About The Celiathlete

I'm everything chef's like my hero, Anthony Bourdain, despise...a lactose-intolerant, gluten-intolerant, vegetarian who loves her sauce on the side. In addition to that, in February 2010, I discovered I also suffer from a gluten intolerance. Talk about limiting your food choices. But, despite all of these obstacles and food-consumption challenges, I am a total foodie. Not only that, I love to cook...and more importantly...I love to eat. My love of travel opens up new culinary and taste experiences...and I can't wait to have more!

Recipe: Minty Green Protein Smoothie

I own a Vitamix.  I have for a couple of years now.  And yet…I really haven’t ever jumped on the smoothie bandwagon.  Mostly because I’d rather eat my breakfast, rather than drink it.

And I don’t always think smoothies are that filling.  So often (and maybe it’s just for show), a lot of Insta-Story smoothie makers show their polished off smoothie with the caption (or voice over) saying: “And still hungry.”  And that’s been my problem with smoothies.  When not balanced with the nutrients, I find myself hungry soon after polishing one off.

But that was not the case yesterday when, for breakfast after my 6 mile speed work run, followed by a 1 hour spin class, I whipped up a GREEN smoothie (of all things, I went for the green smoothie) to have for breakfast.

I have done green smoothies in the past and disliked most of them.  They tasted too much like…grass.

But not this one.  And this has the added benefit of being free of added sugars and containing amazing healthy fats, as well as being full of protein and fiber that will, in fact, leave you feeling fuller longer.  And the flavor…it’s like eating a bowl of Mint Chip Ice cream (well…if you do the add-ons, as I do).

Sharing the recipe with you below, adapted from one I found online at Sweetleaf.com!

Recipe: Minty Green Protein Smoothie (Gluten Free; Dairy Free)

mintygreensmoothieIngredients:
Serves 2

  • 1 avocado
  • 2 cup spinach, fresh
  • 1 package vegan protein powder (I used Plant Fusion Natural Flavor)
  • 1 cup coconut milk, unsweetened
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
  • 2 cup ice
  • Optional (but HIGHLY recommended): cacao nibs, low-sugar granola, chocolate spread (such as Smudge, Nutella, etc)


Directions:

Place avocado, spinach, protein powder and milk in a blender and blend until smooth. Add the vanilla and peppermint extracts, and ice, and blend until thick. Pour into glass or bowl and top with preferred toppings.

~*~*~

For the record, I topped mine off with Love Grown Foods Cocoa Goodness Oat Clusters and 1 tablespoon of Freedom Foods Smudge, both of which are available at Kroger.

So, I think I’ll take back what I’ve been saying about smoothies not being filling or tasting good (especially when green). Can’t wait to make this one again.

Do you have any filling, healthy smoothie recipes? Share with me!! Comment below.

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Sometimes You Just Need To Escape

Guess what!!??

As part of my self-care, self-esteem building, bettering-of-myself experiment that is an ongoing series of successes and (yes) failures…I’m expanding my mind and still attempting to squeeze in a bit of ME TIME, which feels almost impossible these days…but I work with what I have.

Therefore…I’m listening to music…

In fact, I was fortunate enough to attend the U2 show in Louisville, KY this past weekend.  And while it was hot and I wilted and melted until the sun went down, the show was amazing and I (as always) cried during Where The Streets Have No Name as well as Running To Stand Still.  U2 and I have been in a musical relationship since I was a child…and, while I have seen them numerous times in concert, this show was on my home turf and I wasn’t going to miss it.  I’m glad I went.

u2joshuatree

 

Honestly, I needed that show.  I’ve sort of given up finding inspiration in music.  Why search for new music, when some of the best lyrics, some of the best songs, are in the old favorites?  I stand corrected!

I’ve also started diving back into some books.  In fact, I’m working on three at this very moment.  Yes…at the same time.

book
So, what is on my reading list at the moment?  Well, at the encouragement of my sister, I am working through 13 Reasons Why, by Jay Asher, on my Kindle.

13reasonswhy
I’m sure many of you are familiar with this book, but in case you’re not…here is the synopsis from Amazon.com:

You can’t stop the future. 
You can’t rewind the past.
The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker—his classmate and crush—who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.

Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.

At work, I often listen to podcasts these days, but there is still room for my beloved audio books.  It’s so easy to listen to a book while I do my work…so I can escape and still be productive.  Let’s here it for multitasking.  I am currently listening to Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow, which is the very book that Lin-Manuel Miranda was reading when he was inspired to write the Broadway musical Hamilton.

hamiltonbook
It’s fascinating and a nice escape for the first part of my day at work.  Once again, here is the synopsis from Amazon.com:

In the first full-length biography of Alexander Hamilton in decades, Ron Chernow tells the riveting story of a man who overcame all odds to shape, inspire, and scandalize the newborn America. According to historian Joseph Ellis, Alexander Hamilton is “a robust full-length portrait, in my view the best ever written, of the most brilliant, charismatic and dangerous founder of them all.”

Few figures in American history have been more hotly debated or more grossly misunderstood than Alexander Hamilton. Chernow’s biography gives Hamilton his due and sets the record straight, deftly illustrating that the political and economic greatness of today’s America is the result of Hamilton’s countless sacrifices to champion ideas that were often wildly disputed during his time. “To repudiate his legacy,” Chernow writes, “is, in many ways, to repudiate the modern world.” Chernow here recounts Hamilton’s turbulent life: an illegitimate, largely self-taught orphan from the Caribbean, he came out of nowhere to take America by storm, rising to become George Washington’s aide-de-camp in the Continental Army, coauthoring The Federalist Papers, founding the Bank of New York, leading the Federalist Party, and becoming the first Treasury Secretary of the United States.Historians have long told the story of America’s birth as the triumph of Jefferson’s democratic ideals over the aristocratic intentions of Hamilton. Chernow presents an entirely different man, whose legendary ambitions were motivated not merely by self-interest but by passionate patriotism and a stubborn will to build the foundations of American prosperity and power. His is a Hamilton far more human than we’ve encountered before—from his shame about his birth to his fiery aspirations, from his intimate relationships with childhood friends to his titanic feuds with Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Monroe, and Burr, and from his highly public affair with Maria Reynolds to his loving marriage to his loyal wife Eliza. And never before has there been a more vivid account of Hamilton’s famous and mysterious death in a duel with Aaron Burr in July of 1804.

Chernow’s biography is not just a portrait of Hamilton, but the story of America’s birth seen through its most central figure. At a critical time to look back to our roots, Alexander Hamilton will remind readers of the purpose of our institutions and our heritage as Americans.

And finally…at the encouragement of my amazing, inspiring, and brilliant friend, Melissa, I picked up a book this past weekend to read.  She said that it would really help me through the struggle-bus thought process I am currently working through.  So far, she’s right.  I haven’t gotten far, but I’m going to make a point to sit down and power through this book.  It’s called You Are A Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life, by Jen Sincero.

youareabadassIt’s very motivating, the bit that I have squeezed in to read.  And I find myself nodding and cheering for myself to get this excited about my life.  Maybe it will help.  I think it will.  I’ve already found SO many sentences that I can apply to my current struggles.  In case you’re confused…here is the synopsis from Amazon.com:

Bestselling author, speaker and world-traveling success coach, Jen Sincero, cuts through the din of the self-help genre with her own verbal meat cleaver in You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life. In this refreshingly blunt how-to guide, Sincero, serves up 27 bite-sized chapters full of hilariously inspiring stories, life-changing insights, easy exercises and the occasional swear word.

