Hey…DISCOUNT! (Noxgear addition)

As most of you who read this know…I’m an Ambassador for Noxgear.

You know…the cool, light-weight, light-up vest that you see me wearing in all my social media run pics (because running in the dark is the only time I have to run).

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If not…you’re obviously not following me on social media and that should be remedied.  I’ll post those links at the end of this.  But the entire purpose to this post today is to say…

TOMORROW ONLY…

OCTOBER 16, 2018

There is a special Ambassador Sale going on at the Noxgear Web site.  So if you’ve been on the fence about investing in the Tracer 360 vest or the Lighthound (for those of you with four-legged running partners who also need to be seen), or if you want to order some extras or get one as a gift…this is the best deal yet!

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If you’re reading this…you’re in luck.  You’ve found an ambassador!  YAY!!  *high fives*

To get that discount on Tuesday ONLY head over to Noxgear and use code: CELIAC

It’s the best deal around!!  Happy Shopping!!  Tell your friends!

#noxgearamb #noxgear #lightitup

And…if you’re not following me on other forms of social media…you can hit me up here:

Instagram: theceliathlete
Twitter: TheCeliathlete
Twitter: CapnKeeks

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RESET

The last couple of months have been crazy-busy.  Go-go-go-go-go.  Do this.  Do that.  Travel here.  Travel there.  Work.  Catch up on work.  Work overtime.  Cook.  Gotta eat.  Food is fuel.  Train.  Run.  Run.  Train more.  More.  Keep training.  Run.  Keep running.  Still gotta work.  This work won’t do itself.  Oh…yeah…sleep.  That’s kinda important too, right?

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Needless to say…the simple things…those every day things that often fall to the wayside…well…they fell to the wayside.

I’m not just talking about my presence here on this blog or even online.  I mean…making time to do something as simple as vacuum my apartment.  Or dust the shelves.  Or put away things from race expos and food expos.  Or…just organize the apartment.  And if you know me, you know clutter and disorder drive me crazy.  It’s been pretty hard to breathe.

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Today, that all came to a head.  I woke up this morning and causally lingered in bed and played on my broken (aka: shadowbanned) Instagram account, hoping that it might be visible again.  It’s not.  Meh.  I got up and did my stretches and exercises and worked in some foam rolling.  And then…despite the light drizzle and nip in the air…I went out for a run.  And I felt good.  I smiled a lot.  I didn’t worry over pace or speed or hills or flats or anything.  I just did what my legs wanted to do from one mile to the next.  My mind was on the numerous people I know who were tackling the Ironman Louisville today.  I’ve been tracking them all day and it’s been both nerve-wracking and exciting all at once.  Had the weather been less wet…I would have actually been out there cheering in person.  But I honestly (for reasons to be explained in an upcoming blog) just couldn’t bring myself to do it today.

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But, while using the app to track their amazing progress and great feats of athleticism, what I did manage to do was this:

  • Went for a short run in the rain.
  • Showered
  • Made breakfast for my roomie and I
  • Cut up and baked a large, organic kabocha squash (my favorite)
  • Went to Target to pick up my prescription
  • Went to the mall to just move around a little since weather was so shitty
  • Went to Meijer so my roomie could pick up her prescription and then we finished grocery shopping.
  • Organized the pantry at home (finally putting away the GFFAF Festival goodies/finds)
  • Organized the snacks/running fuel drawer
  • Laundry
  • Cooked dinner from scratch (delicious stuffed peppers)
  • Stretched
  • Foam rolling
  • Folded and put away laundry
  • Watched Top Chef (I’m catching up on all the seasons I missed since the upcoming season is in Kentucky (and some in Louisville))
  • And a lot of dishes and cleaning and prepping and all that in between.

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The best part of the day though…had to be the impromptu dance party via Marco Polo with my friend Natalie.  It was a good way to get shit done and yet…still keep a lighthearted and fun-loving perspective on it.  It was so much fun.  And we hit each other with some good songs.  But my roomie and I slapped her with some Baby Shark…so we might win.  HA.

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I’m finally down on the couch and relaxing.  Not ready to go to bed yet, despite feeling utterly exhausted.  But that will come in about an hour.  I’m so happy with how productive I was today and all that got done.  I mean…my roomie even painted her pumpkins today.  Cross that off the list too.

Anyone else have a busy and productive weekend?  Anyone else cheering on friends at Ironman Louisville?  Any suggestions to help me keep up with life…hit me up.  Because my organizational skills are starting to wane.  And that’s not like me.

