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

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

Race: Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon

Place: Lexington, Kentucky

Date: March 31, 2018

Time: 2:04:43

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You’re going to die tomorrow.”

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

Walking into the expo at Keeneland in Lexington, KY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bella Notte Gluten Free House Salad

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

Bella Notte’s Gluten Free Pasta Arrabiata

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First hill…of so many!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY! I’M FREE!

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

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

That. Was. Fun.

Ron flying into the finish line of Run The Bluegrass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2018 United Airlines NYC Half Marathon – New York, NY (March 18, 2018)

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Me after finishing the 2018 United Airlines NYC Half Marathon – New York, NYC

Race: United Airlines NYC Half Marathon

Place: New York, NY

Date: March 18, 2018

Time: 1:41:29

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:

  1. 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)
  2. 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.

NOT IMPRESSED!

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.

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We love flight delays…NOT!

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.

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A view of the Suede Tomb the four of us squeezed into for 4 days in NYC. Cathy is against the wall…the frosty glass is the bathroom, which took up a over 1/4 of the space.  That’s the door right behind Paul.

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…

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Race Expo time!!

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.

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Pre-Race Gluten Free Marinra Pizza from Don Antonio’s (as always) in NYC!  Also Vegan!

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.

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We look like we’re going to a slumber party…but really we’re heading to Brooklyn

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.

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Me coming off the Manhattan Bridge and heading toward the 5K mark of the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon

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.

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Running through Times Square during the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon

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.

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Me sitting in Tisserie, post-race, just trying to get warm

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.

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Melissa and Paul running toward Central Park!

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.

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Celebrating finishing the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon at Red Rooster Harlem

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.

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On top of the world (aka: The Empire State Building) with friends…last night of such a fun adventure!

Be Good To You

justfoodI’m not the average girl from your video
And I ain’t built like a supermodel
But I learned to love myself unconditionally
Because I am a queen

~India.Arie

It’s been a hard journey for me the past couple of years, but I think I’m finally headed in the right direction.  But before I go any further, I want to give a HUGE shout-out to my amazing friend, Kari…who watched a few of my stories on Instagram back in the summer and sent me directly to a few podcasts and links…and that has been helped me out immensely…especially during this time of year.

Through Kari, I discovered Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist, well-being coach, and a certified health and fitness specialist.  And from Scritchfield…I have discovered the practice of Body Kindness.

Over the summer and through the fall, I have done my best to put the practices of spiraling up and self-compassion to work.  And I’ve made leaps and bounds in this regard.  I’m proud of myself.  After two years of consistent injuries that, basically, kept me from really being active, I put on a good 15 to 20 pounds.  And those pounds weren’t from eating a poor diet…not at all.  My food choices go up on Instagram on a daily basis and I keep nothing from it.  But the lack of exercise brought about a good amount of stress…which brought about bouts of binge eating/stress eating.  Every.  Day.  To the point that certain foods in the apartment had to be hidden in my roommate’s room just to ensure that I wouldn’t devour them one morning when I was the only one awake and stressing out over something that I really coudn’t fix at that moment or at all.  I felt uncomfortable in my skin, and while I was still at what would be considered a healthy weight for my size…I was SO mad at myself for letting myself get like this.  I was angry every time I would get on the scale and see the number.  I was so certain that, when I was cleared to run, the weight would slow me down.

Over those months, I did get back to running…and the weight stayed on.  No big deal.  I’m not someone who runs to burn calories.  I’ve never been someone who tries to compensate food intake for exercise and burning off calories.  I don’t do calculations in my head or add on miles or hit the gym a little harder.  That’s not me.  That’s never been me.  So, in that respect, I already was grasping the overarching concept of Body Kindness.

But what really makes it challenging for someone like me…is seeing perfectly healthy people who are in the same boat as me…jump into a program like Weight Watchers to drop weight by a certain date.  Hell, I was told to look into Weight Watchers…and I’m at a healthy weight…just not a happy weight (to me).  And at the same time, I had a friend who went to the extreme side of the spectrum and wasn’t eating and was over-exercising and was down to just skin and bones…and it was scary.  And it was perspective.  And thankfully, she is getting help and will hopefully get stronger physically and mentally through her recovery program.  But it was a lot of stress and anguish because…I love my friends deeply and when they go through shit…I go through shit with them.  And I was thankful that I had been introduced to this concept of Body Kindness and Intuitive Eating…because that could have spiraled out of control quickly.  And that’s not to say that the stress and those triggers didn’t get to me…but the way I dealt with it changed.

