Throo The Zoo 5K – Louisville, KY (May 10, 2014)

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

Race: Throo The Zoo 5K

Place: Louisville Zoo, Louisville, Kentucky

Date: May 10, 2014

Time: 23:45

Less than 12 hours after arriving back at home from the Pro.Active For Life 5K in Frankfort, Kentucky, I was awake, dressed in running clothes once again, and heading out the door to run another 5K.  Hi…I might be addicted to racing…again!  HAHA!!

My legs were feeling a little tired, but good when I woke up early that morning so I could get in my physical therapy leg stretches prior to the race.  I also brewed up a cup of coffee because…I gotta have my coffee.  It’s required.  Anyway, I stretched and enjoyed a leisurely morning…listening to the sound of the rain outside.





But…after eating some cereal and finishing the race prep stuff, there was a lull in the precipitation.  I threw on a rain jacket though and Cathy and I headed back out to hop in the car and make our way to the Louisville Zoo…for another one of the races I seem to have a habit of running…the Throo The Zoo 5K.

The drive over was uneventful and rather easy.  And, for once, we weren’t stuck in the long line of cars streaming into the zoo.  Nope.  Not this time.  Cathy went some back way into the Louisville Zoo…and that worked like a charm.  We were into the zoo and parked without any problems.  As we got out of the car to find packet pickup…the rain kicked in again.  We donned our hoods on our rain jackets and made our way toward the zoo entrance, where packet pickup was happening at some tables that were under cover.

Packet pickup was a breeze.  I got my race bib and some safety pins at one table and then was sent over to another table to get my t-shirt.  The shirt this year was light blue with a white tiger on it.  LOVE!  Cathy and I then walked back toward the car to toss the t-shirt in there and get me pinned up.  Now, normally I would have just sat in the car for a little while and waited on the rain, which was now falling harder to pass…but this, apparently, wasn’t even crossing Cathy’s mind.  She pinned me up and was up and walking toward where the start of the race was going to be.  There were some tents set up…for Whole Foods (who were dishing up yogurt, berry & granola parfaits), and McDonalds (they had apple slices) and a table with bananas…and the Fleet Feet tent…which was PACKED with people.  Cathy and I ducked under a tree…which wasn’t keeping us dry.  And that’s when the lightning started.  I made some comment about not being under trees during lightning and she got all miffy at me for the comment and…then Fleet Feet’s tent cleared out momentarily…so we ducked under that.

I spotted Laura and Mike from my local running group, as they took cover under the Whole Foods tent.  The starting line was still being inflated, but the lightning was very active.  Finally, as people started to line up at the start…the announcement came that the race would be delayed for 30 minutes.  If there was still lightning, they would make the call on whether the race would be cancelled and rescheduled.  After all, the zoo had to open and all at some point.

So, Cathy and I moved over to the Whole Foods tent to talk with Laura and Mike while we waited the official word from the organizers.  I always like hanging out with these two.  They are so much fun.  Anyway…the lightning did stop soon after the race was delayed…and with the rain lightening up, Mike and Laura decided to try to get a light run in prior to the race.  So, they headed out.

The announcement came that the race was going ahead, so I got out from under the tent and stepped into the rain.  I kept my rain jacket on until about 5 minutes before the official start…maybe closer to 2 minutes…I won’t lie.  Finally, I shed it, stepped away from my roomie and got into the starting line.  I wasn’t up front, but I wasn’t too far behind it either.  I knew my legs were shot from not only spin class on Friday, but also my hard race through Frankfort (with my new 5K PR!), Kentucky the night before.  This wasn’t going to be a speedy 5K, but I was going to get these legs moving the best I could.  We were all awaiting the horn to send us on our way…in the rain…and through the zoo.

That came soon after…and we were off.

Now, in the two previous years I have run the Throo The Zoo 5K, the course has been mostly through the surrounding streets and neighborhoods, with the last bit going into the zoo, and up Gorilla Hill, before sending us out of the zoo and around to the finish.  So, usually it was maybe about the last mile and a half or something.  But this year…they changed the course again and MOST of the race was actually done…inside the zoo.  This made me so stupidly and incredibly happy.

The start of the race was damp, but we went out fast.  I eased up immediately, knowing that my legs were already feeling the night before.  But, I pressed on, because I was going to still take this as a challenge.  This was not a course to PR on, because there would be narrow areas where only a few people could be across…and some steep inclines to deal with as well.  This wasn’t a PR attempt for me, so I was okay with that.  The first part of the race happened on the neighborhood roads, for less than half a mile.  Then we made a left turn to enter through the back part of the zoo.  Mike was standing on the corner cheering as I ran past.  That was awesome.  Into the zoo I went…where I encountered something akin to mud running.  The path was a complete mess…mud everywhere.  I was sad that I wore my new compression sleeves because I could feel the mud being kicked up on them already.  Ah well…part of being a runner, I suppose.  At least I wore my old Newton’s and not my new ones for my shoes that morning.

The next half mile was spent in the zoo itself.  I could see quite a few animals as I ran past, which only made me smile.  At Mile 1, we left the zoo to wind our way through a couple of the parking lots, past a water station, and then just after Mile 1.5…go back into the zoo for the next mile and a half.  This was fun!  I loved the variety of animals and the people I was running near or around.  One thing that did peeve me off, however, was this dad who was running with his little girl.  She was struggling and he turned around and told her that if she wanted to PR, she had to move it!  She said her shoe was untied…so she stopped to tie it.  I thought he was going to blow a gasket.  But I ran past them and didn’t hear from them again.  Who knows how that turned out.

After making a few climbs, and some downhills too, I wound my way out of the zoo, hitting Mile 3.  The finish line was just ahead, so I put on the afterburners as much as I could, moving as quickly as I could to get across the line.  I managed…with a much slower time that last year, indeed.  By about a minute and a half.  Back to back races are tough, man!

Me...all muddy and damp after the Throo The Zoo 5K - Louisville, Kentucky
Me…all muddy and damp after the Throo The Zoo 5K – Louisville, Kentucky

Cathy came over to congratulate me and I went to snag some water from the recovery area.  I had a raffle ticket to deposit at the white tent, but Cathy told me to grab water while she dropped it in.  I did just that and went to find her afterwards.  She wasn’t sure if I placed or not in my age group, so we decided to hang around for a little while.  This turned out to be a long, long while…actually.  But at least at this point it had stopped raining.

As the race was finishing up, someone did come over to the tent to remind runners to get their raffle tickets into the drawing as that would start soon.  I was now getting hungry, so I snagged some apples from the McDonalds table and Cathy got a parfait to at least keep the hunger at bay before we could go get gluten-free crepes at The Flea Off Market from our favorite food truck, Sweet ‘N Savory.  They called over everyone in costume for the costume contest and then began some raffle drawings.

I didn’t win.  Anything.

That pretty much sums it up.  Finally…it was time for some awards.  YAY!

They gave away the overall female, male, master, and grandmaster awards…and then…passed it off for the costume contest.  At this point, I was starving and really ready to go get some food.  But, we cheered those in costume to help decide the winners.  The Incredible Kermit…FTW!!  And the awards then came back…and I didn’t place in my division either.  So…we decided to go get some food…finally!

Except…The Flea Off Market was postponed…so instead…we went to Annie May’s Sweet Café for breakfast sandwiches and some take-n-bake cinnamon rolls and take-n-bake mac & cheese.  We ate our sammies…and then headed out to do some grocery shopping and some regular shopping…while killing time.  We were meeting up with my good friend, and running buddy, Kelsie, at The Comfy Cow for ice cream at 2 p.m.

Anyway…the experience and the thrill of this run was what made it.  The weather didn’t even dampen my spirits too much in the end.  I actually found the challenge of back-to-back 5Ks difficult…but one I was really ready to just test myself on.  Since the ankle injury, I haven’t been pushing my pace or myself much on my runs.  This was a way to test my will to actually push myself…at least a little.

So, the official results of the Throo The Zoo 5K is that I finished the race in 23:45.  I was okay with this time.  Much slower than last year, but I ran hard just over 12 hours before this one…so…yeah…this was good for me.  I was 55/1252 finishers overall.  I was the 14/765 female finishers.  And I was 5/130 people in my age division!  I’ll take that!

It’s good to be back to running races again…of varying length.  The 5K distance is not my strongest race because I’m not a sprinter.  But…these back-to-back 5Ks were a great challenge and a good exercise for me.  I can’t wait to run Throo The Zoo again next year.  Preferably without the rain.

Pro.Active For Life 5K – Frankfort, KY (May 9, 2014)

Me crossing the finish line of the Pro.Active For Life 5K - Frankfort, Kentucky
Me crossing the finish line of the Pro.Active For Life 5K – Frankfort, Kentucky

Race: Pro.Active For Life 5K

Place: Downtown Frankfort, Frankfort, Kentucky

Date: May 09, 2014

Time: 22:01


I was so close to hitting my sub-22 minute 5K goal on this race.  It’s a bit of a letdown to be that close to my goal and to fall short.  By two…freakin’…seconds.

However, I don’t feel that this is a disappointment at all.  In fact, I still count this as a victory.  Not only did I clock a new 5K PR by 26 seconds…but I did this…on my recovering ankle.  Yes…the very ankle that has been plaguing me since February.  The very same ankle I rehabbed…and that has mentally left me feeling nervous and, yes, scared, to really push on the roads.  I don’t want to damage it again.  I don’t want to push too much too fast and end up back to square one on the recovery.  I can’t afford another round of physical therapy…that’s for damn sure!

