Recipe: Pomegranate Breakfast Quinoa

I’ve been trying to be a bit more mindful of how I start my day when it comes to food these days.  While it is so easy to simply grab a (delicious) gluten free bagel and top it off however I wish…my sports nutritionist and I have been working hard on keeping my protein levels higher…so this gives me incentive to come up with new ways of doing my favorite meal of the day.

And, one day, while shopping at Costco and spotting the pack of pomegranate seeds…an idea struck.  And it has grown to be one of my favorite ways to do breakfast ever since.  And why not?  We’ve jumped on the smoothie wagon for Wednesdays, since our lunch is a giant, gluten free pretzel (always!).  Why not play around a little more and find new ways to get nutrients in in the morning?

This is a super easy recipe, the most time consuming part is the 15 minutes it takes to prep and cook the quinoa.  The rest…easy-peasy!

Find the recipe below:

Recipe: Pomegranate Breakfast Quinoa

 

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Pomegranate Breakfast Quinoa

 Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp dark chocolate chips
  • 2 tbsp nuts of choice (optional)

Directions:

Cook quinoa: place 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa in a pot with 1 cup water.  Bring to a boil, turn heat to low, cover, cook for 12 minutes until water is absorbed.

Split between two bowls.

Drizzle with pure maple syrup and top off with the pomegranate seeds, dark chocolate, and nuts (if using…highly recommended).

Enjoy!

~*~*~

Just yesterday, I had asked my roommate what she wanted for breakfast, and listed off some favorites including bagels, overnight oats, and pumpkin pancakes.  But she said, “I really like that quinoa thing you’ve been making.”  And just like that…I knew I had hit on something good.

How do you like to fuel your mornings?  Do you keep your breakfast basic or do you like to get creative?

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Recipe: Blue(berry)-Green Protein Smoothie

AH…it’s so nice to be able to put up recipes and just blog about anything and everything.  I’m really, really, REALLY trying to make this one of my priorities these days.  I never realized how much I missed doing product reviews, typing up recipes, or just laying out my thoughts/feelings/emotions….for you guys!

So, it seems that Wednesday is turning into a Smoothie-For-Breakfast kind of day.  Which is awesome.  And, that being said, I attempt to make these as nutritious as I can…which means I’m incorporating both vegetables and fruit.  Working off the base of the smoothie I made last week, I upped the game a little today and made a brand new smoothie concoction.

Below, find the recipe for the Blue(berry)-Green Protein Smoothie.

**FOR THE RECORD: I am using PlantFusion protein powder for these smoothies**

Recipe: Blue(berry)-Green Protein Smoothie (Gluten Free; Dairy Free)

bluegreensmoothieServes 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 avocado
  • 2 cup spinach, fresh
  • 1 package vegan protein powder (I used Plant Fusion Chocolate-Raspberry Flavor)
  • 1 cup coconut milk, unsweetened
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp chocolate powdered peanut butter (PB2, Simple Truth, etc)
  • 2 cups frozen blueberries
  • 1 cup ice
  • Optional (but HIGHLY recommended): cacao nibs, low-sugar granola, chocolate spread (such as Smudge, Nutella, NuttZo)


Directions:

Place avocado, spinach, protein powder and milk in a blender and blend until smooth. Add the vanilla, powdered peanut butter, blueberries, and ice, and blend until thick.  This is where having a good blender comes in and I love my Vitamix!  Pour into glass or bowl and top with preferred toppings.

~*~*~

For the record, I topped mine off with 18 Rabbits Chocolate Banana Jr Granola Cereal (which I picked up at Kroger) and 1 tablespoon of NuttZo Organic Chocolate Power Fuel (which I got at Whole Foods, but is also available on Amazon). I also tossed more blueberries on top because they are freshly picked, local, and delicious.  And why not?  More antioxidants!

This basically tasted like a sweet tart, but with less of the tart so it wasn’t overwhelming.  And I do highly recommend the toppings…especially if you make it into a smoothie bowl, like I do.  I froze the bowl overnight to keep it chill on the way to the office.

