Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon – Louisville, KY (April 29, 2017)

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

Race: Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: April 29, 2017

Time: 1:43:12

This was it.  This was the terminus of my job as a 2016-2017 #KDFMarathon/miniMarathon Race Ambassador.  And it was race day.  RACE DAY!!  I love race day!

And, trust me, it took me a lot of sweat and tears to be able to get to that start line.  Because if you had asked me in January, when my hip flexor froze up, if I would have been able to run it…I wouldn’t have been too sure.  As it was, I had to drop from the full to the half…so there was that.

I wanted to be stubborn and just do it.  I’m not a newbie to marathons.  I have run 11 of them total, but I also haven’t really been able to train for one since I ran the Charleston Marathon in January 2015.  Boston was a bust.  And Kauai…well…it didn’t exactly boost my self-esteem and “can-do” marathon mentality.

I wasn’t ready for a full.  Two months of training lost to a paralyzed hip flexor…and a very cautious and slow build-up in mileage put me at my first double digit run (10 miles) exactly one month before race day.  To press on and do the full would have been a fool’s errand.

I’ve learned to be a little more patient with myself and allow myself to heal and train right.  So, the miniMarathon it was.  You win some…you lose some.  I did manage to run most of the Disney World Star Wars Dark Side Marathon on Sunday.  It was steamy and humid…and for the last 5 miles, I was run/walking.  It was okay.  These days I worry more about running smart than that finish time.  When it’s hot and the race is flagged (and…for the record, both the Dark Side Half & KDF were yellow flagged due to humidity)…you just run it the best you can without putting yourself at risk for heatstroke or worse.

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My Ambassador Crew at the KDF Marathon Expo: Paul, Me, Amy, and Jack

My second half marathon in the same week was starting off well.  I only ran one time in between to two races.  I didn’t need more.  Wednesday morning, I hit up 4 very easy miles and called it a week.  And on Thursday, I left work early to meet up with Jack, Paul and Amy (3 others in my Ambassador family) to volunteer at the expo as a greeter.  I convinced quite a lot of my friends to come to the expo that day…both local and from out of town.  And it was hopping!  It was great seeing everyone and helping people out when they had questions.  I was feeling good and confident.  And being able to hang with other ambassadors and just be relaxed and help others relax…and drink free wine samples…it was actually what I needed.  I was feeling good.

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Curry Sauté with Tofu from North End Cafe in Louisville, KY

Friday I spent most of the day sitting at work…which is not something I normally do, but my coach had decided to have me aim for a 1:40 half on Saturday, so I really wanted to do right by my legs and my body.  And, that evening, I went to the Galt House and picked up fellow Marathon Maniac, and good friend, Michael, to have a pre-race dinner.  Normally, I would just cook an Annie May’s Sweet Café gluten-free/vegan pizza at home and call it a day, but I had wanted to meet up with Michael.  We ended up at North End Cafe.  He had the Lemonade Blueberry Pancakes, and I got the Curry Sauté with Tofu for dinner.  As I have been to races where safe gluten-free pizza isn’t always readily available, I have played around some with my night before meal ritual.  But nothing works like gluten-free pizza.

After we dropped Michael back off at the hotel and went home, I finished making up the “Finish Line Lemon Blossoms” for my friends.  After my PT exercises and some foam rolling…I called it a night.  I set my traditional 2 alarms for the race, but didn’t bother to get up in enough time to squeeze in my PT stuff…because it was going to be storming or raining in the morning.  I figured I skipped them at Disney…I could supplement my walk to the start line for the warmups and I’d be ready to go.

And at 5 am…the 7:30 am start was delayed.  For half an hour.

This definitely made the morning slightly easier.  I was already dressed and had my hair up and everything, so I got to sit and relax a little longer…savor my breakfast…that sort of thing.  Dread the humidity.  Because…it was humid.  And the sun wasn’t even up yet.  In fact, the rain only served to make it steamier.  I was having anxiety over the humidity the night before, texting my coach about my push for a 1:40 and how the humidity might slaughter that attempt…especially since I was in my “uniform” of the Ambassador shirt (which had sleeves).  I’m not a fan of racing in sleeves unless it’s cold.  When it’s hot…it’s a simple bra top or a tank.  So this was going to be a new experience too.  I figured if it got too unbearable, I could shed the shirt and then attempt to wriggle back into it before the finish line.

So…delay #1 was in the works.

The official KDFMarathon Ambassador photo was going to now be taken at 7:30…so we headed that way and actually got down to Slugger Field (and the parking lot) at around  7 a.m.  This gave me time for one of my efficient and essential power naps!!  I got my nap on good!!  With about 10 minutes to go, I got a text from my running partner, Matthew, saying that he was at the statue in front of Slugger Field, so I got up and headed that way.

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Danielle, Tonya, Me, Leah, Paul, and Jamie pre-race delay #2!

A few more ambassadors were gathered, but the whole team wasn’t there yet.  This has been a thing in all these months.  Races and such, we never quite managed to get everyone in a photo together. #goals

Anyway…no sooner had the photos been taken, I snagged my pre-race fuel (a simple banana!) and downed it while talking to Matthew, Natalie, and my fellow Ambassadors, who were hanging for a moment.

And then…another delay.

Race start was now set for 8:30.  And I had now eaten my banana a whole hour before the start, rather than half an hour.  Roll with it.  I wasn’t planning on exerting myself before the race so I figured I’d be fine.  We all started to make our way toward the corrals regardless (it wasn’t even raining!), when we were told to take cover.  My group ducked under the cover of the Old National Bank near the race start with a crowd of other runners and passed the time just chatting away.  Even my running coach and her crew joined us under there.  It was sort of a nervous energy, but a positive energy at that point.

Cathy left shortly after we got up there, because she likes getting a good spot at the start line and the finish line.  So, she gathered up my rain jacket (which had been keeping Natalie warm) and went to go find her spot, telling me she’d be on the right at the start and on the left at the finish.

With the 8:30 a.m. start time coming up, we opted to head out of the shelter to get to the corrals.  And no sooner had we stepped out from under the bank building and down the steps…

Delay #3.  Race start was now 9:00 a.m.

My group and I decided we would duck into the bank building and rest our legs by sitting on the floor there instead of standing around outside.  It was more comfortable out of the humidity, regardless.  With race start happening soon, we decided to make a last ditch move for the port-a-potties for those who needed them.  I didn’t.  I drank a ton of water the day before, but on race morning, I keep it light so I don’t have to pee.  I did tell my friends that I would hold their stuff for them though.  As we were heading out, the doors to the bank building seemed to be giving people some trouble.  We stepped out though for our mission.

On the way to the toilets, my amazing friend, Kelsie, spotted me.  Matthew and I gave her a hug and we stood around and talked for a brief moment.  Then we went on so I could hold gear.  I should mention that my fellow Ambassador and friend, Tonya, had gone on ahead of us too.  I had her plastic bag for race start should rain happen.  But we still had NO rain.  Just delays.  After everyone cycled through, we started back toward the bank for a few more moments of sitting down and resting before…hopefully, a real start.

trappedinthebankAnd this is where we discover that the people (Tonya was now included) that were inside the bank building were now TRAPPED inside the bank building.  Apparently, the Old National Bank’s doors were timed to lock at a certain time.  And…guess what…they were locked.  Runners were trapped inside with 15 or so minutes to go before the race start.  I walked up to the window and Tonya was front-and-center.

Tonya had texted my phone, which Cathy had at this point, so Cathy sprang into action when the S.O.S. came through, alerting some officers, who wrangled up fire department and security to, hopefully, get the runners out.  With like…only 10 minutes to spare…this happened.  Thank goodness.

So…with no further delays and an announcement being made that 9:00 a.m. was go-time for real…everyone started to get to their corrals.  Matthew and I ducked into Corral C to start making our way forward to A.  We ducked under rope flags and everything to move forward in our corral.  I spotted Greg, from Frankfort, Kentucky, who was pacing the 1:50 half marathon group. I said hi and he asked if I was running with him because he thought I was up in Tim’s group (that would be the 1:40 group).  I said that Linda (our coach) had said that all plans were out the window with the delays and to just go have fun, but I was moving up.

And we did.  Almost to the front.  Like…we were behind the elite line.  We saw elite bibs.  Elite bibs have no corral letter on them.

Matthew and I decided we were out of our league up there and he spotted Tim’s pacing group…so we decided to move back.  A bit.

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Kelsie, Me, and Matthew heading out of the Start of the KDF miniMarathon

And we found Kelsie again.  So…this was perfect.  I was starting the race off with friends…it was going to be a good time.  Despite the fact that I was now starving.  And it was humid.

Did I mention that I was starving?

I had fueled for an 8 a.m. start.  I think my corral (Corral A) went off at 9:15 a.m.  That banana was LONG gone.  And I didn’t want to hit up my mid-race nutrition, because I needed that after Mile 6.  I looked at Matthew and Kelsie and I said…”AND…now I’m starving.”  They were too.

Everyone was.

My coach was right…everything was a mess now…it was best just to go and have some fun.

Matthew and I decided we would attempt to at least keep Tim (remember…that’s the 1:40 pacer) in our sites.  The starting gun went off…and the three of us took off.  I don’t know where we dropped Kelsie, but she was doing this race right.  No watch.  No goals save to finish.  I want to do that more.  Just run how I feel and for fun.  What a freeing feeling that has to be!

Matthew and I pounded out the first four miles pretty much together.  The rain poured down on us shortly after the start and I looked at him and said, “We SO would have been done by now!”  Soaked from humidity, rain, and exertion, we pressed on.  Matthew commented that he felt like he couldn’t catch his breath.  The air was heavy with humidity, so I totally knew how he felt.

I lost him after a turn.  I thought he might have gone on ahead.

As we hit Mile 5…I did 2 things.  I slowed for a moment to pull the KDF Marathon Race Ambassador shirt off so I could cool down.  This happened just as I heard, “There’s Karen.”  So I waived, tucked my Ambassador shirt into my fuel belt…and then I fueled.  A whole mile early.  Because my legs were starting to resist my determination to keep going.  Everything was a cluster now.

