Project BQ – Marathon Training Week #13

dreams-hopes-poster-rhino-treadmill-unicornYep.  I am well aware that this post is REALLY late this week.  But…let me tell you…I was on a glorious, fun vacation.  And I was off the grid for much of it because I was hanging on a cruise ship.  Gotta love it.

Now, let me remind you, that when I planned a birthday trip…I was to have already run my marathon.  I had planned on running the Erie Marathon, but it sold out before I could register for it.  I wasn’t expecting that, so it made me give up on my dream of a Boston 2020 experience and turn my focus on Boston 2021.  BUT…this now meant that instead of recovering on my cruise/vacation…I was now in the peak of my training.

My coach was very flexible with my schedule and kindly gave me a “down” week while I was away.  But this did include two back-to-back 13 milers…which I moved from the weekend to the middle of the week (while on a cruise ship instead of at a Disney resort) , but this was how it would work in my schedule the best while I was away.  I kept them back-to-back because I felt that was an important component to the training…just shifted WHEN they happened.

Was it ideal to have to train while on my birthday cruise/vacation?  NOPE.  Was it fun?  NOPE.  But…it is what it is right now…and I worked it in.  It wasn’t perfect.  It was far from it.  Disney exhaustion is a real thing friends, and it definitely hit me hard.  But…I managed to keep my training on track.  I wish I didn’t HAVE to fit it in…but we made it work the best we could.

Let’s set sail…

Monday: REST/RECOVERY DAY! EMBARKATION DAY FOR DISNEY DREAM CRUISE!

I arrived in Orlando on Sunday morning and spent most of the morning running around Disney Springs and getting settled in to the All-Star Music resort for one night.  No running around the parks.  Nothing big on Sunday…just get a meal at Sanaa (THE BEST) and get some sleep to make the drive to Port Canaveral in the morning.  I set an alarm and got up ahead of it, managing to work in my morning PT stretches that day.  Then we made the drive to port and got signed up for the Castaway Cay 5K (which was now running on my birthday), and boarded the Disney Dream.  The rest of the time was spent exploring the ship, grabbing lunch (they made me a gluten free tomato sandwich…which took some time to get to me…and they sent me 2…because I guess they thought I would starve)…settling into our room…going through the safety drill…catching a show…getting dinner (and meeting THE BEST tablemates ever)…dealing with Cathy getting sea sick…there wasn’t time for a run.  And it was nice to have an extra day off and to feel like I could get used to the ship and get my trip off to a leisurely and un-stressful start start.

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

Welcome to the wonderful world of training while on a cruise. This was NOT easy whatsoever.  While eating breakfast, the ship pulled into Nassau in the Bahamas.  YAY!!  I had heard how touristy this stop was, so Cathy and I decided that we’d leave the ship, hit up the Hard Rock, hit the Starbucks (I was buying a mug for a friend), then head back to the ship.  This was what we did and I was happy with this decision.  The streets were crowded, and I could only imagine how the beach would be.  While everyone was off the ship, I figured I’d go onto the track on Deck 4 and run my workout there.  The problem was, part of the deck was blocked off due to some maintenance happening.  AND…my GPS wasn’t working.  At all.  So I would physically have to count my laps.  I wasn’t feeling it.  So, we took the stairs up to Deck 11 and entered the fitness center.  Here, I hopped on one of the treadmills and did an easy run (because I can’t run fast on a treadmill), putting in a full 8 miles at this pace, skipping the strides and vowing to add them onto one of my runs when I got back on land.  Done.  Cathy walked on the treadmill next to me and would replenish my water as needed, which was awesome.  It was a great way to spend the afternoon before showering, changing (it was Halloween costume night!), and heading out to do some Trick or Treating and catching dinner with two of our table mates (the other 2 parties were at Palo that night).  It was so much fun, and I wasn’t stressing the workout at all.  That being said, I knew the rest of the runs on the ship would be on that treadmill.

Wednesday: INSTRUCTIONS: 11-13 MILES WITH 3 MILES FAST FINISH – GOAL 12 MILES – EASY DOES IT UNTIL FAST FINISH AT THE END.

This was supposed to be our day at Castaway Cay…but that got shifted to Thursday.  Instead, this was our Day At Sea.  It would also be Pirate Night.  That’s fun, right?  I got up early to get to the fitness center on the ship just after it opened at 6 am.  I had 13 miles to log (really 13.1, because I can’t just run 13 miles), and was going to break it up (since treadmills go for an hour at a time) by doing 5 miles, 5 miles, and then a “fast” 3 miles right at the end.  I had my bottle of Maurten with me and would fuel after each interval, with water in between.  I learned, very quickly, that running on a treadmill on a cruise ship is HARD.  You get a full-body workout because the treadmill belt is moving, but the ship is swaying too…so at times I felt like I was running up a hill, and at times down a hill.  It took some getting used to.  But I powered through with 10 miles at an easy
pace, and then 3.1 miles at a faster (maybe not super fast, but faster) pace.  It was fast for me on a treadmill.  Afterwards, when I finished up, one of the personal trainers on the ship came over and asked me if I was training for a marathon.  He then asked which one and how many I had run.  He just said he had noticed me running.  WOOHOO!!  So, while this wasn’t what I had in mind (and this probably would have been better on land)…I just made the most of what I had been dealt.  Then, Cathy surprised me with a Stem to Stern wine tasting later that day.  We did A LOT of walking around the ship that day too.  And, of course, dressed up like pirates, went to dinner at the fancy Palo restaurant (where I had a gluten free souffle for dessert!!), and then had fireworks on deck.  AMAZING.

Thursday: INSTRUCTIONS: 11-13 MILES WITH 3 MILES FAST FINISH – GOAL 12 MILES – EASY DOES IT UNTIL FAST FINISH AT THE END.

