Run The Bluegrass Half Marathon – Lexington, KY (March 30, 2019)

 

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Crossing the finish line at the Run The Bluegrass Half Marathon – Lexington, KY

Race: Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon

Place: Lexington, Kentucky

Date: March 30, 2019

Time: 1:51:14

You remember (probably not, but throwing it out there anyway) how last year I said I was going to return to the Run The Bluegrass Half Marathon?  Well, I was certainly good on my word.  Prior to my blog even being posted last year, I was already registered to run in 2019.  And at the end of March…it was time to go.

A couple of things though…

Remember that knee bruising I had from my fall at the beginning of March?  Well…that was better.  The problem was…the week of this particular half marathon, my knee started to really be painful when I was out running…but mostly just when I would go up and down the stairs.  You know me.  I went into full panic mode and texted my coach.  He’s a physical therapist and he told me to rest it up until race day.  I did exactly that.  Slept in.  No spin.  No weights.  Rest.  So, essentially, I took off Thursday and Friday.  The race was Saturday.  And though this, I felt like my knee…SORT OF felt better.  A little.  It still twinged whenever I went down or up the stairs (more so up), but for the most part…better.  So that was a good thing.  I guess?

I had to work a half day on Friday, and left the office just shortly after eating my lunch.  It was something simple.  Soup, I think.  It isn’t important.  I had snacks packed for the car to have prior to going into the expo.  And my roommate (who was participating in the Yearling, which is 3.65 miles, on Saturday morning) and I got into the car and started to make our way to Lexington.

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Picking up my race bib

The trip was easy and this time we didn’t take the weird back way that put us on some of the course.  This was direct to Keenland.  And I was ready to get my bib and shop the expo.  That, in and of itself, is dangerous, because I tend to throw away a lot money at this particular race expo.  The swag is just that good!!  I ended up getting my bib at the first little stand (my number was in the 1000, so I was in the first wave) and then proceeded to look at all the merch, ended up purchasing a cute sweatshirt and the official Run The Bluegrass Ponya Band (I did the Ponya Band last year too), and then tapped out to head into the actual expo part and peruse the booths.  I had come in 13th in the Director’s Challenge, so I had a few prizes to pick up as well, including some free socks at one of the booths in the back.  I got my official race shirt, then the upgrade to the really nice race jacket with the heat sheet inside (SO HAPPY).  And then decided I had done enough damage for the day and went back up front to snag the rest of my Director’s Challenge swag (ear buds, Road ID gift certificate, gloves, and a couple of other nice things).  I ran into a couple of friends and then we went to drive into Lexington to stop into Ethereal Brewing to pick up the glass I won in the Director’s Challenge. Cathy was very tempted to get a beer, and spotted one that looked interesting, but decided against it.  I boooooooed her for that decision.  But we needed to hit up the hotel, drop stuff off, and relax before meeting up with our friends Ron & Shawn Steve for dinner at Bella Notte (of course).

Upon arriving at the hotel and starting to unload our luggage, Cathy realized that we didn’t have the cooler with us (the one she moved off the kitchen counter and set by HER luggage) that had my fuel, my BCAAs, my snacks…all the things.  THIS…was a HUGE problem.

I might have shouted at her for a long time about it.  And instead of relaxing in the hotel, we now had to head into Lexington and attempt to find fuel for the half marathon tomorrow.  The problem being, most places don’t sell my fuel of choice, UCAN.  NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE carries it in stores.  We first went to a sporting goods store, and all they had was Sword.  I don’t use Sword and have only used it in a half marathon I was pacing as fuel.  And while I had no issues with it…I was trying to put some effort into this race.  No good.  We were getting close to dinner time, but we spotted a Vitamin Shoppe, so we took a chance and pulled in there.  They had less options for me to really use.  But we looked around.  Lots of electrolytes but nothing that was actually good for me to use as fuel.

We left emptyhanded from there too, and I was in full-on pissed off panic mode.  But dinner time was nigh, so we pulled into Bella Notte just minutes before Ron and Shawn showed up.  It was perfect timing.  No reservations were being taken, but we had no problems getting seated.  They no longer have a separate gluten free menu, but I know what I always get here.  And this was no different.  Ron got the lasagna, both Cathy and Shawn got the Spaghetti & Meatballs, and I got…the Gluten Free Pasta Arrabiata. It came with a salad ahead of it…so I got that minus the croutons and with the balsamic.