Tim and the rest of the 1:40 group were still in site…but not really within distance to catch now.  And my body was not feeling the pace.  I told myself to hang on through Churchill Downs.  So…for at least 3 more miles.  I could suffer for that long, right?

I managed.  My pace dropped little-by-little until I rounded the corner at the split…hit Mile 9…and took a walk at the water station.  I carry my own water with me on half marathons and marathons.  Usually if it’s a double-digit run, I have water and fuel with me.  I didn’t care.  I hit that water stop, I slowed.  I took a cup from a lovely volunteer.  I took a sip.  The rest went on over my head.  It cooled me down…and I made myself start running again.

From here on out…it was down to running smart…not running fast.  Since any attempts to hit a certain time goal went away with the 90 minute delays…now it was just about crossing that finish line.  I didn’t care how long it took me…I was down to the last 5 miles regardless.  I managed to make water stops the rest of the way toward the finish…even when I said I would keep running and no more walking…if I needed to throw water over my head…I did it.  And, as I found out in Disney, that really works.

It did, however, work better at Disney…when I wasn’t under-fueled and also dying from the humidity.  At about Mile 11, I had caught up to Pete, a guy who ran with Matthew and I a couple of times before the Norton Sports Health Training Program kicked in and before I was injured.  I had to slow again for one last shower of water, so he got too far ahead of me again.  I had to slow to walk and water myself for about 3 more times before I knew that finish line was close.  This was my Dark Side Half Marathon all over again.  But worse.  My splits were hitting in the 8’s…which I never touched (despite walk breaks) at Disney.

I felt…miserable.

But I am nothing if not persistent.

I could taste that finish line.  And it wasn’t far.  I could hear the announcer.  I could see Slugger Field.  That meant…it was just around the corner.

And there it was…the turn!!

I never put the Ambassador shirt back on.  I had it tucked in my belt…but to stop to wriggle back into it might mean I wouldn’t start again.

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Me crossing the finish line of the KDF miniMarathon

I took the turn.  And while I didn’t feel like moving any faster, I attempted to pick up my pace.  That finish line was in site…all I had to do was run over it.  I focused on that line alone.  I heard Cathy screaming on the sideline…and I ran down the stretch and passed under the arch.

DONE.

I was…done.  I also felt like crap.

But Dan spotted me at the finish line and called out my name over the bullhorn.  HA!

I continued down the line, slowly, trying to catch my breath and cool down.  The medals were right ahead, so as I strolled that way, Cathy caught up to me at the fence.  She told me my official finish time, which I couldn’t believe, given how slow my pace had gotten as the morning went on and the miles progressed.  We attempted to formulate a meeting place after I would go through the official finish photo area and the place where they store food and chocolate milk and Powerade.  And as we were discussing…Paul from the Ambassadors came in.  Then another running partner of mine, Ron, was in.  And then…Matthew.  I hadn’t moved except to go and congratulate Paul.  I found Ron.  And Matthew somehow slipped by me, but Cathy found him and he was at the fence when I returned.

We all managed to make our way to the runner reunion area, grabbing snacks along the way.  As I emerged…with banana and chips (I have never seen Cathy so happy to see a bag of chips in my hand), I actually reconnected with Kelsie…who gave that finish line her famous kick and brought it in strong.  I really need her to teach me where she finds that late energy because I’m usually dying at the finish line.  She needed to head out, so after a photo, she left and Ron went to claim his free beer.  Cathy told me to take my phone and see if I could catch more of the 30 people I was tracking while she went to get the bags out of the car that had my clothes to change into and a cooler with food and a big bottle of water.  Tonya came in but texted to say she was in medical.  And Amy came in.  I never found her in the crowd.  I did find former co-workers from IU Southeast, Dana & Graham, after they finished.  So that was cool!

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Finisher of the KDF miniMarathon – Louisville, Kentucky (note the tucked Ambassador shirt)

Cathy and I were camped out under the overpass for the rest of the day.  When my phone told me one of my people were in…I’d attempt to go find them.  I mostly succeeded.  I only missed a few.  I caught Natalie, who I really wanted to find above all, as it was her first marathon, and she was having Siri hit me up for motivation as she made her way to that finish line.  She did great!  I also did distribute Lemon Blossoms.  They were very well received.  My friend Jack even picked me up when I handed him a whole container.  And he had just run a marathon.

I thought everyone was in at that point…but I was wrong.  But that is a long, complicated, and amazing story all its own.

So, the official results of the Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon are that I finished in 1:43:12.  That, mind you, is almost exactly 2 minutes slower than my time last year.  MEH!  That being said, I wasn’t expecting to hit 1:43 at all after the walking began, so I’ll gladly take this.  Given the conditions, I’m beyond happy with this result.  I was 403/8737 finishers overall.  I was 85/5010 female finishers.  And I was 15/794 finishers in my division.  Given that I had just raced a humid half marathon on Sunday…walked Disney World the rest of Sunday and all of Monday…traveled home…worked overtime…worked the expo…and then ran again in the humidity…I exceeded all expectations I had.  Honestly.  There were fewer runners this year (by about 2000) in the mini…but my stats improved on every single category…despite running slower.  I count that as a win too!

Here’s my takeaway…

I came into this event at first meeting with a group of strangers at the KDF Marathon Headquarters.  I found a great group of supportive, amazing, inspiring people who are like family to me now.  So many friendships were formed in this year’s KDF Ambassador group.  I was so fortunate to have been able to be a part of it.  I may not have signed up the most people for the race, but I went to events…I promoted the race…I even went to the training runs (even on the coldest mornings) when I couldn’t run and encouraged others…cheered…high fived…and walked.  The marathon slipped away when my training had to wait almost 3 months to even start.

Dropping to the mini was hard…but it was the smartest decision I could have made.  I would never have survived the full after a humid Florida race series and the 90 minute delays.  With nutrition and scheduling off…this was a blessing in disguise.

The delays have taught me a lot about being a bit more prepared for whatever race morning might throw my way.

I saw so many people finish.  I helped a few out when they needed help.  I hugged so many of my sweaty friends.  I saw people set goals…and whether they crushed them or fell short…they completed what the started.  And that, friends, is what the spirit of race day is all about.

My time as a KDF Marathon Ambassador is coming to a close, but the memories, friends, emotions, and moments that I now carry with me…those will last a lifetime.

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My new family and friends!  What an amazing ride this has been!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me in front of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

Me in front of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

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

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

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

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

In the morning…it was time to do the…

Disneyland Star Wars Light Side 10K

Disneyland Star Wars Light Side 10K

Star Wars Light Side 10K

Race: Star Wars Light Side 10K

Place: Disneyland, Anaheim, California

Date: January 14, 2017

Time: 50:13

Compression shorts…KT Tape…and ACE Bandages.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rey on Hoth

Rey on Hoth

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

Rey in the trash compactor

Rey in the trash compactor

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

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

FINISHER of the Star Wars Light Side 10K

FINISHER of the Star Wars Light Side 10K

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

was impending.

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

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


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

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

Disneyland Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon

Race: Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon

Place: Disneyland, Anaheim, California

Date: January 15, 2017

Time: 1:47:53

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

THIS. WAS. BAD.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disneyland Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon Finishers Medal

Disneyland Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon Finishers Medal (It has Princess Leia on it…ALL THE FEELS!)

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Disneyland Star Wars Rebel Challenge Medal for finishing the 10K on Saturday & the Half Marathon on Sunday!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s hoping for the best!

And Disneyland…I’ll be back!

May the Force be with you!

May the Force be with you!

Kauai Marathon – Poipu, HI (September 4, 2016)

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Me after finishing the Kauai Marathon – Kauai – Poipu, HI

Race: Kauai Marathon

Place: Poipu, HI (Island of Kauai)

Date: September 4, 2016

Time: 4:52:18

“That’s what a comeback is.  You have a starting point and you build strength and momentum from there.  Stay the course…remain patient.  Focus on small steps that are constantly forward.”

~Kara Goucher

Comebacks are hard.

Comebacks are very hard.  And I have been building up to this one for a long, long time now.  A very long time.  Over a year kind of time.  SO…much time.  Sometimes…it has gone very well.  Sometimes…it has gone all sorts of wrong. The winter months were painful.  Rainy days are painful.  Humidity has been soul-crushing and run-ruining.  And, believe it or not, I discovered trying to stay safe during speed work by running on a treadmill…wasn’t so safe and actually ended up causing a bit of damage to my foot…right before this marathon.

You want to talk about a freak-out, panic-inducing, last few days before taking off for Hawaii.  All sorts of visions of last year’s Hawaiian adventure with Bootsie…my boot I was put in for 8 weeks thanks to a stress fracture in my leg…that all started flashing through my mind.  You want to talk about some physical and mental breakdowns…the whole build-up to this race has been one big emotional roller coaster.  One I really, really needed to get off…and the sooner the better.

Thankfully, I have a fantastic podiatrist…and very understanding and encouraging friends in my life.

And despite all of the anxiety and problems…I made it.  First to San Francisco.  Then…to Hawaii.  And Hurricane Lester took a turn back out to sea.

The race was on.

The pressure was on.

And I can’t even count how many times I had minor to major anxiety attacks in the days (despite being in Hawaii!) leading up to the race.

Like I said…comebacks are hard.

Sunset on Waikiki Beach, O'ahu, Honolulu, Hawaii

Sunset on Waikiki Beach, O’ahu, Honolulu, Hawaii

My adventure started, as it always does, with good friends and good support (non sports bra division).  For the first few days I was in Hawaii, my friends and I were exploring O’ahu.  We were stationed out of Honolulu, but we doing some serious exploring and shopping there.  From the Dole Plantation to Waikiki Beach…we pretty much did it all.  Oh, and we ate amazing food.  I had pineapple, pretty much, at every meal.  Fresh cut, amazing, pineapple.  One from a roadside stand where a woman sliced it up while I waited.  I was having a blast.  We were on O’ahu until Saturday morning, when we caught an early flight over to Kauai.

