Running on gluten-free carbs…

life

Buffalo Marathon – Buffalo, NY (May 25, 2014)

Me and Kat crossing the finish line at the Buffalo Marathon - Buffalo, New York.  This picture encapsulates everything about the marathon.  (Photo Credit: Diane Sardes)

Me and Kat crossing the finish line at the Buffalo Marathon – Buffalo, New York. This picture encapsulates everything about the marathon. (Photo Credit: Diane Sardes)

Race: Buffalo Marathon

Place: Buffalo, New York

Date: May 25, 2014

Time: 4:32:44*

“When you cross the finish line, no matter how slow or fast, it will change your life forever.” – Spirit of the Marathon


I want to point out the asterisks above, as this race was not one that I was running at my normal marathon pace.  Nope.  I agreed back in March to pace two of my friends, Kat and Janelle, to their hopes of a sub-4 finish in the Buffalo Marathon.  This race was not about me or my goals…this was all about them.  And I took this responsibility very seriously, mind you!  I trained as I would if I were going to be the one racing…meaning all of my training runs I did as though I were running this race at my pace.  I didn’t want to over-train or get cocky and think that I could run more because this race wasn’t going to be done at my “normal” pace.  Nope.  Like I said…I take my job as a pacer very, very seriously.

I know what you’re doing.  You’re looking at that finish time and wondering what went wrong.

Well…I will get to that.  And then I will reflect on what this race has taught me, in general, about the human spirit and the spirit of the marathon.  But…let me start at the very beginning.

Fridays are usually hectic as it is, but this Friday just put me out-of-my-mind.  I had tried to do most of my packing on Thursday, but I still had plenty to do that morning…plus a date with my spinning class at 5:30 a.m.  Go figure.  As I was racing on Sunday, I went to class, but kept the heavy down and just did what I was comfortable with.  I didn’t want to wear out these legs.  I had two people counting on me and I wasn’t about to let them down.  I thought about skipping my class, but I figured I’d be in a car most of Saturday, so as long as I didn’t put too much resistance on the bike…I’d be fine.

I did manage to get everything packed up and loaded into the car.  But I wasn’t Buffalo bound yet.  New York was going to have to wait.  I had to go to work for the entire day first.  Then…then I could start my journey toward my sixth marathon this year.  Whew.  I headed into the office and made little to no use of my standing desk, once again, trying to keep as much pressure off these legs as possible.  I wanted to get to that start line feeling ready and relaxed.  It worked.  I got through the entire work day without any issues, then packed up and headed out at 4:30 p.m. to head up to Columbus, Ohio.  Jenn was going to make this journey with us for the marathon, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.  YAY!  But…this meant enduring the ride up to Columbus.  But first…I stopped off at my local gluten-free bakery to pick up a pizza crust.  I promised Kat, back when she was in town for the Kentucky Derby Festival Mini Marathon that I’d bring her one of Annie May’s Sweet Café’s amazing gluten-free pizza crusts.  And…while we were there, Cathy and I each ordered a sandwich to go to eat in the car on the way up to Jenn’s.  We might have also picked up one of her vegan and gluten-free chocolate chip cookies too.  Maybe.  Anyway, this plan to grab dinner worked out perfectly.  An Annie May’s sandwich might be a new travel after work tradition.

Soon, we were on the road and making good time up to Columbus, Ohio.  As we came through Cincinnati, Ohio, I asked Cathy if we were going to stop soon because the unsweetened iced tea and the water I had with dinner had gone right through me and I “really needed to pee.”  TMI?  Nah.  Anyway, she said we’d stop at somewhere up the road…which turned into about an hour wait.  Seriously.  The information center she had wanted to stop at was closed…and already way further than I had hoped to go before I got my break.  So…I was not happy.  We finally pulled over at a gas station on the exit you would take if you were going to the Ohio Renaissance Festival.  I went inside the BP and took care of business, only to be interrupted by a woman pounding on the door, declaring she had an emergency.  Um…yeah…kinda busy…gotta wait.  I peed as fast as I could…but she kept pounding and pissing me off.  Do NOT piss off a runner who has been tapering.  I washed my hands and hurried out of the bathroom, having her blow past me like I was doing it on purpose.  UGH!!  People suck.

Back on the road…and no more stops until we hit Jenn’s house somewhere around 9 p.m.  Cathy and I changed out into more comfortable clothes and then we settled in to talk a bit and eat Jenn’s infamous (but to me it’s famous) Pink Salad.  Mmmmm…just what I needed.  Hit the freakin’ spot.  I knew I needed to get up around 4 a.m. to do a shakeout run, stretch, shower, eat breakfast, and get out of the door in a timely manner to continue the journey up to Buffalo, New York on Saturday morning…so we were turning in earlier than normal.

