Throo The Zoo 5K – Louisville, KY (May 12, 2018)

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Me crossing the finish line at the Throo The Zoo 5K – Louisville, Kentucky

Race: Throo The Zoo 5K

Place: Louisville Zoo, Louisville, Kentucky

Date: May 12, 2017

Time: 22:58*

Major question of importance…will the course of the Throo The Zoo 5K ever actually be a 5K?  Because…once again I didn’t even hit 3 miles for this race.  In fact, when I crossed the finish line, my watch read 2.99 miles.  I know it’s not hard to measure a course.  I’m not even good at running tangents, but…come on.  I do give it a pass because it is a zoo run and it is supposed to be fun…but I swear…move the start line back or the finish line out just a little bit…and GOLDEN!

Whatever.

So…I was talked into doing the Throo The Zoo 5K by my good friend, Melissa.  She had a team started for the race and made sure to inform me that…hey…they have finisher’s medals this year because…it was their 25th anniversary of the race.  So…I signed up.  We all know how much I LOVE 5K races right? *sarcasm*

I am NOT a sprinter.  Not one bit.  Not at all.  This is why I have NO finishing kick at the end of races.  If I am sprinting…I’m done a the end.  My energy is spent.  Maybe this is because I didn’t grow up a runner…I don’t know.  But…5Ks are not my forte nor something that I actually enjoy running.

But…they do make for good speed play.  And it’s a fun way to do speed work, as I am an avid hater of doing anything that means pushing hard and then recovering.  LOL!  I can’t help it.  Speed work and treadmills are what injure me.  So I’m reluctant to do either.

Also…Saturday is my “long” run day and I had 81 minutes on tap for that morning.  I also hate training by time.  But I’ve made that known from the start.  My plan was to run for an hour ahead of the race…pause and drive to the zoo…and then finish up my long run with the race itself.  My original plan had been to finish up my run after the race, but it was going to be very hot that day and once the sun came out…I probably would have died.  I normally love training in the heat, but this year it’s not working so well for me.  MEH.

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Gluten Free Green Acres and the Spicy Tofu Sushi Rolls.  LOVE vegan sushi.

The night before, I met up with Melissa and Paul for sushi at Dragon King’s Daughter (sushi is my new pre-race BFF…at least for now)…and then we went back to the apartment so that Cathy could apply KT tape.

I needed to stretch and roll and then sleep because I needed to wake up early enough to fit in a sweaty 60 minutes of running, change, eat, get to the zoo…and then see what I could do.  So…that’s what I did.

Morning was an early alarm for me.  I suited up, put on my Nox Gear Tracer 360 and head lamp and headed out for some easy paced miles.  I am working very hard on keeping my long runs and easy runs slower more consistently.  Slowing down has never been my forte.  I am a work in progress there.  After just over an hour of running (I like round numbers so I went over the time to get to a perfect mileage number), I had 8 miles under my belt and went inside to stretch out, eat, and change into clothes for the race.  I decided to ditch the tank top and wear a crop because I was dying in a tank top before the sun came up and with the race starting at 8 am…the sun would be up and if the Indy Mini taught me anything it was if I overheat…I’m done.

I fixed up my protein shake using my OWYN protein powder (coffee flavored) with my Four Sigmatic Cordycep Mushroom Elixir and took it on the road with me for the drive to the zoo.  That would be my fuel for this race as I seem to forget to buy bananas these days.  This was new…but doing new things on race day seems to be my thing this year.  I have no idea why.  I drank it on the way there, but soon, Cathy and I were stuck in the zoo traffic and barely moving.  The race start time was quickly approaching and we still had about a half mile to go.  We quickly made the decision to park in the Kroger parking lot and make the walk to the zoo.  It made for a nice warmup anyway, right?

Traffic is usually an issue, but it has never been this bad.  But with the promise of a medal at the end, the 5K sold out and…yeah…it was a mess.  Melissa was apparently in the zoo round-a-bout and no moving.  So…we weren’t alone.  In fact, we got to the start line before she and Paul did.  Which is CRAZY!

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Laura and I before the race.

As I was standing around waiting for the race start, I convinced myself that I didn’t need to pee (I mean, I rehydrated with Nuun, and then drank a protein shake…and I really did need to pee, but port-a-potty lines were RIDICULOUS)…which seemed to work.  And then I saw Laura!!  Laura and I talked and we’ve started making some plans to do long runs together this summer…so that will be fun.  Start time was approaching, so I shed my Run The Bluegrass hoodie and went to line up with Laura at the start.

We both noted the lack of certain regulars at this race…which could be a good thing in the end for us.  HA!  We also noted a lot of kids lining up at the front of the start…which race officials specifically asked NOT to do…but…I mean…it’s the zoo.  It is a safety concern though.  That being said, one of said kids was like…pretty close to being one of the first in…and he was 12 so…I mean…some do deserve it, but others probably should have moved back.  Especially since the road this starts on is narrow and crowded at the start.

Speaking of the start…a random airhorn went off prior to the race…and it really just confused all of us at the start line.  It was not the official start.  But now that everyone was ready and prepared…the official start was counted down by the emcee on the microphone at the start line.  And with a simple…”GO”…we were off and running.

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Me at the start of the Throo The Zoo 5K – and that’s the guy with the stroller who ended up passing me at the end.

I kept my training shoes on (they are heavier than my racing shoes) to help me better pace myself this race.  The first mile was spent on the narrow-ish Illinois Avenue, just outside of the Louisville Zoo.  My legs still felt good at this point, surprisingly, after my miles that morning, so I just worked on running comfortably hard.  I wasn’t going to all-out sprint it…but I wanted to see how much I could push myself.  The first turn takes us into the entrance at the back of the zoo.  Last year, I remembered rocky areas and my Newton shoes would get stones stuck in the lugs.  This year…I kept my Adidas Boston Boosts on to prevent this from happening.  Glad I did…because the rocky section was just the start.  Further into the race, construction was happening in this first mile and there was a big section on the path that was stones and loose rocks.  I made a good decision to wear the heavier shoes.  We hit Mile 1 soon after hitting this parking lot area of the zoo, pass the water stop and zig-zag up a hill and head back into the zoo.  I could hear a lot of people coaching some younger runners near me.  “Try to run faster.  You have to run faster.”  UGH.  Let them have fun.

Back into the zoo and we get some fun rolling hills.  I was now in the presence of a man with a running stroller.  He was running strong, but one of the steep uphills inside the zoo slowed him down to a walk.  For most of the rest of the race…I could hear him talking to his child about the animals that were out and about my socks.  I literally was steps ahead of him for the rest of the race.  Here we can see walkers heading into the first mile and it’s this fun area where the late wave and the first wave get to meet.  Some of them cheer and send out encouragement, which is nice.  And the zoo employees that are stationed around are also amazing for that too.  Mile 2 hits around the start of the African Outpost section of the zoo.  And my watch beeped a little after the mark.  Here we go again.

I didn’t once glance at my watch, because I never do when running, so why start during races.  But I could feel the strength and energy draining as the hills continued and we hit the worst of them all…Gorilla Hill.  This is a long and winding climb that does take runners out of the zoo for the final sprint to the finish.  I was slowing down on the hill, and when the flat road came back as we all came out to the parking lot to finish, I couldn’t find a finishing kick.  Well, I never have one anyway, but there was nothing left.  I did manage to get shout-outs from Howard, Matt, Amy, and others who ran to the race to cheer on finishers.  So that was amazing.  They could recognize me this time because I had on fun socks and colorful shorts.  I learned my lesson after KDF.  HA!!

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Me with my Throo The Zoo Finisher’s Medal after the race!

So, I ran it through to the finish, my watch never even beeping for a third mile.  MEH.  Oh well.  And that guy with the stroller…he passed me in the final straight-away.  Naturally.  I finished the race and received a medal and magnet…then moved out of the way to wait for Cathy to join me.  I told her I needed to round up my mileage so I did a short jog in circles in the grass before grabbing some water, a banana, and going to stand at the finish line to wait on Melissa and Paul to finish.  Cathy told me that I was the 6th female in, so that guaranteed me an age group award.  That was exciting.  It was just a matter of where I placed for it.

They weren’t too far behind me and we cheered them in to the finish line.  We went to meet up with them afterwards.  Cathy went to grab them both water and Gatorade and then get their official finishing times for them.  They both had a good race and Melissa was about to head out for her 2nd 5K that morning with the Girls on the Run girls she had been coaching.

As Cathy and I had nowhere else to be and my running was now done for the day, we waitited with Paul to cheer in Melissa’s mom, who signed up at the last minute to walk it.  She did great and actually beat her time goal.  WOOHOO!!  And then I won a door prize randomly…which ended up being Louisville Bats tickets and some chicken place gift cards (these are of no use for me, but I’ll take the baseball tickets).

