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

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

Race: Bluegrass 10,000

Place: Lexington, Kentucky

Date: July 4, 2017

Time: 46:49

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

Why Lexington?

Well, my friends talked me into it.

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

No backing out now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s what we did.

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

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

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

No time to stress.  Just run.

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

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

UGH.

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

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

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

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

Straight shot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was an imperfect race, but a perfect day.

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

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

I Solemnly Swear To Be A Better Blogger

Dear readers…both new and old…

I am sorry.

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

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

I HAVEN’T BEEN INJURED.

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

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

It’s actually kind of draining.

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a good start.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,
The Celiathlete

Just keep taking chances and having fun: A KDF Marathon Wrap-Up

flyIt is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

-Theodore Roosevelt|The Man in the Arena

And just like that…it’s over.  Done.  Finished.  The race has been run and won and packed up.  Streets have been flooded by cars and not by athletic shoes pounding out a cadence that is either scripted by music in the earbuds or matching that racing heartbeat.  Crumbled white cups that used to hold water or Powerade have long been swept up.

It’s business as usual in Louisville, Kentucky.

This week, we had the official Wrap-Up meeting for the #KDFMarathon Ambassadors.

Let me just give you a little insight as to why this was so emotionally hard for me…

I was chosen to be a part of this amazing group of people back in the beginning of August.  So here I was, now a member of a group of 20 people that were hand selected by the Kentucky Derby Festival people to represent the Marathon/miniMarathon!  I was beyond honored, ecstatic, and ready to do what I could for this local race.

 

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The official announcement happened on August 5th for me…I was in the final group to be announced.

I had no idea how much these people and this position would change me.  Personally.  Emotionally.  I never expected or anticipated the impact that being a part of the KDF Marathon family would have on me.  But this has been one of the most rewarding things I have done in my life.

I’m almost 40 years old.  So that’s saying something.  Regardless of how average my life is.  HA!!

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For countless months and so many training runs…these people…this amazing, inspiring group of people…were my freakin’ backbone.  We saw each other through surgeries, recovery, losses, injuries, PRs, hard times, good times…you name it.  We stuck through it all together.  We would check in via phone, text, Facebook, e-mail…we truly became a family.  I have never seen a large group of different personalities just fall into such a happy place with each other.  Simply put…we worked.

When the photo above was taken, I knew maybe 2 of the three people in the group.  But I was talking and chatting with all of them, like I knew them for years, by the time the meeting wrapped up.  I was just getting back into the swing of things.  I had returned from Hawaii after giving my best (and ultimately, feeling let down by my performance) at the Kauai Marathon (I mean, it was my first major race back from my hip labrum tear).  Nothing hurt.  No pains.  I was ready to get excited to train for the KDF full marathon.  I had run it in 2014 as a pacer for a friend…but I really just wanted to run these streets for me this time.  Official training didn’t begin until January, but starting as early as our first meeting, we had a discount code for registration to share and we were off to the races (pardon the pun).

I had a fantastic time connecting with some of them at the Disney Wine & Dine Lumiere’s Challenge weekend!


Food.  Wine.  Running. Disney.  You better believe we were bonding.  AND we did make a point to find one another before the race…after the race…in the parks…at the after party.  We honestly…enjoyed each other’s company.  AND…texting/calling one such group member who MIGHT have slept through her alarm on the first race. *cough*

When you are a member of such a diverse group…and you can bond over one thing as simple as running…you’re going to find a lot of other things to bond over.  While we only had a few official meetings, the unofficial ones turned out to be just as important…at least to me.

I met up with Melissa once more at a Disney race…this time in January…and this time under much, much different circumstances.  On December 31, I did a 14 mile training run and ended up having a twinge of the hip flexor.  It didn’t go away.  It only got worse.  And I honestly stopped running after that.  Nothing leading into my upcoming January events.  I was heading into the Disneyland Light Side Rebel Challenge weekend.  When the orthopedic doctor wasn’t able to see me or to talk to me before I left…things got beyond stressful.  And I had more than one panic attack in California.  I remember walking to the start corrals (I was in A and Melissa was a few back) and I was seriously on the verge of tears because my hip was honestly being held together by KT Tape, ACE Bandages, and compression shorts under my costume), and Melissa stopped me and gave me the best hug ever and told me just to go have fun…stop for pictures…not even worry about the time on the watch…and that if they caught up to me and I was walking…they’d join me.  I mean…this woman….is probably one of the few people left in this world who just thinks about others like that.  Is it any wonder we all love her?  Her pep talks…work magic.  And her spirit is contagious.

