The Dopey Challenge – Orlando, FL (January 4-7, 2018)

The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.” — The Emperor, Mulan.

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All the Dopey Challenge Medals at Magic Kingdom!

I can do hard things.

That became my mantra during the last run of The Dopey Challenge this past weekend.  To be honest, I think the whole experience was a comedy of errors, but it led to four amazing and different finish lines.

Four races.  Four days.  Four different distances, each race getting longer.  And the hardest part to grasp as that you aren’t even halfway through the entire mileage by the third race.

I did the Dopey Challenge during its Inaugural year, in 2014.  I felt invincible back then and went into it with little training and no plan.  And it was amazing and inspiring and fun.  I missed out in 2016 when I thought I would give it another go due to lingering hip injuries.  That was a lot of money to lose out on…trust me.  MEH!

I never even thought of running in it again (okay…I perhaps thought about it every year it did run…but never pulled the trigger, really gun-shy about what this body could actually manage anymore), but then, last year, I became great friends with Melissa and Paul…and with a little peer pressure…I found myself registered for the 5th Anniversary of the Dopey Challenge (and also the 25th Anniversary of the Walt Disney World Marathon).

With two setback with the opposite hip that has the labrum tear this past year (in January and July, I believe)…I was really starting to lose hope that Dopey or even marathon running would happen again.  I had to defer Chicago due to lingering hip issues back in September, which broke my heart and did nothing to boost my confidence.  It was through my last round of physical therapy and adopting a run/walk method on long runs that I managed to get through Dopey training (I think to the surprise of everyone, including my coach, bless her) in one piece.

Mostly.

Because after the holidays, I had a 3 day stint at work…where people returned to the office sick.  And despite my best efforts…I caught the crud.  I started feeling bad on Friday night.  Saturday I went to bed before 8 pm after cancelling my last training run and basically living on the couch.  Same story on Sunday.  Sunday was also New Years Eve…and I couldn’t even ring in the new year.  I was in bed before 8 pm again.  I woke up feeling a little better on Monday, but not wanting to risk anything, I called in sick to work and stayed home to finish packing before being taken to the airport by our dear friend and neighbor, Laura.

So…here I was…heading into a 4-race series….with a lingering cold, a damaged immune system…and into a Florida cold snap.  No joke.  The weather turned at the start of the year.  It went from being lows of 50s and highs of mid-70s…to below freezing temps.  Considering my costumes I was going to run in consisted mainly of tank tops…some modifications had to be made.

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Toasted’s Gluten Free & Vegan Inferno w/ Gluten Free Truffle Fries (YUM!)

I arrived in Orlando late on Tuesday night.  My rommie and I had a hotel room off-property that night, just giving us an extra day to not rush through the runDisney expo, packet pick-up, and all that craziness.  We went to our favorite Orlando eat spot…Toasted…where I could get a Gluten Free and Vegan grilled cheese sandwich with a side Gluten Free Truffle Fries.  I got The Inferno…which is their house-made vegan cheese (this stuff melts AMAZING), tomato, jalapeno, and sriracha.  SO good.  I figured the spice might help the whole sinus situation I had going on.  This is where the madness began.  Upon returning to the hotel, I realized that my pajamas never made it into my luggage…so I was now sleeping in my plane clothes.  Whatever.  We decided that the following morning, we’d hit up Target and Publix for pajamas, snacks, water, and other necessary items.

When we woke up that morning, it was pouring down rain in Orlando.  We bundled up in hoodies and went out to the stores.  We even picked up a few requested items for our friends, Melissa and Paul, who had spent the New Year at Disney.  We got all of that together and headed to Disney Springs to park and head to Erin McKenna’s, the gluten-free bakery there, where we picked up a Scone (which we split right then), a Thin Mint Cookie (and one for Melissa for her birthday), a Cinnamon Roll, a couple of Donuts, and a slice of her Lemon Tea Cake.  Then, we headed over to Pop Century to pick up Melissa and Paul so we could all head to the expo together and do the whole packet pick-up, expo, shopping thing together.

It was a mess.  We ended up standing in the rain for a good chunk of it.  Cathy had ducked into CVS before we headed to Disney property for ponchos and only found child sizes.  Mine was super tiny (but had Disney princesses on it) and hers ripped as she unfolded it.  So…staying dry wasn’t happening.  All of this wasn’t helping the whole cold/sinus issue I was still dealing with at this point either.  We got into the building and followed the line down to the area where you show your ID, turn in your waiver, and get your bib.  If you’re doing the challenge (and the 3 of us were), you get your photo taken so they can confirm that it was, in fact, you, who finished.  After that, we were ready to get our official merch on and then hit the expo.  Cathy had gone on ahead to get in the Official Merchandise line…and it was a line.  Over a 2 hour wait…mostly outside…mostly uncovered.  Melissa and Paul had pre-purchased items, which normally, you would just go ahead and get without having to stand in said line…because you did, after all, pre-purchase them.  No such luck.  We decided it wasn’t worth it and headed into the other part of the expo where the vendors were.

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Me and two of my favorite partners in crime…Paul & Melissa!! Outside the expo. Cold. Wet. Disappointed.

I felt that the vendor area was much smaller and had fewer products/companies that I recognized.  I didn’t see Nuun or Newton there, which I had been hoping for.  I need to get more Nuun tablets, and my roommate forgot to bring my new pair of Newtons home from work with her on Tuesday, so I had one pair of shoes for all four races.  My intent had been to purchase new shoes at the expo. I could wear them in the shorter races and feel confident that I would be fine.  No luck.  I did end up getting the Roll Recovery R8 and R3 rollers for a huge discounted price at the expo.  And I am totally in love with these products.  Cathy went in search of BondiBand and got me needed bands for two of my costumes…and a bonus one she said I had to have.  She was right.  HA!  And after that…we gave up and headed back to Pop Century.  The weather was cold, but we had some Fast Passes at Animal Kingdom with Melissa and Paul (it was Melissa’s birthday so we were totally making a day of it…and so far it wasn’t going right), so we parked at their resort, hopped the Animal Kingdom bus and went on the Kilimajaro Safari, the new Flights of Passage in the Avartar part of the park (OMG…THIS RIDE!), and went out for a birthday celebration meal at Melissa’s favorite spot, Tiffins.

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Tiffins Meal & Dessert: Autumn Vegetable Harvest and Neapolitan Macaroon

I ordered the Autumn Vegetable Harvest, which was a Roasted Red Kuri Squash, Sweet Potatoes, Pumpkin Custard, Black Rice, Baby Spinach, Pumpkin Seed Pistou, and Cranberry.  It tasted like Thanksgiving.  It was SO good.  And of course, dessert happened.  Both Melissa and I got the Neapolitan Macaroon off the kids menu, FTW!  After dinner, we took the bus back to Pop Century, told Melissa and Paul we would see them bright and early for the 5K the following morning and headed to Port Orleans Riverside to claim our room.  It was late when we arrived and we had a 3 am wake up call facing us down.  So, we hauled our luggage up in two trips and got ready for bed.  Cathy noted that the bathroom door was latching strange, but nothing too bad.  Loved the royal room…and this time we had a gorgeous view of the courtyard.  Lights out.  We were down for the day.

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Stephanie, Me, Genie, Melissa & Paul during the Walt Disney World 5K

Walt Disney World 5K

Race: Walt Disney World 5K

Place: Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Date: January 4, 2014

Time: 1:02:09

“The belonging you seek is not behind you…it is ahead.” — Maz Kanata, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Disney doesn’t officially time their 5Ks.  Did you know that?  It’s true.  And with everything happening in 4 days if you’re doing Dopey…this is probably a good thing.  I had an alarm set for 3 am to change into my costume for the 5K, modified due to cold temperatures (it was below freezing that morning and my original costume was Tron…I ended up bringing BB-8, with a fleece top and a base layer to go under the actual bra top).  I got up, used the bathroom, and started to change.  Cathy went into the bathroom after me, and as I am pulling on my orange CEP Compression sleeves, I hear her messing with the door knob.  She says, “I can’t get the door to open.”  WHAT?!  So, I let her jiggle and mess with it while I layered up.  When she still wasn’t out of there and I had tried from my side and she had tried from hers…I called the front desk and explained that we were doing the 5K that morning and that my roommate was trapped in the bathroom in our room.  She had me try to get the latch to release with a credit card…and that didn’t work. So she said she would send someone up.

Meanwhile, she has me scoot her clothes under the door to her so she can change while we wait on help.  I am texting Melissa and Paul and trying not to panic and laugh at the same time.  Steve, the manager on duty, knocks on the door.  He comes in and tries the door knob.  Nope.  Stuck.  So he leaves to go get a screwdriver.  He returns…and still has no luck.  He tells me that I need to get to the start line…so I’m putting on my throwaway clothes (remember…it’s freezing here) and he said he was going to get another tool and try again.  In the process of doing that, he also calls 911 to get the fire department out and calls their engineering department, and whoever got there first, he promised, would get Cathy out.  I tossed on my BB-8 winter hat and told Cathy that I hoped to see her at the finish line.  I had to pin my bib on myself (in all my years of running, she has always done that for me.  I’m spoiled), and I headed out the door.  I texted Melissa and Paul as I headed toward the bus line for the 5K shuttle to the start.  I got to talking to the people in line about the saga that morning, and they were all, “What room are you in?  I want to know how this turns out!”  HAHA!

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Bathroom door wreckage after the fire department used an ax to free Cathy!

Just as I was getting on a bus, Cathy texts to say that she’s free and that the fire department had to come and use an ax to free her from her bathroom prison.  She was given a voucher for a taxi to take her to the start line so we hoped we would all meet there.  I arrived just as Melissa and Paul were getting there too.  With no bag to check, I could skip security and wandered into the staging area where I stood at a sign and waited for Melissa and Paul.  They arrived.  And Cathy arrived.  And our friend Stephanie arrived.  And two friends of Paul and Melissa also arrived, Chris and Christy (I might have misspelled her name).  We were all going to chill on the 5K…take it easy…and save our legs for later races.  I rarely get to hang with a group on runs, so this was exciting for me.  I lined up in Corral D with my friends (my bib was for Corral A) and we made our way through the new wave start, ditching our warm layers as we move ahead.  Soon…it was our turn and we were off.

The 5K was pretty crowded, but we had no time goals.  The plan was to just make our way through the course, stopping for pictures if we wanted, and just having a blast.  As we were heading into, or just past Mile 1…a person in front of me moved and I didn’t see the traffic cone in the path.  Down I went.  Hard.  On my hands and my right knee.  Melissa made an attempt to grab me and Stephanie helped me up.  Everyone was making sure I was okay.  I shook it off.  The knee stung, but nothing bad.  I was probably too numb from the 28 degree (not including wind chill) morning that day to even notice.  We carried on through Epcot, stopping to take some photos with Spaceship Earth in the background, with Genie from Aladdin, and then made our way to the finish line.

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Gluten Free Beignets from Port Orleans French Quarter…..YAAAAAAAS!!

5K…done.  I had such a blast.  I even danced across the finish line.  It was only after the sit on the bus back that my knee really started to throb.  I looked down and noticed blood on my black pants.  Plot twist.  Also…thanks to the bathroom door needing to be broken into with an ax…Cathy was told that after the race, we needed to pack up our things and have Bell Services get our stuff and move us to a new room.  Melissa and Paul were kind enough to take the shuttle to our resort to help with that…and we got it done and ready and out the door.  We all went over to Port Orleans French Quarter for the Gluten Free Beignets and coffee.  They needed to go get warm and were going to try to hit up the expo after showers and Cathy and I were heading to Epcot for the day.  Our first Fast Pass was for Spaceship Earth…but it broke down as we were standing in line.  Of course it did.  So…we wandered around Epcot and did the rest of our stuff until it was time to head to dinner at La Hacienda de San Angel.  They didn’t have gluten free chips for the salsa, but brought me some tortillas so I could have some and Cathy didn’t dip…she used her spoon to put things on the chips.  I got the Enchiladas de Vegetales, which came with a vegan version of their rice and refried black beans.  It was corn tortillas filled with vegetables, and smothered in salsa verde.  It was really good…but I don’t think I’ll do Mexican before a race in the future.

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Enchiladas de Vegetales, refried beans, vegan rice, extra tortillas and salsa from La Hacienda de San Angel

Cathy and I returned to Port Orleans Riverside…and I had to go to the concierge because we never got a text with a new room.  Turns out, they replaced the door and we weren’t moving.  I was limping at this point, mind you, because my knee was killing me.  As we were making the walk to the room, I said, “I hope they moved our stuff back in then.”  They hadn’t.  This meant another call to Bell Services and needing to wait an extra 30 minutes before even being ready to lay out race gear for the 10K, get ready for bed, and turn in for the night.  It was a mess.  But things showed up…we did the best we could to do a few things quickly, and called it a night.  Another 3 am alarm was set.

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Me with Dopey after the Walt Disney World 10K

Walt Disney World 10K

Race: Walt Disney World 10K

Place: Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Date: January 5, 2014

Time: 47:40

“You can’t focus on what’s going wrong.  There is always a way to turn things around.” — Joy, Inside Out

This was the race I had it in my head to actually race this weekend.  Until I got sick. And until I banged up my knee the day before.  It was hard to walk, I wasn’t exactly sure how running was going to go.  But the 3 am wake up came and no one got trapped in the bathroom.  We were off to a good start.

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Stephanie, Melissa, Paul, Me (freezing), Christy, and Chris before the Walt Disney World 10K

In fact, I layered up (again), because my I was being Joy from Inside Out, and Melissa and Paul were going to be Disgust and Fear.  I love that I was costuming with friends.  It was fun.  But Joy’s dress was a tank top that I was going to put shorts under, originally…until the weather changed.  With a morning that was 37 degrees, without the wind chill (and the wind was fierce and cold that day), I put on the black base layer I had used with my BB-8 costume, the leggings I had worn with BB-8, and worked the rest of it the best I could.  It had to do under the weather circumstances. No hat…but I did pull the BondiBand over my ears to hopefully keep those warm.  Cathy pinned me and we headed to the bus to get taken to the staging area at the start of the 10K.