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Gluten Free Pasta Arrabiata from Bella Notte in Lexington, KY

We ate, we talked work, life, and racing (of course).  It was sometime in the restaurant that Daniel, my coach, sent me the race plan for this particular half marathon.  To be fair, I don’t think he understood how difficult this course actually is.  He wanted me to use the first mile as a warm up, then push for 8-10 miles at a 7:45 pace, then use the rest to either continue that pace or to ease back and use it as a cool down, depending on how I felt.  And I might have scoffed and laughed out loud when that text came over my phone.  I told him I would try, but made no promises with the hills.  He told me it was about effort, not pace.  We all still got a laugh though about my race plan.  Inside, I think I was starting to panic more than a little.  We all passed on desserts and headed out, giving hugs and wishing everyone luck on their races the following morning.  Cathy and I had just enough time to swing by John’s Run Walk Shop, hoping to get something to use for fuel.  Again, we found a lot of Sword (Sword must be the sponsored fuel of Lexington, Kentucky), but thankfully they had some Honey Stinger gels in there too.  I haven’t fueled with Honey Stinger gels in a while, but had in the past…so it was what I had to work with.  I bought two of them, plus the Gluten Free Mint Chocolate Waffle.  And it was going to have to work.  We finally headed back to the hotel so we could cycle through showers and get everything ready for the morning.  Stretch.  Foam rolling.  And eventually get some sleep.  Our time was definitely way more constricted now thanks to The Great Search for Runner Fuel.

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I love a race where I don’t have to question my wardrobe choices!

*SIGH*

The alarm went off that morning and we immediately began to get ready for our respective races.  The weather looked perfect for running.  It was in the high 50s, so tank top and shorts were the obvious choice.  There was a chance for rain, but it was supposed to kick in later on in the day.  So, that was a plus.  I was supposed to be done long before that kicked in and started.  The half marathon started at 9:00.  The Yearling kicked off at 8:50.  And all the photos were to be done at 8:30 with groups like Mom’s Run This Town/She Runs This Town.  I texted my friend Melissa (who was about 5 weeks off of having a baby) and she was here, but down near the start.  I wanted to get my pre-race hug she always gives me, so I forwent the official photo and headed down to the start area.  And never found her or met up with her.  Cathy did run into one of her high school friends though.  So at least she got a pre-race hug.

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Waiting to see Cathy off for the Yearling at Run The Bluegrass this year!

I walked Cathy into the corral for the Yearling and hung with her there.  My friend Michael, who came in from New York to run this, found me there and we stayed there up until we had to clear out so that only Yearling runners were in there.  I wished Cathy luck, gave her a hug, and went to wait for Wave 1 to be moved up to the start.

The Yearling was sent off after the singing of the National Anthem…and it was to “The Greatest Show” from The Greatest Showman.  Which…I knew Cathy would love.  And it turns out…she did.

The wheelchair racers were sent off next.  I could not even imagine racing Run The Bluegrass in a wheel chair.  The hills in this race as massive and hard enough to run up.  More on that later.  LOL!  Michael and I lined up and wished each other good luck on the race.  It is really one of the most stunning and beautiful half marathons around, so I told him to take it in and enjoy it…and if by chance he caught up to me because my race plan wasn’t going well, we could maybe run it in together.

And then we were off…to AC/DC’s Thunderstruck.  Which, for the record, is one of my favorite race pump-up songs.  I ran easy (well, I thought it was easier than it actually was, apparently, for that first mile, which takes us up our first major climb.  I clocked that one in 7:58…so definitely faster than I anticipated or meant to be for my warm up.  Now it was time to kick it and see what I could handle.

Mile 2 and Mile 3 were right on pace.  But they were hard.  This race has somewhere between 33 and 37 hills (it depends on who you ask), and some are manageable, and some will completely kill your speed.  I felt good for those miles, but as I went into Mile 4, my heart rate was really high and I took a walk break. And it pretty much broke me to do that so early in a race.  I knew I was now completely off my race plan and, you know how much of a perfectionist I am…it bothered me.  A lot.  I had been training really well, save for the fall that screwed with my knees, but this…this just destroyed my confidence.  I know that this is a difficult course, and tried to keep reminding myself of that, but, dammit…I know I am better than that.

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Mile 7 and looking better than I feel! Shoutout to Matthew Faske for the photoshop work!

The next mile I managed to pick it back up.  A little.  But it did help to see that 7 pace again.  I hit it at 7:55…so not in the range he wanted me at, and it was the last 7-something pace I would see that day.  Walking the hills became my method of survival.  I would run up some of them, but I was being very careful since I could tell my heart rate wasn’t in a good place and I didn’t want to push it.  I fueled at the halfway point with my Honey Stinger gel.  And I do get the ones with caffeine, but I don’t think it made any difference.  My legs weren’t going to wake back up.  At least I was running when I went past the photographer around Mile 7.  HA!  And, thanks to a friend of mine, I got the shirtless thumbs up guy behind me edited out of my picture.  YAY!

Mile 9 is the roughest.  You hit it just as you start up with hill. This massive hill.  And just when you think you are done with it, it turns and goes up some more.  This is the infamous S-turn hill…with drums that sort of inform you of your impending doom.  This hill did me in and I took the lonest walk break I have had to take just to get up it.  And, the entire time, I was just getting madder and madder at myself.

Does anyone else do this?

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Snagging a piece of candy on the way to the finish line!

