It was an honor to sit down with Crystal and Tom O’Keefe for an interview about all things Peloton as well as my time in Germany, running the Berlin Marathon, and…Bradley Rose. This was one of the most fun interviews I have ever done.
Check out the episode on their YouTube channel:
You can also listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and other listening apps – you can find it by searching The Clip Out in your favorite app!!
Sorry 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.
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!
After 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.
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.
Lots 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.
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.
After 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.
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.
And…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!
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.
We 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.
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.
We 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.
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.
I 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!!
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.
Eventually, 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.
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.
I 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.
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.
The 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.
Just 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!
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.
My 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It was decided, by the birthday girl herself, that we (Heather, me, Chad, Chelsea (her
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
As 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.
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.
Gifts 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 out 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.
I 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!
I don’t know how I made it through these last 20 weeks, but with that said…race week has arrived. I’m both nervous, excited, anxious, and calm. How is it possible to feel all the thingsand remain sane? Well, the vote is still out on that whole remaining sane thing. HA!
This was definitely a week to turn it down. And my coach gave me specific instructions that he didn’t want me to take a complete back seat this week, but I could move or change whatever I needed to going into it. I didn’t change a damn thing. I did, however, knock my recovery runs down one mile and made sure to keep that pace nice…and…easy. The last thing I wanted was to go into race morning with lactic acid hanging around in these legs. NOPE NOPE NOPE!
As I mentioned previously, my coach does an untraditional taper. He does lower mileage (although I was in the 60s, 50s, 40s for the last three weeks)…kinda. He makes a lot of it all about that speed work. Getting those legs to fire…right at the end of a run…when they are the most exhausted. But this week really didn’t have too much on it. My longest run was 7 miles, and that was the ONLY one that really had a speed element to it. And it was a 4 mile fast finish. Other than that…strides on the last day I ran before the race. But I’ll cover all of that in this week recap.
It’s race week…let’s go!
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.
I love that even in taper, my coach trusts me with “Choose Your Own Adventure” runs. Knowing that this is race week, I really wanted to make my primary focus recovery. I want to hit that start line feeling fresh and ready. I was stressing over the forecast a little too much, because it looks like this will be my coldest marathon I have run. Thanks to Canada and this arctic blast that is attacking our nation. HA! Anyway, I woke up to weather JUST above freezing. So it was a long sleeve, capris kind of a run. I didn’t wear my Dunkin’ Donuts hat…don’t know why. I just didn’t. And the legs did a little shakeout. They felt good for a Monday. I opted to do 4 instead of my usual 5 miles…and somehow snagged some negative splits in the process. I called it a day. No personal training. Just my normal PT stretches. I didn’t even do the additional hip strengtheners this week, not wanting to accidentally tweak something. Simple. Basic. Got it done.
Tuesday: INSTRUCTIONS: 5-8 MILES WITH 3-5 MILE FINISH AT MARATHON PACE – GOAL 6.5 MILES – EASY DOES IT UNTIL THE FAST FINISH AT THE END
I woke up on Tuesday morning to 50 degree weather. Yep. From 33 degrees Monday morning to 50 degrees on Tuesday. Fun times. I knew he gave me the option of 8 miles…and if this was training on a normal week and I was feeling good…I might have pushed for it. BUT…it’s taper. It’s race week. I don’t like half miles…so I rounded up to 7…and I opted to go right in the middle with that fast finish, doing 3 easy miles and pushing pace on those last 4. It felt hard. It shouldn’t have felt hard. But, I did at least get it done. My sinuses were having a fun reaction to the yo-yo temperatures, so that was fun. Other than that…I took it for what it was. Finished as strong as I could for the day, then went inside to shower and just do my usual stretching. Keeping it nice and easy. Oh, and I went and voted. Because that needed to happen!
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.
Second verse, same as the first. My only other “Choose Your Own Adventure” run for the week. Happy to have had 2 of these. I opted to do 4 again, unless I just wasn’t feeling it. That’s the glory about these…I control them. I did make a note to back off on pace and just let the legs work a little less. My last 2 miles were much quicker than my first 2 miles, but that’s because it took me 2 miles to feel warm. Isn’t that fun. OH…did I not mention that the temperature dipped back down to just above freezing again? Another morning with 33 degrees. Oh…joy. And the fact that I went from a warm apartment to run and it took me 2 miles to get my legs going was a bit of a concern. I just tried very hard not to let it get into my head. I did my stretches twice that morning. And I foam rolled before work. After work, I had a sports massage and I was so thankful for that. Basically all that is holding me back right now is the weather.
Thursday: BASE FUN 4-8 MILES + 4-6 STRIDES – GOAL 6 MILES – EASY OVERALL EFFORT
It was another rainy Thursday morning. Just like last week. UGH. MEH. BLAH. I originally had thought about just doing the run on the treadmill, but I can’t do strides on the tready. Nope. So…I opted to just go and get it done. It never stopped raining on me…but thankfully, we were back up to 50 degrees. WHAT THE HELL WEATHER?! So, I definitely didn’t want to push anything. Not even the hills I go up and down. This was one of my slowest training runs to date. And some of it might have been fear of slipping on the wet pavement and falling. I won’t lie. But I really just wanted it all to feel super easy. It didn’t. I blame the rain. But, I did get in 6 miles. See…I was given the option of going up to 8…but I really am doing JUST what needs to be done this week. I reset for strides and pushed those legs on some short sprints…then went inside to take a hot shower, stretch, and get to work. I met my friend, Melissa, for coffee after work…and she gave me my start line pep talk just in case she couldn’t get that out at my start line. I appreciated it. Went home to eat dinner. Was supposed to pack. Didn’t pack. Went to bed by 8:30…because I really wanted to get some quality sleep knowing that I probably won’t sleep much on Friday night.
Friday: REST/RECOVERY DAY!
Thank God for small miracles. I woke up at normal time…of course. I didn’t set an alarm. I just woke up. So I lounged and dozed and finally got up at 5 am. I showered. I stretched. I was thankful to not have to do one single mile today. I was thankful that it was 26 degrees outside and I got to stay inside, stretch, hydrate, and sit under my snuggie, working on this blog. That’s what I did. I eventually made breakfast and my roommate and I got to packing…pretty much every option for any scenario on race day. I still don’t know what I should or want to wear during the race. We haven’t had weather this cold yet here…so I am at a total loss. Not to mention, I have never run a marathon or a long distance run in temperatures like this. It doesn’t sound fun. It’s producing a lot of anxiety…but we’re working through it. We had to wait for Dragon King’s Daughter to open so I could order my “magic sushi” to take with me to Indianapolis. Then we hit the road to get up to Indy, check into the hotel, and hit the expo. The rest of the time, I was going to spend in the hotel…rolling, stretching, and keeping myself off my feet. I wanted to feel good Saturday morning.
Saturday: CNO FINANCIAL GROUP INDIANAPOLIS MONUMENTAL MARATHON
Goal: Qualify for Boston – needed 3:40 time.
Finished in 3:35:13.
More to come in actual post race recap! This girl is going back to Boston in 2021! This is my second fastest marathon…EVER. This beats out my 2nd marathon, the Marshall Marathon, by about 42 seconds. Super proud. Super sore. But my day didn’t end with that finish line. Then I went and sat outside in Indianapolis for the USL Eastern Conference Finals between the Indy Eleven and…Louisville City FC. We won. In overtime. It was a long day of being cold.
Sunday: REST/RECOVERY DAY!
I just can’t sleep the night after I run a marathon. I was up until after midnight, watching Mindhunter (finished Season 2) and was still NOT tired. I tossed and turned all night. Finally got up and decided to finish this blog. Will take a short 20 minute walk on the hotel treadmill this morning before grabbing breakfast, packing, loading up the car, and heading out for some shopping and lunch (you know I’m going to Woody’s). Then, the long car ride home to Louisville, where I still need to buy groceries, meal prep, and all the usual stuff. This coming week will bring my 20-30 minute walks (just like I did post Glass City Marathon in April). I want to get back to spin classes…all the stuff I stopped doing when marathon training took over my life. Looking forward to this recovery time while I make plans for 2020, which now doesn’t need to include a marathon!
Friends…I am 21 SECONDS away from matching my half marathon PR (which I set at the Geist Half Marathon in 2014). That’s…that’s ONE HILL. Do you know how thrilled I am to see this time? To know that I’m 22 seconds away from a new PR (hey, a 1 second PR is still a PR)?! I am ecstatic!!
And shocked. This is my second fastest half marathon to date. It’s been over 3 years since I even came close to my PR.
This is HUGE!
I apologize right now for all the bold, italics, caps lock, and exclamation point abuse!
Let’s take the deep dive into this race, shall we?
