Half Marathon #3: The Bourbon Derby

A couple of weeks ago I finished my third half marathon–the Bourbon Derby. I thought I was crazy signing up for a half marathon in Central Kentucky in the middle of June, but it actually turned out to be a gorgeous Saturday morning. It wasn’t too humid and it wasn’t too hot when the gun went off at 7:30 am.

The course wound around side roads and horse farms around Paris. The start/finish line was at the Bourbon Drive-In, which allowed for parking and room to warm up. There were only a few times that some cars drove through the course, but they were great about driving slow and waiting for runners to move to the side.

Adena Springs = GORGEOUS!

Adena Springs = GORGEOUS!

The race had a four-mile and 10-mile course option along with the half marathon, and each race got to run around at least one horse farm. The half marathon wound around Hillcrest and Adena Springs. If you want to talk about gorgeous scenery, along with some wicked hills, those horse farms had it! The entire course was rolling hills, with one particular hill that I swear if you leaned forward a little too much, you’d smack your nose on the asphalt.

I went into the race not expecting to get a personal record, since I hadn’t been able to train as well as I had. I wanted to stick to around a 10 minute mile. To my surprise, I finished the race with a new PR by two minutes from the Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon last year! My official time was 2:06:49!

Everyone’s GPS devices were a little screwy with this race–my Garmin said it was only 12.66 miles long, but the Bourbon Derby course was certified. There has been a lot of discussion about the distance of the race, but I know that not all GPS devices are reliable. There was a thought that maybe a turnaround was misplaced on one of the horse farms, which could make a difference. If that’s the case, then my PR doesn’t hold, which would be a big bummer.

Even so, here are my splits from my Garmin:

Mile 1: 10:03
Mile 2: 9:41
Mile 3: 9:49
Mile 4: 9:50
Mile 5: 10:06
Mile 6: 10:00
Mile 7: 10:14
Mile 8: 10:05
Mile 9: 10:17
Mile 10: 10:08
Mile 11: 10:31 (walked a little)
Mile 12: 10:12
Mile 13 (“0.66 nubbin”): 5:49
    Total: 2:06:52

I pushed through and ran for the first seven miles, feeling strong and comfortable. After some step inclines around the farms, I’d walk at the top to catch my breath, then started running again.

Do I look like I'm running strong?

Do I look like I’m running strong?

For a first-time race, this was very well organized. The announcer/DJ was great–he kept cheering everyone on through the last runner. There were plenty of hydration stops along the routes, and the offerings for after the race were plentiful. I hope I don’t sound petty, but I was bummed about the menial medals, but maybe I’ve just been spoiled with the previous races.

I felt great after the race–I cooled down while cheering on the rest of the finishers. I loved being able to meet up with the Striders, my running group, to cheer on and discuss the race before and after. If you haven’t joined a running group, I totally recommend it.

John's Striders ready to tackle the Bourbon Derby!

John’s Striders ready to tackle the Bourbon Derby!

Will I run this race again next year? I think so! I don’t know if I’ll be so lucky with the weather again like we were this year, but the course was pretty shaded by lots of trees along the way, so that was a big help.

Your turn: Tell me about your most recent race!


Prioritizing Life

I realize I have been rather quiet on here lately, but June has been a crazy-busy month for me! There are some nights a week where I work both job number one (full-time marketing job) and job number two (part-time sand volleyball ref) from 8 am to after midnight. Somewhere in there I have to squeeze in job number three (freelance writer) because I have deadlines. So when it comes to the “side stuff”, blogging on this site and my dog agility training blog kind-of get pushed aside.

I have so much to update you on though: Running in the Bourbon Derby Half Marathon; visiting Charleston, S.C., for the American Horse Publications Seminar; a quick desert recipe; surprising news; etc. So don’t think I’m completely abandoning things!

I finally have a weekend where I’ll be in town (minus some things the first part of the day Saturday), so I plan on getting caught up on my writing, plus getting some deadline work done.

Until then, I’ll leave you with a scene from Charleston to prep you for the weekend:

Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston, South Carolina

Racing Medals…Just for Half & Full Marathons?

I remember that first time I received a metal for a half marathon. It was my very first half marathon and I was so emotional as I neared the finish line because I had actually done it. I couldn’t wait to wear that heavy piece of metal around my neck and I didn’t want to take it off–I drove the whole way from Louisville to Lexington still wearing it around me neck.

For some of us, running in half and full marathons is partly for the bling, not to mention the sense of pride in your accomplishment of training. Tell the truth–Have you ever thought twice about entering a half/full marathon when the medal wasn’t what you expected?

ANYWAY, medals are a big deal. I believe they are your trophy of accomplishment. When I got a medal for finishing my first Warrior Dash, I thought, “OK, cool…this was a pretty big deal, even if it was only 4 miles” Same with Extreme Rampage.

But the only races I feel I earned my medals (and got them) were my half marathons.

