Spectating the Olympic Marathon Trials (February 29, 2020) – Atlanta, GA

IMG_1545Sorry that this is over two months overdue in posting. My lack of motivation to sit at my computer at home…after working at home for 8 hours…is more than lacking these days. But I’m very behind on these blogs…so I need to start cracking on them.  Since then, the Olympics in Tokyo are postponed until 2021.  What crazy times we are living in.  I hope everyone is staying safe.

Back in April 2019, when USATF announced that the Olympic Marathon Trials were going to be held in Atlanta, Ga., I knew…RIGHT THEN…that I wanted to go and spectate.  I wanted to be on the course where it all happened.  Six people – 3 men and 3 women – would cross a finish line and achieve the dream of becoming an Olympian.

I had to go.

So, my roommate and I went ahead and booked a hotel room at the Westin Peachtree Plaza in downtown Atlanta.  Then we bought some non-stop flights to and from Atlanta from Louisville.  And then, because, why the hell not?…we each signed up for a race on the day following the Olympic Marathon Trials (Cathy did the Atlanta 5K and I did the Atlanta Half Marathon), since we’d be there.IMG_1547

And somewhere between when all that happened…my left hip started giving me problems again. I took most of February off from running or any real distance, and definitely not workouts.  I went back to my orthopedic doctor for X-rays…where I was told there was nothing structural happening.  I went back to physical therapy, where my physical therapist worked to help get me back on the road, even though it seemed where the pain was changed each day.  And she even could work with my coach as he is also a physical therapist (same company, different location)…and together they eased me back out onto the road, with only a few days with setbacks.

To say I felt 100% when I started packing for my quick trip to Atlanta at the end of March is a huge understatement.  I was questioning whether to drop to the 5K or just not do it at all. Since I was able to run, perhaps not fast or strong, I decided that I could fake my way through a race.  It would be rough and hard and probably would suck a lot more than usual, but I could do it.  So, after our friend Melissa dropped us off at the airport on a Friday morning, we boarded our flight to Atlanta and touched down without any delays or problems.  WINNING!

IMG_1551After a quick MARTA ride to get to our hotel, we checked in, dropped off stuff in our room, and took a moment to admire the fact that we could see Centennial Park from our window. How awesome!!

Then, we gathered our stuff and took a nice stroll past the park and the Olympic Marathon Trials finish line, to hit up the expo to pick up our own race stuff and see what kind of merchandise was around.

The answer…not much.  At least not at this point.  I managed to snag a Marathon Trials t-shirt for myself and my friend Natalie.  And I got a couple of pins to commemorate the event. But there was little else left.  Guess it got decimated on Thursday or earlier in the day on Friday.IMG_1564

Oh well.  The expo was much smaller than I anticipated.  For real.  And we breezed through it faster than the time we budgeted for it.  So, after we were done there, we hiked back to the hotel to drop off stuff, take a breather, and then figure out what we wanted to do next.  We ended up hiking around the Dragon*Con hotels just to kill time.  We snagged some water (we hit up CVS so many times for water on this trip) and a snack.  And then we had to figure out what we wanted to do for dinner.  The easiest option was the food court…but I needed to figure out where and what would be safe for me.  And one of our top options would have meant eating dinner around 3:30 or 4 pm, which was WAY too early for me.

IMG_1569Lots of google and Find Me Gluten Free searching guided me toward a place called BÊP Vietnamese Cuisine.  Cathy opted to go find something with meat and gluten in it for herself (since when we are eating out and on vacation, she can do this!), and ended up at Beni’s Cubano and opted for the Milagro Sandwich with Maduros (Sweet Plantains).  So, while she was hitting them up, I went up to get Curry Tofu Rice Bowl from BÊP…except they were all out of tofu as they had to cater a large party earlier.  BOO!  So, I ended up doing the Vegetarian Phở with the Gluten Free Vegetarian Spring Rolls.  It wasn’t my first choice…but, hey…it wasn’t a bad option to end up with. And, honestly, I just wanted the spring rolls, so that made me happy enough (but 2 spring rolls don’t make a meal).

We ate in the food court before heading back to the room for the rest of the night, enjoying some Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives on Food Network while we wound down and prepared for the following morning, which would involve having to find a good spot in which to view the trials.  And, man, did we have some options to think about.IMG_1582

We woke up the following morning with a mission.  Kara Goucher was leading a 3 mile shakeout run around Centennial Park.  I wasn’t running.  This was a rest day, and regardless, I was really hoping to give my hip an extra day off before the half marathon on Sunday morning.  Cathy safely tucked my 2015 Boston Marathon bib into her bag and we headed down toward the park.  We ended up making an entire lap before converging on the crowd by the Olympic rings.  And there, in the middle of it all, was Kara Goucher.  Kara Goucher was one of the first female runners that I took notice of.  Her book was one of the first ones I ever read (and applied a lot of it to shorter distances as I was not running marathons yet).  It was chaotic in that throng of people, but I somehow managed to get up to her, tell her something about Minnesota girls (I was born in Minnesota, remember?) and got my bib signed! YAY!  It wasn’t the way I envisioned talking to her or meeting her…but it happened, guys!!  We also made one last stop in at the expo…and glad we did because we both ended up getting some hoodies that had Atlanta to Tokyo on it (at that point, obviously, the Olympics were still happening in summer 2020).  The smallest size I could find was a large, but I figured I could just wear it around the apartment.

IMG_1592After that, we headed back to the hotel to grab a big breakfast (as this would be what would hold us through to after the marathon trials AND…a live Ali on the Run Podcast that I got free tickets to attend).  It was going to be a long day…but thankfully, we had snacks.

The breakfast at the hotel was mostly buffet.  And for someone like me with food allergies…that just doesn’t work well.  BUT, our waiter was kind enough to put in an order for me with the kitchen so everything would be safe for me to eat.  I got an egg white vegetable omelette with a bowl of fruit.  Cathy was able to go pick and choose what she wanted and was excited that there was a mini chicken and waffles option out there (it might have been on the kids table, but she loved it).  We ate.  We drank a lot of coffee.  We went back up to the room to prepare ourselves for all the intense wind, cold weather, and the fun of spectating the Olympic Marathon Trials.IMG_1602

I. COULD. NOT. WAIT.

Originally, we had planned on going right to a spot where we could see the athlete 6 times on the looped course.  But after we got down there, we decided that we really, really wanted to see the start of both the men’s and the women’s race.  Then we could go up to about Mile 8 and see the men twice and the women once, and then hopefully get back to the finish line area to see who would make the team from a decent enough s
It felt like the right plan for us.  So…we scouted out a spot for the start of the race.  It was VERY windy!  In case you hadn’t heard.  I felt bad for the athletes because when you’re in a metro downtown like that, there is no wind breaks.  There are only wind tunnels.  And that wind will hit you in all directions!  We were right near where the athletes would be walking out.  Shalane Flanagan passed us.  She, obviously, wasn’t competing, but there was no mistaking her in that Bowerman Track Club gear.

IMG_1654And…I got to hug and wish good luck to Ashley Paulson, who I know from Instagram.  She ended up coming in 44th in the women’s race.  HOW AWESOME IS THAT?!  Anyway, that was super fun.  Cathy gave the woman standing next to me her ear warmer because she had tried three times to find somewhere she could buy a hat and couldn’t find one anywhere.  One good deed…

The winds were whipping around 20+mph.  And it was COLD!!  Man, was it cold.  But the sun was out…and the athletes were lining up at the start line.  The men would go off first.  Then the women.  And who was sending each group off?  Meb Keflezighi!IMG_1636

He counted down the men’s race…and they were off.  As the group ran past, we cheered really loud and started pointing out the people we recognized.  It was exciting.  What a rush.  And 20 minutes later…with one almost false start…Meb sent the women off.  Now that…THAT was insane.   It was just flood of women, running down the road.  I spotted a few people I recognized.  I screamed really loud.  And we even saw the ones at the back who were starting, but dropping out due to injury, pregnancy, or whatever.  It was inspiring, regardless.

From there, we hopped over to a spot on the rail near the 8 mile mark.  This was at one of the turns on the course, so we would definitely get the chance to see everyone as they went past.  We would be here for a while, able to see the men twice and the women once, if we wanted to try to get to the finish line area.

IMG_1682We took this opportunity to snag a snack.  I brought oranges.  LOL!  Hey, I’m like Dustin in Stranger Things…so I always bring snacks with me everywhere.  I had no idea how long it would be before we’d get to eat.  We polished off our oranges (I brought Sumo’s…only the best for this occasion) and were settled in, wincing against the wind, and making friends with the people around us…as you do.

The guy who was on my left was spectating his daughter, who qualified at CIM with a squeaker time, just hitting it with maybe a second to spare.  The pride and excitement in his voice was just…awesome.  And then…we saw the pace car come down the hill and toward the turn.  Behind it…the wave of men.  And, there were two people out front that I didn’t recognize.  But then in the chase pack (just steps behind them) were all the big names and the like.  And I tried to shout out to as many as I could.IMG_1736

There were smaller waves behind them…and then it quieted down as we all awaited the arrival of the women.  And that was a wave that was just as amazing as the start.  And the crowd.  Wow…it was loud.  And you could just feel this electricity as the women continued to make the turn and head back up the hill into Mile 8.  It was insane and I loved being a part of the noise and seeing these woman lay it all out there on the challenging course.  Seriously…inspiring.  Not that I’ll ever get the chance to run the Olympic Trials…but man…I felt like I was part of something big…just by being there.

