I have a real love-hate relationship with Run the Bluegrass. It is an extremely well-run race with a great medal and swag, good post-run food, fantastic expo, fun Director's Challenge with cool prizes, and more. It is behind Keeneland in Lexington, KY, by a lot of horse farms. That means it is extremely beautiful --- and EXTREMELY hilly. I've heard counts ranging from 27 to 37 hills in the 13.1 miles. As I said last year, the hills have hills. They just keep coming. Run the Bluegrass also has a really great kids run - our favorite one. I'll talk about the kids run first since it's on Friday night, and then I'll share about the half marathon.
The Kids Half Marathon
There is a one-mile or a "half marathon" option for kids. For the kids half marathon, the kids log 12 miles of training runs prior to race day. They then run the final mile of their half marathon on race day, and they earn a larger medal. The kids and I really love doing the kids half marathon. It gives us motivation to get out and run together in the winter. We try to run a mile for as many of the training runs as possible. This year, we did something new. Instead of all the runs being Zoe, Caleb, and me, as much as possible, I would run a mile with each kid separately. This let them each go their own pace and kept them more focused. We had a lot of fun on our training runs, and both kids were getting better and taking fewer walk breaks and enjoying their run. Caleb learned a lot this season about pacing for short runs versus our mile runs.
For race day, Zoe chose to wear a Flash shirt because she was going to run so fast like Flash. Caleb had planned to wear the RtB shirt from the previous year, but he had worn a red shirt during the day to support Kentucky teachers and said, "I want to keep supporting them." I was so proud of him!
On Friday, Jon picked the kids up, I came home from work, and we headed to Lexington. We did the race expo, making sure to get all my prizes for being in the top 50 in training miles logged (the Director's Challenge) and stopping by to see the Sword team (I was so excited there would be Sword on the course!). Then it was time to get the kids' bibs on and head to their race.
The kids were ready for their race and practicing their runner poses.
There was a little drizzle, but that didn't bother them! As the race was getting ready to start, the rain started to clear up, and the sun came out. We even got to see a rainbow!
Caleb had decided he would run this race by himself this year, which would be a first for him. He only had one concern. Last year, he had convinced me that this was a really long race for them and they needed nutrition like I use on long races. So once again, I had some Honey Stinger gummies for each kid, and he was concerned about not having a parent running with him to give him gummies. We agreed that he would have several before the race and then have some at the end.
Caleb had a great race. When I asked him afterwards how it went running by himself, he said, "It was good. I did get lonely. But then a girl came running by me, and I ran with her after that and talked to her." Jon told him, "That's good. That's what your mommy does when she runs. She makes new friends while running."
I was Zoe's race crew. By 0.10 mile, she was asking for a gummy. She also dealt with some side stitches while running, but she did a good job of running and walking. The two of us ran most of the mile holding hands, although she did some fast running to beat me on occasion, especially when we were near her brothy and daddy who were near the finish cheering her on.
The kids race was a complete success. They both had fun and finished the kids half marathon. Caleb had his gummies, the kids got their goodie bags, and it was time to go get some dinner so the kids could get home and go to bed and I could get to my hotel room and go to bed for my race the next morning.
Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon
RtB 2017 was a very tough race for me, perhaps moreso mentally than physically. I had started off strong, with a pace too aggressive for the course. I had been running half marathons less than a year, and I wasn't mentally prepared for all the hills. I started the race with my training partners, but I ended up running the 2nd half of the half marathon by myself and I mentally struggled with walking up some of the hills. I had trouble with hills for quite a while after that race, particularly with my confidence. This year, I was determined to have fun at the race.
The fun started with the expo where I was able to meet several runners I had chatted with, supported, and received support from online in Coach Jenny Hadfield's Challenge group.
After the kids' race and this photo, I had dinner with my family and headed to my hotel. Emily met me there. Before bed, I laid out my outfit for the day and got my breakfast and my Sword ready.
That's right - my goal was to have fun at the race. How can you not have fun in a blue tutu and bunny ears and tail?
The next morning, we got a little bit of a late start and got stuck in traffic getting into Keeneland. However, Emily and I still were the only two to make it to the KDF Ambassador photo that morning.
