Race Recap: 2017 Derby Marathon

Ten days before the Kentucky Derby Marathon, I decided I was going to accept a bib transfer and see what I could do. I've been running consistently since the ultra, putting in weekly long runs from a maintenance standpoint.It would be my 7th official marathon (6th on the road).

My training plan called for a lighter 6-8 weeks between Land Between the Lakes and starting official training for the 50-miler in early May. In this time, I had added strength training twice a week and more focus on speedwork on the roads to solidify a stronger base as I head into the higher mileage weeks for 50-miler training.

Most of my long runs had been on trails - mostly the challenging trails with lots of elevation change out at Jefferson Memorial Forest. I had no idea what I would be capable of on the road for 26.2 miles, and I was excited and worried to find out. I set a stretch goal of running a 4:30 marathon, but thought I was definitely capable of a 4:40, or at the very least a personal record (PR). My current PR was 4:57.

Weather for race was looking rather bleak in the forecasts. Definitely rain, probably thunderstorms, also temperatures nearing 90 degrees. I obsessively watched the forecast and discussed potential starting strategies and made plans to wear and carry as little as possible. Two days before race day, I woke up with a cold. I was congested and had a sore throat. That wasn't good but it wouldn't prevent me from running unless it moved to my chest or gave me a fever. I got to stay at a hotel the night before the race with Stephanie and Allison, which was so much fun! Little sleep was had, since there were some raging thunderstorms during the night. When we planned to wake up, we had a notification that the race had been delayed from a 7:30am start to an 8am start. So we had a little extra time to sleep more or get ready.

Everything went smoothly for me while getting ready, except I couldn't find my underwear. I searched all over and couldn't imagine where it would have gone. We had some good laughs over that. I decided to just make sure I wouldn't get any chafing by using body glide and vaseline.

We walked to the start line and found our other group members from Moms Run This Town/She Runs This Town and got our group photos and exchanged happy-nervous chitchat. The sky was looking ominous. The race was delayed until 8:30 a.m. I wished I hadn't eaten my protein bar already. I had Tailwind (electrolyte drink) in my water bottle and I was thirsty but wanted to save it for the race. I took a few small sips. Went to the bathroom. The race was delayed again, until 9am. Around that time, we headed to our corrals and the race was delayed until 9:15am. It was raining by now. Big cool droplets that felt great with the humidity. It was already in the 70s. I was worried about the humidity plus the second half of the race which would be even hotter than it would have been if we had started at 7:30am. I knew I wouldn't make my 4:30 goal and that was OK. I would see how I felt before deciding what I would let disappoint me. I still thought I could PR if I was careful not to start too fast. When we finally started, I was hungry and thirsty. Grateful for the rain. Stephanie and Allison had convinced me that I should run with them for the race, though they had trained together and I was worried that I couldn't keep up with their pace, especially on race day. But I agree to hang as long as I could.

The first mile was miserable. I could not get my groove and we were staying around a 10 minute mile, which was normally pretty comfortable for me. I knew it would take until 3 or so miles to figure out what would feel good and how I would want to race. Stephanie was happy and reeling herself in quite a bit, and Allison was struggling those first 3 miles. I had never run with Allison before, so I didn't know if she was taking awhile to warm up, like me, or if something was wrong. I knew we were going more slowly than her comfortable long run pace, so I did worry a little that she seemed so out of breath and unhappy. She and I agreed that we couldn't run sub-10 minute miles for the entire race, but we kept going at that pace anyway. I started to feel good at 6 miles and the miles had gone quickly for me. We missed the MRTT/SRTT "scream team" who had been cheering at the 4 mile mark. But I saw my mom and stepdad as I passed them and that was fun. I love seeing friendly faces on the course!

As we entered Churchill Downs and bottlenecked, I was reminded why I didn't enjoy that part of the race. The dark and wet tunnel, people slowing down and stopping to take pictures, not really that exciting to see (in my opinion). We ran around the inside and Allison was really struggling. She talked about her heart rate being abnormally high and really needed to slow down. That was fine, I didn't think I could keep up that pace anyway, and it was faster than I was planning to start. We saw the 4:30 pacer pass us and I had a fleeting moment of wonder - could I stay with them? Nah. I was here to enjoy Allison's first marathon and Stephanie's second marathon with them. We entered another dark tunnel and had to run single file, and I lost Stephanie and Allison when I came out of the tunnel. I slowly ran to the next water stop, which wasn't too far. Grabbed water and walked the stop and then stood at the end of the water stop for a minute or so, looking for them. Where did they go? What happened?

I slowed myself down, even though I was feeling good, and kept going. I walked a few times so Stephanie and Allison could catch up to me. I kept turning around to look for them but didn't see them. At the next water stop, I stopped and waited for a few minutes and there was Amber! But no Stephanie or Allison. I was worried. I didn't check my phone though; I don't know why I didn't think to do that! Amber said that Stephanie and Allison were having an emotional conversation about whether Stephanie should go on or not. Stephanie wanted to be supportive but Allison wanted her to go on without her. Amber and I agreed that I should just continue on too. She said she had fallen into a nice 8:40 pace that was really comfortable, and did I want to do that with her for awhile. Hahaha, that's not a comfortable pace for me but we hung together at a slower pace as we headed toward the park.