IMG_1796We waited around for the men to make their second loop and, by the time they came back around, there were more familiar faces at the front of the pack.  Mainly…Galen Rupp.  No shocker there.  And, apparently, that’s where he would stay.  But…it would be those remaining two spots that would be the surprises for us spectators.

Not wanting to miss any of the final finishes…because, honestly, I wanted to be at that finish line when the runners who would be representing the country crossed, we left to head back to the finish line area.  The general public could only get so close, but luckily we found a spot of the rail, next to a man who was cheering for his daughter (this was a theme, LOL), named Val Curtis.  So, he was tracking her and I was trying to catch bits of conversation about where some of the favorites out on the course were.IMG_2025

And you could tell when the finish was getting close because people who were able to get into the grassy parts of the park near the finish started climbing into the trees.  No joke.  Cathy even said, “Looks like the spectators are in full bloom.”  It made me laugh.  A lot.  Security, however, did make them all eventually get down, but that was just a testament to how big of a deal this was to the people in Atlanta to spectate.

IMG_2038I will never forget that feeling when I saw the lead vehicle come down over the hill and veer off as Galen Rupp came surging past.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Galen Rupp fan.  I don’t like him.  But he was going to go represent the United States at the Olympics, turning in an amazing time on what was a VERY challenging course.  The second and third place for the men came in over a minute behind Galen.  It felt like a HUGE gap of time, honestly.  But that battle for second and third was SPECTACULAR!!  No lie.  It came down to just one second that put Jacob Riley in second and Abdi Abdirahman in third.  Our alternate for the men…Leonard Korir…just seconds behind Abdi.  What a finish!!IMG_2105

We saw more men come streaming in.  A few were bloodied, which left us really confused until I started listening to podcasts after the fact and finding out that people fell down on the course, were almost trampled, and the like.  How scary is that.  To rally and get back up and finish…that’s gutsy.  I respect the hell out of it.  I saw Jared Ward finish, but he was way out of contention for a spot.  He was definitely a favorite going in.

IMG_2109Eventually, the volunteers began to route the men down a different path to finish, which could only mean one thing…the women were coming!  I had no idea who was leading at this point.  I was up on my tiptoes, leaning on the rail, just waiting to see the first woman blaze by.  It felt like forever, but then…graceful, swift, and steady…the first woman flew past.  It was Aliphine Tuliamuk…which wasn’t out of the conversation to make the team, but she was leading the way.  I was here for it!  Just behind her was Molly Seidel, who qualified using a half marathon time and this was her first marathon.  This also meant that she started behind the A standard qualifiers.  And there she was…carrying that flag all the way to the finish line.  And just over a minute behind her…our third woman came in…Sally Kipyego, who I had just heard an interview with on Lindsey Hein’s podcast, “I’ll Have Another.”  Both Aliphine and Sally had recently become citizens of the United States and here they were now…heading to the Olympics to represent the country.  Amazing.IMG_2118

Des Linden came in fourth, now officially becoming the alternate and missing out on the Olympic Team by 30 seconds.  Stephanie Bruce wasn’t too far behind, coming in 6th.

We stayed at the finish line, because now we felt like we needed to see Val Curtis come in.  We were basically adopted members of the Curtis cheer team.  In the process, I saw Jordan Hasay come by, finishing 26th, and considering she came in with the fastest time…that was a shock. Ashley Paulson finish 44th overall for the women!  That was super exciting.  She’s just so genuine and amazing.

IMG_2119I noted some names that weren’t coming in…Sarah Hall, Molly Huddle, Emily Sisson.

It was weird.

We were getting updates from Val’s father as to where she was on the course, so we knew exactly when to start cheering.  I held a sign for her while he waved a flag and shouted as she blazed past to her finish line.  Cathy snapped photos.  It was pretty exciting to be part of that.  I felt like I knew Val…even though I had just heard of her that day.

After a long day of spectating, we were heading to the Generation UCAN live podcast with Ali Feller and Carrie Tollefson and Meb Keflezighi.  We figured we would grab dinner afterwards…which in hindsight wasn’t our best plan…but we had a podcast to get to.  I am so glad we did.  A surprise to me was when Dathan Ritzenhein went up and talked for a brief moment.  If you know me, you know how he is one of my favorite male runners.  Hip issues caused him to drop out of the trials, but he listened to his body and did what he needed to do.IMG_2158

After he spoke, he left and I grabbed my 2015 Boston Marathon bib and went to see if I could catch him for an autograph.  He very graciously signed it for me…and I was able to tell him a little bit about my devastating race that morning…due to hip issues.  He listened and said that he hopes my next time running Boston (2021 with any luck), would be a much better experience.

IMG_2180The live podcast was a lot of fun, and very emotional.  We laughed.  We cried.  We had a good time.  I wanted to meet Ali after the show, but there was a rush of people, and we had to go find some food, as both Cathy and I were racing the following morning.  The problem is…so many things in big cities close early…and we really didn’t have many options.  We ended up ordering in room service at the hotel, and they took very good care of me with my food allergies.  So, we were definitely eating dinner at 8 pm, watching Guy’s Grocery Games, and trying not to fret too much over the hour and the fact that we had to be up early to get ready to get to our own start lines.  I ended up with a delicious quinoa dish.

As for me…my leg wasn’t feeling 100% despite weeks of physical therapy…but I was going to see what I could do on these Atlanta hills.  But that’s another blog.

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Throo The Zoo 5K – Louisville, KY (May 12, 2018)

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Me crossing the finish line at the Throo The Zoo 5K – Louisville, Kentucky

Race: Throo The Zoo 5K

Place: Louisville Zoo, Louisville, Kentucky

Date: May 12, 2017

Time: 22:58*

Major question of importance…will the course of the Throo The Zoo 5K ever actually be a 5K?  Because…once again I didn’t even hit 3 miles for this race.  In fact, when I crossed the finish line, my watch read 2.99 miles.  I know it’s not hard to measure a course.  I’m not even good at running tangents, but…come on.  I do give it a pass because it is a zoo run and it is supposed to be fun…but I swear…move the start line back or the finish line out just a little bit…and GOLDEN!

Whatever.

So…I was talked into doing the Throo The Zoo 5K by my good friend, Melissa.  She had a team started for the race and made sure to inform me that…hey…they have finisher’s medals this year because…it was their 25th anniversary of the race.  So…I signed up.  We all know how much I LOVE 5K races right? *sarcasm*

I am NOT a sprinter.  Not one bit.  Not at all.  This is why I have NO finishing kick at the end of races.  If I am sprinting…I’m done a the end.  My energy is spent.  Maybe this is because I didn’t grow up a runner…I don’t know.  But…5Ks are not my forte nor something that I actually enjoy running.

But…they do make for good speed play.  And it’s a fun way to do speed work, as I am an avid hater of doing anything that means pushing hard and then recovering.  LOL!  I can’t help it.  Speed work and treadmills are what injure me.  So I’m reluctant to do either.

Also…Saturday is my “long” run day and I had 81 minutes on tap for that morning.  I also hate training by time.  But I’ve made that known from the start.  My plan was to run for an hour ahead of the race…pause and drive to the zoo…and then finish up my long run with the race itself.  My original plan had been to finish up my run after the race, but it was going to be very hot that day and once the sun came out…I probably would have died.  I normally love training in the heat, but this year it’s not working so well for me.  MEH.

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Gluten Free Green Acres and the Spicy Tofu Sushi Rolls.  LOVE vegan sushi.

The night before, I met up with Melissa and Paul for sushi at Dragon King’s Daughter (sushi is my new pre-race BFF…at least for now)…and then we went back to the apartment so that Cathy could apply KT tape.

I needed to stretch and roll and then sleep because I needed to wake up early enough to fit in a sweaty 60 minutes of running, change, eat, get to the zoo…and then see what I could do.  So…that’s what I did.

Morning was an early alarm for me.  I suited up, put on my Nox Gear Tracer 360 and head lamp and headed out for some easy paced miles.  I am working very hard on keeping my long runs and easy runs slower more consistently.  Slowing down has never been my forte.  I am a work in progress there.  After just over an hour of running (I like round numbers so I went over the time to get to a perfect mileage number), I had 8 miles under my belt and went inside to stretch out, eat, and change into clothes for the race.  I decided to ditch the tank top and wear a crop because I was dying in a tank top before the sun came up and with the race starting at 8 am…the sun would be up and if the Indy Mini taught me anything it was if I overheat…I’m done.

I fixed up my protein shake using my OWYN protein powder (coffee flavored) with my Four Sigmatic Cordycep Mushroom Elixir and took it on the road with me for the drive to the zoo.  That would be my fuel for this race as I seem to forget to buy bananas these days.  This was new…but doing new things on race day seems to be my thing this year.  I have no idea why.  I drank it on the way there, but soon, Cathy and I were stuck in the zoo traffic and barely moving.  The race start time was quickly approaching and we still had about a half mile to go.  We quickly made the decision to park in the Kroger parking lot and make the walk to the zoo.  It made for a nice warmup anyway, right?

Traffic is usually an issue, but it has never been this bad.  But with the promise of a medal at the end, the 5K sold out and…yeah…it was a mess.  Melissa was apparently in the zoo round-a-bout and no moving.  So…we weren’t alone.  In fact, we got to the start line before she and Paul did.  Which is CRAZY!

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Laura and I before the race.

