At the beginning of my training season, after Dopey in January and after I got over the flu, my coach asked me, specifically, for some goals this year. I laid out two. And one of them was to PR my half marathon distance, specifically at the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon.
It was in writing. And I was actually starting to finally have a good training cycle, when, one morning, as you read in a previous post (and I swear I will blog about the saga…maybe…perhaps), I fell hard on a training run early one morning. It was a long run I was doing to beat the rain and storms that were supposedly coming. And…it took me out of any sort of strong training for the entire time leading into the KDF miniMarathon. I kept telling myself that this would actually work out for me in the end. My body would recover…and I’d be well-rested coming into this race, despite having a half marathon the week before.
Mind you…I took it very easy on KDF. I barely broke an 8 minute mile when all was said and done. So, my legs felt good and my foot was finally feeling good…but I haven’t been feeling strong or fast as of late. Keep in mind, the races I have been doing, I haven’t been doing at pace. This was supposed to be what makes me able to do this for goal/key races. So, I assured myself that the missed runs wouldn’t matter. I was ready. I could do this.
Friday morning came and I went out for an easy shake-out run for 30 minutes. Showered. Then began to prep breakfast for that morning. Melissa and Paul were coming over (we were all driving up together) and I was going to make us a hearty breakfast to get us through the Panel of Olympians (I won two tickets to it and Melissa and I were going to attend) that morning, the race expo itself, and whatever else we ended up doing afterwards until dinner time. The menu: Avocado Toast and Hash Browns. I used Simple Kneads Gluten Free Quinoa Power Grains Bread, smashed ripe avocado on each slice, topped it with some Trader Joe’s Everything But The Bagel Seasoning, then capped each slice with a sunny-side up egg. Served with some Ore Ida Hash Browns (with onions and peppers). It was perfect. We ate. We drank coffee. We eagerly discussed the events that day. And then…we were literally off to the races.
We talked…the entire time heading to the hotel. We were staying at the JW Marriott (I’m a princess…sorry, not sorry!) and we were going to check in and take things up to the room before heading over to Indiana Convention Center (we could do this via walkway, but why not enjoy the wind that day?) for the Champions Panel that started at 11 am (but they wanted ticket holders in by 10:45 am).
We pulled up to the hotel and while everyone else was unloading the car, I was sent inside to check into the room. And this friends…is where the tale truly begins. Because, upon entering the hotel, all wind-blown and looking like a hot mess…I notice someone in a race jacket holding a cup of coffee near one of the pillars at the front of the lobby. And my brain went…
This is where I lost all motor functions for a moment. I smiled at him and walked toward the line for the front desk check-in. I pulled out my cell phone to text my group, but I couldn’t get my fingers to hit the right numbers on my unlock screen. I did finally get there. I typed a simple message, “HOLY SHIT! MEB!” And I sent it. And just as it sent, Cathy came strolling in. At this point, Meb went to go talk to a group of runners in the lobby and I started pointing at him (his back was to me). She glanced over, did a shrug, then did a double take. It was awesome.
She told me to go ask if I could get a selfie with him. I’m not shy. So I did. I’m surprised I could now find words. I’m honestly not the type to get star-struck like that…but Meb is a one of my running heroes and I was..honored to be in a hotel lobby with him. Also, no one informed me that I looked all a mess from strong winds and car ride. But…hey…at least he looks good in the photos. I took a selfie and then someone took a picture for me. Both of which I look like a star-struck fool with really, really bad hair.
Hey…you never know when you’ll met your heroes.
He was so very gracious and generous and never once made me feel like I was inconveniencing him. And that’s one of the many things I love about Meb. After the photos in the lobby, Cathy and Paul sent Melissa and I on our way to get to the Champions Panel while they took stuff up to the room. Paul was on a business call at this point anyway. So…we braced ourselves for the windy walk to the Indianapolis Convention Center (we could have walked it inside, honestly) and went to get in line for the panel.
We were seated in the second row when doors opened. And as they brought in the Champions for the Champions Panel…they also introduced the woman who was conducting the panel, Indianapolis’ very own Lindsey Hein, the host of the “I’ll Have Another” podcast…which I am a total fan and listen to every week. So, I fangirled a little there and hoped to snag a picture with Lindsey afterwards…but we were escorted out of the room quickly and I never got to ask. Dang it. NEXT TIME!!
The Champion’s Panel was amazing. It started off with having us introduced to the Elite Ambassador and Special Olympics athlete, Andrew Peterson. His story and the way he told it was inspiring and tear inducing. Seriously. What an inspiration. From being told he could never do things…to being the second Special Olympian to qualify for the Boston Marathon…he is nothing but inspiring. What a way to kick off the panel. Then…they brought up the rest of them:
Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, Alexi Pappas, and Meb Keflezighi!
The stories all of these athletes could tell about mental fitness, experiences in running, etc. I now have a major girl crush on Alexi for one thing. She’s a doll. Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers had tales to tell about the running community and running game back when they were at the top of the game. And Meb had lots of uplifting and insightful things to say. Alexi is training with Deana Kastor for her first marathon. And I’m currently reading Deana Kastor’s book. Full circle. Just…love. This was the way to kick off the weekend for sure. It was the day before Meb’s birthday, so we all sang Happy Birthday to him. So that was amazing.
After the panel dismissed the audience, Melissa and I met up with Cathy and Paul, who had already gone shopping through the expo area. So…now it was our turn. We went to pick up our bibs and race packets first before setting out to see all of the expo area and try not to spend too much money. HA!
Actually, because Newton wasn’t there (I really want to try on the Distance VII), I came out of it on the plus side. Cathy bought me my mandatory Bondi Band’s (this has to happen at every race or bad stuff happens!) and I was told I wasn’t allowed to buy any Finisher’s gear (which means, she got me something). And with those being the only restrictions, I just set out to see what was there. This is a great expo. Lots of samples of products, lots of vendors…all very relevant. Area races were present and promoting. And, while we paused for bathroom breaks, that was when Corey Queen found us!
He actually started sneaking up on me and got pretty damn close before I saw him and gave him a hug. He’s a ninja, that one. The five of us stood around and talked for a good while. We discussed races and being ambassadors and weather and just life in general. Seriously, if this weekend proved anything…it’s that the five of us could stand around and talk and not get bored with it. HA!
When we all finally decided we needed to finish seeing the expo and make Meb’s autograph session before heading to our dinner reservations. We did traverse the rest of the expo, killing time before standing around near the area the line would be forming for Meb. Currently Bill Rodgers was at the autograph table. So, we hung out until the volunteers at the expo came and put up some partitions and had us maneuver inside to wait for Meb.
Melissa asked me if Bill Rodgers book was worth buying, and I told her definitely. So she asked if she could get into the back of his line for an autograph. We had thought of doing this earlier, but Cathy had overheard one of the handlers say that he was just signing books…but the man ahead of Melissa had his Boston Marathon shirt so she looked at me and said, “Do you want Bill Rodgers to sign your medal too? He’s a four time Boston Marathon champion.” I took my medal from her and went to stand with Melissa. This worked out because it meant I could take photos with her and Bill and she could return the favor for me. Bill was awesome. He recommended to Melissa that she run Chicago Marathon and she told him she was this year. And he wouldn’t let up on how amazing the crowd support is there and how amazing the race is (everything I have touted all along) and as I was taking their picture, he apparently kept whispering “Chicago. Chicago. Chicago.” in her ear. HA! My turn. I brought him my medal and I told him my Boston story. When I told him about my hip labrum tear, he said, “That’s a bad injury. Did you have to have surgery?” I told him no. He said, “Lots of physical therapy.” I nodded. “So much physical therapy!” He signed my medal and graciously took a photo with me and wished me luck in Chicago this year too. Melissa and I went to duck back into our spots at Meb’s line.
Meb arrived and we were seriously near the front of the line. Meb took his time with people, signing an item for each person. We sent Paul and Melissa up to him first and it was so amazing to see just the sheer joy in Melissa’s face as she got to talk to Meb and tell him how much he inspired her to run her first race. He was the best and gave her encouraging words and was so uplifting. He signed a photo for her and a quote for Paul, and they took pictures with him. Then…it was my turn.
I knew telling my story to Meb was going to be emotional to me. So, thankfully I had Cathy on hand to tell him about my path to the Boston Marathon and the injury that I wouldn’t let take me out of it. She also mentioned the hip labrum tear, and his eyes got wide and he said, “That is a BAAAAAAAAAAAAAD injury.” He’s not wrong. It was (and still his and will hopefully forever be…the worst injury I have ever endured). I laid out my medal and asked him to sign it for me. He said, “This is the first one I have seen of these today!” One of the professional photographers took photos as he signed it. And then we did the stand and smile photo ops. Honestly, everything you have heard about Meb is true. He’s very humble and very human and very generous. And uplifting. Man, I walked away from that table feeling like I had just met a rockstar. I had. I mean…for real.
We needed to drop off our race expo stuff, so we took the walkways back to the hotel. We dropped things off in the room (Melissa and I hadn’t been here yet) and then set back out to go to the Hard Rock Cafe and then make our way to dinner at Harry & Izzy’s in downtown Indianapolis.
Originally, I thought Cathy and I were going to split one of the gluten-free pizzas. BUT…she started eyeing other things on the menu. Pizza has been a good food for me the night before the race, but as I knew I couldn’t eat the entire thing by myself and it would be a waste of money to just eat half of it (I wouldn’t have gotten back to it after the race or anything), I went a very different direction. I ended up ordering the Oven Roasted Beet Salad (hey…beets are supposedly good for athletic performance), which consisted of artisan greens, local goat cheese (I asked them to go light on the cheese), candied walnuts, and had a tarragon vinaigrette. And then I placed an order for the gluten free fries on the side. It was super yummy and I devoured it all. I mean…you need to be fueled for the race, right?
Afterwards, we walked to the candy store, just for some fun, and then headed back to the hotel to charge Garmin’s, shower, lay out race day stuff, and finally, get some rest. I had Melissa help me pick between the two outfits I brought, a tank and shorts or a crop and a running skirt. As the tank and skirt were in Boston colors and my Boston Marathon medal was now autographed by Bill Rodgers and Meb Keflezighi, it seemed like a good omen.
We set alarms for 6 am. And race morning dawned and alarms went off. We went with the bathroom circuit that we’ve established since the NYC Half Marathon. I grabbed my stuff and went to change into my shorts and tank before coming out and allowing the next people to work their way through. I always use the bathroom one last time before leaving the hotel. I realized I didn’t eat anything leading up to this…or take in some water. So…that was that working against me. I did have a banana, which I ate as we made our way to the lobby, as we were 30 minutes out from the start of the race. I know better than to JUST eat a banana before a distance race. A shorter race it would be fine…but not for a half or full marathon.
We got outside and gave hugs to Melissa and Paul. My corral was in Wave 1, which was going off at 7:33 am. So, Cathy went to cut across to the other side, and didn’t think that there was openings to the corals on that side (there was), so we hugged and she told me to have a good race. And….I went to get into Corral B. I had to pause though, as the National Anthem was starting, so I did that before heading up to the actual corral entrance and ducking inside. I didn’t move too far up, but I got out of the crowd there at the back. In fact, I wasn’t far from a guy in a penguin suit. No joke. I also noticed a lot of other Corral’s in my corral. Like a woman who should have been in Corral L. Okay…
I felt nervous energy as the light breeze kept the start line cool. The humidity was higher that day than what I was used to running in and the start line was a gorgeous 54 degrees…but it was going to hit the 60s fast that morning. When Wave 1 was sent off after the wheelchair start, I headed over the start line, waved to Cathy and took on the streets, telling myself that it was going to be a good day. And for the first mile I felt strong. And was definitely on pace to hit my PR. But that didn’t last long. My endurance is shit these days and immediately, I dropped off that pace and that was the story of my race. A steady decline and a huge missed opportunity.
Mile 1 was clipped off at a fast 7:10 minute mile. But they got slower soon after that. Mile 2 through 4 were steady and still in a good range of where I could be to finish ahead of my goal. Or so I thought. I never once looked at my watch or the clocks on the course. I didn’t want to fuss over time on this race. I felt strong heading up W Michigan and really thought I was pacing myself well. But as I turned onto Main Street just around Mile 5, I could hear conversation behind me. Whenever there is conversation, there is a pace team. I had no idea which one, until they started pacing me for a brief moment. It was the 1:40 pacer. I was way behind my goal and I could feel my energy really fading fast.
“It’s not meant to happen today,” I said to myself, and then just set my next focus on finishing a strong race. The 1:40 pacer faded and I decided I would at least try to stay ahead of the 1:50 this time.
Heading into the track, the lugs on the bottom of my Newtons picked up a stone, so just after Mile 6, I pulled over to dig it out. It apparently fell out on its own just as I slowed. So, I jumped back into the race. The race track has always been the thing that slows me down. And it was no exception this year. I kept telling myself to relax, but the humidity had gotten the best of me and at this point, I was no longer sweating. You know what that means? I was now overheating. I also fuel on half marathons during the time I’m inside the track, where we weren’t allowed to take any sort of gel at the time. So…I waited it out and made my lap of the track. I could feel my legs slowing down, and at times just feeling tingly. Definitely not having a good race. I didn’t let it dishearten me too much, and I did pick it up for the part where I ran across the brickyard. Flashing devil horns, as always. Coming out of the track, I usually am able to pick it up, but my body just had nothing left. I started making stops at the water stations to pour water over my head. I took my Hammer Gel, but it was too late at this point. I was now just focusing on counting down the miles to the finish line. My training plan said to try to finish ahead of 1:44…it was going to be close.
At Mile 12, I did glance at the course clock. It was where I should have been heading to the finish. But this mile does bring in crowds and cheers and the road lined with checkered flags, so my staggering pace started to slightly (not by much) pick up. I ignored the people handing out the leis and just kept pressing on. In order to finish, I just needed to focus on getting my legs to move. I forgot how awful crossing that last bridge felt, but kept going…feeling like I was moving through mud. As I was in the last quarter mile, I noticed medics near the curb and a young woman laying on the ground. They were radioing for an ambulance. I made the final push, seeing the finish line and could see Cathy with the sign near it. And I powered through, crossing at 1:44 and change. I missed the goal by seconds that I was supposed to aim for in my training plan. But I was just glad to be done. Meb was supposed to leave after finishing to head to Texas for his brother’s wedding, but he was at the finish line for as long as he could be, and he happened to still be there after I crossed. He gave me a fist bump, and it made me at least smile at a moment when I didn’t really feel like smiling.
I made my way through the finisher’s area, getting my medal and my bag that then had snacks from bananas and fruit to Clif Bars tossed into it. I got my photo taken at the backdrop and then headed into the Runner Reunion area where the after party was happening.
Normally, this is where Cathy would meet me at the letter X and we would take photos and head back to the hotel so I could shower and all that. But she wasn’t there. I had looked for her as I was coming into the area, but never spotted her or the sign. So, for the next 30-40 minutes, I was wandering around trying to find her, always returning to X, just in case she showed up there. I was really upset about my race and now this was upsetting me more…but I finally spotted her near the entrance to the runner reunion and came up behind her. She gave me a hug and my official finishing time – 1:44:14. I just decided to harp on her about not being at X and she admitted that she “got cocky” and tried to catch me before that point.
We went to take a photo before heading back to the hotel. I needed to drink water, but I wasn’t ready to. My stomach wasn’t loving anything at this point. The lobby of the JW Marriott had employees handing out water bottles (bless them) and cold towels. It was just what I needed. I went up to my room and Cathy went to pack up some stuff and make my BCAAs up while I showered and changed. We were going to check out, leave our luggage, and head down to wait for Corey, Melissa and Paul.
When our friends finished, we gathered together under a shady tree and just…voiced our thoughts that day. Being that none of us have really had humid or warm days to run in up to this point, we were all glad to have finished and sweat it out. I know Melissa and I were not happy with our times, and our coach, Linda, called to talk to us about the race. I don’t know what she said to Melissa, but Linda said she was looking at my splits and I just looked like I got tired.
Told you…endurance is shit right now. MEH! I told her I felt good up until Mile 5 and then it just spiraled from there. I was frustrated and disappointed, but she was very uplifting and positive about it. Did it make me feel better about it? Not really. But the positive affirmations did so much for my mental state at that point.
After Cathy, Corey and Paul shared a beer and a half (they were apparently VERY stingy with the free beers offered at the after party), and we passed the lemon blossoms I baked around…we decided to make our way back to the hotel. I needed to actually start the recovery process with some nutrition and Paul and Melissa needed to change before we spent the rest of the day in and around Indianapolis. This was where we found out that the guy who came to take our luggage gave us the wrong tag. And this is where we all freaked out because my backpack had my Boston Marathon medal in it and Melissa’s wedding rings were in her bag. But, Cathy went back to find the correct cart and we did have our stuff. We went separate directions to let them go to the Fitness Center to change and us to get some coffee. Nutrition after a race is important to recovery and coming back strong. Sometimes I don’t want to eat anything, but I always make sure I do.
I drank my protein shake and, while it wasn’t what I wanted, it would do for now until we would get dinner. Melissa got a coffee and Paul got himself coffee and a sandwich of sorts from Starbucks. We decided to head out…headed to Greenwood for Half Price Books, Strange Brew Coffee…and finally…dinner at Hops & Fire. After that…the long drive home…where we once again talked the entire way.
So, the official results of the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon is that I finished in 1:44:14. It was definitely NOT the results I set out for or wanted. But you never know what will happen on race day. So, you learn from it. I was 1304/19,588 finishers overall. I was 224/10,403 female finishers. And I was 50/1438 finishers in my division! I am trying really hard to not let these results bother me. But I would be sugar-coating it to say that I was okay with this. I set out for a PR…and I didn’t come close. And yeah…I’m disappointed. But this just drives me to step up and try again. I’ve been chasing PRs for years now. Eventually one of them is bound to fall. Disappointed…yes. Deterred…never.
I don’t even know where to start with this one. And that’s rare for me, because finding words has never been a problem.
Normally, the Papa John’s 10 Miler would be considered my top and favorite race that Louisville has…every year…hands down. But this year…it just wasn’t what I remember it being.
And that’s sad.
First of all…yes…I am very aware that my time is 7 minutes slower than my 2016 time (I didn’t run it last year because my hip flexor had flared back up and I wasn’t allowed to run double digits yet…) This was by design…as this is a training run and not to be treated as a race for my training purposes. Is this hard for me to come to terms with. Yep. Not going to lie. My brain has a hard time wrapping around this style of training more often than not.
Second of all…going into this, the weather was predicted to be…unpredictable. At first, it was we were in a Winter Storm Watch…5-6 inches of snow. Then it was 1 inch of snow…alert lifted. Then the alert came back…and, honestly, I am just so DONE with this winter weather. It’s spring. It’s April. Winter needs to move along. Needless to say, a very small part of me (or maybe not so small) was sort of hoping that the weather would happen and the race would cancel, because, honestly, I wasn’t feeling it.
Thirdly…what the hell happened with the shirts this year? Usually the Papa John’s 10 Miler has really nice shirts…great colors (usually red and black), great logo…all the things. This year, the shirt was bright neon green with this year’s logo in solid black on the front. I hated it. AND…they ran out of female smalls. Never mind that I’ve been registered for awhile and specifically noted the shirt size I wanted was a women’s small. NOPE. In fact, my running coach signed up last minute for it and went to the expo early and the women’s smalls were GONE. So, now I have an ill-fitting race shirt that makes me feel like Slimer from the Ghostbusters with pizza on hand for a snack. I can’t even begin to tell you how much the shirt let me down this year. There was no thought put into them. And that just…sucks!
The rest will be mentioned as this race report goes on. My friend Melissa was a doll and went to pick up my race bib and shirt and deliver it to me, since she was already over in Louisville that day. She had Cathy tape her Achilles while there. After she left, I finished baking up some Lemon Blossoms, did the rest of my stretches, and hauled myself to bed, because rest is ultimately the most important thing going into race morning, even on mornings where you aren’t giving it your all.
I woke up the next morning around 5 am to fit in my stretches and figure out what I, ultimately, wanted to wear to the race. I glanced out my bedroom window and everything looked very underwhelming as far as the weather went. There was some snow in the air, and the grass was white…but the sidewalks and pavement just looked wet. Not icy. Not slippery.
This, obviously, boded well for the race director as the race was definitely a go. But I just wasn’t feeling it. I did my push-ups and my stretches prior to eating something small for breakfast while home. I went to get dressed, opting for layers this time around. I wore some fleece-lined running tights to keep my legs warm (and we all know that I already hate wearing pants when running). I put on a base layer top, followed by one of my warmer running tops (lined) and then my Saucony reflective vest to help with the gusting winds that morning. I originally had on some warm running socks and compression sleeves, but ultimately changed into a pair of my ProCompression socks to keep my ankles warm. I was so unenthusiastic about the race and the weather that I opted to not put my hair in pigtails…and braided it again. my Run The Bluegrass Ponya Band went on over my ears and my Dunkin’ Donuts hat I got at the start of the 2014 NYC Marathon went on to keep my head warm. Despite knowing I wouldn’t need them, my sunglasses were put on atop my head (I feel better when I have them). And that was that. I was as ready as I was going to be for the race.