Via chapters such as “Your Brain is Your Bitch,” “Fear is for Suckers” and “My Subconscious Made Me Do It,” Sincero takes you on a wild joy ride to your own transformation, helping you create the money, relationships, career and general all around awesomeness you so desire. And should you be one of those people who would rather take a bullet than get busted with a self-help book in your hands, fear not. Sincero, a former skeptic herself, delivers the goods minus the New-Age cheese, giving even the snarkiest of poo-pooers exactly what they need to get out of their ruts and start kicking some ass.

By the end of You Are a Badass, you will understand why you are how you are, how to love what you can’t change, how to change what you don’t love, and how to start living the kind of life you used to be jealous of.

So…that’s what is on my reading list currently, but why stop there?  I’ve become so immersed in podcasts as of late.  And while I love a good true crime podcast, I have been directed to, or even discovered through my own hunting, some uplifting and amazing podcasts that I’ve been diving into at work as well.  These include:

  • Make Your Body Work: Live Healthier, Smarter, and Happier – Dave Smith, Canada’s Top Fitness Professional
  • Fit Bottomed Girls – Margo Donohue, Jennipher Walters, and Kristen Seymour
  • The Love, Food Podcast – Julie Duffy Dillon, Registered Dietitian, Food Behavior Expert, and Body Image Guru
  • Body Kindness – Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN

I really need to think more about working toward my nutrition degree or becoming a dietician.  I love learning new things and also…learning how to be kinder to myself during these very trying, often stressful times as I attempt to get this body back to a place where I feel comfortable with it.

AND…I have been out to the movies and had to see, because…reasons, WONDER WOMAN.  It was campy and fun and amazing and everything that it needed to be.  I was nicknamed Wonder Woman years ago by my running store/group…so this was a must see.  And if you haven’t seen it yet…I highly recommend it!

wonderwoman

I have numerous more movies on my TO SEE list…so we’ll see how many I manage to get through before they leave theaters.

So…that’s what I’ve been up to lately.  And yesterday, I broke out my Vitamix and whipped up an amazing smoothie for breakfast that I’ll share the recipe for in a different entry.

What books/podcasts/music/television shows have you been enjoying lately?  I want to hear all about them.  Comment below!!  I’m always looking for new things to get into!

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I Solemnly Swear To Be A Better Blogger

Dear readers…both new and old…

I am sorry.

I am sorry that I have let this blog get away from me.  Life…has been crazy.  Insane.  Busy.  To the point that I literally have no time to do things for myself these days.  To sum it up…I’m running in circles most days.

runningincircles
I get up early…I do my stretches/exercises that my physical therapist assigned me back in January when I had the paralyzed hip flexor.  Yep.  I’m still doing them.  Do I need to?  Probably not.  But…guess what…

I HAVEN’T BEEN INJURED.

Therefore…I keep doing them.  And that does sometimes mean I go to bed around 8 p.m. to get up at 2 a.m. so I can fit in a 6 mile run before I start the rest of my day.  Because before I run…these stretches/exercises must be done to loosen up my muscles and get this broken body primed and ready to go.  I do my workout…I go to work…I come home…I cook dinner…I do my PT exercises/stretches at night…I foam roll…I go to bed.

No ME time.  No computer time.  No blogging time.

It’s actually kind of draining.

draining
But this is where it needs to stop.  I have some exciting things coming down the pike and I need to be sure that I am open and share them with you!  I need to find a better way to manage my time so that I can have the time I need to connect with people here…on this blog that I set up for that sole purpose.

I mean, I am an athlete with Celiac.  I am a self-made chef with Celiac.  I want to share my struggles, my recipes, my races, my training, my daily battle with food and this disease that sometimes makes it impossible to have a healthy relationship with food (and sometimes exercise) at all.  (I won’t get into details…but if you know, then you know). And the simple fact that the stressful life I’ve been living these past two years has left me all…

stresseat
I wish I could say I was joking. *sigh*

It’s a daily struggle…to have BODY KINDNESS when I feel I have done everything possible to get in a better place with my body.  Two years off with injuries and I’m staring at little bulges where I never had them before.  And it’s hard for me, when my Timehop throws pictures of me back when I had defined abs…or my friends are hitting up the next diet craze, exercising 2-3 times a day, cleansing, or talking about how easy it is for them to lose weight.  And here I am, trying to be all love myself the way I am and feeling every bit of this…

source (3)
But I’m working on it.  But this is exactly WHY I need this blog.  I’ve been so out of touch.  And comments from you, my dear friends, help keep me inspired, and pushing to be better and to not give up or give in.  THIS is what I have been lacking.

This marks the first week of my official training for the Chicago Marathon.  Ahead are 16 weeks of some easy, some intense, and some very long runs.  In the summer heat.  I want this body to be ready for it.  I’ve changed up my diet some lately…which I think is a good place to start.  And while there really hasn’t been a drastic change, yet, I think I’m going to be in a good place, nutrition-wise, for this undertaking.  Besides, I’ve given up my daily M&M habit.  Seriously.  One entire month…without handfuls of M&Ms throughout the day.  I actually feel free.  It’s really liberating.  I don’t even feel like I need them anymore.

This is a good start.

So…marathon training is back on.  This is the only marathon I am running this year and, with any luck, I’ll get through this summer of training without any injuries.  Why do Chicago again?  I feel like I’m starting over from scratch…and Chicago was  my first marathon.  It’s the 40th Anniversary.  And I qualified to run, and skip the lottery draw.  So, why not Chicago?  I will aim to do my weekly updates as I did the first time I ran a marathon…read them if you care to.  I’ll slip in little nuggets of goodness…like recipes I’ve tried or created and so on.

While my coach and I have talked goals, in my head, my biggest (and the most important) goal is simply to finish.  And to feel good (as good as someone can) after crossing that finish line 26.2 miles later.  Sometimes set paces freak me out.  I usually get injured when speed is involved.  So, pushing beyond what I think I’m capable of is my biggest challenge, and one I have not figured out how to conquer yet.  Those negative voices in my head, about my running, my weight, whatever it is…they are very hard to quiet sometimes.

Two years of pretty serious injuries will do that to you.

My body has a lot of catching up to do.  My mind has even more.  But…marathon training does instill a lot of discipline.  And I’m hoping it will carry over into other aspects of my life.

howtorunamarathon
In addition to all of this, I am very happy to report that my social life has all but picked up.  So many new friends!!  Between going to Louisville City FC soccer matches, out for Indian food with friends, having friends over for dinner (yep…I cook) and wine…to hanging out at friend’s homes for the evening and meeting more new people, I’m loving this new active social life.  I’ve sort of lived as a hermit for way too long.  Surrounding myself with people who lift me up and make me laugh is very important to me.  And I’m loving filling up my calendar with more than just my mileage for that day.  And there are quite a few of you who I need to either have over or catch dinner with.  Hit me up…we need to make this happen.

sociallife
So, apologies to readers old and new…for the hiatus and filling this blog with simple race reports and ignoring the stuff that got me started on this blog in the first place.  It’s time to refocus and reestablish myself in the blogosphere.  I’m happy to have you with me for the journey.  Hang on tight.  Nothing is ever easy with me…so expect a bumpy, emotional, but encouraging, maybe even inspiring ride.

Love,
The Celiathlete

Barnyard Dash 10K – Louisville, KY (June 3, 2017)

These are the people that feed my soul…Matthew, Me, Melissa, and Paul

Race: Barnyard Dash 10K

Place: Joe Huber’s Family Farm & Restaurant, Starlight, Indiana

Date: June 3, 2017

Time: 48:48*

There is something happening this year…something with race distance.  Very few
of them have actually been correct this year.  For real.  My two 5Ks this year have both been short (Throo the Zoo was 2.98 miles and the Anthem (sorry, friends…a short course does not a PR make) was 2.96 miles), but my 10Ks have all been measured properly.