This story starts…on Friday. Friday’s are complete rest days for me. I hadn’t been sleeping well this past week, which sucked, but my sleep was a bit better Thursday night into Friday morning. Not great…but better. I got up, showered, finished packing, and started to prep my overnight oats (I’ve been eating these prior to long runs all summer, so why stop now?) to take with me to Indianapolis for race morning. I put those in the fridge, finished getting ready for work, and went into the office for 6 hours. Arrangements had been made to leave at 2:30 pm, head to Dragon King’s Daughter (because my magic sushi had to happen prior to a race for sure and I had a cooler in the car to keep it through the drive), and hit the road. We were about 30 minutes away when I realized I had left my prepped overnight oats in the fridge at work. UGH! So, Cathy and I said we’d find a grocery store to find something comparable when we got to Indy.
The drive was uneventful. We listened to Meb Keflezighi on the Ali on the Run podcast for most of the drive. Great listen, by the way. It’s part of the “You Can Run a Marathon” series that she put together. It was a funny, inspiring listen and it got us pretty much all the way into the greater Indianapolis area. We rolled into our hotel, checked in, dropped stuff…I put sushi into the fridge in the room…and we headed out to hit up the race expo.
The expo itself was small (probably good from a financial standpoint), but very well organized. Finding packet pickup was easy and I quickly was able to retrieve both my packet (bib and quarter zip) and my friend Kelly’s (she couldn’t get off work early and was going to drive up in the morning) packet for the half marathon. Cathy went and got her 5K packet before we stepped into the small merchandise area. She bought me a hoodie from the race. YAY. And that was all we did. We left to head to the Fresh Thyme (for some pre-made overnight oats, cashew butter, and waters) and then Noodles & Co. (because Cathy needed a night before the race fuel too), before heading back to the room to eat while watching, what else?, the traditional Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives.
Cathy went to shower after we polished off our respective dinners, and I got down to stretching and foam rolling. Lights out was just before 9 pm. And, my newfound insomnia kicked in again. WEEEE! I tossed and turned and tossed and turned and didn’t get much sleep…yet again. UGH! That sucked. I switched off the first alarm I set because I was able to get up and not have to wake up anyone else because…I WAS ALREADY AWAKE. I got back into bed for another 45 minutes, but no rest was coming. Apparently I was going to run on fumes. YAY.
The temperature outside on race morning was a brisk 47 degrees. This was really the first morning of cold weather any of us were experiencing. I decided to race in the outfit I wore in the Glass City Marathon, and would likely be wearing again at Monumental. Arm warmers and everything. Cathy had a bit more of a dilemma…because 40s are hard to dress for. Sleeves are good, but sometimes you warm up fast. Short sleeves might not be enough. She opted for sleeves. We ate some breakfast (she brought oatmeal from home), finished getting ready, and then headed out the door to drive up to the giant parking lot prior to the half marathon and 5K.
Kelly was there bright and early, so when we parked she made her way to the car while Cathy got out the trash bags she brought for extra warmth. I handed off the packet and zip to Kelly, who was excited she was actually getting one of the jackets, before she went to drop it in the vehicle. She was just in shorts and a tank (calling herself a human furnace)…and I was cold just looking at her. HA! She returned to the car and the three of us made our way over to the staging area near the start line. There were some nice fires going, and we tucked in to attempt to stay warm. Cathy went to drop her bag at Bag Drop, and we were just killing time now. I did drink my Maurten 160 Drink Mix 30 minutes prior to the start, per the usual.
As the start of the race neared, we did meander over toward the start corrals, where we met up with Elizabeth (another member of the MRTT/SRTT Southern Indiana Chapter), took some pictures, and then wished each other luck. I was in Corral B, Elizabeth in C, Kelly in D…and Cathy was in the 5K corrals, so she was able to at least take some photos, video, and cheer at the start of the half.
The 1:40 pacers were in my corral and lined up near me. I was to run this one at MARATHON PACE, so I wasn’t paying any attention to that. It was a cool, crisp morning, and after the elites and first corral were sent off…we were moved up. Cathy actually got a nice video of me starting, though she didn’t realize it at the time. In fact, she was waiting for the corral after that. Oh well. That’s what happens sometimes.
The 1:40 pacers were fantastic, especially Troy, as he gave a lot of helpful advice to those who were running with him as we started out. And it was a good reminder that we still had a long road ahead. The first part of the race was a slight downhill…so I let gravity work it’s magic there. We were off, and I was feeling surprisingly good.
The first two miles of this race were a nice, relaxed, gentle downhill. My legs were feeling rested and good and they were on the move. Mile 1 rolled by quickly, and as we hit Mile 2, we were already inside the Fort Harrison State Park. It was as we headed into Mile 3 that we hit the first monster hill in the race. It’s funny, when you look at my splits you can see the 2 giant hills that you have to tackle in this run. But this one was early and my legs were fresh with some bounce. And I just bounded up it and kept going.
The next few miles were rolling hills and flats. And they were enough to just sort of keep your legs guessing and feeling good. The volunteers at the water stops were phenomenal, cheering loudly for the runners as they came through the aid stations, and just being really encouraging. I was still feeling good as I hit the 10K mark, knowing that I was ahead of my marathon pace, and hearing my mind tell me that if I slowed down, it was okay. But I wasn’t going to make myself slow down. We had perfect race conditions and I was rolling. I took out one of the Maurten 100 Gels (the new one with some caffeine) and managed to take it without slowing down much. There were no trash cans, so I held onto the wrapper until I spotted one, about a mile later.
We were routed into a little round about of a parking lot, looped and came back out on the other side. Just after Mile 7, we crossed a grassy path and onto a bike path (the Harrison Trace Trail) for the back half of the run. While this was a bike path, it never doubled back on itself, so it didn’t feel crowded or cluttered. In fact, I felt like I had plenty of room to stretch my legs and push myself.
Just after Mile 8, we hit a HUGE downhill. I love downhills, but I wasn’t expecting the drop that this one had. Luckily, downhill is my favorite speed and I adjust very well to it. My footing found itself and I easily rolled back into my pace. It was just after this point that I removed my gloves and tucked them into my hydration pack. It was starting to warm up, and every time I thought I could take off the arm warmers, a cold wind would sweep up, and I’d keep them off.
After Mile 10, where I took another (non-caffeinated) Maurten Gel 100, we hit the largest hill on the course. It was one of those that starts up, levels off, then continues to go up. This was my slowest split of the entire race. It felt good to get to the top, but now my legs were definitely feeling the fatigue of the speed of the race. Just after Mile 11, we ducked back across that grassy path and onto the road, heading back toward start of the race (also the finish, obviously).
It was at Mile 12 that the 1:40 pace group caught up to me. And this entire time, in my head, I am reminding myself that I’m not running for a PR…I’m running Marathon Pace. I knew I was way ahead of that, but I still felt good, despite that late, monster hill. I ran right with them as Troy told his runners to skip the final water stop and keep rolling. As we got halfway through the mile, Troy started to talk runners in…take some deep breaths. He said they were easing back on pace, so as not to blow people out so close to the end (they were just slightly ahead of the time on his back)…and I kept going. And I picked it up a little as I started to make the final turns to head toward that finish line. I felt amazing. And I crossed, still feeling good. I stopped my Garmin, collected my medal, and then finally pulled the wrist band away from the watch face to look at my time. And I about died.
It was my second fastest half marathon since I started running half marathons. My two top times are on hilly courses. How about that? I mean, I hate hills. Cathy came over and she was all, “YOU KILLED IT!” And I did. I killed it DEAD. And I still felt good (which was also good because I had another 13 miles to run the following day with more speed thrown in).
We decided to go and check out the cookout that the race offered, ducking in. There wasn’t really anything for me (food allergy queen), but Cathy snagged a piece of Jockamo’s pizza and a cookie. She went and purchased a beer and got me a local kombucha (which…was delicious!!). She ate and we went to go walk around, but had to stay in the little (and it was little) picnic area (we weren’t sitting in the tent) with our drinks (even though mine was NOT alcoholic). So, she chugged her beer and I drank what I could of my kombucha but I was fresh off a fast half marathon and chugging something didn’t sound appetizing…and I was freezing…so I didn’t want to stand there any longer.
We made one more pass through the official merchandise…and I was tempted to get the finisher’s shirt with the names on the back (mine was on there)…but ultimately walked away from it. I was happy with the hoodie that Cathy got me (she had to buy it as it said “Finisher” on it). We made the drive back to the hotel where I took a shower and dried my hair while she packed up everything. We headed to Carmel, Indiana (a short drive) to catch lunch at Woody’s Library Restaurant (where I got the Mushroom & Spinach Tacos with a side of the Cajun Dusted Tater Tots). Then, we headed over to the Indiana State Fair Grounds because…Half Price Books was having a BIG clearance sale, where all books were $2 or less. Amazing.
We left after a couple of hours and a lot of texting with my dad. Road work delayed our return to the Louisville area, but we finally made it home. Still without groceries. I ended up making popcorn for dinner and then heading to bed. And not sleeping well again.
