Project BQ – Marathon Training Week #2

dreams-hopes-poster-rhino-treadmill-unicornWell friends…much to everyone’s dismay as a new Team Challenge kicked in for the MRTT/SRTT group…I had a down week this week.  And it might have been just what I needed considering I raced on Thursday and was out of town over the weekend.  Training when a race is on a weird day works for me…but going out of town never makes training easy.  Especially when you are somewhere that isn’t easy to run without venturing out for a ways to a place with sidewalks and safe paths or trails.  It was what it had to be this week.  And, honestly, I never know where I stand on those challenges because I just do what my coach tells me to do.  I never want to overtrain and/or bring about injury because of these fun challenges.  So…I just stay my course and do my thing. As training hadn’t officially started, my coach let me split the total accumulated mileage between Saturday and Sunday into two mid-distance runs as opposed to a short run followed by a long run…as I was limited only to a treadmill.  You tweak things as you need and just do the best you can with what life is offering at the time.

Let’s dive into this week, shall we?

Monday: This was my typical Monday morning run.  6 miles.  Easy pace.  SLOW!!  He assigns me Mondays as a recovery run from any weekend runs that he puts me through.  And with the past week’s Sunday run being rough…it was a good morning to just take it easy, move the legs, and not put much effort into anything.  I survived another humid morning.  I drank a lot of water, trying to stay ahead on hydration this week.  I also met with my personal trainer.  And then…I returned to my Monday evening spin class with Deana.  It was her sing-along class and it was a lot of fun.  Since it was a down week, I did throw in a few extra things as I figured it wouldn’t mess with my training.  Today I also did one of the two days a week I throw in my hip strengthening exercises to my morning PT stretching routine.

Tuesday: No speed work this week.  My Tuesday run kept it simple.  6 more miles, this time at base pace.  Another humid morning, and this time I had to deal with some stomach issues.  UGH.  It happens sometimes when you have Celiac.  But, I got through it and managed to keep a slightly faster pace than Monday.  I followed that up with a round of 10 strides, which I actually managed to do quickly while focusing on form.

Wednesday: Short and easy run this morning.  3 recovery miles.  He told me to run them SLOW…and I did…for the first one.  And somehow that turned into negative splits without me focusing on it.  So…yeah…this one was probably too fast and should have been done slower.  I wasn’t looking at my watch for each mile…I just ran by feel and it DID feel easy.  No personal training because I was racing the following day, but I did do my second day of additional hip strengthening exercises to my morning PT stretching routine.

Thursday: Early morning.  I needed to stretch, drink some coffee, lather up in my sunscreen, get dressed, and head down to Lexington, Kentucky, for my July 4th race.  I have made it a tradition to go to the Bluegrass 10,000 race there.  My former coach is in charge of the pacers.  Just a bonus fact.  She was kind enough to pick up my packet for me on Wednesday because there was NO way I could make it down there to get it…and there is no race day packet pickup.  Let’s hear it for amazing friends in our lives.  The race starts at 7:30.  It was warm, clammy, and humid.  BUT…honestly, it is the best weather this race has had for the 3 years I have run it.  I dressed appropriately for the weather, wearing my very patriotic Wonder Woman outfit.  Because…I am Wonder Woman.  I raced as hard as I could that day.  I did take short walk breaks through three of the water stops.  And I had a guy at Mile 5 spray me with his hose.  It was a good way to keep my body from overdoing it on a hot day.  No shame in that.  I felt strong at the end thanks to that and put in a time that beat out last year’s time.  Even without a course PR or a distance PR…I was proud of my effort that day.  July 4th 10K in the books…and then a pasta lunch and a 6 hour Stranger Things marathon for Season 3.  I had wanted to finish it…but I had to work the following morning, so I needed sleep more than to get an entire season into one day.

Friday: REST DAY! That being said, because this was a down week and my long runs weren’t really going to be out in the heat, or far for that matter…I decided to drop into my old Friday spin class.  It was a class of 2, but Brittney (the instructor), had taken a training class on the bikes our gym has and gave us a new, challenging, and fun way to use the screens on the bike and really get into a good training mode on it.  I was impressed with how my numbers improved.

Saturday: Welcome to the wonderful world of traveling.  I was up in Indianapolis for a convention.  This hotel isn’t near the Monon Trail.  It’s not even in a good area with plenty of sidewalks and areas to go for a run outside.  I knew going into this weekend that I would be on a treadmill and told my coach.  He had me down for 18-20 miles over the entire weekend, with Sunday being a 15 miler.  He was a bit concerned that would be a bit far to run on a treadmill and we discussed, since training wasn’t really starting yet with my change of venue for my fall marathon…we decided that I could break up the distance over the 2 days I was out of town.  I split the difference…starting with 10 miles on Saturday at an easy pace.  I stopped the treadmill at 6 and restarted it because they only would run for an hour at a time.  The fitness center was crowded (very unusual), and I re-fueled and hit go again…this time messing with some speeds, though still keeping the run easy.  Afterwards…a shower, breakfast, and off to some panels at the convention.  Gluten-free pizza that night for supper.  YUM!  I also stayed up WAY too late on Saturday night, so I knew Sunday might be rough.

Sunday: I had an alarm set for 6 am…but I woke up at 5:30 am so I got up and got dressed and hauled down to the fitness center to fit in the second half of my distance for the weekend.  Same run as yesterday, another 10 miles…which this time I started doing varying, but easy, speeds on the treadmill just so I didn’t sleepwalk through the first 6 miles, which felt like what I did on Saturday.  I was very conscious of the extra fatigue due to the late night and not getting my ideal amount of rest, foam rolling, or stretching while out of town.  I try to make time for it, but I literally just didn’t have the time this trip.  I feel like I normally would, but there was a lot going on.  Got it done before anyone else came into the fitness center.  After my shower and a protein bar for breakfast, I came down and saw the fitness center packed.  Just packed.  So I was good to get it done when I did.  Left the convention just after 11:30 and went up to Carmel, Indiana for lunch at Woody’s Library Restaurant.  And then, the long drive home.  My roommate when to buy all the groceries while I meal prepped, unpacked.  I was supposed to stretch and do my PT exercises…but just didn’t have the time with  trying to multitask everything else.  I did fit it in ahead of finishing up the final two episodes of Stranger Things Season 3.  I foam rolled for the first 20 minutes and then it was on the couch and not moving until it was done.

So, this week was lower on mileage and definitely a much needed reprieve from the endless (it seems) marathon training I have been pushing through for almost 2 years now.  My roommate and I calculated it, and I have been training for and running marathons mostly exclusively, for 20 months now.  Thankfully, they have been continuous and have also had PROPER recovery (okay…maybe not the Chicago to Monumental 2018 stretch…but I felt like I was still in good shape and really wanted some form of redemption from the hot mess that was my Chicago Marathon).  So, I am really ready to get the job done this time, and I’m working very hard in my training to do what I need to to reach those goals, while also listening to any cues my body gives me and helps.  If I need extra recovery…I take it.  And it’s fine.  It’s okay to reset.  Never forget that.  Marathon training, or any sort of training, really asks a lot of you.  So nourish your body, get enough sleep, recover like a champ…and you might be amazed with how far you can go and what you can accomplish.