As I was standing around waiting for the race start, I convinced myself that I didn’t need to pee (I mean, I rehydrated with Nuun, and then drank a protein shake…and I really did need to pee, but port-a-potty lines were RIDICULOUS)…which seemed to work.  And then I saw Laura!!  Laura and I talked and we’ve started making some plans to do long runs together this summer…so that will be fun.  Start time was approaching, so I shed my Run The Bluegrass hoodie and went to line up with Laura at the start.

We both noted the lack of certain regulars at this race…which could be a good thing in the end for us.  HA!  We also noted a lot of kids lining up at the front of the start…which race officials specifically asked NOT to do…but…I mean…it’s the zoo.  It is a safety concern though.  That being said, one of said kids was like…pretty close to being one of the first in…and he was 12 so…I mean…some do deserve it, but others probably should have moved back.  Especially since the road this starts on is narrow and crowded at the start.

Speaking of the start…a random airhorn went off prior to the race…and it really just confused all of us at the start line.  It was not the official start.  But now that everyone was ready and prepared…the official start was counted down by the emcee on the microphone at the start line.  And with a simple…”GO”…we were off and running.

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Me at the start of the Throo The Zoo 5K – and that’s the guy with the stroller who ended up passing me at the end.

I kept my training shoes on (they are heavier than my racing shoes) to help me better pace myself this race.  The first mile was spent on the narrow-ish Illinois Avenue, just outside of the Louisville Zoo.  My legs still felt good at this point, surprisingly, after my miles that morning, so I just worked on running comfortably hard.  I wasn’t going to all-out sprint it…but I wanted to see how much I could push myself.  The first turn takes us into the entrance at the back of the zoo.  Last year, I remembered rocky areas and my Newton shoes would get stones stuck in the lugs.  This year…I kept my Adidas Boston Boosts on to prevent this from happening.  Glad I did…because the rocky section was just the start.  Further into the race, construction was happening in this first mile and there was a big section on the path that was stones and loose rocks.  I made a good decision to wear the heavier shoes.  We hit Mile 1 soon after hitting this parking lot area of the zoo, pass the water stop and zig-zag up a hill and head back into the zoo.  I could hear a lot of people coaching some younger runners near me.  “Try to run faster.  You have to run faster.”  UGH.  Let them have fun.

Back into the zoo and we get some fun rolling hills.  I was now in the presence of a man with a running stroller.  He was running strong, but one of the steep uphills inside the zoo slowed him down to a walk.  For most of the rest of the race…I could hear him talking to his child about the animals that were out and about my socks.  I literally was steps ahead of him for the rest of the race.  Here we can see walkers heading into the first mile and it’s this fun area where the late wave and the first wave get to meet.  Some of them cheer and send out encouragement, which is nice.  And the zoo employees that are stationed around are also amazing for that too.  Mile 2 hits around the start of the African Outpost section of the zoo.  And my watch beeped a little after the mark.  Here we go again.

I didn’t once glance at my watch, because I never do when running, so why start during races.  But I could feel the strength and energy draining as the hills continued and we hit the worst of them all…Gorilla Hill.  This is a long and winding climb that does take runners out of the zoo for the final sprint to the finish.  I was slowing down on the hill, and when the flat road came back as we all came out to the parking lot to finish, I couldn’t find a finishing kick.  Well, I never have one anyway, but there was nothing left.  I did manage to get shout-outs from Howard, Matt, Amy, and others who ran to the race to cheer on finishers.  So that was amazing.  They could recognize me this time because I had on fun socks and colorful shorts.  I learned my lesson after KDF.  HA!!

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Me with my Throo The Zoo Finisher’s Medal after the race!

So, I ran it through to the finish, my watch never even beeping for a third mile.  MEH.  Oh well.  And that guy with the stroller…he passed me in the final straight-away.  Naturally.  I finished the race and received a medal and magnet…then moved out of the way to wait for Cathy to join me.  I told her I needed to round up my mileage so I did a short jog in circles in the grass before grabbing some water, a banana, and going to stand at the finish line to wait on Melissa and Paul to finish.  Cathy told me that I was the 6th female in, so that guaranteed me an age group award.  That was exciting.  It was just a matter of where I placed for it.

They weren’t too far behind me and we cheered them in to the finish line.  We went to meet up with them afterwards.  Cathy went to grab them both water and Gatorade and then get their official finishing times for them.  They both had a good race and Melissa was about to head out for her 2nd 5K that morning with the Girls on the Run girls she had been coaching.

As Cathy and I had nowhere else to be and my running was now done for the day, we waitited with Paul to cheer in Melissa’s mom, who signed up at the last minute to walk it.  She did great and actually beat her time goal.  WOOHOO!!  And then I won a door prize randomly…which ended up being Louisville Bats tickets and some chicken place gift cards (these are of no use for me, but I’ll take the baseball tickets).

The announcers started to do age group awards, so I wandered over that way, but they ended up pausing halfway through for the costume contest awards.  I wandered back over the shade of the tree where everyone was huddled and just talked a little bit and laughed a lot.  And when age group awards resumed, I missed the first ones, and I suddenly heard my age group announced with me as coming in first.

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First place age group award at Throo The Zoo 5K

WOOHOO!  I hurried that way to go claim my certificate.  I definitely wasn’t expecting that result as I ran this race faster last year and came in 2nd in my age group.  And I haven’t felt very fast as of late.  So…after running 8 miles prior to the race itself…this was a pleasant surprise indeed.

Afterwards, Cathy and I left to make the walk back to the car and head to brunch.  We hit up North End Café for a Basic Breakfast and some chill time.  Later that afternoon, we were headed out to a wine tasting with our friend Michelle, so this was fuel to get us through to that.  And I made sure to get some protein for some much needed recovery as well.

And the winery…that was a whole lot of fun!

So, the official results of the Throo The Zoo 5K is that I finished the race in 22:58…with the course being short AGAIN this year.  I hope that gets fixed in the future.  I slowed down each mile and Gorilla Hill was a struggle, but I’ll take this time with over an hour of running ahead of the race itself.  I was 54/2589 finishers overall. I was the 6/1685 female finishers. And I was 1/239 people in my age division! Maybe my endurance is coming back.  I hope to get heat adapted sooner rather than later so I can endure a bit more, but I’m pretty proud of this result when all is said and done.

 

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

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

Race: OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon

Place: Indianapolis, Indiana

Date: May 5, 2018

Time: 1:44:14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MEB!!!!!  MEB!!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meb, Alexi, Bill, Frank

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

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

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

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

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

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Bill Rodgers and Me

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

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Meb Keflezighi and Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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From my Instagram Stories on race day!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Onto the next…

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Rodes City Run 10K – Louisville, KY (March 24, 2018)

Me after finishing the windy and rainy Rodes City Run 10K – Louisville, KY

Race: Rodes City Run 10K

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: March 24, 2018

Time: 46:43

I wish cold, wet weather would GO AWAY!  I’m so done with it.  I’m tired of all the layers.  Of the whipping winds.  Of the rain.  All.  The.  Rain.

I’m done with it.

For real.

And, being that I signed up for the Rodes City Run 10K on a whim and was just coming off of the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon and a hard week of lots of treadmill training (including over 9 miles of speed work…on the tready…because weather has been wet and gross as of late), I wasn’t loving waking up the morning of the race and hearing the pouring rain and wind.

I believe the words, “I would rather run on the treadmill!” crossed my lips that morning.

I almost suggested not going…but I had friends who I was meeting up with and Cathy was going to tape up my friend Melissa’s Achilles due to some strain from the NYC half’s Central Park hills.

The Green Acres and Coco Caliente Vegan Sushi Rolls from Dragon King’s Daughter

That was the plan that we had come up with the night before.  Melissa was kind enough to pick up my race packet when she went to get hers and her husband’s.  Then, we met up with her and Paul at Dragon King’s Daughter for a sushi dinner that night and some relaxing and laughs and a NYC recap.  It was amazing.  And I’m finding that vegan sushi works really well for me before races.  So, there is that.

I went to bed at my normal time and woke up with enough time to do all my physical therapy stretches and exercises and not feel rushed going out the door to the race.  What I woke up to was dread…because I could tell that, once again, it was just going to be a cold race.  And this time…wet on top of it too.

I ate a light breakfast and packed my Lärabar to eat 30 minutes prior to go-time.  I’ve become very good about proper fueling before a race…even a 10K…because my races are starting to get a little better when I put fueling into proper practice.

Cathy had to leave the race sign behind, but threw on her rain jacket and we headed out the door into the cold…wet morning.  And the drive into Louisville was…also cold and wet.  And we ended up parking a good ways away from the start and the finish…which meant a bit of a hike.  Originally we had hoped to meet up with Melissa and Paul at the parking garage where they parked, but it was across the highway and there just wasn’t enough time.  We had to pay for our spot on this flat lot and head to the start.  Melissa and Paul said they would head that way too.  We walked through the staging area, letting them know we were hanging out near the port-a-potties (I mean…why hang anywhere else?).  We ended up taking photos for some people, and I shivered a lot…but we didn’t see them.  Cathy knew if she was going to get a spot at the start she needed to head that way…so we headed over to the corrals and she went to get a spot.

And no sooner had she left…I found Melissa and Paul.  Melissa asked where Cathy was and I went to try to find her, but she had meandered up past the start line at this point.  No good.  I went back to let Melissa know…and discovered they had found Chris and Christy (who I met through them at Disney).  They asked about the half marathon the weekend before, and I said it was fun and cold.  Melissa’s Achilles was really bothering her, so she was hinting that she may just not start this time.  Rest it.  I gave her a hug and wished her luck, whatever she chose to do.  The National Anthem was sung…and so I meandered a little further up in the corrals to prep for the start.

