Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Kentucky Derby Mini Marathon - The Rest

After last year's mother-daughter trip to Nashville for the Rock 'n' Roll race, we decided to extend this year's trip to four days instead of three so that we would have more time for sightseeing.  Since we arrived on Thursday and the Kentucky Derby Mini Marathon was Saturday, we had ample time before and after the race to tour the city.


Coming into race weekend, we knew that we would at least visit the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory which was one block from our hotel.  This museum was our first stop Friday morning and we were able to get tickets for the 10:20 a.m. tour.  Tour tickets were $16 for adults, which was well-worth it because we learned so much more about baseball AND you get a mini bat at the end of the tour.  You aren't allowed to take pictures during the tour, but I did take the photos below before the tour began.

The most surprising tour of the weekend was the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, which was only a few blocks from the Louisville Slugger Museum.  We rarely drink so when I first read about this tour, I immediately thought that it wasn't for us.  But on Thursday evening, the woman working at a downtown Subway restaurant swore that this tour was still worth the time, even for non-drinkers.  

The one-hour Traditional Tour and Tasting is $14 per person BUT non-drinkers get a discount as long as they mention that they are non-drinkers at the time of purchase.  Since we were on a mid-day tour, we were the only two guests so we were able to ask a lot of questions.  The tour included a lot of information about the history of Louisville, which actually owes it's growth to the Falls of the Ohio nearby.  

Since we were non-drinkers, the guide gave us bourbon balls and water and still explained the difference between the four bourbons that we would have sampled.  The tour ends in the gift shop (of course) and to my surprise there were tons of bourbon sauces, seasonings, spreads, and desserts.  Even as non-drinkers, we both walked away with some delicious souvenirs. 

Bourbon in the making

As we walked around downtown Friday afternoon, we came across random street art.  The first piece was in front of the 21c Museum Hotel David Statue which was inspired by Michelangelo's 16th century marble statue of David.  This statue came to Louisville in 2012 from Istanbul, Turkey via New York City.

If you look at the roof of the 21c Museum Hotel, you will see random red penguins on the ledge.  Apparently the museum inside the hotel is free, but we didn't have time to check it out. We'll save this for our next visit. 

Also outside the hotel...

I have no idea who this statue represents, but I made mom pose with him anyway.

Murals, murals, and more murals:

Looking back, I think my mural obsession started at either Rock 'n' Roll DC or Nashville last year.  Months before our trip to Louisville, I was researching murals there and saving their locations to my Google map in order to see which murals would either be on the race course or a short drive from other places we planned to go.  Then at the race expo, I picked up the Louisville Official Visitor's Guide which included more than 10 additional murals that I had not come across in my initial search.  Even leaving town, I saw at least two more that I couldn't pull over to take photos of so I am sure that by the time I visit Louisville again, there will be even more!

Murals along the half marathon course:

Fund for the Arts Building
On Main Street, just past the overpass, near Caufield's Novelty Shop

Intersection of West Main and 12th

Intersection of West Main and 15th 

Intersection of Muhammad Ali Blvd. and South 16th Street
1800 Ali murals

More murals around Louisville:

Across from the Holiday Inn Express

1101 Central Avenue, near Churchill Downs

Nord's Bakery

Nord's Bakery

West Market, between 1st and 2nd Street

Red Tree Furniture

VIA Studio building
VIA Studio building

Royals Hot Chicken

Inside Hi-Five Doughnuts

Inside Hi-Five Doughnuts

Intersection of Buchanan and East Washington

Butchertown Market Building

Near the intersection of Story Avenue and Bickel Avenue

Story Avenue side

I couldn't see everything in one weekend, so I look forward to finding more reasons to visit Louisville in the future. 

Monday, April 29, 2019

The Kentucky Derby Mini Marathon - The Race

Last weekend I completed half marathon #52, the Kentucky Derby Mini Marathon.  Kentucky is the 12th state that I have completed a half marathon in and I actually registered for this race back in September 2018 when registration was at it's lowest.  I was in a car accident at the beginning of April and have yet to really run, luckily the course time limit for the half marathon is four hours, so I knew that I could completely walk the course and still finish before the cut-off. 

There wasn't a shorter distance that I could downgrade to, so it was either walk the half marathon in 2019 or come back another year.  I loved this race so much that I probably will be back to run it again, but I REALLY wanted to check another state off my list in 2019 so I didn't give up despite knowing my finish time would be very, very slow.

The Expo:
The race expo was held at the Kentucky International Convention Center, which is in downtown Louisville.  I picked up my packet at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, which was 30 minutes after the expo opened.  Honestly, there wasn't anything new that caught my attention so we were in and out in 20 minutes or less. 

