2020 Publix Atlanta Half Marathon – Atlanta, GA (March 1, 2020)

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Me in front of the Olympic Rings in Centennial Olympic Park after the 2020 Publix Atlanta Half Marathon – Atlanta, GA

Race: 2020 Publix Atlanta Half Marathon

Place: Atlanta, Georgia

Date: March 1, 2020

Time: 1:50:02

Back in 2014…I ran the Publix GEORGIA Marathon.  I had been coming back from an injury (no shock there)…but I finished it strong and felt good.  In 2019, it was re-branded as the Atlanta Marathon/Half Marathon/5K (which makes sense as it is held in Atlanta).  Also, it got a new course.  So, it was going to look different from the time I ran the full thing, right?

But…I think they somehow made it hillier.

I’m getting ahead of myself.

Please note…it’s been almost 3 months since I ran this…because as we all know…life got pretty crazy shortly after this…so I might not have much to say in regards to the course or the race, other than it was cold AF, hilly AF, and my hip still hurt like a mother.

But we were doing this thing.

Woke up early.  Cathy had to get up with the alarm this time as she had signed up for the 5K.  Hey, if there is bling involved and she can guarantee that she’ll be at the finish line to see me finish…those 5K races that run with the longer runs are her sort of thing.  She was pretty certain we’d be finishing close together given that the 5K started about an hour after the marathon and half went off, so it would be close.  I also told her, though, not to fret anything since I definitely wasn’t 100%.

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When you cut your garbage bag wrong…

So, we got dressed, fueled, and she cut up some garbage bags for us to huddle in to attempt to keep warm on the walk over to the start line.  Except she cut her bag wrong so the holes were not in the right spot.  Meaning, she cut a hole in her stomach area…so she looked more like a Care Bear and had a definite draft.  We couldn’t do anything about it, and as I am definitely more cold natured than her…I got the properly cut trash bag and she got the one that she hadn’t unfolded properly before taking scissors to it.  Please note…she learned a valuable lesson.

We headed out of the hotel room and took the elevator down to the lobby.  And we struck out toward Centennial Park, where the race would start and finish.  Temperatures were in the low 30s.  It was windy (although NOTHING near what it was the day before when the Olympic Marathon Trials ran).  And I was noshing on a banana as we made our way to the start area.  Because of how cold it was, we sort of just gave ourselves enough time to get down there with only a little bit of time to spare, but enough that we weren’t stressed out and making a mad dash through the streets to get to the start corrals.

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Pacer Meb Keflezighi

Had my leg/hip felt 100%…I had given some thought to hanging with the 1:40 pace group, which was being paced by Meb Keflezighi.  That would have been a dream.  But since I had to go to physical therapy and back off my training runs…it wasn’t completely out of the question, but it was a definite pipe dream.  I lined up further back, keeping my trash bag on for as long as I could prior to the start.

Here was the really cool thing about the USA Olympic Marathon Trials happening the day before – MOST of the Olympic Team came down to watch the start of the race – despite it being early and cold.  The only one who didn’t put in an appearance was Galen Rupp (not surprised – I acknowledge his skill as a marathoner, but I just don’t like him).  The rest of them came down.  AND…Alaphine Tuliamuk (the women’s first place finisher), stayed down there for the ENTIRETY of the start line from the marathon/half start to the last 5K runner to cross.  And she was not only speaking to the runners, but taking selfies and the like with them.  Because she’s amazing.

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Alaphine Tuliamuk taking selfies at the start line

After the National Anthem was sung, I did shed the garbage bag, wearing my BibRave t-shirt (with arm warmers because…it was cold, duh) for the first time at an event.  This one wasn’t a BibRave event…but I’m doing my part to represent.  I gave my hip a little bit of a warmup with some dynamic moves in the tight confines of the corral…and then…we were off.

I waived to Cathy as I ran by, my hip doing okay for this part.  Even being sent up a hill almost immediately.  That was good, because that wouldn’t last long.  And while the hip would eventually succumb to all the uphills and the cold…any movement I could manage without it bothering me…I was grateful for.

Also, on an interesting note…the FAQs for this race said that hydration packs were not allowed.  I saw a lot of people running with them, but I opted to obey the rules and ran with my hydration belt instead.  I hadn’t done that in a LONG time during a race, but as I had to use it for a bit of training while waiting on new bladders for my vest to come in the mail, I wasn’t completely out of practice yet.

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You know I had to be in all the colors…this was at the start line!

This race weaves through Atlanta completely now…whereas before, when it was the Georgia Marathon/Half Marathon, it went out to Decatur and would come back into Atlanta.  Not anymore.  Now it’s completely inside the city.  With this new course, I think I was glad it wasn’t this way when I ran it in 2014…because I think the hills are worse.  With the leg/hip issue happening, I legit had no power on any of the uphills.  You better believe I lived for those downhills though.

At one point, as the sun was coming out, I went to tuck my pink knit gloves into the back of my hydration belt…but I lost them.  It made me sad, as those were the best gloves (and pink still represents my mom – a breast cancer survivor).  But, they are throw-away gloves for a reason, I guess.  At another point, I spotted someone I know from Instagram, running just up ahead.  I wished I had the go-power to get up to her and run with her or at least say “HI.”  But…meh…not happening.  She finished up three minutes ahead of me…because she’s awesome.  So…HI KRISTIN STOKES!

I will say, I think the hill around Mile 12 was the one that did me in.  I felt like I was crawling up it.  My hip was done with the entire experience, so I basically crawled it in to the finish.  No finish line sprint.  Nothing.  Just a jog.

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Cathy and I at the Olympic Rings at Centennial Park in Atlanta, GA

But, Cathy had managed to finish her 5K just ahead of Meb…which meant she had about 10 minutes before I came in.  She found a spot to watch the finish line…and when I crossed I was so happy to be done.  Maybe not Kauai Marathon happy…but it might have been close.

I walked through and got my medal and some snacks before meeting up with Cathy.  We went to go take some pictures with the Olympic rings before heading back to the hotel to clean up, shower, pack, and head down to snag lunch at Walburgers before hopping on the MARTA to head to the airport for our flight home.  Walburgers had a bit of delay on opening due to a problem with with the water or electricity or something.  We hung out with some ladies and made friends with them.  When they did open, we were taken upstairs and seated, and then just after we placed our order, our friends Tammy and Dean showed up and joined us.  YAY!  It was nice to sit and catch up with them (Tammy had also done the 5K and Dean did the half ).  Also, Walburgers is great with the gluten-free options.  I had my first ever Impossible Burger on the gluten free bun…with gluten free Sweet Potato Tots.  It was…awesome.

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Lunch at Walburgers!

Eventually we did have to head out to the airport.  We hugged Tammy and Dean (this was when that was still allowed, which now seems weird) and made our way to the MARTA to head home.

So, my official results of the 2020 Publix Atlanta Half Marathon are that I finished in I finished in 1:50:02. Not bad on a gimpy leg, right?  I know for a fact that I would have been able to deliver better had my training and my hip been 100%.  But you do what you can when you can , right?  I was 1346/5809 finishers overall. I was the 531/3189 female finishers. And I was 99/486 in my age division.  Considering an unusual night before the race happened…with a late dinner…and lots of time standing the day before, topped with hip/leg issues…I’ll take the hell out of this result.  Couldn’t be prouder of myself for sticking it out and getting to that finish line.

Just goes to show you…if you set your mind to something…you can do hard things.

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Spectating the Olympic Marathon Trials (February 29, 2020) – Atlanta, GA

IMG_1545Sorry that this is over two months overdue in posting. My lack of motivation to sit at my computer at home…after working at home for 8 hours…is more than lacking these days. But I’m very behind on these blogs…so I need to start cracking on them.  Since then, the Olympics in Tokyo are postponed until 2021.  What crazy times we are living in.  I hope everyone is staying safe.

Back in April 2019, when USATF announced that the Olympic Marathon Trials were going to be held in Atlanta, Ga., I knew…RIGHT THEN…that I wanted to go and spectate.  I wanted to be on the course where it all happened.  Six people – 3 men and 3 women – would cross a finish line and achieve the dream of becoming an Olympian.

I had to go.

So, my roommate and I went ahead and booked a hotel room at the Westin Peachtree Plaza in downtown Atlanta.  Then we bought some non-stop flights to and from Atlanta from Louisville.  And then, because, why the hell not?…we each signed up for a race on the day following the Olympic Marathon Trials (Cathy did the Atlanta 5K and I did the Atlanta Half Marathon), since we’d be there.IMG_1547

And somewhere between when all that happened…my left hip started giving me problems again. I took most of February off from running or any real distance, and definitely not workouts.  I went back to my orthopedic doctor for X-rays…where I was told there was nothing structural happening.  I went back to physical therapy, where my physical therapist worked to help get me back on the road, even though it seemed where the pain was changed each day.  And she even could work with my coach as he is also a physical therapist (same company, different location)…and together they eased me back out onto the road, with only a few days with setbacks.

To say I felt 100% when I started packing for my quick trip to Atlanta at the end of March is a huge understatement.  I was questioning whether to drop to the 5K or just not do it at all. Since I was able to run, perhaps not fast or strong, I decided that I could fake my way through a race.  It would be rough and hard and probably would suck a lot more than usual, but I could do it.  So, after our friend Melissa dropped us off at the airport on a Friday morning, we boarded our flight to Atlanta and touched down without any delays or problems.  WINNING!

IMG_1551After a quick MARTA ride to get to our hotel, we checked in, dropped off stuff in our room, and took a moment to admire the fact that we could see Centennial Park from our window. How awesome!!

Then, we gathered our stuff and took a nice stroll past the park and the Olympic Marathon Trials finish line, to hit up the expo to pick up our own race stuff and see what kind of merchandise was around.

The answer…not much.  At least not at this point.  I managed to snag a Marathon Trials t-shirt for myself and my friend Natalie.  And I got a couple of pins to commemorate the event. But there was little else left.  Guess it got decimated on Thursday or earlier in the day on Friday.IMG_1564

Oh well.  The expo was much smaller than I anticipated.  For real.  And we breezed through it faster than the time we budgeted for it.  So, after we were done there, we hiked back to the hotel to drop off stuff, take a breather, and then figure out what we wanted to do next.  We ended up hiking around the Dragon*Con hotels just to kill time.  We snagged some water (we hit up CVS so many times for water on this trip) and a snack.  And then we had to figure out what we wanted to do for dinner.  The easiest option was the food court…but I needed to figure out where and what would be safe for me.  And one of our top options would have meant eating dinner around 3:30 or 4 pm, which was WAY too early for me.

IMG_1569Lots of google and Find Me Gluten Free searching guided me toward a place called BÊP Vietnamese Cuisine.  Cathy opted to go find something with meat and gluten in it for herself (since when we are eating out and on vacation, she can do this!), and ended up at Beni’s Cubano and opted for the Milagro Sandwich with Maduros (Sweet Plantains).  So, while she was hitting them up, I went up to get Curry Tofu Rice Bowl from BÊP…except they were all out of tofu as they had to cater a large party earlier.  BOO!  So, I ended up doing the Vegetarian Phở with the Gluten Free Vegetarian Spring Rolls.  It wasn’t my first choice…but, hey…it wasn’t a bad option to end up with. And, honestly, I just wanted the spring rolls, so that made me happy enough (but 2 spring rolls don’t make a meal).

We ate in the food court before heading back to the room for the rest of the night, enjoying some Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives on Food Network while we wound down and prepared for the following morning, which would involve having to find a good spot in which to view the trials.  And, man, did we have some options to think about.IMG_1582

We woke up the following morning with a mission.  Kara Goucher was leading a 3 mile shakeout run around Centennial Park.  I wasn’t running.  This was a rest day, and regardless, I was really hoping to give my hip an extra day off before the half marathon on Sunday morning.  Cathy safely tucked my 2015 Boston Marathon bib into her bag and we headed down toward the park.  We ended up making an entire lap before converging on the crowd by the Olympic rings.  And there, in the middle of it all, was Kara Goucher.  Kara Goucher was one of the first female runners that I took notice of.  Her book was one of the first ones I ever read (and applied a lot of it to shorter distances as I was not running marathons yet).  It was chaotic in that throng of people, but I somehow managed to get up to her, tell her something about Minnesota girls (I was born in Minnesota, remember?) and got my bib signed! YAY!  It wasn’t the way I envisioned talking to her or meeting her…but it happened, guys!!  We also made one last stop in at the expo…and glad we did because we both ended up getting some hoodies that had Atlanta to Tokyo on it (at that point, obviously, the Olympics were still happening in summer 2020).  The smallest size I could find was a large, but I figured I could just wear it around the apartment.

IMG_1592After that, we headed back to the hotel to grab a big breakfast (as this would be what would hold us through to after the marathon trials AND…a live Ali on the Run Podcast that I got free tickets to attend).  It was going to be a long day…but thankfully, we had snacks.

The breakfast at the hotel was mostly buffet.  And for someone like me with food allergies…that just doesn’t work well.  BUT, our waiter was kind enough to put in an order for me with the kitchen so everything would be safe for me to eat.  I got an egg white vegetable omelette with a bowl of fruit.  Cathy was able to go pick and choose what she wanted and was excited that there was a mini chicken and waffles option out there (it might have been on the kids table, but she loved it).  We ate.  We drank a lot of coffee.  We went back up to the room to prepare ourselves for all the intense wind, cold weather, and the fun of spectating the Olympic Marathon Trials.IMG_1602

I. COULD. NOT. WAIT.

Originally, we had planned on going right to a spot where we could see the athlete 6 times on the looped course.  But after we got down there, we decided that we really, really wanted to see the start of both the men’s and the women’s race.  Then we could go up to about Mile 8 and see the men twice and the women once, and then hopefully get back to the finish line area to see who would make the team from a decent enough s
It felt like the right plan for us.  So…we scouted out a spot for the start of the race.  It was VERY windy!  In case you hadn’t heard.  I felt bad for the athletes because when you’re in a metro downtown like that, there is no wind breaks.  There are only wind tunnels.  And that wind will hit you in all directions!  We were right near where the athletes would be walking out.  Shalane Flanagan passed us.  She, obviously, wasn’t competing, but there was no mistaking her in that Bowerman Track Club gear.

