Product Review: Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Onion Bagels

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Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Onion Bagel

Product: Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Onion Bagels – $11/pack; $3/bagel

Remember last week when I shared that Annie May’s Sweet Cafe is now making bagels?  You know…bagels that are Top 9 Allergen Free?  Remember?  You should, because I did an extensive review of one of the four flavors that they offer – the Everything Bagel.

I’ve mentioned numerous times that I grew up in New York, so the bagel was a breakfast staple in my home.  And when I was diagnosed with Celiac…it took forever to find a bagel that actually felt like a bagel to me.  It’s been a long journey.  And while some have exceeded the bar, others have fallen short.

Well, those didn’t last long in my freezer, so today I prepped the Onion Bagel for a try.

For those of you who haven’t tried one yet or didn’t make note…Annie May’s bagels are not pre-cut.  Never fear…this is nothing that a good serrated knife can’t fix.  Slicing a bagel isn’t hard.  Make sure, if you’re starting from frozen, thaw the bagels out and then slice through them.  As a pro bagel slicer…start where the bagel is a little bit thinner and slice through that end first.  It makes for a much cleaner and even cut.  Pro tip!

Now…let’s dig in…

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I used to hate onion.  Hate it.  Until I was a teenager and I realized that the bite actually brought great flavor to thing.  Guess my pallet turned on around the age of 13.  But after that, my life was filled with onion.  Onions aren’t for everyone…but I am a believer in the power of the onion.

And the power of the bagel.

Especially an onion bagel!

So, per the usual routine…this morning I sliced the bagel I thawed in half and brought it to work with me.  I bring my own aluminum foil and use the toaster oven (not the toaster) to avoid cross-contamination.  So…these toast in the toaster oven in the kitchen.  It also makes the office smell really good anytime I toast up bagels in there.  Especially flavored bagels.  Mmmm.  (No joke…I just had three people walk into the kitchen while I was waiting for them to finish and commented on how good they smelled and warned me not to turn my back!)

Once toasted…cream cheese had to happen.  A proper bagel has a healthy schmear of cream cheese or Earth Balance (or butter if you aren’t dairy-free).

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Actually, Scully, it was VEGAN cream cheese.  I really like Kite Hill because it has SUCh good flavor and is almost whipped in texture.  Love a light (get it) and airy texture to my cream cheese.  Not traditional, I know…but when you can’t do dairy…you do vegan cream cheese.  Kite Hill is by far the best, but it is made from almond milk…so if you can’t do almonds…you must find a different path.  But there are lots of options out there these days!

I happen to have (and love) the new Kite Hill Jalapeno Cream Cheese.  It’s delightful.

Okay now.  Settle in.  Take a deep breath.  Savor the aroma….and then take a bite.

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LOTS of flavor!  The onion is there, but it won’t overpower the bagel itself.  It’s got just enough punch to let you know that it’s there, but not enough to make you reach for the breath mint afterwards.  I loved how well these bagels toasted up…browning up on the outside and on the sliced part…but remaining soft and chewy in the center.  It made it the perfect vehicle for the cream cheese.  Sometime bagels fall apart when you go to schmear them.  Not these.  Let me tell you, I also love the way the onion is incorporated, because it didn’t burn in the toaster oven and become bitter.  It toasted and became sweet and savory all at once.  Simply delicious.  Down to the last bite.

Remember, if you aren’t lucky enough to live in Louisville, Kentucky (like I am…because this bakery has been with me for ALL of my Celiac journey…we’ve grown together), have no fear…Annie May’s Sweet Cafe does ship…and yes…they are shipping the bagels.

Follow this link!!  And be sure to check out all the other stuff they offer as well!

But, I highly encourage you…get the bagels!

As I stated before, they do offer them at the bakery as well…and if you don’t want to buy a pack of four…you can buy them individually there and get them topped with Earth Balance, jam (raspberry or strawberry), or plain cream cheese.  I think they are currently offering them in-house on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  So, you may want to call ahead and make sure they have them.  But…you can just go and hope for the best.  If nothing else, you’ll walk out of there with something tasty.