The announcers started to do age group awards, so I wandered over that way, but they ended up pausing halfway through for the costume contest awards.  I wandered back over the shade of the tree where everyone was huddled and just talked a little bit and laughed a lot.  And when age group awards resumed, I missed the first ones, and I suddenly heard my age group announced with me as coming in first.

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First place age group award at Throo The Zoo 5K

WOOHOO!  I hurried that way to go claim my certificate.  I definitely wasn’t expecting that result as I ran this race faster last year and came in 2nd in my age group.  And I haven’t felt very fast as of late.  So…after running 8 miles prior to the race itself…this was a pleasant surprise indeed.

Afterwards, Cathy and I left to make the walk back to the car and head to brunch.  We hit up North End Café for a Basic Breakfast and some chill time.  Later that afternoon, we were headed out to a wine tasting with our friend Michelle, so this was fuel to get us through to that.  And I made sure to get some protein for some much needed recovery as well.

And the winery…that was a whole lot of fun!

So, the official results of the Throo The Zoo 5K is that I finished the race in 22:58…with the course being short AGAIN this year.  I hope that gets fixed in the future.  I slowed down each mile and Gorilla Hill was a struggle, but I’ll take this time with over an hour of running ahead of the race itself.  I was 54/2589 finishers overall. I was the 6/1685 female finishers. And I was 1/239 people in my age division! Maybe my endurance is coming back.  I hope to get heat adapted sooner rather than later so I can endure a bit more, but I’m pretty proud of this result when all is said and done.

 

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Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon – Louisville, KY (April 28, 2018)

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

Race: Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: April 28, 2018

Time: 2:05:03

Three weeks ago (and I hope to put up a blog about this, but time has been short and I haven’t had much time to get online while home (and I’m not home much these days) so it hasn’t happened yet), I was out on a training run.  Nothing big.  It was supposed to rain and storm that morning, so I got up early and headed out in the dark to get in whatever I could, if not the entire run, before the weather moved in.  I didn’t go too far from my apartment, again, just in case the weather rolled in, but I was running on a bit of the sidewalk that I normally didn’t run.  It’s near a cemetery, which is fine, but the sidewalk can sometimes be a path of treachery.  That morning…it was.  It was Mile 3.4 of my run and…

I fell.

I fell hard.

It was one of those moments that seem to happen in slow motion…but it probably played out hilariously fast and painfully.  But it was early.  No cars were on the road at that point and no one was hanging out at the cemetery gates or at the apartments across the street.  My ankle twisted on…something.  I don’t even know what…if it was a rock, a branch, the side of the sidewalk.  I felt my ankle twist…I tried to compensate…but down I went…while heading down a hill.

Gravity…is a bitch.

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I shook it off.  Actually, I didn’t even pause my Garmin.  I think it automatically paused.  At that point, I could have cared less.  I was a few weeks out from the half marathon I wanted to race (KDF was my warmup) so I needed to make sure I wasn’t broken.  I popped up…looked at my feet (thanks headlamp), looked at my hands and arms…I was bloodied…but when I did this jog in place thing, nothing on my foot or ankle bothered me…so I kept going.  And I finished the run, noting the scrapes on my knees, the road rash on my leg, and the gash on my hand from playing Slip-N-Slide with the sidewalk.

I took a shower…and went out for brunch (gluten free pancake FTW) that morning at North End Cafe and…after sitting, really started to feel my foot getting sore.  But…I pressed on.  Until I could no longer press on.  Sitting for long periods of time or stopping my forward momentum became painful.  At one point, I bought a bag of frozen edamame from Whole Foods (I already had frozen peas in my fridge, so I didn’t need more!) to put on my foot/ankle while Cathy (the roomie) finished up grocery shopping.  By the time we got home, I was in tears and putting any weight on my foot was excruciating.  Ice happened in 20 minute spurts the rest of the evening.  I also had to bow out of the Louisville City soccer match that night because there was no way I was getting down the stairs at the apartment, let alone the stadium.

I told the roomie to go.  And she almost did.  But, in the end, she stayed with me.  And ate popcorn and watched movies.  For those who are curious…we watched Apollo 13 and then Coco (the new Pixar movie)!

All that being said, I woke up on Sunday and was able to walk.  YAY!!  I took through Wednesday off from running completely.  I realized just as I was heading out that I was supposed to run Thursday, but it was early and I was suited up and it was a 30 minute run.  And it all went well.  Until my other foot started bothering me.  I took more time off and called my podiatrist.

I was trying to make a long story short…so let me wrap this up.  On the Thursday before the Kentucky Derby miniMarathon (it ran that Saturday) my podiatrist took X-rays of my feet and saw no fractures (but I have an extra bone in each foot!)…but I had some swelling in a muscle on the side of my foot I twisted…and my left foot (the one that now bothered me) had some stress reactions in the 2nd and 5th metatarsals.  So…he taped me and told me to have some fun.

Good thing I wasn’t all-out racing this one.

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My night before the race meal – Vegan Sushi from Dragon King’s Daughter – the Green Acres & Spicy Tofu Rolls

That Friday, I did a short test run and, while a little sore, found everything manageable…and my friend Leah was aiming for a 2 hour marathon, which would keep my pace in check, I figured I had a game plan and one that wouldn’t destroy me.  That night, my roomie and I met up with our local BFFs…Melissa & Paul Nolan…for dinner.  Our fuel of choice…Dragon King’s Daughter.  I’ve been finding that the rice, avocado, tamari combination has been working well for my body…so my dinner was two Vegan Sushi Rolls…the Spicy Tofu and the Green Acres.

They came back to the apartment so that Cathy could tape up Melissa (who had been dealing with an achy Achilles since the blast of cold at the New York City Half Marathon).  They left after that to check out the Balloon Glow and I got busy baking Lemon Blossoms for the finish line and to stretch and foam roll.

I made a point to get to bed at a decent time and got up with enough time to do my stretching routine, eat breakfast, wake up the roommate (because she turned off her alarm and her door remained closed), get her coffee, get into my race clothes (I have some new black running shoes, so I thought I would emulate Des Linden at Boston and wear all black…NEVER AGAIN!), put my hair up, got my number pinned on, and waited for Melissa & Paul to come pick us up.  She had VIP parking and we had nowhere to be until that evening (Louisville City soccer…and they were coming with us anyway), so it worked out.

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Leah, Jay and I – the nuun Ambassadors at KDF Marathon/miniMarathon

We got down to Slugger Field to park, with the aid of Melissa’s barrier pass and VIP parking pass.  YAY!!  We got parked and I headed toward the statue outside Slugger Field to meet up with my running coach, Linda (who was running this race ONLY because she wanted to keep my pace slower than I would run it on my own) and Leah, who we were hoping to pace to a half marathon PR at the 2 hour mark (her current PR is 2:15).

There were a lot of photo ops happening…and I thought I missed the nuun Ambassador one, but Leah is one of the ambassadors and the other one, Jay, happened by, so we went ahead and snapped a photo.  YAY!!  Linda wanted to get into the corrals, so I missed the KDF Ambassador Alumni photo…but…it’s okay.

We worked our way into the corrals, where Linda got us positioned about the back of Corral B.  She thought we were up in A…but she was wrong (and I was right, HA!).  We stayed there though…but we realize in hindsight we should have probably dropped back further for Leah’s sake.

The National Anthem was beautifully sung and they prepped the wheelchair race to go off with a cannon.  That misfired.  So we got a “Ready? GO!” situation there.

Oh my my!

The elites were to be sent off next.  With a cannon blast.  Which also misfired.  So…no boom…but the “GO” shout-out happened.  So exciting.

And then…it was time for the rest of us.  AND…the cannon still misfired so no big boom for us either.  And…we made our way to the starting line…the three of us together…and we were off.

Too fast, honestly, to start.  Both Linda and I noticed immediately that Leah’s breathing was too hard and fast so we reigned it in after the first mile.  We attempted to do that, but the crowd was carrying us along and while I felt we were slowing down, the reality of the Gamin shows that we weren’t…but we weren’t too far ahead of the pace.  But heading into Mile 4, Leah started walk breaks.  This was fine, we now had an unintentional bank to work with.  When she was ready, we started up again.  She looked defeated…but we did our best to lift her spirits…and when she needed to walk again, she said her stomach was starting to act up.  YIKES!

In fact, somewhere near Mile 7-ish, we found some port-a-potties just beyond the water stop so she could make a stop.  Linda and I ducked off to the side to wait, and this was where we met up with Tonya, another of my friends who was an ambassador least year.  She said she was having tummy troubles as well and this was her third stop.  I’ll discover that this was a common theme among people that day.  Maybe it was the change from winter to mid-50s weather.  Who knows?  I felt good though…and when Leah emerged, we started to run again.

