Bluegrass 10,000 – Lexington, KY (July 4, 2018)

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Me after finishing the Bluegrass 10,000 – Lexington, Kentucky

Race: Bluegrass 10,000

Place: Lexington, Kentucky

Date: July 4, 2018

Time: 48:47

It seems like this race has become the July 4th tradition for the moment, as this is the second year in a row that I have run it.  I actually felt like I was in good shape leading into this race, but you might note (had you gone back to look at last year’s Bluegrass 10,000 race review) that this was run 2 minutes slower.

And that, friends, seems to be the story of my life this year.  Big effort with no payoff.

I know…not every race can be a PR…but guess what?  I haven’t had a PR in any distance since either 2013 or 2014.  They all still stand.  None have fallen and these days I’m starting to come to the realization that they just might never be beaten.

And I’m not exactly okay with that.

But, that’s a rant for another post.  Going into the Bluegrass 10,000, I was aware that this was not to be treated as a goal race, nor was I to run it like one.  In fact, my coach’s specific instructions was to stick with the 8 minute pacer for the first part of the race (that part is the uphill part) and then run it in at the end.  It seemed like a good plan of action, especially since the heat and humidity going into the July 4th holiday was insane.  We were in heat advisories and warnings.  Physical activity in such conditions was pretty much frowned upon.  But this is basically a 42 year tradition in Lexington.

Adjust goals and plans and roll with it.

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The weather on the 4th of July in Lexington: check out that humidity and dew point!

My friend, Melissa, was lining up as a pacer that morning, so she had to be in Lexington at some ungodly time of the morning to get her Pacer shirt, her pace stick, and instructions from Linda (our coach).  Last year, we all rode down together and then spent the afternoon around Lexington…so we did the same this time around.  Just at an earlier hour in the morning.

She and her husband headed our way before the crack of dawn that morning.  En route, I got a text message regarding Sharpie markers.  She wanted to write the paces on her wrist.  So, Cathy went back up to the apartment and returned just as they were pulling into the complex to pick us up.  We got into the car, said good morning, and began our journey down to Lexington, Kentucky.

The drive down was filled with conversation with our upcoming journeys/travels (we’re like travel BFFs now too).  We hashed out a few things, discussed options, and just overall got excited about it.  When we got into Lexington, Melissa made her way to the parking lot that Linda directed her to park in.  We pulled up in a shady spot (this was the best parking spot, ever!) and piled out of the car.  Melissa needed to meet up with Linda, so she and I hustled that way, me toting my Owyn Vanilla Protein Shake to have as fuel since I had nothing else with me for that and breakfast at 4 am wasn’t happening.

We found Linda and got our race packets and shirts sorted.  Melissa was handed her pacer tank and she changed into that and went to stand with the group of pacers for the official photo!

The start of the race was still a little while off, so we just sort of stood around and talked.  Cathy got Melissa taped to help with the Achilles pain she had been dealing with and she ran off to get in the line for the bathroom.  Linda grabbed her pace stick to stand in the road so people aiming for that pace could start lining up.  Cathy and I moved further up and she left me with, as the plan said, the 8 minute/mile pacer.

But this is where it got a little crazy.  Yes.  Before the start.  I’m minding my own business and doing a few dynamic warm-up moves when some women slid in just ahead of me.  I heard them call a friend over and say, “We’re not running an 8 minute mile, but if we start back there, we’ll get boxed in.”

And this is the downside of not having a good corral system because I ended up moving further ahead of the pacer just to be ahead of people who had that mindset.  The National Anthem was sung beautifully and I squeezed into a spot and got ready for the cannon fire to send us off.  And as we made our way to the start line…the crowd began to do that slow jog thing until the start mat was there.  And as I went to hit the button on my Garmin to start it, the person directly in front of me stopped the little shuffle and immediately began to walk.  I ducked around them without running into them, only to have this happen four more times.  I was beyond frustrated.  I did manage a small wave at Cathy as I passed by…but then I needed to focus because the 8 minute pacer took off and I was getting left behind.

The street was crowded so my dodging and weaving to try to catch back up to the pacer I was supposed to hang with.  It was chaotic and stressful…but I caught up…and managed to weave through the first few turns that happen within the first mile of the race.  I pulled slightly ahead and stayed there, figuring on the hill that I would be overtaken (wow, do I have confidence in myself or what? HA!).  That being said, I had said I would use the water stops in this race instead of carrying water with me.  I normally don’t during a 10K, but with the heat advisories in effect, I had considered it.  Guess what.  I came up a hill and rounded a corner, and totally didn’t see the first water stop until I was already past it.  I decided then I would do my best not to miss another one.

Herein was the beginning of the climb.  From about Mile 1.25 through 2.88…you’re on a steady uphill.  I took it for what it was…a hill…and I’m trying to get more comfortable on hills.  So, I just pushed it.  If there were water stops…I took a sip and poured the rest over my head.  It was all about trying to stay cool.  I remember, at one point, thinking, “Had I run the Buffalo Chase 5K, I’d be almost done.”  That was the state of mind I was in at this point.  And it was early.  This climb did eventually lead into a short downhill to the turn around point…which meant…uphill to start going into Mile 4.  I kept on with my sip and pour water when it came to staying hydrated and cool.  It was working, despite knowing my pace wasn’t what I had hoped it would be.

That being said, heading into Mile 5…everything is downhill.  So that’s a nice way to finish up.  I hit the last water stop heading into the finish and immediately poured water over my head.  My immediate thought was, “I should have drank some of that first.”  But I was close enough to the finish that I didn’t let it weigh on me too much.  I ran past the start point and headed down to the finish line.  I felt like I couldn’t push myself any harder and felt relieved to cross the finish line and be done with it.

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Melissa pacing it into the finish of the Bluegrass 10,000 – Lexington, Kentucky

I snagged a couple bottles of water and slowly meandered out of the finisher’s chute to go and find Cathy, who was sitting on the bleachers near the finish line.  We were going to cheer in people and then, of course, cheer in Melissa as she led her pace group to their finish.  It was hot and I was a sweaty mess, so I stood for much of in the shade until Melissa was due to arrive.

We spotted her and cheered loudly.  She was eagerly encouraging a little girl to cross the finish line ahead of her.  It was super amazing and I think that finish really made her race.

She hung out in the finisher’s chute with the other pacers…and I tried to get back in there, but was denied.  It’s fine.  The signs said “No Re-Entry,” so I didn’t fight it.  I just went and sat on a bench until they made their way out.  We found a table to sit for a moment, was given some free roasted corn, and then made the hike back to the car.