Upon landing, we literally hit the ground running.  After getting our luggage and our rental car, we piled in and began our adventure on Kauai.  We had a few things to do before hitting up the expo.  This involved coffee at my favorite coffee spot on Kauai (Ha Coffee…where I ate half a peanut butter and chocolate chip cookie and downed my favorite of their specialty signature drinks…The Bee Sting.  SO good.  Then we went to find Sweet Marie’s…a dedicated gluten free bakery because…we needed a gluten free cake of some sort to celebrate Jennifer’s birthday that night.  The set-up was strange, and the fact that she is open only 2 days of the week (Saturday & Sunday) made this challenging…but we finally figured it all out and, after she was a little rude and snippy to us…we picked up one of her Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Pecan Streusel Topping.  She got a little huffy at us for paying with cash (who does that??!!)…but we got our cake (it was about the size of a large muffin) and left to go check out the race expo.

Me at Bart Yasso at the Kauai Marathon Race Expo

Me at Bart Yasso at the Kauai Marathon Race Expo

Getting there was fun.  We got to drive part of the course backwards and I made note of just how damn hilly it was going to be.  That sort of kicked up the anxiety again.  But as we got to the resort where the expo was being held, I had calmed down a little.  A little.

The first thing I did at the expo was go to check out the list to get my bib number.  One problem…

MY NAME WAS NOT ON THE LIST!!!

And this was even after I contacted the race prior to the trip to make sure that my deferral from last year was on their records and I was on the list to run.  They told me I was. Apparently…I wasn’t.  Frustrating…and did nothing to help calm the anxiety and nerves at this race.  It took…awhile…but after talking to about 4 different people, they simply had me fill out a form and turn it in.  They got me a blank bib, added me to the list…and I was ready to run.

After that…I was ready to shop.  I had my Kauai Marathon reusable bag, which my friend Tanya really wanted.  She even went to ask if she could purchase one, but they wouldn’t let her.  As I have more than enough reusable grocery bags, I told her she could have mine.  YAY!  There was much happiness.  What there wasn’t a lot of…was size small merchandise for the race itself.  I had wanted a few of the rainbow race shirts…but they were out of the smaller sizes…at the start of the expo on Saturday morning.  REALLY??!!  I was starting to think I wasn’t going to purchase anything…but then I spotted this amazing backpack.  And…it had to be mine.  So…despite being way more than the shirts, that’s what I left with.  And I was quite okay with that.  Afterwards, I spotted Bart Yasso at a table at the expo and went over to say hello to him.  Cathy told him to reassure me that I was going to be okay…and he did…quite a few times, and gave me numerous high fives and words of encouragement.  I love Bart Yasso.

Lunch on the day before the race - Molkai Potato Salad from the Live Foods Market on Kauai

Lunch on the day before the race – Molokai Potato Salad from the Live Foods Market on Kauai

Soon after that…we left.  We had to buy a few groceries and get a few more important things done…like checking into the resort and all that.  We first stopped off at The Spouting Horn, where I thought I needed to put on some sunscreen…but we were ready to go check out the water.  So, I said I would do it when we got back into the car.  We spent a bit of time on the lookout, watching a blowhole spout a plume of sea water into the air.  This waterspout occurs whenever waves are forced under the lava shelf and up through an opening in the rocky coast.  The spout, sometimes, can shoot water as high as 50 feet into the air.  It’s always amazing.  We did need to grab some lunch, so we swung by the Living Foods Market.  On the short journey there, I put on some sunscreen because I am prone to sunburn easily.  And I finished up just as we hit the market.  What I didn’t realize until later was…I forgot I had taken my Claddagh ring off and put it in my lap, so when I climbed out of the car to go into the market…it dropped.  Deciding on a light lunch was not as easy as I thought as so much sounded so good.  And…we were at the time where it could be breakfast or lunch and we were all having a hard time deciding on which way to go.  After waiting a bit too long for breakfast, we settled on lunch.  I got a small bowl of their Molokai Potato Salad, which is purple potatoes, coconut milk, green onion, and coconut flakes.  And it was fantastic.  Tawn got a poke bowl, Cathy got a BLT Sandwich, and Jennifer got the fish tacos.  After lunch, we were off to check into the resort, hit up a couple of shops, and then buy some groceries.  I was, after all, making something new (I know…nothing new on race day…but…I felt better about this than a pizza place)…Pizza Stuffed Sweet Potatoes.  And we hit up the grocery stores hard.  We got the tomato sauce, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, cheese, and even pepperoni (the other 3 are meat eaters) for the potatoes that night…along with waters and a few snacks to have on hand.  And my banana for race morning.  That is super important.  And a bonus kabocha squash that we found so I could roast it up.

Oven roasted Kabocha Squash...cooked up by me...as part of the pre-race dinner.

Oven roasted Kabocha Squash…cooked up by me…as part of the pre-race dinner.

That night, after settling in at the resort, I started immediately in on roasting up the kabocha squash.  Cutting it wasn’t too much of a hassle, but I realized we had no aluminum foil or any olive oil at the resort.  I thought they might have that on hand…but I was wrong.  So, I cooked without it.  The squash cooked for about 30
minutes…and as it was cooking, I prepped the sweet potatoes.  No olive oil meant seasoning the skins was a bit harder, but I did what I could.  The moment the squash was out and plated, I turned up the oven and began to bake the potatoes.  They were a bit larger…so I knew they would take about an hour to cook.  In the meantime, we through in our trip playlist, danced around the resort, talked, and looked at photos from O’ahu and earlier in the day.  It actually took a bit longer, but soon we were slicing them open, laying out the tomato sauce, the mushrooms, the cheese, and for the other three…pepperoni.  Back into the oven for 10 minutes to allow the cheese to melt.

Pizza Stuffed Sweet Potatoes - my pre-race dinner...something new. And delicious.

Pizza Stuffed Sweet Potatoes – my pre-race dinner…something new. And delicious.

And, finally, dinner was served.  And it was delicious…and filling.  But…there was still room for cake.  And we had picked up candles and everything to make it special for Jenn.  We were glad that the “cake” was actually more of a muffin because it was perfect once we split it 4 ways between us.  And it was pretty good.  Lighter than I expected though, so there is that.  And it was good.  It was.  But Annie May’s Gluten Free Coffee Cake is WAY better.  WAY!  We were happy to have this though.  And after staying up a little longer for showers and some talking, we turned in.  We all knew an early, early morning awaited us.

Jennifer with the Gluten Free Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Pecan Struesel that we picked up from Sweet Marie's that morning.  It was her birthday after all.

Jennifer with the Gluten Free Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Pecan Struesel that we picked up from Sweet Marie’s that morning. It was her birthday after all.

Sleep didn’t come easy…but I managed a little.

Race morning arrived. Early. I had my first alarm set for 3 am so that I could get up and do my first round of preparations. I went back to sleep for another 45 minutes before getting up for the second time. This time it was to actually get dressed. I used the bathroom, got into my race gear, and nervously began milling about the room, not quite ready to duck out into the main room, where Tawn was milling about getting ready for the day. Cathy was up and moving, slowly, because it was 4 am. While she was changing and in the bathroom, I began the very, very, very tedious (but important) task of getting myself coated in sunscreen.

When in Hawaii…and a super fair-skinned, Irish girl…you lather up. You take a dip and swim in that stuff. You do whatever you can to keep your skin protected. Especially when you are already a skin cancer survivor, like me.

Cathy emerged eventually and helped me with the hard to reach areas on my back (after all…I was going to die in clothes, so it was a bra top race for me). She also had me sit down so she could actually attempt to get some sunscreen on my scalp. This was sort of awkward and left me looking, at first, a bit like a skunk, but at the end of the day…no sunburn on the scalp. And that, in and of itself, is a wonderful thing.

I threw a shirt on over my top after the sunscreen had had time to soak in…and then headed into the main room. Tawn and Jennifer were both there, in various states of readiness. I grabbed my water from the fridge and sought out my normal morning routine.

Thankfully, Cathy thought ahead while we were out hitting up grocery stores the night before…picking up a banana and a little individual serving of Cheerios for me to eat. I had my cheerios at the resort, standing in the kitchen, talking to Tawn as she put on her makeup. That was actually calming, because in my mind, I was about to have another anxiety attack. My heart was racing, my mind was racing faster, and my entire chest just wanted to explode. I wanted to burst out into tears.

But I didn’t.

Thanks to my friends.

I filled up my water bottles…2 with regular water and then 2 with my fuel (I am using Hammer at the moment…something I only had time to test out on an 8 mile run the weekend before…so I can’t report back on it quite yet). And then…after getting pinned up, we gathered up our stuff and we were, literally, off to the races.

I look nervous in this picture because I was...and I had just stopped crying...before I said goodbye to my friends at the start line...

I look nervous in this picture because I was…and I had just stopped crying…before I said goodbye to my friends at the start line…

It was just over a 30 minute drive from the resort in Kapa’a to Poipu (?) where the race started and ended. We didn’t really encounter much traffic, so this drive went very smoothly. In fact, we arrived with some time that Cathy actually pulled into the parking lot where I figured I had lost my Claddagh ring the day before…and all three of my friends got out with the flashlights on their iPhones and began searching. They came up empty handed though. Everyone got back into the car and we set out to find some parking…following cars to an area on the side of the road, just a short stroll from the start and finish line areas. We watched a truck next to us totally pull up far enough to block the sidewalk and spent some time ridiculing them from the comfort of our car. But…it was time.

And as much as I wanted to delay…I couldn’t. It was go-time.

I think I was shaking as I opened up the door and stepped out into the humid morning. It was already moist, the air heavy and wet. Ugh. I took in a shaky, but deep breath, and told myself, once again, to not freak out or panic. It was easier said than done, because I was falling apart on the inside. The last memory I have of a marathon was Boston 2015…and it did not go well for me. And it was replaying…every painful, horrible step…every moment that I had to walk…all of it…right there…fresh in my mind. And it was MESSING with me.