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

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

Melissa has become, honestly, one of my best friends.  We hang out together…bond over gluten-free eats, and just laugh.  God, we can laugh over the silliest and stupidest things.  But…how she and I, both living in New Albany, have never crossed paths before, neither of us can figure out.  But now…we’ve got a lifetime to make up for it.

As the KDF training runs began, despite still not being able to run…AT ALL…I turned up for them.  There were some very cold mornings where I would just walk.  Sometimes 2 miles…sometimes 4…sometimes 5.  It took forever.  And I would cry.  GOD, would I cry.  But…here my amazing Ambassadors would lift my spirits with jokes, anecdotes, high fives, hugs, smiles, encouragement…THE ENTIRE TIME!  One of them (calling you out here, Chris) gave me a blanket after one of the coldest mornings that I had to walk and was determined to WALK at least half the distance.  I hurt so bad…and the cold wasn’t helping.  I still have that blanket.  Chris…I can give you back your blanket…FYI!

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Chris, Paul, Jack, Reggie, Dawn, Me, Melissa…freezing our running asses off!

We were friends…we are family!

Race morning…if it could go wrong…if it could happen…well, we all read about it or experienced it.  IT HAPPENED!  From thunderstorms, delays, nutrition being off, more delays, people getting locked in a bank, more delays…and finally a 9:15 am start…well…there is actually a lot behind all of why that happened that way and I hope those of you who swore of the KDF Marathon/miniMarathon make a point to try it out again.  It was really eye-opening to get the behind-the-scenes play-by-play by the new race director at the final KDF Ambassador Wrap-Up Meeting.  Everything had to play out that way for safety…and there is a lot the general public doesn’t understand.  You do the best you can under the circumstances, right?

The thing is…for better or for worse…we made it.  We struggled and thrived in training.  We struggled and thrived in the race.  And while we all had different paces, places, and races…we all finished this…together.  I was so honored to have been able to see most of my friends at the finish line.  I loved being able to give them that hug…because when we finish a race under even the best of circumstances, that hug can change everything.  WE DID THIS THING!  WE did this thing that WE trained for and prepared for and WE did this thing…TOGETHER!

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This past week we had the final meeting.  And while those who were able to attend were few…we had everyone there in spirit.  Over Lemon Blossoms and good conversation…we wrapped it all up and concluded our term as a 2016-2017 KDF Marathon Ambassador.

And…much to my surprise, I was awarded one of the Top Social Media Recruiter Awards…a distinction that I proudly share with Stephanie, another lady who has inspired, motivated, and befriended me.  Seriously…this was so shocking and unexpected.  And I’m honored simply to have been an Ambassador, but to include me with someone who rocked the social media world with her posts…it’s amazing to me.


One of the Ambassadors really went above and beyond when it came to recruitment and promotions.  Honestly, he would work on setting up tables at local business and gyms.  And he didn’t keep this to himself either, but invited other Ambassadors to jump in and get on it too.  And it was for that reason that Jack took home the Award for Promotions!

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Chris, Deana, Jack, and Stephanie

And the award of the night went to the person who most deserved, earned, and fought for it.  Seriously…if you could hear her back story…and then all that happened to her on the marathon course…you’d be in awe of her.  She’s one of my best friends now.  And I would be lying to say I wasn’t slightly jealous because she gets to be a part of the new group that comes together for next year…but…I’m proud of her.  Oddly enough…I even had said for a few weeks leading into this meeting that if she didn’t win Ambassador of the Year, I would be disappointed…so…Melissa Nolan..take a big freakin’ bow and get your beauty queen wave on!!

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Melissa is Ambassador of the Year

And no blog would be complete without the last shot of all of us who were able to make the meeting.  Honestly, to those pictured below and those pictured in the first group shot way at the beginning of this post…I can’t emphasize enough how much your friendship and encouragement have inspired me, moved me, and kept me going.  I had some highs during my time as an Ambassador…but I had more lows in my life…and they lifted me up and kept me going…and that, friends, is what this group is all about.  I didn’t ever feel like we had any sort of competition in our group.  We invited each other to our parties, to lunches, and even gave airport transportation.  I have a whole new group of friends in my life…and I’m forever thankful to have had this opportunity to grow not just as a runner, but as a person too.