Back to the norm starting this coming week…and now I feel ready for it.

One more thing…running on a treadmill is NOT my favorite thing in the world.  Treadmills hurt my hips and my body so if I can avoid them, I will.  I’m hurting after 2 days of it…but it had to be done.  But, trust me, I will keep that in mind on my recovery run.  Don’t ever get uncomfortable to the point where it can cause you to sustain an injury.  It’s not worth it, friends.

It was nice to not have to die in the humidity for a weekend though.  Bright side!

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Project BQ – Marathon Training Week #1

dreams-hopes-poster-rhino-treadmill-unicornEver since the Erie Marathon sold out before I was able to sign up for it, my training has felt sort of…meaningless.  I still put in the work, but I had no purpose behind it.  And that, friends, is not where I like to be.  It’s not good for me, mentally, to not have a plan to execute.  I wasn’t just going through the motions, but my heart wasn’t in it.  Where there is no passion, there is no joy.

But this week, I made a decision.

I am giving up my hope of a BQ for 2020.

This was not an easy decision to come to by any means.  I searched every marathon within driving distance between now and the fall cut-off for Boston.  The best courses were all multiple loops…and they just didn’t excite me.  I dreaded having to loop the same path 4-8 times (depending on the race of choice).  After a lot of thinking on it, pondering it, and just…looking at the races I could do and not feeling excited about training for them…I opted to give myself more time.

The hard part was choosing a fall race.  Again, I was limited on distance I could travel due to a birthday cruise I am all signed up for (back when I thought Erie would be a thing and I wouldn’t be training).  I narrowed it down to Mill Race, Columbus, and Indianapolis Monumental.

And after weighing the pros and cons…I settled on a race I ran for the first time last year…Indy Monumental.

GOAL: Boston Qualify for 2021

All that being said, let me point out that training has had it’s own ups and downs these days.  I used to be someone who could handle the heat…but it ahs been a struggle this year.  A big…huge…struggle.  It makes me feel out of shape and underprepared.  And I haven’t mastered what I need to do to make it easier…if anything.  I have hydrated myself, fueled myself, and yet…the struggle, at times, has been beyond real.  Especially if I am pushing pace at any point.  This is not helping me at all with my confidence.  I try not to let bad training runs get to me, but I’m human.  And while I can shrug it off after a few hours, it’s just hard when I know I am capable of doing so much better than I am.

So, let’s recap now that I have chosen a race…

Monday: My coach had me down for 6 miles with the instructions to go SLOW.  Why?  Because Tuesday is usually speed work day and he wants me to have fresh legs for those.  I went out easy and kept it easy.  In fact, my legs felt really good that morning, so I had to remind myself to ease it back on the pace.  Couldn’t ask for a better start to the week.

Tuesday: Speed work.  MEH!  At least it is my favorite workout: Mona Fartleks.  If you haven’t done these…try them.  It keeps things interesting and challenging all at once.  I didn’t stop as much as I have had to this time around…just for traffic when needed and some hydration when it was hard to do it while moving.  My workout was: 2 mile WU; 2×90 sec; 4×60 sec; 4×30 sec; 4×15 seconds (all of which with EQUAL recovery a bit faster than base pace); 2 mile CD.  Any stops I made, I tried to make the turnaround time quick.

Wednesday: Short and easy run this morning.  3 recovery miles.  And then I went to spin class, because I really jus needed to do something other than running.  I’ve missed doing my cross-training and getting my gym time in.  I don’t know how I was fitting it in before.

Thursday: Heading toward a full rest day, my Thursday run was 8 miles on paper at base pace.  I didn’t check my watch at any point, but it turned out I did 7 of them at or below my Marathon Pace.  Whoops. So, I did a cool down mile to make up for that at a much easier pace.  I hate having to look at my watch, but I need to be more mindful of my pace on my easy and base pace days.

Friday: REST DAY! (Thank God!)

Saturday: I flip-flopped my long run days this week because I could have company if I did that.  Being able to run with someone makes me happy.  So, my 10 miler was moved to Saturday.  I met up with Ron at 7 am to try to beat some of the morning heat.  This was supposed to be at an easy pace and then 2 miles for a fast finish.  The 10 miles I ran with Ron were delightful.  We lost some shade after we turned around to head back, and it definitely was warming up…but at least we could get each other through it.  I ran him to 10 and then I turned around to do my final 2 a bit faster.  That part sucked.  But at least I got to see some MRTT ladies out there.  That always helps when the struggle sets in.  I drove home with my air conditioning blaring.

Sunday: I wanted to start early.  The humidity has been INSANE here, and it was no joke today.  And this was going to be a challenging workout…especially in the heat. It was 75 degrees when I headed out the door at 6:25 am.  The humidity and dewpoint made it feel like I was swimming.  Immediately.  My workout: 1 mile WU; 3×4 miles @ MP w/ 4 minute recovery; 1 mile CD.  The warmup felt like a slog and I knew today was going to be hard.  I told myself I wasn’t going to let it bother me, but I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to instructions.  I did pretty good on the top half of the run.  I stopped a few times to hydrate, but immediately continued on.  It was when I turned around at Mile 9, that the struggle became more than real.  LOTS of stops.  LOTS.  And there wasn’t much shade where I was running at that point either, which made it feel 100x harder.  But I got a bit of a reprieve when a train was going on the tracks.  I sat on some stairs in the shade to wait it out.  And when it was safe to cross, I got up and set back out again.  But now my body didn’t want to push.  I had 2 more miles of marathon pace, and I was stopping more than I was running.  I started to play a bit of a game, where I told myself I just had to run to the next street.  It got me through, and I listened to my body and stopped at each corner.  But I was fading…so I stopped at a shady stoop of a business and sat down for a moment to cool off.  I was almost done with marathon pace, but it just didn’t feel like I could go on.  I let my heart rate go down and allowed my body to cool down again before I stood up to at least finish off that mile.  I managed it and had never been so thankful to run easy again in my life.  But the heat and humidity were beating me down even at an easy pace.  I ended up in a shaded parking lot, recovering once again.  I texted my coach and my roommate to let them know I had a mile to go, but was currently sitting in the shade trying to talk myself into doing the cool down mile.  I know better than to push too hard in heat, so I wasn’t mad at the performance, just aggravated that I was struggling so much.  I did finally get up, shake it off, and jog myself home.  It was one of the hardest runs I have had to get through yet this training session, and I feel like I barely survived it.  My coach gave me a pep talk, telling me what I already know…in the summer you have to go based off of effort and not pace.  That’s never been easy for me…but it was a good reminder.  I made it home.  I took a cool shower.  And I started to recover as best as I could in that moment.

