A couple of weeks ago, I was honored to be featured on The Bluegrass BAMR Podcast! I had a blast talking to Stephanie and sharing part of my story (I feel like I could have gone on for at least another hour…but I also like to talk). Anyway…please go give it a listen. And be sure you share, like, subscribe and leave a review for the podcast itself.
You can check it out below…or search on your favorite podcast platform!
And thanks again, Stephanie!
“Life as a Celiathlete” with Karen Brady Karen Brady, aka The Celiathlete, was diagnosed with Celiac Disease at the age of 30. After some trial and error, and help from a Registered Dietitian, Karen was able to find the nutritional solutions to help fuel her greatest passion: running. Not only has Karen learned to live […]
Me at Magic Kingdom on my last night at Disney World with all my race medals from the Disney Princess Fairy Tale Challenge weekend.
It had been over a year since my last trip to Disney World. It felt like so much longer. And a few things were changing this time around. After the bathroom incident during the Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge, we actually decided to move our “Disney home” from Port Orleans Riverside to…The Art of Animation Resort. It is a “step down” from the resort level of Port Orleans, which, this princess was fussing over, but it wasn’t bad. And, honestly, I’m only in the room to sleep. But still…I sort of did miss the extra space, especially when I was trying to foam roll at night AND watch Food Network at the same time (priorities).
The trip to Orlando meant an early morning to catch the first non-stop flight out of Louisville. This just happened to be on a very wet, rainy, cold morning. Hauling luggage out to the car was not fun, but we got everything loaded in and hit the road. We parked the car (we couldn’t find someone to give us a ride, so we had to pay to leave the car there while we were away) and went in to check our bags (one of the perks of flying Southwest is the free checked bags) and get through security. It didn’t take long to get through that at all, and nothing flagged for the first time in the history of ever. Not even the laptop. I don’t know why I bring my laptop with me. I have good intentions of using it…and then I rarely do. What I didn’t realize was, bringing it this time would be a blessing. More on that later.
Cathy & Me killing time at Louisville Airport before our flight
The flight was uneventful, and we landed in beautiful Orlando to temps in the 70s. LOVE! Our first stop was a nearby Whole Foods. We were going to grab snacks for the resort, and ended up grabbing lunch there as well. I found a Summer Veggie Roll that had a Gluten Free Peanut Sauce with it…so I was quite happy with that selection. I grabbed a tub of watermelon and a Sumo orange as well (which I saved for later). And, of course, water…because I needed to stay hydrated. Cathy snagged a small cup of the Lobster Chowder (she has missed that selection in Louisville), some small cornbread muffins, and a small helping of fried rice and Vietnamese-style chicken.
My Whole Foods lunch
After we ate, we decided that since we still had no word of our room at the resort being ready, we would use the bathroom at the Whole Foods and change into our sundresses and lather up with the sunscreen so we could head over to the parks. We had Animal Kingdom on the schedule. This turned out to be more of a hassle than it was worth, honestly. Cathy had to make multiple trips out to the car to get things out of suitcases and we were taking turns running into the bathroom to change and then slather on the sunscreen. It took way longer than it should have.
BUT…we finally considered ourselves ready for the parks and hopped back into the car and drove to the resort to drop off luggage. We made sure we had our necessary items and headed to the bus stop to get over to Animal Kingdom.
Me at Animal Kingdom
I was so happy to be back at Disney…and the weather was truly stunning!! Our first stop is our favorite place to get Iced Coffee. There was definitely more of a line there than we were used to…especially on a Wednesday, but we waited, placed our order, wasn’t sure which one was mocha and which was vanilla…but we got that sorted ourselves. We drank them as we killed time ducking into shops and the like…before we hit up our FastPass for the Kilimanjaro Safari. I love doing the safari, and our guide was awesome (they are, but she was really fantastic) and the animals…they were really active and on the move. It was probably the most animals and the most activity from the animals I have seen on any trip on the Safari. As we exited, we branched off to the Gorilla walk. I wasn’t happy when we had to walk through the birds. I. Do. Not. Like. Birds.
Me & Cathy with Scrooge McDuck!
We went to grab a quick snack to tide us over to our later dinner reservation…Cathy’s traditional fries. I ate my Sumo orange. And then, as we wandered around, we came across Scrooge McDuck. His line handler, Caitlyn, was amazing. She was so much fun to talk to while we were standing in line. And this was my first time meeting any of the Duck Tales characters. Scrooge was a lot of fun, and Cathy kept trying to get him to go out for an alcoholic drink, but he was strict about his tea. And then we hopped on over to meet Launchpad McQuack next. I told him that I was really good at crashing too. HA! It was fun and we had some great photo ops!
Cathy & Me with Launchpad McQuack!
But then we saw the most amazing addition to Animal Kingdom…KEVIN. Kevin from UP. If you haven’t seen this in person, get to Animal Kingdom NOW. Just book your flight and do it! Kevin is phenomenal. And fun. And SO animated. This encounter spurred an early purchase for Cathy’s traditional Disney plushie purchase – Kevin!
We took a stroll through Pandora and then spent a good chunk of the afternoon wandering and exploring. But our time for our traditional first day at Disney meal was growing near and we hopped a bus to Animal Kingdom Lodge to enjoy some food at Sanaa. We didn’t have to wait long to be seated and we already had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to eat. Our server was a trainee and he did an awesome job. We both got something to drink with our water, Cathy got the Savannah Cider and I got the lemonade that came with a wildberry foam of some sort. I don’t remember the really cool name that it had…but it was delicious.
We started with the bread service, of which I got three pieces of the gluten-free bread and Cathy got two of the regular naan. We split one of the GF ones and we were off to the races with the different sauces, Cathy being very careful when she would spoon her sauce to not contaminate anything. This is one of my favorite things at Sanaa. For our meals, I went with the Chickpea Wat and Cilantro-Coconut Vegetables, which is served with scented Basmati Rice. It’s my go-to every time I am there. Cathy stayed with her favorite offering in the entrees, the Traditional Sosatie, which is Braai Lamb with Apricots, Pap, Spinach, Cashews, and Goat Cheese. It was all very filling and delicious.
Gluten Free Bread Service at Sanaa
Chickpea Wat, Rice, and Cilantro Coconut Vegetables
After eating, we hopped on a bus to head back to Animal Kingdom to catch the bus back to the Art of Animation. We had our room number now and went there to find our bags already in there and ready for us to settle in for the night. I took a quick shower, went to foam roll and we settled in for the night. I set an alarm for me to wake up to because I had a training run to get through before we started our morning.