IMG_1654And…I got to hug and wish good luck to Ashley Paulson, who I know from Instagram.  She ended up coming in 44th in the women’s race.  HOW AWESOME IS THAT?!  Anyway, that was super fun.  Cathy gave the woman standing next to me her ear warmer because she had tried three times to find somewhere she could buy a hat and couldn’t find one anywhere.  One good deed…

The winds were whipping around 20+mph.  And it was COLD!!  Man, was it cold.  But the sun was out…and the athletes were lining up at the start line.  The men would go off first.  Then the women.  And who was sending each group off?  Meb Keflezighi!IMG_1636

He counted down the men’s race…and they were off.  As the group ran past, we cheered really loud and started pointing out the people we recognized.  It was exciting.  What a rush.  And 20 minutes later…with one almost false start…Meb sent the women off.  Now that…THAT was insane.   It was just flood of women, running down the road.  I spotted a few people I recognized.  I screamed really loud.  And we even saw the ones at the back who were starting, but dropping out due to injury, pregnancy, or whatever.  It was inspiring, regardless.

From there, we hopped over to a spot on the rail near the 8 mile mark.  This was at one of the turns on the course, so we would definitely get the chance to see everyone as they went past.  We would be here for a while, able to see the men twice and the women once, if we wanted to try to get to the finish line area.

IMG_1682We took this opportunity to snag a snack.  I brought oranges.  LOL!  Hey, I’m like Dustin in Stranger Things…so I always bring snacks with me everywhere.  I had no idea how long it would be before we’d get to eat.  We polished off our oranges (I brought Sumo’s…only the best for this occasion) and were settled in, wincing against the wind, and making friends with the people around us…as you do.

The guy who was on my left was spectating his daughter, who qualified at CIM with a squeaker time, just hitting it with maybe a second to spare.  The pride and excitement in his voice was just…awesome.  And then…we saw the pace car come down the hill and toward the turn.  Behind it…the wave of men.  And, there were two people out front that I didn’t recognize.  But then in the chase pack (just steps behind them) were all the big names and the like.  And I tried to shout out to as many as I could.IMG_1736

There were smaller waves behind them…and then it quieted down as we all awaited the arrival of the women.  And that was a wave that was just as amazing as the start.  And the crowd.  Wow…it was loud.  And you could just feel this electricity as the women continued to make the turn and head back up the hill into Mile 8.  It was insane and I loved being a part of the noise and seeing these woman lay it all out there on the challenging course.  Seriously…inspiring.  Not that I’ll ever get the chance to run the Olympic Trials…but man…I felt like I was part of something big…just by being there.

IMG_1796We waited around for the men to make their second loop and, by the time they came back around, there were more familiar faces at the front of the pack.  Mainly…Galen Rupp.  No shocker there.  And, apparently, that’s where he would stay.  But…it would be those remaining two spots that would be the surprises for us spectators.

Not wanting to miss any of the final finishes…because, honestly, I wanted to be at that finish line when the runners who would be representing the country crossed, we left to head back to the finish line area.  The general public could only get so close, but luckily we found a spot of the rail, next to a man who was cheering for his daughter (this was a theme, LOL), named Val Curtis.  So, he was tracking her and I was trying to catch bits of conversation about where some of the favorites out on the course were.IMG_2025

And you could tell when the finish was getting close because people who were able to get into the grassy parts of the park near the finish started climbing into the trees.  No joke.  Cathy even said, “Looks like the spectators are in full bloom.”  It made me laugh.  A lot.  Security, however, did make them all eventually get down, but that was just a testament to how big of a deal this was to the people in Atlanta to spectate.

IMG_2038I will never forget that feeling when I saw the lead vehicle come down over the hill and veer off as Galen Rupp came surging past.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Galen Rupp fan.  I don’t like him.  But he was going to go represent the United States at the Olympics, turning in an amazing time on what was a VERY challenging course.  The second and third place for the men came in over a minute behind Galen.  It felt like a HUGE gap of time, honestly.  But that battle for second and third was SPECTACULAR!!  No lie.  It came down to just one second that put Jacob Riley in second and Abdi Abdirahman in third.  Our alternate for the men…Leonard Korir…just seconds behind Abdi.  What a finish!!IMG_2105

We saw more men come streaming in.  A few were bloodied, which left us really confused until I started listening to podcasts after the fact and finding out that people fell down on the course, were almost trampled, and the like.  How scary is that.  To rally and get back up and finish…that’s gutsy.  I respect the hell out of it.  I saw Jared Ward finish, but he was way out of contention for a spot.  He was definitely a favorite going in.

IMG_2109Eventually, the volunteers began to route the men down a different path to finish, which could only mean one thing…the women were coming!  I had no idea who was leading at this point.  I was up on my tiptoes, leaning on the rail, just waiting to see the first woman blaze by.  It felt like forever, but then…graceful, swift, and steady…the first woman flew past.  It was Aliphine Tuliamuk…which wasn’t out of the conversation to make the team, but she was leading the way.  I was here for it!  Just behind her was Molly Seidel, who qualified using a half marathon time and this was her first marathon.  This also meant that she started behind the A standard qualifiers.  And there she was…carrying that flag all the way to the finish line.  And just over a minute behind her…our third woman came in…Sally Kipyego, who I had just heard an interview with on Lindsey Hein’s podcast, “I’ll Have Another.”  Both Aliphine and Sally had recently become citizens of the United States and here they were now…heading to the Olympics to represent the country.  Amazing.IMG_2118

Des Linden came in fourth, now officially becoming the alternate and missing out on the Olympic Team by 30 seconds.  Stephanie Bruce wasn’t too far behind, coming in 6th.

We stayed at the finish line, because now we felt like we needed to see Val Curtis come in.  We were basically adopted members of the Curtis cheer team.  In the process, I saw Jordan Hasay come by, finishing 26th, and considering she came in with the fastest time…that was a shock. Ashley Paulson finish 44th overall for the women!  That was super exciting.  She’s just so genuine and amazing.

IMG_2119I noted some names that weren’t coming in…Sarah Hall, Molly Huddle, Emily Sisson.

It was weird.

We were getting updates from Val’s father as to where she was on the course, so we knew exactly when to start cheering.  I held a sign for her while he waved a flag and shouted as she blazed past to her finish line.  Cathy snapped photos.  It was pretty exciting to be part of that.  I felt like I knew Val…even though I had just heard of her that day.

After a long day of spectating, we were heading to the Generation UCAN live podcast with Ali Feller and Carrie Tollefson and Meb Keflezighi.  We figured we would grab dinner afterwards…which in hindsight wasn’t our best plan…but we had a podcast to get to.  I am so glad we did.  A surprise to me was when Dathan Ritzenhein went up and talked for a brief moment.  If you know me, you know how he is one of my favorite male runners.  Hip issues caused him to drop out of the trials, but he listened to his body and did what he needed to do.IMG_2158

After he spoke, he left and I grabbed my 2015 Boston Marathon bib and went to see if I could catch him for an autograph.  He very graciously signed it for me…and I was able to tell him a little bit about my devastating race that morning…due to hip issues.  He listened and said that he hopes my next time running Boston (2021 with any luck), would be a much better experience.

IMG_2180The live podcast was a lot of fun, and very emotional.  We laughed.  We cried.  We had a good time.  I wanted to meet Ali after the show, but there was a rush of people, and we had to go find some food, as both Cathy and I were racing the following morning.  The problem is…so many things in big cities close early…and we really didn’t have many options.  We ended up ordering in room service at the hotel, and they took very good care of me with my food allergies.  So, we were definitely eating dinner at 8 pm, watching Guy’s Grocery Games, and trying not to fret too much over the hour and the fact that we had to be up early to get ready to get to our own start lines.  I ended up with a delicious quinoa dish.

As for me…my leg wasn’t feeling 100% despite weeks of physical therapy…but I was going to see what I could do on these Atlanta hills.  But that’s another blog.

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SURPRISE!!

surpriseJust over two weeks ago, with the help of her family, I was able to surprise my best friend since third grade for her 40th birthday!

Because, let’s face it…40 is one of the big ones and should be celebrated!

Heather…should be celebrated!

First of all, if you have been reading my blog, you probably have some idea of who Heather is.  She is one of my loudest friends.  AND…one of my biggest cheerleaders.  While she can’t make it to every race, she has been at most of the big ones and the important ones.  And when she’s not…she’s tracking me and screaming at me from Minnesota.  Because that’s Heather.  A ride or die to the end.

So, when the opportunity arose to give her a great 40th birthday…I couldn’t pass it up!

THE PLAN

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Running before 1:30 am is CRAZINESS!

It all started with a plan, hatched by her brother and her parents.  The plan was to fly up to Minnesota the Friday of her birthday weekend (her birthday fell on a Saturday)…arriving early so that Chad, her brother, could pick me up at the airport prior to coming by the house.  He had told her to take the day off of work because they were going to do something together that day.  The night before, Chad and I made the last minute plans for airport pickup (basically I told him when my flight would be there and he sent a picture of his truck…complete with snow in the background!!).

Went to bed early.  Got up super early to fit in the last training run for that week.  I was taking the rest of the weekend off because it should be all about Heather…and running in January in Minnesota sounds awful. HA!  BUT…I didn’t post my usual Instagram stories that morning. I acted like it was my usual rest day and I was sleeping in and just gearing up for a regular work day.  I even put on clothes that looked like work clothes.  The things we do to surprise our friends.

D0FBA203-C838-41CF-B0E7-FB3DA572A76AMy roommate got up 2 hours earlier than usual to drive me to the airport.  I got there right as security was opening and I could stroll right up because I just had a carry-on with me this time.  I killed a lot of time walking the hall (there is only one) connecting the terminals in Louisville…but when my plane was set to board…I was happy to be one of the first groups to get on the plane.  I even had an exit row seat so a bit more leg room to boot.  And at 6:32 am…the plane pushed back and we took off to Minneapolis!

The flight went fast.  We were given drinks (I had water…but coffee was tempting) and Delta has KIND bars (WOOT…GLUTEN FREE!) to snack on.  Which was good, because I had eaten breakfast after my run and shower…so around 3:30 am.  It turns out, my pilots speed (just kidding…I think we had a tailwind), because we landed in Minneapolis WAY ahead of schedule.  Like at least 30 minute early.  I got off the plane and called Chad…who was getting his car washed, putting gas in his car, and having to navigate traffic.  BUT…I walked the terminal and went down to baggage claim and put on a jacket…and waited for his truck to pull up to pick me up.

He showed up, came around to give me a hug and put my suitcase in the back…and we were off!

THE SURPRISE

Chad came up with the way it would all play out.  He would park his truck and while he went inside through the garage (the normal way)…I would wait outside for two minutes…and then ring the doorbell.  In his conversation he would then say, “Heather, you better get the door…that’s your birthday present.”

And…that’s what we did.

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Lunch from Twin City Grill at the Mall of America

Never in my life have I been hauled into a house and hugged so hard.

She was so surprised.  And that was the whole point.  We hauled my luggage inside and she offered me very necessary coffee.  Caribou Coffee at that.  If you know me…you know I love Caribou Coffee…but all the places nearby that had it turned into Peet’s Coffee.  And it’s not the same.  Minnesota still has Caribou Coffee.

We sat around the house for a bit…drank coffee…and then she went and got herself ready.  And we were off.  To The Mall of America.

YAY!

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Me and Grandpa!

We did a lot of walking there.  OH…and hit up Caribou Coffee for some non-caffeinated goodness.  We shopped.  We discovered there was a pop-up Third Love store (yes…the bras that are advertised on all the podcasts) so we went and tried those on.  She changed out jeans at Macy’s.  We just had a good time.  OH…and we grabbed lunch at Twin City Grill at the Mall of America.  I had a salad.  They were prepared to make me a burger with a gluten-free bun…but they didn’t have a vegetarian/vegan option.  No Impossible Burger…no Beyond Burger…but I love salads and got their Garden Salad.  I asked for no cheese.  They left the cheese on.  I took a Lactaid…it was fine.  Heather got the Baja Burger with the famous (I wish they had been gluten free) Salt ‘N Vinegar Fries.

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Aunt Jan, Me, and Grandpa

While we were at the mall, I had called my 98 year old grandpa and left him a message to let him know I was in town and would LOVE to stop by.  He was in water aerobics at the time (you read that right…my grandpa is the BEST!), but he called me back and said he’d be home the rest of the afternoon.  Heather totally remembered where he lived, which is typical Heather, and got us there without using a GPS.  BONUS…my Aunt Jan was home early from work.  We settled down in the living room to chat for a bit…and just had a great time getting caught up.  I couldn’t stop smiling.  I made sure to snap some photos before we had to hit the road back to Heather’s home.

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Grilled Tofu Healthy Bowl from Tavern 4 & 5

Her parents wanted to go out to eat so Heather recalled seeing some gluten-free options at one of their favorite places, Tavern 4 & 5. I got their Grilled Tofu Healthy Bowl (gluten free meant NO plum sauce).  So it was a bowl of quinoa, “power” greens salad, fresh steamed chef’s choice of vegetable from the local farmers, and the protein – in my case the Tofu.  Heather got one too…which is how we knew the original plate that came out to me came with the plum sauce…so we had to send it back and have it remade…which they did.  And the food was delicious.

