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

IMG_2990

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

Race: Bank of America Chicago Marathon

Place: Chicago, Illinois

Date: October 7, 2018

Time: 3:50:41

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

Welcome…to my Chicago Marathon.

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

I repeat…

A LOT.

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

IMG_2829

The Tamale Place on Rockville Rd in Indianapolis, Indiana

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

IMG_2828

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

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

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

IMG_2830

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

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

IMG_2844

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

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

Next stop: THE EXPO!!IMG_2848

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

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

IMG_2853

Me and AmyLee at the Chicago Marathon Expo!

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

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

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

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

IMG_2858

Here’s to finish lines!

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

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

IMG_2869

My stats from the Abbott Booth at the Chicago Marathon Expo

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

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

IMG_2876

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

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

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

IMG_2881

Me dressed and ready to run the Chicago Marathon!

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

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

IMG_2892

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_2925To the song Sweet Home Chicago.

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

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

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

IMG_2966

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_3051

Me after finishing the Chicago Marathon

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

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

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

IMG_3047

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

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

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

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

IMG_3039

Me with my Chicago Marathon medal and jacket at Buckingham Fountain

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

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

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

So…what mistakes did I make?

IMG_3046

Finishers…Friends!

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

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

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

Advertisements

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

kauai finish

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

Race: Kauai Half Marathon

Place: Poipu, HI (Island of Kauai)

Date: September 2, 2018

Time: 1:46:27

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

~Kara Goucher

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

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

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

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

IMG_0644

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

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

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


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

IMG_0690

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_0839

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

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

IMG_0864

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

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

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

IMG_0866

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

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

IMG_0874

Me at the start of the Kauai Half Marathon

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

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

IMG_0883

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

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

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

IMG_0891

Me receiving my medal at the Kauai Half Marathon finish line

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

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

IMG_0909

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

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

IMG_0935

YAAAAAAAAAAS!!

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

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

IMG_0916

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

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

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

IMG_0937

Me and Bart Yasso after the Kauai Half Marathon!

Your Pace or Mine (And Why You Shouldn’t Care)

comparisonOne of the best pieces of advice I have ever received as a runner…was to stop posting my Garmin face post-run with distance and time.  Stop putting my splits up on social media for others to see.  While a lot of times, this garnishes so many LIKES and compliments…it also, honestly, is no one’s business what my run looked like that day.  And, sometimes, it can also bring about negativity…or pressure to perform.

How often do we do this to ourselves?  We go for a run.  We feel good during the run.  Or maybe we don’t.  Maybe the run feels hard, but we’re pushing.  And we’re just giving it all we have (I don’t recommend doing this for every run you do, btw).  And when we’re done, we click that stop button on our watch and check our time…

And how often does that time…or overall pace…determine for YOU…whether that run was a “good run” or a “bad run?”

Hey…I’ve been guilty of this myself.

When a run feels hard and it should be easy…guess what…you’re probably running too hard.

When you feel good through your entire run, but then stop your watch and are disappointed with your overall pace…guess what…you have forgotten the golden rule of…easy runs should be easyhard runs should be hard…and BOTH are important.  You probably did this run perfectly…you felt good…but your Garmin spouts off an average that makes you feel inadequate.

Why?

So many people play that social media comparison game.  Just because one person can easily crack off 7 minute (or less) minute miles, everyday, for most distances….doesn’t mean that you have to be able to do that too.  That’s the great thing about being a human being.

WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT.  And guess what?!  OUR ABILITIES ARE ALL DIFFERENT!!

Am I screaming at you?  Yes!!  Because I often get told that someone doesn’t think they need to recover as much as I do because I run so much faster than them.  Well, my 8 minute mile might be just as hard to me as their 10 minute mile is to them.  The effort is equal…the paces are different.  But someone’s slow will always be someone else’s fast.  And it’s a serious problem if you are judging your worth and your fitness or your place in the running community based off of how fast your legs move to propel you forward.

