single co-worker who cares. haha. I think it was record-breaking, watching the eyes of the guy who asked about my weekend glaze over so fast… He had so much hope when I said bourbon…
If you get the opportunity, I’d recommend putting serious thought into doing a relay. But. And that’s a big BUT (So I cannot lie). You need to know what to do to mitigate things that annoy you. Me? I get super grumpy when I don’t sleep. I made an effort to at least relax and rest. And it paid off. You also need to be with the right mix of people. That makes all the difference.
This is a three-part (One for each leg of the race I ran) recap. The whole process of team relay racing is so involved, I didn’t want to drown you lovely readers in a giant post…. and I didn’t want to leave anything out. The course was so beautiful, and the weather was perfect for running, and I found many things on this run – I felt each run was due it’s own story.
Ergo, Part I can be read at this link. Part III is here.
After the first run; a “behind the scenes” of van 2’s down-time adventures:
I snuggled up under a sweatshirt and rested, wondering about how we were going to pull off dinner. The rule was that the van didn’t stop until everyone was back on board. Runner 3 for our van had a long haul of a run – about 8 miles, I believe, and when he made his way to the next exchange point, the sun was already setting. Race rules required lights and reflective vests. So as the sun set, the glow sticks went up. So. Many. Glow sticks.
We also experienced a bit of “van envy” for team Moofia’s van. I think I mentioned this, but you have to understand. They went all out. Eyes that were spot lights, disco lights, a loud speaker that moo’ed….. even an udder.
As we waited for the fourth runner out of our van (Runner 9), the driver (pilot) and navigator (co-pilot) along with runner 7, hopped out of the van and started applying glow sticks to the exterior with reckless abandon. Soon the loud talking from outside became a sort of hysterical laughter and giggling that could only indicate one kind of joke: Penis jokes. All three, all women, had applied a rather large glow stick and deemed it to be…uh…much like the male anatomy part…and then continued to decorate it as such.
I went in search of chap stick and available bathrooms…finding a gas station with a huge bonfire set up in front of it near the exchange point… Yes. I was only mildly apprehensive about this arrangement – as the prospect of food trailer food to satisfy my serious hunger overrode any sense of not wanting to be blown up.
Runner 7 and I purchased two $3 cheese burgers and were instantly in heaven. Then it was back into the van (newly adorned with what we referred to as its “strap on”) and on to the next spot. Our Captain was out, runner her leg of the race, and things in the van only continued to “flow in the gutter”. The Captain’s husband, the Doctor, spelled out “That’s what she said” on the side of the van. After all, this was the phrase that rang out 200 times if 10 during the short ride from the gas station fire to this strange field.
Our Captain exchanged the timing wrist slap with our final runner out of van 2 and we were quickly making plans for figuring out our way to our lodging for the short break we had. Runner 12 came in and we handed the timing thing off to van 1 again. A quick meal of good, but terrifying, chilli dogs near the exchange point in town and then it was off into the sticks to find a cabin on a lake. The bridge that normally takes vehicles to the cabin was out, and the instructions actually said, “Go straight, follow road around, do not drive into water”. It was 11PM, darker than good black coffee, and the road was…uh…tight.
No worries, dear reader, we made it to the lake house and split up quickly to crash for sleep as fast as possible – hoping to get as much as possible. Luckily, thanks to my husband, I was exhausted to start the whole trip, so once the Captain pointed me to a place, I was OUT. A solid 1.5 hours of sleep and it was time to get up and head out for the next major exchange. There was no grumbling, no fighting, and no issues with sharing the single bathroom among 8 people. We quickly back out into the now freezing world. The temps dropped low in the night and were at frost levels when we got back onto the roadway, again doing a good job of not ‘driving into the water’. Our driver, a seasoned veteran of the Bourbon Chase method, quickly mixed her specialty, a concoction called “go-go-juice” (She said she got the idea from some awful-sounding TV show called honey-boo-boo).
Red Bull, Giant pixie stick, and mountain dew.