Onion bagels…you’re my jam.  Or my cream cheese.  Or my breakfast.

Annie May’s Sweet Cafe continues to make my gluten-free world a happier and more local place!

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Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Onion Bagels schmeared with Kite Hill Jalapeno Cream Cheese

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Restaurant Review: Pho Ba Luu – Louisville, KY

IMG_3876Restaurant: Pho Ba Luu – Louisville, Kentucky

Brace yourselves, friends…

I’m finally getting back to restaurant reviews.  I have been so busy as of late that I’ve been skipping these important reviews both locally and when I travel.  And that is stopping…as of now.

I made a promise to be better about updating my blog, and, by God, I’m going to stick to it.

So…I have the pleasure of being friends with some amazing people who just happen to be foodies!  And…they seem to be as excited about trying different places around town as I am.  And that…means LOTS of fun trying out new places with good people who aren’t afraid to be honest and outgoing.

Being a foodie is fun.

While I have my favorite places here in Louisville, some great new places have moved in and opened up.  And one of those places is Pho Ba Luu, in Butchertown.  Pho Ba Luu, as my can probably guess, serves Saigon Street Food.  Think the obvious pho…in addition to rice bowls, banh mi sandwiches, as well as rice bowls.

As I tend to do when I am going to new restaurants, I contacted them to find out if I, being a Celiac and vegetarian, could eat anything there.  Jessica Mach e-mailed me back and let me know exactly what was safe for me.  All the pho bowls, by the way, are gluten free.  Just don’t get the hoisin sauce.  The spring rolls are also safe…and they offer gluten-free soy sauce as well.  The staff was INCREDIBLY knowledgeable too after we visited and placed our order.  So…bit shout-out for those, who like me, have food allergies and intolerances and need a little extra care at restaurants.IMG_3875

So…four foodies drove into Butchertown specifically for some Vietnamese food.  And, let me tell you, there were some high standards to be met.  Paul is actually part Vietnamese and his wife, Melissa and he actually have had street food in Vietnam.  They actually ordered first.  Paul got the Chicken Pho ($10) and Chicken Spring Rolls ($5) for his dinner.  Melissa ordered the Chicken Pho ($10…because it doesn’t change…LOL!) and the Shrimp Spring Rolls ($5).  They each also ordered the Iced Vietnamese Coffee ($5), which I want to try next time because it looked AMAZING!  It’s happening.

Cathy (that’s the roomie, in case you are new to the blog or have forgotten during my hiatus on reviews) decided to go all meaty and gluten-y since she doesn’t get that at home.  She ordered the Beef Pho ($11) with the Seafood & Pork Crispy Rolls ($6).  I may get asked…maybe not…but in case…the Seafood & Pork Crispy Rolls were crispy rolls stuffed with shrimp, pork, crabmeat, onion and vegetables and is served with a fish sauce.  So that’s for all of you non-vegetarian/vegan gluten eaters out there!  She’s got your back!

As for me…I ordered the Vegetarian Pho ($10) with the Vegetarian Spring Rolls ($5).  The spring rolls are normally served with a Plum Sauce, but as I noted gluten-free at the order, they brought me gluten free soy sauce instead.

Let me say this…the four of us are already discussing going back next Friday to celebrate Tet (the Vietnamese New Year) this coming week.  Not. Even. Joking.

Because when it comes to good food…I don’t make those kinds of jokes.

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Pho Ba Luu Vegetarian Spring Rolls

So…here’s the run-down from what I was devouring last night.  I’ll start with the spring rolls.  The Vegetarian Spring Rolls are basic fried tofu with sauteed vegetables and glass noodles wrapped in rice paper.  They looked fantastic.  They tasted phenomenal.  The gluten-free soy sauce was the perfect touch.  I love spring rolls as it is…these were some of the best I have had.  And that’s no exaggeration.  They are simple…but they bring the flavor and the textures just all worked.

