Run For The Berries 5K – Starlight, IN (May 28, 2016)

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

Race: Run for the Berries 5K

Place: Starlight, Indiana

Date: May 28, 2016

Time: 22:24

There are a lot of things people run for.  For some…beer.  For some…donuts.  For some…pizza.  For others…wine.  For me…FRUIT!!  I love fruit.  There is nothing quite as amazing as a giant bowl of cold, wet watermelon after a hot summer run.  In fact, this is my favorite thing to eat in the summer after I run…whether it’s a short weekday run or that long slow distance on the weekend!

So, trust me, whenever the Run For The Berries 5K rolls around every year…I’m always eager to take part.  Why?  Because strawberries…EVERYWHERE.  Yes…I will run for berries.  Hell, I’ll run for any type of fruit, honestly.  YUMMY!!  And while you don’t get any for free, there is nothing better than rewarding yourself after a hard run with a big bowl of strawberries and a cold frozen strawberry drink.

I wasn’t actually signed up this year for the Run For The Berries 5K in Starlight, Indiana this year.  Like I said, every race has sort of been a last-minute decision thing due to the hip issues and how I never know exactly how I’m going to feel from one day to another.  I haven’t actually participated in the Run For The Berries 5K since 2013 (when I was in my best racing shape…and at my fastest).  In 2014, I was in Buffalo, New York for the Buffalo Marathon, and last year I wasn’t running anything…at all.  I was a miserable pile of non-running self-pity and hurty hip things.  So, it was nice to come back to this one.  This is my fourth time running this local 5K and I will always do it whenever I am able.

Today…despite some slight twinging in the hip first thing in the morning…I was going to do it.  I filled out the registration form at work on Friday and had it all set to go in the morning.  Cathy offered to pay my $25 registration fee because…bills…bills have been plaguing me recently and I am slightly broke at the moment.  So that was awesome.  So I got up early (4:00 am) to get my PT stretches, dynamic warmup, and some plyometrics in prior to the race.  I did my core work as well.  And then made a dash (in the car) up to Kroger because I needed a pre-race banana.  This is not a want…this is a NEED.  I went ahead and grabbed a few other necessary groceries while I was out.  Got home just before 6:00 am.  Cathy and I had some cereal for breakfast with some coffee (for the kid and adult in each of us) and proceeded to keep saying we needed to get off the couch and get moving, but neither of us really making an effort.  Ah well.  The good thing was, any tenderness or soreness in the hip had worked itself out…so I was feeling good.

Teeth were brushed and I put my hair up in pigtails and got out my Bondi Band of choice.  I went ahead and put some water in my Kara Goucher water bottle and popped a NUUN tablet in it for some electrolytes before Cathy grabbed the sign, the race bag, and we headed out for the race.

We left early, because Cathy wanted to make sure we had plenty of time for her to get lost on the way there.  We don’t go up that way often, but, there are signs that point the right way.  The drive there was gorgeous with the sunrise and the beautiful houses out in the country.  It’s always a nice ride up to Starlight.  We followed the signs to the little field we always park in at the race and got situated into a spot.

Pinned up and ready to run the Run For The Berries 5K – Starlight, Indiana

From there, it was into the main hall of the Strawberry Festival grounds to get officially registered for the race.  I went up to the table with cash and the form already filled out…got my race bib (#180) and was given a t-shirt in the size I requested.  The shirts were gray this year.  And back to being in tech material.  YAY!!  I got pinned up, went to use the bathroom, and then we meandered around the grounds for a little while to kill some time.  On the way out, I saw Renee from my spin class heading in.  She wasn’t feeling good, but was running with a friend of hers who is training for her first triathlon.  So, that’s really fun.  We chatted for a moment and then she went to register and I went to meander, waiting for my good friend, Michelle, and her little boy, Liam, to arrive.

And then I ran into my friend Amber, whose husband Tim was running (and was 2nd male overall) in the race.  Amber and I both have been dealing with hip labrum tears.  She had surgery on hers…I didn’t.  We’ve bonded over this.  I’ve met a lot of good friends through having to sit out of running…and it has made me better for it.  Amber and I are going to start riding bikes together once I get more comfortable on mine.  YAY!  Her kids were anxious for her to come and join them…so we parted ways and she said she’d cheer for me at the finish.

I love my friends.

We saw a lot of the fast runner people doing their strides and warming up prior to the race.  So we headed that way so I could stretch.  I think I did a quad stretch on each leg and called it a day, HA!!  I’m so awful about stretching.  We were all starting to move up to the orange cones that marked the start of the race.  It was at this point that Michelle and Liam showed up, just in time, which made me SO happy!!  We waved and they went to stand with Cathy just beyond the start point.  Our 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.  It made me laugh.  And everyone else.  Then…we had to wait for HIS Garmin to find satellites. He did…and the count was given.  On your marks…runners set…and then the horn.

Total game face on at the start of the Run For The Berries 5K – Starlight, Indiana

I took off…giving a nod to my cheering section.  It was total game face though.  Which is not like me, LOL!!  Seriously.  I’m so laid back but…game face.  The first mile is a series of rolling hills…nothing too major.  I was running comfortably, but speedy.  I could tell I was speedy.  In fact, at one point, I was thinking…”Wow…I’m ahead of Lynn.”  And the moment I thought it, she passed me quite easily, not even breathing hard.  HA!!  That will teach me.  Anyway…I was having a nice run…no pain…feeling good…not worrying over anything but holding steady and preparing for the hills ahead.  Mile 1…perfectly measured…my watch beeped right at the marker.  Turns out…it was a new fastest mile for me… I just wasn’t aware of it at the time.

Zen racer.  I never look at my watch or obsess over pace.  I run better when I don’t know.

