Bank of America Chicago Marathon – Chicago, IL (October 7, 2018)

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Me heading to the finish line of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon – Chicago, IL

Race: Bank of America Chicago Marathon

Place: Chicago, Illinois

Date: October 7, 2018

Time: 3:50:41

Oh, friends…sometimes you dream big.  Bigger than big.  You don’t want to dream big, because you’re scared of failing.  And you don’t want to let people down.  But people keep telling you that your dream is going to happen.  Ace in the hole.  No problem.  Easy as pie. And then those aspirations don’t go the way you planned.  And you feel like a failure.  And it sucks.  But you try not to let it get you down.  But it still sucks.

Welcome…to my Chicago Marathon.

You know, failing to reach a goal does suck.  Some people can just move on.  But I have never been one of those people.  In hindsight…I did a lot of things wrong leading into this race.  For sure.

I repeat…

A LOT.

Instead of flying, Melissa and Paul offered to drive us all up to Chicago from here.  It definitely saved time and airport stress, so we took them up on the offer.  Paul was running via a lottery draw and Melissa did an amazing job raising money for her charity, Team RMHC.  And Cathy…she’s our sherpa, cheerleader, and race mom, as always.  We got a bit of a late start out of Louisville, but we hit the road and were Chicago bound.  At some point, we all figured we needed to eat dinner…and we were in the Indianapolis area…so Cathy got on the Find Me Gluten Free app, and after a sketchy call to a pizza place…we ended up going to…The Tamale Place.

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The Tamale Place on Rockville Rd in Indianapolis, Indiana

We had never been to the Tamale Place before.  But the lady at the register was SUPER nice and super helpful and walked us through the process.  I guess she could tell we were new to the place by the confused look on our faces.  But they have a screen up front that shows what tamales they currently have…and how many.  They had one vegan one…so that was the one I went with.  That just happened to be the Spicy Chipotle Black Bean Tamale.  And since I had been wavering between tacos or a tamale, she suggested both.  And who am I to say no?  She obviously knows what she’s talking about, right?  So, I got a Veggie Taco as well with the spicy red sauce.  Because…spicy…duh.  The tortilla for the taco was homemade.  The masa in the tamale was AMAZING.  Everything was really, really good.  Ironically, this would become our dinner stop on the way home too.  I think we’re believers in The Tamale Place.  Also…it makes me think of Tawn.

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Veggie Taco and the Spicy Chipotle Black Bean Tamale from The Tamale Place

We ate our weight in food.  No really.  We did.  In fact, at one point, we were passing around this cup of Elotes.  I couldn’t eat too much of it, because the cheese situation on those were real…but I tried them.  We used the bathroom and then we got back on the road to finish the haul to Chicago.

And so…we pulled up to The Hotel Blake in the pouring rain.  Cathy and Paul had directed Melissa into the bike lane, so the valet guy helped unload us and the luggage before having Melissa move the car.  Some rude taxi driver honked at her and the valet started shouting at him.  It was dark, wet, and just awful that night.  But she got the car where it needed to be and he got her inside.  Cathy got us checked in and we headed toward the elevator with Showtime, our valet.  He had the luggage cart.  We piled into the elevator, and the doors closed, minus the Nolans.  Whoops. So, we decided we would get their stuff into their room, then our stuff into our room and get it sorted.  Showtime asked us, “Why did you make the pregnant lady drive?” Cathy assured him it was better if she was the driver than if she wasn’t.  We got

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The living room area of the King Suite I stayed in. That couch would be important later!

to our floor and headed down the hall.  They were in room 719.  We were room 722.  So we were close.  Cathy and I were staying in a King Suite.  And the Nolans were in a King room.  As we unloaded their luggage, they texted to ask what room they were in.  I went to go get them while Cathy got our stuff into our room.  They met me at the elevator bay and up we went, with me dropping them off.  Cathy said, “You have to see our room.” So…I went inside to scope it out and we texted to invite the Nolans over as well to hang.  But I think they were ready to crash because they never made it over and we eventually went to bed.  But the room was amazing.  Big ass couch.  Chairs.  Dining area.  Microwave.  Fridge.  Garden tub.  Shower.  Fit for the princess that I am.

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Meli Cafe’s Tofu Scrambler, Fruit Cup and Coffee.