My alarm went off at 4 a.m. and I immediately dropped my iPhone before I could turn it off.  Whoops.  I got up and got changed into my running clothes and headed out Jenn’s garage to do 3 very easy miles as a shakeout before my drive up for the marathon.  I forgot that Jenn’s roads have storm drains in the center of the road, so those were some fun obstacles at first.  HAHA!  I finally just got off to the side, and ran a loop around her inner circle until I hit my miles for the day.  I actually did it faster than I intended or felt like I was running…so my legs were definitely feeling good.  I ducked back inside, shed the reflective gear and went to do my stretching.  Jenn came down as I was finishing that up.  And soon I was headed up to shower, wake up Cathy, and we were settling in for some gluten-free bagels for breakfast.  Topped off with a Garlic and Herb cream cheese of deliciousness.  It was like eating garlic bread.  The car was loaded back up and we piled in…heading out for the long road to Buffalo, New York.

I was already tired from not sleeping much, so Jenn passed my pillow up and I dozed up until we made our first stop to put in some gas.  There was a nice Starbucks attached to the gas station, so we all got one of their refreshers…mine…the Cool Lime (YUMMY!) before piling back into the car and making our way up to Erie, Pennsylvania.  That was going to be our stop for lunch.  Back when I ran the Hershey Half Marathon, we found a place called Picasso’s to eat dinner at on our way back to Jenn’s.  They specialize in very unique sandwiches…and we fell in love with them.  This was our lunch destination…and we got there just after they opened.  We each got a sandwich and drink and settled in at a table.  My Gluten-Free Venus de Milo Sandwich was fantastic.  It was a combination of hummus, onions, baby spinach, tomato, muffaletta spread, carrots, avocado, and a roasted red pepper mayo, toasted on gluten-free bread (in the oven to keep it from being cross-contaminated).  Seriously…delicious.  Then, we ducked over to Wegmans (an awesome grocery store for those not familiar) to grab a few necessities for Sunday…like bananas and water and watermelon.  Then…back on the road.  Next stop…the Hyatt Regency Buffalo (the host hotel) where we were staying.

I had hoped to meet up with both Kat and Janelle at the the expo, but Kat was there earlier in the day and Janelle, honestly, was leaving as I was pulling in.  Dang it.  I was seeing Kat later that evening for dinner, but Janelle was not going to be able to make it.  So, we all planned to meet up on Sunday morning with the 4 hour pace group.  Deal.  We pulled into the hotel and valet parked the car, hauling our stuff inside.  I went to check in, and as I was running the marathon was gifted with a bottle of Gatorade.  I signed a sneaker with how many marathons I had run and my best finishing time, was given two keys to the room (I gave them to Jenn and Cathy to handle…I am a zen runner on race weekends and want no responsibilities).  We took our stuff up to the hotel room to drop it off and then headed out to walk through the walkways from the hotel to the expo center.  Weirdly enough, there were no signs really directing anyone to where to find the expo…so we randomly followed some people and ended up making our way there.  Let’s hear it for the blind leading the visually challenged!

Bart Yasso and me at the Buffalo Marathon Expo - Buffalo, New York

Bart Yasso and me at the Buffalo Marathon Expo – Buffalo, New York

The expo was small.  We stepped inside and I got in line to get a plastic bag that contained some race information and my safety pins.  From there, I had to wind my way through the vendors and other races there to find the tables in the back where packet pickup was happening.  I went over to the side for the marathon (there is also a 5K and a half marathon), and gave my name.  The teenager behind the table looked me up, grabbed my race bib and race shirt and passed it over to me.  I thanked him, tucked it into the plastic bag and went to meet Jenn and Cathy over at the BondiBand table.  HA!  They knew I’d want to make a stop there.  We didn’t spend too long digging through the BondiBands as I own most of them (it’s a sickness…I know!)…but I found two that fit my personality and I ended up getting those.  It’s tradition!  You never break tradition.  We wound our way back through, stopping off at a few interesting sounding races…all of which are on weekends that don’t work for me…this year…and ended up at Bart Yasso’s talk.

I LOVE Bart Yasso and really want to incorporate the Yasso 800’s into my training…eventually.  We listened to him talk, and when he finished up, I went to see if he would sign my book (I brought it with me!) and maybe get a picture with him.  There wasn’t a long line…and before long I was up there and talking with him.  He remembered me from Facebook (HA!) and just asked if I spelled Karen with a “K.”  That was awesome.  He was very kind and wrote me a nice message before taking a picture with me and wishing me luck on Sunday.  With that…we made our way out of the expo and back to our hotel room, where we crashed until about 4:15 p.m., watching Food Network (Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives was on, followed by Guy’s Grocery Games).  I took the time to do my evening stretches and some foam rolling so I wouldn’t have to worry about it after dinner and could focus more on getting race morning stuff together and getting to bed at a decent time.