The Color Run – Louisville, KY (June 9, 2018)

Paul, Me, Cathy, Debra, Melissa, and Adam at the end of The Color Run – Louisville, Kentucky

Race: The Color Run

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: June 9, 2018

Time: ?? (UNTIMED EVENT – my Garmin had 1:04:18 w/ stops to wait for friends)

It has been 5 looooooong years since I have done The Color Run.  The only other time I have done it was in 2013 when my friend Marisa flew in from New Jersey to do it here in Louisville and I went along for the ride, sticking by her side the entire time.

And this time…this time I was taking it all in by walking it with a group of friends.  And my roommate, Cathy, even got into it this time.  We went to Target on our lunch break to find some cheap white shirts to wear to the race, both hitting the jackpot in the clearance racks…so that was winning. Our friend, Melissa, dropped by our office building on Friday after picking up our packets (which for us just meant race bibs because we weren’t feeling the extra $$ you had to pay to get a shirt we would never wear again).  We made plans to all ride together and get good parking spots down near Waterfront Park the following day.  This meant a decent bed time for all so we’d be up and ready to go that morning.

The challenge was…the early morning.  I made sure that I had breakfast ready after I did all my physical therapy stretches.  I even got coffee made for Cathy as that would be vital for her to function.  Trust me…coffee was necessary.  I made myself a cup as well because I wasn’t running today…simply enjoying the moment and the walk with good people.

The plan was to be at Melissa and Paul’s by 6:30 am.  BUT…I always underestimate how long it takes me to physically put on sunscreen and make sure I have it lathered in good so I don’t become a lobster or crispy critter out in the sun.  So…when all was said and done that morning…we walked out the door at 6:30 am and I texted to let Melissa and Paul know we were on our way.  Luckily, they are only a short drive away and we arrived at their house before our ride, Melissa’s mom (also walking the race), arrived.  I kicked off my old running shoes (I call them my rain shoes) that I was wearing and went to settle in and relax on the couch.  Melissa and Paul finished getting their things together and we knew her mom was close, so we all headed outside to wait to pile into the car.

I saw a unicorn. You know this was happening!

We managed to get downtown and paid to park at Waterfront Park near Joe’s Crab Shack.  We made the walk through the finish area, making haste to get into one of the first waves to get started earlier and, perhaps, to snag some free swag.  We were in the 2nd wave to go through, and while standing up there waiting to go…I managed to catch some Color Run shorts (size 2X) and a Color Run t-shirt (size S).  I asked Cathy to tuck them into my tutu, but she ended up just carrying them with us the entire way.  We were sent off and I walked ahead with Cathy who has been working on her walks for a 5K.  We knew that today wasn’t for time, but she wanted to see how her endurance was doing.

We actually walked by a camera as we made the turn to head out onto the road and start our 5K.  We waved and smiled and waited for our first chance to get a little messy.  We were ahead of our pack, so we’d pause and wait for them to catch up (Melissa’s mom is coming back from hip and knee surgery and doing amazing).  We spotted the first color zone…PURPLE…and Cathy and I sprinted through.  And the fun was just starting.

Adam, Paul, Debra, Me, Melissa and Cathy at the start line of The Color Run – Louisville, Kentucky

Sure…it was humid and warm, especially with the sun up…but we were getting messy and having a blast with our friends that day.  And it was amazing.  I talked Cathy into a small sprint around a corner to teach her how to “run the tangents” and she did great.  But we were way ahead of our pack because of this, so we found a safe corner to wait and hopped back into the fun with them.  We did this throughout the run, pausing before the color stops to let everyone join us to go through.  Orange and yellow were next up, and we jogged through that too.  This was set up in an ally way of sorts, and Paul joked about watching out for needles.  HA!  It’s not far from the truth in Louisville.  We got properly doused in color and continued on the way.

Me with the rainbow wings!

It was starting to really warm up and we were now on the streets with little to no shade.  But, alas, we just kept going.  I mean…it’s June.  It’s going to be hot and sunny.  But now the sweat was mixing with the color and that cakes it on really good.  Trust me…I think Cathy was scrubbing blue off her back for a week afterwards.  The pink was next.  Then blue.  And we did the same.  Except somewhere in the blue zone, Cathy went up to someone and said, “HIT ME!!”  And they really layered her in the color.  So, she learned if you tell them to hit you up…they will.  She was a delightful rainbow of color at the end of that.