I hunkered down since we were there so early and took a nap.  Melissa and Paul somehow managed to slip past Cathy and were, very smartly, gathered near one of the heating lamps at the center of the staging area.  We got up to meet them, and Stephanie, Chris and Christie were there too.  We took pictures, but I refused to shed the throw-away clothes right then.  Too cold.  The mylar wrap was staying as well.  Just after 5, I ate my banana and we headed to the corrals.  We were going to take a photo of the Inside Out characters…but Coral A (my corral) already queued.  I had to now go into Corral B.  Who puts a corral at the start line that early?  UGH.  I had to say a quick goodbye.  Got hugs…and went in…bobbing in and out of people in an attempt to move forward.  No luck.

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Me after finishing the Walt Disney World 10K

I shed the throw-away clothes as we neared the start line and my wave finally went off.  It was cold, so thankfully I didn’t feel my knee bothering me.  I ran calmly and smartly…the first mile meaning I had to bob and weave through the waves of people who went off ahead.  Some of which were walking this one too.  I still had hopes of racing this one and maybe coming close to beating my 10K PR.  It was still hard for me to breathe (thanks sinuses), but I pressed on through.  I managed a respectable time, even with all the dodging I had to do.  Mile 1 clipped off and we made a hair-point turn and headed up a hill.  I felt strong and was passing a lot of people…but hills and I are not friends and it did slow me down.  But what a confidence booster.  Somewhere in Mile 2 a guy snot rocketed on me.  I turned from Joy to Disgust for just a moment.  Miles 3-5 were amazing and fast.  Those were the parts that were actually in Epcot and not out on the highway.  I think distractions are a big help.  And they always do up Epcot great with cast members out to cheer and support you.  The lights were awesome.  I heard one cast member shout…”Happiness is here…I mean Joy.  Joy is here!” HA!  Since I was racing, I opted to skip the character stops and pushed on for a strong finish, past Spaceship Earth and around the corner back into the parking lots.  I stopped my watch after crossing and was shocked that I was closer to 48 minutes than my hoped for 44 minutes.

You know…running with sinus issues and a badly bruised up knee…I gladly took it.

My official results of the Walt Disney World 10K were that I finished in 47:40.  I was 266/12,881 finishers overall.  I was 41/7618 female finishers.  And I was 12/1245 people in my age division.  Not too shabby at all!

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Dole Whip from Magic Kindom and Cathy’s Rice Krispy Treat and my Hummus & Veggies and Iced Coffee at Animal Kingdom.  It was so COLD and I kept eating COLD things!

I went back to the resort to shower and change and head out to the parks that day.  Cathy and I had some Fast Passes to hit up in Magic Kingdom that day.  We ended up getting everything done there (including Dole Whip…despite the cold temperatures) and hopped back to Animal Kingdom, where Melissa and Paul were hanging for the day.  We met up after I snagged a hummus and veggies snack from the Gluten Free cart and some iced coffee (The iced coffee and Animal Kingdom is the best…and despite the cold…I needed it in my life).

Melissa and Paul were able to get me on Everest with them so I did get to have some roller coaster fun.  Which was amazing.  I love coasters and rides, but Cathy isn’t the biggest fans of most of them.  She’ll do some…but they usually aren’t the ones we like to do.  And…at one point, we were hiking through Pandora and saw sunlight coming through the tree and it was SO picturesque.  It was like a painting or straight from the movie (I guess…I never have actually seen Avatar).

We hung out until we took the bus to Animal Kingdom Lodge for dinner that night at Sanaa.

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Gluten Free Bread Service and the Chipckpea Wat and Cilantro-Coconut Vegetables with Basmati Rice from Sanaa!

Melissa and I split the gluten free bread service and Cathy and Paul go the regular one.  We enjoyed that before feasting that night on the amazing food there.  I got the Chickpea Wat and the Cilantro-Coconut Vegetables with Basmati Rice.  It was so good and we were so full.  Afterwards, we took a bus back to a park where we could hop to our respective resorts.  I got all the half marathon stuff together as far as my outfit and called it a night.  I set an alarm for 1:50 am and another for 2:50 am.  The resort wanted people at the buses by 3:30 the following morning to get to the start on time.  We called it a night.

 

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Me (as Boo), Paul (as a CDA Agent), and Melissa (as Roz) from Monsters Inc., before the Walt Disney World Half Marathon

Walt Disney World Half Marathon

Race: Walt Disney World Half Marathon

Place: Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Date: January 6, 2014

Time: 1:44:53

“Every dream begins somewhere. Some are born to greatness, and some find greatness on their own.” –Monsters University

And so half marathon morning dawned.  I still felt like crap.  My knee was tight and painful…but it was bandaged across the cut.  I had taken the bandage off when I ran as Joy and had meant to do it for this costume too…but forgot.  It was 2:50 am.  I can focus on one thing at a time.

I got up with the alarm and went to get myself ready.  Today I was running as Boo from Monsters, Inc. Melissa was costuming as Roz and Paul was going to be a CDA hazmat guy.  These were the costumes I was really looking forward to wearing.  Mostly because Melissa pointed out the subtle humor that she and Paul would be chasing me the entire race.  LOVE!!  Even better…today’s costume had short sleeves and long pants.  So, I added arm warmers as it was a chilly 39 degrees that felt still below freezing.  These temperatures were starting to really get on my nerves.  They were also starting to catch up to Cathy.  Bless her…we’re at least moving.  She is sitting on cold bleachers for over an hour at the finish line.

I got dressed…grabbed some Lara Bites (I didn’t plan out pre-race food for this…I was working on feeling better and it slipped my mind) and a banana to take to the race start.  I piled on my throw-away clothes to stay warm, grabbed the mylar from the day before, and headed out the door. There were plenty of people stirring this morning as we all had received the call that we needed to be on buses by 3:30 to make it to the start line.  The deal is…for the Disney World Half and Full Marathons, you make a 1.5 mile hike to the starting corrals.  So, they want to be sure you have ample time for that.  We were texting with Melissa and Paul and they were going to head out.  We got a bus…settled in for the short drive to Epcot…and arrived to file in line and get through security.  No bags for me, so I walked right through.  I waited for Cathy on the other side and the two of us went to claim the spot near the tent that was serving up food and hot beverages.  I could smell the sausage again.  We huddled in on the pavement and I took a power nap while we waited for Melissa and Paul to arrive.

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Minnie Mouse and Me after the Walt Disney World Half Marathon

When they did, I went ahead and shed the throw-away clothes so we could have a picture of us all in the costumes.  The last few times it had been too cold for me to even want to take them off.  So, I was determined to have a photo with them this time.  We missed out when I was dressed as Joy and they were Disgust and Fear.  We talked for a short moment before we decided to go find the entrance to the corrals.  We went through bag check together and made the long walk, comfortably, and chatting the entire way, until my corral had to split away from theirs.  We gave hugs and we separated.

I had to actually off-road here to get up to my corral.  That makes me nervous because when you’re walking on grass in the dark…that’s just a recipe for a twisted ankle or whatnot.  But I managed to get up to Corral A unscathed.  And I managed to get into my corral too.  This was the first time I actually had managed that despite my Corral A bib.  WOOHOO!  I worked my way through the crowd of runners until I found a spot that felt comfortable.The National Anthem was sung beautifully and Donald came out to send off the wheelchair racers.  And after that, my corral moved forward.  As I was easing myself through the crowd, a ribbon was passed between me and the person in front of me.  Looks like I was going to be at the front of Wave 2.  They sent off Wave 1 with music and fireworks and we were moved up to the starting mat…which, mind you…was actually back a ways before the starting gate with the logo that displayed the race with Donald and basically what the medal would look like.

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Me with Pluto after the Walt Disney World Half Marathon

It was really cool to be actually toeing the line for Wave 2.  I watched as a card was passed over the starting mat and would light up.  The woman would then signal 1 minute to start.  Then 30 seconds.  Then 20.  And soon, Donald Duck was counting us down…and fireworks sent off my wave.  I was able to settle in comfortably because it wasn’t crowded here.  Having not raced the 5K at all, I was feeling good.  My knee was a bit of a problem…but when I was running I felt I could at least ignore it.  HA!

My plan for this race was to run most of it, but walk the water stops.  That was how I had been getting through half marathons prior to this one, so I felt it was a good way to handle this one despite feeling so good at the start.  That being said, I also decided that I could go through the first four miles without stopping to walk, so I made that deal with myself as well.  Most of that stretch is all highway and parking lots anyway…so I felt even better about it.  Heading toward Magic Kingdom, we do get to run down a hill, but it sends us right back up.  I stayed on my toes and lifted my legs up to kick up the hill.  It slowed me down some, but I still felt strong at the top as we headed toward Main Street and my favorite part of any race that carries us through Magic Kingdom

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Goofy and Me after the Walt Disney World Half Marathon

 I love the energy down Main Street as you run it.  The crowd is deep and loud and screaming and it really is such a lift.  I always wish that this part was later on in the race because of the boost it gives you.  I arched away and went through Tomorrowland before making my way through Cincerella’s Castle and back out onto Main Street.  The crowd came alive again.  Flash bulbs were going off.  It was amazing.  Then, we turn to head out of Magic Kingdom through Adventureland.  The crowd fades off and we are back to the highways for Miles 6-11.  Disney does put out characters and DJs and some screens running clips of Mickey cartoons or other cartoons to try to entertain you on this stretch…but it really just is a lot of road and little else.

At Mile 8…I started to feel a burning in the bottom of my left foot and I knew…blisters were happening.  I wasn’t running in new compression socks…but I hadn’t had time to Body Glide or Vasoline my feet that morning as I was trying to make the bus in time.  MEH!  That realization lasted through the rest of the race as both of my feet started to feel the effects of friction between my socks and my custom orthodics.  Not a happy camper at all.  My pace ended up slowing down considerably because of it and now my walk breaks were a bit of a relief from the friction.  I was starting to rethink my life decisions here. As we come back into Epcot at Mile 12, I was just relieved that I was almost done and I could go and doctor up my feet.  YAY!  I pushed through it all and managed the turn before the World Showcase to head to the finish.  The gospel choir was singing “We Will Rock You” as I ran past to make the final turn to head toward the finish line.

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Me crossing the finish line of the Walt Disney World Half Marathon

I pushed myself as much as I could on sore feet and threw my hands up as I came through the finish line.  Stopping my Garmin, I made the walk through the finish zone, Cathy waving me down for a photo before I went to collect my medal, some mylar, and the snack box.  Since character lines weren’t too bad, I stopped to take pictures with Minnie, Goofy, and Pluto before we hopped on the bus to go back to the resort.  I told Cathy I could feel blisters and when we got back up to the room and I took off the compression socks…sure enough.  I drained them…took a shower…and got dressed to head out for the day.  The plan was to hit up Hollywood Studios.  Paul and Melissa would join us later.  I got to ride Tower of Terror three times that day, which made me happy.  It was fun to have a few ride buddies this time around.

So, my official results of the Walt Disney World Half Marathon is that I finished in 1:44:53.  I was 502/20,801 finishers overall.  I was 88/12,275 female finishers.  And I was 18/2012 people in my division.  I’ll take that for sure.  I was quite happy with my performance, despite the blisters.  It just seemed like nothing was going right that day.

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Gluten Free Spaghetti and Marinara Sauce from Mama Melroses

After a casual and relaxed day at Hollywood Studios, we all went to Mama Melroses for dinner for pasta to fuel up for the last race the following day.  Melissa and I shared the gluten free rolls and I ordered the Gluten Free Pasta with Marinara.  Unfortunately, for me, when it first came out, it was done with the meat sauce.  Good thing I looked closely!  YIKES!  They took it away and fixed it, bringing out my new dish shortly.  It was an early meal, but perfectly timed for the Walt Disney World Marathon.  I was feeling tight in my hamstring of my left leg as we were heading to the buses to return to the resorts, so I used my Roll Recovery on it that night to try to loosen it.  The knee…was just stiff and sore.  I took some Ibuprofen that evening…and it was lights out.  One more race and we weren’t even halfway through the mileage yet.

 

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Me as Vanellope von Schweetz for the Walt Disney World Marathon

Walt Disney World Marathon

Race: Walt Disney World Marathon

Place: Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Date: January 7, 2014

Time: 3:49:45

“There’s no one I’d rather be than me.” – Wreck it Ralph

Marathon morning.

I was ready for it.  We got back to the room early after making it an early dinner at Mama Melrose’s the previous night.  That way I would have time to lay out all my costume stuff and get all my fuel ready to go so I wouldn’t have to worry about it on race morning.  I was reviving Vanellope von Schweetz from Wine & Dine a few years ago.  I made a few changes to the costume…having my mom create a new top and cut the tights down to go over my compression sleeves.  I was excited to be bringing her back…but there was so much small things that go into this costume, I wanted to have it all set to make the morning a lot less stressful.

So when the alarm went off and I got up to get changed, I was feeling as ready as one could for the fourth race of the Dopey Challenge.  I was tired…and nervous.  The marathon is not a distance to take lightly.  Anything can happen.  But that morning…I was feeling prepared.  I even Body Glided my feet and put Vasoline on them in hopes of warding off further blisters.

My left hamstring was a little tight…no surprise with three race events leading up to this one and no real time to stretch or roll my body as is part of my usual routine.  But I felt ready and excited more than nervous, so there was that.  I put three Hammer Gels in my fuel belt and my Nuun Performance and Water in their containers and put on my throw away clothing before my roommate and I headed out the door.

Cathy was actually not feeling well.  She had started to come down with something the day before, and her voice was pretty much shot, but she’s never missed a race start or finish and, even though I thought she was going to this time, she didn’t miss this one either.  Despite the cold, she bundled up with the understanding that she would see me start and then head back to the resort to nap for a few hours before coming back to the finish line.  For any of you who are pondering this in the future…here’s a bit of advice…DO NOT think you can get back to your resort from the start.  Buses apparently don’t start running back to the resort from the finish until the first person crosses the finish line.

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Little did we know that this would end up being the bus ride from hell to the start line!

