Just keep taking chances and having fun: A KDF Marathon Wrap-Up

flyIt is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

-Theodore Roosevelt|The Man in the Arena

And just like that…it’s over.  Done.  Finished.  The race has been run and won and packed up.  Streets have been flooded by cars and not by athletic shoes pounding out a cadence that is either scripted by music in the earbuds or matching that racing heartbeat.  Crumbled white cups that used to hold water or Powerade have long been swept up.

It’s business as usual in Louisville, Kentucky.

This week, we had the official Wrap-Up meeting for the #KDFMarathon Ambassadors.

Let me just give you a little insight as to why this was so emotionally hard for me…

I was chosen to be a part of this amazing group of people back in the beginning of August.  So here I was, now a member of a group of 20 people that were hand selected by the Kentucky Derby Festival people to represent the Marathon/miniMarathon!  I was beyond honored, ecstatic, and ready to do what I could for this local race.

 

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The official announcement happened on August 5th for me…I was in the final group to be announced.

I had no idea how much these people and this position would change me.  Personally.  Emotionally.  I never expected or anticipated the impact that being a part of the KDF Marathon family would have on me.  But this has been one of the most rewarding things I have done in my life.

I’m almost 40 years old.  So that’s saying something.  Regardless of how average my life is.  HA!!

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For countless months and so many training runs…these people…this amazing, inspiring group of people…were my freakin’ backbone.  We saw each other through surgeries, recovery, losses, injuries, PRs, hard times, good times…you name it.  We stuck through it all together.  We would check in via phone, text, Facebook, e-mail…we truly became a family.  I have never seen a large group of different personalities just fall into such a happy place with each other.  Simply put…we worked.

When the photo above was taken, I knew maybe 2 of the three people in the group.  But I was talking and chatting with all of them, like I knew them for years, by the time the meeting wrapped up.  I was just getting back into the swing of things.  I had returned from Hawaii after giving my best (and ultimately, feeling let down by my performance) at the Kauai Marathon (I mean, it was my first major race back from my hip labrum tear).  Nothing hurt.  No pains.  I was ready to get excited to train for the KDF full marathon.  I had run it in 2014 as a pacer for a friend…but I really just wanted to run these streets for me this time.  Official training didn’t begin until January, but starting as early as our first meeting, we had a discount code for registration to share and we were off to the races (pardon the pun).

I had a fantastic time connecting with some of them at the Disney Wine & Dine Lumiere’s Challenge weekend!


Food.  Wine.  Running. Disney.  You better believe we were bonding.  AND we did make a point to find one another before the race…after the race…in the parks…at the after party.  We honestly…enjoyed each other’s company.  AND…texting/calling one such group member who MIGHT have slept through her alarm on the first race. *cough*

When you are a member of such a diverse group…and you can bond over one thing as simple as running…you’re going to find a lot of other things to bond over.  While we only had a few official meetings, the unofficial ones turned out to be just as important…at least to me.

I met up with Melissa once more at a Disney race…this time in January…and this time under much, much different circumstances.  On December 31, I did a 14 mile training run and ended up having a twinge of the hip flexor.  It didn’t go away.  It only got worse.  And I honestly stopped running after that.  Nothing leading into my upcoming January events.  I was heading into the Disneyland Light Side Rebel Challenge weekend.  When the orthopedic doctor wasn’t able to see me or to talk to me before I left…things got beyond stressful.  And I had more than one panic attack in California.  I remember walking to the start corrals (I was in A and Melissa was a few back) and I was seriously on the verge of tears because my hip was honestly being held together by KT Tape, ACE Bandages, and compression shorts under my costume), and Melissa stopped me and gave me the best hug ever and told me just to go have fun…stop for pictures…not even worry about the time on the watch…and that if they caught up to me and I was walking…they’d join me.  I mean…this woman….is probably one of the few people left in this world who just thinks about others like that.  Is it any wonder we all love her?  Her pep talks…work magic.  And her spirit is contagious.

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

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

Melissa has become, honestly, one of my best friends.  We hang out together…bond over gluten-free eats, and just laugh.  God, we can laugh over the silliest and stupidest things.  But…how she and I, both living in New Albany, have never crossed paths before, neither of us can figure out.  But now…we’ve got a lifetime to make up for it.

As the KDF training runs began, despite still not being able to run…AT ALL…I turned up for them.  There were some very cold mornings where I would just walk.  Sometimes 2 miles…sometimes 4…sometimes 5.  It took forever.  And I would cry.  GOD, would I cry.  But…here my amazing Ambassadors would lift my spirits with jokes, anecdotes, high fives, hugs, smiles, encouragement…THE ENTIRE TIME!  One of them (calling you out here, Chris) gave me a blanket after one of the coldest mornings that I had to walk and was determined to WALK at least half the distance.  I hurt so bad…and the cold wasn’t helping.  I still have that blanket.  Chris…I can give you back your blanket…FYI!

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Chris, Paul, Jack, Reggie, Dawn, Me, Melissa…freezing our running asses off!

We were friends…we are family!

Race morning…if it could go wrong…if it could happen…well, we all read about it or experienced it.  IT HAPPENED!  From thunderstorms, delays, nutrition being off, more delays, people getting locked in a bank, more delays…and finally a 9:15 am start…well…there is actually a lot behind all of why that happened that way and I hope those of you who swore of the KDF Marathon/miniMarathon make a point to try it out again.  It was really eye-opening to get the behind-the-scenes play-by-play by the new race director at the final KDF Ambassador Wrap-Up Meeting.  Everything had to play out that way for safety…and there is a lot the general public doesn’t understand.  You do the best you can under the circumstances, right?

The thing is…for better or for worse…we made it.  We struggled and thrived in training.  We struggled and thrived in the race.  And while we all had different paces, places, and races…we all finished this…together.  I was so honored to have been able to see most of my friends at the finish line.  I loved being able to give them that hug…because when we finish a race under even the best of circumstances, that hug can change everything.  WE DID THIS THING!  WE did this thing that WE trained for and prepared for and WE did this thing…TOGETHER!

