Well folks, what can I say? It was one heck of a weekend. Hard to believe that 19 weeks of training have come to a close and marathon number 3 is one for the books! It’s been no secret that breaking the 4 hour threshold was my goal, and I’ll throw this out in the open right now that I did not get there (yet). However, I accomplished something Saturday that most people don’t get to say they’ve ever done so I have to be proud of that. After the race Saturday, we adventured around Louisville so I’ll share the food related adventures later this week. For now, I know you’re all really curious to hear about the marathon.
Obviously, the first stop we had to make while in Louisville was the race expo. We wandered around for a bit, snapped some obligatory photos, and then decided to head off and actually drive the course.
As I mentioned before, I trained for this race with Queen City Running Club and my two friends Mary and Katie. For Mary and Katie, it was their first 26.2 so we wanted to drive the course to get a visual of what we’d be conquering the following morning. Ended up being a great idea. Driving through the course gave us a spot on perspective of what to expect, especially around miles 11-15 which various rumors had led me to believe would either be incredibly challenging, or not as bad as the hype. I had been warned by many that these hilly miles through Iroquois Park would be brutal, but I needed to see it to believe it. Having the visual image of what to expect coming into these hills was actually incredibly helpful, but more on that later.
After a successful run through of our race (on wheels of course!) we headed back to the apartment we booked through Airbnb. This worked out well because instead of eating out, we stuck with a solid plan of cooking our pre-race dinner! We decided on stir fry with chicken, veggies, and white rice to fuel us for the marathon. Hit the spot. Perfect way to fuel up before the race–a balanced plate with some carbs, protein, and veggies. Awesome!
Our alarms went off bright and early at 5:30 AM and we were ready. It also looked like the rain was going to hold off until about 9 or 10 AM meaning we’d get to start out running this race nice and dry. I was definitely excited about that! By 6:30, we were out the door and walking to the start. That’s right, I said walking! Benefits to Airbnb? We booked a place within blocks of the start line. After taking some obligatory pre-race photos, Katie split off from me and Mary to find a faster pace group to run with, and Mary and I lined up with the 4 hour pacers, since that was my goal time.
Before we knew it, the guns hand sounded and we were off. Within seconds of crossing the start, our 4 our pacers had weaved their way through the crowd, going almost a minute faster than the average goal pace for a sub-4 race, so Mary and I while frustrated, decided it would be better to keep a consistent pace on our own instead of trying to chase these women (who quite frankly weren’t being very good pace leaders the way they were shoving their way through the crowd). So, adrenaline aside, our first mile wasn’t ridiculously fast, it was right around where I expected it to be.
Mile 1- 8:50
After making our way out of the classic “start of a race bottleneck,” Mary and I made the decision to stay together until I felt I was ready to push off. This is a new to me thing as I typically go all out, but I knew that I wanted this 4 hour marathon so bad, that I wanted to try my best to conserve energy for the end of the race, especially since I knew there would be some brutal hills at the half way mark. After the first mile, Mary and I slowly settled in to the pace needed for a sub-4 race: 9:09. To be completely honest, the next few miles up until we hit Churchill Downs were pretty flat, boring and uneventful. We saw Mary’s boyfriend around mile 6, which was motivating as well, but for the most part, the flat, boring course made keeping this pace pretty easy.
Mile 2- 9:06
Mile 3- 9:12
Mile 4– 9:09
Mile 5– 9:15
Mile 6– 9:15
Mile 7– 9:12
Around mile 7.5 or so, we hit Churchill Downs. This was arguably the coolest part of the race. Obviously since this was the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon, there was hype built up around this very facility where the derby takes place year after year. It was incredibly surreal running through Churchill Downs. The horses were out, and they had the whole place lit up just for the runners. Totally awesome. Even better was that the rain held off until right around this point in the race, so I got a solid hour or so of running in before the continuing rain that I had to endure the rest of the race. Our first “hills” of the race happened in Churchill Downs as well. The ramps into and out of the facility were quite steep and narrow, but I still somehow maintained a solid pace. I slowed down a little bit on the ramp leading out of the facility but not by much.
Mile 8- 9:06
Mile 9- 9:24
After leaving Churchill Downs, the course became slightly mundane again. The rain had really started to fall at this point so the roads were wet and the crowd support was non existent, which was a mega bummer. Mary and I kept strong and decided to continue motivating each other because we knew the big bad hills of Iriquois Park were coming up around mile 11.5. Around mile 10, we met a new friend, I think his name was Dave, who was shooting for a similar goal time. Dave was looking for some extra motivation because he was used to the Miami, FL heat he trained in, not the cool, rainy temps we were experiencing. We all decided to run together for a bit to motivate each other in preparation for the hills. The motivation definitely helped!