Anyway…that being said, I went into the Pro.Active For Life 5K (the second leg of the Frankfort Trifecta) with only one thing in mind…and it wasn’t defending my title.  Nope.  Not one bit.  It was to just…have fun.  That had been my goal all along.  After not even placing in my age division during the Good Shepherd Run For The Gold 3K (the first race in the Trifecta), I didn’t even consider defending my title I won last year.  Nope.  And it still isn’t even a glimmer in my eye for the next race in June.  The entire goal this time…was to enjoy the run.  To have fun.  To…maybe test myself a little.

But first, I had to get through the workday.  And in order to make sure that I could leave on time to drive to Frankfort and deal with any traffic…I wore my running skirt to work.  I will probably never do this again, because I got teased unmercifully over it.  And…while I am a good sport about things…this really bothered me.  Probably because it was my place of business.  None of my bosses had a problem with it.  But, some of my co-workers made some comments that just…bothered me.  So…yeah…I’ll just stop what I’m doing even if I don’t have the time to do so, and change like I normally do.  So much for trying to streamline the process, right?  It was also supposed to storm.  Like…right at race time.  I watched the weather all day, because, as we know…if I run in Frankfort, Kentucky…it will either rain before, during, or after I do so.  I was so not looking forward to running in the rain…and this meant I had to wear my old shoes for rainy conditions…MEH!  But…it was time to stop watching the weather and pack up to get on the road.

Cathy and I actually left a couple of minutes early and we hit the road.  About half an hour later…she was ready for her peanut butter and jelly sandwich that I had packed for our dinner.  I wanted to wait a bit longer, but was told we would make our usual Kroger stop for snacks as we got into Frankfort.  This is also where I go and use a real bathroom instead of a port-a-potty!  There is a method to this madness.  HAHA!  So, I gave in and removed the sammie from the cooler, along with the last of our paleo cookies and our water bottles.  And we commenced the noshing.

The food died a messy death.  I think I was hungrier than I thought I was.  And, soon, we were pulling into the parking lot of Kroger.  I went to throw away the baggies that held our sandwiches and go to use the restroom while Cathy went to grab snacks for us (Doritos for her…a banana for me!).  We were back on our way to the race in no time.  And, for some reason beyond even her knowledge, Cathy turned the wrong way.  So, we had to pull over and wait for a break in the traffic to turn around and head the right way to the parking garage where we normally park for Frankfort races.  We parked in the same spot we always park in before stashing some of our stuff in the trunk and heading up to the street level to get to packet pickup.

It was a short walk, and I stepped inside to a madhouse.  It was packed and busy and buzzing.  YAY!  Energy!  It took a few minutes, but I finally worked my way up to the table and gave them my name.  I was asked if I was doing the Trifecta, and I said I was…so the volunteer helping me when to find my bag.  While I waited, I snagged four safety pins.  The man returned with my bag with my tech shirt (I paid for an upgrade!) and my bib and a few goodies and informational handouts tucked inside.  I thanked him and removed myself from the building, heading outside to meet up with Cathy and get pinned up for the start of the race.  I ate my banana and we moved to stand on the lawn of the old Capitol building so I could do some stretching.  I promised my physical therapists I would be good about stretching…and Cathy has been holding me to it.

I even did some strides.  Nothing hard and fast.  Nothing all-out.  Just an easy jog down and up the road.  I did this for a few paces…until the cars were becoming bothersome (the roads weren’t completely closed yet) and went to stand on the sidewalk opposite the Capitol to do a few more stretches and await the official line-up portion of the race.  This came to be moments later, and Cathy gave me a hug and told me to have fun before going to find a place to stand to spectate.  I moved to the starting lineup, staying rather close to the front, wanting to avoid the children that would, inevitably, crowd the front of the start line.  I love this race, but that is the most difficult part of this race.  Some of the kids can hold their own…but some are just trying to be up front…and that can be dangerous.  And, wouldn’t you know it?  I blinked and suddenly was in a sea of children, one with a dog on a rope, lining up near the front.  They weren’t the contenders you would expect at the front…I could tell from the conversation.  The, “My goal is just to keep up with the dog,” comment was a dead giveaway.  But, this is their race too…and everyone signs that waver.

Debbie Brown got on the microphone and began to give some instructions.  Unfortunately, the running crowd wasn’t quieting down…so I heard none of this.  She did get us ready to run though, faking us out with an “On your mark…”  And then making us stretch.  HAHA!! EVIL!  But soon, she gave the word…and the starting gun went off!

And I was off.  Kind of.  Because those I was pushed and elbowed by the woman standing next to me, hard enough that her arm shut off my Garmin watch.  I had to restart it.  And all those kids that had lined up near the front…I saw a little girl go down in the fray…and Cathy said another kid, a boy, was also pushed down.  Dangerous…see.  I know it’s exciting, but I hate seeing kids get hurt at the start of a race because they lined up in the front, where the competitive runners are trying to position themselves.

That being said…I moved onward, heading down the street and making the left turn on the course to start on the path toward the Capitol.  My legs felt heavy and tired.  I guess going to spinning on Friday morning probably wasn’t the wisest thing I had done on a race day.  I pressed on though, and felt that I was moving at a good clip regardless.   I made another turn and was heading up the street toward the incline that would take us over the bridge and toward the Capitol where we would make our turn to come back toward the finish line.  About halfway up the street, just before the water stop, I hit my first mile.  My watched beeped a moment later, and apparently I went out hard…hitting that first mile in 6:54.  Whew.  But, the rest of my race was certainly more conservative.  I passed up the water and made my way up the small incline to dash around the annex area and come back around.  There was a nice downhill awaiting the runners there, and I slightly pulled up so as not to strain my quads.  I passed up the water again and carried myself through to Mile 2.  Just over a mile to go.  I pressed on, passing some people and being passed by others.  The legs were screaming at me, but I kept going.  I headed back over the bridge and, this time, down the steep incline to make my way down the street to make the final two turns before the finish line would come into view.  It was when the street leveled out that my legs really began to feel fatigued.  I was determined though.  I might have slowed down, but I was still moving forward.

I made the final turn and headed up the ramp that would carry us to the main street where the finish line was waiting.  I couldn’t make out the clock at the moment, but I was pushing as much as I dared.  I just wanted to get to that finish.  As I got closer…I saw…21:57…21:58…I tried to kick it into gear, and I crossed the finish line at a point I couldn’t tell if  I hit sub-22 or not.  I had to wait for official results.  But I was worn out, tired, thirsty, but feeling rather awesome at that point.  Cathy came rushing over…declaring…”You were third female!”  I was shocked by that too, as I wasn’t aiming to win, place, or show in this race.  I just wanted to run it…and do the best I could.  I guess I had more gas in the tank than I thought.

I moved through the finish area, being handed a bottle of water and then went to just walk around as we awaited results.  I didn’t care where I placed…I wanted to see if I hit that sub-22.  It was going to be SO close.  Cathy and I decided to walk to the other side of the square and cheer on runners as they came down the street before making their final turns to the finish.  That was fun.  I love cheering people on…I know it lifts me up while on the run, so I wanted to lift them up.  We moved on to go cheer at the finish line…just walking back and forth.  As I was heading back to the finish line, I was stopped by a nice lady with a stroller who asked how I did.  I told her that I did well…I beat last year’s time if nothing else.  She said she knew I had been worried about it with my ankle and was glad to hear it.  YAY!!  BLOG READER!!

Me with my bronze medal and bag of goodies for being the 3rd Overall Female at the Pro.Active For Life 5K - Frankfort, Kentucky
Me with my bronze medal and bag of goodies for being the 3rd Overall Female at the Pro.Active For Life 5K – Frankfort, Kentucky

Soon after, results were starting to get put up, so we meandered over there.  Cathy moved up ahead of me and looked at the results before I had the chance to do so myself.  She said…”You finished in 22:01!”  “SO CLOSE!” was my response.  I was just 2 seconds away from a sub-22 minute 5K.  SO close!!  Finishing in the top three females was an added bonus and not something I was even shooting for.  I love an added confidence booster.

So, this meant we needed to hang around for the awards…which was fine…just not something we actually had planned for.  A much later return home now…but I wasn’t going to complain.  I was feeling so much better about my running now.  And, after a moment, I went to chat up the winner of the 5K, not Kendall…she came in second this year…a nice woman who is a teacher in Frankfort…Robin Lawhorn.  Why randomly go chat her up?  Why not?  Well…one reason was she was wearing Newton’s.  Just like me.  We have great taste in shoes and since I know how hard it is to find Newton’s in this area…well…I had to talk to her.  Turns out she picked hers up at a triathlon store in Lexington.  Going to have to look that up next time I head to Lexington, for sure!

Cathy and I went to walk around the old Capitol building a little bit to pass the time before the awards.  But we soon just went down toward the street to watch the last of the walkers come in and to dance with the music that was being played.  After a little while, Debbie grabbed the microphone and asked if any children wanted to help pass out the medals.  She was consumed by a bunch of volunteers.  So…it was medal time.  And they started with the overall males and then moved to the overall females.  And as I came in third…I was called up first…and handed the wrong medal…and a very nice gift bag.  My picture was taken I then went to track down someone to give the gold medal back to and exchange it for the bronze.  I finally got that cleared up, and after some photos with Kendal and Robin…I got my stuff together to head home.

