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

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

Race: Bank of America Chicago Marathon

Place: Chicago, Illinois

Date: October 7, 2018

Time: 3:50:41

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

Welcome…to my Chicago Marathon.

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

I repeat…

A LOT.

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

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The Tamale Place on Rockville Rd in Indianapolis, Indiana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next stop: THE EXPO!!IMG_2848

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

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

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Me and AmyLee at the Chicago Marathon Expo!

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

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

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

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

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Here’s to finish lines!

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

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

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My stats from the Abbott Booth at the Chicago Marathon Expo

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

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

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

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

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

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Me dressed and ready to run the Chicago Marathon!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_2925To the song Sweet Home Chicago.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Me after finishing the Chicago Marathon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Me with my Chicago Marathon medal and jacket at Buckingham Fountain

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

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

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

So…what mistakes did I make?

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Finishers…Friends!

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

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

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

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

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

Race: Kauai Half Marathon

Place: Poipu, HI (Island of Kauai)

Date: September 2, 2018

Time: 1:46:27

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

~Kara Goucher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Me at the start of the Kauai Half Marathon

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

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

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

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

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

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Me receiving my medal at the Kauai Half Marathon finish line

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

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

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

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

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YAAAAAAAAAAS!!

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

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

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

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

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

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Me and Bart Yasso after the Kauai Half Marathon!

Off on an adventure…

It. Has. Been. Way. Too. Long.

Tomorrow, I’m making my way downtown, walking fast, faces pass and I’m homebound….

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Sorry.  I really am someone who can turn a statement into lyrics without even trying.  It’s a gift.

For real though…I’m making my way up to Columbus, Ohio tomorrow.  And…it may not be why you think.

Yep…it’s Columbus Marathon/Half Marathon weekend.  And yes…I’ll be in Columbus.  But I’m  not racing.  I’m not even registered for the races.  Why am I in a city with a major event going on but not taking advantage of the chance to add to my race medal collection?

Because I’m seeing Phil Collins.

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Yep…Sussudio…In The Air Tonight…You’ll Be In My Heart…used to head the band Genesis…Phil Collins.

And that’s pretty exciting to this girl who owned like…every album he put out growing up.  I mean…I saw Rod Stewart & Cyndi Lauper earlier this year…and have Elton John next week…

How old am I?

HA!

I also get to hang with my friend Jenn…who it feels like I haven’t seen in ages.  And Cathy is insisting on a trip to Schmidt’s Sausage Haus while we’re there.  They are home of the 1/2 pound cream puff and a variety of sausages.  None of this applies to me, mind you.  But, don’t worry…I’ll eat a salad and/or some of the sides there. I won’t starve.  And I’ll devour all the Pink Salad I can get my hands on at Jenn’s. YUMMY!

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All that being said…YES…I will at least stop by the expo and scope out the booths and the vendors and wish people luck.  I mean…I’ll be in town.  I might have to do some shopping there too.  The rest of the weekend…well, we’ll see what we feel like doing. I’m sure a few Half Price Books stops are going to happen for sure.

Can’t wait to hit the road tomorrow.  And, yes…being me…I’ve packed a dinner so as not to have to stop.  If the traffic gods are with us…we will have time to swing by Jenn’s house and drop stuff off before heading to the concert.  Otherwise…we’ll see her afterwards.

Did I mention it feels like ages since we last hung out?

Time to get those Weekend at Jenn’s rolling again.  It’s a good escape.

RESET

The last couple of months have been crazy-busy.  Go-go-go-go-go.  Do this.  Do that.  Travel here.  Travel there.  Work.  Catch up on work.  Work overtime.  Cook.  Gotta eat.  Food is fuel.  Train.  Run.  Run.  Train more.  More.  Keep training.  Run.  Keep running.  Still gotta work.  This work won’t do itself.  Oh…yeah…sleep.  That’s kinda important too, right?

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Needless to say…the simple things…those every day things that often fall to the wayside…well…they fell to the wayside.

I’m not just talking about my presence here on this blog or even online.  I mean…making time to do something as simple as vacuum my apartment.  Or dust the shelves.  Or put away things from race expos and food expos.  Or…just organize the apartment.  And if you know me, you know clutter and disorder drive me crazy.  It’s been pretty hard to breathe.