Cathy had brought the sign with her to the car, but the wet rain was still happening, and that, sadly, would ruin the marker on the poster board. So the sign stayed in the car. We got down to the stadium and parked. Linda and Suzane were parked just a few cars up so I headed over that way…waved at the stranger (I hadn’t met Suzane yet) in the driver’s seat and greeted Linda when the door opened. The plan today was to run at a 9 min/mile (technically it was supposed to be slower). At this point, the wet snow was coming down hard and we were all still trying to figure out what we wanted to keep on for the race or shed. Ultimately, the three of us all decided to keep all our layers.
It was already close to the start time of the race, so we made our way up and over the bridge and toward Third Street. Along the way, Manivannan caught up to us and joined us in the trek. Linda and Suzane decided to take advantage of the plentiful and large line of port-a-potties near the start. The lines moved quickly and that is a good thing. Despite some killer hydration on my part…I was fine and didn’t need to worry about it. Probably good too, because there was, apparently, no toilet paper in the port-a-potties at the start line. Ummm…that’s sort of important. Just sayin’.
After a photo near the port-a-potties, we decided to head into the crowd of runners and find a good spot where to start. We inched our way forward…and then forward some more…because we saw a lot of the green WALKER stickers and wanted to at least get in front of that. Despite running this at an easier pace than usual for me…we at least wanted a good point from which to start.
And after the wheelchair racers were sent off…the start of the Papa John’s snowy 10 Miler…was off and running. I started my watch as we crossed over the mats and waved at Cathy, who looked miserable, standing on the sideline. And fell into an easy pace, dodging some people here and there just to find the space I needed to stretch out.
Apparently before she went to head to the finish and the (hopeful) shelter of Papa John’s Stadium, Cathy stumbled upon Paul and Melissa at the start. This is always exciting…especially since we were hanging out later that night for Wino & Dino (wine & dine, but with vegan foods, wine, and Jurassic Park). Melissa passed her NYC Half Marathon Mylar to Cathy to hold for her while they headed out. Talk about really good timing. Now she can use this one another day! Cathy tucked it into her backpack to make the trek to the stadium.
Once we found some open space, it was time to focus on the miles ahead. Linda’s watch was still set wrong for racing, so, just like in Run The Bluegrass, our run was serenaded by the constant chiming of her watch telling her that her pace was wrong. Not being able to change it…it was just how it was going to be. Good thing I tune things out and after awhile stopped hearing it.
We hit the first mile marker a full 0.1 miles ahead of my Garmin watch. I checked with Linda…she had the same. Hmm…this isn’t a new course…so it should be measured properly, in my opinion. We kept on, hoping that it would right itself as we got further into the race. Suzane wanted to shed her vest with a friend at the water stop after Mile 2…but it turns out he was, in fact, standing at Mile 2, which wasn’t Mile 2…because it was 0.25 miles off where it was supposed to be. Um…that’s a problem!! Having missed that opportunity Linda and Suzane decided to make use of the water stop just after the mile marker. They thanked the volunteers and hydrated before we stopped walking and went back to running.
Linda says I need to be kept on a retractable leash. HA!! We were definitely over the pace we were supposed to/trying to keep on this race. But, in the end, she’d thank both me and Suzan for it. We made the turn onto New Cut Road from Southern Parkway, and Suzan ran over to the First Aid tent to drop off her vest so she could pick it up on our way out of the park and wear it back in. We paused while she did this and then continued on. We passed the Mile 3 marker, now 0.3 miles off the actual distance (as in short) and a lot of runners were starting to take notice and complain about this while out on the course. The entrance to the park was different than I recall from 2016 and the other years I ran prior…and we ended up making some weird cut through a parking lot, back down, and then starting into the park. It was weird, I thought…because we always went in that first entrance and started up the hills. Not this time.
But this is where the hills basically get to play with your speed. Mile 4 ticked off, still before where it should have at this point in the race. I stopped looking down to see how much it was off. I was done. I know they have no power over the weather, but the mile markers being off were just as annoying. And I usually LOVE this race. I wasn’t loving any of it.
As we came up the climb at Mile 5, the halfway point, we actually hit the mile marker right on. That was exciting. Perhaps it would all be back on and correct. YAY! It was in here that another water stop was around and Linda and Suzan went to grab bottles and I said I wasn’t stopping…it was a downhill and I needed to fly. They grabbed and came with me, cracking their bottles when things leveled out. Just after Mile 6 we exit back out of the park and run back the way we came, so super flat…but as we were heading into that last hill, a woman asked, “Do you run Iroquios Park often?” I said, “Yeah.” And she said, “Are we almost out?” I nodded. “Just up this hill…down the other side, and out. Then you just have to worry about the hill over the bridge at Mile 9 heading toward the stadium.” She thanked me…and Linda called me back because I had gotten too far ahead.
We came down the hill and exited the park, stopping for probably a minute or slightly longer for Linda to take a salt tablet, drink some water, and for Suzan to grab her vest from the First Aid tent and put it back on. Suzan commented that I had white eyelashes. That’s how heavy and wet the falling snow was. When everything was situated, we headed back out down the road.
Mile markers were off…again. And I wasn’t going to even worry over by how much. It was by a good amount. And I just gave up on looking. While running, in an attempt to keep me slower, I was asked about my job, what I love doing, and all this. And then…at Mile 8 (on her watch)…Linda let me go. I think my watch was now ahead of the mile markers, but at this point, I was just happy to attempt to pick up my pace. The problem is…when I start slow…I don’t seem to be able to find my speed so picking it up isn’t easy. I’m not a finishing kick person and that makes the 2 mile push I was given feel like a slog. I also hate running on wet pavement…so there’s that.
Mile 9 came and eventually I made the turn back onto Central Avenue to climb up and over the bridge. I felt like I took on the bridge quite strong and my legs felt good as I battled up and over and took the downhill in stride. My training plan wanted me to kick it in at a 7:45-ish pace…and I was pushing as much as I could at this point given the weather and circumstances. I hit the turn and the flat road toward the stadium. I made the turn…and this is when I saw the finish line.
Outside. Of. The. Stadium.
I had looked at the race course map…and everything had the race finishing INSIDE the stadium. It has ALWAYS finished INSIDE the stadium. Apparently last year it didn’t, but again, I didn’t run it last year and most of my friends did Run The Bluegrass instead of the 10 Miler. I glanced at my watch and knew that the course was going to be short.
I wasn’t wrong. I crossed the finish line and stopped my Garmin, making a point this time to do it immediately instead of throwing my hands up in elation as I finish like I normally do. I wasn’t feeling happy at this point. I was wet, cold, and the course was wrong. I wasn’t amused at all. My watch showed 9.95 miles…so did Linda’s. And Paul’s had the course at 9.92.
Afterwards, I decided I wanted my full 10 miles (dammit!), so I jogged to the end of the parking lot and hit it. Then I snagged a banana, some mini KIND Bars, and a water. Cathy hadn’t eaten, so she nibbled on my free pizza (since I can’t eat Papa John’s pizza…and why let that go to waste, right). I walked back to where she was with Linda and Suzan and they went to go to get their own pizza and celebrate their finish.
It was cold and miserable and we decided to call it a morning and leave. We had invited them to brunch, but Suzan needed to get back to Frankfort…but I supplied them with some Lemon Blossoms for the ride home. As we were walking back toward the cars, we noted the computers where we could pull up results so we braved a few more moments in the cold to check them out.
Glad we did too…because Linda came in second in her age group! Bet she’s glad that I pushed the pace a little now (even though, ultimately, I wasn’t consciously doing this. I just have a high cadence so my pace is faster without me feeling like I’m pushing my limits).
So…the official results of the 2018 Papa John’s 10 Miler were that I finished in 1:23:33, which I already explained why this was kept slower than I raced it in 2016. I was 391/2890 overall, the 101/1573 females to cross the finish line, and I was 24/242 in my age division. It occurs to me more and more that I’m not big on training in races because, ultimately, I compare past results (if I have run it in the past) and then feel like a failure when everyone I know is hitting new PRs and I wasn’t even able to try for one. It just messes with my delicate runner’s psyche. HA!
Needless to say, this year’s Papa John’s 10 Miler, what I used to tote as my FAVORITE local race…let me down. And I just didn’t love it this year. Weather wasn’t their fault, but the rest just felt like it was disjointed and…honestly…disorganized. And that’s a bit of a letdown.
I don’t know if I’ll come back to it. I need to let it sit for awhile.
Thank God I went to North End Cafe afterwards, was able to change into warm, dry clothes, and drink a lot of nice hot coffee and feel human again. No less angry. But human. I felt a lot better after settling in at Melissa & Paul’s house that night for some wine and food and dinosaurs and exploding kittens. Sometimes the best therapy is friend therapy!
There is something to be said about not coming into a race wanting to smash it. Pressure can be a friend or foe, and with me, more often than not…it’s foe.
There is also something to be said about choosing an almost local half marathon to run…one that you’ve wanted to run for a couple of years but have always been riding the injury train…and spending it with important people in your life. Not fussing over all the minutiae…stressing over goal times…all the stuff that comes with races.
There is something to be said about running the race that is billed as “America’s Prettiest Half Marathon.” Running it, my friends, but really taking it in. Drinking in the gorgeous horse farms, and the running horses by the roads you are running, taking selfies with strangers and friends alike.
Yeah…it’s something I rarely get to experience because I do get wrapped up in finish times more than finish lines sometimes. That was a lot of “-imes and -ines” all at once, yeah?
I registered for the Run The Bluegrass Half Marathon after being encouraged by my enabler…er…friend…Melissa. I knew this one was going to be a tough course, as I heard about the, anywhere from 33-40 hills (it’s all in who you ask and talk to!). We all know, my broken down hips love the downhill and flat spaces. The uphills…well…let’s just say I’m working on that.
My coach, Linda, actually provides her runners as pacers for this race. No…I did not sign up to be a pacer. She and her local and amazing Frankfort pack were going to see runners to their goals on race day. Linda was going to be pacing the 2:10 group, fresh off of the Chattanooga Marathon where she punched her ticket to the Boston Marathon next year. I was told to line up with her and to stick with her. And while, for a brief moment, I felt like I was wasting an opportunity to race…it turned out this was a blessing in disguise (and maybe it was all part of her plan from the start…Melissa is convinced that it was!).
The Friday before the race just happened to be Good Friday. So, my office gave all employees a half day. This meant that Cathy and I could hit the road to Lexington early and get to the expo and have some time to look around. I had packed some Asian soup for us to eat before we hit the road, and we had dinner plans that night with Melissa and Paul at the BEST place to get pasta in Lexington – Bella Notte.
The drive down was easy and uneventful. We were pumping ourselves up for the race, so I put in the Britney Spears Greatest Hits album (don’t judge!) and played it all the way through. Then, my Garmin GPS in the car took us some weird route toward the race expo, where we were driving on narrow back roads. It was wet and rainy and beautiful. We passed a chicken farm…where I declared, “That there is a chicken farm!” Because, I wanted to talk in a hick-deep-South accent, I guess.
It was at that turn, however, that Cathy made note of the signs marking the Run the Bluegrass route. As we turned and took the road toward Keeneland, where the race expo and the start of the race would happen, we wound through the beautiful horse country. And as Cathy pointed out the course signs, she literally turned her head and said…
“You’re going to die tomorrow.”
I am still laughing over this…because she knows my hatred of uphills. And there were going to be 30 something uphills to conquer. She probably wasn’t wrong. My saving grace was going to be running with Linda…my coach…the 2:10 pacer. Linda and I have run in the same races before, but never together. So, I was pretty stoked about it. Linda was too. And that helped.
We arrived to the expo and parked the car. Keeneland is gorgeous and we walked into the main building of the expo where you are immediately greeted, handed info books and catalogs and directed to the packet pickup area. This is done by bib number, which is corresponding with the corral/wave that you are in. My bib was 1052…first corral…but I was falling back to wherever Linda was going to be stationed. I texted Linda as I got there and then went to get my bib. A lot of the Frankfort runners were manning packet pick-up and when I gave my bib number, I was given a long look, the bib was flipped over to get my name info, and she said, “I though that was you, Karen. You’re just not in running clothes.” That must be one of those #runnerproblems.
Linda caught up with me just as I was entering the expo space to look at all the things for sale and really just wanting to buy everything. We hugged and she showed me all the great things I should by. In the end, I ended up with one of the Run The Bluegrass Ponya Bands (I was going to get a Bondi Band, but was literally seconds too late as the woman at the table and grabbed the last two), and the official Run The Bluegrass jacket, which is gorgeous and I love it and want to wear it all the time. It has, actually, come in handy with the crazy rainy days we’ve had since the race. I also had Cathy buy me some of the special popcorn from Popcorn Paradise.
Melissa and Paul were on their way in, so we made the rounds through the rest of the expo and checked out all the vendors. I’m still searching for some shoes that I can simply train in (so I don’t wear out those hard-to-find Newton’s that I race in), but none of the ones for sale at the expo spoke to me. Ah well. I did finally get to try Sword. It was pretty good…but I’m still doing well with my combo of Hammer gels and Nuun Performance. When my stomach is happy…I stick with it.
At the very back of the space, you get to pick up your race shirt. In this case, it’s this t-shirt hoodie thing. Which, honestly, has become my favorite thing to wear at the moment. Just slip it over my workout clothes and good to go. They also had out next year’s gear and…the hoodie shirts aren’t coming back. They are bringing in long sleeve and short sleeve tech shirt options, and the upgrade jacket has omni heat lining.
I ran into Tammy and Dean back here and we got to talk for a little bit. This was also their first time running Run The Bluegrass…so we were all pretty excited to be taking part in it this year. They were catching dinner at BJ’s…and we were hoping to squeak in as walk-ins at Belle Notte eventually. They went to head out and we turned around to go back toward the front of the expo.
Melissa and Paul texted to say they were parking so Cathy and I maneuvered back up to the entrance area. Twenty minutes later and we were wondering if they got lost in the parking lot. But, they did eventually come through the doors, hit up the bourbon table, got their bibs and texted to see where we were. I texted back to turn around.
And we were reunited. We all made our way back through the shopping, vendors, and races that were there to hopefully catch your eye. Many of them did…so…who knows. Paul replaced his sunglasses as his old pair went missing on the NYC trip. And they got their shirts/jackets. Melissa stayed with the hoodie…but Paul had upgraded to the men’s jacket. It was NICE!
As we were standing around about to try more Sword, I got a text from my friends Ron and Shawn, and they came on back to where we were so we could talk for a moment. Ron was going for a race PR the following day and he looked relaxed and ready. They would be heading to Bella Notte for dinner as well later that evening.
With all the expo excitement done, the four of us split up to make the trek to Belle Notte for our pre-race dinner. Bella Notte has an amazing gluten-free menu and knowledgeable staff. I have never had issues at this restaurant, and I make sure I eat here every time I’m in Lexington. I often contemplate trying something else…but in the end…I always end up getting the same thing: Gluten-Free Pasta Arrabiata with a Salad (no croutons; no cheese) with their balsamic dressing. Melissa got the Caesar Salad (no croutons) and the Bella Original Rigatoni Crema (which actually comes out as Fusiili pasta). Cathy got the Tomato Basil Soup and the Bella Origina Rigatoni Crema, and Paul got Salad and got the Baked Rigatoni Romano. There was a lot of food…but it was all fantastic, good…and we ate it all. I was on the right amount of full. And afterwards, we went to walk it all off for a bit at the Half Price Books nearby and then hit Kroger up for some bananas, waters, and whatever else we needed for the hotel room.
The plan was to play some games (it’s been awhile since game night and that was the never-ending game of Stranger Things Monopoly). But instead, we ended up watching a few YouTube Videos (one a comedian doing a bit about fitness trackers and joggers…and triathletes. It was funny…and of course…Marathon Thoughts). And then Melissa had us watch the episode of The Office where they run a 5K for rabies awareness. It was so funny. So…the games didn’t happen..but we were chill and relaxed and got our stuff laid out for the following morning to help make life easier. Cathy made up my Nuun Performance to go in my water bottle for fuel and then we did a Shaun T stretching video to realign, relax, and prepare ourselves for some sleep and hopefully get out the door on time to head to the start the next morning.
I heard some horror stories about the traffic going into Keeneland on race day.
I actually slept really well. My alarm went off at the same time as theirs. And, much like when we shared the Suede Tomb in NYC…we just sort of went in rounds through the bathroom. I snagged my race clothing (I started in a tank top and running skirt…and of course had my sports bra) to change into while I used the bathroom and brushed my teeth. I came out of the bathroom to let whoever was next go in and do their thing. And while that was going on…I put on my compression sleeves, my anklet, my earrings, put my hair extensions in and put my hair in pigtails…
…and then Melissa checked the weather again. And everything needed to change. It was about 30 degrees at the start of the race with a decent wind going on. I changed my entire outfit to a totally different tank top (which I added arm warmers to), bright capri’s…changed my compression sleeves and then put on a jacket and my pants over it to stay warm. It was going to be close to 50 by the time I would be finishing the race…but we were starting in the freezing temps. This is why I don’t know how to dress in spring.
To top everything off…I donned my “Hills Suck” Bondi Band. It was perfect for this race.
Cathy headed down to the restaurant to snag some real food from the complimentary breakfast. Apparently runners had this plan too because she texted that she was in a line. She grabbed an English Muffin (line too long to toast it), potatoes, eggs, and bacon and gobbled it down while the runners of the group got their shit together and headed down. Melissa wasn’t sure how the race would go, so she and Paul went ahead and loaded their stuff up into their car instead of bothering with late checkout. I went to find Cathy and she casually finished her breakfast, got her coffee to go, and we were all out the door and en route to Keeneland. Cathy took the first gate (despite instructions to take Gate 2) and we got stuck in a bit of a line waiting to get parking. Melissa and Paul took Gate 2 and got in and parked in a prime spot without a wait. Naturally.
We ended up being directed up a hill with every other vehicle coming in at that point and parking in the grass in the middle of a field. Thankfully the grass wasn’t too soft from all the rain we’ve been getting or I fear my little Toyota Corolla would have had some problems getting out. We sat in the warm car until I heard from Melissa and Paul that they were heading to the RunDisney tent for the meetup photo there. Cathy made me get out into the cold, but we decided to wander into the expo building. I figured I could use a flushing toilet while there…but then I saw the line and, since I really didn’t have to go…I really didn’t bother to wait in the slow moving ladies room line. Hey…the port-a-potty lines were just as long. We eventually did make our way out to the muddy tent area, found Melissa and Paul and then went on a Linda h
unt. Since she and her runners were pacers, it was no surprise that they weren’t at the tent. Cathy decided we needed to head down to the start line anyway.
And on the way, I did fuel up with my Banana Bread Lärabar. The bar worked for New York, even though I definitely used more energy there. Actually, with all the hills…I figured it would probably be comparable effort. Maybe?
At the start line…I saw no one. No one that I recognized. No pacers yet. So I devoured my breakfast and then finally saw a smiling, happy face. Ron!! He was hoping to run a RTB (Run The Bluegrass) PR (he has been saying if he can sub-1:45 he’d burn a couch) and he looked good and strong and we had perfect weather. I told him I knew he was going to do it and wished him luck and let him go and get lined up where he needed to achieve his goals. Then, I saw Tim walk by with the 1:45 pacer sign. AH…the pacers were here…which meant Linda would be here. Which meant, I needed to head back in the corrals and find her.
On the way, I spotted Greg, who was a 2:00 pacer and stopped to give him a hug and talk to him. He told me Linda was the next corral back to lead Wave 3 out…so I told him to have a good race and skipped back to where I saw the next pacer sign. YES! There was Linda and her pacing partner, Mark! I had never met Mark, but I had seen him earlier, because he was wearing a kilt. I notice kilts!
The start of the race was actually delayed by about 15 minutes because the ambulances were stuck in traffic and not at their stations on the course. So, I got to know some of the people around me. I had this couple asking me questions about my Newton running shoes…we talked about half marathons…and then…finally…go-time!!!
Except…I was in Wave 3…so it was walk up with the 2nd wave and wait…and then finally move to the front. I think Linda said there was supposed to be 2 minutes between waves, but as we got to the front of the line for Wave 3, I heard the announcer say 40 seconds before Wave 3’s start. Two minutes my runner’s booty!