My experience at the Indy Half Marathon at Fort Ben was amazing. I can’t wait to run it again next year. Hopefully more of my friends can join me!! It was definitely much better running weather than what the large group of over 100 MRTT/SRTT ladies dealt with at the Indianapolis Women’s Half Marathon had the week before. Kind of glad I opted for this one.
My official results of the Indy Half Marathon at Fort Ben are that I finished in 1:39:13, which, as I previously mentioned, was a mere hill, or basically 21 seconds off of my PR time from 2014). This race proved something very important to me…that I can still push the pace for 13.1 miles. With all the times I have doubted my body, my ability, and mentally let myself check out, I felt strong and capable this entire race…even the two hills that messed up my fast splits. HA! I was 156/1726 finishers overall. I was 24/851 female finishers. And I was 6/138 in my age division. Guys, my age division is SUPER competitive…always. This race was no different. But this rank…is beyond what I thought I could accomplish here. If you need a fall half marathon on your radar…put the Indy Half Marathon at Fort Ben on your radar!
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 […]
After a really good shakeout run using Glass City’s Savage 5K as just that (and somehow placing in my age group), I spent the rest of Saturday in my hotel room. Sitting on my bed. Feet up. Eating. Blogging. Watching television. Not out walking around Toledo. Not hanging out at the expo. Off my feet. Foam rolling. Stretching. All of it.
I was really taking this prep seriously! I didn’t actually leave the room until about 4 pm…when Cathy and I headed into Toledo to hit up Organic Bliss Deli & Bakery for dinner. We had looked at a few places in Toledo, but it is so hard to gauge how safe some places are, and some reviews on places I had been looking at weren’t so good on my Find Me Gluten Free app. We were going to do my new favorite thing before a major race – sushi…but Toledo’s only safe sushi place only had the a vegetable roll, cucumber roll, or avocado roll for vegan options. BOOOO! I am lucky to have Dragon King’s Daughter for my vegan sushi needs in Louisville/New Albany. As we were driving up to Toledo, my fellow Celiac blogger and Instagram friend, Margaret, was on her way down to Columbus for the Gluten Free Allergy Free Fest and posted about Organic Bliss. They closed at 5 pm, so we went early and got there to figure out what we wanted for dinner. And, of course, we would get a box of goodies to go back to the hotel with us.
The people there were very kind and gave us some time to look over the menu, and we finally came to our conclusions…Cathy went ahead and got the BLT with Chips. And I went with the Gluten Free Caribbean Avocado Sandwich (avocado, romaine, spinach, tomato, cucumber, black beans, papaya poppyseed dressing). I got that with a side of the Chickpea Salad. And then we boxed up some treats: A Mint Chocolate Chip Cupcake, an Almond Scone, a Cranberry Orange Scone, a Cinnamon Roll, and the Peanut Butter Quinoa Bar. We paid and went and took a seat in the corner while meals were prepared and brought out to us.
Sandwiches before a race are a good back-up it seems. And this sandwich was AMAZING. I loved it. And the Chickpea Salad was the perfect side. Got some carbs, protein, healthy fats…perfection. They were trying to get ready to close, so the floors were being swept and people were coming in for last minute purchases. We finished up and headed out to go back to the hotel for the night. And you better believe Cathy and I split that Mint Chocolate Chip Cupcake for dessert back at the hotel.
I went ahead and posted on my Instagram feed the motivation, the drive, and the reason I was running the following day: my mom. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer back in January, just after the New Year. It was a shock to my family and one that none of us were prepared for. Right now, she is going through chemo, keeping her spirits high and her thoughts positive. What a warrior. This race, save for a couple of miles, was to honor her. Mile 1, my roommate claimed. Mile 26, my friend Natalie claimed, And Mile 10 was in memory of my friend Tina’s daughter, Kinsley, who died in her sleep at the age of 10 a couple of days before I left for Toledo. I would carry these honors with me respectively on the race course.
I did one last round of stretching and foam rolling while watching Guy’s Grocery Games on Food Network…and got an onslaught of uplifiting and motivational gifs from my coach. I do love my coach. He has been amazing, even when training went slightly off the rails when I busted up my knees. The gifs made me laugh. And he threw in a Game of Thrones reference, so that was winning. But, soon it was time to turn in for the night. I set two different alarms. One for me to get up and take my medicine and use the bathroom…and then go back to bed. And then one for Cathy…which would be when I would get up and get dressed. No surprise…I couldn’t sleep well. And I shut off my first alarm before it even went off. Tried to climb back into bed and wait for the other alarm, but then my mind wouldn’t shut off. So, I got up and did my PT stretches for my hips…and then went ahead and started to get ready. By the time the second alarm went off, I was pretty much dressed and ready to head out the door. So, while Cathy got ready, I started prepping my hydration vest bladder with 1 liter of water, grabbed my Maurten gels to use as additional fuel on the run, and put on my clothes I would shed prior to the race.
Because up in Toledo…it was 41 degrees on race morning, but with the windchill, it was in the real feel was in the low 30s. They had been predicting snow…but thankfully that didn’t happen. I had, thankfully, packed some clothes that I could wear over my race gear (and a back up short sleeve shirt since a tank top was the original plan for this race), so I felt like I was good in the wardrobe department. I was glad I had the clothing to give to Cathy before I got into the corral, because I was cold in that wind.
We left the hotel early. Like 5:45-ish early. And we made the 20 minute drive to the University of Toledo, where we found a lot to park in. And then…then was the walk to the start. It was slightly drizzly, but Cathy had purchased some trash bags at Kroger so, we both donned them and set out down the sidewalk to get to the start. It was a pretty big walk, but it was a good way to warm up for sure. If you know Cathy’s history with directions, you will understand that I kept checking with her to make sure that she was on track to getting us to the start line, especially when random runners who were walking near us would veer off and we’d continue on…into the land of empty sidewalks and roads. But, we turned at an intersection and I could hear the tunes of the start line, and they just so happened to be playing my theme song for this year, Panic! at the Disco’s “High Hopes.” It was a good sign.
We went to find a spot for Cathy to stand for the start of the race and just sort of made that base camp. I stood behind her to break her from the wind. We took a few photos. I looked miserable. I was miserable. Spring marathons were not meant to be spent freezing. At least, not in my opinion. I drank my bottle of UCAN with 30 minutes to go and eventually, with about 10, shed my extra layers, save the trash bag, got a hug from Cathy, and headed to Corral B.
It was here in Corral B that I set out on my mission to find the 3;35 pacers. The Web site had two of them listed, but as I hunted for the tiny yellow signs the marathon pacers held, I just couldn’t find any in my corral. So, I went up to one of the half marathon pacers and asked him where the marathon pacers were. He said that they should be in here…and asked which group I was looking for. I said, “The 3:35.” And he told me that there was no 3:35, only 3:30 and 3:40 and to find and line up with the 3:40 so that I start slow. I was determined not to melt down or let this mentally get to me. The National Anthem was about to be sung, and after that, I gave one last look around my corral for pacers….shed my trash bag, and decided I was going to have to pace myself this time.
That’s a scary thought right? But that was how it was going to be. Corral took off and I saw the bobbing of the yellow pacer signs up there. So…one more chance to check for them in my corral. No luck. None. Deep breath. We were moved up toward the start line. Waited two minutes. And then…we were off.
I reeled it in immediately. Normally that race start is intense and the adrenaline is rushing and you just GO. You bolt it out and find some space, but it uses up valuable energy, and I had been given a plan to follow, and while I couldn’t see the first 5 miles through with the pacer as the plan said, I wasn’t going to blow it up by going out too fast too soon. I could hold it together and hold back. Five miles. I had this. My coach wanted me to be around an 8:12-8:10 pace for these miles. I did the best I could, and while a few of them were slightly fast, the last two were just slightly slower (not by much) than that pace. Just before Mile 4, Cathy had found a spot on the side of the road to cheer. It was amazing. Cowbell and all with a crowd. I will say this, for being a smaller race, I never felt like I wasn’t supported out there. Going into Mile 4 was a huge example of this. Lots of people, even in the damp cold, just there to cheer on the runners. It was great.
From Mile 6-15, I was supposed to maintain a slightly faster pace, not sprinting, not going too fast, but hitting those high 8’s. And I managed this. Holy crap, I was doing it. And I felt good. I didn’t feel like I needed anything, and technically with UCAN, I didn’t…but I didn’t want to run out of steam, and I have always been told to fuel early and often. So, I took my first Maurten gel at Mile 6. Here we were guided through some neighborhoods, and people were down at the end of their driveways cheering. Our bibs had names on them, so they would shout out your name and some encouragement as you went by. Loved that. While big races are all fine and good, this was the feel of a big race without all that big race stuff.