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Pho Ba Luu Vegetarian Pho

But, of course , the star of the Vietnamese Food scene last night…was the Pho!!  First of all…the bowls are pretty big and we all had another meal’s worth left over after dining last night.  No joke.  Hey…it meant we had lunch today.  So…be aware that there is a LOT of volume in these bowls.  The Vegetarian Pho has sauteed tofu and vegetables in a vegetable broth.  You get a little baggie of all the add-in goodies…like bean sprouts, jalapenos, and the like.  I poured them all in.  I added a good helping of Sriracha.  And once I was done with my Spring Rolls…in went the remaining gluten-free soy sauce.

FLAVOR!!  That’s all I can say.  The broth had amazing flavor as it was.  The tofu and vegeatlbes…they brought extra goodness to the party.  The carrots still had some crisp to them. The tofu was savory and soft and just…done to perfection.  The add-ins brought a little more spice…a little more texture…a little more yumminess to an already yummy situation.  I was in love and I managed to not splash myself with anything as I ate the noodles with chopsticks and slurped up that broth with the spoon.

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Pho Ba Luu Beef Pho

This gluten-free vegetarian loved every bit of the meal last night.  And I think my partners in street food would agree.  Cathy loved the Beef Pho and her Crispy Spring Rolls. While she does like spring rolls, she LOVED the crispy rolls.  I think she will never NOT get those.  The beef finished up cooking in the hot broth when it was delivered to the table and after she sorted out the jalapenos to both Paul and I from her bag of goodies…she was all in.  And loving in!

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Pho Ba Luu Chicken Pho and Shrimp Spring Rolls

And my Chicken Pho eaters…they were quite content with their bowls too.  They seriously raved about the flavor and I believe they even said it came very close to the street food they had in Vietnam.  So…there it is.  OH…and Melissa highly recommends the Iced Vietnamese Coffee.  She got two of them last night if that tells you anything!!  The Chicken Spring Rolls & Shrimp Spring Rolls disappeared as quickly as my Vegetarian ones.

Any way you slice it…we loved everything we ate here.

Pho sho!

Yeah…I went there.  I can’t help myself sometimes!!

So…anytime I get to eat a big bowl of pho without having any reaction to it because everyone who works there made sure my food was safe and perfect…gets many return visits from me.  I can’t wait to go back.

And…for the record…they have a Gluten Free Apple Pie ($6)…that we were all too full to try…but we may have to get it next time and split it among us.  Because…dessert is very important to me.

Special shout-out again to Jessica Mach for answering my e-mails when I inquired and helping me navigate the menu without any trouble at all.

If you are in the Louisville area or are coming to Louisville, Kentucky, and love or want to try Vietnamese food…I can’t speak highly enough of Pho Ba Luu.  People with food allergies…welcome…and taken care of.  I call that winning!

See you next week!

sailormooneats

Product Review: Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Everything Bagels

bagels01Product: Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Everything Bagels – $11/pack; $3/bagel

Today…February 9, 2018…is National Bagel Day.  I didn’t know this until JUST NOW (thanks Instagram)!

Grab your serrated knives, lovelies!!  And your toasters.  And your topping to schmear on liberally because…NEWS FLASH:

*ANNIE MAY’S SWEET CAFE IS NOW OFFERING BAGELS!*

That makes this displaced New York girl want to do a happy dance!  Like…do a good old fashioned subway terminal happy dance.  As any New Yorker is wont to do every now and again.  Especially on a good day.

nychappydanceJust like that.  OH YEAH!

Annie May’s Sweet Cafe announced this last Saturday on their Instagram, noting that bagels will be offered at the bakery on Tuesdays and Thursdays…or for preorder.  And since I knew I’d be there Wednesday, I put in an order for a pack of each flavor!  Because…as I am a New York girl through-and-through…if bagels were happening at my local Gluten Free Bakery…then they were just going to happen to end up in my fridge…in my toaster oven…and in my belly!

foodislifeOn Wednesday, the winter weather was a no-show, so I happily skipped into the bakery to pick up my Soft Pretzel Wednesday order (this is a real thing, friends!)…grab some macarons (because…reasons)…and pick up my bagel order.  I was handed the bagels first off…and I may or may not have bounced them in my arms like a newborn baby.

