Just keep taking chances and having fun: A KDF Marathon Wrap-Up

flyIt is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

-Theodore Roosevelt|The Man in the Arena

And just like that…it’s over.  Done.  Finished.  The race has been run and won and packed up.  Streets have been flooded by cars and not by athletic shoes pounding out a cadence that is either scripted by music in the earbuds or matching that racing heartbeat.  Crumbled white cups that used to hold water or Powerade have long been swept up.

It’s business as usual in Louisville, Kentucky.

This week, we had the official Wrap-Up meeting for the #KDFMarathon Ambassadors.

Let me just give you a little insight as to why this was so emotionally hard for me…

I was chosen to be a part of this amazing group of people back in the beginning of August.  So here I was, now a member of a group of 20 people that were hand selected by the Kentucky Derby Festival people to represent the Marathon/miniMarathon!  I was beyond honored, ecstatic, and ready to do what I could for this local race.

 

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The official announcement happened on August 5th for me…I was in the final group to be announced.

I had no idea how much these people and this position would change me.  Personally.  Emotionally.  I never expected or anticipated the impact that being a part of the KDF Marathon family would have on me.  But this has been one of the most rewarding things I have done in my life.

I’m almost 40 years old.  So that’s saying something.  Regardless of how average my life is.  HA!!

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For countless months and so many training runs…these people…this amazing, inspiring group of people…were my freakin’ backbone.  We saw each other through surgeries, recovery, losses, injuries, PRs, hard times, good times…you name it.  We stuck through it all together.  We would check in via phone, text, Facebook, e-mail…we truly became a family.  I have never seen a large group of different personalities just fall into such a happy place with each other.  Simply put…we worked.

When the photo above was taken, I knew maybe 2 of the three people in the group.  But I was talking and chatting with all of them, like I knew them for years, by the time the meeting wrapped up.  I was just getting back into the swing of things.  I had returned from Hawaii after giving my best (and ultimately, feeling let down by my performance) at the Kauai Marathon (I mean, it was my first major race back from my hip labrum tear).  Nothing hurt.  No pains.  I was ready to get excited to train for the KDF full marathon.  I had run it in 2014 as a pacer for a friend…but I really just wanted to run these streets for me this time.  Official training didn’t begin until January, but starting as early as our first meeting, we had a discount code for registration to share and we were off to the races (pardon the pun).

I had a fantastic time connecting with some of them at the Disney Wine & Dine Lumiere’s Challenge weekend!


Food.  Wine.  Running. Disney.  You better believe we were bonding.  AND we did make a point to find one another before the race…after the race…in the parks…at the after party.  We honestly…enjoyed each other’s company.  AND…texting/calling one such group member who MIGHT have slept through her alarm on the first race. *cough*

When you are a member of such a diverse group…and you can bond over one thing as simple as running…you’re going to find a lot of other things to bond over.  While we only had a few official meetings, the unofficial ones turned out to be just as important…at least to me.

I met up with Melissa once more at a Disney race…this time in January…and this time under much, much different circumstances.  On December 31, I did a 14 mile training run and ended up having a twinge of the hip flexor.  It didn’t go away.  It only got worse.  And I honestly stopped running after that.  Nothing leading into my upcoming January events.  I was heading into the Disneyland Light Side Rebel Challenge weekend.  When the orthopedic doctor wasn’t able to see me or to talk to me before I left…things got beyond stressful.  And I had more than one panic attack in California.  I remember walking to the start corrals (I was in A and Melissa was a few back) and I was seriously on the verge of tears because my hip was honestly being held together by KT Tape, ACE Bandages, and compression shorts under my costume), and Melissa stopped me and gave me the best hug ever and told me just to go have fun…stop for pictures…not even worry about the time on the watch…and that if they caught up to me and I was walking…they’d join me.  I mean…this woman….is probably one of the few people left in this world who just thinks about others like that.  Is it any wonder we all love her?  Her pep talks…work magic.  And her spirit is contagious.

Paul (Boba Fett), Melissa (Maz), and Me (Rey)...because STAR WARS!

Paul (Boba Fett), Melissa (Maz), and Me (Rey)…because STAR WARS!

Melissa has become, honestly, one of my best friends.  We hang out together…bond over gluten-free eats, and just laugh.  God, we can laugh over the silliest and stupidest things.  But…how she and I, both living in New Albany, have never crossed paths before, neither of us can figure out.  But now…we’ve got a lifetime to make up for it.

As the KDF training runs began, despite still not being able to run…AT ALL…I turned up for them.  There were some very cold mornings where I would just walk.  Sometimes 2 miles…sometimes 4…sometimes 5.  It took forever.  And I would cry.  GOD, would I cry.  But…here my amazing Ambassadors would lift my spirits with jokes, anecdotes, high fives, hugs, smiles, encouragement…THE ENTIRE TIME!  One of them (calling you out here, Chris) gave me a blanket after one of the coldest mornings that I had to walk and was determined to WALK at least half the distance.  I hurt so bad…and the cold wasn’t helping.  I still have that blanket.  Chris…I can give you back your blanket…FYI!

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Chris, Paul, Jack, Reggie, Dawn, Me, Melissa…freezing our running asses off!

We were friends…we are family!

Race morning…if it could go wrong…if it could happen…well, we all read about it or experienced it.  IT HAPPENED!  From thunderstorms, delays, nutrition being off, more delays, people getting locked in a bank, more delays…and finally a 9:15 am start…well…there is actually a lot behind all of why that happened that way and I hope those of you who swore of the KDF Marathon/miniMarathon make a point to try it out again.  It was really eye-opening to get the behind-the-scenes play-by-play by the new race director at the final KDF Ambassador Wrap-Up Meeting.  Everything had to play out that way for safety…and there is a lot the general public doesn’t understand.  You do the best you can under the circumstances, right?

The thing is…for better or for worse…we made it.  We struggled and thrived in training.  We struggled and thrived in the race.  And while we all had different paces, places, and races…we all finished this…together.  I was so honored to have been able to see most of my friends at the finish line.  I loved being able to give them that hug…because when we finish a race under even the best of circumstances, that hug can change everything.  WE DID THIS THING!  WE did this thing that WE trained for and prepared for and WE did this thing…TOGETHER!