I had time that morning to drop my bag at gear check (after getting it back because I decided it would be better to keep my inhaler with me just in case), go to the bathroom, and find friends along the starting corrals. I was able to say hi to the Runner Girls and passed Jaclyn, who I had picked a costume with.
I then went to find Laura and Sandy, my training partners, since I had not seen them yet. I found them in the corral along with Laura's daughter, Kathryn. I had not been sure who I was running with for this race. I originally had planned to run with JWill when I signed up, but due to work and buying a condo, she wasn't able to make it. I decided I needed a fun run with my training partners, and that it would be good to stay with them since I was planning on an easier run and I knew Kathryn was planning to walk some and there was some concern about Laura and Sandy wanting to go on and Kathryn not - I told them I'd run with them and was happy to hang back with Kathryn if they felt good.
During the first couple of miles, we saw several horses. They were out running as well. Several mares and foals were among the horses out running. However, no horses were up by the fence for a selfie, and we didn't see horses later in the race when I wanted to get a pic. A friend did get this photo of a mare and foal (and some other great scenic pics).
Early in the race, Sandy went on ahead with Scott. However, Laura, Kathryn, and I stayed together the entire race. We talked a lot, we ran a lot, we walked some. We had a good pace and stayed positive. When the hills started taking their toll on us, we would pick out a point on the hill, such as "that big tree," and try to run to it and, if we needed to, start walking after it. When we would get near the top of the hill, we would pick out a point to start running again.
Did I mention there were just a few hills?
As we ran, I had fun - talking with people and waving at the cameras. I did have to stop on one hill and take my inhaler, but my tummy did great for the race and I felt fueled with berry Sword in my handheld and apple Sword on the course.
In RtB, runners hit Mile 12 and think you're done, but it's still not flat. Laura and I could tell the hills were taking their toll on Kathryn by this point. She stuck with it though. As we went uphill in the last half mile, she was determined to keep running and not walk. As we approached the Mile 13 mile marker, Kathryn started speeding up, and she was staying stride-for-stride with Laura and me. A guy was in the middle of the road dancing to the Michael Jackson song they were playing, and we finally made our way around him. Once we passed the Mile 13 marker, it was time for the final kick. I started speeding up and kept encouraging Kathryn that she could do it, that she couldn't give up, that we were almost there.
I was feeling good - I had met my goal of finishing RtB enjoying the race and having fun through the end. It was not my fastest half marathon by any stretch, but speed was not the goal for this race this year.
After we crossed the finish line, Kathryn immediately broke into tears. She had just finished a very tough course, and she had finished it very strong.
And the three of us ran all 13.1 miles together!
For two weeks in a row, I ran the race with someone, and she cried at the finish line. It's good to be a part of a running family and to be there for the moments people need someone - whether it's after crushing a PR or just finishing a very tough course.
Instead of just my usual post-race banana, I enjoyed a post-race donut, and it was SO good. There's nothing like 30+ hills to make a donut taste AMAZING. I then was able to enjoy a post-race mimosa and celebrating with friends.
I couldn't have been happier with how the race had gone. I may have had a much slower time this year than last year, but I enjoyed the race so much more! I set a goal, a goal not related to time, and I met that goal!
I also helped others meet their goals. I had lots of comments on the course about my costume, and I had 3 people stop me after the race to tell me how I helped them finish the race. One told me I was a good pacer. All of them said that they just kept my bunny ears in sight. That helped them move forward and kept them motivated, just seeing the bunny ears ahead.
I also got a medal that was as big as Zoe's face. The kids were excited that it was so big and was the same as theirs.
Next, I changed out of the bunny outfit into my race hoodie, and it was off to lunch with the Runner Girls!
We had great conversation about running, about food, about life. I am so grateful to have such an awesome running family and to have had the opportunity to spend time with so many of them throughout the day. Afterwards, I enjoyed driving home with Rebecca, Amanda, and Michael - a great way to end a great day. Rebecca recently moved to Utah, and we miss seeing her for our weekly runs. It was awesome to get to spend more time with her, and I hope we still are able to meet up for races in the future!
Thanks for reading such a long blog post with so many photos. It really was a wonderful day, a race day that I will always remember and cherish. I definitely plan to continue to have my primary race goal for more races in the future be to have fun!