Bluegrass 10,000 – Lexington, KY (July 4, 2017)

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The crew that ran the Bluegrass 10,000 – Lexington, Kentucky

Race: Bluegrass 10,000

Place: Lexington, Kentucky

Date: July 4, 2017

Time: 46:49

OMG, you guys!!  I was finally able to participate in a 4th of July race.  I have been wanting to do this for ages, but usually my schedule (events) or injury have prevented this from happening.  And while I’m still not to my 100%, nor where I would like to be in my running, I was excited to be participating in this race.

Why Lexington?

Well, my friends talked me into it.

Seriously.  I blame the likes of Melissa, Paul and Linda.  Because while there are races closer to home, this one was one I had heard so much about.  So…I pulled the trigger on it about a week or so before the actual race…and registered.

No backing out now.

I decided this would be the perfect race to bring back my Wonder Woman running outfit.  As I was nicknamed Wonder Woman with my running group ages ago…the outfit always makes me feel confident and strong.  And, let’s face it, it’s the perfect 4th of July outfit.

Cathy and I made arrangements with Melissa and Paul to carpool from the Louisville area down to Lexington together.  My running coach, Linda, had picked up my packet for me (there is NO race day pickup…which I didn’t know until I read an e-mail closer), so I had to meet her around 6:30 AM…meaning…pickup at the apartment was happening at 5 am.

Melissa was cool with this (she was driving)…so plans were set.

I was up before 2 am on the 4th of July to do my PT exercises and stretches…both inside and out.  It was pretty damn humid out.  And there was a reason.  Rain was coming.  But I managed to get all my stuff done before any sort of rain came in.  I think it  might have sprinkled a little while I was inside finishing up the stretching, but it was done by the time Cathy woke up, ate a light breakfast, and we headed down to wait for our ride.

And they arrived right on time.  In the dark of night.  Well…I suppose it was the dark of pre-ass-crack-of-dawn, honestly.  Cathy sat up front with Melissa (as she tends to get carsick at times), and Paul and I sat in the back.  I had it in my head to take my power nap…but we were chatting for the entire ride to Lexington, and that’s fine.  I would much rather have the social time than the nap.

When we arrived in Lexington, it was raining.  MEH.  I was prepared for this and wore my old rain shoes, which I didn’t want to do, but I just had a feeling…that’s what I was going to need that day.  We parked across from Rupp Arena and I messaged Linda to find out where she was so I could meet up with her and get my packet.  She was under the bridges behind Rupp Arena and with a little bit of cell phone-fu…we managed to get directions around the building and park where the rest of her people were parking.  This actually worked in our favor as it made for an easy exit after the race.

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Me attempting to not bleed out after Cathy stabbed me in the stomach with a safety pin…LOL!

We didn’t have a lot of time to sit and chat, but I FINALLY got to introduce Linda to Melissa…which Linda has been wanting to have happen for awhile now.  Since April, actually.  SO…YAY!!  Cathy pinned me up and managed to stab me in the stomach with the safety pin.  I like to joke that I was bleeding out after that.  HA!  She also pinned up Melissa and then we helped Melissa with rain shoe choices.  Trust me…this is SUPER IMPORTANT when you’re running in the rain.

Once we were all pinned up, we all (meaning the four of us and Linda’s crew as well) began to make the walk to the start line.  Linda had an idea of where flushing toilets might be along the way…via the convention center.  The door happened to be unlocked, so we moseyed on in.  We had only gotten halfway toward the bathrooms when a security guard came rushing at us in a panic, inquiring as to how we got in.  Linda explained that the door was unlocked and he was all, “Well, it’s not supposed to be!”  She asked if we could at least use the bathrooms, and he said they were locked.  BUT…feeling sorry for our pathetic face falls at that, he did tell us to take the elevator up to the hotel lobby and use the bathroom there.

That’s what we did.

And once we all cycled through the line, we headed out to get to the start line.  The race was getting close to starting.  Like…really close.  We went through the revolving door, where Linda and I did some high knees.  I think I started that.  I’m weird.  I told her that counted as my warmup.

As we were making the hike to the start line, we passed under the finish line.  She had said that she was going to tell me to make a kick to the finish when I saw the start line…but it was still a good ways up the road from the finish.  So she pointed to a drug store and told me that I should kick it in when I saw the drug store instead.  I told her I would try.