We returned back to the house…and Heather made this ginger drink with gluten free vodka and we went down to the basement where she started me on some of her favorite Hallmark Christmas movies.  This bit of information will come in play later.  I had been up since 1:30 that morning…and I was starting to drift off…so I went to my room, posted my Instagram stories I saved until Heather knew I was there…and went to sleep.

The following morning, I woke up to use the bathroom….play on my phone…go back to sleep…and then finally emerge.

BREAKING BIRTHDAY

It was decided, by the birthday girl herself, that we (Heather, me, Chad, Chelsea (her

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Birthday Breakfast Omlette (with ALL the avocado)

sister-in-law), and the three kiddliewinks) would all meet up at a local ice skating rink (it’s Minnesota and outside, mind you!) to skate for maybe an hour on the big day.  I was a bit nervous about it.  First of all, I hadn’t been on the ice for 10 years (the last time I skated was on top of a department store in Dublin, Ireland).  Secondly, I would be using rental skates.  Third…I’m a marathon runner and while I’m sort of in a down season at the moment…for years I have avoided situations where I might do any sort of damage to myself accidentally.

I figured, if nothing else, I could stick close to the wall, get a feel for the ice…and maybe make a round or five before heading to the warming house and just hanging until everyone else was done.

After a delicious “build-your-own” omlette breakfast, compliments of Heather’s mom…we started to layer up and get ready to head out to the ice rink we would be skating at that day.  We would be meting Chad, Chelsea, and the kids there.

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Me rethinking life decisions in rental skates!

We all set out and I very timidly stepped out onto the ice.  And my first thought was, “Man…if I get hurt, Daniel is going to kill me!”  Daniel, for any new readers, is my running coach.  BUT…I slowly minced my way around the patchy ice, slowly being able to find a bit more of a glide and getting a bit more comfortable with it.  Heather and I took a few photos after my second or third trip around…and then she took off with my camera to film a  lap.

And that’s when things went terribly wrong.

I came skating around a turn and found her laying on the ice gripping her arm.  She was hurting.  BAD!  She told her nephew to go get Chad and soon, Chad was on his way…getting her up off the ice and having her sit down so he could assess everything.  Heather has an amazing family to support and love on her.  Honestly.  Chad helped her skate off the ice.  When the medical staff came running and saying they called an ambulance, he had them call that off…there were plenty of us there who could take her to urgent care.  He got her settled into the warming building and helped get her out of her hoodie.  He had her move her arm.  And all of this had to have been super painful for Heather.  And she gritted her teeth and did it.  A staff medial member came over with a sheet to inquire about the accident, which Chelsea went ahead and took from him and filled out with a little help from Heather.

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Heather and Me on the ice

Chelsea also went up to the snack bar to get a water and a Powerade for Heather to have to drink.  I went with her and gave her a little hug.  It was just not the birthday celebration any of us were anticipating that morning.  We did pack up everything while Chad went to go grab Heather’s car.  We carried everything out, got Heather into the passenger seat, and Chad drove Heather and I to Urgent Care.  He dropped us off at the front door so he could park the car, and I walked her in, got her insurance card and ID out, filled out the paperwork, and returned it just a moment before she was called back.  Chad joined us right then.  Good timing.

The nurse had her up on the table to start with…but after sitting there for a long amount of time, and having Chad move to block the mirror so she couldn’t see her elbow, Heather eventually worked her way down to the chair.  They did bring in an ice pack and some pain meds for her, which she took and I helped hold the ice pack for her.

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I skate with ALL the padding on!

The doctor came in to take a look at it and just sort of give a surface inspection of it.  He ordered X-Rays, but we needed to wait for the pain meds to kick in.  So, we did that.  And about 20 minutes later, they came and got her to take her back for the X-Rays.  Chad and I chilled in the exam room until they brought her back.  She made herself comfortable in the chair again and we awaited the doctor again.  He came in shortly after and pulled up the images…starting with the back of her arm.  It didn’t look bad at that angle.  THEN…he flipped to the side view.

We all winced a little and went…”OOOOOH!”  It was a VERY obvious break.  Very obvious.  But it was a clean break…not a shatter…so that was the good news.  The doctor went to see if his surgeon had called back, because this would definitely entail surgery.  When he did return with the news…surgery was necessary…but not that day.  It could wait until after the weekend and they would split her up and give her a prescription to help with the pain…and she would have a surgical consult on Monday morning.IMG_9985

Heather was very worried about what this would mean for her and her job as far as being able to do it.  Chad and I told her not to worry about that right now.  He went to pull the car around and I went to help her get out to the car safely, in the process dropping my phone at least 3 times.  It made her laugh…a little.  We then made our way to Walgreens to pick up the prescription and a cast protector so that she could take a shower.  And then…we went home.

THE OTHER SURPRISE

39A79C50-C88A-48FD-9EB2-49C152B80690As if having a broken elbow on your birthday wasn’t enough of a shock to the system…the next element of Operation Heather Turns 40 was announced…just so that she would know what was coming.  All the family and friends who could be there were coming that evening to celebrate.  So, Heather went to settle into a bed to chill and get a feel for the splint and the occasional bolt of pain that would hit.  We started upstairs, but eventually made our way downstairs, letting her get comfortable on her own bed, stacking up pillows as needed and making sure she was set.  I settled in on the other side and we watched a lot of Laura Osnes Videos.  And maybe another Hallmark Movie.  Perhaps.  I don’t remember.  If you don’t know who Laura Osnes is…you were like me, but prepare to look into her.  She’s amazing.  She’s a Broadway star…she was in the musical Cinderella, Bonnie & Clyde, and others.  And her voice is AMAZING.  She’s very talented.  It’s what Heather needed…until we needed to get her ready for the party.9C5A7E65-596C-4743-B9B5-B7169A3AA26D

I helped her change her shirt.  Her mom helped her curl her hair and do her makeup.  And when she was ready…we got her upstairs and got her settled on the couch with her arm propped.  Everyone arrived.  It was a great time.  Everyone got to have time with Heather and I got to meet SO many people who told me that they had heard a lot about me or seen my photo on Facebook.  I was having a good time.  Between Chelsea and I, we were making sure Heather had food, cake, and something to drink.  Chelsea was even kind enough to pick up a gluten-free cake for me to have as well so I could be part of the celebration.  Told you…her family is amazing.  AND…even though I’m a vegetarian, they had PLENTY of options for me to choose from as well.  I hadn’t eaten lunch that day (I was going to have a salad once Heather got settled in…but I totally didn’t get around to it and by the time I remembered it was party time anyway), so I feasted on LOTS of veggies, a potato, and some chips with a plant-based dip.  It was awesome.  And…of course…cake.

IMG_9979aGifts were opened.  Lots of different discussions were happening.  And Heather was smiling.  And after all she had gone through that day…that’s the best thing ever!

As the party was winding down and everyone started to leave, I got Heather downstairs and settled in and went to go take a shower.  We watched a Hallmark Christmas Movie until she started to fade.  I set her up with a cowbell to ring if she needed me and made sure she had water, her medicine, and whatever else nearby.  She never rang the bell all night.

TIME TO GO

Sunday morning was really laid back.  I woke up around 5 and Heather woke up when she heard me moving around.  I went to keep her company for a bit.  She dozed in and out as we watched a few more Hallmark Movies…until she needed to get up.  We went upstairs where I brewed coffee and her mom made us a breakfast outIMG_9998 of leftovers.  I made sure I had my stuff packed after I changed out of my pajamas.

Heather went to go take a shower and I helped out by sorting her laundry for laundry day.  I moved everything into the laundry room and then went back upstairs to hang out for a little bit.  Her mom made an early dinner for me and soon they were packing up the car and taking me to the airport.  There were absolutely NO lines at security, so I had some time to walk the terminals, get some chocolate, buy some local treats, and grab my last cup of (decaf) Caribou Coffee.

IMG_0001I boarded the flight and headed home at 8:30 pm.  I got into Louisville before midnight and Cathy was there to pick me up and drive us home.

This was definitely not the trip any of us envisioned when we plotted it all out…but Heather sure does know how to keep things interesting, right?

For the record, she had a successful surgery where they inserted a pin.  This week, she was put in a removable splint and has started physical therapy.  AND…she has finally gotten out of the house to go out to eat.  She’s well on her way to a full recovery.

But…I did tell her that we need a do-over for sure!

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CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon – Indianapolis, IN (November 9, 2019)

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Me crossing the finish line of the CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon – Indianapolis, IN

Race: CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon

Place: Indianapolis, IN

Date: November 9, 2019

Time: 3:35:13

“Had to have high, high hopes for a living
Shooting for the stars when I couldn’t make a killing
Didn’t have a dime but I always had a vision
Always had high, high hopes
Had to have high, high hopes for a living
Didn’t know how but I always had a feeling
I was gonna be that one in a million
Always had high, high hopes”
~ Panic at the Disco

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

BOSTON QUALIFIED!

But I am getting ahead of myself at the moment.  Because like any and every story…you have to start at the beginning.  And the beginning, for me, started on Friday.

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Day Before The Race Breakfast!

Friday was a complete rest day for me.  Normally I do shake-out runs and the like, but I had a continuous training cycle through taper, and had done my usual (albeit much lower mileage) runs on Sunday-Thursday, with 2 of these including some sort of speed workout.  So, I slept in, per usual.  I took a shower.  I didn’t go to work…so I had time to stretch, finish packing, and enjoy a leisurely breakfast at home.  For the record, it was Trader Joes Gluten Free Pumpkin Bagels and Kite Hill Vegan Cream Cheese.  I had my first melt down.  I ran a couple of errands with my roommate.  Made a quick lunch.  Had another meltdown.  She called in my sushi order at Dragon King’s Daughter (if you’ve been following my weekly training logs, you know about my “magic sushi”…so you better believe an order was traveling in a cooler up to Indianapolis with me), loaded the car, took out the garbage, went to pick up sushi order…and hit the road.

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Day Before The Race Lunch – Dr. Praegers Gluten Free & Vegan Chik’n Nuggets with Farmwise Foods Veggie Rings

The drive up to Indianapolis was easy and uneventful.  Just the way we like it.  My coach, Daniel, called me on the drive and we talked.  He always knows what to say to calm me down.  He asked me how I felt…I told him I was nervous.  He asked what I was nervous about.  And I told him…the weather.  To date, this was shaping up to be the coldest marathon I will have run.  Beating out Twin Cities in Minneapolis, MN…and Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend 2018 in Orlando, FL (which held the record…yes, Florida was colder than Minnesota).  The weather was showing a 28° start, with a nice wind chill making it feel more like 21°.  Good times.  We discussed how my training had done, despite not really having weather like what I would be running in for the marathon.  I told him this would change my wardrobe and we went over what I could/should wear and ways to keep my core temperature up before the race.  I told him I already had cried twice that day…and he asked what type of crying it was…and I told him it was the “I want this so bad” type of cry.  He told me how to channel that and my unease about the weather into mentally having a successful race.  Honestly, I found the BEST coach.  We hung up…and as we neared Indy…the local station we had found started playing every hype song it could throw at me.  I cried…again.

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Expo Time!

We made it to the hotel, staying once again at the Omni Severin Hotel in downtown, and only a short walk to the start and finish lines.  We got checked in.  I put the sushi in the fridge, along with my overnight oats I made at home to have race morning (just as I did before EVERY long run this cycle).  Then we went to the expo.  I got my packet for the marathon.  Cathy got hers for the 5K.  And I picked up my friend, Melissa’s, packet for her so she didn’t have to drive 4-5 hours round trip with her baby to do it.  Then, we went exploring.  I ended up buying a singlet for this race, and my roommate bought me a finisher’s jacket (she’s the best) and a Bondi Band.  She also got herself a new racing hat, featuring this race (the first one she ever trained for last year).  Then, we made our way around the expo, checking out the different booths and races that were represented there.  Once done with that, we took photos with our bibs, found my name on the giant poster, and headed back to the hotel.

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Cathy and Me at the Expo with our bib numbers!

We settled in for the rest of the day, because I wanted to stay off my feet as much as possible.  We watched a couple episodes of Mindhunter.  Cathy went and got herself dinner from the hotel…which was offering  a nice pasta dinner with a side salad and breadsticks (although she got hers to go and they didn’t pack the breadsticks…but she said there was plenty of pasta).  We ate.  I stretched and foam rolled.  We watched Top Chef (still in Boston…again…good sign!).  Then, we called it a night.  Lights out.

 

I didn’t sleep well.  I kept waking up…needing some water…or just nerves at times.  I turned off my first alarm before it went off because I was already awake.  The second alarm went off at 6:00 am.  Both my roommate and I got up with that one.  It was officially the start of race morning.  She had coffee and juice delivered to the room for her to have with her breakfast (she does this every morning, so this is part of her routine).

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Found my name!

I had about 3 meltdowns just getting ready.  I wish I were kidding.  After talking to my coach on the drive up, I decided to officially nix the shorts.  While the temperature would be climbing in the over three hours I would be out there…I didn’t want to start cold.  So, for the first time in the history of my marathon running…I ran in pants.  Capris.  Of course they were bright and wild colors.  HA!  Because I gotta be me!  I decided to go with a short sleeve shirt (BRIGHT PINK), compression sleeves, my Newtons (I also brought my Adidas Boston Boosts), arm warmers, a buff, a Bondi-Band, gloves (with hand warmers), and a throw-away hat.  I wore everything pink I could…to represent my mom (as has been my theme this entire year I have raced).  I started to put together my hydration pack, pouring room-temperature Nuun into the bladder (I knew it would be cold just being out there…so why make it super cold by starting that way?), packing my Maurten Gel 100s (three with caffeine, three without), shaking up my Maurten 320 Drink Mix (which some of it went into a little bottle in my pack to take at Mile 8), and then I tucked some very important tokens into a pocket to carry with me.  My amazing friend, Kelly Lorch, gifted me with some plates that were to go on my shoelaces.  I had my shoes on…and tied…so I said I would carry them with me.  She is amazing and has been SO supportive of me reaching my goals.  There was no way these weren’t coming along on the journey in some way.