So…here it is, friends.  Another attempt for me to get back to a race that I still feel like, to this day, I never had a fair shake at.  I know I am capable of getting there.  I just need to get comfortable being a bit uncomfortable this summer.  Trust me…this goal is worth all the effort I am putting into it.  I am just trying to train smart and keep it real.

And to keep smiling.  Because if you can’t smile at the end of the day…it’s not worth doing.

Geist Half Marathon – Fishers, IN (May 18, 2019)

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Me after finishing the Geist Half Marathon – Fishers, IN

Race: Geist Half Marathon

Place: Fishers, Indiana

Date: May 19, 2018

Time: 1:49:06

Time got away from me on this race recap as we are almost one month removed from it.  My apologies.  Marathon training is back in full swing (again)…and I’ve just been busy.  Even on weeks that haven’t had a stacked training plan.  Hey…I do have an actual job (if I could make a living is a blogger…that would be amazing, but it’s not my destiny) and some obligations that happened between then and now.  But…here I am…finally getting this written up.

I will preface it with this…going into this race, being only weeks off of a full-on marathon where I attempted (and almost hit) a BQ race, my coach and I agreed to use this one as a training run.  No pushing the pace.  Keep it easy.  And with the humidity and weather trending the way it was for Saturday morning, I was relieved that this was our decision.  But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself…

Let’s start on Friday evening, after leaving work around 2-ish to head up to Fishers, Indiana to get to the expo and pick up race bibs.  I say bibs, because once again, Cathy was taking a spin at the 5K.  We did hit some traffic jams, of course, but we finally arrived and I was ready to get my race stuff and do a quick walk through of the expo (it’s tiny…honestly) before checking into the hotel just up the way.geist01

The expo was simple to explore. You can do the first part of it as you enter St. Vincent’s Fishers Hospital.  There are a few vendors, but nothing that I, someone from out of town, really needed to stop and check out.  So, Cathy and I maneuvered ourselves to the back of the room to the table set up for packet pickup.  I went to get my bib for the half, and Cathy went to get her special VIP bib for the 5K.  We don’t remember her signing up for VIP…but she had VIP.  So…who knows.  After that, we checked out the second half of the expo, simply walking past the booths, heading to the room near where we entered to pick up our race shirts.  The 5K was short sleeve.  The 10K was short sleeve.  The half marathon…long sleeve.  It’s an April race…if it’s not the really cool hoodie thing that I got last year…I want short sleeves.  But, the shirt was very nice…so I won’t complain.

That was it for the expo.  We were in and out in about 5 minutes and heading up the street to the hotel we stayed in last year.  Check-in took a bit longer than usual, because someone was checking in bunch of different people in different rooms (not sure for what, but it wasn’t for the race).  But eventually I got up to the front desk and got our room, up on the 2nd floor.  We hauled our luggage up to the room and now were waiting on our friend, Greg, to meet up with us so we could grab dinner at Woody’s Library Restaurant (my new favorite place to grab food when in Indy).  It was taking a bit longer than expected because…traffic…so Cathy and I split a Clara Cookie that I had picked up at the Glass City Marathon expo in Toledo.  It was the Peanut Butter one.  And it was delicious.  And it was perfect to keep the tummy rumbles at bay while we waited for Greg.

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Pre-race Dinner at Woody’s Library Restaurant in Carmel, IN: Spinach Mushroom Tacos with Sweet Potato Fries

He did finally make it and we headed down to see him, somehow missing him when we walked through the lobby.  We ended up doubling back and finding him.  Hugs all around before making the drive from Fishers to Carmel, Indiana to eat dinner.  We ended up finding a really good parking spot and were seated immediately at a corner table.

I had looked at menus online, so I was prepared and ready to go with my order.  Greg got the Triple Grilled Cheese and a beer.  Cathy got the Friday special of Fish & Chips (her favorite), and I got Spinach Mushroom Tacos.  I didn’t ask for extras or for hot sauce, because with the race the following morning, I was hoping to keep things mild.  With it, I got a side of the sweet potato fries (which are gluten free!).  We spent the time waiting on the food (it did actually take awhile, but they were PACKED that night) chatting and catching up on things that we had been up to.  And when food arrived, we dove in.  Tacos, however, are one of those foods that once you pick it up to eat…you’re committed and you just have to keep going on it.  So the tacos disappeared first…then I hit up the fries.  We all seemed pretty satisfied with our meals.  Afterwards, we went back to the hotel to hang out.  I did some foam rolling.  Greg left after a bit more talking and we got ready to get some rest with a 7 am start time staring us down.

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Cathy feeling good on race morning for the Geist 5K

I always set two alarms for race morning.  I got up with the first one to take a pill…use the bathroom, then crawled back into bed for another hour.  The second alarm went off, which is also Cathy’s alarm.  We’re actually really good about staying out of each other’s way…letting each one have a turn in the bathroom, and getting ready pretty quickly.  We have this race morning thing down.  So even early start times aren’t too stressful.

With the way the morning was heating up already, I went with the new Boston crop top that my friend Natalie got me as a gift for finishing Glass City in Toledo (even without the BQ). I love this crop.  It’s motivation in and of itself.  And…shorts.  My compression sleeves were pink to honor my mom’s continuing battle against breast cancer.  I made sure I had two Nuun tablets in my hydration pack’s bladder to help balance out electrolytes, because it was definitely going to be a sweaty race.

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Loving my new crop top that Natalie gave me…my outfit for the Geist Half Marathon

We left the hotel room early, but I forgot to grab something and had to go back in.  Cathy went down to the lobby without me, where she met a runner celebrating her birthday.  Her name was Katie, and not only was she a Disney runner, but she was Bib 34, celebrating her 34th birthday.  AMAZING!!  She was super nice and I actually ended up running into her again as she and her family were headed to the hotel pool as I was heading up for a shower and to pack up to head out for lunch and then get home.

Cathy loves parking at the school which used to host the expo for this race.  We never have trouble finding a spot.  And while it is a bit of a hike down to the start line, it is never hard to get to and from the parking area so we can get back to the hotel without any stress.  So…worth it.  We parked and made the walk toward the start area.  I got a text from my friend Jay, and I went and met him at the Fishers Running Club tent.  But, like I said…start time was 7 am….so while their club was getting their photo taken, I meandered down to check out the start line.  It was about this time that I realized that I had left my fuel (save for the Generation UCan I had for 20 minutes before the start) back in the hotel room.  I had enough UCan to get me through a half marathon…but with the heat, I wasn’t sure if I would need backup or not.  So, I was bummed.  Big time!  Whoops!

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Why am I so happy? No pressure pace race!

