Backblast – Half Marathon @ Parklands

A total of 10 PAX participated in this year’s Louisville Marathon or Half Marathon.

PAX: No Show, Sputnik, Harry Caray, Dot, Captain Crunchberry, Virginia Slims, Newman, Motor Boat, Patty, and Saul Goodman.

Each PAX listed above has their own story to tell, this is mine.

Training this cycle was very inconsistent. In the past I would do 3 days a week. I managed just 2 days this time. I totally expected this to be reflected in my finish time, and I was prepared for that. Although the goal was to cross the finish line in under 2 hours.

The morning of the race didn’t start good. I couldn’t find my running belt. I generally don’t run with my phone. I only do it on race day to allow family/friends to track my location. So, the belt was MIA. I’m climbing all around my truck looking for it. I had it just 2 weeks prior while on vacation, so I knew it had to be in there. I finally found it. Can you believe it was in the last place I looked? So I strapped it on, put my phone in, and the Clifs Bloks I planned to chew for in-race fuel.

I made my way to the start line to find Virginia Slims, Newman, and a guy who I didn’t know. Turns out the guy I didn’t know just needed someone to stand with. We talked while waiting for others to join us. Newman told us he contemplated doing the mummbleruck prior to the race, but was concerned his wife might think he is crazy. We all agreed with that statement. So he opted to run the race with 20 lbs weight vest strapped to himself. Slowly the group was assembled, and we started to take out place in the starting chute. Motor Boat moved up towards the front, taking place with a 1 hour 45 minute pacer (I think) while Slims, HC and I hung out with the 2 hour pacer. I have no clue where everyone else was at this point. We were convinced maybe Dot got mixed up and didn’t make it.

Time came, and the race began. I started the RaceJoy app on my phone, started my workout on my watch, and settled into stride with the group. For the first half mile it is fairly tight, people passing others, and getting settled into their groups. Slims, HC and I stayed somewhat together, with the 2 hour pacer all the way to the top of the hill. While going down the hill, we were kind of bunched up, and I wanted to spread out my stride a little. This is when I noticed HC had somehow passed us, and was about 30-40 feet in front of me and Slims. So, with a few mumbles, we closed the gap a little, and the a little more. Just as we were approaching the trestle bridge, we finally caught up to HC. I jokingly asked if he thought he was running the race alone. Slims responded with “You sandbaggin’ SOB.” I think we stayed together through Pope Lick Park, but to be honest, I don’t remember.

At this point the 2 hour pacer was behind me, and I planned to keep it that way. Don’t get me wrong, she does a great job, and plays a pivotal role in my success, later. But for now, knowing she is behind me is all I needed.

Once we hit Pope Lick Park, I had family there waiting to cheer me on. My daughter asked me if I was getting tired of the RaceJoy app cheers she was sending. I hadn’t heard any. I had the volume down on my phone, and I didn’t know. So I cranked it up, and continued to follow the yellow brick road (that was one of the cheers that kept playing.)

At some point HC fell back a little. I kept glancing over my shoulder to see how close we were. It was a rather uneventful few miles out to the turn around point. Both Motor Boat and Newman went rolling by as we were getting close tot he turn around. We made the turn, and at that point saw HC towards the front of the 2 hour pacer, and Dot towards the back of that pack. Eventually seeing Sputnik too. Slims and I had settled in behind a tri-athelete, and were content for a while. He was wearing his one piece swim/bike/run thing. It was dripping in sweat. Not the most attractive thing to stare at, but his pace was good. I asked Slims is he was content, or wanted to go around, and we proceeded to pace him. This was the last I got to speak to Slims, as he took that as him opportunity to get into his normal pace, rather than mine. We entered Pope Lick Park again, with Slims about 50 yards ahead of me, and HC somewhere behind me. Again family was there to greet me. My dad said something like “just 3 more to go” which I think it was closer to 4, but encouraging all the same. But as you exit the park, anyone who has run the course knows, that hill is right around the corner. I’m sure there are bigger hills, I’m sure there are longer hills. But this hill, for me, is “that” hill. It is the defining moment of the race. You are approximately 10 miles into the race, and you are faced with about 125 feet of elevation climb over a half mile. You either conquer the hill, or it conquers you.

As I approached the base of the hill, I heard the 2 hour pacer behind cheering for her group. This wasn’t a good feeling. I thought I had created more separation. At this point I assumed HC was still with her, but I really didn’t know. I started the climb, and passed a few people that were walking. I tried to encourage them to push up the hill, to not let it win. One guy I either lit a fire, or he had rested enough, because he started running again, and he ended up running past me. When you approach the top of the hill, the trail snakes around. Putting you “close” to people that might be 100 yards behind you. I don’t know where Harry Caray was at this point, but I yelled for him all the same.

What goes up, must come down. Once at the summit (that makes the hill sound more like a mountain, which it feels like,) it is simply hold on, and throw your legs out in front of you. It almost feels like just as much work going down, as it did going up. Once you start with momentum, you can’t stop until you reach the bottom. Somewhere about here the 2 hour pacers closed the gap on me. It was great to have that cheerleader/coach there for the final push. She was constantly yelling encouragement. At one point I looked behind us, and there was a large gap between us and the next participate. I told her she was only yelling for my benefit basically. She responded that she was yelling for anyone who wanted to listen, and if they didn’t want to listen, they needed to run faster. I kept stride with them for a while, until about the Humana Fountain. At this point she started to put some distance between us. I got kind of concerned, as I thought I might make the goal of 2 hours, but as she started to get further away, I thought my goal might be following her. At this point it is just about a half mile to the finish line.

I push up the last small hill, round the corner and head to the finish line. I don’t remember looking at my watch for my time, but at some point I saw the official race clock, and it said 1:59:45. I wasn’t going to leave it to chance, and I put on my best Big Bird impression, and sprinted to the finish line. Photos taken by family range from 1:59:55 to 1:59:59. (There might be one that has a 2 hour clock, but we will delete that.)

Virginia Slims was waiting with a water in hand. (Need to recruit him to our Bourbon Chase group, clearly he can remember to get a water bottle for the finisher)

Man, what a wave of emotions. I knew I should have some cushion from the race clock to the chip time, but I didn’t know how much. My M called me moments after I crossed (she was out of town and following on the app.) I nearly broke down into tears. I don’t know why. I collected myself, and made my way out of the chute to begin the celebration. Beer, Derby Pie, more beer. I pulled my phone out to find HC, he hadn’t crossed yet, and I thought it was just behind me. The app said he had just hit the Humana Fountain. Something wasn’t right. He crossed the finish line, loosened a brace on his hamstring and basically collapsed onto the ground. He said his hamstring locked up on him at one point. I hated that for him. I tried to track Patty and Saul Goodman, but neither had tracking enabled.

Eventually those that were at the finish line gathered for a photo, and we went out separate ways.

Having completed 3 half marathons, each race has it’s own emotions. The first was a “success” because my goal was to run the whole race, without a time hack. The second I trained much harder, with a goal of completing in under 2 hours. I missed that goal and felt defeated. No encouragement could get the sour taste out of my mouth. Then number 3. I hadn’t trained as much, I wanted to complete it in under 2 hours, but had adjusted my goal to be just running the whole race, since I ended up walking in the second. Not only did I run the whole race, I cracked the 2 hour time hack.

I don’t know where this puts my running “career”, if I need to set a goal of improving my time, or simply keep doing what I’ve been doing. Or do I stretch the distance, and try a full? Only time will tell. But until then, I encourage anyone reading to push yourself. With the support of F3, you can accomplish more than you realize.

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