It was my birthday.  YAY!  I love my birthday.  But this morning, I was up at 5:30 to get dressed and head up to the fitness center.  It was still closed when I got up to the 11th deck, but opened up a few minutes later.  I needed to start at 6 am sharp to get in 10 miles of running prior to the Castaway Cay 5K I would be running on Disney’s private island.  I started right on time, with my Maurten bottle to fuel me through the 10 easy pace miles on the treadmill.  I did another round of 5, then started over with the last 5 miles.  Cathy met me up there as I finished up and we took the steps down to Deck 2 to group together with everyone doing the 5K.  I was using the 5K as my “fast finish,” not sure how fast it would be in the hot sun on the island AFTER a 13 mile run the day before and 10 miles ahead of the 5K itself.  We were walked off the ship and then to the start line of the 5K.  Cathy was doing the 5K as well, but we weren’t running it together.  We were sent off as the clock started and I passed quite a few people to start with, pulling into the lead female position (This, BTW, means nothing as this is a fun run and no official timing is given and people are encouraged to cut the course, LOL).  But I made a goal in my head to stay in that position.  It was definitely hot out there, especially when we weren’t in the loop (which had a bit of shade).  The runway portion was probably the hottest, and I knew my first mile was pretty quick, but my second mile I faded a bit.  I pressed on, pushing a bit more and picked it back up to finish “strong” that day.  I was happy with it.  First female.  Birthday run.  Done.  Cathy came in and we decided to change into our bathing suits, do some shopping, grab an alcoholic beverage (a Conch Cooler) and lay on the beach for a bit.  We took some pictures, went to eat lunch (the ship had a vegan and gluten free veggie burger, fries, and veggies sent to the island for me), then headed back to the ship.  NO ONE was on there.  We showered, changed, took pictures, and then went to a Mixology Class which was SO fun.  Later on, birthday dinner with the entire table back together.  And double dessert for me.  LOVED it.  The chef also created dishes for me the entire night to fit my dietary needs and make it super fun.  I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday…and the runs were a nice bonus!

Friday: REST DAY!  DISEMBARKATION DAY & MICKEYS NOT SO SCARY HALLOWEEN PARTY AT MAGIC KINGDOM!

I must say, it was nice to not have to try to fit in a run before leaving the ship on Friday morning.  We got our luggage packed up, went down to breakfast, which we ate with our entire table again, and then got in the line to get off the ship and go through customs.  After that, it was a waiting game for our room at Port Orleans French Quarter to be ready.  We grabbed a light lunch at Toasted.  We hit the grocery store for water.  We walked around the resort until the text came through and we could get into our room.  Once that happened, we changed into our costumes for the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (we were Joy & Bing Bong from Inside Out), went to Magic Kingdom, got candy, went to eat at Skippers (we split an appetizer & entree), went on rides, got TONS more candy, walked around…and left at midnight.  My legs were tired and my feet were SO sore.  I think I got to bed just before 1 am and had to get up for a run on Saturday, now very glad I moved my back-to-back 13 milers to earlier in the week.

Saturday: SPEED WORK – MONA FARTLEKS W/ 1 MILE HARD EFFORT

When I woke up on Saturday morning, the last thing I wanted to do was do speed work.  My legs were feeling heavy, the late night and time on my feet this entire trip, but more specifically…the night prior at Magic Kingdom.  It was hot and humid outside.  But…I knew this needed to happen and I needed to do it now before another long day of wandering around a Disney Park (Food & Wine Festival at EPCOT!).  So…I headed out.  Mona Fartleks were going to happen on the running path of the Port Orleans resorts…whether I wanted it to or not.  Once again, these work like this: 2 mile warm up, 2×90 sec, 4 x 60 sec, 4×30 sec, 4×15 sec (with equal recovery after each at a pace faster than base pace), 1 mile hard effort, 2 mile cool down.  I could tell from the start it was going to be a struggle.  My warm up was MEH.  My intervals felt like a slog.  And there were plenty of obstacles along the way (people with luggage, people going to the buses, dogs, carts, strollers, people on the way to breakfast and not paying attention, and any number of all of them all at once).  But I did sweat it out and get it done.  I knew it was going to be bad.  But I also had promised to tack on some strides, so I did that too…and those felt awful and slow and just sucky.  I went back to the room, feeling really defeated, but had my spirits lifted with gluten free beignets and coffee.  I showered, ate, put on sunscreen, headed to the bus to go to EPCOT…where we walked the rest of the day, once again returning LATE at night with tired legs and very sore feet.  I knew I had one more day of runs ahead of me on this trip…

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

Same run as I did on the ship…this time with the strides right at the end.  I was hoping this run would go better than the previous one.  Ultimately, this would work out to be the same distance as the Mona Fartlek workouts…just without pushing pace.  I set out, and surprisingly felt good.  I ran the same loops through the Port Orleans Resorts as the previous day.  It was much earlier, as I was wearing my reflective gear, simply because it was still very dark out.  I had an 9:15 am breakfast in Animal Kingdom, which meant in order to have time to do my run, I’d have to get up early and get it done so I could shower, change, put on sunscreen and…drive to the park.  I was happy with how I felt on this.  It was still warm and humid, but it’s Orlando, Florida.  Of course it is.  I said HI to a few people who were out smoking or sitting with their dogs on the trail. Got a lot of compliments on my Nox Gear vest (use code: CELIAC at checkout for 35% off).  And I finished it up and was actually sad and disappointed with my overall pace.  I felt like I was flying and it was so easy today…but the reality was sobering and frustrating.  I did my strides, which felt so hard to push through and do…then went to prepare for the day.  This was Animal Kingdom, some resort hopping (with Dole Whip), and then a dinner of Gluten Free Churros and Truffle Poutine.  Cathy and I split those, went and rose Flights of Passage at Pandora, and then called it a night.  We realized we hadn’t had a single vegetable all day…so we made a point to stop by the food court at the resort and pick up some celery and carrots to split…just to feel a bit better about life.  I was thankful that my travel day the following morning was an additional rest day, which made things a little less hectic and crazy…and allowed for pre-airport gluten free beignets. HA!

So…all in all…it was a fun week, but it was hard on the training.  I love traveling and taking trips, but with an actual goal this coming race, I had to prioritize my training when I had originally hoped that I wouldn’t even have to pack running clothes if I didn’t want to (let’s face it…I probably would have).  It was a struggle.  Mentally, the early mornings on vacation were rough, especially with my schedule and my diet being thrown off by late dinners, late nights, and more food than I thought was possible being put in front of me.  But, you know…you just make it work.  Even my coach said I was doing good fitting the training in while on a cruise and a stay at Disney World (since there was no races this time around) and to just let the bad runs go.  Make like Elsa…Let it go!  HA!