I made the turn onto Engle Road and started into the second mile.  I loved this part of the run because, soon after making the turn, I scooted past a cute little girl running with her dad.  She was saying something about how what she loved about today’s run was she was running with older people.  I turned my head and said, “You’re doing an amazing job!”  She thanked me and said, “How old are you?!”  She was aiming for first in her age division.  HA!!  I told her I was 35 and she was relieved.  She was in the 14 and under group…and definitely under 14.  That was an ego boost.  This mile also brings in more rolling hills, but a few more downhills than uphills.  We ran past Hubers Family Farm and continued down Engle Road.  And then I made the turn into Mile 2.  This is where the water stop is, but I just kept on running.

Because right there…RIGHT THERE…on Hill Road…is THE HILL.  It’s like my friend, Amber, said later on Facebook…it’s not just the hill but WHERE the hill is in that race.  At this point, your legs are tired and this hill is HUGE.  I mean…it’s a steep, steep climb.  So, I did my best to run up it, still lacking the power and strength that I used to have.  I’m working on that…kinda.  I’ll be working on that more.  Hills might slow me down…my legs might not be able to maintain a fast pace for a long period of time…but maybe soon they will.  It all takes time.  And I’m sometimes impatient, LOL!  After the hill, it’s just a few rollers and a couple of smaller climbs to the finish.  You actually finish this race going uphill.

I could see it in the distance and I attempted to pick up the pace, but my legs were shot for the day.  The best I could do was just focus.  I had runners pass me up as I got a bit closer…which always pisses me off…they were all men…

I don’t always drink a frozen strawberry drink after a 5K…but when I do, I’m at the Strawberry Festival!

I heard Cathy and Michelle and Liam all shouting and cheering.  And as I ran by, I hear Amber yelling, “GO KAREN!”  I really do have awesome friends.  So, I pushed…and I saw I was in the 22 minutes…but it ticked past my 22:02 PR…and just ticked past the 2013 finish time of 22:19.  But only by six minutes.  I was tired, and hot, and a sweaty mess when I stopped…but I was so happy with that run. It was challenging and it was amazing and I came out of it without any pain.  Not even a twinge.

I was handed a pink card at the finish showing I was the 8th woman to finish.  Cathy said I definitely placed in my age division.  We thought that in 2013 too, and I ran it faster, and didn’t…so I wasn’t going to hold my breath.  We took some pictures and then meandered over to the festival to get a nice, cooling frozen strawberry drink.  And our big bowl of strawberries (Cathy & Michelle got strawberry shortcakes).  We went and took a seat at a table.  Liam went to play on the slides and we sort of hung out, enjoyed our strawberry treats, and found a lot to laugh and talk about.

You can’t do the Run For The Berries 5K and not eat a big bowl of strawberries!  FOR REAL!

It was taking a lot longer than I remember to get to awards, so we decided to go hit up the booths at the festival.  Cathy bought me this amazing crocheted Wonder Woman doll.  This woman knits there fantastic dolls from Disney movies and other things.  There was only one Wonder Woman doll.  It was meant to be mine.  There was also only one Captain America doll.  Cathy went back and purchased that while I got her a purple star crown with blue and purple ribbons to wear.  Seriously…we really are adults.  Liam got his face painted for the first time and did a fantastic job sitting there while it was done.  Then we went to watch Liam play some games and I purchased a thing of strawberries with a salted caramel dipping sauce.  THIS. WAS. LIFE. CHANGING.  I love salted caramel and was the first person to get this dip that day.  I am so glad I did.  It isn’t a combination that I ever considered. There were the usual suspects…chocolate and white chocolate. But you wave salted caramel ANYTHING at me…and I am buying it.  THIS WAS AMAZING.  I’m in love.

I posed with a lot of stuff today.  Someone needs to make me a spokesperson. LOL!  This is the knitted Wonder Woman doll!

As Liam finished up his games, the announcement that the awards were going to be given out was announced.  We made our way over there and saw all the male awards handed out first.  My friend Amber’s hubby, Tim, won 2nd overall male, because he’s stupid fast…and amazing.  And then the female awards were given out.  And I was announced as the first female in my age division.  WOOT WOOT!!  Considering I didn’t place the previous time I ran..and ran it faster, this was a nice surprise.  Exciting stuff.  Cathy, Michelle and Liam all cheered loudly as I went to receive my award, this cute little pint glass thing.

And that was a wrap for the day.  Liam wanted to go check out the bouncy houses and Cathy and I needed to go grocery shopping and hit up a few spots in Louisville.  So, we parted ways and I went home to shower and change.

As it stands, the official results of the Run For The Berries 5K are that I finished in 22:24.  Not a PR…but I clocked my first mile in 6:48, which is awesome.  Now if only I could maintain that sort of pace.  But these legs just aren’t there and aren’t ready.  Maybe one day.  Maybe not!  Either way…super proud.  I was the 8th female to cross the line and came in 1st in my division.  If the official results ever get posted…I’ll update this accordingly.

Already looking forward to doing it again.


OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon – Indianapolis, IN (May 7, 2016)

Me heading into the finish line of the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon

Race: OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon

Place: Indianapolis, Indiana

Date: May 7, 2016

Time: 1:39:28

Four years ago…four years ago I ran the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon as my second half marathon EVER!  I was fortunate enough to have a friend in my corral, a local runner I met with the (now gone) Blue Mile Monday running group.  It was a fantastic race that day.  Hot.  Steamy.  Sweaty.  But fantastic.  It was such a spirited, fun, and well-run race and expo…that I vowed to go back.

And then…it didn’t happen.

