Friends, I did not come all the way up to Toledo for this 5K. In fact, this race was my shakeout run. Tomorrow, the Glass City Marathon runs, in winter-like conditions, and I am not happy about it. I didn’t train all winter to not have a beautiful day of running. Looks like it will be 30 degrees at the start tomorrow with winds between 16-20 mph. And that sucks. And it has been festering in my brain since the weather changed as I was packing and then again as I was traveling up to Toledo.
I had a lot going on this past week. Between some training runs and cross-training. Between work and errands. I was squeezing in baking Lemon Blossoms for the MRTT/SRTT tent at the finish line of the KDF Marathon/minimarathon. I was getting a sports massage to get my legs primed for this effort on Sunday. And I was having a late dinner with my friends Melissa, Paul, and the one and only baby Carrick, the night before I had to get in a car with my roommate and make the long-ass drive from Louisville up to Toledo.
Thankfully, Cathy handled most of my packing. On Friday morning, I simply had to stretch, foam roll, make breakfast, get together road snacks and hydration…and yes…RACE FUEL…pack a few extra things plus toiletries in my suitcase…before taking everything down to the car, taking out the garbage, making a quick stop at Kroger, and hitting the road. It sounds like a lot. It was. But I enjoyed the dinner out with my friends, and despite getting home late that night, I knew I could sleep in a bit as we were hoping to get on the road by 9:30 at the latest. We managed. YAY!
But it was to be a pretty rainy drive and Mother Nature didn’t disappoint. In fact, not only did we get rain, we got about three traffic accidents that really slowed our progress into Toledo. And the first one ended up with us taking a major detour that was out of our way, but got us where we needed to be quicker than sitting in the long line of traffic would have. But the second one, we actually had to sit through and just creep through. I had to really pee at this point (remember…HYDRATION!), and now I was stuck in traffic for who knows how long. We got through that one and we managed to get to a rest stop 10 miles up the road. YAY! But soon we were sitting in traffic again…yes…AGAIN. And we hadn’t even hit Dayton yet. It. Was. A. Mess.
But…we did finally make it in to Toledo and to our hotel, the Home2Suites by Hilton. It’s a nice little place, with a full fridge, microwave, and lots of room and space. The beds are quite comfortable too. We hauled our luggage in and were told that some sports teams were coming in this weekend too…looks like some kids soccer teams…but we were staying through Monday, so it really didn’t affect us at all. We unpacked our stuff and took a moment to relax. The expo didn’t open until 4 pm, so we had a bit of time. But we wanted to get there close to opening, so we did eventually meander out and head down to the University of Toledo campus. On the way, we noted that we were close to both a Kroger and a Target…just in case we needed to make any sort of stops.
The expo itself was held in the Savage Hall Sports Arena. It isn’t a large expo, but it was big enough that we walked through a couple times. But, we made our first official stop all the way at the back…at the packet pick-up. I had to get both my Savage 5K (my shakeout run) packet and my Mercy Health Glass City Marathon race packet as well. This was very seamless and easy, to be honest. I had my bib number in my e-mail and showed my ID. Simple. The 5K gives you a soft stadium blanket. You can pay extra for a t-shirt, but why? Love different race swag. I got a yellow half-zip for the full marathon and Cathy got her bib for the 5K as well. With those in hand, we went to have her knees (that had been acting up this past week) taped up by a chiropractor that was there in the expo…and then shopped. I picked up some gluten-free and vegan protein cookies that were being sold and sampled there. Really good. And also got the Glass City Marathon Bondi Band. We wandered back over to official merch, where I picked up a hoodie and a race t-shirt (compliments of Cathy). And then we headed out.
We, sadly, were having a hard time finding food options for this race for me. Lots of reviews on Find Me Gluten Free pointed us away from many of the options we had thought about. But…we passed a Marco’s Pizza on our way to the expo, and I called to see if they did gluten free (the one in New Albany doesn’t, but the one near my parents in Birmingham, AL does…so it was worth a try). They did…so we decided that we would go ahead and put our trust in Marco’s Pizza for dinner that night.
We ordered a Gluten Free Pizza without cheese, topping it with onions, mushrooms, and banana peppers. Cathy said she didn’t even miss the cheese when ti came out. And, the man who took our order, a guy named Davis, basically walked my pizza down the line to make sure there was no cross-contamination. He was amazing. And so was the pizza. We hit up Kroger on our way back to the hotel, picking up some bananas and some gluten-free cookies to have for dessert. I am a dessert fiend. I must have dessert.
It was getting late. So while Cathy showered, I stretched and did my foam rolling before getting settled into my bed while watching Diners, Drive-ins & Dives on Food Network (of course!). I set an alarm for 6:30 am, since race start wasn’t until 9 am, and we called it a night.
I hate hotel pillows, for the record. They are always too soft for me. MEH. But I slept relatively well, getting up to use the bathroom, do my first round of stretches in the dark, and then get back into bed for about 30 minutes until the alarm went off.
We were up and getting ready for the race right on time. And it didn’t take us too long to get fully dressed and ready to head out the door. It was 41 degrees, but real feel was 35 degrees. I opted for capris and a long sleeve shirt for this one. And gloves, because I have to wear gloves in anything in the 40s and below for temperatures. I just have to. We made the short trip down to the race, parking near a parking garage on campus and not too far from the start of the Savage 5K. I was thinking we’d hang in the car for awhile, but we ended up throwing on some garbage bags and making the trek to the start area. After freezing for a bit, I commented that we still had an hour to go before the start, so we went over to the Savage Hall Sports Arena to sit down and stay warm prior to the race. We had our photo taken on our way up the stairs, but ducked inside and took a seat on the stairs to wait until it was a little closer to race start. I ate my banana with 30 minutes to go.
We did meander out 15 minutes before the race start and went to get into our corrals. I was in Corral A and Cathy was in Corral D. I kept my trash bag on until about 5 minutes before the race. I had set my Garmin to give me some certain strides for the last mile so I pulled up that workout and then set my watch to start the workout. A few people spoke before the race start, and a blessing was given as well. And then…at about 9:01 am…we were on our way.
As I think I mentioned above, I was using this run as a shake-out leading into tomorrow’s race. So, I held myself back and just ran comfortably…not pushing my pace or effort on any hills. I felt really good, which was surprising after sitting in the car for so long the day before. I just sort of settled in at a comfortable pace, and focused on just not pushing it. There was a bit of a hill heading into the first mile marker, but I crested it by not pushing effort or pace, and felt like I was holding back and doing a good job. I was under an 8 min pace. WHOOPS.
Mile 2 went a bit better as I reined it back a bit. This was a fun mile, as we got 2 water stop options and a dash through the Greek Village near campus. It was really nice. And as I turned back onto main roads, I passed a cute mother/young daughter team that was running and the mom was just being very encouraging to her little girl. It was adorable. Back onto the streets and back through another water stop opportunity, and I was heading into Mile 3.
My watch was set up to do 80 meter pushes with equal recovery for strides. But…my watch just beeped at me like after 1 second of running and then settled in to the extra mile I tagged on. Glad I did that. But now I was going manual. Which did help to slow me down some. I would run for .05 mile and then ease off for the same amount of time. And I did that close to the 10 times I was supposed to (after the Garmin fuck up), and just pressed the lap button. My data was already screwed up, but I wanted to give something to my coach to look at. After I got that last mile…I pressed it in to a strong finish, which happens inside the University of Toledo’s Glass Bowl Stadium. I did a fast 10 miler which finished on a stadium field just like this, so that was sort of fun. I threw my hands up as I crossed the finish and my name was announced and went to collect my medal and some water.
Now, I was waiting for Cathy to finish her race, but we weren’t allowed to wait in the finisher’s area. I moved off to the side, just past the finish line, and waited for her, trying not to freeze. That’s been the worst part about Cathy now doing my races…that I don’t have warm clothing to slide into at the finish right away.
She came across and I snapped pictures and shouted at her. She was introducing me to the people she ran with for most of the race. We took some photos, then headed over to get our Commemorative Glass Mug. She went to go get beer and I went to get official results. I couldn’t remember my Athlinks login though, so I ended up just looking it up on the RaceJoy app. Then we went and got snacks, and Cathy got 2 slices of pizza (she got my slice), which she said was actually really good.
And…to my absolute shock…I came in 2nd in my age group. What the hell? I wasn’t even trying. We didn’t know if I’d get my award there or if it would be mailed, and no one else seemed to know either. Not even at the Race Info booth inside the expo. I finally asked back by where we picked up our packets and they actually know. Awards would be mailed. YAY! So, that’s something to look forward to! We walked through the expo one last time, and Cathy thanked the booth who taped her up because she had a good 5K with their help. And then we made the cold trek back to the car and headed out.
I needed hot coffee…stat. So, we headed over to Bigbee Coffee (a local chain in Toledo), where I got a Neapolitan Latte with Almond Milk. It. Was. EVERYTHING. If you like Neapolitan ice cream…it tastes exactly like THAT! Holy crap, it might be my new thing in life. Then I ducked over to Kroger to grab some sushi for a quick lunch and picked up some Pop Chips Nutter Puffs. Cathy grabbed something from the frozen section for a little bite and her favorite Doritos before we paid and headed back to the hotel.
I showered an climbed onto my bed to work up the race reviews that I now owed the blog. So here it is!!
So, my official results for Glass City’s Savage 5K are that I finished in 24:19, which was way faster than I intended to run it. But I honestly held myself back. Craziness. I was 91/1212 finishers overall. I was 16/739 female finishers. And, as I just mentioned above, I squeaked in a 2/96 in my age division! WOOT! If nothing else, I can take that away from this race.
I would do this 5K again in a heartbeat, to be honest! It’s a fantastic course for a fast race. So, if you love traveling for 5Ks…or live near Toledo…definitely consider this one! I’ve had my feet up all afternoon and am preparing to head out to a gluten free deli for dinner in a bit before stretching, foam rolling, and prepping for tomorrow’s marathon. Think happy thoughts for me, please!
Race: CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon
Place: Indianapolis, IN
Date: November 3, 2018
“Ever tried. Ever Failed. No Matter. Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better.” ~ Samuel Beckett
I admit it. The results of the 2018 Bank of America Chicago Marathon were a hard pill to swallow. In all honesty, I had hoped that my training, regardless of changing plans and going solo on it all…making it all up as I went, catching up on miles I didn’t get to run to build up that marathon base…I really thought it would be enough. I didn’t feel like I was in marathon shape. But I felt confident.
And, as we know…I crashed and burned soon after the 14 mile mark. I finished. But not with a time I was happy with.
Moral of the story. Do NOT ever leave me along with an upcoming half marathon with the option to upgrade to the full marathon when I’m pissed off with my previous marathon performance. Less than one month apart. 27 days apart, to be exact. Because, I figured, hell, I was already in “marathon shape”…might as well try again with a different plan of action. So, it happened. I upgraded my registration to the full marathon (trust me, I was starting to doubt the wisdom of this the morning of the race, but I’ll get there, LOL!) and then…didn’t really broadcast it anywhere. I told my training partner, Lauren. My roommate, of course, knew. And a couple of people at the gym who asked me what was next for me knew…but no one else. Not. A. Word.
My plan for the days in between? Recovery. Easy runs. Not a ton of miles. Just easy, training runs. I did maybe 3 speed intervals…all of only 4 miles. My longest long run was 10 miles…last weekend. Slow and steady with Lauren who took me on an adventure and kept the pace right where I wanted and needed it. Some people like to pile on those miles and brag about weekly and monthly totals. I have never been that sort. And, honestly, it is a rare thing for me to ever hit 200 miles in a month, even during marathon training. There is training and there is overtraining. One of these benefits you. The other leads to injury, burnout, and a plethora of other issues. Just like pace, I don’t usually post my miles or mileage either. Honestly, who cares other than me?
Deep breath. Let’s start with the day before the race.
Thursday night was filled with packing and not trying to overthink anything. Cathy picked out my outfit…she packed recovery wear, shoes, race gear, fuel, etc. Everything I would need for another 26.2. I made her pack capris because I was nervous it would be too cold at the start of the race for the running skirt she had picked. She allowed for that…but nothing more. We went to work as usual on Friday, planning to leave around 2 pm to make the drive up to Indianapolis.
I made certain that I got as much work done that I could in the time I was in the office. Lunch was just a giant salad, made from all the fresh ingredients/produce that I had lingering in my fridge heading into the weekend. We packed up, brought bottles of water that had our Nuun Immunity Tablets in them. If you haven’t tried them…HIGHLY recommended! And we hit the road, with our mid-day snacks to get us through the drive and the expo before heading to dinner.
We hit a small amount of traffic on the way, but we made it to the Omni Severin Hotel, in downtown Indianapolis. Honestly, if you’re looking for a hotel in downtown Indy…STAY HERE!! I was blown away by the hospitality, even if they didn’t do late checkouts due to it being an event weekend (I get it…but after a marathon, I usually appreciate a hot shower). They did say that they had a fitness center with a shower and if I needed one I could get a key made to get in there and shower. So…I mean…there was that. Our luggage was taken up to our room by the nicest guy, Matt, who gave us the rundown about the hotel and the history behind it. He showed us the amenities in the room and made sure we had plans for dinner because otherwise the hotel was doing a pasta dinner for the runners. Honestly, I’ve never felt so welcome at a hotel.
Next stop…the expo. We took the inside path through the hotel and Circle Center Mall to get ourselves over to the Indianapolis Expo Center. Some roads were going to be closed because Trump and Pence were in town (BARF!), but it wasn’t affecting us. We had a work-around. The Expo felt a lot smaller this year than it was last year. We got there, and immediately collected posters and headed to the back to get race packets and shirts. YES…that’s plural. Since I upgraded to the full, Cathy decided she could do the 5K, as it started AFTER the full and half marathons were sent off. Had I stuck with the half, she wouldn’t have done it otherwise she’d miss my finish.
We stopped at the 5K booths first and Cathy did her first ever official big race 5K packet pickup. She had to show her ID and everything. The volunteers at her table were SO fun and very cool. They even had thrown safety pins into her bag. It was awesome.