Linda met up with us again there, where I handed her the jar of jam that I had brought for her (I made some homemade blueberry jam with some local blueberries a friend picked for me).  We stood around and talked for a little bit, but then she went to get on the road and we went to head to Half Price Books, change, shop, and then head to lunch at Bella Notte.

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Spending the 4th of July with friends is the best way to spend the 4th of July!

For those of you keeping score…yes…I ordered what I always order.  A House Salad and the Gluten Free Pasta Arrabiata, as always.  And it was super delicious.  We stopped off at one more Half Price Books before heading home for the day to get the rest of the stuff accomplished on a Wednesday afternoon before returning to work the following morning.  Holiday over.

So, the official results of the Bluegrass 10,000 are that I finished in 48:47…once again in humid conditions…once again with walk breaks at the water stops.  Pure survival there. I’d really like to make my 10K PR topple one day…but this was a good 4 minutes slower so I’m not feeling too confident about that happening anytime soon. I was 343/2877 finishers overall. I was the 59/1435 female finishers. And I was 5/242 in my age division.  Ironically, I was 5th (out of a slightly smaller group) last year too.  Weird.  I mean, I’ll take it.

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Marengo Underground 5K (aka: Firecracker 5K) – Marengo, IN (June 30, 2018)

Melissa, Debra, Cathy and Me after finishing the Marengo Underground 5K (Firecracker 5K) – Marengo, Indiana

Race: Marengo Underground 5K (Firecracker 5K)

Place: Marengo, Indiana

Date: June 30, 2018

Time: 23:53

Want to know what is fun to do on a very hot, summer morning?  How about run through a cave?  A nice, chilly 56 degree cave?  Sound like heaven?  Well…it definitely is.  I promise you that.

I was talked into doing this race by my good friend, Melissa.  Her husband was out of town on a trip and they had run this one the year prior to this one and had a lot of fun.  I figured it was something new and different…and I had nothing else going on that afternoon…so why not?  Bonus: Melissa’s mom was going to walk it and I talked Cathy into signing up to walk it as well.  HA!

Melissa made plans to come and pick Cathy and I up around 6:15-ish so we could make the drive to Georgetown to pick up her mom and then head out to the caves to get our packets, use the bathroom, and get ready to run.  In the years prior to this one, this race usually hosted around 500 people.  This year…1700 signed up and almost 1500 people finished.  You know a race is a good one when it pretty much triples in size.

I had actually looked at a few of the previous year results and it looked like, if I had a good day, I could be an overall female finisher.  But when I heard about how many people were turning up this year…that thought immediately got pushed to the wayside. Which was fine by me.  No pressure.  Just go have some fun.

I think the morning was a comedy of errors.  Melissa left the house without her inhaler (and she has asthma, so that is kind of necessary).  I thought I had forgotten my sunglasses (I realize that 2 of the miles I was covering was INSIDE A CAVE), but it turned our I did actually have them.  I mean…we were hot messes.  The ride to pick up her mom and to get to the caves was just a lot of talking (this is usual for us) and joking around, and listening, because friends sometimes just need to be heard.  It was a relaxing morning overall.  When we arrived at Crawford County Middle School, we were directed into the parking lot and then onto the grass near the school.  We parked and went to go pick up our packets inside the school.

After we snagged our bibs (mine was weirdly a much lower number than the other 3 people with me) and even chatted with the race director about the race (this is how we discovered how big it had gotten), we went over to the bleachers to pin each other up.  Once we were numbered, we went to get into the (at the moment) small line to use the flushing bathroom inside the gym before taking our stuff back out to the car and sitting down inside the car for a little while…to rest our legs, stay cool, and relax before the race.

We did get out about 30 minutes before to eat something small (fuel your runs, friends!), and hopefully get back into the bathroom line.  The line for the port-a-potties and the line for the flushing toilets were CRAZY long.  We stood in line inside and Melissa even went on a hunt for another bathroom (because a school HAS to have more than one, right?).  But after 20 minutes, announcements to get to the start and line up were being made and Cathy came and, being the good race mom she is, ushered us out of the bathroom line and toward the start line.

On the way, my friend Wendy spotted me and called me over.  Her daughter was running it (and she kicked some butt too), and we started talking.  I know her from my spin classes and we were just catching up.  HA!  Cathy eventually wandered back over and told me that I really needed to get to the start line if I was going to get a good spot in the crowd.  So, I caught up with Melissa and her mom and we all hugged and wished each other luck.

After a short wait at the start line, where there were children up front (which is usually not a good idea…but some can hang, I get it…but still…for safety, it’s often asked that kids move back so as not to get trampled), a lot of red white and blue tutus, and a lot of people running together (you could tell…they were dressed alike), I made myself comfortable a few rows back from the timing block at the start and eagerly awaited the start.  Melissa came up to wish me luck and move a traffic cone back further for my own safety (see Dopey Challenge – Disney World 5K story for that)…and I wished her luck…gave her a hug…and prepared to make a sprint (and we all know…sprinting is not my thing).

It was a HOT morning.  Humidity was high.  Dewpoint was high.  And it was close to 80 degrees at 9 am, which is definitely a late starting time for a summer race.  The air was thick and heavy, but the mood was excited and so alive.  The race announcements were made, discussing how the cave was a comfortable 56 degrees inside, but we had a mile outside the cave, and then we were inside for 2 miles of it and then back out for the dash to the finish (probably about .25 miles).  Simple enough.  After a few moments, and the lead car in place…we were off.

The Entrance to the cave we run through (Photo: WHAS11)

The first mile was a scorcher.  There were small rollers to go up and down, and I actually pressed pretty hard in this mile (it felt harder than it was thanks to that heat and humidity).  I passed a lot of the kids that had lined up at the start.  I got passed by a few women and that didn’t surprise me at all.  But I also passed a few too.  We rounded a corner onto E Pleasant Avenue.  As you near the end of this road and go to turn left to head toward the cave, you pass by the finish line area.  So you know…that’s how far you have to come back when you emerge from the cave.  I crossed the railroad tracks and pressed on, my watch alerting me of the first mile just before I hit the entrance of the cave.  I didn’t check it…I dove into the darkness.

And was hit with the cold.  It was like entering a refrigerator.  But after the heavy humidity outside, it was actually very refreshing.  I was expecting to hit this part of the race hard…however…I failed to account for the darkness.