Until, I decided to run it again.  It was a really random, really quick decision to run it.  And I didn’t really shout about it because, as I’ve said before, every day is different for me.  I never know when there is a good day ahead or a bad day…so, I haven’t really been talking about races I’m doing just in case it’s not a good day and I don’t actually run it.  It’s hard coming back from injury, but I’m being cautious and smart about it and I’m not pushing it.  So…I left work early on Friday and trekked up to Indianapolis, Indiana to get checked into the hotel.  I always stay at the JW Marriott when in Indy for a run, when it’s convenient.  It was for this race.  The start line was right out the door!  HA!  Besides, I’m a princess…I like to stay in nice places.  (Joking…sort of…).  After checking in and dropping off bags in the room, Cathy and I headed down to the race expo to pick up my race bib.  This was a little bit of a hike through the convention center, but it’s a hell of an expo and worth the hike.

We noted the Starbucks in the hotel and said we’d stop and get a banana for me for in the morning on our way back.  Once we got into the expo, we were handed drawstring backpacks and we immediately headed to the Packet Pickup area.  Since I registered later, my number was pretty high up there, which meant hiking further back in the line of windows with bib numbers.  I found my spot and went up to the window.  They said to have your photo ID ready, but the guy didn’t even ask for it.  He did find my bib and got my shirt…tucked it into a Blue Mile bag and handed it over to me.  YAY!  Officially ready to run.  But first…shopping…

…and the official merchandise store always has some goodies to offer.  Cathy went and bought an official Finisher shirt for me (I can’t buy that…bad mojo).  And I ogled a few other things, but opted to leave it with just the shirt.  So…we began a quick weave through the expo.  This is where I fell in love with the Ocean Spray PACt Cranberry Extract Water.  I am forever having this stuff in my fridge.  HOLY COW!!  SO GOOD!!  We scooted past the Clif Bar place, which had a line due to all the samples they were handing out.  And then…

…I signed up for another race.  It was one I was considering anyway…and with the expo discount and the promise of a free hat…I ended up going ahead and signing up.  Somebody stop me!!  LOL!!  This one isn’t too far away, so I  feel confident I’ll be in good form to run it.

We then found the BondiBand booth…and…oh yeah…there were purchases made.  I ended up getting 3 more…because…I can’t have too many of these.  I wear them on runs, at the gym, and in spin classes…so, yeah…they get used.  I still own the very first BondiBand I ever had…my 13.1 one that my friend, Heather Dillon, purchased for me at my first half marathon in Chicago back in 2011.  You might say that I am a fan…but I’m also a brand ambassador for them now too.  More on that once it’s officially official.  Anyway…more money spent and it was time to leave the expo to get to our dinner reservation.  We stopped for a moment to sign the banner wall at the exit.  Then, food.

My Gluten Free Penne with Tomato Marinara and Vegetables from Osteria Pronto at the JW Marriott in Indianapolis, IN

Now, my pre-race eats is always…ALWAYS…a gluten free pizza.  BUT…we couldn’t find a close spot that offered that near where we were in Indianapolis.  And we really didn’t want to leave the area…so Cathy found out that the hotel restaurant, Osteria Pronto, offered gluten-free pasta on their menu.  I normally don’t do pasta as I am a pasta freak and will EAT ALL THE PASTA…and sometimes it’s too much and I still have it with me in the morning.  But, you gotta do what you gotta do.  Turns out, this place had their act together. The chef and servers were very knowledgeable about gluten-free dining and when they brought out Cathy’s bread…they brought me out some toasted Udi’s Gluten Free Sandwich Bread to have with either butter (no dairy for me) or olive oil.  It was a nice gesture.  The chef threw together a pasta dish for me using the Gluten Free Penne and their amazing red marinara and some fresh vegetables (onion, red pepper, broccolini).  Cathy got their signature pasta dish – Straw & Hay (chive noodle & egg noodle, lardo, English peas, garlic cream, pine nuts, and topped with a soft boiled egg).  I didn’t think I was that hungry…but as I said, I love pasta…and I devoured mine.  LOL!!

Just hanging out with my NUUN guys!  I loved them.  I really loved them.

After dinner, we returned to the expo to finish up.  Starbucks was closed…so Cathy said she’d get a banana in the morning for me. We revisited the entire expo, walking through the slightly less chaotic area this time.  Cathy bought another BondiBand for spin class, and the lady working there gave us the discount so she only paid $5 for it, since we previously bought some that day.  YAY!!  I found the NUUN table and got to talking with the cute guys behind there.  I told them I was a #nuunambassador and we got a picture together.  LOVE!!  It was fun.  My new favorite flavor…the Mango Orange.  WOW!  And…then I signed up for ANOTHER race.  Seriously…stop me.  This one is in the fall…and they gave me a free wine glass and an expo discount for signing up.  Cathy was given a race shirt because they were so impressed with what a great running fan she is and everything she does for not just me…but other runners.  SUPER awesome.  We wrapped up the expo and hiked outside to Circle Center to hit up Rocket Fizz.  We ended up purchasing a Diet Root Beer for Cathy and a Nut Goodie Bar to split for dessert.  I am a firm believer in dessert.  And then…it was back to the hotel.  I talked to my sister on the phone on the way back…and I even stood at the window in my room and watched an ongoing baseball game…which was totally awesome.  Cathy went to go shower and I needed to do my nightly foam rolling.

I had made a promise to my good friend, Deana, after the Derby Mini, that I would dedicate the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon to her.  I kept my word, and in Sharpie, on my race bib, I wrote: FOR DEANA!  I texted her a picture and we chatted for a little while…as I watched some Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives (seriously…this is a tradition!) and did more foam rolling and used THE STICK on my hip and hip adductor.  After that…it was time to set the alarms for the morning and get some sleep.

The final race day outfit…I was told to NOT wear the tank…I am glad I didn’t.

