Race: Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon
Place: Louisville, Kentucky
Date: April 19, 2014
Ahhh…where to start? Where do I even begin to start?! There was so much excitement coming into this race because there were people I knew who were flying or driving in to run either the full or the half marathon. And if that wasn’t enough excitement…I was asked by one of them to pace her to a sub-4 marathon finish. I didn’t have to think about this at all. I was more than happy to assist my friend, Colleen, in attempting to meet her goal. And that…my friends…is the reason for the asterisk on this post. I wasn’t running this race to race it for me. I was running it to help a friend…and come what may, I was staying by her side the entire time. I take my “job” as a pacer very seriously…and I trained to run at an easier pace than I normally would for a marathon.
But…I might be getting ahead of myself a little.
First of all, there was the expo. As I am local to the area, I figured it would be much better for me to hit up the expo on Thursday, before the mad crush on Friday set in. So, after work, I headed over the river to the Kentucky International Convention Center in downtown, Louisville, Kentucky. There weren’t a lot of signs that directed people to where the expo was, so Cathy and I simply followed the crowds, figuring someone had to have an idea of where they were going. This did pay off, and soon we were on an escalator heading up to where the expo was being held.
Most expos in Louisville are small matters. And while this one was not huge…it wasn’t just a couple of tables and Fleet Feet either. In fact, walking in, I ended up going to the table for the mini marathon (actually a half marathon…as there are different definitions of what a mini marathon is)…and then had to slide over to the full marathon where I picked up my race packet (which included a woman’s tech shirt, a hat, and other goodies). I was complimented on already having my wallet out and ready…the volunteer going, “Well, you’ve done this before, I see.” Oh yeah…a few times. *WINK*
After receiving my packet, Cathy and I turned to see about walking through the actual expo part. But first, we both stopped to sign the “I run because…” wall. Cathy put up something about not being a runner, but being great at ringing a cowbell (AWESOME!), and I wrote a tribute to my grandpa. It was fitting. We hit up the official merchandise first, where my phone rang. I answered it, and unfortunately, it was a friend of mine giving me some horrible news about her sister. Her sister was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer and she asked that I do something for her sister during my race. I wasn’t going to say no to that. At all. I was more than happy to help. After I hung up, I ran into Harry and Tammy, two people I often run with, and we stood around and talked for a little while. Cathy spotted the official Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon BondiBand…and I knew I was making that purchase. But then I spotted these bright lime green arm warmers. Upon trying on the smallest size, I found that they actually fit my little noodle-y arms. That doesn’t happen often. So…I ended up with those as well. I immediately said I was not allowed to buy anything else. So, I spent the rest of the time winding my way through the expo and trying not to get too caught up in it where I end up buying more stuff. I managed.
I knew my friend Kat and her boyfriend, Adam, were at the expo as well, so I gave a quick text to find out where she was. She was in from Buffalo, New York and I was really looking forward to seeing her. She had already made her way through the expo and they were sitting outside the entrance. I exited…and my bib was activated as I did so…and spotted her immediately. We ran up and gave each other a hug. Kat was going to run the half marathon with our friend Andrea. Andrea’s husband and our friend Silvia was doing the full with Colleen and I. And our entire group was getting together Friday night at Martini’s in Louisville for pre-race food. But, I got some time to chat with Kat and discuss where she was eating Thursday night (she wanted local breweries…and found one!). We said good-bye for the time being as it was getting late and I still needed my customary night before the night before a marathon meal – Indian food. It was off to Shalimar where I got a the vegan Yellow Dahl…spicy of course…and everything seemed right with the world. Got home around 8:30 p.m. where I got things ready for work in the morning and went to bed.
Friday morning came and I got up to do my shakeout run per my training program. Three miles. Race pace. Or 25 minutes of running. Whichever came first. I did an easy run for three miles and then went inside to get ready for work. Normally I would go to spin class on Friday…but not this time. I needed fresh legs for Saturday’s race. That threw me off, by the way…having a marathon on a Saturday. I’m so used to Sunday races. All I needed to do was get through the workday and then it was fun times at Martini’s with my racing friends.
The workday did go by relatively fast. There was some discussion about the upcoming race as the receptionist wanted to know where Cathy was going to be as one of her son’s and her husband were running. Her son was doing the full; her husband was taking on the half marathon. In fact, her husband came in to take her to lunch and we talked a little bit about the course and how the events were going to unfold that following morning. But when 4:30 p.m. hit, I was out the door with Cathy and we were winging our way to Martini’s in Louisville.
We arrived just as Kat and Adam were arriving. Imagine that. The rest of the crew, Andrea, Aaron, and Silvia were there. We were simply waiting on Colleen…who flew in from Chicago and was taking a taxi to the restaurant. If I had thought about it beforehand, I would have offered to pick her up on the way from her hotel. Anyway…it was taking awhile to get there…traffic was insane. So, we all just made small chat and browsed the menu on occasion. We had plenty to talk about and most of it had to do with racing. Well…that and acquaintances and life and everything else. In fact…there wasn’t too much discussion about the race going on at all. Rather, we discussed previous races we had done…and how we were feeling…and what we might like to eat that night. Some ordered wine. I stuck with water. Bread was brought to the table. I’m gluten-free and didn’t touch it. Kat, who has a dairy allergy, was brought a dairy-free ciabatta bread to enjoy. That was very nice of the chef and the restaurant to do.
