Project BQ – Marathon Training Week #3

dreams-hopes-poster-rhino-treadmill-unicornWhat a roller coaster of a week.  It had ups and downs and lots of emotional spirals that had nothing to do with the training itself…but life.  And people in my life.  Funny how outside stuff can affect you in different ways.  I will never learn that some people will always feel the need to try to tell me how to do things or what to feel…and some people will try to tear me down because they are unhappy with they are…and some people are just jackasses.

I’ve dealt with a lot of jackasses.  When I’m down, I don’t need to be kicked.  And when I’m up, I don’t need to be torn down.

With all that emotional baggage, let’s dive into this week.

Monday: Another Monday morning recovery run.  He wanted this to be SLOW so my legs would be fresh for the first of two speed sessions this week on Tuesday. He gives me a range and asks me to aim for the middle of the mileage.  My legs were a bit stiff from all the time on the treadmill at the hotel over the weekend, but once I found my stride, I felt good.  I kept the pace conversational.  This was a good run in and of itself and I ended up with the higher of the mileage range.  7 Miles total.  I also wasn’t meeting with my personal trainer this week, so I felt like it would all balance out in the end.  It can be a fine line between doing enough and overdoing it.  I wanted to be very cognizant of how I felt each day and adjust as needed.  I added my extra hip strengtheners into my morning PT exercises as well.

Tuesday: Speed work.  God…I hate speed work.  I value it and why it is part of a training plan (especially one where I need to be able to hit and maintain a certain pace)…but it doesn’t come easy for me.  Ever.  And this week, Daniel was hooking me up with some FRESH HELL.  My first ever 1600 Flat Pyramid workout.  This is what that looks like: 1 Mile WU; 400m-800m-1600m-1600m-800m-400m; 1 Mile CD.  I was instructed to do a 400m-800m recovery jog in between each rep.  And the effort on the reps should be “controlled hard” and likely faster than tempo pace, but not quite as fast as rep pace where I get a full recovery.  It wasn’t fun.  I wasn’t a fan.  But I got it done.  And I felt powerful at the end of it.  I squeezed in my second day of the additional hip strengtheners to the morning stretches and PT exercises.

Wednesday: Wednesday turned into a replay of Monday’s run.  So, I ran it exactly as I had done on Monday.  7 Miles.  Slow.  Easy.  This one ended up being a bit faster than the run I did on Monday…and I was pretty certain that would come back to bite me the following morning.  That being said, I was hoping that my time stretching and foam rolling would help counterbalance that.  I wasn’t checking my watch constantly, because that’s a bad habit that I don’t want to have…so I ran by feel.  I ran too fast.  No personal training this week…so that was it for Wednesday.

Thursday: Speed Work Session #2.  And it was a damn Ladder Tempo that I have yet to master.  This is the third time that Daniel has given me this particular workout, and it always seems to fall on the warmest morning of the week.  This was the same.  It was almost 90 degrees before the sun came up that day.  The Ladder Tempo works like this: 1 Mile WU; 3 Miles @ Tempo; 0.5 Miles Recovery; 2 Miles @ Tempo; 0.5 Miles Recovery; 1 Mile @ Tempo; 1 Mile CD.  The tempo part he wanted me to aim for a pace between 7:20-7:50, but to adjust as needed to run by feel in the heat/humidity.  I’m not good at altering things when paces are assigned.  And after the 2nd Mile of the first tempo…I paused and went inside to grab 2 bottles ice cold water…one to drink in addition to the water with Nuun in my hydration pack, and one to pour over my head.  I made plenty of stops to pull these out of the cooler and attempt to keep cool when I was dying.  I don’t mean to complain about the heat…and normally I wouldn’t…but the heat is KILLING me this year.  And it’s mentally draining when I’m struggling to hit paces that never used to be this hard.

Friday: Rest Day.  I stretched.  I hydrated.  I had my friend Michelle over for dinner, wine (I didn’t drink much because of a long run the next morning).  I stayed up late.  I laughed a lot.  I needed every moment of that.  Even if it meant I went into my long run a bit sleep deprived.