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This past week we had the final meeting.  And while those who were able to attend were few…we had everyone there in spirit.  Over Lemon Blossoms and good conversation…we wrapped it all up and concluded our term as a 2016-2017 KDF Marathon Ambassador.

And…much to my surprise, I was awarded one of the Top Social Media Recruiter Awards…a distinction that I proudly share with Stephanie, another lady who has inspired, motivated, and befriended me.  Seriously…this was so shocking and unexpected.  And I’m honored simply to have been an Ambassador, but to include me with someone who rocked the social media world with her posts…it’s amazing to me.


One of the Ambassadors really went above and beyond when it came to recruitment and promotions.  Honestly, he would work on setting up tables at local business and gyms.  And he didn’t keep this to himself either, but invited other Ambassadors to jump in and get on it too.  And it was for that reason that Jack took home the Award for Promotions!

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Chris, Deana, Jack, and Stephanie

And the award of the night went to the person who most deserved, earned, and fought for it.  Seriously…if you could hear her back story…and then all that happened to her on the marathon course…you’d be in awe of her.  She’s one of my best friends now.  And I would be lying to say I wasn’t slightly jealous because she gets to be a part of the new group that comes together for next year…but…I’m proud of her.  Oddly enough…I even had said for a few weeks leading into this meeting that if she didn’t win Ambassador of the Year, I would be disappointed…so…Melissa Nolan..take a big freakin’ bow and get your beauty queen wave on!!

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Melissa is Ambassador of the Year

And no blog would be complete without the last shot of all of us who were able to make the meeting.  Honestly, to those pictured below and those pictured in the first group shot way at the beginning of this post…I can’t emphasize enough how much your friendship and encouragement have inspired me, moved me, and kept me going.  I had some highs during my time as an Ambassador…but I had more lows in my life…and they lifted me up and kept me going…and that, friends, is what this group is all about.  I didn’t ever feel like we had any sort of competition in our group.  We invited each other to our parties, to lunches, and even gave airport transportation.  I have a whole new group of friends in my life…and I’m forever thankful to have had this opportunity to grow not just as a runner, but as a person too.

To Deana, Chris, Stephanie, Amy, Chad, Danielle, Dawn, Jack, Jamie, Jessica, Kelsey, Leah, Madeline, Melissa, Paul, Reggie, Richie, Stephanie, and Tonya…I can’t wait to see and experience all that awaits you down the road.  I can’t wait to see how you rise above it all.  I can’t wait to see you soar over challenges and push yourself to the next level.  I can’t wait to see more starting lines…and finish lines with you.  Not strictly race-related…because we’re all in this thing called life together…and whether physical or metaphorical…we’ve got new beginnings and new ends ahead.  I can’t wait to cheer you through it all.  LOVE YOU!

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For any of you who have thought about becoming a Race Ambassador, I highly recommend it.  This has been such a rewarding experience for me.  I can’t even begin to put into words (that I haven’t already used) how much this group motivated, supported, and changed me.  They were my rocks.  And I can’t wait to see them at our unofficial Ambassador reunions and out on the streets of our amazing city!

If you want to try to get in as a KDF Marathon Race Ambassador next year…the application opens in August.  Fill it out!!  Maybe magic will happen for you too!  Chase your dreams, friends!!  See you out on the roads!!

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Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon – Louisville, KY (April 29, 2017)

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Me heading into the finish line of the KDF miniMarathon – Louisville, Kentucky

Race: Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: April 29, 2017

Time: 1:43:12

This was it.  This was the terminus of my job as a 2016-2017 #KDFMarathon/miniMarathon Race Ambassador.  And it was race day.  RACE DAY!!  I love race day!

And, trust me, it took me a lot of sweat and tears to be able to get to that start line.  Because if you had asked me in January, when my hip flexor froze up, if I would have been able to run it…I wouldn’t have been too sure.  As it was, I had to drop from the full to the half…so there was that.

I wanted to be stubborn and just do it.  I’m not a newbie to marathons.  I have run 11 of them total, but I also haven’t really been able to train for one since I ran the Charleston Marathon in January 2015.  Boston was a bust.  And Kauai…well…it didn’t exactly boost my self-esteem and “can-do” marathon mentality.

I wasn’t ready for a full.  Two months of training lost to a paralyzed hip flexor…and a very cautious and slow build-up in mileage put me at my first double digit run (10 miles) exactly one month before race day.  To press on and do the full would have been a fool’s errand.

I’ve learned to be a little more patient with myself and allow myself to heal and train right.  So, the miniMarathon it was.  You win some…you lose some.  I did manage to run most of the Disney World Star Wars Dark Side Marathon on Sunday.  It was steamy and humid…and for the last 5 miles, I was run/walking.  It was okay.  These days I worry more about running smart than that finish time.  When it’s hot and the race is flagged (and…for the record, both the Dark Side Half & KDF were yellow flagged due to humidity)…you just run it the best you can without putting yourself at risk for heatstroke or worse.

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My Ambassador Crew at the KDF Marathon Expo: Paul, Me, Amy, and Jack

My second half marathon in the same week was starting off well.  I only ran one time in between to two races.  I didn’t need more.  Wednesday morning, I hit up 4 very easy miles and called it a week.  And on Thursday, I left work early to meet up with Jack, Paul and Amy (3 others in my Ambassador family) to volunteer at the expo as a greeter.  I convinced quite a lot of my friends to come to the expo that day…both local and from out of town.  And it was hopping!  It was great seeing everyone and helping people out when they had questions.  I was feeling good and confident.  And being able to hang with other ambassadors and just be relaxed and help others relax…and drink free wine samples…it was actually what I needed.  I was feeling good.

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Curry Sauté with Tofu from North End Cafe in Louisville, KY

Friday I spent most of the day sitting at work…which is not something I normally do, but my coach had decided to have me aim for a 1:40 half on Saturday, so I really wanted to do right by my legs and my body.  And, that evening, I went to the Galt House and picked up fellow Marathon Maniac, and good friend, Michael, to have a pre-race dinner.  Normally, I would just cook an Annie May’s Sweet Café gluten-free/vegan pizza at home and call it a day, but I had wanted to meet up with Michael.  We ended up at North End Cafe.  He had the Lemonade Blueberry Pancakes, and I got the Curry Sauté with Tofu for dinner.  As I have been to races where safe gluten-free pizza isn’t always readily available, I have played around some with my night before meal ritual.  But nothing works like gluten-free pizza.