I normally would have stayed for more awards…but…I had another race on Saturday morning in Louisville.  So I needed to get home…and storms were apparently coming.  And, true to form, it stormed on us pretty bad on the drive back to Louisville.  Never fails.  If I keep running in Frankfort, they will never have a drought.

That being said, the official results of the Pro.Active For Life 5K are that I finished in 22:01, setting a new PR for myself.  I know I can hit that sub-22 goal this year…I’m just really going to have to work hard for it.  I intend to do just that though…for sure.  I was 28/843 finishers overall.  I was 3/509 female finishers.  And, would have been 1/70 in my age division.  But, as I came in 3rd Female Overall…no age division award for me.  I’m okay with that, because I totally exceeded all expectations of myself.  I don’t know where that came from, but I’m so glad that somewhere inside…my body remembered what it felt like to fly.

Another year of running the Pro.Active For Life 5K behind me and I’m already looking forward to next year’s race.  I swear, there is something so near and dear to me about this race.  It’s a challenging, but fun course…and I was able to run it better this year than I did last year.  I hope to continue to come back to Frankfort for not only this race, but the Trifecta, year in and year out.  As it stands, I’m feeling a little better about pushing myself a little harder.  I’m still tentative…my mind not quite overcoming the natural fear of getting hurt again or doing further damage.  But…this race proves that I’m getting there.  And I’ll only continue to get there…as long as I run smart and run with all my heart.

See you next year!!

Taper For A Cause 5K – Louisville, KY (April 12, 2014)

Me with Wesley Korir after the Taper For A Cause 5K - Louisville, Kentucky
Me with Wesley Korir after the Taper For A Cause 5K – Louisville, Kentucky

Race: Taper For A Cause 5K

Place: Iroquois Park, Louisville, Kentucky

Date: April 12, 2014

Time: 23:52

First of all…FINALLY!!

Finally I had a 5K race this year that was the correct length.

Second of all…UGH!!  Coming back from injury sucks.  It was so disheartening to see my finishing time, compared to where I was last year.  I try not to focus on it.  I honestly do.  But it’s hard…when you know you are capable of doing better…your body just can’t get there.  I want to feel strong and fast again.  And it isn’t coming back quickly.


I had no idea that Louisville was even holding this race up until Thursday afternoon.  Seriously.  It came over an e-mail or on Facebook.  Somewhere.  And I had my friend, Indy, in town.  Before heading this way from California, we were hoping  to find a 5K race to run.  The only one I could find was a trail run.  And I do not do trails.  So, we were content to just meet up with my running group on Saturday and do some miles and then head out for the day.

But things changed when I heard about this race.

This was the first annual Taper for a Cause 5K, which is a race that was set up by 2012 Boston Marathon winner, Wesley Korir, to benefit the Kenyan Kinds Foundation.  The race also boasted the perfect opportunity for Louisville’s running community the opportunity to “taper” for some of Louisville’s finest spring races with a 5K for a great cause.  All of the proceeds, in fact, went to the Kenyan Kids Foundation.

Even more exciting, Wesley Korir was going to lead the race.  And yes…he was on hand on race day.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  While sitting in Game, a local Louisville restaurant, both Indy and I used our cell phones to get registered for the race on Saturday.  We were thrilled that it was a 9 a.m. start time…meaning the morning wouldn’t be too early.  Remember, she flew in from California…so her clock was a bit off.  We were both stupid excited about the race and I was glad that she was going to get to race while here in Kentucky.

Time got away from us on Friday…so we didn’t make it to packet pick-up on Friday over at Swags.  That was okay, though…because it was fine to pick it up on race morning.  We had a late evening though…with a delicious food and wine pairing at the chef’s counter at Rye so we didn’t get in until late.  After unwinding…we finally went to bed.

And I was supposed to run 8 miles this Saturday.  Since the race was offering 3.1 miles, I got up earlier than both Cathy and Indy and knocked out five easy miles before breakfast and heading to the race.  The drive out to the park was easy…no traffic issues at all.  We parked at Iroquois Park and got out of the car, making our way over to the table that had packet pick-up.  We got our numbers and our t-shirts.  Cathy pinned me up while Indy went ahead and did up her number herself.  I ate my banana and then went to use the bathroom really quick.  After I returned, I noticed Wesley Korir walking toward the table.  I let him take care of his stuff and pick up his race number (he was Bib #1) before I asked if I could get a picture with him.  He was very kind and totally was more than happy to fulfill my request.  He thanked me for coming out to the race and I thanked him for arranging it and setting it up for people to run for a great cause.  He noticed the donkey sign that Cathy has at all races and asked if I ran Chicago.  I told him I did and had such a great race.  He congratulated me and then I let him move on to the other stuff he needed to do for the race.

We went to put the t-shirts in the car and get some stretching in.  Indy had some stretches I hadn’t seen before.  I remembered to do some dynamic stretching, which was good because I hadn’t been doing well with my PT stretches with Indy in town.  Just ran out of time and was busy enjoying time with my friend.  I had a few twinges on the 5 miles I did that morning, so I wanted to be sure to be good about stretching before the run.  I kept it dynamic instead of static.  I think that was smart.

We saw crowds were beginning to form up near the finish line chute.  The owner of Swags began to speak into a bullhorn.  He was hard to hear, but he thanked us for coming out and then turned it over to Wesley.  Wesley asked how the bullhorn worked and then very graciously filled us in on his reasons for hosting this race and mentioned that the first two males and females would receive awards in the form of bracelets created by the kids in Kenya.  Too cool.  But I was aiming more on rebuilding my strength rather than finishing near the front.

We were told to move up toward the start line, just a short distance up the way.  I lined up near the front  It was a small race…as it wasn’t really advertised much…but it did have a bigger turn out than I anticipated.  Dennis found me at the start line and I knew he would bust this race out of the park.  He did, by the way, after asking what pace I was running and I had to (regretfully) inform him that I wasn’t focusing on pace as I’m still recovering from my ankle injury.

The owner of Swags announced that we would hear a two announcement start.  Runners set…then the horn.  No runners set was given.  Just the horn.  So, we sort of faltered at the front…but we took off.

Dennis was gone.  He’s so fast.  As for me…I just fought my way up the path heading for the first hill to climb in Iroquois Park.  I feel so weak these days when it comes to running.  My speed is totally gone.  So, I was just trying to push just beyond my comfort zone without doing too much to hurt myself.  So, I kept it challenging, but comfortable.  I had some runners pass me…but I did my best to block out that feeling of total worthlessness…and just focus on breathing and constant forward motion.

As I was coming into around the mile and a half mark, Wesley Korir jogged (no…seriously…jogged) past me and shouted encouragement at me, saying that I looked good out there.  And then…he moved on.  Apparently, he started at the pack and would say something to the runners he would pass along the way, offering uplifting encouragement and the like.  I think that’s amazing.

He was gone, despite just this easy run he was carrying on with as he passed.  Amazing!

I moved into Mile 2 and was hitting up more of the hills on the loop that wraps Iroquois Park.  I focused on just doing my best to get up them without feeling like I was dying.  It was working.  Yes…I wasn’t moving as fast as last year.  Yes…I feel out of shape and like I’ve lost fitness…and I have…but I’m a fighter and this was part of me proving to myself that I am fighting to get back to where I want to be.  It was the perfect race to do that.

I battled up the final hill I was to face and Mile 3 beeped on my watch as the parking lot at the amphitheater came into view.  I could just make out the clock at the finish line.  I didn’t care about the numbers…or the fact that I was passed by 4 other females.  I surprisingly didn’t care about any of that.  All I cared about was the fact that I crossed that finish line feeling like I left it all out on that course and performed to the best of my ability.  Even after knocking out 5 miles prior to even showing up at the start line.

Wesley Korir greeted me in the chute and handed me a cup of water.  He looked right at me and said, “Nice job, Karen!”  That was so awesome to hear coming from this amazing runner and man.  I thanked him and moved out of the way, finding Cathy.  Dennis came over to ask how I did.  I said I felt good about the finishing.  And he said he was happy with his run.  And then he had to get going due to an appointment he had at 10 a.m.

Indy and I at the finish of the Taper For A Cause 5K - Louisville, Kentucky
Indy and I at the finish of the Taper For A Cause 5K – Louisville, Kentucky

Cathy and I went to go stand at the finish to wait for Indy and cheer people on to the finish line.  I love this part.  And, not soon after, around the bend came Indy, looking so strong and amazing.  She was all smiles as she crossed that finish line, setting a new 5K PR for herself.  I went to give her a hug and congratulate her on her run.

We were making some plans to grab some breakfast before heading out for the day for some caving and other adventures.  So, she said she’d go ahead and change at the park while I was going to wait until we got to Annie May’s for breakfast to change.  It worked out well.  While she and Cathy went to the car to get her stuff and Cathy stood sentinel outside the bathroom door that wouldn’t lock, I wandered around the finish line.  Wesley Korir had gone out on a shakeout run with some of his friends and returned after making a second loop of the park.  He was gracious enough to take pictures with people at the finish line, so I asked if I could get another one.  He was so gracious once again.  And as he looped his arm around me as a stranger, and very kind runner, took my phone to snap a picture, he said, “You looked strong out there!”  What an ego boost.  Just what I needed.