Cathy and I were right on time leaving our room and heading to the bus.  3:30 am.  There was a bit of a line, but two buses were there waiting.  I climbed on the bus and moved closer to the back than front just because I knew we’d have some time when we arrived.  We texted Melissa and Paul and they were about to leave to catch their bus.

Five years ago when I ran the Inaugural Dopey Challenge, my bus got stuck in traffic heading to the marathon and I just barely made it to my corral on time.  This year…I was determined not to have that kind of stress.

No such luck.  After clear sailing at first…soon…the bus slowed and then stopped.  All around us traffic was ground to a halt.  Total stop.  Nothing was moving.  We got a text that Melissa and Paul were at the staging area because their bus driver took some amazing back way to the start.  I was having flashbacks to five years before.  But then we just continued to sit…and sit…and we’d creep…and sit…and creep and sit…

I was internally freaking out.  I kept checking my watch…because on Marathon morning, I have a food regimen and schedule that I stick to.  At 4:45 am…I was still not moving and I was forced to eat my Lara Bites.  At 5 am…still not moving…the banana had to go down.  And then…at 5:10 am…I drank down my pre-workout drink full of electrolytes.  We inched forward.  Turns out…a bus had broken down in the bus lane and we were stuck behind it. Two cop cars breezed by.  A few minutes later…we were past it and moving again.

 We arrived at the bus drop-off point at about 5:20 am.  If you have done any previous Run Disney races at Walt Disney World, you know for the half and full marathons, you have a 1.5 mile trek to the starting corrals.  And I had 10 minutes to get there…and I still had to go through security/bag check.  I didn’t have a bag, so I could walk on through.  Cathy did have a bag so she had to get that checked.  She gave me a quick hug, handing me a pack of hand warmers, saying Melissa and Paul were going to try to wait to make the long walk with me…and she needed some hand warmers.  I hurried through, sprinting, keeping an eye out for a Dopey and Grumpy lingering on the side.  I could already hear the National Anthem being sung.  My mylar blanket was flapping in the wind as I dodged and dashed through the crowds of people also making their way to the start.  I could hear Mickey Mouse talking as I rounded the first corner giving a count down.  I was sprinting as fast as I could, but soon, the fireworks were being shot and off went Corral A.

“AND…there goes my corral!” I said, tossing my hands up in defeat.  They were doing wave starts this year, so I continued to dash, hitting the grassy patches and hurrying toward the front of the pack. I had to lift my big fleece jacket I had brought as my toss-away to get to my bib and managed to duck into the corral that was the end of B or beginning of C.  The announcers weren’t sure.  I was shedding my fleece pants and top, already warm now from the sprint…and my heart rate was up and I was just stressed and not zen.  But then the fireworks went off and we started across the start line on the chilly Florida morning.

Starting in a further back corral is not a good thing at Disney.  This often makes for a lot of weaving in and out of people for at least the first mile…if not more.  It was within my first mile, however, that I passed Jeff Galloway.  I fan girled.  As I had my watch set for 4 minutes running 30 seconds walking intervals, I’ve embraced the Galloway method as of late to keep this body uninjured during longer runs.  That was a quick boost as the first 4 miles of the full marathon are definitely all highway miles.  The course narrows at times and at one point, as I was making my way through crowds, I saw a guy hop off the course to claim some gloves that had been shed.

“Treasure!” Someone said to him.  I heard someone else ask him if he was a scavenger and he said, “NO…it’s just cold!”  And that was that.  I continued to maneuver through the crowds, waiting for the course to open up more so I could settle in.

That being said, my watch was beeping at me every 4 minutes to take a short walk break.  I would toss up my hand and shout, “WALKING” so no one would run me over.  I had no goals for this race other than to hit the finish line.  I had done as much training with some practice “Dopey” runs of 4 progressively longer runs in a row, always using the run/walk method for the longer runs.  It works.  Seriously.  It got me this far, right?  Here I was…doing the last run of the Dopey Challenge…hitting the halfway point of the mileage about 2 miles into the marathon.  Whew.

The first four miles of highway are never eventful.  Construction.  Speed bumps.  Course narrowing.  And the hill leading up to the parking lot of Magic Kingdom.  You come into Magic Kingdom at Mile 5…and, as always, this is my favorite part of any Disney race.  Nothing boosts your motivation than all the cheering people lining Main Street inside.  It was phenomenal.  I always wish this part came later in the race because it does really lift you.  You just want to run faster because all these people are screaming for you!

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Magic Kingdom Main Street Marathon Morning

I felt so energized as I ran the stretch and made the turn into Tomorrowland.  My favorite part of the race is always where I run through the castle.  I made the curves through Tomorrowland and around through Fantasyland.  And then…the run through the castle.  It’s all shouts and screaming and flash bulbs.  And I love every moment of it.  I come down the path and turn into Adventureland to exit the park at Mile 6.

What I didn’t know is that Cathy was going to catch me at Mile 7 outside the Grand Floridian.  After she discovered that she couldn’t get back to the resort, she hopped the monorail and realized that she wouldn’t be able to catch me inside the Magic Kingdom.  But she could catch me at Mile 7.  Despite having very little voice left, I heard her shouting at me as I ran past.  It was awesome.  I gave a wave and continued on.   I was just glad I was on a running segment at that point and not a walk.  HA!  She left after that and managed to get to Magic Kingdom to see Melissa and Paul go through on Main Street.  She’s awesome like that.

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Cathy managed to be at Mile 7 as I ran by!  It was AWESOME!

Miles 7-12 are pretty much highway miles.  Disney does it’s job with music (each mile marker is a movie that blares the them song), characters, scenery stops, and DJs/announcers just to keep it interesting.  I knew what laid ahead was Animal Kingdom and you get to spend about 2 miles inside that park.  I love Animal Kingdom because the surface is small hills that really wake up your legs.  I never strayed from my run/walk breaks, keeping them going throughout all the miles.  To change it up could have meant disaster.  There is a switchback turn around at Mile 11…and I took it and moved toward the side of the road knowing a walk break would be coming.  But my foot slid off the side of the road where it dipped away and I twisted my ankle.  I stumbled.  Came up.  Took a few precautionary steps…and then carried on.  No sharp pains or discomfort…I could do this.  Up ahead…Animal Kingdom.

I came into Animal Kingdom and always look forward to running past The Tree of Life.  It’s amazing.  It is beautiful.  I love the Animal Kingdom Park.  I normally fuel around this mile, but I refuse to do so inside the park because I don’t want to drop anything that might endanger the animals.  I did take a slug of my Nuun Performance and carried myself through Africa, Asia, and Dinoland.  The cast members in the park are amazing and just cheer and support you as you run though.  You exit the park through the main entrance and settle into about 3 miles of highway miles.  Lots of traffic cones line the way making my walk breaks a little difficult, but I maintained them and stuck with it.  That being said, everything started to feel very hard around Mile 16.  Maybe it was the long stretch of nothing…or the reality that up next was the 2 miles that feels like 20 inside the ESPN Wide World of Sports Center (too many turns…too many different surfaces)…but I did manage to pick it back up as I came into ESPN.  That didn’t last too long.  My legs just felt heavy.  Mile 18…so I took one of my Hammer Nutrition gel to hopefully wake up my body. I should have done it sooner, but after coming out of Animal Kingdom…I wasn’t even thinking about it anymore.  Lesson learned.

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Melissa and Paul running down Main Street in Magic Kingdom.  They were too fast for Cathy’s camera skills!

Here’s what I hate about ESPN.  Around Mile 18.5, you have to step up and enter the track.  So, softer surface which is a nice relief, but you’re now running the curve of a track.  And you aren’t there for too long.  You pop out at the final turn and are sent around the baseball fields.  You wind your way through Mile 19 enter the ball field just before Mile 20.  They announce your name here, which is a booster, but you’re tired from now running on baseball gravel/dirt and you’re just pressing through.  You come out of the baseball field.  After that, you duck out and are on the pathway through the parking lots and back out to the main road.  There was a large puddle there at the end, so I managed to get my legs to step up on the curb and back down to avoid it and continued on.  It was just before Mile 21 that the 3:45 pace group passed me.  They were doing 3 min run/30 sec walk breaks.  My legs just felt heavy and I started to feel a blister on one of my toes on my left foot.  That sensation lasted for about a mile…then it popped because that burning feeling went away and I could run a little more comfortably again.  But my pace was down.  I grabbed another Hammer Nutrition gel and pounded it in hopes it could get me to the finish.

Hollywood Studios was just after Mile 23 and then you know you could walk it in and be fine.  If you make it to Hollywood Studios, you’re golden.  I started to take a few extra walk breaks on hills that my legs protested on.  I was okay with it.  I wasn’t aiming for a specific time.  Just to hit that finish line.  If it beeped for me to walk…I’d continue the walk.  Then I’d pick it back up on the run for the next part.  You come back to life inside Hollywood Studios.  The rolling terrain that leads you through the park and out to the boardwalk.  People are out there cheering and it’s really hard, but you keep pushing through.  That’s how I felt.  At Mile 25, you enter Epcot’s World Showcase.  This is the longest trip around the world ever.  But on your way around, you can keep your eye on Spaceship Earth and press on.  You take the turn out to run toward Spaceship Earth and you feel new life in your legs.  Around the corner and there is the gospel choir.  I don’t remember what they were singing.  I rounded the corner and came made the final turn into the straight away to the finish line.  I pressed a bit more at the sight of the finish.  I had kept my watch on the intervals, so I didn’t know my distance or pace.  I didn’t care.  I was about to finish a marathon.  I threw my hands up in the air as I ran across the finish line and then immediately started to ugly cry.

I spotted Cathy in the stands and she signaled that I had killed it.  She had no voice.  I moved to get my medal and started to ugly cry again.  And as I went to get my Dopey and Goofy medals, I was also handed commemorative Mickey Mouse ears.  I cried again.  I composed myself to get my medals and make the walk to get the photos taken before exiting through bag claim.  As I moved through, everyone started applauding.  And I cried again.  And Cathy saw me and gave me a hug and I cried harder.  I was an emotional mess.  I had never thought, with all my setbacks and hip injuries that persisted since 2015, that I would ever finish a marathon in a sub-4 time.

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Me after receiving my medal at the finish of the Walt Disney World Marathon.  Pure emotion!

But I had.  Rounding out a gorgeous and respectful 3:49:45.  A mere 10 minutes off my BQ time.  I was beyond elated.  Shocked.  And couldn’t stop crying.  My coach texted me telling me I was an inspiration for her BQ in March.  My friends messaged me over Instagram to congratulate me on the sub-4 I had been fighting for so long to achieve.

So, the final results of the Walt Disney World Marathon are that I finished in 3:49:45.  I was 849/20,025 finishers overall.  I was the 184/10,763 female finishers.  And I was 48/1848 people in my age division.  Beyond proud of myself.

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Me with the Dopey, Goofy, and Marathon medals after the Walt Disney World Marathon

Afterwards, I got on the bus to head back to the resort.  I was beyond sore, but managed to shuffle my way back to my room, up the stairs, and into a super hot shower.  I don’t do ice baths.  No shame.  Not my game.  I put my feet up for awhile and made myself down my protein shake.  It was, honestly, the last thing I wanted to do.  My stomach is always a mess after a marathon.  But recovery had to begin immediately.  After awhile, Cathy and I went to stroll down to Port Orleans French Quarter to get celebratory Gluten Free Beignets.  I was hoping the sugar would help settle my stomach.  It worked.  We got some for Melissa and Paul too.  I might have promised to have them at the finish line.  Afterwards, we hopped on the bus to go back to the finish line.  On the way there, Stephanie crossed the finish line.  We ended up getting stuck on this bus for longer than anticipated, and upon arriving, making the hike to security for bag check, and then heading toward the finish line, Melissa and Paul crossed.  JUST missed them.

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Grapes and Gluten Free Beignets

Cathy and I waited for them outside of their bag pick up and ran to go hug them when they came out.  Super proud of them.  Melissa’s foot got injured in the half, so she wasn’t even sure she’d be able to make it through the full.  She’s stubborn.  She did.  We went to get in line to have photos with Dopey, but were told the line was closed because Dopey needed to make it to a parade.  So, Cathy took pictures of Melissa and Paul on their phone with Dopey in the background.  We had Fast Passes at Epcot…so we let them head back to the resort with the Gluten Free Beignets that we picked up for them and went to head into the park.  I managed to make it through the rest of the day before meeting up with them again at Raglan Road in Disney Springs for our celebratory dinner.  Hello gluten free onion rings.

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Drinks and Gluten Free eats all around at Raglan Road to celebrate completing the Dopey Challenge!

The following day, Cathy managed to get through the character breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table before trying a few rides and tapping out.  Her sickness caught up with her.  So, I wandered around Magic Kingdom alone for awhile until I met with Melissa and Paul at Epcot for photos with the medals.  This also involved a monorail fail making it take even longer.  But we eventually got it all taken care of.  And after snagging Avocado Margaritas in Mexico, I called to check on Cathy and she said she’d grab some soup and meet us at Magic Kingdom.  She was moving slowly, but she was out.  And we wrapped up the day in Magic Kingdom with food, fireworks, and friends.  And that…was what this trip and adventure was all about.

A group I’m in figured up all the finish places for those who competed in the Dopey Challenge.  I was 210/7468 overall Dopey finishers.  I was 29th female finisher.  And I was 9th in my age division.  And I’m tired.  And sore.

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Me, Melissa and Paul….all Dopey Challenge finishers!

And currently fighting off the Disney crud.  Being sick prior to the races and coming back sick has not allowed me proper celebrations.  But it’s going to happen.

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This was the perfect way to spend the last day at Disney…with good friends creating good memories…after doing amazing things!  Thank you, Melissa & Paul!

 

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Fast Freddie’s Festive Five Mile Foot Feast – New Albany, IN (November 23, 2017)

Me heading into the finish line of Fast Freddie’s – New Albany, IN

Race: Fast Freddie’s Festive Five Mile Foot Feast

Place: New Albany, IN

Date: November 23, 2017

Time: 36:36

Magic happens when you let it.