I had a 5K left, and I gave myself the pep talk…that a 5K wasn’t far and that I could do this.  And I took only a few more walk breaks in that time, trying to hydrate myself well (I was racing with my hydration pack).  I think I did okay with that.  It also rained at this point.  Yep.  Rained.  It was brief…but unexpected as ran wasn’t supposed to move in until later than that.  I hit the Mile 12 marker and attempted to pick it up again.  When you get to 12.1, you go over a mat, and you get timed on your final mile.  Some of this does go uphill, and I told myself this one I couldn’t walk.  This one I had to run in.  And I managed to mentally push myself to do just that.  The official results clocked my final mile as a 7:06.  My Garmin had me at a 8:59.  LOL!!

This time, Cathy did happen to catch me at the finish line and snap some photos.  I made sure to snag a Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg (I can’t eat them, but Cathy can) and high five the race director on the way to the finish line.  Did I meet my goal for this race at all?  Not even close.  I gave up on myself and the plan in really early on.  But I needed to take care of me, and that high heart rate had me concerned.  I still hate that I walked so much.  That being said, I had a strong finish and at least I did finish.  So, there is power in that, for sure.

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The famous Keenland Starting Gate photo…a requirement at Run The Bluegrass!

I met up with Cathy at the end of the chute.  She said she had a really good race, even on her challenging hills, and even took beer at the beer/water stop that we all come across in our respective distances.  She does it all.  HA!  We made our way over to the starting gates to get the required photo inside.  I managed to get myself up, but getting down is always an issue. Cathy carried me down like a child…per usual.  But this year, she got to understand the struggle as she had to do it too, as she finished the Yearling.  Afterwards, I gave her my free beer (she had one of her own ahead of me) and I snagged her a free breakfast sandwich as well before we went inside.  My friend Michael finished about 8 minutes behind me and he came to find us.  I asked if he got his photo in the gates, and he hadn’t so I took him out to be sure we got him that.

Soon after, I found myself purchasing more stuff at the expo.  HA!  I bought the most stunning pair of leggings with “Dream Big” on the side and pockets from Bend Active.  They are super comfortable too.  I snagged the last in my size and couldn’t have been happier about that. You don’t realize how important pockets in leggings are until you need a pocket.  They are my favorite pair of leggings I own now.

After that, we headed back to the hotel so I could shower and change and we could pack up and head out.  Thank God, this hotel had late checkout.  We gathered our belongings and packed up the car.  We were going to meet up with Michael back in Louisville later for sushi before heading to the Louisville City FC Soccer Game.  But the rain had moved in at this point, and sitting out in the cold wet…sounded awful.  They ended up postponing the match until Sunday, but Cathy and I had other things going on that day. Michael ended up going Sunday, but we did get him to my favorite Sushi joint…Dragon King’s Daughter, and took him back to his hotel afterwards.

So, my official results of the 2019 Run The Bluegrass Half Marathon are that I finished it in 1:51:14, pretty far off of what I know I am cable of, honestly.  Meh.  You win some, you lose some, you walk more than you want to on really big ass hills sometimes.  I was 233/2635 finishers overall. I was the 53/1660 for women finishers. And I was 12/321 in my age division.  So, I mean…not great.  But not bad either.  This wasn’t the mental boost that I was hoping it would be…but its done.  And, yes, I’m already registered for next year.  Time to run more hills.  For real.

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Papa John’s 10 Miler – Louisville, KY (March 23, 2019)

 

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Me after earning a new 10 Miler PR at the 2019 Papa John’s 10 Miler

Race: Papa John’s 10 Miler

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: March 23, 2019

Time: 1:15:52

There was a time when I would tell everyone that my favorite local race was the Papa John’s 10 Miler.  That changed after last year, when I didn’t know we weren’t finishing in the stadium, the course was short, the weather was awful, the shirts were cheap and ugly…

I mean, the race can’t help the weather, but the rest of it…

At the Rodes City Run 10K, it was announced that the course of the Papa John’s 10 Miler was different this year, however, we would be finishing in the stadium again.  Happiness.  There was hope for this race yet.  As for the race shirts…well…I’ll get to those in a moment.

The plan my coach gave me was pretty much similar to the plan he had given me before the Rodes City Run…race the race…and then hit some marathon paced miles in a long run the following day.  The only difference was the distances I would be running.  So, I try not to think about the fresh hell waiting for me on Sunday when I am all-out racing on Saturday.  I, once again, waited until race week to register for this race.  When I told my coach that I was eyeing these for my race calendar, he really took that to heart.  And it was a good way for him to test my legs and endurance in the process.  So, I registered and found out that, once again, I was a seeded runner with a low bib number.  I didn’t put in for that on the registration, it just was assigned to me.  Part of being a consistent runner in these races.  I only missed it a few years due to injury.  And I have come a long way since the first time I ran it in 2012.

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Bold & bright and wearing lots of pink for the Papa John’s 10 Miler (note the seeded bib)

Packet pickup for this race is always at Cardinal Stadium (formerly Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium) in one of the suites.  So, Cathy and I left work slightly early to make the drive into Louisville to get my race packet.  We parked and took the elevator up to the expo.  I immediately saw Chris Powell.  He said, “Can I help you, or are you one of those…I already know…you’re one of the speedy runners.”  Chris…don’t ever stop making me smile.  I walked over to the table for the elite and seeded runners and got my bib.  I was 59 this time.  I was told that the t-shirts were behind me.  And here we go again with the cheap-ass, uninspired, ugly, unisex, poorly fit t-shirts.  If you’re a man…these will look great on you.  If you’re female…well, you’re shit out of luck because this race no longer does women’s cut.  They do these cheap logo shirts now…where you have to size down and still not have it fit appropriately…not impressed.  And it’s too bad, because I used to rave about the Nike, fitted, race shirts that this race used to give out.  Cutting corners isn’t always a good thing.  Not one bit.

