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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
The 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…
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There was a time when I would tell everyone that my favorite local race was the Papa John’s 10 Miler. That changed after last year, when I didn’t know we weren’t finishing in the stadium, the course was short, the weather was awful, the shirts were cheap and ugly…
I mean, the race can’t help the weather, but the rest of it…
At the Rodes City Run 10K, it was announced that the course of the Papa John’s 10 Miler was different this year, however, we would be finishing in the stadium again. Happiness. There was hope for this race yet. As for the race shirts…well…I’ll get to those in a moment.
The plan my coach gave me was pretty much similar to the plan he had given me before the Rodes City Run…race the race…and then hit some marathon paced miles in a long run the following day. The only difference was the distances I would be running. So, I try not to think about the fresh hell waiting for me on Sunday when I am all-out racing on Saturday. I, once again, waited until race week to register for this race. When I told my coach that I was eyeing these for my race calendar, he really took that to heart. And it was a good way for him to test my legs and endurance in the process. So, I registered and found out that, once again, I was a seeded runner with a low bib number. I didn’t put in for that on the registration, it just was assigned to me. Part of being a consistent runner in these races. I only missed it a few years due to injury. And I have come a long way since the first time I ran it in 2012.
Packet pickup for this race is always at Cardinal Stadium (formerly Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium) in one of the suites. So, Cathy and I left work slightly early to make the drive into Louisville to get my race packet. We parked and took the elevator up to the expo. I immediately saw Chris Powell. He said, “Can I help you, or are you one of those…I already know…you’re one of the speedy runners.” Chris…don’t ever stop making me smile. I walked over to the table for the elite and seeded runners and got my bib. I was 59 this time. I was told that the t-shirts were behind me. And here we go again with the cheap-ass, uninspired, ugly, unisex, poorly fit t-shirts. If you’re a man…these will look great on you. If you’re female…well, you’re shit out of luck because this race no longer does women’s cut. They do these cheap logo shirts now…where you have to size down and still not have it fit appropriately…not impressed. And it’s too bad, because I used to rave about the Nike, fitted, race shirts that this race used to give out. Cutting corners isn’t always a good thing. Not one bit.
Same dinner happened the night before the race…the cauliflower crust pizza I described in the Rodes City Run 10K race blog. No need to rehash that. My evening routine was much the same too. Stretch, foam roll, sleep. Then wake up, eat, stretch, foam roll, get ready to run.
I had lots of pink showing for the Papa John’s 10 Miler, so my mom was well represented. It was cold outside. Which, as you know, doesn’t make me happy. So I bundled up with layers for pre-race walking to the start and the inevitable wait for the start of the actual race. Cathy and I had to clear some ice off the window of the car, but we got out on the road with plenty of time to park and make the hike up and over the overpass to get to the start line.
Or so we thought. The lots that we were told to park in were being blocked by the police from the direction we were driving in from. This caused us to drive around in various circles through the Louisville streets, with many random turnarounds and wrong turns, with no instruction from the officers themselves…until we finally came at it from the opposite side and managed to get into one of the green lots.
Dear Papa John’s 10 Miler Race Director peeps…….in the future…let us know about road closures if we are coming from, say, Indiana, okay?
And now our little cushion of time was really condensed. SUCK! We popped out into the cold morning air, and started to swiftly walk the very far distance from our parking space to the stairs to take us up to the overpass, which we then needed to cross over and then turn the corner and make our way to the start. The thing was…the start line was further up from where it has been in previous years. That was unexpected. We had to pause on our way there, with speakers going in and out, for the singing of the National Anthem. Cathy was trying to get me to shed layers when our friend Laura came over to say HI and chat for a moment. I ended up shedding my winter hat prior to the race, as much as I wanted to keep it, because it would hinder my pigtails, and Cathy excused herself to go get a good spot for the start of the race.
Laura and I got to chat a little while longer, and a reporter for the Voice Tribune came over and asked to take our picture. So, that happened. She wished me luck and went to find a spot to start from. I moved a bit further up, spotting my friend Courtney. She was shivering in shorts, a tank top, and arm warmers, saying that she totally underestimated the cold weather that morning. I wished her luck and she did the same, saying that she was coming off of a stomach virus and I would definitely be ahead of her.
They were getting ready to start, so I went to get to the left side, and I spotted one of my favorite podcasters, Tina Muir. She’s amazing and super fast (and came in 2nd female overall in this race!) and went to introduce myself. She shook my hand and asked me my goals. I told her that I was hoping to beat my PR on this course, which I went in 2016. And then she asked me about the course, which I told her was pretty flat leading into the park. The three miles in the park are hilly, but then it’s flat coming back until the overpass climb at Mile 9. Then flat to the finish. She said her coach (also her husband) wanted her to hold back for the first 5 miles and then let loose in the 2nd half. I was supposed to be all-out the entire time. I wished her luck and went to stand a few spots behind her, as the elites filled in around me. I saw her infamous power pose at the start line and before you knew it…the horn was sounding at we were off.
My coach wanted me to not blitz the first couple of miles, and to ease into it with the pace, and then really start pushing it. So, I attempted to not hit the 6 minute miles and succeeded. HA! Honestly, it’s not hard for me because the 6’s are just not a place I can hang. Not yet. (Optimism!) They were between 7:15-7:19. I was sort of in the midst of that early pace when my friend Dan spotted me from the sideline and shouted out to me. I gave a wave and a quick, “HEY!” I felt good at this start, but the hard part of the race was yet to come, and with an intense week of training prior to this…well, I wasn’t sure how long I would be able to keep that up, because I had about 35 miles going into a 10 mile race that week. Whew. But I was feeling pretty good at the start and was just ready to see what I could do.
Mile 3 is where we enter Iroquois Park. In case you are unfamiliar with this park, or previous blogs of mine where I mention it…there are hills. LOTS of hills. I was hoping they wouldn’t slow me down too much this year. I wanted to make sure I was charging up them, not letting them slow down too much…and ride…ride those downhills down and prepare for the next uphill. I managed to make my legs work those hills and remain powerful throughout the park. I was wearing my hydration vest for the first time in a race, so water stops weren’t an issue. I came out of the park just after Mile 6 and knew that I had 3 miles until the next climb.
My legs felt trashed after all those ups and downs, but I continued to press, and my pace was able to pick back up as I headed back toward the finish, which would be in the stadium. I hit the low 7’s on my 7th mile and knew that I needed to wake them back up so that the climb up at Mile 9 wouldn’t kill my speed. I passed the spot where the start was, and the DJ was out there just really encouraging everyone to keep going. We were so close now. I made the turn at the corner and started up the hill. I was about halfway up when my friend Terry, shouted out my name. I turned and gave a wave and then powered up the rest. It officially killed my legs, that climb. I couldn’t get the speed back after the downhill and the run to enter the parking lot of the stadium. Here we now run around the stadium to enter on the opposite side that we used to, and then we hit the field. I had no momentum left, so I was glad this was it for me for the day with no additional miles to tack on. I ran as hard as I could manage, which wasn’t much, to the finish line and crossed.
Cathy was screaming at me from her spot in the stands and waving at me. All I heard was, “YOU SMASHED IT!” I had made a point of not looking at my watch or the clocks again on the course, so I thought I had come in around or after my 2016 time. But apparently I came in almost a full minute under my PR for this race. That was UNEXPECTED!
I caught up with my friend, Bekah, afterwards. She still had 6 more to run that day. I told her good luck with that, as I would be running the following day. I met up with Cathy outside after snagging some water. I went to snag the free pizza for her to eat and some of the free race snacks afterwards. And then…celebrating a new 10 Miler PR…we made the very cold hike back to the car. Cathy let me wrap the blanket she had with her around my shoulders to help stay warm. We finally got to the car and I started to get warm…and we spent the rest of the day shopping and celebrating a PR…and then going to the Louisville City FC season opener. For the record, the coach for LouCity ran the 10 miler and totally beat me in by 7 minutes.
So, the official results of the 2019 Papa John’s 10 Miler were that I finished in 1:15:52, which shaved just under a minute off of my PR time I set in 2016. WINNING. I was surprised, because I didn’t feel as strong in this one. But, sometimes I surprise myself. 246/2981 of finishers overall. I was the 57/1616 females to cross the finish line. And, I was the 11/231 in my age division. BOOM! Love a shiny new PR. It might just make up for the shirt I’ll never wear.
Well, there is definitely nothing more satisfying than beating a previous year’s time. Still no 10K PR, but I did way better at this local 10K than the one I attempted to really race in hot, humid Florida a couple of weeks before. Go figure.