It’s always an adventure running around The Art of Animation!
And that’s what I did. I forgot how hard it is to run in humidity, which would be a theme for this half marathon weekend for sure. The resort had a great running path around a lake, which was perfect for me to train on. Keeping an easy pace wasn’t hard in the heat/humidity. I finished that off with some strides, returned to the resort, showered, and we went to the dining area at the resort to find something for breakfast. That was a high anxiety and high stress situation and we vowed that would be the ONLY time we did that. Cathy went to order me a gluten free and dairy free omlette, with mushrooms, jalapenos and spinach for me. And since I couldn’t have the biscuit, the chef tossed some fresh fruit onto my plate. It was perfect. We ate and then headed out to the car to head to the Wide World of Sports for…the race expo. It was on the ride over there that my Garmin flashed me a “Sensor Error.” Not sure what it meant, I started to try to figure it out. It was that the sensor…the thing that actually reads elevation and heart rate and all that stuff, was no longer working. I figured I could, hopefully, talk to the Garmin reps at the expo and maybe get it sorted.
Gluten Free Omlette with Mushrooms, Jalapenos, Spinach…and FRUIT!
After all these years, we finally figured out the key to getting official merchandise…turn up at the expo on the first day, go straight to official merch and wait in line. The wait wasn’t that bad and we made friends with the people around us. The line moved pretty swiftly once they started letting us all in…even if at one point it was like all lines went out the window and there was this huge surge toward the front of the line. But we got in and started to shop. I bought WAY MORE than I intended to, but they had Disney Princess Weekend ears that both Cathy and I snagged, plus I needed pins for each race. I fell in love with a wine glass (of course I did) and then all the cute clothes. I had a lot of things I LOVED…but ended up getting the official challenge zip-up. And then Cathy found a cute dress thing that is actually a cover-up for before/after races. Love that. So…over $260 later, I was ready to head over to get my race bibs and then hit up the actual expo.
Official Merchandise Line upon our arrival!
The bibs were easy. This was Cathy’s first time obtaining a Disney race bib. Did I mention that she was doing her first Disney 5K?! Pretty exciting. Our numbers were a good distance apart, so I left her to get hers while I went over to pick up mine. She found me there and the guy was commenting on how I was one of the fast ones…and I said I was dropping back to Cathy’s corral, and he asked her if she was offended by me saying that I was “dropping back” and Cathy said, “NO. Not at all. Because she is definitely not going at her normal speed with me.” From there, we headed over to the actual race expo to get our race shirts and then do some shopping. Which, we didn’t really do. I was upset that there was no Garmin booth there (I mean…HELLO) but remembered that Misfit was the official activity tracker of Disney races. So…I was stuck with a broken watch for my races. Joy and happiness. UGH. That really got me riled up and I didn’t want to spend any time there…but we did make the traditional stop by Bondi Band, where we found two headbands that would work for me. One for my 10K costume…and one for training (for the record…it says “The Before Breakfast Club.” HA!) It was as we were leaving the expo that our friend, Melissa, texted us to let us know that Peter Tork (if you know me, you know of my obsession with The Monkees) had died. And I legit cried right there in the expo. After a few deep breaths, we headed out to start our day at…Magic Kingdom (aka: my favorite park).
Getting my 5K Bib
We had FastPasses for Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain, and the Seven Dwarves Mine Train spread out throughout the day. But Haunted Mansion was our first stop, and the FastPass line was INSANE. But it thankfully moved quickly. This is Cathy’s favorite ride by far. We hit up Space Mountain soon after that. And then got Dole Whip (required). We shopped. We walked around. We made our way through the Mine Train queue (also INSANE) and were put in the very back of the coaster. And then…dinner. We went to Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen, which our friends Melissa & Paul introduced us to a year ago during Dopey, and we fell in love with the food and the atmosphere. I already knew what I was getting and told Cathy she had to have it too. But first…an appetizer. We split the Falls Family Falafel. And then…for our entrees…the Perkins Thai Noodles (gluten-free and minus the chicken to make it vegan), which is THE BEST thing I have ever eaten on Disney property. For real. Cathy now understood because when she got this last time, she had the flu and couldn’t taste any flavors. We had leftovers, so we boxed those up and headed out, back to the resort, stored those in the fridge and decided they would be post-10K breakfast in a couple days.
Gluten Free Falls Family Falafel
Gluten Free Perkins Thai Noodles
Showers and foam rolling commenced and we turned it in, with me setting an early 2:20 am alarm for us to get up and get dressed and ready for the first race of the weekend: the Disney Princess 5K.
Cathy & Me showing off our Disney Princess 5K Medals!
Disney Princess 5K
Race: Disney Princess 5K
Place: Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Date: February 22, 2018
The most difficult part of any Disney race weekend is those early morning wake-up calls. Today was probably the least stressful of the three, but instead of just me getting ready, Cathy had to get costumed up as well. Sadly, my original costume, Iron Man, didn’t get assembled in time (I ordered a shirt from I Am A Superhero Fitness Apparel, DO NOT EVER DO THIS…their customer service is the worst, and it wasn’t a match with the leggings, so I contacted them to send it back and get a replacement in time for the race, and never heard from them…at all…after getting the info to return everything…and never received the replacement in time), so I had to break out my Wonder Woman costume for this one. Iron Man, part of the Marvel Universe, owned by Disney, would have worked better…but it is what it is. Cathy, however, was ready to rock her Captain America outfit. And she rocked it. Trust me. She even had light-up Captain America Mickey Mouse ears that our friends, Melissa & Paul, brought back from Disneyland Paris. We finished getting ready and headed out of the room to get to the bus that would take us to the parking lot of Epcot, where the staging area is prior to the race.
Cathy in her Captain America costume for the Disney Princess 5K
We disembarked and walked through security (no bag line…WOOT) and went to see what characters we could get our photos taken with. We managed to hit up Tiana (one of my personal favorite princesses) and Merida. Then we opted to head into the corral area and get to Corral C. We had a long wait being in that corral, so we took a seat and watched the different videos running on the big screen and the earlier corrals parading over to the start line. Cathy pointed out that there were plenty of “overly optimistic” people in those earlier corrals. While the Disney 5K is officially untimed, we both made sure we had our Garmin watches primed and ready for our start. Before we knew it, it was our turn to make the march toward the start line…and it took a few waves, but we got our fireworks and we were off.