This truly is not for the feight of heart….or the easily affected by caffeine…. and probably not meant to be used as an every-day drink. I’m not exactly sure yet that it should be used in moments of extreme exhaustion either. But! As our navigator pointed out, the red bull was sugar free…so….
Juice mixed, and, I assume, sipped upon, we were enroute to the exchange. I was still pretty out of it, from sleeping, and so kind of have no memory of the exchange. I know I headed out with the group to see runner 7 off. She’s my friend after all. And I knew she had a 3-ish mile DOWNHILL course, meaning I didn’t have a whole lot of time to contemplate my run before it would be my turn.
I was feeling nervous. That is a fact. It was dark out, and I kinda do suck at running by headlamp. I get all disoriented and weirded out when other headlamps are bobbing around behind me and I have a serious concern for rolling my ankle…or worse… in unseen pot holes. After all, I have a marathon coming up next weekend. I couldn’t afford a serious injury this late in the game. It was also cold. But I didn’t pack anything beyond gloves, ball caps, and a bright yellow jacket.
At the exchange for my run, I waited wrapped in the fuzzy brown blanket affectionately called “Chewbacca”. We only waited a few moments for Runner 7. She came down the hill at a good clip, looking pleased with herself – after all, she did 9:30min miles, which was great for her!
(There are no photos for this part of the story. It was dark. My hands were in gloves. And, as you’ll read, I don’t think I was actually conscious for the whole running bit….)
I took the wrist slapper timing thingy and headed into the darkness, struggling a little with my gloves and the phone to turn on some music. That’s right. I wasn’t going to suffer another bought of running with nothing but my thoughts. I don’t like myself that much. The race had vetoed any and all headphone use, but they didn’t outright deny runners music… so long as it came from a speaker…. I tuned into what few songs on my phone actually had a good beat for running and turned my attention upward. My thighs burned some from the cold, and I could see my breath puff out ahead of me in the headlamp light. Red lights (runner’s lights) blinked onward, stretched ahead of me in almost even intervals, until disappearing into the horizon.
My course was another hilly one. Rolling, and a couple of longer climbs, into the darkness from some small town. Luckily, there were no turns or curves to the route….just run straight…no chance to get lost. Which is good. Because I don’t actually think that I was really “awake” for my run. As I started to get out of the “town” area and into more country side and darker roads, the ambient lights along the side of the road were fewer and farther from the road. In the country, its common for homes to have a giant and bright light placed over top the property, illuminating the area. These were distant and shown just enough light to cast long, wicked-look shadows from the runners.
I passed a couple of runners – a phenomenon we noticed toward the later runners from our van the evening before was how uniformly the runners seemed to spread out, and aside from me, this pretty much was true for my run too. Soon, I was on my own and I found myself going into hyper-vigilance (A state of awareness I have cultivated and require for my day-job). At one point I thought that someone was running directly at me – Attacking me – from the right! I sped up a little (A feat, considering I was working up the first long climb), threw my arms up to defend, and quickly glanced to see what the person’s deal was. Only.
No one was there.
Just my shadow.
On a rock wall across the four lane highway from me.
Soon the light that was casting that shade was blocked by trees and I shook my head wondering what was going on with me. I tried hard to focus on being in the moment, and being aware of cars. As I crested the hill, ran down a short one, and started back up the next, I realized that the complete black of the surrounding hills and trees, all funneled head of me, pointing me toward the top of this hill and the stars, made it feel like I was being shot in the space! The stars people! It was so dark out and there were so. many. stars! It was beautiful. I latched onto this concept of being shot into space as I climbed at a steady 8 minute pace. I latched so hard that I think I was audibly making rocket ship noises as I passed a fellow runner. I remind you, I don’t actually think I was awake for this run.