The wheelchair racers were sent off first…and then the rest of us.

Running in the rain…and wind…bib on my pants (I hate wearing pants in a race, and I never pin a bib to them…but I had on my new windbreaker!), hat on, no pigtails…no anklet (I forgot it at home)…no one recognized me, LOL!

I don’t remember too much about this race.  I was focused on trying not to worry over the fact that I was wearing my very old shoes that I use as rain shoes in training…but since I’m down to just my regular race shoes that are hard to find because they have been updated 4 times since then…I didn’t want to ruin them in the rain…or the fact that I was freezing…or that I couldn’t do a few traditions because of the weather (my hair was braided and not in my signature pigtails for one thing…and all of that was slapped under a ball cap to keep the rain out of my eyes).  But here’s what I do remember…

Mile 1 was totally into the wind.  Every bit of it was met with strong resistance as all of us ran down West Broadway toward Grinstead.  Total headwind.  And then we get the hill climb there.  And the wind is still howling.  And at this time I’m really starting to question life decision, but am thankful in the wind for my NYC Half Marathon windbreaker that I am sporting.  I was just glad to get up the hill…even though it slowed me down for Mile 2 to be my slowest mile of the entire race.

After that, there are some climbs, lots of wonky tilty roads, and the run around the outside of Cave Hill Cemetery.  Once we got the wind break, thanks to the walls around the cemetery, I started to feel hot.  Then I’d come around a corner and get hit by that wind and once again be grateful for throwing on the windbreaker.  I usually hate running in jackets…but today…I was happy to have it…most of the time.

I remembered heading into Mile 3, I saw both of the wheelchair racers heading up too.  They started to crest and come down and were shouting, very loudly, that they were coming up from behind…but people run with earbuds in races and don’t hear this…and the wheelchair racers were rightfully angry.  BE AWARE!

I remembered Melissa talking about how much she hated the part of the race near Girl Scout Headquarters…so I thought of her as I ran past that. I basically kept my head down for most of this race because I was cold and wet and…that pretty much sums it up.  I remember turning into the final Mile, back onto West Broadway…and there being a lot of debris from a car wreck being scattered across the road.  It was a hazard and I did my best to avoid what I could…but that should have been swept up prior to the race.  Imagine if a shard of glass met a running shoe.  YIKES!!  And with how minimal some shoes are, that could have definitely spelled disaster.  As it was, my foot slipped on a piece of it that it just clipped.  But thankfully I was balanced and was able to keep my footing.

At least the finish was with a tailwind, right?  It made for a nice finish when all was said and done and I crossed the finish line, feeling pretty good about how I did under the conditions and on tired legs.  In fact, it turned out I had a new Rodes City Run 10K PR.  Not a 10K PR.  Don’t get that confused.  I need to shave about 3 minutes off my time to accomplish that and I don’t see that happening for awhile…if ever…at this point.  This PR was race specific.  Sort of like my Fast Freddie race PR was race specific and not distance specific.  Both of which involved a dinner of sushi rolls the night before.

HMMMM…

Crossing the finish line, cold and soaked, of the Rodes City Run 10K…just happy to be done.

So…the official results of the Rodes City Run 10K are that I finished in 46:43. That put me almost exactly 2 minutes faster than my finish time last year.  AND…it’s the fastest I have run the Rodes City Run 10K as well.  So…there is that.  But I still have a ways to go before I have a new 10K PR.  10K distance is hard for me.  I never really know how hard to push and when.  I was 219/2527 finishers overall.  I was the 49/1358 for women finishers.  And I was 12/206 in my age division.  I’m really happy with this.  I averaged a 7:32 pace for the race, which is impressive these days for me.  I really wasn’t focused on running this fast, because I was in old, over-mileage shoes and I run slower on wet pavement for fear of slipping and getting hurt.  And, after running a half marathon the Sunday before and then having to do all but 1 run on a treadmill in the week leading into it following the half marathon…I’ll take this.  Sore and tired…and I dug deep without even realizing it.

For the record, I did ask Cathy if Melissa started the race and when she confirmed that she had…I knew there was no stopping her and she would finish.  And she did.

Usually, there would be celebratory brunch at North End Cafe…but I wanted to go home and take a hot shower and try to get warm.  So, Cathy ended up making toast and scrambled eggs for breakfast at home.  Warming up, however, never really happened.  And very little else aside from minor grocery shopping got done that day because I was just done with being out in the weather.

Such is life.

Good thing there was still Sunday.

Louisville Half Marathon – Louisville, KY (November 12, 2017)

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Me heading to the finish line of the Louisville Half Marathon – Louisville, KY

Race: Louisville Half Marathon

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: November 12, 2017

Time: 1:44:09
Training has kicked in for sure this week for my January races.  And these days, I’m slowing down my speeds on races and weaving more runs together.  This is imperative.  And I have to be smart about speeds at distances because I am just DONE with the whole hip/body falling apart JUST before races.  Usually just prior to taper, so when the mileage is super high.

So…that is what went down with this race.  I know…I just ran a half marathon last weekend (the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon), which I finally blogged about yesterday!  WOO!  See, I’m getting this done early.  Good for me! *pats self on back*

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that this week I took two full days off in the middle of the week (Tues & Wed), and then had short runs through to the weekend.  Yesterday, I ran half of my distance by myself and then met up with some amazing ladies to do the Thanksgiving course with them (they have never run it) to finish up the rest of my distance.  Damn, I love running with people.  Maybe that’s why I love racing so much.

Today I was supposed to run/walk this half marathon (which I signed up for last week, no joke) as part of my training, with my training partner, Matthew.  But he had some family come through unexpectedly and texted me last night to let me know.  It was just me today and I had to decide on my run plan.  Since I really took it easy yesterday, I made an agreement with myself to walk the hills and water stops at this race instead of doing the 4 minutes running/30 seconds walking I was originally going to do.  Since this is held in The Parklands, I knew there would be hills.  BIG hills at times.  SO…this was a good compromise with myself now that I had no one to reign me in with standard 4/30 intervals for a run/walk.

Packet pick-up was a MESS!  Seriously.  It was held at our local Fleet Feet in Louisville, but, the new location has very limited parking spots and the race organizers were setting packet pickup for 5 hours only…on Saturday.  Whew.  So, I arrived when the store opened and was told I needed to come back at 1 pm.  *sigh* There was also race day packet pick-up, but I like being able to pin up and be ready on race day and not have to get there even earlier and concern myself with more lines and people and waiting.  Especially when the weather is cold.

It was 20 degrees warmer than my 10 mile run yesterday…but it didn’t feel like it.  HA!

Anyway…I went back at 1 pm. and got my bib and my shirt.  It was a madhouse.  I signed a waiver thingy…had to go up and tell people my bib number.  There was nothing on it with my name, so then I started to second-guess myself on that.  MEH!  I double checked on my phone and I did have the correct bib.  I just hate not having the security of my name being on the big itself…somewhere.

I spent the rest of the day grocery shopping and making homemade nut butter.  I do that.  HA!  OH…and I swung by Annie May’s Sweet Cafe to place my Thanksgiving order and buy something to eat post-race (the pumpkin coffee cake was the winning selection!).  Sorry, race organizers…I can’t have your Derby Pie at the finish, or beer, or granola bars.  I mean…what race doesn’t have bananas??!!  So…that happened.  I made sure I recovered well from my 10 miles that day so I would be good to go for 13.1.  This meant, I did finally get in some stretching.  And then, my feet were up and I was on the couch, watching the new Spider-Man: Homecoming on blu-ray.  Thanks, Redbox!!

Went to bed later than anticipated (I was up at 3:30 am to do my Saturday run and now I was going to have to do the same to get to the shuttle area and to the start without being too crunched for time)…but slept pretty well.  I was probably just overly tired because I was fussing about the time my roommate was going to get up so she could eat breakfast and get ready without feeling rushed.  And she is the worst about getting to races for parking.  We were parking at Papa John’s headquarters and being shuttled and she still was stressing over that. But not as much as parking in a muddy field.

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I chose my outfit today because I wanted to wear my Pink Argyle Pro Compression socks, LOL!  Good morning!

We were out the door in time to not be stressed for sure.  I had my pre-workout mix with me and a Pamela’s Products Gluten Free Big Fig Bar to eat before the race.  That was new for pre-race.  But as I wasn’t running this race for time…I figured…why not try something new. I had the Pamela’s Products Gluten Free Matcha Happiness Ambition Bar before Monumental and that was new too!  Whatever!  I needed something to start off my race with some fuel in the tank.  And I, myself, failed on the banana front for the second race day in a row.  I think it’s time to get back into the banana habit.

I took a short power nap on the way to the shuttle buses and happily toted my blanket from the car with me to the bus and the race start.  It was chilly, and while I was wearing my longer compression shorts, I knew I was going to be cold. I am ALWAYS cold.  Getting on a bus to the start line was super easy.  The return trip…is going to come at the end of this post.  Wait for it!  It might be in the form of a rant.

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The blanket that kept me warm-ish prior to the race.

But I’m getting ahead of myself!  GAH!  So much running around in my head.

