CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon – Indianapolis, IN (November 9, 2019)

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Me crossing the finish line of the CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon – Indianapolis, IN

Race: CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon

Place: Indianapolis, IN

Date: November 9, 2019

Time: 3:35:13

“Had to have high, high hopes for a living
Shooting for the stars when I couldn’t make a killing
Didn’t have a dime but I always had a vision
Always had high, high hopes
Had to have high, high hopes for a living
Didn’t know how but I always had a feeling
I was gonna be that one in a million
Always had high, high hopes”
~ Panic at the Disco

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

BOSTON QUALIFIED!

But I am getting ahead of myself at the moment.  Because like any and every story…you have to start at the beginning.  And the beginning, for me, started on Friday.

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Day Before The Race Breakfast!

Friday was a complete rest day for me.  Normally I do shake-out runs and the like, but I had a continuous training cycle through taper, and had done my usual (albeit much lower mileage) runs on Sunday-Thursday, with 2 of these including some sort of speed workout.  So, I slept in, per usual.  I took a shower.  I didn’t go to work…so I had time to stretch, finish packing, and enjoy a leisurely breakfast at home.  For the record, it was Trader Joes Gluten Free Pumpkin Bagels and Kite Hill Vegan Cream Cheese.  I had my first melt down.  I ran a couple of errands with my roommate.  Made a quick lunch.  Had another meltdown.  She called in my sushi order at Dragon King’s Daughter (if you’ve been following my weekly training logs, you know about my “magic sushi”…so you better believe an order was traveling in a cooler up to Indianapolis with me), loaded the car, took out the garbage, went to pick up sushi order…and hit the road.

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Day Before The Race Lunch – Dr. Praegers Gluten Free & Vegan Chik’n Nuggets with Farmwise Foods Veggie Rings

The drive up to Indianapolis was easy and uneventful.  Just the way we like it.  My coach, Daniel, called me on the drive and we talked.  He always knows what to say to calm me down.  He asked me how I felt…I told him I was nervous.  He asked what I was nervous about.  And I told him…the weather.  To date, this was shaping up to be the coldest marathon I will have run.  Beating out Twin Cities in Minneapolis, MN…and Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend 2018 in Orlando, FL (which held the record…yes, Florida was colder than Minnesota).  The weather was showing a 28° start, with a nice wind chill making it feel more like 21°.  Good times.  We discussed how my training had done, despite not really having weather like what I would be running in for the marathon.  I told him this would change my wardrobe and we went over what I could/should wear and ways to keep my core temperature up before the race.  I told him I already had cried twice that day…and he asked what type of crying it was…and I told him it was the “I want this so bad” type of cry.  He told me how to channel that and my unease about the weather into mentally having a successful race.  Honestly, I found the BEST coach.  We hung up…and as we neared Indy…the local station we had found started playing every hype song it could throw at me.  I cried…again.

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Expo Time!

We made it to the hotel, staying once again at the Omni Severin Hotel in downtown, and only a short walk to the start and finish lines.  We got checked in.  I put the sushi in the fridge, along with my overnight oats I made at home to have race morning (just as I did before EVERY long run this cycle).  Then we went to the expo.  I got my packet for the marathon.  Cathy got hers for the 5K.  And I picked up my friend, Melissa’s, packet for her so she didn’t have to drive 4-5 hours round trip with her baby to do it.  Then, we went exploring.  I ended up buying a singlet for this race, and my roommate bought me a finisher’s jacket (she’s the best) and a Bondi Band.  She also got herself a new racing hat, featuring this race (the first one she ever trained for last year).  Then, we made our way around the expo, checking out the different booths and races that were represented there.  Once done with that, we took photos with our bibs, found my name on the giant poster, and headed back to the hotel.

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Cathy and Me at the Expo with our bib numbers!

We settled in for the rest of the day, because I wanted to stay off my feet as much as possible.  We watched a couple episodes of Mindhunter.  Cathy went and got herself dinner from the hotel…which was offering  a nice pasta dinner with a side salad and breadsticks (although she got hers to go and they didn’t pack the breadsticks…but she said there was plenty of pasta).  We ate.  I stretched and foam rolled.  We watched Top Chef (still in Boston…again…good sign!).  Then, we called it a night.  Lights out.

 

I didn’t sleep well.  I kept waking up…needing some water…or just nerves at times.  I turned off my first alarm before it went off because I was already awake.  The second alarm went off at 6:00 am.  Both my roommate and I got up with that one.  It was officially the start of race morning.  She had coffee and juice delivered to the room for her to have with her breakfast (she does this every morning, so this is part of her routine).

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Found my name!

I had about 3 meltdowns just getting ready.  I wish I were kidding.  After talking to my coach on the drive up, I decided to officially nix the shorts.  While the temperature would be climbing in the over three hours I would be out there…I didn’t want to start cold.  So, for the first time in the history of my marathon running…I ran in pants.  Capris.  Of course they were bright and wild colors.  HA!  Because I gotta be me!  I decided to go with a short sleeve shirt (BRIGHT PINK), compression sleeves, my Newtons (I also brought my Adidas Boston Boosts), arm warmers, a buff, a Bondi-Band, gloves (with hand warmers), and a throw-away hat.  I wore everything pink I could…to represent my mom (as has been my theme this entire year I have raced).  I started to put together my hydration pack, pouring room-temperature Nuun into the bladder (I knew it would be cold just being out there…so why make it super cold by starting that way?), packing my Maurten Gel 100s (three with caffeine, three without), shaking up my Maurten 320 Drink Mix (which some of it went into a little bottle in my pack to take at Mile 8), and then I tucked some very important tokens into a pocket to carry with me.  My amazing friend, Kelly Lorch, gifted me with some plates that were to go on my shoelaces.  I had my shoes on…and tied…so I said I would carry them with me.  She is amazing and has been SO supportive of me reaching my goals.  There was no way these weren’t coming along on the journey in some way.

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Magic Sushi from Dragon King’s Daughter: GF Green Acres & GF Spicy Tofu Rolls

Cathy pinned my bib on…then I pinned her up.  I layered on my throwaway clothes and then we both wrapped ourselves in old Mylar from previous races and trash bags.  Then, we headed out to meet up with Melissa at the MRTT/SRTT photo meet-up spot in the Westin (which also gave us a warm place to wait for the start AND bathrooms if needed).  I walked in and was immediately flagged down my Kelly.  Melissa came over and gave me a hug too…and I started to have another cry.  But, thankfully, group pictures were happening so I had to go and attempt to look “homeless chic” in my “how to stay warm on a cold-ass race morning” attire.  The photos were taken and Melissa had me join her as she waited for her husband, Paul, to park the car and bring the bundled up baby inside.  They arrived and she brought out the MOST AMAZING sign ever.  It said, “My auntie Karen chases unicorns and runs BQs.”  She said she and the baby worked very hard on it the night before.  I cried…again.

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Packing up the hydration pack on race morning!

 

No sooner had I dried those tears, Cathy said we had about 15 minutes until the start of the race…so we needed to mosey outside.  BOOOO.  I shed all my throwaway stuff and handed it off to Paul, who was finish line support and baby watching this morning.  He was very kind to let me do that so they can live to be tossed another day. I got re-wrapped up in the trash bag and Mylar…and we headed out into the cold.  We stopped just before the start line, where I needed to make my way down to my wave corral, and I got final hugs.  Cathy let me know (for the 2 millionth time this training cycle) that I had this.  Paul wished me luck and told me I had this in the bag.  And Melissa, because we are the same person, took my head in her hands, made me look right into her eyes, and gave me a pep talk to end all pep talks.  We hugged it out…and I went to go get into place.

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Kelly Lorch gifted me these shoe tags, which I carried with me the entire race!

At first, I thought I was about to have a Glass City Marathon replay…because as I got to my corral…I could see the 3:40 pacer and the 3:30 pacer.  No 3:35.  I was about to cry again, when I spotted a guy standing in an Official Pacer orange shirt…minus the sign.  I went over there and asked if he was the 3:35 pacer.  He said he was, and his partner was currently missing and had the sign.  The other guy showed up a few minutes later, but he was prepared to get us all there with or without the sign.  I felt a lot better.  No need to stare at my watch and fuss over the pace if I could hang with them.  About 5 minutes before the start, I went to ditch the Mylar and trash bag and got back in line with the two pacers.  The race started, with the wheelchairs.  Then Wave 1.  Then my wave.  As we crossed the start line, it was crowded and packed, and the pacers were a bit ahead of me, but I didn’t panic.  I waved to Cathy, Melissa, and Paul…and began to weave a bit to make my way closer to the pace group.

I caught up to them in the first quarter of a mile and made sure not to feel crowded.  If you remember, last year I attempted to do this very same thing…but ended up getting tripped a few times.  That wasn’t happening this year.  NOPE!  We were a fun group and the pacers were great at not only giving direction on where we were turning or where aid was…but just keeping us talking to keep our minds off the race.  One of my pacers was from Sellersburg and we talked about Louisville races and whatnot for awhile.  That was really cool.  He apparently had never heard of me.  He must run in the wrong circles, HA!  Just kidding.

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MRTT/SRTT

By Mile 2 I had already talked his ear off about the Dopey Challenge.  So…there was that.  This is also where my watch was off from the mile markers.  And, yes, my friends…it remained like that until…I kid you not…MILE 26.  My watch was beeping about .1 mile after the actual mile markers.  So, with the new course changes this year, I wasn’t sure if I was actually going to get in a full 26.2.  BUT…I was also reminded by the pacers, that with the tunnel overpasses we run under/through, plus the buildings in downtown…you can’t really trust your GPS and that the course WAS measured correctly.  SO…we went with it.  I let it go.  I just let it be.

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Melissa, Baby C, and Me before the start of the marathon!

The first couple of miles of this race is a lot of turns.  For real.  I feel like we go around so many corners, but it was okay.  Also…we were slightly behind pace for the first couple of miles, but I trusted the pacers to get us where we needed to be.  I was, however, keeping a close eye on my watch, in case I needed to just break away and do this on my own.  Then, we busted out a faster fourth mile and had to tone it down a bit.  Too early for that kind of craziness…and they knew it.

