Urban Bourbon Half Marathon – Louisville, KY (October 19, 2019)

 

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Me finishing the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon – Louisville, KY

Race: Urban Bourbon Half Marathon

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: October 19, 2019

Time: 1:42:48

Oh, Urban Bourbon…it’s been a hot second.  I haven’t run this race since 2016.  Not because I haven’t wanted to.  Probably mostly due to training for other things, or injury…or whatnot.  Honestly, when races happen in my own backyard, I try to make a point to show up to them when possible.

So, trust me, I was happy when my coach gave me the green light to include this race into my training cycle as we began to head into taper.  Kinda.  Because I was under the impression that I would get to basically cruise through these additional races on the calendar, using them as easy training runs, right?

Nope.  Marathon pace.  That’s what I was told.  For both this one and Fort Ben.  Well, we all know I ran a little too fast at Fort Ben (despite the hills).  But, that wasn’t all bad.  Except my fast finish run on Sunday the following day pretty much felt like trash.  So…we repeated the hell week of speed work pretty much every day.  I did this just before Fort Ben too…but he really wanted me closer to my actual marathon pace this time.  So, I worked out a plan in my head to line up with the 1:45 pacer and stick with them.  I’d be slightly faster, but it would keep me steady and on pace.

Friday just after I ate lunch…I stopped by the coffee shop next to my office to say “HI” to my friend, Melissa.  Then, my roommate and I headed down to Slugger Field for packet pickup.  Melissa, her hubby, and their baby were coming down shortly behind us.  Picking up the packet was a breeze.  I was bib 306…first window.  AND…to make things better, my personal trainer and friend…and the Volunteer Coordinator for the Louisville Sports Commission, Corey, was right there to give me a hug.  We chatted for a few minutes, but Cathy and I needed to skedaddle back to the office (BOOO!).  As we were leaving, Melissa, Paul and the baby were arriving.  We were going to give them our parking space, but one opened up just slightly closer.  That being said, Melissa still managed to give my SRTT magnet a flip before we parted ways.

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My “magic sushi” from Dragon King’s Daughter

Finished up the day at work before heading over to Dragon King’s Daughter.  Because that’s where the “magic sushi” combo is.  I had my usual…the Gluten Free Spicy Tofu and the Gluten Free Green Acres Rolls.  Devoured them.  Went home to stretch and get to bed.  It was going to be an early morning.

Race morning came…and I think I actually slept well going into it.  YAY!  I didn’t lay anything out the night before.  Didn’t think to do it.  Oh well.  I wasn’t too worried about it.  I took my vitamins and ate my overnight oats that I had prepared the night prior…sticking with my fueling plan I am using for my marathon in November.  I stretched.  I hydrated.  I changed.  And, yes, I even put on sunscreen.  All the things.  I remembered my anklet and my race bib (long story, but both of those involved turning around and heading home at a different local race soon after I got back into running after the hip labrum tear).  On track.  The original thought was to come home after the race so I could shower and we could make a brunch happen…but I packed a backpack with a change of clothes because Cathy was kind of leaning toward staying over on that side of the river post-race…getting brunch, picking up a Cinnamon Roll & Donut from Annie May’s (for breakfast on Sunday), and getting some of our grocery shopping (it ended up barely being any of it) done while there.  I was game to come home and save a bit of money…so we decided we’d pack for options.

It was a bit on the chilly side that morning…but I was planning on wearing what I wanted to wear for my marathon. It’s what I’ve been wearing at my races…so I know it works.  I was just concerned about freezing near the start.  Luckily, Cathy wasn’t doing a 5K at this one and I could shed clothing just before the start (so I could stay semi-warm leading into it) and leave them with her.  I like when that happens.  I know I have throwaway items for a reason…I just hate leaving them behind when I could probably get use of them again down the line.  So…that was a plus.  She pinned my bib on…I went to mix up my Maurten 160 Drink Mix…and we were out the door.

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Bib is on and ready to head out to run!

The drive into Louisville wasn’t bad at all.  We didn’t even hit traffic.  Cathy found a parking garage that was a bit of a walk to and from the start and finish area…but it would allow for easy exit as no roads would be blocked.  We found a spot and sort of hung out in the warm car for a little while.  Eventually, we did decide to start heading toward the start of the race, which was on W Jefferson Street.  It was here that I met up with my training partner, Ron.  He wasn’t sure what his plan was for this race, but he was going to line up with the 1:40 pacer.  It was at this moment, I realized there was no 1:45 pacer.  There was a 1:40 and a 1:50.  So…I decided I would just have to line up in between them and try not to pass or be passed.

I mean…that seems like a logical and good plan, right?

As the race start drew nearer, and the sky turned BEAUTIFUL shades of cotton candy pink and purple (Louisville was showing off!), Ron went to go shed his layers and I went to go see if I could make the MRTT/SRTT Louisville photo.  It was at Panara Bread.  I noticed how full the corrals were getting as I headed that way, and after a short walk and not seeing where I needed to be…I opted to instead turn back and try to find my spot for a good start to the race.  I never seem to make photo ops before races unless they are right near the start line.