I also waited until the very last week to sign up for this race. I had it on my radar, as usual, as it is one of the best races here in Louisville, BUT…that being said, I am also in the heat of marathon training and wasn’t sure I was actually going to race it. My coach, however, said I was. (For the record, he also raced it and averaged a 5:57 average pace). So, I was going into this with expectations of a better performance than my previous 5K. And that was the goal. Run hard…the entire 6.2 miles.
That being said, I headed down to Slugger Field on the Friday before the race to pick up my race packet. It was here that I discovered that I was a seeded runner this year and had a low number bib. Oh. Awesome. No pressure then, right? HA! So, I was directed over to the proper table to get my race bib and then went to snag a t-shirt as well. I loved that the shirts this year were purple (GO LouCity), and had a bit of a Mardi Gras flair to them. So, that was awesome.
Headed home to make a one of the cauliflower pizza’s I have in my freezer (Califlour Pizza Crusts, which I top with Trader Joes Greek Yogurt Kale & Spinach Dip, some mushrooms, spinach, and garlic). Friday Pizza Night has sort of become a thing. And these cauliflower crusts are the best out there (and naturally, I can’t get them in any store around here and have to order them online). Totally worth it. It was a late dinner, but perfect. I did my evening stretches, foam rolled, and went to bed early.
Because I had to wake up early enough on race morning to figure out my clothes, stretch, foam roll, and eat prior to race time. It was around 39 degrees at the start of the race, but I didn’t take into account the wind chill, which made it feel like it was in the high 20s. So, the running skirt and tank top with arm warmers was, for the first time in a long time, me being underdressed for a run. Needless to say, I had layers on over my race outfit until close to start time.
Please note, that SOMETHING in all of my race outfits this year will be pink, to honor my mom as she goes through her treatments for breast cancer. You’re going to see me in a lot of pink.
I was pretty fresh off of busted up knees from a fall I took on some frozen mud near my apartment complex. I mentioned this a lot on Facebook, but not on here, because I’ve been horrible about blogging and need to really get back into the swing of that. My apologies, friends. So, I took a hard belly-flop fall one morning while doing my run. We have had some new construction and roofing going on at my apartment complex and with the weather winging between hot and cold, a pile of mud that is normally not in my path was in my path, and froze solid from the below freezing temps. My left foot caught it one morning and I was DOWN. Just laid out with holes torn into my favorite pair of winter running tights, blood and bruising. It wasn’t pretty. So, that sucked. And now you know the tale of the Legend of the Fall (non-Brad Pitt division). So, I had some twingy, pain every now and again during my runs, but nothing that I was too concerned about. I had this before after I fell in the 5K of Dopey, and it eventually just got better on its own. Just took awhile. And, cold air and banged up knees are not a good combo.
Just prior to starting, Harry and Jo wandered by and got to say HI and wish me luck. Harry said, “Low number! WOW.” He asked about my knees and said that they looked a little bit better than the photo I had posted on Facebook. I think he was being kind. We wished each other luck and I shed my outer layers, even though I didn’t want to yet. My training partner and friend, Christine, found me at this point. She was aiming for a really fast 10K…and I wasn’t sure I could keep up with her…but we gathered together at the start, wished each other luck and awaited go-time.
The elites and seeded were set to go after the wheelchairs, so after the wheelchair racers went, we all crowded together and prepared for our turn. The horn blew and we were off. I felt good in that first mile, comfortable, but running hard down East Broadway. I wasn’t going to check my watch or the clocks on the mile markers the entire race, I was running by feel, and it was supposed to feel hard. My first mile ended up being a 6:51 pace. Fast.
But the hill at the beginning of Mile 2 really took me down a peg. Like…majorly. Hills. I need to get more comfortable with them, I just don’t run them enough or often. But I’ll change that eventually. Christine has had some hilly portions in our long runs together, so that at least helped with that. She passed me on the hill (everyone passes me on the uphill) and stayed ahead of me for the rest of the race. I could always JUST see her.
It’s the tilty roads that got me next, but my pace picked back up. There were some rollers in here as far as hills went, but nothing substantial. I just focused on pushing myself hard again. Mile 3 we are on the far side of Cave Hill Cemetery. I was pretty cold, but moving as fast as I could move at that moment. Miles 3 and 4 were in the low 7’s (7:10 and 7:14). Mile 5 was back to feeling really slow and challenging. I don’t think hills were involved, I think my legs were just tired. I can’t say for sure. It’s been a few weeks. But I pressed on, knowing how close I was to the finish. I wasn’t going to give up on myself yet. Squeaked out a 7:26 mile. And then…the final mile was upon us. I made the turn back onto East Broadway and headed back toward where we started (this race now is a loop and not a point-to-point, like it had been for years). I remembered hearing someone behind me say, “Is the start the finish?” It made me smile, but honestly, I could see it and it still felt so far away. And no matter how much I was pushing, I just couldn’t seem to get there. It felt like it never got closer. The final .2 was just me giving my best, and I crossed the finish line, just happy to be done. And knowing I did better than the previous year (which was windy, rainy, and cold AF, to be fair). I got past the photographers and hunched over for a moment to catch my breath. My coach had said to push hard and not focus on the hard miles I was going to have to do the next day…so I did as he said. And it paid off. My final miles were 7:29 and 7:16). New PR? Nope. Not this time. But now I only need to shave an additional 1:30 off to tie it. PROGRESS!
We had planned on meeting up with Christine post-race for coffee, and we stared to wander our way towards the coffee shop. She found us as we were walking that way, and we eventually ended up at a different coffee shop. A Starbucks. I was fine with it. It was warm inside and the drinks were caffeinated. YAY! We sat around the table and talked and then she and her husband gave us a ride back to our car at Slugger Field (we had made quite the hike to the start line that morning, mind you).
The following day, I knocked out my long run with 2×5 miles in the middle at marathon pace. I was shocked, but happy my body could do it.
So, the official results of the Rodes City Run 10K are that I finished in 45:33. I am chipping away at my times, getting closer to matching or beating that PR time. SO CLOSE! I was 246/2964 finishers overall. I was the 58/1596 women finishers. And I was 12/225 in my age division. Last year I was also 12/225 in my age division. HA! There were over 400 more runners this year though than last year. I’ll take that as a win. And while this wasn’t a distance PR, it was a race PR and a course PR…so that’s also exciting when you think about it!
I only missed this race in 2015, which made me sad, but at least I went down to the start to cheer on those taking on this challenging course.
The Fast Freddie’s Festive Five Mile Foot Feast is my least stressful race of the year because…it happens right outside my door. In the weeks leading up to race day, I was figuring I would be running with my friends Michelle and Angela, but they decided to not sign up and to go and run their own little sister run that morning, so now I was back to being on my own. And coming off of two marathons in 27 days, I wasn’t too sure how my legs would hold up if I was actually racing.
But…as you can see…I was only 12 seconds slower than last year’s race. I count that as a win. But we’re not there yet. Let me first vent just slightly about signing up for this year’s race.
So, last year when I placed in my age division (I was third) in what was my fastest Fast Freddie’s race since I’ve been running them, the organizers said that they didn’t have mugs this year and that next year, age group winners would get a free entry to the race. I love getting mugs and all, but hey…free race entry. BOOM. Excited. So, when the e-mail came out to register for the 2018 race, I sent a message about how to collect on that free entry. I was told that only AGE GROUP WINNERS (those that came in 1st in their perspective age groups), would actually be eligible for that free race entry promised the year before. I was actually livid…because last year I ran my heart out…I ran fast…and the fastest I ever had on that course…and I didn’t have a mug or a free race entry to show for it. MEH. I think that’s why it took me to the very last minute to actually register this year, meaning I had to purchase the race shirt separately instead of having it included in the registration. Oh well. I mean, the proceeds for this race goes to a fantastic cause, but I was not happy going into this year’s registration.
But I registered. So…I would definitely race.
The initial plan was to not race this one, as I was just a couple of weeks off of a marathon (Indy Monumental…SO MUCH LOVE!)…so, I had discussed running this with my friends Michelle and Angela…but they opted to not run this year and do their own run earlier that morning. So…I decided that I would just run this however felt comfortable to me.
The day before Thanksgiving, my parents were coming into town again. My roomie and I left work and headed over to the 4-H Fairgrounds to get my race bib and purchase a shirt before it got too busy (and being that I missed registration with a shirt, there was no guarantee that they would still have the size I needed). I got my bib number and went to get the shirt. That worked out. I still wasn’t sure how I would tackle the race this year, but at least I had the shirt with my name on the back of it from the previous year’s race (the top 500 finishers get their name on the shirt).
