Indy Half Marathon at Fort Ben – Indianapolis, IN (October 5, 2019)

Snapseed

Me crossing the finish line at the Indy Half Marathon at Fort Ben – Indianapolis, IN

Race: Indy Half Marathon at Fort Ben

Place: Indianapolis, Indiana

Date: October 5, 2019

Time: 1:39:13

Friends…I am 21 SECONDS away from matching my half marathon PR (which I set at the Geist Half Marathon in 2014).  That’s…that’s ONE HILL.  Do you know how thrilled I am to see this time?  To know that I’m 22 seconds away from a new PR (hey, a 1 second PR is still a PR)?!  I am ecstatic!!

And shocked.  This is my second fastest half marathon to date.  It’s been over 3 years since I even came close to my PR.

This is HUGE!

I apologize right now for all the bold, italics, caps lock, and exclamation point abuse!

Let’s take the deep dive into this race, shall we?

IMG_6404

Indy Half Marathon at Fort Ben

This story starts…on Friday.  Friday’s are complete rest days for me.  I hadn’t been sleeping well this past week, which sucked, but my sleep was a bit better Thursday night into Friday morning.  Not great…but better.  I got up, showered, finished packing, and started to prep my overnight oats (I’ve been eating these prior to long runs all summer, so why stop now?) to take with me to Indianapolis for race morning.  I put those in the fridge, finished getting ready for work, and went into the office for 6 hours.  Arrangements had been made to leave at 2:30 pm, head to Dragon King’s Daughter (because my magic sushi had to happen prior to a race for sure and I had a cooler in the car to keep it through the drive), and hit the road.  We were about 30 minutes away when I realized I had left my prepped overnight oats in the fridge at work.  UGH!  So, Cathy and I said we’d find a grocery store to find something comparable when we got to Indy.

IMG_6406

Packet Pick-Up

The drive was uneventful.  We listened to Meb Keflezighi on the Ali on the Run podcast for most of the drive.  Great listen, by the way.  It’s part of the “You Can Run a Marathon” series that she put together.  It was a funny, inspiring listen and it got us pretty much all the way into the greater Indianapolis area.  We rolled into our hotel, checked in, dropped stuff…I put sushi into the fridge in the room…and we headed out to hit up the race expo.

The expo itself was small (probably good from a financial standpoint), but very well organized.  Finding packet pickup was easy and I quickly was able to retrieve both my packet (bib and quarter zip) and my friend Kelly’s (she couldn’t get off work early and was going to drive up in the morning) packet for the half marathon.  Cathy went and got her 5K packet before we stepped into the small merchandise area.  She bought me a hoodie from the race.  YAY.  And that was all we did.  We left to head to the Fresh Thyme (for some pre-made overnight oats, cashew butter, and waters) and then Noodles & Co. (because Cathy needed a night before the race fuel too), before heading back to the room to eat while watching, what else?, the traditional Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives.

32D67404-965F-4579-AB8D-00E8CB34657E

“Magic Sushi” from Dragon King’s Daughter – Gluten Free Green Acres & Gluten Free Spicy Tofu Rolls

Cathy went to shower after we polished off our respective dinners, and I got down to stretching and foam rolling.  Lights out was just before 9 pm.  And, my newfound insomnia kicked in again.  WEEEE!  I tossed and turned and tossed and turned and didn’t get much sleep…yet again.  UGH!  That sucked.  I switched off the first alarm I set because I was able to get up and not have to wake up anyone else because…I WAS ALREADY AWAKE.  I got back into bed for another 45 minutes, but no rest was coming.  Apparently I was going to run on fumes.  YAY.

The temperature outside on race morning was a brisk 47 degrees.  This was really the first morning of cold weather any of us were experiencing.  I decided to race in the outfit I wore in the Glass City Marathon, and would likely be wearing again at Monumental.  Arm warmers and everything.  Cathy had a bit more of a dilemma…because 40s are hard to dress for.  Sleeves are good, but sometimes you warm up fast.  Short sleeves might not be enough.  She opted for sleeves.  We ate some breakfast (she brought oatmeal from home), finished getting ready, and then headed out the door to drive up to the giant parking lot prior to the half marathon and 5K.

IMG_6418

Makeshift pre-race breakfast of Brekkie, Julie’s Cashew Butter, and Purely Elizabeth Granola (I brought that form home)

Kelly was there bright and early, so when we parked she made her way to the car while Cathy got out the trash bags she brought for extra warmth.  I handed off the packet and zip to Kelly, who was excited she was actually getting one of the jackets, before she went to drop it in the vehicle.  She was just in shorts and a tank (calling herself a human furnace)…and I was cold just looking at her.  HA!  She returned to the car and the three of us made our way over to the staging area near the start line.  There were some nice fires going, and we tucked in to attempt to stay warm.  Cathy went to drop her bag at Bag Drop, and we were just killing time now.  I did drink my Maurten 160 Drink Mix 30 minutes prior to the start, per the usual.

IMG_6422

Staying warm pre-race around the fires

As the start of the race neared, we did meander over toward the start corrals, where we met up with Elizabeth (another member of the MRTT/SRTT Southern Indiana Chapter), took some pictures, and then wished each other luck.  I was in Corral B, Elizabeth in C, Kelly in D…and Cathy was in the 5K corrals, so she was able to at least take some photos, video, and cheer at the start of the half.

The 1:40 pacers were in my corral and lined up near me.  I was to run this one at MARATHON PACE, so I wasn’t paying any attention to that.  It was a cool, crisp morning, and after the elites and first corral were sent off…we were moved up.  Cathy actually got a nice video of me starting, though she didn’t realize it at the time.  In fact, she was waiting for the corral after that.  Oh well.  That’s what happens sometimes.

IMG_6427

Elizabeth, Me, Kelly, & Cathy

The 1:40 pacers were fantastic, especially Troy, as he gave a lot of helpful advice to those who were running with him as we started out.  And it was a good reminder that we still had a long road ahead.  The first part of the race was a slight downhill…so I let gravity work it’s magic there.  We were off, and I was feeling surprisingly good.

The first two miles of this race were a nice, relaxed, gentle downhill.  My legs were feeling rested and good and they were on the move.  Mile 1 rolled by quickly, and as we hit Mile 2, we were already inside the Fort Harrison State Park.  It was as we headed into Mile 3 that we hit the first monster hill in the race.  It’s funny, when you look at my splits you can see the 2 giant hills that you have to tackle in this run.  But this one was early and my legs were fresh with some bounce.  And I just bounded up it and kept going.

The next few miles were rolling hills and flats.  And they were enough to just sort of keep your legs guessing and feeling good.  The volunteers at the water stops were phenomenal, cheering loudly for the runners as they came through the aid stations, and just being really encouraging.  I was still feeling good as I hit the 10K mark, knowing that I was ahead of my marathon pace, and hearing my mind tell me that if I slowed down, it was okay.  But I wasn’t going to make myself slow down.  We had perfect race conditions and I was rolling.  I took out one of the Maurten 100 Gels (the new one with some caffeine) and managed to take it without slowing down much.  There were no trash cans, so I held onto the wrapper until I spotted one, about a mile later.

IMG_6470

When you accidentally run your second fastest half marathon

We were routed into a little round about of a parking lot, looped and came back out on the other side.  Just after Mile 7, we crossed a grassy path and onto a bike path (the Harrison Trace Trail) for the back half of the run.  While this was a bike path, it never doubled back on itself, so it didn’t feel crowded or cluttered.  In fact, I felt like I had plenty of room to stretch my legs and push myself.

Just after Mile 8, we hit a HUGE downhill.  I love downhills, but I wasn’t expecting the drop that this one had.  Luckily, downhill is my favorite speed and I adjust very well to it.  My footing found itself and I easily rolled back into my pace.  It was just after this point that I removed my gloves and tucked them into my hydration pack.  It was starting to warm up, and every time I thought I could take off the arm warmers, a cold wind would sweep up, and I’d keep them off.

IMG_6476

Finishers: Me with the Half Marathon Finisher’s Medal & Cathy with her 5K Finisher’s Medal (love the leaf!)

After Mile 10, where I took another (non-caffeinated) Maurten Gel 100, we hit the largest hill on the course.  It was one of those that starts up, levels off, then continues to go up.  This was my slowest split of the entire race.  It felt good to get to the top, but now my legs were definitely feeling the fatigue of the speed of the race. Just after Mile 11, we ducked back across that grassy path and onto the road, heading back toward start of the race (also the finish, obviously).

It was at Mile 12 that the 1:40 pace group caught up to me.  And this entire time, in my head, I am reminding myself that I’m not running for a PR…I’m running Marathon Pace.  I knew I was way ahead of that, but I still felt good, despite that late, monster hill.  I ran right with them as Troy told his runners to skip the final water stop and keep rolling.  As we got halfway through the mile, Troy started to talk runners in…take some deep breaths.  He said they were easing back on pace, so as not to blow people out so close to the end (they were just slightly ahead of the time on his back)…and I kept going.  And I picked it up a little as I started to make the final turns to head toward that finish line.  I felt amazing.  And I crossed, still feeling good.  I stopped my Garmin, collected my medal, and then finally pulled the wrist band away from the watch face to look at my time.  And I about died.

IMG_6474

Finish Line Drinks: Cathy had the beer and I had the kombucha

It was my second fastest half marathon since I started running half marathons.  My two top times are on hilly courses.  How about that?  I mean, I hate hills.  Cathy came over and she was all, “YOU KILLED IT!”  And I did.  I killed it DEAD.  And I still felt good (which was also good because I had another 13 miles to run the following day with more speed thrown in).

We decided to go and check out the cookout that the race offered, ducking in.  There wasn’t really anything for me (food allergy queen), but Cathy snagged a piece of Jockamo’s pizza and a cookie.  She went and purchased a beer and got me a local kombucha (which…was delicious!!).  She ate and we went to go walk around, but had to stay in the little (and it was little) picnic area (we weren’t sitting in the tent) with our drinks (even though mine was NOT alcoholic).  So, she chugged her beer and I drank what I could of my kombucha but I was fresh off a fast half marathon and chugging something didn’t sound appetizing…and I was freezing…so I didn’t want to stand there any longer.

IMG_6483

Mushroom & Spinach Tacos with Cajun Dusted Tater Tots from Woody’s Library Restaurant

We made one more pass through the official merchandise…and I was tempted to get the finisher’s shirt with the names on the back (mine was on there)…but ultimately walked away from it.  I was happy with the hoodie that Cathy got me (she had to buy it as it said “Finisher” on it).  We made the drive back to the hotel where I took a shower and dried my hair while she packed up everything.  We headed to Carmel, Indiana (a short drive) to catch lunch at Woody’s Library Restaurant (where I got the Mushroom & Spinach Tacos with a side of the Cajun Dusted Tater Tots).  Then, we headed over to the Indiana State Fair Grounds because…Half Price Books was having a BIG clearance sale, where all books were $2 or less.  Amazing.

