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

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

Race: CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon

Place: Indianapolis, IN

Date: November 3, 2018

Time: 3:46:17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Napolese’s Gluten Free Focaccia

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

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

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

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

Lights out…9 pm.  On the nose.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My new form of fueling – Maurten Gel 100

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Me crossing the finish line at the CNO Financial Monumental Marathon

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

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

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Feet up…suns out…guns out.  FINISHER!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Until next year…BE MONUMENATAL!

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

OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon – Indianapolis, IN (May 5, 2018)

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Me crossing the finish line of the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon – Indianapolis, Indiana

Race: OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon

Place: Indianapolis, Indiana

Date: May 5, 2018

Time: 1:44:14

At the beginning of my training season, after Dopey in January and after I got over the flu, my coach asked me, specifically, for some goals this year. I laid out two. And one of them was to PR my half marathon distance, specifically at the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon.

It was in writing. And I was actually starting to finally have a good training cycle, when, one morning, as you read in a previous post (and I swear I will blog about the saga…maybe…perhaps), I fell hard on a training run early one morning. It was a long run I was doing to beat the rain and storms that were supposedly coming. And…it took me out of any sort of strong training for the entire time leading into the KDF miniMarathon.  I kept telling myself that this would actually work out for me in the end.  My body would recover…and I’d be well-rested coming into this race, despite having a half marathon the week before.

Mind you…I took it very easy on KDF.  I barely broke an 8 minute mile when all was said and done.  So, my legs felt good and my foot was finally feeling good…but I haven’t been feeling strong or fast as of late.  Keep in mind, the races I have been doing, I haven’t been doing at pace.  This was supposed to be what makes me able to do this for goal/key races.  So, I assured myself that the missed runs wouldn’t matter.  I was ready.  I could do this.

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Perfect Day-Before-A-Race Breakfast: Gluten Free Avocado Toast & Hash Browns

Friday morning came and I went out for an easy shake-out run for 30 minutes.  Showered.  Then began to prep breakfast for that morning.  Melissa and Paul were coming over (we were all driving up together) and I was going to make us a hearty breakfast to get us through the Panel of Olympians (I won two tickets to it and Melissa and I were going to attend) that morning, the race expo itself, and whatever else we ended up doing afterwards until dinner time.  The menu: Avocado Toast and Hash Browns.  I used Simple Kneads Gluten Free Quinoa Power Grains Bread, smashed ripe avocado on each slice, topped it with some Trader Joe’s Everything But The Bagel Seasoning, then capped each slice with a sunny-side up egg.  Served with some Ore Ida Hash Browns (with onions and peppers).  It was perfect.  We ate.  We drank coffee.  We eagerly discussed the events that day.  And then…we were literally off to the races.

We talked…the entire time heading to the hotel.  We were staying at the JW Marriott (I’m a princess…sorry, not sorry!) and we were going to check in and take things up to the room before heading over to Indiana Convention Center (we could do this via walkway, but why not enjoy the wind that day?) for the Champions Panel that started at 11 am (but they wanted ticket holders in by 10:45 am).

We pulled up to the hotel and while everyone else was unloading the car, I was sent inside to check into the room.  And this friends…is where the tale truly begins.  Because, upon entering the hotel, all wind-blown and looking like a hot mess…I notice someone in a race jacket holding a cup of coffee near one of the pillars at the front of the lobby.  And my brain went…

MEB!!!!!  MEB!!!!

This is where I lost all motor functions for a moment.  I smiled at him and walked toward the line for the front desk check-in.  I pulled out my cell phone to text my group, but I couldn’t get my fingers to hit the right numbers on my unlock screen.  I did finally get there.  I typed a simple message, “HOLY SHIT! MEB!”  And I sent it.  And just as it sent, Cathy came strolling in.  At this point, Meb went to go talk to a group of runners in the lobby and I started pointing at him (his back was to me).  She glanced over, did a shrug, then did a double take.  It was awesome.

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She told me to go ask if I could get a selfie with him.  I’m not shy.  So I did.  I’m surprised I could now find words.  I’m honestly not the type to get star-struck like that…but Meb is a one of my running heroes and I was..honored to be in a hotel lobby with him.  Also, no one informed me that I looked all a mess from strong winds and car ride.  But…hey…at least he looks good in the photos.  I took a selfie and then someone took a picture for me.  Both of which I look like a star-struck fool with really, really bad hair.

Hey…you never know when you’ll met your heroes.

He was so very gracious and generous and never once made me feel like I was inconveniencing him.  And that’s one of the many things I love about Meb.  After the photos in the lobby, Cathy and Paul sent Melissa and I on our way to get to the Champions Panel while they took stuff up to the room.  Paul was on a business call at this point anyway.  So…we braced ourselves for the windy walk to the Indianapolis Convention Center (we could have walked it inside, honestly) and went to get in line for the panel.

We were seated in the second row when doors opened.  And as they brought in the Champions for the Champions Panel…they also introduced the woman who was conducting the panel, Indianapolis’ very own Lindsey Hein, the host of the “I’ll Have Another” podcast…which I am a total fan and listen to every week.  So, I fangirled a little there and hoped to snag a picture with Lindsey afterwards…but we were escorted out of the room quickly and I never got to ask.  Dang it.  NEXT TIME!!

The Champion’s Panel was amazing.  It started off with having us introduced to the Elite Ambassador and Special Olympics athlete, Andrew Peterson.  His story and the way he told it was inspiring and tear inducing.  Seriously.  What an inspiration.  From being told he could never do things…to being the second Special Olympian to qualify for the Boston Marathon…he is nothing but inspiring.  What a way to kick off the panel.  Then…they brought up the rest of them:

Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, Alexi Pappas, and Meb Keflezighi!

Meb, Alexi, Bill, Frank

The stories all of these athletes could tell about mental fitness, experiences in running, etc.  I now have a major girl crush on Alexi for one thing.  She’s a doll.  Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers had tales to tell about the running community and running game back when they were at the top of the game.  And Meb had lots of uplifting and insightful things to say.  Alexi is training with Deana Kastor for her first marathon.  And I’m currently reading Deana Kastor’s book.  Full circle.  Just…love.  This was the way to kick off the weekend for sure.  It was the day before Meb’s birthday, so we all sang Happy Birthday to him.  So that was amazing.

After the panel dismissed the audience, Melissa and I met up with Cathy and Paul, who had already gone shopping through the expo area.  So…now it was our turn.  We went to pick up our bibs and race packets first before setting out to see all of the expo area and try not to spend too much money.  HA!

Actually, because Newton wasn’t there (I really want to try on the Distance VII), I came out of it on the plus side.  Cathy bought me my mandatory Bondi Band’s (this has to happen at every race or bad stuff happens!) and I was told I wasn’t allowed to buy any Finisher’s gear (which means, she got me something).  And with those being the only restrictions, I just set out to see what was there.  This is a great expo. Lots of samples of products, lots of vendors…all very relevant.  Area races were present and promoting.  And, while we paused for bathroom breaks, that was when Corey Queen found us!

He actually started sneaking up on me and got pretty damn close before I saw him and gave him a hug.  He’s a ninja, that one.  The five of us stood around and talked for a good while.  We discussed races and being ambassadors and weather and just life in general.  Seriously, if this weekend proved anything…it’s that the five of us could stand around and talk and not get bored with it.  HA!

When we all finally decided we needed to finish seeing the expo and make Meb’s autograph session before heading to our dinner reservations.  We did traverse the rest of the expo, killing time before standing around near the area the line would be forming for Meb.  Currently Bill Rodgers was at the autograph table.  So, we hung out until the volunteers at the expo came and put up some partitions and had us maneuver inside to wait for Meb.