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Enter…the holidays.

I work in an office packed with women.  And the holidays are made for feasting and treats and parties and drinks and…the inevitable conversations happen at the water cooler…

“I ate one of those donuts today…I am so bad.”

“I’m being SO bad!” *said while balancing a plate with a cinnamon roll on it*

*At holiday pitch-in* “I had lost weight, but I’ve been so bad today and I know I put it all back on!”

“Look at all this bad food.  Brownies, cookies, cakes…”

“Well, this has fruit in it, so that’s good, right?”

“All that food in there…I really need to go back to dieting tomorrow.”

“I feel so guilty…I had dessert after eating my holiday meal.”

I wish I could say I was joking.  But, sadly, I’m not.  With the advent of the holidays comes the inevitable around the New Year…the resolutions.

But it’s not just the, “I’m going to eat better and workout more,” mentality anymore.  Nope.  Now we have detoxes and juice cleanses and diet pills and fasting and keto and paleo and Whole 30…or meals that are just snacks and not providing you with the nutrition your body really needs to function.  But let’s face it…diets don’t work.  They don’t.  If they did…there wouldn’t be multi-million dollar corporations built up around them.  I mean, think about it…the reason they exist is because people have to keep going back to them.  Mind…blown!

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Diets and “quick fixes” are everywhere.  But are they really that “good” for you?  Diets, cleanses, detoxes…what they advocate is a huge calorie deficit.  Most people don’t even hit the “standard” (and still low, especially if you’re active) 1200 a day.  If you’re active…you HAVE to eat more.  And I’ve had it out with people before regarding calories in vs. calories out…and I was told that I wasn’t losing weight because I was eating more than 1200 calories a day.  Yeah…I also ran 10 miles and need to put nutrition back into my body!  But the way it was done made it seem like I was in the wrong because I refused to be super restrictive.  When I am training for an endurance race, I make sure my body is fed properly after any hard effort.  It’s how it recovers faster and gets stronger.  Diets, detoxes, and juice cleanses…yeah…you lose weight.  You lose water weight.  You lose fat.  But you also start losing muscle mass.  And I’m a runner.  I don’t want to lose muscle.  Muscle is what helps this body move faster, get stronger, and hopefully…not get injured as often.  No matter what the person who created this meal plan and ran this group said to me…I wasn’t going to waiver on the type of nutrition that I needed to do the activities that I am doing.  BUT…she did this in a public forum and made me feel like a failure or that I was doing everything wrong.

I’ve witnessed first hand the effects of starving the body of nutrition and recovery…watching someone I really care for waste away from over exercising and under fueling.  If she did eat, she’d figure up how many hot yoga classes she’d need to do or how many extra miles she would need to run simply to negate the meager amount of food she did give her body.  Not fueling enough does horrible things to your body.  Especially when you’re active.  But even those of us who aren’t runners or cyclists or gym rats…your body needs fuel regardless and when you’re operating on an empty tank…it turns to other means to get the energy it means to function.  Fat…and then muscle.  And, guess what…the heart is a muscle and eventually, that’s going to stop working properly too.

I am the first to admit that I do get triggered by certain aspects of the diet culture.  Even today, as I’m comfortably settling into the idea of Body Kindness.  I literally want to throw things when someone makes a reference to their paleo/keto dessert.  Or the person who went vegan to lose weight and was disappointed when they didn’t.  Or the diet pills someone is taking because it helps make them less hungry during the day.  Or those “progress” pics that people put up that pretty much shame everyone who has put on even a pound because we’re not standing there in a sports bra with a smaller tummy or abs of steel.  Or when people eat a handful of almonds and call it lunch.  Or when someone says that they need to go to the gym because of what they ate the day before.  The words “juice cleanse,” “cleanse,” “detox,” and “diet”…they all set off alarm bells in my head.  Because, this “healthy” person is doing all this on Instagram…shouldn’t I too.  And maybe if I did…I could be that skinny and strong and…whatever.

But…I’m not that person.  And it took me the better part of the year to get to this point.  And to say that none of this triggers me at any point would be a lie.  I’m a perfectionist in my own right, and not feeling perfectly healthy or perfectly athletic has been challenging.  But…here’s my takeaway…

Four years ago…and 20 pounds lighter, I ran a race on Thanksgiving that I run every year.  I was at the peak of my running and the fittest I had ever felt.  And I ran 5 miles in 36:52.  I never cracked it since 2013…sometimes that race having me around 38 minutes.  This year…with 2 years of hip injuries and 15-20 pounds more on me…I ran comfortably for the entire race, never feeling like I was pushing myself to go faster and I finished…in 36:36.  I wasn’t dieting or fighting the scale.  I was giving myself permission to eat better, more, and what my body needed as I was also in the midst of a marathon build-up too.  So…lighter doesn’t necessarily mean faster.  And faster doesn’t necessarily come because you follow a strict diet.  Hard work is what gets you there.