And…then Colleen appeared. And we all greeted her happily and let her get settled in. I wanted to sit next to her so we could discuss her race strategy if needed. The waitress who was tending to us was kind enough to take a picture of our group. And with that, we were ready to get to the business of pre-race fueling the night before. And I actually had to do something different this time. Every race prior to this, gluten-free pizza is a must for me. I always have gluten-free pizza. It works. Martini’s has gluten-free pasta…but not pizza. So…I changed it up. I altered my usual plan. I had…the Gluten-Free Pomodoro, which was gluten-free fusilli pasta (brown rice) that was topped light garlic tomato sauce, a basil chiffonade, and I asked them to leave the mozzarella off…due to my lactose intolerance. I don’t play around before a marathon. Nope. Everyone else put in their orders and we were left to return to our various conversations. I was jumping back and forth on topics with a variety of people…which is how I roll. And after a little bit of a wait, our food began arriving. My order was perfect…no cheese…gluten-free…and it looked amazing. It smelled good too. Everyone else received their plates…but the kitchen forgot to do Kat’s dairy-free pasta with the brown rice pasta as requested. Hers was sent back but she told us to go ahead and start while she waited on her replacement dish. After a small wait…her food was served and we all were digging in.
Another thing I did differently…I didn’t have dessert. I have always treated myself to a dessert the night before a marathon. And while Martini’s did have some gluten-free options…they weren’t dairy free. So, alas…I went without. It was strange…not having that little sweet treat at the end of the celebratory meal. A few of my peeps enjoyed either a drink or dessert…but then…we all agreed it was time to head back to our respective hotels or homes…because it was going to be an early morning. Cathy and I volunteered to take Colleen back down to her hotel near the convention center…and we ended up doing a scenic tour because I-71 was backed up. Taking the long way around gave us some more time to chat with her though…and we soon got her to her hotel and we headed home ourselves.
I made some tea…did my physical therapy stretches…and foam rolled. I had every intention of getting to bed early, but by the time we got home and by the time I was done doing my necessary stretching…it was a normal bedtime. Ah well. I never get to bed early on race nights, even when I make every attempt to do just that. Nothing new here. The only part that concerned me was that the downstairs neighbors were having a rowdy party. Seriously. I turned on the fan in my room and turned up the sound machine. Thankfully…this drowned out all the noise. I was not, however, afraid to be that neighbor who called the cops.
My first alarm of two (my usual race morning routine) went off at 3 a.m. I got out of bed and did the first part of my race morning routine…then went back to bed for about an hour. The second alarm went off and I was so tempted to stay curled up in bed. But I knew Cathy would be getting up in another hour and I had to get on my race gear, get some coffee, get some breakfast, and do my physical therapy stretches as well. So…I reluctantly got out of my cozy bed and went to pour myself some coffee (which I set to automatically brew, giving me time to drink it and pee before I left the apartment…no such thing as TMI, folks!). I had my outfit laid out the night before, so I put on a coat of Body Glide, eased into my race day clothes, put on my Newton’s (the first time I was running a marathon in this particular pair…the new pair…which I bought in Atlanta). I did my stretches for my ankle and legs and then heard Cathy come out of her room. So…I got up to pour her coffee and get our cereal bowls down and filled. We tried to have a relaxing morning, but I was just…everywhere. I put my water and Nuun into their bottles then attached them to my fuel belt. I stashed my GU packets in my pockets where I could easily get to them…and stocked a few extra in my fuel belt…just in case. I slipped into my hoodie. I brushed my teeth and put my hair in pigtails with my colors of choice…rainbow…and pink. I don’t know why…it just seemed right. And then…Cathy grabbed her bag, stashed with more Nuun, more water, and my protein shake, a towel, med kit…and other items…grabbed how cow bell…and grabbed my sign. And we were out the door.
Our first stop was the Sheraton in Jeffersonville to pick up Andrea, Aaron and Silvia. They were providing me with a (big) race day banana so I wouldn’t have to swing by the grocery store the night before. We made plenty of big banana jokes because we are totally awesome like that. It was just a short drive over the bridge and into parking at the KFC YUM! Center. No problems at all. We stashed what we didn’t need in the car and began to hike down the sidewalk toward the start line.
