Papa John’s 10 Miler – Louisville, KY (March 23, 2019)

 

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Me after earning a new 10 Miler PR at the 2019 Papa John’s 10 Miler

Race: Papa John’s 10 Miler

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: March 23, 2019

Time: 1:15:52

There was a time when I would tell everyone that my favorite local race was the Papa John’s 10 Miler.  That changed after last year, when I didn’t know we weren’t finishing in the stadium, the course was short, the weather was awful, the shirts were cheap and ugly…

I mean, the race can’t help the weather, but the rest of it…

At the Rodes City Run 10K, it was announced that the course of the Papa John’s 10 Miler was different this year, however, we would be finishing in the stadium again.  Happiness.  There was hope for this race yet.  As for the race shirts…well…I’ll get to those in a moment.

The plan my coach gave me was pretty much similar to the plan he had given me before the Rodes City Run…race the race…and then hit some marathon paced miles in a long run the following day.  The only difference was the distances I would be running.  So, I try not to think about the fresh hell waiting for me on Sunday when I am all-out racing on Saturday.  I, once again, waited until race week to register for this race.  When I told my coach that I was eyeing these for my race calendar, he really took that to heart.  And it was a good way for him to test my legs and endurance in the process.  So, I registered and found out that, once again, I was a seeded runner with a low bib number.  I didn’t put in for that on the registration, it just was assigned to me.  Part of being a consistent runner in these races.  I only missed it a few years due to injury.  And I have come a long way since the first time I ran it in 2012.

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Bold & bright and wearing lots of pink for the Papa John’s 10 Miler (note the seeded bib)

Packet pickup for this race is always at Cardinal Stadium (formerly Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium) in one of the suites.  So, Cathy and I left work slightly early to make the drive into Louisville to get my race packet.  We parked and took the elevator up to the expo.  I immediately saw Chris Powell.  He said, “Can I help you, or are you one of those…I already know…you’re one of the speedy runners.”  Chris…don’t ever stop making me smile.  I walked over to the table for the elite and seeded runners and got my bib.  I was 59 this time.  I was told that the t-shirts were behind me.  And here we go again with the cheap-ass, uninspired, ugly, unisex, poorly fit t-shirts.  If you’re a man…these will look great on you.  If you’re female…well, you’re shit out of luck because this race no longer does women’s cut.  They do these cheap logo shirts now…where you have to size down and still not have it fit appropriately…not impressed.  And it’s too bad, because I used to rave about the Nike, fitted, race shirts that this race used to give out.  Cutting corners isn’t always a good thing.  Not one bit.

Same dinner happened the night before the race…the cauliflower crust pizza I described in the Rodes City Run 10K race blog.  No need to rehash that.  My evening routine was much the same too.  Stretch, foam roll, sleep.  Then wake up, eat, stretch, foam roll, get ready to run.

I had lots of pink showing for the Papa John’s 10 Miler, so my mom was well represented.  It was cold outside.  Which, as you know, doesn’t make me happy.  So I bundled up with layers for pre-race walking to the start and the inevitable wait for the start of the actual race.  Cathy and I had to clear some ice off the window of the car, but we got out on the road with plenty of time to park and make the hike up and over the overpass to get to the start line.

Or so we thought.  The lots that we were told to park in were being blocked by the police from the direction we were driving in from.  This caused us to drive around in various circles through the Louisville streets, with many random turnarounds and wrong turns, with no instruction from the officers themselves…until we finally came at it from the opposite side and managed to get into one of the green lots.

Dear Papa John’s 10 Miler Race Director peeps…….in the future…let us know about road closures if we are coming from, say, Indiana, okay?

And now our little cushion of time was really condensed.  SUCK!  We popped out into the cold morning air, and started to swiftly walk the very far distance from our parking space to the stairs to take us up to the overpass, which we then needed to cross over and then turn the corner and make our way to the start.  The thing was…the start line was further up from where it has been in previous years.  That was unexpected.  We had to pause on our way there, with speakers going in and out, for the singing of the National Anthem.  Cathy was trying to get me to shed layers when our friend Laura came over to say HI and chat for a moment.  I ended up shedding my winter hat prior to the race, as much as I wanted to keep it, because it would hinder my pigtails, and Cathy excused herself to go get a good spot for the start of the race.

Karen Brady and Laura Ferguson.

Photo Credit: The Voice Tribune – Me and Laura at the start of the Papa John’s 10 Miler

Laura and I got to chat a little while longer, and a reporter for the Voice Tribune came over and asked to take our picture.  So, that happened.  She wished me luck and went to find a spot to start from.  I moved a bit further up, spotting my friend Courtney.  She was shivering in shorts, a tank top, and arm warmers, saying that she totally underestimated the cold weather that morning.  I wished her luck and she did the same, saying that she was coming off of a stomach virus and I would definitely be ahead of her.

They were getting ready to start, so I went to get to the left side, and I spotted one of my favorite podcasters, Tina Muir.  She’s amazing and super fast (and came in 2nd female overall in this race!) and went to introduce myself.  She shook my hand and asked me my goals.  I told her that I was hoping to beat my PR on this course, which I went in 2016.  And then she asked me about the course, which I told her was pretty flat leading into the park.  The three miles in the park are hilly, but then it’s flat coming back until the overpass climb at Mile 9.  Then flat to the finish.  She said her coach (also her husband) wanted her to hold back for the first 5 miles and then let loose in the 2nd half.  I was supposed to be all-out the entire time.  I wished her luck and went to stand a few spots behind her, as the elites filled in around me.  I saw her infamous power pose at the start line and before you knew it…the horn was sounding at we were off.

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Me heading out at the start of the Papa John’s 10 Miler

My coach wanted me to not blitz the first couple of miles, and to ease into it with the pace, and then really start pushing it.  So, I attempted to not hit the 6 minute miles and succeeded.  HA!  Honestly, it’s not hard for me because the 6’s are just not a place I can hang.  Not yet.  (Optimism!)  They were between 7:15-7:19.  I was sort of in the midst of that early pace when my friend Dan spotted me from the sideline and shouted out to me.  I gave a wave and a quick, “HEY!” I felt good at this start, but the hard part of the race was yet to come, and with an intense week of training prior to this…well, I wasn’t sure how long I would be able to keep that up, because I had about 35 miles going into a 10 mile race that week.  Whew.  But I was feeling pretty good at the start and was just ready to see what I could do.

Mile 3 is where we enter Iroquois Park.  In case you are unfamiliar with this park, or previous blogs of mine where I mention it…there are hills.  LOTS of hills.  I was hoping they wouldn’t slow me down too much this year.  I wanted to make sure I was charging up them, not letting them slow down too much…and ride…ride those downhills down and prepare for the next uphill.  I managed to make my legs work those hills and remain powerful throughout the park.  I was wearing my hydration vest for the first time in a race, so water stops weren’t an issue.  I came out of the park just after Mile 6 and knew that I had 3 miles until the next climb.

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Trust me, despite the freezing temps, she was happy to be back INSIDE the stadium!

My legs felt trashed after all those ups and downs, but I continued to press, and my pace was able to pick back up as I headed back toward the finish, which would be in the stadium.  I hit the low 7’s on my 7th mile and knew that I needed to wake them back up so that the climb up at Mile 9 wouldn’t kill my speed.  I passed the spot where the start was, and the DJ was out there just really encouraging everyone to keep going.  We were so close now.  I made the turn at the corner and started up the hill.  I was about halfway up when my friend Terry, shouted out my name.  I turned and gave a wave and then powered up the rest.  It officially killed my legs, that climb.  I couldn’t get the speed back after the downhill and the run to enter the parking lot of the stadium.  Here we now run around the stadium to enter on the opposite side that we used to, and then we hit the field.  I had no momentum left, so I was glad this was it for me for the day with no additional miles to tack on.  I ran as hard as I could manage, which wasn’t much, to the finish line and crossed.

Cathy was screaming at me from her spot in the stands and waving at me.  All I heard was, “YOU SMASHED IT!”  I had made a point of not looking at my watch or the clocks again on the course, so I thought I had come in around or after my 2016 time.  But apparently I came in almost a full minute under my PR for this race.  That was UNEXPECTED!

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Me coming across the finish line at the Papa John’s 10 Miler and with an unexpected PR!

I caught up with my friend, Bekah, afterwards.  She still had 6 more to run that day.  I told her good luck with that, as I would be running the following day.  I met up with Cathy outside after snagging some water.  I went to snag the free pizza for her to eat and some of the free race snacks afterwards.  And then…celebrating a new 10 Miler PR…we made the very cold hike back to the car.  Cathy let me wrap the blanket she had with her around my shoulders to help stay warm.  We finally got to the car and I started to get warm…and we spent the rest of the day shopping and celebrating a PR…and then going to the Louisville City FC season opener.  For the record, the coach for LouCity ran the 10 miler and totally beat me in by 7 minutes.

So, the official results of the 2019 Papa John’s 10 Miler were that I finished in 1:15:52, which shaved just under a minute off of my PR time I set in 2016.  WINNING.  I was surprised, because I didn’t feel as strong in this one.  But, sometimes I surprise myself.  246/2981 of finishers overall.  I was the 57/1616 females to cross the finish line.  And, I was the 11/231 in my age division.  BOOM!  Love a shiny new PR.  It might just make up for the shirt I’ll never wear.

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Rodes City Run 10K – Louisville, KY (March 9, 2019)

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Me fiercely fighting for a strong finish at the Rodes City Run 10K

Race: Rodes City Run 10K

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: March 9, 2019

Time: 45:33

Well, there is definitely nothing more satisfying than beating a previous year’s time.  Still no 10K PR, but I did way better at this local 10K than the one I attempted to really race in hot, humid Florida a couple of weeks before.  Go figure.

I also waited until the very last week to sign up for this race.  I had it on my radar, as usual, as it is one of the best races here in Louisville, BUT…that being said, I am also in the heat of marathon training and wasn’t sure I was actually going to race it.  My coach, however, said I was.  (For the record, he also raced it and averaged a 5:57 average pace).  So, I was going into this with expectations of a better performance than my previous 5K.  And that was the goal.  Run hard…the entire 6.2 miles.

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That face you make when you are surprised with being a seeded runner in a local 10K race

That being said, I headed down to Slugger Field on the Friday before the race to pick up my race packet.  It was here that I discovered that I was a seeded runner this year and had a low number bib.  Oh.  Awesome.  No pressure then, right?  HA!  So, I was directed over to the proper table to get my race bib and then went to snag a t-shirt as well.  I loved that the shirts this year were purple (GO LouCity), and had a bit of a Mardi Gras flair to them.  So, that was awesome.

Headed home to make a one of the cauliflower pizza’s I have in my freezer (Califlour Pizza Crusts, which I top with Trader Joes Greek Yogurt Kale & Spinach Dip, some mushrooms, spinach, and garlic).  Friday Pizza Night has sort of become a thing.  And these cauliflower crusts are the best out there (and naturally, I can’t get them in any store around here and have to order them online).  Totally worth it.  It was a late dinner, but perfect.  I did my evening stretches, foam rolled, and went to bed early.

Because I had to wake up early enough on race morning to figure out my clothes, stretch, foam roll, and eat prior to race time.  It was around 39 degrees at the start of the race, but I didn’t take into account the wind chill, which made it feel like it was in the high 20s.  So, the running skirt and tank top with arm warmers was, for the first time in a long time, me being underdressed for a run.  Needless to say, I had layers on over my race outfit until close to start time.

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A picture of my knees the night before the race

Please note, that SOMETHING in all of my race outfits this year will be pink, to honor my mom as she goes through her treatments for breast cancer.  You’re going to see me in a lot of pink.

Anyway…

I was pretty fresh off of busted up knees from a fall I took on some frozen mud near my apartment complex.  I mentioned this a lot on Facebook, but not on here, because I’ve been horrible about blogging and need to really get back into the swing of that.  My apologies, friends.  So, I took a hard belly-flop fall one morning while doing my run.  We have had some new construction and roofing going on at my apartment complex and with the weather winging between hot and cold, a pile of mud that is normally not in my path was in my path, and froze solid from the below freezing temps.  My left foot caught it one morning and I was DOWN.  Just laid out with holes torn into my favorite pair of winter running tights, blood and bruising.  It wasn’t pretty.  So, that sucked.  And now you know the tale of the Legend of the Fall (non-Brad Pitt division).  So, I had some twingy, pain every now and again during my runs, but nothing that I was too concerned about.  I had this before after I fell in the 5K of Dopey, and it eventually just got better on its own.  Just took awhile.  And, cold air and banged up knees are not a good combo.

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Basically me thinking, “Please don’t make me take off these layers” before race start.

Just prior to starting, Harry and Jo wandered by and got to say HI and wish me luck.  Harry said, “Low number!  WOW.”  He asked about my knees and said that they looked a little bit better than the photo I had posted on Facebook.  I think he was being kind.  We wished each other luck and I shed my outer layers, even though I didn’t want to yet.  My training partner and friend, Christine, found me at this point.  She was aiming for a really fast 10K…and I wasn’t sure I could keep up with her…but we gathered together at the start, wished each other luck and awaited go-time.

The elites and seeded were set to go after the wheelchairs, so after the wheelchair racers went, we all crowded together and prepared for our turn.  The horn blew and we were off.  I felt good in that first mile, comfortable, but running hard down East Broadway.  I wasn’t going to check my watch or the clocks on the mile markers the entire race, I was running by feel, and it was supposed to feel hard.  My first mile ended up being a 6:51 pace.  Fast.

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Me heading out with a fast start at the Rodes City Run 10K

But the hill at the beginning of Mile 2 really took me down a peg.  Like…majorly.  Hills.  I need to get more comfortable with them, I just don’t run them enough or often.  But I’ll change that eventually.  Christine has had some hilly portions in our long runs together, so that at least helped with that.  She passed me on the hill (everyone passes me on the uphill) and stayed ahead of me for the rest of the race.  I could always JUST see her.