At mile 4.5ish on this 6+ mile leg, I heard my red rear blinker clatter off my back and shatter. I was working on another uphill, and, in my sleep-delirium, I realized I HAD to go back and get that blinker so that my team wouldn’t be disqualified. So I stopped, and ran back down hill a little…and after a moment of staring at the dark, dark, dark grass I came to my senses and realized I would never find all the pieces of that stupid-cheap blinker. So I huffed up the hillside again.
A short while later, as I watched a pair of headlights make a slow approach toward me (actually, I realized as it passed at normal speed, it was really just far away), I thought that the four-lane highway we were running along was suddenly a two-lane road! And this car would need space to pass, but there was no shoulder beyond the white line, only dark grass! I moved to the grass and let the car pass…. in the wrong lane… and then three more cars drove past in the wrong lane, like there was no concern for on-coming traffic. I’m proud to say that I realized that the highway did not, in fact, become two-lane. It was still four lanes wide. The cars were passing in the inside lane for their direction of travel, and it was only my sleep brain that said the road was suddenly two lanes.
A mile away from the exchange point, I saw a blinking light off the roadway in the grass, and it looked like a runner was doubled over. I called out, “Are you okay?” But got no answer. Then I neared the light, and saw that it was the light indicating the sign that read “one mile to go”. Embarrassed, and hoping that the last runner I passed was far enough back and far enough in their own head-space that they didn’t hear me just calling out to the sign, I hurried on.
I tore into the exchange and saw the sign for our team illuminated and at the entrance to the chute. I heard the Captain say, “No that’s not Emily” and I yelled back as I passed them, “Yes it is!”
The crowd laughed as I handed the timing thing over to the Doctor, our next runner, and was wrapped in “Chewy” for the hike back to the van. My Captain told me I was wearing green shorts when I left and looked down at my blue shorts, replying “that was yesterday.”
I explained my theory that I slept through the whole run, telling about the stars, the beauty, the rocket ship, and loosing the blinker…. I left out the part about talking to the “one mile left’ sign though. My driver stopped and gave me a look before saying, “No wonder you don’t like running without people around”.
In the van, I was feeling really good about my pace: managing – despite fear of pot holes, injury, and (as I developed) getting struck by drunk drivers – to maintain an average pace of 8:04 min /mile! I changed, sprayed some “smell good” stuff on myself, and snuggled into warm clothes. We were on our way to Four Roses Distillery, to do the next exchange, and I was on my way to dozing off for more sleep.
Come back for Part 3, the final leg of the Bourbon Chase. 🙂 And thanks for reading!
So, um, yeah. This was an AMAZING weekend! I can’t think of any better way to spend 30+ hours, sleepless, hungry, and stuck in a cramped van with 7 other people! We laughed, we dozed, we made “go-go juice”, things got seriously adult-rated pretty quickly after the sun went down. Hahaha!
The relay itself was such a large event, and there were so many things that happened that I’ve decided to break the recap into 3 parts. Mostly to give each portion of the relay I did it’s own retelling. The views and the route were just so stunningly beautiful! Even the portion of the race I did in the pitch dark of a star-filled sky were amazing. And I think the only way to do those runs justice is to retell them as their own run.
What is the Bourbon Chase?
It’s a 200 mile relay race that tours through horse farms and small towns of central Kentucky along the portion of the state known for the bourbon distilleries. It’s typically set in the fall, so the color of the trees along these horse farm and hill riddled country sides are brilliant.
The run itself is broken up into 25 legs. Each of varying distance and difficulty. Most of my miles were 4.7-6.3 distances, and two of my runs were rated at as “difficult” and the third was “moderate”. There were tons of hills, loads of white transport vans, and a lot of inappropriate jokes. I had a runner’s high that lasted 48 hours. Fact. Have you ever had one last that long?
Is there bourbon?
Hell yes. Though the race rules discouraged us from partaking during the actual race – the distilleries were open at all hours – giving out samples and bourbon balls. Hell. I even bought a jar of bourbon honey after my final run.
