The Kauai Half Marathon – Poipu, HI (September 2, 2018)

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Me crossing the finish line of the Kauai Half Marathon – Kauai, Hawaii

Race: Kauai Half Marathon

Place: Poipu, HI (Island of Kauai)

Date: September 2, 2018

Time: 1:46:27

“That’s the thing about running: your greatest runs are rarely measured by racing success. They are moments in time when running allows you to see how wonderful your life it.”

~Kara Goucher

I went back.  I went back to an island and a race that both made me find myself and broke me…but this time I was only going half the distance.  Because I’m smart.  HA!

The trip itself is a whole different story all together, and something I may or may not blog about.  I did keep a travel journal the best that I could…but life just happens.  Let’s begin this story, then, with the expo.

As you know, my roommate (Cathy) and I have been to Kauai twice before.  Once with me in a boot with our friend, Jenn.  Needless to say, I didn’t race that year.  Then a year later with our friends Indy & Tawn.  That was the year I did the full marathon.  First marathon after recovering from the hip labrum and stress fracture.  It didn’t go as I had imagined…but, those hard races are what make us better.  It was the last marathon I ran until January 2018, when I did the Dopey Challenge.  My hip problems kept coming back and setbacks led to some cautious comebacks (of my own doing).

This time…no longer being guided by a coach and really just playing around with an old training schedule…I was going in with a plan.  And this time, we were traveling with some of our favorite people, Melissa and Paul Nolan!

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Cathy, Me, Melissa & Paul on the beach on Kauai at our resort.

This is an image from our first day at our resort.  I went for a short shake-out from travel run after a day of travel and getting groceries and coffee and ice cream and just checking out a bit of the island with our friends.  They headed to the beach…I went for an easy run and met them on the beach.  Because…the beach is life.  The next morning…was expo day.

But first…coffee and breakfast.  We picked up coffee at our go-to coffee spot on Kauai – Ha Coffee Bar!  And breakfast, we went to Living Foods Market and got breakfast.  For me, the coffee was the Kauai Sunshine and the crepe was the Gluten Free Roasted Vegetable Crepe.


After we were powered up with coffee and food…it was off to the Wilcox Health Sports and Fitness Expo at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa.  This hotel is GORGEOUS.  Seriously.  And I love visiting the expo and checking out the resort in the process.  For the most part, it’s a small and basic expo.  But…I. BOUGHT. SO. MUCH.  Maybe it’s because when I ran the marathon, all I bought was the big triathlon backpack (which they no longer have and that made me SO sad because I wanted another one since mine is getting old and I use it for ALL travel).  Maybe it’s because it was the 10th Anniversary.  But most of my spending money went out the window at the race expo.  That’s…pretty typical of me.  HA!

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Paul, Melissa & Me at the Kauai Marathon & Half Marathon Expo

I picked up my race bib and t-shirt (this time, I was listed) then went to scope out the merchandise and the little side booths in the small little room where the expo is held.  There is a lot going on in there, and it can seem really crowded and chaotic at times (especially in the official merchandise area), but it is worth spend the time checking out.  I ended up buying a half-zip, a towel, a magnet, a hoodie, a t-shirt…..maybe a few other small things that I don’t remember…but yeah…budget blown.  Melissa and Paul had met Bart Yasso before heading into the expo, and she snagged his last new book.  I went to say hi to Bart, as I’ve seen him and talked with him at numerous race expos, and he introduced me to the male marathon winner (who was also running the half this year…and would win it), Tyler.  Tyler also ran Chicago…small world.  After a chat, I went to see how the Nolan’s were doing with their shopping and found them as overwhelmed with the merchandise as I was.  But…we eventually wrapped things up and got ready to head out for the rest of the day.

Sightseeing was the plan and we hit up the Spouting Horn, Glass Beach, The Westernmost Bookstore in the United States (Talk Story Bookstore) in Hanapepe, where we also got to enjoy rainbows and a street fair, walked across the Hanapepe Swinging Bridge, and then hit up Verde (one of my favorite spots) for tacos for dinner!

We went to bed knowing we’d have to be up early enough if we were going to take part in Bart Yasso’s shake-out run that morning.  We were running a little late when we got there, but they had to check on the path (as there had been flooding because…hurricanes).  It was a path of treachery.  Lots of holes and puddles and ditches, but it was straight out and back, about a 5K.  I took it easy because…I wanted to see what I could do on the course the next day.  I was complimented, however, on my stride.  And that has NEVER happened.  I was one of the first few people back to the starting point.

Melissa and Paul came in next, and then we cheered Cathy in.  Yes…even Cathy got in on the action during the morning shakeout.  At the shakeout I got to talk to a lot of people, and everyone was SO nice.  I chatted races with a guy named Seth (we’re now friends on Strava).  I FINALLY got to meet the Marathon Goddess, Julie Weiss, who I have followed on social media for ages, like back when she was doing her 52 marathons in 52 weeks.  She is just as inspiring and sweet in person as she is on her social media.  I can say that for certain.  After a few group pictures, we went back to shower/change and then head out for the day to do more exploring.  And we just ended up winging it.  Breakfast for Cathy and I was a cookie that we split at Ha Coffee House.  My coffee was (my favorite for life) the Bee Sting.  And then…we went on an impromptu hike.

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Me at the top of Ho’opi’i Falls on Kapa’a Stream

If you know me…you know I’m not a fan of being outdoors.  Which is weird, because I am a long distance runner.  But the rest of my party were set on doing it, even though the trail was REALLY muddy and…quite not fun to navigate at times.  I won’t lie…I was nervous about slipping and falling.  I was nervous about twisting an ankle…or breaking a bone.  The endgame…a waterfall.  We meant to reach the bottom of it…but instead, we took the path less traveled and got to the top.  And for all the bitching and complaining I did about the hike (I mean…it was the day before the race)…it was AMAZING reaching that waterfall we set out to see.  And being on the top of it was so much better than the bottom.  This particular waterfall was used in the filming of Jurassic Park.  Hence…why it was on our radar.  The hike back felt less dangerous and slippery.  Melissa did slip up at one point, but she caught herself.  And we emerged, with VERY muddy shoes and a few bug bites.  But I burst out going, “I’m FREE!”  That being said, I wouldn’t change that experience for anything.  Even if I’m a princess who doesn’t really enjoy hikes in the woods.

