Kauai Marathon – Poipu, HI (September 4, 2016)

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Me after finishing the Kauai Marathon – Kauai – Poipu, HI

Race: Kauai Marathon

Place: Poipu, HI (Island of Kauai)

Date: September 4, 2016

Time: 4:52:18

“That’s what a comeback is.  You have a starting point and you build strength and momentum from there.  Stay the course…remain patient.  Focus on small steps that are constantly forward.”

~Kara Goucher

Comebacks are hard.

Comebacks are very hard.  And I have been building up to this one for a long, long time now.  A very long time.  Over a year kind of time.  SO…much time.  Sometimes…it has gone very well.  Sometimes…it has gone all sorts of wrong. The winter months were painful.  Rainy days are painful.  Humidity has been soul-crushing and run-ruining.  And, believe it or not, I discovered trying to stay safe during speed work by running on a treadmill…wasn’t so safe and actually ended up causing a bit of damage to my foot…right before this marathon.

You want to talk about a freak-out, panic-inducing, last few days before taking off for Hawaii.  All sorts of visions of last year’s Hawaiian adventure with Bootsie…my boot I was put in for 8 weeks thanks to a stress fracture in my leg…that all started flashing through my mind.  You want to talk about some physical and mental breakdowns…the whole build-up to this race has been one big emotional roller coaster.  One I really, really needed to get off…and the sooner the better.

Thankfully, I have a fantastic podiatrist…and very understanding and encouraging friends in my life.

And despite all of the anxiety and problems…I made it.  First to San Francisco.  Then…to Hawaii.  And Hurricane Lester took a turn back out to sea.

The race was on.

The pressure was on.

And I can’t even count how many times I had minor to major anxiety attacks in the days (despite being in Hawaii!) leading up to the race.

Like I said…comebacks are hard.

Sunset on Waikiki Beach, O'ahu, Honolulu, Hawaii
Sunset on Waikiki Beach, O’ahu, Honolulu, Hawaii

My adventure started, as it always does, with good friends and good support (non sports bra division).  For the first few days I was in Hawaii, my friends and I were exploring O’ahu.  We were stationed out of Honolulu, but we doing some serious exploring and shopping there.  From the Dole Plantation to Waikiki Beach…we pretty much did it all.  Oh, and we ate amazing food.  I had pineapple, pretty much, at every meal.  Fresh cut, amazing, pineapple.  One from a roadside stand where a woman sliced it up while I waited.  I was having a blast.  We were on O’ahu until Saturday morning, when we caught an early flight over to Kauai.

Upon landing, we literally hit the ground running.  After getting our luggage and our rental car, we piled in and began our adventure on Kauai.  We had a few things to do before hitting up the expo.  This involved coffee at my favorite coffee spot on Kauai (Ha Coffee…where I ate half a peanut butter and chocolate chip cookie and downed my favorite of their specialty signature drinks…The Bee Sting.  SO good.  Then we went to find Sweet Marie’s…a dedicated gluten free bakery because…we needed a gluten free cake of some sort to celebrate Jennifer’s birthday that night.  The set-up was strange, and the fact that she is open only 2 days of the week (Saturday & Sunday) made this challenging…but we finally figured it all out and, after she was a little rude and snippy to us…we picked up one of her Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Pecan Streusel Topping.  She got a little huffy at us for paying with cash (who does that??!!)…but we got our cake (it was about the size of a large muffin) and left to go check out the race expo.

Me at Bart Yasso at the Kauai Marathon Race Expo
Me at Bart Yasso at the Kauai Marathon Race Expo

Getting there was fun.  We got to drive part of the course backwards and I made note of just how damn hilly it was going to be.  That sort of kicked up the anxiety again.  But as we got to the resort where the expo was being held, I had calmed down a little.  A little.

The first thing I did at the expo was go to check out the list to get my bib number.  One problem…

MY NAME WAS NOT ON THE LIST!!!

And this was even after I contacted the race prior to the trip to make sure that my deferral from last year was on their records and I was on the list to run.  They told me I was. Apparently…I wasn’t.  Frustrating…and did nothing to help calm the anxiety and nerves at this race.  It took…awhile…but after talking to about 4 different people, they simply had me fill out a form and turn it in.  They got me a blank bib, added me to the list…and I was ready to run.

After that…I was ready to shop.  I had my Kauai Marathon reusable bag, which my friend Tanya really wanted.  She even went to ask if she could purchase one, but they wouldn’t let her.  As I have more than enough reusable grocery bags, I told her she could have mine.  YAY!  There was much happiness.  What there wasn’t a lot of…was size small merchandise for the race itself.  I had wanted a few of the rainbow race shirts…but they were out of the smaller sizes…at the start of the expo on Saturday morning.  REALLY??!!  I was starting to think I wasn’t going to purchase anything…but then I spotted this amazing backpack.  And…it had to be mine.  So…despite being way more than the shirts, that’s what I left with.  And I was quite okay with that.  Afterwards, I spotted Bart Yasso at a table at the expo and went over to say hello to him.  Cathy told him to reassure me that I was going to be okay…and he did…quite a few times, and gave me numerous high fives and words of encouragement.  I love Bart Yasso.

Lunch on the day before the race - Molkai Potato Salad from the Live Foods Market on Kauai
Lunch on the day before the race – Molokai Potato Salad from the Live Foods Market on Kauai

Soon after that…we left.  We had to buy a few groceries and get a few more important things done…like checking into the resort and all that.  We first stopped off at The Spouting Horn, where I thought I needed to put on some sunscreen…but we were ready to go check out the water.  So, I said I would do it when we got back into the car.  We spent a bit of time on the lookout, watching a blowhole spout a plume of sea water into the air.  This waterspout occurs whenever waves are forced under the lava shelf and up through an opening in the rocky coast.  The spout, sometimes, can shoot water as high as 50 feet into the air.  It’s always amazing.  We did need to grab some lunch, so we swung by the Living Foods Market.  On the short journey there, I put on some sunscreen because I am prone to sunburn easily.  And I finished up just as we hit the market.  What I didn’t realize until later was…I forgot I had taken my Claddagh ring off and put it in my lap, so when I climbed out of the car to go into the market…it dropped.  Deciding on a light lunch was not as easy as I thought as so much sounded so good.  And…we were at the time where it could be breakfast or lunch and we were all having a hard time deciding on which way to go.  After waiting a bit too long for breakfast, we settled on lunch.  I got a small bowl of their Molokai Potato Salad, which is purple potatoes, coconut milk, green onion, and coconut flakes.  And it was fantastic.  Tawn got a poke bowl, Cathy got a BLT Sandwich, and Jennifer got the fish tacos.  After lunch, we were off to check into the resort, hit up a couple of shops, and then buy some groceries.  I was, after all, making something new (I know…nothing new on race day…but…I felt better about this than a pizza place)…Pizza Stuffed Sweet Potatoes.  And we hit up the grocery stores hard.  We got the tomato sauce, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, cheese, and even pepperoni (the other 3 are meat eaters) for the potatoes that night…along with waters and a few snacks to have on hand.  And my banana for race morning.  That is super important.  And a bonus kabocha squash that we found so I could roast it up.

Oven roasted Kabocha Squash...cooked up by me...as part of the pre-race dinner.
Oven roasted Kabocha Squash…cooked up by me…as part of the pre-race dinner.

That night, after settling in at the resort, I started immediately in on roasting up the kabocha squash.  Cutting it wasn’t too much of a hassle, but I realized we had no aluminum foil or any olive oil at the resort.  I thought they might have that on hand…but I was wrong.  So, I cooked without it.  The squash cooked for about 30
minutes…and as it was cooking, I prepped the sweet potatoes.  No olive oil meant seasoning the skins was a bit harder, but I did what I could.  The moment the squash was out and plated, I turned up the oven and began to bake the potatoes.  They were a bit larger…so I knew they would take about an hour to cook.  In the meantime, we through in our trip playlist, danced around the resort, talked, and looked at photos from O’ahu and earlier in the day.  It actually took a bit longer, but soon we were slicing them open, laying out the tomato sauce, the mushrooms, the cheese, and for the other three…pepperoni.  Back into the oven for 10 minutes to allow the cheese to melt.

Pizza Stuffed Sweet Potatoes - my pre-race dinner...something new. And delicious.
Pizza Stuffed Sweet Potatoes – my pre-race dinner…something new. And delicious.

And, finally, dinner was served.  And it was delicious…and filling.  But…there was still room for cake.  And we had picked up candles and everything to make it special for Jenn.  We were glad that the “cake” was actually more of a muffin because it was perfect once we split it 4 ways between us.  And it was pretty good.  Lighter than I expected though, so there is that.  And it was good.  It was.  But Annie May’s Gluten Free Coffee Cake is WAY better.  WAY!  We were happy to have this though.  And after staying up a little longer for showers and some talking, we turned in.  We all knew an early, early morning awaited us.

Jennifer with the Gluten Free Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Pecan Struesel that we picked up from Sweet Marie's that morning.  It was her birthday after all.
Jennifer with the Gluten Free Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Pecan Struesel that we picked up from Sweet Marie’s that morning. It was her birthday after all.

Sleep didn’t come easy…but I managed a little.

Race morning arrived. Early. I had my first alarm set for 3 am so that I could get up and do my first round of preparations. I went back to sleep for another 45 minutes before getting up for the second time. This time it was to actually get dressed. I used the bathroom, got into my race gear, and nervously began milling about the room, not quite ready to duck out into the main room, where Tawn was milling about getting ready for the day. Cathy was up and moving, slowly, because it was 4 am. While she was changing and in the bathroom, I began the very, very, very tedious (but important) task of getting myself coated in sunscreen.

When in Hawaii…and a super fair-skinned, Irish girl…you lather up. You take a dip and swim in that stuff. You do whatever you can to keep your skin protected. Especially when you are already a skin cancer survivor, like me.

Cathy emerged eventually and helped me with the hard to reach areas on my back (after all…I was going to die in clothes, so it was a bra top race for me). She also had me sit down so she could actually attempt to get some sunscreen on my scalp. This was sort of awkward and left me looking, at first, a bit like a skunk, but at the end of the day…no sunburn on the scalp. And that, in and of itself, is a wonderful thing.

I threw a shirt on over my top after the sunscreen had had time to soak in…and then headed into the main room. Tawn and Jennifer were both there, in various states of readiness. I grabbed my water from the fridge and sought out my normal morning routine.

Thankfully, Cathy thought ahead while we were out hitting up grocery stores the night before…picking up a banana and a little individual serving of Cheerios for me to eat. I had my cheerios at the resort, standing in the kitchen, talking to Tawn as she put on her makeup. That was actually calming, because in my mind, I was about to have another anxiety attack. My heart was racing, my mind was racing faster, and my entire chest just wanted to explode. I wanted to burst out into tears.

But I didn’t.

Thanks to my friends.

I filled up my water bottles…2 with regular water and then 2 with my fuel (I am using Hammer at the moment…something I only had time to test out on an 8 mile run the weekend before…so I can’t report back on it quite yet). And then…after getting pinned up, we gathered up our stuff and we were, literally, off to the races.