This turned out to be a good decision.  The only way into the start area was through the back of the corral.  I had to shed my warm outer layer and go try to find a spot.  It was REALLY crowded and I entered, finding my friend Tracy and tapping her on the shoulder, and she said, “Hey…shouldn’t you be further up.”  HA!  She wasn’t wrong…and it was really hard to move through the tight crowd of people.  There was a lot of me tapping people on the back, asking them if I could slide through, saying a lot of “Sorry” and “Thank you.”  BUT…I got there.  Whew.

Ron gave me a high five and told me that if I passed him, he was going to yell at me to slow down.  Which was the best idea ever.  Fun fact…I never passed him so he can save yelling at me for another day.

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Me heading out of the start at the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon – Louisville, KY

The National Anthem was played and we all moved up toward the start line.  A gun went off…and so did we.  I gave a wave to Cathy on the sideline as I ran past…and really just felt good that morning.  YAY!  To be honest, while it was chilly (41° F) at the start, it was ideal running weather and was supposed to warm up as the morning went on.  That being said, unlike at Fort Ben a couple of weekends before this race…I ended up keeping my gloves on and not shedding them.

So, there are actually quite a few turns in the first mile of the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon.  It starts off nice and flat and fast…and you don’t even realize you’re running that fast until you hit that first mile marker.  It was, as I said, the perfect morning for a half marathon.  The sun was coming up.  It was crisp and cool.

And I settled in pretty quickly into a rhythm.  It was, for the first mile and a half, with a tall guy who was constantly commenting on how he couldn’t believe how far up the 1:40 pacers were at the start.  Let it go, dude.  Let it go.  They have a pace they are going to run.  Those who can go faster…will.  We also had to run past EMW Women’s Surgical Center, which meant we were greeted by a guy with a speaker and a microphone basically preaching to us about why abortion is bad.  Dude…we’re running a race here.  Go do something useful with your time.

I knew I was pretty fast on my first mile, so I made a point to back off as we the loop leading into the second mile, and taking us back onto E Witherspoon.  We turned this time though, heading onto Preston before turning again E Muhammad Ali Blvd.  A couple more turns, keeping my pace in the mid to low 7:40s…which was still faster than I should have been…but I hadn’t passed Ron yet and 1:50 wasn’t coming up on me.  It was still early, and I knew the hardest part of the race would happen once we got into the park.  For now, I’d just soak it in.  Once we got onto Lexington Rd I was in some pretty familiar (even though it had been ages since I’ve run it) territory!  YAY!

It was along this stretch between Miles 4 and 5 that I high-fived some kids, tried to find a spot on the road where I wasn’t running on the shoulder (that had lots of debris from trees) but also not running on the grade of the road, which is kinda tilted at this point.  My watched beeped a bit before I saw the Mile 5 marker…and I was questioning how I screwed up the tangents already (NOTE: I don’t actually run tangents…but my watch was WAY ahead of the mile marker).  As we crossed Grinstead, we had to avoid the rubble and construction stuff (there were LARGE concrete tube-things (technical term) on the side of the road, and lots of dust and stones in their wake), but this is also where we turn and head into Cherokee Park.

Welcome…to the land of hills.

I want to give a shout-out to one of my training partners this past summer…Christine…because she had us running these hills pretty much every weekend.  And I think that, while I slowed down some on these climbs, I handled them better than I would have.  So…thanks, Christine!  That being said, I have run in Cherokee Park so many times, that I know what the hills entail.  So, I respected that.  And I respected the goal of this race, which was not to kill myself trying to race it, but to aim for marathon pace.  Slowing down, if necessary, was perfectly fine.  And the hills were my reminder of that.  While I still pushed up them, I didn’t push too hard…I let it be a hill and allowed my work, but not overwork.  There was nothing to prove at this race.  I was just here to finish.

We go into the park just before Mile 6 and we exit the park just before Mile 10.  So, that’s about 4 miles inside Cherokee Park.  And this is where you get to experience the major climbs, but also, the best part of the race.  Cherokee Park, no matter how many times you run it, is beautiful.  And in the fall, I think it’s even better.  Highlights for the race all happened inside the park.  I do want to say, I appreciate the photographers inside the park being just before that HUGE, winding climb to Hogan’s Fountain. You still look good, because when you get to the top, you pretty much feel and look like death…except you go downhill after that.  Making the turn, my friend, Dan, was at the bottom.  I heard him cheering for me and I high-fived him as I ran past.  Up another hill.  THE BEST water stop around was Water Stop 5…run by MRTT/SRTT Louisville.  Costumes, cheers, and a whole lot of noise.  My name was in chalk on the ground.  My name was shouted and I had LOUD cheers as I ran through.  Just the boost you need after all those killer hills.  Itw as phenomenal!  I love being in a girl gang!  Around Mile 9, my friend Simon caught up to me.  I could hear him coming though…because he was complimenting everyone on their dogs.  I got to hear that for the rest of the race, and it kept a smile on my face.

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So…much…bourbon! Runners get 4 bourbon tastings at the after party!

We head out of the park and head back downtown.  At this point, I was ready for my legs to just pick it back up, but after Cherokee (and this seemed to be a sentiment shared by lots of runners that Saturday)…the legs just had no go.  The hills ate them for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  So, I just pressed on, once again reminding myself that having no go here was fine.  This wasn’t my goal race.  I just settled in, and eventually my legs picked it up a little, just not much.  I was ready to be done.