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My signature dish for the night before the race: Toasted Purple Sweet Potatoes, Caramelized Onion, Avocado, Sriracha Mayo

I was cooking that night for our pre-race dinner.  I don’t like to chance things if I don’t have to.  So, I cooked up the purple sweet potatoes we bought at Costco, topping them with caramelized onions, avocado, and a drizzle of Sriracha Mayo.  It was amazing.  I’ve never had much luck with sweet potatoes pre-race, but figured this race wasn’t about time, it was about executing my strategy…so I went with it.  And I know some people swear by sweet potatoes for fuel…but they just don’t work on me.  But…everyone really enjoyed the dinner…and that was what counted.  Time to sleep.  For the following day…we raced.

Morning definitely came too soon.  I got up early to do my stretches, eat something, take my vitamins, slather on a good layer of sunscreen, get my hair put up and my part spritzed with sunscreen, and get dressed.  Cathy wanted to be out the door early…as the race starts at 6 am.  Like…before the sun can get too high in the sky.  We were a little late on the time, but we all got out the door with pre-workout, fuel, pre-race eats, and all our water bottles.  We piled into the car, and Cathy drove part of the course before the road closed to get a good spot to park for the start of the race.  We headed toward the little area where the runners would gather to use the bathrooms, stretch, warm-up, eat some fruit, hydrate.  Melissa needed to use the bathroom (because…she was coming up on 5 months pregnant here…which she hadn’t really mentioned to the world yet…but it’s out now, so I can write about it)…and the lines were long.  She had a pregnancy meltdown, but went to see if she could find a place to use the bathroom.  She had talked about not doing the race…but I wasn’t about to let her come this far and at least not give it a shot.  Apparently, a Starbucks let her in to use the bathroom.  So that was awesome.  The runners had already been marched down to the start line, and that was drawing close.  I left Cathy and Paul to wait for Melissa to head that way and get a good starting spot.  Not up front, but close enough to feel good about my pace when the race spaced out a bit.

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Cathy’s sign at the Kauai Marathon & Half Marathon!

The blessing was sung by the natives and the National Anthem was being sung when I spotted Melissa’s top knot of her hair.  I waived them in and they ducked in to stand next to me in the corral.  We were sent off to conch shells being blown (my favorite start line, hands down!).  And just before I took off, the three of us took a selfie.  It’s on their phone and we haven’t put up our shared Google Drive yet…so I can’t show it to you.  Then Melissa gave me a hug and told me to run fast.  I told them to have a good race and headed off, waving to Cathy holding her “Run The Fences Are Down” sign with the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park on it.  She made the official video.  I’ll link it here.

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Me at the start of the Kauai Half Marathon

And so…it was time to put my plan into action.  I know that the first seven miles of this race are a steady uphill.  So, my plan was to settle in for those, and push just hard enough to keep it comfortable and challenging.  I admit, my first mile was faster than I would have liked, but I was in the crowd and seeking space.  But I eased back on the accelerator as I entered into the second mile.  And as the climb (it’s gradual until Mile 5) continued, I eased back a bit more.  I ran with a local who was doing the full, in bare feet.  He looked over and asked if I was doing the half or full.  I told him the half.  He said I had a good pace.  I told him I was impressed he was doing the race in bare feet.  He replied with a native, “Mahalo.”

At Mile 4…I spotted the rainbow.  YES!  Another rainbow during my Kauai race.  I even said, “Look! A rainbow!” to those running near me.  But they ignored me and just kept plugging away.  I passed some runners who were already struggling in the humidity/heat, but I knew…this is where you kept it simple and easy.  Don’t race here. Race at the end.

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Rainbow at the finish line of the Kauai Marathon & Half Marathon

At Mile 5, you start the climb into the Tunnel of Trees.  Mile 6 is about halfway through.  This is my favorite part of the race, because it is absolutely STUNNING.  The views are incredible.  You’re shaded by the trees.  And it’s just…amazing.  It’s amazing.  I fueled at the halfway mark with my Honey Stinger gel, and drank down some water, which I had been doing consistently, because I know how humid and hot this race is, so I figured I’d start that hydration train rolling early.  As I passed Mile 7…I knew it was time to hit the gas.

This is probably the only time you will see negative splits on any of my races.  I usually go out too fast and then sort of dye at the end (fly and die).  But this time, I conserved my speed for the final back half…which was more of a gradual downhill toward the beach where the finish line was.  I ticked off the miles, running strong and picking up the pace where I could.  The heat was starting to get to me around Mile 10, just before we stopped sharing the course with the marathoners.  They would turn to the right and take on those mountains (been there, done that).  I turned left and knew I could push it still, even though now the runners would be out in full sun to the finish.  It’s fine.  knew I could do this.

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Me receiving my medal at the Kauai Half Marathon finish line

We ran down neighborhood streets, where the locals were out to cheer us on.  There was a guy with a big, white Santa beard, and someone behind me said, “HEY SANTA!”  It made me laugh, not going to lie.  Miles 11 and 12 felt hard because they were sunny, but I knew when I passed Living Foods Market, I knew I was close.  I took the opportunity to see what I had left in the tank, and managed to pull out the energy to pick it up and cross the finish line strong.  I felt amazing.  And, at that time, that was my perfect race pace for my upcoming marathon for the goal I was hoping to hit (although, with the sudden break in my training plan due to parting ways with my coach and striking out on my own, I wasn’t holding my breath). I got my medal hung around my neck and Ron Wiley from Kong Radio announced my name as I crossed.  There was no “Brady Bunch” attached to it this time around.  HA!

I was quite happy with my time, given how challenging this course was.  I slipped into a sun shirt after snapping a few photos with my medal and went to check out if there was anything I could necessarily eat at that point.  There was fruit…and coffee.  So that happened.  Cathy set a towel down on the ground and we sat down to wait for the rest of our party.  There really isn’t a way to live track them, so we just had to guesstimate their placement.  They checked in at one point, so we had an idea of their finish time.

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Paul, Melissa and the person they picked up on the run, crossing the finish line at the Kauai Half Marathon.

We did eventually move to the finish line, where we got to see the first female finisher for the marathon come in.  No tape.  But her name was announced.  And she looked fantastic for having taken on that course.  Cathy wandered off to go to the turn before you have the straightaway to the finish line, and would text me when they were coming in.  When the text came, I readied my camera…and Paul and Melissa crossed the finish line…with a friend they made along the way.  It was her first half marathon and her friends had left her…so they brought her along on their run.  They looked like they were having a blast.  And, as I told her at the finish, that was the first time I had seen Melissa happy at the end of  a race.

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YAAAAAAAAAAS!!