I admire and love this man so much.  He is such a champion…both in races and in life.  Such a kind, generous man.

After that, I wandered back over to the bathrooms just as Indy was coming out.  And it was off to breakfast we went, before spending the rest of the day going through Marengo Cave and then hiking around for a little while.

So, my official results of the Taper For A Cause 5K are that I finished in 23:52.  I was 20/77 finishers overall.  I was 5/42 women finishers.  Not bad at all.  I’m actually quite okay with this.  This is still not the run I know I can bust out…and that will eventually return (I HOPE!), but I am trusting my training and my physical therapists.  I’m healing.  I keep telling myself that.  I…AM…HEALING.  It was so awesome to run a local race with my friend visiting from California.  We had such a great time.  And I am glad the opportunity arose to make this happen while she was in town.

I totally intend to run this one again next year.

Making Tracks for Celiacs 5K – Birmingham, AL (April 5, 2014)

My mom and me at the Making Tracks for Celiacs 5K - Birmingham, Alabama
My mom and me at the Making Tracks for Celiacs 5K – Birmingham, Alabama

Race: Making Tracks for Celiacs 5K

Place: Birmingham, Alabama

Date: April 5, 2014

Time: 21:52*

Please note that once again I am putting an asterisk at the end of an official time for a race.  Please note why.  According to my Garmin, this race was not the 3.1 miles a 5K runs, but actually 2.92 miles.  I don’t hold the Making Tracks for Celiacs people completely at fault for this.  Let me explain why.

I found out on the morning of the race during the announcements prior to the start that due to the soccer tournament that was going on, the course we were to run had to be changed.  So…they very little time to come up with a new course.  But they did.  Albeit…a little short.

But, you know…whatever.  This stuff happens.

I won’t let it completely dull what turned out to be an amazing experience for me.


Because I did this race with…my mom!

Yep.  My mom!!  Both my mom and I are Celiacs.  So, I try to make it a point to get down to Birmingham, Alabama for this event each year.  Last year, I had to miss it as it was on a weekend I had another event already going on.  But not this year.  And, as a special bonus, I was going to run the race and my mom was going to walk it.  We made plans via phone conversations and text messages…both got signed up…and both eagerly anticipated the arrival of the big day.

On Friday, my mom went to the Birmingham Earth Fare store to pick up our packets.  The t-shirts for the event were still in transit, so they gave her t-shirts from the previous year and told her that both she and I (she was also picking up my packet) could get this year’s shirt on race morning.  Where was I?  I was on the road, driving down to Birmingham directly after work.  I didn’t arrive until around 10:00 p.m.  Then had to have some social time and catching up with my parents, as well as see what has been done to the house (they just got moved back in after a pipe burst while they were on vacation in Mexico in January).  This made for a later-than-usual night before a race, but it was worth it.  I loved getting to talk to them and catch up some…but we all knew we had an early morning ahead of us, so we decided to turn in for the night.

I woke up very early the next morning because I had to get dressed for the race as well as do my PT stretches.  So, after checking the weather…which was supposedly warmer than what the Weather Channel predicted the night before…a balmy 52 degrees with some winds making it feel 50 degrees, I got out my shorts and my t-shirt and got myself put together with the colored hair and the BondiBand and compression sleeves like always.  No skirt today.  I was rocking the shorts.  I went downstairs to do my stretches before anyone else got up.  And managed to finish them up just as my mom came out of the bedroom.  We hugged and I said I was going to go knock on Cathy’s door to wake her up, but as I got to the top of the stairs, she was already moving about.  Sweet.  Good start to the day.

The four of us (my mom, dad, Cathy and myself) all had breakfast that day (consisting of some cereal and a gluten-free blueberry muffin from Udi’s Gluten Free).  My mom and dad split a banana and I got one to take with me to eat about 30 minutes prior to the race.  Then, I went upstairs to brush my teeth, throw on some yoga pants and a hoodie, and grab my running bag with a change of clothes inside and a different pair of shoes.   My dad was (im)patiently waiting at the door for all of us (well…just me…everyone else was ready to go as I came down the stairs).  So, we headed out through the garage to get in the car and make the 25 minute drive from their house to the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium, the new site of the race and the Gluten-Free Expo that was happening afterwards.

We pulled into a nearly empty parking lot, but saw the banner for the Making Tracks for Celiacs 5K hanging above the door.  So, we were in the right place.  My mom and I hopped out of the car, and I was glad that I had on my yoga pants for the time being because that wind was COLD!  We went over to packet pickup and registration to get our t-shirts for this year’s race then went to meet up with my dad and Cathy.  We decided it was too chilly to stand outside in the wind, so all got back into the car.  I ate my half of the banana.   Cathy got out to get rid of the peel from her half then proceeded to stand around outside, staring at the car as if willing all of us to join her in the chilly morning air.  I refused for about 5 minutes.  But, I knew I needed to take off the hoodie and yoga pants and get acclimated…so that’s what I did.  I stepped outside of the car and immediately broke out into goosebumps.  Damn that cold air.

I did a few dynamic stretches to warm up before the race.  As I was finishing those up, I heard the race organizer get on the horn and start to talk about the event and the change in the course.  I figured I could just follow the people in front of me…which is how I do every race.  So, I vaguely paid attention and heard things like…run through the RV park…go behind the dumpster…be careful of the giant puddle…run around a pole…

These are the things race organizers go through when they very suddenly have to change their race course, which has been plotted for months, mind you!  Before the soccer tournament was even scheduled to be plaid.  Frustrating.  They were not happy.  We were told to head out to the start line…so we did.  I stood near the front.  It looked like we had a good turnout, which is always a good thing.  And before I could get my Garmin ready to record…the air horn was blown and we were off.

I punched the button on my Garmin, it started, and off I went with the group, following a group of kids, a couple of guys (one of which was the race organizer’s husband), and a few other people.  The kids petered out almost immediately, deciding they had run enough…so I passed them after the first turn.  Then, I passed one of the ladies in front of me…only to get passed up by a super-speedy woman (Allison Hoover), who I couldn’t catch up to or pass up again to save my life.  She was flying.  We were sent over a bridge and up an incline…then made a turn to go up another incline…then turned around in a cul-de-sac…and sent back down the hills.  It was as I was nearing the bridge to head out into the parking lot that I passed my mom and dad.  They both cheered for me…shouting “Go Girl!” and clapping.  It made me smile.

So, then we hit the parking lot and were sent through the RV park.  This was about the time we hit Mile 1.  So, one down…just a couple to go.  We ran through the RV park and then made this crazy loop thing and were sent up another part of the parking lot and around to where there was a bit of a trail leading to a path that was behind a dumpster.  They weren’t kidding.  Upon making the turn onto the path and rounding the corner, you encounter one of the steepest downhills of your life.  Seriously.  I pulled up so as not to tear up my quads and maneuvered it safely and effectively.  There was a little dip at the bottom before you were sent up a climb on the other side.  For every downhill there is an uphill.  I pushed up that and ran on that path until it dropped me off in a new section of parking lot.  I followed the volunteers, keeping cones to my right or left, or whatever I was instructed to do at the time.  I found Mile 2 (which was marked)…but my Garmin didn’t beep.  I normally don’t check but I was curious…

My Garmin said 1.78 miles.  Yikes!

Me crossing the finish line of the Making Tracks for Celiacs 5K - Birmingham, Alabama
Me crossing the finish line of the Making Tracks for Celiacs 5K – Birmingham, Alabama

Into the final part of the race, I just attempted to keep my pace as best I could.  I came back into the main parking lot and was sent down to where some walkers and runners were coming around to head toward the dumpster.  I remained on my side of the cone, avoided a huge lake (er…puddle…) and pressed on the path volunteers directed me on.  The guy in front of me made a turn then headed toward a pole near the end of the lot.  He ran around it and I followed, then we hit the straight-away toward the finish line.  I passed him up and kept on moving as fast as I could.  I crossed the finish line, paused my Garmin and made my way through the chute.  The race organizer tore off the bottom of my bib and I moved on to get some water.  Super-speedy Allison Hoover made a comment about my shoes (I was in my new Newton’s) as she was wearing Newton’s herself.  We bonded a little.  Then I went to get water and she went to talk to friends.

I finally checked my Garmin and saw that it read only 2.92 miles.  That wouldn’t do.  So, I handed Cathy my cup of water and did an easy shakeout for .20 miles to get me up to 3.1 miles.  That was what I intended to run that day and that was what I managed to get in.  I could see my parents again, heading toward the dumpster line…and they were leading all the walkers.  Honestly, my dad wasn’t registered.  But my mom encouraged him to walk it with her.  He kept telling her to keep moving without him, but she stuck with him.  And I think that’s super awesome.

I cheered for them when they emerged and headed back through the lot and made the turn to head toward the turn that would take them to the pole and then, eventually, to the finish line.  I stood near the finish to cheer and when they emerged, I was shouting and just clapping and jumping up and down.  As he wasn’t registered, my dad dropped off and came to my side and let my mom finish her walk by passing through the finish line.  Cathy took a picture.  It was awesome.  I went over to give her a hug.  We then went to go get bottles of water and some clementines that the race organizers put out for everyone.

