I had been looking forward to this weekend for so long, and it seemed to go by in a flash! It was full of screw-ups (by me!), cold weather, and driving, but I had such a great overall experience!
The plan was to leave early Friday morning at 8AM, and then arrive to Lexington around 1. It was supposed to be around a 5 hour drive, so I thought this would be no problem. Well I woke up later than I thought I would, and then when I was in the shower a thought came to my head – WAIT! Kentucky is on Eastern time! So right off the bat, we were going to arrive later than we thought. And because I took forever ( I don’t know why – but I was moving so slow!) we ended up not even leaving St. Louis until a little after 8:45AM. When we went out to the car, there was a bit of snow on it (What the heck!) and I knew we were in for an interesting weekend!
Since it was Friday morning and we were leaving during the end of rush hour, it took us longer than normal to even get out of the city and then once we crossed the border into Illinois we had to stop right away to get gas since I forgot to the night before (Seriously, I think I get an F for planning for this trip!) We both wanted Starbucks so I found on Google Maps the closest one and so after we filled up the tank we drove to find that, but unfortunately we realized it was not a drive through, or even a stand alone, but instead inside a Target :(( No time for that!
The rest of the drive we really didn’t hit any bad traffic or anything, it just seemed like it took forever probably because there wasn’t a lot of great scenery along the way. The most interesting thing was probably when we drove through Louisville, but that didn’t last very long.
We finally got to the Race Expo around 3PM. Our bus to the bourbon distillery left at 3:30PM from the Expo, so I was a little bit worried that I wouldn’t have much time to look around. Luckily though, I didn’t need much time because I got my race bib and shirt really quickly and then most of the booths were for local races that I wasn’t interested in anyways.
After browsing through the Expo, we headed over to the charter bus for the bourbon distillery tour. The bourbon tour was so much fun! I was a bit worried because I’m not much of a bourbon drinker, but we had an awesome bourbon “tasting” from a really knowledgable staff member, and I actually enjoyed the taste of bourbon. We also got a behind the scenes tour of the distillery which was really interesting. This tour was set up through the Run the Bluegrass Half, so I would really recommend it to future runners of the race.
The tour started a bit late, and it ended up running longer than it was supposed to. Therefore, we missed our dinner reservations. Luckily Justin was able to find another restaurant that could get us in, and we ended up having a fantastic meal!
We got to the hotel around 9 and I went to bed pretty quickly so that I would be rested for the race in the morning. Before going to sleep, I put out my clothes for the morning (definitely did not pack well enough for the chilly temps, so I had to wear lots of layers!) and then headed to bed.
The race started at 9, so I woke up about 6:30AM to get ready. We left around 7:30 because we heard traffic might be kind of bad, but we got to the start area in plenty of time. Justin and I just waited in the car for awhile and then around 8:40 I headed over to the start line. OMG, it was FREEZING!!! It was 25 degrees but it felt SO much colder since it has been pretty nice lately. I was shaking as I waited in my corral (I was in corral #2) but after a while I started to feel a little comfortable.
At 9AM, the race started. I didn’t have to wait long because I was in the second corral and around 9:03, I was off. Right off the bat I had issues. I had started my Nike+ app on my phone before hand and then paused it, but when we crossed the start line I couldn’t get it to resume so I decided not to fuss with it and just dealt with not having it during my run. Luckily my music was playing so at least I had that. I was upset that I wouldn’t have my pace at every .5 miles, but I didn’t want to stop to try to figure it out.
Another problem at the start was that I was FROZEN! I think the reason why I started feeling alright while waiting for the race to start was because my legs were numb so I didn’t realize how cold they were! It felt so weird running at first because my legs and feet were frozen and I don’t think I actually “thawed off” until about mile 4. My face was also numb and it was just the strangest feeling. I really was worried that something was wrong with me and I contemplated for a brief minute on whether or not I should continue!!
At first because of my frozen-ness I wasn’t focusing on the course as much, which was probably good because I wasn’t thinking about the constant rolling hills. I had read about the course beforehand, heard everyone’s warnings, but I really didn’t think it would be that bad. BUT, i was WRONG! We were constantly going up huge hills and then down and then up again. One of the hills I thought we had reached the top, until I got to the top and realized there was another hill immediately after to go up! The first 6 miles I wasn’t feeling too awful with the hills, but after that they really started to get to me. I noticed my legs were getting really tired and as I was going up one of the hills I almost stopped to walk up it because I felt like my legs were shot. But, I really wanted to get a PR and since I had no idea how fast I was going, I knew it would not help my time to stop and walk. So I kept going up and down the hills and tried my best to finish strong!
It was a very exhausting course, but the views of the horses and fields along the course were beautiful. Whenever I felt like I wanted to give up, I would look at the horses and think about how lucky I was to be able to run in this beautiful half marathon.
The last half of the race was challenging, but before I knew it I was on the final “furlong” and heading towards the finish line. I gave the race director a fist pump and crossed the finish line and looked at the clock and was pretty sure I had PR’ed. Justin was waiting for me at the finish line, and then we went over to a tent where I got my medal engraved. When they handed me back my medal, I looked at the time and it confirmed what I had thought- I got a PR! 1:52:23! Even though I was so tired, this made me so excited and filled me with a little bit of energy that I desperately needed! Haha.
Afterwards, there was a band, pizza, and beer. We looked around for a bit and then headed back to the car to go home.
This race was definitely the hardest half I have ever done. The cold temperature and endless rolling hills really got to me, but luckily I was able to push through and get a PR. The overall organization of the race and experience was amazing, and I will be returning next year to run the race with Kathleen. Luckily, I will be much better prepared next year and I have warned Kathleen about how tough it is!