CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon – Indianapolis, IN (November 4, 2017)

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

Race: CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon

Place: Indianapolis, Indiana

Date: November 4, 2017

Time: 1:41:44

When weekends are busy…boy, they are busy.  That’s how my Monumental Half Marathon weekend turned out to be.  The running gods just sort of made this race available to me, as I was already going to be up in Indianapolis that weekend for a wedding.  Why not make an event out of it?

So, I signed up for the Monumental Half Marathon and went into it with the run/walk mentality that I’ve been practicing, in an attempt to not have my body fall apart on me again at crucial and critical times.  Training with the run/walk method is one thing.  Actually incorporating it into racing is another beast altogether.

But I digress.

My race weekend started off with lots of packing on Thursday night.  Not only did I need to pack for a half marathon, but I also needed to pack for a wedding…AND (yep…there is an and in there) a soccer match.  Told you my weekend was busy.  And this all was happening in the span of one day.

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Lunch on the go…when you’re broke!

So, packing for three events meant about 4 pairs of shoes!  HA!  No joke though, because at first the forecast called for rain, so I had my regular racing shoes, my rain shoes, heels for the wedding, and my recovery shoes for the soccer match.  It also meant packing running clothes for rain, for cold, for comfortable weather…a dress to wear to the wedding…and some jeans, a t-shirt and a hoodie for the soccer match.  Plus pajamas, race fuel, snacks, protein powder, recovery stuff…ALL THE THINGS!!  And, I had originally suggested grabbing sushi on the way up to Indianapolis (we were taking a half day from work to travel and would hit the road right at lunch time), but decided to save money and made gluten-free cashew butter and jelly sandwiches!  My roommate had a small baggie of chips with hers (we had one serving left in a bag at the apartment) and I had the remainder of the grapes we bought at Costco!  That was lunch.

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Me at the race expo for the CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon – Indianapolis, IN

We got up to Indianapolis in good time, actually.  No traffic issues really at all.  So, after checking into the Hilton near the Indiana State Capitol (and also near the start line and finish line), we took a walk to the convention center to hit up the race expo.  I had actually expected to spend more money on stuff at the expo.  It’s a really nice expo.  But all the official merchandise promoted the full marathon, and not really the half.  So, that was a bit disappointing.  Aside from that…obtaining my race bib, t-shirt, and all that stuff was super easy.  And we navigated the aisles of the race expo without signing up for more races, or buying extra stuff…save for 3 Bondi Bands.  They had one that’s perfect for a race I am planning to do with friends in the fall, one that had unicorns and rainbows on it (DUH!) and one that said “Run Like A Princess Today.”  HELLO!  Made for me.  And that was it.  I purchased two replacement water bottles for my fuel belt and called it a day.

With plenty of time to kill, we took the stuff back to the hotel room and then decided to hit up Indianapolis by foot.  This meant walking Monument Circle and stopping into candy store (DUH!).  That’s where we picked up dessert, actually.  Because…candy store!!  Cathy picked up a Diet Butterscotch Root Beer to dry, and it was decent enough.  We then took a stroll down to the city library because she wanted to look at their Irish History section.  And from there…we were both ready to figure out what to have for dinner.

Ideally…it’s always gluten-free pizza before a race for me.  BUT…as this was my first distance race where I would be incorporating my run/walk method, I was toying with giving up the pizza and opting for Mexican or other options.  The gluten-free pizza place we had discovered the year I ran the Indy Women’s was our first stop though.  They weren’t taking reservations and with a marathon happening the next day, we weren’t certain that it wouldn’t be crowded.  It wasn’t at that point.  They said they could seat us at a table, but we’d have to be out by 6:30.  Not a problem.  That gave us plenty of time to peruse the menu, make dinner choices, and still not feel rushed.

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Gluten Free Focaccia from Napolese in Indianapolis, IN

Our waiter was awesome.  We explained to him that I was a Celiac and also couldn’t do dairy.  He was great to work with and even remembered the dairy-free part when we ordered the gluten-free focaccia, which had garlic.  Lots of garlic.  YUM!!

After going back and forth on the type of pizza we were going to split, we finally decided that creating our own would be the most fun.  AND…we even asked the opinion of our server when it came to doing either a white pizza or one with sauce.  We had wanted to have winter squash, balsamic onions, and then quail eggs (protein!) on the pizza.  And after mulling back and forth on whether to sauce it up or go white pizza…the server settled it for us, saying that the white pizza would let the other ingredients shine, and with the eggs, we would have plenty going on with the pizza.  No need for the red sauce.  DONE!!  Order in.

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The pizza we built at Napolese in Indianapolis, IN: Gluten Free Crust, Winter Squash, Balsamic Onions, Quail Eggs

The pizza, by the way, was magnificent.  The crust was basically what they made the focaccia out of, but this time it wasn’t sliced into triangles and put into a basket, it was laid out on a plate, baked to perfection, topped with everything.  Eggs on a pizza was a new experience for me.  And it was amazing.  We devoured without rushing through the meal, pausing to discuss how EPIC this dinner was.  This reminds me…I have squash in my fridge that I need to bake up so it doesn’t go bad.  Perhaps a pizza is in the future.

With my pre-race meal now in the tank, we took a stroll to CVS to pick up additional waters for that evening and race day…and then turned in for the night. I laid out my clothes while Cathy showered…and then it was Food Network for Diners, Drive-In’s and Dives until bedtime.  We turned in early.  But thanks to being so close to the start of the race, my three race morning alarms were set later.

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Rocking my Louisville Landsharks shirt at the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon

Got up with my first alarm to take a pill and some water.  Went back to bed.  An hour later, alarm went off.  I went to get dressed in my race clothes and finished putting my hair up when the alarm for Cathy to wake up went off.  It was perfect timing.  I had packed some snack bars/protein bars to have for breakfast…so we did that in the room.  I filled up my fuel belt with one side water and the other my Nuun Performance (LOVE!!) before grabbing my hoodie, and heading out.  Cathy even remembered the sign.  We were WINNING this morning.

I texted my coach once I got to the start line area, hoping to catch her before the race.  She was aiming for a PR.  I’m not concerned with time right now…just focusing on form, and how I feel.  And she and I discussed a race plan via text for this one the night before.  With as many people running this as there was, we decided a 4 minute run/30 second walk interval might cause problems.  So…the new plan was to have me walk all the water stops.  She was hanging in the convention center, so I didn’t actually find her ahead of time.  Cathy had to convince me to give up my hoodie and get into my corral as I was a Wave 1 runner and the start of the race was getting close.

I gave it up, got a hug, and went to get into the corral at the start.  I had just found a spot that was a decent amount of space back from the start, but not too far back, and then I hear my name being shouted.  I start turning my head, and I see two guys waving at me.  It’s Tim and Greg from Frankfort!!  Greg came over and gave me a hug.  They were doing the full.  We joked about how I was smart and was focusing on half marathons for awhile.  But with the anthem starting to be sung, we wished each other luck and got back into our own zones.

The wheelchair race was underway first.  And then…Wave 1 was off.

I actually felt really good that morning, even with the cold air.  I had opted, at the last minute before leaving town, to swing back by the apartment and grab arm warmers for the race.  This turned out to be a wise decision.  While there were points of the race that I felt I was getting too warm, the wind would kick in and I’d be grateful to have them again.

I loved this race.  Honestly!!  I have always heard good things about it…but this was my first year actually running it.  I have known friends who have done the full or the half and have never heard anything bad about it at all.  I settled into what I felt was a good and easy pace and got into the zone.  Even though it was crowded, there wasn’t a lot of weaving going on.  I felt comfortable and like I wasn’t really pushing too much too fast.  I saw Cathy just after crossing the start line, and she had said she’d be at Monument Circle as well before heading to the finish line to wait for me.  Apparently an actual breakfast happened for her as well…because while I saw her at Monument Circle (hard to miss that sign!), she didn’t see me.  It was still dark, and I was wearing darker colors than I normally do.  After she realized she missed me, she spotted the Au Bon Pain and ended up getting one of their breakfast sandwiches.  HA!!  She’s resourceful like that.

Almost 3 miles in now and I still felt good.  No hip issues (even with the chilly weather) and just a steady rhythm going.  I knew that the marathon/half marathon split was just after Mile 7, so I knew things would thin out a bit at that point as well.  At my 4 mile water stop, Tim caught up with me and gave me a pat on the back and told me I was doing great.  He was doing the full and looked like he wasn’t even trying to maintain a fast pace.  He’s superhuman, I swear!  He ended up catching me again at the water stop around Mile 6 before the split.  I kept waiting for Linda or Greg to pass me…but never did see that.  It was good to see Tim out there though!

The split came and that involved running underneath this arch where half was labeled for the full and the other half was labeled for the half.  They kept on going straight and we made a left turn to continue on our path to the finish line.  Just after Mile 8, they were handing out gels on the course.  Not my thing so onward.  I really felt good the entire time, except between Miles 10 and 11.  I just felt really tired at that point.  I walked a “hill” and a water stop within the same mile.  I didn’t feel bad for it.  I was tuning into my body and it really needed.  There is no shame in walk breaks.  In fact, they sort of make the run more enjoyable…and in the end…the results are quite surprising.  I didn’t speed walk those breaks either.  I strolled each water stop…taking in my own water of fuel as needed.  And after that extra break heading into Mile 11, I felt better and I was able to pick it back up.  Final two miles and into the home stretch.

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Me with Linda, my coach, after the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon – Indianapolis, IN

I could hear the announcer as I neared the final stretch of the half marathon.  I took a corner and could see that finish line.  As I was nearing it, I spotted Cathy and the sign.  She was shouting at me and the crowd was loud and awesome.  And I heard my name get announced just as I was moments away from crossing that finish line.  That’s always a motivation to kick it up a notch.  I never have much of a kick at the end of a race, but I was smiling the entire time as I crossed over that finish line and threw my hands up in celebration!

Afterwards, made the walk through the finish chute, getting a Mylar blanket, a medal, lots of snacks, and some water.  I got an official finisher photo on the way to meet up with Cathy.  And soon after finding her, we got word that Linda was on her way to the finish line, so we waited to flag her down.  And the first thing she did was give me a hug.  I love my coach, for real!!  She’s my biggest support system, even when I am one of her biggest headaches (I am neurotic; I can’t help it!).  We talked to her for a little bit, but soon had to head back tot he hotel to cycle through showers and get dressed for the wedding.  Linda was going to be waiting on her runners doing the full and half marathon.

From running shoes to high heels and a pretty dress. We made a coffee stop at Strange Brew in Greenwood, IN before the wedding (necessary) and then got to see two friends get married.  A little dancing and food at the reception and we were in the bathroom changing into clothes for the soccer match and heading back to Louisville to cheer our team to victory (it went to penalty kicks and we won…and charged the field afterwards).  It was a long, but totally amazing day!

So…the official results of the CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon are that I finished in 1:41:44…walking EVERY water stop.   I’ll take that time with walk breaks. Hell yeah!  I was 720/7972 finishers overall.  I was the 175/4492 female finishers.  And I was 32/775 in my age division.  WITH. WALK. BREAKS.  YAAAAAAS!!  Maybe Jeff Galloway really does have the secret recipe for racing success!  I mean, I ran/walked that race faster than I did the KDF Half Marathon.  It was also faster than I ran the Dark Side Half Marathon.  Yep…Jeff Galloway is a genius!

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Hard work understands hard work.  And hugs from your coach at the finish line make it all worth it in the end.

Anthem 5K Fitness Classic – Louisville, KY (March 4, 2017)

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Me after finishing the Anthem 5K (*COUGH*) Fitness Classic – Louisville, Kentucky

Race: Anthem 5K Fitness Classic

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: March 4, 2017

Time: 21:55*

Ugh!  Asterisk time.  I hate having to put that little thing near a time on a race…but it’s only fair because I can’t call this a PR.  Not even close to one.  Seems that the Anthem 5K was actually the Anthem 4.7K.