Mile 10- 9:06
Mile 11- 8:57
The dreaded climb began around mile 11.5 and that’s when our pace started to slow. This was planned though as Mary and I had no interest in wasting energy at this point in the race knowing we still had so much further to run. We were chatting too and while Mary was at the upper end of her limits as far as pushing pace (go Mary!), I had a lot more to give and knew after the hills I’d eventually break away. While constant ups and downs of the rolling hills in the park were no joke, the park itself was absolutely beautiful. With the rain falling, it felt like we were in a rain forest. It was a nice change in scenery from the barren, flat roads we had previously been running on.
Mile 12- 9:27
Mile 13- 9:42
Mile 14- 9:45
Mile 15- 9:45
As you can see, the hills definitely took a toll on our pace, however I had the energy and mental drive to bounce back. I had planned for these slow downs the entire time and my theoretical goal was to come back and eventually hit some sub 9 miles. With this plan in mind, my sub-4 marathon was still in the scope of realistic things. At mile 16, I was feeling AWESOME and turned to Mary. It was time and we waved our goodbyes as I slowly started to increase my pace. I was having a blast and dancing to the music, waving at the few brave soles who came to cheer in the rain. I was motivated and pumped up. I had a goal to chase!
Mile 16- 9:24
Mile 17- 9:18
Mile 18 I started to feel a minor cramp in the right side of my stomach so I slowed down a bit. Gotta listen to your body. I grabbed some powerade at a hydration station and kept going. The electrolytes solved my cramping issue almost immediately and I was back on my original plan of slowly speeding up.
Mile 18- 9:39
Mile 19– 9:21
It was around miles 20-21 where things started to go downhill. All of a sudden, my ankle started throbbing. It was a pain I had never experienced before. My ankle muscles had been twitchy on and off since the start of the race, but nothing that I couldn’t conquer. This minor ankle pain had happened on one of my long runs but I bounced back so quick from it I didn’t think anything of it. I decided to listen to my body, since the pain was pretty bad and slow down. I had to readjust my frame of mind at this point because I knew as my miles slowed, I would not get my sub 4 hour marathon. I decided maybe a sub 4:15 would be realistic.
Mile 20- 9:48
Mile 21- 11:06
Mile 22- 10:48
Right after 22 was when it really got bad. The pain continually got worse and I decided to start run-walking. I started walking through water stops and increasing my walking bouts as the pain worsened. Over the last 4 miles of the race, my pace slowed so significantly that the once seemingly realistic finish time of 4:15 blew away and I knew I just wanted to PR–less than 4:29? It was possible. My drive to ring the PR gong at the finish line was the only thing keeping me from hiding out in a porta pottie and quitting. It was mentally tough. These miles were made slightly better though by some good conversation with other runners. I met a few people doing back to back marathons and asking me for advice on the Cincinnati Flying Pig, my favorite race and hometown race! I don’t think I could ever run back to back marathons so props to these people. Eventually around mile 23 or so, Mary passed me. She had slowed down too but was still looking strong. Go Mary!
Mile 23- 12:24
Mile 24- 12:57
Mile 25- 12:39
With just over a mile to go, the sky opened up and what was a constant drizzle became a pretty major downpour. I knew I had just over a mile to go and was ready to get this brutal race over with. My feet were cold and soggy and mentally, I was over the entire thing. Ankle pain or not, I started to speed up. I was getting my PR even if it wasn’t the one I had originally set out for!
Mile 26– 11:27
Last .2 nubbin’- 9:03
I did it! I sprinted through the finish line and powering through that pain exerted so much physical energy from me that I started wheezing and hyperventilating. The medical tent attendees tried to get me to sit down but I didn’t want to. I was a mix of emotions. I had PR’d, yes, but it wasn’t the PR I had hoped for. I let them give me some water and then I moved on through the finish area to find some nourishment.
Final time- 4:20:40 (average pace 9:57)
As you can see, the ankle issues I endured really took a toll on my time but I still PR’d by over 8 minutes so I’ll take the win. It was frustrating knowing I had worked so hard for a specific goal and I was physically capable of it, but the cards just didn’t play in my favor. Regardless, I ran my third marathon and that itself is an accomplishment. Sunday evening, we met up with our training group for the post marathon celebration event at Braxton. It was such a great time swapping battle stories with fellow running friends.
So, I’m still pretty set on this goal still, and I’m like 99% certain that I’ll make a final attempt to conquer that sub-4 goal in November in Indianapolis. Every marathoner says they’ll quit running marathons until the next one… am I right? 🙂