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Me, Leah, and Linda in front of Churchill Downs during the KDF miniMarathon – Louisville, Kentucky

And then Linda and I lost her as we neared my favorite part of the race: Churchill Downs.  We hopped up on a curb and finally found her again, making the dash to take a photo in front of the famous horse track.

This is my absolute favorite part of the race.  Every time I have run it.  And, true to form, I did yell, “RUN LIKE PRETTY PONIES!” as we were entering it.  The run down the hill through the tunnel and up into the infield was easy-peasy for me.  And I don’t like hills.  I got to the top with Linda and we realized we had lost our third again.  We pulled off to the side…no horses out training yet…and waited a moment.  She got to us…but she was walking.  I knew that the race photographer was around the corner, and I really wanted some good photos this year inside Churchill Downs…so we got her running again through there.  My photos, for the record, were crap again.  MEH!  I just am not a pretty runner.

We were heading out of Churchill Downs after walking and I spotted the next downhill out through the tunnel and back up toward the road.  I said, “Linda, it’s a downhill.  I HAVE to run the downhill.”  She told me to go on and I got to the top, stepped off to the side, had Linda catch me and we waited for Leah.  We could tell Leah was upset and frustrated, and while we helped get her to the split…where she was looking for another stop, Linda asked her what she wanted us to do.

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Me heading toward the finish line of the KDF miniMarathon (I passed the chick in pink at the end, LOL!)

And with that…we were off.  Linda and I picked up the pace.  Linda had originally wanted me to negative split this race (as I am horrible at finishing fast).  So, we picked it up and ran a bit faster through Mile 10…then I held it steady through Mile 12.  She told me to go on as she was going to slow herself down (she has the Flying Pig Full Marathon this weekend).  And I made every attempt I could to pick it up and just FLY to that finish line.  The 2 hour mark had just passed and I started weaving through the crowd, heading downtown via S 2nd Street before making the turn onto Main Street and heading the few blocks down it before the final turn and the finish line.  I held on strong, just plugging away as much as I could.  It’s hard for me to run slow and kick it in the end.  My legs and body just don’t like to pick it up.  So, this was a mental and physical struggle…but I was, honestly, ready to be done and off the course.  I was also getting hungry because I was out there longer than I normally am.  Is that weird?

I kicked it as much as I physically could make myself kick at that point.  The song “Danger Zone” from Top Gun was playing, so that was motivational at least.  And I crossed the finish line, happy that it was over.  Linda apparently decided she didn’t want to slow down because she kicked it into high gear and was just behind me.  I don’t know how she does it.  She immediately said, “That was stupid.”  LOL!!  We went to get our medals and suddenly, Cathy was at our side!!  Holy Moses.  She somehow got into the finisher’s chute and walked with us around to get our water, our treats, and into the runner recovery area.  Here we met up with some friends of Linda’s and then Linda went to get stuff from her car and try to catch one of her clients doing her first full marathon on the course.  I went to Melissa and Paul’s car to change while Cathy went to get coffee.  I needed coffee…trust me.

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Me (I’m stylin’!), Britni, Melissa & Paul after finishing the KDF Marathon/miniMarathon!

After that, we went to meet up with Melissa and Paul, who were finished and waiting for us in the Chicken Garden near Waterfront Park.  We ended up taking the long way around, but we got to them, and I immediately doled out Lemon Blossoms from my stash.  I also delivered a container of them to the Moms Run This Town/She Runs This Town booth in the finisher’s area.  WOOT!  Mission: Accomplished.  Melissa and Paul knew people who were out on the full course and waited to see them in.  We, actually, ended up staying for the entire race…and didn’t leave until the last runner crossed.

Their friend, Britni, had almost an hour PR for her marathon time…which is amazing considering she almost died in a car accident the weekend before when driving home from Disney World (she did the Dark Side Challenge).  And their other friend came in…and between all of us, we demolished the remainder of the Lemon Blossoms.  Paul and Michelle Bolton found us too, and since Michelle is also a gluten-free runner…I passed on a few to her (as promised).

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This photo makes my legs look so long! HA!  Always finish…and finish strong!

After sitting around and letting everyone relax…we decided it was time to head out and head home (because showers needed to happen for sure).  We walked Britni to her car and she gifted Melissa and I with our BB-8 figures she picked up at Disney.  I still owe Melissa money for that, now that I think of it.  HA!  And then we made the walk back to Slugger Field’s parking lot, stopping to take a few photos with the finish line, while it was still up.  After that, we needed to make our way back to Southern Indiana.  We got back to the Nolan’s house and we transferred everything to our car, told them we’d see them around 4:30 to grab Indian food before heading to the soccer match that night.

So, the official results of the Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon are that I finished in 2:05:03 (my slowest KDF miniMarathon and one of my slower half marathons).  I was 2517/8268 finishers overall. I was 965/4792 female finishers. And I was 195/748 finishers in my division. There was definitely no negative splits this time around.  In fact…my first half of the race average a 9:13/mile and my last half was a 9:32/mile.  Ah well…you win some; you lose some.  It was definitely not the race I wanted or intended to run, nor did I hit any of the goals I had set out for this race, except not to blow myself up actually racing it.  It does suck though…as this is the first year I won’t get a Top 100 Female Finisher award.  Dang it.

And if that wasn’t enough excitement…the Indian food was amazing and something the four of us had all been craving…and Louisville City FC got the WIN that night.  So…yeah…in the end…it was all good.

As for the foot/ankle situation…they can be little twingy at times, but seem to be on the mend.  I also am still allergic to the tape adhesive, so I’ve had to remove it for the next few days and will tape it up again for the weekend.  All-in-all…I’m on the mend and looking forward to my next race.

Maybe this time I can fly.

It all depends on these feet…the weather…and just, overall, needing those perfect conditions for the magic to happen.  It will.  Whether it’s the next race or another one. If anything the past few years has taught me…and this whole running slower thing as well…is patience.

OH!!  I also learned that people look for me at races wearing bright colors or a super hero costume, so none of my friends who were out cheering saw me that day.  And those in the race thought they saw me and then said, “But that person was in all black so it couldn’t have been you.”  Guess what.  It was.  Go figure.  I was trying to get my Desi Linden on and instead I got my race ninja on.  Even Cathy told me I wasn’t ever allowed to wear all black to a race because I wasn’t easy to spot coming into the finish line.  Live and learn, friends.

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Cathy and her three runners – Me, Melissa & Paul, displaying our bling at the Louisville City FC soccer match that night.

 

Papa John’s 10 Miler – Louisville, KY (April 7, 2018)

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Me after finishing the SNOWY Papa John’s 10 Miler – Louisville, KY

Race: Papa John’s 10 Miler

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: April 7, 2018

Time: 1:23:33

I don’t even know where to start with this one.  And that’s rare for me, because finding words has never been a problem.

Normally, the Papa John’s 10 Miler would be considered my top and favorite race that Louisville has…every year…hands down.  But this year…it just wasn’t what I remember it being.

And that’s sad.

First of all…yes…I am very aware that my time is 7 minutes slower than my 2016 time (I didn’t run it last year because my hip flexor had flared back up and I wasn’t allowed to run double digits yet…)  This was by design…as this is a training run and not to be treated as a race for my training purposes.  Is this hard for me to come to terms with.  Yep.  Not going to lie.  My brain has a hard time wrapping around this style of training more often than not.

Second of all…going into this, the weather was predicted to be…unpredictable.  At first, it was we were in a Winter Storm Watch…5-6 inches of snow.  Then it was 1 inch of snow…alert lifted.  Then the alert came back…and, honestly, I am just so DONE with this winter weather.  It’s spring.  It’s April.  Winter needs to move along.  Needless to say, a very small part of me (or maybe not so small) was sort of hoping that the weather would happen and the race would cancel, because, honestly, I wasn’t feeling it.slimer

Thirdly…what the hell happened with the shirts this year?  Usually the Papa John’s 10 Miler has really nice shirts…great colors (usually red and black), great logo…all the things.  This year, the shirt was bright neon green with this year’s logo in solid black on the front.  I hated it.  AND…they ran out of female smalls.  Never mind that I’ve been registered for awhile and specifically noted the shirt size I wanted was a women’s small.  NOPE.  In fact, my running coach signed up last minute for it and went to the expo early and the women’s smalls were GONE.  So, now I have an ill-fitting race shirt that makes me feel like Slimer from the Ghostbusters with pizza on hand for a snack.  I can’t even begin to tell you how much the shirt let me down this year.  There was no thought put into them.  And that just…sucks!

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My shirt for this year’s Papa John’s 10 Miler – a size too big (but doesn’t this scream Slimer?)