Me as Wonder Woman (not the planned Iron Man) for the Disney Princess 5K
Except I was off at my speed and Cathy immediately said, “I don’t go that fast.” HA!! So, I fell back and got moving with Cathy, who proved to be a pro at the Disney cuts through the crowds. I also don’t know how she wasn’t dying in long sleeves and long leggings, but she was holding her own. I did get ahead of her a few times, but immediately would fall back to her side. The morning was humid and warm…the low 70s with humidity in the 90s. MEH. So, honestly, how she wasn’t dying, I will never know. That being said, in that sort of humidity, she did get a bit of a side-stich so we switched to the Galloway Method (run/walk) so that she could have some recovery time. This proved to be a fantastic option, as she walks faster than she runs. Honestly. When we hit the construction workers, she even heckled them right back. Because, that’s Cathy for you.
I would give her little pep-talks, and we ducked into the World Showcase, which now meant we were tackling some hills. It was crowded, but it wasn’t phasing her. I let her choose her walk segments, where it was hard for ME to keep up with her at times. But I made her run the downhills because downhills are my favorite speed. We ducked out of the Showcase and then back in and started to make our way toward Spaceship Earth…which meant we were getting close to the finish. We do have to make this strange turn around thing before heading to the exit. We rounded the corner, and I could see our finish line. I reached back to her to take her hand and we headed toward the finish line. She kept reminding me that my go was a different speed from hers. But, we crossed the finish line! It was awesome. And our official 5K distance was a new PR for Cathy, where she clocked in at 46:26, beating her previous PR by well over a minute. We received our medals and made our way out to get official photos and then get the snack boxes and head back to the resort. We took our turns showering, changing, and snacking before we headed out to spend the rest of the day at Epcot!
We did lots of character stops that day, Pluto, Baymax, Ralph & Vanellope, Elsa, Ana. The Festival of the Arts was going on, so there were plenty of food booths happening. And Cathy decided to forgo her beloved schwarma once again and eat around the world. I already knew my big meal of the day was going to be a Beyond Meat Burger at the Liberty Inn with Celiac-safe fries. I was really looking forward to that.
Cathy & Me with Baymax
Ralph, Cathy, Me & Vanellope
Cathy & Me with Elsa
Me & Cathy with Ana
After we completed our time at Epcot, we headed to Disney Springs and hiked over to Erin McKenna’s to get some gluten-free and vegan goodies. We ended up with a box of delicious baked goodies and then headed back to the Art of Animation to clean up, get things prepped for another early morning, let me foam roll, watch Food Network, and get some rest.
Me dressed as Zootopia’s Judy Hopps for the Disney Princess Enchanted 10K
Disney Princess Enchanted 10K
Race: Disney Princess Enchanted 10K
Place: Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Date: February 23, 2019
Once again, another race this trip where I didn’t get to wear the outfit I originally intended to wear. My original plan was to dress up like Honey Lemon from Big Hero 6. I couldn’t find the material to have my friend or my mom work up an actual costume for me (everything was either the wrong type of fabric or not close to the correct color). So…I put it up for a vote on my social media as to which costume I should revisit for the 10K…Vanellope von Schweetz (Wreck it Ralph) or Judy Hopps (Zootopia). Between Instagram and Facebook…Judy Hopps won it going away.
Cathy has a new RunDisney race shirt…and her awesome sign!
This just happened to also be the race that my coach, Daniel, wanted me to really push myself on and race. No problem. Save for the 74 degree morning temperature and the 95% humidity. I knew in this costume I would die racing, but, dammit, that was what I was there to do. So, with a bunch of layers on top, a carrot recorder, a ZPD badge, and a full hair extension piece over the top of my head to make the “bunny ears”…I was as ready as I could be to race this 10K.
Once again, we headed out of the room to get to the bus and settle in for the drive over to the staging area again. We didn’t spend time getting Princess pictures ahead of time this time around. Instead, we went to scope out the spectator area for Cathy. We were stopped by some volunteers and told that it wasn’t open yet. Apparently, according to Cathy, it’s very much like rope drop at one of the parks…pure stampede and elbows thrown to get a spot. She didn’t want to end up not able to see me on the 10K start so, I went to stand in the group waiting to get into the corrals…and soon were let in. I immediately went over to the tables and got some water to attempt to get ahead on hydration. This was one of the few times I raced a 10K with a hydration belt, mostly because I needed it as Judy’s utility belt, but with the heat, I was happy to have a steady source of water if needed.
Me at the start of the Disney Princess Enchanted 10K
I was in Corral A for the rest of the challenge weekend, so I wasn’t going to be waiting around for long. I did get into the corral early and moved toward the front before carefully taking a seat (my costume involves a bunny tail…so…yeah). I wasn’t going to waste any energy standing up though. NOPE. I wanted to really give my best to the race itself. And before you knew it…I was heading out of the corral and lining up for the 10K. I was in the second wave to go off…and Cathy actually did manage to catch me as I headed out.
The first part of the 10K is pretty dull. It’s a lot of road. As I started out hard, I passed a group of runners that were staying together and heard one of them say, “I guess she’s not stopping for photo ops.” It made me laugh. Not today. Not this race. This was the one I was supposed to give my all in. At about the second mile, we get sent up a ramp, the biggest hill we face in this race, but I felt strong as I powered up it, giving a mental thanks to my friend Christine, who has been training with me and having us do more hills than I like on our runs. I wasn’t going to look at my splits, but I felt like I was moving fast and strong.
At about Mile 3.5, we duck into the World Showcase (FINALLY) and run around about half of it. This is where it gets fun, because they really do up the park nicely with employees out their cheering, music blaring, and the atmosphere is just different from the road miles. I got a few shout-outs from the employees with “GO JUDY.” I pumped my arm in the air in response. We are directed out of the showcase and are directed toward the Boardwalk. I hate running on the Boardwalk because it can be slippery at times (they actually have an announcement about this as you approach the actual boardwalk). I traversed it safely, yet cautiously, and transitioned back to the pavement, feeling like I was picking it back up.
Runners take the roads back into Epcot, hitting the actual park this time. I got a few more Judy Hopps shout outs and was loving it. I poured a cup of water over my head at one of the water stops and learned that that was a HUGE mistake…because my long hair extensions were now sticking to my arms and driving me crazy. How people who have really long hair and keep it down when they run manage it, I will never know.
I love every race that ends in Epcot because you get to run the light-up path around Spaceship Earth. It’s beautiful when it’s still dark out. I pushed up and around, and worked my way to the park exit, where they send you past some blaring music and toward that finish line.
