OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon – Indianapolis, IN (May 5, 2018)

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Me crossing the finish line of the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon – Indianapolis, Indiana

Race: OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon

Place: Indianapolis, Indiana

Date: May 5, 2018

Time: 1:44:14

At the beginning of my training season, after Dopey in January and after I got over the flu, my coach asked me, specifically, for some goals this year. I laid out two. And one of them was to PR my half marathon distance, specifically at the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon.

It was in writing. And I was actually starting to finally have a good training cycle, when, one morning, as you read in a previous post (and I swear I will blog about the saga…maybe…perhaps), I fell hard on a training run early one morning. It was a long run I was doing to beat the rain and storms that were supposedly coming. And…it took me out of any sort of strong training for the entire time leading into the KDF miniMarathon.  I kept telling myself that this would actually work out for me in the end.  My body would recover…and I’d be well-rested coming into this race, despite having a half marathon the week before.

Mind you…I took it very easy on KDF.  I barely broke an 8 minute mile when all was said and done.  So, my legs felt good and my foot was finally feeling good…but I haven’t been feeling strong or fast as of late.  Keep in mind, the races I have been doing, I haven’t been doing at pace.  This was supposed to be what makes me able to do this for goal/key races.  So, I assured myself that the missed runs wouldn’t matter.  I was ready.  I could do this.

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Perfect Day-Before-A-Race Breakfast: Gluten Free Avocado Toast & Hash Browns

Friday morning came and I went out for an easy shake-out run for 30 minutes.  Showered.  Then began to prep breakfast for that morning.  Melissa and Paul were coming over (we were all driving up together) and I was going to make us a hearty breakfast to get us through the Panel of Olympians (I won two tickets to it and Melissa and I were going to attend) that morning, the race expo itself, and whatever else we ended up doing afterwards until dinner time.  The menu: Avocado Toast and Hash Browns.  I used Simple Kneads Gluten Free Quinoa Power Grains Bread, smashed ripe avocado on each slice, topped it with some Trader Joe’s Everything But The Bagel Seasoning, then capped each slice with a sunny-side up egg.  Served with some Ore Ida Hash Browns (with onions and peppers).  It was perfect.  We ate.  We drank coffee.  We eagerly discussed the events that day.  And then…we were literally off to the races.

We talked…the entire time heading to the hotel.  We were staying at the JW Marriott (I’m a princess…sorry, not sorry!) and we were going to check in and take things up to the room before heading over to Indiana Convention Center (we could do this via walkway, but why not enjoy the wind that day?) for the Champions Panel that started at 11 am (but they wanted ticket holders in by 10:45 am).

We pulled up to the hotel and while everyone else was unloading the car, I was sent inside to check into the room.  And this friends…is where the tale truly begins.  Because, upon entering the hotel, all wind-blown and looking like a hot mess…I notice someone in a race jacket holding a cup of coffee near one of the pillars at the front of the lobby.  And my brain went…

MEB!!!!!  MEB!!!!

This is where I lost all motor functions for a moment.  I smiled at him and walked toward the line for the front desk check-in.  I pulled out my cell phone to text my group, but I couldn’t get my fingers to hit the right numbers on my unlock screen.  I did finally get there.  I typed a simple message, “HOLY SHIT! MEB!”  And I sent it.  And just as it sent, Cathy came strolling in.  At this point, Meb went to go talk to a group of runners in the lobby and I started pointing at him (his back was to me).  She glanced over, did a shrug, then did a double take.  It was awesome.

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She told me to go ask if I could get a selfie with him.  I’m not shy.  So I did.  I’m surprised I could now find words.  I’m honestly not the type to get star-struck like that…but Meb is a one of my running heroes and I was..honored to be in a hotel lobby with him.  Also, no one informed me that I looked all a mess from strong winds and car ride.  But…hey…at least he looks good in the photos.  I took a selfie and then someone took a picture for me.  Both of which I look like a star-struck fool with really, really bad hair.

Hey…you never know when you’ll met your heroes.

He was so very gracious and generous and never once made me feel like I was inconveniencing him.  And that’s one of the many things I love about Meb.  After the photos in the lobby, Cathy and Paul sent Melissa and I on our way to get to the Champions Panel while they took stuff up to the room.  Paul was on a business call at this point anyway.  So…we braced ourselves for the windy walk to the Indianapolis Convention Center (we could have walked it inside, honestly) and went to get in line for the panel.

We were seated in the second row when doors opened.  And as they brought in the Champions for the Champions Panel…they also introduced the woman who was conducting the panel, Indianapolis’ very own Lindsey Hein, the host of the “I’ll Have Another” podcast…which I am a total fan and listen to every week.  So, I fangirled a little there and hoped to snag a picture with Lindsey afterwards…but we were escorted out of the room quickly and I never got to ask.  Dang it.  NEXT TIME!!

The Champion’s Panel was amazing.  It started off with having us introduced to the Elite Ambassador and Special Olympics athlete, Andrew Peterson.  His story and the way he told it was inspiring and tear inducing.  Seriously.  What an inspiration.  From being told he could never do things…to being the second Special Olympian to qualify for the Boston Marathon…he is nothing but inspiring.  What a way to kick off the panel.  Then…they brought up the rest of them:

Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, Alexi Pappas, and Meb Keflezighi!

Meb, Alexi, Bill, Frank

The stories all of these athletes could tell about mental fitness, experiences in running, etc.  I now have a major girl crush on Alexi for one thing.  She’s a doll.  Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers had tales to tell about the running community and running game back when they were at the top of the game.  And Meb had lots of uplifting and insightful things to say.  Alexi is training with Deana Kastor for her first marathon.  And I’m currently reading Deana Kastor’s book.  Full circle.  Just…love.  This was the way to kick off the weekend for sure.  It was the day before Meb’s birthday, so we all sang Happy Birthday to him.  So that was amazing.

After the panel dismissed the audience, Melissa and I met up with Cathy and Paul, who had already gone shopping through the expo area.  So…now it was our turn.  We went to pick up our bibs and race packets first before setting out to see all of the expo area and try not to spend too much money.  HA!

Actually, because Newton wasn’t there (I really want to try on the Distance VII), I came out of it on the plus side.  Cathy bought me my mandatory Bondi Band’s (this has to happen at every race or bad stuff happens!) and I was told I wasn’t allowed to buy any Finisher’s gear (which means, she got me something).  And with those being the only restrictions, I just set out to see what was there.  This is a great expo. Lots of samples of products, lots of vendors…all very relevant.  Area races were present and promoting.  And, while we paused for bathroom breaks, that was when Corey Queen found us!

He actually started sneaking up on me and got pretty damn close before I saw him and gave him a hug.  He’s a ninja, that one.  The five of us stood around and talked for a good while.  We discussed races and being ambassadors and weather and just life in general.  Seriously, if this weekend proved anything…it’s that the five of us could stand around and talk and not get bored with it.  HA!

When we all finally decided we needed to finish seeing the expo and make Meb’s autograph session before heading to our dinner reservations.  We did traverse the rest of the expo, killing time before standing around near the area the line would be forming for Meb.  Currently Bill Rodgers was at the autograph table.  So, we hung out until the volunteers at the expo came and put up some partitions and had us maneuver inside to wait for Meb.

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Bill Rodgers and Me

Melissa asked me if Bill Rodgers book was worth buying, and I told her definitely.  So she asked if she could get into the back of his line for an autograph.  We had thought of doing this earlier, but Cathy had overheard one of the handlers say that he was just signing books…but the man ahead of Melissa had his Boston Marathon shirt so she looked at me and said, “Do you want Bill Rodgers to sign your medal too?  He’s a four time Boston Marathon champion.” I took my medal from her and went to stand with Melissa.  This worked out because it meant I could take photos with her and Bill and she could return the favor for me.  Bill was awesome.  He recommended to Melissa that she run Chicago Marathon and she told him she was this year.  And he wouldn’t let up on how amazing the crowd support is there and how amazing the race is (everything I have touted all along) and as I was taking their picture, he apparently kept whispering “Chicago. Chicago. Chicago.” in her ear.  HA!  My turn.  I brought him my medal and I told him my Boston story.  When I told him about my hip labrum tear, he said, “That’s a bad injury.  Did you have to have surgery?”  I told him no.  He said, “Lots of physical therapy.”  I nodded.  “So much physical therapy!”  He signed my medal and graciously took  a photo with me and wished me luck in Chicago this year too.  Melissa and I went to duck back into our spots at Meb’s line.

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Meb Keflezighi and Me

Meb arrived and we were seriously near the front of the line.  Meb took his time with people, signing an item for each person.  We sent Paul and Melissa up to him first and it was so amazing to see just the sheer joy in Melissa’s face as she got to talk to Meb and tell him how much he inspired her to run her first race.  He was the best and gave her encouraging words and was so uplifting.  He signed a photo for her and a quote for Paul, and they took pictures with him.  Then…it was my turn.

I knew telling my story to Meb was going to be emotional to me.  So, thankfully I had Cathy on hand to tell him about my path to the Boston Marathon and the injury that I wouldn’t let take me out of it.  She also mentioned the hip labrum tear, and his eyes got wide and he said, “That is a BAAAAAAAAAAAAAD injury.”  He’s not wrong.  It was (and still his and will hopefully forever be…the worst injury I have ever endured).  I laid out my medal and asked him to sign it for me.  He said, “This is the first one I have seen of these today!”  One of the professional photographers took photos as he signed it.  And then we did the stand and smile photo ops.  Honestly, everything you have heard about Meb is true.  He’s very humble and very human and very generous.  And uplifting.  Man, I walked away from that table feeling like I had just met a rockstar.  I had.  I mean…for real.

We needed to drop off our race expo stuff, so we took the walkways back to the hotel.  We dropped things off in the room (Melissa and I hadn’t been here yet) and then set back out to go to the Hard Rock Cafe and then make our way to dinner at Harry & Izzy’s in downtown Indianapolis.

Originally, I thought Cathy and I were going to split one of the gluten-free pizzas.  BUT…she started eyeing other things on the menu.  Pizza has been a good food for me the night before the race, but as I knew I couldn’t eat the entire thing by myself and it would be a waste of money to just eat half of it (I wouldn’t have gotten back to it after the race or anything), I went a very different direction.  I ended up ordering the Oven Roasted Beet Salad (hey…beets are supposedly good for athletic performance), which consisted of artisan greens, local goat cheese (I asked them to go light on the cheese), candied walnuts, and had a tarragon vinaigrette.  And then I placed an order for the gluten free fries on the side.  It was super yummy and I devoured it all.  I mean…you need to be fueled for the race, right?

Afterwards, we walked to the candy store, just for some fun, and then headed back to the hotel to charge Garmin’s, shower, lay out race day stuff, and finally, get some rest.  I had Melissa help me pick between the two outfits I brought, a tank and shorts or a crop and a running skirt.  As the tank and skirt were in Boston colors and my Boston Marathon medal was now autographed by Bill Rodgers and Meb Keflezighi, it seemed like a good omen.

We set alarms for 6 am.  And race morning dawned and alarms went off.  We went with the bathroom circuit that we’ve established since the NYC Half Marathon.  I grabbed my stuff and went to change into my shorts and tank before coming out and allowing the next people to work their way through.  I always use the bathroom one last time before leaving the hotel.  I realized I didn’t eat anything leading up to this…or take in some water.  So…that was that working against me.  I did have a banana, which I ate as we made our way to the lobby, as we were 30 minutes out from the start of the race.  I know better than to JUST eat a banana before a distance race.  A shorter race it would be fine…but not for a half or full marathon.

We got outside and gave hugs to Melissa and Paul.  My corral was in Wave 1, which was going off at 7:33 am.  So, Cathy went to cut across to the other side, and didn’t think that there was openings to the corals on that side (there was), so we hugged and she told me to have a good race.  And….I went to get into Corral B.  I had to pause though, as the National Anthem was starting, so I did that before heading up to the actual corral entrance and ducking inside.  I didn’t move too far up, but I got out of the crowd there at the back.  In fact, I wasn’t far from a guy in a penguin suit.  No joke.  I also noticed a lot of other Corral’s in my corral.  Like a woman who should have been in Corral L.  Okay…

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From my Instagram Stories on race day!

I felt nervous energy as the light breeze kept the start line cool.  The humidity was higher that day than what I was used to running in and the start line was a gorgeous 54 degrees…but it was going to hit the 60s fast that morning.  When Wave 1 was sent off after the wheelchair start, I headed over the start line, waved to Cathy and took on the streets, telling myself that it was going to be a good day.  And for the first mile I felt strong.  And was definitely on pace to hit my PR.  But that didn’t last long.  My endurance is shit these days and immediately, I dropped off that pace and that was the story of my race.  A steady decline and a huge missed opportunity.