And trust me…there is nothing easy about learning to love yourself the way you are.  And there is nothing wrong with wanting to improve yourself.  But, just for a moment, take a breath and forget about your clothing size and that number on a scale.  Forget about seeing yourself fitting in with the social norm.  That’s the great thing about being a human being.  We’re all different.  Perfectly imperfect.  And we don’t have to miss out on experiences and treats and foods because we’re told by society what is “good” and what is “bad.”

This journey hasn’t been easy and, yes…I still struggle.  Even today I struggle, especially with the “perfect squares” of those “perfect people” in social media.  I struggle when I hear someone say they are being bad when they are just taking part in a holiday part or pitch-in.  I hate hearing people tell me how much cardio they’re going to have to do the following day because they enjoyed a bit of dessert after their holiday meal.  Guess what…it’s okay to indulge…in life, in food, in activities.  It’s not okay to paralyze yourself and to stop living a full and happy life because of what the scale might tell you in the morning.  Your self worth is not built upon what you are eating and how much of it you are consuming.

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And I promise…it’s impossible to gain 3 pounds in one day…and it’s water weight…and it too shall pass.

So…how about this holiday season we share a bit of kindness with others, but also take a moment to spare some of that kindness for ourselves.  Don’t stress the small things.  Don’t miss out on something due to social stigmas and labels.  Enjoy every moment and every bite and every bit of movement you manage that day, that week, that month.

Magic happens when we are not just compassionate, but also self-compassionate.  So take a deep breath, and enjoy the foods and activities and moments that come with the season.  It will lower your stress…it will brighten your mood…and in the end…you’ll feel better.

Here’s what I have gained since turning my back on the diet culture…late night sushi runs with friends…wine tastings with friends…dinner parties with friends…game nights, brunches, dinners, new ethnic food outings, movie nights, fun runs, vacation planning with friends, so many more invites…so much more quality time with people…bonding…laughing…joy.  My life gained so much joy and shed so much unhappiness and stress and feeling self-conscious and unworthy.  What I was gaining was way more important than what I had been trying to lose.

I really started living and being and enjoying the little things as well as the big things.  There are always bumps and setbacks.  I’m not 100% yet.  But I’m clearing a path and have gained so much mental health in the process that it’s really become physical heath as well.  I’m not saying I don’t stress and cry and feel upset and out of control and lost…I do.  But I have outlets and I have people who carry me through it and lift me up and don’t make me feel like I’m failing at everything.  I’m a beautiful work in progress.

And that’s truly what makes the journey epic in the end.

Be happy.  Life life.  Do epic shit.  Be full.  And be well.

thereitis

CTRL + ALT + DEL: Start Fresh

UGH!  I have started three blogs in the past couple of weeks, which I have since gone and deleted because they were no longer relevant.  MEH!!  Kinda sucks when you put some hard work into starting something and just don’t have the time or energy to get back to it.

Welcome to my life as of late…

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I’m trying desperately to reach a bigger audience both here on my blog and on my most frequented form of social media…Instagram.  Really, I am an athlete that deals, daily, with Celiac Disease…and I’m working really hard on branching out on the blog…maybe in podcast form…and on Instagram to cover some of the trials and tribulations of this.

But I need more help.  So, if you could help me out a little…directing people to my blog and my Instagram (and if you aren’t following me…please…give me a little click and follow along)…I will love you forever!

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Okay…so let’s do some quick catching up, shall we?  What in the world have I been up to since…October 20th, when I blogged about setting and reaching goals?  Well…a LOT!

First of all, the great apartment repaint, reorganize, and redecorate has commenced.  The two bathrooms, the kitchen, and HALF of the living room are DONE!  As far as painting goes.  The decorating is taking a bit more time, because I’m totally OCD and need to measure everything I hang up to make sure it’s centered and perfect on the wall.  But…progress!

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I am not a fan of painting.  It is tedious and tiring work…but I love the way the apartment is starting to look.  After eight years of living there, the apartment definitely needed a touch-up.  And being able to finally redo some of the wall hangings has been a nice change too.