We were quite a few blocks away, but it did allow us to see the start line and walk past the corral system. Originally I was placed in Corral B…but everyone else was in Corral C…so I decided to hop back to where all the cool kids were. But…first…I had a 7 a.m. photo to be present for. The Marathon Maniacs were meeting near bag check…in front of Slugger Field…to have our group photo taken. That wasn’t happening yet…so I figured I’d not be a princess for a moment and go use one of the port-o-potties. I was the first person in mine…and had to figure out how to get the paper wrapper of the toilet paper. Thankfully this one had the antibacterial lotion to put on your hands afterwards. Afterwards, Silvia (also a Marathon Maniac) and I went over to Slugger Field and got with the gathered Maniacs and Half Fanatics. This was where I found Harry. YAY! I gave him a hug and we chatted for a little bit before the photo op. And then…photo madness. I was asked if I could squat down some because “you’re really tall.” I thanked the girl for saying that…as I’ve never been called “very tall” before in my life. I’ll take it! Cathy ended up on photo duty for a lot of people and she did it with style. And then…we all dispersed. Silvia and I went back to where we left Aaron and Andrea…who were waiting on Kat and Colleen. Kat showed up across the street and we went to go meet up with her. Except as Andrea forged ahead, I met up with my running buddy, Patrick. He was also in Corral C…so we hugged and I told him I’d see him in the corral. I never saw him again…
I made it through the stream of people and got up to where Kat and Andrea were waiting. Adam came to take a picture of the three of us. And Aaron made his way over as well. Kat and Andrea were doing the mini…so they were in Corral A. WOOHOO!! The rest of us fell into Corral C…where I was in search of my race buddy for the next 26.2 miles. And, thankfully…we did find Colleen…whew. I wasn’t sure what I would do if I didn’t find the person I promised to pace. We moved up a little…I searched for Patrick…but with no luck. And we eagerly awaited the start.
It was actually a cool morning with a wind. I was shivering a little in my short sleeves and skirt, but I know I warm up fast…so this was actually not a bad idea. As the race progressed, I was kind of wishing I had on a tank. If my number had been attached to my fuel belt (which I normally do, but changed that up too, pinning it to my shirt) and not my Wonder Woman tech shirt…than I probably would have shed the shirt and just gone in the sports bra…about the time we got through Churchill Downs. Just saying. When it warmed up…it warmed up quickly.
Again…I’m getting ahead of myself…
The wheelchair racers were sent off and the elites and first corral eagerly anticipated their start. We heard the countdown…and the start. And we stood as our corral wasn’t going anywhere yet. In fact…even as the different corrals were brought up to the start, this was the first time I was pretty much on top of the start line before I even started to jog. Everyone was just meandering. I’m used to a warm-up jog over the start mat at least 20 feet away. Not here. I even commented to Aaron and Colleen that it felt weird to still be walking.
But we were soon over the start mat and we were off…hitting the streets of Louisville, Kentucky for 26.2 miles. I was super excited and feeling really good.
So was Colleen. The brisk morning was perfect for running. She had an old running jacket on, which she did shed around Mile 2…but we decided to start conservatively. In fact, we lined up just behind the 4 hour pace group. And we stayed there…for about the first three miles. It was as they went through a turn that Colleen and I passed them and stayed ahead of them. That was a good feeling. In fact, we put some distance between us and the pacers…and all the while I would talk to my runner…and ask how the pace felt…how she felt…and told her that we would do what she needed…just to let me know.
It was nice to run with someone. The miles just ticked by. We talked about our jobs, our families, what we liked, what we disliked, how she and I are in the minority…as in we love to eat after running and always get the “runchies” and “runger.” Ah…it’s nice to not be the only one ready to eat after a run. Our miles were coming along great. We both were feeling good. We were actually surprised there was no 5K mat down as we ran past that point. No matter. On with the run. And the morning was absolutely stunning too. We kept on going, loving the people who came out to cheer, taking advantage of their motivation and their funny signs. We passed a runner wearing a birthday balloon. Moments later, the group behind her started to sing happy birthday to her. It was awesome! Before we knew it, we were hitting the 10K mark. As I was acting as a pacer, I actually looked at my watch during this race…and we were making perfect time. In fact, as we came into Mile 8…just before heading into Churchill Downs, we had time to spare. Just in case. As we made the turn to head into Churchill Downs, I turned to Colleen and said, “Now we get to run like pretty ponies.”
For those of you wondering…no…we don’t run on the track. They did have horses out though, so that was cool. We entered the infield and made our way around the paved portion of it. As we came into a turn, I spotted Andrea (I couldn’t miss her in her pink socks). I told Colleen we should try to catch up to her…and we did. I didn’t see Kat…but it turns out Andrea’s IT Band was acting up…and she told Kat to go on without her. Instead, Colleen and I fell into step with her and we ran with her the rest of the way through Churchill Downs…and only parted ways when the split for the mini and the full came up. Colleen and I were to stay to the right…Andrea had to go left. We said goodbye and wished her well…telling her to be careful. And we were now on our way to the challenging part of the run – Iroquois Park.