The following morning, we all met up for breakfast at Meli Cafe, which is just off the lobby of The Hotel Blake.  It’s convenient…so we ate their regularly.  Cathy and I went and got a table and started to peruse the menu and drink some coffee.  My best friend from my childhood was coming in that morning and once she arrived and dropped her stuff in the room, we were all going to take the shuttle bus to the expo.  But we definitely needed to fuel up for the day.  I ended up ordering the Tofu Scrambler, which is sautéed broccoli, asparagus, zucchini, roasted red peppers, and organic tofu in a giant bowl.  Since they didn’t have a gluten-free bread option, I subbed for a small bowl of fruit instead.  It was delicious.  And filling.  And not too spicy (because the day before the race is one day you really want some bland food)…even if I added a couple dashes of hot sauce.  We ate.  We went up to the room and hung out.  And Heather arrived while I was in the bathroom.  So I came out and immediately hugged her.  It was amazing to have her in Chicago for me again.

Next stop: THE EXPO!!IMG_2848

The Abbott Health & Fitness Expo is probably the largest and best expo I have ever been to.  I have done this one twice, and it’s just…endless and amazing.  But first stop is always…race bib.  We had to take a short walk a couple of blocks down to the Hilton Chicago and got on the bus. Most of the seats that were left were in the back.  Melissa gets car sick, so we just prayed it was a smooth ride.  It wasn’t a long ride and we made note of the Green Stop being where we needed to return to in order to get back to the Hilton to get back to our hotel.

We went inside…and immediately I got swept up in that race expo bliss.  There were a few photo ops before I had to show my participant info to the security people in order to get in and get my race bib and the info for where to get my t-shirt.  It was an easy exchange and after I got this…we decided to branch off from Paul and Melissa so we could all get our necessary things done.  I had one thing I wanted at the race expo…the Newton Chicago Edition shoes.  Because…NEWTONS.  CHICAGO.  YES!  But first…I needed to get my t-shirt and check the size to be sure that I was happy with the fit.  As I was trying it on, my friend AmyLee messaged me to say she was there.  She said she would come find me at the t-shirt area.  And…she did!!  It was great to hug her and wish her luck and just sit and talk about life and catch up.  She’s amazing.  And…she’s doing the Galloway Method…which I totally respect and believe in, as the run/walk intervals helped me have a strong finish during the marathon at Dopey Challenge at Disney World in January.

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Me and AmyLee at the Chicago Marathon Expo!

We had to part ways eventually, and I had my sites set…on the Newton booth.  Cathy had already scoped it out and so…I skipped the first few aisles just to go and get these shoes that I NEEDED.  WANTED.  NEEDED.

Trust me.  I needed them.  And, one of the guys working the booth was my friend, Dan’s, friend.  And Cathy already had talked to him and he was ready for me.  He brought out my size in the Chicago edition shoes…and…yeah…they came home with me.  And I wear them.  A lot.  They’re amazing.  And with that done…it was time to shop, sample, and spend more money.

And I did.  I picked up the Shefit Sports Bra, which I sadly ended up returning due to it chafing me up really bad on two runs.  But the customer service was super nice and very helpful.  I got 6 BondiBands.  Heather got me three of them as a birthday present, because she’s amazing like that. All of the ones she got me had purple in them.  And they totally suited me.  Totally.  I bout more Nuun (of course) and I got a water bottle with it.  And I am totally hooked on their Immune flavors now.  I popped one of my tubes open for Heather while we strolled the expo.  It was their Energy one.  Her favorite.  And hydration is important.

There were photo ops everywhere.  And snacks.  Snacks just being handed to you.  And

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Here’s to finish lines!

opportunities to win free passes to the Shedd Aquarium (we didn’t…none of us).  We did win those stainless steel straws though.  So, hey, reusable straws.  We zigzagged our way down each aisle, stopping at the booths that interested us and making note so, if necessary, we could come back.  We honestly made an initial sweep and then returned to booths if we wanted to try something or if we were interested in the product.

After some time of doing this. we texted the Nolans. They were in aisle 200 (I think there were 900 aisles, maybe 800).  We figured they were probably wrapping stuff up like we were.  I wanted to stop by Nike Official Merch (NOT IMPRESSED THIS YEAR!) and also hit up the Abbott area as well.  They had a TON of things going on, including the big treadmill you might have seen where you try to match Kipchoge’s marathon pace at Berlin for as long as you can.  I would have LOVED to have done it, but not the day before the race.  That sounds like an injury waiting to happen.  But I did do the thing where you run across this special floor and it feeds you information about your stride and speed.  It compares your stride to an elite’s stride.