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Magic Sushi from Dragon King’s Daughter: GF Green Acres & GF Spicy Tofu Rolls

Cathy pinned my bib on…then I pinned her up.  I layered on my throwaway clothes and then we both wrapped ourselves in old Mylar from previous races and trash bags.  Then, we headed out to meet up with Melissa at the MRTT/SRTT photo meet-up spot in the Westin (which also gave us a warm place to wait for the start AND bathrooms if needed).  I walked in and was immediately flagged down my Kelly.  Melissa came over and gave me a hug too…and I started to have another cry.  But, thankfully, group pictures were happening so I had to go and attempt to look “homeless chic” in my “how to stay warm on a cold-ass race morning” attire.  The photos were taken and Melissa had me join her as she waited for her husband, Paul, to park the car and bring the bundled up baby inside.  They arrived and she brought out the MOST AMAZING sign ever.  It said, “My auntie Karen chases unicorns and runs BQs.”  She said she and the baby worked very hard on it the night before.  I cried…again.

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Packing up the hydration pack on race morning!

 

No sooner had I dried those tears, Cathy said we had about 15 minutes until the start of the race…so we needed to mosey outside.  BOOOO.  I shed all my throwaway stuff and handed it off to Paul, who was finish line support and baby watching this morning.  He was very kind to let me do that so they can live to be tossed another day. I got re-wrapped up in the trash bag and Mylar…and we headed out into the cold.  We stopped just before the start line, where I needed to make my way down to my wave corral, and I got final hugs.  Cathy let me know (for the 2 millionth time this training cycle) that I had this.  Paul wished me luck and told me I had this in the bag.  And Melissa, because we are the same person, took my head in her hands, made me look right into her eyes, and gave me a pep talk to end all pep talks.  We hugged it out…and I went to go get into place.

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Kelly Lorch gifted me these shoe tags, which I carried with me the entire race!

At first, I thought I was about to have a Glass City Marathon replay…because as I got to my corral…I could see the 3:40 pacer and the 3:30 pacer.  No 3:35.  I was about to cry again, when I spotted a guy standing in an Official Pacer orange shirt…minus the sign.  I went over there and asked if he was the 3:35 pacer.  He said he was, and his partner was currently missing and had the sign.  The other guy showed up a few minutes later, but he was prepared to get us all there with or without the sign.  I felt a lot better.  No need to stare at my watch and fuss over the pace if I could hang with them.  About 5 minutes before the start, I went to ditch the Mylar and trash bag and got back in line with the two pacers.  The race started, with the wheelchairs.  Then Wave 1.  Then my wave.  As we crossed the start line, it was crowded and packed, and the pacers were a bit ahead of me, but I didn’t panic.  I waved to Cathy, Melissa, and Paul…and began to weave a bit to make my way closer to the pace group.

I caught up to them in the first quarter of a mile and made sure not to feel crowded.  If you remember, last year I attempted to do this very same thing…but ended up getting tripped a few times.  That wasn’t happening this year.  NOPE!  We were a fun group and the pacers were great at not only giving direction on where we were turning or where aid was…but just keeping us talking to keep our minds off the race.  One of my pacers was from Sellersburg and we talked about Louisville races and whatnot for awhile.  That was really cool.  He apparently had never heard of me.  He must run in the wrong circles, HA!  Just kidding.

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MRTT/SRTT

By Mile 2 I had already talked his ear off about the Dopey Challenge.  So…there was that.  This is also where my watch was off from the mile markers.  And, yes, my friends…it remained like that until…I kid you not…MILE 26.  My watch was beeping about .1 mile after the actual mile markers.  So, with the new course changes this year, I wasn’t sure if I was actually going to get in a full 26.2.  BUT…I was also reminded by the pacers, that with the tunnel overpasses we run under/through, plus the buildings in downtown…you can’t really trust your GPS and that the course WAS measured correctly.  SO…we went with it.  I let it go.  I just let it be.

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Melissa, Baby C, and Me before the start of the marathon!

The first couple of miles of this race is a lot of turns.  For real.  I feel like we go around so many corners, but it was okay.  Also…we were slightly behind pace for the first couple of miles, but I trusted the pacers to get us where we needed to be.  I was, however, keeping a close eye on my watch, in case I needed to just break away and do this on my own.  Then, we busted out a faster fourth mile and had to tone it down a bit.  Too early for that kind of craziness…and they knew it.

From there on, we pretty much stayed steadily just ahead of the actual pace, which made up for those first three, crowded miles.  Also, this time I wasn’t tripped about three times heading into the 10K mark.  For real.  Last year, I had lined up with the 3:35 pace group and it became hazardous to my health around this time.  Nope.  We were a large group, but we were very aware of each other’s space. And that made a whole heap of difference.  I was able to stay relaxed and just breathed.  We crossed the 10K mark and kept on going.  One of the pacers asked, “Who was worried, for no reason, about how cold it was today?  You’re warm now right?”  We all raised our hands.  Don’t get me wrong, it was cold…but our bodies were working hard and we were definitely warm.

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3:35 Pace Group taking off!

At Mile 7, we separate from the half marathon runners.  They take a turn and the full marathon continues on straight.  I was surprised at how good I felt at this point, but I shouldn’t have been surprised.  Despite the cold, I was fueling how I did in training and staying relaxed. I had goals, but I didn’t want to get worked up over them.  I was just going to run my best on this day.  And right now, my best was feeling good!  At Mile 8, I fueled with the 5 oz flask I brought of the rest of my Maurten 320 from the morning.  Onward.

I stayed just slightly behind the pacers through Mile 15 to be honest.  But, I wasn’t going to sweat it.  I distracted myself from Mile 10 to Mile 12 looking for my friends Susan and George.  They live along there, and were going to come out to cheer.  If they were out, I totally missed them.  If they weren’t…I don’t blame them…it was cold.  But, I continued to search for them on the sides of the roads, where people had come out of their warm houses to cheer everyone on.  At Mile 12, I took a Maurten Gel 100.  AND…I ditched my throwaway hat that I had kept on my head until then.  The sun was finally coming out and I knew that the day was about to really start warming up.  I was, however, glad I had my head covered up until that point.  But now…now it was time to let those pigtails fly!

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Cathy got a 5K PR at the Monumental 5K

Halfway there…and I was smiling and high fiving kids and just having a blast.  I mean, if you’re going to run 26.2 miles…you might as well have fun while doing it, right?

I was keeping a very steady pace, which continued as the miles ticked off.  I fueled with another Maurten Gel 100 (and I was taking sips of water from my hydration vest EVERY mile (because I tend to under-hydrate in marathons and had practiced this in training so that it would be a habit and I wouldn’t crash at the end…which I still think is what happened at Glass City) at Mile 16, because I was going to do it every 4 miles to make sure my fuel stores stayed primed as the race went on.

The pacers had pulled slightly ahead of me, but I remained calm and breathed because I still had a ways to go.  Panicking over pace right now wouldn’t serve me.  Stay calm.  My mantra crept in…”Keep Fighting.”  At Mile 18 we went through this little park-like area…which I remembered last year had a lot of people inside just screaming.  Same thing this year.  It made me smile.  “Keep Fighting.”

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Finish line in sight! I was ugly crying already!

I caught back up to the 3:35 pacers as we started down the exit ramp at Mile 19.  If you know me…you know…downhill is my favorite speed.  I smiled a lot at this point…because I was still feeling good.  I was feeling strong.  I was ready to keep going.  I had 7 more miles to go. I did that pretty much every easy run day.  I just had to hold on.

Keep Fighting.

At Mile 20, I took another gel.  This was the last 10K.  This is where most people hit a wall.  Not me.  I wasn’t going to hit a wall today.  I was on a mission.  I kept my head up, soaking in the sun (which was now up), thinking of my mom, running as fast as my legs could possibly go that far into a marathon.  I was feeling strong still.  No wall to have to break through this time.  Although…to be honest, they have you run through this inflatable arch thing that looks like a brick wall… which did amuse me.

I maintained quite well the next few miles.  I could feel some fatigue setting in, but it wasn’t bad.  I still felt good.  I kept telling myself that I had done this before.  I raced a 30K and managed to be under my marathon pace.  I did two of my five 20+ miler training runs at my marathon pace.  Whatever road I still had ahead of me…I knew I was beyond capable of bringing this home.

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Official Results

And then, around Mile 23, we turned a corner and the headwind hit.  And it hit hard.  While the pacers continued on, I could definitely feel the need to fight a bit more now.  The wind was no joke…and I knew we’d have it for the next few miles, at least until we turned and headed to that finish line.  I wasn’t going to let it get in my head.  I had time.  I had this.

Keep Fighting.

At Mile 24, I tried to open my final Maurten Gel 100 (I listen to enough runners on podcasts warn people to not skip that final gel in the last few miles…and now I understand why).  It was hard to tear open, so I slowed to a light jog, got it opened, and picked it back up while I took it down.  2.2 miles to go.

Keep Fighting.

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FINISHED! Here with my Indy Monumental & IndyThon Ultra medals!

The next few miles, I had my personal trainer, Corey’s voice in my head.  All these little moves he had me do that would strengthen my body and get it prepared to find that “next gear” all came into play here.  The wind was whipping, and I was fighting it the best I could.  The next couple miles ticked off.  I even had a friend of mine from Instagram shout at me from the side of the road.  I smiled.  That was amazing.

I made the turn onto W New York Street. From the years prior of me running this…the full and the half…I knew the finish line was around the corner.  I made the turn.  I could see it.  I could see it and I picked it up…I started to just fight every part of my body that wanted me to slow down.  As I got closer, I spotted the signs…the one Cathy held and the one Melissa held up.  I could hear them shouting at me.  I could hear them cheering.  I was already crying.  I was already crying because I knew I was doing it.  I knew I was about to do it…FINALLY!

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I have THE BEST friends!

FLY!

I crossed that finish line, arms up…and then, after I moved past the photographers…I paused my watch and glanced at it.

3:35:13…I had done it.  I had gotten my BQ time for 2021.  And the instant I confirmed it, I just started bawling.  I was ugly crying right there at the finish.  Cathy, Melissa (and Baby C), and Paul rushed over to me and we all hugged and cried together.  All of us.  Except for the baby, ironically.  HA!  Cathy pulled up her phone and started to play Dropkick Murphy’s “Shipping Up To Boston.”  I cried some more.  I cried more than I thought I could because I was just so happy.  Cathy texted my mom and my coach.  She told me they would meet me at the end and to go get my Mylar, medal, and snacks.

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A shower and some coffee!

After I got my medal and Mylar, I spotted the pacer I ran with from Sellersburg and I told him I got my time.  He high-fived me and I tried not to cry again…but I think I was.  I met up with my amazing friends and they were patient enough with me to let me lay down and put my feet up for a few minutes.  Melissa went to retrieve official results.  Cathy and I went to see about getting my medal engraved.  Then we went to retrieve my bonus shirt and medal for the Indython Ultra (for doing Fort Ben Half too). I gave Paul my free slice of pizza. It was a lot of emotions all at once and the reality of it all just kept hitting me.  And I just kept crying…and smiling.

We made the walk back to the hotel together.  Paul and Melissa very kindly went to retrieve some coffee for all of us.  I took a shower and got dressed because I had the USL Eastern Cup Final happening in Indianapolis as well and I needed to go cheer on Louisville City FC.  This also meant I had to go back out into the cold, but Cathy promised to bring blankets.  Our friend Greg came with us to the match and to dinner.

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A very cold, intense victory at the USL Eastern Conference Final in Indianapolis the same day!

I actually didn’t get to eat anything until long after the match, but the wait was worth it.  I enjoyed some gluten free pizza and gluten free fries from Harry & Izzy’s.  I had half the pizza left, so Cathy and I decided that would be breakfast the next morning.  No shame.

We then returned to the hotel where we FINALLY got to crack open the wine I had been saving for the BQ moment.  The three of us lifted our hotel plastic cups and enjoyed the celebration.

Let me also mention that Melissa and Cathy ran the 5K on race morning, with Melissa turning in her BEST post-baby 5K time and Cathy running a new PR (and her first sub-45 minute 5K).

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Harry & Izzy’s Gluten Free Pizza (no cheese) and Fries. FINALLY got to eat!

Now that I’ve bragged on them…let’s go to the stats…

The official results of the CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon are that I finished in 3:35:13, which makes it my second fastest marathon to date of the 16 I have now fun.  This took down Marshall by about 42 seconds. So damn proud of the hard work and training I did to make this happen.  I was 1282/4962 finishers overall. I was the 329/2111 female finishers. And I was 98/412 in my age division. I might still be in shock from how everything played out that day.  When it started to feel hard…I just kept fighting.

Never, ever give up on your dreams.  It sometimes takes time to reach your goals.  But that’s what makes them mean so much.  Keep fighting.

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FINALLY! After 2 years of seriously trying, I finally cracked open the wine I saved for when I got my BQ!

Urban Bourbon Half Marathon – Louisville, KY (October 19, 2019)

 

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Me finishing the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon – Louisville, KY

Race: Urban Bourbon Half Marathon

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: October 19, 2019

Time: 1:42:48

Oh, Urban Bourbon…it’s been a hot second.  I haven’t run this race since 2016.  Not because I haven’t wanted to.  Probably mostly due to training for other things, or injury…or whatnot.  Honestly, when races happen in my own backyard, I try to make a point to show up to them when possible.