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Today, that all came to a head.  I woke up this morning and causally lingered in bed and played on my broken (aka: shadowbanned) Instagram account, hoping that it might be visible again.  It’s not.  Meh.  I got up and did my stretches and exercises and worked in some foam rolling.  And then…despite the light drizzle and nip in the air…I went out for a run.  And I felt good.  I smiled a lot.  I didn’t worry over pace or speed or hills or flats or anything.  I just did what my legs wanted to do from one mile to the next.  My mind was on the numerous people I know who were tackling the Ironman Louisville today.  I’ve been tracking them all day and it’s been both nerve-wracking and exciting all at once.  Had the weather been less wet…I would have actually been out there cheering in person.  But I honestly (for reasons to be explained in an upcoming blog) just couldn’t bring myself to do it today.

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But, while using the app to track their amazing progress and great feats of athleticism, what I did manage to do was this:

  • Went for a short run in the rain.
  • Showered
  • Made breakfast for my roomie and I
  • Cut up and baked a large, organic kabocha squash (my favorite)
  • Went to Target to pick up my prescription
  • Went to the mall to just move around a little since weather was so shitty
  • Went to Meijer so my roomie could pick up her prescription and then we finished grocery shopping.
  • Organized the pantry at home (finally putting away the GFFAF Festival goodies/finds)
  • Organized the snacks/running fuel drawer
  • Laundry
  • Cooked dinner from scratch (delicious stuffed peppers)
  • Stretched
  • Foam rolling
  • Folded and put away laundry
  • Watched Top Chef (I’m catching up on all the seasons I missed since the upcoming season is in Kentucky (and some in Louisville))
  • And a lot of dishes and cleaning and prepping and all that in between.

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The best part of the day though…had to be the impromptu dance party via Marco Polo with my friend Natalie.  It was a good way to get shit done and yet…still keep a lighthearted and fun-loving perspective on it.  It was so much fun.  And we hit each other with some good songs.  But my roomie and I slapped her with some Baby Shark…so we might win.  HA.

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I’m finally down on the couch and relaxing.  Not ready to go to bed yet, despite feeling utterly exhausted.  But that will come in about an hour.  I’m so happy with how productive I was today and all that got done.  I mean…my roomie even painted her pumpkins today.  Cross that off the list too.

Anyone else have a busy and productive weekend?  Anyone else cheering on friends at Ironman Louisville?  Any suggestions to help me keep up with life…hit me up.  Because my organizational skills are starting to wane.  And that’s not like me.

Bluegrass 10,000 – Lexington, KY (July 4, 2018)

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Me after finishing the Bluegrass 10,000 – Lexington, Kentucky

Race: Bluegrass 10,000

Place: Lexington, Kentucky

Date: July 4, 2018

Time: 48:47

It seems like this race has become the July 4th tradition for the moment, as this is the second year in a row that I have run it.  I actually felt like I was in good shape leading into this race, but you might note (had you gone back to look at last year’s Bluegrass 10,000 race review) that this was run 2 minutes slower.

And that, friends, seems to be the story of my life this year.  Big effort with no payoff.

I know…not every race can be a PR…but guess what?  I haven’t had a PR in any distance since either 2013 or 2014.  They all still stand.  None have fallen and these days I’m starting to come to the realization that they just might never be beaten.

And I’m not exactly okay with that.

But, that’s a rant for another post.  Going into the Bluegrass 10,000, I was aware that this was not to be treated as a goal race, nor was I to run it like one.  In fact, my coach’s specific instructions was to stick with the 8 minute pacer for the first part of the race (that part is the uphill part) and then run it in at the end.  It seemed like a good plan of action, especially since the heat and humidity going into the July 4th holiday was insane.  We were in heat advisories and warnings.  Physical activity in such conditions was pretty much frowned upon.  But this is basically a 42 year tradition in Lexington.

Adjust goals and plans and roll with it.

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The weather on the 4th of July in Lexington: check out that humidity and dew point!

My friend, Melissa, was lining up as a pacer that morning, so she had to be in Lexington at some ungodly time of the morning to get her Pacer shirt, her pace stick, and instructions from Linda (our coach).  Last year, we all rode down together and then spent the afternoon around Lexington…so we did the same this time around.  Just at an earlier hour in the morning.

She and her husband headed our way before the crack of dawn that morning.  En route, I got a text message regarding Sharpie markers.  She wanted to write the paces on her wrist.  So, Cathy went back up to the apartment and returned just as they were pulling into the complex to pick us up.  We got into the car, said good morning, and began our journey down to Lexington, Kentucky.