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My stats from the Abbott Booth at the Chicago Marathon Expo

Mine is WAY shorter.  And it calculates your marathon pace if you could maintain that short sprint speed they measured.  It was fun.  But I am thankful for the guy at the end whose job it was to catch people.  We all would have hit the booth wall, and probably take them down in the process.

Once I was certain that I honestly shouldn’t spend any more money…because Roll Recovery, Shefit, Newton, Nuun, BondiBand…and a couple others got my money this time around…we checked in with the Nolans again.  They were now in Aisle 300 at the CEP Booth.  This was when we realized they were just starting the great expo dive…so we went over there to help them shop for compression and I spotted Goodr next door, which Melissa is a big fan of, despite the tendency of the lenses to flake and scratch.  I had been on my feet already longer than I expected and we still needed to get Heather and her stuff over to her hotel.  So, we offered to take any bags that they wanted to ditch so they wouldn’t have to haul them around.  We also changed dinner plans.  Melissa really wanted to go to her charity dinner…which is fine.  I really wanted to go to a place just outside the city proper, Da Luciano’s, which has a gluten free menu as big as the regular menu (honestly, it was my one requirement on this trip), so we compromised and said we’d go as a celebration after the race.  We left them to continue their expo explorations and do the charity stuff, while we hopped the shuttle back to the Hilton and then back to hotel.  We dropped off stuff, grabbed Heather’s stuff and went to hop the Blue Line (I think) to her area of the city.  She was staying at a very nice hotel, but it was a walk to get to the train, and then a walk to get to the hotel.  Reverse it after we hung in her room for a moment to head back to our neck of the woods to grab some Garrett Popcorn, pre-dinner, and then make our way to our new dinner idea…the impromptu dinner at…Brightwok Kitchen.

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Fall In Love Stir Fry Bowl and Sweet & Sour Pickles from Brightwok Kitchen – Chicago.

I first discovered Brightwok while I was in Chicago to see Hamilton.  Cathy and I had gotten out of our show and we were STARVING. Everything there is gluten-free and dairy-free.  And the food is phenomenal.  So…I couldn’t complain too much.  It wasn’t what I had hoped to be eating the night before the marathon, but it was a good supplement.

I ended up getting the Fall In Love Stir-fry Bowl.  Fall in Love is Fall 5-Spice, Brown Rice, Carrots, Peppers, Local Zucchini, Butternut Squash, and a Sweet Potato Fritter.  It usually comes with Local Chicken, but being that I’m a vegetarian, I had them add the tofu, I think.  I actually claimed the last sweet potato fritter, so, as Heather got the same thing as me, I split it with her, because…necessary.  I also got a side of their Sweet & Sour Pickles (which are AMAZING).  Seriously, I’ve never had anything there that I didn’t like.  After that…we parted ways.  Heather went back to her hotel…Cathy and I returned to ours.  We started to lay out everything for the following day so it wouldn’t be a madhouse trying to get out the door on time.  My plan was to hopefully be in bed by 9 pm. I think, after having some downtime and the Nolans over for taping and necessary race pep talks…it was closer to 10 pm.  Lights out.  Because the next morning…it was time to run Chicago!

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Me dressed and ready to run the Chicago Marathon!

Race morning.  The usual routine.  First alarm.  Get up for the meds I need to take.  Go back to bed.  Second alarm.  Get up and actually become a functioning member of society…go to the bathroom, change into race gear, check weather, eat something, check weather, brush teeth, put hair in pigtails, check weather…you get the drill.

Heather arrived to leave her bag in our room and to head to the start line with us.  I got a text from Melissa saying she wanted to hug me before we headed out (I was in Wave 1 and had to get to my Gate really early)…and she was reapplying some iron-on symbols to her race shirt from her charity that she was running for.  She had a different gate and was in the wave after me.  So…we swung into her room (me wearing an attractive big garbage bag because I didn’t want to be soaked if I was going to be out in the rain that was predicted) and we hugged and wished each other a good, safe race.  She told me to have fun.  I loved her for that.  We left and took the elevator down to the lobby to head out the door to make the walk to the start.  We had to get over to Grant Park.  They could take me as far as my gate…which was Gate 2, before security check.  We stood there for a moment, and they told me I was going to be fine and I would be great and to have fun and enjoy the run.  That’s what friends do.  I really wished I had been in better shape…but, you just do what you can with what you have.  We took some selfies…and then hugged…and then they put me in the LONG line to get into Grant Park by way of Gate 2.