The rest will be mentioned as this race report goes on.  My friend Melissa was a doll and went to pick up my race bib and shirt and deliver it to me, since she was already over in Louisville that day.  She had Cathy tape her Achilles while there.  After she left, I finished baking up some Lemon Blossoms, did the rest of my stretches, and hauled myself to bed, because rest is ultimately the most important thing going into race morning, even on mornings where you aren’t giving it your all.

I woke up the next morning around 5 am to fit in my stretches and figure out what I, ultimately, wanted to wear to the race.  I glanced out my bedroom window and everything looked very underwhelming as far as the weather went.  There was some snow in the air, and the grass was white…but the sidewalks and pavement just looked wet.  Not icy.  Not slippery.

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I was dreaming of being in shorts and a tank top…but on April 7, 2018…we had snow and 20 mph winds…and temps in the high 20s.

This, obviously, boded well for the race director as the race was definitely a go.  But I just wasn’t feeling it.  I did my push-ups and my stretches prior to eating something small for breakfast while home.  I went to get dressed, opting for layers this time around.  I wore some fleece-lined running tights to keep my legs warm (and we all know that I already hate wearing pants when running).  I put on a base layer top, followed by one of my warmer running tops (lined) and then my Saucony reflective vest to help with the gusting winds that morning.  I originally had on some warm running socks and compression sleeves, but ultimately changed into a pair of my ProCompression socks to keep my ankles warm.  I was so unenthusiastic about the race and the weather that I opted to not put my hair in pigtails…and braided it again.  my Run The Bluegrass Ponya Band went on over my ears and my Dunkin’ Donuts hat I got at the start of the 2014 NYC Marathon went on to keep my head warm.  Despite knowing I wouldn’t need them, my sunglasses were put on atop my head (I feel better when I have them).  And that was that.  I was as ready as I was going to be for the race.

Cathy had brought the sign with her to the car, but the wet rain was still happening, and that, sadly, would ruin the marker on the poster board.  So the sign stayed in the car.  We got down to the stadium and parked.  Linda and Suzane were parked just a few cars up so I headed over that way…waved at the stranger (I hadn’t met Suzane yet) in the driver’s seat and greeted Linda when the door opened.  The plan today was to run at a 9 min/mile (technically it was supposed to be slower).  At this point, the wet snow was coming down hard and we were all still trying to figure out what we wanted to keep on for the race or shed.  Ultimately, the three of us all decided to keep all our layers.

It was already close to the start time of the race, so we made our way up and over the bridge and toward Third Street.  Along the way, Manivannan caught up to us and joined us in the trek.  Linda and Suzane decided to take advantage of the plentiful and large line of port-a-potties near the start.  The lines moved quickly and that is a good thing.  Despite some killer hydration on my part…I was fine and didn’t need to worry about it.  Probably good too, because there was, apparently, no toilet paper in the port-a-potties at the start line.  Ummm…that’s sort of important.  Just sayin’.

After a photo near the port-a-potties, we decided to head into the crowd of runners and find a good spot where to start.  We inched our way forward…and then forward some more…because we saw a lot of the green WALKER stickers and wanted to at least get in front of that.  Despite running this at an easier pace than usual for me…we at least wanted a good point from which to start.

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Suzane, me and Linda starting the snowy, cold, wet, and windy Papa John’s 10 Miler – Louisville, KY

And after the wheelchair racers were sent off…the start of the Papa John’s snowy 10 Miler…was off and running.  I started my watch as we crossed over the mats and waved at Cathy, who looked miserable, standing on the sideline.  And fell into an easy pace, dodging some people here and there just to find the space I needed to stretch out.

Apparently before she went to head to the finish and the (hopeful) shelter of Papa John’s Stadium, Cathy stumbled upon Paul and Melissa at the start.  This is always exciting…especially since we were hanging out later that night for Wino & Dino (wine & dine, but with vegan foods, wine, and Jurassic Park).  Melissa passed her NYC Half Marathon Mylar to Cathy to hold for her while they headed out.   Talk about really good timing.  Now she can use this one another day!  Cathy tucked it into her backpack to make the trek to the stadium.

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Melissa and Paul at the start of the Papa John’s 10 Miler – Louisville, KY

Once we found some open space, it was time to focus on the miles ahead.  Linda’s watch was still set wrong for racing, so, just like in Run The Bluegrass, our run was serenaded by the constant chiming of her watch telling her that her pace was wrong.  Not being able to change it…it was just how it was going to be.  Good thing I tune things out and after awhile stopped hearing it.

We hit the first mile marker a full 0.1 miles ahead of my Garmin watch.  I checked with Linda…she had the same.  Hmm…this isn’t a new course…so it should be measured properly, in my opinion.  We kept on, hoping that it would right itself as we got further into the race.  Suzane wanted to shed her vest with a friend at the water stop after Mile 2…but it turns out he was, in fact, standing at Mile 2, which wasn’t Mile 2…because it was 0.25 miles off where it was supposed to be.  Um…that’s a problem!!  Having missed that opportunity Linda and Suzane decided to make use of the water stop just after the mile marker.  They thanked the volunteers and hydrated before we stopped walking and went back to running.

Linda says I need to be kept on a retractable leash.  HA!!  We were definitely over the pace we were supposed to/trying to keep on this race.  But, in the end, she’d thank both me and Suzan for it.  We made the turn onto New Cut Road from Southern Parkway, and Suzan ran over to the First Aid tent to drop off her vest so she could pick it up on our way out of the park and wear it back in.  We paused while she did this and then continued on.  We passed the Mile 3 marker, now 0.3 miles off the actual distance (as in short) and a lot of runners were starting to take notice and complain about this while out on the course.  The entrance to the park was different than I recall from 2016 and the other years I ran prior…and we ended up making some weird cut through a parking lot, back down, and then starting into the park.  It was weird, I thought…because we always went in that first entrance and started up the hills.  Not this time.

But this is where the hills basically get to play with your speed.  Mile 4 ticked off, still before where it should have at this point in the race.  I stopped looking down to see how much it was off.  I was done.  I know they have no power over the weather, but the mile markers being off were just as annoying.  And I usually LOVE this race.  I wasn’t loving any of it.

As we came up the climb at Mile 5, the halfway point, we actually hit the mile marker right on.  That was exciting.  Perhaps it would all be back on and correct.  YAY!  It was in here that another water stop was around and Linda and Suzan went to grab bottles and I said I wasn’t stopping…it was a downhill and I needed to fly.  They grabbed and came with me, cracking their bottles when things leveled out.  Just after Mile 6 we exit back out of the park and run back the way we came, so super flat…but as we were heading into that last hill, a woman asked, “Do you run Iroquios Park often?”  I said, “Yeah.”  And she said, “Are we almost out?”  I nodded. “Just up this hill…down the other side, and out.  Then you just have to worry about the hill over the bridge at Mile 9 heading toward the stadium.”  She thanked me…and Linda called me back because I had gotten too far ahead.

We came down the hill and exited the park, stopping for probably a minute or slightly longer for Linda to take a salt tablet, drink some water, and for Suzan to grab her vest from the First Aid tent and put it back on.  Suzan commented that I had white eyelashes.  That’s how heavy and wet the falling snow was.  When everything was situated, we headed back out down the road.

Mile markers were off…again.  And I wasn’t going to even worry over by how much.  It was by a good amount.  And I just gave up on looking.  While running, in an attempt to keep me slower, I was asked about my job, what I love doing, and all this.  And then…at Mile 8 (on her watch)…Linda let me go.  I think my watch was now ahead of the mile markers, but at this point, I was just happy to attempt to pick up my pace.  The problem is…when I start slow…I don’t seem to be able to find my speed so picking it up isn’t easy.  I’m not a finishing kick person and that makes the 2 mile push I was given feel like a slog.  I also hate running on wet pavement…so there’s that.

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Cathy shows her own discontent with the new finish OUTSIDE of the stadium…

Mile 9 came and eventually I made the turn back onto Central Avenue to climb up and over the bridge.  I felt like I took on the bridge quite strong and my legs felt good as I battled up and over and took the downhill in stride.  My training plan wanted me to kick it in at a 7:45-ish pace…and I was pushing as much as I could at this point given the weather and circumstances.  I hit the turn and the flat road toward the stadium.  I made the turn…and this is when I saw the finish line.

Outside.  Of.  The.  Stadium.

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Me crossing the finish line of the Papa John’s 10 Miler…in the snow and wind and misery!

I had looked at the race course map…and everything had the race finishing INSIDE the stadium.  It has ALWAYS finished INSIDE the stadium.  Apparently last year it didn’t, but again, I didn’t run it last year and most of my friends did Run The Bluegrass instead of the 10 Miler.  I glanced at my watch and knew that the course was going to be short.