The 10K and Half Marathon start on the right of the line.  The 5K starts to the left.  So, after snapping a couple of photos, Cathy and I parted ways: she went to line up in the 5K corrals and I went to find a spot at the start for someone who wasn’t racing.  I was hoping for at least a 1:50 half…so I stood near that pacer.  The National Anthem was sung…and the lyrics were flubbed, but we were close now to the start.  I took in some water and readied myself for a training run with a medal at the end.

I made a point to stay just in front of the 1:50 pacer in the first mile.  There were a lot of people going all-out, full throttle from the start, and I really think this worked against them that morning.  The emcee announced that it was the hottest Geist Half Marathon to date!!  So, holding back I think helped me not have burnout, like I did last year when I just gunned it at the start and then ended up having walk breaks at water stops.  I don’t think walk stops are a bad thing, but when you’re gunning for a PR…it’s not exactly something you usually incorporate.

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Cathy and I pre-race…she’s about to head to the 5K side and I’m about to line up for the Geist Half Marathon

This year…I was supposed to keep the pace easy…and treat this as a training run.  Mostly because I was fresh off a marathon.  In the end, this tactic seemed to work for me.  I never really felt awful at all.  And I was able to run the entire time.  Was it my slowest Geist Half Marathon to date?  You better believe it!  Am I okay with that?  You better believe it.

I continue to come back to Geist, despite the heat and hills (dear, God, are there ever hills!), because of the atmosphere.  It’s stunning.  The race runs you through gorgeous neighborhoods, starting at the corner you turn soon after hitting Mile 1.  The people who live there come out with speakers and with treats and with sprinklers and with sidewalk chalk and cheer and encourage.  And it just makes you feel good.  You belong there.  The 10K and Half Marathon stick together for about the first 3 miles. Just before that Mile 3 marker, 10K runners are instructed to go left, while Half Marathoners are told to keep going straight.  This year, I was running near a young man who had his headphones in, wearing a 10K shirt and bib…and didn’t hear the instructions.  So, it seemed he was getting himself into more than he was ready for.  He was yelled at by volunteers at least 5 times.  THIS IS WHY YOU SHOULD NOT WEAR HEADPHONES IN A RACE.  Or, if you must, keep that volume at a reasonable level, okay?

This is the point where we cross the reservoir again (we do it the first time as we head out from the start).  I love this part because it’s gorgeous, but also because there is usually a nice breeze coming off the water.  Love it.

The halfway point came and went.  I would normally fuel at this point…but I was just relying on that superstartch to get me through the heat.  I still felt good, mostly because I wasn’t really pushing any sort of pace…wanting to just keep my momentum moving forward without stressing over a goal time.  There were plenty of water stops along the way, and some cooling stations as well.  If there was water being sprayed at any point, you better believe I was running through it.  I used the water stops to grab the cups of water and pour them over my head.  Every stop.  Without fail.  Trying to keep that core temperature down.  This worked.  Honestly.

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Me running to the finish of the Geist Half Marathon

From everything to remember on this course, I always remember that Mile 9 is a giant hill that we have to run up.  I passed a few people on this, who had shuffled to the side to walk up it.  I gave a couple of people a “nice job” as I jogged my way up.  Hills are a MAJOR struggle for me.  So why do I do this race?  It’s my PR race.  On a harder course.  So…one day, maybe it will all click again.  It wasn’t that day though.  Nope.  Not that day.  Not in that heat.  At the bottom of the hill, we make a turn to head back toward the bridge to go back over the reservoir and then back into the neighborhoods and then back to the finish line.  It was at this point, a man behind me said, “Are there any more hills?”  The volunteer stationed there said, “I don’t know…maybe little ones?”  I laughed.  Out loud.  The last 3 miles are basically retracing the start of the race.  People were still out cheering, offering orange slices, water, whatever runners might need.  More importantly were those who would shout out that you were getting close…that the finish line wasn’t far…that we looked strong.  Some people who were struggling, they would ask if they needed anything.  Honestly.  THE BEST.

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Me crossing the finish line at the Geist Half Marathon

As I was making the turn at Mile 12, I passed my friend Jay.  He told me I “looked strong” and I decided to give picking up the pace a shot.  The road to the finish line always seems long, but as you get close, you get the crowd and you get the announcer.  I passed a few people.  Got passed by some people.  But, ultimately, entered that chute and ran towards the finish line.  I saw Cathy on the sideline and she started screaming at me to cheer me in.  With hands held up…I finished the race.  Another Geist Half Marathon in the books.

Cathy made her way over to the finishers area, and had me stand under the spray of a cooling station there.  It was nice and felt really good.  Jay found me as we were leaving to head up to the VIP area for Cathy to grab free beer and some snacks.  He invited me to stop in at the Fishers Running Club tent for any sort of refreshment.  I took him up on that before we went to get official results and let Cathy have one more go at the VIP area.  I have videos on my cell phone of her first go-round in the VIP section. HA!

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Cooling off at the cooling station

I went to get my results printed and after the paper was handed to me, I glanced at it and went, “Holy crap.  Third in my age group!”  For the first time…without trying or even racing…I once again placed in my age group.  This was becoming a fun trend.  I went to the awards table next door and was handed a little cinch bag with the words “Age Group Winner” on it.  I always have use for bags…but this one would have to be on display.  We then went back to the VIP section…Cathy went in for beer and fruit and I hung out on the curb near the gated off area.  We chilled for a few minutes before deciding to head back to the hotel room so we could cycle through showers and head back to Carmel to grab lunch at…yep…Woody’s Library Restaurant again.

So, my official results of the Geist Half Marathon is that I finished in 1:49:06.  It was my slowest Geist Half Marathon yet…but I felt good throughout it, never really fading.  That’s a testament to Generation UCan if you ask me.  So, I was 104/942 finishers overall!  I was the 18/450 women to cross the finish line. And I was 3/87 people in the my age division! How ironic is it that I finally snagged an age group award on my slowest finish time for this race?  In 2014 (my PR year), I was 4th. In 2016, I was 6th.  In 2018, I was 5th.  Nailed it.  Somehow.  Without trying.

And yes…I can’t wait to have another spin around the reservoir next year!

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Unexpected Age Group Award at the Geist Half Marathon

Mercy Health Glass City Marathon – Toledo, OH (April 28, 2019)

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Me after finishing the Mercy Health Glass City Marathon – Toledo, Ohio

Race: Mercy Health Glass City Marathon

Place: Toledo, OH

Date: April 28, 2019

Time: 3:38:46

After a really good shakeout run using Glass City’s Savage 5K as just that (and somehow placing in my age group), I spent the rest of Saturday in my hotel room.  Sitting on my bed.  Feet up.  Eating.  Blogging.  Watching television.  Not out walking around Toledo.  Not hanging out at the expo.  Off my feet.  Foam rolling.  Stretching.  All of it.