From there on, we pretty much stayed steadily just ahead of the actual pace, which made up for those first three, crowded miles.  Also, this time I wasn’t tripped about three times heading into the 10K mark.  For real.  Last year, I had lined up with the 3:35 pace group and it became hazardous to my health around this time.  Nope.  We were a large group, but we were very aware of each other’s space. And that made a whole heap of difference.  I was able to stay relaxed and just breathed.  We crossed the 10K mark and kept on going.  One of the pacers asked, “Who was worried, for no reason, about how cold it was today?  You’re warm now right?”  We all raised our hands.  Don’t get me wrong, it was cold…but our bodies were working hard and we were definitely warm.

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3:35 Pace Group taking off!

At Mile 7, we separate from the half marathon runners.  They take a turn and the full marathon continues on straight.  I was surprised at how good I felt at this point, but I shouldn’t have been surprised.  Despite the cold, I was fueling how I did in training and staying relaxed. I had goals, but I didn’t want to get worked up over them.  I was just going to run my best on this day.  And right now, my best was feeling good!  At Mile 8, I fueled with the 5 oz flask I brought of the rest of my Maurten 320 from the morning.  Onward.

I stayed just slightly behind the pacers through Mile 15 to be honest.  But, I wasn’t going to sweat it.  I distracted myself from Mile 10 to Mile 12 looking for my friends Susan and George.  They live along there, and were going to come out to cheer.  If they were out, I totally missed them.  If they weren’t…I don’t blame them…it was cold.  But, I continued to search for them on the sides of the roads, where people had come out of their warm houses to cheer everyone on.  At Mile 12, I took a Maurten Gel 100.  AND…I ditched my throwaway hat that I had kept on my head until then.  The sun was finally coming out and I knew that the day was about to really start warming up.  I was, however, glad I had my head covered up until that point.  But now…now it was time to let those pigtails fly!

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Cathy got a 5K PR at the Monumental 5K

Halfway there…and I was smiling and high fiving kids and just having a blast.  I mean, if you’re going to run 26.2 miles…you might as well have fun while doing it, right?

I was keeping a very steady pace, which continued as the miles ticked off.  I fueled with another Maurten Gel 100 (and I was taking sips of water from my hydration vest EVERY mile (because I tend to under-hydrate in marathons and had practiced this in training so that it would be a habit and I wouldn’t crash at the end…which I still think is what happened at Glass City) at Mile 16, because I was going to do it every 4 miles to make sure my fuel stores stayed primed as the race went on.

The pacers had pulled slightly ahead of me, but I remained calm and breathed because I still had a ways to go.  Panicking over pace right now wouldn’t serve me.  Stay calm.  My mantra crept in…”Keep Fighting.”  At Mile 18 we went through this little park-like area…which I remembered last year had a lot of people inside just screaming.  Same thing this year.  It made me smile.  “Keep Fighting.”

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Finish line in sight! I was ugly crying already!

I caught back up to the 3:35 pacers as we started down the exit ramp at Mile 19.  If you know me…you know…downhill is my favorite speed.  I smiled a lot at this point…because I was still feeling good.  I was feeling strong.  I was ready to keep going.  I had 7 more miles to go. I did that pretty much every easy run day.  I just had to hold on.

Keep Fighting.

At Mile 20, I took another gel.  This was the last 10K.  This is where most people hit a wall.  Not me.  I wasn’t going to hit a wall today.  I was on a mission.  I kept my head up, soaking in the sun (which was now up), thinking of my mom, running as fast as my legs could possibly go that far into a marathon.  I was feeling strong still.  No wall to have to break through this time.  Although…to be honest, they have you run through this inflatable arch thing that looks like a brick wall… which did amuse me.

I maintained quite well the next few miles.  I could feel some fatigue setting in, but it wasn’t bad.  I still felt good.  I kept telling myself that I had done this before.  I raced a 30K and managed to be under my marathon pace.  I did two of my five 20+ miler training runs at my marathon pace.  Whatever road I still had ahead of me…I knew I was beyond capable of bringing this home.

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Official Results

And then, around Mile 23, we turned a corner and the headwind hit.  And it hit hard.  While the pacers continued on, I could definitely feel the need to fight a bit more now.  The wind was no joke…and I knew we’d have it for the next few miles, at least until we turned and headed to that finish line.  I wasn’t going to let it get in my head.  I had time.  I had this.

Keep Fighting.

At Mile 24, I tried to open my final Maurten Gel 100 (I listen to enough runners on podcasts warn people to not skip that final gel in the last few miles…and now I understand why).  It was hard to tear open, so I slowed to a light jog, got it opened, and picked it back up while I took it down.  2.2 miles to go.

Keep Fighting.

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FINISHED! Here with my Indy Monumental & IndyThon Ultra medals!

The next few miles, I had my personal trainer, Corey’s voice in my head.  All these little moves he had me do that would strengthen my body and get it prepared to find that “next gear” all came into play here.  The wind was whipping, and I was fighting it the best I could.  The next couple miles ticked off.  I even had a friend of mine from Instagram shout at me from the side of the road.  I smiled.  That was amazing.

I made the turn onto W New York Street. From the years prior of me running this…the full and the half…I knew the finish line was around the corner.  I made the turn.  I could see it.  I could see it and I picked it up…I started to just fight every part of my body that wanted me to slow down.  As I got closer, I spotted the signs…the one Cathy held and the one Melissa held up.  I could hear them shouting at me.  I could hear them cheering.  I was already crying.  I was already crying because I knew I was doing it.  I knew I was about to do it…FINALLY!

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I have THE BEST friends!

FLY!

I crossed that finish line, arms up…and then, after I moved past the photographers…I paused my watch and glanced at it.

3:35:13…I had done it.  I had gotten my BQ time for 2021.  And the instant I confirmed it, I just started bawling.  I was ugly crying right there at the finish.  Cathy, Melissa (and Baby C), and Paul rushed over to me and we all hugged and cried together.  All of us.  Except for the baby, ironically.  HA!  Cathy pulled up her phone and started to play Dropkick Murphy’s “Shipping Up To Boston.”  I cried some more.  I cried more than I thought I could because I was just so happy.  Cathy texted my mom and my coach.  She told me they would meet me at the end and to go get my Mylar, medal, and snacks.

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A shower and some coffee!

After I got my medal and Mylar, I spotted the pacer I ran with from Sellersburg and I told him I got my time.  He high-fived me and I tried not to cry again…but I think I was.  I met up with my amazing friends and they were patient enough with me to let me lay down and put my feet up for a few minutes.  Melissa went to retrieve official results.  Cathy and I went to see about getting my medal engraved.  Then we went to retrieve my bonus shirt and medal for the Indython Ultra (for doing Fort Ben Half too). I gave Paul my free slice of pizza. It was a lot of emotions all at once and the reality of it all just kept hitting me.  And I just kept crying…and smiling.

We made the walk back to the hotel together.  Paul and Melissa very kindly went to retrieve some coffee for all of us.  I took a shower and got dressed because I had the USL Eastern Cup Final happening in Indianapolis as well and I needed to go cheer on Louisville City FC.  This also meant I had to go back out into the cold, but Cathy promised to bring blankets.  Our friend Greg came with us to the match and to dinner.

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A very cold, intense victory at the USL Eastern Conference Final in Indianapolis the same day!

I actually didn’t get to eat anything until long after the match, but the wait was worth it.  I enjoyed some gluten free pizza and gluten free fries from Harry & Izzy’s.  I had half the pizza left, so Cathy and I decided that would be breakfast the next morning.  No shame.

We then returned to the hotel where we FINALLY got to crack open the wine I had been saving for the BQ moment.  The three of us lifted our hotel plastic cups and enjoyed the celebration.

Let me also mention that Melissa and Cathy ran the 5K on race morning, with Melissa turning in her BEST post-baby 5K time and Cathy running a new PR (and her first sub-45 minute 5K).

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Harry & Izzy’s Gluten Free Pizza (no cheese) and Fries. FINALLY got to eat!

Now that I’ve bragged on them…let’s go to the stats…

The official results of the CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon are that I finished in 3:35:13, which makes it my second fastest marathon to date of the 16 I have now fun.  This took down Marshall by about 42 seconds. So damn proud of the hard work and training I did to make this happen.  I was 1282/4962 finishers overall. I was the 329/2111 female finishers. And I was 98/412 in my age division. I might still be in shock from how everything played out that day.  When it started to feel hard…I just kept fighting.

Never, ever give up on your dreams.  It sometimes takes time to reach your goals.  But that’s what makes them mean so much.  Keep fighting.

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FINALLY! After 2 years of seriously trying, I finally cracked open the wine I saved for when I got my BQ!

Project BQ – Marathon Training Week #18

dreams-hopes-poster-rhino-treadmill-unicornIt’s taper…but sometimes it doesn’t feel like it.  I’m still around 50 miles this week.  Not unusual, to be honest.  This was about what happened when I ran Glass City Marathon back in April.  I told you…my coach is very untraditional when it comes to the actual taper leading into a marathon.  That being said, mileage did go DOWN from last week…so it is technically a taper, right?

RIGHT?!

This week was crazy.  Lots of rearranging due to events and/or weather.  Tuesday night I was out late at the KFC Yum! Center seeing Celine Dion perform.  So I flipped speed work to Thursday.  Saturday’s weather was calling for TONS of rains (up to 3 inches) and some strong wind gusts…so I flipped my long run to Sunday.  So, structure isn’t a thing this week.  This week, it was all about fitting it all in.  October has been a crazy month and we are now two weeks out from the big day.  I need things to slow down a little.

Let’s take a look at the week, shall we?

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.

After last week’s hellish week of speed, I was thankful that Monday showed up as a choose your own adventure run.  That is…I choose the distance and the pace…depending on how I feel and what I want to do.  I always appreciate these runs.  No pressure to put in any sort of long run.  I could stop at 1 mile…I never go over 5.  I was thankful for the recovery day and just let me legs do what the wanted and needed that day.  Kept my watch covered and just paid attention to if/when I was struggling with hills or feeling like I needed to stop.  It was just what I needed and I was happy that this turned, allowing me to not have to think about my run.  Just plug in and go.  I ended up with 5 that morning, as I felt good and the temperatures seemed just perfect. Low to mid 50s…that’s a happy place for me.  I did my additional hip strengtheners with my stretches this morning as well.  AND…I had a personal training session with Corey, focusing on legs.  It was a busy and full day, but thankfully the run felt good.