All that did get accomplished before we headed back out to the streets of Buffalo and walked to our dinner destination, Merge, located on Delaware Avenue.  We were early.  The restaurant hadn’t even opened yet.  But, we knew that would probably be the case.  We left early to give us time to get lost and all.  But at the first sense of us not knowing which way to go, Cathy asked the valet guys and we were immediately on track without the whole wander around town mess.  Love nipping something in the bud.  At 5 p.m., Kat and Adam (Kat’s boyfriend) arrived and we went inside for our dinner reservation.  We were immediately seated and asked if we wanted something other than water to drink.  I don’t do anything but water these days as it is…so I stuck with that.  Then…it was menu time.  I had looked at this menu DOZENS of times before…and I knew there was a gluten-free and vegan pizza option.  That’s my traditional food before a race…but there were so many enticing dishes on this menu that I couldn’t get anywhere else…and I get good gluten-free pizza in Louisville.  SO…now I was waffling on what I wanted for dinner and everyone else was ready.  With the assistance of the waiter, I bucked tradition again and went with the Gluten-Free and Vegan Arugula Pesto Pasta, which was a basic brown rice fusilli pasta with local tomato, red onion, spinach and tossed with toasted walnuts.  It was as amazing as it looked.  Got a Gluten-Free and Vegan Chocolate Mousse with Spiced Berry Compote for dessert, which I split with Cathy.  All of us talked for awhile, not much about running but about other stuff, until we were told they needed the table.  So, with that, we parted ways.  Cathy, Jenn and I walked back to the hotel room. and I changed into my pajamas, brushed my teeth, put out my race clothes for the morning, plugged in my Garmin to charge, set the two wake-up alarms, and then…went to bed.

My first alarm got me up and I went through my routine before hitting the sack again for another hour.  The second alarm rang and I was up and into the bathroom to change into my race gear.  I had opted for a tank top, despite the 47 degree weather that morning.  I had my homemade arm warmers for the start, figuring I’d shed them sometime in the race.  My running skirt, my CEP calf sleeves, my Newton’s.  I was ready to run.  I put on my sunscreen and got my “epic race hair” done up before stretching.  Jenn woke up just before I was to wake up both her and Cathy to get ready…so I just needed to worry about getting Cathy moving.  I woke her up and then settled in to eat my cereal (a pre-race tradition for EVERY race).  I took my time, relaxed, and occupied my mind with things other than the race.  Both Cathy and Jenn grabbed the free granola from the expo and got something in their stomachs and soon, I was grabbing my banana and we were heading down to the lobby and outside to the starting area.

The start area hadn’t been opened to the runners in the full or half marathon yet…so everyone was sort of behind a barrier on the other side of the street.  I saw pacers walk by and really wanted to go find my girls, but Cathy was like…”Um…good luck with that!”  Which, sort of annoyed me so I was in a huff when the starting area was finally opened.  But, she called me back and I settled down.  I got hugs and was told to have a good race.  Jenn told me that “The Power of Dean [Karnazes] Compelled Me” and not to “pants my poop.”  This is tradition.  It has to happen.  With that, I left them to go find a spot near the start line and I went to hopefully find Janelle (who I hadn’t met yet in person) and Kat.

Kat (green arm warmers), me, and Janelle (pink shirt) heading out at the start of the Buffalo Marathon - Buffalo, New York

Kat (green arm warmers), Me, and Janelle (pink shirt) heading out at the start of the Buffalo Marathon – Buffalo, New York (Photo Credit: Jennifer Mariani)

Janelle found me, actually…which was awesome.  We were about 15 minutes away from race time.  I was so happy to see her.  She looked rested and ready to run.  Perfect.  I asked if she had seen Kat…and she hadn’t.  But a few minutes later, miss Bright Green Arm Warmers was at our sides.  We attempted to do some stretching in the start area but it was really crowded and moving around was not much of an option.  Kat was talking to pretty much everyone…because I really think she knows everyone in Buffalo…and we did our best to keep our legs loose and limber in the chilly morning air.  I pointed out that the girl in front of me had her shirt on inside out and we agreed that if it wasn’t three minutes to start time, we might have informed her…but it was too late now.  The National Anthem was sung…and we were right in line with the 4-hour pace group.  Right where I wanted to start.  One moment later…runners were off.  And we were making the march toward the start line.  Kat doesn’t like to start running until she crosses that mat, so we kept a fast walk until we hit that start gate…and we were off.  I spotted Cathy and Jenn immediately, flashed a peace sign…and fell into pace.

Janelle, me, and Kat love seeing familiar faces around Mile 6.3 in the Buffalo Marathon - Buffalo, New York

Janelle, Me, and Kat love seeing familiar faces around Mile 6.3 in the Buffalo Marathon – Buffalo, New York

We stayed behind the pace group for the first mile, wanting to make sure we didn’t have the “fly and die” technique…wanting to go into this easy and work our way up.  Kat and Janelle both liked this plan and that was what we worked at doing.  But somewhere before we hit Mile 2, we got ahead of the pace group.  I asked my girls how they felt about pace, and both agreed it was good.  I told them that whenever they wanted to back off, just to say the word and we would.  So, Kat did that every now and again, terrified of going out too fast and wanting to have that 4 hour pace group not too much behind or ahead of us at any time.  As both seemed comfortable…we continued on.  We hit that 5K mark feeling strong, and I once again checked on the pace.  We backed it off a little per Kat’s request and continued on.  I ditched my arm warmers somewhere around here as well.  HA!  Looking at my Garmin…we actually were keeping a very level, even pace for a good stretch of this race.  It was awesome.  It felt good.  We all felt good.  Kat gave me a bit of a tour as we were running, as this is where she grew up.  I’m a history buff, so I found every bit of this fascinating.  And…it made the miles fly by without us really paying attention to them at all.  Before we knew it, we were at the 10K mark…feeling good.  We rounded a corner, and Kat spotted Adam and went over to see him, but he told her to keep going as she was right on pace.  And just a few feet up…was Cathy and Jenn.  I spotted the donkey sign!  I gave a big wave and a smile.  It’s always nice to see familiar faces during a race…and we were only 1/4 of the way done.  But…we were feeling amazing.  So, on we went.

