Ran Like a Horse in the Kentucky Derby Marathon
Well, I finally ran this race in 2021 even though it was supposed to happen in 2020. We all know that NOTHING HAPPENED in 2020. Our trek this time started out with an early morning wake up call (3am) to catch an early flight to Louisville, KY. We arrived in Kentucky around 10:30am and Pat even had time to sit next to the Colonel Sanders statue at the airport and tell him how he waited an hour for food at one of the northern KFC locations. Personally, we thought it was funny even though the Colonel did not even crack a smile. We caught a quick Uber ride to Churchill Downs with the intention of hanging out there for a few hours. We had time before our hotel would allow check-in, so we enjoyed the Kentucky Derby Museum and a tour of Churchill Downs. I had always wanted to see it and it was a fun place. Once we arrived there, we realized we were hungry and sure enough, there was no food to eat, so we had to dip into our own stash of protein bars to hold us over until a late lunch/early dinner. Between waking up early and not significantly eating when we needed to, we were feeling drained by 1pm and proceeded to catch an Uber to our hotel. We arrived and got settled into our room and immediately ordered pizza, but it took forever to get to our hotel. Then we ate and spread out our running gear to save time the next morning. We even walked about ¾ of a mile to find the starting line and bought a few more Gatorades for the night. By this time, I felt like I had enough walking and moving around. I was officially done for the night! By 6pm, we were getting ready for bed, stretching and relaxing. The way it should be the night before a marathon! Sometimes we try to do too much, and it always comes back to bite us in the butt.
The next morning rolled around quickly. I slept well and just shy of 8 hours the night before a race is not bad. We woke up around 5am since we did not have to leave the hotel until 7am. I remember thinking how I always get so nervous. Even though this is my 30th marathon, my adrenaline is always going like crazy. It is like I just want to start the race ASAP, but it is a process and I do need those few hours in the morning to go through the process to truly be ready for the trek.
We walked to the starting line which was about a mile away and waited for my assigned start time of 8:15am. However, I realized once we got there, that they would let people start whenever they wanted. (Although I had emailed them and asked about moving up my start time due to an earlier, changed flight time and they said “No, you have to stick to your assigned start times.”) However, now that it was race day, I was not complaining. The race director gathered a bunch of marathoners to explain the course and how it is different for the half marathoners and said people were mad because they went the wrong way. OMG, already?!? It was barely 8am! I had no idea what streets he was talking about because I do not live around here, but I am thinking if you have people at the intersections, we should be fine, right? So, I gave Pat a kiss goodbye and ditched my throwaway clothes and off I went on my 30th marathon trek. Kind of crazy if you ask me, but I love the journey. It is always overwhelming at the start because YOU KNOW you are going to run at least 26.2 miles and that is a long way to go baby!
I started off the race with my pace in the low 8’s. I never completed a mile in the 7’s and that surprised me a bit and I was hoping I wouldn’t be “off” for the day. Usually, my best races start off when I am running at least 1 or 2 miles in the 7’s. (My best pace in this marathon went as low as 7:14.) I just decided to keep my pace consistent in the low 8’s for as long as possible. I was more concerned about making sure I was running in the proper direction and not missing any turns. Around mile 8, I met up with another 50-Stater with whom we traded our current state tally. She stated she loved the weather (cool, cloudy in the 50’s with rain on the way). Between the marathoners and the half-marathoners, there were a decent amount of people running the race. In 2020 this race was supposed to be solely run in Kentucky and even run on the infield of Churchill Downs. However due to COVID in 2021, the course had to be changed to run partly in Kentucky and go over the bridge into Indiana and run on the Ohio River Greenway. It was still a beautiful course run mostly on concrete paths and paved trails. There were not a lot of significant hills (just the bridge) but even a small incline at the end of a marathon can feel like Mount Everest. At mile 12 or so, I stopped for a quick bathroom break before the turnaround since the empty porta-potties were right there. I was maintaining a decent pace so I knew even if I stopped for a minute or two, it would not throw me off too much. The neat thing about this race was that I would see some of the same people on the other side of the road due to the several turnarounds. I was looking forward to seeing Pat again once I got over to the Kentucky side of the bridge around mile 20.5. When I finally saw him, I told him I was getting tired. I was trying hard to forge ahead and keep a decent pace, but it was getting tough. With the three long runs I did well over 20 miles, I thought that would help me at the tail end of this race, but I was feeling some decent fatigue around mile 21. The last few miles of the race seemed to drag on forever. I could not wait to get to the final turnaround so I could make my trek back to the finish line. It seemed like I would never get there! There was not a lot of people on this part of the course, so I just ran straight and hoped I was going the right way. Eventually, I got to the turnaround point in mile 23 and thought, “It’s only a 5K.” There were still a few confusing parts of the course (with nobody pointing you in the right direction) on the way back, but a spectator told me which way to go. I was surprised by the degree of fatigue I felt at the end of this race. Once I realize that I will not run a sub-4:00 marathon, I usually just pull back and run it to finish it without caring as much about my time. It is odd that I do that, but I figure so much physical damage has already been done by the marathon, that I try not to push it to a more ridiculous degree of damage. As I knew I was approaching the last half mile of the race, I was exhausted, soaked from the rain and I was equally elated that the race was over. I was looking for Pat and eventually I saw him as he was videotaping my finish and I was psyched when marathon #30 was complete and in the books! I knew we only had time for a quick picture then catch an Uber ride to the airport for our flight home.