Saturday: Long Run.  I had 16-17 on tap this week.  My friend Christine had 14…so we arranged it so that we could do some of the run together.  The humidity lifted that morning, so it didn’t feel as dreadful out.  It was also the Bra Top Squad meet-up at Seneca Park.  So, Christine and I were going to run about 11 miles and then finish up at Seneca with the rest of the ladies that showed up.  The sun came out.  It did warm up, but it wasn’t the killer heat that had been mentally and physically tearing me down.  Christine and I tackled some hills together (which should make our basically flat marathon seem easy) and worked through our run to the meetup.  After the picture, we parted and I went on to run 6 more miles and ended with 17 for the day.  It was the lift I needed, to be honest.  I needed to feel good.  I was happy with it, even with the laps around the park for the final solo miles.  Cathy was on hand blaring inspirational music from her phone each time I passed.

Sunday: Recovery run day.  I had 4 miles to do, and I headed out early to fit them in.  I made sure to include one big hill…but I also had a nice downhill in the last mile.  I felt pretty good the entire time.  And I paused to take a couple pictures in the early morning light.  Then, I made breakfast and headed out to see Spider-Man: Far From Home at the theater.  After that…I had to finish up some grocery shopping, run some errands, meal prep, and finish up the second season of Westworld.  All of which I accomplished.

As of 8:15 pm tonight, my new schedule hasn’t posted.  But Monday usually is 6 easy miles…so I’m going with the theory that it will remain that way this week.  The rest…well, we’ll see.  But I need to get some rest.  So…stay tuned for (hopefully) some additional blogs this week.  And I’ll catch you all up on what happens this coming week after I work through it.

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

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

Race: Bluegrass 10,000

Place: Lexington, Kentucky

Date: July 4, 2019

Time: 47:40

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

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

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

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

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

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Race ready at the Bluegrass 10,000

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

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

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Start line selfies with Cathy

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

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

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

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

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

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Me with Linda after the Bluegrass 10,000

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

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

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

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Finisher of the Bluegrass 10,000

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

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

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Gluten Free Pasta Arrabiata from Bella Notte in Lexington, KY

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

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

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Stranger Things Binge Watching Marathon ready!

S

The Bluegrass BAMR Podcast – Episode 10: “Life as a Celiathlete” with Karen Brady — BluegrassBAMR

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Hey everyone!

A couple of weeks ago, I was honored to be featured on The Bluegrass BAMR Podcast!  I had a blast talking to Stephanie and sharing part of my story (I feel like I could have gone on for at least another hour…but I also like to talk).  Anyway…please go give it a listen.  And be sure you share, like, subscribe and leave a review for the podcast itself.

You can check it out below…or search on your favorite podcast platform!

And thanks again, Stephanie!

 

“Life as a Celiathlete” with Karen Brady Karen Brady, aka The Celiathlete, was diagnosed with Celiac Disease at the age of 30. After some trial and error, and help from a Registered Dietitian, Karen was able to find the nutritional solutions to help fuel her greatest passion: running. Not only has Karen learned to live […]

via The Bluegrass BAMR Podcast – Episode 10: “Life as a Celiathlete” with Karen Brady — BluegrassBAMR

Project BQ – Marathon Training Week #2

dreams-hopes-poster-rhino-treadmill-unicornWell friends…much to everyone’s dismay as a new Team Challenge kicked in for the MRTT/SRTT group…I had a down week this week.  And it might have been just what I needed considering I raced on Thursday and was out of town over the weekend.  Training when a race is on a weird day works for me…but going out of town never makes training easy.  Especially when you are somewhere that isn’t easy to run without venturing out for a ways to a place with sidewalks and safe paths or trails.  It was what it had to be this week.  And, honestly, I never know where I stand on those challenges because I just do what my coach tells me to do.  I never want to overtrain and/or bring about injury because of these fun challenges.  So…I just stay my course and do my thing. As training hadn’t officially started, my coach let me split the total accumulated mileage between Saturday and Sunday into two mid-distance runs as opposed to a short run followed by a long run…as I was limited only to a treadmill.  You tweak things as you need and just do the best you can with what life is offering at the time.

Let’s dive into this week, shall we?

