Running on gluten-free carbs…

Archive for September, 2012

Republic Bank Big Hit 1/4 Marathon – Louisville, KY (September 23, 2012)

Me crossing the finish line at the Republic Bank Big Hit 1/4 Marathon - Louisville, Kentucky

Me crossing the finish line at the Republic Bank Big Hit 1/4 Marathon – Louisville, Kentucky

Race: Republic Bank Big Hit 1/4 Marathon

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: September 23, 2012

Time: 52:46

It was another chilly morning in the low 40s when I woke up at home to get ready for the Republic Bank Big Hit 1/4 Marathon.  I was actually pretty excited about this race.  I ran it last year…in 1:03:49.  It was held at the end of October last year, however, instead of the end of September.  They moved the date due to the bitter cold weather we had.  A lot of people initially complained, saying September would still be too hot for the races.  Boy…were they ever wrong.

The Big Hit race series is actually a double race.  Not only is there the rare 1/4 Marathon, but it runs with the 1/2 Marathon as well.  For over four miles, the races are together.  There was the split, where the 1/4 Marathoners turn left and the 1/2 Marathoners turn right around 3rd Street in downtown Louisville.  They still have a lot of race to go…while those of us in the 1/4 Marathon are coming into the home stretch.

A 1/4 Marathon is a 6.55 mile run, just over a 10K.  And I love this distance.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my half marathons as well, due to the challenge and the stress I have to work through to run them.  But when it comes to races, the 10K distance is one of my favorites to run.  This was another reason I was super-psyched to be out this morning at this race.  Not only that, I have been a part of the Big Hit race series now for the two years it has been around.  Both times running in the 1/4 Marathon.  Maybe next year I’ll do the half.  We’ll see.  It depends on my training schedule as I have a much bigger race that I’m prepping for that fall.

But, the journey to the race actually starts at the expo the morning before the big race.  While there is race day packet pick-up at this race, I prefer to have my stuff prior to the big day.  I feel a bit more together when I don’t have to go stand in line and then jostle everything around, trying to get pinned up and ready to run.  It’s race day.  I need to feel relaxed.  Eat my banana.  Stretch.  Talk to people.  Chill.  Zen.  Get in the zone.  So, Saturday morning after running a few important errands (local coffee, picked up my gluten-free birthday cake, indulged in gluten-free pumpkin doughnuts), my roommate and I pulled up to Slugger Field in Louisville, Kentucky and parked.  We climbed out of the car and made the stroll to the stadium, entering through the main doors and stepping inside.

Now, I love race expos.  I think they are a great way to showcase other races in or around the area, and get vendors in to sell products to the runners.  But…as with a lot of the races around here…this expo had next to nothing in it.  The local running store was there.  And Jam Active was promoting the fall Tap ‘N Run (which runs this weekend)…so my face was front and center on the promotional backdrop once again.  A few local companies were there…but that was it.  You know…I spend money at race expos.  This is a great opportunity for businesses and vendors and other races to get out there and promote.  That’s something I hope they work on for the future events.

Packet pick-up was a breeze.  My line was short…with only one other woman in front of me.  And…my bib number was the start of that line.  Number 2500.  It was funny.  I was asked what my bib number was and when I told them, the lady in charge of that line went, “AH!  Karen!  I feel like I know you.  I’ve been staring at your name all day!”  It made me giggle.  I told her that now she didn’t have to.  And she replied that now it was Kristen she’d get to stare at.  I collected the envelope with my timing chip in it and my bib.  Then I was directed over to the next line of tables which had the drawstring swag bag and the t-shirt pick-up.  One thing I also hope they go back to from the previous year is the women’s cut tech shirts.  I loved that option the previous year, but they weren’t doing it this year.  The shirts were back to being short sleeve.  And I signed up to get a small.  I got a small, but it’s still freakin’ big on me.  I find this to be an issue with most t-shirts I receive at races.  I am not built like a man…so the shirts just look strange on me.  Doesn’t matter though.  I still wear them proudly.  I collected my swag bag and shirt and then…I was done.  With no vendors to really walk through, my roommate and I headed home.

That afternoon…I did my new pre-race ritual…and went out for a belated birthday lunch (my birthday was September 19) with my roommate’s family.  I chose to eat at the Mellow Mushroom in Louisville as I knew they had gluten-free pizza.  And my superstitious athletic brain now has my consumption of pizza the day before a big race as linked to my fantastic finishing times I have had as of late.  The big races I ran after eating pizza (or something pizza-like) have me setting new PRs and turning out a great race.  The one recent time I deviated (pad thai before the Indianapolis Women’s Half Marathon), the race went horribly wrong.  So…pizza it is.  Until that fails me.  After a delicious couple of slices of Gluten-Free Kosmic Karma pizza…it was back to the apartment for presents and the most amazing gluten-free strawberry cake I have ever had, compliments of a local allergen-free bakery, Annie May’s Sweet Café.  Even if you don’t have food allergies…check them out.  Their products are awesome!  When everyone left, I picked up a little and then settled in for a relaxing evening.  Because I know how high-strung I can be on race mornings.

And so, it was another early 4 a.m. wake-up for me.  I got up with my alarm and got out of bed.  The first thing I have to do is get dressed.  Even though I was home, I had laid out my clothing for the race the night before.  As the primary colors of the half and quarter marathons are orange and purple (the 1/4 Marathon is orange), I dug out my Frostbite 5K tech shirt (long sleeves) and my really crazy fun shorts.  Problem was, you couldn’t tell I had the shorts on when I wore the shirt, so I went to my regular running shorts instead.  I topped off the look with some fun knee-high socks and my running shoes.  The hair extensions were purple and orange that morning and my hair was properly put up in pigtails.  One of the BondiBands I picked up in Dayton was my headband of choice…it simply said, “iRun.”

When my roommate got up, I poured us some cereal to get something in our stomachs this early.  Then I grabbed a Luna Bar for her breakfast later and my banana to eat about an hour before the race.  This is another combination that seems to work for me.  No peanut butter this time.  No honey either.  Just the banana.  And, with that, we grabbed my race bag with my change of clothes, the sign, and away we went.