Cathy with the rainbow wings

This left the long haul back toward the finish line, which was back at Waterfront Park.  The green zone would be last.  But along the way, we stopped at Toast on Market to take photos with the wings and then Cathy stopped at Slugger Field to get a shot with the Louisville City FC signage.  Apparently on the way to green, the Red Bull girls were out and Cathy saw a 10 year old rush by with a Red Bull screaming “I GOT ONE!”  Lord, have mercy!  We went through green…hit up the foam zone, and grabbed hands with our teammates and walked through the finish line together.

We were given our superhero unicorn medals and a color packet for the color throw at the end.  We were definitely more interested in getting some water.  And then we spotted the line waiting for the Steel City Pops cart…so Paul went to grab wallets from the car and we stood in line.  He returned just in time.  Popsicles all around.  It was just what we needed.  Mine was watermelon, for the record.

Cathy the Color Runner takes on Lou City FC!

After sitting around and cooling off as much as possible, we snapped a few photos before letting Paul and Cathy go do the color throw.  Melissa, Debra, and I got in line to have the leaf blower blow some of the extra color off.  Paul and Cathy joined soon after.  And then we were off to KDF headquarters to check out the yard sale before heading home.

The Color Run is always a fun, un-timed event that is just…a blast.  I smiled.  I laughed.  I danced through color zones.  I got coated in color (and thankfully the blue came out of my hair this year).  And I got to walk it with amazing friends.  And I even got a t-shirt in my size at the start (thank you Cathy for carrying those for me), since I refused to pay extra for the actual The Color Run shirt.  I think shirts should come standard with your registration fee and bib.  But, that’s just the seasoned 5K runner in me.

I bet I’ll end up doing another one of these sometime in the near future.  And I’m okay with that.  It’s nice to have a no-pressure, fun time with no expectations or goals.  Other than to…ENJOY!

And maybe become a rainbow unicorn in the process.

Me and Melissa with our superhero unicorn medals for finishing The Color Run!

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

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

Race: Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon

Place: Lexington, Kentucky

Date: March 31, 2018

Time: 2:04:43

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You’re going to die tomorrow.”

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

Walking into the expo at Keeneland in Lexington, KY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bella Notte Gluten Free House Salad

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

Bella Notte’s Gluten Free Pasta Arrabiata

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First hill…of so many!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY! I’M FREE!

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

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

That. Was. Fun.

Ron flying into the finish line of Run The Bluegrass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Race: United Airlines NYC Half Marathon

Place: New York, NY

Date: March 18, 2018

Time: 1:41:29

I love running NYC.  I loved running the full marathon in 2014 and then the half in 2016.  And, by some luck of the NYRR lottery draw, I got the chance to run the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon again this year.

Two things though:

  1. New course…starting in Brooklyn and finishing in Central Park (which meant a whole LOT of hills on your tired legs for the last 4 miles)
  2. I had two friends (Paul & Melissa) coming along for the run as well…which was exciting because Melissa had barely spent sufficient time in NYC and Paul never had been there before!

I was so excited.  Friends…fun…and NYC!

We had plenty of time to plan this trip as the lottery draw happens early.  So over many bowls of pho and lots of text messages and dinner/game night evenings at each other’s homes…we purchased airplane tickets and Cathy had her mom take care of the room…because she has a time share vacation club thing there.  Unfortunately…the race was on St. Patrick’s Day weekend this year which meant…EVENT WEEKEND…on top of everyone coming in for the half marathon itself.  So, instead of staying at the nice Manhattan Club that we had come to love in NYC…we were booted over to the Shoreham through the travel agency that is used.  Cathy called numerous times to ensure that we would have two beds because we were a party of 4, not 2…and was told when the reservation transferred over…it would be taken care of.

Guess what.  The room transferred…and Cathy checked and it was listed with one bed.  One bed.  Four people.  She called the travel agency and they were very unhelpful and it was a task and a half to even get the agent on the phone or to call back.

NOT IMPRESSED!

Cathy then tried calling the hotel directly.  They were sold out of rooms and fully booked and couldn’t change the reservation either.  In fact, the travel agent never changed the request to four people.  So…we were kinda stuck.  Through e-mails, Cathy asked if we could bring an airbed and was told no extra bedding could be brought in…BUT…if they had any, they could provide a roll-away.

Insert me being overly stressed out about this turn of events.  I hate being stressed out over shit that shouldn’t be an issue in the first place but now it is.  These are the things I focus on and, when it happens prior to the trip, it’s all I focus on.