Torches and Conch Shells sent off the Kauai Marathon & Half Marathon.  It was amazing.

Torches and Conch Shells sent off the Kauai Marathon & Half Marathon. It was amazing.

The four of us began the trek toward the starting area. Which, we found very easily, following not just the announcement sounds, but also the other runners heading in that direction. We crossed the road right where the start line was corralled off and took a couple of quick photos. And…just like that…it was time for me to get to the staging area and them to go find a spot for the start of the race. They all gave me hugs. I cried…wiped my eyes…handed over my shirt…and walked away…nervously…into the staging area. It was already 5:30 am…so I had to get my banana eaten so I wouldn’t be regretting putting it off until later. So, as I walked, I noshed, slowly, on the banana. I noticed very few marathon bibs…much of the over 2000 people who run these races do the half marathon option.

These…are the smart people.

These people are brilliant. These people must have looked at the elevation chart before signing up. I had an extra year…and I still didn’t do this up until it became clear that…yes…I could run. And yes…I would run.

I tossed my banana peel in the garbage and went to get in line for the bathroom. I had already used it 3 times at the resort…but I was nervous…and needed to pee. Again. I’m like an excitable puppy in that regard. It’s a curse. The lines moved relatively quickly though, and I managed to get one where the person coming out didn’t start with…”Just warning you…this one is pretty full.” Since I hate using port-o-potties anyway, this was a blessing in disguise.

Afterward…I saw everyone moving away from this staging area, so I grabbed a small tray of watermelon (I know…nothing new on race day, but it was humid enough that I was feeling the dehydrating effects already) and ate it. Then…I stepped up to the crowd waiting to enter the start area.

The announcer, Ron Wiley, from the local (and best) radio station there in Kauai, KONG, was doing some schmoozing and talking at the start. He mentioned the heat we were having…and the humidity…and said that no one was going to PR today. As that was never my intention in the first place, I was okay with that. It was hot and it was humid. Bart Yasso was brought up and, despite a couple of microphone malfunctions, wished everyone a good race. He was doing the half…his girlfriend…the full. And then, the national anthem was sung by a local woman…and, we were counted down and sent off to the sound of conch shells blowing. It was fantastic. I mean, seriously…the sun wasn’t up yet…tiki torches are lit…and conch shells are being blown by locals as the starting gun. I was taking it all in, and waving at the drone…just telling myself to take it easy, breathe, and to have fun.

Me crossing the start line of the Kauai Marathon

Me crossing the start line of the Kauai Marathon

As I crossed the starting line, I spotted Cathy, Tawn, and Indy…and they cheered and screamed and I waved…and that adrenaline took me through the slow-moving packed start of the race. I was thankful for the much easier pace of the start because I tend to just go all out in the first mile and tire quicker. With the humidity already pretty intense, I was already soaking wet within the first half mile. My pigtails were plastered to my neck. This humidity was NO JOKE. And with the first 7 miles being a steady uphill climb, I wanted to really pace myself and save something for the second part of the race. Mile 1 ticked off, and I was moving without breathing hard. And then…a light, misting rain started up. We’re in the gorgeous Hawaiian countryside…and here comes this light mist. I can see gorgeous mountains ahead, hear roosters crowing, and see the lightening of the sky, with the promise of a sunrise coming. I focused on my surroundings more than how I was feeling. Which was good…because with the steady incline going…by Mile 3 I was already feeling this race in my hip adductor. Not good. Not what I wanted at all.

I had hoped that my hip would hold out longer and do better…but the long climb was not something I could practice. Not for that long or that distance. Which…was now getting into my head. I focused on my form at that point, and as I came into Mile 4…was moving a bit better. My foot, however, was still an issue in and of itself. Even taped up, it would flare up with every few steps, reminding me that it was not 100%…and that I needed to keep that in mind as the race continued. Thankfully, some beautiful hula dancers were on the side of the road and that made me focus on something else for the moment. Distractions are a beautiful thing.

At Mile 5, way earlier than anticipated or hoped for…I took my first walk break. I had ever intention of at least powering through the first half of this race without needing to walk, ideally getting to Mile 15…but that didn’t happen. And I actually cried a little when I had to take this break. But the elevation was wreaking havoc on both my hip and my foot…so I took it. And once I got to a designated spot ahead (I think it was a road sign), I started back to a jog…and then an easy paced run.

Tunnel of Trees around Mile 6 of the Kauai Marathon

Tunnel of Trees around Mile 6 of the Kauai Marathon

Ahead was the part of the race I had been looking forward to the most…the Tunnel of Trees. Just before Mile 6, you run into this gorgeous area canopied by old Eucalyptus trees, creating a natural gateway to Kauai’s South Shore. Just inside the Mile 6 marker was placed. A woman runner from Kauai, just ahead of me, went…”Alright…6 down, 20 to go!” She pumped her hands and two runners from Honolulu began talking to here. The two from Honolulu were doing the half marathon. And, as we were running, it came out that our excitable Kauai native was also doing the half. She said she knew the course and wanted a beer after 2 hours of running. Not 4 or more. Another runner, a guy in floral shorts, stopped here and there to take amazing shots within the tunnel of trees. It really was amazing. And, as we left, we rounded into our 7th mile…and finally…FINALLY…got some downhill time. The lady from Kauai went, “Downhill…time to make up all that time we lost on that climb.” She was adorable and so excited…it was rather uplifting, actually. If she had been doing the full, I’d have wanted to have her along to keep me going. I sort of stayed with this group…having a nice back and forth with them for a few miles. They were talking about how running for over 4 hours didn’t sound appealing to them. I told them about how I was supposed to do this race last year, but couldn’t due to a stress fracture. And this was great. This got me through to Mile 10…when I pulled ahead and soon was at the point where the half marathon runners went left to run the last 2.5 miles into the finish line…and the marathon runners went right…at the rooster sign…and continued for the next 15.5 miles. This is where it really thinned out.

Half Marathon & Marathon Split signs at the Kauai Marathon

Half Marathon & Marathon Split signs at the Kauai Marathon

I made the turn, and immediately, another steep hill was waiting. I managed to run a few more feet before I stopped to take another walk break. I didn’t cuss myself out or cry this time…I just told myself to not worry too much about it. This race wasn’t for time anyway. And…at this point a beautiful rainbow was arching over the roadway. So, who needs to run when you can really drink in a Hawaiian rainbow for a moment. I did start up again as I neared the crest of the hill…and took on the downhill.

My foot was now starting to bother me more. As far as long runs went after seeing my podiatrist…I had done 8 miles. So, I was already over the distance I tested this foot out on. And it was screaming at me. I took a deep breath…turned my focus back to my form again, and kept on going. Miles 11-12 were relatively flat, but I soon found myself walking again as the hills returned near the halfway point. I picked it up to run across the half marathon mark which translated to anyone following me via tracking that I was at least halfway done. This was just under 2 hours into the race…and I was now hitting the hardest part of the course. The volunteer they had at the halfway mark though was awesome. And I am so glad he was there, cheering and encouraging people. He told me I was halfway there…and doing well. And he said it that I believed him. I was hitting my unspoken goal…to finish around 4 hours…at this point…on target. I knew I’d be slowing down though with the course being harder on the other side. But…making it this far was good…even if I was really starting to feel the effects of the humidity and heat of the day. After all, the sun was up and blazing now…and there wasn’t a lot of tree cover on these roads. You run the day…so I was running (and walking) to my abilities now.

I ran through Mile 14 before having to slow again. I drank in some water and poured some over my head to keep my body temperature cool. That was not an easy thing for me to do…but it was necessary. Also…Mile 15-17 was the huge climb that I had heard and read stories about. And I knew…I knew I would have to walk some of it.

Truth was…I walked the entire hill. I just couldn’t get my mind to tell my feet and legs to go. I probably could have run some of it, but my mind was not in a good place at this point and the word “can’t” was probably running around more than it should have been. But, once I got to the top…I started to run again. This part of the race went through a very rurual area, with broken down houses. But this…this part had my race moment. I was running along a road that looked like it was made of red clay. And this little girl, also in pigtails, come running up alongside me…just smiling. I told her that I loved her hair and we ran together…the two of us…pigtails bouncing at our shoulders. It was amazing. And even when she hit the chalk finish line she had etched into the road…she kept going with me. When she dropped back, I shouted a thank you to her and continued on my way. Seriously…highlight.

After that is where things sort of spiraled out of control. It’s hard to remember much because it got a little bit…scary. Despite taking in water (my own and that along the course) and fueling the way I have always fueled for races…by Mile 18…I was starting to feel sick. My stomach was not happy with me, probably due to taking in more water than I am accustomed to. Or, maybe it was the new fuel. I can’t say since I didn’t test it out, but I took the fuel in at my usual spots ahead of this and had no issues at all. But the heat was really starting to lay into me. And, needless to say, I started to succumb to it.

I jogged with a Marathon Maniac from Mile 17…and we walked a hill through Mile 18. He took off after that and I told myself I would start to run again. But, my body wasn’t feeling it. My stomach hurt. My head was foggy. And I was aching. Foot and hip. Just…no desire to start up again. I tried…and my foot rebelled. So, I decided to walk a little more. I walked through the next couple of miles, taking offered cold water despite feeling like I really just wanted to throw up. As I crested a hill around Mile 21…I was seeing dark spots in my vision and my lips were tingling. I was in a bad way. But I didn’t want to call it quits. I have never DNF’d a race and I wasn’t ready, after traveling this far, and having had to give upon this race last year, to give up now. I slowed it down. Breathed deeply, and kept putting one foot in front of the other. If I hit a water stop, I would drink half the water, even though I really just wanted to throw up more…then pour the rest over my head to cool down. We had rounded back and had to go over the timing mat I had gone over at the halfway point. The same enthusiastic volunteer was there as I walked…WALKED…over it. He said…”It’s only 5 more miles and mostly down hill from here.”