The last few miles went by relatively quickly, and when I hit Mile 12, I did start to pick it up a little more.  There was more of a crowd, there were lots of encouraging cheers…and I could almost feel the electricity of that finish line.  Making the final turn to run it in felt amazing…and, per usual, I threw my arms up as I crossed…because every finish line, whether you are first or last, should be treated like you won the damn thing!  Always celebrate that finish line.

My training partner, Ron, had made it in exactly a minute ahead of me.  We high-fived and hugged, collecting our medals, and making our way through the snacks to go to the afterparty (where I promised my roomie my beer and pizza…I can’t eat them…because gluten), and I was hoping to give away my bourbon tags…but I ended up having no one to share them with.  It was pretty windy and chilly.  I put my sweatshirt back on after standing around for a moment.  Eventually, Cathy and I needed to go.  We decided to grab a real breakfast at North End Café…then get some goodies for my post-run breakfast on Sunday (another 13.1 miles) from Annie May’s…and grab some groceries before heading home.

It was a great day to have a great race.  I need to just keep this one on my radar every year, because Michael Clemons is phenomenal as a race director and ALWAYS puts on a great event.

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Ron (my training partner) and me at the finish line of the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon

So, my official results of the 2019 Urban Bourbon Half Marathon are that I finished in 1:42:48.  Not mad at all at that time, because I finished within my goal range, between the 1:40 and 1:50 pace groups.  I was, technically, only 5 minutes faster than my marathon pace, and my coach said I maintained a great pace on this (aka: he wasn’t mad at it).  I was 208/3026 finishers overall.  I was 40/1739 female finishers in this race.  And I was 6/301 in my age division!  Sometimes, working in some races to the training plan is a great way to figure out where you are with your training…or a good way to squeeze in a training run (keep that pace easy and controlled) and earn a medal in the process.  Definitely coming back next year!

Project BQ – Marathon Training Week #16

dreams-hopes-poster-rhino-treadmill-unicornRemember how I said I was in taper?  I was apparently confused.  Out of my mind.  Wrong.  Because my coach had one more long, long run up his sleeve.  And I didn’t know about it until I was leaving the Kentucky Center of the Arts.  I had gone to see Dear Evan Hansen.  I was in a pretty dress and heels.  I had a message come through from my coach telling me my schedule was posted and that I could choose how to run the 5K I was participating in on Saturday, but to not go 100%…because we (as in me…he wasn’t doing it with me, HA) had one more long, long run to tackle.

I flipped to my calendar and it was staring me down.  One final 20-22 miler.

Here. We. Go.

Monday: INSTRUCTIONS: NO WATCH ALLOWED! FOCUS ON THE GOAL OF THE RUN = RECOVERY! GO AS FAR OR SHORT AS YOU NEED, AS FAST OR SLOW AS YOU NEED, WALK OR RUN AS YOU NEED.

Thank goodness for easy, recovery days.  With as stacked as last week was with three 13.1 runs…I was happy to have the chance to rest up a little.  Especially since I had a late night with the Broadway show.  I slept in as much as I could…then got up to go out for an easy run.  The temperatures had dropped into the high 50s.  It was supposedly raining.  It wasn’t.  It was a nice run that morning.  No pushing pace.  I ran faster than I had been in the past…probably because I had no humidity weighing me down.  It was a good morning for a good run.  Even if I wore a hat because of rain and it didn’t rain.  I ended up with just over 5 miles.  No personal training…which was a blessing with the week I had leading into this one.

Tuesday: INSTRUCTIONS: BASE RUN 6-8 MILES – GOAL 7 MILES  + 4-6 STRIDES – EASY EFFORT – TRY NO WATCH AGAIN

On an even more perfect morning temperature-wise, I went out in sleeves and some gloves (if temps are in the 40s or below…gloves always because Raynauds is real friends) and shorts and just let my legs do the talking.  I reminded myself not to push any sort of pace.  Just to go with the flow…stay in control of my breath.  And let this run be the miles I needed that day.  I ended up with 7.5 when I stopped.  Then, I got to add strides on to the end.  Six of them.  And I felt fast and strong and I was fast and strong.  And that’s the bonus of the cooler weather.  When you suffer and die and cry throughout summer as you sweat it out…you fly in the fall.  Hoping this trend continues because there comes a point where it gets too cold for me to function.  And right now…we’re right in my happy place.  Ended with 8 miles for the day.  Also tacked on my additional hip strengthening exercises to the stretches I do every day.

Wednesday: INSTRUCTIONS: TRACK WORKOUT – 1-2 MILE WU; 7 X 800M W/ EQUAL RECOVERY; 1-2 MILE CD – AFTER 1-2 MILE WU, DO SOME DYNAMIC DRILLS TO LOOSEN UP FURTHER. THIS IS A REPEAT OF A PIOR WORKOUT. WE ARE SHOOTING FOR AROUND 3:30 FOR THE *ON* TIME (~7 MIN PACE) AND THEN RECOVERY CAN BE LIGHT BUT NEEDS TO BE JOGGING, NOT WALKING.