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Bill Rodgers and Me

Melissa asked me if Bill Rodgers book was worth buying, and I told her definitely.  So she asked if she could get into the back of his line for an autograph.  We had thought of doing this earlier, but Cathy had overheard one of the handlers say that he was just signing books…but the man ahead of Melissa had his Boston Marathon shirt so she looked at me and said, “Do you want Bill Rodgers to sign your medal too?  He’s a four time Boston Marathon champion.” I took my medal from her and went to stand with Melissa.  This worked out because it meant I could take photos with her and Bill and she could return the favor for me.  Bill was awesome.  He recommended to Melissa that she run Chicago Marathon and she told him she was this year.  And he wouldn’t let up on how amazing the crowd support is there and how amazing the race is (everything I have touted all along) and as I was taking their picture, he apparently kept whispering “Chicago. Chicago. Chicago.” in her ear.  HA!  My turn.  I brought him my medal and I told him my Boston story.  When I told him about my hip labrum tear, he said, “That’s a bad injury.  Did you have to have surgery?”  I told him no.  He said, “Lots of physical therapy.”  I nodded.  “So much physical therapy!”  He signed my medal and graciously took  a photo with me and wished me luck in Chicago this year too.  Melissa and I went to duck back into our spots at Meb’s line.

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Meb Keflezighi and Me

Meb arrived and we were seriously near the front of the line.  Meb took his time with people, signing an item for each person.  We sent Paul and Melissa up to him first and it was so amazing to see just the sheer joy in Melissa’s face as she got to talk to Meb and tell him how much he inspired her to run her first race.  He was the best and gave her encouraging words and was so uplifting.  He signed a photo for her and a quote for Paul, and they took pictures with him.  Then…it was my turn.

I knew telling my story to Meb was going to be emotional to me.  So, thankfully I had Cathy on hand to tell him about my path to the Boston Marathon and the injury that I wouldn’t let take me out of it.  She also mentioned the hip labrum tear, and his eyes got wide and he said, “That is a BAAAAAAAAAAAAAD injury.”  He’s not wrong.  It was (and still his and will hopefully forever be…the worst injury I have ever endured).  I laid out my medal and asked him to sign it for me.  He said, “This is the first one I have seen of these today!”  One of the professional photographers took photos as he signed it.  And then we did the stand and smile photo ops.  Honestly, everything you have heard about Meb is true.  He’s very humble and very human and very generous.  And uplifting.  Man, I walked away from that table feeling like I had just met a rockstar.  I had.  I mean…for real.

We needed to drop off our race expo stuff, so we took the walkways back to the hotel.  We dropped things off in the room (Melissa and I hadn’t been here yet) and then set back out to go to the Hard Rock Cafe and then make our way to dinner at Harry & Izzy’s in downtown Indianapolis.

Originally, I thought Cathy and I were going to split one of the gluten-free pizzas.  BUT…she started eyeing other things on the menu.  Pizza has been a good food for me the night before the race, but as I knew I couldn’t eat the entire thing by myself and it would be a waste of money to just eat half of it (I wouldn’t have gotten back to it after the race or anything), I went a very different direction.  I ended up ordering the Oven Roasted Beet Salad (hey…beets are supposedly good for athletic performance), which consisted of artisan greens, local goat cheese (I asked them to go light on the cheese), candied walnuts, and had a tarragon vinaigrette.  And then I placed an order for the gluten free fries on the side.  It was super yummy and I devoured it all.  I mean…you need to be fueled for the race, right?

Afterwards, we walked to the candy store, just for some fun, and then headed back to the hotel to charge Garmin’s, shower, lay out race day stuff, and finally, get some rest.  I had Melissa help me pick between the two outfits I brought, a tank and shorts or a crop and a running skirt.  As the tank and skirt were in Boston colors and my Boston Marathon medal was now autographed by Bill Rodgers and Meb Keflezighi, it seemed like a good omen.

We set alarms for 6 am.  And race morning dawned and alarms went off.  We went with the bathroom circuit that we’ve established since the NYC Half Marathon.  I grabbed my stuff and went to change into my shorts and tank before coming out and allowing the next people to work their way through.  I always use the bathroom one last time before leaving the hotel.  I realized I didn’t eat anything leading up to this…or take in some water.  So…that was that working against me.  I did have a banana, which I ate as we made our way to the lobby, as we were 30 minutes out from the start of the race.  I know better than to JUST eat a banana before a distance race.  A shorter race it would be fine…but not for a half or full marathon.

We got outside and gave hugs to Melissa and Paul.  My corral was in Wave 1, which was going off at 7:33 am.  So, Cathy went to cut across to the other side, and didn’t think that there was openings to the corals on that side (there was), so we hugged and she told me to have a good race.  And….I went to get into Corral B.  I had to pause though, as the National Anthem was starting, so I did that before heading up to the actual corral entrance and ducking inside.  I didn’t move too far up, but I got out of the crowd there at the back.  In fact, I wasn’t far from a guy in a penguin suit.  No joke.  I also noticed a lot of other Corral’s in my corral.  Like a woman who should have been in Corral L.  Okay…

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From my Instagram Stories on race day!

I felt nervous energy as the light breeze kept the start line cool.  The humidity was higher that day than what I was used to running in and the start line was a gorgeous 54 degrees…but it was going to hit the 60s fast that morning.  When Wave 1 was sent off after the wheelchair start, I headed over the start line, waved to Cathy and took on the streets, telling myself that it was going to be a good day.  And for the first mile I felt strong.  And was definitely on pace to hit my PR.  But that didn’t last long.  My endurance is shit these days and immediately, I dropped off that pace and that was the story of my race.  A steady decline and a huge missed opportunity.

Mile 1 was clipped off at a fast 7:10 minute mile.  But they got slower soon after that.  Mile 2 through 4 were steady and still in a good range of where I could be to finish ahead of my goal.  Or so I thought.  I never once looked at my watch or the clocks on the course.  I didn’t want to fuss over time on this race.  I felt strong heading up W Michigan and really thought I was pacing myself well.  But as I turned onto Main Street just around Mile 5, I could hear conversation behind me.  Whenever there is conversation, there is a pace team.  I had no idea which one, until they started pacing me for a brief moment.  It was the 1:40 pacer.  I was way behind my goal and I could feel my energy really fading fast.

“It’s not meant to happen today,” I said to myself, and then just set my next focus on finishing a strong race.  The 1:40 pacer faded and I decided I would at least try to stay ahead of the 1:50 this time.

Heading into the track, the lugs on the bottom of my Newtons picked up a stone, so just after Mile 6, I pulled over to dig it out.  It apparently fell out on its own just as I slowed.  So, I jumped back into the race.  The race track has always been the thing that slows me down.  And it was no exception this year.  I kept telling myself to relax, but the humidity had gotten the best of me and at this point, I was no longer sweating.  You know what that means?  I was now overheating.  I also fuel on half marathons during the time I’m inside the track, where we weren’t allowed to take any sort of gel at the time.  So…I waited it out and made my lap of the track.  I could feel my legs slowing down, and at times just feeling tingly.  Definitely not having a good race.  I didn’t let it dishearten me too much, and I did pick it up for the part where I ran across the brickyard.  Flashing devil horns, as always.  Coming out of the track, I usually am able to pick it up, but my body just had nothing left.  I started making stops at the water stations to pour water over my head.  I took my Hammer Gel, but it was too late at this point.  I was now just focusing on counting down the miles to the finish line.  My training plan said to try to finish ahead of 1:44…it was going to be close.

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Me running as fast as I could at this point to cross the finish line. I was ready to be done.

At Mile 12, I did glance at the course clock.  It was where I should have been heading to the finish.  But this mile does bring in crowds and cheers and the road lined with checkered flags, so my staggering pace started to slightly (not by much) pick up.  I ignored the people handing out the leis and just kept pressing on.  In order to finish, I just needed to focus on getting my legs to move.  I forgot how awful crossing that last bridge felt, but kept going…feeling like I was moving through mud.  As I was in the last quarter mile, I noticed medics near the curb and a young woman laying on the ground.  They were radioing for an ambulance.  I made the final push, seeing the finish line and could see Cathy with the sign near it.  And I powered through, crossing at 1:44 and change.  I missed the goal by seconds that I was supposed to aim for in my training plan.  But I was just glad to be done.  Meb was supposed to leave after finishing to head to Texas for his brother’s wedding, but he was at the finish line for as long as he could be, and he happened to still be there after I crossed.  He gave me a fist bump, and it made me at least smile at a moment when I didn’t really feel like smiling.