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Cathy, Me, and Heather at Gate 2 at the Chicago Marathon

And that…was where I stood…for a very, very long time.  Barely moving.  Just a short trudge here and there, waddling up bit-by-bit.  Glance to the left…and Gate 1 was just moving easily.  Look to the right…and Gate 3 had traffic moving freely.  Gate 2…was at an absolute standstill.  And every runner there was basically in Wave 1 and needing to be in their corral.  And yet…we stood.

At least it wasn’t raining…yet.  Not yet.  But, we who were left to stand there and shuffle slowly forward were about to go into panic mode.  We couldn’t understand why this gate wasn’t moving.  And panic was setting in for me.  Usually I would have stretched more…and taken my time eating the banana I brought with me…perhaps use the bathroom near the corrals…but nope. Finally they had runners who didn’t need to check bags get into a separate line (that was me), and while it still moved slowly, it got us through.  And then the panic speed walk began for everyone.  Because to get to Corral C & D, you had to go behind the other corrals to a separate entrance.  And at this point…the National Anthem was being sung, quite beautifully, but I couldn’t enjoy it.  I was trying to make it to Corral D so I could start on time.  Panic and adrenaline was setting in.

I did learn one thing from standing forever in that line at the gate.  Count the kilometers, not miles.  There are more of them, so you feel like you are getting places faster.  Nice trick.  But I digress…

I got into the corral with 1 minute to spare before they closed it.  I quickly shed my trash bag and the half-zip I had worn to keep warm, as I was in a crop top and shorts for this one.  The start temperature was warm…almost 60 degrees…but rain was coming and so were some rather steady winds.  The announcers said all the names of the elite field that were running and the corrals would cheer for each name.  And then…they sent off the first wave.

IMG_2925To the song Sweet Home Chicago.

After the initial walk to the start line, we could see it grow closer and closer and soon the walk became a job and soon the jog became the run over the start mat and under the starting gate.  I was off.  For my second ever Chicago Marathon.  A race that was so magical for me in 2013.

This experience, however, was going to be a lot different.  Because mistakes were made throughout the race as well.  I was relieved to start without the rain, and while I knew that it wouldn’t be kept at bay, I was hoping that it would hold off longer than it actually did.  The first couple of miles were pretty dry.  But as I headed into Mile 3…the rain began.  I also knew that Cathy and Heather were going to try to catch me before I hit Mile 3…so pretty much just before the bridge.  And I spotted them thanks to Heather’s purple jacket.  She was SO easy to spot.  I gave a wave and a smile, feeling absolutely strong at this point and continued on…knowing I wouldn’t see them again until Mile 13.

I should mention here that I really just wanted to run by feel for this race.  Go out and have fun.  Enjoy.  And to make sure that I wouldn’t check my watch and fuss over my pace, I set it to only show me the time.  The clock face.  No pace.  No distance.  None of it.  Not even time elapsed.  And I never once looked at my watch the entire race.  Nor did I make not of the clocks along the course.  But this is where I may have faltered.  I ran the first 12-14 miles on pace for my goal for this race.  But…it got a lot harder than I anticipated at Mile 10.  Mile 10 is not a good place to have your legs start feeling like lead.  I pressed on, hoping that maybe the flat course was affecting them, so I hoped they would wake back up.  They didn’t.

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Heading into Mile 13 at the Chicago Marathon. I am not having as much fun as it looks like I am.

I took Honey Stinger gels at Mile 6 and Mile 12…and pressed on.  I did see Cathy and Heather around Mile 13.  I spotted them and waved as I went by…I think I managed a smile, but I wasn’t feeling nearly as strong as I had when they saw me 10 miles previously.  I managed to press on through the screams and amazing people at Soul City Church, who were rocking Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” as we ran through.  But that, friends…is where it got hard.

The rain never seemed to stop.  Most of my race was in this annoying drizzle.  And with the winds coming on strong too…I was getting cold.  And…by Mile 15, I started my run/walk method that got me through Dopey.  Not systematic though.  I’d guess on how long I was walking and push as long as I could handle a run…and repeat.  It was hard.  And it was breaking me.  I could tell my little goal I had set was going to get away from me…and fast.  But now…now it was about getting to that finish line.

As we went into Mile 16, a female runner slightly ahead of me, started to slow and wobble to the side of the road.  Her legs were like Jello.  It was too early for that…so I was glad I was listening to my body and easing back, despite not reaching expectations everyone had for me performance-wise.  It was scary to see.  I kept with the run/walk method as I ticked off a few more miles.  No intervals…just as much as I could run, I would.  And then I would count (for the most part) to 30 in my head before I would try again.  Around Mile 20…there was a runner down on the corner, covered in jackets, with police officers around them.  Another scary moment.  Especially as I am pressing on just to finish these last 6 miles.