Clementines are my favorite post-race thing to eat.  Seriously!  That or watermelon.  For real.

The kids 1 mile fun run would be starting soon, and awards were said to be at 10 a.m. with the expo at 10:30 a.m.  My mom and I said we would hang out at the race if Cathy and dad wanted to make the mandatory coffee run.  Turns out awards weren’t being done before the expo and now the expo was open at 10:00 a.m.   My mom and I went over to the doors leading to the banquet hall and stepped inside to get out of the wind.  She called my dad to find out if they were close to returning.  They were.  And about five minutes later, they pulled in, coffees in hand.  Now properly armed with caffeine, we hiked up the stairs to the expo (I mean, why take the elevator, right?) and went to see what was offered.

The expo was much smaller this year than it was two years prior.  MUCH smaller.  But the vendors were all super nice and there was a lot of delicious products and treats to try out.  Cathy and I split any large portion of something while my mom and dad would split theirs.  It made it so we weren’t too full for lunch shortly after (which we were meeting up with my sister and my youngest nephew).  As we were making our way around the floor, the race organizer started to call participants over for the awards.

While I was the second female overall, they weren’t giving that award away.  This did mean, however, that I placed first in my division.  And when my name was called for the 30-39 age division, Cathy, mom and dad all cheered.  They almost ran out of medals at this point…having not ordered enough it seemed.  I got the last first place age division award though…so they wouldn’t have to mail mine to me all the way in Indiana.

We finished up at the expo, went shopping at Organic Harvest, and then met up with my sister for lunch.  It made for a great day.

So, my official results of the Making Tracks for Celiacs 5K are that I finished in 21:52 (but remember…the course was short).  I was 9/79 finishers overall.  I was 2/54 women finishers.  And I was the 1/18 in my division.  Not too shabby, I think.  Granted, it’s still not the run I know I am capable of, but I’m still just being cautious on this ankle.  I get nervous about pushing too hard…and reinjuring it.  I know I am capable of better…but I was proud of my results.  And, even more, I was proud of my mom for coming out and doing the race with me.  She can’t run, as her ankle is permanently fused, but she loves to walk.  And this was for a cause that effects both of us…and we had a blast being a part of it.  In fact, we’ve decided to make it an annual event.

I’m already excited about next year!

The Chocolate 5K – Louisville, KY (March 30, 2014)

Sean Astin and me after finishing the Chocolate 5K - Louisville, Kentucky
Sean Astin and me after finishing the Chocolate 5K – Louisville, Kentucky

Race: The Chocolate 5K

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: March 30, 2014

Time: 21:02* (UNTIMED EVENT)

There is nothing better than a race that combines three things that I love: chocolate, puppies, and running!  And thanks to No Kill Louisville, there was a fun, untimed event held on Sunday that involved all three of those things.  Yep.  All three of them.  No Kill Louisville helped put on The Chocolate 5K, which involved a 3.1 mile run/walk, Ghrirardelli chocolate (provided on the course and at the finish…not to mention two squares in your packet at packet pick-up), and…lots of animal rescue leagues.

The morning was cold.  I knew it was cold because I had to go outside and do my heel drops off the stairs of my apartment complex (and the only stairs available are outside!).  So, I dressed accordingly…in a long sleeve top, a pair of capris, and my compression sleeves.  I was actually running as part of a team.  My friend, and running compatriot, Dawn, was running with a team of co-workers and invited me to join their team (for the team discount price).  I was totally about that, so I did sign up.  I’m just getting back into racing and my speed is not back yet, so I intended just to see what I could manage.  After all, this event was not timed.  Sort of like the Glo Run and The Color Run.  Go out…get some chocolate…have a good time.  Worked for me!

Cathy and I headed out just about the time we wanted to, after each downing a bowl of cereal and having some coffee.  I brought along some Lärabars to eat as the race time crept closer (I had no bananas on hand…which is NOT good on race morning).  We piled into the car and off we went to Waterfront Park, the new venue for the race.  It was originally scheduled to take place at E.P. Tom Sawyer…but due to muddy trails and the like…it was moved to the paved Waterfront Park area.  I was more than happy about that.  Trust me.

We made good time down to Waterfront and even managed to find a parking spot under the bridge.  A short stroll through the little booths set up (for places like Earth Fare and all the animal rescue leagues that came out!), I made my way to the registration line.  Recent e-mails said that the turnout for the race was not good and there weren’t that many participants.  But there was a line by the time I got there for people picking up their packets.  And the line only continued to grow from there.  So…either people were trying to decided at the last minute whether to run or walk or not…this was actually a really, really big turn out!  I managed to get up to the table and told the volunteer my name.  She kept looking under BA, so finally I had to spell out my last name…”B-R-A…”  But she found me after I pointed my name out on the list.  She handed me a green bag that contained two different varieties of Ghirardelli Chocolate and my race bib and then sent me over to pick up my t-shirt.  After that, I was standing around for a second when Dawn and a co-worker of hers arrived.  They were going to get in line, so I went to go put my chocolate and t-shirt in the car so Cathy wouldn’t have to try to juggle it on top of the sign and my jacket I was going to shed before the race start.

As we were heading back toward the registration line, I was opening up my Lärabar (Jŏcalat Chocolate Mint…in case you were curious) and taking a big bite when a small group ran past.  They were in race numbers (not unusual at a race) and just doing this slow little warm-up run together, talking and smiling.  I eyed the guy in the middle in the yellow running jacket and the shorts as he went by.  After I swallowed my bite of bar, I turned to Cathy, who was having an epic struggle with the wrapper of her bar (she didn’t want to take off her gloves), and said, “That guy looked like Sean Astin.”  She heard me but didn’t respond.  I think she was really focused on eating the rest of her breakfast, but first she had to get to it.  I eventually helped her out and went to toss the wrappers away.  Dawn said her boyfriend, Matthew (I train with him a LOT), was going to run from his house to the race, do the race, and then finish up the remaining miles of his scheduled 20 mile training run.  Whew.  That made me tired just thinking about it.  Her other two co-workers arrived around that time and got in line to get their bibs and packets.  And they all consumed their chocolate as a pre-race sugar rush.  Or so I joked.  But…chocolate consumed…we were just waiting on the start.  Matthew arrived with a few minutes to spare and we helped him get his blinkie lights turned off.

A quick picture in front of the start line and some announcements were being made.  And then…I hear it…”And now a quick word from Sean Astin…who you might know from the Lord of the Rings Movies and the Goonies…as well as many others…”  And then he took the mic.  You better believe that I moved up to see if I had heard that right.  I had.  It was him.

Cathy still wasn’t paying attention, but rather getting artistic photos of the start line when I found her and said, “That guy I said looked like Sean Astin WAS Sean Astin.”

So…I do have this running (see what I did there?) joke about how Sean Astin is stalking me on my races.  He has run every Disney race I have ever been a part of and he also ran the Chicago Marathon last year when I did.  So…this was just further proof that the man is following me.  To come out to an untimed event for charity to run 3.1 miles just speaks so highly of his character.  He didn’t have to do it.  But he did.  And it made me love him even more than I already did.  He spoke briefly, and commented that the weather, for him, was perfect for running.  We all laughed because we locals were all in compression gear and there he was in shorts just soaking it all in.  God love him!

After he wished us all luck on the race, we were told to line up at the starting line.  The announcer began to give us the route, then simply said…”There are yellow arrows on the ground.  Just follow the yellow arrows.”  And with that…we were sent off with a whistle.

I found my stride early and was out with the first five in the pack, with others right behind me.  I didn’t want to push too hard.  Not on an untimed race.  I get frustrated with my lack of speed these days, and that is understandable, but my friend Andrea always reminds me…I’m healing.  I need to heal up and the speed will return.  So, for now, I can’t set time goals…I just have to run smart and run safe.  And that was my ultimate goal.  I followed the yellow arrows…and the people in front of me…for the first mile before I passed up the one female that was ahead of me.  My strides felt good.  No ankle twinges…so I kept on, just doing what I could to maintain.  It also didn’t help that I woke up that morning with some chest congestion and an intermittent cough.  No good.  This is what happened during the Triple Crown of Running last year and I did not want to relive that.  So, for the sake of being able to breathe without dying…I made sure I maintained a challenging, but even pace.

I passed up the table where they were offering Ghirardelli chocolate squares because…I was running.  I can’t run and eat chocolate.  So, I kept on going, rounding the corner up ahead and getting sent up a bit of an incline.  I pushed up the hill, not feeling any discomfort in the ankle, rounded the corner again, and then started on the gentle slope back down toward the race course.

Now this is where it got messy.  We had runners and walkers making their way up to the incline ahead, but were taking chocolate from the Ghirardelli stop as well, which was located on the side of the path where people running back toward the finish were now running.  Oh well…it was a fun event…you just go with it.  As I’m trucking along, I see Sean Astin running toward me and he starts applauding those of us in the front of the pack and telling us we were doing great.  I held up my hand and he high-fived it.  Awesome.  A moment later, my co-worker’s husband was running by and we high-fived as well.  It was a high-five kind of race and I was loving it.  A little ways down my co-workers, Laura and Kayla, were walking past and Laura told me to go catch up to the guy in front of me (it was her son…who was banditing the race).  I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do that, but as I was coming into one of the final turns, I did pass the kid in the orange sweatshirt that had outpaced me for much of the first part of the race.  I managed to keep ahead of him, and came back into the familiar Great Lawn area of Waterfront Park.  One final turn and I booked it to the finish line, pausing my Garmin a moment after.  I was the 4th registered finisher across the finish line.