As we were nearing the start line, the wheelchair racers were sent off.  YIKES!!  I got a quick good luck hug from Cathy and we all hurried to get a spot at the start.  I slid in sort of close to the front…but not RIGHT up there where I don’t belong.  And no sooner had I gotten in there and got my Garmin turned on and ready for the race…that we were sent off.

No time to stress.  Just run.

And that was the orders that Linda had given me.  Just go out there and run.  Enjoy it.  Have some fun.  The rain had stopped at this point, but the humidity was at 94% at start time.  It was just swampy.  Humid…damp…and that was not a good recipe for a good race.

Not that this was a bad race.  It wasn’t.  I actually had a rather decent race.  Mostly.  You see, I have yet to power through a race this year without needing to stop.  Every race (including the ones in Florida) have been just…HUMID and HOT.  I guess that comes with racing in the late spring/summer.  Which, I really haven’t done for a few years, between training and injuries.  So…I have pretty much died during the races.  And it mentally frustrates me and physically defeats me.

UGH.

Anyway…back to the race.  At the start, I actually was feeling good.  Even with the cotton Wonder Woman tank on (I had thought about wearing a bra top…and in hindsight, probably should have, but I’m not loving my body at the moment…so…there it is.  Pure honesty).  As I was setting out I even heard Tammy (from my Louisville running group) shout, “Hey, Karen Brady!”  I’m kind of hard to miss in my pigtails and everything.  HA!

My first mile was decent.  It felt hard.  I know there are a few things I need to do to get my running as strong and easy as it used to be…but for some reason, I’m having a difficult time implementing them.  I’m working on it.  But I have some mental blocks that are…holding me back.

Whoa.  That got serious there.  Let’s just say…I’m not where I want to be, but I’m not where I used to be.  Both are good and bad…depending on how you look at it.

We looped around a few corners before heading into the second mile.  I was already soaked and not from rain.  It was just that steamy out.  And I was in my cotton Wonder Woman tank.  Good planning there (*sarcasm*).  Some of Mile 2 was actually on a downhill, but you quickly find out that from thereon in…it’s a lot of uphill.  That being said, I made a conscious decision to slow down at a water stop in Mile 3 because I wanted to be smart.  I started off this race more dehydrated than I should have been, so I needed water.  I took a quick sip…then poured the rest over my head.  That was just what I needed.  I picked up my pace and headed into the turnaround point.  I made the turn and headed back toward the finish line.

Straight shot.

Just after Mile 4, I came to a walk and took another cup of water from the water stop there.  Once again, I drank a sip of it and then the rest went over my head.  I tossed the cup and started to run again.  I told myself I wasn’t allowed to stop again.  I had just under 2 miles to go…and I could get there without needing to stop.

THIS is the biggest struggle I have had these days.  I just can’t seem to get used to steamy/hot running.  I used to fly in this kind of weather.  But being unable to really train in it for a few years due to injury seems to have changed that.  Um…YAY?

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Wow, I look rough as I head into the finish line at the Bluegrass 10,000 – Lexington, Kentucky

So, my 5th mile was pretty fast.  The walk break must have helped with that, so I made up a bit of that time.  That wasn’t the intention, that’s just how it works.  That Jeff Galoway…he was totally onto something.  Run/Walk works…what?!  I was into the last mile now and it started to really feel hard.  I could feel myself just slowing down.  The humidity was wearing me down…and the hills had really taken it out of my legs.  But I could SEE the finish line, so I pressed on, trying to pick it up to kick it into gear.  I still have no finishing kick…but I managed to finish as strong as I could manage.

The humidity is killing me.  I used to be able to run in it like it was nothing.  Turns out, when you have to take 2 summers off from running…you lose that ability.  I felt horrible at the end.  I went to snag some water and ended up running into Tammy, Dean, and Pete (who I used to run with a lot back before the hip things).  We chatted for a moment…about how hot and humid it was.  How none of us had a good race.  That sort of stuff.  I was also told by Dean, with all the Wonder Woman running outfits out that day, that I needed to find a new super hero.  BUT…let’s face it.  I did it first.  HA!  And…come on…I was given the nickname by my running store at the time.