I know what you might say…”But you run in the dark all the time!” And…you’re not wrong.  The difference is…when I run in the dark…I know those roads and sidewalks.  I know where there are holes and potholes and dips and lifts in the pavement and cement.  I didn’t know anything about the cave…except that it might have this dusty, loose gravely sort of layer to run on.  For the next mile…it was solid.  But the twists and turns we went through were dark and at times, it was hard to see the runners doubling back.  That being said…LOVED that temperature.  Even in my cute little crop top.

So, I pushed it cautiously.  When in training and not running a goal race, you don’t do anything stupid.  Injuries, as I know, can take you out for the rest of the season, so I pulled back on the pace enough to feel comfortable in the dark cavern.  But I kept moving.  And I kept picking people to try to chase down.  This lasted as long as it took to get just past Mile 2 inside the cave when that loose gravel dusty and uneven ground…became a reality.

The inside of the cave we run through for the Marengo Underground 5K (Firecracker 5K) – Marengo, Indiana (Photo: RunSignUp)

I think the words, “Not today, Satan!” actually exited my lips as I really eased back and took each step with a bit more caution and care.  No twisted ankles or busted up knees or broken bones.  Nope.  Not on my watch.  So, this meant I had quite a few people pass me up, but I felt good, and safe, and when I got back to the solid ground, picked it up again.

The exit of the cave was in sight, and I popped out, just as Melissa’s mom was about to head in!  She gave me a cheer.  I went to lower my sunglasses, but they had fogged up, so squinting was now happening.  My watch hit Mile 3, so it was the final stretch to the finish line.  But this is when that cool air from the cave dissipates and you get the heat of the day back.  It was like an oven…a slow burn that just got hotter and it made it very hard to get back to pushing that pace.  I headed over the railroad tracks and there was Wendy, and she gave me a cheer as I headed through the finishing chute.  I could hear people coming in fast behind me, so I kicked it as much as I could (I have no kick)…and crossed the finish line.

There was water soaking in some kids pools so I went and snagged a bottle.  It was still warm, but it was wet and I was grateful for it.  I went and stood with Wendy and we cheered in her daughter.  She went to go and find her and I waited there, cheering, and soon, Melissa was on her way in.  I gave her loud shouts of encouragement and she went into the finish line.  She returned and brought me more water (which I needed) and we chatted a bit about the race, standing in the shade, until she spotted Cathy.

As Cathy crossed the railroad tracks, we cheered her in and she picked up her pace to jog it into a strong finish of 48:15…for her first officially timed 5K.  WOOHOO!!  Cathy snagged herself some water and I went to gather her up so we could cheer in Melissa’s mom.  At one point, a train came through and cut off some people heading into the finish.  Some even thought about trying to beat the train, but thankfully didn’t take that risk.

Soon after that, Debra was on her way to the finish line.  She finished and we went to meet her and find some spot in the shade to wait to hear the overall and age group winners.  I knew I was out for those, but award ceremonies are fun.  We cooled off with waters and cheered the super fast winners.  Now that this race has grown, perhaps they will consider going to the standard 5 year age group divisions, instead of the 10 year range they are currently using.  When your race is 500 people, that makes sense.  When it’s almost 2000, not as much.

Afterwards, we went to take photos with the giant flag before making our way back to the car to head home and get on with the day.  THIS…friends…was a totally different and fun 5K to run.  We all had a blast.  And we really loved the reprieve from the hot day by running through a dark, chilly cave.

So, the official results of the Marengo Underground 5K (Firecracker 5K) are that I finished in 23:53. I actually thought I would have been able to do better.  But my splits were 6:54, 7:53, and 8:13…which is actually laughable.  My fastest mile was actually in the heat.  I think the darkness and then the uneven and soft/rocky surface through me off.  Or…maybe I’m just not a good 5K runner.  It’s frustrating…but this was not a goal race.  That first mile though!!  If only I hadn’t slowed down so much in the cave.  Safety first. I was 90/1463 finishers overall. I was 25/928 female runners.  And I was 10/250 in my age group.

Running in a cave on a super hot day is fun…and challenging.  And this little race is starting to go places.  I hope to be back.

Also…not a lot of photos for this one.  We were all running so there was nothing for that finish line.  And no official photos of me at the end.

The Filly Women’s Half Marathon – Louisville, KY (June 10, 2018)

Me crossing the finish line of The Filly Women’s Half Marathon – Louisville, Kentucky

Race: The Filly Women’s Half Marathon

Place: Louisville, KY

Date: June 10, 2018

Time: 1:59:09*

The running community has given me a lot over the years.  Honestly.  Locally and nationally.  I’ve met some amazing people through races and events and I’m forever grateful for the support.  So, when my coach, Linda, offered me the opportunity to act as an official pacer for The Filly Women’s Half Marathon in Louisville, I jumped at the chance.  Because this is a great way for me to not only help other women/runners meet their goals…but also it’s a way to give back to the running community.  Since I had already planned on running it…I told her I would be more than happy to do it.

And so…the anxiety began.

Because here is the thing with pacing…the race is not yours.  It’s now your job to get your people to the finish line in a certain amount of time.  And I was selected to be the 2 hour pacer…which was perfectly fine with me.  That meant running around a 9 minute mile evenly to get in ahead of the 2 hour.

First time as an official pacer!

The problem is…it’s really difficult for me to dial back pace in practice…when I’m running alone.  I set my watch to a certain range to buzz at me should I go over or under said pace range…but it was a challenge.  And it was stressful.  And I was so certain that I was just going to be terrible…but I kept on keeping on and working on it.

I just wanted to be a good pacer.  I wanted to get these women to their 2 hour half marathon.  And I wanted to do it without being all over the place like the hot mess I am at times.  HA!

I did both of the training runs that were offered.  The first one, I did the entire course, and with a few walk breaks, I cam in relatively close to time.  Still too fast.  The second time, i only ran 8 miles…so it was hard to gauge, but I felt like I was a little closer to the range.  It didn’t hurt that now the weather was starting to get swampy and pretty much unbearable once the sun was officially up.  This would make for an interesting race day.

Official pacing shirt!

As would the predicted weather, which had originally been calling for rain and storms at race time.  I literally wasn’t sure what would be waiting for me at the start line when I got up that morning, because the weather was juts all over the place all week…and thunderstorms had gone through the night before.