We left after a couple of hours and a lot of texting with my dad.  Road work delayed our return to the Louisville area, but we finally made it home.  Still without groceries.  I ended up making popcorn for dinner and then heading to bed.  And not sleeping well again.

Fort Ben 3

Finish Line feels at the Indy Half Marathon at Fort Ben

My experience at the Indy Half Marathon at Fort Ben was amazing.  I can’t wait to run it again next year.  Hopefully more of my friends can join me!!  It was definitely much better running weather than what the large group of over 100 MRTT/SRTT ladies dealt with at the Indianapolis Women’s Half Marathon had the week before.  Kind of glad I opted for this one.

My official results of the Indy Half Marathon at Fort Ben are that I finished in 1:39:13, which, as I previously mentioned, was a mere hill, or basically 21 seconds off of my PR time from 2014). This race proved something very important to me…that I can still push the pace for 13.1 miles.  With all the times I have doubted my body, my ability, and mentally let myself check out, I felt strong and capable this entire race…even the two hills that messed up my fast splits. HA!  I was 156/1726 finishers overall. I was 24/851 female finishers. And I was 6/138 in my age division. Guys, my age division is SUPER competitive…always.  This race was no different.  But this rank…is beyond what I thought I could accomplish here.  If you need a fall half marathon on your radar…put the Indy Half Marathon at Fort Ben on your radar!

Advertisements

Geist Half Marathon – Fishers, IN (May 18, 2019)

geist11

Me after finishing the Geist Half Marathon – Fishers, IN

Race: Geist Half Marathon

Place: Fishers, Indiana

Date: May 19, 2018

Time: 1:49:06

Time got away from me on this race recap as we are almost one month removed from it.  My apologies.  Marathon training is back in full swing (again)…and I’ve just been busy.  Even on weeks that haven’t had a stacked training plan.  Hey…I do have an actual job (if I could make a living is a blogger…that would be amazing, but it’s not my destiny) and some obligations that happened between then and now.  But…here I am…finally getting this written up.

I will preface it with this…going into this race, being only weeks off of a full-on marathon where I attempted (and almost hit) a BQ race, my coach and I agreed to use this one as a training run.  No pushing the pace.  Keep it easy.  And with the humidity and weather trending the way it was for Saturday morning, I was relieved that this was our decision.  But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself…

Let’s start on Friday evening, after leaving work around 2-ish to head up to Fishers, Indiana to get to the expo and pick up race bibs.  I say bibs, because once again, Cathy was taking a spin at the 5K.  We did hit some traffic jams, of course, but we finally arrived and I was ready to get my race stuff and do a quick walk through of the expo (it’s tiny…honestly) before checking into the hotel just up the way.geist01

The expo was simple to explore. You can do the first part of it as you enter St. Vincent’s Fishers Hospital.  There are a few vendors, but nothing that I, someone from out of town, really needed to stop and check out.  So, Cathy and I maneuvered ourselves to the back of the room to the table set up for packet pickup.  I went to get my bib for the half, and Cathy went to get her special VIP bib for the 5K.  We don’t remember her signing up for VIP…but she had VIP.  So…who knows.  After that, we checked out the second half of the expo, simply walking past the booths, heading to the room near where we entered to pick up our race shirts.  The 5K was short sleeve.  The 10K was short sleeve.  The half marathon…long sleeve.  It’s an April race…if it’s not the really cool hoodie thing that I got last year…I want short sleeves.  But, the shirt was very nice…so I won’t complain.

That was it for the expo.  We were in and out in about 5 minutes and heading up the street to the hotel we stayed in last year.  Check-in took a bit longer than usual, because someone was checking in bunch of different people in different rooms (not sure for what, but it wasn’t for the race).  But eventually I got up to the front desk and got our room, up on the 2nd floor.  We hauled our luggage up to the room and now were waiting on our friend, Greg, to meet up with us so we could grab dinner at Woody’s Library Restaurant (my new favorite place to grab food when in Indy).  It was taking a bit longer than expected because…traffic…so Cathy and I split a Clara Cookie that I had picked up at the Glass City Marathon expo in Toledo.  It was the Peanut Butter one.  And it was delicious.  And it was perfect to keep the tummy rumbles at bay while we waited for Greg.

geist02

Pre-race Dinner at Woody’s Library Restaurant in Carmel, IN: Spinach Mushroom Tacos with Sweet Potato Fries

He did finally make it and we headed down to see him, somehow missing him when we walked through the lobby.  We ended up doubling back and finding him.  Hugs all around before making the drive from Fishers to Carmel, Indiana to eat dinner.  We ended up finding a really good parking spot and were seated immediately at a corner table.

I had looked at menus online, so I was prepared and ready to go with my order.  Greg got the Triple Grilled Cheese and a beer.  Cathy got the Friday special of Fish & Chips (her favorite), and I got Spinach Mushroom Tacos.  I didn’t ask for extras or for hot sauce, because with the race the following morning, I was hoping to keep things mild.  With it, I got a side of the sweet potato fries (which are gluten free!).  We spent the time waiting on the food (it did actually take awhile, but they were PACKED that night) chatting and catching up on things that we had been up to.  And when food arrived, we dove in.  Tacos, however, are one of those foods that once you pick it up to eat…you’re committed and you just have to keep going on it.  So the tacos disappeared first…then I hit up the fries.  We all seemed pretty satisfied with our meals.  Afterwards, we went back to the hotel to hang out.  I did some foam rolling.  Greg left after a bit more talking and we got ready to get some rest with a 7 am start time staring us down.

geist05

Cathy feeling good on race morning for the Geist 5K

I always set two alarms for race morning.  I got up with the first one to take a pill…use the bathroom, then crawled back into bed for another hour.  The second alarm went off, which is also Cathy’s alarm.  We’re actually really good about staying out of each other’s way…letting each one have a turn in the bathroom, and getting ready pretty quickly.  We have this race morning thing down.  So even early start times aren’t too stressful.

With the way the morning was heating up already, I went with the new Boston crop top that my friend Natalie got me as a gift for finishing Glass City in Toledo (even without the BQ). I love this crop.  It’s motivation in and of itself.  And…shorts.  My compression sleeves were pink to honor my mom’s continuing battle against breast cancer.  I made sure I had two Nuun tablets in my hydration pack’s bladder to help balance out electrolytes, because it was definitely going to be a sweaty race.

geist03

Loving my new crop top that Natalie gave me…my outfit for the Geist Half Marathon

We left the hotel room early, but I forgot to grab something and had to go back in.  Cathy went down to the lobby without me, where she met a runner celebrating her birthday.  Her name was Katie, and not only was she a Disney runner, but she was Bib 34, celebrating her 34th birthday.  AMAZING!!  She was super nice and I actually ended up running into her again as she and her family were headed to the hotel pool as I was heading up for a shower and to pack up to head out for lunch and then get home.

Cathy loves parking at the school which used to host the expo for this race.  We never have trouble finding a spot.  And while it is a bit of a hike down to the start line, it is never hard to get to and from the parking area so we can get back to the hotel without any stress.  So…worth it.  We parked and made the walk toward the start area.  I got a text from my friend Jay, and I went and met him at the Fishers Running Club tent.  But, like I said…start time was 7 am….so while their club was getting their photo taken, I meandered down to check out the start line.  It was about this time that I realized that I had left my fuel (save for the Generation UCan I had for 20 minutes before the start) back in the hotel room.  I had enough UCan to get me through a half marathon…but with the heat, I wasn’t sure if I would need backup or not.  So, I was bummed.  Big time!  Whoops!

geist04

Why am I so happy? No pressure pace race!

The 10K and Half Marathon start on the right of the line.  The 5K starts to the left.  So, after snapping a couple of photos, Cathy and I parted ways: she went to line up in the 5K corrals and I went to find a spot at the start for someone who wasn’t racing.  I was hoping for at least a 1:50 half…so I stood near that pacer.  The National Anthem was sung…and the lyrics were flubbed, but we were close now to the start.  I took in some water and readied myself for a training run with a medal at the end.

I made a point to stay just in front of the 1:50 pacer in the first mile.  There were a lot of people going all-out, full throttle from the start, and I really think this worked against them that morning.  The emcee announced that it was the hottest Geist Half Marathon to date!!  So, holding back I think helped me not have burnout, like I did last year when I just gunned it at the start and then ended up having walk breaks at water stops.  I don’t think walk stops are a bad thing, but when you’re gunning for a PR…it’s not exactly something you usually incorporate.

geist06

Cathy and I pre-race…she’s about to head to the 5K side and I’m about to line up for the Geist Half Marathon

This year…I was supposed to keep the pace easy…and treat this as a training run.  Mostly because I was fresh off a marathon.  In the end, this tactic seemed to work for me.  I never really felt awful at all.  And I was able to run the entire time.  Was it my slowest Geist Half Marathon to date?  You better believe it!  Am I okay with that?  You better believe it.

I continue to come back to Geist, despite the heat and hills (dear, God, are there ever hills!), because of the atmosphere.  It’s stunning.  The race runs you through gorgeous neighborhoods, starting at the corner you turn soon after hitting Mile 1.  The people who live there come out with speakers and with treats and with sprinklers and with sidewalk chalk and cheer and encourage.  And it just makes you feel good.  You belong there.  The 10K and Half Marathon stick together for about the first 3 miles. Just before that Mile 3 marker, 10K runners are instructed to go left, while Half Marathoners are told to keep going straight.  This year, I was running near a young man who had his headphones in, wearing a 10K shirt and bib…and didn’t hear the instructions.  So, it seemed he was getting himself into more than he was ready for.  He was yelled at by volunteers at least 5 times.  THIS IS WHY YOU SHOULD NOT WEAR HEADPHONES IN A RACE.  Or, if you must, keep that volume at a reasonable level, okay?

This is the point where we cross the reservoir again (we do it the first time as we head out from the start).  I love this part because it’s gorgeous, but also because there is usually a nice breeze coming off the water.  Love it.

The halfway point came and went.  I would normally fuel at this point…but I was just relying on that superstartch to get me through the heat.  I still felt good, mostly because I wasn’t really pushing any sort of pace…wanting to just keep my momentum moving forward without stressing over a goal time.  There were plenty of water stops along the way, and some cooling stations as well.  If there was water being sprayed at any point, you better believe I was running through it.  I used the water stops to grab the cups of water and pour them over my head.  Every stop.  Without fail.  Trying to keep that core temperature down.  This worked.  Honestly.

geist07

Me running to the finish of the Geist Half Marathon

From everything to remember on this course, I always remember that Mile 9 is a giant hill that we have to run up.  I passed a few people on this, who had shuffled to the side to walk up it.  I gave a couple of people a “nice job” as I jogged my way up.  Hills are a MAJOR struggle for me.  So why do I do this race?  It’s my PR race.  On a harder course.  So…one day, maybe it will all click again.  It wasn’t that day though.  Nope.  Not that day.  Not in that heat.  At the bottom of the hill, we make a turn to head back toward the bridge to go back over the reservoir and then back into the neighborhoods and then back to the finish line.  It was at this point, a man behind me said, “Are there any more hills?”  The volunteer stationed there said, “I don’t know…maybe little ones?”  I laughed.  Out loud.  The last 3 miles are basically retracing the start of the race.  People were still out cheering, offering orange slices, water, whatever runners might need.  More importantly were those who would shout out that you were getting close…that the finish line wasn’t far…that we looked strong.  Some people who were struggling, they would ask if they needed anything.  Honestly.  THE BEST.

geist08

Me crossing the finish line at the Geist Half Marathon

As I was making the turn at Mile 12, I passed my friend Jay.  He told me I “looked strong” and I decided to give picking up the pace a shot.  The road to the finish line always seems long, but as you get close, you get the crowd and you get the announcer.  I passed a few people.  Got passed by some people.  But, ultimately, entered that chute and ran towards the finish line.  I saw Cathy on the sideline and she started screaming at me to cheer me in.  With hands held up…I finished the race.  Another Geist Half Marathon in the books.

