Bluegrass 10,000 – Lexington, KY (July 4, 2017)

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The crew that ran the Bluegrass 10,000 – Lexington, Kentucky

Race: Bluegrass 10,000

Place: Lexington, Kentucky

Date: July 4, 2017

Time: 46:49

OMG, you guys!!  I was finally able to participate in a 4th of July race.  I have been wanting to do this for ages, but usually my schedule (events) or injury have prevented this from happening.  And while I’m still not to my 100%, nor where I would like to be in my running, I was excited to be participating in this race.

Why Lexington?

Well, my friends talked me into it.

Seriously.  I blame the likes of Melissa, Paul and Linda.  Because while there are races closer to home, this one was one I had heard so much about.  So…I pulled the trigger on it about a week or so before the actual race…and registered.

No backing out now.

I decided this would be the perfect race to bring back my Wonder Woman running outfit.  As I was nicknamed Wonder Woman with my running group ages ago…the outfit always makes me feel confident and strong.  And, let’s face it, it’s the perfect 4th of July outfit.

Cathy and I made arrangements with Melissa and Paul to carpool from the Louisville area down to Lexington together.  My running coach, Linda, had picked up my packet for me (there is NO race day pickup…which I didn’t know until I read an e-mail closer), so I had to meet her around 6:30 AM…meaning…pickup at the apartment was happening at 5 am.

Melissa was cool with this (she was driving)…so plans were set.

I was up before 2 am on the 4th of July to do my PT exercises and stretches…both inside and out.  It was pretty damn humid out.  And there was a reason.  Rain was coming.  But I managed to get all my stuff done before any sort of rain came in.  I think it  might have sprinkled a little while I was inside finishing up the stretching, but it was done by the time Cathy woke up, ate a light breakfast, and we headed down to wait for our ride.

And they arrived right on time.  In the dark of night.  Well…I suppose it was the dark of pre-ass-crack-of-dawn, honestly.  Cathy sat up front with Melissa (as she tends to get carsick at times), and Paul and I sat in the back.  I had it in my head to take my power nap…but we were chatting for the entire ride to Lexington, and that’s fine.  I would much rather have the social time than the nap.

When we arrived in Lexington, it was raining.  MEH.  I was prepared for this and wore my old rain shoes, which I didn’t want to do, but I just had a feeling…that’s what I was going to need that day.  We parked across from Rupp Arena and I messaged Linda to find out where she was so I could meet up with her and get my packet.  She was under the bridges behind Rupp Arena and with a little bit of cell phone-fu…we managed to get directions around the building and park where the rest of her people were parking.  This actually worked in our favor as it made for an easy exit after the race.

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Me attempting to not bleed out after Cathy stabbed me in the stomach with a safety pin…LOL!

We didn’t have a lot of time to sit and chat, but I FINALLY got to introduce Linda to Melissa…which Linda has been wanting to have happen for awhile now.  Since April, actually.  SO…YAY!!  Cathy pinned me up and managed to stab me in the stomach with the safety pin.  I like to joke that I was bleeding out after that.  HA!  She also pinned up Melissa and then we helped Melissa with rain shoe choices.  Trust me…this is SUPER IMPORTANT when you’re running in the rain.

Once we were all pinned up, we all (meaning the four of us and Linda’s crew as well) began to make the walk to the start line.  Linda had an idea of where flushing toilets might be along the way…via the convention center.  The door happened to be unlocked, so we moseyed on in.  We had only gotten halfway toward the bathrooms when a security guard came rushing at us in a panic, inquiring as to how we got in.  Linda explained that the door was unlocked and he was all, “Well, it’s not supposed to be!”  She asked if we could at least use the bathrooms, and he said they were locked.  BUT…feeling sorry for our pathetic face falls at that, he did tell us to take the elevator up to the hotel lobby and use the bathroom there.

That’s what we did.

And once we all cycled through the line, we headed out to get to the start line.  The race was getting close to starting.  Like…really close.  We went through the revolving door, where Linda and I did some high knees.  I think I started that.  I’m weird.  I told her that counted as my warmup.

As we were making the hike to the start line, we passed under the finish line.  She had said that she was going to tell me to make a kick to the finish when I saw the start line…but it was still a good ways up the road from the finish.  So she pointed to a drug store and told me that I should kick it in when I saw the drug store instead.  I told her I would try.

As we were nearing the start line, the wheelchair racers were sent off.  YIKES!!  I got a quick good luck hug from Cathy and we all hurried to get a spot at the start.  I slid in sort of close to the front…but not RIGHT up there where I don’t belong.  And no sooner had I gotten in there and got my Garmin turned on and ready for the race…that we were sent off.