It was actually just before Mile 10 that the half and the full marathons split. This was clearly marked with big gates for the runners to go through. The half marathon runners turned left, while we continued on. This did bring the number of people around down some. But, again, I never, ever felt like I was running alone. At Mile 10, I fueled again (remember, early and often) and then I did give a point up to the sky and said Kinsley’s name. She gave me some wings on that mile.
It is just before Mile 11 that the marathon course enters Wildwood Preserve Metropark. We would actually run through this park twice on the course, but, trust me, it didn’t really feel repetitive. The open streets we had been running on narrowed to a running/biking path, but it was paved and beautiful. There were race volunteers out there, handing out water at the two water stops that were inside the park. There was a band playing as well at some point. On the first pass through the park, somewhere after Mile 12, we are sent to the right to run out onto the streets again. I fueled again at Mile 14, and pressed on, still feeling strong and confident. It was somewhere in Mile 16 that I caught up with the 3:40 pacers.
Yep…the 3:40 pacer. I shook this off, figuring that it was fine. The problem was, I joined up with them as we were sent to run on the shoulder of a road, and in a pace group, that made for some tight, tight quarters. This made my split at this mile much slower than I would have liked, but I was afraid of clipping runners ahead of me, or being clipped by runners near me. This happened twice, if you recall, when I started with a pace group at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon back in November. When I had an opening, I did pass and get ahead, able to stretch my legs back out and pick it back up. I didn’t panic. Not at all. I just found my own pace again and was happy to not be in that pack anymore. I had some breathing room and it took that anxiety away. I fueled again at Mile 18 and just kept on going.
Just before Mile 20, we re-enter the park again, from a different entrance and make our way back through that path. It was here that we have to navigate a small bit of an incline. And it was here, that my legs slowed down and just wouldn’t pick it back up. The final 10K…where I wanted to just maintain and keep going strong. A tiny little bump in the elevation took the speed away from me. I felt like I was picking it back up, but I wasn’t. I truly wasn’t. This time as we go to exit, if it’s your second loop, you turn left, and now you’re heading back out toward the university. I still felt good, I just couldn’t find any sort of speed at this point. We are still on this paved trail, and runners were scattered, but we were strong. The 3:40 pacer passed me again. And I didn’t fret or sweat it. I did shed my gloves around Mile 22. My hands were getting really hot finally. And I was close. I also took my last gel at this point. Fuel for the final four miles.
There were some really perky and happy ladies running a friend in for his last few miles, who were fresh and really uplifting. It was nice that they came by me because they definitely helpful in that stretch. Around Mile 25, you can pretty much see the school. You know that finish line is on the field of the football stadium, and you know…you really are almost there. People are cheering. Shouting your name. Encouraging you. Telling you how good you look. How fast you look. That you’re doing amazing. I still felt good. I still felt confident and strong. I knew I wasn’t getting the BQ I had been training for, but I hadn’t glanced at clocks or my watch for time…just my pace. I never peeked at it if it wasn’t buzzing at me for a mile lap. I hit the turns to take the chute into the 26th mile…and then it was on to the stadium. The crowd was amazing. Loud. Screaming. I saw Cathy as my name was announced and I kicked as much as I could toward that finish line. Crossing it…with my hands up. I paused my Garmin and took a look at the time.
I was just off of my BQ time by 3 minutes and off my goal time by 5 minutes. I was so close. I didn’t get my goal, but I was incredibly happy and proud. I hadn’t hit the 3:30’s in a marathon since 2013, where I did it twice. Both BQ times. I was elated. I cried. Cathy came over after I got my Mylar and my medal and gave me a hug. I told her I needed to put my feet up so we went over to the field and I laid down in the sunlight and propped my legs up on her.
Eventually, I decided that I did, in fact, need to move. So, we headed out of the stadium to the runner finish area. Here we collected my commemorative glass mug (you get it upon finishing), and went to the food tent. I couldn’t eat anything, but poor Cathy was starving so she had my beer and pizza tickets, so I let her claim those. I was feeling lightheaded, so I went to sit down and shiver in my Mylar.
Cathy and just shown up when my Instagram friend, Scooby (who had a fantastic day as the 3:15 pacer) wandered by. I called him over and we chatted for a minute, but he had just snagged some pizza and I didn’t want it to get cold…so we congratulated each other and I let him go. Cathy had two beers to try. The first one she hated, the other one she sipped on until I decided I was ready to go get warm with a hot shower at the hotel while she went to get me some coffee from Bigbee Coffee. The walk to the car felt longer than it probably was, mostly because my body was tired and a little sore from the effort that day. I eventually foam rolled, stretched, and went to get dinner at Corelife Eatery before seeing Avengers: Endgame that night (the theater was advertised as having reclining seats – it didn’t…and by the end, I knew I had made a big mistake). It was a good day, and I am still basking in my accomplishment. I think, next time, I’ll get it.
So, the official results of the Mercy Health Glass City Marathon are that I finished in 3:38:46, making it officially my third fastest marathon and the first one back in the 3:30s since 2013. HOLLA! Stoked. I was 408/1278 finishers overall. I was 108/527 female finishes. And I was 30/96 in my age group! How amazing is that. I felt good and strong the entire time, never letting any self-doubt or negative talk enter my head. I was focused on the race at hand and the people I was running it to honor. Marathon #15…done. Now to find the perfect fall marathon to make the next attempt on that Boston Qualifying dream.
Remember…training rarely is linear…race day can throw so many factors at you…trust the process and remain focused on your own race that day. You never know what you are capable of until you try.
Friends, I did not come all the way up to Toledo for this 5K. In fact, this race was my shakeout run. Tomorrow, the Glass City Marathon runs, in winter-like conditions, and I am not happy about it. I didn’t train all winter to not have a beautiful day of running. Looks like it will be 30 degrees at the start tomorrow with winds between 16-20 mph. And that sucks. And it has been festering in my brain since the weather changed as I was packing and then again as I was traveling up to Toledo.
I had a lot going on this past week. Between some training runs and cross-training. Between work and errands. I was squeezing in baking Lemon Blossoms for the MRTT/SRTT tent at the finish line of the KDF Marathon/minimarathon. I was getting a sports massage to get my legs primed for this effort on Sunday. And I was having a late dinner with my friends Melissa, Paul, and the one and only baby Carrick, the night before I had to get in a car with my roommate and make the long-ass drive from Louisville up to Toledo.
Thankfully, Cathy handled most of my packing. On Friday morning, I simply had to stretch, foam roll, make breakfast, get together road snacks and hydration…and yes…RACE FUEL…pack a few extra things plus toiletries in my suitcase…before taking everything down to the car, taking out the garbage, making a quick stop at Kroger, and hitting the road. It sounds like a lot. It was. But I enjoyed the dinner out with my friends, and despite getting home late that night, I knew I could sleep in a bit as we were hoping to get on the road by 9:30 at the latest. We managed. YAY!
But it was to be a pretty rainy drive and Mother Nature didn’t disappoint. In fact, not only did we get rain, we got about three traffic accidents that really slowed our progress into Toledo. And the first one ended up with us taking a major detour that was out of our way, but got us where we needed to be quicker than sitting in the long line of traffic would have. But the second one, we actually had to sit through and just creep through. I had to really pee at this point (remember…HYDRATION!), and now I was stuck in traffic for who knows how long. We got through that one and we managed to get to a rest stop 10 miles up the road. YAY! But soon we were sitting in traffic again…yes…AGAIN. And we hadn’t even hit Dayton yet. It. Was. A. Mess.
But…we did finally make it in to Toledo and to our hotel, the Home2Suites by Hilton. It’s a nice little place, with a full fridge, microwave, and lots of room and space. The beds are quite comfortable too. We hauled our luggage in and were told that some sports teams were coming in this weekend too…looks like some kids soccer teams…but we were staying through Monday, so it really didn’t affect us at all. We unpacked our stuff and took a moment to relax. The expo didn’t open until 4 pm, so we had a bit of time. But we wanted to get there close to opening, so we did eventually meander out and head down to the University of Toledo campus. On the way, we noted that we were close to both a Kroger and a Target…just in case we needed to make any sort of stops.
The expo itself was held in the Savage Hall Sports Arena. It isn’t a large expo, but it was big enough that we walked through a couple times. But, we made our first official stop all the way at the back…at the packet pick-up. I had to get both my Savage 5K (my shakeout run) packet and my Mercy Health Glass City Marathon race packet as well. This was very seamless and easy, to be honest. I had my bib number in my e-mail and showed my ID. Simple. The 5K gives you a soft stadium blanket. You can pay extra for a t-shirt, but why? Love different race swag. I got a yellow half-zip for the full marathon and Cathy got her bib for the 5K as well. With those in hand, we went to have her knees (that had been acting up this past week) taped up by a chiropractor that was there in the expo…and then shopped. I picked up some gluten-free and vegan protein cookies that were being sold and sampled there. Really good. And also got the Glass City Marathon Bondi Band. We wandered back over to official merch, where I picked up a hoodie and a race t-shirt (compliments of Cathy). And then we headed out.