After she got her stuff…we headed over to the marathon tables where I collected my shirt and bib and we went straight into Official Merchandise. Where I spent more money. This time only on a lapel pin and a jacket. The jacket is SUPER nice though. I could have spent SO MUCH more. HA! We made our walk through the vendors and races that were represented at the expo. Cathy had forgotten a BondiBand to keep her ears warm, so we had to go and get her one of those. She found one…bright pink…that says, “Nevertheless, she persisted.” Just like the button she has worn since NYC. I spotted a different flavor of Gluten Free Honey Stinger Stroopwafels (I can only ever find Salted Caramel…which is GOOD…but I know there are other flavors out there…and I found a Vanilla & Chocolate one!). But we wrapped it up quickly, stopping to find my name on the poster and then take a few pictures with the banners. A volunteer was kind enough to get a lot of these photos for us, from every angle.
From there, we made the trek back to the hotel room. We had about 30 minutes to kill before dinner, so Cathy went ahead and tried on her race shirt to get my opinion on the fit. I decided I should do the same, and thank GOD I did. Turns out, the volunteers at my end of the table gave me a men’s small and not a women’s small. I was NOT happy. With 20 minutes to get to our dinner reservation, we packed up the shirt and stepped outside to take a quicker route to the convention center in hopes of changing it out. I booked it down the hall and back into the expo to the shirt exchange area and snagged my women’s small. Whew! Cathy was waiting in the hall outside. We had about 5 minutes to make a 10 minute walk to our dinner reservation at Napolese. Honestly, whenever we are in town for a race, this is our go-to restaurant. I mean…GLUTEN FREE FOCACCIA AND GLUTEN FREE PIZZA!!
I apologized to the hostess for being late and told her we had a 5:45 reservation. Our table was still there though, next to two very loud men who were drinking a lot and talking REALLY LOUD about Queen and movies and games and whatever. I was over it. Thank God they left while we were eating our appetizer.
We had already had plans on what we were going to do for eats that night. I looked at the menu on the way up so we could formulate a plan. So when our waiter came over, we got glasses of water and put in our order. Gluten Free Focaccia (no dairy) and then we were going to Freestyle our pizza and do a Gluten Free Pizza topped with the Housemade Tomato Sauce, Winter Squash, Mushrooms, and Duck Eggs. He asked if the gluten-free was an allergy and made note that it was for a Celiac on the ticket. And also made note of the NO DAIRY preference as well. They are VERY efficient there. And trust me…the food is amazing too.
The focaccia came out first…olive oil, garlic, parsley. SO GOOD. And as we were polishing that off, the pizza came out. But it was missing…the duck eggs. Cathy pointed it out and he apologized and took it back. He returned with a little thing of olive oil to go with the pizza if we wanted to add it and said that he took the pizza before they had cooked up the eggs and it would be up momentarily. And we didn’t really have a long wait before it was returning to our table. Looking SO good. And even with polishing off the focaccia…I was ready to eat. We polished off the pizza and took his advice, adding the olive oil…and it was light and fruity and just added a whole new level of deliciousness to the slices. BIG FAN. We finished eating and were given the bill, where they didn’t charge us for the duck eggs (that was sweet…but they didn’t need to do that). We left a big tip, because or waiter was awesome. Then headed to CVS to pick up some waters for the next morning, and then hit up the Hard Rock Cafe for a pin. Mind you…I was not wanting to be on my feet much this time around. But, we were never far from the hotel and we were back into the hotel by 7:30-ish. Cathy went to shower. I got out all my race gear and laid it out and then started my foam rolling because I was determined to do that the night before the race. As I was doing that, there was a knock at the door. It was housekeeping delivering a bottle of water, some ice, and a card. It was from the hotel. Super sweet gesture. I knew it would all come in handy. We finished up an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives…and then…
Lights out…9 pm. On the nose.
I woke up a couple of times during the night…like my usual wakeup time of 3 am. At 4
am, my first alarm went off so I could take a pill and use the bathroom. Back to bed for 2 restless hours. At 6 am…we were both up and starting our morning routine. I popped open a Pamela’s Products Gluten Free Matcha Happiness Ambition Bar. I ate one before I ran the Monumental Half Marathon last year. Why not do it again? I prepped my pre-race drink and started to slowly get dressed. At 6:15 am, Cathy’s free orange juice and coffee arrived outside the door. We got up at 6 am so we could have a more relaxed moment and this gave her the chance to eat her Clif Bar and drink some coffee and juice as she does most mornings. Including in her own training.
I finished getting ready, and this included slathering on some sunscreen because…it was going to be a sunny day that morning and I refuse to be the person with a sunburn in November. I was wearing two different color CEP sleeves, my Injinji toe socks, my Newton Distance IIIs, a black running skirt, my Kauai Marathon & Half Marathon singlet, red arm warmers, and a red BondiBand that said “Breathe.” I had some pajama bottoms to toss away prior to the race and a halfzip that I bought in a child’s size a long time ago that I was okay parting with. I put my Nuun Energy into two of my bottles and water into the other two bottles and put my fuel belt on. I put my new nutrition (tested once) into the front zip pouch and called myself ready. Cathy ended up putting on a second layer on top and then we headed down to the lobby. They had water and bananas out for the runners. I usually eat a banana before a marathon so…I snagged one. We ran into people from Louisville that we didn’t know, but I spotted his Chicago Marathon t-shirt and said I had run it too, but he was smarter than me this morning since he was only doing the half. We had a good laugh over that.
And after they moved on…I started to have a small meltdown. Why? Because, despite being easy on my body and training smart leading up to this…I felt like my legs weren’t going to let me go another 26.2 so soon. Cathy talked me down, as she usually does. And then she had us moving out the door and into the cold Indianapolis morning. It was 34 degrees outside. We made the walk from the Omni to the start line, where I ate my banana and slowly drank my water. We made it here and Cathy took a few pictures. When we saw the pacers getting into the corral, she told me to go find my pacers and talk to them. She gave me a hug and I left…stepping into the network of corrals and finding the 3:35 pacers (see what I’m doing here?), in the 2nd wave. My bib was good for the first wave, but like I said, I was learning from my mistakes at Chicago…I hoped.
My plan for this race…line up with the 3:35 pace group and hold on as long as I could. I
didn’t expect to be with them for long, just given how my training runs had been coming off of Chicago. But, I figured it would be a good way to keep from going out way too fast (and we all know I would have) and at least keeping a constant pace going forward. The male pacer’s PR was 3:09 and the female had just run a 50K the weekend before, so I can only assume that she is normally super fast as well. Crazy good. I never run with pacers, but I figured…this might be what I need.
I ditched my toss-away clothing and got back to the pacers just as the national anthem was being sung. It was gorgeous. The wheelchair racers were sent off first. Wave one was next. And we were moved up to the start gate. I gave a wave to Cathy since I wasn’t on the outside of the corral…I was right behind the pacers because…I didn’t want to lose them. After about 5 minutes…off we went. We hit the roads of Indianapolis…and Cathy went to line up for her 5K.
The pacers guided our group down Capitol Avenue, reminding us that the pace would be slow for the first couple of miles until the race spread out a little bit. Since the half and full marathon start together, it can be very congested at points. Reminder, Indianapolis roads are awful. The male pacer pointed out holes as we ran and I heard the female pacer say, “You’re going to be saying that a lot.” HA! She wasn’t wrong.
We made a couple of turns before running across the first water/aid station. They were nice enough to shout out each station as we approached so anyone who needed water or Gatorade could grab it. It was a little chaotic through there, but I stuck with them as we made a couple more turns and made the half rotation around Monument Circle. There was another aid station before we hit Mile 3 and the pacer sign was passed from the male to the female. He had a pace tattoo on his arm and when we hit three, she asked, “How are we?” He said, “We’re a little over.” So she picked it up slightly.
Not only was I incorporating a “stick to the pacer” technique this race, I also decided to fuel more. So every 4 miles…I was trying something new (I know…nothing new on race day, but…MEH)…Maurten Gel 100, which is apparently what Kipchoge uses! I am no Kipchoge, nor was I aware of this when I purchased it to try…but it isn’t bad. I like the texture way better than the Honey Stingers or Gu type gels. I took my first one at Mile 4, which had me ease back on the pace just enough. I took a drink of water, and pushed my way back up toward the pacers.
It was just about the 10K area that I discovered how dangerous it was to run with a pace
group. As more people fell into the group it got crowded…fast. Someone clipped my foot from behind, sending me stumbling. I recovered, but was pushed into someone ahead of me, which sent them stumbling. Then someone else closed in and his foot pretty much tripped me…and again I had to catch myself. And then someone clipped me again and that one nearly took me down for good. The adrenaline was rushing at this point which was definitely NOT what I wanted to have happen. I eased back just enough to allow some space so I wouldn’t get trampled at this point.
At Mile 7, the half marathoners turn left and the marathon runners continue up toward the State Fairgrounds. At Mile 8…I fueled again. And I was still hanging onto the pace group. YAY. I was a little bit behind them, but I felt that was for my own safety and sanity. We turned onto Washington Boulevard, which we would be on for almost the next two miles. They were giving out Clif Gels at Mile 11, but I had my own fueling to contend with. But it was here…HERE…that I started to get a side stitch. I wasn’t pushing my pace…but it soon turned into a stomach cramp of sorts. I gutted through it until we made the turn and hit Mile 12…and then I slowed it to a walk to see if I could get it to pass. This was when I was supposed to fuel again anyway…and I took the opportunity to do that before I felt I would be okay to pick it up again. And I did. No problems. I made sure to drink more water this time. I think that was the problem. I was now further behind the pace group, but was about to hit the halfway mark. I pushed through and continued…still feeling strong for the most part. I was just frustrated that I was off the pace group earlier than I would have liked.
I loved winding through the streets of Indianapolis. There were crowds and people cheering in places you wouldn’t expect. If we ran through neighborhoods, people were there too. I may have been a bit off my pace, but I was going strong for the most part. I made the turn onto Meridian and picked it back up a little. Mile 16…I eased back again to fuel and drink more water. And now I decided I would start walking some water stops in order to make sure I was hydrating. When it’s cold outside, I forget to drink water. I wasn’t letting anything stupid like that take me down that day.
The 3:40 pacers caught me just before Mile 18, where we ran through this area that felt like a park and were met with a wall of screaming from the people inside. I think it was a college group, but they were fantastic. I got quite a few compliments at aid stations and as I ran through here on my pigtails. Love that story. We exited onto the highway and headed toward my favorite part of the course, this gorgeous, twisting downhill on an exit ramp. YES! Downhill is my favorite speed as we all know!! And this was fun.
Mile 20…and I had only a 10K left. I took a little longer on my walk to fuel here because not only did I fuel and drink some water, but I also moved my one and only Honey Stinger Gel from my zip pocket in my running skirt to my fuel belt. Why? Because I was going to do one more fueling and I didn’t have enough Maurten with me. I wanted to feel good and strong at the end of this.
At this point, if there was a hill…I speed walked it. If there was a water stop, I walked it and took in some water. If there was a crowd, I ran. I was running more than walking, which was opposite Chicago, so already my plan was paying off. I think it was at Mile 23, I went ahead and took my last gel, fueling for the last push. The water stop here was AMAZING. They were blaring this great song about being downtown. And it just helped me pick it back up.
The next three miles went well, even though I could tell I was slowing down. I think at some point the 3:45 group passed me. I tried not to let it get into my head. I took any water break walks that I needed and promised that I would push it at the end. I was going to finish this one strong. I made the turn onto W New York Street. The crowd was amazing. Someone shouted, “The finish is just around the corner!” They were right. I rounded the corner and could see the finish line down the way. It seemed so far, but I found another gear and I started to pick it up. As I got closer, I saw Cathy standing near the finish, screaming her head off for me. I pressed on, crossing the finish line, arms in the air, and stopped my Garmin. I never looked at it. I wanted to beat my Dopey time. But I didn’t want to be disappointed yet either.
So I never looked. I started walking down the row. I was wrapped in a Mylar blanket. I saw some people with their medals on…and thought for a moment I had walked right past that station. But I hadn’t. I just hasn’t moved up far enough. I continued on. A nice woman put a medal around my neck and congratulated me. I smiled and thanked her, snagging a bottle of water before stopping to get an official finisher photo from Marathonfoto. On down the aisle of snacks, snagging a banana, a Clif Bar (for Cathy), a bag of Lay’s chips, and the famous cookie (I can’t even eat it…but I knew plenty of people who could). And then…I made my way out to be greeted by Cathy with a hug.
I asked her, “Did I beat my Dopey time?” And she said, “You smashed it by over three minutes.” I was elated. It wasn’t the time I was hoping to hit, but I once again chipped away from my time I set at the beginning of the year…doing a run/walk for the entire race. This time, I mostly ran and felt strong and good throughout…and that was saying something. As Cathy was finding a spot for me to lay down and put my feet up, I spotted the hat in her clear backpack and said, “You got a hat?” She said I should have gotten one too and I told her I must have walked past that station. She told me to lay down and she would see if she could get one for me. After about 5 minutes, she returned victorious, saying she flagged down a happy looking marathoner to see if she could get another one. It worked.
After stretching my feet up for a little bit, just basking in the sun, we finally decided to get up and head back toward the hotel. Cathy checked us out of our room and had our bags checked. It felt like the walk took forever, but it was a good way, save for the wind that had picked up. I drew my arm warmers back up over my arms and we zigzagged our way back to the hotel.
We stepped inside and got into the elevator to go up one floor. Cathy told me to go over to the bench to sit down and wait while she got luggage. It didn’t take too long. She opened up my suitcase and pulled out the outfit I had set out to wear afterwards, compression socks, jeans, the race t-shirt, new underwear, a proper bra, the basics. We went ahead and took off my shoes, socks and put on my compression socks while I was sitting there. She pulled my pigtails down, getting my hair extensions out and grabbing my hair brush. And then she sent me around the corner to the bathroom to change.
I ducked into a stall and did that in record time after a marathon. I realized that I had left my deodorant in my toiletries bag so I made sure I looked presentable, brushed my hair, and then went to grab that while leaving my race clothes with her. Quick duck into the bathroom to apply deodorant, a wash of the hands, and one more fix of the hair…and I was good to go. Once I put on my recovery shoes.
We headed out and she gave me the valet ticket to get the car while she went into Starbucks to grab me a much-needed coffee. They valet went to retrieve the car, which took about 5 minutes and she hadn’t yet made it out. I had no money on me to top the valet, which I felt AWFUL about, but I couldn’t help that. I texted her and she said about 14 teenagers had been in front of her and she was coming. She was out in about 3 minutes and we loaded up her luggage. I snagged my coffee. And we were off, heading to Carmel, Indiana, the home of Woody’s Library Restaurant, my new favorite place to eat in all of Indianapolis. Our friend Greg met us there. I didn’t have an appetite at this moment, but went ahead and ordered the Gluten Free (Lettuce Wrap) Tex Mex Quinoa Tacos with a side of the Gluten Free Sweet Potato Fries, and Cathy got me a little side of pickles…just in case I wanted them.