But there were still a few miles to chase down before we entered the park. I was talking to her, letting her know that while this was a hilly park and there would be some climbs…it wasn’t going to be too bad. And, with the removal of the hill at Mile 23…these would be our only hills this race. YAY! She did make a mention that she was getting a side stitch, so we eased the pace back just slightly to allow her to breathe deeper and see about ridding herself of the cramp. She said she ate way too much for breakfast before the race. But, soon she said it was easing and we kept on and kept easy conversation. We were so busy talking that somehow I missed seeing Mile 10. We were reaching Mile 11…and the park was just head. We came into it…and immediately were sent up our first hill. Colleen wanted to attack the hills and ease up on the downhills…so that was the strategy we were going with. And she really did so well on those hills. Honestly. But the day was heating up…and it was about to take it’s toll on my runner.
She made it through the park in good shape. I pulled ahead of her for a few moments, but would find myself glancing back and seeing her behind me. I’d pull off to the side and wait for her. And we’d continue on. I leapfrogged like this all the way up our final hill in the park and through the downhill that carried us then past the amphitheater and then…back out. A glance over my shoulder and Colleen wasn’t with me again. I got past the crowd and pulled over to the side, keeping my legs moving to prevent cramping. And a moment later, I saw her making her way toward me. I rejoined her again, and we pressed on. I asked how she was feeling…and she said she was definitely feeling it. To make matters worse, she said she had this hard lump (probably her breakfast) in her stomach…and it was just sitting there. It was definitely not making her feel better. And now that we were out of the park, we were out of the shade as well. The sun was high in the sky and the heat was getting to my friend from Chicago…who was not prepared nor acclimated to this sort of weather yet. She was sweating out salt, so I encouraged her to take in some of her electrolyte drink. While her stomach wasn’t feeling well…she did this and…then we had our first walk break.
She was definitely not doing well at all. My job, however, as her pacer, was to get her to that finish line. And I was going to make sure I did just that. She glanced over at me. “I hate that I’m walking right now.” I told her not to worry about it. We would just readjust our goals. She said she still wanted her sub-4…and I said I would do my best to see her there. She started to jog…and then we were off again. Between the heat from the sun and her stomach, she really wasn’t doing well and every mile from here on out was a struggle. But…I was doing my best to keep her mind off of her pain…and into the race. Anything and everything I could think of to keep her moving forward. Even if that forward movement was a walk. And…it was that for some of it. That’s okay. Walk breaks are necessary. At one point, I pulled ahead of her again…and as I glanced back, I slowed down and let her catch up. She was definitely not feeling good at all. I asked how she was doing, and she said she got dizzy back there. So…I told her we’d ease off the pace and at the next water station, she was to take in the Powerade (for the sodium!) and some water. She agreed…and we walked and jogged our way to that next water stop. And she did just as I asked her to!
Colleen was pushing through it…taking breaks where she needed. I told her I wasn’t going to leave her behind, so we stuck together and I helped her tough it out. And when it really got rough, I did everything I could to get her head back into the race. I think the biggest mental break for her, however, was when the 4 hour pace team passed us up. She pushed to stay ahead of them, but when she needed another walk break, they went on ahead. This wasn’t easy for her…as she really, really wanted that sub-4…and was well on her way to that until the race turned ugly for her. I could almost see the defeat in her eyes. So…I told her to set a secondary goal. About six miles out, she said…4:10. I told her it was doable…but we’d take it mile-for-mile.
I talked to a bunch of other runners along the way as we made our way through the streets of Louisville. Things were starting to look familiar again, and I kept pointing ahead and saying, “See that? That’s the skyline…that’s downtown…we’re almost there.” Anything just to get her through this wall and on her way to that finish line. The morning sun was getting warmer and she was really fighting for each stride. We walked more when she needed it, and then I’d get her moving again, telling her to at least jog to the next water stop. Which was a great idea…until there wasn’t a water stop anywhere near us. We did eventually find one…and we walked through it, giving her some time to recover and assess how she felt.
I gotta hand it to Colleen…she is a fighter. And when we came into those last three miles, I said, “It’s just a 5K race now. That’s all. You got this.” And with each mile…I would tell her it was just like being out on an easy training run. She still had a few more walk breaks, but at Mile 25…right at Mile 25…her watched showed 4 hours exactly. It was now my job to see her into her final 1.2 (or in our case 1.42) miles. Every chance I would get I would say something encouraging and really try to drive her home. She felt a little better…and I said we were going to sprint to that finish. We had to go down a stretch of road first before making that turn to the finishing chute. But…I talked her through it, telling her that the finish was right ahead…all that noise…that was her goal.
And we made the turn and we turned on those afterburners. I had a lot of extra energy left, as I wasn’t running this race at pace. In fact…I felt awesome. I found myself flying past people at the finish line. I know the runners I passed were probably wondering what the hell got into me that I could have such a strong finishing kick. But, honestly, my legs felt strong and I was just unstoppable at that point. I crossed the line and moved out of the way. Colleen was just behind me…and when she crossed that finish line, she burst into tears. Not tears of sadness for not hitting that sub-4 goal. You see…she accomplished something far better. She finished her second marathon. She finished strong. She fought through moments of wanting to stop and quit. She proved she was stronger than the course. And…she now had a 17 minute PR for the marathon distance. I pulled her into a hug and we both celebrated our finish.