Why you should run this race:
  • Distances include the half marathon, marathon, and marathon relay.
  • Walker-friendly, really!  A lot of races state this but then you find yourself being one of only a few walkers and the finish line is already packed up when you cross the timing mat, if the timing mat isn't packed up yet.  I was never alone on this course and I was surrounded by talkative, friendly runners.  It was the confidence boost I needed after having my training completely derailed!
  • Pre-race communication was timely and not repetitive.  Any question I had leading up to the race was answered with one of their emails, but I also never felt inundated with emails either. 
  • If you stay downtown close to the start/finish, there will be so much to do within walking distance. The expo is easily walkable.  A wide-variety of restaurants, museums, and shops are all nearby.  It was so nice to just leave the car parked after the four hour drive from St. Louis!  With so many options so close together, you could also just fly in to Louisville and cab/Uber/shuttle to your downtown hotel and not even need a car! 
  • The race starts and ends near Louisville Slugger Field and ends up taking you through a wide-variety of neighborhoods.  You pass through the campus of Spalding Unviersity as well as the University of Louisville. You run into Churchill Downs, under the track, and around the infield.  Then you cross the finish line as spectators cheer, inspiring music plays, and volunteers greet you with a smile and your medal.

  • There were corrals, but we all just merged into one wave of runners once the race started. 

  • Pacers were available for both distances. 
  • LOTS of parking garages available downtown for race day.
  • Post race snacks include chocolate milk, Powerade, bananas, bagels, chips, peanut butter crackers, and squeezable apple sauce.
  • Plenty of porta-potties at the start and finish line and the pre-race instructions gives you the exact location of all of them.
  • Plenty of water, Powerade, and porta potties on the course too!
  • Plenty of volunteers and a large police presence. 
  • Music throughout the course.
  • Louisville is a beautiful city and we found that the locals were friendly and very helpful.
  • Any time you finish a race and then immediately wonder when you can come back, that's a good sign!
  • The half marathon medal features the Louisville Slugger Museum, which you run by in the first mile.  We were able to tour this museum the day before the race, but more on that in another post. 

Last year in Nashville my obsession with murals started.  I ran/walked past several murals on the course in Louisville but then we went on a bit of a journey to see how many more we could find during our stay. Stay tuned for my next blog post coming later this week: The Kentucky Derby Mini Marathon - The Rest.  

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

#WellnessWednesday - Introducing Dawn

On a dreary January day in 2017 I grew tired of the negativity in American news, so I went to the BBC News - UK website to see what else was happening in the world.  One of the top stories that day was about a woman named Dawn, a runner from the Greater Manchester area who finished last in a Parkrun, but was completely filled with joy at the finish line.

As I read the article I felt like I was suddenly reading my own story, only a much better-written version.  Once I got to the end of the article, I had to find Dawn on Facebook and reach out to her.  I wanted to tell her how inspiring her story was and that I wanted to follow her running journey as it progressed.

Within a few days, I received a response back from her just as her story started to spread more and more in the UK.  Dawn was being interviewed by bloggers and even BBC One North West.  Her amazing story was everywhere, yet she still took the time to answer a few of my questions.  Since I wasn't blogging as frequently when I first contacted Dawn, I recently re-sent her the same questions to see how her running journey has changed since I first started following her.  Her original answers are in black and her updated answers are in purple.

Why did you decide to start running?
My stepmum was diagnosed with cancer in march of 2016. At that point I did no exercise of any kind restricted by my weight and size. I signed up for the Race for Life which is a 5k event to raise money for Cancer Research. I felt this was my way of showing my support and helping in some small way. I started training, mostly walking and under the cover of dark. Somewhere along the way I started to enjoy running and thought if I did the race and then stopped my life would return to being sedentary and feeling a failure. So the weekend after the race I did my first Parkrun. A 5 km race on a Saturday morning in park across the country. I have now completed 15 Parkruns and can truly say I love it. I still can't run the whole thing and I'm never quick but I love it, something I never thought I'd say about exercise.

Now I’ve been running for a while, the reasons why I run have changed.  It’s a  part of my life now and a lot of the friends I have made are through running, so it feels more like time with friends than a run sometimes.  Also I love how it makes me feel about myself – I now see the strong and determined I can be if I set my mind to it.

Did you join other friends or co-workers who were running, did you join a group, start a training program, or did you just start your journey on your own?
My journey was very much my own as I was so ashamed of how unfit I was and how hard it was. My cousins started training with me but I was always the slowest and the sweatiest.