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

Tuesday morning brought one of the speed elements I was given this week, but thankfully, it’s the least intimidating.  Strides.  My run was to be kept at my base pace, not really pushing it but keeping it where my rhythm naturally falls.  It was almost 60 degrees this morning, so I was back in a tank top and loving it.  I ran 7.5 miles without issue, keeping it around my usual base pace (sometimes faster, it just depends on hills).  And I felt amazing.  I added on the strides at the end, and my legs felt fast and strong as I pushed through 6 of them.  That was 8 miles total for the morning.  And after my shower, I went ahead and did my next round of hip strengtheners with my stretches.  Got through the work day, ate dinner, and headed out to the Celine Dion concert in Louisville.  The show was great…and I got home late.  That being said, it wasn’t yet midnight (I got in bed at 11 pm), so I didn’t have to get out and run my miles before bed for Wednesday.  And I set a later alarm, knowing that I didn’t have my big (and high mileage) speed work that following day anymore.  Thank God for a flexible coach and schedule.  I slept really well, surprisingly…just not enough despite a later (by about an hour) alarm.

Wednesday: 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.

From tank top to sleeves.  Wednesday morning, I headed out to run just after 4:30 am.  Thankful for the change to an easy, recovery run, I was hoping to at least get 3 miles in.  I would let my legs and body tell me what I had in me.  It was 41 degrees, but felt like 39.  That was a big change from the 60 degrees the previous morning.  I started off nice and easy and, while I felt tired this morning, my legs apparently felt good.  I was a little surprised by the overall pace when I uncovered my watch at the end of my run.  I never pushed pace, or even worked hard on the hills.  Recovery is very important and even I take recovery runs seriously.  Since it all felt so fluid and good that morning, I went ahead and did 5 miles.  After a shower, I did my stretches twice…and then later that evening, after work and dinner, I went and got a sports massage…which I felt I really needed!  I went right to bed when I got home because the second speed element was in my track workout (that I don’t do on a track) the following morning.

Thursday: TRACK WORKOUT: 1 MILE WU; 10X800M (GOAL: 3:30 OR ~7 MIN PACE) W/ EQUAL RECOVERY (AT A JOG, NOT WALKING), 1 MILE CD

It had been a full two days since I had an actual foam rolling session.  Granted, I did get a sports massage the night before, but when I stepped out (back in short sleeves because the temperature was in the mid-40s), I really knew I needed to get some good foam rolling in after this.  I won’t lie, 800s are my LEAST favorite speed workout.  Seriously.  I feel like they take forever to actually run (even though, for me, it’s close to 3:30 minutes…but that’s an eternity, honestly).  I don’t have a track nearby or open to the public…so I use a stretch of road and just run up and down it.  My warmup was nice and easy, followed by some dynamic stretches (high knees and butt kicks) before I launched into all TENTEN!! of my 800s that morning.  I could feel how each one was becoming harder and harder to hit, but I actually managed to keep the prescribed pace and never was slower than Daniel wanted me to aim for.  So, that was good.  In fact, before I could even fill in the comments on the training app we use, he was already commenting on how I nailed this one.  It was a good feeling.  So was finishing this up.  Because I really was not loving the speed work.  The cool down mile gave me 12 total for the day, 10 of which were the run/jog intervals.  I really made sure I kept it at a light jog, so I could feel recovered enough to push on every interval that followed.  I succeeded.  I stretched that morning and later that night went on a 5 mile run (doing the Thanksgiving route) with my friend Melissa.  It had been forever since we had run together and, she really wanted to do this route WITH me.  I don’t get invited to run with people often, and I don’t care if you run slower than me or not, I love running with people.  We kept this at a very, very easy pace because we both needed it that way.  After I downed a bagel for dinner, I stretched again and FINALLY got in some foam rolling.  I went to bed, setting a late alarm because my rest day was coming.

Friday: REST/RECOVERY DAY!

I was definitely sleeping better this week than I had been in the previous weeks.  So, that’s an improvement.  That being said, I woke up a full hour before my alarm.  I tried to lounge in bed and doze, but I was awake.  So…I got up, showered, did my stretches, got ready for work, ate breakfast, had coffee, survived the workday, came home for dinner.  My coach and my training partner opted to move my long run to Sunday due to the weather on Saturday…so I wasn’t feeling pressed for time.  I started a new season of Top Chef (I’m on the season in Boston, ironically), went to bed, setting a later alarm once again because I knew I was either going to do a short run in a gentle rain, or head to the gym to use the treadmill if it was a harder rain. At this point in the game, I’m 2 weeks out from my goal race…why risk slipping on wet leaves or pavement, twisting an ankle in a pothole that I thought was a puddle, or putting my immune system to the test in inclement weather?  Not worth it. I’d make the call in the morning.

Saturday: 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.

Well, it was pouring when I woke up.  It was.  But I still had some time to make the decision.  I got over 9 hours of sleep, so I was feeling rested and ready, regardless.  I went ahead and did my stretches and hydrated.  I stepped outside, and it was still a steady rain, so I decided that, the best thing for ME to do, was to do this easy, recovery run inside.  On the treadmill.  You guys know I’m not a fan of the treadmill, but this was definitely the right choice.  I know a lot of people who were training and/or racing out in the weather, and that’s fine.  I don’t risk anything this close to race day.  And while it is possible it could rain on November 9…I have run and raced in the rain before.  And the training ground is NOT my proving ground and never will be.  I went to the gym and did a very easy pace (with a 1% incline) for 5 miles.  I forgot to set the incline at first, and my shins were killing me.  I was really confused and then I figured that out.  Sometimes a flat treadmill works best, sometimes that additional incline works magic.  I needed it today.  Honestly, I really kept an easy pace…probably easier than I would have done if I had been outside.  And that was the entire purpose of this run.  I went home afterwards, ate a big breakfast that my roommate prepared for me.  Then went grocery shopping.  Came home, prepared my breakfast to eat before my long run on Sunday…watched some soccer and rugby…and then went out to Dragon King’s Daughter for my “magic sushi” as my long run was tomorrow.  The playoffs for the Eastern Conference Finals were happening at Slugger Field tonight, but with the rain, despite having paid for the tickets, we bowed out.  Sitting in the rain and strong winds just didn’t sound appealing at all.  I went to bed early…hoping our soccer team pulled off a win…and preparing for my long run, most of which, thankfully, I’d have some company for.

Sunday: 14-18 MILE LONG RUN – GOAL 16 MILES – WITH 3 MILE RACE PACE FINISH: EASY PACE – DON’T PUSH IT! AND PRACTICE RACE DAY FUELING STRATEGY. AT THE END, CLIMB DOWN TO RACE PACE FOR 3-4 MILES.

With the whole intention of tapering down, I could have easily have gone on the higher end and pushed 18 miles.  But I honestly felt the goal of 16 was enough for this week.  And, thankfully, my training partner was free both days this weekend, so when we flipped to the better weather of Sunday from Saturday’s lousy weather…he was still able to join me and help me with my last push at the end.  I ended up getting up at 5 am.  This gave me time to stretch, do my pushups, eat breakfast, foam roll, get dressed, put on sunscreen, fuel, pack up my hydration vest, put on reflective gear, and head out the door at 7:20 am…without feeling rushed.  And I still had over 8 hours of sleep the night before.  I ran from my apartment down to the YMCA, where Ron was going to meet me.  I had 4 miles down there, and Ron showed up (a little late thanks to crazy road closures and traffic) and we headed out.  We kept the pace pretty easy on the 6 miles down the Greenway…which felt fast because we had this great tailwind.  BUT…this also meant when we turned around to head back (and do the fast finish) we’d have a headwind.  We eased into it…and both decided to just do the 3 miles fast at the end.  We hit it and Ron was amazing at keeping me on pace and making sure I didn’t push too much when I didn’t need to.  It felt easy having someone worry about the pace for me…and he’s really good at it.  We needed to beat a train, so the last .1 of our run was up a hill, but we were at or just slightly faster than my marathon pace.  Spirits lifted.  Feeling so good.  He was kind enough to give me a lift home afterwards.

So…we’re 13 days away from the official start of the Monumental Marathon…and with every run I’m growing in confidence and feeling more and more ready.  That’s the whole point of taper.

And, to be honest, I’m hoping that the miles go down a lot more this week…but we shall see what my coach has in store. I trust him.  It trust the process.  And for the first time in a long time…I trust my training.

2 more weeks…let’s go.

2018 United Airlines NYC Half Marathon – New York, NY (March 18, 2018)

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Me after finishing the 2018 United Airlines NYC Half Marathon – New York, NYC

Race: United Airlines NYC Half Marathon

Place: New York, NY

Date: March 18, 2018

Time: 1:41:29

I love running NYC.  I loved running the full marathon in 2014 and then the half in 2016.  And, by some luck of the NYRR lottery draw, I got the chance to run the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon again this year.

Two things though:

  1. New course…starting in Brooklyn and finishing in Central Park (which meant a whole LOT of hills on your tired legs for the last 4 miles)
  2. I had two friends (Paul & Melissa) coming along for the run as well…which was exciting because Melissa had barely spent sufficient time in NYC and Paul never had been there before!

I was so excited.  Friends…fun…and NYC!

We had plenty of time to plan this trip as the lottery draw happens early.  So over many bowls of pho and lots of text messages and dinner/game night evenings at each other’s homes…we purchased airplane tickets and Cathy had her mom take care of the room…because she has a time share vacation club thing there.  Unfortunately…the race was on St. Patrick’s Day weekend this year which meant…EVENT WEEKEND…on top of everyone coming in for the half marathon itself.  So, instead of staying at the nice Manhattan Club that we had come to love in NYC…we were booted over to the Shoreham through the travel agency that is used.  Cathy called numerous times to ensure that we would have two beds because we were a party of 4, not 2…and was told when the reservation transferred over…it would be taken care of.

Guess what.  The room transferred…and Cathy checked and it was listed with one bed.  One bed.  Four people.  She called the travel agency and they were very unhelpful and it was a task and a half to even get the agent on the phone or to call back.

NOT IMPRESSED!

Cathy then tried calling the hotel directly.  They were sold out of rooms and fully booked and couldn’t change the reservation either.  In fact, the travel agent never changed the request to four people.  So…we were kinda stuck.  Through e-mails, Cathy asked if we could bring an airbed and was told no extra bedding could be brought in…BUT…if they had any, they could provide a roll-away.

Insert me being overly stressed out about this turn of events.  I hate being stressed out over shit that shouldn’t be an issue in the first place but now it is.  These are the things I focus on and, when it happens prior to the trip, it’s all I focus on.