Since we left with plenty of time to spare, we had no trouble getting to Slugger Field at all.  That’s how it always works.  No worries though.  This just meant we had our pick of parking in the lot.  So we pulled in, chose a spot, and parked.  Grabbing our stuff, we headed into Slugger Field toward where the packet pick-up/expo was.  Packet pick-up for those who didn’t make it there on Saturday was open, but Cathy and I bypassed everything to claim a spot near the ticket booths (and a heating vent) to just sort of settle in until it was race time.  We dropped off our goods and I decided to hit up the bathroom at the stadium then because it would be empty…and they flushed.  As I’ve stated before…I’m a princess.  If flushing toilets are available…I use them before I even consider a port-a-pottie.  I know…princess.  I can’t help it.  I’m a germ-a-phobe!  So, I did that and made my way back, glancing longingly at the crew that was setting up the beautiful Finish banner across home plate at Slugger Field.  I told the Finish that I would see it soon.  Then, I hurried out of the cold and back into the heated interior of Slugger Field.  Just as I settled in, a text message from my friend Nikky came through.  She was asking about if I was wearing long or short sleeves.  I told her long sleeves but shorts (because…that’s how I roll…or run in this case).  She said she was going to layer up.  I told her I would see her at the end of the race, when we planned to meet up.

Here we have the ever-present LONG wait to the start happens.  While I like not feeling rushed when I arrive at a race, the hurry up and wait game gets a little old a lot fast.  Runners…you know what I mean.  So, Cathy and I just stood around talking, watching as the first few runners filtered in.  Soon…there were more.  All of them were doing pre-race routines.  The guy from Fleet Feet was giving out free massages with a roller and screaming at runners about putting Band-Aids on their nipples and using Body Glide (which they supplied) to prevent chafing.  It made me giggle.  A lot.  Runners were now filling up the interior of Slugger Field, some finding places to stretch out, or eat a power bar of some sort, or just meet up with the people they were running with.  It was nearly 6:50 a.m. now, so I handed Cathy her Luna Bar and I started peeling my banana to snack on and give some time to digest (I usually allot an hour) before the big run.  We chatted and after I finished the banana, I got up to throw away the peel and then begin my own stretches.  This definitely got me loosened up.  I did what I could to stay warm.  But it was inevitable…it was time to head out to the Start line.  That meant…stepping out into the 43 degree morning air.  I kept my hoodie on, of course, and away I went.

The morning was cold.  And as we walked with other runners towards the start line, we just sort of talked about the previous year and how much colder it was then.  So, this was a blessing in disguise.  The signs for the pace groups were up for the race, and I said I was going to hang out with the 9 minute per mile club.  Cathy told me to move up to the back of the 8 minute per mile group, so I did.  She was a bit more optimistic than me, apparently.  It was cold, so I told her I was just going to run a comfortable race.  Get warmed up and go from there.  My only goal was to beat last year.  Despite having a fantastic race at the Rock ‘N Sole Quarter Marathon in Milwaukee and setting a new PR of 54:52, I wasn’t confident I could beat that here…despite the flat course.  I started to let my Garmin search for satellites as Cathy gave me a hug, told me to have a good race, and went to stand on the other side of the Start line to cheer me on as I got started on the race.

The announcer at this race was great.  We had a bit of a delay with the start simply because the time clocks needed to be synched.  So, once that happened, he began the big countdown.  And then…as I started my iPod…we were off.  I crossed the starting line, started my Garmin, and flashed a peace sign at Cathy as I took off on the opening stretch of downtown Louisville street.  Despite the cold…I already felt good being out and doing the run.  I love races because I get to run with other people.  Even if we don’t say anything…the camaraderie is amazing and it does help with pacing.  I followed the people in front of me around a corner and through the first mile of the race.  I actually didn’t even hear my watch beep at me.  As I came through the first mile…I didn’t see a time clock or mile marker…but I did see a group of people up near the corner.  We were running back past Slugger Field and some spectators stayed out to cheer people through the first mile.  Cathy was one of them.  I spotted her and the sign when I rounded the corner.  It does make a huge difference to see your friends and family throughout the race.  Even if this was early…it made me smile.  And, with her telling me to “GO!”…I was through the first mile and heading into the rest of the race, feeling refreshed.

I headed into the second mile, this time seeing a mile marker and a time clock.  The clock was wrong…displaying the time for one mile…but that’s why I have a Garmin.  I really wasn’t interested in my time.  I was taking on this race with a very zen attitude.  I wasn’t going to look at my pace.  I was just going to keep it comfortable.  I could have pushed it.  I need to start doing that more, to be honest.  But not this race.  This race I was taking on with a whole new attitude than normal.  Let the pace set itself.  Run your comfort zone.  Push only if you feel the need to.  And that was how I did it.  Mile 3 was upon me in no time.  And then…Mile 4.  I didn’t see a mile marker or clock here either…but I might have just been zoned in.  What I did know was that the big race split was coming.  I needed to hang to the left.  And all half marathoners were going right.  So, I moved left on the road and sure enough, I could see a volunteer directing race traffic to the proper route, a giant sign behind her giving the split information as well.

Me celebrating  at the finish line of the Republic Bank Big Hit 1/4 Marathon with finisher's medal in hand

Me celebrating at the finish line of the Republic Bank Big Hit 1/4 Marathon with finisher’s medal in hand

I turned left and could see only a couple of runners ahead of me.  I think the majority of people taking part in the races were doing the half marathon.  And as I headed after them, I saw the marker for Mile 5 ahead.  One more mile and then the last .55 and I was done.  This is where I can always taste it.  And my legs felt good.  My feet felt amazing.  So, I picked it up a little.  Like I said, I would push where I felt I needed to.  I didn’t need to, but my run was feeling so great, I figured why not just speed up slightly.  So, down and around the downtown hotels I went.  Then, around a corner and toward Slugger Field.  It was getting real here.  I was so close…I knew I was close.  Mile 6 ticked off and I was heading toward the stadium.  I could hear the announcer as I pushed myself into the open area of the outfield wall and turned to make the run toward the finish line.  I rounded the left field area and hit the white cloth laid out across the baselines.  I sprinted down past third base and toward home plate, where the finish line was calling to me.  My time looked awesome.  It was at 52 minutes when I crossed, meaning, without even trying, I not only beat out (by a long-shot) my previous year’s time…but I also set a new PR for a Quarter Marathon…beating out Milwaukee by 2 minutes.