I was really taking this prep seriously!  I didn’t actually leave the room until about 4 pm…when Cathy and I headed into Toledo to hit up Organic Bliss Deli & Bakery for dinner.  We had looked at a few places in Toledo, but it is so hard to gauge  how safe some places are, and some reviews on places I had been looking at weren’t so good on my Find Me Gluten Free app.  We were going to do my new favorite thing before a major race – sushi…but Toledo’s only safe sushi place only had the a vegetable roll, cucumber roll, or avocado roll for vegan options.  BOOOO!  I am lucky to have Dragon King’s Daughter for my vegan sushi needs in Louisville/New Albany.  As we were driving up to Toledo, my fellow Celiac blogger and Instagram friend, Margaret, was on her way down to Columbus for the Gluten Free Allergy Free Fest and posted about Organic Bliss.  They closed at 5 pm, so we went early and got there to figure out what we wanted for dinner.  And, of course, we would get a box of goodies to go back to the hotel with us.

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My Gluten Free Caribbean Avocado Sandwich with a Chickpea Salad from Organic Bliss Deli & Bakery in Toledo, Ohio

The people there were very kind and gave us some time to look over the menu, and we finally came to our conclusions…Cathy went ahead and got the BLT with Chips.  And I went with the Gluten Free Caribbean Avocado Sandwich (avocado, romaine, spinach, tomato, cucumber, black beans, papaya poppyseed dressing).  I got that with a side of the Chickpea Salad.  And then we boxed up some treats: A Mint Chocolate Chip Cupcake, an Almond Scone, a Cranberry Orange Scone, a Cinnamon Roll, and the Peanut Butter Quinoa Bar.  We paid and went and took a seat in the corner while meals were prepared and brought out to us.

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All my baked goodies I took back to the hotel with me from Toledo, Ohio

Sandwiches before a race are a good back-up it seems.  And this sandwich was AMAZING.  I loved it.  And the Chickpea Salad was the perfect side.  Got some carbs, protein, healthy fats…perfection.  They were trying to get ready to close, so the floors were being swept and people were coming in for last minute purchases.  We finished up and headed out to go back to the hotel for the night. And you better believe Cathy and I split that Mint Chocolate Chip Cupcake for dessert back at the hotel.

I went ahead and posted on my Instagram feed the motivation, the drive, and the reason I was running the following day: my mom.  My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer back in January, just after the New Year.  It was a shock to my family and one that none of us were prepared for.  Right now, she is going through chemo, keeping her spirits high and her thoughts positive.  What a warrior.  This race, save for a couple of miles, was to honor her.  Mile 1, my roommate claimed.  Mile 26, my friend Natalie claimed,  And Mile 10 was in memory of my friend Tina’s daughter, Kinsley, who died in her sleep at the age of 10 a couple of days before I left for Toledo.  I would carry these honors with me respectively on the race course.

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My mom – she’s a warrior!

I did one last round of stretching and foam rolling while watching Guy’s Grocery Games on Food Network…and got an onslaught of uplifiting and motivational gifs from my coach.  I do love my coach.  He has been amazing, even when training went slightly off the rails when I busted up my knees.  The gifs made me laugh.  And he threw in a Game of Thrones reference, so that was winning.  But, soon it was time to turn in for the night.  I set two different alarms.  One for me to get up and take my medicine and use the bathroom…and then go back to bed.  And then one for Cathy…which would be when I would get up and get dressed.  No surprise…I couldn’t sleep well.  And I shut off my first alarm before it even went off.  Tried to climb back into bed and wait for the other alarm, but then my mind wouldn’t shut off.  So, I got up and did my PT stretches for my hips…and then went ahead and started to get ready.  By the time the second alarm went off, I was pretty much dressed and ready to head out the door.  So, while Cathy got ready, I started prepping my hydration vest bladder with 1 liter of water, grabbed my Maurten gels to use as additional fuel on the run, and put on my clothes I would shed prior to the race.

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Race day ready!!

Because up in Toledo…it was 41 degrees on race morning, but with the windchill, it was in the real feel was in the low 30s.  They had been predicting snow…but thankfully that didn’t happen.  I had, thankfully, packed some clothes that I could wear over my race gear (and a back up short sleeve shirt since a tank top was the original plan for this race), so I felt like I was good in the wardrobe department.  I was glad I had the clothing to give to Cathy before I got into the corral, because I was cold in that wind.

We left the hotel early.  Like 5:45-ish early.  And we made the 20 minute drive to the University of Toledo, where we found a lot to park in.  And then…then was the walk to the start.  It was slightly drizzly, but Cathy had purchased some trash bags at Kroger so, we both donned them and set out down the sidewalk to get to the start.  It was a pretty big walk, but it was a good way to warm up for sure.  If you know Cathy’s history with directions, you will understand that I kept checking with her to make sure that she was on track to getting us to the start line, especially when random runners who were walking near us would veer off and we’d continue on…into the land of empty sidewalks and roads.  But, we turned at an intersection and I could hear the tunes of the start line, and they just so happened to be playing my theme song for this year, Panic! at the Disco’s “High Hopes.”  It was a good sign.

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This was not the start line that I expected for a spring marathon. Wet, cold and windy!

We went to find a spot for Cathy to stand for the start of the race and just sort of made that base camp.  I stood behind her to break her from the wind.  We took a few photos.  I looked miserable.  I was miserable.  Spring marathons were not meant to be spent freezing.  At least, not in my opinion.  I drank my bottle of UCAN with 30 minutes to go and eventually, with about 10, shed my extra layers, save the trash bag, got a hug from Cathy, and headed to Corral B.

It was here in Corral B that I set out on my mission to find the 3;35 pacers.  The Web site had two of them listed, but as I hunted for the tiny yellow signs the marathon pacers held, I just couldn’t find any in my corral.  So, I went up to one of the half marathon pacers and asked him where the marathon pacers were.  He said that they should be in here…and asked which group I was looking for.  I said, “The 3:35.”  And he told me that there was no 3:35, only 3:30 and 3:40 and to find and line up with the 3:40 so that I start slow.  I was determined not to melt down or let this mentally get to me.  The National Anthem was about to be sung, and after that, I gave one last look around my corral for pacers….shed my trash bag, and decided I was going to have to pace myself this time.

That’s a scary thought  right?  But that was how it was going to be.  Corral took off and I saw the bobbing of the yellow pacer signs up there.  So…one more chance to check for them in my corral.  No luck.  None.  Deep breath. We were moved up toward the start line.  Waited two minutes.  And then…we were off.

