Disney World Dark Side Challenge – Orlando, FL (April 22-23, 2017)

When I registered for the Disney World Dark Side Challenge, I was in great running shape, I wasn’t injured, and I was ready to rock Coast2Coast challenges for runDisney in 2017.  As we all know from my post on the Disneyland Star Wars Rebel Challenge back in January…this almost didn’t come to pass.  My hip flexor began to act up right at the start of the New Year.  No joke.  January 1.  And it never got better.  And with no chance to see my orthopedic doctor before the California trip…I ran through the Light Side 10K and Light Side Half Marathon at Disneyland, basically being held together by Ibuprofen, Tylenol, KT Tape, and ACE Bandages.  No lie.  That’s the honest truth.  And from there, I had to wait another month to even see my ortho and get diagnosed with an extremely strained hip flexor.  Like…it was basically paralyzed.  How is that for determination when it comes through getting through back-to-back races?

Lots of physical therapy, exercises, stretches, lunges, resistance band moves, and sheer determination later, I was finally back on the road.  That was about the start of March.  And I knew I not only had the Disney Dark Side Challenge ahead of me near the end of April, but also the Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon (I was originally signed up for the full, but as I lost 2 months of training and then had to baby-step my way back into mileage, I would have been a fool to even attempt the distance) the following weekend, I didn’t have much time to get back to where I would feel comfortable at distance races.  3 miles, 4 miles, 5 miles, 6 miles, 7 miles, 8 miles, 10 miles, and then 8 miles.  That was my build-up to the two half marathons I had lurking on my calendar.  I ran a 5K race…then a 10K race…and had to sit-out two races (they ran the same day and were way above the mileage I was at for that week in my build-up) I was interested in running – Run The Bluegrass Half and the Papa John’s 10 Miler (my favorite race in Louisville).

It stung…but I knew that obeying my physical therapists directions, I would only better myself and not cause further setbacks.

And so…the big weekend arrived.  This was going to be a short trip to Florida, which probably was a good thing in the end.  Disney is expensive, but always worth it.  Always.  Early, early, early morning on Friday, my good friend, Melissa, drove over to the apartment and picked up my roommate and me and dropped us off at the airport.  She was a lifesaver.  This saved us airport parking money…and she said she was free to drive us home when we got back in town…which we did end up taking her up on.

We settled in at the airport as the TSA line wasn’t bad at all…and really we were the only flight going out of there (a brand new offering from Southwest…non-stop morning flight to Orlando…yes, please!)…so we wandered the terminal for a bit before waiting to board.  We did, and I snagged us spots near the front.  Easier and earlier exit upon arrival.  I got out my Kindle and started to read 13 Reasons Why, by Jay Asher, as we took our 2 hour flight to the House of Mouse.  I napped a bit too.  I knew I was going to need it.

We hit the ground running.  We always do.  Baggage claim to car rental to Publix to our resort (our room wasn’t ready yet so we had to check our bags while we hit the expo and park) to the Expo.

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Me at the runDisney Disney World Star Wars Dark Side Challenge Expo – Orlando, FL

I love the runDisney expo…but this time around, I really, really, really needed to behave myself.  With a tight budget going into this, I made a point to really not look too closely at things.  I had wanted to buy some Pro Compression socks…but never found their booth, so that never happened.  They were there, but I think I rushed myself through and just didn’t look at everything this time around.  I did pick up my packet and got my photo taken for the challenge (they check your bib number and photo when you go to get your challenge medals to make sure YOU actually were the one running).  Then it was off to claim t-shirts and hit up the rest of the expo.  I dove into the event merchandise first.  Because I wanted my pins.  I also picked up a shirt for Melissa’s husband Paul (she gave us money toward it), and a shirt for my running partner, Matthew.  I picked up the pins and my roommate got me a magnet for my car and a t-shirt for after I completed the Star Wars Dark Side Challenge.

We finished up shopping (which meant walking swiftly through the expo so as not to find time to purchase anything), and then headed out to hit up Animal Kingdom.  We were originally going to stash our stuff in a locker, but as we didn’t have much, Cathy just ended up carrying the bag along.  No rides really (she hates roller coasters and riding alone is kinda…meh).  Our first stop was the best coffee ever (it always is the first stop at Animal Kingdom), and then we were off and wandering about until our FastPass for the Kilimanjaro Safari to kick in.  This involved ducking in and out of shops, grabbing a quick snack (usually I bring snacks with me, but these were in the luggage that were stashed back at the resort), and so-on.  So, we thrashed the rest of the day at Animal Kingdom, explored, shopped, and then ducked over to the Animal Kingdom Lodge for our traditional first night at Disney meal…at Sanaa!

This was different in that I was actually racing the following day…and normally don’t eat this kind of food the night before a race.  But, hell, I was already going to die in the humidity in my costume…why not go out with a delicious meal the night before, right?  RIGHT!

So, I ended up ordering the gluten-free bread service which had gluten-free naan and about 8 different dipping sauces, which were the Red Chile Sambal, Coriander Chutney, Mango Chutney, Tomato-Date Jam, Garlic Pickle, Spicy Jalapeno-Lime Pickle, Roasted Red Pepper Hummus (got 2 of those, actually), and the Tamarind Chutney.  It comes with 9 usually, but I couldn’t have the Cucumber Raita because there is dairy in it.  We devoured the hell out of that, both Cathy and I agreeing that the best dip on there was the Tamarind Chutney, the Mango Chutney, and the Tomato-Date Jam.  It’s not every day I get naan, so this was fun.  And delicious.  And for dinner…I went with one of their Potjie Inspired Samplers which I chose the Chickpea Wat and the Cilantro-Coconut Milk Seasoned Vegetables – served with Basmati Rice.


We ate to a state of complete fullness.  No dessert.  And then, we should have gone back to the resort.  But we didn’t.  We popped over to Disney Springs to check out the big World of Disney Store, get a free sample of Ghirardelli Chocolate, and then head over to Erin McKenna’s Bakery for some Gluten-Free Coffee Cake, a Gluten-Free Cinnamon Roll, and a gluten-free (GINORMOUS) Thin Mint Cookie.  None of which we ate that night, nor did we indulge in the Vegan Soft Serve that night either.  We were full.  We were tired.  And we still needed to get back to Port Orleans Riverside and pick up our bags and officially (and finally) get to our room.

Since I was running first thing in the morning, I simply got out my race outfit, brushed my teeth, and climbed into bed.  I could shower after the race.  Sunscreen be damned.  I was exhausted at this point and had 3 early alarms set to wake up me (twice) and then my roommate.  Because Saturday morning brought us to the…

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Star Wars Dark Side 10K

Race: Star Wars Dark Side 10K

Place: Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Date: April 22, 2017

Time: 47:10

I had really wanted to switch up the costumes for Dark Side and actually run them as characters of the Dark Side in Star Wars…but I didn’t have the money (after all the physical therapy and doctor bills that went into the hip) to justify new running costumes.  So…I opted instead to reuse the costumes I ran the Disneyland Star Wars Light Side Rebel Challenge in.  This meant I was to be Rey on Saturday for the 10K and then BB-8 on Sunday in the Half Marathon.  I obsessively checked the weather the week leading into the races, and it was showing very warm mornings (high 60s) and very hot afternoons (low 90s).  UGH.  My Rey costume involved long capris and arm warmers.  In Florida heat/humidity, I had a feeling I might fly and die in this race.  The costume always looks great.  AND…it does sort of feel like running in pajamas.  It was perfect for the unseasonably cold races I had in Los Angeles for the Light Side…but now, I was really starting to question my sanity.  I was determined to run in the costume and keep the arm warmers on.  They were sewn to my arm size so they are virtually impossible to tear off and discard.  And to keep myself from trying, I placed my Garmin (very inaccurate HRM readings that race) and my Road ID and Momentum Jewelry on over the arm warmers.  Because I am smart.  Or stupid.  Depends on how you look at it, right?