I felt amazing when I crossed that finish line.  I heard the announcer say my name as I was nearing the actual finish.  She said, “And here comes Karen…with her pigtails flying.”  I guess I’ll always get called out for my pigtails…but that’s my racing style…and it won’t change unless I drastically cut my hair.  LOL!  I received my finisher’s medal and continued on to where I saw Cathy, shaking the cow bell and waving the sign at me.  I threw my arms up in victory.  She said something like, “Holy crap!”  And then she told me to go get my stuff and to meet her at the end of it.  So, into the Race Recovery area I went.  I snagged another banana, an orange, some water, and a granola bar for Cathy…who I knew was probably hungry by now.  Then, I managed to cut the timing tag off my shoe on my own and head up the stairs to the top of the stadium to meet her.  I was bouncing with happiness.  I downed my orange and some water before posing in front of the Republic Bank Big Hit backdrop.

Then Cathy told me to go and get my results.  I did.  And when I was handed the slip with my name and time on it…I was shocked.  Not just by my time, but by the fact that it had me listed as 1st in my division (30-34).  I think I said, “Holy shit!” and passed it off to Cathy, telling her,  much like Geist…that was sure to change.  I nibbled on my banana and we headed down to sit on some chairs and wait for Nikky to finish up her run.  She said she would text me when she got done, but I was hoping to catch her as she came through the finish.  I missed her though because I got the text suddenly…so I told her to meet me at Results.  I went up to the table again and had them pull my results again…and I was still listed as first in my division.  Guess this time it stood.

Nikky and I after we both finished the Big Hit 1/4 Marathon - Louisville, Kentucky

Nikky and I after we both finished the Big Hit 1/4 Marathon – Louisville, Kentucky

Nikky found me and we hugged and congratulated each other on a good race.  We had a good time just standing around and talking.  I told her to come out to the BlueMile Fun Run’s on Monday (yes, Keith…I am coming back to those) and she said she would definitely consider joining in.  We discussed other races in the area that we are running.  And things we want to do next year.  It was fun to meet her in person, finally.  And we just easily fell into conversation, discussing anything and everything.  I got to meet her husband.  And after we talked and talked and talked…we all parted ways.  I wanted to go get into warmer clothes as I was currently still in running shorts and my lips were turning blue.  So, I grabbed my running bag from Cathy and ducked into the bathroom to change into jeans and my hoodie.  When I emerged, she was settled in near the Papa John’s area of the stadium where awards were going to be handed out.  And…as I won my division…I was getting an award.  The ceremony still had about 30 minutes until the start, so we cheered on the half marathon runners coming in for their finish.

Then…awards were given.  Three deep in each division…and then for overall men and women (three deep).  When my name was called, Cathy made a lot of noise.  I went up to receive my certificate to pick up my engraved bat once it was ready.  I can’t even express how surprised I still feel over that division placement.  I am just amazed with how I just set out to run a comfortable race and then ended up having my best one yet.  My actual award had to be custom made…so I have to wait to receive it.  But it will be next week.

The official results of the Republic Bank Big Hit 1/4 Marathon have me finishing in 52:46.  I was 54/486 finishers overall.  I was 13/322 women runners to cross the finish line in the 1/4 Marathon.  And I placed 1/58 in my age division.  Not only did I just set a new PR for a 1/4 Marathon, but I placed first in my division too.  This means that next week, I get to head down to Fleet Feet and pick up a custom engraved bat with my name, time, and division placement on it.  It was so unexpected to even place in this race.  I am still shocked…and thrilled.  Maybe all this hard work I’m pouring into my training is paying off.

For a race well run…I went to the North End Café in Louisville and treated myself to a delicious (and BIG) gluten-free pancake.  Just what the race doctor ordered.  Post-race carbs always taste the best.

And now…I’m ready to hit up this race again next year and see if I can do even better!


Air Force Marathon 10K – Dayton, OH (September 15, 2012)

Me crossing the finish line of the Air Force Marathon 10K - Dayton, Ohio

Me crossing the finish line of the Air Force Marathon 10K – Dayton, Ohio

Race: Air Force Marathon, Half Marathon, 10K & 5K

Place: Dayton, Ohio

Date: September 15, 2012

Time: 51:58

I just want to start this entry off by saying that I was completely surprised by how efficiently and wonderfully this expo and race was put together and run.  Honestly.  It only makes me want to return next year (and run the half marathon instead of the 10K).  Honestly, one of the best organized races I have participated in.  So much fun.  I enjoyed every moment of this…including the expo.

Which is where the story begins…

Cathy, Jenn and I left Columbus, Ohio shortly after noon on Friday to drive to Dayton for the expo.  This was very important as it was the only time I would have to pick up my race packet.  So…we made a concerted effort to get there in enough time to peruse the expo, get the packet, and see what else was happening.  I knew one important fact about this expo and that was that Dean Karnazes (THE Ultramarathon Man) was in attendance and if at all possible, I wanted to meet him.  The Web site for the race didn’t have an appearance schedule up, so there was no guarantee that this would happen…but in the back of my mind…I was hopeful.

The expo itself was amazing.  The entire top floor of The Nutter Center was filled with booths that held vendors, other races, and a bunch of freebies.  I love big expos because I absolutely love taking in every bit of it, seeing what other races are out there, talking to vendors, and finding the Bondi Band booth to add to my growing collection of bands to wear on race days.  The last couple of races have had some pretty disappointing expos.  That changed here.

The three of us made our way around the circuit of booths, taking a peek at different tables, seeing what merchandise was out there, and just following the signs to packet pick-up.  This just happened to be on the other side of The Nutter Center and down the stairs to floor level.  Packet pick-up, however, was simple.  Just show your idea…tell them your bib number (12051) and you’re golden.  You get handed a packet with your race bib in it and are sent across the way to retrieve your t-shirt.  I somehow ended up with a Medium…so it’s really big on me…but…it still rocks.