Afterwards, we made our way through the path, getting handed the Mylar blanket to wrap around us. Kat spotted us from the fence and said that Aaron and Andrea and Silvia were waiting in the recovery area. Colleen and I walked that way, getting our finisher’s medals, some chocolate milk, and desperately seeking out some kind of food. Near where our group had assembled was a table full of bananas. We grabbed one and went to join everyone.
Natalie was there. My sole sister…Natalie. We hugged and just talked and talked and talked. I put my feet up and just joined into the race talk with my friends. I drank down the rest of my Nuun and then started in on my Smart Water. We knew that people had planes to catch and cars to climb back into to head back home…so we didn’t linger for too long. We gave Kat, Adam, and Colleen hugs and wished them safe journeys. They had hotels to return to downtown. The rest of us hiked back to where Cathy parked the car and all climbed in. The drive didn’t take long and soon Andrea, Aaron and Silvia were being dropped off at the hotel. We gave each other hugs and wished safe travels.
And then…that was it. I returned to my apartment to shower. I went out for good gluten-free pizza at Annie May’s Sweet Café. I did some grocery shopping. I kept moving and felt really good all day. But I really missed having everyone around.
I loved acting as Colleen’s pacer. And while she didn’t meet her initial goal, she fought through every bit of pain, self-doubt, and sickness to get herself across that finish line. I am so damn proud of her. And I hope I get the chance to pace her again another time. She’s one tough lady for sure.
Very proud of everyone and how they did in their races. PRs were set. Deeper friendships were forged. And this…was an event I’ll never forget.
So…my official results for the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon are that I finished in a time of 4:13:01 (for 26.42 miles). While Colleen didn’t get her sub-4…she did cut 17 minutes off her last marathon, setting a new PR. I am so happy for her. I was 859/2029 finishers overall. I was the 226/807 women to cross the finish line. And I was 49/160 in my age division. I felt so good after this and I enjoyed helping my friend through this distance and getting her to the finish line. This wasn’t the race she hoped for, but she battled it out and conquered it in the end. I learned a lot from her…and I know she’ll meet her sub-4 goal very soon.
Race: Taper For A Cause 5K
Place: Iroquois Park, Louisville, Kentucky
Date: April 12, 2014
First of all…FINALLY!!
Finally I had a 5K race this year that was the correct length.
Second of all…UGH!! Coming back from injury sucks. It was so disheartening to see my finishing time, compared to where I was last year. I try not to focus on it. I honestly do. But it’s hard…when you know you are capable of doing better…your body just can’t get there. I want to feel strong and fast again. And it isn’t coming back quickly.
I had no idea that Louisville was even holding this race up until Thursday afternoon. Seriously. It came over an e-mail or on Facebook. Somewhere. And I had my friend, Indy, in town. Before heading this way from California, we were hoping to find a 5K race to run. The only one I could find was a trail run. And I do not do trails. So, we were content to just meet up with my running group on Saturday and do some miles and then head out for the day.
But things changed when I heard about this race.
This was the first annual Taper for a Cause 5K, which is a race that was set up by 2012 Boston Marathon winner, Wesley Korir, to benefit the Kenyan Kinds Foundation. The race also boasted the perfect opportunity for Louisville’s running community the opportunity to “taper” for some of Louisville’s finest spring races with a 5K for a great cause. All of the proceeds, in fact, went to the Kenyan Kids Foundation.
Even more exciting, Wesley Korir was going to lead the race. And yes…he was on hand on race day. But I’m getting ahead of myself. While sitting in Game, a local Louisville restaurant, both Indy and I used our cell phones to get registered for the race on Saturday. We were thrilled that it was a 9 a.m. start time…meaning the morning wouldn’t be too early. Remember, she flew in from California…so her clock was a bit off. We were both stupid excited about the race and I was glad that she was going to get to race while here in Kentucky.
Time got away from us on Friday…so we didn’t make it to packet pick-up on Friday over at Swags. That was okay, though…because it was fine to pick it up on race morning. We had a late evening though…with a delicious food and wine pairing at the chef’s counter at Rye so we didn’t get in until late. After unwinding…we finally went to bed.
And I was supposed to run 8 miles this Saturday. Since the race was offering 3.1 miles, I got up earlier than both Cathy and Indy and knocked out five easy miles before breakfast and heading to the race. The drive out to the park was easy…no traffic issues at all. We parked at Iroquois Park and got out of the car, making our way over to the table that had packet pick-up. We got our numbers and our t-shirts. Cathy pinned me up while Indy went ahead and did up her number herself. I ate my banana and then went to use the bathroom really quick. After I returned, I noticed Wesley Korir walking toward the table. I let him take care of his stuff and pick up his race number (he was Bib #1) before I asked if I could get a picture with him. He was very kind and totally was more than happy to fulfill my request. He thanked me for coming out to the race and I thanked him for arranging it and setting it up for people to run for a great cause. He noticed the donkey sign that Cathy has at all races and asked if I ran Chicago. I told him I did and had such a great race. He congratulated me and then I let him move on to the other stuff he needed to do for the race.