Monday: This was my typical Monday morning run.  6 miles.  Easy pace.  SLOW!!  He assigns me Mondays as a recovery run from any weekend runs that he puts me through.  And with the past week’s Sunday run being rough…it was a good morning to just take it easy, move the legs, and not put much effort into anything.  I survived another humid morning.  I drank a lot of water, trying to stay ahead on hydration this week.  I also met with my personal trainer.  And then…I returned to my Monday evening spin class with Deana.  It was her sing-along class and it was a lot of fun.  Since it was a down week, I did throw in a few extra things as I figured it wouldn’t mess with my training.  Today I also did one of the two days a week I throw in my hip strengthening exercises to my morning PT stretching routine.

Tuesday: No speed work this week.  My Tuesday run kept it simple.  6 more miles, this time at base pace.  Another humid morning, and this time I had to deal with some stomach issues.  UGH.  It happens sometimes when you have Celiac.  But, I got through it and managed to keep a slightly faster pace than Monday.  I followed that up with a round of 10 strides, which I actually managed to do quickly while focusing on form.

Wednesday: Short and easy run this morning.  3 recovery miles.  He told me to run them SLOW…and I did…for the first one.  And somehow that turned into negative splits without me focusing on it.  So…yeah…this one was probably too fast and should have been done slower.  I wasn’t looking at my watch for each mile…I just ran by feel and it DID feel easy.  No personal training because I was racing the following day, but I did do my second day of additional hip strengthening exercises to my morning PT stretching routine.

Thursday: Early morning.  I needed to stretch, drink some coffee, lather up in my sunscreen, get dressed, and head down to Lexington, Kentucky, for my July 4th race.  I have made it a tradition to go to the Bluegrass 10,000 race there.  My former coach is in charge of the pacers.  Just a bonus fact.  She was kind enough to pick up my packet for me on Wednesday because there was NO way I could make it down there to get it…and there is no race day packet pickup.  Let’s hear it for amazing friends in our lives.  The race starts at 7:30.  It was warm, clammy, and humid.  BUT…honestly, it is the best weather this race has had for the 3 years I have run it.  I dressed appropriately for the weather, wearing my very patriotic Wonder Woman outfit.  Because…I am Wonder Woman.  I raced as hard as I could that day.  I did take short walk breaks through three of the water stops.  And I had a guy at Mile 5 spray me with his hose.  It was a good way to keep my body from overdoing it on a hot day.  No shame in that.  I felt strong at the end thanks to that and put in a time that beat out last year’s time.  Even without a course PR or a distance PR…I was proud of my effort that day.  July 4th 10K in the books…and then a pasta lunch and a 6 hour Stranger Things marathon for Season 3.  I had wanted to finish it…but I had to work the following morning, so I needed sleep more than to get an entire season into one day.

Friday: REST DAY! That being said, because this was a down week and my long runs weren’t really going to be out in the heat, or far for that matter…I decided to drop into my old Friday spin class.  It was a class of 2, but Brittney (the instructor), had taken a training class on the bikes our gym has and gave us a new, challenging, and fun way to use the screens on the bike and really get into a good training mode on it.  I was impressed with how my numbers improved.

Saturday: Welcome to the wonderful world of traveling.  I was up in Indianapolis for a convention.  This hotel isn’t near the Monon Trail.  It’s not even in a good area with plenty of sidewalks and areas to go for a run outside.  I knew going into this weekend that I would be on a treadmill and told my coach.  He had me down for 18-20 miles over the entire weekend, with Sunday being a 15 miler.  He was a bit concerned that would be a bit far to run on a treadmill and we discussed, since training wasn’t really starting yet with my change of venue for my fall marathon…we decided that I could break up the distance over the 2 days I was out of town.  I split the difference…starting with 10 miles on Saturday at an easy pace.  I stopped the treadmill at 6 and restarted it because they only would run for an hour at a time.  The fitness center was crowded (very unusual), and I re-fueled and hit go again…this time messing with some speeds, though still keeping the run easy.  Afterwards…a shower, breakfast, and off to some panels at the convention.  Gluten-free pizza that night for supper.  YUM!  I also stayed up WAY too late on Saturday night, so I knew Sunday might be rough.