So, trust me, I was happy when my coach gave me the green light to include this race into my training cycle as we began to head into taper.  Kinda.  Because I was under the impression that I would get to basically cruise through these additional races on the calendar, using them as easy training runs, right?

Nope.  Marathon pace.  That’s what I was told.  For both this one and Fort Ben.  Well, we all know I ran a little too fast at Fort Ben (despite the hills).  But, that wasn’t all bad.  Except my fast finish run on Sunday the following day pretty much felt like trash.  So…we repeated the hell week of speed work pretty much every day.  I did this just before Fort Ben too…but he really wanted me closer to my actual marathon pace this time.  So, I worked out a plan in my head to line up with the 1:45 pacer and stick with them.  I’d be slightly faster, but it would keep me steady and on pace.

Friday just after I ate lunch…I stopped by the coffee shop next to my office to say “HI” to my friend, Melissa.  Then, my roommate and I headed down to Slugger Field for packet pickup.  Melissa, her hubby, and their baby were coming down shortly behind us.  Picking up the packet was a breeze.  I was bib 306…first window.  AND…to make things better, my personal trainer and friend…and the Volunteer Coordinator for the Louisville Sports Commission, Corey, was right there to give me a hug.  We chatted for a few minutes, but Cathy and I needed to skedaddle back to the office (BOOO!).  As we were leaving, Melissa, Paul and the baby were arriving.  We were going to give them our parking space, but one opened up just slightly closer.  That being said, Melissa still managed to give my SRTT magnet a flip before we parted ways.

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My “magic sushi” from Dragon King’s Daughter

Finished up the day at work before heading over to Dragon King’s Daughter.  Because that’s where the “magic sushi” combo is.  I had my usual…the Gluten Free Spicy Tofu and the Gluten Free Green Acres Rolls.  Devoured them.  Went home to stretch and get to bed.  It was going to be an early morning.

Race morning came…and I think I actually slept well going into it.  YAY!  I didn’t lay anything out the night before.  Didn’t think to do it.  Oh well.  I wasn’t too worried about it.  I took my vitamins and ate my overnight oats that I had prepared the night prior…sticking with my fueling plan I am using for my marathon in November.  I stretched.  I hydrated.  I changed.  And, yes, I even put on sunscreen.  All the things.  I remembered my anklet and my race bib (long story, but both of those involved turning around and heading home at a different local race soon after I got back into running after the hip labrum tear).  On track.  The original thought was to come home after the race so I could shower and we could make a brunch happen…but I packed a backpack with a change of clothes because Cathy was kind of leaning toward staying over on that side of the river post-race…getting brunch, picking up a Cinnamon Roll & Donut from Annie May’s (for breakfast on Sunday), and getting some of our grocery shopping (it ended up barely being any of it) done while there.  I was game to come home and save a bit of money…so we decided we’d pack for options.

It was a bit on the chilly side that morning…but I was planning on wearing what I wanted to wear for my marathon. It’s what I’ve been wearing at my races…so I know it works.  I was just concerned about freezing near the start.  Luckily, Cathy wasn’t doing a 5K at this one and I could shed clothing just before the start (so I could stay semi-warm leading into it) and leave them with her.  I like when that happens.  I know I have throwaway items for a reason…I just hate leaving them behind when I could probably get use of them again down the line.  So…that was a plus.  She pinned my bib on…I went to mix up my Maurten 160 Drink Mix…and we were out the door.

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Bib is on and ready to head out to run!

The drive into Louisville wasn’t bad at all.  We didn’t even hit traffic.  Cathy found a parking garage that was a bit of a walk to and from the start and finish area…but it would allow for easy exit as no roads would be blocked.  We found a spot and sort of hung out in the warm car for a little while.  Eventually, we did decide to start heading toward the start of the race, which was on W Jefferson Street.  It was here that I met up with my training partner, Ron.  He wasn’t sure what his plan was for this race, but he was going to line up with the 1:40 pacer.  It was at this moment, I realized there was no 1:45 pacer.  There was a 1:40 and a 1:50.  So…I decided I would just have to line up in between them and try not to pass or be passed.

I mean…that seems like a logical and good plan, right?

As the race start drew nearer, and the sky turned BEAUTIFUL shades of cotton candy pink and purple (Louisville was showing off!), Ron went to go shed his layers and I went to go see if I could make the MRTT/SRTT Louisville photo.  It was at Panara Bread.  I noticed how full the corrals were getting as I headed that way, and after a short walk and not seeing where I needed to be…I opted to instead turn back and try to find my spot for a good start to the race.  I never seem to make photo ops before races unless they are right near the start line.

This turned out to be a good decision.  The only way into the start area was through the back of the corral.  I had to shed my warm outer layer and go try to find a spot.  It was REALLY crowded and I entered, finding my friend Tracy and tapping her on the shoulder, and she said, “Hey…shouldn’t you be further up.”  HA!  She wasn’t wrong…and it was really hard to move through the tight crowd of people.  There was a lot of me tapping people on the back, asking them if I could slide through, saying a lot of “Sorry” and “Thank you.”  BUT…I got there.  Whew.

Ron gave me a high five and told me that if I passed him, he was going to yell at me to slow down.  Which was the best idea ever.  Fun fact…I never passed him so he can save yelling at me for another day.

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Me heading out of the start at the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon – Louisville, KY

The National Anthem was played and we all moved up toward the start line.  A gun went off…and so did we.  I gave a wave to Cathy on the sideline as I ran past…and really just felt good that morning.  YAY!  To be honest, while it was chilly (41° F) at the start, it was ideal running weather and was supposed to warm up as the morning went on.  That being said, unlike at Fort Ben a couple of weekends before this race…I ended up keeping my gloves on and not shedding them.

So, there are actually quite a few turns in the first mile of the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon.  It starts off nice and flat and fast…and you don’t even realize you’re running that fast until you hit that first mile marker.  It was, as I said, the perfect morning for a half marathon.  The sun was coming up.  It was crisp and cool.

And I settled in pretty quickly into a rhythm.  It was, for the first mile and a half, with a tall guy who was constantly commenting on how he couldn’t believe how far up the 1:40 pacers were at the start.  Let it go, dude.  Let it go.  They have a pace they are going to run.  Those who can go faster…will.  We also had to run past EMW Women’s Surgical Center, which meant we were greeted by a guy with a speaker and a microphone basically preaching to us about why abortion is bad.  Dude…we’re running a race here.  Go do something useful with your time.

I knew I was pretty fast on my first mile, so I made a point to back off as we the loop leading into the second mile, and taking us back onto E Witherspoon.  We turned this time though, heading onto Preston before turning again E Muhammad Ali Blvd.  A couple more turns, keeping my pace in the mid to low 7:40s…which was still faster than I should have been…but I hadn’t passed Ron yet and 1:50 wasn’t coming up on me.  It was still early, and I knew the hardest part of the race would happen once we got into the park.  For now, I’d just soak it in.  Once we got onto Lexington Rd I was in some pretty familiar (even though it had been ages since I’ve run it) territory!  YAY!

It was along this stretch between Miles 4 and 5 that I high-fived some kids, tried to find a spot on the road where I wasn’t running on the shoulder (that had lots of debris from trees) but also not running on the grade of the road, which is kinda tilted at this point.  My watched beeped a bit before I saw the Mile 5 marker…and I was questioning how I screwed up the tangents already (NOTE: I don’t actually run tangents…but my watch was WAY ahead of the mile marker).  As we crossed Grinstead, we had to avoid the rubble and construction stuff (there were LARGE concrete tube-things (technical term) on the side of the road, and lots of dust and stones in their wake), but this is also where we turn and head into Cherokee Park.

Welcome…to the land of hills.

I want to give a shout-out to one of my training partners this past summer…Christine…because she had us running these hills pretty much every weekend.  And I think that, while I slowed down some on these climbs, I handled them better than I would have.  So…thanks, Christine!  That being said, I have run in Cherokee Park so many times, that I know what the hills entail.  So, I respected that.  And I respected the goal of this race, which was not to kill myself trying to race it, but to aim for marathon pace.  Slowing down, if necessary, was perfectly fine.  And the hills were my reminder of that.  While I still pushed up them, I didn’t push too hard…I let it be a hill and allowed my work, but not overwork.  There was nothing to prove at this race.  I was just here to finish.

We go into the park just before Mile 6 and we exit the park just before Mile 10.  So, that’s about 4 miles inside Cherokee Park.  And this is where you get to experience the major climbs, but also, the best part of the race.  Cherokee Park, no matter how many times you run it, is beautiful.  And in the fall, I think it’s even better.  Highlights for the race all happened inside the park.  I do want to say, I appreciate the photographers inside the park being just before that HUGE, winding climb to Hogan’s Fountain. You still look good, because when you get to the top, you pretty much feel and look like death…except you go downhill after that.  Making the turn, my friend, Dan, was at the bottom.  I heard him cheering for me and I high-fived him as I ran past.  Up another hill.  THE BEST water stop around was Water Stop 5…run by MRTT/SRTT Louisville.  Costumes, cheers, and a whole lot of noise.  My name was in chalk on the ground.  My name was shouted and I had LOUD cheers as I ran through.  Just the boost you need after all those killer hills.  Itw as phenomenal!  I love being in a girl gang!  Around Mile 9, my friend Simon caught up to me.  I could hear him coming though…because he was complimenting everyone on their dogs.  I got to hear that for the rest of the race, and it kept a smile on my face.

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So…much…bourbon! Runners get 4 bourbon tastings at the after party!

We head out of the park and head back downtown.  At this point, I was ready for my legs to just pick it back up, but after Cherokee (and this seemed to be a sentiment shared by lots of runners that Saturday)…the legs just had no go.  The hills ate them for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  So, I just pressed on, once again reminding myself that having no go here was fine.  This wasn’t my goal race.  I just settled in, and eventually my legs picked it up a little, just not much.  I was ready to be done.

The last few miles went by relatively quickly, and when I hit Mile 12, I did start to pick it up a little more.  There was more of a crowd, there were lots of encouraging cheers…and I could almost feel the electricity of that finish line.  Making the final turn to run it in felt amazing…and, per usual, I threw my arms up as I crossed…because every finish line, whether you are first or last, should be treated like you won the damn thing!  Always celebrate that finish line.

My training partner, Ron, had made it in exactly a minute ahead of me.  We high-fived and hugged, collecting our medals, and making our way through the snacks to go to the afterparty (where I promised my roomie my beer and pizza…I can’t eat them…because gluten), and I was hoping to give away my bourbon tags…but I ended up having no one to share them with.  It was pretty windy and chilly.  I put my sweatshirt back on after standing around for a moment.  Eventually, Cathy and I needed to go.  We decided to grab a real breakfast at North End Café…then get some goodies for my post-run breakfast on Sunday (another 13.1 miles) from Annie May’s…and grab some groceries before heading home.

It was a great day to have a great race.  I need to just keep this one on my radar every year, because Michael Clemons is phenomenal as a race director and ALWAYS puts on a great event.

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Ron (my training partner) and me at the finish line of the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon

So, my official results of the 2019 Urban Bourbon Half Marathon are that I finished in 1:42:48.  Not mad at all at that time, because I finished within my goal range, between the 1:40 and 1:50 pace groups.  I was, technically, only 5 minutes faster than my marathon pace, and my coach said I maintained a great pace on this (aka: he wasn’t mad at it).  I was 208/3026 finishers overall.  I was 40/1739 female finishers in this race.  And I was 6/301 in my age division!  Sometimes, working in some races to the training plan is a great way to figure out where you are with your training…or a good way to squeeze in a training run (keep that pace easy and controlled) and earn a medal in the process.  Definitely coming back next year!

Indy Half Marathon at Fort Ben – Indianapolis, IN (October 5, 2019)

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Me crossing the finish line at the Indy Half Marathon at Fort Ben – Indianapolis, IN

Race: Indy Half Marathon at Fort Ben

Place: Indianapolis, Indiana

Date: October 5, 2019

Time: 1:39:13

Friends…I am 21 SECONDS away from matching my half marathon PR (which I set at the Geist Half Marathon in 2014).  That’s…that’s ONE HILL.  Do you know how thrilled I am to see this time?  To know that I’m 22 seconds away from a new PR (hey, a 1 second PR is still a PR)?!  I am ecstatic!!

And shocked.  This is my second fastest half marathon to date.  It’s been over 3 years since I even came close to my PR.

This is HUGE!

I apologize right now for all the bold, italics, caps lock, and exclamation point abuse!

Let’s take the deep dive into this race, shall we?

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Indy Half Marathon at Fort Ben

This story starts…on Friday.  Friday’s are complete rest days for me.  I hadn’t been sleeping well this past week, which sucked, but my sleep was a bit better Thursday night into Friday morning.  Not great…but better.  I got up, showered, finished packing, and started to prep my overnight oats (I’ve been eating these prior to long runs all summer, so why stop now?) to take with me to Indianapolis for race morning.  I put those in the fridge, finished getting ready for work, and went into the office for 6 hours.  Arrangements had been made to leave at 2:30 pm, head to Dragon King’s Daughter (because my magic sushi had to happen prior to a race for sure and I had a cooler in the car to keep it through the drive), and hit the road.  We were about 30 minutes away when I realized I had left my prepped overnight oats in the fridge at work.  UGH!  So, Cathy and I said we’d find a grocery store to find something comparable when we got to Indy.

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Packet Pick-Up

The drive was uneventful.  We listened to Meb Keflezighi on the Ali on the Run podcast for most of the drive.  Great listen, by the way.  It’s part of the “You Can Run a Marathon” series that she put together.  It was a funny, inspiring listen and it got us pretty much all the way into the greater Indianapolis area.  We rolled into our hotel, checked in, dropped stuff…I put sushi into the fridge in the room…and we headed out to hit up the race expo.