I made my way through the finisher’s area, getting my medal and my bag that then had snacks from bananas and fruit to Clif Bars tossed into it.  I got my photo taken at the backdrop and then headed into the Runner Reunion area where the after party was happening.

IMG_6847Normally, this is where Cathy would meet me at the letter X and we would take photos and head back to the hotel so I could shower and all that.  But she wasn’t there.  I had looked for her as I was coming into the area, but never spotted her or the sign.  So, for the next 30-40 minutes, I was wandering around trying to find her, always returning to X, just in case she showed up there.  I was really upset about my race and now this was upsetting me more…but I finally spotted her near the entrance to the runner reunion and came up behind her.  She gave me a hug and my official finishing time – 1:44:14.  I just decided to harp on her about not being at X and she admitted that she “got cocky” and tried to catch me before that point.

We went to take a photo before heading back to the hotel.  I needed to drink water, but I wasn’t ready to.  My stomach wasn’t loving anything at this point.  The lobby of the JW Marriott had employees handing out water bottles (bless them) and cold towels.  It was just what I needed.  I went up to my room and Cathy went to pack up some stuff and make my BCAAs up while I showered and changed.  We were going to check out, leave our luggage, and head down to wait for Corey, Melissa and Paul.

When our friends finished, we gathered together under a shady tree and just…voiced our thoughts that day.  Being that none of us have really had humid or warm days to run in up to this point, we were all glad to have finished and sweat it out.  I know Melissa and I were not happy with our times, and our coach, Linda, called to talk to us about the race.  I don’t know what she said to Melissa, but Linda said she was looking at my splits and I just looked like I got tired.

Told you…endurance is shit right now.  MEH!  I told her I felt good up until Mile 5 and then it just spiraled from there.  I was frustrated and disappointed, but she was very uplifting and positive about it.  Did it make me feel better about it?  Not really.  But the positive affirmations did so much for my mental state at that point.

After Cathy, Corey and Paul shared a beer and a half (they were apparently VERY stingy with the free beers offered at the after party), and we passed the lemon blossoms I baked around…we decided to make our way back to the hotel.  I needed to actually start the recovery process with some nutrition and Paul and Melissa needed to change before we spent the rest of the day in and around Indianapolis.  This was where we found out that the guy who came to take our luggage gave us the wrong tag.  And this is where we all freaked out because my backpack had my Boston Marathon medal in it and Melissa’s wedding rings were in her bag.  But, Cathy went back to find the correct cart and we did have our stuff.  We went separate directions to let them go to the Fitness Center to change and us to get some coffee.  Nutrition after a race is important to recovery and coming back strong.  Sometimes I don’t want to eat anything, but I always make sure I do.

I drank my protein shake and, while it wasn’t what I wanted, it would do for now until we would get dinner.  Melissa got a coffee and Paul got himself coffee and a sandwich of sorts from Starbucks.  We decided to head out…headed to Greenwood for Half Price Books, Strange Brew Coffee…and finally…dinner at Hops & Fire.  After that…the long drive home…where we once again talked the entire way.

So, the official results of the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon is that I finished in 1:44:14.  It was definitely NOT the results I set out for or wanted.  But you never know what will happen on race day.  So, you learn from it.  I was 1304/19,588 finishers overall. I was 224/10,403 female finishers. And I was 50/1438 finishers in my division! I am trying really hard to not let these results bother me.  But I would be sugar-coating it to say that I was okay with this.  I set out for a PR…and I didn’t come close.  And yeah…I’m disappointed.  But this just drives me to step up and try again.  I’ve been chasing PRs for years now.  Eventually one of them is bound to fall.  Disappointed…yes.  Deterred…never.

Onto the next…

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Product Review: Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Cinnamon Sugar Bagels

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Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Cinnamon Sugar Bagel

Product: Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Cinnamon Sugar Bagels – $11/pack; $3/bagel

Last one.  This is the final flavor that Annie May’s Sweet Cafe has put out in bagels.  Four very amazing flavors.  And the last one down the pipe…was one of my favorites…

Cinnamon Sugar!

First of all…you give me anything cinnamon and I’m going to be in love with it.  Pure, real cinnamon is one of God’s little gifts to everyone…sweet and a little spicy.  It’s perfect.  Add sugar to the mix and throw it on top of something edible…and you’ve won me over for life.

Cinnamon Rolls…Soft Pretzels…Cinnamon Rolls…Snickerdoodles…Cinnamon Rolls…(can you tell my favorite cinnamon treat?)…and now…

BAGELS!!

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So…in the weeks leading up to this…the culmination of all things Allergen Free Bagel-y…I have reviewed Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Everything, Onion, and Plain Bagels.  All of which have been amazing.  But for the record…the Everything ones are off the chain!!

To kick this blog off…let me say that the Cinnamon Sugar flavor is my second favorite that Annie May’s offers.  For real!

For one thing…hello…it has two of my favorite words in the name…CINNAMON and SUGAR!  So, while bagels are normally viewed as a savory treat…there are sweet variations on them as well.  This is the only sweet option currently offered by Annie May’s…but she hits it out of the ballpark.

I may have mentioned a few times before that I grew up in the great land of New York.

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New Yorkers LOVE their bagels.  It’s…like the state’s native food.  Or something.  It’s close enough to being the state’s native food.  Let’s roll with it, okay?  So, I grew up on bagels.  You can probably call me an expert on bagels.  Professor Bagel.

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Alright…enough fun with the gifs…time to get serious about some serious eats.

Annie May’s Cinnamon Sugar Bagel is the epitome of the sweet bagel.  Honestly.  Back when her soft pretzels first hit on Wednesdays, the Cinnamon Sugar was my jam.  I love a good sugar rush as much as the next person.  But, the key here is balance and Annie May’s definitely strikes it with just the right amount of cinnamon sugar topping off these new bakery offerings.

LOVE.  LOVE is what goes into these.  Simple.  True.  Passionate.  Love of all things that the gluten-free community SHOULD have in their life…and not simply from a big corporation in the local freezer section of another big chain store.

I mean…these are kept frozen since no preservatives and all that…but…they are nothing like the big box stuff you can pretty much buy anywhere now.  I know for a fact that Annie May puts a lot of hard work into any new product she is thinking about offering.  I also know, because I’ve done this a few times, that bagels are a pain the ass to make.  So, the fact that she has added these to her bakery menu has me dancing with joy.  My freezer will never be without.  I will purchase one of each whenever I am running low.  Mark my words.

And if that isn’t a good enough testament to how good these are…let me specifically focus on the Cinnamon Sugar flavor so it gets it’s moment to shine.

I went a bit off the script with these bagels today.  Usually, plain cream cheese with my own smattering of cinnamon sugar on top would have happened.  But…I didn’t want to pay for really good vegan cream cheese (that stuff is expensive)…but I did have a little bit of my Boar’s Head Dark Chocolate Hummus left in the container…so I chose that for my topping this time.  My roommate’s version was topped with Earth Balance Soy Free Buttery Spread and then some Crofters Organic Strawberry Spread. Both options worked beautifully with the bagel at hand.

This bagel is everything.  Toasty on the outside.  Chewy on the inside.  Sweet to the taste.  Yet still gives that whole bagel vibe…so it’s not just a confused doughnut.  It’s basically cinnamon toast taken to the next level.  Because…cinnamon toast is one of the best things to eat in the history of ever.  And these…these are just like biting into that.  Topped off however you like, these make a delicious addition to any breakfast table.  Mine toasted up beautifully and I LOVED the dessert hummus smothered on top.  It brought an extra added kick of goodness to an already perfect bite.  Cinnamon…sugar…chocolate.  I see nothing wrong with this picture.

Have you been intrigued yet following these blogs on these bagels?  Have I mentioned that all four varieties are FREE of the TOP 9 FOOD ALLERGIES??!!  How about that?  Don’t you want to try them for yourself?

Trust me.  You really need to.

Remember, if you aren’t lucky enough to live in Louisville, Kentucky (like I am…because this bakery has been with me for ALL of my Celiac journey…we’ve grown together), have no fear…Annie May’s Sweet Cafe does ship…and yes…they are shipping the bagels.

Follow this link!!  And be sure to check out all the other stuff they offer as well!

But, I highly encourage you…get the bagels!