As I was in line, Cathy and Jenn went to find seats in this section off to the side, because for once in our lives…we had good timing.  Dean Karnazes was set to talk at 3:30.  And it was around 3:00 p.m.  YAY!  I was stoked.  So, after I gathered all my stuff for the race, I went to find them in the seats and join them.  Poor Jenn got stuck sitting next to another creepy “friend” who pestered her the entire time.  Sorry Jenn.  I don’t know why that always happens to you!

Soon, the man of the moment was there.  The announcer was trying to kill time and didn’t realize Dean had already shown up…so when he was finally clued in…he made the big introduction.  And I was hooting and hollering because…Dean Karnazes is just awesome.  And I count him as one of my running heroes.  And here he was…about 30 feet or so from where I was sitting.  My first thought was that he looks smaller in person than he does in “UltraMarathon Man” (the documentary he did about running 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days).  That was my last rational thought because then he started talking.  And I was hooked from the first word, which I believe was “Hello!”  LOL!  But…his talk was extremely informative and entertaining.  And we got to see him attempt to mess with the AV equipment as the sound was malfunctioning.  Then the microphone wanted to give lots of feedback.  It was sorted…and he got the hang of it.  Let me say this…the man is an absolute doll.  Very humble.  And yes…he is every bit as super human as he sounds.  But nothing short of awesome.  He said he had to run to the airport to catch a flight to Wisconsin, but after he finished talking, lots of people went down to the table to see if he would sign something.  I happened to have his book “50/50 Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days — and How You Too Can Achieve Super Endurance!” with me and went to go stand in the line.  He began signing and doing a few pictures, then said that people with books were to step forward because he promised he would sign all the books.  I was never happier to have a book of his with me.  So, I got into the much shorter line and even scored a photo with him.  He signed it: “Karen – Good luck on your first marathon! –Dean”  I was telling him about how I was training to run my first  marathon next year…hence the message.  For the rest of the night, I was on cloud nine.  Seriously.

Me with Dean Karnazes at the Air Force Marathon Race Expo

Me with Dean Karnazes at the Air Force Marathon Race Expo

After the expo, we went to get checked into the hotel, then head out to shop at Half Price Books before hitting up a place for dinner.  I had scouted out Find Me Gluten-Free and found a place called Sinfully Gluten-Free to try out for dinner.  They had a small, but versatile menu.  So, we arrived there and all placed orders.  I got the pizza sandwich (no pepperoni, of course, for this vegetarian) with fries.  Cathy got the chicken tenders with fries.  Jenn got an 8-inch cheese pizza.  They make everything to order, so it does take a moment for food to arrive.  And that’s fine by me.  When it did, I dug right in and was so happy with my sandwich.  I even stole a piece of Jenn’s pizza and…absolutely loved it.  Perfectly safe meal before a race.  That’s what I am talking about.  I love piece of mind when it comes to meals before a race.  Afterwards, we raided the place for baked goods (I got LOTS of gluten-free cookies and a brownie, and while we were there, the three of us split one of their lemon bars – which was like eating a lemon cheesecake…SO GOOD!) and finally called it a night and headed back to the hotel to unwind and get ready for bed.

Now, the hotel had made an error with our booking.  We had put in to have a room with two double beds, but we ended up in a room with a king size bed.  The couch did pull out, so we arranged for Cathy & I to crash in the bed and Jenn took the hide-a-bed.  Cathy offered to trade with Jenn, but she maintained she would stick it out on the hide-away for the night.  We called down for sheets and get the bed set-up after playing around online for a little bit.  We knew we were going to have an early morning, so we called it a night around 9:30 p.m.  I set my cell phone alarm for 4:45 a.m. and then crashed out.  I never slept so well before a race before…but I was out like a light.

The alarm sounded that following morning and after scaring Jenn half to death, I shut it off and shambled into the bathroom to change into my race clothes (which I had laid out the night before) and then eat my cereal to at least get something in my stomach pre-race.  We all took turns in the bathroom, packed up our stuff, then went to check out of the hotel.  The hotel happened to have take-and-go goodies out for runners and families of runners, so we all snagged something.  I grabbed a banana and an orange.  Cathy snagged a banana.  And Jenn grabbed a bagel (which was itty-bitty…but a bagel nonetheless).  From there, we made the short trip toward the Air Force Museum to attempt to find parking and make our way to the starting line.

Getting in wasn’t too difficult.  Traffic was still light at this point, so we followed a stream of cars through a gate and just went where we were directed.  We parked and then began the very, very, very long hike from the area we were parked in to the starting line.  It had to at least have been a mile, if not more.  Because every runner wants to hike that far before running in either a marathon, half marathon, or 10K race, yes?  Anyway…we managed.  I got to bypass security since I was a runner, but Cathy and Jenn had to have bags searched and get wanded down before entering the race area.  But once we were through, we made our way past the finish line and to the start area of the race.  It was still dark.  And…yeah…it was about 43 degrees out.  I had packed my running skirt and a tank top, so thankfully I had arm warmers with me.  Or I might have been a little colder than I was.  As it was, I kept my hoodie on for as long as I could before the start of the race.  But as the sun began to come up and the 7:30 a.m. race start crept closer, Cathy took the hoodie from me.  She and Jenn went to go find a spot along the start area to watch for me and I started to line up with the marathoners and other 10K runners.

At the Air Force races, the marathon and 10K head off together.  They split at mile 3 and go separate directions.  The half marathon starts an hour later at 8:30 a.m.  The opening ceremonies were done.  The national anthem was beautifully sung.  And then the B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber flew over the start line.  It was SO cool.  I was grinning like a fool.  Then…the wheelchair participants were sent off 5 minutes ahead of time…as well as the blind runner who was doing the marathon.  And soon…the marathon and 10K racers were off with the shot of a gun.