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This past week we had the final meeting.  And while those who were able to attend were few…we had everyone there in spirit.  Over Lemon Blossoms and good conversation…we wrapped it all up and concluded our term as a 2016-2017 KDF Marathon Ambassador.

And…much to my surprise, I was awarded one of the Top Social Media Recruiter Awards…a distinction that I proudly share with Stephanie, another lady who has inspired, motivated, and befriended me.  Seriously…this was so shocking and unexpected.  And I’m honored simply to have been an Ambassador, but to include me with someone who rocked the social media world with her posts…it’s amazing to me.


One of the Ambassadors really went above and beyond when it came to recruitment and promotions.  Honestly, he would work on setting up tables at local business and gyms.  And he didn’t keep this to himself either, but invited other Ambassadors to jump in and get on it too.  And it was for that reason that Jack took home the Award for Promotions!

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Chris, Deana, Jack, and Stephanie

And the award of the night went to the person who most deserved, earned, and fought for it.  Seriously…if you could hear her back story…and then all that happened to her on the marathon course…you’d be in awe of her.  She’s one of my best friends now.  And I would be lying to say I wasn’t slightly jealous because she gets to be a part of the new group that comes together for next year…but…I’m proud of her.  Oddly enough…I even had said for a few weeks leading into this meeting that if she didn’t win Ambassador of the Year, I would be disappointed…so…Melissa Nolan..take a big freakin’ bow and get your beauty queen wave on!!

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Melissa is Ambassador of the Year

And no blog would be complete without the last shot of all of us who were able to make the meeting.  Honestly, to those pictured below and those pictured in the first group shot way at the beginning of this post…I can’t emphasize enough how much your friendship and encouragement have inspired me, moved me, and kept me going.  I had some highs during my time as an Ambassador…but I had more lows in my life…and they lifted me up and kept me going…and that, friends, is what this group is all about.  I didn’t ever feel like we had any sort of competition in our group.  We invited each other to our parties, to lunches, and even gave airport transportation.  I have a whole new group of friends in my life…and I’m forever thankful to have had this opportunity to grow not just as a runner, but as a person too.

To Deana, Chris, Stephanie, Amy, Chad, Danielle, Dawn, Jack, Jamie, Jessica, Kelsey, Leah, Madeline, Melissa, Paul, Reggie, Richie, Stephanie, and Tonya…I can’t wait to see and experience all that awaits you down the road.  I can’t wait to see how you rise above it all.  I can’t wait to see you soar over challenges and push yourself to the next level.  I can’t wait to see more starting lines…and finish lines with you.  Not strictly race-related…because we’re all in this thing called life together…and whether physical or metaphorical…we’ve got new beginnings and new ends ahead.  I can’t wait to cheer you through it all.  LOVE YOU!

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For any of you who have thought about becoming a Race Ambassador, I highly recommend it.  This has been such a rewarding experience for me.  I can’t even begin to put into words (that I haven’t already used) how much this group motivated, supported, and changed me.  They were my rocks.  And I can’t wait to see them at our unofficial Ambassador reunions and out on the streets of our amazing city!

If you want to try to get in as a KDF Marathon Race Ambassador next year…the application opens in August.  Fill it out!!  Maybe magic will happen for you too!  Chase your dreams, friends!!  See you out on the roads!!

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

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

Race: Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: April 29, 2017

Time: 1:43:12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So…delay #1 was in the works.

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

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

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

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

And then…another delay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did I mention that I was starving?

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

Everyone was.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I felt…miserable.

But I am nothing if not persistent.

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

And there it was…the turn!!

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

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Me crossing the finish line of the KDF miniMarathon

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

DONE.

I was…done.  I also felt like crap.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s my takeaway…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rodes City Run 10K – Louisville, KY (March 18, 2017)

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The KDF Ambassadors that found me – Chris, Melissa, Me, Leah!

Race: Rodes City Run 10K

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: March 18, 2017

Time: 48:40

Welcome to the second (and, sadly, my last) race of the Louisville Triple Crown of Running.  The Rodes City Run 10K!  I had managed to get the okay from my physical therapist to boost myself up to 6 miles 2 weeks following the Anthem 4.7K (HAHA.  I’m still bitter).  So, the weekend in between I made sure to get in 5 easy miles at the Falls of the Ohio with the Norton Sports Health Training Group. All the high-fives I got from my friends and strangers that day pretty much made it one of my most epic runs ever.

I don’t think I stopped smiling.  And…as we all know from photos…I have a big smile!

So, with permission to tackle Rodes as long as I took it easy and didn’t “pull an Anthem” and run it really fast, I immediately contacted my training partner, Matthew, and talked him into joining me with the intention that he would help keep my pace in check.  He agreed, and we signed up (I got in before the discount deadline).  Locked in.  Ready to run.

My plan for this run was to keep it between an 8:20-8:40 pace.  Matthew figured we’d average more on the 8:40 scheme of things…and I was okay with that.  Keep in mind…it is very hard for me to participate in a race and NOT actually race it.  But…remember…the goal is thinking long-term and I have some stuff coming up in the future that I’d like to be in peak condition for.

We made plans to meet up at the McDonalds on W Broadway (where the #KDFMarathon Ambassadors were meeting for the group photo(s)).  And, just like that…Rodes was a go to RUN…NOT RACE.

So, on Friday, I ate an early dinner at work (the closest thing I had to pizza was my Mama Mia Quinoa) before heading over the river to do a couple of things…but first and foremost…I was picking up my race packet.  I was actually honored (and freaked out) to be the recipient of one of the seeded bibs in the top 200…which gives you the option of starting near the front of the race itself.  Like…elite-type-shit.  I was BIB 43.  Really, they do base this seeding off of not just race times, but also the times you have completed the Rodes City Run in the past.  I’ve done this race 3 times prior to this one, I believe.  So, don’t go thinking I’ve actually achieved some overnight elite status.  It’s a nice compliment and benefit that the race offers, and if I were in better shape and condition this year going into it, I might have even risked the closer-to-the-start-line start.