I look nervous in this picture because I was...and I had just stopped crying...before I said goodbye to my friends at the start line...
I look nervous in this picture because I was…and I had just stopped crying…before I said goodbye to my friends at the start line…

It was just over a 30 minute drive from the resort in Kapa’a to Poipu (?) where the race started and ended. We didn’t really encounter much traffic, so this drive went very smoothly. In fact, we arrived with some time that Cathy actually pulled into the parking lot where I figured I had lost my Claddagh ring the day before…and all three of my friends got out with the flashlights on their iPhones and began searching. They came up empty handed though. Everyone got back into the car and we set out to find some parking…following cars to an area on the side of the road, just a short stroll from the start and finish line areas. We watched a truck next to us totally pull up far enough to block the sidewalk and spent some time ridiculing them from the comfort of our car. But…it was time.

And as much as I wanted to delay…I couldn’t. It was go-time.

I think I was shaking as I opened up the door and stepped out into the humid morning. It was already moist, the air heavy and wet. Ugh. I took in a shaky, but deep breath, and told myself, once again, to not freak out or panic. It was easier said than done, because I was falling apart on the inside. The last memory I have of a marathon was Boston 2015…and it did not go well for me. And it was replaying…every painful, horrible step…every moment that I had to walk…all of it…right there…fresh in my mind. And it was MESSING with me.

Torches and Conch Shells sent off the Kauai Marathon & Half Marathon.  It was amazing.
Torches and Conch Shells sent off the Kauai Marathon & Half Marathon. It was amazing.

The four of us began the trek toward the starting area. Which, we found very easily, following not just the announcement sounds, but also the other runners heading in that direction. We crossed the road right where the start line was corralled off and took a couple of quick photos. And…just like that…it was time for me to get to the staging area and them to go find a spot for the start of the race. They all gave me hugs. I cried…wiped my eyes…handed over my shirt…and walked away…nervously…into the staging area. It was already 5:30 am…so I had to get my banana eaten so I wouldn’t be regretting putting it off until later. So, as I walked, I noshed, slowly, on the banana. I noticed very few marathon bibs…much of the over 2000 people who run these races do the half marathon option.

These…are the smart people.

These people are brilliant. These people must have looked at the elevation chart before signing up. I had an extra year…and I still didn’t do this up until it became clear that…yes…I could run. And yes…I would run.

I tossed my banana peel in the garbage and went to get in line for the bathroom. I had already used it 3 times at the resort…but I was nervous…and needed to pee. Again. I’m like an excitable puppy in that regard. It’s a curse. The lines moved relatively quickly though, and I managed to get one where the person coming out didn’t start with…”Just warning you…this one is pretty full.” Since I hate using port-o-potties anyway, this was a blessing in disguise.

Afterward…I saw everyone moving away from this staging area, so I grabbed a small tray of watermelon (I know…nothing new on race day, but it was humid enough that I was feeling the dehydrating effects already) and ate it. Then…I stepped up to the crowd waiting to enter the start area.

The announcer, Ron Wiley, from the local (and best) radio station there in Kauai, KONG, was doing some schmoozing and talking at the start. He mentioned the heat we were having…and the humidity…and said that no one was going to PR today. As that was never my intention in the first place, I was okay with that. It was hot and it was humid. Bart Yasso was brought up and, despite a couple of microphone malfunctions, wished everyone a good race. He was doing the half…his girlfriend…the full. And then, the national anthem was sung by a local woman…and, we were counted down and sent off to the sound of conch shells blowing. It was fantastic. I mean, seriously…the sun wasn’t up yet…tiki torches are lit…and conch shells are being blown by locals as the starting gun. I was taking it all in, and waving at the drone…just telling myself to take it easy, breathe, and to have fun.

Me crossing the start line of the Kauai Marathon
Me crossing the start line of the Kauai Marathon

As I crossed the starting line, I spotted Cathy, Tawn, and Indy…and they cheered and screamed and I waved…and that adrenaline took me through the slow-moving packed start of the race. I was thankful for the much easier pace of the start because I tend to just go all out in the first mile and tire quicker. With the humidity already pretty intense, I was already soaking wet within the first half mile. My pigtails were plastered to my neck. This humidity was NO JOKE. And with the first 7 miles being a steady uphill climb, I wanted to really pace myself and save something for the second part of the race. Mile 1 ticked off, and I was moving without breathing hard. And then…a light, misting rain started up. We’re in the gorgeous Hawaiian countryside…and here comes this light mist. I can see gorgeous mountains ahead, hear roosters crowing, and see the lightening of the sky, with the promise of a sunrise coming. I focused on my surroundings more than how I was feeling. Which was good…because with the steady incline going…by Mile 3 I was already feeling this race in my hip adductor. Not good. Not what I wanted at all.

I had hoped that my hip would hold out longer and do better…but the long climb was not something I could practice. Not for that long or that distance. Which…was now getting into my head. I focused on my form at that point, and as I came into Mile 4…was moving a bit better. My foot, however, was still an issue in and of itself. Even taped up, it would flare up with every few steps, reminding me that it was not 100%…and that I needed to keep that in mind as the race continued. Thankfully, some beautiful hula dancers were on the side of the road and that made me focus on something else for the moment. Distractions are a beautiful thing.

At Mile 5, way earlier than anticipated or hoped for…I took my first walk break. I had ever intention of at least powering through the first half of this race without needing to walk, ideally getting to Mile 15…but that didn’t happen. And I actually cried a little when I had to take this break. But the elevation was wreaking havoc on both my hip and my foot…so I took it. And once I got to a designated spot ahead (I think it was a road sign), I started back to a jog…and then an easy paced run.

Tunnel of Trees around Mile 6 of the Kauai Marathon
Tunnel of Trees around Mile 6 of the Kauai Marathon

Ahead was the part of the race I had been looking forward to the most…the Tunnel of Trees. Just before Mile 6, you run into this gorgeous area canopied by old Eucalyptus trees, creating a natural gateway to Kauai’s South Shore. Just inside the Mile 6 marker was placed. A woman runner from Kauai, just ahead of me, went…”Alright…6 down, 20 to go!” She pumped her hands and two runners from Honolulu began talking to here. The two from Honolulu were doing the half marathon. And, as we were running, it came out that our excitable Kauai native was also doing the half. She said she knew the course and wanted a beer after 2 hours of running. Not 4 or more. Another runner, a guy in floral shorts, stopped here and there to take amazing shots within the tunnel of trees. It really was amazing. And, as we left, we rounded into our 7th mile…and finally…FINALLY…got some downhill time. The lady from Kauai went, “Downhill…time to make up all that time we lost on that climb.” She was adorable and so excited…it was rather uplifting, actually. If she had been doing the full, I’d have wanted to have her along to keep me going. I sort of stayed with this group…having a nice back and forth with them for a few miles. They were talking about how running for over 4 hours didn’t sound appealing to them. I told them about how I was supposed to do this race last year, but couldn’t due to a stress fracture. And this was great. This got me through to Mile 10…when I pulled ahead and soon was at the point where the half marathon runners went left to run the last 2.5 miles into the finish line…and the marathon runners went right…at the rooster sign…and continued for the next 15.5 miles. This is where it really thinned out.

Half Marathon & Marathon Split signs at the Kauai Marathon
Half Marathon & Marathon Split signs at the Kauai Marathon

I made the turn, and immediately, another steep hill was waiting. I managed to run a few more feet before I stopped to take another walk break. I didn’t cuss myself out or cry this time…I just told myself to not worry too much about it. This race wasn’t for time anyway. And…at this point a beautiful rainbow was arching over the roadway. So, who needs to run when you can really drink in a Hawaiian rainbow for a moment. I did start up again as I neared the crest of the hill…and took on the downhill.

My foot was now starting to bother me more. As far as long runs went after seeing my podiatrist…I had done 8 miles. So, I was already over the distance I tested this foot out on. And it was screaming at me. I took a deep breath…turned my focus back to my form again, and kept on going. Miles 11-12 were relatively flat, but I soon found myself walking again as the hills returned near the halfway point. I picked it up to run across the half marathon mark which translated to anyone following me via tracking that I was at least halfway done. This was just under 2 hours into the race…and I was now hitting the hardest part of the course. The volunteer they had at the halfway mark though was awesome. And I am so glad he was there, cheering and encouraging people. He told me I was halfway there…and doing well. And he said it that I believed him. I was hitting my unspoken goal…to finish around 4 hours…at this point…on target. I knew I’d be slowing down though with the course being harder on the other side. But…making it this far was good…even if I was really starting to feel the effects of the humidity and heat of the day. After all, the sun was up and blazing now…and there wasn’t a lot of tree cover on these roads. You run the day…so I was running (and walking) to my abilities now.

I ran through Mile 14 before having to slow again. I drank in some water and poured some over my head to keep my body temperature cool. That was not an easy thing for me to do…but it was necessary. Also…Mile 15-17 was the huge climb that I had heard and read stories about. And I knew…I knew I would have to walk some of it.

Truth was…I walked the entire hill. I just couldn’t get my mind to tell my feet and legs to go. I probably could have run some of it, but my mind was not in a good place at this point and the word “can’t” was probably running around more than it should have been. But, once I got to the top…I started to run again. This part of the race went through a very rurual area, with broken down houses. But this…this part had my race moment. I was running along a road that looked like it was made of red clay. And this little girl, also in pigtails, come running up alongside me…just smiling. I told her that I loved her hair and we ran together…the two of us…pigtails bouncing at our shoulders. It was amazing. And even when she hit the chalk finish line she had etched into the road…she kept going with me. When she dropped back, I shouted a thank you to her and continued on my way. Seriously…highlight.

After that is where things sort of spiraled out of control. It’s hard to remember much because it got a little bit…scary. Despite taking in water (my own and that along the course) and fueling the way I have always fueled for races…by Mile 18…I was starting to feel sick. My stomach was not happy with me, probably due to taking in more water than I am accustomed to. Or, maybe it was the new fuel. I can’t say since I didn’t test it out, but I took the fuel in at my usual spots ahead of this and had no issues at all. But the heat was really starting to lay into me. And, needless to say, I started to succumb to it.

I jogged with a Marathon Maniac from Mile 17…and we walked a hill through Mile 18. He took off after that and I told myself I would start to run again. But, my body wasn’t feeling it. My stomach hurt. My head was foggy. And I was aching. Foot and hip. Just…no desire to start up again. I tried…and my foot rebelled. So, I decided to walk a little more. I walked through the next couple of miles, taking offered cold water despite feeling like I really just wanted to throw up. As I crested a hill around Mile 21…I was seeing dark spots in my vision and my lips were tingling. I was in a bad way. But I didn’t want to call it quits. I have never DNF’d a race and I wasn’t ready, after traveling this far, and having had to give upon this race last year, to give up now. I slowed it down. Breathed deeply, and kept putting one foot in front of the other. If I hit a water stop, I would drink half the water, even though I really just wanted to throw up more…then pour the rest over my head to cool down. We had rounded back and had to go over the timing mat I had gone over at the halfway point. The same enthusiastic volunteer was there as I walked…WALKED…over it. He said…”It’s only 5 more miles and mostly down hill from here.”

