Glass City’s Savage 5K – Toledo, OH (April 27, 2019)

 

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Me after finishing Glass City’s Savage 5K – Toledo, OH

Race: Glass City’s Savage 5K

Place: Toledo, Ohio

Date: April 27, 2019

Time: 24:19

Friends, I did not come all the way up to Toledo for this 5K.  In fact, this race was my shakeout run.  Tomorrow, the Glass City Marathon runs, in winter-like conditions, and I am not happy about it.  I didn’t train all winter to not have a beautiful day of running.  Looks like it will be 30 degrees at the start tomorrow with winds between 16-20 mph.  And that sucks.  And it has been festering in my brain since the weather changed as I was packing and then again as I was traveling up to Toledo.

I had a lot going on this past week.  Between some training runs and cross-training.  Between work and errands.  I was squeezing in baking Lemon Blossoms for the MRTT/SRTT tent at the finish line of the KDF Marathon/minimarathon.  I was getting a sports massage to get my legs primed for this effort on Sunday.  And I was having a late dinner with my friends Melissa, Paul, and the one and only baby Carrick, the night before I had to get in a car with my roommate and make the long-ass drive from Louisville up to Toledo.

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Picking up my Savage 5K race big & stadium blanket

Thankfully, Cathy handled most of my packing.  On Friday morning, I simply had to stretch, foam roll, make breakfast, get together road snacks and hydration…and yes…RACE FUEL…pack a few extra things plus toiletries in my suitcase…before taking everything down to the car, taking out the garbage, making a quick stop at Kroger, and hitting the road.  It sounds like a lot.  It was.  But I enjoyed the dinner out with my friends, and despite getting home late that night, I knew I could sleep in a bit as we were hoping to get on the road by 9:30 at the latest.  We managed.  YAY!

But it was to be a pretty rainy drive and Mother Nature didn’t disappoint.  In fact, not only did we get rain, we got about three traffic accidents that really slowed our progress into Toledo.  And the first one ended up with us taking a major detour that was out of our way, but got us where we needed to be quicker than sitting in the long line of traffic would have.  But the second one, we actually had to sit through and just creep through.  I had to really pee at this point (remember…HYDRATION!), and now I was stuck in traffic for who knows how long.  We got through that one and we managed to get to a rest stop 10 miles up the road.  YAY!  But soon we were sitting in traffic again…yes…AGAIN.  And we hadn’t even hit Dayton yet.  It. Was. A. Mess.

But…we did finally make it in to Toledo and to our hotel, the Home2Suites by Hilton.  It’s a nice little place, with a full fridge, microwave, and lots of room and space.  The beds are quite comfortable too.  We hauled our luggage in and were told that some sports teams were coming in this weekend too…looks like some kids soccer teams…but we were staying through Monday, so it really didn’t affect us at all.  We unpacked our stuff and took a moment to relax.  The expo didn’t open until 4 pm, so we had a bit of time.  But we wanted to get there close to opening, so we did eventually meander out and head down to the University of Toledo campus.  On the way, we noted that we were close to both a Kroger and a Target…just in case we needed to make any sort of stops.

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Picking up my Mercy Health Glass City Marathon packet and half-zip.

The expo itself was held in the Savage Hall Sports Arena.  It isn’t a large expo, but it was big enough that we walked through a couple times.  But, we made our first official stop all the way at the back…at the packet pick-up.  I had to get both my Savage 5K (my shakeout run) packet and my Mercy Health Glass City Marathon race packet as well.  This was very seamless and easy, to be honest.  I had my bib number in my e-mail and showed my ID.  Simple.  The 5K gives you a soft stadium blanket.  You can pay extra for a t-shirt, but why?  Love different race swag.  I got a yellow half-zip for the full marathon and Cathy got her bib for the 5K as well.  With those in hand, we went to have her knees (that had been acting up this past week) taped up by a chiropractor that was there in the expo…and then shopped.  I picked up some gluten-free and vegan protein cookies that were being sold and sampled there.  Really good.  And also got the Glass City Marathon Bondi Band.  We wandered back over to official merch, where I picked up a hoodie and a race t-shirt (compliments of Cathy).  And then we headed out.

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Lots of love to Marco’s Pizza for this gluten-free pizza!!

We, sadly, were having a hard time finding food options for this race for me.  Lots of reviews on Find Me Gluten Free pointed us away from many of the options we had thought about.  But…we passed a Marco’s Pizza on our way to the expo, and I called to see if they did gluten free (the one in New Albany doesn’t, but the one near my parents in Birmingham, AL does…so it was worth a try).  They did…so we decided that we would go ahead and put our trust in Marco’s Pizza for dinner that night.
We ordered a Gluten Free Pizza without cheese, topping it with onions, mushrooms, and banana peppers.  Cathy said she didn’t even miss the cheese when ti came out.  And, the man who took our order, a guy named Davis, basically walked my pizza down the line to make sure there was no cross-contamination.  He was amazing.  And so was the pizza.  We hit up Kroger on our way back to the hotel, picking up some bananas and some gluten-free cookies to have for dessert.  I am a dessert fiend.  I must have dessert.

It was getting late.  So while Cathy showered, I stretched and did my foam rolling before getting settled into my bed while watching Diners, Drive-ins & Dives on Food Network (of course!).  I set an alarm for 6:30 am, since race start wasn’t until 9 am, and we called it a night.

I hate hotel pillows, for the record.  They are always too soft for me.  MEH.  But I slept relatively well, getting up to use the bathroom, do my first round of stretches in the dark, and then get back into bed for about 30 minutes until the alarm went off.

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Had to dress warm because Winter returned to Toledo, Ohio!

We were up and getting ready for the race right on time.  And it didn’t take us too long to get fully dressed and ready to head out the door.  It was 41 degrees, but real feel was 35 degrees.  I opted for capris and a long sleeve shirt for this one.  And gloves, because I have to wear gloves in anything in the 40s and below for temperatures.  I just have to.  We made the short trip down to the race, parking near a parking garage on campus and not too far from the start of the Savage 5K.  I was thinking we’d hang in the car for awhile, but we ended up throwing on some garbage bags and making the trek to the start area.  After freezing for a bit, I commented that we still had an hour to go before the start, so we went over to the Savage Hall Sports Arena to sit down and stay warm prior to the race.  We had our photo taken on our way up the stairs, but ducked inside and took a seat on the stairs to wait until it was a little closer to race start.  I ate my banana with 30 minutes to go.

We did meander out 15 minutes before the race start and went to get into our corrals.  I was in Corral A and Cathy was in Corral D.  I kept my trash bag on until about 5 minutes before the race.  I had set my Garmin to give me some certain strides for the last mile so I pulled up that workout and then set my watch to start the workout.  A few people spoke before the race start, and a blessing was given as well.  And then…at about 9:01 am…we were on our way.

