2020 Publix Atlanta Half Marathon – Atlanta, GA (March 1, 2020)

IMG_2247

Me in front of the Olympic Rings in Centennial Olympic Park after the 2020 Publix Atlanta Half Marathon – Atlanta, GA

Race: 2020 Publix Atlanta Half Marathon

Place: Atlanta, Georgia

Date: March 1, 2020

Time: 1:50:02

Back in 2014…I ran the Publix GEORGIA Marathon.  I had been coming back from an injury (no shock there)…but I finished it strong and felt good.  In 2019, it was re-branded as the Atlanta Marathon/Half Marathon/5K (which makes sense as it is held in Atlanta).  Also, it got a new course.  So, it was going to look different from the time I ran the full thing, right?

But…I think they somehow made it hillier.

I’m getting ahead of myself.

Please note…it’s been almost 3 months since I ran this…because as we all know…life got pretty crazy shortly after this…so I might not have much to say in regards to the course or the race, other than it was cold AF, hilly AF, and my hip still hurt like a mother.

But we were doing this thing.

Woke up early.  Cathy had to get up with the alarm this time as she had signed up for the 5K.  Hey, if there is bling involved and she can guarantee that she’ll be at the finish line to see me finish…those 5K races that run with the longer runs are her sort of thing.  She was pretty certain we’d be finishing close together given that the 5K started about an hour after the marathon and half went off, so it would be close.  I also told her, though, not to fret anything since I definitely wasn’t 100%.

IMG_2187

When you cut your garbage bag wrong…

So, we got dressed, fueled, and she cut up some garbage bags for us to huddle in to attempt to keep warm on the walk over to the start line.  Except she cut her bag wrong so the holes were not in the right spot.  Meaning, she cut a hole in her stomach area…so she looked more like a Care Bear and had a definite draft.  We couldn’t do anything about it, and as I am definitely more cold natured than her…I got the properly cut trash bag and she got the one that she hadn’t unfolded properly before taking scissors to it.  Please note…she learned a valuable lesson.

We headed out of the hotel room and took the elevator down to the lobby.  And we struck out toward Centennial Park, where the race would start and finish.  Temperatures were in the low 30s.  It was windy (although NOTHING near what it was the day before when the Olympic Marathon Trials ran).  And I was noshing on a banana as we made our way to the start area.  Because of how cold it was, we sort of just gave ourselves enough time to get down there with only a little bit of time to spare, but enough that we weren’t stressed out and making a mad dash through the streets to get to the start corrals.

IMG_2193

Pacer Meb Keflezighi

Had my leg/hip felt 100%…I had given some thought to hanging with the 1:40 pace group, which was being paced by Meb Keflezighi.  That would have been a dream.  But since I had to go to physical therapy and back off my training runs…it wasn’t completely out of the question, but it was a definite pipe dream.  I lined up further back, keeping my trash bag on for as long as I could prior to the start.

Here was the really cool thing about the USA Olympic Marathon Trials happening the day before – MOST of the Olympic Team came down to watch the start of the race – despite it being early and cold.  The only one who didn’t put in an appearance was Galen Rupp (not surprised – I acknowledge his skill as a marathoner, but I just don’t like him).  The rest of them came down.  AND…Alaphine Tuliamuk (the women’s first place finisher), stayed down there for the ENTIRETY of the start line from the marathon/half start to the last 5K runner to cross.  And she was not only speaking to the runners, but taking selfies and the like with them.  Because she’s amazing.

IMG_2213

Alaphine Tuliamuk taking selfies at the start line

After the National Anthem was sung, I did shed the garbage bag, wearing my BibRave t-shirt (with arm warmers because…it was cold, duh) for the first time at an event.  This one wasn’t a BibRave event…but I’m doing my part to represent.  I gave my hip a little bit of a warmup with some dynamic moves in the tight confines of the corral…and then…we were off.

I waived to Cathy as I ran by, my hip doing okay for this part.  Even being sent up a hill almost immediately.  That was good, because that wouldn’t last long.  And while the hip would eventually succumb to all the uphills and the cold…any movement I could manage without it bothering me…I was grateful for.

Also, on an interesting note…the FAQs for this race said that hydration packs were not allowed.  I saw a lot of people running with them, but I opted to obey the rules and ran with my hydration belt instead.  I hadn’t done that in a LONG time during a race, but as I had to use it for a bit of training while waiting on new bladders for my vest to come in the mail, I wasn’t completely out of practice yet.

IMG_2209

You know I had to be in all the colors…this was at the start line!

This race weaves through Atlanta completely now…whereas before, when it was the Georgia Marathon/Half Marathon, it went out to Decatur and would come back into Atlanta.  Not anymore.  Now it’s completely inside the city.  With this new course, I think I was glad it wasn’t this way when I ran it in 2014…because I think the hills are worse.  With the leg/hip issue happening, I legit had no power on any of the uphills.  You better believe I lived for those downhills though.

At one point, as the sun was coming out, I went to tuck my pink knit gloves into the back of my hydration belt…but I lost them.  It made me sad, as those were the best gloves (and pink still represents my mom – a breast cancer survivor).  But, they are throw-away gloves for a reason, I guess.  At another point, I spotted someone I know from Instagram, running just up ahead.  I wished I had the go-power to get up to her and run with her or at least say “HI.”  But…meh…not happening.  She finished up three minutes ahead of me…because she’s awesome.  So…HI KRISTIN STOKES!

I will say, I think the hill around Mile 12 was the one that did me in.  I felt like I was crawling up it.  My hip was done with the entire experience, so I basically crawled it in to the finish.  No finish line sprint.  Nothing.  Just a jog.

IMG_2255

Cathy and I at the Olympic Rings at Centennial Park in Atlanta, GA

But, Cathy had managed to finish her 5K just ahead of Meb…which meant she had about 10 minutes before I came in.  She found a spot to watch the finish line…and when I crossed I was so happy to be done.  Maybe not Kauai Marathon happy…but it might have been close.

I walked through and got my medal and some snacks before meeting up with Cathy.  We went to go take some pictures with the Olympic rings before heading back to the hotel to clean up, shower, pack, and head down to snag lunch at Walburgers before hopping on the MARTA to head to the airport for our flight home.  Walburgers had a bit of delay on opening due to a problem with with the water or electricity or something.  We hung out with some ladies and made friends with them.  When they did open, we were taken upstairs and seated, and then just after we placed our order, our friends Tammy and Dean showed up and joined us.  YAY!  It was nice to sit and catch up with them (Tammy had also done the 5K and Dean did the half ).  Also, Walburgers is great with the gluten-free options.  I had my first ever Impossible Burger on the gluten free bun…with gluten free Sweet Potato Tots.  It was…awesome.

IMG_2259

Lunch at Walburgers!

Eventually we did have to head out to the airport.  We hugged Tammy and Dean (this was when that was still allowed, which now seems weird) and made our way to the MARTA to head home.

So, my official results of the 2020 Publix Atlanta Half Marathon are that I finished in I finished in 1:50:02. Not bad on a gimpy leg, right?  I know for a fact that I would have been able to deliver better had my training and my hip been 100%.  But you do what you can when you can , right?  I was 1346/5809 finishers overall. I was the 531/3189 female finishers. And I was 99/486 in my age division.  Considering an unusual night before the race happened…with a late dinner…and lots of time standing the day before, topped with hip/leg issues…I’ll take the hell out of this result.  Couldn’t be prouder of myself for sticking it out and getting to that finish line.

Just goes to show you…if you set your mind to something…you can do hard things.

12376_6581944_enm1003321669ram

Spectating the Olympic Marathon Trials (February 29, 2020) – Atlanta, GA

IMG_1545Sorry that this is over two months overdue in posting. My lack of motivation to sit at my computer at home…after working at home for 8 hours…is more than lacking these days. But I’m very behind on these blogs…so I need to start cracking on them.  Since then, the Olympics in Tokyo are postponed until 2021.  What crazy times we are living in.  I hope everyone is staying safe.

Back in April 2019, when USATF announced that the Olympic Marathon Trials were going to be held in Atlanta, Ga., I knew…RIGHT THEN…that I wanted to go and spectate.  I wanted to be on the course where it all happened.  Six people – 3 men and 3 women – would cross a finish line and achieve the dream of becoming an Olympian.

I had to go.

So, my roommate and I went ahead and booked a hotel room at the Westin Peachtree Plaza in downtown Atlanta.  Then we bought some non-stop flights to and from Atlanta from Louisville.  And then, because, why the hell not?…we each signed up for a race on the day following the Olympic Marathon Trials (Cathy did the Atlanta 5K and I did the Atlanta Half Marathon), since we’d be there.IMG_1547

And somewhere between when all that happened…my left hip started giving me problems again. I took most of February off from running or any real distance, and definitely not workouts.  I went back to my orthopedic doctor for X-rays…where I was told there was nothing structural happening.  I went back to physical therapy, where my physical therapist worked to help get me back on the road, even though it seemed where the pain was changed each day.  And she even could work with my coach as he is also a physical therapist (same company, different location)…and together they eased me back out onto the road, with only a few days with setbacks.

To say I felt 100% when I started packing for my quick trip to Atlanta at the end of March is a huge understatement.  I was questioning whether to drop to the 5K or just not do it at all. Since I was able to run, perhaps not fast or strong, I decided that I could fake my way through a race.  It would be rough and hard and probably would suck a lot more than usual, but I could do it.  So, after our friend Melissa dropped us off at the airport on a Friday morning, we boarded our flight to Atlanta and touched down without any delays or problems.  WINNING!

IMG_1551After a quick MARTA ride to get to our hotel, we checked in, dropped off stuff in our room, and took a moment to admire the fact that we could see Centennial Park from our window. How awesome!!