To Deana, Chris, Stephanie, Amy, Chad, Danielle, Dawn, Jack, Jamie, Jessica, Kelsey, Leah, Madeline, Melissa, Paul, Reggie, Richie, Stephanie, and Tonya…I can’t wait to see and experience all that awaits you down the road.  I can’t wait to see how you rise above it all.  I can’t wait to see you soar over challenges and push yourself to the next level.  I can’t wait to see more starting lines…and finish lines with you.  Not strictly race-related…because we’re all in this thing called life together…and whether physical or metaphorical…we’ve got new beginnings and new ends ahead.  I can’t wait to cheer you through it all.  LOVE YOU!

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For any of you who have thought about becoming a Race Ambassador, I highly recommend it.  This has been such a rewarding experience for me.  I can’t even begin to put into words (that I haven’t already used) how much this group motivated, supported, and changed me.  They were my rocks.  And I can’t wait to see them at our unofficial Ambassador reunions and out on the streets of our amazing city!

If you want to try to get in as a KDF Marathon Race Ambassador next year…the application opens in August.  Fill it out!!  Maybe magic will happen for you too!  Chase your dreams, friends!!  See you out on the roads!!

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

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

Race: Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: April 29, 2017

Time: 1:43:12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So…delay #1 was in the works.

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

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

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

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

And then…another delay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did I mention that I was starving?

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

Everyone was.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I felt…miserable.

But I am nothing if not persistent.

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

And there it was…the turn!!

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

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Me crossing the finish line of the KDF miniMarathon

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

DONE.

I was…done.  I also felt like crap.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s my takeaway…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last Chance to Register for KDFMarathon/miniMarathon!!

There are only EIGHT (8) more days until the start gun goes off at the #KDFMarathon & miniMarathon!

This journey, for me, has been quite the ride this year!  For many reasons…

1. Being chosen as a #KDFMarathon Ambassador

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Honestly, this has been such a fun journey where I not only gained new friends, but a whole new family!  I can’t express enough what a difference being a part of this fantastic group of individuals has done for me.  When bad stuff happens, they got your back.  When you need help, they back you up.  When you can’t run, they walk with you.  When you are down, they text or message you with funny and uplifting words and images.  I didn’t know how important these people were going to be when this picture was taken, but, let me tell you this…my life is forever richer because of every single one of them!

2.  A Different Hip Injury on a Different Hip

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It was January 1st when it struck.  My “good” hip…the one without the labrum tear…started to act up.  To the point that I was limping.  Running was out of the question.  My doctor couldn’t see me before my trip to California to run the Disneyland Star Wars Rebel Challenge (10K & Half Marathon), so I hobbled through those races held together by KT Tape, ACE Bandages, and the knowledge that if I stopped running…I probably wouldn’t start again.  Soon after, I was able to see my doctor, where I was told I had a hip flexor strain, and sent to physical therapy.  It was a long road…but I was finally back to running (slowly and with a little pain)…until the pain became less…and the miles were able to increase.  So, my bad hip (the right one with the labrum tear) feels good…and my left hip (paralyzed hip flexor)…now is functioning and moving pain-free.  And I finally was able to start running at the #KDFMarathon training runs, and not just walking in the face-numbing cold.  I, did, however, make a point to show up to every single one of the training runs…even though I couldn’t run.

3. Seeing others do what they thought was impossible…

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I see it every day…via social media…friends, friends of friends, family…whoever it is and whatever journey or goal they have set…watching people I know (and sometimes don’t know) push through what they once thought was impossible has been an uplifting and motivating experience.  My friend, Natalie, is running her first marathon at KDF.  When she did her 20 mile run, her post made me smile…and reminds me that any goal can be achieved if you set your mind to it…and never give up.  Same goes for my fellow Ambassador, and friend, Melissa.  She’s been dealing with knee a knee injury since January as well…but she has shown up and done her damn best to get out there and at least get her miles in…even if she walked them all and froze her face off.  Natalie…if you’re reading this…enjoy your first marathon next weekend!  Melissa…you’re so ready and you are going to kill it out there!

Whatever your story…wherever you started…whatever your goal…chase it down.  It’s yours for the taking.

