Sassafras’s Papa John’s 10 Miler Race Report

Having been out from racing for a while, I had no idea what to expect last weekend when I ran my first real race in a long time, the Papa John’s 10 Miler. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing! Having no idea of what to expect, I felt completely free of expectations.

I have only raced the 10 mile distance three other times, with two of those being this race, in 2009 and 2012. As Chicory has mentioned, this race is the final leg of the Louisville Triple Crown of Running, so it’s a bit of a local fixture which makes for a fun day. Having run it before had the double benefit of not putting a lot of pressure on a clock time, while still being semi-familiar with the course. One thing I definitely remembered was to leave a little reserve for a hilly section through Iroquois Park.

I started working with my coach again in January, after my running hiatus. Training had gone fairly well, aside from the usual winter cold and weather messing with a few runs. I was doing speedwork without a specific target time in mind, and when my coach asked if I wanted a time goal, I left it up to him. In the end, we settled on a mixed approach with process goals. I had a strategy and mindset to execute: have fun, enjoy racing, cut the pace down slowly. If all worked out, that would be about a 1:35 – 1:40ish, but again, it wasn’t about the clock.

If I had to use just one word to describe my mindset going into this race, it would be “unbothered”. I didn’t have everything planned to within an inch of its life. I frankly didn’t have time for some of my old race superstitions, like painting my nails. I took a gamble on pizza and cheesy bread the night before. I felt ready to go, and without the pressure of something to prove.

The only hiccup on the day was a stressful immediate lead-up to the race. I drove to Louisville the night before and was trying to connect with two friends who had driven up that morning – one running, one cheering. We all got caught in race street closures. After a few panicked minutes of thinking I would have to run with a drawstring bag on my back, I found my friend and passed off my stuff. As a result of this snafu, I only ran a .2 mile warm up in the 30°F starting weather.

But then the moment was over, and we were off! A series of steep switchbacks from miles 3 through 6, the Iroquois Park hills are notorious in this race, so I leaned hard into the strategy of hanging back early. I ran with a woman I knew for about half a mile, but let her go when it became clear she was going out fast. I caught up to another lady from our group who urged me to “Go get ‘em, Tiger!”. I laughed and told her Iroquois was coming, and parted from her shortly afterward. I wasn’t hanging back quite as much as planned, but I felt good.

Mile 1: 9:11
Mile 2: 9:01
Mile 3: 9:20

Course mapThe hills weren’t as bad as I remembered, and even though it was chilly, it was a beautiful, sunny day. I kept thinking about how lucky I was to get to run. I had my headphones in but was also really focused on soaking it all in as I clicked off the miles. Though I didn’t know it at the time, trying to minimize looking at my watch, I was running remarkably even splits. 

Mile 4: 9:16
Mile 5: 9:14
Mile 6: 9:14

The course is an out-and-back with a lollipop in the park, so after we came down the last hill, I started seeing some familiar sights. Around mile 7, I drank some water. The toe seam of my left compression sock started bothering me, but I thought, “It’s not an injury. What are you going to do? Take your sock off?” So I reasoned that I could let it chafe me for another three miles.

Mile 7: 9:06
Mile 8: 9:12

The race fell on the day of a University of Kentucky basketball game and as I often do, I decked myself out in blue. I wasn’t alone; lots of people in Louisville are UK fans so many of my fellow runners were sporting blue and white as well. With two miles to go, I thought, “Okay, let’s just catch that person in blue!” Then I saw another one. Then another. There was tons of blue! I made it into a little game. I didn’t have energy for chatting, but I sent them all silent, “Go Cats” as I passed.

Mile 9: 8:52

Around mile 9, you start going up a steep overpass and you can see Cardinal Stadium, where you finish. This is a tricky part of the race, because you go behind the stadium and around the parking lot before entering the field through a tunnel. I have been drawing a lot of inspiration from Stephanie Bruce on Instagram lately so as I started up the bridge, I told myself, “Get ready, it’s time.” I looked at one point to see if getting under 1:30 was possible. I thought maybe, but I wasn’t sure. Since this is such an unfamiliar race distance to me, my run math was failing me even more than normal.

Mile 10: 8:34

Under 1:30 wasn’t possible, but it wasn’t as heavy on my mind as you might think as I crossed the line for a 1:31:18. I had to look up my PR after I got my drop bag back – that’s how loosey goosey I’d been going in – and I was so happy to learn that I was only 1:02 off my PR, set back in 2012.

I couldn’t have been happier with how this day turned out. I killed my process and time goals, negative split like a boss, and had a blast doing so. Plus I celebrated afterwards with stuffed French toast!

Up next? The Derby Festival Mini Marathon at the end of April.

Southern transplant who loves 90s boy bands, outdoor adventures and college basketball, although not necessarily in that order. Recovering running perfectionist.

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