Then, we gathered our stuff and took a nice stroll past the park and the Olympic Marathon Trials finish line, to hit up the expo to pick up our own race stuff and see what kind of merchandise was around.

The answer…not much.  At least not at this point.  I managed to snag a Marathon Trials t-shirt for myself and my friend Natalie.  And I got a couple of pins to commemorate the event. But there was little else left.  Guess it got decimated on Thursday or earlier in the day on Friday.IMG_1564

Oh well.  The expo was much smaller than I anticipated.  For real.  And we breezed through it faster than the time we budgeted for it.  So, after we were done there, we hiked back to the hotel to drop off stuff, take a breather, and then figure out what we wanted to do next.  We ended up hiking around the Dragon*Con hotels just to kill time.  We snagged some water (we hit up CVS so many times for water on this trip) and a snack.  And then we had to figure out what we wanted to do for dinner.  The easiest option was the food court…but I needed to figure out where and what would be safe for me.  And one of our top options would have meant eating dinner around 3:30 or 4 pm, which was WAY too early for me.

IMG_1569Lots of google and Find Me Gluten Free searching guided me toward a place called BÊP Vietnamese Cuisine.  Cathy opted to go find something with meat and gluten in it for herself (since when we are eating out and on vacation, she can do this!), and ended up at Beni’s Cubano and opted for the Milagro Sandwich with Maduros (Sweet Plantains).  So, while she was hitting them up, I went up to get Curry Tofu Rice Bowl from BÊP…except they were all out of tofu as they had to cater a large party earlier.  BOO!  So, I ended up doing the Vegetarian Phở with the Gluten Free Vegetarian Spring Rolls.  It wasn’t my first choice…but, hey…it wasn’t a bad option to end up with. And, honestly, I just wanted the spring rolls, so that made me happy enough (but 2 spring rolls don’t make a meal).

We ate in the food court before heading back to the room for the rest of the night, enjoying some Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives on Food Network while we wound down and prepared for the following morning, which would involve having to find a good spot in which to view the trials.  And, man, did we have some options to think about.IMG_1582

We woke up the following morning with a mission.  Kara Goucher was leading a 3 mile shakeout run around Centennial Park.  I wasn’t running.  This was a rest day, and regardless, I was really hoping to give my hip an extra day off before the half marathon on Sunday morning.  Cathy safely tucked my 2015 Boston Marathon bib into her bag and we headed down toward the park.  We ended up making an entire lap before converging on the crowd by the Olympic rings.  And there, in the middle of it all, was Kara Goucher.  Kara Goucher was one of the first female runners that I took notice of.  Her book was one of the first ones I ever read (and applied a lot of it to shorter distances as I was not running marathons yet).  It was chaotic in that throng of people, but I somehow managed to get up to her, tell her something about Minnesota girls (I was born in Minnesota, remember?) and got my bib signed! YAY!  It wasn’t the way I envisioned talking to her or meeting her…but it happened, guys!!  We also made one last stop in at the expo…and glad we did because we both ended up getting some hoodies that had Atlanta to Tokyo on it (at that point, obviously, the Olympics were still happening in summer 2020).  The smallest size I could find was a large, but I figured I could just wear it around the apartment.

IMG_1592After that, we headed back to the hotel to grab a big breakfast (as this would be what would hold us through to after the marathon trials AND…a live Ali on the Run Podcast that I got free tickets to attend).  It was going to be a long day…but thankfully, we had snacks.

The breakfast at the hotel was mostly buffet.  And for someone like me with food allergies…that just doesn’t work well.  BUT, our waiter was kind enough to put in an order for me with the kitchen so everything would be safe for me to eat.  I got an egg white vegetable omelette with a bowl of fruit.  Cathy was able to go pick and choose what she wanted and was excited that there was a mini chicken and waffles option out there (it might have been on the kids table, but she loved it).  We ate.  We drank a lot of coffee.  We went back up to the room to prepare ourselves for all the intense wind, cold weather, and the fun of spectating the Olympic Marathon Trials.IMG_1602

I. COULD. NOT. WAIT.

Originally, we had planned on going right to a spot where we could see the athlete 6 times on the looped course.  But after we got down there, we decided that we really, really wanted to see the start of both the men’s and the women’s race.  Then we could go up to about Mile 8 and see the men twice and the women once, and then hopefully get back to the finish line area to see who would make the team from a decent enough s
It felt like the right plan for us.  So…we scouted out a spot for the start of the race.  It was VERY windy!  In case you hadn’t heard.  I felt bad for the athletes because when you’re in a metro downtown like that, there is no wind breaks.  There are only wind tunnels.  And that wind will hit you in all directions!  We were right near where the athletes would be walking out.  Shalane Flanagan passed us.  She, obviously, wasn’t competing, but there was no mistaking her in that Bowerman Track Club gear.

IMG_1654And…I got to hug and wish good luck to Ashley Paulson, who I know from Instagram.  She ended up coming in 44th in the women’s race.  HOW AWESOME IS THAT?!  Anyway, that was super fun.  Cathy gave the woman standing next to me her ear warmer because she had tried three times to find somewhere she could buy a hat and couldn’t find one anywhere.  One good deed…

The winds were whipping around 20+mph.  And it was COLD!!  Man, was it cold.  But the sun was out…and the athletes were lining up at the start line.  The men would go off first.  Then the women.  And who was sending each group off?  Meb Keflezighi!IMG_1636

He counted down the men’s race…and they were off.  As the group ran past, we cheered really loud and started pointing out the people we recognized.  It was exciting.  What a rush.  And 20 minutes later…with one almost false start…Meb sent the women off.  Now that…THAT was insane.   It was just flood of women, running down the road.  I spotted a few people I recognized.  I screamed really loud.  And we even saw the ones at the back who were starting, but dropping out due to injury, pregnancy, or whatever.  It was inspiring, regardless.

From there, we hopped over to a spot on the rail near the 8 mile mark.  This was at one of the turns on the course, so we would definitely get the chance to see everyone as they went past.  We would be here for a while, able to see the men twice and the women once, if we wanted to try to get to the finish line area.

IMG_1682We took this opportunity to snag a snack.  I brought oranges.  LOL!  Hey, I’m like Dustin in Stranger Things…so I always bring snacks with me everywhere.  I had no idea how long it would be before we’d get to eat.  We polished off our oranges (I brought Sumo’s…only the best for this occasion) and were settled in, wincing against the wind, and making friends with the people around us…as you do.

The guy who was on my left was spectating his daughter, who qualified at CIM with a squeaker time, just hitting it with maybe a second to spare.  The pride and excitement in his voice was just…awesome.  And then…we saw the pace car come down the hill and toward the turn.  Behind it…the wave of men.  And, there were two people out front that I didn’t recognize.  But then in the chase pack (just steps behind them) were all the big names and the like.  And I tried to shout out to as many as I could.IMG_1736

There were smaller waves behind them…and then it quieted down as we all awaited the arrival of the women.  And that was a wave that was just as amazing as the start.  And the crowd.  Wow…it was loud.  And you could just feel this electricity as the women continued to make the turn and head back up the hill into Mile 8.  It was insane and I loved being a part of the noise and seeing these woman lay it all out there on the challenging course.  Seriously…inspiring.  Not that I’ll ever get the chance to run the Olympic Trials…but man…I felt like I was part of something big…just by being there.

IMG_1796We waited around for the men to make their second loop and, by the time they came back around, there were more familiar faces at the front of the pack.  Mainly…Galen Rupp.  No shocker there.  And, apparently, that’s where he would stay.  But…it would be those remaining two spots that would be the surprises for us spectators.

Not wanting to miss any of the final finishes…because, honestly, I wanted to be at that finish line when the runners who would be representing the country crossed, we left to head back to the finish line area.  The general public could only get so close, but luckily we found a spot of the rail, next to a man who was cheering for his daughter (this was a theme, LOL), named Val Curtis.  So, he was tracking her and I was trying to catch bits of conversation about where some of the favorites out on the course were.IMG_2025

And you could tell when the finish was getting close because people who were able to get into the grassy parts of the park near the finish started climbing into the trees.  No joke.  Cathy even said, “Looks like the spectators are in full bloom.”  It made me laugh.  A lot.  Security, however, did make them all eventually get down, but that was just a testament to how big of a deal this was to the people in Atlanta to spectate.

IMG_2038I will never forget that feeling when I saw the lead vehicle come down over the hill and veer off as Galen Rupp came surging past.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Galen Rupp fan.  I don’t like him.  But he was going to go represent the United States at the Olympics, turning in an amazing time on what was a VERY challenging course.  The second and third place for the men came in over a minute behind Galen.  It felt like a HUGE gap of time, honestly.  But that battle for second and third was SPECTACULAR!!  No lie.  It came down to just one second that put Jacob Riley in second and Abdi Abdirahman in third.  Our alternate for the men…Leonard Korir…just seconds behind Abdi.  What a finish!!IMG_2105

We saw more men come streaming in.  A few were bloodied, which left us really confused until I started listening to podcasts after the fact and finding out that people fell down on the course, were almost trampled, and the like.  How scary is that.  To rally and get back up and finish…that’s gutsy.  I respect the hell out of it.  I saw Jared Ward finish, but he was way out of contention for a spot.  He was definitely a favorite going in.