That morning, I ate my cereal and got my Honey Stinger Gel tucked into the zipper pocket of my shorts.  As it was humid out, I drank down 20 ounces of water, and prepped 16 more to take with me in the car with a NUUN tablet in it for extra electrolytes.  I tucked my Owyn Dark Chocolate Protein Shake into a cooler to keep it cool so I could have it about 30 minutes before the start of the race…and Cathy got up and got ready and we were out the door and being picked up by our friends Melissa and Paul to head to the Parklands.  The race started at the Egg Lawn, and I was a bundle of nerves, let me tell you.

This was my first time as an official pacer.  I’ve paced friends before, trying to help them achieve their goals…and ultimately, that has never worked out.  And I was terrified that I would end up alone out there…or that I would go to fast, go to slow…be late into the finish line.  Things I never worried about before because I only had to run for me.  If it was hot and I needed to slow down, I could.  If it was perfect and I could speed up…I would.  But this time…I was set to strictly run about a 9 min mile with even splits to get to the finish line at 1:59:00 or just slightly before that 2 hour mark.  That’s a lot of stress.  At least for me.  Because…hello perfectionist.

We arrived and the parking situation was already a mess.  We were told that if we got there early, we’d be able to park at the start line.  We actually did get their early, but they wouldn’t let us go that way.  So, we ended up parking in a field and having to make the hike to the pavilion where everyone was meeting.  It was annoying in that we all had thought we’d have access to the vehicle for before and after the race…and being a pacer, that was sort of important.  Needless to say, we made the walk and I met up with Linda and put on my ForWord Running Pacer tank.  I was wearing the T-shirt, but when I was doing one of the training runs with Linda, asked about tank tops…she made it happen.  And now I won’t die.  She could tell I was nervous, so she said really nice reassuring things to me, helped me tape my paces onto my pace stick.  Which, reminded me that I have always hated carrying things while running…so this was going to be fun.  Last time I carried something during a race was the Indy Women’s Half Marathon in 2012…and it was a water bottle that I really, really just wanted to toss and never see again.  HA!

The ladies of the ForWord Running Pace Team at The Filly Women’s Half Marathon

We took some pictures of the pacers and I made sure I was fueled, hydrated, and ready to run.  I went to use the bathroom because…we had to get here early and I was NOT going to be dehydrated when I could potentially have others counting on me to see them in.

There was a lot of confusion about the start of the Filly Women’s Half Marathon.  The start gate wasn’t on the road proper, but sort of off to the side.  And at the time, a truck was still parked in front of it.  We were getting dangerously close to start time and none of us could see a start mat…and anyone holding a pacer sign was getting asked about it.  No one seemed to have answers…until the emcee had us all move over to the side road with the start gate.  Still no sign of anything that would catch the official start of the race.  There was a couple of race announcements and talks…but soon we were all asked to move forward for the race to get underway.

Leading some ladies out for a 2 hour half marathon at The Filly Women’s Half Marathon

Linda was pacing the lead on her bike…so at her ready…the announcement was given…and we were off.  I crossed through the start gate and hoped for the best.  As I settled into position on the road around the Egg Lawn, I did notice that I had a small group of ladies running with me.  So…conversation time!

“Are you guys my 2-hour group?”  They all said yes. So, I introduced myself and we were cruising through that first mile.  One of the ladies started up some tunes, all of which I was enjoying.  And at Mile 1 I checked my watch and we were definitely going too fast.  I announced that now that we found our space, we were backing off and settling in.

Some women continued on ahead at the original pace, but some fell back with me.  As we entered the second mile, I also knew that Damien…the hill of DOOOOOOM was coming up.  It is a pretty steep monster there in the Parklands (the MRTT/SRTT group named it Damien because it makes devil horns on your elevation chart when it’s included in the beginning and end of your runs there.  As we neared it, I was chatting with some of the ladies still with me.  One had just gotten back from Sydney, Australia.  She had raced there and said the temperatures were much better there (Australia is in their winter and we were heading into summer).  At the hill, as I was trying to keep on pace, I climbed it with power (realistically, this is the only way I know how to do hills as I’ve always climbed them for races and hill repeats…all of which make you drive up them hard).  Some women started walking up it (when I race here, this is what I do because it’s too early to expend that kind of energy) but I couldn’t this time.  Some ladies got to the top and took a walk break.  Some continued on with me.

Hydrating while pacing through the MRTT/SRTT hydration station!

I know this course like the back of my hand. The sun was fierce that day, and it was hot and humid.  It normally is in this area.  But as we got onto the narrow path and out of the road, I was keeping some spirits high.  “We’re almost into a shaded downhill, ladies!”  I glanced at my watch to check my pace and someone asked if we were behind.  I told her that we weren’t…we were actually just slightly ahead and this downhill would be good because after we turned around, we’d have to come back UP this hill (and in the two training runs, this hill slowed me down EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. on the way back).  We cruised down the hill, and crossed over to enter Pope Lick Park Park.  I knew that at the soccer fields, the amazing ladies of the local MRTT/SRTT group would be there cheering and bringing refreshments.  As I was not carrying fuel with me…I was going to try to make it on the Sword (I have never fueled on Sword) and water at the water stops.  This meant a few walk breaks at each one as necessary.  I paced myself accordingly.  At this point, I had one runner with me.  She was super nice and we talked about other races we had done.  She said she was starting to feel the humidity fatigue her and after we went through the cheer zone, where ladies were kind enough to ask if they needed to slow me down (I have a reputation)…she said she was falling back and would try to catch up.  I told her she would…and I’d see her soon.

And now…my dear friends…let me tell you a tale of a 2 hour pacer…who was left alone.  There were runners ahead…and I could hear some runners behind…but there was no one with me from about Mile 5 through…Mile 12.  I wish I could say I was joking.  I’m not.  But I made sure I kept my pace going and took walk breaks regardless.  Just in case some women fell back and needed me to see them in to their Goal B instead of Goal A.  I passed Linda, who was guiding the lead runner (who didn’t even look winded) back to the Egg Lawn to finish.  I cheered for the ladies who were already on their way back, telling them they were doing awesome.  Originally we were told we’d be turning around before the bridge, but that had changed.  We now were heading over the bridge to the final water stop before turning around.  I just assumed that this was actually where we turned around (there was a sign there that had the loop…so that’s what I did.  And…I headed back.  At first my watch beeped ahead of time for Mile 7…but it all settled back into the correct numbers as I got past that.  I think it was just because there was a convenient spot on the bridge to put that mile marker.  After the turn around, I was still alone, so I set my task on cheering for and encouraging all the women making their way toward the turn around point.  It was a miserable day and I could tell a log of women were not hitting paces or expectations that they had set for themselves.