I was all smiles!!  Seriously…all smiles.  It has been hard for me to not focus so much on time, but what I’m discovering is why I love doing this sport in the first place.  Yes…PRs are awesome and should be celebrated and should be fought for…but sometimes you have to work back into that.  I have rediscovered the joy that comes with just being able to get outside and get that run in.  I have found so much positivity from the people who saw me struggle with my sprained ankle and who have seen my will and determination to come back.  It’s a slow process…but I’m making strides in the right direction.

Me crossing the finish line of the Chocolate 5K - Louisville, Kentucky
Me crossing the finish line of the Chocolate 5K – Louisville, Kentucky

After crossing the finish, I went to get some water and a couple pieces of chocolate.  Cathy and I each ate a square…and we waited for the rest of my team to come in.  But…about four minutes after my finish…here comes Sean Astin.  Seriously.  I cheered as he crossed the finish line and then went down the ways a little to catch his breath.  His companion (and sort of body guard) went to go get him some water and after a moment, I walked over to say “Hi.”  And he was very gracious and very welcoming.  We took a picture together and I told him the story about how I believe he’s stalking me.  I told him the races we had run “together” and when I mentioned Chicago…he said, “You ran in Chicago…with your hair like this and everything!”  He pointed to my pigtails.  I laughed and nodded.  We talked about our finishing times and he said his goal is to eventually, one day, run a sub-4 marathon.  I told him I had every belief that he could do it.  He told me that I was going to win the Boston Marathon.  Seriously…can I keep him?

I knew he was busy and had a schedule to maintain (he was in town for the Wizard World Comic Con Louisville) so I said goodbye.  He gave me a hug and told me to have a good day.  I thanked him for coming out to run.  And that was that.  A few moments later…my team came in and I cheered for them all the way to the finish!  It was an amazing day.

So…my official time for this untimed event, according to my Garmin was 21:02.  I want to note, however, that the course was only 2.78 miles.  So…I am not little miss speedy!  Trust me.  I didn’t even feel all that speedy.  And at that pace, I wouldn’t have come close to my 5K PR.  I was okay with that, but I wanted at least 3 miles for the day.  So I went and did a slow, steady shake-out for the remaining mileage before returning to talk with my friends a bit longer.  We were wrapping things up, and I had grocery shopping, laundry, and an apartment to clean…so I said goodbye to everyone and Cathy and I departed, stopping by the Earth Fare booth to say hi.  I might have forgotten to mention (and will blog about it maybe next month) that I am, once again, an Earth Fare Athlete Ambassador.  And I’m loving it.  So, we had a short talk with the person at the booth, who recognized me immediately.  And, after snagging some chocolate dipped banana chips, we headed out for the day.

I had so much fun at this little race.  I smiled the entire time.  I managed to not die from a rattly chest.  I pushed a little harder than I normally would.  I want my speed back.  It will come.  I keep telling myself…it will come.  But for now…strengthening that ankle and getting myself back on track is way more important.  I’m just thankful that I had the opportunity to take part in such a fun event for a great cause.  And I can’t wait to do my next one.

Publix Georgia Marathon – Atlanta, GA (March 23, 2014)

Me crossing the finish line of the Publix Georgia Marathon - Atlanta, Georgia
Me crossing the finish line of the Publix Georgia Marathon – Atlanta, Georgia

Race: Publix Georgia Marathon

Place: Atlanta, Georgia

Date: March 23, 2014

Time: 3:51:32


I must be out of my mind, right?  I was just cleared to run this past Monday and went for a sprint in a 3K race in Frankfort, Kentucky.  No pain.  No problems.  And I did some outside running throughout the week to what my training schedule would have been had I been able to properly train for a marathon distance.

Which…I haven’t.  And…I didn’t.  In fact, my longest run since the ankle sprain was done in Columbus, Ohio…around my friend’s neighborhood.  And that was only 8 miles.  Yep…not exactly going into this having logged double digit runs.  AT ALL.  Not since February…and I think the longest one I managed then was 10 miles.

This…is not the way I wanted to come into this run.  But, when you badly sprain your ankle…there are few choices left to you.  Unable to run outside…and then limited to a treadmill (NOT a tready girl…I get so bored and long runs are not an option at a gym that limits you to only an hour on the machine).  But…with the ankle rehabbed and my running slower…but okay…I packed up my bags, packed up my car, and made the long drive down to Atlanta.

For…a marathon.

A full and hilly 26.2 miles.

Because…I was cleared to do it as long as I don’t blitz it.  I had no intentions of blitzing this one in the first place, so I was okay with that.  But, that’s not to say the nerves haven’t set in.  Because, trust me…they have.

The drive down was pretty uneventful.  Listened to some tunes…then a few Doc Savage radio shows…until I got downtown.  Pulled into the Omni Hotel and had my car valet parked.  The luggage was left with the doorman and I went to check in.  I stayed at the Omni when I was in Atlanta for The Police concert so many years ago!  So, I knew it was a very nice place to stay.  And as I checked in, since I was here for the marathon, the hotel provided me with an awesome bag of goodies: a banana, a bottle of water, and a KIND Bar.  This…is my happy face!

Went to the room and waited for the luggage to arrive.  When it did, it was time to head to the expo.  Now, I had every intention of walking away from this expo with nothing more than maybe a new BondiBand…and my race packet.  But then…EXPO AWE OF PURCHASING DOOM hit and my wallet…took the brunt of it.  Now…for the most part, nothing was really something I didn’t need.  I bought a couple of Wonder Woman tech shirts.  YAY!  Been looking for those everywhere.  I bought a new pair of Newton’s…which was my splurge buy, but my old pair is up in the miles and, damn, I love those shoes.  And…I bought the adhesive spray for my KT Taping.  Oh…and while I was there, as an extra precaution, I had the people at the KT Tape booth tape up my ankle.  Figured it wouldn’t hurt.

After that…I had to get out of there before I talked myself into other items that caught my eye…because the shirts in the Official Merchandise store were tempting.  But I really don’t need more shirts, LOL!

So…Cathy and I left the expo and took items back up to the room at the hotel.  We had some time to kill, so we decided to take a stroll over to Centennial Park.  So…we did that and actually found the finish shoots and the start of the finish line being put up.  We wandered over so I could take pictures in front of the finish line.  Then, we strolled up to the Hard Rock Cafe so I could pick up a pin and Cathy could get a shot glass.  Been ages since we’ve been to the Atlanta Hard Rock.  We went to check out where we were dining that night before taking things back to the hotel, relaxing for a moment, and then making the short stroll up the street to dinner.

Dinner was at Max’s Coal Oven Pizzaria.  We saw them listed on Find Me Gluten Free with some good reviews…so we figured we’d give it a try.  We were seated immediately and we made a decision on a gluten-free pizza to split.  We chose the Gluten-Free Fontina & Funghi Pizza…which was a white pizza that had fontina cheese, wild mushrooms, caramelized onions, and fresh oregano.  It looked amazing when it was delivered to my table…but it really…was kind of MEH.  The mushrooms were awesome.  The crust was…uninspired and rather boring.  SO not the way I wanted my mandatory pre-race gluten-free pizza to go.  So disappointed.  After that, we walked over to the CNN Building to take a look around.  We got some frozen yogurt for dessert and came back to the room to relax.  I had my stretches and foam rolling to do and really just want some time to relax and make sure I was hydrated and ready for the morning.

My first alarm went off at 3:30 a.m.  I got up and did a couple of things before climbing back into my comfy bed and getting about 45 more minutes of rest.  When my second alarm went off at 4:30 a.m., I checked the weather, then got up and got my clothes I laid out the night before and went to get changed.  At first, I was afraid that the t-shirt under my Marathon Maniac’s singlet (OH…forget to mention I totally qualified for Marathon Maniacs back in January with the Disney Marathon) would be too warm.  The temperature that morning was 58° F with little breeze.  Wearing it turned out to be the best decision I have made.  More on that later.  I ate my cereal and then did my stretches (my physical therapists would be so proud!) and resistance band work (again…they would be proud).  I brushed my teeth…then put on my fuel belt and bib and headed out the door.

Then…I get to the elevators and realized that I left my cellphone in the room.  So, I hurried back to the room to get it.  Exit…take 2…I get in the elevator and head down to the lobby.  I get to the door and realized that I left my pre-race banana in the room.  So…now I’m stressing myself out and went back to the room and grabbed the banana…and my hoodie…just in case it was windy and chillier than the Weather Channel app on my phone told me.  Exit…take 3.

And this time…we made it out the door and onto the sidewalk.  The start of the race was in Centennial Olympic Park right across from my hotel.  No stress.  So, I was starting to feel a little calmer and better about everything.  I was supposed to meet up with the other Marathon Maniacs for a picture near a statue, so that was where we headed first.  It was my first official photo as a Maniac…and that was awesome!  The photo was a quick thing and then I went to find somewhere to do some more stretching and eat my banana.  Cathy gave me a good luck hug and said she was off to find a place past the starting line to see me off.  I decided to get into my corral (Corral E).  Time was ticking down.  Fifteen minutes to go to start time.  The nerves were starting to settle in…again.