I wasn’t wrong.  I crossed the finish line and stopped my Garmin, making a point this time to do it immediately instead of throwing my hands up in elation as I finish like I normally do.  I wasn’t feeling happy at this point.  I was wet, cold, and the course was wrong.  I wasn’t amused at all.  My watch showed 9.95 miles…so did Linda’s.  And Paul’s had the course at 9.92.

Afterwards, I decided I wanted my full 10 miles (dammit!), so I jogged to the end of the parking lot and hit it.  Then I snagged a banana, some mini KIND Bars, and a water.  Cathy hadn’t eaten, so she nibbled on my free pizza (since I can’t eat Papa John’s pizza…and why let that go to waste, right).  I walked back to where she was with Linda and Suzan and they went to go to get their own pizza and celebrate their finish.

It was cold and miserable and we decided to call it a morning and leave.  We had invited them to brunch, but Suzan needed to get back to Frankfort…but I supplied them with some Lemon Blossoms for the ride home.  As we were walking back toward the cars, we noted the computers where we could pull up results so we braved a few more moments in the cold to check them out.

Glad we did too…because Linda came in second in her age group!  Bet she’s glad that I pushed the pace a little now (even though, ultimately, I wasn’t consciously doing this.  I just have a high cadence so my pace is faster without me feeling like I’m pushing my limits).

So…the official results of the 2018 Papa John’s 10 Miler were that I finished in 1:23:33, which I already explained why this was kept slower than I raced it in 2016. I was 391/2890 overall, the 101/1573 females to cross the finish line, and I was 24/242 in my age division. It occurs to me more and more that I’m not big on training in races because, ultimately, I compare past results (if I have run it in the past) and then feel like a failure when everyone I know is hitting new PRs and I wasn’t even able to try for one.  It just messes with my delicate runner’s psyche.  HA!

Needless to say, this year’s Papa John’s 10 Miler, what I used to tote as my FAVORITE local race…let me down.  And I just didn’t love it this year.  Weather wasn’t their fault, but the rest just felt like it was disjointed and…honestly…disorganized.  And that’s a bit of a letdown.

I don’t know if I’ll come back to it.  I need to let it sit for awhile.

Thank God I went to North End Cafe afterwards, was able to change into warm, dry clothes, and drink a lot of nice hot coffee and feel human again.  No less angry.  But human.  I felt a lot better after settling in at Melissa & Paul’s house that night for some wine and food and dinosaurs and exploding kittens.  Sometimes the best therapy is friend therapy!

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Linda, Suzan, Me, and Mani at the start line of the Papa John’s 10 Miler

 

Rodes City Run 10K – Louisville, KY (March 24, 2018)

Me after finishing the windy and rainy Rodes City Run 10K – Louisville, KY

Race: Rodes City Run 10K

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: March 24, 2018

Time: 46:43

I wish cold, wet weather would GO AWAY!  I’m so done with it.  I’m tired of all the layers.  Of the whipping winds.  Of the rain.  All.  The.  Rain.

I’m done with it.

For real.

And, being that I signed up for the Rodes City Run 10K on a whim and was just coming off of the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon and a hard week of lots of treadmill training (including over 9 miles of speed work…on the tready…because weather has been wet and gross as of late), I wasn’t loving waking up the morning of the race and hearing the pouring rain and wind.

I believe the words, “I would rather run on the treadmill!” crossed my lips that morning.

I almost suggested not going…but I had friends who I was meeting up with and Cathy was going to tape up my friend Melissa’s Achilles due to some strain from the NYC half’s Central Park hills.

The Green Acres and Coco Caliente Vegan Sushi Rolls from Dragon King’s Daughter

That was the plan that we had come up with the night before.  Melissa was kind enough to pick up my race packet when she went to get hers and her husband’s.  Then, we met up with her and Paul at Dragon King’s Daughter for a sushi dinner that night and some relaxing and laughs and a NYC recap.  It was amazing.  And I’m finding that vegan sushi works really well for me before races.  So, there is that.

I went to bed at my normal time and woke up with enough time to do all my physical therapy stretches and exercises and not feel rushed going out the door to the race.  What I woke up to was dread…because I could tell that, once again, it was just going to be a cold race.  And this time…wet on top of it too.

I ate a light breakfast and packed my Lärabar to eat 30 minutes prior to go-time.  I’ve become very good about proper fueling before a race…even a 10K…because my races are starting to get a little better when I put fueling into proper practice.

Cathy had to leave the race sign behind, but threw on her rain jacket and we headed out the door into the cold…wet morning.  And the drive into Louisville was…also cold and wet.  And we ended up parking a good ways away from the start and the finish…which meant a bit of a hike.  Originally we had hoped to meet up with Melissa and Paul at the parking garage where they parked, but it was across the highway and there just wasn’t enough time.  We had to pay for our spot on this flat lot and head to the start.  Melissa and Paul said they would head that way too.  We walked through the staging area, letting them know we were hanging out near the port-a-potties (I mean…why hang anywhere else?).  We ended up taking photos for some people, and I shivered a lot…but we didn’t see them.  Cathy knew if she was going to get a spot at the start she needed to head that way…so we headed over to the corrals and she went to get a spot.

And no sooner had she left…I found Melissa and Paul.  Melissa asked where Cathy was and I went to try to find her, but she had meandered up past the start line at this point.  No good.  I went back to let Melissa know…and discovered they had found Chris and Christy (who I met through them at Disney).  They asked about the half marathon the weekend before, and I said it was fun and cold.  Melissa’s Achilles was really bothering her, so she was hinting that she may just not start this time.  Rest it.  I gave her a hug and wished her luck, whatever she chose to do.  The National Anthem was sung…and so I meandered a little further up in the corrals to prep for the start.

The wheelchair racers were sent off first…and then the rest of us.

Running in the rain…and wind…bib on my pants (I hate wearing pants in a race, and I never pin a bib to them…but I had on my new windbreaker!), hat on, no pigtails…no anklet (I forgot it at home)…no one recognized me, LOL!

I don’t remember too much about this race.  I was focused on trying not to worry over the fact that I was wearing my very old shoes that I use as rain shoes in training…but since I’m down to just my regular race shoes that are hard to find because they have been updated 4 times since then…I didn’t want to ruin them in the rain…or the fact that I was freezing…or that I couldn’t do a few traditions because of the weather (my hair was braided and not in my signature pigtails for one thing…and all of that was slapped under a ball cap to keep the rain out of my eyes).  But here’s what I do remember…

Mile 1 was totally into the wind.  Every bit of it was met with strong resistance as all of us ran down West Broadway toward Grinstead.  Total headwind.  And then we get the hill climb there.  And the wind is still howling.  And at this time I’m really starting to question life decision, but am thankful in the wind for my NYC Half Marathon windbreaker that I am sporting.  I was just glad to get up the hill…even though it slowed me down for Mile 2 to be my slowest mile of the entire race.

After that, there are some climbs, lots of wonky tilty roads, and the run around the outside of Cave Hill Cemetery.  Once we got the wind break, thanks to the walls around the cemetery, I started to feel hot.  Then I’d come around a corner and get hit by that wind and once again be grateful for throwing on the windbreaker.  I usually hate running in jackets…but today…I was happy to have it…most of the time.

I remembered heading into Mile 3, I saw both of the wheelchair racers heading up too.  They started to crest and come down and were shouting, very loudly, that they were coming up from behind…but people run with earbuds in races and don’t hear this…and the wheelchair racers were rightfully angry.  BE AWARE!

I remembered Melissa talking about how much she hated the part of the race near Girl Scout Headquarters…so I thought of her as I ran past that. I basically kept my head down for most of this race because I was cold and wet and…that pretty much sums it up.  I remember turning into the final Mile, back onto West Broadway…and there being a lot of debris from a car wreck being scattered across the road.  It was a hazard and I did my best to avoid what I could…but that should have been swept up prior to the race.  Imagine if a shard of glass met a running shoe.  YIKES!!  And with how minimal some shoes are, that could have definitely spelled disaster.  As it was, my foot slipped on a piece of it that it just clipped.  But thankfully I was balanced and was able to keep my footing.

At least the finish was with a tailwind, right?  It made for a nice finish when all was said and done and I crossed the finish line, feeling pretty good about how I did under the conditions and on tired legs.  In fact, it turned out I had a new Rodes City Run 10K PR.  Not a 10K PR.  Don’t get that confused.  I need to shave about 3 minutes off my time to accomplish that and I don’t see that happening for awhile…if ever…at this point.  This PR was race specific.  Sort of like my Fast Freddie race PR was race specific and not distance specific.  Both of which involved a dinner of sushi rolls the night before.

HMMMM…

Crossing the finish line, cold and soaked, of the Rodes City Run 10K…just happy to be done.

