Monday, April 27, 2009

Derby Festival races recap

I spent a large chunk of my Saturday on various parts of the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon/miniMarathon course. I shuttled three friends to the start line -- two of them were running their first half, the other just her second. We spent 10 minutes in line for a bathroom, jogged and got them into their corral.

It was already 70 degrees and sunny when the gun went off at 7:30.

I watched for people I knew come across the start line, clapped and yelled and whatnot, then jogged/walked (I had a backpack and wasn’t in a hurry) to my next stop. The course has about a three-mile loop before coming back near the start, then catching a 5k loop through Iroquois park and going back across the start.

So I caught everyone at about mile 6 — it’s fun spectating at my hometown race, because I felt like I knew everybody! And several of them even had congratulatory words for me about Boston, since they hadn’t seen me since. Everyone was looking awesome. After that, I jogged back to my car about a half mile away, made a pit stop at my apartment, and headed for mile 16 of the marathon route.

Miles 15-18 are in Cherokee Park, which is hilly and lacking in crowd support. This year seemed better than last, at least. I had two friends to catch at 16, making sure they were doing okay and trying to boost their spirits.

The weather was about 80 at that point; I knew my friends wouldn’t be feeling too good. It was interesting to see two different tactics at play: Friend A was in 3:30 shape and decided to just go for renewing her 3:40 BQ. Friend B was in at least 3:15 shape and went out for his 3:10 BQ.

At mile 16, Friend A was gamely hanging on to her goal, and Friend B was quickly falling apart. Ran with both of them a little ways, and on the way back to my car, took a trail that resulted in a surprisingly gnarly gash on my leg. It involved a stick protruding from my calf. I mean, not a big stick, but any time something is sticking out of my leg, I worry.

Early this year, I promised Friend A I would run the bridge portion of the marathon with her, which starts at 22 miles and lasts through 24.5. Initially I planned to pull off the course around 26 and let her finish on her own, but it just wasn’t going to work today. Friends A and B actually caught each other on the bridge. Friend B had decided he was pretty much just going to walk the last four miles. Friend A was still being tough, although she started to waver.

At about 22.5, coming across the bridge, Friend A tells me she can’t do it, and stops. I pause, look at her, and say, “Oh, you’re not. You’re at least walking. It’s too late now.” She starts jogging again, albeit slowly, and only tries to throw up once, around mile 23. We’re going about 11 minute pace, not good considering she does her long runs at 7:30. Yikes. I’m babbling at her, just trying to keep her distracted -- she doesn’t remember any of the things I told her.

At about 23.5, we come past a hotel. I’m about a yard ahead of Friend A at this particular moment (this is right after the dry-heaving moment, so a yard ahead is safe territory), and a man in a Volvo is on the other side of the street about to cross into the hotel lot. Only one side of the street is blocked off, but it’s clearly blocked with cones for blocks, indicating there’s something going on. So this guy decides to turn into the hotel between me and my friend, which I figure out just as I go by his bumper.

I stop. I take two steps backward and stand in front of his car until she gets past. He’s not happy. I yell at him and give him the finger, then jog away. I mean, really? WTF.

I knew if she had to stop for this idiot, I might not get her started again. We keep going, trudging along toward our return trip on the bridge. We pass the 24 mile marker on the bridge, see the “You Go Girl” graffiti again (saw it on a training run last month), see her mom, and make our second to last turn at mile 25.

Now, here’s were things got funny. She looked so rough that I didn’t want to leave her until she was across the finish, so I was sticking through the end. With about .75 of a mile left, we were passed by a not-so-dainty older woman in flame shorts and matching sports bra. The gauntlet was down. We had dropped to about 10 minute pace after pacing the 25 mile marker, and now my poor Garmin couldn’t even keep up with my friend’s acceleration. We were down in the 7:30 range as we crossed 26 (we passed aforementioned inspiration within 200 meters), and she cranked 6:45 pace for the last two tenths. She finished in 3:50, 10 minutes off BQ and 12 minutes off her PR set on this course last year. It’s incredible what the heat can do, because I trained with her through both those marathons and know what kind of shape she’s in.

Then we sat in the med tent until she stopped feeling nauseous. And they were kind enough to clean and patch my war wound.

Friend B finished about 10 minutes later. It was 85 degrees. Some people dropped out of the marathon, a lot of people finished, and no serious injuries were reported.

Friend A and I are both going to run Sunburst Half Marathon June 6, and it’s looking like the Marshall University Marathon Nov. 1. If you’ve run either of those, would love opinions.

Post Scriptum: Congrats (again) to other finishers of these races: Justin, Kelly, Eileen, Craig, Ed, Mom, Robin, and a zillion others!


Ed Hammerbeck said...

You're a good friend and cool coach. I had a few pals looking out for me too, and that was remarkably motivating at mile 21 or so when I just wanted to lay down and die. I was soooo thankful.

tina (mom) said...

I got an extra "kick" when i saw you and diane make the turn back onto the final leg (around my 13 and your 26 markers)...ya'll were flying! and i'd have stomped that stupid SOB in the damn volvo...
thank you for coaching us and organizing us again! GREAT JOB everyone, and congrats Ed on your first "full!"