Okay…the announcer at the start/finish line was actually really perky and excitable.  But he did keep using the same jokes over and over again.  It was definitely too cold for the runners to be all excited at the start line, and he kept trying to get us to shout.  At one point, I let out a loud “WOOOO!” and he said, “ONE PERSON…ONE PERSON IS EXCIED.”  HAHA!  Honestly, I was miserable because I had to give up my hoodie and really didn’t want to.  But, we all started to crowd into the start corrals, which had tiny little areas for paces.  No one really wanted to go up front…but there were some who honestly did belong to be up there and proudly went up to take their spots.  There were also some overly-ambitious sorts too.  HAHA!  But I took up my spot around the 9 min milers at first and then was shuttled forward as the race neared the start time.  They played the national anthem (we had NO flag in sight), and then…with a countdown from 10…we were off.

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Cathy trying to get me to give up my hoodie and me resisting…and saying, “I’ve been lifting weights, I’m STRONG now!”

Now…I knew how tough the first 2 miles of this race would be because it was the same route as the Great Pumpkin 10K.  I knew there would be ONE SUPER BIG HILL within the first 2 miles.  I left the start area feeling good and loving not having any sort of time goal for this run.  I just wanted to run it smart and get to the finish line.  The first hill I ran up, but knew that the next one would be done at a walk because it would be STEEP!  Totally didn’t care that I tossed up a hand to indicate my intention to walk and went up the hill that way.  Of course, after doing that, it was difficult to get back into my stride…but I fell back into eventually.  The first water stop, I didn’t walk.  I had just finished climbing an evil hill.  MEH.  I kept going.  Just before Mile 3, the turn-around for the 10K was happening.  Most of the people ahead of me were turning around, but I was continuing on straight.  This did open up the course a lot more, which was nice.  I crossed over the timing pad for the 5K at 23:42.  I can’t complain with that.  I walked a monster hill, which also meant I conserved a bit of energy for the rest of the race as well.  Miles 3 through the turn-around point were pretty much a steady downhill, with a few small inclines thrown in.  Mile 4 was Pope Lick Park where I train a lot with my training partner, so I loved being familiar with the twists, turns, and terrain there.  The hills aren’t bad through there and I figured out exactly where we would be turning around.

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Me cruising out of the start line at the Louisville Marathon/Half Marathon/10K – Louisville, KY

There was a water stop at Mile 4, but one of the pace groups was right behind me so I had to wait for them to pass before tossing up my hand to alert anyone else of my walk break.  I took in some water and a bit of my Nuun Performance, then picked it back up again.  The turn around was tight, but manageable.  I hate hairpin turns in races, but when you are running an out-and-back race…it’s going to happen.

After turning around, the fun began.  I actually caught up to a woman I had been talking to at the start of the race.  We were just started talking and she mentioned she was from Minnesota.  I told her that I was born in Minnesota.  She asked where, and I told her Bloomington.  Turns out she was a teacher in Bloomington for 34 years.  I never went to school in Minnesota though…we moved to New York before I turned 4.  But that was really cool.  Her racing season is usually over by now and she goes into cross country skiing (how Minnesotan…my Grandpa did the same thing when he was a runner), but she came down for this one.  That’s pretty cool.  I was set for some fuel, so I let her go on ahead and I fell back to take in more Nuun Performance. Short break…back to it.

Out and backs are awesome because I can see friends of mine on the course.  And I tried to say “HI” to as many as I could.  I saw Nikky, Katie, and a few others that I know through Instagram and smaller races.  And I got an amazing high five from my friend Melissa, who was pacing the 6 hour group for the marathon.  That was just what I needed.  I knew a crazy bunch of hill climbing was coming.  And that basically started around Mile 9 and lasted through around just before Mile 11.  BIG shout-out to my friend Kathryn who cheered for me when I came through the race initially and then on my way back through.  It was fantastic to get the shout-out on the course. Really lifts you up.

I was actually concerned as I was coming back as the mile markers were a little off from my watch beeps, but as I started down the steep hill that I had walked up near the start of the race, my Mile 11 beep came just as I passed the sign.  All was right in the distance world.  With 2 miles left, I just did what I could to get there.  My legs were tired, sure.  Even walking hills takes a lot out of you.  Just not as much.  I started to catch up to people, which was nice.  And as Mile 12 ticked by, I was ready to get to that finish line.  There was one last hill to go up before making the turn to round out to the finish line.  I decided not to walk it, but my pace slowed.  This nice man in front of me, who had commented about me not liking hills when I was walking the bigger ones between miles 9 and 11 (and I explained I was coming back from injury and just not going to blow it all on a hill), waved at me and said, “Come on!  We got this.  Let’s do this one together.”  It was just what I needed.  Up and over and down.  From there…it was just a matter of making the turn and taking the road around to that finish chute.

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Me having to, literally, squeak past the couple finishing their 10K walk while holding hands.

Some of the 10K walkers were still coming in at this point, and there was a couple right at the finish line as I was running in.  They were holding hands and pretty much taking up the entire finish area.  I squeezed past, which was fine, but it also meant they blocked the finisher photo that Cathy was trying to take.

I ran into Paul and Michelle (I met Paul through the KDF Ambassador Team last year and Michelle is gluten-free like me) just after finishing.  Results weren’t posted yet for the half, so we were just sort of hanging out.  Cathy was checking the phone for finishing results and told me that I had “unofficially” placed in my age division.  Heck yeah!  So did Paul, for that matter!!  It was cold, so I pulled my blanket out of the backpack Cathy had and wrapped it around me.  It wasn’t enough. I was sweaty and the wind had picked up.  No Mylar blankets at the finish…no banana…meh.  I was over it.

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Finisher of the Louisville Half Marathon!

The official results finally were posted, and officially both Paul and I placed.  YAY!  But now we had to wait for the official results to be given to the age group award holders…which involved a lot more waiting. I was cold and hungry now.  But…I’m glad I waited.  Once I saw the papers handed off, I went right up there and…yep…there I was.  Number 3 in my age division.  BOOM!

Paul and I both obtained our age group awards and we went to take some photos.  Afterwards, we parted ways.  They were heading back to their car and I was on my way to meet the shuttle bus.  We were told by people there that the shuttles were picking up at the dog walk park. So, we hiked that way.  There were people standing there, so we joined in, after double-checking with the kid who was the volunteer there to be sure we were in the right spot.  He said the buses had just left and would be back soon.  After 10 minutes, a bus came into view.  Full.  And kept driving.  And then, another 10 minutes later, the same thing happened.  One of the ladies who had been standing there before then, flagged down that bus driver and asked about where the buses were picking up people.  He said they were told to go to the finish area.

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Me with my finisher’s medal and my age group award medal at the Louisville Half Marathon – Louisville, KY

Now we were all pissed as we were told to come here and had been freezing waiting on a bus.  He called back to the finish and said a bus was coming for us.  Thank God.  After a total of about 30 minutes, we were on a warm bus and making our way back to Papa John’s headquarters and the car.

I was extremely tired and hungry.  The plan had been to go home and do breakfast, but the whole return to the car took longer than expected. It was almost 11:30…so Cathy decided we would go back to North End Cafe today and have brunch. Good call. We had a 30 minute wait, but we already knew what we were ordering.  Coffee…and the potato melt (minus the cheese and sour cream for me).  Food and coffee hit the table and then were used as recovery as we both devoured our food.  Coffee…they gave us some to go on our way out if that tells you anything.  HA!

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Unexpected breakfast at North End Cafe with protein, carbs, and COFFEE!!

So…the official results of the Louisville Half Marathon are that I finished in 1:44:09…walking the steep hills and the water stops.  Hell yeah!  I was 59/749 finishers overall.  I was the 12/420 female finishers.  And I was 3/76 in my age division.  Once again, taking smart and planned walk breaks.  It’s all about staying injury free right now.  I’ll focus on time again when this body is really ready and fit to race.

For a first-year race…not bad.  But they really need to work a bit on the after-race situation with shuttles, when shuttle use is being encouraged.  Having runners stand out in the cold that long after a run is not good for anyone involved.  Especially runners.  Hypothermia is real, friends.  Thankfully, it all worked out in the end.  Also, I would like bib’s to have some sort of deciphering quality as to which race is being run.  There was a mass start for a 10K, Half Marathon, and Marathon this morning and no real way to tell who was running which race.  ALSO…I wish the medals were different.  The finisher’s medal was for all three races, with no separate ones for the 10K, Half and Full.  Which…I guess saves money, but having one for your distance is way nicer.

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Me with Paul & Michelle at the finish line!

Norton Sports Health Great Pumpkin 10K – Louisville, KY (September 30, 2017)

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Me, Melissa and Paul after a strong finish at the Norton Sports Health Great Pumpkin 10K – Louisville, KY

Race: Norton Sports Health Great Pumpkin 10K

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: September 30, 2017

Time: 1:24:33*

I have actually had no intention to race these days.  Honestly, I’m still dealing with a bit of a hip twinge thing when I run at times and have been keeping each run to a basic run/walk as I continue to heal this body and strengthen my hips and core.  After giving up on my Chicago Marathon this year, I’ve been pretty down in the dumps and depressed.  I put a lot of work into training and it just hasn’t fallen right for me in marathon training in 2 full years now.  Wouldn’t you be depressed?

Honestly, I’ve felt like a bit of a failure.

There…I said it.

Sensing this, I think, my friend Melissa texted me and told me I should consider signing up and run/walking this as part of my recovery run/walks.  I ran it past Cathy, because I do get all gung-ho about running stuff and dive right in.  Cathy told me she would be okay with it as long as I stuck with Melissa and Paul and promised to run/walk.  I was going to run it past my physical therapist…but that’s a whole new blog waiting to be written.

And it will be written.