Mile 1 was clipped off at a fast 7:10 minute mile.  But they got slower soon after that.  Mile 2 through 4 were steady and still in a good range of where I could be to finish ahead of my goal.  Or so I thought.  I never once looked at my watch or the clocks on the course.  I didn’t want to fuss over time on this race.  I felt strong heading up W Michigan and really thought I was pacing myself well.  But as I turned onto Main Street just around Mile 5, I could hear conversation behind me.  Whenever there is conversation, there is a pace team.  I had no idea which one, until they started pacing me for a brief moment.  It was the 1:40 pacer.  I was way behind my goal and I could feel my energy really fading fast.

“It’s not meant to happen today,” I said to myself, and then just set my next focus on finishing a strong race.  The 1:40 pacer faded and I decided I would at least try to stay ahead of the 1:50 this time.

Heading into the track, the lugs on the bottom of my Newtons picked up a stone, so just after Mile 6, I pulled over to dig it out.  It apparently fell out on its own just as I slowed.  So, I jumped back into the race.  The race track has always been the thing that slows me down.  And it was no exception this year.  I kept telling myself to relax, but the humidity had gotten the best of me and at this point, I was no longer sweating.  You know what that means?  I was now overheating.  I also fuel on half marathons during the time I’m inside the track, where we weren’t allowed to take any sort of gel at the time.  So…I waited it out and made my lap of the track.  I could feel my legs slowing down, and at times just feeling tingly.  Definitely not having a good race.  I didn’t let it dishearten me too much, and I did pick it up for the part where I ran across the brickyard.  Flashing devil horns, as always.  Coming out of the track, I usually am able to pick it up, but my body just had nothing left.  I started making stops at the water stations to pour water over my head.  I took my Hammer Gel, but it was too late at this point.  I was now just focusing on counting down the miles to the finish line.  My training plan said to try to finish ahead of 1:44…it was going to be close.

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Me running as fast as I could at this point to cross the finish line. I was ready to be done.

At Mile 12, I did glance at the course clock.  It was where I should have been heading to the finish.  But this mile does bring in crowds and cheers and the road lined with checkered flags, so my staggering pace started to slightly (not by much) pick up.  I ignored the people handing out the leis and just kept pressing on.  In order to finish, I just needed to focus on getting my legs to move.  I forgot how awful crossing that last bridge felt, but kept going…feeling like I was moving through mud.  As I was in the last quarter mile, I noticed medics near the curb and a young woman laying on the ground.  They were radioing for an ambulance.  I made the final push, seeing the finish line and could see Cathy with the sign near it.  And I powered through, crossing at 1:44 and change.  I missed the goal by seconds that I was supposed to aim for in my training plan.  But I was just glad to be done.  Meb was supposed to leave after finishing to head to Texas for his brother’s wedding, but he was at the finish line for as long as he could be, and he happened to still be there after I crossed.  He gave me a fist bump, and it made me at least smile at a moment when I didn’t really feel like smiling.

I made my way through the finisher’s area, getting my medal and my bag that then had snacks from bananas and fruit to Clif Bars tossed into it.  I got my photo taken at the backdrop and then headed into the Runner Reunion area where the after party was happening.

IMG_6847Normally, this is where Cathy would meet me at the letter X and we would take photos and head back to the hotel so I could shower and all that.  But she wasn’t there.  I had looked for her as I was coming into the area, but never spotted her or the sign.  So, for the next 30-40 minutes, I was wandering around trying to find her, always returning to X, just in case she showed up there.  I was really upset about my race and now this was upsetting me more…but I finally spotted her near the entrance to the runner reunion and came up behind her.  She gave me a hug and my official finishing time – 1:44:14.  I just decided to harp on her about not being at X and she admitted that she “got cocky” and tried to catch me before that point.

We went to take a photo before heading back to the hotel.  I needed to drink water, but I wasn’t ready to.  My stomach wasn’t loving anything at this point.  The lobby of the JW Marriott had employees handing out water bottles (bless them) and cold towels.  It was just what I needed.  I went up to my room and Cathy went to pack up some stuff and make my BCAAs up while I showered and changed.  We were going to check out, leave our luggage, and head down to wait for Corey, Melissa and Paul.

When our friends finished, we gathered together under a shady tree and just…voiced our thoughts that day.  Being that none of us have really had humid or warm days to run in up to this point, we were all glad to have finished and sweat it out.  I know Melissa and I were not happy with our times, and our coach, Linda, called to talk to us about the race.  I don’t know what she said to Melissa, but Linda said she was looking at my splits and I just looked like I got tired.

Told you…endurance is shit right now.  MEH!  I told her I felt good up until Mile 5 and then it just spiraled from there.  I was frustrated and disappointed, but she was very uplifting and positive about it.  Did it make me feel better about it?  Not really.  But the positive affirmations did so much for my mental state at that point.

After Cathy, Corey and Paul shared a beer and a half (they were apparently VERY stingy with the free beers offered at the after party), and we passed the lemon blossoms I baked around…we decided to make our way back to the hotel.  I needed to actually start the recovery process with some nutrition and Paul and Melissa needed to change before we spent the rest of the day in and around Indianapolis.  This was where we found out that the guy who came to take our luggage gave us the wrong tag.  And this is where we all freaked out because my backpack had my Boston Marathon medal in it and Melissa’s wedding rings were in her bag.  But, Cathy went back to find the correct cart and we did have our stuff.  We went separate directions to let them go to the Fitness Center to change and us to get some coffee.  Nutrition after a race is important to recovery and coming back strong.  Sometimes I don’t want to eat anything, but I always make sure I do.

I drank my protein shake and, while it wasn’t what I wanted, it would do for now until we would get dinner.  Melissa got a coffee and Paul got himself coffee and a sandwich of sorts from Starbucks.  We decided to head out…headed to Greenwood for Half Price Books, Strange Brew Coffee…and finally…dinner at Hops & Fire.  After that…the long drive home…where we once again talked the entire way.

So, the official results of the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon is that I finished in 1:44:14.  It was definitely NOT the results I set out for or wanted.  But you never know what will happen on race day.  So, you learn from it.  I was 1304/19,588 finishers overall. I was 224/10,403 female finishers. And I was 50/1438 finishers in my division! I am trying really hard to not let these results bother me.  But I would be sugar-coating it to say that I was okay with this.  I set out for a PR…and I didn’t come close.  And yeah…I’m disappointed.  But this just drives me to step up and try again.  I’ve been chasing PRs for years now.  Eventually one of them is bound to fall.  Disappointed…yes.  Deterred…never.

Onto the next…

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

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

Race: Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: April 28, 2018

Time: 2:05:03

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

I fell.

I fell hard.

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

Gravity…is a bitch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh my my!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe this time I can fly.

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

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

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

 

Confessions of a (Not So) Average Runner

I am a runner.  An average middle-of-the-pack runner.

Or so I thought.

That is…until I got deeper into the running community.  And I realized…I’m a bit of an anomaly in this particular fellowship.  Maybe I’m not so average.

Maybe I am actually a black sheep.  A unicorn.  I’m feeling more and more like a star trying to fit into a round hole (as my roommate so blatantly put it awhile back when I took a moment to whine about this very subject).

I am a runner…that didn’t run as a child.  No cross country or track in high school.  Basically my running in my non-adult years was the bases of a softball field.  IF I was fortunate enough to hit the ball.  I wasn’t much good at hitting.  I was a damn good catcher though.  Maybe squatting was more my thing.

I’m digressing.  Back on track…

I am a runner…that will never have some inspirational Transformation Tuesday photos.  If anything, my pictures tell a very different story.  I started running just after being diagnosed with Celiac.  My body was depleted of essential nutrients that it stopped absorbing.  My pictures show someone going from being tiny and maybe fitting that “fit” standard all social media aspires to…to someone with a little bit of meat on her bones and muscle tone that isn’t as defined because my body is healthy.  Maybe the scale tells me things I don’t like…but I feel strong and I feel healthy…and that beats a number on the scale anytime.

I am a runner…that didn’t start running to lose weight, maintain a certain lower weight, or to make my body smaller.  In fact…the more years I’ve run, the more I’ve weighed.  I keep hoping it’s muscle and not the desserts I love so much.  HA. (It’s okay, though, if it actually is the desserts because we all need to live a little!)

I am a runner…who didn’t take up running in place of other habits such as smoking or drinking.  I never took up this sport to replace some demon I was battling or some habit I was dispensing of at the time.  It was never my rehab.

Nope.  Much like Forrest Gump…one day, I just felt like running.

But what I have discovered is that this isn’t your typical running story…and in a sense, it has left me feeling like quite the outsider in a truly diverse community.  And it’s perplexing how I can be surrounded by great people…and yet still find myself running alone more times than not.  How is it that in a community that has every shape and size of person…I just don’t fit?

I think social media recently illuminated this light bulb and got me thinking on this particular subject.  Good or bad…the gears started turning in my head.

Awhile back…when lots of Transformation Tuesday posts were still fresh in my head…my local MRTT/SRTT social media post showed a pic of two of the chapter leaders and invited everyone to tag their BRFs (Best Running Friends).  And this is where it all clicked with me.  I have this great community all around me…and yet…I do 90% of my runs alone.

And this wasn’t always the case.  When I first started running, and after a big bridge repair happened and made going over to Louisville a lot easier, I started running Monday nights from a new running store in the Highlands of Louisville.  It was the Monday Fun Run and I showed up, the girl from Indiana, who didn’t know anyone there…and afraid I’d be running alone and get lost…had people to run with for the first time.  My first run, I met Courtney, who was kind enough to run with me and guide me around the Loop at Cherokee Park, because I was certain I’d get lost as I didn’t run in Louisville unless it was a race…and that’s marked out…and…and…she was awesome.  And she put up with my RunKeeper clicking off my pace and miles from my pocket…because I didn’t own a Garmin yet.  Courtney and I are still friends…and this store brought so many more people into my life.  Especially when I started training for marathons in 2013.  That Monday group invited me to come and join them on their weekly long runs as I dove into marathon training for the first time.  A large group of people met up at the running store (the store is gone now) every Saturday morning for long runs.  All paces.  All levels.  Everyone welcome.  As someone who met this group by taking a chance, I decided it would be a much more fun way to train.  I love running with people.  And from there…I gained a lot of friendships and running buddies.  I ran fast…I ran slow…but I always had someone to guide me through the process and take me the next mile week after week after week.

And keep me from getting lost in Louisville. (I actually do get lost…a lot).

But…these days I feel like I’ve lost all of that.  Many members of that group no longer run together.  Some have health issues that prevent them from participating in the sport anymore or for right now.  Some have just taken to training solo.  Some have outgrown the group because they’ve gotten superhuman speed or are doing triathlons so their focus has to be on other aspects.  Some are battling injuries.  Some are taking time away…for no other reason except that they want to explore other hobbies that they enjoy and need time to do.

And all of that is fair.  And fine.  We all have our own goals and aspirations and restrictions and limitations.

I am always game to run with people, but as someone who is known as one of the “fast” runners (I’m really not…but thank you!), I feel like everyone feels intimidated and doesn’t want to slow me down.

Insert my coach saying, “PLEASE…SLOW HER DOWN!”

The great thing about running is that it can be an individual sport, but it can also be a team sport or a sport that you can buddy up or form groups and make the miles tick away as you please.  Where I see so many groups out there running together, I feel like my training and my so called “speed” have left me more isolated than ever before.  And it sucks.  It sucks, because I am such a social person, and I love the social aspect of training with people and running with people, because that can be far more entertaining than waiting on the next beep from the Garmin watch, or simply getting lost in the sound of my footfalls on another empty road or my breathing as I run, perhaps, a little harder than I need to be for a training run…because my mind is now focused on nothing more than finishing another solo run.  It’s definitely more rewarding.

I probably sound like I’m whining…

I guess…being someone without a past in running, or someone who has dropped weight, or someone who has overcome addiction…I guess it just makes me a bit more of an outsider.  And, yeah, sometimes I’m jealous.  People with stories are the people who inspire others.  No one gets inspired by the girl who just one day decided to run instead of walk…and has had to battle back after some pretty bad (and always poorly timed) injuries…time and time again…because people usually give you the, “Oh…I’m sorry you got injured…again.” look or tone or whatever.  I don’t like being the person who gets told, “you’re so injury prone,” or that “You shouldn’t do that because it will make you get injured again.  You’re always getting injured.”  There was a time where that didn’t matter…but now it’s so ingrained in my head that I feel like pushing the limits in running will just lead to injury.  Funny how people can change your way of thinking…and make you feel like less of a person, even if that isn’t their intention.