It was niceto hear. But I knew my pace wasn’t going to be picking up any time soon. And it wasn’t just me. I’d have people run by me who were stopping to walk. They didn’t have the added fun of an injured foot and hip to contend with and eventually would start up again. It was frustrating, to me, and I was trying hard to not worry about the time ticking away with each slow, walking step I had to take. I cussed at myself when I had to walk the downhills. I felt horrible…and the few times I talked myself into jogging, I had to stop almost immediately. I held tears back, because I didn’t want to break down and not be able to breathe. It was already hard enough in the humidity. The heat of the day was upon us now and I just wanted to get to the finish line and find some shade. When I was at Mile 23, I saw two of the volunteers on mopeds. One of them asked about some medical thing at Mile 18. The other guy said it was just a runner who was done. The heat and humidity and hills had done him in. I overheard this and said…I know how he feels, but I just decided to walk it in. And one of them said, “You’ve looked strong all day. Keep going!”

Hearing that made me feel a little better, and despite the runners catching up and passing me, I just kept that steady mantra of just putting one foot in front of the other. Keep going. 2 miles…I could walk 2 miles. I was walking 2 miles. Around Mile 25, the resort near the finish line was handing out cold, wet towels. I took one and draped it over my neck, then my head. I touched it to my shoulders and face. I kept it with me until it was no longer cold. And by then…I was near the finish line. So close.

But my legs still weren’t ready to go. And I was getting so mad at myself and the entire situation. As I was nearing a bend in the road, and seeing the ocean again, a guy was walking up to the runners heading our way, a medal around his neck, giving us high fives. He saw me and said, “You turn that corner and you will see the finish. You’re almost there, girl.” And with that, I came around the bend, and started to jog.

Hugs from friends.  And they gave me a lei!  I have amazing people in my life.  I think this is where I said, "That was so fucking hard."  And cried.  A lot.
Hugs from friends. And they gave me a lei! I have amazing people in my life. I think this is where I said, “That was so fucking hard.” And cried. A lot.

It took every bit of my willpower to keep going. I pushed. I pushed more. And I ran toward that finish line, hearing Ron Wiley (the DJ of KONG radio) say, “And here comes Karen Brady of The Brady Bunch”…and I tossed up my hands and crossed the finish line.

I could hear Cathy, Tawn, and Jenn. I could see them. I slowed to a walk and tried to catch my breath. Tears just flowed. Those ugly cry tears. And I walked up to them, Cathy reaching over to give me a hug, and all I could say was, “That was so fucking hard.” And then I melted down.

After a few moments of sweaty hugs, and getting a lei put around my neck, I slowly walked down the chute to receive my medal. Cathy had me pose with the cute Hawaiian man handing out medals before I made my way to the reunion area to meet them. Cathy went to grab a bag of ice to lay me down on and I went to get into the shade and put my feet up. Jennifer and Tawn went to get me some iced coffee and I was content to lay there, feet up, recovering…and trying hard not to cry. My friends were awesome. They told me how good I did and how proud they were of me. And I focused on that instead of the fact that, while my only true goal was to finish the race, I had hoped for a little bit better time. But, this was a brutal course and brutal weather. I did what I could. I left everything I had out there. And while I was disappointed in myself, no one else was.

After I felt recovered enough to move, I called my mom to talk to her.  She and my dad had been tracking me, which I had no idea they would be doing.  It almost made me cry…especially when they both started telling me how proud they were of me.  I talked to my mom as we were getting to the car and hung up as we climbed in.  Cathy asked if I needed water…and as my stomach was still off, I requested a cold Sprite Zero.  She said we could swing by the Long’s Drugs that was near the finish line.  So…we did.  And I didn’t realize she didn’t enter with me.  I had gone right over to the cold beverages and grabbed a Sprite Zero.  Then…couldn’t find her.  Tawn had me help her look for some travel size products, and as I was ready to leave and sit down again, Cathy comes in, grabs my hand, and drops my Claddagh ring into my hand. Turns out, a customer at the Living Foods Market found it in the parking lot and turned it in.  My amazing friends had called to inquire about it as they ate breakfast while I was out running. And the market had it.  And now…I had it back. I purchased that ring in 2007 in Ireland…I was so upset it was gone.  And now…thanks to the amazing people in my life…and a special and honest person who found it and turned it in…I have it back.  I ugly cried for the 4th time that day.

After that, we went back to the resort so I could shower off and get changed.  Once I was clean…and in the process…noticed that the date was wrong on the medal…I was dressed and we headed out to lunch and to explore Kauai for the rest of the day.

Lunch, by the way, was Gluten Free Vegan Tacos at Verdes.  It was amazing.  Just what I needed.  Lunch with friends…and good food.

Me with a handsome Hawaiian at the finish of the Kauai Marathon - Kauai - Poipu, HI
Me with a handsome Hawaiian at the finish of the Kauai Marathon – Kauai – Poipu, HI

So…the official results of the Kauai Marathon are that I finished in 4:52:18.  I was 97/258 finishers overall.  I was 31/101 female finishers. And I was 6/13 finishers in my age division.

Was this the race I had hoped for?  No.  Nowhere close.  Unfortunately, this race was the race I needed, but didn’t need.  The outcome wasn’t the one I wanted.  There was way more walking than I had anticipated. The hills, the heat, the humidity…they crushed me and I am still battling this mental block of mine.  A part of me wonders if I can honestly take on 26.2 anymore.  This race defeated me…but I was not defeated.  Despite feeling horrible…despite the brutal heat and course…I finished.  I found that little boost at the end to run it in and cross that finish line.  And in the end…all that matters is that I crossed that line…my friends were there to hug me…and I survived.  I made it.

Was this the comeback I dreamed of?  Nowhere close.  But there will be other races.  Just not anytime soon.

I am proud of myself though…despite pain and nagging injuries…and the weather conditions (possible hurricanes up until the day before!)…I finished.  I FINISHED!  Marathon #11…done!

From here…I focus on getting stronger.

Aloha, Kauai.  Thanks for the memories…even if my race date is wrong on the medal (which…by the way…has yet to be acknowledged by the race peeps…despite it being mentioned numerous times to them via social media).

Minnesota Half Marathon – St. Paul, MN (August 6, 2016)

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Me crossing the finish line of the Minnesota Half Marathon – St. Paul, MN

Race: Minnesota Half Marathon

Place: St. Paul, Minnesota

Date: August 6, 2016

Time: 1:41:24

Two weeks ago, I had a plan.  I was to run 12 miles…either around my grandpa’s neighborhood in Minnesota…or with my friend Julie (depending on her schedule) somewhere in the Minneapolis area.  Neither came into fruition, because Southwest had that computer meltdown that literally grounded and cancelled flights that entire weekend.  So, while my family was in Minnesota, celebrating my grandpa’s 95th birthday, I was still in Indiana…and Southwest was willing to reschedule for up to 2 weeks out.  And after checking with my aunt and my grandpa about their schedules…I was rescheduled to visit now at the beginning of August instead.  The rest of my family would be back in Alabama, but I would get a bit more one-on-one time with my grandpa, aunt, and cousins (and their families).  So, there were pros and cons.

It just so happened that in my current marathon training schedule, my long run for that weekend was a 13 mile run.  And, as luck would have it…there was a local half marathon running on Saturday.

Maybe this was meant to be.

There were a lot of things that compelled me to sign up for the Minnesota Half Marathon.  For one thing…if I’m going to put in the time and miles, why not get a medal for it?  Another reason…it benefited the Ronald McDonald House Charities, and a friend of mine is currently in Chicago at the Ronald McDonald House with her niece, who is being treated for cancer…and kicking cancer’s ass if I do say so myself.  Also…there was an inline skating division.  Yes…roller bladers were invited to also do the 13.1 mile course.  I have never been part of a race with an inline skating division.  So cool.  OH…and the course…has you running right along the Mississippi River the entire time.  Sounded perfect to me.  And so…as a rather last minute decision, I registered and packed my racing gear in my luggage.

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Caribou Coffee!!!!!

Upon arriving in Minneapolis, after a much-needed and fantastic stop at Caribou Coffee at the airport, my roommate and I got our rental car and headed out to St. Paul…down to The Running Room to pick up my packet.  We arrived just slightly before they opened (let’s hear it for making good time!), so we went up the street and killed some time in CVS, before heading back down to the store and stepping inside.  There was a small table set up with a laptop, some race bibs, and boxes of t-shirts off to the side.  A young woman was manning the table and she asked my name, typed it into the computer, and grabbed the next race bib on the stack (2490), took a sharpie and marked the half marathon checkbox, and told me to grab my size t-shirt.  That was it.  Super easy.

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French Meadow Bakery’s Gluten Free & Vegan Cornmeal Waffle

From there, we headed over to Minneapolis to hit up the grocery store (I was cooking 2 meals while there AND making dessert), and then get to grandpa’s house.  We let ourselves in…and he was inside and very happy to see me there.  We were, of course, already ready for some lunch.  We invited Grandpa along, but he was tired from his trip earlier in the week that he took.  So, Cathy and I packed up and headed out to one of our favorite places to eat while in Minnesota…French Meadow Bakery.  I was cooking dinner that night for my Grandpa, aunt, my cousin Natalie, and my cousin Molly and her family (hubby and 3 kids)…and I was making BigMAC Potatoes.  I normally do gluten-free pizza before a race, but since I was treating this as a training run, I figured it was fine to change things up.  Who knows…maybe I’d stumble across something that worked better.  Cathy ordered the Mac & Cheese for lunch and I went with the Gluten Free & Vegan Cornmeal Waffle (which is topped off with bananas, toasted walnuts, and a toffee syrup).  Because…we all know how much I love breakfast.  We devoured our food and did a little bit of shopping at the Electric Fetus (that’s a record store, in case you were wondering), a Half Price Books, and then went back to home base, as I needed to bake the Gluten Free Strawberry Streusel Bars that I brought ingredients (yep…I brought the last 2 jars of my strawberry jam to Minnesota for this) to bake specifically for the birthday peeps (my aunt celebrated her birthday a few days after my grandpa did).  The dessert needed to cool for 2 hours, so I got it baking and then settled in to talk and hang out with grandpa for a little while.  Eventually, my aunt came home from work and Molly & Co. arrived.  Molly volunteered to make her famous green beans…and I was excited about eating them because they sounded SO good.  I put Cathy on the task of rinsing, poking, and rubbing the potatoes down with a light bit of olive oil.  We got them in the oven, since it would take about an hour to bake, and then I got to work on the lentils, which would make the “meat” portion of the vegan dish.  Soon, we had everything cooked and we settled down at the table, where I walked everyone through how to assemble their potatoes.  And we devoured them and half of the Strawberry Streusel Bars too.  Vegan cooking FTW!!

The Olympics were starting that evening, so the opening ceremonies were put on the screen and while I foam rolled (and taught my cousins all about foam rolling and the stick!), I watched what Brazil was bringing to the world stage for these 2016 Summer Olympic Games.  I was exhausted, as I had been up since 12:45 am to squeeze in all my stretches, warm up, and manage a short (2 mile) run and shower before my ride to the airport had arrived at 4 am.  But, as the United States were walking in the E’s (Los Estados Unidos!), I was at least able to stay up and see Michael Phelps carry in the flag.  Once that happened, I was in bed and setting 2 alarms for the morning routine for a race.

The first alarm came WAY too soon, but I got up, went through the first part of my race-day routine, and then climbed back into bed for about another hour.  The second alarm was go-time…so I had to get up, get changed, eat something, and get to the race.  I managed to get into my race outfit before checking the weather and discovering that it was currently 57 degrees outside.  So, bra top wasn’t going to work.  I came prepared with 3 different singlets though, so I grabbed my purple Boston one and slipped it on.  That would do.  Cathy was up just as I stuck a bagel in the oven to toast for her and prepped my oatmeal cup I brought with me.