The expo itself was small (probably good from a financial standpoint), but very well organized.  Finding packet pickup was easy and I quickly was able to retrieve both my packet (bib and quarter zip) and my friend Kelly’s (she couldn’t get off work early and was going to drive up in the morning) packet for the half marathon.  Cathy went and got her 5K packet before we stepped into the small merchandise area.  She bought me a hoodie from the race.  YAY.  And that was all we did.  We left to head to the Fresh Thyme (for some pre-made overnight oats, cashew butter, and waters) and then Noodles & Co. (because Cathy needed a night before the race fuel too), before heading back to the room to eat while watching, what else?, the traditional Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives.

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“Magic Sushi” from Dragon King’s Daughter – Gluten Free Green Acres & Gluten Free Spicy Tofu Rolls

Cathy went to shower after we polished off our respective dinners, and I got down to stretching and foam rolling.  Lights out was just before 9 pm.  And, my newfound insomnia kicked in again.  WEEEE!  I tossed and turned and tossed and turned and didn’t get much sleep…yet again.  UGH!  That sucked.  I switched off the first alarm I set because I was able to get up and not have to wake up anyone else because…I WAS ALREADY AWAKE.  I got back into bed for another 45 minutes, but no rest was coming.  Apparently I was going to run on fumes.  YAY.

The temperature outside on race morning was a brisk 47 degrees.  This was really the first morning of cold weather any of us were experiencing.  I decided to race in the outfit I wore in the Glass City Marathon, and would likely be wearing again at Monumental.  Arm warmers and everything.  Cathy had a bit more of a dilemma…because 40s are hard to dress for.  Sleeves are good, but sometimes you warm up fast.  Short sleeves might not be enough.  She opted for sleeves.  We ate some breakfast (she brought oatmeal from home), finished getting ready, and then headed out the door to drive up to the giant parking lot prior to the half marathon and 5K.

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Makeshift pre-race breakfast of Brekkie, Julie’s Cashew Butter, and Purely Elizabeth Granola (I brought that form home)

Kelly was there bright and early, so when we parked she made her way to the car while Cathy got out the trash bags she brought for extra warmth.  I handed off the packet and zip to Kelly, who was excited she was actually getting one of the jackets, before she went to drop it in the vehicle.  She was just in shorts and a tank (calling herself a human furnace)…and I was cold just looking at her.  HA!  She returned to the car and the three of us made our way over to the staging area near the start line.  There were some nice fires going, and we tucked in to attempt to stay warm.  Cathy went to drop her bag at Bag Drop, and we were just killing time now.  I did drink my Maurten 160 Drink Mix 30 minutes prior to the start, per the usual.

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Staying warm pre-race around the fires

As the start of the race neared, we did meander over toward the start corrals, where we met up with Elizabeth (another member of the MRTT/SRTT Southern Indiana Chapter), took some pictures, and then wished each other luck.  I was in Corral B, Elizabeth in C, Kelly in D…and Cathy was in the 5K corrals, so she was able to at least take some photos, video, and cheer at the start of the half.

The 1:40 pacers were in my corral and lined up near me.  I was to run this one at MARATHON PACE, so I wasn’t paying any attention to that.  It was a cool, crisp morning, and after the elites and first corral were sent off…we were moved up.  Cathy actually got a nice video of me starting, though she didn’t realize it at the time.  In fact, she was waiting for the corral after that.  Oh well.  That’s what happens sometimes.

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Elizabeth, Me, Kelly, & Cathy

The 1:40 pacers were fantastic, especially Troy, as he gave a lot of helpful advice to those who were running with him as we started out.  And it was a good reminder that we still had a long road ahead.  The first part of the race was a slight downhill…so I let gravity work it’s magic there.  We were off, and I was feeling surprisingly good.

The first two miles of this race were a nice, relaxed, gentle downhill.  My legs were feeling rested and good and they were on the move.  Mile 1 rolled by quickly, and as we hit Mile 2, we were already inside the Fort Harrison State Park.  It was as we headed into Mile 3 that we hit the first monster hill in the race.  It’s funny, when you look at my splits you can see the 2 giant hills that you have to tackle in this run.  But this one was early and my legs were fresh with some bounce.  And I just bounded up it and kept going.

The next few miles were rolling hills and flats.  And they were enough to just sort of keep your legs guessing and feeling good.  The volunteers at the water stops were phenomenal, cheering loudly for the runners as they came through the aid stations, and just being really encouraging.  I was still feeling good as I hit the 10K mark, knowing that I was ahead of my marathon pace, and hearing my mind tell me that if I slowed down, it was okay.  But I wasn’t going to make myself slow down.  We had perfect race conditions and I was rolling.  I took out one of the Maurten 100 Gels (the new one with some caffeine) and managed to take it without slowing down much.  There were no trash cans, so I held onto the wrapper until I spotted one, about a mile later.

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When you accidentally run your second fastest half marathon

We were routed into a little round about of a parking lot, looped and came back out on the other side.  Just after Mile 7, we crossed a grassy path and onto a bike path (the Harrison Trace Trail) for the back half of the run.  While this was a bike path, it never doubled back on itself, so it didn’t feel crowded or cluttered.  In fact, I felt like I had plenty of room to stretch my legs and push myself.

Just after Mile 8, we hit a HUGE downhill.  I love downhills, but I wasn’t expecting the drop that this one had.  Luckily, downhill is my favorite speed and I adjust very well to it.  My footing found itself and I easily rolled back into my pace.  It was just after this point that I removed my gloves and tucked them into my hydration pack.  It was starting to warm up, and every time I thought I could take off the arm warmers, a cold wind would sweep up, and I’d keep them off.

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Finishers: Me with the Half Marathon Finisher’s Medal & Cathy with her 5K Finisher’s Medal (love the leaf!)

After Mile 10, where I took another (non-caffeinated) Maurten Gel 100, we hit the largest hill on the course.  It was one of those that starts up, levels off, then continues to go up.  This was my slowest split of the entire race.  It felt good to get to the top, but now my legs were definitely feeling the fatigue of the speed of the race. Just after Mile 11, we ducked back across that grassy path and onto the road, heading back toward start of the race (also the finish, obviously).

It was at Mile 12 that the 1:40 pace group caught up to me.  And this entire time, in my head, I am reminding myself that I’m not running for a PR…I’m running Marathon Pace.  I knew I was way ahead of that, but I still felt good, despite that late, monster hill.  I ran right with them as Troy told his runners to skip the final water stop and keep rolling.  As we got halfway through the mile, Troy started to talk runners in…take some deep breaths.  He said they were easing back on pace, so as not to blow people out so close to the end (they were just slightly ahead of the time on his back)…and I kept going.  And I picked it up a little as I started to make the final turns to head toward that finish line.  I felt amazing.  And I crossed, still feeling good.  I stopped my Garmin, collected my medal, and then finally pulled the wrist band away from the watch face to look at my time.  And I about died.

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Finish Line Drinks: Cathy had the beer and I had the kombucha

It was my second fastest half marathon since I started running half marathons.  My two top times are on hilly courses.  How about that?  I mean, I hate hills.  Cathy came over and she was all, “YOU KILLED IT!”  And I did.  I killed it DEAD.  And I still felt good (which was also good because I had another 13 miles to run the following day with more speed thrown in).

We decided to go and check out the cookout that the race offered, ducking in.  There wasn’t really anything for me (food allergy queen), but Cathy snagged a piece of Jockamo’s pizza and a cookie.  She went and purchased a beer and got me a local kombucha (which…was delicious!!).  She ate and we went to go walk around, but had to stay in the little (and it was little) picnic area (we weren’t sitting in the tent) with our drinks (even though mine was NOT alcoholic).  So, she chugged her beer and I drank what I could of my kombucha but I was fresh off a fast half marathon and chugging something didn’t sound appetizing…and I was freezing…so I didn’t want to stand there any longer.

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Mushroom & Spinach Tacos with Cajun Dusted Tater Tots from Woody’s Library Restaurant

We made one more pass through the official merchandise…and I was tempted to get the finisher’s shirt with the names on the back (mine was on there)…but ultimately walked away from it.  I was happy with the hoodie that Cathy got me (she had to buy it as it said “Finisher” on it).  We made the drive back to the hotel where I took a shower and dried my hair while she packed up everything.  We headed to Carmel, Indiana (a short drive) to catch lunch at Woody’s Library Restaurant (where I got the Mushroom & Spinach Tacos with a side of the Cajun Dusted Tater Tots).  Then, we headed over to the Indiana State Fair Grounds because…Half Price Books was having a BIG clearance sale, where all books were $2 or less.  Amazing.

We left after a couple of hours and a lot of texting with my dad.  Road work delayed our return to the Louisville area, but we finally made it home.  Still without groceries.  I ended up making popcorn for dinner and then heading to bed.  And not sleeping well again.

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Finish Line feels at the Indy Half Marathon at Fort Ben

My experience at the Indy Half Marathon at Fort Ben was amazing.  I can’t wait to run it again next year.  Hopefully more of my friends can join me!!  It was definitely much better running weather than what the large group of over 100 MRTT/SRTT ladies dealt with at the Indianapolis Women’s Half Marathon had the week before.  Kind of glad I opted for this one.

My official results of the Indy Half Marathon at Fort Ben are that I finished in 1:39:13, which, as I previously mentioned, was a mere hill, or basically 21 seconds off of my PR time from 2014). This race proved something very important to me…that I can still push the pace for 13.1 miles.  With all the times I have doubted my body, my ability, and mentally let myself check out, I felt strong and capable this entire race…even the two hills that messed up my fast splits. HA!  I was 156/1726 finishers overall. I was 24/851 female finishers. And I was 6/138 in my age division. Guys, my age division is SUPER competitive…always.  This race was no different.  But this rank…is beyond what I thought I could accomplish here.  If you need a fall half marathon on your radar…put the Indy Half Marathon at Fort Ben on your radar!

Project BQ – Marathon Training Week #13

dreams-hopes-poster-rhino-treadmill-unicornYep.  I am well aware that this post is REALLY late this week.  But…let me tell you…I was on a glorious, fun vacation.  And I was off the grid for much of it because I was hanging on a cruise ship.  Gotta love it.

Now, let me remind you, that when I planned a birthday trip…I was to have already run my marathon.  I had planned on running the Erie Marathon, but it sold out before I could register for it.  I wasn’t expecting that, so it made me give up on my dream of a Boston 2020 experience and turn my focus on Boston 2021.  BUT…this now meant that instead of recovering on my cruise/vacation…I was now in the peak of my training.

My coach was very flexible with my schedule and kindly gave me a “down” week while I was away.  But this did include two back-to-back 13 milers…which I moved from the weekend to the middle of the week (while on a cruise ship instead of at a Disney resort) , but this was how it would work in my schedule the best while I was away.  I kept them back-to-back because I felt that was an important component to the training…just shifted WHEN they happened.

Was it ideal to have to train while on my birthday cruise/vacation?  NOPE.  Was it fun?  NOPE.  But…it is what it is right now…and I worked it in.  It wasn’t perfect.  It was far from it.  Disney exhaustion is a real thing friends, and it definitely hit me hard.  But…I managed to keep my training on track.  I wish I didn’t HAVE to fit it in…but we made it work the best we could.

Let’s set sail…

Monday: REST/RECOVERY DAY! EMBARKATION DAY FOR DISNEY DREAM CRUISE!

I arrived in Orlando on Sunday morning and spent most of the morning running around Disney Springs and getting settled in to the All-Star Music resort for one night.  No running around the parks.  Nothing big on Sunday…just get a meal at Sanaa (THE BEST) and get some sleep to make the drive to Port Canaveral in the morning.  I set an alarm and got up ahead of it, managing to work in my morning PT stretches that day.  Then we made the drive to port and got signed up for the Castaway Cay 5K (which was now running on my birthday), and boarded the Disney Dream.  The rest of the time was spent exploring the ship, grabbing lunch (they made me a gluten free tomato sandwich…which took some time to get to me…and they sent me 2…because I guess they thought I would starve)…settling into our room…going through the safety drill…catching a show…getting dinner (and meeting THE BEST tablemates ever)…dealing with Cathy getting sea sick…there wasn’t time for a run.  And it was nice to have an extra day off and to feel like I could get used to the ship and get my trip off to a leisurely and un-stressful start start.

Tuesday: INSTRUCTIONS: BASE RUN 6-8 MILES – GOAL 7 MILES  + 4-6 STRIDES – EASY EFFORT – TRY NO WATCH AGAIN

Welcome to the wonderful world of training while on a cruise. This was NOT easy whatsoever.  While eating breakfast, the ship pulled into Nassau in the Bahamas.  YAY!!  I had heard how touristy this stop was, so Cathy and I decided that we’d leave the ship, hit up the Hard Rock, hit the Starbucks (I was buying a mug for a friend), then head back to the ship.  This was what we did and I was happy with this decision.  The streets were crowded, and I could only imagine how the beach would be.  While everyone was off the ship, I figured I’d go onto the track on Deck 4 and run my workout there.  The problem was, part of the deck was blocked off due to some maintenance happening.  AND…my GPS wasn’t working.  At all.  So I would physically have to count my laps.  I wasn’t feeling it.  So, we took the stairs up to Deck 11 and entered the fitness center.  Here, I hopped on one of the treadmills and did an easy run (because I can’t run fast on a treadmill), putting in a full 8 miles at this pace, skipping the strides and vowing to add them onto one of my runs when I got back on land.  Done.  Cathy walked on the treadmill next to me and would replenish my water as needed, which was awesome.  It was a great way to spend the afternoon before showering, changing (it was Halloween costume night!), and heading out to do some Trick or Treating and catching dinner with two of our table mates (the other 2 parties were at Palo that night).  It was so much fun, and I wasn’t stressing the workout at all.  That being said, I knew the rest of the runs on the ship would be on that treadmill.