Until now.

Because the Barnyard Dash 10K…was just slightly short.  Slightly.  As in I crossed the finish line at 6.14 miles.  So, closer to the actual distance than the 5Ks this year…but not an exact measure.  For the third time in my local racing this year.

It is frustrating.  Although I’m giving it a pass this time around because I’m about to let you in on a little secret…

I registered.  I wore a bib.  I toed the line with everyone else.  I ran the course.  I battled the heat.  I hit the hills.  I walked two water stops (yep…I did!)…because while this was a race, I had a longer run on the table and I needed to conserve my energy for that.  So, yes…I ran the Barnyard Dash 10K, but I wasn’t doing it to set any new PR or place in my age division.  I was doing it to break up mileage and enjoy some of it with a group of people on a (mostly) closed course.

Disclaimer…done.

I love helping my friends…which is why I am completely serious when I say that I will run with anyone.  I can back off my pace anytime if it means company for the haul.  And, with the myriad of injuries I’ve had the past two years…and those that still linger every now and again…backing off my pace while training is not just something I say I’m going to do…I actually do it.

THIS GIRL!! Melissa and I before the Barnyard Dash 10K – Starlight, IN

My friend, Matthew, was needing a 19 miler this particular Saturday.  We decided to meet at Huber’s early so we could get a couple in before the race…then run (not race) the 10K…and then finish off the remaining miles after the race.  It was going to get warm pretty fast that day, so if we could do some before the 8 am race start, we were going to do so.  We managed to get in 2 miles before the race as we both had to go get our bibs and timing chips to tie onto our shoes.  The morning temps were humid, but I was still chilled (my body temps are always so weird), so I decided against just doing the bra top (in addition to my own dislike of how my core and body currently look) due to the fact that I was still cold.  But that didn’t last long.  Nope.  Not at all.

Matthew, Howard, Dennis and Me at the start line of the Barnyard Dash 10K

I ran to use the (flushing) bathrooms just prior to the race.  There was a line.  Of course.  So, I stood in it patiently, listening to the announcer give the minutes that remained before the race.  As I moved up in line, I spotted Melissa at the hand towels and gave her a wave.  She said she’ d catch me outside.  And that happened…because Cathy waved her down and had her stand there.  HA!  We took a picture and then made the trek to the start line together.  Matthew had already lined up…so I gave Melissa a hug, wished her luck, and went to go find Matt.  We had both decided to “jog” this race and were going to pretty much stick together.  He waved me down, having lined up with our friend Dennis (Mister Fly & Die himself!), who said that he was just going to “jog ” this one as well.  So…we set off.  Dennis pulled ahead immediately, and Matt and I settled into a comfortable pace that allowed him to point out landmarks, homes, and tell some great stories…as this was the area he grew up in.  Nothing like a running guided tour.  It was great.

This race can be really, really deceiving if you’ve never run it before.  I had not; however, Matthew has multiple times.  So, with the small rollers to start us off, within the first mile, you get this amazing downhill that lasts for a good portion of those first 2 miles.  But after that is where the challenge and difficulty really start to rear their ugly heads.

As many of us know…most downhills lead to uphills, and the one that we meet on St. John’s Road was no exception.  It is one of those hills that you think you can see the top, and then it just keeps going.  In this case, it turns a corner…onto Rake Road…and continues to climb.  You do eventually get a small downhill only to be sent back up a hill.  And the remaining 3 miles play out like that…rolling up and down.  And in the heat, those uphills seem even more brutal, let me tell you!

At the Mile 3 water stop, I gladly accepted a little mini bottle of water.  I cracked it while slowing my pace to an actual jog and took a drink.  The rest of it went straight over my head.  It felt amazing and, as it usually does, rejuvenated me.  Dennis was walking this water stop and I paused long enough to set the bottle down on the side of the road (we were beyond where people were picking up trash at that point and I didn’t want to just toss it aside never to be seen again) and Matthew and I started to pick it up again, just as Dennis did.  And we never quite got ahead of him there.  Between miles 3 and 4…I did get slightly ahead of Matthew.  My pace felt good though…so I let it hold for the time.

Me at Mile 4 of the Barnyard Dash 10K – Starlight, IN

Cathy had wandered down to the intersection near Mile 4, and was cheering and shouting for everyone.  I heard her tell Matt to hurry up and catch me.  I knew he was right behind me.  I was just taking my time…and feeling good.

The other water stop was at Mile 5…and I snagged another bottle of water to perform the same actions as with the first – crack it open and take a sip before pouring it over my head.  The only difference was…I stopped to walk this one this time.  Once the bottle was empty and I placed it in a box that a volunteer was holding, I picked it up again…and passed Dennis in the process.  I was only a mile from being done and still felt decent enough.  But this is where we hit the elusive Hill Road that I mention every time I run the Strawberry Festival (Run for the Berries 5K) race.  You know when the hill has a road named after it…it’s a freakin’ hill!

I was feeling the heat and humidity, but I still managed to power myself up the steep hill and breathed a sigh of relief as my legs found some level ground and had to rework how to run on it.  You know you’ve run hills when your legs get confused by flat road.  From there, it was just a matter of turning a corner and then bringing it home.

Me running it into the finish line of the Barnyard Dash 10K

The mileage almost caught up to itself.  But, I made the turn back into Huber’s Family Farm and immediately was greeted by the smell of fried food.  I almost threw up.  But I swallowed hard, attempted to breathe without breathing, and ran it in to the finish line!  Only a short distance behind me was Dennis and then Matthew.

We snagged some water and ducked in out of the sun for a moment.  There was an amazing spread of goods waiting for runners.  Mandarin oranges, strawberries, bagels (with either cream cheese or peanut butter), bananas…and the fountain machines were open to runners as well.  I snagged an orange and some strawberries, downed more water, and then went to use the bathroom.  Matthew and I still had miles to go before we could call it done.  Cathy passed me my fuel belt and went back out to cheer on Melissa and Paul.

Matthew and I decided to be those people who run the course backwards.  At least the last part of it.  Matthew, as I mentioned, grew up in Starlight, Indiana, and I was in for the tour of a lifetime.  We turned back onto Hill Road, and ran into Howard, Melissa, Paul and Terry.  All the peeps I didn’t get to see back at the finish line.  Cathy said she and Laura cheered in Melissa and Paul and that’s pretty damn awesome.

Cathy was invited to hang for the awards and Matthew and I did the rest of our run.  It was a humid day and we were on the hills of Starlight. There is no shoulder on these roads and a TON of blind curves.  So, we took our time for our safety and for training (you don’t do long runs at your race pace!) and had a lot of fun as we talked and I was given the stories and grand tour of the area.  The miles flew by.  And just as we rounded back into Huber’s Family Farm…the awards were just letting out.

Friends don’t let friends miss out on age group awards! Melissa picked mine up for me!

Apparently the guy who gives out the awards in quite the talker.  And, we spotted Dennis, Tammy, Dean, Howard and Terry, all with awards.  And Dennis mentioned that I had gotten one too.

That shocked me.  Because I wasn’t even trying in this one.  No expectations.  Nothing.  I came in 2nd in my age group.  I came in 10 minutes slower than the person who took first. That would be April Woo.  I’m  never winning my age group this year, LOL!

The award was this really cool mason jar mug.  Apparently, when I was announced, I was called up as, “Our very own Wonder Woman, Karen Brady!”  I love my running community.  They just know.  Even when I am not dressed as Wonder Woman…they know!  And I love that.  Cathy and Melissa shot up to go accept my award and informed them that I was out finishing up a good chunk of mileage…to which they said, “That sounds about right.”