As we are all pretty much aware by now…my body has taken a liking to falling apart on me as any sort of mileage or speed ramps up.  It never fails.

Ever.

So, after my last round of physical therapy had to be cut very short due to insurance not wanting to cover it (because, hell, I could walk around…I don’t HAVE to run, right?…seriously, that is a can of worms I need to keep the lid on because it makes me mad any time I am reminded of it), my physical therapist recommended that I start using a run/walk method.  So, for awhile I started by walking…and running through song choruses.  I hate listening to music when I run, but I wasn’t going far at all.  Then I decided to try 9 minutes of running with 1 minute of walking.  EH…I wasn’t such a fan.  Then, I decided to hit up Jeff Galloway’s site and his recommendation for my pace was a 4 minute run with a 30 second walk.  I tried that…and felt that it worked.  Even my training partners have been gracious to do this style with me.

That being said, my runs have been built on a run/walk process.  There were a few mornings, I ran short mileage without the walk breaks…but for the most part, I’ve been doing this run/walk method to keep my hips from breaking down before January strikes.

This will be more difficult to do as the weather gets colder…but I’ll save the weather rant for another blog.

Needless to say, in the days leading up to my traditional Thanksgiving race, I had no expectations for pace at all.  My parents were going to be in town for Thanksgiving and my intention was simply to go out and just finish.  If I needed walk breaks, especially on the hills, I had permission to take them.  After all, January is the prize I am seeking.  A local “turkey-trot”…not so much!

I was running long on weekends by myself for a few runs, which was fine.  I normally run in Louisville, but when I have no one to meet up with…I simply stay here and run my local area…which includes…always…the Fast Freddie route.  In the long run (heh…running pun), I think doing this helped me tremendously on race day.  I ran it at least 4 times prior to race day in some combination of my long distance runs.  So that was helpful…especially since my body is anti-hill for the most part.

The night before the race, I went over to the 4-H Fairgrounds across the street from my apartment to pick up my t-shirt and bib.  That was simple, and my parents got to walk over with me before we headed out for dinner at Dragon King’s Daughter.  Sushi.  Vegan sushi was happening!  YUM!  I usually do pizza the night before, but I also didn’t want to go over to Louisville for gluten-free pizza that could be iffy on the gluten-free-ness.  So…I branched out.  After all…no expectations meant that I could stray from my routine a little and not fret over it.  After dinner, we returned home and my mom and I prepped a few dishes for Thanksgiving before we settled in for the night.  I checked the weather (it was going to be effin’ cold) one last time and went to grab some leggings and a lined top to run in.  I asked my dad to choose a color for my compression sleeves, and he said “black and blue?”  So…I had both colors so I grabbed one of each.  HAHAHA!!  Why not?  With that taken care of, we settled in for the night.  I went to crash on the couch and set an alarm to give me time to wake up and get some more stuff prepped (the turkey had to go into the crock pot) and stretch prior to the race.

Angela, Michelle, and Me before the Fast Freddie Festive Five Mile Foot Feast

Morning came and I started drinking water, ate a light breakfast, and got my stretches in.  My mom emerged to help me with stuff in the kitchen and we got the onions, apples and bbq sauce into the crock pot with the turkey.

My dearest friends, Michelle and Angela, were coming over before the race.  I offer all my friends my warm apartment on Fast Freddie morning.  And Angela was bringing Persimmon Pudding (gluten free & dairy free) with her as well.  YAY!!  And…YUM!!  We had enough time for photos and some talking before heading out to the start line.  There was a new backdrop for the race, so we took full advantage of that.  I may have worn my unicorn hoodie over there.  If I didn’t care about it getting sweaty, I might have considered racing in it.  But I bet it’s a pain to wash.  And it’s white. So…yeah.

As people started congregating on Green Valley Rd, I knew that the race was getting close to start time.  I always try to start up close on this race.  It is now timed, but still based on gun time.  So, starting close to the start line gives me a more accurate finish time.  Michelle and Angela started up with me and so did a random guy with a stroller who was teasing some kids by saying, “You need to run fast.  You don’t want the old guy with a stroller to pass you.  That would be embarrassing.”  I don’t know about the kids, but he passed me at the start and I never saw him again.

I have a unicorn hoodie. Your argument is invalid.

Fast Freddie’s Festive Five Mile Foot Feast starts promptly at 9 am.  Fred came out to give the usual information about the start.  He always lets us know that his cue to runners is “get ready” and then the whistle.  And…as always…that’s what he did.  And at the whistle blow…we were off.

I saw Cathy with my sign and my dad ringing a cowbell and my mom with this clappy-noise-maker thing and it made me smile.  I settled into a comfortable pace and just let it ride.  No goals means no pressure.  And I often perform better when I’m not bogged down with a set time goal or pace.  Some people perform better with those.  I don’t.  I panic.  I’m not your typical runner, you know.

The past two years have seen me with hips that basically want to fall apart.  My right hip labrum remains torn, but I’ve worked around it and it rarely bothers me.  Sometimes when it’s cold outside…but it isn’t often anymore.  My left hip fell apart twice this year.  Once in January and again in July. MEH.  Physical therapy was life for awhile, but I was able to get back to running once we got the hip flexors and core to work together.  All that said, with the hip problems…the hills I run at times are slow and sometimes bring me to a walk.  No shame.  I’m trying to not have this problem in the future and I’ll do whatever it takes to get this body healthy and race-ready again.

Today…despite it being 30 degrees outside, not counting the wind chill…I felt GOOD!  And I ran without feeling out of breath or like I was running too fast at the start down Green Valley road and over the first small hill.  No struggle.  I was loving it.  I was smiling too!  The first turn happens just before the first mile marker and taking the turn at the light at the end of the road didn’t even phase me.  I didn’t look at the clock at the marker, I just kept going.  I still felt good.  I didn’t feel out of breath.  I was enjoying this.  Easy!

Mt. Tabor Road is a series of rolling ups and downs.  By now, the body is warmed up and I can take these in stride, for sure.  Since I had run this a few times leading into the race, I handled these better than I anticipated. My biggest complaint heading into Mile 2 was the group (probably cross-country runners) that came up behind me and got right in front of me, spreading across the ENTIRE street making it virtually impossible to pass.  And that sucked when I hit one of my downhills that I rely on to let me make up for some of the slow downs on the hills. UGH!.  We turned onto Grant Line road and hit Mile 2.  After this mile marker, I hopped up on the sidewalk just to get past the fanned out amoeba group and got back on the road as I barely cleared them.

But now we were heading to the part of the race that I think is the most difficult.  I took the turn into Sam Peden Community Park, which takes us to Mile 3, and immediately get to take on the long hill.  This hill isn’t steep, but it goes on for awhile.  So, it really is a climb.  Long and drawn out…not short and steep.  MEH. It’s about a half mile of climbing before it levels out at the Mile 3 marker.  I didn’t actually slow too much on this, which was surprising.  But I did ease up on pace and focused on my form.  When it leveled out, I could feel my pace pick up and I still felt good.  This never really was feeling hard.  I love running comfortably.  I rounded the corner and started to make my way out of the park and take on the rolling and steeper hills of Schell Lane.

I used to dread Schell Lane.  It is the hilliest part of the race.  The difference is these hills are shorter but steeper.  While I lose power on the uphills, we have nice downhills on the other side.  LOVE those down hills.  There were people out in the neighborhood blaring music and cheering, even in the bitter cold.  This is one of my favorite parts of the race to be honest.  I plowed up the last (and hardest) hill and was rewarded with the best downhill ever…all the way down Daisy Lane.  I made the turn, and pushed my pace on that downhill without trying.  Gravity is a wonderful thing.  Anytime I run this route, this is my favorite part.  I feel fast and free.  Always.  Four miles…done.

It was here that I caught a glimpse of the clock.  29 minutes and some seconds.  I did the math and knew that if I could keep a 7-something pace, I could come in faster than last year’s 37 minutes.  I thought I was picking up my pace to run in the last mile…but I wasn’t really.  HA!!  It sure did feel that way in my head.

Me heading into the finish line of the Fast Freddie Festive Five Mile Foot Feast

As we move past the marker for half a mile to go, you start to get people out walking their dogs, or who are waiting on friends/family to finish.  The real crowd is right near the finish and I was almost there.  There were some people who had finished and were already cheering everyone in.  I made the turn to run it into the finish and could hear Cathy screaming and my dad just ringing that cowbell.  I crossed the finish line and saw the clock said 36 minutes and seconds after it.  I came closer to last year’s goal time without trying.  Last year I tried and came up a minute short.  I knew my fastest Fast Freddie was back in 2013, when I ran it for a little girl with brain cancer…and that was in 36:54.

I went around the back of the building and grabbed a bottle of water and continued on to meet my parents and Cathy.  When Cathy met me she said, “You were like…36:36!”  And I said, “What was my PR on this race?”  When she looked it up it became clear…I had a new 5 mile PR.  And I did it without trying.  In fact, I was so chill that my heart rate stayed down for most of the race.  No joke.  I was in the green zone more than anything.  How’s that for some good running?

Santa and me after the Fast Freddie Festive Five Mile Foot Feast

She went to get me delicious coffee and I went to line the road with my parents to wait for and cheer in Michelle, Angela, and Melissa and Paul (who were late getting to the race so I didn’t see them before the start).  I had coffee in hand when Michelle and Angela came booking it into the finish line.  They ran a very good 5 miles.  And after they finished, they came to help cheer in Melissa and Paul as well.

As they were coming in…I held out my hand and yelled, “HIGH FIVE ME!”  They are very compliant and did just that before they took their turn to run it in.

Whenever possible, we like to stay for the awards.  And it turns out that my time (faster than last year when I placed first in my AG)…was good enough for third in my age group.  And the award this year wasn’t another coffee cup.  It was a free race entry.  WOOT!!  LOVE IT!!  I also love that I have great friends who cheer when my name gets called.

Overall, what can I say?  I ran smart.  I ran well.  I ran fast.  And I did it all without trying or feeling like I was pushing myself hard.  And this just all fell into place for me on Thanksgiving.  It was nice to grab a PR this year…even if it took me to the LAST race of the season.  Winning.  Hey…when you’re injured for 2 years off and on…these are the victories that count the most.

Victory pose…and a new PR on the course!

After the awards, we hugged Melissa and Paul and wished them a Happy Thanksgiving, before walking with Angela and Michelle back to the apartment.  I devoured a slice of Persimmon Pudding and got to just hang for a few before they went on to get their Thanksgiving celebrations ready.

I had my amazing friend, Laura, joining us for Thanksgiving, so I went to shower and then finish up with the side dishes while Cathy checked, shredded, and made sure the turkey was ready for the carnivores.  Me…I was looking forward to Brussels Sprouts, Gluten-Free/Vegan Stuffing, Gluten-Free/Vegan Mac & Cheese and…mostly…Laura’s Mashed Cauliflower.  Holy yum!!

The official results of this year’s Fast Freddie Festive Five Mile Foot Feast was that I finished with an official time of 36:36…a new PR by 18 seconds.  WOOHOO!!  Still thrilled with how this race went this year.  I love suprising myself after a disappointing year.  I was 93/794 finishers this year.  I was the 26th female to cross the finish line.  And I was 3rd in my age division. And…I feel like the sub-36 minute might be in my yet.  I guess we’ll have to wait and see!

Like I said…magic happens when you let it.

BELIEVE!

Louisville Half Marathon – Louisville, KY (November 12, 2017)

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Me heading to the finish line of the Louisville Half Marathon – Louisville, KY

Race: Louisville Half Marathon

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: November 12, 2017

Time: 1:44:09
Training has kicked in for sure this week for my January races.  And these days, I’m slowing down my speeds on races and weaving more runs together.  This is imperative.  And I have to be smart about speeds at distances because I am just DONE with the whole hip/body falling apart JUST before races.  Usually just prior to taper, so when the mileage is super high.

So…that is what went down with this race.  I know…I just ran a half marathon last weekend (the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon), which I finally blogged about yesterday!  WOO!  See, I’m getting this done early.  Good for me! *pats self on back*

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that this week I took two full days off in the middle of the week (Tues & Wed), and then had short runs through to the weekend.  Yesterday, I ran half of my distance by myself and then met up with some amazing ladies to do the Thanksgiving course with them (they have never run it) to finish up the rest of my distance.  Damn, I love running with people.  Maybe that’s why I love racing so much.

Today I was supposed to run/walk this half marathon (which I signed up for last week, no joke) as part of my training, with my training partner, Matthew.  But he had some family come through unexpectedly and texted me last night to let me know.  It was just me today and I had to decide on my run plan.  Since I really took it easy yesterday, I made an agreement with myself to walk the hills and water stops at this race instead of doing the 4 minutes running/30 seconds walking I was originally going to do.  Since this is held in The Parklands, I knew there would be hills.  BIG hills at times.  SO…this was a good compromise with myself now that I had no one to reign me in with standard 4/30 intervals for a run/walk.

Packet pick-up was a MESS!  Seriously.  It was held at our local Fleet Feet in Louisville, but, the new location has very limited parking spots and the race organizers were setting packet pickup for 5 hours only…on Saturday.  Whew.  So, I arrived when the store opened and was told I needed to come back at 1 pm.  *sigh* There was also race day packet pick-up, but I like being able to pin up and be ready on race day and not have to get there even earlier and concern myself with more lines and people and waiting.  Especially when the weather is cold.

It was 20 degrees warmer than my 10 mile run yesterday…but it didn’t feel like it.  HA!

Anyway…I went back at 1 pm. and got my bib and my shirt.  It was a madhouse.  I signed a waiver thingy…had to go up and tell people my bib number.  There was nothing on it with my name, so then I started to second-guess myself on that.  MEH!  I double checked on my phone and I did have the correct bib.  I just hate not having the security of my name being on the big itself…somewhere.