After we dropped Michael back off at the hotel and went home, I finished making up the “Finish Line Lemon Blossoms” for my friends.  After my PT exercises and some foam rolling…I called it a night.  I set my traditional 2 alarms for the race, but didn’t bother to get up in enough time to squeeze in my PT stuff…because it was going to be storming or raining in the morning.  I figured I skipped them at Disney…I could supplement my walk to the start line for the warmups and I’d be ready to go.

And at 5 am…the 7:30 am start was delayed.  For half an hour.

This definitely made the morning slightly easier.  I was already dressed and had my hair up and everything, so I got to sit and relax a little longer…savor my breakfast…that sort of thing.  Dread the humidity.  Because…it was humid.  And the sun wasn’t even up yet.  In fact, the rain only served to make it steamier.  I was having anxiety over the humidity the night before, texting my coach about my push for a 1:40 and how the humidity might slaughter that attempt…especially since I was in my “uniform” of the Ambassador shirt (which had sleeves).  I’m not a fan of racing in sleeves unless it’s cold.  When it’s hot…it’s a simple bra top or a tank.  So this was going to be a new experience too.  I figured if it got too unbearable, I could shed the shirt and then attempt to wriggle back into it before the finish line.

So…delay #1 was in the works.

The official KDFMarathon Ambassador photo was going to now be taken at 7:30…so we headed that way and actually got down to Slugger Field (and the parking lot) at around  7 a.m.  This gave me time for one of my efficient and essential power naps!!  I got my nap on good!!  With about 10 minutes to go, I got a text from my running partner, Matthew, saying that he was at the statue in front of Slugger Field, so I got up and headed that way.

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Danielle, Tonya, Me, Leah, Paul, and Jamie pre-race delay #2!

A few more ambassadors were gathered, but the whole team wasn’t there yet.  This has been a thing in all these months.  Races and such, we never quite managed to get everyone in a photo together. #goals

Anyway…no sooner had the photos been taken, I snagged my pre-race fuel (a simple banana!) and downed it while talking to Matthew, Natalie, and my fellow Ambassadors, who were hanging for a moment.

And then…another delay.

Race start was now set for 8:30.  And I had now eaten my banana a whole hour before the start, rather than half an hour.  Roll with it.  I wasn’t planning on exerting myself before the race so I figured I’d be fine.  We all started to make our way toward the corrals regardless (it wasn’t even raining!), when we were told to take cover.  My group ducked under the cover of the Old National Bank near the race start with a crowd of other runners and passed the time just chatting away.  Even my running coach and her crew joined us under there.  It was sort of a nervous energy, but a positive energy at that point.

Cathy left shortly after we got up there, because she likes getting a good spot at the start line and the finish line.  So, she gathered up my rain jacket (which had been keeping Natalie warm) and went to go find her spot, telling me she’d be on the right at the start and on the left at the finish.

With the 8:30 a.m. start time coming up, we opted to head out of the shelter to get to the corrals.  And no sooner had we stepped out from under the bank building and down the steps…

Delay #3.  Race start was now 9:00 a.m.

My group and I decided we would duck into the bank building and rest our legs by sitting on the floor there instead of standing around outside.  It was more comfortable out of the humidity, regardless.  With race start happening soon, we decided to make a last ditch move for the port-a-potties for those who needed them.  I didn’t.  I drank a ton of water the day before, but on race morning, I keep it light so I don’t have to pee.  I did tell my friends that I would hold their stuff for them though.  As we were heading out, the doors to the bank building seemed to be giving people some trouble.  We stepped out though for our mission.

On the way to the toilets, my amazing friend, Kelsie, spotted me.  Matthew and I gave her a hug and we stood around and talked for a brief moment.  Then we went on so I could hold gear.  I should mention that my fellow Ambassador and friend, Tonya, had gone on ahead of us too.  I had her plastic bag for race start should rain happen.  But we still had NO rain.  Just delays.  After everyone cycled through, we started back toward the bank for a few more moments of sitting down and resting before…hopefully, a real start.

trappedinthebankAnd this is where we discover that the people (Tonya was now included) that were inside the bank building were now TRAPPED inside the bank building.  Apparently, the Old National Bank’s doors were timed to lock at a certain time.  And…guess what…they were locked.  Runners were trapped inside with 15 or so minutes to go before the race start.  I walked up to the window and Tonya was front-and-center.

Tonya had texted my phone, which Cathy had at this point, so Cathy sprang into action when the S.O.S. came through, alerting some officers, who wrangled up fire department and security to, hopefully, get the runners out.  With like…only 10 minutes to spare…this happened.  Thank goodness.

So…with no further delays and an announcement being made that 9:00 a.m. was go-time for real…everyone started to get to their corrals.  Matthew and I ducked into Corral C to start making our way forward to A.  We ducked under rope flags and everything to move forward in our corral.  I spotted Greg, from Frankfort, Kentucky, who was pacing the 1:50 half marathon group. I said hi and he asked if I was running with him because he thought I was up in Tim’s group (that would be the 1:40 group).  I said that Linda (our coach) had said that all plans were out the window with the delays and to just go have fun, but I was moving up.

And we did.  Almost to the front.  Like…we were behind the elite line.  We saw elite bibs.  Elite bibs have no corral letter on them.

Matthew and I decided we were out of our league up there and he spotted Tim’s pacing group…so we decided to move back.  A bit.

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Kelsie, Me, and Matthew heading out of the Start of the KDF miniMarathon

And we found Kelsie again.  So…this was perfect.  I was starting the race off with friends…it was going to be a good time.  Despite the fact that I was now starving.  And it was humid.

Did I mention that I was starving?

I had fueled for an 8 a.m. start.  I think my corral (Corral A) went off at 9:15 a.m.  That banana was LONG gone.  And I didn’t want to hit up my mid-race nutrition, because I needed that after Mile 6.  I looked at Matthew and Kelsie and I said…”AND…now I’m starving.”  They were too.