I made a go at the food…taking my time to chew and to digest so as not to set my stomach off. And I managed to eat the fries and most of the tacos before calling it quits. I maybe had two of the pickle chips. I was surprised I managed that much. Afterwards, to stretch me out a bit more before we made the car ride home, the three of us went to the Antique Mall and looked around. They both found things to buy, but I didn’t this time. Maybe next time. Then we hit up the gluten-free No Label at the Table bakery there. I picked up two of their Lemon Cookies, a Brownie, and a Chocolate Pumpkin Loaf. The lady who owns the bakery was there, and she was excited to see a marathoner there and asked me about other local races and Disney races as I shopped and decided what I wanted.
Afterwards…it was time to make the long drive back home.
So, the official results of the CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in 3:46:17, which makes it my fastest marathon this year and the one that closes out my actual racing season, as far as I know. HA. I was 1377/4568 finishers overall. I was the 377/1983 female finishers. And I was 106/391 in my age division. Very happy with my results as I was dedicating this run to the people I know…who can’t run. Spontaneous Marathon #14 is in the books and I already can’t wait to sign up for next year. This was a great race, all around.
At the beginning of my training season, after Dopey in January and after I got over the flu, my coach asked me, specifically, for some goals this year. I laid out two. And one of them was to PR my half marathon distance, specifically at the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon.
It was in writing. And I was actually starting to finally have a good training cycle, when, one morning, as you read in a previous post (and I swear I will blog about the saga…maybe…perhaps), I fell hard on a training run early one morning. It was a long run I was doing to beat the rain and storms that were supposedly coming. And…it took me out of any sort of strong training for the entire time leading into the KDF miniMarathon. I kept telling myself that this would actually work out for me in the end. My body would recover…and I’d be well-rested coming into this race, despite having a half marathon the week before.
Mind you…I took it very easy on KDF. I barely broke an 8 minute mile when all was said and done. So, my legs felt good and my foot was finally feeling good…but I haven’t been feeling strong or fast as of late. Keep in mind, the races I have been doing, I haven’t been doing at pace. This was supposed to be what makes me able to do this for goal/key races. So, I assured myself that the missed runs wouldn’t matter. I was ready. I could do this.
Friday morning came and I went out for an easy shake-out run for 30 minutes. Showered. Then began to prep breakfast for that morning. Melissa and Paul were coming over (we were all driving up together) and I was going to make us a hearty breakfast to get us through the Panel of Olympians (I won two tickets to it and Melissa and I were going to attend) that morning, the race expo itself, and whatever else we ended up doing afterwards until dinner time. The menu: Avocado Toast and Hash Browns. I used Simple Kneads Gluten Free Quinoa Power Grains Bread, smashed ripe avocado on each slice, topped it with some Trader Joe’s Everything But The Bagel Seasoning, then capped each slice with a sunny-side up egg. Served with some Ore Ida Hash Browns (with onions and peppers). It was perfect. We ate. We drank coffee. We eagerly discussed the events that day. And then…we were literally off to the races.
We talked…the entire time heading to the hotel. We were staying at the JW Marriott (I’m a princess…sorry, not sorry!) and we were going to check in and take things up to the room before heading over to Indiana Convention Center (we could do this via walkway, but why not enjoy the wind that day?) for the Champions Panel that started at 11 am (but they wanted ticket holders in by 10:45 am).
We pulled up to the hotel and while everyone else was unloading the car, I was sent inside to check into the room. And this friends…is where the tale truly begins. Because, upon entering the hotel, all wind-blown and looking like a hot mess…I notice someone in a race jacket holding a cup of coffee near one of the pillars at the front of the lobby. And my brain went…
This is where I lost all motor functions for a moment. I smiled at him and walked toward the line for the front desk check-in. I pulled out my cell phone to text my group, but I couldn’t get my fingers to hit the right numbers on my unlock screen. I did finally get there. I typed a simple message, “HOLY SHIT! MEB!” And I sent it. And just as it sent, Cathy came strolling in. At this point, Meb went to go talk to a group of runners in the lobby and I started pointing at him (his back was to me). She glanced over, did a shrug, then did a double take. It was awesome.
She told me to go ask if I could get a selfie with him. I’m not shy. So I did. I’m surprised I could now find words. I’m honestly not the type to get star-struck like that…but Meb is a one of my running heroes and I was..honored to be in a hotel lobby with him. Also, no one informed me that I looked all a mess from strong winds and car ride. But…hey…at least he looks good in the photos. I took a selfie and then someone took a picture for me. Both of which I look like a star-struck fool with really, really bad hair.
Hey…you never know when you’ll met your heroes.
He was so very gracious and generous and never once made me feel like I was inconveniencing him. And that’s one of the many things I love about Meb. After the photos in the lobby, Cathy and Paul sent Melissa and I on our way to get to the Champions Panel while they took stuff up to the room. Paul was on a business call at this point anyway. So…we braced ourselves for the windy walk to the Indianapolis Convention Center (we could have walked it inside, honestly) and went to get in line for the panel.
We were seated in the second row when doors opened. And as they brought in the Champions for the Champions Panel…they also introduced the woman who was conducting the panel, Indianapolis’ very own Lindsey Hein, the host of the “I’ll Have Another” podcast…which I am a total fan and listen to every week. So, I fangirled a little there and hoped to snag a picture with Lindsey afterwards…but we were escorted out of the room quickly and I never got to ask. Dang it. NEXT TIME!!
The Champion’s Panel was amazing. It started off with having us introduced to the Elite Ambassador and Special Olympics athlete, Andrew Peterson. His story and the way he told it was inspiring and tear inducing. Seriously. What an inspiration. From being told he could never do things…to being the second Special Olympian to qualify for the Boston Marathon…he is nothing but inspiring. What a way to kick off the panel. Then…they brought up the rest of them:
Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, Alexi Pappas, and Meb Keflezighi!
The stories all of these athletes could tell about mental fitness, experiences in running, etc. I now have a major girl crush on Alexi for one thing. She’s a doll. Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers had tales to tell about the running community and running game back when they were at the top of the game. And Meb had lots of uplifting and insightful things to say. Alexi is training with Deana Kastor for her first marathon. And I’m currently reading Deana Kastor’s book. Full circle. Just…love. This was the way to kick off the weekend for sure. It was the day before Meb’s birthday, so we all sang Happy Birthday to him. So that was amazing.
After the panel dismissed the audience, Melissa and I met up with Cathy and Paul, who had already gone shopping through the expo area. So…now it was our turn. We went to pick up our bibs and race packets first before setting out to see all of the expo area and try not to spend too much money. HA!
Actually, because Newton wasn’t there (I really want to try on the Distance VII), I came out of it on the plus side. Cathy bought me my mandatory Bondi Band’s (this has to happen at every race or bad stuff happens!) and I was told I wasn’t allowed to buy any Finisher’s gear (which means, she got me something). And with those being the only restrictions, I just set out to see what was there. This is a great expo. Lots of samples of products, lots of vendors…all very relevant. Area races were present and promoting. And, while we paused for bathroom breaks, that was when Corey Queen found us!
He actually started sneaking up on me and got pretty damn close before I saw him and gave him a hug. He’s a ninja, that one. The five of us stood around and talked for a good while. We discussed races and being ambassadors and weather and just life in general. Seriously, if this weekend proved anything…it’s that the five of us could stand around and talk and not get bored with it. HA!
When we all finally decided we needed to finish seeing the expo and make Meb’s autograph session before heading to our dinner reservations. We did traverse the rest of the expo, killing time before standing around near the area the line would be forming for Meb. Currently Bill Rodgers was at the autograph table. So, we hung out until the volunteers at the expo came and put up some partitions and had us maneuver inside to wait for Meb.
Melissa asked me if Bill Rodgers book was worth buying, and I told her definitely. So she asked if she could get into the back of his line for an autograph. We had thought of doing this earlier, but Cathy had overheard one of the handlers say that he was just signing books…but the man ahead of Melissa had his Boston Marathon shirt so she looked at me and said, “Do you want Bill Rodgers to sign your medal too? He’s a four time Boston Marathon champion.” I took my medal from her and went to stand with Melissa. This worked out because it meant I could take photos with her and Bill and she could return the favor for me. Bill was awesome. He recommended to Melissa that she run Chicago Marathon and she told him she was this year. And he wouldn’t let up on how amazing the crowd support is there and how amazing the race is (everything I have touted all along) and as I was taking their picture, he apparently kept whispering “Chicago. Chicago. Chicago.” in her ear. HA! My turn. I brought him my medal and I told him my Boston story. When I told him about my hip labrum tear, he said, “That’s a bad injury. Did you have to have surgery?” I told him no. He said, “Lots of physical therapy.” I nodded. “So much physical therapy!” He signed my medal and graciously took a photo with me and wished me luck in Chicago this year too. Melissa and I went to duck back into our spots at Meb’s line.
Meb arrived and we were seriously near the front of the line. Meb took his time with people, signing an item for each person. We sent Paul and Melissa up to him first and it was so amazing to see just the sheer joy in Melissa’s face as she got to talk to Meb and tell him how much he inspired her to run her first race. He was the best and gave her encouraging words and was so uplifting. He signed a photo for her and a quote for Paul, and they took pictures with him. Then…it was my turn.
I knew telling my story to Meb was going to be emotional to me. So, thankfully I had Cathy on hand to tell him about my path to the Boston Marathon and the injury that I wouldn’t let take me out of it. She also mentioned the hip labrum tear, and his eyes got wide and he said, “That is a BAAAAAAAAAAAAAD injury.” He’s not wrong. It was (and still his and will hopefully forever be…the worst injury I have ever endured). I laid out my medal and asked him to sign it for me. He said, “This is the first one I have seen of these today!” One of the professional photographers took photos as he signed it. And then we did the stand and smile photo ops. Honestly, everything you have heard about Meb is true. He’s very humble and very human and very generous. And uplifting. Man, I walked away from that table feeling like I had just met a rockstar. I had. I mean…for real.
We needed to drop off our race expo stuff, so we took the walkways back to the hotel. We dropped things off in the room (Melissa and I hadn’t been here yet) and then set back out to go to the Hard Rock Cafe and then make our way to dinner at Harry & Izzy’s in downtown Indianapolis.
Originally, I thought Cathy and I were going to split one of the gluten-free pizzas. BUT…she started eyeing other things on the menu. Pizza has been a good food for me the night before the race, but as I knew I couldn’t eat the entire thing by myself and it would be a waste of money to just eat half of it (I wouldn’t have gotten back to it after the race or anything), I went a very different direction. I ended up ordering the Oven Roasted Beet Salad (hey…beets are supposedly good for athletic performance), which consisted of artisan greens, local goat cheese (I asked them to go light on the cheese), candied walnuts, and had a tarragon vinaigrette. And then I placed an order for the gluten free fries on the side. It was super yummy and I devoured it all. I mean…you need to be fueled for the race, right?
Afterwards, we walked to the candy store, just for some fun, and then headed back to the hotel to charge Garmin’s, shower, lay out race day stuff, and finally, get some rest. I had Melissa help me pick between the two outfits I brought, a tank and shorts or a crop and a running skirt. As the tank and skirt were in Boston colors and my Boston Marathon medal was now autographed by Bill Rodgers and Meb Keflezighi, it seemed like a good omen.
We set alarms for 6 am. And race morning dawned and alarms went off. We went with the bathroom circuit that we’ve established since the NYC Half Marathon. I grabbed my stuff and went to change into my shorts and tank before coming out and allowing the next people to work their way through. I always use the bathroom one last time before leaving the hotel. I realized I didn’t eat anything leading up to this…or take in some water. So…that was that working against me. I did have a banana, which I ate as we made our way to the lobby, as we were 30 minutes out from the start of the race. I know better than to JUST eat a banana before a distance race. A shorter race it would be fine…but not for a half or full marathon.
We got outside and gave hugs to Melissa and Paul. My corral was in Wave 1, which was going off at 7:33 am. So, Cathy went to cut across to the other side, and didn’t think that there was openings to the corals on that side (there was), so we hugged and she told me to have a good race. And….I went to get into Corral B. I had to pause though, as the National Anthem was starting, so I did that before heading up to the actual corral entrance and ducking inside. I didn’t move too far up, but I got out of the crowd there at the back. In fact, I wasn’t far from a guy in a penguin suit. No joke. I also noticed a lot of other Corral’s in my corral. Like a woman who should have been in Corral L. Okay…
I felt nervous energy as the light breeze kept the start line cool. The humidity was higher that day than what I was used to running in and the start line was a gorgeous 54 degrees…but it was going to hit the 60s fast that morning. When Wave 1 was sent off after the wheelchair start, I headed over the start line, waved to Cathy and took on the streets, telling myself that it was going to be a good day. And for the first mile I felt strong. And was definitely on pace to hit my PR. But that didn’t last long. My endurance is shit these days and immediately, I dropped off that pace and that was the story of my race. A steady decline and a huge missed opportunity.
Mile 1 was clipped off at a fast 7:10 minute mile. But they got slower soon after that. Mile 2 through 4 were steady and still in a good range of where I could be to finish ahead of my goal. Or so I thought. I never once looked at my watch or the clocks on the course. I didn’t want to fuss over time on this race. I felt strong heading up W Michigan and really thought I was pacing myself well. But as I turned onto Main Street just around Mile 5, I could hear conversation behind me. Whenever there is conversation, there is a pace team. I had no idea which one, until they started pacing me for a brief moment. It was the 1:40 pacer. I was way behind my goal and I could feel my energy really fading fast.
“It’s not meant to happen today,” I said to myself, and then just set my next focus on finishing a strong race. The 1:40 pacer faded and I decided I would at least try to stay ahead of the 1:50 this time.