And with all of that mess out of the way, I am here to remind you that today, APRIL 20, 2017 is the LAST DAY to register for the #KDFMarathon & miniMarathon!  AND…in case you have been procrastinating or on the fence…I have one last DISCOUNT CODE that will save you $15 off your registration!  As a reminder, today is also the last day to make any changes to your current registration, be it moving up to the full or dropping to the half or transferring your bib.

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The discount code is: KDFSUNSHINE.  As always, please select me, Karen Brady, as your race ambassador.  This offer ends TONIGHT at MIDNIGHT!

For any of my friends who are doing this race, I am also working at the Race Expo on Thursday from 3-8 pm.  So come on down and see me!!

And for the rest of you…I hope to see you on race day…before, during, or after.  High fives and hugs all around!

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Rodes City Run 10K – Louisville, KY (March 18, 2017)

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The KDF Ambassadors that found me – Chris, Melissa, Me, Leah!

Race: Rodes City Run 10K

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: March 18, 2017

Time: 48:40

Welcome to the second (and, sadly, my last) race of the Louisville Triple Crown of Running.  The Rodes City Run 10K!  I had managed to get the okay from my physical therapist to boost myself up to 6 miles 2 weeks following the Anthem 4.7K (HAHA.  I’m still bitter).  So, the weekend in between I made sure to get in 5 easy miles at the Falls of the Ohio with the Norton Sports Health Training Group. All the high-fives I got from my friends and strangers that day pretty much made it one of my most epic runs ever.

I don’t think I stopped smiling.  And…as we all know from photos…I have a big smile!

So, with permission to tackle Rodes as long as I took it easy and didn’t “pull an Anthem” and run it really fast, I immediately contacted my training partner, Matthew, and talked him into joining me with the intention that he would help keep my pace in check.  He agreed, and we signed up (I got in before the discount deadline).  Locked in.  Ready to run.

My plan for this run was to keep it between an 8:20-8:40 pace.  Matthew figured we’d average more on the 8:40 scheme of things…and I was okay with that.  Keep in mind…it is very hard for me to participate in a race and NOT actually race it.  But…remember…the goal is thinking long-term and I have some stuff coming up in the future that I’d like to be in peak condition for.

We made plans to meet up at the McDonalds on W Broadway (where the #KDFMarathon Ambassadors were meeting for the group photo(s)).  And, just like that…Rodes was a go to RUN…NOT RACE.

So, on Friday, I ate an early dinner at work (the closest thing I had to pizza was my Mama Mia Quinoa) before heading over the river to do a couple of things…but first and foremost…I was picking up my race packet.  I was actually honored (and freaked out) to be the recipient of one of the seeded bibs in the top 200…which gives you the option of starting near the front of the race itself.  Like…elite-type-shit.  I was BIB 43.  Really, they do base this seeding off of not just race times, but also the times you have completed the Rodes City Run in the past.  I’ve done this race 3 times prior to this one, I believe.  So, don’t go thinking I’ve actually achieved some overnight elite status.  It’s a nice compliment and benefit that the race offers, and if I were in better shape and condition this year going into it, I might have even risked the closer-to-the-start-line start.

I did a little cooking that night before running through my PT exercises and stretches, foam rolling, and calling it a night.  I had to get up fairly early to fit in all the necessary PT stuff the day of the race (it honestly takes close to 2 hours sometimes, but it’s necessary to keep me out there and I try not to whine or complain about it…too much).  The weather was crazy that day.  It was really warm out when I went to do my dynamic warmup and stretches.  I had been expecting cooler temps and overdressed.  I was dying.  But I didn’t have much time to mess around with, so I just sweat it out and went inside to change into clothes for the race.  I opted for a short sleeve shirt with shorts instead of capris.  And since my running shorts are a bit unflattering at the moment…I tossed on one of my fun Sparkle Skirts as well.  Hey…since my KDF Race Ambassador shirt is part of the uniform right now, I work around that.  And it’s not my normal bright, vibrant colors.  Sparkle Skirts help with this.  HA!

I ate a light breakfast, grabbed a banana to eat 30 minutes before the race, packed up clothes to change into, and tossed on a pair of arm-warmers into Cathy’s race backpack…just in case.  It was so warm out when I was warming up, I figured I wouldn’t need them.  I threw on a hoodie and we headed down to the car.