Me crossing the finish line at the Disney Princess Enchanted 10K
I was so happy to see the finish and as I was running toward it, heard my name announced and everything. As I got closer, I could hear someone approaching from behind, and used my best Kelsie kick (she is WAY better at it than me) to stay ahead of that person and cross with my hands up in the air for victory. I stopped my watch and was SHOCKED when I saw a 48 at the front of my time. I really pushed hard in that race…and didn’t want to feel disappointed by my time…but I felt disappointed by my time and that I really probably could have pushed it a little more and much harder. But I had given my all in the end…the heat and humidity had just taken its toll.
I met up with Cathy at the runner’s reunion area, after having her shout “Hey Fluffbutt” over the wall at me after I got my medal, my snack box, my water, and my official photo taken. I actually did this twice and was glad I did, because the first one was awful. Sometimes you just know. Lines for the princesses weren’t long, so we hopped in to get photos with Aurora (Sleeping Beauty), Elena, and Cinderella. Cinderella said that she bet Judy Hopps could teach her mice a little more discipline. God, I love meeting Disney characters.
Post-10K race with Sleeping Beauty
Post-10K race with Elena
Post 10K race with Cinderella
We hopped on the bus to head back to the Art of Animation resort where I showered, changed, and then ate cold leftover noodles from Skippers and split one of the GF and Vegan Donuts we got from Erin McKenna’s with Cathy. And then…we were off to spend the day at Hollywood Studios, where I rode Tower of Terror twice, got on Star Tours twice (one time I was FINALLY the spy), checked out the new Toy Story Land, I had my best game ever on the Buzz Lightyear’s Space Rangers Spin (I came CLOSE to Cathy’s score. Usually I suck). And then, we departed Hollywood Studios to head out of the Disney World bubble and hit up Toasted, a gourmet Toasted Cheese place in Orlando. They have Celiac-safe options, vegan options, and safe Rosemary & Truffle Fries. HELLO!! This seemed to be the best pre-half marathon option for me and it was worth the drive (even though then we were informed that they now had a location very close to Disney World). Then…back to the hotel to rotate through showers, foam rolling, Food Network (you know the drill). And then…rest. The half marathon was all that was left.
Oh, but let’s not forget…my official results of the Disney Princess Enchanted 10K were that I finished in 48:49. I was 97/12,274 finishers overall. I was 44/10,466 female finishers. And I was 8/1549 people in my age division. So, I mean, it was a really good finish…but I knew I could do better. I wasn’t going to let it disappoint me. I felt like I gave my all that morning.
Ready to run the Disney Princess Half Marathon as Snow White!
Disney Pincess Half Marathon
Race: Disney Princess Half Marathon
Place: Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Date: February 24, 2019
Final day of early morning 2:20 am wake-up alarms. When you get to the last race in the race series, you are pretty much ready for said series to be over. I was pretty excited about the half marathon because I was given no pace goals, simply to treat it as a training run. My race was the prior day…on the 10K. I love having a no stress race, especially at Disney.
My costume was much easier to get into, so getting ready was a breeze. My nieces (Kaytlynn & Baileigh), decided that I should dress up like Snow White for the half marathon. And thus, my mom created a new top (my old Snow White top was pretty much dead after the Dopey Marathon in 2014), and Snow White was running again. It was another hot and humid morning, but there was a bit of a breeze this time. And that was helpful for sure. Cathy and I headed out to catch the bus right on time, and made it to Epcot without any issues. YAY!! And I had plenty of time to meet up with people I was hoping to meet up with. BONUS!
Meeting up with Tarra before the race!
The problem was, I was the only person from my local MRTT/SRTT group that was in Corral A. The rest were in Corral F and starting later. Meaning…they weren’t going to arrive until later. Stephanie, a friend I met through Instagram, was running as well, but she was in traffic and Corral A was needing to get loaded in. My friend Janelle attempted to find me, but apparently I had already made it to the corral. She was in A…but we never did find each other. BUT…all that being said, I did manage to get hugs, greetings, photos, and some catch-up talk time with a friend of mine from my Elementary/Middle/High School days…who was on my softball team and everything – Tarra. So that was amazing. She and her husband were running the half and we had hoped we would be able to catch up with each other prior to the race. It was the only meet-up that happened for me.
We eventually parted ways and I knew I needed to start making that spectacularly long hike from the staging area to the corrals. It’s a great warm-up and…I didn’t need to sprint it like I did for the marathon during Dopey 2018. Corral A is a bit of a bear to get to though…all the way up and a bit of off-roading. But I got there, got inside, moved up to where I wanted to be, and took a seat. I had a bit of time before things kicked off and I didn’t want to be standing the entire time.
Cathy’s view of Cinderella’s Castle in Magic Kingdom
But, soon they were preparing to send the wheelchair racers off. And then…the waves for Corral A. I was in the 2nd wave to take off. The fireworks went off and we were on our way, taking on the dark highway of Disney World, making our way toward Magic Kingdom. It’s a lot of road, a lot of screens and character stops, and a lot of just knowing what awaits you on Main Street inside Magic Kingdom. I didn’t make characters tops, although the lines are never long for me. I wanted to really treat this as a true training run, my only caveat being that I would walk every water stop. I wanted to stay on top of my hydration as the race went on because I hadn’t been running in heat and humidity. It was 20 and below back in Indiana. Around Mile 3-ish, I think, I saw the monorail wing by. I actually wondered if Cathy was on that one, as she skipped the race start to hopefully catch me on Main Street in Magic Kingdom. She has attempted to do this twice before, and I have always beat her to the castle. She said that is the one downside to cheering on a “fast” runner.
Cathy found a prime viewing spot inside Magic Kingdom
I ticked off those highway miles and made it to Magic Kingdom. This is, by far, the best part of this race. You duck inside and make the turn onto Main Street. The crowd is amazing. This is the best part of any Disney race that sends you through Magic Kingdom. And, wouldn’t you know it, in the screaming and waving crowd, there was Cathy! She had a sign, a cowbell, and was filming me as I made my way up Main Street. I gave a wave as I went by and then made the turn to go into Tomorrowland. From there, runners cruise through Fantastyland, then through the castle, before exiting through Liberty Square and out through Frontierland. It’s the best part of the race. I always look forward to the dash through the castle itself and the photographers stationed on the winding path down towards Liberty Square. It’s amazing. But then the cheers and lights fade and you find yourself back out on the roads, making your way back toward Epcot.