We kept this great pace (just under sub-9) up through the LaSalle Park area.  We hit the waterfront, where the road narrowed quite a bit.  The slow-up was welcome though…so we took the break and eased our way through the crowds.  The waterfront was gorgeous!  Honestly.  I loved running this part of the race.   Great breeze.  Great views.  The lake was stunning.  We knew as we were going to be leaving the waterfront that photographers were stationed.  And we spotted them up ahead.  The three of us raised our arms for the shot…and that was when some jackass pushed Kat.  Like…literally pushed her.  RUDE!  So, not sure how that shot is going to turn out.  Asshat.  We had now hit the 15K mark…and all of us were still feeling good and strong.  My girls were rockstars!  I asked about pace every now and again, wanting them to feel comfortable with it…and so far, they were.

Janelle, Me, and Kat at the 13.1 mile point of the Buffalo Marathon!  Feeling strong.  Looking strong!

Janelle, Me, and Kat at the 13.1 mile point of the Buffalo Marathon! Feeling strong. Looking strong!

Kat continued her guided tour as we ran around the Erie Basin Marina and back into town.  She was elated when she noticed the course was going to take us past the First Niagara Center, where the Buffalo Sabers play hockey.  She has season tickets…so she was glad the new course still ran past there.  The sun was up now and there were no clouds in the sky.  None.  So it was warming up fast.  We came through town, loving the shade that the buildings provided, but the heat was there.  We hit the halfway point…and were pleasantly surprised to see both Jenn and Cathy standing right at the 13.1 marker to cheer us on.  We were powering through that first half, maintaining a relatively even pace…backing off where necessary…and feeling awesome.  We were just where we needed to be…right in between the 3:50:00 pacers and the 4-hour pace group.  We were right on target.

But as we headed a few miles further in, the heat started to really affect Kat.  She came to a walk on a hill around Mile 15, taking out her inhaler.  We were ahead of schedule and the walk break was a welcome one on the hill, and once she fueled and took in some liquid, we were back on our way.  We knocked out another mile back on our pace, but the 4-hour pace group had caught up to us.  We decided to run just behind them for a little while.  Good strategy.  But as we came into Mile 16, going into 17…Kat slowed again and the pace group moved ahead.  She was getting angry and frustrated with herself, but we were still ahead of the pace group so that was of some help to get her focused again.  The fuel belt she was wearing wasn’t sitting right on her body, so Janelle asked if she wanted to try holding her bottle with Nuun in it and ditching the belt with her husband at Mile 17.  Kat agreed so Janelle ran up ahead to find her husband, dump water out of one of her bottles, and get one ready for Kat.  Kat was really struggling here and as we walked a bit through Mile 16.55, with her in tears and angry at having to walk, one of the volunteers checked to make sure she was okay, letting us know where we were in the race and asking if she needed any sort of attention.  She waved him off and we both thanked him, and when we hit some road signs, we started to pick up the pace again, maintaining that until we met up with Janelle and her husband near Mile 17.  We changed out the fuel pack for the handheld water and we were back on our way.

We were now in Delaware Park, which would last for a mile, where we then would enter back onto the streets and re-enter the park around Mile 20.5.  As we were heading up the hill, Kat went to fuel with her Craisins.  But they didn’t stay down.  The heat was really getting to her…as she hadn’t had warm weather this year to train in.  Buffalo was 40 degrees all day on Friday…and Saturday was slightly warmer, but with a cool breeze that made it feel cooler.  We had a slight breeze, but the air was hot and the sun was relentless.  Kat handed me the handheld bottle and tried to fuel again, this time to keep it down.  I gave her one of my bottles on my fuel belt that had water inside.  She took it…and this time…it all stayed down.  She asked if I was okay holding onto the handheld bottle for her…and I said that was fine.  Mind you, I hate running with things in my hands, but this was definitely more important.  And…it would help me keep a steadier pace for Kat.  But then the 4:10 pace group past and I saw that fight go out of her.  She felt defeated, but I did what I could to get her to press on.  We could at least try for her next goal of a PR.  We came out of the park and it was a run walk method, with Janelle and I just wanting to keep Kat going.  Finally, Janelle said she was starting to hurt, so she was going to put on her headphones and head for the finish line.  We had tried to get her to do that earlier…but she stuck it out with us for some of it, even giving up her sub-4 finish to make sure Kat was okay.  But we wished her luck and sent her on, telling her to let Cathy and Jenn know that we would be behind her.