Wednesday was a bad day.  Not that anything tragic or life changing happened.  But I had a double digit run on the schedule, so I had to go to bed SUPER early on Tuesday.  Then, I had to wake up every super earlier than usual on Wednesday morning.  I wasn’t loving it.  Not at all.  I also wasn’t loving the 800s that were scheduled.  I will gladly and happily force myself to do speed work when asked, but I LOATHE 800s.  The instant I got up, I went and made my Maurten 160 Drink Mix up and began to drink it while I was getting dressed, putting in contacts, all the things. I got my hydration bag ready to go and I headed out for my speed work.  And then…my stomach decided to be on the fritz all morning.  I just think it doesn’t like having things fed to it at 3 am before pushing a fast pace.  At all.  So, had to stop a couple of times for that, but felt better and rounded it out.  I also feel that EVERY FREAKIN’ TIME I have speed work, the road I cross on the stretch that I run for it (no track…because this area is the worst) has the most traffic of any other day, no matter the hour.  UGH!  But, you know, maybe it wasn’t perfect, but I hit my paces, recovered properly and wrapped it up with stretching.  I also had personal training with Corey that afternoon.  He, thankfully, kept it basic…challenging, but nothing too intense. And for that, I appreciate him.  Also…Annie Mays didn’t have soft pretzels…so lunch was a no-go.  Had to improvise.  It just wasn’t my day.

Thursday: INSTRUCTIONS: NO WATCH ALLOWED! FOCUS ON THE GOAL OF THE RUN = RECOVERY! GO AS FAR OR SHORT AS YOU NEED, AS FAST OR SLOW AS YOU NEED, WALK OR RUN AS YOU NEED.

I love a good recovery run.  We were back in the 50s this morning, so I kept the short sleeves and shorts, but ditched the gloves before I even went out the door.  My goal, once again, was just to let my body do what it needed to that morning.  I know that I have a pretty stacked weekend, and one rest day (which will involve the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular at Iroquois Park), I didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize how my body would feel going into those.  I figured 3-5 miles would be perfect.  I felt good out there. My turnover felt amazing.  My breath stayed controlled.  And I finished up with 5 miles.  Went inside and did my second day of additional hip strengtheners with my stretches.  Had to walk a bit farther to the office due to Harvest Homecoming happening downtown.  And spent a good chunk of my morning standing in line for Masonic Donuts (which I can’t eat, but my office loves them…except for this year…or something).  But, it was a good way to head into the weekend.

Friday: REST/RECOVERY

Full rest day!  YAY!!  I slept over 8 hours.  Got up to shower.  Did two rounds of my stretches and my foam rolling, just because I was unsure of when/if I would be able to get to it that night with the Pumpkin Walk happening.  I went into work…favorite t-shirt day…ready to sit and stand at my desk to get work done, go pick up Amanda (roomie’s sister), go to get Indian food for dinner, then head (weather permitting) to Iroquois Park to do the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular.  It was a bit chilly, but the worst of the rain happened while we were under the canopy of the trees.  It was a good way to wrap up the evening.  I went right to bed when I got home.

Saturday: RACE FOR THE CURE 5K – YOU CAN APPROACH THIS HOWEVER YOU WOULD LIKE OTHER THAN PROBABLY NOT A FULL OUT EFFORT

Let me preface this by saying that this didn’t feel like an all-out effort.  Not one bit.  In fact, for the first two miles of the race, I couldn’t feel my feet because I was so cold.  Most of this will be covered in my official blog on the race itself, but I felt good this morning.  I had a fantastic group of people running on my team for my mom, Dottie Brady, showing their support and honoring her and others in her family.  I love all of them for showing up and running for this cause.  So, I ended up averaging a 7:07 mile for the 3.03 (the course was either short or the GPS cut out when we went through the tunnel twice) miles, finishing third overall and first female.  I had a sweet woman come over when I finished and just gave me a hug and I loved her for that.  I needed it.  It was an emotional race and I felt so supported by my friends and team.  And for that…I am thankful.  So, it may appear I went all-out, but honestly, I had more in the tank.  But tomorrow’s run will be a good judgement on how I ran this one.  I felt amazing the entire time…and the cheers and shouts from not just my team members, but also the people along the course and in the race was uplifting.  What an amazing race!

Sunday: 18-22 MILE LONG RUN – EASY PACE – DON’T PUSH IT! AND PRACTICE RACE-DAY FUELING STRATEGY.

To be honest…I expected today to suck.  I really did.  After the 5K, a day full of grocery shopping, grabbing “magic sushi” during Harvest Homecoming (traffic and parking nightmare, friends), and a chilly Louisville City FC soccer match…I didn’t have high hopes for this run.  I set an alarm for 5:15 am.  Got up, put in contacts, ate breakfast, stretched, hydrated, got dressed, drank my Maurten 320 Drink Mix, and got ready to head out as it was getting light out.  It was 36° outside, so I put on bright yellow capris and a long sleeve shirt with gloves.  And I realize I would have been cold for a few miles, but I probably would have been fine in short sleeves and shorts with the gloves.  Eventually.  I wasn’t pushing pace at all, and I was doing what I could to make it so that when I did my Thanksgiving course at the end of the run, I could head straight home.  The cooler weather was nice, but I did feel overdressed after a time.  I rolled up my sleeves halfway through the run.  I did practice my fueling…and I definitely have that dialed in for race day.  YAY!  And I felt strong, even on the super hilly back half of this run.  I finished it up, feeling confident about the race four weeks from yesterday.  Honestly, I’m as ready as I’m going to be.  Now it’s just a matter of taking care of myself through taper.  I’ve been a bit sluggish the rest of today…but aside from that, feeling good.  Happy that taper has officially (for real this time) started!  YAY!