I decide to grab one more cup of water before heading over to the bleachers where Cathy was sitting.  She hadn’t moved because the finish area was pretty compact so they were asking people not to wade that way.  But this meant that I had a good spot to sit while we waited on Melissa and Paul to come racing into the finish line.  Cathy saw Linda come in…I never saw Linda at the finish line.  I saw some superheroes run in…including a few more Wonder Woman impersonators (*EVIL EYES*) and the Power Rangers.  And then it started raining…again.  It was shortly after the Power Rangers passed by that Cathy spotted Melissa and Paul heading in.  We cheered and screamed and waved and made a lot of noise.  Cathy and I hopped off the bleachers and went to go find our friends.

They were easy to find as they were looking for us as well.  With the rain coming down, we decided to head toward the car.  But first…we ducked into Starbucks for coffee (because post-run coffee is the best!).  With coffee in hand we continued back toward Rupp Arena to where we were parked.  When we were about a minute away, Linda texted to say she was at her car and Cathy, who had my phone, replied with that we would literally be there in a minute.

We talked about the weather, humidity, race, and results.  We took photos.  And Linda and crew headed back to Frankfort.  Melissa, Paul, Cathy and I were going to hit up Bella Notte in Lexington for lunch.  But first we hit up Target to change out of our running clothing and grab some water.  Bookstores, food, chocolate, and lots of laughs and SO MUCH FUN later…we eventually needed to head back to Louisville.

It was an imperfect race, but a perfect day.

So, the official results of the Bluegrass 10,000 are that I finished in 46:52…once again in humid conditions…once again with walk breaks.  UGH!  But…hey…that’s about 2 minutes off my PR…so I’m getting there.  Slowly.  But getting there.  I was 238/2704 finishers overall.  I was the 42/1321 female finishers.  And I was 5/214 in my age division.  I’ll take that.  I think this might become my tradition on the 4th of July as long as I’m in town.  SO much fun.  And doing it with friends was even better.

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“I’ve come to realize that the only people I need in my life are the ones who need me in theirs even when I have nothing else to offer them but myself.”

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Recipe: Blue(berry)-Green Protein Smoothie

AH…it’s so nice to be able to put up recipes and just blog about anything and everything.  I’m really, really, REALLY trying to make this one of my priorities these days.  I never realized how much I missed doing product reviews, typing up recipes, or just laying out my thoughts/feelings/emotions….for you guys!

So, it seems that Wednesday is turning into a Smoothie-For-Breakfast kind of day.  Which is awesome.  And, that being said, I attempt to make these as nutritious as I can…which means I’m incorporating both vegetables and fruit.  Working off the base of the smoothie I made last week, I upped the game a little today and made a brand new smoothie concoction.

Below, find the recipe for the Blue(berry)-Green Protein Smoothie.

**FOR THE RECORD: I am using PlantFusion protein powder for these smoothies**

Recipe: Blue(berry)-Green Protein Smoothie (Gluten Free; Dairy Free)

bluegreensmoothieServes 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 avocado
  • 2 cup spinach, fresh
  • 1 package vegan protein powder (I used Plant Fusion Chocolate-Raspberry Flavor)
  • 1 cup coconut milk, unsweetened
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp chocolate powdered peanut butter (PB2, Simple Truth, etc)
  • 2 cups frozen blueberries
  • 1 cup ice
  • Optional (but HIGHLY recommended): cacao nibs, low-sugar granola, chocolate spread (such as Smudge, Nutella, NuttZo)


Directions:

Place avocado, spinach, protein powder and milk in a blender and blend until smooth. Add the vanilla, powdered peanut butter, blueberries, and ice, and blend until thick.  This is where having a good blender comes in and I love my Vitamix!  Pour into glass or bowl and top with preferred toppings.

~*~*~

For the record, I topped mine off with 18 Rabbits Chocolate Banana Jr Granola Cereal (which I picked up at Kroger) and 1 tablespoon of NuttZo Organic Chocolate Power Fuel (which I got at Whole Foods, but is also available on Amazon). I also tossed more blueberries on top because they are freshly picked, local, and delicious.  And why not?  More antioxidants!

This basically tasted like a sweet tart, but with less of the tart so it wasn’t overwhelming.  And I do highly recommend the toppings…especially if you make it into a smoothie bowl, like I do.  I froze the bowl overnight to keep it chill on the way to the office.

ENJOY!

Do you have a favorite fruit to throw into a smoothie?  Tell me about it!!