That and the shift in weather that went from lows in the 40s and highs in the high 50s…to COLD AS SHIT!  Seriously.  The weather shifted with some nor’easters that decided that New York needed some snow and ice and cold wind and all that.  MEH.  I don’t like running in the cold at all.  And now…I would be.  This also meant running a half marathon in layers, which is something else that I despise doing.  Cathy had to pack my luggage because I needed to stretch and roll and try to be in a better place with all of this.

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We love flight delays…NOT!

Friday afternoon, Cathy and I left work early and were picked up at our apartment by Paul. We were chauffeured over to his and Melissa’s house where Melissa’s mom was waiting with her van to take us all to the airport.  We packed our luggage and carry-on into the vehicle and got ready to get underway.  After (briefly) getting locked into the van, we set out to the airport, where Cathy and I were checking our baggage (Melissa and Paul were carrying on) and got our seating assignments taken care of.  This was perfect because we were all clumped together.  Cathy and I were behind them on our flights out of Louisville and then out of Atlanta.

Let’s pause for a moment to talk about Atlanta.  We were delayed going out of Louisville and now our connection was going to be very tight.  VERY TIGHT.  In fact, when we landed, supposedly passengers were supposed to let those with a tight connection off first (which would have  benefited us since we were seated pretty much in the back of the plane.  I literally could look out my window and see only the engine.  No joke.  I had no view.

Of course, everyone had a tight flight to catch so everyone (tight connection or not) disembarked as usual.  We decided to have Paul run ahead and see if he could catch the gate agent for our flight and have them hold the plane for us as we all made our way that way.  He is very good at sprinting with a suitcase.  I am not good at running with a backpack on.  And Melissa was in winter boots and Cathy is not a runner.  One train ride and an elevator climb later, and we managed to be near the back of the line for boarding.  But we got on the plane and were NYC bound.

Baggage claim was easy at La Guardia and Cathy put in the call to the car service we always use in NYC to take us to the hotel.  The van arrived to pick us up and we loaded in, somewhere near midnight or 1 am…and made our way to Manhattan and the Shoreham.

I was holding out hope that our hotel mishap was being taken care of, but when Cathy checked us in, the guy behind the desk didn’t even bat an eyelash at the fact that they were giving us a 1 bed, 141 sq food room…to four people.  Nope.  He passed us the keys and played it off like it was nothing.

Guess what.  It’s something.  The room was SO small that after we rearranged it to hopefully fit a roll-away in, which Cathy had to call down to the desk to have brought up, and had the guy who brought it up look around and go, “I have NO idea where we can put this” (NO SHIT, SHERLOCK!), we ended up pushing the actual bed all the way across the room to rest against the window.  The roll-away was set up right next to that, and then, we sort of put a bench and chair together and made an extra bit of bed.

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

Paul took the bench/chair and Melissa was on the cot.  Paul was, actually, halfway onto the cot too.  It was a mess.  And it was crowded.  And it was uncomfortable.  But we made it work.  And we were never really falling over each other when we were in the room.  No waiting on the bathroom…we just sort of worked it out without even saying anything.

Welcome, friends…to the Suede Tomb.  Thankfully, we packed our days and nights in NYC and the room would basically just be used for sleeping.  It was close to 2 am and we were setting our phones for a morning wake-up to get up, get breakfast, and head to the race expo.  It wasn’t going to be a night for lots of sleep, but at least we could get some.

The following morning meant showers (which we managed without ever hogging the bathroom too much or too long) and then we were off to breakfast at the local Fresh & Co after grabbing coffee at our favorite coffee shop in all of NYC…Tisserie.  We all got the Nutella Mocha and snagged whatever sounded good for breakfast.  I got a gluten-free bagel that had delicious avocado in it and some other stuff.  It was delicious…and I wanted it again on our last day there…but that didn’t work out as we hit Fresh & Co as they switched to lunch that day.  MEH.

But I digress…

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Race Expo time!!

It was race expo time.  And I love me some race expo experiences.  New York never disappoints.  The United Airlines NYC Half Marathon Expo is held at the Metropolitan Pavilion, and is easy to spot with all the race flags standing outside.  You feel so welcome and get all the excitement upon entering.  For this race in particular, they assign bib numbers on demand, which means you don’t get assigned your bib number until you get there.  And it’s random.  You do know what wave you are in and what corral though…the rest of it just depends on where you stand in line to get a bib.