Everyone was.

My coach was right…everything was a mess now…it was best just to go and have some fun.

Matthew and I decided we would attempt to at least keep Tim (remember…that’s the 1:40 pacer) in our sites.  The starting gun went off…and the three of us took off.  I don’t know where we dropped Kelsie, but she was doing this race right.  No watch.  No goals save to finish.  I want to do that more.  Just run how I feel and for fun.  What a freeing feeling that has to be!

Matthew and I pounded out the first four miles pretty much together.  The rain poured down on us shortly after the start and I looked at him and said, “We SO would have been done by now!”  Soaked from humidity, rain, and exertion, we pressed on.  Matthew commented that he felt like he couldn’t catch his breath.  The air was heavy with humidity, so I totally knew how he felt.

I lost him after a turn.  I thought he might have gone on ahead.

As we hit Mile 5…I did 2 things.  I slowed for a moment to pull the KDF Marathon Race Ambassador shirt off so I could cool down.  This happened just as I heard, “There’s Karen.”  So I waived, tucked my Ambassador shirt into my fuel belt…and then I fueled.  A whole mile early.  Because my legs were starting to resist my determination to keep going.  Everything was a cluster now.

Tim and the rest of the 1:40 group were still in site…but not really within distance to catch now.  And my body was not feeling the pace.  I told myself to hang on through Churchill Downs.  So…for at least 3 more miles.  I could suffer for that long, right?

I managed.  My pace dropped little-by-little until I rounded the corner at the split…hit Mile 9…and took a walk at the water station.  I carry my own water with me on half marathons and marathons.  Usually if it’s a double-digit run, I have water and fuel with me.  I didn’t care.  I hit that water stop, I slowed.  I took a cup from a lovely volunteer.  I took a sip.  The rest went on over my head.  It cooled me down…and I made myself start running again.

From here on out…it was down to running smart…not running fast.  Since any attempts to hit a certain time goal went away with the 90 minute delays…now it was just about crossing that finish line.  I didn’t care how long it took me…I was down to the last 5 miles regardless.  I managed to make water stops the rest of the way toward the finish…even when I said I would keep running and no more walking…if I needed to throw water over my head…I did it.  And, as I found out in Disney, that really works.

It did, however, work better at Disney…when I wasn’t under-fueled and also dying from the humidity.  At about Mile 11, I had caught up to Pete, a guy who ran with Matthew and I a couple of times before the Norton Sports Health Training Program kicked in and before I was injured.  I had to slow again for one last shower of water, so he got too far ahead of me again.  I had to slow to walk and water myself for about 3 more times before I knew that finish line was close.  This was my Dark Side Half Marathon all over again.  But worse.  My splits were hitting in the 8’s…which I never touched (despite walk breaks) at Disney.

I felt…miserable.

But I am nothing if not persistent.

I could taste that finish line.  And it wasn’t far.  I could hear the announcer.  I could see Slugger Field.  That meant…it was just around the corner.

And there it was…the turn!!

I never put the Ambassador shirt back on.  I had it tucked in my belt…but to stop to wriggle back into it might mean I wouldn’t start again.

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Me crossing the finish line of the KDF miniMarathon

I took the turn.  And while I didn’t feel like moving any faster, I attempted to pick up my pace.  That finish line was in site…all I had to do was run over it.  I focused on that line alone.  I heard Cathy screaming on the sideline…and I ran down the stretch and passed under the arch.

DONE.

I was…done.  I also felt like crap.

But Dan spotted me at the finish line and called out my name over the bullhorn.  HA!

I continued down the line, slowly, trying to catch my breath and cool down.  The medals were right ahead, so as I strolled that way, Cathy caught up to me at the fence.  She told me my official finish time, which I couldn’t believe, given how slow my pace had gotten as the morning went on and the miles progressed.  We attempted to formulate a meeting place after I would go through the official finish photo area and the place where they store food and chocolate milk and Powerade.  And as we were discussing…Paul from the Ambassadors came in.  Then another running partner of mine, Ron, was in.  And then…Matthew.  I hadn’t moved except to go and congratulate Paul.  I found Ron.  And Matthew somehow slipped by me, but Cathy found him and he was at the fence when I returned.

We all managed to make our way to the runner reunion area, grabbing snacks along the way.  As I emerged…with banana and chips (I have never seen Cathy so happy to see a bag of chips in my hand), I actually reconnected with Kelsie…who gave that finish line her famous kick and brought it in strong.  I really need her to teach me where she finds that late energy because I’m usually dying at the finish line.  She needed to head out, so after a photo, she left and Ron went to claim his free beer.  Cathy told me to take my phone and see if I could catch more of the 30 people I was tracking while she went to get the bags out of the car that had my clothes to change into and a cooler with food and a big bottle of water.  Tonya came in but texted to say she was in medical.  And Amy came in.  I never found her in the crowd.  I did find former co-workers from IU Southeast, Dana & Graham, after they finished.  So that was cool!

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Finisher of the KDF miniMarathon – Louisville, Kentucky (note the tucked Ambassador shirt)

Cathy and I were camped out under the overpass for the rest of the day.  When my phone told me one of my people were in…I’d attempt to go find them.  I mostly succeeded.  I only missed a few.  I caught Natalie, who I really wanted to find above all, as it was her first marathon, and she was having Siri hit me up for motivation as she made her way to that finish line.  She did great!  I also did distribute Lemon Blossoms.  They were very well received.  My friend Jack even picked me up when I handed him a whole container.  And he had just run a marathon.

I thought everyone was in at that point…but I was wrong.  But that is a long, complicated, and amazing story all its own.

So, the official results of the Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon are that I finished in 1:43:12.  That, mind you, is almost exactly 2 minutes slower than my time last year.  MEH!  That being said, I wasn’t expecting to hit 1:43 at all after the walking began, so I’ll gladly take this.  Given the conditions, I’m beyond happy with this result.  I was 403/8737 finishers overall.  I was 85/5010 female finishers.  And I was 15/794 finishers in my division.  Given that I had just raced a humid half marathon on Sunday…walked Disney World the rest of Sunday and all of Monday…traveled home…worked overtime…worked the expo…and then ran again in the humidity…I exceeded all expectations I had.  Honestly.  There were fewer runners this year (by about 2000) in the mini…but my stats improved on every single category…despite running slower.  I count that as a win too!