So…basically I was doing EVERYTHING that they advise against in preparation for this half marathon.  I forewent the pizza the night before…I stayed up late…I ate a big bowl of oatmeal pre-race (I usually have a serving of cereal before leaving for the race and then a banana 30 minutes before the race)…I was testing out Skratch as a form of fuel (as my current fuel has been giving me stomach cramps)…and I didn’t give myself any time to stretch, do my PT exercises, my dynamic warmup stuff, or my plyometrics…yep…I was doing it all wrong and just hoping for the best.  HA!  Good thing I wasn’t racing this.

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Pre-race nap in the rental car

After we ate, I quickly brushed my teeth, filled up one water bottle in my fuel belt with water, the other with Skratch, and grabbed my banana.  Then, we were off to the races.  Via a detour.  Where Cathy managed to get where we needed to be without even trying.  Talk about luck!  She got us parked in the parking garage the race site recommended to park in…with time to kill.

So…I took a nap.

No joke.  I took a freakin’ nap.

Ah…my power naps are so…awesome.

After about 2o minutes, we decided to head on down toward the start line so that we wouldn’t feel crushed for time.  One problem…we couldn’t figure out how to efficiently get down to the ground level over by the river.  Hmmm…

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The Minnesota Half Marathon has an inline skating division…HOW COOL!

After a few false starts and a lot of back and forths…and many stair wells and elevators, we figured it out and got down to where we needed to be.  From there, we followed all the runners toward the start area.  And I immediately ducked into the long lines for the port-a-potties.  Apparently potatoes and oatmeal make me have to pee.  I rarely make use of the port-a-potties…and the lines were LONG.  Cathy found me in time to pass of my banana at 6:45 am…as the half marathon was to go off at 7:15 am.  The inline skaters were sent of at 7 am.  The bathroom lines had a TON of inline skaters in them and as the time ticked down and the lines barely moved…they had to move to the front or miss the start.  Banana…bathroom…time to watch the inline skaters go before getting myself ready to run.  There were some seriously incredible skaters who lined up…but the majority were casual racers.  Still…it was pretty awesome to see them take off.  Some were SUPER fast.

After they were out of the starting area, the half marathon runners were asked to line up.  So, I hopped into the start area…just behind the 1:40 pacer.  I had no pace expectations…just to run comfortably.  It was a training run, after all. We were sent off a few minutes early, to be sure.

But I was off.

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Me…heading out at the start of the Minnesota Half Marathon in St. Paul, MN.

This race was beautiful.  The entire run is done along the Mississippi River.  The roads are closed to traffic, so it’s just you, the runners, the river, and…the occasional struggling roller blader.  This course was reversed from the years previous to help make the last 5 miles a bit flatter.  You know what that means?  The hills hit in the first half of the race.  Some of these climbs brought some more of the novice roller bladers to a stop, or to a crawl (while clinging to the cement divider on the road), but I just worked my way up them.  I’m still trying to get my spring and speed back when it comes to hills.  That being said…I just adjusted my stride and pushed on.

We turned around just before Mile 4 to head back toward the start area, so any downhill we had, now was an uphill.  There was a small amount of support out on the side of the road…but mostly I enjoyed listening to the pacers whenever they were around.  OH…and the one guy who was totally flirting with this girl in the 1:40 group.  He literally turned to her and said, “I like your pace!”  Um…right…

Anyway…the run beside the river was quite pleasant…even though most of these miles were put in right in full sun.  Yeah…I was regretting not just doing the bra top at this point.  The singlet was light…but I would have been way more comfortable without the fabric.

At Mile 5, I decided to take a risk and try out some of the Skratch that I picked up samples of to see how it did as a fuel.  By Mile 6, the pacer in front of me was telling the runners that were with him that it would be a good time to gu.  LOL!  One good thing about running so close to a pace group, was I knew when “the last hill” would be hitting.  I let them go soon after Mile 8.  This is also the point of the race where all the runners are sent past the finish line.  Seriously…we had to run up the road for another few miles before turning around again.  This is the second race I’ve done in Minnesota where we are sent past the finish area…like a tease…

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This is me…running past the finish line area just after Mile 8.  What a tease!

Cathy saw me and was screaming and cheering.  And I gave a wave and continued on.  Mile 10…more Skratch…but I was feeling a bit tired.  So, I knew Skratch was not going to be a good fuel for my upcoming marathon.  UGH.  This means that I am back to square one on the whole nutrition/fueling thing.  MEH.  I had a backup Huma gel, but I was only 3 miles from the finish, so I stuck it out.  Just before Mile 11, we make the turn and run back toward the finish area, this time…to finish for real.  This involved a bit of a hill climb…and then it was just over 2 miles to hit that finish line.

With the gentle breeze coming off the river, I relaxed, settled into my pace, and just made my last couple of miles count.  I could see the finish line ahead and started to pick it up as much as I could manage.  And…I even managed to pass up another female runner right at the finish line.  You see that line, you sprint, dammit.  SPRINT.  Even I do that, and I don’t sprint.  I am not a sprinter.  LOL!

Anyway…upon finishing, I was given my Minnesota-shaped finisher’s medal and took some time to walk through the recovery area.  I was introduced to Aspire Sports Drink, which is made with natural ingredients and doesn’t contain any artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners or preservatives.  It was AMAZING.  I tried 4 of the 6 flavors.  Only 35 calories per bottle too.  Gotta love it.  I eased out of my racing shoes and into my flip flops for recovery.  And, after a bit of walking…Cathy and I went to get some coffee at the nearby Caribou Coffee (of course), before heading back to Minneapolis so I could change and then hang out with my friend Heather for some lunch and shopping that afternoon.

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Me with the Mississippi River behind me…after the finish of the Minnesota Half Marathon – St. Paul, MN

So, my official results of the Minnesota Half Marathon is that I finished in 1:41:24, which is only 6 seconds slower than my finish at Derby.  AND…my Garmin had this course at 13.25 miles exactly.  Anyway, I was 86/1164 finishers overall.  I was 16/640 women to cross the finish line.  And I was 3/87 people in the 35-39 female division!  Third in my age division.  HOLLA!!  Imagine if I had been racing this thing (but I know better…and I am SO close to my marathon this year!).

I had a lot of fun at this race.  Not only did it benefit a great cause, but it was a fantastic way to work in a training run.  Afterwards, I went and had delicious Mexican food for lunch and walked the Mall of America with one of my best friends in life…Heather…who brought along her 8 month old niece…and we had a blast.  It was a perfect start to a perfect visit to Minnesota.  Gorgeous course…challenging…and if you aren’t feeling up to the half distance, they also offer an unusual 6K distance as well.

A Wild & Wonderful Weekend

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

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

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

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Suckage.

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

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

1.  Fish in the Water

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

2.  SUSHI TIME!

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

3.  Playtime at the County Fair

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

4.  It Runs in the Family

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

5.  Wild Eggs

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

6.  Pierced Ears

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

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

7.  Putt-Putt

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


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.  SOCCER!!!

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

9.  Home-Cooked Breakfast

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

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

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

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

I hope we do it again soon.

Sisters really do make everything better!

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Take The Heat

Guess what, folks?

It’s SUMMER!!

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And let’s face it…the Olaf/Frozen/In Summer references don’t get old.  Because…it’s Olaf.  And Olaf is awesome.  Anyone who says so has no soul.

Summer is H-O-T.  HOT!  So hot.  And while I prefer to train in the heat…the one thing I do suffer through (like most other people) is the humidity.  And being that I live in the Ohio River Valley…it’s pretty damn humid.  Like…all the time.  One morning, this past week, I got up to run and it was 84 degrees at 4 am.  That’s not normal!  And it’s not even July yet.

With all that being said, how about I highlight some of the things that made this hot and stormy week a little cooler…

1.  Game of Thrones

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So, last Sunday was, possibly, one of the best episodes of Game of Thrones.  The battle scene, shown above, was one of the most intense and best things I have ever seen on television.  Kit Harrington, who plays Jon Snow, was amazing in this episode and totally deserves to win some awards.  I mean, he really had 100 horses charging at him.  That is not CGI!!  Unfortunately, my HBO Now stream was locked up (as was the rest of the world, apparently), so I ended up having to stay up an hour later than usual to actually watch the episode.  I was NOT looking forward to spending an entire day off the Interwebs if I saved it to watch the following day.  It was totally worth it, but damn, it through off the rest of my week for sure.

All that being said, tonight is the season finale!  OMG!!!  I hope HBO Now isn’t bogged down this week and that the finale lives up to this past week…because…DAMN!

2.  Blueberry Picking
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First of all…yes…I picked the blueberries pictured above.  I went to Bryant’s Blueberries with the intention of only picking 5 pounds of berries…but the crop of Blue Crop berries this week were AMAZING!  I mean…big and ripe and awesome.  Oh yes…I was in a good place.  So, as it was bound to happen…I got 10 more pounds.  WORTH IT.  These are the best blueberries I have ever had.  Forget anything you get in the store.  I don’t know if more jam will be in the future, but I think some blueberry bagels and/or waffles and/or pancakes will be happening.  And blueberry muffins are definitely happening.

3.  Louisville City FC…SOCCER BABY!!
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So, on Tuesday (which meant I did my hill repeats in the heat of the day…after 2 spin classes on Monday), and last night, I was at Louisville Slugger Field, not for baseball…but for soccer!!  I am a season ticket holder to Louisville’s very own professional soccer team.  In fact, last night’s match was broadcast on ESPN3.  Which is pretty cool.  We also had our highest attendance record to date, finally breaking that 10,000 mark.  In fact, it was 10, 062 showed up for the match last night.

But, beyond that, after the match on Tuesday night, I got to get my picture with my favorite player this year, Enrique Montano (#20).  I look horrible in the picture, as I still had my hat on (I hate hats), and I had been melting in that heat I had been speaking about…but this picture is…awesome!  I love when the payers come over to the midfield section to meet the fans.  And Montano is very good about that.  Happiness.

If you’re local and haven’t made it to a Louisville City FC match yet…stop delaying.  Our team leads our division…so we’re pretty awesome.  It’s worth it

4.  Fun Hair
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I don’t think it will last for long, but on Wednesday afternoon, I went to my hairdresser and we got a little funky with my hair.  Teal.  Yes…I dyed my hair teal.  Not all of it, but quite a bit of it.  The problem is, I workout and run quite often, so I sweat.  And my hair, just being blonde, doesn’t hold color too well.  So, I’m enjoying it while it lasts, but it’s already, sadly, fading.

5.  Roadside Assistance
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I’m not talking about AAA or the local trucks that stop and help out stranded drivers.  Nope.  I’m talking about a super-amazing project that I am a part of with some great friends of mine.  One of my girls, Indy (aka: Jennifer), had a spark of genius about creating a project that centers around the songs released off of Peter Cincotti’s new album.  Since Exit 105 was released the other day, Indy put together a Tumblr blog and posted a recipe already for a cocktail based off the song “Long Way From Home.” So from now until Peter’s birthday on July 11th, we’ll be developing and sharing recipes inspired by the songs on the EP. These will be shared everywhere we can think to post them, but will also be collected onto a Tumblr blog-http://exit105-roadside-assistance.tumblr.com/ Check it out!!