We, sadly, were having a hard time finding food options for this race for me. Lots of reviews on Find Me Gluten Free pointed us away from many of the options we had thought about. But…we passed a Marco’s Pizza on our way to the expo, and I called to see if they did gluten free (the one in New Albany doesn’t, but the one near my parents in Birmingham, AL does…so it was worth a try). They did…so we decided that we would go ahead and put our trust in Marco’s Pizza for dinner that night.
We ordered a Gluten Free Pizza without cheese, topping it with onions, mushrooms, and banana peppers. Cathy said she didn’t even miss the cheese when ti came out. And, the man who took our order, a guy named Davis, basically walked my pizza down the line to make sure there was no cross-contamination. He was amazing. And so was the pizza. We hit up Kroger on our way back to the hotel, picking up some bananas and some gluten-free cookies to have for dessert. I am a dessert fiend. I must have dessert.
It was getting late. So while Cathy showered, I stretched and did my foam rolling before getting settled into my bed while watching Diners, Drive-ins & Dives on Food Network (of course!). I set an alarm for 6:30 am, since race start wasn’t until 9 am, and we called it a night.
I hate hotel pillows, for the record. They are always too soft for me. MEH. But I slept relatively well, getting up to use the bathroom, do my first round of stretches in the dark, and then get back into bed for about 30 minutes until the alarm went off.
We were up and getting ready for the race right on time. And it didn’t take us too long to get fully dressed and ready to head out the door. It was 41 degrees, but real feel was 35 degrees. I opted for capris and a long sleeve shirt for this one. And gloves, because I have to wear gloves in anything in the 40s and below for temperatures. I just have to. We made the short trip down to the race, parking near a parking garage on campus and not too far from the start of the Savage 5K. I was thinking we’d hang in the car for awhile, but we ended up throwing on some garbage bags and making the trek to the start area. After freezing for a bit, I commented that we still had an hour to go before the start, so we went over to the Savage Hall Sports Arena to sit down and stay warm prior to the race. We had our photo taken on our way up the stairs, but ducked inside and took a seat on the stairs to wait until it was a little closer to race start. I ate my banana with 30 minutes to go.
We did meander out 15 minutes before the race start and went to get into our corrals. I was in Corral A and Cathy was in Corral D. I kept my trash bag on until about 5 minutes before the race. I had set my Garmin to give me some certain strides for the last mile so I pulled up that workout and then set my watch to start the workout. A few people spoke before the race start, and a blessing was given as well. And then…at about 9:01 am…we were on our way.
As I think I mentioned above, I was using this run as a shake-out leading into tomorrow’s race. So, I held myself back and just ran comfortably…not pushing my pace or effort on any hills. I felt really good, which was surprising after sitting in the car for so long the day before. I just sort of settled in at a comfortable pace, and focused on just not pushing it. There was a bit of a hill heading into the first mile marker, but I crested it by not pushing effort or pace, and felt like I was holding back and doing a good job. I was under an 8 min pace. WHOOPS.
Mile 2 went a bit better as I reined it back a bit. This was a fun mile, as we got 2 water stop options and a dash through the Greek Village near campus. It was really nice. And as I turned back onto main roads, I passed a cute mother/young daughter team that was running and the mom was just being very encouraging to her little girl. It was adorable. Back onto the streets and back through another water stop opportunity, and I was heading into Mile 3.
My watch was set up to do 80 meter pushes with equal recovery for strides. But…my watch just beeped at me like after 1 second of running and then settled in to the extra mile I tagged on. Glad I did that. But now I was going manual. Which did help to slow me down some. I would run for .05 mile and then ease off for the same amount of time. And I did that close to the 10 times I was supposed to (after the Garmin fuck up), and just pressed the lap button. My data was already screwed up, but I wanted to give something to my coach to look at. After I got that last mile…I pressed it in to a strong finish, which happens inside the University of Toledo’s Glass Bowl Stadium. I did a fast 10 miler which finished on a stadium field just like this, so that was sort of fun. I threw my hands up as I crossed the finish and my name was announced and went to collect my medal and some water.
Now, I was waiting for Cathy to finish her race, but we weren’t allowed to wait in the finisher’s area. I moved off to the side, just past the finish line, and waited for her, trying not to freeze. That’s been the worst part about Cathy now doing my races…that I don’t have warm clothing to slide into at the finish right away.
She came across and I snapped pictures and shouted at her. She was introducing me to the people she ran with for most of the race. We took some photos, then headed over to get our Commemorative Glass Mug. She went to go get beer and I went to get official results. I couldn’t remember my Athlinks login though, so I ended up just looking it up on the RaceJoy app. Then we went and got snacks, and Cathy got 2 slices of pizza (she got my slice), which she said was actually really good.
And…to my absolute shock…I came in 2nd in my age group. What the hell? I wasn’t even trying. We didn’t know if I’d get my award there or if it would be mailed, and no one else seemed to know either. Not even at the Race Info booth inside the expo. I finally asked back by where we picked up our packets and they actually know. Awards would be mailed. YAY! So, that’s something to look forward to! We walked through the expo one last time, and Cathy thanked the booth who taped her up because she had a good 5K with their help. And then we made the cold trek back to the car and headed out.
I needed hot coffee…stat. So, we headed over to Bigbee Coffee (a local chain in Toledo), where I got a Neapolitan Latte with Almond Milk. It. Was. EVERYTHING. If you like Neapolitan ice cream…it tastes exactly like THAT! Holy crap, it might be my new thing in life. Then I ducked over to Kroger to grab some sushi for a quick lunch and picked up some Pop Chips Nutter Puffs. Cathy grabbed something from the frozen section for a little bite and her favorite Doritos before we paid and headed back to the hotel.
I showered an climbed onto my bed to work up the race reviews that I now owed the blog. So here it is!!
So, my official results for Glass City’s Savage 5K are that I finished in 24:19, which was way faster than I intended to run it. But I honestly held myself back. Craziness. I was 91/1212 finishers overall. I was 16/739 female finishers. And, as I just mentioned above, I squeaked in a 2/96 in my age division! WOOT! If nothing else, I can take that away from this race.
I would do this 5K again in a heartbeat, to be honest! It’s a fantastic course for a fast race. So, if you love traveling for 5Ks…or live near Toledo…definitely consider this one! I’ve had my feet up all afternoon and am preparing to head out to a gluten free deli for dinner in a bit before stretching, foam rolling, and prepping for tomorrow’s marathon. Think happy thoughts for me, please!
Race: CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon
Place: Indianapolis, IN
Date: November 3, 2018
“Ever tried. Ever Failed. No Matter. Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better.” ~ Samuel Beckett
I admit it. The results of the 2018 Bank of America Chicago Marathon were a hard pill to swallow. In all honesty, I had hoped that my training, regardless of changing plans and going solo on it all…making it all up as I went, catching up on miles I didn’t get to run to build up that marathon base…I really thought it would be enough. I didn’t feel like I was in marathon shape. But I felt confident.
And, as we know…I crashed and burned soon after the 14 mile mark. I finished. But not with a time I was happy with.
Moral of the story. Do NOT ever leave me along with an upcoming half marathon with the option to upgrade to the full marathon when I’m pissed off with my previous marathon performance. Less than one month apart. 27 days apart, to be exact. Because, I figured, hell, I was already in “marathon shape”…might as well try again with a different plan of action. So, it happened. I upgraded my registration to the full marathon (trust me, I was starting to doubt the wisdom of this the morning of the race, but I’ll get there, LOL!) and then…didn’t really broadcast it anywhere. I told my training partner, Lauren. My roommate, of course, knew. And a couple of people at the gym who asked me what was next for me knew…but no one else. Not. A. Word.
My plan for the days in between? Recovery. Easy runs. Not a ton of miles. Just easy, training runs. I did maybe 3 speed intervals…all of only 4 miles. My longest long run was 10 miles…last weekend. Slow and steady with Lauren who took me on an adventure and kept the pace right where I wanted and needed it. Some people like to pile on those miles and brag about weekly and monthly totals. I have never been that sort. And, honestly, it is a rare thing for me to ever hit 200 miles in a month, even during marathon training. There is training and there is overtraining. One of these benefits you. The other leads to injury, burnout, and a plethora of other issues. Just like pace, I don’t usually post my miles or mileage either. Honestly, who cares other than me?
Deep breath. Let’s start with the day before the race.
Thursday night was filled with packing and not trying to overthink anything. Cathy picked out my outfit…she packed recovery wear, shoes, race gear, fuel, etc. Everything I would need for another 26.2. I made her pack capris because I was nervous it would be too cold at the start of the race for the running skirt she had picked. She allowed for that…but nothing more. We went to work as usual on Friday, planning to leave around 2 pm to make the drive up to Indianapolis.
