A Tale of Two Races

I had every intention of blogging about the Papa John's 10 Miler before racing the Derby Festival (KDF) Minimarathon. My life has been extra hectic and overwhelming recently, and it didn't happen. But, it ends up that it is better that I didn't get to blog about it before because it has so much more meaning now, in context with KDF. Some races you fly. You feel great. You push the pace. You exceed your own expectations. Some races you struggle. You fight for each mile. It's hard. You don't meet your time goals. And the thing is - you can't always predict what type of race it will be. And certainly it is not weather dependent. In 3 weeks time, I experienced both these types of races, and now I get the opportunity to share what being a runner is all about - the good and the bad.

Papa John's 10 Miler

It was the first Saturday in April and time for the third leg of the Louisville Triple Crown of Running. I had had two great legs so far. I PRed the Anthem 5k. Then I paced a friend to her PR at the Rodes City 10k. Now it was time for the Papa John's 10 Miler. Although it was spring, it didn't actually feel like spring. In fact, it was snowing. I had trained in the cold and trained in the snow. I had run with frozen eyelashes. I was ready!

That morning, a fellow KDF ambassador came to pick me up. We were running late thanks to having to scrape the windshield, but we made it in time for the ambassador photo.

ambassador photo

Then, I rushed down to meet up with Bekah. Bekah had just run a marathon and Boston Qualified, so she was going to pace me as her recovery run. When she offered, I decided this was a good opportunity to practice my goal pace for KDF. If I could run a 9:45 pace, I would PR.

We decided we'd start at 9:45, speed up a bit the next three miles to "bank time" for the hills of Iroquois Park, ease off the pace while running the 3-ish miles of Iroquois, and then pick the pace back up when we came out.

Bekah, Jennifer, and I started off. We didn't get caught up in the push at the beginning and hit our goal almost exactly - Mile 1 was a 9:46 pace. I was feeling good, and we sped up a bit. I was dressed appropriately for the temperature. My feet did get wet in that first mile, but I quickly didn't notice the issue at all.

Miles 2-4 I could definitely tell we were pushing the pace, but I felt strong. We easily banked time on all three miles. Then we hit Iroquois. We slowed down a bit on that first mile of hills, and then we sped up the next mile, and then we had our fastest mile yet for the third mile! I felt so strong on those hills. I never had any doubts about being able to run them, and I never backed off my pace. We were talking, we were having fun, I was taking in the snowy woods, and the run felt great.

during run

hills

Back on Southern Parkway, I knew it was a straight shot with the only hill left being the overpass in the last mile. I had done so well this far, and I was feeling great. I kept the pace going. We hit Mile 9, and I knew I was going to have my best paced double-digit race. I started speeding up. We turned onto Central and started up the overpass. Luckily, someone warned us that the overpass was freezing over. Sure enough, the overpass was icy and slushy. I slowed a bit but found a path that was pretty clear and kept on going. Once we were off the overpass, it was time to really push. Up Floyd, turn the corner, and there was the finish line and time to leave Bekah as I sprinted for a strong finish. That final mile was my fastest mile yet!

pace

I couldn't believe my time. I had crushed my goal. But more than that, I ran strong. I felt so strong the entire race. I pushed the pace and kept at it. I also took time to appreciate the beauty of the snow on the trees and to talk with Bekah and Jennifer and to enjoy the race. It had really been a fantastic race in every way.

After crossing the finish line, I felt some little arms wrap around me. I was surprised and happy to see Jon and the kids there and to find out they had seen my strong finish! They had gotten there for the kids race. They were all bundled up, and Zoe looked so cold. I got a picture with Bekah and Jennifer - I was so grateful for the opportunity to race with them and for how well Jennifer and I had done.

Jennifer & Bekah

After talking with the Fleet Feet family and finding out how everyone's race went, Jon, the kids, and I got some pizza and went off to try to find the kids' race.

kids

We found out that an announcement had just been made that the kids' race was cancelled. I asked about getting the kids their medals so we could do our own race since they came all the way out and stood in the cold, but they weren't giving them out and said they'd mail them. I put Zoe up on my back, and we headed in the cold to the car. We were disappointed about the cancelled kids' race, we were all very very cold, we were tired of the long walk to the car, but I was so happy. It had been a fantastic race day, and I was with my family!

family

Derby Festival Minimarathon

I was feeling great from the 10 Miler. I backed off on the intensity that week to let myself recover from pushing so hard for the race. The next weekend, my long run was in New York City where I was for a conference. It was a tough run, but we all have tough training runs. I got the mileage in though. The next week, I felt good in training, and then I was ready to taper. I had some easy runs, took it easy at OTF and worked on stretching, and got ready for KDF.