And if you are unfamiliar with the talent of Peter Cincotti…discover him…NOW!

Did you do anything amazing, fun, and/or exciting this past week?  Ever dye your hair a crazy color?  Got any fun plans for the upcoming 4th of July holiday?

Product Review: Dr. Praeger’s Gluten Free Broccoli Cakes

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Dr. Praeger’s Gluten Free Broccoli Cakes

Product: Dr. Praeger’s Gluten Free Broccoli Cakes – $3.99+

Sometimes, I don’t remember why I pick things out to try…they just sort of intrigue me at the time when I am at the grocery store.  It happens.  And while I have been steering mostly clear of packaged and processed foods, sometimes you just have to give in and try something that calls to you.

And that is apparently what happened when I snagged a box of Dr. Praeger’s Gluten Free Broccoli Cakes.  Let me tell you…the box makes these things look amazing.  Like little broccoli hashbrowns.  Or…broccoli and potato latkes.

I love potato pancakes (latkes)…and I love broccoli.  So this was basically Dr. Praeger’s brilliantly meshing the two of them together.  BRILLIANT!!

Dr. Praeger’s is a multi-generation, family-owned food company founded by two heart surgeons.  The company is committed to encouraging a more sensible and healthier way of eating.  Everything created by Dr. Praeger’s begins with their no-compromise recipes that help support an active lifestyle.  Every ingredient that goes into each and every Dr. Praeger’s product is pronounceable and recognizable.  You know how I love that!

As I stated above, I LOVE Broccoli!  Like…LOVE IT!  Always have.  Always will.

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So, imagine my elation when I spotted this little box in the freeze section of one of the many grocery stores I frequent.  I don’t know why I felt the need to snatch it up and try it…but it was like…meant to be.  Because it was BROCCOLI…and…

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…POTATO!

I’m Irish.  Potatoes and I are BFFs.  Like…for real BFFs.  I eat at least…at least two potatoes a week, but usually more.  No joke.

The box of Dr. Praeger’s Gluten Free Broccoli Cakes describes these little treats as a savory blend of broccoli, potatoes and onions.  There are six (6) cakes in each box, making it easy to decide whether you want to eat these as a snack, a side, or as a meal.

For me…MEAL!

Oh yes…meal time.

It was actually a Friday afternoon where these were pulled out of my freezer.  I had a half day at the office and was going to head into Louisville to get my grocery shopping done early so that I could go pick blueberries Saturday afternoon instead of running around and grocery shopping then.  So, I wanted something that was easy to make, not too big (as I was cooking up Gluten Free & Vegan BLT Sammies…with a side of guac and blue tortilla chips.  So, an easy, fast, and filling lunch was what I was looking to make for my roommate and I before we hit the numerous grocery stores.  Because otherwise we are a bit like this with any samples at said grocery/natural food stores.

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The Dr. Praeger’s Gluten Free Broccoli Cakes are really easy to prepare.  Each round cake is individually wrapped, so, again, you can pick how many you make.  The serving size is two (2) cakes, but as this was lunch, I made up all 6, so each of us could have three (3) each.  The preferred method for cooking these is the one I used…preheating the oven to 450°F and putting the cakes on an ungreased baking pan.  The cakes go into the oven for about 5-7 minutes until browned.  Then, you carefully flip them over, cook for another 4-6 minutes, until heated through and browned.  You can also cook these in a skillet or in the microwave, but the oven baked these up to perfection.

They honestly looked like little broccoli hashbrowns.  Which is fine.  Because hashbrowns are one of life’s best foods to ever be invented, created, and consumed.  They smelled fantastic.  And I ended up topping them off with a drizzle of a vegan lemon cream sauce that I had made earlier that week for another dish.  Lunch was served…and it took less than 20 minutes.  LOVE it.

First of all, the oven technique really does cook up the Dr. Praeger’s Gluten Free Broccoli Cakes to a crispy perfection, all without the use of butter or oil.  And as I’m trying to cut back on some of that…that was a big thing with me.  I was afraid they would be mushy and soft, but they totally crisped up on the outside, getting that gorgeous golden color and crunchy texture.  The inside…warm…soft…and perfect.  You get a lot of broccoli flavor in each bite, but you get potato and onion and whatever spices are blended into the mix.  It was delicious.  I was beyond surprised.  I had one without the sauce, and it was fantastic.  They have the same consistency as a latke or potato pancake…but the flavor is more complex with the addition of the broccoli.  I loved these.  So simple…yet so delicious!

So, let’s take a look at the ingredients that go into the Dr. Praeger’s Gluten Free Broccoli Cakes.  These amazing cakes of green goodness are made from broccoli, potatoes, onion, expeller pressed canola oil, oat bran, potato flakes, egg whites, arrowroot powder, sea salt, garlic, and black pepper.  The Broccoli Cakes are gluten-free, kosher, and non-GMO.

As far as nutrition goes, with ingredients like that, you will love the nutritional info in the Dr. Praeger’s Gluten Free Broccoli Cakes.  A serving size is two (2) of the cakes and their are 3 servings (or 6 individually wrapped cakes) per box.  This serving will provide you with 130 calories, 6 grams fat, 0.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 250 mg sodium, 16 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 2 grams sugars, and 4 grams protein.  Believe it or not, these are quite filling…because the sampling snack monsters were kept at bay.

Dr. Praeger’s as a remarkable line of gluten-free and vegetarian offerings in their product line-up.  Not everything they make is gluten-free and vegetarian though, so read the boxes.  They label everything, so you will know just by looking at the box.  I have never had a Dr. Praeger’s product that I haven’t loved…and I think lots of that is that they really do strive to use real ingredients and real foods in each and every one of their products.  If you haven’t tried the Dr. Praeger’s Gluten Free Broccoli Cakes yet…go to wherever Dr. Praeger’s items are sold near you…and grab a box.  Trust me…you will not be disappointed.

Because…SUMMER!

Guess what…

Like it or not…summer is here.  This…this is the weather of my people!!  Yes…I understand that I was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota…but let’s ignore that for a moment and focus on the fact that…THIS is the weather of my people.

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I love summer.  Even the hot temperatures that slow me down when I’m out running.  Goal this summer…to not be injured and out all summer.  The past two years…that’s exactly what has happened.

NOT. THIS. YEAR. (I hope).  So…with that in mind…

1.  My fist humid, hot, sunny run… (IN SUMMER!!)

So, it only seems fitting that my first hot run back this year was done with two of my favorite people to run with…Tammy and Matt.  We headed out early on Saturday, trying to beat as much of the heat as possible to get in our 15 miles.  It was brutal (humidity-wise), but it kept me on pace and I had good conversations and we pushed through our miles that morning, finishing up just after 9 am.

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This picture represents your brain on 15 hot, humid miles on hills.  Whew.

2.  Morning Running, Soccer and Dinner with my Sole Sister…(IN SUMMER!!)

I was THRILLED to have company on my Thursday morning run this past week.  I am usually doing my (early) morning runs solo, but Natalie had this past week off for vacation and we managed to work it out so that we could run together one morning.  The best option was Thursday…I had 5 miles on tap so she came over around 4 a.m. and we headed out, running together down to the YMCA and then back to the apartment.  We had great discussions and enjoyed the last morning of cooler temps.


And then last night we put our season tickets to work by taking in the Louisville City FC (that would be Louisville’s professional soccer team…they play at Slugger Field and if you haven’t gone to a match, you’re missing out!) match.  It was hot, but what a game.  We were up in the 2nd half…until a late goal by Wilmington Hammerheads FC tied it up in stoppage time.  And, while we put though a valiant effort to come back, we just didn’t have time.  So we drew…2-2.  MEH.  But I’ll take a draw over a loss.  Tonight, Natalie is coming over for dinner.  I’m cooking up some Cauliflower Breadsticks and Smokey Zucchini Cakes.  There will probably be peach wine too.

3.  Cotton Candy Gapes…(IN SUMMER!!)

Nothing makes me happier than the return of Cotton Candy Gapes!!

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If you haven’t tried these yet…you are SO missing out.  These plump, juicy, all-natural green grapes (non-GMO too) is a new variety of grape that is brought to you by Grapey.  These grapes actually do taste like that pink spun-sugar treat that you get at festivals and fairs.  And I mean exactly like cotton candy.  Cathy spotted these at the Whole Foods in Louisville yesterday, so this is my afternoon snack this week!!  So excited.  I do know that Kroger eventually started carrying them last year.  Anyway, if you love cotton candy, but could do without all the stickiness and ALL THE GRANULATED SUGAR that comes in that fluffy treat…these grapes…will blow your mind.  They will blow your mind anyway.  Try them.  Trust me.

4.  Zootopia on Blu-ray…(IN SUMMER!!)

Well, I wrapped up the Disney Animated Movies In Order marathon viewing last weekend, but one more was just released.  And it is one of my favorites.  ZOOTOPIA!  And you better believe I went out to Target on Tuesday and snagged a copy of it.

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Seriously…I am Officer Judy Hopps.  She’s totally just like me.  I relate to this.  You will too.  If you missed seeing this one…or wasn’t sure what to make of it…trust me…you’ll love it.  Redbox it, Netflix it, Buy it.  But WATCH IT!

5.  Louisville Says Goodbye To The Champ…(IN SUMMER!!)

Okay, I almost didn’t take on the “in summer” part there…but it’s the theme.  Regardless, on Friday, Louisville, Kentucky put on a beautiful, memorable goodbye to The Greatest.  Muhammad Ali’s procession, burial, and memorial was held in Louisville this past week and it was a memorable and beautiful event.

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All week since he passed away, the Muhammad Ali Center in downtown Louisville became a memorial to the late boxer.  Now, I didn’t grow up watching boxing or knowing much about the sport.  That being said, I do know a lot about Muhammad Ali.  You can’t live in this city and not know much about The Greatest.  I was able to watch the last couple hours of the memorial service after work on Friday and the speeches were amazing.  Billy Crystal was fantastic when he spoke.  I was tearing up during different speeches and admired how stoic the family members were.  He was laid to rest in Cave Hill Cemetery. This city mourned, celebrated, and came together to celebrate the life of this hometown hero. RIP, CHAMP.  RIP!

My trip to the Ren Faire this weekend has been pushed to next weekend, which is good…because I think I would have melted out there today.  I want to get out and about at some point because I don’t do well just sitting around the apartment on a Sunday, but it will be in air conditioning.

Anyone else happy to have the warmer temps?  What is your favorite part of summer?

Stay warm…or cool…or however you like it!

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Enjoying the Ride into the Long Weekend

Sometimes the hardest things in life to do is to branch out of the norm and try something new.  However, the only way to grow, to experience, and to become…is to step outside of your comfort zone.  I certainly did that a couple of times this week…and it’s not easy…it’s quite scary…but it’s helping me more than I can even see at the moment.

As the holiday weekend is shifting into gear, and I have an extra day off from work, I’m trying not to focus on everything I’ll have to attempt to do to stay caught up at work the four days I’ll be there, and instead focusing on a few things that I get to enjoy while not working on Monday.

YAY!

So…with that sort of attitude in mind…here are a few things that have made this week amazing.

