A Series of Navigational Miracles – Kentucky Derby Marathon Weekend, Part 1

Usually I get really excited ahead of a marathon weekend. I’m pumped to see a new place, get another medal, see my fellow Maniacs, etc. This time, I wasn’t so excited. I’ve documented my feelings of burnout and I’ve had a couple of sickly, disastrous races at the Bataan Memorial Death March and the Knoxville Marathon. With my back problems flaring up the past few weeks, I was not very excited about Kentucky at all. Last week, I couldn’t make it more than a mile during my training runs without having to stop, stretch, and walk to ease the pain in my back. Not exactly a recipe for marathon success. So I was a big bundle of nerves just at the mere idea of going to the race. The good news is road trips always make for entertaining blogs.

Kate arrived Thursday night so we could leave bright and early on Friday morning. We were slated to meet Kristen at her boyfriend’s house, which we were assured was “just off the highway” and “really easy to find, it’s like 3 turns.” As previously documented, Kristen is terrible at navigating anywhere pretty, so I was feeling pretty confident that if she could find this place, I could too. I was wrong. Here are the directions:

  1. Take I-26 West to the Peak exit.
  2. Look for a man with a wooden leg named Skippy. Answer his riddle and proceed.
  3. Go on a ramp in a complete counterintuitive fashion like you’re going to get back on the highway, but don’t get back on the highway, but almost get back on the highway. Turn left.
  4. Pay the troll under the bridge 37 cents in exact change.
  5. Turn 18 more times in completely contradictory directions.
  6. Park on grass that looks absolutely illegal to park on so you don’t think you should but are then forced to do so.
  7. Have a hate spiral.

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As you can see, I was in prime road tripping condition by the time we finally arrived. My back was already hurting from just the half hour drive over, so things were not looking promising with 8 hours to go. I laid down in the back of Kristen’s car and hoped it would end soon.

For those of you who read my Knoxville entry, you will recall that Kate and Kristen are champion pee-ers. And by “champion” I mean “have the bladders of two year olds,”  so once again, we stopped on an hourly basis. I’m not exaggerating. T-Rex Mom would never have stood for such a thing when I was growing up, and I informed them that they better not ever ask me to drive anywhere or we would only be stopping for gas. I may not be fast when I run, but I make up for it by getting places quickly in the car. Since Knoxville was halfway between Columbia and Louisville, we stopped to get traditional pre-race fuel (Moe’s, duh) and have lunch with Blake.

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We were trying to make it to Louisville  by 4 so we could get to the 50 States Marathon Club reunion meeting, since Kate and I are new members. Because we are terrible at making it anywhere on time and the Pee Pants Twins were at it again (and we had to stop for fro-yo – I accept the blame for this),  we walked in as the meeting was mostly over. Unfortunately, we were not able to remain anonymous, as most of the people in this club are much older than we are. They were very excited to see the “young blood,” as they called it. We all stood up and introduced ourselves and said how many marathons we have run and how many states. Kate and I were like amateurs in there. The president of the club ran his 510th marathon on Saturday. You read that correctly.

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We ran into lots of old friends at the meeting, including Anders, Lyle, Michelle, and plenty of others I have met along the way.  It’s funny because many people are impressed by how many races I do, but the people in this club are out of control. However, we felt a little like celebrities because everyone wanted to meet us since we’re so young and hip.

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The expo had some surprisingly interesting vendors – different than what you usually see at races. There was a vendor that just sold fun 13.1 and 26.2 stickers for your car in different colors and patterns, and they also sell koozies! SO obvs I got an “I <3 26.2″ koozie, complete with curly letters and a ribbon, so everyone at the bar will know that I am drinking beer because I am perpetually carbo-loading. I haven’t checked the website yet, but I’m hoping they sell marathon croakies too. There was also a long canvas where you could write good luck messages, sign your name, or pimp your blog.

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We saw Lyle again leaving the expo and told him we were heading over to Bluegrass Brewing Company for our pre-race tradition of local beers and pint glasses. For R-Dub and AJ, who care about such things – I got the Summer Wheat. When I told the server I wanted whichever one of their beers tasted the most like Bud Light, he pointed at my water glass and told me I already had it. Well played.

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For some reason, we continued to trust Kristen’s navigational abilities and ended up in one giant circle. You’d think that as a Geography/GIS major, I would be responsible for these things, but no. We eventually found the brewery and immediately found Maniacs and 50 Staters and promptly annoyed our waiter by not actually sitting at our table because we were too busy talking to people.

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Eventually Lyle showed up with his friend Sally, her father Harold, and another friend Linda, and we had our own Maniacs/50 Staters/Fanatics dinner right there. We had a great time swapping marathon stories, talking about which races to do, etc, and by the time we left, Kristen had been convinced to train for a full marathon. Some of my less obsessive running friends tell me I’m ruining lives, but I like to think of it as disseminating the crazy. It’s my own gospel, if you will.

I am proud to tell you that we navigated to our hotel smoothly, but this is obviously only because I insisted on navigating. When we got there, I took a shower while Kristen and Kate rolled out each other’s calves. Coming out of the bathroom, I couldn’t tell if I was walking into a murder in progress, a sexy party, or a comedy show. That’s the combination of noises we’re talking about.

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I took some Thai prescription muscle relaxers Fawn had given me from her motorcycle accident hoping that it would make my back feel better by the morning. The package said “take 2 tablet every 4-6 hour when feel suffer.” What could possibly go wrong?

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