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Cathy & I before heading out for the Savage 5K

As I think I mentioned above, I was using this run as a shake-out leading into tomorrow’s race.  So, I held myself back and just ran comfortably…not pushing my pace or effort on any hills.  I felt really good, which was surprising after sitting in the car for so long the day before.  I just sort of settled in at a comfortable pace, and focused on just not pushing it.  There was a bit of a hill heading into the first mile marker, but I crested it by not pushing effort or pace, and felt like I was holding back and doing a good job.  I was under an 8 min pace.  WHOOPS.

Mile 2 went a bit better as I reined it back a bit.  This was a fun mile, as we got 2 water stop options and a dash through the Greek Village near campus.  It was really nice.  And as I turned back onto main roads, I passed a cute mother/young daughter team that was running and the mom was just being very encouraging to her little girl.  It was adorable.  Back onto the streets and back through another water stop opportunity, and I was heading into Mile 3.

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Me & Cathy after finishing the Savage 5K in Toledo, OH

My watch was set up to do 80 meter pushes with equal recovery for strides.  But…my watch just beeped at me like after 1 second of running and then settled in to the extra mile I tagged on.  Glad I did that.  But now I was going manual.  Which did help to slow me down some.  I would run for .05 mile and then ease off for the same amount of time.  And I did that close to the 10 times I was supposed to (after the Garmin fuck up), and just pressed the lap button.  My data was already screwed up, but I wanted to give something to my coach to look at.  After I got that last mile…I pressed it in to a strong finish, which happens inside the University of Toledo’s Glass Bowl Stadium.  I did a fast 10 miler which finished on a stadium field just like this, so that was sort of fun.  I threw my hands up as I crossed the finish and my name was announced and went to collect my medal and some water.

Now, I was waiting for Cathy to finish her race, but we weren’t allowed to wait in the finisher’s area.  I moved off to the side, just past the finish line, and waited for her, trying not to freeze.  That’s been the worst part about Cathy now doing my races…that I don’t have warm clothing to slide into at the finish right away.

She came across and I snapped pictures and shouted at her.  She was introducing me to the people she ran with for most of the race.  We took some photos, then headed over to get our Commemorative Glass Mug.  She went to go get beer and I went to get official results.  I couldn’t remember my Athlinks login though, so I ended up just looking it up on the RaceJoy app.  Then we went and got snacks, and Cathy got 2 slices of pizza (she got my slice), which she said was actually really good.

And…to my absolute shock…I came in 2nd in my age group.  What the hell?  I wasn’t even trying.  We didn’t know if I’d get my award there or if it would be mailed, and no one else seemed to know either.  Not even at the Race Info booth inside the expo.  I finally asked back by where we picked up our packets and they actually know.  Awards would be mailed.  YAY!  So, that’s something to look forward to!  We walked through the expo one last time, and Cathy thanked the booth who taped her up because she had a good 5K with their help.  And then we made the cold trek back to the car and headed out.

I needed hot coffee…stat.  So, we headed over to Bigbee Coffee (a local chain in Toledo), where I got a Neapolitan Latte with Almond Milk.  It. Was. EVERYTHING.  If you like Neapolitan ice cream…it tastes exactly like THAT!  Holy crap, it might be my new thing in life. Then I ducked over to Kroger to grab some sushi for a quick lunch and picked up some Pop Chips Nutter Puffs.  Cathy grabbed something from the frozen section for a little bite and her favorite Doritos before we paid and headed back to the hotel.

I showered an climbed onto my bed to work up the race reviews that I now owed the blog.  So here it is!!

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Glass City’s Savage 5K Finisher

So, my official results for Glass City’s Savage 5K are that I finished in 24:19, which was way faster than I intended to run it.  But I honestly held myself back.  Craziness.  I was 91/1212 finishers overall.  I was 16/739 female finishers.  And, as I just mentioned above, I squeaked in a 2/96 in my age division!  WOOT!  If nothing else, I can take that away from this race.

I would do this 5K again in a heartbeat, to be honest!  It’s a fantastic course for a fast race.  So, if you love traveling for 5Ks…or live near Toledo…definitely consider this one!  I’ve had my feet up all afternoon and am preparing to head out to a gluten free deli for dinner in a bit before stretching, foam rolling, and prepping for tomorrow’s marathon.  Think happy thoughts for me, please!

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Fast Freddie’s Festive Five Mile Foot Feast – New Albany, IN (November 22, 2018)

Me heading into the finish line of the 2018 Fast Freddie’s Festive Five-Mile Foot Feast

Race: Fast Freddie’s Festive Five Mile Foot Feast

Place: New Albany, IN

Date: November 22, 2018

Time: 36:54

Every. Year.

Every. Thanksgiving.

I only missed this race in 2015, which made me sad, but at least I went down to the start to cheer on those taking on this challenging course.

The Fast Freddie’s Festive Five Mile Foot Feast is my least stressful race of the year because…it happens right outside my door.  In the weeks leading up to race day, I was figuring I would be running with my friends Michelle and Angela, but they decided to not sign up and to go and run their own little sister run that morning, so now I was back to being on my own.  And coming off of two marathons in 27 days, I wasn’t too sure how my legs would hold up if I was actually racing.

But…as you can see…I was only 12 seconds slower than last year’s race.  I count that as a win.  But we’re not there yet.  Let me first vent just slightly about signing up for this year’s race.

So, last year when I placed in my age division (I was third) in what was my fastest Fast Freddie’s race since I’ve been running them, the organizers said that they didn’t have mugs this year and that next year, age group winners would get a free entry to the race.  I love getting mugs and all, but hey…free race entry.  BOOM.  Excited.  So, when the e-mail came out to register for the 2018 race, I sent a message about how to collect on that free entry. I was told that only AGE GROUP WINNERS (those that came in 1st in their perspective age groups), would actually be eligible for that free race entry promised the year before.  I was actually livid…because last year I ran my heart out…I ran fast…and the fastest I ever had on that course…and I didn’t have a mug or a free race entry to show for it.  MEH. I think that’s why it took me to the very last minute to actually register this year, meaning I had to purchase the race shirt separately instead of having it included in the registration.  Oh well.  I mean, the proceeds for this race goes to a fantastic cause, but I was not happy going into this year’s registration.

But I registered.  So…I would definitely race.

The initial plan was to not race this one, as I was just a couple of weeks off of a marathon (Indy Monumental…SO MUCH LOVE!)…so, I had discussed running this with my friends Michelle and Angela…but they opted to not run this year and do their own run earlier that morning.  So…I decided that I would just run this however felt comfortable to me.

The day before Thanksgiving, my parents were coming into town again.  My roomie and I left work and headed over to the 4-H Fairgrounds to get my race bib and purchase a shirt before it got too busy (and being that I missed registration with a shirt, there was no guarantee that they would still have the size I needed).  I got my bib number and went to get the shirt.  That worked out.  I still wasn’t sure how I would tackle the race this year, but at least I had the shirt with my name on the back of it from the previous year’s race (the top 500 finishers get their name on the shirt).