I. AM. NOT. JOKING.

Granted, I wasn’t on tap for a PR time…but I wasn’t pushing myself through this race either.  Still, I know a lot of people who were thrilled with their HUGE PR times, and I wonder if they just didn’t bother, or didn’t care, to check their watches.  I never even got to 3 miles…and others didn’t either.  Those who were, like me, cognizant of this fact, were rather angry, rather than celebrating PRs that were not PRs.  I mean, most (not all, I admit to that) runners do wear some sort of GPS watch and that, right there, is an instant snapshot of your race.  It might not be 100% accurate on the time…but the distance…that’s usually pretty spot on.  My Garmin never even beeped a third time before I crossed the finish line.  So, I wasn’t putting it out there that I had a HUGE PR (not that this would have been HUGE even if it was a PR pace)…but still…

OH…did I forget to mention that in all of this…I was told to run a race?

Yep.  This soon.  Already.  As in…yesterday.

Because my physical therapist thought that it would be a good mental boost for me.  I was really leery…because of every race that runs in Louisville…the Anthem 5K is my least favorite.  It’s crowded.  It’s hard to find parking.  And this year…the LMPD, apparently, used last year’s course map and cut 944 feet off the race course.  So, it wasn’t even a 5K.  And, I’m sorry, I paid almost $50 for registration for this race…I want to get my money’s worth.  This race should have been 3.1 miles.  NOT 2.93…NOT 3.2…but an accurate and exact 3.1.  And it wasn’t.

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Anyway…enough of my grousing.  Let’s move on, shall we?  Where was I?

Ah yes…I was racing.  Kinda.  The deal with my physical therapist was that I should and could do the Anthem 5K because, he felt, it could be the mental boost I needed because, let’s face it, I have played it overly cautious with my comebacks because…just as I start falling into a rhythm…something else on me breaks or falls apart or however you look at it.  It’s the proverbial shit hitting the fan at times, and I’m sort of done with that.  So…my PT felt that it would be good for me, as long as I didn’t all-out run it, to actually sign up and participate in my least favorite local race.

And that, my dear friends, is how I ended up with a race bib for the Anthem 5 (4.7)K Fitness Classic.

I registered for the race on Thursday afternoon, after I had seen Daniel that morning for my physical therapy session.  After he checked out my ankle (the opposite ankle was giving me some issues) he had me do a dynamic warmup and then took me outside to run so he could take a look at my form and make sure I wasn’t compensating.  He said everything looked great and that the only thing he noticed was my high cadence, which is normal for me.  And then he said…to give the 5K a go on Saturday.  So, I registered…coughing up $50 I didn’t really have to run a race I really didn’t like.  Easy come, easy go.

Friday, my bib number was listed on the site and after work (we were trying to make up time due to the Sting concert that happened Tuesday night and the big storms that went through the midwest delayed the return drive long enough that it would eat into personal time if I took a lunch).  SO…right after work, it was over the river to Slugger Field.  Packet pick-up was a breeze.  It was easy to remember my bib number…6061…and I was at the very end of the table due to my late registration.  But we were in and out of there in no time.  No problems.  No issues.  Back over the river…a quick stop at the grocery store for some supplies (I am batch cooking good, healthy, real food for people) and then…home.

Dinner…a gluten-free and vegan BBQ Ranch Pizza.

Night before a race = pizza.

Always.

Forever.

I keep trying to find something else that works, but pizza seems to be the key.  So much for my plan to cut back on pizza.

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I never really sat down that night.  I went from cooking up lentils and making sauce and baking potatoes to…my PT exercises and stretches.  AND…foam rolling for a brief moment.  I had every intention of going to bed early too.  That didn’t happen.  I had to have my foot taped (the right foot that had the whole plantar flare-up back in the early fall).  So, I got to bed just before 10:00 pm.

AND…I set my alarm for 3:30 am.  Why?  Because I needed to run through all my PT stuff prior to heading out for the race.  My roommate was getting up at 6:15, and these take me close to 2 hours if I do everything I am supposed to do.  So, I got up and bundled up, headed outside to do my dynamic warm-ups, my marches, my lunges, my steps, my lunge matrix, my hops and jumps…before heading inside for the resistance band stuff, the hip stretches and exercises, and even some work on the BOSU.  I finished up at 5:30 am.  I was tired.  I made tea.

I packed my breakfast to go.  I did that because I didn’t have a banana (I usually always eat a banana 30 minutes before a race) and with all my PT stuff, I never really had time to dart out to the grocery store and get one.  My local Kroger usually has bananas that aren’t ripe enough anyway.  So, I packed my Freedom Foods Rainbow Rocks cereal (think Fruity Pebbles made from real ingredients and not LOADED down with sugar) in a baggy, packed coffee cups for after the race, got protein bars ready for AFTER the race, and the roomie was up and eating some cereal soon after that.  We were out the door just slightly ahead of schedule.  It was freezing cold outside.  Thankfully, the windows hadn’t frosted over.  So, we made our trek over the river to downtown Louisville, where we ended up parking randomly in a street lot as the rest of the road was blocked off for the race.  Thankfully, there were a few spots left.  We paid the substantial $15 fee for the “convenience” to park there, then began walking down toward Market Street.  I had an Ambassador meet-up at 7:40 am at the Jimmy John’s.  Except…it was still REALLY early.  So…yeah…

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Melissa and me freezing before the Anthem 5K!

I was miserable and cold.  The sunrise was gorgeous.  But I was more focused on finding a spot where something (like a building) could act as a windbreak.  This race is ALWAYS cold.  I swear.As meet-up time came…I was still all by myself in front of the Jimmy John’s.  But not more than a moment later, I see my amazing friend (and fellow #KDFMarathon Ambassador), Melissa and her husband, Paul, coming our way.  They had already had a hell of a morning…had just picked up their race bibs…and Cathy was already pinning Melissa’s bib on her.  This has become a trend.  HA!  I actually had a gift for Melissa…which I handed over while she was being pinned.  Here’s the thing…Melissa and I are basically the Injury Crew (she’s been dealing with knee issues since The Light Side…and I’ve been dealing with the hip issue since…the beginning of the year).  Anyway…when I purchased mine, I knew, as a fellow injured runner, how sometimes you just need a little motivation.  She’s amazing…and she’s going to do amazing things.  We waited for a few minutes, but none of the other ambassadors showed up.  So…with needing to the start line and into the corrals (that no one really enforced)…we took the picture.  And for being as cold and miserable as we were, the picture was super cute!

And being super cute is what is important, friends!!

We trekked to the start line…and as I was standing in Corral B…I get spotted by my good friend, Tammy.  We sort of hung together while her boyfriend, Dean, moved up with all the fast elite types.  Because…he’s fast and elite.  Tammy knows what it’s like to have goods and bads and ups and downs, as she has been dealing with it for awhile.  It was so good to see her and run with her through the start gate.  I lost her after that.

So…one thing I dislike about Anthem is how crowded this race is.  Honestly, you never get out of the pack.  And I think that’s one reason that when I went out…I went out way faster than I intended to run.  The good thing was, the hip didn’t flare up on me or twinge or anything.  So…as I don’t check my watch for pace while running, I thought it felt comfortable and just went with it.  I maintained.  Honestly.  My splits are pretty much the same.  The first mile was amazing…it made me feel good, even if I was dodging a few people and maneuvering over some rather rough pavement at times.

Mile 2, however, was where the issues began.  Leading into it I was feeling good.  And, honestly, when I run, I get tunnel-vision.  I rarely notice anything around me.  Well, I’m just doing my thing and as we come around a corner, there is Mile 2.  Okay.  Wow.  I noted the time on the clock on the mile marker had just hit 14 minutes.  In order for that to happen, I would have had to blast off a 6-something minute mile and, honestly, this body is not up to that right now.  And as I ran beyond it, I noted that my Garmin hadn’t beeped at me yet either to indicate the 2nd mile.  So…I glanced at my watch.  The top.  For the mileage.  And I was only at 1.88 miles.  So, the marker had to be at least 0.15 miles off.  I had hoped that it was an oversite and it would correct itself as the race goes on.  Sometimes this happens.  BUT…not this time.  I rounded the corner and made the long slog down Main Street, taking it upon myself to glance at my watch after the 2 mile beep happened.  I still hoped for a course correction in miles,but as I kept going, and when I could finally see that Finish Line…I hadn’t even gotten my third beep to mark a third mile.  I hustled into the finish line…stopped my Garmin, and checked.

2.96 miles after crossing the finish line.  Not even 3 miles.  And there were a lot of angry people at that finish line.  Every fast, elite, and finisher who gave a damn was pretty much discontent and having a little bitch session.  I waited for Cathy, who was walking down to meet me and called her over to say, “The course was short!  It wasn’t even 3 miles.”  I double-checked with some runners who looked unhappy and they were, “It was WAY short and I’m pissed.”  My friend Amber and her husband felt the same way.

Seemed like everyone PR’d that day…because they PR’d on a short course.  I knew it before I crossed the finish line.  I think everyone else did too.

Was I on pace for a new PR?  Nope.  But…I might have beaten my 2013 time…which would have been cool.  But we’ll never know now.  The race people went back to measure the course and did find that they were 944 feet off.  They said that the Louisville Metro Police Department had barricades up in the wrong place as they used last year’s course map.  Regardless…this is a HUGE race here…it always kicks off the Triple Crown of Running.  You’d think they could get it right.

Like I said, when you pay as much money as this 5K race asks, you expect a little more in the end.  Needless to say, this might have been my last Anthem 5K.  Unless I get the Triple Crown bug again…but I’m happy just churning out the 10K and 10 miler, to be honest.

So…the official results of the Anthem 5K (4.7K) Fitness Classic are that I finished in 21:55.  No new PR…not even on pace to set one.  Even with the course mishap.  I was 515/5315 finishers overall.  I was the 91/3037 for women finishers.  And I was 19/412 in my age division.  I’m pretty proud, considering I’m still nursing an injury.

I will say this…I was able to run a pace that I haven’t seen since December, and have it feel comfortable.  This hip never once twinged at me while I was running.  I felt good and like I could hold that pace forever.  To me…I count all of that as a win.  PRs aren’t what I run for anymore.  I run because I can…because it makes me feel alive…because it makes me feel good.  Finishing this race was a mental boost that I needed.  Daniel was right.  So, in the end…I take with me the fact that I ran my heart out and I overcame another setback on my running journey.  And that means more to me than the length of a course or the time on the clock.

Me heading into the finish line of the Anthem 5K Fitness Classic - Louisville, Kentucky
Me heading into the finish line of the Anthem 5K Fitness Classic – Louisville, Kentucky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me in front of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Me in front of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

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

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

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

In the morning…it was time to do the…

Disneyland Star Wars Light Side 10K
Disneyland Star Wars Light Side 10K

Star Wars Light Side 10K

Race: Star Wars Light Side 10K

Place: Disneyland, Anaheim, California

Date: January 14, 2017

Time: 50:13

Compression shorts…KT Tape…and ACE Bandages.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rey on Hoth
Rey on Hoth

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

Rey in the trash compactor
Rey in the trash compactor

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

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

FINISHER of the Star Wars Light Side 10K
FINISHER of the Star Wars Light Side 10K

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

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

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

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

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

was impending.

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

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


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

Disneyland Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon

Race: Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon

Place: Disneyland, Anaheim, California

Date: January 15, 2017

Time: 1:47:53

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

THIS. WAS. BAD.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disneyland Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon Finishers Medal
Disneyland Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon Finishers Medal (It has Princess Leia on it…ALL THE FEELS!)
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Disneyland Star Wars Rebel Challenge Medal for finishing the 10K on Saturday & the Half Marathon on Sunday!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s hoping for the best!

And Disneyland…I’ll be back!

