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.

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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

Comeback Kid…Again! Week #5 & Week #6

Life has been crazy, crazy, crazy busy this past week, which is why this post is almost a week late.  Because most of the exciting stuff was covered in the previous blog, I will sum up this past week and what all went on in my transformation from injured runner to…the Comeback Kid…

On Monday, my physical therapy session was cancelled with Daniel.  Which kind of sucked as I had wanted to talk about the ankle pain I was having.  But he was running a fever, and I really am a huge germophobe.

So, he wasn’t coming in and I didn’t have to show up, since my therapist was out of the office. Instead, I went to work and sent him an e-mail regarding the situation.  He messaged me back on Wednesday and said that he would look at my ankle on Thursday when I came in for my physical therapy session.

That meant a lot of waiting…and a lot of NOT running.  Again.  Because…honestly…the last thing I wanted to do was aggravate something else and be sidelined more.  It seems like a never-ending battle.  Anyway…I’m not very good at being patient or waiting.

That being said, when I finally did go in on Thursday, the first thing he did was ask about my ankle and have me take off my shoe so he could look at it, manipulate it, and basically bang the crap out of it to see if it was anything to be concerned about.  When that meant I sat there going…no…nope…that doesn’t hurt…that’s weird…hahaha….nope…it’s fine…

Yeah…I think he was wondering if it was all in my head.  It’s not.  It wasn’t then, and it still isn’t now.  But, as he told me, it’s not a stress fracture, because I wouldn’t be able to walk…so it was just some natural aches that come with starting to run again after NOT running for so long.  He then had me warm up on a bike and do some dynamic lunges and moves before taking me outside into the cold air in my shorts and all and having me run around the building.

Why was I running around the building?  So he could watch my form and see if I was babying my hip by putting more pressure on the other leg (that is the sort of shit that brought me my first (and only) stress fracture in my leg…and the last thing I want is to end up in Bootsie again!)…but he said that my form looked great from every angle he viewed me from.  Only thing was my high cadence, but that’s normal for me.

So…he cleared me to do the Anthem 5K that Saturday (as I was up to 3.5 to 4 miles of running every other day), as long as the hip continued to feel good.  So, we made one more appointment for a week and a half out…and I was done.

I wrote up a blog on the Anthem “5K”…that you can read if you missed out on that exciting adventure.  The best part of that day was that I got to hang out with Melissa and Paul before the race…saw Tammy at the start of the race…and ran comfortably at a 7:29 average for the race.  Without pain.  At all.  And without feeling like I was pushing myself harder than I should.  Which says a lot about me maintaining my fitness level even without running in the equation. So YAY!  But, I wasn’t supposed to race that one.  I was supposed to run it…so…that wasn’t exactly fun to tell my PT over e-mail.  He helped a little by putting things into perspective…about thinking long term.  So…my mindset is starting to fall that way.  I have goals I want to achieve…and being Gimpy McGimpster is not part of those plans.

Ever meet someone by chance and wonder how it was that you’d never met before and why you haven’t been friends for life? That’s Melissa and me!

Into the next week I went.  The cold weather gave way to some mild mornings in the 50s.  They were rainy…and windy…but I was in my shorts and loving it.  I was doing short 4 mile outings and reminding myself to ease it back.  This worked better on the windier of mornings (like 40 mph gusts will mess with you regardless!)…hey…I’m a work in progress.  I’ll get the hang of it.  By the weekend, the bitter cold weather returned.  I was NOT happy.  It seems like we get gorgeous weather during the week…but on the weekends, it is determined to freeze us out.  I wasn’t running as far as…anyone at the training run.  I was doing 5 miles as a natural progression to the Rodes 10K this coming Saturday.  So…I was definitely the ambassador, and training run attendee doing their own thing.

My fellow, freezing #KDFMarathon Ambassadors: Melissa, Me, Dawn, and Jack

I’ve been doing a lot of cross-training on gym machines and at spin class.  I know…I need to swim more…but swimming is just not fun for me.  Or relaxing.  So…I am working on that.  But, despite the cold temps this week, I’ve gone out on a 5 mile run yesterday morning and felt good.  I dialed back the speed and focused a lot more on form.  My roommate pointed out that my feet were really pounding the pavement when I’m running these days.  Soft feet.  That’s what I’m working on now.  Another good reason to NOT wear headphones while running.  You can tune into your body and that is so important.  The run felt good and I finished it feeling tired (hey, I started at 3:30 am), but proud of myself.