As I stated before, they do offer them at the bakery as well…and if you don’t want to buy a pack of four…you can buy them individually there and get them topped with Earth Balance, jam (raspberry or strawberry), or plain cream cheese.  I think they are currently offering them in-house on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  So, you may want to call ahead and make sure they have them.  But…you can just go and hope for the best.  If nothing else, you’ll walk out of there with something tasty.

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Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Cinnamon Sugar Bagel topped with Boar’s Head Dark Chocolate Hummus

Product Review: Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Plain Bagels

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Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Plain Bagel

Product: Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Plain Bagels – $11/pack; $3/bagel

The ultimate test of anything…is to test the standard.  In the case of bagels…PLAIN.  It doesn’t get any easier or normal than the every day, run-of-the-mill plain bagel.  And, as one of the four flavors that Annie May’s Sweet Cafe now offers…Plain is, as it should be, one of them.

I have previously blogged about the Everything Bagels and the Onion Bagels.  So, if you missed those…check them out.

Bagels, to this former New Yorker…are the ultimate food.  Breakfast…lunch…dinner.  I could eat them all day.  First of all…MMMM…CARBS.  Second of all, for the most part, they are pretty versatile.  You can eat them with Earth Balance, or Cream Cheese, make them into a sandwich…or a pizza…

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That’s the great thing about bagels.  ESPECIALLY…Plain Bagels.  It’s like staring down a blank canvas.  You can go sweet or savory with it…and that’s why they are magical.  And wonderful.

And, when you get one of the NEW Plain Bagels at Annie May’s Sweet Cafe…you are also getting one that is Top 9 Allergen Free.  How about that?!  So before any further discussion…let me reiterate one little thing…

Annie May’s bagels are not pre-cut.  Never fear…this is nothing that a good serrated knife can’t fix.  Slicing a bagel isn’t hard.  Make sure, if you’re starting from frozen, thaw the bagels out and then slice through them.  As a pro bagel slicer…start where the bagel is a little bit thinner and slice through that end first.  It makes for a much cleaner and even cut.  Pro tip!

Now…let’s dig in…

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The plain bagel is the simplest of pleasures when it comes to the bagel.  You can’t go wrong with it.  But it has to be made well.  That’s the one caveat I have.  Call me a bagel snob if you must…but a bagel must not just look like a bagel…but taste like a bagel.  And if you can’t do a simple plain bagel…well…just stop trying to make them.

Annie May is fantastic when it comes to the products she serves because if she doesn’t like it or if she isn’t happy with it…it’s not going in the bakery case or freezer or up on the Web site for order.  Talk about good quality control.  As a consumer, I appreciate that as it means I am guaranteed a tried and true product.  YAY!

I eat breakfast at work…because it keeps me from snacking so much if I have a later breakfast.  Seriously, I used to have 3 snacks a day…so shifting meals worked for me.  I have to take a few precautionary measures to ensure I still eat safely…but I’ve manged so far.  My office has a toaster oven in the kitchen and I bring my own aluminum foil to use since I avoid the communal toaster completely, because…well…cross-contamination.

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As was true with the Everything Bagel and the Onion Bagel…the Plain Bagel toasted up to a golden perfection.  I could tell as I pulled the foil that cradled these little babies from the toaster oven that they weren’t going to disappoint.  The outside toasted up to get a little crispy…and the surface got that gorgeous golden color and crispy…but it still had the fluffy, chewy middle, which is definitely what makes a bagel so…incredible.  It’s not just bread…it’s so much more than bread.

As a traditionalist, I schmeared this bagel with the new Kite Hill Jalapeno Cream Cheese.  I love Kite Hill because it has a whipped texture, but packs amazing traditional flavor.  It is almond milk based, so if nuts, specifically almonds, are a problem…try other options on the market.  Thankfully, we live in a time where the market is inundated with dairy-free products so there are numerous options to fit your dietary needs.  And…if dairy isn’t an issue for you or if you aren’t vegan…well…grab yourself some of that Philadelphia Cream Cheese and go to town.  But…it’s Kite Hill in my home.  Because YUMMY!

So now that we’re properly dressed…let’s take a bite, shall we?

Sometimes bagels can just feel heavy.  These are perfect.  Just the right amount of bread to get you to that right level of fullness.  These toasted up beautifully.  If you have had the chance to taste and partake of Annie May’s dinner rolls, sandwich buns or soft pretzels…these are very reminiscent of those.  And Annie May’s Sweet Cafe, to this day, has my heart when it comes to gluten free (and vegan) breads!  The same is holding true with their new bagels.  Plain bagels…they are simple…but delightful and perfect to fit whatever you’re feeling when it comes to breakfast.  OR…make it a sandwich.  If you’re not a vegan, put an egg in between it with some greens.  Or…top it with marinara and vegan mozzarella cheese shreds.  Bagel pizzas really are life.

Plain bagels can satisfy any desire or crave…and these are no exception.  I probably ate mine way too fast…but I was enamored with it.  I was dreaming up other ways to eat them…rather than the standard way.  Why not?  I do my best thinking when I’m eating delicious food!  If you haven’t gotten yourself around to purchasing these bagels…get on it.  Now.

And, remember, if you aren’t lucky enough to live in Louisville, Kentucky (like I am…because this bakery has been with me for ALL of my Celiac journey…we’ve grown together), have no fear…Annie May’s Sweet Cafe does ship…and yes…they are shipping the bagels.

Follow this link!!  And be sure to check out all the other stuff they offer as well!

But, I highly encourage you…get the bagels!

As I stated before, they do offer them at the bakery as well…and if you don’t want to buy a pack of four…you can buy them individually there and get them topped with Earth Balance, jam (raspberry or strawberry), or plain cream cheese.  I think they are currently offering them in-house on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  So, you may want to call ahead and make sure they have them.  But…you can just go and hope for the best.  If nothing else, you’ll walk out of there with something tasty.

Stay tuned…because next week…I will delve into their sweeter version of their bagels…the Cinnamon Sugar.  But…today…it’s all about plain.  But there is nothing ordinary about these.  They are definitely extraordinary.

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Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Plain Bagels schmeared with Kite Hill Jalapeno Cream Cheese

Product Review: Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Onion Bagels

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Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Onion Bagel

Product: Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Onion Bagels – $11/pack; $3/bagel

Remember last week when I shared that Annie May’s Sweet Cafe is now making bagels?  You know…bagels that are Top 9 Allergen Free?  Remember?  You should, because I did an extensive review of one of the four flavors that they offer – the Everything Bagel.

I’ve mentioned numerous times that I grew up in New York, so the bagel was a breakfast staple in my home.  And when I was diagnosed with Celiac…it took forever to find a bagel that actually felt like a bagel to me.  It’s been a long journey.  And while some have exceeded the bar, others have fallen short.

Well, those didn’t last long in my freezer, so today I prepped the Onion Bagel for a try.

For those of you who haven’t tried one yet or didn’t make note…Annie May’s bagels are not pre-cut.  Never fear…this is nothing that a good serrated knife can’t fix.  Slicing a bagel isn’t hard.  Make sure, if you’re starting from frozen, thaw the bagels out and then slice through them.  As a pro bagel slicer…start where the bagel is a little bit thinner and slice through that end first.  It makes for a much cleaner and even cut.  Pro tip!

Now…let’s dig in…

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I used to hate onion.  Hate it.  Until I was a teenager and I realized that the bite actually brought great flavor to thing.  Guess my pallet turned on around the age of 13.  But after that, my life was filled with onion.  Onions aren’t for everyone…but I am a believer in the power of the onion.

And the power of the bagel.

Especially an onion bagel!

So, per the usual routine…this morning I sliced the bagel I thawed in half and brought it to work with me.  I bring my own aluminum foil and use the toaster oven (not the toaster) to avoid cross-contamination.  So…these toast in the toaster oven in the kitchen.  It also makes the office smell really good anytime I toast up bagels in there.  Especially flavored bagels.  Mmmm.  (No joke…I just had three people walk into the kitchen while I was waiting for them to finish and commented on how good they smelled and warned me not to turn my back!)

Once toasted…cream cheese had to happen.  A proper bagel has a healthy schmear of cream cheese or Earth Balance (or butter if you aren’t dairy-free).