May the Force be with you!
May the Force be with you!

Fast Freddie Five Mile Foot Feast – New Albany, IN (November 24, 2016)

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Me after finishing the Fast Freddie Five Mile Foot Feast – New Albany, IN

Race: Fast Freddie Five Mile Foot Feast

Place: New Albany, Indiana

Date: November 24, 2016

Time: 37:03

*twirls around*

It happened this year!!  After having to miss out on my most convenient and least stressful face of the year last year…this year I was registered and ready to run.  That’s right, my friends.  It was time for New Albany’s very own Fast Freddie Five Mile Foot Feast.  It is held every Thanksgiving morning (for 28 years now!) and it happens…literally…right outside my door.  The start and finish area is at the fairgrounds located directly across the street from my apartment complex.  How’s that for an easy race morning?

As you might recall, last year I was still on the recovery list after dealing with my nemesis, my hip labrum tear, and then…my stress fracture in my leg.  The hip is going to be a constant thing, but when my leg started to bother me again, my orthopedic doctor decided it would be best to take the rest of November off from running and to send me to physical therapy.  I had been registered for the Fast Freddie Five Miler already…because I knew my boot would be off and I figured I’d be good to go.  But, sadly, I wasn’t.  And for the first time in the years I have been running…I had to miss out on the challenging race before my Thanksgiving feast.  I was, however, a brief spectator last year, rushing down to the start line in just enough time to see everyone off.

It wasn’t the same.

And this year…in the true tradition of Thanksgiving…I was hungry for this one.

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When you think your coach is on drugs for the pace she wants you to try to hit…and then this is the bib number you are assigned!

The Sunday prior to Thursday, I met up with my friend Jack and his friend Heather (who recognized me from the YMCA) to run the course.  It was 23 degrees out that morning, but I hadn’t run the course in a long time (and I know I need to because it does have some hills to challenge me), so I really wanted to do this test run on the course.  Or…a course preview…as we referred to it.  I ran it at an easy pace…my Garmin saying I did it in about 39 minutes.  Happy with that.

After getting home, I went to check my training calendar that my coach, Linda, throws together for me each week. Fast Freddie was listed…and she set my goal time for 38 minutes.  I had run just slightly over 38 minutes when I ran this last, in 2014, so I thought this was an achievable goal time for my first year back to this event.  But, later that night, she texted me and said that she changed my time goal for the race.  I went to check and she changed it to 36 minutes.  I texted her back and said that I had never run this course that fast (my fastest race time is 36:54 in 2013…when I was in my best racing shape), but I would try.  She told me not to kill myself doing it, but she thought I was capable, being that I was just barely over 36 minutes on a 5 mile speed work run I did a few weeks before.

For the rest of the week, I fretted over that race time.  I did my training runs, hit the paces, tried to run easy on the easy days (which isn’t easy for me…unless I run with other people), and just not try to obsess over it.  I would do my best on race morning…and that’s all I could do.

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Me after 4 hours of cooking and baking on Wednesday night.

To top it all off, though, I was hosting Thanksgiving this year.  I hosted last year, but I wasn’t racing, so I decided that I needed to do as much as humanly possible the night before.  This meant, I made a conscious decision to not rest my legs or feet…but to stand in the kitchen and cook up all of the side dishes I was serving.  Leaving, simply, the sweet potato fries, the BBQ pulled turkey, and the apple cinnamon slow-cooker apples for the morning.  It took almost 4 hours to get it all done, but I did.  I even had to set an alarm on my phone to wake me up so that I could put the food that was cooling on racks into the fridge.  I went back to bed, having my alarm set for to give me time to do all my stretches and PT exercises before the race…as well as chop up a lot of apples for both the slow cooker that had the turkey and the slow cooker with the apples as well.  It was a hectic morning, but I managed to get everything going before Cathy taped up my right foot (still having some issues with it) and pinned me up.  Time to go.

It was actually earlier than I usually head over to the fairgrounds for this race, but I was meeting up with three other #KDFMarathon Ambassadors who were running this particular race: Jack, Melissa (and her husband), and Leah (who also has Linda as a coach!).  When I showed up, I found Jack and Leah standing near the stage inside…and Melissa was just parking and heading our way.  We wanted to get a picture together before the race.  Melissa showed up, looked at me and said, “Where are your clothes?”

So…race morning was the type of weather where I get really confused as to how to properly dress.  It was around 50 degrees at the start, but there was a cold 9 mph wind.  According to the Weather Channel, it felt more like 46 degrees out.  That being said, I had opted for a t-shirt and a pair of short (rainbow) shorts…and my usual compression sleeves and BondiBand with pigtails and all that good stuff.  Melissa and Jack were in leggings and long sleeves.  Leah was in shorts and a t-shirt too (and was wearing a pie hat on her head).

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Leah, Me, Jack & Melissa…the #KDFMarathon Ambassadors representing!

We gathered outside for the photo…my peeps wearing their KDF Ambassador shirts (I like to be bright, so I didn’t wear mine…but I did hold it up!).  Not going to lie…it was cold.  So, after the photo, Jack and my warm friends helped walk me to the start line while keeping me warm.  And it was here that I ran into my friend, Harry, who was walking the course.  So…I was just finding everyone today.

I went toward the front of the race group, taking up my usual position about 3 rows back from the start.  The front row is reserved for the people with the low bib numbers.  My bib number was, hilariously, #420.  I was so amused when I picked up my bib Wednesday night because I had joked that Linda was on drugs when she set my goal pace…and then I get #420.  HA!  The crazy bib number things that happen to me.  Anyway, I like to be close to the start, without getting in the way of the people who actually deserve to be right up there.  You know…the people who run strides ahead of the race.  Those crazies in the singlets and shorty-shorts.  *glances down at rainbow shorty-shorts*

Fast Freddie’s Five Mile Foot Feast starts promptly at 9 am.  Fred came out to give the usual information about the start.  He would tell have runners get ready and then blow the whistle.  And that…is what he did.  And at the whistle blow…we were off.

I saw Cathy immediately, holding up my sign, gave a wave, and pushed on.  After all, I was chasing down a fast time.

Fast times used to be a lot easier for me.  Especially when a course has hills.  You see, one problem I am finding with my hip labrum tear is that I lose power and speed on my uphills.  I can’t easily burst up them like I used to.  Nope.  I actually struggle at times on hills.  But I wasn’t going to worry about that.  I didn’t have time.  You pretty much get hit with a hill right away on this race.  Not a big one, but it send you up and over the highway…but there is a nice downhill that awaits on the other side.  I revel in those downhills.  What I lack in hill climbing, I made up for on those downhills.  Up ahead was the light, and we all blazed our path onto Mt. Tabor road, hitting that first mile marker.  I looked to be just slightly behind on the 7:12 pace I would need to average in order to hit 36 minutes.

Mt. Tabor Road is a series of rolling ups and downs.  By now, the body is warmed up and I can take these in stride, for sure.  I actually handled these better than I anticipated. I was pushing that pace, hoping to, maybe, surprise myself in the end.  We crossed the railroad tracks, went up another hill and then down, turning onto Grant Line Road.  Mile 2…done.  And I was still just a smidge under the 7:12 time.

But this third mile…this is the killer.  As you head into Sam Peden Community Park, we get hammered with our first long climb.  This hill isn’t steep…but it is continuous.  Pretty much for the entire half a mile that you run toward that third mile mark.  There is a water stop as you enter the park, but I always bypass it and keep running.  My focus at this point was on pushing myself up that hill.  This was not easy for me…and I could feel myself really fall back on my pace.  And when this hill does level off (nope…no downhill…darn it), you’ve gotten through that third mile.  I was set back now on my time, but I was going to see if I could make it up.  I rounded the corner and started to make my way out of the park.  There was a guy near the apartment complex at the park exit cheering on people. He saw my number and said, “What you got for me, 420?”  HA!

Honestly, I used to dread Schell Lane.  It is the hilliest part of the race.  But, this past summer as I was training for the Kauai Marathon, I made a point to do hill runs in the mornings up Daisy Lane (opposite the way we run it in this race) and then through Schell Lane and back…just so I was getting in various climbs on the hills.  They slowed me down slightly, but the downhills gave me some momentum to make up some time.  The last hill is the hardest, but you get rewarded with the best downhill ever…all the way down Daisy Lane.  I made the turn, and pushed my pace on that downhill hoping to catch some of my time.  This is my favorite part of this race.  I feel so fast and free and alive.  Four miles…done.

The last mile was all that I had left…but I was starting to run out of gas in my legs.  Seriously.  Daisy Lane levels out pretty fast and it’s a huge shift when you’re coming down that hill to suddenly just have…flat.  I proceeded as fast as I could force these legs to move, but I knew I was starting to struggle.  I also knew that I was close to having a time in the 36 minute zone…so maybe…maybe I could at least get a new PR.  I made it my goal to, as always, do my best to make this last mile count.

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Me, crossing the finish line at Fast Freddie’s Five Mile Foot Feast – New Albany, IN

At the traffic light, I made the turn and began the last stretch of road back to the Fairgrounds.  I actually do run this stretch a lot and am familiar with the rolling hills.  All that being said…my legs were pretty much done.  But I wasn’t having it.  I was half a mile away, and I was going to press on and see what happened.  As we neared the Fairgrounds, I could hear the crowds of people who were there to cheer, or were waiting on their family members.  That’s the best part, coming into that finish where people line the street and send you down that finishing shoot.  I made the turn to run it into the finish and could hear Cathy screaming at me to run faster.  I managed, my Garmin telling me that as I crossed the finish line, I was hitting a pace around 5:42. Usually I have no finishing kick, but I could now see the clock and my 36+ minute zone was close to closing.  I gave it all I had…

…and managed no new PR…and missed 36 minutes by well over a minute.  But I was done.  I had beat my 2014 time by well over a minute, so given that last year I wasn’t able to run at all…this was a total and complete win.  I think, as I train more this coming year, I’ll find my stride again.  My running has been a struggle as of late, but I’m getting it figured out, little by little.

After crossing the finish line, I went and met up with Cathy and we went to find a spot near the road to cheer on the rest of my #KDF Ambassador team!!  Jack came in first…then Leah…and then Melissa and Paul.  I was there for all of them. And, afterwards, we even got a picture with Santa, who was at the finish.

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Me, Santa, Jack, and Melissa after we finished the Fast Freddie Five Mile Foot Feast – New Albany, IN

You never know what to expect from this race.

The awards were going to be handed out and the raffle drawings were going to be done, so we headed into Newlin Hall, where it was warm, and we all just sort of conversed as prizes were handed out.

And then…as they got to the Female 35-29 age division…I heard my friend Amber Korte get announced as third…I hadn’t even seen Amber.  I wasn’t sure if she was still there, but I cheered loudly.  And the second place was announced.  And then…my name was called for first in my age division.  I was…amazed, to be honest.  In 2013, when I ran my fastest time on this course, I didn’t even place.  When I ran in 2014, I was third in my age division.  So, yeah, I was surprised.  I went over to the table and got my Fast Freddie Mug (they were yellow this year!)…and went back to hang with my friends.  Except…I had some more stuff that needed to be done for Thanksgiving dinner…so we hugged and I said goodbye and headed back home to shower and cook up the remainder of the meal before everyone started arriving.

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The infamous Fast Freddie Five Mile Foot Feast mug as age division awards.  LOVE IT!  First in my age group this year!

The official results of this year’s Fast Freddie Festive Five Mile Foot Feast was that I finished with an official time of 37:03…only 9 seconds off my PR on this course, and a full minute and three seconds slower than my coach was hoping for.  I was 112/866 finishers this year.  I was the 21st female to cross the finish line.  And I was 1st in my age division.  I was disappointed that I didn’t manage the fast time Linda hoped I could run, but I ran really well and really hard…and I still ran better than the last time I ran this race.  I’ll take any small victory at this point.  Maybe, with a little practice, and some hip strengthening, I’ll hit that sub-36.