It’s the tilty roads that got me next, but my pace picked back up.  There were some rollers in here as far as hills went, but nothing substantial.  I just focused on pushing myself hard again.  Mile 3 we are on the far side of Cave Hill Cemetery.  I was pretty cold, but moving as fast as I could move at that moment.  Miles 3 and 4 were in the low 7’s (7:10 and 7:14).  Mile 5 was back to feeling really slow and challenging.  I don’t think hills were involved, I think my legs were just tired.  I can’t say for sure.  It’s been a few weeks.  But I pressed on, knowing how close I was to the finish.  I wasn’t going to give up on myself yet.  Squeaked out a 7:26 mile.  And then…the final mile was upon us.  I made the turn back onto East Broadway and headed back toward where we started (this race now is a loop and not a point-to-point, like it had been for years).  I remembered hearing someone behind me say, “Is the start the finish?”  It made me smile, but honestly, I could see it and it still felt so far away.  And no matter how much I was pushing, I just couldn’t seem to get there.  It felt like it never got closer.  The final .2 was just me giving my best, and I crossed the finish line, just happy to be done.  And knowing I did better than the previous year (which was windy, rainy, and cold AF, to be fair).  I got past the photographers and hunched over for a moment to catch my breath.  My coach had said to push hard and not focus on the hard miles I was going to have to do the next day…so I did as he said.  And it paid off.  My final miles were 7:29 and 7:16).  New PR?  Nope.  Not this time.  But now I only need to shave an additional 1:30 off to tie it.  PROGRESS!

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Photo Credit: The Voice Tribune – My biggest cheerleader, my roomie, Cathy at the race…even in the bitter cold.

We had planned on meeting up with Christine post-race for coffee, and we stared to wander our way towards the coffee shop.  She found us as we were walking that way, and we eventually ended up at a different coffee shop.  A Starbucks.  I was fine with it.  It was warm inside and the drinks were caffeinated.  YAY!  We sat around the table and talked and then she and her husband gave us a ride back to our car at Slugger Field (we had made quite the hike to the start line that morning, mind you).

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Me crossing the finish at the Rodes City Run 10K

The following day, I knocked out my long run with 2×5 miles in the middle at marathon pace.  I was shocked, but happy my body could do it.

So, the official results of the Rodes City Run 10K are that I finished in 45:33.  I am chipping away at my times, getting closer to matching or beating that PR time.  SO CLOSE!  I was 246/2964 finishers overall.  I was the 58/1596 women finishers.  And I was 12/225 in my age division.  Last year I was also 12/225 in my age division.  HA!  There were over 400 more runners this year though than last year.  I’ll take that as a win.  And while this wasn’t a distance PR, it was a race PR and a course PR…so that’s also exciting when you think about it!

Disney World Fairy Tale Challenge – Orlando, FL (February 22-24, 2019)

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Me at Magic Kingdom on my last night at Disney World with all my race medals from the Disney Princess Fairy Tale Challenge weekend.

It had been over a year since my last trip to Disney World.  It felt like so much longer.  And a few things were changing this time around.  After the bathroom incident during the Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge, we actually decided to move our “Disney home” from Port Orleans Riverside to…The Art of Animation Resort.  It is a “step down” from the resort level of Port Orleans, which, this princess was fussing over, but it wasn’t bad.  And, honestly, I’m only in the room to sleep.  But still…I sort of did miss the extra space, especially when I was trying to foam roll at night AND watch Food Network at the same time (priorities).

The trip to Orlando meant an early morning to catch the first non-stop flight out of Louisville.  This just happened to be on a very wet, rainy, cold morning.  Hauling luggage out to the car was not fun, but we got everything loaded in and hit the road.  We parked the car (we couldn’t find someone to give us a ride, so we had to pay to leave the car there while we were away) and went in to check our bags (one of the perks of flying Southwest is the free checked bags) and get through security.  It didn’t take long to get through that at all, and nothing flagged for the first time in the history of ever.  Not even the laptop.  I don’t know why I bring my laptop with me.  I have good intentions of using it…and then I rarely do.  What I didn’t realize was, bringing it this time would be a blessing.  More on that later.

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Cathy & Me killing time at Louisville Airport before our flight

The flight was uneventful, and we landed in beautiful Orlando to temps in the 70s.  LOVE!  Our first stop was a nearby Whole Foods.  We were going to grab snacks for the resort, and ended up grabbing lunch there as well.  I found a Summer Veggie Roll that had a Gluten Free Peanut Sauce with it…so I was quite happy with that selection.  I grabbed a tub of watermelon and a Sumo orange as well (which I saved for later).  And, of course, water…because I needed to stay hydrated.  Cathy snagged a small cup of the Lobster Chowder (she has missed that selection in Louisville), some small cornbread muffins, and a small helping of fried rice and Vietnamese-style chicken.

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My Whole Foods lunch

After we ate, we decided that since we still had no word of our room at the resort being ready, we would use the bathroom at the Whole Foods and change into our sundresses and lather up with the sunscreen so we could head over to the parks.  We had Animal Kingdom on the schedule.  This turned out to be more of a hassle than it was worth, honestly.  Cathy had to make multiple trips out to the car to get things out of suitcases and we were taking turns running into the bathroom to change and then slather on the sunscreen.  It took way longer than it should have.

BUT…we finally considered ourselves ready for the parks and hopped back into the car and drove to the resort to drop off luggage.  We made sure we had our necessary items and headed to the bus stop to get over to Animal Kingdom.

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Me at Animal Kingdom

I was so happy to be back at Disney…and the weather was truly stunning!!  Our first stop is our favorite place to get Iced Coffee.  There was definitely more of a line there than we were used to…especially on a Wednesday, but we waited, placed our order, wasn’t sure which one was mocha and which was vanilla…but we got that sorted ourselves.  We drank them as we killed time ducking into shops and the like…before we hit up our FastPass for the Kilimanjaro Safari.  I love doing the safari, and our guide was awesome (they are, but she was really fantastic) and the animals…they were really active and on the move.  It was probably the most animals and the most activity from the animals I have seen on any trip on the Safari.  As we exited, we branched off to the Gorilla walk.  I wasn’t happy when we had to walk through the birds.  I. Do. Not. Like. Birds.

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Me & Cathy with Scrooge McDuck!

We went to grab a quick snack to tide us over to our later dinner reservation…Cathy’s traditional fries.  I ate my Sumo orange.  And then, as we wandered around, we came across Scrooge McDuck.  His line handler, Caitlyn, was amazing.  She was so much fun to talk to while we were standing in line.  And this was my first time meeting any of the Duck Tales characters.  Scrooge was a lot of fun, and Cathy kept trying to get him to go out for an alcoholic drink, but he was strict about his tea.  And then we hopped on over to meet Launchpad McQuack next.  I told him that I was really good at crashing too.  HA!  It was fun and we had some great photo ops!

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Cathy & Me with Launchpad McQuack!

But then we saw the most amazing addition to Animal Kingdom…KEVIN.  Kevin from UP.  If you haven’t seen this in person, get to Animal Kingdom NOW.  Just book your flight and do it!  Kevin is phenomenal.  And fun.  And SO animated.  This encounter spurred an early purchase for Cathy’s traditional Disney plushie purchase – Kevin!

We took a stroll through Pandora and then spent a good chunk of the afternoon wandering and exploring.  But our time for our traditional first day at Disney meal was growing near and we hopped a bus to Animal Kingdom Lodge to enjoy some food at Sanaa.  We didn’t have to wait long to be seated and we already had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to eat.  Our server was a trainee and he did an awesome job.  We both got something to drink with our water, Cathy got the Savannah Cider and I got the lemonade that came with a wildberry foam of some sort.  I don’t remember the really cool name that it had…but it was delicious.

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KEVIN!!!

We started with the bread service, of which I got three pieces of the gluten-free bread and Cathy got two of the regular naan.  We split one of the GF ones and we were off to the races with the different sauces, Cathy being very careful when she would spoon her sauce to not contaminate anything.  This is one of my favorite things at Sanaa.  For our meals, I went with the Chickpea Wat and Cilantro-Coconut Vegetables, which is served with scented Basmati Rice.  It’s my go-to every time I am there.  Cathy stayed with her favorite offering in the entrees, the Traditional Sosatie, which is Braai Lamb with Apricots, Pap, Spinach, Cashews, and Goat Cheese.  It was all very filling and delicious.

After eating, we hopped on a bus to head back to Animal Kingdom to catch the bus back to the Art of Animation.  We had our room number now and went there to find our bags already in there and ready for us to settle in for the night.  I took a quick shower, went to foam roll and we settled in for the night.  I set an alarm for me to wake up to because I had a training run to get through before we started our morning.

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It’s always an adventure running around The Art of Animation!

And that’s what I did.  I forgot how hard it is to run in humidity, which would be a theme for this half marathon weekend for sure.  The resort had a great running path around a lake, which was perfect for me to train on.  Keeping an easy pace wasn’t hard in the heat/humidity.  I finished that off with some strides, returned to the resort, showered, and we went to the dining area at the resort to find something for breakfast.  That was a high anxiety and high stress situation and we vowed that would be the ONLY time we did that.  Cathy went to order me a gluten free and dairy free omlette, with mushrooms, jalapenos and spinach for me.  And since I couldn’t have the biscuit, the chef tossed some fresh fruit onto my plate.  It was perfect.  We ate and then headed out to the car to head to the Wide World of Sports for…the race expo.  It was on the ride over there that my Garmin flashed me a “Sensor Error.”  Not sure what it meant, I started to try to figure ito out.  It was that the sensor…the thing that actually reads elevation and heart rate and all that stuff, was no longer working.  I figured I could, hopefully, talk to the Garmin reps at the expo and maybe get it sorted.

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Gluten Free Omlette with Mushrooms, Jalapenos, Spinach…and FRUIT!

After all these years, we finally figured out the key to getting official merchandise…turn up at the expo on the first day, go straight to official merch and wait in line.  The wait wasn’t that bad and we made friends with the people around us.  The line moved pretty swiftly once they started letting us all in…even if at one point it was like all lines went out the window and there was this huge surge toward the front of the line.  But we got in and started to shop.  I bought WAY MORE than I intended to, but they had Disney Princess Weekend ears that both Cathy and I snagged, plus I needed pins for each race.  I fell in love with a wine glass (of course I did) and then all the cute clothes.  I had a lot of things I LOVED…but ended up getting the official challenge zip-up.  And then Cathy found a cute dress thing that is actually a cover-up for before/after races.  Love that.  So…over $260 later, I was ready to head over to get my race bibs and then hit up the actual expo.

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Official Merchandise Line upon our arrival!

The bibs were easy. This was Cathy’s first time obtaining a Disney race bib.  Did I mention that she was doing her first Disney 5K?!  Pretty exciting.  Our numbers were a good distance apart, so I left her to get hers while I went over to pick up mine.  She found me there and the guy was commenting on how I was one of the fast ones…and I said I was dropping back to Cathy’s corral, and he asked her if she was offended by me saying that I was “dropping back” and Cathy said, “NO.  Not at all.  Because she is definitely not going at her normal speed with me.”  From there, we headed over to the actual race expo to get our race shirts and then do some shopping.  Which, we didn’t really do.  I was upset that there was no Garmin booth there (I mean…HELLO) but remembered that Misfit was the official activity tracker of Disney races.  So…I was stuck with a broken watch for my races.  Joy and happiness.  UGH.  That really got me riled up and I didn’t want to spend any time there…but we did make the traditional stop by Bondi Band, where we found two headbands that would work for me.  One for my 10K costume…and one for training (for the record…it says “The Before Breakfast Club.”  HA!)  It was as we were leaving the expo that our friend, Melissa, texted us to let us know that Peter Tork (if you know me, you know of my obsession with The Monkees) had died.  And I legit cried right there in the expo.  After a few deep breaths, we headed out to start our day at…Magic Kingdom (aka: my favorite park).

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Getting my 5K Bib

We had FastPasses for Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain, and the Seven Dwarves Mine Train spread out throughout the day.  But Haunted Mansion was our first stop, and the FastPass line was INSANE.  But it thankfully moved quickly.  This is Cathy’s favorite ride by far.  We hit up Space Mountain soon after that.  And then got Dole Whip (required).  We shopped.  We walked around.  We made our way through the Mine Train queue (also INSANE) and were put in the very back of the coaster.  And then…dinner.  We went to Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen, which our friends Melissa & Paul introduced us to a year ago during Dopey, and we fell in love with the food and the atmosphere.  I already knew what I was getting and told Cathy she had to have it too.  But first…an appetizer.  We split the Falls Family Falafel.  And then…for our entrees…the Perkins Thai Noodles (gluten-free and minus the chicken to make it vegan), which is THE BEST thing I have ever eaten on Disney property.  For real.  Cathy now understood because when she got this last time, she had the flu and couldn’t taste any flavors.  We had leftovers, so we boxed those up and headed out, back to the resort, stored those in the fridge and decided they would be post-10K breakfast in a couple days.

Showers and foam rolling commenced and we turned it in, with me setting an early 2:20 am alarm for us to get up and get dressed and ready for the first race of the weekend: the Disney Princess 5K.

 

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Cathy & Me showing off our Disney Princess 5K Medals!