And just like that…I was off…running my very first Run The Bluegrass Half Marathon. So many of the runners I know continue to return to this race, so I knew I was in for something special. I also knew that I could really take in the experience, which was both frustrating and amazing all at once. My legs like to run…and I was moving at a trot (horse reference, get it?). I knew that hills awaited and, honestly, this was probably the best way for this race to be approached. Linda had the breakdown specific to this race on how each mile needed to be run and I’m not used to checking my watch, but I figured I could at least help with that. Maybe?
We headed up Keeneland’s Back Gate Drive – the first hill…and I felt strong and my legs really wanted to push and power up…but more hills awaited and Linda was keeping me right where I needed to be. She’s good at that. HA!
I knew this was going to be a good run when I saw horses within the first couple of miles. Seriously. Horses that were in one of their fields. They were running away from the big group of humans that were running and we all joked that the horses were thinking, “Well, all the people are running…we should too.” HA!! It was…SO amazing. We were still ahead of pace, and Linda said that worked to our advantage because that meant we could walk some of the bigger hills. I was totally okay with that.
There were definitely a couple of selfie-stops along the way. And when we hit the split for the 7 Milers and Half Marathoners (which also happened to be that Chicken Farm) and said to Linda to take note to tell Cathy…because I promised her I’d say it. And then I let go with my “That there is a chicken farm!” I had so much fun running with Linda and the group of runners that she and Mark were leading. I got to talk to a few of them about Disney races, Dopey, New York City, and Linda let me in on a secret…it’s good luck to throw your hands up in the air when you run across railroad tracks. So, the three sets that we crossed during this race, I did that and let out an enthusiastic, “WOOOOO!” at the same time. I mean, if you’re going to do something…do it with gusto!
It was also around the second or third water stop that we realized that, unlike it was stated in the race guide, Sword was not at every water stop. And this concerned a lot of runners who had planned to use this as their fuel on the course and didn’t bring their own. Every water stop we would ask for the Sword…and were told they just had water. A few runners were already starting to panic as the day was heating up (I shed my arm warmers and was comfortable in a tank), the sun was up, and electrolytes were needed. I always carry my own fuel regardless, so I said I had Nuun Performance if needed…and Linda had salt tabs to offer if needed as well. We FINALLY ran across a stop with Sword at the halfway point. That came as a relief…but the rest of the way…Sword was only in one or two other water stops. That would be my only compliant…mostly from other runners standpoints. I have never trained with Sword and am kind of in love with my Nuun, but I could see the frustration and worry of those I was running with who were looking for Sword at every stop.
That being said, the various farms that we came across were stunning. I particularly liked the one near the end that had spires and is just absolutely stunning. The fact that that is a BARN and not a house still baffles me! Honestly!
Going into this race, I was warned about the hill at Mile 9…the dreaded S-Curve. You start up…it levels out, you round a corner…you go back up. I was prepping for this and the drums pretty much the entire way. This hill is, apparently, notorious! As we were heading toward this hill though, we were coming up another one and had caught up with the wheelchair racer. He was blind as well and had his helper. The runners did good to get over at this point, but Linda said to me…”they will fly past us on the downhill in a few minutes.
She heard them too…and started to shout to the runners to GET TO THE RIGHT! Of course, most did, except those with headphones on. One woman almost got completely taken out because she couldn’t hear the TEN times Linda had shouted at her to move over for the wheelchairs. And then…The hill leading into Mile 10. The dreaded hill I heard so much about.
As we started the climb, a runner started up it with us and said, “This isn’t so bad.” I laughed and said, “Those might be famous last words.” She shook her head. “Nah. I’m from Cincinnati…I run Mount Adams.” And then she picked it up and powered on up the hill
I did hear the drums that I had heard so much about. I was told to put my head down and ignore everything and to just get up the hill. We climbed, turned…and climbed some more. That being said…the hill after that one is probably the one that you’ll hate more than anything.
Linda did pass me her pacer sign at this point to run fast downhill to hit use the bathroom near Mile 10. Mark had me back off the downhill pace (downhill is my favorite speed…this was hard to do, LOL!) and he let Linda know we were going past as we rounded the corner at the water stop and continued onward. Linda is amazing and caught up with us not much longer…on an uphill. We like to make her work for it. After all, running slower than my norm is not easy for me and she had to keep calling me back if I would get too far ahead on the course. Around Mile 10 I had to take a gel. My stomach was rumbling (I was usually done with half marathons at this point and I still had three miles to go) and drank some water with it. It didn’t really do much for the hunger, but my energy was picking back up.
Near the start of the race, Linda had told me that she was going to let me go at Mile 12.1 to spring into the finish line. Just after we passed Mile 11…she said, “You can go.” I looked at her. “Really?” She nodded. “Yes…you can go.” I threw my hands up in the air in a kermit flail and yelled, “YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY” as I took off. And trust me, despite the hills, I had energy to burn at this point. I know I was probably getting the stink eye from some runners at this point. Pretty much legs are done by this point, but the course only has some small rollers with the long not-steep climb at the end to the finish line. So, I’m surging. But, more often than not, what I got was, “You go girl!” “That’s how you finish!” “Looking strong.” “Get it girl!” I loved that. I wasn’t even moving up to race pace at this point, because hills, even at a slower pace, are still hills and my legs weren’t accustomed to running fast. They adjusted.
The final two miles flew by and when I hit the timing mat at Mile 12.1, I tried to pick it up just a little more. They record your final furlong (last mile) and I really hoped to pour on the power and speed. I think I managed to pick it up slightly more, but not where I would feel like I was just…flying. But I felt good. I was having fun. I was smiling. I looked good. And I made the turn to come into the finish line and put on that final push and crossed.
That. Was. Fun.
I had a medal put around my neck and I made my way through the finisher’s chute. The entire time I was heading into the finish, I was looking for Cathy and the sign, but never saw her. Never heard her either (which is weird, because she is always screaming at me at the finish line!). I stopped near the end of the chute, across from the donuts and just…kept raising up on tiptoes expecting to see the sign walking toward me. It never happened.
Ron found me. He had a fantastic race…and there will be couch burning because he ran a 1:40. Totally flew on this course. I was so excited for him. I asked him if he had seen Cathy and he hadn’t. Soon after that, I spotted Linda coming down the chute. She came over to me and asked me my finish time. I said it was 2:04 something…and she said she was in the 2:09’s…right on target for that 2:10 pacer! She’s amazing. I asked if she had seen Cathy and she hadn’t…so…we figured she might be at the ForWord Running tent so we headed that way.
She wasn’t. I told Linda to try calling her, which she did, but Cathy didn’t answer. So, she tried my phone. This time she got her. Cathy had been in a panic for about 20 minutes because she had gotten the time I crossed the mat for 12.1 miles, but never received notification that I had finished. She never saw me sprinting it in. She thought maybe something had happened to me, and of course, having Linda call her didn’t make her feel any better. Linda assured her I was fine and we were at the tent. She came over and looked so relieved.
I ate a few grapes and drank my water, but I knew Cathy and I had a Louisville City soccer match to hit up at 3 pm. With it coming up on noon-ish at this point…Cathy was ready to get back to the hotel so I could shower and we could get on the road back to Louisville. I gave Linda a hug and we started through the masses.
But I did make Cathy stop, even though she didn’t want to at the time, so I could get the infamous Keeneland Starting Gate photo. It had to happen and I was going to be stubborn about this one. I managed to find a short line and pulled myself up to stand in the gate. I felt amazing. Cathy snapped some photos and then had to lift me down because that gate is pretty high up. HA!
Later, when I sent the photo to Melissa, she texted me back and said that was the most genuine smile she had seen on me after a race/run in a long time. She wasn’t lying. I felt amazing. I had so much fun. I could have cared less about my time. Genuine. You better believe it.
So…the official results of the Run The Bluegrass Half Marathon are that I finished it in 2:04:43, running with the 2:10 pacers for the first 11 miles and then being turned loose for the final 2.1. I was 743/3163 finishers overall. I was the 283/1989 for women finishers. And I was 65/388 in my age division. I’m really happy with this. I averaged a 9:32 pace for the race, none of which ever left me feeling like I was dying or about to die. The hardest thing was suddenly being hungry. That never happens. LOL! But this race now holds a near and dear place in my heart…and yeah…I’ve already registered for next year! Can’t wait to smile all over again.
I love running NYC. I loved running the full marathon in 2014 and then the half in 2016. And, by some luck of the NYRR lottery draw, I got the chance to run the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon again this year.
Two things though:
New course…starting in Brooklyn and finishing in Central Park (which meant a whole LOT of hills on your tired legs for the last 4 miles)
I had two friends (Paul & Melissa) coming along for the run as well…which was exciting because Melissa had barely spent sufficient time in NYC and Paul never had been there before!
I was so excited. Friends…fun…and NYC!
We had plenty of time to plan this trip as the lottery draw happens early. So over many bowls of pho and lots of text messages and dinner/game night evenings at each other’s homes…we purchased airplane tickets and Cathy had her mom take care of the room…because she has a time share vacation club thing there. Unfortunately…the race was on St. Patrick’s Day weekend this year which meant…EVENT WEEKEND…on top of everyone coming in for the half marathon itself. So, instead of staying at the nice Manhattan Club that we had come to love in NYC…we were booted over to the Shoreham through the travel agency that is used. Cathy called numerous times to ensure that we would have two beds because we were a party of 4, not 2…and was told when the reservation transferred over…it would be taken care of.
Guess what. The room transferred…and Cathy checked and it was listed with one bed. One bed. Four people. She called the travel agency and they were very unhelpful and it was a task and a half to even get the agent on the phone or to call back.
Cathy then tried calling the hotel directly. They were sold out of rooms and fully booked and couldn’t change the reservation either. In fact, the travel agent never changed the request to four people. So…we were kinda stuck. Through e-mails, Cathy asked if we could bring an airbed and was told no extra bedding could be brought in…BUT…if they had any, they could provide a roll-away.
Insert me being overly stressed out about this turn of events. I hate being stressed out over shit that shouldn’t be an issue in the first place but now it is. These are the things I focus on and, when it happens prior to the trip, it’s all I focus on.
That and the shift in weather that went from lows in the 40s and highs in the high 50s…to COLD AS SHIT! Seriously. The weather shifted with some nor’easters that decided that New York needed some snow and ice and cold wind and all that. MEH. I don’t like running in the cold at all. And now…I would be. This also meant running a half marathon in layers, which is something else that I despise doing. Cathy had to pack my luggage because I needed to stretch and roll and try to be in a better place with all of this.
Friday afternoon, Cathy and I left work early and were picked up at our apartment by Paul. We were chauffeured over to his and Melissa’s house where Melissa’s mom was waiting with her van to take us all to the airport. We packed our luggage and carry-on into the vehicle and got ready to get underway. After (briefly) getting locked into the van, we set out to the airport, where Cathy and I were checking our baggage (Melissa and Paul were carrying on) and got our seating assignments taken care of. This was perfect because we were all clumped together. Cathy and I were behind them on our flights out of Louisville and then out of Atlanta.
Let’s pause for a moment to talk about Atlanta. We were delayed going out of Louisville and now our connection was going to be very tight. VERY TIGHT. In fact, when we landed, supposedly passengers were supposed to let those with a tight connection off first (which would have benefited us since we were seated pretty much in the back of the plane. I literally could look out my window and see only the engine. No joke. I had no view.
Of course, everyone had a tight flight to catch so everyone (tight connection or not) disembarked as usual. We decided to have Paul run ahead and see if he could catch the gate agent for our flight and have them hold the plane for us as we all made our way that way. He is very good at sprinting with a suitcase. I am not good at running with a backpack on. And Melissa was in winter boots and Cathy is not a runner. One train ride and an elevator climb later, and we managed to be near the back of the line for boarding. But we got on the plane and were NYC bound.
Baggage claim was easy at La Guardia and Cathy put in the call to the car service we always use in NYC to take us to the hotel. The van arrived to pick us up and we loaded in, somewhere near midnight or 1 am…and made our way to Manhattan and the Shoreham.
I was holding out hope that our hotel mishap was being taken care of, but when Cathy checked us in, the guy behind the desk didn’t even bat an eyelash at the fact that they were giving us a 1 bed, 141 sq food room…to four people. Nope. He passed us the keys and played it off like it was nothing.
Guess what. It’s something. The room was SO small that after we rearranged it to hopefully fit a roll-away in, which Cathy had to call down to the desk to have brought up, and had the guy who brought it up look around and go, “I have NO idea where we can put this” (NO SHIT, SHERLOCK!), we ended up pushing the actual bed all the way across the room to rest against the window. The roll-away was set up right next to that, and then, we sort of put a bench and chair together and made an extra bit of bed.
Paul took the bench/chair and Melissa was on the cot. Paul was, actually, halfway onto the cot too. It was a mess. And it was crowded. And it was uncomfortable. But we made it work. And we were never really falling over each other when we were in the room. No waiting on the bathroom…we just sort of worked it out without even saying anything.
Welcome, friends…to the Suede Tomb. Thankfully, we packed our days and nights in NYC and the room would basically just be used for sleeping. It was close to 2 am and we were setting our phones for a morning wake-up to get up, get breakfast, and head to the race expo. It wasn’t going to be a night for lots of sleep, but at least we could get some.
The following morning meant showers (which we managed without ever hogging the bathroom too much or too long) and then we were off to breakfast at the local Fresh & Co after grabbing coffee at our favorite coffee shop in all of NYC…Tisserie. We all got the Nutella Mocha and snagged whatever sounded good for breakfast. I got a gluten-free bagel that had delicious avocado in it and some other stuff. It was delicious…and I wanted it again on our last day there…but that didn’t work out as we hit Fresh & Co as they switched to lunch that day. MEH.
But I digress…
It was race expo time. And I love me some race expo experiences. New York never disappoints. The United Airlines NYC Half Marathon Expo is held at the Metropolitan Pavilion, and is easy to spot with all the race flags standing outside. You feel so welcome and get all the excitement upon entering. For this race in particular, they assign bib numbers on demand, which means you don’t get assigned your bib number until you get there. And it’s random. You do know what wave you are in and what corral though…the rest of it just depends on where you stand in line to get a bib.
I was Wave 1 and Corral E and my bib number ended up being 1956. They stuck on the sticker to my Wave 1 yellow-green bib (Wave 2 was a blue) for my corral (E) and sent me on my way to get my t-shirts and get any photos taken that I wanted in front of the race backdrops. The race shirts were running smaller than I expected, but mine seemed to just fit, so I kept it. Melissa and Paul got their numbers and shirts as well and we went to get photos taken before hitting up the rest of the expo…which was basically shopping.
Thankfully…I bought my swag ahead of time because they always run out of my sizes. Cathy got me a finisher’s shirt. The only thing I really wanted was the best winter hat to ever exist, but they sold out of that quick. Probably because it was soul-crushingly cold that weekend and everyone wanted hats. Melissa had snagged one prior to the race online. As in…the last one. It wasn’t meant to be. I was bummed, but I have plenty of hats as it is. We took photos with our names on the wall…snagged some free United Airlines buffs that were being handed out…and got on our way to explore some of NYC before heading to dinner that night.
As with every pre-race meal in NYC…it was pizza night, and of course we went to Don Antonio’s is my go-to place for both gluten-free and vegan pizza. They have a regular menu and a gluten-free menu and take very good care to keep everything safe for you to eat. Melissa and I split the Senza Glutine Marinara Pizza. Melissa also snagged a couple of gluten-free appetizers to share. Cathy and Paul split a regular pizza and each got one of their signature dough puffs to eat. The food was plentiful and we were definitely full and ready to hike back to the hotel to get everything ready for the following morning. And, yes, we managed to do this and schedule alarms so that we could all function and get what we needed done in the morning.
With the first alarm early in the morning, I was up and at them first to put on my winter tights, an undershirt, my fleece lined tech-top I love wearing due to the collar…and then brushed my teeth and went to step out of the bathroom for the next person to do what they needed to do. While Melissa, Paul, and Cathy took their turns in the bathroom, I did up my hair, put on my socks and compression sleeves, put on my winged anklet, got my Dunkin Donuts winter hat (the one I got from the 2014 NYC Marathon) on my head, snagged my gloves, and opted to give the buff we got for free at the expo a chance. I had nothing really to eat in the room, but I brought a Larabar to the start line to eat in the corrals prior to the race. That went into my fuel belt to stay close to my body to keep it from getting rock hard in the cold. We headed out the door to get to the train station and take the subway to Brooklyn. We had to wait in the station for awhile, and when the train did arrive, it was already packed. We managed to squeak our way in…and with each additional stop…every car just kept getting fuller. And despite the driver announcing that the train was full and to wait for the train behind us…we kept having people push their way into our car. Now I was suffocating and dying, especially when the air conditioning would cut off.
But we made it to the Prospect Park stop and disembarked and began to make our way to the starting area, where we would have to go through security. This was where we had to split from Cathy. She was going to get back on a train and go to Mile 3 (just after the runners come over the Manhattan Bridge) to hopefully catch me there.
At the start line…we had very little time to hang around and talk. After getting through security, I needed to drink my pre-workout drink and eat my Larabar so I wasn’t running a half marathon on an empty tank. I ate my Larabar while Melissa and Paul fueled up as well…and then I needed to get into my corral in Wave 1. They were in Wave 2, and apparently had to hunker down in the cold shade and try not to freeze for over an hour. YUCK!
As for me…I started drinking my water and making my way up to Corral E. There were going to be quite a few starts, so I was NOT shedding my toss-away clothes (yep…I hit Goodwill the day before and picked up clothes to shed since it was going to be freezing at the start line) until I absolutely had to.
The National Anthem was sung…and the wheelchairs and elites were sent off. It took a long while for me to get up close enough to shed clothing, but I finally did. And soon, it was my corral’s turn to get ready to go. As we were standing in the cold wind, the woman behind me pointed to one of the free United Airlines buffs that was shed by runners before us and said, “Not going to lie…I’m tempted to pick that up.” I told her I wouldn’t judge. HA! But soon, we were sent off…and it was time to run through the streets of Brooklyn.
The first 2 miles are spent running the streets of Brooklyn. And then, the first climb happens as you start up the Manhattan Bridge. I know that the bridges in NYC are beasts, but this actually slowed me down more than I would have liked. But, as this was being treated as a training run, I wasn’t really focusing on my pace. This would turn out to be a very good thing as the race continued. Crossing the bridge was great. You could see the Statue of Liberty from there…and it was clear and beautiful and COLD that morning. I put my head down and came down the other side of the bridge, feeling like a rockstar for sure.
Cathy was near the turn before heading into the 5K and I waved and smiled as I ran through and began to take in the miles before Times Square. Times Square was such a highlight for me in 2016 when I ran the old course. This course was definitely tougher, as when we started in Central Park…we got the hills out of the way early. Now…now they were at the end. So these were the flat miles in between. Miles 3-7 are downhill to flat and I loved them. It just felt good to run, and have the spectators that were out braving the cold yell motivation to you. I was crossing a bridge near the 10K mark when I spotted Lottie (aka: runningonveggies) doing her thing. I wanted to shout-out to her, but I wasn’t sure she’d hear me and I am…nobody…and she’s like…super amazing. She looked strong.
Coming into Central Park, I knew there was a chance that Cathy wouldn’t make it to see me there. It all depends on the trains. Apparently she got out of the subway about 45 seconds before I was supposed to hit Times Square based on the tracker. She at first decided she wasn’t going to make it, but then changed her mind and did the “Sixth Avenue Sprint” to Times Square, where she did actually catch me and I could hear her shouting and waving at me from the other side of the barricades. Just the uplift I needed at that point, because we were heading up toward Central Park, which meant some minor rollers until hitting the park just before Mile 9. For a few moments in Times Squre, however, I was running next to former NYC Marathon race director Mary Wittenberg, which was super cool. She was getting a lot of shout-outs from volunteers and NYRR…but I turned my attention back to the entrance to Central Park. Here come the hills.
This is also where my watch got WAY off on the mileage and pace due to the buildings in Manhattan…and the rest of the race was just guess work at this point.
My friend Michael told me he would be at Mile 10 near Cat Hill in Central Park with his friends cheering on runners. So I had that to look forward to. And, sure enough, as I was making the ugly climb up Cat Hill…I heard him shout my name, I turned and managed to wave before continuing to die a little on that hill. Somewhere around Mile 11, a woman decided she would cross the road with her dog while texting on her phone right in front of me and a few other runners. She got yelled at by quite a few people who she disrupted. I mean…come on!