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Recipe: Minty Green Protein Smoothie

I own a Vitamix.  I have for a couple of years now.  And yet…I really haven’t ever jumped on the smoothie bandwagon.  Mostly because I’d rather eat my breakfast, rather than drink it.

And I don’t always think smoothies are that filling.  So often (and maybe it’s just for show), a lot of Insta-Story smoothie makers show their polished off smoothie with the caption (or voice over) saying: “And still hungry.”  And that’s been my problem with smoothies.  When not balanced with the nutrients, I find myself hungry soon after polishing one off.

But that was not the case yesterday when, for breakfast after my 6 mile speed work run, followed by a 1 hour spin class, I whipped up a GREEN smoothie (of all things, I went for the green smoothie) to have for breakfast.

I have done green smoothies in the past and disliked most of them.  They tasted too much like…grass.

But not this one.  And this has the added benefit of being free of added sugars and containing amazing healthy fats, as well as being full of protein and fiber that will, in fact, leave you feeling fuller longer.  And the flavor…it’s like eating a bowl of Mint Chip Ice cream (well…if you do the add-ons, as I do).

Sharing the recipe with you below, adapted from one I found online at Sweetleaf.com!

Recipe: Minty Green Protein Smoothie (Gluten Free; Dairy Free)

mintygreensmoothieServes 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 avocado
  • 2 cup spinach, fresh
  • 1 package vegan protein powder (I used Plant Fusion Natural Flavor)
  • 1 cup coconut milk, unsweetened
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
  • 2 cup ice
  • Optional (but HIGHLY recommended): cacao nibs, low-sugar granola, chocolate spread (such as Smudge, Nutella, etc)


Directions:

Place avocado, spinach, protein powder and milk in a blender and blend until smooth. Add the vanilla and peppermint extracts, and ice, and blend until thick. Pour into glass or bowl and top with preferred toppings.

~*~*~

For the record, I topped mine off with Love Grown Foods Cocoa Goodness Oat Clusters and 1 tablespoon of Freedom Foods Smudge, both of which are available at Kroger.

So, I think I’ll take back what I’ve been saying about smoothies not being filling or tasting good (especially when green). Can’t wait to make this one again.

Do you have any filling, healthy smoothie recipes? Share with me!! Comment below.

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

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

But I couldn’t.

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

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

THANK YOU to anyone who donated.

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

Two days…two races…19.3 miles.

Let’s do this thing…

 

Disney Wine & Dine Inaugural 10K - Orlando, FL

Disney Wine & Dine Inaugural 10K – Orlando, FL

Inaugural Disney Wine & Dine 10K

Race: Disney Wine & Dine 10K

Place: Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Date: November 5, 2016

Time: 48:19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon

Race: Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon

Place: Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Date: November 6, 2016

Time: 1:44:30

What a difference an extra hour of sleep makes!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That goal…run it in 1:45:00.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I LOVE DISNEY!

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

Goal…achieved.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recipe: Gluten Free S’mores Scones (plus bonus from Schar Gluten Free)

I have never been shy about my love of the products that Schar Gluten Free puts out on the market.  I have never had a complaint about any version of their gluten free take on a bread, cookie, candy, cracker, etc.  But one of my most favorite things that have introduced has to be their Gluten Free Honeygrams.
Gluten free graham crackers, my friends.

SO GOOD!

Well, with the weather cooling down…bon fires and s’mores are in season!!  And thanks to these amazing Honeygrams, the gluten-free community will never lack for the perfect vehicle for marshmallows and chocolate bars.

Are you drooling yet?

I was sent a fantastic Smores kit from Schar and got to work on a recipe.  Immediately, I knew I wanted to do something that I have great passion for…

Yep.

Breakfast.  And yes…SCONES!!  Although bagels were my second choice.  I might do that in the very near future!

Below is the recipe…but before you check that out, be sure you head over to http://www.smoreschar.com/ for a free sample pack and a coupon for $1.00 off!

And then come back and check out my recipe for these S’mores Scones, made with the help of Schar’s Honeygrams!

Recipe: Gluten Free S’mores Scones

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Ingredients:

For the Scones

  • 1 cup  gluten free bread mix (I used Mina’s Purely Divine)
  • 1 cup gluten free all-purpose flour (I used Cup4Cup)
  • 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 6 Schar Honeygram crackers put through a food processor or blender)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (I used Earth Balance)
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used So Delicious)
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoon milk (I used Silk Unsweetened Cashew Milk)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chunks/chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cup mini marshmallows

For the Glazes

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1-1/2 tablespoon water
  • 1/2 cup mini marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips or chocolate bars

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a baking mat.