I did a little cooking that night before running through my PT exercises and stretches, foam rolling, and calling it a night.  I had to get up fairly early to fit in all the necessary PT stuff the day of the race (it honestly takes close to 2 hours sometimes, but it’s necessary to keep me out there and I try not to whine or complain about it…too much).  The weather was crazy that day.  It was really warm out when I went to do my dynamic warmup and stretches.  I had been expecting cooler temps and overdressed.  I was dying.  But I didn’t have much time to mess around with, so I just sweat it out and went inside to change into clothes for the race.  I opted for a short sleeve shirt with shorts instead of capris.  And since my running shorts are a bit unflattering at the moment…I tossed on one of my fun Sparkle Skirts as well.  Hey…since my KDF Race Ambassador shirt is part of the uniform right now, I work around that.  And it’s not my normal bright, vibrant colors.  Sparkle Skirts help with this.  HA!

I ate a light breakfast, grabbed a banana to eat 30 minutes before the race, packed up clothes to change into, and tossed on a pair of arm-warmers into Cathy’s race backpack…just in case.  It was so warm out when I was warming up, I figured I wouldn’t need them.  I threw on a hoodie and we headed down to the car.

SO glad that I opted for the hoodie.  My mild morning and turned a bit chilly and with the wind that kicked up…it was near the point of me being cold.  Already.  I even commented that I should go back up and put the capris back on, but there simply wasn’t enough time for that.  I was locked into the shorts.

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My Power Nap game is STRONG!

We made the ride over to Louisville and managed to easily get parked near The Brown Hotel.  Easy in and easy parking on a ramp.  We backed in to make our exit plan a bit easier to manage too.  But…we were about 20 minutes early and I wasn’t about to get out in the cold now and wait around.  So, I did what I love to do on race mornings…

I took a nap.

This is not an exaggeration or a joke.  I find these little power naps, pre-race, to be just what this body needs at times.  So, I had the time and took full advantage.  Until the 7:40 am meetup time was approaching and I knew I needed to eat my banana and get to the meeting spot.  As I had a big mug of tea before breakfast that morning, I made a quick (and unusual because…princess) stop at the port-o-potties just outside the parking garage before continuing on to the McDonald’s meeting spot.

Just as the sign was in view, I received a text from Leah, one of my fellow ambassadors.  She said she couldn’t find anyone else and I told her I was like…1 minute away.  I found her…then Matthew found me…and then Melissa (let’s face it…we all know Melissa now!) texted to say that she and Paul were parking and on the way and they’d walk as fast as they could.  This was probably the least-organized meet-up we’d had this entire time…and it shows by the smattering of photos of random KDF Marathon Ambassadors pre-race.  I managed to get into the grouping of Chris, Melissa, and Leah.  So…we have that.

Race start was inching closer and Matthew and I wanted to go find a spot to line up.  BTW…funniest bit of this entire thing was that Matthew registered late (it’s a tradition of sorts, I guess, HA!) and was issued a WALKER big.  So…he went to packet pickup and they sent him over to services to get it fixed and their “fix” was simply ripping the green sticker that said WALKER off of it.  I joked that with me having to dial it back and wearing a seeded bib…and him in a WALKER big…we’re a complete mess and will confuse the hell out of them.  Seriously…I this amused me WAY too much.  We maneuvered through the sea of people to a spot near the middle of the front of the middle-of-the-pack group (with a smattering of walkers).  No sooner had we done that…the whistle sounded (we barely heard it) and the wheelchair racers were off.  The caution tape was rolled up and the runners moved ahead.

And soon…we were joining them.

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Chris & Cathy with the sign!  This photo was in the Louisville Voice Tribune!

We started off at a really easy pace.  I pointed out Cathy ahead waiving the sign and gave a wave as we passed.  The photographers captured me pointing.  No joke.  And then we just sort of settled in.  I think at one point, Matthew asked, “Am I holding your pace back too much?”  And I replied with…”Let’s pick it up a little.”

This is how the rest of it played out…

Just as we’re starting through our first mile, Matthew (aka: Eagle Eyes), spotted our friend Michael, and gave a shout-out.  Michael pointed out that his wife, Laura, was just ahead in the pink and white and we should say HI.  So, we picked it up and scooted up there.  Laura was focused and we kept our greetings short before continuing on.  The pace felt good to me…and as we were moving through the pack of runners, Matthew said, “I think that’s Tammy’s ponytail.”  Sure enough…Tammy was just ahead…so we pushed up to say hey to her.  She pointed out that we were definitely above the pace I had said I told my physical therapist I would run Rodes in…

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The Chik-Fil-A cows got in on the sign action too!

…And she was right.  As we moved ahead we hit Mile 1 and the digital clock said 7:54 at the mile.  We decided to ease back.  We thought.  Well, I mean we did ease back in theory.  We slacked up a bit, but when people are running with you in a giant mass, you sort of just…go with the flow.  When talking became hard, Matthew would remind me that we needed to ease off the gas…and we did…until we didn’t any longer.  Mile 2 was even faster than Mile 1…averaging around a 7:49 pace.  I didn’t realize this at the time though.  Matthew and I were just focusing on the long road ahead of us at this point.  Four more to go…and thankfully most of this mile leading to 3…was a nice downhill.

I love downhill.  It is my favorite speed.  HA!  I felt like I had backed off again, and that was what I was supposed to be doing, so…that’s good, right?  I cruised down the hills and tried not to push myself too much on the inclines.  After all, I had just been cleared to start in on hills again.  So…there was that.  But, it’s like I said…it’s hard for me not to race when I’m in a race.  I go into these things with the mindset of having fun.  I don’t ever set time goals; nor do I look at my pace or my watch.

Usually.

But when we hit the marker for Mile 3, I glanced down and said, “Um…we just did a 7:28 mile.”

And so…we truly made an effort to back it down once more.  And by that I mean we slowed it down.  We had some nice climbs, which I said were downhill at one point and that had Matthew teasing me about my directional skills for the rest of that mile.  But, it did feel like a downhill to me.  We might have been going up, but my effort wasn’t.  I felt relaxed, and it felt EASY!

The remainder of the race we actually averaged a 7:52 for miles 4-6.  As we came back onto Broadway to run back to the finish line,   And it was just shortly after this turn, where I can see, all the way in the distance, the inflatable that arched over the finish line…that I hear from behind me…

“Well, you don’t look like you’re limping.”