So, it will be nice to fall back into a “normal” schedule and see how I go as the summer days creep back in and warm us all back up…

Mercy Health Glass City Marathon – Toledo, OH (April 28, 2019)

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Me after finishing the Mercy Health Glass City Marathon – Toledo, Ohio

Race: Mercy Health Glass City Marathon

Place: Toledo, OH

Date: April 28, 2019

Time: 3:38:46

After a really good shakeout run using Glass City’s Savage 5K as just that (and somehow placing in my age group), I spent the rest of Saturday in my hotel room.  Sitting on my bed.  Feet up.  Eating.  Blogging.  Watching television.  Not out walking around Toledo.  Not hanging out at the expo.  Off my feet.  Foam rolling.  Stretching.  All of it.

I was really taking this prep seriously!  I didn’t actually leave the room until about 4 pm…when Cathy and I headed into Toledo to hit up Organic Bliss Deli & Bakery for dinner.  We had looked at a few places in Toledo, but it is so hard to gauge  how safe some places are, and some reviews on places I had been looking at weren’t so good on my Find Me Gluten Free app.  We were going to do my new favorite thing before a major race – sushi…but Toledo’s only safe sushi place only had the a vegetable roll, cucumber roll, or avocado roll for vegan options.  BOOOO!  I am lucky to have Dragon King’s Daughter for my vegan sushi needs in Louisville/New Albany.  As we were driving up to Toledo, my fellow Celiac blogger and Instagram friend, Margaret, was on her way down to Columbus for the Gluten Free Allergy Free Fest and posted about Organic Bliss.  They closed at 5 pm, so we went early and got there to figure out what we wanted for dinner.  And, of course, we would get a box of goodies to go back to the hotel with us.

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My Gluten Free Caribbean Avocado Sandwich with a Chickpea Salad from Organic Bliss Deli & Bakery in Toledo, Ohio

The people there were very kind and gave us some time to look over the menu, and we finally came to our conclusions…Cathy went ahead and got the BLT with Chips.  And I went with the Gluten Free Caribbean Avocado Sandwich (avocado, romaine, spinach, tomato, cucumber, black beans, papaya poppyseed dressing).  I got that with a side of the Chickpea Salad.  And then we boxed up some treats: A Mint Chocolate Chip Cupcake, an Almond Scone, a Cranberry Orange Scone, a Cinnamon Roll, and the Peanut Butter Quinoa Bar.  We paid and went and took a seat in the corner while meals were prepared and brought out to us.

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All my baked goodies I took back to the hotel with me from Toledo, Ohio

Sandwiches before a race are a good back-up it seems.  And this sandwich was AMAZING.  I loved it.  And the Chickpea Salad was the perfect side.  Got some carbs, protein, healthy fats…perfection.  They were trying to get ready to close, so the floors were being swept and people were coming in for last minute purchases.  We finished up and headed out to go back to the hotel for the night. And you better believe Cathy and I split that Mint Chocolate Chip Cupcake for dessert back at the hotel.

I went ahead and posted on my Instagram feed the motivation, the drive, and the reason I was running the following day: my mom.  My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer back in January, just after the New Year.  It was a shock to my family and one that none of us were prepared for.  Right now, she is going through chemo, keeping her spirits high and her thoughts positive.  What a warrior.  This race, save for a couple of miles, was to honor her.  Mile 1, my roommate claimed.  Mile 26, my friend Natalie claimed,  And Mile 10 was in memory of my friend Tina’s daughter, Kinsley, who died in her sleep at the age of 10 a couple of days before I left for Toledo.  I would carry these honors with me respectively on the race course.

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My mom – she’s a warrior!

I did one last round of stretching and foam rolling while watching Guy’s Grocery Games on Food Network…and got an onslaught of uplifiting and motivational gifs from my coach.  I do love my coach.  He has been amazing, even when training went slightly off the rails when I busted up my knees.  The gifs made me laugh.  And he threw in a Game of Thrones reference, so that was winning.  But, soon it was time to turn in for the night.  I set two different alarms.  One for me to get up and take my medicine and use the bathroom…and then go back to bed.  And then one for Cathy…which would be when I would get up and get dressed.  No surprise…I couldn’t sleep well.  And I shut off my first alarm before it even went off.  Tried to climb back into bed and wait for the other alarm, but then my mind wouldn’t shut off.  So, I got up and did my PT stretches for my hips…and then went ahead and started to get ready.  By the time the second alarm went off, I was pretty much dressed and ready to head out the door.  So, while Cathy got ready, I started prepping my hydration vest bladder with 1 liter of water, grabbed my Maurten gels to use as additional fuel on the run, and put on my clothes I would shed prior to the race.

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Race day ready!!

Because up in Toledo…it was 41 degrees on race morning, but with the windchill, it was in the real feel was in the low 30s.  They had been predicting snow…but thankfully that didn’t happen.  I had, thankfully, packed some clothes that I could wear over my race gear (and a back up short sleeve shirt since a tank top was the original plan for this race), so I felt like I was good in the wardrobe department.  I was glad I had the clothing to give to Cathy before I got into the corral, because I was cold in that wind.

We left the hotel early.  Like 5:45-ish early.  And we made the 20 minute drive to the University of Toledo, where we found a lot to park in.  And then…then was the walk to the start.  It was slightly drizzly, but Cathy had purchased some trash bags at Kroger so, we both donned them and set out down the sidewalk to get to the start.  It was a pretty big walk, but it was a good way to warm up for sure.  If you know Cathy’s history with directions, you will understand that I kept checking with her to make sure that she was on track to getting us to the start line, especially when random runners who were walking near us would veer off and we’d continue on…into the land of empty sidewalks and roads.  But, we turned at an intersection and I could hear the tunes of the start line, and they just so happened to be playing my theme song for this year, Panic! at the Disco’s “High Hopes.”  It was a good sign.

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This was not the start line that I expected for a spring marathon. Wet, cold and windy!

We went to find a spot for Cathy to stand for the start of the race and just sort of made that base camp.  I stood behind her to break her from the wind.  We took a few photos.  I looked miserable.  I was miserable.  Spring marathons were not meant to be spent freezing.  At least, not in my opinion.  I drank my bottle of UCAN with 30 minutes to go and eventually, with about 10, shed my extra layers, save the trash bag, got a hug from Cathy, and headed to Corral B.

