Running on gluten-free carbs…

OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Maration – Indianapolis, IN (May 5, 2012)

Me with my finisher's medal at the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon - Indianapolis, Indiana

Me with my finisher’s medal at the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon – Indianapolis, Indiana

Race: OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon

Place: Downtown Indianapolis, IN

Date: May 5, 2012

Time: 2:04:51

It was going to be hot.  That’s all I knew coming into the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon.  That and this is the largest half marathon in the country.  One reason it was on my bucket list of races to run in my lifetime.  *places a check mark next to that one*  And, I’ll be honest, if it weren’t for a slew of other races that run this same weekend that I’m interested in, I’d be back again next year.  It was that amazing of a race.

But let’s get back to the heat.

All week the weather had said rain.  Then no rain.  Then…possible rain.  I’m no stranger to running races in the rain.  A majority of my races have been in the rain.  I just, really, wasn’t feeling 13.1 miles in the rain.  It would mean being wet the entire time…and the need for brand new shoes at the end of it all.  Then…the weather changed again.  Now…a high of 85 degrees…humidity of 97%.  In other words…HOT.

The gross kind of hot.  That sticky, humid, you just always feel moist kind of hot.  The worst kind of hot.

Time to dig out the race outfit I wore in Chicago (it was hot then too) and give it another spin.  And that’s what I did on Friday night when I started packing up my race clothes for this event.  I’d go to work that day, leave around 3 p.m. and hit the road to Indianapolis.  I’d arrive around rush hour (joy), attempt to find parking downtown that didn’t cost an arm and a leg (I didn’t have any to spare), and get into the Mini Marathon Race Expo to pick up my packet and check out the vendors.

It took a bit of lapping around the convention center, but my roommate and I pulled into a parking garage, parked, and headed into the expo with the hope of it taking less than an hour.  That would mean parking would be $5.00, not $10.00.  So…one hour.  It took us about 10 minutes or so to get from where we parked, inside the convention center, and to where the expo was being held.  Honestly, I think we parked as far away as humanly possible without even realizing it.  But, we got there…and ducked inside.

Now, my first half marathon was last year’s Chicago Half Marathon (which I ran in 2:20:59, fresh off of two very bad and debilitating injuries and in heat/humidity of orange flag proportions), which had a really, really big expo as well over on Navy Pier.  But this one dwarfed that one.  Honestly.  It was crazy big.  Lots of vendors.  Lots of races.  Lots of races that sounded really awesome to run.  This is the place for a runner to get inspired.  But first thing was first…packet pick-up.

I went all the way to the back of the expo center where the booths were lined up for racers to pick up their packet.  It was done by bib number.  I had just a short wait (2 people ahead of me) before handing over my postcard, receiving my swag bag and race number, and stepping away.  I was giddy with excitement and did a little happy dance of joy when I walked over to where my roommate was waiting for me.  Yeah…I was now getting into the mood.

We did a quick stroll around the expo, starting at the very end and wending our way up and down the multiple aisles.  As we started up one aisle, we spotted the booth for Tap ‘N Run.  And there, on the backdrop of the booth…was a photo of me.  So…we asked if I could get a picture of myself with their promotional backdrop as I was the girl in the purple.  The guy looked at the backdrop, looked at me, invited me back, high-fived me, and I got the picture.  I should be in race modeling, just saying.

After that, we continued on…picking up a couple of race brochures, seeing what races were represented, checking out the BlueMile running store booth, and other booths.  And making good time.  Until I hit the booth for BondiBand.  BondiBand and I have a race history.  I bought my first one (it simply says 13.1) when I ran the Chicago Half Marathon.  Since then, I have acquired quite a collection of them.  They (and colored hair extensions) have become a part of my race uniform on race day.  So…most of my one hour was spent pawing through the stacks, piles, and cases of BondiBands, and finally purchasing four new ones.  I couldn’t resist.  So…look for them in future races.

We walked through the rest of the expo…then figured it was getting really, really close to time on our parking, and exited.  A check of the watch did show that our time was almost up on the parking garage, so we hurried as much as we could back, took the stairs down to the level where you paid, searched for the pay booth, found it, and got the ticket marked and paid for…with only two minutes to spare.  We were two minutes away from paying $10 for parking.  Whew.  That was close.  From there…we were off for dinner at Don Pablos before picking up a couple of bananas at Kroger and heading to the Fairfield Inn and collapsing for the night.  When we got checked into the hotel and up to the room, I set out everything for the race the following day, changed into my pajamas, read the information packet in my swag bag, then turned in.  My alarm was set for 4:30 a.m.