Until I ran in the Noblesville Mini Marathon series over Memorial Day weekend. There were four races that day–1 mile “fun run”, 5K, 10K, and the half marathon. I chose to run the 10K, and then ran the 5K course to get training miles in for the half marathon I was training for. When I got an email last week saying my medal from the Noblesville Mini was ready for pick-up (they had run out of medals that day), I was confused, because I hadn’t run in the half marathon. So I replied that I ran in the 10K and she commented that I still received a medal for the 10K, and it’d be in the mail.

Well, I received the medal on Friday. It’s a beautiful medal, surprisingly for a first-time race. But I have mixed feelings about it.


The Noblesville Mini Marathon for the half marathon, 10K, and 5K

The Noblesville Mini Marathon for the half marathon, 10K, and 5K

Sure enough, if you finished the 5K or 10K, you received the same medal the half marathoners earned.

Now I know there are quite a few races that are starting to do that because they know that draws in the entries. And maybe for some runners who may never be able to run a half or full marathon, for whatever reason, that’s a pretty big deal to them. But to me, it feels like a medal is a right of passage, that you’ve spent 3-4-5 months training for that one day, to push your body passed the point of exhaustion and pain for a few miles of triumph and a lifetime of memories.

I will forever love these three half marathon medals I've earned (and hopefully earn a few more along the way).

I will forever love these three half marathon medals I’ve earned (and hopefully earn a few more along the way).

I ran in a few 5Ks before I attempted my first half marathon. To me, my badge of honor was my race t-shirt. I didn’t expect a medal–I looked up to those runners who had medals hanging on their walls because I knew the dedication they had to train for that wearable piece of art.

Is it because of the growing mentality in our country that everyone deserves an award? Nowadays it seems like every kid gets a trophy for participating in a sport, whether they won a single game or not. Growing up I showed horses, and we maybe would get participation ribbons in Mini 4-H, but we still earned placements of first, second, third, fourth, etc. I knew the importance of working hard and practicing my craft/sport because I wanted to win, I wanted to be recognized. Had I gotten trophies for every class I showed just because I walked through the entry gate, would I have worked as hard? Maybe not. So is that what we’re teaching our children now? Don’t worry about practice and hard work, we’ll reward you anyway?

I grew up understanding that if I worked hard and practiced, I would hopefully be rewarded. It wasn't expected, but I still tried. If I hadn't, would I have been awarded this World Championship belt buckle 10 years ago? Who knows...

I grew up understanding that if I worked hard and practiced, I would hopefully be rewarded. It wasn’t expected, but I still tried. If I hadn’t, would I have been awarded this World Championship belt buckle 10 years ago? Who knows…

I know I just went totally out of left field comparing running medals to children in sports, etc., but I think it’s all connected. And I really want to know what you think.

Your turn: Is it OK to have medals for races less than half and full marathons? How do you feel about the reward for just participation? 

Countdown to 13.1 No. 3 & Uncertainty

My third half marathon is two days away, and I think I’m more nervous about this race than I was even for my very first half marathon!

I know I went into this half marathon with the full intention of not running as much and not doing as much running training as I have in the past–I wanted to try to avoid the injuries that I’ve had occur from overtraining, so I decided to run once or twice a week with lots of cross-training with Man O’War CrossFit. But then my schedule went haywire, I got really sick and exhausted, and my training went down the tubes. Because of that, I don’t feel quite as prepared as I have in the past.

In previous attempts at the half marathon, I’ve trained up to 12 and 13 miles before. The farthest I’ve run for this race was 10 miles. Now I know a few friends who only run up to 10 miles before hitting 13.1, but I feel like I have to run close to the full length for my mental strength.

I know I can do 13.1–I’ve done it on a flat course and a very extremely hilly course. I’ve been warned the Bourbon Derby is constant rolling hills–different from the Run the Bluegrass where it has extreme hills and some flat parts.

I ran six miles last week before I headed out of town for an agility trial in Indy. I met up with my running group before work and did the maximum that I had time for. I figured six miles was better than none…right?

Fast 10K for one last tough run before the Bourbon Derby!

Fast 10K for one last tough run before the Bourbon Derby!

This week I’ve taken it easy. At MOWCF we worked on back squats and cleans on Monday, which caused my legs to be really sore. I was so tired from not sleeping much, so I slept in on Tuesday and took the day off (minus walking 1.5 miles at lunch with a friend and 1 mile with the pups and M after work). Wednesday I did some core work at MOWCF and changed up the METCON from legs to upper body:

Calorie row
Ring dips

Rest 2 minutes

Ring rows
Handstand push-ups (modified on the box)

I also did my very first headstand! OK, so part of the warm-up METCON was 20 second handstand holds, but I’ve never, ever, done a head/handstand, so I’m taking it slowly (I have this fear of falling on my head and crushing my neck…don’t ask, my mother was a head injury nurse). I was pretty proud of myself and my headstand!

Today will consist of an easy 3 mile run to shake out the legs and pup walk, plus I’ll be picking up my race packet. Friday I’ll walk the dogs, roll-out and stretch, and just relax to prepare for the early morning wake-up call. So far the weather looks much better than I anticipated–partly cloudy with a high of 78!

Your turn: Any words of wisdom/encouragement greatly accepted!!! 