There is a lot of highway on this course, but Disney does it’s best with characters and DJs and music. And every mile marker has a different character and a theme song on it, so it is something to look forward to. After Magic Kingdom, you’re halfway through the race.
Me crossing the finish line at the Disney Princess Half Marathon
The best part, for me, after that is the Green Army Guy, the ones from Toy Story, that is stationed on a hill around Mile 10. You often here him shouting at the runners to get up the hill and other motivation. As I was nearing him, he shouted, “I want to hear you make some noise.” And none of the runners around me did anything. But I’m a good group exercise veteran and I went, “WOOOOOOOOOOO!” And he ran with it. I got a whole call-out just for me. “That’s right Snow White! That’s right, Snow. You’re going to find your finish line. You’re not going to be Grumpy or Sleepy. You won’t feel Dopey. You’ll feel Happy when you cross that finish line. Go get it, Snow! Don’t be Bashful.” It was amazing!!
At Mile 11, I spotted the infamous Balloon Ladies on the opposite side of the course. There were a lot of people darting back and forth over the road as there were port-o-potties on our side of the course. I noticed, later, that these runners were just at Mile 1 at this point. And I was 2 miles away from being done. Crazy!
Just after crossing the finish line at the Disney Princess Half Marathon
At Mile 12, we were directed back into Epcot to make the dash through to get to Spaceship Earth. I love this part of the race. Right as I was coming up toward it, one of the volunteers closed one side and directed me and another woman the opposite way. They do this to help with the flow of traffic. The woman I was running with was like, “Why did they do that?” So I tried to explain while running with her. We made another turn and she said, “We have to be close to being done.” I told her we were going to round a corner, run past a gospel choir, then make another turn and she should see the finish line. And then I said, “Go get it!”
My favorite part of any half at Disney World is that gospel choir before the finish line. It is just such a mood lifter. You just feel good. I mad the turn and started down the path toward the finish line. And I crossed it, feeling really relieved to be done. Another hot Florida race complete. I spotted Cathy up in the stands and waved as I walked to go get my medal. As I made my way through the line, I had to veer off to pick up the challenge medal as well. They take a picture of you with your bib at the expo…so they have volunteers who check every challenge participant before letting them through to get the challenge medal. I snagged a snack box from the guy on the very end who said “We have the best bananas over here.” HA! And then I went to get my official photo done.
Heather & I post-race!
Afterwards, I exited through bag check and found Cathy. She said that lines weren’t too bad for characters, so we decided to get in line for some. On the way, I spotted Heather Shultz, and had to go say HI to her. She ended up coming to stand in line for some princess shots with us. It was nice to get to talk to someone I cheer on through social media so much. We had gotten in line to meet Pocahontas, but right when we got up there, they switched her out for Merida. Oh well. We took the photo op anyway. We also got photos with Mulan and with Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) before we decided to hop on a bus back to the resort so I could get cleaned up and we could head out to Port Orleans French Quarter to get some celebratory Gluten Free Beignets (they took over an hour and that’s another long and rambling story that I won’t get into here, but I was PISSED).
Me with Merida
Me & Cathy with Mulan
Me with Aurora
Anyway, my official time for the Disney Princess Half Marathon was that I finished in 1:45:24. Not bad for walking those water stops (and I walked EVERY one). I was 176/20,088 finishers overall. I was 89/17,099 female finishers. And I was 14/2665 people in my age division. Not half bad for a training run, eh?! I was quite happy with it.
So, another Disney race weekend and challenge in the books. I hadn’t done the Disney Princess Half Marathon since 2013, so it was nice to return to it. And, with the water stop walks I made myself take, I almost tied my time from 2013 (it was 1:45:06). So…yeah. I love coming to Disney to run and while Disney Princess seems to be one of the more popular races of the ones offered, I was so happy that I came back to it. Next time, I hopefully won’t wait 6 years to come back.
As some of you know, I have been training, very specifically, very diligently, and quite intensely for my Spring marathon! I chose one out of the area, but close enough to drive. Honestly, this is one of the most vigorous training plans I have been through when working toward the marathon distance. As I may have mentioned (it’s been so long since I’ve blogged, I can’t remember), I hired a new coach. He was my physical therapist back in 2017 when my hip flexor paralyzed itself, and he got me quickly back on the road. After not reaching any running goals last year, I really needed to reassess my training, and after talking to him, hired him on to train me. And my life has never been the same.
I have had some of the highest mileage weeks I have had in 6 years. I’m not saying that to brag, because I am aware that one extra mile could be the tipping point to injury. But, as I said, Daniel used to be my physical therapist and he knows my weaknesses better than I do. He also knows that in order to speed me up and work on endurance, it means a mix of easy/slow runs and hard speed sessions. We all know how I feel about speed work, but he hasn’t made me cuss him out or cry yet…so his method is working.
I will say, I’m exhausted by the end of the week and look forward to my rest day to prepare for the long runs (yep…runs) of the weekend. Sometimes they are easy runs, sometimes one of them involves some speed. But there is always a reason for where and why he wants me to do runs a certain way. And I’m working hard to hit suggested paces, without going over the edge to injury. It can be a fine line, especially when you’ve dealt with injuries over the years. Last year, I made it out without a single one, and I hope to continue that trend this year.
All that being said, I am getting a slight down week this week as I am headed to Disney World (you know this if you follow me on Instagram) for the Disney Princess Race Weekend. I am participating in the 5K (running it with my roommate at her pace), the 10K (which is what Daniel wants me to race), and the half marathon (training run). I’m super stoked. My last trip to Disney was in January 2018, and it was a hot mess express of a dumpster fire.
So…packing has commenced and I finally got around to trying on my costumes yet. Does my coach realize that I dress up in costumes? Probably not. LOL! But its Disney…if you don’t do SOMETHING Disney related (doesn’t have to be full-on costume), you have no soul.
So…my 5K costume had to change. My roommate is running as Captain America, so I thought I’d go as Iron Man (Tony Stark FOREVER!).
Sadly, the outfit I ordered to do this costume, didn’t match. And the company I ordered the top from hasn’t done much to get me the new top in time for this race. So…I thought about trying to put together a Captain Marvel costume (not enough time), or do something else Avengers…but I just couldn’t cobble together what I needed in the short span of time remaining. So that means, I stick to super hero, but cross the streams into the DC universe and run as…Wonder Woman (DUH!)!
Not what I wanted…but it will work. It will do. And besides, I am Wonder Woman, so might as well stick to my nickname.