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Actually, Scully, it was VEGAN cream cheese.  I really like Kite Hill because it has SUCh good flavor and is almost whipped in texture.  Love a light (get it) and airy texture to my cream cheese.  Not traditional, I know…but when you can’t do dairy…you do vegan cream cheese.  Kite Hill is by far the best, but it is made from almond milk…so if you can’t do almonds…you must find a different path.  But there are lots of options out there these days!

I happen to have (and love) the new Kite Hill Jalapeno Cream Cheese.  It’s delightful.

Okay now.  Settle in.  Take a deep breath.  Savor the aroma….and then take a bite.

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LOTS of flavor!  The onion is there, but it won’t overpower the bagel itself.  It’s got just enough punch to let you know that it’s there, but not enough to make you reach for the breath mint afterwards.  I loved how well these bagels toasted up…browning up on the outside and on the sliced part…but remaining soft and chewy in the center.  It made it the perfect vehicle for the cream cheese.  Sometime bagels fall apart when you go to schmear them.  Not these.  Let me tell you, I also love the way the onion is incorporated, because it didn’t burn in the toaster oven and become bitter.  It toasted and became sweet and savory all at once.  Simply delicious.  Down to the last bite.

Remember, if you aren’t lucky enough to live in Louisville, Kentucky (like I am…because this bakery has been with me for ALL of my Celiac journey…we’ve grown together), have no fear…Annie May’s Sweet Cafe does ship…and yes…they are shipping the bagels.

Follow this link!!  And be sure to check out all the other stuff they offer as well!

But, I highly encourage you…get the bagels!

As I stated before, they do offer them at the bakery as well…and if you don’t want to buy a pack of four…you can buy them individually there and get them topped with Earth Balance, jam (raspberry or strawberry), or plain cream cheese.  I think they are currently offering them in-house on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  So, you may want to call ahead and make sure they have them.  But…you can just go and hope for the best.  If nothing else, you’ll walk out of there with something tasty.

Onion bagels…you’re my jam.  Or my cream cheese.  Or my breakfast.

Annie May’s Sweet Cafe continues to make my gluten-free world a happier and more local place!

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Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Onion Bagels schmeared with Kite Hill Jalapeno Cream Cheese

Product Review: Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Everything Bagels

bagels01Product: Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Everything Bagels – $11/pack; $3/bagel

Today…February 9, 2018…is National Bagel Day.  I didn’t know this until JUST NOW (thanks Instagram)!

Grab your serrated knives, lovelies!!  And your toasters.  And your topping to schmear on liberally because…NEWS FLASH:

*ANNIE MAY’S SWEET CAFE IS NOW OFFERING BAGELS!*

That makes this displaced New York girl want to do a happy dance!  Like…do a good old fashioned subway terminal happy dance.  As any New Yorker is wont to do every now and again.  Especially on a good day.

nychappydanceJust like that.  OH YEAH!

Annie May’s Sweet Cafe announced this last Saturday on their Instagram, noting that bagels will be offered at the bakery on Tuesdays and Thursdays…or for preorder.  And since I knew I’d be there Wednesday, I put in an order for a pack of each flavor!  Because…as I am a New York girl through-and-through…if bagels were happening at my local Gluten Free Bakery…then they were just going to happen to end up in my fridge…in my toaster oven…and in my belly!

foodislifeOn Wednesday, the winter weather was a no-show, so I happily skipped into the bakery to pick up my Soft Pretzel Wednesday order (this is a real thing, friends!)…grab some macarons (because…reasons)…and pick up my bagel order.  I was handed the bagels first off…and I may or may not have bounced them in my arms like a newborn baby.

These things happen.

I’m not ashamed.

SOMEHOW…I managed to hold off breaking into the bagels until Friday.  So I went TWO days without touching them.  It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life.  But this morning…

gameonGAME ON!!

I thawed out two of the Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Everything Bagels (because I’m nice and share with my roomie…and she may have bought them for me too…so there is that…)

cashAnyway…I thawed out the bagels and then got out my serrated knife to easily slice them in half.  I could tell how good these were going to be simply by slicing into them.  I mean, undo the plastic and get a whiff of that garlic from the everything spices and it’s heaven.  And that’s before things even get toasty!

I tossed mine in the oven (I don’t actually own a toaster) for about 12 minutes and they came out PERFECT.  Lightly toasted so that the outside got just enough crisp on it and then the middle was still soft and chewy and perfect.

Yep…these are perfect.

Also…the kitchen smelled AMAZING as these were toasting.  Hello delicious, flavorful, aromatic topping!  I was more than ready to dive right in…but being a proper bagel lover…no bagel is complete without a schmear of something good.  Traditionally…cream cheese.  I have a stash of different varieties in my fridge.  Today…I used the last of the Daiya Garden Vegetable Cream Cheese and my roomie got the last of the Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese.  The toasty bagels came out looking all golden and amazing and each half got a healthy schmear of the vegan cream cheese goodness.

Time to dig in!

Sometimes bagels can be dense and immense and heavy.  Especially gluten free ones.  Either that or they are packed with fillers that make them…not even a bagel anymore, in my opinion (most store-bought ones are this way).  Annie May is a perfectionist and she doesn’t add something to her bakery menu unless it meets her quality standards.

These surpassed standards.  I loved that these bagels were filling without being too much.  I love that these bagels are made with real ingredients.  I love that these bagels are light and have that perfect crust and that chewy inside (even after slicing and toasting).  And the real stand-out for the Everything flavor of the bagels…is that Everything Topping.  THAT…was a flavor powerhouse.  To me…no other gluten free (or regular back when I could eat them) Everything Bagel has come close to this level of flavor.  And I was dancing in my chair out of pure joy with every bite.  I savored it, rather than inhale it.  I wanted to take my time…chew…savor…enjoy.  They were a standard bagel size…they were everything I want in a bagel…but without the blandness that you can find in bagels.  Bread is amazing.  Bagels are better.

And these bagels…are my new favorite things in life.

And if you aren’t lucky enough to live in Louisville, Kentucky (like I am…because this bakery has been with me for ALL of my Celiac journey…we’ve grown together), have no fear…Annie May’s Sweet Cafe does ship…and yes…they are shipping the bagels.

Follow this link!!  And be sure to check out all the other stuff they offer as well!

But definitely go for the bagels!

As I stated above, they do offer them at the bakery as well…and if you don’t want to buy a pack of four (I understand you the least)…you can buy them individually there and get them topped with Earth Balance, jam (raspberry or strawberry), or plain cream cheese.

And your life will come full circle and be complete.  And you will live happily ever after.

If you get nothing else from this post…understand that YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED!!  Local peeps…get on over there.  These bagels are free of the top 9 allergens, they are vegan, they are super yummy…they are round with a hole in the middle.

I’m already planning on restocking my freezer and I haven’t even polished off one pack yet!

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Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Everything Bagels topped with Daiya Garden Vegetable Cream Cheese are like a warm hug!

 

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.

Comeback Kid…Again! Week #3

There is a good possibility that I will be back to running on the streets in as little as three (3) weeks.  Yep.  That is how confident my physical therapist is with my progression.  That being said, he really put me through the wringer this past week.

My appointments were later in the week…Wednesday and Friday.  Due to his schedule this time.  Next time…it’s all me.  I have a Sting concert to attend and all…

But I digress.

That being said, it gave me the whole first part of the week to work on the marches and all the lunges he assigned me to work on at home.  And here I thought I was totally done with homework. Let me tell you…my quads were burning.  I tend to do my PT stuff twice a day.  So, that was a whole heap of lunges.

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This is, legit, one of the lunge moves I am to do to help strengthen the hip and get that hip flexor firing properly.  He also added a new resistance band move for the left hip as well…in addition to the other stuff I was doing.  OH…and the lunge matrix.  Five lunges with each leg in basically every direction possible.  It is beyond hellish.

Told you…lunge hell.  If I don’t have the best looking ass at the end of this I will be highly disappointed.