The loneliness of the 2 hour pacer…

Funny how just a little bit of encouragement can turn that around.  I gave a lot of “Looking Strong!”, “You’re doing great!”, “GO LADIES!” as I ran my way back through the course, enjoying the moments of shade, and dreading those open sunny paths at times.  As I passed more of the pacers they all kindly asked me if they needed to stop me or slow me down.  I told you I have a reputation. I would check and tell them I was doing good!  And I was!

At the stand-alone water stop that was out there (Hydration Station 4A)…I popped my Honey Stinger gel (I didn’t feel like I needed it, but I wanted to be sure I had the energy to finish this, even if I remained alone).  I downed some water and carried on, picking it back up to get back on pace.  All the while…shouting more words of encouragement along the way.  Soon the steady stream of ladies going the other way dwindled and I was back to just pacing it in.

I hit the MRTT/SRTT station again, and took a Sword and a walk…and made sure they knew that I didn’t need to be slowed down.  Seriously, every time I heard that phrase it made me laugh and smile.  And not pay attention to the heat and humidity.  I remained alone as I came out of Pope Lick and headed back toward Beckley Creek Park, where the finish line was waiting.  The hill I was dreading, I now was facing on my own.  So…I started the climb…and I could tell I was behind on the pace going up. But I knew I had a small bit of cushioning to allow for that.  Even with the water stops I walked through to fuel and hydrate.  I did my best to push it enough so that when I hit Mile 11 just after hitting the top of the winding, shaded path, I could make sure I was still right on pace.  And it worked.  Despite being alone, I kept the proper pace and worked hard to maintain it.  You just never know when someone might turn up and rely on you to get them to the finish. Even those ahead of you.

Me after finishing my pacing duties at The Filly Women’s Half Marathon

Just after Mile 11, it was back down Damien.  That was a nice relief, but I had to make myself pull back so as not to tear up my quads (this is a STEEP hill)…and to not get too far ahead of the pace.  I continue on the road and at one of the bridges, I see two women hop up onto the sidewalk and start to take the path, not the road, back to the finish line.  I remembered Bob, the race director saying that the last portion and the first portion of the race would be on the roads, so while this did cause me to second-guess it…I kept on the road.  And then Linda was ahead on her bike shouting, “FOLLOW ME!”

She let me catch up and I asked about the women on the path and she shouted over to them to let them know that they should be on the road.  They cut across a parking lot at the final water stop to catch up.  I got my water and prepped to run the last mile in.  I stayed behind these two ladies, shouting words like, “Last mile, ladies!  Let’s do this!”  And as we hit Mile 13 and prepped to make the turn to run toward the finish line, I began shouting, “TWO HOUR PACER BEHIND.  BEAT ME IN!  BEAT ME IN!  DON’T LET ME PASS YOU!”

Me and Melissa after The Filly Women’s Half Marathon & 4-Miler

And they crossed and then…I followed right behind them.  Clocking in at 1:59:09…which, my coach, Linda, would say…was perfect.

They announced my name as the pacer and I went to step out of the way of anyone who might be right behind me.  No one was immediately there.  My friend, Pam, who I met in the MRTT/SRTT coffee run came over to give me a medal and a cold towel, which was put around my neck.  That was heaven.  The after party had treats and snacks galore…but I went over to see how Melissa did on the 4-Miler and relax.  My job here was done.

While I was unwinding, Cathy looked up results and said I had won an age group award.  I wasn’t sure what the process was when you’re a pacer, but when the person who came in after me was 7 minutes behind…I was given the okay to claim it.

Brunch was a Gluten Free Pop’s Poppin’ Egg Salad Sandwich at Wild Eggs!

There is something so amazing and empowering about all women races.  I love doing them…and this time…I loved being a part of the team that was there to help others reach their goals.  And I fell in love with the job of being a pacer.  I might have been alone with it, but it challenged me to slow down, to take it in, to help others, and to get out of my comfort zone.  I got my medal engraved with my name, finishing time, and the word “PACER” underneath it.  And then, Melissa, Paul, Cathy and I went out to Wild Eggs for a celebratory brunch, before hitting Costco and heading home.

So, the official results of The Filly Women’s Half Marathon are that I finished in 1:59:09, perfect timing for the 2 hour pacer, yes?  *FIST PUMP*  I was 14/184 finishers overall.  And I was 2/29 women in my age division.

If this race returns next year, I’ll definitely be signing up again.  It was a total blast and I loved seeing all the ladies come out to run their best and be their best.  And that, my friends, is what an all female race is about.

OH…and that pacing stick…I forgot I was carrying it.  Never once felt annoyed by it.

With my Age Group Award from The Filly Half Marathon

Run For The Berries 5K – Starlight, IN (May 26, 2018)

Me crossing the finish line at the Run For The Berries 5K – Starlight, IN

Race: Run for the Berries 5K

Place: Starlight, Indiana

Date: May 26, 2018

Time: 22:45

One of my favorite baseline 5Ks to run in this area is the Run For The Berries 5K, which is part of the Starlight Strawberry Festival in Starlight, Indiana.  And, while I had wanted to be running a half marathon with friends up in Medina, Ohio…I was still in the area and using the 5K as my speed work for the week.

As I say every year I actually am able to run in this race…there are a lot of things I love to run for, but strawberries…that has to be one of my favorite things ever.  If only they were free…but after a (usually) sweltering race, the strawberry treats are worth shelling out some cash for.  Trust me.  My go-to is a big bowl of strawberries from the Strawberry Shortcake booth and a frozen strawberry drink.  YUMMY!

It’s really weird showing up for a race you still need to register for…just sayin’…

Once again, I wasn’t actually registered to run the Run for the Berries 5K this year.  I waited too long to do the mail-in form…and it doesn’t look like there is online registration yet.  Which is weird.  I know.  But, that being said, this just meant we needed to head up to Starlight a little earlier so I could get registered, get pinned, get stretched, and get ready to run.  So…that morning, Cathy woke up early and, after I did all my PT stretches, decided on what I was going to wear (hello Wonder Woman sports bra!), and ate something, slathered on some sunscreen, and we loaded into the car (and yeah…the sign was able to come too since the weather was humid and hot…but not wet and rainy!).  The race was $25, which isn’t bad.  I paid in cash after filling out the registration form.  The shirts this year were a light sky blue.  Not tech.  I miss the tech shirts from this race.