The drive down was filled with conversation with our upcoming journeys/travels (we’re like travel BFFs now too).  We hashed out a few things, discussed options, and just overall got excited about it.  When we got into Lexington, Melissa made her way to the parking lot that Linda directed her to park in.  We pulled up in a shady spot (this was the best parking spot, ever!) and piled out of the car.  Melissa needed to meet up with Linda, so she and I hustled that way, me toting my Owyn Vanilla Protein Shake to have as fuel since I had nothing else with me for that and breakfast at 4 am wasn’t happening.

We found Linda and got our race packets and shirts sorted.  Melissa was handed her pacer tank and she changed into that and went to stand with the group of pacers for the official photo!

The start of the race was still a little while off, so we just sort of stood around and talked.  Cathy got Melissa taped to help with the Achilles pain she had been dealing with and she ran off to get in the line for the bathroom.  Linda grabbed her pace stick to stand in the road so people aiming for that pace could start lining up.  Cathy and I moved further up and she left me with, as the plan said, the 8 minute/mile pacer.

But this is where it got a little crazy.  Yes.  Before the start.  I’m minding my own business and doing a few dynamic warm-up moves when some women slid in just ahead of me.  I heard them call a friend over and say, “We’re not running an 8 minute mile, but if we start back there, we’ll get boxed in.”

And this is the downside of not having a good corral system because I ended up moving further ahead of the pacer just to be ahead of people who had that mindset.  The National Anthem was sung beautifully and I squeezed into a spot and got ready for the cannon fire to send us off.  And as we made our way to the start line…the crowd began to do that slow jog thing until the start mat was there.  And as I went to hit the button on my Garmin to start it, the person directly in front of me stopped the little shuffle and immediately began to walk.  I ducked around them without running into them, only to have this happen four more times.  I was beyond frustrated.  I did manage a small wave at Cathy as I passed by…but then I needed to focus because the 8 minute pacer took off and I was getting left behind.

The street was crowded so my dodging and weaving to try to catch back up to the pacer I was supposed to hang with.  It was chaotic and stressful…but I caught up…and managed to weave through the first few turns that happen within the first mile of the race.  I pulled slightly ahead and stayed there, figuring on the hill that I would be overtaken (wow, do I have confidence in myself or what? HA!).  That being said, I had said I would use the water stops in this race instead of carrying water with me.  I normally don’t during a 10K, but with the heat advisories in effect, I had considered it.  Guess what.  I came up a hill and rounded a corner, and totally didn’t see the first water stop until I was already past it.  I decided then I would do my best not to miss another one.

Herein was the beginning of the climb.  From about Mile 1.25 through 2.88…you’re on a steady uphill.  I took it for what it was…a hill…and I’m trying to get more comfortable on hills.  So, I just pushed it.  If there were water stops…I took a sip and poured the rest over my head.  It was all about trying to stay cool.  I remember, at one point, thinking, “Had I run the Buffalo Chase 5K, I’d be almost done.”  That was the state of mind I was in at this point.  And it was early.  This climb did eventually lead into a short downhill to the turn around point…which meant…uphill to start going into Mile 4.  I kept on with my sip and pour water when it came to staying hydrated and cool.  It was working, despite knowing my pace wasn’t what I had hoped it would be.

That being said, heading into Mile 5…everything is downhill.  So that’s a nice way to finish up.  I hit the last water stop heading into the finish and immediately poured water over my head.  My immediate thought was, “I should have drank some of that first.”  But I was close enough to the finish that I didn’t let it weigh on me too much.  I ran past the start point and headed down to the finish line.  I felt like I couldn’t push myself any harder and felt relieved to cross the finish line and be done with it.

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Melissa pacing it into the finish of the Bluegrass 10,000 – Lexington, Kentucky

I snagged a couple bottles of water and slowly meandered out of the finisher’s chute to go and find Cathy, who was sitting on the bleachers near the finish line.  We were going to cheer in people and then, of course, cheer in Melissa as she led her pace group to their finish.  It was hot and I was a sweaty mess, so I stood for much of in the shade until Melissa was due to arrive.

We spotted her and cheered loudly.  She was eagerly encouraging a little girl to cross the finish line ahead of her.  It was super amazing and I think that finish really made her race.