We had some photo moments at the finish line, and I even sent Melissa back to inquire about getting a medal for the baby.  They weren’t sure they’d have enough, so I ended up contacting the race via e-mail and we were able to go in and pick one up the day after.  They ended up having extras.  So…YAY!!  I was so proud of her, because she had been doubting herself all evening and morning leading into the race, but I knew if she started, she would finish.  And, she has a built-in cheerleader and running partner with Paul there, so she wouldn’t be alone.  All I told her was that she had to make that halfway point and she could walk it in if she had to at that point.  She did great.  And she didn’t have to walk it in.

We showed them to our little spot in the shade where they could take off their shoes, relax, and get some refreshments.  The volunteers remembered Melissa as “the pregnant lady” from the expo, which was super amazing!!  They helped gather up some of the snacks and we all went back to have a sit and just take in some of the finishers still coming in.  We rested and relaxed and talked and took pictures, but the race was winding down and we had to still make the walk to wherever Cathy parked the car.  She knew.  We didn’t.  We had been running when she transported herself to that finish line from the start.  So, we gathered everything up…and started walking…but not before taking some photos near the finish line.

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Paul, Melissa & Me at the finish line of the Kauai Marathon & Half Marathon

So, my official results of the Kauai Half Marathon are that I finished in 1:46:27.  That’s amazing to me!  For real!  Is it my fasted half marathon time this year?  Nope.  Sadly, I think that belongs to Dopey.  HA!!  How does this happen to me?  I race before a race before a race, and still pull off a fast time.  But this is a tough, tough course, and to say I did it in less than half the time it took me to struggle through the full…total win! I was 63/1561 finishers overall! That’s top 100!! I was the 15/992 women to cross the finish line. And I was 5/143 people in the my age division! I seem to be clinging to this 5th place benchmark these days.  I am not satisfied with it.  LOL!

Oh…and we ran into Bart Yasso again too.  He asked me how I did, and I told him I was the 15th female overall.  And he was totally happy for me and so genuine, as he always is.  This is one of many reasons why I refer to him as my “Running BFF.”  From there, we went back to the resort to shower and change…and we headed out to the Kauai Coffee Plantation that day…and it was the perfect ending to a race day.  That and the pho we ate later that night at a random establishment we found in a strip mall.  But I might save that for another post.

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Me and Bart Yasso after the Kauai Half Marathon!

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

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

Race: United Airlines NYC Half Marathon

Place: New York, NY

Date: March 18, 2018

Time: 1:41:29

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

Two things though:

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

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

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

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

NOT IMPRESSED!

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

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

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

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We love flight delays…NOT!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I digress…

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Race Expo time!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Running through Times Square during the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon

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

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

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

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

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

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Melissa and Paul running toward Central Park!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or at least get a cute winter hat.

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

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

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

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

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

Race: Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: April 29, 2017

Time: 1:43:12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So…delay #1 was in the works.

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

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

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

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

And then…another delay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did I mention that I was starving?

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

Everyone was.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I felt…miserable.

But I am nothing if not persistent.

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

And there it was…the turn!!

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

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Me crossing the finish line of the KDF miniMarathon

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

DONE.

I was…done.  I also felt like crap.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s my takeaway…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh yes…you know what??  It was only a matter of time before Disney lured me back to the other coast.  So often, for convenience, you see my Run Disney posts from Disney World.  Let’s face it…Florida is a lot easier to get to than California.  But…I have a goal.  An achievable goal.  And that is to run ALL the Disney Races.  So, you know, eventually I had to return to Disneyland.  I hadn’t been here in over 3 years (I ran the Disneyland Half Marathon in 2013).

It was good to be back.  The whole thing, however, was unraveling from the very start.  Let me start at the beginning…

After getting back from my trip to Birmingham to visit my family over Christmas, I realized my OTHER…note that I say…OTHER hip was starting to twinge at me.  I had to run a lot of hills in my parents’ neighborhood…there is no avoiding them…so I chalked it up to that and went about my training…with very little slowing me down.  Over the New Year, I did my last training run of 14 miles ahead of my taper for the Star Wars Light Side Half while in Columbus, Ohio.  It was after this run that the hip really started to get angry at me.  In fact, that day, I was hobbling around and this started to concern me.  I felt better the next morning though, a Monday, and went out for my speed work.  I did that fine, just slightly missing my assigned pace.  Drove back to Indiana, did grocery shopping, and felt okay.  Got up on Tuesday and went for a run.  The hip twinged a few times, but I slowed down and got it done.  I felt fine afterwards.  And then…on Wednesday, I got up to do my run and stretches ahead of my spin class and…I couldn’t get through my one legged squats without cringing.  I went out and started my dynamic warmups and had to stop.  I sat outside and cried.  The left hip was not happy.  I went to spin…and it did fine there…but running wasn’t happening.  It was rough from there on out.

I contacted my former physical therapist, and asked her opionion on what the issue might be.  She gave me a few stretches to do…and Cathy researched, figuring it had to be my hip flexor and not the labrum as the pain was presenting itself differently.  I wasn’t so sure, but went with it, adding some hip flexor stretches to my routine, in lieu of the dynamic stretches and plyometrics.  I went to spin 2 more times…but other than that, I rested this hip.

I even put in a call to my orthopedic doctor, but he was booked solid through after I was already leaving for this race series. I was told he would call and go over things I could do.  When I didn’t hear from him Friday or Monday, my panic mode kicked in.  I called Tuesday, leaving a message that I was leaving on Thursday morning.  No word.

But this craziness doesn’t stop there.  Wednesday night rolls around and the third on this trip, my friend and Cathy’s sister, Amanda, comes over.  You see, we paid for her to come on this adventure with us.  She always wanted to see California, and figured this would be a fun way to do it.  Girl’s trip…WOOHOO!!  She was pretty excited leading up to it…and we stayed up a bit that night discussing what we would be doing, while I prepped breakfast for the morning before the early airport journey.  Then, we crashed out.

Apparently, around 1 am, Cathy said her sister knocked on her door and said that she was sick. Cathy got up and got her some of my tea…it’s SO good on the stomach…and that didn’t help her stomach issues.  At about 3:30 am, Cathy heard me watching my Instagram story…and knocked on my door.  She asked if I had anything that could help Amanda out.  All I had were Rolaids, so we tried that.

No go.  When I got up with my alarm at 5 am to stretch and then get breakfast ready, it was apparent that Amanda was not coming with us.  So…Cathy and I made breakfast, and Amanda called her husband to take her home.  He said this was probably brought on by anxiety…which is weird, because Amanda has traveled further than California with us before with no issues.  I’ve never seen her as a nervous traveler.  So…who knows.