For the 10K…I was having a hard time settling on a costume. Believe it or not, I was originally going for Honey Lemon from Big Hero 6.
That being said, it’s really hard to find running clothes that are that golden yellow and not a fluorescent yellow. I went to Jo-Ann Fabrics to maybe get fabric for my friend Melissa to sew a costume for me, but there wasn’t anything there that would work. I was sad, but not giving up on this costume. It WILL happen, because she’s perfect for me to run as. So, I had to make a choice between two costumes that I have run in before…Officer Judy Hopps (Zootopia) or Vanellope von Schweets (Wreck it Ralph). I put it up for a vote on both Facebook and Instagram and the winner…
Pretty excited to bust out this costume again. Hoping that I get the “ears” just right like last time.
The one race that I knew for certain which character I was dressing up as was the half marathon. My nieces, Kaytlynn and Baileigh, chose for me to run as one of the most classic princesses from the Disney films.
My mom made my top for this costume, as the one I wore when I ran Dopey in 2014, was shredded. I mean, the sleeves are made out of ribbons. My mom did a PHENOMENAL job and I can’t wait to share the actual costume with you guys! I tried it on today as we started packing for the trip and I really just want my mom to make all my running costumes from now on. She did my Vanellope top I wore in Dopey 2018, and it was perfection. This one…also perfection. Excited to reprise my role as Snow White for 13.1 magical miles.
I’m going to be trying some new stuff out in the upcoming weeks, but I needed to get through Disney before I make fresh purchases. I’m thinking of switching to the hydration vest versus the belt I’ve worn since 2012. My friend Christine let me borrow hers and I loved it. So…that will be a big purchase, but one I can’t wait to try. Also…my new fuel. It’s pricey, but it seems to work! I’m using old fuel I still had kicking around for now. It’s fine, because I like it as well. As long as it doesn’t make me sick or hurt my stomach, or as long as I don’t have to chew it…I’m happy to use it.
So, seven challenging weeks of training down. Ten more to go. And now, here come the weeks where I also throw in some races (either as training runs, or to race) and I’m pretty stoked to get that going. Stay tuned, as I hope to keep you informed of more of my training highlights and shortcomings (because I’m human and I’m not going to nail everything). But that will have to wait until I get back from Disney.
Life has been…chaotic and busy, to say the least, these last few weeks. The holidays always throw my routine out of whack, but it just seems like it’s taking me a little longer to bounce back into my day-to-day life.
But…a few things have changed heading into the new year.
First of all, I hired a new running coach. Yep. After my former coach and I decided it was best to go our separate ways in July last year, I pulled out old training plans and did my best to get myself into shape to hit a BQ at the Chicago Marathon. The training was hard, but I did my best to get myself prepared within the weeks I had left to get myself to that start line. We all know, if you read my race review, that my Chicago Marathon went all kinds of hella wrong. I was really down on myself and disappointed with my performance, because I was told, by so many people, that there was no way (even with the new qualifying times released JUST before the Chicago marathon) that there was no way I wouldn’t qualify. Guess what…I didn’t. I tried two out of my three marathons…and it didn’t happen. I didn’t let on much, but it bothered me and I felt like I was just going backwards and not forwards, and doing it on my own wasn’t getting me the results I really wanted. SO…I remembered that a former physical therapist of mine was a running coach…so I got in touch with him…and filled out some paperwork, had a one-on-one with him on the phone…and I started officially training with him on December 31st. Even more frightening, January 6th marked 16 weeks out from my spring marathon.
Just kidding. I’m not panicking.
Something else has changed in the workout realm. I hired a personal trainer. Yep. I sure did. And you know what? I really trust him to help me get my body back in shape and ready to race to get my Boston Qualifying time. It’s a process, but I trust him. I met Corey in 2017, and he opened up his own personal training businesses a while back. I never thought about getting a personal trainer until last summer, but with my fall marathon looming, I didn’t want to start anything too rigorous so close. So, I started with him on…you guessed it…December 31st and meet with him twice a week. He plans my workout around the training my running coach sets up and so far it’s all been jiving really well. I love how Corey explains to me why we are working certain muscles and how it will benefit me when I am running. I am trusting him and the process of getting me back in racing shape.
And…I’m currently 39 days away from my first official race of 2019. And I can’t wait. Except I do have to get a few things figured out when it comes to what I’ll be wearing. Stay tuned.
I hope your 2019 is off to a good start. What have you changed, started or hoping to do this year? Tell me in the comments!
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!!
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
To 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Me crossing the finish line of the Kauai Half Marathon – Kauai, Hawaii
Race: Kauai Half Marathon
Place: Poipu, HI (Island of Kauai)
Date: September 2, 2018
“That’s the thing about running: your greatest runs are rarely measured by racing success. They are moments in time when running allows you to see how wonderful your life it.”
I went back. I went back to an island and a race that both made me find myself and broke me…but this time I was only going half the distance. Because I’m smart. HA!
The trip itself is a whole different story all together, and something I may or may not blog about. I did keep a travel journal the best that I could…but life just happens. Let’s begin this story, then, with the expo.
As you know, my roommate (Cathy) and I have been to Kauai twice before. Once with me in a boot with our friend, Jenn. Needless to say, I didn’t race that year. Then a year later with our friends Indy & Tawn. That was the year I did the full marathon. First marathon after recovering from the hip labrum and stress fracture. It didn’t go as I had imagined…but, those hard races are what make us better. It was the last marathon I ran until January 2018, when I did the Dopey Challenge. My hip problems kept coming back and setbacks led to some cautious comebacks (of my own doing).
This time…no longer being guided by a coach and really just playing around with an old training schedule…I was going in with a plan. And this time, we were traveling with some of our favorite people, Melissa and Paul Nolan!
Cathy, Me, Melissa & Paul on the beach on Kauai at our resort.
This is an image from our first day at our resort. I went for a short shake-out from travel run after a day of travel and getting groceries and coffee and ice cream and just checking out a bit of the island with our friends. They headed to the beach…I went for an easy run and met them on the beach. Because…the beach is life. The next morning…was expo day.
But first…coffee and breakfast. We picked up coffee at our go-to coffee spot on Kauai – Ha Coffee Bar! And breakfast, we went to Living Foods Market and got breakfast. For me, the coffee was the Kauai Sunshine and the crepe was the Gluten Free Roasted Vegetable Crepe.