These things happen.

I’m not ashamed.

SOMEHOW…I managed to hold off breaking into the bagels until Friday.  So I went TWO days without touching them.  It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life.  But this morning…

gameonGAME ON!!

I thawed out two of the Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Everything Bagels (because I’m nice and share with my roomie…and she may have bought them for me too…so there is that…)

cashAnyway…I thawed out the bagels and then got out my serrated knife to easily slice them in half.  I could tell how good these were going to be simply by slicing into them.  I mean, undo the plastic and get a whiff of that garlic from the everything spices and it’s heaven.  And that’s before things even get toasty!

I tossed mine in the oven (I don’t actually own a toaster) for about 12 minutes and they came out PERFECT.  Lightly toasted so that the outside got just enough crisp on it and then the middle was still soft and chewy and perfect.

Yep…these are perfect.

Also…the kitchen smelled AMAZING as these were toasting.  Hello delicious, flavorful, aromatic topping!  I was more than ready to dive right in…but being a proper bagel lover…no bagel is complete without a schmear of something good.  Traditionally…cream cheese.  I have a stash of different varieties in my fridge.  Today…I used the last of the Daiya Garden Vegetable Cream Cheese and my roomie got the last of the Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese.  The toasty bagels came out looking all golden and amazing and each half got a healthy schmear of the vegan cream cheese goodness.

Time to dig in!

Sometimes bagels can be dense and immense and heavy.  Especially gluten free ones.  Either that or they are packed with fillers that make them…not even a bagel anymore, in my opinion (most store-bought ones are this way).  Annie May is a perfectionist and she doesn’t add something to her bakery menu unless it meets her quality standards.

These surpassed standards.  I loved that these bagels were filling without being too much.  I love that these bagels are made with real ingredients.  I love that these bagels are light and have that perfect crust and that chewy inside (even after slicing and toasting).  And the real stand-out for the Everything flavor of the bagels…is that Everything Topping.  THAT…was a flavor powerhouse.  To me…no other gluten free (or regular back when I could eat them) Everything Bagel has come close to this level of flavor.  And I was dancing in my chair out of pure joy with every bite.  I savored it, rather than inhale it.  I wanted to take my time…chew…savor…enjoy.  They were a standard bagel size…they were everything I want in a bagel…but without the blandness that you can find in bagels.  Bread is amazing.  Bagels are better.

And these bagels…are my new favorite things in life.

And if you aren’t lucky enough to live in Louisville, Kentucky (like I am…because this bakery has been with me for ALL of my Celiac journey…we’ve grown together), have no fear…Annie May’s Sweet Cafe does ship…and yes…they are shipping the bagels.

Follow this link!!  And be sure to check out all the other stuff they offer as well!

But definitely go for the bagels!

As I stated above, they do offer them at the bakery as well…and if you don’t want to buy a pack of four (I understand you the least)…you can buy them individually there and get them topped with Earth Balance, jam (raspberry or strawberry), or plain cream cheese.

And your life will come full circle and be complete.  And you will live happily ever after.

If you get nothing else from this post…understand that YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED!!  Local peeps…get on over there.  These bagels are free of the top 9 allergens, they are vegan, they are super yummy…they are round with a hole in the middle.

I’m already planning on restocking my freezer and I haven’t even polished off one pack yet!

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Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Everything Bagels topped with Daiya Garden Vegetable Cream Cheese are like a warm hug!

 

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

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

Race: Louisville Half Marathon

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: November 12, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Finisher of the Louisville Half Marathon!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Me with Paul & Michelle at the finish line!

CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon – Indianapolis, IN (November 4, 2017)

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Me crossing the finish line of the CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon – Indianapolis, IN

Race: CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon

Place: Indianapolis, Indiana

Date: November 4, 2017

Time: 1:41:44

When weekends are busy…boy, they are busy.  That’s how my Monumental Half Marathon weekend turned out to be.  The running gods just sort of made this race available to me, as I was already going to be up in Indianapolis that weekend for a wedding.  Why not make an event out of it?