IMG_2109Eventually, the volunteers began to route the men down a different path to finish, which could only mean one thing…the women were coming!  I had no idea who was leading at this point.  I was up on my tiptoes, leaning on the rail, just waiting to see the first woman blaze by.  It felt like forever, but then…graceful, swift, and steady…the first woman flew past.  It was Aliphine Tuliamuk…which wasn’t out of the conversation to make the team, but she was leading the way.  I was here for it!  Just behind her was Molly Seidel, who qualified using a half marathon time and this was her first marathon.  This also meant that she started behind the A standard qualifiers.  And there she was…carrying that flag all the way to the finish line.  And just over a minute behind her…our third woman came in…Sally Kipyego, who I had just heard an interview with on Lindsey Hein’s podcast, “I’ll Have Another.”  Both Aliphine and Sally had recently become citizens of the United States and here they were now…heading to the Olympics to represent the country.  Amazing.IMG_2118

Des Linden came in fourth, now officially becoming the alternate and missing out on the Olympic Team by 30 seconds.  Stephanie Bruce wasn’t too far behind, coming in 6th.

We stayed at the finish line, because now we felt like we needed to see Val Curtis come in.  We were basically adopted members of the Curtis cheer team.  In the process, I saw Jordan Hasay come by, finishing 26th, and considering she came in with the fastest time…that was a shock. Ashley Paulson finish 44th overall for the women!  That was super exciting.  She’s just so genuine and amazing.

IMG_2119I noted some names that weren’t coming in…Sarah Hall, Molly Huddle, Emily Sisson.

It was weird.

We were getting updates from Val’s father as to where she was on the course, so we knew exactly when to start cheering.  I held a sign for her while he waved a flag and shouted as she blazed past to her finish line.  Cathy snapped photos.  It was pretty exciting to be part of that.  I felt like I knew Val…even though I had just heard of her that day.

After a long day of spectating, we were heading to the Generation UCAN live podcast with Ali Feller and Carrie Tollefson and Meb Keflezighi.  We figured we would grab dinner afterwards…which in hindsight wasn’t our best plan…but we had a podcast to get to.  I am so glad we did.  A surprise to me was when Dathan Ritzenhein went up and talked for a brief moment.  If you know me, you know how he is one of my favorite male runners.  Hip issues caused him to drop out of the trials, but he listened to his body and did what he needed to do.IMG_2158

After he spoke, he left and I grabbed my 2015 Boston Marathon bib and went to see if I could catch him for an autograph.  He very graciously signed it for me…and I was able to tell him a little bit about my devastating race that morning…due to hip issues.  He listened and said that he hopes my next time running Boston (2021 with any luck), would be a much better experience.

IMG_2180The live podcast was a lot of fun, and very emotional.  We laughed.  We cried.  We had a good time.  I wanted to meet Ali after the show, but there was a rush of people, and we had to go find some food, as both Cathy and I were racing the following morning.  The problem is…so many things in big cities close early…and we really didn’t have many options.  We ended up ordering in room service at the hotel, and they took very good care of me with my food allergies.  So, we were definitely eating dinner at 8 pm, watching Guy’s Grocery Games, and trying not to fret too much over the hour and the fact that we had to be up early to get ready to get to our own start lines.  I ended up with a delicious quinoa dish.

As for me…my leg wasn’t feeling 100% despite weeks of physical therapy…but I was going to see what I could do on these Atlanta hills.  But that’s another blog.

IMG_1597

SURPRISE!!

surpriseJust over two weeks ago, with the help of her family, I was able to surprise my best friend since third grade for her 40th birthday!

Because, let’s face it…40 is one of the big ones and should be celebrated!

Heather…should be celebrated!

First of all, if you have been reading my blog, you probably have some idea of who Heather is.  She is one of my loudest friends.  AND…one of my biggest cheerleaders.  While she can’t make it to every race, she has been at most of the big ones and the important ones.  And when she’s not…she’s tracking me and screaming at me from Minnesota.  Because that’s Heather.  A ride or die to the end.

So, when the opportunity arose to give her a great 40th birthday…I couldn’t pass it up!

THE PLAN

29673C73-195B-473B-81A0-CFE49772E587

Running before 1:30 am is CRAZINESS!

It all started with a plan, hatched by her brother and her parents.  The plan was to fly up to Minnesota the Friday of her birthday weekend (her birthday fell on a Saturday)…arriving early so that Chad, her brother, could pick me up at the airport prior to coming by the house.  He had told her to take the day off of work because they were going to do something together that day.  The night before, Chad and I made the last minute plans for airport pickup (basically I told him when my flight would be there and he sent a picture of his truck…complete with snow in the background!!).

Went to bed early.  Got up super early to fit in the last training run for that week.  I was taking the rest of the weekend off because it should be all about Heather…and running in January in Minnesota sounds awful. HA!  BUT…I didn’t post my usual Instagram stories that morning. I acted like it was my usual rest day and I was sleeping in and just gearing up for a regular work day.  I even put on clothes that looked like work clothes.  The things we do to surprise our friends.

D0FBA203-C838-41CF-B0E7-FB3DA572A76AMy roommate got up 2 hours earlier than usual to drive me to the airport.  I got there right as security was opening and I could stroll right up because I just had a carry-on with me this time.  I killed a lot of time walking the hall (there is only one) connecting the terminals in Louisville…but when my plane was set to board…I was happy to be one of the first groups to get on the plane.  I even had an exit row seat so a bit more leg room to boot.  And at 6:32 am…the plane pushed back and we took off to Minneapolis!

The flight went fast.  We were given drinks (I had water…but coffee was tempting) and Delta has KIND bars (WOOT…GLUTEN FREE!) to snack on.  Which was good, because I had eaten breakfast after my run and shower…so around 3:30 am.  It turns out, my pilots speed (just kidding…I think we had a tailwind), because we landed in Minneapolis WAY ahead of schedule.  Like at least 30 minute early.  I got off the plane and called Chad…who was getting his car washed, putting gas in his car, and having to navigate traffic.  BUT…I walked the terminal and went down to baggage claim and put on a jacket…and waited for his truck to pull up to pick me up.

He showed up, came around to give me a hug and put my suitcase in the back…and we were off!

THE SURPRISE

Chad came up with the way it would all play out.  He would park his truck and while he went inside through the garage (the normal way)…I would wait outside for two minutes…and then ring the doorbell.  In his conversation he would then say, “Heather, you better get the door…that’s your birthday present.”

And…that’s what we did.

IMG_9919

Lunch from Twin City Grill at the Mall of America

Never in my life have I been hauled into a house and hugged so hard.

She was so surprised.  And that was the whole point.  We hauled my luggage inside and she offered me very necessary coffee.  Caribou Coffee at that.  If you know me…you know I love Caribou Coffee…but all the places nearby that had it turned into Peet’s Coffee.  And it’s not the same.  Minnesota still has Caribou Coffee.

We sat around the house for a bit…drank coffee…and then she went and got herself ready.  And we were off.  To The Mall of America.

YAY!

IMG_9925

Me and Grandpa!

We did a lot of walking there.  OH…and hit up Caribou Coffee for some non-caffeinated goodness.  We shopped.  We discovered there was a pop-up Third Love store (yes…the bras that are advertised on all the podcasts) so we went and tried those on.  She changed out jeans at Macy’s.  We just had a good time.  OH…and we grabbed lunch at Twin City Grill at the Mall of America.  I had a salad.  They were prepared to make me a burger with a gluten-free bun…but they didn’t have a vegetarian/vegan option.  No Impossible Burger…no Beyond Burger…but I love salads and got their Garden Salad.  I asked for no cheese.  They left the cheese on.  I took a Lactaid…it was fine.  Heather got the Baja Burger with the famous (I wish they had been gluten free) Salt ‘N Vinegar Fries.

IMG_9930

Aunt Jan, Me, and Grandpa

While we were at the mall, I had called my 98 year old grandpa and left him a message to let him know I was in town and would LOVE to stop by.  He was in water aerobics at the time (you read that right…my grandpa is the BEST!), but he called me back and said he’d be home the rest of the afternoon.  Heather totally remembered where he lived, which is typical Heather, and got us there without using a GPS.  BONUS…my Aunt Jan was home early from work.  We settled down in the living room to chat for a bit…and just had a great time getting caught up.  I couldn’t stop smiling.  I made sure to snap some photos before we had to hit the road back to Heather’s home.

IMG_9935

Grilled Tofu Healthy Bowl from Tavern 4 & 5

Her parents wanted to go out to eat so Heather recalled seeing some gluten-free options at one of their favorite places, Tavern 4 & 5. I got their Grilled Tofu Healthy Bowl (gluten free meant NO plum sauce).  So it was a bowl of quinoa, “power” greens salad, fresh steamed chef’s choice of vegetable from the local farmers, and the protein – in my case the Tofu.  Heather got one too…which is how we knew the original plate that came out to me came with the plum sauce…so we had to send it back and have it remade…which they did.  And the food was delicious.

We returned back to the house…and Heather made this ginger drink with gluten free vodka and we went down to the basement where she started me on some of her favorite Hallmark Christmas movies.  This bit of information will come in play later.  I had been up since 1:30 that morning…and I was starting to drift off…so I went to my room, posted my Instagram stories I saved until Heather knew I was there…and went to sleep.

The following morning, I woke up to use the bathroom….play on my phone…go back to sleep…and then finally emerge.

BREAKING BIRTHDAY

It was decided, by the birthday girl herself, that we (Heather, me, Chad, Chelsea (her

IMG_9950

Birthday Breakfast Omlette (with ALL the avocado)

sister-in-law), and the three kiddliewinks) would all meet up at a local ice skating rink (it’s Minnesota and outside, mind you!) to skate for maybe an hour on the big day.  I was a bit nervous about it.  First of all, I hadn’t been on the ice for 10 years (the last time I skated was on top of a department store in Dublin, Ireland).  Secondly, I would be using rental skates.  Third…I’m a marathon runner and while I’m sort of in a down season at the moment…for years I have avoided situations where I might do any sort of damage to myself accidentally.

