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

IMG_2990

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

Race: Bank of America Chicago Marathon

Place: Chicago, Illinois

Date: October 7, 2018

Time: 3:50:41

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

Welcome…to my Chicago Marathon.

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

I repeat…

A LOT.

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

IMG_2829

The Tamale Place on Rockville Rd in Indianapolis, Indiana

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

IMG_2828

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

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

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

IMG_2830

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

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

IMG_2844

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

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

Next stop: THE EXPO!!IMG_2848

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

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

IMG_2853

Me and AmyLee at the Chicago Marathon Expo!

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

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

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

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

IMG_2858

Here’s to finish lines!

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

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

IMG_2869

My stats from the Abbott Booth at the Chicago Marathon Expo

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

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

IMG_2876

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

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

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

IMG_2881

Me dressed and ready to run the Chicago Marathon!

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

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

IMG_2892

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_2925To the song Sweet Home Chicago.

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

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

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

IMG_2966

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_3051

Me after finishing the Chicago Marathon

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

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

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

IMG_3047

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

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

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

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

IMG_3039

Me with my Chicago Marathon medal and jacket at Buckingham Fountain

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

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

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

So…what mistakes did I make?

IMG_3046

Finishers…Friends!

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

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

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

Advertisements

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

kauai finish

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

Race: Kauai Half Marathon

Place: Poipu, HI (Island of Kauai)

Date: September 2, 2018

Time: 1:46:27

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

~Kara Goucher

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

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

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

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

IMG_0644

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

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

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


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

IMG_0690

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_0839

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

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

IMG_0864

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

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

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

IMG_0866

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

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

IMG_0874

Me at the start of the Kauai Half Marathon

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

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

IMG_0883

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

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

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

IMG_0891

Me receiving my medal at the Kauai Half Marathon finish line

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

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

IMG_0909

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

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

IMG_0935

YAAAAAAAAAAS!!

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

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

IMG_0916

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

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

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

IMG_0937

Me and Bart Yasso after the Kauai Half Marathon!

First World Problem of the (Almost) Everyday Blogger

I am having a hard time tonight.  I had every intention of sitting down this weekend and typing up at least one of the two major race reviews/recaps from my races in September and October.

But…I’m not finding the words.  And it sucks.

writersblock
Writing is my passion and reliving my races to share with those who are interested or, maybe, considering that race themselves is usually no sweat.  Maybe I waited too long.  None of the thoughts or memories are clear.  I’m having very mixed feelings on how I felt on the trip/race/etc.

And now…I’m just stuck.

Any ideas on how to get motivated and break through this writer’s block?

help

Trials & Tribulations & Travels

prioritiesGuys…

I have a lot to cover.  A lot.

But I can’t here.  Not yet.  Because…things haven’t been said on other platforms by other people that I can’t go into here…but once it’s out there…I’ve got blogs to write and things to fill all of you in on.

I’ve been on the road a lot recently.  And I leveled up somewhere in there with a birthday too.

I’m very behind on this blog…and I realize this.  I’m seriously going to make more of a push to be active and write about more than just my races.  Because I’m not just passionate about running…but also food and travel and…just having fun.  With friends.

takemeaway

Here’s a little run-down of things coming down the pike…

I went to Hawaii.  Again.

I went to Disneyland.  Again.

I went to Chicago.  Again.

I got shadowbanned by Instagram.  That’s a first.  No again necessary.  That being said…no one is seeing my posts right now and since I’ve built my account up since 2011…having it currently be unavailable to people who are not my friends is beyond frustrating.  My visibility is nill and IG has done nothing to fix it…because I’m not one of their precious influencers.  MEH.  And how did this happen?  I got hacked.  On a Sunday morning.  While headed to a run.

No joke.

SO mad.

banned

So…if you aren’t following me on Instagram…come and give me a follow and check out my posts (like them, please!) and my Instagram Stories (I’m hilarious.  Sometimes.  HA!)

You can find me here:

My Instagram Page!