Heading into the track, the lugs on the bottom of my Newtons picked up a stone, so just after Mile 6, I pulled over to dig it out. It apparently fell out on its own just as I slowed. So, I jumped back into the race. The race track has always been the thing that slows me down. And it was no exception this year. I kept telling myself to relax, but the humidity had gotten the best of me and at this point, I was no longer sweating. You know what that means? I was now overheating. I also fuel on half marathons during the time I’m inside the track, where we weren’t allowed to take any sort of gel at the time. So…I waited it out and made my lap of the track. I could feel my legs slowing down, and at times just feeling tingly. Definitely not having a good race. I didn’t let it dishearten me too much, and I did pick it up for the part where I ran across the brickyard. Flashing devil horns, as always. Coming out of the track, I usually am able to pick it up, but my body just had nothing left. I started making stops at the water stations to pour water over my head. I took my Hammer Gel, but it was too late at this point. I was now just focusing on counting down the miles to the finish line. My training plan said to try to finish ahead of 1:44…it was going to be close.
At Mile 12, I did glance at the course clock. It was where I should have been heading to the finish. But this mile does bring in crowds and cheers and the road lined with checkered flags, so my staggering pace started to slightly (not by much) pick up. I ignored the people handing out the leis and just kept pressing on. In order to finish, I just needed to focus on getting my legs to move. I forgot how awful crossing that last bridge felt, but kept going…feeling like I was moving through mud. As I was in the last quarter mile, I noticed medics near the curb and a young woman laying on the ground. They were radioing for an ambulance. I made the final push, seeing the finish line and could see Cathy with the sign near it. And I powered through, crossing at 1:44 and change. I missed the goal by seconds that I was supposed to aim for in my training plan. But I was just glad to be done. Meb was supposed to leave after finishing to head to Texas for his brother’s wedding, but he was at the finish line for as long as he could be, and he happened to still be there after I crossed. He gave me a fist bump, and it made me at least smile at a moment when I didn’t really feel like smiling.
I made my way through the finisher’s area, getting my medal and my bag that then had snacks from bananas and fruit to Clif Bars tossed into it. I got my photo taken at the backdrop and then headed into the Runner Reunion area where the after party was happening.
Normally, this is where Cathy would meet me at the letter X and we would take photos and head back to the hotel so I could shower and all that. But she wasn’t there. I had looked for her as I was coming into the area, but never spotted her or the sign. So, for the next 30-40 minutes, I was wandering around trying to find her, always returning to X, just in case she showed up there. I was really upset about my race and now this was upsetting me more…but I finally spotted her near the entrance to the runner reunion and came up behind her. She gave me a hug and my official finishing time – 1:44:14. I just decided to harp on her about not being at X and she admitted that she “got cocky” and tried to catch me before that point.
We went to take a photo before heading back to the hotel. I needed to drink water, but I wasn’t ready to. My stomach wasn’t loving anything at this point. The lobby of the JW Marriott had employees handing out water bottles (bless them) and cold towels. It was just what I needed. I went up to my room and Cathy went to pack up some stuff and make my BCAAs up while I showered and changed. We were going to check out, leave our luggage, and head down to wait for Corey, Melissa and Paul.
When our friends finished, we gathered together under a shady tree and just…voiced our thoughts that day. Being that none of us have really had humid or warm days to run in up to this point, we were all glad to have finished and sweat it out. I know Melissa and I were not happy with our times, and our coach, Linda, called to talk to us about the race. I don’t know what she said to Melissa, but Linda said she was looking at my splits and I just looked like I got tired.
Told you…endurance is shit right now. MEH! I told her I felt good up until Mile 5 and then it just spiraled from there. I was frustrated and disappointed, but she was very uplifting and positive about it. Did it make me feel better about it? Not really. But the positive affirmations did so much for my mental state at that point.
After Cathy, Corey and Paul shared a beer and a half (they were apparently VERY stingy with the free beers offered at the after party), and we passed the lemon blossoms I baked around…we decided to make our way back to the hotel. I needed to actually start the recovery process with some nutrition and Paul and Melissa needed to change before we spent the rest of the day in and around Indianapolis. This was where we found out that the guy who came to take our luggage gave us the wrong tag. And this is where we all freaked out because my backpack had my Boston Marathon medal in it and Melissa’s wedding rings were in her bag. But, Cathy went back to find the correct cart and we did have our stuff. We went separate directions to let them go to the Fitness Center to change and us to get some coffee. Nutrition after a race is important to recovery and coming back strong. Sometimes I don’t want to eat anything, but I always make sure I do.
I drank my protein shake and, while it wasn’t what I wanted, it would do for now until we would get dinner. Melissa got a coffee and Paul got himself coffee and a sandwich of sorts from Starbucks. We decided to head out…headed to Greenwood for Half Price Books, Strange Brew Coffee…and finally…dinner at Hops & Fire. After that…the long drive home…where we once again talked the entire way.
So, the official results of the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon is that I finished in 1:44:14. It was definitely NOT the results I set out for or wanted. But you never know what will happen on race day. So, you learn from it. I was 1304/19,588 finishers overall. I was 224/10,403 female finishers. And I was 50/1438 finishers in my division! I am trying really hard to not let these results bother me. But I would be sugar-coating it to say that I was okay with this. I set out for a PR…and I didn’t come close. And yeah…I’m disappointed. But this just drives me to step up and try again. I’ve been chasing PRs for years now. Eventually one of them is bound to fall. Disappointed…yes. Deterred…never.
I love running NYC. I loved running the full marathon in 2014 and then the half in 2016. And, by some luck of the NYRR lottery draw, I got the chance to run the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon again this year.
Two things though:
New course…starting in Brooklyn and finishing in Central Park (which meant a whole LOT of hills on your tired legs for the last 4 miles)
I had two friends (Paul & Melissa) coming along for the run as well…which was exciting because Melissa had barely spent sufficient time in NYC and Paul never had been there before!
I was so excited. Friends…fun…and NYC!
We had plenty of time to plan this trip as the lottery draw happens early. So over many bowls of pho and lots of text messages and dinner/game night evenings at each other’s homes…we purchased airplane tickets and Cathy had her mom take care of the room…because she has a time share vacation club thing there. Unfortunately…the race was on St. Patrick’s Day weekend this year which meant…EVENT WEEKEND…on top of everyone coming in for the half marathon itself. So, instead of staying at the nice Manhattan Club that we had come to love in NYC…we were booted over to the Shoreham through the travel agency that is used. Cathy called numerous times to ensure that we would have two beds because we were a party of 4, not 2…and was told when the reservation transferred over…it would be taken care of.
Guess what. The room transferred…and Cathy checked and it was listed with one bed. One bed. Four people. She called the travel agency and they were very unhelpful and it was a task and a half to even get the agent on the phone or to call back.
Cathy then tried calling the hotel directly. They were sold out of rooms and fully booked and couldn’t change the reservation either. In fact, the travel agent never changed the request to four people. So…we were kinda stuck. Through e-mails, Cathy asked if we could bring an airbed and was told no extra bedding could be brought in…BUT…if they had any, they could provide a roll-away.
Insert me being overly stressed out about this turn of events. I hate being stressed out over shit that shouldn’t be an issue in the first place but now it is. These are the things I focus on and, when it happens prior to the trip, it’s all I focus on.
That and the shift in weather that went from lows in the 40s and highs in the high 50s…to COLD AS SHIT! Seriously. The weather shifted with some nor’easters that decided that New York needed some snow and ice and cold wind and all that. MEH. I don’t like running in the cold at all. And now…I would be. This also meant running a half marathon in layers, which is something else that I despise doing. Cathy had to pack my luggage because I needed to stretch and roll and try to be in a better place with all of this.
Friday afternoon, Cathy and I left work early and were picked up at our apartment by Paul. We were chauffeured over to his and Melissa’s house where Melissa’s mom was waiting with her van to take us all to the airport. We packed our luggage and carry-on into the vehicle and got ready to get underway. After (briefly) getting locked into the van, we set out to the airport, where Cathy and I were checking our baggage (Melissa and Paul were carrying on) and got our seating assignments taken care of. This was perfect because we were all clumped together. Cathy and I were behind them on our flights out of Louisville and then out of Atlanta.
Let’s pause for a moment to talk about Atlanta. We were delayed going out of Louisville and now our connection was going to be very tight. VERY TIGHT. In fact, when we landed, supposedly passengers were supposed to let those with a tight connection off first (which would have benefited us since we were seated pretty much in the back of the plane. I literally could look out my window and see only the engine. No joke. I had no view.
Of course, everyone had a tight flight to catch so everyone (tight connection or not) disembarked as usual. We decided to have Paul run ahead and see if he could catch the gate agent for our flight and have them hold the plane for us as we all made our way that way. He is very good at sprinting with a suitcase. I am not good at running with a backpack on. And Melissa was in winter boots and Cathy is not a runner. One train ride and an elevator climb later, and we managed to be near the back of the line for boarding. But we got on the plane and were NYC bound.
Baggage claim was easy at La Guardia and Cathy put in the call to the car service we always use in NYC to take us to the hotel. The van arrived to pick us up and we loaded in, somewhere near midnight or 1 am…and made our way to Manhattan and the Shoreham.
I was holding out hope that our hotel mishap was being taken care of, but when Cathy checked us in, the guy behind the desk didn’t even bat an eyelash at the fact that they were giving us a 1 bed, 141 sq food room…to four people. Nope. He passed us the keys and played it off like it was nothing.
Guess what. It’s something. The room was SO small that after we rearranged it to hopefully fit a roll-away in, which Cathy had to call down to the desk to have brought up, and had the guy who brought it up look around and go, “I have NO idea where we can put this” (NO SHIT, SHERLOCK!), we ended up pushing the actual bed all the way across the room to rest against the window. The roll-away was set up right next to that, and then, we sort of put a bench and chair together and made an extra bit of bed.
Paul took the bench/chair and Melissa was on the cot. Paul was, actually, halfway onto the cot too. It was a mess. And it was crowded. And it was uncomfortable. But we made it work. And we were never really falling over each other when we were in the room. No waiting on the bathroom…we just sort of worked it out without even saying anything.
Welcome, friends…to the Suede Tomb. Thankfully, we packed our days and nights in NYC and the room would basically just be used for sleeping. It was close to 2 am and we were setting our phones for a morning wake-up to get up, get breakfast, and head to the race expo. It wasn’t going to be a night for lots of sleep, but at least we could get some.
The following morning meant showers (which we managed without ever hogging the bathroom too much or too long) and then we were off to breakfast at the local Fresh & Co after grabbing coffee at our favorite coffee shop in all of NYC…Tisserie. We all got the Nutella Mocha and snagged whatever sounded good for breakfast. I got a gluten-free bagel that had delicious avocado in it and some other stuff. It was delicious…and I wanted it again on our last day there…but that didn’t work out as we hit Fresh & Co as they switched to lunch that day. MEH.
But I digress…
It was race expo time. And I love me some race expo experiences. New York never disappoints. The United Airlines NYC Half Marathon Expo is held at the Metropolitan Pavilion, and is easy to spot with all the race flags standing outside. You feel so welcome and get all the excitement upon entering. For this race in particular, they assign bib numbers on demand, which means you don’t get assigned your bib number until you get there. And it’s random. You do know what wave you are in and what corral though…the rest of it just depends on where you stand in line to get a bib.
I was Wave 1 and Corral E and my bib number ended up being 1956. They stuck on the sticker to my Wave 1 yellow-green bib (Wave 2 was a blue) for my corral (E) and sent me on my way to get my t-shirts and get any photos taken that I wanted in front of the race backdrops. The race shirts were running smaller than I expected, but mine seemed to just fit, so I kept it. Melissa and Paul got their numbers and shirts as well and we went to get photos taken before hitting up the rest of the expo…which was basically shopping.
Thankfully…I bought my swag ahead of time because they always run out of my sizes. Cathy got me a finisher’s shirt. The only thing I really wanted was the best winter hat to ever exist, but they sold out of that quick. Probably because it was soul-crushingly cold that weekend and everyone wanted hats. Melissa had snagged one prior to the race online. As in…the last one. It wasn’t meant to be. I was bummed, but I have plenty of hats as it is. We took photos with our names on the wall…snagged some free United Airlines buffs that were being handed out…and got on our way to explore some of NYC before heading to dinner that night.
As with every pre-race meal in NYC…it was pizza night, and of course we went to Don Antonio’s is my go-to place for both gluten-free and vegan pizza. They have a regular menu and a gluten-free menu and take very good care to keep everything safe for you to eat. Melissa and I split the Senza Glutine Marinara Pizza. Melissa also snagged a couple of gluten-free appetizers to share. Cathy and Paul split a regular pizza and each got one of their signature dough puffs to eat. The food was plentiful and we were definitely full and ready to hike back to the hotel to get everything ready for the following morning. And, yes, we managed to do this and schedule alarms so that we could all function and get what we needed done in the morning.
With the first alarm early in the morning, I was up and at them first to put on my winter tights, an undershirt, my fleece lined tech-top I love wearing due to the collar…and then brushed my teeth and went to step out of the bathroom for the next person to do what they needed to do. While Melissa, Paul, and Cathy took their turns in the bathroom, I did up my hair, put on my socks and compression sleeves, put on my winged anklet, got my Dunkin Donuts winter hat (the one I got from the 2014 NYC Marathon) on my head, snagged my gloves, and opted to give the buff we got for free at the expo a chance. I had nothing really to eat in the room, but I brought a Larabar to the start line to eat in the corrals prior to the race. That went into my fuel belt to stay close to my body to keep it from getting rock hard in the cold. We headed out the door to get to the train station and take the subway to Brooklyn. We had to wait in the station for awhile, and when the train did arrive, it was already packed. We managed to squeak our way in…and with each additional stop…every car just kept getting fuller. And despite the driver announcing that the train was full and to wait for the train behind us…we kept having people push their way into our car. Now I was suffocating and dying, especially when the air conditioning would cut off.
But we made it to the Prospect Park stop and disembarked and began to make our way to the starting area, where we would have to go through security. This was where we had to split from Cathy. She was going to get back on a train and go to Mile 3 (just after the runners come over the Manhattan Bridge) to hopefully catch me there.
At the start line…we had very little time to hang around and talk. After getting through security, I needed to drink my pre-workout drink and eat my Larabar so I wasn’t running a half marathon on an empty tank. I ate my Larabar while Melissa and Paul fueled up as well…and then I needed to get into my corral in Wave 1. They were in Wave 2, and apparently had to hunker down in the cold shade and try not to freeze for over an hour. YUCK!
As for me…I started drinking my water and making my way up to Corral E. There were going to be quite a few starts, so I was NOT shedding my toss-away clothes (yep…I hit Goodwill the day before and picked up clothes to shed since it was going to be freezing at the start line) until I absolutely had to.