I did my best to keep Kat going.  The heat was really doing a number on her.  She was getting dizzy and suffering from a headache.  In addition, she said at some points she felt like she was going to pass out.  I didn’t want that to happen, so I told her to walk when she needed.  We were coming up around Mile 20 when one lone woman was standing on the road, shouting support to everyone.  She saw Kat, who was crying, and honed in on her.  It made me smile when I heard her say to Kat…”I see you, 890!  You look so strong.  Come on 890…you can do this.  Push through, 890!  I know you can do this.  I know you want to run.”  Kat started crying more, but this time tears of happiness, and her pace…picked up.  It was the push she needed…from a random stranger.  And as she ran up the hill…the woman said, “That’s it 890!  Keep going!!” and other inspiring and motivating words.  She was a rockstar.  And, honestly, was able to do what I couldn’t.  As we came back into Delaware Park, Kat said she had to use the bathroom and maybe that would help.  The problem was…there were no port-a-potties on the course winding through the park.  So, it was run, walk, run…until we were heading out of the park where there were some port-a-potties.  Luckily one was not in use.  I waited on the corner while she ducked into one.  A minute later, we were back on the road and back to running.  She felt better.  And we now had just over 4 more miles to go.  We were getting there.  When the 4:20 pace group passed, she started crying again.  And…she handed over her Garmin, saying she didn’t want it on anymore.  Is trapped it onto my wrist and we moved on.  It was better this way.  She had been so focused on that pace and now…her disappointment was setting in.  I kept assuring her that her primary goal was to finish…and I was going to get her to that line.

With only a few miles left, we were determined to go without stopping.  Kat was determined now, despite the heat.  She was sweating out salt, so I was trying to get her to take in as much water and electrolytes as possible.  Her compression socks were starting to bother her, so she stopped to roll them down.  Only, that felt worse as we started up again, so she pulled them back up.  We ran and walked for the next few miles, doing what she needed.  I pushed her here and there, telling her what landmarks we would hit and start jogging and picking up the pace…easing back into it.  She listened to me…and did as I said…and she’d slow and walk when she needed to.  Around Mile 24, she was done with the compression socks.  So she pulled over to the side of the road and sat down, taking off her shoes and removing the socks.  I ended up tying them to my fuel belt and she put her shoes back on and decided to finish the race without socks on.  I told her she’d blister…and she said blisters already happened.  Might as well be comfortable.  A woman who was cheering on runners across the street asked if she was okay…and we said she was…and within moments, she was back on her feet and we were heading down into the next mile…slapping hands with college boys at the water stop.  We walked a bit coming into Mile 25 and I could hear that crowd ahead.  The finish line was getting closer.  We picked it up…we backed it off…we walked when she needed it.  She finished off her Nuun…she took in one last water stop…and we pressed on…walking to the edge of a building I pointed out…and then picking up that pace.  We were in the home stretch and she was going to run it in.

We had made a deal to cross that finish line together.  I was wrapped up in the excitement and my finisher’s kick was already there.  She called me back, saying she wasn’t ready yet.  She wanted to see that finish line.  So…I fell back and we rounded through Niagara Square.  And then…there it was…the finisher’s chute!  We picked up our pace and sprinted…as fast as our legs could go.  As we neared that finish line, we took each other’s hands…and crossed together.  It was…by far…one of the most rewarding and memorable finishes I have had in my life.  We hugged tightly and I told her how proud I was of her.  And we moved out of the way so that she could try to catch her breath, regain her strength…get her medal…and get some ice from the medical tent.

Kat, Me, and Janelle proudly displaying our finisher's medals at the finish of the Buffalo Marathon - Buffalo, New York.  So proud of these ladies!

Kat, Me, and Janelle proudly displaying our finisher’s medals at the finish of the Buffalo Marathon – Buffalo, New York. So proud of these ladies!

After snagging an ice pack to put on the back of her neck, we headed back out, retrieving Mylar blankets and started down the chute.  She spotted Adam and her mom and went to talk to them for a moment.  And then…we went to get our picture taken for finishing.  We moved further down the chute, retrieving water bottles and any snacks needed.  She snagged an orange…good choice.  And then we met up with Janelle, Cathy, Jenn, Janelle’s husband, Janelle’s dog (Domino), and Adam and Kat’s mom at the very end.  We stood around talking for a little while and snapped a picture of the three of us with our medals.  But then I needed to get up to the hotel room to shower off and change (as they were not allowing any late check-outs.  Nope.  Not at the host hotel!).  Kat came with us because I forgot to give her the pizza the night before…and she changed while I went to shower.  Cathy and Jenn packed everything up and when I stepped out of the shower…we were ready to head out.

Hugs all around and we were off.

So…my official results for the Buffalo Marathon are that I finished in a time of 4:32:44 (gun time) and 4:31: 36 (chip time) (for 26.49 miles).  I was 832/1287 finishers overall.  I was the 311/548 women to cross the finish line.  And I was 64/108 in my age division.  I can honestly say that this was the first time I ever crossed the finish line carrying more gear than I left with.  HA!  First time for everything!