Same dinner happened the night before the race…the cauliflower crust pizza I described in the Rodes City Run 10K race blog.  No need to rehash that.  My evening routine was much the same too.  Stretch, foam roll, sleep.  Then wake up, eat, stretch, foam roll, get ready to run.

I had lots of pink showing for the Papa John’s 10 Miler, so my mom was well represented.  It was cold outside.  Which, as you know, doesn’t make me happy.  So I bundled up with layers for pre-race walking to the start and the inevitable wait for the start of the actual race.  Cathy and I had to clear some ice off the window of the car, but we got out on the road with plenty of time to park and make the hike up and over the overpass to get to the start line.

Or so we thought.  The lots that we were told to park in were being blocked by the police from the direction we were driving in from.  This caused us to drive around in various circles through the Louisville streets, with many random turnarounds and wrong turns, with no instruction from the officers themselves…until we finally came at it from the opposite side and managed to get into one of the green lots.

Dear Papa John’s 10 Miler Race Director peeps…….in the future…let us know about road closures if we are coming from, say, Indiana, okay?

And now our little cushion of time was really condensed.  SUCK!  We popped out into the cold morning air, and started to swiftly walk the very far distance from our parking space to the stairs to take us up to the overpass, which we then needed to cross over and then turn the corner and make our way to the start.  The thing was…the start line was further up from where it has been in previous years.  That was unexpected.  We had to pause on our way there, with speakers going in and out, for the singing of the National Anthem.  Cathy was trying to get me to shed layers when our friend Laura came over to say HI and chat for a moment.  I ended up shedding my winter hat prior to the race, as much as I wanted to keep it, because it would hinder my pigtails, and Cathy excused herself to go get a good spot for the start of the race.

Karen Brady and Laura Ferguson.

Photo Credit: The Voice Tribune – Me and Laura at the start of the Papa John’s 10 Miler

Laura and I got to chat a little while longer, and a reporter for the Voice Tribune came over and asked to take our picture.  So, that happened.  She wished me luck and went to find a spot to start from.  I moved a bit further up, spotting my friend Courtney.  She was shivering in shorts, a tank top, and arm warmers, saying that she totally underestimated the cold weather that morning.  I wished her luck and she did the same, saying that she was coming off of a stomach virus and I would definitely be ahead of her.

They were getting ready to start, so I went to get to the left side, and I spotted one of my favorite podcasters, Tina Muir.  She’s amazing and super fast (and came in 2nd female overall in this race!) and went to introduce myself.  She shook my hand and asked me my goals.  I told her that I was hoping to beat my PR on this course, which I went in 2016.  And then she asked me about the course, which I told her was pretty flat leading into the park.  The three miles in the park are hilly, but then it’s flat coming back until the overpass climb at Mile 9.  Then flat to the finish.  She said her coach (also her husband) wanted her to hold back for the first 5 miles and then let loose in the 2nd half.  I was supposed to be all-out the entire time.  I wished her luck and went to stand a few spots behind her, as the elites filled in around me.  I saw her infamous power pose at the start line and before you knew it…the horn was sounding at we were off.

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Me heading out at the start of the Papa John’s 10 Miler

My coach wanted me to not blitz the first couple of miles, and to ease into it with the pace, and then really start pushing it.  So, I attempted to not hit the 6 minute miles and succeeded.  HA!  Honestly, it’s not hard for me because the 6’s are just not a place I can hang.  Not yet.  (Optimism!)  They were between 7:15-7:19.  I was sort of in the midst of that early pace when my friend Dan spotted me from the sideline and shouted out to me.  I gave a wave and a quick, “HEY!” I felt good at this start, but the hard part of the race was yet to come, and with an intense week of training prior to this…well, I wasn’t sure how long I would be able to keep that up, because I had about 35 miles going into a 10 mile race that week.  Whew.  But I was feeling pretty good at the start and was just ready to see what I could do.

Mile 3 is where we enter Iroquois Park.  In case you are unfamiliar with this park, or previous blogs of mine where I mention it…there are hills.  LOTS of hills.  I was hoping they wouldn’t slow me down too much this year.  I wanted to make sure I was charging up them, not letting them slow down too much…and ride…ride those downhills down and prepare for the next uphill.  I managed to make my legs work those hills and remain powerful throughout the park.  I was wearing my hydration vest for the first time in a race, so water stops weren’t an issue.  I came out of the park just after Mile 6 and knew that I had 3 miles until the next climb.

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Trust me, despite the freezing temps, she was happy to be back INSIDE the stadium!

