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

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

Race: OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon

Place: Indianapolis, Indiana

Date: May 5, 2018

Time: 1:44:14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MEB!!!!!  MEB!!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meb, Alexi, Bill, Frank

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

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

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

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

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

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Bill Rodgers and Me

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

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Meb Keflezighi and Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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From my Instagram Stories on race day!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Onto the next…

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Confessions of a (Not So) Average Runner

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

Or so I thought.

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

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

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

I’m digressing.  Back on track…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I probably sound like I’m whining…

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

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

Not yet, anyway!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Race: Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon

Place: Lexington, Kentucky

Date: March 31, 2018

Time: 2:04:43

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You’re going to die tomorrow.”

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

Walking into the expo at Keeneland in Lexington, KY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bella Notte Gluten Free House Salad

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

Bella Notte’s Gluten Free Pasta Arrabiata

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First hill…of so many!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY! I’M FREE!

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

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

That. Was. Fun.

Ron flying into the finish line of Run The Bluegrass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rodes City Run 10K – Louisville, KY (March 24, 2018)

Me after finishing the windy and rainy Rodes City Run 10K – Louisville, KY

Race: Rodes City Run 10K

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: March 24, 2018

Time: 46:43

I wish cold, wet weather would GO AWAY!  I’m so done with it.  I’m tired of all the layers.  Of the whipping winds.  Of the rain.  All.  The.  Rain.

I’m done with it.

For real.

And, being that I signed up for the Rodes City Run 10K on a whim and was just coming off of the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon and a hard week of lots of treadmill training (including over 9 miles of speed work…on the tready…because weather has been wet and gross as of late), I wasn’t loving waking up the morning of the race and hearing the pouring rain and wind.

I believe the words, “I would rather run on the treadmill!” crossed my lips that morning.

I almost suggested not going…but I had friends who I was meeting up with and Cathy was going to tape up my friend Melissa’s Achilles due to some strain from the NYC half’s Central Park hills.

The Green Acres and Coco Caliente Vegan Sushi Rolls from Dragon King’s Daughter

That was the plan that we had come up with the night before.  Melissa was kind enough to pick up my race packet when she went to get hers and her husband’s.  Then, we met up with her and Paul at Dragon King’s Daughter for a sushi dinner that night and some relaxing and laughs and a NYC recap.  It was amazing.  And I’m finding that vegan sushi works really well for me before races.  So, there is that.

I went to bed at my normal time and woke up with enough time to do all my physical therapy stretches and exercises and not feel rushed going out the door to the race.  What I woke up to was dread…because I could tell that, once again, it was just going to be a cold race.  And this time…wet on top of it too.

I ate a light breakfast and packed my Lärabar to eat 30 minutes prior to go-time.  I’ve become very good about proper fueling before a race…even a 10K…because my races are starting to get a little better when I put fueling into proper practice.

Cathy had to leave the race sign behind, but threw on her rain jacket and we headed out the door into the cold…wet morning.  And the drive into Louisville was…also cold and wet.  And we ended up parking a good ways away from the start and the finish…which meant a bit of a hike.  Originally we had hoped to meet up with Melissa and Paul at the parking garage where they parked, but it was across the highway and there just wasn’t enough time.  We had to pay for our spot on this flat lot and head to the start.  Melissa and Paul said they would head that way too.  We walked through the staging area, letting them know we were hanging out near the port-a-potties (I mean…why hang anywhere else?).  We ended up taking photos for some people, and I shivered a lot…but we didn’t see them.  Cathy knew if she was going to get a spot at the start she needed to head that way…so we headed over to the corrals and she went to get a spot.

And no sooner had she left…I found Melissa and Paul.  Melissa asked where Cathy was and I went to try to find her, but she had meandered up past the start line at this point.  No good.  I went back to let Melissa know…and discovered they had found Chris and Christy (who I met through them at Disney).  They asked about the half marathon the weekend before, and I said it was fun and cold.  Melissa’s Achilles was really bothering her, so she was hinting that she may just not start this time.  Rest it.  I gave her a hug and wished her luck, whatever she chose to do.  The National Anthem was sung…and so I meandered a little further up in the corrals to prep for the start.