Cathy and I packed up our stuff and her mom picked us up to go to the airport.  We checked in and walked the terminals until it was time to line up for boarding.  We got settled on our flight out of Louisville to Phoenix, Arizona.  Cathy, thankfully, slept for about 3 of those hours. When we landed, I called my orthopedic doctor’s office and talked to the receptionist.  I explained that I was told he would call before I left, and here I was, on my way to a race weekend with 2 distances on tap, a sore hip, and no answers.  She actually went and got him out of a room to talk to me.  After listening to the symptoms, he said it sounded like a hip flexor strain and that a cocktail of Tylenol and Ibuprofen would help with that.  I thanked him and said that, more than likely, I’d be making an appointment with him after this weekend. But now I at least had a plan.

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

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

The flight from Phoenix to Burbank, California was short and sweet.  We disembarked in the rain and chilly weather. It was warmer in Louisville than it was in Los Angeles that day.  Go figure.  We got our rental car and headed out to grab lunch at In-N-Out Burger (their fries are gluten free…so my lunch was fries.  Healthy, I know!).  And then, it was onto the hotel to check in and then…yep…head over to Downtown Disney and enter into the Disneyland Hotel for the expo.  This did involve going through security to get into Downtown Disney, and then a downhill descent into a parking garage to get my race bib.  I was in the first corral and one of the lower numbers, so it was pretty easy-going.  With that, we walked back up and into the hotel proper to duck into the Exhibition Hall and to take in the rest of the expo…as well as pick up my t-shirts.  I was determined not to spend a fortune at the expo, so Cathy kept me away from the Garmin table.  HA!  But, as it was, I was already needing to spend over $100 on compression shorts, a recommendation from my former physical therapist after seeing my post about the hip flexor strain on Facebook.  So…that happened.  I went to get in line for the official merchandise, but was told it was over a 2 hour wait.  I had other things to do, so I texted my friend, Melissa, who was coming in for the races the following day to see if she could pick them up if the line wasn’t crazy.  She agreed to do just that.  So, with my new compression shorts and a couple of new (and needed) BondiBands for my running costumes, we left the expo and went to return things to the hotel room.  The rest of that night is a blur.  I don’t even think we ate dinner.  I stretched, iced, foam rolled and went to bed.

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

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

Friday was all about Los Angeles…and we hit it hard!  We woke up early and prepared a
breakfast from the stuff I had on hand.  We had brought some of Annie May’s Sweet Cafe’s sandwich buns with us…so I loaded them up with some peanut butter I brought and placed some sliced banana on top.  It was SO good.  And it was just the right way to start off the day.  We hauled down to the car, grabbed some coffee at a local place called Coffee Code, then we were making our way down to the California Science Center.  We alotted plenty of time to get through morning traffic and it paid off, but we still arrived about 30 minutes before the place actually opened.  That was okay, though, because what we were not aware of at the time was that the California Science Center was right next to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which, for you runners out there, you will know as the place where Joan Benoit Samuelson crossed the finish line to win the very first Olympic Women’s Marathon!  I was all about standing around and taking pictures (and doing videos) of this place.  And that was a good way to kill some time.  After a little stroll here and there, we entered the California Science Center and got ready to go see the Space Shuttle Endeavour.  I think Cathy was determined to be the first there…and while we were the first on the escalator, we were definitely not first over to the shuttle…but they weren’t too busy at the time.  We pretty much skipped much of the exhibit to jump right to the good part…the space shuttle.  Although, we did pause to touch one of the wheels in the exhibit, because when you have the opportunity to touch something that has been in space, you touch it!!  Space shuttles look fake to me, when I see them in person.  It’s bizarre.  That being said, Endeavour is beautiful…and the lengths that had to be taken to get her to California is still a fantastic story.  We stayed and shopped and then went to seek out more of the center, taking a wrong turn, then turning around and discovering that in addition to the space shuttle, they had an Apollo, Mercury, and Gemini capsule as well.  Three more points of interest…and we went and took in each and every one of them.

Me in front of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

Me in front of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

From there…we made another long drive (seriously…how do those of you who live/work in LA survive…it takes hours to get places!) to make our lunch stop…Erin McKenna’s Bakery in LA.  This is her third shop and I have, proudly, been to all 3.  Love her stuff.  We each got bagels for lunch with vegan cream cheese…and then a box of goodies to bring back to the hotel to have during the time we were staying.  This included 2 scones, a doughnut and a cinnamon roll – all gluten free and vegan.  And, yes, delicious!  Our next stop was supposed to be Pressed Juicery in the same area for one of their Freezes…but the Pressed Juicery there was not a Freeze shop.  So, with a little Google-fu…I found one that wasn’t too far away and we drove down there.  We parked in a parking garage and went to go get our treats.  I wish we had this in Louisville…it’s ice cream made simply from real juice and topped off with healthy goods.  Seriously…we need this.  We walked around while we ate and then went back to the car.  Turns out the parking garage where we parked was for customers of a grocery store only.  And we needed a receipt to get out.  So, we had to go inside and buy some stuff, which worked out.  I picked up some AMAZING kombucha (I am obsessed, but when you have tummy problems…it helps!), some water, and a few other goods.  With receipt in hand, we were out and back on the road.  This time, back to Burbank to hit up a boutique store called Pin-Up Girl Boutique.  I

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

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

have friends in California who rave about it and my good friend Tawn actually sent suggestions of what she’d like to see Cathy and I try on.  I was a bit more into this than Cathy was, but we tried it all on, and the sales people were lovely, and I really wanted to buy it all…but…it was only my first full day in California and I couldn’t drop $150 on a dress at that moment.  I will be shopping there though!  It took 2.5 hours to get from Burbank back to the hotel near Disneyland.  It was late…and I had a race in the morning…so…dinner was an orange and a Glutino gluten-free toaster pastry.  Not what I would usually have for dinner before a race…but it was all we had at the time and really all we had time for.

In the morning…it was time to do the…

Disneyland Star Wars Light Side 10K

Disneyland Star Wars Light Side 10K

Star Wars Light Side 10K

Race: Star Wars Light Side 10K

Place: Disneyland, Anaheim, California

Date: January 14, 2017

Time: 50:13

Compression shorts…KT Tape…and ACE Bandages.

Welcome to my morning.  I got up about 30 minutes before Cathy’s alarm was to go off, just to get myself ready.  This meant doing my hip stretches that I found for hip flexor issues and the others I’d been doing for awhile.  I also took my Tylenol/Ibuprofen cocktail my orthopedic doctor had mentioned…both the night before and that morning.  Normally, it is not recommended to medicate before a race, but, dammit, I needed to get through 2 in 2 days…I was willing to do just about anything at this rate.