My parents arrived and we all opted to go to Dragon King’s Daughter for some dinner. We sat in the bar so as not to have to wait for a table…and that worked out just fine. I got my sushi (which worked some major magic last year), the Green Acres Roll and the Veggie Roll. And then, after eating, we returned home to start some of the prep for the big meal the following day. My mom and I prepped dessert and a few other of the side dishes and appetizers before settling in for the evening, putting our feet up, talking, laughing, and watching YouTube videos.
My alarm went off early on Thanksgiving morning. I knew it was cold out, but I had no outfit picked out for the race this year. Nothing. I was feeling really underprepared and underwhelmed by the whole thing. I did my stretches until other people began to stir. Breakfast was served up…some eggs and toast for those not running. I had my protein shake. After that, I decided it was time to maybe figure out something to wear. I managed to get dressed in a crazy amount of colors, nothing matching, just in time to head out into the cold morning air and head across the street to get ready for the start of the race. It was here that I realized that waiting to pick out my outfit was enough of a distraction that I forgot to pin my bib on. Whoops. Cathy and I sent my parents on while we hurried back up to the apartment to remedy this issue.
We made one small circuit, sort of just looking for anyone I recognized. I didn’t see anyone immediately, but people were starting to line up in the streets or do their strides. So, I went to take a spot near the front. There are A LOT of fast people in this race, but I also know that there is no actual timing mat down at the start of the race, so everyone’s chip gets activated at the same time at the start, so the closer I am to the actual start line, the more accurate my finish time.
This year, the starting whistle was going to be done by the people who live in the house next to the fairgrounds. Fred, the organizer, said that for YEARS now, runners have trampled through their yard and never once did they ever complain. So…with that, we got the “Runners Set….” And the whistle blew.
I took off quick, having practiced a bit on the course in the weeks leading into Thanksgiving. I run this course often as it is challenging, but handy 5 miler right out my front door. So, I know the hills that slow me down and when I need to conserve energy to tackle them. Starting off, I always get passed up by a lot of people. Most notably this year was a woman who was running with a belt that held her bib on around her waist, except it had slid down to just above her knees…and if that was me, I would have to fix it and pull it up, but she just kept going. I mean, she was running faster than me with it like that…so…I mean…if it works. I did pass her on a downhill and when she passed me after the turn into the first mile marker, it seemed she had pulled it back up around her waist. I never saw her again.
There were a few people lining Mt. Tabor road as we raced down one side of it. That is always a nice treat, and usually helps to get me through the rollers that are part of the course at that point. I made the turn onto Grant Line Road, knowing that once I turned to climb into the park, it would get harder. My legs didn’t feel fresh, but they weren’t heavy either, but I kept pushing them to go…and that got really challenging on that hill to reach Mile 3 in Sam Peden Community Park. I passed the water stop at the fire house to really just focus on my climb. The hill is steady, long, but not incredibly steep. It just feels like one of those hills that keeps going. And when I run it during training runs, it often means I pause at the top to give myself a pep talk to finish off the run. No time for the pep talk during the race. I hit Mile 3, my slowest of the race this year (I think every year), and continued to hit the climbs and downhills that Schell Lane gives runners. I appreciated the people who were blasting Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run” on this road. That made me smile and continue to press on.
While the downhills are nice, we make just as many climbs heading into Mile 4. The reward is that once you get up that last steep hill at the end of the road and turn onto Daisy Lane, you get a nice, long downhill. I let my legs carry me down that hill, noted the time on the clock…I wasn’t too far off the year before…so, I decided to push it as much as I possibly could to the finish line. One mile to go!
There were some people at the corner of Daisy and Green Valley, and they were blaring Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.” I loved it. I did what I could to pick it up, playing a bit of back and forth with some runners as we could taste the finish line coming up. I was elated to make the turn back into the 4-H Fairgrounds. My parents were ringing cowbells, screaming, and just joining Cathy in all the finish line screaming that she is famous for. It was great. I crossed the finish line, feeling like I gave all I could that morning. Nothing left. Marathons do that to you…and I was still basically in recovery mode at that point.
My time: an exact match of my 2013 race time…which prior to last year, was my fastest time on the course. 2013 was also when I was pretty much in my best shape ever for running…so this is a win. For sure. While results were getting ready to be posted, I went back out to the road to look for and cheer in my friends. I knew that Kelly, Rosie, Leah, Paul and Melissa were out there, along with other people I knew from the gym, or from just being in the area or previous jobs. So, I had a blast spotting them, cheering in people as they neared the finish line, and just encouraging people into that final turn.
Once everyone was in, Cathy went to check results, and my age group got super fast. I was 4th in my age division, so instead of sticking around for awards…we opted to head back to the apartment so I could shower and get working on all the dinner stuff for that afternoon’s feast.
SO…here it is. My official results of the Fast Freddie’s Festive Five Mile Foot Feast this year is that I finished in 36:54…matching my finish time from 2013. No new PR. No age group award. But pretty damn proud of that, given that I had just raced a marathon on November 3rd. The fact that I came anywhere close to last year’s time was…surprising. HA! I was I was 105/790 finishers this year. I was the 20th female to cross the finish line. And I was 4th in my age division. To be fair…those who came in ahead of me kicked my ass time-wise. Fast race…and fast people in that 35-39 AG for sure. I’m very proud of this finish and happy with how it all came out. And that’s all I can ask for at the end of the day. Especially since I had no intention of racing this one this year.
This year…we went from winter to summer in the blink of an eye. Seriously. I ran a 10 miler in the snow, and then hit up a half marathon 20 days later and it was warm enough that people were having issues with the heat because no one had run in it.
I’m not kidding.
And now…I feel like we went from summer heat to winter temperatures in the same way. One day it was 85 degrees and suddenly we’re having ice storms.
WHAT. THE. ACTUAL. HELL?
We all know I’m not a fan of winter weather. In fact, winter and I don’t get along at all. The cold temperatures wreak havoc on my body. I don’t like bundling up in layers. And I just want to hibernate. And I also suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and, honestly, the days being shorter so that it’s dark when I get up and dark when I get home from work just…sucks. Yeah…I’m already over winter, and technically, it shouldn’t have even started yet.
Anyone else feel this way or are you a winter lover?
If you know anything about me…you’ll know that I am a HUGE soccer fan.
While I never played soccer myself, my love of the game goes back to 1994, when my parents took my sister, brother and I to a World Cup Match at Giant’s Stadium. I was hooked ever since then.
Four years ago…Louisville, Kentucky got a USL soccer team, and my roomie, my friend Patrick, and I went in for season tickets…and we splurged. Midfield.
Patrick moved away, and our friend Natalie took over his tickets. And for the past four years…we have been dedicated to our Boys in Purple!
Around this time last year…Louisville City FC…our USL soccer team…won the USL Championship Cup. It was years in the making, as we had made it to the USL Eastern Conference Finals the previous 2 years and to FINALLY get the win and put them into the Championship…was a thrill.
We took our friends Melissa and Paul. And…with 90 minutes gone, Cameron Lancaster buried one in the net, keeping us from extra time, and…dreaded penalty kicks. We won.
This year, our beloved team had it’s share of ups and downs. For one thing, we lost our coaching staff about halfway through the season. We had three players step up to be player coaches until the positions could be filled. We had a bunch of injuries. And on a small roster, that has an impact. We had to get used to a new coach and his way of playing. We lost games we should have won. We won games we expected to lose. The team knew what it needed to do to get back to the playoffs again, and they did it without egos. And that, is one of the many reasons I love this team.
Last weekend, while I was in Indianapolis preparing to run the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon…Louisville City beat the New York Red Bulls II and became the Eastern Conference Champions…for the second year in a row. On to the finals. The Western Conference Champions this year…Phoenix Rising. Headed by none other than Didier Drogba! HOLY CRAP.
BUT…our usual battleground, Slugger Field, has an event happening the day ESPN chose for the match. So…the game had to be moved…to a smaller venue. Tickets sold out in 20 minutes. Thankfully, as a season ticket holder, I was able to snag two tickets ahead of general sale.
They added temporary bleachers to the stadium for this match to allow for a bigger turnout. But it was SOLD OUT and the seats were packed. Despite the cold night.
I arrived, ready to see our team take on Phoenix Rising…and Drogba himself.
It was an honor to be able to watch him play.