For the 4th (I think this was the 4th year) year in a row,  my roommate (Cathy), her sister (Amanda) and I went to the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular at Iroquois Park in Louisville, KY!  We always make a night of out this, starting with dinner (we got sushi – mine was vegan), a hot beverage (usually apple cider or tea) from Highland Coffee, and then, Mr. G’s Kettle Corn while we stand in line to walk the half mile path and gaze in awe at all the amazing pumpkins. Seriously…this was AMAZING.  It always is, but the theme this year was A to Z and they did a fantastic job with all the pumpkins.

On October 26, I went to the University of Louisville Comstock Hall and got to listen to the iconic Kathrine Switzer speak.  She was so empowering and totally made me want to do ALL THE THINGS.  I was just so wrapped up in her talk about her life and how she got into running and how the Boston Marathon incident came around and WHY this was so life changing.  I was hoping there would be a photo-op afterwards, and there was.  I had brought my Disney Wine & Dine bib, Bib #261, which I received in 2014, just after I met her at the NYC Marathon Expo the year I ran it.  I told her the story and she was just so freakin excited.  She even got a picture of the two of us with our 261 bibs on her iPhone.

She signed my bib “Karen – You are awesome and fearless.”  I thought I was lucky to have met in her NYC 3 years ago…but I just got to meet her again…AND had a fun story to tell her.  She might be my new running BFF.  If nothing else, she is someone who has always and will always inspire me.  After going to her talk, I just wanted to make SO many changes in my life…seek out things that really make me happy…

HENCE…wanting to do more with my blog and social media.  So…again…if you could give a like and follow here and on Instagram…and tell your friends…let’s do this thing.

Dreams need to come true!

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And I’ve been dreaming about this for a long time.  And so often stuff just gets crazy and things I enjoy…like blogging, writing, cooking, eating, running, etc…sort of get pushed to the background.  NOT THIS TIME!

In addition to this…I’ve been enjoying watching Louisville City FC climb the ladder to reach the Eastern Conference Finals for the THIRD TIME in as many seasons as they have been around.  YAY!

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Granted…last week I was pretty much frozen and the boys didn’t score until after Half Time.  I had been hoping to keep warm by constantly jumping out of my seat.  That being said…this is always as far as we get in the finals.  And I want us to go on to the championship…and WIN IT!  And the weather this Saturday looks to be warmer and much more enjoyable than LAST Saturday.  I even stayed up late to drink hot tea to thaw out afterwards it was that cold.  But the win was worth it.

Here’s to another one…if the soccer gods shine upon us!

Halloween came and went…in the blink of an eye.  I wasn’t scheduled to do a run on Tuesday, but I was heading to the gym for some strength training.  I dressed as Wonder Woman.  I think it inspired me to lift heavier and more.  But, damn…look at my arms these days!

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So, yeah…training is still happening.  I’ve cut back on cardio by a lot when it comes to time at the gym, usually hopping on a machine for 10 minutes to warm up and 10 minutes to cool down…and then I do one day of arms/abs and one day of legs/core.  My running has been progressing.  My hips hardly twinge at me unless the weather is cold or I sit too long.  So, the strength training is paying off (not just in giving me amazing muscles to flex).  I am currently using a run/walk method and hope to get back to a solid run in the very near future, but this is working and, honestly, hasn’t really slowed me down all that much with the short walk breaks in between efforts.  So…YAY!  And, thankfully, I have found one friend who is willing to train with me this way and doesn’t complain or mind.  WINNING!  Long runs are much more enjoyable with someone.  And someone who doesn’t mind the starts and stops in my current training method is even better.  There aren’t a lot of people who are willing to train that way or want to train that way.  So, I count myself lucky.

I have a few recipes that I will add to the blog this week…if not tonight/today.  I’ve been having a great time experimenting in my kitchen with all the winter squash and seasonal foods that are showing up in grocery stores.  I buy that stuff up like it’s going out of season.  And it’s not.  The season is just starting!  Grocery shopping is always an adventure when I decide to get all chefy and creative in the kitchen.

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That’s pretty much it for right now though.  Trying to really do better for myself and I am really trying to make some waves in the Celiac and running communities. So…watch this space.  Get others to watch this space.  And I post DAILY on Instagram, so, for one last plug…make sure you follow me over there.

Follow along with my progress…because there will be as many ups as downs, I’m sure.  But if there is one thing I have learned from all of this over the past couple of years…is that I am stronger than my situation.  And I learn and grow from every obstacle.  Grow with me!