My first alarm went off and I got up, turned it off, took my medicine, used the bathroom, and then…went back to sleep.  My second alarm got me up at 5:30 am.  I grabbed my pile of race gear and headed into the bathroom to change and put on ALL THE SUNSCREEN.  Hey, I’m a pale, blonde, Irish girl…I burn easily.  And I had to slather it ALL OVER myself.  I wasn’t sure at this point if I was running in just a sports bra or if I was throwing on a tank, but I acted as though I’d do the bra only.  Once I had my Injinji socks on and my Newtons laced up, I put my hair up in my signature pigtails, dressing them up with red and black hair extensions.  And the BondiBand was a pink and black checkered one I found at the expo.  It was the closest thing to a checkered flag I could find.  I went back into the hotel room and made sure Cathy got up out of her bed.  Her mission was to go get me a banana from Starbucks.  They were giving them away for free, but it was a madhouse, and she was gone long enough that I managed to eat my cereal, do all my PT stretches and turn on the news/weather.  When she got back, she changed, ate a protein bar, and drank her Starbucks Cool Lime Refresher.  At about 6:45 a.m., I had my fuel belt on and was heading out the door.  Cathy realized she forgot the sign, so back to the hotel room to snag it.  And then, we were on our way, heading down the elevator and out the door.

My friend, Julia, was running in the 5K, which was going off at 7 a.m.  I was hoping to find her, but, there were SO many people that I never did see her.  I looked and waited.  And never saw her go by.  DANG IT!  Cathy thought she heard the announcer say something about corrals closing and said that it involved mine, so now we were walking the line down to the split in the corrals.  She found an information guy and asked and he aid that my corral was going to open as soon as the 5K runners were though…since I was in C.  So…Cathy made me panic for no reason.  She does this a lot at races.  Seriously.  *deep breath*  We walked back up and I downed my banana and I went to get into Corral C.  I had a moment to do my dynamic warmup moves before Cathy said she needed to stake out her spot at the other side of the start…so she made me take off my NYC Marathon zip I had put on to keep warm.  I parted with it, and was surprised that it wasn’t too chilly at the start.  A little, but not enough that I was shivering.  The National Anthem was sung BEAUTIFULLY and the wheelchair racers were sent off by Meb.  Meb was there running from the back of the mini to the front…I never got to see him.  Dang it.  In fact, I finished the race before he even started.  I did beat his time though, LOL!

Meb waiving the green flag up in the bucket. I didn’t even see him. I suck.

The corrals moved up and the first wave was prepared to be sent off…by Meb…at 7:33 am.  The horn sounded, Meb waived the green flag, and we were off.  I crossed the start line, started my Garmin, and just went with the crowd.  I saw Cathy and gave a wave and headed toward the Indianapolis Zoo.  I didn’t see any animals out this year…but it is a nice way to start the race regardless.  That zoo is gorgeous!  This was a quick pace for me, though it didn’t feel it at the time.  My first mile was 6:57, apparently, but I dropped back after that.  Let me say, I am very glad that Cathy told me to go with the bra top only and not the tank.  The humidity was very real at Mile 2…and it was still early.  So, yeah…that worked out wonderfully.  I would have died with fabric on me.  As it was, my legs felt heavy and I was wondering how well this race was actually going to play out for me.  But, I pressed on, hoping I’d find my stride and fall into a comfortable pace and hold it.  Mile 2 and 3 are run on W. Michigan Street.  In fact, much of the first 5 miles of the race is through residential and such areas…but always with spectators and people there to cheer, some more populated than others.  Mile 5 is Main Street…and a banner is spread over the top welcoming runners to Main Street.  There are restaurants and the like out here and the crowd was loud and proud.  It was a nice way to make the turn toward the Speedway itself.  You enter the speedway via a steep downhill slope, and then back up.  Inside, you hit Mile 6 and the run around the actual Indianapolis Motor Speedway is on.  This is the part I always look forward to.  This was also the slowest miles of the race for me.  I think it’s because the sun had come out, the humidity was high, and there was no shade out on that track.  But I was running ON THE TRACK of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  How cool is that.  They have 2 pit stops (water stations) inside the track, but I carry my own water and fuel with me, so I never make use of these.  I thought about it though, with the humid air.  I was sweating!  The best part…the highlight, is hitting that brickyard.  I flashed devil horns to the photographers and carried on.  You exit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway just before Mile 9.  From here…it’s 4 miles to the finish.

Me leaving the start gate of the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon

4 miles is a morning run for me.  So, despite feeling like I was really slowing down, I was super happy with how I was plugging along.  I kept saying, “This is for Deana…and Deana doesn’t quit!”  Or “Be relentless…like Deana.”  Mantras really help.  LOL!  I wasn’t about to quit…when it’s humid and hot, you just slow it down and run comfortable.  Miles 9-11 wind you back toward downtown, and when you get to Mile 12, you see the checkered flags, and hear the crowds, and you just run.  You just run because you’re almost done.  You just run because you are heading to that finish line. You just…do what you’ve been doing all along, but with feeling and spirit and maybe jazz hands.  Or maybe not.  Jazz hands might be a little much…

I love this part of the race.  The energy is amazing.  I could hear the finish line announcer and I knew I was getting close.  My watch beeped long before the 13 mile marker (I was about .20 miles ahead of the mile markers), and I picked it up some more.  I gritted my teeth, dug deep, and pushed it.  I saw Cathy to my right with my sign and just screaming at me.  And I noticed, as I neared the finish, that the clock time said 1:39:45…I crossed.  I just turned out another half marathon (13.29 miles on my Garmin)…and was only 1:07 minutes off of breaking my PR set at the Geist Half Marathon in 2014.  I felt amazing.  And accomplished.  And…yeah!!  I was ushered toward the medals and was handed one, which I eased over my head, somehow not spilling any water in the open water bottle I was holding.  I’m just that talented, folks.

