Race Recap: Run The Bluegrass (aka 13.1 Miles of Hellacious Hills!)


Now that I think I’ve recovered from my second half marathon yesterday (minus the still-sore quads and knee, my legs are just a little tired), it’s time to recap the Run The Bluegrass Half Marathon!

Saturday dawned early and foggy! It was crazy foggy out–one you got out of town a little more, it was hard to see. Case in point:

The sun was trying to rise and burn off all the fog before the race.

The sun was trying to rise and burn off all the fog before the race.

I got out to Keeneland Race Course around 8 am. I was supposed to meet up the LexRunLadies for a group pic and meet three Sweet Pink Ambassador sisters around 8:20. There were already tons of runners there (the race started at 9), and I actually met up with an old friend from college whom I hadn’t seen in four years. Unfortunately, I missed the group photo and missed meeting Dawn, Kimberly, and Michelle. Totally bummed!

But I did meet up with Nicole–she was starting in the same wave as me, so we found the corral and warmed up together and waited…and waited… They ended up pushing the start back 15 minutes because of the fog. M ended up working a little overtime (he was supposed to be off at 8, but stayed to help with parking since I was running), so he texted me to tell me about the traffic (which was crazy thanks to construction) and that it was purposely starting late.

Taken right before I shed off my fleece at gear check--the morning dawned a chilly 38*.

Taken right before I shed off my fleece at gear check–the morning dawned a chilly 38*.

Finally, it was time for the race to start! They had Hal Higdon there, who was running in the 7-mile Rookie Race (he’s far from a rookie, though), and he helped start the race. So that was pretty cool. It was a constant sea of runners ahead and behind me–this race grew from 2,000 runners last year to 4,000 +/- this year (which includes the Rookie Race, Half Marathon, and then they had a 1-mile kids run a little later).

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A constant sea of runners!

A constant sea of runners!

I knew the course was extremely hilly, so I had plans to try to stay around a 9:45-10 min mile throughout the race. The first part is getting out of Keeneland, which is a slow incline to help wake up the legs. Then you start along the rolling hills that is Kentucky Horse Country.

Mile 1 – 9:48
Mile 2 – 9:27
Mile 3 – 9:27
Mile 4 – 10:12 (<–first decently big hill)

I had spent the first part just trying to get into a rhythm and finding the right stride. The roads are narrow along the course, but there wasn’t too much crowding, which was surprising. There were only a few times I felt trapped amongst runners, but I was able to get around them and relax. I didn’t really get to see many people that I knew along the race, though, which was a bummer, but that’s OK.

I told myself I would get a drink around Mile 5 (I had some PoweradeZero before and some water). I really needed to find my second-wind already around Mile 6, and thankfully there was an awesome band at the half-way point rocking some old school. I started having a spring in my step and was waving my hands along with the band. Perfect timing, because then I was doing alright for the next couple of miles.

Mile 5 – 9:56
Mile 6 – 9:48
Mile 7 – 10:07 (<–water stop where I walked to drink and catch my breath)
Mile 8 – 9:49

I didn’t feel like the hills were too unmanageable, which I have to thank all the different routes the John’s Striders group had taken me on for training. That is until Mile 9 and the infamous S-curve hill around Elkchester/Frankfort Pike. OMG This hill SUCKED! You had a steep incline, then it started to curve to the right, flatten out for a short bit, then another steep incline and curve to the left. I don’t know how long this hill was, but it was horrid! There were so many runners walking the entire hill. I told myself to push it to the flattened part and I could walk, and I did. I walked until the incline started to get steep, then I slowly made my way to a run to climb the rest of the incline (I feel like I do better running steep hills than walking–walking seems to take more power to me). After that, I allowed myself to walk a little longer to catch my breath and give myself a pep talk.

At this point it’s all mental. Prior to the start of the race I had put one headphone on, but I waited until I absolutely needed music to turn on Pandora (yes, I still use Pandora, and I love the Ying Yang Twins station when I’m running–those songs are great to push you through a long run, trust m!). I think I turned my music on before the S-curve, but I can’t recall now.

I got into a weird zone for the last part of the race. I don’t know if it was because of the sun, or just exhaustion. I had been popping my Gu Chomps every once in a while, as long as I knew there was a water station coming. I didn’t notice much around me, until we made the turn back towards Keeneland where I could see the water tower (wish I had taken a picture). After mile 10, I kept telling myself it was a 5K–I can run a 5K easily. I could do this. I was hot and sweaty, but I just wanted to finish.

Mile 9 – 9:50
Mile 10 – 10:38 (<–not bad for the hill of death)
Mile 11 – 9:59
Mile 12 – 9:58

At Mile 13, my mantra was “You can do anything for 10 minutes, just keep going.” I wanted to walk so badly, but I didn’t want to walk in the last 1.1 miles. We turned into Keeneland and there was a fun marching band playing and tons of people to cheer you to the finish. I just turned on whatever afterburners I had left and kept running. I saw the banner for the end of Mile 13 and then the finish line up ahead and I was sprinting. Near the finish I caught a glimpse of M standing taking photos and I shouted his name, but kept running. I wanted that medal and to just be done. I was also close to my goal time.

Mile 13 – 9:56
0.1 Nubbin – 0:52 (at a 7:55 pace!)
Total: 13.1 miles in 2:09:55 (official chip time, 2:09:47, 9:54 avg)

My last (first) half marathon time was 2:17:58. I had wanted to definitely beat that, be around 2:10-2:15, but I would have never imagined crushing my old time by 8 minutes! And on a hilly course such as the RTB!? CRAZY!

I am still soaring high today. The entire race was awesome. This year’s theme was Genuine Risk, a filly that won the 1980 Kentucky Derby. (Last year’s theme was Secretariat–the RTB definitely is all about its hometown.) So the ribbons on the medal was the filly’s silks–creative, huh??

So proud!

So proud!

The race coordinator did a great job. M even met him at 3 am to help jump their UHaul. He’s super active and personable on Twitter and Facebook. He even remembered that I tweeted about my race shirt being too big–when M told him his wife was running, Eric asked what my name was. Upon hearing my name, Eric said, “Oh yeah, her shirt was too big. Tell her we have extras and she just needs to let them know that I said she could get whatever size she needed.” How awesome is that??

I was so happy to have my cheerleader to meet me at the finish line.

I was so happy to have my cheerleader to meet me at the finish line.

The whole experience was so great, I’m already playing with the idea of running it again. Crazy, I know, but how can you say no when the race is 10 minutes from your house??

And this is how I celebrated 13.1 miles: Desert at PF Chang’s (after a great dinner there, of course). Banana Spring Rolls with pineapple/coconut ice cream–delicious!!

Banana Spring Rolls with pineapple/coconut ice cream, berries, and a little honey!

Banana Spring Rolls with pineapple/coconut ice cream, berries, and a little honey!

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6 thoughts on “Race Recap: Run The Bluegrass (aka 13.1 Miles of Hellacious Hills!)

  1. Congratulations Megan!!!! You did awesome and I was excited to hear you holler my name at the starting line!! Great to read about your run. You forgot to mention how great the expo was though!!!! Hahaha! Just kidding!

  2. Congrats on CRUSHING your old time!! What a great PR! I really wish we could have gotten to meet you… maybe at the mini ;).

    Isn’t Eric awesome?! I’ve never met a race director and he’s directing a race of more than 4,000 people!! He’s awesome.

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