It was here in Corral B that I set out on my mission to find the 3;35 pacers.  The Web site had two of them listed, but as I hunted for the tiny yellow signs the marathon pacers held, I just couldn’t find any in my corral.  So, I went up to one of the half marathon pacers and asked him where the marathon pacers were.  He said that they should be in here…and asked which group I was looking for.  I said, “The 3:35.”  And he told me that there was no 3:35, only 3:30 and 3:40 and to find and line up with the 3:40 so that I start slow.  I was determined not to melt down or let this mentally get to me.  The National Anthem was about to be sung, and after that, I gave one last look around my corral for pacers….shed my trash bag, and decided I was going to have to pace myself this time.

That’s a scary thought  right?  But that was how it was going to be.  Corral took off and I saw the bobbing of the yellow pacer signs up there.  So…one more chance to check for them in my corral.  No luck.  None.  Deep breath. We were moved up toward the start line.  Waited two minutes.  And then…we were off.

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Just before Mile 4 in the Glass City Marathon

I reeled it in immediately.  Normally that race start is intense and the adrenaline is rushing and you just GO.  You bolt it out and find some space, but it uses up valuable energy, and I had been given a plan to follow, and while I couldn’t see the first 5 miles through with the pacer as the plan said, I wasn’t going to blow it up by going out too fast too soon.  I could hold it together and hold back.  Five miles.  I had this.  My coach wanted me to be around an 8:12-8:10 pace for these miles.  I did the best I could, and while a few of them were slightly fast, the last two were just slightly slower (not by much) than that pace.  Just before Mile 4, Cathy had found a spot on the side of the road to cheer. It was amazing.  Cowbell and all with a crowd.  I will say this, for being a smaller race, I never felt like I wasn’t supported out there.  Going into Mile 4 was a huge example of this.  Lots of people, even in the damp cold, just there to cheer on the runners.  It was great.

From Mile 6-15, I was supposed to maintain a slightly faster pace, not sprinting, not going too fast, but hitting those high 8’s.  And I managed this.  Holy crap, I was doing it.  And I felt good.  I didn’t feel like I needed anything, and technically with UCAN, I didn’t…but I didn’t want to run out of steam, and I have always been told to fuel early and often.  So, I took my first Maurten gel at Mile 6. Here we were guided through some neighborhoods, and people were down at the end of their driveways cheering.  Our bibs had names on them, so they would shout out your name and some encouragement as you went by.  Loved that.  While big races are all fine and good, this was the feel of a big race without all that big race stuff.

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Me heading into the finish line of the Glass City Marathon

It was actually just before Mile 10 that the half and the full marathons split.  This was clearly marked with big gates for the runners to go through.  The half marathon runners turned left, while we continued on.  This did bring the number of people around down some.  But, again, I never, ever felt like I was running alone.  At Mile 10, I fueled again (remember, early and often) and then I did give a point up to the sky and said Kinsley’s name.  She gave me some wings on that mile.

It is just before Mile 11 that the marathon course enters Wildwood Preserve Metropark.  We would actually run through this park twice on the course, but, trust me, it didn’t really feel repetitive.  The open streets we had been running on narrowed to a running/biking path, but it was paved and beautiful.  There were race volunteers out there, handing out water at the two water stops that were inside the park.  There was a band playing as well at some point.  On the first pass through the park, somewhere after Mile 12, we are sent to the right to run out onto the streets again.  I fueled again at Mile 14, and pressed on, still feeling strong and confident.  It was somewhere in Mile 16 that I caught up with the 3:40 pacers.

WHAT?!

Yep…the 3:40 pacer.  I shook this off, figuring that it was fine.  The problem was, I joined up with them as we were sent to run on the shoulder of a road, and in a pace group, that made for some tight, tight quarters.  This made my split at this mile much slower than I would have liked, but I was afraid of clipping runners ahead of me, or being clipped by runners near me.  This happened twice, if you recall, when I started with a pace group at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon back in November.  When I had an opening, I did pass and get ahead, able to stretch my legs back out and pick it back up.  I didn’t panic.  Not at all.  I just found my own pace again and was happy to not be in that pack anymore.  I had some breathing room and it took that anxiety away.  I fueled again at Mile 18 and just kept on going.

Just before Mile 20, we re-enter the park again, from a different entrance and make our way back through that path.  It was here that we have to navigate a small bit of an incline.  And it was here, that my legs slowed down and just wouldn’t pick it back up.  The final 10K…where I wanted to just maintain and keep going strong.  A tiny little bump in the elevation took the speed away from me.  I felt like I was picking it back up, but I wasn’t.  I truly wasn’t.  This time as we go to exit, if it’s your second loop, you turn left, and now you’re heading back out toward the university.  I still felt good, I just couldn’t find any sort of speed at this point.  We are still on this paved trail, and runners were scattered, but we were strong.  The 3:40 pacer passed me again.  And I didn’t fret or sweat it.  I did shed my gloves around Mile 22.  My hands were getting really hot finally.  And I was close.  I also took my last gel at this point.  Fuel for the final four miles.

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Me crossing the finish line of the Mercy Health Glass City Marathon – Toledo, Ohio

There were some really perky and happy ladies running a friend in for his last few miles, who were fresh and really uplifting.  It was nice that they came by me because they definitely helpful in that stretch.  Around Mile 25, you can pretty much see the school.  You know that finish line is on the field of the football stadium, and you know…you really are almost there.  People are cheering.  Shouting your name.  Encouraging you.  Telling you how good you look.  How fast you look.  That you’re doing amazing.  I still felt good.  I still felt confident and strong.  I knew I wasn’t getting the BQ I had been training for, but I hadn’t glanced at clocks or my watch for time…just my pace.  I never peeked at it if it wasn’t buzzing at me for a mile lap.  I hit the turns to take the chute into the 26th mile…and then it was on to the stadium.  The crowd was amazing.  Loud.  Screaming.  I saw Cathy as my name was announced and I kicked as much as I could toward that finish line.  Crossing it…with my hands up.  I paused my Garmin and took a look at the time.

3:38.