Totally busted on my speedy 10K that was not supposed to be this speedy.  It was my physical therapist.  He came up beside me.  I introduced him to Matthew.  He asked me if the hip was feeling good.  I told him I had no problems.  He fist-bumped me…and ran on ahead.

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Matthew & I bringing it home at the finish line!

I just about died.  What is the likelihood of that happening…for real?  We hit Mile 6 and were in are less-than-quarter-mile finish.  So, we picked it up a little and crossed the finish line in under 50 minutes.  Slower than last year.  Slower than the year I had bronchitis.  But…I would like to think, if I hadn’t kept backing off the pace, I could have had a great run there.  Not a PR…it’s going to take a miracle to break that…but I’d like to better my Rodes time in the near future.

Overall…I felt good before the race…I felt fantastic during the race…and I felt amazing after the race.  There are so many times where I feel like I’ve lost speed or fitness…and then something like this happens, where I don’t come near a PR…but I feel good the entire time, and I feel like I could give more…but under orders to dial it back…and I just surprise myself and realize maybe I haven’t lost that much after all.

So…the official results of the Rodes City Run 10K are that I finished in 48:40.  Not even attempting to set a PR…so not even comparing.  Just loving how easy this speed felt for me and how I finished with fuel in the tank.  I’m getting it back  This race helped prove that.  I was 421/4246 finishers overall.  I was the 75/2391 for women finishers.  And I was 17/358 in my age division.  I’m really happy with this.  Even more so because I know what I am capable of and that I am actually capable of more.  I am so glad that I decided to run this race.  Even if my initial intention was to keep it between a 8:20-8:40 pace, and in the end…I averaged around a 7:50.  I know that part of what helped me out was having a friend running with me, to keep me focused on anything other than the race itself.  This race made me feel confident again.  It was just what I needed.

Maybe next year I can aim for a goal to beat my best Rodes City Run 10K time.  Or, if I’m feeling really good about things…try to set that new 10K PR.  But for now, I’ll relish the fact that I’m back…and I’m getting stronger.

Following the race, Cathy and I had every intention of getting coffee and eating protein bars for breakfast…but we detoured and hit up North End Cafe where I enjoyed coffee, a gluten-free pancake and a side of fruit.  Then…we got macarons from Annie May’s Sweet Cafe.

And life was good.

Just as it should be.

Like it never changed.

I’m still smiling.

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North End Cafe’s Gluten-Free Pancake, side of fruit, and coffee!  Perfect reward for a good race day!

Comeback Kid…Again! Week #5 & Week #6

Life has been crazy, crazy, crazy busy this past week, which is why this post is almost a week late.  Because most of the exciting stuff was covered in the previous blog, I will sum up this past week and what all went on in my transformation from injured runner to…the Comeback Kid…

On Monday, my physical therapy session was cancelled with Daniel.  Which kind of sucked as I had wanted to talk about the ankle pain I was having.  But he was running a fever, and I really am a huge germophobe.

So, he wasn’t coming in and I didn’t have to show up, since my therapist was out of the office. Instead, I went to work and sent him an e-mail regarding the situation.  He messaged me back on Wednesday and said that he would look at my ankle on Thursday when I came in for my physical therapy session.

That meant a lot of waiting…and a lot of NOT running.  Again.  Because…honestly…the last thing I wanted to do was aggravate something else and be sidelined more.  It seems like a never-ending battle.  Anyway…I’m not very good at being patient or waiting.

That being said, when I finally did go in on Thursday, the first thing he did was ask about my ankle and have me take off my shoe so he could look at it, manipulate it, and basically bang the crap out of it to see if it was anything to be concerned about.  When that meant I sat there going…no…nope…that doesn’t hurt…that’s weird…hahaha….nope…it’s fine…

Yeah…I think he was wondering if it was all in my head.  It’s not.  It wasn’t then, and it still isn’t now.  But, as he told me, it’s not a stress fracture, because I wouldn’t be able to walk…so it was just some natural aches that come with starting to run again after NOT running for so long.  He then had me warm up on a bike and do some dynamic lunges and moves before taking me outside into the cold air in my shorts and all and having me run around the building.

Why was I running around the building?  So he could watch my form and see if I was babying my hip by putting more pressure on the other leg (that is the sort of shit that brought me my first (and only) stress fracture in my leg…and the last thing I want is to end up in Bootsie again!)…but he said that my form looked great from every angle he viewed me from.  Only thing was my high cadence, but that’s normal for me.

So…he cleared me to do the Anthem 5K that Saturday (as I was up to 3.5 to 4 miles of running every other day), as long as the hip continued to feel good.  So, we made one more appointment for a week and a half out…and I was done.

I wrote up a blog on the Anthem “5K”…that you can read if you missed out on that exciting adventure.  The best part of that day was that I got to hang out with Melissa and Paul before the race…saw Tammy at the start of the race…and ran comfortably at a 7:29 average for the race.  Without pain.  At all.  And without feeling like I was pushing myself harder than I should.  Which says a lot about me maintaining my fitness level even without running in the equation. So YAY!  But, I wasn’t supposed to race that one.  I was supposed to run it…so…that wasn’t exactly fun to tell my PT over e-mail.  He helped a little by putting things into perspective…about thinking long term.  So…my mindset is starting to fall that way.  I have goals I want to achieve…and being Gimpy McGimpster is not part of those plans.

Ever meet someone by chance and wonder how it was that you’d never met before and why you haven’t been friends for life? That’s Melissa and me!

Into the next week I went.  The cold weather gave way to some mild mornings in the 50s.  They were rainy…and windy…but I was in my shorts and loving it.  I was doing short 4 mile outings and reminding myself to ease it back.  This worked better on the windier of mornings (like 40 mph gusts will mess with you regardless!)…hey…I’m a work in progress.  I’ll get the hang of it.  By the weekend, the bitter cold weather returned.  I was NOT happy.  It seems like we get gorgeous weather during the week…but on the weekends, it is determined to freeze us out.  I wasn’t running as far as…anyone at the training run.  I was doing 5 miles as a natural progression to the Rodes 10K this coming Saturday.  So…I was definitely the ambassador, and training run attendee doing their own thing.

