Oh, RTB...how I love thee…
This is the fourth year I have raced with champions...horses, that is! In 2014, I signed up for this Lexington, Kentucky race, mostly because my local running friends are awesome for some peer pressure. I soon found out that this is one of THE BEST races around! The course is the most challenging “rolling hills” I have ever run, but I keep coming back. Why? It is a first-rate, class act event. Seriously.
First, I thought it was just for the awesome bling (which, I mean, take a look...these medals are GORGEOUS, heavy, and super classy). But, really, the hoodies over the last three years are my FAV swag from any race; super comfy and wearable year-round. The Expo has grown to include some big name companies, local companies, and highlight other amazing running events around the eastern part of the country. In the last two years, my favorite running skirt company, SparkleSkirts, has been there, saving me shipping costs on new skirts (yay!). The medals are always on display at the expo, plus plenty of Run the Bluegrass merchandise and photo ops. While the expo is not the size of a big city, like Pittsburgh, it is PERFECT for Lexington.
In previous years, I have stayed in Lexington, with friends or at a hotel. This year, my friend was coming to race with me and we stayed at my home, 1.5 hrs from Keeneland Horse Park. The race start is one of the latest starts at 9:00am, so we left the house at 6:30am to allow time for parking, bathroom, etc. As it turned out, we were parked so far away that it took a while to get up to the hospitality tents and the porta-potties up there. The race area is well-laid out, with the start and finish separated, but hospitality tents near the finish line. My local running group had one of those tents, so instead of gear check, I left my post-race bag up there. We had barely enough time to stop at the porta-potties, but finally made it to the starting corrals just in time.
The weather was cool at about 40 degrees, but I knew I would warm up and wore a tank and skirt. It took about 2-3 miles to warm up, and even longer for my hands. I kinda wish I had worn throw-away gloves. The starting area was extremely packed with runners and our first mile reflected the crowd. Over 5,000 runners total for this “little” race (including the kids race, 3.65 mile race, 7-milers, and half marathoners). I love to see RTB gain well-deserved popularity.
The goal for this race was simply to have fun. With it being my fourth year, I realized that I had never really ENJOYED it. I was always just enduring the hills and fighting for my time. Since I was running with my friend, who is training distance to do a 100-miler this fall, I planned to run at whatever her pace was and enjoy the view. I asked her what her PR time was, and she said around 2:15. I asked what she wanted for this race, and said it didn’t matter, but 2:10 would be really great. Okay then, 2:10 it is! My previous times were 2:26, 2:40-something with a stomach bug, and in 2016 I smashed my course PR with a 2:08. With my training being what it has been this spring 2017 season, I knew we could hit 2:10.
So, along the way, we talked, laughed, shared life, stopped at some water stops, stopped to take pictures of the course and the horses, and I tried to give her a heads up on each turn or hill. I truly enjoyed this race. The hills were still there, but I had never actually run WITH someone on this course before, so the company kept me occupied and motivated to keep climbing. There are 33 hills on this course. Some would say they are more like “mountains.” Mile 9 is the steepest and longest, but we took it by storm! I was really proud of us! After that, the hills continued through Mile 10, and by Mile 11 I knew we would hit the 2:10 goal, and it looked like we could get closer to 2:08. My legs were feeling those hills and I stopped talking to focus on the last two miles. Mile 12 felt SO much better than previous years. In fact, I sprinted to the finish line, just in case I could beat my previous 2:08 time. I did. 2:08:29, 15 seconds faster than the previous year. My sweet friend hit 2:08:44 and SMASHED her overall half marathon PR by over 5 minutes! We hugged, celebrated, and took pictures to commemorate this incredible race. It was truly a great day!
Even though I didn’t “race” Run the Bluegrass, I really loved the whole experience, AND hit a course PR. I think I learned that sometimes you need to just relax and have fun, and even with photo stops, you can set a record! This is one race that will keep me coming back, because the beauty, the challenge….it’s worth repeating.
Wife. Mother. Runner. Coach. Adoption Advocate. I strive to share HOPE through my journey and help others reach their goals.