Cathy got up with the alarm and we ate a light breakfast, as we had extra large bananas (Walgreens only had King Kong sized bananas when we went there for ACE Bandages) to split on race mornings…so it was a basic nosh on dry cereal with some water.  I went to change into my outfit for the day.  Not the normal running gear as I was costuming as Rey, from Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  I wore my compression shorts though, and Cathy wrapped the ACE Bandages around my torso and left thigh, just as the video my former physical therapist sent to me.  She secured it with the clips and put tape over those.  My right foot (the one that the plantar flared up on a month or so prior) was taped and I put on the capris and the costume top I was using.  My hair went into the standard pigtails and my new BondiBand I picked up at the expo went on my head.  No compression for this one.  The costume didn’t allow for it.  But…despite the hip issues, this was the shorter of the races.  I figured, while it would feel weird not to have compression sleeves on my legs, I could handle it for 1 race.

I got pinned up and we were out the door, stepping into the unseasonably cool California morning air, joining the myriad of other runners that morning at the crosswalk to step onto Disneyland property and enter into Downtown Disney.  There was a security checkpoint to go through first.  They searched bags if you had them and, some people, randomly, were sent through the metal detectors.  I had no bags, so I was an easy pass.  Cathy’s backpack is clear…and the security people LOVE that.  Makes her journey through the checkpoints easier.

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

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

We strolled past a very crowded Starbucks and continued on toward the staging area.  As we got to the other security checkpoint, my friend Melissa texted me and asked where I was.  I told her I had just passed through Downtown Disney.  She and her husband had just gotten into Downtown Disney…so they were on their way.  I told her that Cathy and I would wait just past the checkpoint…and that’s what we did.  We saw a LOT of BB-8 costumes…and a few Star Trek costumes too.  HAHA!!  Ah, the Trekkies are hillarious!  Melissa arrived, dressed as Maz (also from Star Wars: The Force Awakens), and Paul (that’s her husband) was Boba Fett.  We hugged and both she and I limped (her hip/knee had been a problem since her first marathon the weekend before…can you say BEAST MODE?!) over to the staging area.  Of course…more pictures had to happen…last minute bathroom breaks…I had half a banana to eat…that sort of stuff.  We did have to start thinking about heading to our corrals, though…so we walked together until I had to break off to head to Corral A.  Melissa gave me a tight hug…told me not to even worry about my time and to just have some fun.  And if she and Paul caught up to me if I had to walk it…they would join me.  I love my friends.  Seriously.  I love them.

I got to my corral in time for some of the morning banter with our race emcees that morning.  They were actually quite funny.  And Disney spares no expense, for sure.  I LOVED that so much of Corral A was in costume!!  There were LOTS of Princess Leia’s…for obvious reasons.  In fact, the first woman to finish was dressed as Princess Leia…which seems fitting, for sure.  I was trying not to have a meltdown or panic attack due to my hip. I knew one of two things would happen.  I would get to that start line and take a few steps and be able to go…or I would have to walk the 6.2 miles to the finish.  Whichever it was, I was going to get to that finish line.

After the National Anthem was sang by a Disney cast member, the wheelchair race was sent off first.  Only a few minutes later, the corral was discarding any mylar blankets or other clothing they brought to keep warm.  No baked potatoes allowed across that start line…it would screw with the timing.  The countdown was given…the fireworks went off…and Corral A was underway.  I walked up to the start mat, then took a few tentative steps at a jog…then kept it conservative at the jog, realizing that while the hip twinged a few times, I could run.  Not all out fast or anything…but I wasn’t struggling either.  And so…the race was on.

Rey on Hoth

Rey on Hoth

That being said, my intention to stop and use the photo ops along the way…went to the wayside.  Once I got moving, I was afraid that if I stopped, the pain would settle and I wouldn’t get started again.  So, I just ran…and prayed a little…that my ACE Bandage would hold…that my hip wouldn’t do something awful.  Let’s remember…I had a half marathon looming the next morning.  The goal was to just run this and still be able to walk around at the end of it.  My friend Melissa had warned me about the one and only hill (you get sent through this tunnel thing…so down a hill…then through…then back up, but the rest of the course is flat.  F-L-A-T.  Which is infuriating to me, as I ROCK flat courses, and if the hip had been behaving…I probably would have kicked this course’s ass.  UGH!  Seriously, it feels like I can’t catch a break.

Rey in the trash compactor

Rey in the trash compactor

That being said…I almost broke the don’t stop rule when I saw the life-size, moving around, BB-8 on the course for photo ops!!  BB-8 is my FAVORITE…and I was SO tempted…but I knew stopping probably would have been worse…so I kept going, with very little pain at all.  I ran the streets…through the parks…pushing on past the water stops.  For a 10K, I don’t run with a fuel belt, but the cold air and my slower than usual pace meant I wasn’t really dehydrating myself.  My first mile of this race was the slowest…my third…the fastest.  I slowed it down between miles 4 and 5…but picked it up when I knew the last mile was ahead.  I’m not talking breaking any speed records.  I never got faster than a 7:38 pace (and that was mile 3)…but I wanted to finish strong.  And I saw that finish line and just went for it.  I could hear Cathy screaming at me from the cheer squad seats (she got in there somehow…I never know how she pulls these things off)…and powered over that finish line.

What really kept me going…the fact that I knew the medal for this race was BB-8.  I

FINISHER of the Star Wars Light Side 10K

FINISHER of the Star Wars Light Side 10K

walked through the finisher’s area, getting my medal…a mylar blanket…a box of goodies and some water. And then…I made my way out to the staging area, where Cathy met me.  She was going on-and-on about my time and how she was checking the tracking and going, “Well…she’s running…that’s good!”  HA!  They had some fun photo ops out, so while the lines were still short, we took advantage of those.  Then…it was time to head back to the hotel.  Our friend Tawn was coming in from Fresno that morning (she left SUPER early to get down there around 9 am)…and I was ready to shower and eat some real food.  The problem was, the exit was blocked by racers.  Okay…turned around…and tried to go through one of the hotels, but instead of asking someone, Cathy just kept turning corners out of the lobby, and then put us in an Emergency Exit area…where we got trapped.  TRAPPED!  Insert me starting to bitch about being cold and wanting a shower…and now being stuck.  We finally got out, thanks to the help of some of the Disneyland employees…and after asking if we were okay or needed water, we were now on the road back to the hotel.

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

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

I showered.  And then I rested a little while we awaited Tawn’s arrival.  We had a reservation for a breakfast at Goofy’s Kitchen.  And Tawn arrived in time to change, do her makeup and for us to get to the restaurant, get pictures with Goofy, and get seated.  It was the best way to kick off Day #1 of Disneyland adventures for sure.