On Thursday, I did my last OTF workout before the race, got a long massage with Abby, and then Michelle and I got race henna from Rose. For my left arm, my watch side, I chose a pegasus flying to the finish line, which featured the Churchill Downs twin spires. For my right arm, I chose the shape of Kentucky with a heart for Louisville and "Mama is a Runner," with initials for Jon, Caleb, Zoe, and Indy. I wanted to recognize not only that this was KDF but also that this is my hometown, and this would be my last race here as a resident.

henna

henna2

Thursday night, I didn't sleep well. I got up to let the puppy out in the middle of the night, and it took several hours to fall back asleep. I was anxious about the race (and about needing to sleep so I'd be ready), about work, and about everything going on in our lives.

After work Friday, I got everything ready for race day. After Zoe's gymnastics class, Jon and the kids dropped me off at the Marriott downtown. As a KDF ambassador, I had earned a stay there for race eve. It took me a long time to fall asleep, and I woke up before my alarm. Two days in a row of not sleeping well had me a little worried, but I was excited for race day!

flat jill

I got ready and decided to head out early. I was originally going to meet up with two LDP first-time marathoners that I had been mentoring, but I decided to drop my bag for after the race at gear check first. On my way, I got to see the Oscar Mayer weiner-mobile.

hotdog

After that, I met up with Mandy and Tim! They were a little nervous but excited about the day. I knew they were ready. They had trained hard, and today was the day they'd become marathoners!

Marathoners

This season hasn't been a good one for me being in the LDP pre-race photo, but I was plenty early for this one! It was great being with the Fleet Feet family pre-race. The group I had been training with got one last pic together (well, two - one with the amazing Kim Weiter jumping across the photo!), and we were headed off in our separate directions to get ready for our races.

LDP

Next, was a photo with the KDF ambassadors. It had been an honor to work with them throughout the season to promote the race and answer questions, and now it was race day!

race ambassadors

With photos done, I hopped in line for the port-o-potties for one last bathroom stop before the race. While in line, Bekah found me. We got a quick photo with some LDP folks, went to the bathroom, and headed to the corral.

A couple Moms Run This Town (MRTT) women joined us that morning. Valerie decided to join Bekah and me for our attempt at a 9:30-9:45 pace. Allison also started with us. I was a little anxious but feeling good and was excited to run.

MRTT

The first mile went exactly as planned. We ran about a 9:45 pace to get warmed up. We stayed to the left to try to get around the slower runners and the walkers who had moved up into our corral.

The second mile felt tough, and sure enough, we had averaged a 9:23 pace. After that we started to settle into our pace. Even though I had run further faster, I was struggling. The pace never felt comfortable. Bekah and Valerie stayed a couple feet in front of me having an easy conversation, and I just kept focused on moving forward and allowing myself to be distracted by their conversation. I tried to take in my surroundings, my city, but it was hard given that I was struggling. At one point, Bekah asked how I was doing. I told her, "This feels hard. But I know it's because it is hard, and I'm doing it." I was trying to stay positive, but I wasn't finding my rhythm.

About Mile 4, I started to feel nauseous. I've never felt nauseous on a run before. I tried to shake it off. I drank some extra Sword hoping the electrolytes would help. By Mile 5, Bekah had me take some of my Base Salt to see if that would help the nausea. I had to walk a moment because I felt so ill. I wasn't going to let nausea stop me from seeing my family and having them see me running strong though. I knew that a little after Mile 5 we would see them. They would have woken up early, gotten dressed, and walked a block from our house to the minimarathon route and would be their cheering for me. I ran by them with a smile and blew the kisses. My kids were wearing their bright yellow Mama is a Runner shirts. It was what I needed to lift my spirits.

From there, we headed towards Central Park. I continued to fight waves of nausea. I continued to struggle with my pace. Bekah and Valerie were great about slowing down and encouraging me to slow down and to just try to keep going. Mile 6 was tough, and my pace crept to 10:02, but then I was able to speed back up as we pushed towards Churchill Downs.

I was struggling again as we went into Churchill Downs. Bekah reminded me we had to look good for the photographers, so I needed to run and smile. She even took some selfies of us entering the infield.

CD

Once we got in Churchill Downs, things kind of fell apart for me. I was still not comfortable in my pace, I was still dealing with the waves of nausea, and I was not enjoying the race. I thought about my texts with my running partners Laura and Sandy. They knew I was trying for a PR, and Laura reminded me to have B and C goals as well. I told her, "I even have a D goal - just finish and enjoy it - so if I'm not going to make a, b, or c, I'll make sure to switch on the fun and do high 5s." I did some walking as we went around the infield at Churchill Downs. I wanted to remember running there. I wanted to enjoy it. The nice part is that several marathoners I knew ran by me during that stretch. They encouraged me, and my spirits were lifted by seeing them running strong.