The park is Iroquois, notorious for its hills and was about 3 miles around the loop. We knew it would slow us down a bit, and the temperature was increasing. I felt like steam was coming up from the pavement. The park had welcome shade, and I maintained a good pace going up that first hill. Then Amber said she could see Stephanie behind us, and indeed, she caught up to us! She was feeling terrible for leaving Allison, but she was clearly having an excellent running day. We stayed together through the park though I was pushing my pace more than I thought I should. Amber fell behind about halfway through the park, and then I fell behind during the last half mile. I told Stephanie that she could get close to a 4:30 if she could keep up her current pace, and that she should go for it.

Leaving the park meant getting very hot. I continued to feel pretty good and keep my desired 10ish minute mile, despite being hot, up until mile 18. At this point I knew electrolytes would help. I also fueled early. I took Powerade at a water stop (in addition to water). Powerade MESSES with my stomach and within minutes I was doubled over with stomach pain. But I knew I needed the electrolytes or I would end up dehydrated, so I continued to take Powerade at the water stops, along with 2 cups of water each time. Just before 20 miles, I saw my family from a distance. The first thing I saw was Brynja's black dress with pink stars. Then I saw Sven and Eivy with her, and Mike, and my mom and Bob. I was so happy to see them. I ran over and hugged everyone, and continued on my way.

I could still PR if I could get my pace back down. I was working a lot harder though, and my pace slipped into the 11s. I started dumping water on my head. I ran through the open fire hydrants, I accepted a little boy's offer of squirting me with his water gun (he aimed at my lower back which soaked my skirt, haha). I was feeling miserable. I fueled again at 23 miles. Some horrible tasting lemon with caffeine Clif gel that was handed out on the course. I could hardly swallow it but washed it down with the water in my handheld (I had refilled it a few times). I knew I needed it, and it helped me as I turned onto Baxter into the heat of the day. I saw a Ragnar hat sitting at Wick's pizza or the place next door. I didn't have the energy to yell, I couldn't think of what to say even.

I wanted the race to be over. I was so hot and miserable and wanted to walk. I walked a bit, then I ran more, and walked a bit. I was passing tons of people. Many of them were walking at this point too. I tried to do math in my head but couldn't. I knew I had less than a 5k left, then 2 miles, then 1 mile. Even 1 mile felt like a really long distance. The chafing of my phone in my pocket on my left thigh was making itself known. I hadn't seen vaseline to try to stave off terrible chafing, but I was keeping my eyes out. I decided to try to run the last mile around 10 minutes, so I picked up the pace. This was really challenging. My body felt like it was going through sludge. I was drenched but so HOT. I was passing people, which Amber told me was her favorite part. I tried to channel that, but honestly could not find enjoyment in passing miserable people with my own miserable self. Despite slowing down, I was pretty sure I would PR, but I couldn't figure out how to know that for sure. This last push would be a good idea.

I went to pass a man in a headband but either he sped up or I lost my momentum right then, and we were running side by side. We exchanged a few words. I felt like I couldn't possibly keep running. I slowed down so he could pass. But he slowed down too. He said "you've got this, we only have 2 turns left before we can see the finish line." I looked at him and grunted "OK." Plodded along. Did the first turn. Wanted to stop, and maybe slowed down a bit. He stayed with me. "Only one more turn. You can do it. We are almost there. See the turn up there? Once we do that, we will be there. It's the final push. Come on." All things I've said to someone else, hoping I wasn't being annoying. I felt so grateful to him. He was determined to see me to the finish line. We picked up the pace together. He encouraged me more. I tried to be encouraging back. There was that final turn. We "sprinted" to the finish line - he stayed with me still. We crossed together and exchanged high fives and I thanked him for staying. I was so glad it was over and I stopped my watch. 4:43! Not my goal, but a HUGE PR! I was happy with that, especially in these conditions.

I got my medal and wandered through the finish chute to the food. Hmm, green bananas, yuck. No chocolate milk. Bagels, yuck (I can never eat that kind of dry food after a long run). Sun chips, yuck. Oh! Crackers with peanut butter. Thank goodness there was something that sounded OK. Where was the water? Oh hey! people I know! Mary Rose came up to me and congratulated me and I felt dizzy and rather awful. I leaned on her and we headed to some shade and found others. A chair was brought over for me and I sat down. I was feeling terrible. Mitch brought me my beer. That felt good - the carbs and the fizz and the cold. Corrine brought me water, which was also cold and felt good. I tried to eat a cracker. I chatted for awhile and then it was time to go. I didn't have a car or keys to my house, and everyone else was out of town at a soccer tournament, so I had Stephanie drop me off at my moms. By the time I got there, I was in pretty bad shape with dehydration. Bob made me some Hammer Recoverite and gave me enduralytes too (salt tabs). I ate a few bagel chips and then I got into a bath. OMG the chafing from my phone! And around my waistband. I screamed as I got into the tub. Then I started to feel sick to my stomach. Ugh. I was sick for hours, and worked really hard to get rehydrated before it became an emergency. Mike picked me up and I went home and laid down. I managed to get the girls to bed (Mike and Sven had a soccer game to attend) and just laid on the couch feeling hungry finally, but not having the energy to get up and cook, and also we didn't have any food. Ugh, it was a long, miserable night. Thankfully I woke up feeling better, and finally felt like I could take a moment to celebrate my accomplishment!

There are always lessons to be learned from these experiences - long runs, races, even short runs. I was grateful to get to run this race and PR and see what I was made of. It might have been my 7th marathon, but it was still very hard. Afterward, I got a sinus infection and cough, and have now taken almost 2 weeks off of running because I've been too sick. Now that I'm better, I hope to get out and hit the trails again. Time to start training for my 50-miler! Four months!


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