I was the second runner in van 2. That made me runner #8 of 12. Because our van had the later start, we were able to meet up in Lexington about 3-4 hours ahead of our start time and grab some lunch before heading out to Maker’s Mark Distillery. Each of the exchanges where you actually trade off from van 1 to van 2 were huge! Because, duh, there was double the amount of people there at the time.
We were able to check in, get our race shirts, and watch the safety video, which, although typical goofy for safety video, was actually well done. We also got to wander around the distillery some. I toyed with the idea of buying bourbon, but decided against it due to the cost.
We also had some time to decorate the van. This is a “thing” for these type of races, decorating the vans to outdo each other…. or maybe just so that you can find which van is yours in the sea of white transport vans.
Though, the real decoration of the vans didn’t start until after the sun set…. haha.
Our first runner for van two took off, nerves and all (it was her first time doing this relay, just like me) and we piled into the van quickly – having to rush to the next relay point so she could hand off the baton to me for my first run in the BC.
The day was warming up still as I hit the porta potties at the next check point and watched for runner 7 to come into sight from the hillside.
I also couldn’t have asked for a better day. Really. It was so damn beautiful and the skies were a perfect blue. I worried about missing a turn or getting lost along the route, so I took a picture of the route directions to have handy on my phone, just in case. I didn’t need to worry, however. The race did a great job of marking the roadway and the route. There were constantly signs visible.
I got the hand-off and took off down the road, struggling with my other worry: Maintaining the pace that our team Captain had me predicted to run (8:10min/mile). In a normal race, that’s usually no problem, but like any true worrier, I was looking ahead to the night time run and the run the next day with no sleep and all the muscles tightened up. I was also so deeply inside my head…it was awful. I hate running by myself, and I hate doing so where the only distraction is what my brain provides me. The race restricted headphone use severely. To the point of disqualification of runners and time penalties. So for my first 4.8 miles? I ran in silence.
At the start it wasn’t a big deal, I figured I’d catch up with the two girls who were ahead of me and we’d chat and become friends for the miles. That’s what I do at races, after all. Alas. Within the first 100yards the course took a right turn and started a big hill climb. The girls ahead of me started walking the hill pretty early on. And I, ever unaware of my reverse-gravity syndrome on hills, sped up the hill like a dumbass. I was winded at the top, alone, and looking ahead at three more rolling hills to come.
This was going to be a hard run.
Maybe I should have looked at the elevation chart a little bit…plotted out some attack plan for those hills? Strategy. Yeah?
Instead, I consoled myself by repeating what I told runner 7 before she headed out on her run: “you can do anything for five miles.” I even lied to myself. Telling my legs that I only had two more miles to go. When I really had 3.8. I sucked it up though, and started looking around. The beauty of the run really stunned me. This place, though a hell made of hills, was gorgeous. I felt lucky to experience it the way I was.
I passed over a small lake, and wound up another hill. Crossed a busy highway where there were no road marshals to stop traffic for me – just a large fire engine with staff waiting to take action if I got hit by a car… Then it was a left turn onto a final down hill and into this tiny town.
I felt like I was flying – and really, my splits ( a little off because I forgot to start my watch right away) showed that I managed to meet my Captain’s pace expectations: 7:45; 8:34; 8:25; and 6:55 – the overall pace of 8:06. The fact that I told my Captain I could guarantee 8:45min/miles and she argued that I said 8:10s became a running argument as the relay went on. I still doubted that I would pull that time off at 0400 in the morning.
Post-run, each runner marked off the leg they completed, and then tallied up their roadkill spotting.
And then the van hurried onward to the next spot to change runners again. I settled into my seat, feeling good and tired…and hungry. My runner’s high was starting and I kicked back with some music to unwind while we traveled point to point… finishing out each runner from our van… experiencing “van envy” for the van with team Moofia…. and laughing so hard we all were in tears.
Part 2 will take us through the evening hours, the battle of “not driving the van into the water”, the go-go juice, the moment we all lost our minds and our van got …uh… happy, and, of course, my first time running night time hours in a race.