The National Anthem was sung…and the wheelchairs and elites were sent off. It took a long while for me to get up close enough to shed clothing, but I finally did. And soon, it was my corral’s turn to get ready to go. As we were standing in the cold wind, the woman behind me pointed to one of the free United Airlines buffs that was shed by runners before us and said, “Not going to lie…I’m tempted to pick that up.” I told her I wouldn’t judge. HA! But soon, we were sent off…and it was time to run through the streets of Brooklyn.
The first 2 miles are spent running the streets of Brooklyn. And then, the first climb happens as you start up the Manhattan Bridge. I know that the bridges in NYC are beasts, but this actually slowed me down more than I would have liked. But, as this was being treated as a training run, I wasn’t really focusing on my pace. This would turn out to be a very good thing as the race continued. Crossing the bridge was great. You could see the Statue of Liberty from there…and it was clear and beautiful and COLD that morning. I put my head down and came down the other side of the bridge, feeling like a rockstar for sure.
Cathy was near the turn before heading into the 5K and I waved and smiled as I ran through and began to take in the miles before Times Square. Times Square was such a highlight for me in 2016 when I ran the old course. This course was definitely tougher, as when we started in Central Park…we got the hills out of the way early. Now…now they were at the end. So these were the flat miles in between. Miles 3-7 are downhill to flat and I loved them. It just felt good to run, and have the spectators that were out braving the cold yell motivation to you. I was crossing a bridge near the 10K mark when I spotted Lottie (aka: runningonveggies) doing her thing. I wanted to shout-out to her, but I wasn’t sure she’d hear me and I am…nobody…and she’s like…super amazing. She looked strong.
Coming into Central Park, I knew there was a chance that Cathy wouldn’t make it to see me there. It all depends on the trains. Apparently she got out of the subway about 45 seconds before I was supposed to hit Times Square based on the tracker. She at first decided she wasn’t going to make it, but then changed her mind and did the “Sixth Avenue Sprint” to Times Square, where she did actually catch me and I could hear her shouting and waving at me from the other side of the barricades. Just the uplift I needed at that point, because we were heading up toward Central Park, which meant some minor rollers until hitting the park just before Mile 9. For a few moments in Times Squre, however, I was running next to former NYC Marathon race director Mary Wittenberg, which was super cool. She was getting a lot of shout-outs from volunteers and NYRR…but I turned my attention back to the entrance to Central Park. Here come the hills.
This is also where my watch got WAY off on the mileage and pace due to the buildings in Manhattan…and the rest of the race was just guess work at this point.
My friend Michael told me he would be at Mile 10 near Cat Hill in Central Park with his friends cheering on runners. So I had that to look forward to. And, sure enough, as I was making the ugly climb up Cat Hill…I heard him shout my name, I turned and managed to wave before continuing to die a little on that hill. Somewhere around Mile 11, a woman decided she would cross the road with her dog while texting on her phone right in front of me and a few other runners. She got yelled at by quite a few people who she disrupted. I mean…come on!
There seemed like more uphills than downhills for that last 5K…and my watch was beeping with the distance about .9 miles off of what it was supposed to be. I’m not lying. I was pretty much a mile ahead of myself via my GPS…which was not making me happy, despite not being one who glances at my watch during the race. I don’t like to put any pressure on myself, but now I was questioning if my GPS was off or the course was long. There was no way to really know. The GPS was off (thanks Times Square and Manhattan)…so when I took that downhill toward the finish line…I crossed with 14.02 miles on my watch and crazy fast splits showing me running a mile in under 6 minutes. HA!! I wish!! So, that was the disappointing part if I had to pick one. Because I love reviewing my actual splits to see what I need to work on after a race. It was fun though…and, despite never being warm during the entire run…I was elated to be done. And super surprised with my time.
After finishing and getting my race medal and a mylar blanket, we were loaded down with snacks and sent hiking out of the park. This walk takes a good 30 minutes to accomplish. I made friends with a nice lady named Wendy and we talked until she had to veer off to bag check to get her stuff. I finally could see the statue marking Columbus Circle, which was where runners were exiting and were spectators were told would be the best spot to reunite with their runners. I spotted Cathy immediately and she came over to give me a hug. I desperately needed coffee, and she had suffered through McDonald’s coffee and wanted good coffee…so we made our way to Tisserie (which was on the race course) and each got a drink. I got a Café Au Lait with Almond Milk and it was one of the best things I had ever drank. I needed that to start to warm myself up. But after checking the app to check in on Melissa and Paul (they were Wave 2 and started about an hour after me) we saw they were coming up to the area we were drinking our coffee. So, we stepped outside and found a spot on the rail to watch for them.
At one point, a guy from Norway ran over to me and took a picture with me. Random. But amusing. And then…we saw them coming. Cathy and I shouted to them about how they were killing it, and while Melissa didn’t believe me…she was running NYC. How cool is that?!
As they headed toward the park, Cathy and I hightailed it back to the hotel so I could shower and change and head back out to meet up with them after the race. We got to Columbus Circle as they were nearing the finish line. And when they crossed, I let them know, via text, that we were waiting for them there. Their phone was almost dead, but Melissa was able to fire a response back. We waited until we spotted them and flagged them down. The hills had definitely taken their toll on Melissa’s Achilles, so we got her settled for a moment to rest and rant all she needed. Paul dug food out of the snack pack for the two of them. Once they had rested, we took them back to the hotel to shower and chill before we went out to our celebratory dinner at Red Rooster that night.
THAT. WAS. FUN. And the food was amazing.
The new NYC course is definitely much harder than the old one…but I ended up running this one 2 minutes faster. So…I count that as a win. A course PR and a race PR. WOOT!
So…the official results of the 2018 United Airlines NYC Half Marathon was that I finished with an official time of 1:41:29…and that was closer to the 13.1 than the 14.02 my watch showed. I swear. I was 2773/21,995 finishers this year. I was 557/11,075 female finishers. And I was 86/1847 finishers in my age division. I couldn’t be happier with these results considering how much stress I went into NYC with and how cold weather affects my body. I had a blast and would love to do this again.
Or at least get a cute winter hat.
The remaining days in NYC were spent exploring and eating. And the best of the best was going up to the top of the Empire State Building at night, freezing, and taking pictures and just living life.
And that’s what this was all about. Fun, friends…and finish lines.
Race: CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon
Place: Indianapolis, Indiana
Date: November 4, 2017
When weekends are busy…boy, they are busy. That’s how my Monumental Half Marathon weekend turned out to be. The running gods just sort of made this race available to me, as I was already going to be up in Indianapolis that weekend for a wedding. Why not make an event out of it?
So, I signed up for the Monumental Half Marathon and went into it with the run/walk mentality that I’ve been practicing, in an attempt to not have my body fall apart on me again at crucial and critical times. Training with the run/walk method is one thing. Actually incorporating it into racing is another beast altogether.
But I digress.
My race weekend started off with lots of packing on Thursday night. Not only did I need to pack for a half marathon, but I also needed to pack for a wedding…AND (yep…there is an and in there) a soccer match. Told you my weekend was busy. And this all was happening in the span of one day.
So, packing for three events meant about 4 pairs of shoes! HA! No joke though, because at first the forecast called for rain, so I had my regular racing shoes, my rain shoes, heels for the wedding, and my recovery shoes for the soccer match. It also meant packing running clothes for rain, for cold, for comfortable weather…a dress to wear to the wedding…and some jeans, a t-shirt and a hoodie for the soccer match. Plus pajamas, race fuel, snacks, protein powder, recovery stuff…ALL THE THINGS!! And, I had originally suggested grabbing sushi on the way up to Indianapolis (we were taking a half day from work to travel and would hit the road right at lunch time), but decided to save money and made gluten-free cashew butter and jelly sandwiches! My roommate had a small baggie of chips with hers (we had one serving left in a bag at the apartment) and I had the remainder of the grapes we bought at Costco! That was lunch.
We got up to Indianapolis in good time, actually. No traffic issues really at all. So, after checking into the Hilton near the Indiana State Capitol (and also near the start line and finish line), we took a walk to the convention center to hit up the race expo. I had actually expected to spend more money on stuff at the expo. It’s a really nice expo. But all the official merchandise promoted the full marathon, and not really the half. So, that was a bit disappointing. Aside from that…obtaining my race bib, t-shirt, and all that stuff was super easy. And we navigated the aisles of the race expo without signing up for more races, or buying extra stuff…save for 3 Bondi Bands. They had one that’s perfect for a race I am planning to do with friends in the fall, one that had unicorns and rainbows on it (DUH!) and one that said “Run Like A Princess Today.” HELLO! Made for me. And that was it. I purchased two replacement water bottles for my fuel belt and called it a day.
With plenty of time to kill, we took the stuff back to the hotel room and then decided to hit up Indianapolis by foot. This meant walking Monument Circle and stopping into candy store (DUH!). That’s where we picked up dessert, actually. Because…candy store!! Cathy picked up a Diet Butterscotch Root Beer to dry, and it was decent enough. We then took a stroll down to the city library because she wanted to look at their Irish History section. And from there…we were both ready to figure out what to have for dinner.
Ideally…it’s always gluten-free pizza before a race for me. BUT…as this was my first distance race where I would be incorporating my run/walk method, I was toying with giving up the pizza and opting for Mexican or other options. The gluten-free pizza place we had discovered the year I ran the Indy Women’s was our first stop though. They weren’t taking reservations and with a marathon happening the next day, we weren’t certain that it wouldn’t be crowded. It wasn’t at that point. They said they could seat us at a table, but we’d have to be out by 6:30. Not a problem. That gave us plenty of time to peruse the menu, make dinner choices, and still not feel rushed.
Our waiter was awesome. We explained to him that I was a Celiac and also couldn’t do dairy. He was great to work with and even remembered the dairy-free part when we ordered the gluten-free focaccia, which had garlic. Lots of garlic. YUM!!
After going back and forth on the type of pizza we were going to split, we finally decided that creating our own would be the most fun. AND…we even asked the opinion of our server when it came to doing either a white pizza or one with sauce. We had wanted to have winter squash, balsamic onions, and then quail eggs (protein!) on the pizza. And after mulling back and forth on whether to sauce it up or go white pizza…the server settled it for us, saying that the white pizza would let the other ingredients shine, and with the eggs, we would have plenty going on with the pizza. No need for the red sauce. DONE!! Order in.
The pizza, by the way, was magnificent. The crust was basically what they made the focaccia out of, but this time it wasn’t sliced into triangles and put into a basket, it was laid out on a plate, baked to perfection, topped with everything. Eggs on a pizza was a new experience for me. And it was amazing. We devoured without rushing through the meal, pausing to discuss how EPIC this dinner was. This reminds me…I have squash in my fridge that I need to bake up so it doesn’t go bad. Perhaps a pizza is in the future.
With my pre-race meal now in the tank, we took a stroll to CVS to pick up additional waters for that evening and race day…and then turned in for the night. I laid out my clothes while Cathy showered…and then it was Food Network for Diners, Drive-In’s and Dives until bedtime. We turned in early. But thanks to being so close to the start of the race, my three race morning alarms were set later.
Got up with my first alarm to take a pill and some water. Went back to bed. An hour later, alarm went off. I went to get dressed in my race clothes and finished putting my hair up when the alarm for Cathy to wake up went off. It was perfect timing. I had packed some snack bars/protein bars to have for breakfast…so we did that in the room. I filled up my fuel belt with one side water and the other my Nuun Performance (LOVE!!) before grabbing my hoodie, and heading out. Cathy even remembered the sign. We were WINNING this morning.
I texted my coach once I got to the start line area, hoping to catch her before the race. She was aiming for a PR. I’m not concerned with time right now…just focusing on form, and how I feel. And she and I discussed a race plan via text for this one the night before. With as many people running this as there was, we decided a 4 minute run/30 second walk interval might cause problems. So…the new plan was to have me walk all the water stops. She was hanging in the convention center, so I didn’t actually find her ahead of time. Cathy had to convince me to give up my hoodie and get into my corral as I was a Wave 1 runner and the start of the race was getting close.
I gave it up, got a hug, and went to get into the corral at the start. I had just found a spot that was a decent amount of space back from the start, but not too far back, and then I hear my name being shouted. I start turning my head, and I see two guys waving at me. It’s Tim and Greg from Frankfort!! Greg came over and gave me a hug. They were doing the full. We joked about how I was smart and was focusing on half marathons for awhile. But with the anthem starting to be sung, we wished each other luck and got back into our own zones.
The wheelchair race was underway first. And then…Wave 1 was off.
I actually felt really good that morning, even with the cold air. I had opted, at the last minute before leaving town, to swing back by the apartment and grab arm warmers for the race. This turned out to be a wise decision. While there were points of the race that I felt I was getting too warm, the wind would kick in and I’d be grateful to have them again.
I loved this race. Honestly!! I have always heard good things about it…but this was my first year actually running it. I have known friends who have done the full or the half and have never heard anything bad about it at all. I settled into what I felt was a good and easy pace and got into the zone. Even though it was crowded, there wasn’t a lot of weaving going on. I felt comfortable and like I wasn’t really pushing too much too fast. I saw Cathy just after crossing the start line, and she had said she’d be at Monument Circle as well before heading to the finish line to wait for me. Apparently an actual breakfast happened for her as well…because while I saw her at Monument Circle (hard to miss that sign!), she didn’t see me. It was still dark, and I was wearing darker colors than I normally do. After she realized she missed me, she spotted the Au Bon Pain and ended up getting one of their breakfast sandwiches. HA!! She’s resourceful like that.
Almost 3 miles in now and I still felt good. No hip issues (even with the chilly weather) and just a steady rhythm going. I knew that the marathon/half marathon split was just after Mile 7, so I knew things would thin out a bit at that point as well. At my 4 mile water stop, Tim caught up with me and gave me a pat on the back and told me I was doing great. He was doing the full and looked like he wasn’t even trying to maintain a fast pace. He’s superhuman, I swear! He ended up catching me again at the water stop around Mile 6 before the split. I kept waiting for Linda or Greg to pass me…but never did see that. It was good to see Tim out there though!