I managed to pick it up a little bit for the next mile…but slowed back down.  Mile 24 was the only one where I hit the 10s (although some of my 9 minute paces were close).  I don’t know what happened there.  But I gave myself the pep talk.  2 miles.  20 minutes.  I could do anything for 20 minutes.  Even if it was at a run/walk.

The last two miles seemed to come and go…until I hit that hill at Mile 26.  This hill takes you up an exit ramp and then you head down to the finish line, back inside Grant Park.  I won’t lie.  I walked this hill.  It got me.  This entire race got me.  I got inside my head.  I let expectations weigh me down.  I didn’t follow a good routine.  So, yeah, this hill bested me.  But I made the last turn and I said I would run it in…no matter what.  So I picked it up.  And as I was running, I spotted Heather and Cathy…screaming their heads off for me as I ran past them and headed toward that finish line.  I had no idea what my time was…my pace…none of it.  It stopped my Garmin…and looked.  3:50.  And change.  I was WAY off.  But I knew it.  I knew that would happen by Mile 10.  Was I still disappointed?  You bet!

I made my way through the finishers area, grabbing that famous Finish Line Beer, which I can’t drink, but I promised Melissa and Paul that I would pick one up.  They had to open it though…so as I went past Buckingham Fountain and further into the park to where we exited for Runners Reunite…I had to dump it out.  But I could keep the can.  I immediately headed for the letter X…it’s the assigned meeting spot for myself and my friends as NO ONE is ever at X and EVERYONE is at B.  But as I made the long walk, I noticed neither Cathy nor Heather were there.  I stayed there for awhile…then made my way up to B…because perhaps they forgot.  They weren’t there either.  So, back to X I went.  And then I got lightheaded.  I quickly sat down on the boards holding up the inflatable X and held on.  My vision was going black.  I was shivering and cold.  I wanted to get back to the hotel.  I wanted my friends.

Once I stopped having my vision go black and knew I could stand, I slowly did and made my way over to the curb…where I sat down and huddled my mylar blanket around my body.  And shivered.  And that’s where they found me.

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Me after finishing the Chicago Marathon

I stood up and they came and gave me hugs and a rose and a stuffed bear.  I started to cry a little.  I have the best friends.

Cathy asked me if I wanted to do anything in the finish line area.  I told her I just wanted to go back to the hotel and get warm.  So, Heather took my rose and I snuggled with my bear and under my mylar and they walked me back to the hotel.  We got inside and up to the room.  And they were gracious enough to help me out of my shoes, socks, compression and my crop top.  I stayed in the rest while Heather went to start a hot shower for me.

I got cleaned up and put on some fresh, warm clothes and went to sit down on the couch.  Cathy said the last check in with Melissa and Paul was the half, but she got a message that they were behind pace, the mats were being pulled up, and that they would keep us informed of their progress.  Cathy went and got me warm coffee and I tried to eat some things, but my stomach wasn’t ready for food.  Not yet.  I hydrated as much as I could with my stomach being off…and we sat and watched some television, talking, laughing, checking in with Melissa and Paul.  Cathy had me put my feet up on some pillows and she covered me with my hoodie and the blanket from the bed.  I was toasty warm now.  Paul texted to see if we could grab some snacks and drinks from the charity hospitality tent, and since we all had wristbands…we could.  But neither Heather nor I wanted to move.  So…Cathy went and grabbed as much as she could.

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Me trying to warm up after some hypothermia action at the Chicago Marathon

When we got word that they were at Mile 24…I put on my shoes and jacket and we all made our way down to the finish line area.  Security wasn’t letting people through at first, but after some women sneaked inside, the woman said, “I’m a volunteer, I’m done.”  And she walked off.  And so…we walked in.

We waited patiently at the finish, with me moving around as much as possible.  When the gates started to come down, we got even closer, moving up toward Buckingham Fountain.  We took some time to take photos of the fountain until we got word that they had finished.  We tried to direct them to a street, but Melissa’s calves had pretty much cramped up at Mile 6 and she was done.  We were going to them.