She hung out in the finisher’s chute with the other pacers…and I tried to get back in there, but was denied.  It’s fine.  The signs said “No Re-Entry,” so I didn’t fight it.  I just went and sat on a bench until they made their way out.  We found a table to sit for a moment, was given some free roasted corn, and then made the hike back to the car.

Linda met up with us again there, where I handed her the jar of jam that I had brought for her (I made some homemade blueberry jam with some local blueberries a friend picked for me).  We stood around and talked for a little bit, but then she went to get on the road and we went to head to Half Price Books, change, shop, and then head to lunch at Bella Notte.

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Spending the 4th of July with friends is the best way to spend the 4th of July!

For those of you keeping score…yes…I ordered what I always order.  A House Salad and the Gluten Free Pasta Arrabiata, as always.  And it was super delicious.  We stopped off at one more Half Price Books before heading home for the day to get the rest of the stuff accomplished on a Wednesday afternoon before returning to work the following morning.  Holiday over.

So, the official results of the Bluegrass 10,000 are that I finished in 48:47…once again in humid conditions…once again with walk breaks at the water stops.  Pure survival there. I’d really like to make my 10K PR topple one day…but this was a good 4 minutes slower so I’m not feeling too confident about that happening anytime soon. I was 343/2877 finishers overall. I was the 59/1435 female finishers. And I was 5/242 in my age division.  Ironically, I was 5th (out of a slightly smaller group) last year too.  Weird.  I mean, I’ll take it.

The Filly Women’s Half Marathon – Louisville, KY (June 10, 2018)

Me crossing the finish line of The Filly Women’s Half Marathon – Louisville, Kentucky

Race: The Filly Women’s Half Marathon

Place: Louisville, KY

Date: June 10, 2018

Time: 1:59:09*

The running community has given me a lot over the years.  Honestly.  Locally and nationally.  I’ve met some amazing people through races and events and I’m forever grateful for the support.  So, when my coach, Linda, offered me the opportunity to act as an official pacer for The Filly Women’s Half Marathon in Louisville, I jumped at the chance.  Because this is a great way for me to not only help other women/runners meet their goals…but also it’s a way to give back to the running community.  Since I had already planned on running it…I told her I would be more than happy to do it.

And so…the anxiety began.

Because here is the thing with pacing…the race is not yours.  It’s now your job to get your people to the finish line in a certain amount of time.  And I was selected to be the 2 hour pacer…which was perfectly fine with me.  That meant running around a 9 minute mile evenly to get in ahead of the 2 hour.

First time as an official pacer!

The problem is…it’s really difficult for me to dial back pace in practice…when I’m running alone.  I set my watch to a certain range to buzz at me should I go over or under said pace range…but it was a challenge.  And it was stressful.  And I was so certain that I was just going to be terrible…but I kept on keeping on and working on it.

I just wanted to be a good pacer.  I wanted to get these women to their 2 hour half marathon.  And I wanted to do it without being all over the place like the hot mess I am at times.  HA!

I did both of the training runs that were offered.  The first one, I did the entire course, and with a few walk breaks, I cam in relatively close to time.  Still too fast.  The second time, i only ran 8 miles…so it was hard to gauge, but I felt like I was a little closer to the range.  It didn’t hurt that now the weather was starting to get swampy and pretty much unbearable once the sun was officially up.  This would make for an interesting race day.

Official pacing shirt!

As would the predicted weather, which had originally been calling for rain and storms at race time.  I literally wasn’t sure what would be waiting for me at the start line when I got up that morning, because the weather was juts all over the place all week…and thunderstorms had gone through the night before.

That morning, I ate my cereal and got my Honey Stinger Gel tucked into the zipper pocket of my shorts.  As it was humid out, I drank down 20 ounces of water, and prepped 16 more to take with me in the car with a NUUN tablet in it for extra electrolytes.  I tucked my Owyn Dark Chocolate Protein Shake into a cooler to keep it cool so I could have it about 30 minutes before the start of the race…and Cathy got up and got ready and we were out the door and being picked up by our friends Melissa and Paul to head to the Parklands.  The race started at the Egg Lawn, and I was a bundle of nerves, let me tell you.

This was my first time as an official pacer.  I’ve paced friends before, trying to help them achieve their goals…and ultimately, that has never worked out.  And I was terrified that I would end up alone out there…or that I would go to fast, go to slow…be late into the finish line.  Things I never worried about before because I only had to run for me.  If it was hot and I needed to slow down, I could.  If it was perfect and I could speed up…I would.  But this time…I was set to strictly run about a 9 min mile with even splits to get to the finish line at 1:59:00 or just slightly before that 2 hour mark.  That’s a lot of stress.  At least for me.  Because…hello perfectionist.