So, I signed up for the Monumental Half Marathon and went into it with the run/walk mentality that I’ve been practicing, in an attempt to not have my body fall apart on me again at crucial and critical times.  Training with the run/walk method is one thing.  Actually incorporating it into racing is another beast altogether.

But I digress.

My race weekend started off with lots of packing on Thursday night.  Not only did I need to pack for a half marathon, but I also needed to pack for a wedding…AND (yep…there is an and in there) a soccer match.  Told you my weekend was busy.  And this all was happening in the span of one day.

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Lunch on the go…when you’re broke!

So, packing for three events meant about 4 pairs of shoes!  HA!  No joke though, because at first the forecast called for rain, so I had my regular racing shoes, my rain shoes, heels for the wedding, and my recovery shoes for the soccer match.  It also meant packing running clothes for rain, for cold, for comfortable weather…a dress to wear to the wedding…and some jeans, a t-shirt and a hoodie for the soccer match.  Plus pajamas, race fuel, snacks, protein powder, recovery stuff…ALL THE THINGS!!  And, I had originally suggested grabbing sushi on the way up to Indianapolis (we were taking a half day from work to travel and would hit the road right at lunch time), but decided to save money and made gluten-free cashew butter and jelly sandwiches!  My roommate had a small baggie of chips with hers (we had one serving left in a bag at the apartment) and I had the remainder of the grapes we bought at Costco!  That was lunch.

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Me at the race expo for the CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon – Indianapolis, IN

We got up to Indianapolis in good time, actually.  No traffic issues really at all.  So, after checking into the Hilton near the Indiana State Capitol (and also near the start line and finish line), we took a walk to the convention center to hit up the race expo.  I had actually expected to spend more money on stuff at the expo.  It’s a really nice expo.  But all the official merchandise promoted the full marathon, and not really the half.  So, that was a bit disappointing.  Aside from that…obtaining my race bib, t-shirt, and all that stuff was super easy.  And we navigated the aisles of the race expo without signing up for more races, or buying extra stuff…save for 3 Bondi Bands.  They had one that’s perfect for a race I am planning to do with friends in the fall, one that had unicorns and rainbows on it (DUH!) and one that said “Run Like A Princess Today.”  HELLO!  Made for me.  And that was it.  I purchased two replacement water bottles for my fuel belt and called it a day.

With plenty of time to kill, we took the stuff back to the hotel room and then decided to hit up Indianapolis by foot.  This meant walking Monument Circle and stopping into candy store (DUH!).  That’s where we picked up dessert, actually.  Because…candy store!!  Cathy picked up a Diet Butterscotch Root Beer to dry, and it was decent enough.  We then took a stroll down to the city library because she wanted to look at their Irish History section.  And from there…we were both ready to figure out what to have for dinner.

Ideally…it’s always gluten-free pizza before a race for me.  BUT…as this was my first distance race where I would be incorporating my run/walk method, I was toying with giving up the pizza and opting for Mexican or other options.  The gluten-free pizza place we had discovered the year I ran the Indy Women’s was our first stop though.  They weren’t taking reservations and with a marathon happening the next day, we weren’t certain that it wouldn’t be crowded.  It wasn’t at that point.  They said they could seat us at a table, but we’d have to be out by 6:30.  Not a problem.  That gave us plenty of time to peruse the menu, make dinner choices, and still not feel rushed.

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Gluten Free Focaccia from Napolese in Indianapolis, IN

Our waiter was awesome.  We explained to him that I was a Celiac and also couldn’t do dairy.  He was great to work with and even remembered the dairy-free part when we ordered the gluten-free focaccia, which had garlic.  Lots of garlic.  YUM!!