We went to put the t-shirts in the car and get some stretching in. Indy had some stretches I hadn’t seen before. I remembered to do some dynamic stretching, which was good because I hadn’t been doing well with my PT stretches with Indy in town. Just ran out of time and was busy enjoying time with my friend. I had a few twinges on the 5 miles I did that morning, so I wanted to be sure to be good about stretching before the run. I kept it dynamic instead of static. I think that was smart.
We saw crowds were beginning to form up near the finish line chute. The owner of Swags began to speak into a bullhorn. He was hard to hear, but he thanked us for coming out and then turned it over to Wesley. Wesley asked how the bullhorn worked and then very graciously filled us in on his reasons for hosting this race and mentioned that the first two males and females would receive awards in the form of bracelets created by the kids in Kenya. Too cool. But I was aiming more on rebuilding my strength rather than finishing near the front.
We were told to move up toward the start line, just a short distance up the way. I lined up near the front It was a small race…as it wasn’t really advertised much…but it did have a bigger turn out than I anticipated. Dennis found me at the start line and I knew he would bust this race out of the park. He did, by the way, after asking what pace I was running and I had to (regretfully) inform him that I wasn’t focusing on pace as I’m still recovering from my ankle injury.
The owner of Swags announced that we would hear a two announcement start. Runners set…then the horn. No runners set was given. Just the horn. So, we sort of faltered at the front…but we took off.
Dennis was gone. He’s so fast. As for me…I just fought my way up the path heading for the first hill to climb in Iroquois Park. I feel so weak these days when it comes to running. My speed is totally gone. So, I was just trying to push just beyond my comfort zone without doing too much to hurt myself. So, I kept it challenging, but comfortable. I had some runners pass me…but I did my best to block out that feeling of total worthlessness…and just focus on breathing and constant forward motion.
As I was coming into around the mile and a half mark, Wesley Korir jogged (no…seriously…jogged) past me and shouted encouragement at me, saying that I looked good out there. And then…he moved on. Apparently, he started at the pack and would say something to the runners he would pass along the way, offering uplifting encouragement and the like. I think that’s amazing.
He was gone, despite just this easy run he was carrying on with as he passed. Amazing!
I moved into Mile 2 and was hitting up more of the hills on the loop that wraps Iroquois Park. I focused on just doing my best to get up them without feeling like I was dying. It was working. Yes…I wasn’t moving as fast as last year. Yes…I feel out of shape and like I’ve lost fitness…and I have…but I’m a fighter and this was part of me proving to myself that I am fighting to get back to where I want to be. It was the perfect race to do that.
I battled up the final hill I was to face and Mile 3 beeped on my watch as the parking lot at the amphitheater came into view. I could just make out the clock at the finish line. I didn’t care about the numbers…or the fact that I was passed by 4 other females. I surprisingly didn’t care about any of that. All I cared about was the fact that I crossed that finish line feeling like I left it all out on that course and performed to the best of my ability. Even after knocking out 5 miles prior to even showing up at the start line.
Wesley Korir greeted me in the chute and handed me a cup of water. He looked right at me and said, “Nice job, Karen!” That was so awesome to hear coming from this amazing runner and man. I thanked him and moved out of the way, finding Cathy. Dennis came over to ask how I did. I said I felt good about the finishing. And he said he was happy with his run. And then he had to get going due to an appointment he had at 10 a.m.
Cathy and I went to go stand at the finish to wait for Indy and cheer people on to the finish line. I love this part. And, not soon after, around the bend came Indy, looking so strong and amazing. She was all smiles as she crossed that finish line, setting a new 5K PR for herself. I went to give her a hug and congratulate her on her run.
We were making some plans to grab some breakfast before heading out for the day for some caving and other adventures. So, she said she’d go ahead and change at the park while I was going to wait until we got to Annie May’s for breakfast to change. It worked out well. While she and Cathy went to the car to get her stuff and Cathy stood sentinel outside the bathroom door that wouldn’t lock, I wandered around the finish line. Wesley Korir had gone out on a shakeout run with some of his friends and returned after making a second loop of the park. He was gracious enough to take pictures with people at the finish line, so I asked if I could get another one. He was so gracious once again. And as he looped his arm around me as a stranger, and very kind runner, took my phone to snap a picture, he said, “You looked strong out there!” What an ego boost. Just what I needed.
I admire and love this man so much. He is such a champion…both in races and in life. Such a kind, generous man.
After that, I wandered back over to the bathrooms just as Indy was coming out. And it was off to breakfast we went, before spending the rest of the day going through Marengo Cave and then hiking around for a little while.
So, my official results of the Taper For A Cause 5K are that I finished in 23:52. I was 20/77 finishers overall. I was 5/42 women finishers. Not bad at all. I’m actually quite okay with this. This is still not the run I know I can bust out…and that will eventually return (I HOPE!), but I am trusting my training and my physical therapists. I’m healing. I keep telling myself that. I…AM…HEALING. It was so awesome to run a local race with my friend visiting from California. We had such a great time. And I am glad the opportunity arose to make this happen while she was in town.