We spent the entire day at California Adventure…and that night, my friend Alison and her family drove down to meet us at the Pizza Press for my traditional gluten-free pizza before a race.  She and her family are amazing, awesome, and just all around good people.  It was a blast…and I’m glad I FINALLY got to meet her in person.  And her son, Evan, who we nicknamed Mr. Incredible a few years ago.  He really is incredible!  We sadly did have to say our goodbyes though, because Sunday’s 3:00 am wake-up for a 5:30 am race

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

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

was impending.

Oh…so my official results of the Disneyland Star Wars Light Side 10K are that I finished in 50:13.  Not too bad given the circumstances!!  I mean…FOR REAL! I was 296/11,606 finishers overall.  I was the 33/6816 female to cross the finish line.  And I was 5/1216 runners in my age division.  This hips issue is driving me nuts.  I can’t even fathom how much better I could have done had I been able to just go for it.  Seriously…these results are both amazing…and frustrating at the same time!  Given the circumstances…I will take it!!

The rest of the day was fun at Disneyland…but at the end of the day, the hip was done and my limp was starting to return.  We turned in after the pizza stop and I took my last round of the Tylenol/Ibuprofen cocktail and turned in for the night.  The following morning…did not go as smoothly…


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

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

Disneyland Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon

Race: Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon

Place: Disneyland, Anaheim, California

Date: January 15, 2017

Time: 1:47:53

My alarm went off at 3 am.  My friend Tawn was up and in the shower.  She’s a Run Disney vet and is AWESOME at the routine.  Wake up early…get out the door…do race…do the parks.  She’s not a runner, but she comes out to cheer and to just…be there at the finish line.  So, while she was in the bathroom, I got up to take that Tylenol/Ibuprofen cocktail and to stretch.  I took a few steps toward the table I had things set out on…and knew that today I was in a whole heap of trouble.  I was limping.  I was limping bad.  I was sore…and I had a 13.1 mile race ahead of me.

THIS. WAS. BAD.

I might have cried as I did my hip stretches and foam rolled.  Cathy got up just before the alarm that morning, and we started to just roll through race morning prep.  While Tawn did her makeup and hair, I got dressed and Cathy prepped some KT Tape to put across my hip flexor.  We did that…and I pulled the compression shorts on over that…then she did the ACE Bandage wrap.  Over that went my running shorts and then…the BB-8 running sparkle skirt I purchased SO long ago.  Seriously…my hip was being held together with tape, bandages, and a lot of prayer.  I was not in a good place, physically or mentally, on half marathon morning.  Not one bit.  But, I finished getting ready, having to modify the bra top costume due to the low 40 degree weather in Los Angeles that morning.  I was NOT expecting these temps there.  Luckily, I had a bright orange shirt with me and it became the base layer.  I was layered everywhere…sports bra, t-shirt, BB-8 bra top on top…KT tape, compression shorts, ACE Bandages, shorts, and a skirt on the bottom half.  And every step…a challenge.  I ate my cereal to put something in my stomach and filled up my water bottles on my fuel belt with my nuun and water.  I grabbed one of the Godzilla-sized bananas for pre-race eats and the three of us were out the door, pretty much right on time.  I was not nervous like I was before the 10K.  Walking was a challenge…so I was downright freaking out.  I think I cried a few times on the way to the crosswalk to get over to Disneyland property and through security.  I branched off to the NO LINE group and held my cell phone up over my head as we went through the metal detectors.  Tawn and Cathy got through bag check quickly and we were making our way past the overrun Starbucks on the corner.  There was another one further in that was never as busy…so we did joke about that a little.  We got to the staging area, and I hadn’t heard from Melissa and Paul yet…so we just moved out of the way and listened to some of the music.

At this point…I think I had an all-out meltdown.  Both Tawn and Cathy were quick to give me hugs and reassurance.  The thing was…I was hurting.  And a half marathon is NO JOKE!!  Cathy said that it was possible that this race would be just like the last one…where I take a few steps and it’s all good. I hoped she was right.  I dried my eyes…got more hugs…and they sent me off to get into my corral.

Same system as before.  No Melissa or Paul to hug.  I wasn’t sure if they’d pass me or if I’d see them that day…but I stepped up to Corral A and got inside.  And I felt, very much, like I honestly didn’t belong there that morning.  The race emcees were back for more fun this morning, and they kept the mood light.  I was shivering, not completely from the cold…but my nerves were creeping in.  I never get nervous before a race…but I knew that I was going into this at about 50%…and it scared the shit out of me.

The National Anthem was played beautifully by a band and soon the wheelchair racers were off.  My corral ditched the mylar blankets or clothing keeping them warm and we all started to move up a bit more at the start line.  When the countdown happened, the fireworks went off, I walked toward that start line and took a few tentative steps at a jog.

PAIN!!  It was unpleasant pain from the start, but I was in the flow of runners, so I just pressed on, without pushing too much.  I thought so hard about ducking to the side and just walking…but I didn’t.  I kept my pace easy…and I just did what I could.  Once again, though, my plan to stop for photos went out the window. Any stopping today would be the worst thing possible…because as I learned at the Boston Marathon…it hurts SO much worse to start back up.  I hit the underpass hills again…and managed to navigate those and started through some of the parks.  I paid no attention to time clocks…I was focusing in on my form as best as I could.  I had to pass up the BB-8 photo op again…which sucked, since I was dressed as BB-8…but it was the only decision that made sense to me.  Running this didn’t make sense…but I paid a HELL of a lot for this race challenge…it was happening even if I had to slow to a walk.

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

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

But then…something fantastic happened.  As we came out of the park around Mile 4…I hear and see Cathy and Tawn, just screaming at me from the side of the route.  It was amazing.  Tawn recorded it and you can hear Cathy talking about how my form looked good and all that.  I was hurting…but it wasn’t bad at this point.  I could manage…even though I was wondering when I would have to drop to the side and take it to a walk.

We exited Disneyland soon after and hit the road.  As I rounded the corner, I heard someone yell, “HEY!  IT’S R2-D2.”  Wrong droid!!!  I am in orange…BB-8 is orange.  R2-D2 is blue.  SHEESH!!  The cheerleaders that lined this portion of the course was uplifting and it did make me move a little bit faster as I went past them.  Miles 5 & 6 ended up being my fastest, and also put me at a 10K time faster than the 10K I ran the morning before.  Cathy had been tracking me as she and Tawn went to get coffee and explore some of Downtown Disney and this fact impressed her for sure.