Thanks, lovelies.  I also hope to start going back to some product (food and running related…YAAAAAAAAAAAAAS!)…and I’m going to get serious about recipes and also progress with…just where I am…both in fitness and in life.  Because…sometimes life is hard and things just get out of control.  And it’s good to have a support team.

Thanks for sticking with me.

Blogs are coming.  Daily.  I am going to make this a priority again.

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

124

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

Race: United Airlines NYC Half Marathon

Place: New York, NY

Date: March 18, 2018

Time: 1:41:29

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

Two things though:

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

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

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

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

NOT IMPRESSED!

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

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

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

IMG_5122

We love flight delays…NOT!

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

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

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

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

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

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

086

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

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

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

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

But I digress…

032

Race Expo time!!

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

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

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

IMG_5168

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

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

IMG_5176

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_5184

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

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

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

IMG_5188

Running through Times Square during the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon

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

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

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

128

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

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

IMG_5200

Melissa and Paul running toward Central Park!

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

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

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

IMG_5211

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

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

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

Or at least get a cute winter hat.

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

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

IMG_5342

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

Practicing Patience

patienceGood morning, friends!!

Anyone else out there have a problem with patience?  Especially when it comes to being patient with yourself?

STORY. OF. MY. LIFE.

And…its my impatience (I totally blame being a go-getter New Yorker) that often leads me to setbacks that don’t move me forward and only end up dragging me down and feeling defeated.

I’m trying to break the mold this time around.  And…trust me…this isn’t easy.  Not at all.  As I mentioned before, I recently participated in The Dopey Challenge at Disney World.  Over 4 days, I ran 4 races…each of which got longer in length (5K, 10K, Half Marathon, Marathon), and I actually did really well on the races, given that I was bouncing into the parks every day and not resting up the legs.  Honestly…I’m so super proud of my performance.  This being the 2nd time I’ve participated in The Dopey Challenge and having improved on all the times of the races I actually raced (10K, Half, Full), I felt amazing (mentally) but tired and sore (physically) following the actual events.  I went into the weekend with a sinus cold and came out of it with the Disney flu.  I took a lot of days to recover…from sickness and the races.  I knew, following Dopey, that I would need to let my body recover well.  I still probably would have gone back to it sooner had my body not been drained from sickness.  This past week, I decided to give easing back into it a try.

And I started on Wednesday with an hour long spin class…that totally kicked my ass.  I was done within the first 20 minutes…my power, energy and speed all really dropping down.  Our spin bikes light up to tell what zone you are in and I didn’t even care that I was in the white and blue instead of yellow and red like the rest of the class.  I had to listen to my body.  And while I valued the movement, I wasn’t going to push myself to try to hit a level my body wasn’t ready to reach yet.

Call that growth, because I do believe the me of the past would have felt the need to press on and keep up with the rest of the class.  But I’ve also had a recurring stream of injuries to deal with the past 3 years.  After building up and failing over and over again…you do actually gain wisdom.  There is no shame in listening to your body and backing off intensity as you see fit.  I put this body through a lot physically both with the races and then trying to fight off illness…it’s no wonder my body isn’t feeling as strong as it used to be.

Have I lost some fitness…you better believe I have.  Some mornings, it is a struggle to just simply get through my PT exercises.  And for as much as I have stressed their importance to me coming back stronger, the past 3 weeks have seen little to none of the stretches and exercises I was prescribed.  And I didn’t feel guilty about it.  My body needed the sleep and the time on the couch more than it needed the movement.

But, like any active person, my body does crave movement.  I like moving my body.  I just needed to give myself the time to get to where it could handle some.  Nothing big.  No long miles or hard runs.  No pushing the limits on the spin bike.  Just gentle movement.

This past weekend, with the weather warming up and the snow and ice melting away, I took advantage with  my first run since Dopey.  And, while I was out there for 30 minutes, believe it or not…only 8 minutes of it was actually spent running.  I took my time to warm up with 5 minutes of walking…then did 4 x 2 minutes running/3 minutes walking…then a 5 minute cool down.  And it felt hard…and amazing all at once.  And that was how I needed to take it.  I’m not ashamed that I only ran 8 minutes.  I’m damn proud of those 8 minutes and what my body managed to do in that time.  I took Sunday off completely and didn’t feel bad about it.