I was just off of my BQ time by 3 minutes and off my goal time by 5 minutes.  I was so close.  I didn’t get my goal, but I was incredibly happy and proud.  I hadn’t hit the 3:30’s in a marathon since 2013, where I did it twice.  Both BQ times.  I was elated.  I cried.  Cathy came over after I got my Mylar and my medal and gave me a hug.  I told her I needed to put my feet up so we went over to the field and I laid down in the sunlight and propped my legs up on her.

Eventually, I decided that I did, in fact, need to move.  So, we headed out of the stadium to the runner finish area.  Here we collected my commemorative glass mug (you get it upon finishing), and went to the food tent.  I couldn’t eat anything, but poor Cathy was starving so she had my beer and pizza tickets, so I let her claim those.  I was feeling lightheaded, so I went to sit down and shiver in my Mylar.

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My Spicy Ginger Tofu & Ancient Grains bowl from Corelife Eatery

Cathy and just shown up when my Instagram friend, Scooby (who had a fantastic day as the 3:15 pacer) wandered by.  I called him over and we chatted for a minute, but he had just snagged some pizza and I didn’t want it to get cold…so we congratulated each other and I let him go.  Cathy had two beers to try.  The first one she hated, the other one she sipped on until I decided I was ready to go get warm with a hot shower at the hotel while she went to get me some coffee from Bigbee Coffee.  The walk to the car felt longer than it probably was, mostly because my body was tired and a little sore from the effort that day.  I eventually foam rolled, stretched, and went to get dinner at Corelife Eatery before seeing Avengers: Endgame that night (the theater was advertised as having reclining seats – it didn’t…and by the end, I knew I had made a big mistake).  It was a good day, and I am still basking in my accomplishment.  I think, next time, I’ll get it.

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Nothing is impossible.  Keep on dreaming!  Glass City Marathon Finisher!!

So, the official results of the Mercy Health Glass City Marathon are that I finished in 3:38:46, making it officially my third fastest marathon and the first one back in the 3:30s since 2013.  HOLLA!  Stoked.  I was 408/1278 finishers overall.  I was 108/527 female finishes.  And I was 30/96 in my age group!  How amazing is that.  I felt good and strong the entire time, never letting any self-doubt or negative talk enter my head.  I was focused on the race at hand and the people I was running it to honor.  Marathon #15…done.  Now to find the perfect fall marathon to make the next attempt on that Boston Qualifying dream.

Remember…training rarely is linear…race day can throw so many factors at you…trust the process and remain focused on your own race that day.  You never know what you are capable of until you try.

CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon – Indianapolis, IN (November 3, 2018)

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

Race: CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon

Place: Indianapolis, IN

Date: November 3, 2018

Time: 3:46:17

“Ever tried. Ever Failed. No Matter. Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better.”
~ Samuel Beckett

I admit it.  The results of the 2018 Bank of America Chicago Marathon  were a hard pill to swallow.  In all honesty, I had hoped that my training, regardless of changing plans and going solo on it all…making it all up as I went, catching up on miles I didn’t get to run to build up that marathon base…I really thought it would be enough.  I didn’t feel like I was in marathon shape.  But I felt confident.

And, as we know…I crashed and burned soon after the 14 mile mark.  I finished.  But not with a time I was happy with.

Moral of the story.  Do NOT ever leave me along with an upcoming half marathon with the option to upgrade to the full marathon when I’m pissed off with my previous marathon performance.  Less than one month apart.  27 days apart, to be exact.  Because, I figured, hell, I was already in “marathon shape”…might as well try again with a different plan of action.  So, it happened.  I upgraded my registration to the full marathon (trust me, I was starting to doubt the wisdom of this the morning of the race, but I’ll get there, LOL!) and then…didn’t really broadcast it anywhere.  I told my training partner, Lauren.  My roommate, of course, knew.  And a couple of people at the gym who asked me what was next for me knew…but no one else.  Not. A. Word.

My plan for the days in between?  Recovery.  Easy runs.  Not a ton of miles.  Just easy, training runs.  I did maybe 3 speed intervals…all of only 4 miles.  My longest long run was 10 miles…last weekend.  Slow and steady with Lauren who took me on an adventure and kept the pace right where I wanted and needed it.  Some people like to pile on those miles and brag about weekly and monthly totals.  I have never been that sort.  And, honestly, it is a rare thing for me to ever hit 200 miles in a month, even during marathon training.  There is training and there is overtraining.  One of these benefits you.  The other leads to injury, burnout, and a plethora of other issues.  Just like pace, I don’t usually post my miles or mileage either.  Honestly, who cares other than me?

Deep breath.  Let’s start with the day before the race.

Thursday night was filled with packing and not trying to overthink anything.  Cathy picked out my outfit…she packed recovery wear, shoes, race gear, fuel, etc.  Everything I would need for another 26.2.  I made her pack capris because I was nervous it would be too cold at the start of the race for the running skirt she had picked.  She allowed for that…but nothing more.  We went to work as usual on Friday, planning to leave around 2 pm to make the drive up to Indianapolis.

I made certain that I got as much work done that I could in the time I was in the office.  Lunch was just a giant salad, made from all the fresh ingredients/produce that I had lingering in my fridge heading into the weekend.  We packed up, brought bottles of water that had our Nuun Immunity Tablets in them.  If you haven’t tried them…HIGHLY recommended!  And we hit the road, with our mid-day snacks to get us through the drive and the expo before heading to dinner.

We hit a small amount of traffic on the way, but we made it to the Omni Severin Hotel, in downtown Indianapolis.  Honestly, if you’re looking for a hotel in downtown Indy…STAY HERE!!  I was blown away by the hospitality, even if they didn’t do late checkouts due to it being an event weekend (I get it…but after a marathon, I usually appreciate a hot shower).  They did say that they had a fitness center with a shower and if I needed one I could get a key made to get in there and shower.  So…I mean…there was that.  Our luggage was taken up to our room by the nicest guy, Matt, who gave us the rundown about the hotel and the history behind it.  He showed us the amenities in the room and made sure we had plans for dinner because otherwise the hotel was doing a pasta dinner for the runners.  Honestly, I’ve never felt so welcome at a hotel.