ENJOY!

Do you have a favorite fruit to throw into a smoothie?  Tell me about it!!

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Recipe: PB&J Breakfast Bowl

It was inspired by an accidental find while strolling the streets of SoHo in Manhattan, NYC!  My roommate and I were in NYC because I was running the NYC Half Marathon…but we were going to spend a few days there and not just fly in, race, and fly out.  On one of our excursions that afternoon, we stumbled upon the Chobani Café there in SoHo.

We were curious…as we had never seen (or heard) of the Chobani Café before, but we were both fans of Chobani Greek Yogurt.  So…we stepped inside to get an idea of what it was all about.

After looking at all the amazing creations being done up in the kitchen right in front of us, we took our own look at the menu and decided to get a half size bowl of one of their breakfast bowls and have that as a snack/lunch.  We ended up deciding to try their PB&J Breakfast Bowl, which was created using Plain Chobani Yogurt, Creamy Peanut Butter, Fresh Red Grapes, Concord Gape Jelly, and topped off with Roasted Peanuts.

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Chobani Café PB&J Breakfast Bowl, my inspiration!

We devoured this…so, upon returning home…I decided this would be a perfect breakfast to have, especially on our gym mornings.  So…I began to recreate it.  With different versions, different flavors, and different peanut butter options.  I’ve come to love my current incarnation of it, which uses powdered peanut butter.

So, upon request from a few people, I’m putting the recipe I have worked for over a year on (and will mention variations I have tried) to perfect over and over again.

Recipe: PB&J Breakfast Bowl

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PB&J Breakfast Bowl made with Vegan Yogurt, Powdered Peanut Butter, Strawberry Jam, a mix of organic Strawberries & Blueberries, and Roasted Peanuts

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup plain yogurt (Greek, vegan, etc…your choice)
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter (creamy natural or powdered)
  • 1/4 cup fruit sliced (grapes, strawberry, whole blueberries)
  • 2-3 tablespoons jam/jelly (I prefer low sugar versions and match flavors to the fruit I use…grape with grape, strawberry with strawberry, etc.)
  • 1-2 ounces roasted peanuts


Directions:

Scoop 1 cup of yogurt into a bowl.  If you are using powdered peanut butter (less fat & calories), add it here and stir well.  Otherwise…hold off on adding the peanut butter for the time being.

Slice fruit in half and add to the bowl.

Top with jam.  If you are using creamy peanut butter, drizzle it around the inside edge of the bowl.

Top with peanuts.

Devour.

~*~*~

As I said, I have been making this for well over a year now, and have done so many different versions of it.  It is an amazing way to start the day.  I have used chocolate peanut butter with the strawberry jam and strawberries for a chocolate covered strawberry take and so on. So…get creative!!  That yogurt is a blank palate…so feel free to play around with it.

Below, BTW, is the version I used to make with the natural creamy peanut butter.

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Breakfast PB&J Bowl made with Vegan Yogurt, Concord Grape Jelly, Grapes, Natural Peanut Butter (NuttZo) and Roasted Peanuts

However you decide to mix it up and fill it up…you’ll love this bowl.  So go ahead…get creative!!  And enjoy every bite.

Recipe: Minty Green Protein Smoothie

I own a Vitamix.  I have for a couple of years now.  And yet…I really haven’t ever jumped on the smoothie bandwagon.  Mostly because I’d rather eat my breakfast, rather than drink it.

And I don’t always think smoothies are that filling.  So often (and maybe it’s just for show), a lot of Insta-Story smoothie makers show their polished off smoothie with the caption (or voice over) saying: “And still hungry.”  And that’s been my problem with smoothies.  When not balanced with the nutrients, I find myself hungry soon after polishing one off.

But that was not the case yesterday when, for breakfast after my 6 mile speed work run, followed by a 1 hour spin class, I whipped up a GREEN smoothie (of all things, I went for the green smoothie) to have for breakfast.