After Matthew and I rounded out our mileage in the parking lot, Cathy and I joined Melissa and Paul at Huber’s Winery.  No wine, but I got a plain baked potato for lunch and downed a big chunk of water.  I also trained out of my sweaty running clothes so I almost felt human again.  HA!  Afterwards, we bought 2 gallons worth of local, fresh strawberries.  And that was just the start of the weekend.

2 mile warm up…10K…and 11 more miles…DONE! Just a fun run on a Saturday.

So…the official results of the Barnyard Dash 10K are that I finished in 48:48.,,in heat and on massive hills.  Without even putting effort into it.  I was only 8 seconds off of this year’s Rodes City Run (which I wasn’t racing either…but that’s mostly flat…so this is a win!)  There is something very relaxing and calming about running in a race without competing.  Seriously!  I was 56/181 finishers overall.  I was the 14/91 for women finishers.  And I was 2/14 in my age division.  This was totally unexpected.  I knew this race was brutal with the hills and heat (it’s usually either raining or hot, apparently)…but now I know just how much.  I was happy to round off the day with a little more in the tank to get the rest of the miles in.  I might revisit this one next year and race it for real.

Just keep taking chances and having fun: A KDF Marathon Wrap-Up

flyIt is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

-Theodore Roosevelt|The Man in the Arena

And just like that…it’s over.  Done.  Finished.  The race has been run and won and packed up.  Streets have been flooded by cars and not by athletic shoes pounding out a cadence that is either scripted by music in the earbuds or matching that racing heartbeat.  Crumbled white cups that used to hold water or Powerade have long been swept up.

It’s business as usual in Louisville, Kentucky.

This week, we had the official Wrap-Up meeting for the #KDFMarathon Ambassadors.

Let me just give you a little insight as to why this was so emotionally hard for me…

I was chosen to be a part of this amazing group of people back in the beginning of August.  So here I was, now a member of a group of 20 people that were hand selected by the Kentucky Derby Festival people to represent the Marathon/miniMarathon!  I was beyond honored, ecstatic, and ready to do what I could for this local race.

 

meandmygang

The official announcement happened on August 5th for me…I was in the final group to be announced.

I had no idea how much these people and this position would change me.  Personally.  Emotionally.  I never expected or anticipated the impact that being a part of the KDF Marathon family would have on me.  But this has been one of the most rewarding things I have done in my life.

I’m almost 40 years old.  So that’s saying something.  Regardless of how average my life is.  HA!!

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For countless months and so many training runs…these people…this amazing, inspiring group of people…were my freakin’ backbone.  We saw each other through surgeries, recovery, losses, injuries, PRs, hard times, good times…you name it.  We stuck through it all together.  We would check in via phone, text, Facebook, e-mail…we truly became a family.  I have never seen a large group of different personalities just fall into such a happy place with each other.  Simply put…we worked.

When the photo above was taken, I knew maybe 2 of the three people in the group.  But I was talking and chatting with all of them, like I knew them for years, by the time the meeting wrapped up.  I was just getting back into the swing of things.  I had returned from Hawaii after giving my best (and ultimately, feeling let down by my performance) at the Kauai Marathon (I mean, it was my first major race back from my hip labrum tear).  Nothing hurt.  No pains.  I was ready to get excited to train for the KDF full marathon.  I had run it in 2014 as a pacer for a friend…but I really just wanted to run these streets for me this time.  Official training didn’t begin until January, but starting as early as our first meeting, we had a discount code for registration to share and we were off to the races (pardon the pun).

I had a fantastic time connecting with some of them at the Disney Wine & Dine Lumiere’s Challenge weekend!


Food.  Wine.  Running. Disney.  You better believe we were bonding.  AND we did make a point to find one another before the race…after the race…in the parks…at the after party.  We honestly…enjoyed each other’s company.  AND…texting/calling one such group member who MIGHT have slept through her alarm on the first race. *cough*

When you are a member of such a diverse group…and you can bond over one thing as simple as running…you’re going to find a lot of other things to bond over.  While we only had a few official meetings, the unofficial ones turned out to be just as important…at least to me.

I met up with Melissa once more at a Disney race…this time in January…and this time under much, much different circumstances.  On December 31, I did a 14 mile training run and ended up having a twinge of the hip flexor.  It didn’t go away.  It only got worse.  And I honestly stopped running after that.  Nothing leading into my upcoming January events.  I was heading into the Disneyland Light Side Rebel Challenge weekend.  When the orthopedic doctor wasn’t able to see me or to talk to me before I left…things got beyond stressful.  And I had more than one panic attack in California.  I remember walking to the start corrals (I was in A and Melissa was a few back) and I was seriously on the verge of tears because my hip was honestly being held together by KT Tape, ACE Bandages, and compression shorts under my costume), and Melissa stopped me and gave me the best hug ever and told me just to go have fun…stop for pictures…not even worry about the time on the watch…and that if they caught up to me and I was walking…they’d join me.  I mean…this woman….is probably one of the few people left in this world who just thinks about others like that.  Is it any wonder we all love her?  Her pep talks…work magic.  And her spirit is contagious.

Paul (Boba Fett), Melissa (Maz), and Me (Rey)...because STAR WARS!

Paul (Boba Fett), Melissa (Maz), and Me (Rey)…because STAR WARS!

Melissa has become, honestly, one of my best friends.  We hang out together…bond over gluten-free eats, and just laugh.  God, we can laugh over the silliest and stupidest things.  But…how she and I, both living in New Albany, have never crossed paths before, neither of us can figure out.  But now…we’ve got a lifetime to make up for it.

As the KDF training runs began, despite still not being able to run…AT ALL…I turned up for them.  There were some very cold mornings where I would just walk.  Sometimes 2 miles…sometimes 4…sometimes 5.  It took forever.  And I would cry.  GOD, would I cry.  But…here my amazing Ambassadors would lift my spirits with jokes, anecdotes, high fives, hugs, smiles, encouragement…THE ENTIRE TIME!  One of them (calling you out here, Chris) gave me a blanket after one of the coldest mornings that I had to walk and was determined to WALK at least half the distance.  I hurt so bad…and the cold wasn’t helping.  I still have that blanket.  Chris…I can give you back your blanket…FYI!

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Chris, Paul, Jack, Reggie, Dawn, Me, Melissa…freezing our running asses off!

We were friends…we are family!

Race morning…if it could go wrong…if it could happen…well, we all read about it or experienced it.  IT HAPPENED!  From thunderstorms, delays, nutrition being off, more delays, people getting locked in a bank, more delays…and finally a 9:15 am start…well…there is actually a lot behind all of why that happened that way and I hope those of you who swore of the KDF Marathon/miniMarathon make a point to try it out again.  It was really eye-opening to get the behind-the-scenes play-by-play by the new race director at the final KDF Ambassador Wrap-Up Meeting.  Everything had to play out that way for safety…and there is a lot the general public doesn’t understand.  You do the best you can under the circumstances, right?

The thing is…for better or for worse…we made it.  We struggled and thrived in training.  We struggled and thrived in the race.  And while we all had different paces, places, and races…we all finished this…together.  I was so honored to have been able to see most of my friends at the finish line.  I loved being able to give them that hug…because when we finish a race under even the best of circumstances, that hug can change everything.  WE DID THIS THING!  WE did this thing that WE trained for and prepared for and WE did this thing…TOGETHER!