My fellow, freezing #KDFMarathon Ambassadors: Melissa, Me, Dawn, and Jack

I’ve been doing a lot of cross-training on gym machines and at spin class.  I know…I need to swim more…but swimming is just not fun for me.  Or relaxing.  So…I am working on that.  But, despite the cold temps this week, I’ve gone out on a 5 mile run yesterday morning and felt good.  I dialed back the speed and focused a lot more on form.  My roommate pointed out that my feet were really pounding the pavement when I’m running these days.  Soft feet.  That’s what I’m working on now.  Another good reason to NOT wear headphones while running.  You can tune into your body and that is so important.  The run felt good and I finished it feeling tired (hey, I started at 3:30 am), but proud of myself.

Today was my final PT session with Daniel.  Yep…officially released!  OFF THE CHAIN!  I couldn’t be happier.  My session today started with a warm-up on the bike before he had me doing my lunge matrix and then running through all the dynamic warm-up stuff he’s assigned to me in the past.  And then….he had me doing these giant plyometric jumps before taking off at a run.  All that went well…so he had me fill out final paperwork and I was discharged with the understanding that should anything flare back up…I am to call and they’ll fit me in.

And that, my friends, is a good, happy thing!

So…this weekend I am treating the Rodes 10K as a training run…and NOT…I repeat NOT running it hard.  I have enlisted my running partner, Matthew, to help keep my pace back.  We’ll just have a nice 6 mile conversation.  The goal is to finish without any pain.  I am really looking forward to this.

Going forward, I get to add some speed and hill work back into my training each week, but nothing monumental.  Just some basic strides and a few small climbs.  So, that’s progress.  I also get to increase my long run by one mile each week leading into my races in April…so that’s also a good thing.  I’m feeling good.  I’m happy.  I’m making my (hopefully final) comeback!

And there it is, friends.  Stick with me.  I’m sure there is more to this adventure!

Anthem 5K Fitness Classic – Louisville, KY (March 4, 2017)

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Me after finishing the Anthem 5K (*COUGH*) Fitness Classic – Louisville, Kentucky

Race: Anthem 5K Fitness Classic

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: March 4, 2017

Time: 21:55*

Ugh!  Asterisk time.  I hate having to put that little thing near a time on a race…but it’s only fair because I can’t call this a PR.  Not even close to one.  Seems that the Anthem 5K was actually the Anthem 4.7K.

I. AM. NOT. JOKING.

Granted, I wasn’t on tap for a PR time…but I wasn’t pushing myself through this race either.  Still, I know a lot of people who were thrilled with their HUGE PR times, and I wonder if they just didn’t bother, or didn’t care, to check their watches.  I never even got to 3 miles…and others didn’t either.  Those who were, like me, cognizant of this fact, were rather angry, rather than celebrating PRs that were not PRs.  I mean, most (not all, I admit to that) runners do wear some sort of GPS watch and that, right there, is an instant snapshot of your race.  It might not be 100% accurate on the time…but the distance…that’s usually pretty spot on.  My Garmin never even beeped a third time before I crossed the finish line.  So, I wasn’t putting it out there that I had a HUGE PR (not that this would have been HUGE even if it was a PR pace)…but still…

OH…did I forget to mention that in all of this…I was told to run a race?

Yep.  This soon.  Already.  As in…yesterday.

Because my physical therapist thought that it would be a good mental boost for me.  I was really leery…because of every race that runs in Louisville…the Anthem 5K is my least favorite.  It’s crowded.  It’s hard to find parking.  And this year…the LMPD, apparently, used last year’s course map and cut 944 feet off the race course.  So, it wasn’t even a 5K.  And, I’m sorry, I paid almost $50 for registration for this race…I want to get my money’s worth.  This race should have been 3.1 miles.  NOT 2.93…NOT 3.2…but an accurate and exact 3.1.  And it wasn’t.

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Anyway…enough of my grousing.  Let’s move on, shall we?  Where was I?

Ah yes…I was racing.  Kinda.  The deal with my physical therapist was that I should and could do the Anthem 5K because, he felt, it could be the mental boost I needed because, let’s face it, I have played it overly cautious with my comebacks because…just as I start falling into a rhythm…something else on me breaks or falls apart or however you look at it.  It’s the proverbial shit hitting the fan at times, and I’m sort of done with that.  So…my PT felt that it would be good for me, as long as I didn’t all-out run it, to actually sign up and participate in my least favorite local race.

And that, my dear friends, is how I ended up with a race bib for the Anthem 5 (4.7)K Fitness Classic.

I registered for the race on Thursday afternoon, after I had seen Daniel that morning for my physical therapy session.  After he checked out my ankle (the opposite ankle was giving me some issues) he had me do a dynamic warmup and then took me outside to run so he could take a look at my form and make sure I wasn’t compensating.  He said everything looked great and that the only thing he noticed was my high cadence, which is normal for me.  And then he said…to give the 5K a go on Saturday.  So, I registered…coughing up $50 I didn’t really have to run a race I really didn’t like.  Easy come, easy go.

Friday, my bib number was listed on the site and after work (we were trying to make up time due to the Sting concert that happened Tuesday night and the big storms that went through the midwest delayed the return drive long enough that it would eat into personal time if I took a lunch).  SO…right after work, it was over the river to Slugger Field.  Packet pick-up was a breeze.  It was easy to remember my bib number…6061…and I was at the very end of the table due to my late registration.  But we were in and out of there in no time.  No problems.  No issues.  Back over the river…a quick stop at the grocery store for some supplies (I am batch cooking good, healthy, real food for people) and then…home.

Dinner…a gluten-free and vegan BBQ Ranch Pizza.

Night before a race = pizza.

Always.

Forever.

I keep trying to find something else that works, but pizza seems to be the key.  So much for my plan to cut back on pizza.