There seemed like more uphills than downhills for that last 5K…and my watch was beeping with the distance about .9 miles off of what it was supposed to be. I’m not lying. I was pretty much a mile ahead of myself via my GPS…which was not making me happy, despite not being one who glances at my watch during the race. I don’t like to put any pressure on myself, but now I was questioning if my GPS was off or the course was long. There was no way to really know. The GPS was off (thanks Times Square and Manhattan)…so when I took that downhill toward the finish line…I crossed with 14.02 miles on my watch and crazy fast splits showing me running a mile in under 6 minutes. HA!! I wish!! So, that was the disappointing part if I had to pick one. Because I love reviewing my actual splits to see what I need to work on after a race. It was fun though…and, despite never being warm during the entire run…I was elated to be done. And super surprised with my time.
After finishing and getting my race medal and a mylar blanket, we were loaded down with snacks and sent hiking out of the park. This walk takes a good 30 minutes to accomplish. I made friends with a nice lady named Wendy and we talked until she had to veer off to bag check to get her stuff. I finally could see the statue marking Columbus Circle, which was where runners were exiting and were spectators were told would be the best spot to reunite with their runners. I spotted Cathy immediately and she came over to give me a hug. I desperately needed coffee, and she had suffered through McDonald’s coffee and wanted good coffee…so we made our way to Tisserie (which was on the race course) and each got a drink. I got a Café Au Lait with Almond Milk and it was one of the best things I had ever drank. I needed that to start to warm myself up. But after checking the app to check in on Melissa and Paul (they were Wave 2 and started about an hour after me) we saw they were coming up to the area we were drinking our coffee. So, we stepped outside and found a spot on the rail to watch for them.
At one point, a guy from Norway ran over to me and took a picture with me. Random. But amusing. And then…we saw them coming. Cathy and I shouted to them about how they were killing it, and while Melissa didn’t believe me…she was running NYC. How cool is that?!
As they headed toward the park, Cathy and I hightailed it back to the hotel so I could shower and change and head back out to meet up with them after the race. We got to Columbus Circle as they were nearing the finish line. And when they crossed, I let them know, via text, that we were waiting for them there. Their phone was almost dead, but Melissa was able to fire a response back. We waited until we spotted them and flagged them down. The hills had definitely taken their toll on Melissa’s Achilles, so we got her settled for a moment to rest and rant all she needed. Paul dug food out of the snack pack for the two of them. Once they had rested, we took them back to the hotel to shower and chill before we went out to our celebratory dinner at Red Rooster that night.
THAT. WAS. FUN. And the food was amazing.
The new NYC course is definitely much harder than the old one…but I ended up running this one 2 minutes faster. So…I count that as a win. A course PR and a race PR. WOOT!
So…the official results of the 2018 United Airlines NYC Half Marathon was that I finished with an official time of 1:41:29…and that was closer to the 13.1 than the 14.02 my watch showed. I swear. I was 2773/21,995 finishers this year. I was 557/11,075 female finishers. And I was 86/1847 finishers in my age division. I couldn’t be happier with these results considering how much stress I went into NYC with and how cold weather affects my body. I had a blast and would love to do this again.
Or at least get a cute winter hat.
The remaining days in NYC were spent exploring and eating. And the best of the best was going up to the top of the Empire State Building at night, freezing, and taking pictures and just living life.
And that’s what this was all about. Fun, friends…and finish lines.
The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.” — The Emperor, Mulan.
I can do hard things.
That became my mantra during the last run of The Dopey Challenge this past weekend. To be honest, I think the whole experience was a comedy of errors, but it led to four amazing and different finish lines.
Four races. Four days. Four different distances, each race getting longer. And the hardest part to grasp as that you aren’t even halfway through the entire mileage by the third race.
I did the Dopey Challenge during its Inaugural year, in 2014. I felt invincible back then and went into it with little training and no plan. And it was amazing and inspiring and fun. I missed out in 2016 when I thought I would give it another go due to lingering hip injuries. That was a lot of money to lose out on…trust me. MEH!
I never even thought of running in it again (okay…I perhaps thought about it every year it did run…but never pulled the trigger, really gun-shy about what this body could actually manage anymore), but then, last year, I became great friends with Melissa and Paul…and with a little peer pressure…I found myself registered for the 5th Anniversary of the Dopey Challenge (and also the 25th Anniversary of the Walt Disney World Marathon).
With two setback with the opposite hip that has the labrum tear this past year (in January and July, I believe)…I was really starting to lose hope that Dopey or even marathon running would happen again. I had to defer Chicago due to lingering hip issues back in September, which broke my heart and did nothing to boost my confidence. It was through my last round of physical therapy and adopting a run/walk method on long runs that I managed to get through Dopey training (I think to the surprise of everyone, including my coach, bless her) in one piece.
Because after the holidays, I had a 3 day stint at work…where people returned to the office sick. And despite my best efforts…I caught the crud. I started feeling bad on Friday night. Saturday I went to bed before 8 pm after cancelling my last training run and basically living on the couch. Same story on Sunday. Sunday was also New Years Eve…and I couldn’t even ring in the new year. I was in bed before 8 pm again. I woke up feeling a little better on Monday, but not wanting to risk anything, I called in sick to work and stayed home to finish packing before being taken to the airport by our dear friend and neighbor, Laura.
So…here I was…heading into a 4-race series….with a lingering cold, a damaged immune system…and into a Florida cold snap. No joke. The weather turned at the start of the year. It went from being lows of 50s and highs of mid-70s…to below freezing temps. Considering my costumes I was going to run in consisted mainly of tank tops…some modifications had to be made.
I arrived in Orlando late on Tuesday night. My rommie and I had a hotel room off-property that night, just giving us an extra day to not rush through the runDisney expo, packet pick-up, and all that craziness. We went to our favorite Orlando eat spot…Toasted…where I could get a Gluten Free and Vegan grilled cheese sandwich with a side Gluten Free Truffle Fries. I got The Inferno…which is their house-made vegan cheese (this stuff melts AMAZING), tomato, jalapeno, and sriracha. SO good. I figured the spice might help the whole sinus situation I had going on. This is where the madness began. Upon returning to the hotel, I realized that my pajamas never made it into my luggage…so I was now sleeping in my plane clothes. Whatever. We decided that the following morning, we’d hit up Target and Publix for pajamas, snacks, water, and other necessary items.
When we woke up that morning, it was pouring down rain in Orlando. We bundled up in hoodies and went out to the stores. We even picked up a few requested items for our friends, Melissa and Paul, who had spent the New Year at Disney. We got all of that together and headed to Disney Springs to park and head to Erin McKenna’s, the gluten-free bakery there, where we picked up a Scone (which we split right then), a Thin Mint Cookie (and one for Melissa for her birthday), a Cinnamon Roll, a couple of Donuts, and a slice of her Lemon Tea Cake. Then, we headed over to Pop Century to pick up Melissa and Paul so we could all head to the expo together and do the whole packet pick-up, expo, shopping thing together.
It was a mess. We ended up standing in the rain for a good chunk of it. Cathy had ducked into CVS before we headed to Disney property for ponchos and only found child sizes. Mine was super tiny (but had Disney princesses on it) and hers ripped as she unfolded it. So…staying dry wasn’t happening. All of this wasn’t helping the whole cold/sinus issue I was still dealing with at this point either. We got into the building and followed the line down to the area where you show your ID, turn in your waiver, and get your bib. If you’re doing the challenge (and the 3 of us were), you get your photo taken so they can confirm that it was, in fact, you, who finished. After that, we were ready to get our official merch on and then hit the expo. Cathy had gone on ahead to get in the Official Merchandise line…and it was a line. Over a 2 hour wait…mostly outside…mostly uncovered. Melissa and Paul had pre-purchased items, which normally, you would just go ahead and get without having to stand in said line…because you did, after all, pre-purchase them. No such luck. We decided it wasn’t worth it and headed into the other part of the expo where the vendors were.
I felt that the vendor area was much smaller and had fewer products/companies that I recognized. I didn’t see Nuun or Newton there, which I had been hoping for. I need to get more Nuun tablets, and my roommate forgot to bring my new pair of Newtons home from work with her on Tuesday, so I had one pair of shoes for all four races. My intent had been to purchase new shoes at the expo. I could wear them in the shorter races and feel confident that I would be fine. No luck. I did end up getting the Roll Recovery R8 and R3 rollers for a huge discounted price at the expo. And I am totally in love with these products. Cathy went in search of BondiBand and got me needed bands for two of my costumes…and a bonus one she said I had to have. She was right. HA! And after that…we gave up and headed back to Pop Century. The weather was cold, but we had some Fast Passes at Animal Kingdom with Melissa and Paul (it was Melissa’s birthday so we were totally making a day of it…and so far it wasn’t going right), so we parked at their resort, hopped the Animal Kingdom bus and went on the Kilimajaro Safari, the new Flights of Passage in the Avartar part of the park (OMG…THIS RIDE!), and went out for a birthday celebration meal at Melissa’s favorite spot, Tiffins.
I ordered the Autumn Vegetable Harvest, which was a Roasted Red Kuri Squash, Sweet Potatoes, Pumpkin Custard, Black Rice, Baby Spinach, Pumpkin Seed Pistou, and Cranberry. It tasted like Thanksgiving. It was SO good. And of course, dessert happened. Both Melissa and I got the Neapolitan Macaroon off the kids menu, FTW! After dinner, we took the bus back to Pop Century, told Melissa and Paul we would see them bright and early for the 5K the following morning and headed to Port Orleans Riverside to claim our room. It was late when we arrived and we had a 3 am wake up call facing us down. So, we hauled our luggage up in two trips and got ready for bed. Cathy noted that the bathroom door was latching strange, but nothing too bad. Loved the royal room…and this time we had a gorgeous view of the courtyard. Lights out. We were down for the day.
Walt Disney World 5K
Race: Walt Disney World 5K
Place: Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Date: January 4, 2018
“The belonging you seek is not behind you…it is ahead.” — Maz Kanata, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Disney doesn’t officially time their 5Ks. Did you know that? It’s true. And with everything happening in 4 days if you’re doing Dopey…this is probably a good thing. I had an alarm set for 3 am to change into my costume for the 5K, modified due to cold temperatures (it was below freezing that morning and my original costume was Tron…I ended up bringing BB-8, with a fleece top and a base layer to go under the actual bra top). I got up, used the bathroom, and started to change. Cathy went into the bathroom after me, and as I am pulling on my orange CEP Compression sleeves, I hear her messing with the door knob. She says, “I can’t get the door to open.” WHAT?! So, I let her jiggle and mess with it while I layered up. When she still wasn’t out of there and I had tried from my side and she had tried from hers…I called the front desk and explained that we were doing the 5K that morning and that my roommate was trapped in the bathroom in our room. She had me try to get the latch to release with a credit card…and that didn’t work. So she said she would send someone up.
Meanwhile, she has me scoot her clothes under the door to her so she can change while we wait on help. I am texting Melissa and Paul and trying not to panic and laugh at the same time. Steve, the manager on duty, knocks on the door. He comes in and tries the door knob. Nope. Stuck. So he leaves to go get a screwdriver. He returns…and still has no luck. He tells me that I need to get to the start line…so I’m putting on my throwaway clothes (remember…it’s freezing here) and he said he was going to get another tool and try again. In the process of doing that, he also calls 911 to get the fire department out and calls their engineering department, and whoever got there first, he promised, would get Cathy out. I tossed on my BB-8 winter hat and told Cathy that I hoped to see her at the finish line. I had to pin my bib on myself (in all my years of running, she has always done that for me. I’m spoiled), and I headed out the door. I texted Melissa and Paul as I headed toward the bus line for the 5K shuttle to the start. I got to talking to the people in line about the saga that morning, and they were all, “What room are you in? I want to know how this turns out!” HAHA!
Just as I was getting on a bus, Cathy texts to say that she’s free and that the fire department had to come and use an ax to free her from her bathroom prison. She was given a voucher for a taxi to take her to the start line so we hoped we would all meet there. I arrived just as Melissa and Paul were getting there too. With no bag to check, I could skip security and wandered into the staging area where I stood at a sign and waited for Melissa and Paul. They arrived. And Cathy arrived. And our friend Stephanie arrived. And two friends of Paul and Melissa also arrived, Chris and Christy (I might have misspelled her name). We were all going to chill on the 5K…take it easy…and save our legs for later races. I rarely get to hang with a group on runs, so this was exciting for me. I lined up in Corral D with my friends (my bib was for Corral A) and we made our way through the new wave start, ditching our warm layers as we move ahead. Soon…it was our turn and we were off.
The 5K was pretty crowded, but we had no time goals. The plan was to just make our way through the course, stopping for pictures if we wanted, and just having a blast. As we were heading into, or just past Mile 1…a person in front of me moved and I didn’t see the traffic cone in the path. Down I went. Hard. On my hands and my right knee. Melissa made an attempt to grab me and Stephanie helped me up. Everyone was making sure I was okay. I shook it off. The knee stung, but nothing bad. I was probably too numb from the 28 degree (not including wind chill) morning that day to even notice. We carried on through Epcot, stopping to take some photos with Spaceship Earth in the background, with Genie from Aladdin, and then made our way to the finish line.
5K…done. I had such a blast. I even danced across the finish line. It was only after the sit on the bus back that my knee really started to throb. I looked down and noticed blood on my black pants. Plot twist. Also…thanks to the bathroom door needing to be broken into with an ax…Cathy was told that after the race, we needed to pack up our things and have Bell Services get our stuff and move us to a new room. Melissa and Paul were kind enough to take the shuttle to our resort to help with that…and we got it done and ready and out the door. We all went over to Port Orleans French Quarter for the Gluten Free Beignets and coffee. They needed to go get warm and were going to try to hit up the expo after showers and Cathy and I were heading to Epcot for the day. Our first Fast Pass was for Spaceship Earth…but it broke down as we were standing in line. Of course it did. So…we wandered around Epcot and did the rest of our stuff until it was time to head to dinner at La Hacienda de San Angel. They didn’t have gluten free chips for the salsa, but brought me some tortillas so I could have some and Cathy didn’t dip…she used her spoon to put things on the chips. I got the Enchiladas de Vegetales, which came with a vegan version of their rice and refried black beans. It was corn tortillas filled with vegetables, and smothered in salsa verde. It was really good…but I don’t think I’ll do Mexican before a race in the future.
Cathy and I returned to Port Orleans Riverside…and I had to go to the concierge because we never got a text with a new room. Turns out, they replaced the door and we weren’t moving. I was limping at this point, mind you, because my knee was killing me. As we were making the walk to the room, I said, “I hope they moved our stuff back in then.” They hadn’t. This meant another call to Bell Services and needing to wait an extra 30 minutes before even being ready to lay out race gear for the 10K, get ready for bed, and turn in for the night. It was a mess. But things showed up…we did the best we could to do a few things quickly, and called it a night. Another 3 am alarm was set.
Walt Disney World 10K
Race: Walt Disney World 10K
Place: Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Date: January 5, 2018
“You can’t focus on what’s going wrong. There is always a way to turn things around.” — Joy, Inside Out
This was the race I had it in my head to actually race this weekend. Until I got sick. And until I banged up my knee the day before. It was hard to walk, I wasn’t exactly sure how running was going to go. But the 3 am wake up came and no one got trapped in the bathroom. We were off to a good start.
In fact, I layered up (again), because my I was being Joy from Inside Out, and Melissa and Paul were going to be Disgust and Fear. I love that I was costuming with friends. It was fun. But Joy’s dress was a tank top that I was going to put shorts under, originally…until the weather changed. With a morning that was 37 degrees, without the wind chill (and the wind was fierce and cold that day), I put on the black base layer I had used with my BB-8 costume, the leggings I had worn with BB-8, and worked the rest of it the best I could. It had to do under the weather circumstances. No hat…but I did pull the BondiBand over my ears to hopefully keep those warm. Cathy pinned me and we headed to the bus to get taken to the staging area at the start of the 10K.
I hunkered down since we were there so early and took a nap. Melissa and Paul somehow managed to slip past Cathy and were, very smartly, gathered near one of the heating lamps at the center of the staging area. We got up to meet them, and Stephanie, Chris and Christie were there too. We took pictures, but I refused to shed the throw-away clothes right then. Too cold. The mylar wrap was staying as well. Just after 5, I ate my banana and we headed to the corrals. We were going to take a photo of the Inside Out characters…but Coral A (my corral) already queued. I had to now go into Corral B. Who puts a corral at the start line that early? UGH. I had to say a quick goodbye. Got hugs…and went in…bobbing in and out of people in an attempt to move forward. No luck.
I shed the throw-away clothes as we neared the start line and my wave finally went off. It was cold, so thankfully I didn’t feel my knee bothering me. I ran calmly and smartly…the first mile meaning I had to bob and weave through the waves of people who went off ahead. Some of which were walking this one too. I still had hopes of racing this one and maybe coming close to beating my 10K PR. It was still hard for me to breathe (thanks sinuses), but I pressed on through. I managed a respectable time, even with all the dodging I had to do. Mile 1 clipped off and we made a hair-point turn and headed up a hill. I felt strong and was passing a lot of people…but hills and I are not friends and it did slow me down. But what a confidence booster. Somewhere in Mile 2 a guy snot rocketed on me. I turned from Joy to Disgust for just a moment. Miles 3-5 were amazing and fast. Those were the parts that were actually in Epcot and not out on the highway. I think distractions are a big help. And they always do up Epcot great with cast members out to cheer and support you. The lights were awesome. I heard one cast member shout…”Happiness is here…I mean Joy. Joy is here!” HA! Since I was racing, I opted to skip the character stops and pushed on for a strong finish, past Spaceship Earth and around the corner back into the parking lots. I stopped my watch after crossing and was shocked that I was closer to 48 minutes than my hoped for 44 minutes.
You know…running with sinus issues and a badly bruised up knee…I gladly took it.
My official results of the Walt Disney World 10K were that I finished in 47:40. I was 266/12,881 finishers overall. I was 41/7618 female finishers. And I was 12/1245 people in my age division. Not too shabby at all!
I went back to the resort to shower and change and head out to the parks that day. Cathy and I had some Fast Passes to hit up in Magic Kingdom that day. We ended up getting everything done there (including Dole Whip…despite the cold temperatures) and hopped back to Animal Kingdom, where Melissa and Paul were hanging for the day. We met up after I snagged a hummus and veggies snack from the Gluten Free cart and some iced coffee (The iced coffee and Animal Kingdom is the best…and despite the cold…I needed it in my life).
Melissa and Paul were able to get me on Everest with them so I did get to have some roller coaster fun. Which was amazing. I love coasters and rides, but Cathy isn’t the biggest fans of most of them. She’ll do some…but they usually aren’t the ones we like to do. And…at one point, we were hiking through Pandora and saw sunlight coming through the tree and it was SO picturesque. It was like a painting or straight from the movie (I guess…I never have actually seen Avatar).
We hung out until we took the bus to Animal Kingdom Lodge for dinner that night at Sanaa.
Melissa and I split the gluten free bread service and Cathy and Paul go the regular one. We enjoyed that before feasting that night on the amazing food there. I got the Chickpea Wat and the Cilantro-Coconut Vegetables with Basmati Rice. It was so good and we were so full. Afterwards, we took a bus back to a park where we could hop to our respective resorts. I got all the half marathon stuff together as far as my outfit and called it a night. I set an alarm for 1:50 am and another for 2:50 am. The resort wanted people at the buses by 3:30 the following morning to get to the start on time. We called it a night.
Walt Disney World Half Marathon
Race: Walt Disney World Half Marathon
Place: Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Date: January 6, 2018
“Every dream begins somewhere. Some are born to greatness, and some find greatness on their own.” –Monsters University
And so half marathon morning dawned. I still felt like crap. My knee was tight and painful…but it was bandaged across the cut. I had taken the bandage off when I ran as Joy and had meant to do it for this costume too…but forgot. It was 2:50 am. I can focus on one thing at a time.
I got up with the alarm and went to get myself ready. Today I was running as Boo from Monsters, Inc. Melissa was costuming as Roz and Paul was going to be a CDA hazmat guy. These were the costumes I was really looking forward to wearing. Mostly because Melissa pointed out the subtle humor that she and Paul would be chasing me the entire race. LOVE!! Even better…today’s costume had short sleeves and long pants. So, I added arm warmers as it was a chilly 39 degrees that felt still below freezing. These temperatures were starting to really get on my nerves. They were also starting to catch up to Cathy. Bless her…we’re at least moving. She is sitting on cold bleachers for over an hour at the finish line.
I got dressed…grabbed some Lara Bites (I didn’t plan out pre-race food for this…I was working on feeling better and it slipped my mind) and a banana to take to the race start. I piled on my throw-away clothes to stay warm, grabbed the mylar from the day before, and headed out the door. There were plenty of people stirring this morning as we all had received the call that we needed to be on buses by 3:30 to make it to the start line. The deal is…for the Disney World Half and Full Marathons, you make a 1.5 mile hike to the starting corrals. So, they want to be sure you have ample time for that. We were texting with Melissa and Paul and they were going to head out. We got a bus…settled in for the short drive to Epcot…and arrived to file in line and get through security. No bags for me, so I walked right through. I waited for Cathy on the other side and the two of us went to claim the spot near the tent that was serving up food and hot beverages. I could smell the sausage again. We huddled in on the pavement and I took a power nap while we waited for Melissa and Paul to arrive.