The wheelchair racers were sent off first…and then the rest of us.

Running in the rain…and wind…bib on my pants (I hate wearing pants in a race, and I never pin a bib to them…but I had on my new windbreaker!), hat on, no pigtails…no anklet (I forgot it at home)…no one recognized me, LOL!

I don’t remember too much about this race.  I was focused on trying not to worry over the fact that I was wearing my very old shoes that I use as rain shoes in training…but since I’m down to just my regular race shoes that are hard to find because they have been updated 4 times since then…I didn’t want to ruin them in the rain…or the fact that I was freezing…or that I couldn’t do a few traditions because of the weather (my hair was braided and not in my signature pigtails for one thing…and all of that was slapped under a ball cap to keep the rain out of my eyes).  But here’s what I do remember…

Mile 1 was totally into the wind.  Every bit of it was met with strong resistance as all of us ran down West Broadway toward Grinstead.  Total headwind.  And then we get the hill climb there.  And the wind is still howling.  And at this time I’m really starting to question life decision, but am thankful in the wind for my NYC Half Marathon windbreaker that I am sporting.  I was just glad to get up the hill…even though it slowed me down for Mile 2 to be my slowest mile of the entire race.

After that, there are some climbs, lots of wonky tilty roads, and the run around the outside of Cave Hill Cemetery.  Once we got the wind break, thanks to the walls around the cemetery, I started to feel hot.  Then I’d come around a corner and get hit by that wind and once again be grateful for throwing on the windbreaker.  I usually hate running in jackets…but today…I was happy to have it…most of the time.

I remembered heading into Mile 3, I saw both of the wheelchair racers heading up too.  They started to crest and come down and were shouting, very loudly, that they were coming up from behind…but people run with earbuds in races and don’t hear this…and the wheelchair racers were rightfully angry.  BE AWARE!

I remembered Melissa talking about how much she hated the part of the race near Girl Scout Headquarters…so I thought of her as I ran past that. I basically kept my head down for most of this race because I was cold and wet and…that pretty much sums it up.  I remember turning into the final Mile, back onto West Broadway…and there being a lot of debris from a car wreck being scattered across the road.  It was a hazard and I did my best to avoid what I could…but that should have been swept up prior to the race.  Imagine if a shard of glass met a running shoe.  YIKES!!  And with how minimal some shoes are, that could have definitely spelled disaster.  As it was, my foot slipped on a piece of it that it just clipped.  But thankfully I was balanced and was able to keep my footing.

At least the finish was with a tailwind, right?  It made for a nice finish when all was said and done and I crossed the finish line, feeling pretty good about how I did under the conditions and on tired legs.  In fact, it turned out I had a new Rodes City Run 10K PR.  Not a 10K PR.  Don’t get that confused.  I need to shave about 3 minutes off my time to accomplish that and I don’t see that happening for awhile…if ever…at this point.  This PR was race specific.  Sort of like my Fast Freddie race PR was race specific and not distance specific.  Both of which involved a dinner of sushi rolls the night before.

HMMMM…

Crossing the finish line, cold and soaked, of the Rodes City Run 10K…just happy to be done.

So…the official results of the Rodes City Run 10K are that I finished in 46:43. That put me almost exactly 2 minutes faster than my finish time last year.  AND…it’s the fastest I have run the Rodes City Run 10K as well.  So…there is that.  But I still have a ways to go before I have a new 10K PR.  10K distance is hard for me.  I never really know how hard to push and when.  I was 219/2527 finishers overall.  I was the 49/1358 for women finishers.  And I was 12/206 in my age division.  I’m really happy with this.  I averaged a 7:32 pace for the race, which is impressive these days for me.  I really wasn’t focused on running this fast, because I was in old, over-mileage shoes and I run slower on wet pavement for fear of slipping and getting hurt.  And, after running a half marathon the Sunday before and then having to do all but 1 run on a treadmill in the week leading into it following the half marathon…I’ll take this.  Sore and tired…and I dug deep without even realizing it.