I hope all of you had a fantastic Thanksgiving!  I am very thankful for all of you who return to my blog and read about my adventures in running and in travel and food.  I leave you with this Thanksgiving-ish thought:

Whatever feeds your desire, your hunger, and your fire…chase it down this year.

Urban Bourbon Half Marathon – Louisville, KY (October 22, 2016)

Me crossing the finish line of the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon - Louisville, KY
Me crossing the finish line of the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon – Louisville, KY

Race: Urban Bourbon Half Marathon

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: October 22, 2016

Time: 1:44:47

It was the weekend before Halloween…and after a few long runs with my running partner, Matthew, he and I had come up with some fun ideas should he choose to run the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon with me.  Like…at one point we were going to dress as Batman & Robin…and then, at the halfway point, we were going to switch out so the other person was Batman and the other was Robin.  When we couldn’t find Robin outfits, it changed to Superman & Wonder Woman.  I had the Wonder Woman running costume…but as I said…this race was the weekend before Halloween.  Superman was a bit difficult to come by.  What he did end up with was a great brown cotton shirt.  YES!  We were SO ready for this!

My biggest concern that morning was the chilly air.  My body doesn’t do well in cooler temperatures. Once it gets under the 60s…it’s iffy.  When it hits the 40s, like it did that morning, my body sometimes doesn’t want to function at all.  So, I had to decide if I was going to do a singlet with arm warmers…or just short sleeves.  I went back and forth on it, but totally ended up going with the arm warmers and singlet.  It was a decision I immediately began questioning my decision.

I headed downstairs at my apartment that morning in my outfit choice to see if I could take the cold air.  I did all my physical therapy stretches, warmup moves, and plyometrics and figured…I’d probably warm up when running the half…I’d stick with it.  I’d just wear warm things before the race.  I also donned my KDF Marathon Ambassador shirt for the group picture prior to the race start.  My foot was NOT loving the cold air though, so I knew that this race was going to be about feeling that out and seeing how it did as the miles began to wrack up!  I’ve learned to really listen to my body…so I knew I’d be hyper aware of it as the morning went on.  That being said, I headed back upstairs to eat some cereal and finish up pre-race prep.

Kat and I the morning of the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon. Next time she's in town, we are so racing together!
Kat and I the morning of the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon. Next time she’s in town, we are so racing together!

My good friend, Kat, who ran the KDF Half Marathon in 2014 with me…and who I paced the Buffalo Marathon with the same spring, was in town and staying with me.  Poor thing probably had to get up way earlier than she intended that morning, but she was a good sport.  I wished she could have run it too…but another time, for sure!  My roomie, Cathy, and I saw her off (with a vegan and gluten-free breakfast from Annie May’s…and some additional road eats) and then hopped into the car for the dash over the river to Louisville.  Parking wasn’t too much of a problem.  And…to keep me warm on the hike from the car to the photo op, I donned the warm poncho I got at the NYC Marathon in 2014.

I had messaged the other Ambassadors to warn them that I was running a little late, and, I was the last one to show up, but a couple of others had just gotten there as well.  I shed the poncho and set up for the photo op.  I love my Ambassador family and love these little photo op moments together.  Seriously, I want to hang out with them for the rest of my life.  After the photo, I put the poncho back on and texted my running partner, Matthew, to see if he was there yet.  He was…and I told him to stay put…because I was incoming.

My KDF Marathon Ambassador team!! We all ran really good races that day!
My KDF Marathon Ambassador team!! We all ran really good races that day!

Just as I spotted him, my friend, Katie, spotted me.  There were hugs…and photos…and some chatting.  Katie and I have been trying to meet up at races for awhile now.  It finally happened.  YAY!!  Now to find a time to have her over for a run and dinner.  That also must happen.  Maybe sometime during the holidays.  I love hosting people for the holidays.  What do you think, Katie?

Matthew was in the best outfit for running.  A brown cotton shirt and shorts.  He also had a white long sleeve shirt under it because, as I mentioned, it was freakin’ cold that morning.  His girlfriend, Dawn, made sure she got some pictures before wishing him luck.  She and Cathy went to find a good spot at the start line while he and I started to walk down the line to the corrals.  The opening to get into them was a good ways down.  We were back with some over 2 hour pacers, so we did our best to work our way up a bit more.  We were treating this as a fun training run…but we wanted to be somewhere near our normal pace, for sure.  We got as far as we could before the National Anthem…and then…the gun to send us off.

Me and Matt (and Creepy Cathy, HAHA) before the start of the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon (photo courtesy of Dawn Johnson)
Me and Matt (and Creepy Cathy, HAHA) before the start of the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon (photo courtesy of Dawn Johnson)

We gave a wave to Dawn & Cathy as we crossed the start line and passed them.  We ran down West Main and made the turn onto 2nd Street and then onto E Muhammad Ali Blvd.  The first mile clicked over and we were off to the training (races).  In fact, Matthew and I just settled in and sort of just started talking.   It was great.  In fact, we actually paced the first 4 miles rather quickly and then, slowed it down on the hills of Cherokee Park.  In doing so, we were able to take on the hills and still feel strong at the top.  Of course, once we climbed to the top at Hogan’s Fountain, I told Matthew that we were hitting my favorite speed…DOWNHILL!!

The next three miles were back up in pace as we came out of Cherokee Park and made our way down Cherokee Parkway to Cherokee Road to Baxter Avenue.  I got a lot…and I mean a lot of Wonder Woman shout-outs.  It made me smile.  I’d wave and smile and pump my fist at anyone who shouted out at me.  But my favorite, I think, came around Mile 9, when a woman shouted, “IT’S WONDER WOMAN!” She turned to her companion and said, “She was always my favorite superhero.”  It’s little things like that, people!!

Matthew and I just after finishing the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon - Louisville, KY
Matthew and I just after finishing the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon – Louisville, KY

The sun was out and while the air was still cold, the runners were definitely warm at this point.  Matthew said he was glad he wasn’t running a marathon, because we were 10 miles in and he was struggling a bit.  He took in some fuel and we moved into our final three miles.  As we got into the last mile, my legs were ready to move, so I settled into a bit of a faster pace and began to make the dash back down East Main toward the finish line.  I could hear a crowd and an announcer, so I knew it was close.

And then I saw Dawn and Cathy…and they were yelling and shouting.  And I crossed the finish line, foot twinging, but not hurting bad, hip feeling good, and just…glad to be done.  It was a good run.  Matthew came across momentarily after me!

Ron Steve and Me in the After Party area after the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon
Ron Steve and Me in the After Party area after the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon

We received our medal (hey…a training run with bling…LOVE that!), and it made my race to have Chris from the KDF Ambassadors put my medal around my neck.  Seriously, that meant so much to me.  Then, Matthew and I went to do the photo ops.  Afterwards, I spotted a good friend, Ron Steve, who had a brilliant race that day, beating his goal by 2 minutes!!  THAT was very good news.  I wanted him to have a good race and he certainly did!!  We all moved through the chute, getting our water, snacks, bananas, and chocolate milks…and went to the after party setting.  Runners got to have like 8 bourbon shots if they wanted…and got soup and pizza as well.  Because of my food allergies, I didn’t partake, but Cathy did eat my slice of pizza.  It was, apparently, really good pizza.  Dawn and Matthew came to sit with us in the sun and I did get up to do a few leg swings to keep the hip loose.

Me being serenaded by the lead singer of The Louisville Crashers...HAHA!
Me being serenaded by the lead singer of The Louisville Crashers…HAHA!

After getting serenaded by the lead singer of The Louisville Crashers…it was time to get going.  Lots to do that day…and some brunch and grocery shopping was going to start it off.  I said goodbye to Ron, Matthew and Dawn, and went to accomplish the rest of the tasks that needed to be done that day, before heading to the Jack O’ Lantern Spectacular later that night with my friend Amanda!

It was quite a day.

So, my official results of the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon is that I finished in 1:44:47, which is a 3 minute improvement from the Indy Women’s Half Marathon.  No rain…just cold.  And I wasn’t even pushing it.  I’ll take that!  I was the 249/2508 finishers overall.  I was 52/1406 women to finish this race.  And in the 45-59 age division, I came in 5/154.  Not bad at all.  I was very happy with the way I ran this race, given some aches and pains, and the cold weather, which never helps.  Yep…definitely a worthwhile training run (race).

Going (Head) Long Into The Wall

So, I was fortunate enough to not have to do my entire long run on my own today.  I had great company for the first 7 miles of my run.  So, big shout out to Ron, who was a key part of keeping me on pace for the early half.

Let’s face it…it’s miserable out there.

humidity
Seriously, I’m not much of a sweater, but I had sweat pooling in my belly button.  That is NOT an exaggeration.  I was drenched.  Another day of that good ol’ swimming pool feeling.  Look, if I wanted to be soaked to the skin, I’ll hop in the pool…but I’m trying to run here.

Needless today…the first climb up Iroquois Park was tolerable.  I was running with Rob, a meteorologist, and learning that lightning causes thunder…not the other way around.  I love learning new things.  So…for about 13 miles of my planned 24-miler…I was feeling good.  So, I turned around at my 13 mile point to head back up to the top of the park again…and then…it all started to fall apart.

Only one word can describe how the rest of the run went…and it isn’t “RUBBISH” this time.  Nope…

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I don’t know if I should be blaming the new fuel I was trying, the heat, the humidity, or what.  I usually do really well in the heat.  But this humidity…it’s been insanely bad this summer.  I’ve never sweat like this.  I mean…my sports bra was a nice light lavender color at the start of my run.  By the time I was done…purple.  A jeweled purple of sorts.  Like I said…I had sweat pooling in my belly button.  WHO HAS THAT HAPPEN??!!

Needless to say, my second climb was less than stellar.  It was just…awful.  I wasn’t hurting…but I was struggling.  I was thankful for some of the shade through that portion.  I managed to get up the hill…around the top…and back down the hill with only a few stops to attempt to gather myself and find a second wind of sorts.  I was downing water (once again) like crazy.  And nothing…nothing was helping.

By Mile 21…I was done.

HIT…THE…DAMN…WALL.

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I have NEVER hit the wall before.  Not in a race…not in a training run.  But this…this was one of the worst feelings in the world.  My legs didn’t want to press on.  My body didn’t want to go anywhere.  I was just…done.

HIT. THE. WALL. HARD.

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I was a mess.  I was falling apart.  And my shoes were squishy.  YES!  My shoes were squishy.  Swampy shoes…for the humidity and heat and the sweat that I was apparently raining down over my entire body.  I was just…DONE!

In fact, after my Garmin beeped over to 21 miles…I stopped.  I stopped and drank the rest of my water (that wasn’t helping!)…and dug my cell phone out of my fuel belt and dialed my roommate.

And I just started to cry…

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This is not an exaggeration.  I actually used those two words…which I hate using…especially in regards to running.

The conversation went like this…

Me: “Where are you?”
Roomie: “On 264…because things took longer than expected…”
Me: “I am done.  I can’t…I can’t go any further.  I’m out of water…I’m dying.  I’m dead.”
Roomie: “Where are you?”
Me: “Somewhere in Iroquois…I don’t know…but I’m dying.”  *bursting into an ugly cry*
Roomie: “I’m going to stop at a Kroger and get you some water and then come get you, okay?”
Me: “How am I supposed to run a marathon when I can’t even do my long runs without dying?”
Roomie: “These are horrible weather conditions.”
Me: *more tears* “These are the conditions I’m probably going to be running in.”
Roomie: “You don’t know that.”
Me: *more ugly cry* “I do…I know…Can you grab me a Sprite Zero too?  I really just want to throw up.”
Roomie: “See you in 15 minutes.”