I spent the rest of the day grocery shopping and making homemade nut butter.  I do that.  HA!  OH…and I swung by Annie May’s Sweet Cafe to place my Thanksgiving order and buy something to eat post-race (the pumpkin coffee cake was the winning selection!).  Sorry, race organizers…I can’t have your Derby Pie at the finish, or beer, or granola bars.  I mean…what race doesn’t have bananas??!!  So…that happened.  I made sure I recovered well from my 10 miles that day so I would be good to go for 13.1.  This meant, I did finally get in some stretching.  And then, my feet were up and I was on the couch, watching the new Spider-Man: Homecoming on blu-ray.  Thanks, Redbox!!

Went to bed later than anticipated (I was up at 3:30 am to do my Saturday run and now I was going to have to do the same to get to the shuttle area and to the start without being too crunched for time)…but slept pretty well.  I was probably just overly tired because I was fussing about the time my roommate was going to get up so she could eat breakfast and get ready without feeling rushed.  And she is the worst about getting to races for parking.  We were parking at Papa John’s headquarters and being shuttled and she still was stressing over that. But not as much as parking in a muddy field.

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I chose my outfit today because I wanted to wear my Pink Argyle Pro Compression socks, LOL!  Good morning!

We were out the door in time to not be stressed for sure.  I had my pre-workout mix with me and a Pamela’s Products Gluten Free Big Fig Bar to eat before the race.  That was new for pre-race.  But as I wasn’t running this race for time…I figured…why not try something new. I had the Pamela’s Products Gluten Free Matcha Happiness Ambition Bar before Monumental and that was new too!  Whatever!  I needed something to start off my race with some fuel in the tank.  And I, myself, failed on the banana front for the second race day in a row.  I think it’s time to get back into the banana habit.

I took a short power nap on the way to the shuttle buses and happily toted my blanket from the car with me to the bus and the race start.  It was chilly, and while I was wearing my longer compression shorts, I knew I was going to be cold. I am ALWAYS cold.  Getting on a bus to the start line was super easy.  The return trip…is going to come at the end of this post.  Wait for it!  It might be in the form of a rant.

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The blanket that kept me warm-ish prior to the race.

But I’m getting ahead of myself!  GAH!  So much running around in my head.

Okay…the announcer at the start/finish line was actually really perky and excitable.  But he did keep using the same jokes over and over again.  It was definitely too cold for the runners to be all excited at the start line, and he kept trying to get us to shout.  At one point, I let out a loud “WOOOO!” and he said, “ONE PERSON…ONE PERSON IS EXCIED.”  HAHA!  Honestly, I was miserable because I had to give up my hoodie and really didn’t want to.  But, we all started to crowd into the start corrals, which had tiny little areas for paces.  No one really wanted to go up front…but there were some who honestly did belong to be up there and proudly went up to take their spots.  There were also some overly-ambitious sorts too.  HAHA!  But I took up my spot around the 9 min milers at first and then was shuttled forward as the race neared the start time.  They played the national anthem (we had NO flag in sight), and then…with a countdown from 10…we were off.

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Cathy trying to get me to give up my hoodie and me resisting…and saying, “I’ve been lifting weights, I’m STRONG now!”

Now…I knew how tough the first 2 miles of this race would be because it was the same route as the Great Pumpkin 10K.  I knew there would be ONE SUPER BIG HILL within the first 2 miles.  I left the start area feeling good and loving not having any sort of time goal for this run.  I just wanted to run it smart and get to the finish line.  The first hill I ran up, but knew that the next one would be done at a walk because it would be STEEP!  Totally didn’t care that I tossed up a hand to indicate my intention to walk and went up the hill that way.  Of course, after doing that, it was difficult to get back into my stride…but I fell back into eventually.  The first water stop, I didn’t walk.  I had just finished climbing an evil hill.  MEH.  I kept going.  Just before Mile 3, the turn-around for the 10K was happening.  Most of the people ahead of me were turning around, but I was continuing on straight.  This did open up the course a lot more, which was nice.  I crossed over the timing pad for the 5K at 23:42.  I can’t complain with that.  I walked a monster hill, which also meant I conserved a bit of energy for the rest of the race as well.  Miles 3 through the turn-around point were pretty much a steady downhill, with a few small inclines thrown in.  Mile 4 was Pope Lick Park where I train a lot with my training partner, so I loved being familiar with the twists, turns, and terrain there.  The hills aren’t bad through there and I figured out exactly where we would be turning around.

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Me cruising out of the start line at the Louisville Marathon/Half Marathon/10K – Louisville, KY

There was a water stop at Mile 4, but one of the pace groups was right behind me so I had to wait for them to pass before tossing up my hand to alert anyone else of my walk break.  I took in some water and a bit of my Nuun Performance, then picked it back up again.  The turn around was tight, but manageable.  I hate hairpin turns in races, but when you are running an out-and-back race…it’s going to happen.

After turning around, the fun began.  I actually caught up to a woman I had been talking to at the start of the race.  We were just started talking and she mentioned she was from Minnesota.  I told her that I was born in Minnesota.  She asked where, and I told her Bloomington.  Turns out she was a teacher in Bloomington for 34 years.  I never went to school in Minnesota though…we moved to New York before I turned 4.  But that was really cool.  Her racing season is usually over by now and she goes into cross country skiing (how Minnesotan…my Grandpa did the same thing when he was a runner), but she came down for this one.  That’s pretty cool.  I was set for some fuel, so I let her go on ahead and I fell back to take in more Nuun Performance. Short break…back to it.

Out and backs are awesome because I can see friends of mine on the course.  And I tried to say “HI” to as many as I could.  I saw Nikky, Katie, and a few others that I know through Instagram and smaller races.  And I got an amazing high five from my friend Melissa, who was pacing the 6 hour group for the marathon.  That was just what I needed.  I knew a crazy bunch of hill climbing was coming.  And that basically started around Mile 9 and lasted through around just before Mile 11.  BIG shout-out to my friend Kathryn who cheered for me when I came through the race initially and then on my way back through.  It was fantastic to get the shout-out on the course. Really lifts you up.

I was actually concerned as I was coming back as the mile markers were a little off from my watch beeps, but as I started down the steep hill that I had walked up near the start of the race, my Mile 11 beep came just as I passed the sign.  All was right in the distance world.  With 2 miles left, I just did what I could to get there.  My legs were tired, sure.  Even walking hills takes a lot out of you.  Just not as much.  I started to catch up to people, which was nice.  And as Mile 12 ticked by, I was ready to get to that finish line.  There was one last hill to go up before making the turn to round out to the finish line.  I decided not to walk it, but my pace slowed.  This nice man in front of me, who had commented about me not liking hills when I was walking the bigger ones between miles 9 and 11 (and I explained I was coming back from injury and just not going to blow it all on a hill), waved at me and said, “Come on!  We got this.  Let’s do this one together.”  It was just what I needed.  Up and over and down.  From there…it was just a matter of making the turn and taking the road around to that finish chute.

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Me having to, literally, squeak past the couple finishing their 10K walk while holding hands.

Some of the 10K walkers were still coming in at this point, and there was a couple right at the finish line as I was running in.  They were holding hands and pretty much taking up the entire finish area.  I squeezed past, which was fine, but it also meant they blocked the finisher photo that Cathy was trying to take.

I ran into Paul and Michelle (I met Paul through the KDF Ambassador Team last year and Michelle is gluten-free like me) just after finishing.  Results weren’t posted yet for the half, so we were just sort of hanging out.  Cathy was checking the phone for finishing results and told me that I had “unofficially” placed in my age division.  Heck yeah!  So did Paul, for that matter!!  It was cold, so I pulled my blanket out of the backpack Cathy had and wrapped it around me.  It wasn’t enough. I was sweaty and the wind had picked up.  No Mylar blankets at the finish…no banana…meh.  I was over it.

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Finisher of the Louisville Half Marathon!

The official results finally were posted, and officially both Paul and I placed.  YAY!  But now we had to wait for the official results to be given to the age group award holders…which involved a lot more waiting. I was cold and hungry now.  But…I’m glad I waited.  Once I saw the papers handed off, I went right up there and…yep…there I was.  Number 3 in my age division.  BOOM!

Paul and I both obtained our age group awards and we went to take some photos.  Afterwards, we parted ways.  They were heading back to their car and I was on my way to meet the shuttle bus.  We were told by people there that the shuttles were picking up at the dog walk park. So, we hiked that way.  There were people standing there, so we joined in, after double-checking with the kid who was the volunteer there to be sure we were in the right spot.  He said the buses had just left and would be back soon.  After 10 minutes, a bus came into view.  Full.  And kept driving.  And then, another 10 minutes later, the same thing happened.  One of the ladies who had been standing there before then, flagged down that bus driver and asked about where the buses were picking up people.  He said they were told to go to the finish area.

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Me with my finisher’s medal and my age group award medal at the Louisville Half Marathon – Louisville, KY

Now we were all pissed as we were told to come here and had been freezing waiting on a bus.  He called back to the finish and said a bus was coming for us.  Thank God.  After a total of about 30 minutes, we were on a warm bus and making our way back to Papa John’s headquarters and the car.

I was extremely tired and hungry.  The plan had been to go home and do breakfast, but the whole return to the car took longer than expected. It was almost 11:30…so Cathy decided we would go back to North End Cafe today and have brunch. Good call. We had a 30 minute wait, but we already knew what we were ordering.  Coffee…and the potato melt (minus the cheese and sour cream for me).  Food and coffee hit the table and then were used as recovery as we both devoured our food.  Coffee…they gave us some to go on our way out if that tells you anything.  HA!

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Unexpected breakfast at North End Cafe with protein, carbs, and COFFEE!!

So…the official results of the Louisville Half Marathon are that I finished in 1:44:09…walking the steep hills and the water stops.  Hell yeah!  I was 59/749 finishers overall.  I was the 12/420 female finishers.  And I was 3/76 in my age division.  Once again, taking smart and planned walk breaks.  It’s all about staying injury free right now.  I’ll focus on time again when this body is really ready and fit to race.

For a first-year race…not bad.  But they really need to work a bit on the after-race situation with shuttles, when shuttle use is being encouraged.  Having runners stand out in the cold that long after a run is not good for anyone involved.  Especially runners.  Hypothermia is real, friends.  Thankfully, it all worked out in the end.  Also, I would like bib’s to have some sort of deciphering quality as to which race is being run.  There was a mass start for a 10K, Half Marathon, and Marathon this morning and no real way to tell who was running which race.  ALSO…I wish the medals were different.  The finisher’s medal was for all three races, with no separate ones for the 10K, Half and Full.  Which…I guess saves money, but having one for your distance is way nicer.

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Me with Paul & Michelle at the finish line!

Barnyard Dash 10K – Louisville, KY (June 3, 2017)

These are the people that feed my soul…Matthew, Me, Melissa, and Paul

Race: Barnyard Dash 10K

Place: Joe Huber’s Family Farm & Restaurant, Starlight, Indiana

Date: June 3, 2017

Time: 48:48*

There is something happening this year…something with race distance.  Very few
of them have actually been correct this year.  For real.  My two 5Ks this year have both been short (Throo the Zoo was 2.98 miles and the Anthem (sorry, friends…a short course does not a PR make) was 2.96 miles), but my 10Ks have all been measured properly.

Until now.

Because the Barnyard Dash 10K…was just slightly short.  Slightly.  As in I crossed the finish line at 6.14 miles.  So, closer to the actual distance than the 5Ks this year…but not an exact measure.  For the third time in my local racing this year.

It is frustrating.  Although I’m giving it a pass this time around because I’m about to let you in on a little secret…

I registered.  I wore a bib.  I toed the line with everyone else.  I ran the course.  I battled the heat.  I hit the hills.  I walked two water stops (yep…I did!)…because while this was a race, I had a longer run on the table and I needed to conserve my energy for that.  So, yes…I ran the Barnyard Dash 10K, but I wasn’t doing it to set any new PR or place in my age division.  I was doing it to break up mileage and enjoy some of it with a group of people on a (mostly) closed course.

Disclaimer…done.

I love helping my friends…which is why I am completely serious when I say that I will run with anyone.  I can back off my pace anytime if it means company for the haul.  And, with the myriad of injuries I’ve had the past two years…and those that still linger every now and again…backing off my pace while training is not just something I say I’m going to do…I actually do it.

THIS GIRL!! Melissa and I before the Barnyard Dash 10K – Starlight, IN

My friend, Matthew, was needing a 19 miler this particular Saturday.  We decided to meet at Huber’s early so we could get a couple in before the race…then run (not race) the 10K…and then finish off the remaining miles after the race.  It was going to get warm pretty fast that day, so if we could do some before the 8 am race start, we were going to do so.  We managed to get in 2 miles before the race as we both had to go get our bibs and timing chips to tie onto our shoes.  The morning temps were humid, but I was still chilled (my body temps are always so weird), so I decided against just doing the bra top (in addition to my own dislike of how my core and body currently look) due to the fact that I was still cold.  But that didn’t last long.  Nope.  Not at all.

Matthew, Howard, Dennis and Me at the start line of the Barnyard Dash 10K

I ran to use the (flushing) bathrooms just prior to the race.  There was a line.  Of course.  So, I stood in it patiently, listening to the announcer give the minutes that remained before the race.  As I moved up in line, I spotted Melissa at the hand towels and gave her a wave.  She said she’ d catch me outside.  And that happened…because Cathy waved her down and had her stand there.  HA!  We took a picture and then made the trek to the start line together.  Matthew had already lined up…so I gave Melissa a hug, wished her luck, and went to go find Matt.  We had both decided to “jog” this race and were going to pretty much stick together.  He waved me down, having lined up with our friend Dennis (Mister Fly & Die himself!), who said that he was just going to “jog ” this one as well.  So…we set off.  Dennis pulled ahead immediately, and Matt and I settled into a comfortable pace that allowed him to point out landmarks, homes, and tell some great stories…as this was the area he grew up in.  Nothing like a running guided tour.  It was great.

This race can be really, really deceiving if you’ve never run it before.  I had not; however, Matthew has multiple times.  So, with the small rollers to start us off, within the first mile, you get this amazing downhill that lasts for a good portion of those first 2 miles.  But after that is where the challenge and difficulty really start to rear their ugly heads.