The entire match was intense. I normally take videos on my phone, but not last night. I didn’t touch my phone. And that’s not just because I was wearing two pairs of gloves on my hands, two pairs of socks on my feet, and four layers on my upper body. No joke. I was NOT going to freeze out there. The first half came to an end…with no goals scored.
But then…at about the 62nd minute…
Luke Spencer scores an incredible goal putting us ahead. Now…we just had to hang onto it.
The stadium was pure electricity. Lots of stomping, cheering, clapping, screaming, it was magical. And stressful. Because every time Drogba was given the ball (it seems Phoenix’s entire game plan was…get the ball to Drogba), and he took a shot, I think we all collectively held our breaths.
Yellow cards were issued. Substitutions were made. Stoppage time was played. And the final whistle blew.
And Louisville City FC made HISTORY last night by being the first USL team to win back-to-back championships.
Damn…that was fun. It also meant that my roomie and I stayed to watch the award ceremony, waited to see if the players made the rounds…and then called it a night. We walked back to the car, just buzzing with sheer adrenaline from the win. It was amazing. God, I love this team. Proud to be a founding member.
It was a late night (which included a Burger King drive-thru stop for my roomie as she was STARVING)…but we got home and I went into my room and called it a night. I had a spin class to get to the following morning. I was glad I went, but damn, it was very hard to get myself out of bed when my alarm went off this morning.
Any of my local peeps attend Louisville City FC matches? Are you season ticket holders? For those of you who don’t live in or near Louisville, what sports are you into? Did you play that sport as a kid? What teams do you support? I want to know!!
For now…just riding the celebration wave into the weekend.
Much love for another fantastic season, Louisville City FC!
Race: CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon
Place: Indianapolis, IN
Date: November 3, 2018
“Ever tried. Ever Failed. No Matter. Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better.” ~ Samuel Beckett
I admit it. The results of the 2018 Bank of America Chicago Marathon were a hard pill to swallow. In all honesty, I had hoped that my training, regardless of changing plans and going solo on it all…making it all up as I went, catching up on miles I didn’t get to run to build up that marathon base…I really thought it would be enough. I didn’t feel like I was in marathon shape. But I felt confident.
And, as we know…I crashed and burned soon after the 14 mile mark. I finished. But not with a time I was happy with.
Moral of the story. Do NOT ever leave me along with an upcoming half marathon with the option to upgrade to the full marathon when I’m pissed off with my previous marathon performance. Less than one month apart. 27 days apart, to be exact. Because, I figured, hell, I was already in “marathon shape”…might as well try again with a different plan of action. So, it happened. I upgraded my registration to the full marathon (trust me, I was starting to doubt the wisdom of this the morning of the race, but I’ll get there, LOL!) and then…didn’t really broadcast it anywhere. I told my training partner, Lauren. My roommate, of course, knew. And a couple of people at the gym who asked me what was next for me knew…but no one else. Not. A. Word.
My plan for the days in between? Recovery. Easy runs. Not a ton of miles. Just easy, training runs. I did maybe 3 speed intervals…all of only 4 miles. My longest long run was 10 miles…last weekend. Slow and steady with Lauren who took me on an adventure and kept the pace right where I wanted and needed it. Some people like to pile on those miles and brag about weekly and monthly totals. I have never been that sort. And, honestly, it is a rare thing for me to ever hit 200 miles in a month, even during marathon training. There is training and there is overtraining. One of these benefits you. The other leads to injury, burnout, and a plethora of other issues. Just like pace, I don’t usually post my miles or mileage either. Honestly, who cares other than me?
Deep breath. Let’s start with the day before the race.
Thursday night was filled with packing and not trying to overthink anything. Cathy picked out my outfit…she packed recovery wear, shoes, race gear, fuel, etc. Everything I would need for another 26.2. I made her pack capris because I was nervous it would be too cold at the start of the race for the running skirt she had picked. She allowed for that…but nothing more. We went to work as usual on Friday, planning to leave around 2 pm to make the drive up to Indianapolis.
I made certain that I got as much work done that I could in the time I was in the office. Lunch was just a giant salad, made from all the fresh ingredients/produce that I had lingering in my fridge heading into the weekend. We packed up, brought bottles of water that had our Nuun Immunity Tablets in them. If you haven’t tried them…HIGHLY recommended! And we hit the road, with our mid-day snacks to get us through the drive and the expo before heading to dinner.
We hit a small amount of traffic on the way, but we made it to the Omni Severin Hotel, in downtown Indianapolis. Honestly, if you’re looking for a hotel in downtown Indy…STAY HERE!! I was blown away by the hospitality, even if they didn’t do late checkouts due to it being an event weekend (I get it…but after a marathon, I usually appreciate a hot shower). They did say that they had a fitness center with a shower and if I needed one I could get a key made to get in there and shower. So…I mean…there was that. Our luggage was taken up to our room by the nicest guy, Matt, who gave us the rundown about the hotel and the history behind it. He showed us the amenities in the room and made sure we had plans for dinner because otherwise the hotel was doing a pasta dinner for the runners. Honestly, I’ve never felt so welcome at a hotel.
Next stop…the expo. We took the inside path through the hotel and Circle Center Mall to get ourselves over to the Indianapolis Expo Center. Some roads were going to be closed because Trump and Pence were in town (BARF!), but it wasn’t affecting us. We had a work-around. The Expo felt a lot smaller this year than it was last year. We got there, and immediately collected posters and headed to the back to get race packets and shirts. YES…that’s plural. Since I upgraded to the full, Cathy decided she could do the 5K, as it started AFTER the full and half marathons were sent off. Had I stuck with the half, she wouldn’t have done it otherwise she’d miss my finish.
We stopped at the 5K booths first and Cathy did her first ever official big race 5K packet pickup. She had to show her ID and everything. The volunteers at her table were SO fun and very cool. They even had thrown safety pins into her bag. It was awesome.
After she got her stuff…we headed over to the marathon tables where I collected my shirt and bib and we went straight into Official Merchandise. Where I spent more money. This time only on a lapel pin and a jacket. The jacket is SUPER nice though. I could have spent SO MUCH more. HA! We made our walk through the vendors and races that were represented at the expo. Cathy had forgotten a BondiBand to keep her ears warm, so we had to go and get her one of those. She found one…bright pink…that says, “Nevertheless, she persisted.” Just like the button she has worn since NYC. I spotted a different flavor of Gluten Free Honey Stinger Stroopwafels (I can only ever find Salted Caramel…which is GOOD…but I know there are other flavors out there…and I found a Vanilla & Chocolate one!). But we wrapped it up quickly, stopping to find my name on the poster and then take a few pictures with the banners. A volunteer was kind enough to get a lot of these photos for us, from every angle.
From there, we made the trek back to the hotel room. We had about 30 minutes to kill before dinner, so Cathy went ahead and tried on her race shirt to get my opinion on the fit. I decided I should do the same, and thank GOD I did. Turns out, the volunteers at my end of the table gave me a men’s small and not a women’s small. I was NOT happy. With 20 minutes to get to our dinner reservation, we packed up the shirt and stepped outside to take a quicker route to the convention center in hopes of changing it out. I booked it down the hall and back into the expo to the shirt exchange area and snagged my women’s small. Whew! Cathy was waiting in the hall outside. We had about 5 minutes to make a 10 minute walk to our dinner reservation at Napolese. Honestly, whenever we are in town for a race, this is our go-to restaurant. I mean…GLUTEN FREE FOCACCIA AND GLUTEN FREE PIZZA!!
I apologized to the hostess for being late and told her we had a 5:45 reservation. Our table was still there though, next to two very loud men who were drinking a lot and talking REALLY LOUD about Queen and movies and games and whatever. I was over it. Thank God they left while we were eating our appetizer.
We had already had plans on what we were going to do for eats that night. I looked at the menu on the way up so we could formulate a plan. So when our waiter came over, we got glasses of water and put in our order. Gluten Free Focaccia (no dairy) and then we were going to Freestyle our pizza and do a Gluten Free Pizza topped with the Housemade Tomato Sauce, Winter Squash, Mushrooms, and Duck Eggs. He asked if the gluten-free was an allergy and made note that it was for a Celiac on the ticket. And also made note of the NO DAIRY preference as well. They are VERY efficient there. And trust me…the food is amazing too.