Bonus Sunday inspiration was Kipchoge’s world record 1:59:40 marathon finish on Saturday…and Sunday was also the 6th Anniversary (to the day) of me running my first marathon and getting my BQ.  I hope it serves for further inspiration and motivation as the weeks wrap up and I head into my 16th marathon.

I have no idea what my week will look like, save for a half marathon on Saturday of this coming week.  I anticipate that I’ll be told to take this one easy and not push the pace.  And that’s fine by me.  I’d like to just cruise a half marathon because I’m tired.  I’ve had some pretty crazy weeks these past two weeks, and I’m ready to start seeing some downtime.

Who else is happy to hit taper time?  Anyone else running Urban Bourbon next Saturday?

Product Review: Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Cinnamon Sugar Bagels

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Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Cinnamon Sugar Bagel

Product: Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Cinnamon Sugar Bagels – $11/pack; $3/bagel

Last one.  This is the final flavor that Annie May’s Sweet Cafe has put out in bagels.  Four very amazing flavors.  And the last one down the pipe…was one of my favorites…

Cinnamon Sugar!

First of all…you give me anything cinnamon and I’m going to be in love with it.  Pure, real cinnamon is one of God’s little gifts to everyone…sweet and a little spicy.  It’s perfect.  Add sugar to the mix and throw it on top of something edible…and you’ve won me over for life.

Cinnamon Rolls…Soft Pretzels…Cinnamon Rolls…Snickerdoodles…Cinnamon Rolls…(can you tell my favorite cinnamon treat?)…and now…

BAGELS!!

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So…in the weeks leading up to this…the culmination of all things Allergen Free Bagel-y…I have reviewed Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Everything, Onion, and Plain Bagels.  All of which have been amazing.  But for the record…the Everything ones are off the chain!!

To kick this blog off…let me say that the Cinnamon Sugar flavor is my second favorite that Annie May’s offers.  For real!

For one thing…hello…it has two of my favorite words in the name…CINNAMON and SUGAR!  So, while bagels are normally viewed as a savory treat…there are sweet variations on them as well.  This is the only sweet option currently offered by Annie May’s…but she hits it out of the ballpark.

I may have mentioned a few times before that I grew up in the great land of New York.

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New Yorkers LOVE their bagels.  It’s…like the state’s native food.  Or something.  It’s close enough to being the state’s native food.  Let’s roll with it, okay?  So, I grew up on bagels.  You can probably call me an expert on bagels.  Professor Bagel.

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Alright…enough fun with the gifs…time to get serious about some serious eats.

Annie May’s Cinnamon Sugar Bagel is the epitome of the sweet bagel.  Honestly.  Back when her soft pretzels first hit on Wednesdays, the Cinnamon Sugar was my jam.  I love a good sugar rush as much as the next person.  But, the key here is balance and Annie May’s definitely strikes it with just the right amount of cinnamon sugar topping off these new bakery offerings.

LOVE.  LOVE is what goes into these.  Simple.  True.  Passionate.  Love of all things that the gluten-free community SHOULD have in their life…and not simply from a big corporation in the local freezer section of another big chain store.

I mean…these are kept frozen since no preservatives and all that…but…they are nothing like the big box stuff you can pretty much buy anywhere now.  I know for a fact that Annie May puts a lot of hard work into any new product she is thinking about offering.  I also know, because I’ve done this a few times, that bagels are a pain the ass to make.  So, the fact that she has added these to her bakery menu has me dancing with joy.  My freezer will never be without.  I will purchase one of each whenever I am running low.  Mark my words.

And if that isn’t a good enough testament to how good these are…let me specifically focus on the Cinnamon Sugar flavor so it gets it’s moment to shine.

I went a bit off the script with these bagels today.  Usually, plain cream cheese with my own smattering of cinnamon sugar on top would have happened.  But…I didn’t want to pay for really good vegan cream cheese (that stuff is expensive)…but I did have a little bit of my Boar’s Head Dark Chocolate Hummus left in the container…so I chose that for my topping this time.  My roommate’s version was topped with Earth Balance Soy Free Buttery Spread and then some Crofters Organic Strawberry Spread. Both options worked beautifully with the bagel at hand.

This bagel is everything.  Toasty on the outside.  Chewy on the inside.  Sweet to the taste.  Yet still gives that whole bagel vibe…so it’s not just a confused doughnut.  It’s basically cinnamon toast taken to the next level.  Because…cinnamon toast is one of the best things to eat in the history of ever.  And these…these are just like biting into that.  Topped off however you like, these make a delicious addition to any breakfast table.  Mine toasted up beautifully and I LOVED the dessert hummus smothered on top.  It brought an extra added kick of goodness to an already perfect bite.  Cinnamon…sugar…chocolate.  I see nothing wrong with this picture.

Have you been intrigued yet following these blogs on these bagels?  Have I mentioned that all four varieties are FREE of the TOP 9 FOOD ALLERGIES??!!  How about that?  Don’t you want to try them for yourself?