I made certain that I got as much work done that I could in the time I was in the office. Lunch was just a giant salad, made from all the fresh ingredients/produce that I had lingering in my fridge heading into the weekend. We packed up, brought bottles of water that had our Nuun Immunity Tablets in them. If you haven’t tried them…HIGHLY recommended! And we hit the road, with our mid-day snacks to get us through the drive and the expo before heading to dinner.
We hit a small amount of traffic on the way, but we made it to the Omni Severin Hotel, in downtown Indianapolis. Honestly, if you’re looking for a hotel in downtown Indy…STAY HERE!! I was blown away by the hospitality, even if they didn’t do late checkouts due to it being an event weekend (I get it…but after a marathon, I usually appreciate a hot shower). They did say that they had a fitness center with a shower and if I needed one I could get a key made to get in there and shower. So…I mean…there was that. Our luggage was taken up to our room by the nicest guy, Matt, who gave us the rundown about the hotel and the history behind it. He showed us the amenities in the room and made sure we had plans for dinner because otherwise the hotel was doing a pasta dinner for the runners. Honestly, I’ve never felt so welcome at a hotel.
Next stop…the expo. We took the inside path through the hotel and Circle Center Mall to get ourselves over to the Indianapolis Expo Center. Some roads were going to be closed because Trump and Pence were in town (BARF!), but it wasn’t affecting us. We had a work-around. The Expo felt a lot smaller this year than it was last year. We got there, and immediately collected posters and headed to the back to get race packets and shirts. YES…that’s plural. Since I upgraded to the full, Cathy decided she could do the 5K, as it started AFTER the full and half marathons were sent off. Had I stuck with the half, she wouldn’t have done it otherwise she’d miss my finish.
We stopped at the 5K booths first and Cathy did her first ever official big race 5K packet pickup. She had to show her ID and everything. The volunteers at her table were SO fun and very cool. They even had thrown safety pins into her bag. It was awesome.
After she got her stuff…we headed over to the marathon tables where I collected my shirt and bib and we went straight into Official Merchandise. Where I spent more money. This time only on a lapel pin and a jacket. The jacket is SUPER nice though. I could have spent SO MUCH more. HA! We made our walk through the vendors and races that were represented at the expo. Cathy had forgotten a BondiBand to keep her ears warm, so we had to go and get her one of those. She found one…bright pink…that says, “Nevertheless, she persisted.” Just like the button she has worn since NYC. I spotted a different flavor of Gluten Free Honey Stinger Stroopwafels (I can only ever find Salted Caramel…which is GOOD…but I know there are other flavors out there…and I found a Vanilla & Chocolate one!). But we wrapped it up quickly, stopping to find my name on the poster and then take a few pictures with the banners. A volunteer was kind enough to get a lot of these photos for us, from every angle.
From there, we made the trek back to the hotel room. We had about 30 minutes to kill before dinner, so Cathy went ahead and tried on her race shirt to get my opinion on the fit. I decided I should do the same, and thank GOD I did. Turns out, the volunteers at my end of the table gave me a men’s small and not a women’s small. I was NOT happy. With 20 minutes to get to our dinner reservation, we packed up the shirt and stepped outside to take a quicker route to the convention center in hopes of changing it out. I booked it down the hall and back into the expo to the shirt exchange area and snagged my women’s small. Whew! Cathy was waiting in the hall outside. We had about 5 minutes to make a 10 minute walk to our dinner reservation at Napolese. Honestly, whenever we are in town for a race, this is our go-to restaurant. I mean…GLUTEN FREE FOCACCIA AND GLUTEN FREE PIZZA!!
I apologized to the hostess for being late and told her we had a 5:45 reservation. Our table was still there though, next to two very loud men who were drinking a lot and talking REALLY LOUD about Queen and movies and games and whatever. I was over it. Thank God they left while we were eating our appetizer.
We had already had plans on what we were going to do for eats that night. I looked at the menu on the way up so we could formulate a plan. So when our waiter came over, we got glasses of water and put in our order. Gluten Free Focaccia (no dairy) and then we were going to Freestyle our pizza and do a Gluten Free Pizza topped with the Housemade Tomato Sauce, Winter Squash, Mushrooms, and Duck Eggs. He asked if the gluten-free was an allergy and made note that it was for a Celiac on the ticket. And also made note of the NO DAIRY preference as well. They are VERY efficient there. And trust me…the food is amazing too.
The focaccia came out first…olive oil, garlic, parsley. SO GOOD. And as we were polishing that off, the pizza came out. But it was missing…the duck eggs. Cathy pointed it out and he apologized and took it back. He returned with a little thing of olive oil to go with the pizza if we wanted to add it and said that he took the pizza before they had cooked up the eggs and it would be up momentarily. And we didn’t really have a long wait before it was returning to our table. Looking SO good. And even with polishing off the focaccia…I was ready to eat. We polished off the pizza and took his advice, adding the olive oil…and it was light and fruity and just added a whole new level of deliciousness to the slices. BIG FAN. We finished eating and were given the bill, where they didn’t charge us for the duck eggs (that was sweet…but they didn’t need to do that). We left a big tip, because or waiter was awesome. Then headed to CVS to pick up some waters for the next morning, and then hit up the Hard Rock Cafe for a pin. Mind you…I was not wanting to be on my feet much this time around. But, we were never far from the hotel and we were back into the hotel by 7:30-ish. Cathy went to shower. I got out all my race gear and laid it out and then started my foam rolling because I was determined to do that the night before the race. As I was doing that, there was a knock at the door. It was housekeeping delivering a bottle of water, some ice, and a card. It was from the hotel. Super sweet gesture. I knew it would all come in handy. We finished up an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives…and then…
Lights out…9 pm. On the nose.
I woke up a couple of times during the night…like my usual wakeup time of 3 am. At 4
am, my first alarm went off so I could take a pill and use the bathroom. Back to bed for 2 restless hours. At 6 am…we were both up and starting our morning routine. I popped open a Pamela’s Products Gluten Free Matcha Happiness Ambition Bar. I ate one before I ran the Monumental Half Marathon last year. Why not do it again? I prepped my pre-race drink and started to slowly get dressed. At 6:15 am, Cathy’s free orange juice and coffee arrived outside the door. We got up at 6 am so we could have a more relaxed moment and this gave her the chance to eat her Clif Bar and drink some coffee and juice as she does most mornings. Including in her own training.
I finished getting ready, and this included slathering on some sunscreen because…it was going to be a sunny day that morning and I refuse to be the person with a sunburn in November. I was wearing two different color CEP sleeves, my Injinji toe socks, my Newton Distance IIIs, a black running skirt, my Kauai Marathon & Half Marathon singlet, red arm warmers, and a red BondiBand that said “Breathe.” I had some pajama bottoms to toss away prior to the race and a halfzip that I bought in a child’s size a long time ago that I was okay parting with. I put my Nuun Energy into two of my bottles and water into the other two bottles and put my fuel belt on. I put my new nutrition (tested once) into the front zip pouch and called myself ready. Cathy ended up putting on a second layer on top and then we headed down to the lobby. They had water and bananas out for the runners. I usually eat a banana before a marathon so…I snagged one. We ran into people from Louisville that we didn’t know, but I spotted his Chicago Marathon t-shirt and said I had run it too, but he was smarter than me this morning since he was only doing the half. We had a good laugh over that.
And after they moved on…I started to have a small meltdown. Why? Because, despite being easy on my body and training smart leading up to this…I felt like my legs weren’t going to let me go another 26.2 so soon. Cathy talked me down, as she usually does. And then she had us moving out the door and into the cold Indianapolis morning. It was 34 degrees outside. We made the walk from the Omni to the start line, where I ate my banana and slowly drank my water. We made it here and Cathy took a few pictures. When we saw the pacers getting into the corral, she told me to go find my pacers and talk to them. She gave me a hug and I left…stepping into the network of corrals and finding the 3:35 pacers (see what I’m doing here?), in the 2nd wave. My bib was good for the first wave, but like I said, I was learning from my mistakes at Chicago…I hoped.
My plan for this race…line up with the 3:35 pace group and hold on as long as I could. I
didn’t expect to be with them for long, just given how my training runs had been coming off of Chicago. But, I figured it would be a good way to keep from going out way too fast (and we all know I would have) and at least keeping a constant pace going forward. The male pacer’s PR was 3:09 and the female had just run a 50K the weekend before, so I can only assume that she is normally super fast as well. Crazy good. I never run with pacers, but I figured…this might be what I need.
I ditched my toss-away clothing and got back to the pacers just as the national anthem was being sung. It was gorgeous. The wheelchair racers were sent off first. Wave one was next. And we were moved up to the start gate. I gave a wave to Cathy since I wasn’t on the outside of the corral…I was right behind the pacers because…I didn’t want to lose them. After about 5 minutes…off we went. We hit the roads of Indianapolis…and Cathy went to line up for her 5K.