Here’s my takeaway…

I came into this event at first meeting with a group of strangers at the KDF Marathon Headquarters.  I found a great group of supportive, amazing, inspiring people who are like family to me now.  So many friendships were formed in this year’s KDF Ambassador group.  I was so fortunate to have been able to be a part of it.  I may not have signed up the most people for the race, but I went to events…I promoted the race…I even went to the training runs (even on the coldest mornings) when I couldn’t run and encouraged others…cheered…high fived…and walked.  The marathon slipped away when my training had to wait almost 3 months to even start.

Dropping to the mini was hard…but it was the smartest decision I could have made.  I would never have survived the full after a humid Florida race series and the 90 minute delays.  With nutrition and scheduling off…this was a blessing in disguise.

The delays have taught me a lot about being a bit more prepared for whatever race morning might throw my way.

I saw so many people finish.  I helped a few out when they needed help.  I hugged so many of my sweaty friends.  I saw people set goals…and whether they crushed them or fell short…they completed what the started.  And that, friends, is what the spirit of race day is all about.

My time as a KDF Marathon Ambassador is coming to a close, but the memories, friends, emotions, and moments that I now carry with me…those will last a lifetime.

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

Last Chance to Register for KDFMarathon/miniMarathon!!

There are only EIGHT (8) more days until the start gun goes off at the #KDFMarathon & miniMarathon!

This journey, for me, has been quite the ride this year!  For many reasons…

1. Being chosen as a #KDFMarathon Ambassador

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Honestly, this has been such a fun journey where I not only gained new friends, but a whole new family!  I can’t express enough what a difference being a part of this fantastic group of individuals has done for me.  When bad stuff happens, they got your back.  When you need help, they back you up.  When you can’t run, they walk with you.  When you are down, they text or message you with funny and uplifting words and images.  I didn’t know how important these people were going to be when this picture was taken, but, let me tell you this…my life is forever richer because of every single one of them!

2.  A Different Hip Injury on a Different Hip

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It was January 1st when it struck.  My “good” hip…the one without the labrum tear…started to act up.  To the point that I was limping.  Running was out of the question.  My doctor couldn’t see me before my trip to California to run the Disneyland Star Wars Rebel Challenge (10K & Half Marathon), so I hobbled through those races held together by KT Tape, ACE Bandages, and the knowledge that if I stopped running…I probably wouldn’t start again.  Soon after, I was able to see my doctor, where I was told I had a hip flexor strain, and sent to physical therapy.  It was a long road…but I was finally back to running (slowly and with a little pain)…until the pain became less…and the miles were able to increase.  So, my bad hip (the right one with the labrum tear) feels good…and my left hip (paralyzed hip flexor)…now is functioning and moving pain-free.  And I finally was able to start running at the #KDFMarathon training runs, and not just walking in the face-numbing cold.  I, did, however, make a point to show up to every single one of the training runs…even though I couldn’t run.

3. Seeing others do what they thought was impossible…

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I see it every day…via social media…friends, friends of friends, family…whoever it is and whatever journey or goal they have set…watching people I know (and sometimes don’t know) push through what they once thought was impossible has been an uplifting and motivating experience.  My friend, Natalie, is running her first marathon at KDF.  When she did her 20 mile run, her post made me smile…and reminds me that any goal can be achieved if you set your mind to it…and never give up.  Same goes for my fellow Ambassador, and friend, Melissa.  She’s been dealing with knee a knee injury since January as well…but she has shown up and done her damn best to get out there and at least get her miles in…even if she walked them all and froze her face off.  Natalie…if you’re reading this…enjoy your first marathon next weekend!  Melissa…you’re so ready and you are going to kill it out there!

Whatever your story…wherever you started…whatever your goal…chase it down.  It’s yours for the taking.

And with all of that mess out of the way, I am here to remind you that today, APRIL 20, 2017 is the LAST DAY to register for the #KDFMarathon & miniMarathon!  AND…in case you have been procrastinating or on the fence…I have one last DISCOUNT CODE that will save you $15 off your registration!  As a reminder, today is also the last day to make any changes to your current registration, be it moving up to the full or dropping to the half or transferring your bib.

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The discount code is: KDFSUNSHINE.  As always, please select me, Karen Brady, as your race ambassador.  This offer ends TONIGHT at MIDNIGHT!

For any of my friends who are doing this race, I am also working at the Race Expo on Thursday from 3-8 pm.  So come on down and see me!!

And for the rest of you…I hope to see you on race day…before, during, or after.  High fives and hugs all around!

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Comeback Kid…Again! Weeks #7 – #10

Wow, I’m behind on posts in the weeks leading up to the races I have coming up.  Trust me when I say…I’ve been busy!

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When I left you about a month ago…I was getting back to running, easing my mileage back up, adding in some speed work and hills, etc.  Right?  Right.  Not all at once, mind you.  That would be Looney Tunes.

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So…basically my easing back into things started with a race weekend.  As you know from the previous blog, I ran (not raced) the Rodes City Run 10K with my friend Matthew.  It was a good way to train, and I learned that small, climbing hills and even the 10K distance were a challenge for this now endurance-less distance runner.  My endurance was shot.  Gone.  Kaput.

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I knew this needed to change.  I just wasn’t sure exactly how to go about it, especially on my own. That being said…I made a promise to not give up and to keep on going!

The following weekend, after Rodes, I was up to 7 miles for my long run (my PT wanted me to increase my long run each week by 1 mile).  Not only was I the milk maid for the #KDFMarathon training run (this simply means I provide the bottles of TruMoo in coolers for those doing the training run.  As we know, chocolate milk has been proven to be one of the most amazing recovery drinks around due to the protein:carb ratio).  I’m lactose intolerant and don’t handle dairy well at all, so I can’t use this method…but a lot of these runners look forward to that little reward at the end.  The run, however, was starting at SWAGS South.  And this meant…we were running Iroquois.  I guess I was about to test this hip flexor out against the hills of Iroquois Park.  It was an all-female cast of characters for the KDF Race Ambassadors that day too!