My parents arrived and we all opted to go to Dragon King’s Daughter for some dinner.  We sat in the bar so as not to have to wait for a table…and that worked out just fine.  I got my sushi (which worked some major magic last year), the Green Acres Roll and the Veggie Roll.  And then, after eating, we returned home to start some of the prep for the big meal the following day.  My mom and I prepped dessert and a few other of the side dishes and appetizers before settling in for the evening, putting our feet up, talking, laughing, and watching YouTube videos.

Finally pinned up for the race, since I forgot the bib before heading out.

My alarm went off early on Thanksgiving morning.  I knew it was cold out, but I had no outfit picked out for the race this year.  Nothing.  I was feeling really underprepared and underwhelmed by the whole thing.  I did my stretches until other people began to stir.  Breakfast was served up…some eggs and toast for those not running.  I had my protein shake.  After that, I decided it was time to maybe figure out something to wear. I managed to get dressed in a crazy amount of colors, nothing matching, just in time to head out into the cold morning air and head across the street to get ready for the start of the race.  It was here that I realized that waiting to pick out my outfit was enough of a distraction that I forgot to pin my bib on.  Whoops.  Cathy and I sent my parents on while we hurried back up to the apartment to remedy this issue.

We made one small circuit, sort of just looking for anyone I recognized.  I didn’t see anyone immediately, but people were starting to line up in the streets or do their strides.  So, I went to take a spot near the front. There are A LOT of fast people in this race, but I also know that there is no actual timing mat down at the start of the race, so everyone’s chip gets activated at the same time at the start, so the closer I am to the actual start line, the more accurate my finish time.

Me and my cheer squad! My dad, my mom, and my roommate!

This year, the starting whistle was going to be done by the people who live in the house next to the fairgrounds. Fred, the organizer, said that for YEARS now, runners have trampled through their yard and never once did they ever complain.  So…with that, we got the “Runners Set….” And the whistle blew.

I took off quick, having practiced a bit on the course in the weeks leading into Thanksgiving.  I run this course often as it is challenging, but handy 5 miler right out my front door.  So, I know the hills that slow me down and when I need to conserve energy to tackle them.  Starting off, I always get passed up by a lot of people.  Most notably this year was a woman who was running with a belt that held her bib on around her waist, except it had slid down to just above her knees…and if that was me, I would have to fix it and pull it up, but she just kept going.  I mean, she was running faster than me with it like that…so…I mean…if it works.  I did pass her on a downhill and when she passed me after the turn into the first mile marker, it seemed she had pulled it back up around her waist. I never saw her again.

I always get a traditional picture with Santa at this race! This year, I managed it before I ran.

There were a few people lining Mt. Tabor road as we raced down one side of it.  That is always a nice treat, and usually helps to get me through the rollers that are part of the course at that point.  I made the turn onto Grant Line Road, knowing that once I turned to climb into the park, it would get harder. My legs didn’t feel fresh, but they weren’t heavy either, but I kept pushing them to go…and that got really challenging on that hill to reach Mile 3 in Sam Peden Community Park.  I passed the water stop at the fire house to really just focus on my climb.  The hill is steady, long, but not incredibly steep.  It just feels like one of those hills that keeps going.  And when I run it during training runs, it often means I pause at the top to give myself a pep talk to finish off the run.  No time for the pep talk during the race.  I hit Mile 3, my slowest of the race this year (I think every year), and continued to hit the climbs and downhills that Schell Lane gives runners.  I appreciated the people who were blasting Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run” on this road.  That made me smile and continue to press on.

While the downhills are nice, we make just as many climbs heading into Mile 4.  The reward is that once you get up that last steep hill at the end of the road and turn onto Daisy Lane, you get a nice, long downhill.  I let my legs carry me down that hill, noted the time on the clock…I wasn’t too far off the year before…so, I decided to push it as much as I possibly could to the finish line.  One mile to go!

There were some people at the corner of Daisy and Green Valley, and they were blaring Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.”  I loved it.  I did what I could to pick it up, playing a bit of back and forth with some runners as we could taste the finish line coming up.  I was elated to make the turn back into the 4-H Fairgrounds.  My parents were ringing cowbells, screaming, and just joining Cathy in all the finish line screaming that she is famous for.  It was great.  I crossed the finish line, feeling like I gave all I could that morning.  Nothing left.  Marathons do that to you…and I was still basically in recovery mode at that point.

My time: an exact match of my 2013 race time…which prior to last year, was my fastest time on the course.  2013 was also when I was pretty much in my best shape ever for running…so this is a win.  For sure.  While results were getting ready to be posted, I went back out to the road to look for and cheer in my friends.  I knew that Kelly, Rosie, Leah, Paul and Melissa were out there, along with other people I knew from the gym, or from just being in the area or previous jobs.  So, I had a blast spotting them, cheering in people as they neared the finish line, and just encouraging people into that final turn.

Paul, Melissa and I after the Fast Freddie’s Festive Five-Mile Foot Feast

Once everyone was in, Cathy went to check results, and my age group got super fast. I was 4th in my age division, so instead of sticking around for awards…we opted to head back to the apartment so I could shower and get working on all the dinner stuff for that afternoon’s feast.

SO…here it is.  My official results of the Fast Freddie’s Festive Five Mile Foot Feast this year is that I finished in 36:54…matching my finish time from 2013.  No new PR.  No age group award.  But pretty damn proud of that, given that I had just raced a marathon on November 3rd.  The fact that I came anywhere close to last year’s time was…surprising.  HA!  I was I was 105/790 finishers this year.  I was the 20th female to cross the finish line.  And I was 4th in my age division. To be fair…those who came in ahead of me kicked my ass time-wise. Fast race…and fast people in that 35-39 AG for sure. I’m very proud of this finish and happy with how it all came out.  And that’s all I can ask for at the end of the day.  Especially since I had no intention of racing this one this year.

We Are The Champions…Again!

If you know anything about me…you’ll know that I am a HUGE soccer fan.

HUGE!

While I never played soccer myself, my love of the game goes back to 1994, when my parents took my sister, brother and I to a World Cup Match at Giant’s Stadium.  I was hooked ever since then.

Four years ago…Louisville, Kentucky got a USL soccer team, and my roomie, my friend Patrick, and I went in for season tickets…and we splurged.  Midfield.

Patrick moved away, and our friend Natalie took over his tickets.  And for the past four years…we have been dedicated to our Boys in Purple!

Around this time last year…Louisville City FC…our USL soccer team…won the USL Championship Cup.  It was years in the making, as we had made it to the USL Eastern Conference Finals the previous 2 years and to FINALLY get the win and put them into the Championship…was a thrill.

We took our friends Melissa and Paul.  And…with 90 minutes gone, Cameron Lancaster buried one in the net, keeping us from extra time, and…dreaded penalty kicks.  We won.

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Paul, Me, Cathy, & Melissa after Louisville City FC won the 2017 USL Cup Finals!