We had done some prep the night before (it was already late, what was a few more minutes), so I was dressed by the time my third alarm went off to wake up Cathy.  She clamored out of her bed to get ready while I got a banana ready and we pinned me up with my Dark Side Challenge bib and headed out the door.  We stepped down the sairs and walked to the sidewalk that would take us to the bridge that would lead us to the bus that would take us to the start…and the first thing we noticed was how quiet it was.  Normally, the resorts are hopping with runners heading toward the shuttle buses, but this morning, there was not another runner in sight.  And as we made our way to the bus stop, a half-empty bus pulled away.  Cathy questioned the helpful employee manning the bus depot whether we were late, and he said that the buses started at 3:30 and that he was simply sending that bus around to the other stops before having it come back.  Another runner showed up shortly after that.  We felt a little better about life, but still freaked out.  Nothing like a big ball of stress in the morning to make your race day awesome, right?

*sigh*

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Cathy with her Star Wars Dark Side 10K sign


Anyway, we arrived at the staging area, where I got to go through the NO BAGS line and Cathy had her new Captain America messenger bag searched.  We met up after that and continued on to see what exciting stuff was going on at the base camp near the start line.  We were actually a little late getting there, so there was a lot going on.  But Cathy and I made our way over to the start line area to take a few pictures.  I stood there and talked to her for a little bit of time before I had to head to my corral.  She finally made me go…which was good because as I got up to Corral A, I started to eat my banana and heard the volunteer shout, “Corral A will close in 5 minutes!”  So, I ducked inside and walked with the group up to the official start line.

The start line is usually a lot of fun at Disney races.  They tend to theme them to the specific race.  LOTS of Star Wars guests on stage at this one, but I have to say that the entertainment and banter at the Light Side races was WAY better than here.  I didn’t really notice much of it.  I was so exhausted that I was starting to fall asleep, standing up in the corral.  But soon, the National Anthem was sung and the wheelchairs were sent off to start us out.  And then…it was Corral A’s turn.  The countdown…the fireworks…and GO!

The Disney World Dark Side 10K starts in a parking lot and sends you out onto the highway for the first 3 miles.  It is, thankfully, still dark at this point, so it isn’t boring.  We just make our way down a long stretch of road, with a few character stops and movie clips and music to entertain the runners along the way.  Just after Mile 3, you enter the first park – the relatively flat Hollywood Studios.  This is a fun jaunt through the park, passing the Tower of Terror and and other rides before turning onto the main drag for a moment, and the exiting the park.  You run around the main entrance and head down to the bus depots, bypassing them to hit the Boardwalk.

I am practically dying here, as is relevant in my Garmin splits.  Miles 4 & 5 were my slowest, each at 7:27 and 7:36, respectively.  The course is really flat, which makes it fast for me.  I love a good, flat course.  And the Boardwalk entrance also gave me my favorite music on the course – a dance-techno version of the Imperial March.  I want this version.  Like now.  It was a nice distraction to focus on as I ran the walkway toward the actual boardwalk near the Disney Beach Club Resort.  There were a few Disney Cast Members out there to cheer us on, which I love…every time I run along here.  It’s nice to have support near the end of a run, even if it’s just a few voices and claps along the way.  As we exited the Boardwalk…we were off to the Epcot World Showcase.  We run up a nice incline and as we hit the top, another Cast Member says, “Welcome to the Stage!”  This is the last mile of the race, and it goes by fast.  For the 10K, you don’t run the entire World Showcase.  You just duck inside and run part of it, before exiting and making our way toward Spaceship Earth (aka: the giant Epcot ball).  You make the turn out of the park and head around toward that finish line.  You hear the announcer.  You hear the crowd.

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Star Wars Dark Side 10K

And somewhere, despite being overheated in my costume and dealing with the heat/humidity that morning…I found a little pit of a kick (not much) to bounce into the finish.  I spotted Cathy in the stands soon after crossing, holding the Cookie Monster sign she made that said, “Me Promised Cookies by Dark Side”.  BEST. SIGN. EVER.  She snapped my picture and I went on to pick up my 10K medal, snack box, and water, and exit through bag check to find her waiting on me.

Lines weren’t currently long, so we went and made sure to get a few photos that day…with BB-8, Kylo-Ren, Phasma, and Jabba.  It was awesome.  She also relayed my final time to me…which I thought matched the 10K time I ran at the Light Side (while injured), but I was wrong.  It was pretty close to the Wine & Dine Half Marathon I ran in November.  Actually this was faster.  I must have been humidity stupid.  I stopped being so disappointed in it after looking up my Light Side time and realizing I ran that one 3 minutes slower than this.

So my official results of the Disney World Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon are that I finished in 47:10.  Which wasn’t what I was hoping for, but I’ll take it.  My coach had put it out there to attempt a goal time of 42 minutes, which is actually 2 minutes and change faster than I have ever run that distance, and I came nowhere near meeting that.  That’s a 6-something minute mile overall, and I’ve never been able to sustain that pace.  I might one day…but I’m getting older…I might not.  I was 160/10,895 finishers overall.  I was the 19/5888 female to cross the finish line.  And I was 4/1008 runners in my age division. I ALMOST got an age group award at a Disney race, which has been a goal of mine for awhile, but normally just come short of it.  Like this.  But, super happy with these results.  I ran strong, even in a hot costume on a warm morning…and I felt good afterwards.  I call that a win!

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Gluten Free Beignets from Port Orleans French Quarter….AMAZING!

After returning to the resort to shower, I dressed in my BB-8 dress and headed to Port Orleans French Quarter to split an order of Gluten Free Beignets with Cathy before heading to Hollywood Studios.  That was where we intended to spend the rest of the day…because…

You can now meet BB-8!!  Meet and greet BB-8.  HOW COOL!!  I was more than a little happy to meet my favorite little droid.  And he approved of my dress.  AND…I met Chewbacca as well.  I might have been geeking out more than a little.  Star Wars Land is really going to be amazing when it’s completely done and open to the public.  We spent the day riding Star Tours, shopping, and checking out the sites.


Dinner that night…had to be at Mama Melrose’s Italian Ristorante Italiano.  Best part was…the re-introduced the gluten-free flatbreads.  So I got the Gluten Free Mushroom Flatbread…which is their gluten-free flatbread with Roasted Cremini and Button Mushrooms with a Roasted Vidalia Onion Spread finished with Balsamic Reduction and fresh Herbs.  It normally had cheese on it, but they were able to make mine without.  So, it was kind of like having a pizza…which I prefer before a big race.  Pasta works in a pinch, but gluten-free pizza is magic.