As we waited for the Uber in the pouring rain with all our bags (poor Pat carried them for hours), we were tired and eager to get to the airport so we could head home. I would change there as there was no time for a real shower. Upon arriving at the airport and printing our boarding passes, we realized the flight was delayed until 8pm so that meant we were going to miss our connecting flight in Orlando. We checked with the agent on duty, and she said there were no flights leaving Louisville until Tuesday! (It was currently Saturday.) She said we could try to get on a standby flight out of Baltimore the next day but there were still no guarantees we would get home on Sunday. She looked at options for about 20 minutes when we finally said, “Can you refund us our money? We will attempt to drive home.” I could not believe those words came out of my mouth LESS THAN 1 HOUR AFTER A MARATHON, but they did. At that very moment, I thought I was completely insane, but it seemed like the only realistic option to get home ASAP. If we drove nonstop to NH, it would take us 15 hours, but let’s be realistic! With stopping for food and bathroom breaks, it would be more like 17 to 19 hours. We left the Southwest ticketing area and went downstairs to the rental car counters. Since Pat did not run the race, he could walk a whole lot faster than me so I told him to “just go” and I will catch up eventually. He ran to one counter and they said “No, sorry, no more cars to rent.” And then he went to another counter where the guy said, “Sorry, we no longer let people take cars one-way.” WHAT?!? Since when? If you need a car to drive somewhere one-way, why can’t you rent a car to do that? In my post-marathon tired, exhausted, and pushing the limits state, I said, “Well then, how are we going to get home?” The guy said, “Well, let me call and see what we can do.” He talked to someone who allowed us to take a little blue Nissan Versa one way to Manchester. GREAT! We are in business! It was going to cost us about $183 but we did not care. It meant that we could get home tomorrow morning sometime. At this moment in time, I thought we still were completely crazy for doing this, but it is what we had to do. I was still in my wet racing clothes; I had not even had a drink yet post-race or even gone to the bathroom. It was a ridiculously crazy hour and a half. As soon as we got the keys to the car, I ran into the bathroom, changed my clothes, and cleaned up as best I could with the wipes that I had. I kept my wet compression socks on to save time but changed them in the car hours later. LOL. I felt like this was all a weird dream and that I would wake up and it would be non-existent. My heart was beating like crazy because I knew I had to hurry because hey, we were on the clock again! We only had the rental car for 1 day so if we wanted to get home anytime soon, we would have to haul butt! At that time, we were not sure if we would stop at a hotel at all even for a mere 5 hours of sleep, so we really could not mess around too long. It was time to make tracks, again. This entire time I was thinking how I am going to seriously sit in a car for 15 to 19 hours after a marathon. I have sat for 7-8 hours on the ride home from the Philadelphia and New Jersey Marathons but this one would be DOUBLE THAT! Those post-marathon rides hurt enough, so I was a little worried how much pain I would be in but truthfully, I had to suck it up. We could not wait 3 days to get home, so this is what we had to do! Since were in a giant hurry, we ended up eating a naughty, greasy burger at Wendy’s, but I figure it was ok since I hardly ever eat fast food and I had just easily burned about 2500 calories. It is funny because after a marathon, it is such a cleansing process and I do not want to eat bad food because of all the good I just did for my body, but I also know it is ok to cheat too. We devoured our food and off we went for another one of Cindy & Pat’s Epic Adventures. I know it is hard to understand but I love everything about our marathon adventures, even when things go wrong. It is just so incredibly fun to experience something brand new every single time. This just happened to be a time when we had to improvise and navigate unchartered territory but it was still fun. It was even MORE FUN because it was so out of the ordinary. I weirdly loved it even though I was in a lot of pain for a good part of the way. As any runner knows, the best thing you can do after a race is walk and move around to alleviate stiffness and defer muscle soreness and that was not an option this time. As we were approaching the Ohio border and the massive traffic going over the bridge, I was getting ansy, so I took a few Tylenol and tried to