Cathy made her way over to the finishers area, and had me stand under the spray of a cooling station there.  It was nice and felt really good.  Jay found me as we were leaving to head up to the VIP area for Cathy to grab free beer and some snacks.  He invited me to stop in at the Fishers Running Club tent for any sort of refreshment.  I took him up on that before we went to get official results and let Cathy have one more go at the VIP area.  I have videos on my cell phone of her first go-round in the VIP section. HA!

geist09

Cooling off at the cooling station

I went to get my results printed and after the paper was handed to me, I glanced at it and went, “Holy crap.  Third in my age group!”  For the first time…without trying or even racing…I once again placed in my age group.  This was becoming a fun trend.  I went to the awards table next door and was handed a little cinch bag with the words “Age Group Winner” on it.  I always have use for bags…but this one would have to be on display.  We then went back to the VIP section…Cathy went in for beer and fruit and I hung out on the curb near the gated off area.  We chilled for a few minutes before deciding to head back to the hotel room so we could cycle through showers and head back to Carmel to grab lunch at…yep…Woody’s Library Restaurant again.

So, my official results of the Geist Half Marathon is that I finished in 1:49:06.  It was my slowest Geist Half Marathon yet…but I felt good throughout it, never really fading.  That’s a testament to Generation UCan if you ask me.  So, I was 104/942 finishers overall!  I was the 18/450 women to cross the finish line. And I was 3/87 people in the my age division! How ironic is it that I finally snagged an age group award on my slowest finish time for this race?  In 2014 (my PR year), I was 4th. In 2016, I was 6th.  In 2018, I was 5th.  Nailed it.  Somehow.  Without trying.

And yes…I can’t wait to have another spin around the reservoir next year!

geist12

Unexpected Age Group Award at the Geist Half Marathon

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

 

5501BC88-BCA7-4841-A1BC-F97FC6F9BF06

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

Race: Glass City’s Savage 5K

Place: Toledo, Ohio

Date: April 27, 2019

Time: 24:19

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

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

IMG_0070

Picking up my Savage 5K race big & stadium blanket

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

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

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

IMG_0069

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

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

IMG_0074

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

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

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

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

IMG_0082

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

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

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

IMG_0083

Cathy & I before heading out for the Savage 5K

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

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

IMG_0109

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_0110

Glass City’s Savage 5K Finisher

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

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

Rodes City Run 10K – Louisville, KY (March 9, 2019)

F5A1C1E1-2988-4C7E-B96B-D0267B56A0AB

Me fiercely fighting for a strong finish at the Rodes City Run 10K

Race: Rodes City Run 10K

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: March 9, 2019

Time: 45:33

Well, there is definitely nothing more satisfying than beating a previous year’s time.  Still no 10K PR, but I did way better at this local 10K than the one I attempted to really race in hot, humid Florida a couple of weeks before.  Go figure.

I also waited until the very last week to sign up for this race.  I had it on my radar, as usual, as it is one of the best races here in Louisville, BUT…that being said, I am also in the heat of marathon training and wasn’t sure I was actually going to race it.  My coach, however, said I was.  (For the record, he also raced it and averaged a 5:57 average pace).  So, I was going into this with expectations of a better performance than my previous 5K.  And that was the goal.  Run hard…the entire 6.2 miles.

IMG_8537

That face you make when you are surprised with being a seeded runner in a local 10K race

That being said, I headed down to Slugger Field on the Friday before the race to pick up my race packet.  It was here that I discovered that I was a seeded runner this year and had a low number bib.  Oh.  Awesome.  No pressure then, right?  HA!  So, I was directed over to the proper table to get my race bib and then went to snag a t-shirt as well.  I loved that the shirts this year were purple (GO LouCity), and had a bit of a Mardi Gras flair to them.  So, that was awesome.

Headed home to make a one of the cauliflower pizza’s I have in my freezer (Califlour Pizza Crusts, which I top with Trader Joes Greek Yogurt Kale & Spinach Dip, some mushrooms, spinach, and garlic).  Friday Pizza Night has sort of become a thing.  And these cauliflower crusts are the best out there (and naturally, I can’t get them in any store around here and have to order them online).  Totally worth it.  It was a late dinner, but perfect.  I did my evening stretches, foam rolled, and went to bed early.

Because I had to wake up early enough on race morning to figure out my clothes, stretch, foam roll, and eat prior to race time.  It was around 39 degrees at the start of the race, but I didn’t take into account the wind chill, which made it feel like it was in the high 20s.  So, the running skirt and tank top with arm warmers was, for the first time in a long time, me being underdressed for a run.  Needless to say, I had layers on over my race outfit until close to start time.

929A7507-8B7D-4D75-94AC-880269D9B723

A picture of my knees the night before the race

Please note, that SOMETHING in all of my race outfits this year will be pink, to honor my mom as she goes through her treatments for breast cancer.  You’re going to see me in a lot of pink.

Anyway…

I was pretty fresh off of busted up knees from a fall I took on some frozen mud near my apartment complex.  I mentioned this a lot on Facebook, but not on here, because I’ve been horrible about blogging and need to really get back into the swing of that.  My apologies, friends.  So, I took a hard belly-flop fall one morning while doing my run.  We have had some new construction and roofing going on at my apartment complex and with the weather winging between hot and cold, a pile of mud that is normally not in my path was in my path, and froze solid from the below freezing temps.  My left foot caught it one morning and I was DOWN.  Just laid out with holes torn into my favorite pair of winter running tights, blood and bruising.  It wasn’t pretty.  So, that sucked.  And now you know the tale of the Legend of the Fall (non-Brad Pitt division).  So, I had some twingy, pain every now and again during my runs, but nothing that I was too concerned about.  I had this before after I fell in the 5K of Dopey, and it eventually just got better on its own.  Just took awhile.  And, cold air and banged up knees are not a good combo.

IMG_8554

Basically me thinking, “Please don’t make me take off these layers” before race start.

Just prior to starting, Harry and Jo wandered by and got to say HI and wish me luck.  Harry said, “Low number!  WOW.”  He asked about my knees and said that they looked a little bit better than the photo I had posted on Facebook.  I think he was being kind.  We wished each other luck and I shed my outer layers, even though I didn’t want to yet.  My training partner and friend, Christine, found me at this point.  She was aiming for a really fast 10K…and I wasn’t sure I could keep up with her…but we gathered together at the start, wished each other luck and awaited go-time.

The elites and seeded were set to go after the wheelchairs, so after the wheelchair racers went, we all crowded together and prepared for our turn.  The horn blew and we were off.  I felt good in that first mile, comfortable, but running hard down East Broadway.  I wasn’t going to check my watch or the clocks on the mile markers the entire race, I was running by feel, and it was supposed to feel hard.  My first mile ended up being a 6:51 pace.  Fast.

IMG_8564

Me heading out with a fast start at the Rodes City Run 10K

But the hill at the beginning of Mile 2 really took me down a peg.  Like…majorly.  Hills.  I need to get more comfortable with them, I just don’t run them enough or often.  But I’ll change that eventually.  Christine has had some hilly portions in our long runs together, so that at least helped with that.  She passed me on the hill (everyone passes me on the uphill) and stayed ahead of me for the rest of the race.  I could always JUST see her.

It’s the tilty roads that got me next, but my pace picked back up.  There were some rollers in here as far as hills went, but nothing substantial.  I just focused on pushing myself hard again.  Mile 3 we are on the far side of Cave Hill Cemetery.  I was pretty cold, but moving as fast as I could move at that moment.  Miles 3 and 4 were in the low 7’s (7:10 and 7:14).  Mile 5 was back to feeling really slow and challenging.  I don’t think hills were involved, I think my legs were just tired.  I can’t say for sure.  It’s been a few weeks.  But I pressed on, knowing how close I was to the finish.  I wasn’t going to give up on myself yet.  Squeaked out a 7:26 mile.  And then…the final mile was upon us.  I made the turn back onto East Broadway and headed back toward where we started (this race now is a loop and not a point-to-point, like it had been for years).  I remembered hearing someone behind me say, “Is the start the finish?”  It made me smile, but honestly, I could see it and it still felt so far away.  And no matter how much I was pushing, I just couldn’t seem to get there.  It felt like it never got closer.  The final .2 was just me giving my best, and I crossed the finish line, just happy to be done.  And knowing I did better than the previous year (which was windy, rainy, and cold AF, to be fair).  I got past the photographers and hunched over for a moment to catch my breath.  My coach had said to push hard and not focus on the hard miles I was going to have to do the next day…so I did as he said.  And it paid off.  My final miles were 7:29 and 7:16).  New PR?  Nope.  Not this time.  But now I only need to shave an additional 1:30 off to tie it.  PROGRESS!

55869407_10100524106375521_7823934244274569216_n

Photo Credit: The Voice Tribune – My biggest cheerleader, my roomie, Cathy at the race…even in the bitter cold.

We had planned on meeting up with Christine post-race for coffee, and we stared to wander our way towards the coffee shop.  She found us as we were walking that way, and we eventually ended up at a different coffee shop.  A Starbucks.  I was fine with it.  It was warm inside and the drinks were caffeinated.  YAY!  We sat around the table and talked and then she and her husband gave us a ride back to our car at Slugger Field (we had made quite the hike to the start line that morning, mind you).

IMG_8583

Me crossing the finish at the Rodes City Run 10K

The following day, I knocked out my long run with 2×5 miles in the middle at marathon pace.  I was shocked, but happy my body could do it.

So, the official results of the Rodes City Run 10K are that I finished in 45:33.  I am chipping away at my times, getting closer to matching or beating that PR time.  SO CLOSE!  I was 246/2964 finishers overall.  I was the 58/1596 women finishers.  And I was 12/225 in my age division.  Last year I was also 12/225 in my age division.  HA!  There were over 400 more runners this year though than last year.  I’ll take that as a win.  And while this wasn’t a distance PR, it was a race PR and a course PR…so that’s also exciting when you think about it!