I was actually through the starting gate faster than anticipated.  Jenn luckily spotted me and got a picture of my back as I ran past.  Cathy totally missed me until Jenn pointed me out.  That’s what happens with bigger races and all four of the race events for the Air Force Marathon, Half Marathon, 10K and 5K were SOLD OUT!  So, it was pretty big.

And so…I was off.  Sans music, by the way.  I mention this because I normally run races with my iPod Nano.  But Cathy didn’t pack it.  She thought she had…but it was left at home in the gym bag.  So, I ran this one completely without my tunes.  I have run without music at races that don’t allow headphones, but this one had no restrictions…so I was a bit bummed about that.  But…you know…you just get over it and get going.

The chilly weather was a nice change of pace, since the last big race I ran was the Indianapolis Women’s Half Marathon in the 90% humidity that nearly killed me.  Once I got moving, the chill didn’t feel so cold.  I was still glad I had those arm warmers on, but very glad I didn’t pack the long pants.  The skirt was perfect.

The first mile of this race felt good.  I took it easy.  I decided I was just going to run this one easy.  Not push too hard.  And I just sort of paced myself for the first mile, leading up to this long, steep incline that lasted from just before mile 1 to around 2.5 miles.  Seriously.  This is not an exaggeration.  For a moment I never thought it would level off or start any sort of descent.  But, with the hill behind me, I was now making my way to the split where the Marathon runners go one way and the 10K runners go the other.  I was on the wrong side at first…so, I quickly changed lanes and got into the proper side to make my turn into Mile 3.  I was almost halfway there.  I made a point not to look at my pace or my time.  I just wanted to run what was comfortable.  So…that’s how I kept it.

Mile 4 brought us back to the Air Force Museum.  We were about to lap the museum.  And as I hit Mile 4.5, I could hear them announce the winner of the 10K, followed soon after by the first female and 2nd place overall.  Awesome.  I was now feeling the excitement.  Mile 5 ticked by and I knew that I was down to the last 1.2 miles.  I pushed only a little…because I was determined to pass a woman who passed me up long before.  She pushed too hard too soon, and I sort of saved some for the finish…so I passed her and just kept on going.  I could hear the announcer, saying names of the finishers, talking about groups finishing together.  Now it was getting real.  I ran closely behind two guys as we rounded into Mile 6, and the Finish line came into view.  That is an amazing sight no matter how long or short the race is.  I pushed a bit more, feeling my tired legs.  One of the airmen on the side cheering the runners on said “WOOO KAREN!  YOU GO WITH YOUR PIGTAILS!”  It made me smile.  And so I pressed on and blew across the finish line, waiting before I stopped my Garmin.  I have learned.  LOL!

I walked through runner services, receiving my finisher’s medal from a very handsome airman, who also shook my hand and congratulated me.  For the first time ever, I was handed a “space blanket” to wrap around myself to keep warm.  This made me stupidly happy for some reason.  Go figure.  I stopped to get an official finisher photo in front of the backdrop, then went through the area where bananas and chocolate milk and bagels and pizza were being offered.  I snagged a banana and a bottle of chocolate milk before meeting Jenn and Cathy outside of the runner services area.

We hugged and I snacked on my KindBar I brought with me.  Then hurried over to get my results from the tent.  I was hoping it would give official stats, but it only spit out my time.  As I wandered back over to where Cathy and Jenn were waiting, I glanced at my time…and thought I might have set a new 10K PR.  I had Cathy look up my time for the Rhodes City Run (my fastest 10K to date) while I finished snacking.  When she said my time, I jumped in the air, pumping a fist with an exclamation of “FUCK YEAH!”  I was a little excited…because I beat my time by almost 3 full minutes.  Beyond happy.  For real.

We stood around a little bit longer, then began to make our way back toward the Air Force Museum.  Cathy went to see if she could find out what my placement was (that was a negative).  So while she was gone, Jenn and I cheered on more 10K runners coming around the curve to head for the finish line.  It was then we saw the first wheelchair racer in the marathon come in.  It was SO cool.  When Cathy joined us, we went to the museum, checked out the gift shop, and then headed out to grab Starbucks and return to Columbus for the remainder of the weekend.

The official results of the Air Force Marathon 10K have me finishing in 51:58.  I was 120/1233 overall.  I was 25/711 women runners to cross the finish line for the 10K.  And I placed 25/96 in my age division.  I couldn’t have been happier with these results, honestly.  I was just elated with them.  And I set a new 10K PR!  Thrilled!!

The way this race was run, the people, the setting, the amazing atmosphere, the organization…all of it was awesome.  And I do hope to make it back next year…perhaps to try for the half marathon instead.  I had a great time and loved every single moment of my race experience.  If you are looking for a well-run race…consider one of the Air Force races in Dayton.  It’s totally worth the trip.

The road to recovery and reaching 700 miles

700 MILES!

700 MILES!

This has not been an easy road for me.  I started off my year strong with a goal of running 500 miles by December.  Well, that happened back in June.  With that being said, I decided just to keep going…see what all I could manage beyond that.  Tentative goal…perhaps 1000 miles this year.

And then…the great plantar fascia tear happened and I had the three week set-back that included no form of running at all.  When I should have been increasing my distance and miles for an upcoming half marathon (at that point…only 4 weeks away), I was sitting on the couch, doing foot exercises given to me by my podiatrist and physician, praying with all my might that the pain would go away and that I would make the Indianapolis Women’s Half Marathon.

I got fitted for orthodics…which I hate.  I hate them like death.  I have only run in them once, but I am going to put some more mileage in on them this coming week.  Why?  Because that is what my podiatrist wants.  My feet are adjusting to them when I walk around in them, so it is time to see what I can do in them on my runs.  But not the longer ones yet.  I’m not prepared for that.  I can tell you…my feet aren’t either.

Slowly…I got back out to the roads.  Barely at first.  A couple miles here.  A couple miles there.  I was afraid to run.  Here I am doing one thing that has always brought me joy…and I have this almost paralyzing fear to do it.  And when I would go out, I would run painfully slow…afraid that if I pushed more or harder, I’d hurt myself again.