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Talk about trial-by-fire.  My running partner, Matthew, joined me and while everyone else was going 10 that day…we were hitting up 7.  It was nice to have company, because…once again…I had to do my own thing.  I just hoped no one followed me as I did it, because that would really screw up the mileage.  There were 2 options that day for those doing the entire 10.  Run to the top of the park (recommended for the marathon runners) or run past that hill and go around the base to some other road.  I didn’t pay that close of attention because Matthew and I were doing neither.  We ended up running to the water stop at the base of the giant hill leading to the top of Iroquois.  We grabbed some water…and then continued on around the base, turning the opposite way of the half marathon runners and going more toward the amphitheater.  We didn’t quite make it there before needing to turn around, so we just sort of turned into a lot, found a path, and ended up way off where we needed to be to get back.  Garmins paused and we crossed through the grass to the main road and got back to the run.  The hills did slow me down, but it was probably the best way to get back to running on hills.  There is no getting around them in Iroquois.  I was tired as we finished up…but as I was the Milk Maid…I needed to wait around for the chocolate milk to be gone.

Which I ended up icing the last 5 bottles because it was after noon…and I had a 2:30 pm Louisville City FC match to get to.  First kick.  And it was a draw.  No purple smoke that day.  But we had gorgeous weather.  And I got a sunburn.  Life was good.  Well, maybe not the sunburn part…

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Well, that following weekend would be my first real test.  And here’s why.  I wasn’t allowed to jump from 7 miles up to 10 because…well…obviously injuries happen to me.  A lot.  And the whole point was to ease the mileage back up there.  The challenge, however, was that there was no training run on tap.  Why not?  Well…two reasons…


Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon in Lexington, Ky, and the Papa John’s 10 Miler in Louisville, Ky.  Most of my fellow local runners and ambassadors were taking part in either RTB (and my coach was providing the pacers), or doing the last leg of the Triple Crown of Running with the Papa John’s 10 Miler (aka: my favorite local race…and I couldn’t do it this year  BOO!).  My running partner, Matthew, was out of town on a family trip.  So…there was me, myself, and I.

And on a morning in the low 40s…it was not easy for me to haul my butt out of my nice warm bed, do all my physical therapy exercises and stretching and get myself out the door to run by myself for 8 miles.  I don’t mind running alone.  I don’t.  I do it all the time.  I just prefer to run with people.  It takes my mind off all the mental stuff.  And it’s that mental stuff that tends to mess with me.  So the sun was long up before I finished up the stretches and stuff and made myself get out on the road.

The first three miles were awful…and that was the flat part of the course I was running.  All that being said, I found my stride when the hills came into play.  And these are some pretty tough hills.  I wasn’t worried about speed or time…just the miles…but I felt so amazing for those last five miles.  And when all was said and done, I finished up in just over an hour.  And I felt good at the end.  I showered.  My roommate made an great recovery breakfast for me.  And the weekend was now officially on.

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Did I happen to mention that a few other things happened that weekend that sort of altered the way my weekends as of late were rolling?  As a side…I started prepping healthy and vegan meals for friends of mine.  I love doing this stuff.  The problem was, my little side business was growing faster than I could keep up with.  I was spending Friday night, Saturday afternoon and evening, and Sunday morning in my tiny little kitchen.  And there was more stress than letting the cooking relax me like it had been.  So, due to upcoming races and out-of-town trips, I cancelled service through May so that I could come up with a better way of doing this for people, that wouldn’t take up all of my spare time and still allow me the opportunity to help others.  I’m still working on that.  But for the first time in 2 months, I didn’t have to jump right into the kitchen to meal prep meals that I wasn’t going to even eat.  That was also part of the issue.  I was cooking for everyone else and letting my own food prep and nutrition slide.  That wasn’t the point of this.  So I needed to take a step back and figure it all out.  It’s a work in progress.

My roommate and I did FINALLY get patio furniture for the balcony.  She hung up some lights and now…I just want to have people over to kick back outside, eat some food, drink some wine, relax, and just talk.

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Doesn’t it look amazing?  I’m so happy with it.  Since putting it all up, we’ve been dining al fresco pretty much every night for dinner.  When it hasn’t been too chilly out.  And I think that only happened once.

Let me fan-girl rave here, as well, about something I found and wanted to share with all you ice cream lovers.

Nada Moo.

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That’s a coconut milk ice cream. It’s completely dairy free.  And it is made from real ingredients.  None of that low calorie, low nutrition, chemical-laden crap (Halo Top and Arctic Zero, I’m looking at you) that people actually buy.  If you’re worried about calories to that extent, maybe you just shouldn’t eat ice cream.  If you’ve found a happy, balanced lifestyle…a serving (1/2 cup) of Nada Moo will astound you.  It’s the creamiest, most amazing non-dairy ice cream I have ever had.  And I’ve pretty much had them all.  Locally, I’ve only been able to find a few of the flavors.  Vanilla…Ahhh is the only one I can find that I have yet to try.  Otherwise I have indulged in, and enjoyed, Gotta Do Chocolate, Lotta Mint Chip, Cookies and Crème, That Snickerdoodle Dough, and Mmm…Maple Pecan.  If you live in the Louisville area and spot any other flavor…please alert me!

Which now brings us to this past week.  I got up to meet at Senaca Park for the training run for the half marathon.  I was supposed to do 9.  The group for th half was doing 10.  I figured, if I felt good, and the hills didn’t kill me, I could do my first double-digit run since the Disneyland Light Side Half Marathon (which I did injured, as you recall).  The running gods were with me.  Matthew and I took on the hills of Cherokee Park and did, for me, the entire route as it was mapped out ahead of time for the training run.  And these runs have been going on since Rebel Challenge weekend when I was in California.  I walked around for most of these runs, showing up in the cold just to suffer longer than most as I was not allowed to run.  This run felt so good and gave me the mental boost I needed.  Double digits.  And now…taper.

It was an all-female cast of KDF Ambassador characters that morning too.  And I also ended up being overdressed, despite the 39° start.  When I finished about an hour and a half later…I was dying in the sunlight.  It heated up quickly.  I was wishing I had gone with shorts at that point.