Disney World Fairy Tale Challenge – Orlando, FL (February 22-24, 2019)

IMG_8170

Me at Magic Kingdom on my last night at Disney World with all my race medals from the Disney Princess Fairy Tale Challenge weekend.

It had been over a year since my last trip to Disney World.  It felt like so much longer.  And a few things were changing this time around.  After the bathroom incident during the Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge, we actually decided to move our “Disney home” from Port Orleans Riverside to…The Art of Animation Resort.  It is a “step down” from the resort level of Port Orleans, which, this princess was fussing over, but it wasn’t bad.  And, honestly, I’m only in the room to sleep.  But still…I sort of did miss the extra space, especially when I was trying to foam roll at night AND watch Food Network at the same time (priorities).

The trip to Orlando meant an early morning to catch the first non-stop flight out of Louisville.  This just happened to be on a very wet, rainy, cold morning.  Hauling luggage out to the car was not fun, but we got everything loaded in and hit the road.  We parked the car (we couldn’t find someone to give us a ride, so we had to pay to leave the car there while we were away) and went in to check our bags (one of the perks of flying Southwest is the free checked bags) and get through security.  It didn’t take long to get through that at all, and nothing flagged for the first time in the history of ever.  Not even the laptop.  I don’t know why I bring my laptop with me.  I have good intentions of using it…and then I rarely do.  What I didn’t realize was, bringing it this time would be a blessing.  More on that later.

IMG_6936

Cathy & Me killing time at Louisville Airport before our flight

The flight was uneventful, and we landed in beautiful Orlando to temps in the 70s.  LOVE!  Our first stop was a nearby Whole Foods.  We were going to grab snacks for the resort, and ended up grabbing lunch there as well.  I found a Summer Veggie Roll that had a Gluten Free Peanut Sauce with it…so I was quite happy with that selection.  I grabbed a tub of watermelon and a Sumo orange as well (which I saved for later).  And, of course, water…because I needed to stay hydrated.  Cathy snagged a small cup of the Lobster Chowder (she has missed that selection in Louisville), some small cornbread muffins, and a small helping of fried rice and Vietnamese-style chicken.

IMG_6943

My Whole Foods lunch

After we ate, we decided that since we still had no word of our room at the resort being ready, we would use the bathroom at the Whole Foods and change into our sundresses and lather up with the sunscreen so we could head over to the parks.  We had Animal Kingdom on the schedule.  This turned out to be more of a hassle than it was worth, honestly.  Cathy had to make multiple trips out to the car to get things out of suitcases and we were taking turns running into the bathroom to change and then slather on the sunscreen.  It took way longer than it should have.

BUT…we finally considered ourselves ready for the parks and hopped back into the car and drove to the resort to drop off luggage.  We made sure we had our necessary items and headed to the bus stop to get over to Animal Kingdom.

IMG_6945

Me at Animal Kingdom

I was so happy to be back at Disney…and the weather was truly stunning!!  Our first stop is our favorite place to get Iced Coffee.  There was definitely more of a line there than we were used to…especially on a Wednesday, but we waited, placed our order, wasn’t sure which one was mocha and which was vanilla…but we got that sorted ourselves.  We drank them as we killed time ducking into shops and the like…before we hit up our FastPass for the Kilimanjaro Safari.  I love doing the safari, and our guide was awesome (they are, but she was really fantastic) and the animals…they were really active and on the move.  It was probably the most animals and the most activity from the animals I have seen on any trip on the Safari.  As we exited, we branched off to the Gorilla walk.  I wasn’t happy when we had to walk through the birds.  I. Do. Not. Like. Birds.

IMG_7036

Me & Cathy with Scrooge McDuck!

We went to grab a quick snack to tide us over to our later dinner reservation…Cathy’s traditional fries.  I ate my Sumo orange.  And then, as we wandered around, we came across Scrooge McDuck.  His line handler, Caitlyn, was amazing.  She was so much fun to talk to while we were standing in line.  And this was my first time meeting any of the Duck Tales characters.  Scrooge was a lot of fun, and Cathy kept trying to get him to go out for an alcoholic drink, but he was strict about his tea.  And then we hopped on over to meet Launchpad McQuack next.  I told him that I was really good at crashing too.  HA!  It was fun and we had some great photo ops!

IMG_7049

Cathy & Me with Launchpad McQuack!

But then we saw the most amazing addition to Animal Kingdom…KEVIN.  Kevin from UP.  If you haven’t seen this in person, get to Animal Kingdom NOW.  Just book your flight and do it!  Kevin is phenomenal.  And fun.  And SO animated.  This encounter spurred an early purchase for Cathy’s traditional Disney plushie purchase – Kevin!

We took a stroll through Pandora and then spent a good chunk of the afternoon wandering and exploring.  But our time for our traditional first day at Disney meal was growing near and we hopped a bus to Animal Kingdom Lodge to enjoy some food at Sanaa.  We didn’t have to wait long to be seated and we already had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to eat.  Our server was a trainee and he did an awesome job.  We both got something to drink with our water, Cathy got the Savannah Cider and I got the lemonade that came with a wildberry foam of some sort.  I don’t remember the really cool name that it had…but it was delicious.

IMG_7055

KEVIN!!!

We started with the bread service, of which I got three pieces of the gluten-free bread and Cathy got two of the regular naan.  We split one of the GF ones and we were off to the races with the different sauces, Cathy being very careful when she would spoon her sauce to not contaminate anything.  This is one of my favorite things at Sanaa.  For our meals, I went with the Chickpea Wat and Cilantro-Coconut Vegetables, which is served with scented Basmati Rice.  It’s my go-to every time I am there.  Cathy stayed with her favorite offering in the entrees, the Traditional Sosatie, which is Braai Lamb with Apricots, Pap, Spinach, Cashews, and Goat Cheese.  It was all very filling and delicious.

After eating, we hopped on a bus to head back to Animal Kingdom to catch the bus back to the Art of Animation.  We had our room number now and went there to find our bags already in there and ready for us to settle in for the night.  I took a quick shower, went to foam roll and we settled in for the night.  I set an alarm for me to wake up to because I had a training run to get through before we started our morning.

IMG_7083

It’s always an adventure running around The Art of Animation!

And that’s what I did.  I forgot how hard it is to run in humidity, which would be a theme for this half marathon weekend for sure.  The resort had a great running path around a lake, which was perfect for me to train on.  Keeping an easy pace wasn’t hard in the heat/humidity.  I finished that off with some strides, returned to the resort, showered, and we went to the dining area at the resort to find something for breakfast.  That was a high anxiety and high stress situation and we vowed that would be the ONLY time we did that.  Cathy went to order me a gluten free and dairy free omlette, with mushrooms, jalapenos and spinach for me.  And since I couldn’t have the biscuit, the chef tossed some fresh fruit onto my plate.  It was perfect.  We ate and then headed out to the car to head to the Wide World of Sports for…the race expo.  It was on the ride over there that my Garmin flashed me a “Sensor Error.”  Not sure what it meant, I started to try to figure it out.  It was that the sensor…the thing that actually reads elevation and heart rate and all that stuff, was no longer working.  I figured I could, hopefully, talk to the Garmin reps at the expo and maybe get it sorted.

IMG_7090

Gluten Free Omlette with Mushrooms, Jalapenos, Spinach…and FRUIT!

After all these years, we finally figured out the key to getting official merchandise…turn up at the expo on the first day, go straight to official merch and wait in line.  The wait wasn’t that bad and we made friends with the people around us.  The line moved pretty swiftly once they started letting us all in…even if at one point it was like all lines went out the window and there was this huge surge toward the front of the line.  But we got in and started to shop.  I bought WAY MORE than I intended to, but they had Disney Princess Weekend ears that both Cathy and I snagged, plus I needed pins for each race.  I fell in love with a wine glass (of course I did) and then all the cute clothes.  I had a lot of things I LOVED…but ended up getting the official challenge zip-up.  And then Cathy found a cute dress thing that is actually a cover-up for before/after races.  Love that.  So…over $260 later, I was ready to head over to get my race bibs and then hit up the actual expo.

IMG_7096

Official Merchandise Line upon our arrival!

The bibs were easy. This was Cathy’s first time obtaining a Disney race bib.  Did I mention that she was doing her first Disney 5K?!  Pretty exciting.  Our numbers were a good distance apart, so I left her to get hers while I went over to pick up mine.  She found me there and the guy was commenting on how I was one of the fast ones…and I said I was dropping back to Cathy’s corral, and he asked her if she was offended by me saying that I was “dropping back” and Cathy said, “NO.  Not at all.  Because she is definitely not going at her normal speed with me.”  From there, we headed over to the actual race expo to get our race shirts and then do some shopping.  Which, we didn’t really do.  I was upset that there was no Garmin booth there (I mean…HELLO) but remembered that Misfit was the official activity tracker of Disney races.  So…I was stuck with a broken watch for my races.  Joy and happiness.  UGH.  That really got me riled up and I didn’t want to spend any time there…but we did make the traditional stop by Bondi Band, where we found two headbands that would work for me.  One for my 10K costume…and one for training (for the record…it says “The Before Breakfast Club.”  HA!)  It was as we were leaving the expo that our friend, Melissa, texted us to let us know that Peter Tork (if you know me, you know of my obsession with The Monkees) had died.  And I legit cried right there in the expo.  After a few deep breaths, we headed out to start our day at…Magic Kingdom (aka: my favorite park).

IMG_7099

Getting my 5K Bib

We had FastPasses for Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain, and the Seven Dwarves Mine Train spread out throughout the day.  But Haunted Mansion was our first stop, and the FastPass line was INSANE.  But it thankfully moved quickly.  This is Cathy’s favorite ride by far.  We hit up Space Mountain soon after that.  And then got Dole Whip (required).  We shopped.  We walked around.  We made our way through the Mine Train queue (also INSANE) and were put in the very back of the coaster.  And then…dinner.  We went to Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen, which our friends Melissa & Paul introduced us to a year ago during Dopey, and we fell in love with the food and the atmosphere.  I already knew what I was getting and told Cathy she had to have it too.  But first…an appetizer.  We split the Falls Family Falafel.  And then…for our entrees…the Perkins Thai Noodles (gluten-free and minus the chicken to make it vegan), which is THE BEST thing I have ever eaten on Disney property.  For real.  Cathy now understood because when she got this last time, she had the flu and couldn’t taste any flavors.  We had leftovers, so we boxed those up and headed out, back to the resort, stored those in the fridge and decided they would be post-10K breakfast in a couple days.

Showers and foam rolling commenced and we turned it in, with me setting an early 2:20 am alarm for us to get up and get dressed and ready for the first race of the weekend: the Disney Princess 5K.

 

IMG_7176

Cathy & Me showing off our Disney Princess 5K Medals!