I was Wave 1 and Corral E and my bib number ended up being 1956.  They stuck on the sticker to my Wave 1 yellow-green bib (Wave 2 was a blue) for my corral (E) and sent me on my way to get my t-shirts and get any photos taken that I wanted in front of the race backdrops.  The race shirts were running smaller than I expected, but mine seemed to just fit, so I kept it.  Melissa and Paul got their numbers and shirts as well and we went to get photos taken before hitting up the rest of the expo…which was basically shopping.

Thankfully…I bought my swag ahead of time because they always run out of my sizes.  Cathy got me a finisher’s shirt.  The only thing I really wanted was the best winter hat to ever exist, but they sold out of that quick.  Probably because it was soul-crushingly cold that weekend and everyone wanted hats.  Melissa had snagged one prior to the race online.  As in…the last one.  It wasn’t meant to be.  I was bummed, but I have plenty of hats as it is.  We took photos with our names on the wall…snagged some free United Airlines buffs that were being handed out…and got on our way to explore some of NYC before heading to dinner that night.

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

As with every pre-race meal in NYC…it was pizza night, and of course we went to Don Antonio’s is my go-to place for both gluten-free and vegan pizza.  They have a regular menu and a gluten-free menu and take very good care to keep everything safe for you to eat.  Melissa and I split the Senza Glutine Marinara Pizza.  Melissa also snagged a couple of gluten-free appetizers to share.  Cathy and Paul split a regular pizza and each got one of their signature dough puffs to eat.  The food was plentiful and we were definitely full and ready to hike back to the hotel to get everything ready for the following morning. And, yes, we managed to do this and schedule alarms so that we could all function and get what we needed done in the morning.

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

With the first alarm early in the morning, I was up and at them first to put on my winter tights, an undershirt, my fleece lined tech-top I love wearing due to the collar…and then brushed my teeth and went to step out of the bathroom for the next person to do what they needed to do.  While Melissa, Paul, and Cathy took their turns in the bathroom, I did up my hair, put on my socks and compression sleeves, put on my winged anklet, got my Dunkin Donuts winter hat (the one I got from the 2014 NYC Marathon) on my head, snagged my gloves, and opted to give the buff we got for free at the expo a chance.  I had nothing really to eat in the room, but I brought a Larabar to the start line to eat in the corrals prior to the race.  That went into my fuel belt to stay close to my body to keep it from getting rock hard in the cold.  We headed out the door to get to the train station and take the subway to Brooklyn.  We had to wait in the station for awhile, and when the train did arrive, it was already packed.  We managed to squeak our way in…and with each additional stop…every car just kept getting fuller.  And despite the driver announcing that the train was full and to wait for the train behind us…we kept having people push their way into our car.  Now I was suffocating and dying, especially when the air conditioning would cut off.

But we made it to the Prospect Park stop and disembarked and began to make our way to the starting area, where we would have to go through security.  This was where we had to split from Cathy.  She was going to get back on a train and go to Mile 3 (just after the runners come over the Manhattan Bridge) to hopefully catch me there.

At the start line…we had very little time to hang around and talk.  After getting through security, I needed to drink my pre-workout drink and eat my Larabar so I wasn’t running a half marathon on an empty tank.  I ate my Larabar while Melissa and Paul fueled up as well…and then I needed to get into my corral in Wave 1.  They were in Wave 2, and apparently had to hunker down in the cold shade and try not to freeze for over an hour.  YUCK!

As for me…I started drinking my water and making my way up to Corral E.  There were going to be quite a few starts, so I was NOT shedding my toss-away clothes (yep…I hit Goodwill the day before and picked up clothes to shed since it was going to be freezing at the start line) until I absolutely had to.

The National Anthem was sung…and the wheelchairs and elites were sent off.  It took a long while for me to get up close enough to shed clothing, but I finally did.  And soon, it was my corral’s turn to get ready to go.  As we were standing in the cold wind, the woman behind me pointed to one of the free United Airlines buffs that was shed by runners before us and said, “Not going to lie…I’m tempted to pick that up.” I told her I wouldn’t judge.  HA!  But soon, we were sent off…and it was time to run through the streets of Brooklyn.

The first 2 miles are spent running the streets of Brooklyn.  And then, the first climb happens as you start up the Manhattan Bridge.  I know that the bridges in NYC are beasts, but this actually slowed me down more than I would have liked.  But, as this was being treated as a training run, I wasn’t really focusing on my pace.  This would turn out to be a very good thing as the race continued.  Crossing the bridge was great.  You could see the Statue of Liberty from there…and it was clear and beautiful and COLD that morning.  I put my head down and came down the other side of the bridge, feeling like a rockstar for sure.