Today was my final PT session with Daniel.  Yep…officially released!  OFF THE CHAIN!  I couldn’t be happier.  My session today started with a warm-up on the bike before he had me doing my lunge matrix and then running through all the dynamic warm-up stuff he’s assigned to me in the past.  And then….he had me doing these giant plyometric jumps before taking off at a run.  All that went well…so he had me fill out final paperwork and I was discharged with the understanding that should anything flare back up…I am to call and they’ll fit me in.

And that, my friends, is a good, happy thing!

So…this weekend I am treating the Rodes 10K as a training run…and NOT…I repeat NOT running it hard.  I have enlisted my running partner, Matthew, to help keep my pace back.  We’ll just have a nice 6 mile conversation.  The goal is to finish without any pain.  I am really looking forward to this.

Going forward, I get to add some speed and hill work back into my training each week, but nothing monumental.  Just some basic strides and a few small climbs.  So, that’s progress.  I also get to increase my long run by one mile each week leading into my races in April…so that’s also a good thing.  I’m feeling good.  I’m happy.  I’m making my (hopefully final) comeback!

And there it is, friends.  Stick with me.  I’m sure there is more to this adventure!

Anthem 5K Fitness Classic – Louisville, KY (March 4, 2017)

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Me after finishing the Anthem 5K (*COUGH*) Fitness Classic – Louisville, Kentucky

Race: Anthem 5K Fitness Classic

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: March 4, 2017

Time: 21:55*

Ugh!  Asterisk time.  I hate having to put that little thing near a time on a race…but it’s only fair because I can’t call this a PR.  Not even close to one.  Seems that the Anthem 5K was actually the Anthem 4.7K.

I. AM. NOT. JOKING.

Granted, I wasn’t on tap for a PR time…but I wasn’t pushing myself through this race either.  Still, I know a lot of people who were thrilled with their HUGE PR times, and I wonder if they just didn’t bother, or didn’t care, to check their watches.  I never even got to 3 miles…and others didn’t either.  Those who were, like me, cognizant of this fact, were rather angry, rather than celebrating PRs that were not PRs.  I mean, most (not all, I admit to that) runners do wear some sort of GPS watch and that, right there, is an instant snapshot of your race.  It might not be 100% accurate on the time…but the distance…that’s usually pretty spot on.  My Garmin never even beeped a third time before I crossed the finish line.  So, I wasn’t putting it out there that I had a HUGE PR (not that this would have been HUGE even if it was a PR pace)…but still…

OH…did I forget to mention that in all of this…I was told to run a race?

Yep.  This soon.  Already.  As in…yesterday.

Because my physical therapist thought that it would be a good mental boost for me.  I was really leery…because of every race that runs in Louisville…the Anthem 5K is my least favorite.  It’s crowded.  It’s hard to find parking.  And this year…the LMPD, apparently, used last year’s course map and cut 944 feet off the race course.  So, it wasn’t even a 5K.  And, I’m sorry, I paid almost $50 for registration for this race…I want to get my money’s worth.  This race should have been 3.1 miles.  NOT 2.93…NOT 3.2…but an accurate and exact 3.1.  And it wasn’t.

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Anyway…enough of my grousing.  Let’s move on, shall we?  Where was I?

Ah yes…I was racing.  Kinda.  The deal with my physical therapist was that I should and could do the Anthem 5K because, he felt, it could be the mental boost I needed because, let’s face it, I have played it overly cautious with my comebacks because…just as I start falling into a rhythm…something else on me breaks or falls apart or however you look at it.  It’s the proverbial shit hitting the fan at times, and I’m sort of done with that.  So…my PT felt that it would be good for me, as long as I didn’t all-out run it, to actually sign up and participate in my least favorite local race.

And that, my dear friends, is how I ended up with a race bib for the Anthem 5 (4.7)K Fitness Classic.