Yep…I have been injured.  What runner hasn’t?  But, it seems that in the time I have had to take off from running was when my community crumbled and scattered and all that’s left are a few bits of the foundation…and, God, am I ever thankful for them.  Because, I’ve not had an easy time of it, regardless of what people think.  When you’re told by both your orthopedic doctor and your physical therapist that your body just isn’t built for running…but this is the one sport that you’ve actually been able to show up for, enjoy, and, sometimes, even be good at…well, stopping is not an option.

Not yet, anyway!

Through all of this…the very struggles that make elite runners feel human…is where I have felt the most lonely.  My comebacks have been slow, steady, and silent.  My setbacks have been disappointing to myself and to those I felt were counting on me to show up every weekend and run some miles with them.  It’s all a very internalized struggle that just recently showed me how very different I am from most people I know who are runners.

But I’m not an outsider.  I’m one of them.  I just came to it differently.  I fight for it differently.  I do it for different reasons.  And sometimes…when I’m digging into another mile on a long training run, I need to remember MY WHY.

It’s not always easy being an average girl, with an average build, who runs a rather average speed, an average amount of times a week, who has been pretty basic her entire life…with an average story…feeling anything but average in this life these days.

I’m okay with being average.  Just…tell me there are more out there like me.  Because I’m looking for you!

Run The Bluegrass Half Marathon – Lexington, KY (March 31, 2018)

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Me coming into the finish of the Run The Bluegrass Half Marathon – Lexington, KY

Race: Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon

Place: Lexington, Kentucky

Date: March 31, 2018

Time: 2:04:43

There is something to be said about not coming into a race wanting to smash it.  Pressure can be a friend or foe, and with me, more often than not…it’s foe.

There is also something to be said about choosing an almost local half marathon to run…one that you’ve wanted to run for a couple of years but have always been riding the injury train…and spending it with important people in your life.  Not fussing over all the minutiae…stressing over goal times…all the stuff that comes with races.

There is something to be said about running the race that is billed as “America’s Prettiest Half Marathon.”  Running it, my friends, but really taking it in.  Drinking in the gorgeous horse farms, and the running horses by the roads you are running, taking selfies with strangers and friends alike.

Yeah…it’s something I rarely get to experience because I do get wrapped up in finish times more than finish lines sometimes.  That was a lot of “-imes and -ines” all at once, yeah?

I registered for the Run The Bluegrass Half Marathon after being encouraged by my enabler…er…friend…Melissa.  I knew this one was going to be a tough course, as I heard about the, anywhere from 33-40 hills (it’s all in who you ask and talk to!).  We all know, my broken down hips love the downhill and flat spaces.  The uphills…well…let’s just say I’m working on that.

My coach, Linda, actually provides her runners as pacers for this race.  No…I did not sign up to be a pacer.  She and her local and amazing Frankfort pack were going to see runners to their goals on race day.  Linda was going to be pacing the 2:10 group, fresh off of the Chattanooga Marathon where she punched her ticket to the Boston Marathon next year.  I was told to line up with her and to stick with her.  And while, for a brief moment, I felt like I was wasting an opportunity to race…it turned out this was a blessing in disguise (and maybe it was all part of her plan from the start…Melissa is convinced that it was!).

The Friday before the race just happened to be Good Friday.  So, my office gave all employees a half day.  This meant that Cathy and I could hit the road to Lexington early and get to the expo and have some time to look around.  I had packed some Asian soup for us to eat before we hit the road, and we had dinner plans that night with Melissa and Paul at the BEST place to get pasta in Lexington – Bella Notte.

The drive down was easy and uneventful.  We were pumping ourselves up for the race, so I put in the Britney Spears Greatest Hits album (don’t judge!) and played it all the way through.  Then, my Garmin GPS in the car took us some weird route toward the race expo, where we were driving on narrow back roads.  It was wet and rainy and beautiful.  We passed a chicken farm…where I declared, “That there is a chicken farm!”  Because, I wanted to talk in a hick-deep-South accent, I guess.

It was at that turn, however, that Cathy made note of the signs marking the Run the Bluegrass route.  As we turned and took the road toward Keeneland, where the race expo and the start of the race would happen, we wound through the beautiful horse country.  And as Cathy pointed out the course signs, she literally turned her head and said…

“You’re going to die tomorrow.”

I am still laughing over this…because she knows my hatred of uphills.  And there were going to be 30 something uphills to conquer.  She probably wasn’t wrong.  My saving grace was going to be running with Linda…my coach…the 2:10 pacer.  Linda and I have run in the same races before, but never together.  So, I was pretty stoked about it.  Linda was too.  And that helped.

Walking into the expo at Keeneland in Lexington, KY

We arrived to the expo and parked the car.  Keeneland is gorgeous and we walked into the main building of the expo where you are immediately greeted, handed info books and catalogs and directed to the packet pickup area.  This is done by bib number, which is corresponding with the corral/wave that you are in.  My bib was 1052…first corral…but I was falling back to wherever Linda was going to be stationed.  I texted Linda as I got there and then went to get my bib.  A lot of the Frankfort runners were manning packet pick-up and when I gave my bib number, I was given a long look, the bib was flipped over to get my name info, and she said, “I though that was you, Karen.  You’re just not in running clothes.”  That must be one of those #runnerproblems.

Linda caught up with me just as I was entering the expo space to look at all the things for sale and really just wanting to buy everything.  We hugged and she showed me all the great things I should by.  In the end, I ended up with one of the Run The Bluegrass Ponya Bands (I was going to get a Bondi Band, but was literally seconds too late as the woman at the table and grabbed the last two), and the official Run The Bluegrass jacket, which is gorgeous and I love it and want to wear it all the time.  It has, actually, come in handy with the crazy rainy days we’ve had since the race.  I also had Cathy buy me some of the special popcorn from Popcorn Paradise.

Photos, Packet Pickup, Shopping…Run The Bluegrass Expo has it all!!

Melissa and Paul were on their way in, so we made the rounds through the rest of the expo and checked out all the vendors.  I’m still searching for some shoes that I can simply train in (so I don’t wear out those hard-to-find Newton’s that I race in), but none of the ones for sale at the expo spoke to me.  Ah well.  I did finally get to try Sword.  It was pretty good…but I’m still doing well with my combo of Hammer gels and Nuun Performance.  When my stomach is happy…I stick with it.

At the very back of the space, you get to pick up your race shirt.  In this case, it’s this t-shirt hoodie thing.  Which, honestly, has become my favorite thing to wear at the moment.  Just slip it over my workout clothes and good to go.  They also had out next year’s gear and…the hoodie shirts aren’t coming back.  They are bringing in long sleeve and short sleeve tech shirt options, and the upgrade jacket has omni heat lining.

I ran into Tammy and Dean back here and we got to talk for a little bit.  This was also their first time running Run The Bluegrass…so we were all pretty excited to be taking part in it this year.  They were catching dinner at BJ’s…and we were hoping to squeak in as walk-ins at Belle Notte eventually.  They went to head out and we turned around to go back toward the front of the expo.

Melissa and Paul texted to say they were parking so Cathy and I maneuvered back up to the entrance area.  Twenty minutes later and we were wondering if they got lost in the parking lot.  But, they did eventually come through the doors, hit up the bourbon table, got their bibs and texted to see where we were.  I texted back to turn around.

And we were reunited.  We all made our way back through the shopping, vendors, and races that were there to hopefully catch your eye.  Many of them did…so…who knows.  Paul replaced his sunglasses as his old pair went missing on the NYC trip.  And they got their shirts/jackets.  Melissa stayed with the hoodie…but Paul had upgraded to the men’s jacket.  It was NICE!

As we were standing around about to try more Sword, I got a text from my friends Ron and Shawn, and they came on back to where we were so we could talk for a moment.  Ron was going for a race PR the following day and he looked relaxed and ready.  They would be heading to Bella Notte for dinner as well later that evening.

Bella Notte Gluten Free House Salad

With all the expo excitement done, the four of us split up to make the trek to Belle Notte for our pre-race dinner.  Bella Notte has an amazing gluten-free menu and knowledgeable staff.  I have never had issues at this restaurant, and I make sure I eat here every time I’m in Lexington.  I often contemplate trying something else…but in the end…I always end up getting the same thing: Gluten-Free Pasta Arrabiata with a Salad (no croutons; no cheese) with their balsamic dressing.  Melissa got the Caesar Salad (no croutons) and the Bella Original Rigatoni Crema (which actually comes out as Fusiili pasta).  Cathy got the Tomato Basil Soup and the Bella Origina Rigatoni Crema, and Paul got Salad and got the Baked Rigatoni Romano.  There was a lot of food…but it was all fantastic, good…and we ate it all.  I was on the right amount of full.  And afterwards, we went to walk it all off for a bit at the Half Price Books nearby and then hit Kroger up for some bananas, waters, and whatever else we needed for the hotel room.

Bella Notte’s Gluten Free Pasta Arrabiata

The plan was to play some games (it’s been awhile since game night and that was the never-ending game of Stranger Things Monopoly).  But instead, we ended up watching a few YouTube Videos (one a comedian doing a bit about fitness trackers and joggers…and triathletes.  It was funny…and of course…Marathon Thoughts).  And then Melissa had us watch the episode of The Office where they run a 5K for rabies awareness.  It was so funny.  So…the games didn’t happen..but we were chill and relaxed and got our stuff laid out for the following morning to help make life easier. Cathy made up my Nuun Performance to go in my water bottle for fuel and then we did a Shaun T stretching video to realign, relax, and prepare ourselves for some sleep and hopefully get out the door on time to head to the start the next morning.

I heard some horror stories about the traffic going into Keeneland on race day.

I actually slept really well.  My alarm went off at the same time as theirs.  And, much like when we shared the Suede Tomb in NYC…we just sort of went in rounds through the bathroom.  I snagged my race clothing (I started in a tank top and running skirt…and of course had my sports bra) to change into while I used the bathroom and brushed my teeth.  I came out of the bathroom to let whoever was next go in and do their thing.  And while that was going on…I put on my compression sleeves, my anklet, my earrings, put my hair extensions in and put my hair in pigtails…

My 2nd outfit that morning…and even this got to be too hot early in the race. How do you dress for freezing at the start and 50 degrees at the finish?

…and then Melissa checked the weather again.  And everything needed to change.  It was about 30 degrees at the start of the race with a decent wind going on.  I changed my entire outfit to a totally different tank top (which I added arm warmers to), bright capri’s…changed my compression sleeves and then put on a jacket and my pants over it to stay warm.  It was going to be close to 50 by the time I would be finishing the race…but we were starting in the freezing temps.  This is why I don’t know how to dress in spring.

To top everything off…I donned my “Hills Suck” Bondi Band.  It was perfect for this race.

Cathy headed down to the restaurant to snag some real food from the complimentary breakfast.  Apparently runners had this plan too because she texted that she was in a line.  She grabbed an English Muffin (line too long to toast it), potatoes, eggs, and bacon and gobbled it down while the runners of the group got their shit together and headed down.  Melissa wasn’t sure how the race would go, so she and Paul went ahead and loaded their stuff up into their car instead of bothering with late checkout.  I went to find Cathy and she casually finished her breakfast, got her coffee to go, and we were all out the door and en route to Keeneland.  Cathy took the first gate (despite instructions to take Gate 2) and we got stuck in a bit of a line waiting to get parking.  Melissa and Paul took Gate 2 and got in and parked in a prime spot without a wait.  Naturally.

Cathy’s Embassy Suites breakfast…don’t know what was in the bowl if anything…

We ended up being directed up a hill with every other vehicle coming in at that point and parking in the grass in the middle of a field.  Thankfully the grass wasn’t too soft from all the rain we’ve been getting or I fear my little Toyota Corolla would have had some problems getting out.  We sat in the warm car until I heard from Melissa and Paul that they were heading to the RunDisney tent for the meetup photo there.  Cathy made me get out into the cold, but we decided to wander into the expo building.  I figured I could use a flushing toilet while there…but then I saw the line and, since I really didn’t have to go…I really didn’t bother to wait in the slow moving ladies room line.  Hey…the port-a-potty lines were just as long.  We eventually did make our way out to the muddy tent area, found Melissa and Paul and then went on a Linda h

Cathy and I before heading to the start line of the Run The Bluegrass Half Marathon.

unt.  Since she and her runners were pacers, it was no surprise that they weren’t at the tent.  Cathy decided we needed to head down to the start line anyway.

And on the way, I did fuel up with my Banana Bread Lärabar.  The bar worked for New York, even though I definitely used more energy there.  Actually, with all the hills…I figured it would probably be comparable effort.  Maybe?