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

Cathy was near the turn before heading into the 5K and I waved and smiled as I ran through and began to take in the miles before Times Square.  Times Square was such a highlight for me in 2016 when I ran the old course.  This course was definitely tougher, as when we started in Central Park…we got the hills out of the way early.  Now…now they were at the end.  So these were the flat miles in between.  Miles 3-7 are downhill to flat and I loved them.  It just felt good to run, and have the spectators that were out braving the cold yell motivation to you.  I was crossing a bridge near the 10K mark when I spotted Lottie (aka: runningonveggies) doing her thing.  I wanted to shout-out to her, but I wasn’t sure she’d hear me and I am…nobody…and she’s like…super amazing.  She looked strong.

Coming into Central Park, I knew there was a chance that Cathy wouldn’t make it to see me there.  It all depends on the trains.  Apparently she got out of the subway about 45 seconds before I was supposed to hit Times Square based on the tracker.  She at first decided she wasn’t going to make it, but then changed her mind and did the “Sixth Avenue Sprint” to Times Square, where she did actually catch me and I could hear her shouting and waving at me from the other side of the barricades.  Just the uplift I needed at that point, because we were heading up toward Central Park, which meant some minor rollers until hitting the park just before Mile 9.  For a few moments in Times Squre, however, I was running next to former NYC Marathon race director Mary Wittenberg, which was super cool.  She was getting a lot of shout-outs from volunteers and NYRR…but I turned my attention back to the entrance to Central Park. Here come the hills.

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Running through Times Square during the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon

This is also where my watch got WAY off on the mileage and pace due to the buildings in Manhattan…and the rest of the race was just guess work at this point.

My friend Michael told me he would be at Mile 10 near Cat Hill in Central Park with his friends cheering on runners.  So I had that to look forward to.  And, sure enough, as I was making the ugly climb up Cat Hill…I heard him shout my name, I turned and managed to wave before continuing to die a little on that hill.  Somewhere around Mile 11, a woman decided she would cross the road with her dog while texting on her phone right in front of me and a few other runners.  She got yelled at by quite a few people who she disrupted.  I mean…come on!

There seemed like more uphills than downhills for that last 5K…and my watch was beeping with the distance about .9 miles off of what it was supposed to be.  I’m not lying. I was pretty much a mile ahead of myself via my GPS…which was not making me happy, despite not being one who glances at my watch during the race.  I don’t like to put any pressure on myself, but now I was questioning if my GPS was off or the course was long.  There was no way to really know.  The GPS was off (thanks Times Square and Manhattan)…so when I took that downhill toward the finish line…I crossed with 14.02 miles on my watch and crazy fast splits showing me running a mile in under 6 minutes.  HA!!  I wish!!  So, that was the disappointing part if I had to pick one.  Because I love reviewing my actual splits to see what I need to work on after a race.  It was fun though…and, despite never being warm during the entire run…I was elated to be done.  And super surprised with my time.

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

After finishing and getting my race medal and a mylar blanket, we were loaded down with snacks and sent hiking out of the park.  This walk takes a good 30 minutes to accomplish.  I made friends with a nice lady named Wendy and we talked until she had to veer off to bag check to get her stuff.  I finally could see the statue marking Columbus Circle, which was where runners were exiting and were spectators were told would be the best spot to reunite with their runners.  I spotted Cathy immediately and she came over to give me a hug.  I desperately needed coffee, and she had suffered through McDonald’s coffee and wanted good coffee…so we made our way to Tisserie (which was on the race course) and each got a drink.  I got a Café Au Lait with Almond Milk and it was one of the best things I had ever drank.  I needed that to start to warm myself up.  But after checking the app to check in on Melissa and Paul (they were Wave 2 and started about an hour after me) we saw they were coming up to the area we were drinking our coffee.  So, we stepped outside and found a spot on the rail to watch for them.

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Melissa and Paul running toward Central Park!

At one point, a guy from Norway ran over to me and took a picture with me.  Random.  But amusing.  And then…we saw them coming.  Cathy and I shouted to them about how they were killing it, and while Melissa didn’t believe me…she was running NYC.  How cool is that?!