SO glad that I opted for the hoodie.  My mild morning and turned a bit chilly and with the wind that kicked up…it was near the point of me being cold.  Already.  I even commented that I should go back up and put the capris back on, but there simply wasn’t enough time for that.  I was locked into the shorts.

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My Power Nap game is STRONG!

We made the ride over to Louisville and managed to easily get parked near The Brown Hotel.  Easy in and easy parking on a ramp.  We backed in to make our exit plan a bit easier to manage too.  But…we were about 20 minutes early and I wasn’t about to get out in the cold now and wait around.  So, I did what I love to do on race mornings…

I took a nap.

This is not an exaggeration or a joke.  I find these little power naps, pre-race, to be just what this body needs at times.  So, I had the time and took full advantage.  Until the 7:40 am meetup time was approaching and I knew I needed to eat my banana and get to the meeting spot.  As I had a big mug of tea before breakfast that morning, I made a quick (and unusual because…princess) stop at the port-o-potties just outside the parking garage before continuing on to the McDonald’s meeting spot.

Just as the sign was in view, I received a text from Leah, one of my fellow ambassadors.  She said she couldn’t find anyone else and I told her I was like…1 minute away.  I found her…then Matthew found me…and then Melissa (let’s face it…we all know Melissa now!) texted to say that she and Paul were parking and on the way and they’d walk as fast as they could.  This was probably the least-organized meet-up we’d had this entire time…and it shows by the smattering of photos of random KDF Marathon Ambassadors pre-race.  I managed to get into the grouping of Chris, Melissa, and Leah.  So…we have that.

Race start was inching closer and Matthew and I wanted to go find a spot to line up.  BTW…funniest bit of this entire thing was that Matthew registered late (it’s a tradition of sorts, I guess, HA!) and was issued a WALKER big.  So…he went to packet pickup and they sent him over to services to get it fixed and their “fix” was simply ripping the green sticker that said WALKER off of it.  I joked that with me having to dial it back and wearing a seeded bib…and him in a WALKER big…we’re a complete mess and will confuse the hell out of them.  Seriously…I this amused me WAY too much.  We maneuvered through the sea of people to a spot near the middle of the front of the middle-of-the-pack group (with a smattering of walkers).  No sooner had we done that…the whistle sounded (we barely heard it) and the wheelchair racers were off.  The caution tape was rolled up and the runners moved ahead.

And soon…we were joining them.

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Chris & Cathy with the sign!  This photo was in the Louisville Voice Tribune!

We started off at a really easy pace.  I pointed out Cathy ahead waiving the sign and gave a wave as we passed.  The photographers captured me pointing.  No joke.  And then we just sort of settled in.  I think at one point, Matthew asked, “Am I holding your pace back too much?”  And I replied with…”Let’s pick it up a little.”

This is how the rest of it played out…

Just as we’re starting through our first mile, Matthew (aka: Eagle Eyes), spotted our friend Michael, and gave a shout-out.  Michael pointed out that his wife, Laura, was just ahead in the pink and white and we should say HI.  So, we picked it up and scooted up there.  Laura was focused and we kept our greetings short before continuing on.  The pace felt good to me…and as we were moving through the pack of runners, Matthew said, “I think that’s Tammy’s ponytail.”  Sure enough…Tammy was just ahead…so we pushed up to say hey to her.  She pointed out that we were definitely above the pace I had said I told my physical therapist I would run Rodes in…

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The Chik-Fil-A cows got in on the sign action too!

…And she was right.  As we moved ahead we hit Mile 1 and the digital clock said 7:54 at the mile.  We decided to ease back.  We thought.  Well, I mean we did ease back in theory.  We slacked up a bit, but when people are running with you in a giant mass, you sort of just…go with the flow.  When talking became hard, Matthew would remind me that we needed to ease off the gas…and we did…until we didn’t any longer.  Mile 2 was even faster than Mile 1…averaging around a 7:49 pace.  I didn’t realize this at the time though.  Matthew and I were just focusing on the long road ahead of us at this point.  Four more to go…and thankfully most of this mile leading to 3…was a nice downhill.