So…the official results of the Rodes City Run 10K are that I finished in 46:43. That put me almost exactly 2 minutes faster than my finish time last year.  AND…it’s the fastest I have run the Rodes City Run 10K as well.  So…there is that.  But I still have a ways to go before I have a new 10K PR.  10K distance is hard for me.  I never really know how hard to push and when.  I was 219/2527 finishers overall.  I was the 49/1358 for women finishers.  And I was 12/206 in my age division.  I’m really happy with this.  I averaged a 7:32 pace for the race, which is impressive these days for me.  I really wasn’t focused on running this fast, because I was in old, over-mileage shoes and I run slower on wet pavement for fear of slipping and getting hurt.  And, after running a half marathon the Sunday before and then having to do all but 1 run on a treadmill in the week leading into it following the half marathon…I’ll take this.  Sore and tired…and I dug deep without even realizing it.

For the record, I did ask Cathy if Melissa started the race and when she confirmed that she had…I knew there was no stopping her and she would finish.  And she did.

Usually, there would be celebratory brunch at North End Cafe…but I wanted to go home and take a hot shower and try to get warm.  So, Cathy ended up making toast and scrambled eggs for breakfast at home.  Warming up, however, never really happened.  And very little else aside from minor grocery shopping got done that day because I was just done with being out in the weather.

Such is life.

Good thing there was still Sunday.

2018 United Airlines NYC Half Marathon – New York, NY (March 18, 2018)

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Me after finishing the 2018 United Airlines NYC Half Marathon – New York, NYC

Race: United Airlines NYC Half Marathon

Place: New York, NY

Date: March 18, 2018

Time: 1:41:29

I love running NYC.  I loved running the full marathon in 2014 and then the half in 2016.  And, by some luck of the NYRR lottery draw, I got the chance to run the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon again this year.

Two things though:

  1. New course…starting in Brooklyn and finishing in Central Park (which meant a whole LOT of hills on your tired legs for the last 4 miles)
  2. I had two friends (Paul & Melissa) coming along for the run as well…which was exciting because Melissa had barely spent sufficient time in NYC and Paul never had been there before!

I was so excited.  Friends…fun…and NYC!

We had plenty of time to plan this trip as the lottery draw happens early.  So over many bowls of pho and lots of text messages and dinner/game night evenings at each other’s homes…we purchased airplane tickets and Cathy had her mom take care of the room…because she has a time share vacation club thing there.  Unfortunately…the race was on St. Patrick’s Day weekend this year which meant…EVENT WEEKEND…on top of everyone coming in for the half marathon itself.  So, instead of staying at the nice Manhattan Club that we had come to love in NYC…we were booted over to the Shoreham through the travel agency that is used.  Cathy called numerous times to ensure that we would have two beds because we were a party of 4, not 2…and was told when the reservation transferred over…it would be taken care of.

Guess what.  The room transferred…and Cathy checked and it was listed with one bed.  One bed.  Four people.  She called the travel agency and they were very unhelpful and it was a task and a half to even get the agent on the phone or to call back.

NOT IMPRESSED!

Cathy then tried calling the hotel directly.  They were sold out of rooms and fully booked and couldn’t change the reservation either.  In fact, the travel agent never changed the request to four people.  So…we were kinda stuck.  Through e-mails, Cathy asked if we could bring an airbed and was told no extra bedding could be brought in…BUT…if they had any, they could provide a roll-away.

Insert me being overly stressed out about this turn of events.  I hate being stressed out over shit that shouldn’t be an issue in the first place but now it is.  These are the things I focus on and, when it happens prior to the trip, it’s all I focus on.

That and the shift in weather that went from lows in the 40s and highs in the high 50s…to COLD AS SHIT!  Seriously.  The weather shifted with some nor’easters that decided that New York needed some snow and ice and cold wind and all that.  MEH.  I don’t like running in the cold at all.  And now…I would be.  This also meant running a half marathon in layers, which is something else that I despise doing.  Cathy had to pack my luggage because I needed to stretch and roll and try to be in a better place with all of this.

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We love flight delays…NOT!

Friday afternoon, Cathy and I left work early and were picked up at our apartment by Paul. We were chauffeured over to his and Melissa’s house where Melissa’s mom was waiting with her van to take us all to the airport.  We packed our luggage and carry-on into the vehicle and got ready to get underway.  After (briefly) getting locked into the van, we set out to the airport, where Cathy and I were checking our baggage (Melissa and Paul were carrying on) and got our seating assignments taken care of.  This was perfect because we were all clumped together.  Cathy and I were behind them on our flights out of Louisville and then out of Atlanta.

Let’s pause for a moment to talk about Atlanta.  We were delayed going out of Louisville and now our connection was going to be very tight.  VERY TIGHT.  In fact, when we landed, supposedly passengers were supposed to let those with a tight connection off first (which would have  benefited us since we were seated pretty much in the back of the plane.  I literally could look out my window and see only the engine.  No joke.  I had no view.

Of course, everyone had a tight flight to catch so everyone (tight connection or not) disembarked as usual.  We decided to have Paul run ahead and see if he could catch the gate agent for our flight and have them hold the plane for us as we all made our way that way.  He is very good at sprinting with a suitcase.  I am not good at running with a backpack on.  And Melissa was in winter boots and Cathy is not a runner.  One train ride and an elevator climb later, and we managed to be near the back of the line for boarding.  But we got on the plane and were NYC bound.

Baggage claim was easy at La Guardia and Cathy put in the call to the car service we always use in NYC to take us to the hotel.  The van arrived to pick us up and we loaded in, somewhere near midnight or 1 am…and made our way to Manhattan and the Shoreham.

I was holding out hope that our hotel mishap was being taken care of, but when Cathy checked us in, the guy behind the desk didn’t even bat an eyelash at the fact that they were giving us a 1 bed, 141 sq food room…to four people.  Nope.  He passed us the keys and played it off like it was nothing.

Guess what.  It’s something.  The room was SO small that after we rearranged it to hopefully fit a roll-away in, which Cathy had to call down to the desk to have brought up, and had the guy who brought it up look around and go, “I have NO idea where we can put this” (NO SHIT, SHERLOCK!), we ended up pushing the actual bed all the way across the room to rest against the window.  The roll-away was set up right next to that, and then, we sort of put a bench and chair together and made an extra bit of bed.

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A view of the Suede Tomb the four of us squeezed into for 4 days in NYC. Cathy is against the wall…the frosty glass is the bathroom, which took up a over 1/4 of the space.  That’s the door right behind Paul.

Paul took the bench/chair and Melissa was on the cot.  Paul was, actually, halfway onto the cot too.  It was a mess.  And it was crowded.  And it was uncomfortable.  But we made it work.  And we were never really falling over each other when we were in the room.  No waiting on the bathroom…we just sort of worked it out without even saying anything.

Welcome, friends…to the Suede Tomb.  Thankfully, we packed our days and nights in NYC and the room would basically just be used for sleeping.  It was close to 2 am and we were setting our phones for a morning wake-up to get up, get breakfast, and head to the race expo.  It wasn’t going to be a night for lots of sleep, but at least we could get some.

The following morning meant showers (which we managed without ever hogging the bathroom too much or too long) and then we were off to breakfast at the local Fresh & Co after grabbing coffee at our favorite coffee shop in all of NYC…Tisserie.  We all got the Nutella Mocha and snagged whatever sounded good for breakfast.  I got a gluten-free bagel that had delicious avocado in it and some other stuff.  It was delicious…and I wanted it again on our last day there…but that didn’t work out as we hit Fresh & Co as they switched to lunch that day.  MEH.

But I digress…

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Race Expo time!!

It was race expo time.  And I love me some race expo experiences.  New York never disappoints.  The United Airlines NYC Half Marathon Expo is held at the Metropolitan Pavilion, and is easy to spot with all the race flags standing outside.  You feel so welcome and get all the excitement upon entering.  For this race in particular, they assign bib numbers on demand, which means you don’t get assigned your bib number until you get there.  And it’s random.  You do know what wave you are in and what corral though…the rest of it just depends on where you stand in line to get a bib.

I was Wave 1 and Corral E and my bib number ended up being 1956.  They stuck on the sticker to my Wave 1 yellow-green bib (Wave 2 was a blue) for my corral (E) and sent me on my way to get my t-shirts and get any photos taken that I wanted in front of the race backdrops.  The race shirts were running smaller than I expected, but mine seemed to just fit, so I kept it.  Melissa and Paul got their numbers and shirts as well and we went to get photos taken before hitting up the rest of the expo…which was basically shopping.