As they headed toward the park, Cathy and I hightailed it back to the hotel so I could shower and change and head back out to meet up with them after the race.  We got to Columbus Circle as they were nearing the finish line.  And when they crossed, I let them know, via text, that we were waiting for them there.  Their phone was almost dead, but Melissa was able to fire a response back.  We waited until we spotted them and flagged them down.  The hills had definitely taken their toll on Melissa’s Achilles, so we got her settled for a moment to rest and rant all she needed.  Paul dug food out of the snack pack for the two of them.  Once they had rested, we took them back to the hotel to shower and chill before we went out to our celebratory dinner at Red Rooster that night.

THAT. WAS. FUN.  And the food was amazing.

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

The new NYC course is definitely much harder than the old one…but I ended up running this one 2 minutes faster.  So…I count that as a win.  A course PR and a race PR.  WOOT!

So…the official results of the 2018 United Airlines NYC Half Marathon was that I finished with an official time of 1:41:29…and that was closer to the 13.1 than the 14.02 my watch showed.  I swear.  I was 2773/21,995 finishers this year.  I was 557/11,075 female finishers.  And I was 86/1847 finishers in my age division.  I couldn’t be happier with these results considering how much stress I went into NYC with and how cold weather affects my body.  I had a blast and would love to do this again.

Or at least get a cute winter hat.

The remaining days in NYC were spent exploring and eating.  And the best of the best was going up to the top of the Empire State Building at night, freezing, and taking pictures and just living life.

And that’s what this was all about.  Fun, friends…and finish lines.

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

UPDATE – Product Review: Nox Gear Tracer 360 Visibility Vest

noxgearlogoProduct: Nox Gear Tracer 360 Visibility Vest

Price: $69.99+/-

Remember last week when I blogged about my faulty Nox Gear Tracer 360 Visibility Vest?  If not…you can backtrack to my blog about it here.  At the end of the blog, I mentioned that I had contacted the company and was waiting to hear back from them regarding their product and the way mine fell apart after only 6 wears.  Let me tell you how this all played out…

FIRST OF ALL…let me tell you how very impressed I am with the customer service I received from Nox Gear.  Honestly.  The vest fell apart on me on a Saturday morning.  I contacted them and wrote my blog up Saturday evening.  On Sunday evening, Daren from Customer Service wrote me back and apologized for the vest falling apart on me, inquired as to if it snagged on something, and asked if he could see photos.  BEFORE I even sent a reply, his message also said that they would be sending me a replacement vest immediately and he was already working on getting that set up.

I got the message Monday morning and replied, sending photos of where the vest fell apart, and thanking him for his quick response and for sending a replacement.  He replied back within MINUTES of me sending the response with the photos.  He explained that it looked like a failure in the stitching, and apologized again, stating that the replacement should work out perfectly for me.

Then…I was sent the confirmation that my replacement had been shipped.  That quickly.  BOOM.  Done.

Two days later, the replacement vest arrives.  I open up the box and inspect the vest and it looks great.  I am pretty excited because I have a short run planned for the following morning, and this came just in the nick of time.  I had been using my old one still, simply safety pinning it together where the vest came apart.  OH…that was another thing…

Daren told me to keep my old vest to use as a backup.  Yep.  No sending it back. No need to return it.  Simply restitch where it came apart, or have someone I know who can sew fix it for me.  Done.  He even said that I could keep it to use as a backup.  I mean…how many companies do that?

Am I impressed?  YEP!!  I wore my new vest out this morning and it worked great.  I felt visible and safe and still love how light weight it is.

But this story does NOT end there…

This morning, I also received an e-mail from one of the creators of Nox Gear, Tom Walters, to also apologize for the belt stitch coming undone after only 6 wears.  He emphasized how unacceptable that was and how it angered him to know of the fault in their product.  He emphasized that Nox Gear stands behind quality of their products and hopes that they can prove it to me!

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Me after my morning run in my replacement Nox Gear Tracer 360 Visibility Vest

Point proven.  This has been the BEST customer service interaction I have ever had.  They definitely stand behind their NO WORRIES GUARANTEE and were quick to respond to me and the problem I had with the vest and take action to correct the issue.  Not only that, one of the creators also reached out to apologize and make sure that I felt that I was taken care of and was happy with the service I received.  Not very many companies do that anymore and I am beyond impressed with the steps Nox Gear has taken to make sure my satisfaction with their product was at the forefront as they worked on getting the problem resolved.

Thank you Daren, Tom, and Nox Gear, for proving to me that your company is one that I don’t regret investing in.  I’m excited to wear my new vest out on my morning runs.  You not only help keep me safe, you made sure that I was happy with your product in the end.