My legs felt trashed after all those ups and downs, but I continued to press, and my pace was able to pick back up as I headed back toward the finish, which would be in the stadium.  I hit the low 7’s on my 7th mile and knew that I needed to wake them back up so that the climb up at Mile 9 wouldn’t kill my speed.  I passed the spot where the start was, and the DJ was out there just really encouraging everyone to keep going.  We were so close now.  I made the turn at the corner and started up the hill.  I was about halfway up when my friend Terry, shouted out my name.  I turned and gave a wave and then powered up the rest.  It officially killed my legs, that climb.  I couldn’t get the speed back after the downhill and the run to enter the parking lot of the stadium.  Here we now run around the stadium to enter on the opposite side that we used to, and then we hit the field.  I had no momentum left, so I was glad this was it for me for the day with no additional miles to tack on.  I ran as hard as I could manage, which wasn’t much, to the finish line and crossed.

Cathy was screaming at me from her spot in the stands and waving at me.  All I heard was, “YOU SMASHED IT!”  I had made a point of not looking at my watch or the clocks again on the course, so I thought I had come in around or after my 2016 time.  But apparently I came in almost a full minute under my PR for this race.  That was UNEXPECTED!

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Me coming across the finish line at the Papa John’s 10 Miler and with an unexpected PR!

I caught up with my friend, Bekah, afterwards.  She still had 6 more to run that day.  I told her good luck with that, as I would be running the following day.  I met up with Cathy outside after snagging some water.  I went to snag the free pizza for her to eat and some of the free race snacks afterwards.  And then…celebrating a new 10 Miler PR…we made the very cold hike back to the car.  Cathy let me wrap the blanket she had with her around my shoulders to help stay warm.  We finally got to the car and I started to get warm…and we spent the rest of the day shopping and celebrating a PR…and then going to the Louisville City FC season opener.  For the record, the coach for LouCity ran the 10 miler and totally beat me in by 7 minutes.

So, the official results of the 2019 Papa John’s 10 Miler were that I finished in 1:15:52, which shaved just under a minute off of my PR time I set in 2016.  WINNING.  I was surprised, because I didn’t feel as strong in this one.  But, sometimes I surprise myself.  246/2981 of finishers overall.  I was the 57/1616 females to cross the finish line.  And, I was the 11/231 in my age division.  BOOM!  Love a shiny new PR.  It might just make up for the shirt I’ll never wear.

Rodes City Run 10K – Louisville, KY (March 9, 2019)

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Me fiercely fighting for a strong finish at the Rodes City Run 10K

Race: Rodes City Run 10K

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: March 9, 2019

Time: 45:33

Well, there is definitely nothing more satisfying than beating a previous year’s time.  Still no 10K PR, but I did way better at this local 10K than the one I attempted to really race in hot, humid Florida a couple of weeks before.  Go figure.

I also waited until the very last week to sign up for this race.  I had it on my radar, as usual, as it is one of the best races here in Louisville, BUT…that being said, I am also in the heat of marathon training and wasn’t sure I was actually going to race it.  My coach, however, said I was.  (For the record, he also raced it and averaged a 5:57 average pace).  So, I was going into this with expectations of a better performance than my previous 5K.  And that was the goal.  Run hard…the entire 6.2 miles.

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That face you make when you are surprised with being a seeded runner in a local 10K race

That being said, I headed down to Slugger Field on the Friday before the race to pick up my race packet.  It was here that I discovered that I was a seeded runner this year and had a low number bib.  Oh.  Awesome.  No pressure then, right?  HA!  So, I was directed over to the proper table to get my race bib and then went to snag a t-shirt as well.  I loved that the shirts this year were purple (GO LouCity), and had a bit of a Mardi Gras flair to them.  So, that was awesome.

Headed home to make a one of the cauliflower pizza’s I have in my freezer (Califlour Pizza Crusts, which I top with Trader Joes Greek Yogurt Kale & Spinach Dip, some mushrooms, spinach, and garlic).  Friday Pizza Night has sort of become a thing.  And these cauliflower crusts are the best out there (and naturally, I can’t get them in any store around here and have to order them online).  Totally worth it.  It was a late dinner, but perfect.  I did my evening stretches, foam rolled, and went to bed early.

Because I had to wake up early enough on race morning to figure out my clothes, stretch, foam roll, and eat prior to race time.  It was around 39 degrees at the start of the race, but I didn’t take into account the wind chill, which made it feel like it was in the high 20s.  So, the running skirt and tank top with arm warmers was, for the first time in a long time, me being underdressed for a run.  Needless to say, I had layers on over my race outfit until close to start time.

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A picture of my knees the night before the race

Please note, that SOMETHING in all of my race outfits this year will be pink, to honor my mom as she goes through her treatments for breast cancer.  You’re going to see me in a lot of pink.