Disney Princess 5K

Race: Disney Princess 5K

Place: Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Date: February 22, 2018

Time: 48:45

The most difficult part of any Disney race weekend is those early morning wake-up calls.  Today was probably the least stressful of the three, but instead of just me getting ready, Cathy had to get costumed up as well.  Sadly, my original costume, Iron Man, didn’t get assembled in time (I ordered a shirt from I Am A Superhero Fitness Apparel, DO NOT EVER DO THIS…their customer service is the worst, and it wasn’t a match with the leggings, so I contacted them to send it back and get a replacement in time for the race, and never heard from them…at all…after getting the info to return everything…and never received the replacement in time), so I had to break out my Wonder Woman costume for this one.  Iron Man, part of the Marvel Universe, owned by Disney, would have worked better…but it is what it is.  Cathy, however, was ready to rock her Captain America outfit.  And she rocked it.  Trust me.  She even had light-up Captain America Mickey Mouse ears that our friends, Melissa & Paul, brought back from Disneyland Paris.  We finished getting ready and headed out of the room to get to the bus that would take us to the parking lot of Epcot, where the staging area is prior to the race.

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Cathy in her Captain America costume for the Disney Princess 5K

We disembarked and walked through security (no bag line…WOOT) and went to see what characters we could get our photos taken with.  We managed to hit up Tiana (one of my personal favorite princesses) and Merida.  Then we opted to head into the corral area and get to Corral C.  We had a long wait being in that corral, so we took a seat and watched the different videos running on the big screen and the earlier corrals parading over to the start line.  Cathy pointed out that there were plenty of “overly optimistic” people in those earlier corrals.  While the Disney 5K is officially untimed, we both made sure we had our Garmin watches primed and ready for our start.  Before we knew it, it was our turn to make the march toward the start line…and it took a few waves, but we got our fireworks and we were off.

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Me as Wonder Woman (not the planned Iron Man) for the Disney Princess 5K

Except I was off at my speed and Cathy immediately said, “I don’t go that fast.”  HA!! So, I fell back and got moving with Cathy, who proved to be a pro at the Disney cuts through the crowds.  I also don’t know how she wasn’t dying in long sleeves and long leggings, but she was holding her own.  I did get ahead of her a few times, but immediately would fall back to her side.  The morning was humid and warm…the low 70s with humidity in the 90s.  MEH.  So, honestly, how she wasn’t dying, I will never know.  That being said, in that sort of humidity, she did get a bit of a side-stich so we switched to the Galloway Method (run/walk) so that she could have some recovery time.  This proved to be a fantastic option, as she walks faster than she runs.  Honestly.  When we hit the construction workers, she even heckled them right back.  Because, that’s Cathy for you.

I would give her little pep-talks, and we ducked into the World Showcase, which now meant we were tackling some hills.  It was crowded, but it wasn’t phasing her.  I let her choose her walk segments, where it was hard for ME to keep up with her at times.  But I made her run the downhills because downhills are my favorite speed.  We ducked out of the Showcase and then back in and started to make our way toward Spaceship Earth…which meant we were getting close to the finish.  We do have to make this strange turn around thing before heading to the exit.  We rounded the corner, and I could see our finish line.  I reached back to her to take her hand and we headed toward the finish line.  She kept reminding me that my go was a different speed from hers.  But, we crossed the finish line!  It was awesome.  And our official 5K distance was a new PR for Cathy, where she clocked in at 46:26, beating her previous PR by well over a minute.  We received our medals and made our way out to get official photos and then get the snack boxes and head back to the resort.  We took our turns showering, changing, and snacking before we headed out to spend the rest of the day at Epcot!

We did lots of character stops that day, Pluto, Baymax, Ralph & Vanellope, Elsa, Ana.  The Festival of the Arts was going on, so there were plenty of food booths happening.  And Cathy decided to forgo her beloved schwarma once again and eat around the world.  I already knew my big meal of the day was going to be a Beyond Meat Burger at the Liberty Inn with Celiac-safe fries.  I was really looking forward to that.

After we completed our time at Epcot, we headed to Disney Springs and hiked over to Erin McKenna’s to get some gluten-free and vegan goodies.  We ended up with a box of delicious baked goodies and then headed back to the Art of Animation to clean up, get things prepped for another early morning, let me foam roll, watch Food Network, and get some rest.

 

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Me dressed as Zootopia’s Judy Hopps for the Disney Princess Enchanted 10K

Disney Princess Enchanted 10K

Race: Disney Princess Enchanted 10K

Place: Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Date: February 23, 2019

Time: 48:49

Once again, another race this trip where I didn’t get to wear the outfit I originally intended to wear.  My original plan was to dress up like Honey Lemon from Big Hero 6.  I couldn’t find the material to have my friend or my mom work up an actual costume for me (everything was either the wrong type of fabric or not close to the correct color).  So…I put it up for a vote on my social media as to which costume I should revisit for the 10K…Vanellope von Schweetz (Wreck it Ralph) or Judy Hopps (Zootopia).  Between Instagram and Facebook…Judy Hopps won it going away.

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Cathy has a new RunDisney race shirt…and her awesome sign!

This just happened to also be the race that my coach, Daniel, wanted me to really push myself on and race.  No problem.  Save for the 74 degree morning temperature and the 95% humidity.  I knew in this costume I would die racing, but, dammit, that was what I was there to do.  So, with a bunch of layers on top, a carrot recorder, a ZPD badge, and a full hair extension piece over the top of my head to make the “bunny ears”…I was as ready as I could be to race this 10K.

Once again, we headed out of the room to get to the bus and settle in for the drive over to the staging area again.  We didn’t spend time getting Princess pictures ahead of time this time around.  Instead, we went to scope out the spectator area for Cathy.  We were stopped by some volunteers and told that it wasn’t open yet.  Apparently, according to Cathy, it’s very much like rope drop at one of the parks…pure stampede and elbows thrown to get a spot.  She didn’t want to end up not able to see me on the 10K start so, I went to stand in the group waiting to get into the corrals…and soon were let in.  I immediately went over to the tables and got some water to attempt to get ahead on hydration.  This was one of the few times I raced a 10K with a hydration belt, mostly because I needed it as Judy’s utility belt, but with the heat, I was happy to have a steady source of water if needed.

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Me at the start of the Disney Princess Enchanted 10K

I was in Corral A for the rest of the challenge weekend, so I wasn’t going to be waiting around for long.  I did get into the corral early and moved toward the front before carefully taking a seat (my costume involves a bunny tail…so…yeah).  I wasn’t going to waste any energy standing up though.  NOPE.  I wanted to really give my best to the race itself.  And before you knew it…I was heading out of the corral and lining up for the 10K.  I was in the second wave to go off…and Cathy actually did manage to catch me as I headed out.

The first part of the 10K is pretty dull.  It’s a lot of road.  As I started out hard, I passed a group of runners that were staying together and heard one of them say, “I guess she’s not stopping for photo ops.”  It made me laugh.  Not today.  Not this race.  This was the one I was supposed to give my all in.  At about the second mile, we get sent up a ramp, the biggest hill we face in this race, but I felt strong as I powered up it, giving a mental thanks to my friend Christine, who has been training with me and having us do more hills than I like on our runs.  I wasn’t going to look at my splits, but I felt like I was moving fast and strong.

At about Mile 3.5, we duck into the World Showcase (FINALLY) and run around about half of it.  This is where it gets fun, because they really do up the park nicely with employees out their cheering, music blaring, and the atmosphere is just different from the road miles.  I got a few shout-outs from the employees with “GO JUDY.”  I pumped my arm in the air in response.  We are directed out of the showcase and are directed toward the Boardwalk.  I hate running on the Boardwalk because it can be slippery at times (they actually have an announcement about this as you approach the actual boardwalk).  I traversed it safely, yet cautiously, and transitioned back to the pavement, feeling like I was picking it back up.

Runners take the roads back into Epcot, hitting the actual park this time.  I got a few more Judy Hopps shout outs and was loving it.  I poured a cup of water over my head at one of the water stops and learned that that was a HUGE mistake…because my long hair extensions were now sticking to my arms and driving me crazy.  How people who have really long hair and keep it down when they run manage it, I will never know.

I love every race that ends in Epcot because you get to run the light-up path around Spaceship Earth.  It’s beautiful when it’s still dark out.  I pushed up and around, and worked my way to the park exit, where they send you past some blaring music and toward that finish line.

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Me crossing the finish line at the Disney Princess Enchanted 10K

I was so happy to see the finish and as I was running toward it, heard my name announced and everything.  As I got closer, I could hear someone approaching from behind, and used my best Kelsie kick (she is WAY better at it than me) to stay ahead of that person and cross with my hands up in the air for victory.  I stopped my watch and was SHOCKED when I saw a 48 at the front of my time.  I really pushed hard in that race…and didn’t want to feel disappointed by my time…but I felt disappointed by my time and that I really probably could have pushed it a little more and much harder.  But I had given my all in the end…the heat and humidity had just taken its toll.

I met up with Cathy at the runner’s reunion area, after having her shout “Hey Fluffbutt” over the wall at me after I got my medal, my snack box, my water, and my official photo taken.  I actually did this twice and was glad I did, because the first one was awful.  Sometimes you just know.  Lines for the princesses weren’t long, so we hopped in to get photos with Aurora (Sleeping Beauty), Elena, and Cinderella.  Cinderella said that she bet Judy Hopps could teach her mice a little more discipline.  God, I love meeting Disney characters.

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My favorite ride – Tower of Terror!

We hopped on the bus to head back to the Art of Animation resort where I showered, changed, and then ate cold leftover noodles from Skippers and split one of the GF and Vegan Donuts we got from Erin McKenna’s with Cathy.  And then…we were off to spend the day at Hollywood Studios, where I rode Tower of Terror twice, got on Star Tours twice (one time I was FINALLY the spy), checked out the new Toy Story Land, I had my best game ever on the Buzz Lightyear’s Space Rangers Spin (I came CLOSE to Cathy’s score.  Usually I suck).  And then, we departed Hollywood Studios to head out of the Disney World bubble and hit up Toasted, a gourmet Toasted Cheese place in Orlando.  They have Celiac-safe options, vegan options, and safe Rosemary & Truffle Fries.  HELLO!!  This seemed to be the best pre-half marathon option for me and it was worth the drive (even though then we were informed that they now had a location very close to Disney World).  Then…back to the hotel to rotate through showers, foam rolling, Food Network (you know the drill).  And then…rest.  The half marathon was all that was left.

Oh, but let’s not forget…my official results of the Disney Princess Enchanted 10K were that I finished in 48:49.  I was 97/12,274 finishers overall.  I was 44/10,466 female finishers.  And I was 8/1549 people in my age division. So, I mean, it was a really good finish…but I knew I could do better.  I wasn’t going to let it disappoint me.  I felt like I gave my all that morning.

 

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Ready to run the Disney Princess Half Marathon as Snow White!

Disney Pincess Half Marathon

Race: Disney Princess Half Marathon

Place: Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Date: February 24, 2019

Time: 1:45:24

Final day of early morning 2:20 am wake-up alarms.  When you get to the last race in the race series, you are pretty much ready for said series to be over.  I was pretty excited about the half marathon because I was given no pace goals, simply to treat it as a training run.  My race was the prior day…on the 10K.  I love having a no stress race, especially at Disney.

My costume was much easier to get into, so getting ready was a breeze.  My nieces (Kaytlynn & Baileigh), decided that I should dress up like Snow White for the half marathon.  And thus, my mom created a new top (my old Snow White top was pretty much dead after the Dopey Marathon in 2014), and Snow White was running again.  It was another hot and humid morning, but there was a bit of a breeze this time.  And that was helpful for sure.  Cathy and I headed out to catch the bus right on time, and made it to Epcot without any issues.  YAY!!  And I had plenty of time to meet up with people I was hoping to meet up with.  BONUS!

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Meeting up with Tarra before the race!

The problem was, I was the only person from my local MRTT/SRTT group that was in Corral A.  The rest were in Corral F and starting later.  Meaning…they weren’t going to arrive until later.  Stephanie, a friend I met through Instagram, was running as well, but she was in traffic and Corral A was needing to get loaded in.  My friend Janelle attempted to find me, but apparently I had already made it to the corral.  She was in A…but we never did find each other.  BUT…all that being said, I did manage to get hugs, greetings, photos, and some catch-up talk time with a friend of mine from my Elementary/Middle/High School days…who was on my softball team and everything – Tarra.  So that was amazing.  She and her husband were running the half and we had hoped we would be able to catch up with each other prior to the race.  It was the only meet-up that happened for me.

We eventually parted ways and I knew I needed to start making that spectacularly long hike from the staging area to the corrals.  It’s a great warm-up and…I didn’t need to sprint it like I did for the marathon during Dopey 2018.  Corral A is a bit of a bear to get to though…all the way up and a bit of off-roading.  But I got there, got inside, moved up to where I wanted to be, and took a seat.  I had a bit of time before things kicked off and I didn’t want to be standing the entire time.

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Cathy’s view of Cinderella’s Castle in Magic Kingdom

But, soon they were preparing to send the wheelchair racers off.  And then…the waves for Corral A.  I was in the 2nd wave to take off.  The fireworks went off and we were on our way, taking on the dark highway of Disney World, making our way toward Magic Kingdom.  It’s a lot of road, a lot of screens and character stops, and a lot of just knowing what awaits you on Main Street inside Magic Kingdom.  I didn’t make characters tops, although the lines are never long for me.  I wanted to really treat this as a true training run, my only caveat being that I would walk every water stop.  I wanted to stay on top of my hydration as the race went on because I hadn’t been running in heat and humidity.  It was 20 and below back in Indiana.  Around Mile 3-ish, I think, I saw the monorail wing by.  I actually wondered if Cathy was on that one, as she skipped the race start to hopefully catch me on Main Street in Magic Kingdom.  She has attempted to do this twice before, and I have always beat her to the castle.  She said that is the one downside to cheering on a “fast” runner.