It arrived way too soon.

Race morning!!

Race morning is, as usual when on the road, a frantic hustle-bustle to get dressed, get fueled (this morning it was dry gluten-free EnviroKidz Gorilla Munch cereal), drink some water, brush teeth, put hair extensions in, put hair in pigtails, take a couple pictures, pack up water and protein shake from fridge, pack up post-race snacks, pack up luggage, check out of hotel, get to the race.  So, it was a bit frantic, but we managed it all in and hour, and hit the road as planned.  In the car, I snacked on a banana with peanut butter as we headed into downtown Indianapolis again, parked for only $5.00 (yes…event parking that cheap) at an easy-access garage for post-race, and took a stroll toward the race site.

And it was during that walk that the butterflies finally hit.  The magnitude of this race was really starting to hit home.  I have a half marathon goal this year.  This is the first of four of them that I’m running.  That goal…is to hit sub-2 hours.  If it wasn’t so freakin’ hot at 6:00 a.m., this might have been the race it happened at.  But it was already sticky humid and the sun hadn’t even come up yet.  This was not the race to set a new PR at.  This was a race to run smart and finish.

We took a couple pictures at the start line then went and sat down at a  table to watch the runners, the news crew, the helicopters, and take it all in.  At one point, they started the music up and we glanced up to the hotel windows where curtains snapped back, giggling a little at the ones we could recognize as not being in town because they are running.  Check the event calendar, folks.  This is a BIG deal here.

After a little bit of lingering, we decided it was time to head down the corral line and find Corral O, also known as, my home until the race began.  But, as we were walking, I thought to travel down to Corral T, where my friend Julia was to be, as this was her first half marathon and I really wanted to give her a hug and wish her luck.  I got down to T and couldn’t find her.  So I texted her, but she was over at Military Park, where the post-race party was going to be held.  So, I headed back toward Corral O and slipped inside and began to stretch out.

No sooner had I done that, Keith from my Monday night fun run group arrived.  So, at least now I knew someone.  He introduced me to his running partner, Carrie, and we all stood around and talked while we did some last minute stretching.  The 5K race kicked off during all of this, but we were so far away from the start line that all we really heard was the countdown.  Most of our talk was about training and the upcoming run.  We took some pictures, stretched out some more, and then they removed the dividers for the corrals.  The wheelchair race kicked off at 7:30 a.m. sharp.  Again, we were too far away to see anything, but heard the countdown.  This meant the start of the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon was just three minutes away.

I gave my roommate a hug, wished Keith luck, and we heard the official countdown to the start of the Mini.  Lots of clapping and cheers.  And now the slow shuffle toward the start line began.  This part is actually really exciting.  Your heart is racing, you’re smiling, and the atmosphere is just electric.  No one is hurting or dehydrated at this point.  The mood is uplifting.  And you can lose yourself in it so easily.  The people I was around kept changing.  However, my “GO KAREN GO” sign that my roommate had kept appearing at various points of the long shuffle up to the start line.  The runners I was around tracked it the entire way.  One group I was near said, “There is that Karen sign again!” and laughed because they had seen it a ways back.  I turned and replied, “I’m Karen…and that’s my friend!”  Cathy was bobbing, weaving, and hurrying on ahead so I’d continue to see the sign as I made my way toward the start.  And soon…I had.  Twenty minutes after the official start.  And as Keith said at the fun run last night…I hit the start and was gone.

It was already sticky hot and nearing 8 a.m. at this point.  I was glad I carried a water bottle with me.  But there were tons of water and Gatorade “Pit Stops” along the way.  I started off much slower than I normally do at races, because I had 13.1 miles to cover.  So, slow and steady, especially in this heat.  The first mile ticked by quickly, but I still noticed the elephants on parade at the zoo.  That was cool.  As we turned onto Michigan, mile 2 came into sight…then three.  When I hit the 5K mark, I checked my GPS watch for the first time.  Definitely running slower than I had thought I would, but I wanted to beat the heat and not fall victim to it.  I would have other opportunities to break a 2 hour half marathon.  Today was not that day.  Today was a day to run smart.