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Cathy at her first major packet pickup for the Monumental 5K

Next stop…the expo.  We took the inside path through the hotel and Circle Center Mall to get ourselves over to the Indianapolis Expo Center.  Some roads were going to be closed because Trump and Pence were in town (BARF!), but it wasn’t affecting us.  We had a work-around.  The Expo felt a lot smaller this year than it was last year.  We got there, and immediately collected posters and headed to the back to get race packets and shirts.  YES…that’s plural.  Since I upgraded to the full, Cathy decided she could do the 5K, as it started AFTER the full and half marathons were sent off.  Had I stuck with the half, she wouldn’t have done it otherwise she’d miss my finish.

We stopped at the 5K booths first and Cathy did her first ever official big race 5K packet pickup.  She had to show her ID and everything.  The volunteers at her table were SO fun and very cool.  They even had thrown safety pins into her bag.  It was awesome.

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Cathy and Me with our race numbers for the next morning.

After she got her stuff…we headed over to the marathon tables where I collected my shirt and bib and we went straight into Official Merchandise.  Where I spent more money.  This time only on a lapel pin and a jacket.  The jacket is SUPER nice though.  I could have spent SO MUCH more.  HA!  We made our walk through the vendors and races that were represented at the expo.  Cathy had forgotten a BondiBand to keep her ears warm, so we had to go and get her one of those.  She found one…bright pink…that says, “Nevertheless, she persisted.”  Just like the button she has worn since NYC.  I spotted a different flavor of Gluten Free Honey Stinger Stroopwafels (I can only ever find Salted Caramel…which is GOOD…but I know there are other flavors out there…and I found a Vanilla & Chocolate one!).  But we wrapped it up quickly, stopping to find my name on the poster and then take a few pictures with the banners.  A volunteer was kind enough to get a lot of these photos for us, from every angle.

From there, we made the trek back to the hotel room.  We had about 30 minutes to kill before dinner, so Cathy went ahead and tried on her race shirt to get my opinion on the fit.  I decided I should do the same, and thank GOD I did.  Turns out, the volunteers at my end of the table gave me a men’s small and not a women’s small.  I was NOT happy.  With 20 minutes to get to our dinner reservation, we packed up the shirt and stepped outside to take a quicker route to the convention center in hopes of changing it out.  I booked it down the hall and back into the expo to the shirt exchange area and snagged my women’s small.  Whew!  Cathy was waiting in the hall outside.  We had about 5 minutes to make a 10 minute walk to our dinner reservation at Napolese.  Honestly, whenever we are in town for a race, this is our go-to restaurant.  I mean…GLUTEN FREE FOCACCIA AND GLUTEN FREE PIZZA!!

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Napolese’s Gluten Free Focaccia

I apologized to the hostess for being late and told her we had a 5:45 reservation.  Our table was still there though, next to two very loud men who were drinking a lot and talking REALLY LOUD about Queen and movies and games and whatever.  I was over it.  Thank God they left while we were eating our appetizer.

We had already had plans on what we were going to do for eats that night.  I looked at the menu on the way up so we could formulate a plan.  So when our waiter came over, we got glasses of water and put in our order.  Gluten Free Focaccia (no dairy) and then we were going to Freestyle our pizza and do a Gluten Free Pizza topped with the Housemade Tomato Sauce, Winter Squash, Mushrooms, and Duck Eggs.  He asked if the gluten-free was an allergy and made note that it was for a Celiac on the ticket.  And also made note of the NO DAIRY preference as well.  They are VERY efficient there.  And trust me…the food is amazing too.

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Napolese’s Gluten Free Pizza – no cheese, tomato sauce, mushrooms, winter squash, duck eggs

The focaccia came out first…olive oil, garlic, parsley.  SO GOOD.  And as we were polishing that off, the pizza came out.  But it was missing…the duck eggs.  Cathy pointed it out and he apologized and took it back.  He returned with a little thing of olive oil to go with the pizza if we wanted to add it and said that he took the pizza before they had cooked up the eggs and it would be up momentarily.  And we didn’t really have a long wait before it was returning to our table.  Looking SO good.  And even with polishing off the focaccia…I was ready to eat.  We polished off the pizza and took his advice, adding the olive oil…and it was light and fruity and just added a whole new level of deliciousness to the slices.  BIG FAN.  We finished eating and were given the bill, where they didn’t charge us for the duck eggs (that was sweet…but they didn’t need to do that).  We left a big tip, because or waiter was awesome.  Then headed to CVS to pick up some waters for the next morning, and then hit up the Hard Rock Cafe for a pin.  Mind you…I was not wanting to be on my feet much this time around.  But, we were never far from the hotel and we were back into the hotel by 7:30-ish.  Cathy went to shower.  I got out all my race gear and laid it out and then started my foam rolling because I was determined to do that the night before the race.  As I was doing that, there was a knock at the door.  It was housekeeping delivering a bottle of water, some ice, and a card.  It was from the hotel.  Super sweet gesture.  I knew it would all come in handy.  We finished up an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives…and then…

Lights out…9 pm.  On the nose.

I woke up a couple of times during the night…like my usual wakeup time of 3 am.  At 4

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Cathy’s complimentary drink tray that morning – orange juice and coffee!

am, my first alarm went off so I could take a pill and use the bathroom.  Back to bed for 2 restless hours.  At 6 am…we were both up and starting our morning routine.  I popped open a Pamela’s Products Gluten Free Matcha Happiness Ambition Bar.  I ate one before I ran the Monumental Half Marathon last year.  Why not do it again?  I prepped my pre-race drink and started to slowly get dressed.  At 6:15 am, Cathy’s free orange juice and coffee arrived outside the door.  We got up at 6 am so we could have a more relaxed moment and this gave her the chance to eat her Clif Bar and drink some coffee and juice as she does most mornings.  Including in her own training.

I finished getting ready, and this included slathering on some sunscreen because…it was going to be a sunny day that morning and I refuse to be the person with a sunburn in November.  I was wearing two different color CEP sleeves, my Injinji toe socks, my Newton Distance IIIs, a black running skirt, my Kauai Marathon & Half Marathon singlet, red arm warmers, and a red BondiBand that said “Breathe.”  I had some pajama bottoms to toss away prior to the race and a halfzip that I bought in a child’s size a long time ago that I was okay parting with.   I put my Nuun Energy into two of my bottles and water into the other two bottles and put my fuel belt on.  I put my new nutrition (tested once) into the front zip pouch and called myself ready.  Cathy ended up putting on a second layer on top and then we headed down to the lobby.  They had water and bananas out for the runners.  I usually eat a banana before a marathon so…I snagged one.  We ran into people from Louisville that we didn’t know, but I spotted his Chicago Marathon t-shirt and said I had run it too, but he was smarter than me this morning since he was only doing the half.  We had a good laugh over that.