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, graham cracker crumbs, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Cut in butter with pastry blender, two forks, or your hands until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Add in yogurt, egg, vanilla, and milk. Mix until just combined. Stir in chocolate chunks and marshmallows.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead about 5-6 times until dough just comes together. Shape dough into an eight inch circle. Cut into 8 pieces and place on prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until just starting to turn light golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

While scones are cooling, whisk together confectioner’s sugar and salt. Melt butter and water together over medium low heat. Add in marshmallows and stir until melted. Add to sugar mixture and whisk until combined and smooth. Drizzle over cooled scones.

Melt chocolate according to package instructions. Drizzle over scones. Allow to cool and harden before serving.

Serve.

Devour.

~*~*~

These are fantastic.  And they do bring that entire Smores experience and taste to your breakfast table.  Scones are fluffy and crumbly and these have an extra benefit of a sweet twist as well.

Remember to head over to Schar and get your sample pack of Honeygrams.  Trust me…no other gluten-free graham crackers taste like these.  Even better than the real thing!

#SmoreSchar

Product Review: Pillsbury Gluten Free Sugar Premium Cookie Mix

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Gluten Free Sugar Cookies made from Pillsbury Gluten Free Sugar Premium Cookie Mix (and topped with Dollop Gourmet Hot Chocolate Spread Frosting and sprinkles)

Product: Pillsbury Gluten Free Sugar Premium Cookie Mix – $3.99+

I blame my neighbor.  I do.  Because she knows how much I like to cook and bake and make tasty treats for myself, my roomie, my friends, my co-workers, and just…people in general.  So, while she was out at one of the discount stores, she snagged me four (4)…yes…FOUR…boxes of the Pillsbury Gluten Free Sugar Premium Cookie Mix and one (1) box of the Immaculate Baking Company’s Gluten Free Fudge Brownie Cookie Dough.  I love it when she surprises me with gluten free goodies.

All that being said…I was out at Michael’s a couple of weekends ago and spotted a T-Rex cookie cutter.  Don’t judge.  My roommate loves dinosaurs.  Yes…she’s in her mid-30s…but…that’s just who she is.  And then…there was the Unicorn cookie cutter.  UNICORN COOKIE CUTTER.  I used to have a unicorn collection.  I am a Boston Marathon runner.  Unicorns are sort of my spirit animal.

Now, sugar cookies and I don’t have the best relationship.  Every time I have attempted to make them, be it from a mix or from scratch…they have been ultimate fail.  And, while the Pillsbury Gluten Free Sugar Premium Cookie Mix gives instructions for round cookies, I really wanted to make cut-out cookies.  So, learning from my past in sugar cookie baking, I made up the dough and wrapped it in Saran wrap before sticking it in the back of the fridge and letting it chill while I was out and about running errands that day.

That afternoon, when I returned…and called my dad to wish him a Happy Father’s Day…I set out rolling out the chilled dough between two pieces of plastic wrap, flattening it out.  Then, I took my new cookie cutters and carefully (there were some really tiny parts that were not easy to come out of the cookie cutter (hello unicorn horn)) cut out T-Rex and Unicorn shapes as I chatted with my dad.  The mix set up perfectly for this…and I kept it chilling when I wasn’t using it.  So, onto a baking sheet these cookies went and…BAM…into a preheated 375°F oven.

So, while these are virtually baking in my blog, let me tell you how easy this mix is to make.  All you need is the cookie mix, 1/2 cup of butter (I used Earth Balance Vegan Butter Sticks – room temperature), 1 tablespoon water, and 1 egg.  Simply combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl and mix until soft dough is formed.  From here, you can form dough by rounded teaspoons and put onto a baking sheet 2 inches apart…or you can chill it like I did (this was me being stubborn…I wanted cut-out cookies, dammit!) and roll it out after it’s chilled and cut out fun shapes like dinosaurs and unicorns.  Adults can have fun-shaped sugar cookies too, you know?