No dessert there…we learned our lesson about staying up late…so we headed back to the resort and split the Thin Mint Cookie (HUGE)  for dessert.


Cathy went to shower while I foam rolled and then…lights out.  Another early morning awaited…

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Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

Disney World Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

Race: Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

Place: Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Date: August 23, 2017

Time: 1:43:34

My runDisney race protocol is this…Alarm 1: 1 am; Alarm 2: 2 am.  Alarm 3 (aka: Cathy’s Alarm): 3 am.  We shifted this just slightly…hence the early bedtime.  We learn from our previous mistakes.  We’re not even runDisney rookies…we just overestimated what kind of time we might have on our first day at Disney World.

I ate a small helping of cereal (no milk…just dry) and got my running outfit on and my epic race hair ponytails in.  I actually felt a bit more alert on half marathon morning, and we were running on target to get out the door and to the shuttle bus to the race start earlier than the previous morning.  After a quick brush of my teeth, Cathy handed me my fuel belt and I grabbed my light hoodie so I wouldn’t freeze on the shuttle bus…and we were out the door.

There was A LOT more going on this morning.  Runners were going across the bridge and toward the shuttle bus.  We weren’t alone today.  And that was a very good thing.  The bus that was waiting was sent on…but another one quickly followed.  And it didn’t even fill up all the way.  I was glad to have the hoodie because I often get chilled when I’m just in a bra top…even if it is warm outside.  And…honestly…sometimes those buses are FREEZING inside.

I also wasn’t loving the way the BB-8 costume was fitting.  I’m having bad body image issues at the moment, due to all the setbacks with my body and how it has prevented me from keeping up my light, lithe runners body.  I’ll get it back…it’s just taking more time than I’d like.

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BB-8 needed a Power Nap before the half marathon!

The short drive to the start included a dance party a la Cathy while Hammer Time and Happy played over the radio.  We were dropped off and sent through the NO BAG and BAG CHECK lines.  Runner belts are not considered bags, so I had it easy.  But Cathy was through the line in no time.  We went over to check out the start, but we were really early this morning, so Cathy settled in on the ground and I laid down and took one of my infamous pre-race power naps.

I don’t know what it is, but these naps are magical.  I don’t doze for long, but I feel so much more relaxed and ready, even when I’m not.  The race was Yellow Flagged at the start, meaning we were to back off on speed and not really aim for a PR…although that usually means nothing to most runners.  When I woke up, I had to grab my banana and head into the corral area.  This was way more chaotic than on 10K morning, and it took me about 8 or so minutes to get from the entrance all the way up to Corral A.  I got there with enough time to walk toward the start line with the group, and then attempt to wriggle my way closer to the actual start.

The entertainment was much the same…fun but not as much fun as Disneyland.  They showed the new trailer for the upcoming Star Wars movie.  They showed clips of other Star Wars movies.  They asked people what their favorite Star Wars episode was.  Most said The Empire Strikes Back…but one lady said, Rogue One.  While Rogue One was a fantastic movie, we all knew going into it that it wasn’t going to end well.  Ah, well…to each their own.

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Fireworks mean GO TIME!

The National Anthem was up next…followed by the start of the wheelchair racers.  Fireworks.  The go-sign.  And then Corral A…my corral…was off about 3 minutes after them.  Cathy finally managed to catch the magical Disney fireworks which they fire off before the start of every corral.  So everyone gets to feel special!  I love that.

As with most Disney races, a good portion of the race is spent on the highways.  But we do get to duck inside three of the parks this time.  So, for the first mile, I was already feeling the affects of the 72 degree start temperature and the humidity.  I was coated with sweat and was pretty certain I knew exactly how this would affect me later in the week.  Nevertheless, I pressed on, turning out onto Floridian Way and then onto Bear Island Road.  The runners spend about 4 miles out on the highway, working their way to the first park…and my personal favorite to run through – Animal Kingdom!

We are inside Animal Kingdom, and running up and down the small hills.  The cast members there are always very supportive and encouraging.  I was feeling pretty good the entire time inside Animal Kingdom, taking the humidity with stride.  It felt amazing to  run past the Tree of Life and past some of the attractions inside the park as well.  After exiting Animal Kingdom, though, I was really starting to feel the heat and humidity catching up to me.  I slowed down to walk the water stop at Mile 6 and pour water over my head.  The reinvigorated me and I pressed on, picking the pace back up as I started out onto Osceola Parkway, heading toward Hollywood Studios.  I stopped again at Mile 8 to once again take in some water and pour the rest over my head, walking through as I did it, and then immediately start running again.

We made the turn on World Drive and then up onto Bueno Vista Drive as we headed into Hollywood Studios.  I stopped here, about Mile 10 to grab another cup of water to pour over my head.  I walked the hill as I did so and then tossed the cup and took off again.  I wasn’t sure if I was helping but I sure felt better with cold water dousing me.  Sort of like a second wind.  I told myself to press on through the final 3 without stopping if possible.  Hollywood Studios was, once again, another quick in and out, taking us back down to the Boardwalk.  Once again, that dance-techno version of the Imperial March helped lift my spirits and my pace and I moved through Mile 11 to the Boardwalk.  The sun was now up and the Boardwalk had people from the Beach Club Resort out on it to cheer the runners on.  That was awesome.  I even got a lot of BB-8 shout-outs.  We started toward Mile 12, and I had to make one last stop to refresh my overheated body with another cup of water over the head.  I was starting to feel really puny.  But I kept going.  This was the hardest part of the race.  My body is tired and overheated and I am now running up to the World Showcase.  This time, however, runners actually circle the entire Showcase before getting let out to run toward Spaceship Earth.  This is actually a lot of fun, until you glance across the lake and realize how much further you have to go.  Then you sort of lose sight of it…and suddenly, you’re making that turn.  Chewbacca was stationed there for a photo op, but I was so close now and just ready to be done and have a big bottle of water.  I rounded a corner to come into one of the two final turns.  Normally, a gospel choir is stationed here to sing you in toward the finish.  This time, there were characters from Star Wars.  I took the turn, high-fived a storm trooper, and made the final push in to the finish line.  I glanced up as I was about to cross, shocked to see a 1:43 time.  I thought the walking I had to do slowed me down way more than that.  I knew the humidity had…but there it was…

I threw my hands up over my head as I crossed the finish…and even that felt like I had weights on them.  But, it’s just something that I do.  And just like that…I was done!

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My 25th Half Marathon…DONE!  This is a really unflattering mid-secion photo!

Cathy shouted at me from the stands and I waived at her before she snapped a picture of me just after the finish.  I was smiling.  My time was better than anticipated…and I don’t know how I even managed to pull that off.  Especially with 4 breaks to walk.  I guess I recovered from them efficiently, because my pace for the entire half only dropped below an 8 minute mile once…at 8:01…and that was as I entered the Boardwalk.  So…that was a pleasant surprise…because I was feeling like a bit of an unathletic, unfit runner.

My spirits felt lifted…and while I still hated that I had to walk some of it, I was beyond happy with the results.  That was a hot, humid, and tough race.  And I finished it way faster than I thought I would.  I’ll take it.