And then…

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And then I realized…I needed to get back to the amphitheater to meet her because…I was…as I said…somewhere in Iroquois.  So…somehow…I managed to convince myself to suck it up (gluten free) cupcake and get back to the amphitheater at least.  So…I did.  2 miles more and I called it quits.  I felt horrible.  I wasn’t sure if I wanted to pass out or throw up.  I managed not to do either…because I’m awesome like that…but it was just…it was bad.  I looked bad.  I felt bad.  That last mile I had intended to run…wasn’t worth it.  I had no desire to even attempt it.  I walked around, hoping that would help a little…but ended up sitting down at a picnic table and doing my best to cool off.

The roomie got there soon after, and brought me the Sprite Zero.  A few small sips was where I started because…liquids were not sitting well.  Not even my water.  So…yeah…I was in bad shape.  She had water and coffee for me in the car for when I was ready for it.

Once I was certain I wasn’t going to get sick or die…I managed to snap a few photos…one badass pose and one with a Wrong Way sign…because this was the WRONG WAY to prepare for a marathon.  My 18 miler, my 20 miler, and my 23 (should have been 24) miler…all sucked.  Every single one of them.  And this does not mentally help me prepare for the difficult race course awaiting me in 3 weeks.

panic

Wrong way to train…or badass…the fact of the matter is…it’s not going as planned.  Nowhere near.  But, I guess when push comes to shove…at least I’m out there.  At least I’m training.  Slow.  Fast.  Hot.  Face melting humidity.  Sweaty-wet shoes and all.  So…I hit a wall…time to learn how to bust through it and get to that finish line.

The taper starts this week…and my confidence isn’t there.  I will get through this.  I have 3 weeks to figure it all out.  Fueling…running…heat…humidity…everything.  And that wall.  I never want to run into that again.  SUCK!  I’ve put in all the time and effort I possibly could…working through injury…and learning new limits because of it.  Yep…time to get this body rested and ready.

Join me, won’t you?

Minnesota Half Marathon – St. Paul, MN (August 6, 2016)

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Me crossing the finish line of the Minnesota Half Marathon – St. Paul, MN

Race: Minnesota Half Marathon

Place: St. Paul, Minnesota

Date: August 6, 2016

Time: 1:41:24

Two weeks ago, I had a plan.  I was to run 12 miles…either around my grandpa’s neighborhood in Minnesota…or with my friend Julie (depending on her schedule) somewhere in the Minneapolis area.  Neither came into fruition, because Southwest had that computer meltdown that literally grounded and cancelled flights that entire weekend.  So, while my family was in Minnesota, celebrating my grandpa’s 95th birthday, I was still in Indiana…and Southwest was willing to reschedule for up to 2 weeks out.  And after checking with my aunt and my grandpa about their schedules…I was rescheduled to visit now at the beginning of August instead.  The rest of my family would be back in Alabama, but I would get a bit more one-on-one time with my grandpa, aunt, and cousins (and their families).  So, there were pros and cons.

It just so happened that in my current marathon training schedule, my long run for that weekend was a 13 mile run.  And, as luck would have it…there was a local half marathon running on Saturday.

Maybe this was meant to be.

There were a lot of things that compelled me to sign up for the Minnesota Half Marathon.  For one thing…if I’m going to put in the time and miles, why not get a medal for it?  Another reason…it benefited the Ronald McDonald House Charities, and a friend of mine is currently in Chicago at the Ronald McDonald House with her niece, who is being treated for cancer…and kicking cancer’s ass if I do say so myself.  Also…there was an inline skating division.  Yes…roller bladers were invited to also do the 13.1 mile course.  I have never been part of a race with an inline skating division.  So cool.  OH…and the course…has you running right along the Mississippi River the entire time.  Sounded perfect to me.  And so…as a rather last minute decision, I registered and packed my racing gear in my luggage.

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Caribou Coffee!!!!!

Upon arriving in Minneapolis, after a much-needed and fantastic stop at Caribou Coffee at the airport, my roommate and I got our rental car and headed out to St. Paul…down to The Running Room to pick up my packet.  We arrived just slightly before they opened (let’s hear it for making good time!), so we went up the street and killed some time in CVS, before heading back down to the store and stepping inside.  There was a small table set up with a laptop, some race bibs, and boxes of t-shirts off to the side.  A young woman was manning the table and she asked my name, typed it into the computer, and grabbed the next race bib on the stack (2490), took a sharpie and marked the half marathon checkbox, and told me to grab my size t-shirt.  That was it.  Super easy.

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French Meadow Bakery’s Gluten Free & Vegan Cornmeal Waffle

From there, we headed over to Minneapolis to hit up the grocery store (I was cooking 2 meals while there AND making dessert), and then get to grandpa’s house.  We let ourselves in…and he was inside and very happy to see me there.  We were, of course, already ready for some lunch.  We invited Grandpa along, but he was tired from his trip earlier in the week that he took.  So, Cathy and I packed up and headed out to one of our favorite places to eat while in Minnesota…French Meadow Bakery.  I was cooking dinner that night for my Grandpa, aunt, my cousin Natalie, and my cousin Molly and her family (hubby and 3 kids)…and I was making BigMAC Potatoes.  I normally do gluten-free pizza before a race, but since I was treating this as a training run, I figured it was fine to change things up.  Who knows…maybe I’d stumble across something that worked better.  Cathy ordered the Mac & Cheese for lunch and I went with the Gluten Free & Vegan Cornmeal Waffle (which is topped off with bananas, toasted walnuts, and a toffee syrup).  Because…we all know how much I love breakfast.  We devoured our food and did a little bit of shopping at the Electric Fetus (that’s a record store, in case you were wondering), a Half Price Books, and then went back to home base, as I needed to bake the Gluten Free Strawberry Streusel Bars that I brought ingredients (yep…I brought the last 2 jars of my strawberry jam to Minnesota for this) to bake specifically for the birthday peeps (my aunt celebrated her birthday a few days after my grandpa did).  The dessert needed to cool for 2 hours, so I got it baking and then settled in to talk and hang out with grandpa for a little while.  Eventually, my aunt came home from work and Molly & Co. arrived.  Molly volunteered to make her famous green beans…and I was excited about eating them because they sounded SO good.  I put Cathy on the task of rinsing, poking, and rubbing the potatoes down with a light bit of olive oil.  We got them in the oven, since it would take about an hour to bake, and then I got to work on the lentils, which would make the “meat” portion of the vegan dish.  Soon, we had everything cooked and we settled down at the table, where I walked everyone through how to assemble their potatoes.  And we devoured them and half of the Strawberry Streusel Bars too.  Vegan cooking FTW!!

The Olympics were starting that evening, so the opening ceremonies were put on the screen and while I foam rolled (and taught my cousins all about foam rolling and the stick!), I watched what Brazil was bringing to the world stage for these 2016 Summer Olympic Games.  I was exhausted, as I had been up since 12:45 am to squeeze in all my stretches, warm up, and manage a short (2 mile) run and shower before my ride to the airport had arrived at 4 am.  But, as the United States were walking in the E’s (Los Estados Unidos!), I was at least able to stay up and see Michael Phelps carry in the flag.  Once that happened, I was in bed and setting 2 alarms for the morning routine for a race.

The first alarm came WAY too soon, but I got up, went through the first part of my race-day routine, and then climbed back into bed for about another hour.  The second alarm was go-time…so I had to get up, get changed, eat something, and get to the race.  I managed to get into my race outfit before checking the weather and discovering that it was currently 57 degrees outside.  So, bra top wasn’t going to work.  I came prepared with 3 different singlets though, so I grabbed my purple Boston one and slipped it on.  That would do.  Cathy was up just as I stuck a bagel in the oven to toast for her and prepped my oatmeal cup I brought with me.

So…basically I was doing EVERYTHING that they advise against in preparation for this half marathon.  I forewent the pizza the night before…I stayed up late…I ate a big bowl of oatmeal pre-race (I usually have a serving of cereal before leaving for the race and then a banana 30 minutes before the race)…I was testing out Skratch as a form of fuel (as my current fuel has been giving me stomach cramps)…and I didn’t give myself any time to stretch, do my PT exercises, my dynamic warmup stuff, or my plyometrics…yep…I was doing it all wrong and just hoping for the best.  HA!  Good thing I wasn’t racing this.

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Pre-race nap in the rental car

After we ate, I quickly brushed my teeth, filled up one water bottle in my fuel belt with water, the other with Skratch, and grabbed my banana.  Then, we were off to the races.  Via a detour.  Where Cathy managed to get where we needed to be without even trying.  Talk about luck!  She got us parked in the parking garage the race site recommended to park in…with time to kill.

So…I took a nap.

No joke.  I took a freakin’ nap.

Ah…my power naps are so…awesome.

After about 2o minutes, we decided to head on down toward the start line so that we wouldn’t feel crushed for time.  One problem…we couldn’t figure out how to efficiently get down to the ground level over by the river.  Hmmm…

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The Minnesota Half Marathon has an inline skating division…HOW COOL!

After a few false starts and a lot of back and forths…and many stair wells and elevators, we figured it out and got down to where we needed to be.  From there, we followed all the runners toward the start area.  And I immediately ducked into the long lines for the port-a-potties.  Apparently potatoes and oatmeal make me have to pee.  I rarely make use of the port-a-potties…and the lines were LONG.  Cathy found me in time to pass of my banana at 6:45 am…as the half marathon was to go off at 7:15 am.  The inline skaters were sent of at 7 am.  The bathroom lines had a TON of inline skaters in them and as the time ticked down and the lines barely moved…they had to move to the front or miss the start.  Banana…bathroom…time to watch the inline skaters go before getting myself ready to run.  There were some seriously incredible skaters who lined up…but the majority were casual racers.  Still…it was pretty awesome to see them take off.  Some were SUPER fast.

After they were out of the starting area, the half marathon runners were asked to line up.  So, I hopped into the start area…just behind the 1:40 pacer.  I had no pace expectations…just to run comfortably.  It was a training run, after all. We were sent off a few minutes early, to be sure.

But I was off.

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Me…heading out at the start of the Minnesota Half Marathon in St. Paul, MN.

This race was beautiful.  The entire run is done along the Mississippi River.  The roads are closed to traffic, so it’s just you, the runners, the river, and…the occasional struggling roller blader.  This course was reversed from the years previous to help make the last 5 miles a bit flatter.  You know what that means?  The hills hit in the first half of the race.  Some of these climbs brought some more of the novice roller bladers to a stop, or to a crawl (while clinging to the cement divider on the road), but I just worked my way up them.  I’m still trying to get my spring and speed back when it comes to hills.  That being said…I just adjusted my stride and pushed on.

We turned around just before Mile 4 to head back toward the start area, so any downhill we had, now was an uphill.  There was a small amount of support out on the side of the road…but mostly I enjoyed listening to the pacers whenever they were around.  OH…and the one guy who was totally flirting with this girl in the 1:40 group.  He literally turned to her and said, “I like your pace!”  Um…right…

Anyway…the run beside the river was quite pleasant…even though most of these miles were put in right in full sun.  Yeah…I was regretting not just doing the bra top at this point.  The singlet was light…but I would have been way more comfortable without the fabric.

At Mile 5, I decided to take a risk and try out some of the Skratch that I picked up samples of to see how it did as a fuel.  By Mile 6, the pacer in front of me was telling the runners that were with him that it would be a good time to gu.  LOL!  One good thing about running so close to a pace group, was I knew when “the last hill” would be hitting.  I let them go soon after Mile 8.  This is also the point of the race where all the runners are sent past the finish line.  Seriously…we had to run up the road for another few miles before turning around again.  This is the second race I’ve done in Minnesota where we are sent past the finish area…like a tease…

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This is me…running past the finish line area just after Mile 8.  What a tease!