Now running and Parkrun feel like family – the support you get no matter how fast or slow is amazing – and I in turn now look out for those that are struggling or look like they might appreciate some company.

What set-backs, if any, did you experience and how did you overcome them?
Each time I see a picture of me running I come crashing down. I love how well I am doing and how empowered i feel running. The reality of the pictures shows a person I don't want to be anymore. I shows a body I am running to improve. Every so often it all feels a little hard, when I'm tired and all my body aches but I remind myself I can do it, I already have done it and the reason my body aches is because I am working it so hard to improve my now and my future.

Right now I am injured and that has taken some getting used to – I can’t do what I love so after a bit of a sulk and realizing I needed to be a bit kinder to myself I now volunteer most weeks at Parkrun and cheer others along.  My friend did her first half-marathon at the weekend in training for London marathon in 2019, so I went along and stood in the cold and rain to be there and cheer her along the way and tell her how proud I am.  I would still much rather be out there running myself but this is a close second.

What does your typical training week look like as far as running and training?
I get up at 6 a.m. to walk my 2 dogs before my kids wake up and before I got to work. 2 nights a week I run between 3.5 and 4 km once the kids are in bed. 2 nights a week I go to the gym. One work day lunchtime I run along the canal with a personal trainer. Saturday morning I get up for the 5 km Parkrun. Sunday morning I go horse riding. All of this is what I couldn't have done last year. This year I want to cover 500 km between running and horse riding. I see the 500 km as my gift as it is 500 km I could not have done before. My photo and story went viral and I want to show from many small things something great can happen. I asked anyone who saw my story and was inspired do donate £2. Cancer was the starting blocks of my story and it makes sense cancer research is the benefactor. I set up a just giving page for donating.

When I’m not injured, Parkrun is now the only way to start my weekend.  And then I try and get out a couple of nights in the week.  Or sometimes I go to the gym and then have a swim.  I use a PT sometimes to make me do a core workout as I hate doing those but know it is important but I need a nudge to do it.  Plus on a Sunday I go horseriding which I absolutely love.  So all in all most of my muscle groups are getting used in some form or another each week.

How many races and what distances have you now run?  
I did my first (and last) half marathon last year – I can say I’ve done one but it wasn’t my most favourite run – think 10k is where I am happiest.  I got to my 50 Parkruns milestone which was amazing. 

Any goals you want to accomplish in 2019? 

I would like to run the Great Manchester Run (10k) with my brother.  We don’t see each other very often and this year he did his first Great South Run (10 miles) and said the Manchester one sounded fun.

Where do you turn for running/fitness advice? 

Mainly friends – I have so many different running friends of different experiences and abilities – there is always someone for friendly non-judgy advice and support.

What I love about Dawn's story is that she cares less about pace and more about the friendships, being outdoors, and the physical activity.  I used to be obsessed with pace and finish times, but years of injuries have helped me realize that I shouldn't take the ability to run (at whatever pace) for granted.  I should just be happy to be healthy enough to use my feet to propel me forward! So the next time you feel down, search for a story or a new person that inspires you. Also, don't be afraid to reach out and let someone know that they have inspired you. A simple email or Facebook message can spread kindness and make you both smile.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

#WellnessWednesday - Hip and Glute Strength Workshop

This past Saturday I attended a Hip & Glute Strength for Athletes clinic at Big River Running - West County.  It was an hour long clinic led by physical therapists from Mercy and it was totally FREE!

I arrived 15 minutes early and luckily I did, because the runners just kept coming and coming until the entire store was filled.  It was an amazing sight to see!  The physical therapists greeted us as we entered and gave each runner a resistance band to use during the clinic and to take home.  I believe there were four physical therapists present at the clinic.  Two PT's discussed hip and glute anatomy as well as typical problems and weaknesses they see in runners.  They also demonstrated specific hip and glute strengthening exercises.  After they would demonstrate a couple exercises, it was our turn to try them ourselves.  All of the physical therapists then walked around to correct our form and answer questions.

The exercises we learned are pasted below, in no particular order:

As the therapists demonstrated these exercises and explained their benefits, I kept wondering if there was a way to have my running form evaluated BEFORE I experience any (more) problems.  Luckily they offer a "Running Screen."

I think I will wait until summer to schedule the screening just so that I am running more consistently when I get evaluated, but I think it sounds well worth the money!  I also plan to work through these exercises a couple times per week and have already worked through them once at home thanks to my free resistance band!  We are really lucky in St. Louis to have a running store like Big River that offers FREE clinics throughout the year.  Click here to check out their calendar of upcoming events.