Thankfully…I bought my swag ahead of time because they always run out of my sizes.  Cathy got me a finisher’s shirt.  The only thing I really wanted was the best winter hat to ever exist, but they sold out of that quick.  Probably because it was soul-crushingly cold that weekend and everyone wanted hats.  Melissa had snagged one prior to the race online.  As in…the last one.  It wasn’t meant to be.  I was bummed, but I have plenty of hats as it is.  We took photos with our names on the wall…snagged some free United Airlines buffs that were being handed out…and got on our way to explore some of NYC before heading to dinner that night.

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Pre-Race Gluten Free Marinra Pizza from Don Antonio’s (as always) in NYC!  Also Vegan!

As with every pre-race meal in NYC…it was pizza night, and of course we went to Don Antonio’s is my go-to place for both gluten-free and vegan pizza.  They have a regular menu and a gluten-free menu and take very good care to keep everything safe for you to eat.  Melissa and I split the Senza Glutine Marinara Pizza.  Melissa also snagged a couple of gluten-free appetizers to share.  Cathy and Paul split a regular pizza and each got one of their signature dough puffs to eat.  The food was plentiful and we were definitely full and ready to hike back to the hotel to get everything ready for the following morning. And, yes, we managed to do this and schedule alarms so that we could all function and get what we needed done in the morning.

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We look like we’re going to a slumber party…but really we’re heading to Brooklyn

With the first alarm early in the morning, I was up and at them first to put on my winter tights, an undershirt, my fleece lined tech-top I love wearing due to the collar…and then brushed my teeth and went to step out of the bathroom for the next person to do what they needed to do.  While Melissa, Paul, and Cathy took their turns in the bathroom, I did up my hair, put on my socks and compression sleeves, put on my winged anklet, got my Dunkin Donuts winter hat (the one I got from the 2014 NYC Marathon) on my head, snagged my gloves, and opted to give the buff we got for free at the expo a chance.  I had nothing really to eat in the room, but I brought a Larabar to the start line to eat in the corrals prior to the race.  That went into my fuel belt to stay close to my body to keep it from getting rock hard in the cold.  We headed out the door to get to the train station and take the subway to Brooklyn.  We had to wait in the station for awhile, and when the train did arrive, it was already packed.  We managed to squeak our way in…and with each additional stop…every car just kept getting fuller.  And despite the driver announcing that the train was full and to wait for the train behind us…we kept having people push their way into our car.  Now I was suffocating and dying, especially when the air conditioning would cut off.

But we made it to the Prospect Park stop and disembarked and began to make our way to the starting area, where we would have to go through security.  This was where we had to split from Cathy.  She was going to get back on a train and go to Mile 3 (just after the runners come over the Manhattan Bridge) to hopefully catch me there.

At the start line…we had very little time to hang around and talk.  After getting through security, I needed to drink my pre-workout drink and eat my Larabar so I wasn’t running a half marathon on an empty tank.  I ate my Larabar while Melissa and Paul fueled up as well…and then I needed to get into my corral in Wave 1.  They were in Wave 2, and apparently had to hunker down in the cold shade and try not to freeze for over an hour.  YUCK!

As for me…I started drinking my water and making my way up to Corral E.  There were going to be quite a few starts, so I was NOT shedding my toss-away clothes (yep…I hit Goodwill the day before and picked up clothes to shed since it was going to be freezing at the start line) until I absolutely had to.

The National Anthem was sung…and the wheelchairs and elites were sent off.  It took a long while for me to get up close enough to shed clothing, but I finally did.  And soon, it was my corral’s turn to get ready to go.  As we were standing in the cold wind, the woman behind me pointed to one of the free United Airlines buffs that was shed by runners before us and said, “Not going to lie…I’m tempted to pick that up.” I told her I wouldn’t judge.  HA!  But soon, we were sent off…and it was time to run through the streets of Brooklyn.

The first 2 miles are spent running the streets of Brooklyn.  And then, the first climb happens as you start up the Manhattan Bridge.  I know that the bridges in NYC are beasts, but this actually slowed me down more than I would have liked.  But, as this was being treated as a training run, I wasn’t really focusing on my pace.  This would turn out to be a very good thing as the race continued.  Crossing the bridge was great.  You could see the Statue of Liberty from there…and it was clear and beautiful and COLD that morning.  I put my head down and came down the other side of the bridge, feeling like a rockstar for sure.

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Me coming off the Manhattan Bridge and heading toward the 5K mark of the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon

Cathy was near the turn before heading into the 5K and I waved and smiled as I ran through and began to take in the miles before Times Square.  Times Square was such a highlight for me in 2016 when I ran the old course.  This course was definitely tougher, as when we started in Central Park…we got the hills out of the way early.  Now…now they were at the end.  So these were the flat miles in between.  Miles 3-7 are downhill to flat and I loved them.  It just felt good to run, and have the spectators that were out braving the cold yell motivation to you.  I was crossing a bridge near the 10K mark when I spotted Lottie (aka: runningonveggies) doing her thing.  I wanted to shout-out to her, but I wasn’t sure she’d hear me and I am…nobody…and she’s like…super amazing.  She looked strong.

Coming into Central Park, I knew there was a chance that Cathy wouldn’t make it to see me there.  It all depends on the trains.  Apparently she got out of the subway about 45 seconds before I was supposed to hit Times Square based on the tracker.  She at first decided she wasn’t going to make it, but then changed her mind and did the “Sixth Avenue Sprint” to Times Square, where she did actually catch me and I could hear her shouting and waving at me from the other side of the barricades.  Just the uplift I needed at that point, because we were heading up toward Central Park, which meant some minor rollers until hitting the park just before Mile 9.  For a few moments in Times Squre, however, I was running next to former NYC Marathon race director Mary Wittenberg, which was super cool.  She was getting a lot of shout-outs from volunteers and NYRR…but I turned my attention back to the entrance to Central Park. Here come the hills.

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Running through Times Square during the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon

This is also where my watch got WAY off on the mileage and pace due to the buildings in Manhattan…and the rest of the race was just guess work at this point.

My friend Michael told me he would be at Mile 10 near Cat Hill in Central Park with his friends cheering on runners.  So I had that to look forward to.  And, sure enough, as I was making the ugly climb up Cat Hill…I heard him shout my name, I turned and managed to wave before continuing to die a little on that hill.  Somewhere around Mile 11, a woman decided she would cross the road with her dog while texting on her phone right in front of me and a few other runners.  She got yelled at by quite a few people who she disrupted.  I mean…come on!

There seemed like more uphills than downhills for that last 5K…and my watch was beeping with the distance about .9 miles off of what it was supposed to be.  I’m not lying. I was pretty much a mile ahead of myself via my GPS…which was not making me happy, despite not being one who glances at my watch during the race.  I don’t like to put any pressure on myself, but now I was questioning if my GPS was off or the course was long.  There was no way to really know.  The GPS was off (thanks Times Square and Manhattan)…so when I took that downhill toward the finish line…I crossed with 14.02 miles on my watch and crazy fast splits showing me running a mile in under 6 minutes.  HA!!  I wish!!  So, that was the disappointing part if I had to pick one.  Because I love reviewing my actual splits to see what I need to work on after a race.  It was fun though…and, despite never being warm during the entire run…I was elated to be done.  And super surprised with my time.

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Me sitting in Tisserie, post-race, just trying to get warm

After finishing and getting my race medal and a mylar blanket, we were loaded down with snacks and sent hiking out of the park.  This walk takes a good 30 minutes to accomplish.  I made friends with a nice lady named Wendy and we talked until she had to veer off to bag check to get her stuff.  I finally could see the statue marking Columbus Circle, which was where runners were exiting and were spectators were told would be the best spot to reunite with their runners.  I spotted Cathy immediately and she came over to give me a hug.  I desperately needed coffee, and she had suffered through McDonald’s coffee and wanted good coffee…so we made our way to Tisserie (which was on the race course) and each got a drink.  I got a Café Au Lait with Almond Milk and it was one of the best things I had ever drank.  I needed that to start to warm myself up.  But after checking the app to check in on Melissa and Paul (they were Wave 2 and started about an hour after me) we saw they were coming up to the area we were drinking our coffee.  So, we stepped outside and found a spot on the rail to watch for them.

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Melissa and Paul running toward Central Park!

At one point, a guy from Norway ran over to me and took a picture with me.  Random.  But amusing.  And then…we saw them coming.  Cathy and I shouted to them about how they were killing it, and while Melissa didn’t believe me…she was running NYC.  How cool is that?!

As they headed toward the park, Cathy and I hightailed it back to the hotel so I could shower and change and head back out to meet up with them after the race.  We got to Columbus Circle as they were nearing the finish line.  And when they crossed, I let them know, via text, that we were waiting for them there.  Their phone was almost dead, but Melissa was able to fire a response back.  We waited until we spotted them and flagged them down.  The hills had definitely taken their toll on Melissa’s Achilles, so we got her settled for a moment to rest and rant all she needed.  Paul dug food out of the snack pack for the two of them.  Once they had rested, we took them back to the hotel to shower and chill before we went out to our celebratory dinner at Red Rooster that night.