put my feet up as much as possible. I knew that I could not keep complaining but silently suffer. Let’s face it, after a marathon, everything hurts….my legs, back, stomach, head, shoulders, toes, everything! The worst soreness for me though is usually my legs and back. Once we got over the bridge into Ohio, traffic moved freely again, and we were able to cruise along. We stopped at a rest area around 8pm and it was hard to get out of the car. I hobbled to the bathroom and to the vending machine and then back into the car for many more hours. I do not remember the exact time we left Ohio, but I am guessing it was around 9pm or so. We stopped again at 2am at exit 242 on I-80 in Mifflinville, PA. As we were getting off the exit, no joke, there was a UNH coach bus getting on the I-80 on ramp! We thought, what are the chances of that and us being from NH (our son goes to school there) at the same exit at the same exact time in the middle of the night? Crazy coincidence. It is also why I felt everything about this trek home was completely meant to be. It was as if the UNH bus was a sign of fate. I proceeded to text my son at 2am that we saw the UNH bus, thinking he would be sleeping, but he wrote back right away! I think he was more shocked that I was still awake at that time. Yeah, I told him that his dad and I were still cruising through the night like a couple of 20 year olds. I kept saying to Pat that we can stop anywhere if he is too tired to drive but he wanted to keep going. He had an earlier catnap of about 20 minutes and that seemed to do him some good. It was funny as we hobbled through this convenience store buying snacks at 2:15am, there were guys playing Keno and there were rooms with showers. However, it looked dirty and even though I still had NOT taken a shower, I believe I was better off waiting another 9 hours until I was home. I would have bet my shower was much cleaner. LOL! We continued the drive and believe it or not, the hours ticked away, just like the miles in a marathon. Sometimes you just run and/or drive and don't think about every little step, just focus on the big picture (a.k.a the finish line). It did not feel that bad. I mean, I know we were still in Pennsylvania for a long time, but we were getting it done. The only people on the road were us and the truckers! Well, and maybe a few other cars here and there. I always wonder what people's stories are...um, why are you out driving in the middle of the night on I-80? Once we reached New York, it practically felt like we were in New England. And well, once we were in Connecticut, gee, we were practically home. And the funniest thing of all was once we crossed into Massachusetts, I silently said to myself, “Wow, I never thought I would be so happy to be in Massachusetts!” As we crossed into New Hampshire at 7:50am, I proceeded to take a picture of the state sign to document our achievement. It was eerily similar to a marathon finish line. Like yeah, we made it! We went all this way and we got here safely, in one piece, and we did it! It was completely exhausting and exhilarating, just like running a marathon!! I think that is why I loved this journey so much. Sometimes when life makes you take a different path, you just go with it and make the best out of it. That is what made it extra fun! All in all, I maybe slept an hour or so on the ride home, although my Garmin watch did not record ANY SLEEP WHATSOEVER. By the time we returned the car to the airport and drove home it was about 8:30am and our dog, Summit, greeted us like never before. Oh Summit if you only knew where we have been! His bark was a little loud considering we were tired and ready to sleep off the incredible journey. It seemed impossible that I did not sleep after a marathon as my adrenaline kept me awake most of the night. I wanted to stay awake for Pat so he could stay awake too! We enjoyed our alone time, even if it was tiring. It was reminiscent of the time we drove to South Carolina in 1996 and another time we drove to Indiana to see one of our good friends. Road trips can be incredibly fun, and we look back on this time and now say how great it was to have THAT experience. If we would have just flown home on-time, it would have been so boring and mundane. The cool thing is now that I KNOW I can deal with an 18-hour car ride after a marathon. I still do not know what is more impressive, running a marathon or sitting in a car for 18 hours after one? Or both? Overall the journey really was not bad at all. Maybe it's because we just made the best of it?
Why he is still wearing his mask, I don't know!
Did you know that Barbaro is buried here?
Yeah Colonel, the service in one of your NH restaurants is awful!!! Do you hear me?