We arrived and the parking situation was already a mess.  We were told that if we got there early, we’d be able to park at the start line.  We actually did get their early, but they wouldn’t let us go that way.  So, we ended up parking in a field and having to make the hike to the pavilion where everyone was meeting.  It was annoying in that we all had thought we’d have access to the vehicle for before and after the race…and being a pacer, that was sort of important.  Needless to say, we made the walk and I met up with Linda and put on my ForWord Running Pacer tank.  I was wearing the T-shirt, but when I was doing one of the training runs with Linda, asked about tank tops…she made it happen.  And now I won’t die.  She could tell I was nervous, so she said really nice reassuring things to me, helped me tape my paces onto my pace stick.  Which, reminded me that I have always hated carrying things while running…so this was going to be fun.  Last time I carried something during a race was the Indy Women’s Half Marathon in 2012…and it was a water bottle that I really, really just wanted to toss and never see again.  HA!

The ladies of the ForWord Running Pace Team at The Filly Women’s Half Marathon

We took some pictures of the pacers and I made sure I was fueled, hydrated, and ready to run.  I went to use the bathroom because…we had to get here early and I was NOT going to be dehydrated when I could potentially have others counting on me to see them in.

There was a lot of confusion about the start of the Filly Women’s Half Marathon.  The start gate wasn’t on the road proper, but sort of off to the side.  And at the time, a truck was still parked in front of it.  We were getting dangerously close to start time and none of us could see a start mat…and anyone holding a pacer sign was getting asked about it.  No one seemed to have answers…until the emcee had us all move over to the side road with the start gate.  Still no sign of anything that would catch the official start of the race.  There was a couple of race announcements and talks…but soon we were all asked to move forward for the race to get underway.

Leading some ladies out for a 2 hour half marathon at The Filly Women’s Half Marathon

Linda was pacing the lead on her bike…so at her ready…the announcement was given…and we were off.  I crossed through the start gate and hoped for the best.  As I settled into position on the road around the Egg Lawn, I did notice that I had a small group of ladies running with me.  So…conversation time!

“Are you guys my 2-hour group?”  They all said yes. So, I introduced myself and we were cruising through that first mile.  One of the ladies started up some tunes, all of which I was enjoying.  And at Mile 1 I checked my watch and we were definitely going too fast.  I announced that now that we found our space, we were backing off and settling in.

Some women continued on ahead at the original pace, but some fell back with me.  As we entered the second mile, I also knew that Damien…the hill of DOOOOOOM was coming up.  It is a pretty steep monster there in the Parklands (the MRTT/SRTT group named it Damien because it makes devil horns on your elevation chart when it’s included in the beginning and end of your runs there.  As we neared it, I was chatting with some of the ladies still with me.  One had just gotten back from Sydney, Australia.  She had raced there and said the temperatures were much better there (Australia is in their winter and we were heading into summer).  At the hill, as I was trying to keep on pace, I climbed it with power (realistically, this is the only way I know how to do hills as I’ve always climbed them for races and hill repeats…all of which make you drive up them hard).  Some women started walking up it (when I race here, this is what I do because it’s too early to expend that kind of energy) but I couldn’t this time.  Some ladies got to the top and took a walk break.  Some continued on with me.

Hydrating while pacing through the MRTT/SRTT hydration station!

I know this course like the back of my hand. The sun was fierce that day, and it was hot and humid.  It normally is in this area.  But as we got onto the narrow path and out of the road, I was keeping some spirits high.  “We’re almost into a shaded downhill, ladies!”  I glanced at my watch to check my pace and someone asked if we were behind.  I told her that we weren’t…we were actually just slightly ahead and this downhill would be good because after we turned around, we’d have to come back UP this hill (and in the two training runs, this hill slowed me down EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. on the way back).  We cruised down the hill, and crossed over to enter Pope Lick Park Park.  I knew that at the soccer fields, the amazing ladies of the local MRTT/SRTT group would be there cheering and bringing refreshments.  As I was not carrying fuel with me…I was going to try to make it on the Sword (I have never fueled on Sword) and water at the water stops.  This meant a few walk breaks at each one as necessary.  I paced myself accordingly.  At this point, I had one runner with me.  She was super nice and we talked about other races we had done.  She said she was starting to feel the humidity fatigue her and after we went through the cheer zone, where ladies were kind enough to ask if they needed to slow me down (I have a reputation)…she said she was falling back and would try to catch up.  I told her she would…and I’d see her soon.