I registered for the race on Thursday afternoon, after I had seen Daniel that morning for my physical therapy session.  After he checked out my ankle (the opposite ankle was giving me some issues) he had me do a dynamic warmup and then took me outside to run so he could take a look at my form and make sure I wasn’t compensating.  He said everything looked great and that the only thing he noticed was my high cadence, which is normal for me.  And then he said…to give the 5K a go on Saturday.  So, I registered…coughing up $50 I didn’t really have to run a race I really didn’t like.  Easy come, easy go.

Friday, my bib number was listed on the site and after work (we were trying to make up time due to the Sting concert that happened Tuesday night and the big storms that went through the midwest delayed the return drive long enough that it would eat into personal time if I took a lunch).  SO…right after work, it was over the river to Slugger Field.  Packet pick-up was a breeze.  It was easy to remember my bib number…6061…and I was at the very end of the table due to my late registration.  But we were in and out of there in no time.  No problems.  No issues.  Back over the river…a quick stop at the grocery store for some supplies (I am batch cooking good, healthy, real food for people) and then…home.

Dinner…a gluten-free and vegan BBQ Ranch Pizza.

Night before a race = pizza.

Always.

Forever.

I keep trying to find something else that works, but pizza seems to be the key.  So much for my plan to cut back on pizza.

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I never really sat down that night.  I went from cooking up lentils and making sauce and baking potatoes to…my PT exercises and stretches.  AND…foam rolling for a brief moment.  I had every intention of going to bed early too.  That didn’t happen.  I had to have my foot taped (the right foot that had the whole plantar flare-up back in the early fall).  So, I got to bed just before 10:00 pm.

AND…I set my alarm for 3:30 am.  Why?  Because I needed to run through all my PT stuff prior to heading out for the race.  My roommate was getting up at 6:15, and these take me close to 2 hours if I do everything I am supposed to do.  So, I got up and bundled up, headed outside to do my dynamic warm-ups, my marches, my lunges, my steps, my lunge matrix, my hops and jumps…before heading inside for the resistance band stuff, the hip stretches and exercises, and even some work on the BOSU.  I finished up at 5:30 am.  I was tired.  I made tea.

I packed my breakfast to go.  I did that because I didn’t have a banana (I usually always eat a banana 30 minutes before a race) and with all my PT stuff, I never really had time to dart out to the grocery store and get one.  My local Kroger usually has bananas that aren’t ripe enough anyway.  So, I packed my Freedom Foods Rainbow Rocks cereal (think Fruity Pebbles made from real ingredients and not LOADED down with sugar) in a baggy, packed coffee cups for after the race, got protein bars ready for AFTER the race, and the roomie was up and eating some cereal soon after that.  We were out the door just slightly ahead of schedule.  It was freezing cold outside.  Thankfully, the windows hadn’t frosted over.  So, we made our trek over the river to downtown Louisville, where we ended up parking randomly in a street lot as the rest of the road was blocked off for the race.  Thankfully, there were a few spots left.  We paid the substantial $15 fee for the “convenience” to park there, then began walking down toward Market Street.  I had an Ambassador meet-up at 7:40 am at the Jimmy John’s.  Except…it was still REALLY early.  So…yeah…

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Melissa and me freezing before the Anthem 5K!

I was miserable and cold.  The sunrise was gorgeous.  But I was more focused on finding a spot where something (like a building) could act as a windbreak.  This race is ALWAYS cold.  I swear.As meet-up time came…I was still all by myself in front of the Jimmy John’s.  But not more than a moment later, I see my amazing friend (and fellow #KDFMarathon Ambassador), Melissa and her husband, Paul, coming our way.  They had already had a hell of a morning…had just picked up their race bibs…and Cathy was already pinning Melissa’s bib on her.  This has become a trend.  HA!  I actually had a gift for Melissa…which I handed over while she was being pinned.  Here’s the thing…Melissa and I are basically the Injury Crew (she’s been dealing with knee issues since The Light Side…and I’ve been dealing with the hip issue since…the beginning of the year).  Anyway…when I purchased mine, I knew, as a fellow injured runner, how sometimes you just need a little motivation.  She’s amazing…and she’s going to do amazing things.  We waited for a few minutes, but none of the other ambassadors showed up.  So…with needing to the start line and into the corrals (that no one really enforced)…we took the picture.  And for being as cold and miserable as we were, the picture was super cute!