I totally intend to run this one again next year.
Race: Making Tracks for Celiacs 5K
Place: Birmingham, Alabama
Date: April 5, 2014
Please note that once again I am putting an asterisk at the end of an official time for a race. Please note why. According to my Garmin, this race was not the 3.1 miles a 5K runs, but actually 2.92 miles. I don’t hold the Making Tracks for Celiacs people completely at fault for this. Let me explain why.
I found out on the morning of the race during the announcements prior to the start that due to the soccer tournament that was going on, the course we were to run had to be changed. So…they very little time to come up with a new course. But they did. Albeit…a little short.
But, you know…whatever. This stuff happens.
I won’t let it completely dull what turned out to be an amazing experience for me.
Because I did this race with…my mom!
Yep. My mom!! Both my mom and I are Celiacs. So, I try to make it a point to get down to Birmingham, Alabama for this event each year. Last year, I had to miss it as it was on a weekend I had another event already going on. But not this year. And, as a special bonus, I was going to run the race and my mom was going to walk it. We made plans via phone conversations and text messages…both got signed up…and both eagerly anticipated the arrival of the big day.
On Friday, my mom went to the Birmingham Earth Fare store to pick up our packets. The t-shirts for the event were still in transit, so they gave her t-shirts from the previous year and told her that both she and I (she was also picking up my packet) could get this year’s shirt on race morning. Where was I? I was on the road, driving down to Birmingham directly after work. I didn’t arrive until around 10:00 p.m. Then had to have some social time and catching up with my parents, as well as see what has been done to the house (they just got moved back in after a pipe burst while they were on vacation in Mexico in January). This made for a later-than-usual night before a race, but it was worth it. I loved getting to talk to them and catch up some…but we all knew we had an early morning ahead of us, so we decided to turn in for the night.
I woke up very early the next morning because I had to get dressed for the race as well as do my PT stretches. So, after checking the weather…which was supposedly warmer than what the Weather Channel predicted the night before…a balmy 52 degrees with some winds making it feel 50 degrees, I got out my shorts and my t-shirt and got myself put together with the colored hair and the BondiBand and compression sleeves like always. No skirt today. I was rocking the shorts. I went downstairs to do my stretches before anyone else got up. And managed to finish them up just as my mom came out of the bedroom. We hugged and I said I was going to go knock on Cathy’s door to wake her up, but as I got to the top of the stairs, she was already moving about. Sweet. Good start to the day.
The four of us (my mom, dad, Cathy and myself) all had breakfast that day (consisting of some cereal and a gluten-free blueberry muffin from Udi’s Gluten Free). My mom and dad split a banana and I got one to take with me to eat about 30 minutes prior to the race. Then, I went upstairs to brush my teeth, throw on some yoga pants and a hoodie, and grab my running bag with a change of clothes inside and a different pair of shoes. My dad was (im)patiently waiting at the door for all of us (well…just me…everyone else was ready to go as I came down the stairs). So, we headed out through the garage to get in the car and make the 25 minute drive from their house to the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium, the new site of the race and the Gluten-Free Expo that was happening afterwards.
We pulled into a nearly empty parking lot, but saw the banner for the Making Tracks for Celiacs 5K hanging above the door. So, we were in the right place. My mom and I hopped out of the car, and I was glad that I had on my yoga pants for the time being because that wind was COLD! We went over to packet pickup and registration to get our t-shirts for this year’s race then went to meet up with my dad and Cathy. We decided it was too chilly to stand outside in the wind, so all got back into the car. I ate my half of the banana. Cathy got out to get rid of the peel from her half then proceeded to stand around outside, staring at the car as if willing all of us to join her in the chilly morning air. I refused for about 5 minutes. But, I knew I needed to take off the hoodie and yoga pants and get acclimated…so that’s what I did. I stepped outside of the car and immediately broke out into goosebumps. Damn that cold air.
I did a few dynamic stretches to warm up before the race. As I was finishing those up, I heard the race organizer get on the horn and start to talk about the event and the change in the course. I figured I could just follow the people in front of me…which is how I do every race. So, I vaguely paid attention and heard things like…run through the RV park…go behind the dumpster…be careful of the giant puddle…run around a pole…
These are the things race organizers go through when they very suddenly have to change their race course, which has been plotted for months, mind you! Before the soccer tournament was even scheduled to be plaid. Frustrating. They were not happy. We were told to head out to the start line…so we did. I stood near the front. It looked like we had a good turnout, which is always a good thing. And before I could get my Garmin ready to record…the air horn was blown and we were off.
I punched the button on my Garmin, it started, and off I went with the group, following a group of kids, a couple of guys (one of which was the race organizer’s husband), and a few other people. The kids petered out almost immediately, deciding they had run enough…so I passed them after the first turn. Then, I passed one of the ladies in front of me…only to get passed up by a super-speedy woman (Allison Hoover), who I couldn’t catch up to or pass up again to save my life. She was flying. We were sent over a bridge and up an incline…then made a turn to go up another incline…then turned around in a cul-de-sac…and sent back down the hills. It was as I was nearing the bridge to head out into the parking lot that I passed my mom and dad. They both cheered for me…shouting “Go Girl!” and clapping. It made me smile.