No time to stress.  Just run.

And that was the orders that Linda had given me.  Just go out there and run.  Enjoy it.  Have some fun.  The rain had stopped at this point, but the humidity was at 94% at start time.  It was just swampy.  Humid…damp…and that was not a good recipe for a good race.

Not that this was a bad race.  It wasn’t.  I actually had a rather decent race.  Mostly.  You see, I have yet to power through a race this year without needing to stop.  Every race (including the ones in Florida) have been just…HUMID and HOT.  I guess that comes with racing in the late spring/summer.  Which, I really haven’t done for a few years, between training and injuries.  So…I have pretty much died during the races.  And it mentally frustrates me and physically defeats me.

UGH.

Anyway…back to the race.  At the start, I actually was feeling good.  Even with the cotton Wonder Woman tank on (I had thought about wearing a bra top…and in hindsight, probably should have, but I’m not loving my body at the moment…so…there it is.  Pure honesty).  As I was setting out I even heard Tammy (from my Louisville running group) shout, “Hey, Karen Brady!”  I’m kind of hard to miss in my pigtails and everything.  HA!

My first mile was decent.  It felt hard.  I know there are a few things I need to do to get my running as strong and easy as it used to be…but for some reason, I’m having a difficult time implementing them.  I’m working on it.  But I have some mental blocks that are…holding me back.

Whoa.  That got serious there.  Let’s just say…I’m not where I want to be, but I’m not where I used to be.  Both are good and bad…depending on how you look at it.

We looped around a few corners before heading into the second mile.  I was already soaked and not from rain.  It was just that steamy out.  And I was in my cotton Wonder Woman tank.  Good planning there (*sarcasm*).  Some of Mile 2 was actually on a downhill, but you quickly find out that from thereon in…it’s a lot of uphill.  That being said, I made a conscious decision to slow down at a water stop in Mile 3 because I wanted to be smart.  I started off this race more dehydrated than I should have been, so I needed water.  I took a quick sip…then poured the rest over my head.  That was just what I needed.  I picked up my pace and headed into the turnaround point.  I made the turn and headed back toward the finish line.

Straight shot.

Just after Mile 4, I came to a walk and took another cup of water from the water stop there.  Once again, I drank a sip of it and then the rest went over my head.  I tossed the cup and started to run again.  I told myself I wasn’t allowed to stop again.  I had just under 2 miles to go…and I could get there without needing to stop.

THIS is the biggest struggle I have had these days.  I just can’t seem to get used to steamy/hot running.  I used to fly in this kind of weather.  But being unable to really train in it for a few years due to injury seems to have changed that.  Um…YAY?

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Wow, I look rough as I head into the finish line at the Bluegrass 10,000 – Lexington, Kentucky

So, my 5th mile was pretty fast.  The walk break must have helped with that, so I made up a bit of that time.  That wasn’t the intention, that’s just how it works.  That Jeff Galoway…he was totally onto something.  Run/Walk works…what?!  I was into the last mile now and it started to really feel hard.  I could feel myself just slowing down.  The humidity was wearing me down…and the hills had really taken it out of my legs.  But I could SEE the finish line, so I pressed on, trying to pick it up to kick it into gear.  I still have no finishing kick…but I managed to finish as strong as I could manage.

The humidity is killing me.  I used to be able to run in it like it was nothing.  Turns out, when you have to take 2 summers off from running…you lose that ability.  I felt horrible at the end.  I went to snag some water and ended up running into Tammy, Dean, and Pete (who I used to run with a lot back before the hip things).  We chatted for a moment…about how hot and humid it was.  How none of us had a good race.  That sort of stuff.  I was also told by Dean, with all the Wonder Woman running outfits out that day, that I needed to find a new super hero.  BUT…let’s face it.  I did it first.  HA!  And…come on…I was given the nickname by my running store at the time.

I decide to grab one more cup of water before heading over to the bleachers where Cathy was sitting.  She hadn’t moved because the finish area was pretty compact so they were asking people not to wade that way.  But this meant that I had a good spot to sit while we waited on Melissa and Paul to come racing into the finish line.  Cathy saw Linda come in…I never saw Linda at the finish line.  I saw some superheroes run in…including a few more Wonder Woman impersonators (*EVIL EYES*) and the Power Rangers.  And then it started raining…again.  It was shortly after the Power Rangers passed by that Cathy spotted Melissa and Paul heading in.  We cheered and screamed and waved and made a lot of noise.  Cathy and I hopped off the bleachers and went to go find our friends.