Sunday: I had an alarm set for 6 am…but I woke up at 5:30 am so I got up and got dressed and hauled down to the fitness center to fit in the second half of my distance for the weekend.  Same run as yesterday, another 10 miles…which this time I started doing varying, but easy, speeds on the treadmill just so I didn’t sleepwalk through the first 6 miles, which felt like what I did on Saturday.  I was very conscious of the extra fatigue due to the late night and not getting my ideal amount of rest, foam rolling, or stretching while out of town.  I try to make time for it, but I literally just didn’t have the time this trip.  I feel like I normally would, but there was a lot going on.  Got it done before anyone else came into the fitness center.  After my shower and a protein bar for breakfast, I came down and saw the fitness center packed.  Just packed.  So I was good to get it done when I did.  Left the convention just after 11:30 and went up to Carmel, Indiana for lunch at Woody’s Library Restaurant.  And then, the long drive home.  My roommate when to buy all the groceries while I meal prepped, unpacked.  I was supposed to stretch and do my PT exercises…but just didn’t have the time with  trying to multitask everything else.  I did fit it in ahead of finishing up the final two episodes of Stranger Things Season 3.  I foam rolled for the first 20 minutes and then it was on the couch and not moving until it was done.

So, this week was lower on mileage and definitely a much needed reprieve from the endless (it seems) marathon training I have been pushing through for almost 2 years now.  My roommate and I calculated it, and I have been training for and running marathons mostly exclusively, for 20 months now.  Thankfully, they have been continuous and have also had PROPER recovery (okay…maybe not the Chicago to Monumental 2018 stretch…but I felt like I was still in good shape and really wanted some form of redemption from the hot mess that was my Chicago Marathon).  So, I am really ready to get the job done this time, and I’m working very hard in my training to do what I need to to reach those goals, while also listening to any cues my body gives me and helps.  If I need extra recovery…I take it.  And it’s fine.  It’s okay to reset.  Never forget that.  Marathon training, or any sort of training, really asks a lot of you.  So nourish your body, get enough sleep, recover like a champ…and you might be amazed with how far you can go and what you can accomplish.

Back to the norm starting this coming week…and now I feel ready for it.

One more thing…running on a treadmill is NOT my favorite thing in the world.  Treadmills hurt my hips and my body so if I can avoid them, I will.  I’m hurting after 2 days of it…but it had to be done.  But, trust me, I will keep that in mind on my recovery run.  Don’t ever get uncomfortable to the point where it can cause you to sustain an injury.  It’s not worth it, friends.

It was nice to not have to die in the humidity for a weekend though.  Bright side!

Project BQ – Marathon Training Week #1

dreams-hopes-poster-rhino-treadmill-unicornEver since the Erie Marathon sold out before I was able to sign up for it, my training has felt sort of…meaningless.  I still put in the work, but I had no purpose behind it.  And that, friends, is not where I like to be.  It’s not good for me, mentally, to not have a plan to execute.  I wasn’t just going through the motions, but my heart wasn’t in it.  Where there is no passion, there is no joy.

But this week, I made a decision.

I am giving up my hope of a BQ for 2020.

This was not an easy decision to come to by any means.  I searched every marathon within driving distance between now and the fall cut-off for Boston.  The best courses were all multiple loops…and they just didn’t excite me.  I dreaded having to loop the same path 4-8 times (depending on the race of choice).  After a lot of thinking on it, pondering it, and just…looking at the races I could do and not feeling excited about training for them…I opted to give myself more time.

The hard part was choosing a fall race.  Again, I was limited on distance I could travel due to a birthday cruise I am all signed up for (back when I thought Erie would be a thing and I wouldn’t be training).  I narrowed it down to Mill Race, Columbus, and Indianapolis Monumental.

And after weighing the pros and cons…I settled on a race I ran for the first time last year…Indy Monumental.

GOAL: Boston Qualify for 2021

All that being said, let me point out that training has had it’s own ups and downs these days.  I used to be someone who could handle the heat…but it ahs been a struggle this year.  A big…huge…struggle.  It makes me feel out of shape and underprepared.  And I haven’t mastered what I need to do to make it easier…if anything.  I have hydrated myself, fueled myself, and yet…the struggle, at times, has been beyond real.  Especially if I am pushing pace at any point.  This is not helping me at all with my confidence.  I try not to let bad training runs get to me, but I’m human.  And while I can shrug it off after a few hours, it’s just hard when I know I am capable of doing so much better than I am.