This year, our beloved team had it’s share of ups and downs.  For one thing, we lost our coaching staff about halfway through the season.  We had three players step up to be player coaches until the positions could be filled.  We had a bunch of injuries.  And on a small roster, that has an impact.  We had to get used to a new coach and his way of playing.  We lost games we should have won.  We won games we expected to lose.  The team knew what it needed to do to get back to the playoffs again, and they did it without egos.  And that, is one of the many reasons I love this team.

Last weekend, while I was in Indianapolis preparing to run the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon…Louisville City beat the New York Red Bulls II and became the Eastern Conference Champions…for the second year in a row.  On to the finals.  The Western Conference Champions this year…Phoenix Rising.  Headed by none other than Didier Drogba!  HOLY CRAP.

BUT…our usual battleground, Slugger Field, has an event happening the day ESPN chose for the match.  So…the game had to be moved…to a smaller venue.  Tickets sold out in 20 minutes.  Thankfully, as a season ticket holder, I was able to snag two tickets ahead of general sale.

They added temporary bleachers to the stadium for this match to allow for a bigger turnout.  But it was SOLD OUT and the seats were packed.  Despite the cold night.

I arrived, ready to see our team take on Phoenix Rising…and Drogba himself.

It was an honor to be able to watch him play.

The entire match was intense.  I normally take videos on my phone, but not last night.  I didn’t touch my phone.  And that’s not just because I was wearing two pairs of gloves on my hands, two pairs of socks on my feet, and four layers on my upper body.  No joke.  I was NOT going to freeze out there.  The first half came to an end…with no goals scored.

But then…at about the 62nd minute…

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Luke Spencer scores an incredible goal putting us ahead. Now…we just had to hang onto it.

The stadium was pure electricity.  Lots of stomping, cheering, clapping, screaming, it was magical.  And stressful.  Because every time Drogba was given the ball (it seems Phoenix’s entire game plan was…get the ball to Drogba), and he took a shot, I think we all collectively held our breaths.

Yellow cards were issued.  Substitutions were made.  Stoppage time was played.  And the final whistle blew.

And Louisville City FC made HISTORY last night by being the first USL team to win back-to-back championships.

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Damn…that was fun.  It also meant that my roomie and I stayed to watch the award ceremony, waited to see if the players made the rounds…and then called it a night.  We walked back to the car, just buzzing with sheer adrenaline from the win.  It was amazing.  God, I love this team.  Proud to be a founding member.

It was a late night (which included a Burger King drive-thru stop for my roomie as she was STARVING)…but we got home and I went into my room and called it a night.  I had a spin class to get to the following morning.  I was glad I went, but damn, it was very hard to get myself out of bed when my alarm went off this morning.

Any of my local peeps attend Louisville City FC matches?  Are you season ticket holders?  For those of you who don’t live in or near Louisville, what sports are you into?  Did you play that sport as a kid?  What teams do you support?  I want to know!!

For now…just riding the celebration wave into the weekend.

Much love for another fantastic season, Louisville City FC!

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Cathy & Me at the USL Cup Championship Finals at Lynn Stadium in Louisville, KY.

Once Upon A Time…I Danced to Thriller

It’s one of my favorite times of year.

Aside from the whole the world gets cold thing.

It’s fall.  Autumn.  It’s…

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Halloween is one of my favorite holidays.  It ranks right up there with Christmas.  I have always been a fan of Halloween.  I love dressing up.  I love going to parties.  I love candy.  I love the smell of burning pumpkins.

No…seriously…it’s one of my favorite smells.

In fact, if you could bottle the smell of Halloween night, I would be one happy girl.

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This didn’t happen on Halloween, but there was a time…almost 10 years ago (HOLY CRAP, I”M OLD!), when I went to Dragon*Con in Atlanta, Georgia…and took part in the Guinness World Record Attempt for the most people simultaneously dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” in a single location.  A total of 903 dancers took part.  Including my roomie (Cathy, for anyone new) and myself.  She was dressed up like a nun.  I was dressed up like a naughty school girl.  The costumes, the variety of people, everything that went into this was amazing.  And while I’m not a dancer in any way, shape or form…this was something I had an absolute blast being a part of.

Here’s a photo from a practice session that Cathy and I ended up leading…

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This was about 2 years before I even started running.  My hobbies were working full time and going to school part time.  I was aces in Japanese!  And walks.  I loved my walks.  I was 1 year away from having two degrees – History & Journalism.  And here I was…dressed like THAT…doing this thing with complete strangers…and having a blast.  I don’t know…there was just something so amazing and, dare I say, thrilling, about being part of this event at Dragon*Con.  And since it’s Halloween time…and Thriller is on heavy rotation on the radio stations…it made me think of this snippet from my past.

So, if you’re super curious about the actual video…you can watch it here:

The point is…step out of your comfort zone…Halloween or anytime…and try something you normally wouldn’t do.  It could be fun.  And it could wind up on YouTube forever.  HA!

What’s something you’ve done that is outside your comfort zone? How did it make you feel?

Marengo Underground 5K (aka: Firecracker 5K) – Marengo, IN (June 30, 2018)

Melissa, Debra, Cathy and Me after finishing the Marengo Underground 5K (Firecracker 5K) – Marengo, Indiana

Race: Marengo Underground 5K (Firecracker 5K)

Place: Marengo, Indiana

Date: June 30, 2018

Time: 23:53

Want to know what is fun to do on a very hot, summer morning?  How about run through a cave?  A nice, chilly 56 degree cave?  Sound like heaven?  Well…it definitely is.  I promise you that.

I was talked into doing this race by my good friend, Melissa.  Her husband was out of town on a trip and they had run this one the year prior to this one and had a lot of fun.  I figured it was something new and different…and I had nothing else going on that afternoon…so why not?  Bonus: Melissa’s mom was going to walk it and I talked Cathy into signing up to walk it as well.  HA!

Melissa made plans to come and pick Cathy and I up around 6:15-ish so we could make the drive to Georgetown to pick up her mom and then head out to the caves to get our packets, use the bathroom, and get ready to run.  In the years prior to this one, this race usually hosted around 500 people.  This year…1700 signed up and almost 1500 people finished.  You know a race is a good one when it pretty much triples in size.

I had actually looked at a few of the previous year results and it looked like, if I had a good day, I could be an overall female finisher.  But when I heard about how many people were turning up this year…that thought immediately got pushed to the wayside. Which was fine by me.  No pressure.  Just go have some fun.

I think the morning was a comedy of errors.  Melissa left the house without her inhaler (and she has asthma, so that is kind of necessary).  I thought I had forgotten my sunglasses (I realize that 2 of the miles I was covering was INSIDE A CAVE), but it turned our I did actually have them.  I mean…we were hot messes.  The ride to pick up her mom and to get to the caves was just a lot of talking (this is usual for us) and joking around, and listening, because friends sometimes just need to be heard.  It was a relaxing morning overall.  When we arrived at Crawford County Middle School, we were directed into the parking lot and then onto the grass near the school.  We parked and went to go pick up our packets inside the school.