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Just before Mile 4 in the Glass City Marathon

I reeled it in immediately.  Normally that race start is intense and the adrenaline is rushing and you just GO.  You bolt it out and find some space, but it uses up valuable energy, and I had been given a plan to follow, and while I couldn’t see the first 5 miles through with the pacer as the plan said, I wasn’t going to blow it up by going out too fast too soon.  I could hold it together and hold back.  Five miles.  I had this.  My coach wanted me to be around an 8:12-8:10 pace for these miles.  I did the best I could, and while a few of them were slightly fast, the last two were just slightly slower (not by much) than that pace.  Just before Mile 4, Cathy had found a spot on the side of the road to cheer. It was amazing.  Cowbell and all with a crowd.  I will say this, for being a smaller race, I never felt like I wasn’t supported out there.  Going into Mile 4 was a huge example of this.  Lots of people, even in the damp cold, just there to cheer on the runners.  It was great.

From Mile 6-15, I was supposed to maintain a slightly faster pace, not sprinting, not going too fast, but hitting those high 8’s.  And I managed this.  Holy crap, I was doing it.  And I felt good.  I didn’t feel like I needed anything, and technically with UCAN, I didn’t…but I didn’t want to run out of steam, and I have always been told to fuel early and often.  So, I took my first Maurten gel at Mile 6. Here we were guided through some neighborhoods, and people were down at the end of their driveways cheering.  Our bibs had names on them, so they would shout out your name and some encouragement as you went by.  Loved that.  While big races are all fine and good, this was the feel of a big race without all that big race stuff.

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Me heading into the finish line of the Glass City Marathon

It was actually just before Mile 10 that the half and the full marathons split.  This was clearly marked with big gates for the runners to go through.  The half marathon runners turned left, while we continued on.  This did bring the number of people around down some.  But, again, I never, ever felt like I was running alone.  At Mile 10, I fueled again (remember, early and often) and then I did give a point up to the sky and said Kinsley’s name.  She gave me some wings on that mile.

It is just before Mile 11 that the marathon course enters Wildwood Preserve Metropark.  We would actually run through this park twice on the course, but, trust me, it didn’t really feel repetitive.  The open streets we had been running on narrowed to a running/biking path, but it was paved and beautiful.  There were race volunteers out there, handing out water at the two water stops that were inside the park.  There was a band playing as well at some point.  On the first pass through the park, somewhere after Mile 12, we are sent to the right to run out onto the streets again.  I fueled again at Mile 14, and pressed on, still feeling strong and confident.  It was somewhere in Mile 16 that I caught up with the 3:40 pacers.

WHAT?!

Yep…the 3:40 pacer.  I shook this off, figuring that it was fine.  The problem was, I joined up with them as we were sent to run on the shoulder of a road, and in a pace group, that made for some tight, tight quarters.  This made my split at this mile much slower than I would have liked, but I was afraid of clipping runners ahead of me, or being clipped by runners near me.  This happened twice, if you recall, when I started with a pace group at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon back in November.  When I had an opening, I did pass and get ahead, able to stretch my legs back out and pick it back up.  I didn’t panic.  Not at all.  I just found my own pace again and was happy to not be in that pack anymore.  I had some breathing room and it took that anxiety away.  I fueled again at Mile 18 and just kept on going.

Just before Mile 20, we re-enter the park again, from a different entrance and make our way back through that path.  It was here that we have to navigate a small bit of an incline.  And it was here, that my legs slowed down and just wouldn’t pick it back up.  The final 10K…where I wanted to just maintain and keep going strong.  A tiny little bump in the elevation took the speed away from me.  I felt like I was picking it back up, but I wasn’t.  I truly wasn’t.  This time as we go to exit, if it’s your second loop, you turn left, and now you’re heading back out toward the university.  I still felt good, I just couldn’t find any sort of speed at this point.  We are still on this paved trail, and runners were scattered, but we were strong.  The 3:40 pacer passed me again.  And I didn’t fret or sweat it.  I did shed my gloves around Mile 22.  My hands were getting really hot finally.  And I was close.  I also took my last gel at this point.  Fuel for the final four miles.

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Me crossing the finish line of the Mercy Health Glass City Marathon – Toledo, Ohio

There were some really perky and happy ladies running a friend in for his last few miles, who were fresh and really uplifting.  It was nice that they came by me because they definitely helpful in that stretch.  Around Mile 25, you can pretty much see the school.  You know that finish line is on the field of the football stadium, and you know…you really are almost there.  People are cheering.  Shouting your name.  Encouraging you.  Telling you how good you look.  How fast you look.  That you’re doing amazing.  I still felt good.  I still felt confident and strong.  I knew I wasn’t getting the BQ I had been training for, but I hadn’t glanced at clocks or my watch for time…just my pace.  I never peeked at it if it wasn’t buzzing at me for a mile lap.  I hit the turns to take the chute into the 26th mile…and then it was on to the stadium.  The crowd was amazing.  Loud.  Screaming.  I saw Cathy as my name was announced and I kicked as much as I could toward that finish line.  Crossing it…with my hands up.  I paused my Garmin and took a look at the time.

3:38.

I was just off of my BQ time by 3 minutes and off my goal time by 5 minutes.  I was so close.  I didn’t get my goal, but I was incredibly happy and proud.  I hadn’t hit the 3:30’s in a marathon since 2013, where I did it twice.  Both BQ times.  I was elated.  I cried.  Cathy came over after I got my Mylar and my medal and gave me a hug.  I told her I needed to put my feet up so we went over to the field and I laid down in the sunlight and propped my legs up on her.

Eventually, I decided that I did, in fact, need to move.  So, we headed out of the stadium to the runner finish area.  Here we collected my commemorative glass mug (you get it upon finishing), and went to the food tent.  I couldn’t eat anything, but poor Cathy was starving so she had my beer and pizza tickets, so I let her claim those.  I was feeling lightheaded, so I went to sit down and shiver in my Mylar.

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My Spicy Ginger Tofu & Ancient Grains bowl from Corelife Eatery

Cathy and just shown up when my Instagram friend, Scooby (who had a fantastic day as the 3:15 pacer) wandered by.  I called him over and we chatted for a minute, but he had just snagged some pizza and I didn’t want it to get cold…so we congratulated each other and I let him go.  Cathy had two beers to try.  The first one she hated, the other one she sipped on until I decided I was ready to go get warm with a hot shower at the hotel while she went to get me some coffee from Bigbee Coffee.  The walk to the car felt longer than it probably was, mostly because my body was tired and a little sore from the effort that day.  I eventually foam rolled, stretched, and went to get dinner at Corelife Eatery before seeing Avengers: Endgame that night (the theater was advertised as having reclining seats – it didn’t…and by the end, I knew I had made a big mistake).  It was a good day, and I am still basking in my accomplishment.  I think, next time, I’ll get it.

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Nothing is impossible.  Keep on dreaming!  Glass City Marathon Finisher!!

So, the official results of the Mercy Health Glass City Marathon are that I finished in 3:38:46, making it officially my third fastest marathon and the first one back in the 3:30s since 2013.  HOLLA!  Stoked.  I was 408/1278 finishers overall.  I was 108/527 female finishes.  And I was 30/96 in my age group!  How amazing is that.  I felt good and strong the entire time, never letting any self-doubt or negative talk enter my head.  I was focused on the race at hand and the people I was running it to honor.  Marathon #15…done.  Now to find the perfect fall marathon to make the next attempt on that Boston Qualifying dream.