And being super cute is what is important, friends!!

We trekked to the start line…and as I was standing in Corral B…I get spotted by my good friend, Tammy.  We sort of hung together while her boyfriend, Dean, moved up with all the fast elite types.  Because…he’s fast and elite.  Tammy knows what it’s like to have goods and bads and ups and downs, as she has been dealing with it for awhile.  It was so good to see her and run with her through the start gate.  I lost her after that.

So…one thing I dislike about Anthem is how crowded this race is.  Honestly, you never get out of the pack.  And I think that’s one reason that when I went out…I went out way faster than I intended to run.  The good thing was, the hip didn’t flare up on me or twinge or anything.  So…as I don’t check my watch for pace while running, I thought it felt comfortable and just went with it.  I maintained.  Honestly.  My splits are pretty much the same.  The first mile was amazing…it made me feel good, even if I was dodging a few people and maneuvering over some rather rough pavement at times.

Mile 2, however, was where the issues began.  Leading into it I was feeling good.  And, honestly, when I run, I get tunnel-vision.  I rarely notice anything around me.  Well, I’m just doing my thing and as we come around a corner, there is Mile 2.  Okay.  Wow.  I noted the time on the clock on the mile marker had just hit 14 minutes.  In order for that to happen, I would have had to blast off a 6-something minute mile and, honestly, this body is not up to that right now.  And as I ran beyond it, I noted that my Garmin hadn’t beeped at me yet either to indicate the 2nd mile.  So…I glanced at my watch.  The top.  For the mileage.  And I was only at 1.88 miles.  So, the marker had to be at least 0.15 miles off.  I had hoped that it was an oversite and it would correct itself as the race goes on.  Sometimes this happens.  BUT…not this time.  I rounded the corner and made the long slog down Main Street, taking it upon myself to glance at my watch after the 2 mile beep happened.  I still hoped for a course correction in miles,but as I kept going, and when I could finally see that Finish Line…I hadn’t even gotten my third beep to mark a third mile.  I hustled into the finish line…stopped my Garmin, and checked.

2.96 miles after crossing the finish line.  Not even 3 miles.  And there were a lot of angry people at that finish line.  Every fast, elite, and finisher who gave a damn was pretty much discontent and having a little bitch session.  I waited for Cathy, who was walking down to meet me and called her over to say, “The course was short!  It wasn’t even 3 miles.”  I double-checked with some runners who looked unhappy and they were, “It was WAY short and I’m pissed.”  My friend Amber and her husband felt the same way.

Seemed like everyone PR’d that day…because they PR’d on a short course.  I knew it before I crossed the finish line.  I think everyone else did too.

Was I on pace for a new PR?  Nope.  But…I might have beaten my 2013 time…which would have been cool.  But we’ll never know now.  The race people went back to measure the course and did find that they were 944 feet off.  They said that the Louisville Metro Police Department had barricades up in the wrong place as they used last year’s course map.  Regardless…this is a HUGE race here…it always kicks off the Triple Crown of Running.  You’d think they could get it right.

Like I said, when you pay as much money as this 5K race asks, you expect a little more in the end.  Needless to say, this might have been my last Anthem 5K.  Unless I get the Triple Crown bug again…but I’m happy just churning out the 10K and 10 miler, to be honest.

So…the official results of the Anthem 5K (4.7K) Fitness Classic are that I finished in 21:55.  No new PR…not even on pace to set one.  Even with the course mishap.  I was 515/5315 finishers overall.  I was the 91/3037 for women finishers.  And I was 19/412 in my age division.  I’m pretty proud, considering I’m still nursing an injury.

I will say this…I was able to run a pace that I haven’t seen since December, and have it feel comfortable.  This hip never once twinged at me while I was running.  I felt good and like I could hold that pace forever.  To me…I count all of that as a win.  PRs aren’t what I run for anymore.  I run because I can…because it makes me feel alive…because it makes me feel good.  Finishing this race was a mental boost that I needed.  Daniel was right.  So, in the end…I take with me the fact that I ran my heart out and I overcame another setback on my running journey.  And that means more to me than the length of a course or the time on the clock.