But not here. That being said, I went ahead and registered for the Great Pumpkin 10K and let Melissa know.  I also said that she now had the responsibility of making sure I didn’t overdo it.  In races, I usually get wrapped up in the hype, and yes, the competition, and overdo things when I’m coming back from injury.

As a big help, Melissa picked up my race packet for me and texted me to let me know that the race shirts were the softest fabric she has ever felt.  This was not an exaggeration.  This meant that I could go home and eat my pre-race pizza sooner, rather than later, and settle in for the night with my PT stretches and all.  YAY for awesome friends.

I was also going into this knowing that Melissa was having the worst week ever, and prior to Saturday morning, broke her toe pretty badly and fell down some stairs and busted up her knee.  We really are the same person, I swear.  We decided just to go out and see what we could do…and have some fun while doing it.

After all, if it isn’t fun, why bother?

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Parking in tall grass/weeds and a ditch

Saturday morning arrived and I ate a light breakfast at home, packing a pouch of applesauce to eat prior to the race itself.  I’m horrible about hydrating pre-race, but poured a bottle of water to take with me…which I pretty much ignored on the drive to Beckley Creek Park.  The race began and ended at the Egg Lawn…and this was the one area of The Parklands I had yet to run in.  So…I knew nothing of what awaited me.  And…Cathy, used to going to Pope Lick for me to do my runs, went the wrong way, but with some Google Maps-fu…I got us there some back roads way and we made it to the parking area, coming in the way that no one else was coming in.  Everyone else got instructions from the Web site, which Cathy had done, and was now waiting in a line at the other end of the parking area (in the grass).  So, we got right in and parked.  In a little ditch.  In the tall grass.  I told Cathy that my little Toyota might have an issue getting out of there.

We made the L-O-N-G walk to the start/finish area of the race where we were immediately spotted by Laura!  It was great to see her and we stood around and talked for a little while…about running, people, Louisville City FC (soccer!).  She needed to do her warm up and stretches and Cathy and I stepped over to a tree to wait on our friends.  They arrived and Melissa handed over my bib and shirt.  I tucked the shirt into Cathy’s backpack and she pinned me up.  It was 5 minutes to the start and the three of us gave Cathy a good-bye and and we went to get into the start corral.

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Me, Melissa & Paul before starting the Norton Sports Health Great Pumpkin 10K – Louisville, KY

The National Anthem was being sung, and soon after…the race was given the go.  And we were off.  We strolled from our start place up toward the actual start line…crossed and we were off.  Waving to Cathy as we passed.

Now…I knew that there were some hills here…but I didn’t know how steep some of these hills were.  Like…whoa.  That being said…I ran to the first hill and up it with no big issue.  It wasn’t too steep, but on the way down, I realized I had lost my friends so I turned and immediately spotted Melissa’s florescent yellow Bondi Band.  I walked until she and Paul caught me and then settled back in with them.  It was fun getting to chat and talk and hear stories of years prior to this.  They have done it the past 2 years…this was my first time doing this particular race.

Just after Mile 2…we turned around a corner and there was this MEGA-hill.  Melissa said that I needed to be very aware of my hip on this one.  I started up it. pushing off and making sure I was lifting my left knee to drive it equally…but about 3/4 of the way up, I had to stop being stubborn and walk it.  The whole purpose was to not take anymore steps back and I was going to make sure I came out of this NOT limping.  I waiting for Melissa and Paul and we continued on our way.

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Paul, Melissa & I heading out at the start of the Norton Sports Health Great Pumpkin 10K – Louisville, KY

At one point heading into the turn-around at Mile 3, I got separated from them again.  I kept going as I knew I could circle back around when I saw them at the turn-around point.  They weren’t far behind me at all…and I just looped back and we were together for the rest of the run at this point.

Melissa’s toe/foot was really starting to hurt…and pain is never good.  That’s when the dangerous game of compensation happens…so instead of pushing through it, we let her set the pace.  If she started to run, we ran.  If she needed to walk…we walked.  It was a gorgeous morning…sunny and brisk…and it made for the best time in the long run because at least we could enjoy the morning.

Just before Mile 4, Howard caught up to us and he took a moment to ask about my hip.  We talked a little bit about running and aches and pains and just how we’re happy to still be able to do it.  And he got to talk to Melissa and Paul as well.  I really need to get them into the NQRFPTR group.  In fact, Howard made me explain how we don’t use the “S” word in our group.  The “S” word, for those of you who are unaware, is SLOW.  We don’t believe in “slow” runners.  We believe in running deliberately!!  Don’t you just love that?  Howard went on to finish his run and as Melissa’s toe told her she was DONE running, we fell into step and had a nice talk and discussion as we walked the final two miles.  We did, however, run the last bit to the finish line…and the three of us crossed this bad boy together!

Honestly, one of the most fun and enjoyable runs in a long time.  Getting to do a recovery run with friends who keep you in check and keep your injury safe is priceless.  I know good people…and good people look out for each other.

After the race, we received our medals and went over to the post-race area.  They were doing the awards, but we stopped by some booths to grab some free Norton’s swag and spin the wheel to attempt to win some free Barre classes.  Melissa did.  I missed.  But they were kind enough to give me a free class pass as well.  As soon as Melissa’s toe is better, we’re going to go to a class together and check it out.  I’m pretty excited.

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Brunch Post-Race at North End Cafe…I got the Basic Breakfast with 2 eggs over easy, home fries, and fruit!

And then…after that, we went to North End Cafe (of course) for brunch before they had to head home to get cleaned up to go to the Louder Than Life music festival (because they are hard core and amazing).  Cathy and I went to hit up some Halloween stores, LUSH, Trader Joe’s and Costco.  We got the first pumpkin of the season (which has been cut open and harvested for its seeds) and I also made a homemade batch of Pumpkin Seed Butter.  YUMMY!

So…the official results of the Norton Sports Health Great Pumpkin 10K are that I finished in 1:24:33…complete with great conversation and laughs and time with friends. The struggle was real today, but we persevered and saw each other to that finish line.  I was 960/1146 finishers overall.  I was the 571/714 female finishers.  And I was 109/126 in my age division.  Melissa likes to say that this may have been my slowest race, but it was my safest.

But…I don’t believe every race needs to be a PR or an all-out sprint.  Sometimes, the best races are the ones that you spend with friends, near the back of the pack, seeing each other through struggles with hip injuries and foot injuries and knee injuries.  Talking and supporting each other through this crazy thing called life…where we have plenty of outside anxieties and stress weighing us down as well.

Finish lines…not finish times!

I wouldn’t have changed a minute of this race…nor do I regret taking the pace I did.  When you get to spend time in the beautiful Parklands with some of your most beautiful friends…that’s a win any day!!

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Paul, Melissa & I heading into the finish line of the Norton Sports Health Great Pumpkin 10K.  I had just finished doing a dance! – Louisville, KY

Comeback Kid…Again! Week #3

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

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

But I digress.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Recipe: Cauliflower Fried “Rice”

I won’t lie…I’m a carb-a-holic.  Is that really a thing?  Is that a word? Doesn’t matter.  Carbs make me happy.  Gluten-free bread, pasta, donuts, muffins, potatoes, rice…you name it…I love to eat it.

That being said, I’m doing a slight bit of overhauling to my diet this year…aiming to cut back on all those processed carbs (like…bread, pasta, donuts, muffins, etc) and try to replace them with real food…healthier choices…and something that will nourish my body more.

Before I was diagnosed with Celiac…I may have lived at the Chinese buffet at least 2 times a month.  I love Chinese food.  I always have.  But, most of it is not even an option for me these days, unless I make it.  I’m Irish…not Chinese.  My Chinese food is never as amazing as when…you know…someone who is Chinese makes it.

That being said, I’ve been craving as of late…and I finally decided to cave and give into it.  And I got out my skillet on Sunday afternoon and whipped up a healthier version of fried rice, replacing the rice with riced cauliflower.  The recipe is below:

Cauliflower Fried “Rice”

Cauliflower Fried

Cauliflower Fried “Rice”

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 head cauliflower, chopped into florets (or one bag of cauliflower rice)
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
½ cup frozen peas
½ cup carrots, cubed
2 eggs, beaten (if making vegan, sub in tofu or just leave out)
¼ cup low sodium tamari
1 Tbsp light brown sugar
⅛ tsp. ground ginger
Pinch red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp green onions, chopped (optional garnish)


Directions:

**Chop head of cauliflower into florets and place in food processor. Pulse until it starts to resemble rice; set aside.

**NOTE: If you want a less-mess, no maintenance way of doing this, go to Trader Joes, Kroger, Target, or pretty much ANY grocery store these days and they have bags of already riced cauliflower in their produce section and even in the freezer section.  I do this…because food processors are a pain to clean!  So, skip the first step if you cheat and get the already riced cauliflower.  At the end when you add it in with the sauce, cook it until it has softened.
 

Heat a large wok (or skillet) over medium heat and add 1/4 cup water. Add onion, peas and carrots and saute until tender, about 2 minutes. (Add more water as needed to prevent veggies from sticking).Meanwhile in a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger and red pepper flakes; set aside.

Slide veggie mixture to one side of the wok and add in the beaten eggs (or tofu…or skip this step if you opted to go without the protein), scrambling until cooked through and then incorporate with the veggies.

Stir in cauliflower “rice” and pour the sauce over top, mixing well. Cook for an additional 3 to 4 minutes, until cauliflower is soft and tender.

Top with green onions, serve and enjoy!

~*~*~

Simple, easy…and yes…super delicious!!  Oh…and only 220 calories per serving!  You can’t beat that, right?  Highly recommended to your Chinese food lovers if you’re looking for a healthier alternative!!  Or maybe you just want to try something new!