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And this past month, I’ve gotten back into a training plan using my coach, incorporated strides after my easy paces, stuck to my assigned paces, and yes…have done 1 round of fartleks, and 2 rounds of 4x400s as far as my speed work goes.  So, yes…I am incorporating it.  Speed work and I are still…not friends.  In fact, I normally wake up those days not feeling well because it does just wind me up.  And I have yet to have speed work day go smoothly.  But, at least I’m out there getting it done, right?

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Oh…and with the free time I have at the moment…I also snuck in a bit more “ME TIME” by going to the movie theater to see Beauty & The Beast.  And it was a beautiful, amazing movie.  And I’m glad, after putting it on the back burner and never having a moment to just go see it…that I finally made time.

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Tapering because I have 2 weekends in a row of half marathons coming up.  I think I’m running 8 with the group this weekend.  And that’s it.  That’s what I’ve been up to.  Pretty boring, right?

Stay tuned…I’m sure there is more to come.  But I need to foam roll and get some sleep…because it’s another wake up at the ass crack of dawn morning with body pump and some cardio after.  But, hey, I’m getting stronger and faster and better…and that’s only for the better.

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Comeback Kid…Again! Week #4

It has been one month since I started seeing my physical therapist, Daniel, twice a week.  And…yes…there has been major progress since that initial meeting.

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I mean…I started off not being able to walk without a limp…run more than 1 step…and pretty much being unable to do a one-legged squat or pretty much anything involving any sort of stress on my left leg.  Gimpy yet again.

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But over the weeks, Daniel has entrusted me to more and more dynamic movements to get this hip flexor back into working order.  And…for the most part it has been paying off.  For one thing, I can jump and hop without anything more than a twinge…and even then, that’s a rare thing.

I have been churning it out on the Alter-G treadmill.  The first time he had me on there, he had me at 80% of my body weight.  When I went back to see him on Tuesday morning this past week, he put me back on the Alter-G for another 25 minute session.  He said to start at 90% of my body weight and if that feels okay…boost it to 95% of my body weight.  I started off slow, getting my stride, focusing on form…and after the first 15 minutes, I took it from 90% up to 95% as he said.  The pain didn’t climb…it only twinged a few times at me.  And I was bored at the slower pace, so I boosted that…so that could have had something to do with it.

Sorry…treadmills bore me!  Even really cool anti-gravity treadmills.  So, I tend to go faster just to get it done.

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After I polished off that run, Daniel said that he felt comfortable giving me the go-ahead to run outside.  OUTSIDE!!!  OUT-FREAKIN-SIDE!

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The angels sang and the birds chirped and life was good.  I was pretty excited.  Daniel cleared me to run OUTSIDE every-other-day for no more than 3 miles.  Thursday would be my first attempt.  The thing was…after my run on Tuesday, I was pretty sore on Wednesday.  I wasn’t exactly sure if I could get the run done on Thursday.  I also started to feel crappy.  Thank you seasonal allergies…in February.  We had a stretch of weather in the 70s and all the trees started to bud…pollen…pollen everywhere.  UGH.  I was miserable.  So, I got some Benadryl…and curled up in my bed at 8 pm…not looking forward to Thursday morning at all.

But when it came around, I actually only hurt a little bit.  Nothing big.  And I was able to get through all my dynamic warmups without a problem.  So…I went for it.  I did my 25-ish minutes of running…stopping when I got to 3 miles.  It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t fast.  There was a lot of me thinking about my stride.  I could tell I wanted to baby the left hip and would do an occasional limp-run.  And at the end of the run, while I felt good, my right ankle was a little sore, which did mean I was compensating.  That was frustrating.  But…the run went…better than I expected!

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I rested the rest of the day and prepared to see my PT on Friday morning.  The first thing he did was ask how I was.  I told him I was sore and what I gathered from my run.  He had me walk the length of the room and said that my limp was gone when I walked…which is BIG!!  I’ve been limping around since January 1st.  WOOHOO!  So, he had me run through some of my lunges and stair work.  And then he hand me on the BOSU for some dynamic stuff.  And I got a light massage on the hip flexor to see if that helped any with the soreness.  And it did.  I went into the weekend feeling better.

And then the weather changed again.  From 70s down to the 30s.  No joke.  I was freezing at the Norton Sports Health Training Program run.  Most people were running 7 or 14 miles.  I was doing 3.  Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one in shorts.  In fact, my fellow ambassador, Reggie, won for the most under-dressed that day.  Poor guy!!  Special shout-out to my warm friend, Jack, who helped keep me warm as my body pretty much locked up and didn’t want to move during the warm-ups.  I was TOTALLY okay with that!  I HATE being cold.  HATE.  The cold does bad things to my body.

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So, after the really weird warm-up session, I shed my long pants to reveal my compression shorts (the ones I bought at Disneyland) and went out with the group, managing 1.5 miles one way (with hills, which I was supposed to be avoiding, but I swear, we ran downtown last time we started at the U of L Row House.  UGH.  So, while everyone else went on…I had to turn around.  Which sucked…but I was definitely following instructions.  The last mile was pretty much straight into the howling wind the entire time.  When I hit 3 miles, I was right where I started. and I got into the car to warm-up.

And once again, my right ankle was being cranky with me.  And it stayed that way the rest of the weekend.   I vowed that I was NOT going to run again until I saw Daniel…which should have been today, but my appointment was canceled as he was running a fever and staying home.  I see him Thursday morning and will discuss it with him then.

My allergies are clearing up, finally…so that’s good.  And I’m feeling better.  But…mentally this continues to be a tough pill to swallow.  I still have a few meltdowns throughout the week…even when I do get to run.

I start to fret over all the small things, every pain, every twinge…and I focus on what COULD happen.  So…to help me stay focused, I made a purchase over at Momentum Jewelry…this wrap:

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EVERYTHING you want is on the other side of fear.

THAT…pretty much sums up what I need to focus on these days.  It’s like my physical therapist said…there is this area where I won’t be doing enough for my recovery…and then there is doing too much…and there is all this middle-ground.  And I’m right on this line…and I just need to push a little more.  And that’s what we’re doing.