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On Friday…it got a little more real.  After going through the stretches, exercises, and adding some fun new plyometric lunges and leaps with the BOSU to help with not only the push-off but also landing.  It’s a great exercise, and I luckily own a BOSU ball, so I can do this one at home.  Outside.  I’m in a 2nd floor apartment after all.  HA!

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So, then my PT had a little heart-to-heart with me.  For real.  He said I was coming along great…and my pain was minimal these days.  So…he wanted to know how I would feel if he told me to go outside and run 3 miles.  Just go.  Right then.  And run.

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So, he asked me why I felt that way…and I told him that I was nervous about it hurting again, or doing further damage.  And that I don’t want to take any more steps back.  He said that I was ready to get on the Alter-G treadmill…and he wanted me to pick a pace I felt comfortable with and see if I could run for about 25 minutes on it.

He had to kick someone off of it, but he got me all zipped in and I got started…

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So…this wasn’t a fix.  Not at all.  In fact…I still had some twinging in my left hip flexor while doing this…and I was running with a slight limp.  He pointed that out immediately.  So, he told me to attempt to even it out as I was going, and I could keep going for the 10-25 minutes as long as the twinge didn’t escalate.  It didn’t.  So I managed 2.83 miles at a 8:34 pace for 25 minutes.  It wasn’t perfect…but look at that smile!  I WAS FINALLY RUNNING!  It had been a full month since that had even happened.

This week, I think I’ll be doing a lot of work on the Alter-G.  He had me at 80% of my body weight on Friday…and I think he’ll move me to 90% this week or next…and then…I’m on the road…IF all things go well.

That being said, I showed up for the training run for the Norton Sports Health Training Program for the Kentucky Derby Marathon/miniMarathon…and I was able to do some of the jumping jacks and other dynamic warm-ups that I had to phone-in before.  So, I do think the process is working.  It’s just slow.  But I’ll take any improvement at this rate.  I took a short walk, went and got my taxes done, and then met back up with my fellow Ambassadors at Big Four Burgers + Fries for a social.  It was the best way to spend my Saturday for sure.


Looking forward to moving forward some more this week.  But now…I’m off to officially cook my first Gordon Ramsay meal…Mushrooms on Toast for dinner!!  Yes…his class…his recipe…me cooking it.  Wish me luck.  I’ll need it…it involves bacon.  Not for me.  For my roommate.  Mine is minus the bacon.  Chef Ramsay has his hands full with this gluten-free vegetarian!!

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Lumiere’s Challenge – Orlando, FL (November 5-6, 2016)

Ah, Disney.  My dear, sweet, Disney.  I wanted to hate you for not deferring my Dopey Challenge entry after I was told by my doctor, I physically could not run.  I was angry…because that was a lot of money to be out…despite having doctors notes and all.  I wanted to swear you off for life.

But I couldn’t.

Especially since I had to cancel my trip in January due to the injury and I opted, instead, to sign up for your latest challenge…Lumiere’s Challenge…which is a 2-race challenge (not the 4 races you do in January)…a 10K on Sunday and a half marathon on Sunday.  I had the date marked on my calendar to sign up…and was so busy at work that I totally missed it…by a day.  I figured it would be okay…but it wasn’t.  The races were sold out.

I was sad, but then I recalled I wanted to do some more running for charity.  So, I chose a cause near and dear to my heart…Alliance For A Healthier Generation.  I blogged on this during my fundraising effort…and I totally raised a little bit more than the $1000 required for the charity.

THANK YOU to anyone who donated.

So, this was the weekend it all went down.  And it has been a bit of a struggle getting here.  Not physically…well…not here to Disney World.  Physically, my foot ligament has been twinging every now and again, and sometimes is just painful. Also, just under a week before leaving for Disney, my sinuses suddenly decided that they wanted to just get all cloggy.  I wasn’t sneezing or coughing, but I was definitely congested and lost my voice.  This also meant my training runs were a mess of stops and breathing issues. Which didn’t make me feel confident heading into this weekend.  While some of it has cleared up, I’m not 100%, but I was definitely ready for some running for sure.

Two days…two races…19.3 miles.

Let’s do this thing…

 

Disney Wine & Dine Inaugural 10K - Orlando, FL

Disney Wine & Dine Inaugural 10K – Orlando, FL

Inaugural Disney Wine & Dine 10K

Race: Disney Wine & Dine 10K

Place: Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Date: November 5, 2016

Time: 48:19

It is my long-term goal for the coming year to set a PR in a distance race.  Short or long.  With my return to running from injury, I’m having a hard time, mentally, dealing with the pitfalls of this hip labrum tear and the other aches and pains that have cropped up.  So, after getting back with my running coach, we’re setting a few goals to aim for.

This was not one of the races I was using to hit a new PR.  In fact, I was a little under 4 minutes from doing so.  But I didn’t care…because this race was so freakin’ fun!

This is the first year that the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend included a 10K distance as well.  I love doing inaugural races.  I really do.  And then I love returning to them.  Disney puts on fantastic races, as I have mentioned before.  And I do love these challenge race weekends that are popping up…EVERYWHERE now.  But Disney…Disney has always done it best.

I actually got to Disney World on Thursday, giving me time to hit up the expo and have an entire day of exploring the parks before needing to worry about running.  It also gave me time to recover well and be ready to run.  We all know that race mornings come very, very, very, early at Disney World.  And while Wine & Dine is usually a night race…this year they changed it to morning.  So…I set three alarms on my phone…the first 2 for me and the final one for my entourage (aka: Jenn & Cathy).

Officer Judy Hopps - Costume #1 for the Disney Wine & Dine Race Challenge

Officer Judy Hopps – Costume #1 for the Disney Wine & Dine Race Challenge

I always do Disney races in costume, and I had originally intended to break out Vanellope Von Schweetz again (I was Vanellope when I did Wine & Dine in 2014), but my hip labrum injury had me not running for close to a year.  Despite keeping a clean and healthy diet, I’ve put on some weight.  So, the costume wasn’t flattering on me…at all.  So…in the span of 2 days, my roomie and I managed to piece together an Officer Judy Hopps costume (from Zootopia).  And that took a little while for me to get on (as it involved hair extensions and accessories), but I managed to get it on and get out the door in time to catch the shuttle over to the start.

I was supposed to meet up with my friend (and fellow #KDFMarathon Ambassador, Stephanie) at the shuttle bus from our resort (she was also staying at Port Orleans Riverside), but it turns out she turned off her alarm and slept through the start of the race.  But, I did manage to meet up with another #KDFMarathon Ambassador, Melissa, at the start line.  She and her husband were running the 10K as Disgust and Fear from Inside Out.  Their costumes were totally cute!  So, it was nice to converse with them before we were heading into the race.  Melissa is a Run Disney pro…for real!  And her costumes are AMAZING.  So when she complimented me on my Hopps costume, that meant a lot to me.

#KDFMarathon Ambassadors collide...Melissa as Disgust (Inside Out) and me as Officer Judy Hopps (Zootopia) at the start of the Disney Wine & Dine Inaugural 10K

#KDFMarathon Ambassadors collide…Melissa as Disgust (Inside Out) and me as Officer Judy Hopps (Zootopia) at the start of the Disney Wine & Dine Inaugural 10K

We took some photos and then headed toward the start line.  She and her husband were in a different corral, so I went to get into mine.  It was pretty crowded in Corral A, but I found a spot to sit (even with my pinned on bunny tail) and let myself relax a little before being moved to the start line.  I wasn’t there for too long before the group began to move.  We passed by the other corrals and I heard a few people calling out to Corral A and wishing us luck.  Love that.

Once at the start line, there were some announcements made and the National Anthem was sung.  And the wheel chair racers were sent on their way.  At this point, I was drawing a deep breath as the corral moved forward and we waited a couple of minutes before our fireworks and start time.  And soon, Remy from Ratatouille was sending us off for the start of our run.  I was hoping for the best.  Continuous running was a mere impossibility leading into this race due to some sinus issues.  I still had the lingering effects, so I just hoped I could get through it.

I was less than enthusiastic about the first three (and then some) miles of the 10K race.  As with most Disney races, a majority of your time is spent out on the highway.  They sort of curb your boredom with character stations and areas with jumbo television screens and fast, fun music.  Still, by the first mile, I was already not loving my costume.  The long hair extensions were hot…and annoying.  I honestly don’t know how women with long hair can run with it down.  I was so DONE with it.  It just kept getting in my way.  I can’t count the number of times I flung a extra-long pigtail back behind my shoulder.