Remember…training rarely is linear…race day can throw so many factors at you…trust the process and remain focused on your own race that day.  You never know what you are capable of until you try.

Run The Bluegrass Half Marathon – Lexington, KY (March 30, 2019)

 

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Crossing the finish line at the Run The Bluegrass Half Marathon – Lexington, KY

Race: Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon

Place: Lexington, Kentucky

Date: March 30, 2019

Time: 1:51:14

You remember (probably not, but throwing it out there anyway) how last year I said I was going to return to the Run The Bluegrass Half Marathon?  Well, I was certainly good on my word.  Prior to my blog even being posted last year, I was already registered to run in 2019.  And at the end of March…it was time to go.

A couple of things though…

Remember that knee bruising I had from my fall at the beginning of March?  Well…that was better.  The problem was…the week of this particular half marathon, my knee started to really be painful when I was out running…but mostly just when I would go up and down the stairs.  You know me.  I went into full panic mode and texted my coach.  He’s a physical therapist and he told me to rest it up until race day.  I did exactly that.  Slept in.  No spin.  No weights.  Rest.  So, essentially, I took off Thursday and Friday.  The race was Saturday.  And though this, I felt like my knee…SORT OF felt better.  A little.  It still twinged whenever I went down or up the stairs (more so up), but for the most part…better.  So that was a good thing.  I guess?

I had to work a half day on Friday, and left the office just shortly after eating my lunch.  It was something simple.  Soup, I think.  It isn’t important.  I had snacks packed for the car to have prior to going into the expo.  And my roommate (who was participating in the Yearling, which is 3.65 miles, on Saturday morning) and I got into the car and started to make our way to Lexington.

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Picking up my race bib

The trip was easy and this time we didn’t take the weird back way that put us on some of the course.  This was direct to Keenland.  And I was ready to get my bib and shop the expo.  That, in and of itself, is dangerous, because I tend to throw away a lot money at this particular race expo.  The swag is just that good!!  I ended up getting my bib at the first little stand (my number was in the 1000, so I was in the first wave) and then proceeded to look at all the merch, ended up purchasing a cute sweatshirt and the official Run The Bluegrass Ponya Band (I did the Ponya Band last year too), and then tapped out to head into the actual expo part and peruse the booths.  I had come in 13th in the Director’s Challenge, so I had a few prizes to pick up as well, including some free socks at one of the booths in the back.  I got my official race shirt, then the upgrade to the really nice race jacket with the heat sheet inside (SO HAPPY).  And then decided I had done enough damage for the day and went back up front to snag the rest of my Director’s Challenge swag (ear buds, Road ID gift certificate, gloves, and a couple of other nice things).  I ran into a couple of friends and then we went to drive into Lexington to stop into Ethereal Brewing to pick up the glass I won in the Director’s Challenge. Cathy was very tempted to get a beer, and spotted one that looked interesting, but decided against it.  I boooooooed her for that decision.  But we needed to hit up the hotel, drop stuff off, and relax before meeting up with our friends Ron & Shawn Steve for dinner at Bella Notte (of course).

Upon arriving at the hotel and starting to unload our luggage, Cathy realized that we didn’t have the cooler with us (the one she moved off the kitchen counter and set by HER luggage) that had my fuel, my BCAAs, my snacks…all the things.  THIS…was a HUGE problem.

I might have shouted at her for a long time about it.  And instead of relaxing in the hotel, we now had to head into Lexington and attempt to find fuel for the half marathon tomorrow.  The problem being, most places don’t sell my fuel of choice, UCAN.  NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE carries it in stores.  We first went to a sporting goods store, and all they had was Sword.  I don’t use Sword and have only used it in a half marathon I was pacing as fuel.  And while I had no issues with it…I was trying to put some effort into this race.  No good.  We were getting close to dinner time, but we spotted a Vitamin Shoppe, so we took a chance and pulled in there.  They had less options for me to really use.  But we looked around.  Lots of electrolytes but nothing that was actually good for me to use as fuel.

We left emptyhanded from there too, and I was in full-on pissed off panic mode.  But dinner time was nigh, so we pulled into Bella Notte just minutes before Ron and Shawn showed up.  It was perfect timing.  No reservations were being taken, but we had no problems getting seated.  They no longer have a separate gluten free menu, but I know what I always get here.  And this was no different.  Ron got the lasagna, both Cathy and Shawn got the Spaghetti & Meatballs, and I got…the Gluten Free Pasta Arrabiata. It came with a salad ahead of it…so I got that minus the croutons and with the balsamic.

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Gluten Free Pasta Arrabiata from Bella Notte in Lexington, KY

We ate, we talked work, life, and racing (of course).  It was sometime in the restaurant that Daniel, my coach, sent me the race plan for this particular half marathon.  To be fair, I don’t think he understood how difficult this course actually is.  He wanted me to use the first mile as a warm up, then push for 8-10 miles at a 7:45 pace, then use the rest to either continue that pace or to ease back and use it as a cool down, depending on how I felt.  And I might have scoffed and laughed out loud when that text came over my phone.  I told him I would try, but made no promises with the hills.  He told me it was about effort, not pace.  We all still got a laugh though about my race plan.  Inside, I think I was starting to panic more than a little.  We all passed on desserts and headed out, giving hugs and wishing everyone luck on their races the following morning.  Cathy and I had just enough time to swing by John’s Run Walk Shop, hoping to get something to use for fuel.  Again, we found a lot of Sword (Sword must be the sponsored fuel of Lexington, Kentucky), but thankfully they had some Honey Stinger gels in there too.  I haven’t fueled with Honey Stinger gels in a while, but had in the past…so it was what I had to work with.  I bought two of them, plus the Gluten Free Mint Chocolate Waffle.  And it was going to have to work.  We finally headed back to the hotel so we could cycle through showers and get everything ready for the morning.  Stretch.  Foam rolling.  And eventually get some sleep.  Our time was definitely way more constricted now thanks to The Great Search for Runner Fuel.

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I love a race where I don’t have to question my wardrobe choices!

*SIGH*

The alarm went off that morning and we immediately began to get ready for our respective races.  The weather looked perfect for running.  It was in the high 50s, so tank top and shorts were the obvious choice.  There was a chance for rain, but it was supposed to kick in later on in the day.  So, that was a plus.  I was supposed to be done long before that kicked in and started.  The half marathon started at 9:00.  The Yearling kicked off at 8:50.  And all the photos were to be done at 8:30 with groups like Mom’s Run This Town/She Runs This Town.  I texted my friend Melissa (who was about 5 weeks off of having a baby) and she was here, but down near the start.  I wanted to get my pre-race hug she always gives me, so I forwent the official photo and headed down to the start area.  And never found her or met up with her.  Cathy did run into one of her high school friends though.  So at least she got a pre-race hug.