They were easy to find as they were looking for us as well.  With the rain coming down, we decided to head toward the car.  But first…we ducked into Starbucks for coffee (because post-run coffee is the best!).  With coffee in hand we continued back toward Rupp Arena to where we were parked.  When we were about a minute away, Linda texted to say she was at her car and Cathy, who had my phone, replied with that we would literally be there in a minute.

We talked about the weather, humidity, race, and results.  We took photos.  And Linda and crew headed back to Frankfort.  Melissa, Paul, Cathy and I were going to hit up Bella Notte in Lexington for lunch.  But first we hit up Target to change out of our running clothing and grab some water.  Bookstores, food, chocolate, and lots of laughs and SO MUCH FUN later…we eventually needed to head back to Louisville.

It was an imperfect race, but a perfect day.

So, the official results of the Bluegrass 10,000 are that I finished in 46:52…once again in humid conditions…once again with walk breaks.  UGH!  But…hey…that’s about 2 minutes off my PR…so I’m getting there.  Slowly.  But getting there.  I was 238/2704 finishers overall.  I was the 42/1321 female finishers.  And I was 5/214 in my age division.  I’ll take that.  I think this might become my tradition on the 4th of July as long as I’m in town.  SO much fun.  And doing it with friends was even better.

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“I’ve come to realize that the only people I need in my life are the ones who need me in theirs even when I have nothing else to offer them but myself.”

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

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

Race: Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: April 29, 2017

Time: 1:43:12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So…delay #1 was in the works.

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

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

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

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

And then…another delay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did I mention that I was starving?

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

Everyone was.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I felt…miserable.

But I am nothing if not persistent.

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

And there it was…the turn!!

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

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Me crossing the finish line of the KDF miniMarathon

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

DONE.

I was…done.  I also felt like crap.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s my takeaway…

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

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

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

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

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

kdfambassadorgroup

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

Recipe: Anti-Inflammatory Stir Fry Bowl

So…two weeks ago I was in California.  I was taking in the Los Angeles area…I was doing the whole Disney thing…I was running a 10K and Half Marathon injured…I was fighting aches and pains the rest of the time.

On our last full day in California, my roomie and I got into our rental car after saying good-bye to our friend Tanya, and took a long drive down to San Diego.  What was in San Diego?  Apollo 9.  Duh!

And a taco stand that my roommate fell in love with in 2015, when we stayed in San Diego for one night en route to Hawaii for a marathon I was unable to run (due to a stress fracture to my leg three (3) days before).  She was eager to return…maybe try something else…maybe redo the tacos that she fell so in love with.  But…there was nothing safe for me there…so she scouted out a Thai food place just around the corner.  They had an amazing gluten-free menu (almost everything)…but with my body hating me after I put it pushed it through races being held together with KT Tape and ACE Bandages, the Anti-Inflammatory Stir Fry Bowl really caught my eye.

It was simple…yet delicious.  Broccoli & shitake mushrooms stir-fried in a warming seasoning paste made with peppercorns and turmeric.  It was served over Thai red rice.  And it was amazing.  It was a HUGE order…but I ate it all.  And I felt good about it.  And I kept talking about that meal…so I knew there was something to it.

And so…when I got back home, I set out to recreate it.  It wasn’t perfect, but it sure was delicious.  And as I had some riced cauliflower on hand…instead of cooking up some brown rice…I gave it a go.

Recipe: Anti-Inflammatory Stir Fry Bowl

15995272_10100193941937701_3064135310889359941_oServes 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 head cauliflower, chopped into florets (or one bag of cauliflower rice)
  • 1 teaspoon ginger paste
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 12 ounces broccoli florets
  • 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

 

Directions:

**Chop head of cauliflower into florets and place in food processor. Pulse until it starts to resemble rice; set aside.

**NOTE: If you want a less-mess, no maintenance way of doing this, go to Trader Joes, Kroger, Target, or pretty much ANY grocery store these days and they have bags of already riced cauliflower in their produce section and even in the freezer section.  I do this…because food processors are a pain to clean!  So, skip the first step if you cheat and get the already riced cauliflower.

Line a large skillet with 1/4 cup water and add cauliflower rice.  Cook until softened.

Line a skillet with 1/4 cup water and add ginger paste and garlic.  Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add in mushrooms and broccoli.  Cook until the broccoli has turned bright green and the mushrooms have softened.

Add turmeric and black pepper.  Stir until everything is well coated.

Place half of the cooked cauliflower rice in each bowl.  Top with the broccoli and mushrooms.

ENJOY!

~*~*~

One great thing about this dish, all the seasoning means no salt needs to be added.  The dish is amazingly filling and so good.  The turmeric and black pepper are the perfect anti-inflammatory blend.  I intend to make this dish more often.  It’s simple…yet…so flavorful!  Don’t miss this one!