I have done green smoothies in the past and disliked most of them.  They tasted too much like…grass.

But not this one.  And this has the added benefit of being free of added sugars and containing amazing healthy fats, as well as being full of protein and fiber that will, in fact, leave you feeling fuller longer.  And the flavor…it’s like eating a bowl of Mint Chip Ice cream (well…if you do the add-ons, as I do).

Sharing the recipe with you below, adapted from one I found online at Sweetleaf.com!

Recipe: Minty Green Protein Smoothie (Gluten Free; Dairy Free)

mintygreensmoothieServes 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 avocado
  • 2 cup spinach, fresh
  • 1 package vegan protein powder (I used Plant Fusion Natural Flavor)
  • 1 cup coconut milk, unsweetened
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
  • 2 cup ice
  • Optional (but HIGHLY recommended): cacao nibs, low-sugar granola, chocolate spread (such as Smudge, Nutella, etc)


Directions:

Place avocado, spinach, protein powder and milk in a blender and blend until smooth. Add the vanilla and peppermint extracts, and ice, and blend until thick. Pour into glass or bowl and top with preferred toppings.

~*~*~

For the record, I topped mine off with Love Grown Foods Cocoa Goodness Oat Clusters and 1 tablespoon of Freedom Foods Smudge, both of which are available at Kroger.

So, I think I’ll take back what I’ve been saying about smoothies not being filling or tasting good (especially when green). Can’t wait to make this one again.

Do you have any filling, healthy smoothie recipes? Share with me!! Comment below.

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Barnyard Dash 10K – Louisville, KY (June 3, 2017)

These are the people that feed my soul…Matthew, Me, Melissa, and Paul

Race: Barnyard Dash 10K

Place: Joe Huber’s Family Farm & Restaurant, Starlight, Indiana

Date: June 3, 2017

Time: 48:48*

There is something happening this year…something with race distance.  Very few
of them have actually been correct this year.  For real.  My two 5Ks this year have both been short (Throo the Zoo was 2.98 miles and the Anthem (sorry, friends…a short course does not a PR make) was 2.96 miles), but my 10Ks have all been measured properly.

Until now.

Because the Barnyard Dash 10K…was just slightly short.  Slightly.  As in I crossed the finish line at 6.14 miles.  So, closer to the actual distance than the 5Ks this year…but not an exact measure.  For the third time in my local racing this year.

It is frustrating.  Although I’m giving it a pass this time around because I’m about to let you in on a little secret…

I registered.  I wore a bib.  I toed the line with everyone else.  I ran the course.  I battled the heat.  I hit the hills.  I walked two water stops (yep…I did!)…because while this was a race, I had a longer run on the table and I needed to conserve my energy for that.  So, yes…I ran the Barnyard Dash 10K, but I wasn’t doing it to set any new PR or place in my age division.  I was doing it to break up mileage and enjoy some of it with a group of people on a (mostly) closed course.

Disclaimer…done.

I love helping my friends…which is why I am completely serious when I say that I will run with anyone.  I can back off my pace anytime if it means company for the haul.  And, with the myriad of injuries I’ve had the past two years…and those that still linger every now and again…backing off my pace while training is not just something I say I’m going to do…I actually do it.

THIS GIRL!! Melissa and I before the Barnyard Dash 10K – Starlight, IN

My friend, Matthew, was needing a 19 miler this particular Saturday.  We decided to meet at Huber’s early so we could get a couple in before the race…then run (not race) the 10K…and then finish off the remaining miles after the race.  It was going to get warm pretty fast that day, so if we could do some before the 8 am race start, we were going to do so.  We managed to get in 2 miles before the race as we both had to go get our bibs and timing chips to tie onto our shoes.  The morning temps were humid, but I was still chilled (my body temps are always so weird), so I decided against just doing the bra top (in addition to my own dislike of how my core and body currently look) due to the fact that I was still cold.  But that didn’t last long.  Nope.  Not at all.