I was given a plastic bag to put water, banana, fruits, energy bars, and whatever else into as I walked through the runner recovery area.  As I got a Dole cup, one of the Dole employees said he loved my outfit and smile and asked if he could get my picture with the Dole cup.  So, I agreed.  If I turn up on any Dole advertisements, let me know.  I am almost famous, LOL!  Afterwards, I headed into the After Party area where I was to find Cathy in the family reunion zone around the end of the alphabet.  I spotted her and rushed over…and she gave me my official time!!  I was SO happy with it.  Impressed because I felt like I was running through tar at some points…no joke.  But this was 2 minutes better than Derby…which was 2 minutes better than NYC.  Nice pattern there, yes?  LOL!

Getting my post-race massage.  I obviously approve, LOL!!

I changed out of my shoes and put on some recovery shoes.  I snagged some chocolate milk for Cathy and then headed into the massage tent.  I NEVER miss a post-race massage whenever possible.  Seriously, this just helps me with my recovery.  The lines weren’t long yet either.  The nice lady who gave me my massage was awesome.  It was, seriously, one of the best post-race massages I have ever had.  She asked me a lot about running and how I got into it…and she really stretched me out and worked my muscles.  She told me she loves working on people where she can feel their muscles and see how they move when she works on them.  GO ME!  Afterwards, I was ready to head back to the hotel to shower, so Cathy and I headed that way.

The hotel was handing out cold towels to runners so we could wipe our faces and get refreshed, which was SO awesome.  Once we got up to the room, I went to go shower and Cathy packed up everything.  Once I was clean and dressed, she called down to have the car brought out by valet and I downed some water and played on my phone for a moment.  We finally went down just as our car came around.  Packed up…we hit the road to go to Target and then meet up with our friend, Greg, at Cheeseburger in Paradise.  A celebrator Gluten Free Veggie Baja Burger (no cheese or sour cream) was in order.  I got mine with the gluten free sweet potato fries.  I devoured it.  No joke.  We did a bit of shopping after lunch, hitting up Half Price Books…Strange Brew for coffee…and the outlets in Edinburgh, before heading home.

Half Marathon #18…done.  And it’s my third fastest one to date!!

Half Marathon #3 this year…done…Half Marathon #18 in my running career…done…3rd fastest half marathon time…achieved. Call it a comeback!

So, the official results of the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon is that I finished in 1:39:28.  I was 889/24,768 finishers overall.  I was 123/13,487 female finishers.  And I was 21/1,939 finishers in my division!  I am so happy with this result and I texted Deana and she was so honored and happy.  It was a wonderful race, and now I remember why I loved it so much.  I hope not to wait another 4 years to return to this one.  That being said, I’m already in talks with Deana about some upcoming stuff for next year, which I’m super excited about.  I’m sure I’ll discuss that when it all falls into place.  I am certain my endurance will continue to get better.  Half marathon distances used to feel so easy for me, but I’ve been struggling in the last few miles as of late.  But this one surprised me, because I thought I had really slowed down, but I never once hit a sub 7:45 minute pace.  At all.  WOW!!  And to think I slowed down to a pace that felt “easy.”  At least my fitness has been kept up over the span of time I was out with injury last year.  I credit that to my spin classes, regular gym visits, and sheer determination on my part.

Deana…I ran hard and strong for you…I’m glad this race turned out the way it did.  Thank you for being an inspiration, a badass, and truly, an amazing friend.

Weekly Wonders

I usually post a little list of blessings, interests, loves, and other such nonsense in my blog on Sunday…but my weekend was SWAMPED.  Race on Saturday, and then Sunday, I had to make the 23 hours that my roommate (Cathy) got to have to celebrate her birthday the best 23 hours ever.  It sucks to lose an hour on your birthday.

It doesn’t suck , however, when you get to wake up and work out, finish up shopping, and then try out a new pub for dinner.

THAT’S how you birthday.  I made sure she got nice and drunk and then I went grocery shopping.  Because if she’s drunk and I go to the grocery store with her, I can buy ALL THE THINGS I want, but normally can’t justify putting in the budget.

No worries, she is very aware I do this.  LOL!

So…this past week’s list includes:

1. The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
Harry Dresden.  Are you familiar with Harry Dresden?  If not…get familiar.  The Dresden Files is a (currently) 16 book series written by Jim Butcher that chronicles the life of lead character, Harry Dresden, a private investigator and wizard as he recounts investigations into supernatural disturbances in…get this…modern-day Chicago.  It strikes a bit of a blance between fantasty and detective fiction.  And it’s awesome.  I listened to the entire series on audiobook (it is read by James Marsters…and HOLY HELL…he does it well) while at work and…each book was amazing.  They never really falter.  And, you really do just all in love with the characters.  And Harry’s dry humor is charming and downright hysterical.  I cannot count the number of times I busted out laughing at the office.  If you haven’t read these…start now.  The first book is Storm Front.


2. Downton Abbey
downton abbey
With great sadness, I sat down last Sunday with a hot cup of tea and watched the very last episode of Downton Abbey.  I have been an avid follower and viewer of this show.  I’m not exactly sure what to do with myself on Sunday nights now.  It feels like I lost a good group of friends.  One thing I will say is that I was so happy that everyone got their happy ending.  With all the crisis’ and craziness that this show went through in the 6 seasons it was on the air, this was the ending it needed and the one the fans deserved.