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Be a GOAL Digger!

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Okay, my friends…let’s talk for a minute about GOALS

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No…not those kind of goals (but, please note that is my professional team there…Louisville City FC…heading to the USL Playoff Quarterfinals tonight against Bethlehem Steel).

Let’s talk about the importance of having GOALS in your life.

We all know that I’m a “run for fun” kind of girl.  This doesn’t mean that I don’t set expectations for myself…but I make it a GOAL to not let it take the fun out of the actual run itself.  Too many times I get wrapped up in people’s expectations of me and end up raising my own expectations and I normally end up performing substandard and getting upset with how everything came undone in the end.

Let’s face it…I don’t talk about GOALS very often.  And here’s the reason why…people can be hurtful.  GOALS are dreams and sometimes people aren’t very supportive of specific goals that you might set yourself.  Not even necessarily in running, but in life in general.  So, I admit…unless I really trust you…I normally don’t talk much about GOALS that I’m making for myself.

In the past year, however, I have watched many of my GOALS fall to the wayside.  I overreach…I cast doubt on myself and abilities…or whatever reasons…too often this year I’ve taken a backseat to myself and the expectations I have for me.  And that’s not right.

They say that GOALS ARE DREAMS WITH DEADLINES.  I have a Bachelors Degree in Journalism…so I know a thing or two about deadlines.  But when it comes to dreams…when it comes to these GOALS…don’t forget to give yourself TIME.  Why rush?  The great thing about dreams is they motivate, inspire, and keep you striving to push further and harder in order to achieve whatever it is that you have set out to accomplish.

How do you achieve GOALS without burning out?  Well, there is actually a system that was created to help you set and work towards your GOAL and help you outline your way of reaching them in the near or distant future.  Hey…that timeline is all you, my friend.  This process….is called:

Yep…S.M.A.R.T. GOALS!  Isn’t that clever?  I love it.  And what this process does is it makes you really identify your GOAL and set out an action plan to help you discover whether this goal is achievable and valuable to you.  Let’s take a look at each component, shall we?

S: SPECIFIC – Ask yourself: WHAT do I want to accomplish & WHY do I want to accomplish this? What are the REQUIREMENTS?  What are the CONSTRAINTS?

M: MEASURABLE – Ask yourself: HOW will I measure my PROGRESS?  HOW will I know when the GOAL is ACCOMPLISHED?

A: ATTAINABLE – Ask yourself: HOW can the GOAL be ACCOMPLISHED? WHAT are the LOGICAL STEPS I can take?

R: RELEVANT – Ask yourself: Is this a WORTHWHILE GOAL?  Is this the right TIME?  Do I have the necessary RESOURCES to ACCOMPLISH this GOAL?  Does this GOAL line up with my SHORT-TERM and LONG-TERM OBJECTIVES?

T: TIME BASED – Ask yourself: HOW LONG will it take me to ACCOMPLISH this GOAL?  What is the DATE I have SET to meet this GOAL?  WHEN and HOW OFTEN am I going to work on meeting and completing this GOAL?

So, let’s look at this from my perspective.  Back in 2015…I was all set to go and run the Boston Marathon.  I qualified for it at my first marathon and trained hard to get there.  February 2015 hits and I’m suddenly finding myself unable to run without deep pain in my hip.  Months of physical therapy and not really being able to pinpoint the problem…an MRI comes back with the diagnosis: Torn Hip Labrum.  I was devastated.  With only DAYS before I left for Boston to run, my doctor said I could attempt the marathon as I wouldn’t cause any further damage.  I was given a Cortisone shot and sent on my way…to what turned out to be one of the worst (both in experience…not the race itself…but my body hurting so bad and time (over 5 hours).  This marathon broke me mentally and physically.  And, since recovering, I managed to run/walk the Kauai Marathon…but have been fighting injuries and mental blocks ever since.  My GOAL….might be: I WILL QUALIFY TO RUN THE BOSTON MARATHON AGAIN. From there, using the S.M.A.R.T. method, I could lay out my plan of action and work on what races I might consider running to get me the necessary qualifying time (with bonus minutes as it seems to get harder and harder each year to HIT that qualifying time).