The focaccia came out first…olive oil, garlic, parsley. SO GOOD. And as we were polishing that off, the pizza came out. But it was missing…the duck eggs. Cathy pointed it out and he apologized and took it back. He returned with a little thing of olive oil to go with the pizza if we wanted to add it and said that he took the pizza before they had cooked up the eggs and it would be up momentarily. And we didn’t really have a long wait before it was returning to our table. Looking SO good. And even with polishing off the focaccia…I was ready to eat. We polished off the pizza and took his advice, adding the olive oil…and it was light and fruity and just added a whole new level of deliciousness to the slices. BIG FAN. We finished eating and were given the bill, where they didn’t charge us for the duck eggs (that was sweet…but they didn’t need to do that). We left a big tip, because or waiter was awesome. Then headed to CVS to pick up some waters for the next morning, and then hit up the Hard Rock Cafe for a pin. Mind you…I was not wanting to be on my feet much this time around. But, we were never far from the hotel and we were back into the hotel by 7:30-ish. Cathy went to shower. I got out all my race gear and laid it out and then started my foam rolling because I was determined to do that the night before the race. As I was doing that, there was a knock at the door. It was housekeeping delivering a bottle of water, some ice, and a card. It was from the hotel. Super sweet gesture. I knew it would all come in handy. We finished up an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives…and then…
Lights out…9 pm. On the nose.
I woke up a couple of times during the night…like my usual wakeup time of 3 am. At 4
am, my first alarm went off so I could take a pill and use the bathroom. Back to bed for 2 restless hours. At 6 am…we were both up and starting our morning routine. I popped open a Pamela’s Products Gluten Free Matcha Happiness Ambition Bar. I ate one before I ran the Monumental Half Marathon last year. Why not do it again? I prepped my pre-race drink and started to slowly get dressed. At 6:15 am, Cathy’s free orange juice and coffee arrived outside the door. We got up at 6 am so we could have a more relaxed moment and this gave her the chance to eat her Clif Bar and drink some coffee and juice as she does most mornings. Including in her own training.
I finished getting ready, and this included slathering on some sunscreen because…it was going to be a sunny day that morning and I refuse to be the person with a sunburn in November. I was wearing two different color CEP sleeves, my Injinji toe socks, my Newton Distance IIIs, a black running skirt, my Kauai Marathon & Half Marathon singlet, red arm warmers, and a red BondiBand that said “Breathe.” I had some pajama bottoms to toss away prior to the race and a halfzip that I bought in a child’s size a long time ago that I was okay parting with. I put my Nuun Energy into two of my bottles and water into the other two bottles and put my fuel belt on. I put my new nutrition (tested once) into the front zip pouch and called myself ready. Cathy ended up putting on a second layer on top and then we headed down to the lobby. They had water and bananas out for the runners. I usually eat a banana before a marathon so…I snagged one. We ran into people from Louisville that we didn’t know, but I spotted his Chicago Marathon t-shirt and said I had run it too, but he was smarter than me this morning since he was only doing the half. We had a good laugh over that.
And after they moved on…I started to have a small meltdown. Why? Because, despite being easy on my body and training smart leading up to this…I felt like my legs weren’t going to let me go another 26.2 so soon. Cathy talked me down, as she usually does. And then she had us moving out the door and into the cold Indianapolis morning. It was 34 degrees outside. We made the walk from the Omni to the start line, where I ate my banana and slowly drank my water. We made it here and Cathy took a few pictures. When we saw the pacers getting into the corral, she told me to go find my pacers and talk to them. She gave me a hug and I left…stepping into the network of corrals and finding the 3:35 pacers (see what I’m doing here?), in the 2nd wave. My bib was good for the first wave, but like I said, I was learning from my mistakes at Chicago…I hoped.
My plan for this race…line up with the 3:35 pace group and hold on as long as I could. I
didn’t expect to be with them for long, just given how my training runs had been coming off of Chicago. But, I figured it would be a good way to keep from going out way too fast (and we all know I would have) and at least keeping a constant pace going forward. The male pacer’s PR was 3:09 and the female had just run a 50K the weekend before, so I can only assume that she is normally super fast as well. Crazy good. I never run with pacers, but I figured…this might be what I need.
I ditched my toss-away clothing and got back to the pacers just as the national anthem was being sung. It was gorgeous. The wheelchair racers were sent off first. Wave one was next. And we were moved up to the start gate. I gave a wave to Cathy since I wasn’t on the outside of the corral…I was right behind the pacers because…I didn’t want to lose them. After about 5 minutes…off we went. We hit the roads of Indianapolis…and Cathy went to line up for her 5K.
The pacers guided our group down Capitol Avenue, reminding us that the pace would be slow for the first couple of miles until the race spread out a little bit. Since the half and full marathon start together, it can be very congested at points. Reminder, Indianapolis roads are awful. The male pacer pointed out holes as we ran and I heard the female pacer say, “You’re going to be saying that a lot.” HA! She wasn’t wrong.
We made a couple of turns before running across the first water/aid station. They were nice enough to shout out each station as we approached so anyone who needed water or Gatorade could grab it. It was a little chaotic through there, but I stuck with them as we made a couple more turns and made the half rotation around Monument Circle. There was another aid station before we hit Mile 3 and the pacer sign was passed from the male to the female. He had a pace tattoo on his arm and when we hit three, she asked, “How are we?” He said, “We’re a little over.” So she picked it up slightly.
Not only was I incorporating a “stick to the pacer” technique this race, I also decided to fuel more. So every 4 miles…I was trying something new (I know…nothing new on race day, but…MEH)…Maurten Gel 100, which is apparently what Kipchoge uses! I am no Kipchoge, nor was I aware of this when I purchased it to try…but it isn’t bad. I like the texture way better than the Honey Stingers or Gu type gels. I took my first one at Mile 4, which had me ease back on the pace just enough. I took a drink of water, and pushed my way back up toward the pacers.
It was just about the 10K area that I discovered how dangerous it was to run with a pace
group. As more people fell into the group it got crowded…fast. Someone clipped my foot from behind, sending me stumbling. I recovered, but was pushed into someone ahead of me, which sent them stumbling. Then someone else closed in and his foot pretty much tripped me…and again I had to catch myself. And then someone clipped me again and that one nearly took me down for good. The adrenaline was rushing at this point which was definitely NOT what I wanted to have happen. I eased back just enough to allow some space so I wouldn’t get trampled at this point.
At Mile 7, the half marathoners turn left and the marathon runners continue up toward the State Fairgrounds. At Mile 8…I fueled again. And I was still hanging onto the pace group. YAY. I was a little bit behind them, but I felt that was for my own safety and sanity. We turned onto Washington Boulevard, which we would be on for almost the next two miles. They were giving out Clif Gels at Mile 11, but I had my own fueling to contend with. But it was here…HERE…that I started to get a side stitch. I wasn’t pushing my pace…but it soon turned into a stomach cramp of sorts. I gutted through it until we made the turn and hit Mile 12…and then I slowed it to a walk to see if I could get it to pass. This was when I was supposed to fuel again anyway…and I took the opportunity to do that before I felt I would be okay to pick it up again. And I did. No problems. I made sure to drink more water this time. I think that was the problem. I was now further behind the pace group, but was about to hit the halfway mark. I pushed through and continued…still feeling strong for the most part. I was just frustrated that I was off the pace group earlier than I would have liked.
I loved winding through the streets of Indianapolis. There were crowds and people cheering in places you wouldn’t expect. If we ran through neighborhoods, people were there too. I may have been a bit off my pace, but I was going strong for the most part. I made the turn onto Meridian and picked it back up a little. Mile 16…I eased back again to fuel and drink more water. And now I decided I would start walking some water stops in order to make sure I was hydrating. When it’s cold outside, I forget to drink water. I wasn’t letting anything stupid like that take me down that day.
The 3:40 pacers caught me just before Mile 18, where we ran through this area that felt like a park and were met with a wall of screaming from the people inside. I think it was a college group, but they were fantastic. I got quite a few compliments at aid stations and as I ran through here on my pigtails. Love that story. We exited onto the highway and headed toward my favorite part of the course, this gorgeous, twisting downhill on an exit ramp. YES! Downhill is my favorite speed as we all know!! And this was fun.
Mile 20…and I had only a 10K left. I took a little longer on my walk to fuel here because not only did I fuel and drink some water, but I also moved my one and only Honey Stinger Gel from my zip pocket in my running skirt to my fuel belt. Why? Because I was going to do one more fueling and I didn’t have enough Maurten with me. I wanted to feel good and strong at the end of this.
At this point, if there was a hill…I speed walked it. If there was a water stop, I walked it and took in some water. If there was a crowd, I ran. I was running more than walking, which was opposite Chicago, so already my plan was paying off. I think it was at Mile 23, I went ahead and took my last gel, fueling for the last push. The water stop here was AMAZING. They were blaring this great song about being downtown. And it just helped me pick it back up.
