Some 300 runners showed up for the 10th Annual edition of Louisville's Lovin' the Hills. This year, as last, had a 10K "fun run", a 15 miler and a 50K. With a new course through the Yost Section. In years past ,Yost was the worst. All up and down, with negligible flats. I counted somewhere between 6 and 9 significant knob climbs in a 6 mile course. Once you got through that, things seemed a lot easier. The trail system in Yost has been reworked to have no grades over 8 degrees, and all the new trails are wider . . . wide enough to accommodate an ATV. This makes for speedway running. The revised course through Yost had us doing the old McConnell loop single track trail for the first several miles, then a descent to the "freeway". All of those former hills had been reduced to three, two of those being on the old trail, and the third being much more gradual on a freeway trail.
I missed my dog. Lucy had trained with me, running Cherokee and Seneca Parks, Jefferson Forest, the Millennium Trail at Bernheim and the Knobstone Trail. Recognizing that I would not be the race leader, I decided not to bring her. Had I brought her she would have run way ahead of me on the trail, then back to see where I was , knocking over all of the runners in-between. She gave me that look as I headed out the door. My wife told me that she moped all morning until I returned.
Cynthia Heady encouraged the slower runners to start at the back of the pack. Given that I was either the oldest or second oldest there, I took the hint. The race went off, and I remembered how I would start the Mini Marathon in my 30's and 40's: On the edge of the pack, running on the sidewalk instead of the street, passing all those who were walking as the pack slowly crossed the starting line. Those days are long gone.
My training partners, Welby Winstead and David Jones, left me at the start. Welby went off like a rabbit chasing the first spandex beauty he saw. David was more conservative. I managed to keep him in sight for the first mile or so.
By the time we got to the first descent, the pack had spread out, and I was comfortable running with whomever was around me. After each climb, the gaps spread further. After the third climb, I was running alone. Oh, what a pleasure to be running these hillsides listening to the bird calls, watching your footfalls, thinking back on all of the weather conditions this race has been run in. Remembering conversations with people either in front or behind, their faces unseen . . . "I remember those two med students from Rochester NY who were enthralled that there was only three inches of snow on the ground, instead of the two feet that they were used to . . . "
I count the refuse on the trail, I'm sure inadvertently left by runners: five gel packs or their tops, one pair of gloves, one single mitten, one red M&M, one goldfish.
Climbing back from the Visitor's Center on the 15 mile route, I can actually see that there are some people behind me. It's always good to know that you're not last.
I finished in 3:53, four minutes behind David, and 39 minutes behind Welby. The winning runner, Ryan Althaus, finished two hours ahead of me. Seventeen minutes after my finish, the race announcer heralded the finish of the first 50 K runner. 4:07, not bad.
Again my consolation was that I was either the oldest or second oldest guy out there. For the second year in a row, I unofficially won the 65+ age group (I being the only runner over 65 entered in the 15 miler). Congratulations to my training partners Welby and David. Welby won the 60-64 age group and David scoring 4th in the 55-59 age group.
We're not getting older, just slower.