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I never really sat down that night.  I went from cooking up lentils and making sauce and baking potatoes to…my PT exercises and stretches.  AND…foam rolling for a brief moment.  I had every intention of going to bed early too.  That didn’t happen.  I had to have my foot taped (the right foot that had the whole plantar flare-up back in the early fall).  So, I got to bed just before 10:00 pm.

AND…I set my alarm for 3:30 am.  Why?  Because I needed to run through all my PT stuff prior to heading out for the race.  My roommate was getting up at 6:15, and these take me close to 2 hours if I do everything I am supposed to do.  So, I got up and bundled up, headed outside to do my dynamic warm-ups, my marches, my lunges, my steps, my lunge matrix, my hops and jumps…before heading inside for the resistance band stuff, the hip stretches and exercises, and even some work on the BOSU.  I finished up at 5:30 am.  I was tired.  I made tea.

I packed my breakfast to go.  I did that because I didn’t have a banana (I usually always eat a banana 30 minutes before a race) and with all my PT stuff, I never really had time to dart out to the grocery store and get one.  My local Kroger usually has bananas that aren’t ripe enough anyway.  So, I packed my Freedom Foods Rainbow Rocks cereal (think Fruity Pebbles made from real ingredients and not LOADED down with sugar) in a baggy, packed coffee cups for after the race, got protein bars ready for AFTER the race, and the roomie was up and eating some cereal soon after that.  We were out the door just slightly ahead of schedule.  It was freezing cold outside.  Thankfully, the windows hadn’t frosted over.  So, we made our trek over the river to downtown Louisville, where we ended up parking randomly in a street lot as the rest of the road was blocked off for the race.  Thankfully, there were a few spots left.  We paid the substantial $15 fee for the “convenience” to park there, then began walking down toward Market Street.  I had an Ambassador meet-up at 7:40 am at the Jimmy John’s.  Except…it was still REALLY early.  So…yeah…

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Melissa and me freezing before the Anthem 5K!

I was miserable and cold.  The sunrise was gorgeous.  But I was more focused on finding a spot where something (like a building) could act as a windbreak.  This race is ALWAYS cold.  I swear.As meet-up time came…I was still all by myself in front of the Jimmy John’s.  But not more than a moment later, I see my amazing friend (and fellow #KDFMarathon Ambassador), Melissa and her husband, Paul, coming our way.  They had already had a hell of a morning…had just picked up their race bibs…and Cathy was already pinning Melissa’s bib on her.  This has become a trend.  HA!  I actually had a gift for Melissa…which I handed over while she was being pinned.  Here’s the thing…Melissa and I are basically the Injury Crew (she’s been dealing with knee issues since The Light Side…and I’ve been dealing with the hip issue since…the beginning of the year).  Anyway…when I purchased mine, I knew, as a fellow injured runner, how sometimes you just need a little motivation.  She’s amazing…and she’s going to do amazing things.  We waited for a few minutes, but none of the other ambassadors showed up.  So…with needing to the start line and into the corrals (that no one really enforced)…we took the picture.  And for being as cold and miserable as we were, the picture was super cute!

And being super cute is what is important, friends!!

We trekked to the start line…and as I was standing in Corral B…I get spotted by my good friend, Tammy.  We sort of hung together while her boyfriend, Dean, moved up with all the fast elite types.  Because…he’s fast and elite.  Tammy knows what it’s like to have goods and bads and ups and downs, as she has been dealing with it for awhile.  It was so good to see her and run with her through the start gate.  I lost her after that.

So…one thing I dislike about Anthem is how crowded this race is.  Honestly, you never get out of the pack.  And I think that’s one reason that when I went out…I went out way faster than I intended to run.  The good thing was, the hip didn’t flare up on me or twinge or anything.  So…as I don’t check my watch for pace while running, I thought it felt comfortable and just went with it.  I maintained.  Honestly.  My splits are pretty much the same.  The first mile was amazing…it made me feel good, even if I was dodging a few people and maneuvering over some rather rough pavement at times.

Mile 2, however, was where the issues began.  Leading into it I was feeling good.  And, honestly, when I run, I get tunnel-vision.  I rarely notice anything around me.  Well, I’m just doing my thing and as we come around a corner, there is Mile 2.  Okay.  Wow.  I noted the time on the clock on the mile marker had just hit 14 minutes.  In order for that to happen, I would have had to blast off a 6-something minute mile and, honestly, this body is not up to that right now.  And as I ran beyond it, I noted that my Garmin hadn’t beeped at me yet either to indicate the 2nd mile.  So…I glanced at my watch.  The top.  For the mileage.  And I was only at 1.88 miles.  So, the marker had to be at least 0.15 miles off.  I had hoped that it was an oversite and it would correct itself as the race goes on.  Sometimes this happens.  BUT…not this time.  I rounded the corner and made the long slog down Main Street, taking it upon myself to glance at my watch after the 2 mile beep happened.  I still hoped for a course correction in miles,but as I kept going, and when I could finally see that Finish Line…I hadn’t even gotten my third beep to mark a third mile.  I hustled into the finish line…stopped my Garmin, and checked.

2.96 miles after crossing the finish line.  Not even 3 miles.  And there were a lot of angry people at that finish line.  Every fast, elite, and finisher who gave a damn was pretty much discontent and having a little bitch session.  I waited for Cathy, who was walking down to meet me and called her over to say, “The course was short!  It wasn’t even 3 miles.”  I double-checked with some runners who looked unhappy and they were, “It was WAY short and I’m pissed.”  My friend Amber and her husband felt the same way.

Seemed like everyone PR’d that day…because they PR’d on a short course.  I knew it before I crossed the finish line.  I think everyone else did too.

Was I on pace for a new PR?  Nope.  But…I might have beaten my 2013 time…which would have been cool.  But we’ll never know now.  The race people went back to measure the course and did find that they were 944 feet off.  They said that the Louisville Metro Police Department had barricades up in the wrong place as they used last year’s course map.  Regardless…this is a HUGE race here…it always kicks off the Triple Crown of Running.  You’d think they could get it right.

Like I said, when you pay as much money as this 5K race asks, you expect a little more in the end.  Needless to say, this might have been my last Anthem 5K.  Unless I get the Triple Crown bug again…but I’m happy just churning out the 10K and 10 miler, to be honest.