I now had to file myself trough the lines to retrieve my Dark Side Half Marathon medal.  After that…it was into another tent to have my number checked to show that I was to collect a Dark Side Challenge medal.  That was okayed, and then I was sent over to a table, where they pulled up my bib number, checked the photo that was taken of me at the expo with my bib, and then sent me through to collect ALL THE MEDALS.  And by ALL THE MEDALS, I really mean it.  In addition to the Disney World Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon Medal, I was given my Disney World Dark Side Challenge Medal (for doing the 10K & Half Marathon); my Kessel Run Challenge Medal (for doing the Disneyland Star Wars Rebel Challenge and the Disney World Dark Side Challenge); and my Coast to Coast Medal (running a half marathon at Disneyland and a half marathon at Disney World).  So, after getting those put over my head, I got a cold, wet towel, my snack box, my water, and a banana…and went to get my photo taken before heading out of bag check to meet Cathy.  I wiped down my face with the towel and posed for some pictures with all four of the five medals I earned that weekend.  She said that the lines for the characters we missed yesterday (Darth Vador and Boba Fett).  On the way there, they had these misters going and I had to go stand in them and try to cool off more.


Photos were taken with the characters and we made our way over to the bus to take us back to our resort.  As we were walking back to our room, the sprinklers came on and I quickly ducked over to stand under them.  I was not cooling off.  A shower and some food helped with that.  We split the Gluten Free & Vegan Cinnamon Roll and Coffee Cake we had gotten at Disney Springs on Friday night as a breakfast.  Then, we were set to head over to Epcot that day to enjoy the rest of the day.  The Flower & Garden Show was going on, which we didn’t realize had food booths.  So, Cathy’s lunch plan went out the window and she tried a few tasty eats on the World Showcase.  We also had to stop at our Starbucks first thing for some coffee.  As we were heading out, we saw the last racer, a limping, injured girl in a R2-D2 top and a tutu…shambling toward the finish with the shame wagon behind her.  She stopped…took a cautious step…turned around…and then asked for a ride to the finish.  She just had about another .3 miles to go.  And, honestly, I wanted to duck under the ropes and help get her there.  It broke my heart.  She was so close.

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Sadness, Cathy, Me, Joy

Our one requirement that day was to finally meet Joy & Sadness from Inside Out.  THIS…was one of the best character meet & greets I have been to.  They were so interactive and didn’t feel like you needed to rush off.  Cathy and Sadness bonded as they were both wearing glasses and blue…and Cathy asked Joy if she couldn’t jump since everyone jumped for Joy.  She showed that she was, clearly, able to jump.  It was amazing.

We enjoyed our day at Epcot…but we had plans for dinner at Morimoto at Disney Springs.  I enjoyed a meal of Edamame and then Vegetable Sushi.  Cathy got the Pork Buns and the Shrimp Roll.  And it was delicious.  We decided to head over to Erin McKenna’s for dessert to give the Vegan Soft Serve a try.  It was a little gritty, but cool and delicious.  I needed that.  we both got the Chocolate/Vanilla swirl.  Cathy got hers in a cone.  I got mine in a cup.  I also got the Fairy Dust put on top of mine.

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Erin McKenna’s Gluten Free & Vegan Cinnamon & Coffee Cake; Macaron Chocolat Framboise; Morimoto Edamame; Morimoto Vegetable Roll; Erin McKenna’s Gluten Free & Vegan Chocolate-Vanilla Swirl Soft Serve w/ Fairy Dust

And then…instead of going back to Epcot…we called it a day.  We waved the white flag and headed back to Port Orleans Riverside to rest up and get some sleep.  A character breakfast was first in the morning on Monday and this meant we could get a few extra hours of sleep.

The official race results of the Disney World Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon are that I finished in 1:43:34.  I seriously, can’t figure out how I pulled off that time with the walk breaks.  I was 265/16311 finishers overall.  I was 38/8800 women to cross the finish line.  And, I was 7/1496 in my age division.  Totally shocked, humbled, and love that I managed to do this.  The walk breaks killed me…I hate that I had to take them, but I have learned to run smart.  I would have been worse off if I hadn’t.

I’m already hoping to run Disney again soon.  Thank you, Dark Side, for the memories!

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My medals from the Disney World Star Wars Dark Side Challenge Weekend: Coast to Coast; Kessel Run, Dark Side Challenge, Dark Side Half Marathon, Dark Side 10K

 

 

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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Product Review: nuun Performance

nuunhydrationProduct: nuun Performance – $20-24.00

It is no secret that since my running had to take a back seat while I worked on healing and re-training my hip(s) to work differently, more efficiently, and better after my right hip suffered a hip labrum tear in 2015 and my left hip’s hip flexor basically ended up paralyzed in early 2017…my body’s old nutrition/fueling while working out/running has stopped working.

When I came back from the hip labrum tear, I had immediately gone back to using Gu as my primary source of fuel.  But my stomach didn’t like it at all.  I did some research online and found Tailwind…which worked at first, but soon left me feeling sick and with stomach cramps.  Back to the drawing board and those crazy internet searches.  U-Can was next.  I heard amazing things about it.  I bought a sample pack and…this really upset my stomach to the point I was near puking on a 20 mile run before the Kauai Marathon last year.  I reached out to some friends at running stores and distance running groups and did a quick trial on a few different fuels.  Sword, Skratch, huma (chia) gel…all of which did absolutely nothing to help my body feel energized during a distance effort.  In fact, I almost threw the huma gel back up because of the chia texture.  I was throwing out a Hail Mary and had someone introduce me to Hammer.

I didn’t have long to test Hammer in the field before heading to Hawaii…but I did what I could.  Hammer gels and the Hammer Heed (which is a powder that gets mixed in the water).  They worked well enough for sure…and while I struggled with the marathon (mostly due crazy mountains and hella heat), it got me through.

After that, I was running shorter distances and had no need for the endurance fuel at the time.  Then the hip flexor thing happened on January 1 (NO JOKE), and I was out for over 2 months with that.  Training for a couple of upcoming half marathons finally kicked in with me way under mileage…until last weekend, when I finally did double-digit miles – 10 miles with some hills!

Lo and behold…just after that, as I’m gearing up for half marathons this summer and prepping for Chicago Marathon training to kick in around the end of June/early July…my favorite electrolyte drink company, nuun, releases their own version of endurance fuel.  And without any hesitation…I ordered it.

Why was I so quick to jump on the order?  Well, for one thing, I am a nuun ambassador.  So, it’s always nice to try products that I support anyway.  AND I have been a user of the nuun electrolyte tablets since 2012.  The nuun Energy Cherry Limeade will forever be in my fuel belt when I run half and full marathons.  And, the now defunct, nuun Active Kona Cola (can we bring this one back?!), was my absolute favorite flavor they created.  I gave up drinking sodas back in 2013 when marathon training began…and it was the perfect supplement.  With such great success with nuun (all products, except the nuun All Day flavors, which I no longer see on the Web site, so may be defunct now too, are gluten free), I figured I could justify purchasing the new nuun Performance and give it a try.  I ordered them the day they were released…no hesitation.

They offer the new nuun Performance in two flavors and two different forms.  Both powdered.  The flavors are Blueberry Strawberry and Orange Mango.  You can either order these in a box that contains 12 sachets, or in a 10 ounce pouch (that makes 32 8 ounce servings).  The sachets retail for $24 and the pouch is $20.  So it’s just preference.  But as I travel for most of my races, it was easier for me to spend the extra $4 for the ability to toss a sachet or two in my luggage than have to pack an entire pouch or measure it out into baggies and hope that they don’g explode with the change in air pressure on planes.