And now…my dear friends…let me tell you a tale of a 2 hour pacer…who was left alone.  There were runners ahead…and I could hear some runners behind…but there was no one with me from about Mile 5 through…Mile 12.  I wish I could say I was joking.  I’m not.  But I made sure I kept my pace going and took walk breaks regardless.  Just in case some women fell back and needed me to see them in to their Goal B instead of Goal A.  I passed Linda, who was guiding the lead runner (who didn’t even look winded) back to the Egg Lawn to finish.  I cheered for the ladies who were already on their way back, telling them they were doing awesome.  Originally we were told we’d be turning around before the bridge, but that had changed.  We now were heading over the bridge to the final water stop before turning around.  I just assumed that this was actually where we turned around (there was a sign there that had the loop…so that’s what I did.  And…I headed back.  At first my watch beeped ahead of time for Mile 7…but it all settled back into the correct numbers as I got past that.  I think it was just because there was a convenient spot on the bridge to put that mile marker.  After the turn around, I was still alone, so I set my task on cheering for and encouraging all the women making their way toward the turn around point.  It was a miserable day and I could tell a log of women were not hitting paces or expectations that they had set for themselves.

The loneliness of the 2 hour pacer…

Funny how just a little bit of encouragement can turn that around.  I gave a lot of “Looking Strong!”, “You’re doing great!”, “GO LADIES!” as I ran my way back through the course, enjoying the moments of shade, and dreading those open sunny paths at times.  As I passed more of the pacers they all kindly asked me if they needed to stop me or slow me down.  I told you I have a reputation. I would check and tell them I was doing good!  And I was!

At the stand-alone water stop that was out there (Hydration Station 4A)…I popped my Honey Stinger gel (I didn’t feel like I needed it, but I wanted to be sure I had the energy to finish this, even if I remained alone).  I downed some water and carried on, picking it back up to get back on pace.  All the while…shouting more words of encouragement along the way.  Soon the steady stream of ladies going the other way dwindled and I was back to just pacing it in.

I hit the MRTT/SRTT station again, and took a Sword and a walk…and made sure they knew that I didn’t need to be slowed down.  Seriously, every time I heard that phrase it made me laugh and smile.  And not pay attention to the heat and humidity.  I remained alone as I came out of Pope Lick and headed back toward Beckley Creek Park, where the finish line was waiting.  The hill I was dreading, I now was facing on my own.  So…I started the climb…and I could tell I was behind on the pace going up. But I knew I had a small bit of cushioning to allow for that.  Even with the water stops I walked through to fuel and hydrate.  I did my best to push it enough so that when I hit Mile 11 just after hitting the top of the winding, shaded path, I could make sure I was still right on pace.  And it worked.  Despite being alone, I kept the proper pace and worked hard to maintain it.  You just never know when someone might turn up and rely on you to get them to the finish. Even those ahead of you.

Me after finishing my pacing duties at The Filly Women’s Half Marathon

Just after Mile 11, it was back down Damien.  That was a nice relief, but I had to make myself pull back so as not to tear up my quads (this is a STEEP hill)…and to not get too far ahead of the pace.  I continue on the road and at one of the bridges, I see two women hop up onto the sidewalk and start to take the path, not the road, back to the finish line.  I remembered Bob, the race director saying that the last portion and the first portion of the race would be on the roads, so while this did cause me to second-guess it…I kept on the road.  And then Linda was ahead on her bike shouting, “FOLLOW ME!”

She let me catch up and I asked about the women on the path and she shouted over to them to let them know that they should be on the road.  They cut across a parking lot at the final water stop to catch up.  I got my water and prepped to run the last mile in.  I stayed behind these two ladies, shouting words like, “Last mile, ladies!  Let’s do this!”  And as we hit Mile 13 and prepped to make the turn to run toward the finish line, I began shouting, “TWO HOUR PACER BEHIND.  BEAT ME IN!  BEAT ME IN!  DON’T LET ME PASS YOU!”

Me and Melissa after The Filly Women’s Half Marathon & 4-Miler

And they crossed and then…I followed right behind them.  Clocking in at 1:59:09…which, my coach, Linda, would say…was perfect.