After we snagged our bibs (mine was weirdly a much lower number than the other 3 people with me) and even chatted with the race director about the race (this is how we discovered how big it had gotten), we went over to the bleachers to pin each other up.  Once we were numbered, we went to get into the (at the moment) small line to use the flushing bathroom inside the gym before taking our stuff back out to the car and sitting down inside the car for a little while…to rest our legs, stay cool, and relax before the race.

We did get out about 30 minutes before to eat something small (fuel your runs, friends!), and hopefully get back into the bathroom line.  The line for the port-a-potties and the line for the flushing toilets were CRAZY long.  We stood in line inside and Melissa even went on a hunt for another bathroom (because a school HAS to have more than one, right?).  But after 20 minutes, announcements to get to the start and line up were being made and Cathy came and, being the good race mom she is, ushered us out of the bathroom line and toward the start line.

On the way, my friend Wendy spotted me and called me over.  Her daughter was running it (and she kicked some butt too), and we started talking.  I know her from my spin classes and we were just catching up.  HA!  Cathy eventually wandered back over and told me that I really needed to get to the start line if I was going to get a good spot in the crowd.  So, I caught up with Melissa and her mom and we all hugged and wished each other luck.

After a short wait at the start line, where there were children up front (which is usually not a good idea…but some can hang, I get it…but still…for safety, it’s often asked that kids move back so as not to get trampled), a lot of red white and blue tutus, and a lot of people running together (you could tell…they were dressed alike), I made myself comfortable a few rows back from the timing block at the start and eagerly awaited the start.  Melissa came up to wish me luck and move a traffic cone back further for my own safety (see Dopey Challenge – Disney World 5K story for that)…and I wished her luck…gave her a hug…and prepared to make a sprint (and we all know…sprinting is not my thing).

It was a HOT morning.  Humidity was high.  Dewpoint was high.  And it was close to 80 degrees at 9 am, which is definitely a late starting time for a summer race.  The air was thick and heavy, but the mood was excited and so alive.  The race announcements were made, discussing how the cave was a comfortable 56 degrees inside, but we had a mile outside the cave, and then we were inside for 2 miles of it and then back out for the dash to the finish (probably about .25 miles).  Simple enough.  After a few moments, and the lead car in place…we were off.

The Entrance to the cave we run through (Photo: WHAS11)

The first mile was a scorcher.  There were small rollers to go up and down, and I actually pressed pretty hard in this mile (it felt harder than it was thanks to that heat and humidity).  I passed a lot of the kids that had lined up at the start.  I got passed by a few women and that didn’t surprise me at all.  But I also passed a few too.  We rounded a corner onto E Pleasant Avenue.  As you near the end of this road and go to turn left to head toward the cave, you pass by the finish line area.  So you know…that’s how far you have to come back when you emerge from the cave.  I crossed the railroad tracks and pressed on, my watch alerting me of the first mile just before I hit the entrance of the cave.  I didn’t check it…I dove into the darkness.

And was hit with the cold.  It was like entering a refrigerator.  But after the heavy humidity outside, it was actually very refreshing.  I was expecting to hit this part of the race hard…however…I failed to account for the darkness.

I know what you might say…”But you run in the dark all the time!” And…you’re not wrong.  The difference is…when I run in the dark…I know those roads and sidewalks.  I know where there are holes and potholes and dips and lifts in the pavement and cement.  I didn’t know anything about the cave…except that it might have this dusty, loose gravely sort of layer to run on.  For the next mile…it was solid.  But the twists and turns we went through were dark and at times, it was hard to see the runners doubling back.  That being said…LOVED that temperature.  Even in my cute little crop top.

So, I pushed it cautiously.  When in training and not running a goal race, you don’t do anything stupid.  Injuries, as I know, can take you out for the rest of the season, so I pulled back on the pace enough to feel comfortable in the dark cavern.  But I kept moving.  And I kept picking people to try to chase down.  This lasted as long as it took to get just past Mile 2 inside the cave when that loose gravel dusty and uneven ground…became a reality.

The inside of the cave we run through for the Marengo Underground 5K (Firecracker 5K) – Marengo, Indiana (Photo: RunSignUp)

I think the words, “Not today, Satan!” actually exited my lips as I really eased back and took each step with a bit more caution and care.  No twisted ankles or busted up knees or broken bones.  Nope.  Not on my watch.  So, this meant I had quite a few people pass me up, but I felt good, and safe, and when I got back to the solid ground, picked it up again.

The exit of the cave was in sight, and I popped out, just as Melissa’s mom was about to head in!  She gave me a cheer.  I went to lower my sunglasses, but they had fogged up, so squinting was now happening.  My watch hit Mile 3, so it was the final stretch to the finish line.  But this is when that cool air from the cave dissipates and you get the heat of the day back.  It was like an oven…a slow burn that just got hotter and it made it very hard to get back to pushing that pace.  I headed over the railroad tracks and there was Wendy, and she gave me a cheer as I headed through the finishing chute.  I could hear people coming in fast behind me, so I kicked it as much as I could (I have no kick)…and crossed the finish line.

There was water soaking in some kids pools so I went and snagged a bottle.  It was still warm, but it was wet and I was grateful for it.  I went and stood with Wendy and we cheered in her daughter.  She went to go and find her and I waited there, cheering, and soon, Melissa was on her way in.  I gave her loud shouts of encouragement and she went into the finish line.  She returned and brought me more water (which I needed) and we chatted a bit about the race, standing in the shade, until she spotted Cathy.

As Cathy crossed the railroad tracks, we cheered her in and she picked up her pace to jog it into a strong finish of 48:15…for her first officially timed 5K.  WOOHOO!!  Cathy snagged herself some water and I went to gather her up so we could cheer in Melissa’s mom.  At one point, a train came through and cut off some people heading into the finish.  Some even thought about trying to beat the train, but thankfully didn’t take that risk.

Soon after that, Debra was on her way to the finish line.  She finished and we went to meet her and find some spot in the shade to wait to hear the overall and age group winners.  I knew I was out for those, but award ceremonies are fun.  We cooled off with waters and cheered the super fast winners.  Now that this race has grown, perhaps they will consider going to the standard 5 year age group divisions, instead of the 10 year range they are currently using.  When your race is 500 people, that makes sense.  When it’s almost 2000, not as much.

Afterwards, we went to take photos with the giant flag before making our way back to the car to head home and get on with the day.  THIS…friends…was a totally different and fun 5K to run.  We all had a blast.  And we really loved the reprieve from the hot day by running through a dark, chilly cave.

So, the official results of the Marengo Underground 5K (Firecracker 5K) are that I finished in 23:53. I actually thought I would have been able to do better.  But my splits were 6:54, 7:53, and 8:13…which is actually laughable.  My fastest mile was actually in the heat.  I think the darkness and then the uneven and soft/rocky surface through me off.  Or…maybe I’m just not a good 5K runner.  It’s frustrating…but this was not a goal race.  That first mile though!!  If only I hadn’t slowed down so much in the cave.  Safety first. I was 90/1463 finishers overall. I was 25/928 female runners.  And I was 10/250 in my age group.