OR…it could be that I want to take a year to focus on shorter distances…master and PR in the 5K, 10K and Half Marathon before returning to marathon running.  And then, I would use that S.M.A.R.T. process to breakdown the how’s, the why’s and the when’s for this particular GOAL.
I actually have a few expectations in my head lined up for the coming year.  My hip continues to get stronger since it went all loopy again back in August.  MEH.  Really getting tired of that.  I think I started a big rant on why I’m no longer in physical therapy for this in another blog that is sitting unpublished because I just didn’t have time to go back to it.  And once that inspiration is gone…it’s gone.

The point is…be brave in what you actively pursue.  Your dreams should be big.  They should scare you a little.  They should seem unattainable…but still within reach.

Realize that there will be setbacks.  I’ve seen my fair share of them.  Work through them.  Don’t give up hope and don’t give up heart.  If nothing else…set your GOAL to match my every day one…and just have some FUN!  You might surprise yourself with what you can accomplish when you let go of the things that weigh you down or don’t allow you to see the big picture anymore.  My favorite and best races and runs are the ones I have done by feel and for fun.  Some have been new PRs and some have been me cruising near the back with good friends and just having a ball.  If it’s no longer fun…it’s no longer worth doing.  Don’t be so rigid in your practice that you lose that spice for life.  Never let that sparkle dull.

And that’s all I have, my friends.  Never let anyone tell you your GOALS aren’t big enough or worthy of the effort you put into them.  Big or small…GOALS are worth pursuing.  Some may be attained quickly, and some may take months or years.  Just never give up.  If it means something to you…keep that fight.  Oh…and be S.M.A.R.T. out there!!  Hope to give you some high fives along the way!

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Sometimes You Just Need To Escape

Guess what!!??

As part of my self-care, self-esteem building, bettering-of-myself experiment that is an ongoing series of successes and (yes) failures…I’m expanding my mind and still attempting to squeeze in a bit of ME TIME, which feels almost impossible these days…but I work with what I have.

Therefore…I’m listening to music…

In fact, I was fortunate enough to attend the U2 show in Louisville, KY this past weekend.  And while it was hot and I wilted and melted until the sun went down, the show was amazing and I (as always) cried during Where The Streets Have No Name as well as Running To Stand Still.  U2 and I have been in a musical relationship since I was a child…and, while I have seen them numerous times in concert, this show was on my home turf and I wasn’t going to miss it.  I’m glad I went.

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Honestly, I needed that show.  I’ve sort of given up finding inspiration in music.  Why search for new music, when some of the best lyrics, some of the best songs, are in the old favorites?  I stand corrected!

I’ve also started diving back into some books.  In fact, I’m working on three at this very moment.  Yes…at the same time.

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So, what is on my reading list at the moment?  Well, at the encouragement of my sister, I am working through 13 Reasons Why, by Jay Asher, on my Kindle.

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I’m sure many of you are familiar with this book, but in case you’re not…here is the synopsis from Amazon.com:

You can’t stop the future. 
You can’t rewind the past.
The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker—his classmate and crush—who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.

Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.

At work, I often listen to podcasts these days, but there is still room for my beloved audio books.  It’s so easy to listen to a book while I do my work…so I can escape and still be productive.  Let’s here it for multitasking.  I am currently listening to Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow, which is the very book that Lin-Manuel Miranda was reading when he was inspired to write the Broadway musical Hamilton.

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It’s fascinating and a nice escape for the first part of my day at work.  Once again, here is the synopsis from Amazon.com:

In the first full-length biography of Alexander Hamilton in decades, Ron Chernow tells the riveting story of a man who overcame all odds to shape, inspire, and scandalize the newborn America. According to historian Joseph Ellis, Alexander Hamilton is “a robust full-length portrait, in my view the best ever written, of the most brilliant, charismatic and dangerous founder of them all.”

Few figures in American history have been more hotly debated or more grossly misunderstood than Alexander Hamilton. Chernow’s biography gives Hamilton his due and sets the record straight, deftly illustrating that the political and economic greatness of today’s America is the result of Hamilton’s countless sacrifices to champion ideas that were often wildly disputed during his time. “To repudiate his legacy,” Chernow writes, “is, in many ways, to repudiate the modern world.” Chernow here recounts Hamilton’s turbulent life: an illegitimate, largely self-taught orphan from the Caribbean, he came out of nowhere to take America by storm, rising to become George Washington’s aide-de-camp in the Continental Army, coauthoring The Federalist Papers, founding the Bank of New York, leading the Federalist Party, and becoming the first Treasury Secretary of the United States.Historians have long told the story of America’s birth as the triumph of Jefferson’s democratic ideals over the aristocratic intentions of Hamilton. Chernow presents an entirely different man, whose legendary ambitions were motivated not merely by self-interest but by passionate patriotism and a stubborn will to build the foundations of American prosperity and power. His is a Hamilton far more human than we’ve encountered before—from his shame about his birth to his fiery aspirations, from his intimate relationships with childhood friends to his titanic feuds with Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Monroe, and Burr, and from his highly public affair with Maria Reynolds to his loving marriage to his loyal wife Eliza. And never before has there been a more vivid account of Hamilton’s famous and mysterious death in a duel with Aaron Burr in July of 1804.