The National Anthem was sang beautifully!  I was listening to all the chatter in the corral about time expectations.  I had none coming into this one.  I just had a goal…to finish…and not get re-injured.  Having just been cleared to run last week…well…this was a huge risk running this race.  I had so many people tell me to defer.  But…I figured if I was cleared to run…this was running.  I would listen to my body.

I got to chatting with a guy next to me.  He noticed me getting my Garmin ready and he said his all-out died on him so he showed me his standard watch (with the actual watch hands and everything) and said he was taking it old school.  Awesome!  We got a good laugh about it and I mentioned I had to replace my Garmin because mine did the same thing.  I love my new Garmin, BTW!  Little treat to myself!

The corrals began to get collapsed and the flag barriers removed.  We all moved up and then the official countdown in a robotic voice began.  And then…we were off.  I walked for a moment, then we all started to job.  And…we were off.  I gave a wave to Cathy as I ran past her.  She cheered and then…I was hitting the road.

And this road was H-I-L-L-Y!!!

Seriously…it became immediately apparent that I haven’t been able to train much this winter.  First…I was barred from running for over a month.  Then I was banned from running hills along with it…for longer than not running.  That also meant no incline on the treadmill either.  So…I was so not ready for the Hills From Hell™ in Atlanta.  But…I signed on for this, right?  Right.

Between Mile 1 and 2, I had the chance to run with a really nice guy, also a Marathon Maniac.  We discussed our sprained ankles, as he had badly sprained his ankle too and this was his first run back as well.  His name was Anthony and he was really nice.  I lost him at a water stop though.  From there on out…it was all about what my body was telling me.  With the number of hills and the various climbs and steepness of each…I said that if my ankle twinged, I would back it off.  So…that was the plan.  I wasn’t running for time…just the fact that I could run again!

I absolutely took on this challenging marathon with my whole heart.  I was having a really good run for the most part.  They volunteers at the water/Powerade and food stops were awesome.  I actually expected there to be more crowd support through the entire race…but…nope.  It was pretty sparse.  The Decatur area had some groups out and the police officers helping with traffic control were awesome.  I got a lot of shout-outs for being a Maniac…which was awesome.  It definitely helped me get through some of the more challenging portions of this race.

Around Mile 16 it began to spit rain.  I knew we had a big chance of rain…but it had held off.  So…I was sort of expecting it (hence the reason I was wearing a hat).  But…it only spit rain for about 30 minutes and then…it just stopped.  Sadly though, when the rain came in…so did the wind.  And some of these gusts of wind reached 20 mph.  And we were running right into it.  It kept catching the brim of my hat and trying to pull it off my head.  It almost reminded me of the Marshall Marathon where the wind battered runners the entire way.  Of course, with the wind…it got cold.  Fast.  And this is why I mentioned above why I was glad I decided to keep the t-shirt on.  The beginning of the race was humid and warm and I sort of was kicking myself for putting the t-shirt on beneath the singlet…but after that wind hit…I was happy to have it.

The end of this race was a gradual uphill, which made it very difficult at times.  My calf muscles were screaming and barking and mooing at me all at once.  Like I said…you could tell that I hadn’t been running the hills recently.  Or…running at all.  I felt way under-prepared…and a bit out of shape.  But…you know…I walked part of the inclines…I kept my pace easy so as not to do any damage.  And I ended up having a better race than I anticipated I would.  Finishing a marathon in sub-4 after not being able to run for over a month, and having to tackle some intense hills…yeah…I’m happy with this!

I spotted Cathy at the finish line and she rushed over to congratulate me.  Then she said to go get my medal and stuff and to meet her in the reunion area.  I walked through to get the beautiful medal from this race.  Then…water.  Ah, sweet water.  And then it was the Mylar blanket followed by chocolate milk.  I made my way through the chute until I made the turn to head toward Centennial Park and the Publix Food Tent.  Cathy was waiting on a grassy knoll just inside the gate.  I walked over the area where the bomb went off during the 1996 Olympic Games and made my way to where she was.  She gave me a huge hug and congratulated me once again.  We made our way over to the Publix Food Tent and I had my ticket torn off my bib to get my bag of goodies for the finish.  They even gave Cathy one.  That was very nice of them…as Cathy works just as hard as I do at these races, trust me.  I went to a clearing in the grass and put my feet up, attempting to call my parents.  They were still in church though, so they didn’t answer their phones.  After that, I got myself back on my feet and went to do my calf stretches against what we later realized was the base of the Olympic Torch holder.  For real.

The finisher's medal of the Publix Georgia Marathon
The finisher’s medal of the Publix Georgia Marathon – Atlanta, Georgia

It was really cold out with the wind, so we made the short hike back to the hotel room so that I could take my shower, have the fruit cup Cathy picked up for me and then get ready to head out to the CNN Center for the CNN Studio Tour she picked up tickets for while I was on the run.  That, by the way, was so much fun.  I have a degree in journalism, so I was eating up every moment of the tour.  We did a little bit of shopping and TONS of walking around Atlanta.  It was a good afternoon.  And I never really stopped moving, which is always a good thing.

And now, I’ve retired back to the hotel room where I am about to do my stretches and resistance band work.  Law & Order SVU is on…and I’m feeling content.  I was so nervous about this race going into it…and I’m content with what happened and how I did.  Sure…slightly disappointed…but you know…this one had to be about running smart.  It just had to be that way.

So…my official results of the Publix Georgia Marathon are that I finished in a time of 3:51:32 (for 26.47 miles).  I wasn’t expecting to go sub-4 on this one, so this was a very nice surprise.  I was 296/1628 finishers overall.  I was the 64/647 female to cross the finish line.  And I was 10/98 in my division.  Was this the marathon I wanted?  Absolutely not.  But…it was the best marathon I could have given the circumstances I was under.  I ran smart…I listened to my body…and I crossed that finish line.

The Good Shepherd Run For The Gold 3K – Frankfort, KY (March 17, 2014)

Me crossing the finish line of The Good Shepherd Run For The Gold 3K - Frankfort, Kentucky (I'm totally smiling because I finished without pain!)
Me crossing the finish line of The Good Shepherd Run For The Gold 3K – Frankfort, Kentucky (I’m totally smiling because I finished without pain!)

Race: The Good Shepherd Run For The Gold 3K

Place: Frankfort, Kentucky

Date: March 17, 2014

Time: 13:09

I’m baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!!

Did you miss me?  I missed me.  So, I hope you missed me too.

This has been one rough year for me thus far when it comes to my running.  It just seems like it’s one minor ache then one major sprain.  And everything just spirals out of control from there.  For real!  UGH!  I’ve been in tears more than once over the amount (or lack thereof) of running I’ve been able to accomplish thus far this year.  Why?  Well…weather has been awful and treadmill running is not my favorite thing to do.  I will do it, yes…but it takes a lot for me to get on one because…BORING!  Secondly…a really bad sprained ankle.  Bad enough to require numerous physical therapy sessions.  I was on an “absolutely NO running” restriction for awhile…and then it was an “only run on the treadmill…and not too fast…or too far” restriction.  Finally, I got the “you can run outside, but only if the terrain is flat.”  Have you seen where I live?  There is no part of this area that is pancake flat that would allow me to run.  SO frustrating.

But yesterday…on a chilly, but sunny St. Patrick’s Day…I went to what would end up being my final PT session.  Yep.  I’m done.  And, my therapist told me…that very day before I got into the car to make the drive to Frankfort…to try running hills.  See how the ankle did.  Which…worked out because I knew of the one steep-ish hill we have to climb in Frankfort on this little sprint.  If it hurt…I was to continue my sessions.  If everything seemed okay…no pain or twinges…nothing felt off…I was done.  We shook hands, and I headed toward my race.

This is my traditional St. Patrick’s Day race.  Yes…it can be a bit of a hassle, especially when St. Patrick’s Day falls on a weekday…like this year.  Monday evening.  This meant leaving work for PT, then immediately getting in the car and making the journey to Frankfort.  It takes just under an hour if the traffic gods are smiling on you.  I packed dinner.  Gluten-free peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, to eat a little later.  My roommate and I made crazy-good time, actually.  We were in Frankfort long before we really needed to be.  With some time to spare, we stopped by the Kroger, where I went to use a flushing toilet and she went hunting for something to eat with the sammies.  She found me a banana…so I was a happy girl.

Anyway…we returned to the car and dined in the parking lot on my homemade sammies.  I saved my banana for a little closer to race time.  Once we noshed, we returned to the road and ventured toward downtown Frankfort, parking in our usual parking garage and hiking over to where packet pickup was being held.

I was in and out of there in no time.  And, since it was really chilly in the shade…we ventured over toward the sunshine across the street from where the race was starting.  A lot of runners also had this idea.  We stood around and just sort of discussed a few things, mostly my take on this race.  I had no great expectations being so fresh off my really bad sprain.  So…my goal was to finish it and finish it without doing further damage to myself.  While I was standing there, my super-speedy friend, Linda, came over to say hi.  We hugged and talked for a moment, before she dashed off to get her packet.  I pulled out my iPhone and was updating Facebook with a status about pre-race jitters when I got a tap on my shoulder.