I tested the nuun Performance  out on my 8 mile run yesterday.  I know that isn’t really that long of a run, but with 2 weekends and 3 races in my future, I didn’t feel that I needed to run 11 miles with the group.  But, I figured if I fueled halfway through, it would give me some idea of what to expect.  The real trial will happen this coming Sunday as I run the Disney World Dark Side Half Marathon.

So…how did it go?

I decided to try the nuun Performance Orange Mango first.  In 2 cups of water, I mixed the powder from the sachet and let it dissolve.  Into my fuel belt bottle it went and I was set to try it out on my run.  It was a rather warm morning too, so I figured this would go a long way on telling me how I react to it.  I set out on my run, and shortly after hitting that 4 mile mark…I tried it out.

How do you use nuun Performance?  This endurance supplement was created for you to drink during intense or long workouts (>90 minutes) to stay hydrated and perform your best.  It was formulated using the newest science on how your system performs under stress.  nuun formulated a precise combination of electrolyte + carbohydrate ingredients, in quantities to be fully absorbed, for improved hydration and reduced stomach distress as compared to other leading sports drinks.  Also, being in powdered form allows you to make exactly as much as you need each time.  What’s even more important to me is the ingredients.  nuun Performance uses only clean ingredients, such as dried fruit powder, not fruit flavor + fillers. And it is certified non-GMO!

So, how did it go?  Did it work for me?  In a sense…YES!

The nuun Performance is light, both in texture and flavor.  You would think you simply dropped one of those tablets for their Active/Energy/Vitamins varieties into the water.  The flavor was also light, which I appreciated, simply because I don’t like to be overwhelmed with flavors while I’m running (especially long distances), but I like to have a break from plain water.  This did it.  The powder dissolved perfectly and didn’t have that chalky flavor other performance powders I tried have.  I was impressed.  And the best part…no stomach issues!!  Not a single one.  I was beyond impressed and hope that this continues to hold as I build in more endurance races into my schedule and begin training hardcore for my go at the Chicago Marathon this fall.

Let’s discuss the ingredients in nuun Perfomance.  Check out the screen cap of the nutrition and ingredients for this amazing endurance fuel:

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Here is a list of nuun Performance active ingredients:

  • sodium: 380 mg
  • potassium: 200-210 mg
  • magnesium: 20 mg
  • calcium: 15 mg
  • chloride: 80 mg
  • 15 grams of carbohydrates

And…here is a helpful table of guidelines for use of this new, amazing product!

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It is, honestly, impossible to run long distances without fueling your body at some point during the activity.  While there are a lot of options out there, I was very impressed with the new nuun Performance.  I have a sensitive stomach, especially during intense activity, but this was gentle and light and…perfect if you ask me.  I can’t wait to use it more and more during my training.

If you’re looking for new fuel options or are just starting to seek out endurance fuel…give the new nuun Performance a try.

You can order it here: https://nuunlife.com/shop/nuun-performance/

 

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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Rodes City Run 10K – Louisville, KY (March 18, 2017)

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The KDF Ambassadors that found me – Chris, Melissa, Me, Leah!

Race: Rodes City Run 10K

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: March 18, 2017

Time: 48:40

Welcome to the second (and, sadly, my last) race of the Louisville Triple Crown of Running.  The Rodes City Run 10K!  I had managed to get the okay from my physical therapist to boost myself up to 6 miles 2 weeks following the Anthem 4.7K (HAHA.  I’m still bitter).  So, the weekend in between I made sure to get in 5 easy miles at the Falls of the Ohio with the Norton Sports Health Training Group. All the high-fives I got from my friends and strangers that day pretty much made it one of my most epic runs ever.

I don’t think I stopped smiling.  And…as we all know from photos…I have a big smile!

So, with permission to tackle Rodes as long as I took it easy and didn’t “pull an Anthem” and run it really fast, I immediately contacted my training partner, Matthew, and talked him into joining me with the intention that he would help keep my pace in check.  He agreed, and we signed up (I got in before the discount deadline).  Locked in.  Ready to run.

My plan for this run was to keep it between an 8:20-8:40 pace.  Matthew figured we’d average more on the 8:40 scheme of things…and I was okay with that.  Keep in mind…it is very hard for me to participate in a race and NOT actually race it.  But…remember…the goal is thinking long-term and I have some stuff coming up in the future that I’d like to be in peak condition for.

We made plans to meet up at the McDonalds on W Broadway (where the #KDFMarathon Ambassadors were meeting for the group photo(s)).  And, just like that…Rodes was a go to RUN…NOT RACE.

So, on Friday, I ate an early dinner at work (the closest thing I had to pizza was my Mama Mia Quinoa) before heading over the river to do a couple of things…but first and foremost…I was picking up my race packet.  I was actually honored (and freaked out) to be the recipient of one of the seeded bibs in the top 200…which gives you the option of starting near the front of the race itself.  Like…elite-type-shit.  I was BIB 43.  Really, they do base this seeding off of not just race times, but also the times you have completed the Rodes City Run in the past.  I’ve done this race 3 times prior to this one, I believe.  So, don’t go thinking I’ve actually achieved some overnight elite status.  It’s a nice compliment and benefit that the race offers, and if I were in better shape and condition this year going into it, I might have even risked the closer-to-the-start-line start.

I did a little cooking that night before running through my PT exercises and stretches, foam rolling, and calling it a night.  I had to get up fairly early to fit in all the necessary PT stuff the day of the race (it honestly takes close to 2 hours sometimes, but it’s necessary to keep me out there and I try not to whine or complain about it…too much).  The weather was crazy that day.  It was really warm out when I went to do my dynamic warmup and stretches.  I had been expecting cooler temps and overdressed.  I was dying.  But I didn’t have much time to mess around with, so I just sweat it out and went inside to change into clothes for the race.  I opted for a short sleeve shirt with shorts instead of capris.  And since my running shorts are a bit unflattering at the moment…I tossed on one of my fun Sparkle Skirts as well.  Hey…since my KDF Race Ambassador shirt is part of the uniform right now, I work around that.  And it’s not my normal bright, vibrant colors.  Sparkle Skirts help with this.  HA!

I ate a light breakfast, grabbed a banana to eat 30 minutes before the race, packed up clothes to change into, and tossed on a pair of arm-warmers into Cathy’s race backpack…just in case.  It was so warm out when I was warming up, I figured I wouldn’t need them.  I threw on a hoodie and we headed down to the car.

SO glad that I opted for the hoodie.  My mild morning and turned a bit chilly and with the wind that kicked up…it was near the point of me being cold.  Already.  I even commented that I should go back up and put the capris back on, but there simply wasn’t enough time for that.  I was locked into the shorts.

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My Power Nap game is STRONG!

We made the ride over to Louisville and managed to easily get parked near The Brown Hotel.  Easy in and easy parking on a ramp.  We backed in to make our exit plan a bit easier to manage too.  But…we were about 20 minutes early and I wasn’t about to get out in the cold now and wait around.  So, I did what I love to do on race mornings…

I took a nap.