1.  Clipping Into A Road Bike

Me on my 2nd attempt at riding - 5 miles - before I took my first (of many) falls.
Me on my 2nd attempt at riding – 5 miles – before I took my first (of many) falls.

I made huge progress this week with riding my road bike.  BB-8 has been sitting against the wall of my room in the apartment…but I wasn’t able to ride him until I had him properly fitted.  And I had that done last week…and was eager to get on the bike and ride.  It’s scary, using clipless pedals on a bike outside.  But, my first attempt was twice around the parking lot without any issues.  I was feeling confident on Friday night.  And then on Saturday afternoon, I headed back out…deciding I’d still keep to the parking lot, but aim for mileage.  So I did 5 miles.  In my last mile…I was making a turn, and a car came out…and I panicked.  I attempted to brake and forgot that I was clipped in, so I tried to put my foot down, was stuck, tried to unclip, but was now off-balance and BOOM…down I went.  Totally crashed down on my right hip and side.  The right hip is the injured hip, but, I thankfully have some nice padding there and just came out of it with a bit of road rash on my elbow and lower arm, a scraped up right knee, and a bit of a bruised ankle.  I was fine…more embarassed than anything.  The driver, a young 20-something, stopped and hopped out of his car, asking me if I needed help, but I was already unclipped and pulling myself back up.  I told him I was fine and I took a few deep breaths, clipped back in, and finished my ride.  After that, I had enough for the night.

2.  Finishing up the Disney Animated Movies In Order Movie Marathon
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It took two (2) years, but last night, Cathy and I finished up our attempt to watch every single Disney Animated Movie (available on DVD or Blu-Ray, or for purchase to view on Netflix/Hulu/Amazon) in order from their theater release date.  We started with Snow White over two years ago and last night wrapped it up with The Good Dinosaur.  Zootopia comes out in a couple of weeks, and we will watch that after I purchase it, but as of last night…we completed our bucket list goal of watching every single Disney (and later Pixar) animated feature, including a few hybrids like Mary PoppinsTron, and Tron: Legacy.  It was a lot of fun revisiting some films…and realizing they were either better than I remembered (Oliver & Company)…or worse than I remembered (The Sword & The Stone)…and some I hadn’t seen yet and was surprised I liked (Planes and Planes: Fire & Rescue).  Next up, after we view a few movies we have been meaning to watch, but had Disney taking over our lives…Spielberg movies.  YAY!

3.  Strawberries…Strawberries For Days…

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Jars of my homemade strawberry jam…processed and ready for giving away!

On Sunday morning, I ran in the Run For The Berries 5K up in Starlight, Indiana.  I love this race, and hadn’t run it since 2013 due to other commitments (2014 Buffalo Marathon) and injury (all of 2015).  One of my favorite things about this race is the big bowl of strawberries I purchase after running.  This year, I turned in an amazing time (not a PR), clocked a new fastest mile (6:48) and conquered some hills.  I came in first in my age division as well…which was exciting.  But one of my favorite things to do after the 5K and scoping out the festival is to drive over to Huber’s Family Farm and buy a LOT of strawberries.  I got enough to use with my yogurt bowls, my PB&J Breakfast Bowls, and to make some homemade strawberry jam.  YUMMY!!  I do love my berries!!

4.  The Most Perfect Soft Pretzel Wednesday

Annie May's Sweet Cafe Allergen Free Cinnamon Sugar Soft Pretzel
Annie May’s Sweet Cafe Allergen Free Cinnamon Sugar Soft Pretzel

When you are a Celiac, simple pleasures like soft pretzels don’t happen every day.  In fact, they happen very infrequently.  Unless, you live near my local allergen-free bakery here in Louisville, Kentucky.  Every Wednesday, Annie May’s Sweet Cafe, on Frankfort Avenue, host Soft Pretzel Wednesday, offering three varieties of pretzels each week: Salt, Cinnamon-Sugar, and Everything.  And, every week they are amazing.  But there was something so delicious about this past week’s pretzels.  They were the perfect size.  They had that perfect crust on the outside and chewy center in each bite.  Serious pretzel perfection.  I was one happy lady!

5.  The Monkees
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So, it’s Memorial Day.  And after my morning run and a little bit of final grocery shopping for stuff I realized I needed but forgot to put on the list, didn’t realize needed to be on the list, or just didn’t buy enough of something.  So, while working in the kitchen and around the apartment, Cathy and I threw on the DVDs of The Monkees.  I can still recite the episodes from memory…that’s how much I watched these.  HAHA!!  Seriously, you don’t get nicknamed Monkeegirl in school without having The Monkees to thank for it.  It’s been amusing to revisit these episodes and just…relax and enjoy the holiday off of work.  Their latest album was released on Friday…I haven’t gotten out to FYE to purchase it.

6.  Outlets & Lunch with Amanda, Richie, and Cathy

Taziki's Gluten Free Dolmades Plate (Stuffed Grape Leaves)
Taziki’s Gluten Free Dolmades Plate (Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves)

On Sunday morning, Cathy & I met up with Amanda & Richie (that’s Cathy’s sister and brother-in-law) at the Outlets of the Bluegrass in Simpsonville, Kentucky for some shopping and hanging out and just escaping real life for a moment.  Amanda said she needed help finding shoes for her maxi dress and I found her a cute, strappy pair.  I finally replaced the Sketchers that I use as my airport shoes/spin class shoes (they slip on and off), I purchased a new sports bra, Amanda found some shorts, Richie got some shoes and shirts…it was a successful day.  And then…we went to one of my favorite places to eat…Tazikis Mediterranean Grill in Louisville, on Shelbyville Road.  LOVE their food.  And they do a good job with food allergies…when they remember to prepare the dish properly.  The past two times, they have had to remake my dish…but it gets fixed.  They are normally much better than that.  If you haven’t eaten there yet…you need to.  Check to see if there is one in your area!  Healthy, amazing food.  I love their Dolmades Plate (the vegetarian stuffed grape leaves done gluten-free) and Cathy, Amanda and Richie got their favorites…the Lamb Gyro.  I love good times and good eats with good friends!

7.  Sweet ‘N Savory Food Truck & Steel City Pops

Gluten Free The Eccentric Crepe from Sweet 'N Savory and a Strawberry Lemonade Popsicle & Pineapple Popsicle from Steel City Pops
Gluten Free The Eccentric Crepe from Sweet ‘N Savory and a Strawberry Lemonade Popsicle & Pineapple Popsicle from Steel City Pops

On Saturday, after the Strawberry Festival and before heading to Annie May’s for treats for that evening and the following morning, Cathy and I stopped by the Fleur de Flea at Waterfront Park.  The main reason…Sweet ‘N Savory Food Truck.  It’s under new ownership, but the crepes are still being done 100% gluten-free.  And they are using all of Richard & Ashley’s recipes.  The new owner, Brandon, knows the importance of keeping things gluten free as his wife is a Celiac.  So the truck and recipes are in good hands.  Brandon was on his own when we arrived, only one of his crepe stones functioning, and his help not having shown up yet.  Service was slow, but as always, worth the wait.  He was doing the best he could with what he had, for sure.  I got one of my favorites…The Eccentric.  OM NOM NOM!!  And afterwards, while we normally would get the gelato, I had heard so much about Steel City Pops, we decided to try them out.  Cathy got the Strawberry Lemonade popsicle and I went with the Pineapple.  OMG…I’m stopping by the store on Bardstown Road and buying a bunch of flavors…these were phenomenal.  All natural…gluten-free…vegan…and amazing.  LOVE helping out local businesses!

I hope everyone has been enjoying their long weekend, spending time with people that mean the world to them, and eating amazing things!!  And I hope everyone took some time to remember those who fought and died for this country that we live in and the freedoms we enjoy!

Bondi Band Ambassador & Discount Code

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Bondi Band Social Media Ambassador

So, it’s official.  I am a Bondi Band Social Media Brand Ambassador.  What does this mean?  This means that I am officially your Bondi Band go-to girl.

Are you a Bondi Band fan?  They are the only headbands I have ever worn as a runner.  And I wear them running, spinning, and to the gym.  I am never working out without one on my head.  I think the people at the YMCA enjoy seeing what message I’m carrying with me that day when I turn up.  It usually brings a smile, nevertheless.

For those of you unfamiliar with Bondi Band, let me tell you a little bit about them.  Bondi Band was founded by Rebecca Buckley, who, at one time, searched high and low searching for a fun, fashionable headband that did not slip while she was working out.  She was unsuccessful in her search.  So, while vacationing in Australia, she was inspired to create her own line.  Upon returning from her trip, Buckley began to experiment and eventually developed the perfect design for a headband that would incorporate elements of both function and fashion.  She began to sew Bondi Band headbands by hand, in her hometown of Lewiston, Maine in February 2005.

Bondi Band initially began with only headbands, but have since expanded to a full line of headwear, compression products, and accessories in comfortable, colorful options that will fit every lifestyle and personality for active women, men and children.  Not only does Bondi Band offer functional unisex, high quality, American made products, but Bondi Band donates 10% of all profits to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts.

If you have been contemplating headbands, headwear, accessories, and/or compression for your runs and workouts, I would be the first to throw a Bondi Band at you.  If you are already a fan…YAY!!  If you have yet to try them…here’s your choice.

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Bondi Band Grab Bag Offer

As a Brand Ambassador for Bondi Band, I am going to share with you my discount code to get you 10% off of your online order.  Go to Bondi Band’s Web site, purchase and/or create your favorite Bondi Bands (yes, you can customize the products), and when you checkout, enter the code: CELIATHLETE

That magic code will knock 10% off your order.  YAY!!  We all love savings.  And…that’s not all.  While supplies last, Bondi Band is offering a Grab Bag, which gives you 10 items for $20.  You can use my discount code on that too!

So…head over there and remember to use: CELIATHLETE when you check-out!!

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I am never without my Bondi Bands when I run…race…spin…workout…

OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon – Indianapolis, IN (May 7, 2016)

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Me heading into the finish line of the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon

Race: OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon

Place: Indianapolis, Indiana

Date: May 7, 2016

Time: 1:39:28

Four years ago…four years ago I ran the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon as my second half marathon EVER!  I was fortunate enough to have a friend in my corral, a local runner I met with the (now gone) Blue Mile Monday running group.  It was a fantastic race that day.  Hot.  Steamy.  Sweaty.  But fantastic.  It was such a spirited, fun, and well-run race and expo…that I vowed to go back.

And then…it didn’t happen.

Until, I decided to run it again.  It was a really random, really quick decision to run it.  And I didn’t really shout about it because, as I’ve said before, every day is different for me.  I never know when there is a good day ahead or a bad day…so, I haven’t really been talking about races I’m doing just in case it’s not a good day and I don’t actually run it.  It’s hard coming back from injury, but I’m being cautious and smart about it and I’m not pushing it.  So…I left work early on Friday and trekked up to Indianapolis, Indiana to get checked into the hotel.  I always stay at the JW Marriott when in Indy for a run, when it’s convenient.  It was for this race.  The start line was right out the door!  HA!  Besides, I’m a princess…I like to stay in nice places.  (Joking…sort of…).  After checking in and dropping off bags in the room, Cathy and I headed down to the race expo to pick up my race bib.  This was a little bit of a hike through the convention center, but it’s a hell of an expo and worth the hike.