The split came and that involved running underneath this arch where half was labeled for the full and the other half was labeled for the half. They kept on going straight and we made a left turn to continue on our path to the finish line. Just after Mile 8, they were handing out gels on the course. Not my thing so onward. I really felt good the entire time, except between Miles 10 and 11. I just felt really tired at that point. I walked a “hill” and a water stop within the same mile. I didn’t feel bad for it. I was tuning into my body and it really needed. There is no shame in walk breaks. In fact, they sort of make the run more enjoyable…and in the end…the results are quite surprising. I didn’t speed walk those breaks either. I strolled each water stop…taking in my own water of fuel as needed. And after that extra break heading into Mile 11, I felt better and I was able to pick it back up. Final two miles and into the home stretch.
I could hear the announcer as I neared the final stretch of the half marathon. I took a corner and could see that finish line. As I was nearing it, I spotted Cathy and the sign. She was shouting at me and the crowd was loud and awesome. And I heard my name get announced just as I was moments away from crossing that finish line. That’s always a motivation to kick it up a notch. I never have much of a kick at the end of a race, but I was smiling the entire time as I crossed over that finish line and threw my hands up in celebration!
Afterwards, made the walk through the finish chute, getting a Mylar blanket, a medal, lots of snacks, and some water. I got an official finisher photo on the way to meet up with Cathy. And soon after finding her, we got word that Linda was on her way to the finish line, so we waited to flag her down. And the first thing she did was give me a hug. I love my coach, for real!! She’s my biggest support system, even when I am one of her biggest headaches (I am neurotic; I can’t help it!). We talked to her for a little bit, but soon had to head back tot he hotel to cycle through showers and get dressed for the wedding. Linda was going to be waiting on her runners doing the full and half marathon.
From running shoes to high heels and a pretty dress. We made a coffee stop at Strange Brew in Greenwood, IN before the wedding (necessary) and then got to see two friends get married. A little dancing and food at the reception and we were in the bathroom changing into clothes for the soccer match and heading back to Louisville to cheer our team to victory (it went to penalty kicks and we won…and charged the field afterwards). It was a long, but totally amazing day!
So…the official results of the CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon are that I finished in 1:41:44…walking EVERY water stop. I’ll take that time with walk breaks. Hell yeah! I was 720/7972 finishers overall. I was the 175/4492 female finishers. And I was 32/775 in my age division. WITH. WALK. BREAKS. YAAAAAAS!! Maybe Jeff Galloway really does have the secret recipe for racing success! I mean, I ran/walked that race faster than I did the KDF Half Marathon. It was also faster than I ran the Dark Side Half Marathon. Yep…Jeff Galloway is a genius!
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.
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.
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.
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.
And 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
Oh yes…you know what?? It was only a matter of time before Disney lured me back to the other coast. So often, for convenience, you see my Run Disney posts from Disney World. Let’s face it…Florida is a lot easier to get to than California. But…I have a goal. An achievable goal. And that is to run ALL the Disney Races. So, you know, eventually I had to return to Disneyland. I hadn’t been here in over 3 years (I ran the Disneyland Half Marathon in 2013).
It was good to be back. The whole thing, however, was unraveling from the very start. Let me start at the beginning…
After getting back from my trip to Birmingham to visit my family over Christmas, I realized my OTHER…note that I say…OTHER hip was starting to twinge at me. I had to run a lot of hills in my parents’ neighborhood…there is no avoiding them…so I chalked it up to that and went about my training…with very little slowing me down. Over the New Year, I did my last training run of 14 miles ahead of my taper for the Star Wars Light Side Half while in Columbus, Ohio. It was after this run that the hip really started to get angry at me. In fact, that day, I was hobbling around and this started to concern me. I felt better the next morning though, a Monday, and went out for my speed work. I did that fine, just slightly missing my assigned pace. Drove back to Indiana, did grocery shopping, and felt okay. Got up on Tuesday and went for a run. The hip twinged a few times, but I slowed down and got it done. I felt fine afterwards. And then…on Wednesday, I got up to do my run and stretches ahead of my spin class and…I couldn’t get through my one legged squats without cringing. I went out and started my dynamic warmups and had to stop. I sat outside and cried. The left hip was not happy. I went to spin…and it did fine there…but running wasn’t happening. It was rough from there on out.
I contacted my former physical therapist, and asked her opionion on what the issue might be. She gave me a few stretches to do…and Cathy researched, figuring it had to be my hip flexor and not the labrum as the pain was presenting itself differently. I wasn’t so sure, but went with it, adding some hip flexor stretches to my routine, in lieu of the dynamic stretches and plyometrics. I went to spin 2 more times…but other than that, I rested this hip.
I even put in a call to my orthopedic doctor, but he was booked solid through after I was already leaving for this race series. I was told he would call and go over things I could do. When I didn’t hear from him Friday or Monday, my panic mode kicked in. I called Tuesday, leaving a message that I was leaving on Thursday morning. No word.
But this craziness doesn’t stop there. Wednesday night rolls around and the third on this trip, my friend and Cathy’s sister, Amanda, comes over. You see, we paid for her to come on this adventure with us. She always wanted to see California, and figured this would be a fun way to do it. Girl’s trip…WOOHOO!! She was pretty excited leading up to it…and we stayed up a bit that night discussing what we would be doing, while I prepped breakfast for the morning before the early airport journey. Then, we crashed out.
Apparently, around 1 am, Cathy said her sister knocked on her door and said that she was sick. Cathy got up and got her some of my tea…it’s SO good on the stomach…and that didn’t help her stomach issues. At about 3:30 am, Cathy heard me watching my Instagram story…and knocked on my door. She asked if I had anything that could help Amanda out. All I had were Rolaids, so we tried that.
No go. When I got up with my alarm at 5 am to stretch and then get breakfast ready, it was apparent that Amanda was not coming with us. So…Cathy and I made breakfast, and Amanda called her husband to take her home. He said this was probably brought on by anxiety…which is weird, because Amanda has traveled further than California with us before with no issues. I’ve never seen her as a nervous traveler. So…who knows.
Cathy and I packed up our stuff and her mom picked us up to go to the airport. We checked in and walked the terminals until it was time to line up for boarding. We got settled on our flight out of Louisville to Phoenix, Arizona. Cathy, thankfully, slept for about 3 of those hours. When we landed, I called my orthopedic doctor’s office and talked to the receptionist. I explained that I was told he would call before I left, and here I was, on my way to a race weekend with 2 distances on tap, a sore hip, and no answers. She actually went and got him out of a room to talk to me. After listening to the symptoms, he said it sounded like a hip flexor strain and that a cocktail of Tylenol and Ibuprofen would help with that. I thanked him and said that, more than likely, I’d be making an appointment with him after this weekend. But now I at least had a plan.
The flight from Phoenix to Burbank, California was short and sweet. We disembarked in the rain and chilly weather. It was warmer in Louisville than it was in Los Angeles that day. Go figure. We got our rental car and headed out to grab lunch at In-N-Out Burger (their fries are gluten free…so my lunch was fries. Healthy, I know!). And then, it was onto the hotel to check in and then…yep…head over to Downtown Disney and enter into the Disneyland Hotel for the expo. This did involve going through security to get into Downtown Disney, and then a downhill descent into a parking garage to get my race bib. I was in the first corral and one of the lower numbers, so it was pretty easy-going. With that, we walked back up and into the hotel proper to duck into the Exhibition Hall and to take in the rest of the expo…as well as pick up my t-shirts. I was determined not to spend a fortune at the expo, so Cathy kept me away from the Garmin table. HA! But, as it was, I was already needing to spend over $100 on compression shorts, a recommendation from my former physical therapist after seeing my post about the hip flexor strain on Facebook. So…that happened. I went to get in line for the official merchandise, but was told it was over a 2 hour wait. I had other things to do, so I texted my friend, Melissa, who was coming in for the races the following day to see if she could pick them up if the line wasn’t crazy. She agreed to do just that. So, with my new compression shorts and a couple of new (and needed) BondiBands for my running costumes, we left the expo and went to return things to the hotel room. The rest of that night is a blur. I don’t even think we ate dinner. I stretched, iced, foam rolled and went to bed.
Friday was all about Los Angeles…and we hit it hard! We woke up early and prepared a
breakfast from the stuff I had on hand. We had brought some of Annie May’s Sweet Cafe’s sandwich buns with us…so I loaded them up with some peanut butter I brought and placed some sliced banana on top. It was SO good. And it was just the right way to start off the day. We hauled down to the car, grabbed some coffee at a local place called Coffee Code, then we were making our way down to the California Science Center. We alotted plenty of time to get through morning traffic and it paid off, but we still arrived about 30 minutes before the place actually opened. That was okay, though, because what we were not aware of at the time was that the California Science Center was right next to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which, for you runners out there, you will know as the place where Joan Benoit Samuelson crossed the finish line to win the very first Olympic Women’s Marathon! I was all about standing around and taking pictures (and doing videos) of this place. And that was a good way to kill some time. After a little stroll here and there, we entered the California Science Center and got ready to go see the Space Shuttle Endeavour. I think Cathy was determined to be the first there…and while we were the first on the escalator, we were definitely not first over to the shuttle…but they weren’t too busy at the time. We pretty much skipped much of the exhibit to jump right to the good part…the space shuttle. Although, we did pause to touch one of the wheels in the exhibit, because when you have the opportunity to touch something that has been in space, you touch it!! Space shuttles look fake to me, when I see them in person. It’s bizarre. That being said, Endeavour is beautiful…and the lengths that had to be taken to get her to California is still a fantastic story. We stayed and shopped and then went to seek out more of the center, taking a wrong turn, then turning around and discovering that in addition to the space shuttle, they had an Apollo, Mercury, and Gemini capsule as well. Three more points of interest…and we went and took in each and every one of them.
From there…we made another long drive (seriously…how do those of you who live/work in LA survive…it takes hours to get places!) to make our lunch stop…Erin McKenna’s Bakery in LA. This is her third shop and I have, proudly, been to all 3. Love her stuff. We each got bagels for lunch with vegan cream cheese…and then a box of goodies to bring back to the hotel to have during the time we were staying. This included 2 scones, a doughnut and a cinnamon roll – all gluten free and vegan. And, yes, delicious! Our next stop was supposed to be Pressed Juicery in the same area for one of their Freezes…but the Pressed Juicery there was not a Freeze shop. So, with a little Google-fu…I found one that wasn’t too far away and we drove down there. We parked in a parking garage and went to go get our treats. I wish we had this in Louisville…it’s ice cream made simply from real juice and topped off with healthy goods. Seriously…we need this. We walked around while we ate and then went back to the car. Turns out the parking garage where we parked was for customers of a grocery store only. And we needed a receipt to get out. So, we had to go inside and buy some stuff, which worked out. I picked up some AMAZING kombucha (I am obsessed, but when you have tummy problems…it helps!), some water, and a few other goods. With receipt in hand, we were out and back on the road. This time, back to Burbank to hit up a boutique store called Pin-Up Girl Boutique. I
have friends in California who rave about it and my good friend Tawn actually sent suggestions of what she’d like to see Cathy and I try on. I was a bit more into this than Cathy was, but we tried it all on, and the sales people were lovely, and I really wanted to buy it all…but…it was only my first full day in California and I couldn’t drop $150 on a dress at that moment. I will be shopping there though! It took 2.5 hours to get from Burbank back to the hotel near Disneyland. It was late…and I had a race in the morning…so…dinner was an orange and a Glutino gluten-free toaster pastry. Not what I would usually have for dinner before a race…but it was all we had at the time and really all we had time for.
In the morning…it was time to do the…
Star Wars Light Side 10K
Race: Star Wars Light Side 10K
Place: Disneyland, Anaheim, California
Date: January 14, 2017
Compression shorts…KT Tape…and ACE Bandages.
Welcome to my morning. I got up about 30 minutes before Cathy’s alarm was to go off, just to get myself ready. This meant doing my hip stretches that I found for hip flexor issues and the others I’d been doing for awhile. I also took my Tylenol/Ibuprofen cocktail my orthopedic doctor had mentioned…both the night before and that morning. Normally, it is not recommended to medicate before a race, but, dammit, I needed to get through 2 in 2 days…I was willing to do just about anything at this rate.
Cathy got up with the alarm and we ate a light breakfast, as we had extra large bananas (Walgreens only had King Kong sized bananas when we went there for ACE Bandages) to split on race mornings…so it was a basic nosh on dry cereal with some water. I went to change into my outfit for the day. Not the normal running gear as I was costuming as Rey, from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I wore my compression shorts though, and Cathy wrapped the ACE Bandages around my torso and left thigh, just as the video my former physical therapist sent to me. She secured it with the clips and put tape over those. My right foot (the one that the plantar flared up on a month or so prior) was taped and I put on the capris and the costume top I was using. My hair went into the standard pigtails and my new BondiBand I picked up at the expo went on my head. No compression for this one. The costume didn’t allow for it. But…despite the hip issues, this was the shorter of the races. I figured, while it would feel weird not to have compression sleeves on my legs, I could handle it for 1 race.
I got pinned up and we were out the door, stepping into the unseasonably cool California morning air, joining the myriad of other runners that morning at the crosswalk to step onto Disneyland property and enter into Downtown Disney. There was a security checkpoint to go through first. They searched bags if you had them and, some people, randomly, were sent through the metal detectors. I had no bags, so I was an easy pass. Cathy’s backpack is clear…and the security people LOVE that. Makes her journey through the checkpoints easier.
We strolled past a very crowded Starbucks and continued on toward the staging area. As we got to the other security checkpoint, my friend Melissa texted me and asked where I was. I told her I had just passed through Downtown Disney. She and her husband had just gotten into Downtown Disney…so they were on their way. I told her that Cathy and I would wait just past the checkpoint…and that’s what we did. We saw a LOT of BB-8 costumes…and a few Star Trek costumes too. HAHA!! Ah, the Trekkies are hillarious! Melissa arrived, dressed as Maz (also from Star Wars: The Force Awakens), and Paul (that’s her husband) was Boba Fett. We hugged and both she and I limped (her hip/knee had been a problem since her first marathon the weekend before…can you say BEAST MODE?!) over to the staging area. Of course…more pictures had to happen…last minute bathroom breaks…I had half a banana to eat…that sort of stuff. We did have to start thinking about heading to our corrals, though…so we walked together until I had to break off to head to Corral A. Melissa gave me a tight hug…told me not to even worry about my time and to just have some fun. And if she and Paul caught up to me if I had to walk it…they would join me. I love my friends. Seriously. I love them.