It was niceto hear. But I knew my pace wasn’t going to be picking up any time soon. And it wasn’t just me. I’d have people run by me who were stopping to walk. They didn’t have the added fun of an injured foot and hip to contend with and eventually would start up again. It was frustrating, to me, and I was trying hard to not worry about the time ticking away with each slow, walking step I had to take. I cussed at myself when I had to walk the downhills. I felt horrible…and the few times I talked myself into jogging, I had to stop almost immediately. I held tears back, because I didn’t want to break down and not be able to breathe. It was already hard enough in the humidity. The heat of the day was upon us now and I just wanted to get to the finish line and find some shade. When I was at Mile 23, I saw two of the volunteers on mopeds. One of them asked about some medical thing at Mile 18. The other guy said it was just a runner who was done. The heat and humidity and hills had done him in. I overheard this and said…I know how he feels, but I just decided to walk it in. And one of them said, “You’ve looked strong all day. Keep going!”

Hearing that made me feel a little better, and despite the runners catching up and passing me, I just kept that steady mantra of just putting one foot in front of the other. Keep going. 2 miles…I could walk 2 miles. I was walking 2 miles. Around Mile 25, the resort near the finish line was handing out cold, wet towels. I took one and draped it over my neck, then my head. I touched it to my shoulders and face. I kept it with me until it was no longer cold. And by then…I was near the finish line. So close.

But my legs still weren’t ready to go. And I was getting so mad at myself and the entire situation. As I was nearing a bend in the road, and seeing the ocean again, a guy was walking up to the runners heading our way, a medal around his neck, giving us high fives. He saw me and said, “You turn that corner and you will see the finish. You’re almost there, girl.” And with that, I came around the bend, and started to jog.

Hugs from friends.  And they gave me a lei!  I have amazing people in my life.  I think this is where I said, "That was so fucking hard."  And cried.  A lot.

Hugs from friends. And they gave me a lei! I have amazing people in my life. I think this is where I said, “That was so fucking hard.” And cried. A lot.

It took every bit of my willpower to keep going. I pushed. I pushed more. And I ran toward that finish line, hearing Ron Wiley (the DJ of KONG radio) say, “And here comes Karen Brady of The Brady Bunch”…and I tossed up my hands and crossed the finish line.

I could hear Cathy, Tawn, and Jenn. I could see them. I slowed to a walk and tried to catch my breath. Tears just flowed. Those ugly cry tears. And I walked up to them, Cathy reaching over to give me a hug, and all I could say was, “That was so fucking hard.” And then I melted down.

After a few moments of sweaty hugs, and getting a lei put around my neck, I slowly walked down the chute to receive my medal. Cathy had me pose with the cute Hawaiian man handing out medals before I made my way to the reunion area to meet them. Cathy went to grab a bag of ice to lay me down on and I went to get into the shade and put my feet up. Jennifer and Tawn went to get me some iced coffee and I was content to lay there, feet up, recovering…and trying hard not to cry. My friends were awesome. They told me how good I did and how proud they were of me. And I focused on that instead of the fact that, while my only true goal was to finish the race, I had hoped for a little bit better time. But, this was a brutal course and brutal weather. I did what I could. I left everything I had out there. And while I was disappointed in myself, no one else was.

After I felt recovered enough to move, I called my mom to talk to her.  She and my dad had been tracking me, which I had no idea they would be doing.  It almost made me cry…especially when they both started telling me how proud they were of me.  I talked to my mom as we were getting to the car and hung up as we climbed in.  Cathy asked if I needed water…and as my stomach was still off, I requested a cold Sprite Zero.  She said we could swing by the Long’s Drugs that was near the finish line.  So…we did.  And I didn’t realize she didn’t enter with me.  I had gone right over to the cold beverages and grabbed a Sprite Zero.  Then…couldn’t find her.  Tawn had me help her look for some travel size products, and as I was ready to leave and sit down again, Cathy comes in, grabs my hand, and drops my Claddagh ring into my hand. Turns out, a customer at the Living Foods Market found it in the parking lot and turned it in.  My amazing friends had called to inquire about it as they ate breakfast while I was out running. And the market had it.  And now…I had it back. I purchased that ring in 2007 in Ireland…I was so upset it was gone.  And now…thanks to the amazing people in my life…and a special and honest person who found it and turned it in…I have it back.  I ugly cried for the 4th time that day.

After that, we went back to the resort so I could shower off and get changed.  Once I was clean…and in the process…noticed that the date was wrong on the medal…I was dressed and we headed out to lunch and to explore Kauai for the rest of the day.

Lunch, by the way, was Gluten Free Vegan Tacos at Verdes.  It was amazing.  Just what I needed.  Lunch with friends…and good food.

Me with a handsome Hawaiian at the finish of the Kauai Marathon - Kauai - Poipu, HI

Me with a handsome Hawaiian at the finish of the Kauai Marathon – Kauai – Poipu, HI

So…the official results of the Kauai Marathon are that I finished in 4:52:18.  I was 97/258 finishers overall.  I was 31/101 female finishers. And I was 6/13 finishers in my age division.

Was this the race I had hoped for?  No.  Nowhere close.  Unfortunately, this race was the race I needed, but didn’t need.  The outcome wasn’t the one I wanted.  There was way more walking than I had anticipated. The hills, the heat, the humidity…they crushed me and I am still battling this mental block of mine.  A part of me wonders if I can honestly take on 26.2 anymore.  This race defeated me…but I was not defeated.  Despite feeling horrible…despite the brutal heat and course…I finished.  I found that little boost at the end to run it in and cross that finish line.  And in the end…all that matters is that I crossed that line…my friends were there to hug me…and I survived.  I made it.

Was this the comeback I dreamed of?  Nowhere close.  But there will be other races.  Just not anytime soon.

I am proud of myself though…despite pain and nagging injuries…and the weather conditions (possible hurricanes up until the day before!)…I finished.  I FINISHED!  Marathon #11…done!

From here…I focus on getting stronger.

Aloha, Kauai.  Thanks for the memories…even if my race date is wrong on the medal (which…by the way…has yet to be acknowledged by the race peeps…despite it being mentioned numerous times to them via social media).

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

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

Race: Minnesota Half Marathon

Place: St. Paul, Minnesota

Date: August 6, 2016

Time: 1:41:24

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

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

Maybe this was meant to be.

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

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Caribou Coffee!!!!!

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

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French Meadow Bakery’s Gluten Free & Vegan Cornmeal Waffle

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

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

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

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

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Pre-race nap in the rental car

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

So…I took a nap.

No joke.  I took a freakin’ nap.

Ah…my power naps are so…awesome.

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

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

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

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

But I was off.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon – Indianapolis, IN (May 7, 2016)

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Me heading into the finish line of the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon

Race: OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon

Place: Indianapolis, Indiana

Date: May 7, 2016

Time: 1:39:28

Four years ago…four years ago I ran the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon as my second half marathon EVER!  I was fortunate enough to have a friend in my corral, a local runner I met with the (now gone) Blue Mile Monday running group.  It was a fantastic race that day.  Hot.  Steamy.  Sweaty.  But fantastic.  It was such a spirited, fun, and well-run race and expo…that I vowed to go back.

And then…it didn’t happen.

Until, I decided to run it again.  It was a really random, really quick decision to run it.  And I didn’t really shout about it because, as I’ve said before, every day is different for me.  I never know when there is a good day ahead or a bad day…so, I haven’t really been talking about races I’m doing just in case it’s not a good day and I don’t actually run it.  It’s hard coming back from injury, but I’m being cautious and smart about it and I’m not pushing it.  So…I left work early on Friday and trekked up to Indianapolis, Indiana to get checked into the hotel.  I always stay at the JW Marriott when in Indy for a run, when it’s convenient.  It was for this race.  The start line was right out the door!  HA!  Besides, I’m a princess…I like to stay in nice places.  (Joking…sort of…).  After checking in and dropping off bags in the room, Cathy and I headed down to the race expo to pick up my race bib.  This was a little bit of a hike through the convention center, but it’s a hell of an expo and worth the hike.

We noted the Starbucks in the hotel and said we’d stop and get a banana for me for in the morning on our way back.  Once we got into the expo, we were handed drawstring backpacks and we immediately headed to the Packet Pickup area.  Since I registered later, my number was pretty high up there, which meant hiking further back in the line of windows with bib numbers.  I found my spot and went up to the window.  They said to have your photo ID ready, but the guy didn’t even ask for it.  He did find my bib and got my shirt…tucked it into a Blue Mile bag and handed it over to me.  YAY!  Officially ready to run.  But first…shopping…

…and the official merchandise store always has some goodies to offer.  Cathy went and bought an official Finisher shirt for me (I can’t buy that…bad mojo).  And I ogled a few other things, but opted to leave it with just the shirt.  So…we began a quick weave through the expo.  This is where I fell in love with the Ocean Spray PACt Cranberry Extract Water.  I am forever having this stuff in my fridge.  HOLY COW!!  SO GOOD!!  We scooted past the Clif Bar place, which had a line due to all the samples they were handing out.  And then…

…I signed up for another race.  It was one I was considering anyway…and with the expo discount and the promise of a free hat…I ended up going ahead and signing up.  Somebody stop me!!  LOL!!  This one isn’t too far away, so I  feel confident I’ll be in good form to run it.

We then found the BondiBand booth…and…oh yeah…there were purchases made.  I ended up getting 3 more…because…I can’t have too many of these.  I wear them on runs, at the gym, and in spin classes…so, yeah…they get used.  I still own the very first BondiBand I ever had…my 13.1 one that my friend, Heather Dillon, purchased for me at my first half marathon in Chicago back in 2011.  You might say that I am a fan…but I’m also a brand ambassador for them now too.  More on that once it’s officially official.  Anyway…more money spent and it was time to leave the expo to get to our dinner reservation.  We stopped for a moment to sign the banner wall at the exit.  Then, food.