So, let’s recap now that I have chosen a race…

Monday: My coach had me down for 6 miles with the instructions to go SLOW.  Why?  Because Tuesday is usually speed work day and he wants me to have fresh legs for those.  I went out easy and kept it easy.  In fact, my legs felt really good that morning, so I had to remind myself to ease it back on the pace.  Couldn’t ask for a better start to the week.

Tuesday: Speed work.  MEH!  At least it is my favorite workout: Mona Fartleks.  If you haven’t done these…try them.  It keeps things interesting and challenging all at once.  I didn’t stop as much as I have had to this time around…just for traffic when needed and some hydration when it was hard to do it while moving.  My workout was: 2 mile WU; 2×90 sec; 4×60 sec; 4×30 sec; 4×15 seconds (all of which with EQUAL recovery a bit faster than base pace); 2 mile CD.  Any stops I made, I tried to make the turnaround time quick.

Wednesday: Short and easy run this morning.  3 recovery miles.  And then I went to spin class, because I really jus needed to do something other than running.  I’ve missed doing my cross-training and getting my gym time in.  I don’t know how I was fitting it in before.

Thursday: Heading toward a full rest day, my Thursday run was 8 miles on paper at base pace.  I didn’t check my watch at any point, but it turned out I did 7 of them at or below my Marathon Pace.  Whoops. So, I did a cool down mile to make up for that at a much easier pace.  I hate having to look at my watch, but I need to be more mindful of my pace on my easy and base pace days.

Friday: REST DAY! (Thank God!)

Saturday: I flip-flopped my long run days this week because I could have company if I did that.  Being able to run with someone makes me happy.  So, my 10 miler was moved to Saturday.  I met up with Ron at 7 am to try to beat some of the morning heat.  This was supposed to be at an easy pace and then 2 miles for a fast finish.  The 10 miles I ran with Ron were delightful.  We lost some shade after we turned around to head back, and it definitely was warming up…but at least we could get each other through it.  I ran him to 10 and then I turned around to do my final 2 a bit faster.  That part sucked.  But at least I got to see some MRTT ladies out there.  That always helps when the struggle sets in.  I drove home with my air conditioning blaring.

Sunday: I wanted to start early.  The humidity has been INSANE here, and it was no joke today.  And this was going to be a challenging workout…especially in the heat. It was 75 degrees when I headed out the door at 6:25 am.  The humidity and dewpoint made it feel like I was swimming.  Immediately.  My workout: 1 mile WU; 3×4 miles @ MP w/ 4 minute recovery; 1 mile CD.  The warmup felt like a slog and I knew today was going to be hard.  I told myself I wasn’t going to let it bother me, but I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to instructions.  I did pretty good on the top half of the run.  I stopped a few times to hydrate, but immediately continued on.  It was when I turned around at Mile 9, that the struggle became more than real.  LOTS of stops.  LOTS.  And there wasn’t much shade where I was running at that point either, which made it feel 100x harder.  But I got a bit of a reprieve when a train was going on the tracks.  I sat on some stairs in the shade to wait it out.  And when it was safe to cross, I got up and set back out again.  But now my body didn’t want to push.  I had 2 more miles of marathon pace, and I was stopping more than I was running.  I started to play a bit of a game, where I told myself I just had to run to the next street.  It got me through, and I listened to my body and stopped at each corner.  But I was fading…so I stopped at a shady stoop of a business and sat down for a moment to cool off.  I was almost done with marathon pace, but it just didn’t feel like I could go on.  I let my heart rate go down and allowed my body to cool down again before I stood up to at least finish off that mile.  I managed it and had never been so thankful to run easy again in my life.  But the heat and humidity were beating me down even at an easy pace.  I ended up in a shaded parking lot, recovering once again.  I texted my coach and my roommate to let them know I had a mile to go, but was currently sitting in the shade trying to talk myself into doing the cool down mile.  I know better than to push too hard in heat, so I wasn’t mad at the performance, just aggravated that I was struggling so much.  I did finally get up, shake it off, and jog myself home.  It was one of the hardest runs I have had to get through yet this training session, and I feel like I barely survived it.  My coach gave me a pep talk, telling me what I already know…in the summer you have to go based off of effort and not pace.  That’s never been easy for me…but it was a good reminder.  I made it home.  I took a cool shower.  And I started to recover as best as I could in that moment.