Disneyland Star Wars Rebel Challenge – Anaheim, CA (January 14-15, 2017)

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.

In-N-Out Burger immediately upon landing in California. Cathy had a burger & fries done animal style and I just had plain fries (they are gluten-free at In-N-Out Burger!

In-N-Out Burger immediately upon landing in California. Cathy had a burger & fries done animal style and I just had plain fries (they are gluten-free at In-N-Out Burger!

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.

Cathy and I in front of the Space Shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center

Cathy and I in front of the Space Shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center

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.

Me in front of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

Me in front of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

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

Pin-Up Girl Boutique dresses. I wanted to buy them all!

Pin-Up Girl Boutique dresses. I wanted to buy them all!

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…

Disneyland Star Wars Light Side 10K

Disneyland Star Wars Light Side 10K

Star Wars Light Side 10K

Race: Star Wars Light Side 10K

Place: Disneyland, Anaheim, California

Date: January 14, 2017

Time: 50:13

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.

Paul (Boba Fett), Melissa (Maz), and Me (Rey)...because STAR WARS!

Paul (Boba Fett), Melissa (Maz), and Me (Rey)…because STAR WARS!

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.

Rey on Hoth

Rey on Hoth

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.

Rey in the trash compactor

Rey in the trash compactor

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

FINISHER of the Star Wars Light Side 10K

FINISHER of the Star Wars Light Side 10K

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.

BB-8 Finisher's Medal for the Disneyland Star Wars Light Side 10K

BB-8 Finisher’s Medal for the Disneyland Star Wars Light Side 10K

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

Tawn, Goofy, Me & Cathy at Goofy's Kitchen!

Tawn, Goofy, Me & Cathy at Goofy’s Kitchen!

was impending.

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…


My BB-8 running costume, modified for the cold weather (orange shirt underneath) for the Disneyland Light Side Half Marathon

My BB-8 running costume, modified for the cold weather (orange shirt underneath) for the Disneyland Light Side Half Marathon

Disneyland Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon

Race: Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon

Place: Disneyland, Anaheim, California

Date: January 15, 2017

Time: 1:47:53

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.

Me after finishing the Disneyland Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon and completing the Rebel Challenge

Me after finishing the Disneyland Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon and completing the Rebel Challenge

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.

Disneyland Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon Finishers Medal

Disneyland Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon Finishers Medal (It has Princess Leia on it…ALL THE FEELS!)

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Disneyland Star Wars Rebel Challenge Medal for finishing the 10K on Saturday & the Half Marathon on Sunday!

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.

Top: The Schulyer Sisters - Eliza, Angelic...and Peggy - from Hamilton Bottom: Me, Cathy, Tawn...as Eliza, Angelica...and Peggy - NAILED IT!

Top: The Schulyer Sisters – Eliza, Angelic…and Peggy – from Hamilton
Bottom: Me, Cathy, Tawn…as Eliza, Angelica…and Peggy – NAILED IT!

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.

This is how I was able to get around Disneyland. That and pain meds. And just being stubborn.

This is how I was able to get around Disneyland. That and pain meds. And just being stubborn.

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.

Here’s hoping for the best!

And Disneyland…I’ll be back!

May the Force be with you!

May the Force be with you!

The Struggle is Real

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.

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Top: Kentucky History Half Marathon Course Elevation      Bottom: My September Marathon race

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.

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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…

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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.

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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!

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And I get on a bike and I feel like…

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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!

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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)!

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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.

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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!!

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Have a great week!

A Wild & Wonderful Weekend

In the midst of everyday stresses and stressors, it’s always nice to have a little break from the things that are just…making you feel so BLAH about life and what you are doing with your life.

For me, this week, it was having my beautiful sister, Karla, drive up from Birmingham, Alabama, with her eldest son, my nephew, Landon.  I didn’t know how much I needed her and the distraction of having her and Landon here to really just allow me to relax, smile, and be me again!

Family, especially my sister, is, apparently, the cure to what ails, troubles, and bothers you.  I’ve been having…a not so amazing time these past few weeks…and, unfortunately, it’s something I am not really allowed to discuss.  Censorship sucks, yes?  YES!  But…just trust me…the type of personality I have and the person I am…it’s been bothering me on a fundamental level, which, has added a lot of added stress to my already chaotic life.

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Suckage.