When they did, I went ahead and shed the throw-away clothes so we could have a picture of us all in the costumes. The last few times it had been too cold for me to even want to take them off. So, I was determined to have a photo with them this time. We missed out when I was dressed as Joy and they were Disgust and Fear. We talked for a short moment before we decided to go find the entrance to the corrals. We went through bag check together and made the long walk, comfortably, and chatting the entire way, until my corral had to split away from theirs. We gave hugs and we separated.
I had to actually off-road here to get up to my corral. That makes me nervous because when you’re walking on grass in the dark…that’s just a recipe for a twisted ankle or whatnot. But I managed to get up to Corral A unscathed. And I managed to get into my corral too. This was the first time I actually had managed that despite my Corral A bib. WOOHOO! I worked my way through the crowd of runners until I found a spot that felt comfortable.The National Anthem was sung beautifully and Donald came out to send off the wheelchair racers. And after that, my corral moved forward. As I was easing myself through the crowd, a ribbon was passed between me and the person in front of me. Looks like I was going to be at the front of Wave 2. They sent off Wave 1 with music and fireworks and we were moved up to the starting mat…which, mind you…was actually back a ways before the starting gate with the logo that displayed the race with Donald and basically what the medal would look like.
It was really cool to be actually toeing the line for Wave 2. I watched as a card was passed over the starting mat and would light up. The woman would then signal 1 minute to start. Then 30 seconds. Then 20. And soon, Donald Duck was counting us down…and fireworks sent off my wave. I was able to settle in comfortably because it wasn’t crowded here. Having not raced the 5K at all, I was feeling good. My knee was a bit of a problem…but when I was running I felt I could at least ignore it. HA!
My plan for this race was to run most of it, but walk the water stops. That was how I had been getting through half marathons prior to this one, so I felt it was a good way to handle this one despite feeling so good at the start. That being said, I also decided that I could go through the first four miles without stopping to walk, so I made that deal with myself as well. Most of that stretch is all highway and parking lots anyway…so I felt even better about it. Heading toward Magic Kingdom, we do get to run down a hill, but it sends us right back up. I stayed on my toes and lifted my legs up to kick up the hill. It slowed me down some, but I still felt strong at the top as we headed toward Main Street and my favorite part of any race that carries us through Magic Kingdom
I love the energy down Main Street as you run it. The crowd is deep and loud and screaming and it really is such a lift. I always wish that this part was later on in the race because of the boost it gives you. I arched away and went through Tomorrowland before making my way through Cincerella’s Castle and back out onto Main Street. The crowd came alive again. Flash bulbs were going off. It was amazing. Then, we turn to head out of Magic Kingdom through Adventureland. The crowd fades off and we are back to the highways for Miles 6-11. Disney does put out characters and DJs and some screens running clips of Mickey cartoons or other cartoons to try to entertain you on this stretch…but it really just is a lot of road and little else.
At Mile 8…I started to feel a burning in the bottom of my left foot and I knew…blisters were happening. I wasn’t running in new compression socks…but I hadn’t had time to Body Glide or Vasoline my feet that morning as I was trying to make the bus in time. MEH! That realization lasted through the rest of the race as both of my feet started to feel the effects of friction between my socks and my custom orthodics. Not a happy camper at all. My pace ended up slowing down considerably because of it and now my walk breaks were a bit of a relief from the friction. I was starting to rethink my life decisions here. As we come back into Epcot at Mile 12, I was just relieved that I was almost done and I could go and doctor up my feet. YAY! I pushed through it all and managed the turn before the World Showcase to head to the finish. The gospel choir was singing “We Will Rock You” as I ran past to make the final turn to head toward the finish line.
I pushed myself as much as I could on sore feet and threw my hands up as I came through the finish line. Stopping my Garmin, I made the walk through the finish zone, Cathy waving me down for a photo before I went to collect my medal, some mylar, and the snack box. Since character lines weren’t too bad, I stopped to take pictures with Minnie, Goofy, and Pluto before we hopped on the bus to go back to the resort. I told Cathy I could feel blisters and when we got back up to the room and I took off the compression socks…sure enough. I drained them…took a shower…and got dressed to head out for the day. The plan was to hit up Hollywood Studios. Paul and Melissa would join us later. I got to ride Tower of Terror three times that day, which made me happy. It was fun to have a few ride buddies this time around.
So, my official results of the Walt Disney World Half Marathon is that I finished in 1:44:53. I was 502/20,801 finishers overall. I was 88/12,275 female finishers. And I was 18/2012 people in my division. I’ll take that for sure. I was quite happy with my performance, despite the blisters. It just seemed like nothing was going right that day.
After a casual and relaxed day at Hollywood Studios, we all went to Mama Melroses for dinner for pasta to fuel up for the last race the following day. Melissa and I shared the gluten free rolls and I ordered the Gluten Free Pasta with Marinara. Unfortunately, for me, when it first came out, it was done with the meat sauce. Good thing I looked closely! YIKES! They took it away and fixed it, bringing out my new dish shortly. It was an early meal, but perfectly timed for the Walt Disney World Marathon. I was feeling tight in my hamstring of my left leg as we were heading to the buses to return to the resorts, so I used my Roll Recovery on it that night to try to loosen it. The knee…was just stiff and sore. I took some Ibuprofen that evening…and it was lights out. One more race and we weren’t even halfway through the mileage yet.
Walt Disney World Marathon
Race: Walt Disney World Marathon
Place: Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Date: January 7, 2018
“There’s no one I’d rather be than me.” – Wreck it Ralph
I was ready for it. We got back to the room early after making it an early dinner at Mama Melrose’s the previous night. That way I would have time to lay out all my costume stuff and get all my fuel ready to go so I wouldn’t have to worry about it on race morning. I was reviving Vanellope von Schweetz from Wine & Dine a few years ago. I made a few changes to the costume…having my mom create a new top and cut the tights down to go over my compression sleeves. I was excited to be bringing her back…but there was so much small things that go into this costume, I wanted to have it all set to make the morning a lot less stressful.
So when the alarm went off and I got up to get changed, I was feeling as ready as one could for the fourth race of the Dopey Challenge. I was tired…and nervous. The marathon is not a distance to take lightly. Anything can happen. But that morning…I was feeling prepared. I even Body Glided my feet and put Vasoline on them in hopes of warding off further blisters.
My left hamstring was a little tight…no surprise with three race events leading up to this one and no real time to stretch or roll my body as is part of my usual routine. But I felt ready and excited more than nervous, so there was that. I put three Hammer Gels in my fuel belt and my Nuun Performance and Water in their containers and put on my throw away clothing before my roommate and I headed out the door.
Cathy was actually not feeling well. She had started to come down with something the day before, and her voice was pretty much shot, but she’s never missed a race start or finish and, even though I thought she was going to this time, she didn’t miss this one either. Despite the cold, she bundled up with the understanding that she would see me start and then head back to the resort to nap for a few hours before coming back to the finish line. For any of you who are pondering this in the future…here’s a bit of advice…DO NOT think you can get back to your resort from the start. Buses apparently don’t start running back to the resort from the finish until the first person crosses the finish line.
Cathy and I were right on time leaving our room and heading to the bus. 3:30 am. There was a bit of a line, but two buses were there waiting. I climbed on the bus and moved closer to the back than front just because I knew we’d have some time when we arrived. We texted Melissa and Paul and they were about to leave to catch their bus.
Five years ago when I ran the Inaugural Dopey Challenge, my bus got stuck in traffic heading to the marathon and I just barely made it to my corral on time. This year…I was determined not to have that kind of stress.
No such luck. After clear sailing at first…soon…the bus slowed and then stopped. All around us traffic was ground to a halt. Total stop. Nothing was moving. We got a text that Melissa and Paul were at the staging area because their bus driver took some amazing back way to the start. I was having flashbacks to five years before. But then we just continued to sit…and sit…and we’d creep…and sit…and creep and sit…
I was internally freaking out. I kept checking my watch…because on Marathon morning, I have a food regimen and schedule that I stick to. At 4:45 am…I was still not moving and I was forced to eat my Lara Bites. At 5 am…still not moving…the banana had to go down. And then…at 5:10 am…I drank down my pre-workout drink full of electrolytes. We inched forward. Turns out…a bus had broken down in the bus lane and we were stuck behind it. Two cop cars breezed by. A few minutes later…we were past it and moving again.
We arrived at the bus drop-off point at about 5:20 am. If you have done any previous Run Disney races at Walt Disney World, you know for the half and full marathons, you have a 1.5 mile trek to the starting corrals. And I had 10 minutes to get there…and I still had to go through security/bag check. I didn’t have a bag, so I could walk on through. Cathy did have a bag so she had to get that checked. She gave me a quick hug, handing me a pack of hand warmers, saying Melissa and Paul were going to try to wait to make the long walk with me…and she needed some hand warmers. I hurried through, sprinting, keeping an eye out for a Dopey and Grumpy lingering on the side. I could already hear the National Anthem being sung. My mylar blanket was flapping in the wind as I dodged and dashed through the crowds of people also making their way to the start. I could hear Mickey Mouse talking as I rounded the first corner giving a count down. I was sprinting as fast as I could, but soon, the fireworks were being shot and off went Corral A.
“AND…there goes my corral!” I said, tossing my hands up in defeat. They were doing wave starts this year, so I continued to dash, hitting the grassy patches and hurrying toward the front of the pack. I had to lift my big fleece jacket I had brought as my toss-away to get to my bib and managed to duck into the corral that was the end of B or beginning of C. The announcers weren’t sure. I was shedding my fleece pants and top, already warm now from the sprint…and my heart rate was up and I was just stressed and not zen. But then the fireworks went off and we started across the start line on the chilly Florida morning.
Starting in a further back corral is not a good thing at Disney. This often makes for a lot of weaving in and out of people for at least the first mile…if not more. It was within my first mile, however, that I passed Jeff Galloway. I fan girled. As I had my watch set for 4 minutes running 30 seconds walking intervals, I’ve embraced the Galloway method as of late to keep this body uninjured during longer runs. That was a quick boost as the first 4 miles of the full marathon are definitely all highway miles. The course narrows at times and at one point, as I was making my way through crowds, I saw a guy hop off the course to claim some gloves that had been shed.
“Treasure!” Someone said to him. I heard someone else ask him if he was a scavenger and he said, “NO…it’s just cold!” And that was that. I continued to maneuver through the crowds, waiting for the course to open up more so I could settle in.
That being said, my watch was beeping at me every 4 minutes to take a short walk break. I would toss up my hand and shout, “WALKING” so no one would run me over. I had no goals for this race other than to hit the finish line. I had done as much training with some practice “Dopey” runs of 4 progressively longer runs in a row, always using the run/walk method for the longer runs. It works. Seriously. It got me this far, right? Here I was…doing the last run of the Dopey Challenge…hitting the halfway point of the mileage about 2 miles into the marathon. Whew.
The first four miles of highway are never eventful. Construction. Speed bumps. Course narrowing. And the hill leading up to the parking lot of Magic Kingdom. You come into Magic Kingdom at Mile 5…and, as always, this is my favorite part of any Disney race. Nothing boosts your motivation than all the cheering people lining Main Street inside. It was phenomenal. I always wish this part came later in the race because it does really lift you. You just want to run faster because all these people are screaming for you!
I felt so energized as I ran the stretch and made the turn into Tomorrowland. My favorite part of the race is always where I run through the castle. I made the curves through Tomorrowland and around through Fantasyland. And then…the run through the castle. It’s all shouts and screaming and flash bulbs. And I love every moment of it. I come down the path and turn into Adventureland to exit the park at Mile 6.
What I didn’t know is that Cathy was going to catch me at Mile 7 outside the Grand Floridian. After she discovered that she couldn’t get back to the resort, she hopped the monorail and realized that she wouldn’t be able to catch me inside the Magic Kingdom. But she could catch me at Mile 7. Despite having very little voice left, I heard her shouting at me as I ran past. It was awesome. I gave a wave and continued on. I was just glad I was on a running segment at that point and not a walk. HA! She left after that and managed to get to Magic Kingdom to see Melissa and Paul go through on Main Street. She’s awesome like that.
Miles 7-12 are pretty much highway miles. Disney does it’s job with music (each mile marker is a movie that blares the them song), characters, scenery stops, and DJs/announcers just to keep it interesting. I knew what laid ahead was Animal Kingdom and you get to spend about 2 miles inside that park. I love Animal Kingdom because the surface is small hills that really wake up your legs. I never strayed from my run/walk breaks, keeping them going throughout all the miles. To change it up could have meant disaster. There is a switchback turn around at Mile 11…and I took it and moved toward the side of the road knowing a walk break would be coming. But my foot slid off the side of the road where it dipped away and I twisted my ankle. I stumbled. Came up. Took a few precautionary steps…and then carried on. No sharp pains or discomfort…I could do this. Up ahead…Animal Kingdom.
I came into Animal Kingdom and always look forward to running past The Tree of Life. It’s amazing. It is beautiful. I love the Animal Kingdom Park. I normally fuel around this mile, but I refuse to do so inside the park because I don’t want to drop anything that might endanger the animals. I did take a slug of my Nuun Performance and carried myself through Africa, Asia, and Dinoland. The cast members in the park are amazing and just cheer and support you as you run though. You exit the park through the main entrance and settle into about 3 miles of highway miles. Lots of traffic cones line the way making my walk breaks a little difficult, but I maintained them and stuck with it. That being said, everything started to feel very hard around Mile 16. Maybe it was the long stretch of nothing…or the reality that up next was the 2 miles that feels like 20 inside the ESPN Wide World of Sports Center (too many turns…too many different surfaces)…but I did manage to pick it back up as I came into ESPN. That didn’t last too long. My legs just felt heavy. Mile 18…so I took one of my Hammer Nutrition gel to hopefully wake up my body. I should have done it sooner, but after coming out of Animal Kingdom…I wasn’t even thinking about it anymore. Lesson learned.
Here’s what I hate about ESPN. Around Mile 18.5, you have to step up and enter the track. So, softer surface which is a nice relief, but you’re now running the curve of a track. And you aren’t there for too long. You pop out at the final turn and are sent around the baseball fields. You wind your way through Mile 19 enter the ball field just before Mile 20. They announce your name here, which is a booster, but you’re tired from now running on baseball gravel/dirt and you’re just pressing through. You come out of the baseball field. After that, you duck out and are on the pathway through the parking lots and back out to the main road. There was a large puddle there at the end, so I managed to get my legs to step up on the curb and back down to avoid it and continued on. It was just before Mile 21 that the 3:45 pace group passed me. They were doing 3 min run/30 sec walk breaks. My legs just felt heavy and I started to feel a blister on one of my toes on my left foot. That sensation lasted for about a mile…then it popped because that burning feeling went away and I could run a little more comfortably again. But my pace was down. I grabbed another Hammer Nutrition gel and pounded it in hopes it could get me to the finish.
Hollywood Studios was just after Mile 23 and then you know you could walk it in and be fine. If you make it to Hollywood Studios, you’re golden. I started to take a few extra walk breaks on hills that my legs protested on. I was okay with it. I wasn’t aiming for a specific time. Just to hit that finish line. If it beeped for me to walk…I’d continue the walk. Then I’d pick it back up on the run for the next part. You come back to life inside Hollywood Studios. The rolling terrain that leads you through the park and out to the boardwalk. People are out there cheering and it’s really hard, but you keep pushing through. That’s how I felt. At Mile 25, you enter Epcot’s World Showcase. This is the longest trip around the world ever. But on your way around, you can keep your eye on Spaceship Earth and press on. You take the turn out to run toward Spaceship Earth and you feel new life in your legs. Around the corner and there is the gospel choir. I don’t remember what they were singing. I rounded the corner and came made the final turn into the straight away to the finish line. I pressed a bit more at the sight of the finish. I had kept my watch on the intervals, so I didn’t know my distance or pace. I didn’t care. I was about to finish a marathon. I threw my hands up in the air as I ran across the finish line and then immediately started to ugly cry.
I spotted Cathy in the stands and she signaled that I had killed it. She had no voice. I moved to get my medal and started to ugly cry again. And as I went to get my Dopey and Goofy medals, I was also handed commemorative Mickey Mouse ears. I cried again. I composed myself to get my medals and make the walk to get the photos taken before exiting through bag claim. As I moved through, everyone started applauding. And I cried again. And Cathy saw me and gave me a hug and I cried harder. I was an emotional mess. I had never thought, with all my setbacks and hip injuries that persisted since 2015, that I would ever finish a marathon in a sub-4 time.
But I had. Rounding out a gorgeous and respectful 3:49:45. A mere 10 minutes off my BQ time. I was beyond elated. Shocked. And couldn’t stop crying. My coach texted me telling me I was an inspiration for her BQ in March. My friends messaged me over Instagram to congratulate me on the sub-4 I had been fighting for so long to achieve.
So, the final results of the Walt Disney World Marathon are that I finished in 3:49:45. I was 849/20,025 finishers overall. I was the 184/10,763 female finishers. And I was 48/1848 people in my age division. Beyond proud of myself.
Afterwards, I got on the bus to head back to the resort. I was beyond sore, but managed to shuffle my way back to my room, up the stairs, and into a super hot shower. I don’t do ice baths. No shame. Not my game. I put my feet up for awhile and made myself down my protein shake. It was, honestly, the last thing I wanted to do. My stomach is always a mess after a marathon. But recovery had to begin immediately. After awhile, Cathy and I went to stroll down to Port Orleans French Quarter to get celebratory Gluten Free Beignets. I was hoping the sugar would help settle my stomach. It worked. We got some for Melissa and Paul too. I might have promised to have them at the finish line. Afterwards, we hopped on the bus to go back to the finish line. On the way there, Stephanie crossed the finish line. We ended up getting stuck on this bus for longer than anticipated, and upon arriving, making the hike to security for bag check, and then heading toward the finish line, Melissa and Paul crossed. JUST missed them.
Cathy and I waited for them outside of their bag pick up and ran to go hug them when they came out. Super proud of them. Melissa’s foot got injured in the half, so she wasn’t even sure she’d be able to make it through the full. She’s stubborn. She did. We went to get in line to have photos with Dopey, but were told the line was closed because Dopey needed to make it to a parade. So, Cathy took pictures of Melissa and Paul on their phone with Dopey in the background. We had Fast Passes at Epcot…so we let them head back to the resort with the Gluten Free Beignets that we picked up for them and went to head into the park. I managed to make it through the rest of the day before meeting up with them again at Raglan Road in Disney Springs for our celebratory dinner. Hello gluten free onion rings.
The following day, Cathy managed to get through the character breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table before trying a few rides and tapping out. Her sickness caught up with her. So, I wandered around Magic Kingdom alone for awhile until I met with Melissa and Paul at Epcot for photos with the medals. This also involved a monorail fail making it take even longer. But we eventually got it all taken care of. And after snagging Avocado Margaritas in Mexico, I called to check on Cathy and she said she’d grab some soup and meet us at Magic Kingdom. She was moving slowly, but she was out. And we wrapped up the day in Magic Kingdom with food, fireworks, and friends. And that…was what this trip and adventure was all about.
A group I’m in figured up all the finish places for those who competed in the Dopey Challenge. I was 210/7468 overall Dopey finishers. I was 29th female finisher. And I was 9th in my age division. And I’m tired. And sore.
And currently fighting off the Disney crud. Being sick prior to the races and coming back sick has not allowed me proper celebrations. But it’s going to happen.
Race: CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon
Place: Indianapolis, Indiana
Date: November 4, 2017
When weekends are busy…boy, they are busy. That’s how my Monumental Half Marathon weekend turned out to be. The running gods just sort of made this race available to me, as I was already going to be up in Indianapolis that weekend for a wedding. Why not make an event out of it?
So, I signed up for the Monumental Half Marathon and went into it with the run/walk mentality that I’ve been practicing, in an attempt to not have my body fall apart on me again at crucial and critical times. Training with the run/walk method is one thing. Actually incorporating it into racing is another beast altogether.
But I digress.
My race weekend started off with lots of packing on Thursday night. Not only did I need to pack for a half marathon, but I also needed to pack for a wedding…AND (yep…there is an and in there) a soccer match. Told you my weekend was busy. And this all was happening in the span of one day.