We found them…Melissa on the ground, shivering, and Paul trying to rub her calves and feet.  Poor thing!  It was crazy miserable in the rain and then the winds, so if I was this bad off…I couldn’t imagine how she felt.  Plus…pregnancy doesn’t help her either.  I knew Heather wanted to catch dinner before she had to get to the airport, so we changed dinner plans again…and moved everything to Meli Cafe again.  Which was fine.  It was closer and less hassle for sure.  But with Da Luciano’s being closed on Mondays…this meant I once again was missing my chance to eat there.  Next time…it’s happening.  Because I will make it happen.  Heather and I went to drop off things at their room and head down to dinner.  We told our waitress we’d be coming in waves.  Cathy got Melissa up and moving and she said that she was meeting us at Meli Cafe…to which Melissa said, “I could eat.”  So…YAY!!  At least the whole gang would be there to celebrate.

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Me with my Chicago Marathon medal and jacket at Buckingham Fountain

Cathy joined us first…then the Nolans.  I was just finishing up when they got their food, but it meant I could walk Heather up to get her stuff and take her outside of the hotel to give her hugs and tell her to have a safe trip back to Minnesota.  She had a flight to catch.  I went back inside to sit with my friends and just reveled in what we all accomplished.  We pushed ourselves even when things got hard.  Even when they seemed impossible.  And we all finished.  Safely.

After we ate, we hit the lobby for a couple of photo ops and then headed back upstairs to rest and recover.  We hung out in our room, watching Food Network and just talking and drinking water/cider.  It was the perfect way to close it out.

So…the official results of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon are that I finished in 3:50:41.  Definitely nowhere near what I had hoped.  BUT…I will follow with my conclusions on that in a moment.  I was the 11156 finisher overall.  The 2941 female to finish.  And I was 566 in my age division.  Not bad, considering over 43,000 runner signed up for this.

So…what mistakes did I make?

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Finishers…Friends!

I was on my feet way too much the day before the race.  I didn’t fuel as I would have liked and tried a different method…the day before the race.  I think my marathon paced runs killed me the weeks leading into the race as well.  I let expectations get to me.  I didn’t let my watch tell me to SLOW DOWN (I think that was my biggest error).  I didn’t dress for the weather that was moving in.  I probably should have fueled more than I did. I did every 6 miles…I am going to work on putting that closer and more frequent.  And…I told myself I wasn’t fit enough so I went into it believing I wasn’t fit enough.  And there are more…but I won’t dwell on it now.

I finished…I made it.  My friends finished.  They made it.  We all were safe.  We all did the best we could with our circumstances.  We may not have lived up to our own expectations, but dammit…we at least tried that day.  We at least got out there and gave it what we had.

Chicago…maybe one day I’ll be back.  But for now, I have other fall marathons to tackle.  You were a great learning experience.  And I know…if I keep trying, I’ll reach my goal.

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Your Pace or Mine (And Why You Shouldn’t Care)

comparisonOne of the best pieces of advice I have ever received as a runner…was to stop posting my Garmin face post-run with distance and time.  Stop putting my splits up on social media for others to see.  While a lot of times, this garnishes so many LIKES and compliments…it also, honestly, is no one’s business what my run looked like that day.  And, sometimes, it can also bring about negativity…or pressure to perform.

How often do we do this to ourselves?  We go for a run.  We feel good during the run.  Or maybe we don’t.  Maybe the run feels hard, but we’re pushing.  And we’re just giving it all we have (I don’t recommend doing this for every run you do, btw).  And when we’re done, we click that stop button on our watch and check our time…

And how often does that time…or overall pace…determine for YOU…whether that run was a “good run” or a “bad run?”

Hey…I’ve been guilty of this myself.

When a run feels hard and it should be easy…guess what…you’re probably running too hard.

When you feel good through your entire run, but then stop your watch and are disappointed with your overall pace…guess what…you have forgotten the golden rule of…easy runs should be easyhard runs should be hard…and BOTH are important.  You probably did this run perfectly…you felt good…but your Garmin spouts off an average that makes you feel inadequate.

Why?

So many people play that social media comparison game.  Just because one person can easily crack off 7 minute (or less) minute miles, everyday, for most distances….doesn’t mean that you have to be able to do that too.  That’s the great thing about being a human being.

WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT.  And guess what?!  OUR ABILITIES ARE ALL DIFFERENT!!

Am I screaming at you?  Yes!!  Because I often get told that someone doesn’t think they need to recover as much as I do because I run so much faster than them.  Well, my 8 minute mile might be just as hard to me as their 10 minute mile is to them.  The effort is equal…the paces are different.  But someone’s slow will always be someone else’s fast.  And it’s a serious problem if you are judging your worth and your fitness or your place in the running community based off of how fast your legs move to propel you forward.

