Sunday, April 20, 2014

2014 KDF Marathon - Race Recap

Although I had probably the best training season I could have had (especially considering the crazy winter weather we had), I was still pretty nervous going into yesterday's race.

I think a big part stemmed from the fact that I've done the mini so many times now, and I know the hardest part of the half for me is the stretch from Churchill Downs back into downtown (roughly miles 9 - 13). Those four miles really seem to drag on for whatever reason, and by that point you're ready to be done, but it's painfully obvious just how far you still have left to go (because you know how far from the river you still are).

So I knew I was going to have one of my toughest mental battles ahead of me, since the full marathon course turns right, AWAY from downtown and heads all the way down and loops Iroquois Park before making the trek back toward the river.

Leading up to the race, I tried various tactics to keep myself in a positive mindset about it all. I knew I had done the distance before, so that was something (although that time didn't go as well as I had hoped), and my long runs this year had gone pretty well (my training in general was MUCH better than last time). I figured I would break the distance up into smaller, more digestible sections, like four 5-mile sections followed by a 10K.

That helped a little.

So Friday night we got everything ready and went to bed as early as possible. I don't feel like I had trouble sleeping, but I remember waking up a few times throughout the night looking at the clock. Before I knew it, it was 5:30am and we were up and about.

This was probably the calmest we've been before a race. I woke up not nervous at all, and I was actually hungry, which was a very good thing. Normally I can't really eat before a race, and that throws everything off, but I was able to eat my normal breakfast plus a smoothie and I was feeling really good.

We left on time, and actually made it down there about 30 minutes before the race start, which is pretty rare for us!

It was a little chilly at the start -- upper 40s and windy -- but you couldn't have asked for better weather.

We made our way to the corrals, said our good-lucks and goodbyes, and got lined up to start.

Since I was a little nervous/intimidated by this race, I didn't really have any specific goals. I just didn't want that pressure. Ultimately, I just wanted to finish the race without hurting like I was during my last one. I was really hoping to finish under 4:30, but not if it caused me too much pain or took the joy out of it. Under 4:00 would have made my year, but I kinda knew that would only happen if everything in the universe conspired to help me.

I was really just looking forward to having a good race and having fun with it. I had been training since November -- it was crazy to think that I was just a few hours away from it all being over. I wanted to soak it in.

And so, I started off as easy as I could, hoping to hold between a 9:30 - 10:00/mile pace for at least the first half. There were a few times when I'd look down at my watch and realize I was probably going too fast, so I'd slow down, but for the most part I held that pace really well.

The corral system REALLY helped with that. I never felt like I was passing a lot of people or getting passed. I remember looking around seeing the same people all the way through Churchill Downs (which was the first 8.5 miles); I honestly don't remember that ever happening during a race before.

The first 9 miles of the marathon course (in orange)

My first 9 splits -- pretty much right on target!

I LOVED running into the front of Churchill Downs this year!

After the split where the half-marathoners turned left and the full-marathoners turned right coming out of Churchill, things got pretty lonely. Somewhat surprisingly, I was still keeping about the same pace, as were the people around me. I'm not sure what mile we were at, but somewhere along the stretch between Churchill and Iroquois we were passed by the leaders. They were FLYING! And of course they didn't even look like they were working hard at all.

As we entered Iroquois we immediately climbed a pretty big hill. I wanted to keep with my current pace since I was feeling really good, but I made one slight exception: if my heart rate (which had been holding in the 160s and sometimes the 170s) climbed into the 180s, I would slow down or walk. I was really trying to "keep it easy" and conserve as much energy as I could so that I would be able to finish strong.

That plan really seemed to work well, and that's definitely something I'm going to incorporate on all future long-distance runs.

We hit the halfway mark halfway through the park and I was still feeling great. This was around the point where I fell apart during my first marathon, so I think I was a little superstitious that something would happen again.

Leaving the park at mile 15 I was really feeling great, and still hitting my pace goal (even with taking some walk breaks)!

But I knew this would be one of the toughest parts of the course for me mentally -- that long trek back toward the river:

I tried to just settle in and keep doing what I had been doing. I kept the pace easy, and made sure I was fueling and hydrating. Since it was pretty hot and sunny out, I made sure to keep an eye on how much water/PowerAid I was taking in. There were a few times that I noticed I had stopped sweating, so I made sure to drink more so I didn't dehydrate.

I don't really remember what I was thinking as I made my way back up Southern Parkway, but it definitely didn't drag on like I expected it to. At one point I remember looking between the houses and seeing Churchill Downs, and being surprised that I was already there.

And before I knew it I was almost at the final turn-off that the marathoners had to take before finally meeting back up with the half folks for the finish. And my pace was still exactly where I was hoping it would be!

Everyone always talks about hitting "the wall" around mile 20, and I guess that's what happened to me. There's just no other word for it.

Jennifer was hoping to finish the half, meet up with her mom and the baby, and make her way to the 21 mile mark to see me pass by, so I had been texting her where I was. As I passed by the 20 mile mark, she realized she just wasn't going to make it, even though they were all running. I was really hoping to see them -- I definitely needed it -- but I knew it was out of their control.

