Recipe: Pomegranate Breakfast Quinoa

I’ve been trying to be a bit more mindful of how I start my day when it comes to food these days.  While it is so easy to simply grab a (delicious) gluten free bagel and top it off however I wish…my sports nutritionist and I have been working hard on keeping my protein levels higher…so this gives me incentive to come up with new ways of doing my favorite meal of the day.

And, one day, while shopping at Costco and spotting the pack of pomegranate seeds…an idea struck.  And it has grown to be one of my favorite ways to do breakfast ever since.  And why not?  We’ve jumped on the smoothie wagon for Wednesdays, since our lunch is a giant, gluten free pretzel (always!).  Why not play around a little more and find new ways to get nutrients in in the morning?

This is a super easy recipe, the most time consuming part is the 15 minutes it takes to prep and cook the quinoa.  The rest…easy-peasy!

Find the recipe below:

Recipe: Pomegranate Breakfast Quinoa

 

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Pomegranate Breakfast Quinoa

 Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp dark chocolate chips
  • 2 tbsp nuts of choice (optional)

Directions:

Cook quinoa: place 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa in a pot with 1 cup water.  Bring to a boil, turn heat to low, cover, cook for 12 minutes until water is absorbed.

Split between two bowls.

Drizzle with pure maple syrup and top off with the pomegranate seeds, dark chocolate, and nuts (if using…highly recommended).

Enjoy!

~*~*~

Just yesterday, I had asked my roommate what she wanted for breakfast, and listed off some favorites including bagels, overnight oats, and pumpkin pancakes.  But she said, “I really like that quinoa thing you’ve been making.”  And just like that…I knew I had hit on something good.

How do you like to fuel your mornings?  Do you keep your breakfast basic or do you like to get creative?

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CTRL + ALT + DEL: Start Fresh

UGH!  I have started three blogs in the past couple of weeks, which I have since gone and deleted because they were no longer relevant.  MEH!!  Kinda sucks when you put some hard work into starting something and just don’t have the time or energy to get back to it.

Welcome to my life as of late…

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I’m trying desperately to reach a bigger audience both here on my blog and on my most frequented form of social media…Instagram.  Really, I am an athlete that deals, daily, with Celiac Disease…and I’m working really hard on branching out on the blog…maybe in podcast form…and on Instagram to cover some of the trials and tribulations of this.

But I need more help.  So, if you could help me out a little…directing people to my blog and my Instagram (and if you aren’t following me…please…give me a little click and follow along)…I will love you forever!

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Okay…so let’s do some quick catching up, shall we?  What in the world have I been up to since…October 20th, when I blogged about setting and reaching goals?  Well…a LOT!

First of all, the great apartment repaint, reorganize, and redecorate has commenced.  The two bathrooms, the kitchen, and HALF of the living room are DONE!  As far as painting goes.  The decorating is taking a bit more time, because I’m totally OCD and need to measure everything I hang up to make sure it’s centered and perfect on the wall.  But…progress!

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I am not a fan of painting.  It is tedious and tiring work…but I love the way the apartment is starting to look.  After eight years of living there, the apartment definitely needed a touch-up.  And being able to finally redo some of the wall hangings has been a nice change too.

For the 4th (I think this was the 4th year) year in a row,  my roommate (Cathy), her sister (Amanda) and I went to the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular at Iroquois Park in Louisville, KY!  We always make a night of out this, starting with dinner (we got sushi – mine was vegan), a hot beverage (usually apple cider or tea) from Highland Coffee, and then, Mr. G’s Kettle Corn while we stand in line to walk the half mile path and gaze in awe at all the amazing pumpkins. Seriously…this was AMAZING.  It always is, but the theme this year was A to Z and they did a fantastic job with all the pumpkins.