Yes…there was a twinge of disappointment that came with this finish.  But it wasn’t with the finishing time.  It was watching a goal slip away from a good friend of mine, who worked her ass off to achieve it.  Her body wasn’t ready for the heat, as she hadn’t trained in it yet.  There were a few other factors as well.  And the relentless sun did her in that day.  But…she was not defeated.  No matter how she felt, no matter how much she wanted to collapse and give up…she didn’t.  Kat is a fighter.  She’s strong and determined and stubborn as hell.  And every time she fell back…I saw that flame in her eyes spark up…and she’d start to move again.  There were plenty of tears shed at goals that weren’t reached, but ultimately, she proved not only her strength and her determination, but her worth out there on that course.  I was so proud of her at that finish line.  There was nowhere else I wanted to be than at her side that entire race, seeing her push through her own doubts.  She is a fighter and she fought for this finish.  She gave everything she had to reach that finish line.  She finished strong.  And every ounce of me has been inspired by her sheer determination and will to push through and see herself to that finish line.  Her original goals fell to the wayside…but she finished.  And ultimately...it’s not about finish times…it’s about finish lines.  So often, as runners, we put so much emphasis on a new PR, a better time, faster, better, perfection.  Those are all nice to accomplish and to have as goals, but we get so focused on that and sometimes we lose the actual joy of the run.  We forget to have some fun.  To enjoy it.  To just take it in.  When Kat crossed her finish line that morning…and when I gave her a tight hug, I told her just how proud I was of her.  I still am.  Best finish for me…ever.

Thank you, Kat…for inspiring me to push on when my self-doubts want me to stop.  You are stronger than you give yourself credit for.  This is one race I will always point to and say…”She wanted to give up…but she never did.”  For that…you are more than an inspiration.  You’re my hero!

When you can't walk, you crawl.  When you can't do that, you find someone to carry you. - Firefly

When you can’t walk, you crawl. When you can’t do that, you find someone to carry you. – Firefly


Advertisements

Taper For A Cause 5K – Louisville, KY (April 12, 2014)

Me with Wesley Korir after the Taper For A Cause 5K - Louisville, Kentucky

Me with Wesley Korir after the Taper For A Cause 5K – Louisville, Kentucky

Race: Taper For A Cause 5K

Place: Iroquois Park, Louisville, Kentucky

Date: April 12, 2014

Time: 23:52

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.

Thirdly…

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.

Indy and I at the finish of the Taper For A Cause 5K - Louisville, Kentucky

Indy and I at the finish of the Taper For A Cause 5K – Louisville, Kentucky

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.



Hey…you never know!

TCS NEW YORK CITY MARATHON

TCS NEW YORK CITY MARATHON

I grew up in New York.

And there were these commercials that would air for the New York Lottery…and the catch phrase was “Hey…you never know!”

Well…that holds true in running as well.

I have been searching for a fall marathon to run this year.  I did Chicago last year…and thought about Marine Corp, but have heard such a mixed bag of reviews on that one that I thought to let that one sit on the back burner for now.  There were a few races that I eyed…but none that really grabbed me.

Then…I got the e-mail from the NYRR…to enter the lottery for the New York City Marathon.  I went ahead and paid the fee to put in my name for the draw way back in December.  The draw was today…

AND I GOT IN!!!!

I never get into anything via the lottery.  EVER!!  So this was a huge surprise.  I saw the pending charge on my credit card while I was at work, but decided to wait until I got the official e-mail…which came earlier this evening.  And soon commenced with me jumping up and down, dancing a jig, maybe doing the hokey-pokey…and SCREAMING!!!

So, I guess the luck of the draw found the fall marathon for me.  New York City…here I come!

And I can’t wait!!

Pardon me while I go dance around to Pharrell William’s “Happy” for a little while.

*FLAIL*

Like the commercials (for the other New York Lotto) always said…”Hey…you never know…”



Publix Georgia Marathon – Atlanta, GA (March 23, 2014)

Me crossing the finish line of the Publix Georgia Marathon - Atlanta, Georgia

Me crossing the finish line of the Publix Georgia Marathon – Atlanta, Georgia

Race: Publix Georgia Marathon

Place: Atlanta, Georgia

Date: March 23, 2014

Time: 3:51:32

 

I must be out of my mind, right?  I was just cleared to run this past Monday and went for a sprint in a 3K race in Frankfort, Kentucky.  No pain.  No problems.  And I did some outside running throughout the week to what my training schedule would have been had I been able to properly train for a marathon distance.

Which…I haven’t.  And…I didn’t.  In fact, my longest run since the ankle sprain was done in Columbus, Ohio…around my friend’s neighborhood.  And that was only 8 miles.  Yep…not exactly going into this having logged double digit runs.  AT ALL.  Not since February…and I think the longest one I managed then was 10 miles.

This…is not the way I wanted to come into this run.  But, when you badly sprain your ankle…there are few choices left to you.  Unable to run outside…and then limited to a treadmill (NOT a tready girl…I get so bored and long runs are not an option at a gym that limits you to only an hour on the machine).  But…with the ankle rehabbed and my running slower…but okay…I packed up my bags, packed up my car, and made the long drive down to Atlanta.

For…a marathon.

A full and hilly 26.2 miles.

Because…I was cleared to do it as long as I don’t blitz it.  I had no intentions of blitzing this one in the first place, so I was okay with that.  But, that’s not to say the nerves haven’t set in.  Because, trust me…they have.