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This past week we had the final meeting.  And while those who were able to attend were few…we had everyone there in spirit.  Over Lemon Blossoms and good conversation…we wrapped it all up and concluded our term as a 2016-2017 KDF Marathon Ambassador.

And…much to my surprise, I was awarded one of the Top Social Media Recruiter Awards…a distinction that I proudly share with Stephanie, another lady who has inspired, motivated, and befriended me.  Seriously…this was so shocking and unexpected.  And I’m honored simply to have been an Ambassador, but to include me with someone who rocked the social media world with her posts…it’s amazing to me.


One of the Ambassadors really went above and beyond when it came to recruitment and promotions.  Honestly, he would work on setting up tables at local business and gyms.  And he didn’t keep this to himself either, but invited other Ambassadors to jump in and get on it too.  And it was for that reason that Jack took home the Award for Promotions!

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Chris, Deana, Jack, and Stephanie

And the award of the night went to the person who most deserved, earned, and fought for it.  Seriously…if you could hear her back story…and then all that happened to her on the marathon course…you’d be in awe of her.  She’s one of my best friends now.  And I would be lying to say I wasn’t slightly jealous because she gets to be a part of the new group that comes together for next year…but…I’m proud of her.  Oddly enough…I even had said for a few weeks leading into this meeting that if she didn’t win Ambassador of the Year, I would be disappointed…so…Melissa Nolan..take a big freakin’ bow and get your beauty queen wave on!!

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Melissa is Ambassador of the Year

And no blog would be complete without the last shot of all of us who were able to make the meeting.  Honestly, to those pictured below and those pictured in the first group shot way at the beginning of this post…I can’t emphasize enough how much your friendship and encouragement have inspired me, moved me, and kept me going.  I had some highs during my time as an Ambassador…but I had more lows in my life…and they lifted me up and kept me going…and that, friends, is what this group is all about.  I didn’t ever feel like we had any sort of competition in our group.  We invited each other to our parties, to lunches, and even gave airport transportation.  I have a whole new group of friends in my life…and I’m forever thankful to have had this opportunity to grow not just as a runner, but as a person too.

To Deana, Chris, Stephanie, Amy, Chad, Danielle, Dawn, Jack, Jamie, Jessica, Kelsey, Leah, Madeline, Melissa, Paul, Reggie, Richie, Stephanie, and Tonya…I can’t wait to see and experience all that awaits you down the road.  I can’t wait to see how you rise above it all.  I can’t wait to see you soar over challenges and push yourself to the next level.  I can’t wait to see more starting lines…and finish lines with you.  Not strictly race-related…because we’re all in this thing called life together…and whether physical or metaphorical…we’ve got new beginnings and new ends ahead.  I can’t wait to cheer you through it all.  LOVE YOU!

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For any of you who have thought about becoming a Race Ambassador, I highly recommend it.  This has been such a rewarding experience for me.  I can’t even begin to put into words (that I haven’t already used) how much this group motivated, supported, and changed me.  They were my rocks.  And I can’t wait to see them at our unofficial Ambassador reunions and out on the streets of our amazing city!

If you want to try to get in as a KDF Marathon Race Ambassador next year…the application opens in August.  Fill it out!!  Maybe magic will happen for you too!  Chase your dreams, friends!!  See you out on the roads!!

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Throo The Zoo 5K – Louisville, KY (May 13, 2017)

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

Race: Throo The Zoo 5K

Place: Louisville Zoo, Louisville, Kentucky

Date: May 13, 2017

Time: 22:07*

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why I can’t run a 5K this year that is actually a 5K.  This is my second attempt (which is saying something as I despise this distance) at a 5K this year (the first was the Anthem 5K…which was just about this distance as well).  I am not built to be a sprinter.  These legs would rather run long than run all out for a short distance.  BUT…I’m struggling to find my speed again…and races like this are a fantastic way for me to run fast without fretting, worrying, or freaking out.

Let’s face it…my injuries have left me lacking in the self-confidence and the belief that I can do any sort of speed work without getting injured.

This was a fantastic opportunity.  For one thing…I love this 5K because of how much fun it is.  I mean…you run through the Louisville Zoo.  How cool is that.  AND…you honestly do spend a majority of the time inside the zoo now.  It used to be just a duck in and out thing.  This race has definitely come a long way…even if the course continues to be a little short.

So, my friend Richie, had mentioned this race to me a little bit before KDF ran.  And I said I had been eyeing it.  When my other friend (and sister from another mister), Melissa, mentioned she had a team running, I leaped at the opportunity to join in.  The name was clever (See You At The Finish Lions) and it was a fantastic way to be a part of a race with a friend.  So, yeah…I was all about it.  I signed up before the last chance to do so before registration went up…and it was all good to go.

My coach set no goals for me on this race, other than to just do my best and to see what I can do.  I love goals like that.  I don’t feel pressured to push harder or faster, whether or not I am capable of doing so…so I think I tend to run better.  Going into this race with that in mind, I had no nerves, no tears, no panic attack.  It was a nice change of pace (pun not intended, but funny!).

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My gluten-free and vegan “sausage” pizza for pre-race fuel

I left work a little early to run home to make pre-race pizza (because, it may be a 5K…but some traditions should just happen!) before heading over to Louisville to pick up my packet at Whole Foods.  Lo and behold, as I’m leaving the office, Melissa texts to see if I wanted her to pick up my bib and shirt.  Saved me a trip, so I told her that it would be awesome.  I was going to go to the grocery store before heading home, but wasn’t feeling it, so onward to the apartment.  It wasn’t too long after that that Melissa stopped by with all my race stuff.  How awesome is that!!  I love this lady because she just naturally thinks of others!!  It made my evening a little less stressful for sure.

I finished up making my Gluten Free Vegan “Sausage” Pizza for dinner (I made the “sausage crumbles” out of chickpeas and amazing spices that made it all taste like sausage), ate it out on the balcony, and then decided to do a small amount of grocery shopping just to save some time.  After arriving home, I put the groceries away, changed into my pajamas and worked on my PT stretches/exercises and foam rolling.  Then, I was off to bed.

It was still relatively early, but I needed the rest.  And, I also had an alarm set for 4 a.m. so I would have time to do my PT stretches/exercises pre-race as well.  When the alarm went off that morning, I shut it off and immediately knew something was off.

What?

Well, I couldn’t turn my head for one thing.  I had slept weird and now turning my head to either side caused a sharp muscle stabbing pain to radiate throughout my shoulders/neck.  This…was not good.  Not at all.  With little to do about it (I don’t medicate before races as it can do serious damage to internal organs and BioFreeze would totally burn the moment I started running and my pores opened up), I went outside and did all the outdoor PT stuff before coming  back up for the indoor stuff.  I managed to get it all done with very few stops to help with the literal pain in my neck.

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Me with my coffee at the start line.  Coffee does not make me run faster.

My roommate and I actually loaded up the car to head that way early with a plan.  SO many people go on and on about the wonders of coffee pre-race and how it gives a boost.  We decided to swing by Highland Coffee and give it a try.  So…we did.  I got myself a traditional Cafe Au Lait with their homemade macadamia milk and we went on our way to the zoo.  We had a bit of time after parking, so Cathy and I went to go stand around.  As we reached the curb, I head my name being shouted out of a car.  I turned my head, and it was Richie.  What good timing.  He was on his way to park.  So I decided after drinking some coffee, I should take advantage of the small lines for the port-a-potties.  I hate using port-a-potties, so here was one reason I wasn’t a fan of the coffee pre-race.  When I returned, Richie was joining us.