Disney Princess 5K

Race: Disney Princess 5K

Place: Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Date: February 22, 2018

Time: 48:45

The most difficult part of any Disney race weekend is those early morning wake-up calls.  Today was probably the least stressful of the three, but instead of just me getting ready, Cathy had to get costumed up as well.  Sadly, my original costume, Iron Man, didn’t get assembled in time (I ordered a shirt from I Am A Superhero Fitness Apparel, DO NOT EVER DO THIS…their customer service is the worst, and it wasn’t a match with the leggings, so I contacted them to send it back and get a replacement in time for the race, and never heard from them…at all…after getting the info to return everything…and never received the replacement in time), so I had to break out my Wonder Woman costume for this one.  Iron Man, part of the Marvel Universe, owned by Disney, would have worked better…but it is what it is.  Cathy, however, was ready to rock her Captain America outfit.  And she rocked it.  Trust me.  She even had light-up Captain America Mickey Mouse ears that our friends, Melissa & Paul, brought back from Disneyland Paris.  We finished getting ready and headed out of the room to get to the bus that would take us to the parking lot of Epcot, where the staging area is prior to the race.

IMG_7157

Cathy in her Captain America costume for the Disney Princess 5K

We disembarked and walked through security (no bag line…WOOT) and went to see what characters we could get our photos taken with.  We managed to hit up Tiana (one of my personal favorite princesses) and Merida.  Then we opted to head into the corral area and get to Corral C.  We had a long wait being in that corral, so we took a seat and watched the different videos running on the big screen and the earlier corrals parading over to the start line.  Cathy pointed out that there were plenty of “overly optimistic” people in those earlier corrals.  While the Disney 5K is officially untimed, we both made sure we had our Garmin watches primed and ready for our start.  Before we knew it, it was our turn to make the march toward the start line…and it took a few waves, but we got our fireworks and we were off.

IMG_7156

Me as Wonder Woman (not the planned Iron Man) for the Disney Princess 5K

Except I was off at my speed and Cathy immediately said, “I don’t go that fast.”  HA!! So, I fell back and got moving with Cathy, who proved to be a pro at the Disney cuts through the crowds.  I also don’t know how she wasn’t dying in long sleeves and long leggings, but she was holding her own.  I did get ahead of her a few times, but immediately would fall back to her side.  The morning was humid and warm…the low 70s with humidity in the 90s.  MEH.  So, honestly, how she wasn’t dying, I will never know.  That being said, in that sort of humidity, she did get a bit of a side-stich so we switched to the Galloway Method (run/walk) so that she could have some recovery time.  This proved to be a fantastic option, as she walks faster than she runs.  Honestly.  When we hit the construction workers, she even heckled them right back.  Because, that’s Cathy for you.

I would give her little pep-talks, and we ducked into the World Showcase, which now meant we were tackling some hills.  It was crowded, but it wasn’t phasing her.  I let her choose her walk segments, where it was hard for ME to keep up with her at times.  But I made her run the downhills because downhills are my favorite speed.  We ducked out of the Showcase and then back in and started to make our way toward Spaceship Earth…which meant we were getting close to the finish.  We do have to make this strange turn around thing before heading to the exit.  We rounded the corner, and I could see our finish line.  I reached back to her to take her hand and we headed toward the finish line.  She kept reminding me that my go was a different speed from hers.  But, we crossed the finish line!  It was awesome.  And our official 5K distance was a new PR for Cathy, where she clocked in at 46:26, beating her previous PR by well over a minute.  We received our medals and made our way out to get official photos and then get the snack boxes and head back to the resort.  We took our turns showering, changing, and snacking before we headed out to spend the rest of the day at Epcot!

We did lots of character stops that day, Pluto, Baymax, Ralph & Vanellope, Elsa, Ana.  The Festival of the Arts was going on, so there were plenty of food booths happening.  And Cathy decided to forgo her beloved schwarma once again and eat around the world.  I already knew my big meal of the day was going to be a Beyond Meat Burger at the Liberty Inn with Celiac-safe fries.  I was really looking forward to that.

After we completed our time at Epcot, we headed to Disney Springs and hiked over to Erin McKenna’s to get some gluten-free and vegan goodies.  We ended up with a box of delicious baked goodies and then headed back to the Art of Animation to clean up, get things prepped for another early morning, let me foam roll, watch Food Network, and get some rest.

 

IMG_7378

Me dressed as Zootopia’s Judy Hopps for the Disney Princess Enchanted 10K

Disney Princess Enchanted 10K

Race: Disney Princess Enchanted 10K

Place: Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Date: February 23, 2019

Time: 48:49

Once again, another race this trip where I didn’t get to wear the outfit I originally intended to wear.  My original plan was to dress up like Honey Lemon from Big Hero 6.  I couldn’t find the material to have my friend or my mom work up an actual costume for me (everything was either the wrong type of fabric or not close to the correct color).  So…I put it up for a vote on my social media as to which costume I should revisit for the 10K…Vanellope von Schweetz (Wreck it Ralph) or Judy Hopps (Zootopia).  Between Instagram and Facebook…Judy Hopps won it going away.

IMG_7310

Cathy has a new RunDisney race shirt…and her awesome sign!

This just happened to also be the race that my coach, Daniel, wanted me to really push myself on and race.  No problem.  Save for the 74 degree morning temperature and the 95% humidity.  I knew in this costume I would die racing, but, dammit, that was what I was there to do.  So, with a bunch of layers on top, a carrot recorder, a ZPD badge, and a full hair extension piece over the top of my head to make the “bunny ears”…I was as ready as I could be to race this 10K.

Once again, we headed out of the room to get to the bus and settle in for the drive over to the staging area again.  We didn’t spend time getting Princess pictures ahead of time this time around.  Instead, we went to scope out the spectator area for Cathy.  We were stopped by some volunteers and told that it wasn’t open yet.  Apparently, according to Cathy, it’s very much like rope drop at one of the parks…pure stampede and elbows thrown to get a spot.  She didn’t want to end up not able to see me on the 10K start so, I went to stand in the group waiting to get into the corrals…and soon were let in.  I immediately went over to the tables and got some water to attempt to get ahead on hydration.  This was one of the few times I raced a 10K with a hydration belt, mostly because I needed it as Judy’s utility belt, but with the heat, I was happy to have a steady source of water if needed.

IMG_7331

Me at the start of the Disney Princess Enchanted 10K

I was in Corral A for the rest of the challenge weekend, so I wasn’t going to be waiting around for long.  I did get into the corral early and moved toward the front before carefully taking a seat (my costume involves a bunny tail…so…yeah).  I wasn’t going to waste any energy standing up though.  NOPE.  I wanted to really give my best to the race itself.  And before you knew it…I was heading out of the corral and lining up for the 10K.  I was in the second wave to go off…and Cathy actually did manage to catch me as I headed out.

The first part of the 10K is pretty dull.  It’s a lot of road.  As I started out hard, I passed a group of runners that were staying together and heard one of them say, “I guess she’s not stopping for photo ops.”  It made me laugh.  Not today.  Not this race.  This was the one I was supposed to give my all in.  At about the second mile, we get sent up a ramp, the biggest hill we face in this race, but I felt strong as I powered up it, giving a mental thanks to my friend Christine, who has been training with me and having us do more hills than I like on our runs.  I wasn’t going to look at my splits, but I felt like I was moving fast and strong.

At about Mile 3.5, we duck into the World Showcase (FINALLY) and run around about half of it.  This is where it gets fun, because they really do up the park nicely with employees out their cheering, music blaring, and the atmosphere is just different from the road miles.  I got a few shout-outs from the employees with “GO JUDY.”  I pumped my arm in the air in response.  We are directed out of the showcase and are directed toward the Boardwalk.  I hate running on the Boardwalk because it can be slippery at times (they actually have an announcement about this as you approach the actual boardwalk).  I traversed it safely, yet cautiously, and transitioned back to the pavement, feeling like I was picking it back up.

Runners take the roads back into Epcot, hitting the actual park this time.  I got a few more Judy Hopps shout outs and was loving it.  I poured a cup of water over my head at one of the water stops and learned that that was a HUGE mistake…because my long hair extensions were now sticking to my arms and driving me crazy.  How people who have really long hair and keep it down when they run manage it, I will never know.

I love every race that ends in Epcot because you get to run the light-up path around Spaceship Earth.  It’s beautiful when it’s still dark out.  I pushed up and around, and worked my way to the park exit, where they send you past some blaring music and toward that finish line.

IMG_7345

Me crossing the finish line at the Disney Princess Enchanted 10K

I was so happy to see the finish and as I was running toward it, heard my name announced and everything.  As I got closer, I could hear someone approaching from behind, and used my best Kelsie kick (she is WAY better at it than me) to stay ahead of that person and cross with my hands up in the air for victory.  I stopped my watch and was SHOCKED when I saw a 48 at the front of my time.  I really pushed hard in that race…and didn’t want to feel disappointed by my time…but I felt disappointed by my time and that I really probably could have pushed it a little more and much harder.  But I had given my all in the end…the heat and humidity had just taken its toll.

I met up with Cathy at the runner’s reunion area, after having her shout “Hey Fluffbutt” over the wall at me after I got my medal, my snack box, my water, and my official photo taken.  I actually did this twice and was glad I did, because the first one was awful.  Sometimes you just know.  Lines for the princesses weren’t long, so we hopped in to get photos with Aurora (Sleeping Beauty), Elena, and Cinderella.  Cinderella said that she bet Judy Hopps could teach her mice a little more discipline.  God, I love meeting Disney characters.

IMG_7384

My favorite ride – Tower of Terror!

We hopped on the bus to head back to the Art of Animation resort where I showered, changed, and then ate cold leftover noodles from Skippers and split one of the GF and Vegan Donuts we got from Erin McKenna’s with Cathy.  And then…we were off to spend the day at Hollywood Studios, where I rode Tower of Terror twice, got on Star Tours twice (one time I was FINALLY the spy), checked out the new Toy Story Land, I had my best game ever on the Buzz Lightyear’s Space Rangers Spin (I came CLOSE to Cathy’s score.  Usually I suck).  And then, we departed Hollywood Studios to head out of the Disney World bubble and hit up Toasted, a gourmet Toasted Cheese place in Orlando.  They have Celiac-safe options, vegan options, and safe Rosemary & Truffle Fries.  HELLO!!  This seemed to be the best pre-half marathon option for me and it was worth the drive (even though then we were informed that they now had a location very close to Disney World).  Then…back to the hotel to rotate through showers, foam rolling, Food Network (you know the drill).  And then…rest.  The half marathon was all that was left.

Oh, but let’s not forget…my official results of the Disney Princess Enchanted 10K were that I finished in 48:49.  I was 97/12,274 finishers overall.  I was 44/10,466 female finishers.  And I was 8/1549 people in my age division. So, I mean, it was a really good finish…but I knew I could do better.  I wasn’t going to let it disappoint me.  I felt like I gave my all that morning.

 

IMG_7420

Ready to run the Disney Princess Half Marathon as Snow White!

Disney Pincess Half Marathon

Race: Disney Princess Half Marathon

Place: Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Date: February 24, 2019

Time: 1:45:24

Final day of early morning 2:20 am wake-up alarms.  When you get to the last race in the race series, you are pretty much ready for said series to be over.  I was pretty excited about the half marathon because I was given no pace goals, simply to treat it as a training run.  My race was the prior day…on the 10K.  I love having a no stress race, especially at Disney.

