15 In Race Recaps

Race Recap: Urban Bourbon Half Marathon

Well spoiler alert, you already know that I got my goal of running a sub 2 hour half marathon!  Here’s how the weekend went at the 2017 Urban Bourbon Half Marathon:


On Friday, we drove down to Louisville and checked in to our hotel.  To save a little money, we stayed just outside of the city at the airport Crowne Plaza Hotel.  It was only a 10 minute drive to downtown and it was pet friendly.

Packet pick up was in a little art gallery.  Cool location but, I felt it was cramped.  There was one store set up (I think it was Fleet Feet) plus the packets, an UBHM merchandise table and a Jim Beam bourbon tasting table.  We were in and out in about 10 minutes.  When we do this next time, I will opt for the VIP packet pickup.

Then, we went to dinner at Bistro 1860.  Really cute French inspired restaurant with an outside terrace.  We sat at the bar and ordered a few small plates to share.  We ended up with a cheese plate, the diver scallop dish, salmon, the 72 hour sous vide short ribs, and the black berry cobbler.  It was delicious and the staff was really friendly.  They also had live music scheduled for that evening on the terrace.

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I actually slept well until about 4am.  I’m pretty sure I was awake from 4 until the alarm went off at 6am.  Overall I felt pretty calm compared to the half marathon that I recently paced.  We got ready, found parking a few blocks away from the start and set out to find our spot in the corral.  Parking in the city is really easy!

It was a little cramped in the corral.  The 2:00 pacers were only a few hundred feet back from the start line.  Start line announcements, playing of the national anthem and playing of the call to post (how appropriate, right?!).  The pacers were really energetic and made me feel at ease about this.  Their strategy was to run the first 5-6 miles a little fast to bank time for the hills in the park.  I decided just to roll with that even though that wasn’t my race strategy.

Miles 1-3

We stayed right with the pace group.  It didn’t feel crowded and by a mile in, it was easy to settle in to the right pace.  We started running through the city and out towards Cherokee Park.  My breathing was very easy and we started chatting with the pacers about the best dinner spots.  Missed the first water stop because we were chatting.

8:53, 8:54, 8:47

Miles 4-6

Hubs and I started to pull just in front of the pace group.  We could still hear them behind us so we didn’t get too far.  The first 6 miles are really flat.  Around mile 6 is where you head in to the park.  The scenery is beautiful and the road is paved.  I still felt really good and my breathing was easy.

8:46, 8:59, 8:59

Miles 7-9

We finally hit the first of 3 hills.  The first hill starts off with a really easy climb and then continues to get steeper as you wind through the road.  You can’t see the end of the hill until you round the last bend.  Thankfully there was a water stop at the top of that hill so that I could walk and drink to catch my breath.  At this point, the pace group caught back up to us.  We pulled ahead again on the downhill and didn’t see them for a few miles. After you get out of the park you wind through a few communities on the way back to the city. 

9:24, 8:44, 8:58

Miles 10-12

I couldn’t control my breathing in mile 10.  I started to slow around mile 10.5 and by 10.75 the pace group caught up and passed us.  Mile 11 hit me hard.  I felt like I couldn’t possibly run any faster.  Cue the dramatic music.

First, I went through the checklist.  The weather wasn’t bad.  I ate enough calories for breakfast and fueled during the race.  Did I start too fast?  Did I waste energy on the hills?  Is there something I could have done better in training so that I wouldn’t have hit this wall?  Mental notes taken for next cycle.

Then, I thought what happens if I don’t keep pace.  Do I feel I gave it my best?  At that point I truly did.  Would I be ok if I missed my goal of a sub 2 half?  I ran an amazing 10.5 miles and will get a new PR either way at this point.  I felt at peace with that decision in the moment.

Hubs tried to get me to pick up my pace by telling me 11 miles was too far in to give up.  In fact he was right.  It was too far in to give up but I just couldn’t get over myself.  He pulled ahead a little and I kept him in my sights.  I’m glad that he did because I didn’t want to waste any energy fighting about whether I really could run faster or not.  Plus, having him in front kept me moving at a decent clip.

Following behind him, I knew that I would at the very least get a new PR and I was estimating that I would come in at 2:01.  I started to think about all the well wishes I got from my friends back home and how much they believed that I would get this sub 2 time.  One foot in front of the other….Just don’t stop.  What felt like a 10 minute effort was really a 9:30 pace.

9:03, 9:30, 9:27

The last mile

Mile marker 12 came and my watch read either 1:48 or 1:49.  I realized that I could still pull this off.  I picked up my pace and caught back up to the pacers just after 12.5.  By this point, I think the pacers were starting to slow down a little as they had a pretty good time cushion. They stopped about a quarter mile short of the finish line and started to yell for anyone close to them to pick up the pace.  I got a form check running past them and the reminder to stand tall and use my arms.  It brought me back to all of those tempo runs on the treadmill where I practiced my form.  I picked it up and told myself over and over that I wouldn’t throw up.

I surprised Aaron by crossing the finish line sooner than he expected with a time of 1:58:47.  After drinking a couple bottles of Powerade, I started to feel better.  I couldn’t believe I still pulled it off.  I was lucky to have a bigger cushion than I thought I did going in to miles 11 and 12.

8:58 (and 7:28 for the final kick)

And, for the first time in 4 years I got a medal engraved.  I decided early on that I wouldn’t engrave a medal until I got a sub 2 time.  A new PR by 10 minutes and 2 seconds.  Even though I set my pre-race A goal at 1:55, I had my heart set on getting a 10 minute PR today.  Who knew I would be right on time?