After we were powered up with coffee and food…it was off to the Wilcox Health Sports and Fitness Expo at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa. This hotel is GORGEOUS. Seriously. And I love visiting the expo and checking out the resort in the process. For the most part, it’s a small and basic expo. But…I. BOUGHT. SO. MUCH. Maybe it’s because when I ran the marathon, all I bought was the big triathlon backpack (which they no longer have and that made me SO sad because I wanted another one since mine is getting old and I use it for ALL travel). Maybe it’s because it was the 10th Anniversary. But most of my spending money went out the window at the race expo. That’s…pretty typical of me. HA!
Paul, Melissa & Me at the Kauai Marathon & Half Marathon Expo
I picked up my race bib and t-shirt (this time, I was listed) then went to scope out the merchandise and the little side booths in the small little room where the expo is held. There is a lot going on in there, and it can seem really crowded and chaotic at times (especially in the official merchandise area), but it is worth spend the time checking out. I ended up buying a half-zip, a towel, a magnet, a hoodie, a t-shirt…..maybe a few other small things that I don’t remember…but yeah…budget blown. Melissa and Paul had met Bart Yasso before heading into the expo, and she snagged his last new book. I went to say hi to Bart, as I’ve seen him and talked with him at numerous race expos, and he introduced me to the male marathon winner (who was also running the half this year…and would win it), Tyler. Tyler also ran Chicago…small world. After a chat, I went to see how the Nolan’s were doing with their shopping and found them as overwhelmed with the merchandise as I was. But…we eventually wrapped things up and got ready to head out for the rest of the day.
Sightseeing was the plan and we hit up the Spouting Horn, Glass Beach, The Westernmost Bookstore in the United States (Talk Story Bookstore) in Hanapepe, where we also got to enjoy rainbows and a street fair, walked across the Hanapepe Swinging Bridge, and then hit up Verde (one of my favorite spots) for tacos for dinner!
We went to bed knowing we’d have to be up early enough if we were going to take part in Bart Yasso’s shake-out run that morning. We were running a little late when we got there, but they had to check on the path (as there had been flooding because…hurricanes). It was a path of treachery. Lots of holes and puddles and ditches, but it was straight out and back, about a 5K. I took it easy because…I wanted to see what I could do on the course the next day. I was complimented, however, on my stride. And that has NEVER happened. I was one of the first few people back to the starting point.
Melissa and Paul came in next, and then we cheered Cathy in. Yes…even Cathy got in on the action during the morning shakeout. At the shakeout I got to talk to a lot of people, and everyone was SO nice. I chatted races with a guy named Seth (we’re now friends on Strava). I FINALLY got to meet the Marathon Goddess, Julie Weiss, who I have followed on social media for ages, like back when she was doing her 52 marathons in 52 weeks. She is just as inspiring and sweet in person as she is on her social media. I can say that for certain. After a few group pictures, we went back to shower/change and then head out for the day to do more exploring. And we just ended up winging it. Breakfast for Cathy and I was a cookie that we split at Ha Coffee House. My coffee was (my favorite for life) the Bee Sting. And then…we went on an impromptu hike.
Me at the top of Ho’opi’i Falls on Kapa’a Stream
If you know me…you know I’m not a fan of being outdoors. Which is weird, because I am a long distance runner. But the rest of my party were set on doing it, even though the trail was REALLY muddy and…quite not fun to navigate at times. I won’t lie…I was nervous about slipping and falling. I was nervous about twisting an ankle…or breaking a bone. The endgame…a waterfall. We meant to reach the bottom of it…but instead, we took the path less traveled and got to the top. And for all the bitching and complaining I did about the hike (I mean…it was the day before the race)…it was AMAZING reaching that waterfall we set out to see. And being on the top of it was so much better than the bottom. This particular waterfall was used in the filming of Jurassic Park. Hence…why it was on our radar. The hike back felt less dangerous and slippery. Melissa did slip up at one point, but she caught herself. And we emerged, with VERY muddy shoes and a few bug bites. But I burst out going, “I’m FREE!” That being said, I wouldn’t change that experience for anything. Even if I’m a princess who doesn’t really enjoy hikes in the woods.
My signature dish for the night before the race: Toasted Purple Sweet Potatoes, Caramelized Onion, Avocado, Sriracha Mayo
I was cooking that night for our pre-race dinner. I don’t like to chance things if I don’t have to. So, I cooked up the purple sweet potatoes we bought at Costco, topping them with caramelized onions, avocado, and a drizzle of Sriracha Mayo. It was amazing. I’ve never had much luck with sweet potatoes pre-race, but figured this race wasn’t about time, it was about executing my strategy…so I went with it. And I know some people swear by sweet potatoes for fuel…but they just don’t work on me. But…everyone really enjoyed the dinner…and that was what counted. Time to sleep. For the following day…we raced.
Morning definitely came too soon. I got up early to do my stretches, eat something, take my vitamins, slather on a good layer of sunscreen, get my hair put up and my part spritzed with sunscreen, and get dressed. Cathy wanted to be out the door early…as the race starts at 6 am. Like…before the sun can get too high in the sky. We were a little late on the time, but we all got out the door with pre-workout, fuel, pre-race eats, and all our water bottles. We piled into the car, and Cathy drove part of the course before the road closed to get a good spot to park for the start of the race. We headed toward the little area where the runners would gather to use the bathrooms, stretch, warm-up, eat some fruit, hydrate. Melissa needed to use the bathroom (because…she was coming up on 5 months pregnant here…which she hadn’t really mentioned to the world yet…but it’s out now, so I can write about it)…and the lines were long. She had a pregnancy meltdown, but went to see if she could find a place to use the bathroom. She had talked about not doing the race…but I wasn’t about to let her come this far and at least not give it a shot. Apparently, a Starbucks let her in to use the bathroom. So that was awesome. The runners had already been marched down to the start line, and that was drawing close. I left Cathy and Paul to wait for Melissa to head that way and get a good starting spot. Not up front, but close enough to feel good about my pace when the race spaced out a bit.
Cathy’s sign at the Kauai Marathon & Half Marathon!
The blessing was sung by the natives and the National Anthem was being sung when I spotted Melissa’s top knot of her hair. I waived them in and they ducked in to stand next to me in the corral. We were sent off to conch shells being blown (my favorite start line, hands down!). And just before I took off, the three of us took a selfie. It’s on their phone and we haven’t put up our shared Google Drive yet…so I can’t show it to you. Then Melissa gave me a hug and told me to run fast. I told them to have a good race and headed off, waving to Cathy holding her “Run The Fences Are Down” sign with the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park on it. She made the official video. I’ll link it here.