Ron and I at the start line of the Run The Bluegrass Half Marathon

At the start line…I saw no one.  No one that I recognized.  No pacers yet.  So I devoured my breakfast and then finally saw a smiling, happy face.  Ron!!  He was hoping to run a RTB (Run The Bluegrass) PR (he has been saying if he can sub-1:45 he’d burn a couch) and he looked good and strong  and we had perfect weather.  I told him I knew he was going to do it and wished him luck and let him go and get lined up where he needed to achieve his goals.  Then, I saw Tim walk by with the 1:45 pacer sign.  AH…the pacers were here…which meant Linda would be here.  Which meant, I needed to head back in the corrals and find her.

On the way, I spotted Greg, who was a 2:00 pacer and stopped to give him a hug and talk to him.  He told me Linda was the next corral back to lead Wave 3 out…so I told him to have a good race and skipped back to where I saw the next pacer sign.  YES!  There was Linda and her pacing partner, Mark!  I had never met Mark, but I had seen him earlier, because he was wearing a kilt.  I notice kilts!

Me, Linda and Mark leading Wave 3 and the 2:10 hopefuls!

The start of the race was actually delayed by about 15 minutes because the ambulances were stuck in traffic and not at their stations on the course.  So, I got to know some of the people around me.  I had this couple asking me questions about my Newton running shoes…we talked about half marathons…and then…finally…go-time!!!

Except…I was in Wave 3…so it was walk up with the 2nd wave and wait…and then finally move to the front.  I think Linda said there was supposed to be 2 minutes between waves, but as we got to the front of the line for Wave 3, I heard the announcer say 40 seconds before Wave 3’s start.  Two minutes my runner’s booty!

And just like that…I was off…running my very first Run The Bluegrass Half Marathon.  So many of the runners I know continue to return to this race, so I knew I was in for something special.  I also knew that I could really take in the experience, which was both frustrating and amazing all at once.  My legs like to run…and I was moving at a trot (horse reference, get it?).  I knew that hills awaited and, honestly, this was probably the best way for this race to be approached.  Linda had the breakdown specific to this race on how each mile needed to be run and I’m not used to checking my watch, but I figured I could at least help with that.  Maybe?

First hill…of so many!

We headed up Keeneland’s Back Gate Drive – the first hill…and I felt strong and my legs really wanted to push and power up…but more hills awaited and Linda was keeping me right where I needed to be.  She’s good at that.  HA!

I knew this was going to be a good run when I saw horses within the first couple of miles.  Seriously.  Horses that were in one of their fields.  They were running away from the big group of humans that were running and we all joked that the horses were thinking, “Well, all the people are running…we should too.”  HA!!  It was…SO amazing.  We were still ahead of pace, and Linda said that worked to our advantage because that meant we could walk some of the bigger hills.  I was totally okay with that.

There were definitely a couple of selfie-stops along the way.  And when we hit the split for the 7 Milers and Half Marathoners (which also happened to be that Chicken Farm) and said to Linda to take note to tell Cathy…because I promised her I’d say it.  And then I let go with my “That there is a chicken farm!”  I had so much fun running with Linda and the group of runners that she and Mark were leading.  I got to talk to a few of them about Disney races, Dopey, New York City, and Linda let me in on a secret…it’s good luck to throw your hands up in the air when you run across railroad tracks.  So, the three sets that we crossed during this race, I did that and let out an enthusiastic, “WOOOOO!” at the same time.  I mean, if you’re going to do something…do it with gusto!

It was also around the second or third water stop that we realized that, unlike it was stated in the race guide, Sword was not at every water stop.  And this concerned a lot of runners who had planned to use this as their fuel on the course and didn’t bring their own.  Every water stop we would ask for the Sword…and were told they just had water.  A few runners were already starting to panic as the day was heating up (I shed my arm warmers and was comfortable in a tank), the sun was up, and electrolytes were needed.  I always carry my own fuel regardless, so I said I had Nuun Performance if needed…and Linda had salt tabs to offer if needed as well.  We FINALLY ran across a stop with Sword at the halfway point.  That came as a relief…but the rest of the way…Sword was only in one or two other water stops.  That would be my only compliant…mostly from other runners standpoints.  I have never trained with Sword and am kind of in love with my Nuun, but I could see the frustration and worry of those I was running with who were looking for Sword at every stop.

That being said, the various farms that we came across were stunning.  I particularly liked the one near the end that had spires and is just absolutely stunning.  The fact that that is a BARN and not a house still baffles me!  Honestly!

Going into this race, I was warned about the hill at Mile 9…the dreaded S-Curve.  You start up…it levels out, you round a corner…you go back up.  I was prepping for this and the drums pretty much the entire way.  This hill is, apparently, notorious!  As we were heading toward this hill though, we were coming up another one and had caught up with the wheelchair racer.  He was blind as well and had his helper.  The runners did good to get over at this point, but Linda said to me…”they will fly past us on the downhill in a few minutes.

She heard them too…and started to shout to the runners to GET TO THE RIGHT!  Of course, most did, except those with headphones on.  One woman almost got completely taken out because she couldn’t hear the TEN times Linda had shouted at her to move over for the wheelchairs.  And then…The hill leading into Mile 10.  The dreaded hill I heard so much about.

As we started the climb, a runner started up it with us and said, “This isn’t so bad.”  I laughed and said, “Those might be famous last words.”  She shook her head.  “Nah.  I’m from Cincinnati…I run Mount Adams.”  And then she picked it up and powered on up the hill

I did hear the drums that I had heard so much about.  I was told to put my head down and ignore everything and to just get up the hill.  We climbed, turned…and climbed some more.  That being said…the hill after that one is probably the one that you’ll hate more than anything.

Linda did pass me her pacer sign at this point to run fast downhill to hit use the bathroom near Mile 10.  Mark had me back off the downhill pace (downhill is my favorite speed…this was hard to do, LOL!) and he let Linda know we were going past as we rounded the corner at the water stop and continued onward.  Linda is amazing and caught up with us not much longer…on an uphill.  We like to make her work for it.  After all, running slower than my norm is not easy for me and she had to keep calling me back if I would get too far ahead on the course.  Around Mile 10 I had to take a gel.  My stomach was rumbling (I was usually done with half marathons at this point and I still had three miles to go) and drank some water with it.  It didn’t really do much for the hunger, but my energy was picking back up.

YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY! I’M FREE!

Near the start of the race, Linda had told me that she was going to let me go at Mile 12.1 to spring into the finish line.  Just after we passed Mile 11…she said, “You can go.”  I looked at her.  “Really?”  She nodded.  “Yes…you can go.”  I threw my hands up in the air in a kermit flail and yelled, “YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY” as I took off.  And trust me, despite the hills, I had energy to burn at this point.  I know I was probably getting the stink eye from some runners at this point.  Pretty much legs are done by this point, but the course only has some small rollers with the long not-steep climb at the end to the finish line.  So, I’m surging.  But, more often than not, what I got was, “You go girl!”  “That’s how you finish!” “Looking strong.” “Get it girl!”  I loved that.  I wasn’t even moving up to race pace at this point, because hills, even at a slower pace, are still hills and my legs weren’t accustomed to running fast.  They adjusted.

The final two miles flew by and when I hit the timing mat at Mile 12.1, I tried to pick it up just a little more.  They record your final furlong (last mile) and I really hoped to pour on the power and speed.  I think I managed to pick it up slightly more, but not where I would feel like I was just…flying.  But I felt good.  I was having fun.  I was smiling.  I looked good.  And I made the turn to come into the finish line and put on that final push and crossed.

That. Was. Fun.

Ron flying into the finish line of Run The Bluegrass

I had a medal put around my neck and I made my way through the finisher’s chute.  The entire time I was heading into the finish, I was looking for Cathy and the sign, but never saw her.  Never heard her either (which is weird, because she is always screaming at me at the finish line!).  I stopped near the end of the chute, across from the donuts and just…kept raising up on tiptoes expecting to see the sign walking toward me.  It never happened.

Ron found me. He had a fantastic race…and there will be couch burning because he ran a 1:40.  Totally flew on this course.  I was so excited for him.  I asked him if he had seen Cathy and he hadn’t.  Soon after that, I spotted Linda coming down the chute.  She came over to me and asked me my finish time.  I said it was 2:04 something…and she said she was in the 2:09’s…right on target for that 2:10 pacer!  She’s amazing.  I asked if she had seen Cathy and she hadn’t…so…we figured she might be at the ForWord Running tent so we headed that way.

She wasn’t.  I told Linda to try calling her, which she did, but Cathy didn’t answer.  So, she tried my phone.  This time she got her.  Cathy had been in a panic for about 20 minutes because she had gotten the time I crossed the mat for 12.1 miles, but never received notification that I had finished.  She never saw me sprinting it in.  She thought maybe something had happened to me, and of course, having Linda call her didn’t make her feel any better.  Linda assured her I was fine and we were at the tent.  She came over and looked so relieved.

I ate a few grapes and drank my water, but I knew Cathy and I had a Louisville City soccer match to hit up at 3 pm.  With it coming up on noon-ish at this point…Cathy was ready to get back to the hotel so I could shower and we could get on the road back to Louisville.  I gave Linda a hug and we started through the masses.

Me in the Keeneland Starting Gates after the Run The Bluegrass Half Marathon

But I did make Cathy stop, even though she didn’t want to at the time, so I could get the infamous Keeneland Starting Gate photo.  It had to happen and I was going to be stubborn about this one.  I managed to find a short line and pulled myself up to stand in the gate.  I felt amazing.  Cathy snapped some photos and then had to lift me down because that gate is pretty high up.  HA!

Later, when I sent the photo to Melissa, she texted me back and said that was the most genuine smile she had seen on me after a race/run in a long time.  She wasn’t lying.  I felt amazing.  I had so much fun.  I could have cared less about my time.  Genuine.  You better believe it.

So…the official results of the Run The Bluegrass Half Marathon are that I finished it in 2:04:43, running with the 2:10 pacers for the first 11 miles and then being turned loose for the final 2.1. I was 743/3163 finishers overall. I was the 283/1989 for women finishers. And I was 65/388 in my age division. I’m really happy with this. I averaged a 9:32 pace for the race, none of which ever left me feeling like I was dying or about to die.  The hardest thing was suddenly being hungry.  That never happens.  LOL!  But this race now holds a near and dear place in my heart…and yeah…I’ve already registered for next year!  Can’t wait to smile all over again.

Practicing Patience

patienceGood morning, friends!!

Anyone else out there have a problem with patience?  Especially when it comes to being patient with yourself?

STORY. OF. MY. LIFE.

And…its my impatience (I totally blame being a go-getter New Yorker) that often leads me to setbacks that don’t move me forward and only end up dragging me down and feeling defeated.

I’m trying to break the mold this time around.  And…trust me…this isn’t easy.  Not at all.  As I mentioned before, I recently participated in The Dopey Challenge at Disney World.  Over 4 days, I ran 4 races…each of which got longer in length (5K, 10K, Half Marathon, Marathon), and I actually did really well on the races, given that I was bouncing into the parks every day and not resting up the legs.  Honestly…I’m so super proud of my performance.  This being the 2nd time I’ve participated in The Dopey Challenge and having improved on all the times of the races I actually raced (10K, Half, Full), I felt amazing (mentally) but tired and sore (physically) following the actual events.  I went into the weekend with a sinus cold and came out of it with the Disney flu.  I took a lot of days to recover…from sickness and the races.  I knew, following Dopey, that I would need to let my body recover well.  I still probably would have gone back to it sooner had my body not been drained from sickness.  This past week, I decided to give easing back into it a try.

And I started on Wednesday with an hour long spin class…that totally kicked my ass.  I was done within the first 20 minutes…my power, energy and speed all really dropping down.  Our spin bikes light up to tell what zone you are in and I didn’t even care that I was in the white and blue instead of yellow and red like the rest of the class.  I had to listen to my body.  And while I valued the movement, I wasn’t going to push myself to try to hit a level my body wasn’t ready to reach yet.

Call that growth, because I do believe the me of the past would have felt the need to press on and keep up with the rest of the class.  But I’ve also had a recurring stream of injuries to deal with the past 3 years.  After building up and failing over and over again…you do actually gain wisdom.  There is no shame in listening to your body and backing off intensity as you see fit.  I put this body through a lot physically both with the races and then trying to fight off illness…it’s no wonder my body isn’t feeling as strong as it used to be.

Have I lost some fitness…you better believe I have.  Some mornings, it is a struggle to just simply get through my PT exercises.  And for as much as I have stressed their importance to me coming back stronger, the past 3 weeks have seen little to none of the stretches and exercises I was prescribed.  And I didn’t feel guilty about it.  My body needed the sleep and the time on the couch more than it needed the movement.