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Post Race Party

At the finish line, they had the bourbon bash party.  With your bib, you were given a bracelet to enter the party and get one beer, 4 bourbon samples, a piece of pizza and a bowl of burgoo.  While I couldn’t eat anything (the smell of food made me nauseated), I did have a beer and a tiny sip of all the bourbons.  Between hubs and I we were able to sample every bourbon there.  They had a live band that was really good and interactive with the crowds!

I’m glad we got there before the crowds came and the lines got long.  It was fun but I was ready to go by then.

After we cleaned up, we went out for hot browns and bourbon drinks at The Brown Hotel.  Followed by dinner at Mesh.  I highly recommend Mesh.  It had a great ambiance inside and a large terrace outside.  The food was really tasty too!

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On the other side of the finish line, I can say that I’m glad I didn’t give up but I most certainly could have run 20 seconds per mile faster in 11 and 12.  By that time, my form went out the window.  Now I know that when I start to struggle I need to get back to basics with my form.  I could use more hill work and fast finish long runs to help with confidence, efficiency and aerobic fitness.

I’m not sure why those 2 miles felt so hard.  I knew that all I needed to do was reach mile marker 12.  No matter how bad I felt, I knew that at mile 12 I could finish the last mile strong.  Now I know that I need to continue to work on getting comfortable being uncomfortable.  One of my favorite racing quotes is, “You don’t train so that the race won’t hurt, you train so that you can tolerate it.”  And that will be my next training goal and mantra.

I love racing because it always helps to clarify training goals.  I’ll remember hitting the wall here and use that to help with my future training focus.  I’m excited to write out my next training plan.  I have my eyes set on a new 10k PR at the Christmas Story Run.

I highly recommend this race.  The course was great – nice and flat overall with a great mini tour of the city (although there was very little crowd support).  Everything was very organized down to the detail of labeled water/powerade cups.  You can’t beat the post race party.  On top of the usual bananas, bagels, and powerade, you had access to the bourbon bash with your race entry.  Post race pics are free!  Extra bonus.

It was a really nice getaway weekend.  I would suggest staying at the host hotel downtown (the Galt House).  It would make transportation much easier.  Plus the downtown area is within walking distance.

Tell me about it!

  Have you hit the wall hard in a race?  How did you push through it?

The trip wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Churchill Downs!

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  • Reply
    Jennifer @ Dashing in Style
    October 26, 2017 at 8:25 am

    Congratulations, Sara!!! Really awesome job continuing to push in those last miles even when you felt your pace slowing. I’ve made the mistake of giving up entirely when I start to slow, but this inspires me to keep at it. A 10-minute PR is huge, and you should feel so proud!

    • Reply
      October 29, 2017 at 7:39 pm

      Thanks so much! In past races, I’ve done the same thing. I just decided this time that no matter how much I slowed, I wouldn’t stop and walk.

  • Reply
    October 26, 2017 at 8:50 am

    Congratulations! I am still learning how to pace 1/2s — physically and mentally. Since 10Ms are my norm, I am ready to be DONE at mile 10. I did much better at the RWHalf than I did at the NYCHalf but still had a cramp in mile 11 that slowed me down. I was able to rally a bit at the end. I do like that we can learn lessons from every race.

    • Reply
      October 29, 2017 at 7:40 pm

      Half’s are tough to pace. Shorter runs, I can push the pace and hold on for dear life but I knew at some point in this race what felt like an easy pace wouldn’t feel easy any more. I love 10M’s…that is the best distance.

  • Reply
    Crystal Brenneman
    October 26, 2017 at 1:00 pm

    Congrats love!!! I’m so proud of you and your ability to overcome it all 🙂

    • Reply
      October 29, 2017 at 7:41 pm

      Thank you so much for all of the support! It meant a lot to me! 🙂

  • Reply
    October 27, 2017 at 12:50 pm

    Congrats! I did hit the wall, hard, during the Bolder Boulder. I kept going, but I had nothing left in the tank. I walked a lot more than I wanted, but I can’t be disappointed. I was running on fumes, and I know there’s nothing else I could’ve done.

    • Reply
      October 29, 2017 at 7:42 pm

      That’s hard when you know that your energy levels have tanked. Crossing the finish line knowing that you gave it your best is all that you can ask for in any race!

  • Reply
    October 28, 2017 at 11:54 am

    So proud of you and that grit you showed! Sub-2 is such an amazing thing and I’m glad you got it!

    • Reply
      October 29, 2017 at 7:42 pm

      Thanks so much Steff!

  • Reply
    Kimberly Hatting
    October 29, 2017 at 9:48 pm

    Wow! A 10-minute PR is incredible! Congrats!!

    • Reply
      October 30, 2017 at 8:42 pm

      Thank you!

  • Reply
    October 30, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    Huge congratulations on obtaining your sub 2 hour goal! What a great feeling 🙂

    The post-race bourbon tasting would have gone straight to my head after a tough race effort, but it still sounds fun. I have never been to Kentucky so it would be a fun reason to go explore that part of the country. Thanks for the recap!

    Enjoy the recovery!

  • Reply
    October 30, 2017 at 8:43 pm

    Yes…..I was surprised that it didn’t go straight to my head especially because I couldn’t eat anything. But I really only had tiny sips of the bourbon. Thank you so much!

  • Reply
    Judy @ Chocolaterunsjudy
    October 31, 2017 at 4:09 pm

    Congrats on that PR! And that’s a pretty big one, too.

    I often get tired far earlier in a half –usually around mile 8, I’d say, but it all depends on the day, the course, and the weather, really. When I had a big PR in FL last year, that was the first (and probably only half) where it actually felt relatively easy for most of the race.

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