I lost track on the first batch as my dad was a fun and worthwhile distraction.  These bake for about 8-10 minutes, except in my oven, because it is old and doesn’t get as warm as it says at times.  So, the cookies weren’t ready after 10 minutes, so I figured I’d go for 2 more minutes.  Didn’t set a timer, and as I was rolling out the second batch and chatting with my dad…remembered those were in there and pulled them out.  The edges got a little toasted, but they were still fine.  I noted, much to my dad’s amusement, that the unicorns became fat unicorns.  They did spread slightly…but still resembled the original shape.

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T-Rex and Unicorn Cut-Out Sugar Cookies made from Pillsbury Gluten Free Sugar Premium Cookie Mix

While out grocery shopping early that weekend, I picked up a jar of Dollop Gourmet Hot Chocolate Spread Frosting.  And some green sparkle sprinkles for the dinosaur cookies.  I had rainbow sprinkles at home already for the unicorn cookies. HA!  So, after the cookies cooled and I was off the phone and not browning the edges of the rest of the cookies, I cooked dinner…and knew these cookies would be dessert.

I snagged one T-Rex and one Unicorn cookie and gave each a schmear of the Dollop Gourmet Hot Chocolate Spread Frosting.  Topped each off with some sprinkles…and dessert was ready.

I have been really impressed with the Pillsbury Gluten Free products, and these were no exception.  This mix was not only easy to make…but tasted great.  I always had a soft spot in my heart for sugar cookies (I used to bake them with all the neighborhood kids at a neighbor’s home every Christmas)…because they are so versatile.  Top them off with frosting, sprinkles, stuff them with ice cream, or more frosting…add nuts or chocolate chips…the possibilities are endless.  Sugar cookies are the ultimate decoration cookie.  And while I’m not big on frosting at all (I really am not a fan), these required delicious frosting (hence…Dollop Gourmet), and sprinkles…because sprinkles are awesome.

Know what else is awesome?  These cookies.  They have that buttery flavor, with a touch of the sweetness from the sugar in the mix.  I asked my roommate what she thought and she said they tasted just like “regular” sugar cookies.  And they should.  The only difference is rice flour and tapioca starch and potato starch replace the all-purpose flour that would go into regular ones.  These cookies have that nice crunch on the outer edge with a soft center.  SO good.  And this made SO many of these.  So, I have sugar cookies for days…and am wondering if I’ll ever run out at this point.  At least they are amazing and yummy.

So, let’s discuss what Pillsbury puts into their Gluten Free Sugar Premium Cookie Mix, shall we?  This mix is a blend of sugar, rice flour, tapioca starch, canola oil, potato startch, contains 2% or less of: salt, baking soda, cellulose, xanthan gum, cellulose gum, natural and artificial flavors.

As for nutrition information…keep in mind…these are sugar cookies.  Mmmm…cookies.  COOKIE MONSTER strikes again.  Anyway, a serving size is 1/18th of the mix (if you make the drop cookies, this box makes 3 dozen; if you make the cut-out cookies, it varies.  I got 22 cookies in mine).  A serving size (for drop) is 2 cookies and for the cut-outs 1 cookie.  This serving (when prepared per package instructions) will provide you with 160 calories, 6 grams fat, 3.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 25 mg cholesterol, 240 mg sodium, 24 grams carbohydrates, 14 grams sugars, 1 gram protein.

I am very happy with the mix that Pillsbury has created for those of us who, perhaps, missed the amazing cookies that a company like Pillsbury puts out.  I am also intending to use a box of this to make Strawberry Streusel Bars or Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars for the office birthday party that is happening next week.  Just have to decide on which one I want to make.  Trust me, with an office that usually turns its nose up at anything that is gluten-free, I wouldn’t serve this mix to them if I didn’t think it was worth it.

Thank you, Pillsbury, for making gluten-free baking mixes for those of us who love to have an easier and more convenient way to make cookies.  Especially sugar cookies.  Because sugar cookies are evil. But this was so easy and my cut-out cookies were…perfect.

And that always makes this cookie monster happy!!