My costume was much easier to get into, so getting ready was a breeze.  My nieces (Kaytlynn & Baileigh), decided that I should dress up like Snow White for the half marathon.  And thus, my mom created a new top (my old Snow White top was pretty much dead after the Dopey Marathon in 2014), and Snow White was running again.  It was another hot and humid morning, but there was a bit of a breeze this time.  And that was helpful for sure.  Cathy and I headed out to catch the bus right on time, and made it to Epcot without any issues.  YAY!!  And I had plenty of time to meet up with people I was hoping to meet up with.  BONUS!

IMG_7430

Meeting up with Tarra before the race!

The problem was, I was the only person from my local MRTT/SRTT group that was in Corral A.  The rest were in Corral F and starting later.  Meaning…they weren’t going to arrive until later.  Stephanie, a friend I met through Instagram, was running as well, but she was in traffic and Corral A was needing to get loaded in.  My friend Janelle attempted to find me, but apparently I had already made it to the corral.  She was in A…but we never did find each other.  BUT…all that being said, I did manage to get hugs, greetings, photos, and some catch-up talk time with a friend of mine from my Elementary/Middle/High School days…who was on my softball team and everything – Tarra.  So that was amazing.  She and her husband were running the half and we had hoped we would be able to catch up with each other prior to the race.  It was the only meet-up that happened for me.

We eventually parted ways and I knew I needed to start making that spectacularly long hike from the staging area to the corrals.  It’s a great warm-up and…I didn’t need to sprint it like I did for the marathon during Dopey 2018.  Corral A is a bit of a bear to get to though…all the way up and a bit of off-roading.  But I got there, got inside, moved up to where I wanted to be, and took a seat.  I had a bit of time before things kicked off and I didn’t want to be standing the entire time.

IMG_7450

Cathy’s view of Cinderella’s Castle in Magic Kingdom

But, soon they were preparing to send the wheelchair racers off.  And then…the waves for Corral A.  I was in the 2nd wave to take off.  The fireworks went off and we were on our way, taking on the dark highway of Disney World, making our way toward Magic Kingdom.  It’s a lot of road, a lot of screens and character stops, and a lot of just knowing what awaits you on Main Street inside Magic Kingdom.  I didn’t make characters tops, although the lines are never long for me.  I wanted to really treat this as a true training run, my only caveat being that I would walk every water stop.  I wanted to stay on top of my hydration as the race went on because I hadn’t been running in heat and humidity.  It was 20 and below back in Indiana.  Around Mile 3-ish, I think, I saw the monorail wing by.  I actually wondered if Cathy was on that one, as she skipped the race start to hopefully catch me on Main Street in Magic Kingdom.  She has attempted to do this twice before, and I have always beat her to the castle.  She said that is the one downside to cheering on a “fast” runner.

IMG_7453

Cathy found a prime viewing spot inside Magic Kingdom

I ticked off those highway miles and made it to Magic Kingdom.  This is, by far, the best part of this race.  You duck inside and make the turn onto Main Street. The crowd is amazing.  This is the best part of any Disney race that sends you through Magic Kingdom.  And, wouldn’t you know it, in the screaming and waving crowd, there was Cathy!  She had a sign, a cowbell, and was filming me as I made my way up Main Street.  I gave a wave as I went by and then made the turn to go into Tomorrowland.  From there, runners cruise through Fantastyland, then through the castle, before exiting through Liberty Square and out through Frontierland.  It’s the best part of the race.  I always look forward to the dash through the castle itself and the photographers stationed on the winding path down towards Liberty Square.  It’s amazing.  But then the cheers and lights fade and you find yourself back out on the roads, making your way back toward Epcot.

There is a lot of highway on this course, but Disney does it’s best with characters and DJs and music.  And every mile marker has a different character and a theme song on it, so it is something to look forward to.  After Magic Kingdom, you’re halfway through the race.

IMG_7504

Me crossing the finish line at the Disney Princess Half Marathon

The best part, for me, after that is the Green Army Guy, the ones from Toy Story, that is stationed on a hill around Mile 10.  You often here him shouting at the runners to get up the hill and other motivation.  As I was nearing him, he shouted, “I want to hear you make some noise.”  And none of the runners around me did anything.  But I’m a good group exercise veteran and I went, “WOOOOOOOOOOO!”  And he ran with it.  I got a whole call-out just for me.  “That’s right Snow White!  That’s right, Snow.  You’re going to find your finish line.  You’re not going to be Grumpy or Sleepy.  You won’t feel Dopey.  You’ll feel Happy when you cross that finish line.  Go get it, Snow!  Don’t be Bashful.”  It was amazing!!

At Mile 11, I spotted the infamous Balloon Ladies on the opposite side of the course.  There were a lot of people darting back and forth over the road as there were port-o-potties on our side of the course.  I noticed, later, that these runners were just at Mile 1 at this point.  And I was 2 miles away from being done.  Crazy!

IMG_7506

Just after crossing the finish line at the Disney Princess Half Marathon

At Mile 12, we were directed back into Epcot to make the dash through to get to Spaceship Earth.  I love this part of the race.  Right as I was coming up toward it, one of the volunteers closed one side and directed me and another woman the opposite way.  They do this to help with the flow of traffic.  The woman I was running with was like, “Why did they do that?”  So I tried to explain while running with her.  We made another turn and she said, “We have to be close to being done.”  I told her we were going to round a corner, run past a gospel choir, then make another turn and she should see the finish line.  And then I said, “Go get it!”

My favorite part of any half at Disney World is that gospel choir before the finish line.  It is just such a mood lifter.  You just feel good.  I mad the turn and started down the path toward the finish line.  And I crossed it, feeling really relieved to be done.  Another hot Florida race complete.  I spotted Cathy up in the stands and waved as I walked to go get my medal.  As I made my way through the line, I had to veer off to pick up the challenge medal as well.  They take a picture of you with your bib at the expo…so they have volunteers who check every challenge participant before letting them through to get the challenge medal.  I snagged a snack box from the guy on the very end who said “We have the best bananas over here.”  HA!  And then I went to get my official photo done.

IMG_7511

Heather & I post-race!

Afterwards, I exited through bag check and found Cathy.  She said that lines weren’t too bad for characters, so we decided to get in line for some.  On the way, I spotted Heather Shultz, and had to go say HI to her.  She ended up coming to stand in line for some princess shots with us.  It was nice to get to talk to someone I cheer on through social media so much.  We had gotten in line to meet Pocahontas, but right when we got up there, they switched her out for Merida.  Oh well. We took the photo op anyway.  We also got photos with Mulan and with Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) before we decided to hop on a bus back to the resort so I could get cleaned up and we could head out to Port Orleans French Quarter to get some celebratory Gluten Free Beignets (they took over an hour and that’s another long and rambling story that I won’t get into here, but I was PISSED).

Me with

Anyway, my official time for the Disney Princess Half Marathon was that I finished in 1:45:24.  Not bad for walking those water stops (and I walked EVERY one).   I was 176/20,088 finishers overall.  I was 89/17,099 female finishers.  And I was 14/2665 people in my age division.  Not half bad for a training run, eh?!  I was quite happy with it.

So, another Disney race weekend and challenge in the books.  I hadn’t done the Disney Princess Half Marathon since 2013, so it was nice to return to it.  And, with the water stop walks I made myself take, I almost tied my time from 2013 (it was 1:45:06).  So…yeah.  I love coming to Disney to run and while Disney Princess seems to be one of the more popular races of the ones offered, I was so happy that I came back to it.  Next time, I hopefully won’t wait 6 years to come back.

 

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

IMG_3885

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.

IMG_3808

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.

IMG_3813

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!!

IMG_3819

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.

IMG_3821

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

IMG_3823

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.

IMG_3825

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

IMG_3827

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.

IMG_3848

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

IMG_3696

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.

IMG_3818

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.

IMG_3852

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.

IMG_3880

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.

IMG_3882

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.

IMG_3892

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.

IMG_3912

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.

Bank of America Chicago Marathon – Chicago, IL (October 7, 2018)

IMG_2990

Me heading to the finish line of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon – Chicago, IL

Race: Bank of America Chicago Marathon

Place: Chicago, Illinois

Date: October 7, 2018

Time: 3:50:41

Oh, friends…sometimes you dream big.  Bigger than big.  You don’t want to dream big, because you’re scared of failing.  And you don’t want to let people down.  But people keep telling you that your dream is going to happen.  Ace in the hole.  No problem.  Easy as pie. And then those aspirations don’t go the way you planned.  And you feel like a failure.  And it sucks.  But you try not to let it get you down.  But it still sucks.

Welcome…to my Chicago Marathon.

You know, failing to reach a goal does suck.  Some people can just move on.  But I have never been one of those people.  In hindsight…I did a lot of things wrong leading into this race.  For sure.

I repeat…

A LOT.

Instead of flying, Melissa and Paul offered to drive us all up to Chicago from here.  It definitely saved time and airport stress, so we took them up on the offer.  Paul was running via a lottery draw and Melissa did an amazing job raising money for her charity, Team RMHC.  And Cathy…she’s our sherpa, cheerleader, and race mom, as always.  We got a bit of a late start out of Louisville, but we hit the road and were Chicago bound.  At some point, we all figured we needed to eat dinner…and we were in the Indianapolis area…so Cathy got on the Find Me Gluten Free app, and after a sketchy call to a pizza place…we ended up going to…The Tamale Place.

IMG_2829

The Tamale Place on Rockville Rd in Indianapolis, Indiana

We had never been to the Tamale Place before.  But the lady at the register was SUPER nice and super helpful and walked us through the process.  I guess she could tell we were new to the place by the confused look on our faces.  But they have a screen up front that shows what tamales they currently have…and how many.  They had one vegan one…so that was the one I went with.  That just happened to be the Spicy Chipotle Black Bean Tamale.  And since I had been wavering between tacos or a tamale, she suggested both.  And who am I to say no?  She obviously knows what she’s talking about, right?  So, I got a Veggie Taco as well with the spicy red sauce.  Because…spicy…duh.  The tortilla for the taco was homemade.  The masa in the tamale was AMAZING.  Everything was really, really good.  Ironically, this would become our dinner stop on the way home too.  I think we’re believers in The Tamale Place.  Also…it makes me think of Tawn.

IMG_2828

Veggie Taco and the Spicy Chipotle Black Bean Tamale from The Tamale Place

We ate our weight in food.  No really.  We did.  In fact, at one point, we were passing around this cup of Elotes.  I couldn’t eat too much of it, because the cheese situation on those were real…but I tried them.  We used the bathroom and then we got back on the road to finish the haul to Chicago.