Trust me.  You really need to.

Remember, if you aren’t lucky enough to live in Louisville, Kentucky (like I am…because this bakery has been with me for ALL of my Celiac journey…we’ve grown together), have no fear…Annie May’s Sweet Cafe does ship…and yes…they are shipping the bagels.

Follow this link!!  And be sure to check out all the other stuff they offer as well!

But, I highly encourage you…get the bagels!

As I stated before, they do offer them at the bakery as well…and if you don’t want to buy a pack of four…you can buy them individually there and get them topped with Earth Balance, jam (raspberry or strawberry), or plain cream cheese.  I think they are currently offering them in-house on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  So, you may want to call ahead and make sure they have them.  But…you can just go and hope for the best.  If nothing else, you’ll walk out of there with something tasty.

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Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Cinnamon Sugar Bagel topped with Boar’s Head Dark Chocolate Hummus

Product Review: Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Plain Bagels

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Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Plain Bagel

Product: Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Plain Bagels – $11/pack; $3/bagel

The ultimate test of anything…is to test the standard.  In the case of bagels…PLAIN.  It doesn’t get any easier or normal than the every day, run-of-the-mill plain bagel.  And, as one of the four flavors that Annie May’s Sweet Cafe now offers…Plain is, as it should be, one of them.

I have previously blogged about the Everything Bagels and the Onion Bagels.  So, if you missed those…check them out.

Bagels, to this former New Yorker…are the ultimate food.  Breakfast…lunch…dinner.  I could eat them all day.  First of all…MMMM…CARBS.  Second of all, for the most part, they are pretty versatile.  You can eat them with Earth Balance, or Cream Cheese, make them into a sandwich…or a pizza…

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That’s the great thing about bagels.  ESPECIALLY…Plain Bagels.  It’s like staring down a blank canvas.  You can go sweet or savory with it…and that’s why they are magical.  And wonderful.

And, when you get one of the NEW Plain Bagels at Annie May’s Sweet Cafe…you are also getting one that is Top 9 Allergen Free.  How about that?!  So before any further discussion…let me reiterate one little thing…

Annie May’s bagels are not pre-cut.  Never fear…this is nothing that a good serrated knife can’t fix.  Slicing a bagel isn’t hard.  Make sure, if you’re starting from frozen, thaw the bagels out and then slice through them.  As a pro bagel slicer…start where the bagel is a little bit thinner and slice through that end first.  It makes for a much cleaner and even cut.  Pro tip!

Now…let’s dig in…

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The plain bagel is the simplest of pleasures when it comes to the bagel.  You can’t go wrong with it.  But it has to be made well.  That’s the one caveat I have.  Call me a bagel snob if you must…but a bagel must not just look like a bagel…but taste like a bagel.  And if you can’t do a simple plain bagel…well…just stop trying to make them.

Annie May is fantastic when it comes to the products she serves because if she doesn’t like it or if she isn’t happy with it…it’s not going in the bakery case or freezer or up on the Web site for order.  Talk about good quality control.  As a consumer, I appreciate that as it means I am guaranteed a tried and true product.  YAY!

I eat breakfast at work…because it keeps me from snacking so much if I have a later breakfast.  Seriously, I used to have 3 snacks a day…so shifting meals worked for me.  I have to take a few precautionary measures to ensure I still eat safely…but I’ve manged so far.  My office has a toaster oven in the kitchen and I bring my own aluminum foil to use since I avoid the communal toaster completely, because…well…cross-contamination.

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As was true with the Everything Bagel and the Onion Bagel…the Plain Bagel toasted up to a golden perfection.  I could tell as I pulled the foil that cradled these little babies from the toaster oven that they weren’t going to disappoint.  The outside toasted up to get a little crispy…and the surface got that gorgeous golden color and crispy…but it still had the fluffy, chewy middle, which is definitely what makes a bagel so…incredible.  It’s not just bread…it’s so much more than bread.

As a traditionalist, I schmeared this bagel with the new Kite Hill Jalapeno Cream Cheese.  I love Kite Hill because it has a whipped texture, but packs amazing traditional flavor.  It is almond milk based, so if nuts, specifically almonds, are a problem…try other options on the market.  Thankfully, we live in a time where the market is inundated with dairy-free products so there are numerous options to fit your dietary needs.  And…if dairy isn’t an issue for you or if you aren’t vegan…well…grab yourself some of that Philadelphia Cream Cheese and go to town.  But…it’s Kite Hill in my home.  Because YUMMY!

So now that we’re properly dressed…let’s take a bite, shall we?

Sometimes bagels can just feel heavy.  These are perfect.  Just the right amount of bread to get you to that right level of fullness.  These toasted up beautifully.  If you have had the chance to taste and partake of Annie May’s dinner rolls, sandwich buns or soft pretzels…these are very reminiscent of those.  And Annie May’s Sweet Cafe, to this day, has my heart when it comes to gluten free (and vegan) breads!  The same is holding true with their new bagels.  Plain bagels…they are simple…but delightful and perfect to fit whatever you’re feeling when it comes to breakfast.  OR…make it a sandwich.  If you’re not a vegan, put an egg in between it with some greens.  Or…top it with marinara and vegan mozzarella cheese shreds.  Bagel pizzas really are life.