So, packing for three events meant about 4 pairs of shoes! HA! No joke though, because at first the forecast called for rain, so I had my regular racing shoes, my rain shoes, heels for the wedding, and my recovery shoes for the soccer match. It also meant packing running clothes for rain, for cold, for comfortable weather…a dress to wear to the wedding…and some jeans, a t-shirt and a hoodie for the soccer match. Plus pajamas, race fuel, snacks, protein powder, recovery stuff…ALL THE THINGS!! And, I had originally suggested grabbing sushi on the way up to Indianapolis (we were taking a half day from work to travel and would hit the road right at lunch time), but decided to save money and made gluten-free cashew butter and jelly sandwiches! My roommate had a small baggie of chips with hers (we had one serving left in a bag at the apartment) and I had the remainder of the grapes we bought at Costco! That was lunch.
We got up to Indianapolis in good time, actually. No traffic issues really at all. So, after checking into the Hilton near the Indiana State Capitol (and also near the start line and finish line), we took a walk to the convention center to hit up the race expo. I had actually expected to spend more money on stuff at the expo. It’s a really nice expo. But all the official merchandise promoted the full marathon, and not really the half. So, that was a bit disappointing. Aside from that…obtaining my race bib, t-shirt, and all that stuff was super easy. And we navigated the aisles of the race expo without signing up for more races, or buying extra stuff…save for 3 Bondi Bands. They had one that’s perfect for a race I am planning to do with friends in the fall, one that had unicorns and rainbows on it (DUH!) and one that said “Run Like A Princess Today.” HELLO! Made for me. And that was it. I purchased two replacement water bottles for my fuel belt and called it a day.
With plenty of time to kill, we took the stuff back to the hotel room and then decided to hit up Indianapolis by foot. This meant walking Monument Circle and stopping into candy store (DUH!). That’s where we picked up dessert, actually. Because…candy store!! Cathy picked up a Diet Butterscotch Root Beer to dry, and it was decent enough. We then took a stroll down to the city library because she wanted to look at their Irish History section. And from there…we were both ready to figure out what to have for dinner.
Ideally…it’s always gluten-free pizza before a race for me. BUT…as this was my first distance race where I would be incorporating my run/walk method, I was toying with giving up the pizza and opting for Mexican or other options. The gluten-free pizza place we had discovered the year I ran the Indy Women’s was our first stop though. They weren’t taking reservations and with a marathon happening the next day, we weren’t certain that it wouldn’t be crowded. It wasn’t at that point. They said they could seat us at a table, but we’d have to be out by 6:30. Not a problem. That gave us plenty of time to peruse the menu, make dinner choices, and still not feel rushed.
Our waiter was awesome. We explained to him that I was a Celiac and also couldn’t do dairy. He was great to work with and even remembered the dairy-free part when we ordered the gluten-free focaccia, which had garlic. Lots of garlic. YUM!!
After going back and forth on the type of pizza we were going to split, we finally decided that creating our own would be the most fun. AND…we even asked the opinion of our server when it came to doing either a white pizza or one with sauce. We had wanted to have winter squash, balsamic onions, and then quail eggs (protein!) on the pizza. And after mulling back and forth on whether to sauce it up or go white pizza…the server settled it for us, saying that the white pizza would let the other ingredients shine, and with the eggs, we would have plenty going on with the pizza. No need for the red sauce. DONE!! Order in.
The pizza, by the way, was magnificent. The crust was basically what they made the focaccia out of, but this time it wasn’t sliced into triangles and put into a basket, it was laid out on a plate, baked to perfection, topped with everything. Eggs on a pizza was a new experience for me. And it was amazing. We devoured without rushing through the meal, pausing to discuss how EPIC this dinner was. This reminds me…I have squash in my fridge that I need to bake up so it doesn’t go bad. Perhaps a pizza is in the future.
With my pre-race meal now in the tank, we took a stroll to CVS to pick up additional waters for that evening and race day…and then turned in for the night. I laid out my clothes while Cathy showered…and then it was Food Network for Diners, Drive-In’s and Dives until bedtime. We turned in early. But thanks to being so close to the start of the race, my three race morning alarms were set later.
Got up with my first alarm to take a pill and some water. Went back to bed. An hour later, alarm went off. I went to get dressed in my race clothes and finished putting my hair up when the alarm for Cathy to wake up went off. It was perfect timing. I had packed some snack bars/protein bars to have for breakfast…so we did that in the room. I filled up my fuel belt with one side water and the other my Nuun Performance (LOVE!!) before grabbing my hoodie, and heading out. Cathy even remembered the sign. We were WINNING this morning.
I texted my coach once I got to the start line area, hoping to catch her before the race. She was aiming for a PR. I’m not concerned with time right now…just focusing on form, and how I feel. And she and I discussed a race plan via text for this one the night before. With as many people running this as there was, we decided a 4 minute run/30 second walk interval might cause problems. So…the new plan was to have me walk all the water stops. She was hanging in the convention center, so I didn’t actually find her ahead of time. Cathy had to convince me to give up my hoodie and get into my corral as I was a Wave 1 runner and the start of the race was getting close.
I gave it up, got a hug, and went to get into the corral at the start. I had just found a spot that was a decent amount of space back from the start, but not too far back, and then I hear my name being shouted. I start turning my head, and I see two guys waving at me. It’s Tim and Greg from Frankfort!! Greg came over and gave me a hug. They were doing the full. We joked about how I was smart and was focusing on half marathons for awhile. But with the anthem starting to be sung, we wished each other luck and got back into our own zones.
The wheelchair race was underway first. And then…Wave 1 was off.
I actually felt really good that morning, even with the cold air. I had opted, at the last minute before leaving town, to swing back by the apartment and grab arm warmers for the race. This turned out to be a wise decision. While there were points of the race that I felt I was getting too warm, the wind would kick in and I’d be grateful to have them again.
I loved this race. Honestly!! I have always heard good things about it…but this was my first year actually running it. I have known friends who have done the full or the half and have never heard anything bad about it at all. I settled into what I felt was a good and easy pace and got into the zone. Even though it was crowded, there wasn’t a lot of weaving going on. I felt comfortable and like I wasn’t really pushing too much too fast. I saw Cathy just after crossing the start line, and she had said she’d be at Monument Circle as well before heading to the finish line to wait for me. Apparently an actual breakfast happened for her as well…because while I saw her at Monument Circle (hard to miss that sign!), she didn’t see me. It was still dark, and I was wearing darker colors than I normally do. After she realized she missed me, she spotted the Au Bon Pain and ended up getting one of their breakfast sandwiches. HA!! She’s resourceful like that.
Almost 3 miles in now and I still felt good. No hip issues (even with the chilly weather) and just a steady rhythm going. I knew that the marathon/half marathon split was just after Mile 7, so I knew things would thin out a bit at that point as well. At my 4 mile water stop, Tim caught up with me and gave me a pat on the back and told me I was doing great. He was doing the full and looked like he wasn’t even trying to maintain a fast pace. He’s superhuman, I swear! He ended up catching me again at the water stop around Mile 6 before the split. I kept waiting for Linda or Greg to pass me…but never did see that. It was good to see Tim out there though!
The split came and that involved running underneath this arch where half was labeled for the full and the other half was labeled for the half. They kept on going straight and we made a left turn to continue on our path to the finish line. Just after Mile 8, they were handing out gels on the course. Not my thing so onward. I really felt good the entire time, except between Miles 10 and 11. I just felt really tired at that point. I walked a “hill” and a water stop within the same mile. I didn’t feel bad for it. I was tuning into my body and it really needed. There is no shame in walk breaks. In fact, they sort of make the run more enjoyable…and in the end…the results are quite surprising. I didn’t speed walk those breaks either. I strolled each water stop…taking in my own water of fuel as needed. And after that extra break heading into Mile 11, I felt better and I was able to pick it back up. Final two miles and into the home stretch.
I could hear the announcer as I neared the final stretch of the half marathon. I took a corner and could see that finish line. As I was nearing it, I spotted Cathy and the sign. She was shouting at me and the crowd was loud and awesome. And I heard my name get announced just as I was moments away from crossing that finish line. That’s always a motivation to kick it up a notch. I never have much of a kick at the end of a race, but I was smiling the entire time as I crossed over that finish line and threw my hands up in celebration!
Afterwards, made the walk through the finish chute, getting a Mylar blanket, a medal, lots of snacks, and some water. I got an official finisher photo on the way to meet up with Cathy. And soon after finding her, we got word that Linda was on her way to the finish line, so we waited to flag her down. And the first thing she did was give me a hug. I love my coach, for real!! She’s my biggest support system, even when I am one of her biggest headaches (I am neurotic; I can’t help it!). We talked to her for a little bit, but soon had to head back tot he hotel to cycle through showers and get dressed for the wedding. Linda was going to be waiting on her runners doing the full and half marathon.
From running shoes to high heels and a pretty dress. We made a coffee stop at Strange Brew in Greenwood, IN before the wedding (necessary) and then got to see two friends get married. A little dancing and food at the reception and we were in the bathroom changing into clothes for the soccer match and heading back to Louisville to cheer our team to victory (it went to penalty kicks and we won…and charged the field afterwards). It was a long, but totally amazing day!
So…the official results of the CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon are that I finished in 1:41:44…walking EVERY water stop. I’ll take that time with walk breaks. Hell yeah! I was 720/7972 finishers overall. I was the 175/4492 female finishers. And I was 32/775 in my age division. WITH. WALK. BREAKS. YAAAAAAS!! Maybe Jeff Galloway really does have the secret recipe for racing success! I mean, I ran/walked that race faster than I did the KDF Half Marathon. It was also faster than I ran the Dark Side Half Marathon. Yep…Jeff Galloway is a genius!
This was it. This was the terminus of my job as a 2016-2017 #KDFMarathon/miniMarathon Race Ambassador. And it was race day. RACE DAY!! I love race day!
And, trust me, it took me a lot of sweat and tears to be able to get to that start line. Because if you had asked me in January, when my hip flexor froze up, if I would have been able to run it…I wouldn’t have been too sure. As it was, I had to drop from the full to the half…so there was that.
I wanted to be stubborn and just do it. I’m not a newbie to marathons. I have run 11 of them total, but I also haven’t really been able to train for one since I ran the Charleston Marathon in January 2015. Boston was a bust. And Kauai…well…it didn’t exactly boost my self-esteem and “can-do” marathon mentality.
I wasn’t ready for a full. Two months of training lost to a paralyzed hip flexor…and a very cautious and slow build-up in mileage put me at my first double digit run (10 miles) exactly one month before race day. To press on and do the full would have been a fool’s errand.
I’ve learned to be a little more patient with myself and allow myself to heal and train right. So, the miniMarathon it was. You win some…you lose some. I did manage to run most of the Disney World Star Wars Dark Side Marathon on Sunday. It was steamy and humid…and for the last 5 miles, I was run/walking. It was okay. These days I worry more about running smart than that finish time. When it’s hot and the race is flagged (and…for the record, both the Dark Side Half & KDF were yellow flagged due to humidity)…you just run it the best you can without putting yourself at risk for heatstroke or worse.
My second half marathon in the same week was starting off well. I only ran one time in between to two races. I didn’t need more. Wednesday morning, I hit up 4 very easy miles and called it a week. And on Thursday, I left work early to meet up with Jack, Paul and Amy (3 others in my Ambassador family) to volunteer at the expo as a greeter. I convinced quite a lot of my friends to come to the expo that day…both local and from out of town. And it was hopping! It was great seeing everyone and helping people out when they had questions. I was feeling good and confident. And being able to hang with other ambassadors and just be relaxed and help others relax…and drink free wine samples…it was actually what I needed. I was feeling good.
Friday I spent most of the day sitting at work…which is not something I normally do, but my coach had decided to have me aim for a 1:40 half on Saturday, so I really wanted to do right by my legs and my body. And, that evening, I went to the Galt House and picked up fellow Marathon Maniac, and good friend, Michael, to have a pre-race dinner. Normally, I would just cook an Annie May’s Sweet Café gluten-free/vegan pizza at home and call it a day, but I had wanted to meet up with Michael. We ended up at North End Cafe. He had the Lemonade Blueberry Pancakes, and I got the Curry Sauté with Tofu for dinner. As I have been to races where safe gluten-free pizza isn’t always readily available, I have played around some with my night before meal ritual. But nothing works like gluten-free pizza.
After we dropped Michael back off at the hotel and went home, I finished making up the “Finish Line Lemon Blossoms” for my friends. After my PT exercises and some foam rolling…I called it a night. I set my traditional 2 alarms for the race, but didn’t bother to get up in enough time to squeeze in my PT stuff…because it was going to be storming or raining in the morning. I figured I skipped them at Disney…I could supplement my walk to the start line for the warmups and I’d be ready to go.
And at 5 am…the 7:30 am start was delayed. For half an hour.
This definitely made the morning slightly easier. I was already dressed and had my hair up and everything, so I got to sit and relax a little longer…savor my breakfast…that sort of thing. Dread the humidity. Because…it was humid. And the sun wasn’t even up yet. In fact, the rain only served to make it steamier. I was having anxiety over the humidity the night before, texting my coach about my push for a 1:40 and how the humidity might slaughter that attempt…especially since I was in my “uniform” of the Ambassador shirt (which had sleeves). I’m not a fan of racing in sleeves unless it’s cold. When it’s hot…it’s a simple bra top or a tank. So this was going to be a new experience too. I figured if it got too unbearable, I could shed the shirt and then attempt to wriggle back into it before the finish line.
So…delay #1 was in the works.
The official KDFMarathon Ambassador photo was going to now be taken at 7:30…so we headed that way and actually got down to Slugger Field (and the parking lot) at around 7 a.m. This gave me time for one of my efficient and essential power naps!! I got my nap on good!! With about 10 minutes to go, I got a text from my running partner, Matthew, saying that he was at the statue in front of Slugger Field, so I got up and headed that way.
A few more ambassadors were gathered, but the whole team wasn’t there yet. This has been a thing in all these months. Races and such, we never quite managed to get everyone in a photo together. #goals
Anyway…no sooner had the photos been taken, I snagged my pre-race fuel (a simple banana!) and downed it while talking to Matthew, Natalie, and my fellow Ambassadors, who were hanging for a moment.
And then…another delay.
Race start was now set for 8:30. And I had now eaten my banana a whole hour before the start, rather than half an hour. Roll with it. I wasn’t planning on exerting myself before the race so I figured I’d be fine. We all started to make our way toward the corrals regardless (it wasn’t even raining!), when we were told to take cover. My group ducked under the cover of the Old National Bank near the race start with a crowd of other runners and passed the time just chatting away. Even my running coach and her crew joined us under there. It was sort of a nervous energy, but a positive energy at that point.
Cathy left shortly after we got up there, because she likes getting a good spot at the start line and the finish line. So, she gathered up my rain jacket (which had been keeping Natalie warm) and went to go find her spot, telling me she’d be on the right at the start and on the left at the finish.
With the 8:30 a.m. start time coming up, we opted to head out of the shelter to get to the corrals. And no sooner had we stepped out from under the bank building and down the steps…
Delay #3. Race start was now 9:00 a.m.
My group and I decided we would duck into the bank building and rest our legs by sitting on the floor there instead of standing around outside. It was more comfortable out of the humidity, regardless. With race start happening soon, we decided to make a last ditch move for the port-a-potties for those who needed them. I didn’t. I drank a ton of water the day before, but on race morning, I keep it light so I don’t have to pee. I did tell my friends that I would hold their stuff for them though. As we were heading out, the doors to the bank building seemed to be giving people some trouble. We stepped out though for our mission.
On the way to the toilets, my amazing friend, Kelsie, spotted me. Matthew and I gave her a hug and we stood around and talked for a brief moment. Then we went on so I could hold gear. I should mention that my fellow Ambassador and friend, Tonya, had gone on ahead of us too. I had her plastic bag for race start should rain happen. But we still had NO rain. Just delays. After everyone cycled through, we started back toward the bank for a few more moments of sitting down and resting before…hopefully, a real start.
And this is where we discover that the people (Tonya was now included) that were inside the bank building were now TRAPPED inside the bank building. Apparently, the Old National Bank’s doors were timed to lock at a certain time. And…guess what…they were locked. Runners were trapped inside with 15 or so minutes to go before the race start. I walked up to the window and Tonya was front-and-center.
Tonya had texted my phone, which Cathy had at this point, so Cathy sprang into action when the S.O.S. came through, alerting some officers, who wrangled up fire department and security to, hopefully, get the runners out. With like…only 10 minutes to spare…this happened. Thank goodness.
So…with no further delays and an announcement being made that 9:00 a.m. was go-time for real…everyone started to get to their corrals. Matthew and I ducked into Corral C to start making our way forward to A. We ducked under rope flags and everything to move forward in our corral. I spotted Greg, from Frankfort, Kentucky, who was pacing the 1:50 half marathon group. I said hi and he asked if I was running with him because he thought I was up in Tim’s group (that would be the 1:40 group). I said that Linda (our coach) had said that all plans were out the window with the delays and to just go have fun, but I was moving up.
And we did. Almost to the front. Like…we were behind the elite line. We saw elite bibs. Elite bibs have no corral letter on them.
Matthew and I decided we were out of our league up there and he spotted Tim’s pacing group…so we decided to move back. A bit.
And we found Kelsie again. So…this was perfect. I was starting the race off with friends…it was going to be a good time. Despite the fact that I was now starving. And it was humid.
Did I mention that I was starving?
I had fueled for an 8 a.m. start. I think my corral (Corral A) went off at 9:15 a.m. That banana was LONG gone. And I didn’t want to hit up my mid-race nutrition, because I needed that after Mile 6. I looked at Matthew and Kelsie and I said…”AND…now I’m starving.” They were too.
My coach was right…everything was a mess now…it was best just to go and have some fun.
Matthew and I decided we would attempt to at least keep Tim (remember…that’s the 1:40 pacer) in our sites. The starting gun went off…and the three of us took off. I don’t know where we dropped Kelsie, but she was doing this race right. No watch. No goals save to finish. I want to do that more. Just run how I feel and for fun. What a freeing feeling that has to be!
Matthew and I pounded out the first four miles pretty much together. The rain poured down on us shortly after the start and I looked at him and said, “We SO would have been done by now!” Soaked from humidity, rain, and exertion, we pressed on. Matthew commented that he felt like he couldn’t catch his breath. The air was heavy with humidity, so I totally knew how he felt.
I lost him after a turn. I thought he might have gone on ahead.
As we hit Mile 5…I did 2 things. I slowed for a moment to pull the KDF Marathon Race Ambassador shirt off so I could cool down. This happened just as I heard, “There’s Karen.” So I waived, tucked my Ambassador shirt into my fuel belt…and then I fueled. A whole mile early. Because my legs were starting to resist my determination to keep going. Everything was a cluster now.
Tim and the rest of the 1:40 group were still in site…but not really within distance to catch now. And my body was not feeling the pace. I told myself to hang on through Churchill Downs. So…for at least 3 more miles. I could suffer for that long, right?
I managed. My pace dropped little-by-little until I rounded the corner at the split…hit Mile 9…and took a walk at the water station. I carry my own water with me on half marathons and marathons. Usually if it’s a double-digit run, I have water and fuel with me. I didn’t care. I hit that water stop, I slowed. I took a cup from a lovely volunteer. I took a sip. The rest went on over my head. It cooled me down…and I made myself start running again.
From here on out…it was down to running smart…not running fast. Since any attempts to hit a certain time goal went away with the 90 minute delays…now it was just about crossing that finish line. I didn’t care how long it took me…I was down to the last 5 miles regardless. I managed to make water stops the rest of the way toward the finish…even when I said I would keep running and no more walking…if I needed to throw water over my head…I did it. And, as I found out in Disney, that really works.
It did, however, work better at Disney…when I wasn’t under-fueled and also dying from the humidity. At about Mile 11, I had caught up to Pete, a guy who ran with Matthew and I a couple of times before the Norton Sports Health Training Program kicked in and before I was injured. I had to slow again for one last shower of water, so he got too far ahead of me again. I had to slow to walk and water myself for about 3 more times before I knew that finish line was close. This was my Dark Side Half Marathon all over again. But worse. My splits were hitting in the 8’s…which I never touched (despite walk breaks) at Disney.
But I am nothing if not persistent.
I could taste that finish line. And it wasn’t far. I could hear the announcer. I could see Slugger Field. That meant…it was just around the corner.
And there it was…the turn!!
I never put the Ambassador shirt back on. I had it tucked in my belt…but to stop to wriggle back into it might mean I wouldn’t start again.
I took the turn. And while I didn’t feel like moving any faster, I attempted to pick up my pace. That finish line was in site…all I had to do was run over it. I focused on that line alone. I heard Cathy screaming on the sideline…and I ran down the stretch and passed under the arch.
I was…done. I also felt like crap.
But Dan spotted me at the finish line and called out my name over the bullhorn. HA!