But this weekend…was amazing.  I love spending time with my sister…and it doesn’t happen often enough.  So, her texts and calls that ask what I’m doing on certain weekends means…she’s coming to visit.  And I LOVE when she comes to visit.  She and I are best friends and sisters and just…have always been close.  So, me living this far away for 11 years (YES…11 years as of Friday)…has not been easy on either of us.  But here is some of the mischief that we got into this weekend, helping me to not even think about the bad and sucky things that have made a certain portion of a time of my day…a thing I have resented and even loathed at times over the past couple of weeks.

Here’s to sisters…and nephews…and family…and general FUN!  They make the world right again.

1.  Fish in the Water

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One thing Karla and I had discussed for Landon to do while here was to go to the new water park in New Albany.  Unfortunately, Friday left us with thunderstorm warnings and the threat of pop-up storms.  So, at around 3:30…when she arrived and we left the office…the lifeguards were being sent home and the park was closing.  So, Plan B…go to the YMCA and let him swim.  He was swim tested and given permission to go to the life guard chair in the lap pool and to go down the slide in the kids pool.  So, for a good portion of the afternoon…about an hour and change, that’s what he did.  Cathy, Karla, and I all sweltered to death in the humidity of the pool area of the YMCA while he played and cooled off in the pools.  It was worth it to see the smile on his face!

2.  SUSHI TIME!

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My sister commented a week or so ago about how delicious my vegetarian sushi looked when I Instagram-ed it and posted it to Facebook.  And then…I had a brilliant moment of brilliance.  My nephew, Landon, is a very, very, very picky eater.  BUT…he does love cheese things.  Cheese quesadillas, cheese sandwiches, mac & cheese….ALL THE CHEESE!  With the excitement over sushi on my post, I thought of the perfect place for us all to grab dinner, that even Landon couldn’t turn his nose up and refuse to order anything.  Dragon King’s Daughter to the rescue!  For those of you who are not local, Dragon King’s Daughter is an Asian-fusion restaurant with two locations…one in New Albany, Indiana, and one in Louisville, Kentucky.  The menu includes traditional fare from the Far East, as well as contemporary fare with a unique twist.  They offer classics of Japanese dining such as lemongrass miso, vegetable, and sushi rolls, as well as a multitude of new creations including a mixture of East and West forms and flavors.  On the kids menu…a cheese quesadilla…and for the adults…we all went sushi.  My sister and I figured we could get a roll each and split one…so I got the Vegetable Roll, she got the Buffaroll, and we split the Green Acres Roll.  Cathy went for the fishies…and got the Shrimp Tempura Roll and the Dragon King’s Daughter Roll.  And after that…a trip over to the Comfy Cow for an ice cream dessert.  What a great first few hours.

3.  Playtime at the County Fair

It just so happens that the Floyd County Fair happens across the street from where I life.  Convenient, yes?  After dinner and dessert, we came home and walked over to the fairgrounds to scope out some rides and the barns with Landon.  He went on three rides (he had 4 tickets, but he wanted his mom to ride with him on one he wasn’t sure about).  He loved going to see the animals.  And one of the highlights for me was seeing my sister crack up every time the goats bleating.  Her laugh is so contagious.  We all shared lemon shakeups and just walked around.  After that…it was time for showers and then we were all down on the couch to watch Zootopia and then…they took over my room and went to bed and I crashed out on the couch so I could get up early and head out for my 12 mile run and get it done before too much of the morning was passed.

4.  It Runs in the Family

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One of the best things we decided to do, was to go for a short run together.  After my 12 miler, I got home and Karla and Landon put on their running clothes.  We hiked up to Sam Peden Park and ran a loop.  It was hard for Karla, as she hasn’t run in a long while…and she’s not used to the crappy air quality of the Ohio River Valley, but she was a trooper and pressed on.  I ran right there with her to encourage her…and Landon…he was busy chasing down the Army men who were running there.  He beat quite a few.  It was awesome.  Landon has amazing speed and gorgeous running form.  He’s a natural and I love watching him run.  Needless to say, it was a great way to start the day as a family.