I got to my corral in time for some of the morning banter with our race emcees that morning. They were actually quite funny. And Disney spares no expense, for sure. I LOVED that so much of Corral A was in costume!! There were LOTS of Princess Leia’s…for obvious reasons. In fact, the first woman to finish was dressed as Princess Leia…which seems fitting, for sure. I was trying not to have a meltdown or panic attack due to my hip. I knew one of two things would happen. I would get to that start line and take a few steps and be able to go…or I would have to walk the 6.2 miles to the finish. Whichever it was, I was going to get to that finish line.
After the National Anthem was sang by a Disney cast member, the wheelchair race was sent off first. Only a few minutes later, the corral was discarding any mylar blankets or other clothing they brought to keep warm. No baked potatoes allowed across that start line…it would screw with the timing. The countdown was given…the fireworks went off…and Corral A was underway. I walked up to the start mat, then took a few tentative steps at a jog…then kept it conservative at the jog, realizing that while the hip twinged a few times, I could run. Not all out fast or anything…but I wasn’t struggling either. And so…the race was on.
That being said, my intention to stop and use the photo ops along the way…went to the wayside. Once I got moving, I was afraid that if I stopped, the pain would settle and I wouldn’t get started again. So, I just ran…and prayed a little…that my ACE Bandage would hold…that my hip wouldn’t do something awful. Let’s remember…I had a half marathon looming the next morning. The goal was to just run this and still be able to walk around at the end of it. My friend Melissa had warned me about the one and only hill (you get sent through this tunnel thing…so down a hill…then through…then back up, but the rest of the course is flat. F-L-A-T. Which is infuriating to me, as I ROCK flat courses, and if the hip had been behaving…I probably would have kicked this course’s ass. UGH! Seriously, it feels like I can’t catch a break.
That being said…I almost broke the don’t stop rule when I saw the life-size, moving around, BB-8 on the course for photo ops!! BB-8 is my FAVORITE…and I was SO tempted…but I knew stopping probably would have been worse…so I kept going, with very little pain at all. I ran the streets…through the parks…pushing on past the water stops. For a 10K, I don’t run with a fuel belt, but the cold air and my slower than usual pace meant I wasn’t really dehydrating myself. My first mile of this race was the slowest…my third…the fastest. I slowed it down between miles 4 and 5…but picked it up when I knew the last mile was ahead. I’m not talking breaking any speed records. I never got faster than a 7:38 pace (and that was mile 3)…but I wanted to finish strong. And I saw that finish line and just went for it. I could hear Cathy screaming at me from the cheer squad seats (she got in there somehow…I never know how she pulls these things off)…and powered over that finish line.
What really kept me going…the fact that I knew the medal for this race was BB-8. I
walked through the finisher’s area, getting my medal…a mylar blanket…a box of goodies and some water. And then…I made my way out to the staging area, where Cathy met me. She was going on-and-on about my time and how she was checking the tracking and going, “Well…she’s running…that’s good!” HA! They had some fun photo ops out, so while the lines were still short, we took advantage of those. Then…it was time to head back to the hotel. Our friend Tawn was coming in from Fresno that morning (she left SUPER early to get down there around 9 am)…and I was ready to shower and eat some real food. The problem was, the exit was blocked by racers. Okay…turned around…and tried to go through one of the hotels, but instead of asking someone, Cathy just kept turning corners out of the lobby, and then put us in an Emergency Exit area…where we got trapped. TRAPPED! Insert me starting to bitch about being cold and wanting a shower…and now being stuck. We finally got out, thanks to the help of some of the Disneyland employees…and after asking if we were okay or needed water, we were now on the road back to the hotel.
I showered. And then I rested a little while we awaited Tawn’s arrival. We had a reservation for a breakfast at Goofy’s Kitchen. And Tawn arrived in time to change, do her makeup and for us to get to the restaurant, get pictures with Goofy, and get seated. It was the best way to kick off Day #1 of Disneyland adventures for sure.
We spent the entire day at California Adventure…and that night, my friend Alison and her family drove down to meet us at the Pizza Press for my traditional gluten-free pizza before a race. She and her family are amazing, awesome, and just all around good people. It was a blast…and I’m glad I FINALLY got to meet her in person. And her son, Evan, who we nicknamed Mr. Incredible a few years ago. He really is incredible! We sadly did have to say our goodbyes though, because Sunday’s 3:00 am wake-up for a 5:30 am race
Oh…so my official results of the Disneyland Star Wars Light Side 10K are that I finished in 50:13. Not too bad given the circumstances!! I mean…FOR REAL! I was 296/11,606 finishers overall. I was the 33/6816 female to cross the finish line. And I was 5/1216 runners in my age division. This hips issue is driving me nuts. I can’t even fathom how much better I could have done had I been able to just go for it. Seriously…these results are both amazing…and frustrating at the same time! Given the circumstances…I will take it!!
The rest of the day was fun at Disneyland…but at the end of the day, the hip was done and my limp was starting to return. We turned in after the pizza stop and I took my last round of the Tylenol/Ibuprofen cocktail and turned in for the night. The following morning…did not go as smoothly…
Disneyland Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon
Race: Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon
Place: Disneyland, Anaheim, California
Date: January 15, 2017
My alarm went off at 3 am. My friend Tawn was up and in the shower. She’s a Run Disney vet and is AWESOME at the routine. Wake up early…get out the door…do race…do the parks. She’s not a runner, but she comes out to cheer and to just…be there at the finish line. So, while she was in the bathroom, I got up to take that Tylenol/Ibuprofen cocktail and to stretch. I took a few steps toward the table I had things set out on…and knew that today I was in a whole heap of trouble. I was limping. I was limping bad. I was sore…and I had a 13.1 mile race ahead of me.
THIS. WAS. BAD.
I might have cried as I did my hip stretches and foam rolled. Cathy got up just before the alarm that morning, and we started to just roll through race morning prep. While Tawn did her makeup and hair, I got dressed and Cathy prepped some KT Tape to put across my hip flexor. We did that…and I pulled the compression shorts on over that…then she did the ACE Bandage wrap. Over that went my running shorts and then…the BB-8 running sparkle skirt I purchased SO long ago. Seriously…my hip was being held together with tape, bandages, and a lot of prayer. I was not in a good place, physically or mentally, on half marathon morning. Not one bit. But, I finished getting ready, having to modify the bra top costume due to the low 40 degree weather in Los Angeles that morning. I was NOT expecting these temps there. Luckily, I had a bright orange shirt with me and it became the base layer. I was layered everywhere…sports bra, t-shirt, BB-8 bra top on top…KT tape, compression shorts, ACE Bandages, shorts, and a skirt on the bottom half. And every step…a challenge. I ate my cereal to put something in my stomach and filled up my water bottles on my fuel belt with my nuun and water. I grabbed one of the Godzilla-sized bananas for pre-race eats and the three of us were out the door, pretty much right on time. I was not nervous like I was before the 10K. Walking was a challenge…so I was downright freaking out. I think I cried a few times on the way to the crosswalk to get over to Disneyland property and through security. I branched off to the NO LINE group and held my cell phone up over my head as we went through the metal detectors. Tawn and Cathy got through bag check quickly and we were making our way past the overrun Starbucks on the corner. There was another one further in that was never as busy…so we did joke about that a little. We got to the staging area, and I hadn’t heard from Melissa and Paul yet…so we just moved out of the way and listened to some of the music.
At this point…I think I had an all-out meltdown. Both Tawn and Cathy were quick to give me hugs and reassurance. The thing was…I was hurting. And a half marathon is NO JOKE!! Cathy said that it was possible that this race would be just like the last one…where I take a few steps and it’s all good. I hoped she was right. I dried my eyes…got more hugs…and they sent me off to get into my corral.
Same system as before. No Melissa or Paul to hug. I wasn’t sure if they’d pass me or if I’d see them that day…but I stepped up to Corral A and got inside. And I felt, very much, like I honestly didn’t belong there that morning. The race emcees were back for more fun this morning, and they kept the mood light. I was shivering, not completely from the cold…but my nerves were creeping in. I never get nervous before a race…but I knew that I was going into this at about 50%…and it scared the shit out of me.
The National Anthem was played beautifully by a band and soon the wheelchair racers were off. My corral ditched the mylar blankets or clothing keeping them warm and we all started to move up a bit more at the start line. When the countdown happened, the fireworks went off, I walked toward that start line and took a few tentative steps at a jog.
PAIN!! It was unpleasant pain from the start, but I was in the flow of runners, so I just pressed on, without pushing too much. I thought so hard about ducking to the side and just walking…but I didn’t. I kept my pace easy…and I just did what I could. Once again, though, my plan to stop for photos went out the window. Any stopping today would be the worst thing possible…because as I learned at the Boston Marathon…it hurts SO much worse to start back up. I hit the underpass hills again…and managed to navigate those and started through some of the parks. I paid no attention to time clocks…I was focusing in on my form as best as I could. I had to pass up the BB-8 photo op again…which sucked, since I was dressed as BB-8…but it was the only decision that made sense to me. Running this didn’t make sense…but I paid a HELL of a lot for this race challenge…it was happening even if I had to slow to a walk.
But then…something fantastic happened. As we came out of the park around Mile 4…I hear and see Cathy and Tawn, just screaming at me from the side of the route. It was amazing. Tawn recorded it and you can hear Cathy talking about how my form looked good and all that. I was hurting…but it wasn’t bad at this point. I could manage…even though I was wondering when I would have to drop to the side and take it to a walk.
We exited Disneyland soon after and hit the road. As I rounded the corner, I heard someone yell, “HEY! IT’S R2-D2.” Wrong droid!!! I am in orange…BB-8 is orange. R2-D2 is blue. SHEESH!! The cheerleaders that lined this portion of the course was uplifting and it did make me move a little bit faster as I went past them. Miles 5 & 6 ended up being my fastest, and also put me at a 10K time faster than the 10K I ran the morning before. Cathy had been tracking me as she and Tawn went to get coffee and explore some of Downtown Disney and this fact impressed her for sure.
But it started to get rough soon after this. Much of the crowds disappear at this point. But, there are plenty of people running with you. But…Mile 9 going into Mile 10…was the best. The 501st is out in all their gear. You have just this long line of Star Wars characters and it is just…fantastic. I mean, I’m running through and everyone is in character. There was a phenomenal Obi-Wan Kenobi on the corner…with an accent and all…and that was SO amazing to me. It was uplifting. But after I was past them…that was when the pain really started to rear it’s ugly head. My pace slowed way down for the last three miles…but at this point, I knew I was only 30 minutes at most away from a finish line. I gritted my teeth…cried…a little. Maybe a lot. And knew my right foot was blistering, which never happens, but I was now changing my stride to accommodate my hip. UGH. I started to really focus on each step, trying to to baby the hip, but trying to to push it too much either.
I thought I had picked it up for the final mile, but that ended up being my slowest mile of the day. Go figure. I could hear that finish line, and when I saw it, determination and stubbornness took over and I ran it as hard as I dared and could manage. The announcer said, “It looks like we have a BB-8 coming in…Karen Brady!” That made me at least smile, so at least my finish picture isn’t ugly crying or something. I heard Cathy and Tawn just ahead of me as I limped past the photographers. Cathy called me over for a picture at the finish line which hobbled over for. They said that they would see me on the other side…and I went to get my finisher’s medal for the half marathon, my mylar blanket…and then my extra medal for completing the Star Wars Rebel Challenge! After that, the snack box and water were handed over and I exited the finish area to re-enter the staging area…and Tawn and Cathy were there to hug me and greet me. And I cried…again.
We didn’t hang around much after this. I was hurting and we had Disneyland to properly explore that day. We decided to head back to the hotel so I could shower, we could eat breakfast (Cathy split the last of the sandwich buns and we split the donut 3 ways) before heading out for the rest of the day. We had a big day ahead of us…and while it was hard to move…I wanted to get the most out of my time with Tawn and my time at Disneyland. We even did a thing…by getting the names of the Schulyer Sisters from the musical Hamilton on our Mickey ears and posing in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle!! We are theater NERDS! Honestly, in order to even be able to move that day, I put on a pair of leggins, and had Cathy do the ACE Bandage wrap I wore during the races, and I put my BB-8 skirt back on…because…I needed to cover the ACE wrap.
That being said, this pretty much meant I couldn’t pee all day. Luckily…I never really had to. And I managed a full day at the park…had a blast…and ate an incredible dinner that night at Cafe Orleans. Seriously…worth every painful step.
I guess some results are in order. The official race results of the Disneyland Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon are that I finished in 1:47:53. I was expecting 3 hours, so this was amazing to me. Seriously, even I can’t figure out how I pulled off that time. I was 422/12434 finishers overall. I was 57/7028 women to cross the finish line. And, I was 14/1253 in my age division. Not too bad under these very hostile circumstances. For real! It still pisses me off because this was SO FLAT…and I want to run it as hard and best as I can. Flat courses and I are BFFs. But my body has let me down again.
My orthopedic doctor was unable to see me until February 1. My hip is still…not good. All running is off…I’m walking, spinning, and just trying out other non-impact means of just keeping my endurance and fitness up until I can get some answers.
Two weeks ago, I had a plan. I was to run 12 miles…either around my grandpa’s neighborhood in Minnesota…or with my friend Julie (depending on her schedule) somewhere in the Minneapolis area. Neither came into fruition, because Southwest had that computer meltdown that literally grounded and cancelled flights that entire weekend. So, while my family was in Minnesota, celebrating my grandpa’s 95th birthday, I was still in Indiana…and Southwest was willing to reschedule for up to 2 weeks out. And after checking with my aunt and my grandpa about their schedules…I was rescheduled to visit now at the beginning of August instead. The rest of my family would be back in Alabama, but I would get a bit more one-on-one time with my grandpa, aunt, and cousins (and their families). So, there were pros and cons.
It just so happened that in my current marathon training schedule, my long run for that weekend was a 13 mile run. And, as luck would have it…there was a local half marathon running on Saturday.
Maybe this was meant to be.
There were a lot of things that compelled me to sign up for the Minnesota Half Marathon. For one thing…if I’m going to put in the time and miles, why not get a medal for it? Another reason…it benefited the Ronald McDonald House Charities, and a friend of mine is currently in Chicago at the Ronald McDonald House with her niece, who is being treated for cancer…and kicking cancer’s ass if I do say so myself. Also…there was an inline skating division. Yes…roller bladers were invited to also do the 13.1 mile course. I have never been part of a race with an inline skating division. So cool. OH…and the course…has you running right along the Mississippi River the entire time. Sounded perfect to me. And so…as a rather last minute decision, I registered and packed my racing gear in my luggage.