Also…wearing three layers on your top half in humid Florida…not my best idea.  HA!!  Yep…three (3) layers.  My sports bra, my t-shirt (which was originally long sleeve, but I thought better of it), and my other sports bra that I made into Judy Hopps vest.  Yep…it got hot pretty fast for me.  But, you know, you just keep trekking.  I mean, it was 68 degrees with 88% humidity (it is Florida, after all) at the start of the race.  I knew the layers were going to be hot when I threw this costume together at the last minute.

Regardless…I felt a little better about life (even if all the race photos are unflattering and tell a different story), once we entered Epcot for the last part of the race.  At about 3.5 miles, we take to the park, starting around the World Showcase, cutting down across the boardwalk (and I love the people staying at those resorts along the boardwalk who come out and cheer that early in the morning!), and then cutting back into the World Showcase to round out the run by running past the big Epcot ball.  From there, it’s down a stretch into the parking lot and across the finish line.  I could tell I was slowing down once I hit Epcot.  The hills inside the World Showcase aren’t bad…but my legs had been going on a full day of parks and I was tired.  Seriously.  I was tired…and a little grumpy.  That 2:30 am wakeup call came too early and I was doing my best to not fall asleep in the corral at the start of the race.  So, finishing was a relief.  I didn’t even care about my time.  And after crossing, I saw Cathy and Jenn waiting up in the bleachers, waiving the sign that was made the night before…and cheering.

None of us were really firing on all cylinders.  But I do love having my peeps at the end of a race.  I walked through the finisher’s chute, getting my 10K medal (this thing was HUGE and HEAVY) and continuing down for the water, snack box, banana, and then the official photos near the end.  Cathy and Jenn were going to meet me outside of bag claim…so I went through after that and there they were, heading my way.

Mama Melrose's did away with their flatbreads (gluten free and otherwise) it seems, so I went with pasta.  This was gluten-free penne with sun-dried tomatoes, basil, and onion.  Perfect pre-half marathon eats, even if it wasn't my standard pizza.

Mama Melrose’s did away with their flatbreads (gluten free and otherwise) it seems, so I went with pasta. This was gluten-free penne with sun-dried tomatoes, basil, and onion. Perfect pre-half marathon eats, even if it wasn’t my standard pizza.

I gave them sweaty hugs and Cathy helped me change out of my race shoes (I raced in my Altras for the first time!) and into my recovery flip flops.  My feet thanked me for that.  I had wanted to take some photos with the Disney characters in the finish area, but the lines were super long.  I told them we could head back to the resort as long as I got to get pictures after the half marathon.  I think they were all relieved.  We got on the bus after a few pictures and headed back to Port Orleans – Riverside, where I showered, ate some real food, and got ready to spend the rest of the day out in Hollywood Studios.  Yep…at Disney, I don’t rest these legs. I get on rides, chase down characters, and have a blast.  It’s Disney.  And even though lacking mega caffeine and oomph, I had a brilliant time.  Spent the day on my feet, and ended with a traditional (gluten free) pasta dinner at Mama Melrose’s.  I even got to indulge in more carby goodness with the gluten free dinner rolls.  I only ate one.  And I ate only about 2/3 or my huge pasta dish.  I was full.  And tired.  It was back to the resort after that.  I climbed into bed, setting three alarms for the following morning…when I would run the half marathon!

Oh…so my official results of the Disney Wine & Dine Inaugural 10K are that I finished in 48:19.  Not too bad given the circumstances!!  I was 164/9260 finishers overall.  I was the 42/6556 female to cross the finish line.  And I was 6/1102 runners in my age division.  Considering I am still not 100% physically (damn ligament in my foot) and was dealing with the last of a sinus…thing…I’ll take it.  It was a fantastic race and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

 

Me after finishing the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon and completing the Lumiere's Challenge - Disney World - Orlando, FL

Me after finishing the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon and completing the Lumiere’s Challenge – Disney World – Orlando, FL

Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon

Race: Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon

Place: Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Date: November 6, 2016

Time: 1:44:30

What a difference an extra hour of sleep makes!!

Seriously, THANK YOU TIME CHANGE!!  It was a lot easier to get up at 2:30 am when we had to fall back on Saturday night/Sunday morning.  I’ll take that extra hour.  I could tell we all needed it regardless.

Especially Jenn.  Jenn was not feeling the early morning love all day on Saturday as we trudged around Hollywood Studios.  I kept offering coffee and/or caffeine in the form of soda, but I think she was determined to just be tired and (a little cranky) ride it out on her own.  NOT ME!!  I downed a Iced Soy Caramel Apple Latte from Joffrey’s just after riding Tower of Terror on Saturday and that was the kick I needed, honestly, to help with the rest of the day.  I don’t play around.  If I’m tired…I get my caffeine.  Lessons learned along the way.  Definitely helped make the day easier to navigate through.  And it was another long day…this time at Hollywood Studios…still undergoing renovations.

We did take in the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular show, which meant we were sitting for awhile.  So, I think she liked that part.  Be that as it may, she was not loving much of life all day Sunday, and after hearing, “I’m so tired I could cry” more than once, I told her that it wouldn’t hurt my feelings at all if she stayed at the resort on half marathon morning and slept.  In fact, I’d prefer it so that we could avoid another adventure like Saturday.

She ignored all three alarms, and slept through my hurried dash back into the room after forgetting my sunglasses (sunrise was now earlier…I didn’t have time for the sunscreen I didn’t put on thinking it would be like the day before and still be dark when I finished).  The one other race weekend she came to Disney with us, I was doing Wine & Dine in 2014…and it was still a night race.  Note to self: Jenn doesn’t handle Disney wake-up race times well.  LOL!!  Hey…those schedules on Disney weekends are brutal…I admit it.  But I’m sort of used to the early mornings, and the on-the-go days, to the semi-late.  And I’m pretty much a Disney race veteran.  This lifestyle isn’t for everyone for sure.  I think Saturday was the breaking point for Jenn.  And that’s fine.  The extra sleep and down time meant that she was ready to go at Epcot that afternoon.  So, YAY!  And that was a long day, as we had the after party that night as well.  So, this was probably the best option for her…so I’m glad she did what was best for her.

Now, Cathy and I were up at the ass-crack of dawn and out the door to the shuttle to take us to the ESPN Wide World of Sports where the race was to start.  For the half marathon, I was running as the Disney Princess that my niece, Kaytlynn, requested this time around…Ariel.  Yep…I was The Little Mermaid.  Simple costume (and much cooler too, although this race morning was a bit cooler (64 degrees) and windy…but the humidity was higher…pretty much at 100%.  UGH.  That being said, I had a throw-away shirt on over my purple sports bra and it helped keep me warm up until I shed it for the #KDFMarathon Ambassador photo before the start of the race.  Anyway, the big shuttle left the resort pick-up spot just as we were getting to the front of the line…so, when the next bus showed up, it was WAY smaller.  I said, “And they sent us the short bus!”  It made everyone laugh.  That being said, we boarded, settled, and let the bus carry us to the start of Sunday’s adventure.

Me, Richie, Stephanie, and Melissa...representing the #KDFMarathon Race Ambassadors at Disney!!

Me, Richie, Stephanie, and Melissa…representing the #KDFMarathon Race Ambassadors at Disney!!

The plan was for all of the #KDFMarathon Race Ambassadors (Stephanie, Richie, Melissa and me) to meet up at Bag Check before the race.  This time, all four (4) of us made it.  And we all looked amazing in our cute outfits.  We got our pictures (which meant I ditched the shirt and then just never got it back) together and chatted a bit about the 10K, upcoming races, and just other stuff…that general stuff.  Richie and I were in Corral A together so, after we all broke to get to our corrals, he and I stuck together and made our way into ours.  I stood with him until the wheel chair racers kicked off.  Then I gave him a hug and said I was going to move up and attempt to meet the goal that my coach had set for me for this race.

That goal…run it in 1:45:00.