Either way, it’s an easy recipe with little to do but stir away!!  So…no excuses, friends.  Get rockin’ that wok!

A Wild & Wonderful Weekend

In the midst of everyday stresses and stressors, it’s always nice to have a little break from the things that are just…making you feel so BLAH about life and what you are doing with your life.

For me, this week, it was having my beautiful sister, Karla, drive up from Birmingham, Alabama, with her eldest son, my nephew, Landon.  I didn’t know how much I needed her and the distraction of having her and Landon here to really just allow me to relax, smile, and be me again!

Family, especially my sister, is, apparently, the cure to what ails, troubles, and bothers you.  I’ve been having…a not so amazing time these past few weeks…and, unfortunately, it’s something I am not really allowed to discuss.  Censorship sucks, yes?  YES!  But…just trust me…the type of personality I have and the person I am…it’s been bothering me on a fundamental level, which, has added a lot of added stress to my already chaotic life.

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Suckage.

But this weekend…was amazing.  I love spending time with my sister…and it doesn’t happen often enough.  So, her texts and calls that ask what I’m doing on certain weekends means…she’s coming to visit.  And I LOVE when she comes to visit.  She and I are best friends and sisters and just…have always been close.  So, me living this far away for 11 years (YES…11 years as of Friday)…has not been easy on either of us.  But here is some of the mischief that we got into this weekend, helping me to not even think about the bad and sucky things that have made a certain portion of a time of my day…a thing I have resented and even loathed at times over the past couple of weeks.

Here’s to sisters…and nephews…and family…and general FUN!  They make the world right again.

1.  Fish in the Water

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One thing Karla and I had discussed for Landon to do while here was to go to the new water park in New Albany.  Unfortunately, Friday left us with thunderstorm warnings and the threat of pop-up storms.  So, at around 3:30…when she arrived and we left the office…the lifeguards were being sent home and the park was closing.  So, Plan B…go to the YMCA and let him swim.  He was swim tested and given permission to go to the life guard chair in the lap pool and to go down the slide in the kids pool.  So, for a good portion of the afternoon…about an hour and change, that’s what he did.  Cathy, Karla, and I all sweltered to death in the humidity of the pool area of the YMCA while he played and cooled off in the pools.  It was worth it to see the smile on his face!

2.  SUSHI TIME!

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My sister commented a week or so ago about how delicious my vegetarian sushi looked when I Instagram-ed it and posted it to Facebook.  And then…I had a brilliant moment of brilliance.  My nephew, Landon, is a very, very, very picky eater.  BUT…he does love cheese things.  Cheese quesadillas, cheese sandwiches, mac & cheese….ALL THE CHEESE!  With the excitement over sushi on my post, I thought of the perfect place for us all to grab dinner, that even Landon couldn’t turn his nose up and refuse to order anything.  Dragon King’s Daughter to the rescue!  For those of you who are not local, Dragon King’s Daughter is an Asian-fusion restaurant with two locations…one in New Albany, Indiana, and one in Louisville, Kentucky.  The menu includes traditional fare from the Far East, as well as contemporary fare with a unique twist.  They offer classics of Japanese dining such as lemongrass miso, vegetable, and sushi rolls, as well as a multitude of new creations including a mixture of East and West forms and flavors.  On the kids menu…a cheese quesadilla…and for the adults…we all went sushi.  My sister and I figured we could get a roll each and split one…so I got the Vegetable Roll, she got the Buffaroll, and we split the Green Acres Roll.  Cathy went for the fishies…and got the Shrimp Tempura Roll and the Dragon King’s Daughter Roll.  And after that…a trip over to the Comfy Cow for an ice cream dessert.  What a great first few hours.

3.  Playtime at the County Fair

It just so happens that the Floyd County Fair happens across the street from where I life.  Convenient, yes?  After dinner and dessert, we came home and walked over to the fairgrounds to scope out some rides and the barns with Landon.  He went on three rides (he had 4 tickets, but he wanted his mom to ride with him on one he wasn’t sure about).  He loved going to see the animals.  And one of the highlights for me was seeing my sister crack up every time the goats bleating.  Her laugh is so contagious.  We all shared lemon shakeups and just walked around.  After that…it was time for showers and then we were all down on the couch to watch Zootopia and then…they took over my room and went to bed and I crashed out on the couch so I could get up early and head out for my 12 mile run and get it done before too much of the morning was passed.

4.  It Runs in the Family

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One of the best things we decided to do, was to go for a short run together.  After my 12 miler, I got home and Karla and Landon put on their running clothes.  We hiked up to Sam Peden Park and ran a loop.  It was hard for Karla, as she hasn’t run in a long while…and she’s not used to the crappy air quality of the Ohio River Valley, but she was a trooper and pressed on.  I ran right there with her to encourage her…and Landon…he was busy chasing down the Army men who were running there.  He beat quite a few.  It was awesome.  Landon has amazing speed and gorgeous running form.  He’s a natural and I love watching him run.  Needless to say, it was a great way to start the day as a family.

5.  Wild Eggs

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Breakfast was the next most important stop on Saturday.  We stopped off at Highland Coffee for some coffee first…and then took the drive over to Westport Road to go to Wild Eggs.  Landon already knew he wanted pancakes and BACON.  He made sure to tell me that if I got an omlette, he wanted my BLUEBERRY muffin.  Since I can’t eat the muffin, I was totally cool with this.  It had been forever since I went to Wild Eggs for breakfast…but it was a nice return.  They even have gluten-free bread and a gluten-free menu now.  LOVE that.  Yes…it even includes gluten-free pancakes, French toast and the like.  That was exciting.  But after 13 miles of running and a hike to and from the park…I wanted some protein.  So I ordered the Surfer Girl Omlette (fresh spinach, wild mushrooms, tomato, cream cheese and onion and topped with diced fresh avocado, pico de gallo, sour cream and fresh alfalfa sprouts. Served with skillet potatoes).  I got mine without the cream cheese and sour cream.  My sister got the same thing, just without the mushrooms (she hates mushrooms).  And Cathy got the Kalamity Katie’s Border Benedict (green chili cheddar corn cakes,topped with chorizo, two poached eggs and queso fundido, pico de gallo, sour cream, green onions and avocado. Served with skillet potatoes and an Everything Muffin).  And, yes, I got a blueberry muffin for Landon.  He was pretty full after eating the two pancakes that were as big as his face and the bacon he ordered…but he took a few bites.  The rest…came home with us and then went home with them today.

6.  Pierced Ears

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Okay, here is something that I didn’t expect to happen this weekend.  My sister and I got to talking about earrings…and she brought up how her daughter (she’s 16 months) had her earrings work out perfectly…and how my mom (whose holes closed because she stopped wearing earrings) had just gotten her ears pierced a few weeks ago.  I said that I keep saying I need to get it done but just haven’t pulled the trigger.  I think a part of me thinks it will fail again.  As a kid, I gave the pierced ears a try about 5 times, but always and an allergic reaction to them.  My sister was the same way, but it worked for her as an adult.  So, she told Cathy to pull into somewhere that could pierce my ears.  We did.  And now I sit here with beautiful 4mm white gold studs in my ears.  Karla taught me how to clean and turn the earrings every day (3 times a day)…and the rest is history.  So here is hoping that they work out this time around…because I have wanted to have pierced ears for a long, long time.  Leave it to my sister to get me to do something like this on a short weekend visit.  HA!

A shopping trip to a few of our favorite stores followed up that little adventure.

7.  Putt-Putt

Because you can’t just spend the day shopping when you have a 9-year-old boy with you, we took Landon to the Renaissance Fun Park.  We had discussed Go Karts…but opted, instead, for putt-putt.  It had been ages since my sister and I went putt-putting.  It was a lot of fun.  The easy holes on the course they put together there are actually quite challenging.  But we had a blast.  Afterwards, Landon and I took on some air hockey…which he won…and then he played a few more games after that…until the money on his card ran out.  It was worth every moment to see him out there laughing and being a competitive little boy.


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.  SOCCER!!!

One of the main reasons my sister aimed for this weekend was that the local professional soccer team, Louisville City FC, was playing on Saturday night.  And, since Landon is a HUGE soccer fan, and soccer player himself, we thought it would be fun to take him to a match.  I said I wanted to get him a replica jersey for him to wear during the match and she picked him up a hat and then got a t-shirt for Chace.  I made sure Karla wore the logo t-shirt I owned to the match as well.  They got some pizza for dinner and we settled into our seats at midfield to enjoy.  I have never seen Landon so into an event as that soccer game.  Seriously, he was shouting at the players and the refs…and it was just magical and fun and amazing.  I bought him ice cream at half time because…it’s my job as Auntie…to spoil him and get him hyped up on sugar.  HAHA!  In the end, after a horrible call by a ref, we ended in a draw of 1-1…and Landon had hoped that some of the players would come over to the midfield (they usually do) so he could get pictures and some autographs, but they all returned to the locker room without coming over.  He was bummed, but he still had a fantastic time, and I loved seeing him light up the way he did when Louisville City scored the first goal of the match!