After going back and forth on the type of pizza we were going to split, we finally decided that creating our own would be the most fun.  AND…we even asked the opinion of our server when it came to doing either a white pizza or one with sauce.  We had wanted to have winter squash, balsamic onions, and then quail eggs (protein!) on the pizza.  And after mulling back and forth on whether to sauce it up or go white pizza…the server settled it for us, saying that the white pizza would let the other ingredients shine, and with the eggs, we would have plenty going on with the pizza.  No need for the red sauce.  DONE!!  Order in.

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The pizza we built at Napolese in Indianapolis, IN: Gluten Free Crust, Winter Squash, Balsamic Onions, Quail Eggs

The pizza, by the way, was magnificent.  The crust was basically what they made the focaccia out of, but this time it wasn’t sliced into triangles and put into a basket, it was laid out on a plate, baked to perfection, topped with everything.  Eggs on a pizza was a new experience for me.  And it was amazing.  We devoured without rushing through the meal, pausing to discuss how EPIC this dinner was.  This reminds me…I have squash in my fridge that I need to bake up so it doesn’t go bad.  Perhaps a pizza is in the future.

With my pre-race meal now in the tank, we took a stroll to CVS to pick up additional waters for that evening and race day…and then turned in for the night. I laid out my clothes while Cathy showered…and then it was Food Network for Diners, Drive-In’s and Dives until bedtime.  We turned in early.  But thanks to being so close to the start of the race, my three race morning alarms were set later.

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Rocking my Louisville Landsharks shirt at the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon

Got up with my first alarm to take a pill and some water.  Went back to bed.  An hour later, alarm went off.  I went to get dressed in my race clothes and finished putting my hair up when the alarm for Cathy to wake up went off.  It was perfect timing.  I had packed some snack bars/protein bars to have for breakfast…so we did that in the room.  I filled up my fuel belt with one side water and the other my Nuun Performance (LOVE!!) before grabbing my hoodie, and heading out.  Cathy even remembered the sign.  We were WINNING this morning.

I texted my coach once I got to the start line area, hoping to catch her before the race.  She was aiming for a PR.  I’m not concerned with time right now…just focusing on form, and how I feel.  And she and I discussed a race plan via text for this one the night before.  With as many people running this as there was, we decided a 4 minute run/30 second walk interval might cause problems.  So…the new plan was to have me walk all the water stops.  She was hanging in the convention center, so I didn’t actually find her ahead of time.  Cathy had to convince me to give up my hoodie and get into my corral as I was a Wave 1 runner and the start of the race was getting close.

I gave it up, got a hug, and went to get into the corral at the start.  I had just found a spot that was a decent amount of space back from the start, but not too far back, and then I hear my name being shouted.  I start turning my head, and I see two guys waving at me.  It’s Tim and Greg from Frankfort!!  Greg came over and gave me a hug.  They were doing the full.  We joked about how I was smart and was focusing on half marathons for awhile.  But with the anthem starting to be sung, we wished each other luck and got back into our own zones.

The wheelchair race was underway first.  And then…Wave 1 was off.

I actually felt really good that morning, even with the cold air.  I had opted, at the last minute before leaving town, to swing back by the apartment and grab arm warmers for the race.  This turned out to be a wise decision.  While there were points of the race that I felt I was getting too warm, the wind would kick in and I’d be grateful to have them again.

I loved this race.  Honestly!!  I have always heard good things about it…but this was my first year actually running it.  I have known friends who have done the full or the half and have never heard anything bad about it at all.  I settled into what I felt was a good and easy pace and got into the zone.  Even though it was crowded, there wasn’t a lot of weaving going on.  I felt comfortable and like I wasn’t really pushing too much too fast.  I saw Cathy just after crossing the start line, and she had said she’d be at Monument Circle as well before heading to the finish line to wait for me.  Apparently an actual breakfast happened for her as well…because while I saw her at Monument Circle (hard to miss that sign!), she didn’t see me.  It was still dark, and I was wearing darker colors than I normally do.  After she realized she missed me, she spotted the Au Bon Pain and ended up getting one of their breakfast sandwiches.  HA!!  She’s resourceful like that.