THAT. WAS. FUN.  And the food was amazing.

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Celebrating finishing the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon at Red Rooster Harlem

The new NYC course is definitely much harder than the old one…but I ended up running this one 2 minutes faster.  So…I count that as a win.  A course PR and a race PR.  WOOT!

So…the official results of the 2018 United Airlines NYC Half Marathon was that I finished with an official time of 1:41:29…and that was closer to the 13.1 than the 14.02 my watch showed.  I swear.  I was 2773/21,995 finishers this year.  I was 557/11,075 female finishers.  And I was 86/1847 finishers in my age division.  I couldn’t be happier with these results considering how much stress I went into NYC with and how cold weather affects my body.  I had a blast and would love to do this again.

Or at least get a cute winter hat.

The remaining days in NYC were spent exploring and eating.  And the best of the best was going up to the top of the Empire State Building at night, freezing, and taking pictures and just living life.

And that’s what this was all about.  Fun, friends…and finish lines.

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On top of the world (aka: The Empire State Building) with friends…last night of such a fun adventure!

UPDATE – Product Review: Nox Gear Tracer 360 Visibility Vest

noxgearlogoProduct: Nox Gear Tracer 360 Visibility Vest

Price: $69.99+/-

Remember last week when I blogged about my faulty Nox Gear Tracer 360 Visibility Vest?  If not…you can backtrack to my blog about it here.  At the end of the blog, I mentioned that I had contacted the company and was waiting to hear back from them regarding their product and the way mine fell apart after only 6 wears.  Let me tell you how this all played out…

FIRST OF ALL…let me tell you how very impressed I am with the customer service I received from Nox Gear.  Honestly.  The vest fell apart on me on a Saturday morning.  I contacted them and wrote my blog up Saturday evening.  On Sunday evening, Daren from Customer Service wrote me back and apologized for the vest falling apart on me, inquired as to if it snagged on something, and asked if he could see photos.  BEFORE I even sent a reply, his message also said that they would be sending me a replacement vest immediately and he was already working on getting that set up.

I got the message Monday morning and replied, sending photos of where the vest fell apart, and thanking him for his quick response and for sending a replacement.  He replied back within MINUTES of me sending the response with the photos.  He explained that it looked like a failure in the stitching, and apologized again, stating that the replacement should work out perfectly for me.

Then…I was sent the confirmation that my replacement had been shipped.  That quickly.  BOOM.  Done.

Two days later, the replacement vest arrives.  I open up the box and inspect the vest and it looks great.  I am pretty excited because I have a short run planned for the following morning, and this came just in the nick of time.  I had been using my old one still, simply safety pinning it together where the vest came apart.  OH…that was another thing…

Daren told me to keep my old vest to use as a backup.  Yep.  No sending it back. No need to return it.  Simply restitch where it came apart, or have someone I know who can sew fix it for me.  Done.  He even said that I could keep it to use as a backup.  I mean…how many companies do that?

Am I impressed?  YEP!!  I wore my new vest out this morning and it worked great.  I felt visible and safe and still love how light weight it is.

But this story does NOT end there…

This morning, I also received an e-mail from one of the creators of Nox Gear, Tom Walters, to also apologize for the belt stitch coming undone after only 6 wears.  He emphasized how unacceptable that was and how it angered him to know of the fault in their product.  He emphasized that Nox Gear stands behind quality of their products and hopes that they can prove it to me!

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Me after my morning run in my replacement Nox Gear Tracer 360 Visibility Vest

Point proven.  This has been the BEST customer service interaction I have ever had.  They definitely stand behind their NO WORRIES GUARANTEE and were quick to respond to me and the problem I had with the vest and take action to correct the issue.  Not only that, one of the creators also reached out to apologize and make sure that I felt that I was taken care of and was happy with the service I received.  Not very many companies do that anymore and I am beyond impressed with the steps Nox Gear has taken to make sure my satisfaction with their product was at the forefront as they worked on getting the problem resolved.

Thank you Daren, Tom, and Nox Gear, for proving to me that your company is one that I don’t regret investing in.  I’m excited to wear my new vest out on my morning runs.  You not only help keep me safe, you made sure that I was happy with your product in the end.

And right now…I’m over the moon!  Thanks…for lighting my way.

Product Review: Nox Gear Tracer 360 Visibility Vest

noxgearlogoProduct: Nox Gear Tracer 360 Visibility Vest

Price: $69.99+/-

You know…I have failed as a blogger in doing product reviews…food…or otherwise…as of late.  And I apologize for that.  And, sadly, it has taken a product I was pretty stoked about literally falling apart after only SIX wearings to bring me back around to writing these.  But now the feature is back…so I’ll keep at it with other products.

For awhile now, my running friends and coach have been urging me to purchase a Nox Gear Tracer 360 Visibility Vest because, as we all know, about 90% of my runs are done outside…in the dark.  While I always wear reflective gear, they hyped up the light and visibility that this vest gives any runner in the dark.

When it went on sale around Christmas time…I bit the bullet.  I needed it, at the time, for a costume I was working on for Disney (which I ended up scrapping due to how cold the weather was going to be), and justified the purchase with the amount of use I’d get out of it as a runner in the dark.25791126_10100345169087281_3449524131123043947_o

When it arrived, I immediately opened the box and pulled it out to at least try it on.  I was surprised how light weight it was, but it was a good fit on me.  I would be testing it out for the first time the following morning on a run and I couldn’t wait.  My biggest concern was that the tubes that came down to the hips would bounce up and bother me.  I hoped I was wrong.

That morning, I got dressed to go for my run before the sun was even dreaming up coming up.  I slipped the Nox Gear Tracer 360 on and clipped it around my body.  Perfect fit.  It wasn’t too tight.  I turned it on, letting it flash various fun colors and I turned on my Instagram and did an Instagram Story about it.  I was super stoked.  But I still had to try it on a run.

26114428_10100345578556701_5561408050532455525_oGuess what.  All of my fears were put to rest on that run.  The tubing didn’t bother me at all.  My hands never snagged on it and nothing bounced or chafed or bothered me.  I was ready to drink the Kool-Aid.  Every morning I wore it out…I would just rave about it on my Instagram afterwards.  But…the holidays rolled around and I was visiting family in Alabama…where I run when it’s light out.  After that…I came down with a cold and took time off from my training.  I was tapering anyway.  And then…the Dopey Challenge.  I had trashed my plan to dress as Tron (which was one of the reasons I bought the Nox Gear Tracer 360), due to freezing temperatures and the costume not really having time to be refined to where I was happy with it.  The vest stayed behind to await my return.  Unfortunately, Disney flu came home with me and 2 weeks later…I’m finally ready to go out for more walking than running…but something.  Finally.

That was this morning.  And that was when it all went wrong.26840589_10100354745805461_6619302102498164804_o

Today was my sixth (6th) time wearing the Nox Gear Tracer 360 Visibility Vest.  I went and counted in my Instagram.  Don’t judge me.

Six wears…and on my final 2 minute run interval this morning…the vest suddenly falls down my shoulders.  I thought, perhaps, the clip at the middle came undone and paused my Garmin to fix it.

WRONG!  The reflective strap that wraps around the middle had completely come apart.  Not even on a seam.  It was like it just tore down the center…with nothing that could have caused that to happen.  I was NOT happy.  Believe me, these vests are not cheap.  And when you pay $70 for a reflective vest…you kind of hope for a better quality product.  I mean, I spent less on my simple yellow reflective vest with blinkie light clip-ons and that’s lasted me for 4 years.  This survived only six runs.  Six short (not even long) runs.

27024000_10100354745835401_10334784506202404_oTo say I’m disappointed is an understatement.  I’m actually a little angry.  I was so excited and hyped over this piece of running gear and it was like this big let-down in a big way.  I actually had to hold the tubing together in front for the rest of my run so I could still be visible, but finish off my run this morning.

I have every intention of contacting Nox Gear regarding this.  I am willing to exchange it for a new one, believing that, perhaps, this was just a bad batch or whatever.  I love the concept behind this vest, but I need it to last because 4 out of 5 of my runs every week are done in the dark.  The kind of visibility that this gave me was impressive.  The vest being so light weight was a bonus.  I’m picky about things I wear when I run, and this was something I expected to hate…but didn’t.

And I don’t hate it now…I just hate that it was so poorly constructed.  As of right now, I can’t honestly recommend this product.  It all hinges on how Nox Gear handles this when I contact them regarding my dissatisfaction with their product.

Stay tuned…