As many of us know…most downhills lead to uphills, and the one that we meet on St. John’s Road was no exception.  It is one of those hills that you think you can see the top, and then it just keeps going.  In this case, it turns a corner…onto Rake Road…and continues to climb.  You do eventually get a small downhill only to be sent back up a hill.  And the remaining 3 miles play out like that…rolling up and down.  And in the heat, those uphills seem even more brutal, let me tell you!

At the Mile 3 water stop, I gladly accepted a little mini bottle of water.  I cracked it while slowing my pace to an actual jog and took a drink.  The rest of it went straight over my head.  It felt amazing and, as it usually does, rejuvenated me.  Dennis was walking this water stop and I paused long enough to set the bottle down on the side of the road (we were beyond where people were picking up trash at that point and I didn’t want to just toss it aside never to be seen again) and Matthew and I started to pick it up again, just as Dennis did.  And we never quite got ahead of him there.  Between miles 3 and 4…I did get slightly ahead of Matthew.  My pace felt good though…so I let it hold for the time.

Me at Mile 4 of the Barnyard Dash 10K – Starlight, IN

Cathy had wandered down to the intersection near Mile 4, and was cheering and shouting for everyone.  I heard her tell Matt to hurry up and catch me.  I knew he was right behind me.  I was just taking my time…and feeling good.

The other water stop was at Mile 5…and I snagged another bottle of water to perform the same actions as with the first – crack it open and take a sip before pouring it over my head.  The only difference was…I stopped to walk this one this time.  Once the bottle was empty and I placed it in a box that a volunteer was holding, I picked it up again…and passed Dennis in the process.  I was only a mile from being done and still felt decent enough.  But this is where we hit the elusive Hill Road that I mention every time I run the Strawberry Festival (Run for the Berries 5K) race.  You know when the hill has a road named after it…it’s a freakin’ hill!

I was feeling the heat and humidity, but I still managed to power myself up the steep hill and breathed a sigh of relief as my legs found some level ground and had to rework how to run on it.  You know you’ve run hills when your legs get confused by flat road.  From there, it was just a matter of turning a corner and then bringing it home.

Me running it into the finish line of the Barnyard Dash 10K

The mileage almost caught up to itself.  But, I made the turn back into Huber’s Family Farm and immediately was greeted by the smell of fried food.  I almost threw up.  But I swallowed hard, attempted to breathe without breathing, and ran it in to the finish line!  Only a short distance behind me was Dennis and then Matthew.

We snagged some water and ducked in out of the sun for a moment.  There was an amazing spread of goods waiting for runners.  Mandarin oranges, strawberries, bagels (with either cream cheese or peanut butter), bananas…and the fountain machines were open to runners as well.  I snagged an orange and some strawberries, downed more water, and then went to use the bathroom.  Matthew and I still had miles to go before we could call it done.  Cathy passed me my fuel belt and went back out to cheer on Melissa and Paul.

Matthew and I decided to be those people who run the course backwards.  At least the last part of it.  Matthew, as I mentioned, grew up in Starlight, Indiana, and I was in for the tour of a lifetime.  We turned back onto Hill Road, and ran into Howard, Melissa, Paul and Terry.  All the peeps I didn’t get to see back at the finish line.  Cathy said she and Laura cheered in Melissa and Paul and that’s pretty damn awesome.

Cathy was invited to hang for the awards and Matthew and I did the rest of our run.  It was a humid day and we were on the hills of Starlight. There is no shoulder on these roads and a TON of blind curves.  So, we took our time for our safety and for training (you don’t do long runs at your race pace!) and had a lot of fun as we talked and I was given the stories and grand tour of the area.  The miles flew by.  And just as we rounded back into Huber’s Family Farm…the awards were just letting out.

Friends don’t let friends miss out on age group awards! Melissa picked mine up for me!

Apparently the guy who gives out the awards in quite the talker.  And, we spotted Dennis, Tammy, Dean, Howard and Terry, all with awards.  And Dennis mentioned that I had gotten one too.

That shocked me.  Because I wasn’t even trying in this one.  No expectations.  Nothing.  I came in 2nd in my age group.  I came in 10 minutes slower than the person who took first. That would be April Woo.  I’m  never winning my age group this year, LOL!

The award was this really cool mason jar mug.  Apparently, when I was announced, I was called up as, “Our very own Wonder Woman, Karen Brady!”  I love my running community.  They just know.  Even when I am not dressed as Wonder Woman…they know!  And I love that.  Cathy and Melissa shot up to go accept my award and informed them that I was out finishing up a good chunk of mileage…to which they said, “That sounds about right.”

After Matthew and I rounded out our mileage in the parking lot, Cathy and I joined Melissa and Paul at Huber’s Winery.  No wine, but I got a plain baked potato for lunch and downed a big chunk of water.  I also trained out of my sweaty running clothes so I almost felt human again.  HA!  Afterwards, we bought 2 gallons worth of local, fresh strawberries.  And that was just the start of the weekend.

2 mile warm up…10K…and 11 more miles…DONE! Just a fun run on a Saturday.

So…the official results of the Barnyard Dash 10K are that I finished in 48:48.,,in heat and on massive hills.  Without even putting effort into it.  I was only 8 seconds off of this year’s Rodes City Run (which I wasn’t racing either…but that’s mostly flat…so this is a win!)  There is something very relaxing and calming about running in a race without competing.  Seriously!  I was 56/181 finishers overall.  I was the 14/91 for women finishers.  And I was 2/14 in my age division.  This was totally unexpected.  I knew this race was brutal with the hills and heat (it’s usually either raining or hot, apparently)…but now I know just how much.  I was happy to round off the day with a little more in the tank to get the rest of the miles in.  I might revisit this one next year and race it for real.

Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon – Louisville, KY (April 29, 2017)

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Me heading into the finish line of the KDF miniMarathon – Louisville, Kentucky

Race: Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: April 29, 2017

Time: 1:43:12

This was it.  This was the terminus of my job as a 2016-2017 #KDFMarathon/miniMarathon Race Ambassador.  And it was race day.  RACE DAY!!  I love race day!

And, trust me, it took me a lot of sweat and tears to be able to get to that start line.  Because if you had asked me in January, when my hip flexor froze up, if I would have been able to run it…I wouldn’t have been too sure.  As it was, I had to drop from the full to the half…so there was that.

I wanted to be stubborn and just do it.  I’m not a newbie to marathons.  I have run 11 of them total, but I also haven’t really been able to train for one since I ran the Charleston Marathon in January 2015.  Boston was a bust.  And Kauai…well…it didn’t exactly boost my self-esteem and “can-do” marathon mentality.

I wasn’t ready for a full.  Two months of training lost to a paralyzed hip flexor…and a very cautious and slow build-up in mileage put me at my first double digit run (10 miles) exactly one month before race day.  To press on and do the full would have been a fool’s errand.

I’ve learned to be a little more patient with myself and allow myself to heal and train right.  So, the miniMarathon it was.  You win some…you lose some.  I did manage to run most of the Disney World Star Wars Dark Side Marathon on Sunday.  It was steamy and humid…and for the last 5 miles, I was run/walking.  It was okay.  These days I worry more about running smart than that finish time.  When it’s hot and the race is flagged (and…for the record, both the Dark Side Half & KDF were yellow flagged due to humidity)…you just run it the best you can without putting yourself at risk for heatstroke or worse.

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My Ambassador Crew at the KDF Marathon Expo: Paul, Me, Amy, and Jack

My second half marathon in the same week was starting off well.  I only ran one time in between to two races.  I didn’t need more.  Wednesday morning, I hit up 4 very easy miles and called it a week.  And on Thursday, I left work early to meet up with Jack, Paul and Amy (3 others in my Ambassador family) to volunteer at the expo as a greeter.  I convinced quite a lot of my friends to come to the expo that day…both local and from out of town.  And it was hopping!  It was great seeing everyone and helping people out when they had questions.  I was feeling good and confident.  And being able to hang with other ambassadors and just be relaxed and help others relax…and drink free wine samples…it was actually what I needed.  I was feeling good.

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Curry Sauté with Tofu from North End Cafe in Louisville, KY

Friday I spent most of the day sitting at work…which is not something I normally do, but my coach had decided to have me aim for a 1:40 half on Saturday, so I really wanted to do right by my legs and my body.  And, that evening, I went to the Galt House and picked up fellow Marathon Maniac, and good friend, Michael, to have a pre-race dinner.  Normally, I would just cook an Annie May’s Sweet Café gluten-free/vegan pizza at home and call it a day, but I had wanted to meet up with Michael.  We ended up at North End Cafe.  He had the Lemonade Blueberry Pancakes, and I got the Curry Sauté with Tofu for dinner.  As I have been to races where safe gluten-free pizza isn’t always readily available, I have played around some with my night before meal ritual.  But nothing works like gluten-free pizza.

After we dropped Michael back off at the hotel and went home, I finished making up the “Finish Line Lemon Blossoms” for my friends.  After my PT exercises and some foam rolling…I called it a night.  I set my traditional 2 alarms for the race, but didn’t bother to get up in enough time to squeeze in my PT stuff…because it was going to be storming or raining in the morning.  I figured I skipped them at Disney…I could supplement my walk to the start line for the warmups and I’d be ready to go.

And at 5 am…the 7:30 am start was delayed.  For half an hour.

This definitely made the morning slightly easier.  I was already dressed and had my hair up and everything, so I got to sit and relax a little longer…savor my breakfast…that sort of thing.  Dread the humidity.  Because…it was humid.  And the sun wasn’t even up yet.  In fact, the rain only served to make it steamier.  I was having anxiety over the humidity the night before, texting my coach about my push for a 1:40 and how the humidity might slaughter that attempt…especially since I was in my “uniform” of the Ambassador shirt (which had sleeves).  I’m not a fan of racing in sleeves unless it’s cold.  When it’s hot…it’s a simple bra top or a tank.  So this was going to be a new experience too.  I figured if it got too unbearable, I could shed the shirt and then attempt to wriggle back into it before the finish line.

So…delay #1 was in the works.

The official KDFMarathon Ambassador photo was going to now be taken at 7:30…so we headed that way and actually got down to Slugger Field (and the parking lot) at around  7 a.m.  This gave me time for one of my efficient and essential power naps!!  I got my nap on good!!  With about 10 minutes to go, I got a text from my running partner, Matthew, saying that he was at the statue in front of Slugger Field, so I got up and headed that way.

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Danielle, Tonya, Me, Leah, Paul, and Jamie pre-race delay #2!

A few more ambassadors were gathered, but the whole team wasn’t there yet.  This has been a thing in all these months.  Races and such, we never quite managed to get everyone in a photo together. #goals

Anyway…no sooner had the photos been taken, I snagged my pre-race fuel (a simple banana!) and downed it while talking to Matthew, Natalie, and my fellow Ambassadors, who were hanging for a moment.

And then…another delay.

Race start was now set for 8:30.  And I had now eaten my banana a whole hour before the start, rather than half an hour.  Roll with it.  I wasn’t planning on exerting myself before the race so I figured I’d be fine.  We all started to make our way toward the corrals regardless (it wasn’t even raining!), when we were told to take cover.  My group ducked under the cover of the Old National Bank near the race start with a crowd of other runners and passed the time just chatting away.  Even my running coach and her crew joined us under there.  It was sort of a nervous energy, but a positive energy at that point.

Cathy left shortly after we got up there, because she likes getting a good spot at the start line and the finish line.  So, she gathered up my rain jacket (which had been keeping Natalie warm) and went to go find her spot, telling me she’d be on the right at the start and on the left at the finish.

With the 8:30 a.m. start time coming up, we opted to head out of the shelter to get to the corrals.  And no sooner had we stepped out from under the bank building and down the steps…

Delay #3.  Race start was now 9:00 a.m.

My group and I decided we would duck into the bank building and rest our legs by sitting on the floor there instead of standing around outside.  It was more comfortable out of the humidity, regardless.  With race start happening soon, we decided to make a last ditch move for the port-a-potties for those who needed them.  I didn’t.  I drank a ton of water the day before, but on race morning, I keep it light so I don’t have to pee.  I did tell my friends that I would hold their stuff for them though.  As we were heading out, the doors to the bank building seemed to be giving people some trouble.  We stepped out though for our mission.

On the way to the toilets, my amazing friend, Kelsie, spotted me.  Matthew and I gave her a hug and we stood around and talked for a brief moment.  Then we went on so I could hold gear.  I should mention that my fellow Ambassador and friend, Tonya, had gone on ahead of us too.  I had her plastic bag for race start should rain happen.  But we still had NO rain.  Just delays.  After everyone cycled through, we started back toward the bank for a few more moments of sitting down and resting before…hopefully, a real start.

trappedinthebankAnd this is where we discover that the people (Tonya was now included) that were inside the bank building were now TRAPPED inside the bank building.  Apparently, the Old National Bank’s doors were timed to lock at a certain time.  And…guess what…they were locked.  Runners were trapped inside with 15 or so minutes to go before the race start.  I walked up to the window and Tonya was front-and-center.

Tonya had texted my phone, which Cathy had at this point, so Cathy sprang into action when the S.O.S. came through, alerting some officers, who wrangled up fire department and security to, hopefully, get the runners out.  With like…only 10 minutes to spare…this happened.  Thank goodness.

So…with no further delays and an announcement being made that 9:00 a.m. was go-time for real…everyone started to get to their corrals.  Matthew and I ducked into Corral C to start making our way forward to A.  We ducked under rope flags and everything to move forward in our corral.  I spotted Greg, from Frankfort, Kentucky, who was pacing the 1:50 half marathon group. I said hi and he asked if I was running with him because he thought I was up in Tim’s group (that would be the 1:40 group).  I said that Linda (our coach) had said that all plans were out the window with the delays and to just go have fun, but I was moving up.

And we did.  Almost to the front.  Like…we were behind the elite line.  We saw elite bibs.  Elite bibs have no corral letter on them.

Matthew and I decided we were out of our league up there and he spotted Tim’s pacing group…so we decided to move back.  A bit.