I love downhill.  It is my favorite speed.  HA!  I felt like I had backed off again, and that was what I was supposed to be doing, so…that’s good, right?  I cruised down the hills and tried not to push myself too much on the inclines.  After all, I had just been cleared to start in on hills again.  So…there was that.  But, it’s like I said…it’s hard for me not to race when I’m in a race.  I go into these things with the mindset of having fun.  I don’t ever set time goals; nor do I look at my pace or my watch.

Usually.

But when we hit the marker for Mile 3, I glanced down and said, “Um…we just did a 7:28 mile.”

And so…we truly made an effort to back it down once more.  And by that I mean we slowed it down.  We had some nice climbs, which I said were downhill at one point and that had Matthew teasing me about my directional skills for the rest of that mile.  But, it did feel like a downhill to me.  We might have been going up, but my effort wasn’t.  I felt relaxed, and it felt EASY!

The remainder of the race we actually averaged a 7:52 for miles 4-6.  As we came back onto Broadway to run back to the finish line,   And it was just shortly after this turn, where I can see, all the way in the distance, the inflatable that arched over the finish line…that I hear from behind me…

“Well, you don’t look like you’re limping.”

Totally busted on my speedy 10K that was not supposed to be this speedy.  It was my physical therapist.  He came up beside me.  I introduced him to Matthew.  He asked me if the hip was feeling good.  I told him I had no problems.  He fist-bumped me…and ran on ahead.

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Matthew & I bringing it home at the finish line!

I just about died.  What is the likelihood of that happening…for real?  We hit Mile 6 and were in are less-than-quarter-mile finish.  So, we picked it up a little and crossed the finish line in under 50 minutes.  Slower than last year.  Slower than the year I had bronchitis.  But…I would like to think, if I hadn’t kept backing off the pace, I could have had a great run there.  Not a PR…it’s going to take a miracle to break that…but I’d like to better my Rodes time in the near future.

Overall…I felt good before the race…I felt fantastic during the race…and I felt amazing after the race.  There are so many times where I feel like I’ve lost speed or fitness…and then something like this happens, where I don’t come near a PR…but I feel good the entire time, and I feel like I could give more…but under orders to dial it back…and I just surprise myself and realize maybe I haven’t lost that much after all.

So…the official results of the Rodes City Run 10K are that I finished in 48:40.  Not even attempting to set a PR…so not even comparing.  Just loving how easy this speed felt for me and how I finished with fuel in the tank.  I’m getting it back  This race helped prove that.  I was 421/4246 finishers overall.  I was the 75/2391 for women finishers.  And I was 17/358 in my age division.  I’m really happy with this.  Even more so because I know what I am capable of and that I am actually capable of more.  I am so glad that I decided to run this race.  Even if my initial intention was to keep it between a 8:20-8:40 pace, and in the end…I averaged around a 7:50.  I know that part of what helped me out was having a friend running with me, to keep me focused on anything other than the race itself.  This race made me feel confident again.  It was just what I needed.

Maybe next year I can aim for a goal to beat my best Rodes City Run 10K time.  Or, if I’m feeling really good about things…try to set that new 10K PR.  But for now, I’ll relish the fact that I’m back…and I’m getting stronger.

Following the race, Cathy and I had every intention of getting coffee and eating protein bars for breakfast…but we detoured and hit up North End Cafe where I enjoyed coffee, a gluten-free pancake and a side of fruit.  Then…we got macarons from Annie May’s Sweet Cafe.

And life was good.

Just as it should be.

Like it never changed.

I’m still smiling.

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North End Cafe’s Gluten-Free Pancake, side of fruit, and coffee!  Perfect reward for a good race day!

Sometimes…Moving Forward Means Looking Back

hamiltonOkay…you’ll have to forgive me.  I’m a bit of a Hamilfan (for those of you not “in the know”…that means I’m a fan of the musical Hamilton.  So…the start of this blog is going to be a bit of an homage to the musical.  If you know the music…you’ll get it.  If you don’t…keep reading and then go check it out.  It will change your life.

[ME]

You’re a runner.  Of course!  I’m a runner
God, I wish there was a race!
Then we could prove to everyone
That we’ve got a fast race pace…

[RUNNER]

Can I buy you a drink?

[ME]

That would be nice.

[RUNNER]

While we’re talking, let me offer you some free advice.
Train slow.

[ME]

What?

[RUNNER]

Run more.

[ME]

Ha.

[RUNNER]

Don’t let an injury set you back or make you sore.