So…the official results of the Anthem 5K (4.7K) Fitness Classic are that I finished in 21:55.  No new PR…not even on pace to set one.  Even with the course mishap.  I was 515/5315 finishers overall.  I was the 91/3037 for women finishers.  And I was 19/412 in my age division.  I’m pretty proud, considering I’m still nursing an injury.

I will say this…I was able to run a pace that I haven’t seen since December, and have it feel comfortable.  This hip never once twinged at me while I was running.  I felt good and like I could hold that pace forever.  To me…I count all of that as a win.  PRs aren’t what I run for anymore.  I run because I can…because it makes me feel alive…because it makes me feel good.  Finishing this race was a mental boost that I needed.  Daniel was right.  So, in the end…I take with me the fact that I ran my heart out and I overcame another setback on my running journey.  And that means more to me than the length of a course or the time on the clock.

Me heading into the finish line of the Anthem 5K Fitness Classic - Louisville, Kentucky

Me heading into the finish line of the Anthem 5K Fitness Classic – Louisville, Kentucky

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Comeback Kid…Again! Week #2

You know…there are so many times that I give up on myself.  Those little moments of weakness when, despite doing everything I am supposed to, I get frustrated and impatient with progress…or the lack thereof.

And I break down…I melt down…I just…fall apart.

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This past weekend was extremely hard.  I was the very back of the pack on the training run…on my slow walk from Swags to Iroquois Park…and as the half marathon group lapped me…I turned around and walked back.  I tried to stay positive, even doing an Instagram Story and keeping it lighthearted.  But the fact of the matter was, for months, since signing up for the Mercedes-Benz Half Marathon…it has all I’ve been looking forward to doing.  And I wasn’t even going to do it for time.  But, when I went in to see my physical therapist on the Tuesday leading into race weekend, I inquired as to whether I could just go and walk the 13.1 miles.  And my amazing, and very patient therapist looked at me like…

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Like…come on!  It was a logical question, yes?  Right?  Yeah…I probably deserved the, “Really?!  You crazy!” look that he gave me.  But, I figured I’d ask.

On Tuesday, he gave me a resistance band to add to the hip stretch that he had me doing for 6 minutes a day.  I did it religiously.  Like…this stretch was my church, for real.  So I have this red band that loops around my ankles and I side-step normally, with toes out, and with toes in…2 times each set…and…in addition…I have this fun leg movement that I have to do to sort of activate the hip flexor.  It’s not easy.  I have to do this toe tap/leg-lift thing 20 times 2 times a day.  My leg gets tired.  But…I do this.  Because I want to get better.  And, I’m pretty freakin’ obsessive about my PT stuff.  Always have been.

On Thursday, I went back.  And my physical therapist started me off with a simple walk.  He said that I was still limping, but at this point, he wasn’t sure how much of that was just habit.  SO…we were going to focus on getting rid of that limp.  AND…in addition, he stepped it up with me.  First he had me step up onto the stairs, using my bad hip to pull up, not the opposite foot to push off.  This was hard…but it did prove that the hip was still pretty tender when asked to control the entire movement of my body.  He had me step up and down.  Then we moved onto lunges with the stair.  Up the step.  And down the step.  A little sore, but I managed it.  And then…he decided to see how my body could handle marching.  He got out a metronome…yes…that metronome is back…and set it for 140 bpm.  He had me march in place, which, I did…and it didn’t hurt.  Which shocked me.  So, he moved the experiment a step further and had me march to the beat.  And I managed that too, without any pain.

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And my physical therapist said that he was shocked that didn’t bother me…and that meant I was further along than he even expected.  YAY!  After that, he gave my injured hip a bit of a massage, and realized that the tender points were definitely more on the flexor and not as much the TFL like he originally thought.

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So, I continue to be a mystery.  I went out for my walk with the other KDF Marathon/miniMarathon peeps on Saturday.  And…like I said…I walked.  I kept a smile though and was given a lot of encouragement from people who passed me either heading out or returning.  Sometimes it’s not easy to wear that smile but I do it.  It’s usually when I get home that I fall apart a little…

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That is a pretty accurate reenactment.  No joke.

Anyway…I am, as always, very thankful for everyone who continues to lift me up, support me, and believe in me.  Because, when I’m ready to give up…that helps me to keep going.  It helps me get off the sofa and stretch, or march, or go outside in the 28 degree weather simply to do lunges on stairs.

Instead of doing the Mercedes-Benz Half Marathon, as planned, I brought the chocolate milk to the training run, and spent some time with these amazing people, who are helping our dear Melissa, through her own injury recovery…because I am a part of a group of amazing people…and this is just a handful of them!  And this is what we do.  We lift up and support others…ambassadors or not.

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Anyway…I’ve been working on that not limping thing.  And if I manage to get that corrected, my physical therapist said that he’ll put me on the Alter-G treadmill so that I can do some running.  Crossing my fingers.  Because news like that makes me SO happy!

Yeah…I never thought I’d be this happy to be able to get on a treadmill!

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But the Alter-G Treadmill is magic.  It is.  And I hope that I can start doing some actual training with the help of the magic of the Anti-Gravity treadmill!  My next PT session is Wednesday…so we’ll see what he thinks.  But I have to say, someone at my office said to me as I was walking down the hall, “You’re walking really good today!”

YAY!!

Fingers crossed!

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Stay tuned, friends!

Comeback Kid…Again! Week #1

Well…it finally happened.  As most of you who read my blog know…just after the New Year…heading into the Disneyland Light Side Rebel Challenge…my left hip…the *OTHER* hip from my hip labrum tear that basically took me out of commission for a year, began acting up.  I repeat…this is THE OTHER hip.  I did the smart thing for the most part.  The instant it started to bother me, I didn’t run.  In fact, I didn’t even continue the dynamic warmups and plyometrics I have been doing for an entire year for the right hip.  I wasn’t going to mess around.  It was the week leading into my trip to California, so I called my orthopedic doctor.

And he was booked.  So, I was told he would call me before I left on my trip.  I called 2 times in that week…and never got my call back.  When I was on my way to Los Angeles, I called from the Phoenix airport and they pulled him out of an appointment to talk to me.