And right now…I’m over the moon!  Thanks…for lighting my way.

Product Review: Nox Gear Tracer 360 Visibility Vest

noxgearlogoProduct: Nox Gear Tracer 360 Visibility Vest

Price: $69.99+/-

You know…I have failed as a blogger in doing product reviews…food…or otherwise…as of late.  And I apologize for that.  And, sadly, it has taken a product I was pretty stoked about literally falling apart after only SIX wearings to bring me back around to writing these.  But now the feature is back…so I’ll keep at it with other products.

For awhile now, my running friends and coach have been urging me to purchase a Nox Gear Tracer 360 Visibility Vest because, as we all know, about 90% of my runs are done outside…in the dark.  While I always wear reflective gear, they hyped up the light and visibility that this vest gives any runner in the dark.

When it went on sale around Christmas time…I bit the bullet.  I needed it, at the time, for a costume I was working on for Disney (which I ended up scrapping due to how cold the weather was going to be), and justified the purchase with the amount of use I’d get out of it as a runner in the dark.25791126_10100345169087281_3449524131123043947_o

When it arrived, I immediately opened the box and pulled it out to at least try it on.  I was surprised how light weight it was, but it was a good fit on me.  I would be testing it out for the first time the following morning on a run and I couldn’t wait.  My biggest concern was that the tubes that came down to the hips would bounce up and bother me.  I hoped I was wrong.

That morning, I got dressed to go for my run before the sun was even dreaming up coming up.  I slipped the Nox Gear Tracer 360 on and clipped it around my body.  Perfect fit.  It wasn’t too tight.  I turned it on, letting it flash various fun colors and I turned on my Instagram and did an Instagram Story about it.  I was super stoked.  But I still had to try it on a run.

26114428_10100345578556701_5561408050532455525_oGuess what.  All of my fears were put to rest on that run.  The tubing didn’t bother me at all.  My hands never snagged on it and nothing bounced or chafed or bothered me.  I was ready to drink the Kool-Aid.  Every morning I wore it out…I would just rave about it on my Instagram afterwards.  But…the holidays rolled around and I was visiting family in Alabama…where I run when it’s light out.  After that…I came down with a cold and took time off from my training.  I was tapering anyway.  And then…the Dopey Challenge.  I had trashed my plan to dress as Tron (which was one of the reasons I bought the Nox Gear Tracer 360), due to freezing temperatures and the costume not really having time to be refined to where I was happy with it.  The vest stayed behind to await my return.  Unfortunately, Disney flu came home with me and 2 weeks later…I’m finally ready to go out for more walking than running…but something.  Finally.

That was this morning.  And that was when it all went wrong.26840589_10100354745805461_6619302102498164804_o

Today was my sixth (6th) time wearing the Nox Gear Tracer 360 Visibility Vest.  I went and counted in my Instagram.  Don’t judge me.

Six wears…and on my final 2 minute run interval this morning…the vest suddenly falls down my shoulders.  I thought, perhaps, the clip at the middle came undone and paused my Garmin to fix it.

WRONG!  The reflective strap that wraps around the middle had completely come apart.  Not even on a seam.  It was like it just tore down the center…with nothing that could have caused that to happen.  I was NOT happy.  Believe me, these vests are not cheap.  And when you pay $70 for a reflective vest…you kind of hope for a better quality product.  I mean, I spent less on my simple yellow reflective vest with blinkie light clip-ons and that’s lasted me for 4 years.  This survived only six runs.  Six short (not even long) runs.

27024000_10100354745835401_10334784506202404_oTo say I’m disappointed is an understatement.  I’m actually a little angry.  I was so excited and hyped over this piece of running gear and it was like this big let-down in a big way.  I actually had to hold the tubing together in front for the rest of my run so I could still be visible, but finish off my run this morning.

I have every intention of contacting Nox Gear regarding this.  I am willing to exchange it for a new one, believing that, perhaps, this was just a bad batch or whatever.  I love the concept behind this vest, but I need it to last because 4 out of 5 of my runs every week are done in the dark.  The kind of visibility that this gave me was impressive.  The vest being so light weight was a bonus.  I’m picky about things I wear when I run, and this was something I expected to hate…but didn’t.

And I don’t hate it now…I just hate that it was so poorly constructed.  As of right now, I can’t honestly recommend this product.  It all hinges on how Nox Gear handles this when I contact them regarding my dissatisfaction with their product.

Stay tuned…