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Cathy found a prime viewing spot inside Magic Kingdom

I ticked off those highway miles and made it to Magic Kingdom.  This is, by far, the best part of this race.  You duck inside and make the turn onto Main Street. The crowd is amazing.  This is the best part of any Disney race that sends you through Magic Kingdom.  And, wouldn’t you know it, in the screaming and waving crowd, there was Cathy!  She had a sign, a cowbell, and was filming me as I made my way up Main Street.  I gave a wave as I went by and then made the turn to go into Tomorrowland.  From there, runners cruise through Fantastyland, then through the castle, before exiting through Liberty Square and out through Frontierland.  It’s the best part of the race.  I always look forward to the dash through the castle itself and the photographers stationed on the winding path down towards Liberty Square.  It’s amazing.  But then the cheers and lights fade and you find yourself back out on the roads, making your way back toward Epcot.

There is a lot of highway on this course, but Disney does it’s best with characters and DJs and music.  And every mile marker has a different character and a theme song on it, so it is something to look forward to.  After Magic Kingdom, you’re halfway through the race.

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Me crossing the finish line at the Disney Princess Half Marathon

The best part, for me, after that is the Green Army Guy, the ones from Toy Story, that is stationed on a hill around Mile 10.  You often here him shouting at the runners to get up the hill and other motivation.  As I was nearing him, he shouted, “I want to hear you make some noise.”  And none of the runners around me did anything.  But I’m a good group exercise veteran and I went, “WOOOOOOOOOOO!”  And he ran with it.  I got a whole call-out just for me.  “That’s right Snow White!  That’s right, Snow.  You’re going to find your finish line.  You’re not going to be Grumpy or Sleepy.  You won’t feel Dopey.  You’ll feel Happy when you cross that finish line.  Go get it, Snow!  Don’t be Bashful.”  It was amazing!!

At Mile 11, I spotted the infamous Balloon Ladies on the opposite side of the course.  There were a lot of people darting back and forth over the road as there were port-o-potties on our side of the course.  I noticed, later, that these runners were just at Mile 1 at this point.  And I was 2 miles away from being done.  Crazy!

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Just after crossing the finish line at the Disney Princess Half Marathon

At Mile 12, we were directed back into Epcot to make the dash through to get to Spaceship Earth.  I love this part of the race.  Right as I was coming up toward it, one of the volunteers closed one side and directed me and another woman the opposite way.  They do this to help with the flow of traffic.  The woman I was running with was like, “Why did they do that?”  So I tried to explain while running with her.  We made another turn and she said, “We have to be close to being done.”  I told her we were going to round a corner, run past a gospel choir, then make another turn and she should see the finish line.  And then I said, “Go get it!”

My favorite part of any half at Disney World is that gospel choir before the finish line.  It is just such a mood lifter.  You just feel good.  I mad the turn and started down the path toward the finish line.  And I crossed it, feeling really relieved to be done.  Another hot Florida race complete.  I spotted Cathy up in the stands and waved as I walked to go get my medal.  As I made my way through the line, I had to veer off to pick up the challenge medal as well.  They take a picture of you with your bib at the expo…so they have volunteers who check every challenge participant before letting them through to get the challenge medal.  I snagged a snack box from the guy on the very end who said “We have the best bananas over here.”  HA!  And then I went to get my official photo done.

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Heather & I post-race!

Afterwards, I exited through bag check and found Cathy.  She said that lines weren’t too bad for characters, so we decided to get in line for some.  On the way, I spotted Heather Shultz, and had to go say HI to her.  She ended up coming to stand in line for some princess shots with us.  It was nice to get to talk to someone I cheer on through social media so much.  We had gotten in line to meet Pocahontas, but right when we got up there, they switched her out for Merida.  Oh well. We took the photo op anyway.  We also got photos with Mulan and with Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) before we decided to hop on a bus back to the resort so I could get cleaned up and we could head out to Port Orleans French Quarter to get some celebratory Gluten Free Beignets (they took over an hour and that’s another long and rambling story that I won’t get into here, but I was PISSED).

Me with

Anyway, my official time for the Disney Princess Half Marathon was that I finished in 1:45:24.  Not bad for walking those water stops (and I walked EVERY one).   I was 176/20,088 finishers overall.  I was 89/17,099 female finishers.  And I was 14/2665 people in my age division.  Not half bad for a training run, eh?!  I was quite happy with it.

So, another Disney race weekend and challenge in the books.  I hadn’t done the Disney Princess Half Marathon since 2013, so it was nice to return to it.  And, with the water stop walks I made myself take, I almost tied my time from 2013 (it was 1:45:06).  So…yeah.  I love coming to Disney to run and while Disney Princess seems to be one of the more popular races of the ones offered, I was so happy that I came back to it.  Next time, I hopefully won’t wait 6 years to come back.

 

CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon – Indianapolis, IN (November 3, 2018)

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Me heading into the finish line of the CNO Financial Monumental Marathon – Indianapolis, IN

Race: CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon

Place: Indianapolis, IN

Date: November 3, 2018

Time: 3:46:17

“Ever tried. Ever Failed. No Matter. Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better.”
~ Samuel Beckett

I admit it.  The results of the 2018 Bank of America Chicago Marathon  were a hard pill to swallow.  In all honesty, I had hoped that my training, regardless of changing plans and going solo on it all…making it all up as I went, catching up on miles I didn’t get to run to build up that marathon base…I really thought it would be enough.  I didn’t feel like I was in marathon shape.  But I felt confident.

And, as we know…I crashed and burned soon after the 14 mile mark.  I finished.  But not with a time I was happy with.

Moral of the story.  Do NOT ever leave me along with an upcoming half marathon with the option to upgrade to the full marathon when I’m pissed off with my previous marathon performance.  Less than one month apart.  27 days apart, to be exact.  Because, I figured, hell, I was already in “marathon shape”…might as well try again with a different plan of action.  So, it happened.  I upgraded my registration to the full marathon (trust me, I was starting to doubt the wisdom of this the morning of the race, but I’ll get there, LOL!) and then…didn’t really broadcast it anywhere.  I told my training partner, Lauren.  My roommate, of course, knew.  And a couple of people at the gym who asked me what was next for me knew…but no one else.  Not. A. Word.

My plan for the days in between?  Recovery.  Easy runs.  Not a ton of miles.  Just easy, training runs.  I did maybe 3 speed intervals…all of only 4 miles.  My longest long run was 10 miles…last weekend.  Slow and steady with Lauren who took me on an adventure and kept the pace right where I wanted and needed it.  Some people like to pile on those miles and brag about weekly and monthly totals.  I have never been that sort.  And, honestly, it is a rare thing for me to ever hit 200 miles in a month, even during marathon training.  There is training and there is overtraining.  One of these benefits you.  The other leads to injury, burnout, and a plethora of other issues.  Just like pace, I don’t usually post my miles or mileage either.  Honestly, who cares other than me?

Deep breath.  Let’s start with the day before the race.

Thursday night was filled with packing and not trying to overthink anything.  Cathy picked out my outfit…she packed recovery wear, shoes, race gear, fuel, etc.  Everything I would need for another 26.2.  I made her pack capris because I was nervous it would be too cold at the start of the race for the running skirt she had picked.  She allowed for that…but nothing more.  We went to work as usual on Friday, planning to leave around 2 pm to make the drive up to Indianapolis.

I made certain that I got as much work done that I could in the time I was in the office.  Lunch was just a giant salad, made from all the fresh ingredients/produce that I had lingering in my fridge heading into the weekend.  We packed up, brought bottles of water that had our Nuun Immunity Tablets in them.  If you haven’t tried them…HIGHLY recommended!  And we hit the road, with our mid-day snacks to get us through the drive and the expo before heading to dinner.

We hit a small amount of traffic on the way, but we made it to the Omni Severin Hotel, in downtown Indianapolis.  Honestly, if you’re looking for a hotel in downtown Indy…STAY HERE!!  I was blown away by the hospitality, even if they didn’t do late checkouts due to it being an event weekend (I get it…but after a marathon, I usually appreciate a hot shower).  They did say that they had a fitness center with a shower and if I needed one I could get a key made to get in there and shower.  So…I mean…there was that.  Our luggage was taken up to our room by the nicest guy, Matt, who gave us the rundown about the hotel and the history behind it.  He showed us the amenities in the room and made sure we had plans for dinner because otherwise the hotel was doing a pasta dinner for the runners.  Honestly, I’ve never felt so welcome at a hotel.

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Cathy at her first major packet pickup for the Monumental 5K

Next stop…the expo.  We took the inside path through the hotel and Circle Center Mall to get ourselves over to the Indianapolis Expo Center.  Some roads were going to be closed because Trump and Pence were in town (BARF!), but it wasn’t affecting us.  We had a work-around.  The Expo felt a lot smaller this year than it was last year.  We got there, and immediately collected posters and headed to the back to get race packets and shirts.  YES…that’s plural.  Since I upgraded to the full, Cathy decided she could do the 5K, as it started AFTER the full and half marathons were sent off.  Had I stuck with the half, she wouldn’t have done it otherwise she’d miss my finish.

We stopped at the 5K booths first and Cathy did her first ever official big race 5K packet pickup.  She had to show her ID and everything.  The volunteers at her table were SO fun and very cool.  They even had thrown safety pins into her bag.  It was awesome.

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Cathy and Me with our race numbers for the next morning.

After she got her stuff…we headed over to the marathon tables where I collected my shirt and bib and we went straight into Official Merchandise.  Where I spent more money.  This time only on a lapel pin and a jacket.  The jacket is SUPER nice though.  I could have spent SO MUCH more.  HA!  We made our walk through the vendors and races that were represented at the expo.  Cathy had forgotten a BondiBand to keep her ears warm, so we had to go and get her one of those.  She found one…bright pink…that says, “Nevertheless, she persisted.”  Just like the button she has worn since NYC.  I spotted a different flavor of Gluten Free Honey Stinger Stroopwafels (I can only ever find Salted Caramel…which is GOOD…but I know there are other flavors out there…and I found a Vanilla & Chocolate one!).  But we wrapped it up quickly, stopping to find my name on the poster and then take a few pictures with the banners.  A volunteer was kind enough to get a lot of these photos for us, from every angle.

From there, we made the trek back to the hotel room.  We had about 30 minutes to kill before dinner, so Cathy went ahead and tried on her race shirt to get my opinion on the fit.  I decided I should do the same, and thank GOD I did.  Turns out, the volunteers at my end of the table gave me a men’s small and not a women’s small.  I was NOT happy.  With 20 minutes to get to our dinner reservation, we packed up the shirt and stepped outside to take a quicker route to the convention center in hopes of changing it out.  I booked it down the hall and back into the expo to the shirt exchange area and snagged my women’s small.  Whew!  Cathy was waiting in the hall outside.  We had about 5 minutes to make a 10 minute walk to our dinner reservation at Napolese.  Honestly, whenever we are in town for a race, this is our go-to restaurant.  I mean…GLUTEN FREE FOCACCIA AND GLUTEN FREE PIZZA!!

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Napolese’s Gluten Free Focaccia

I apologized to the hostess for being late and told her we had a 5:45 reservation.  Our table was still there though, next to two very loud men who were drinking a lot and talking REALLY LOUD about Queen and movies and games and whatever.  I was over it.  Thank God they left while we were eating our appetizer.

We had already had plans on what we were going to do for eats that night.  I looked at the menu on the way up so we could formulate a plan.  So when our waiter came over, we got glasses of water and put in our order.  Gluten Free Focaccia (no dairy) and then we were going to Freestyle our pizza and do a Gluten Free Pizza topped with the Housemade Tomato Sauce, Winter Squash, Mushrooms, and Duck Eggs.  He asked if the gluten-free was an allergy and made note that it was for a Celiac on the ticket.  And also made note of the NO DAIRY preference as well.  They are VERY efficient there.  And trust me…the food is amazing too.

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Napolese’s Gluten Free Pizza – no cheese, tomato sauce, mushrooms, winter squash, duck eggs

The focaccia came out first…olive oil, garlic, parsley.  SO GOOD.  And as we were polishing that off, the pizza came out.  But it was missing…the duck eggs.  Cathy pointed it out and he apologized and took it back.  He returned with a little thing of olive oil to go with the pizza if we wanted to add it and said that he took the pizza before they had cooked up the eggs and it would be up momentarily.  And we didn’t really have a long wait before it was returning to our table.  Looking SO good.  And even with polishing off the focaccia…I was ready to eat.  We polished off the pizza and took his advice, adding the olive oil…and it was light and fruity and just added a whole new level of deliciousness to the slices.  BIG FAN.  We finished eating and were given the bill, where they didn’t charge us for the duck eggs (that was sweet…but they didn’t need to do that).  We left a big tip, because or waiter was awesome.  Then headed to CVS to pick up some waters for the next morning, and then hit up the Hard Rock Cafe for a pin.  Mind you…I was not wanting to be on my feet much this time around.  But, we were never far from the hotel and we were back into the hotel by 7:30-ish.  Cathy went to shower.  I got out all my race gear and laid it out and then started my foam rolling because I was determined to do that the night before the race.  As I was doing that, there was a knock at the door.  It was housekeeping delivering a bottle of water, some ice, and a card.  It was from the hotel.  Super sweet gesture.  I knew it would all come in handy.  We finished up an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives…and then…

Lights out…9 pm.  On the nose.

I woke up a couple of times during the night…like my usual wakeup time of 3 am.  At 4

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Cathy’s complimentary drink tray that morning – orange juice and coffee!

am, my first alarm went off so I could take a pill and use the bathroom.  Back to bed for 2 restless hours.  At 6 am…we were both up and starting our morning routine.  I popped open a Pamela’s Products Gluten Free Matcha Happiness Ambition Bar.  I ate one before I ran the Monumental Half Marathon last year.  Why not do it again?  I prepped my pre-race drink and started to slowly get dressed.  At 6:15 am, Cathy’s free orange juice and coffee arrived outside the door.  We got up at 6 am so we could have a more relaxed moment and this gave her the chance to eat her Clif Bar and drink some coffee and juice as she does most mornings.  Including in her own training.