This went on for weeks…and then, just before the Indianapolis Women’s Half Marathon…I decided to just face my fear…and go out for a run.  Just find a good pace.  Stick with it.  The problem was…the summer has been brutal so pushing would expend way too much of my energy and by the end of my run, I would be ready to collapse.  But, I pressed on, even if it wasn’t the level I had hoped for.  And my speed, very slowly, began to return.

And then, with the permission of my podiatrist, an amazing tape job on my feet, and a promise to take it easy…I made it to the start of the Indianapolis Women’s Half Marathon.  The weather was, as it had been, brutal.  More so with Hurricane Isaac on the brink of making it to Indianapolis.  The humidity was at 90% and the race started out under a red flag.  This half marathon almost did me in.  It took me days to recover from it.  I was dehydrated, despite having water with me and keeping a slower half marathon pace.  I wilted more and more as the race went on and just prayed to reach the finish line.  Which I did…sooner than I even anticipated.  No new PR…but I wasn’t there to set one.  I was there to return to running and face my fears.

And with all that done, my next half marathon was only a month and a half away.  So, I jumped immediately back into training (again).  I know that recovery time is important, and due to the strain of that half marathon on my body, I really did listen and slow down until I felt back up to par.  In addition, I started doing circuit training workouts to help build up some core strength, and perhaps strengthen some muscles.  I’ve almost done it for a full week now and I’m already feeling stronger.  My runs…are feeling better.

Or maybe that’s the break in the hot weather.

This morning, I’m heading out for my long run.  I don’t know how far I’ll go, but I’m going to run over at Seneca Park in Louisville, Kentucky for the first time.  Why?  It’s a chilly 57 degrees out this morning…and I just need a change of scenery.  I’ve run everywhere in New Albany.  I know where the hills are, where the flat areas are, where it’s difficult to run due to traffic lights, etc.  I need to just go out there…to run.  No worries.  Just focus on starting slow, and then building into it.  That’s the only way to properly prepare for a half marathon…and I want to work on that.

With the Hershey Half Marathon only weeks away, I’m already looking forward to it.  September has arrived and the weather is starting to cool down.  Humidity…going down.  And I find myself more eager than ever to go out for my runs.

Here’s to staying strong, to staying injury-free, and to the next 100 miles…

Indianapolis Women’s Half Marathon – Indianapolis, IN (September 1, 2012)

Me crossing the finish line of the Indianapolis Women's Half Marathon – Indianapolis, Indiana

Me crossing the finish line of the Indianapolis Women’s Half Marathon – Indianapolis, Indiana

Race: Indianapolis Women’s Half Marathon

Place: Indianapolis, Indiana

Date: September 1, 2012

Time: 2:05:28

Let me start off by saying that this was one of the most difficult half marathons I have ever participated in.  It had nothing to do with the course (which was wonderfully flat).  Nor the number of people.

What made this race so difficult was the conditions it was run under.

The Good: It didn’t rain on us.  In fact, the rain that the remnants of Isaac was supposed to bring pretty much stayed in Illinois until around 6 p.m. that evening.  And even then, it was a passing downpour that was gone.  So, my shoes live to see another race.  YAY.

The Bad: This race began under a RED flag.  For those of you who are new to running or are unfamiliar with the flag system on race day…let me sum this up:

  • Green Flag: Low risk.  If the Green Flag is displayed – Go, Go, Go.
  • Yellow FlagModerate risk.   If the Yellow Flag is displayed – The heat index is at a point where runners/walkers should slow their pace if they are sensitive to the heat.  Participants should be aware of their hydration level.
  • Red Flag: High risk.  If the Red Flag is displayed – Participants should be aware that heat illness is possible and should slow down and increase their hydration.  If they are sensitive to heat or humidity, they should not run.
  • Black Flag: Extreme risk.  If the Black Flag is displayed – Runners should slow to a walk and walkers should walk very slowly.  Stop, rest, seek shade.

So, while the rain held off, the weather conditions weren’t exactly ideal for a half marathon.

The Ugly: Running on a healing torn plantar fascia.  Also, running in 90% humidity.  Let me tell you…this sucks!!  Imagine running and trying to breathe through a wet towel.  Welcome to my Saturday morning race.  I promise you…this didn’t feel good and it literally took me out afterwards.  I’ll get to that later…

For now…we start at the beginning…which was Friday evening at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Indianapolis.  Getting there wasn’t a problem, despite not being able to leave early from work.  As long as I got there before the race expo closed, I was golden.  It felt like a very near thing…but there isn’t much that you can do when more than half your office is already off and both myself and my roommate were pretty much the only people on our respective teams there.  So…yeah…meh.  The important thing is I got there in time for packet pick-up, which was what needed to happen.

Now, this race is only in its second year, so it is really small compared to most other half marathons I run in.  I think the original count for pre-registers for the half marathon was 1799 as of Friday afternoon when I left the office to head to Indianapolis.  This does make it the smallest half marathon I have run.  But, that’s rather respectable for a second year race.  However, I was kind of bummed about the race expo.  It just…was a whole lot of nothing.  Granted, everything that was promised on the Web site was there, I just thought it was going to be bigger.  The expo was spread out over the 2nd and 3rd floors of the Hyatt Regency, but what it consisted of were some vendors in with packet pick-up, then a few scattered tables outside of the giant ballroom that was in.  Then on the third floor, a couple other races and vendors were promoting their respective races/merchandise.  And…that was it.  There were manicures being done and some massages, but that had pretty much wrapped up by the time I had gotten there anyway from the Louisville area.

With that said and done…Cathy and I headed over to Noodles & Company for dinner.  We got it to go, opting to head back to the room, put our feet up and relax some while we ate.  Now…with me being gluten-free, Noodles & Company pretty much has one thing I can eat.  The Pad Thai.  Fine.  Except I couldn’t get a protein on it.  The tofu isn’t gluten-free.  And I’m a vegetarian, so the chicken, shrimp, steak or meatballs.  So…I was protein-less when it came to dinner, which actually bummed me out…but what can you do?  At least it had 76 grams of carbohydrates.  And to compensate for not getting a protein, I got a small bowl of strawberries to enjoy as well.  And that was dinner.  So, very light on the protein, but good on the carbs.  It was something at least.