So…here it is, friends.  Another attempt for me to get back to a race that I still feel like, to this day, I never had a fair shake at.  I know I am capable of getting there.  I just need to get comfortable being a bit uncomfortable this summer.  Trust me…this goal is worth all the effort I am putting into it.  I am just trying to train smart and keep it real.

And to keep smiling.  Because if you can’t smile at the end of the day…it’s not worth doing.

Run For The Berries 5K – Starlight, IN (May 25, 2019)

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Me crossing the finish line of the Run For The Berries 5K – Starlight, IN

Race: Run for the Berries 5K

Place: Starlight, Indiana

Date: May 25, 2019

Time: 23:37

It’s that time of year, friends.  Yep.  That time of year that the Starlight Strawberry Festival happens.  And that means one thing…the Run for the Berries 5K.  Because if you want to give me any incentive to run a 5K (not a big fan)…strawberries are a sure bet!

The one thing that has become pretty common with me, however, is that I’ve waited to register for this race (and numerous others) either on race day or close to race day.  Why?  I’m on a strict budget and signing up for races and having to not go to them for ANY reason is a waste of my money.  So it doesn’t happen.  So, for the second year in a row…I wasn’t registered until race morning for this race.

But the adventure doesn’t start there, friends.  Oh no!!  Because this seems to be the year where if anything bad can happen to me on race morning…it will.  And the morning of the Run for the Berries 5K didn’t let me down in that aspect.

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Registering on race morning

I woke up feeling slightly “off.”  My stomach was unsettled.  I thought, perhaps, some water with a Nuun tablet (electrolytes) would be a big help in this case, but it didn’t really seem to help.  At least I was hydrated, right?  It was also VERY warm out this particular morning.  Like humid and hot.  The kind of weather that you feel sort of suffocates you when you’re milling about it in.  UGH.  So, another good reasons for the electrolytes in the water.  When I mentioned running this one to my coach, Daniel, he asked if I wanted to use it for training or to actually race it.  I told him I wanted to race it.  Mind you…I am NOT in 5K shape…AT ALL!!  I was just a month off of a fast marathon and really hadn’t incorporated any sort of speed back into my training at that point.  But, hey…it’s 3.1 miles…I got this, right?

My speed work sessions during training have been fast.  So, I thought, as I had come close to breaking my 5K PR at this race before…maybe it could happen.  Maybe I could get a damn PR in one of the primary distances (5K, 10K, Half Marathon, Full Marathon).  Why not start with the one I hate doing…the 5K.  Because these legs were not made for sprinting.  They were made for…DISTANCE.  But, hey…I could do this…in shape or not!

And maybe…if the weather was slightly cooler and my stomach didn’t feel like it was sludgy…it might have.  Spoiler alert: No PR.  But let me first start with what I did do.  I did get up and stretch and drink water and electrolytes, knowing it would be a steamfest (it usually is, btw).  I dressed in the Boston crop that my friend, Natalie, gifted me with again…but went with different shorts this time for the Run for the Berries.  I had my breakfast to go…something I could eat 30 minutes prior to the 8 am start.

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I am wondering why I’m up front!

My roommate and I left the apartment to give us time to get up to the Strawberry Festival, get me registered, use the bathroom, stretch, eat, and prepare to race.  All of these things were accomplished and did happen.  I even made myself eat the snack I brought, despite the stomach feeling wonky.  It would be better thank bonky!  (Rhyming is fun!)

I did some active stretching until it seemed about time to walk down the road to the start point.  I was amazed how few people were there at this point.  So, I got into what I figured would be the second row (where I usually start in this race) and stood there…waiting.  Some fast looking people did wander down this way…but they stood behind me and I was like…”Nope.  I try to be fast, but I’m not there kind of fast.”  It all did eventually fill in though, even if I was still up front this time.  Imposter syndrome!

