There were only about 1500 signed up to run the full marathon but 10,000+ others doing the Mini (aka half marathon) so the event had the excitement and feel of a big race without the high cost and hassles. With a seeded runner position (for those who'd run a 3:45 marathon or faster since Jan 2005), I was able to line up less than 5 minutes before the start and hit my desired 9 minute pace right out of the gate -- YAY!
The first few miles took us in a big loop and through Iroquois Park, which was very pretty and pretty hilly. I hadn't done any hill training but had no problems getting up them, to my surprise -- perhaps all the bike riding helped? Whatever, we really lucked out with the weather. It was pouring rain when I got up, drizzling on the bus ride to the start but clearing by race start and a pleasant 55 degs -- Whee! (Sorry this photo is blurry. Except for the start photo, all were taken while running.)
At mile 6, we ran right back under the start sign again and then headed towards Churchill Downs, home of the famous Kentucky Derby. Though I'm not much of a horse race fan, I've always liked horses (used to draw them a lot as a kid!) and enjoy seeing famous sights that I would probably never see otherwise unless I was doing a race. We ran through a tunnel to get to a path on the infield and caught glimpses of some horses on the track warming up (see upper left photo inset). Very cool!
On my way out of the Churchill Downs concourse, I spotted a restroom sign to my left. Unfortunately, I was on the right side of a big group of runners and had to make my way over to the left slowly and then backtrack to it. So I lost a couple minutes there but I didn't care. It was a real restroom with sinks and toilet paper!
After Churchill Downs (mile 9), we headed towards downtown. There were still lots of runners around me and a good number of spectators cheering, too, but I could hear my feet and quads talking to me. You know, you really should have trained on some hills. We are not happy with the pounding we took on the earlier downhills and if you don't take it easy on us, we will make you pay. Uh-oh ...
Just before mile 12, the Mini and Full Marathon courses split and the race took on a very different look & feel. Where did everyone go? To pass the time, I ran alongside a couple guys until around mile 14 where the course began to get hilly again. There were both from the Louisville area but one guy had attended University of Central FL, which is very close to where I live, and knew the flatness of where I was from. The other guy was running his first marathon but had trained on the course and was giving us a history lesson ... Many of the rich folks had relocated here on the high ground here to avoid the big floods back in 1937. Some of these old homes are worth over a million dollars, blah-blah-blah ...
I fully expected to be left eating their dust on the hills but they actually slowed even more than I did and so I ran on alone. We went through Cherokee Park, which looked very similar to Iroquois Park, and here I am going up a good hill. Notice how few there are in front of me now compared to the photo before!
By mile 19, the course had finally flattened out and we were heading back towards downtown Louisville again. Since my feet and quads were still noticeably complaining, I didn't pick up my pace by much at mile 20. There were actually still two more blips on the elevation map coming up, the bridge over the Ohio River into Indiana briefly and then back over it (miles 22-24.5). And, I knew I had the Gulf Coast Tri (GCT), a half iron distance tri, coming up in just two weeks and didn't want to overdo things.
But the big crowd at the foot of the bridge really pumped me up so I attacked the first bridge crossing more aggressively than I probably should have. At the top, I eased up and decided to pull out my camera one last time. The clouds had gone away for the most part leaving blue skies and a very nice view of the river.
Less than 10 minutes in Indiana and we were back on the bridge to Louisville with only a couple flat miles left. The last half mile we were rejoined by walkers from the Mini Marathon and had great crowd support and I was back running in a big race again. I was on track for another sub-4 race time and was not actually bothered much when a woman passed me on the final stretch (she was not in my age group anyway ;-). She was the only woman who passed me the last 6+ miles and I congratulated her on her strong kick after we'd both finished.
Net time 3:56:59,
Race splits (pace computed for each segment):
10K 0:55:29 8:56 pace
15K 1:26:16 9:55 pace (including 2 min bathroom break)
25K 2:21:57 8:58 pace
30K 2:50:14 9:07 pace
42K 3:56:59 8:57 pace
Average pace: 9:03 min/mile
After an ice bath, my quads and feet felt much better but I won't probably won't be ready to race the next bike time trial on Tuesday. By the end of the week, however, all should be forgiven :-)