They announced my name as the pacer and I went to step out of the way of anyone who might be right behind me.  No one was immediately there.  My friend, Pam, who I met in the MRTT/SRTT coffee run came over to give me a medal and a cold towel, which was put around my neck.  That was heaven.  The after party had treats and snacks galore…but I went over to see how Melissa did on the 4-Miler and relax.  My job here was done.

While I was unwinding, Cathy looked up results and said I had won an age group award.  I wasn’t sure what the process was when you’re a pacer, but when the person who came in after me was 7 minutes behind…I was given the okay to claim it.

Brunch was a Gluten Free Pop’s Poppin’ Egg Salad Sandwich at Wild Eggs!

There is something so amazing and empowering about all women races.  I love doing them…and this time…I loved being a part of the team that was there to help others reach their goals.  And I fell in love with the job of being a pacer.  I might have been alone with it, but it challenged me to slow down, to take it in, to help others, and to get out of my comfort zone.  I got my medal engraved with my name, finishing time, and the word “PACER” underneath it.  And then, Melissa, Paul, Cathy and I went out to Wild Eggs for a celebratory brunch, before hitting Costco and heading home.

So, the official results of The Filly Women’s Half Marathon are that I finished in 1:59:09, perfect timing for the 2 hour pacer, yes?  *FIST PUMP*  I was 14/184 finishers overall.  And I was 2/29 women in my age division.

If this race returns next year, I’ll definitely be signing up again.  It was a total blast and I loved seeing all the ladies come out to run their best and be their best.  And that, my friends, is what an all female race is about.

OH…and that pacing stick…I forgot I was carrying it.  Never once felt annoyed by it.

With my Age Group Award from The Filly Half Marathon

Run For The Berries 5K – Starlight, IN (May 26, 2018)

Me crossing the finish line at the Run For The Berries 5K – Starlight, IN

Race: Run for the Berries 5K

Place: Starlight, Indiana

Date: May 26, 2018

Time: 22:45

One of my favorite baseline 5Ks to run in this area is the Run For The Berries 5K, which is part of the Starlight Strawberry Festival in Starlight, Indiana.  And, while I had wanted to be running a half marathon with friends up in Medina, Ohio…I was still in the area and using the 5K as my speed work for the week.

As I say every year I actually am able to run in this race…there are a lot of things I love to run for, but strawberries…that has to be one of my favorite things ever.  If only they were free…but after a (usually) sweltering race, the strawberry treats are worth shelling out some cash for.  Trust me.  My go-to is a big bowl of strawberries from the Strawberry Shortcake booth and a frozen strawberry drink.  YUMMY!

It’s really weird showing up for a race you still need to register for…just sayin’…

Once again, I wasn’t actually registered to run the Run for the Berries 5K this year.  I waited too long to do the mail-in form…and it doesn’t look like there is online registration yet.  Which is weird.  I know.  But, that being said, this just meant we needed to head up to Starlight a little earlier so I could get registered, get pinned, get stretched, and get ready to run.  So…that morning, Cathy woke up early and, after I did all my PT stretches, decided on what I was going to wear (hello Wonder Woman sports bra!), and ate something, slathered on some sunscreen, and we loaded into the car (and yeah…the sign was able to come too since the weather was humid and hot…but not wet and rainy!).  The race was $25, which isn’t bad.  I paid in cash after filling out the registration form.  The shirts this year were a light sky blue.  Not tech.  I miss the tech shirts from this race.

We had to pin my bib onto my shorts because my sports bra didn’t have enough space for it (and I was now kinda nervous my girls were going to pop out of the cute little ziggy zaggy straps at the front).  But it would have to do.  I’m so not used to pinning things to my shorts at all.  Luckily they were long enough and not ones that would ride up over my, now very muscular, thighs like most of my usual running shorts do.  All this strength training and 3 days a week of spin have added some bulk to my thighs for sure!  We had a bit of time, so we went to stand around outside near the festival entrance to people watch and just get ready.

When you know your sports bra isn’t big enough for the race bib…be glad your shorts are!

About 5 minutes before the start of the race, runners began to make the walk down to the cone that marked the start of the actual race.  As I was wandering that way, my friend Renee asked me if I was actually running this one fast.  I told her that my training plan said to try to keep my pace below an 8 minute mile depending on humidity and heat.  I have been struggling a lot this year with keeping my speed and endurance up in the heat…something I’ve never had an issue with in the past.  UGH!  Best I could do was hope for the best.