That and the shift in weather that went from lows in the 40s and highs in the high 50s…to COLD AS SHIT!  Seriously.  The weather shifted with some nor’easters that decided that New York needed some snow and ice and cold wind and all that.  MEH.  I don’t like running in the cold at all.  And now…I would be.  This also meant running a half marathon in layers, which is something else that I despise doing.  Cathy had to pack my luggage because I needed to stretch and roll and try to be in a better place with all of this.

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We love flight delays…NOT!

Friday afternoon, Cathy and I left work early and were picked up at our apartment by Paul. We were chauffeured over to his and Melissa’s house where Melissa’s mom was waiting with her van to take us all to the airport.  We packed our luggage and carry-on into the vehicle and got ready to get underway.  After (briefly) getting locked into the van, we set out to the airport, where Cathy and I were checking our baggage (Melissa and Paul were carrying on) and got our seating assignments taken care of.  This was perfect because we were all clumped together.  Cathy and I were behind them on our flights out of Louisville and then out of Atlanta.

Let’s pause for a moment to talk about Atlanta.  We were delayed going out of Louisville and now our connection was going to be very tight.  VERY TIGHT.  In fact, when we landed, supposedly passengers were supposed to let those with a tight connection off first (which would have  benefited us since we were seated pretty much in the back of the plane.  I literally could look out my window and see only the engine.  No joke.  I had no view.

Of course, everyone had a tight flight to catch so everyone (tight connection or not) disembarked as usual.  We decided to have Paul run ahead and see if he could catch the gate agent for our flight and have them hold the plane for us as we all made our way that way.  He is very good at sprinting with a suitcase.  I am not good at running with a backpack on.  And Melissa was in winter boots and Cathy is not a runner.  One train ride and an elevator climb later, and we managed to be near the back of the line for boarding.  But we got on the plane and were NYC bound.

Baggage claim was easy at La Guardia and Cathy put in the call to the car service we always use in NYC to take us to the hotel.  The van arrived to pick us up and we loaded in, somewhere near midnight or 1 am…and made our way to Manhattan and the Shoreham.

I was holding out hope that our hotel mishap was being taken care of, but when Cathy checked us in, the guy behind the desk didn’t even bat an eyelash at the fact that they were giving us a 1 bed, 141 sq food room…to four people.  Nope.  He passed us the keys and played it off like it was nothing.

Guess what.  It’s something.  The room was SO small that after we rearranged it to hopefully fit a roll-away in, which Cathy had to call down to the desk to have brought up, and had the guy who brought it up look around and go, “I have NO idea where we can put this” (NO SHIT, SHERLOCK!), we ended up pushing the actual bed all the way across the room to rest against the window.  The roll-away was set up right next to that, and then, we sort of put a bench and chair together and made an extra bit of bed.

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A view of the Suede Tomb the four of us squeezed into for 4 days in NYC. Cathy is against the wall…the frosty glass is the bathroom, which took up a over 1/4 of the space.  That’s the door right behind Paul.

Paul took the bench/chair and Melissa was on the cot.  Paul was, actually, halfway onto the cot too.  It was a mess.  And it was crowded.  And it was uncomfortable.  But we made it work.  And we were never really falling over each other when we were in the room.  No waiting on the bathroom…we just sort of worked it out without even saying anything.

Welcome, friends…to the Suede Tomb.  Thankfully, we packed our days and nights in NYC and the room would basically just be used for sleeping.  It was close to 2 am and we were setting our phones for a morning wake-up to get up, get breakfast, and head to the race expo.  It wasn’t going to be a night for lots of sleep, but at least we could get some.

The following morning meant showers (which we managed without ever hogging the bathroom too much or too long) and then we were off to breakfast at the local Fresh & Co after grabbing coffee at our favorite coffee shop in all of NYC…Tisserie.  We all got the Nutella Mocha and snagged whatever sounded good for breakfast.  I got a gluten-free bagel that had delicious avocado in it and some other stuff.  It was delicious…and I wanted it again on our last day there…but that didn’t work out as we hit Fresh & Co as they switched to lunch that day.  MEH.

But I digress…

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Race Expo time!!

It was race expo time.  And I love me some race expo experiences.  New York never disappoints.  The United Airlines NYC Half Marathon Expo is held at the Metropolitan Pavilion, and is easy to spot with all the race flags standing outside.  You feel so welcome and get all the excitement upon entering.  For this race in particular, they assign bib numbers on demand, which means you don’t get assigned your bib number until you get there.  And it’s random.  You do know what wave you are in and what corral though…the rest of it just depends on where you stand in line to get a bib.

I was Wave 1 and Corral E and my bib number ended up being 1956.  They stuck on the sticker to my Wave 1 yellow-green bib (Wave 2 was a blue) for my corral (E) and sent me on my way to get my t-shirts and get any photos taken that I wanted in front of the race backdrops.  The race shirts were running smaller than I expected, but mine seemed to just fit, so I kept it.  Melissa and Paul got their numbers and shirts as well and we went to get photos taken before hitting up the rest of the expo…which was basically shopping.

Thankfully…I bought my swag ahead of time because they always run out of my sizes.  Cathy got me a finisher’s shirt.  The only thing I really wanted was the best winter hat to ever exist, but they sold out of that quick.  Probably because it was soul-crushingly cold that weekend and everyone wanted hats.  Melissa had snagged one prior to the race online.  As in…the last one.  It wasn’t meant to be.  I was bummed, but I have plenty of hats as it is.  We took photos with our names on the wall…snagged some free United Airlines buffs that were being handed out…and got on our way to explore some of NYC before heading to dinner that night.

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Pre-Race Gluten Free Marinra Pizza from Don Antonio’s (as always) in NYC!  Also Vegan!

As with every pre-race meal in NYC…it was pizza night, and of course we went to Don Antonio’s is my go-to place for both gluten-free and vegan pizza.  They have a regular menu and a gluten-free menu and take very good care to keep everything safe for you to eat.  Melissa and I split the Senza Glutine Marinara Pizza.  Melissa also snagged a couple of gluten-free appetizers to share.  Cathy and Paul split a regular pizza and each got one of their signature dough puffs to eat.  The food was plentiful and we were definitely full and ready to hike back to the hotel to get everything ready for the following morning. And, yes, we managed to do this and schedule alarms so that we could all function and get what we needed done in the morning.

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We look like we’re going to a slumber party…but really we’re heading to Brooklyn

With the first alarm early in the morning, I was up and at them first to put on my winter tights, an undershirt, my fleece lined tech-top I love wearing due to the collar…and then brushed my teeth and went to step out of the bathroom for the next person to do what they needed to do.  While Melissa, Paul, and Cathy took their turns in the bathroom, I did up my hair, put on my socks and compression sleeves, put on my winged anklet, got my Dunkin Donuts winter hat (the one I got from the 2014 NYC Marathon) on my head, snagged my gloves, and opted to give the buff we got for free at the expo a chance.  I had nothing really to eat in the room, but I brought a Larabar to the start line to eat in the corrals prior to the race.  That went into my fuel belt to stay close to my body to keep it from getting rock hard in the cold.  We headed out the door to get to the train station and take the subway to Brooklyn.  We had to wait in the station for awhile, and when the train did arrive, it was already packed.  We managed to squeak our way in…and with each additional stop…every car just kept getting fuller.  And despite the driver announcing that the train was full and to wait for the train behind us…we kept having people push their way into our car.  Now I was suffocating and dying, especially when the air conditioning would cut off.

But we made it to the Prospect Park stop and disembarked and began to make our way to the starting area, where we would have to go through security.  This was where we had to split from Cathy.  She was going to get back on a train and go to Mile 3 (just after the runners come over the Manhattan Bridge) to hopefully catch me there.

At the start line…we had very little time to hang around and talk.  After getting through security, I needed to drink my pre-workout drink and eat my Larabar so I wasn’t running a half marathon on an empty tank.  I ate my Larabar while Melissa and Paul fueled up as well…and then I needed to get into my corral in Wave 1.  They were in Wave 2, and apparently had to hunker down in the cold shade and try not to freeze for over an hour.  YUCK!

As for me…I started drinking my water and making my way up to Corral E.  There were going to be quite a few starts, so I was NOT shedding my toss-away clothes (yep…I hit Goodwill the day before and picked up clothes to shed since it was going to be freezing at the start line) until I absolutely had to.

The National Anthem was sung…and the wheelchairs and elites were sent off.  It took a long while for me to get up close enough to shed clothing, but I finally did.  And soon, it was my corral’s turn to get ready to go.  As we were standing in the cold wind, the woman behind me pointed to one of the free United Airlines buffs that was shed by runners before us and said, “Not going to lie…I’m tempted to pick that up.” I told her I wouldn’t judge.  HA!  But soon, we were sent off…and it was time to run through the streets of Brooklyn.

The first 2 miles are spent running the streets of Brooklyn.  And then, the first climb happens as you start up the Manhattan Bridge.  I know that the bridges in NYC are beasts, but this actually slowed me down more than I would have liked.  But, as this was being treated as a training run, I wasn’t really focusing on my pace.  This would turn out to be a very good thing as the race continued.  Crossing the bridge was great.  You could see the Statue of Liberty from there…and it was clear and beautiful and COLD that morning.  I put my head down and came down the other side of the bridge, feeling like a rockstar for sure.

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Me coming off the Manhattan Bridge and heading toward the 5K mark of the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon

Cathy was near the turn before heading into the 5K and I waved and smiled as I ran through and began to take in the miles before Times Square.  Times Square was such a highlight for me in 2016 when I ran the old course.  This course was definitely tougher, as when we started in Central Park…we got the hills out of the way early.  Now…now they were at the end.  So these were the flat miles in between.  Miles 3-7 are downhill to flat and I loved them.  It just felt good to run, and have the spectators that were out braving the cold yell motivation to you.  I was crossing a bridge near the 10K mark when I spotted Lottie (aka: runningonveggies) doing her thing.  I wanted to shout-out to her, but I wasn’t sure she’d hear me and I am…nobody…and she’s like…super amazing.  She looked strong.