3. NUUN Natural Hydration Tangerine Ginger Vitamin & Electrolyte Drink Tabs
So, awhile back I was in Whole Foods, and I spotted a tube of a NUUN product I hadn’t seen before.  It was up near the registers at the time, and I was intrigued enough to go ahead and just buy a tube.  I now wish I had purchased more.  The flavor is Tangerine Ginger (with my stomach issues, ginger is always a welcome ingredient)…and it was a part of their Natural Hydration line.  This means, the formula of NUUN was created to hydrate the body naturally and “put back a little of what life takes out.”  The tabs are light, low in calorie, and DELICIOUS!  NUUN calls it “U.”  And I have yet to find them on their Web site anymore.  But…I can still find them (for now) at Whole Foods.  I wasn’t sure what to expect when I poured a glass of water the other night and dropped a tablet in…but I was wowed!!  Seriously.  Just…a whole lot of healthy yum!!  More, please! (I am a NUUN Ambassador as well, so this is a double YAY!) #nuunambassador2016 #nuunambassador #nuun #nuunlove #nuunlife #nuunhydration #makeyourwatercount

4. Birthday Fun
As I mentioned above, my roommate rang in another year this past Sunday.  With having to turn clocks ahead, Cathy only had 23 hours to make the most out of her day.  So, we started it off with a traditional visit to the gym.  Hey…we’re a bit odd, LOL! We went

Allergen Free Candy Bar Cupcake from Annie May’s Sweet Cafe

shopping, where she bought Season 1 of The Monkees on DVD at Half Price Books.  And then, I took her out to eat for dinner at the latest pub here in New Albany…the Floyd County Brewing Company, where she indulged in fish and chips and I ate a large and amazing salad that had berries and spinach and pecans…all the good things.  Cathy even had a beer flight and discovered her favorite of the 4 she sampled was the Bavarian Rapture, which she then got a pint of.  She was a little tipsy when we left, but it was a fun time and she got to try out a restaurant she’d been meaning to for awhile now.  And we were both impressed.  There was a delicious Allergen Free Candy Bar Cupcake from Annie May’s Sweet Cafe afterwards.  We had no birthday candles…so I lit up candle Cathy got as a gift and she made a wish on that.

5. Racing…
As I mentioned in my previous blog, I ran a 10K race this past weekend.  It has been awhile since I pinned a number on and went out to pound the pavement.  I was pleasantly surprised with my performance, my speed is inconsistent, but it’s coming back.  My hip is still weak so I am continuing to work on that.  But it was SO nice to get back out there and race again.  I had missed it.  Thanks, Rodes City Run 10K, for the amazing morning!

And there it is…hopefully I’ll have some new things to share next week!!

I hope you guys all had a good week and some fun, new adventures!

Rodes City Run 10K – Louisville, KY (March 12, 2016)

Me at the start of the Rodes City Run 10K

Race: Rodes City Run 10K

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: March 12, 2016

Time: 47:55

Three years ago, I ran this very same race with bronchitis…and did it 15 seconds faster.  No joke.  A part of me says, “Hey…you’re so close to where you were when you started marathon training for the first time!” (although even this finishing time is 2:24 minutes slower than my 10K PR (45:31), which I set in 2013 as well…when I was really in my best shape and racing form).  The other part of me says, “You ran this better when you couldn’t even breathe!”

Welcome to the mind of a runner.  And as someone who has come back after mostly a year away from the sport, I am in NO way disappointed with my performance.  Not one bit.  I lost a lot of strength and fitness in the time I was forced to take off.  AND…as I will get to…this race was not perfect nor pain-free for me either.  I think the excitement got the best of me and I pushed harder than I noticed or even intended.

All that being said…I ran in a road race…and I did better than I even anticipated.

I, actually, have no real time or speed goals for any runs that I go on, training, racing or otherwise.  Why?  Because, right now, I have to build my endurance, my fitness, and my strength back up.  So, going into the Rodes City Run 10K…I merely stated that, if possible, I’d like to beat 50 minutes.  If it happened…great…if not…I’d get there.  I wouldn’t be disappointed either way.

So, Friday afternoon, I took my lunch break and headed down to Slugger Field to pick up my race packet…something that I haven’t done in way too long.  It was scary and exciting, but I gave them my bib number (963) and got my shirt and bib and a gift card for a free Chik-Fil-A Grilled Chicken Sandwich (my roomie got this), checked out the new course (it was a loop this year, not a point-to-point…and then went back to the office to close out my Friday.  Traditionally, I eat gluten-free pizza before a big race…but I had my meal plans worked out ahead of time and opted for my third round of potatoes that day…a healthy take on Take-Out Fries (think…In-N-Out Burger Animal Style).  It was a 10K race…so I wasn’t really too worried about breaking tradition.  I sort of hold that in check for the half and full marathon distance.  For a 10K…I can go either way.

I called it a night early because I knew I needed to get up in time to do my PT exercises, do my dynamic warmup, and just attempt not to freak myself out.  Recall…the last time I raced was August…and…HELLO STRESS FRACTURE.  Well…this distance was twice that and I was pretty sore after hill repeats on torn up asphalt on Tuesday.  Needless to say…I was a bit of a mess the night before and the morning of…I just put on my brave face and focused on the task at hand.

Since it was my first race back in…FOREVER…I opted to wear my Wonder Woman running outfit.  Because…it had to happen.  The start temperature was around 53 degrees, so I figured I could get by with a tank top and be comfortable.  BEST. DECISION. EVER.  I wore a pair of pants and a hoodie over my running clothes until about 15 minutes to start time.  My roommate didn’t have the sign due to the possibility of rain that morning.

We arrived and parked with plenty of time to spare.  I went ahead and ate a protein bar while we stood around near the start/finish area.  Cathy (that’s the roomie) spotted our friend, Laura, and we called her over and talked with her up until about 15 minutes to start time.  I told her to have a great run and went to get into the corral, moving slightly toward the front because…I’m more comfortable when there are fewer people in front of me at the start of a race.  The national anthem was sung (quite nicely too!)…and then…we were off!

I felt good crossing that start line, even giving a wave in Cathy’s direction as I started off.  I fell into stride with people around me, the little voice in my head telling me to not push too hard, to lift that right leg, and to listen to my body.

Needless to say, I sprinted through that first mile in 7:17…which is WAY faster than I have been running or capable of running on any sort of training run.  I usually hover around 8:20-8:40 these days.  Of course, soon after hitting Mile 1, we are sent up a hill…so this was a good way for me to ease into a more comfortable pace.  It was still really early in the race, and I wasn’t here to race it, but more put in a “long” run, just with a bit more effort.  The hill did its job, but thanks to my attendance to most of the hill repeat Tuesdays…I didn’t feel winded when I crested the hill.  I felt strong and good.  And the hip was still behaving.  No pain…win.  Mile 2 eased me down to a more manageable pace of 7:54.  Thank you Phoenix Hill.