5.  Wild Eggs

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Breakfast was the next most important stop on Saturday.  We stopped off at Highland Coffee for some coffee first…and then took the drive over to Westport Road to go to Wild Eggs.  Landon already knew he wanted pancakes and BACON.  He made sure to tell me that if I got an omlette, he wanted my BLUEBERRY muffin.  Since I can’t eat the muffin, I was totally cool with this.  It had been forever since I went to Wild Eggs for breakfast…but it was a nice return.  They even have gluten-free bread and a gluten-free menu now.  LOVE that.  Yes…it even includes gluten-free pancakes, French toast and the like.  That was exciting.  But after 13 miles of running and a hike to and from the park…I wanted some protein.  So I ordered the Surfer Girl Omlette (fresh spinach, wild mushrooms, tomato, cream cheese and onion and topped with diced fresh avocado, pico de gallo, sour cream and fresh alfalfa sprouts. Served with skillet potatoes).  I got mine without the cream cheese and sour cream.  My sister got the same thing, just without the mushrooms (she hates mushrooms).  And Cathy got the Kalamity Katie’s Border Benedict (green chili cheddar corn cakes,topped with chorizo, two poached eggs and queso fundido, pico de gallo, sour cream, green onions and avocado. Served with skillet potatoes and an Everything Muffin).  And, yes, I got a blueberry muffin for Landon.  He was pretty full after eating the two pancakes that were as big as his face and the bacon he ordered…but he took a few bites.  The rest…came home with us and then went home with them today.

6.  Pierced Ears

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Okay, here is something that I didn’t expect to happen this weekend.  My sister and I got to talking about earrings…and she brought up how her daughter (she’s 16 months) had her earrings work out perfectly…and how my mom (whose holes closed because she stopped wearing earrings) had just gotten her ears pierced a few weeks ago.  I said that I keep saying I need to get it done but just haven’t pulled the trigger.  I think a part of me thinks it will fail again.  As a kid, I gave the pierced ears a try about 5 times, but always and an allergic reaction to them.  My sister was the same way, but it worked for her as an adult.  So, she told Cathy to pull into somewhere that could pierce my ears.  We did.  And now I sit here with beautiful 4mm white gold studs in my ears.  Karla taught me how to clean and turn the earrings every day (3 times a day)…and the rest is history.  So here is hoping that they work out this time around…because I have wanted to have pierced ears for a long, long time.  Leave it to my sister to get me to do something like this on a short weekend visit.  HA!

A shopping trip to a few of our favorite stores followed up that little adventure.

7.  Putt-Putt

Because you can’t just spend the day shopping when you have a 9-year-old boy with you, we took Landon to the Renaissance Fun Park.  We had discussed Go Karts…but opted, instead, for putt-putt.  It had been ages since my sister and I went putt-putting.  It was a lot of fun.  The easy holes on the course they put together there are actually quite challenging.  But we had a blast.  Afterwards, Landon and I took on some air hockey…which he won…and then he played a few more games after that…until the money on his card ran out.  It was worth every moment to see him out there laughing and being a competitive little boy.


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.  SOCCER!!!

One of the main reasons my sister aimed for this weekend was that the local professional soccer team, Louisville City FC, was playing on Saturday night.  And, since Landon is a HUGE soccer fan, and soccer player himself, we thought it would be fun to take him to a match.  I said I wanted to get him a replica jersey for him to wear during the match and she picked him up a hat and then got a t-shirt for Chace.  I made sure Karla wore the logo t-shirt I owned to the match as well.  They got some pizza for dinner and we settled into our seats at midfield to enjoy.  I have never seen Landon so into an event as that soccer game.  Seriously, he was shouting at the players and the refs…and it was just magical and fun and amazing.  I bought him ice cream at half time because…it’s my job as Auntie…to spoil him and get him hyped up on sugar.  HAHA!  In the end, after a horrible call by a ref, we ended in a draw of 1-1…and Landon had hoped that some of the players would come over to the midfield (they usually do) so he could get pictures and some autographs, but they all returned to the locker room without coming over.  He was bummed, but he still had a fantastic time, and I loved seeing him light up the way he did when Louisville City scored the first goal of the match!

9.  Home-Cooked Breakfast

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I gave my sister and Landon the option of grabbing breakfast out at a restaurant before they hit the road…or having me cook breakfast for them.  Landon really wanted waffles (with powdered sugar, which he now LOVES thanks to Wild Eggs putting it on his pancakes), scrambled eggs…and bacon.  So, my sister and I hit the grocery store for bacon (this vegetarian does not have bacon on hand), eggs, and a gluten-free waffle/pancake mix.  And then, this morning, I got to cooking.  I started the waffles first, knowing that would take the most time.  He wanted the Mickey Mouse shaped waffles…so I made that happen for him.  And, because we adults weren’t too sure we wanted waffles, we had gluten-free avocado toast with our eggs.  I started cooking the bacon before Karla emerged from the bedroom, but she took over that so I could focus on toasting the bread, doing the waffles, and scrambling the eggs.  It all finished up at the right time…everything done when it should be.  Breakfast was served.  And I didn’t take a picture of it, but Karla and I cook epic breakfasts together.  And Cathy now has lots of bacon in the fridge for this coming week.  Which makes her happy.

After that…they had to hit the road and get home…

It was hard to let them go, but I know Karla’s husband and other two kids were missing her and Landon like crazy.  I just was having such a good time and all the time together went by way too fast.