We came out of Churchill Downs. My pace for the 8th mile had been 10:53. I knew that I didn't have it in my to PR today. Bekah and Valerie had tried to wait for me, which was super sweet and made me smile. I waved them on. I knew there was more walking in my future. I was frustrated with myself that I wasn't running strong, but I also had no intention of quitting. I was going to finish this race, I was going to have fun, but I also knew it would be a mental and physical struggle. Throughout the next several miles, I ran. I walked. I shuffled. I did whatever I needed to in order to mentally and physically keep moving forward. I gave high fives to spectators. If another runner started walking and seemed discouraged, I encouraged them and would run a bit with them. I talked to MRTT runners, I saw some LDP runners, and I took in my city. We passed UofL. We ran through Old Louisville. I was so excited when I came to my family again - a block over from where they saw me earlier. Instead of my usual run by and wave, I went over to them and hugged them. Jon told Caleb to be quick because I needed to keep running. I shook my head and said, "No, I'm done." Caleb thought that meant I was done racing, but Jon explained it didn't and encouraged me. I felt better. I knew I still had to keep pushing, I knew I was done going for my PR, but I also knew I was going to keep enjoying the race.

I continued to run. I continued to do some walking. I did things like tell myself I was going to walk through the next intersection and then keep running. I talked to lots of people. I came to some LDP spectators. I knew they had tacos, and I yelled, "I run for tacos!" Lucas was holding out a box, so I reached in to get what I thought were tacos. They were pieces of donut. I was so disappointed. Cristin yelled that she had had the tacos (of course she did!), and as I continued towards the finish line, Michelle came running after me with a little mini taco!

I was walking again less than a mile from the finish line. I knew I was getting close, but I also was ready to be done. Just then, Allison came up behind me. She also had had a tough race. We decided we were going to finish strong, and the two of us ran together. Turning the corner and seeing the finish line ahead was amazing. That last stretch, I was running a 7:53 pace! I may have struggled through those last 5 miles, but I finished strong! I was beaming the entire last tenth of a mile as I ran towards that finish line. I was so happy. I was happy to have run in my city. I was happy that I kept going and that I had fun. I was happy that I was finishing strong. I was happy that I was finishing.

finish line

Post-race, I had another Ambassador perk to take advantage of. I headed to the VIP tent. There, I was able to change into dry clothes and eat some amazing food.

food

I also had a recovery stretch with the PT. The PT couldn't believe I had had a massage just two days before because my hips were so tight.

Then, I had a moment to say hi to Shanna, the race director, and Chris, one of the ambassador leads.

shanna

Once I had recovered a bit, I found my Run Crew. Sandy and Laura were anxiously waiting for me to see how the race had gone. I was ready to shake off my bad race and focus on being with my running family.

FF watching

We were in the stands near the finish line and ready to cheer on the relay teams and marathoners. The Runner Girls relay team joined us, and Sean showed up with McDonald's burgers and fries. I don't remember the last time I had McD's, but there's something about a tough run and being with family that makes food taste better!

McDonald's

The rest of the race was a lot of fun. We got to see JWill and the Women RISE team cross the finish line and saw all our marathoners, including the first-time marathoners, cross the finish line while we cheered and cheered.

Next up, taking Tim E. and Mandy to the PR bell. They completed their first marathon and finished strong! We were so proud of them! And Tim has already signed up for his next marathon - Indy Monumental!

PR bell

Before we all went our own way, we, of course, had to get a photo of all the Fleet Feet Family still at the race. Laura pointed out that somehow we managed to have all the people I had mentored in the last two seasons together in one photo - Laura, Sandy, and JWill from our marathon training season; Kat from Run the Bluegrass; Zoe, Tim E., and Mandy from this past season. All together. This was my last season with Fleet Feet Louisville. These are people who had become my friends, my family. This was a moment I will always hold in my heart - being with them, being accepted, having encouraged and supported one another, having cheered each other to new heights this season and having supported each other after a tough race.

family

It had been a long time since JWill and I had been together for a post-run selfie, so we made sure to get one (in our matching Goodrs). After a season of so much time together as we trained for our first marathon, it had been strange not to run together much this past season since Jennifer was so busy with work. We spent some time after the race catching up (including getting some ice cream).

JWill

Finally, it was time to head home and see my family. They are so awesome at supporting me. They are proud of me for each race I run, regardless of my time and whether it is a PR. Zoe and Caleb couldn't wait to hug me and see my medal. They both were wearing there Mama is a Runner shirt and were excited for me to be home.

Zoe

Caleb

It was time to enjoy the rest of the day knowing that I had finished my 11th half marathon, 2 years since my first half marathon. Although it wasn't the time I wanted and included some walking, although I struggled mentally and physically, it still was faster than my first time running KDF two years ago, and I still finished it strong and smiling. I have grown so much in those 2 years - as a runner, as a mother, as a woman. I am stronger physically, emotionally, mentally. And at the center of it all is my family. As we went out to celebrate completing my goal race for the season, I had to smile taking a photo of the kids in their Mama is a Runner shirts sitting in the backseat holding hands just like their parents.

holdinghands