While seeing them would have been amazing, it wouldn't have helped me. I was physically crashing; it wasn't a mental battle at that point.

I had been running the perfect race, but somewhere between miles 20 and 21 my quads started cramping up (almost like charlie-horses). I tried eating and stretching, and that definitely helped, but the cramping never fully went away. I pushed through it as much as I could, but there were times I could barely walk, let alone run.

I was pretty upset about it, but since I wasn't gunning for a certain time I tried not to get so hung up on it. I just pressed on, knowing that the sooner I finished, the sooner I'd be able to see Jennifer and Grayson, and sit down!

Give me that medal, mom!

The miles continued to pass by, albeit a little slower than before. Eventually I rounded the 2nd to last turn back onto Main street, where I saw my mother-in-law. She had been out running all over the city with the baby all morning, trying to catch us at a few different spots along the course. At that point I was walking and stretching, trying to loosen my legs up so I could run through the finish. She walked along with me, asking how I was doing, telling me where Jen was with the baby, and giving me lots of encouragement. It really was great to see her.

When I felt like I could, I started running again (if you can call it that!). I made the final turn toward the finish, scanning the crowd looking for Jen and the baby. Jennifer got a few pics of me as I went by:


Since I was really pushing the 4:30 mark, I didn't stop like I wanted to. Instead I just used my momentum to carry me across the finish line.

My final splits

So I missed my time goal by 32 seconds, but I met my most important goal: although my quads were tight, I felt really good and was able to walk around after the race. I didn't feel like I was completely dead like I did after my first marathon.

The best reward. Also, he's looking at that bagel like I'm looking at him. #truelove

I want to give a HUGE thanks to Jennifer's mom for bringing Grayson out and taking care of him (while running all over the city, no less)!


I think I learned way more from this marathon experience than I did my first one. I trained better and I raced better, and I came away from it all with things I'll do differently next time.

Because let's just be honest, I'm sure there will be a next time.

Until then, thanks for reading!

Did you race yesterday? What did you think??

My job as an ambassador isn't quite over. I'm still going to give my feedback on the race, and I'd like to include your story/comments as well! Just leave me a comment or send me an email and I'll pass it along!

I think my favorite part were the shirts and medals this year. Definitely the best out of the past 5 years in my opinion!


  1. Congratulations!! I ran the mini yesterday (my first race ever)! I had a GREAT time. I think it was very well organized and would like to pass my thanks to everyone on staff for a job well done. I can't wait to come back!

    1. Thanks, and congrats on your first race!! Welcome to the obsession ;)

  2. This was my third full marathon. I thoroughly enjoyed the weather, the course, and the spectators. At mile 17 I was running nonstop, and I thought, for no reason, why not just run-walk the last 9 miles and enjoy the course. I got 3:54, not a PR, but I actually enjoyed a FULL marathon during the race for the first time. It was such a beautiful day and I enjoyed it all. Thanks for your re-cap and congrats!

    1. That's an incredible time, and I'm glad to hear you enjoyed yourself!

  3. Awesome report. I did the half this weekend. It was my first half. I enjoyed the experience. However for me I wish they had actually staggered the start of the corrals. Like let A-C go and then hold up for 5 mins or something. The course was really crowded for me and I was tired of working my way around people. As we got closer to the finish I was surprised by the number of people walking. My friend was with me (this was her 3rd half) and she was surprised as well. . . at one point there were 5 people side by side like it was a Sunday stroll. I had the energy to run a straight line - not zig zag through people. That was a bit tough. A few of the water stops were really unorganized. The stop just before Churchill had many many cups without water. We were unable to get anything at that stop. We never saw powerade till after churchill and we seriously gulped some fluids at that first stop past the track. For reference I started in corral E and my finish time was 2:38. Overall the experience was really great, but I did often wish for a bit of a less crowded course.

    1. It sounds to me like you were placed too far back. I'm not sure how they make the determination, but your time was right around my wife's and she started in corral D. She mentioned the same problems with the water stops that you had, too, and that's definitely something I'm going to bring up. I'm sorry you had so much trouble with the crowd. If you read back through just about any other race report I've done, you'll see that zig-zagging around slower people is the number one thing I hate about any race, so I really understand where you're coming from. But I'm glad you had a good experience overall, and congrats on finishing your first half!!

  4. Congrats on your finish! I found your page from the KDF Facebook page. This was my fifth marathon and I definitely enjoyed every minute of it. It definitely ranks up on the top in terms of organization and management of a half and full marathon at the same time! The one thing I found "out of place" may have been mile marker 24. It felt like it was off by a block. That's not really a negative, if you ask me!

    KDF Marathon will ALWAYS hold a special place in my running resume as I BQ'd for my first time!

    My race report can be found here:

  5. Thanks for giving such a good description of what it's like to do the full. I've debated and think I'm ready to take the plunge....scary!! Congrats to you both on your finishes, what great inspirations for your little man. :)


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