They got home late this afternoon…and she said that they missed me as well.

I hope we do it again soon.

Sisters really do make everything better!

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Restaurant Review: Hops & Fire: Craft Tap House

Hops & Fire: Craft Tap House, Greenwood, Indiana

Hops & Fire: Craft Tap House, Greenwood, Indiana

Restaurant: Hops & Fire: Craft Tap House, Greenwood, Indiana

Normally, whenever I venture up to Indianapolis for an event, race, or whatnot, my one requirement is a stop at Cheeseburger in Paradise…because I can get a gluten-free veggie burger with gluten-free fries (or sweet potato fries)…and the burger custom made (no cheese; no sour cream) to fit my dietary needs.  This is awesome, as any frozen burger patty, or even homemade burger, tend to be a bit mushy and end up slipping out of any sort of gluten-free bread used as a bun (be it an actual gluten-free bun or just some gluten-free bread).  Cheeseburger in Paradise doesn’t have that problem…and it’s nice to be able to safely eat a veggie burger (so many use breadcrumbs as binder) out at a restaurant AND not have to eat it with a fork and knife (meaning…they have a gluten-free bun and I can pick it up).

Needless to say, I ran two half marathons, two weeks apart up in Indianapolis.  After the first one (OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon), I did hit up Cheeseburger in Paradise.  But two weeks later, I wasn’t ready to revisit Paradise.  I just had it.  My craving had been satisfied.

That being said, when I returned to the Indianapolis to run the Geist Half Marathon, I wanted to try something different.  Step out of the comfort zone…try something new.

I had been hearing some buzz around a place located in Greenwood, Indiana, by a bunch of my friends up in that area.  It was a craft beer tap house called Hops & Fire.  And what was pointed out more than once was that when you step inside to be seated, the hostess will ask if you require any special menus.  In addition to their regular menu, they have extensive vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free menus.  I told her I was a gluten-free vegetarian and she grabbed both of those menus and a regular one for Cathy and told me that the menus don’t often cross over each other, but anything on either menu can be made gluten-free, vegan, or vegetarian.  She took us to our table and we were seated.

Our waiter was totally adorable and came over to introduce himself.  His name was Kyle and he asked how we were doing.  Cathy pointed at me and said, “Well, she just ran a half marathon…”  He raised his eyebrows and said, “So I’m guessing you want water.”  HA!  He was so right.  Cathy had thought about trying one of their craft selections, but in the end started with the water.

Two menus and having so many options was a bit overwhelming to me.  The only thing I knew I wanted to try was Gluten Free 3-Cheese Garlic Bread.  I bought Lactaid specifically for this meal.  No joke.  We went ahead and mentioned that we wanted that as an appetizer and Kyle said he’d put that in while we finished making our decisions on what to eat, as it was the appetizer that took the longest to prepare.  While he was gone, I started to narrow down my choices, getting it down to three options.  After a little back and forth and pros and cons, I went for the one that didn’t contain cheese…as I was certain I was about to consume more cheese than my body was going to like momentarily.

Kyle returned to take our order, and as usual, as I’m the complicated one, I ordered first.  I went with the Gluten Free California Wrap…keeping the House Chips as a side.  Cathy went with the Stout Pork Belly BLT, which was served with a side of their Parmesan House Chips.  Orders were in…after Kyle had to go and figure out how to combine two menus to make a dish.  Poor guy!

Hops & Fire Gluten Free 3-Cheese Garlic Bread

Hops & Fire Gluten Free 3-Cheese Garlic Bread

Only a few moments late, a large plate was being carried to our table and put in front of us.  Clearly, when I saw the fact that I could get Gluten Free 3-Cheese Garlic Bread…I didn’t read the description.  This plate and appetizer was HUGE.  Definitely enough for 4-8 people.  Hops & Fire Gluten Free 3-Cheese Garlic Bread ($9.00), is a full gluten-free baguette, which is drenched in roasted garlic and salted butter, served with a gooey, melted blanket of shallots and chives, which are smothered in Provolone, Mozzarella, and Romano cheeses.  This is then baked so that the top of the cheese gets golden and everything is melty and ooey-gooey.  It comes with a side of marinara.  I took my Lactaid and hoped for the best (sometimes it helps; other times, it doesn’t).  I grabbed the slice on the end and pulled it away, the cheese stretching and making me…so happy.  I cut it up, dipped a piece into the marinara…and immediately lost my mind.  If you go to Hops & Fire, this is their signature appetizer and it is not to be missed.  The gluten-free baguette was crispy on the outside and that perfect toasty, but still soft on the inside.  The cheese was melted to perfection.  The garlic was superb.  Yeah…this made me SO happy.  And, for the record, the Lactaid worked…this time.  Thank goodness!  This was A LOT of food, so Cathy and I said we’d eat half of it and get a box and take the rest of it home.  That’s what we did as our food arrived.  We boxed it up…and it was lunch the next day.