Anyway…

I was pretty fresh off of busted up knees from a fall I took on some frozen mud near my apartment complex.  I mentioned this a lot on Facebook, but not on here, because I’ve been horrible about blogging and need to really get back into the swing of that.  My apologies, friends.  So, I took a hard belly-flop fall one morning while doing my run.  We have had some new construction and roofing going on at my apartment complex and with the weather winging between hot and cold, a pile of mud that is normally not in my path was in my path, and froze solid from the below freezing temps.  My left foot caught it one morning and I was DOWN.  Just laid out with holes torn into my favorite pair of winter running tights, blood and bruising.  It wasn’t pretty.  So, that sucked.  And now you know the tale of the Legend of the Fall (non-Brad Pitt division).  So, I had some twingy, pain every now and again during my runs, but nothing that I was too concerned about.  I had this before after I fell in the 5K of Dopey, and it eventually just got better on its own.  Just took awhile.  And, cold air and banged up knees are not a good combo.

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Basically me thinking, “Please don’t make me take off these layers” before race start.

Just prior to starting, Harry and Jo wandered by and got to say HI and wish me luck.  Harry said, “Low number!  WOW.”  He asked about my knees and said that they looked a little bit better than the photo I had posted on Facebook.  I think he was being kind.  We wished each other luck and I shed my outer layers, even though I didn’t want to yet.  My training partner and friend, Christine, found me at this point.  She was aiming for a really fast 10K…and I wasn’t sure I could keep up with her…but we gathered together at the start, wished each other luck and awaited go-time.

The elites and seeded were set to go after the wheelchairs, so after the wheelchair racers went, we all crowded together and prepared for our turn.  The horn blew and we were off.  I felt good in that first mile, comfortable, but running hard down East Broadway.  I wasn’t going to check my watch or the clocks on the mile markers the entire race, I was running by feel, and it was supposed to feel hard.  My first mile ended up being a 6:51 pace.  Fast.

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Me heading out with a fast start at the Rodes City Run 10K

But the hill at the beginning of Mile 2 really took me down a peg.  Like…majorly.  Hills.  I need to get more comfortable with them, I just don’t run them enough or often.  But I’ll change that eventually.  Christine has had some hilly portions in our long runs together, so that at least helped with that.  She passed me on the hill (everyone passes me on the uphill) and stayed ahead of me for the rest of the race.  I could always JUST see her.

It’s the tilty roads that got me next, but my pace picked back up.  There were some rollers in here as far as hills went, but nothing substantial.  I just focused on pushing myself hard again.  Mile 3 we are on the far side of Cave Hill Cemetery.  I was pretty cold, but moving as fast as I could move at that moment.  Miles 3 and 4 were in the low 7’s (7:10 and 7:14).  Mile 5 was back to feeling really slow and challenging.  I don’t think hills were involved, I think my legs were just tired.  I can’t say for sure.  It’s been a few weeks.  But I pressed on, knowing how close I was to the finish.  I wasn’t going to give up on myself yet.  Squeaked out a 7:26 mile.  And then…the final mile was upon us.  I made the turn back onto East Broadway and headed back toward where we started (this race now is a loop and not a point-to-point, like it had been for years).  I remembered hearing someone behind me say, “Is the start the finish?”  It made me smile, but honestly, I could see it and it still felt so far away.  And no matter how much I was pushing, I just couldn’t seem to get there.  It felt like it never got closer.  The final .2 was just me giving my best, and I crossed the finish line, just happy to be done.  And knowing I did better than the previous year (which was windy, rainy, and cold AF, to be fair).  I got past the photographers and hunched over for a moment to catch my breath.  My coach had said to push hard and not focus on the hard miles I was going to have to do the next day…so I did as he said.  And it paid off.  My final miles were 7:29 and 7:16).  New PR?  Nope.  Not this time.  But now I only need to shave an additional 1:30 off to tie it.  PROGRESS!

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Photo Credit: The Voice Tribune – My biggest cheerleader, my roomie, Cathy at the race…even in the bitter cold.

We had planned on meeting up with Christine post-race for coffee, and we stared to wander our way towards the coffee shop.  She found us as we were walking that way, and we eventually ended up at a different coffee shop.  A Starbucks.  I was fine with it.  It was warm inside and the drinks were caffeinated.  YAY!  We sat around the table and talked and then she and her husband gave us a ride back to our car at Slugger Field (we had made quite the hike to the start line that morning, mind you).

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Me crossing the finish at the Rodes City Run 10K

The following day, I knocked out my long run with 2×5 miles in the middle at marathon pace.  I was shocked, but happy my body could do it.

So, the official results of the Rodes City Run 10K are that I finished in 45:33.  I am chipping away at my times, getting closer to matching or beating that PR time.  SO CLOSE!  I was 246/2964 finishers overall.  I was the 58/1596 women finishers.  And I was 12/225 in my age division.  Last year I was also 12/225 in my age division.  HA!  There were over 400 more runners this year though than last year.  I’ll take that as a win.  And while this wasn’t a distance PR, it was a race PR and a course PR…so that’s also exciting when you think about it!

10 Weeks To Go

rainbowAs some of you know, I have been training, very specifically, very diligently, and quite intensely for my Spring marathon!  I chose one out of the area, but close enough to drive.  Honestly, this is one of the most vigorous training plans I have been through when working toward the marathon distance.  As I may have mentioned (it’s been so long since I’ve blogged, I can’t remember), I hired a new coach.  He was my physical therapist back in 2017 when my hip flexor paralyzed itself, and he got me quickly back on the road.  After not reaching any running goals last year, I really needed to reassess my training, and after talking to him, hired him on to train me.  And my life has never been the same.