On October 26, I went to the University of Louisville Comstock Hall and got to listen to the iconic Kathrine Switzer speak.  She was so empowering and totally made me want to do ALL THE THINGS.  I was just so wrapped up in her talk about her life and how she got into running and how the Boston Marathon incident came around and WHY this was so life changing.  I was hoping there would be a photo-op afterwards, and there was.  I had brought my Disney Wine & Dine bib, Bib #261, which I received in 2014, just after I met her at the NYC Marathon Expo the year I ran it.  I told her the story and she was just so freakin excited.  She even got a picture of the two of us with our 261 bibs on her iPhone.

She signed my bib “Karen – You are awesome and fearless.”  I thought I was lucky to have met in her NYC 3 years ago…but I just got to meet her again…AND had a fun story to tell her.  She might be my new running BFF.  If nothing else, she is someone who has always and will always inspire me.  After going to her talk, I just wanted to make SO many changes in my life…seek out things that really make me happy…

HENCE…wanting to do more with my blog and social media.  So…again…if you could give a like and follow here and on Instagram…and tell your friends…let’s do this thing.

Dreams need to come true!

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And I’ve been dreaming about this for a long time.  And so often stuff just gets crazy and things I enjoy…like blogging, writing, cooking, eating, running, etc…sort of get pushed to the background.  NOT THIS TIME!

In addition to this…I’ve been enjoying watching Louisville City FC climb the ladder to reach the Eastern Conference Finals for the THIRD TIME in as many seasons as they have been around.  YAY!

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Granted…last week I was pretty much frozen and the boys didn’t score until after Half Time.  I had been hoping to keep warm by constantly jumping out of my seat.  That being said…this is always as far as we get in the finals.  And I want us to go on to the championship…and WIN IT!  And the weather this Saturday looks to be warmer and much more enjoyable than LAST Saturday.  I even stayed up late to drink hot tea to thaw out afterwards it was that cold.  But the win was worth it.

Here’s to another one…if the soccer gods shine upon us!

Halloween came and went…in the blink of an eye.  I wasn’t scheduled to do a run on Tuesday, but I was heading to the gym for some strength training.  I dressed as Wonder Woman.  I think it inspired me to lift heavier and more.  But, damn…look at my arms these days!

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So, yeah…training is still happening.  I’ve cut back on cardio by a lot when it comes to time at the gym, usually hopping on a machine for 10 minutes to warm up and 10 minutes to cool down…and then I do one day of arms/abs and one day of legs/core.  My running has been progressing.  My hips hardly twinge at me unless the weather is cold or I sit too long.  So, the strength training is paying off (not just in giving me amazing muscles to flex).  I am currently using a run/walk method and hope to get back to a solid run in the very near future, but this is working and, honestly, hasn’t really slowed me down all that much with the short walk breaks in between efforts.  So…YAY!  And, thankfully, I have found one friend who is willing to train with me this way and doesn’t complain or mind.  WINNING!  Long runs are much more enjoyable with someone.  And someone who doesn’t mind the starts and stops in my current training method is even better.  There aren’t a lot of people who are willing to train that way or want to train that way.  So, I count myself lucky.

I have a few recipes that I will add to the blog this week…if not tonight/today.  I’ve been having a great time experimenting in my kitchen with all the winter squash and seasonal foods that are showing up in grocery stores.  I buy that stuff up like it’s going out of season.  And it’s not.  The season is just starting!  Grocery shopping is always an adventure when I decide to get all chefy and creative in the kitchen.

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That’s pretty much it for right now though.  Trying to really do better for myself and I am really trying to make some waves in the Celiac and running communities. So…watch this space.  Get others to watch this space.  And I post DAILY on Instagram, so, for one last plug…make sure you follow me over there.

Follow along with my progress…because there will be as many ups as downs, I’m sure.  But if there is one thing I have learned from all of this over the past couple of years…is that I am stronger than my situation.  And I learn and grow from every obstacle.  Grow with me!

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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: PB&J Breakfast Bowl

It was inspired by an accidental find while strolling the streets of SoHo in Manhattan, NYC!  My roommate and I were in NYC because I was running the NYC Half Marathon…but we were going to spend a few days there and not just fly in, race, and fly out.  On one of our excursions that afternoon, we stumbled upon the Chobani Café there in SoHo.