Another very exciting moment was hearing Harry cheer for me as I ran past.  He was just outside of Cave Hill Cemetery.  And not very many people knew I was doing this run.  I haven’t discussed my racing schedule much because I am doing each run on a “as I feel” sort of thing.  If I hurt…I’m not running.  I’m done with this whole injury train.  Just…done.  So, that lifted my spirits…and I let my form go for a moment to raise up my arms and wave at him.  Awesome.

Mile 3 was next, and my legs were ready to move again.  I was in familiar territory, having run the outer rim of Grinstead and Cave Hill Cemetery a couple years ago when I was not inured and Blue Mile still had a running group that met on Mondays.  It was comfortable and I felt comfortable coming into the halfway point.  I managed that third mile in 7:36…which isn’t too shabby.  I kept that same pace heading into Mile 4.  But it was around hitting Mile 5 that my hip suddenly decided it waned nothing more to do with the speed I was somehow managing for this run.  I had to slow up…which was fine.  I’d been running hard(er) and strong for that much of the race.  I was feeling good, save for a little muscle twing.  Mile 5…I dialed it back to a 7:45.

Me crossing the finish line of the Rodes City Run 10K
Me crossing the finish line of the Rodes City Run 10K

Here was where my form really began to fall apart.  I actually started to struggle.  The reason…I noticed myself falling into that “limp run” that I had been doing prior to physical therapy.  Visions of stress fractures began flashing through my mind, so I let go of the speed and focused really hard on my form.  I was in the last mile…I would walk there if need be.  But I WAS NOT GETTING INJURED!

The crowds were picking up now, so I knew that I was getting closer and closer.  I still don’t look at my watch when I run, because if I focus on my pace…I start to psyche myself out.  With that being said, I hit 6 miles in the 7:54 pace range (like when I had gone uphill at Mile 2).  And the finish line was in sight.  I pushed a little more, without letting my form fall apart again, focusing on balance and strength in my right hip.  I surged a little…and crossed through the finish gate, hands up in the air.

Damn, that felt good to do again.  I’m not going to lie.  Cathy was screaming at me from the sidelines.  And I paused my Garmin and took a glance.  I was at 47 minutes and change.  SO close to 48 minutes.  Cathy walked over to where she could slip in and take my picture.  I did my power stance, biceps flexed, and smiled. Then, one of the professional photographers came over and said that he had to get a picture of Wonder Woman.  It made me laugh, but I obliged.  I wanted to get some water, so we made our way over there.  I downed two cups and then did my leg swings to help loosen the hip.

I felt good.  Sore…but good.  And I wasn’t limping.  So, really it was just more of a muscle ache.  That hip adductor still fights me at times.

Anyway…the official results of the Rodes City Run 10K are that I finished in 47:55.  No PR…not even close…and still slower than the year I ran when I couldn’t breathe, but…for being out of the racing game for so long…THIS is such an accomplishment.  To go from hardly any running for the past year to a 10K where none of my mile splits dropped below a 8 minute mile…WINNING!  I was 424/5027 finishers overall, 82/2849 female finishers, and I was 14/430 in my age division.  Seriously…I’m proud of what I accomplished here.  And I did it without breaking myself!

I still am on the road to recovery and every day I go out to run is different.  I’m so very thankful that my body game me a mostly perfect race at a time when I needed just that.  Now…to fine-tune my fitness and get stronger.

Time to live up to my nickname of "Wonder Woman" and get this body fit and strong!  This was only a test...
Time to live up to my nickname of “Wonder Woman” and get this body fit and strong! This was only a test…

Nuun Year Dash (Virtual) 5K – New Albany, IN (February 4, 2016)

Nuun Year Dash 2016 Virtual 5K

Race: Nuun Year Dash (Virtual) 5K

Place: New Albany, Indiana

Date: February 4, 2016

Time: 25:38

As you may have noticed on the side of my blog…or through my postings on social media (like my Instagram), for the second year in a row, I was given the opportunity to be an Ambassador for Nuun.  I have been using Nuun since I began training for my first marathon, and I haven’t looked back to Gatorade or those sports drinks since.  I don’t like the way all the sugar in those drinks messes with my stomach and body…so Nuun was a fantastic choice for me.

What’s even better is, just this month, they released their new and improved formula for their Nuun Active and Nuun Energy varieties.  These tablets that you drop into your water now use a combination of plant-based sweeteners that help provide a balanced sweetness profile.  This is obtained by using a combination of monk fruit extract and stevia leaf extract.  Nuun Active and Nuun Energy also now include 1 gram dextrose (d-glucose), a natural, fast-releasing carbohydrate serving roles in the production of the Nuun tablets (in regards to tablet integrity), as well as its ability to bind sodium and water to help increase the rate of fluid and electrolyte delivery.  In addition, both Nuun Active and Nuun Energy are now certified gluten free, vegan, and Informed-Choice (trusted by sport certified).   The upgrade was, ultimately, done to help take your favorite hydration product, and make it better.  With the addition of a non-GMO sourced dextrose, the rate at which fluids and electrolytes make their way to working muscles increases.  And the use of plant-based sweeteners provides an ideal sweetness profile, without being too over-powering or sweet.

I know that got a little scientific, but it’s a big deal and those of us who are a part of the Nuun family are excited about these changes.  Especially me.