And so…we pulled up to The Hotel Blake in the pouring rain.  Cathy and Paul had directed Melissa into the bike lane, so the valet guy helped unload us and the luggage before having Melissa move the car.  Some rude taxi driver honked at her and the valet started shouting at him.  It was dark, wet, and just awful that night.  But she got the car where it needed to be and he got her inside.  Cathy got us checked in and we headed toward the elevator with Showtime, our valet.  He had the luggage cart.  We piled into the elevator, and the doors closed, minus the Nolans.  Whoops. So, we decided we would get their stuff into their room, then our stuff into our room and get it sorted.  Showtime asked us, “Why did you make the pregnant lady drive?” Cathy assured him it was better if she was the driver than if she wasn’t.  We got

IMG_2830

The living room area of the King Suite I stayed in. That couch would be important later!

to our floor and headed down the hall.  They were in room 719.  We were room 722.  So we were close.  Cathy and I were staying in a King Suite.  And the Nolans were in a King room.  As we unloaded their luggage, they texted to ask what room they were in.  I went to go get them while Cathy got our stuff into our room.  They met me at the elevator bay and up we went, with me dropping them off.  Cathy said, “You have to see our room.” So…I went inside to scope it out and we texted to invite the Nolans over as well to hang.  But I think they were ready to crash because they never made it over and we eventually went to bed.  But the room was amazing.  Big ass couch.  Chairs.  Dining area.  Microwave.  Fridge.  Garden tub.  Shower.  Fit for the princess that I am.

IMG_2844

Meli Cafe’s Tofu Scrambler, Fruit Cup and Coffee.

The following morning, we all met up for breakfast at Meli Cafe, which is just off the lobby of The Hotel Blake.  It’s convenient…so we ate their regularly.  Cathy and I went and got a table and started to peruse the menu and drink some coffee.  My best friend from my childhood was coming in that morning and once she arrived and dropped her stuff in the room, we were all going to take the shuttle bus to the expo.  But we definitely needed to fuel up for the day.  I ended up ordering the Tofu Scrambler, which is sautéed broccoli, asparagus, zucchini, roasted red peppers, and organic tofu in a giant bowl.  Since they didn’t have a gluten-free bread option, I subbed for a small bowl of fruit instead.  It was delicious.  And filling.  And not too spicy (because the day before the race is one day you really want some bland food)…even if I added a couple dashes of hot sauce.  We ate.  We went up to the room and hung out.  And Heather arrived while I was in the bathroom.  So I came out and immediately hugged her.  It was amazing to have her in Chicago for me again.

Next stop: THE EXPO!!IMG_2848

The Abbott Health & Fitness Expo is probably the largest and best expo I have ever been to.  I have done this one twice, and it’s just…endless and amazing.  But first stop is always…race bib.  We had to take a short walk a couple of blocks down to the Hilton Chicago and got on the bus. Most of the seats that were left were in the back.  Melissa gets car sick, so we just prayed it was a smooth ride.  It wasn’t a long ride and we made note of the Green Stop being where we needed to return to in order to get back to the Hilton to get back to our hotel.

We went inside…and immediately I got swept up in that race expo bliss.  There were a few photo ops before I had to show my participant info to the security people in order to get in and get my race bib and the info for where to get my t-shirt.  It was an easy exchange and after I got this…we decided to branch off from Paul and Melissa so we could all get our necessary things done.  I had one thing I wanted at the race expo…the Newton Chicago Edition shoes.  Because…NEWTONS.  CHICAGO.  YES!  But first…I needed to get my t-shirt and check the size to be sure that I was happy with the fit.  As I was trying it on, my friend AmyLee messaged me to say she was there.  She said she would come find me at the t-shirt area.  And…she did!!  It was great to hug her and wish her luck and just sit and talk about life and catch up.  She’s amazing.  And…she’s doing the Galloway Method…which I totally respect and believe in, as the run/walk intervals helped me have a strong finish during the marathon at Dopey Challenge at Disney World in January.

IMG_2853

Me and AmyLee at the Chicago Marathon Expo!

We had to part ways eventually, and I had my sites set…on the Newton booth.  Cathy had already scoped it out and so…I skipped the first few aisles just to go and get these shoes that I NEEDED.  WANTED.  NEEDED.

Trust me.  I needed them.  And, one of the guys working the booth was my friend, Dan’s, friend.  And Cathy already had talked to him and he was ready for me.  He brought out my size in the Chicago edition shoes…and…yeah…they came home with me.  And I wear them.  A lot.  They’re amazing.  And with that done…it was time to shop, sample, and spend more money.

And I did.  I picked up the Shefit Sports Bra, which I sadly ended up returning due to it chafing me up really bad on two runs.  But the customer service was super nice and very helpful.  I got 6 BondiBands.  Heather got me three of them as a birthday present, because she’s amazing like that. All of the ones she got me had purple in them.  And they totally suited me.  Totally.  I bout more Nuun (of course) and I got a water bottle with it.  And I am totally hooked on their Immune flavors now.  I popped one of my tubes open for Heather while we strolled the expo.  It was their Energy one.  Her favorite.  And hydration is important.

There were photo ops everywhere.  And snacks.  Snacks just being handed to you.  And

IMG_2858

Here’s to finish lines!

opportunities to win free passes to the Shedd Aquarium (we didn’t…none of us).  We did win those stainless steel straws though.  So, hey, reusable straws.  We zigzagged our way down each aisle, stopping at the booths that interested us and making note so, if necessary, we could come back.  We honestly made an initial sweep and then returned to booths if we wanted to try something or if we were interested in the product.

After some time of doing this. we texted the Nolans. They were in aisle 200 (I think there were 900 aisles, maybe 800).  We figured they were probably wrapping stuff up like we were.  I wanted to stop by Nike Official Merch (NOT IMPRESSED THIS YEAR!) and also hit up the Abbott area as well.  They had a TON of things going on, including the big treadmill you might have seen where you try to match Kipchoge’s marathon pace at Berlin for as long as you can.  I would have LOVED to have done it, but not the day before the race.  That sounds like an injury waiting to happen.  But I did do the thing where you run across this special floor and it feeds you information about your stride and speed.  It compares your stride to an elite’s stride.

IMG_2869

My stats from the Abbott Booth at the Chicago Marathon Expo

Mine is WAY shorter.  And it calculates your marathon pace if you could maintain that short sprint speed they measured.  It was fun.  But I am thankful for the guy at the end whose job it was to catch people.  We all would have hit the booth wall, and probably take them down in the process.

Once I was certain that I honestly shouldn’t spend any more money…because Roll Recovery, Shefit, Newton, Nuun, BondiBand…and a couple others got my money this time around…we checked in with the Nolans again.  They were now in Aisle 300 at the CEP Booth.  This was when we realized they were just starting the great expo dive…so we went over there to help them shop for compression and I spotted Goodr next door, which Melissa is a big fan of, despite the tendency of the lenses to flake and scratch.  I had been on my feet already longer than I expected and we still needed to get Heather and her stuff over to her hotel.  So, we offered to take any bags that they wanted to ditch so they wouldn’t have to haul them around.  We also changed dinner plans.  Melissa really wanted to go to her charity dinner…which is fine.  I really wanted to go to a place just outside the city proper, Da Luciano’s, which has a gluten free menu as big as the regular menu (honestly, it was my one requirement on this trip), so we compromised and said we’d go as a celebration after the race.  We left them to continue their expo explorations and do the charity stuff, while we hopped the shuttle back to the Hilton and then back to hotel.  We dropped off stuff, grabbed Heather’s stuff and went to hop the Blue Line (I think) to her area of the city.  She was staying at a very nice hotel, but it was a walk to get to the train, and then a walk to get to the hotel.  Reverse it after we hung in her room for a moment to head back to our neck of the woods to grab some Garrett Popcorn, pre-dinner, and then make our way to our new dinner idea…the impromptu dinner at…Brightwok Kitchen.

IMG_2876

Fall In Love Stir Fry Bowl and Sweet & Sour Pickles from Brightwok Kitchen – Chicago.

I first discovered Brightwok while I was in Chicago to see Hamilton.  Cathy and I had gotten out of our show and we were STARVING. Everything there is gluten-free and dairy-free.  And the food is phenomenal.  So…I couldn’t complain too much.  It wasn’t what I had hoped to be eating the night before the marathon, but it was a good supplement.

I ended up getting the Fall In Love Stir-fry Bowl.  Fall in Love is Fall 5-Spice, Brown Rice, Carrots, Peppers, Local Zucchini, Butternut Squash, and a Sweet Potato Fritter.  It usually comes with Local Chicken, but being that I’m a vegetarian, I had them add the tofu, I think.  I actually claimed the last sweet potato fritter, so, as Heather got the same thing as me, I split it with her, because…necessary.  I also got a side of their Sweet & Sour Pickles (which are AMAZING).  Seriously, I’ve never had anything there that I didn’t like.  After that…we parted ways.  Heather went back to her hotel…Cathy and I returned to ours.  We started to lay out everything for the following day so it wouldn’t be a madhouse trying to get out the door on time.  My plan was to hopefully be in bed by 9 pm. I think, after having some downtime and the Nolans over for taping and necessary race pep talks…it was closer to 10 pm.  Lights out.  Because the next morning…it was time to run Chicago!

IMG_2881

Me dressed and ready to run the Chicago Marathon!

Race morning.  The usual routine.  First alarm.  Get up for the meds I need to take.  Go back to bed.  Second alarm.  Get up and actually become a functioning member of society…go to the bathroom, change into race gear, check weather, eat something, check weather, brush teeth, put hair in pigtails, check weather…you get the drill.

Heather arrived to leave her bag in our room and to head to the start line with us.  I got a text from Melissa saying she wanted to hug me before we headed out (I was in Wave 1 and had to get to my Gate really early)…and she was reapplying some iron-on symbols to her race shirt from her charity that she was running for.  She had a different gate and was in the wave after me.  So…we swung into her room (me wearing an attractive big garbage bag because I didn’t want to be soaked if I was going to be out in the rain that was predicted) and we hugged and wished each other a good, safe race.  She told me to have fun.  I loved her for that.  We left and took the elevator down to the lobby to head out the door to make the walk to the start.  We had to get over to Grant Park.  They could take me as far as my gate…which was Gate 2, before security check.  We stood there for a moment, and they told me I was going to be fine and I would be great and to have fun and enjoy the run.  That’s what friends do.  I really wished I had been in better shape…but, you just do what you can with what you have.  We took some selfies…and then hugged…and then they put me in the LONG line to get into Grant Park by way of Gate 2.

IMG_2892

Cathy, Me, and Heather at Gate 2 at the Chicago Marathon

And that…was where I stood…for a very, very long time.  Barely moving.  Just a short trudge here and there, waddling up bit-by-bit.  Glance to the left…and Gate 1 was just moving easily.  Look to the right…and Gate 3 had traffic moving freely.  Gate 2…was at an absolute standstill.  And every runner there was basically in Wave 1 and needing to be in their corral.  And yet…we stood.