Chernow’s biography is not just a portrait of Hamilton, but the story of America’s birth seen through its most central figure. At a critical time to look back to our roots, Alexander Hamilton will remind readers of the purpose of our institutions and our heritage as Americans.

And finally…at the encouragement of my amazing, inspiring, and brilliant friend, Melissa, I picked up a book this past weekend to read.  She said that it would really help me through the struggle-bus thought process I am currently working through.  So far, she’s right.  I haven’t gotten far, but I’m going to make a point to sit down and power through this book.  It’s called You Are A Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life, by Jen Sincero.

youareabadassIt’s very motivating, the bit that I have squeezed in to read.  And I find myself nodding and cheering for myself to get this excited about my life.  Maybe it will help.  I think it will.  I’ve already found SO many sentences that I can apply to my current struggles.  In case you’re confused…here is the synopsis from Amazon.com:

Bestselling author, speaker and world-traveling success coach, Jen Sincero, cuts through the din of the self-help genre with her own verbal meat cleaver in You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life. In this refreshingly blunt how-to guide, Sincero, serves up 27 bite-sized chapters full of hilariously inspiring stories, life-changing insights, easy exercises and the occasional swear word.

Via chapters such as “Your Brain is Your Bitch,” “Fear is for Suckers” and “My Subconscious Made Me Do It,” Sincero takes you on a wild joy ride to your own transformation, helping you create the money, relationships, career and general all around awesomeness you so desire. And should you be one of those people who would rather take a bullet than get busted with a self-help book in your hands, fear not. Sincero, a former skeptic herself, delivers the goods minus the New-Age cheese, giving even the snarkiest of poo-pooers exactly what they need to get out of their ruts and start kicking some ass.

By the end of You Are a Badass, you will understand why you are how you are, how to love what you can’t change, how to change what you don’t love, and how to start living the kind of life you used to be jealous of.

So…that’s what is on my reading list currently, but why stop there?  I’ve become so immersed in podcasts as of late.  And while I love a good true crime podcast, I have been directed to, or even discovered through my own hunting, some uplifting and amazing podcasts that I’ve been diving into at work as well.  These include:

  • Make Your Body Work: Live Healthier, Smarter, and Happier – Dave Smith, Canada’s Top Fitness Professional
  • Fit Bottomed Girls – Margo Donohue, Jennipher Walters, and Kristen Seymour
  • The Love, Food Podcast – Julie Duffy Dillon, Registered Dietitian, Food Behavior Expert, and Body Image Guru
  • Body Kindness – Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN

I really need to think more about working toward my nutrition degree or becoming a dietician.  I love learning new things and also…learning how to be kinder to myself during these very trying, often stressful times as I attempt to get this body back to a place where I feel comfortable with it.

AND…I have been out to the movies and had to see, because…reasons, WONDER WOMAN.  It was campy and fun and amazing and everything that it needed to be.  I was nicknamed Wonder Woman years ago by my running store/group…so this was a must see.  And if you haven’t seen it yet…I highly recommend it!

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I have numerous more movies on my TO SEE list…so we’ll see how many I manage to get through before they leave theaters.

So…that’s what I’ve been up to lately.  And yesterday, I broke out my Vitamix and whipped up an amazing smoothie for breakfast that I’ll share the recipe for in a different entry.

What books/podcasts/music/television shows have you been enjoying lately?  I want to hear all about them.  Comment below!!  I’m always looking for new things to get into!

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I Solemnly Swear To Be A Better Blogger

Dear readers…both new and old…

I am sorry.

I am sorry that I have let this blog get away from me.  Life…has been crazy.  Insane.  Busy.  To the point that I literally have no time to do things for myself these days.  To sum it up…I’m running in circles most days.

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I get up early…I do my stretches/exercises that my physical therapist assigned me back in January when I had the paralyzed hip flexor.  Yep.  I’m still doing them.  Do I need to?  Probably not.  But…guess what…

I HAVEN’T BEEN INJURED.