He said from what I was describing, it sounded like a hip flexor strain. He said to take a cocktail of Ibuprofen and Tylenol.  Two pills of each…three times a day as needed.  This began immediately…

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So the two days leading up to the first race (the Light Side 10K)…I was starting to feel a little less sore and slightly better about the situation.  My previous physical therapist sent me a wrap I could do with two ACE Bandages as well to help the hip flexor while I raced as well…to at least get me through.  The 10K went okay.  I actually felt good through the entire thing…but as the day went on and I walked around Disneyland, walking turned to limping and my over-the-counter drug cocktail was not helping me at all.  When you wake up on the morning of a half marathon with a limp…you freak out.  Or at least I do.

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The positive side is…I finished…and I didn’t totally crash and burn.  In fact, my finish times for both races were respectable.  Although, I wasn’t running these for time due to the hip.  It just came down to the fact that once I got going, I was afraid to stop.  Stopping might mean I wouldn’t start again.  I was *VERY* sore for the rest of the day after the half marathon.  I limped pretty much through the rest of my Disneyland adventure.  But, I didn’t complain.  I just went and enjoyed myself.

The following Monday, I called my orthopedic doctor’s office to get an appointment.  And…the earliest one they had was 3 weeks out.  February 1.  I took it.  And for three weeks, I went to spin class (spinning doesn’t anger the hip) and worked on a few machines unless they bothered me.  But I had to stop going to Body Pump.  Too many squats and lunges and the last thing I wanted to do was do something to further damage/injure myself.

February 1 rolled around…and into the doctor’s office I went.  I knew X-Rays were happening, but I wasn’t sure if there was going to be more after that.  I was prepared to hear the word, “MRI” from my doctor, but after examining the X-Rays and noting that there were no fractures, and the ball/socket and hip labrum looked good in that hip…(to which here was much rejoicing)…

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Seriously…when he said the labrum looked good, I started crying out of relief.  That was what I had it built up in my head to be.  And, while I understand that X-Rays are not perfect…and it could be this and just not showing up…I needed to hear those words.  I was diagnosed with a hip flexor strain and given a prescription anti-inflammatory and told to go to physical therapy…again.  I was sent back to the place I went to for my other hip, but my therapist had left to go back to school.  So, I was put with the guy who took her spot, and he is also a running coach…so that’s awesome yes?  At least he’ll understand that runner mentality. That started on Friday.

Of course…for starters…it was all about initial assessment.  He asked me about the problem I was having…and had me run through a bunch of different drills just to assess where I was having difficulty.  This is always interesting.  I swear…I confuse the hell out of every single one of my therapists. I do nothing normal.  He initially thought it was a stress fracture, but immediately ruled that out.  After a lot of moving me around, bending me, and twisting me…and a lot of confused looks…and even having to go and consult the Human Anatomy Atlas…(NO JOKE!)…I was pretty much feeling like…

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But after a little reading and looking over hip issues and why when he turned my leg outward I was in pain…he narrowed it down to the hip flexor being an issue, but it was being caused by my tensor fasciae latae (TFL).  It’s a helper muscle.  It activates hip flexors and glutes and all that stuff…but mine, it seems, doesn’t want to help. I guess it’s on strike.  Who knows.  Either way…it makes me walk with a limp and not be able to do anything high impact.  Sometimes…walking up stairs hurts…so…there is that.  I have a stretch I now get to do for 6 minutes a day.  Next week…we’ll add some strengthening exercises and eventually…he’ll get me on the Alter-G treadmill (which I have used before)…progressing from all runs on that to some outside and some on the Alter-G…to easing back into just being outside.

Needless to say…I’m optimistic…but a bit…concerned.  I can’t do anything normally and the last time I puzzled my physical therapist, I was being treated for the wrong thing.  So…yeah…part of me is ready to get this show on the road, and the other part is just…not loving this at all.  I don’t have time to muck around and test this and that.  I simply just do not want to go through that again.

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That being said, I’m making the most of all this and doing my best to stay positive.  Which means, I have a meltdown at least 3 times a week.  Mostly on Friday night and on Saturday.  As a #KDFMarathon Ambassador, I have been turning up to the training runs and just walking for a little while.  I don’t do the mileage…I just walk until I feel like I’ve done enough.  This past week I was on my own…and my mind was left to focus on the hip and I cried a few times.  My fellow ambassadors have been so uplifting though and have kept me laughing.  In fact, my biggest joy this past Saturday happened during the initial warmup before we all took off to run/walk.  Dynamic stretches that included jumping jacks were going on.  As I am not allowed to jump, I simply waved my hands up and down.

Paul, one of the ambassadors, said, “For all of you beginners out there, follow Karen for a lower-impact version of these exercises.”  I laughed so hard at that.  The hugs, the blankets, the words of encouragement, when they check on me…I am so lucky to be a part of this group…even if they are all doing jumping jacks and I’m simply flapping my arms like a flightless bird.

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So…yeah…this sucks.  It does.  And I’m mad.  And disappointed.  And afraid of making other people mad and disappointed.  There are times that I don’t feel like I’m worth of wearing that KDF Marathon Ambassador shirt…but then…I have people around me who remind me…that I really am one of them.  And my struggle…is their struggle too.

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So…

…if you see me on the street…walking by myself…talking to myself…maybe even trying not to cry…have pity…(sort of quoting Hamilton there, HA!)…I’m just working through all this stuff again.

Hugs are always welcome.  Keep me smiling friends…I’m going through this all over again…

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♪♫…But no, I’m not leaving, even though I’m bleeding
Even though this nightmare makes me wish I was dreaming
Even though I hate it, I’m gonna take it
Until I win
‘Cause I’m a comeback, I’m a comeback kid
Don’t know why bad things happened, but they did
I don’t think I deserve the hurt I get, but I’m made for it
It’s not the end, no, it’s not the end
I’m a comeback kid
Down for a minute, I’ll get up again
Looks like I’m breaking, but it’s just a bend; it’s not over yet
‘Cause in the end
I’m a comeback, I’m a comeback kid…♫♪