Of course, after eating I was restless and kind of wanted a dessert.  So, we headed through the skywalk to the Circle Center Mall.  We wandered around for a bit and then stumbled into Godiva.  I got an Extra Dark Chocolate Truffle and that was my treat pre-race.   Cathy got a truffle as well, then found a place that sold Diet Mt. Dew in the bottle so she could have some caffeine in the morning.

We went back to the hotel to unwind, relax, and catch up on the weather.  At that time, they were still predicting heavy rains to make it into the Indianapolis area and completely soak the city for much of Saturday.  Meh.  So, I decided to lay out my race clothes for the following day.  I decided on a pair of shorts and a bra top.  Less fabric meant less to weigh me down in the rain.  With that done, I set out my race number, safety pins, headband, shoes, socks, and ponytail holders nearby…and called it a night.

And it was a restless night.  But I never sleep well the night before a race.  Especially when I’m away from home.  I just get restless and think too much or worry over things (in this case…Hurricane Isaac).

The alarm went off at 5:40 a.m., but I had already gotten up and gotten dressed.  This was more of Cathy’s wake-up alarm, because I was already in my race clothes and just curled up in bed…waiting for her to figure out it was time to wake up.  She actually got out of bed faster than I anticipated, so I set to getting myself fed to fuel up for the morning.  This meant a bowl of Envirokidz Gluten-Free Amazon Frosted Flakes (eaten dry) and a banana with Justin’s Almond Butter for some potassium and protein.  This is my typical pre-big-race meal.  I now my tummy can handle it as long as I eat it an hour before I run.  Which…was definitely manageable.  Cathy ate her breakfast as well and downed her Diet. Mt. Dew to help her wake up.  Then, I went to brush my teeth, pull my hair up, get my Garmin and my Road ID on, put on my headband, lace up my shoes, and then go and have Cathy pin my number on.

Problem.  My race bib was bigger than my bra top.  HAHA!  Story of my life.  I was going to put on my tank, but then figured I’d just wear my skirt and pin it to the front of that.  So, I changed from short to skirt…which I was okay with…because there was no rain falling from the sky yet and it looked like it would at least be out of the area for the duration of the race.  So, that wardrobe change wouldn’t affect anything at all.  Now that I had a place for my race bib, I was pinned up and ready to run.  Cathy grabbed my sign, again because there was no rain, and we headed down to the lobby of the Hyatt.

Plenty of women were milling about, eating, stretching, taking, getting coffee…whatever it was they felt needed to be done.  We walked through and found a semi-vacant area where I managed to get some minimal stretching done before Cathy was telling me we should move outside.  So…out the doors we went and headed toward where the start line was going to be.

And it was then that the announcement was made that due to the high humidity, the race would begin under a red flag so runners should not aim to set any new PRs or the like on this race.  We were told to run smart and to stay safe.  And if the flag was changed to black, we were given instructions on what to do and how to proceed.  Well, I’ve run races under green and yellow flag conditions.  This was my first red flagged one.  With the conditions, we were also told that much of the non-essentials had been removed from the course.  There were still water stops and volunteers there, but some of the signage and the like had been removed for safety purposes.  This also meant the original corralled start by pace wasn’t not happening.  Instead, once the road was closed down just before the race, all the women in the half marathon moved up toward the start line (which had a lot of wire strung out over it to register and start bib chip timing), with no sense as to pace.  It was just a gaggle of women, of varying speeds, intermingled and strewn out across the road.

Cathy had given me a good luck hug and moved on toward the starting area to prepare for the start.  The National Anthem was sung, beautifully, by a group of women (fitting as this is an all-women race).  And then…we were all pretty much unprepared but suddenly we were on the run.  The blowhorn went off and we all made our dash across the starting line and began our journey through the streets of Indianapolis.  Just women…all on a mission.

I was told about 15 minutes after our start the Indianapolis Women’s 5K Race went off without a problem.

But…I was running the half marathon.  And due to the fact that I was coming back from a bad, bad injury (a torn plantar fascia in my left foot that literally left me immobile without the aid of crutches for two weeks), I had promised my podiatrist that I wouldn’t break any land speed records.  My foot felt great that morning, but I didn’t want to press my luck.  I started off at a good pace…probably a little faster than I intended, and that was when the sheer weight of the humidity hit.  I wasn’t even a half a mile into the race and I was already drenched.  I could tell then this was going to be a difficult one.  I just didn’t know how difficult until I got further into it.

The first couple miles I maintained a normal race pace for me, so I had to actually tell myself to slow down.  It was early and I still had a lot of race left.  I hit the 5K mark at what would be a slow 5K for me, so my reminder did work.  I was already starting to really feel what running in high humidity does to the body.  I was really feeling tired.  It wasn’t fatigue from not sleeping well.  I’ve gotten the same or less amount of sleep prior to all my other half marathons.  This was the soul-sucking, energy-sapping humidity and it was really giving me a fight.  At mile 5, I had to crack open my Sports Beans and take a few with some water (I carry my own water bottle).  This helped a little.  I felt a little more energized the next few miles.  Mind you, I have never had to break into my Sports Beans so early in a race.  I normally hit them up around Mile 10.  But that wasn’t happening.  I needed a boost because I was really feeling like I was losing energy and fast.

It was about at Mile 5 I decided to walk a water stop and take in some cold water the volunteers were handing out.  I haven’t walked a water stop since I ran the Chicago Half Marathon a year ago.  But given the humid conditions, the fact that I was trying to recover from a bad injury, and that cold water sounded better than the lukewarm stuff now in my bottle, I walked the stop.  I drank a little of it, then poured the rest of it over my head.  Which was fine, except it loosened one of my ear buds.  And then I couldn’t get it back in.  So, I just tucked it into my bra strap and carried on with only one ear bud in and my music still going to keep me company on the road.  I figured I could attempt to tuck it back into my ear further up the way.  Problem was, when I tried…I noticed that the actual cushion on my Yurbuds was now missing, so putting it back in my ear wasn’t happening.  GRRR.  Oh well…

I noticed a lot of women who were slowing down and walking more than usual at these races.  But the humidity was causing a lot of problems with hydration and stomach issues. Many women were getting stomach cramps.  Some were not able to keep anything down.  Some just needed to use one of the port-a-potties along the course.  The gist of this is…we were fighting.  All of us doing this race were literally at war with the humidity…and it was starting to win.