Running in a cave on a super hot day is fun…and challenging.  And this little race is starting to go places.  I hope to be back.

Also…not a lot of photos for this one.  We were all running so there was nothing for that finish line.  And no official photos of me at the end.

The Filly Women’s Half Marathon – Louisville, KY (June 10, 2018)

Me crossing the finish line of The Filly Women’s Half Marathon – Louisville, Kentucky

Race: The Filly Women’s Half Marathon

Place: Louisville, KY

Date: June 10, 2018

Time: 1:59:09*

The running community has given me a lot over the years.  Honestly.  Locally and nationally.  I’ve met some amazing people through races and events and I’m forever grateful for the support.  So, when my coach, Linda, offered me the opportunity to act as an official pacer for The Filly Women’s Half Marathon in Louisville, I jumped at the chance.  Because this is a great way for me to not only help other women/runners meet their goals…but also it’s a way to give back to the running community.  Since I had already planned on running it…I told her I would be more than happy to do it.

And so…the anxiety began.

Because here is the thing with pacing…the race is not yours.  It’s now your job to get your people to the finish line in a certain amount of time.  And I was selected to be the 2 hour pacer…which was perfectly fine with me.  That meant running around a 9 minute mile evenly to get in ahead of the 2 hour.

First time as an official pacer!

The problem is…it’s really difficult for me to dial back pace in practice…when I’m running alone.  I set my watch to a certain range to buzz at me should I go over or under said pace range…but it was a challenge.  And it was stressful.  And I was so certain that I was just going to be terrible…but I kept on keeping on and working on it.

I just wanted to be a good pacer.  I wanted to get these women to their 2 hour half marathon.  And I wanted to do it without being all over the place like the hot mess I am at times.  HA!

I did both of the training runs that were offered.  The first one, I did the entire course, and with a few walk breaks, I cam in relatively close to time.  Still too fast.  The second time, i only ran 8 miles…so it was hard to gauge, but I felt like I was a little closer to the range.  It didn’t hurt that now the weather was starting to get swampy and pretty much unbearable once the sun was officially up.  This would make for an interesting race day.

Official pacing shirt!

As would the predicted weather, which had originally been calling for rain and storms at race time.  I literally wasn’t sure what would be waiting for me at the start line when I got up that morning, because the weather was juts all over the place all week…and thunderstorms had gone through the night before.

That morning, I ate my cereal and got my Honey Stinger Gel tucked into the zipper pocket of my shorts.  As it was humid out, I drank down 20 ounces of water, and prepped 16 more to take with me in the car with a NUUN tablet in it for extra electrolytes.  I tucked my Owyn Dark Chocolate Protein Shake into a cooler to keep it cool so I could have it about 30 minutes before the start of the race…and Cathy got up and got ready and we were out the door and being picked up by our friends Melissa and Paul to head to the Parklands.  The race started at the Egg Lawn, and I was a bundle of nerves, let me tell you.

This was my first time as an official pacer.  I’ve paced friends before, trying to help them achieve their goals…and ultimately, that has never worked out.  And I was terrified that I would end up alone out there…or that I would go to fast, go to slow…be late into the finish line.  Things I never worried about before because I only had to run for me.  If it was hot and I needed to slow down, I could.  If it was perfect and I could speed up…I would.  But this time…I was set to strictly run about a 9 min mile with even splits to get to the finish line at 1:59:00 or just slightly before that 2 hour mark.  That’s a lot of stress.  At least for me.  Because…hello perfectionist.

We arrived and the parking situation was already a mess.  We were told that if we got there early, we’d be able to park at the start line.  We actually did get their early, but they wouldn’t let us go that way.  So, we ended up parking in a field and having to make the hike to the pavilion where everyone was meeting.  It was annoying in that we all had thought we’d have access to the vehicle for before and after the race…and being a pacer, that was sort of important.  Needless to say, we made the walk and I met up with Linda and put on my ForWord Running Pacer tank.  I was wearing the T-shirt, but when I was doing one of the training runs with Linda, asked about tank tops…she made it happen.  And now I won’t die.  She could tell I was nervous, so she said really nice reassuring things to me, helped me tape my paces onto my pace stick.  Which, reminded me that I have always hated carrying things while running…so this was going to be fun.  Last time I carried something during a race was the Indy Women’s Half Marathon in 2012…and it was a water bottle that I really, really just wanted to toss and never see again.  HA!

The ladies of the ForWord Running Pace Team at The Filly Women’s Half Marathon

We took some pictures of the pacers and I made sure I was fueled, hydrated, and ready to run.  I went to use the bathroom because…we had to get here early and I was NOT going to be dehydrated when I could potentially have others counting on me to see them in.

There was a lot of confusion about the start of the Filly Women’s Half Marathon.  The start gate wasn’t on the road proper, but sort of off to the side.  And at the time, a truck was still parked in front of it.  We were getting dangerously close to start time and none of us could see a start mat…and anyone holding a pacer sign was getting asked about it.  No one seemed to have answers…until the emcee had us all move over to the side road with the start gate.  Still no sign of anything that would catch the official start of the race.  There was a couple of race announcements and talks…but soon we were all asked to move forward for the race to get underway.

Leading some ladies out for a 2 hour half marathon at The Filly Women’s Half Marathon

Linda was pacing the lead on her bike…so at her ready…the announcement was given…and we were off.  I crossed through the start gate and hoped for the best.  As I settled into position on the road around the Egg Lawn, I did notice that I had a small group of ladies running with me.  So…conversation time!

“Are you guys my 2-hour group?”  They all said yes. So, I introduced myself and we were cruising through that first mile.  One of the ladies started up some tunes, all of which I was enjoying.  And at Mile 1 I checked my watch and we were definitely going too fast.  I announced that now that we found our space, we were backing off and settling in.

Some women continued on ahead at the original pace, but some fell back with me.  As we entered the second mile, I also knew that Damien…the hill of DOOOOOOM was coming up.  It is a pretty steep monster there in the Parklands (the MRTT/SRTT group named it Damien because it makes devil horns on your elevation chart when it’s included in the beginning and end of your runs there.  As we neared it, I was chatting with some of the ladies still with me.  One had just gotten back from Sydney, Australia.  She had raced there and said the temperatures were much better there (Australia is in their winter and we were heading into summer).  At the hill, as I was trying to keep on pace, I climbed it with power (realistically, this is the only way I know how to do hills as I’ve always climbed them for races and hill repeats…all of which make you drive up them hard).  Some women started walking up it (when I race here, this is what I do because it’s too early to expend that kind of energy) but I couldn’t this time.  Some ladies got to the top and took a walk break.  Some continued on with me.

Hydrating while pacing through the MRTT/SRTT hydration station!