Plain bagels can satisfy any desire or crave…and these are no exception.  I probably ate mine way too fast…but I was enamored with it.  I was dreaming up other ways to eat them…rather than the standard way.  Why not?  I do my best thinking when I’m eating delicious food!  If you haven’t gotten yourself around to purchasing these bagels…get on it.  Now.

And, remember, if you aren’t lucky enough to live in Louisville, Kentucky (like I am…because this bakery has been with me for ALL of my Celiac journey…we’ve grown together), have no fear…Annie May’s Sweet Cafe does ship…and yes…they are shipping the bagels.

Follow this link!!  And be sure to check out all the other stuff they offer as well!

But, I highly encourage you…get the bagels!

As I stated before, they do offer them at the bakery as well…and if you don’t want to buy a pack of four…you can buy them individually there and get them topped with Earth Balance, jam (raspberry or strawberry), or plain cream cheese.  I think they are currently offering them in-house on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  So, you may want to call ahead and make sure they have them.  But…you can just go and hope for the best.  If nothing else, you’ll walk out of there with something tasty.

Stay tuned…because next week…I will delve into their sweeter version of their bagels…the Cinnamon Sugar.  But…today…it’s all about plain.  But there is nothing ordinary about these.  They are definitely extraordinary.

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Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Plain Bagels schmeared with Kite Hill Jalapeno Cream Cheese

Product Review: Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Onion Bagels

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Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Onion Bagel

Product: Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Onion Bagels – $11/pack; $3/bagel

Remember last week when I shared that Annie May’s Sweet Cafe is now making bagels?  You know…bagels that are Top 9 Allergen Free?  Remember?  You should, because I did an extensive review of one of the four flavors that they offer – the Everything Bagel.

I’ve mentioned numerous times that I grew up in New York, so the bagel was a breakfast staple in my home.  And when I was diagnosed with Celiac…it took forever to find a bagel that actually felt like a bagel to me.  It’s been a long journey.  And while some have exceeded the bar, others have fallen short.

Well, those didn’t last long in my freezer, so today I prepped the Onion Bagel for a try.

For those of you who haven’t tried one yet or didn’t make note…Annie May’s bagels are not pre-cut.  Never fear…this is nothing that a good serrated knife can’t fix.  Slicing a bagel isn’t hard.  Make sure, if you’re starting from frozen, thaw the bagels out and then slice through them.  As a pro bagel slicer…start where the bagel is a little bit thinner and slice through that end first.  It makes for a much cleaner and even cut.  Pro tip!

Now…let’s dig in…

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I used to hate onion.  Hate it.  Until I was a teenager and I realized that the bite actually brought great flavor to thing.  Guess my pallet turned on around the age of 13.  But after that, my life was filled with onion.  Onions aren’t for everyone…but I am a believer in the power of the onion.

And the power of the bagel.

Especially an onion bagel!

So, per the usual routine…this morning I sliced the bagel I thawed in half and brought it to work with me.  I bring my own aluminum foil and use the toaster oven (not the toaster) to avoid cross-contamination.  So…these toast in the toaster oven in the kitchen.  It also makes the office smell really good anytime I toast up bagels in there.  Especially flavored bagels.  Mmmm.  (No joke…I just had three people walk into the kitchen while I was waiting for them to finish and commented on how good they smelled and warned me not to turn my back!)

Once toasted…cream cheese had to happen.  A proper bagel has a healthy schmear of cream cheese or Earth Balance (or butter if you aren’t dairy-free).

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Actually, Scully, it was VEGAN cream cheese.  I really like Kite Hill because it has SUCh good flavor and is almost whipped in texture.  Love a light (get it) and airy texture to my cream cheese.  Not traditional, I know…but when you can’t do dairy…you do vegan cream cheese.  Kite Hill is by far the best, but it is made from almond milk…so if you can’t do almonds…you must find a different path.  But there are lots of options out there these days!

I happen to have (and love) the new Kite Hill Jalapeno Cream Cheese.  It’s delightful.

Okay now.  Settle in.  Take a deep breath.  Savor the aroma….and then take a bite.

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LOTS of flavor!  The onion is there, but it won’t overpower the bagel itself.  It’s got just enough punch to let you know that it’s there, but not enough to make you reach for the breath mint afterwards.  I loved how well these bagels toasted up…browning up on the outside and on the sliced part…but remaining soft and chewy in the center.  It made it the perfect vehicle for the cream cheese.  Sometime bagels fall apart when you go to schmear them.  Not these.  Let me tell you, I also love the way the onion is incorporated, because it didn’t burn in the toaster oven and become bitter.  It toasted and became sweet and savory all at once.  Simply delicious.  Down to the last bite.

Remember, if you aren’t lucky enough to live in Louisville, Kentucky (like I am…because this bakery has been with me for ALL of my Celiac journey…we’ve grown together), have no fear…Annie May’s Sweet Cafe does ship…and yes…they are shipping the bagels.

Follow this link!!  And be sure to check out all the other stuff they offer as well!

But, I highly encourage you…get the bagels!