But, like any active person, my body does crave movement.  I like moving my body.  I just needed to give myself the time to get to where it could handle some.  Nothing big.  No long miles or hard runs.  No pushing the limits on the spin bike.  Just gentle movement.

This past weekend, with the weather warming up and the snow and ice melting away, I took advantage with  my first run since Dopey.  And, while I was out there for 30 minutes, believe it or not…only 8 minutes of it was actually spent running.  I took my time to warm up with 5 minutes of walking…then did 4 x 2 minutes running/3 minutes walking…then a 5 minute cool down.  And it felt hard…and amazing all at once.  And that was how I needed to take it.  I’m not ashamed that I only ran 8 minutes.  I’m damn proud of those 8 minutes and what my body managed to do in that time.  I took Sunday off completely and didn’t feel bad about it.

Today, it was close to 60 degrees this morning.  So, I decided I would pull on a pair of SHORTS and take advantage by doing a short run.  I decided to just run…easy…and deliberately…keeping the heart rate down…but do it without the walk breaks.  It was the struggle bus.  My body is still recovering, but I managed to do 20 minutes and keep the heart rate in Zones 1 and 2.  I count that as a win.  I went to spin afterwards, and that’s when my body let me know it was too much for the day. The first half of class I felt strong and almost normal, but my energy levels crashed soon after that…so I turned down the resistance, sat down when I needed, and just let my body do what it needed.

I’m not mad.  I’m recovering.  And I will still take complete rest days and lift lighter weights when strength training…and keep the intensity down.  The me of the past would have taken this as failure…but I feel so empowered that I can trust my body, my mind, and myself to practice patience and self-love and trust that I will grow from this.  Constant forward progression.  Tired of taking steps back.  It’s all a matter of changing the mindset.  And I still struggle…but I know, in the end, this will make me a better, faster, stronger athlete.patience2

AND…as another form of self-care and self-love, let me also emphasize that just because I am not working out doesn’t mean I’m not fueling my body.  My body went through a lot and proper nutrition is key.  I am not just eating fruit and low calorie foods just because I’m not working out.  WRONG.  I have actually changed a lot of what I eat to give me more nutrients and better sources of vitamins and fuel to help this body maintain fitness and strength through all of it.  Starving your body only starves yourself of further potential and forward progress.

Patience is not an easy thing to practice.  It’s something that can gnaw at you and really make you question yourself.  Learning how to be patient with my body and myself has been one of the hardest things I have set out to do…and while it’s still a constant work in progress…I can see where my mindset has changed so that I am kinder to myself and…more willing to give myself the time I need to get to where I feel I want to be.

Patience, grasshoppers.

It’s worth it!

Recovering…like a boss!

If there is one thing I might have taken for granted or just not done properly in the past…it’s taken recovery time.  No runner likes time off.  I have yet to meet one who actually does proper recovery after hard efforts or distance races.

Guess what?

I actually did this time.

Some of it might have been forced.  After all…thanks to the petri dish of germs that is Disney (especially on Marathon Weekend), I came down with the Disney Flu.  Yay.  And no, this doesn’t come with fun Mickey Ears and character experiences.  It comes with a big dose of Theraflu and sleep.

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I mean…it has been non-stop since I returned from the freezer that was Orlando over Marathon weekend.  Coughing.  The coughing is the killer.  I am finally able to breathe again.  Thank you for calming down sinuses.  Remember…a co-worker gave me a sinus-only cold before I even left for Dopey.  Run all the races.  Go to all the parks.  Is it any wonder I ended up like this?

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Has my recovery been a bit forced?  Perhaps.  But here’s the thing…

I set a goal this year.  A goal of having an injury-free 2018.  So when my running coach tells me to rest…dammit…I’m resting.  When my mileage is lower than I like it to be…well…so be it.  Trust the process, right?  I have a few other big goals I’m hoping to reach in the next year or two…so I have to learn to believe in myself…and the method that will help me get there more efficiently than…past attempts.

I admit to, in the past, rushing back into activities.  I bounce back quickly.  I do.  But I also break down too.  We all do.  We just don’t always like to admit to it.

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Here’s the thing…we might feel good…but we put our bodies through a lot and push it to the limit, not just in races…but in training too.  Maybe moreso in training…and we’re LESS likely to take recovery/rest days during training.  I don’t care what distance you raced…if you raced…RECOVER!!  Like…actually recover!!  Would I have taken time off if I hadn’t caught the Disney Crud?  Yep.  I actually would have.  Like I said, I have big goals this year and to achieve them, I need to respect my body and learn a little patience.

I mean…granted, I hurt for about 3 days following the Dopey Challenge…but I also pushed through most of the 48.6 (and more) miles that I covered over the course of the weekend.  And that’s just running.  I still had parks to visit in between.  Because, as much as I’d love to lay low…I pay for those Disney tickets and they aren’t cheap.  By God, I was going to get my money’s worth.  Park hopping…princess hunting…fast passing rides…all of it.  I was doing it.  And…I did it.  All.

But it doesn’t have to be The Dopey Challenge to make taking down time a priority.  Any race…any distance…anywhere where you push yourself more or further…do yourself a favor.  Take some time off.  Depending on the race distance…it could be a week…it could be two…it could be more.  Don’t think you HAVE to get to the gym the day after a half marathon or hop on a spin bike or even go for a “recovery run.”  Let’s face it…whether you back of the speed or not…a 6 mile run is generally a 6 mile run…”recovery” or not.  I listened to a podcast recently from a running coach who said that there was absolutely no such thing as a recovery run.  You’re still putting in an effort and working the same muscles that your regular runs do.  And most people don’t actually run these that much slower.  Your entire body needs to heal up to get stronger…don’t rush the process.  You might feel good immediately after the event…but you’ve still put that body through a lot.  You might feel good a week after…and you still might need more down time, depending on the distance that you ran.

Remember…there is no such thing as over-training…just under recovery.

RECOVERY…is super important.  I have been fortunate enough that my recovery time has fallen when it’s gotten stupid cold outside, with the addition of some ice and snow on the ground.  Bonus.  I’m always cold…so I hate running in the cold.  And I especially hate winter weather running.

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In addition, let me be the first to remind you that you should NEVER stop eating properly or regularly despite recovery time.  Your body needs all those nutrition benefits, especially as you recover from a hard effort.  With the Disney Flu…I have still maintained my regular food times.  I mean, I do live on a schedule.  What I have done is simply change what I have been eating.  Mostly because I can’t taste flavors right now…and just eating food for texture isn’t working for me.  So, soup and chili have been my go-tos.  But I am making sure I am hitting all my nutrition needs every day.  And yes…I’m eating well and I’m definitely eating enough calories each day.  Eat well, eat enough, eat healthy.  So many people focus on weight and get really crazy with their nutrition.  When you’re training, you need to eat.  And you need to eat well.  When you’re recovering…you also need to eat…and yes…you need to eat well.  Now is not the time to cut down on your nutrition.  I promise…you aren’t going to get fat.

As I stated, for the past two weeks…all I’ve really wanted it soup.  That being said…I love that soup has so many different varieties out there because it keeps it interesting.  I’ve been serving mine up with different gluten-free crackers.  And sometimes I add avocado or something to bulk it up.  I mean…who doesn’t love tomato soup with a grilled (vegan) cheese sandwich?  I know my body needs certain things to stay in good shape even when I’m not working out as much.  NEVER skimp on nutrition when you are training or recovering.

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So…I’m on the mend.  I took time off from work to sleep and recovery both before I left for Disney (initial sinus bleh) and then basically all the rest of the week after I got back from Disney.  Sleep and rest and proper nutrition have definitely helped me bounce back from not just the races…but the sickness too.  My muscles don’t ache anymore (also…thank you Roll Recovery!) because I’ve let them heal and get stronger.  I’ve been using my new Roll Recovery R8 and R3…as well as my foam roller.  And stretching.  Never underestimate the power of stretching.  I even went to 2 of my spin classes this past week.  I took it easy.  I didn’t push as hard as I normally would.  And I still felt like it kicked my ass.  I’m not mad.  I’m taking my time.

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That being said…if you thought I was a germophobe before…you should see me now…

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Remember, friends…living your best life is all about balance.  Find time to rest…recovery…find balance…eat well…play…laugh…and yes…return to that activity you love…once your body is stronger from the respect and rest you allowed it.

I took 2 weeks off…and I still feel I fatigue easily.  I’m easing back into with with longer walks and short run segments.  And I still feel like I’m a badass.  I’m a very smart…totally recovered…less injury-prone badass!!

YAY!

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The Dopey Challenge – Orlando, FL (January 4-7, 2018)

The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.” — The Emperor, Mulan.

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All the Dopey Challenge Medals at Magic Kingdom!

I can do hard things.

That became my mantra during the last run of The Dopey Challenge this past weekend.  To be honest, I think the whole experience was a comedy of errors, but it led to four amazing and different finish lines.

Four races.  Four days.  Four different distances, each race getting longer.  And the hardest part to grasp as that you aren’t even halfway through the entire mileage by the third race.

I did the Dopey Challenge during its Inaugural year, in 2014.  I felt invincible back then and went into it with little training and no plan.  And it was amazing and inspiring and fun.  I missed out in 2016 when I thought I would give it another go due to lingering hip injuries.  That was a lot of money to lose out on…trust me.  MEH!

I never even thought of running in it again (okay…I perhaps thought about it every year it did run…but never pulled the trigger, really gun-shy about what this body could actually manage anymore), but then, last year, I became great friends with Melissa and Paul…and with a little peer pressure…I found myself registered for the 5th Anniversary of the Dopey Challenge (and also the 25th Anniversary of the Walt Disney World Marathon).

With two setback with the opposite hip that has the labrum tear this past year (in January and July, I believe)…I was really starting to lose hope that Dopey or even marathon running would happen again.  I had to defer Chicago due to lingering hip issues back in September, which broke my heart and did nothing to boost my confidence.  It was through my last round of physical therapy and adopting a run/walk method on long runs that I managed to get through Dopey training (I think to the surprise of everyone, including my coach, bless her) in one piece.

Mostly.

Because after the holidays, I had a 3 day stint at work…where people returned to the office sick.  And despite my best efforts…I caught the crud.  I started feeling bad on Friday night.  Saturday I went to bed before 8 pm after cancelling my last training run and basically living on the couch.  Same story on Sunday.  Sunday was also New Years Eve…and I couldn’t even ring in the new year.  I was in bed before 8 pm again.  I woke up feeling a little better on Monday, but not wanting to risk anything, I called in sick to work and stayed home to finish packing before being taken to the airport by our dear friend and neighbor, Laura.

So…here I was…heading into a 4-race series….with a lingering cold, a damaged immune system…and into a Florida cold snap.  No joke.  The weather turned at the start of the year.  It went from being lows of 50s and highs of mid-70s…to below freezing temps.  Considering my costumes I was going to run in consisted mainly of tank tops…some modifications had to be made.

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Toasted’s Gluten Free & Vegan Inferno w/ Gluten Free Truffle Fries (YUM!)

I arrived in Orlando late on Tuesday night.  My rommie and I had a hotel room off-property that night, just giving us an extra day to not rush through the runDisney expo, packet pick-up, and all that craziness.  We went to our favorite Orlando eat spot…Toasted…where I could get a Gluten Free and Vegan grilled cheese sandwich with a side Gluten Free Truffle Fries.  I got The Inferno…which is their house-made vegan cheese (this stuff melts AMAZING), tomato, jalapeno, and sriracha.  SO good.  I figured the spice might help the whole sinus situation I had going on.  This is where the madness began.  Upon returning to the hotel, I realized that my pajamas never made it into my luggage…so I was now sleeping in my plane clothes.  Whatever.  We decided that the following morning, we’d hit up Target and Publix for pajamas, snacks, water, and other necessary items.

When we woke up that morning, it was pouring down rain in Orlando.  We bundled up in hoodies and went out to the stores.  We even picked up a few requested items for our friends, Melissa and Paul, who had spent the New Year at Disney.  We got all of that together and headed to Disney Springs to park and head to Erin McKenna’s, the gluten-free bakery there, where we picked up a Scone (which we split right then), a Thin Mint Cookie (and one for Melissa for her birthday), a Cinnamon Roll, a couple of Donuts, and a slice of her Lemon Tea Cake.  Then, we headed over to Pop Century to pick up Melissa and Paul so we could all head to the expo together and do the whole packet pick-up, expo, shopping thing together.