I figured, if nothing else, I could stick close to the wall, get a feel for the ice…and maybe make a round or five before heading to the warming house and just hanging until everyone else was done.

After a delicious “build-your-own” omlette breakfast, compliments of Heather’s mom…we started to layer up and get ready to head out to the ice rink we would be skating at that day.  We would be meting Chad, Chelsea, and the kids there.

IMG_9960

Me rethinking life decisions in rental skates!

We all set out and I very timidly stepped out onto the ice.  And my first thought was, “Man…if I get hurt, Daniel is going to kill me!”  Daniel, for any new readers, is my running coach.  BUT…I slowly minced my way around the patchy ice, slowly being able to find a bit more of a glide and getting a bit more comfortable with it.  Heather and I took a few photos after my second or third trip around…and then she took off with my camera to film a  lap.

And that’s when things went terribly wrong.

I came skating around a turn and found her laying on the ice gripping her arm.  She was hurting.  BAD!  She told her nephew to go get Chad and soon, Chad was on his way…getting her up off the ice and having her sit down so he could assess everything.  Heather has an amazing family to support and love on her.  Honestly.  Chad helped her skate off the ice.  When the medical staff came running and saying they called an ambulance, he had them call that off…there were plenty of us there who could take her to urgent care.  He got her settled into the warming building and helped get her out of her hoodie.  He had her move her arm.  And all of this had to have been super painful for Heather.  And she gritted her teeth and did it.  A staff medial member came over with a sheet to inquire about the accident, which Chelsea went ahead and took from him and filled out with a little help from Heather.

IMG_9992

Heather and Me on the ice

Chelsea also went up to the snack bar to get a water and a Powerade for Heather to have to drink.  I went with her and gave her a little hug.  It was just not the birthday celebration any of us were anticipating that morning.  We did pack up everything while Chad went to go grab Heather’s car.  We carried everything out, got Heather into the passenger seat, and Chad drove Heather and I to Urgent Care.  He dropped us off at the front door so he could park the car, and I walked her in, got her insurance card and ID out, filled out the paperwork, and returned it just a moment before she was called back.  Chad joined us right then.  Good timing.

The nurse had her up on the table to start with…but after sitting there for a long amount of time, and having Chad move to block the mirror so she couldn’t see her elbow, Heather eventually worked her way down to the chair.  They did bring in an ice pack and some pain meds for her, which she took and I helped hold the ice pack for her.

IMG_9993

I skate with ALL the padding on!

The doctor came in to take a look at it and just sort of give a surface inspection of it.  He ordered X-Rays, but we needed to wait for the pain meds to kick in.  So, we did that.  And about 20 minutes later, they came and got her to take her back for the X-Rays.  Chad and I chilled in the exam room until they brought her back.  She made herself comfortable in the chair again and we awaited the doctor again.  He came in shortly after and pulled up the images…starting with the back of her arm.  It didn’t look bad at that angle.  THEN…he flipped to the side view.

We all winced a little and went…”OOOOOH!”  It was a VERY obvious break.  Very obvious.  But it was a clean break…not a shatter…so that was the good news.  The doctor went to see if his surgeon had called back, because this would definitely entail surgery.  When he did return with the news…surgery was necessary…but not that day.  It could wait until after the weekend and they would split her up and give her a prescription to help with the pain…and she would have a surgical consult on Monday morning.IMG_9985

Heather was very worried about what this would mean for her and her job as far as being able to do it.  Chad and I told her not to worry about that right now.  He went to pull the car around and I went to help her get out to the car safely, in the process dropping my phone at least 3 times.  It made her laugh…a little.  We then made our way to Walgreens to pick up the prescription and a cast protector so that she could take a shower.  And then…we went home.

THE OTHER SURPRISE

39A79C50-C88A-48FD-9EB2-49C152B80690As if having a broken elbow on your birthday wasn’t enough of a shock to the system…the next element of Operation Heather Turns 40 was announced…just so that she would know what was coming.  All the family and friends who could be there were coming that evening to celebrate.  So, Heather went to settle into a bed to chill and get a feel for the splint and the occasional bolt of pain that would hit.  We started upstairs, but eventually made our way downstairs, letting her get comfortable on her own bed, stacking up pillows as needed and making sure she was set.  I settled in on the other side and we watched a lot of Laura Osnes Videos.  And maybe another Hallmark Movie.  Perhaps.  I don’t remember.  If you don’t know who Laura Osnes is…you were like me, but prepare to look into her.  She’s amazing.  She’s a Broadway star…she was in the musical Cinderella, Bonnie & Clyde, and others.  And her voice is AMAZING.  She’s very talented.  It’s what Heather needed…until we needed to get her ready for the party.9C5A7E65-596C-4743-B9B5-B7169A3AA26D

I helped her change her shirt.  Her mom helped her curl her hair and do her makeup.  And when she was ready…we got her upstairs and got her settled on the couch with her arm propped.  Everyone arrived.  It was a great time.  Everyone got to have time with Heather and I got to meet SO many people who told me that they had heard a lot about me or seen my photo on Facebook.  I was having a good time.  Between Chelsea and I, we were making sure Heather had food, cake, and something to drink.  Chelsea was even kind enough to pick up a gluten-free cake for me to have as well so I could be part of the celebration.  Told you…her family is amazing.  AND…even though I’m a vegetarian, they had PLENTY of options for me to choose from as well.  I hadn’t eaten lunch that day (I was going to have a salad once Heather got settled in…but I totally didn’t get around to it and by the time I remembered it was party time anyway), so I feasted on LOTS of veggies, a potato, and some chips with a plant-based dip.  It was awesome.  And…of course…cake.

IMG_9979aGifts were opened.  Lots of different discussions were happening.  And Heather was smiling.  And after all she had gone through that day…that’s the best thing ever!

As the party was winding down and everyone started to leave, I got Heather downstairs and settled in and went to go take a shower.  We watched a Hallmark Christmas Movie until she started to fade.  I set her up with a cowbell to ring if she needed me and made sure she had water, her medicine, and whatever else nearby.  She never rang the bell all night.

TIME TO GO

Sunday morning was really laid back.  I woke up around 5 and Heather woke up when she heard me moving around.  I went to keep her company for a bit.  She dozed in and out as we watched a few more Hallmark Movies…until she needed to get up.  We went upstairs where I brewed coffee and her mom made us a breakfast outIMG_9998 of leftovers.  I made sure I had my stuff packed after I changed out of my pajamas.

Heather went to go take a shower and I helped out by sorting her laundry for laundry day.  I moved everything into the laundry room and then went back upstairs to hang out for a little bit.  Her mom made an early dinner for me and soon they were packing up the car and taking me to the airport.  There were absolutely NO lines at security, so I had some time to walk the terminals, get some chocolate, buy some local treats, and grab my last cup of (decaf) Caribou Coffee.

IMG_0001I boarded the flight and headed home at 8:30 pm.  I got into Louisville before midnight and Cathy was there to pick me up and drive us home.

This was definitely not the trip any of us envisioned when we plotted it all out…but Heather sure does know how to keep things interesting, right?

For the record, she had a successful surgery where they inserted a pin.  This week, she was put in a removable splint and has started physical therapy.  AND…she has finally gotten out of the house to go out to eat.  She’s well on her way to a full recovery.

But…I did tell her that we need a do-over for sure!

IMG_9951

Exciting Stuff Part 1

78480075_10100629266703381_6256857220932173824_nTis the season to be busy…fa la la la la la la la la.

I have been trying to squeeze in time to blog on here about a few things that have come up since my last race…and it life just hasn’t slowed down very much.  In fact, I figured I’d have a bit more time these days without the grind of marathon training.  But the fact of the matter is…now I’m getting caught up on everything that had to wait until I wasn’t marathon training.  Work has been insane.  And pile the holidays on right after and it’s a recipe for chaos and stress.

BUT…some pretty exciting stuff has happened since my last race update…and I have a few goals that are non-running related that I want to keep up with this year on THIS blog even.  Because I started this blog to not just cover my running (training & races), but also my life as I navigate a gluten-free life in a gluten-filled world, my passion for baking and cooking, and everything in between.

That being said…this post is definitely running related…but also travel related…because…

I GOT INTO THE BERLIN MARATHON!!

That’s right.  This girl is heading to Germany this coming September.  Not long after my 40th birthday.  So, honestly, I can’t think of any better race to use to ring in 40th year on Earth.  The last time I went to Germany was 2003…so its been awhile.  And I have never been to Berlin or a few other places that I’ve looked at visiting while there (hello Munich in October…because Octoberfest!).  So, do expect a lot more of that as far as planning, travel, and all that goes on in Germany to be documented here.

It’s awhile off, but this is my first overseas race of the Abbott World Marathon Majors (I have done Chicago (x2 – 2013; 2018); NYC (2014), and Boston 2015) already.  Hopefully I can get into the remaining two in the near future as well.

I found out about this on the day before Thanksgiving. I was just clearing out my e-mails that morning, and thought it was spam, but opened it anyway (I live dangerously, I guess?) and gasped, went “OH MY GOD!” and threw my phone.  It freaked out my roommate.  Especially when I started going, “HOLY SHIT BALLS!”  She kept going, “WHAT?! WHAT?!”  And, honestly while crying I said, “I GOT INTO BERLIN!”  (I am using Caps Lock here because it was all the screams).  Her response was classic: “FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK.”  HAHA!

Honestly, we already have places where we are staying.  Our hotel in Berlin is 5 star hotel (because…PRINCESS) and have started to lay out a general schedule (because we needed places to stay in the other cities we wanted to travel to as well).  And, of course, since we’re there, we will probably hop over to Austria for an afternoon.