Seriously.

I have had some of the highest mileage weeks I have had in 6 years.  I’m not saying that to brag, because I am aware that one extra mile could be the tipping point to injury.  But, as I said, Daniel used to be my physical therapist and he knows my weaknesses better than I do. He also knows that in order to speed me up and work on endurance, it means a mix of easy/slow runs and hard speed sessions.  We all know how I feel about speed work, but he hasn’t made me cuss him out or cry yet…so his method is working.

I will say, I’m exhausted by the end of the week and look forward to my rest day to prepare for the long runs (yep…runs) of the weekend.  Sometimes they are easy runs, sometimes one of them involves some speed.  But there is always a reason for where and why he wants me to do runs a certain way. And I’m working hard to hit suggested paces, without going over the edge to injury.  It can be a fine line, especially when you’ve dealt with injuries over the years. Last year, I made it out without a single one, and I hope to continue that trend this year.

All that being said, I am getting a slight down week this week as I am headed to Disney World (you know this if you follow me on Instagram) for the Disney Princess Race Weekend.  I am participating in the 5K (running it with my roommate at her pace), the 10K (which is what Daniel wants me to race), and the half marathon (training run).  I’m super stoked.  My last trip to Disney was in January 2018, and it was a hot mess express of a dumpster fire.

So…packing has commenced and I finally got around to trying on my costumes yet.  Does my coach realize that I dress up in costumes?  Probably not.  LOL!  But its Disney…if you don’t do SOMETHING Disney related (doesn’t have to be full-on costume), you have no soul.

So…my 5K costume had to change.  My roommate is running as Captain America, so I thought I’d go as Iron Man (Tony Stark FOREVER!).

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Sadly, the outfit I ordered to do this costume, didn’t match.  And the company I ordered the top from hasn’t done much to get me the new top in time for this race.  So…I thought about trying to put together a Captain Marvel costume (not enough time), or do something else Avengers…but I just couldn’t cobble together what I needed in the short span of time remaining.  So that means, I stick to super hero, but cross the streams into the DC universe and run as…Wonder Woman (DUH!)!

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Not what I wanted…but it will work.  It will do.  And besides, I am Wonder Woman, so might as well stick to my nickname.

For the 10K…I was having a hard time settling on a costume.  Believe it or not, I was originally going for Honey Lemon from Big Hero 6.

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That being said, it’s really hard to find running clothes that are that golden yellow and not a fluorescent yellow.  I went to Jo-Ann Fabrics to maybe get fabric for my friend Melissa to sew a costume for me, but there wasn’t anything there that would work.  I was sad, but not giving up on this costume.  It WILL happen, because she’s perfect for me to run as.  So, I had to make a choice between two costumes that I have run in before…Officer Judy Hopps (Zootopia) or Vanellope von Schweets (Wreck it Ralph).  I put it up for a vote on both Facebook and Instagram and the winner…

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Pretty excited to bust out this costume again.  Hoping that I get the “ears” just right like last time.

The one race that I knew for certain which character I was dressing up as was the half marathon.  My nieces, Kaytlynn and Baileigh, chose for me to run as one of the most classic princesses from the Disney films.

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My mom made my top for this costume, as the one I wore when I ran Dopey in 2014, was shredded. I mean, the sleeves are made out of ribbons.  My mom did a PHENOMENAL job and I can’t wait to share the actual costume with you guys!  I tried it on today as we started packing for the trip and I really just want my mom to make all my running costumes from now on.  She did my Vanellope top I wore in Dopey 2018, and it was perfection.  This one…also perfection.  Excited to reprise my role as Snow White for 13.1 magical miles.

I’m going to be trying some new stuff out in the upcoming weeks, but I needed to get through Disney before I make fresh purchases. I’m thinking of switching to the hydration vest versus the belt I’ve worn since 2012.  My friend Christine let me borrow hers and I loved it.  So…that will be a big purchase, but one I can’t wait to try.  Also…my new fuel.  It’s pricey, but it seems to work!  I’m using old fuel I still had kicking around for now.  It’s fine, because I like it as well.  As long as it doesn’t make me sick or hurt my stomach, or as long as I don’t have to chew it…I’m happy to use it.

So, seven challenging weeks of training down.  Ten more to go.  And now, here come the weeks where I also throw in some races (either as training runs, or to race) and I’m pretty stoked to get that going.  Stay tuned, as I hope to keep you informed of more of my training highlights and shortcomings (because I’m human and I’m not going to nail everything).  But that will have to wait until I get back from Disney.

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Starving To Be Enough

Hello, my dear friends and readers.  Let me introduce you to my friend, Natalie.  I met Natalie through a local running store, that ultimately, led to a small running group.  She and I became fast friends and, we have seen each other through a lot of ups and downs in life.  Last year, she took on one of the hardest and biggest challenges of her life.  She went to get treated for anorexia, an eating disorder that was, literally, wasting her away to just bones. Unfortunately, this isn’t the type of problem that just goes away after treatment.  It stays with you…it eats at you…it gets in your head and it makes it hard to stay on the right path.