It was a mess.  We ended up standing in the rain for a good chunk of it.  Cathy had ducked into CVS before we headed to Disney property for ponchos and only found child sizes.  Mine was super tiny (but had Disney princesses on it) and hers ripped as she unfolded it.  So…staying dry wasn’t happening.  All of this wasn’t helping the whole cold/sinus issue I was still dealing with at this point either.  We got into the building and followed the line down to the area where you show your ID, turn in your waiver, and get your bib.  If you’re doing the challenge (and the 3 of us were), you get your photo taken so they can confirm that it was, in fact, you, who finished.  After that, we were ready to get our official merch on and then hit the expo.  Cathy had gone on ahead to get in the Official Merchandise line…and it was a line.  Over a 2 hour wait…mostly outside…mostly uncovered.  Melissa and Paul had pre-purchased items, which normally, you would just go ahead and get without having to stand in said line…because you did, after all, pre-purchase them.  No such luck.  We decided it wasn’t worth it and headed into the other part of the expo where the vendors were.

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Me and two of my favorite partners in crime…Paul & Melissa!! Outside the expo. Cold. Wet. Disappointed.

I felt that the vendor area was much smaller and had fewer products/companies that I recognized.  I didn’t see Nuun or Newton there, which I had been hoping for.  I need to get more Nuun tablets, and my roommate forgot to bring my new pair of Newtons home from work with her on Tuesday, so I had one pair of shoes for all four races.  My intent had been to purchase new shoes at the expo. I could wear them in the shorter races and feel confident that I would be fine.  No luck.  I did end up getting the Roll Recovery R8 and R3 rollers for a huge discounted price at the expo.  And I am totally in love with these products.  Cathy went in search of BondiBand and got me needed bands for two of my costumes…and a bonus one she said I had to have.  She was right.  HA!  And after that…we gave up and headed back to Pop Century.  The weather was cold, but we had some Fast Passes at Animal Kingdom with Melissa and Paul (it was Melissa’s birthday so we were totally making a day of it…and so far it wasn’t going right), so we parked at their resort, hopped the Animal Kingdom bus and went on the Kilimajaro Safari, the new Flights of Passage in the Avartar part of the park (OMG…THIS RIDE!), and went out for a birthday celebration meal at Melissa’s favorite spot, Tiffins.

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Tiffins Meal & Dessert: Autumn Vegetable Harvest and Neapolitan Macaroon

I ordered the Autumn Vegetable Harvest, which was a Roasted Red Kuri Squash, Sweet Potatoes, Pumpkin Custard, Black Rice, Baby Spinach, Pumpkin Seed Pistou, and Cranberry.  It tasted like Thanksgiving.  It was SO good.  And of course, dessert happened.  Both Melissa and I got the Neapolitan Macaroon off the kids menu, FTW!  After dinner, we took the bus back to Pop Century, told Melissa and Paul we would see them bright and early for the 5K the following morning and headed to Port Orleans Riverside to claim our room.  It was late when we arrived and we had a 3 am wake up call facing us down.  So, we hauled our luggage up in two trips and got ready for bed.  Cathy noted that the bathroom door was latching strange, but nothing too bad.  Loved the royal room…and this time we had a gorgeous view of the courtyard.  Lights out.  We were down for the day.

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Stephanie, Me, Genie, Melissa & Paul during the Walt Disney World 5K

Walt Disney World 5K

Race: Walt Disney World 5K

Place: Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Date: January 4, 2014

Time: 1:02:09

“The belonging you seek is not behind you…it is ahead.” — Maz Kanata, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Disney doesn’t officially time their 5Ks.  Did you know that?  It’s true.  And with everything happening in 4 days if you’re doing Dopey…this is probably a good thing.  I had an alarm set for 3 am to change into my costume for the 5K, modified due to cold temperatures (it was below freezing that morning and my original costume was Tron…I ended up bringing BB-8, with a fleece top and a base layer to go under the actual bra top).  I got up, used the bathroom, and started to change.  Cathy went into the bathroom after me, and as I am pulling on my orange CEP Compression sleeves, I hear her messing with the door knob.  She says, “I can’t get the door to open.”  WHAT?!  So, I let her jiggle and mess with it while I layered up.  When she still wasn’t out of there and I had tried from my side and she had tried from hers…I called the front desk and explained that we were doing the 5K that morning and that my roommate was trapped in the bathroom in our room.  She had me try to get the latch to release with a credit card…and that didn’t work. So she said she would send someone up.

Meanwhile, she has me scoot her clothes under the door to her so she can change while we wait on help.  I am texting Melissa and Paul and trying not to panic and laugh at the same time.  Steve, the manager on duty, knocks on the door.  He comes in and tries the door knob.  Nope.  Stuck.  So he leaves to go get a screwdriver.  He returns…and still has no luck.  He tells me that I need to get to the start line…so I’m putting on my throwaway clothes (remember…it’s freezing here) and he said he was going to get another tool and try again.  In the process of doing that, he also calls 911 to get the fire department out and calls their engineering department, and whoever got there first, he promised, would get Cathy out.  I tossed on my BB-8 winter hat and told Cathy that I hoped to see her at the finish line.  I had to pin my bib on myself (in all my years of running, she has always done that for me.  I’m spoiled), and I headed out the door.  I texted Melissa and Paul as I headed toward the bus line for the 5K shuttle to the start.  I got to talking to the people in line about the saga that morning, and they were all, “What room are you in?  I want to know how this turns out!”  HAHA!

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Bathroom door wreckage after the fire department used an ax to free Cathy!

Just as I was getting on a bus, Cathy texts to say that she’s free and that the fire department had to come and use an ax to free her from her bathroom prison.  She was given a voucher for a taxi to take her to the start line so we hoped we would all meet there.  I arrived just as Melissa and Paul were getting there too.  With no bag to check, I could skip security and wandered into the staging area where I stood at a sign and waited for Melissa and Paul.  They arrived.  And Cathy arrived.  And our friend Stephanie arrived.  And two friends of Paul and Melissa also arrived, Chris and Christy (I might have misspelled her name).  We were all going to chill on the 5K…take it easy…and save our legs for later races.  I rarely get to hang with a group on runs, so this was exciting for me.  I lined up in Corral D with my friends (my bib was for Corral A) and we made our way through the new wave start, ditching our warm layers as we move ahead.  Soon…it was our turn and we were off.

The 5K was pretty crowded, but we had no time goals.  The plan was to just make our way through the course, stopping for pictures if we wanted, and just having a blast.  As we were heading into, or just past Mile 1…a person in front of me moved and I didn’t see the traffic cone in the path.  Down I went.  Hard.  On my hands and my right knee.  Melissa made an attempt to grab me and Stephanie helped me up.  Everyone was making sure I was okay.  I shook it off.  The knee stung, but nothing bad.  I was probably too numb from the 28 degree (not including wind chill) morning that day to even notice.  We carried on through Epcot, stopping to take some photos with Spaceship Earth in the background, with Genie from Aladdin, and then made our way to the finish line.

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Gluten Free Beignets from Port Orleans French Quarter…..YAAAAAAAS!!

5K…done.  I had such a blast.  I even danced across the finish line.  It was only after the sit on the bus back that my knee really started to throb.  I looked down and noticed blood on my black pants.  Plot twist.  Also…thanks to the bathroom door needing to be broken into with an ax…Cathy was told that after the race, we needed to pack up our things and have Bell Services get our stuff and move us to a new room.  Melissa and Paul were kind enough to take the shuttle to our resort to help with that…and we got it done and ready and out the door.  We all went over to Port Orleans French Quarter for the Gluten Free Beignets and coffee.  They needed to go get warm and were going to try to hit up the expo after showers and Cathy and I were heading to Epcot for the day.  Our first Fast Pass was for Spaceship Earth…but it broke down as we were standing in line.  Of course it did.  So…we wandered around Epcot and did the rest of our stuff until it was time to head to dinner at La Hacienda de San Angel.  They didn’t have gluten free chips for the salsa, but brought me some tortillas so I could have some and Cathy didn’t dip…she used her spoon to put things on the chips.  I got the Enchiladas de Vegetales, which came with a vegan version of their rice and refried black beans.  It was corn tortillas filled with vegetables, and smothered in salsa verde.  It was really good…but I don’t think I’ll do Mexican before a race in the future.

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Enchiladas de Vegetales, refried beans, vegan rice, extra tortillas and salsa from La Hacienda de San Angel

Cathy and I returned to Port Orleans Riverside…and I had to go to the concierge because we never got a text with a new room.  Turns out, they replaced the door and we weren’t moving.  I was limping at this point, mind you, because my knee was killing me.  As we were making the walk to the room, I said, “I hope they moved our stuff back in then.”  They hadn’t.  This meant another call to Bell Services and needing to wait an extra 30 minutes before even being ready to lay out race gear for the 10K, get ready for bed, and turn in for the night.  It was a mess.  But things showed up…we did the best we could to do a few things quickly, and called it a night.  Another 3 am alarm was set.

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Me with Dopey after the Walt Disney World 10K

Walt Disney World 10K

Race: Walt Disney World 10K

Place: Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Date: January 5, 2014

Time: 47:40

“You can’t focus on what’s going wrong.  There is always a way to turn things around.” — Joy, Inside Out

This was the race I had it in my head to actually race this weekend.  Until I got sick. And until I banged up my knee the day before.  It was hard to walk, I wasn’t exactly sure how running was going to go.  But the 3 am wake up came and no one got trapped in the bathroom.  We were off to a good start.

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Stephanie, Melissa, Paul, Me (freezing), Christy, and Chris before the Walt Disney World 10K

In fact, I layered up (again), because my I was being Joy from Inside Out, and Melissa and Paul were going to be Disgust and Fear.  I love that I was costuming with friends.  It was fun.  But Joy’s dress was a tank top that I was going to put shorts under, originally…until the weather changed.  With a morning that was 37 degrees, without the wind chill (and the wind was fierce and cold that day), I put on the black base layer I had used with my BB-8 costume, the leggings I had worn with BB-8, and worked the rest of it the best I could.  It had to do under the weather circumstances. No hat…but I did pull the BondiBand over my ears to hopefully keep those warm.  Cathy pinned me and we headed to the bus to get taken to the staging area at the start of the 10K.

I hunkered down since we were there so early and took a nap.  Melissa and Paul somehow managed to slip past Cathy and were, very smartly, gathered near one of the heating lamps at the center of the staging area.  We got up to meet them, and Stephanie, Chris and Christie were there too.  We took pictures, but I refused to shed the throw-away clothes right then.  Too cold.  The mylar wrap was staying as well.  Just after 5, I ate my banana and we headed to the corrals.  We were going to take a photo of the Inside Out characters…but Coral A (my corral) already queued.  I had to now go into Corral B.  Who puts a corral at the start line that early?  UGH.  I had to say a quick goodbye.  Got hugs…and went in…bobbing in and out of people in an attempt to move forward.  No luck.

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Me after finishing the Walt Disney World 10K

I shed the throw-away clothes as we neared the start line and my wave finally went off.  It was cold, so thankfully I didn’t feel my knee bothering me.  I ran calmly and smartly…the first mile meaning I had to bob and weave through the waves of people who went off ahead.  Some of which were walking this one too.  I still had hopes of racing this one and maybe coming close to beating my 10K PR.  It was still hard for me to breathe (thanks sinuses), but I pressed on through.  I managed a respectable time, even with all the dodging I had to do.  Mile 1 clipped off and we made a hair-point turn and headed up a hill.  I felt strong and was passing a lot of people…but hills and I are not friends and it did slow me down.  But what a confidence booster.  Somewhere in Mile 2 a guy snot rocketed on me.  I turned from Joy to Disgust for just a moment.  Miles 3-5 were amazing and fast.  Those were the parts that were actually in Epcot and not out on the highway.  I think distractions are a big help.  And they always do up Epcot great with cast members out to cheer and support you.  The lights were awesome.  I heard one cast member shout…”Happiness is here…I mean Joy.  Joy is here!” HA!  Since I was racing, I opted to skip the character stops and pushed on for a strong finish, past Spaceship Earth and around the corner back into the parking lots.  I stopped my watch after crossing and was shocked that I was closer to 48 minutes than my hoped for 44 minutes.

You know…running with sinus issues and a badly bruised up knee…I gladly took it.

My official results of the Walt Disney World 10K were that I finished in 47:40.  I was 266/12,881 finishers overall.  I was 41/7618 female finishers.  And I was 12/1245 people in my age division.  Not too shabby at all!

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Dole Whip from Magic Kindom and Cathy’s Rice Krispy Treat and my Hummus & Veggies and Iced Coffee at Animal Kingdom.  It was so COLD and I kept eating COLD things!