[ME]

You can’t be serious.

[RUNNER]

Then let me reassert…

[ME]

Yes.

[RUNNER]

Always run hard and you’ll end up hurt.

*END SCENE*

~*~*~

Did I lose you?  I hope not, because what I am about to say is actually rather important.  I just sometimes have a hard time getting to the heart of the matter.

For the better part of the beginning of 2017, I was injured…again…

And…for once it had nothing to do with the amount or intensity of my runs.  Well…not exactly.  When I went home for Christmas, I continued with my training schedule…except the neighborhood where my parents live is hella hilly.  I mean, you literally can’t NOT run hills when you are there.  So, for pretty much the entire few days I was there, my runs were full of hills.  And my left hip flexor started to complain at me on the last morning I ran there.  I shrugged it of and boarded my plane back to the Louisville area.  I took my usual rest days, and went out for my morning runs, which during my warmups, I would note a slight twinging in my left leg, but nothing that was crippling.  My cadence and my pace seemed off for me though.  Some stretches and rolling and I was on the road to Columbus, Ohio for my New Years celebration at my friend, Jenn’s.

I know, I’ve pretty much gone over this before, but I am making a point…so, please…don’t tune out yet…

It was after a 14 mile run that I started to feel some pain in my left hip (the one opposite the one that suffered a labrum tear last year.  I hobbled through the rest of the day, took some Aleve with dinner that night, and felt a little better in the morning.  I managed to get through my 6 miles of speed work (I thought to do it at Jenn’s because her neighborhood is SO flat it is great for speed work), but didn’t quite hit the pace.  I missed it…just barely.  Upon returning home, I managed one more 6 mile run before it all went to hell.  My hip was not happy on that run and the following morning, a cross-training day, I found that I couldn’t even do my physical therapy exercises.  Sadly, my orthopedic doctor couldn’t see me before I jetted off to Disneyland for a 10K and half marathon race.  I survived those, although I still don’t know how I managed those times, but I think it was sheer stubbornness and the unwillingness to stop because I knew if I did, I’d never start running again.  That and my orthopedic doctor’s magic cocktail of 2 Tylenol & 2 Ibuprofen…3 times a day.  And KT Tape and ACE Bandages.

We all know what happened from there, but as the wait to see the orthopedic doctor took forever, and then the actual getting back to some semblance of running (first by not limping, then on the Alter-G, and then on roads…with very low mileage and with a super easy pace for me)…I decided I needed to go back and reflect on the one and only year where I wasn’t injured.  At all.

2013.

When I was training for my first full marathon.

I went back to my training journals.  This is why I keep a paper training log.  Because it gives me immediate access to the things I was doing that kept me uninjured and running strong, if nothing else.

I had become a member of a Distance Runner group, which, after the Boston Marathon bombings, branched off into a great group of runners who were seeking to qualify to Boston.  I hoped to do it sometime, so I joined.  These Boston Qualify Seeking Distance Runners, as I said, were fantastic people and runners, most of which I still speak to and am in touch with today.  But as we all geared up to train for our BQ attempts, it became a matter of how fast can you run your runs.  And while the pace of my weekday runs started to speed up, even on easy days, my long runs were much slower.  Like WAY slower.  I put a lot of quality speed into my speed work days (fartleks, tempo, intervals), posting pics of my Garmin with the best of them on the group.  But while they were all rocking out long runs at or near their race pace, I was running with a group that trained a little more deliberately.  I never really posted the Garmin shot on my long runs, and would often find myself wishing I could post training runs as fast as they were.  They were going to be so ready for Boston.  But, this was also my first marathon…so I didn’t expect the magic to happen that quickly.  I stuck to my plan, kept training with the more deliberate group, and got through June through October without hitches.  AND…get this…there were times I was doing a long run on Saturday and then another one on Sunday.  My legs never felt tired or like I was doing too much, because the paces I did these runs was so much slower than I would have run if I had been on my own.

Part of doing the back-to-back long runs was that I had signed up for the inaugural Dopey Challenge at Disney World…and I figured that was good practice.  Part of it was just loving to be able to run with people.  My friends were slaughtering their long runs…and I was just sort of cruising through them.  Weekend after weekend.

And I was never injured.

What has occurred to me as I reflected on my best year of running and racing was…

Most runners, including myself, train too hard, too often.