Cathy saw me and was screaming and cheering.  And I gave a wave and continued on.  Mile 10…more Skratch…but I was feeling a bit tired.  So, I knew Skratch was not going to be a good fuel for my upcoming marathon.  UGH.  This means that I am back to square one on the whole nutrition/fueling thing.  MEH.  I had a backup Huma gel, but I was only 3 miles from the finish, so I stuck it out.  Just before Mile 11, we make the turn and run back toward the finish area, this time…to finish for real.  This involved a bit of a hill climb…and then it was just over 2 miles to hit that finish line.

With the gentle breeze coming off the river, I relaxed, settled into my pace, and just made my last couple of miles count.  I could see the finish line ahead and started to pick it up as much as I could manage.  And…I even managed to pass up another female runner right at the finish line.  You see that line, you sprint, dammit.  SPRINT.  Even I do that, and I don’t sprint.  I am not a sprinter.  LOL!

Anyway…upon finishing, I was given my Minnesota-shaped finisher’s medal and took some time to walk through the recovery area.  I was introduced to Aspire Sports Drink, which is made with natural ingredients and doesn’t contain any artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners or preservatives.  It was AMAZING.  I tried 4 of the 6 flavors.  Only 35 calories per bottle too.  Gotta love it.  I eased out of my racing shoes and into my flip flops for recovery.  And, after a bit of walking…Cathy and I went to get some coffee at the nearby Caribou Coffee (of course), before heading back to Minneapolis so I could change and then hang out with my friend Heather for some lunch and shopping that afternoon.

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Me with the Mississippi River behind me…after the finish of the Minnesota Half Marathon – St. Paul, MN

So, my official results of the Minnesota Half Marathon is that I finished in 1:41:24, which is only 6 seconds slower than my finish at Derby.  AND…my Garmin had this course at 13.25 miles exactly.  Anyway, I was 86/1164 finishers overall.  I was 16/640 women to cross the finish line.  And I was 3/87 people in the 35-39 female division!  Third in my age division.  HOLLA!!  Imagine if I had been racing this thing (but I know better…and I am SO close to my marathon this year!).

I had a lot of fun at this race.  Not only did it benefit a great cause, but it was a fantastic way to work in a training run.  Afterwards, I went and had delicious Mexican food for lunch and walked the Mall of America with one of my best friends in life…Heather…who brought along her 8 month old niece…and we had a blast.  It was a perfect start to a perfect visit to Minnesota.  Gorgeous course…challenging…and if you aren’t feeling up to the half distance, they also offer an unusual 6K distance as well.

A Hard Run Week

It was about…Wednesday afternoon…and I’m sitting at work…working (because, what else are you doing at work?)…and all of a sudden I just start to feel…meh.  Welcome to the Ohio River Valley.  The area of the country where air quality is horrible in the spring and allergies have me all…

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Yeah…SUCK!

So, from Thursday on…the struggle has been real.  I’ve gone from feeling really good to…meh…back to good all in a matter of an hour.  But, this too shall pass, and yes…I will survive.

1.  Bondi Band Compression Socks

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On Tuesday, my Bondi Band Compression Socks arrived in the mail.  All of the #BondiBandAmbassadors got a pair to test drive.  I decided to wear mine out to hill repeats.  Yep…hill repeats are back in my life…and they still suck.  Why am I doing hill repeats?  Have you seen the elevation chart to the marathon I’m running in September.  They say to train according to your race.  My race has HILLS FOR DAYS.  I’m struggling with these.  It seems I just can’t get the power on the uphills that I used to get.  I hope, in time, this will change.  But, it’s aggravating and frustrating when you’re one of the first people to head up a hill and get passed up by every one on the way to the top.  Stupid hip.

Anyway…the point of this tale was to say, the Bondi Band Compression Socks (and they do sleeves) are comfortable and nice.  And they come in fun patterns.  I was secretly hoping for argyle, but I was sent the pirate ones.  As I was born on National Talk Like A Pirate Day…this will do.  Head over to Bondi Band‘s Web site and check them out.  If you place an order, please feel free to use my discount code to get 10% off your purchase.  When you checkout, use CELIATHLETE.


2.  Meal Prep

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Yesterday, I felt like a total rockstar.  I got up…and muddled through a 14 mile solo run around my town because the usual suspects I run with were all doing the Barn Yard Dash up at Hubers.  They were also winning ALL THE AWARDS!  That being said…I had planned to do 16 miles in Frankfort with two amazing runners that my coach, Linda Word, also coaches.  I had to cancel due to feeling like death in a pollen-infused bubble.  MEH.  So, I went out on my own, early, and got it done…before 8 am.  Afterwards, I went to get coffee, breakfast, hit up the Farmers Market, do the rest of the grocery shopping, and then…I got into my kitchen and made ALL THE MEALS for this week.  ALL THE MEALS.  They are done and in the fridge…ready to go.  Seriously.  And this was all accomplished before 4:30 p.m.  I think all the cooking and prep only took 2.5 hours at most.  I’m getting the hang of this meal prep thing, I think!  This also means that I have my entire Sunday to do whatever I want, instead of stressing out over making all the meals for the week, which is my usual Sunday panic/freak-out.  YAY!

3.  Future Sister Time

Karla & Landon at the Birmingham Color Run on May 28
Karla & Landon at the Birmingham Color Run on May 28

Nothing will brighten my day more than a text or call from my sister.  Especially when said contact means she is planning a trip up this way.  This time, she’s aiming at bringing Landon up with her.  Now, Landon is a bit of a soccer star there in Alabama, so I thought, if it worked with the schedule, doing a Louisville City FC match with them.  I would, because I am an awesome auntie, spoil Landon rotten and get him a scarf or shirt or whatever he wanted.  And food.  And the match.  I love seeing my sister and spending time with her and her kiddliewinks.  I am SO excited. Now she just needs to dial in on a weekend. I can’t wait to spend some time with her. It’s never long enough, but it is better than nothing.

4.  Runner Girl

13323314_10100111766418101_708901333009262893_oDean, one of the numerous friendships that I have made in the local running community here in Louisville, is quite the craftsman.  He has gifted many a female runner with these amazing wooden Runner Girl’s that he makes himself.  I was on the receiving end of one today at the Breakfast Club run (where I did 2 more miles than I thought I was going to do…quicker than I intended).  She is hanging proudly off the rearview mirror of my car.  Super special.  This little gift meant a lot to me, for real.  It’s the little things in life that mean the most to me.  This was one of them.  So, thank you, Dean, for this little token.  It lifted my spirits after a hard week…and totally just makes my car look complete!  I display her proudly!

5.  The Good, The Bad, The Ugly of Warm Weather

I won’t lie.  I would much rather sweat it out and fight through hot weather than step outside and run in cold weather.  Warm weather is my friend and I love being out in it.  But humidity…humidity and I don’t even talk.  I can gut anything out in the heat, but add that sweltering, stifling humidity to it and I’m all…

giphy (3)Couple that with the allergy issues I mentioned above, and every run has just felt…so much harder.  You know, it’s summer.  And the past 2 summers I’ve pretty much sat out thanks to injury after injury after injury…and I have been wanting to gut out another summer of running.  I’m weird…the heat doesn’t bother me much.  I can go out in any dry (not humid) heat and rock a run that when I finish I’m all…

giphy (4)…but this week has just been humid.  And my 14 mile solo run was not what I had expected nor wanted on Saturday.  But I got it done…pain-free.  So…if I have to conquer allergies and humidity all over again for the first time since 2013…I will.  I can do this.  And I’ll smile, even after a disappointing run…

13316914_10100111431928421_5846687544006279791_oAny day I am able to run without pain is a good day.  Even when the run is anything but good.  I’m thankful and blessed for each day I am able to do what I haven’t been able to do for far too long.

So, remember, bad runs happen.  Keep smiling.

6.  Stress Relief

giphy (5)This past Wednesday was National Running Day!  YAY, RUNNERS!!  And running has been quite the stress reliever for me.  However, given the amount of time I had been forced to take off due to all the injuries…sometimes where activity was very limited, I lost a lot of my good habits I started to embrace back in 2013.  And I have been really starting to get mad at myself for stress eating and just eating out of boredom.  That being said, instead of doing the organized 4 mile group run for National Running Day (it’s okay…I dedicated 6 miles that morning to 2 friends who currently are injured and can’t run) on Wednesday, I was meeting with my sports nutritionist and she and I are focusing on a plan to break me of bad habits and what I do when I do get stressed out.  I am already feeling a bit better about things and am working to do a few other things, nutrition-wise, that will help me in the long run (ha…punny).  Stress is no joke…and it affects everyone differently.  It puts me in a dark, unhappy place and I’m not happy there.  Time to get out of it.  I’m sure there will be days I fail…because I’m human…but I’m being proactive before this becomes more difficult and harder to fix.

What struggles have you been dealing with lately?  How do you break yourself of bad habits?  Did you do something for National Running Day?

Summer’s here…let’s get this party started!

Run For The Berries 5K – Starlight, IN (May 28, 2016)

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Me crossing the finish line of the Run For The Berries 5K – Starlight, Indiana

Race: Run for the Berries 5K

Place: Starlight, Indiana

Date: May 28, 2016

Time: 22:24

There are a lot of things people run for.  For some…beer.  For some…donuts.  For some…pizza.  For others…wine.  For me…FRUIT!!  I love fruit.  There is nothing quite as amazing as a giant bowl of cold, wet watermelon after a hot summer run.  In fact, this is my favorite thing to eat in the summer after I run…whether it’s a short weekday run or that long slow distance on the weekend!

So, trust me, whenever the Run For The Berries 5K rolls around every year…I’m always eager to take part.  Why?  Because strawberries…EVERYWHERE.  Yes…I will run for berries.  Hell, I’ll run for any type of fruit, honestly.  YUMMY!!  And while you don’t get any for free, there is nothing better than rewarding yourself after a hard run with a big bowl of strawberries and a cold frozen strawberry drink.

I wasn’t actually signed up this year for the Run For The Berries 5K in Starlight, Indiana this year.  Like I said, every race has sort of been a last-minute decision thing due to the hip issues and how I never know exactly how I’m going to feel from one day to another.  I haven’t actually participated in the Run For The Berries 5K since 2013 (when I was in my best racing shape…and at my fastest).  In 2014, I was in Buffalo, New York for the Buffalo Marathon, and last year I wasn’t running anything…at all.  I was a miserable pile of non-running self-pity and hurty hip things.  So, it was nice to come back to this one.  This is my fourth time running this local 5K and I will always do it whenever I am able.

Today…despite some slight twinging in the hip first thing in the morning…I was going to do it.  I filled out the registration form at work on Friday and had it all set to go in the morning.  Cathy offered to pay my $25 registration fee because…bills…bills have been plaguing me recently and I am slightly broke at the moment.  So that was awesome.  So I got up early (4:00 am) to get my PT stretches, dynamic warmup, and some plyometrics in prior to the race.  I did my core work as well.  And then made a dash (in the car) up to Kroger because I needed a pre-race banana.  This is not a want…this is a NEED.  I went ahead and grabbed a few other necessary groceries while I was out.  Got home just before 6:00 am.  Cathy and I had some cereal for breakfast with some coffee (for the kid and adult in each of us) and proceeded to keep saying we needed to get off the couch and get moving, but neither of us really making an effort.  Ah well.  The good thing was, any tenderness or soreness in the hip had worked itself out…so I was feeling good.

Teeth were brushed and I put my hair up in pigtails and got out my Bondi Band of choice.  I went ahead and put some water in my Kara Goucher water bottle and popped a NUUN tablet in it for some electrolytes before Cathy grabbed the sign, the race bag, and we headed out for the race.

We left early, because Cathy wanted to make sure we had plenty of time for her to get lost on the way there.  We don’t go up that way often, but, there are signs that point the right way.  The drive there was gorgeous with the sunrise and the beautiful houses out in the country.  It’s always a nice ride up to Starlight.  We followed the signs to the little field we always park in at the race and got situated into a spot.