I know this course like the back of my hand. The sun was fierce that day, and it was hot and humid.  It normally is in this area.  But as we got onto the narrow path and out of the road, I was keeping some spirits high.  “We’re almost into a shaded downhill, ladies!”  I glanced at my watch to check my pace and someone asked if we were behind.  I told her that we weren’t…we were actually just slightly ahead and this downhill would be good because after we turned around, we’d have to come back UP this hill (and in the two training runs, this hill slowed me down EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. on the way back).  We cruised down the hill, and crossed over to enter Pope Lick Park Park.  I knew that at the soccer fields, the amazing ladies of the local MRTT/SRTT group would be there cheering and bringing refreshments.  As I was not carrying fuel with me…I was going to try to make it on the Sword (I have never fueled on Sword) and water at the water stops.  This meant a few walk breaks at each one as necessary.  I paced myself accordingly.  At this point, I had one runner with me.  She was super nice and we talked about other races we had done.  She said she was starting to feel the humidity fatigue her and after we went through the cheer zone, where ladies were kind enough to ask if they needed to slow me down (I have a reputation)…she said she was falling back and would try to catch up.  I told her she would…and I’d see her soon.

And now…my dear friends…let me tell you a tale of a 2 hour pacer…who was left alone.  There were runners ahead…and I could hear some runners behind…but there was no one with me from about Mile 5 through…Mile 12.  I wish I could say I was joking.  I’m not.  But I made sure I kept my pace going and took walk breaks regardless.  Just in case some women fell back and needed me to see them in to their Goal B instead of Goal A.  I passed Linda, who was guiding the lead runner (who didn’t even look winded) back to the Egg Lawn to finish.  I cheered for the ladies who were already on their way back, telling them they were doing awesome.  Originally we were told we’d be turning around before the bridge, but that had changed.  We now were heading over the bridge to the final water stop before turning around.  I just assumed that this was actually where we turned around (there was a sign there that had the loop…so that’s what I did.  And…I headed back.  At first my watch beeped ahead of time for Mile 7…but it all settled back into the correct numbers as I got past that.  I think it was just because there was a convenient spot on the bridge to put that mile marker.  After the turn around, I was still alone, so I set my task on cheering for and encouraging all the women making their way toward the turn around point.  It was a miserable day and I could tell a log of women were not hitting paces or expectations that they had set for themselves.

The loneliness of the 2 hour pacer…

Funny how just a little bit of encouragement can turn that around.  I gave a lot of “Looking Strong!”, “You’re doing great!”, “GO LADIES!” as I ran my way back through the course, enjoying the moments of shade, and dreading those open sunny paths at times.  As I passed more of the pacers they all kindly asked me if they needed to stop me or slow me down.  I told you I have a reputation. I would check and tell them I was doing good!  And I was!

At the stand-alone water stop that was out there (Hydration Station 4A)…I popped my Honey Stinger gel (I didn’t feel like I needed it, but I wanted to be sure I had the energy to finish this, even if I remained alone).  I downed some water and carried on, picking it back up to get back on pace.  All the while…shouting more words of encouragement along the way.  Soon the steady stream of ladies going the other way dwindled and I was back to just pacing it in.

I hit the MRTT/SRTT station again, and took a Sword and a walk…and made sure they knew that I didn’t need to be slowed down.  Seriously, every time I heard that phrase it made me laugh and smile.  And not pay attention to the heat and humidity.  I remained alone as I came out of Pope Lick and headed back toward Beckley Creek Park, where the finish line was waiting.  The hill I was dreading, I now was facing on my own.  So…I started the climb…and I could tell I was behind on the pace going up. But I knew I had a small bit of cushioning to allow for that.  Even with the water stops I walked through to fuel and hydrate.  I did my best to push it enough so that when I hit Mile 11 just after hitting the top of the winding, shaded path, I could make sure I was still right on pace.  And it worked.  Despite being alone, I kept the proper pace and worked hard to maintain it.  You just never know when someone might turn up and rely on you to get them to the finish. Even those ahead of you.

Me after finishing my pacing duties at The Filly Women’s Half Marathon

Just after Mile 11, it was back down Damien.  That was a nice relief, but I had to make myself pull back so as not to tear up my quads (this is a STEEP hill)…and to not get too far ahead of the pace.  I continue on the road and at one of the bridges, I see two women hop up onto the sidewalk and start to take the path, not the road, back to the finish line.  I remembered Bob, the race director saying that the last portion and the first portion of the race would be on the roads, so while this did cause me to second-guess it…I kept on the road.  And then Linda was ahead on her bike shouting, “FOLLOW ME!”

She let me catch up and I asked about the women on the path and she shouted over to them to let them know that they should be on the road.  They cut across a parking lot at the final water stop to catch up.  I got my water and prepped to run the last mile in.  I stayed behind these two ladies, shouting words like, “Last mile, ladies!  Let’s do this!”  And as we hit Mile 13 and prepped to make the turn to run toward the finish line, I began shouting, “TWO HOUR PACER BEHIND.  BEAT ME IN!  BEAT ME IN!  DON’T LET ME PASS YOU!”

Me and Melissa after The Filly Women’s Half Marathon & 4-Miler

And they crossed and then…I followed right behind them.  Clocking in at 1:59:09…which, my coach, Linda, would say…was perfect.

They announced my name as the pacer and I went to step out of the way of anyone who might be right behind me.  No one was immediately there.  My friend, Pam, who I met in the MRTT/SRTT coffee run came over to give me a medal and a cold towel, which was put around my neck.  That was heaven.  The after party had treats and snacks galore…but I went over to see how Melissa did on the 4-Miler and relax.  My job here was done.

While I was unwinding, Cathy looked up results and said I had won an age group award.  I wasn’t sure what the process was when you’re a pacer, but when the person who came in after me was 7 minutes behind…I was given the okay to claim it.

Brunch was a Gluten Free Pop’s Poppin’ Egg Salad Sandwich at Wild Eggs!

There is something so amazing and empowering about all women races.  I love doing them…and this time…I loved being a part of the team that was there to help others reach their goals.  And I fell in love with the job of being a pacer.  I might have been alone with it, but it challenged me to slow down, to take it in, to help others, and to get out of my comfort zone.  I got my medal engraved with my name, finishing time, and the word “PACER” underneath it.  And then, Melissa, Paul, Cathy and I went out to Wild Eggs for a celebratory brunch, before hitting Costco and heading home.

So, the official results of The Filly Women’s Half Marathon are that I finished in 1:59:09, perfect timing for the 2 hour pacer, yes?  *FIST PUMP*  I was 14/184 finishers overall.  And I was 2/29 women in my age division.

If this race returns next year, I’ll definitely be signing up again.  It was a total blast and I loved seeing all the ladies come out to run their best and be their best.  And that, my friends, is what an all female race is about.

OH…and that pacing stick…I forgot I was carrying it.  Never once felt annoyed by it.