Matthew, Howard, Dennis and Me at the start line of the Barnyard Dash 10K

I ran to use the (flushing) bathrooms just prior to the race.  There was a line.  Of course.  So, I stood in it patiently, listening to the announcer give the minutes that remained before the race.  As I moved up in line, I spotted Melissa at the hand towels and gave her a wave.  She said she’ d catch me outside.  And that happened…because Cathy waved her down and had her stand there.  HA!  We took a picture and then made the trek to the start line together.  Matthew had already lined up…so I gave Melissa a hug, wished her luck, and went to go find Matt.  We had both decided to “jog” this race and were going to pretty much stick together.  He waved me down, having lined up with our friend Dennis (Mister Fly & Die himself!), who said that he was just going to “jog ” this one as well.  So…we set off.  Dennis pulled ahead immediately, and Matt and I settled into a comfortable pace that allowed him to point out landmarks, homes, and tell some great stories…as this was the area he grew up in.  Nothing like a running guided tour.  It was great.

This race can be really, really deceiving if you’ve never run it before.  I had not; however, Matthew has multiple times.  So, with the small rollers to start us off, within the first mile, you get this amazing downhill that lasts for a good portion of those first 2 miles.  But after that is where the challenge and difficulty really start to rear their ugly heads.

As many of us know…most downhills lead to uphills, and the one that we meet on St. John’s Road was no exception.  It is one of those hills that you think you can see the top, and then it just keeps going.  In this case, it turns a corner…onto Rake Road…and continues to climb.  You do eventually get a small downhill only to be sent back up a hill.  And the remaining 3 miles play out like that…rolling up and down.  And in the heat, those uphills seem even more brutal, let me tell you!

At the Mile 3 water stop, I gladly accepted a little mini bottle of water.  I cracked it while slowing my pace to an actual jog and took a drink.  The rest of it went straight over my head.  It felt amazing and, as it usually does, rejuvenated me.  Dennis was walking this water stop and I paused long enough to set the bottle down on the side of the road (we were beyond where people were picking up trash at that point and I didn’t want to just toss it aside never to be seen again) and Matthew and I started to pick it up again, just as Dennis did.  And we never quite got ahead of him there.  Between miles 3 and 4…I did get slightly ahead of Matthew.  My pace felt good though…so I let it hold for the time.

Me at Mile 4 of the Barnyard Dash 10K – Starlight, IN

Cathy had wandered down to the intersection near Mile 4, and was cheering and shouting for everyone.  I heard her tell Matt to hurry up and catch me.  I knew he was right behind me.  I was just taking my time…and feeling good.

The other water stop was at Mile 5…and I snagged another bottle of water to perform the same actions as with the first – crack it open and take a sip before pouring it over my head.  The only difference was…I stopped to walk this one this time.  Once the bottle was empty and I placed it in a box that a volunteer was holding, I picked it up again…and passed Dennis in the process.  I was only a mile from being done and still felt decent enough.  But this is where we hit the elusive Hill Road that I mention every time I run the Strawberry Festival (Run for the Berries 5K) race.  You know when the hill has a road named after it…it’s a freakin’ hill!

I was feeling the heat and humidity, but I still managed to power myself up the steep hill and breathed a sigh of relief as my legs found some level ground and had to rework how to run on it.  You know you’ve run hills when your legs get confused by flat road.  From there, it was just a matter of turning a corner and then bringing it home.

Me running it into the finish line of the Barnyard Dash 10K

The mileage almost caught up to itself.  But, I made the turn back into Huber’s Family Farm and immediately was greeted by the smell of fried food.  I almost threw up.  But I swallowed hard, attempted to breathe without breathing, and ran it in to the finish line!  Only a short distance behind me was Dennis and then Matthew.