Eventually.

Once I get this stride, limp-run, Bambi-leg thing fixed.

And that’s is my first month working toward a comeback.  MAJOR progress…I’ll take it!

KDF Marathon/miniMarathon THROWBACK Discount Code (TODAY ONLY)

It’s THURSDAY!!

Traditionally in the interwebs, this makes it Throwback Thursday…or #TBT, if you will.  And that’s kinda fun to participate in.  Dig through those archives for some sort of fun photo of you and post it…then poke fun at your hair, your outfit, your bad decisions!

BUT…with that being said…I have the BEST decision you will EVER make on a #TBT for realz!  (Did I really just say that?)

You see, the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon/miniMarathon is providing their very own THROWBACK today…and TODAY ONLY!  So, if it is not FEBRUARY 23, 2017, this code will not work for you.  So…act fast because just like the past…this offer will also fade away!

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If you REGISTER TODAY for any distance (the full marathon, the half marathon, or even sign up as a relay team) you will get THROWBACK pricing..back to August’s rates.  That’s a full $20 OFF your registration TODAY.  But this is ONLY today!

Plus…when you register today, you will also receive a THROWBACK KDF T-SHIRT!  How cool is that.  It’s so simple…just use the code below:

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Yes…that is me, the blonde, at the start line of a little local race in my hometown of Corning, NY!  Seriously, I didn’t run as a kid – this was the one race I did every year.  How’s that for a throwback.  Look at all those white shoes!  HA!

Anyway…this code for KDF is only good TODAY – February 23, 2017.  So do NOT miss out!!

The Code is: THROWBACK

And, please, pick me – Karen Brady – as your Race Ambassador Referral!

And…one more time…without the words…a THROWBACK in honor of today’s THROWBACK code!

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See you at the start line!!

#KDFMarathon #KDFMarathonAmbassador #TBT #throwbackthursday #discount #discountcode

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Comeback Kid…Again! Week #2

You know…there are so many times that I give up on myself.  Those little moments of weakness when, despite doing everything I am supposed to, I get frustrated and impatient with progress…or the lack thereof.

And I break down…I melt down…I just…fall apart.

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This past weekend was extremely hard.  I was the very back of the pack on the training run…on my slow walk from Swags to Iroquois Park…and as the half marathon group lapped me…I turned around and walked back.  I tried to stay positive, even doing an Instagram Story and keeping it lighthearted.  But the fact of the matter was, for months, since signing up for the Mercedes-Benz Half Marathon…it has all I’ve been looking forward to doing.  And I wasn’t even going to do it for time.  But, when I went in to see my physical therapist on the Tuesday leading into race weekend, I inquired as to whether I could just go and walk the 13.1 miles.  And my amazing, and very patient therapist looked at me like…

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Like…come on!  It was a logical question, yes?  Right?  Yeah…I probably deserved the, “Really?!  You crazy!” look that he gave me.  But, I figured I’d ask.

On Tuesday, he gave me a resistance band to add to the hip stretch that he had me doing for 6 minutes a day.  I did it religiously.  Like…this stretch was my church, for real.  So I have this red band that loops around my ankles and I side-step normally, with toes out, and with toes in…2 times each set…and…in addition…I have this fun leg movement that I have to do to sort of activate the hip flexor.  It’s not easy.  I have to do this toe tap/leg-lift thing 20 times 2 times a day.  My leg gets tired.  But…I do this.  Because I want to get better.  And, I’m pretty freakin’ obsessive about my PT stuff.  Always have been.

On Thursday, I went back.  And my physical therapist started me off with a simple walk.  He said that I was still limping, but at this point, he wasn’t sure how much of that was just habit.  SO…we were going to focus on getting rid of that limp.  AND…in addition, he stepped it up with me.  First he had me step up onto the stairs, using my bad hip to pull up, not the opposite foot to push off.  This was hard…but it did prove that the hip was still pretty tender when asked to control the entire movement of my body.  He had me step up and down.  Then we moved onto lunges with the stair.  Up the step.  And down the step.  A little sore, but I managed it.  And then…he decided to see how my body could handle marching.  He got out a metronome…yes…that metronome is back…and set it for 140 bpm.  He had me march in place, which, I did…and it didn’t hurt.  Which shocked me.  So, he moved the experiment a step further and had me march to the beat.  And I managed that too, without any pain.

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And my physical therapist said that he was shocked that didn’t bother me…and that meant I was further along than he even expected.  YAY!  After that, he gave my injured hip a bit of a massage, and realized that the tender points were definitely more on the flexor and not as much the TFL like he originally thought.

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So, I continue to be a mystery.  I went out for my walk with the other KDF Marathon/miniMarathon peeps on Saturday.  And…like I said…I walked.  I kept a smile though and was given a lot of encouragement from people who passed me either heading out or returning.  Sometimes it’s not easy to wear that smile but I do it.  It’s usually when I get home that I fall apart a little…

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That is a pretty accurate reenactment.  No joke.

Anyway…I am, as always, very thankful for everyone who continues to lift me up, support me, and believe in me.  Because, when I’m ready to give up…that helps me to keep going.  It helps me get off the sofa and stretch, or march, or go outside in the 28 degree weather simply to do lunges on stairs.

Instead of doing the Mercedes-Benz Half Marathon, as planned, I brought the chocolate milk to the training run, and spent some time with these amazing people, who are helping our dear Melissa, through her own injury recovery…because I am a part of a group of amazing people…and this is just a handful of them!  And this is what we do.  We lift up and support others…ambassadors or not.

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Anyway…I’ve been working on that not limping thing.  And if I manage to get that corrected, my physical therapist said that he’ll put me on the Alter-G treadmill so that I can do some running.  Crossing my fingers.  Because news like that makes me SO happy!

Yeah…I never thought I’d be this happy to be able to get on a treadmill!

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But the Alter-G Treadmill is magic.  It is.  And I hope that I can start doing some actual training with the help of the magic of the Anti-Gravity treadmill!  My next PT session is Wednesday…so we’ll see what he thinks.  But I have to say, someone at my office said to me as I was walking down the hall, “You’re walking really good today!”

YAY!!

Fingers crossed!

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Stay tuned, friends!