The best part of this, though, was talking with my Grandpa about it.  He has run the Berlin Marathon twice (he lived in Germany for 3 years back in the 80s) and he went over race strategies with me and told me about his experiences.  Of course, the big difference is that when he ran the race, Berlin was still divided by a wall.  Seriously, I couldn’t stop smiling as we chatted on the phone.

So, there is my first round of exciting news.  Stay tuned for more in the next couple of days (I promise…I’ll post it before I head home for the holidays).

Anyone else heading to Berlin in September?

Project BQ – Marathon Training Week #14

dreams-hopes-poster-rhino-treadmill-unicornWhew.

Guys, coming back from vacation is hard.  I mean, you have a routine, you get off your routine (like…by a lot), and then you try to fall back into your routine…yeah…it’s not easy.  Not at all.

That being said, we had some cooler mornings this week.  I enjoyed two runs in the low 50s this week, which felt glorious.  I mean…I was still comfortable in a tank top and shorts and I didn’t feel like I was being weighed down by heat and humidity.  What a difference from the Caribbean and Florida, eh?

But the weather had some fluctuations in it.  And the other mornings I ran, we were up 20 degrees in the 70s.  No rhyme or reason to when these occurred…but of course it heated up just in time for my 4th and FINAL 20+ miler this weekend.

Now that I’m back on schedule…how about we dive into this week?  I had an extra rest day, which made for 5 days of running…and I could actually tell a difference.  Interesting.

Monday: REST/RECOVERY DAY! TRAVEL DAY!

What can I say?  I had an early-ish flight out of Orlando to get back to Louisville.  And while I could have squeezed in a run around the resort, I didn’t have to get up early to do so.  My coach gave me the day off.  So, I also didn’t have to try to fit it in when I got back, allowing me to be relaxed on the flight, enjoy lunch out with my friend Melissa (who was kind enough to pick us up at the airport) and get home, unpacked, and get some groceries, because…we literally had NO food in the house.  After running some laundry and doing the stretches I couldn’t do while on vacation (French Quarter had a hard wood floor) due to the way the rooms (on the ship and on the resort were) and also the amount of time I had to squeeze in runs every day…that just didn’t happen.  My body thanked me…especially when I got to foam rolling.  I went to bed around my normal time.  Trying to get back on my routine.

Tuesday: INSTRUCTIONS: BASE RUN 6-8 MILES – GOAL 7 MILES  + 4-6 STRIDES – EASY EFFORT – TRY NO WATCH AGAIN

This was basically the same run I had on the last day in Orlando.  The one where I felt like I was flying, but really I wasn’t.  HA!  Well, it went so much better.  This was one of my 50 degree mornings.  Seriously…even with it being my first run back from my 8 day trip, my legs and body responded well.  Even the strides went better than they had in Florida.  LOVE!  I was happy with the end result…definitely felt like I was getting my legs back under me.  In addition, I did my extra hip strengtheners that I hadn’t been able to do while on vacation.  They felt good to get back to, for sure! 8 miles total for the day.

Wednesday: INSTRUCTIONS: TRACK WORKOUT – 1-2 MILE WU; 7 X 800M W/ EQUAL RECOVERY; 1-2 MILE CD – AFTER 1-2 MILE WU, DO SOME DYNAMIC DRILLS TO LOOSEN UP FURTHER. THIS IS A REPEAT OF A PIOR WORKOUT. WE ARE SHOOTING FOR AROUND 3:30 FOR THE *ON* TIME (~7 MIN PACE) AND THEN RECOVERY CAN BE LIGHT BUT NEEDS TO BE JOGGING, NOT WALKING.

Aside from some stomach issues that morning, this workout didn’t go too bad.  I only missed the interval speed on one of them (the 5th) but it was close and I rallied to hit the last 2 with some time to spare.  So, I mean, I wasn’t mad at it at all.  This morning was in the 50s again.  So, that made the 800s feel good.  I used the rest time to lightly jog, because that recovery is important to being ready for that next push.  And with 7 of them on tap, I wanted to be ready.  I ended with 11 miles for the day, with almost perfect 800s right in the middle.  I’ll take it.  Made sure I was properly fueled ahead of this, using the Maurten 160 Drink Mix.  It just works for me.

Thursday: INSTRUCTIONS: NO WATCH ALLOWED! FOCUS ON THE GOAL OF THE RUN = RECOVERY! GO AS FAR OR SHORT AS YOU NEED, AS FAST OR SLOW AS YOU NEED, WALK OR RUN AS YOU NEED.

Ahhh…recovery run.  The temperature was back up into the 70s this morning.  So, basically 20 degrees warmer than the previous day.  Glad it happened on a recovery run day instead of speed work.  Dodged that bullet.  I just let my legs go however they wanted, while making sure I kept it in recovery mode.  With my long run still looming over the weekend, I didn’t want to overdo anything.  I relaxed, kept my heart rate down, and rounded out the weekday runs with just over 5 miles.  I also did my second day of my additional hip strengtheners because it was the last day I had to work them in.  I try to do them twice a week.  Was surprised I managed this week.

Friday: REST/RECOVERY DAY!

Second (which is weird for me) rest day of the week.  What did I do?  Slept in.  Seriously.  I even went to bed early the night before.  YAY!!  Took a shower.  Stretched.  Ate breakfast.  Had coffee.  Went to work.  Went out for (MAGIC) sushi for dinner.  Stretched more.  Foam rolled.  Went to bed at 8 pm.  I had an early morning ahead of me and I wanted a full 8 hours of sleep.

Saturday: LONG RUN: 18-22 MILE LONG RUN – EASY PACE – DON’T PUSH IT!! AND PRACTICE RADE DAY FUELING STRATEGY.

I was really happy to hear from my friend, Ron, on Friday asking what my run schedule was.  I have two weekend runs, but Saturday was my beast.  22 miles.  My last 20 miler in this series (and my 4th one…the most I have ever done in a training cycle).  Ron was good for 10 miles with me (possibly more), so I made arrangements to meet with him at 7:30 at the Greenway to run.  I got out at 6:15 am to hit the streets and get in 8 miles ahead of those miles with Ron.  It was warm (71 degrees) and humid that morning, but while the sun was down, it wasn’t too bad.  But the moment that sun rose above the clouds, it got hot.  Fast.  Ron and I stuck it out, with the last couple of miles being hard.  But, while he was done, I still had about 4 to go.  And, the route home didn’t have much in the line of shade.  I did practice my race day fueling, knowing exactly how I am going to space out my Maurten 320 Drink Mix and my Maurten 100 Gels.  I have it down and I feel like, as long as it isn’t hot (and it might be) in November…I finally got fueling and hydrating down.  I actually finished off the water in my hydration pack today (which had 2 Nuun tablets in it).  It was a hard run due to heat, but I remain confident and feel strong…and feel that Monumental is shaping up in a good way.

Sunday: INSTRUCTIONS: NO WATCH ALLOWED! FOCUS ON THE GOAL OF THE RUN = RECOVERY! GO AS FAR OR SHORT AS YOU NEED, AS FAST OR SLOW AS YOU NEED, WALK OR RUN AS YOU NEED.

Being back on a schedule was a glorious thing.  Because, despite having a soccer match on Saturday night (that kept me out later than normal)…I was up and ready to chase my sunrise.  I love having recovery runs on Sunday because I can wake up and head out just as it’s getting light out and the sky is turning gorgeous colors.  I make it up to the park just as the sun is climbing over the lake and it’s…my favorite thing to take in on Sunday.  It was nice not to have a distance run or a run where paces needed to be hit because I really enjoy these runs.  I ran comfortably.  Didn’t push it on the hills.  And got in 5 easy, recovery miles.  Perfect way to wrap up the week.

I do believe that my unofficial, official, untraditional taper now goes into effect.  My coach doesn’t taper the usual way…in fact, while mileage might be down a little, usually it’s the intensity that he takes down a notch.  So…we shall see where we go from here.  Race day keeps creeping closer.  But this week was much easier with an extra day off and sliding back into my usual schedule.

Project BQ – Marathon Training Week #13

dreams-hopes-poster-rhino-treadmill-unicornYep.  I am well aware that this post is REALLY late this week.  But…let me tell you…I was on a glorious, fun vacation.  And I was off the grid for much of it because I was hanging on a cruise ship.  Gotta love it.

Now, let me remind you, that when I planned a birthday trip…I was to have already run my marathon.  I had planned on running the Erie Marathon, but it sold out before I could register for it.  I wasn’t expecting that, so it made me give up on my dream of a Boston 2020 experience and turn my focus on Boston 2021.  BUT…this now meant that instead of recovering on my cruise/vacation…I was now in the peak of my training.

My coach was very flexible with my schedule and kindly gave me a “down” week while I was away.  But this did include two back-to-back 13 milers…which I moved from the weekend to the middle of the week (while on a cruise ship instead of at a Disney resort) , but this was how it would work in my schedule the best while I was away.  I kept them back-to-back because I felt that was an important component to the training…just shifted WHEN they happened.

Was it ideal to have to train while on my birthday cruise/vacation?  NOPE.  Was it fun?  NOPE.  But…it is what it is right now…and I worked it in.  It wasn’t perfect.  It was far from it.  Disney exhaustion is a real thing friends, and it definitely hit me hard.  But…I managed to keep my training on track.  I wish I didn’t HAVE to fit it in…but we made it work the best we could.

Let’s set sail…

Monday: REST/RECOVERY DAY! EMBARKATION DAY FOR DISNEY DREAM CRUISE!