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Race outfit for the marathon – minus the arm warmers, which got put on soon after.

And after they moved on…I started to have a small meltdown.  Why?  Because, despite being easy on my body and training smart leading up to this…I felt like my legs weren’t going to let me go another 26.2 so soon.  Cathy talked me down, as she usually does.  And then she had us moving out the door and into the cold Indianapolis morning.  It was 34 degrees outside.  We made the walk from the Omni to the start line, where I ate my banana and slowly drank my water.  We made it here and Cathy took a few pictures.  When we saw the pacers getting into the corral, she told me to go find my pacers and talk to them.  She gave me a hug and I left…stepping into the network of corrals and finding the 3:35 pacers (see what I’m doing here?), in the 2nd wave.  My bib was good for the first wave, but like I said, I was learning from my mistakes at Chicago…I hoped.

My plan for this race…line up with the 3:35 pace group and hold on as long as I could.  I

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Cathy & I staying warm in the hotel lobby for a few minutes before walking to the start of both of our races!

didn’t expect to be with them for long, just given how my training runs had been coming off of Chicago.  But, I figured it would be a good way to keep from going out way too fast (and we all know I would have) and at least keeping a constant pace going forward.  The male pacer’s PR was 3:09 and the female had just run a 50K the weekend before, so I can only assume that she is normally super fast as well.  Crazy good.  I never run with pacers, but I figured…this might be what I need.

I ditched my toss-away clothing and got back to the pacers just as the national anthem was being sung.  It was gorgeous.  The wheelchair racers were sent off first.  Wave one was next.  And we were moved up to the start gate.  I gave a wave to Cathy since I wasn’t on the outside of the corral…I was right behind the pacers because…I didn’t want to lose them.  After about 5 minutes…off we went.  We hit the roads of Indianapolis…and Cathy went to line up for her 5K.

The pacers guided our group down Capitol Avenue, reminding us that the pace would be slow for the first couple of miles until the race spread out a little bit.  Since the half and full marathon start together, it can be very congested at points.  Reminder, Indianapolis roads are awful.  The male pacer pointed out holes as we ran and I heard the female pacer say, “You’re going to be saying that a lot.”  HA!  She wasn’t wrong.

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Game face on as I stick close to the 3:35 pacers at the start line

We made a couple of turns before running across the first water/aid station.  They were nice enough to shout out each station as we approached so anyone who needed water or Gatorade could grab it.  It was a little chaotic through there, but I stuck with them as we made a couple more turns and made the half rotation around Monument Circle.  There was another aid station before we hit Mile 3 and the pacer sign was passed from the male to the female.  He had a pace tattoo on his arm and when we hit three, she asked, “How are we?”  He said, “We’re a little over.”  So she picked it up slightly.

Not only was I incorporating a “stick to the pacer” technique this race, I also decided to fuel more.  So every 4 miles…I was trying something new (I know…nothing new on race day, but…MEH)…Maurten Gel 100, which is apparently what Kipchoge uses!  I am no Kipchoge, nor was I aware of this when I purchased it to try…but it isn’t bad.  I like the texture way better than the Honey Stingers or Gu type gels.  I took my first one at Mile 4, which had me ease back on the pace just enough.  I took a drink of water, and pushed my way back up toward the pacers.

It was just about the 10K area that I discovered how dangerous it was to run with a pace

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My new form of fueling – Maurten Gel 100

group.  As more people fell into the group it got crowded…fast.  Someone clipped my foot from behind, sending me stumbling.  I recovered, but was pushed into someone ahead of me, which sent them stumbling.  Then someone else closed in and his foot pretty much tripped me…and again I had to catch myself.  And then someone clipped me again and that one nearly took me down for good.  The adrenaline was rushing at this point which was definitely NOT what I wanted to have happen.  I eased back just enough to allow some space so I wouldn’t get trampled at this point.

At Mile 7, the half marathoners turn left and the marathon runners continue up toward the State Fairgrounds.  At Mile 8…I fueled again.  And I was still hanging onto the pace group.  YAY.  I was a little bit behind them, but I felt that was for my own safety and sanity.  We turned onto Washington Boulevard, which we would be on for almost the next two miles.  They were giving out Clif Gels at Mile 11, but I had my own fueling to contend with.  But it was here…HERE…that I started to get a side stitch.  I wasn’t pushing my pace…but it soon turned into a stomach cramp of sorts.  I gutted through it until we made the turn and hit Mile 12…and then I slowed it to a walk to see if I could get it to pass.  This was when I was supposed to fuel again anyway…and I took the opportunity to do that before I felt I would be okay to pick it up again.  And I did.  No problems.  I made sure to drink more water this time.  I think that was the problem.  I was now further behind the pace group, but was about to hit the halfway mark.  I pushed through and continued…still feeling strong for the most part.  I was just frustrated that I was off the pace group earlier than I would have liked.

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Do you see my name on the poster? I meant to post this earlier. LOL!

I loved winding through the streets of Indianapolis.  There were crowds and people cheering in places you wouldn’t expect.  If we ran through neighborhoods, people were there too.  I may have been a bit off my pace, but I was going strong for the most part.  I made the turn onto Meridian and picked it back up a little.  Mile 16…I eased back again to fuel and drink more water.  And now I decided I would start walking some water stops in order to make sure I was hydrating.  When it’s cold outside, I forget to drink water.  I wasn’t letting anything stupid like that take me down that day.

The 3:40 pacers caught me just before Mile 18, where we ran through this area that felt like a park and were met with a wall of screaming from the people inside.  I think it was a college group, but they were fantastic.  I got quite a few compliments at aid stations and as I ran through here on my pigtails.  Love that story.  We exited onto the highway and headed toward my favorite part of the course, this gorgeous, twisting downhill on an exit ramp.  YES!  Downhill is my favorite speed as we all know!!  And this was fun.