I was in rare form race morning. Even with dragging my husband and our dog along we managed to get to the free parking before it was a) full and b) closed because of the imminent start of the race. I even had a chance to sit and doze in the car for a little bit. Bonus: No line at the porta potties for me!
The morning was a little bit chilly, with a nice breeze and a beautiful sun rising. My dog, “Dante the Dog”, was a huge hit at the mainly women-centric half marathon. We started claiming the dog was good luck for anyone who pet him. (Fact. Someone found his fan page and noted that she ran a PR after a good luck pat on Dante’s head).
I saw a few running group friends before the call to start, but was mostly alone as I stood toward the center of my assigned start corral before the gun went off. I like experiencing races and towns, so for pretty much all my races, I go without headphones and try to chat with people as I go. It’s a little bit…uh… good and bad. Some people really love it. I’ve had people come up to me “out of the blue” at the finish line to hug me and thank me for unknowingly being their motivation to keep a certain pace – mostly because my stories were funny and entertaining. I’ve had other people get a little bit cross with me when I made a comment toward them and they had their earbuds in. I don’t mean to bother. I just… I do better with a conversation than without. And, as my running group knows, I just can’t shut up. The good news is, that once in a conversation with someone who has a similar interest in talking and running, we both tend to run better and faster. The bad news is I tend to kind of suffer when I hit a stretch by myself, or don’t have any one around.
The Queen Bee course, which I looked at the night before, seemed to encompass the two hardest sections of the Flying Pig Marathon: The hill to Eden Park and beyond, and the dulldrum-like flat lands of Riverside Parkway. I was only concerned about the flat portion. I know from my three full Pigs that this is where I start to loose my umph and drive…it also is the portion with the least crowd support and views, making it hard to distract from the effort to keep going. Flying Pig management, which also hosts the Queen Bee Half, do an excellent job of filling this distance with volunteers and cheer squads, by the way. They’ve really improved this section of race course over the years. But it’s still the later miles of a race, so there’s only so much that can be done.
The gun for the Queen Bee went off on time and a crowd thousands deep of women in bright colors surged forward. I swear, I never get tired, nor do I ever fail to be just awed, at the sight of a river of bodies flowing in a rhythm forward. If you ever have the chance to crest a small hillside during the start of a big race, look up. Look up and just take it in.
You will not be disappointed.
We hit the hill immediately. The start line sits on a small uphill grade, and you go almost immediately to Gilbert Ave, which is the beginning of the climb to the overlooks. I fell into step with one of the pace teams (The ones dressed as bees….like, full body costume bees) and realized that I’ve run with one of the girls a few times as she trained for her 100 mile race. The hill was so, so much easier this time around. Likely because it wasn’t even 1 mile in when we started up it, and normally, for the Pig races, you’re starting the climb here at mile 6 of the races. During training even, our group would hit Eden Park climb around mile 2 or 3 on a “comfortable” run day. Soon after mile 1 I annoyed another runner enough that she was kind enough to unplug her earbuds and chat with me as we went. I say annoy. She was very kind and actually was completely into having someone to chat with as we went along. She and I ticked off the miles up the hills and down into Hyde Park pretty easily. Together doing better than we both planned on doing. We were easily hitting times below 8 minute miles until mile 7 to 8, where my guts rebelled against me and I needed an emergency stop. I ran my fastest mile there, looking for a porta potty.
All runners will understand that shit happens. Literally.
If I had to criticize one thing about the race it would be that there was waaaaay too much distance between porta potties. But, to be fair, I wasn’t paying attention to them until it was too late and I was desperate. And when things get desperate, everything is too far away.
I was completely bummed about the pit stop. Before that moment, I was on par to get a new PR! I had a couple of people to chat with, and we were heading into the Riverside “flat lands”, which I dreaded doing alone. I was having a blast right up until that moment.
Once I dealt with that issue I was out on the course and running fast to try and gain back some time, but I think the back of my mind called it a lost cause.