Proud Nuun Ambassador

All that being said, as part of the Nuun Ambassador team and as a runner, once again, attempting a comeback from a nagging (1 year on February 16) hip labrum tear injury…I really wanted to participate in the Nuun Year Dash 5K/10K virtual race that was being held.  I normally would have kicked in for that 10K distance, but I’ve worked too hard at getting back on the road to push too much, too hard, too fast.  I stuck with the 5K distance, registered, and awaited the package with all the swag to arrive.

And it did…back on February 1.  The actual event is taking place from Friday, February 5 – Monday, February 8…but my weekend is pretty packed and after my “long” run on Saturday (longest run since August when I did a 16 miler on leg with a stress fracture (which I wasn’t aware of at the time)) of only 8 miles, my hip might be done for.  So, the training plan I am quasi-following had me scheduled for 3 miles on Thursday…so I figured I could run from my job to my home and tack on the additional .1 (yep…I live 3 miles away)…and that way I get it done (a day early, but still done).  My roommate drove the car home from work…no worries, LOL!

At about 4:10 pm on Thursday, I went to go get changed, for the first time since August, into “racing gear.”  Granted, this is a virtual 5K, and while there are prizes being awarded, the biggest reward to me, at this time, is the fact that I’m getting out there again and participating in group runs and…(virtual) races.  I had no expectations for time or placement…I just wanted the distance.  So, I stepped out in my bright colors (I’m always bright), my hair color, pigtails, and the provided race big.  I knew I was going to freeze out there.  It was around 33 degrees Thursday when I left work, and since the previous day had a high of 50, I didn’t think about the change in temperature when I packed my bag the night before.  I put my Nuun Year Dash t-shirt on over my long sleeve tech shirt and hoped it would keep me warm for the (at least) 30 minutes I was out running.  I got the provided race bib pinned on…left my stuff with my roommate to take home…and left the office just after 4:30 pm.

The biggest challenge, after my Garmin found it’s signal, which took forever, was going to be the stoplights and rush hour traffic.  But this wasn’t the first time I’ve run home from the office…so…I knew what I was getting myself into.  This is, however, the coldest it has been when I have run home from work, so there is that.  HA!

I started by the YMCA and ran through the parking lot, around my building, up an incline, back onto Main Street, back toward the YMCA, managed to hit the light at the right time to cross the street and make the trek home.  It was cold and windy…but the leg and hip felt good.  I felt good.  It had been ages, it seemed, since I ran home from the office.  It was a blessing just to be able to do this.  I was cautious, of course, trying to remember my training in physical therapy because the last thing I need to do is get another stress fracture because I am compensating for the hip.  The run felt good, and when I caught myself favoring the hip and applying more time and pressure to the opposite leg, I fixed it immediately.  I had to top at a couple of stop lights on the way, but once they changed and I made sure traffic was aware of me (I was in bright, fluorescent yellow pants…I’m hard to miss!), I continued on the route I had run so many fall, spring and summer days before.  I probably got some pretty strange looks, being the only person out and running, wearing a race bib, but that’s part of the fun.  I’ve never been normal…why start now?

I made the turn onto the road I live off of, with about 1.5 miles to go.  There was a 4-way stop to navigate through, but I swore I saw my car (driven by the roomie) pull out just as I turned…so she would make it home to be my race photographer.  YAY!  I slowed slightly at the 4 way stop…then when I knew for sure all the drivers were aware of me, I crossed and made my way to the stoplight about a quarter mile further up the road.  I had to stop again and wait for the lights…one to cross the road, and then the other to cross to the other side of the homestretch because that way I could just turn into my apartment complex and not have to dodge traffic to get there.  Once that was accomplished, I had just over a half mile left.  I made a small climb over a hill…knowing it was the last incline of the day…so I pushed a little more…then ran past the old cemetery…up the way…past a house with a barking dog…and toward my apartment complex.  I half expected my roommate to be standing out there with the sign she holds at all my races and camera ready…but there was no sign of her.  At all.  My watch beeped for 3 miles just before I made the turn into the drive of the apartment complex.  I took the turn toward my apartment building, and still no sign of the roommate.  And then I hit 3.11 miles and…was done.

Me after completing the Nuun Year Dash Virtual 5K in my own city

After I stopped my Garmin and then started to walk to cool off, she rounds the corner, on her phone, still doing work, camera in hand…but the moment was done and so was I.  I had her snap a few pictures (no official finisher photo this time) before calling it a day and heading upstairs for a nice hot shower to take the chill out of me.  Because I was cold.  I never really warmed up on that run, which is weird for me.

SO…while the official results have yet to be tallied, I can tell you this much…my official time for the Nuun Year Dash (Virtual) 5K is 25:38.  I keep telling myself, I’m fresh to my comeback.  Speed will (hopefully) eventually come back.  For now, just be thankful for the time out on the road, and the ability to be out there running again.  I’m really proud of myself for pushing it (a little) and for getting this run done…with perfect negative splits to boot!  It’s hard, because I used to be so focused on my numbers and so speed driven, that this slow down hasn’t been an easy transition for me.  I push as hard as my body allows sometimes, and while it’s not up to par with where I used to be, this is a fresh start…and I have to realize that with these limitations with my hip…I may never be pushing those 7 minute miles again.  It’s not easy…believe me…there have been tears shed over this…but the best feeling right now…is my feet on that pavement again.  Every run is a blessing.  Even the slow(er) ones.

I am so proud to be a part of the Nuun Family and hope to continue to be an ambassador for their amazing (and new and improved) products.  If you haven’t tried Nuun yet…I encourage it.  It’s a great way to make your water count and to stay hydrated.  Even on the cold runs.  This race wasn’t against the others competing and participating, but against all the self-doubt, fear, and pain that I’ve dealt with for almost a year.  This is definitely the start of, what I hope will be, a beautiful comeback.

(Obligatory hashtags: #nuunambassador2016 #nuunambassador #nuun #nuunlove #nuunlife #nuunhydration #stayhydrated #NuunYearDash #makeyourwatercount #letsruntogether)