As I stated before, they do offer them at the bakery as well…and if you don’t want to buy a pack of four…you can buy them individually there and get them topped with Earth Balance, jam (raspberry or strawberry), or plain cream cheese.  I think they are currently offering them in-house on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  So, you may want to call ahead and make sure they have them.  But…you can just go and hope for the best.  If nothing else, you’ll walk out of there with something tasty.

Onion bagels…you’re my jam.  Or my cream cheese.  Or my breakfast.

Annie May’s Sweet Cafe continues to make my gluten-free world a happier and more local place!

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Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Onion Bagels schmeared with Kite Hill Jalapeno Cream Cheese

Product Review: Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Everything Bagels

bagels01Product: Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Everything Bagels – $11/pack; $3/bagel

Today…February 9, 2018…is National Bagel Day.  I didn’t know this until JUST NOW (thanks Instagram)!

Grab your serrated knives, lovelies!!  And your toasters.  And your topping to schmear on liberally because…NEWS FLASH:

*ANNIE MAY’S SWEET CAFE IS NOW OFFERING BAGELS!*

That makes this displaced New York girl want to do a happy dance!  Like…do a good old fashioned subway terminal happy dance.  As any New Yorker is wont to do every now and again.  Especially on a good day.

nychappydanceJust like that.  OH YEAH!

Annie May’s Sweet Cafe announced this last Saturday on their Instagram, noting that bagels will be offered at the bakery on Tuesdays and Thursdays…or for preorder.  And since I knew I’d be there Wednesday, I put in an order for a pack of each flavor!  Because…as I am a New York girl through-and-through…if bagels were happening at my local Gluten Free Bakery…then they were just going to happen to end up in my fridge…in my toaster oven…and in my belly!

foodislifeOn Wednesday, the winter weather was a no-show, so I happily skipped into the bakery to pick up my Soft Pretzel Wednesday order (this is a real thing, friends!)…grab some macarons (because…reasons)…and pick up my bagel order.  I was handed the bagels first off…and I may or may not have bounced them in my arms like a newborn baby.

These things happen.

I’m not ashamed.

SOMEHOW…I managed to hold off breaking into the bagels until Friday.  So I went TWO days without touching them.  It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life.  But this morning…

gameonGAME ON!!

I thawed out two of the Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Everything Bagels (because I’m nice and share with my roomie…and she may have bought them for me too…so there is that…)

cashAnyway…I thawed out the bagels and then got out my serrated knife to easily slice them in half.  I could tell how good these were going to be simply by slicing into them.  I mean, undo the plastic and get a whiff of that garlic from the everything spices and it’s heaven.  And that’s before things even get toasty!

I tossed mine in the oven (I don’t actually own a toaster) for about 12 minutes and they came out PERFECT.  Lightly toasted so that the outside got just enough crisp on it and then the middle was still soft and chewy and perfect.

Yep…these are perfect.

Also…the kitchen smelled AMAZING as these were toasting.  Hello delicious, flavorful, aromatic topping!  I was more than ready to dive right in…but being a proper bagel lover…no bagel is complete without a schmear of something good.  Traditionally…cream cheese.  I have a stash of different varieties in my fridge.  Today…I used the last of the Daiya Garden Vegetable Cream Cheese and my roomie got the last of the Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese.  The toasty bagels came out looking all golden and amazing and each half got a healthy schmear of the vegan cream cheese goodness.

Time to dig in!

Sometimes bagels can be dense and immense and heavy.  Especially gluten free ones.  Either that or they are packed with fillers that make them…not even a bagel anymore, in my opinion (most store-bought ones are this way).  Annie May is a perfectionist and she doesn’t add something to her bakery menu unless it meets her quality standards.

These surpassed standards.  I loved that these bagels were filling without being too much.  I love that these bagels are made with real ingredients.  I love that these bagels are light and have that perfect crust and that chewy inside (even after slicing and toasting).  And the real stand-out for the Everything flavor of the bagels…is that Everything Topping.  THAT…was a flavor powerhouse.  To me…no other gluten free (or regular back when I could eat them) Everything Bagel has come close to this level of flavor.  And I was dancing in my chair out of pure joy with every bite.  I savored it, rather than inhale it.  I wanted to take my time…chew…savor…enjoy.  They were a standard bagel size…they were everything I want in a bagel…but without the blandness that you can find in bagels.  Bread is amazing.  Bagels are better.

And these bagels…are my new favorite things in life.

And if you aren’t lucky enough to live in Louisville, Kentucky (like I am…because this bakery has been with me for ALL of my Celiac journey…we’ve grown together), have no fear…Annie May’s Sweet Cafe does ship…and yes…they are shipping the bagels.

Follow this link!!  And be sure to check out all the other stuff they offer as well!

But definitely go for the bagels!

As I stated above, they do offer them at the bakery as well…and if you don’t want to buy a pack of four (I understand you the least)…you can buy them individually there and get them topped with Earth Balance, jam (raspberry or strawberry), or plain cream cheese.

And your life will come full circle and be complete.  And you will live happily ever after.

If you get nothing else from this post…understand that YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED!!  Local peeps…get on over there.  These bagels are free of the top 9 allergens, they are vegan, they are super yummy…they are round with a hole in the middle.

I’m already planning on restocking my freezer and I haven’t even polished off one pack yet!

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Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Everything Bagels topped with Daiya Garden Vegetable Cream Cheese are like a warm hug!