And social media has done nothing more than take all of this insecurity and elevated the comparison game to new heights.  It is great to motivate people…but your paces and your miles logged don’t really do that.  WORDS do that. Examples do that.  Just because you can run that 6:XX mile tempo, doesn’t mean that I can.  And expecting me to be able to isn’t right too.  Telling me that you’re an extreme runner, or getting it done right, doesn’t make me feel good about my 8:xx tempo of the same distance that day…probably less consistent than yours.  Your Garmin watch face…your split times…your average pace…that does have the power to motivate…and inspire…but it also can really get into people’s heads.

And let’s talk about burnout.  So many times…these “extreme” runners that consistently post these fast times in training often burnout or hit a wall…when it counts most.  On race day.

Sure, it might seem fun to post your 7:XX mile runs during training, every day, no rest days, no days off, but when you end up sidelined with an injury, or your marathon times don’t match up to your training runs, or you hit a wall…hard…at Mile 21, those social media brags and posts will have been in vain.

Let’s face it…an 8:20 pace is not easy if your marathon pace is an 8:30.

IT. IS. THAT. SIMPLE.

Whether you consider yourself a speed demon, a middle-of-the-packer, or a back-of-the-packer…ultimately…the comparison game will only bring you unnecessary stress.

And that’s why, my friends, my Instagram posts don’t show off my pace, my distance, my stats, my splits…because that is for me to know and for me to work on.  Not for anyone else to cast judgement on or to compare themselves to.  We’re all different.  We all run different.  We all train different.  But in the end…I’m not here to set a precedent for anyone but myself.

Comparison is the thief of joy…and I’m not looking for anything but happiness out on the roads right now.  Don’t get me wrong, I certainly have my goals and am actively pursuing them the best I know how to.  After all, happiness is definitely a goal worth pursuing.

Quality Over Quantity

44425106_10100467243748681_8763605971185434624_oTwo weeks ago…I ran a marathon.

I haven’t blogged on it yet…but it’s coming. I just need more time in my days to get my thoughts down.

Two weeks ago.  And I have been taking my time returning to my training.

I’m not forcing myself to go out there for double-digit runs at the moment.  I’m not forcing speed work on myself.  I’m running by feel, fewer days a week than normal, not worrying over how long I’m out there or how far I go.

I’m recovering.

So many of my friends are shining in races.  Some of them also had hard efforts in marathons.  But, to me, it’s not about how many races I do…it’s about being able to do the number of races I register for…comfortably, without pain, without injury, without burnout…

I don’t wear race volume around my neck as a bragging right.  I don’t care how many races I have run or of what distance each one was.  Every finish is a victory.  Every race is a victory lap for the training I put into it.  And part of training…is taking the necessary time off to get my body strong, rested, and prepped for the next training cycle.  I’ve done the whole rush into the next thing route before…and we all know how that turned out for me.  So many people overlook the downtime and recovery…and I used to be one of them.

NOT. ANYMORE.

It’s so hard, these days, to keep this in perspective.  Social media has a funny way of making you feel inadequate.  Someone is always running more, running faster, running further, hitting goals you’ve dreamed of but have fallen short of for months/years.  But, in the end, we can only do what is best for ourselves.  No one else.

This past weekend, I was in Columbus, Ohio, visiting my friend Jenn and seeing Phil Collins in concert on Friday night.  I had some late nights…I slept in each morning.  And…I put in some miles each morning.  One was mild and windy, the other was frigid and also windy (but less windy, I guess).  I never once looked at my Garmin to check my pace.  I just counted each mile beep until I hit the miles in my made-up plan.

Each run was solid and strong and amazing.  I mean, I was having fun, even when the headwind felt like it was pushing me back.  I got inspired when I hit up the Columbus Marathon expo, purchasing more things than I should of from the booth, and stopping by Noxgear to say HI to the people there…and get my hands on their new product, which hasn’t launched to the public yet.  Watch my social media for more on that.

I ate well.  I stretched.  I foam rolled.  All the self-care stuff that comes with recovering from a hard effort.