The pacers guided our group down Capitol Avenue, reminding us that the pace would be slow for the first couple of miles until the race spread out a little bit. Since the half and full marathon start together, it can be very congested at points. Reminder, Indianapolis roads are awful. The male pacer pointed out holes as we ran and I heard the female pacer say, “You’re going to be saying that a lot.” HA! She wasn’t wrong.
We made a couple of turns before running across the first water/aid station. They were nice enough to shout out each station as we approached so anyone who needed water or Gatorade could grab it. It was a little chaotic through there, but I stuck with them as we made a couple more turns and made the half rotation around Monument Circle. There was another aid station before we hit Mile 3 and the pacer sign was passed from the male to the female. He had a pace tattoo on his arm and when we hit three, she asked, “How are we?” He said, “We’re a little over.” So she picked it up slightly.
Not only was I incorporating a “stick to the pacer” technique this race, I also decided to fuel more. So every 4 miles…I was trying something new (I know…nothing new on race day, but…MEH)…Maurten Gel 100, which is apparently what Kipchoge uses! I am no Kipchoge, nor was I aware of this when I purchased it to try…but it isn’t bad. I like the texture way better than the Honey Stingers or Gu type gels. I took my first one at Mile 4, which had me ease back on the pace just enough. I took a drink of water, and pushed my way back up toward the pacers.
It was just about the 10K area that I discovered how dangerous it was to run with a pace
group. As more people fell into the group it got crowded…fast. Someone clipped my foot from behind, sending me stumbling. I recovered, but was pushed into someone ahead of me, which sent them stumbling. Then someone else closed in and his foot pretty much tripped me…and again I had to catch myself. And then someone clipped me again and that one nearly took me down for good. The adrenaline was rushing at this point which was definitely NOT what I wanted to have happen. I eased back just enough to allow some space so I wouldn’t get trampled at this point.
At Mile 7, the half marathoners turn left and the marathon runners continue up toward the State Fairgrounds. At Mile 8…I fueled again. And I was still hanging onto the pace group. YAY. I was a little bit behind them, but I felt that was for my own safety and sanity. We turned onto Washington Boulevard, which we would be on for almost the next two miles. They were giving out Clif Gels at Mile 11, but I had my own fueling to contend with. But it was here…HERE…that I started to get a side stitch. I wasn’t pushing my pace…but it soon turned into a stomach cramp of sorts. I gutted through it until we made the turn and hit Mile 12…and then I slowed it to a walk to see if I could get it to pass. This was when I was supposed to fuel again anyway…and I took the opportunity to do that before I felt I would be okay to pick it up again. And I did. No problems. I made sure to drink more water this time. I think that was the problem. I was now further behind the pace group, but was about to hit the halfway mark. I pushed through and continued…still feeling strong for the most part. I was just frustrated that I was off the pace group earlier than I would have liked.
I loved winding through the streets of Indianapolis. There were crowds and people cheering in places you wouldn’t expect. If we ran through neighborhoods, people were there too. I may have been a bit off my pace, but I was going strong for the most part. I made the turn onto Meridian and picked it back up a little. Mile 16…I eased back again to fuel and drink more water. And now I decided I would start walking some water stops in order to make sure I was hydrating. When it’s cold outside, I forget to drink water. I wasn’t letting anything stupid like that take me down that day.
The 3:40 pacers caught me just before Mile 18, where we ran through this area that felt like a park and were met with a wall of screaming from the people inside. I think it was a college group, but they were fantastic. I got quite a few compliments at aid stations and as I ran through here on my pigtails. Love that story. We exited onto the highway and headed toward my favorite part of the course, this gorgeous, twisting downhill on an exit ramp. YES! Downhill is my favorite speed as we all know!! And this was fun.
Mile 20…and I had only a 10K left. I took a little longer on my walk to fuel here because not only did I fuel and drink some water, but I also moved my one and only Honey Stinger Gel from my zip pocket in my running skirt to my fuel belt. Why? Because I was going to do one more fueling and I didn’t have enough Maurten with me. I wanted to feel good and strong at the end of this.
At this point, if there was a hill…I speed walked it. If there was a water stop, I walked it and took in some water. If there was a crowd, I ran. I was running more than walking, which was opposite Chicago, so already my plan was paying off. I think it was at Mile 23, I went ahead and took my last gel, fueling for the last push. The water stop here was AMAZING. They were blaring this great song about being downtown. And it just helped me pick it back up.
The next three miles went well, even though I could tell I was slowing down. I think at some point the 3:45 group passed me. I tried not to let it get into my head. I took any water break walks that I needed and promised that I would push it at the end. I was going to finish this one strong. I made the turn onto W New York Street. The crowd was amazing. Someone shouted, “The finish is just around the corner!” They were right. I rounded the corner and could see the finish line down the way. It seemed so far, but I found another gear and I started to pick it up. As I got closer, I saw Cathy standing near the finish, screaming her head off for me. I pressed on, crossing the finish line, arms in the air, and stopped my Garmin. I never looked at it. I wanted to beat my Dopey time. But I didn’t want to be disappointed yet either.
So I never looked. I started walking down the row. I was wrapped in a Mylar blanket. I saw some people with their medals on…and thought for a moment I had walked right past that station. But I hadn’t. I just hasn’t moved up far enough. I continued on. A nice woman put a medal around my neck and congratulated me. I smiled and thanked her, snagging a bottle of water before stopping to get an official finisher photo from Marathonfoto. On down the aisle of snacks, snagging a banana, a Clif Bar (for Cathy), a bag of Lay’s chips, and the famous cookie (I can’t even eat it…but I knew plenty of people who could). And then…I made my way out to be greeted by Cathy with a hug.
I asked her, “Did I beat my Dopey time?” And she said, “You smashed it by over three minutes.” I was elated. It wasn’t the time I was hoping to hit, but I once again chipped away from my time I set at the beginning of the year…doing a run/walk for the entire race. This time, I mostly ran and felt strong and good throughout…and that was saying something. As Cathy was finding a spot for me to lay down and put my feet up, I spotted the hat in her clear backpack and said, “You got a hat?” She said I should have gotten one too and I told her I must have walked past that station. She told me to lay down and she would see if she could get one for me. After about 5 minutes, she returned victorious, saying she flagged down a happy looking marathoner to see if she could get another one. It worked.
After stretching my feet up for a little bit, just basking in the sun, we finally decided to get up and head back toward the hotel. Cathy checked us out of our room and had our bags checked. It felt like the walk took forever, but it was a good way, save for the wind that had picked up. I drew my arm warmers back up over my arms and we zigzagged our way back to the hotel.
We stepped inside and got into the elevator to go up one floor. Cathy told me to go over to the bench to sit down and wait while she got luggage. It didn’t take too long. She opened up my suitcase and pulled out the outfit I had set out to wear afterwards, compression socks, jeans, the race t-shirt, new underwear, a proper bra, the basics. We went ahead and took off my shoes, socks and put on my compression socks while I was sitting there. She pulled my pigtails down, getting my hair extensions out and grabbing my hair brush. And then she sent me around the corner to the bathroom to change.
I ducked into a stall and did that in record time after a marathon. I realized that I had left my deodorant in my toiletries bag so I made sure I looked presentable, brushed my hair, and then went to grab that while leaving my race clothes with her. Quick duck into the bathroom to apply deodorant, a wash of the hands, and one more fix of the hair…and I was good to go. Once I put on my recovery shoes.
We headed out and she gave me the valet ticket to get the car while she went into Starbucks to grab me a much-needed coffee. They valet went to retrieve the car, which took about 5 minutes and she hadn’t yet made it out. I had no money on me to top the valet, which I felt AWFUL about, but I couldn’t help that. I texted her and she said about 14 teenagers had been in front of her and she was coming. She was out in about 3 minutes and we loaded up her luggage. I snagged my coffee. And we were off, heading to Carmel, Indiana, the home of Woody’s Library Restaurant, my new favorite place to eat in all of Indianapolis. Our friend Greg met us there. I didn’t have an appetite at this moment, but went ahead and ordered the Gluten Free (Lettuce Wrap) Tex Mex Quinoa Tacos with a side of the Gluten Free Sweet Potato Fries, and Cathy got me a little side of pickles…just in case I wanted them.
I made a go at the food…taking my time to chew and to digest so as not to set my stomach off. And I managed to eat the fries and most of the tacos before calling it quits. I maybe had two of the pickle chips. I was surprised I managed that much. Afterwards, to stretch me out a bit more before we made the car ride home, the three of us went to the Antique Mall and looked around. They both found things to buy, but I didn’t this time. Maybe next time. Then we hit up the gluten-free No Label at the Table bakery there. I picked up two of their Lemon Cookies, a Brownie, and a Chocolate Pumpkin Loaf. The lady who owns the bakery was there, and she was excited to see a marathoner there and asked me about other local races and Disney races as I shopped and decided what I wanted.