I finished getting ready, and this included slathering on some sunscreen because…it was going to be a sunny day that morning and I refuse to be the person with a sunburn in November.  I was wearing two different color CEP sleeves, my Injinji toe socks, my Newton Distance IIIs, a black running skirt, my Kauai Marathon & Half Marathon singlet, red arm warmers, and a red BondiBand that said “Breathe.”  I had some pajama bottoms to toss away prior to the race and a halfzip that I bought in a child’s size a long time ago that I was okay parting with.   I put my Nuun Energy into two of my bottles and water into the other two bottles and put my fuel belt on.  I put my new nutrition (tested once) into the front zip pouch and called myself ready.  Cathy ended up putting on a second layer on top and then we headed down to the lobby.  They had water and bananas out for the runners.  I usually eat a banana before a marathon so…I snagged one.  We ran into people from Louisville that we didn’t know, but I spotted his Chicago Marathon t-shirt and said I had run it too, but he was smarter than me this morning since he was only doing the half.  We had a good laugh over that.

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Race outfit for the marathon – minus the arm warmers, which got put on soon after.

And after they moved on…I started to have a small meltdown.  Why?  Because, despite being easy on my body and training smart leading up to this…I felt like my legs weren’t going to let me go another 26.2 so soon.  Cathy talked me down, as she usually does.  And then she had us moving out the door and into the cold Indianapolis morning.  It was 34 degrees outside.  We made the walk from the Omni to the start line, where I ate my banana and slowly drank my water.  We made it here and Cathy took a few pictures.  When we saw the pacers getting into the corral, she told me to go find my pacers and talk to them.  She gave me a hug and I left…stepping into the network of corrals and finding the 3:35 pacers (see what I’m doing here?), in the 2nd wave.  My bib was good for the first wave, but like I said, I was learning from my mistakes at Chicago…I hoped.

My plan for this race…line up with the 3:35 pace group and hold on as long as I could.  I

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Cathy & I staying warm in the hotel lobby for a few minutes before walking to the start of both of our races!

didn’t expect to be with them for long, just given how my training runs had been coming off of Chicago.  But, I figured it would be a good way to keep from going out way too fast (and we all know I would have) and at least keeping a constant pace going forward.  The male pacer’s PR was 3:09 and the female had just run a 50K the weekend before, so I can only assume that she is normally super fast as well.  Crazy good.  I never run with pacers, but I figured…this might be what I need.

I ditched my toss-away clothing and got back to the pacers just as the national anthem was being sung.  It was gorgeous.  The wheelchair racers were sent off first.  Wave one was next.  And we were moved up to the start gate.  I gave a wave to Cathy since I wasn’t on the outside of the corral…I was right behind the pacers because…I didn’t want to lose them.  After about 5 minutes…off we went.  We hit the roads of Indianapolis…and Cathy went to line up for her 5K.

The pacers guided our group down Capitol Avenue, reminding us that the pace would be slow for the first couple of miles until the race spread out a little bit.  Since the half and full marathon start together, it can be very congested at points.  Reminder, Indianapolis roads are awful.  The male pacer pointed out holes as we ran and I heard the female pacer say, “You’re going to be saying that a lot.”  HA!  She wasn’t wrong.

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Game face on as I stick close to the 3:35 pacers at the start line

We made a couple of turns before running across the first water/aid station.  They were nice enough to shout out each station as we approached so anyone who needed water or Gatorade could grab it.  It was a little chaotic through there, but I stuck with them as we made a couple more turns and made the half rotation around Monument Circle.  There was another aid station before we hit Mile 3 and the pacer sign was passed from the male to the female.  He had a pace tattoo on his arm and when we hit three, she asked, “How are we?”  He said, “We’re a little over.”  So she picked it up slightly.

Not only was I incorporating a “stick to the pacer” technique this race, I also decided to fuel more.  So every 4 miles…I was trying something new (I know…nothing new on race day, but…MEH)…Maurten Gel 100, which is apparently what Kipchoge uses!  I am no Kipchoge, nor was I aware of this when I purchased it to try…but it isn’t bad.  I like the texture way better than the Honey Stingers or Gu type gels.  I took my first one at Mile 4, which had me ease back on the pace just enough.  I took a drink of water, and pushed my way back up toward the pacers.

It was just about the 10K area that I discovered how dangerous it was to run with a pace

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My new form of fueling – Maurten Gel 100

group.  As more people fell into the group it got crowded…fast.  Someone clipped my foot from behind, sending me stumbling.  I recovered, but was pushed into someone ahead of me, which sent them stumbling.  Then someone else closed in and his foot pretty much tripped me…and again I had to catch myself.  And then someone clipped me again and that one nearly took me down for good.  The adrenaline was rushing at this point which was definitely NOT what I wanted to have happen.  I eased back just enough to allow some space so I wouldn’t get trampled at this point.

At Mile 7, the half marathoners turn left and the marathon runners continue up toward the State Fairgrounds.  At Mile 8…I fueled again.  And I was still hanging onto the pace group.  YAY.  I was a little bit behind them, but I felt that was for my own safety and sanity.  We turned onto Washington Boulevard, which we would be on for almost the next two miles.  They were giving out Clif Gels at Mile 11, but I had my own fueling to contend with.  But it was here…HERE…that I started to get a side stitch.  I wasn’t pushing my pace…but it soon turned into a stomach cramp of sorts.  I gutted through it until we made the turn and hit Mile 12…and then I slowed it to a walk to see if I could get it to pass.  This was when I was supposed to fuel again anyway…and I took the opportunity to do that before I felt I would be okay to pick it up again.  And I did.  No problems.  I made sure to drink more water this time.  I think that was the problem.  I was now further behind the pace group, but was about to hit the halfway mark.  I pushed through and continued…still feeling strong for the most part.  I was just frustrated that I was off the pace group earlier than I would have liked.

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Do you see my name on the poster? I meant to post this earlier. LOL!

I loved winding through the streets of Indianapolis.  There were crowds and people cheering in places you wouldn’t expect.  If we ran through neighborhoods, people were there too.  I may have been a bit off my pace, but I was going strong for the most part.  I made the turn onto Meridian and picked it back up a little.  Mile 16…I eased back again to fuel and drink more water.  And now I decided I would start walking some water stops in order to make sure I was hydrating.  When it’s cold outside, I forget to drink water.  I wasn’t letting anything stupid like that take me down that day.

The 3:40 pacers caught me just before Mile 18, where we ran through this area that felt like a park and were met with a wall of screaming from the people inside.  I think it was a college group, but they were fantastic.  I got quite a few compliments at aid stations and as I ran through here on my pigtails.  Love that story.  We exited onto the highway and headed toward my favorite part of the course, this gorgeous, twisting downhill on an exit ramp.  YES!  Downhill is my favorite speed as we all know!!  And this was fun.

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Cathy after she did her 5K!  She did it in 46:42!

Mile 20…and I had only a 10K left.  I took a little longer on my walk to fuel here because not only did I fuel and drink some water, but I also moved my one and only Honey Stinger Gel from my zip pocket in my running skirt to my fuel belt.  Why?  Because I was going to do one more fueling and I didn’t have enough Maurten with me.  I wanted to feel good and strong at the end of this.

At this point, if there was a hill…I speed walked it.  If there was a water stop, I walked it and took in some water.  If there was a crowd, I ran.  I was running more than walking, which was opposite Chicago, so already my plan was paying off.  I think it was at Mile 23, I went ahead and took my last gel, fueling for the last push.  The water stop here was AMAZING.  They were blaring this great song about being downtown.  And it just helped me pick it back up.

The next three miles went well, even though I could tell I was slowing down.  I think at some point the 3:45 group passed me.  I tried not to let it get into my head.  I took any water break walks that I needed and promised that I would push it at the end.  I was going to finish this one strong.  I made the turn onto W New York Street.  The crowd was amazing.  Someone shouted, “The finish is just around the corner!”  They were right.  I rounded the corner and could see the finish line down the way.  It seemed so far, but I found another gear and I started to pick it up.  As I got closer, I saw Cathy standing near the finish, screaming her head off for me.  I pressed on, crossing the finish line, arms in the air, and stopped my Garmin.  I never looked at it. I wanted to beat my Dopey time.  But I didn’t want to be disappointed yet either.

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Me crossing the finish line at the CNO Financial Monumental Marathon

So I never looked.  I started walking down the row.  I was wrapped in a Mylar blanket.  I saw some people with their medals on…and thought for a moment I had walked right past that station.  But I hadn’t.  I just hasn’t moved up far enough.  I continued on.  A nice woman put a medal around my neck and congratulated me.  I smiled and thanked her, snagging a bottle of water before stopping to get an official finisher photo from Marathonfoto.  On down the aisle of snacks, snagging a banana, a Clif Bar (for Cathy), a bag of Lay’s chips, and the famous cookie (I can’t even eat it…but I knew plenty of people who could).  And then…I made my way out to be greeted by Cathy with a hug.

I asked her, “Did I beat my Dopey time?”  And she said, “You smashed it by over three minutes.”  I was elated.  It wasn’t the time I was hoping to hit, but I once again chipped away from my time I set at the beginning of the year…doing a run/walk for the entire race.  This time, I mostly ran and felt strong and good throughout…and that was saying something.  As Cathy was finding a spot for me to lay down and put my feet up, I spotted the hat in her clear backpack and said, “You got a hat?”  She said I should have gotten one too and I told her I must have walked past that station.  She told me to lay down and she would see if she could get one for me.  After about 5 minutes, she returned victorious, saying she flagged down a happy looking marathoner to see if she could get another one.  It worked.

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Feet up…suns out…guns out.  FINISHER!

After stretching my feet up for a little bit, just basking in the sun, we finally decided to get up and head back toward the hotel.  Cathy checked us out of our room and had our bags checked.  It felt like the walk took forever, but it was a good way, save for the wind that had picked up.  I drew my arm warmers back up over my arms and we zigzagged our way back to the hotel.

We stepped inside and got into the elevator to go up one floor.  Cathy told me to go over to the bench to sit down and wait while she got luggage.  It didn’t take too long.  She opened up my suitcase and pulled out the outfit I had set out to wear afterwards, compression socks, jeans, the race t-shirt, new underwear, a proper bra, the basics.  We went ahead and took off my shoes, socks and put on my compression socks while I was sitting there.  She pulled my pigtails down, getting my hair extensions out and grabbing my hair brush.  And then she sent me around the corner to the bathroom to change.

I ducked into a stall and did that in record time after a marathon.  I realized that I had left my deodorant in my toiletries bag so I made sure I looked presentable, brushed my hair, and then went to grab that while leaving my race clothes with her.  Quick duck into the bathroom to apply deodorant, a wash of the hands, and one more fix of the hair…and I was good to go.  Once I put on my recovery shoes.

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My celebration meal at Woody’s Library Restaurant in Carmel, IN!

We headed out and she gave me the valet ticket to get the car while she went into Starbucks to grab me a much-needed coffee.  They valet went to retrieve the car, which took about 5 minutes and she hadn’t yet made it out.  I had no money on me to top the valet, which I felt AWFUL about, but I couldn’t help that.  I texted her and she said about 14 teenagers had been in front of her and she was coming. She was out in about 3 minutes and we loaded up her luggage.  I snagged my coffee.  And we were off, heading to Carmel, Indiana, the home of Woody’s Library Restaurant, my new favorite place to eat in all of Indianapolis.  Our friend Greg met us there.  I didn’t have an appetite at this moment, but went ahead and ordered the Gluten Free (Lettuce Wrap) Tex Mex Quinoa Tacos with a side of the Gluten Free Sweet Potato Fries, and Cathy got me a little side of pickles…just in case I wanted them.

I made a go at the food…taking my time to chew and to digest so as not to set my stomach off.  And I managed to eat the fries and most of the tacos before calling it quits.  I maybe had two of the pickle chips.  I was surprised I managed that much.  Afterwards, to stretch me out a bit more before we made the car ride home, the three of us went to the Antique Mall and looked around.  They both found things to buy, but I didn’t this time.  Maybe next time.  Then we hit up the gluten-free No Label at the Table bakery there.  I picked up two of their Lemon Cookies, a Brownie, and a Chocolate Pumpkin Loaf.  The lady who owns the bakery was there, and she was excited to see a marathoner there and asked me about other local races and Disney races as I shopped and decided what I wanted.

Afterwards…it was time to make the long drive back home.

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Until next year…BE MONUMENATAL!

So, the official results of the CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in 3:46:17, which makes it my fastest marathon this year and the one that closes out my actual racing season, as far as I know.  HA.  I was 1377/4568 finishers overall. I was the 377/1983 female finishers. And I was 106/391 in my age division.  Very happy with my results as I was dedicating this run to the people I know…who can’t run.  Spontaneous Marathon #14 is in the books and I already can’t wait to sign up for next year.  This was a great race, all around.

Bank of America Chicago Marathon – Chicago, IL (October 7, 2018)

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Me heading to the finish line of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon – Chicago, IL

Race: Bank of America Chicago Marathon

Place: Chicago, Illinois

Date: October 7, 2018

Time: 3:50:41

Oh, friends…sometimes you dream big.  Bigger than big.  You don’t want to dream big, because you’re scared of failing.  And you don’t want to let people down.  But people keep telling you that your dream is going to happen.  Ace in the hole.  No problem.  Easy as pie. And then those aspirations don’t go the way you planned.  And you feel like a failure.  And it sucks.  But you try not to let it get you down.  But it still sucks.

Welcome…to my Chicago Marathon.

You know, failing to reach a goal does suck.  Some people can just move on.  But I have never been one of those people.  In hindsight…I did a lot of things wrong leading into this race.  For sure.

I repeat…

A LOT.