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My Gluten Free Penne with Tomato Marinara and Vegetables from Osteria Pronto at the JW Marriott in Indianapolis, IN

Now, my pre-race eats is always…ALWAYS…a gluten free pizza.  BUT…we couldn’t find a close spot that offered that near where we were in Indianapolis.  And we really didn’t want to leave the area…so Cathy found out that the hotel restaurant, Osteria Pronto, offered gluten-free pasta on their menu.  I normally don’t do pasta as I am a pasta freak and will EAT ALL THE PASTA…and sometimes it’s too much and I still have it with me in the morning.  But, you gotta do what you gotta do.  Turns out, this place had their act together. The chef and servers were very knowledgeable about gluten-free dining and when they brought out Cathy’s bread…they brought me out some toasted Udi’s Gluten Free Sandwich Bread to have with either butter (no dairy for me) or olive oil.  It was a nice gesture.  The chef threw together a pasta dish for me using the Gluten Free Penne and their amazing red marinara and some fresh vegetables (onion, red pepper, broccolini).  Cathy got their signature pasta dish – Straw & Hay (chive noodle & egg noodle, lardo, English peas, garlic cream, pine nuts, and topped with a soft boiled egg).  I didn’t think I was that hungry…but as I said, I love pasta…and I devoured mine.  LOL!!

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Just hanging out with my NUUN guys!  I loved them.  I really loved them.

After dinner, we returned to the expo to finish up.  Starbucks was closed…so Cathy said she’d get a banana in the morning for me. We revisited the entire expo, walking through the slightly less chaotic area this time.  Cathy bought another BondiBand for spin class, and the lady working there gave us the discount so she only paid $5 for it, since we previously bought some that day.  YAY!!  I found the NUUN table and got to talking with the cute guys behind there.  I told them I was a #nuunambassador and we got a picture together.  LOVE!!  It was fun.  My new favorite flavor…the Mango Orange.  WOW!  And…then I signed up for ANOTHER race.  Seriously…stop me.  This one is in the fall…and they gave me a free wine glass and an expo discount for signing up.  Cathy was given a race shirt because they were so impressed with what a great running fan she is and everything she does for not just me…but other runners.  SUPER awesome.  We wrapped up the expo and hiked outside to Circle Center to hit up Rocket Fizz.  We ended up purchasing a Diet Root Beer for Cathy and a Nut Goodie Bar to split for dessert.  I am a firm believer in dessert.  And then…it was back to the hotel.  I talked to my sister on the phone on the way back…and I even stood at the window in my room and watched an ongoing baseball game…which was totally awesome.  Cathy went to go shower and I needed to do my nightly foam rolling.

I had made a promise to my good friend, Deana, after the Derby Mini, that I would dedicate the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon to her.  I kept my word, and in Sharpie, on my race bib, I wrote: FOR DEANA!  I texted her a picture and we chatted for a little while…as I watched some Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives (seriously…this is a tradition!) and did more foam rolling and used THE STICK on my hip and hip adductor.  After that…it was time to set the alarms for the morning and get some sleep.

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The final race day outfit…I was told to NOT wear the tank…I am glad I didn’t.

My first alarm went off and I got up, turned it off, took my medicine, used the bathroom, and then…went back to sleep.  My second alarm got me up at 5:30 am.  I grabbed my pile of race gear and headed into the bathroom to change and put on ALL THE SUNSCREEN.  Hey, I’m a pale, blonde, Irish girl…I burn easily.  And I had to slather it ALL OVER myself.  I wasn’t sure at this point if I was running in just a sports bra or if I was throwing on a tank, but I acted as though I’d do the bra only.  Once I had my Injinji socks on and my Newtons laced up, I put my hair up in my signature pigtails, dressing them up with red and black hair extensions.  And the BondiBand was a pink and black checkered one I found at the expo.  It was the closest thing to a checkered flag I could find.  I went back into the hotel room and made sure Cathy got up out of her bed.  Her mission was to go get me a banana from Starbucks.  They were giving them away for free, but it was a madhouse, and she was gone long enough that I managed to eat my cereal, do all my PT stretches and turn on the news/weather.  When she got back, she changed, ate a protein bar, and drank her Starbucks Cool Lime Refresher.  At about 6:45 a.m., I had my fuel belt on and was heading out the door.  Cathy realized she forgot the sign, so back to the hotel room to snag it.  And then, we were on our way, heading down the elevator and out the door.

My friend, Julia, was running in the 5K, which was going off at 7 a.m.  I was hoping to find her, but, there were SO many people that I never did see her.  I looked and waited.  And never saw her go by.  DANG IT!  Cathy thought she heard the announcer say something about corrals closing and said that it involved mine, so now we were walking the line down to the split in the corrals.  She found an information guy and asked and he aid that my corral was going to open as soon as the 5K runners were though…since I was in C.  So…Cathy made me panic for no reason.  She does this a lot at races.  Seriously.  *deep breath*  We walked back up and I downed my banana and I went to get into Corral C.  I had a moment to do my dynamic warmup moves before Cathy said she needed to stake out her spot at the other side of the start…so she made me take off my NYC Marathon zip I had put on to keep warm.  I parted with it, and was surprised that it wasn’t too chilly at the start.  A little, but not enough that I was shivering.  The National Anthem was sung BEAUTIFULLY and the wheelchair racers were sent off by Meb.  Meb was there running from the back of the mini to the front…I never got to see him.  Dang it.  In fact, I finished the race before he even started.  I did beat his time though, LOL!

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Meb waiving the green flag up in the bucket. I didn’t even see him. I suck.

The corrals moved up and the first wave was prepared to be sent off…by Meb…at 7:33 am.  The horn sounded, Meb waived the green flag, and we were off.  I crossed the start line, started my Garmin, and just went with the crowd.  I saw Cathy and gave a wave and headed toward the Indianapolis Zoo.  I didn’t see any animals out this year…but it is a nice way to start the race regardless.  That zoo is gorgeous!  This was a quick pace for me, though it didn’t feel it at the time.  My first mile was 6:57, apparently, but I dropped back after that.  Let me say, I am very glad that Cathy told me to go with the bra top only and not the tank.  The humidity was very real at Mile 2…and it was still early.  So, yeah…that worked out wonderfully.  I would have died with fabric on me.  As it was, my legs felt heavy and I was wondering how well this race was actually going to play out for me.  But, I pressed on, hoping I’d find my stride and fall into a comfortable pace and hold it.  Mile 2 and 3 are run on W. Michigan Street.  In fact, much of the first 5 miles of the race is through residential and such areas…but always with spectators and people there to cheer, some more populated than others.  Mile 5 is Main Street…and a banner is spread over the top welcoming runners to Main Street.  There are restaurants and the like out here and the crowd was loud and proud.  It was a nice way to make the turn toward the Speedway itself.  You enter the speedway via a steep downhill slope, and then back up.  Inside, you hit Mile 6 and the run around the actual Indianapolis Motor Speedway is on.  This is the part I always look forward to.  This was also the slowest miles of the race for me.  I think it’s because the sun had come out, the humidity was high, and there was no shade out on that track.  But I was running ON THE TRACK of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  How cool is that.  They have 2 pit stops (water stations) inside the track, but I carry my own water and fuel with me, so I never make use of these.  I thought about it though, with the humid air.  I was sweating!  The best part…the highlight, is hitting that brickyard.  I flashed devil horns to the photographers and carried on.  You exit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway just before Mile 9.  From here…it’s 4 miles to the finish.

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Me leaving the start gate of the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon

4 miles is a morning run for me.  So, despite feeling like I was really slowing down, I was super happy with how I was plugging along.  I kept saying, “This is for Deana…and Deana doesn’t quit!”  Or “Be relentless…like Deana.”  Mantras really help.  LOL!  I wasn’t about to quit…when it’s humid and hot, you just slow it down and run comfortable.  Miles 9-11 wind you back toward downtown, and when you get to Mile 12, you see the checkered flags, and hear the crowds, and you just run.  You just run because you’re almost done.  You just run because you are heading to that finish line. You just…do what you’ve been doing all along, but with feeling and spirit and maybe jazz hands.  Or maybe not.  Jazz hands might be a little much…

I love this part of the race.  The energy is amazing.  I could hear the finish line announcer and I knew I was getting close.  My watch beeped long before the 13 mile marker (I was about .20 miles ahead of the mile markers), and I picked it up some more.  I gritted my teeth, dug deep, and pushed it.  I saw Cathy to my right with my sign and just screaming at me.  And I noticed, as I neared the finish, that the clock time said 1:39:45…I crossed.  I just turned out another half marathon (13.29 miles on my Garmin)…and was only 1:07 minutes off of breaking my PR set at the Geist Half Marathon in 2014.  I felt amazing.  And accomplished.  And…yeah!!  I was ushered toward the medals and was handed one, which I eased over my head, somehow not spilling any water in the open water bottle I was holding.  I’m just that talented, folks.

I was given a plastic bag to put water, banana, fruits, energy bars, and whatever else into as I walked through the runner recovery area.  As I got a Dole cup, one of the Dole employees said he loved my outfit and smile and asked if he could get my picture with the Dole cup.  So, I agreed.  If I turn up on any Dole advertisements, let me know.  I am almost famous, LOL!  Afterwards, I headed into the After Party area where I was to find Cathy in the family reunion zone around the end of the alphabet.  I spotted her and rushed over…and she gave me my official time!!  I was SO happy with it.  Impressed because I felt like I was running through tar at some points…no joke.  But this was 2 minutes better than Derby…which was 2 minutes better than NYC.  Nice pattern there, yes?  LOL!

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Getting my post-race massage.  I obviously approve, LOL!!

I changed out of my shoes and put on some recovery shoes.  I snagged some chocolate milk for Cathy and then headed into the massage tent.  I NEVER miss a post-race massage whenever possible.  Seriously, this just helps me with my recovery.  The lines weren’t long yet either.  The nice lady who gave me my massage was awesome.  It was, seriously, one of the best post-race massages I have ever had.  She asked me a lot about running and how I got into it…and she really stretched me out and worked my muscles.  She told me she loves working on people where she can feel their muscles and see how they move when she works on them.  GO ME!  Afterwards, I was ready to head back to the hotel to shower, so Cathy and I headed that way.