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Cathy after she did her 5K!  She did it in 46:42!

Mile 20…and I had only a 10K left.  I took a little longer on my walk to fuel here because not only did I fuel and drink some water, but I also moved my one and only Honey Stinger Gel from my zip pocket in my running skirt to my fuel belt.  Why?  Because I was going to do one more fueling and I didn’t have enough Maurten with me.  I wanted to feel good and strong at the end of this.

At this point, if there was a hill…I speed walked it.  If there was a water stop, I walked it and took in some water.  If there was a crowd, I ran.  I was running more than walking, which was opposite Chicago, so already my plan was paying off.  I think it was at Mile 23, I went ahead and took my last gel, fueling for the last push.  The water stop here was AMAZING.  They were blaring this great song about being downtown.  And it just helped me pick it back up.

The next three miles went well, even though I could tell I was slowing down.  I think at some point the 3:45 group passed me.  I tried not to let it get into my head.  I took any water break walks that I needed and promised that I would push it at the end.  I was going to finish this one strong.  I made the turn onto W New York Street.  The crowd was amazing.  Someone shouted, “The finish is just around the corner!”  They were right.  I rounded the corner and could see the finish line down the way.  It seemed so far, but I found another gear and I started to pick it up.  As I got closer, I saw Cathy standing near the finish, screaming her head off for me.  I pressed on, crossing the finish line, arms in the air, and stopped my Garmin.  I never looked at it. I wanted to beat my Dopey time.  But I didn’t want to be disappointed yet either.

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Me crossing the finish line at the CNO Financial Monumental Marathon

So I never looked.  I started walking down the row.  I was wrapped in a Mylar blanket.  I saw some people with their medals on…and thought for a moment I had walked right past that station.  But I hadn’t.  I just hasn’t moved up far enough.  I continued on.  A nice woman put a medal around my neck and congratulated me.  I smiled and thanked her, snagging a bottle of water before stopping to get an official finisher photo from Marathonfoto.  On down the aisle of snacks, snagging a banana, a Clif Bar (for Cathy), a bag of Lay’s chips, and the famous cookie (I can’t even eat it…but I knew plenty of people who could).  And then…I made my way out to be greeted by Cathy with a hug.

I asked her, “Did I beat my Dopey time?”  And she said, “You smashed it by over three minutes.”  I was elated.  It wasn’t the time I was hoping to hit, but I once again chipped away from my time I set at the beginning of the year…doing a run/walk for the entire race.  This time, I mostly ran and felt strong and good throughout…and that was saying something.  As Cathy was finding a spot for me to lay down and put my feet up, I spotted the hat in her clear backpack and said, “You got a hat?”  She said I should have gotten one too and I told her I must have walked past that station.  She told me to lay down and she would see if she could get one for me.  After about 5 minutes, she returned victorious, saying she flagged down a happy looking marathoner to see if she could get another one.  It worked.

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Feet up…suns out…guns out.  FINISHER!

After stretching my feet up for a little bit, just basking in the sun, we finally decided to get up and head back toward the hotel.  Cathy checked us out of our room and had our bags checked.  It felt like the walk took forever, but it was a good way, save for the wind that had picked up.  I drew my arm warmers back up over my arms and we zigzagged our way back to the hotel.

We stepped inside and got into the elevator to go up one floor.  Cathy told me to go over to the bench to sit down and wait while she got luggage.  It didn’t take too long.  She opened up my suitcase and pulled out the outfit I had set out to wear afterwards, compression socks, jeans, the race t-shirt, new underwear, a proper bra, the basics.  We went ahead and took off my shoes, socks and put on my compression socks while I was sitting there.  She pulled my pigtails down, getting my hair extensions out and grabbing my hair brush.  And then she sent me around the corner to the bathroom to change.

I ducked into a stall and did that in record time after a marathon.  I realized that I had left my deodorant in my toiletries bag so I made sure I looked presentable, brushed my hair, and then went to grab that while leaving my race clothes with her.  Quick duck into the bathroom to apply deodorant, a wash of the hands, and one more fix of the hair…and I was good to go.  Once I put on my recovery shoes.

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My celebration meal at Woody’s Library Restaurant in Carmel, IN!

We headed out and she gave me the valet ticket to get the car while she went into Starbucks to grab me a much-needed coffee.  They valet went to retrieve the car, which took about 5 minutes and she hadn’t yet made it out.  I had no money on me to top the valet, which I felt AWFUL about, but I couldn’t help that.  I texted her and she said about 14 teenagers had been in front of her and she was coming. She was out in about 3 minutes and we loaded up her luggage.  I snagged my coffee.  And we were off, heading to Carmel, Indiana, the home of Woody’s Library Restaurant, my new favorite place to eat in all of Indianapolis.  Our friend Greg met us there.  I didn’t have an appetite at this moment, but went ahead and ordered the Gluten Free (Lettuce Wrap) Tex Mex Quinoa Tacos with a side of the Gluten Free Sweet Potato Fries, and Cathy got me a little side of pickles…just in case I wanted them.

I made a go at the food…taking my time to chew and to digest so as not to set my stomach off.  And I managed to eat the fries and most of the tacos before calling it quits.  I maybe had two of the pickle chips.  I was surprised I managed that much.  Afterwards, to stretch me out a bit more before we made the car ride home, the three of us went to the Antique Mall and looked around.  They both found things to buy, but I didn’t this time.  Maybe next time.  Then we hit up the gluten-free No Label at the Table bakery there.  I picked up two of their Lemon Cookies, a Brownie, and a Chocolate Pumpkin Loaf.  The lady who owns the bakery was there, and she was excited to see a marathoner there and asked me about other local races and Disney races as I shopped and decided what I wanted.

Afterwards…it was time to make the long drive back home.

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Until next year…BE MONUMENATAL!

So, the official results of the CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in 3:46:17, which makes it my fastest marathon this year and the one that closes out my actual racing season, as far as I know.  HA.  I was 1377/4568 finishers overall. I was the 377/1983 female finishers. And I was 106/391 in my age division.  Very happy with my results as I was dedicating this run to the people I know…who can’t run.  Spontaneous Marathon #14 is in the books and I already can’t wait to sign up for next year.  This was a great race, all around.

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