Me heading into the finish line of the Anthem 5K Fitness Classic - Louisville, Kentucky

Me heading into the finish line of the Anthem 5K Fitness Classic – Louisville, Kentucky

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Fast Freddie Five Mile Foot Feast – New Albany, IN (November 24, 2016)

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Me after finishing the Fast Freddie Five Mile Foot Feast – New Albany, IN

Race: Fast Freddie Five Mile Foot Feast

Place: New Albany, Indiana

Date: November 24, 2016

Time: 37:03

*twirls around*

It happened this year!!  After having to miss out on my most convenient and least stressful face of the year last year…this year I was registered and ready to run.  That’s right, my friends.  It was time for New Albany’s very own Fast Freddie Five Mile Foot Feast.  It is held every Thanksgiving morning (for 28 years now!) and it happens…literally…right outside my door.  The start and finish area is at the fairgrounds located directly across the street from my apartment complex.  How’s that for an easy race morning?

As you might recall, last year I was still on the recovery list after dealing with my nemesis, my hip labrum tear, and then…my stress fracture in my leg.  The hip is going to be a constant thing, but when my leg started to bother me again, my orthopedic doctor decided it would be best to take the rest of November off from running and to send me to physical therapy.  I had been registered for the Fast Freddie Five Miler already…because I knew my boot would be off and I figured I’d be good to go.  But, sadly, I wasn’t.  And for the first time in the years I have been running…I had to miss out on the challenging race before my Thanksgiving feast.  I was, however, a brief spectator last year, rushing down to the start line in just enough time to see everyone off.

It wasn’t the same.

And this year…in the true tradition of Thanksgiving…I was hungry for this one.

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When you think your coach is on drugs for the pace she wants you to try to hit…and then this is the bib number you are assigned!

The Sunday prior to Thursday, I met up with my friend Jack and his friend Heather (who recognized me from the YMCA) to run the course.  It was 23 degrees out that morning, but I hadn’t run the course in a long time (and I know I need to because it does have some hills to challenge me), so I really wanted to do this test run on the course.  Or…a course preview…as we referred to it.  I ran it at an easy pace…my Garmin saying I did it in about 39 minutes.  Happy with that.

After getting home, I went to check my training calendar that my coach, Linda, throws together for me each week. Fast Freddie was listed…and she set my goal time for 38 minutes.  I had run just slightly over 38 minutes when I ran this last, in 2014, so I thought this was an achievable goal time for my first year back to this event.  But, later that night, she texted me and said that she changed my time goal for the race.  I went to check and she changed it to 36 minutes.  I texted her back and said that I had never run this course that fast (my fastest race time is 36:54 in 2013…when I was in my best racing shape), but I would try.  She told me not to kill myself doing it, but she thought I was capable, being that I was just barely over 36 minutes on a 5 mile speed work run I did a few weeks before.

For the rest of the week, I fretted over that race time.  I did my training runs, hit the paces, tried to run easy on the easy days (which isn’t easy for me…unless I run with other people), and just not try to obsess over it.  I would do my best on race morning…and that’s all I could do.

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Me after 4 hours of cooking and baking on Wednesday night.

To top it all off, though, I was hosting Thanksgiving this year.  I hosted last year, but I wasn’t racing, so I decided that I needed to do as much as humanly possible the night before.  This meant, I made a conscious decision to not rest my legs or feet…but to stand in the kitchen and cook up all of the side dishes I was serving.  Leaving, simply, the sweet potato fries, the BBQ pulled turkey, and the apple cinnamon slow-cooker apples for the morning.  It took almost 4 hours to get it all done, but I did.  I even had to set an alarm on my phone to wake me up so that I could put the food that was cooling on racks into the fridge.  I went back to bed, having my alarm set for to give me time to do all my stretches and PT exercises before the race…as well as chop up a lot of apples for both the slow cooker that had the turkey and the slow cooker with the apples as well.  It was a hectic morning, but I managed to get everything going before Cathy taped up my right foot (still having some issues with it) and pinned me up.  Time to go.