I was lined up in the second row at the start of the race.  As with Fast Freddie…it’s off gun time, so the closer you are to the race start, the more accurate your time is. The race organizer got on the bullhorn and started to give some information about the race. Like male runners at the finish will have white cards to fill out; female runners will have pink; walkers will have yellow. OH…and if you are registered as a walker…and you run down a hill…you are now a runner. This gets said every year, and it still makes me laugh.  He gave the words…On your marks…get set…and he fired a gun, then dropped it and got into the pack to run the race itself.  Or so I was told.  Me…I was too busy taking off as fast as I dared.

Me chasing pavements at the Run For the Berries 5K – Starlight, IN

The past couple of years I’ve managed to hit something in the high 6 minute paces.  In 2013, I managed a 6:54 and in 2016, I hit a 6:48.  I was sort of hoping for the same thing to happen this year.  Especially since, while there are slight rollers in this first mile…it is the flattest portion of the race.  I just pressed as much as I dared or could make my legs go…and decided my job today would be to push the pace and then try to hang on.

The turn onto Engle Road brought the second mile to a start.  I knew my legs were starting to fatigue, but it was way too early for that.  Humidity does seem to sap my energy a lot more than it used to these days.  So, I decided to focus in on form and turnover.  And, I did see a girl struggling, so I gave her some words of encouragement as I ran.  The humid air dampened my pigtails and I could feel sweat beading on my stomach…but onward.  I just kept going.  This mile also brings in more rolling hills, but a few more downhills than uphills.  We ran past Hubers Family Farm and continued down Engle Road.  And then I hit Mile 2, ignored the water stop, and just I just kept on running.  After the hill, it’s just a few rollers and a couple of smaller climbs to the finish.  You actually finish this race going uphill.

Nothing beats a frozen strawberry drink and a big bowl of strawberries after a good race.

I could hear Cathy yelling at me to run faster, which usually means another female runner isn’t too far behind me.  According to official results, this was a mere 4 second gap between me and the lady behind me, who was also in my age division.  As I crossed the finish line, a volunteer shouted out my time to me and I was handed a pink card.  I also got a lot of compliments on my compression socks.  I love being a fastinista.

Cathy sent me to get water and cool down by walking while she filled out the card and dropped it into the age group container for me.  Then she went to grab our frozen strawberry drinks.  Upon her return, of course I went to hit up the strawberries for my big bowl as a reward.  It’s the best part, as I previously mentioned.  While I was eating my berries and Cathy was enjoying a strawberry shortcake, a girl behind me said, “Excuse me miss…are those hair extensions in your hair.”  I told her they were.  She asked how I put them in so I tried to show her.  Then she said the best thing, that, honestly, made my day.  She said, “You encouraged me out there.  Thank you.”  She was the girl I saw struggling.  That was the best reward ever was hearing that.  That’s what running is all about, honestly.  I asked her how she did.  She said she was 12th overall female.  So she wasn’t far behind me either.  YAY!

After we devoured our treats, we went to check out the festival booths, where I ended up purchasing hair bows and a gift for my friend Melissa.  Then, we headed back up to listen to the award ceremony and get our cheering on.

Me with my age group award at the Run For The Berries 5K – Starlight, IN

While the men were being announced, I went ahead and checked my watch to actually look at my splits: M1: 7:01; M2: 7:25; M3: 7:33.  Yep.  Very positive splits.  My age group came around and I ended up as 2nd this year in my age division.  WOOHOO!!  I never expect to win…because there was one year where I was 6th overall and didn’t win my Age Group.  So…you never just expect it.  I went up to get my pint glass and then, Cathy and I decided it was time to make our pilgrimage to Hubers for some strawberries before heading home.  We bought 2 gallons because…I make kickass strawberry jam, friends.

As it stands, the official results of the Run For The Berries 5K are that I finished in 22:45. Not a PR…and none of my splits were over a 7 minute pace.  In the past few years I have run this, my first mile has registered in the 6’s.  Not this time.  I’m kind of bummed.  I just want a PR at some point…and none of my old records are falling.  Not. Even. Close.  I was 28/133 runners overall.  I was the 8/69 females to cross the line.  And I ended up as 2/5 in my age division.

I want to come back stronger and faster next year.  Goals.