Restaurant Review: Hops & Fire: Craft Tap House

Hops & Fire: Craft Tap House, Greenwood, Indiana

Hops & Fire: Craft Tap House, Greenwood, Indiana

Restaurant: Hops & Fire: Craft Tap House, Greenwood, Indiana

Normally, whenever I venture up to Indianapolis for an event, race, or whatnot, my one requirement is a stop at Cheeseburger in Paradise…because I can get a gluten-free veggie burger with gluten-free fries (or sweet potato fries)…and the burger custom made (no cheese; no sour cream) to fit my dietary needs.  This is awesome, as any frozen burger patty, or even homemade burger, tend to be a bit mushy and end up slipping out of any sort of gluten-free bread used as a bun (be it an actual gluten-free bun or just some gluten-free bread).  Cheeseburger in Paradise doesn’t have that problem…and it’s nice to be able to safely eat a veggie burger (so many use breadcrumbs as binder) out at a restaurant AND not have to eat it with a fork and knife (meaning…they have a gluten-free bun and I can pick it up).

Needless to say, I ran two half marathons, two weeks apart up in Indianapolis.  After the first one (OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon), I did hit up Cheeseburger in Paradise.  But two weeks later, I wasn’t ready to revisit Paradise.  I just had it.  My craving had been satisfied.

That being said, when I returned to the Indianapolis to run the Geist Half Marathon, I wanted to try something different.  Step out of the comfort zone…try something new.

I had been hearing some buzz around a place located in Greenwood, Indiana, by a bunch of my friends up in that area.  It was a craft beer tap house called Hops & Fire.  And what was pointed out more than once was that when you step inside to be seated, the hostess will ask if you require any special menus.  In addition to their regular menu, they have extensive vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free menus.  I told her I was a gluten-free vegetarian and she grabbed both of those menus and a regular one for Cathy and told me that the menus don’t often cross over each other, but anything on either menu can be made gluten-free, vegan, or vegetarian.  She took us to our table and we were seated.

Our waiter was totally adorable and came over to introduce himself.  His name was Kyle and he asked how we were doing.  Cathy pointed at me and said, “Well, she just ran a half marathon…”  He raised his eyebrows and said, “So I’m guessing you want water.”  HA!  He was so right.  Cathy had thought about trying one of their craft selections, but in the end started with the water.

Two menus and having so many options was a bit overwhelming to me.  The only thing I knew I wanted to try was Gluten Free 3-Cheese Garlic Bread.  I bought Lactaid specifically for this meal.  No joke.  We went ahead and mentioned that we wanted that as an appetizer and Kyle said he’d put that in while we finished making our decisions on what to eat, as it was the appetizer that took the longest to prepare.  While he was gone, I started to narrow down my choices, getting it down to three options.  After a little back and forth and pros and cons, I went for the one that didn’t contain cheese…as I was certain I was about to consume more cheese than my body was going to like momentarily.

Kyle returned to take our order, and as usual, as I’m the complicated one, I ordered first.  I went with the Gluten Free California Wrap…keeping the House Chips as a side.  Cathy went with the Stout Pork Belly BLT, which was served with a side of their Parmesan House Chips.  Orders were in…after Kyle had to go and figure out how to combine two menus to make a dish.  Poor guy!

Hops & Fire Gluten Free 3-Cheese Garlic Bread

Hops & Fire Gluten Free 3-Cheese Garlic Bread

Only a few moments late, a large plate was being carried to our table and put in front of us.  Clearly, when I saw the fact that I could get Gluten Free 3-Cheese Garlic Bread…I didn’t read the description.  This plate and appetizer was HUGE.  Definitely enough for 4-8 people.  Hops & Fire Gluten Free 3-Cheese Garlic Bread ($9.00), is a full gluten-free baguette, which is drenched in roasted garlic and salted butter, served with a gooey, melted blanket of shallots and chives, which are smothered in Provolone, Mozzarella, and Romano cheeses.  This is then baked so that the top of the cheese gets golden and everything is melty and ooey-gooey.  It comes with a side of marinara.  I took my Lactaid and hoped for the best (sometimes it helps; other times, it doesn’t).  I grabbed the slice on the end and pulled it away, the cheese stretching and making me…so happy.  I cut it up, dipped a piece into the marinara…and immediately lost my mind.  If you go to Hops & Fire, this is their signature appetizer and it is not to be missed.  The gluten-free baguette was crispy on the outside and that perfect toasty, but still soft on the inside.  The cheese was melted to perfection.  The garlic was superb.  Yeah…this made me SO happy.  And, for the record, the Lactaid worked…this time.  Thank goodness!  This was A LOT of food, so Cathy and I said we’d eat half of it and get a box and take the rest of it home.  That’s what we did as our food arrived.  We boxed it up…and it was lunch the next day.