So, then we hit the parking lot and were sent through the RV park. This was about the time we hit Mile 1. So, one down…just a couple to go. We ran through the RV park and then made this crazy loop thing and were sent up another part of the parking lot and around to where there was a bit of a trail leading to a path that was behind a dumpster. They weren’t kidding. Upon making the turn onto the path and rounding the corner, you encounter one of the steepest downhills of your life. Seriously. I pulled up so as not to tear up my quads and maneuvered it safely and effectively. There was a little dip at the bottom before you were sent up a climb on the other side. For every downhill there is an uphill. I pushed up that and ran on that path until it dropped me off in a new section of parking lot. I followed the volunteers, keeping cones to my right or left, or whatever I was instructed to do at the time. I found Mile 2 (which was marked)…but my Garmin didn’t beep. I normally don’t check but I was curious…
My Garmin said 1.78 miles. Yikes!
Into the final part of the race, I just attempted to keep my pace as best I could. I came back into the main parking lot and was sent down to where some walkers and runners were coming around to head toward the dumpster. I remained on my side of the cone, avoided a huge lake (er…puddle…) and pressed on the path volunteers directed me on. The guy in front of me made a turn then headed toward a pole near the end of the lot. He ran around it and I followed, then we hit the straight-away toward the finish line. I passed him up and kept on moving as fast as I could. I crossed the finish line, paused my Garmin and made my way through the chute. The race organizer tore off the bottom of my bib and I moved on to get some water. Super-speedy Allison Hoover made a comment about my shoes (I was in my new Newton’s) as she was wearing Newton’s herself. We bonded a little. Then I went to get water and she went to talk to friends.
I finally checked my Garmin and saw that it read only 2.92 miles. That wouldn’t do. So, I handed Cathy my cup of water and did an easy shakeout for .20 miles to get me up to 3.1 miles. That was what I intended to run that day and that was what I managed to get in. I could see my parents again, heading toward the dumpster line…and they were leading all the walkers. Honestly, my dad wasn’t registered. But my mom encouraged him to walk it with her. He kept telling her to keep moving without him, but she stuck with him. And I think that’s super awesome.
I cheered for them when they emerged and headed back through the lot and made the turn to head toward the turn that would take them to the pole and then, eventually, to the finish line. I stood near the finish to cheer and when they emerged, I was shouting and just clapping and jumping up and down. As he wasn’t registered, my dad dropped off and came to my side and let my mom finish her walk by passing through the finish line. Cathy took a picture. It was awesome. I went over to give her a hug. We then went to go get bottles of water and some clementines that the race organizers put out for everyone.
Clementines are my favorite post-race thing to eat. Seriously! That or watermelon. For real.
The kids 1 mile fun run would be starting soon, and awards were said to be at 10 a.m. with the expo at 10:30 a.m. My mom and I said we would hang out at the race if Cathy and dad wanted to make the mandatory coffee run. Turns out awards weren’t being done before the expo and now the expo was open at 10:00 a.m. My mom and I went over to the doors leading to the banquet hall and stepped inside to get out of the wind. She called my dad to find out if they were close to returning. They were. And about five minutes later, they pulled in, coffees in hand. Now properly armed with caffeine, we hiked up the stairs to the expo (I mean, why take the elevator, right?) and went to see what was offered.
The expo was much smaller this year than it was two years prior. MUCH smaller. But the vendors were all super nice and there was a lot of delicious products and treats to try out. Cathy and I split any large portion of something while my mom and dad would split theirs. It made it so we weren’t too full for lunch shortly after (which we were meeting up with my sister and my youngest nephew). As we were making our way around the floor, the race organizer started to call participants over for the awards.
While I was the second female overall, they weren’t giving that award away. This did mean, however, that I placed first in my division. And when my name was called for the 30-39 age division, Cathy, mom and dad all cheered. They almost ran out of medals at this point…having not ordered enough it seemed. I got the last first place age division award though…so they wouldn’t have to mail mine to me all the way in Indiana.
We finished up at the expo, went shopping at Organic Harvest, and then met up with my sister for lunch. It made for a great day.
So, my official results of the Making Tracks for Celiacs 5K are that I finished in 21:52 (but remember…the course was short). I was 9/79 finishers overall. I was 2/54 women finishers. And I was the 1/18 in my division. Not too shabby, I think. Granted, it’s still not the run I know I am capable of, but I’m still just being cautious on this ankle. I get nervous about pushing too hard…and reinjuring it. I know I am capable of better…but I was proud of my results. And, even more, I was proud of my mom for coming out and doing the race with me. She can’t run, as her ankle is permanently fused, but she loves to walk. And this was for a cause that effects both of us…and we had a blast being a part of it. In fact, we’ve decided to make it an annual event.
I’m already excited about next year!