The next three miles went well, even though I could tell I was slowing down. I think at some point the 3:45 group passed me. I tried not to let it get into my head. I took any water break walks that I needed and promised that I would push it at the end. I was going to finish this one strong. I made the turn onto W New York Street. The crowd was amazing. Someone shouted, “The finish is just around the corner!” They were right. I rounded the corner and could see the finish line down the way. It seemed so far, but I found another gear and I started to pick it up. As I got closer, I saw Cathy standing near the finish, screaming her head off for me. I pressed on, crossing the finish line, arms in the air, and stopped my Garmin. I never looked at it. I wanted to beat my Dopey time. But I didn’t want to be disappointed yet either.
So I never looked. I started walking down the row. I was wrapped in a Mylar blanket. I saw some people with their medals on…and thought for a moment I had walked right past that station. But I hadn’t. I just hasn’t moved up far enough. I continued on. A nice woman put a medal around my neck and congratulated me. I smiled and thanked her, snagging a bottle of water before stopping to get an official finisher photo from Marathonfoto. On down the aisle of snacks, snagging a banana, a Clif Bar (for Cathy), a bag of Lay’s chips, and the famous cookie (I can’t even eat it…but I knew plenty of people who could). And then…I made my way out to be greeted by Cathy with a hug.
I asked her, “Did I beat my Dopey time?” And she said, “You smashed it by over three minutes.” I was elated. It wasn’t the time I was hoping to hit, but I once again chipped away from my time I set at the beginning of the year…doing a run/walk for the entire race. This time, I mostly ran and felt strong and good throughout…and that was saying something. As Cathy was finding a spot for me to lay down and put my feet up, I spotted the hat in her clear backpack and said, “You got a hat?” She said I should have gotten one too and I told her I must have walked past that station. She told me to lay down and she would see if she could get one for me. After about 5 minutes, she returned victorious, saying she flagged down a happy looking marathoner to see if she could get another one. It worked.
After stretching my feet up for a little bit, just basking in the sun, we finally decided to get up and head back toward the hotel. Cathy checked us out of our room and had our bags checked. It felt like the walk took forever, but it was a good way, save for the wind that had picked up. I drew my arm warmers back up over my arms and we zigzagged our way back to the hotel.
We stepped inside and got into the elevator to go up one floor. Cathy told me to go over to the bench to sit down and wait while she got luggage. It didn’t take too long. She opened up my suitcase and pulled out the outfit I had set out to wear afterwards, compression socks, jeans, the race t-shirt, new underwear, a proper bra, the basics. We went ahead and took off my shoes, socks and put on my compression socks while I was sitting there. She pulled my pigtails down, getting my hair extensions out and grabbing my hair brush. And then she sent me around the corner to the bathroom to change.
I ducked into a stall and did that in record time after a marathon. I realized that I had left my deodorant in my toiletries bag so I made sure I looked presentable, brushed my hair, and then went to grab that while leaving my race clothes with her. Quick duck into the bathroom to apply deodorant, a wash of the hands, and one more fix of the hair…and I was good to go. Once I put on my recovery shoes.
We headed out and she gave me the valet ticket to get the car while she went into Starbucks to grab me a much-needed coffee. They valet went to retrieve the car, which took about 5 minutes and she hadn’t yet made it out. I had no money on me to top the valet, which I felt AWFUL about, but I couldn’t help that. I texted her and she said about 14 teenagers had been in front of her and she was coming. She was out in about 3 minutes and we loaded up her luggage. I snagged my coffee. And we were off, heading to Carmel, Indiana, the home of Woody’s Library Restaurant, my new favorite place to eat in all of Indianapolis. Our friend Greg met us there. I didn’t have an appetite at this moment, but went ahead and ordered the Gluten Free (Lettuce Wrap) Tex Mex Quinoa Tacos with a side of the Gluten Free Sweet Potato Fries, and Cathy got me a little side of pickles…just in case I wanted them.
I made a go at the food…taking my time to chew and to digest so as not to set my stomach off. And I managed to eat the fries and most of the tacos before calling it quits. I maybe had two of the pickle chips. I was surprised I managed that much. Afterwards, to stretch me out a bit more before we made the car ride home, the three of us went to the Antique Mall and looked around. They both found things to buy, but I didn’t this time. Maybe next time. Then we hit up the gluten-free No Label at the Table bakery there. I picked up two of their Lemon Cookies, a Brownie, and a Chocolate Pumpkin Loaf. The lady who owns the bakery was there, and she was excited to see a marathoner there and asked me about other local races and Disney races as I shopped and decided what I wanted.
Afterwards…it was time to make the long drive back home.
So, the official results of the CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in 3:46:17, which makes it my fastest marathon this year and the one that closes out my actual racing season, as far as I know. HA. I was 1377/4568 finishers overall. I was the 377/1983 female finishers. And I was 106/391 in my age division. Very happy with my results as I was dedicating this run to the people I know…who can’t run. Spontaneous Marathon #14 is in the books and I already can’t wait to sign up for next year. This was a great race, all around.
Want to know what is fun to do on a very hot, summer morning? How about run through a cave? A nice, chilly 56 degree cave? Sound like heaven? Well…it definitely is. I promise you that.
I was talked into doing this race by my good friend, Melissa. Her husband was out of town on a trip and they had run this one the year prior to this one and had a lot of fun. I figured it was something new and different…and I had nothing else going on that afternoon…so why not? Bonus: Melissa’s mom was going to walk it and I talked Cathy into signing up to walk it as well. HA!
Melissa made plans to come and pick Cathy and I up around 6:15-ish so we could make the drive to Georgetown to pick up her mom and then head out to the caves to get our packets, use the bathroom, and get ready to run. In the years prior to this one, this race usually hosted around 500 people. This year…1700 signed up and almost 1500 people finished. You know a race is a good one when it pretty much triples in size.
I had actually looked at a few of the previous year results and it looked like, if I had a good day, I could be an overall female finisher. But when I heard about how many people were turning up this year…that thought immediately got pushed to the wayside. Which was fine by me. No pressure. Just go have some fun.
I think the morning was a comedy of errors. Melissa left the house without her inhaler (and she has asthma, so that is kind of necessary). I thought I had forgotten my sunglasses (I realize that 2 of the miles I was covering was INSIDE A CAVE), but it turned our I did actually have them. I mean…we were hot messes. The ride to pick up her mom and to get to the caves was just a lot of talking (this is usual for us) and joking around, and listening, because friends sometimes just need to be heard. It was a relaxing morning overall. When we arrived at Crawford County Middle School, we were directed into the parking lot and then onto the grass near the school. We parked and went to go pick up our packets inside the school.
After we snagged our bibs (mine was weirdly a much lower number than the other 3 people with me) and even chatted with the race director about the race (this is how we discovered how big it had gotten), we went over to the bleachers to pin each other up. Once we were numbered, we went to get into the (at the moment) small line to use the flushing bathroom inside the gym before taking our stuff back out to the car and sitting down inside the car for a little while…to rest our legs, stay cool, and relax before the race.
We did get out about 30 minutes before to eat something small (fuel your runs, friends!), and hopefully get back into the bathroom line. The line for the port-a-potties and the line for the flushing toilets were CRAZY long. We stood in line inside and Melissa even went on a hunt for another bathroom (because a school HAS to have more than one, right?). But after 20 minutes, announcements to get to the start and line up were being made and Cathy came and, being the good race mom she is, ushered us out of the bathroom line and toward the start line.
On the way, my friend Wendy spotted me and called me over. Her daughter was running it (and she kicked some butt too), and we started talking. I know her from my spin classes and we were just catching up. HA! Cathy eventually wandered back over and told me that I really needed to get to the start line if I was going to get a good spot in the crowd. So, I caught up with Melissa and her mom and we all hugged and wished each other luck.
After a short wait at the start line, where there were children up front (which is usually not a good idea…but some can hang, I get it…but still…for safety, it’s often asked that kids move back so as not to get trampled), a lot of red white and blue tutus, and a lot of people running together (you could tell…they were dressed alike), I made myself comfortable a few rows back from the timing block at the start and eagerly awaited the start. Melissa came up to wish me luck and move a traffic cone back further for my own safety (see Dopey Challenge – Disney World 5K story for that)…and I wished her luck…gave her a hug…and prepared to make a sprint (and we all know…sprinting is not my thing).
