The Chocolate 5K – Louisville, KY (March 30, 2014)

Sean Astin and me after finishing the Chocolate 5K - Louisville, Kentucky

Sean Astin and me after finishing the Chocolate 5K – Louisville, Kentucky

Race: The Chocolate 5K

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: March 30, 2014

Time: 21:02* (UNTIMED EVENT)

There is nothing better than a race that combines three things that I love: chocolate, puppies, and running!  And thanks to No Kill Louisville, there was a fun, untimed event held on Sunday that involved all three of those things.  Yep.  All three of them.  No Kill Louisville helped put on The Chocolate 5K, which involved a 3.1 mile run/walk, Ghrirardelli chocolate (provided on the course and at the finish…not to mention two squares in your packet at packet pick-up), and…lots of animal rescue leagues.

The morning was cold.  I knew it was cold because I had to go outside and do my heel drops off the stairs of my apartment complex (and the only stairs available are outside!).  So, I dressed accordingly…in a long sleeve top, a pair of capris, and my compression sleeves.  I was actually running as part of a team.  My friend, and running compatriot, Dawn, was running with a team of co-workers and invited me to join their team (for the team discount price).  I was totally about that, so I did sign up.  I’m just getting back into racing and my speed is not back yet, so I intended just to see what I could manage.  After all, this event was not timed.  Sort of like the Glo Run and The Color Run.  Go out…get some chocolate…have a good time.  Worked for me!

Cathy and I headed out just about the time we wanted to, after each downing a bowl of cereal and having some coffee.  I brought along some Lärabars to eat as the race time crept closer (I had no bananas on hand…which is NOT good on race morning).  We piled into the car and off we went to Waterfront Park, the new venue for the race.  It was originally scheduled to take place at E.P. Tom Sawyer…but due to muddy trails and the like…it was moved to the paved Waterfront Park area.  I was more than happy about that.  Trust me.

We made good time down to Waterfront and even managed to find a parking spot under the bridge.  A short stroll through the little booths set up (for places like Earth Fare and all the animal rescue leagues that came out!), I made my way to the registration line.  Recent e-mails said that the turnout for the race was not good and there weren’t that many participants.  But there was a line by the time I got there for people picking up their packets.  And the line only continued to grow from there.  So…either people were trying to decided at the last minute whether to run or walk or not…this was actually a really, really big turn out!  I managed to get up to the table and told the volunteer my name.  She kept looking under BA, so finally I had to spell out my last name…”B-R-A…”  But she found me after I pointed my name out on the list.  She handed me a green bag that contained two different varieties of Ghirardelli Chocolate and my race bib and then sent me over to pick up my t-shirt.  After that, I was standing around for a second when Dawn and a co-worker of hers arrived.  They were going to get in line, so I went to go put my chocolate and t-shirt in the car so Cathy wouldn’t have to try to juggle it on top of the sign and my jacket I was going to shed before the race start.

As we were heading back toward the registration line, I was opening up my Lärabar (Jŏcalat Chocolate Mint…in case you were curious) and taking a big bite when a small group ran past.  They were in race numbers (not unusual at a race) and just doing this slow little warm-up run together, talking and smiling.  I eyed the guy in the middle in the yellow running jacket and the shorts as he went by.  After I swallowed my bite of bar, I turned to Cathy, who was having an epic struggle with the wrapper of her bar (she didn’t want to take off her gloves), and said, “That guy looked like Sean Astin.”  She heard me but didn’t respond.  I think she was really focused on eating the rest of her breakfast, but first she had to get to it.  I eventually helped her out and went to toss the wrappers away.  Dawn said her boyfriend, Matthew (I train with him a LOT), was going to run from his house to the race, do the race, and then finish up the remaining miles of his scheduled 20 mile training run.  Whew.  That made me tired just thinking about it.  Her other two co-workers arrived around that time and got in line to get their bibs and packets.  And they all consumed their chocolate as a pre-race sugar rush.  Or so I joked.  But…chocolate consumed…we were just waiting on the start.  Matthew arrived with a few minutes to spare and we helped him get his blinkie lights turned off.

A quick picture in front of the start line and some announcements were being made.  And then…I hear it…”And now a quick word from Sean Astin…who you might know from the Lord of the Rings Movies and the Goonies…as well as many others…”  And then he took the mic.  You better believe that I moved up to see if I had heard that right.  I had.  It was him.

Cathy still wasn’t paying attention, but rather getting artistic photos of the start line when I found her and said, “That guy I said looked like Sean Astin WAS Sean Astin.”

So…I do have this running (see what I did there?) joke about how Sean Astin is stalking me on my races.  He has run every Disney race I have ever been a part of and he also ran the Chicago Marathon last year when I did.  So…this was just further proof that the man is following me.  To come out to an untimed event for charity to run 3.1 miles just speaks so highly of his character.  He didn’t have to do it.  But he did.  And it made me love him even more than I already did.  He spoke briefly, and commented that the weather, for him, was perfect for running.  We all laughed because we locals were all in compression gear and there he was in shorts just soaking it all in.  God love him!

After he wished us all luck on the race, we were told to line up at the starting line.  The announcer began to give us the route, then simply said…”There are yellow arrows on the ground.  Just follow the yellow arrows.”  And with that…we were sent off with a whistle.