Today, it was close to 60 degrees this morning.  So, I decided I would pull on a pair of SHORTS and take advantage by doing a short run.  I decided to just run…easy…and deliberately…keeping the heart rate down…but do it without the walk breaks.  It was the struggle bus.  My body is still recovering, but I managed to do 20 minutes and keep the heart rate in Zones 1 and 2.  I count that as a win.  I went to spin afterwards, and that’s when my body let me know it was too much for the day. The first half of class I felt strong and almost normal, but my energy levels crashed soon after that…so I turned down the resistance, sat down when I needed, and just let my body do what it needed.

I’m not mad.  I’m recovering.  And I will still take complete rest days and lift lighter weights when strength training…and keep the intensity down.  The me of the past would have taken this as failure…but I feel so empowered that I can trust my body, my mind, and myself to practice patience and self-love and trust that I will grow from this.  Constant forward progression.  Tired of taking steps back.  It’s all a matter of changing the mindset.  And I still struggle…but I know, in the end, this will make me a better, faster, stronger athlete.patience2

AND…as another form of self-care and self-love, let me also emphasize that just because I am not working out doesn’t mean I’m not fueling my body.  My body went through a lot and proper nutrition is key.  I am not just eating fruit and low calorie foods just because I’m not working out.  WRONG.  I have actually changed a lot of what I eat to give me more nutrients and better sources of vitamins and fuel to help this body maintain fitness and strength through all of it.  Starving your body only starves yourself of further potential and forward progress.

Patience is not an easy thing to practice.  It’s something that can gnaw at you and really make you question yourself.  Learning how to be patient with my body and myself has been one of the hardest things I have set out to do…and while it’s still a constant work in progress…I can see where my mindset has changed so that I am kinder to myself and…more willing to give myself the time I need to get to where I feel I want to be.

Patience, grasshoppers.

It’s worth it!

Recovering…like a boss!

If there is one thing I might have taken for granted or just not done properly in the past…it’s taken recovery time.  No runner likes time off.  I have yet to meet one who actually does proper recovery after hard efforts or distance races.

Guess what?

I actually did this time.

Some of it might have been forced.  After all…thanks to the petri dish of germs that is Disney (especially on Marathon Weekend), I came down with the Disney Flu.  Yay.  And no, this doesn’t come with fun Mickey Ears and character experiences.  It comes with a big dose of Theraflu and sleep.

sick

I mean…it has been non-stop since I returned from the freezer that was Orlando over Marathon weekend.  Coughing.  The coughing is the killer.  I am finally able to breathe again.  Thank you for calming down sinuses.  Remember…a co-worker gave me a sinus-only cold before I even left for Dopey.  Run all the races.  Go to all the parks.  Is it any wonder I ended up like this?

sick01.gif
Has my recovery been a bit forced?  Perhaps.  But here’s the thing…

I set a goal this year.  A goal of having an injury-free 2018.  So when my running coach tells me to rest…dammit…I’m resting.  When my mileage is lower than I like it to be…well…so be it.  Trust the process, right?  I have a few other big goals I’m hoping to reach in the next year or two…so I have to learn to believe in myself…and the method that will help me get there more efficiently than…past attempts.

I admit to, in the past, rushing back into activities.  I bounce back quickly.  I do.  But I also break down too.  We all do.  We just don’t always like to admit to it.

sick04.gif
Here’s the thing…we might feel good…but we put our bodies through a lot and push it to the limit, not just in races…but in training too.  Maybe moreso in training…and we’re LESS likely to take recovery/rest days during training.  I don’t care what distance you raced…if you raced…RECOVER!!  Like…actually recover!!  Would I have taken time off if I hadn’t caught the Disney Crud?  Yep.  I actually would have.  Like I said, I have big goals this year and to achieve them, I need to respect my body and learn a little patience.