I went back to the resort to shower and change and head out to the parks that day.  Cathy and I had some Fast Passes to hit up in Magic Kingdom that day.  We ended up getting everything done there (including Dole Whip…despite the cold temperatures) and hopped back to Animal Kingdom, where Melissa and Paul were hanging for the day.  We met up after I snagged a hummus and veggies snack from the Gluten Free cart and some iced coffee (The iced coffee and Animal Kingdom is the best…and despite the cold…I needed it in my life).

Melissa and Paul were able to get me on Everest with them so I did get to have some roller coaster fun.  Which was amazing.  I love coasters and rides, but Cathy isn’t the biggest fans of most of them.  She’ll do some…but they usually aren’t the ones we like to do.  And…at one point, we were hiking through Pandora and saw sunlight coming through the tree and it was SO picturesque.  It was like a painting or straight from the movie (I guess…I never have actually seen Avatar).

We hung out until we took the bus to Animal Kingdom Lodge for dinner that night at Sanaa.

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Gluten Free Bread Service and the Chipckpea Wat and Cilantro-Coconut Vegetables with Basmati Rice from Sanaa!

Melissa and I split the gluten free bread service and Cathy and Paul go the regular one.  We enjoyed that before feasting that night on the amazing food there.  I got the Chickpea Wat and the Cilantro-Coconut Vegetables with Basmati Rice.  It was so good and we were so full.  Afterwards, we took a bus back to a park where we could hop to our respective resorts.  I got all the half marathon stuff together as far as my outfit and called it a night.  I set an alarm for 1:50 am and another for 2:50 am.  The resort wanted people at the buses by 3:30 the following morning to get to the start on time.  We called it a night.

 

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Me (as Boo), Paul (as a CDA Agent), and Melissa (as Roz) from Monsters Inc., before the Walt Disney World Half Marathon

Walt Disney World Half Marathon

Race: Walt Disney World Half Marathon

Place: Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Date: January 6, 2014

Time: 1:44:53

“Every dream begins somewhere. Some are born to greatness, and some find greatness on their own.” –Monsters University

And so half marathon morning dawned.  I still felt like crap.  My knee was tight and painful…but it was bandaged across the cut.  I had taken the bandage off when I ran as Joy and had meant to do it for this costume too…but forgot.  It was 2:50 am.  I can focus on one thing at a time.

I got up with the alarm and went to get myself ready.  Today I was running as Boo from Monsters, Inc. Melissa was costuming as Roz and Paul was going to be a CDA hazmat guy.  These were the costumes I was really looking forward to wearing.  Mostly because Melissa pointed out the subtle humor that she and Paul would be chasing me the entire race.  LOVE!!  Even better…today’s costume had short sleeves and long pants.  So, I added arm warmers as it was a chilly 39 degrees that felt still below freezing.  These temperatures were starting to really get on my nerves.  They were also starting to catch up to Cathy.  Bless her…we’re at least moving.  She is sitting on cold bleachers for over an hour at the finish line.

I got dressed…grabbed some Lara Bites (I didn’t plan out pre-race food for this…I was working on feeling better and it slipped my mind) and a banana to take to the race start.  I piled on my throw-away clothes to stay warm, grabbed the mylar from the day before, and headed out the door. There were plenty of people stirring this morning as we all had received the call that we needed to be on buses by 3:30 to make it to the start line.  The deal is…for the Disney World Half and Full Marathons, you make a 1.5 mile hike to the starting corrals.  So, they want to be sure you have ample time for that.  We were texting with Melissa and Paul and they were going to head out.  We got a bus…settled in for the short drive to Epcot…and arrived to file in line and get through security.  No bags for me, so I walked right through.  I waited for Cathy on the other side and the two of us went to claim the spot near the tent that was serving up food and hot beverages.  I could smell the sausage again.  We huddled in on the pavement and I took a power nap while we waited for Melissa and Paul to arrive.

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Minnie Mouse and Me after the Walt Disney World Half Marathon

When they did, I went ahead and shed the throw-away clothes so we could have a picture of us all in the costumes.  The last few times it had been too cold for me to even want to take them off.  So, I was determined to have a photo with them this time.  We missed out when I was dressed as Joy and they were Disgust and Fear.  We talked for a short moment before we decided to go find the entrance to the corrals.  We went through bag check together and made the long walk, comfortably, and chatting the entire way, until my corral had to split away from theirs.  We gave hugs and we separated.

I had to actually off-road here to get up to my corral.  That makes me nervous because when you’re walking on grass in the dark…that’s just a recipe for a twisted ankle or whatnot.  But I managed to get up to Corral A unscathed.  And I managed to get into my corral too.  This was the first time I actually had managed that despite my Corral A bib.  WOOHOO!  I worked my way through the crowd of runners until I found a spot that felt comfortable.The National Anthem was sung beautifully and Donald came out to send off the wheelchair racers.  And after that, my corral moved forward.  As I was easing myself through the crowd, a ribbon was passed between me and the person in front of me.  Looks like I was going to be at the front of Wave 2.  They sent off Wave 1 with music and fireworks and we were moved up to the starting mat…which, mind you…was actually back a ways before the starting gate with the logo that displayed the race with Donald and basically what the medal would look like.

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Me with Pluto after the Walt Disney World Half Marathon

It was really cool to be actually toeing the line for Wave 2.  I watched as a card was passed over the starting mat and would light up.  The woman would then signal 1 minute to start.  Then 30 seconds.  Then 20.  And soon, Donald Duck was counting us down…and fireworks sent off my wave.  I was able to settle in comfortably because it wasn’t crowded here.  Having not raced the 5K at all, I was feeling good.  My knee was a bit of a problem…but when I was running I felt I could at least ignore it.  HA!

My plan for this race was to run most of it, but walk the water stops.  That was how I had been getting through half marathons prior to this one, so I felt it was a good way to handle this one despite feeling so good at the start.  That being said, I also decided that I could go through the first four miles without stopping to walk, so I made that deal with myself as well.  Most of that stretch is all highway and parking lots anyway…so I felt even better about it.  Heading toward Magic Kingdom, we do get to run down a hill, but it sends us right back up.  I stayed on my toes and lifted my legs up to kick up the hill.  It slowed me down some, but I still felt strong at the top as we headed toward Main Street and my favorite part of any race that carries us through Magic Kingdom

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Goofy and Me after the Walt Disney World Half Marathon

 I love the energy down Main Street as you run it.  The crowd is deep and loud and screaming and it really is such a lift.  I always wish that this part was later on in the race because of the boost it gives you.  I arched away and went through Tomorrowland before making my way through Cincerella’s Castle and back out onto Main Street.  The crowd came alive again.  Flash bulbs were going off.  It was amazing.  Then, we turn to head out of Magic Kingdom through Adventureland.  The crowd fades off and we are back to the highways for Miles 6-11.  Disney does put out characters and DJs and some screens running clips of Mickey cartoons or other cartoons to try to entertain you on this stretch…but it really just is a lot of road and little else.

At Mile 8…I started to feel a burning in the bottom of my left foot and I knew…blisters were happening.  I wasn’t running in new compression socks…but I hadn’t had time to Body Glide or Vasoline my feet that morning as I was trying to make the bus in time.  MEH!  That realization lasted through the rest of the race as both of my feet started to feel the effects of friction between my socks and my custom orthodics.  Not a happy camper at all.  My pace ended up slowing down considerably because of it and now my walk breaks were a bit of a relief from the friction.  I was starting to rethink my life decisions here. As we come back into Epcot at Mile 12, I was just relieved that I was almost done and I could go and doctor up my feet.  YAY!  I pushed through it all and managed the turn before the World Showcase to head to the finish.  The gospel choir was singing “We Will Rock You” as I ran past to make the final turn to head toward the finish line.

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Me crossing the finish line of the Walt Disney World Half Marathon

I pushed myself as much as I could on sore feet and threw my hands up as I came through the finish line.  Stopping my Garmin, I made the walk through the finish zone, Cathy waving me down for a photo before I went to collect my medal, some mylar, and the snack box.  Since character lines weren’t too bad, I stopped to take pictures with Minnie, Goofy, and Pluto before we hopped on the bus to go back to the resort.  I told Cathy I could feel blisters and when we got back up to the room and I took off the compression socks…sure enough.  I drained them…took a shower…and got dressed to head out for the day.  The plan was to hit up Hollywood Studios.  Paul and Melissa would join us later.  I got to ride Tower of Terror three times that day, which made me happy.  It was fun to have a few ride buddies this time around.

So, my official results of the Walt Disney World Half Marathon is that I finished in 1:44:53.  I was 502/20,801 finishers overall.  I was 88/12,275 female finishers.  And I was 18/2012 people in my division.  I’ll take that for sure.  I was quite happy with my performance, despite the blisters.  It just seemed like nothing was going right that day.

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Gluten Free Spaghetti and Marinara Sauce from Mama Melroses

After a casual and relaxed day at Hollywood Studios, we all went to Mama Melroses for dinner for pasta to fuel up for the last race the following day.  Melissa and I shared the gluten free rolls and I ordered the Gluten Free Pasta with Marinara.  Unfortunately, for me, when it first came out, it was done with the meat sauce.  Good thing I looked closely!  YIKES!  They took it away and fixed it, bringing out my new dish shortly.  It was an early meal, but perfectly timed for the Walt Disney World Marathon.  I was feeling tight in my hamstring of my left leg as we were heading to the buses to return to the resorts, so I used my Roll Recovery on it that night to try to loosen it.  The knee…was just stiff and sore.  I took some Ibuprofen that evening…and it was lights out.  One more race and we weren’t even halfway through the mileage yet.

 

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Me as Vanellope von Schweetz for the Walt Disney World Marathon

Walt Disney World Marathon

Race: Walt Disney World Marathon

Place: Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Date: January 7, 2014

Time: 3:49:45

“There’s no one I’d rather be than me.” – Wreck it Ralph

Marathon morning.

I was ready for it.  We got back to the room early after making it an early dinner at Mama Melrose’s the previous night.  That way I would have time to lay out all my costume stuff and get all my fuel ready to go so I wouldn’t have to worry about it on race morning.  I was reviving Vanellope von Schweetz from Wine & Dine a few years ago.  I made a few changes to the costume…having my mom create a new top and cut the tights down to go over my compression sleeves.  I was excited to be bringing her back…but there was so much small things that go into this costume, I wanted to have it all set to make the morning a lot less stressful.

So when the alarm went off and I got up to get changed, I was feeling as ready as one could for the fourth race of the Dopey Challenge.  I was tired…and nervous.  The marathon is not a distance to take lightly.  Anything can happen.  But that morning…I was feeling prepared.  I even Body Glided my feet and put Vasoline on them in hopes of warding off further blisters.

My left hamstring was a little tight…no surprise with three race events leading up to this one and no real time to stretch or roll my body as is part of my usual routine.  But I felt ready and excited more than nervous, so there was that.  I put three Hammer Gels in my fuel belt and my Nuun Performance and Water in their containers and put on my throw away clothing before my roommate and I headed out the door.

Cathy was actually not feeling well.  She had started to come down with something the day before, and her voice was pretty much shot, but she’s never missed a race start or finish and, even though I thought she was going to this time, she didn’t miss this one either.  Despite the cold, she bundled up with the understanding that she would see me start and then head back to the resort to nap for a few hours before coming back to the finish line.  For any of you who are pondering this in the future…here’s a bit of advice…DO NOT think you can get back to your resort from the start.  Buses apparently don’t start running back to the resort from the finish until the first person crosses the finish line.

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Little did we know that this would end up being the bus ride from hell to the start line!

Cathy and I were right on time leaving our room and heading to the bus.  3:30 am.  There was a bit of a line, but two buses were there waiting.  I climbed on the bus and moved closer to the back than front just because I knew we’d have some time when we arrived.  We texted Melissa and Paul and they were about to leave to catch their bus.

Five years ago when I ran the Inaugural Dopey Challenge, my bus got stuck in traffic heading to the marathon and I just barely made it to my corral on time.  This year…I was determined not to have that kind of stress.

No such luck.  After clear sailing at first…soon…the bus slowed and then stopped.  All around us traffic was ground to a halt.  Total stop.  Nothing was moving.  We got a text that Melissa and Paul were at the staging area because their bus driver took some amazing back way to the start.  I was having flashbacks to five years before.  But then we just continued to sit…and sit…and we’d creep…and sit…and creep and sit…

I was internally freaking out.  I kept checking my watch…because on Marathon morning, I have a food regimen and schedule that I stick to.  At 4:45 am…I was still not moving and I was forced to eat my Lara Bites.  At 5 am…still not moving…the banana had to go down.  And then…at 5:10 am…I drank down my pre-workout drink full of electrolytes.  We inched forward.  Turns out…a bus had broken down in the bus lane and we were stuck behind it. Two cop cars breezed by.  A few minutes later…we were past it and moving again.