But it started to get rough soon after this.  Much of the crowds disappear at this point. But, there are plenty of people running with you.  But…Mile 9 going into Mile 10…was the best.  The 501st is out in all their gear.  You have just this long line of Star Wars characters and it is just…fantastic.  I mean, I’m running through and everyone is in character.  There was a phenomenal Obi-Wan Kenobi on the corner…with an accent and all…and that was SO amazing to me.  It was uplifting.  But after I was past them…that was when the pain really started to rear it’s ugly head.  My pace slowed way down for the last three miles…but at this point, I knew I was only 30 minutes at most away from a finish line.  I gritted my teeth…cried…a little. Maybe a lot.  And knew my right foot was blistering, which never happens, but I was now changing my stride to accommodate my hip.  UGH.  I started to really focus on each step, trying to to baby the hip, but trying to to push it too much either.

Disneyland Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon Finishers Medal

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

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

I thought I had picked it up for the final mile, but that ended up being my slowest mile of the day.  Go figure.  I could hear that finish line, and when I saw it, determination and stubbornness took over and I ran it as hard as I dared and could manage.  The announcer said, “It looks like we have a BB-8 coming in…Karen Brady!”  That made me at least smile, so at least my finish picture isn’t ugly crying or something.  I heard Cathy and Tawn just ahead of me as I limped past the photographers.  Cathy called me over for a picture at the finish line which hobbled over for.  They said that they would see me on the other side…and I went to get my finisher’s medal for the half marathon, my mylar blanket…and then my extra medal for completing the Star Wars Rebel Challenge!  After that, the snack box and water were handed over and I exited the finish area to re-enter the staging area…and Tawn and Cathy were there to hug me and greet me.  And I cried…again.

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

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

We didn’t hang around much after this.  I was hurting and we had Disneyland to properly explore that day.  We decided to head back to the hotel so I could shower, we could eat breakfast (Cathy split the last of the sandwich buns and we split the donut 3 ways) before heading out for the rest of the day.  We had a big day ahead of us…and while it was hard to move…I wanted to get the most out of my time with Tawn and my time at Disneyland.  We even did a thing…by getting the names of the Schulyer Sisters from the musical Hamilton on our Mickey ears and posing in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle!!  We are theater NERDS!  Honestly, in order to even be able to move that day, I put on a pair of leggins, and had Cathy do the ACE Bandage wrap I wore during the races, and I put my BB-8 skirt back on…because…I needed to cover the ACE wrap.

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

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

That being said, this pretty much meant I couldn’t pee all day. Luckily…I never really had to.  And I managed a full day at the park…had a blast…and ate an incredible dinner that night at Cafe Orleans.  Seriously…worth every painful step.

I guess some results are in order.  The official race results of the Disneyland Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon are that I finished in 1:47:53.  I was expecting 3 hours, so this was amazing to me.  Seriously, even I can’t figure out how I pulled off that time.  I was 422/12434 finishers overall.  I was 57/7028 women to cross the finish line.  And, I was 14/1253 in my age division.  Not too bad under these very hostile circumstances.  For real!  It still pisses me off because this was SO FLAT…and I want to run it as hard and best as I can.  Flat courses and I are BFFs.  But my body has let me down again.

My orthopedic doctor was unable to see me until February 1.  My hip is still…not good.  All running is off…I’m walking, spinning, and just trying out other non-impact means of just keeping my endurance and fitness up until I can get some answers.

Here’s hoping for the best!

And Disneyland…I’ll be back!

May the Force be with you!

May the Force be with you!

Recipe: Gluten Free S’mores Scones (plus bonus from Schar Gluten Free)

I have never been shy about my love of the products that Schar Gluten Free puts out on the market.  I have never had a complaint about any version of their gluten free take on a bread, cookie, candy, cracker, etc.  But one of my most favorite things that have introduced has to be their Gluten Free Honeygrams.
Gluten free graham crackers, my friends.

SO GOOD!

Well, with the weather cooling down…bon fires and s’mores are in season!!  And thanks to these amazing Honeygrams, the gluten-free community will never lack for the perfect vehicle for marshmallows and chocolate bars.

Are you drooling yet?

I was sent a fantastic Smores kit from Schar and got to work on a recipe.  Immediately, I knew I wanted to do something that I have great passion for…

Yep.

Breakfast.  And yes…SCONES!!  Although bagels were my second choice.  I might do that in the very near future!

Below is the recipe…but before you check that out, be sure you head over to http://www.smoreschar.com/ for a free sample pack and a coupon for $1.00 off!

And then come back and check out my recipe for these S’mores Scones, made with the help of Schar’s Honeygrams!

Recipe: Gluten Free S’mores Scones

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Ingredients:

For the Scones

  • 1 cup  gluten free bread mix (I used Mina’s Purely Divine)
  • 1 cup gluten free all-purpose flour (I used Cup4Cup)
  • 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 6 Schar Honeygram crackers put through a food processor or blender)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (I used Earth Balance)
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used So Delicious)
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoon milk (I used Silk Unsweetened Cashew Milk)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chunks/chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cup mini marshmallows

For the Glazes

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1-1/2 tablespoon water
  • 1/2 cup mini marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips or chocolate bars

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a baking mat.

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, graham cracker crumbs, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Cut in butter with pastry blender, two forks, or your hands until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Add in yogurt, egg, vanilla, and milk. Mix until just combined. Stir in chocolate chunks and marshmallows.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead about 5-6 times until dough just comes together. Shape dough into an eight inch circle. Cut into 8 pieces and place on prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until just starting to turn light golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

While scones are cooling, whisk together confectioner’s sugar and salt. Melt butter and water together over medium low heat. Add in marshmallows and stir until melted. Add to sugar mixture and whisk until combined and smooth. Drizzle over cooled scones.

Melt chocolate according to package instructions. Drizzle over scones. Allow to cool and harden before serving.

Serve.

Devour.

~*~*~

These are fantastic.  And they do bring that entire Smores experience and taste to your breakfast table.  Scones are fluffy and crumbly and these have an extra benefit of a sweet twist as well.

Remember to head over to Schar and get your sample pack of Honeygrams.  Trust me…no other gluten-free graham crackers taste like these.  Even better than the real thing!