The hotel was handing out cold towels to runners so we could wipe our faces and get refreshed, which was SO awesome.  Once we got up to the room, I went to go shower and Cathy packed up everything.  Once I was clean and dressed, she called down to have the car brought out by valet and I downed some water and played on my phone for a moment.  We finally went down just as our car came around.  Packed up…we hit the road to go to Target and then meet up with our friend, Greg, at Cheeseburger in Paradise.  A celebrator Gluten Free Veggie Baja Burger (no cheese or sour cream) was in order.  I got mine with the gluten free sweet potato fries.  I devoured it.  No joke.  We did a bit of shopping after lunch, hitting up Half Price Books…Strange Brew for coffee…and the outlets in Edinburgh, before heading home.

Half Marathon #18…done.  And it’s my third fastest one to date!!

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Half Marathon #3 this year…done…Half Marathon #18 in my running career…done…3rd fastest half marathon time…achieved. Call it a comeback!

So, the official results of the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon is that I finished in 1:39:28.  I was 889/24,768 finishers overall.  I was 123/13,487 female finishers.  And I was 21/1,939 finishers in my division!  I am so happy with this result and I texted Deana and she was so honored and happy.  It was a wonderful race, and now I remember why I loved it so much.  I hope not to wait another 4 years to return to this one.  That being said, I’m already in talks with Deana about some upcoming stuff for next year, which I’m super excited about.  I’m sure I’ll discuss that when it all falls into place.  I am certain my endurance will continue to get better.  Half marathon distances used to feel so easy for me, but I’ve been struggling in the last few miles as of late.  But this one surprised me, because I thought I had really slowed down, but I never once hit a sub 7:45 minute pace.  At all.  WOW!!  And to think I slowed down to a pace that felt “easy.”  At least my fitness has been kept up over the span of time I was out with injury last year.  I credit that to my spin classes, regular gym visits, and sheer determination on my part.

Deana…I ran hard and strong for you…I’m glad this race turned out the way it did.  Thank you for being an inspiration, a badass, and truly, an amazing friend.

Kentucky Derby Festival Mini Marathon – Louisville, KY (April 30, 2016)

Me running toward the finish line of the Kentucky Derby Festival Mini Marathon (in the rain, but still smiling) - Louisville, KY

Me running toward the finish line of the Kentucky Derby Festival Mini Marathon (in the rain, but still smiling) – Louisville, KY

Race: Kentucky Derby Festival Mini Marathon

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: April 30, 2016

Time: 1:41:18

You know…the week and morning I had leading into the Kentucky Derby Festival Mini Marathon was one that pointed to not running it at all.  On Monday morning, I had an unexpected Great Cat Chase with my neighbors cat, which I was catsitting while they were at the beach.  I love this cat, but that morning I was running late to my spin class and she slipped outside and just took off.  I ended up having to wake my roommate up to find her while I went to spin.  Since she is not my cat, I felt horrible not having her back inside while I wasn’t home.  She behaved the rest of the week though and we had good purr sessions.  Tuesday…my coffeemaker died.  MY COFFEEMAKER DIED!!  Do you know what that means??!!  It meant that I had NO caffeine fix that morning.  And after hitting up the gym, I begged my roommate for some Starbucks.  She came through, with a tall sugar free cafe misto with coconut milk for me.  She saved the day.  Then…on Thursday…my Garmin died. I woke up to it having a blank screen and not turning on.  I went on my 4 mile run sans-Garmin running watch.  I was feeling pretty hated by technology at that point.  One of the race ambassadors, and a friend of mine, Melissa, said that she had purchased an extra Garmin watch and that I could have it if I wanted it.  OMG…that was the sweetest thing anyone has done for me.

Anyway…that was leading up to race day.  I went to the race expo on Thursday night, and one of the first people I see is sweet Melissa.  I gave her a hug and we lamented about the weather. I joked about carrying shampoo and body wash with me so as I head into the finish, I could just lather up, wash down, and look and smell immaculate at the finish.  After chatting and wishing each other luck, I went over to the table to pick up my race packet.

The infamous receiving the race bib shot at the expo. We were going to pose, but Cathy took the picture already!

Picking up my race bib from the nice volunteers at the expo!  This was supposed to be posed, but Cathy snapped it candid.

This was funny…kinda.  I listed off my bib number (937A) to the lady at the table.  She asked for my ID…which I had to fish out.  Cathy was poised with her camera to take a picture, which the nice volunteer noticed.  So she had a plan to pose and everything, but before we could carry out the plan, Ninja Cathy already snapped the photo.  The lady asked if she was ready to take the shot and Cathy said, “I already did.” We all laughed a little.  I happily took my bib and the big plastic bag of stuff (including a full box of Cold-Eez) and went to retrieve the garishly bright yellow race shirt.  I love bright shirts.  What I don’t love on this shirt is the actual design.  I loved the map route on the medal this year, but it didn’t transfer well over to the screen print on the shirt.  Ah well.  It’s another race/running shirt to add to my already full closet.  I’ll take it.  After that, we walked through the various booths at the expo.  I was on the hunt for a Garmin at this point…but no one had any.  I did purchase some new Bondi Bands (YAY!) and got to see my friend Daniel working at one of the booths.  He was handing out free magnet things and I went to get one and he said, “Except for you…you have to pay for yours.”  I love my friends.  I also ran into my physical therapist, Katie, who was working an Alter-G treadmill.  AH.  I want to get on one of these SO bad.  Needless to say, she messaged me after the race on Saturday morning and said I should come into the office and try it out.  I’m SO taking her up on that.  We wrapped up the expo and headed home for a late dinner and to settle in before the craziness of Friday at the office.

My Gluten Free & Vegan Veggie Pizza from Annie May's Sweet Cafe! Yes...it was as delicious as it looks.

My delicious Gluten Free & Vegan Veggie Pizza from Annie May’s Sweet Cafe

Friday night is the night before the race…so I pulled a Gluten Free & Vegan Veggie Pizza from Annie May’s Sweet Cafe out of my freezer.  I don’t risk anything the night before a race.  I knew I’d be fine eating this.  And it was delicious and amazing.  I rested that night, foam rolled, and went to bed around 9:30 p.m.  I set an early alarm to get up and do all my PT exercises, my dynamic warm-up and to get an early start on my mileage.

I was scheduled for 16 miles this weekend.  Which was one reason I signed up for the Kentucky Derby Festival Mini Marathon.  Why not run 13 miles with people and get a medal at the end of it, right?  That being said, I went out that morning before the race and ran a slow, steady 3 miles.  I came back home, ate my breakfast and got dressed into some (unflattering) running shorts, a light singlet, and my compression sleeves and running socks (I went with the Injinji toe socks to help prevent any blistering should rain kick in as scheduled).  I had debated wearing my favorite running shoes (my Newton Distance III) and opted to wear my Nike Free RN Distance shoes, which I have never worn over a 10K mileage, but I’d rather let rain destroy those than my Newtons.  So…I figured this would be interesting regardless.  That being said and done, I brushed my teeth gathered up my change of clothes for afterwards, got all the running gear out and ready to go…and headed out the door.

This is me, trying not to stress as I hook on my hydration belt and get ready to book it to the start line since I was running VERY late to this race.

This is what a runner who is running late to a race looks like. I’m trying to walk and snap on my hydration belt.

No joke, my roommate and I were down the road at a stoplight and I went…”I forgot to put on my wings anklet my mom gave me.”  So…this is a thing now.  Ever since I’ve returned to running, when I race, this anklet has been around my ankle.  My mom got it for me because she said, “You don’t run, baby, you fly.”  So, when I was finally able to get back out there to run and race…this anklet has been kept on my ankle.  I feel like it’s carrying my mom’s words with me on each run.  So, yeah…we turned around and I dashed back inside and grabbed the anklet.  Back off we went…and I clasped the anklet on and felt better about life.  We got back down the road to the stop light and Cathy started cussing and went to turn around.  I was like, “WHAT??!”  And she said, “We forgot the most important thing for today…”  I was so confused.  “What?”  She said…”YOUR RACE BIB.”  Oh…my…God.  I felt like such a newbie, LOL!!  We turned around and went back to the apartment.  I was now a mess because we were running way late, still had to cross the bridge, still had to park, and had to get to the corrals for the start.  I was supposed to meet up with my dear friend, Deana, to run with her, so I was texting her and telling her I had to go back to my apartment a few times and was just NOW getting underway.  UGH.  I was planning on napping on the way to the race, but it was now 7 a.m., 30 minutes before the start, and I now had to eat my banana.  I was a mess now…feeling very stressed and rushed.  I do NOT like getting to a race in this state.  The parking garage Cathy wanted to park in was not accessible as they had closed the road getting to it.  So, now we’re driving in circles looking for a place to park.  She finally found a place…and paid only $5 to park there.  We were shocked the price was so cheap!  We got parked…and she grabbed the poncho I loaned her (it’s my super nice lined one from the NYC Marathon) and we headed down the stairs to the start.  I tossed my banana peel and started to walk swiftly toward the start line.  I got there with only moments to spare.  No joke.  We took a quick picture in front of the start line, I shed the poncho (it wasn’t raining yet) and ducked into my corral.  I was so stressed and upset that I wasn’t going to be able to find Deana…and just as I found a place to stand…the gun went off…and we were off and running.

The morning was humid, but I felt good as I crossed the start line.  I saw Cathy and gave a wave as I headed out for the first mile.  I was determined to just keep it comfortable because I wasn’t here to race this half marathon.  I was here just to run it.  I fell into pace and headed down the long stretch of Main Street.  It was crowded but I didn’t have to do too much bobbing and weaving, which is always appreciated.  I felt good and blasted through the first 2 miles, making an easy turn onto 20th street.  The pace remained relaxed for me, and I felt like I was pushing a little, but not hard, which I figured was fine for a girl who already ran 3 miles before the race.  The course was a little less populated by spectators due to the impending weather.  It was nice to have the scattered people out clapping and cheering though.  At least this is a beautiful city to run, right?