We talked for a little bit and caught up on everything.  Richie had been dealing with some foot issues, and this was his first race back.  We were both just hoping to run strong and well.  I texted Melissa…but she wasn’t here yet.  With about 20 minutes to go, we decided to move closer to the start line.

It was after I shed my jacket layer (it wasn’t cold, but I tend to always be cold…so I just dress that way).  The weather in the 50s was perfect, honestly.  I tucked it into Cathy’s backpack and, after getting a good luck hug, went to stand in the mob of people at the start line.  Richie was there…and soon, Melissa was joining us too.

For the first time…none of us were sporting the KDF Marathon Ambassador shirt.  We were getting our race style on for sure.  Melissa was waiting on her husband to join us and pointed out that Cathy was getting her picture taken with the sign she carries to my races.  Of course she was.  She always gets her photo taken.  HA!  Melissa’s husband joined us just before the start of the race, which was delayed for a few minutes.  This gave us a chance to get a pre-race photo together.  But then it was time to go.  Melissa and Paul had discussed staying up front, but they hopped out and started at the back of Wave 1, which is where Richie and I were taking off.

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Richie, Me, Melissa before we dashed Throo the Zoo!

We both ran down Illinois Avenue, which is just outside the Louisville Zoo, Richie going much faster than I was pushing.  I wanted to go faster, but I also know that 5Ks are still about pacing.  I’m just really bad at doing so.  We make a turn and enter through the back of the zoo.  One hill climb…and then a great downhill.  I passed Richie on the downhill (I love me some downhill action) and pressed on.  This part of the race is great because, as I said, we’re inside the zoo.  We duck out shortly before Mile 1 to zig-zag through the parking lot…but that comes after the first steep hill.  Gorilla Hill.  It’s a beast.  I press up it and am thankful when it levels off.  Exiting the zoo soon after, I follow a few runners into the parking lot area where there is a water stop there.  I blow past it, not needing water, and continue onward.  This is the annoying zig-zag part I mentioned up there.  Definitely a way to get the necessary mileage.  But definitely a pace killer.  I end up neck-and-neck with a younger, female runner and we’re pretty much stride-for-stride with her as we re-enter the park.  I pull ahead for a brief moment and feel really accomplished…

…until she blew right past me.  HA.  Oh well.  I wasn’t even pressed to try to pass her again.  I was comfortably uncomfortable with my slowing pace.  And…yes…I could tell I was slowing down.  Soon after entering the zoo again, another steep hill climb happened.  I did my best to focus on form and just working on pressing up the hill.  I was slowed tremendously by the ascent, but felt strong at the top, and totally enjoyed the downhill as always.  We hit Mile 2 just before rounding a corner and entering the African Outpost area of the zoo, as well as Glacial Run.  Here we could see some of the walkers heading through the other part and it was nice to get some cheers and encouragement along the way.  The zoo employees were also good for that as well.

It was just before we make the last bit of the race before the exit that we double back on the route again.  Just as I’m coming up to the corner, a woman ducks under the flags and starts in toward Mile 3.  I run past her immediately, finding that very dishonest and unfair.  But, at least I was ahead of her.  I hope if she got any sort of award she didn’t accept it.

I make the winding, tiring, final climb out of the Louisville Zoo and head to flatter ground.  My legs are fatigued and I pass that 3 mile marker without my watch buzzing.  It was off at Mile 2, but I was hoping that it would even out in the end.  It didn’t.  I didn’t hit the third mile…AGAIN!  UGH!  That is beyond frustrating, but I cut the Louisville Zoo a lot more slack than I do those in charge of the Anthem 5K.  Just sayin’.  That being said…I really, really want a 5K that is the real distance so I can see my baseline and what I need to do to try to improve.  As I’m about to head into my marathon training, I will be limiting racing out of necessity of not getting injured…so this might be a moot point at this point.

I wandered over to where Cathy was standing just as Richie crossed the line.  I told her that the course was short and that I would be right back.  I went to find Richie and we went to grab some bottles of water.  As more people came in, I went to round off my mileage and finish up Matthew & Dennis’ long run that day in the parking lot of the zoo.  Melissa and Paul came in as I was finishing that up and were ecstatic to hear Cathy screaming for them at the finish line.

We all met up and while Matthew & Dennis went to head to Panara for the breakfast thing with Laura & Mike…Richie, Melissa, Paul, Cathy and I went over to the finish recovery area to wait on awards, raffle prizes, and just simply hang out and talk.  That was a lot of fun, actually, discussing upcoming plans…the KDF Ambassador luncheon later that day, and just our general, overall well-being.  I love my friends!

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Second Place Age Division certificate for Throo the Zoo 5K 2017

It turns out, I was 2nd in my age division, so I was called up to receive a certificate.  The last time I ran this race, medals were handed out.  I guess since River City Races no longer is in charge of this one, that changed.  But, it’s cool.  I don’t have a certificate other than finisher’s certificates…so this was something different for sure.  I proudly accepted the honor, as this race is tough to run and has some tough competition!

Afterwards, Cathy and I decided we needed to make our Costco run and ducked out of walking through the zoo…which sucks as I have never actually visited the Louisville Zoo.  But, we would be seeing Melissa and Paul again at lunch at Guy Fieri’s on Fourth Street later that afternoon.

So, the official results of the Throo The Zoo 5K is that I finished the race in 22:07…unfortunately on another short course.  I still would have beaten the time I had for the previous running I did in this race…which was in 2014…so there is that.  It’s something, right? I was   I was okay with this time.  Much slower than last year, but I ran hard just over 12 hours before this one…so…yeah…this was good for me.  I was 45/1493 finishers overall.  I was the 6/932 female finishers.  And I was 2/105 people in my age division!  I’ll take that!  I also learned that coffee did not give me an extra boost during the race…so therefore, I think I’ll leave it for after from now on.

It was a blast returning to this run again…and being able to do it on my dear friend’s team.  I hope I did her proud.  And I hope to attempt to actually get in a 5K on properly measured course before I resolve to focus on training and not racing.  Because that is coming up…fast.

I can’t wait to run this one again.  Challenging and fun.  Who doesn’t want that?

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Post-race Ambassador luncheon with: Stephanie, Paul, Leah, Melissa, Me, and Jack at Guy Fieri’s Smokehouse on 4th Street in Louisville, Kentucky

Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon – Louisville, KY (April 29, 2017)

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Me heading into the finish line of the KDF miniMarathon – Louisville, Kentucky

Race: Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: April 29, 2017

Time: 1:43:12

This was it.  This was the terminus of my job as a 2016-2017 #KDFMarathon/miniMarathon Race Ambassador.  And it was race day.  RACE DAY!!  I love race day!

And, trust me, it took me a lot of sweat and tears to be able to get to that start line.  Because if you had asked me in January, when my hip flexor froze up, if I would have been able to run it…I wouldn’t have been too sure.  As it was, I had to drop from the full to the half…so there was that.

I wanted to be stubborn and just do it.  I’m not a newbie to marathons.  I have run 11 of them total, but I also haven’t really been able to train for one since I ran the Charleston Marathon in January 2015.  Boston was a bust.  And Kauai…well…it didn’t exactly boost my self-esteem and “can-do” marathon mentality.

I wasn’t ready for a full.  Two months of training lost to a paralyzed hip flexor…and a very cautious and slow build-up in mileage put me at my first double digit run (10 miles) exactly one month before race day.  To press on and do the full would have been a fool’s errand.

I’ve learned to be a little more patient with myself and allow myself to heal and train right.  So, the miniMarathon it was.  You win some…you lose some.  I did manage to run most of the Disney World Star Wars Dark Side Marathon on Sunday.  It was steamy and humid…and for the last 5 miles, I was run/walking.  It was okay.  These days I worry more about running smart than that finish time.  When it’s hot and the race is flagged (and…for the record, both the Dark Side Half & KDF were yellow flagged due to humidity)…you just run it the best you can without putting yourself at risk for heatstroke or worse.