Coming into Central Park, I knew there was a chance that Cathy wouldn’t make it to see me there.  It all depends on the trains.  Apparently she got out of the subway about 45 seconds before I was supposed to hit Times Square based on the tracker.  She at first decided she wasn’t going to make it, but then changed her mind and did the “Sixth Avenue Sprint” to Times Square, where she did actually catch me and I could hear her shouting and waving at me from the other side of the barricades.  Just the uplift I needed at that point, because we were heading up toward Central Park, which meant some minor rollers until hitting the park just before Mile 9.  For a few moments in Times Squre, however, I was running next to former NYC Marathon race director Mary Wittenberg, which was super cool.  She was getting a lot of shout-outs from volunteers and NYRR…but I turned my attention back to the entrance to Central Park. Here come the hills.

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Running through Times Square during the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon

This is also where my watch got WAY off on the mileage and pace due to the buildings in Manhattan…and the rest of the race was just guess work at this point.

My friend Michael told me he would be at Mile 10 near Cat Hill in Central Park with his friends cheering on runners.  So I had that to look forward to.  And, sure enough, as I was making the ugly climb up Cat Hill…I heard him shout my name, I turned and managed to wave before continuing to die a little on that hill.  Somewhere around Mile 11, a woman decided she would cross the road with her dog while texting on her phone right in front of me and a few other runners.  She got yelled at by quite a few people who she disrupted.  I mean…come on!

There seemed like more uphills than downhills for that last 5K…and my watch was beeping with the distance about .9 miles off of what it was supposed to be.  I’m not lying. I was pretty much a mile ahead of myself via my GPS…which was not making me happy, despite not being one who glances at my watch during the race.  I don’t like to put any pressure on myself, but now I was questioning if my GPS was off or the course was long.  There was no way to really know.  The GPS was off (thanks Times Square and Manhattan)…so when I took that downhill toward the finish line…I crossed with 14.02 miles on my watch and crazy fast splits showing me running a mile in under 6 minutes.  HA!!  I wish!!  So, that was the disappointing part if I had to pick one.  Because I love reviewing my actual splits to see what I need to work on after a race.  It was fun though…and, despite never being warm during the entire run…I was elated to be done.  And super surprised with my time.

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Me sitting in Tisserie, post-race, just trying to get warm

After finishing and getting my race medal and a mylar blanket, we were loaded down with snacks and sent hiking out of the park.  This walk takes a good 30 minutes to accomplish.  I made friends with a nice lady named Wendy and we talked until she had to veer off to bag check to get her stuff.  I finally could see the statue marking Columbus Circle, which was where runners were exiting and were spectators were told would be the best spot to reunite with their runners.  I spotted Cathy immediately and she came over to give me a hug.  I desperately needed coffee, and she had suffered through McDonald’s coffee and wanted good coffee…so we made our way to Tisserie (which was on the race course) and each got a drink.  I got a Café Au Lait with Almond Milk and it was one of the best things I had ever drank.  I needed that to start to warm myself up.  But after checking the app to check in on Melissa and Paul (they were Wave 2 and started about an hour after me) we saw they were coming up to the area we were drinking our coffee.  So, we stepped outside and found a spot on the rail to watch for them.

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Melissa and Paul running toward Central Park!

At one point, a guy from Norway ran over to me and took a picture with me.  Random.  But amusing.  And then…we saw them coming.  Cathy and I shouted to them about how they were killing it, and while Melissa didn’t believe me…she was running NYC.  How cool is that?!

As they headed toward the park, Cathy and I hightailed it back to the hotel so I could shower and change and head back out to meet up with them after the race.  We got to Columbus Circle as they were nearing the finish line.  And when they crossed, I let them know, via text, that we were waiting for them there.  Their phone was almost dead, but Melissa was able to fire a response back.  We waited until we spotted them and flagged them down.  The hills had definitely taken their toll on Melissa’s Achilles, so we got her settled for a moment to rest and rant all she needed.  Paul dug food out of the snack pack for the two of them.  Once they had rested, we took them back to the hotel to shower and chill before we went out to our celebratory dinner at Red Rooster that night.

THAT. WAS. FUN.  And the food was amazing.

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Celebrating finishing the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon at Red Rooster Harlem

The new NYC course is definitely much harder than the old one…but I ended up running this one 2 minutes faster.  So…I count that as a win.  A course PR and a race PR.  WOOT!

So…the official results of the 2018 United Airlines NYC Half Marathon was that I finished with an official time of 1:41:29…and that was closer to the 13.1 than the 14.02 my watch showed.  I swear.  I was 2773/21,995 finishers this year.  I was 557/11,075 female finishers.  And I was 86/1847 finishers in my age division.  I couldn’t be happier with these results considering how much stress I went into NYC with and how cold weather affects my body.  I had a blast and would love to do this again.

Or at least get a cute winter hat.

The remaining days in NYC were spent exploring and eating.  And the best of the best was going up to the top of the Empire State Building at night, freezing, and taking pictures and just living life.

And that’s what this was all about.  Fun, friends…and finish lines.

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On top of the world (aka: The Empire State Building) with friends…last night of such a fun adventure!

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!

 

The Greater Knead Gluten-Free Bagel Giveaway

celiathleteHello, my friends!!

I am so excited to announce a brand new giveaway from my friends, the crazy bagelers, at The Greater Knead (formerly Sweet Note Bakery)!!

Seriously…I thought I was eating delicious gluten-free bagels…and then I tried the bagels made by The Greater Knead…and I never went back to the others.  As someone who grew up in New York, bagels are a way of life…and yes…bagels from New York are made differently than any other.  They are smaller, denser, chewier in the middle, crunchier on the outside.  And The Greater Knead…got it right.

So, I’m thrilled to offer you the chance to win 2 packs of their amazing bagels.  All of their bagels are made in their dedicated gluten-free and free from facility…which means that their products contain NO wheat, egg, dairy, soy, tree nuts, peanuts, fish or shellfish (because that would just taste weird).

You can’t get much cleaner in the ingredients that go into each variety of their bagels.  I order at least once a week.  That’s not a joke!  They are that good.  While these are available in some stores…I had no idea these existed until I started blogging about other brands of gluten-free bagels, and one of their reps kindly pointed me in their direction.  I never should have hesitated…because I won’t even look at other gluten-free bagels anymore.

I eat these things at least three times a week and have tried every flavor.  The Greater Knead and I are pleased to give you the opportunity to win a pack of their PLAIN bagels and their TOMATO BASIL bagels.

Trust me…you do NOT want to miss out!!  Enter below for your chance to win this amazing prize!  You have through March 6th to enter!  And spread the love!

Just click here your chance to win this amazing bagel prize pack: a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Disneyland Star Wars Rebel Challenge – Anaheim, CA (January 14-15, 2017)

Oh yes…you know what??  It was only a matter of time before Disney lured me back to the other coast.  So often, for convenience, you see my Run Disney posts from Disney World.  Let’s face it…Florida is a lot easier to get to than California.  But…I have a goal.  An achievable goal.  And that is to run ALL the Disney Races.  So, you know, eventually I had to return to Disneyland.  I hadn’t been here in over 3 years (I ran the Disneyland Half Marathon in 2013).

It was good to be back.  The whole thing, however, was unraveling from the very start.  Let me start at the beginning…

After getting back from my trip to Birmingham to visit my family over Christmas, I realized my OTHER…note that I say…OTHER hip was starting to twinge at me.  I had to run a lot of hills in my parents’ neighborhood…there is no avoiding them…so I chalked it up to that and went about my training…with very little slowing me down.  Over the New Year, I did my last training run of 14 miles ahead of my taper for the Star Wars Light Side Half while in Columbus, Ohio.  It was after this run that the hip really started to get angry at me.  In fact, that day, I was hobbling around and this started to concern me.  I felt better the next morning though, a Monday, and went out for my speed work.  I did that fine, just slightly missing my assigned pace.  Drove back to Indiana, did grocery shopping, and felt okay.  Got up on Tuesday and went for a run.  The hip twinged a few times, but I slowed down and got it done.  I felt fine afterwards.  And then…on Wednesday, I got up to do my run and stretches ahead of my spin class and…I couldn’t get through my one legged squats without cringing.  I went out and started my dynamic warmups and had to stop.  I sat outside and cried.  The left hip was not happy.  I went to spin…and it did fine there…but running wasn’t happening.  It was rough from there on out.

I contacted my former physical therapist, and asked her opionion on what the issue might be.  She gave me a few stretches to do…and Cathy researched, figuring it had to be my hip flexor and not the labrum as the pain was presenting itself differently.  I wasn’t so sure, but went with it, adding some hip flexor stretches to my routine, in lieu of the dynamic stretches and plyometrics.  I went to spin 2 more times…but other than that, I rested this hip.

I even put in a call to my orthopedic doctor, but he was booked solid through after I was already leaving for this race series. I was told he would call and go over things I could do.  When I didn’t hear from him Friday or Monday, my panic mode kicked in.  I called Tuesday, leaving a message that I was leaving on Thursday morning.  No word.

But this craziness doesn’t stop there.  Wednesday night rolls around and the third on this trip, my friend and Cathy’s sister, Amanda, comes over.  You see, we paid for her to come on this adventure with us.  She always wanted to see California, and figured this would be a fun way to do it.  Girl’s trip…WOOHOO!!  She was pretty excited leading up to it…and we stayed up a bit that night discussing what we would be doing, while I prepped breakfast for the morning before the early airport journey.  Then, we crashed out.

Apparently, around 1 am, Cathy said her sister knocked on her door and said that she was sick. Cathy got up and got her some of my tea…it’s SO good on the stomach…and that didn’t help her stomach issues.  At about 3:30 am, Cathy heard me watching my Instagram story…and knocked on my door.  She asked if I had anything that could help Amanda out.  All I had were Rolaids, so we tried that.

No go.  When I got up with my alarm at 5 am to stretch and then get breakfast ready, it was apparent that Amanda was not coming with us.  So…Cathy and I made breakfast, and Amanda called her husband to take her home.  He said this was probably brought on by anxiety…which is weird, because Amanda has traveled further than California with us before with no issues.  I’ve never seen her as a nervous traveler.  So…who knows.

Cathy and I packed up our stuff and her mom picked us up to go to the airport.  We checked in and walked the terminals until it was time to line up for boarding.  We got settled on our flight out of Louisville to Phoenix, Arizona.  Cathy, thankfully, slept for about 3 of those hours. When we landed, I called my orthopedic doctor’s office and talked to the receptionist.  I explained that I was told he would call before I left, and here I was, on my way to a race weekend with 2 distances on tap, a sore hip, and no answers.  She actually went and got him out of a room to talk to me.  After listening to the symptoms, he said it sounded like a hip flexor strain and that a cocktail of Tylenol and Ibuprofen would help with that.  I thanked him and said that, more than likely, I’d be making an appointment with him after this weekend. But now I at least had a plan.