We were curious…as we had never seen (or heard) of the Chobani Café before, but we were both fans of Chobani Greek Yogurt.  So…we stepped inside to get an idea of what it was all about.

After looking at all the amazing creations being done up in the kitchen right in front of us, we took our own look at the menu and decided to get a half size bowl of one of their breakfast bowls and have that as a snack/lunch.  We ended up deciding to try their PB&J Breakfast Bowl, which was created using Plain Chobani Yogurt, Creamy Peanut Butter, Fresh Red Grapes, Concord Gape Jelly, and topped off with Roasted Peanuts.

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Chobani Café PB&J Breakfast Bowl, my inspiration!

We devoured this…so, upon returning home…I decided this would be a perfect breakfast to have, especially on our gym mornings.  So…I began to recreate it.  With different versions, different flavors, and different peanut butter options.  I’ve come to love my current incarnation of it, which uses powdered peanut butter.

So, upon request from a few people, I’m putting the recipe I have worked for over a year on (and will mention variations I have tried) to perfect over and over again.

Recipe: PB&J Breakfast Bowl

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PB&J Breakfast Bowl made with Vegan Yogurt, Powdered Peanut Butter, Strawberry Jam, a mix of organic Strawberries & Blueberries, and Roasted Peanuts

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup plain yogurt (Greek, vegan, etc…your choice)
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter (creamy natural or powdered)
  • 1/4 cup fruit sliced (grapes, strawberry, whole blueberries)
  • 2-3 tablespoons jam/jelly (I prefer low sugar versions and match flavors to the fruit I use…grape with grape, strawberry with strawberry, etc.)
  • 1-2 ounces roasted peanuts


Directions:

Scoop 1 cup of yogurt into a bowl.  If you are using powdered peanut butter (less fat & calories), add it here and stir well.  Otherwise…hold off on adding the peanut butter for the time being.

Slice fruit in half and add to the bowl.

Top with jam.  If you are using creamy peanut butter, drizzle it around the inside edge of the bowl.

Top with peanuts.

Devour.

~*~*~

As I said, I have been making this for well over a year now, and have done so many different versions of it.  It is an amazing way to start the day.  I have used chocolate peanut butter with the strawberry jam and strawberries for a chocolate covered strawberry take and so on. So…get creative!!  That yogurt is a blank palate…so feel free to play around with it.

Below, BTW, is the version I used to make with the natural creamy peanut butter.

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Breakfast PB&J Bowl made with Vegan Yogurt, Concord Grape Jelly, Grapes, Natural Peanut Butter (NuttZo) and Roasted Peanuts

However you decide to mix it up and fill it up…you’ll love this bowl.  So go ahead…get creative!!  And enjoy every bite.

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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I Solemnly Swear To Be A Better Blogger

Dear readers…both new and old…

I am sorry.

I am sorry that I have let this blog get away from me.  Life…has been crazy.  Insane.  Busy.  To the point that I literally have no time to do things for myself these days.  To sum it up…I’m running in circles most days.

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I get up early…I do my stretches/exercises that my physical therapist assigned me back in January when I had the paralyzed hip flexor.  Yep.  I’m still doing them.  Do I need to?  Probably not.  But…guess what…

I HAVEN’T BEEN INJURED.

Therefore…I keep doing them.  And that does sometimes mean I go to bed around 8 p.m. to get up at 2 a.m. so I can fit in a 6 mile run before I start the rest of my day.  Because before I run…these stretches/exercises must be done to loosen up my muscles and get this broken body primed and ready to go.  I do my workout…I go to work…I come home…I cook dinner…I do my PT exercises/stretches at night…I foam roll…I go to bed.

No ME time.  No computer time.  No blogging time.

It’s actually kind of draining.

