Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Triple Crown: Bourbon, BBQ and Running

I love the south. I am a sucker for a southern drawl, warmer weather and sweet iced tea. I am pretty sure I was a true southern belle in a former life, and I'm quite certain I could rock a hoop skirt in 2014. I'd take that bet.  So when I saw the ad for the Papa John's 10-miler, a race in the south (Louisville, Kentucky) that ended at the 50-yard-line of a college football stadium (Papa John's Stadium, home of the University of Louisville Cardinals), I was in.

My girlfriend and I headed to Louisville (pronounced LOO-AH-VUL or you're clearly an outsider) on Friday morning. We eagerly drove towards nearly 70 degree temperatures. We made a fantastic pitstop in Anderson, Indiana (in the middle of nowhere) to eat a The Lemon Drop, an adorable burger place with 4.5 well deserved stars on Yelp. The place is frozen in time (including prices) and the food is delish. 

We arrived at our hotel downtown and set out to explore. There's no other way to say it - downtown Louisville is sketchy. Maybe we were not staying in the right spot, but we were RIGHT by the convention center area downtown which in theory seemed like a good spot. I do have to say that Louisville was good for the ego because we were catcalled repeatedly. One guy even slowed down his car (which was not creepy at all) to compliment us. I'm not sure if the city has a motto, but I am giving it one. Louisville: keeping it creepy since 1778?

We quickly discovered that the neighborhoods adjacent to downtown were way better, and we fell in love with NuLu, a charming neighborhood with quirky boutiques and fantastic eateries. Our first stop was Harvest, a fabulous restaurant that boasted afternoon snacks. We took them up on the snacks (beer cheese fries and chicarones) as well as bourbon flights. I had the rye flight, and it was a-mazing. 

Say hello to my little friends.
After snacks we headed to Papa John's Stadium where I picked up my race packet. It may be the first time I picked up a race packet while working through a bourbon buzz. Given how well the race went, it probably shouldn't be the last. We then headed downtown to check out the scene (surprisingly quiet) and have dinner at Bistro 301. More bourbon and shrimp and grits (delicious) combined with an early race meant an early evening.

Race day was warm (by Michigan standards). I easily parked and walked to the start on Third Street near Churchill Downs. The start of the course was relatively quiet. There were announcements made and the National Anthem sung, and we were on our way. The course did not have a lot of energy. It was relatively quiet given the number of runners. We headed to Iroquois Park where the bulk of the race was run. It was hilly, and it was fantastic. I love running hills, and I rocked every one in the park. Despite the relative lack of spectators (and as a result energy), it was a beautiful morning for a run. The race ended at the 50-yard-line of the stadium. After running nearly 10 miles on concrete, the turf on the field felt like running on a cloud. I wanted to just lie down on it.

I knocked 5 minutes off my 10-mile PR which was pretty impressive particularly given the hills. I felt great at the end of the race as I often do after a good challenge. The hills were awesome. The only real disappointing thing about the race (but it's a big one) was no medal. I have no idea how I missed that there wasn't one. I guess I just assumed a long race sponsored by several major corporations (Papa John's Pizza, Nike) would have a medal. I have to be honest - that sucked. I like hardware. A lot. It was very disappointing to walk away without a medal, and the free pizza did not make up for it. 

After relaxing for a bit while my friend went for a swim, we headed back to NuLu for brunch at Toast on Market. I had an amazing omelette with chorizo and white cheddar cheese and multiple glasses of sweet tea. It was the perfect after race lunch. We then popped into the adorable Taste Fine Wines and Bourbons to pick up some bourbon to take home with us. I headed out with a bottle of Four Roses Single Barrel that we discovered at Harvest the night before and a bottle of Jefferson's 10-year aged Rye. 

This sign was by the register to Taste. It is the story of my life, and I want it.
We spent the rest of the afternoon shopping and relaxing before heading out to dinner. We decided to head back to NuLu and go to Harvest for dinner (we were that impressed). This is what I love about the south - one of the women greeted us and welcomed us back when we sat down. That's right - she remembered us because her mama raised her right. Ah I love the south.

Harvest's bourbon cocktails were just as delicious as their bourbon flights. I also had a BBQ board with wings, ribs and sausage. It also boasted jalapeno-bacon grits, spicy slaw and potato salad. Are you kidding me, Harvest? It. Was. Incredible.  We had just enough bourbon that it seemed like a good idea to have more.

Delicious dinner at Harvest
Enter Hillbilly Tea, a trendy spot just around the corner from our hotel. We had popped in for brunch earlier, but the wait was too long. The restaurant was upstairs, and the room downstairs feels like a cozy living room. The bar is small (seriously - only two stools), and it felt like we had the place to ourselves. It was probably a good thing given the amount of hooch and moonshine (yes - they seriously call it hooch - adorbs) we had to drink.

On Sunday my legs were sore, I was dehydrated (thank you cocktails), and the weather turned cold. It was just the right time to leave after a great weekend. I think we missed a lot of cool things in Louisville, and I'm down with heading back another time to check it out. If the Papa John's 10-miler upgrades with a medal, I could be convinced to run it again. And then there's the bourbon...so yeah, I'll be back.


  1. I doubt I have ever been more jealous. Love me some Four Roses Single! We must do a road trip.

    1. Road trip! Road trip! Benny's first bourbon! Actually scrap that - leave him with mom and dad and meet us in Kentucky!