The drive down was pretty uneventful.  Listened to some tunes…then a few Doc Savage radio shows…until I got downtown.  Pulled into the Omni Hotel and had my car valet parked.  The luggage was left with the doorman and I went to check in.  I stayed at the Omni when I was in Atlanta for The Police concert so many years ago!  So, I knew it was a very nice place to stay.  And as I checked in, since I was here for the marathon, the hotel provided me with an awesome bag of goodies: a banana, a bottle of water, and a KIND Bar.  This…is my happy face!

Went to the room and waited for the luggage to arrive.  When it did, it was time to head to the expo.  Now, I had every intention of walking away from this expo with nothing more than maybe a new BondiBand…and my race packet.  But then…EXPO AWE OF PURCHASING DOOM hit and my wallet…took the brunt of it.  Now…for the most part, nothing was really something I didn’t need.  I bought a couple of Wonder Woman tech shirts.  YAY!  Been looking for those everywhere.  I bought a new pair of Newton’s…which was my splurge buy, but my old pair is up in the miles and, damn, I love those shoes.  And…I bought the adhesive spray for my KT Taping.  Oh…and while I was there, as an extra precaution, I had the people at the KT Tape booth tape up my ankle.  Figured it wouldn’t hurt.

After that…I had to get out of there before I talked myself into other items that caught my eye…because the shirts in the Official Merchandise store were tempting.  But I really don’t need more shirts, LOL!

So…Cathy and I left the expo and took items back up to the room at the hotel.  We had some time to kill, so we decided to take a stroll over to Centennial Park.  So…we did that and actually found the finish shoots and the start of the finish line being put up.  We wandered over so I could take pictures in front of the finish line.  Then, we strolled up to the Hard Rock Cafe so I could pick up a pin and Cathy could get a shot glass.  Been ages since we’ve been to the Atlanta Hard Rock.  We went to check out where we were dining that night before taking things back to the hotel, relaxing for a moment, and then making the short stroll up the street to dinner.

Dinner was at Max’s Coal Oven Pizzaria.  We saw them listed on Find Me Gluten Free with some good reviews…so we figured we’d give it a try.  We were seated immediately and we made a decision on a gluten-free pizza to split.  We chose the Gluten-Free Fontina & Funghi Pizza…which was a white pizza that had fontina cheese, wild mushrooms, caramelized onions, and fresh oregano.  It looked amazing when it was delivered to my table…but it really…was kind of MEH.  The mushrooms were awesome.  The crust was…uninspired and rather boring.  SO not the way I wanted my mandatory pre-race gluten-free pizza to go.  So disappointed.  After that, we walked over to the CNN Building to take a look around.  We got some frozen yogurt for dessert and came back to the room to relax.  I had my stretches and foam rolling to do and really just want some time to relax and make sure I was hydrated and ready for the morning.

My first alarm went off at 3:30 a.m.  I got up and did a couple of things before climbing back into my comfy bed and getting about 45 more minutes of rest.  When my second alarm went off at 4:30 a.m., I checked the weather, then got up and got my clothes I laid out the night before and went to get changed.  At first, I was afraid that the t-shirt under my Marathon Maniac’s singlet (OH…forget to mention I totally qualified for Marathon Maniacs back in January with the Disney Marathon) would be too warm.  The temperature that morning was 58° F with little breeze.  Wearing it turned out to be the best decision I have made.  More on that later.  I ate my cereal and then did my stretches (my physical therapists would be so proud!) and resistance band work (again…they would be proud).  I brushed my teeth…then put on my fuel belt and bib and headed out the door.

Then…I get to the elevators and realized that I left my cellphone in the room.  So, I hurried back to the room to get it.  Exit…take 2…I get in the elevator and head down to the lobby.  I get to the door and realized that I left my pre-race banana in the room.  So…now I’m stressing myself out and went back to the room and grabbed the banana…and my hoodie…just in case it was windy and chillier than the Weather Channel app on my phone told me.  Exit…take 3.

And this time…we made it out the door and onto the sidewalk.  The start of the race was in Centennial Olympic Park right across from my hotel.  No stress.  So, I was starting to feel a little calmer and better about everything.  I was supposed to meet up with the other Marathon Maniacs for a picture near a statue, so that was where we headed first.  It was my first official photo as a Maniac…and that was awesome!  The photo was a quick thing and then I went to find somewhere to do some more stretching and eat my banana.  Cathy gave me a good luck hug and said she was off to find a place past the starting line to see me off.  I decided to get into my corral (Corral E).  Time was ticking down.  Fifteen minutes to go to start time.  The nerves were starting to settle in…again.

The National Anthem was sang beautifully!  I was listening to all the chatter in the corral about time expectations.  I had none coming into this one.  I just had a goal…to finish…and not get re-injured.  Having just been cleared to run last week…well…this was a huge risk running this race.  I had so many people tell me to defer.  But…I figured if I was cleared to run…this was running.  I would listen to my body.

I got to chatting with a guy next to me.  He noticed me getting my Garmin ready and he said his all-out died on him so he showed me his standard watch (with the actual watch hands and everything) and said he was taking it old school.  Awesome!  We got a good laugh about it and I mentioned I had to replace my Garmin because mine did the same thing.  I love my new Garmin, BTW!  Little treat to myself!