We all get wrapped up in those numbers, how they might look on social media, to our peers, to people who *gasp* run faster than us already.  No quality runner that I know judges their fellow runners by their training and race paces.  But, to runners, those numbers are our Bible.  And, we’re all guilty of the comparison game.  I know I am.  We love showing off our good runs, but what about the average…or not so good ones?  Why was I so frustrated and embarrassed with my slow runs on those long run days?

Little did I know, I was training smart and training properly.  Low-intensity training allows an athlete to gain fitness without overstressing the body.  Doing too much high-intensity training can cause your body to not be able to absorb all the stress being applied to it and turn it into fitness.  If you fatigue your body too much, too often, you run the risk of compromising your performance, your workouts, and possibly leading to injury.  The entire point of the long run is not to bust it out at race pace, but to get your endurance up, get you used to being on your feet for a long amount of time.

In fact, most of my long runs going into the Chicago Marathon were done at a slow pace.  There were a few weeks where certain miles were to be done at marathon pace…and I managed to rock those out.  And come the beginning of October…I lined up at the start line of the Chicago Marathon…ran strong…ran far…

AND QUALIFIED FOR BOSTON.

My first marathon.  My first BQ.  And I did it because I didn’t race all of my runs.  Speed work and quality runs are important, yes…but make them something you do once a week…and run those other runs at a much more deliberate and easy pace.  You shouldn’t be embarrassed to train slow.  In fact, I do believe it was training like this that got me to that start line safely, uninjured, and feeling strong and prepared.

Yes, high-intensity training is very important to training as well, but a relatively little amount goes a long way.  Here is one case where more is definitely not better.  There is no need to unnecessarily tax your body when you should be taking it easy.  I know…it sounds counterintuitive, especially in running when the entire goal is to reach the finish line in the fastest time you can, but…honestly…proper training means getting through the slow, the fast, the easy and the hard.  But you have to hit on every spectrum to become a better, more efficient, and…uninjured runner.

I have been sidelined every year since 2013’s Chicago Marathon.  I also attempted to run way more marathons in a year than was good for my body…but that’s another story.  That being said, after this last round with my hip flexor in January…I’m making a more conscious effort to train smarter.  Some of it is fear.  Not fear that someone will judge my training pace as being too little.  But fear of ending up with a worse injury…something that isn’t as easy to work around or get through.

I was lucky.  This time around, my hip labrum wasn’t the issue, although I fretted for a month that it was.  You have to keep your body moving forward, but turn down that intensity.  Seriously, you’ll reap serious benefits and rewards simply by slowing down.

Trust me…I’m the poster child for this, apparently!

And those training paces that you used to brag about on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or other social media…forget about it.  Those numbers shouldn’t be bragging rights or your sense of worth in the running community.  The running community is awesome because it embraces everyone, all shapes, sizes and paces.  These times, distances, paces…these are your records of your progress.  You shouldn’t feel like you need to post only your best, fastest times for those who follow you on social media, or make excuses for runs that you deem as too slow.  Nope…these numbers are much more valuable and important than that.  It’s fine if you want to share your stats…I’m not condoning that.  Lord knows, I’ve done my share in the past.  But…do NOT base your self-worth as a runner on these numbers.  Don’t run hard every time you run.  Don’t try to overdo what you are capable of doing.  And NEVER PR a training run.  Save that for race day.  If you PR a training run, you’re not training right!

In the end…running to much, running too hard…is running your body into the ground.  And, I, for one, am tired of injury after injury.

So, to my speedy friends who I could keep up with or even outrun at times, my apologies…because I am stepping my long runs down this training season.  My long runs will be quality, long slow distances.  As they should be.  Some might have miles at race pace…but for the most part, I’m returning to how I trained for Chicago the first time around…as I gear up to run Chicago again this October.

This is NOT easy for me to do.  My legs know one speed…fast…especially when I’m on my own.  So, I do hope to find some people to hold me back and keep me accountable this summer as I work through my training and get to that start line, once again feeling confident and prepared.

Like I said…sometimes moving forward means looking back.

Maybe there really is magic in those easy, deliberate paced runs.

I ask you to consider this the next time you put that Garmin on and head out the door for an “easy” run.

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“Always enjoy yourself.  Don’t be upset if you don’t win, you’ve won by simply not giving up.” – Unknown