Sunday, April 27, 2003

RR Kentucky

We’re baaaaaaaacccccccccckkkkkkkkkkkkk! After a very loooooonnnnnnnnnnnnggggggggg drive to Kentucky I have decided that I will never drive to another marathon that is more than 500 miles from home! You see - we never quit learning.
But now it is time for the trip report.

Race Report:
Anthem Derby Festival Marathon
Louisville, KY
April 26, 2003
26.2 miles
Time – faster than expected

I decided to do the Derby Marathon with much trepidation for the following reasons:
a) Due to the hamstring problems and wee medical mishap I have only run/trained for the last six out of twelve weeks. My last marathon was Feb 2nd in Miami.
b) I have only run longer than a half marathon twice (14 & 17 miles ) in those six weeks
c) I have done almost no hard/fast training in those six weeks.

I knew that if I wanted to run respectively (i.e. under 4 hours) in the upcoming marathon in Latvia in mid-May then I had to ramp up my mileage and intensity. Since I absolutely detest long training runs I figured I needed to find a marathon to run in late April as I find it easier and better to run an actual marathon as a long training run. My sports manager claimed that she had never visited Kentucky so the Anthem Derby Marathon in Louisville, KY seemed to be a good solution to both needs?

I pulled out the old Atlas and decided “since we are retired and have lots of spare time we can drive there and save a bunch of money”. Turned out to be a bad decision. It’s a hell of a lot farther than it looks in the Atlas – 927 miles to be exact. But we did save some money! Took 2 days to drive to KY on a straight beeline north on I 75 to Lexington. Then we diverted to the secondary roads/highways so that we could enjoy the scenery and look at many of the thoroughbred horse farms between Lexington and Louisville. We made a brief stop in Frankfort to view the state capital (OK how many of you knew that? – I would have guessed Lexington was the capital?) We also drove by the Frankfort Cemetery where Daniel Boone is buried.

We arrived in Louisville late Thursday afternoon and decided to find the convention center downtown to pick up my race package and explore the downtown area where the race would finish. The Derby Festival has held a Mini-Marathon (half marathon) for 30 years but this was only the second year that a full marathon had been added to the event. The Mini Marathon is a very popular local race with 7000+ runners. The marathon had 700 runners in this its second year. In the past, idiots – er runners like me who were trying to run all 50 states had to run the first 26.2 miles of the Kentucky 50 mile ultra race. Now they have an official marathon to run. And as a side goal it would count as my second marathon in KY as I work my way around the 50 states for the second time.
The downtown is small and not that great so our walking tour took about one hour to complete. But at least I had the race package out of the way so we could play tourist on Friday. On Friday morning I had one more race logistic to take care of before we could go touring. Both races start together in Iroquois Park in South Louisville and finish in downtown Louisville. I needed to check out the start area so that my sports manager could drop me off there on Sat morning and meet me at the finish line. Fortunately it was within 10 minutes of our hotel and by luck was also very close to the Kentucky Derby Museum and Churchill Downs. After we reconnoitered the start area and how to get there we headed to the museum. The Derby Museum is quite interesting and we also walked around Churchill Downs. The race season, which lasts 77 days, started on Sat after the marathon so we weren’t able to watch any horse races. But we will have a much better appreciation for the race when we watch the Kentucky Derby next Sat (May 3).

Then we decided to drive to Hodgenville, KY to visit Abe Lincoln’s birthplace. How many of you knew that??? I always thought he came from Illinois so assumed (wrongfully) that he was born there. Nope. Born in a little old log cabin on Sinking Spring Farm. Lived there until he was two and then moved to another little log cabin 10 miles away on Knob Creek Farm where he spent his boyhood years. After all this history overload it was time just to drive around the countryside (in the rain) and soak up the scenery. Passed many distilleries – the legal type such as Jim Beam- but since we don’t like KY Bourbon we did not tour the distilleries.

We wound our way around many backroads of KY (managed to get lost a few times) back to Louisville for our usual pasta dinner. By now the rain/storms/thunder had become very violent and were forecast to last through the night and into the start of the race. Oh goody! They were right on most of the forecast. The storm was violent all night and still raging and raining as we left the hotel at 6:45am to head to Iroquois Park for the 7:30 am start.

I was not looking forward to running in a hard, cold rain so I wanted to stay in the car to the very last moment. Finally 10 minutes before the start I donned my standard race rain gear – a garbage bag- and headed for the start. The marathon gods must have been smiling down on us because about 5 minutes before the start of the race it quit raining? I barely made it to the start line in time. In fact I arrived there about one minute before the start and was not able to work my way back into the middle of the pack as planned.
My plan was to try to run an easy 10 minute pace with a goal of finishing under 4:20 and Healthy! However as I approached the start line I had to jump right onto the start line with all the big dogs. No you are wrong! I didn’t let Maddog do his normal stupid act of going out with the big dogs. I jogged to the side of the course and ate a lot of humble pie as THOUSANDS of runners blew by me. Nevertheless the throng still sucked me through the first mile in 8:15 – way too fast! So I threw out an anchor and tried to slow down more as another thousand runners passed by me! Mile 2 – 8:27. Still too fast. Throw out another anchor. Mile 3 –9:01. By now I was sick and tired of watching runners blow by me and the 9-minute pace felt easy and agonizingly slow so I decided to hold the 9-minute pace for as long as I could “and see what happens”. It will probably bite me in the ass by the end of the race but so be it!

The first 10K is run through Iroquois Park and is very hilly. By mile 7 the course flattens out as it heads downtown. The Mini and Full Marathons follow the same course till mile 12 where the Full splits off and heads east to Cherokee Park in East Louisville. I crossed the Half in1:55 and change. I was running a sub 9-minute pace! A quick calculation determined that if I could hold that pace I would break four hours. Two weeks ago when I finished my 17-mile training run I would have bet that there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that I could break four hours in this race. But what the hell – it won’t happen if I don’t try so I keep plugging. At mile 15 we enter Cherokee Park and another 4 miles of hills but finally emerge from the Park after 19 miles and flatten out again as we head back downtown to the finish. Mile 20 –2:57:49. If I can only hold this pace till mile 23 I know that Maddog can pull me through the last 5K on sheer guts and willpower.
Mile 23 –3:24:45. A sub- 4-hour finish is in the bag. I don’t even need Maddog to pull me through this one! The last few miles get a bit ugly but I can smell the finish line and I have performed so much better than expected or that I had a right to so nothing is going to stop me at this point. I crossed the finish line in 3:53:03!
Unbelievably this is good enough for 4th place in my age group which demonstrates that the competition wasn’t very deep?

But I finished with no injuries or pain during the race and crossed the finish line HEALTHY so I was very pleased. My legs are not used to the stress and distance and started to tighten up immediately. Unfortunately I had to head back to the hotel, take a quick shower and hop in the car for a 6-hour drive because we had to be back in Sarasota for a meeting on Monday. Good thing I brought my sports manager because she had to drive. My legs were so tight and sore it was agony just to sit in the car. And they continue to be so. It reminds me of my early marathon years. That is one reason I prefer to run a marathon every few weeks - you get rid of that crap!

But we are back home now and I will do another unusual thing – take a few days off to rest my legs before I continue my training for Latvia. I plan to increase my intensity and speed workouts for the next few weeks. Maybe 3:45 is not such a crazy idea for Latvia?
Stay tuned!

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