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Waiting to see Cathy off for the Yearling at Run The Bluegrass this year!

I walked Cathy into the corral for the Yearling and hung with her there.  My friend Michael, who came in from New York to run this, found me there and we stayed there up until we had to clear out so that only Yearling runners were in there.  I wished Cathy luck, gave her a hug, and went to wait for Wave 1 to be moved up to the start.

The Yearling was sent off after the singing of the National Anthem…and it was to “The Greatest Show” from The Greatest Showman.  Which…I knew Cathy would love.  And it turns out…she did.

The wheelchair racers were sent off next.  I could not even imagine racing Run The Bluegrass in a wheel chair.  The hills in this race as massive and hard enough to run up.  More on that later.  LOL!  Michael and I lined up and wished each other good luck on the race.  It is really one of the most stunning and beautiful half marathons around, so I told him to take it in and enjoy it…and if by chance he caught up to me because my race plan wasn’t going well, we could maybe run it in together.

And then we were off…to AC/DC’s Thunderstruck.  Which, for the record, is one of my favorite race pump-up songs.  I ran easy (well, I thought it was easier than it actually was, apparently, for that first mile, which takes us up our first major climb.  I clocked that one in 7:58…so definitely faster than I anticipated or meant to be for my warm up.  Now it was time to kick it and see what I could handle.

Mile 2 and Mile 3 were right on pace.  But they were hard.  This race has somewhere between 33 and 37 hills (it depends on who you ask), and some are manageable, and some will completely kill your speed.  I felt good for those miles, but as I went into Mile 4, my heart rate was really high and I took a walk break. And it pretty much broke me to do that so early in a race.  I knew I was now completely off my race plan and, you know how much of a perfectionist I am…it bothered me.  A lot.  I had been training really well, save for the fall that screwed with my knees, but this…this just destroyed my confidence.  I know that this is a difficult course, and tried to keep reminding myself of that, but, dammit…I know I am better than that.

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Mile 7 and looking better than I feel! Shoutout to Matthew Faske for the photoshop work!

The next mile I managed to pick it back up.  A little.  But it did help to see that 7 pace again.  I hit it at 7:55…so not in the range he wanted me at, and it was the last 7-something pace I would see that day.  Walking the hills became my method of survival.  I would run up some of them, but I was being very careful since I could tell my heart rate wasn’t in a good place and I didn’t want to push it.  I fueled at the halfway point with my Honey Stinger gel.  And I do get the ones with caffeine, but I don’t think it made any difference.  My legs weren’t going to wake back up.  At least I was running when I went past the photographer around Mile 7.  HA!  And, thanks to a friend of mine, I got the shirtless thumbs up guy behind me edited out of my picture.  YAY!

Mile 9 is the roughest.  You hit it just as you start up with hill. This massive hill.  And just when you think you are done with it, it turns and goes up some more.  This is the infamous S-turn hill…with drums that sort of inform you of your impending doom.  This hill did me in and I took the lonest walk break I have had to take just to get up it.  And, the entire time, I was just getting madder and madder at myself.

Does anyone else do this?

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Snagging a piece of candy on the way to the finish line!

I had a 5K left, and I gave myself the pep talk…that a 5K wasn’t far and that I could do this.  And I took only a few more walk breaks in that time, trying to hydrate myself well (I was racing with my hydration pack).  I think I did okay with that.  It also rained at this point.  Yep.  Rained.  It was brief…but unexpected as ran wasn’t supposed to move in until later than that.  I hit the Mile 12 marker and attempted to pick it up again.  When you get to 12.1, you go over a mat, and you get timed on your final mile.  Some of this does go uphill, and I told myself this one I couldn’t walk.  This one I had to run in.  And I managed to mentally push myself to do just that.  The official results clocked my final mile as a 7:06.  My Garmin had me at a 8:59.  LOL!!

This time, Cathy did happen to catch me at the finish line and snap some photos.  I made sure to snag a Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg (I can’t eat them, but Cathy can) and high five the race director on the way to the finish line.  Did I meet my goal for this race at all?  Not even close.  I gave up on myself and the plan in really early on.  But I needed to take care of me, and that high heart rate had me concerned.  I still hate that I walked so much.  That being said, I had a strong finish and at least I did finish.  So, there is power in that, for sure.

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The famous Keenland Starting Gate photo…a requirement at Run The Bluegrass!

I met up with Cathy at the end of the chute.  She said she had a really good race, even on her challenging hills, and even took beer at the beer/water stop that we all come across in our respective distances.  She does it all.  HA!  We made our way over to the starting gates to get the required photo inside.  I managed to get myself up, but getting down is always an issue. Cathy carried me down like a child…per usual.  But this year, she got to understand the struggle as she had to do it too, as she finished the Yearling.  Afterwards, I gave her my free beer (she had one of her own ahead of me) and I snagged her a free breakfast sandwich as well before we went inside.  My friend Michael finished about 8 minutes behind me and he came to find us.  I asked if he got his photo in the gates, and he hadn’t so I took him out to be sure we got him that.

Soon after, I found myself purchasing more stuff at the expo.  HA!  I bought the most stunning pair of leggings with “Dream Big” on the side and pockets from Bend Active.  They are super comfortable too.  I snagged the last in my size and couldn’t have been happier about that. You don’t realize how important pockets in leggings are until you need a pocket.  They are my favorite pair of leggings I own now.

After that, we headed back to the hotel so I could shower and change and we could pack up and head out.  Thank God, this hotel had late checkout.  We gathered our belongings and packed up the car.  We were going to meet up with Michael back in Louisville later for sushi before heading to the Louisville City FC Soccer Game.  But the rain had moved in at this point, and sitting out in the cold wet…sounded awful.  They ended up postponing the match until Sunday, but Cathy and I had other things going on that day. Michael ended up going Sunday, but we did get him to my favorite Sushi joint…Dragon King’s Daughter, and took him back to his hotel afterwards.

So, my official results of the 2019 Run The Bluegrass Half Marathon are that I finished it in 1:51:14, pretty far off of what I know I am cable of, honestly.  Meh.  You win some, you lose some, you walk more than you want to on really big ass hills sometimes.  I was 233/2635 finishers overall. I was the 53/1660 for women finishers. And I was 12/321 in my age division.  So, I mean…not great.  But not bad either.  This wasn’t the mental boost that I was hoping it would be…but its done.  And, yes, I’m already registered for next year.  Time to run more hills.  For real.

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

 

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

Race: Papa John’s 10 Miler

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: March 23, 2019

Time: 1:15:52

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Karen Brady and Laura Ferguson.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Race: Rodes City Run 10K

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: March 9, 2019

Time: 45:33

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A picture of my knees the night before the race

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

Anyway…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Me crossing the finish at the Rodes City Run 10K

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

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