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But this is where it needs to stop.  I have some exciting things coming down the pike and I need to be sure that I am open and share them with you!  I need to find a better way to manage my time so that I can have the time I need to connect with people here…on this blog that I set up for that sole purpose.

I mean, I am an athlete with Celiac.  I am a self-made chef with Celiac.  I want to share my struggles, my recipes, my races, my training, my daily battle with food and this disease that sometimes makes it impossible to have a healthy relationship with food (and sometimes exercise) at all.  (I won’t get into details…but if you know, then you know). And the simple fact that the stressful life I’ve been living these past two years has left me all…

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I wish I could say I was joking. *sigh*

It’s a daily struggle…to have BODY KINDNESS when I feel I have done everything possible to get in a better place with my body.  Two years off with injuries and I’m staring at little bulges where I never had them before.  And it’s hard for me, when my Timehop throws pictures of me back when I had defined abs…or my friends are hitting up the next diet craze, exercising 2-3 times a day, cleansing, or talking about how easy it is for them to lose weight.  And here I am, trying to be all love myself the way I am and feeling every bit of this…

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But I’m working on it.  But this is exactly WHY I need this blog.  I’ve been so out of touch.  And comments from you, my dear friends, help keep me inspired, and pushing to be better and to not give up or give in.  THIS is what I have been lacking.

This marks the first week of my official training for the Chicago Marathon.  Ahead are 16 weeks of some easy, some intense, and some very long runs.  In the summer heat.  I want this body to be ready for it.  I’ve changed up my diet some lately…which I think is a good place to start.  And while there really hasn’t been a drastic change, yet, I think I’m going to be in a good place, nutrition-wise, for this undertaking.  Besides, I’ve given up my daily M&M habit.  Seriously.  One entire month…without handfuls of M&Ms throughout the day.  I actually feel free.  It’s really liberating.  I don’t even feel like I need them anymore.

This is a good start.

So…marathon training is back on.  This is the only marathon I am running this year and, with any luck, I’ll get through this summer of training without any injuries.  Why do Chicago again?  I feel like I’m starting over from scratch…and Chicago was  my first marathon.  It’s the 40th Anniversary.  And I qualified to run, and skip the lottery draw.  So, why not Chicago?  I will aim to do my weekly updates as I did the first time I ran a marathon…read them if you care to.  I’ll slip in little nuggets of goodness…like recipes I’ve tried or created and so on.

While my coach and I have talked goals, in my head, my biggest (and the most important) goal is simply to finish.  And to feel good (as good as someone can) after crossing that finish line 26.2 miles later.  Sometimes set paces freak me out.  I usually get injured when speed is involved.  So, pushing beyond what I think I’m capable of is my biggest challenge, and one I have not figured out how to conquer yet.  Those negative voices in my head, about my running, my weight, whatever it is…they are very hard to quiet sometimes.

Two years of pretty serious injuries will do that to you.

My body has a lot of catching up to do.  My mind has even more.  But…marathon training does instill a lot of discipline.  And I’m hoping it will carry over into other aspects of my life.

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In addition to all of this, I am very happy to report that my social life has all but picked up.  So many new friends!!  Between going to Louisville City FC soccer matches, out for Indian food with friends, having friends over for dinner (yep…I cook) and wine…to hanging out at friend’s homes for the evening and meeting more new people, I’m loving this new active social life.  I’ve sort of lived as a hermit for way too long.  Surrounding myself with people who lift me up and make me laugh is very important to me.  And I’m loving filling up my calendar with more than just my mileage for that day.  And there are quite a few of you who I need to either have over or catch dinner with.  Hit me up…we need to make this happen.

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So, apologies to readers old and new…for the hiatus and filling this blog with simple race reports and ignoring the stuff that got me started on this blog in the first place.  It’s time to refocus and reestablish myself in the blogosphere.  I’m happy to have you with me for the journey.  Hang on tight.  Nothing is ever easy with me…so expect a bumpy, emotional, but encouraging, maybe even inspiring ride.

Love,
The Celiathlete

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.

kdfambassadorgroup

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