It was actually earlier than I usually head over to the fairgrounds for this race, but I was meeting up with three other #KDFMarathon Ambassadors who were running this particular race: Jack, Melissa (and her husband), and Leah (who also has Linda as a coach!).  When I showed up, I found Jack and Leah standing near the stage inside…and Melissa was just parking and heading our way.  We wanted to get a picture together before the race.  Melissa showed up, looked at me and said, “Where are your clothes?”

So…race morning was the type of weather where I get really confused as to how to properly dress.  It was around 50 degrees at the start, but there was a cold 9 mph wind.  According to the Weather Channel, it felt more like 46 degrees out.  That being said, I had opted for a t-shirt and a pair of short (rainbow) shorts…and my usual compression sleeves and BondiBand with pigtails and all that good stuff.  Melissa and Jack were in leggings and long sleeves.  Leah was in shorts and a t-shirt too (and was wearing a pie hat on her head).

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Leah, Me, Jack & Melissa…the #KDFMarathon Ambassadors representing!

We gathered outside for the photo…my peeps wearing their KDF Ambassador shirts (I like to be bright, so I didn’t wear mine…but I did hold it up!).  Not going to lie…it was cold.  So, after the photo, Jack and my warm friends helped walk me to the start line while keeping me warm.  And it was here that I ran into my friend, Harry, who was walking the course.  So…I was just finding everyone today.

I went toward the front of the race group, taking up my usual position about 3 rows back from the start.  The front row is reserved for the people with the low bib numbers.  My bib number was, hilariously, #420.  I was so amused when I picked up my bib Wednesday night because I had joked that Linda was on drugs when she set my goal pace…and then I get #420.  HA!  The crazy bib number things that happen to me.  Anyway, I like to be close to the start, without getting in the way of the people who actually deserve to be right up there.  You know…the people who run strides ahead of the race.  Those crazies in the singlets and shorty-shorts.  *glances down at rainbow shorty-shorts*

Fast Freddie’s Five Mile Foot Feast starts promptly at 9 am.  Fred came out to give the usual information about the start.  He would tell have runners get ready and then blow the whistle.  And that…is what he did.  And at the whistle blow…we were off.

I saw Cathy immediately, holding up my sign, gave a wave, and pushed on.  After all, I was chasing down a fast time.

Fast times used to be a lot easier for me.  Especially when a course has hills.  You see, one problem I am finding with my hip labrum tear is that I lose power and speed on my uphills.  I can’t easily burst up them like I used to.  Nope.  I actually struggle at times on hills.  But I wasn’t going to worry about that.  I didn’t have time.  You pretty much get hit with a hill right away on this race.  Not a big one, but it send you up and over the highway…but there is a nice downhill that awaits on the other side.  I revel in those downhills.  What I lack in hill climbing, I made up for on those downhills.  Up ahead was the light, and we all blazed our path onto Mt. Tabor road, hitting that first mile marker.  I looked to be just slightly behind on the 7:12 pace I would need to average in order to hit 36 minutes.

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.  I actually handled these better than I anticipated. I was pushing that pace, hoping to, maybe, surprise myself in the end.  We crossed the railroad tracks, went up another hill and then down, turning onto Grant Line Road.  Mile 2…done.  And I was still just a smidge under the 7:12 time.

But this third mile…this is the killer.  As you head into Sam Peden Community Park, we get hammered with our first long climb.  This hill isn’t steep…but it is continuous.  Pretty much for the entire half a mile that you run toward that third mile mark.  There is a water stop as you enter the park, but I always bypass it and keep running.  My focus at this point was on pushing myself up that hill.  This was not easy for me…and I could feel myself really fall back on my pace.  And when this hill does level off (nope…no downhill…darn it), you’ve gotten through that third mile.  I was set back now on my time, but I was going to see if I could make it up.  I rounded the corner and started to make my way out of the park.  There was a guy near the apartment complex at the park exit cheering on people. He saw my number and said, “What you got for me, 420?”  HA!