We snagged some water and ducked in out of the sun for a moment.  There was an amazing spread of goods waiting for runners.  Mandarin oranges, strawberries, bagels (with either cream cheese or peanut butter), bananas…and the fountain machines were open to runners as well.  I snagged an orange and some strawberries, downed more water, and then went to use the bathroom.  Matthew and I still had miles to go before we could call it done.  Cathy passed me my fuel belt and went back out to cheer on Melissa and Paul.

Matthew and I decided to be those people who run the course backwards.  At least the last part of it.  Matthew, as I mentioned, grew up in Starlight, Indiana, and I was in for the tour of a lifetime.  We turned back onto Hill Road, and ran into Howard, Melissa, Paul and Terry.  All the peeps I didn’t get to see back at the finish line.  Cathy said she and Laura cheered in Melissa and Paul and that’s pretty damn awesome.

Cathy was invited to hang for the awards and Matthew and I did the rest of our run.  It was a humid day and we were on the hills of Starlight. There is no shoulder on these roads and a TON of blind curves.  So, we took our time for our safety and for training (you don’t do long runs at your race pace!) and had a lot of fun as we talked and I was given the stories and grand tour of the area.  The miles flew by.  And just as we rounded back into Huber’s Family Farm…the awards were just letting out.

Friends don’t let friends miss out on age group awards! Melissa picked mine up for me!

Apparently the guy who gives out the awards in quite the talker.  And, we spotted Dennis, Tammy, Dean, Howard and Terry, all with awards.  And Dennis mentioned that I had gotten one too.

That shocked me.  Because I wasn’t even trying in this one.  No expectations.  Nothing.  I came in 2nd in my age group.  I came in 10 minutes slower than the person who took first. That would be April Woo.  I’m  never winning my age group this year, LOL!

The award was this really cool mason jar mug.  Apparently, when I was announced, I was called up as, “Our very own Wonder Woman, Karen Brady!”  I love my running community.  They just know.  Even when I am not dressed as Wonder Woman…they know!  And I love that.  Cathy and Melissa shot up to go accept my award and informed them that I was out finishing up a good chunk of mileage…to which they said, “That sounds about right.”

After Matthew and I rounded out our mileage in the parking lot, Cathy and I joined Melissa and Paul at Huber’s Winery.  No wine, but I got a plain baked potato for lunch and downed a big chunk of water.  I also trained out of my sweaty running clothes so I almost felt human again.  HA!  Afterwards, we bought 2 gallons worth of local, fresh strawberries.  And that was just the start of the weekend.

2 mile warm up…10K…and 11 more miles…DONE! Just a fun run on a Saturday.

So…the official results of the Barnyard Dash 10K are that I finished in 48:48.,,in heat and on massive hills.  Without even putting effort into it.  I was only 8 seconds off of this year’s Rodes City Run (which I wasn’t racing either…but that’s mostly flat…so this is a win!)  There is something very relaxing and calming about running in a race without competing.  Seriously!  I was 56/181 finishers overall.  I was the 14/91 for women finishers.  And I was 2/14 in my age division.  This was totally unexpected.  I knew this race was brutal with the hills and heat (it’s usually either raining or hot, apparently)…but now I know just how much.  I was happy to round off the day with a little more in the tank to get the rest of the miles in.  I might revisit this one next year and race it for real.

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

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

Race: Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: April 29, 2017

Time: 1:43:12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So…delay #1 was in the works.

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

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

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

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

And then…another delay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did I mention that I was starving?

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

Everyone was.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I felt…miserable.

But I am nothing if not persistent.

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

And there it was…the turn!!

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

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Me crossing the finish line of the KDF miniMarathon

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

DONE.

I was…done.  I also felt like crap.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s my takeaway…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Race: Rodes City Run 10K

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: March 18, 2017

Time: 48:40

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My Power Nap game is STRONG!

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

I took a nap.

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

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

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

And soon…we were joining them.

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

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

This is how the rest of it played out…

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

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

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

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

Usually.

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

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

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

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

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

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Matthew & I bringing it home at the finish line!

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

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

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

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

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

And life was good.

Just as it should be.

Like it never changed.

I’m still smiling.

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