Upon arriving in Minneapolis, after a much-needed and fantastic stop at Caribou Coffee at the airport, my roommate and I got our rental car and headed out to St. Paul…down to The Running Room to pick up my packet. We arrived just slightly before they opened (let’s hear it for making good time!), so we went up the street and killed some time in CVS, before heading back down to the store and stepping inside. There was a small table set up with a laptop, some race bibs, and boxes of t-shirts off to the side. A young woman was manning the table and she asked my name, typed it into the computer, and grabbed the next race bib on the stack (2490), took a sharpie and marked the half marathon checkbox, and told me to grab my size t-shirt. That was it. Super easy.
From there, we headed over to Minneapolis to hit up the grocery store (I was cooking 2 meals while there AND making dessert), and then get to grandpa’s house. We let ourselves in…and he was inside and very happy to see me there. We were, of course, already ready for some lunch. We invited Grandpa along, but he was tired from his trip earlier in the week that he took. So, Cathy and I packed up and headed out to one of our favorite places to eat while in Minnesota…French Meadow Bakery. I was cooking dinner that night for my Grandpa, aunt, my cousin Natalie, and my cousin Molly and her family (hubby and 3 kids)…and I was making BigMAC Potatoes. I normally do gluten-free pizza before a race, but since I was treating this as a training run, I figured it was fine to change things up. Who knows…maybe I’d stumble across something that worked better. Cathy ordered the Mac & Cheese for lunch and I went with the Gluten Free & Vegan Cornmeal Waffle (which is topped off with bananas, toasted walnuts, and a toffee syrup). Because…we all know how much I love breakfast. We devoured our food and did a little bit of shopping at the Electric Fetus (that’s a record store, in case you were wondering), a Half Price Books, and then went back to home base, as I needed to bake the Gluten Free Strawberry Streusel Bars that I brought ingredients (yep…I brought the last 2 jars of my strawberry jam to Minnesota for this) to bake specifically for the birthday peeps (my aunt celebrated her birthday a few days after my grandpa did). The dessert needed to cool for 2 hours, so I got it baking and then settled in to talk and hang out with grandpa for a little while. Eventually, my aunt came home from work and Molly & Co. arrived. Molly volunteered to make her famous green beans…and I was excited about eating them because they sounded SO good. I put Cathy on the task of rinsing, poking, and rubbing the potatoes down with a light bit of olive oil. We got them in the oven, since it would take about an hour to bake, and then I got to work on the lentils, which would make the “meat” portion of the vegan dish. Soon, we had everything cooked and we settled down at the table, where I walked everyone through how to assemble their potatoes. And we devoured them and half of the Strawberry Streusel Bars too. Vegan cooking FTW!!
The Olympics were starting that evening, so the opening ceremonies were put on the screen and while I foam rolled (and taught my cousins all about foam rolling and the stick!), I watched what Brazil was bringing to the world stage for these 2016 Summer Olympic Games. I was exhausted, as I had been up since 12:45 am to squeeze in all my stretches, warm up, and manage a short (2 mile) run and shower before my ride to the airport had arrived at 4 am. But, as the United States were walking in the E’s (Los Estados Unidos!), I was at least able to stay up and see Michael Phelps carry in the flag. Once that happened, I was in bed and setting 2 alarms for the morning routine for a race.
The first alarm came WAY too soon, but I got up, went through the first part of my race-day routine, and then climbed back into bed for about another hour. The second alarm was go-time…so I had to get up, get changed, eat something, and get to the race. I managed to get into my race outfit before checking the weather and discovering that it was currently 57 degrees outside. So, bra top wasn’t going to work. I came prepared with 3 different singlets though, so I grabbed my purple Boston one and slipped it on. That would do. Cathy was up just as I stuck a bagel in the oven to toast for her and prepped my oatmeal cup I brought with me.
So…basically I was doing EVERYTHING that they advise against in preparation for this half marathon. I forewent the pizza the night before…I stayed up late…I ate a big bowl of oatmeal pre-race (I usually have a serving of cereal before leaving for the race and then a banana 30 minutes before the race)…I was testing out Skratch as a form of fuel (as my current fuel has been giving me stomach cramps)…and I didn’t give myself any time to stretch, do my PT exercises, my dynamic warmup stuff, or my plyometrics…yep…I was doing it all wrong and just hoping for the best. HA! Good thing I wasn’t racing this.
After we ate, I quickly brushed my teeth, filled up one water bottle in my fuel belt with water, the other with Skratch, and grabbed my banana. Then, we were off to the races. Via a detour. Where Cathy managed to get where we needed to be without even trying. Talk about luck! She got us parked in the parking garage the race site recommended to park in…with time to kill.
So…I took a nap.
No joke. I took a freakin’ nap.
Ah…my power naps are so…awesome.
After about 2o minutes, we decided to head on down toward the start line so that we wouldn’t feel crushed for time. One problem…we couldn’t figure out how to efficiently get down to the ground level over by the river. Hmmm…
After a few false starts and a lot of back and forths…and many stair wells and elevators, we figured it out and got down to where we needed to be. From there, we followed all the runners toward the start area. And I immediately ducked into the long lines for the port-a-potties. Apparently potatoes and oatmeal make me have to pee. I rarely make use of the port-a-potties…and the lines were LONG. Cathy found me in time to pass of my banana at 6:45 am…as the half marathon was to go off at 7:15 am. The inline skaters were sent of at 7 am. The bathroom lines had a TON of inline skaters in them and as the time ticked down and the lines barely moved…they had to move to the front or miss the start. Banana…bathroom…time to watch the inline skaters go before getting myself ready to run. There were some seriously incredible skaters who lined up…but the majority were casual racers. Still…it was pretty awesome to see them take off. Some were SUPER fast.
After they were out of the starting area, the half marathon runners were asked to line up. So, I hopped into the start area…just behind the 1:40 pacer. I had no pace expectations…just to run comfortably. It was a training run, after all. We were sent off a few minutes early, to be sure.
But I was off.
This race was beautiful. The entire run is done along the Mississippi River. The roads are closed to traffic, so it’s just you, the runners, the river, and…the occasional struggling roller blader. This course was reversed from the years previous to help make the last 5 miles a bit flatter. You know what that means? The hills hit in the first half of the race. Some of these climbs brought some more of the novice roller bladers to a stop, or to a crawl (while clinging to the cement divider on the road), but I just worked my way up them. I’m still trying to get my spring and speed back when it comes to hills. That being said…I just adjusted my stride and pushed on.
We turned around just before Mile 4 to head back toward the start area, so any downhill we had, now was an uphill. There was a small amount of support out on the side of the road…but mostly I enjoyed listening to the pacers whenever they were around. OH…and the one guy who was totally flirting with this girl in the 1:40 group. He literally turned to her and said, “I like your pace!” Um…right…
Anyway…the run beside the river was quite pleasant…even though most of these miles were put in right in full sun. Yeah…I was regretting not just doing the bra top at this point. The singlet was light…but I would have been way more comfortable without the fabric.
At Mile 5, I decided to take a risk and try out some of the Skratch that I picked up samples of to see how it did as a fuel. By Mile 6, the pacer in front of me was telling the runners that were with him that it would be a good time to gu. LOL! One good thing about running so close to a pace group, was I knew when “the last hill” would be hitting. I let them go soon after Mile 8. This is also the point of the race where all the runners are sent past the finish line. Seriously…we had to run up the road for another few miles before turning around again. This is the second race I’ve done in Minnesota where we are sent past the finish area…like a tease…
Cathy saw me and was screaming and cheering. And I gave a wave and continued on. Mile 10…more Skratch…but I was feeling a bit tired. So, I knew Skratch was not going to be a good fuel for my upcoming marathon. UGH. This means that I am back to square one on the whole nutrition/fueling thing. MEH. I had a backup Huma gel, but I was only 3 miles from the finish, so I stuck it out. Just before Mile 11, we make the turn and run back toward the finish area, this time…to finish for real. This involved a bit of a hill climb…and then it was just over 2 miles to hit that finish line.
With the gentle breeze coming off the river, I relaxed, settled into my pace, and just made my last couple of miles count. I could see the finish line ahead and started to pick it up as much as I could manage. And…I even managed to pass up another female runner right at the finish line. You see that line, you sprint, dammit. SPRINT. Even I do that, and I don’t sprint. I am not a sprinter. LOL!
Anyway…upon finishing, I was given my Minnesota-shaped finisher’s medal and took some time to walk through the recovery area. I was introduced to Aspire Sports Drink, which is made with natural ingredients and doesn’t contain any artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners or preservatives. It was AMAZING. I tried 4 of the 6 flavors. Only 35 calories per bottle too. Gotta love it. I eased out of my racing shoes and into my flip flops for recovery. And, after a bit of walking…Cathy and I went to get some coffee at the nearby Caribou Coffee (of course), before heading back to Minneapolis so I could change and then hang out with my friend Heather for some lunch and shopping that afternoon.
So, my official results of the Minnesota Half Marathon is that I finished in 1:41:24, which is only 6 seconds slower than my finish at Derby. AND…my Garmin had this course at 13.25 miles exactly. Anyway, I was 86/1164 finishers overall. I was 16/640 women to cross the finish line. And I was 3/87 people in the 35-39 female division! Third in my age division. HOLLA!! Imagine if I had been racing this thing (but I know better…and I am SO close to my marathon this year!).
I had a lot of fun at this race. Not only did it benefit a great cause, but it was a fantastic way to work in a training run. Afterwards, I went and had delicious Mexican food for lunch and walked the Mall of America with one of my best friends in life…Heather…who brought along her 8 month old niece…and we had a blast. It was a perfect start to a perfect visit to Minnesota. Gorgeous course…challenging…and if you aren’t feeling up to the half distance, they also offer an unusual 6K distance as well.
The mileage is totally going up as my race in early September creeps closer and closer. And as there weren’t any running plans being tossed around with the normal group I run with…I made plans to run with a couple of speedy guys in Frankfort, Kentucky on Saturday. We were doing 18 miles. And for the first 13 miles…we were running the Kentucky History Half Marathon course (which is hilly hell)…and then we were going to run to their neighborhood for the additional 5 miles.
This started off really well, and the first 13 miles went great. After that…it all came apart and went to hell. We started off this massive hill and it was just like…my legs didn’t want to move anymore. They were feeling fantastic up until that point. And this…this just killed me. Nothing messes with your head more than having a great run go bad. I felt bad, slowing down the speediest of the group, as he wanted to do the 18 miles at his MP, and I was running at least a minute slower than he needed to be running. When I hit the hill…it was even worse. The struggle…was more than real. It occurred to me that my September race was going to be way harder than this, and the fact that this course completely shattered my confidence I had been building up.
It was brutal and after I sent one of the runners on, and the other one never got past the 13 mile mark because he stopped to talk… got myself a bit lost and turned around in a city I really know nothing about. I might have cried a little. And ugly crying and a bad run make everything worse. SO…I ended up turning around, heading back toward downtown, and rounding off the mileage on my own. I got there, but it wasn’t pretty and I felt pretty defeated the rest of the day. But, on the plus side, I did get the mileage in and I stepped a bit outside of my comfort zone to do it too.
So, when I went on my little shakeout this morning, I had a little heart-to-heart with myself as I ticked off a couple of easy miles. And that is…my new focus…and I leave it to The Doctor to share it with you…
I get so down on myself and hard on myself regarding the paces I can hold, maintain, or even run at different points of the week. Right now, I need to just focus on the whole…running thing…and less on how much or little time it takes me. Let’s face it. A 7 mile hill climb at the start of a marathon is going to SUCK…and right now, I should focus on just prepping myself mentally as well as physically by simply setting the numbers and data aside…and basically…just running.
And with all that being said…the best thing ever happened this past week as plans for my September race started falling into place. One thing that is going to be entirely necessary is having people around to get me through what will likely be a challenging and…humbling race. And all the ladies that are traveling with me are on board. And I feel a LOT better about at least my post-race stuff thanks to that simple fact.
The gang is getting back together. It’s been way too long since the four of us have gone on an adventure. And I promise not to get my purse stolen this time…
Anyone else watching the Tour de France? I was watching it yesterday and was just blown away by the way these cyclists command that course. They are amazing and inspiring. Seriously, it does make me want to get back on my road bike…but ever since taking that spill and having so much trouble unclipping…I just haven’t felt like risking my bones and body in another potential fall. So, I’m watching all these athletes cycling like mad on the roads of France and they’re just…FLYING!
And I get on a bike and I feel like…
True story! Well, the only way to get better at something is to practice, practice, practice. I am going to look at getting my clips loosened…or possibly new pedals. We’ll see what happens after that. Fact of the matter is…I want to get back on my bike.
My other favorite thing this week…going over to Bryan & Michelle’s house on Friday night, eating Daiya pizza, watching Kung Fu Panda 3, drinking a little wine (Reggae Red Wine), and just having more laughs than I’ve had all week. Seriously…it was just the unwinding that I needed at the right time. And I love these two. Two of the best friends I’ve made since moving to the area.
And…SHE. BOUGHT. PIZZA. I. CAN. EAT! So much love! I was eagerly eyeing them in the oven ready to devour. We all know…pizza is my favorite!
I made Gluten Free and Vegan S’mores for dessert. I think Michelle now wants a kitchen torch (which is how I toasted said marshmallows)!
They were a hit!
Pizza party, Panda, and discussion of what a Chi Biscuit would include. HA!! God, I love my friends.
And that was pretty much my weekend! It was a decent week leading into the weekend. And when my Saturday night finishes up with dinner at Shalimar (mmm…Indian food!), it’s a good time.
Speaking of movies…last night I watched the movie Chef. It had been on my list for awhile, and all my friends kept telling me I had to see it. They were right. I loved it. It made me really want to go to culinary school. Maybe not to run a food truck…or…perhaps…to run a food truck. HA! If you haven’t seen it…get on Netflix and watch it. You will thank me for it.
So, that was pretty much my week. Sort of a bumpy ride…but more ups (mentally and physically, HA!) than downs.
How do you overcome challenges? Ever have a run fall apart on you? How do you mentally and physically recover? I want to know!!
Oh…it’s National Ice Cream Day…so…scoop up some goodness today!!