Honestly, I used to dread Schell Lane.  It is the hilliest part of the race.  But, this past summer as I was training for the Kauai Marathon, I made a point to do hill runs in the mornings up Daisy Lane (opposite the way we run it in this race) and then through Schell Lane and back…just so I was getting in various climbs on the hills.  They slowed me down slightly, but the downhills gave me some momentum to make up some time.  The last hill is the hardest, but you get rewarded with the best downhill ever…all the way down Daisy Lane.  I made the turn, and pushed my pace on that downhill hoping to catch some of my time.  This is my favorite part of this race.  I feel so fast and free and alive.  Four miles…done.

The last mile was all that I had left…but I was starting to run out of gas in my legs.  Seriously.  Daisy Lane levels out pretty fast and it’s a huge shift when you’re coming down that hill to suddenly just have…flat.  I proceeded as fast as I could force these legs to move, but I knew I was starting to struggle.  I also knew that I was close to having a time in the 36 minute zone…so maybe…maybe I could at least get a new PR.  I made it my goal to, as always, do my best to make this last mile count.

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Me, crossing the finish line at Fast Freddie’s Five Mile Foot Feast – New Albany, IN

At the traffic light, I made the turn and began the last stretch of road back to the Fairgrounds.  I actually do run this stretch a lot and am familiar with the rolling hills.  All that being said…my legs were pretty much done.  But I wasn’t having it.  I was half a mile away, and I was going to press on and see what happened.  As we neared the Fairgrounds, I could hear the crowds of people who were there to cheer, or were waiting on their family members.  That’s the best part, coming into that finish where people line the street and send you down that finishing shoot.  I made the turn to run it into the finish and could hear Cathy screaming at me to run faster.  I managed, my Garmin telling me that as I crossed the finish line, I was hitting a pace around 5:42. Usually I have no finishing kick, but I could now see the clock and my 36+ minute zone was close to closing.  I gave it all I had…

…and managed no new PR…and missed 36 minutes by well over a minute.  But I was done.  I had beat my 2014 time by well over a minute, so given that last year I wasn’t able to run at all…this was a total and complete win.  I think, as I train more this coming year, I’ll find my stride again.  My running has been a struggle as of late, but I’m getting it figured out, little by little.

After crossing the finish line, I went and met up with Cathy and we went to find a spot near the road to cheer on the rest of my #KDF Ambassador team!!  Jack came in first…then Leah…and then Melissa and Paul.  I was there for all of them. And, afterwards, we even got a picture with Santa, who was at the finish.

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Me, Santa, Jack, and Melissa after we finished the Fast Freddie Five Mile Foot Feast – New Albany, IN

You never know what to expect from this race.

The awards were going to be handed out and the raffle drawings were going to be done, so we headed into Newlin Hall, where it was warm, and we all just sort of conversed as prizes were handed out.

And then…as they got to the Female 35-29 age division…I heard my friend Amber Korte get announced as third…I hadn’t even seen Amber.  I wasn’t sure if she was still there, but I cheered loudly.  And the second place was announced.  And then…my name was called for first in my age division.  I was…amazed, to be honest.  In 2013, when I ran my fastest time on this course, I didn’t even place.  When I ran in 2014, I was third in my age division.  So, yeah, I was surprised.  I went over to the table and got my Fast Freddie Mug (they were yellow this year!)…and went back to hang with my friends.  Except…I had some more stuff that needed to be done for Thanksgiving dinner…so we hugged and I said goodbye and headed back home to shower and cook up the remainder of the meal before everyone started arriving.

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The infamous Fast Freddie Five Mile Foot Feast mug as age division awards.  LOVE IT!  First in my age group this year!

The official results of this year’s Fast Freddie Festive Five Mile Foot Feast was that I finished with an official time of 37:03…only 9 seconds off my PR on this course, and a full minute and three seconds slower than my coach was hoping for.  I was 112/866 finishers this year.  I was the 21st female to cross the finish line.  And I was 1st in my age division.  I was disappointed that I didn’t manage the fast time Linda hoped I could run, but I ran really well and really hard…and I still ran better than the last time I ran this race.  I’ll take any small victory at this point.  Maybe, with a little practice, and some hip strengthening, I’ll hit that sub-36.

I hope all of you had a fantastic Thanksgiving!  I am very thankful for all of you who return to my blog and read about my adventures in running and in travel and food.  I leave you with this Thanksgiving-ish thought:

Whatever feeds your desire, your hunger, and your fire…chase it down this year.