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Pinned up and ready to run the Run For The Berries 5K – Starlight, Indiana

From there, it was into the main hall of the Strawberry Festival grounds to get officially registered for the race.  I went up to the table with cash and the form already filled out…got my race bib (#180) and was given a t-shirt in the size I requested.  The shirts were gray this year.  And back to being in tech material.  YAY!!  I got pinned up, went to use the bathroom, and then we meandered around the grounds for a little while to kill some time.  On the way out, I saw Renee from my spin class heading in.  She wasn’t feeling good, but was running with a friend of hers who is training for her first triathlon.  So, that’s really fun.  We chatted for a moment and then she went to register and I went to meander, waiting for my good friend, Michelle, and her little boy, Liam, to arrive.

And then I ran into my friend Amber, whose husband Tim was running (and was 2nd male overall) in the race.  Amber and I both have been dealing with hip labrum tears.  She had surgery on hers…I didn’t.  We’ve bonded over this.  I’ve met a lot of good friends through having to sit out of running…and it has made me better for it.  Amber and I are going to start riding bikes together once I get more comfortable on mine.  YAY!  Her kids were anxious for her to come and join them…so we parted ways and she said she’d cheer for me at the finish.

I love my friends.

We saw a lot of the fast runner people doing their strides and warming up prior to the race.  So we headed that way so I could stretch.  I think I did a quad stretch on each leg and called it a day, HA!!  I’m so awful about stretching.  We were all starting to move up to the orange cones that marked the start of the race.  It was at this point that Michelle and Liam showed up, just in time, which made me SO happy!!  We waved and they went to stand with Cathy just beyond the start point.  Our race organizer got on the bullhorn and started to give some information about the race.  Like male runners at the finish will have white cards to fill out; female runners will have pink; walkers will have yellow.  OH…and if you are registered as a walker…and you run down a hill…you are now a runner.  It made me laugh.  And everyone else.  Then…we had to wait for HIS Garmin to find satellites. He did…and the count was given.  On your marks…runners set…and then the horn.

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Total game face on at the start of the Run For The Berries 5K – Starlight, Indiana

I took off…giving a nod to my cheering section.  It was total game face though.  Which is not like me, LOL!!  Seriously.  I’m so laid back but…game face.  The first mile is a series of rolling hills…nothing too major.  I was running comfortably, but speedy.  I could tell I was speedy.  In fact, at one point, I was thinking…”Wow…I’m ahead of Lynn.”  And the moment I thought it, she passed me quite easily, not even breathing hard.  HA!!  That will teach me.  Anyway…I was having a nice run…no pain…feeling good…not worrying over anything but holding steady and preparing for the hills ahead.  Mile 1…perfectly measured…my watch beeped right at the marker.  Turns out…it was a new fastest mile for me… I just wasn’t aware of it at the time.

Zen racer.  I never look at my watch or obsess over pace.  I run better when I don’t know.

I made the turn onto Engle Road and started into the second mile.  I loved this part of the run because, soon after making the turn, I scooted past a cute little girl running with her dad.  She was saying something about how what she loved about today’s run was she was running with older people.  I turned my head and said, “You’re doing an amazing job!”  She thanked me and said, “How old are you?!”  She was aiming for first in her age division.  HA!!  I told her I was 35 and she was relieved.  She was in the 14 and under group…and definitely under 14.  That was an ego boost.  This mile also brings in more rolling hills, but a few more downhills than uphills.  We ran past Hubers Family Farm and continued down Engle Road.  And then I made the turn into Mile 2.  This is where the water stop is, but I just kept on running.

Because right there…RIGHT THERE…on Hill Road…is THE HILL.  It’s like my friend, Amber, said later on Facebook…it’s not just the hill but WHERE the hill is in that race.  At this point, your legs are tired and this hill is HUGE.  I mean…it’s a steep, steep climb.  So, I did my best to run up it, still lacking the power and strength that I used to have.  I’m working on that…kinda.  I’ll be working on that more.  Hills might slow me down…my legs might not be able to maintain a fast pace for a long period of time…but maybe soon they will.  It all takes time.  And I’m sometimes impatient, LOL!  After the hill, it’s just a few rollers and a couple of smaller climbs to the finish.  You actually finish this race going uphill.

I could see it in the distance and I attempted to pick up the pace, but my legs were shot for the day.  The best I could do was just focus.  I had runners pass me up as I got a bit closer…which always pisses me off…they were all men…

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I don’t always drink a frozen strawberry drink after a 5K…but when I do, I’m at the Strawberry Festival!

I heard Cathy and Michelle and Liam all shouting and cheering.  And as I ran by, I hear Amber yelling, “GO KAREN!”  I really do have awesome friends.  So, I pushed…and I saw I was in the 22 minutes…but it ticked past my 22:02 PR…and just ticked past the 2013 finish time of 22:19.  But only by six minutes.  I was tired, and hot, and a sweaty mess when I stopped…but I was so happy with that run. It was challenging and it was amazing and I came out of it without any pain.  Not even a twinge.

I was handed a pink card at the finish showing I was the 8th woman to finish.  Cathy said I definitely placed in my age division.  We thought that in 2013 too, and I ran it faster, and didn’t…so I wasn’t going to hold my breath.  We took some pictures and then meandered over to the festival to get a nice, cooling frozen strawberry drink.  And our big bowl of strawberries (Cathy & Michelle got strawberry shortcakes).  We went and took a seat at a table.  Liam went to play on the slides and we sort of hung out, enjoyed our strawberry treats, and found a lot to laugh and talk about.

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You can’t do the Run For The Berries 5K and not eat a big bowl of strawberries!  FOR REAL!

It was taking a lot longer than I remember to get to awards, so we decided to go hit up the booths at the festival.  Cathy bought me this amazing crocheted Wonder Woman doll.  This woman knits there fantastic dolls from Disney movies and other things.  There was only one Wonder Woman doll.  It was meant to be mine.  There was also only one Captain America doll.  Cathy went back and purchased that while I got her a purple star crown with blue and purple ribbons to wear.  Seriously…we really are adults.  Liam got his face painted for the first time and did a fantastic job sitting there while it was done.  Then we went to watch Liam play some games and I purchased a thing of strawberries with a salted caramel dipping sauce.  THIS. WAS. LIFE. CHANGING.  I love salted caramel and was the first person to get this dip that day.  I am so glad I did.  It isn’t a combination that I ever considered. There were the usual suspects…chocolate and white chocolate. But you wave salted caramel ANYTHING at me…and I am buying it.  THIS WAS AMAZING.  I’m in love.

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I posed with a lot of stuff today.  Someone needs to make me a spokesperson. LOL!  This is the knitted Wonder Woman doll!

As Liam finished up his games, the announcement that the awards were going to be given out was announced.  We made our way over there and saw all the male awards handed out first.  My friend Amber’s hubby, Tim, won 2nd overall male, because he’s stupid fast…and amazing.  And then the female awards were given out.  And I was announced as the first female in my age division.  WOOT WOOT!!  Considering I didn’t place the previous time I ran..and ran it faster, this was a nice surprise.  Exciting stuff.  Cathy, Michelle and Liam all cheered loudly as I went to receive my award, this cute little pint glass thing.

And that was a wrap for the day.  Liam wanted to go check out the bouncy houses and Cathy and I needed to go grocery shopping and hit up a few spots in Louisville.  So, we parted ways and I went home to shower and change.

As it stands, the official results of the Run For The Berries 5K are that I finished in 22:24.  Not a PR…but I clocked my first mile in 6:48, which is awesome.  Now if only I could maintain that sort of pace.  But these legs just aren’t there and aren’t ready.  Maybe one day.  Maybe not!  Either way…super proud.  I was the 8th female to cross the line and came in 1st in my division.  If the official results ever get posted…I’ll update this accordingly.

Already looking forward to doing it again.

 

Geist Half Marathon – Fishers, IN (May 21, 2016)

Me after finishing the Geist Half Marathon - Fishers, IN
Me after finishing the Geist Half Marathon – Fishers, IN

Race: Geist Half Marathon

Place: Fishers, Indiana

Date: May 21, 2016

Time: 1:42:13

I’m not going to sugarcoat this in any way.  A part of me is very, very happy with this race result; the other part of me is beyond disappointed.

I know…I know…I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, but it’s hard…when this race is, specifically, your PR half marathon.  And I ran that PR 2 years ago…back when the course finished up a hill and around a corner.  In fact…my blog from 2 years ago recounted said finish…

I had been hearing tales of the “hill at the end” and wasn’t sure what to expect.

It was…KILLER!  I thought Chicago was evil for putting a hill at Mile 26 of the marathon.  This was the half marathon equivalent.  Not only do you climb this hill…you then round a corner and the finish line is right ahead.  So, with legs screaming at me…I got up the incline and took the turn…and there it was…the finish.

Ah…the good old days when nothing ever hurt.  I was able to run free without all the stretching and warm ups and cool downs and all that stuff that takes a lot of my time away from my morning routines.  I shouldn’t grouse about it.  I’m back to running.  And I’m happy about that for sure.

To be honest, the week leading into this race was not my best.  Back on Sunday, I went out to eat and ordered something off a “gluten sensitive” menu.  I normally don’t risk any sort of “sensitive” menu when it comes to gluten…but I’d eaten here before, so I figured it would be safe.  NEGATIVE.  I was glutened.  And it really altered my mood and my energy levels.  Top it off with the nasty cold snap that came through and ALL. THE. RAIN.  Seriously, I was getting really tired of running in the rain this week.  My hip has been unhappy with the return of the cold weather and with the dampness too.  BAH.  HUMBUG!  AND…sinuses!  My God, this area is HORRIBLE when it comes to allergies.  And it started to hit me last week…and…oh yeah…tying to breathe on runs has been less than stellar.

So…while I was looking forward to Geist…and the new half marathon route (no more finishing up a hill!)…I also wasn’t feeling my best leading into it.  And that sort of had me down in the dumps.  Even though I knew there would be no shining PR in this race, a part of me, deep down, was really hoping to pull something off.

It was not meant to be.

All that being said, Cathy and I made the drive up to Fishers, Indiana, on Friday.  We left work about an hour and a half early and hopped in the car.  This drive always takes forever.  Seriously.  It’s just north of Indianapolis, so navigating all the traffic to get there is…well…frustrating. But, we managed to get up there without too much of a delay, but were quite happy with the decision to leave early, as by the time we got to the expo, it was already almost 6 p.m. Damn rush hour traffic.

Regardless, we got to the hospital where the expo is held and stepped inside.  Before anything else, we both made a dodge for the bathroom.  That was a long trip, and we downed a bottle of PACt Cranberry Lemonade.  Anyway, once that was taken care of, we stepped back out, looked up my bib number at one of the convenient stations, and rounded a corner so I could pick up said bib.  I was number 1541.  And there was a small line…and one guy working.  There is always a line.  It wasn’t too much of a wait with the few people ahead of me, and soon I was being handed a bib.  I stepped out of the room where I was handed a black reusable bag and we meandered further into the reaches of the expo to find the shirt booth.

I picked up my long sleeve shirt and after that…we made the short trek through the expo.  I kept expecting to see a running store represented…because the weather changed and now it was looking like rain at the start and I needed a visor or a hat.  But…nope.  There was one booth of headbands, and the rest were like…attorney offices, Orange Theory, and a Chiropractor.  Not much for your race day shopping needs.  I was a bit bummed out about that.  Thankfully, there was a Dick’s Sporting Goods just up the street.  So, after checking the race map and then giving one small glance around to make sure we didn’t miss anything…we were off to Dick’s.

Dick’s was a bit of a mess.  Finding the hats/visors was a task in and of itself for one thing.  Cathy finally tracked them down…on a little hanger thing.  I picked up an Under Armor pink visor…that way my pigtails could still fly free.  We went to check out and the cashier was the S-L-O-W-E-S-T human being in the face of retail.  Seriously.  This guy was in NO hurry to do anything.