We had to pin my bib onto my shorts because my sports bra didn’t have enough space for it (and I was now kinda nervous my girls were going to pop out of the cute little ziggy zaggy straps at the front).  But it would have to do.  I’m so not used to pinning things to my shorts at all.  Luckily they were long enough and not ones that would ride up over my, now very muscular, thighs like most of my usual running shorts do.  All this strength training and 3 days a week of spin have added some bulk to my thighs for sure!  We had a bit of time, so we went to stand around outside near the festival entrance to people watch and just get ready.

When you know your sports bra isn’t big enough for the race bib…be glad your shorts are!

About 5 minutes before the start of the race, runners began to make the walk down to the cone that marked the start of the actual race.  As I was wandering that way, my friend Renee asked me if I was actually running this one fast.  I told her that my training plan said to try to keep my pace below an 8 minute mile depending on humidity and heat.  I have been struggling a lot this year with keeping my speed and endurance up in the heat…something I’ve never had an issue with in the past.  UGH!  Best I could do was hope for the best.

I was lined up in the second row at the start of the race.  As with Fast Freddie…it’s off gun time, so the closer you are to the race start, the more accurate your time is. The race organizer got on the bullhorn and started to give some information about the race. Like male runners at the finish will have white cards to fill out; female runners will have pink; walkers will have yellow. OH…and if you are registered as a walker…and you run down a hill…you are now a runner. This gets said every year, and it still makes me laugh.  He gave the words…On your marks…get set…and he fired a gun, then dropped it and got into the pack to run the race itself.  Or so I was told.  Me…I was too busy taking off as fast as I dared.

Me chasing pavements at the Run For the Berries 5K – Starlight, IN

The past couple of years I’ve managed to hit something in the high 6 minute paces.  In 2013, I managed a 6:54 and in 2016, I hit a 6:48.  I was sort of hoping for the same thing to happen this year.  Especially since, while there are slight rollers in this first mile…it is the flattest portion of the race.  I just pressed as much as I dared or could make my legs go…and decided my job today would be to push the pace and then try to hang on.

The turn onto Engle Road brought the second mile to a start.  I knew my legs were starting to fatigue, but it was way too early for that.  Humidity does seem to sap my energy a lot more than it used to these days.  So, I decided to focus in on form and turnover.  And, I did see a girl struggling, so I gave her some words of encouragement as I ran.  The humid air dampened my pigtails and I could feel sweat beading on my stomach…but onward.  I just kept going.  This mile also brings in more rolling hills, but a few more downhills than uphills.  We ran past Hubers Family Farm and continued down Engle Road.  And then I hit Mile 2, ignored the water stop, and just I just kept on running.  After the hill, it’s just a few rollers and a couple of smaller climbs to the finish.  You actually finish this race going uphill.

Nothing beats a frozen strawberry drink and a big bowl of strawberries after a good race.

I could hear Cathy yelling at me to run faster, which usually means another female runner isn’t too far behind me.  According to official results, this was a mere 4 second gap between me and the lady behind me, who was also in my age division.  As I crossed the finish line, a volunteer shouted out my time to me and I was handed a pink card.  I also got a lot of compliments on my compression socks.  I love being a fastinista.

Cathy sent me to get water and cool down by walking while she filled out the card and dropped it into the age group container for me.  Then she went to grab our frozen strawberry drinks.  Upon her return, of course I went to hit up the strawberries for my big bowl as a reward.  It’s the best part, as I previously mentioned.  While I was eating my berries and Cathy was enjoying a strawberry shortcake, a girl behind me said, “Excuse me miss…are those hair extensions in your hair.”  I told her they were.  She asked how I put them in so I tried to show her.  Then she said the best thing, that, honestly, made my day.  She said, “You encouraged me out there.  Thank you.”  She was the girl I saw struggling.  That was the best reward ever was hearing that.  That’s what running is all about, honestly.  I asked her how she did.  She said she was 12th overall female.  So she wasn’t far behind me either.  YAY!

After we devoured our treats, we went to check out the festival booths, where I ended up purchasing hair bows and a gift for my friend Melissa.  Then, we headed back up to listen to the award ceremony and get our cheering on.

Me with my age group award at the Run For The Berries 5K – Starlight, IN

While the men were being announced, I went ahead and checked my watch to actually look at my splits: M1: 7:01; M2: 7:25; M3: 7:33.  Yep.  Very positive splits.  My age group came around and I ended up as 2nd this year in my age division.  WOOHOO!!  I never expect to win…because there was one year where I was 6th overall and didn’t win my Age Group.  So…you never just expect it.  I went up to get my pint glass and then, Cathy and I decided it was time to make our pilgrimage to Hubers for some strawberries before heading home.  We bought 2 gallons because…I make kickass strawberry jam, friends.

As it stands, the official results of the Run For The Berries 5K are that I finished in 22:45. Not a PR…and none of my splits were over a 7 minute pace.  In the past few years I have run this, my first mile has registered in the 6’s.  Not this time.  I’m kind of bummed.  I just want a PR at some point…and none of my old records are falling.  Not. Even. Close.  I was 28/133 runners overall.  I was the 8/69 females to cross the line.  And I ended up as 2/5 in my age division.

I want to come back stronger and faster next year.  Goals.

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.

doubletake

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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Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon – Louisville, KY (April 28, 2018)

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Me heading into the finish line for the KDF miniMarathon – Louisville, Kentucky

Race: Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: April 28, 2018

Time: 2:05:03

Three weeks ago (and I hope to put up a blog about this, but time has been short and I haven’t had much time to get online while home (and I’m not home much these days) so it hasn’t happened yet), I was out on a training run.  Nothing big.  It was supposed to rain and storm that morning, so I got up early and headed out in the dark to get in whatever I could, if not the entire run, before the weather moved in.  I didn’t go too far from my apartment, again, just in case the weather rolled in, but I was running on a bit of the sidewalk that I normally didn’t run.  It’s near a cemetery, which is fine, but the sidewalk can sometimes be a path of treachery.  That morning…it was.  It was Mile 3.4 of my run and…

I fell.

I fell hard.

It was one of those moments that seem to happen in slow motion…but it probably played out hilariously fast and painfully.  But it was early.  No cars were on the road at that point and no one was hanging out at the cemetery gates or at the apartments across the street.  My ankle twisted on…something.  I don’t even know what…if it was a rock, a branch, the side of the sidewalk.  I felt my ankle twist…I tried to compensate…but down I went…while heading down a hill.

Gravity…is a bitch.