We noted the Starbucks in the hotel and said we’d stop and get a banana for me for in the morning on our way back.  Once we got into the expo, we were handed drawstring backpacks and we immediately headed to the Packet Pickup area.  Since I registered later, my number was pretty high up there, which meant hiking further back in the line of windows with bib numbers.  I found my spot and went up to the window.  They said to have your photo ID ready, but the guy didn’t even ask for it.  He did find my bib and got my shirt…tucked it into a Blue Mile bag and handed it over to me.  YAY!  Officially ready to run.  But first…shopping…

…and the official merchandise store always has some goodies to offer.  Cathy went and bought an official Finisher shirt for me (I can’t buy that…bad mojo).  And I ogled a few other things, but opted to leave it with just the shirt.  So…we began a quick weave through the expo.  This is where I fell in love with the Ocean Spray PACt Cranberry Extract Water.  I am forever having this stuff in my fridge.  HOLY COW!!  SO GOOD!!  We scooted past the Clif Bar place, which had a line due to all the samples they were handing out.  And then…

…I signed up for another race.  It was one I was considering anyway…and with the expo discount and the promise of a free hat…I ended up going ahead and signing up.  Somebody stop me!!  LOL!!  This one isn’t too far away, so I  feel confident I’ll be in good form to run it.

We then found the BondiBand booth…and…oh yeah…there were purchases made.  I ended up getting 3 more…because…I can’t have too many of these.  I wear them on runs, at the gym, and in spin classes…so, yeah…they get used.  I still own the very first BondiBand I ever had…my 13.1 one that my friend, Heather Dillon, purchased for me at my first half marathon in Chicago back in 2011.  You might say that I am a fan…but I’m also a brand ambassador for them now too.  More on that once it’s officially official.  Anyway…more money spent and it was time to leave the expo to get to our dinner reservation.  We stopped for a moment to sign the banner wall at the exit.  Then, food.

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My Gluten Free Penne with Tomato Marinara and Vegetables from Osteria Pronto at the JW Marriott in Indianapolis, IN

Now, my pre-race eats is always…ALWAYS…a gluten free pizza.  BUT…we couldn’t find a close spot that offered that near where we were in Indianapolis.  And we really didn’t want to leave the area…so Cathy found out that the hotel restaurant, Osteria Pronto, offered gluten-free pasta on their menu.  I normally don’t do pasta as I am a pasta freak and will EAT ALL THE PASTA…and sometimes it’s too much and I still have it with me in the morning.  But, you gotta do what you gotta do.  Turns out, this place had their act together. The chef and servers were very knowledgeable about gluten-free dining and when they brought out Cathy’s bread…they brought me out some toasted Udi’s Gluten Free Sandwich Bread to have with either butter (no dairy for me) or olive oil.  It was a nice gesture.  The chef threw together a pasta dish for me using the Gluten Free Penne and their amazing red marinara and some fresh vegetables (onion, red pepper, broccolini).  Cathy got their signature pasta dish – Straw & Hay (chive noodle & egg noodle, lardo, English peas, garlic cream, pine nuts, and topped with a soft boiled egg).  I didn’t think I was that hungry…but as I said, I love pasta…and I devoured mine.  LOL!!

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Just hanging out with my NUUN guys!  I loved them.  I really loved them.

After dinner, we returned to the expo to finish up.  Starbucks was closed…so Cathy said she’d get a banana in the morning for me. We revisited the entire expo, walking through the slightly less chaotic area this time.  Cathy bought another BondiBand for spin class, and the lady working there gave us the discount so she only paid $5 for it, since we previously bought some that day.  YAY!!  I found the NUUN table and got to talking with the cute guys behind there.  I told them I was a #nuunambassador and we got a picture together.  LOVE!!  It was fun.  My new favorite flavor…the Mango Orange.  WOW!  And…then I signed up for ANOTHER race.  Seriously…stop me.  This one is in the fall…and they gave me a free wine glass and an expo discount for signing up.  Cathy was given a race shirt because they were so impressed with what a great running fan she is and everything she does for not just me…but other runners.  SUPER awesome.  We wrapped up the expo and hiked outside to Circle Center to hit up Rocket Fizz.  We ended up purchasing a Diet Root Beer for Cathy and a Nut Goodie Bar to split for dessert.  I am a firm believer in dessert.  And then…it was back to the hotel.  I talked to my sister on the phone on the way back…and I even stood at the window in my room and watched an ongoing baseball game…which was totally awesome.  Cathy went to go shower and I needed to do my nightly foam rolling.

I had made a promise to my good friend, Deana, after the Derby Mini, that I would dedicate the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon to her.  I kept my word, and in Sharpie, on my race bib, I wrote: FOR DEANA!  I texted her a picture and we chatted for a little while…as I watched some Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives (seriously…this is a tradition!) and did more foam rolling and used THE STICK on my hip and hip adductor.  After that…it was time to set the alarms for the morning and get some sleep.

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The final race day outfit…I was told to NOT wear the tank…I am glad I didn’t.

My first alarm went off and I got up, turned it off, took my medicine, used the bathroom, and then…went back to sleep.  My second alarm got me up at 5:30 am.  I grabbed my pile of race gear and headed into the bathroom to change and put on ALL THE SUNSCREEN.  Hey, I’m a pale, blonde, Irish girl…I burn easily.  And I had to slather it ALL OVER myself.  I wasn’t sure at this point if I was running in just a sports bra or if I was throwing on a tank, but I acted as though I’d do the bra only.  Once I had my Injinji socks on and my Newtons laced up, I put my hair up in my signature pigtails, dressing them up with red and black hair extensions.  And the BondiBand was a pink and black checkered one I found at the expo.  It was the closest thing to a checkered flag I could find.  I went back into the hotel room and made sure Cathy got up out of her bed.  Her mission was to go get me a banana from Starbucks.  They were giving them away for free, but it was a madhouse, and she was gone long enough that I managed to eat my cereal, do all my PT stretches and turn on the news/weather.  When she got back, she changed, ate a protein bar, and drank her Starbucks Cool Lime Refresher.  At about 6:45 a.m., I had my fuel belt on and was heading out the door.  Cathy realized she forgot the sign, so back to the hotel room to snag it.  And then, we were on our way, heading down the elevator and out the door.

My friend, Julia, was running in the 5K, which was going off at 7 a.m.  I was hoping to find her, but, there were SO many people that I never did see her.  I looked and waited.  And never saw her go by.  DANG IT!  Cathy thought she heard the announcer say something about corrals closing and said that it involved mine, so now we were walking the line down to the split in the corrals.  She found an information guy and asked and he aid that my corral was going to open as soon as the 5K runners were though…since I was in C.  So…Cathy made me panic for no reason.  She does this a lot at races.  Seriously.  *deep breath*  We walked back up and I downed my banana and I went to get into Corral C.  I had a moment to do my dynamic warmup moves before Cathy said she needed to stake out her spot at the other side of the start…so she made me take off my NYC Marathon zip I had put on to keep warm.  I parted with it, and was surprised that it wasn’t too chilly at the start.  A little, but not enough that I was shivering.  The National Anthem was sung BEAUTIFULLY and the wheelchair racers were sent off by Meb.  Meb was there running from the back of the mini to the front…I never got to see him.  Dang it.  In fact, I finished the race before he even started.  I did beat his time though, LOL!

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Meb waiving the green flag up in the bucket. I didn’t even see him. I suck.

The corrals moved up and the first wave was prepared to be sent off…by Meb…at 7:33 am.  The horn sounded, Meb waived the green flag, and we were off.  I crossed the start line, started my Garmin, and just went with the crowd.  I saw Cathy and gave a wave and headed toward the Indianapolis Zoo.  I didn’t see any animals out this year…but it is a nice way to start the race regardless.  That zoo is gorgeous!  This was a quick pace for me, though it didn’t feel it at the time.  My first mile was 6:57, apparently, but I dropped back after that.  Let me say, I am very glad that Cathy told me to go with the bra top only and not the tank.  The humidity was very real at Mile 2…and it was still early.  So, yeah…that worked out wonderfully.  I would have died with fabric on me.  As it was, my legs felt heavy and I was wondering how well this race was actually going to play out for me.  But, I pressed on, hoping I’d find my stride and fall into a comfortable pace and hold it.  Mile 2 and 3 are run on W. Michigan Street.  In fact, much of the first 5 miles of the race is through residential and such areas…but always with spectators and people there to cheer, some more populated than others.  Mile 5 is Main Street…and a banner is spread over the top welcoming runners to Main Street.  There are restaurants and the like out here and the crowd was loud and proud.  It was a nice way to make the turn toward the Speedway itself.  You enter the speedway via a steep downhill slope, and then back up.  Inside, you hit Mile 6 and the run around the actual Indianapolis Motor Speedway is on.  This is the part I always look forward to.  This was also the slowest miles of the race for me.  I think it’s because the sun had come out, the humidity was high, and there was no shade out on that track.  But I was running ON THE TRACK of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  How cool is that.  They have 2 pit stops (water stations) inside the track, but I carry my own water and fuel with me, so I never make use of these.  I thought about it though, with the humid air.  I was sweating!  The best part…the highlight, is hitting that brickyard.  I flashed devil horns to the photographers and carried on.  You exit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway just before Mile 9.  From here…it’s 4 miles to the finish.

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Me leaving the start gate of the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon

4 miles is a morning run for me.  So, despite feeling like I was really slowing down, I was super happy with how I was plugging along.  I kept saying, “This is for Deana…and Deana doesn’t quit!”  Or “Be relentless…like Deana.”  Mantras really help.  LOL!  I wasn’t about to quit…when it’s humid and hot, you just slow it down and run comfortable.  Miles 9-11 wind you back toward downtown, and when you get to Mile 12, you see the checkered flags, and hear the crowds, and you just run.  You just run because you’re almost done.  You just run because you are heading to that finish line. You just…do what you’ve been doing all along, but with feeling and spirit and maybe jazz hands.  Or maybe not.  Jazz hands might be a little much…

I love this part of the race.  The energy is amazing.  I could hear the finish line announcer and I knew I was getting close.  My watch beeped long before the 13 mile marker (I was about .20 miles ahead of the mile markers), and I picked it up some more.  I gritted my teeth, dug deep, and pushed it.  I saw Cathy to my right with my sign and just screaming at me.  And I noticed, as I neared the finish, that the clock time said 1:39:45…I crossed.  I just turned out another half marathon (13.29 miles on my Garmin)…and was only 1:07 minutes off of breaking my PR set at the Geist Half Marathon in 2014.  I felt amazing.  And accomplished.  And…yeah!!  I was ushered toward the medals and was handed one, which I eased over my head, somehow not spilling any water in the open water bottle I was holding.  I’m just that talented, folks.

I was given a plastic bag to put water, banana, fruits, energy bars, and whatever else into as I walked through the runner recovery area.  As I got a Dole cup, one of the Dole employees said he loved my outfit and smile and asked if he could get my picture with the Dole cup.  So, I agreed.  If I turn up on any Dole advertisements, let me know.  I am almost famous, LOL!  Afterwards, I headed into the After Party area where I was to find Cathy in the family reunion zone around the end of the alphabet.  I spotted her and rushed over…and she gave me my official time!!  I was SO happy with it.  Impressed because I felt like I was running through tar at some points…no joke.  But this was 2 minutes better than Derby…which was 2 minutes better than NYC.  Nice pattern there, yes?  LOL!