I arrived in Orlando on Sunday morning and spent most of the morning running around Disney Springs and getting settled in to the All-Star Music resort for one night.  No running around the parks.  Nothing big on Sunday…just get a meal at Sanaa (THE BEST) and get some sleep to make the drive to Port Canaveral in the morning.  I set an alarm and got up ahead of it, managing to work in my morning PT stretches that day.  Then we made the drive to port and got signed up for the Castaway Cay 5K (which was now running on my birthday), and boarded the Disney Dream.  The rest of the time was spent exploring the ship, grabbing lunch (they made me a gluten free tomato sandwich…which took some time to get to me…and they sent me 2…because I guess they thought I would starve)…settling into our room…going through the safety drill…catching a show…getting dinner (and meeting THE BEST tablemates ever)…dealing with Cathy getting sea sick…there wasn’t time for a run.  And it was nice to have an extra day off and to feel like I could get used to the ship and get my trip off to a leisurely and un-stressful start start.

Tuesday: INSTRUCTIONS: BASE RUN 6-8 MILES – GOAL 7 MILES  + 4-6 STRIDES – EASY EFFORT – TRY NO WATCH AGAIN

Welcome to the wonderful world of training while on a cruise. This was NOT easy whatsoever.  While eating breakfast, the ship pulled into Nassau in the Bahamas.  YAY!!  I had heard how touristy this stop was, so Cathy and I decided that we’d leave the ship, hit up the Hard Rock, hit the Starbucks (I was buying a mug for a friend), then head back to the ship.  This was what we did and I was happy with this decision.  The streets were crowded, and I could only imagine how the beach would be.  While everyone was off the ship, I figured I’d go onto the track on Deck 4 and run my workout there.  The problem was, part of the deck was blocked off due to some maintenance happening.  AND…my GPS wasn’t working.  At all.  So I would physically have to count my laps.  I wasn’t feeling it.  So, we took the stairs up to Deck 11 and entered the fitness center.  Here, I hopped on one of the treadmills and did an easy run (because I can’t run fast on a treadmill), putting in a full 8 miles at this pace, skipping the strides and vowing to add them onto one of my runs when I got back on land.  Done.  Cathy walked on the treadmill next to me and would replenish my water as needed, which was awesome.  It was a great way to spend the afternoon before showering, changing (it was Halloween costume night!), and heading out to do some Trick or Treating and catching dinner with two of our table mates (the other 2 parties were at Palo that night).  It was so much fun, and I wasn’t stressing the workout at all.  That being said, I knew the rest of the runs on the ship would be on that treadmill.

Wednesday: INSTRUCTIONS: 11-13 MILES WITH 3 MILES FAST FINISH – GOAL 12 MILES – EASY DOES IT UNTIL FAST FINISH AT THE END.

This was supposed to be our day at Castaway Cay…but that got shifted to Thursday.  Instead, this was our Day At Sea.  It would also be Pirate Night.  That’s fun, right?  I got up early to get to the fitness center on the ship just after it opened at 6 am.  I had 13 miles to log (really 13.1, because I can’t just run 13 miles), and was going to break it up (since treadmills go for an hour at a time) by doing 5 miles, 5 miles, and then a “fast” 3 miles right at the end.  I had my bottle of Maurten with me and would fuel after each interval, with water in between.  I learned, very quickly, that running on a treadmill on a cruise ship is HARD.  You get a full-body workout because the treadmill belt is moving, but the ship is swaying too…so at times I felt like I was running up a hill, and at times down a hill.  It took some getting used to.  But I powered through with 10 miles at an easy
pace, and then 3.1 miles at a faster (maybe not super fast, but faster) pace.  It was fast for me on a treadmill.  Afterwards, when I finished up, one of the personal trainers on the ship came over and asked me if I was training for a marathon.  He then asked which one and how many I had run.  He just said he had noticed me running.  WOOHOO!!  So, while this wasn’t what I had in mind (and this probably would have been better on land)…I just made the most of what I had been dealt.  Then, Cathy surprised me with a Stem to Stern wine tasting later that day.  We did A LOT of walking around the ship that day too.  And, of course, dressed up like pirates, went to dinner at the fancy Palo restaurant (where I had a gluten free souffle for dessert!!), and then had fireworks on deck.  AMAZING.

Thursday: INSTRUCTIONS: 11-13 MILES WITH 3 MILES FAST FINISH – GOAL 12 MILES – EASY DOES IT UNTIL FAST FINISH AT THE END.

It was my birthday.  YAY!  I love my birthday.  But this morning, I was up at 5:30 to get dressed and head up to the fitness center.  It was still closed when I got up to the 11th deck, but opened up a few minutes later.  I needed to start at 6 am sharp to get in 10 miles of running prior to the Castaway Cay 5K I would be running on Disney’s private island.  I started right on time, with my Maurten bottle to fuel me through the 10 easy pace miles on the treadmill.  I did another round of 5, then started over with the last 5 miles.  Cathy met me up there as I finished up and we took the steps down to Deck 2 to group together with everyone doing the 5K.  I was using the 5K as my “fast finish,” not sure how fast it would be in the hot sun on the island AFTER a 13 mile run the day before and 10 miles ahead of the 5K itself.  We were walked off the ship and then to the start line of the 5K.  Cathy was doing the 5K as well, but we weren’t running it together.  We were sent off as the clock started and I passed quite a few people to start with, pulling into the lead female position (This, BTW, means nothing as this is a fun run and no official timing is given and people are encouraged to cut the course, LOL).  But I made a goal in my head to stay in that position.  It was definitely hot out there, especially when we weren’t in the loop (which had a bit of shade).  The runway portion was probably the hottest, and I knew my first mile was pretty quick, but my second mile I faded a bit.  I pressed on, pushing a bit more and picked it back up to finish “strong” that day.  I was happy with it.  First female.  Birthday run.  Done.  Cathy came in and we decided to change into our bathing suits, do some shopping, grab an alcoholic beverage (a Conch Cooler) and lay on the beach for a bit.  We took some pictures, went to eat lunch (the ship had a vegan and gluten free veggie burger, fries, and veggies sent to the island for me), then headed back to the ship.  NO ONE was on there.  We showered, changed, took pictures, and then went to a Mixology Class which was SO fun.  Later on, birthday dinner with the entire table back together.  And double dessert for me.  LOVED it.  The chef also created dishes for me the entire night to fit my dietary needs and make it super fun.  I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday…and the runs were a nice bonus!

Friday: REST DAY!  DISEMBARKATION DAY & MICKEYS NOT SO SCARY HALLOWEEN PARTY AT MAGIC KINGDOM!

I must say, it was nice to not have to try to fit in a run before leaving the ship on Friday morning.  We got our luggage packed up, went down to breakfast, which we ate with our entire table again, and then got in the line to get off the ship and go through customs.  After that, it was a waiting game for our room at Port Orleans French Quarter to be ready.  We grabbed a light lunch at Toasted.  We hit the grocery store for water.  We walked around the resort until the text came through and we could get into our room.  Once that happened, we changed into our costumes for the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (we were Joy & Bing Bong from Inside Out), went to Magic Kingdom, got candy, went to eat at Skippers (we split an appetizer & entree), went on rides, got TONS more candy, walked around…and left at midnight.  My legs were tired and my feet were SO sore.  I think I got to bed just before 1 am and had to get up for a run on Saturday, now very glad I moved my back-to-back 13 milers to earlier in the week.

Saturday: SPEED WORK – MONA FARTLEKS W/ 1 MILE HARD EFFORT

When I woke up on Saturday morning, the last thing I wanted to do was do speed work.  My legs were feeling heavy, the late night and time on my feet this entire trip, but more specifically…the night prior at Magic Kingdom.  It was hot and humid outside.  But…I knew this needed to happen and I needed to do it now before another long day of wandering around a Disney Park (Food & Wine Festival at EPCOT!).  So…I headed out.  Mona Fartleks were going to happen on the running path of the Port Orleans resorts…whether I wanted it to or not.  Once again, these work like this: 2 mile warm up, 2×90 sec, 4 x 60 sec, 4×30 sec, 4×15 sec (with equal recovery after each at a pace faster than base pace), 1 mile hard effort, 2 mile cool down.  I could tell from the start it was going to be a struggle.  My warm up was MEH.  My intervals felt like a slog.  And there were plenty of obstacles along the way (people with luggage, people going to the buses, dogs, carts, strollers, people on the way to breakfast and not paying attention, and any number of all of them all at once).  But I did sweat it out and get it done.  I knew it was going to be bad.  But I also had promised to tack on some strides, so I did that too…and those felt awful and slow and just sucky.  I went back to the room, feeling really defeated, but had my spirits lifted with gluten free beignets and coffee.  I showered, ate, put on sunscreen, headed to the bus to go to EPCOT…where we walked the rest of the day, once again returning LATE at night with tired legs and very sore feet.  I knew I had one more day of runs ahead of me on this trip…

Sunday: INSTRUCTIONS: BASE RUN 6-8 MILES – GOAL 7 MILES  + 4-6 STRIDES – EASY EFFORT – TRY NO WATCH AGAIN

Same run as I did on the ship…this time with the strides right at the end.  I was hoping this run would go better than the previous one.  Ultimately, this would work out to be the same distance as the Mona Fartlek workouts…just without pushing pace.  I set out, and surprisingly felt good.  I ran the same loops through the Port Orleans Resorts as the previous day.  It was much earlier, as I was wearing my reflective gear, simply because it was still very dark out.  I had an 9:15 am breakfast in Animal Kingdom, which meant in order to have time to do my run, I’d have to get up early and get it done so I could shower, change, put on sunscreen and…drive to the park.  I was happy with how I felt on this.  It was still warm and humid, but it’s Orlando, Florida.  Of course it is.  I said HI to a few people who were out smoking or sitting with their dogs on the trail. Got a lot of compliments on my Nox Gear vest (use code: CELIAC at checkout for 35% off).  And I finished it up and was actually sad and disappointed with my overall pace.  I felt like I was flying and it was so easy today…but the reality was sobering and frustrating.  I did my strides, which felt so hard to push through and do…then went to prepare for the day.  This was Animal Kingdom, some resort hopping (with Dole Whip), and then a dinner of Gluten Free Churros and Truffle Poutine.  Cathy and I split those, went and rose Flights of Passage at Pandora, and then called it a night.  We realized we hadn’t had a single vegetable all day…so we made a point to stop by the food court at the resort and pick up some celery and carrots to split…just to feel a bit better about life.  I was thankful that my travel day the following morning was an additional rest day, which made things a little less hectic and crazy…and allowed for pre-airport gluten free beignets. HA!