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Me at the start, when I thought I might be able to hang and be fast…

The race organizer got on the bullhorn and started to give some information about the race. Like male runners at the finish will have white cards to fill out; female runners will have pink; walkers will have yellow. OH…and if you are registered as a walker…and you run down a hill…you are now a runner. This gets said every year, and it still makes me laugh. He gave the words…On your marks…get set…and we were sent off.  And I was doing my best not to blow up in the first mile.

The past couple years I have done this race, my first mile has managed to be in the 6:40-6:50 range.  Not this year.  I hit that first mile and decided to just glance at my watch (this is a bad habit I got into when I had to pace myself through Toledo), noting that it said 7:13.  It felt hard.  And I knew I was fading already.  The heat and humidity have really started to get to me this year, and my body was not responding well at all today.  Nope.  I decided I would attempt to pick it up…maybe I could for Mile 2.

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An icy cold strawberry drink was just what I needed

It was maybe halfway through this mile, that I could physically feel my legs slowing down.  So, my goals and hopes were just tossed aside, and I focused on simply finishing.  I attempted to, but mostly failed to attack the uphills and ride the downhills, but my legs were not wanting to go any faster.  They kept screaming to slow down.  And they did…without me even commanding them to do so.  Mile 2 was at 7:35.  After Mile 2, there is a water stop waiting.  Since goals were out…I stopped, snagged a cup, drank a splash, then poured the rest over my head hoping to wake up the body and cool off my core.  I managed to get up the hill, but I was toast after that.

There are a few rollers after that as you head back to the road that takes you to the finish line.  You actually sort of go uphill to the finish.  Brutal.  And I was fighting.  I was fighting with all I had to get there.  I could see the finish, see Cathy, see people cheering…so I pressed on.  I think someone passed me.  I don’t really remember.  But I pushed as much as I could (it felt like I was going in slow motion).  Mile 3 was 7:53.  I was going off the rails.  The last .1 miles to the finish felt like an eternity (Garmin tells me it was an 8:16 pace, LOL!), but I crossed the line and stopped my watch and was happy to have it done.  I was handed a pink card and Cathy walked me over to the building to fill out my card with my name and time and age division…and mine was the first in the stack at that point…which I reminded her didn’t mean that I came in first.  It just means I was the first one to fill out the card.IMG_1097

As the race was finishing up, we wandered back over to where we parked to grab my backpack so I could go duck into the bathroom and change out of my sweaty running clothes.  I was happy that I packed a light dress to wear because it was really starting to heat up outside.

We made a circuit of the actual festival booths, while waiting on the awards to start…and indulged in our big bowls of strawberries (well, Cathy gets an actual Strawberry Shortcake), and a nice, icy cold, refreshing frozen strawberry drink.  YES!!  It was perfection.

IMG_1102The men are always announced first after the overall winners…and the overall winner this year (for men) was an 11 year old kid who was lightning fast.  Seriously.  And…as I’m getting pretty up there…I have to sit awhile through the females too…but…worth it.  My card and time were in fact…right.  I was first in my age division.  How about that?  I didn’t feel good…I pretty much died on the course…but…bringing home another pint glass (with an additional bag for being first in the age group).

I wish I could give you overall stats, but official results for this race haven’t been posted anywhere.  Not on Facebook.  Not on Pacers & Racers.  Not on the Strawberry Festival page, nor the page advertising the Run For the Berries itself…it still has last year’s results.  BUT…here’s what I can tell you…

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Age group pint glass from the Run for the Berries 5K

Officially…I had positive splits.  But positive splits for positive people.  I finished the race in 23:37.  I was the thirteenth woman overall.  And I was first in my age group.  That’s it…that’s all I got.

And hopefully next year I can get a bit faster, take those hills a bit harder, and not fade so much so close to the start.  Fingers crossed.

And…should official results for this race every get posted, I will happily update this post to share them.  But, I am not currently holding my breath!

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

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

Race: Mercy Health Glass City Marathon

Place: Toledo, OH

Date: April 28, 2019

Time: 3:38:46

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My mom – she’s a warrior!

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

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Race day ready!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Just before Mile 4 in the Glass City Marathon

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

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

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Me heading into the finish line of the Glass City Marathon

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

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

WHAT?!

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

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

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

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

3:38.

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

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

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My Spicy Ginger Tofu & Ancient Grains bowl from Corelife Eatery

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

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

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

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