For the record, I did ask Cathy if Melissa started the race and when she confirmed that she had…I knew there was no stopping her and she would finish.  And she did.

Usually, there would be celebratory brunch at North End Cafe…but I wanted to go home and take a hot shower and try to get warm.  So, Cathy ended up making toast and scrambled eggs for breakfast at home.  Warming up, however, never really happened.  And very little else aside from minor grocery shopping got done that day because I was just done with being out in the weather.

Such is life.

Good thing there was still Sunday.

UPDATE – Product Review: Nox Gear Tracer 360 Visibility Vest

noxgearlogoProduct: Nox Gear Tracer 360 Visibility Vest

Price: $69.99+/-

Remember last week when I blogged about my faulty Nox Gear Tracer 360 Visibility Vest?  If not…you can backtrack to my blog about it here.  At the end of the blog, I mentioned that I had contacted the company and was waiting to hear back from them regarding their product and the way mine fell apart after only 6 wears.  Let me tell you how this all played out…

FIRST OF ALL…let me tell you how very impressed I am with the customer service I received from Nox Gear.  Honestly.  The vest fell apart on me on a Saturday morning.  I contacted them and wrote my blog up Saturday evening.  On Sunday evening, Daren from Customer Service wrote me back and apologized for the vest falling apart on me, inquired as to if it snagged on something, and asked if he could see photos.  BEFORE I even sent a reply, his message also said that they would be sending me a replacement vest immediately and he was already working on getting that set up.

I got the message Monday morning and replied, sending photos of where the vest fell apart, and thanking him for his quick response and for sending a replacement.  He replied back within MINUTES of me sending the response with the photos.  He explained that it looked like a failure in the stitching, and apologized again, stating that the replacement should work out perfectly for me.

Then…I was sent the confirmation that my replacement had been shipped.  That quickly.  BOOM.  Done.

Two days later, the replacement vest arrives.  I open up the box and inspect the vest and it looks great.  I am pretty excited because I have a short run planned for the following morning, and this came just in the nick of time.  I had been using my old one still, simply safety pinning it together where the vest came apart.  OH…that was another thing…

Daren told me to keep my old vest to use as a backup.  Yep.  No sending it back. No need to return it.  Simply restitch where it came apart, or have someone I know who can sew fix it for me.  Done.  He even said that I could keep it to use as a backup.  I mean…how many companies do that?

Am I impressed?  YEP!!  I wore my new vest out this morning and it worked great.  I felt visible and safe and still love how light weight it is.

But this story does NOT end there…

This morning, I also received an e-mail from one of the creators of Nox Gear, Tom Walters, to also apologize for the belt stitch coming undone after only 6 wears.  He emphasized how unacceptable that was and how it angered him to know of the fault in their product.  He emphasized that Nox Gear stands behind quality of their products and hopes that they can prove it to me!

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Me after my morning run in my replacement Nox Gear Tracer 360 Visibility Vest

Point proven.  This has been the BEST customer service interaction I have ever had.  They definitely stand behind their NO WORRIES GUARANTEE and were quick to respond to me and the problem I had with the vest and take action to correct the issue.  Not only that, one of the creators also reached out to apologize and make sure that I felt that I was taken care of and was happy with the service I received.  Not very many companies do that anymore and I am beyond impressed with the steps Nox Gear has taken to make sure my satisfaction with their product was at the forefront as they worked on getting the problem resolved.

Thank you Daren, Tom, and Nox Gear, for proving to me that your company is one that I don’t regret investing in.  I’m excited to wear my new vest out on my morning runs.  You not only help keep me safe, you made sure that I was happy with your product in the end.

And right now…I’m over the moon!  Thanks…for lighting my way.

Practicing Patience

patienceGood morning, friends!!

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

STORY. OF. MY. LIFE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patience, grasshoppers.

It’s worth it!

Recovering…like a boss!

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

Guess what?

I actually did this time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YAY!

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