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Kelsie, Me, and Matthew heading out of the Start of the KDF miniMarathon

And we found Kelsie again.  So…this was perfect.  I was starting the race off with friends…it was going to be a good time.  Despite the fact that I was now starving.  And it was humid.

Did I mention that I was starving?

I had fueled for an 8 a.m. start.  I think my corral (Corral A) went off at 9:15 a.m.  That banana was LONG gone.  And I didn’t want to hit up my mid-race nutrition, because I needed that after Mile 6.  I looked at Matthew and Kelsie and I said…”AND…now I’m starving.”  They were too.

Everyone was.

My coach was right…everything was a mess now…it was best just to go and have some fun.

Matthew and I decided we would attempt to at least keep Tim (remember…that’s the 1:40 pacer) in our sites.  The starting gun went off…and the three of us took off.  I don’t know where we dropped Kelsie, but she was doing this race right.  No watch.  No goals save to finish.  I want to do that more.  Just run how I feel and for fun.  What a freeing feeling that has to be!

Matthew and I pounded out the first four miles pretty much together.  The rain poured down on us shortly after the start and I looked at him and said, “We SO would have been done by now!”  Soaked from humidity, rain, and exertion, we pressed on.  Matthew commented that he felt like he couldn’t catch his breath.  The air was heavy with humidity, so I totally knew how he felt.

I lost him after a turn.  I thought he might have gone on ahead.

As we hit Mile 5…I did 2 things.  I slowed for a moment to pull the KDF Marathon Race Ambassador shirt off so I could cool down.  This happened just as I heard, “There’s Karen.”  So I waived, tucked my Ambassador shirt into my fuel belt…and then I fueled.  A whole mile early.  Because my legs were starting to resist my determination to keep going.  Everything was a cluster now.

Tim and the rest of the 1:40 group were still in site…but not really within distance to catch now.  And my body was not feeling the pace.  I told myself to hang on through Churchill Downs.  So…for at least 3 more miles.  I could suffer for that long, right?

I managed.  My pace dropped little-by-little until I rounded the corner at the split…hit Mile 9…and took a walk at the water station.  I carry my own water with me on half marathons and marathons.  Usually if it’s a double-digit run, I have water and fuel with me.  I didn’t care.  I hit that water stop, I slowed.  I took a cup from a lovely volunteer.  I took a sip.  The rest went on over my head.  It cooled me down…and I made myself start running again.

From here on out…it was down to running smart…not running fast.  Since any attempts to hit a certain time goal went away with the 90 minute delays…now it was just about crossing that finish line.  I didn’t care how long it took me…I was down to the last 5 miles regardless.  I managed to make water stops the rest of the way toward the finish…even when I said I would keep running and no more walking…if I needed to throw water over my head…I did it.  And, as I found out in Disney, that really works.

It did, however, work better at Disney…when I wasn’t under-fueled and also dying from the humidity.  At about Mile 11, I had caught up to Pete, a guy who ran with Matthew and I a couple of times before the Norton Sports Health Training Program kicked in and before I was injured.  I had to slow again for one last shower of water, so he got too far ahead of me again.  I had to slow to walk and water myself for about 3 more times before I knew that finish line was close.  This was my Dark Side Half Marathon all over again.  But worse.  My splits were hitting in the 8’s…which I never touched (despite walk breaks) at Disney.

I felt…miserable.

But I am nothing if not persistent.

I could taste that finish line.  And it wasn’t far.  I could hear the announcer.  I could see Slugger Field.  That meant…it was just around the corner.

And there it was…the turn!!

I never put the Ambassador shirt back on.  I had it tucked in my belt…but to stop to wriggle back into it might mean I wouldn’t start again.

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Me crossing the finish line of the KDF miniMarathon

I took the turn.  And while I didn’t feel like moving any faster, I attempted to pick up my pace.  That finish line was in site…all I had to do was run over it.  I focused on that line alone.  I heard Cathy screaming on the sideline…and I ran down the stretch and passed under the arch.

DONE.

I was…done.  I also felt like crap.

But Dan spotted me at the finish line and called out my name over the bullhorn.  HA!

I continued down the line, slowly, trying to catch my breath and cool down.  The medals were right ahead, so as I strolled that way, Cathy caught up to me at the fence.  She told me my official finish time, which I couldn’t believe, given how slow my pace had gotten as the morning went on and the miles progressed.  We attempted to formulate a meeting place after I would go through the official finish photo area and the place where they store food and chocolate milk and Powerade.  And as we were discussing…Paul from the Ambassadors came in.  Then another running partner of mine, Ron, was in.  And then…Matthew.  I hadn’t moved except to go and congratulate Paul.  I found Ron.  And Matthew somehow slipped by me, but Cathy found him and he was at the fence when I returned.

We all managed to make our way to the runner reunion area, grabbing snacks along the way.  As I emerged…with banana and chips (I have never seen Cathy so happy to see a bag of chips in my hand), I actually reconnected with Kelsie…who gave that finish line her famous kick and brought it in strong.  I really need her to teach me where she finds that late energy because I’m usually dying at the finish line.  She needed to head out, so after a photo, she left and Ron went to claim his free beer.  Cathy told me to take my phone and see if I could catch more of the 30 people I was tracking while she went to get the bags out of the car that had my clothes to change into and a cooler with food and a big bottle of water.  Tonya came in but texted to say she was in medical.  And Amy came in.  I never found her in the crowd.  I did find former co-workers from IU Southeast, Dana & Graham, after they finished.  So that was cool!

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Finisher of the KDF miniMarathon – Louisville, Kentucky (note the tucked Ambassador shirt)

Cathy and I were camped out under the overpass for the rest of the day.  When my phone told me one of my people were in…I’d attempt to go find them.  I mostly succeeded.  I only missed a few.  I caught Natalie, who I really wanted to find above all, as it was her first marathon, and she was having Siri hit me up for motivation as she made her way to that finish line.  She did great!  I also did distribute Lemon Blossoms.  They were very well received.  My friend Jack even picked me up when I handed him a whole container.  And he had just run a marathon.

I thought everyone was in at that point…but I was wrong.  But that is a long, complicated, and amazing story all its own.

So, the official results of the Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon are that I finished in 1:43:12.  That, mind you, is almost exactly 2 minutes slower than my time last year.  MEH!  That being said, I wasn’t expecting to hit 1:43 at all after the walking began, so I’ll gladly take this.  Given the conditions, I’m beyond happy with this result.  I was 403/8737 finishers overall.  I was 85/5010 female finishers.  And I was 15/794 finishers in my division.  Given that I had just raced a humid half marathon on Sunday…walked Disney World the rest of Sunday and all of Monday…traveled home…worked overtime…worked the expo…and then ran again in the humidity…I exceeded all expectations I had.  Honestly.  There were fewer runners this year (by about 2000) in the mini…but my stats improved on every single category…despite running slower.  I count that as a win too!

Here’s my takeaway…

I came into this event at first meeting with a group of strangers at the KDF Marathon Headquarters.  I found a great group of supportive, amazing, inspiring people who are like family to me now.  So many friendships were formed in this year’s KDF Ambassador group.  I was so fortunate to have been able to be a part of it.  I may not have signed up the most people for the race, but I went to events…I promoted the race…I even went to the training runs (even on the coldest mornings) when I couldn’t run and encouraged others…cheered…high fived…and walked.  The marathon slipped away when my training had to wait almost 3 months to even start.

Dropping to the mini was hard…but it was the smartest decision I could have made.  I would never have survived the full after a humid Florida race series and the 90 minute delays.  With nutrition and scheduling off…this was a blessing in disguise.

The delays have taught me a lot about being a bit more prepared for whatever race morning might throw my way.

I saw so many people finish.  I helped a few out when they needed help.  I hugged so many of my sweaty friends.  I saw people set goals…and whether they crushed them or fell short…they completed what the started.  And that, friends, is what the spirit of race day is all about.

My time as a KDF Marathon Ambassador is coming to a close, but the memories, friends, emotions, and moments that I now carry with me…those will last a lifetime.

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My new family and friends!  What an amazing ride this has been!

Rodes City Run 10K – Louisville, KY (March 18, 2017)

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The KDF Ambassadors that found me – Chris, Melissa, Me, Leah!

Race: Rodes City Run 10K

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: March 18, 2017

Time: 48:40

Welcome to the second (and, sadly, my last) race of the Louisville Triple Crown of Running.  The Rodes City Run 10K!  I had managed to get the okay from my physical therapist to boost myself up to 6 miles 2 weeks following the Anthem 4.7K (HAHA.  I’m still bitter).  So, the weekend in between I made sure to get in 5 easy miles at the Falls of the Ohio with the Norton Sports Health Training Group. All the high-fives I got from my friends and strangers that day pretty much made it one of my most epic runs ever.

I don’t think I stopped smiling.  And…as we all know from photos…I have a big smile!

So, with permission to tackle Rodes as long as I took it easy and didn’t “pull an Anthem” and run it really fast, I immediately contacted my training partner, Matthew, and talked him into joining me with the intention that he would help keep my pace in check.  He agreed, and we signed up (I got in before the discount deadline).  Locked in.  Ready to run.

My plan for this run was to keep it between an 8:20-8:40 pace.  Matthew figured we’d average more on the 8:40 scheme of things…and I was okay with that.  Keep in mind…it is very hard for me to participate in a race and NOT actually race it.  But…remember…the goal is thinking long-term and I have some stuff coming up in the future that I’d like to be in peak condition for.

We made plans to meet up at the McDonalds on W Broadway (where the #KDFMarathon Ambassadors were meeting for the group photo(s)).  And, just like that…Rodes was a go to RUN…NOT RACE.

So, on Friday, I ate an early dinner at work (the closest thing I had to pizza was my Mama Mia Quinoa) before heading over the river to do a couple of things…but first and foremost…I was picking up my race packet.  I was actually honored (and freaked out) to be the recipient of one of the seeded bibs in the top 200…which gives you the option of starting near the front of the race itself.  Like…elite-type-shit.  I was BIB 43.  Really, they do base this seeding off of not just race times, but also the times you have completed the Rodes City Run in the past.  I’ve done this race 3 times prior to this one, I believe.  So, don’t go thinking I’ve actually achieved some overnight elite status.  It’s a nice compliment and benefit that the race offers, and if I were in better shape and condition this year going into it, I might have even risked the closer-to-the-start-line start.

I did a little cooking that night before running through my PT exercises and stretches, foam rolling, and calling it a night.  I had to get up fairly early to fit in all the necessary PT stuff the day of the race (it honestly takes close to 2 hours sometimes, but it’s necessary to keep me out there and I try not to whine or complain about it…too much).  The weather was crazy that day.  It was really warm out when I went to do my dynamic warmup and stretches.  I had been expecting cooler temps and overdressed.  I was dying.  But I didn’t have much time to mess around with, so I just sweat it out and went inside to change into clothes for the race.  I opted for a short sleeve shirt with shorts instead of capris.  And since my running shorts are a bit unflattering at the moment…I tossed on one of my fun Sparkle Skirts as well.  Hey…since my KDF Race Ambassador shirt is part of the uniform right now, I work around that.  And it’s not my normal bright, vibrant colors.  Sparkle Skirts help with this.  HA!

I ate a light breakfast, grabbed a banana to eat 30 minutes before the race, packed up clothes to change into, and tossed on a pair of arm-warmers into Cathy’s race backpack…just in case.  It was so warm out when I was warming up, I figured I wouldn’t need them.  I threw on a hoodie and we headed down to the car.

SO glad that I opted for the hoodie.  My mild morning and turned a bit chilly and with the wind that kicked up…it was near the point of me being cold.  Already.  I even commented that I should go back up and put the capris back on, but there simply wasn’t enough time for that.  I was locked into the shorts.

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My Power Nap game is STRONG!

We made the ride over to Louisville and managed to easily get parked near The Brown Hotel.  Easy in and easy parking on a ramp.  We backed in to make our exit plan a bit easier to manage too.  But…we were about 20 minutes early and I wasn’t about to get out in the cold now and wait around.  So, I did what I love to do on race mornings…

I took a nap.

This is not an exaggeration or a joke.  I find these little power naps, pre-race, to be just what this body needs at times.  So, I had the time and took full advantage.  Until the 7:40 am meetup time was approaching and I knew I needed to eat my banana and get to the meeting spot.  As I had a big mug of tea before breakfast that morning, I made a quick (and unusual because…princess) stop at the port-o-potties just outside the parking garage before continuing on to the McDonald’s meeting spot.

Just as the sign was in view, I received a text from Leah, one of my fellow ambassadors.  She said she couldn’t find anyone else and I told her I was like…1 minute away.  I found her…then Matthew found me…and then Melissa (let’s face it…we all know Melissa now!) texted to say that she and Paul were parking and on the way and they’d walk as fast as they could.  This was probably the least-organized meet-up we’d had this entire time…and it shows by the smattering of photos of random KDF Marathon Ambassadors pre-race.  I managed to get into the grouping of Chris, Melissa, and Leah.  So…we have that.

Race start was inching closer and Matthew and I wanted to go find a spot to line up.  BTW…funniest bit of this entire thing was that Matthew registered late (it’s a tradition of sorts, I guess, HA!) and was issued a WALKER big.  So…he went to packet pickup and they sent him over to services to get it fixed and their “fix” was simply ripping the green sticker that said WALKER off of it.  I joked that with me having to dial it back and wearing a seeded bib…and him in a WALKER big…we’re a complete mess and will confuse the hell out of them.  Seriously…I this amused me WAY too much.  We maneuvered through the sea of people to a spot near the middle of the front of the middle-of-the-pack group (with a smattering of walkers).  No sooner had we done that…the whistle sounded (we barely heard it) and the wheelchair racers were off.  The caution tape was rolled up and the runners moved ahead.

And soon…we were joining them.

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Chris & Cathy with the sign!  This photo was in the Louisville Voice Tribune!

We started off at a really easy pace.  I pointed out Cathy ahead waiving the sign and gave a wave as we passed.  The photographers captured me pointing.  No joke.  And then we just sort of settled in.  I think at one point, Matthew asked, “Am I holding your pace back too much?”  And I replied with…”Let’s pick it up a little.”