So while others are stocking up on medals and miles, I’m cheering them on, but not rushing to join them.  I never want to be out for as long as I was in the past.  And with these solid recovery runs coming so easy…I’m proud to say, I think this time, I’m doing it right.

The number of races I do is nothing compared to the number of races I will continue to do, simply by respecting this body.

Being a runner isn’t about the number of races I finish.  I know plenty of real runners who aren’t even interested in racing.  I love racing.  It’s fun.  But I don’t care if I’ve run 1 or 100 races…as long as I’m still enjoying it and listening to my body so I can continue to do it.

You do you!

Hey…DISCOUNT! (Noxgear addition)

As most of you who read this know…I’m an Ambassador for Noxgear.

You know…the cool, light-weight, light-up vest that you see me wearing in all my social media run pics (because running in the dark is the only time I have to run).

42525461_10100456894553551_5257034292357234688_o
If not…you’re obviously not following me on social media and that should be remedied.  I’ll post those links at the end of this.  But the entire purpose to this post today is to say…

TOMORROW ONLY…

OCTOBER 16, 2018

There is a special Ambassador Sale going on at the Noxgear Web site.  So if you’ve been on the fence about investing in the Tracer 360 vest or the Lighthound (for those of you with four-legged running partners who also need to be seen), or if you want to order some extras or get one as a gift…this is the best deal yet!

44118506_10100465283846341_2933536691224313856_o
If you’re reading this…you’re in luck.  You’ve found an ambassador!  YAY!!  *high fives*

To get that discount on Tuesday ONLY head over to Noxgear and use code: CELIAC

It’s the best deal around!!  Happy Shopping!!  Tell your friends!

#noxgearamb #noxgear #lightitup

And…if you’re not following me on other forms of social media…you can hit me up here:

Instagram: theceliathlete
Twitter: TheCeliathlete
Twitter: CapnKeeks

Trials & Tribulations & Travels

prioritiesGuys…

I have a lot to cover.  A lot.

But I can’t here.  Not yet.  Because…things haven’t been said on other platforms by other people that I can’t go into here…but once it’s out there…I’ve got blogs to write and things to fill all of you in on.

I’ve been on the road a lot recently.  And I leveled up somewhere in there with a birthday too.

I’m very behind on this blog…and I realize this.  I’m seriously going to make more of a push to be active and write about more than just my races.  Because I’m not just passionate about running…but also food and travel and…just having fun.  With friends.

takemeaway

Here’s a little run-down of things coming down the pike…

I went to Hawaii.  Again.

I went to Disneyland.  Again.

I went to Chicago.  Again.

I got shadowbanned by Instagram.  That’s a first.  No again necessary.  That being said…no one is seeing my posts right now and since I’ve built my account up since 2011…having it currently be unavailable to people who are not my friends is beyond frustrating.  My visibility is nill and IG has done nothing to fix it…because I’m not one of their precious influencers.  MEH.  And how did this happen?  I got hacked.  On a Sunday morning.  While headed to a run.

No joke.

SO mad.

banned

So…if you aren’t following me on Instagram…come and give me a follow and check out my posts (like them, please!) and my Instagram Stories (I’m hilarious.  Sometimes.  HA!)

You can find me here:

My Instagram Page!

Thanks, lovelies.  I also hope to start going back to some product (food and running related…YAAAAAAAAAAAAAS!)…and I’m going to get serious about recipes and also progress with…just where I am…both in fitness and in life.  Because…sometimes life is hard and things just get out of control.  And it’s good to have a support team.

Thanks for sticking with me.

Blogs are coming.  Daily.  I am going to make this a priority again.

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

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

Race: The Filly Women’s Half Marathon

Place: Louisville, KY

Date: June 10, 2018

Time: 1:59:09*

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

And so…the anxiety began.

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

First time as an official pacer!

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

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

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

Official pacing shirt!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hydrating while pacing through the MRTT/SRTT hydration station!

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

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

The loneliness of the 2 hour pacer…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With my Age Group Award from The Filly Half Marathon