This is not an exaggeration or a joke.  I find these little power naps, pre-race, to be just what this body needs at times.  So, I had the time and took full advantage.  Until the 7:40 am meetup time was approaching and I knew I needed to eat my banana and get to the meeting spot.  As I had a big mug of tea before breakfast that morning, I made a quick (and unusual because…princess) stop at the port-o-potties just outside the parking garage before continuing on to the McDonald’s meeting spot.

Just as the sign was in view, I received a text from Leah, one of my fellow ambassadors.  She said she couldn’t find anyone else and I told her I was like…1 minute away.  I found her…then Matthew found me…and then Melissa (let’s face it…we all know Melissa now!) texted to say that she and Paul were parking and on the way and they’d walk as fast as they could.  This was probably the least-organized meet-up we’d had this entire time…and it shows by the smattering of photos of random KDF Marathon Ambassadors pre-race.  I managed to get into the grouping of Chris, Melissa, and Leah.  So…we have that.

Race start was inching closer and Matthew and I wanted to go find a spot to line up.  BTW…funniest bit of this entire thing was that Matthew registered late (it’s a tradition of sorts, I guess, HA!) and was issued a WALKER big.  So…he went to packet pickup and they sent him over to services to get it fixed and their “fix” was simply ripping the green sticker that said WALKER off of it.  I joked that with me having to dial it back and wearing a seeded bib…and him in a WALKER big…we’re a complete mess and will confuse the hell out of them.  Seriously…I this amused me WAY too much.  We maneuvered through the sea of people to a spot near the middle of the front of the middle-of-the-pack group (with a smattering of walkers).  No sooner had we done that…the whistle sounded (we barely heard it) and the wheelchair racers were off.  The caution tape was rolled up and the runners moved ahead.

And soon…we were joining them.

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Chris & Cathy with the sign!  This photo was in the Louisville Voice Tribune!

We started off at a really easy pace.  I pointed out Cathy ahead waiving the sign and gave a wave as we passed.  The photographers captured me pointing.  No joke.  And then we just sort of settled in.  I think at one point, Matthew asked, “Am I holding your pace back too much?”  And I replied with…”Let’s pick it up a little.”

This is how the rest of it played out…

Just as we’re starting through our first mile, Matthew (aka: Eagle Eyes), spotted our friend Michael, and gave a shout-out.  Michael pointed out that his wife, Laura, was just ahead in the pink and white and we should say HI.  So, we picked it up and scooted up there.  Laura was focused and we kept our greetings short before continuing on.  The pace felt good to me…and as we were moving through the pack of runners, Matthew said, “I think that’s Tammy’s ponytail.”  Sure enough…Tammy was just ahead…so we pushed up to say hey to her.  She pointed out that we were definitely above the pace I had said I told my physical therapist I would run Rodes in…

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The Chik-Fil-A cows got in on the sign action too!

…And she was right.  As we moved ahead we hit Mile 1 and the digital clock said 7:54 at the mile.  We decided to ease back.  We thought.  Well, I mean we did ease back in theory.  We slacked up a bit, but when people are running with you in a giant mass, you sort of just…go with the flow.  When talking became hard, Matthew would remind me that we needed to ease off the gas…and we did…until we didn’t any longer.  Mile 2 was even faster than Mile 1…averaging around a 7:49 pace.  I didn’t realize this at the time though.  Matthew and I were just focusing on the long road ahead of us at this point.  Four more to go…and thankfully most of this mile leading to 3…was a nice downhill.

I love downhill.  It is my favorite speed.  HA!  I felt like I had backed off again, and that was what I was supposed to be doing, so…that’s good, right?  I cruised down the hills and tried not to push myself too much on the inclines.  After all, I had just been cleared to start in on hills again.  So…there was that.  But, it’s like I said…it’s hard for me not to race when I’m in a race.  I go into these things with the mindset of having fun.  I don’t ever set time goals; nor do I look at my pace or my watch.

Usually.

But when we hit the marker for Mile 3, I glanced down and said, “Um…we just did a 7:28 mile.”

And so…we truly made an effort to back it down once more.  And by that I mean we slowed it down.  We had some nice climbs, which I said were downhill at one point and that had Matthew teasing me about my directional skills for the rest of that mile.  But, it did feel like a downhill to me.  We might have been going up, but my effort wasn’t.  I felt relaxed, and it felt EASY!

The remainder of the race we actually averaged a 7:52 for miles 4-6.  As we came back onto Broadway to run back to the finish line,   And it was just shortly after this turn, where I can see, all the way in the distance, the inflatable that arched over the finish line…that I hear from behind me…

“Well, you don’t look like you’re limping.”

Totally busted on my speedy 10K that was not supposed to be this speedy.  It was my physical therapist.  He came up beside me.  I introduced him to Matthew.  He asked me if the hip was feeling good.  I told him I had no problems.  He fist-bumped me…and ran on ahead.

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Matthew & I bringing it home at the finish line!

I just about died.  What is the likelihood of that happening…for real?  We hit Mile 6 and were in are less-than-quarter-mile finish.  So, we picked it up a little and crossed the finish line in under 50 minutes.  Slower than last year.  Slower than the year I had bronchitis.  But…I would like to think, if I hadn’t kept backing off the pace, I could have had a great run there.  Not a PR…it’s going to take a miracle to break that…but I’d like to better my Rodes time in the near future.

Overall…I felt good before the race…I felt fantastic during the race…and I felt amazing after the race.  There are so many times where I feel like I’ve lost speed or fitness…and then something like this happens, where I don’t come near a PR…but I feel good the entire time, and I feel like I could give more…but under orders to dial it back…and I just surprise myself and realize maybe I haven’t lost that much after all.

So…the official results of the Rodes City Run 10K are that I finished in 48:40.  Not even attempting to set a PR…so not even comparing.  Just loving how easy this speed felt for me and how I finished with fuel in the tank.  I’m getting it back  This race helped prove that.  I was 421/4246 finishers overall.  I was the 75/2391 for women finishers.  And I was 17/358 in my age division.  I’m really happy with this.  Even more so because I know what I am capable of and that I am actually capable of more.  I am so glad that I decided to run this race.  Even if my initial intention was to keep it between a 8:20-8:40 pace, and in the end…I averaged around a 7:50.  I know that part of what helped me out was having a friend running with me, to keep me focused on anything other than the race itself.  This race made me feel confident again.  It was just what I needed.

Maybe next year I can aim for a goal to beat my best Rodes City Run 10K time.  Or, if I’m feeling really good about things…try to set that new 10K PR.  But for now, I’ll relish the fact that I’m back…and I’m getting stronger.

Following the race, Cathy and I had every intention of getting coffee and eating protein bars for breakfast…but we detoured and hit up North End Cafe where I enjoyed coffee, a gluten-free pancake and a side of fruit.  Then…we got macarons from Annie May’s Sweet Cafe.

And life was good.

Just as it should be.

Like it never changed.

I’m still smiling.

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North End Cafe’s Gluten-Free Pancake, side of fruit, and coffee!  Perfect reward for a good race day!

Sometimes…Moving Forward Means Looking Back

hamiltonOkay…you’ll have to forgive me.  I’m a bit of a Hamilfan (for those of you not “in the know”…that means I’m a fan of the musical Hamilton.  So…the start of this blog is going to be a bit of an homage to the musical.  If you know the music…you’ll get it.  If you don’t…keep reading and then go check it out.  It will change your life.

