Friday evening : my "flat runner" is ready, I've picked up my bib, eaten a small but free pasta dinner, and am on my way to find a second dinner because I'm still hungry.
Saturday morning : waiting around for the race to start. Got our picture taken with McCoy(left) and Hatfield (right).
I took 1st place around mile 10 or 11 and held it til the end. I never had any idea how far behind me 2nd place was, and never let myself turn around to look. Not knowing helped me keep pushing myself whenever I started to slow down. I crossed the line with a watch time of 3:25:36 and chip time of 3:25:30, and in addition to my finisher's medal I received the Kentucky State marathon championship medal. (This race just happened to be the Kentucky State championship this year)
Packet Pickup and the Race Expo were held at the Belfry, KY high school. It was easy to find, and the packet pickup went very smoothly. The expo had a selection of running clothes, shoes, and books about the Hatfield-McCoy feud. I didn't pay too much attention to all the stuff because I didn't want to spend any money, but it looked like it had some good deals. The expo let out into the cafeteria, where there was a free pasta dinner for the racers. I appreciated the free meal, but I needed about 3 times that amount of pasta, and ended up having to stop at a Subway on the way back to the hotel to get a sandwich and chips because I was so hungry it felt like I hadn't had dinner at all.
The hotel/motel situation around Williamson is not great. There were only a few choices right in Williamson, and none of them were affordable for me. The fire departments do offer cots for anyone who wants to stay there, and next time I would probably try that instead. As it was, we stayed in the Daniel Boone Motor Inn 30 minutes away. Wasn't the nicest motel I've stayed in, but it was cheap and the beds weren't bad. (also, they still use metal keys instead of plastic key cards!)
On Saturday morning, we got to Williamson around 5:15 and didn't have any trouble finding parking, although I didn't think the parking map was particularly clear, and think it would have been really nice if they had put up signs in the designated parking areas so that it would be more clear where we were allowed to park. We ended up just parking in a lot and hoping it was ok. After we parked, we wandered for a bit until a bus drove by and picked us up. We weren't super clear on where exactly the bus stops were, but were thankful that the bus driver picked us up where we were standing when she drove by. The bus took us to the starting line a few miles away at the Food City. We still had about an hour to kill until the race start, and thankfully the Food City was open and we got to sit in the nice warm food court until it was closer to go time.
The race started right around 7:00, and we headed up the road with our police escort, as well as several local cyclists. I stayed with the 8:00 pacer for the first mile or so. I believe that was the fastest pacer they had. The course was beautiful, there was very little traffic, and any cars that did pass us gave plenty of room. There were water/gatorade stops every mile with friendly volunteers. This race is unique in that if you want to run a half marathon, you can choose to run either the first half of the marathon course, or the second half. You can also choose to run a "double half" instead of the marathon if you are a 50 stater and want to get a medal for each state (WV and KY). This means that when I crossed the finish line for the first half marathon I had the benefit of a nice crowd of cheering people telling me I was in first place for the marathon so far. It was nice to have that little pick-me-up of a cheering crowd halfway through, and gave me a little boost of energy as I started on my second half. Up until that point, the whole course had been on paved roads. The second half started out on a vary narrow one lane back road that turned into gravel/dirt after awhile. There were a few muddy spots, but not too deep thankfully. The dirt road eventually spit us out onto a golf course, where we ran over a swinging bridge (not suggested for people who are afraid of heights...) and then back onto a road for the remainder of the run.
The course was rolling for most of the race. There was a long hill about halfway through the first half, and there were some mostly flat sections. The second longest hill was in mile 24. I was hurting by that point, but thanks to the ballcap I was wearing, I was able to use the brim to block my gaze, as I just put one foot in front of the other until I reached the top. Coming back down the other side was probably the hardest part of the whole race for me. My hips were hurting pretty bad by that point, and if you have ever had to run down a hill with hip pain...you know how bad it is. I almost cried as I limped my way down the hill, but I made it to the bottom. I struggled along for a bit longer, and then the pain dulled, I rallied, and made my final 1.5 mile strong push to the finish line.
At the finish line, there were buckets filled with ice cold water and gatorade, as well as some snacks. Each finisher received a mason jar in addition to their finisher medal.
photo taken at a water stop around mile 24
I had Tailwind in my camelbak : about 5 scoops of powder in 50 ounces of water. I started sucking air out of the pack around mile 21, so I got sips of cold water off the water tables at each mile after that, along with the little sips of tailwind I was still able to draw out of my pack.