At least it wasn’t raining…yet.  Not yet.  But, we who were left to stand there and shuffle slowly forward were about to go into panic mode.  We couldn’t understand why this gate wasn’t moving.  And panic was setting in for me.  Usually I would have stretched more…and taken my time eating the banana I brought with me…perhaps use the bathroom near the corrals…but nope. Finally they had runners who didn’t need to check bags get into a separate line (that was me), and while it still moved slowly, it got us through.  And then the panic speed walk began for everyone.  Because to get to Corral C & D, you had to go behind the other corrals to a separate entrance.  And at this point…the National Anthem was being sung, quite beautifully, but I couldn’t enjoy it.  I was trying to make it to Corral D so I could start on time.  Panic and adrenaline was setting in.

I did learn one thing from standing forever in that line at the gate.  Count the kilometers, not miles.  There are more of them, so you feel like you are getting places faster.  Nice trick.  But I digress…

I got into the corral with 1 minute to spare before they closed it.  I quickly shed my trash bag and the half-zip I had worn to keep warm, as I was in a crop top and shorts for this one.  The start temperature was warm…almost 60 degrees…but rain was coming and so were some rather steady winds.  The announcers said all the names of the elite field that were running and the corrals would cheer for each name.  And then…they sent off the first wave.

IMG_2925To the song Sweet Home Chicago.

After the initial walk to the start line, we could see it grow closer and closer and soon the walk became a job and soon the jog became the run over the start mat and under the starting gate.  I was off.  For my second ever Chicago Marathon.  A race that was so magical for me in 2013.

This experience, however, was going to be a lot different.  Because mistakes were made throughout the race as well.  I was relieved to start without the rain, and while I knew that it wouldn’t be kept at bay, I was hoping that it would hold off longer than it actually did.  The first couple of miles were pretty dry.  But as I headed into Mile 3…the rain began.  I also knew that Cathy and Heather were going to try to catch me before I hit Mile 3…so pretty much just before the bridge.  And I spotted them thanks to Heather’s purple jacket.  She was SO easy to spot.  I gave a wave and a smile, feeling absolutely strong at this point and continued on…knowing I wouldn’t see them again until Mile 13.

I should mention here that I really just wanted to run by feel for this race.  Go out and have fun.  Enjoy.  And to make sure that I wouldn’t check my watch and fuss over my pace, I set it to only show me the time.  The clock face.  No pace.  No distance.  None of it.  Not even time elapsed.  And I never once looked at my watch the entire race.  Nor did I make not of the clocks along the course.  But this is where I may have faltered.  I ran the first 12-14 miles on pace for my goal for this race.  But…it got a lot harder than I anticipated at Mile 10.  Mile 10 is not a good place to have your legs start feeling like lead.  I pressed on, hoping that maybe the flat course was affecting them, so I hoped they would wake back up.  They didn’t.

IMG_2966

Heading into Mile 13 at the Chicago Marathon. I am not having as much fun as it looks like I am.

I took Honey Stinger gels at Mile 6 and Mile 12…and pressed on.  I did see Cathy and Heather around Mile 13.  I spotted them and waved as I went by…I think I managed a smile, but I wasn’t feeling nearly as strong as I had when they saw me 10 miles previously.  I managed to press on through the screams and amazing people at Soul City Church, who were rocking Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” as we ran through.  But that, friends…is where it got hard.

The rain never seemed to stop.  Most of my race was in this annoying drizzle.  And with the winds coming on strong too…I was getting cold.  And…by Mile 15, I started my run/walk method that got me through Dopey.  Not systematic though.  I’d guess on how long I was walking and push as long as I could handle a run…and repeat.  It was hard.  And it was breaking me.  I could tell my little goal I had set was going to get away from me…and fast.  But now…now it was about getting to that finish line.

As we went into Mile 16, a female runner slightly ahead of me, started to slow and wobble to the side of the road.  Her legs were like Jello.  It was too early for that…so I was glad I was listening to my body and easing back, despite not reaching expectations everyone had for me performance-wise.  It was scary to see.  I kept with the run/walk method as I ticked off a few more miles.  No intervals…just as much as I could run, I would.  And then I would count (for the most part) to 30 in my head before I would try again.  Around Mile 20…there was a runner down on the corner, covered in jackets, with police officers around them.  Another scary moment.  Especially as I am pressing on just to finish these last 6 miles.

I managed to pick it up a little bit for the next mile…but slowed back down.  Mile 24 was the only one where I hit the 10s (although some of my 9 minute paces were close).  I don’t know what happened there.  But I gave myself the pep talk.  2 miles.  20 minutes.  I could do anything for 20 minutes.  Even if it was at a run/walk.

The last two miles seemed to come and go…until I hit that hill at Mile 26.  This hill takes you up an exit ramp and then you head down to the finish line, back inside Grant Park.  I won’t lie.  I walked this hill.  It got me.  This entire race got me.  I got inside my head.  I let expectations weigh me down.  I didn’t follow a good routine.  So, yeah, this hill bested me.  But I made the last turn and I said I would run it in…no matter what.  So I picked it up.  And as I was running, I spotted Heather and Cathy…screaming their heads off for me as I ran past them and headed toward that finish line.  I had no idea what my time was…my pace…none of it.  It stopped my Garmin…and looked.  3:50.  And change.  I was WAY off.  But I knew it.  I knew that would happen by Mile 10.  Was I still disappointed?  You bet!

I made my way through the finishers area, grabbing that famous Finish Line Beer, which I can’t drink, but I promised Melissa and Paul that I would pick one up.  They had to open it though…so as I went past Buckingham Fountain and further into the park to where we exited for Runners Reunite…I had to dump it out.  But I could keep the can.  I immediately headed for the letter X…it’s the assigned meeting spot for myself and my friends as NO ONE is ever at X and EVERYONE is at B.  But as I made the long walk, I noticed neither Cathy nor Heather were there.  I stayed there for awhile…then made my way up to B…because perhaps they forgot.  They weren’t there either.  So, back to X I went.  And then I got lightheaded.  I quickly sat down on the boards holding up the inflatable X and held on.  My vision was going black.  I was shivering and cold.  I wanted to get back to the hotel.  I wanted my friends.

Once I stopped having my vision go black and knew I could stand, I slowly did and made my way over to the curb…where I sat down and huddled my mylar blanket around my body.  And shivered.  And that’s where they found me.

IMG_3051

Me after finishing the Chicago Marathon

I stood up and they came and gave me hugs and a rose and a stuffed bear.  I started to cry a little.  I have the best friends.

Cathy asked me if I wanted to do anything in the finish line area.  I told her I just wanted to go back to the hotel and get warm.  So, Heather took my rose and I snuggled with my bear and under my mylar and they walked me back to the hotel.  We got inside and up to the room.  And they were gracious enough to help me out of my shoes, socks, compression and my crop top.  I stayed in the rest while Heather went to start a hot shower for me.

I got cleaned up and put on some fresh, warm clothes and went to sit down on the couch.  Cathy said the last check in with Melissa and Paul was the half, but she got a message that they were behind pace, the mats were being pulled up, and that they would keep us informed of their progress.  Cathy went and got me warm coffee and I tried to eat some things, but my stomach wasn’t ready for food.  Not yet.  I hydrated as much as I could with my stomach being off…and we sat and watched some television, talking, laughing, checking in with Melissa and Paul.  Cathy had me put my feet up on some pillows and she covered me with my hoodie and the blanket from the bed.  I was toasty warm now.  Paul texted to see if we could grab some snacks and drinks from the charity hospitality tent, and since we all had wristbands…we could.  But neither Heather nor I wanted to move.  So…Cathy went and grabbed as much as she could.

IMG_3047

Me trying to warm up after some hypothermia action at the Chicago Marathon

When we got word that they were at Mile 24…I put on my shoes and jacket and we all made our way down to the finish line area.  Security wasn’t letting people through at first, but after some women sneaked inside, the woman said, “I’m a volunteer, I’m done.”  And she walked off.  And so…we walked in.

We waited patiently at the finish, with me moving around as much as possible.  When the gates started to come down, we got even closer, moving up toward Buckingham Fountain.  We took some time to take photos of the fountain until we got word that they had finished.  We tried to direct them to a street, but Melissa’s calves had pretty much cramped up at Mile 6 and she was done.  We were going to them.

We found them…Melissa on the ground, shivering, and Paul trying to rub her calves and feet.  Poor thing!  It was crazy miserable in the rain and then the winds, so if I was this bad off…I couldn’t imagine how she felt.  Plus…pregnancy doesn’t help her either.  I knew Heather wanted to catch dinner before she had to get to the airport, so we changed dinner plans again…and moved everything to Meli Cafe again.  Which was fine.  It was closer and less hassle for sure.  But with Da Luciano’s being closed on Mondays…this meant I once again was missing my chance to eat there.  Next time…it’s happening.  Because I will make it happen.  Heather and I went to drop off things at their room and head down to dinner.  We told our waitress we’d be coming in waves.  Cathy got Melissa up and moving and she said that she was meeting us at Meli Cafe…to which Melissa said, “I could eat.”  So…YAY!!  At least the whole gang would be there to celebrate.

IMG_3039

Me with my Chicago Marathon medal and jacket at Buckingham Fountain

Cathy joined us first…then the Nolans.  I was just finishing up when they got their food, but it meant I could walk Heather up to get her stuff and take her outside of the hotel to give her hugs and tell her to have a safe trip back to Minnesota.  She had a flight to catch.  I went back inside to sit with my friends and just reveled in what we all accomplished.  We pushed ourselves even when things got hard.  Even when they seemed impossible.  And we all finished.  Safely.

After we ate, we hit the lobby for a couple of photo ops and then headed back upstairs to rest and recover.  We hung out in our room, watching Food Network and just talking and drinking water/cider.  It was the perfect way to close it out.

So…the official results of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon are that I finished in 3:50:41.  Definitely nowhere near what I had hoped.  BUT…I will follow with my conclusions on that in a moment.  I was the 11156 finisher overall.  The 2941 female to finish.  And I was 566 in my age division.  Not bad, considering over 43,000 runner signed up for this.

So…what mistakes did I make?

IMG_3046

Finishers…Friends!

I was on my feet way too much the day before the race.  I didn’t fuel as I would have liked and tried a different method…the day before the race.  I think my marathon paced runs killed me the weeks leading into the race as well.  I let expectations get to me.  I didn’t let my watch tell me to SLOW DOWN (I think that was my biggest error).  I didn’t dress for the weather that was moving in.  I probably should have fueled more than I did. I did every 6 miles…I am going to work on putting that closer and more frequent.  And…I told myself I wasn’t fit enough so I went into it believing I wasn’t fit enough.  And there are more…but I won’t dwell on it now.

I finished…I made it.  My friends finished.  They made it.  We all were safe.  We all did the best we could with our circumstances.  We may not have lived up to our own expectations, but dammit…we at least tried that day.  We at least got out there and gave it what we had.

Chicago…maybe one day I’ll be back.  But for now, I have other fall marathons to tackle.  You were a great learning experience.  And I know…if I keep trying, I’ll reach my goal.