So…all in all…it was a fun week, but it was hard on the training.  I love traveling and taking trips, but with an actual goal this coming race, I had to prioritize my training when I had originally hoped that I wouldn’t even have to pack running clothes if I didn’t want to (let’s face it…I probably would have).  It was a struggle.  Mentally, the early mornings on vacation were rough, especially with my schedule and my diet being thrown off by late dinners, late nights, and more food than I thought was possible being put in front of me.  But, you know…you just make it work.  Even my coach said I was doing good fitting the training in while on a cruise and a stay at Disney World (since there was no races this time around) and to just let the bad runs go.  Make like Elsa…Let it go!  HA!

So, it will be nice to fall back into a “normal” schedule and see how I go as the summer days creep back in and warm us all back up…

Project BQ – Marathon Training Week #12

dreams-hopes-poster-rhino-treadmill-unicornWell, originally, this week was going to be a down week.  Extra recovery.  Because I raced pretty hard last Sunday.  BUT…I reminded my coach that I was leaving the following week for a cruise and a Disney World venture…so, he shifted weeks and had this one be a bit of recovery, but keeping one day of speed work and shifting my third (and maybe last? Maybe not?) 20 miler to this weekend.  Whew.

I won’t lie, my legs felt pretty flat for most of this week.  And the heat and humidity returned…which also sucked.  I know hot training days equal cool, fast, amazing fall marathons.  But it’s still tough and I’m not always the best at adjusting expectations.

This week…I adjusted expectations because speed work morning was close to 80 degrees long before the sun came up.  So, it was a challenging, and it really didn’t go to plan at all (save for the first mile, but more on that later)…but for the first time, I didn’t beat myself up over it.  I let it be what it was that day.  And I moved on.

So…let’s hit up this week, shall we?

Monday: INSTRUCTIONS: NO WATCH ALLOWED! FOCUS ON THE GOAL OF THE RUN = RECOVERY! GO AS FAR OR SHORT AS YOU NEED, AS FAST OR SLOW AS YOU NEED, WALK OR RUN AS YOU NEED.

It was the morning after the Downtown Doubler and I was relieved he set this as an easy, recovery run.  Short and sweet too.  Whew.  I hardly slept Sunday night leading into Monday morning.  My left hamstring was still tight from the race, despite having stretched and foam rolled.  Mostly, I was tired.  So my heart rate stayed VERY low and my pace was just where I felt it needed to be.  I had my watch covered and never once even looked at what I was running.  In the end, I managed 4 miles, my usual recovery run right now, and called it a day.  I did go ahead and do my additional hip strengthening exercises with my morning stretches.  Because I had a hard race, my personal training session was cancelled for the additional time to recover.  And I did do that extra foam rolling to help with that hamstring.  Guess what?  It worked.

Tuesday: INSTRUCTIONS: BASE RUN 6-8 MILES – GOAL 7 MILES  + 4-6 STRIDES – EASY EFFORT – TRY NO WATCH AGAIN

I had gone to bed early and managed some better sleep.  Oh, and the hamstring definitely felt better.  Much better.  But my legs still felt flat on this run.  I took it easy, but it felt harder than it should have been.  And I actually checked my pace at the end of the run, and it was a pace that shouldn’t have felt that hard.  I wasn’t running great at the moment.  It happens, right?  Heavy legs don’t last forever, right?  I pushed the strides, but they didn’t feel as fast as I could usually run either.  I let it be what it was for the day.  Did my morning stretches and tossed in the extra hip strengtheners as well.

Wednesday: INSTRUCTIONS: TEMPO RUN – 1 MILE WU; 3X2 MILES AT TEMPO (7:20-7:50) W/ 0.5 MILES RECOVERY; 1 MILE CD

Like I said…it was 80 degrees before the sun came up.  The humidity was not fun either.  In fact, it made the real feel close to 85 degrees.  Isn’t it September?  I don’t want winter, by any means, but some cooler mornings (not cold, cool) would be nice. I went through my warmup and it felt…hard.  UGH.  Not a good start.  But I told myself that I was going to just push hard and use the recovery to…well…recover.  I managed to hit the actual tempo pace ONCE in the entire workout.  The FIRST mile.  That was a 7:32…from there…it went off the rails.  7:52, 7:52, 7:58, 8:02, 7:57.  Recovery got slower each time too with one of them in the 9s.  It wasn’t a good morning for speed work…but I did put in the effort and that meant I was actually okay with it.  I met with Corey that afternoon for a killer core workout.  I say that because my abs were actually sore through Saturday.  How’s that for some personal training growth?

Thursday: INSTRUCTIONS: BASE RUN 6-8 MILES – GOAL 7 MILES  + 4-6 STRIDES – EASY EFFORT – TRY NO WATCH AGAIN

I kept the going to bed early thing going because I had some early wakeup calls.  When the runs get longer, the bedtimes get earlier because the wakeup times get earlier.  The air was thick and humid again, but the legs were actually starting to get some pep in their step.  So, while it still wasn’t where I wanted the easy run to be, feeling-wise, it felt better.  And my strides, still slower than I know I can push them, didn’t feel as daunting today.  I fit in my stretches and foam rolling right after work, because I was cooking up a special dinner to have with friends before we left on vacation.  They were bringing their adorable baby over and I was making Tomato & Goat Cheese Tarts for everyone.  It was a fun night and…a late one for me…but worth every moment.

Friday: REST DAY!

Because of the later night, I slept in as long as I could before needing to get up, shower, and do my stretching.  It was a crazy-busy day at work, but it was also Favorite T-Shirt Day.  My co-worker, Kayla, gifted me with a Murderino t-shirt and I had to wear it ASAP!  It’s my new favorite.  For those of you who listen to the My Favorite Murder podcast…you know.  I had a hair appointment that night, and Lauren not only cut my hair back up…and then French braided it.  From there, a late night dinner of my “magic sushi” at Dragon King’s Daughter.  It had to happen.  I had that 20 miler staring me down on Saturday morning.  I went home, stretched, foam rolled, and immediately called it a night.  I had an early morning, because I was starting before the sun came up.

Saturday: LONG RUN: 17-20 MILES – GOAL 19 MILES – EASY PACE – DON’T PUSH IT!  AND PRACTICE RACE-DAY FUELING STRATEGY

I got up 2 hours and 15 minutes before I’d have to leave for my long run.  I took my vitamins, drank 20 ounces of water, ate my overnight oats, stretched, did 50 pushups (I do this daily), fueled again with my Maurten 320, put on sunscreen, filled my hydration pack with 40 ounces of water with my Nuun tablets in them, and prepared to hit the road.  I left at 6:40 am and ran the first 5 miles of my 20 miler on my own.  I met up with Ron to run the Greenway (if you haven’t run it…DO IT).  He did just over 11 miles with me.  And they were great.  We talked the entire time, had some shade in spots, and then…were blocked by a train.  Just like after the Downtown Doubler.  REALLY!?  We did manage to run the flood wall and get across the tracks before the train started up again and we ran back to his car.  Here we parted ways and I did the final four miles back to the apartment.  From there, I showered, ate breakfast, went to run some errands, picked up some pho and spring rolls for my friend Natalie, visited with her while she gave me (my favorite) homemade birthday present.  Who else LOVES homemade gifts?  Then we finished up our errands, came home to eat dinner, PACK…because we hadn’t packed yet…and then watched Inside Out.  I was a lot for just one day…but I think we are mostly ready for our trip.

Sunday: INSTRUCTIONS: 3-4 MILES EASY/RECOVERY RUN.  SLOW!!

No real time for an early bedtime.  Not with everything that needed to happen.  But I got up with enough time to fit in my 4 miles, a shower, and breakfast.  Stretching and foam rolling would have to wait for the time being.  We had an early flight to catch.

And now…vacation mode.  This was supposed to be a trip where training didn’t have to happen (because I’d be in recovery from the Erie Marathon).  I am a firm believer that all things happen for a reason.  So, while I do have to train on this trip…and have two back-to-back mid-distance runs…at least I’ll relax and enjoy my time away.  Deep breaths.

Should be an interesting week…

Also…8 weeks out!

Project BQ – Marathon Training Week #8

dreams-hopes-poster-rhino-treadmill-unicornGuys…it has been a week.  A crazy, unpredictable week.  And here I am, trying to plan how to work training in while I am gone over my birthday weekend and it’s just a little overwhelming and stressful.

I went into this week with a little bit of trepidation.  Not over what I needed to do during the week.  Nope.  The weekend.  The weekend was what was truly weighing on my mind.  Why? Because it is the series of workouts that I have yet to actually execute perfectly or near perfectly.  The heat/humidity has killed me the past three…yes THREE…times I have attempted this.  And this weekend was shaping up to be…you guessed it…both hot and humid.

So…let the slog being!