With my Age Group Award from The Filly Half Marathon

Run For The Berries 5K – Starlight, IN (May 26, 2018)

Me crossing the finish line at the Run For The Berries 5K – Starlight, IN

Race: Run for the Berries 5K

Place: Starlight, Indiana

Date: May 26, 2018

Time: 22:45

One of my favorite baseline 5Ks to run in this area is the Run For The Berries 5K, which is part of the Starlight Strawberry Festival in Starlight, Indiana.  And, while I had wanted to be running a half marathon with friends up in Medina, Ohio…I was still in the area and using the 5K as my speed work for the week.

As I say every year I actually am able to run in this race…there are a lot of things I love to run for, but strawberries…that has to be one of my favorite things ever.  If only they were free…but after a (usually) sweltering race, the strawberry treats are worth shelling out some cash for.  Trust me.  My go-to is a big bowl of strawberries from the Strawberry Shortcake booth and a frozen strawberry drink.  YUMMY!

It’s really weird showing up for a race you still need to register for…just sayin’…

Once again, I wasn’t actually registered to run the Run for the Berries 5K this year.  I waited too long to do the mail-in form…and it doesn’t look like there is online registration yet.  Which is weird.  I know.  But, that being said, this just meant we needed to head up to Starlight a little earlier so I could get registered, get pinned, get stretched, and get ready to run.  So…that morning, Cathy woke up early and, after I did all my PT stretches, decided on what I was going to wear (hello Wonder Woman sports bra!), and ate something, slathered on some sunscreen, and we loaded into the car (and yeah…the sign was able to come too since the weather was humid and hot…but not wet and rainy!).  The race was $25, which isn’t bad.  I paid in cash after filling out the registration form.  The shirts this year were a light sky blue.  Not tech.  I miss the tech shirts from this race.

We had to pin my bib onto my shorts because my sports bra didn’t have enough space for it (and I was now kinda nervous my girls were going to pop out of the cute little ziggy zaggy straps at the front).  But it would have to do.  I’m so not used to pinning things to my shorts at all.  Luckily they were long enough and not ones that would ride up over my, now very muscular, thighs like most of my usual running shorts do.  All this strength training and 3 days a week of spin have added some bulk to my thighs for sure!  We had a bit of time, so we went to stand around outside near the festival entrance to people watch and just get ready.

When you know your sports bra isn’t big enough for the race bib…be glad your shorts are!

About 5 minutes before the start of the race, runners began to make the walk down to the cone that marked the start of the actual race.  As I was wandering that way, my friend Renee asked me if I was actually running this one fast.  I told her that my training plan said to try to keep my pace below an 8 minute mile depending on humidity and heat.  I have been struggling a lot this year with keeping my speed and endurance up in the heat…something I’ve never had an issue with in the past.  UGH!  Best I could do was hope for the best.

I was lined up in the second row at the start of the race.  As with Fast Freddie…it’s off gun time, so the closer you are to the race start, the more accurate your time is. The race organizer got on the bullhorn and started to give some information about the race. Like male runners at the finish will have white cards to fill out; female runners will have pink; walkers will have yellow. OH…and if you are registered as a walker…and you run down a hill…you are now a runner. This gets said every year, and it still makes me laugh.  He gave the words…On your marks…get set…and he fired a gun, then dropped it and got into the pack to run the race itself.  Or so I was told.  Me…I was too busy taking off as fast as I dared.

Me chasing pavements at the Run For the Berries 5K – Starlight, IN

The past couple of years I’ve managed to hit something in the high 6 minute paces.  In 2013, I managed a 6:54 and in 2016, I hit a 6:48.  I was sort of hoping for the same thing to happen this year.  Especially since, while there are slight rollers in this first mile…it is the flattest portion of the race.  I just pressed as much as I dared or could make my legs go…and decided my job today would be to push the pace and then try to hang on.

The turn onto Engle Road brought the second mile to a start.  I knew my legs were starting to fatigue, but it was way too early for that.  Humidity does seem to sap my energy a lot more than it used to these days.  So, I decided to focus in on form and turnover.  And, I did see a girl struggling, so I gave her some words of encouragement as I ran.  The humid air dampened my pigtails and I could feel sweat beading on my stomach…but onward.  I just kept going.  This mile also brings in more rolling hills, but a few more downhills than uphills.  We ran past Hubers Family Farm and continued down Engle Road.  And then I hit Mile 2, ignored the water stop, and just I just kept on running.  After the hill, it’s just a few rollers and a couple of smaller climbs to the finish.  You actually finish this race going uphill.

Nothing beats a frozen strawberry drink and a big bowl of strawberries after a good race.

I could hear Cathy yelling at me to run faster, which usually means another female runner isn’t too far behind me.  According to official results, this was a mere 4 second gap between me and the lady behind me, who was also in my age division.  As I crossed the finish line, a volunteer shouted out my time to me and I was handed a pink card.  I also got a lot of compliments on my compression socks.  I love being a fastinista.

Cathy sent me to get water and cool down by walking while she filled out the card and dropped it into the age group container for me.  Then she went to grab our frozen strawberry drinks.  Upon her return, of course I went to hit up the strawberries for my big bowl as a reward.  It’s the best part, as I previously mentioned.  While I was eating my berries and Cathy was enjoying a strawberry shortcake, a girl behind me said, “Excuse me miss…are those hair extensions in your hair.”  I told her they were.  She asked how I put them in so I tried to show her.  Then she said the best thing, that, honestly, made my day.  She said, “You encouraged me out there.  Thank you.”  She was the girl I saw struggling.  That was the best reward ever was hearing that.  That’s what running is all about, honestly.  I asked her how she did.  She said she was 12th overall female.  So she wasn’t far behind me either.  YAY!

After we devoured our treats, we went to check out the festival booths, where I ended up purchasing hair bows and a gift for my friend Melissa.  Then, we headed back up to listen to the award ceremony and get our cheering on.

Me with my age group award at the Run For The Berries 5K – Starlight, IN

While the men were being announced, I went ahead and checked my watch to actually look at my splits: M1: 7:01; M2: 7:25; M3: 7:33.  Yep.  Very positive splits.  My age group came around and I ended up as 2nd this year in my age division.  WOOHOO!!  I never expect to win…because there was one year where I was 6th overall and didn’t win my Age Group.  So…you never just expect it.  I went up to get my pint glass and then, Cathy and I decided it was time to make our pilgrimage to Hubers for some strawberries before heading home.  We bought 2 gallons because…I make kickass strawberry jam, friends.

As it stands, the official results of the Run For The Berries 5K are that I finished in 22:45. Not a PR…and none of my splits were over a 7 minute pace.  In the past few years I have run this, my first mile has registered in the 6’s.  Not this time.  I’m kind of bummed.  I just want a PR at some point…and none of my old records are falling.  Not. Even. Close.  I was 28/133 runners overall.  I was the 8/69 females to cross the line.  And I ended up as 2/5 in my age division.

I want to come back stronger and faster next year.  Goals.