I continued down the line, slowly, trying to catch my breath and cool down. The medals were right ahead, so as I strolled that way, Cathy caught up to me at the fence. She told me my official finish time, which I couldn’t believe, given how slow my pace had gotten as the morning went on and the miles progressed. We attempted to formulate a meeting place after I would go through the official finish photo area and the place where they store food and chocolate milk and Powerade. And as we were discussing…Paul from the Ambassadors came in. Then another running partner of mine, Ron, was in. And then…Matthew. I hadn’t moved except to go and congratulate Paul. I found Ron. And Matthew somehow slipped by me, but Cathy found him and he was at the fence when I returned.
We all managed to make our way to the runner reunion area, grabbing snacks along the way. As I emerged…with banana and chips (I have never seen Cathy so happy to see a bag of chips in my hand), I actually reconnected with Kelsie…who gave that finish line her famous kick and brought it in strong. I really need her to teach me where she finds that late energy because I’m usually dying at the finish line. She needed to head out, so after a photo, she left and Ron went to claim his free beer. Cathy told me to take my phone and see if I could catch more of the 30 people I was tracking while she went to get the bags out of the car that had my clothes to change into and a cooler with food and a big bottle of water. Tonya came in but texted to say she was in medical. And Amy came in. I never found her in the crowd. I did find former co-workers from IU Southeast, Dana & Graham, after they finished. So that was cool!
Cathy and I were camped out under the overpass for the rest of the day. When my phone told me one of my people were in…I’d attempt to go find them. I mostly succeeded. I only missed a few. I caught Natalie, who I really wanted to find above all, as it was her first marathon, and she was having Siri hit me up for motivation as she made her way to that finish line. She did great! I also did distribute Lemon Blossoms. They were very well received. My friend Jack even picked me up when I handed him a whole container. And he had just run a marathon.
I thought everyone was in at that point…but I was wrong. But that is a long, complicated, and amazing story all its own.
So, the official results of the Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon are that I finished in 1:43:12. That, mind you, is almost exactly 2 minutes slower than my time last year. MEH! That being said, I wasn’t expecting to hit 1:43 at all after the walking began, so I’ll gladly take this. Given the conditions, I’m beyond happy with this result. I was 403/8737 finishers overall. I was 85/5010 female finishers. And I was 15/794 finishers in my division. Given that I had just raced a humid half marathon on Sunday…walked Disney World the rest of Sunday and all of Monday…traveled home…worked overtime…worked the expo…and then ran again in the humidity…I exceeded all expectations I had. Honestly. There were fewer runners this year (by about 2000) in the mini…but my stats improved on every single category…despite running slower. I count that as a win too!
Here’s my takeaway…
I came into this event at first meeting with a group of strangers at the KDF Marathon Headquarters. I found a great group of supportive, amazing, inspiring people who are like family to me now. So many friendships were formed in this year’s KDF Ambassador group. I was so fortunate to have been able to be a part of it. I may not have signed up the most people for the race, but I went to events…I promoted the race…I even went to the training runs (even on the coldest mornings) when I couldn’t run and encouraged others…cheered…high fived…and walked. The marathon slipped away when my training had to wait almost 3 months to even start.
Dropping to the mini was hard…but it was the smartest decision I could have made. I would never have survived the full after a humid Florida race series and the 90 minute delays. With nutrition and scheduling off…this was a blessing in disguise.
The delays have taught me a lot about being a bit more prepared for whatever race morning might throw my way.
I saw so many people finish. I helped a few out when they needed help. I hugged so many of my sweaty friends. I saw people set goals…and whether they crushed them or fell short…they completed what the started. And that, friends, is what the spirit of race day is all about.
My time as a KDF Marathon Ambassador is coming to a close, but the memories, friends, emotions, and moments that I now carry with me…those will last a lifetime.
There are only EIGHT (8) more days until the start gun goes off at the #KDFMarathon & miniMarathon!
This journey, for me, has been quite the ride this year! For many reasons…
1. Being chosen as a #KDFMarathon Ambassador
Honestly, this has been such a fun journey where I not only gained new friends, but a whole new family! I can’t express enough what a difference being a part of this fantastic group of individuals has done for me. When bad stuff happens, they got your back. When you need help, they back you up. When you can’t run, they walk with you. When you are down, they text or message you with funny and uplifting words and images. I didn’t know how important these people were going to be when this picture was taken, but, let me tell you this…my life is forever richer because of every single one of them!
2. A Different Hip Injury on a Different Hip
It was January 1st when it struck. My “good” hip…the one without the labrum tear…started to act up. To the point that I was limping. Running was out of the question. My doctor couldn’t see me before my trip to California to run the Disneyland Star Wars Rebel Challenge (10K & Half Marathon), so I hobbled through those races held together by KT Tape, ACE Bandages, and the knowledge that if I stopped running…I probably wouldn’t start again. Soon after, I was able to see my doctor, where I was told I had a hip flexor strain, and sent to physical therapy. It was a long road…but I was finally back to running (slowly and with a little pain)…until the pain became less…and the miles were able to increase. So, my bad hip (the right one with the labrum tear) feels good…and my left hip (paralyzed hip flexor)…now is functioning and moving pain-free. And I finally was able to start running at the #KDFMarathon training runs, and not just walking in the face-numbing cold. I, did, however, make a point to show up to every single one of the training runs…even though I couldn’t run.
3. Seeing others do what they thought was impossible…
I see it every day…via social media…friends, friends of friends, family…whoever it is and whatever journey or goal they have set…watching people I know (and sometimes don’t know) push through what they once thought was impossible has been an uplifting and motivating experience. My friend, Natalie, is running her first marathon at KDF. When she did her 20 mile run, her post made me smile…and reminds me that any goal can be achieved if you set your mind to it…and never give up. Same goes for my fellow Ambassador, and friend, Melissa. She’s been dealing with knee a knee injury since January as well…but she has shown up and done her damn best to get out there and at least get her miles in…even if she walked them all and froze her face off. Natalie…if you’re reading this…enjoy your first marathon next weekend! Melissa…you’re so ready and you are going to kill it out there!
Whatever your story…wherever you started…whatever your goal…chase it down. It’s yours for the taking.
And with all of that mess out of the way, I am here to remind you that today, APRIL 20, 2017 is the LAST DAY to register for the #KDFMarathon & miniMarathon! AND…in case you have been procrastinating or on the fence…I have one last DISCOUNT CODE that will save you $15 off your registration! As a reminder, today is also the last day to make any changes to your current registration, be it moving up to the full or dropping to the half or transferring your bib.
The discount code is: KDFSUNSHINE. As always, please select me, Karen Brady, as your race ambassador. This offer ends TONIGHT at MIDNIGHT!
For any of my friends who are doing this race, I am also working at the Race Expo on Thursday from 3-8 pm. So come on down and see me!!
And for the rest of you…I hope to see you on race day…before, during, or after. High fives and hugs all around!
Welcome to the second (and, sadly, my last) race of the Louisville Triple Crown of Running. The Rodes City Run 10K! I had managed to get the okay from my physical therapist to boost myself up to 6 miles 2 weeks following the Anthem 4.7K (HAHA. I’m still bitter). So, the weekend in between I made sure to get in 5 easy miles at the Falls of the Ohio with the Norton Sports Health Training Group. All the high-fives I got from my friends and strangers that day pretty much made it one of my most epic runs ever.
I don’t think I stopped smiling. And…as we all know from photos…I have a big smile!
So, with permission to tackle Rodes as long as I took it easy and didn’t “pull an Anthem” and run it really fast, I immediately contacted my training partner, Matthew, and talked him into joining me with the intention that he would help keep my pace in check. He agreed, and we signed up (I got in before the discount deadline). Locked in. Ready to run.
My plan for this run was to keep it between an 8:20-8:40 pace. Matthew figured we’d average more on the 8:40 scheme of things…and I was okay with that. Keep in mind…it is very hard for me to participate in a race and NOT actually race it. But…remember…the goal is thinking long-term and I have some stuff coming up in the future that I’d like to be in peak condition for.
We made plans to meet up at the McDonalds on W Broadway (where the #KDFMarathon Ambassadors were meeting for the group photo(s)). And, just like that…Rodes was a go to RUN…NOT RACE.
So, on Friday, I ate an early dinner at work (the closest thing I had to pizza was my Mama Mia Quinoa) before heading over the river to do a couple of things…but first and foremost…I was picking up my race packet. I was actually honored (and freaked out) to be the recipient of one of the seeded bibs in the top 200…which gives you the option of starting near the front of the race itself. Like…elite-type-shit. I was BIB 43. Really, they do base this seeding off of not just race times, but also the times you have completed the Rodes City Run in the past. I’ve done this race 3 times prior to this one, I believe. So, don’t go thinking I’ve actually achieved some overnight elite status. It’s a nice compliment and benefit that the race offers, and if I were in better shape and condition this year going into it, I might have even risked the closer-to-the-start-line start.
I did a little cooking that night before running through my PT exercises and stretches, foam rolling, and calling it a night. I had to get up fairly early to fit in all the necessary PT stuff the day of the race (it honestly takes close to 2 hours sometimes, but it’s necessary to keep me out there and I try not to whine or complain about it…too much). The weather was crazy that day. It was really warm out when I went to do my dynamic warmup and stretches. I had been expecting cooler temps and overdressed. I was dying. But I didn’t have much time to mess around with, so I just sweat it out and went inside to change into clothes for the race. I opted for a short sleeve shirt with shorts instead of capris. And since my running shorts are a bit unflattering at the moment…I tossed on one of my fun Sparkle Skirts as well. Hey…since my KDF Race Ambassador shirt is part of the uniform right now, I work around that. And it’s not my normal bright, vibrant colors. Sparkle Skirts help with this. HA!
I ate a light breakfast, grabbed a banana to eat 30 minutes before the race, packed up clothes to change into, and tossed on a pair of arm-warmers into Cathy’s race backpack…just in case. It was so warm out when I was warming up, I figured I wouldn’t need them. I threw on a hoodie and we headed down to the car.
SO glad that I opted for the hoodie. My mild morning and turned a bit chilly and with the wind that kicked up…it was near the point of me being cold. Already. I even commented that I should go back up and put the capris back on, but there simply wasn’t enough time for that. I was locked into the shorts.
We made the ride over to Louisville and managed to easily get parked near The Brown Hotel. Easy in and easy parking on a ramp. We backed in to make our exit plan a bit easier to manage too. But…we were about 20 minutes early and I wasn’t about to get out in the cold now and wait around. So, I did what I love to do on race mornings…
I took a nap.
This is not an exaggeration or a joke. I find these little power naps, pre-race, to be just what this body needs at times. So, I had the time and took full advantage. Until the 7:40 am meetup time was approaching and I knew I needed to eat my banana and get to the meeting spot. As I had a big mug of tea before breakfast that morning, I made a quick (and unusual because…princess) stop at the port-o-potties just outside the parking garage before continuing on to the McDonald’s meeting spot.
Just as the sign was in view, I received a text from Leah, one of my fellow ambassadors. She said she couldn’t find anyone else and I told her I was like…1 minute away. I found her…then Matthew found me…and then Melissa (let’s face it…we all know Melissa now!) texted to say that she and Paul were parking and on the way and they’d walk as fast as they could. This was probably the least-organized meet-up we’d had this entire time…and it shows by the smattering of photos of random KDF Marathon Ambassadors pre-race. I managed to get into the grouping of Chris, Melissa, and Leah. So…we have that.
Race start was inching closer and Matthew and I wanted to go find a spot to line up. BTW…funniest bit of this entire thing was that Matthew registered late (it’s a tradition of sorts, I guess, HA!) and was issued a WALKER big. So…he went to packet pickup and they sent him over to services to get it fixed and their “fix” was simply ripping the green sticker that said WALKER off of it. I joked that with me having to dial it back and wearing a seeded bib…and him in a WALKER big…we’re a complete mess and will confuse the hell out of them. Seriously…I this amused me WAY too much. We maneuvered through the sea of people to a spot near the middle of the front of the middle-of-the-pack group (with a smattering of walkers). No sooner had we done that…the whistle sounded (we barely heard it) and the wheelchair racers were off. The caution tape was rolled up and the runners moved ahead.
And soon…we were joining them.
We started off at a really easy pace. I pointed out Cathy ahead waiving the sign and gave a wave as we passed. The photographers captured me pointing. No joke. And then we just sort of settled in. I think at one point, Matthew asked, “Am I holding your pace back too much?” And I replied with…”Let’s pick it up a little.”
This is how the rest of it played out…
Just as we’re starting through our first mile, Matthew (aka: Eagle Eyes), spotted our friend Michael, and gave a shout-out. Michael pointed out that his wife, Laura, was just ahead in the pink and white and we should say HI. So, we picked it up and scooted up there. Laura was focused and we kept our greetings short before continuing on. The pace felt good to me…and as we were moving through the pack of runners, Matthew said, “I think that’s Tammy’s ponytail.” Sure enough…Tammy was just ahead…so we pushed up to say hey to her. She pointed out that we were definitely above the pace I had said I told my physical therapist I would run Rodes in…
…And she was right. As we moved ahead we hit Mile 1 and the digital clock said 7:54 at the mile. We decided to ease back. We thought. Well, I mean we did ease back in theory. We slacked up a bit, but when people are running with you in a giant mass, you sort of just…go with the flow. When talking became hard, Matthew would remind me that we needed to ease off the gas…and we did…until we didn’t any longer. Mile 2 was even faster than Mile 1…averaging around a 7:49 pace. I didn’t realize this at the time though. Matthew and I were just focusing on the long road ahead of us at this point. Four more to go…and thankfully most of this mile leading to 3…was a nice downhill.
I love downhill. It is my favorite speed. HA! I felt like I had backed off again, and that was what I was supposed to be doing, so…that’s good, right? I cruised down the hills and tried not to push myself too much on the inclines. After all, I had just been cleared to start in on hills again. So…there was that. But, it’s like I said…it’s hard for me not to race when I’m in a race. I go into these things with the mindset of having fun. I don’t ever set time goals; nor do I look at my pace or my watch.
But when we hit the marker for Mile 3, I glanced down and said, “Um…we just did a 7:28 mile.”
And so…we truly made an effort to back it down once more. And by that I mean we slowed it down. We had some nice climbs, which I said were downhill at one point and that had Matthew teasing me about my directional skills for the rest of that mile. But, it did feel like a downhill to me. We might have been going up, but my effort wasn’t. I felt relaxed, and it felt EASY!
The remainder of the race we actually averaged a 7:52 for miles 4-6. As we came back onto Broadway to run back to the finish line, And it was just shortly after this turn, where I can see, all the way in the distance, the inflatable that arched over the finish line…that I hear from behind me…
“Well, you don’t look like you’re limping.”
Totally busted on my speedy 10K that was not supposed to be this speedy. It was my physical therapist. He came up beside me. I introduced him to Matthew. He asked me if the hip was feeling good. I told him I had no problems. He fist-bumped me…and ran on ahead.
I just about died. What is the likelihood of that happening…for real? We hit Mile 6 and were in are less-than-quarter-mile finish. So, we picked it up a little and crossed the finish line in under 50 minutes. Slower than last year. Slower than the year I had bronchitis. But…I would like to think, if I hadn’t kept backing off the pace, I could have had a great run there. Not a PR…it’s going to take a miracle to break that…but I’d like to better my Rodes time in the near future.
Overall…I felt good before the race…I felt fantastic during the race…and I felt amazing after the race. There are so many times where I feel like I’ve lost speed or fitness…and then something like this happens, where I don’t come near a PR…but I feel good the entire time, and I feel like I could give more…but under orders to dial it back…and I just surprise myself and realize maybe I haven’t lost that much after all.
So…the official results of the Rodes City Run 10K are that I finished in 48:40. Not even attempting to set a PR…so not even comparing. Just loving how easy this speed felt for me and how I finished with fuel in the tank. I’m getting it back This race helped prove that. I was 421/4246 finishers overall. I was the 75/2391 for women finishers. And I was 17/358 in my age division. I’m really happy with this. Even more so because I know what I am capable of and that I am actually capable of more. I am so glad that I decided to run this race. Even if my initial intention was to keep it between a 8:20-8:40 pace, and in the end…I averaged around a 7:50. I know that part of what helped me out was having a friend running with me, to keep me focused on anything other than the race itself. This race made me feel confident again. It was just what I needed.
My friend and fellow ambassador, Amy, after the race. We were totally twinning!
Matthew and I after we finished Rodes City Run 10K
Maybe next year I can aim for a goal to beat my best Rodes City Run 10K time. Or, if I’m feeling really good about things…try to set that new 10K PR. But for now, I’ll relish the fact that I’m back…and I’m getting stronger.
Following the race, Cathy and I had every intention of getting coffee and eating protein bars for breakfast…but we detoured and hit up North End Cafe where I enjoyed coffee, a gluten-free pancake and a side of fruit. Then…we got macarons from Annie May’s Sweet Cafe.
Oh yes…you know what?? It was only a matter of time before Disney lured me back to the other coast. So often, for convenience, you see my Run Disney posts from Disney World. Let’s face it…Florida is a lot easier to get to than California. But…I have a goal. An achievable goal. And that is to run ALL the Disney Races. So, you know, eventually I had to return to Disneyland. I hadn’t been here in over 3 years (I ran the Disneyland Half Marathon in 2013).
It was good to be back. The whole thing, however, was unraveling from the very start. Let me start at the beginning…
After getting back from my trip to Birmingham to visit my family over Christmas, I realized my OTHER…note that I say…OTHER hip was starting to twinge at me. I had to run a lot of hills in my parents’ neighborhood…there is no avoiding them…so I chalked it up to that and went about my training…with very little slowing me down. Over the New Year, I did my last training run of 14 miles ahead of my taper for the Star Wars Light Side Half while in Columbus, Ohio. It was after this run that the hip really started to get angry at me. In fact, that day, I was hobbling around and this started to concern me. I felt better the next morning though, a Monday, and went out for my speed work. I did that fine, just slightly missing my assigned pace. Drove back to Indiana, did grocery shopping, and felt okay. Got up on Tuesday and went for a run. The hip twinged a few times, but I slowed down and got it done. I felt fine afterwards. And then…on Wednesday, I got up to do my run and stretches ahead of my spin class and…I couldn’t get through my one legged squats without cringing. I went out and started my dynamic warmups and had to stop. I sat outside and cried. The left hip was not happy. I went to spin…and it did fine there…but running wasn’t happening. It was rough from there on out.
I contacted my former physical therapist, and asked her opionion on what the issue might be. She gave me a few stretches to do…and Cathy researched, figuring it had to be my hip flexor and not the labrum as the pain was presenting itself differently. I wasn’t so sure, but went with it, adding some hip flexor stretches to my routine, in lieu of the dynamic stretches and plyometrics. I went to spin 2 more times…but other than that, I rested this hip.
I even put in a call to my orthopedic doctor, but he was booked solid through after I was already leaving for this race series. I was told he would call and go over things I could do. When I didn’t hear from him Friday or Monday, my panic mode kicked in. I called Tuesday, leaving a message that I was leaving on Thursday morning. No word.
But this craziness doesn’t stop there. Wednesday night rolls around and the third on this trip, my friend and Cathy’s sister, Amanda, comes over. You see, we paid for her to come on this adventure with us. She always wanted to see California, and figured this would be a fun way to do it. Girl’s trip…WOOHOO!! She was pretty excited leading up to it…and we stayed up a bit that night discussing what we would be doing, while I prepped breakfast for the morning before the early airport journey. Then, we crashed out.
Apparently, around 1 am, Cathy said her sister knocked on her door and said that she was sick. Cathy got up and got her some of my tea…it’s SO good on the stomach…and that didn’t help her stomach issues. At about 3:30 am, Cathy heard me watching my Instagram story…and knocked on my door. She asked if I had anything that could help Amanda out. All I had were Rolaids, so we tried that.
No go. When I got up with my alarm at 5 am to stretch and then get breakfast ready, it was apparent that Amanda was not coming with us. So…Cathy and I made breakfast, and Amanda called her husband to take her home. He said this was probably brought on by anxiety…which is weird, because Amanda has traveled further than California with us before with no issues. I’ve never seen her as a nervous traveler. So…who knows.
Cathy and I packed up our stuff and her mom picked us up to go to the airport. We checked in and walked the terminals until it was time to line up for boarding. We got settled on our flight out of Louisville to Phoenix, Arizona. Cathy, thankfully, slept for about 3 of those hours. When we landed, I called my orthopedic doctor’s office and talked to the receptionist. I explained that I was told he would call before I left, and here I was, on my way to a race weekend with 2 distances on tap, a sore hip, and no answers. She actually went and got him out of a room to talk to me. After listening to the symptoms, he said it sounded like a hip flexor strain and that a cocktail of Tylenol and Ibuprofen would help with that. I thanked him and said that, more than likely, I’d be making an appointment with him after this weekend. But now I at least had a plan.