Hops & Fire Stout Pork Belly BLT with a side of Parmesan House Chips

Hops & Fire Stout Pork Belly BLT with a side of Parmesan House Chips

So, let’s start with Cathy’s lunch, shall we?  My om-nom-nomnivore (haha) friend loves to eat pig in any form she can.  This is no joke.  She loves her pork products.  So it was no surprise to me that she chose the Hops & Fire Stout Pork Belly BLT ($12.00) off of their Brewed Baskets selections on the regular menu.  It came with a decent serving of their Parmesan House Chips on the side.  This sandwich is not your typical BLT.  Hops & Fire serves up a stout beer and kosher salt-brined local pork belly, which is seared, roasted, sliced thin, and pan fried, then topped with baby bibb lettuce, beefsteak tomatoes, and homemade apricot onion jam…served on their grilled garlic shallot bread.  Here’s the thing…they do NOT skimp on the pork belly bacon in this BLT.  Not one bit.  You’ll see by the photo I’m putting up here for those of you who are not a gluten-free vegetarian like me.  I mean…it was BACON. FOR. DAYS.  She had more bacon than Parmesan House Chips.  And that’s not a bad thing, as the protein is, honestly, what you are shelling out money for.  She said the garlic shallot bread was amazing (we Celiacs will never know…).  She said it could have used a slight bit more mayo…but it was awesome.  And yes…she devoured it all and the chips.  Carnivores.  Oy!

Hops & Fire Gluten Free California Wrap with a mountain of House Chips

Hops & Fire Gluten Free California Wrap with a side of House Chips

As for me…I went ahead and combined an offering on the Vegetarian Menu and asked that it be made gluten-free.  I opted for the Gluten Free California Wrap ($12.00)…mostly because it didn’t have cheese and avocado always wins.  The California Wrap is a gluten-free tortilla that is stuffed and rolled up around fresh sliced avocado, beefsteak tomato, bibb lettuce, pickled onions, and a roasted garlic aioli. OH MY GLUTEN FREE GODS!!  This was a simple, basic, wrap, but it tasted amazing to me.  Maybe it was because I had just pounded out 13.1 miles and was living off of watermelon and water at that point, but this wrap was great.  Gluten-free tortillas are nothing to write home about, and I’m pretty certain this was the standard gluten-free teff tortilla.  But it just serves as a way for me to pick up and devour the veggie-licious produce that was stuffed and rolled up inside.  The aioli, by the way, was delicious.  The avocado was ripe and sweet.  The tomatoes…so good.  I loved every bite of this wrap.  It came with a mountain…no…a landslide of their House Chips, which I couldn’t even finish.  Where Cathy had a decent side of hers, the chips serving was bigger than my wrap…so…I ate what I wanted and left the rest.

Hops & Fire Gluten Free and Vegan Ice Cream Sundae

Hops & Fire Gluten Free and Vegan Ice Cream Sundae

We were full, but we couldn’t end our experience there.  Kyle tempted us with a dessert menu, pointing out that those marked with a gf were gluten free and also the codes for vegan and vegetarian as well.  We were very tempted to get one of the Desserts For Two (yeah…we so wanted the Gluten Free and Vegan S’mores Cast Iron Cake), but in the end, decided we were too full for that and went with splitting a single serving of the Vegan Ice Cream Sundae ($5.00).  This was a small bowl (thank goodness) that had a scoop of vegan ice cream, drizzled lightly with hot fudge.  It was perfect and a great way to end the meal.  It was amazing.  The ice cream was not as creamy as regular ice cream, but it was cold and melty and amazing.  And the hot fudge…that’s always a welcome addition to anything ice cream-ish.

Kyle brought us our check once we had polished it off and we paid in cash and got our things together to go.  We talked about the food for a bit of the drive home…and how amazing and good it was.  I was beyond happy with the service and the attention paid to each dish that was ordered, making sure that it fit my dietary needs…nothing that made me take pause and question whether it was safe for me to eat or not.

I’m already planning my return to Hops & Fire.  So, if you happen to be in the Indianapolis area, or traveling through, do make the trip to Greenwood and check out this amazing and delicious place.  You have a specialty diet…they have you covered.  And I love it.

Next time…gluten-free onion rings.  It’s happening!