In-N-Out Burger immediately upon landing in California. Cathy had a burger & fries done animal style and I just had plain fries (they are gluten-free at In-N-Out Burger!

In-N-Out Burger immediately upon landing in California. Cathy had a burger & fries done animal style and I just had plain fries (they are gluten-free at In-N-Out Burger!

The flight from Phoenix to Burbank, California was short and sweet.  We disembarked in the rain and chilly weather. It was warmer in Louisville than it was in Los Angeles that day.  Go figure.  We got our rental car and headed out to grab lunch at In-N-Out Burger (their fries are gluten free…so my lunch was fries.  Healthy, I know!).  And then, it was onto the hotel to check in and then…yep…head over to Downtown Disney and enter into the Disneyland Hotel for the expo.  This did involve going through security to get into Downtown Disney, and then a downhill descent into a parking garage to get my race bib.  I was in the first corral and one of the lower numbers, so it was pretty easy-going.  With that, we walked back up and into the hotel proper to duck into the Exhibition Hall and to take in the rest of the expo…as well as pick up my t-shirts.  I was determined not to spend a fortune at the expo, so Cathy kept me away from the Garmin table.  HA!  But, as it was, I was already needing to spend over $100 on compression shorts, a recommendation from my former physical therapist after seeing my post about the hip flexor strain on Facebook.  So…that happened.  I went to get in line for the official merchandise, but was told it was over a 2 hour wait.  I had other things to do, so I texted my friend, Melissa, who was coming in for the races the following day to see if she could pick them up if the line wasn’t crazy.  She agreed to do just that.  So, with my new compression shorts and a couple of new (and needed) BondiBands for my running costumes, we left the expo and went to return things to the hotel room.  The rest of that night is a blur.  I don’t even think we ate dinner.  I stretched, iced, foam rolled and went to bed.

Cathy and I in front of the Space Shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center

Cathy and I in front of the Space Shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center

Friday was all about Los Angeles…and we hit it hard!  We woke up early and prepared a
breakfast from the stuff I had on hand.  We had brought some of Annie May’s Sweet Cafe’s sandwich buns with us…so I loaded them up with some peanut butter I brought and placed some sliced banana on top.  It was SO good.  And it was just the right way to start off the day.  We hauled down to the car, grabbed some coffee at a local place called Coffee Code, then we were making our way down to the California Science Center.  We alotted plenty of time to get through morning traffic and it paid off, but we still arrived about 30 minutes before the place actually opened.  That was okay, though, because what we were not aware of at the time was that the California Science Center was right next to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which, for you runners out there, you will know as the place where Joan Benoit Samuelson crossed the finish line to win the very first Olympic Women’s Marathon!  I was all about standing around and taking pictures (and doing videos) of this place.  And that was a good way to kill some time.  After a little stroll here and there, we entered the California Science Center and got ready to go see the Space Shuttle Endeavour.  I think Cathy was determined to be the first there…and while we were the first on the escalator, we were definitely not first over to the shuttle…but they weren’t too busy at the time.  We pretty much skipped much of the exhibit to jump right to the good part…the space shuttle.  Although, we did pause to touch one of the wheels in the exhibit, because when you have the opportunity to touch something that has been in space, you touch it!!  Space shuttles look fake to me, when I see them in person.  It’s bizarre.  That being said, Endeavour is beautiful…and the lengths that had to be taken to get her to California is still a fantastic story.  We stayed and shopped and then went to seek out more of the center, taking a wrong turn, then turning around and discovering that in addition to the space shuttle, they had an Apollo, Mercury, and Gemini capsule as well.  Three more points of interest…and we went and took in each and every one of them.

Me in front of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

Me in front of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

From there…we made another long drive (seriously…how do those of you who live/work in LA survive…it takes hours to get places!) to make our lunch stop…Erin McKenna’s Bakery in LA.  This is her third shop and I have, proudly, been to all 3.  Love her stuff.  We each got bagels for lunch with vegan cream cheese…and then a box of goodies to bring back to the hotel to have during the time we were staying.  This included 2 scones, a doughnut and a cinnamon roll – all gluten free and vegan.  And, yes, delicious!  Our next stop was supposed to be Pressed Juicery in the same area for one of their Freezes…but the Pressed Juicery there was not a Freeze shop.  So, with a little Google-fu…I found one that wasn’t too far away and we drove down there.  We parked in a parking garage and went to go get our treats.  I wish we had this in Louisville…it’s ice cream made simply from real juice and topped off with healthy goods.  Seriously…we need this.  We walked around while we ate and then went back to the car.  Turns out the parking garage where we parked was for customers of a grocery store only.  And we needed a receipt to get out.  So, we had to go inside and buy some stuff, which worked out.  I picked up some AMAZING kombucha (I am obsessed, but when you have tummy problems…it helps!), some water, and a few other goods.  With receipt in hand, we were out and back on the road.  This time, back to Burbank to hit up a boutique store called Pin-Up Girl Boutique.  I

Pin-Up Girl Boutique dresses. I wanted to buy them all!

Pin-Up Girl Boutique dresses. I wanted to buy them all!

have friends in California who rave about it and my good friend Tawn actually sent suggestions of what she’d like to see Cathy and I try on.  I was a bit more into this than Cathy was, but we tried it all on, and the sales people were lovely, and I really wanted to buy it all…but…it was only my first full day in California and I couldn’t drop $150 on a dress at that moment.  I will be shopping there though!  It took 2.5 hours to get from Burbank back to the hotel near Disneyland.  It was late…and I had a race in the morning…so…dinner was an orange and a Glutino gluten-free toaster pastry.  Not what I would usually have for dinner before a race…but it was all we had at the time and really all we had time for.

In the morning…it was time to do the…

Disneyland Star Wars Light Side 10K

Disneyland Star Wars Light Side 10K

Star Wars Light Side 10K

Race: Star Wars Light Side 10K

Place: Disneyland, Anaheim, California

Date: January 14, 2017

Time: 50:13

Compression shorts…KT Tape…and ACE Bandages.

Welcome to my morning.  I got up about 30 minutes before Cathy’s alarm was to go off, just to get myself ready.  This meant doing my hip stretches that I found for hip flexor issues and the others I’d been doing for awhile.  I also took my Tylenol/Ibuprofen cocktail my orthopedic doctor had mentioned…both the night before and that morning.  Normally, it is not recommended to medicate before a race, but, dammit, I needed to get through 2 in 2 days…I was willing to do just about anything at this rate.

Cathy got up with the alarm and we ate a light breakfast, as we had extra large bananas (Walgreens only had King Kong sized bananas when we went there for ACE Bandages) to split on race mornings…so it was a basic nosh on dry cereal with some water.  I went to change into my outfit for the day.  Not the normal running gear as I was costuming as Rey, from Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  I wore my compression shorts though, and Cathy wrapped the ACE Bandages around my torso and left thigh, just as the video my former physical therapist sent to me.  She secured it with the clips and put tape over those.  My right foot (the one that the plantar flared up on a month or so prior) was taped and I put on the capris and the costume top I was using.  My hair went into the standard pigtails and my new BondiBand I picked up at the expo went on my head.  No compression for this one.  The costume didn’t allow for it.  But…despite the hip issues, this was the shorter of the races.  I figured, while it would feel weird not to have compression sleeves on my legs, I could handle it for 1 race.

I got pinned up and we were out the door, stepping into the unseasonably cool California morning air, joining the myriad of other runners that morning at the crosswalk to step onto Disneyland property and enter into Downtown Disney.  There was a security checkpoint to go through first.  They searched bags if you had them and, some people, randomly, were sent through the metal detectors.  I had no bags, so I was an easy pass.  Cathy’s backpack is clear…and the security people LOVE that.  Makes her journey through the checkpoints easier.

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

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

We strolled past a very crowded Starbucks and continued on toward the staging area.  As we got to the other security checkpoint, my friend Melissa texted me and asked where I was.  I told her I had just passed through Downtown Disney.  She and her husband had just gotten into Downtown Disney…so they were on their way.  I told her that Cathy and I would wait just past the checkpoint…and that’s what we did.  We saw a LOT of BB-8 costumes…and a few Star Trek costumes too.  HAHA!!  Ah, the Trekkies are hillarious!  Melissa arrived, dressed as Maz (also from Star Wars: The Force Awakens), and Paul (that’s her husband) was Boba Fett.  We hugged and both she and I limped (her hip/knee had been a problem since her first marathon the weekend before…can you say BEAST MODE?!) over to the staging area.  Of course…more pictures had to happen…last minute bathroom breaks…I had half a banana to eat…that sort of stuff.  We did have to start thinking about heading to our corrals, though…so we walked together until I had to break off to head to Corral A.  Melissa gave me a tight hug…told me not to even worry about my time and to just have some fun.  And if she and Paul caught up to me if I had to walk it…they would join me.  I love my friends.  Seriously.  I love them.

I got to my corral in time for some of the morning banter with our race emcees that morning.  They were actually quite funny.  And Disney spares no expense, for sure.  I LOVED that so much of Corral A was in costume!!  There were LOTS of Princess Leia’s…for obvious reasons.  In fact, the first woman to finish was dressed as Princess Leia…which seems fitting, for sure.  I was trying not to have a meltdown or panic attack due to my hip. I knew one of two things would happen.  I would get to that start line and take a few steps and be able to go…or I would have to walk the 6.2 miles to the finish.  Whichever it was, I was going to get to that finish line.

After the National Anthem was sang by a Disney cast member, the wheelchair race was sent off first.  Only a few minutes later, the corral was discarding any mylar blankets or other clothing they brought to keep warm.  No baked potatoes allowed across that start line…it would screw with the timing.  The countdown was given…the fireworks went off…and Corral A was underway.  I walked up to the start mat, then took a few tentative steps at a jog…then kept it conservative at the jog, realizing that while the hip twinged a few times, I could run.  Not all out fast or anything…but I wasn’t struggling either.  And so…the race was on.