Instead of flying, Melissa and Paul offered to drive us all up to Chicago from here.  It definitely saved time and airport stress, so we took them up on the offer.  Paul was running via a lottery draw and Melissa did an amazing job raising money for her charity, Team RMHC.  And Cathy…she’s our sherpa, cheerleader, and race mom, as always.  We got a bit of a late start out of Louisville, but we hit the road and were Chicago bound.  At some point, we all figured we needed to eat dinner…and we were in the Indianapolis area…so Cathy got on the Find Me Gluten Free app, and after a sketchy call to a pizza place…we ended up going to…The Tamale Place.

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The Tamale Place on Rockville Rd in Indianapolis, Indiana

We had never been to the Tamale Place before.  But the lady at the register was SUPER nice and super helpful and walked us through the process.  I guess she could tell we were new to the place by the confused look on our faces.  But they have a screen up front that shows what tamales they currently have…and how many.  They had one vegan one…so that was the one I went with.  That just happened to be the Spicy Chipotle Black Bean Tamale.  And since I had been wavering between tacos or a tamale, she suggested both.  And who am I to say no?  She obviously knows what she’s talking about, right?  So, I got a Veggie Taco as well with the spicy red sauce.  Because…spicy…duh.  The tortilla for the taco was homemade.  The masa in the tamale was AMAZING.  Everything was really, really good.  Ironically, this would become our dinner stop on the way home too.  I think we’re believers in The Tamale Place.  Also…it makes me think of Tawn.

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Veggie Taco and the Spicy Chipotle Black Bean Tamale from The Tamale Place

We ate our weight in food.  No really.  We did.  In fact, at one point, we were passing around this cup of Elotes.  I couldn’t eat too much of it, because the cheese situation on those were real…but I tried them.  We used the bathroom and then we got back on the road to finish the haul to Chicago.

And so…we pulled up to The Hotel Blake in the pouring rain.  Cathy and Paul had directed Melissa into the bike lane, so the valet guy helped unload us and the luggage before having Melissa move the car.  Some rude taxi driver honked at her and the valet started shouting at him.  It was dark, wet, and just awful that night.  But she got the car where it needed to be and he got her inside.  Cathy got us checked in and we headed toward the elevator with Showtime, our valet.  He had the luggage cart.  We piled into the elevator, and the doors closed, minus the Nolans.  Whoops. So, we decided we would get their stuff into their room, then our stuff into our room and get it sorted.  Showtime asked us, “Why did you make the pregnant lady drive?” Cathy assured him it was better if she was the driver than if she wasn’t.  We got

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The living room area of the King Suite I stayed in. That couch would be important later!

to our floor and headed down the hall.  They were in room 719.  We were room 722.  So we were close.  Cathy and I were staying in a King Suite.  And the Nolans were in a King room.  As we unloaded their luggage, they texted to ask what room they were in.  I went to go get them while Cathy got our stuff into our room.  They met me at the elevator bay and up we went, with me dropping them off.  Cathy said, “You have to see our room.” So…I went inside to scope it out and we texted to invite the Nolans over as well to hang.  But I think they were ready to crash because they never made it over and we eventually went to bed.  But the room was amazing.  Big ass couch.  Chairs.  Dining area.  Microwave.  Fridge.  Garden tub.  Shower.  Fit for the princess that I am.

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Meli Cafe’s Tofu Scrambler, Fruit Cup and Coffee.

The following morning, we all met up for breakfast at Meli Cafe, which is just off the lobby of The Hotel Blake.  It’s convenient…so we ate their regularly.  Cathy and I went and got a table and started to peruse the menu and drink some coffee.  My best friend from my childhood was coming in that morning and once she arrived and dropped her stuff in the room, we were all going to take the shuttle bus to the expo.  But we definitely needed to fuel up for the day.  I ended up ordering the Tofu Scrambler, which is sautéed broccoli, asparagus, zucchini, roasted red peppers, and organic tofu in a giant bowl.  Since they didn’t have a gluten-free bread option, I subbed for a small bowl of fruit instead.  It was delicious.  And filling.  And not too spicy (because the day before the race is one day you really want some bland food)…even if I added a couple dashes of hot sauce.  We ate.  We went up to the room and hung out.  And Heather arrived while I was in the bathroom.  So I came out and immediately hugged her.  It was amazing to have her in Chicago for me again.

Next stop: THE EXPO!!IMG_2848

The Abbott Health & Fitness Expo is probably the largest and best expo I have ever been to.  I have done this one twice, and it’s just…endless and amazing.  But first stop is always…race bib.  We had to take a short walk a couple of blocks down to the Hilton Chicago and got on the bus. Most of the seats that were left were in the back.  Melissa gets car sick, so we just prayed it was a smooth ride.  It wasn’t a long ride and we made note of the Green Stop being where we needed to return to in order to get back to the Hilton to get back to our hotel.

We went inside…and immediately I got swept up in that race expo bliss.  There were a few photo ops before I had to show my participant info to the security people in order to get in and get my race bib and the info for where to get my t-shirt.  It was an easy exchange and after I got this…we decided to branch off from Paul and Melissa so we could all get our necessary things done.  I had one thing I wanted at the race expo…the Newton Chicago Edition shoes.  Because…NEWTONS.  CHICAGO.  YES!  But first…I needed to get my t-shirt and check the size to be sure that I was happy with the fit.  As I was trying it on, my friend AmyLee messaged me to say she was there.  She said she would come find me at the t-shirt area.  And…she did!!  It was great to hug her and wish her luck and just sit and talk about life and catch up.  She’s amazing.  And…she’s doing the Galloway Method…which I totally respect and believe in, as the run/walk intervals helped me have a strong finish during the marathon at Dopey Challenge at Disney World in January.

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Me and AmyLee at the Chicago Marathon Expo!

We had to part ways eventually, and I had my sites set…on the Newton booth.  Cathy had already scoped it out and so…I skipped the first few aisles just to go and get these shoes that I NEEDED.  WANTED.  NEEDED.

Trust me.  I needed them.  And, one of the guys working the booth was my friend, Dan’s, friend.  And Cathy already had talked to him and he was ready for me.  He brought out my size in the Chicago edition shoes…and…yeah…they came home with me.  And I wear them.  A lot.  They’re amazing.  And with that done…it was time to shop, sample, and spend more money.

And I did.  I picked up the Shefit Sports Bra, which I sadly ended up returning due to it chafing me up really bad on two runs.  But the customer service was super nice and very helpful.  I got 6 BondiBands.  Heather got me three of them as a birthday present, because she’s amazing like that. All of the ones she got me had purple in them.  And they totally suited me.  Totally.  I bout more Nuun (of course) and I got a water bottle with it.  And I am totally hooked on their Immune flavors now.  I popped one of my tubes open for Heather while we strolled the expo.  It was their Energy one.  Her favorite.  And hydration is important.

There were photo ops everywhere.  And snacks.  Snacks just being handed to you.  And

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Here’s to finish lines!

opportunities to win free passes to the Shedd Aquarium (we didn’t…none of us).  We did win those stainless steel straws though.  So, hey, reusable straws.  We zigzagged our way down each aisle, stopping at the booths that interested us and making note so, if necessary, we could come back.  We honestly made an initial sweep and then returned to booths if we wanted to try something or if we were interested in the product.

After some time of doing this. we texted the Nolans. They were in aisle 200 (I think there were 900 aisles, maybe 800).  We figured they were probably wrapping stuff up like we were.  I wanted to stop by Nike Official Merch (NOT IMPRESSED THIS YEAR!) and also hit up the Abbott area as well.  They had a TON of things going on, including the big treadmill you might have seen where you try to match Kipchoge’s marathon pace at Berlin for as long as you can.  I would have LOVED to have done it, but not the day before the race.  That sounds like an injury waiting to happen.  But I did do the thing where you run across this special floor and it feeds you information about your stride and speed.  It compares your stride to an elite’s stride.

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My stats from the Abbott Booth at the Chicago Marathon Expo

Mine is WAY shorter.  And it calculates your marathon pace if you could maintain that short sprint speed they measured.  It was fun.  But I am thankful for the guy at the end whose job it was to catch people.  We all would have hit the booth wall, and probably take them down in the process.

Once I was certain that I honestly shouldn’t spend any more money…because Roll Recovery, Shefit, Newton, Nuun, BondiBand…and a couple others got my money this time around…we checked in with the Nolans again.  They were now in Aisle 300 at the CEP Booth.  This was when we realized they were just starting the great expo dive…so we went over there to help them shop for compression and I spotted Goodr next door, which Melissa is a big fan of, despite the tendency of the lenses to flake and scratch.  I had been on my feet already longer than I expected and we still needed to get Heather and her stuff over to her hotel.  So, we offered to take any bags that they wanted to ditch so they wouldn’t have to haul them around.  We also changed dinner plans.  Melissa really wanted to go to her charity dinner…which is fine.  I really wanted to go to a place just outside the city proper, Da Luciano’s, which has a gluten free menu as big as the regular menu (honestly, it was my one requirement on this trip), so we compromised and said we’d go as a celebration after the race.  We left them to continue their expo explorations and do the charity stuff, while we hopped the shuttle back to the Hilton and then back to hotel.  We dropped off stuff, grabbed Heather’s stuff and went to hop the Blue Line (I think) to her area of the city.  She was staying at a very nice hotel, but it was a walk to get to the train, and then a walk to get to the hotel.  Reverse it after we hung in her room for a moment to head back to our neck of the woods to grab some Garrett Popcorn, pre-dinner, and then make our way to our new dinner idea…the impromptu dinner at…Brightwok Kitchen.

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Fall In Love Stir Fry Bowl and Sweet & Sour Pickles from Brightwok Kitchen – Chicago.

I first discovered Brightwok while I was in Chicago to see Hamilton.  Cathy and I had gotten out of our show and we were STARVING. Everything there is gluten-free and dairy-free.  And the food is phenomenal.  So…I couldn’t complain too much.  It wasn’t what I had hoped to be eating the night before the marathon, but it was a good supplement.

I ended up getting the Fall In Love Stir-fry Bowl.  Fall in Love is Fall 5-Spice, Brown Rice, Carrots, Peppers, Local Zucchini, Butternut Squash, and a Sweet Potato Fritter.  It usually comes with Local Chicken, but being that I’m a vegetarian, I had them add the tofu, I think.  I actually claimed the last sweet potato fritter, so, as Heather got the same thing as me, I split it with her, because…necessary.  I also got a side of their Sweet & Sour Pickles (which are AMAZING).  Seriously, I’ve never had anything there that I didn’t like.  After that…we parted ways.  Heather went back to her hotel…Cathy and I returned to ours.  We started to lay out everything for the following day so it wouldn’t be a madhouse trying to get out the door on time.  My plan was to hopefully be in bed by 9 pm. I think, after having some downtime and the Nolans over for taping and necessary race pep talks…it was closer to 10 pm.  Lights out.  Because the next morning…it was time to run Chicago!

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Me dressed and ready to run the Chicago Marathon!

Race morning.  The usual routine.  First alarm.  Get up for the meds I need to take.  Go back to bed.  Second alarm.  Get up and actually become a functioning member of society…go to the bathroom, change into race gear, check weather, eat something, check weather, brush teeth, put hair in pigtails, check weather…you get the drill.

Heather arrived to leave her bag in our room and to head to the start line with us.  I got a text from Melissa saying she wanted to hug me before we headed out (I was in Wave 1 and had to get to my Gate really early)…and she was reapplying some iron-on symbols to her race shirt from her charity that she was running for.  She had a different gate and was in the wave after me.  So…we swung into her room (me wearing an attractive big garbage bag because I didn’t want to be soaked if I was going to be out in the rain that was predicted) and we hugged and wished each other a good, safe race.  She told me to have fun.  I loved her for that.  We left and took the elevator down to the lobby to head out the door to make the walk to the start.  We had to get over to Grant Park.  They could take me as far as my gate…which was Gate 2, before security check.  We stood there for a moment, and they told me I was going to be fine and I would be great and to have fun and enjoy the run.  That’s what friends do.  I really wished I had been in better shape…but, you just do what you can with what you have.  We took some selfies…and then hugged…and then they put me in the LONG line to get into Grant Park by way of Gate 2.

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Cathy, Me, and Heather at Gate 2 at the Chicago Marathon

And that…was where I stood…for a very, very long time.  Barely moving.  Just a short trudge here and there, waddling up bit-by-bit.  Glance to the left…and Gate 1 was just moving easily.  Look to the right…and Gate 3 had traffic moving freely.  Gate 2…was at an absolute standstill.  And every runner there was basically in Wave 1 and needing to be in their corral.  And yet…we stood.

At least it wasn’t raining…yet.  Not yet.  But, we who were left to stand there and shuffle slowly forward were about to go into panic mode.  We couldn’t understand why this gate wasn’t moving.  And panic was setting in for me.  Usually I would have stretched more…and taken my time eating the banana I brought with me…perhaps use the bathroom near the corrals…but nope. Finally they had runners who didn’t need to check bags get into a separate line (that was me), and while it still moved slowly, it got us through.  And then the panic speed walk began for everyone.  Because to get to Corral C & D, you had to go behind the other corrals to a separate entrance.  And at this point…the National Anthem was being sung, quite beautifully, but I couldn’t enjoy it.  I was trying to make it to Corral D so I could start on time.  Panic and adrenaline was setting in.

I did learn one thing from standing forever in that line at the gate.  Count the kilometers, not miles.  There are more of them, so you feel like you are getting places faster.  Nice trick.  But I digress…

I got into the corral with 1 minute to spare before they closed it.  I quickly shed my trash bag and the half-zip I had worn to keep warm, as I was in a crop top and shorts for this one.  The start temperature was warm…almost 60 degrees…but rain was coming and so were some rather steady winds.  The announcers said all the names of the elite field that were running and the corrals would cheer for each name.  And then…they sent off the first wave.