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My Ambassador Crew at the KDF Marathon Expo: Paul, Me, Amy, and Jack

My second half marathon in the same week was starting off well.  I only ran one time in between to two races.  I didn’t need more.  Wednesday morning, I hit up 4 very easy miles and called it a week.  And on Thursday, I left work early to meet up with Jack, Paul and Amy (3 others in my Ambassador family) to volunteer at the expo as a greeter.  I convinced quite a lot of my friends to come to the expo that day…both local and from out of town.  And it was hopping!  It was great seeing everyone and helping people out when they had questions.  I was feeling good and confident.  And being able to hang with other ambassadors and just be relaxed and help others relax…and drink free wine samples…it was actually what I needed.  I was feeling good.

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Curry Sauté with Tofu from North End Cafe in Louisville, KY

Friday I spent most of the day sitting at work…which is not something I normally do, but my coach had decided to have me aim for a 1:40 half on Saturday, so I really wanted to do right by my legs and my body.  And, that evening, I went to the Galt House and picked up fellow Marathon Maniac, and good friend, Michael, to have a pre-race dinner.  Normally, I would just cook an Annie May’s Sweet Café gluten-free/vegan pizza at home and call it a day, but I had wanted to meet up with Michael.  We ended up at North End Cafe.  He had the Lemonade Blueberry Pancakes, and I got the Curry Sauté with Tofu for dinner.  As I have been to races where safe gluten-free pizza isn’t always readily available, I have played around some with my night before meal ritual.  But nothing works like gluten-free pizza.

After we dropped Michael back off at the hotel and went home, I finished making up the “Finish Line Lemon Blossoms” for my friends.  After my PT exercises and some foam rolling…I called it a night.  I set my traditional 2 alarms for the race, but didn’t bother to get up in enough time to squeeze in my PT stuff…because it was going to be storming or raining in the morning.  I figured I skipped them at Disney…I could supplement my walk to the start line for the warmups and I’d be ready to go.

And at 5 am…the 7:30 am start was delayed.  For half an hour.

This definitely made the morning slightly easier.  I was already dressed and had my hair up and everything, so I got to sit and relax a little longer…savor my breakfast…that sort of thing.  Dread the humidity.  Because…it was humid.  And the sun wasn’t even up yet.  In fact, the rain only served to make it steamier.  I was having anxiety over the humidity the night before, texting my coach about my push for a 1:40 and how the humidity might slaughter that attempt…especially since I was in my “uniform” of the Ambassador shirt (which had sleeves).  I’m not a fan of racing in sleeves unless it’s cold.  When it’s hot…it’s a simple bra top or a tank.  So this was going to be a new experience too.  I figured if it got too unbearable, I could shed the shirt and then attempt to wriggle back into it before the finish line.

So…delay #1 was in the works.

The official KDFMarathon Ambassador photo was going to now be taken at 7:30…so we headed that way and actually got down to Slugger Field (and the parking lot) at around  7 a.m.  This gave me time for one of my efficient and essential power naps!!  I got my nap on good!!  With about 10 minutes to go, I got a text from my running partner, Matthew, saying that he was at the statue in front of Slugger Field, so I got up and headed that way.

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Danielle, Tonya, Me, Leah, Paul, and Jamie pre-race delay #2!

A few more ambassadors were gathered, but the whole team wasn’t there yet.  This has been a thing in all these months.  Races and such, we never quite managed to get everyone in a photo together. #goals

Anyway…no sooner had the photos been taken, I snagged my pre-race fuel (a simple banana!) and downed it while talking to Matthew, Natalie, and my fellow Ambassadors, who were hanging for a moment.

And then…another delay.

Race start was now set for 8:30.  And I had now eaten my banana a whole hour before the start, rather than half an hour.  Roll with it.  I wasn’t planning on exerting myself before the race so I figured I’d be fine.  We all started to make our way toward the corrals regardless (it wasn’t even raining!), when we were told to take cover.  My group ducked under the cover of the Old National Bank near the race start with a crowd of other runners and passed the time just chatting away.  Even my running coach and her crew joined us under there.  It was sort of a nervous energy, but a positive energy at that point.

Cathy left shortly after we got up there, because she likes getting a good spot at the start line and the finish line.  So, she gathered up my rain jacket (which had been keeping Natalie warm) and went to go find her spot, telling me she’d be on the right at the start and on the left at the finish.

With the 8:30 a.m. start time coming up, we opted to head out of the shelter to get to the corrals.  And no sooner had we stepped out from under the bank building and down the steps…

Delay #3.  Race start was now 9:00 a.m.

My group and I decided we would duck into the bank building and rest our legs by sitting on the floor there instead of standing around outside.  It was more comfortable out of the humidity, regardless.  With race start happening soon, we decided to make a last ditch move for the port-a-potties for those who needed them.  I didn’t.  I drank a ton of water the day before, but on race morning, I keep it light so I don’t have to pee.  I did tell my friends that I would hold their stuff for them though.  As we were heading out, the doors to the bank building seemed to be giving people some trouble.  We stepped out though for our mission.

On the way to the toilets, my amazing friend, Kelsie, spotted me.  Matthew and I gave her a hug and we stood around and talked for a brief moment.  Then we went on so I could hold gear.  I should mention that my fellow Ambassador and friend, Tonya, had gone on ahead of us too.  I had her plastic bag for race start should rain happen.  But we still had NO rain.  Just delays.  After everyone cycled through, we started back toward the bank for a few more moments of sitting down and resting before…hopefully, a real start.

trappedinthebankAnd this is where we discover that the people (Tonya was now included) that were inside the bank building were now TRAPPED inside the bank building.  Apparently, the Old National Bank’s doors were timed to lock at a certain time.  And…guess what…they were locked.  Runners were trapped inside with 15 or so minutes to go before the race start.  I walked up to the window and Tonya was front-and-center.

Tonya had texted my phone, which Cathy had at this point, so Cathy sprang into action when the S.O.S. came through, alerting some officers, who wrangled up fire department and security to, hopefully, get the runners out.  With like…only 10 minutes to spare…this happened.  Thank goodness.

So…with no further delays and an announcement being made that 9:00 a.m. was go-time for real…everyone started to get to their corrals.  Matthew and I ducked into Corral C to start making our way forward to A.  We ducked under rope flags and everything to move forward in our corral.  I spotted Greg, from Frankfort, Kentucky, who was pacing the 1:50 half marathon group. I said hi and he asked if I was running with him because he thought I was up in Tim’s group (that would be the 1:40 group).  I said that Linda (our coach) had said that all plans were out the window with the delays and to just go have fun, but I was moving up.

And we did.  Almost to the front.  Like…we were behind the elite line.  We saw elite bibs.  Elite bibs have no corral letter on them.

Matthew and I decided we were out of our league up there and he spotted Tim’s pacing group…so we decided to move back.  A bit.

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Kelsie, Me, and Matthew heading out of the Start of the KDF miniMarathon

And we found Kelsie again.  So…this was perfect.  I was starting the race off with friends…it was going to be a good time.  Despite the fact that I was now starving.  And it was humid.

Did I mention that I was starving?

I had fueled for an 8 a.m. start.  I think my corral (Corral A) went off at 9:15 a.m.  That banana was LONG gone.  And I didn’t want to hit up my mid-race nutrition, because I needed that after Mile 6.  I looked at Matthew and Kelsie and I said…”AND…now I’m starving.”  They were too.