The next two miles were a blur of bands, runners, and me focusing on breathing, pace, and what would be next.  As we came into the sixth mile of this, we would be running the track of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of the Indy 500 race.  Awesome.  And when I ran down a ramp and then back up to enter the speedway, I knew I was now entering my favorite part of the race.  For the first time, and only for a few moments, the sun was shielded by clouds.  And I managed to pick up my pace a little.  My roommate told me that at the 10K mark in the Speedway, I was on pace for my 1:59:00 finish.  But it was too fast for the heat of the day and I knew it…so I slowed down as the sun crept back out.  Two and a half miles were spent running this famous track.  It was awesome.  Runners were taking video, taking pictures, and just soaking up the occasion.  For some reason, this part of the race felt like it went on forever.  I felt like the track portion of the race was never going to end, but soon, I was exiting the Speedway and hitting the pavement once again for the last five and a half miles.

I want to say a big thank you to the people who lived on the streets we ran down, because some were out there with their hoses just spraying down the runners.  It was awesome and just what we needed.  There were rigs set up for misting that the runners could go through as well to cool down.  Very smart.  But all this time the flag on the mile markers stayed green.  I was surprised, because the heat was really intense.  I hit Mile 10 and decided to check my watch again.  I was about where I was on my training run, and only a few minutes behind where I was on the Papa John’s 10 Miler.  Ideally, that was the pace I wanted.  Realistically…that wasn’t happening today.  I was proud of where I was and told myself I only had a 5K to go.  Then…victory.

I didn’t want to hit the wall like I did in Chicago the previous September, so I dug out my package of Annie’s Organic Summer Strawberry Fruit Snacks (vegan & gluten-free), which I brought along for fuel as I didn’t have time to get beans and I don’t do the gels or gu.  So…I downed these as I went and then focused on the task at hand.  Mile 11 cruised by.  Then…VICTORY MILE!

After hitting Mile 12, you enter the home stretch.  This happens on New York Street.  The Victory Mile is adorned with banners in the infamous black and white checkered flags.  The crowd was awesome, just encouraging you onward.  “You’re almost there runners!”  “Good job, runners!”  “You can do this!”  Actually when someone shouted that, a runner right behind me replied, “I never doubted myself for a moment.”  And yes…I laughed.  Loudly.  It felt great.

I admit…running that last mile was emotional.  The checkered flags, the crowd, the cheering, and that final sprint when you know you are so close to the Finish.  You can see the finish line and you know if you just put all your heart into it, you’re going to get there.  So, you just give it all you have…and that’s what I did.  I pushed.  I could feel the finish with each footfall.  And as I got close, my roommate was right there with my sign, screaming at me to go, to push, to finish.

And I did.  Just five minutes shy of my goal.  In the heat and humidity.  Yeah…I’ll take that.  Any day.  I was so damn proud of myself for finishing as well as I did.  I was hot, I was ready for some water.  I needed my cold vegan chocolate protein shake.  But it would be a moment before that happened.  I had to get through Runner Services first.  No problem.  Just go with the crowd.  First…the finisher’s medal.  YAY!  Then…a plastic bag for you to put all your goodies…bananas, fruit cups, fruit strips, dehydrated fruits, cookies (I skipped those because gluten is the enemy)…and of course my bag ripped when the banana (the first thing I got) went in.  So I was juggling more than I wanted to.  But, that’s what happens with me.  I just laugh it off.  I made it to where they were taking photos of runners, got mine, then proceeded to Military Park and toward the Family Reunion Area.  I had to find the marker labeled B.  That was where Cathy was going to meet me.

She was already there.  And said, “Come here you sweaty runner person and give me a hug.”  I did.  I was still smiling.  I got my cell phone from her, laid down on the ground, propped my feet up on her and called my mom.  We talked for a little bit, then I stretched, stood up, and downed my protein shake and polished off my water.  I got my Smart Water from Cathy and downed that too.  She handed me the last bottle I had and I nursed that one as we went to the Convention Center to use the bathroom so I could get changed out of my damp running clothes.

When I was in the bathroom, I pulled open my bag to change and found a new t-shirt in there for me.  Cathy got me a “I Finished” t-shirt.  Which I wore proudly that day.  After changing, we walked around, then it was off to lunch at Cheeseburger in Paradise, where I was able to pick up my veggie burger and eat it like a real human does for the first time in ages, thanks to the gluten-free buns they have there.

And yeah…I was still smiling.

As for the official standings of the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon, I finished in 2:04:51.  Overall, I was 7271/31,129 finishers.  I was437/2737 runners in my age division and 2191/16825 female finishers.

Proud.  Very proud.


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