Almost 3 miles in now and I still felt good.  No hip issues (even with the chilly weather) and just a steady rhythm going.  I knew that the marathon/half marathon split was just after Mile 7, so I knew things would thin out a bit at that point as well.  At my 4 mile water stop, Tim caught up with me and gave me a pat on the back and told me I was doing great.  He was doing the full and looked like he wasn’t even trying to maintain a fast pace.  He’s superhuman, I swear!  He ended up catching me again at the water stop around Mile 6 before the split.  I kept waiting for Linda or Greg to pass me…but never did see that.  It was good to see Tim out there though!

The split came and that involved running underneath this arch where half was labeled for the full and the other half was labeled for the half.  They kept on going straight and we made a left turn to continue on our path to the finish line.  Just after Mile 8, they were handing out gels on the course.  Not my thing so onward.  I really felt good the entire time, except between Miles 10 and 11.  I just felt really tired at that point.  I walked a “hill” and a water stop within the same mile.  I didn’t feel bad for it.  I was tuning into my body and it really needed.  There is no shame in walk breaks.  In fact, they sort of make the run more enjoyable…and in the end…the results are quite surprising.  I didn’t speed walk those breaks either.  I strolled each water stop…taking in my own water of fuel as needed.  And after that extra break heading into Mile 11, I felt better and I was able to pick it back up.  Final two miles and into the home stretch.

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Me with Linda, my coach, after the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon – Indianapolis, IN

I could hear the announcer as I neared the final stretch of the half marathon.  I took a corner and could see that finish line.  As I was nearing it, I spotted Cathy and the sign.  She was shouting at me and the crowd was loud and awesome.  And I heard my name get announced just as I was moments away from crossing that finish line.  That’s always a motivation to kick it up a notch.  I never have much of a kick at the end of a race, but I was smiling the entire time as I crossed over that finish line and threw my hands up in celebration!

Afterwards, made the walk through the finish chute, getting a Mylar blanket, a medal, lots of snacks, and some water.  I got an official finisher photo on the way to meet up with Cathy.  And soon after finding her, we got word that Linda was on her way to the finish line, so we waited to flag her down.  And the first thing she did was give me a hug.  I love my coach, for real!!  She’s my biggest support system, even when I am one of her biggest headaches (I am neurotic; I can’t help it!).  We talked to her for a little bit, but soon had to head back tot he hotel to cycle through showers and get dressed for the wedding.  Linda was going to be waiting on her runners doing the full and half marathon.

From running shoes to high heels and a pretty dress. We made a coffee stop at Strange Brew in Greenwood, IN before the wedding (necessary) and then got to see two friends get married.  A little dancing and food at the reception and we were in the bathroom changing into clothes for the soccer match and heading back to Louisville to cheer our team to victory (it went to penalty kicks and we won…and charged the field afterwards).  It was a long, but totally amazing day!

So…the official results of the CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon are that I finished in 1:41:44…walking EVERY water stop.   I’ll take that time with walk breaks. Hell yeah!  I was 720/7972 finishers overall.  I was the 175/4492 female finishers.  And I was 32/775 in my age division.  WITH. WALK. BREAKS.  YAAAAAAS!!  Maybe Jeff Galloway really does have the secret recipe for racing success!  I mean, I ran/walked that race faster than I did the KDF Half Marathon.  It was also faster than I ran the Dark Side Half Marathon.  Yep…Jeff Galloway is a genius!

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Hard work understands hard work.  And hugs from your coach at the finish line make it all worth it in the end.

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.”

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

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

Race: Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: April 29, 2017

Time: 1:43:12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So…delay #1 was in the works.

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

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

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

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

And then…another delay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did I mention that I was starving?

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

Everyone was.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I felt…miserable.

But I am nothing if not persistent.

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

And there it was…the turn!!

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

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Me crossing the finish line of the KDF miniMarathon

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

DONE.

I was…done.  I also felt like crap.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s my takeaway…

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

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

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

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

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

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