Everyone was.

My coach was right…everything was a mess now…it was best just to go and have some fun.

Matthew and I decided we would attempt to at least keep Tim (remember…that’s the 1:40 pacer) in our sites.  The starting gun went off…and the three of us took off.  I don’t know where we dropped Kelsie, but she was doing this race right.  No watch.  No goals save to finish.  I want to do that more.  Just run how I feel and for fun.  What a freeing feeling that has to be!

Matthew and I pounded out the first four miles pretty much together.  The rain poured down on us shortly after the start and I looked at him and said, “We SO would have been done by now!”  Soaked from humidity, rain, and exertion, we pressed on.  Matthew commented that he felt like he couldn’t catch his breath.  The air was heavy with humidity, so I totally knew how he felt.

I lost him after a turn.  I thought he might have gone on ahead.

As we hit Mile 5…I did 2 things.  I slowed for a moment to pull the KDF Marathon Race Ambassador shirt off so I could cool down.  This happened just as I heard, “There’s Karen.”  So I waived, tucked my Ambassador shirt into my fuel belt…and then I fueled.  A whole mile early.  Because my legs were starting to resist my determination to keep going.  Everything was a cluster now.

Tim and the rest of the 1:40 group were still in site…but not really within distance to catch now.  And my body was not feeling the pace.  I told myself to hang on through Churchill Downs.  So…for at least 3 more miles.  I could suffer for that long, right?

I managed.  My pace dropped little-by-little until I rounded the corner at the split…hit Mile 9…and took a walk at the water station.  I carry my own water with me on half marathons and marathons.  Usually if it’s a double-digit run, I have water and fuel with me.  I didn’t care.  I hit that water stop, I slowed.  I took a cup from a lovely volunteer.  I took a sip.  The rest went on over my head.  It cooled me down…and I made myself start running again.

From here on out…it was down to running smart…not running fast.  Since any attempts to hit a certain time goal went away with the 90 minute delays…now it was just about crossing that finish line.  I didn’t care how long it took me…I was down to the last 5 miles regardless.  I managed to make water stops the rest of the way toward the finish…even when I said I would keep running and no more walking…if I needed to throw water over my head…I did it.  And, as I found out in Disney, that really works.

It did, however, work better at Disney…when I wasn’t under-fueled and also dying from the humidity.  At about Mile 11, I had caught up to Pete, a guy who ran with Matthew and I a couple of times before the Norton Sports Health Training Program kicked in and before I was injured.  I had to slow again for one last shower of water, so he got too far ahead of me again.  I had to slow to walk and water myself for about 3 more times before I knew that finish line was close.  This was my Dark Side Half Marathon all over again.  But worse.  My splits were hitting in the 8’s…which I never touched (despite walk breaks) at Disney.

I felt…miserable.

But I am nothing if not persistent.

I could taste that finish line.  And it wasn’t far.  I could hear the announcer.  I could see Slugger Field.  That meant…it was just around the corner.

And there it was…the turn!!

I never put the Ambassador shirt back on.  I had it tucked in my belt…but to stop to wriggle back into it might mean I wouldn’t start again.

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Me crossing the finish line of the KDF miniMarathon

I took the turn.  And while I didn’t feel like moving any faster, I attempted to pick up my pace.  That finish line was in site…all I had to do was run over it.  I focused on that line alone.  I heard Cathy screaming on the sideline…and I ran down the stretch and passed under the arch.

DONE.

I was…done.  I also felt like crap.

But Dan spotted me at the finish line and called out my name over the bullhorn.  HA!

I continued down the line, slowly, trying to catch my breath and cool down.  The medals were right ahead, so as I strolled that way, Cathy caught up to me at the fence.  She told me my official finish time, which I couldn’t believe, given how slow my pace had gotten as the morning went on and the miles progressed.  We attempted to formulate a meeting place after I would go through the official finish photo area and the place where they store food and chocolate milk and Powerade.  And as we were discussing…Paul from the Ambassadors came in.  Then another running partner of mine, Ron, was in.  And then…Matthew.  I hadn’t moved except to go and congratulate Paul.  I found Ron.  And Matthew somehow slipped by me, but Cathy found him and he was at the fence when I returned.

We all managed to make our way to the runner reunion area, grabbing snacks along the way.  As I emerged…with banana and chips (I have never seen Cathy so happy to see a bag of chips in my hand), I actually reconnected with Kelsie…who gave that finish line her famous kick and brought it in strong.  I really need her to teach me where she finds that late energy because I’m usually dying at the finish line.  She needed to head out, so after a photo, she left and Ron went to claim his free beer.  Cathy told me to take my phone and see if I could catch more of the 30 people I was tracking while she went to get the bags out of the car that had my clothes to change into and a cooler with food and a big bottle of water.  Tonya came in but texted to say she was in medical.  And Amy came in.  I never found her in the crowd.  I did find former co-workers from IU Southeast, Dana & Graham, after they finished.  So that was cool!

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Finisher of the KDF miniMarathon – Louisville, Kentucky (note the tucked Ambassador shirt)

Cathy and I were camped out under the overpass for the rest of the day.  When my phone told me one of my people were in…I’d attempt to go find them.  I mostly succeeded.  I only missed a few.  I caught Natalie, who I really wanted to find above all, as it was her first marathon, and she was having Siri hit me up for motivation as she made her way to that finish line.  She did great!  I also did distribute Lemon Blossoms.  They were very well received.  My friend Jack even picked me up when I handed him a whole container.  And he had just run a marathon.

I thought everyone was in at that point…but I was wrong.  But that is a long, complicated, and amazing story all its own.

So, the official results of the Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon are that I finished in 1:43:12.  That, mind you, is almost exactly 2 minutes slower than my time last year.  MEH!  That being said, I wasn’t expecting to hit 1:43 at all after the walking began, so I’ll gladly take this.  Given the conditions, I’m beyond happy with this result.  I was 403/8737 finishers overall.  I was 85/5010 female finishers.  And I was 15/794 finishers in my division.  Given that I had just raced a humid half marathon on Sunday…walked Disney World the rest of Sunday and all of Monday…traveled home…worked overtime…worked the expo…and then ran again in the humidity…I exceeded all expectations I had.  Honestly.  There were fewer runners this year (by about 2000) in the mini…but my stats improved on every single category…despite running slower.  I count that as a win too!

Here’s my takeaway…

I came into this event at first meeting with a group of strangers at the KDF Marathon Headquarters.  I found a great group of supportive, amazing, inspiring people who are like family to me now.  So many friendships were formed in this year’s KDF Ambassador group.  I was so fortunate to have been able to be a part of it.  I may not have signed up the most people for the race, but I went to events…I promoted the race…I even went to the training runs (even on the coldest mornings) when I couldn’t run and encouraged others…cheered…high fived…and walked.  The marathon slipped away when my training had to wait almost 3 months to even start.

Dropping to the mini was hard…but it was the smartest decision I could have made.  I would never have survived the full after a humid Florida race series and the 90 minute delays.  With nutrition and scheduling off…this was a blessing in disguise.

The delays have taught me a lot about being a bit more prepared for whatever race morning might throw my way.

I saw so many people finish.  I helped a few out when they needed help.  I hugged so many of my sweaty friends.  I saw people set goals…and whether they crushed them or fell short…they completed what the started.  And that, friends, is what the spirit of race day is all about.

My time as a KDF Marathon Ambassador is coming to a close, but the memories, friends, emotions, and moments that I now carry with me…those will last a lifetime.

kdfambassadorgroup

My new family and friends!  What an amazing ride this has been!