IMG_2925To the song Sweet Home Chicago.

After the initial walk to the start line, we could see it grow closer and closer and soon the walk became a job and soon the jog became the run over the start mat and under the starting gate.  I was off.  For my second ever Chicago Marathon.  A race that was so magical for me in 2013.

This experience, however, was going to be a lot different.  Because mistakes were made throughout the race as well.  I was relieved to start without the rain, and while I knew that it wouldn’t be kept at bay, I was hoping that it would hold off longer than it actually did.  The first couple of miles were pretty dry.  But as I headed into Mile 3…the rain began.  I also knew that Cathy and Heather were going to try to catch me before I hit Mile 3…so pretty much just before the bridge.  And I spotted them thanks to Heather’s purple jacket.  She was SO easy to spot.  I gave a wave and a smile, feeling absolutely strong at this point and continued on…knowing I wouldn’t see them again until Mile 13.

I should mention here that I really just wanted to run by feel for this race.  Go out and have fun.  Enjoy.  And to make sure that I wouldn’t check my watch and fuss over my pace, I set it to only show me the time.  The clock face.  No pace.  No distance.  None of it.  Not even time elapsed.  And I never once looked at my watch the entire race.  Nor did I make not of the clocks along the course.  But this is where I may have faltered.  I ran the first 12-14 miles on pace for my goal for this race.  But…it got a lot harder than I anticipated at Mile 10.  Mile 10 is not a good place to have your legs start feeling like lead.  I pressed on, hoping that maybe the flat course was affecting them, so I hoped they would wake back up.  They didn’t.

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Heading into Mile 13 at the Chicago Marathon. I am not having as much fun as it looks like I am.

I took Honey Stinger gels at Mile 6 and Mile 12…and pressed on.  I did see Cathy and Heather around Mile 13.  I spotted them and waved as I went by…I think I managed a smile, but I wasn’t feeling nearly as strong as I had when they saw me 10 miles previously.  I managed to press on through the screams and amazing people at Soul City Church, who were rocking Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” as we ran through.  But that, friends…is where it got hard.

The rain never seemed to stop.  Most of my race was in this annoying drizzle.  And with the winds coming on strong too…I was getting cold.  And…by Mile 15, I started my run/walk method that got me through Dopey.  Not systematic though.  I’d guess on how long I was walking and push as long as I could handle a run…and repeat.  It was hard.  And it was breaking me.  I could tell my little goal I had set was going to get away from me…and fast.  But now…now it was about getting to that finish line.

As we went into Mile 16, a female runner slightly ahead of me, started to slow and wobble to the side of the road.  Her legs were like Jello.  It was too early for that…so I was glad I was listening to my body and easing back, despite not reaching expectations everyone had for me performance-wise.  It was scary to see.  I kept with the run/walk method as I ticked off a few more miles.  No intervals…just as much as I could run, I would.  And then I would count (for the most part) to 30 in my head before I would try again.  Around Mile 20…there was a runner down on the corner, covered in jackets, with police officers around them.  Another scary moment.  Especially as I am pressing on just to finish these last 6 miles.

I managed to pick it up a little bit for the next mile…but slowed back down.  Mile 24 was the only one where I hit the 10s (although some of my 9 minute paces were close).  I don’t know what happened there.  But I gave myself the pep talk.  2 miles.  20 minutes.  I could do anything for 20 minutes.  Even if it was at a run/walk.

The last two miles seemed to come and go…until I hit that hill at Mile 26.  This hill takes you up an exit ramp and then you head down to the finish line, back inside Grant Park.  I won’t lie.  I walked this hill.  It got me.  This entire race got me.  I got inside my head.  I let expectations weigh me down.  I didn’t follow a good routine.  So, yeah, this hill bested me.  But I made the last turn and I said I would run it in…no matter what.  So I picked it up.  And as I was running, I spotted Heather and Cathy…screaming their heads off for me as I ran past them and headed toward that finish line.  I had no idea what my time was…my pace…none of it.  It stopped my Garmin…and looked.  3:50.  And change.  I was WAY off.  But I knew it.  I knew that would happen by Mile 10.  Was I still disappointed?  You bet!

I made my way through the finishers area, grabbing that famous Finish Line Beer, which I can’t drink, but I promised Melissa and Paul that I would pick one up.  They had to open it though…so as I went past Buckingham Fountain and further into the park to where we exited for Runners Reunite…I had to dump it out.  But I could keep the can.  I immediately headed for the letter X…it’s the assigned meeting spot for myself and my friends as NO ONE is ever at X and EVERYONE is at B.  But as I made the long walk, I noticed neither Cathy nor Heather were there.  I stayed there for awhile…then made my way up to B…because perhaps they forgot.  They weren’t there either.  So, back to X I went.  And then I got lightheaded.  I quickly sat down on the boards holding up the inflatable X and held on.  My vision was going black.  I was shivering and cold.  I wanted to get back to the hotel.  I wanted my friends.

Once I stopped having my vision go black and knew I could stand, I slowly did and made my way over to the curb…where I sat down and huddled my mylar blanket around my body.  And shivered.  And that’s where they found me.

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Me after finishing the Chicago Marathon

I stood up and they came and gave me hugs and a rose and a stuffed bear.  I started to cry a little.  I have the best friends.

Cathy asked me if I wanted to do anything in the finish line area.  I told her I just wanted to go back to the hotel and get warm.  So, Heather took my rose and I snuggled with my bear and under my mylar and they walked me back to the hotel.  We got inside and up to the room.  And they were gracious enough to help me out of my shoes, socks, compression and my crop top.  I stayed in the rest while Heather went to start a hot shower for me.

I got cleaned up and put on some fresh, warm clothes and went to sit down on the couch.  Cathy said the last check in with Melissa and Paul was the half, but she got a message that they were behind pace, the mats were being pulled up, and that they would keep us informed of their progress.  Cathy went and got me warm coffee and I tried to eat some things, but my stomach wasn’t ready for food.  Not yet.  I hydrated as much as I could with my stomach being off…and we sat and watched some television, talking, laughing, checking in with Melissa and Paul.  Cathy had me put my feet up on some pillows and she covered me with my hoodie and the blanket from the bed.  I was toasty warm now.  Paul texted to see if we could grab some snacks and drinks from the charity hospitality tent, and since we all had wristbands…we could.  But neither Heather nor I wanted to move.  So…Cathy went and grabbed as much as she could.

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Me trying to warm up after some hypothermia action at the Chicago Marathon

When we got word that they were at Mile 24…I put on my shoes and jacket and we all made our way down to the finish line area.  Security wasn’t letting people through at first, but after some women sneaked inside, the woman said, “I’m a volunteer, I’m done.”  And she walked off.  And so…we walked in.

We waited patiently at the finish, with me moving around as much as possible.  When the gates started to come down, we got even closer, moving up toward Buckingham Fountain.  We took some time to take photos of the fountain until we got word that they had finished.  We tried to direct them to a street, but Melissa’s calves had pretty much cramped up at Mile 6 and she was done.  We were going to them.

We found them…Melissa on the ground, shivering, and Paul trying to rub her calves and feet.  Poor thing!  It was crazy miserable in the rain and then the winds, so if I was this bad off…I couldn’t imagine how she felt.  Plus…pregnancy doesn’t help her either.  I knew Heather wanted to catch dinner before she had to get to the airport, so we changed dinner plans again…and moved everything to Meli Cafe again.  Which was fine.  It was closer and less hassle for sure.  But with Da Luciano’s being closed on Mondays…this meant I once again was missing my chance to eat there.  Next time…it’s happening.  Because I will make it happen.  Heather and I went to drop off things at their room and head down to dinner.  We told our waitress we’d be coming in waves.  Cathy got Melissa up and moving and she said that she was meeting us at Meli Cafe…to which Melissa said, “I could eat.”  So…YAY!!  At least the whole gang would be there to celebrate.

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Me with my Chicago Marathon medal and jacket at Buckingham Fountain

Cathy joined us first…then the Nolans.  I was just finishing up when they got their food, but it meant I could walk Heather up to get her stuff and take her outside of the hotel to give her hugs and tell her to have a safe trip back to Minnesota.  She had a flight to catch.  I went back inside to sit with my friends and just reveled in what we all accomplished.  We pushed ourselves even when things got hard.  Even when they seemed impossible.  And we all finished.  Safely.

After we ate, we hit the lobby for a couple of photo ops and then headed back upstairs to rest and recover.  We hung out in our room, watching Food Network and just talking and drinking water/cider.  It was the perfect way to close it out.

So…the official results of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon are that I finished in 3:50:41.  Definitely nowhere near what I had hoped.  BUT…I will follow with my conclusions on that in a moment.  I was the 11156 finisher overall.  The 2941 female to finish.  And I was 566 in my age division.  Not bad, considering over 43,000 runner signed up for this.

So…what mistakes did I make?

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Finishers…Friends!

I was on my feet way too much the day before the race.  I didn’t fuel as I would have liked and tried a different method…the day before the race.  I think my marathon paced runs killed me the weeks leading into the race as well.  I let expectations get to me.  I didn’t let my watch tell me to SLOW DOWN (I think that was my biggest error).  I didn’t dress for the weather that was moving in.  I probably should have fueled more than I did. I did every 6 miles…I am going to work on putting that closer and more frequent.  And…I told myself I wasn’t fit enough so I went into it believing I wasn’t fit enough.  And there are more…but I won’t dwell on it now.

I finished…I made it.  My friends finished.  They made it.  We all were safe.  We all did the best we could with our circumstances.  We may not have lived up to our own expectations, but dammit…we at least tried that day.  We at least got out there and gave it what we had.

Chicago…maybe one day I’ll be back.  But for now, I have other fall marathons to tackle.  You were a great learning experience.  And I know…if I keep trying, I’ll reach my goal.

The Kauai Half Marathon – Poipu, HI (September 2, 2018)

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Me crossing the finish line of the Kauai Half Marathon – Kauai, Hawaii

Race: Kauai Half Marathon

Place: Poipu, HI (Island of Kauai)

Date: September 2, 2018

Time: 1:46:27

“That’s the thing about running: your greatest runs are rarely measured by racing success. They are moments in time when running allows you to see how wonderful your life it.”

~Kara Goucher

I went back.  I went back to an island and a race that both made me find myself and broke me…but this time I was only going half the distance.  Because I’m smart.  HA!

The trip itself is a whole different story all together, and something I may or may not blog about.  I did keep a travel journal the best that I could…but life just happens.  Let’s begin this story, then, with the expo.

As you know, my roommate (Cathy) and I have been to Kauai twice before.  Once with me in a boot with our friend, Jenn.  Needless to say, I didn’t race that year.  Then a year later with our friends Indy & Tawn.  That was the year I did the full marathon.  First marathon after recovering from the hip labrum and stress fracture.  It didn’t go as I had imagined…but, those hard races are what make us better.  It was the last marathon I ran until January 2018, when I did the Dopey Challenge.  My hip problems kept coming back and setbacks led to some cautious comebacks (of my own doing).

This time…no longer being guided by a coach and really just playing around with an old training schedule…I was going in with a plan.  And this time, we were traveling with some of our favorite people, Melissa and Paul Nolan!

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Cathy, Me, Melissa & Paul on the beach on Kauai at our resort.

This is an image from our first day at our resort.  I went for a short shake-out from travel run after a day of travel and getting groceries and coffee and ice cream and just checking out a bit of the island with our friends.  They headed to the beach…I went for an easy run and met them on the beach.  Because…the beach is life.  The next morning…was expo day.

But first…coffee and breakfast.  We picked up coffee at our go-to coffee spot on Kauai – Ha Coffee Bar!  And breakfast, we went to Living Foods Market and got breakfast.  For me, the coffee was the Kauai Sunshine and the crepe was the Gluten Free Roasted Vegetable Crepe.


After we were powered up with coffee and food…it was off to the Wilcox Health Sports and Fitness Expo at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa.  This hotel is GORGEOUS.  Seriously.  And I love visiting the expo and checking out the resort in the process.  For the most part, it’s a small and basic expo.  But…I. BOUGHT. SO. MUCH.  Maybe it’s because when I ran the marathon, all I bought was the big triathlon backpack (which they no longer have and that made me SO sad because I wanted another one since mine is getting old and I use it for ALL travel).  Maybe it’s because it was the 10th Anniversary.  But most of my spending money went out the window at the race expo.  That’s…pretty typical of me.  HA!

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Paul, Melissa & Me at the Kauai Marathon & Half Marathon Expo

I picked up my race bib and t-shirt (this time, I was listed) then went to scope out the merchandise and the little side booths in the small little room where the expo is held.  There is a lot going on in there, and it can seem really crowded and chaotic at times (especially in the official merchandise area), but it is worth spend the time checking out.  I ended up buying a half-zip, a towel, a magnet, a hoodie, a t-shirt…..maybe a few other small things that I don’t remember…but yeah…budget blown.  Melissa and Paul had met Bart Yasso before heading into the expo, and she snagged his last new book.  I went to say hi to Bart, as I’ve seen him and talked with him at numerous race expos, and he introduced me to the male marathon winner (who was also running the half this year…and would win it), Tyler.  Tyler also ran Chicago…small world.  After a chat, I went to see how the Nolan’s were doing with their shopping and found them as overwhelmed with the merchandise as I was.  But…we eventually wrapped things up and got ready to head out for the rest of the day.

Sightseeing was the plan and we hit up the Spouting Horn, Glass Beach, The Westernmost Bookstore in the United States (Talk Story Bookstore) in Hanapepe, where we also got to enjoy rainbows and a street fair, walked across the Hanapepe Swinging Bridge, and then hit up Verde (one of my favorite spots) for tacos for dinner!