It was a HOT morning. Humidity was high. Dewpoint was high. And it was close to 80 degrees at 9 am, which is definitely a late starting time for a summer race. The air was thick and heavy, but the mood was excited and so alive. The race announcements were made, discussing how the cave was a comfortable 56 degrees inside, but we had a mile outside the cave, and then we were inside for 2 miles of it and then back out for the dash to the finish (probably about .25 miles). Simple enough. After a few moments, and the lead car in place…we were off.
The first mile was a scorcher. There were small rollers to go up and down, and I actually pressed pretty hard in this mile (it felt harder than it was thanks to that heat and humidity). I passed a lot of the kids that had lined up at the start. I got passed by a few women and that didn’t surprise me at all. But I also passed a few too. We rounded a corner onto E Pleasant Avenue. As you near the end of this road and go to turn left to head toward the cave, you pass by the finish line area. So you know…that’s how far you have to come back when you emerge from the cave. I crossed the railroad tracks and pressed on, my watch alerting me of the first mile just before I hit the entrance of the cave. I didn’t check it…I dove into the darkness.
And was hit with the cold. It was like entering a refrigerator. But after the heavy humidity outside, it was actually very refreshing. I was expecting to hit this part of the race hard…however…I failed to account for the darkness.
I know what you might say…”But you run in the dark all the time!” And…you’re not wrong. The difference is…when I run in the dark…I know those roads and sidewalks. I know where there are holes and potholes and dips and lifts in the pavement and cement. I didn’t know anything about the cave…except that it might have this dusty, loose gravely sort of layer to run on. For the next mile…it was solid. But the twists and turns we went through were dark and at times, it was hard to see the runners doubling back. That being said…LOVED that temperature. Even in my cute little crop top.
So, I pushed it cautiously. When in training and not running a goal race, you don’t do anything stupid. Injuries, as I know, can take you out for the rest of the season, so I pulled back on the pace enough to feel comfortable in the dark cavern. But I kept moving. And I kept picking people to try to chase down. This lasted as long as it took to get just past Mile 2 inside the cave when that loose gravel dusty and uneven ground…became a reality.
I think the words, “Not today, Satan!” actually exited my lips as I really eased back and took each step with a bit more caution and care. No twisted ankles or busted up knees or broken bones. Nope. Not on my watch. So, this meant I had quite a few people pass me up, but I felt good, and safe, and when I got back to the solid ground, picked it up again.
The exit of the cave was in sight, and I popped out, just as Melissa’s mom was about to head in! She gave me a cheer. I went to lower my sunglasses, but they had fogged up, so squinting was now happening. My watch hit Mile 3, so it was the final stretch to the finish line. But this is when that cool air from the cave dissipates and you get the heat of the day back. It was like an oven…a slow burn that just got hotter and it made it very hard to get back to pushing that pace. I headed over the railroad tracks and there was Wendy, and she gave me a cheer as I headed through the finishing chute. I could hear people coming in fast behind me, so I kicked it as much as I could (I have no kick)…and crossed the finish line.
There was water soaking in some kids pools so I went and snagged a bottle. It was still warm, but it was wet and I was grateful for it. I went and stood with Wendy and we cheered in her daughter. She went to go and find her and I waited there, cheering, and soon, Melissa was on her way in. I gave her loud shouts of encouragement and she went into the finish line. She returned and brought me more water (which I needed) and we chatted a bit about the race, standing in the shade, until she spotted Cathy.
As Cathy crossed the railroad tracks, we cheered her in and she picked up her pace to jog it into a strong finish of 48:15…for her first officially timed 5K. WOOHOO!! Cathy snagged herself some water and I went to gather her up so we could cheer in Melissa’s mom. At one point, a train came through and cut off some people heading into the finish. Some even thought about trying to beat the train, but thankfully didn’t take that risk.
Soon after that, Debra was on her way to the finish line. She finished and we went to meet her and find some spot in the shade to wait to hear the overall and age group winners. I knew I was out for those, but award ceremonies are fun. We cooled off with waters and cheered the super fast winners. Now that this race has grown, perhaps they will consider going to the standard 5 year age group divisions, instead of the 10 year range they are currently using. When your race is 500 people, that makes sense. When it’s almost 2000, not as much.
Afterwards, we went to take photos with the giant flag before making our way back to the car to head home and get on with the day. THIS…friends…was a totally different and fun 5K to run. We all had a blast. And we really loved the reprieve from the hot day by running through a dark, chilly cave.
So, the official results of the Marengo Underground 5K (Firecracker 5K) are that I finished in 23:53. I actually thought I would have been able to do better. But my splits were 6:54, 7:53, and 8:13…which is actually laughable. My fastest mile was actually in the heat. I think the darkness and then the uneven and soft/rocky surface through me off. Or…maybe I’m just not a good 5K runner. It’s frustrating…but this was not a goal race. That first mile though!! If only I hadn’t slowed down so much in the cave. Safety first. I was 90/1463 finishers overall. I was 25/928 female runners. And I was 10/250 in my age group.
Running in a cave on a super hot day is fun…and challenging. And this little race is starting to go places. I hope to be back.
Also…not a lot of photos for this one. We were all running so there was nothing for that finish line. And no official photos of me at the end.
The running community has given me a lot over the years. Honestly. Locally and nationally. I’ve met some amazing people through races and events and I’m forever grateful for the support. So, when my coach, Linda, offered me the opportunity to act as an official pacer for The Filly Women’s Half Marathon in Louisville, I jumped at the chance. Because this is a great way for me to not only help other women/runners meet their goals…but also it’s a way to give back to the running community. Since I had already planned on running it…I told her I would be more than happy to do it.
And so…the anxiety began.
Because here is the thing with pacing…the race is not yours. It’s now your job to get your people to the finish line in a certain amount of time. And I was selected to be the 2 hour pacer…which was perfectly fine with me. That meant running around a 9 minute mile evenly to get in ahead of the 2 hour.
The problem is…it’s really difficult for me to dial back pace in practice…when I’m running alone. I set my watch to a certain range to buzz at me should I go over or under said pace range…but it was a challenge. And it was stressful. And I was so certain that I was just going to be terrible…but I kept on keeping on and working on it.
I just wanted to be a good pacer. I wanted to get these women to their 2 hour half marathon. And I wanted to do it without being all over the place like the hot mess I am at times. HA!
I did both of the training runs that were offered. The first one, I did the entire course, and with a few walk breaks, I cam in relatively close to time. Still too fast. The second time, i only ran 8 miles…so it was hard to gauge, but I felt like I was a little closer to the range. It didn’t hurt that now the weather was starting to get swampy and pretty much unbearable once the sun was officially up. This would make for an interesting race day.
As would the predicted weather, which had originally been calling for rain and storms at race time. I literally wasn’t sure what would be waiting for me at the start line when I got up that morning, because the weather was juts all over the place all week…and thunderstorms had gone through the night before.
That morning, I ate my cereal and got my Honey Stinger Gel tucked into the zipper pocket of my shorts. As it was humid out, I drank down 20 ounces of water, and prepped 16 more to take with me in the car with a NUUN tablet in it for extra electrolytes. I tucked my Owyn Dark Chocolate Protein Shake into a cooler to keep it cool so I could have it about 30 minutes before the start of the race…and Cathy got up and got ready and we were out the door and being picked up by our friends Melissa and Paul to head to the Parklands. The race started at the Egg Lawn, and I was a bundle of nerves, let me tell you.
This was my first time as an official pacer. I’ve paced friends before, trying to help them achieve their goals…and ultimately, that has never worked out. And I was terrified that I would end up alone out there…or that I would go to fast, go to slow…be late into the finish line. Things I never worried about before because I only had to run for me. If it was hot and I needed to slow down, I could. If it was perfect and I could speed up…I would. But this time…I was set to strictly run about a 9 min mile with even splits to get to the finish line at 1:59:00 or just slightly before that 2 hour mark. That’s a lot of stress. At least for me. Because…hello perfectionist.
We arrived and the parking situation was already a mess. We were told that if we got there early, we’d be able to park at the start line. We actually did get their early, but they wouldn’t let us go that way. So, we ended up parking in a field and having to make the hike to the pavilion where everyone was meeting. It was annoying in that we all had thought we’d have access to the vehicle for before and after the race…and being a pacer, that was sort of important. Needless to say, we made the walk and I met up with Linda and put on my ForWord Running Pacer tank. I was wearing the T-shirt, but when I was doing one of the training runs with Linda, asked about tank tops…she made it happen. And now I won’t die. She could tell I was nervous, so she said really nice reassuring things to me, helped me tape my paces onto my pace stick. Which, reminded me that I have always hated carrying things while running…so this was going to be fun. Last time I carried something during a race was the Indy Women’s Half Marathon in 2012…and it was a water bottle that I really, really just wanted to toss and never see again. HA!