As I had run (not raced) the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon two weeks prior to this (that race blog is incoming, life has been a busy, frantic, hectic mess) in less than this time (but barely), I figured this was an acceptable goal and one that I could accomplish.

But it wasn’t a walk in the (Disney) park either.

Once again, we had the fanfare of fireworks for Corral A to start off to.  We also had Olympian Jenny Simpson running with the first corral.  She was using this as an easy training run, you know…only running 6:15 min miles and all.  She came in second, overall, btw…after a back and forth to the finish with the eventual winner.  Her husband, Jason Simpson, won the Wine & Dine Half Marathon and set a new course record.  So, that’s kind of cool to run in the footsteps of Simpson running greatness.

It was also in this first mile that I noticed a familiar running stride ahead of me.  I pushed a little to catch up and was able to say “HI” to another Louisville runner, Lynn Riedling.  That was about all I got to say before she pulled ahead and then was gone in the darkness.  Probably about halfway through the first mile we heard the fireworks go off to send off Corral B…and one of the guys just ahead of me goes, “Run faster…they’re coming for us!”

Once again, this Disney race was mostly highway miles.  But they did make a point to have character stops and some scenic stops along the way.  There were also the music and television monitor stations throughout the course, to sort of shake up the monotony.  The first three miles of this race…I felt like I ran well.  I was comfortable in the moist air, as my layers today consisted of a purple sports bra and a green sparkle skirt.  MUCH better in the Orlando humidity.

My first noticeable pace slow-down came between Mile 4 and Mile 5.  Surprisingly, or maybe not, this was while I was inside Animal Kingdom (THANK GOD, they let us run completely through a park, because when the course maps were first released, it looked like we were running to the middle of nowhere and coming back).  The course did narrow in some areas, and I do get distracted by the photo stops that are set up with characters.  But I pressed on through to the 10K mark, my pace picking back up.  I told myself that I would take in nutrition at the 10K line, and I did, downing a Hammer Gel (giving these a try…despite the rule to never try something new on race day).  This and my Nuun I was hauling in one of my bottles on my fuel belt both had caffeine, which I hoped would wake me up when I was feeling tired and ready to stop.

I completed the Lumiere's Challenge for the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon weekend...I was NOT missing my chance to take a photo with Lumiere at the end.

I completed the Lumiere’s Challenge for the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon weekend…I was NOT missing my chance to take a photo with Lumiere at the end.

It worked its magic.  I managed to pick the pace up a little again for Mile 7 through Mile 11.  These were all on the highway, and despite being Florida, we actually had a few hills to navigate over.  Two of them came in a row.  My favorite one though had to be the first hill we hit.  Disney stationed a character out there…one of the Green Army Men from Toy Story.  He was calling out to runners to push hard up the hill.  If anyone slowed down they would have to do pushups.  He noticed one runner just ahead of me.

“You…you in the blue shorts…get over here.  Give me one pushup.”  To my surprise, the runner did just that.  And then the army man said, “Now…run fast and make up the 3 seconds you just wasted.”

I LOVE DISNEY!

Mile 12 had us entering the Epcot area.  Like most of the races at this point, we just sort of duck into Epcot.  It isn’t like the 10K where we get to run around the World Showcase and see it all.  At this point, I spotted one of those inflatable T-Rex Costumes and the wearer was holding a sign that said, “Free Hugs.”  LOVE IT.  I was in my last mile…and really cutting it close on time.  I hated that I felt like I ran this race better and was still coming in so close to what I did Urban Bourbon in without even trying.  Returning from injury is frustrating at times…but you just end up being thankful for the gift of running that day in the end.  I did the weird jog around the Food & Wine Festival centerpiece and headed up past the Epcot ball.  And with that said, I made the turn and heard the gospel choir that is always at Mile 13 (or 26 if it’s the full marathon) at the Disney races.  This is always uplifting…and I picked up my pace.  I rounded a corner…got nailed by all the Disney photographers taking pictures of the runners coming toward the finish…and just pushed with every ounce of strength I had left in my hip and (sore) foot…and crossed that finish line…before it hit 1:45:00.

Goal…achieved.

I saw Cathy up in the stands cheering and gave a wave as I made my way down the finisher’s chute.  Here I received my medal for the half marathon, then proceeded on to get water, my snack box, and eventually go through the tent to get my medal for completing the 10K and the Half Marathon.  This was “Lumiere’s Challenge”.  As I was about to grab my water bottle, I hear my name being called over the fence.  It was Cathy, sticking her camera over to get a photo.  She said, “Want to know your time?”  I said I did.  And she said…”You did 1:44:30…BOOM!”  She even texted it to my coach for me.  HAHA!  The volunteers at the table found this entire conversation amusing being as it was done over a covered fence.  I got to the Challenge Medal tent, had them look up my name, and they sent me through to receive the medal.  Afterwards, I exited through Bag Check and met up with Cathy on the other side.  Sweaty hugs were given, and my race shoes (today I was in my Brooks), were changed out for the flip flops again.  I was lingering a little, hoping to catch Richie again as he came through, but Cathy noticed that the lines of the characters were super short, and didn’t want me to miss the opportunity to get photos with them, since I passed it up due to lines on Saturday.  I was able to get photos (rather quickly) with Lumiere and with Remy (from Ratatouille).  And after that…I went back to see if I could catch Richie, but he had already finished and left for Port Orleans French Quarter.  I had just missed him.

We arrived back at Port Orleans Riverside and trekked back to the manor house we were staying in.  Jenn was up, and she was rested.  So this was good.  I went to shower, change, and eat some real food before we got our stuff together and headed out to Epcot for the day.  We finished up around 4-ish with everything and decided to go back to the resort for a little while to unwind before returning to check in and then enjoy the After Party.  This also meant that everyone else was kicked out of Epcot and we got to stay and eat at all the countries, drink at all the countries, and ride any of the rides that were open.  This was, in fact, how we got on the new Soarin’.  We had fast passed the Frozen Ever After ride.

Michelle just FOUND ME (for the second time in a row) in all the chaos at Epcot.  She's awesome!!

Michelle just FOUND ME (for the second time in a row) in all the chaos at Epcot. She’s awesome!!

I did manage to meet up with Stephanie and Richie while walking the showcase that night.  I didn’t ever find Melissa.  Ironically, my friend Michelle, for the second time in a row, managed to find me in the huge crowd of people at the After Party. We took a picture to commemorate her awesome GPS honing skills.  HAHA!

I was able to enjoy a few stops at the After Party as well.  I started my night off with Dole Whip…then went on to Brazil where I devoured two large rolls of Pão de Queijo, and then finished off the night with a Dark Chocolate Red Wine Truffle.

It was close to 1 am when we got back to our room at the resort.  And we had to get up early (but not race morning early) for a character breakfast the next morning.  BUT…that involved gluten-free Mickey waffles…so I was okay with this.

Disney Food & Wine Festival After Party Eats!!  All gluten free.  All super delicious.

Disney Food & Wine Festival After Party Eats!! All gluten free. All super delicious.

Oh…and I guess I should give you the official race results.  The official race results of the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon are that I finished in 1:44:30.  So, yay…I managed to hit my coach’s goal time with 30 seconds to spare.  Whew.  I was 208/12651 finishers overall.  I was 56/8749 women to cross the finish line.  And, I was 11/1513 in my age division.  Not too bad.

Now…if I can get this whole endurance with speed (and no pains or issues breathing) thing down, I might be well on my way to a way better race year next year.  But this was Half Marathon #23…and the final one for the year.  No better way to finish it up than at Disney!

I will say…I still miss running this race at night.  But it wasn’t a bad way to start a Sunday off either.

OH…and before I forget…a big THANK YOU to all of you who donated funds to the charity I was raising money for by doing this race.  Alliance For A Healthier Generation is a fantastic charity doing great things for the future of our country and the children that are to be our future.  I went slightly over my fundraising goal, never a bad thing…and I have many of you to thank for that.  So…THANK YOU…from the bottom of my heart!

Product Review: Sweet Note Gluten Free Blueberry Bagels

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Sweet Note Gluten Free Blueberry Bagels

Product: Sweet Note Gluten Free Blueberry Bagels – $7.75

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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