At Mile 8, a volunteer on a bike came riding the other way telling all the women running by to make sure they stopped and got water at that water stop.  I decided she was right and I should do that.  I was already fighting to lift my legs again, so I figured another drink of cold water would refresh me.  I poured the rest over my head again and carried on.

Two more miles ticked by…and the race was getting harder and harder.  This course was very flat.  But the humidity was unrelenting and many women who were being cheered on by their friends/family members along the course were declaring that they didn’t feel to great, despite insistent compliments from their loved ones that they looked great.  Around Mile 10, I was heading toward the crest of a very minor incline and on the corner, a man was standing there shouting down the hill at one of the women who had chosen to walk for a moment.  In this sort of weather, under a red flag, that is to be expected.  He was just harassing her, telling her that she needed to run, that this was a run not a walk, and it was just plain mean.  A man walking the other way shouted at him and said, “Hey!  Be nice!  They’ve come a long way.”  The heckler replied, “Fine, I’ll be nice.  Run.  RUN!”  Grrr.  I just wanted to smack him upside the head…but I didn’t want to expend any of my energy on him and focused on the last 3.1 miles.  That was all that remained.  A 5K.

Longest 5K ever.  And at some point in the early part of it, my other ear bud refused to remain in my ear, so it was done without music to motivate me through.  Let me tell you…it was a struggle.  I glanced at my Garmin at one point and saw my pace at 11:54, which I have never run at.  That is like…amazingly slow for me.  But each step felt like a battle I was losing.  I got out my Sports Beans again, though they didn’t even sound appetizing, and downed a few more with some of the water left in my water bottle.  By Mile 11, I was doing a little better.  Mile 12…I was starting to see more spectators and the extra encouragement always helps on a hard race.

It was also at this point we were rounding a corner to head toward the finish in White River State Park and we were directed around where some Barbeque Festival was going on.  Let me tell you…after running in 90% humidity and feeling like (I’m not going to candy-coat this, friends) shit, the last thing I wanted to smell was charring meat.  I mean, aside from being a vegetarian, it was pretty much stomach-churning at that point.  But, I pressed on and came around a corner, seeing the entrance for White River State Park.  I was almost there.

I think it was sheer stubbornness that got me across that finish line in the time I managed.  I figured I’d finish more around my first half marathon time (Chicago 2011 – 2:20:51), but with Cathy cheering me on near the finish line, and tons of spectators just making some noise, I pressed on.  The announcer said my name as I crossed…and that was that.  Race done.  I got my race chip deactivated and headed into runner’s services, where I was given my finisher’s medal, a beautiful rose, a bottle of water, and a banana.  I waved at Cathy and set my stuff down to get my finisher’s photo taken in front of a backdrop, then continued on to where Cathy was waiting for me.  She gave me a hug and we moved away to give other finisher’s and families/friends space to locate each other.

The massage tent was just up the way.  So I cracked open my bottle of water, took a few sips, and headed over to get signed in.  I was told to head into Line 3, which I did.  Cathy dug out my protein shake and then hurried to go check the unofficial finishing times.  While she was gone, I was chatting with the woman ahead of me about the race and we both thought the humidity was just enough to do anyone in.

And as Cathy returned…I handed her my protein shake, which I managed a couple of sips from and said it wasn’t sitting well in my stomach.  A moment later, I looked over at her and told her I felt really light headed.  She told me to lay down and put my feet up in the air.  Which I did…and that helped.  A lot.  After a couple moments, I felt better and got back up.  This lasted for a few minutes, and then I was feeling light headed and seeing a lot of black in my vision.  So, I laid back down and got my feet elevated again, and remained that way until it was my turn for the massage chair.  As my legs were feeling heavy, I asked to have them worked on, which my masseuse did to perfection.  She was very nice and kept me talking about running, racing, and other such things.  I felt so much better afterwards, drank some water and called my mom and dad as the unofficial results had posted my time.

I meandered back to the hotel with Cathy where I ducked into the bathroom to shower off.  Thank God for that hotel stay for another day.  I needed a cool shower to really bring me back to life.  I took my time…just let the sweat (or liquid awesome) just wash away.  I got out of the shower, dried off, and dressed for the rest of the day, which involved sushi for lunch, a visit to the Indiana State Museum, more sushi, rest, and then dinner at The Adobo Grill.  For much of the visit to the museum, I felt awful.  I managed to get through the three floors of displays and the like and it was only when we were in the gift store that I told Cathy I was ready to leave.  I wasn’t feeling good.  It was dehydration.  Because when I got back up to the room, I got my large bottle of smart water and began drinking that…and I was feeling revived.  The second round of vegetarian sushi was an added pick-me-up as well.

So…I managed to make it through to the finish, though the humidity kicked my butt in the process…and honestly almost did me in.  But I made it through to the finish and recovered the rest of the weekend.

Official result for the Indianapolis Women’s Half Marathon are that I finished in 2:05:28.  I was 236/1416 finishers overall.  And I was 46/254 women in my division.  Fighting back from injury, walking water stops, and battling the weather made this a bittersweet finish.  It’s my second slowest half marathon time…but I felt like I fought for every second of it.  And I couldn’t be happier with these results.  Sure, part of me wonders what I might have managed had the humidity been better or even walked the water stops…despite having an injury…I think I could have set a new PR.  But this was not the race for that.  Not under these conditions.  And I’m okay with that.  I overcame a lot to get to this race and I overcame more to get through it.

And for that…I feel like a winner.

Me conquering my injury, my doubts, and the humidity at the Indianapolis Women's Half Marathon.

Me conquering my injury, my doubts, and the humidity at the Indianapolis Women’s Half Marathon.