Monday: INSTRUCTIONS: BASE RUN – 6-8 MILES – GOAL 7 MILES – EASY EFFORT – TRY NO WATCH AGAIN

Covering my watch has definitely become my new normal.  So if you know of anywhere where I can buy cute/fun wristbands to go over my Garmin…clue me in.  I want to stock up.  Since this was an easy run, I decided to try out the Aftershokz Bone Conducting Headphones out.  What I do love about these is that they don’t go into the ears…so you can still be fully aware of the world around you.  That’s perfect for me.  I’m not going to make a habit out of running with music…but I might pull these out for my speed work on Sunday…just to see if it gets me out of my head.  My recovery miles were definitely a little faster than they needed to be, but I felt really relaxed and good the entire run.  Later that day I met with Corey for my personal training session.  And he kicked my butt with some dynamic exercises to activate the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and core.  I love/hate core exercises.  I love a good strong core…the exercises just aren’t always fun.  I went ahead today and did my bonus hip strengthener exercises with my usual stretches as well.  Busy day.

Tuesday: INSTRUCTIONS: BASE RUN – 6-8 MILES – GOAL 7 MILES – EASY EFFORT – TRY NO WATCH AGAIN

I woke up early this morning.  I was having trouble sleeping.  It was speed work day…and I always have a little bit of anxiety going into speed work morning.  But, I put in my contacts, got dressed, and was in the kitchen, eating something to give me some energy, while I hydrated a little and filled up my hydration pack when my Weather Channel app pinged and said thunderstorms with strong winds were coming my way.  I gave it a quick moment of thought and decided that I could beat it.  I rushed out the door and quickly started my watch.  And only 0.15 miles into the planned 8 for that morning, the sky started to light up with lightning.  Frustrated, I ran back to the apartment and decided to see if it passed over while I did my stretches and additional hip strengtheners again.  It thundered while I was doing that, so I decided I was just going to have to switch my speed work day with my Thursday easy run.  I wasn’t happy about it…but it was how it had to go this time.  I thought about waiting and running on the track that night…but it was going to be in the mid-90s and there were more chances for storms.  Not going to take chances, I went to the gym…despite there being no rain, thunder, or lightning happening when I went to my car.  I hopped on a treadmill, once again using my Aftershokz to get the tunes going (I can’t do a treadmill without music.  EVER!  I can run outside (and prefer to) without music and go forever).  And I did easy miles on the treadmill for just over an hour.  Total of 7 miles, just like Monday.  The same workout, two days in a row.  One on pavement.  One on a treadmill.  I knew I would feel that treadmill on Wednesday…so I was thankful it was another easy day.  Was I stacking this week against me or what?

Wednesday: INSTRUCTIONS: NO WATCH ALLOWED! FOCUS ON THE GOAL OF THE RUN = RECOVERY! GO AS FAR OR SHORT AS YOU NEED, AS FAST OR SLOW AS YOU NEED, WALK OR RUN AS YOU NEED.

Same run as last week.  Same instructions.  Third week in a row.  Spin wasn’t given as an option, but I went anyway.  It really makes me so happy…helps me with endurance…and I get in a mentally tough place fighting for sprints and on climbs.  I like to think it carries over to running when it gets tough.  So, kept a VERY easy pace on my run, then hopped in the car to head to the gym again…this time for the Endurance Ride Spin Class.  One hour and a lot of sweat later, my legs felt really good.  Spin class always seems to take the heaviness out of my legs.  Another reason I love going so much.

Thursday: SPEED WORK – MONA FARTLEKS W/ 1 MILE HARD EFFORT

I woke up so many times the night leading into this rescheduled speed work.  I really, really was wishing this was done earlier in the week and I could just run easy today.  But…nope.  Speed work HAS to happen.  And I needed to give it my best.  I just didn’t WANT to.  Typical.  So…this week I did the usual Mona Fartlek workout.  The difference was, right after the 15 second round, I was to go immediately into a hard effort mile before my cool down.  I was toast in the mile.  It was tough.  I did my best to tough it out, but the humidity was weighing me down.  I hate when it’s humid enough to make it hard to breathe.  UGH.  But…I did it.  I got it done.  My workout was simple: 2 mile warm up, 2×90 sec, 4×60 sec, 4×30 sec, 4×15 sec (with equal recovery after each at a pace faster than base pace), 1 mile hard effort, 2 mile cool down.  They were hard this morning.  And this is really the only speed work I actually enjoy doing.  I didn’t hate this…but I was very happy to be done with it.

Friday: Per the usual…complete rest day.  Sleep in.  Shower.  Stretch.  Read.  Drink coffee.  Head into work.  The usual.  I was also having a checkup with my eye doctor just to see how the contacts were working.  Guess what…LOVE THEM!  I have a busy weekend planned, so tried to do as much prep work in advance as I could the night before.  So, insanity…but hopefully these legs will appreciate the extra TLC, foam rolling, stretches and rest because I really NEED the weekend runs to go well.

Saturday: INSTRUCTIONS: 9 – 12 MILES WITH 2 MILE FAST FINISH – EASY DOES IT UNTIL FAST FINISH AT THE END

Fast finishes are one of my least favorite things.  While I am usually very good about keeping my regular pace during the run easy, I still somehow struggle more than I should with fast finishes.  With one of my running buddies opting to sleep in, I met up with Ron on my side of the river where we ran the Greenway early to try to beat some of the summer morning heat.  Once that sun comes up…struggle bus.  But we actually kept a pretty steady, regular pace to our turnaround and then barely slowed down on the return.  Then, my fast finish was done running to the local coffee shop 2 miles away.  My roommate was meeting me there for iced coffee and Ron joined us for some rest and relaxation while we drank coffee and discussed races in states and why to do or not do certain ones.  After that, I headed home to shower and change because Cathy and I were meeting our friend Michelle and heading to Turtle Run Winery for a girls day out.  I was the designated driver due to my workout on Sunday morning, so I basically had half of a glass of wine total over the 3+ hours we were hanging there.  It was a really fun day.  After a stop off for dinner for Cathy & Michelle at a local favorite spot (nothing there I can really eat), we went to let Amanda & Richie’s pitt bull puppies out to play before taking Michelle home, calling in my order for magical sushi (it’s becoming a pre-long run favorite) for a VERY late dinner.  I ate at 8:30 pm.  REALLY late for me.  And then I went to get ready for bed…because I had an early wakeup the following morning.

SUNDAY: INSTRUCTIONS: 1 MILE WU; 3X4 MILES MP; 1 MILE CD – TAKE 2-4 MINUTES BASE PACE/RECOVERY BETWEEN SETS AT MARATHON PACE

Honestly, this is the workout I dread.  Anytime it pops up on my training plan it makes me die a little inside.  Why?  Because I have NEVER been able to actually do it properly.  AND…on top of that, one of my best friends was doing her first triathlon and wanted me to come spectate and cheer.  This meant an early morning so I could start with enough time to hopefully make it from Indiana to Kentucky and not miss her finish.  I knew I wouldn’t make her start…I probably could have seen her bike to run transition, but I didn’t know where she was when I got down there.  But my run…it was the best attempt I have had yet.  While it wasn’t perfect, especially in the last 2 miles, which were a HUGE struggle bus because it was hotter and the sun was up, and there was no shade to be had.  But…I executed this run better than I have in the past.  I even got a high five from a biker as I was on the greenway, heading from Indiana into Kentucky.  Amazing.  My marathon paces were pretty accurate, even with hills.  My biggest problem today was the extra fuel I carry to take at Mile 8…leaked.  And it was halfway gone by the time I hit Mile 5.  So, it became a use it or lose it decision so I took it 3 miles early.  I don’t think it made too much of a difference, but I was really ready to be done once that sun got higher.  It heated up really quickly today.  But, I did manage to hit the paces with few to little stops.  And, I was at the finish line to cheer in my friend, give her a hug, and hang out for a bit before heading out to do all the grocery shopping we still had left to do.  It worked out to 15.6 miles when all was said and done.

Let me tell you…I’m tired.  And my schedule for next week isn’t playing around.  So…rest is going to be key for me this coming week.  Wish me luck on that.  Also…my coach and his wife just welcomed their third child.  Exciting times.  He warned all of us he coaches that he might not get schedules posted by Sunday night, but he actually had them to me before 3 pm.  Amazing.  And also…trying not to panic over the speed work that he assigned this time around.

Killer.

For now, I keep hoping for this heat to let up…just a little.

OH…AND WE ARE 12 WEEKS OUT.

No wonder I’m tired…

The Bluegrass BAMR Podcast – Episode 10: “Life as a Celiathlete” with Karen Brady — BluegrassBAMR

Quote

Hey everyone!

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 […]

via The Bluegrass BAMR Podcast – Episode 10: “Life as a Celiathlete” with Karen Brady — BluegrassBAMR

Disney World Fairy Tale Challenge – Orlando, FL (February 22-24, 2019)

IMG_8170

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.

IMG_6936

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.

IMG_6943

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.

IMG_6945

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.

IMG_7036

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!

IMG_7049

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.

IMG_7055

KEVIN!!!

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.

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.

IMG_7083

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.

IMG_7090

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.

IMG_7096

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).

IMG_7099

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.

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.

 

IMG_7176

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

Time: 48:45

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.

IMG_7157

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.

IMG_7156

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.

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.

 

IMG_7378

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

Time: 48:49

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.

IMG_7310

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.

IMG_7331

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.

IMG_7345

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.

IMG_7384

My favorite ride – Tower of Terror!

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.

 

IMG_7420

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

Time: 1:45:24

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!

IMG_7430

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.

IMG_7450

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.

IMG_7453

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.

IMG_7504

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!

IMG_7506

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.

IMG_7511

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

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.