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I shook it off.  Actually, I didn’t even pause my Garmin.  I think it automatically paused.  At that point, I could have cared less.  I was a few weeks out from the half marathon I wanted to race (KDF was my warmup) so I needed to make sure I wasn’t broken.  I popped up…looked at my feet (thanks headlamp), looked at my hands and arms…I was bloodied…but when I did this jog in place thing, nothing on my foot or ankle bothered me…so I kept going.  And I finished the run, noting the scrapes on my knees, the road rash on my leg, and the gash on my hand from playing Slip-N-Slide with the sidewalk.

I took a shower…and went out for brunch (gluten free pancake FTW) that morning at North End Cafe and…after sitting, really started to feel my foot getting sore.  But…I pressed on.  Until I could no longer press on.  Sitting for long periods of time or stopping my forward momentum became painful.  At one point, I bought a bag of frozen edamame from Whole Foods (I already had frozen peas in my fridge, so I didn’t need more!) to put on my foot/ankle while Cathy (the roomie) finished up grocery shopping.  By the time we got home, I was in tears and putting any weight on my foot was excruciating.  Ice happened in 20 minute spurts the rest of the evening.  I also had to bow out of the Louisville City soccer match that night because there was no way I was getting down the stairs at the apartment, let alone the stadium.

I told the roomie to go.  And she almost did.  But, in the end, she stayed with me.  And ate popcorn and watched movies.  For those who are curious…we watched Apollo 13 and then Coco (the new Pixar movie)!

All that being said, I woke up on Sunday and was able to walk.  YAY!!  I took through Wednesday off from running completely.  I realized just as I was heading out that I was supposed to run Thursday, but it was early and I was suited up and it was a 30 minute run.  And it all went well.  Until my other foot started bothering me.  I took more time off and called my podiatrist.

I was trying to make a long story short…so let me wrap this up.  On the Thursday before the Kentucky Derby miniMarathon (it ran that Saturday) my podiatrist took X-rays of my feet and saw no fractures (but I have an extra bone in each foot!)…but I had some swelling in a muscle on the side of my foot I twisted…and my left foot (the one that now bothered me) had some stress reactions in the 2nd and 5th metatarsals.  So…he taped me and told me to have some fun.

Good thing I wasn’t all-out racing this one.

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My night before the race meal – Vegan Sushi from Dragon King’s Daughter – the Green Acres & Spicy Tofu Rolls

That Friday, I did a short test run and, while a little sore, found everything manageable…and my friend Leah was aiming for a 2 hour marathon, which would keep my pace in check, I figured I had a game plan and one that wouldn’t destroy me.  That night, my roomie and I met up with our local BFFs…Melissa & Paul Nolan…for dinner.  Our fuel of choice…Dragon King’s Daughter.  I’ve been finding that the rice, avocado, tamari combination has been working well for my body…so my dinner was two Vegan Sushi Rolls…the Spicy Tofu and the Green Acres.

They came back to the apartment so that Cathy could tape up Melissa (who had been dealing with an achy Achilles since the blast of cold at the New York City Half Marathon).  They left after that to check out the Balloon Glow and I got busy baking Lemon Blossoms for the finish line and to stretch and foam roll.

I made a point to get to bed at a decent time and got up with enough time to do my stretching routine, eat breakfast, wake up the roommate (because she turned off her alarm and her door remained closed), get her coffee, get into my race clothes (I have some new black running shoes, so I thought I would emulate Des Linden at Boston and wear all black…NEVER AGAIN!), put my hair up, got my number pinned on, and waited for Melissa & Paul to come pick us up.  She had VIP parking and we had nowhere to be until that evening (Louisville City soccer…and they were coming with us anyway), so it worked out.

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Leah, Jay and I – the nuun Ambassadors at KDF Marathon/miniMarathon

We got down to Slugger Field to park, with the aid of Melissa’s barrier pass and VIP parking pass.  YAY!!  We got parked and I headed toward the statue outside Slugger Field to meet up with my running coach, Linda (who was running this race ONLY because she wanted to keep my pace slower than I would run it on my own) and Leah, who we were hoping to pace to a half marathon PR at the 2 hour mark (her current PR is 2:15).

There were a lot of photo ops happening…and I thought I missed the nuun Ambassador one, but Leah is one of the ambassadors and the other one, Jay, happened by, so we went ahead and snapped a photo.  YAY!!  Linda wanted to get into the corrals, so I missed the KDF Ambassador Alumni photo…but…it’s okay.

We worked our way into the corrals, where Linda got us positioned about the back of Corral B.  She thought we were up in A…but she was wrong (and I was right, HA!).  We stayed there though…but we realize in hindsight we should have probably dropped back further for Leah’s sake.

The National Anthem was beautifully sung and they prepped the wheelchair race to go off with a cannon.  That misfired.  So we got a “Ready? GO!” situation there.

Oh my my!

The elites were to be sent off next.  With a cannon blast.  Which also misfired.  So…no boom…but the “GO” shout-out happened.  So exciting.

And then…it was time for the rest of us.  AND…the cannon still misfired so no big boom for us either.  And…we made our way to the starting line…the three of us together…and we were off.

Too fast, honestly, to start.  Both Linda and I noticed immediately that Leah’s breathing was too hard and fast so we reigned it in after the first mile.  We attempted to do that, but the crowd was carrying us along and while I felt we were slowing down, the reality of the Gamin shows that we weren’t…but we weren’t too far ahead of the pace.  But heading into Mile 4, Leah started walk breaks.  This was fine, we now had an unintentional bank to work with.  When she was ready, we started up again.  She looked defeated…but we did our best to lift her spirits…and when she needed to walk again, she said her stomach was starting to act up.  YIKES!

In fact, somewhere near Mile 7-ish, we found some port-a-potties just beyond the water stop so she could make a stop.  Linda and I ducked off to the side to wait, and this was where we met up with Tonya, another of my friends who was an ambassador least year.  She said she was having tummy troubles as well and this was her third stop.  I’ll discover that this was a common theme among people that day.  Maybe it was the change from winter to mid-50s weather.  Who knows?  I felt good though…and when Leah emerged, we started to run again.

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Me, Leah, and Linda in front of Churchill Downs during the KDF miniMarathon – Louisville, Kentucky

And then Linda and I lost her as we neared my favorite part of the race: Churchill Downs.  We hopped up on a curb and finally found her again, making the dash to take a photo in front of the famous horse track.

