2016 Derby half recap: Fastest filly on the track

In my last post, I mentioned the marathon burnout was so real and I was enjoying focusing on crossfit for awhile. That continued through the 2016 Crossfit Open, during which I pushed myself really hard and hit multiple PRs.

That theme would carry over into my running as I ramped up training for the Derby half. This is by far the least amount of training I’ve ever done for a race. I don’t necessarily recommend it but luckily everything else I was doing kept me in decent enough shape that I was able to work up to 10 miles with relative ease. Based on the times I was posting, I thought I might have a PR performance in me, which was crazy to think about.

For the second year in a row, the Derby forecast called for rain. I was much more mentally prepared for it since I survived 13.1 miles of rain last year. And once you’re wet, you’re wet. There’s not much you can do but keep moving.

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I didn’t necessarily have a game plan for this race but I knew I would have to work really hard to maintain the pace needed to PR. My first mile was a lot slower than I intended, mainly due to dodging traffic and finding my lane as the field settled. I told myself I had 12 more miles to make up that time and not to freak out too early.

I was quickly reminded how awesome the crowd is in Louisville. They came out in huge numbers all throughout the course, despite the rain. It was amazing! Until it wasn’t… In mile 11, there was a huge group of guys cheering. As I passed them, one guy threw a football and it hit me in the head and knocked my hat off. He apparently thought it would be fun to play catch. With runners. In the middle of a race. In the pouring rain.

After screaming “what the fuck?!?” I grabbed my hat and took off. I was worried about how much time it would cost me since I was on track to PR. Once again I was telling myself to stay calm and just get refocused. I wasn’t about to let a dumbass ruin the hard work I had put in so far – and still had left to do.

Derby half 2016

This was the first race where I felt like I was actually racing. I pushed myself harder for longer than ever before. It was work. It hurt. There was no smiling during these race photos. And I wanted to stop so many times in those last few miles. But I pushed through and it paid off in a big way.

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My time was 4:00 faster than last year on this course and about 2:00 faster than my previous best half. In some ways, I’m more proud of this race than the full marathon. Or at least proud in a different way given everything I faced that morning.

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What’s next?
I’m hoping to ride the runner’s high that came with this PR and maintain a better base than I did after the full. And I’ll continue crossfit, of course.

As far as races go, I need to figure out a new fall half to try. For the first time since I started running, I’m missing the Monumental. That race will always have a special meaning for me since it was the first half and full I did. It also feels like my home court race since I know the streets so well and I love the course.

What fall race should I sign up for? What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to you during a race? Drop a note in the comments below!

 

**Also want to note I emailed the race director about the football incident and they were very responsive and are contacting the group. This is a great race overall and I’d hate for that one instance to deter anyone from signing up.

Kentucky Derby Festival MiniMarathon

“Train hard, race hard” is a mantra I’ve adopted as I’ve gotten more into running. If it’s snowing, you run. If it’s raining, you run. If it’s 0 degrees, you run. If it’s 90 degrees, you run.

You do this because you never know what will happen on race day and training in all elements makes you more mentally prepared. If you only train in “perfect” weather, you will only be prepared for “perfect” race day weather, which is super rare and means something different to every runner.

This weekend I ran my fifth half marathon, the Kentucky Derby Festival MiniMarathon, and the race day conditions were far from perfect. The forecast called for 53 and rainy. I was excited for cooler temps since I tend to run hot but wasn’t sure how heavy the rain would be. I wore a hat and mesh tank top and brought a poncho for the start line corrals.

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It ended up being a light rain for the majority of the race, which I actually didn’t mind. But in the last few miles it turned into a downpour. It was honestly some of the toughest conditions I’ve ever ran in but I kept my head down and grinded out to the end for a 2:13:56 finish.

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It wasn’t a PR but it was my second fastest time, which I’m pretty proud of given the rain. The course was also hillier than I’m used to (aka super flat Indy) and the field was bigger than I’m used to, forcing me to weave in and out of runners almost the whole race. I also had a slow first two miles after realizing I had to pee pretty much as soon as I got in the corrals. I’ve never stopped in a race before but I knew it would weigh me down (literally and mentally) so I dipped in and out at the first water station. My gut reaction was to sprint out of there to make up for lost time but I had a lot of course left so I calmed down and settled into a steady pace.

Splits

My Garmin was a little off from my chip time because of my early pit stop but based on how my splits were the rest of the race, I think I might have had a shot at a PR had the first two miles gone differently. But you can’t think that way. I ran the race I ran and left it all on the road, which is all you can do!

One of my other slower miles was when we ran through Churchill Downs. The tunnels going in and out had a steeper incline than I expected and of course I had to get my phone out for a few pics. There were a couple horses on the track, which was cool but you could definitely smell them…

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While the water stations were a giant cluster (I had to stop and wait for them to fill up cups…), the City of Louisville came out and represented in some ridiculous spectator conditions. They were some of the best I’ve had in any race. My favorites were the church near mile two, the high school drumline not far down from there and a girl’s cross country club whose cheers could rival the Wellesley College section of the Boston Marathon.

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What’s next?

My goal is to maintain my base in May then in June start training for my first full, the Monumental Marathon. SHIT JUST GOT REAL.

Louisville Love

I stayed at the Galt House the night before the race, which was a little pricey but worth it for the convenience factor. This was my first out of town race and it was really nice not to have to worry about race day logistics (the start line was half a mile down the street).

After the race, I met up with my friends who also did the half (Efe’s first!) and stayed at their house in the Clifton area. I’ve driven through Louisville so many times but never really visited and I have to say I was really impressed. So much good food, beer and bourbon (of course).

This post is already super long so I’ll spare you the details and just give you the highlights with some pics in the gallery below.

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Have you raced in the rain before? What are your strategies for tough conditions? Where else should I visit in Louisville when I go back? Drop a note in the comments below!