And social media has done nothing more than take all of this insecurity and elevated the comparison game to new heights.  It is great to motivate people…but your paces and your miles logged don’t really do that.  WORDS do that. Examples do that.  Just because you can run that 6:XX mile tempo, doesn’t mean that I can.  And expecting me to be able to isn’t right too.  Telling me that you’re an extreme runner, or getting it done right, doesn’t make me feel good about my 8:xx tempo of the same distance that day…probably less consistent than yours.  Your Garmin watch face…your split times…your average pace…that does have the power to motivate…and inspire…but it also can really get into people’s heads.

And let’s talk about burnout.  So many times…these “extreme” runners that consistently post these fast times in training often burnout or hit a wall…when it counts most.  On race day.

Sure, it might seem fun to post your 7:XX mile runs during training, every day, no rest days, no days off, but when you end up sidelined with an injury, or your marathon times don’t match up to your training runs, or you hit a wall…hard…at Mile 21, those social media brags and posts will have been in vain.

Let’s face it…an 8:20 pace is not easy if your marathon pace is an 8:30.

IT. IS. THAT. SIMPLE.

Whether you consider yourself a speed demon, a middle-of-the-packer, or a back-of-the-packer…ultimately…the comparison game will only bring you unnecessary stress.

And that’s why, my friends, my Instagram posts don’t show off my pace, my distance, my stats, my splits…because that is for me to know and for me to work on.  Not for anyone else to cast judgement on or to compare themselves to.  We’re all different.  We all run different.  We all train different.  But in the end…I’m not here to set a precedent for anyone but myself.

Comparison is the thief of joy…and I’m not looking for anything but happiness out on the roads right now.  Don’t get me wrong, I certainly have my goals and am actively pursuing them the best I know how to.  After all, happiness is definitely a goal worth pursuing.

Real Talk About Disappointment

I heard it so many times…

“You’ve got this in the bag.”

“There is no way you’re not going to Boston Qualify.”

“The only way you won’t BQ is if you get hit by a car.”

“Look at what you did at Dopey…this one will be easy!”

ALL. THE. WORDS.

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And while I appreciate that people have confidence and faith in me…there were a few things I was contending with…

I didn’t have a coach or…technically…a plan starting in August, when marathon training was really getting heavy.  I figured it out by turning back to an old training plan from 2013 and making adjustments.

I didn’t feel like I was in shape, personally, for my goal.  After all, my longest run in my training plan didn’t go well at all.  It ended with me walking my last 1.3 miles of it to hit the mileage and almost passing out thanks to the heat.  Let me tell you, that really did little to boost my confidence at all going into the taper and the race itself.

I still feel out of shape.

And…disappointed.

With myself.  With letting those who believed in me down.  For not doing what others did that day.  For feeling like an absolute failure every time I hear the success stories of those who ran the same race at me…but achieved their goals.  For letting myself down.

Maybe I didn’t want it enough.  Maybe running without my watch telling me pace and distance was a mistake.  Maybe I didn’t spend enough time off my feet the day before.  Maybe I didn’t fuel right that day or at dinner the night before.  Maybe I didn’t wear the right thing for the weather.  Maybe I didn’t fuel enough during.  Maybe…maybe…maybe.

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Excuses?  Reasons?  Justifications?

It doesn’t undo how much it hurt to know that I didn’t achieve a goal that I was told was going to be so easy for me to get this time.  It doesn’t undo the fact that I ran a marathon in January an entire minute faster after running a 5K, 10K, and half marathon in the 3 days leading up to it.  It stings.  It hurts.

I am very proud of my finish, please don’t get me wrong.  But it feels like such a let down because, while I wasn’t actively proclaiming my goals from the rooftops…I carried all these high hopes with me.  They drove me.  They pushed me.  And in the end…I still came up short.  By a bigger margin than it should have been.

And that’s a hard pill to swallow at times.

Still.

Even today.

I am okay with how my race turned out…but I’m not satisfied.  And I’m not happy.  I know, just like everyone who told me, that I have at least one more BQ in me.  It just wasn’t this race.  It wasn’t my time.  And it’s okay for me to not be okay with it.  But it’s not okay for me to dwell on it.  Or to let disappointment hold me back.

After all…I still have goals to meet.

I am proud of every finish line because, ultimately, my goal is always to finish.  Sometimes it feels easy…and sometimes it’s a struggle.  I still believe every struggle and every shortcoming is a learning experience and something to grow from and improve on.  So, while it didn’t happen this time…and perhaps might not happen next time, I’m driven and striving to get there and make it happen.  I know it will.  I’ll chip away until I reach that goal.