We took some pictures of the pacers and I made sure I was fueled, hydrated, and ready to run. I went to use the bathroom because…we had to get here early and I was NOT going to be dehydrated when I could potentially have others counting on me to see them in.
There was a lot of confusion about the start of the Filly Women’s Half Marathon. The start gate wasn’t on the road proper, but sort of off to the side. And at the time, a truck was still parked in front of it. We were getting dangerously close to start time and none of us could see a start mat…and anyone holding a pacer sign was getting asked about it. No one seemed to have answers…until the emcee had us all move over to the side road with the start gate. Still no sign of anything that would catch the official start of the race. There was a couple of race announcements and talks…but soon we were all asked to move forward for the race to get underway.
Linda was pacing the lead on her bike…so at her ready…the announcement was given…and we were off. I crossed through the start gate and hoped for the best. As I settled into position on the road around the Egg Lawn, I did notice that I had a small group of ladies running with me. So…conversation time!
“Are you guys my 2-hour group?” They all said yes. So, I introduced myself and we were cruising through that first mile. One of the ladies started up some tunes, all of which I was enjoying. And at Mile 1 I checked my watch and we were definitely going too fast. I announced that now that we found our space, we were backing off and settling in.
Some women continued on ahead at the original pace, but some fell back with me. As we entered the second mile, I also knew that Damien…the hill of DOOOOOOM was coming up. It is a pretty steep monster there in the Parklands (the MRTT/SRTT group named it Damien because it makes devil horns on your elevation chart when it’s included in the beginning and end of your runs there. As we neared it, I was chatting with some of the ladies still with me. One had just gotten back from Sydney, Australia. She had raced there and said the temperatures were much better there (Australia is in their winter and we were heading into summer). At the hill, as I was trying to keep on pace, I climbed it with power (realistically, this is the only way I know how to do hills as I’ve always climbed them for races and hill repeats…all of which make you drive up them hard). Some women started walking up it (when I race here, this is what I do because it’s too early to expend that kind of energy) but I couldn’t this time. Some ladies got to the top and took a walk break. Some continued on with me.
I know this course like the back of my hand. The sun was fierce that day, and it was hot and humid. It normally is in this area. But as we got onto the narrow path and out of the road, I was keeping some spirits high. “We’re almost into a shaded downhill, ladies!” I glanced at my watch to check my pace and someone asked if we were behind. I told her that we weren’t…we were actually just slightly ahead and this downhill would be good because after we turned around, we’d have to come back UP this hill (and in the two training runs, this hill slowed me down EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. on the way back). We cruised down the hill, and crossed over to enter Pope Lick Park Park. I knew that at the soccer fields, the amazing ladies of the local MRTT/SRTT group would be there cheering and bringing refreshments. As I was not carrying fuel with me…I was going to try to make it on the Sword (I have never fueled on Sword) and water at the water stops. This meant a few walk breaks at each one as necessary. I paced myself accordingly. At this point, I had one runner with me. She was super nice and we talked about other races we had done. She said she was starting to feel the humidity fatigue her and after we went through the cheer zone, where ladies were kind enough to ask if they needed to slow me down (I have a reputation)…she said she was falling back and would try to catch up. I told her she would…and I’d see her soon.
And now…my dear friends…let me tell you a tale of a 2 hour pacer…who was left alone. There were runners ahead…and I could hear some runners behind…but there was no one with me from about Mile 5 through…Mile 12. I wish I could say I was joking. I’m not. But I made sure I kept my pace going and took walk breaks regardless. Just in case some women fell back and needed me to see them in to their Goal B instead of Goal A. I passed Linda, who was guiding the lead runner (who didn’t even look winded) back to the Egg Lawn to finish. I cheered for the ladies who were already on their way back, telling them they were doing awesome. Originally we were told we’d be turning around before the bridge, but that had changed. We now were heading over the bridge to the final water stop before turning around. I just assumed that this was actually where we turned around (there was a sign there that had the loop…so that’s what I did. And…I headed back. At first my watch beeped ahead of time for Mile 7…but it all settled back into the correct numbers as I got past that. I think it was just because there was a convenient spot on the bridge to put that mile marker. After the turn around, I was still alone, so I set my task on cheering for and encouraging all the women making their way toward the turn around point. It was a miserable day and I could tell a log of women were not hitting paces or expectations that they had set for themselves.
Funny how just a little bit of encouragement can turn that around. I gave a lot of “Looking Strong!”, “You’re doing great!”, “GO LADIES!” as I ran my way back through the course, enjoying the moments of shade, and dreading those open sunny paths at times. As I passed more of the pacers they all kindly asked me if they needed to stop me or slow me down. I told you I have a reputation. I would check and tell them I was doing good! And I was!
At the stand-alone water stop that was out there (Hydration Station 4A)…I popped my Honey Stinger gel (I didn’t feel like I needed it, but I wanted to be sure I had the energy to finish this, even if I remained alone). I downed some water and carried on, picking it back up to get back on pace. All the while…shouting more words of encouragement along the way. Soon the steady stream of ladies going the other way dwindled and I was back to just pacing it in.
I hit the MRTT/SRTT station again, and took a Sword and a walk…and made sure they knew that I didn’t need to be slowed down. Seriously, every time I heard that phrase it made me laugh and smile. And not pay attention to the heat and humidity. I remained alone as I came out of Pope Lick and headed back toward Beckley Creek Park, where the finish line was waiting. The hill I was dreading, I now was facing on my own. So…I started the climb…and I could tell I was behind on the pace going up. But I knew I had a small bit of cushioning to allow for that. Even with the water stops I walked through to fuel and hydrate. I did my best to push it enough so that when I hit Mile 11 just after hitting the top of the winding, shaded path, I could make sure I was still right on pace. And it worked. Despite being alone, I kept the proper pace and worked hard to maintain it. You just never know when someone might turn up and rely on you to get them to the finish. Even those ahead of you.
Just after Mile 11, it was back down Damien. That was a nice relief, but I had to make myself pull back so as not to tear up my quads (this is a STEEP hill)…and to not get too far ahead of the pace. I continue on the road and at one of the bridges, I see two women hop up onto the sidewalk and start to take the path, not the road, back to the finish line. I remembered Bob, the race director saying that the last portion and the first portion of the race would be on the roads, so while this did cause me to second-guess it…I kept on the road. And then Linda was ahead on her bike shouting, “FOLLOW ME!”
She let me catch up and I asked about the women on the path and she shouted over to them to let them know that they should be on the road. They cut across a parking lot at the final water stop to catch up. I got my water and prepped to run the last mile in. I stayed behind these two ladies, shouting words like, “Last mile, ladies! Let’s do this!” And as we hit Mile 13 and prepped to make the turn to run toward the finish line, I began shouting, “TWO HOUR PACER BEHIND. BEAT ME IN! BEAT ME IN! DON’T LET ME PASS YOU!”
And they crossed and then…I followed right behind them. Clocking in at 1:59:09…which, my coach, Linda, would say…was perfect.
They announced my name as the pacer and I went to step out of the way of anyone who might be right behind me. No one was immediately there. My friend, Pam, who I met in the MRTT/SRTT coffee run came over to give me a medal and a cold towel, which was put around my neck. That was heaven. The after party had treats and snacks galore…but I went over to see how Melissa did on the 4-Miler and relax. My job here was done.
While I was unwinding, Cathy looked up results and said I had won an age group award. I wasn’t sure what the process was when you’re a pacer, but when the person who came in after me was 7 minutes behind…I was given the okay to claim it.
There is something so amazing and empowering about all women races. I love doing them…and this time…I loved being a part of the team that was there to help others reach their goals. And I fell in love with the job of being a pacer. I might have been alone with it, but it challenged me to slow down, to take it in, to help others, and to get out of my comfort zone. I got my medal engraved with my name, finishing time, and the word “PACER” underneath it. And then, Melissa, Paul, Cathy and I went out to Wild Eggs for a celebratory brunch, before hitting Costco and heading home.
So, the official results of The Filly Women’s Half Marathon are that I finished in 1:59:09, perfect timing for the 2 hour pacer, yes? *FIST PUMP* I was 14/184 finishers overall. And I was 2/29 women in my age division.
If this race returns next year, I’ll definitely be signing up again. It was a total blast and I loved seeing all the ladies come out to run their best and be their best. And that, my friends, is what an all female race is about.
OH…and that pacing stick…I forgot I was carrying it. Never once felt annoyed by it.