Remember Kendall Hayes, the amazing young woman who won the Frankfort Trifecta last year?  It was her dad, her mom, the legend herself, and her brother, Connor (who is also an amazing runner and came in 6th overall this year).  Her dad wanted to thank me for saying such nice things about Kendall in my blog last year.  I said she definitely earned the praise.  Honestly…look for this woman in Bend, Oregon running with the Nike elites.  This will happen.  Mark my words.  In fact, Kendall won the top spot again this year!  Like I said, she’s incredible.  The two kids went to stretch, which reminded me I needed to do the very same thing.  I promised both of my physical therapists to be better about doing that before and after running.  Hoping to prevent future injuries.  So, I did a few of the usual stretches I normally would half-ass, but this time, really did them.  I could tell my hamstrings were tight, so I did the hamstring stretches my physical therapists had shown me.  And, I actually did something I never have done before…I did some warm-up strides.  Yep.  Me!  Doing those little dashes up and down the street before the start of the race.  It definitely helped loosen up those hammies a little.  Not a lot…but some.  And that was better than nothing.

The race start was getting close, so Cathy went to find a spot to cheer from.  As I was heading to the starting line, I felt a little tap on my shoulder.  It was my dearest friend, Debbie Brown, who helps put together the 5K race that is part of this series.  She asked how my ankle was doing and asked if I was running.  I told her I was going to attempt to run and see how it felt.  I was so glad she spotted me, as I had been looking for her while we were standing around.  The pace signs were being held aloft so people could line up appropriately.  I wasn’t sure what to do about lining up, so I just picked a spot and went with it.  A blessing was given for the runners and walkers, tied in with a nice Irish Blessing.  It was nice.  Then…we were awaiting the pistol.

It fired…and we were off.

It felt so weird to be racing again.  Not just racing…attempting a sprint without getting hurt.  Cathy had brought some KT Tape to tape me up, but I told her it was a short race…I’d be fine.  At this point, remembering this was more of a sprint than a distance race, I was second-guessing this.  Call it ‘first official run after the injury’ concerns.  Or minor panic.  I just found a decent stride and fell into it.  I was trying not to focus on my time this year…as I was really just released to run.

Linda blazed by me within the first hundred feet and said, “Don’t you dare hurt yourself.  I will beat you if you do!”  It made me laugh and it was just what I needed to settle my nerves.  And I was proud of Linda.  Last year she was the one trailing me.  This year, I have a feeling I’ll be the one trailing her (because she kicked my ass in this one!).  With that little boost, I was rounding the corner and making my way up toward that incline.  My first incline since the injury.  I almost held my breath…but then…pushed…up…the…hill.

No pain.  Just felt really winded.  Man…I must have lost some fitness in that entire month I was off from running.  It sure seems like I lost fitness.  I just haven’t been able to run like I did last year.  And it drives me mad.  But…slow, steady steps.  Rush it and risk reinjury.  So…I just sort of made my way up the street to the turn around point.  I made the turn and headed back down toward the bridge.  As I was passing some spectators, I heard one of them shout, “First place for pigtails!” at me.  I pumped my fist and smiled.  Awesome.  Down the hill I went and back into the town.

A 3K is a very short distance…around 1.84 miles.  Last year, I ran this race in 13:02.  I didn’t think I’d come anywhere close to that this year.  I was huffing and puffing like a rookie runner at this point and felt myself get so angry at that fact.  But…pushed onward.  And forward.  I came around the final turn and attempted to pick up my pace to dash into that finish line.  I saw my numbers tick by as I crossed.  Not too far off of last year’s time.  No improvement.  And…a part of me felt so good about the run.  And another part of me felt so disappointed.

It’s hard to explain when you come back to a race…but you’re not up to where you were the previous year.  I was so happy to have finished with no ankle pain, no twinges…nothing.  And then, there was that part of my brain that said…if you had pushed that hill harder…if you had maintained that initial speed you took off with…you could have…you should have…you would have…

It wasn't the race I wanted...but it was the race I had...and I finished strong and without pain.  That was the important thing!
It wasn’t the race I wanted…but it was the race I had…and I finished strong and without pain. That was the important thing!

And then you just need to tell that voice to shut the hell up!  Because, while I am a little disappointed that I didn’t place in my division this year…that those I passed last year were passing me…that I feel like I’ve lost my speed…that I may never find my speed again…I have to remember…I sprained the hell out of my ankle and being able to run that race was a gift in and of itself.  That being said, finishing only 7 seconds slower than last year isn’t bad.  It’s not great…but that’s really damn impressive for someone who hasn’t been able to do much running on varied terrain…or even outside…or even at all.  Yeah, part of me is very sad, upset, and wants to throw a fit…but the bigger part of me is proud of what I accomplished and managed under the circumstances.

Anyway, the official results of The Good Shepherd Run For The Gold 3K are that I finished in 13:09.  I was 48/708 finishers overall.  I was 4/109 in my division.  Once again, the 30-39 women’s division was the largest overall for the race.  So…I’ll take this.  My brain might not like it…but my heart tells me…I did good just to run it.  Running is a gift, and I’m thankful I can do it again…even if it means slowing down for a little while to allow myself ample time to heal.

Another hell of a sprint this year.  Already making plans to come back next year…and maybe best my time from last year.  With a little work…anything is possible!

Thank you again, Frankfort, for this very fun race!

Physical Therapy – 2 Weeks In…

Stepping out with weights...
Stepping out with weights…

Ever since the ankle sprain heard around the world (okay…not really, but…it seems like this just isn’t going away), I have gone to the doctor, been X-rayed, and now am going twice a week to physical therapy, where I am working with two very good therapists, Jill and Shawn.

The good news is…no fractures. No stress fractures. NOTHING…I repeat…NOTHING…is broken.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is…I seriously sprained my ankle.  Yep.  Seriously.  And not the typical inversion ankle sprain either (that would be on the outside of the ankle).  Nope.  I’m a special case.  I do the more uncommon and rather quite rare, rolling the ankle outward and doing the damage to the inside of my ankle.  Because, why do things the way 80% of the population does, right?  I will not conform.  *sigh*

So, last week I went to my first physical therapy session.  And was immediately discouraged.  There were measurements taken of both my feet an ankles, and I was given a couple of exercises to do, and given some of the bands to really work my ankle some more.  I left not really sure how I felt, but had another appointment set up to meet with Shawn, who would go over some other things I could do and work with me a bit further.  Needless to say, I had my doubts, but that Friday evening when I went into my session, Shawn really did make me feel better and did move things along.

I have about 30 minutes of stretching that I am doing, twice a day, every day.  Then, I am doing 3 sets of 20 reps of each ankle flexing exercise with the various bands (they each provide a different bit of resistance and strength) twice a day.  That’s a lot.  But…I do it.  Despite not always feeling like doing it.  I still do it.  Why?  Because I am seeing improvement.

That being said, today was going to be a very important session.  I went into my session and did my warm-up on the bike.  Then, Shawn got me strapped into a weight machine and had me do some forward, backwards, and side stepping, while hooked up to some weights.  Resistance to make it a little tougher and to test that ankle.  Then he had me doing some ankle exercises while hooked up to some weights around each ankle, to work on some balance and strength.  I managed these, no problem at all.  The hard part was talking and counting my required 20 reps.  It’s the little things.

The moment of truth came after that.  Shawn took me over to the treadmill, which he told me he was going to do today, to have me walk…then up the pace…then up it to a very light, very easy, very gentle run.  He put it on 5.0 mph and I sort of just jogged…for three minutes.  And I did okay.  The ankle twinged (nothing painful, it just didn’t feel right…) a couple of times, but it was progress.  Good progress.  I felt good about it.  I was hoping…praying…that I’d get the okay to start running again.

And I did.

Kind of.

A deliberate-paced run on the treadmill...
An easy, deliberate-paced run on the treadmill…

I’m still not permitted to run outside.  Not yet.  Nope.  That’s a negative on the one thing I was really, really hoping to get the go-ahead on.  Yeah, I was a bit bummed when he delivered that news to me.  I know, he wants to make sure I’m ready, and I understand that, but, God, I miss being out there.  I really do.  However…I am cleared to easily run and do some intervals of run/walk on the treadmill.  Completely cleared to do that.  And when I go in on Monday, I get to report on how the ankle is feeling after spending a weekend doing that.  This is progress.  It just wasn’t the progress I was hoping to make.  But…baby steps.  Rome wasn’t built in a day and this ankle won’t get back up to speed (pardon the pun) overnight.  It just doesn’t work like that.  At least I’m cleared to do some deliberate running…even if it is at the gym on the treadmill or around the tiniest track in the world (FOR REAL!).

Progress is progress…no matter how small, right?  Right.

That’s what I keep reminding myself.  I am also learning to get used to a little disappointment (like the news delivered today).  But, in the end, it just means I’ll have a lifetime of running…and not do damage to myself that I can’t come back from it.  My physical therapy sessions are definitely helping.  And I hope…come next week…I’ll see a little more progress as well.  Maybe get out in the fresh air.  Maybe.

For now…as much as I hate the treadmill…it sure is better than nothing.  Now to just train my brain to keep it easy and slow and ease back into it.  Running smart means sometimes running with your head and not your heart.