 We arrived at the bus drop-off point at about 5:20 am.  If you have done any previous Run Disney races at Walt Disney World, you know for the half and full marathons, you have a 1.5 mile trek to the starting corrals.  And I had 10 minutes to get there…and I still had to go through security/bag check.  I didn’t have a bag, so I could walk on through.  Cathy did have a bag so she had to get that checked.  She gave me a quick hug, handing me a pack of hand warmers, saying Melissa and Paul were going to try to wait to make the long walk with me…and she needed some hand warmers.  I hurried through, sprinting, keeping an eye out for a Dopey and Grumpy lingering on the side.  I could already hear the National Anthem being sung.  My mylar blanket was flapping in the wind as I dodged and dashed through the crowds of people also making their way to the start.  I could hear Mickey Mouse talking as I rounded the first corner giving a count down.  I was sprinting as fast as I could, but soon, the fireworks were being shot and off went Corral A.

“AND…there goes my corral!” I said, tossing my hands up in defeat.  They were doing wave starts this year, so I continued to dash, hitting the grassy patches and hurrying toward the front of the pack. I had to lift my big fleece jacket I had brought as my toss-away to get to my bib and managed to duck into the corral that was the end of B or beginning of C.  The announcers weren’t sure.  I was shedding my fleece pants and top, already warm now from the sprint…and my heart rate was up and I was just stressed and not zen.  But then the fireworks went off and we started across the start line on the chilly Florida morning.

Starting in a further back corral is not a good thing at Disney.  This often makes for a lot of weaving in and out of people for at least the first mile…if not more.  It was within my first mile, however, that I passed Jeff Galloway.  I fan girled.  As I had my watch set for 4 minutes running 30 seconds walking intervals, I’ve embraced the Galloway method as of late to keep this body uninjured during longer runs.  That was a quick boost as the first 4 miles of the full marathon are definitely all highway miles.  The course narrows at times and at one point, as I was making my way through crowds, I saw a guy hop off the course to claim some gloves that had been shed.

“Treasure!” Someone said to him.  I heard someone else ask him if he was a scavenger and he said, “NO…it’s just cold!”  And that was that.  I continued to maneuver through the crowds, waiting for the course to open up more so I could settle in.

That being said, my watch was beeping at me every 4 minutes to take a short walk break.  I would toss up my hand and shout, “WALKING” so no one would run me over.  I had no goals for this race other than to hit the finish line.  I had done as much training with some practice “Dopey” runs of 4 progressively longer runs in a row, always using the run/walk method for the longer runs.  It works.  Seriously.  It got me this far, right?  Here I was…doing the last run of the Dopey Challenge…hitting the halfway point of the mileage about 2 miles into the marathon.  Whew.

The first four miles of highway are never eventful.  Construction.  Speed bumps.  Course narrowing.  And the hill leading up to the parking lot of Magic Kingdom.  You come into Magic Kingdom at Mile 5…and, as always, this is my favorite part of any Disney race.  Nothing boosts your motivation than all the cheering people lining Main Street inside.  It was phenomenal.  I always wish this part came later in the race because it does really lift you.  You just want to run faster because all these people are screaming for you!

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Magic Kingdom Main Street Marathon Morning

I felt so energized as I ran the stretch and made the turn into Tomorrowland.  My favorite part of the race is always where I run through the castle.  I made the curves through Tomorrowland and around through Fantasyland.  And then…the run through the castle.  It’s all shouts and screaming and flash bulbs.  And I love every moment of it.  I come down the path and turn into Adventureland to exit the park at Mile 6.

What I didn’t know is that Cathy was going to catch me at Mile 7 outside the Grand Floridian.  After she discovered that she couldn’t get back to the resort, she hopped the monorail and realized that she wouldn’t be able to catch me inside the Magic Kingdom.  But she could catch me at Mile 7.  Despite having very little voice left, I heard her shouting at me as I ran past.  It was awesome.  I gave a wave and continued on.   I was just glad I was on a running segment at that point and not a walk.  HA!  She left after that and managed to get to Magic Kingdom to see Melissa and Paul go through on Main Street.  She’s awesome like that.

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Cathy managed to be at Mile 7 as I ran by!  It was AWESOME!

Miles 7-12 are pretty much highway miles.  Disney does it’s job with music (each mile marker is a movie that blares the them song), characters, scenery stops, and DJs/announcers just to keep it interesting.  I knew what laid ahead was Animal Kingdom and you get to spend about 2 miles inside that park.  I love Animal Kingdom because the surface is small hills that really wake up your legs.  I never strayed from my run/walk breaks, keeping them going throughout all the miles.  To change it up could have meant disaster.  There is a switchback turn around at Mile 11…and I took it and moved toward the side of the road knowing a walk break would be coming.  But my foot slid off the side of the road where it dipped away and I twisted my ankle.  I stumbled.  Came up.  Took a few precautionary steps…and then carried on.  No sharp pains or discomfort…I could do this.  Up ahead…Animal Kingdom.

I came into Animal Kingdom and always look forward to running past The Tree of Life.  It’s amazing.  It is beautiful.  I love the Animal Kingdom Park.  I normally fuel around this mile, but I refuse to do so inside the park because I don’t want to drop anything that might endanger the animals.  I did take a slug of my Nuun Performance and carried myself through Africa, Asia, and Dinoland.  The cast members in the park are amazing and just cheer and support you as you run though.  You exit the park through the main entrance and settle into about 3 miles of highway miles.  Lots of traffic cones line the way making my walk breaks a little difficult, but I maintained them and stuck with it.  That being said, everything started to feel very hard around Mile 16.  Maybe it was the long stretch of nothing…or the reality that up next was the 2 miles that feels like 20 inside the ESPN Wide World of Sports Center (too many turns…too many different surfaces)…but I did manage to pick it back up as I came into ESPN.  That didn’t last too long.  My legs just felt heavy.  Mile 18…so I took one of my Hammer Nutrition gel to hopefully wake up my body. I should have done it sooner, but after coming out of Animal Kingdom…I wasn’t even thinking about it anymore.  Lesson learned.

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Melissa and Paul running down Main Street in Magic Kingdom.  They were too fast for Cathy’s camera skills!

Here’s what I hate about ESPN.  Around Mile 18.5, you have to step up and enter the track.  So, softer surface which is a nice relief, but you’re now running the curve of a track.  And you aren’t there for too long.  You pop out at the final turn and are sent around the baseball fields.  You wind your way through Mile 19 enter the ball field just before Mile 20.  They announce your name here, which is a booster, but you’re tired from now running on baseball gravel/dirt and you’re just pressing through.  You come out of the baseball field.  After that, you duck out and are on the pathway through the parking lots and back out to the main road.  There was a large puddle there at the end, so I managed to get my legs to step up on the curb and back down to avoid it and continued on.  It was just before Mile 21 that the 3:45 pace group passed me.  They were doing 3 min run/30 sec walk breaks.  My legs just felt heavy and I started to feel a blister on one of my toes on my left foot.  That sensation lasted for about a mile…then it popped because that burning feeling went away and I could run a little more comfortably again.  But my pace was down.  I grabbed another Hammer Nutrition gel and pounded it in hopes it could get me to the finish.

Hollywood Studios was just after Mile 23 and then you know you could walk it in and be fine.  If you make it to Hollywood Studios, you’re golden.  I started to take a few extra walk breaks on hills that my legs protested on.  I was okay with it.  I wasn’t aiming for a specific time.  Just to hit that finish line.  If it beeped for me to walk…I’d continue the walk.  Then I’d pick it back up on the run for the next part.  You come back to life inside Hollywood Studios.  The rolling terrain that leads you through the park and out to the boardwalk.  People are out there cheering and it’s really hard, but you keep pushing through.  That’s how I felt.  At Mile 25, you enter Epcot’s World Showcase.  This is the longest trip around the world ever.  But on your way around, you can keep your eye on Spaceship Earth and press on.  You take the turn out to run toward Spaceship Earth and you feel new life in your legs.  Around the corner and there is the gospel choir.  I don’t remember what they were singing.  I rounded the corner and came made the final turn into the straight away to the finish line.  I pressed a bit more at the sight of the finish.  I had kept my watch on the intervals, so I didn’t know my distance or pace.  I didn’t care.  I was about to finish a marathon.  I threw my hands up in the air as I ran across the finish line and then immediately started to ugly cry.

I spotted Cathy in the stands and she signaled that I had killed it.  She had no voice.  I moved to get my medal and started to ugly cry again.  And as I went to get my Dopey and Goofy medals, I was also handed commemorative Mickey Mouse ears.  I cried again.  I composed myself to get my medals and make the walk to get the photos taken before exiting through bag claim.  As I moved through, everyone started applauding.  And I cried again.  And Cathy saw me and gave me a hug and I cried harder.  I was an emotional mess.  I had never thought, with all my setbacks and hip injuries that persisted since 2015, that I would ever finish a marathon in a sub-4 time.

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Me after receiving my medal at the finish of the Walt Disney World Marathon.  Pure emotion!

But I had.  Rounding out a gorgeous and respectful 3:49:45.  A mere 10 minutes off my BQ time.  I was beyond elated.  Shocked.  And couldn’t stop crying.  My coach texted me telling me I was an inspiration for her BQ in March.  My friends messaged me over Instagram to congratulate me on the sub-4 I had been fighting for so long to achieve.

So, the final results of the Walt Disney World Marathon are that I finished in 3:49:45.  I was 849/20,025 finishers overall.  I was the 184/10,763 female finishers.  And I was 48/1848 people in my age division.  Beyond proud of myself.

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Me with the Dopey, Goofy, and Marathon medals after the Walt Disney World Marathon

Afterwards, I got on the bus to head back to the resort.  I was beyond sore, but managed to shuffle my way back to my room, up the stairs, and into a super hot shower.  I don’t do ice baths.  No shame.  Not my game.  I put my feet up for awhile and made myself down my protein shake.  It was, honestly, the last thing I wanted to do.  My stomach is always a mess after a marathon.  But recovery had to begin immediately.  After awhile, Cathy and I went to stroll down to Port Orleans French Quarter to get celebratory Gluten Free Beignets.  I was hoping the sugar would help settle my stomach.  It worked.  We got some for Melissa and Paul too.  I might have promised to have them at the finish line.  Afterwards, we hopped on the bus to go back to the finish line.  On the way there, Stephanie crossed the finish line.  We ended up getting stuck on this bus for longer than anticipated, and upon arriving, making the hike to security for bag check, and then heading toward the finish line, Melissa and Paul crossed.  JUST missed them.

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Grapes and Gluten Free Beignets

Cathy and I waited for them outside of their bag pick up and ran to go hug them when they came out.  Super proud of them.  Melissa’s foot got injured in the half, so she wasn’t even sure she’d be able to make it through the full.  She’s stubborn.  She did.  We went to get in line to have photos with Dopey, but were told the line was closed because Dopey needed to make it to a parade.  So, Cathy took pictures of Melissa and Paul on their phone with Dopey in the background.  We had Fast Passes at Epcot…so we let them head back to the resort with the Gluten Free Beignets that we picked up for them and went to head into the park.  I managed to make it through the rest of the day before meeting up with them again at Raglan Road in Disney Springs for our celebratory dinner.  Hello gluten free onion rings.

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Drinks and Gluten Free eats all around at Raglan Road to celebrate completing the Dopey Challenge!

The following day, Cathy managed to get through the character breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table before trying a few rides and tapping out.  Her sickness caught up with her.  So, I wandered around Magic Kingdom alone for awhile until I met with Melissa and Paul at Epcot for photos with the medals.  This also involved a monorail fail making it take even longer.  But we eventually got it all taken care of.  And after snagging Avocado Margaritas in Mexico, I called to check on Cathy and she said she’d grab some soup and meet us at Magic Kingdom.  She was moving slowly, but she was out.  And we wrapped up the day in Magic Kingdom with food, fireworks, and friends.  And that…was what this trip and adventure was all about.

A group I’m in figured up all the finish places for those who competed in the Dopey Challenge.  I was 210/7468 overall Dopey finishers.  I was 29th female finisher.  And I was 9th in my age division.  And I’m tired.  And sore.

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Me, Melissa and Paul….all Dopey Challenge finishers!

And currently fighting off the Disney crud.  Being sick prior to the races and coming back sick has not allowed me proper celebrations.  But it’s going to happen.

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This was the perfect way to spend the last day at Disney…with good friends creating good memories…after doing amazing things!  Thank you, Melissa & Paul!