Measuring Success in Swedish

I have a second blog that I use to share my training and life adventures with my dogs, LaMesa and Dally, over at Agility on Stumps. And as part of that, I am a member of a group that likes to focus on different topics related to dog agility and share personal stories. This topic was on Success.

Ironically this came right before Dally and I are close to finishing her second agility championship (aka “PACH2”) this weekend (at least we hope). Dally has always been “Dependable Dally” but LaMesa has been a definite trial.


So does the number of MACH/PACH or championships determine the amount of success you have as a dog handler, owner, trainer, competitor? Or is it the little things?

The competitive side of me would say it’s the championships/titles. Those are how you show your accomplishments–those numerous letters preceding and proceeding your dog’s name. In the horse show world, we judge the buckles you wear, the award chairs you sit in, etc.

Training LaMesa has totally opened my eyes, though. Dally was “easy” in comparison to starting and training LaMesa–Dally is consistent. After I dropped her down to Preferred, things came so much easier because she no longer struggled to make time nor be constantly injured trying to jump 8″. It took us a while, but we got that first QQ and then things just started rolling.

LaMesa is another story, though. I believe she has so much raw talent, and so much heart, that is can be a handicap. I know she can be so good, and that affects my mindset because I get competitive and know she’s fast. So I push her…and we fail…or I perceive it as a fail.

I’ve learned to take the little things as a success. LaMesa used to struggle so much with weaves at trials. If we can nail the weave poles from any entrance on a course, I’m excited. If we can run an entire course without her knocking bars, that’s a win. Have we QQd? Nope. Right now we average 1 Q out of 4 runs in a weekend. But that Q is always a big deal.


I see so much potential in her that I want us to be successful, but I have learned not to push it. I’ve been identifying where we need to focus and I am learning how to run her versus Dally, which is a big success for me. I’ve learned “She is not Dally” and that’s OK. She’s fun to run (so is Dally, don’t get me wrong). She makes you think. You have to be solid in your game plan from the very beginning or she can catch you on your heels.

But all that makes me a better handler, which, in turn, will make her a better agility dog. This will also help me with future dogs, horses, and handling people. That, in itself, is success.

So my mindset has changed…a little. I’m still competitive, but I’ve been checking myself and my ego at the door when we walk in and I look for the positives in our runs, and not always just at the negatives. I just want LaMesa to continue to enjoy running with me and doing agility. The QQs will come.


Your turn: How do you measure success in whatever you do?


10 Hard-Fought Miles in a Busy Schedule

I’m going into the last couple of weeks before my mid-June half marathon. These are the hardest because my schedule is ramping up even more (yes…it really can get busier…). I had a dog agility trial this weekend, but I knew I still needed to find a way to get in 10 training miles. My running group was planning to meet to run on the Bourdon Derby route, but that was an hour away from my house. Add in the two hours for the run and another hour back–I wouldn’t be able to make it to Louisville for my agility runs on time.

Luckily a couple of people from the same running group decided to meet downtown an hour earlier (6) for 10 miles–PERFECT! I set the alarm for a 5 am wake up and set out to tackle double digit miles for the first time in more than a year.

The morning wasn’t too humid, yet. We had to do a few different loops because we were picking people up at 6:30 and dropping off someone at 7. So we ran 3 different loops–3 miles, 2 miles, and then 5 miles. It wasn’t easy, but it got done.

Mile 1 — 10:02
Mile 2 — 9:47
Mile 3 — 9:44
Mile 4 — 9:29
Mile 5 — 9:05

The funny thing is, we talked about having a 10-10:30 mile pace, which made me happy because I needed to really work on my pacing and keeping things easy (instead of just my 9:45-10 par I usually have). However we had a couple of runners who like to run a fast pace…so there went my slow training run.

Mile 6 — 9:36
Mile 7 — 9:42
Mile 8 — 9:57
Mile 9 — 9:49
Mile 10 — 10:22 (had to walk a little)
10.29 miles in 1 hour 40 minutes 33 seconds

It was nice to have the loops because I could run back to my car and get a couple of drinks of water to keep me hydrated. However I felt like that made the running tougher because it allowed my legs to tighten up during the short breaks (though I did do stretching, etc.).

I fueled mid-way with some Gatorade chews–I can’t handle the gels very well, and I wasn’t able to get to the running store to pick up my Sport Beans, but I liked these just as much. Afterwards I rehydrated with a pack of Nuun. It was my first time trying it, and it was on sale at Kroger. It wasn’t too bad, and I’m looking forward to having more throughout the summer to help stay hydrated.


During our run some were talking about the route of the Bourbon Derby, and let’s just say I’m now even more concerned. It’s a pretty hilly course, which I’m used to training for Run the Bluegrass and around in my neighborhood, but they say there are no flat parts. I know I haven’t trained the best for this race, due to lack of time and illness. So I’ve already been mentally preparing myself that I don’t need to go all-out for this run. I might plan to do some run-walk intervals to keep myself moving forward. My goal might not to PR the race, but I want to finish it and I want to finish it strong.

Your turn: How would you deal with going into a race not feeling very prepared?