We went to bed knowing we’d have to be up early enough if we were going to take part in Bart Yasso’s shake-out run that morning.  We were running a little late when we got there, but they had to check on the path (as there had been flooding because…hurricanes).  It was a path of treachery.  Lots of holes and puddles and ditches, but it was straight out and back, about a 5K.  I took it easy because…I wanted to see what I could do on the course the next day.  I was complimented, however, on my stride.  And that has NEVER happened.  I was one of the first few people back to the starting point.

Melissa and Paul came in next, and then we cheered Cathy in.  Yes…even Cathy got in on the action during the morning shakeout.  At the shakeout I got to talk to a lot of people, and everyone was SO nice.  I chatted races with a guy named Seth (we’re now friends on Strava).  I FINALLY got to meet the Marathon Goddess, Julie Weiss, who I have followed on social media for ages, like back when she was doing her 52 marathons in 52 weeks.  She is just as inspiring and sweet in person as she is on her social media.  I can say that for certain.  After a few group pictures, we went back to shower/change and then head out for the day to do more exploring.  And we just ended up winging it.  Breakfast for Cathy and I was a cookie that we split at Ha Coffee House.  My coffee was (my favorite for life) the Bee Sting.  And then…we went on an impromptu hike.

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Me at the top of Ho’opi’i Falls on Kapa’a Stream

If you know me…you know I’m not a fan of being outdoors.  Which is weird, because I am a long distance runner.  But the rest of my party were set on doing it, even though the trail was REALLY muddy and…quite not fun to navigate at times.  I won’t lie…I was nervous about slipping and falling.  I was nervous about twisting an ankle…or breaking a bone.  The endgame…a waterfall.  We meant to reach the bottom of it…but instead, we took the path less traveled and got to the top.  And for all the bitching and complaining I did about the hike (I mean…it was the day before the race)…it was AMAZING reaching that waterfall we set out to see.  And being on the top of it was so much better than the bottom.  This particular waterfall was used in the filming of Jurassic Park.  Hence…why it was on our radar.  The hike back felt less dangerous and slippery.  Melissa did slip up at one point, but she caught herself.  And we emerged, with VERY muddy shoes and a few bug bites.  But I burst out going, “I’m FREE!”  That being said, I wouldn’t change that experience for anything.  Even if I’m a princess who doesn’t really enjoy hikes in the woods.

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My signature dish for the night before the race: Toasted Purple Sweet Potatoes, Caramelized Onion, Avocado, Sriracha Mayo

I was cooking that night for our pre-race dinner.  I don’t like to chance things if I don’t have to.  So, I cooked up the purple sweet potatoes we bought at Costco, topping them with caramelized onions, avocado, and a drizzle of Sriracha Mayo.  It was amazing.  I’ve never had much luck with sweet potatoes pre-race, but figured this race wasn’t about time, it was about executing my strategy…so I went with it.  And I know some people swear by sweet potatoes for fuel…but they just don’t work on me.  But…everyone really enjoyed the dinner…and that was what counted.  Time to sleep.  For the following day…we raced.

Morning definitely came too soon.  I got up early to do my stretches, eat something, take my vitamins, slather on a good layer of sunscreen, get my hair put up and my part spritzed with sunscreen, and get dressed.  Cathy wanted to be out the door early…as the race starts at 6 am.  Like…before the sun can get too high in the sky.  We were a little late on the time, but we all got out the door with pre-workout, fuel, pre-race eats, and all our water bottles.  We piled into the car, and Cathy drove part of the course before the road closed to get a good spot to park for the start of the race.  We headed toward the little area where the runners would gather to use the bathrooms, stretch, warm-up, eat some fruit, hydrate.  Melissa needed to use the bathroom (because…she was coming up on 5 months pregnant here…which she hadn’t really mentioned to the world yet…but it’s out now, so I can write about it)…and the lines were long.  She had a pregnancy meltdown, but went to see if she could find a place to use the bathroom.  She had talked about not doing the race…but I wasn’t about to let her come this far and at least not give it a shot.  Apparently, a Starbucks let her in to use the bathroom.  So that was awesome.  The runners had already been marched down to the start line, and that was drawing close.  I left Cathy and Paul to wait for Melissa to head that way and get a good starting spot.  Not up front, but close enough to feel good about my pace when the race spaced out a bit.

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Cathy’s sign at the Kauai Marathon & Half Marathon!

The blessing was sung by the natives and the National Anthem was being sung when I spotted Melissa’s top knot of her hair.  I waived them in and they ducked in to stand next to me in the corral.  We were sent off to conch shells being blown (my favorite start line, hands down!).  And just before I took off, the three of us took a selfie.  It’s on their phone and we haven’t put up our shared Google Drive yet…so I can’t show it to you.  Then Melissa gave me a hug and told me to run fast.  I told them to have a good race and headed off, waving to Cathy holding her “Run The Fences Are Down” sign with the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park on it.  She made the official video.  I’ll link it here.

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Me at the start of the Kauai Half Marathon

And so…it was time to put my plan into action.  I know that the first seven miles of this race are a steady uphill.  So, my plan was to settle in for those, and push just hard enough to keep it comfortable and challenging.  I admit, my first mile was faster than I would have liked, but I was in the crowd and seeking space.  But I eased back on the accelerator as I entered into the second mile.  And as the climb (it’s gradual until Mile 5) continued, I eased back a bit more.  I ran with a local who was doing the full, in bare feet.  He looked over and asked if I was doing the half or full.  I told him the half.  He said I had a good pace.  I told him I was impressed he was doing the race in bare feet.  He replied with a native, “Mahalo.”

At Mile 4…I spotted the rainbow.  YES!  Another rainbow during my Kauai race.  I even said, “Look! A rainbow!” to those running near me.  But they ignored me and just kept plugging away.  I passed some runners who were already struggling in the humidity/heat, but I knew…this is where you kept it simple and easy.  Don’t race here. Race at the end.

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Rainbow at the finish line of the Kauai Marathon & Half Marathon

At Mile 5, you start the climb into the Tunnel of Trees.  Mile 6 is about halfway through.  This is my favorite part of the race, because it is absolutely STUNNING.  The views are incredible.  You’re shaded by the trees.  And it’s just…amazing.  It’s amazing.  I fueled at the halfway mark with my Honey Stinger gel, and drank down some water, which I had been doing consistently, because I know how humid and hot this race is, so I figured I’d start that hydration train rolling early.  As I passed Mile 7…I knew it was time to hit the gas.

This is probably the only time you will see negative splits on any of my races.  I usually go out too fast and then sort of dye at the end (fly and die).  But this time, I conserved my speed for the final back half…which was more of a gradual downhill toward the beach where the finish line was.  I ticked off the miles, running strong and picking up the pace where I could.  The heat was starting to get to me around Mile 10, just before we stopped sharing the course with the marathoners.  They would turn to the right and take on those mountains (been there, done that).  I turned left and knew I could push it still, even though now the runners would be out in full sun to the finish.  It’s fine.  knew I could do this.

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Me receiving my medal at the Kauai Half Marathon finish line

We ran down neighborhood streets, where the locals were out to cheer us on.  There was a guy with a big, white Santa beard, and someone behind me said, “HEY SANTA!”  It made me laugh, not going to lie.  Miles 11 and 12 felt hard because they were sunny, but I knew when I passed Living Foods Market, I knew I was close.  I took the opportunity to see what I had left in the tank, and managed to pull out the energy to pick it up and cross the finish line strong.  I felt amazing.  And, at that time, that was my perfect race pace for my upcoming marathon for the goal I was hoping to hit (although, with the sudden break in my training plan due to parting ways with my coach and striking out on my own, I wasn’t holding my breath). I got my medal hung around my neck and Ron Wiley from Kong Radio announced my name as I crossed.  There was no “Brady Bunch” attached to it this time around.  HA!

I was quite happy with my time, given how challenging this course was.  I slipped into a sun shirt after snapping a few photos with my medal and went to check out if there was anything I could necessarily eat at that point.  There was fruit…and coffee.  So that happened.  Cathy set a towel down on the ground and we sat down to wait for the rest of our party.  There really isn’t a way to live track them, so we just had to guesstimate their placement.  They checked in at one point, so we had an idea of their finish time.

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Paul, Melissa and the person they picked up on the run, crossing the finish line at the Kauai Half Marathon.

We did eventually move to the finish line, where we got to see the first female finisher for the marathon come in.  No tape.  But her name was announced.  And she looked fantastic for having taken on that course.  Cathy wandered off to go to the turn before you have the straightaway to the finish line, and would text me when they were coming in.  When the text came, I readied my camera…and Paul and Melissa crossed the finish line…with a friend they made along the way.  It was her first half marathon and her friends had left her…so they brought her along on their run.  They looked like they were having a blast.  And, as I told her at the finish, that was the first time I had seen Melissa happy at the end of  a race.

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YAAAAAAAAAAS!!

We had some photo moments at the finish line, and I even sent Melissa back to inquire about getting a medal for the baby.  They weren’t sure they’d have enough, so I ended up contacting the race via e-mail and we were able to go in and pick one up the day after.  They ended up having extras.  So…YAY!!  I was so proud of her, because she had been doubting herself all evening and morning leading into the race, but I knew if she started, she would finish.  And, she has a built-in cheerleader and running partner with Paul there, so she wouldn’t be alone.  All I told her was that she had to make that halfway point and she could walk it in if she had to at that point.  She did great.  And she didn’t have to walk it in.

We showed them to our little spot in the shade where they could take off their shoes, relax, and get some refreshments.  The volunteers remembered Melissa as “the pregnant lady” from the expo, which was super amazing!!  They helped gather up some of the snacks and we all went back to have a sit and just take in some of the finishers still coming in.  We rested and relaxed and talked and took pictures, but the race was winding down and we had to still make the walk to wherever Cathy parked the car.  She knew.  We didn’t.  We had been running when she transported herself to that finish line from the start.  So, we gathered everything up…and started walking…but not before taking some photos near the finish line.

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Paul, Melissa & Me at the finish line of the Kauai Marathon & Half Marathon

So, my official results of the Kauai Half Marathon are that I finished in 1:46:27.  That’s amazing to me!  For real!  Is it my fasted half marathon time this year?  Nope.  Sadly, I think that belongs to Dopey.  HA!!  How does this happen to me?  I race before a race before a race, and still pull off a fast time.  But this is a tough, tough course, and to say I did it in less than half the time it took me to struggle through the full…total win! I was 63/1561 finishers overall! That’s top 100!! I was the 15/992 women to cross the finish line. And I was 5/143 people in the my age division! I seem to be clinging to this 5th place benchmark these days.  I am not satisfied with it.  LOL!

Oh…and we ran into Bart Yasso again too.  He asked me how I did, and I told him I was the 15th female overall.  And he was totally happy for me and so genuine, as he always is.  This is one of many reasons why I refer to him as my “Running BFF.”  From there, we went back to the resort to shower and change…and we headed out to the Kauai Coffee Plantation that day…and it was the perfect ending to a race day.  That and the pho we ate later that night at a random establishment we found in a strip mall.  But I might save that for another post.

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Me and Bart Yasso after the Kauai Half Marathon!

Quality Over Quantity

44425106_10100467243748681_8763605971185434624_oTwo weeks ago…I ran a marathon.

I haven’t blogged on it yet…but it’s coming. I just need more time in my days to get my thoughts down.

Two weeks ago.  And I have been taking my time returning to my training.

I’m not forcing myself to go out there for double-digit runs at the moment.  I’m not forcing speed work on myself.  I’m running by feel, fewer days a week than normal, not worrying over how long I’m out there or how far I go.

I’m recovering.

So many of my friends are shining in races.  Some of them also had hard efforts in marathons.  But, to me, it’s not about how many races I do…it’s about being able to do the number of races I register for…comfortably, without pain, without injury, without burnout…

I don’t wear race volume around my neck as a bragging right.  I don’t care how many races I have run or of what distance each one was.  Every finish is a victory.  Every race is a victory lap for the training I put into it.  And part of training…is taking the necessary time off to get my body strong, rested, and prepped for the next training cycle.  I’ve done the whole rush into the next thing route before…and we all know how that turned out for me.  So many people overlook the downtime and recovery…and I used to be one of them.

NOT. ANYMORE.

It’s so hard, these days, to keep this in perspective.  Social media has a funny way of making you feel inadequate.  Someone is always running more, running faster, running further, hitting goals you’ve dreamed of but have fallen short of for months/years.  But, in the end, we can only do what is best for ourselves.  No one else.

This past weekend, I was in Columbus, Ohio, visiting my friend Jenn and seeing Phil Collins in concert on Friday night.  I had some late nights…I slept in each morning.  And…I put in some miles each morning.  One was mild and windy, the other was frigid and also windy (but less windy, I guess).  I never once looked at my Garmin to check my pace.  I just counted each mile beep until I hit the miles in my made-up plan.

Each run was solid and strong and amazing.  I mean, I was having fun, even when the headwind felt like it was pushing me back.  I got inspired when I hit up the Columbus Marathon expo, purchasing more things than I should of from the booth, and stopping by Noxgear to say HI to the people there…and get my hands on their new product, which hasn’t launched to the public yet.  Watch my social media for more on that.

I ate well.  I stretched.  I foam rolled.  All the self-care stuff that comes with recovering from a hard effort.

So while others are stocking up on medals and miles, I’m cheering them on, but not rushing to join them.  I never want to be out for as long as I was in the past.  And with these solid recovery runs coming so easy…I’m proud to say, I think this time, I’m doing it right.

The number of races I do is nothing compared to the number of races I will continue to do, simply by respecting this body.

Being a runner isn’t about the number of races I finish.  I know plenty of real runners who aren’t even interested in racing.  I love racing.  It’s fun.  But I don’t care if I’ve run 1 or 100 races…as long as I’m still enjoying it and listening to my body so I can continue to do it.

You do you!