[ME]

You’re a runner.  Of course!  I’m a runner
God, I wish there was a race!
Then we could prove to everyone
That we’ve got a fast race pace…

[RUNNER]

Can I buy you a drink?

[ME]

That would be nice.

[RUNNER]

While we’re talking, let me offer you some free advice.
Train slow.

[ME]

What?

[RUNNER]

Run more.

[ME]

Ha.

[RUNNER]

Don’t let an injury set you back or make you sore.

[ME]

You can’t be serious.

[RUNNER]

Then let me reassert…

[ME]

Yes.

[RUNNER]

Always run hard and you’ll end up hurt.

*END SCENE*

~*~*~

Did I lose you?  I hope not, because what I am about to say is actually rather important.  I just sometimes have a hard time getting to the heart of the matter.

For the better part of the beginning of 2017, I was injured…again…

And…for once it had nothing to do with the amount or intensity of my runs.  Well…not exactly.  When I went home for Christmas, I continued with my training schedule…except the neighborhood where my parents live is hella hilly.  I mean, you literally can’t NOT run hills when you are there.  So, for pretty much the entire few days I was there, my runs were full of hills.  And my left hip flexor started to complain at me on the last morning I ran there.  I shrugged it of and boarded my plane back to the Louisville area.  I took my usual rest days, and went out for my morning runs, which during my warmups, I would note a slight twinging in my left leg, but nothing that was crippling.  My cadence and my pace seemed off for me though.  Some stretches and rolling and I was on the road to Columbus, Ohio for my New Years celebration at my friend, Jenn’s.

I know, I’ve pretty much gone over this before, but I am making a point…so, please…don’t tune out yet…

It was after a 14 mile run that I started to feel some pain in my left hip (the one opposite the one that suffered a labrum tear last year.  I hobbled through the rest of the day, took some Aleve with dinner that night, and felt a little better in the morning.  I managed to get through my 6 miles of speed work (I thought to do it at Jenn’s because her neighborhood is SO flat it is great for speed work), but didn’t quite hit the pace.  I missed it…just barely.  Upon returning home, I managed one more 6 mile run before it all went to hell.  My hip was not happy on that run and the following morning, a cross-training day, I found that I couldn’t even do my physical therapy exercises.  Sadly, my orthopedic doctor couldn’t see me before I jetted off to Disneyland for a 10K and half marathon race.  I survived those, although I still don’t know how I managed those times, but I think it was sheer stubbornness and the unwillingness to stop because I knew if I did, I’d never start running again.  That and my orthopedic doctor’s magic cocktail of 2 Tylenol & 2 Ibuprofen…3 times a day.  And KT Tape and ACE Bandages.

We all know what happened from there, but as the wait to see the orthopedic doctor took forever, and then the actual getting back to some semblance of running (first by not limping, then on the Alter-G, and then on roads…with very low mileage and with a super easy pace for me)…I decided I needed to go back and reflect on the one and only year where I wasn’t injured.  At all.

2013.

When I was training for my first full marathon.

I went back to my training journals.  This is why I keep a paper training log.  Because it gives me immediate access to the things I was doing that kept me uninjured and running strong, if nothing else.

I had become a member of a Distance Runner group, which, after the Boston Marathon bombings, branched off into a great group of runners who were seeking to qualify to Boston.  I hoped to do it sometime, so I joined.  These Boston Qualify Seeking Distance Runners, as I said, were fantastic people and runners, most of which I still speak to and am in touch with today.  But as we all geared up to train for our BQ attempts, it became a matter of how fast can you run your runs.  And while the pace of my weekday runs started to speed up, even on easy days, my long runs were much slower.  Like WAY slower.  I put a lot of quality speed into my speed work days (fartleks, tempo, intervals), posting pics of my Garmin with the best of them on the group.  But while they were all rocking out long runs at or near their race pace, I was running with a group that trained a little more deliberately.  I never really posted the Garmin shot on my long runs, and would often find myself wishing I could post training runs as fast as they were.  They were going to be so ready for Boston.  But, this was also my first marathon…so I didn’t expect the magic to happen that quickly.  I stuck to my plan, kept training with the more deliberate group, and got through June through October without hitches.  AND…get this…there were times I was doing a long run on Saturday and then another one on Sunday.  My legs never felt tired or like I was doing too much, because the paces I did these runs was so much slower than I would have run if I had been on my own.

Part of doing the back-to-back long runs was that I had signed up for the inaugural Dopey Challenge at Disney World…and I figured that was good practice.  Part of it was just loving to be able to run with people.  My friends were slaughtering their long runs…and I was just sort of cruising through them.  Weekend after weekend.

And I was never injured.

What has occurred to me as I reflected on my best year of running and racing was…

Most runners, including myself, train too hard, too often.

We all get wrapped up in those numbers, how they might look on social media, to our peers, to people who *gasp* run faster than us already.  No quality runner that I know judges their fellow runners by their training and race paces.  But, to runners, those numbers are our Bible.  And, we’re all guilty of the comparison game.  I know I am.  We love showing off our good runs, but what about the average…or not so good ones?  Why was I so frustrated and embarrassed with my slow runs on those long run days?

Little did I know, I was training smart and training properly.  Low-intensity training allows an athlete to gain fitness without overstressing the body.  Doing too much high-intensity training can cause your body to not be able to absorb all the stress being applied to it and turn it into fitness.  If you fatigue your body too much, too often, you run the risk of compromising your performance, your workouts, and possibly leading to injury.  The entire point of the long run is not to bust it out at race pace, but to get your endurance up, get you used to being on your feet for a long amount of time.

In fact, most of my long runs going into the Chicago Marathon were done at a slow pace.  There were a few weeks where certain miles were to be done at marathon pace…and I managed to rock those out.  And come the beginning of October…I lined up at the start line of the Chicago Marathon…ran strong…ran far…

AND QUALIFIED FOR BOSTON.

My first marathon.  My first BQ.  And I did it because I didn’t race all of my runs.  Speed work and quality runs are important, yes…but make them something you do once a week…and run those other runs at a much more deliberate and easy pace.  You shouldn’t be embarrassed to train slow.  In fact, I do believe it was training like this that got me to that start line safely, uninjured, and feeling strong and prepared.

Yes, high-intensity training is very important to training as well, but a relatively little amount goes a long way.  Here is one case where more is definitely not better.  There is no need to unnecessarily tax your body when you should be taking it easy.  I know…it sounds counterintuitive, especially in running when the entire goal is to reach the finish line in the fastest time you can, but…honestly…proper training means getting through the slow, the fast, the easy and the hard.  But you have to hit on every spectrum to become a better, more efficient, and…uninjured runner.

I have been sidelined every year since 2013’s Chicago Marathon.  I also attempted to run way more marathons in a year than was good for my body…but that’s another story.  That being said, after this last round with my hip flexor in January…I’m making a more conscious effort to train smarter.  Some of it is fear.  Not fear that someone will judge my training pace as being too little.  But fear of ending up with a worse injury…something that isn’t as easy to work around or get through.

I was lucky.  This time around, my hip labrum wasn’t the issue, although I fretted for a month that it was.  You have to keep your body moving forward, but turn down that intensity.  Seriously, you’ll reap serious benefits and rewards simply by slowing down.

