Thursday, May 3, 2012

KDF Race Report - The middle and the End

When we left off our protagonist was bearing down on mile 9 as the marathoners split off from the Mini Marathoners....

As we rounded the corner from the split, I saw it. There in the distance were four port-o-potties sitting completely on their own. They glistened in the sunlight like an oasis in the desert. As if on cue Pacer Greg piped in, "Now that we've thinned out, this would be a great time to use the bathroom. We'll see you when we see you." Though he was speaking to everyone, I knew this was the best shot I'd get to both use the bathroom and keep my pace group. But I wasn't alone. As soon as Greg got the words out of his mouth, three other members of the group took off in a dead sprint towards the impromptu rest stop. I bolted in an attempt to gain some seconds on the pace group and get ahead of the others.

The woman in front of me came to a screeching halt to start a line. She was staring around, whistling, looking totally carefree in the moment. I heard the port-o-potty click "open" before I saw it, and then I saw the green. To me, the little green "vacant" sign on a port-o-potty handle means "GO." Unfortunately, this woman did not have the same idea. Over 8 miles I'd learned that she was not a novice, she'd run marathons before, and this time she was running as part of a team. What she hadn't learned in all of these outings was how to handle this port-o-potty situation. Before I knew I was doing it I looked at her and pointed to the port-o-potty and said (ok, yelled) "MOVE!!" Socially graceful? No, but there is no room for social graces in a mid-race port-o-potty line. 

After the pit stop I jumped right back in. I had no idea how long I'd been in there or how far I was behind. Guessing I wasn't too far back, I kicked it into high gear. I felt great, and I pushed the pace without feeling like I'd die. Since this part of the course was an out-and-back I started to see marathoners scattering the oncoming street. I was uplifted by their energy and their speed. I didn't even hear my Garmin beep at mile 10. I could see the little "5:00 Hour" sign up ahead and I knew that If i just kept pushing I would catch them. What I didn't know, and would soon realize, is that I was going way too fast.  When the Garmin beeped at Mile 11 I saw a 10:32 min/mile pace. Add that to the 10:19 min/mile I made out of mile 10 and I was throwing the plan out the window. I reevaluated and decided I didn't want to trash my legs early; if i just tried to stay 2 steps faster than the pace group then I'd catch them when I made a strong surge in the park. I reluctantly pulled on the reigns and focused on staying strong and steady.
Next up - Iroquois Park! Horrible shots of the map & elevation chart
Elevation? Hilly!
Sure enough, as we started into Iroquois park I put on my big girl pants and prepared to race. This hilly 3 mile look used to be part of the mini-course and routinely kicked my butt. I ran it several times during training in an effort to kill it on race day. I felt great both up and down the hills and curves. Sure enough, I met up with my group about half way through as we passed the half-way point. I felt a huge relief knowing I'd made it back to them and was really proud that I'd managed to get back without being a total idiot. I hoped from here out I could just sink in and ride the energy to the finish.

Once we left the park it was just a matter of heading back downtown. Miles 14 through 17 were uneventful. It was starting to get really warm - not just sunny, but humid. I don't remember exactly where it was, maybe as early as 16, but we started getting faster. I looked at my garmin and saw something like 10:46. We'd been walking the water-stops and I guess we had to compensate was too fast. Slowly they started pulling ahead of me and I couldn't catch them at the water stops.

I realized I was still making good time, but feeling left behind and outrun by the group really took a toll on me mentally. I turned up the Ipod and just kept moving. The shade from the trees was keeping things cool and the water stops - though only pouring out about maybe 1.5" of water per cup - were plentiful. As I saw the sign for mile 19 I thought, "If I can just make it to 20 I can make it."
Slow-poke Bonus: no one around to steal your photo time
(chillax legal-types, I plan on buying this obviously copyrighted photo)
Like most mothers mine always told me "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all." Well, I have nothing nice to say about the last 6 miles of the 2012 Derby Festival Marathon. It's been almost a week since, but I can still feel the disappointment and the failure I felt in that hour in those miles. Rather than relive it all in detail, lets sum it up:

Mile 20: No water at the water stop. Roads are uneven and there is no crowd support
Mile 21: Sun is beating down and there is no shade. I feel totally isolated
Mile 22: Just realized my digestive system has been at work....enter digestive panic mode
Mile 23: I push hard up a long, steep hill and I succumb to the need to walk. I hate myself instantly
              Switch to 5 to 1 run:walk ratio. Try not to overheat.
              Suddenly I feel it happen: A blister on the ball of my big toe pops. I feel like I've been shot
Mile 24: Shock of blister subsides, pushing beyond 5:1 and just trying to stay with it
Mile 25: We're back downtown. It's hot and smells like livestock. I try to pick it up
MIle 26: Want to get through the last mile without walking - no such luck. Walk a little in hopes of
              looking strong at the finish

After those (7?) horrible miles the last 0.2 were a dream. I started to see the turn to the finish and I took of my glasses and pulled out my earphones. I heard my dad shout at me from the left and I felt a wave of relief hit me like an ice bath. A few more yards and I hear Josh, then see him behind the fence. Then my mom, sitting up on what looked like a building waiving wildly and shouting after me. Then I'm in the finish chute, and it's almost over. What crowd remains is enthusiastic, they're joyful. I hear over the PA, "And here's Jenn S from right here in Louisville Kentucky" and I lose it. I yelled and waived and went bonkers.

And then I finished.

It was so hard to hold back the tears as I went over the pad that I damn near choked. This wasn't what I was expecting. I was expecting the elation, the pride, the pure unadulterated joy that I felt when I finished the Flying Pig. Instead I felt simple relief that the 2 hours of awful were finally over. The volunteer reluctantly placed the medal around my neck as I choked and heaved and attempted not to lose my hormonal, angry, crazy guts all over her.

After some quality time in a finish-line bathroom (they had toilet paper, miracle of god!) I found my family. All I wanted was to hug my mom and tell her how disappointed I was. Their excitement helped push away the bad and I couldn't help but share in their pride. I was the only one who knew how awful the second half had been, and it didn't matter to anyone else. So maybe it didn't have to matter to me either.
Marathoner (Squared)
So that was it! In total, not my favorite experience. I think I trashed my legs trying to catch up early in the race, but there's no way to tell. To call the whole race a failure because of 6ish bad miles would be to throw the baby out with the bath water, so I'm going to keep that in mind. I don't think that will be the last of my 26.2  - I definitely want to do at least one more. That being said, racing this distance really got me excited to do my next Mini and I think this training cycle was a real winner.

The Kentucky Derby Festival gets a D on crowd support and water stops this year, though. What the hell? Definitely not as good as the past 3 times I've run some part of the event. Also, no food when I finished. Jerks!

Overall, I guess it made for a good story though!

Up next -  So did the last 4 months work or what?


  1. First, congrats on finishing a great race!!! Don't diminish your efforts! Weather plays such a huge role in how we feel and I think you did great!! Really great! My first marathon, the Flying Pig took me 5:10 :) It was painful but I still loved it.

    Second, I felt the same way about the race. I found it lacked in so many ways. Crowd support was blah, water stops were a disaster!

  2. you finished a marathon while finishing your last semester of law school - those are both HUGE ACCOMPLISHMENTS! I know exactly what you mean about disappointment after a marathon though. I felt the same thing after NYC. I think 26.2 is SUCH a long ways to train and run that it's so mentally wrenching when it doesn't work out the way we want it to, but that's part of the challenge of it - there are so many variables that the odds are that it won't work out perfectly, but that doesn't negate the experience. I think it will just take a few days before the reality of your accomplishment sinks in (at least it did for me).

  3. omg. i felt like i just reread my own post in a way! haha :) sounds like we felt much the same but i learned a lot from reading your post. it is true how proud my family has been of me and they all just wish they could have been there to cheer me on. maybe i just need to quit analyzing and be proud of myself as well? because if anything...reading your post brought serious tears to my eyes! you are an inspiration! keep going friend! cant wait to see what you decide to do next :)

  4. OH wow Jenn!!!! I am so happy I came back for part two :) this sounds like everything I want my first marathon to be! I am soooooooooo proud of you! you ran 26.2 miles!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    that's basically a week in dog years

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