9.  Home-Cooked Breakfast

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I gave my sister and Landon the option of grabbing breakfast out at a restaurant before they hit the road…or having me cook breakfast for them.  Landon really wanted waffles (with powdered sugar, which he now LOVES thanks to Wild Eggs putting it on his pancakes), scrambled eggs…and bacon.  So, my sister and I hit the grocery store for bacon (this vegetarian does not have bacon on hand), eggs, and a gluten-free waffle/pancake mix.  And then, this morning, I got to cooking.  I started the waffles first, knowing that would take the most time.  He wanted the Mickey Mouse shaped waffles…so I made that happen for him.  And, because we adults weren’t too sure we wanted waffles, we had gluten-free avocado toast with our eggs.  I started cooking the bacon before Karla emerged from the bedroom, but she took over that so I could focus on toasting the bread, doing the waffles, and scrambling the eggs.  It all finished up at the right time…everything done when it should be.  Breakfast was served.  And I didn’t take a picture of it, but Karla and I cook epic breakfasts together.  And Cathy now has lots of bacon in the fridge for this coming week.  Which makes her happy.

After that…they had to hit the road and get home…

It was hard to let them go, but I know Karla’s husband and other two kids were missing her and Landon like crazy.  I just was having such a good time and all the time together went by way too fast.

They got home late this afternoon…and she said that they missed me as well.

I hope we do it again soon.

Sisters really do make everything better!

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Product Review: Sweet Note Gluten Free Sunrise Swirl Bagels

Sweet Note Gluten Free Sunrise Swirl Bagel

Sweet Note Gluten Free Sunrise Swirl Bagel

Product: Sweet Note Gluten Free Sunrise Swirl Bagels – $9.99

To a former New Yorker…love is a good gluten-free bagel.  And when I say good, I mean that it has to actually be NY-style bagel quality.  For the longest time, this is exactly what every single gluten-free bagel I tried wasn’t.  Not to say the big corporation names that have placed gluten-free bagels in the freezers of grocery stores and natural food stores didn’t put out a quality product.  In fact, I’ve been smitten by both Udi’s Gluten Free Bagels and the Canyon Bakehouse Gluten Free Bagels (EVERY. SINGLE. VARIETY).  But then…

…the ultimate gluten-free bagel tweeted its way into my life.  This is not a joke.  It literally tweeted its way into my life.

I’m talking about Sweet Note Bakery and their amazing, gluten-free, vegan, delicious NY-style bagels!  Sweet Note saw my link to my blog on the Canyon Bakehouse bagels and challenged me to try their bagels.  While I was hesitant at first, I finally decided that it was actually worth a try.  Their Web site intrigued me.  The bagels looked phenomenal…and they made traditional NY-style bagels.  Not these giant monstrosities the other gluten-free bagel manufacturers were producing…but dense, thick, and perfect NY-style bagels.  Size does matter when it comes to bagels.  An authentic bagel should be about 3 inches in diameter, have a crunchy crust and a chewy, dense center.  And this…this is what Sweet Note recreated to perfection.

Sweet Note began in 2012, when founder and president, Michelle MacDonald, stepped up to a challenge.  She had been baking ever since she was a child and was very passionate about it.  When her grandfather and sister were diagnosed with Celiac Disease, she took the first steps on her entrepreneurial journey.  Her family really missed a good New York Style bagel.  (Hey…I can’t blame them…I know this feeling all too well). So with a lot of experimentation and trial and error, MacDonald perfected the recipe, getting huge approval from her family (also bagel lovers).  Gluten-free bagels that taste good?!  It was a reality.  Sweet Note Bakery’s vision is to make gluten-free options more readily accessible.  Those of us who live with Celiac understand how isolating this disease can be, when you can’t have a meal while out with friends and family, be it at a restaurant or a ballpark, or wherever your adventures take you.  MacDonald wanted to change that…one gluten-free bagel at a time.

And she did…and now she’s delivering these bagels, one step at a time, to the gluten-free (and even the non-gluten-free community).  Seriously, purchasing (and continuing to purchase so that my freezer is never without bagels) bagels from Sweet Note was one of the best gluten-free food decisions I have made…in the history of ever!

I know that I recently reported on the latest four flavors (three of which were online exclusive), but Sweet Note has been busy prepping new flavors and have released three more!!  YES!!  And, for the record…YES…I bought them.  Like…the day that they were announced.  I am not ashamed.  I proudly wave my gluten-free bagel lovin’ flag.  A happy freezer contains a package of some sort of Sweet Note’s amazing bagels.

Well, the three new flavors are actually quite playful and fun.  They introduced the French Toast Bagel, the Sunrise Swirl Bagel, and the Unicorn Bagel (aka: Rainbow Bagel).  My Unicorn Bagels are on the way, but the freezer has been happily cradling my packages of the French Toast Bagel and Sunrise Swirl Bagel…up until yesterday when breakfast rolled around.

I came home from spin class that morning and asked my roommate, who had emerged from her room and was shambling toward the couch, which bagel she’d like to try today.  I won’t lie…I also have the Tomato Basil in the freezer…as they make amazing Bagel Pizzas.  HA!  She immediately said, “Sunrise Swirl.”  Okay…it might have been sort of sleepily slurred (she hadn’t had coffee yet), but I pulled out the bagels that were beautifully swirled with reds and oranges and yellows and set about the usual prep on a Sweet Note Bagel.

My current thawing method seems to be perfect.  So, you can always give this a go too, because I expect you to order at least ONE variety of their bagels.  You won’t be disappointed.  Anyway…my currrent method for perfect defrosting in the microwave…30 seconds on one side, then flip it over for another 30 seconds.  Let it sit for a moment and then slice in half.  If you’re not into toasting (like a true New Yorker), then go ahead and schmear this bagel up with whatever goodness you like.  If you are a true New Yorker (or not) but love a toasted bagel (like me!)…toast it up.  If you have a toaster…go to town.  If you, like me, don’t own a toaster, simply put these beauties on a baking sheet and into an oven heated to 350°F for about 15-20 minutes.  I left them to toast while I showered and changed…and emerged in enough time to get my breakfast chef skills on.

An Egg & "Cheese" Bagel Sammie made with the Sweet Note Gluten Free Sunrise Swirl Bagels

An Egg & “Cheese” Bagel Sammie made with the Sweet Note Gluten Free Sunrise Swirl Bagels

Deciding to do something a little different, I (*GASP*) skipped the cream cheese schmearing this particular morning and instead, dug out my little egg pan and cracked an egg into it, frying it to perfection.  While the egg was working, I pulled some Daiya Cheddar-Style Slices out of the fridge and placed them on the bottom half of the bagels as they finished up their toasting time in the oven.  This gave the cheese some time to melt (as well as vegan cheese melts).  Afterwards, I placed fried eggs on each bagel and topped it off with the top half.  Breakfast sammies…DONE!

Even better…gorgeous breakfast sammies at that.  The colors were amazing and bright and just…beautiful in the Sunrise Swirl Bagels.  What makes that even better is that the colors (that smattering of sunshine) are added naturally to their original plain bagel recipe by using spices such as paprika, annatto, and turmeric.  Yep.  No fake chemicals, dyes, or bad stuff.  Don’t you love it?

Needless to say…the bagels are not only colorful and uplifting to your spirit on an early morning…but they taste good too.  This was the first time I stuck a fried egg between a Sweet Note bagel…but it certainly won’t be the last.  The Sweet Note Gluten Free Sunrise Swirl Bagels taste like an ordinary bagel, but they are extraordinary.  You’ll love how it will perk up your breakfast, whether you schmear it with butter, cream cheese, jam, nut butter…whatever floats your breakfast boat, right?  OR…go ahead and use it as a vehicle for a fried egg, or some (vegan) bacon or (vegan) sausage…layer it with (vegan) mayo and stick some tomato and greens in there.  The gorgeously swirled carb-loaded disk of goodness is your canvas…so accessorize it however you want.

Let’s discuss what goes into Sweet Note Gluten Free Sunrise Swirl Bagels, shall we?  These bagels are made from love (yep…actual ingredient that is…and one that makes ALL the difference), water, white rice flour, tapioca flour, sweet white rice flour, sorghum flour, sugar, cane syrup, olive oil, molasses, yeast, xanthan gum, psyllium husk, salt, paprika coloring, annatto coloring, and turmeric coloring.  As with all of Sweet Note’s bagel offerings, these are completely gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, non-GMO, egg-free, peanut & tree nut-free, and cholesterol free.

As for nutritional information, Sweet Note really stacks up when it comes to fueling and providing for your body.  These stats are equal to if not better than standard bagels out on the market.  A serving size of the Sweet Note Gluten Free Sunrise Swirl Bagels is 4.5 ounces (128 grams) and there are four (4) servings per package.  One bagel will provide you with 290 calories, 3.5 grams fat, 0.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 320 mg sodium, 170 mg potassium, 62 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 8 grams sugars, and 5 grams of protein.  The higher protein and fiber definitely helps keep you feeling full throughout the day.

Here’s something all those big corporation gluten-free bagel producers aren’t doing…they aren’t stepping outside of the box when it comes to bagels.  But Sweet Note is not only thinking outside the box, but they are stepping up and really taking charge of the gluten-free bagel market out there.  Where else will you be able to find a gluten-free bagel that is gorgeously swirled with colors…no where.  While they do offer the standards as well, Sweet Note has really stepped up and created bagels that you normally could only get in a glutenous form at a bagel shop, probably in New York City.  The Sunrise Swirl Bagel is a definite example of that.  And it is not only a joy to look at, but also to eat.  It will brighten up your morning for sure.

The Sweet Note Gluten Free Sunrise Swirl Bagel is an Online Exclusive offering, so hop on over to their Bagel Shop and place and order ASAP.  While you’re at it, try out a few of their other flavors, standard, or artisan…it doesn’t matter.  I swear, you won’t be disappointed.