I mean…granted, I hurt for about 3 days following the Dopey Challenge…but I also pushed through most of the 48.6 (and more) miles that I covered over the course of the weekend.  And that’s just running.  I still had parks to visit in between.  Because, as much as I’d love to lay low…I pay for those Disney tickets and they aren’t cheap.  By God, I was going to get my money’s worth.  Park hopping…princess hunting…fast passing rides…all of it.  I was doing it.  And…I did it.  All.

But it doesn’t have to be The Dopey Challenge to make taking down time a priority.  Any race…any distance…anywhere where you push yourself more or further…do yourself a favor.  Take some time off.  Depending on the race distance…it could be a week…it could be two…it could be more.  Don’t think you HAVE to get to the gym the day after a half marathon or hop on a spin bike or even go for a “recovery run.”  Let’s face it…whether you back of the speed or not…a 6 mile run is generally a 6 mile run…”recovery” or not.  I listened to a podcast recently from a running coach who said that there was absolutely no such thing as a recovery run.  You’re still putting in an effort and working the same muscles that your regular runs do.  And most people don’t actually run these that much slower.  Your entire body needs to heal up to get stronger…don’t rush the process.  You might feel good immediately after the event…but you’ve still put that body through a lot.  You might feel good a week after…and you still might need more down time, depending on the distance that you ran.

Remember…there is no such thing as over-training…just under recovery.

RECOVERY…is super important.  I have been fortunate enough that my recovery time has fallen when it’s gotten stupid cold outside, with the addition of some ice and snow on the ground.  Bonus.  I’m always cold…so I hate running in the cold.  And I especially hate winter weather running.

sick02

In addition, let me be the first to remind you that you should NEVER stop eating properly or regularly despite recovery time.  Your body needs all those nutrition benefits, especially as you recover from a hard effort.  With the Disney Flu…I have still maintained my regular food times.  I mean, I do live on a schedule.  What I have done is simply change what I have been eating.  Mostly because I can’t taste flavors right now…and just eating food for texture isn’t working for me.  So, soup and chili have been my go-tos.  But I am making sure I am hitting all my nutrition needs every day.  And yes…I’m eating well and I’m definitely eating enough calories each day.  Eat well, eat enough, eat healthy.  So many people focus on weight and get really crazy with their nutrition.  When you’re training, you need to eat.  And you need to eat well.  When you’re recovering…you also need to eat…and yes…you need to eat well.  Now is not the time to cut down on your nutrition.  I promise…you aren’t going to get fat.

As I stated, for the past two weeks…all I’ve really wanted it soup.  That being said…I love that soup has so many different varieties out there because it keeps it interesting.  I’ve been serving mine up with different gluten-free crackers.  And sometimes I add avocado or something to bulk it up.  I mean…who doesn’t love tomato soup with a grilled (vegan) cheese sandwich?  I know my body needs certain things to stay in good shape even when I’m not working out as much.  NEVER skimp on nutrition when you are training or recovering.

sick05.gif
So…I’m on the mend.  I took time off from work to sleep and recovery both before I left for Disney (initial sinus bleh) and then basically all the rest of the week after I got back from Disney.  Sleep and rest and proper nutrition have definitely helped me bounce back from not just the races…but the sickness too.  My muscles don’t ache anymore (also…thank you Roll Recovery!) because I’ve let them heal and get stronger.  I’ve been using my new Roll Recovery R8 and R3…as well as my foam roller.  And stretching.  Never underestimate the power of stretching.  I even went to 2 of my spin classes this past week.  I took it easy.  I didn’t push as hard as I normally would.  And I still felt like it kicked my ass.  I’m not mad.  I’m taking my time.

rollrecovery

That being said…if you thought I was a germophobe before…you should see me now…

sick03.gif

Remember, friends…living your best life is all about balance.  Find time to rest…recovery…find balance…eat well…play…laugh…and yes…return to that activity you love…once your body is stronger from the respect and rest you allowed it.

I took 2 weeks off…and I still feel I fatigue easily.  I’m easing back into with with longer walks and short run segments.  And I still feel like I’m a badass.  I’m a very smart…totally recovered…less injury-prone badass!!

YAY!

quote