Afterwards…it was time to make the long drive back home.
So, the official results of the CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in 3:46:17, which makes it my fastest marathon this year and the one that closes out my actual racing season, as far as I know. HA. I was 1377/4568 finishers overall. I was the 377/1983 female finishers. And I was 106/391 in my age division. Very happy with my results as I was dedicating this run to the people I know…who can’t run. Spontaneous Marathon #14 is in the books and I already can’t wait to sign up for next year. This was a great race, all around.
Oh, friends…sometimes you dream big. Bigger than big. You don’t want to dream big, because you’re scared of failing. And you don’t want to let people down. But people keep telling you that your dream is going to happen. Ace in the hole. No problem. Easy as pie. And then those aspirations don’t go the way you planned. And you feel like a failure. And it sucks. But you try not to let it get you down. But it still sucks.
Welcome…to my Chicago Marathon.
You know, failing to reach a goal does suck. Some people can just move on. But I have never been one of those people. In hindsight…I did a lot of things wrong leading into this race. For sure.
Instead of flying, Melissa and Paul offered to drive us all up to Chicago from here. It definitely saved time and airport stress, so we took them up on the offer. Paul was running via a lottery draw and Melissa did an amazing job raising money for her charity, Team RMHC. And Cathy…she’s our sherpa, cheerleader, and race mom, as always. We got a bit of a late start out of Louisville, but we hit the road and were Chicago bound. At some point, we all figured we needed to eat dinner…and we were in the Indianapolis area…so Cathy got on the Find Me Gluten Free app, and after a sketchy call to a pizza place…we ended up going to…The Tamale Place.
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.
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
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.
The following morning, we all met up for breakfast at Meli Cafe, which is just off the lobby of The Hotel Blake. It’s convenient…so we ate their regularly. Cathy and I went and got a table and started to peruse the menu and drink some coffee. My best friend from my childhood was coming in that morning and once she arrived and dropped her stuff in the room, we were all going to take the shuttle bus to the expo. But we definitely needed to fuel up for the day. I ended up ordering the Tofu Scrambler, which is sautéed broccoli, asparagus, zucchini, roasted red peppers, and organic tofu in a giant bowl. Since they didn’t have a gluten-free bread option, I subbed for a small bowl of fruit instead. It was delicious. And filling. And not too spicy (because the day before the race is one day you really want some bland food)…even if I added a couple dashes of hot sauce. We ate. We went up to the room and hung out. And Heather arrived while I was in the bathroom. So I came out and immediately hugged her. It was amazing to have her in Chicago for me again.
Next stop: THE EXPO!!
The Abbott Health & Fitness Expo is probably the largest and best expo I have ever been to. I have done this one twice, and it’s just…endless and amazing. But first stop is always…race bib. We had to take a short walk a couple of blocks down to the Hilton Chicago and got on the bus. Most of the seats that were left were in the back. Melissa gets car sick, so we just prayed it was a smooth ride. It wasn’t a long ride and we made note of the Green Stop being where we needed to return to in order to get back to the Hilton to get back to our hotel.
We went inside…and immediately I got swept up in that race expo bliss. There were a few photo ops before I had to show my participant info to the security people in order to get in and get my race bib and the info for where to get my t-shirt. It was an easy exchange and after I got this…we decided to branch off from Paul and Melissa so we could all get our necessary things done. I had one thing I wanted at the race expo…the Newton Chicago Edition shoes. Because…NEWTONS. CHICAGO. YES! But first…I needed to get my t-shirt and check the size to be sure that I was happy with the fit. As I was trying it on, my friend AmyLee messaged me to say she was there. She said she would come find me at the t-shirt area. And…she did!! It was great to hug her and wish her luck and just sit and talk about life and catch up. She’s amazing. And…she’s doing the Galloway Method…which I totally respect and believe in, as the run/walk intervals helped me have a strong finish during the marathon at Dopey Challenge at Disney World in January.
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
And that…was where I stood…for a very, very long time. Barely moving. Just a short trudge here and there, waddling up bit-by-bit. Glance to the left…and Gate 1 was just moving easily. Look to the right…and Gate 3 had traffic moving freely. Gate 2…was at an absolute standstill. And every runner there was basically in Wave 1 and needing to be in their corral. And yet…we stood.
At least it wasn’t raining…yet. Not yet. But, we who were left to stand there and shuffle slowly forward were about to go into panic mode. We couldn’t understand why this gate wasn’t moving. And panic was setting in for me. Usually I would have stretched more…and taken my time eating the banana I brought with me…perhaps use the bathroom near the corrals…but nope. Finally they had runners who didn’t need to check bags get into a separate line (that was me), and while it still moved slowly, it got us through. And then the panic speed walk began for everyone. Because to get to Corral C & D, you had to go behind the other corrals to a separate entrance. And at this point…the National Anthem was being sung, quite beautifully, but I couldn’t enjoy it. I was trying to make it to Corral D so I could start on time. Panic and adrenaline was setting in.
I did learn one thing from standing forever in that line at the gate. Count the kilometers, not miles. There are more of them, so you feel like you are getting places faster. Nice trick. But I digress…
I got into the corral with 1 minute to spare before they closed it. I quickly shed my trash bag and the half-zip I had worn to keep warm, as I was in a crop top and shorts for this one. The start temperature was warm…almost 60 degrees…but rain was coming and so were some rather steady winds. The announcers said all the names of the elite field that were running and the corrals would cheer for each name. And then…they sent off the first wave.
To the song Sweet Home Chicago.
After the initial walk to the start line, we could see it grow closer and closer and soon the walk became a job and soon the jog became the run over the start mat and under the starting gate. I was off. For my second ever Chicago Marathon. A race that was so magical for me in 2013.
This experience, however, was going to be a lot different. Because mistakes were made throughout the race as well. I was relieved to start without the rain, and while I knew that it wouldn’t be kept at bay, I was hoping that it would hold off longer than it actually did. The first couple of miles were pretty dry. But as I headed into Mile 3…the rain began. I also knew that Cathy and Heather were going to try to catch me before I hit Mile 3…so pretty much just before the bridge. And I spotted them thanks to Heather’s purple jacket. She was SO easy to spot. I gave a wave and a smile, feeling absolutely strong at this point and continued on…knowing I wouldn’t see them again until Mile 13.
I should mention here that I really just wanted to run by feel for this race. Go out and have fun. Enjoy. And to make sure that I wouldn’t check my watch and fuss over my pace, I set it to only show me the time. The clock face. No pace. No distance. None of it. Not even time elapsed. And I never once looked at my watch the entire race. Nor did I make not of the clocks along the course. But this is where I may have faltered. I ran the first 12-14 miles on pace for my goal for this race. But…it got a lot harder than I anticipated at Mile 10. Mile 10 is not a good place to have your legs start feeling like lead. I pressed on, hoping that maybe the flat course was affecting them, so I hoped they would wake back up. They didn’t.
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.
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.
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.
Cathy joined us first…then the Nolans. I was just finishing up when they got their food, but it meant I could walk Heather up to get her stuff and take her outside of the hotel to give her hugs and tell her to have a safe trip back to Minnesota. She had a flight to catch. I went back inside to sit with my friends and just reveled in what we all accomplished. We pushed ourselves even when things got hard. Even when they seemed impossible. And we all finished. Safely.
After we ate, we hit the lobby for a couple of photo ops and then headed back upstairs to rest and recover. We hung out in our room, watching Food Network and just talking and drinking water/cider. It was the perfect way to close it out.
So…the official results of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon are that I finished in 3:50:41. Definitely nowhere near what I had hoped. BUT…I will follow with my conclusions on that in a moment. I was the 11156 finisher overall. The 2941 female to finish. And I was 566 in my age division. Not bad, considering over 43,000 runner signed up for this.
So…what mistakes did I make?
I was on my feet way too much the day before the race. I didn’t fuel as I would have liked and tried a different method…the day before the race. I think my marathon paced runs killed me the weeks leading into the race as well. I let expectations get to me. I didn’t let my watch tell me to SLOW DOWN (I think that was my biggest error). I didn’t dress for the weather that was moving in. I probably should have fueled more than I did. I did every 6 miles…I am going to work on putting that closer and more frequent. And…I told myself I wasn’t fit enough so I went into it believing I wasn’t fit enough. And there are more…but I won’t dwell on it now.
I finished…I made it. My friends finished. They made it. We all were safe. We all did the best we could with our circumstances. We may not have lived up to our own expectations, but dammit…we at least tried that day. We at least got out there and gave it what we had.
Chicago…maybe one day I’ll be back. But for now, I have other fall marathons to tackle. You were a great learning experience. And I know…if I keep trying, I’ll reach my goal.