Wednesday: INSTRUCTIONS: 11-13 MILES WITH 3 MILES FAST FINISH – GOAL 12 MILES – EASY DOES IT UNTIL FAST FINISH AT THE END.

This was supposed to be our day at Castaway Cay…but that got shifted to Thursday.  Instead, this was our Day At Sea.  It would also be Pirate Night.  That’s fun, right?  I got up early to get to the fitness center on the ship just after it opened at 6 am.  I had 13 miles to log (really 13.1, because I can’t just run 13 miles), and was going to break it up (since treadmills go for an hour at a time) by doing 5 miles, 5 miles, and then a “fast” 3 miles right at the end.  I had my bottle of Maurten with me and would fuel after each interval, with water in between.  I learned, very quickly, that running on a treadmill on a cruise ship is HARD.  You get a full-body workout because the treadmill belt is moving, but the ship is swaying too…so at times I felt like I was running up a hill, and at times down a hill.  It took some getting used to.  But I powered through with 10 miles at an easy
pace, and then 3.1 miles at a faster (maybe not super fast, but faster) pace.  It was fast for me on a treadmill.  Afterwards, when I finished up, one of the personal trainers on the ship came over and asked me if I was training for a marathon.  He then asked which one and how many I had run.  He just said he had noticed me running.  WOOHOO!!  So, while this wasn’t what I had in mind (and this probably would have been better on land)…I just made the most of what I had been dealt.  Then, Cathy surprised me with a Stem to Stern wine tasting later that day.  We did A LOT of walking around the ship that day too.  And, of course, dressed up like pirates, went to dinner at the fancy Palo restaurant (where I had a gluten free souffle for dessert!!), and then had fireworks on deck.  AMAZING.

Thursday: INSTRUCTIONS: 11-13 MILES WITH 3 MILES FAST FINISH – GOAL 12 MILES – EASY DOES IT UNTIL FAST FINISH AT THE END.

It was my birthday.  YAY!  I love my birthday.  But this morning, I was up at 5:30 to get dressed and head up to the fitness center.  It was still closed when I got up to the 11th deck, but opened up a few minutes later.  I needed to start at 6 am sharp to get in 10 miles of running prior to the Castaway Cay 5K I would be running on Disney’s private island.  I started right on time, with my Maurten bottle to fuel me through the 10 easy pace miles on the treadmill.  I did another round of 5, then started over with the last 5 miles.  Cathy met me up there as I finished up and we took the steps down to Deck 2 to group together with everyone doing the 5K.  I was using the 5K as my “fast finish,” not sure how fast it would be in the hot sun on the island AFTER a 13 mile run the day before and 10 miles ahead of the 5K itself.  We were walked off the ship and then to the start line of the 5K.  Cathy was doing the 5K as well, but we weren’t running it together.  We were sent off as the clock started and I passed quite a few people to start with, pulling into the lead female position (This, BTW, means nothing as this is a fun run and no official timing is given and people are encouraged to cut the course, LOL).  But I made a goal in my head to stay in that position.  It was definitely hot out there, especially when we weren’t in the loop (which had a bit of shade).  The runway portion was probably the hottest, and I knew my first mile was pretty quick, but my second mile I faded a bit.  I pressed on, pushing a bit more and picked it back up to finish “strong” that day.  I was happy with it.  First female.  Birthday run.  Done.  Cathy came in and we decided to change into our bathing suits, do some shopping, grab an alcoholic beverage (a Conch Cooler) and lay on the beach for a bit.  We took some pictures, went to eat lunch (the ship had a vegan and gluten free veggie burger, fries, and veggies sent to the island for me), then headed back to the ship.  NO ONE was on there.  We showered, changed, took pictures, and then went to a Mixology Class which was SO fun.  Later on, birthday dinner with the entire table back together.  And double dessert for me.  LOVED it.  The chef also created dishes for me the entire night to fit my dietary needs and make it super fun.  I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday…and the runs were a nice bonus!

Friday: REST DAY!  DISEMBARKATION DAY & MICKEYS NOT SO SCARY HALLOWEEN PARTY AT MAGIC KINGDOM!

I must say, it was nice to not have to try to fit in a run before leaving the ship on Friday morning.  We got our luggage packed up, went down to breakfast, which we ate with our entire table again, and then got in the line to get off the ship and go through customs.  After that, it was a waiting game for our room at Port Orleans French Quarter to be ready.  We grabbed a light lunch at Toasted.  We hit the grocery store for water.  We walked around the resort until the text came through and we could get into our room.  Once that happened, we changed into our costumes for the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (we were Joy & Bing Bong from Inside Out), went to Magic Kingdom, got candy, went to eat at Skippers (we split an appetizer & entree), went on rides, got TONS more candy, walked around…and left at midnight.  My legs were tired and my feet were SO sore.  I think I got to bed just before 1 am and had to get up for a run on Saturday, now very glad I moved my back-to-back 13 milers to earlier in the week.

Saturday: SPEED WORK – MONA FARTLEKS W/ 1 MILE HARD EFFORT

When I woke up on Saturday morning, the last thing I wanted to do was do speed work.  My legs were feeling heavy, the late night and time on my feet this entire trip, but more specifically…the night prior at Magic Kingdom.  It was hot and humid outside.  But…I knew this needed to happen and I needed to do it now before another long day of wandering around a Disney Park (Food & Wine Festival at EPCOT!).  So…I headed out.  Mona Fartleks were going to happen on the running path of the Port Orleans resorts…whether I wanted it to or not.  Once again, these work like this: 2 mile warm up, 2×90 sec, 4 x 60 sec, 4×30 sec, 4×15 sec (with equal recovery after each at a pace faster than base pace), 1 mile hard effort, 2 mile cool down.  I could tell from the start it was going to be a struggle.  My warm up was MEH.  My intervals felt like a slog.  And there were plenty of obstacles along the way (people with luggage, people going to the buses, dogs, carts, strollers, people on the way to breakfast and not paying attention, and any number of all of them all at once).  But I did sweat it out and get it done.  I knew it was going to be bad.  But I also had promised to tack on some strides, so I did that too…and those felt awful and slow and just sucky.  I went back to the room, feeling really defeated, but had my spirits lifted with gluten free beignets and coffee.  I showered, ate, put on sunscreen, headed to the bus to go to EPCOT…where we walked the rest of the day, once again returning LATE at night with tired legs and very sore feet.  I knew I had one more day of runs ahead of me on this trip…

Sunday: INSTRUCTIONS: BASE RUN 6-8 MILES – GOAL 7 MILES  + 4-6 STRIDES – EASY EFFORT – TRY NO WATCH AGAIN

Same run as I did on the ship…this time with the strides right at the end.  I was hoping this run would go better than the previous one.  Ultimately, this would work out to be the same distance as the Mona Fartlek workouts…just without pushing pace.  I set out, and surprisingly felt good.  I ran the same loops through the Port Orleans Resorts as the previous day.  It was much earlier, as I was wearing my reflective gear, simply because it was still very dark out.  I had an 9:15 am breakfast in Animal Kingdom, which meant in order to have time to do my run, I’d have to get up early and get it done so I could shower, change, put on sunscreen and…drive to the park.  I was happy with how I felt on this.  It was still warm and humid, but it’s Orlando, Florida.  Of course it is.  I said HI to a few people who were out smoking or sitting with their dogs on the trail. Got a lot of compliments on my Nox Gear vest (use code: CELIAC at checkout for 35% off).  And I finished it up and was actually sad and disappointed with my overall pace.  I felt like I was flying and it was so easy today…but the reality was sobering and frustrating.  I did my strides, which felt so hard to push through and do…then went to prepare for the day.  This was Animal Kingdom, some resort hopping (with Dole Whip), and then a dinner of Gluten Free Churros and Truffle Poutine.  Cathy and I split those, went and rose Flights of Passage at Pandora, and then called it a night.  We realized we hadn’t had a single vegetable all day…so we made a point to stop by the food court at the resort and pick up some celery and carrots to split…just to feel a bit better about life.  I was thankful that my travel day the following morning was an additional rest day, which made things a little less hectic and crazy…and allowed for pre-airport gluten free beignets. HA!

So…all in all…it was a fun week, but it was hard on the training.  I love traveling and taking trips, but with an actual goal this coming race, I had to prioritize my training when I had originally hoped that I wouldn’t even have to pack running clothes if I didn’t want to (let’s face it…I probably would have).  It was a struggle.  Mentally, the early mornings on vacation were rough, especially with my schedule and my diet being thrown off by late dinners, late nights, and more food than I thought was possible being put in front of me.  But, you know…you just make it work.  Even my coach said I was doing good fitting the training in while on a cruise and a stay at Disney World (since there was no races this time around) and to just let the bad runs go.  Make like Elsa…Let it go!  HA!

So, it will be nice to fall back into a “normal” schedule and see how I go as the summer days creep back in and warm us all back up…

Bluegrass 10,000 – Lexington, KY (July 4, 2019)

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Me heading toward the finish line of the Bluegrass 10,000

Race: Bluegrass 10,000

Place: Lexington, Kentucky

Date: July 4, 2019

Time: 47:40

Fourth of July means one thing.  The annual 4th of July race.  And for the third year in a row, I decided to make the trip down to Lexington, Kentucky for the Bluegrass 10,000.  This year it was a bit different.  We didn’t ride down with Melissa and Paul this year.  Melissa had a baby back in February, so I knew they would have a bit more of a stressful ride down (especially if they were bringing the baby…which they did…and her mom to watch the baby…so full car as it was) trying to juggle everything with a newborn around.

I got in touch with Linda, my former coach and one of my favorite people (she’s an amazing friend) in this world, to see if she could pick up my packet if I registered, and since she’s in charge of the pacers…she said she already was picking up all of those so she would add to mine.  I greatly appreciated that.  There was no way that I could get to Lexington during a workweek for a Thursday race so I am thankful for people who can help me out.

The night before the race I made tacos.  Not weird.  I love tacos.  And I ended up going to bed relatively early that night, knowing that a very early alarm had to be set for me to get up, hydrate, drink coffee, stretch, change, put on sunscreen, and get on the road by 5 am.  The race in Lexington starts at 7:30 am.  We managed to have breakfast, get ready, and get on the road right on time.  So, that was a definite win.

It was a warm morning, and I dressed appropriately this time.  As Wonder Woman.  With a bra top instead of a tank top.  I’m over the fact that my stomach isn’t flat.  Whatever.  Comfort is way more important and I wasn’t going to overheat this year.

This year, I was opting to give a go at racing this thing again.  I wasn’t sure how I would do.  My body isn’t reacting well to the heat/humidity this summer.  I’ve never crashed so hard on hot runs (yep…even before the sun comes up) as much as I have this year.  Its frustrating.  And it does mentally wear you down, but I decided I would just see what I had this particular day.  My training was relatively easy leading into a Thursday race.  I admit, I might have hit some miles a bit harder than intended…but I felt pretty good on the drive into Lexington.

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Race ready at the Bluegrass 10,000

As we were arriving to our designated spot to park, I got a text from Linda saying where she was parked so we could meet up.  We pulled in moments later, and I got out to get a hug and get my race shirt and bib.  Cathy pinned me up and Linda and I talked for a bit.  Her 8 minute pacer hadn’t shown up yet so she said I might have to hop in and pace.  I was willing to do that if necessary.  We both took the opportunity to use the bathroom before heading toward the start line.  Her 8 minute pacer did show up at this point, so I was reprieved of that duty.  Melissa and Paul weren’t here yet…but did arrive after the pacer photo and with about 5 minutes to the start.  I wanted to hug Melissa before the start, but she was feeding her baby and Paul was grabbing her stuff.  I had to head to the start…and that was that this year.

I lined up near the 8 minute pacer, just as I did last year.  But then I saw people who were, once again, talking about how they wouldn’t be able to do that pace…or were definitely not dressed to hold that pace (is that judgey?)…so I moved up.  And then moved up some more.  The National Anthem was sung.  The wheelchair racers were sent off.  And we all moved up to wait for our prompt 7:30 am start.  We were sent off by a rifle.  It was pretty frickin amazing!

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Start line selfies with Cathy

Here is where I am changing my plan of action for this race next time I run it.  Despite having moved up, I was still blocked by a lot of walkers who were up near the front of the race.  I wish this could be monitored a bit more, but it seems that next year, I am just lining up MUCH closer to the start line.  I was slowed down considerably here, but the start line is pretty chaotic as it is.

The street is really crowded in that first mile, so I bobbed and weaved as much as I could.  We made a turn right before the finish line and headed out to make a loop around some streets.  We make a turn around Mile 2 and start up a big hill.  It’s not a steep hill, but one of those ongoing hills. It wears you down.  I was also making a point to hydrate early and often.  So, if there was a water stop…you best believe I was taking a cup and drinking some of it before pouring the rest over my head.  Keeping that core temperature down this year.  YES!  Oh…and they had some cooling stations on some of the miles…so I used those too.

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The fight for some running space at the start of the Bluegrass 10,000

I hit the turn around point and got a bit of  a downhill.  And this is where I got a lot of Wonder Woman shout outs from people spectating.  And I got a lot of call-outs by Linda and her pacers as they came up the other side of the road.  Man, that was a booster, even when I started to walk the water stops.  No shame in that on a hot day.  I enjoyed the downhill portions and really appreciated the guy at Mile 5 with a hose who just sprayed me down as I ran past.  It steamed up my sunglasses, but damn…I needed that refreshing hit of cold water.

As I ran past the start line of the race, I could hear the race announcer up the way and was getting pretty excited to finish.  I wasn’t looking for a PR today…and I didn’t get one.  But I gave it all I could at that finish line.  I could hear Cathy screaming at me from the bleachers nearby as I ran past and just got myself across the line.  I stopped my Garmin and took a moment to catch my breath.