#SmoreSchar

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: Pillsbury Gluten Free Sugar Premium Cookie Mix

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Gluten Free Sugar Cookies made from Pillsbury Gluten Free Sugar Premium Cookie Mix (and topped with Dollop Gourmet Hot Chocolate Spread Frosting and sprinkles)

Product: Pillsbury Gluten Free Sugar Premium Cookie Mix – $3.99+

I blame my neighbor.  I do.  Because she knows how much I like to cook and bake and make tasty treats for myself, my roomie, my friends, my co-workers, and just…people in general.  So, while she was out at one of the discount stores, she snagged me four (4)…yes…FOUR…boxes of the Pillsbury Gluten Free Sugar Premium Cookie Mix and one (1) box of the Immaculate Baking Company’s Gluten Free Fudge Brownie Cookie Dough.  I love it when she surprises me with gluten free goodies.

All that being said…I was out at Michael’s a couple of weekends ago and spotted a T-Rex cookie cutter.  Don’t judge.  My roommate loves dinosaurs.  Yes…she’s in her mid-30s…but…that’s just who she is.  And then…there was the Unicorn cookie cutter.  UNICORN COOKIE CUTTER.  I used to have a unicorn collection.  I am a Boston Marathon runner.  Unicorns are sort of my spirit animal.

Now, sugar cookies and I don’t have the best relationship.  Every time I have attempted to make them, be it from a mix or from scratch…they have been ultimate fail.  And, while the Pillsbury Gluten Free Sugar Premium Cookie Mix gives instructions for round cookies, I really wanted to make cut-out cookies.  So, learning from my past in sugar cookie baking, I made up the dough and wrapped it in Saran wrap before sticking it in the back of the fridge and letting it chill while I was out and about running errands that day.

That afternoon, when I returned…and called my dad to wish him a Happy Father’s Day…I set out rolling out the chilled dough between two pieces of plastic wrap, flattening it out.  Then, I took my new cookie cutters and carefully (there were some really tiny parts that were not easy to come out of the cookie cutter (hello unicorn horn)) cut out T-Rex and Unicorn shapes as I chatted with my dad.  The mix set up perfectly for this…and I kept it chilling when I wasn’t using it.  So, onto a baking sheet these cookies went and…BAM…into a preheated 375°F oven.

So, while these are virtually baking in my blog, let me tell you how easy this mix is to make.  All you need is the cookie mix, 1/2 cup of butter (I used Earth Balance Vegan Butter Sticks – room temperature), 1 tablespoon water, and 1 egg.  Simply combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl and mix until soft dough is formed.  From here, you can form dough by rounded teaspoons and put onto a baking sheet 2 inches apart…or you can chill it like I did (this was me being stubborn…I wanted cut-out cookies, dammit!) and roll it out after it’s chilled and cut out fun shapes like dinosaurs and unicorns.  Adults can have fun-shaped sugar cookies too, you know?

I lost track on the first batch as my dad was a fun and worthwhile distraction.  These bake for about 8-10 minutes, except in my oven, because it is old and doesn’t get as warm as it says at times.  So, the cookies weren’t ready after 10 minutes, so I figured I’d go for 2 more minutes.  Didn’t set a timer, and as I was rolling out the second batch and chatting with my dad…remembered those were in there and pulled them out.  The edges got a little toasted, but they were still fine.  I noted, much to my dad’s amusement, that the unicorns became fat unicorns.  They did spread slightly…but still resembled the original shape.

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T-Rex and Unicorn Cut-Out Sugar Cookies made from Pillsbury Gluten Free Sugar Premium Cookie Mix

While out grocery shopping early that weekend, I picked up a jar of Dollop Gourmet Hot Chocolate Spread Frosting.  And some green sparkle sprinkles for the dinosaur cookies.  I had rainbow sprinkles at home already for the unicorn cookies. HA!  So, after the cookies cooled and I was off the phone and not browning the edges of the rest of the cookies, I cooked dinner…and knew these cookies would be dessert.

I snagged one T-Rex and one Unicorn cookie and gave each a schmear of the Dollop Gourmet Hot Chocolate Spread Frosting.  Topped each off with some sprinkles…and dessert was ready.

I have been really impressed with the Pillsbury Gluten Free products, and these were no exception.  This mix was not only easy to make…but tasted great.  I always had a soft spot in my heart for sugar cookies (I used to bake them with all the neighborhood kids at a neighbor’s home every Christmas)…because they are so versatile.  Top them off with frosting, sprinkles, stuff them with ice cream, or more frosting…add nuts or chocolate chips…the possibilities are endless.  Sugar cookies are the ultimate decoration cookie.  And while I’m not big on frosting at all (I really am not a fan), these required delicious frosting (hence…Dollop Gourmet), and sprinkles…because sprinkles are awesome.

Know what else is awesome?  These cookies.  They have that buttery flavor, with a touch of the sweetness from the sugar in the mix.  I asked my roommate what she thought and she said they tasted just like “regular” sugar cookies.  And they should.  The only difference is rice flour and tapioca starch and potato starch replace the all-purpose flour that would go into regular ones.  These cookies have that nice crunch on the outer edge with a soft center.  SO good.  And this made SO many of these.  So, I have sugar cookies for days…and am wondering if I’ll ever run out at this point.  At least they are amazing and yummy.

So, let’s discuss what Pillsbury puts into their Gluten Free Sugar Premium Cookie Mix, shall we?  This mix is a blend of sugar, rice flour, tapioca starch, canola oil, potato startch, contains 2% or less of: salt, baking soda, cellulose, xanthan gum, cellulose gum, natural and artificial flavors.

As for nutrition information…keep in mind…these are sugar cookies.  Mmmm…cookies.  COOKIE MONSTER strikes again.  Anyway, a serving size is 1/18th of the mix (if you make the drop cookies, this box makes 3 dozen; if you make the cut-out cookies, it varies.  I got 22 cookies in mine).  A serving size (for drop) is 2 cookies and for the cut-outs 1 cookie.  This serving (when prepared per package instructions) will provide you with 160 calories, 6 grams fat, 3.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 25 mg cholesterol, 240 mg sodium, 24 grams carbohydrates, 14 grams sugars, 1 gram protein.

I am very happy with the mix that Pillsbury has created for those of us who, perhaps, missed the amazing cookies that a company like Pillsbury puts out.  I am also intending to use a box of this to make Strawberry Streusel Bars or Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars for the office birthday party that is happening next week.  Just have to decide on which one I want to make.  Trust me, with an office that usually turns its nose up at anything that is gluten-free, I wouldn’t serve this mix to them if I didn’t think it was worth it.

Thank you, Pillsbury, for making gluten-free baking mixes for those of us who love to have an easier and more convenient way to make cookies.  Especially sugar cookies.  Because sugar cookies are evil. But this was so easy and my cut-out cookies were…perfect.

And that always makes this cookie monster happy!!