Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Urban Bourbon Half Marathon Race Recap!

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

I have been trying to figure out where to start in sharing my recap of this race with yall for ages.  I'm not kidding when I say I spent a huge portion of my 15+ hour drive home drafting this post in my head.  Words just cannot do justice to how amazing this weekend was!

I am going to be breaking down the weekend into three separate posts, so stay tuned this week to hear about the before and after...for today I am focusing on the race itself!

For those who are not familiar, the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon takes place in Louisville, KY ergo the bourbon aspect. Being in Louisville it was a little chillier than I am used to, but the break from crazy humidity was very very welcome.

The Pre-Race
Erica and I walked/ran to the race start since we were staying only a little over a mile away and met up with Angie and Josh. 
Photo credit to Angie at marathang.wordpress.com

From the sounds of things, there was ample parking though you did have to pay for it.  I put my bag in the gear check right away since it was not nearly as chilly as I expected and I didn't need my jacket.  The volunteers were very efficient and were actually nice enough to get my bag back out for me when I realized I had left my Ziploc bag for my phone in my gear bag (oops) and it was supposed to rain.  We were all a little surprised that there was no crazy rush of people getting lined up in the starting area. While there was definitely a good/excited atmosphere there were very few people getting an early start into the corrals.  The portapotty lines looked pretty long, but the race crew were making announcements of where bathroom facilities could be located.  I didn't need them, so I can't say for sure how quickly the lines moved.  When they made the 10 minutes till start time announcement there was suddenly a mad dash to get in the starting area.  There were no side entrances to the chute so it was a little bit chaotic.  It might have been nice to be able to go in through the side....but if people had lined up earlier it would also not have been an issue! There were no designated corrals or anything, but there were plenty of pacers and, from what I noticed when we got going, people overall did a good job of lining up with their expected pace and there was minimal dodging.  Before the start a trumpeter played My Old Kentucky Home (I hope! If you were there and I got the song wrong please let me know!) then the National Anthem.

Since Louisville is known for horse racing, it was a very fun way to start the race and not something you find at many races in other places!

The Race
The Urban Bourbon course was very fun because it took you through downtown Louisville, Cherokee Park, and past some very nice houses.  It felt like a running tour of the town and I absolutely loved it.  The thing I was probably most excited for when planning for this race was the fact that Autumn actually happens in Louisville.  Cherokee Park did not disappoint! 

The views were incredible it was so peaceful.  There were a few spectators here and there, but overall the part of the run that went through the park was quiet and I loved being able to get in a groove and just run while taking in the fall leaves.  If you are totally over fall that may not sound like much, but coming from Central Florida it was a real treat.
Of course the park also contained the part of the race I had been most worried about: the hills.  Looking at the elevation profile, I and my flat land friends were a bit perplexed by the huge spike in the middle.  I thought perhaps it was a bridge/overpass or that the rest of the hills were small and just made this one look exceptionally large by comparison.  No. That was not the case at all. The rolling hills in the beginning were actually enjoyable.  Then I got to the big hill and my heart sank just a bit.  It was a struggle but I made my way to the top and was never more glad to see a downhill in my life.  If I was still living in NC I am sure this hill would be much less daunting.  It was not exceptionally large or steep, but this past weekend it did take a toll on my legs.
In the park there was also a turnaround point though this was not an out and back course. (Thank goodness because that would have meant doing the hill twice! I was really excited to see Josh as I was going the first was and Erica after I turned around.  Though tight turns are not my favorite, they had an aid station at the corner so it was logical to slow down and walk through anyways.
My goal going into the race was to finish under 2:30 if possible.  Having seen the elevation profile I knew this was a bit of a stretch because I have not trained for any amount of elevation at all.  I went out faster than I should have and ran a 10 something first mile.  As much as I know I should not have done that, I was feeling so good in the cooler weather and less humidity that I just let it happen.  I am not trying to beat any speed records.  There was no chance I would win the race.  I am thankful that I went out too fast because it felt so fantastic.  It was exactly what I love about running.  That said, as the humidity rose towards the end of the race, I was wishing I could have bottled some of that feeling to get me through.  I passed a runner who was down at mile 11 receiving medical care.  Though there were ample water/powerade stops, the weather was deceptive and it was easy to think that since it was not hot you did not need water every time if you were not used to running in humidity.  I actually slowed down at the last water stop to drink two cups of water because I could feel the air getting thicker and I was not taking any chances!
The end of the race brought you back onto main street and there was even a balloon arch over the marker for mile twelve! 
Being in the more populated area, there were more spectators in this area and they were lining the sides of the road for the last bit into the finish!  I will never ever stop being thankful for the people that stand there and cheer.  My legs were tired but my heart was so full.  As terribly cheesy as I know that sounds, I am the one who always comes close to tears at the finish line. The sense of accomplishment combined with the support of complete strangers just blows my mind and I hope I never lose that feeling.  This was a race that made me fall even deeper in love with running and racing.

The After Party
If you are anything like me, the moments after a long race/run are pretty much a blur.  I suddenly had a medal and was walking  towards tables loaded down with water, powerade, bananas and Panera bagels.  Are the medals not awesome?! Plus they are all hand-dipped...which is saying something with about 3000 runners!

  In my daze I passed on the bagel which makes me a little sad now!  I did get a banana, water, and powerade so it wasn't a total loss.  This was also my first race where they were giving out heat sheets which I was very grateful for.  The humidity and hills had gotten my temperature up, but the rain was starting to come in and the air was cooler than I had realized!  I met back up with the other pros and we hung out through the Bourbon Bash on the Belvedere.  I mean who doesn't love a race with a big party after?  There was a live band and each runner got a wristband with little tabs that pulled off.  There were 4 bourbon tickets, a beer ticket, a pizza ticket, and a burgoo ticket.  The High Five Donuts truck was also there selling their donuts. 

 Spectators were allowed to buy wristbands and enjoy the party as well.  I will say that the beer line was disappointingly long and the pizza ran out.  That said, they did go get more pizza (which I have never seen a race do) and both issues were already addressed on Facebook by that evening or the next day which I thought was fantastic. 

 The bourbon tasting lines were pretty much nonexistent so that was a big plus!  It was also fun that they included burgoo which is a Kentucky stew that I had never heard of before.  I don't think I will make it at home, but it was pretty good and fun to try.  Overall, the after party was a lot of fun! The music was good and there was room for everyone to spread out.  The heat sheets were being put to good use as picnic blankets by more than a handful of people!
Photo credit also to Angie :)

After the after party there were even more events that I will cover in part 3 of my weekend recap! I had such an amazing experience with this race there was no way to pour it all into one post!

Overall this is a race that I plan to run again and again. I am already recruiting friends to road trip up with me next year!  Everyone working with the Louisville Sports Commission and the race were so friendly and helpful.  Of course it helped that the course was amazing and the bourbon after didn't hurt!

Did you run the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon? Let me know what you thought of it! And don't forget to share your review on Bibrave.com!

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