Therefore…I keep doing them.  And that does sometimes mean I go to bed around 8 p.m. to get up at 2 a.m. so I can fit in a 6 mile run before I start the rest of my day.  Because before I run…these stretches/exercises must be done to loosen up my muscles and get this broken body primed and ready to go.  I do my workout…I go to work…I come home…I cook dinner…I do my PT exercises/stretches at night…I foam roll…I go to bed.

No ME time.  No computer time.  No blogging time.

It’s actually kind of draining.

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But this is where it needs to stop.  I have some exciting things coming down the pike and I need to be sure that I am open and share them with you!  I need to find a better way to manage my time so that I can have the time I need to connect with people here…on this blog that I set up for that sole purpose.

I mean, I am an athlete with Celiac.  I am a self-made chef with Celiac.  I want to share my struggles, my recipes, my races, my training, my daily battle with food and this disease that sometimes makes it impossible to have a healthy relationship with food (and sometimes exercise) at all.  (I won’t get into details…but if you know, then you know). And the simple fact that the stressful life I’ve been living these past two years has left me all…

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I wish I could say I was joking. *sigh*

It’s a daily struggle…to have BODY KINDNESS when I feel I have done everything possible to get in a better place with my body.  Two years off with injuries and I’m staring at little bulges where I never had them before.  And it’s hard for me, when my Timehop throws pictures of me back when I had defined abs…or my friends are hitting up the next diet craze, exercising 2-3 times a day, cleansing, or talking about how easy it is for them to lose weight.  And here I am, trying to be all love myself the way I am and feeling every bit of this…

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But I’m working on it.  But this is exactly WHY I need this blog.  I’ve been so out of touch.  And comments from you, my dear friends, help keep me inspired, and pushing to be better and to not give up or give in.  THIS is what I have been lacking.

This marks the first week of my official training for the Chicago Marathon.  Ahead are 16 weeks of some easy, some intense, and some very long runs.  In the summer heat.  I want this body to be ready for it.  I’ve changed up my diet some lately…which I think is a good place to start.  And while there really hasn’t been a drastic change, yet, I think I’m going to be in a good place, nutrition-wise, for this undertaking.  Besides, I’ve given up my daily M&M habit.  Seriously.  One entire month…without handfuls of M&Ms throughout the day.  I actually feel free.  It’s really liberating.  I don’t even feel like I need them anymore.

This is a good start.

So…marathon training is back on.  This is the only marathon I am running this year and, with any luck, I’ll get through this summer of training without any injuries.  Why do Chicago again?  I feel like I’m starting over from scratch…and Chicago was  my first marathon.  It’s the 40th Anniversary.  And I qualified to run, and skip the lottery draw.  So, why not Chicago?  I will aim to do my weekly updates as I did the first time I ran a marathon…read them if you care to.  I’ll slip in little nuggets of goodness…like recipes I’ve tried or created and so on.

While my coach and I have talked goals, in my head, my biggest (and the most important) goal is simply to finish.  And to feel good (as good as someone can) after crossing that finish line 26.2 miles later.  Sometimes set paces freak me out.  I usually get injured when speed is involved.  So, pushing beyond what I think I’m capable of is my biggest challenge, and one I have not figured out how to conquer yet.  Those negative voices in my head, about my running, my weight, whatever it is…they are very hard to quiet sometimes.

Two years of pretty serious injuries will do that to you.

My body has a lot of catching up to do.  My mind has even more.  But…marathon training does instill a lot of discipline.  And I’m hoping it will carry over into other aspects of my life.

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In addition to all of this, I am very happy to report that my social life has all but picked up.  So many new friends!!  Between going to Louisville City FC soccer matches, out for Indian food with friends, having friends over for dinner (yep…I cook) and wine…to hanging out at friend’s homes for the evening and meeting more new people, I’m loving this new active social life.  I’ve sort of lived as a hermit for way too long.  Surrounding myself with people who lift me up and make me laugh is very important to me.  And I’m loving filling up my calendar with more than just my mileage for that day.  And there are quite a few of you who I need to either have over or catch dinner with.  Hit me up…we need to make this happen.

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So, apologies to readers old and new…for the hiatus and filling this blog with simple race reports and ignoring the stuff that got me started on this blog in the first place.  It’s time to refocus and reestablish myself in the blogosphere.  I’m happy to have you with me for the journey.  Hang on tight.  Nothing is ever easy with me…so expect a bumpy, emotional, but encouraging, maybe even inspiring ride.

Love,
The Celiathlete