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Me with Linda after the Bluegrass 10,000

I made my way over to a table with water and snagged a bottle before heading to the sideline to talk with Cathy, who was heading my way.  Shortly after, Linda came across and I went to chat with her for a little bit.  I stuck around for a few of the pacers to make their way in, but I knew that we had an important date with lunch and then Season 3 of Stranger Things (which had dropped at midnight).  So, I gave Linda a hug and we headed out to get back to our car.

On the way back, we did get to see Melissa and Paul.  Melissa switched with the 15 minute pacer and was getting her group to the finish line in good form.  Cathy tried to take pictures, but they weren’t prepared.  I was happy to have caught them before we left.

We went to Target to kill off some time.  Cathy got us some more coffee and a bit of a

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Finisher of the Bluegrass 10,000

snack before we walked around, killing off time before Bella Notte opened for lunch.  There was SO much Stranger Things stuff.  How I didn’t buy it all…I will never know.  We polished off the coffee and headed over to the mall to walk a little more.  Ducked into a few stores, then finally went to Bella Notte to grab lunch.  I had my usual.  Cathy went with something new and different.  And as our entrees were arriving, Melissa, Paul, Deb and baby arrived.  Melissa came over to chat with us before they ordered, and we stopped by as we were about to head out.  We finished eating.  We stopped in at Half Price Books.  And we mad the drive back home to get through as much of the new season of Stranger Things as we could…because we were working a half day on Friday and gone all weekend.

And we got 6/8 episodes in before we had to call it.  Not bad.

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Gluten Free Pasta Arrabiata from Bella Notte in Lexington, KY

I’m not sure if I am more proud of that or how I did in the race this year.  I beat last year’s time by 1 minute, but no distance or course PR this year.  It eludes me again.

My official results of the Bluegrass 10,000 are that I finished in 47:40…in the best weather (still humid and hot) that I have had in the 3 years I have run it.  And that’s with walk/water stops.  I was 294/2969 finishers overall.  I was 41/1491 female finishers.  And I was 6/244 in my age division.  I actually was better placed this year (with more finishers in each category)…except for my age group.  I need to get out of my head a bit more and just learn to be a bit more comfortable with being uncomfortable.

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Stranger Things Binge Watching Marathon ready!

S

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

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

Race: Mercy Health Glass City Marathon

Place: Toledo, OH

Date: April 28, 2019

Time: 3:38:46

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My mom – she’s a warrior!

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

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Race day ready!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Just before Mile 4 in the Glass City Marathon

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

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

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Me heading into the finish line of the Glass City Marathon

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

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

WHAT?!

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

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

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

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

3:38.

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

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

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My Spicy Ginger Tofu & Ancient Grains bowl from Corelife Eatery

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

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

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

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

Glass City’s Savage 5K – Toledo, OH (April 27, 2019)

 

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Me after finishing Glass City’s Savage 5K – Toledo, OH

Race: Glass City’s Savage 5K

Place: Toledo, Ohio

Date: April 27, 2019

Time: 24:19

Friends, I did not come all the way up to Toledo for this 5K.  In fact, this race was my shakeout run.  Tomorrow, the Glass City Marathon runs, in winter-like conditions, and I am not happy about it.  I didn’t train all winter to not have a beautiful day of running.  Looks like it will be 30 degrees at the start tomorrow with winds between 16-20 mph.  And that sucks.  And it has been festering in my brain since the weather changed as I was packing and then again as I was traveling up to Toledo.

I had a lot going on this past week.  Between some training runs and cross-training.  Between work and errands.  I was squeezing in baking Lemon Blossoms for the MRTT/SRTT tent at the finish line of the KDF Marathon/minimarathon.  I was getting a sports massage to get my legs primed for this effort on Sunday.  And I was having a late dinner with my friends Melissa, Paul, and the one and only baby Carrick, the night before I had to get in a car with my roommate and make the long-ass drive from Louisville up to Toledo.

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Picking up my Savage 5K race big & stadium blanket

Thankfully, Cathy handled most of my packing.  On Friday morning, I simply had to stretch, foam roll, make breakfast, get together road snacks and hydration…and yes…RACE FUEL…pack a few extra things plus toiletries in my suitcase…before taking everything down to the car, taking out the garbage, making a quick stop at Kroger, and hitting the road.  It sounds like a lot.  It was.  But I enjoyed the dinner out with my friends, and despite getting home late that night, I knew I could sleep in a bit as we were hoping to get on the road by 9:30 at the latest.  We managed.  YAY!

But it was to be a pretty rainy drive and Mother Nature didn’t disappoint.  In fact, not only did we get rain, we got about three traffic accidents that really slowed our progress into Toledo.  And the first one ended up with us taking a major detour that was out of our way, but got us where we needed to be quicker than sitting in the long line of traffic would have.  But the second one, we actually had to sit through and just creep through.  I had to really pee at this point (remember…HYDRATION!), and now I was stuck in traffic for who knows how long.  We got through that one and we managed to get to a rest stop 10 miles up the road.  YAY!  But soon we were sitting in traffic again…yes…AGAIN.  And we hadn’t even hit Dayton yet.  It. Was. A. Mess.

But…we did finally make it in to Toledo and to our hotel, the Home2Suites by Hilton.  It’s a nice little place, with a full fridge, microwave, and lots of room and space.  The beds are quite comfortable too.  We hauled our luggage in and were told that some sports teams were coming in this weekend too…looks like some kids soccer teams…but we were staying through Monday, so it really didn’t affect us at all.  We unpacked our stuff and took a moment to relax.  The expo didn’t open until 4 pm, so we had a bit of time.  But we wanted to get there close to opening, so we did eventually meander out and head down to the University of Toledo campus.  On the way, we noted that we were close to both a Kroger and a Target…just in case we needed to make any sort of stops.

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Picking up my Mercy Health Glass City Marathon packet and half-zip.

The expo itself was held in the Savage Hall Sports Arena.  It isn’t a large expo, but it was big enough that we walked through a couple times.  But, we made our first official stop all the way at the back…at the packet pick-up.  I had to get both my Savage 5K (my shakeout run) packet and my Mercy Health Glass City Marathon race packet as well.  This was very seamless and easy, to be honest.  I had my bib number in my e-mail and showed my ID.  Simple.  The 5K gives you a soft stadium blanket.  You can pay extra for a t-shirt, but why?  Love different race swag.  I got a yellow half-zip for the full marathon and Cathy got her bib for the 5K as well.  With those in hand, we went to have her knees (that had been acting up this past week) taped up by a chiropractor that was there in the expo…and then shopped.  I picked up some gluten-free and vegan protein cookies that were being sold and sampled there.  Really good.  And also got the Glass City Marathon Bondi Band.  We wandered back over to official merch, where I picked up a hoodie and a race t-shirt (compliments of Cathy).  And then we headed out.

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Lots of love to Marco’s Pizza for this gluten-free pizza!!

We, sadly, were having a hard time finding food options for this race for me.  Lots of reviews on Find Me Gluten Free pointed us away from many of the options we had thought about.  But…we passed a Marco’s Pizza on our way to the expo, and I called to see if they did gluten free (the one in New Albany doesn’t, but the one near my parents in Birmingham, AL does…so it was worth a try).  They did…so we decided that we would go ahead and put our trust in Marco’s Pizza for dinner that night.
We ordered a Gluten Free Pizza without cheese, topping it with onions, mushrooms, and banana peppers.  Cathy said she didn’t even miss the cheese when ti came out.  And, the man who took our order, a guy named Davis, basically walked my pizza down the line to make sure there was no cross-contamination.  He was amazing.  And so was the pizza.  We hit up Kroger on our way back to the hotel, picking up some bananas and some gluten-free cookies to have for dessert.  I am a dessert fiend.  I must have dessert.

It was getting late.  So while Cathy showered, I stretched and did my foam rolling before getting settled into my bed while watching Diners, Drive-ins & Dives on Food Network (of course!).  I set an alarm for 6:30 am, since race start wasn’t until 9 am, and we called it a night.

I hate hotel pillows, for the record.  They are always too soft for me.  MEH.  But I slept relatively well, getting up to use the bathroom, do my first round of stretches in the dark, and then get back into bed for about 30 minutes until the alarm went off.

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Had to dress warm because Winter returned to Toledo, Ohio!

We were up and getting ready for the race right on time.  And it didn’t take us too long to get fully dressed and ready to head out the door.  It was 41 degrees, but real feel was 35 degrees.  I opted for capris and a long sleeve shirt for this one.  And gloves, because I have to wear gloves in anything in the 40s and below for temperatures.  I just have to.  We made the short trip down to the race, parking near a parking garage on campus and not too far from the start of the Savage 5K.  I was thinking we’d hang in the car for awhile, but we ended up throwing on some garbage bags and making the trek to the start area.  After freezing for a bit, I commented that we still had an hour to go before the start, so we went over to the Savage Hall Sports Arena to sit down and stay warm prior to the race.  We had our photo taken on our way up the stairs, but ducked inside and took a seat on the stairs to wait until it was a little closer to race start.  I ate my banana with 30 minutes to go.

We did meander out 15 minutes before the race start and went to get into our corrals.  I was in Corral A and Cathy was in Corral D.  I kept my trash bag on until about 5 minutes before the race.  I had set my Garmin to give me some certain strides for the last mile so I pulled up that workout and then set my watch to start the workout.  A few people spoke before the race start, and a blessing was given as well.  And then…at about 9:01 am…we were on our way.

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Cathy & I before heading out for the Savage 5K

As I think I mentioned above, I was using this run as a shake-out leading into tomorrow’s race.  So, I held myself back and just ran comfortably…not pushing my pace or effort on any hills.  I felt really good, which was surprising after sitting in the car for so long the day before.  I just sort of settled in at a comfortable pace, and focused on just not pushing it.  There was a bit of a hill heading into the first mile marker, but I crested it by not pushing effort or pace, and felt like I was holding back and doing a good job.  I was under an 8 min pace.  WHOOPS.

Mile 2 went a bit better as I reined it back a bit.  This was a fun mile, as we got 2 water stop options and a dash through the Greek Village near campus.  It was really nice.  And as I turned back onto main roads, I passed a cute mother/young daughter team that was running and the mom was just being very encouraging to her little girl.  It was adorable.  Back onto the streets and back through another water stop opportunity, and I was heading into Mile 3.

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Me & Cathy after finishing the Savage 5K in Toledo, OH

My watch was set up to do 80 meter pushes with equal recovery for strides.  But…my watch just beeped at me like after 1 second of running and then settled in to the extra mile I tagged on.  Glad I did that.  But now I was going manual.  Which did help to slow me down some.  I would run for .05 mile and then ease off for the same amount of time.  And I did that close to the 10 times I was supposed to (after the Garmin fuck up), and just pressed the lap button.  My data was already screwed up, but I wanted to give something to my coach to look at.  After I got that last mile…I pressed it in to a strong finish, which happens inside the University of Toledo’s Glass Bowl Stadium.  I did a fast 10 miler which finished on a stadium field just like this, so that was sort of fun.  I threw my hands up as I crossed the finish and my name was announced and went to collect my medal and some water.

Now, I was waiting for Cathy to finish her race, but we weren’t allowed to wait in the finisher’s area.  I moved off to the side, just past the finish line, and waited for her, trying not to freeze.  That’s been the worst part about Cathy now doing my races…that I don’t have warm clothing to slide into at the finish right away.

She came across and I snapped pictures and shouted at her.  She was introducing me to the people she ran with for most of the race.  We took some photos, then headed over to get our Commemorative Glass Mug.  She went to go get beer and I went to get official results.  I couldn’t remember my Athlinks login though, so I ended up just looking it up on the RaceJoy app.  Then we went and got snacks, and Cathy got 2 slices of pizza (she got my slice), which she said was actually really good.

And…to my absolute shock…I came in 2nd in my age group.  What the hell?  I wasn’t even trying.  We didn’t know if I’d get my award there or if it would be mailed, and no one else seemed to know either.  Not even at the Race Info booth inside the expo.  I finally asked back by where we picked up our packets and they actually know.  Awards would be mailed.  YAY!  So, that’s something to look forward to!  We walked through the expo one last time, and Cathy thanked the booth who taped her up because she had a good 5K with their help.  And then we made the cold trek back to the car and headed out.

I needed hot coffee…stat.  So, we headed over to Bigbee Coffee (a local chain in Toledo), where I got a Neapolitan Latte with Almond Milk.  It. Was. EVERYTHING.  If you like Neapolitan ice cream…it tastes exactly like THAT!  Holy crap, it might be my new thing in life. Then I ducked over to Kroger to grab some sushi for a quick lunch and picked up some Pop Chips Nutter Puffs.  Cathy grabbed something from the frozen section for a little bite and her favorite Doritos before we paid and headed back to the hotel.

I showered an climbed onto my bed to work up the race reviews that I now owed the blog.  So here it is!!

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Glass City’s Savage 5K Finisher

So, my official results for Glass City’s Savage 5K are that I finished in 24:19, which was way faster than I intended to run it.  But I honestly held myself back.  Craziness.  I was 91/1212 finishers overall.  I was 16/739 female finishers.  And, as I just mentioned above, I squeaked in a 2/96 in my age division!  WOOT!  If nothing else, I can take that away from this race.

I would do this 5K again in a heartbeat, to be honest!  It’s a fantastic course for a fast race.  So, if you love traveling for 5Ks…or live near Toledo…definitely consider this one!  I’ve had my feet up all afternoon and am preparing to head out to a gluten free deli for dinner in a bit before stretching, foam rolling, and prepping for tomorrow’s marathon.  Think happy thoughts for me, please!