The flight from Phoenix to Burbank, California was short and sweet. We disembarked in the rain and chilly weather. It was warmer in Louisville than it was in Los Angeles that day. Go figure. We got our rental car and headed out to grab lunch at In-N-Out Burger (their fries are gluten free…so my lunch was fries. Healthy, I know!). And then, it was onto the hotel to check in and then…yep…head over to Downtown Disney and enter into the Disneyland Hotel for the expo. This did involve going through security to get into Downtown Disney, and then a downhill descent into a parking garage to get my race bib. I was in the first corral and one of the lower numbers, so it was pretty easy-going. With that, we walked back up and into the hotel proper to duck into the Exhibition Hall and to take in the rest of the expo…as well as pick up my t-shirts. I was determined not to spend a fortune at the expo, so Cathy kept me away from the Garmin table. HA! But, as it was, I was already needing to spend over $100 on compression shorts, a recommendation from my former physical therapist after seeing my post about the hip flexor strain on Facebook. So…that happened. I went to get in line for the official merchandise, but was told it was over a 2 hour wait. I had other things to do, so I texted my friend, Melissa, who was coming in for the races the following day to see if she could pick them up if the line wasn’t crazy. She agreed to do just that. So, with my new compression shorts and a couple of new (and needed) BondiBands for my running costumes, we left the expo and went to return things to the hotel room. The rest of that night is a blur. I don’t even think we ate dinner. I stretched, iced, foam rolled and went to bed.
Friday was all about Los Angeles…and we hit it hard! We woke up early and prepared a
breakfast from the stuff I had on hand. We had brought some of Annie May’s Sweet Cafe’s sandwich buns with us…so I loaded them up with some peanut butter I brought and placed some sliced banana on top. It was SO good. And it was just the right way to start off the day. We hauled down to the car, grabbed some coffee at a local place called Coffee Code, then we were making our way down to the California Science Center. We alotted plenty of time to get through morning traffic and it paid off, but we still arrived about 30 minutes before the place actually opened. That was okay, though, because what we were not aware of at the time was that the California Science Center was right next to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which, for you runners out there, you will know as the place where Joan Benoit Samuelson crossed the finish line to win the very first Olympic Women’s Marathon! I was all about standing around and taking pictures (and doing videos) of this place. And that was a good way to kill some time. After a little stroll here and there, we entered the California Science Center and got ready to go see the Space Shuttle Endeavour. I think Cathy was determined to be the first there…and while we were the first on the escalator, we were definitely not first over to the shuttle…but they weren’t too busy at the time. We pretty much skipped much of the exhibit to jump right to the good part…the space shuttle. Although, we did pause to touch one of the wheels in the exhibit, because when you have the opportunity to touch something that has been in space, you touch it!! Space shuttles look fake to me, when I see them in person. It’s bizarre. That being said, Endeavour is beautiful…and the lengths that had to be taken to get her to California is still a fantastic story. We stayed and shopped and then went to seek out more of the center, taking a wrong turn, then turning around and discovering that in addition to the space shuttle, they had an Apollo, Mercury, and Gemini capsule as well. Three more points of interest…and we went and took in each and every one of them.
From there…we made another long drive (seriously…how do those of you who live/work in LA survive…it takes hours to get places!) to make our lunch stop…Erin McKenna’s Bakery in LA. This is her third shop and I have, proudly, been to all 3. Love her stuff. We each got bagels for lunch with vegan cream cheese…and then a box of goodies to bring back to the hotel to have during the time we were staying. This included 2 scones, a doughnut and a cinnamon roll – all gluten free and vegan. And, yes, delicious! Our next stop was supposed to be Pressed Juicery in the same area for one of their Freezes…but the Pressed Juicery there was not a Freeze shop. So, with a little Google-fu…I found one that wasn’t too far away and we drove down there. We parked in a parking garage and went to go get our treats. I wish we had this in Louisville…it’s ice cream made simply from real juice and topped off with healthy goods. Seriously…we need this. We walked around while we ate and then went back to the car. Turns out the parking garage where we parked was for customers of a grocery store only. And we needed a receipt to get out. So, we had to go inside and buy some stuff, which worked out. I picked up some AMAZING kombucha (I am obsessed, but when you have tummy problems…it helps!), some water, and a few other goods. With receipt in hand, we were out and back on the road. This time, back to Burbank to hit up a boutique store called Pin-Up Girl Boutique. I
have friends in California who rave about it and my good friend Tawn actually sent suggestions of what she’d like to see Cathy and I try on. I was a bit more into this than Cathy was, but we tried it all on, and the sales people were lovely, and I really wanted to buy it all…but…it was only my first full day in California and I couldn’t drop $150 on a dress at that moment. I will be shopping there though! It took 2.5 hours to get from Burbank back to the hotel near Disneyland. It was late…and I had a race in the morning…so…dinner was an orange and a Glutino gluten-free toaster pastry. Not what I would usually have for dinner before a race…but it was all we had at the time and really all we had time for.
In the morning…it was time to do the…
Star Wars Light Side 10K
Race: Star Wars Light Side 10K
Place: Disneyland, Anaheim, California
Date: January 14, 2017
Compression shorts…KT Tape…and ACE Bandages.
Welcome to my morning. I got up about 30 minutes before Cathy’s alarm was to go off, just to get myself ready. This meant doing my hip stretches that I found for hip flexor issues and the others I’d been doing for awhile. I also took my Tylenol/Ibuprofen cocktail my orthopedic doctor had mentioned…both the night before and that morning. Normally, it is not recommended to medicate before a race, but, dammit, I needed to get through 2 in 2 days…I was willing to do just about anything at this rate.
Cathy got up with the alarm and we ate a light breakfast, as we had extra large bananas (Walgreens only had King Kong sized bananas when we went there for ACE Bandages) to split on race mornings…so it was a basic nosh on dry cereal with some water. I went to change into my outfit for the day. Not the normal running gear as I was costuming as Rey, from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I wore my compression shorts though, and Cathy wrapped the ACE Bandages around my torso and left thigh, just as the video my former physical therapist sent to me. She secured it with the clips and put tape over those. My right foot (the one that the plantar flared up on a month or so prior) was taped and I put on the capris and the costume top I was using. My hair went into the standard pigtails and my new BondiBand I picked up at the expo went on my head. No compression for this one. The costume didn’t allow for it. But…despite the hip issues, this was the shorter of the races. I figured, while it would feel weird not to have compression sleeves on my legs, I could handle it for 1 race.
I got pinned up and we were out the door, stepping into the unseasonably cool California morning air, joining the myriad of other runners that morning at the crosswalk to step onto Disneyland property and enter into Downtown Disney. There was a security checkpoint to go through first. They searched bags if you had them and, some people, randomly, were sent through the metal detectors. I had no bags, so I was an easy pass. Cathy’s backpack is clear…and the security people LOVE that. Makes her journey through the checkpoints easier.
We strolled past a very crowded Starbucks and continued on toward the staging area. As we got to the other security checkpoint, my friend Melissa texted me and asked where I was. I told her I had just passed through Downtown Disney. She and her husband had just gotten into Downtown Disney…so they were on their way. I told her that Cathy and I would wait just past the checkpoint…and that’s what we did. We saw a LOT of BB-8 costumes…and a few Star Trek costumes too. HAHA!! Ah, the Trekkies are hillarious! Melissa arrived, dressed as Maz (also from Star Wars: The Force Awakens), and Paul (that’s her husband) was Boba Fett. We hugged and both she and I limped (her hip/knee had been a problem since her first marathon the weekend before…can you say BEAST MODE?!) over to the staging area. Of course…more pictures had to happen…last minute bathroom breaks…I had half a banana to eat…that sort of stuff. We did have to start thinking about heading to our corrals, though…so we walked together until I had to break off to head to Corral A. Melissa gave me a tight hug…told me not to even worry about my time and to just have some fun. And if she and Paul caught up to me if I had to walk it…they would join me. I love my friends. Seriously. I love them.
I got to my corral in time for some of the morning banter with our race emcees that morning. They were actually quite funny. And Disney spares no expense, for sure. I LOVED that so much of Corral A was in costume!! There were LOTS of Princess Leia’s…for obvious reasons. In fact, the first woman to finish was dressed as Princess Leia…which seems fitting, for sure. I was trying not to have a meltdown or panic attack due to my hip. I knew one of two things would happen. I would get to that start line and take a few steps and be able to go…or I would have to walk the 6.2 miles to the finish. Whichever it was, I was going to get to that finish line.
After the National Anthem was sang by a Disney cast member, the wheelchair race was sent off first. Only a few minutes later, the corral was discarding any mylar blankets or other clothing they brought to keep warm. No baked potatoes allowed across that start line…it would screw with the timing. The countdown was given…the fireworks went off…and Corral A was underway. I walked up to the start mat, then took a few tentative steps at a jog…then kept it conservative at the jog, realizing that while the hip twinged a few times, I could run. Not all out fast or anything…but I wasn’t struggling either. And so…the race was on.
That being said, my intention to stop and use the photo ops along the way…went to the wayside. Once I got moving, I was afraid that if I stopped, the pain would settle and I wouldn’t get started again. So, I just ran…and prayed a little…that my ACE Bandage would hold…that my hip wouldn’t do something awful. Let’s remember…I had a half marathon looming the next morning. The goal was to just run this and still be able to walk around at the end of it. My friend Melissa had warned me about the one and only hill (you get sent through this tunnel thing…so down a hill…then through…then back up, but the rest of the course is flat. F-L-A-T. Which is infuriating to me, as I ROCK flat courses, and if the hip had been behaving…I probably would have kicked this course’s ass. UGH! Seriously, it feels like I can’t catch a break.
That being said…I almost broke the don’t stop rule when I saw the life-size, moving around, BB-8 on the course for photo ops!! BB-8 is my FAVORITE…and I was SO tempted…but I knew stopping probably would have been worse…so I kept going, with very little pain at all. I ran the streets…through the parks…pushing on past the water stops. For a 10K, I don’t run with a fuel belt, but the cold air and my slower than usual pace meant I wasn’t really dehydrating myself. My first mile of this race was the slowest…my third…the fastest. I slowed it down between miles 4 and 5…but picked it up when I knew the last mile was ahead. I’m not talking breaking any speed records. I never got faster than a 7:38 pace (and that was mile 3)…but I wanted to finish strong. And I saw that finish line and just went for it. I could hear Cathy screaming at me from the cheer squad seats (she got in there somehow…I never know how she pulls these things off)…and powered over that finish line.
What really kept me going…the fact that I knew the medal for this race was BB-8. I
walked through the finisher’s area, getting my medal…a mylar blanket…a box of goodies and some water. And then…I made my way out to the staging area, where Cathy met me. She was going on-and-on about my time and how she was checking the tracking and going, “Well…she’s running…that’s good!” HA! They had some fun photo ops out, so while the lines were still short, we took advantage of those. Then…it was time to head back to the hotel. Our friend Tawn was coming in from Fresno that morning (she left SUPER early to get down there around 9 am)…and I was ready to shower and eat some real food. The problem was, the exit was blocked by racers. Okay…turned around…and tried to go through one of the hotels, but instead of asking someone, Cathy just kept turning corners out of the lobby, and then put us in an Emergency Exit area…where we got trapped. TRAPPED! Insert me starting to bitch about being cold and wanting a shower…and now being stuck. We finally got out, thanks to the help of some of the Disneyland employees…and after asking if we were okay or needed water, we were now on the road back to the hotel.
I showered. And then I rested a little while we awaited Tawn’s arrival. We had a reservation for a breakfast at Goofy’s Kitchen. And Tawn arrived in time to change, do her makeup and for us to get to the restaurant, get pictures with Goofy, and get seated. It was the best way to kick off Day #1 of Disneyland adventures for sure.
We spent the entire day at California Adventure…and that night, my friend Alison and her family drove down to meet us at the Pizza Press for my traditional gluten-free pizza before a race. She and her family are amazing, awesome, and just all around good people. It was a blast…and I’m glad I FINALLY got to meet her in person. And her son, Evan, who we nicknamed Mr. Incredible a few years ago. He really is incredible! We sadly did have to say our goodbyes though, because Sunday’s 3:00 am wake-up for a 5:30 am race
Oh…so my official results of the Disneyland Star Wars Light Side 10K are that I finished in 50:13. Not too bad given the circumstances!! I mean…FOR REAL! I was 296/11,606 finishers overall. I was the 33/6816 female to cross the finish line. And I was 5/1216 runners in my age division. This hips issue is driving me nuts. I can’t even fathom how much better I could have done had I been able to just go for it. Seriously…these results are both amazing…and frustrating at the same time! Given the circumstances…I will take it!!
The rest of the day was fun at Disneyland…but at the end of the day, the hip was done and my limp was starting to return. We turned in after the pizza stop and I took my last round of the Tylenol/Ibuprofen cocktail and turned in for the night. The following morning…did not go as smoothly…
Disneyland Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon
Race: Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon
Place: Disneyland, Anaheim, California
Date: January 15, 2017
My alarm went off at 3 am. My friend Tawn was up and in the shower. She’s a Run Disney vet and is AWESOME at the routine. Wake up early…get out the door…do race…do the parks. She’s not a runner, but she comes out to cheer and to just…be there at the finish line. So, while she was in the bathroom, I got up to take that Tylenol/Ibuprofen cocktail and to stretch. I took a few steps toward the table I had things set out on…and knew that today I was in a whole heap of trouble. I was limping. I was limping bad. I was sore…and I had a 13.1 mile race ahead of me.
THIS. WAS. BAD.
I might have cried as I did my hip stretches and foam rolled. Cathy got up just before the alarm that morning, and we started to just roll through race morning prep. While Tawn did her makeup and hair, I got dressed and Cathy prepped some KT Tape to put across my hip flexor. We did that…and I pulled the compression shorts on over that…then she did the ACE Bandage wrap. Over that went my running shorts and then…the BB-8 running sparkle skirt I purchased SO long ago. Seriously…my hip was being held together with tape, bandages, and a lot of prayer. I was not in a good place, physically or mentally, on half marathon morning. Not one bit. But, I finished getting ready, having to modify the bra top costume due to the low 40 degree weather in Los Angeles that morning. I was NOT expecting these temps there. Luckily, I had a bright orange shirt with me and it became the base layer. I was layered everywhere…sports bra, t-shirt, BB-8 bra top on top…KT tape, compression shorts, ACE Bandages, shorts, and a skirt on the bottom half. And every step…a challenge. I ate my cereal to put something in my stomach and filled up my water bottles on my fuel belt with my nuun and water. I grabbed one of the Godzilla-sized bananas for pre-race eats and the three of us were out the door, pretty much right on time. I was not nervous like I was before the 10K. Walking was a challenge…so I was downright freaking out. I think I cried a few times on the way to the crosswalk to get over to Disneyland property and through security. I branched off to the NO LINE group and held my cell phone up over my head as we went through the metal detectors. Tawn and Cathy got through bag check quickly and we were making our way past the overrun Starbucks on the corner. There was another one further in that was never as busy…so we did joke about that a little. We got to the staging area, and I hadn’t heard from Melissa and Paul yet…so we just moved out of the way and listened to some of the music.
At this point…I think I had an all-out meltdown. Both Tawn and Cathy were quick to give me hugs and reassurance. The thing was…I was hurting. And a half marathon is NO JOKE!! Cathy said that it was possible that this race would be just like the last one…where I take a few steps and it’s all good. I hoped she was right. I dried my eyes…got more hugs…and they sent me off to get into my corral.
Same system as before. No Melissa or Paul to hug. I wasn’t sure if they’d pass me or if I’d see them that day…but I stepped up to Corral A and got inside. And I felt, very much, like I honestly didn’t belong there that morning. The race emcees were back for more fun this morning, and they kept the mood light. I was shivering, not completely from the cold…but my nerves were creeping in. I never get nervous before a race…but I knew that I was going into this at about 50%…and it scared the shit out of me.
The National Anthem was played beautifully by a band and soon the wheelchair racers were off. My corral ditched the mylar blankets or clothing keeping them warm and we all started to move up a bit more at the start line. When the countdown happened, the fireworks went off, I walked toward that start line and took a few tentative steps at a jog.
PAIN!! It was unpleasant pain from the start, but I was in the flow of runners, so I just pressed on, without pushing too much. I thought so hard about ducking to the side and just walking…but I didn’t. I kept my pace easy…and I just did what I could. Once again, though, my plan to stop for photos went out the window. Any stopping today would be the worst thing possible…because as I learned at the Boston Marathon…it hurts SO much worse to start back up. I hit the underpass hills again…and managed to navigate those and started through some of the parks. I paid no attention to time clocks…I was focusing in on my form as best as I could. I had to pass up the BB-8 photo op again…which sucked, since I was dressed as BB-8…but it was the only decision that made sense to me. Running this didn’t make sense…but I paid a HELL of a lot for this race challenge…it was happening even if I had to slow to a walk.
But then…something fantastic happened. As we came out of the park around Mile 4…I hear and see Cathy and Tawn, just screaming at me from the side of the route. It was amazing. Tawn recorded it and you can hear Cathy talking about how my form looked good and all that. I was hurting…but it wasn’t bad at this point. I could manage…even though I was wondering when I would have to drop to the side and take it to a walk.
We exited Disneyland soon after and hit the road. As I rounded the corner, I heard someone yell, “HEY! IT’S R2-D2.” Wrong droid!!! I am in orange…BB-8 is orange. R2-D2 is blue. SHEESH!! The cheerleaders that lined this portion of the course was uplifting and it did make me move a little bit faster as I went past them. Miles 5 & 6 ended up being my fastest, and also put me at a 10K time faster than the 10K I ran the morning before. Cathy had been tracking me as she and Tawn went to get coffee and explore some of Downtown Disney and this fact impressed her for sure.
But it started to get rough soon after this. Much of the crowds disappear at this point. But, there are plenty of people running with you. But…Mile 9 going into Mile 10…was the best. The 501st is out in all their gear. You have just this long line of Star Wars characters and it is just…fantastic. I mean, I’m running through and everyone is in character. There was a phenomenal Obi-Wan Kenobi on the corner…with an accent and all…and that was SO amazing to me. It was uplifting. But after I was past them…that was when the pain really started to rear it’s ugly head. My pace slowed way down for the last three miles…but at this point, I knew I was only 30 minutes at most away from a finish line. I gritted my teeth…cried…a little. Maybe a lot. And knew my right foot was blistering, which never happens, but I was now changing my stride to accommodate my hip. UGH. I started to really focus on each step, trying to to baby the hip, but trying to to push it too much either.
I thought I had picked it up for the final mile, but that ended up being my slowest mile of the day. Go figure. I could hear that finish line, and when I saw it, determination and stubbornness took over and I ran it as hard as I dared and could manage. The announcer said, “It looks like we have a BB-8 coming in…Karen Brady!” That made me at least smile, so at least my finish picture isn’t ugly crying or something. I heard Cathy and Tawn just ahead of me as I limped past the photographers. Cathy called me over for a picture at the finish line which hobbled over for. They said that they would see me on the other side…and I went to get my finisher’s medal for the half marathon, my mylar blanket…and then my extra medal for completing the Star Wars Rebel Challenge! After that, the snack box and water were handed over and I exited the finish area to re-enter the staging area…and Tawn and Cathy were there to hug me and greet me. And I cried…again.
We didn’t hang around much after this. I was hurting and we had Disneyland to properly explore that day. We decided to head back to the hotel so I could shower, we could eat breakfast (Cathy split the last of the sandwich buns and we split the donut 3 ways) before heading out for the rest of the day. We had a big day ahead of us…and while it was hard to move…I wanted to get the most out of my time with Tawn and my time at Disneyland. We even did a thing…by getting the names of the Schulyer Sisters from the musical Hamilton on our Mickey ears and posing in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle!! We are theater NERDS! Honestly, in order to even be able to move that day, I put on a pair of leggins, and had Cathy do the ACE Bandage wrap I wore during the races, and I put my BB-8 skirt back on…because…I needed to cover the ACE wrap.
That being said, this pretty much meant I couldn’t pee all day. Luckily…I never really had to. And I managed a full day at the park…had a blast…and ate an incredible dinner that night at Cafe Orleans. Seriously…worth every painful step.
I guess some results are in order. The official race results of the Disneyland Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon are that I finished in 1:47:53. I was expecting 3 hours, so this was amazing to me. Seriously, even I can’t figure out how I pulled off that time. I was 422/12434 finishers overall. I was 57/7028 women to cross the finish line. And, I was 14/1253 in my age division. Not too bad under these very hostile circumstances. For real! It still pisses me off because this was SO FLAT…and I want to run it as hard and best as I can. Flat courses and I are BFFs. But my body has let me down again.
My orthopedic doctor was unable to see me until February 1. My hip is still…not good. All running is off…I’m walking, spinning, and just trying out other non-impact means of just keeping my endurance and fitness up until I can get some answers.