I hit Riverside alone and inside my head. I sent a message to my husband that I was at about mile 8 and likely not going to survive what was happening when I made the pit stop. He gave some encouragement and, I think almost without realizing how wonderful he was being, checked in on me every 10 minutes while I ran the last 5 miles. I don’t actually have an opinion about people who pull out their phones during races. As long as they aren’t randomly stopping and causing other people issues, I don’t see any thing wrong. Take your photos. Enjoy your self. Brag about your accomplishments. Share the experience! I’m good with that. Hell. I use my phone to reach out for some encouragement when things get tough. Sometimes you need that outside nudge.
I saw a couple of great friends from a military veterans fitness group I run for and one of them came out onto the course and hugged me and told me how great I was doing. It meant a lot! It really helped. He told me I was only about two minutes behind the 1:50 group, and I needed to hear that. I thought for sure that my pit stop – which really did take a lot of time – put me into the 2 hours area of the race. Encouraged and happier, I ran on.
Around that mile there’s this older guy who stands outside of his home for each race and plays chariots of fire. He smiles huge and waves and calls for the runners how well they’re doing. He’s practically an icon in the running community, Mr Chariots of Fire.
About 11.5 miles away from the finish I saw this woman that seemed familiar to me, but I wasn’t sure. So I used a simple tactic and complemented the complicated-looking braid she had her hair in. BEHOLD! I found Kelsie, a fellow blogger here on wordpress, and a strong running lady! We cheesed up for a selfie together and then ran as we got to actually meet each other in person finally. I think I helped pull her through the final little hill of the course, and she forced me to “kick it in” at the finish line for a strong finish. I was so glad I ran into her when I did. It really helped to have someone to run beside and chat with in that last couple of miles.
The medals they handed out were massive, and you could get them engraved with your time. They also gave out fleece blankets and flowers. The overall finish and finish area just really pressed the feeling of importance and accomplishment. I dunno. Maybe it was just the end of race endorphins. Maybe it was just my constant expectation that things were going wrong with my run and the reveal that everything was working out making me feel good. Whatever it was, I really, really felt great about this race.
I didn’t stick around afterward. I needed to collect the husband and the overly-popular pup and go home so I could nap for an hour before work. Really. So I could ride this happiness a little longer before I had to crash back into reality.
If you’re into half marathons and you don’t mind a rolling course, I recommend this race for you. Even if it would be a first time half for you. I really think this would make a good one for first timers. Sure, hills can be intimidating, but I guarantee that you’ll have tons of support here: from the race, from the spectators, and from all the other runners. And. Really. If you train for it, you can do it. That feeling of accomplishment shouldn’t have had such an impact on me, I think. After all, I’m a seasoned long-distance runner, right? I think that feeling would be brilliant to a first-time half marathoner, especially considering how great it made me feel.
Cheers, everyone! Thanks for reading.
Her upcoming races:
Bourbon Chase Relay
Marine Corps Marathon
Topo Trail Marathon
Pistol Ultra Marathon 50k
Rocks and Roots 50k
Kentucky Derby Marathon
Eagle Creek Trail Marathon
Well. Here’s me trying to re-start my last running related blog.
I’m a runner and photographer, and a member of a great little running group that really taught me not only how to really run a race, but how to enjoy the heck out of running and training.
I’ll share adventures from my runs, stories, and some race reviews.
Join me as I struggle with getting my ass through a marathon fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon, challenge myself to survive running a marathon distance (or better) per month in 2016, and generally try to share the love of bring on a good run!
Now, I’m not an elite runner. I’m not bad at it, in fact, I’ve got about 8 years worth of running behind me. Yeah, just 8. In the beginning I ran to pass a physical fitness test so I could get into my career field. After that, and with some not-so-gentle encouragement from a retired marine, I entered my first half marathon. From then forward, I joined a running group and the addiction to the run grew.
I have 12 marathons in my background, probably 10 half marathons, 1 50K, and countless 1 mile to 10k distances.