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Getting my post-race massage.  I obviously approve, LOL!!

I changed out of my shoes and put on some recovery shoes.  I snagged some chocolate milk for Cathy and then headed into the massage tent.  I NEVER miss a post-race massage whenever possible.  Seriously, this just helps me with my recovery.  The lines weren’t long yet either.  The nice lady who gave me my massage was awesome.  It was, seriously, one of the best post-race massages I have ever had.  She asked me a lot about running and how I got into it…and she really stretched me out and worked my muscles.  She told me she loves working on people where she can feel their muscles and see how they move when she works on them.  GO ME!  Afterwards, I was ready to head back to the hotel to shower, so Cathy and I headed that way.

The hotel was handing out cold towels to runners so we could wipe our faces and get refreshed, which was SO awesome.  Once we got up to the room, I went to go shower and Cathy packed up everything.  Once I was clean and dressed, she called down to have the car brought out by valet and I downed some water and played on my phone for a moment.  We finally went down just as our car came around.  Packed up…we hit the road to go to Target and then meet up with our friend, Greg, at Cheeseburger in Paradise.  A celebrator Gluten Free Veggie Baja Burger (no cheese or sour cream) was in order.  I got mine with the gluten free sweet potato fries.  I devoured it.  No joke.  We did a bit of shopping after lunch, hitting up Half Price Books…Strange Brew for coffee…and the outlets in Edinburgh, before heading home.

Half Marathon #18…done.  And it’s my third fastest one to date!!

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Half Marathon #3 this year…done…Half Marathon #18 in my running career…done…3rd fastest half marathon time…achieved. Call it a comeback!

So, the official results of the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon is that I finished in 1:39:28.  I was 889/24,768 finishers overall.  I was 123/13,487 female finishers.  And I was 21/1,939 finishers in my division!  I am so happy with this result and I texted Deana and she was so honored and happy.  It was a wonderful race, and now I remember why I loved it so much.  I hope not to wait another 4 years to return to this one.  That being said, I’m already in talks with Deana about some upcoming stuff for next year, which I’m super excited about.  I’m sure I’ll discuss that when it all falls into place.  I am certain my endurance will continue to get better.  Half marathon distances used to feel so easy for me, but I’ve been struggling in the last few miles as of late.  But this one surprised me, because I thought I had really slowed down, but I never once hit a sub 7:45 minute pace.  At all.  WOW!!  And to think I slowed down to a pace that felt “easy.”  At least my fitness has been kept up over the span of time I was out with injury last year.  I credit that to my spin classes, regular gym visits, and sheer determination on my part.

Deana…I ran hard and strong for you…I’m glad this race turned out the way it did.  Thank you for being an inspiration, a badass, and truly, an amazing friend.

Working Hard for a Weekend of Hard Work

Ah, it’s Sunday.  A day to rest and relax right?  RIGHT?!

HA…never!!  Today, I’ve done countless loads of laundry, prepped and cooked all the meals for the coming week, took recycle to the store, took care of a cat, did some necessary shopping, mailed off a package, finished up (much-needed) grocery shopping, organized the pantry, and polished off a book.  I’ve blogged on my race on Friday night, made up lunches/snacks for tomorrow, and have even changed sheets on the bed.  And showered.  Important.

This has been a chaotic and crazy week.  I got back into town from a relaxing (ie: NON-RACE) weekend in Orlando, Florida.  Sure, the Star Wars Half Marathon was running at Disney World that very weekend…but I was not quick enough on making a decision to run, and by the time I was certain I was going to be able to do it, registration had closed.  Instead, the day before I headed out to get to Florida, I did my long run.  On a Tuesday night.  On tired legs.  But it was done and I didn’t have to do it alone…or in Orlando, where I had no idea where I could safely and effectively go running.  As it was, I found a park where I managed 5 miles, and I did 5 miles back and forth on this 0.20 mile boardwalk on Cocoa Beach while I was away.  But that was it for the running.  The rest of the time I was exploring…but we’ll get to that momentarily.

With a couple of days away from the office, I was overloaded with work, so I ended up doing something I hate doing.  I brought work home and put in some time away from the office.  It had to be done…or I’d still be buried.  This made my week even more stressful because I was trying to fit in all my normal stuff while having to do some work at home.  It meant…the normalcy took a lot longer to get around to.  And grocery shopping never happened.  So, my roommate and I were living out of the pantry/freezer/fridge for this week.

So…with all that being said…some good stuff has been going down these past two weeks…so let’s take a look at some of the highlights!

1.  Universal Studios Florida


It’s Marvel Superheroes, it’s Harry Potter, it’s rides, rides, rides.  And I had an absolute blast.  I met Captain America (he told me I had beautiful green eyes!), which had to happen as he is the favorite superhero of my nephew, Chace.  I flirted with the driver of the Knight Bus at Diagon Alley in Universal as well.  SO MUCH FUN.  That being said, I vastly prefer Disney to Universal, but it was actually nice to step away from the Disney monster and do something I’ve been wanting to do, but couldn’t pull myself away from Disney.  HA!  And thank goodness for my friend, Jenn, who was willing to go on the thrill rides with me.  Cathy refuses.  She’s a big baby.  OH…and I bought a wand.  I have my own Harry Potter type of wand.  It’s Ivy…with a Unicorn Hair core.  And I loved it because I was able to cast magical spells at both of the Harry Potter lands at each Universal Studios theme park in Florida.  It takes so little to make me happy.

2.  Toasted
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Eating out with me can be…difficult at times.  Thank you Celiac disease and lactose intolerance.  That being said, while I was in Orlando, thanks to my Find Me Gluten Free app, I found the most perfect place to dine.  In fact, we (Jenn, Cathy & myself) ended up having dinner there three times.  The place is called Toasted, and it specializes in Crafted Grilled Cheese & Burgers.  And…they have gluten-free buns, bread, and veggie burgers.  They also have vegan cheese.  This…was my happy place.  To top all of that off…they had gluten-free fries.  And, let me tell you, the Truffle Oil & Rosemary fries were to die for.  We learned, after our first visit, that one order of fries would do for the three of us.  Amazing sandwiches.  I had a different one each night…never got sick.  Let’s hear it for gluten-free dining done right.  If you find yourself in the Winter Park area of Orlando…go and check them out.

3. Gluten Free Snack Cakes
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Okay…I admit it.  I love my desserts.  I have tried, for ages, to give them up.  But the sweet tooth reigns supreme.  For sure.  And, after getting my roommate a little tipsy on her birthday, I took her grocery shopping.  And bought a bunch of stuff I didn’t need but wanted to try.  And, despite trying to be a little better about my choices…I discovered a new product from Schär‘s Sch’nacks!  These delightful little treats are simply a gluten-free, unrolled version of a Swiss Roll.  They are little single serve cakes that are filled with cream and dipped in German chocolate.  And they are light, and amazing.  I have to resist buying them too often…but a treat every now and again is always fine.  There are 10 cakes per package…and I only have one after dinner each night.  Seriously…a worthy investment for an every-now-and-again treat.  Back to some fruits and vegan yogurts after this.  And I’m back to cooking real food…and not just living out of the fridge/freezer/pantry…which is also a plus.

4.  Road Bike Shoes
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Today, I meandered over to Schwinn in Clarksville, Indiana, and purchased a pair of road bike shoes.  Now that I have a road bike, I figured I needed to get the clip-in shoes so I could ride it.  They are very nice at Schwinn and even discounted the price of the shoes and put the cleats in for me.  YAY!!  I hope to get fitted to my bike next weekend, time permitting!  Crossing my fingers.  Then, I get to practice clipping in and out…and probably taking a few spills during said process.  It’s actually…kind of exciting.  Not the falling part, but getting the necessary gear and stuff done to get out onto my bike.

5.  Running my fastest mile at my favorite 5K

 


Friday was not only Earth Day, it was the running of the Pro.Active For Life 5K in Frankfort, Kentucky.  I go to Frankfort quite often for the races, and while 5K races are one of my least favorite distances, this just happens to be my favorite 5K race.  It’s not just the race itself, but the people.  Frankfort, honestly, some of the best people in that running community.  I can’t say it enough.  Not only did I win my age division this year, but I pulled off a 6:53 mile.  Shocking myself.  Even more shocking…the entire run was pain-free.  And…I was only 6 seconds off my PR (also set at this race).  Stronger every day.  Trying to be really smart when it comes to my training.

6.  A long, solo, pain-free Saturday morning run

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So, Friday night I churn out a speedy 5K (even if my finishing picture looks like I’m just cruising, LOL!), knowing that Saturday, I was on my own for my longest run since…forever.  I am signed up for (although still not 100% sure I’ll be running) a marathon in June.  Bib transfer can only happen through May 1, leaving this Saturday the only chance I had for attempting a long marathon-training type run.  And, I had to do it solo, as everyone I know is either recovering from Boston, running Big Sur, running London, running Derby or running Flying Pig.  So, they are either recovering, out of town, or tapering.  So, Saturday morning, I laced up, still feeling good, and went out for 20 miles in my area.  No crossing the river (it was Thunder Over Louisville day anyway…so this was probably better in the long run…ha…I made a punny).  So, I just sort of went.  I never pushed my pace…I ran comfortably and just sort of made the route up.  The last 5 miles, however, I decided to make the toughest.  I don’t know why.  I’m sadistic like that.  So I hit up the Fast Freddie route…which is HILLS FOR DAYS!…and came out of it better than I even expected.  Once again…no pain.  And 20 miles done.  Alone.  And way better than I dreamed.  WITHOUT ANY PAIN!  I spent the rest of the day out and about, doing some grocery shopping and regular shopping and eating good food for recovery and fuel.  This…was the type of run I mentally needed.  And while it does make me feel better, I still don’t know if I’ll run in June.  I’m pondering for one more day before making that call.

7.  Game Of Thrones
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The new season of GoT starts tonight, and unlike last year, I’m set.  HBO Now was downloaded this morning and I’m set to watch this season as it airs, instead of getting spoiled.  I know I read the books, but the show has gone away from how the books actually worked out, so it’s nice that I won’t have to attempt (and fail) to avoid spoilers this time around.  It’s the little things in life.  SO…YAY!!  It’s the little things in life…like Season 6 of Game of Thrones.

8.  Caramelized Honey Latte at Starbucks

 


They keep selling out of it, but when I went to Florida this past week, I was introduced to Starbucks latest (and greatest) drink.  It’s the Caramelized Honey Latte and it is AMAZING.  It reminds me a lot of The Bee Sting, one of Ha Coffee’s signature drinks in Kauai (I miss Hawaii!).  I get mine with coconut milk and it is…OMG…to die for.  I had it hot and iced while in Florida. The Starbucks at Universal Studios City Walk sold out of them…and the one here in our local Target sold out too.  I think this drink is quite popular.  And it should be.  It is made of super YUM!!  If you haven’t tried it…RUN, do NOT WALK, to Starbucks and give it a try.  You’ll thank me for it.

So, there are some of the highlights these past couple of weeks.  Here’s to hoping for a bit more relaxed and easier week ahead.  And I hope everyone had a great week and enjoyed a beautiful weekend.  And for anyone racing this coming weekend…good luck!!