Will I ever learn my lesson about running the hills in Kentucky?

One would THINK that after the Run The Bluegrass Half Marathon last year and it’s hills, I would have learned my lesson…

After I finished that race, according to my watch, I had climbed 65 flights of stairs over the course of the 33 rolling hills.  (full recap from that race here)

Maybe I just enjoy torturing myself… or pushing myself to do things that I I never thought I’d be able to.

No matter the case, on the way home from Nashville’s Rock n Roll half marathon, and my quest for true craziness, the next stop was the Backside Trail Half Marathon in Louisville Kentucky!  This was going to be my first weekend of back to back half marathons in the same weekend!  As I’m training for my 8 half marathon series in June, I need to get more back to back runs in, but doing back to back half marathons was going to be a good test to see where I am at in my training for that adventure.

The Backside Marathon is a very small race (total 150 participants for both half and full marathon combined) on the trails through a few of the local parks.  Since this race is the same weekend as the Kentucky Derby Marathon as well as several other marathons, Backside offers a special incentive for those who are craziness to run both Saturday and Sunday!  During registration, if you let them know you are running Saturday, and which race, when you finish, you will earn extra bling on your medal! Ok, not that I need extra motivation to run, special bling is always worth it!  Sign me up!

One thing to mention is that this race WILL SELL OUT, so be sure to register early.  Since I have been dealing with those issues with my foot over the last few months, I was waiting to see how my foot was tolerating training before I signed up.  I send a message to the race director to ask about when the race might sell out so that I could get myself registered.  he told me that I had some time but would probably need to register by the first part of April. Life got away from me and I missed checking a few days and on April 7th, I went out to the website to find out that they sold out!  That MORNING!  UGH!!!  I quick sent Troy another email to see if there was any other possibility of getting registered.  He told me that I was now on the top of the wait-list and could consider myself in, as he knew they already had a few people contact them about deferring to next year due to injury etc.  I was in!  My advice to you – DON’T wait to register!!  You might not get as lucky as I did!

So, after Nashville, it was a quick shower, lunch and a 4 hours drive to Louisville!

Packet pick up was at a local sporting goods store and it was nice to meet Troy and thank him for all his help to getting me into the race.  This race is small and goes old school with timing chips that attach to your shoes – I don’t remember the last time I had to attach a timing chip to my shoe!!

On race morning, it was a lot chillier than Saturday in Nashville!!  When you go from 60 degree temps in Nashville to 44 degrees in Louisville, you know it’s going to be a completely different race!  I brought my trusty Jette Skirt and Wondergirl Tank to wear because it’s supposed to be warm in Kentucky!  I was just glad that I remembered to throw my Bolero into my bag before I left home!  I had an extra layer to keep my arms warm for the first few miles!

Since I was running trails that I was completely not familiar with, I really didn’t know what to expect!  The only thing I knew was that it was going to be tough.  According to the information sent out to runners, we were told to anticipate 130% of our road half marathon time to complete this course.  130%????  With my 2:43 finish in Nashville on Saturday, that meant that it would take me about 3.5 hours to finish this course!  OMG!  What was I getting myself in to???

Can I really keep myself going for that long?

I hope I don’t get lost!

Ok, time to make the best of the opportunity and get my legs moving!

Goal for day – 15 minute miles.  That would put me at the finish line at well under the 3:30 that I was anticipated to finish in.

The first few miles took us out from the park in one direction, following the local cross country trail for the first mile before heading out into a think area of single track trails!  Thankfully the trails were really well marked and my fears of getting lost were minimized!  I was loving this course!  As a slower runner, I am accustomed to falling behind lead runners and today was no different.  Today I was enjoying the peaceful quiet of the backwoods of Kentucky. Winding through the trees, along a slow moving stream along a quiet single track, I quickly found myself lost in in my own thoughts.

At about mile 4, we crossed back by the park at the start finish line.  I stopped at the aid station there to grab a quick drink and headed out on to the next section of trail.  I spent so much of my time on the trails wishing I could run these trails all the time!!  The hills are enough of a challenge to keep me on my toes while still allowing me to enjoy feel completely free and one with nature!

I quickly realized that this course was going to give Run the Bluegrass a run for it’s money with the hills.  By the time I hit mile 6, I realized I was already at 5 times my flight of stair goal for the day… meaning I already climbed the equivalent of 50 flights of stairs!  I hadn’t even realized how many hills I was going up and down!!  Combine that with the fact that there trails were technical, I knew this was a day I would not soon forget!

As I cruised along, walking when I needed to, pushing the pace when I could, I was in my own little world.  In fact, I was so far into my own world that I totally forgot to pay attention to the trail.  Right about mile 6.6, my toe hit a tree root.  I had to do everything I could to keep myself from going down.  I am sure if anyone would have been around to see the show I was putting on, they would have been ducking to avoid my flailing arms and stumbling feet.  I somehow managed to catch myself and not end up face first in the dirt.  I unfortunately caught myself my landing square on the heel of the foot that I have been having issues with for the last 6 months.  I took a few deep breaths and slowly walked the next few steps.

It hurt.

I spent the next quarter of a mile walking and stretching my foot.  I think the majority of the hurt was just from the initial shock of landing on that foot so hard.  I slowly started running and kept moving forward.  After a short while, I was back to moving just as I was before.

I don’t remember the last time I enjoyed running on trails like this!  These were some of the most beautiful trails I have ever been on!  Seeing these trails has made me realize that I need NOT limit myself to road half marathons on my 50 state quest!  I was out on the trails myself, randomly coming across another runner or the random couple out on a Sunday afternoon walking the dog.  The peace and serenity of the forest was amazing!

As I was enjoying the quiet I saw something up ahead that brought me back to reality…

Stairs?

Mile 9-ish of a hilly, technical trail half marathon and you want me to climb stairs?

Ok, that’s just evil!

Who puts stairs on a half marathon course?  LOL

It’s just an added challenge that you get over and then keep moving forward!  The last 4 miles flew by! Before I knew it, I was back to the final aid station which meant a short run along the river, down the quiet country road, back around the gold course and I was done!

When I made it to the road, I actually surprised myself and I was still able to pick it back up to about a 10:30 pace!  After all those miles, over the last 2 days, the legs could still move!!  As I rounded the golf course I still felt strong but was really excited to see the finish line!

As I crossed the road and ran than final stretch to the finish line, I couldn’t help but feel a HUGE sense of accomplishment.  No, this was not my first trail half marathon (Lisa and I ran the Great Turtle Trail Half on Mackinac Island a few years ago) but it was by far one of the most challenging ones.  It was also one of my favorite half marathons ever!

The finish line party was representative of a true trail race.  Everything from banana’s and water to cookies and pizza!  I grabbed a Nutter Butter and a bag of Cheetos and it was time roll.

Oh yeah, The medals for this race are truly awesome!  Plus the added bling for running 2 races in one weekend make it extra special!

Technically, this was not a new state for me, since I ran Kentucky last year, but I am so glad that I stopped to run this one!!  If it was not an 8 hour drive to get here, I would absolutely run this race again!  If I do find myself in the area again, I will definitely be back!

Final result:
Finish Time 3:07:13
Half Marathon #33
Quest for Venus #3 of 13 (in 79 days)
Final Flight of stairs count:  85!!!  (yes, 20 more flights of stairs than Run the Bluegrass!!)

One weekend, 2 race, 2 states and tons of memories!!

Next stop:  Eau Claire Marathon next weekend!

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