Rey on Hoth

Rey on Hoth

That being said, my intention to stop and use the photo ops along the way…went to the wayside.  Once I got moving, I was afraid that if I stopped, the pain would settle and I wouldn’t get started again.  So, I just ran…and prayed a little…that my ACE Bandage would hold…that my hip wouldn’t do something awful.  Let’s remember…I had a half marathon looming the next morning.  The goal was to just run this and still be able to walk around at the end of it.  My friend Melissa had warned me about the one and only hill (you get sent through this tunnel thing…so down a hill…then through…then back up, but the rest of the course is flat.  F-L-A-T.  Which is infuriating to me, as I ROCK flat courses, and if the hip had been behaving…I probably would have kicked this course’s ass.  UGH!  Seriously, it feels like I can’t catch a break.

Rey in the trash compactor

Rey in the trash compactor

That being said…I almost broke the don’t stop rule when I saw the life-size, moving around, BB-8 on the course for photo ops!!  BB-8 is my FAVORITE…and I was SO tempted…but I knew stopping probably would have been worse…so I kept going, with very little pain at all.  I ran the streets…through the parks…pushing on past the water stops.  For a 10K, I don’t run with a fuel belt, but the cold air and my slower than usual pace meant I wasn’t really dehydrating myself.  My first mile of this race was the slowest…my third…the fastest.  I slowed it down between miles 4 and 5…but picked it up when I knew the last mile was ahead.  I’m not talking breaking any speed records.  I never got faster than a 7:38 pace (and that was mile 3)…but I wanted to finish strong.  And I saw that finish line and just went for it.  I could hear Cathy screaming at me from the cheer squad seats (she got in there somehow…I never know how she pulls these things off)…and powered over that finish line.

What really kept me going…the fact that I knew the medal for this race was BB-8.  I

FINISHER of the Star Wars Light Side 10K

FINISHER of the Star Wars Light Side 10K

walked through the finisher’s area, getting my medal…a mylar blanket…a box of goodies and some water. And then…I made my way out to the staging area, where Cathy met me.  She was going on-and-on about my time and how she was checking the tracking and going, “Well…she’s running…that’s good!”  HA!  They had some fun photo ops out, so while the lines were still short, we took advantage of those.  Then…it was time to head back to the hotel.  Our friend Tawn was coming in from Fresno that morning (she left SUPER early to get down there around 9 am)…and I was ready to shower and eat some real food.  The problem was, the exit was blocked by racers.  Okay…turned around…and tried to go through one of the hotels, but instead of asking someone, Cathy just kept turning corners out of the lobby, and then put us in an Emergency Exit area…where we got trapped.  TRAPPED!  Insert me starting to bitch about being cold and wanting a shower…and now being stuck.  We finally got out, thanks to the help of some of the Disneyland employees…and after asking if we were okay or needed water, we were now on the road back to the hotel.

BB-8 Finisher's Medal for the Disneyland Star Wars Light Side 10K

BB-8 Finisher’s Medal for the Disneyland Star Wars Light Side 10K

I showered.  And then I rested a little while we awaited Tawn’s arrival.  We had a reservation for a breakfast at Goofy’s Kitchen.  And Tawn arrived in time to change, do her makeup and for us to get to the restaurant, get pictures with Goofy, and get seated.  It was the best way to kick off Day #1 of Disneyland adventures for sure.

We spent the entire day at California Adventure…and that night, my friend Alison and her family drove down to meet us at the Pizza Press for my traditional gluten-free pizza before a race.  She and her family are amazing, awesome, and just all around good people.  It was a blast…and I’m glad I FINALLY got to meet her in person.  And her son, Evan, who we nicknamed Mr. Incredible a few years ago.  He really is incredible!  We sadly did have to say our goodbyes though, because Sunday’s 3:00 am wake-up for a 5:30 am race

Tawn, Goofy, Me & Cathy at Goofy's Kitchen!

Tawn, Goofy, Me & Cathy at Goofy’s Kitchen!

was impending.

Oh…so my official results of the Disneyland Star Wars Light Side 10K are that I finished in 50:13.  Not too bad given the circumstances!!  I mean…FOR REAL! I was 296/11,606 finishers overall.  I was the 33/6816 female to cross the finish line.  And I was 5/1216 runners in my age division.  This hips issue is driving me nuts.  I can’t even fathom how much better I could have done had I been able to just go for it.  Seriously…these results are both amazing…and frustrating at the same time!  Given the circumstances…I will take it!!

The rest of the day was fun at Disneyland…but at the end of the day, the hip was done and my limp was starting to return.  We turned in after the pizza stop and I took my last round of the Tylenol/Ibuprofen cocktail and turned in for the night.  The following morning…did not go as smoothly…


My BB-8 running costume, modified for the cold weather (orange shirt underneath) for the Disneyland Light Side Half Marathon

My BB-8 running costume, modified for the cold weather (orange shirt underneath) for the Disneyland Light Side Half Marathon

Disneyland Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon

Race: Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon

Place: Disneyland, Anaheim, California

Date: January 15, 2017

Time: 1:47:53

My alarm went off at 3 am.  My friend Tawn was up and in the shower.  She’s a Run Disney vet and is AWESOME at the routine.  Wake up early…get out the door…do race…do the parks.  She’s not a runner, but she comes out to cheer and to just…be there at the finish line.  So, while she was in the bathroom, I got up to take that Tylenol/Ibuprofen cocktail and to stretch.  I took a few steps toward the table I had things set out on…and knew that today I was in a whole heap of trouble.  I was limping.  I was limping bad.  I was sore…and I had a 13.1 mile race ahead of me.

THIS. WAS. BAD.

I might have cried as I did my hip stretches and foam rolled.  Cathy got up just before the alarm that morning, and we started to just roll through race morning prep.  While Tawn did her makeup and hair, I got dressed and Cathy prepped some KT Tape to put across my hip flexor.  We did that…and I pulled the compression shorts on over that…then she did the ACE Bandage wrap.  Over that went my running shorts and then…the BB-8 running sparkle skirt I purchased SO long ago.  Seriously…my hip was being held together with tape, bandages, and a lot of prayer.  I was not in a good place, physically or mentally, on half marathon morning.  Not one bit.  But, I finished getting ready, having to modify the bra top costume due to the low 40 degree weather in Los Angeles that morning.  I was NOT expecting these temps there.  Luckily, I had a bright orange shirt with me and it became the base layer.  I was layered everywhere…sports bra, t-shirt, BB-8 bra top on top…KT tape, compression shorts, ACE Bandages, shorts, and a skirt on the bottom half.  And every step…a challenge.  I ate my cereal to put something in my stomach and filled up my water bottles on my fuel belt with my nuun and water.  I grabbed one of the Godzilla-sized bananas for pre-race eats and the three of us were out the door, pretty much right on time.  I was not nervous like I was before the 10K.  Walking was a challenge…so I was downright freaking out.  I think I cried a few times on the way to the crosswalk to get over to Disneyland property and through security.  I branched off to the NO LINE group and held my cell phone up over my head as we went through the metal detectors.  Tawn and Cathy got through bag check quickly and we were making our way past the overrun Starbucks on the corner.  There was another one further in that was never as busy…so we did joke about that a little.  We got to the staging area, and I hadn’t heard from Melissa and Paul yet…so we just moved out of the way and listened to some of the music.

At this point…I think I had an all-out meltdown.  Both Tawn and Cathy were quick to give me hugs and reassurance.  The thing was…I was hurting.  And a half marathon is NO JOKE!!  Cathy said that it was possible that this race would be just like the last one…where I take a few steps and it’s all good. I hoped she was right.  I dried my eyes…got more hugs…and they sent me off to get into my corral.

Same system as before.  No Melissa or Paul to hug.  I wasn’t sure if they’d pass me or if I’d see them that day…but I stepped up to Corral A and got inside.  And I felt, very much, like I honestly didn’t belong there that morning.  The race emcees were back for more fun this morning, and they kept the mood light.  I was shivering, not completely from the cold…but my nerves were creeping in.  I never get nervous before a race…but I knew that I was going into this at about 50%…and it scared the shit out of me.

The National Anthem was played beautifully by a band and soon the wheelchair racers were off.  My corral ditched the mylar blankets or clothing keeping them warm and we all started to move up a bit more at the start line.  When the countdown happened, the fireworks went off, I walked toward that start line and took a few tentative steps at a jog.

PAIN!!  It was unpleasant pain from the start, but I was in the flow of runners, so I just pressed on, without pushing too much.  I thought so hard about ducking to the side and just walking…but I didn’t.  I kept my pace easy…and I just did what I could.  Once again, though, my plan to stop for photos went out the window. Any stopping today would be the worst thing possible…because as I learned at the Boston Marathon…it hurts SO much worse to start back up.  I hit the underpass hills again…and managed to navigate those and started through some of the parks.  I paid no attention to time clocks…I was focusing in on my form as best as I could.  I had to pass up the BB-8 photo op again…which sucked, since I was dressed as BB-8…but it was the only decision that made sense to me.  Running this didn’t make sense…but I paid a HELL of a lot for this race challenge…it was happening even if I had to slow to a walk.

Me after finishing the Disneyland Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon and completing the Rebel Challenge

Me after finishing the Disneyland Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon and completing the Rebel Challenge

But then…something fantastic happened.  As we came out of the park around Mile 4…I hear and see Cathy and Tawn, just screaming at me from the side of the route.  It was amazing.  Tawn recorded it and you can hear Cathy talking about how my form looked good and all that.  I was hurting…but it wasn’t bad at this point.  I could manage…even though I was wondering when I would have to drop to the side and take it to a walk.

We exited Disneyland soon after and hit the road.  As I rounded the corner, I heard someone yell, “HEY!  IT’S R2-D2.”  Wrong droid!!!  I am in orange…BB-8 is orange.  R2-D2 is blue.  SHEESH!!  The cheerleaders that lined this portion of the course was uplifting and it did make me move a little bit faster as I went past them.  Miles 5 & 6 ended up being my fastest, and also put me at a 10K time faster than the 10K I ran the morning before.  Cathy had been tracking me as she and Tawn went to get coffee and explore some of Downtown Disney and this fact impressed her for sure.

But it started to get rough soon after this.  Much of the crowds disappear at this point. But, there are plenty of people running with you.  But…Mile 9 going into Mile 10…was the best.  The 501st is out in all their gear.  You have just this long line of Star Wars characters and it is just…fantastic.  I mean, I’m running through and everyone is in character.  There was a phenomenal Obi-Wan Kenobi on the corner…with an accent and all…and that was SO amazing to me.  It was uplifting.  But after I was past them…that was when the pain really started to rear it’s ugly head.  My pace slowed way down for the last three miles…but at this point, I knew I was only 30 minutes at most away from a finish line.  I gritted my teeth…cried…a little. Maybe a lot.  And knew my right foot was blistering, which never happens, but I was now changing my stride to accommodate my hip.  UGH.  I started to really focus on each step, trying to to baby the hip, but trying to to push it too much either.