This is how the rest of it played out…

Just as we’re starting through our first mile, Matthew (aka: Eagle Eyes), spotted our friend Michael, and gave a shout-out.  Michael pointed out that his wife, Laura, was just ahead in the pink and white and we should say HI.  So, we picked it up and scooted up there.  Laura was focused and we kept our greetings short before continuing on.  The pace felt good to me…and as we were moving through the pack of runners, Matthew said, “I think that’s Tammy’s ponytail.”  Sure enough…Tammy was just ahead…so we pushed up to say hey to her.  She pointed out that we were definitely above the pace I had said I told my physical therapist I would run Rodes in…

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The Chik-Fil-A cows got in on the sign action too!

…And she was right.  As we moved ahead we hit Mile 1 and the digital clock said 7:54 at the mile.  We decided to ease back.  We thought.  Well, I mean we did ease back in theory.  We slacked up a bit, but when people are running with you in a giant mass, you sort of just…go with the flow.  When talking became hard, Matthew would remind me that we needed to ease off the gas…and we did…until we didn’t any longer.  Mile 2 was even faster than Mile 1…averaging around a 7:49 pace.  I didn’t realize this at the time though.  Matthew and I were just focusing on the long road ahead of us at this point.  Four more to go…and thankfully most of this mile leading to 3…was a nice downhill.

I love downhill.  It is my favorite speed.  HA!  I felt like I had backed off again, and that was what I was supposed to be doing, so…that’s good, right?  I cruised down the hills and tried not to push myself too much on the inclines.  After all, I had just been cleared to start in on hills again.  So…there was that.  But, it’s like I said…it’s hard for me not to race when I’m in a race.  I go into these things with the mindset of having fun.  I don’t ever set time goals; nor do I look at my pace or my watch.

Usually.

But when we hit the marker for Mile 3, I glanced down and said, “Um…we just did a 7:28 mile.”

And so…we truly made an effort to back it down once more.  And by that I mean we slowed it down.  We had some nice climbs, which I said were downhill at one point and that had Matthew teasing me about my directional skills for the rest of that mile.  But, it did feel like a downhill to me.  We might have been going up, but my effort wasn’t.  I felt relaxed, and it felt EASY!

The remainder of the race we actually averaged a 7:52 for miles 4-6.  As we came back onto Broadway to run back to the finish line,   And it was just shortly after this turn, where I can see, all the way in the distance, the inflatable that arched over the finish line…that I hear from behind me…

“Well, you don’t look like you’re limping.”

Totally busted on my speedy 10K that was not supposed to be this speedy.  It was my physical therapist.  He came up beside me.  I introduced him to Matthew.  He asked me if the hip was feeling good.  I told him I had no problems.  He fist-bumped me…and ran on ahead.

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Matthew & I bringing it home at the finish line!

I just about died.  What is the likelihood of that happening…for real?  We hit Mile 6 and were in are less-than-quarter-mile finish.  So, we picked it up a little and crossed the finish line in under 50 minutes.  Slower than last year.  Slower than the year I had bronchitis.  But…I would like to think, if I hadn’t kept backing off the pace, I could have had a great run there.  Not a PR…it’s going to take a miracle to break that…but I’d like to better my Rodes time in the near future.

Overall…I felt good before the race…I felt fantastic during the race…and I felt amazing after the race.  There are so many times where I feel like I’ve lost speed or fitness…and then something like this happens, where I don’t come near a PR…but I feel good the entire time, and I feel like I could give more…but under orders to dial it back…and I just surprise myself and realize maybe I haven’t lost that much after all.

So…the official results of the Rodes City Run 10K are that I finished in 48:40.  Not even attempting to set a PR…so not even comparing.  Just loving how easy this speed felt for me and how I finished with fuel in the tank.  I’m getting it back  This race helped prove that.  I was 421/4246 finishers overall.  I was the 75/2391 for women finishers.  And I was 17/358 in my age division.  I’m really happy with this.  Even more so because I know what I am capable of and that I am actually capable of more.  I am so glad that I decided to run this race.  Even if my initial intention was to keep it between a 8:20-8:40 pace, and in the end…I averaged around a 7:50.  I know that part of what helped me out was having a friend running with me, to keep me focused on anything other than the race itself.  This race made me feel confident again.  It was just what I needed.

Maybe next year I can aim for a goal to beat my best Rodes City Run 10K time.  Or, if I’m feeling really good about things…try to set that new 10K PR.  But for now, I’ll relish the fact that I’m back…and I’m getting stronger.

Following the race, Cathy and I had every intention of getting coffee and eating protein bars for breakfast…but we detoured and hit up North End Cafe where I enjoyed coffee, a gluten-free pancake and a side of fruit.  Then…we got macarons from Annie May’s Sweet Cafe.

And life was good.

Just as it should be.

Like it never changed.

I’m still smiling.

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North End Cafe’s Gluten-Free Pancake, side of fruit, and coffee!  Perfect reward for a good race day!

Sometimes…Moving Forward Means Looking Back

hamiltonOkay…you’ll have to forgive me.  I’m a bit of a Hamilfan (for those of you not “in the know”…that means I’m a fan of the musical Hamilton.  So…the start of this blog is going to be a bit of an homage to the musical.  If you know the music…you’ll get it.  If you don’t…keep reading and then go check it out.  It will change your life.

[ME]

You’re a runner.  Of course!  I’m a runner
God, I wish there was a race!
Then we could prove to everyone
That we’ve got a fast race pace…

[RUNNER]

Can I buy you a drink?

[ME]

That would be nice.

[RUNNER]

While we’re talking, let me offer you some free advice.
Train slow.

[ME]

What?

[RUNNER]

Run more.

[ME]

Ha.

[RUNNER]

Don’t let an injury set you back or make you sore.

[ME]

You can’t be serious.

[RUNNER]

Then let me reassert…

[ME]

Yes.

[RUNNER]

Always run hard and you’ll end up hurt.

*END SCENE*

~*~*~

Did I lose you?  I hope not, because what I am about to say is actually rather important.  I just sometimes have a hard time getting to the heart of the matter.

For the better part of the beginning of 2017, I was injured…again…

And…for once it had nothing to do with the amount or intensity of my runs.  Well…not exactly.  When I went home for Christmas, I continued with my training schedule…except the neighborhood where my parents live is hella hilly.  I mean, you literally can’t NOT run hills when you are there.  So, for pretty much the entire few days I was there, my runs were full of hills.  And my left hip flexor started to complain at me on the last morning I ran there.  I shrugged it of and boarded my plane back to the Louisville area.  I took my usual rest days, and went out for my morning runs, which during my warmups, I would note a slight twinging in my left leg, but nothing that was crippling.  My cadence and my pace seemed off for me though.  Some stretches and rolling and I was on the road to Columbus, Ohio for my New Years celebration at my friend, Jenn’s.

I know, I’ve pretty much gone over this before, but I am making a point…so, please…don’t tune out yet…

It was after a 14 mile run that I started to feel some pain in my left hip (the one opposite the one that suffered a labrum tear last year.  I hobbled through the rest of the day, took some Aleve with dinner that night, and felt a little better in the morning.  I managed to get through my 6 miles of speed work (I thought to do it at Jenn’s because her neighborhood is SO flat it is great for speed work), but didn’t quite hit the pace.  I missed it…just barely.  Upon returning home, I managed one more 6 mile run before it all went to hell.  My hip was not happy on that run and the following morning, a cross-training day, I found that I couldn’t even do my physical therapy exercises.  Sadly, my orthopedic doctor couldn’t see me before I jetted off to Disneyland for a 10K and half marathon race.  I survived those, although I still don’t know how I managed those times, but I think it was sheer stubbornness and the unwillingness to stop because I knew if I did, I’d never start running again.  That and my orthopedic doctor’s magic cocktail of 2 Tylenol & 2 Ibuprofen…3 times a day.  And KT Tape and ACE Bandages.

We all know what happened from there, but as the wait to see the orthopedic doctor took forever, and then the actual getting back to some semblance of running (first by not limping, then on the Alter-G, and then on roads…with very low mileage and with a super easy pace for me)…I decided I needed to go back and reflect on the one and only year where I wasn’t injured.  At all.

2013.

When I was training for my first full marathon.

I went back to my training journals.  This is why I keep a paper training log.  Because it gives me immediate access to the things I was doing that kept me uninjured and running strong, if nothing else.

I had become a member of a Distance Runner group, which, after the Boston Marathon bombings, branched off into a great group of runners who were seeking to qualify to Boston.  I hoped to do it sometime, so I joined.  These Boston Qualify Seeking Distance Runners, as I said, were fantastic people and runners, most of which I still speak to and am in touch with today.  But as we all geared up to train for our BQ attempts, it became a matter of how fast can you run your runs.  And while the pace of my weekday runs started to speed up, even on easy days, my long runs were much slower.  Like WAY slower.  I put a lot of quality speed into my speed work days (fartleks, tempo, intervals), posting pics of my Garmin with the best of them on the group.  But while they were all rocking out long runs at or near their race pace, I was running with a group that trained a little more deliberately.  I never really posted the Garmin shot on my long runs, and would often find myself wishing I could post training runs as fast as they were.  They were going to be so ready for Boston.  But, this was also my first marathon…so I didn’t expect the magic to happen that quickly.  I stuck to my plan, kept training with the more deliberate group, and got through June through October without hitches.  AND…get this…there were times I was doing a long run on Saturday and then another one on Sunday.  My legs never felt tired or like I was doing too much, because the paces I did these runs was so much slower than I would have run if I had been on my own.

Part of doing the back-to-back long runs was that I had signed up for the inaugural Dopey Challenge at Disney World…and I figured that was good practice.  Part of it was just loving to be able to run with people.  My friends were slaughtering their long runs…and I was just sort of cruising through them.  Weekend after weekend.

And I was never injured.

What has occurred to me as I reflected on my best year of running and racing was…

Most runners, including myself, train too hard, too often.

We all get wrapped up in those numbers, how they might look on social media, to our peers, to people who *gasp* run faster than us already.  No quality runner that I know judges their fellow runners by their training and race paces.  But, to runners, those numbers are our Bible.  And, we’re all guilty of the comparison game.  I know I am.  We love showing off our good runs, but what about the average…or not so good ones?  Why was I so frustrated and embarrassed with my slow runs on those long run days?

Little did I know, I was training smart and training properly.  Low-intensity training allows an athlete to gain fitness without overstressing the body.  Doing too much high-intensity training can cause your body to not be able to absorb all the stress being applied to it and turn it into fitness.  If you fatigue your body too much, too often, you run the risk of compromising your performance, your workouts, and possibly leading to injury.  The entire point of the long run is not to bust it out at race pace, but to get your endurance up, get you used to being on your feet for a long amount of time.

In fact, most of my long runs going into the Chicago Marathon were done at a slow pace.  There were a few weeks where certain miles were to be done at marathon pace…and I managed to rock those out.  And come the beginning of October…I lined up at the start line of the Chicago Marathon…ran strong…ran far…

AND QUALIFIED FOR BOSTON.

My first marathon.  My first BQ.  And I did it because I didn’t race all of my runs.  Speed work and quality runs are important, yes…but make them something you do once a week…and run those other runs at a much more deliberate and easy pace.  You shouldn’t be embarrassed to train slow.  In fact, I do believe it was training like this that got me to that start line safely, uninjured, and feeling strong and prepared.

Yes, high-intensity training is very important to training as well, but a relatively little amount goes a long way.  Here is one case where more is definitely not better.  There is no need to unnecessarily tax your body when you should be taking it easy.  I know…it sounds counterintuitive, especially in running when the entire goal is to reach the finish line in the fastest time you can, but…honestly…proper training means getting through the slow, the fast, the easy and the hard.  But you have to hit on every spectrum to become a better, more efficient, and…uninjured runner.

I have been sidelined every year since 2013’s Chicago Marathon.  I also attempted to run way more marathons in a year than was good for my body…but that’s another story.  That being said, after this last round with my hip flexor in January…I’m making a more conscious effort to train smarter.  Some of it is fear.  Not fear that someone will judge my training pace as being too little.  But fear of ending up with a worse injury…something that isn’t as easy to work around or get through.

I was lucky.  This time around, my hip labrum wasn’t the issue, although I fretted for a month that it was.  You have to keep your body moving forward, but turn down that intensity.  Seriously, you’ll reap serious benefits and rewards simply by slowing down.

Trust me…I’m the poster child for this, apparently!

And those training paces that you used to brag about on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or other social media…forget about it.  Those numbers shouldn’t be bragging rights or your sense of worth in the running community.  The running community is awesome because it embraces everyone, all shapes, sizes and paces.  These times, distances, paces…these are your records of your progress.  You shouldn’t feel like you need to post only your best, fastest times for those who follow you on social media, or make excuses for runs that you deem as too slow.  Nope…these numbers are much more valuable and important than that.  It’s fine if you want to share your stats…I’m not condoning that.  Lord knows, I’ve done my share in the past.  But…do NOT base your self-worth as a runner on these numbers.  Don’t run hard every time you run.  Don’t try to overdo what you are capable of doing.  And NEVER PR a training run.  Save that for race day.  If you PR a training run, you’re not training right!

In the end…running to much, running too hard…is running your body into the ground.  And, I, for one, am tired of injury after injury.

So, to my speedy friends who I could keep up with or even outrun at times, my apologies…because I am stepping my long runs down this training season.  My long runs will be quality, long slow distances.  As they should be.  Some might have miles at race pace…but for the most part, I’m returning to how I trained for Chicago the first time around…as I gear up to run Chicago again this October.

This is NOT easy for me to do.  My legs know one speed…fast…especially when I’m on my own.  So, I do hope to find some people to hold me back and keep me accountable this summer as I work through my training and get to that start line, once again feeling confident and prepared.

Like I said…sometimes moving forward means looking back.

Maybe there really is magic in those easy, deliberate paced runs.

I ask you to consider this the next time you put that Garmin on and head out the door for an “easy” run.

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“Always enjoy yourself.  Don’t be upset if you don’t win, you’ve won by simply not giving up.” – Unknown