This is my absolute favorite part of the race.  Every time I have run it.  And, true to form, I did yell, “RUN LIKE PRETTY PONIES!” as we were entering it.  The run down the hill through the tunnel and up into the infield was easy-peasy for me.  And I don’t like hills.  I got to the top with Linda and we realized we had lost our third again.  We pulled off to the side…no horses out training yet…and waited a moment.  She got to us…but she was walking.  I knew that the race photographer was around the corner, and I really wanted some good photos this year inside Churchill Downs…so we got her running again through there.  My photos, for the record, were crap again.  MEH!  I just am not a pretty runner.

We were heading out of Churchill Downs after walking and I spotted the next downhill out through the tunnel and back up toward the road.  I said, “Linda, it’s a downhill.  I HAVE to run the downhill.”  She told me to go on and I got to the top, stepped off to the side, had Linda catch me and we waited for Leah.  We could tell Leah was upset and frustrated, and while we helped get her to the split…where she was looking for another stop, Linda asked her what she wanted us to do.

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Me heading toward the finish line of the KDF miniMarathon (I passed the chick in pink at the end, LOL!)

And with that…we were off.  Linda and I picked up the pace.  Linda had originally wanted me to negative split this race (as I am horrible at finishing fast).  So, we picked it up and ran a bit faster through Mile 10…then I held it steady through Mile 12.  She told me to go on as she was going to slow herself down (she has the Flying Pig Full Marathon this weekend).  And I made every attempt I could to pick it up and just FLY to that finish line.  The 2 hour mark had just passed and I started weaving through the crowd, heading downtown via S 2nd Street before making the turn onto Main Street and heading the few blocks down it before the final turn and the finish line.  I held on strong, just plugging away as much as I could.  It’s hard for me to run slow and kick it in the end.  My legs and body just don’t like to pick it up.  So, this was a mental and physical struggle…but I was, honestly, ready to be done and off the course.  I was also getting hungry because I was out there longer than I normally am.  Is that weird?

I kicked it as much as I physically could make myself kick at that point.  The song “Danger Zone” from Top Gun was playing, so that was motivational at least.  And I crossed the finish line, happy that it was over.  Linda apparently decided she didn’t want to slow down because she kicked it into high gear and was just behind me.  I don’t know how she does it.  She immediately said, “That was stupid.”  LOL!!  We went to get our medals and suddenly, Cathy was at our side!!  Holy Moses.  She somehow got into the finisher’s chute and walked with us around to get our water, our treats, and into the runner recovery area.  Here we met up with some friends of Linda’s and then Linda went to get stuff from her car and try to catch one of her clients doing her first full marathon on the course.  I went to Melissa and Paul’s car to change while Cathy went to get coffee.  I needed coffee…trust me.

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Me (I’m stylin’!), Britni, Melissa & Paul after finishing the KDF Marathon/miniMarathon!

After that, we went to meet up with Melissa and Paul, who were finished and waiting for us in the Chicken Garden near Waterfront Park.  We ended up taking the long way around, but we got to them, and I immediately doled out Lemon Blossoms from my stash.  I also delivered a container of them to the Moms Run This Town/She Runs This Town booth in the finisher’s area.  WOOT!  Mission: Accomplished.  Melissa and Paul knew people who were out on the full course and waited to see them in.  We, actually, ended up staying for the entire race…and didn’t leave until the last runner crossed.

Their friend, Britni, had almost an hour PR for her marathon time…which is amazing considering she almost died in a car accident the weekend before when driving home from Disney World (she did the Dark Side Challenge).  And their other friend came in…and between all of us, we demolished the remainder of the Lemon Blossoms.  Paul and Michelle Bolton found us too, and since Michelle is also a gluten-free runner…I passed on a few to her (as promised).

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This photo makes my legs look so long! HA!  Always finish…and finish strong!

After sitting around and letting everyone relax…we decided it was time to head out and head home (because showers needed to happen for sure).  We walked Britni to her car and she gifted Melissa and I with our BB-8 figures she picked up at Disney.  I still owe Melissa money for that, now that I think of it.  HA!  And then we made the walk back to Slugger Field’s parking lot, stopping to take a few photos with the finish line, while it was still up.  After that, we needed to make our way back to Southern Indiana.  We got back to the Nolan’s house and we transferred everything to our car, told them we’d see them around 4:30 to grab Indian food before heading to the soccer match that night.

So, the official results of the Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon are that I finished in 2:05:03 (my slowest KDF miniMarathon and one of my slower half marathons).  I was 2517/8268 finishers overall. I was 965/4792 female finishers. And I was 195/748 finishers in my division. There was definitely no negative splits this time around.  In fact…my first half of the race average a 9:13/mile and my last half was a 9:32/mile.  Ah well…you win some; you lose some.  It was definitely not the race I wanted or intended to run, nor did I hit any of the goals I had set out for this race, except not to blow myself up actually racing it.  It does suck though…as this is the first year I won’t get a Top 100 Female Finisher award.  Dang it.

And if that wasn’t enough excitement…the Indian food was amazing and something the four of us had all been craving…and Louisville City FC got the WIN that night.  So…yeah…in the end…it was all good.

As for the foot/ankle situation…they can be little twingy at times, but seem to be on the mend.  I also am still allergic to the tape adhesive, so I’ve had to remove it for the next few days and will tape it up again for the weekend.  All-in-all…I’m on the mend and looking forward to my next race.

Maybe this time I can fly.

It all depends on these feet…the weather…and just, overall, needing those perfect conditions for the magic to happen.  It will.  Whether it’s the next race or another one. If anything the past few years has taught me…and this whole running slower thing as well…is patience.

OH!!  I also learned that people look for me at races wearing bright colors or a super hero costume, so none of my friends who were out cheering saw me that day.  And those in the race thought they saw me and then said, “But that person was in all black so it couldn’t have been you.”  Guess what.  It was.  Go figure.  I was trying to get my Desi Linden on and instead I got my race ninja on.  Even Cathy told me I wasn’t ever allowed to wear all black to a race because I wasn’t easy to spot coming into the finish line.  Live and learn, friends.

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Cathy and her three runners – Me, Melissa & Paul, displaying our bling at the Louisville City FC soccer match that night.

 

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

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

Race: United Airlines NYC Half Marathon

Place: New York, NY

Date: March 18, 2018

Time: 1:41:29

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

Two things though:

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

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

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

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

NOT IMPRESSED!

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

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

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

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We love flight delays…NOT!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I digress…

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Race Expo time!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Running through Times Square during the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon

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

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

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

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

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

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Melissa and Paul running toward Central Park!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or at least get a cute winter hat.

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

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

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