Me heading out for the start of the Kentucky Derby Festival Mini Marathon - Louisville, KY

Me heading out for the start of the Kentucky Derby Festival Mini Marathon – Louisville, KY

I ran the full  marathon back in 2014, pacing a friend of mine, and somehow forgot about much of this course.  For some reason, I thought we ran through Churchill Downs around mile 6, so I was really looking forward to that.  At Mile 6, I was heading down Magnolia Avenue and turning back onto 4th street. Churchill Downs was nowhere in sight.  I was so confused!!  But, I just kept going.  I knew my running buddy, Tammy, said she was going to be out near Churchill Downs, so I kept an eye out for her…because I was certain it was coming up.  Two miles later, I saw Tammy and made the turn to run into Churchill Downs.  8 miles down and now was one of my favorite parts of the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon and Mini Marathon…the lap through Churchill Downs.  Down the tunnel and back up…and then it was time to run around the infield.  Normally horses are out, but the weather was gearing up to start raining and none of the horses were out running or training.  So, that was a bit of a bummer.  Ah well…then…back out through a different tunnel…up…and out of Churchill Downs.  Just up the way is the infamous split.  Mini Marathon runners go left…and Marathon runners go right (and start making their way to the hills of Iroquois Park).  I turned left this time…heading into the last 5 miles of the Mini Marathon.  9 miles down…and soon…came the rain.

I had been silently cussing the fact that I wore a hat (I hate wearing hats when I race) and my Nikes instead of my Newtons…until this point.  The rain, at first, was a light drizzle.  It actually felt good.  It was around Mile 10 when my friend Dan came up beside me and said “Hi” to me.  I asked how he was doing, and he said he was starting to hurt (he ran Boston), and I wished him luck as he pulled up ahead.  With the new front of weather, the hip started to get tight and I was feeling it now.  The rain picked up a little more as I made it to the 11th mile marker.  Two more to go.  That was my mantra.  Just two more to go.  The stretch of 3rd Street was lined with few spectators…up until we hit the downtown area.  Around Mile 12…the crowds picked up.  People were shouting encouragement.  And I made the turn onto Market Street.  I could hear the announcer at the finish line, so I knew I was getting close.  But that small stretch before making the turn toward the finish line felt like it went on forever.  But I finally made the turn and pushed it as much as my tired legs could manage to hit that finish line.  I saw Cathy just before crossing and she was just screaming.  I heard my name get announced and I threw up my arms in victory and was all smiles at the end.  My friend Daniel, who headed up the training program I went out with every Saturday, was there and he came over to high five me.  That was the best part of the finish, right there.  That high five meant the world to me.

I kept moving through the chute, got my Mylar wrap and my medal.  And then I continued on for some water. I got an official finish picture taken and then continued on toward the Family Reunion Area…where I spotted Cathy on the edge of the fence-line…just waiting for me.  I came up to her and she gave me my official time.  I took 2 minutes (somehow) off my NYC Half Marathon Time and actually turned in my 4th fastest half marathon.  I was shocked.  I passed off the snacks I snagged on the way to the meeting point and did a few leg swings to help loosen up the hip some.  After that, I was ready to get out of my wet clothes, get some coffee, and grab some actual food.  So we left and did just that.

16.17 miles done that day!!  And 13.1 of them were done in racing conditions.  I never really felt like I was racing though, which speaks highly of my fitness levels.  Given that I had to take a forced year off, this makes me feel really good as I come back from this hip thing.

Kentucky Derby Festival Mini Marathon...DONE! I was soaked...but so happy with the way things turned out.

Kentucky Derby Festival Mini Marathon…DONE! – Louisville, KY

So, the official results of the Kentucky Derby Festival Mini Marathon are that I finished in 1:41:18.  I was 468/10,422 finishers overall.  I was 95/6,209 female finishers.  And I was 20/972 finishers in my division.  I started this race under stress and a feeling more than a little flustered.  I didn’t get to meet up with Deana as planned, but she and I texted pretty much most of the afternoon after she finished.  We’re already making plans to train together for something bigger and better…and I couldn’t be more excited about this.  My pace slowed at the end of this run, I think due to the weather and the fact that I ran ahead of the race.  Next time, I’ll just count the race as my run.  Regardless, this was my 17th half marathon I’ve run and my 4th fastest.  Which…is super exciting given the challenges I have faced the past year.  I am starting to not only regain confidence, but an easy, fast pace while racing too!  I sort of needed this finish.  I only wish I had felt stronger at the end of it.

I want to thank everyone who I met through the Norton Training Group (those who were race ambassadors, helping to run the group, and the runners themselves)!!  I have some new running and, hopefully, lifelong friends who went through a rigorous training regimen and ran hills and did speed work and gave up their Saturday mornings just to train hard for this day.  To everyone who finished…and to those who couldn’t…I am proud of all of you and am so happy to have met you.

I can’t wait to run with you more.

Product Review: WholeMe Cinnamon Banana Chip Clusters

WholeMe Cinnamon Banana Chip Clusters

WholeMe Cinnamon Banana Chip Clusters

Product: WholeMe Cinnamon Banana Chip Clusters – $7.00

One of the best parts about receiving a monthly subscription box is the products I never would have tried and/or heard of without it.  After Cuisine Cube…I needed a change.  So, I opted to get a subscription to Conscious Box, which has become Bestowed.  I love my little monthly treats and this one is affordable, and often has a blend of samples and full-size products.

I received the April box a few days ago…

And I’ve already delved into it.

This morning, I was prepping for a 6 mile run, and per the instructions of my sports nutritionist, I needed to get some fuel in my body before heading out.  So, I went to the pantry and pulled down a package of one of the products I received a full-size sample of.  It is like a granola (and we all know I love granola) and from a company called WholeMe.

WholeMe was created in 2003 by Krista Steinbach and Mary Kosir, two women who were dedicated to developing nutrient-dense, delicious, convenient foods.  Like so many of us, they were leading busy and chaotic lives.  But one thing they both took into consideration was that food has power over everyone’s daily lives and they really wanted to make eating real food delicious and convenient.  In early 2014, they launched a Kickstarter campaign and raised over $40,000 to begin WholeMe.  Their products offer a real alternative to the preservative-filled, sugar-laden snacks that infiltrate the grocery store, and then inevitably…our pantries.  They like to say, “Real food should have a limited shelf life.  Remember, food is perishable.  ours is.  And that’s why the only preservative we use is the fridge.”

So, thanks to my Bestowed Box, I now was the owner of a package of one of WholeMe’s three variety of clusters.  Their granola clusters are available in Almond Coconut, Lemon Berry Chia, and Cinnamon Banana Chip.  As luck of the draw (or in this case…box) had it, I received the Cinnamon Banana Chip.  And this morning…with 6 miles needed at 3:30 a.m…I needed to get some fuel before heading out.  Without any extra sugars, I thought this might be a nice thing to munch on while I got dressed and ready to stretch and warm up.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but when I opened it up and reached inside, snagging a few crumbly clusters of the chocolate-y looking snack, I wasn’t expecting to see real banana chips scattered throughout the blend.  I love banana chips.  Always have.  So, yeah, this made me so happy!  The only real chocolate in this, by the way, is the smattering of cocoa nibs inside the mix.  I figured to give it a go, and I popped the handful in my mouth…

…and was immediately hooked.

In fact, I went back for some more and then went and finished getting ready for my run.  It’s sweet, without being overly sweet.  It tastes mostly of banana.  The cinnamon is nice for the flavor, but it doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the product.  In a word…these clusters are freakin’ amazing.  Out of this world.  And GOOD FOR YOU!!  They are soft and have great texture.  Especially if you get a bit with a banana chip in it.  Yummy!  The bits of chocolate add just enough sweetness to keep the flavor interesting.  And everything inside these clusters…is made from real food.  Real food!  I love eating real food.  With a blend of nuts, seeds, natural sweeteners, and an appropriate hit of salt, cinnamon, and maca…this snack blend is a real treat…no guilt.

It is perfect for…as the back of the bag reads:

“What’s in it for Me?  The watch-what-I-eat Me.  The work-out-addict Me.  The grain-free Me.  The paleo Me.  The give-me-something-good-to-eat Me.  The diabetic Me.  The gluten-free Me.  No matter which Me you happen to be, WholeMe is determined to provide genuine, delicious, convenient foods.  Food that makes all of Me (you) happy.”

So, if it’s so good for you, let’s take a look at these natural and real ingredients that go into a package of WholeMe Cinnamon Banana Chip Clusters, shall we?  This granola mix is made from banana chips (bananas, coconut oil), honey, pecans, coconut, almonds, dried bananas, coconut oil, sunflower seeds, pure maple syrup, cocoa nibs, vanilla extract, cinnamon, salt, and maca.  This blend is grain-free, gluten-free, naturally sweetened, paleo, nutrient-dense, preservative-free, soy-free, and non-GMO.  It is all natural goodness, for sure!

So, with that in mind, it’s time to take a look at the nutrition facts for the WholeMe Cinnamon Banana Chip Clusters.  A serving size of the clusters is 1/3 cup (28 grams).  There are 8 servings per package.  A serving will serve you up 133 calories, 10 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 0  grams trans fat, 1 gram polyunsaturated fat, 2 grams monounsaturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 67 mg sodium, 11 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 8 grams sugars, and 2 grams protein.  Not too bad for something that you can eat as cereal, by the handful, or as a topping to yogurt or ice cream.  Seriously…options are endless.

I haven’t seen this in stores anywhere in my area, and it looks like it is mostly available in Minnesota (where WholeMe is based out of).  That being said, there is an online store…which I will definitely be hitting up in the near future.  With real food that is really good…why wouldn’t I?  This is right in my wheelhouse…and definitely gave me adequate and perfect fueling for my run.