Disneyland Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon Finishers Medal

Disneyland Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon Finishers Medal (It has Princess Leia on it…ALL THE FEELS!)

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Disneyland Star Wars Rebel Challenge Medal for finishing the 10K on Saturday & the Half Marathon on Sunday!

I thought I had picked it up for the final mile, but that ended up being my slowest mile of the day.  Go figure.  I could hear that finish line, and when I saw it, determination and stubbornness took over and I ran it as hard as I dared and could manage.  The announcer said, “It looks like we have a BB-8 coming in…Karen Brady!”  That made me at least smile, so at least my finish picture isn’t ugly crying or something.  I heard Cathy and Tawn just ahead of me as I limped past the photographers.  Cathy called me over for a picture at the finish line which hobbled over for.  They said that they would see me on the other side…and I went to get my finisher’s medal for the half marathon, my mylar blanket…and then my extra medal for completing the Star Wars Rebel Challenge!  After that, the snack box and water were handed over and I exited the finish area to re-enter the staging area…and Tawn and Cathy were there to hug me and greet me.  And I cried…again.

Top: The Schulyer Sisters - Eliza, Angelic...and Peggy - from Hamilton Bottom: Me, Cathy, Tawn...as Eliza, Angelica...and Peggy - NAILED IT!

Top: The Schulyer Sisters – Eliza, Angelic…and Peggy – from Hamilton
Bottom: Me, Cathy, Tawn…as Eliza, Angelica…and Peggy – NAILED IT!

We didn’t hang around much after this.  I was hurting and we had Disneyland to properly explore that day.  We decided to head back to the hotel so I could shower, we could eat breakfast (Cathy split the last of the sandwich buns and we split the donut 3 ways) before heading out for the rest of the day.  We had a big day ahead of us…and while it was hard to move…I wanted to get the most out of my time with Tawn and my time at Disneyland.  We even did a thing…by getting the names of the Schulyer Sisters from the musical Hamilton on our Mickey ears and posing in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle!!  We are theater NERDS!  Honestly, in order to even be able to move that day, I put on a pair of leggins, and had Cathy do the ACE Bandage wrap I wore during the races, and I put my BB-8 skirt back on…because…I needed to cover the ACE wrap.

This is how I was able to get around Disneyland. That and pain meds. And just being stubborn.

This is how I was able to get around Disneyland. That and pain meds. And just being stubborn.

That being said, this pretty much meant I couldn’t pee all day. Luckily…I never really had to.  And I managed a full day at the park…had a blast…and ate an incredible dinner that night at Cafe Orleans.  Seriously…worth every painful step.

I guess some results are in order.  The official race results of the Disneyland Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon are that I finished in 1:47:53.  I was expecting 3 hours, so this was amazing to me.  Seriously, even I can’t figure out how I pulled off that time.  I was 422/12434 finishers overall.  I was 57/7028 women to cross the finish line.  And, I was 14/1253 in my age division.  Not too bad under these very hostile circumstances.  For real!  It still pisses me off because this was SO FLAT…and I want to run it as hard and best as I can.  Flat courses and I are BFFs.  But my body has let me down again.

My orthopedic doctor was unable to see me until February 1.  My hip is still…not good.  All running is off…I’m walking, spinning, and just trying out other non-impact means of just keeping my endurance and fitness up until I can get some answers.

Here’s hoping for the best!

And Disneyland…I’ll be back!

May the Force be with you!

May the Force be with you!

Product Review: Sweet Note Gluten Free Blueberry Bagels

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Sweet Note Gluten Free Blueberry Bagels

Product: Sweet Note Gluten Free Blueberry Bagels – $7.75

Blueberries are always on the top of my list when it comes to favorite fruits and berries.  Always.  It has always been one of my favorite things to eat…whether in a muffin, pancakes, waffles, jam, donuts…and yes…especially in bagels.

So, leading up to the ONLINE EXCLUSIVE release of their latest flavor, the crazy baglers at Sweet Note Bakery teased a bit on social media as to what they have coming up.  I knew immediately from the pictures that it was going to be blueberry.  And I knew, the moment they hit the store, I would be ordering.

I think I’ve told you enough about Sweet Note Bakery…their origins and the like in all the past blogs I’ve done about them.  If you are just now tuning in…you can read about their history here.  If you want to know why size always matters, especially in certain important matters like…bagel size…read all about it here.  Seriously…if you want authentic New York-style bagels…that are both vegan and gluten-free…NOTHING beats Sweet Note Bakery!  Their bagels are phenomenal.  Feel free to go back to all the past entries (and I still have 1 more of their new flavors to review!) and see what every flavor is like.  Trust me…I grew up in New York.  Bagels and I are BFFs.

And if bagels and I are BFFs…then I would totally date blueberries.  This is what makes the latest flavor of the Sweet Note Bakery line up of bagels all the more sweeter.  I pre-ordered the blueberry flavor the moment they said they were taking the orders and last Thursday, much to my delight, they arrived safe and sound.  It was difficult not to just open one up right then and there and devour it, but my weekend was packed with plans that would keep me full and happy…so the bagels would be my Monday breakfast for sure.  Right after the first of my two (2) spin classes that day.

So, one of the crazy and wonderful and remarkable things that sets Sweet Note Bakery apart when it comes to their delicious and epic (yes…epic) gluten-free bagels is…they use real ingredients.  And, yes, that means that these blueberries are the real deal.  No fake bits.  No dried bits.  Real blueberries.  Giving you real blueberry flavor.  And not just a few berries.  These bagels are loaded with blueberries.  When they sell you a blueberry bagel, you’re getting a blueberry bagel.  You will not be disappointed with that.  So, you won’t feel like you were left hanging with only a few blueberries scattered in the dough (sort of like when you get chocolate chip cookies and they only have a few chips in them…no, no…load those bitches up!), you will get sweet bursts of berries in every…single…bite.  I swear it to you!

Upon returning home from the gym, I pulled the package of blueberry bagels out of the freezer and set to defrosting two (2) of them.  One for me.  One for my roommate (who doesn’t have to eat gluten-free…but mostly does at home.  All her gluten-containing foods are kept away from my foods).  I was pretty stoked.  So, after doing my usual thawing method (30 seconds on one side…flip…turn…30 seconds on the other side…let sit for a minute…slice in half), I placed each half on the baking sheet and put it in the preheated 350°F oven.  While they toasted for about 15-20 minutes, I went to shower and returned in just enough time to pour some coffee, get out the [vegan] cream cheese, and mix up a little cinnamon-sugar topping (an idea I pilfered from Lin-Manuel Miranda as this is how he tops off his cinnamon raisin bagels in NYC).  The bagels (which smelled PHENOMENAL) were removed from the oven and I allowed them to cool for a moment before schmearing them with a healthy dose of cream cheese and a smattering of cinnamon-sugar.  Breakfast was served.

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Sweet Note Gluten Free Blueberry Bagels with a schmear of vegan cream cheese and a sprinkle of cinnamon-sugar

Normally, I ask my roommate what she thinks as I deliver her plate to her first and she digs in before I return with my own bagel.  But, for some reason, today I didn’t do that.  I settled in to my own breakfast, coffee nearby, and took a first bite.  And…WOW!!  For real…just WOW!!  There has never been a blueberry anything that I have purchased that has packed this much flavor, great texture, and pure goodness and deliciousness…in every single bite.  This is not an exaggeration.  If you’ve been conned by previous blueberry bagels on size, taste, and…the amount of blueberries you have in each bagel…then it’s time to look for a better bagel.  And there is none better than the (happily) gluten-free (and trust me…no one would guess it!) and vegan (again…no one would guess it!) Sweet Note Gluten Free Blueberry Bagels.  When I took my first bite…I went…”OMG…YUM!”  To which, as she was devouring yet another bite, my roommate said, “UM…YES!”  We were both totally smitten with the newest Sweet Note Bagel in the lineup.  Blueberries are a nutritional powerhouse.  Pair them with the most perfect bagel recipe (yeah…I said it, Sweet Note!)…and you have a perfect product to satisfy every taste.

I’m dreaming of eating another one as I write this right now.

Good thing there are four (4) in each pack.

So, while on the subject, let’s discuss what Sweet Note Bakery packs into their Gluten Free Blueberry Bagels.  I mean, besides the obvious…blueberries.  Each bagel is made with LOVE (yep…an actual ingredient…and you can tell), water, white rice flour, tapioca flour, sweet white rice flour, apple juice infused blueberries, sorghum flour, sugar, cane syrup, olive oil, molasses, yeast, xanthan gum, wild blueberry juice concentrate, psyllium husk, and salt.   As always when it comes to Sweet Note’s bagels, these bagels are gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, non-GMO, egg-free, peanut & tree nut-free, and cholesterol free.  Made with love, indeed!!

As far as nutrition goes for the Sweet Note Gluten Free Blueberry Bagels you’ll find you hunger satisfied and here’s why.  A serving size is one (1) bagel, which is about 4.5 oz (128 grams).  There are four (4) servings per package.  Each bagel will deliver 320 calories, 3.5 grams fat, 0.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 300 mg sodium, 69 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 17 grams sugars, and 4 grams protein.  The sugar count on these is a bit higher due to the inclusion blueberries and the blueberry juice concentrate.  BUT…they are amazing nonetheless.  And I am going to keep on ordering them until they tell me I no longer can.  Which I hope never happens.  For real!!  THIS…just became my most favorite bagel that Sweet Note has introduced.

And, trust me, I can’t wait to see what else they manage to cook up in the future.  Every time they come out with a new flavor, they exceed expectations and previous products.  Every. Single. Time.  And I never tire of placing orders to keep my freezer properly stocked and ready for a quick, toasted, deliciously schmeared breakfast.

So, yes…whether you love bagels, blueberries, or blueberry bagels…head on over to the Sweet Note Bakery online store and place an order.  You won’t find these in locations where Sweet Note Bagels are sold.  These are only online.  Trust me…you’ll find love at first bite too.  Delicious…blueberry…love.

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