Me at the start of the Kauai Half Marathon
And so…it was time to put my plan into action. I know that the first seven miles of this race are a steady uphill. So, my plan was to settle in for those, and push just hard enough to keep it comfortable and challenging. I admit, my first mile was faster than I would have liked, but I was in the crowd and seeking space. But I eased back on the accelerator as I entered into the second mile. And as the climb (it’s gradual until Mile 5) continued, I eased back a bit more. I ran with a local who was doing the full, in bare feet. He looked over and asked if I was doing the half or full. I told him the half. He said I had a good pace. I told him I was impressed he was doing the race in bare feet. He replied with a native, “Mahalo.”
At Mile 4…I spotted the rainbow. YES! Another rainbow during my Kauai race. I even said, “Look! A rainbow!” to those running near me. But they ignored me and just kept plugging away. I passed some runners who were already struggling in the humidity/heat, but I knew…this is where you kept it simple and easy. Don’t race here. Race at the end.
Rainbow at the finish line of the Kauai Marathon & Half Marathon
At Mile 5, you start the climb into the Tunnel of Trees. Mile 6 is about halfway through. This is my favorite part of the race, because it is absolutely STUNNING. The views are incredible. You’re shaded by the trees. And it’s just…amazing. It’s amazing. I fueled at the halfway mark with my Honey Stinger gel, and drank down some water, which I had been doing consistently, because I know how humid and hot this race is, so I figured I’d start that hydration train rolling early. As I passed Mile 7…I knew it was time to hit the gas.
This is probably the only time you will see negative splits on any of my races. I usually go out too fast and then sort of dye at the end (fly and die). But this time, I conserved my speed for the final back half…which was more of a gradual downhill toward the beach where the finish line was. I ticked off the miles, running strong and picking up the pace where I could. The heat was starting to get to me around Mile 10, just before we stopped sharing the course with the marathoners. They would turn to the right and take on those mountains (been there, done that). I turned left and knew I could push it still, even though now the runners would be out in full sun to the finish. It’s fine. knew I could do this.
Me receiving my medal at the Kauai Half Marathon finish line
We ran down neighborhood streets, where the locals were out to cheer us on. There was a guy with a big, white Santa beard, and someone behind me said, “HEY SANTA!” It made me laugh, not going to lie. Miles 11 and 12 felt hard because they were sunny, but I knew when I passed Living Foods Market, I knew I was close. I took the opportunity to see what I had left in the tank, and managed to pull out the energy to pick it up and cross the finish line strong. I felt amazing. And, at that time, that was my perfect race pace for my upcoming marathon for the goal I was hoping to hit (although, with the sudden break in my training plan due to parting ways with my coach and striking out on my own, I wasn’t holding my breath). I got my medal hung around my neck and Ron Wiley from Kong Radio announced my name as I crossed. There was no “Brady Bunch” attached to it this time around. HA!
I was quite happy with my time, given how challenging this course was. I slipped into a sun shirt after snapping a few photos with my medal and went to check out if there was anything I could necessarily eat at that point. There was fruit…and coffee. So that happened. Cathy set a towel down on the ground and we sat down to wait for the rest of our party. There really isn’t a way to live track them, so we just had to guesstimate their placement. They checked in at one point, so we had an idea of their finish time.
Paul, Melissa and the person they picked up on the run, crossing the finish line at the Kauai Half Marathon.
We did eventually move to the finish line, where we got to see the first female finisher for the marathon come in. No tape. But her name was announced. And she looked fantastic for having taken on that course. Cathy wandered off to go to the turn before you have the straightaway to the finish line, and would text me when they were coming in. When the text came, I readied my camera…and Paul and Melissa crossed the finish line…with a friend they made along the way. It was her first half marathon and her friends had left her…so they brought her along on their run. They looked like they were having a blast. And, as I told her at the finish, that was the first time I had seen Melissa happy at the end of a race.
We had some photo moments at the finish line, and I even sent Melissa back to inquire about getting a medal for the baby. They weren’t sure they’d have enough, so I ended up contacting the race via e-mail and we were able to go in and pick one up the day after. They ended up having extras. So…YAY!! I was so proud of her, because she had been doubting herself all evening and morning leading into the race, but I knew if she started, she would finish. And, she has a built-in cheerleader and running partner with Paul there, so she wouldn’t be alone. All I told her was that she had to make that halfway point and she could walk it in if she had to at that point. She did great. And she didn’t have to walk it in.
We showed them to our little spot in the shade where they could take off their shoes, relax, and get some refreshments. The volunteers remembered Melissa as “the pregnant lady” from the expo, which was super amazing!! They helped gather up some of the snacks and we all went back to have a sit and just take in some of the finishers still coming in. We rested and relaxed and talked and took pictures, but the race was winding down and we had to still make the walk to wherever Cathy parked the car. She knew. We didn’t. We had been running when she transported herself to that finish line from the start. So, we gathered everything up…and started walking…but not before taking some photos near the finish line.
Paul, Melissa & Me at the finish line of the Kauai Marathon & Half Marathon
So, my official results of the Kauai Half Marathon are that I finished in 1:46:27. That’s amazing to me! For real! Is it my fasted half marathon time this year? Nope. Sadly, I think that belongs to Dopey. HA!! How does this happen to me? I race before a race before a race, and still pull off a fast time. But this is a tough, tough course, and to say I did it in less than half the time it took me to struggle through the full…total win! I was 63/1561 finishers overall! That’s top 100!! I was the 15/992 women to cross the finish line. And I was 5/143 people in the my age division! I seem to be clinging to this 5th place benchmark these days. I am not satisfied with it. LOL!
Oh…and we ran into Bart Yasso again too. He asked me how I did, and I told him I was the 15th female overall. And he was totally happy for me and so genuine, as he always is. This is one of many reasons why I refer to him as my “Running BFF.” From there, we went back to the resort to shower and change…and we headed out to the Kauai Coffee Plantation that day…and it was the perfect ending to a race day. That and the pho we ate later that night at a random establishment we found in a strip mall. But I might save that for another post.
I am having a hard time tonight. I had every intention of sitting down this weekend and typing up at least one of the two major race reviews/recaps from my races in September and October.
But…I’m not finding the words. And it sucks.
Writing is my passion and reliving my races to share with those who are interested or, maybe, considering that race themselves is usually no sweat. Maybe I waited too long. None of the thoughts or memories are clear. I’m having very mixed feelings on how I felt on the trip/race/etc.
And now…I’m just stuck.
Any ideas on how to get motivated and break through this writer’s block?