With the holidays in full swing, she commented on the way her life is just saturated in diet culture.  It’s hard enough to deal with when you are in the population trying to lose weight.  But have you ever thought about how hard it is for someone who is obsessed with being smaller?  Someone who can easily be triggered by the word “diet” or “fat” or even “calorie?”

I have been wanting to welcome guest bloggers to my page for awhile now, so I’m going to let Natalie share her thoughts on the saturation of the market with “quick fixes” and how it can be a problem for people who have disordered ways of eating or looking at nutrition.

We all can agree, diets are bullshit. Your body doesn’t need to do a cleanse, you have a liver that does that for you. Your dietary choices should not be used as a way to restrict yourself from what you can and cannot eat.  And diets…don’t work.  As anyone who does any sport, you know how important FOOD is and PROPER NUTRITION is to performance and longevity.  It’s hard, though, even for people without an eating disorder, to feel normal when it feels like every ad, commercial, influencer, and the like out there is telling you that you need to be smaller and this gimmick or new workout is how to do just that.

So, let me turn it over to a great friend of mine, a fellow athlete, and someone who has been on the dark side of an eating disorder and is working hard to recover, despite being bombarded with messages that are the complete opposite of what she needs to be feeding herself.

Below are her words, as well as a before and after photo for reference.  Thank you, Natalie, for being brave enough to share your story and your thoughts on this matter.  Keep fighting.

~*~*~

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Natalie BEFORE and Natalie AFTER

It’s all the time; all year and everywhere! In the malls, magazines, on TV, the internet, radio, at work, with friends and now invading your emails!

DIETS: how to diet, which one is right for you, what melting pill takes the fat away, and on and on it goes.

Food has always been a part of life.  You can’t get away from it: from the moment you’re born, it’s literally shoved into your mouth, and then, we are told not to eat what we just learned to put into our mouths because it is bad for you. Yet, it’s what we have to have to stay alive!

The diet industry probably makes more money than the company’s for any other product. I think I read it’s a multi-billion dollar corporation!  Well, as hard is it is for someone wanting to get healthy (which one to pick, this one didn’t work, etc.), what its like for a person with an eating disorder is absolutely just torture!!

In my active portion of my ED, I was all about different fads and diets and everyone was willing to give it to me despite the fact that I was sick and losing too much weight. I had doctors that even encouraged my particular way of eating – healthy of course – but I left out how much I exercised to burn off the little healthy food I did eat! I’m sure if I had tried I probably could have found a surgeon to give me gastric bypass!! Trust me, I thought about it! But, now in process of being in recovery, which is the hardest thing I have ever done, it’s all around me and dangling in my face 24/7. I know this is a part of life and they didn’t actually cause my ED, but they feed it, literally and metaphorically!!

I get emails everyday for the newest product of diet pills. I see a runner on an ad and then go to read it and it talks about counting macros or the Keto diet. Even gluten-free diets are used to restrict, which is kinda funny considering they have some of the highest sugar counts in their stuff just so it tastes good. It’s supposed to be for allergies to gluten or, more specifically, what it was originally for was Celiac disease which has to be diagnosed with a biopsy and blood work! Period! I have many friends with this and they can actually die from it! So, to take specific diets for specific diseases is also the new fad. Like I said, it’s crazy and it can make a normal person crazy, but with the ED, I feel like I have no chance at ever getting better because it always draws that part of me back to the fact that I’m not good enough the way I am. I could be thinner if I just took this pill or if I rubbed my belly with this amazing fat burning gel or if I get my macros or micro nutrients right. I have to say, in my treatment (which was meant for an athlete), I have learned about macros and micro foods, but in the end, we are people that can get obsessed about anything and take it to extremes. It’s in our way of thinking and I say in our DNA too.

They say people with ED are a lot like alcoholics, if that gives you some idea of how bad it is. Except you don’t need alcohol to live, but you do have to eat food.  To constantly give all this media attention to something that will only work for a small time, and then the targeted person will go off their diet and then have to start all over again, because they are desperate at that point and go back to the diet programs or vitamin shops that sell “healthy ways to diet” is just as addictive.

But, for a person like me, someone who will go the distance to be thin enough and never stop. And every diet there is or that comes out, my mind immediately thinks…maybe if I try this and that, then the cycle of being afraid to eat, the fear of gaining weight and not being good enough if I don’t weigh less…all of it throws me back into what will ultimately be my death warrant!

So basically, from my point of view, as a recovering anorexic…this industry is helping us kill ourselves for money!!

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

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

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

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

Hey…I’ve been guilty of this myself.

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IT. IS. THAT. SIMPLE.

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

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

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

Quality Over Quantity

44425106_10100467243748681_8763605971185434624_oTwo weeks ago…I ran a marathon.

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

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

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

I’m recovering.

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

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

NOT. ANYMORE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You do you!