Wow…I am really taking advantage of caps abuse on this blog.  But, seriously, we were standing in line for about 15 minutes while he rang up 2 pairs of shoes and a jacket that a lady was purchasing.  Seriously.  SERIOUSLY!!  And there was another person in front of me to go.  Luckily another cashier opened.  And I was starting to wonder how long it would take for him to ring up my visor.  The answer…about 5 freakin’ minutes.

At this point, I’m hungry and we’re coming up on 6:45 pm.  This is now about an hour later than I like to eat on the night before a race.  MEH!  We had, at the last moment, changed our mind on our restaurant of choice for gluten-free pizza, and went over to Brixx Wood Fired Pizza…mainly because they had vegan cheese…and Cathy never likes to assume a place that doesn’t have a build your own option would allow a build your own or a cheese-less option. I say…they would. But nonetheless.  We got to the small shopping center that Brixx was located in…and there was not a parking spot to be found.  Not in the lot and not in the parking deck.  We turned around in the parking deck and went back out, tuned around, and suddenly, there were 4 spots.  GO FIGURE!  We parked…and walked over to Brixx.  I checked in with the hostess station and they said it would be a 20 minute wait.  That meant it would be about 7 pm by the time we were seated…and we still had to order and eat.  UGH. Nothing stresses me out more than eating later than I like on the night before the race.  They took my phone number and said they would text me when my table was ready.  So, Cathy and I took a short walk up the street…and then we went and sat down outside until a spot cleared up in the lobby area inside.  We moved in there…and not but 5 minutes or so later, I was texted.  We were seated just around the corner from the hostess station.

Gratuitous picture of Brixx Wood Fired Gluten Free and Vegan Artichoke Pizza
Gratuitous picture of Brixx Wood Fired Gluten Free and Vegan Artichoke Pizza

And our waiter, BTW, was adorable.  He had the cutest smile with dimples.  He was dark and handsome and tall…for me…maybe not for Cathy.  I wanted to steal him and take him home with me.  Cathy and I had it narrowed down to two of the veggie pizzas…either the Wild Mushroom or the Artichoke.  We asked Hot Waiter for his opinion, and he said Artichoke. So…Brixx Wood Fired Gluten Free and Vegan Artichoke Pizza….order in.

About 15 minutes or so later…the pizza was arriving.  There was enough time to snap a picture of it before we both just sort of pounced our our half and devoured.  I mean, we were starving at that point.  The combination of the herb-marinated artichiokes, roasted red peppers, sundried tomatoes, basil pesto and the vegan cheese was just what we needed. Our waiter was right…it was amazing.  And gone in record time.  HA!  We paid and left…dropped by a Kroger for post-race watermelon, pre-race bananas, and some water.  Then, we finally went to the hotel to check in and settle in for the night.  Normally, this is where we settle in and watch Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives on Food Network, but this hotel didn’t get Food Network.  In the end, we ended up watching Say Yes to the Dress…which is as addictive as ever…and we stayed up way past the usual pre-race bedtime.

I had alarms set as usual.  The first alarm went off at 3:30 am.  I got up and turned it off…went to take my medicine and use that bathroom.  Then climbed right back into bed.  The second alarm went off at 4:45 am.  I hauled myself out of bed, turned it off again, and went to go get changed into my race clothes and slather on some sunscreen.  Buy the time I was finished with that, I was making sure Cathy was getting out of her bed and getting herself ready to hit the road to get parked and to the start.  This race starts at 7:00 am.  Love an early start.

Oh…but guess what…that rain that was supposed to be out before start…was here.  Pouring down rain.  UGH.  No wonder my hip was acting up that morning.  I hadn’t bothered to look outside.  At that point it was still dark.  But, Cathy did look outside and grumbled about wet and rain and my spirits fell.  I know some people don’t mind running in the rain, but I become a much more cautious runner when that pavement is wet.  Last thing I want to do is slip and go down.  Also, I don’t mind if it starts to rain on me when I’m out there, I just really hate starting a race in the rain.  But, you can’t help what Mother Nature throws at you.  Another rainy run.  Um…yay?  I think I had done my share of them leading up to this race.  Regardless, I put the visor on and got my race bib pinned on.  I threw on a jacket and we were out the door…banana in hand…fuel belt slung over my shoulder.  Made a quick dash across the parking lot to the car and we were making the short 15-20 minute drive to the school to park the car and then hike…about a mile…to the start line.  We were actually ahead of schedule on departing the hotel, so, I attempted to nap on the way…but that wasn’t working out.  The trip was rainy and pouring and it just made my spirits fall and my hip hurt.  MEH!  Cathy parked, and we had about 30 minutes to start time.  This left me a few minutes to once again attempt to nap.  Still wasn’t happening.  Instead, we looked around at everyone else sitting in their cars, hoping the rain would lighten up.  It did…right as we needed to get of the car to make the hike to the start.

Me attempting, and failing, to nap before the race...and also avoiding getting out in the rain...
Me attempting, and failing, to nap before the race…and also avoiding getting out in the rain…

We were not alone.  There were steams of runners and spectators making the long walk toward the start line staging area.  I have made this exact hike every year that I have run Geist…even the 5K.  They were not doing shuttles this year like they have in the past.  Thankfully, the air was just a little damp with a mist…the rain had let up.  We got to the start with very little time to spare.  There was time for a start line picture, a hug, good luck wishes, and Cathy was off to find a spot just beyond the start gate and I was in the corrals, moving as far forward as I could manage.  I ended up getting locked in in Corral B…near the 1:55 pace group.  No sooner had I got locked into that spot, the race was off…and we were running.  No time to stretch or do any of my dynamic warm-ups.  That…was it.

So, I crossed the finish line, scanning the line of people for Cathy.  Due to the weather, the sign was not with her, but I saw her, gave a wave, and continued into the first mile.  This is the first time we run across the reservoir.  There is a bit of an incline leading into the turn to hit the first mile, and a teenager said to his buddy, “This hill is going to kill me!”  And then said, “There was one year they sent us up a hill to finish.”  I pointed and said, “Yeah…2014.  It was 2014.”  See, they will never live that down.  Never ever. I made the turn after Mile 1 and started in through the neighborhood tour.  This is a short tour, and due to the wet weather, there weren’t too many people out on the driveways to cheer like in past years.  That was kind of a bummer.  I love having some crowd support.  Ah well…it is what it is.  These neighborhoods boast gorgeous homes and, when the weather is better, families that come out and cheer on the runners that invade their neighborhoods.

Before Mile 3, you are back out on a main road and heading across the reservoir once again.  Just beyond the reservoir was the turnaround for the 10K.  This is also where the race used to end back when I was doing the 5K.  I did it twice, and this was the final turn toward the finish back then.  So, that sort of made me smile as I ran past.  I cheered on the 10K runners who were booking it back to the start to hopefully win the race.  Exciting stuff.  And then, the half marathoners were on their own.

This portion of the race is a combination of commercial and residential…and just gorgeous scenery.  There are businesses…and more gorgeous neighborhoods, and people standing on the corners just to cheer people on.  The race volunteers were positioned throughout the various points, so there was always a voice at some point calling out to you.  I was exchanging spots with a guy wearing a Boston 2015 shirt…he would lead, then I would, then he would…this went on for the entire rest of the race.  And after a climb, I had a runner catch up wearing a Marathon Maniac singlet.  I called out, “HEY MANIAC!”  He wasn’t too talkative with me though.  He was with this nice older man who told me he had a beer riding on this race.  He was running here and a friend of his was running in Colorado.  HA!  So, I made some friends along the route this time around.  It was nice, especially when they were talkative, because it took my mind off of the hip…which was still not feeling this run one bit.

I do want to give a shout-out to the guy who was just beyond Mile 9.  There was a steep hill ahead, and he was at the base, calling out every race bib number and telling that runner that they were doing great, looking great, and that there were less than 4 miles left.  Seriously, he was amazing.  What he was doing was something every runner needs, especially when the struggle is getting real.

Just before Mile 10, we make a turn out of the neighborhoods and are back on familiar turf.  We are back near that old finish line area…right where we cross the reservoir.  Mile 10 was just beyond where the turn around for the 10K was marked.  I pressed on, the humidity from the rain and weather starting to really exhaust me.  Turn a corner, and now we’re running the opposite way through that first neighborhood.  There were some rolling hills through this, so we were hitting them again, just backwards.  My legs were pretty much done with hills.  They were slowing me down more than they should have, which only pissed me off.  But now the hip wasn’t wanting to fire, so you just do what you can manage at that point.  Mile 12 was at the corner before you round for that final trek toward the reservoir again.

Me crossing the finish line of the Geist Half Marathon - Fishers, IN
Me crossing the finish line of the Geist Half Marathon – Fishers, IN

I picked it up because I saw a female ahead of me, and I was now playing games to get myself to that finish line.  I passed her, and that was a good feeling.  I told myself to keep going, and not let her sneak up and catch me.  She never did.  I could finally see the finish line…which was such an uplifting feeling.  I tried to put on the afterburners to sprint in like so many people can…but it wasn’t happening.  I just pushed as hard and moved as fast as my legs could manage at that point…and ran across that finish line.  I could hear Cathy screaming at me.  When I crossed, I received my medal and felt this wave of emotion wash over me.  This race was an important one to me, and I had some expectations…some desires…and, sadly, the race wasn’t the way I envisioned or imagined it would go.  That being said, after receiving my medal, I had one of the guys who had talked with me come over and high five me.  Cathy came over and as I was about to take my victory shot, the guy in the Boston shirt came over and high fived me as well and said said that I kept him on an amazing pace for the race.  That was a nice feeling.

Cathy took the picture and I changed into different shoes.  I keep forgetting to pack extra socks again.  D’oh!  After the shoe change, we decided to hike over to the runner recovery area and see what was there.  We were in search of the massage tent, and we found it.  YAY!  But, after standing in line for 10 minutes, we were told that we needed to fill out a form.  So, a bunch of us runners went to fill out the paperwork and get back into line.  It was another 50 minutes before they even got to me.  At this point, I was cold and had Cathy pull my jacket back out.  But, the wait for the massage was worth it.  This massage was very thorough and felt amazing on my achy body.  Amy was my massage therapist and she did a great job.  While I was getting worked on, Cathy went to get my official race results…and after that…I called my mom and spoke with her on the long walk back to the car.  The long, cold, walk back to the car.

After that, it was just a short drive back to the hotel, where I hopped into a hot shower and warmed up and cleaned up.  I changed clothes, checked out, and we were off to grab food and then coffee.  Then…the trip home.

So, my official results of the Geist Half Marathon is that I finished in 1:42:13, which was faster than my NYC Half Marathon, but slower than Derby and Indy.  I was a little bummed out with my time here, but I had a lot to contend with going into this and during this race.  That being said, I was 103/1601 finishers overall!  Almost in the top 100…how about that??!  I was the 20/557 women to cross the finish line.  And I was 6/185 people in the 30-39 female division!  Can’t argue with those status right?!

Please don’t get me wrong, I am very proud of my accomplishment and this finish.  I think that it’s hard, when you return to your PR race, to not be a little disappointed when a new PR doesn’t happen.  I was so close when I ran the 500 Festival a few weekends ago…so I had some hopes that this race would get me a PR that I’m searching for this year.  It wasn’t meant to be…and that’s okay.  It will happen.  I don’t know when or where…but it is bound to happen.  I just have to keep running safe and strong.  It was just not meant to be this year.  But…this is still my favorite half marathon.  It’s beautiful and challenging and just…fun.  And this year, I got to talk to and meet some of the people running it with me.  Those are special friendships forged during the grind.

Will I be back? Of course.  The race is one of the best…and that’s why I keep coming back.  Hopefully next year, the circumstances will be better.