Hops & Fire Stout Pork Belly BLT with a side of Parmesan House Chips

Hops & Fire Stout Pork Belly BLT with a side of Parmesan House Chips

So, let’s start with Cathy’s lunch, shall we?  My om-nom-nomnivore (haha) friend loves to eat pig in any form she can.  This is no joke.  She loves her pork products.  So it was no surprise to me that she chose the Hops & Fire Stout Pork Belly BLT ($12.00) off of their Brewed Baskets selections on the regular menu.  It came with a decent serving of their Parmesan House Chips on the side.  This sandwich is not your typical BLT.  Hops & Fire serves up a stout beer and kosher salt-brined local pork belly, which is seared, roasted, sliced thin, and pan fried, then topped with baby bibb lettuce, beefsteak tomatoes, and homemade apricot onion jam…served on their grilled garlic shallot bread.  Here’s the thing…they do NOT skimp on the pork belly bacon in this BLT.  Not one bit.  You’ll see by the photo I’m putting up here for those of you who are not a gluten-free vegetarian like me.  I mean…it was BACON. FOR. DAYS.  She had more bacon than Parmesan House Chips.  And that’s not a bad thing, as the protein is, honestly, what you are shelling out money for.  She said the garlic shallot bread was amazing (we Celiacs will never know…).  She said it could have used a slight bit more mayo…but it was awesome.  And yes…she devoured it all and the chips.  Carnivores.  Oy!

Hops & Fire Gluten Free California Wrap with a mountain of House Chips

Hops & Fire Gluten Free California Wrap with a side of House Chips

As for me…I went ahead and combined an offering on the Vegetarian Menu and asked that it be made gluten-free.  I opted for the Gluten Free California Wrap ($12.00)…mostly because it didn’t have cheese and avocado always wins.  The California Wrap is a gluten-free tortilla that is stuffed and rolled up around fresh sliced avocado, beefsteak tomato, bibb lettuce, pickled onions, and a roasted garlic aioli. OH MY GLUTEN FREE GODS!!  This was a simple, basic, wrap, but it tasted amazing to me.  Maybe it was because I had just pounded out 13.1 miles and was living off of watermelon and water at that point, but this wrap was great.  Gluten-free tortillas are nothing to write home about, and I’m pretty certain this was the standard gluten-free teff tortilla.  But it just serves as a way for me to pick up and devour the veggie-licious produce that was stuffed and rolled up inside.  The aioli, by the way, was delicious.  The avocado was ripe and sweet.  The tomatoes…so good.  I loved every bite of this wrap.  It came with a mountain…no…a landslide of their House Chips, which I couldn’t even finish.  Where Cathy had a decent side of hers, the chips serving was bigger than my wrap…so…I ate what I wanted and left the rest.

Hops & Fire Gluten Free and Vegan Ice Cream Sundae

Hops & Fire Gluten Free and Vegan Ice Cream Sundae

We were full, but we couldn’t end our experience there.  Kyle tempted us with a dessert menu, pointing out that those marked with a gf were gluten free and also the codes for vegan and vegetarian as well.  We were very tempted to get one of the Desserts For Two (yeah…we so wanted the Gluten Free and Vegan S’mores Cast Iron Cake), but in the end, decided we were too full for that and went with splitting a single serving of the Vegan Ice Cream Sundae ($5.00).  This was a small bowl (thank goodness) that had a scoop of vegan ice cream, drizzled lightly with hot fudge.  It was perfect and a great way to end the meal.  It was amazing.  The ice cream was not as creamy as regular ice cream, but it was cold and melty and amazing.  And the hot fudge…that’s always a welcome addition to anything ice cream-ish.

Kyle brought us our check once we had polished it off and we paid in cash and got our things together to go.  We talked about the food for a bit of the drive home…and how amazing and good it was.  I was beyond happy with the service and the attention paid to each dish that was ordered, making sure that it fit my dietary needs…nothing that made me take pause and question whether it was safe for me to eat or not.

I’m already planning my return to Hops & Fire.  So, if you happen to be in the Indianapolis area, or traveling through, do make the trip to Greenwood and check out this amazing and delicious place.  You have a specialty diet…they have you covered.  And I love it.

Next time…gluten-free onion rings.  It’s happening!