I found my stride early and was out with the first five in the pack, with others right behind me.  I didn’t want to push too hard.  Not on an untimed race.  I get frustrated with my lack of speed these days, and that is understandable, but my friend Andrea always reminds me…I’m healing.  I need to heal up and the speed will return.  So, for now, I can’t set time goals…I just have to run smart and run safe.  And that was my ultimate goal.  I followed the yellow arrows…and the people in front of me…for the first mile before I passed up the one female that was ahead of me.  My strides felt good.  No ankle twinges…so I kept on, just doing what I could to maintain.  It also didn’t help that I woke up that morning with some chest congestion and an intermittent cough.  No good.  This is what happened during the Triple Crown of Running last year and I did not want to relive that.  So, for the sake of being able to breathe without dying…I made sure I maintained a challenging, but even pace.

I passed up the table where they were offering Ghirardelli chocolate squares because…I was running.  I can’t run and eat chocolate.  So, I kept on going, rounding the corner up ahead and getting sent up a bit of an incline.  I pushed up the hill, not feeling any discomfort in the ankle, rounded the corner again, and then started on the gentle slope back down toward the race course.

Now this is where it got messy.  We had runners and walkers making their way up to the incline ahead, but were taking chocolate from the Ghirardelli stop as well, which was located on the side of the path where people running back toward the finish were now running.  Oh well…it was a fun event…you just go with it.  As I’m trucking along, I see Sean Astin running toward me and he starts applauding those of us in the front of the pack and telling us we were doing great.  I held up my hand and he high-fived it.  Awesome.  A moment later, my co-worker’s husband was running by and we high-fived as well.  It was a high-five kind of race and I was loving it.  A little ways down my co-workers, Laura and Kayla, were walking past and Laura told me to go catch up to the guy in front of me (it was her son…who was banditing the race).  I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do that, but as I was coming into one of the final turns, I did pass the kid in the orange sweatshirt that had outpaced me for much of the first part of the race.  I managed to keep ahead of him, and came back into the familiar Great Lawn area of Waterfront Park.  One final turn and I booked it to the finish line, pausing my Garmin a moment after.  I was the 4th registered finisher across the finish line.

I was all smiles!!  Seriously…all smiles.  It has been hard for me to not focus so much on time, but what I’m discovering is why I love doing this sport in the first place.  Yes…PRs are awesome and should be celebrated and should be fought for…but sometimes you have to work back into that.  I have rediscovered the joy that comes with just being able to get outside and get that run in.  I have found so much positivity from the people who saw me struggle with my sprained ankle and who have seen my will and determination to come back.  It’s a slow process…but I’m making strides in the right direction.

Me crossing the finish line of the Chocolate 5K - Louisville, Kentucky

Me crossing the finish line of the Chocolate 5K – Louisville, Kentucky

After crossing the finish, I went to get some water and a couple pieces of chocolate.  Cathy and I each ate a square…and we waited for the rest of my team to come in.  But…about four minutes after my finish…here comes Sean Astin.  Seriously.  I cheered as he crossed the finish line and then went down the ways a little to catch his breath.  His companion (and sort of body guard) went to go get him some water and after a moment, I walked over to say “Hi.”  And he was very gracious and very welcoming.  We took a picture together and I told him the story about how I believe he’s stalking me.  I told him the races we had run “together” and when I mentioned Chicago…he said, “You ran in Chicago…with your hair like this and everything!”  He pointed to my pigtails.  I laughed and nodded.  We talked about our finishing times and he said his goal is to eventually, one day, run a sub-4 marathon.  I told him I had every belief that he could do it.  He told me that I was going to win the Boston Marathon.  Seriously…can I keep him?

I knew he was busy and had a schedule to maintain (he was in town for the Wizard World Comic Con Louisville) so I said goodbye.  He gave me a hug and told me to have a good day.  I thanked him for coming out to run.  And that was that.  A few moments later…my team came in and I cheered for them all the way to the finish!  It was an amazing day.

So…my official time for this untimed event, according to my Garmin was 21:02.  I want to note, however, that the course was only 2.78 miles.  So…I am not little miss speedy!  Trust me.  I didn’t even feel all that speedy.  And at that pace, I wouldn’t have come close to my 5K PR.  I was okay with that, but I wanted at least 3 miles for the day.  So I went and did a slow, steady shake-out for the remaining mileage before returning to talk with my friends a bit longer.  We were wrapping things up, and I had grocery shopping, laundry, and an apartment to clean…so I said goodbye to everyone and Cathy and I departed, stopping by the Earth Fare booth to say hi.  I might have forgotten to mention (and will blog about it maybe next month) that I am, once again, an Earth Fare Athlete Ambassador.  And I’m loving it.  So, we had a short talk with the person at the booth, who recognized me immediately.  And, after snagging some chocolate dipped banana chips, we headed out for the day.

I had so much fun at this little race.  I smiled the entire time.  I managed to not die from a rattly chest.  I pushed a little harder than I normally would.  I want my speed back.  It will come.  I keep telling myself…it will come.  But for now…strengthening that ankle and getting myself back on track is way more important.  I’m just thankful that I had the opportunity to take part in such a fun event for a great cause.  And I can’t wait to do my next one.


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