Trust me…I’m the poster child for this, apparently!

And those training paces that you used to brag about on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or other social media…forget about it.  Those numbers shouldn’t be bragging rights or your sense of worth in the running community.  The running community is awesome because it embraces everyone, all shapes, sizes and paces.  These times, distances, paces…these are your records of your progress.  You shouldn’t feel like you need to post only your best, fastest times for those who follow you on social media, or make excuses for runs that you deem as too slow.  Nope…these numbers are much more valuable and important than that.  It’s fine if you want to share your stats…I’m not condoning that.  Lord knows, I’ve done my share in the past.  But…do NOT base your self-worth as a runner on these numbers.  Don’t run hard every time you run.  Don’t try to overdo what you are capable of doing.  And NEVER PR a training run.  Save that for race day.  If you PR a training run, you’re not training right!

In the end…running to much, running too hard…is running your body into the ground.  And, I, for one, am tired of injury after injury.

So, to my speedy friends who I could keep up with or even outrun at times, my apologies…because I am stepping my long runs down this training season.  My long runs will be quality, long slow distances.  As they should be.  Some might have miles at race pace…but for the most part, I’m returning to how I trained for Chicago the first time around…as I gear up to run Chicago again this October.

This is NOT easy for me to do.  My legs know one speed…fast…especially when I’m on my own.  So, I do hope to find some people to hold me back and keep me accountable this summer as I work through my training and get to that start line, once again feeling confident and prepared.

Like I said…sometimes moving forward means looking back.

Maybe there really is magic in those easy, deliberate paced runs.

I ask you to consider this the next time you put that Garmin on and head out the door for an “easy” run.

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“Always enjoy yourself.  Don’t be upset if you don’t win, you’ve won by simply not giving up.” – Unknown

Comeback Kid…Again! Week #5 & Week #6

Life has been crazy, crazy, crazy busy this past week, which is why this post is almost a week late.  Because most of the exciting stuff was covered in the previous blog, I will sum up this past week and what all went on in my transformation from injured runner to…the Comeback Kid…

On Monday, my physical therapy session was cancelled with Daniel.  Which kind of sucked as I had wanted to talk about the ankle pain I was having.  But he was running a fever, and I really am a huge germophobe.

So, he wasn’t coming in and I didn’t have to show up, since my therapist was out of the office. Instead, I went to work and sent him an e-mail regarding the situation.  He messaged me back on Wednesday and said that he would look at my ankle on Thursday when I came in for my physical therapy session.

That meant a lot of waiting…and a lot of NOT running.  Again.  Because…honestly…the last thing I wanted to do was aggravate something else and be sidelined more.  It seems like a never-ending battle.  Anyway…I’m not very good at being patient or waiting.

That being said, when I finally did go in on Thursday, the first thing he did was ask about my ankle and have me take off my shoe so he could look at it, manipulate it, and basically bang the crap out of it to see if it was anything to be concerned about.  When that meant I sat there going…no…nope…that doesn’t hurt…that’s weird…hahaha….nope…it’s fine…

Yeah…I think he was wondering if it was all in my head.  It’s not.  It wasn’t then, and it still isn’t now.  But, as he told me, it’s not a stress fracture, because I wouldn’t be able to walk…so it was just some natural aches that come with starting to run again after NOT running for so long.  He then had me warm up on a bike and do some dynamic lunges and moves before taking me outside into the cold air in my shorts and all and having me run around the building.

Why was I running around the building?  So he could watch my form and see if I was babying my hip by putting more pressure on the other leg (that is the sort of shit that brought me my first (and only) stress fracture in my leg…and the last thing I want is to end up in Bootsie again!)…but he said that my form looked great from every angle he viewed me from.  Only thing was my high cadence, but that’s normal for me.

So…he cleared me to do the Anthem 5K that Saturday (as I was up to 3.5 to 4 miles of running every other day), as long as the hip continued to feel good.  So, we made one more appointment for a week and a half out…and I was done.

I wrote up a blog on the Anthem “5K”…that you can read if you missed out on that exciting adventure.  The best part of that day was that I got to hang out with Melissa and Paul before the race…saw Tammy at the start of the race…and ran comfortably at a 7:29 average for the race.  Without pain.  At all.  And without feeling like I was pushing myself harder than I should.  Which says a lot about me maintaining my fitness level even without running in the equation. So YAY!  But, I wasn’t supposed to race that one.  I was supposed to run it…so…that wasn’t exactly fun to tell my PT over e-mail.  He helped a little by putting things into perspective…about thinking long term.  So…my mindset is starting to fall that way.  I have goals I want to achieve…and being Gimpy McGimpster is not part of those plans.

Ever meet someone by chance and wonder how it was that you’d never met before and why you haven’t been friends for life? That’s Melissa and me!

Into the next week I went.  The cold weather gave way to some mild mornings in the 50s.  They were rainy…and windy…but I was in my shorts and loving it.  I was doing short 4 mile outings and reminding myself to ease it back.  This worked better on the windier of mornings (like 40 mph gusts will mess with you regardless!)…hey…I’m a work in progress.  I’ll get the hang of it.  By the weekend, the bitter cold weather returned.  I was NOT happy.  It seems like we get gorgeous weather during the week…but on the weekends, it is determined to freeze us out.  I wasn’t running as far as…anyone at the training run.  I was doing 5 miles as a natural progression to the Rodes 10K this coming Saturday.  So…I was definitely the ambassador, and training run attendee doing their own thing.

My fellow, freezing #KDFMarathon Ambassadors: Melissa, Me, Dawn, and Jack

I’ve been doing a lot of cross-training on gym machines and at spin class.  I know…I need to swim more…but swimming is just not fun for me.  Or relaxing.  So…I am working on that.  But, despite the cold temps this week, I’ve gone out on a 5 mile run yesterday morning and felt good.  I dialed back the speed and focused a lot more on form.  My roommate pointed out that my feet were really pounding the pavement when I’m running these days.  Soft feet.  That’s what I’m working on now.  Another good reason to NOT wear headphones while running.  You can tune into your body and that is so important.  The run felt good and I finished it feeling tired (hey, I started at 3:30 am), but proud of myself.

Today was my final PT session with Daniel.  Yep…officially released!  OFF THE CHAIN!  I couldn’t be happier.  My session today started with a warm-up on the bike before he had me doing my lunge matrix and then running through all the dynamic warm-up stuff he’s assigned to me in the past.  And then….he had me doing these giant plyometric jumps before taking off at a run.  All that went well…so he had me fill out final paperwork and I was discharged with the understanding that should anything flare back up…I am to call and they’ll fit me in.

And that, my friends, is a good, happy thing!

So…this weekend I am treating the Rodes 10K as a training run…and NOT…I repeat NOT running it hard.  I have enlisted my running partner, Matthew, to help keep my pace back.  We’ll just have a nice 6 mile conversation.  The goal is to finish without any pain.  I am really looking forward to this.

Going forward, I get to add some speed and hill work back into my training each week, but nothing monumental.  Just some basic strides and a few small climbs.  So, that’s progress.  I also get to increase my long run by one mile each week leading into my races in April…so that’s also a good thing.  I’m feeling good.  I’m happy.  I’m making my (hopefully final) comeback!

And there it is, friends.  Stick with me.  I’m sure there is more to this adventure!