For everyone who believed in me then…believe in me now.  I’m not done yet.

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

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

Race: The Color Run

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: June 9, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

I saw a unicorn. You know this was happening!

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

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

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

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

Me with the rainbow wings!

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

Cathy with the rainbow wings

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

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

Cathy the Color Runner takes on Lou City FC!

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

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

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

And maybe become a rainbow unicorn in the process.

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

Product Review: Nox Gear Tracer 360 Visibility Vest

noxgearlogoProduct: Nox Gear Tracer 360 Visibility Vest

Price: $69.99+/-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned…

 

 

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

I love a plan. I love executing a plan to perfection.  I hate to push to much…so I don’t.  Why?  Because I am always afraid of pushing a little too far and ending up sidelined.  That being said, I give 100% to my training leading up to the Chicago Marathon…which runs…exactly in 2 weeks.

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And it will be running…

…without me.

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Because, it seems, when all is said and all is done…I just can’t seem to hit those high miles anymore.  I trained smart.  I ran slower distance runs and only pushed as much as I dared on my one speed work day.  I kept weekly mileage lower than I liked.  I cross-trained.  And I rested.

And my fucking hip flexor…the one that paralyzed itself back in January and kept me from training for the KDF Marathon (in which I dropped to the half when I wasn’t back to actually training until March…meaning…that took 3 months to fix last time).  This hop issue cropped up in August…but I wasn’t able to get fit into my orthopedic doctor until early September.  And he diagnosed it as soft tissue damage and gave me an anti-inflammatory and sent me back to physical therapy.

I was under the wire.  WAY under the wire.  At that point…I was down to 30 days until my marathon.  Instead of pushing through my last very long runs…my important 20 milers…I was not running anywhere.  Just taking quick walks and trying my best to keep that fitness level up.  I could feel it…sense it…

My Chicago Marathon…my redemption race…my confidence boost…was slipping away…

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My physical therapy appointment got screwed up on the scheduling and I missed the first one by 20 minutes.  So, I was scheduled the following day with a different therapist.  (The one who got me back out onto the road after January had moved to a different facility).  I met with her and she did an initial assessment and we went from there.

The problem was…I needed to make the call on the Chicago Marathon by my birthday.  And I was running out of time.  With no relief at that point (I mean…I was just getting started) and permission to do my stretches and do some run/walks…I made the difficult decision of deferring the Chicago Marathon.

I tried to put on a happy face and that cheerful front.  But…I did have a few moments that day…that week…that resembled this:

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Honestly, I know it’s the right decision.  I had so many runners tell me to just suck it up and hobble on through.  But that could really do additional damage and make a small problem into a big problem.  I’m not willing to risk the future of my running for a race.  Call me overly cautious, but I’ve seen too many people have to call their marathon running days far too soon.  So, it was a hard decision…but it was the right decision.

But the fact that I keep having this problem is beyond frustrating and annoying.

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I mean…for real!  UGH!  I have had so many plans this year and I’ve pretty much had to give them all up for different reasons.  I just NEED something to go right for me.  And it seems, every time I build up to the race I need, something goes awry.  And I’m just tired of it.

As of now…I only have a few race plans as everything I intended to participate in is pretty much on hold until this hip is better.

I’m really, really trying to be positive…but it’s not easy.  Not at all.

For now, I’ll snuggle with the giant Costco Bear that my friend, Natalie, gifted me after I had to defer, because she knew I wasn’t really letting on with how much it upset me and how disappointed I was.

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The bear really is as big as I am.  It’s amazing.  Perfect for hugging.  And these days, I need a lot of hugs!

So…I’m bummed…but I know better things are coming.  I have to believe that.  But it just sucks that I can’t seem to get back to this distance that I love so much.  I’m determined to get there.  One step at a time.

And…with that said, I really need to get back to the heart of this blog and not keep letting it get be pushed to the back burner.

My goal is to be sure I’m doing something totally amazing on October 8 this year so I don’t get too sad about not running the 40th Anniversary running of the Chicago Marathon.

Time to come back stronger, faster, happier, healthier…and wiser.

That’s what happens when you go through dark times…you emerge into the light a different, smarter, stronger person!

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Life got me down this time…but if you know me…I only stay down for so long.  After that, just try stopping me!

I got this.  Stick with me friends…because not only will my I be sharing more on my recovery…but I have some new culinary toys and recipes and reviews need to take a priority again.

It’s happening.

And it starts…now!

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.

kdfambassadorgroup

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