The corrals began to get collapsed and the flag barriers removed.  We all moved up and then the official countdown in a robotic voice began.  And then…we were off.  I walked for a moment, then we all started to job.  And…we were off.  I gave a wave to Cathy as I ran past her.  She cheered and then…I was hitting the road.

And this road was H-I-L-L-Y!!!

Seriously…it became immediately apparent that I haven’t been able to train much this winter.  First…I was barred from running for over a month.  Then I was banned from running hills along with it…for longer than not running.  That also meant no incline on the treadmill either.  So…I was so not ready for the Hills From Hell™ in Atlanta.  But…I signed on for this, right?  Right.

Between Mile 1 and 2, I had the chance to run with a really nice guy, also a Marathon Maniac.  We discussed our sprained ankles, as he had badly sprained his ankle too and this was his first run back as well.  His name was Anthony and he was really nice.  I lost him at a water stop though.  From there on out…it was all about what my body was telling me.  With the number of hills and the various climbs and steepness of each…I said that if my ankle twinged, I would back it off.  So…that was the plan.  I wasn’t running for time…just the fact that I could run again!

I absolutely took on this challenging marathon with my whole heart.  I was having a really good run for the most part.  They volunteers at the water/Powerade and food stops were awesome.  I actually expected there to be more crowd support through the entire race…but…nope.  It was pretty sparse.  The Decatur area had some groups out and the police officers helping with traffic control were awesome.  I got a lot of shout-outs for being a Maniac…which was awesome.  It definitely helped me get through some of the more challenging portions of this race.

Around Mile 16 it began to spit rain.  I knew we had a big chance of rain…but it had held off.  So…I was sort of expecting it (hence the reason I was wearing a hat).  But…it only spit rain for about 30 minutes and then…it just stopped.  Sadly though, when the rain came in…so did the wind.  And some of these gusts of wind reached 20 mph.  And we were running right into it.  It kept catching the brim of my hat and trying to pull it off my head.  It almost reminded me of the Marshall Marathon where the wind battered runners the entire way.  Of course, with the wind…it got cold.  Fast.  And this is why I mentioned above why I was glad I decided to keep the t-shirt on.  The beginning of the race was humid and warm and I sort of was kicking myself for putting the t-shirt on beneath the singlet…but after that wind hit…I was happy to have it.

The end of this race was a gradual uphill, which made it very difficult at times.  My calf muscles were screaming and barking and mooing at me all at once.  Like I said…you could tell that I hadn’t been running the hills recently.  Or…running at all.  I felt way under-prepared…and a bit out of shape.  But…you know…I walked part of the inclines…I kept my pace easy so as not to do any damage.  And I ended up having a better race than I anticipated I would.  Finishing a marathon in sub-4 after not being able to run for over a month, and having to tackle some intense hills…yeah…I’m happy with this!

I spotted Cathy at the finish line and she rushed over to congratulate me.  Then she said to go get my medal and stuff and to meet her in the reunion area.  I walked through to get the beautiful medal from this race.  Then…water.  Ah, sweet water.  And then it was the Mylar blanket followed by chocolate milk.  I made my way through the chute until I made the turn to head toward Centennial Park and the Publix Food Tent.  Cathy was waiting on a grassy knoll just inside the gate.  I walked over the area where the bomb went off during the 1996 Olympic Games and made my way to where she was.  She gave me a huge hug and congratulated me once again.  We made our way over to the Publix Food Tent and I had my ticket torn off my bib to get my bag of goodies for the finish.  They even gave Cathy one.  That was very nice of them…as Cathy works just as hard as I do at these races, trust me.  I went to a clearing in the grass and put my feet up, attempting to call my parents.  They were still in church though, so they didn’t answer their phones.  After that, I got myself back on my feet and went to do my calf stretches against what we later realized was the base of the Olympic Torch holder.  For real.

The finisher's medal of the Publix Georgia Marathon

The finisher’s medal of the Publix Georgia Marathon – Atlanta, Georgia

It was really cold out with the wind, so we made the short hike back to the hotel room so that I could take my shower, have the fruit cup Cathy picked up for me and then get ready to head out to the CNN Center for the CNN Studio Tour she picked up tickets for while I was on the run.  That, by the way, was so much fun.  I have a degree in journalism, so I was eating up every moment of the tour.  We did a little bit of shopping and TONS of walking around Atlanta.  It was a good afternoon.  And I never really stopped moving, which is always a good thing.

And now, I’ve retired back to the hotel room where I am about to do my stretches and resistance band work.  Law & Order SVU is on…and I’m feeling content.  I was so nervous about this race going into it…and I’m content with what happened and how I did.  Sure…slightly disappointed…but you know…this one had to be about running smart.  It just had to be that way.

So…my official results of the Publix Georgia Marathon are that I finished in a time of 3:51:32 (for 26.47 miles).  I wasn’t expecting to go sub-4 on this one, so this was a very nice surprise.  I was 296/1628 finishers overall.  I was the 64/647 female to cross the finish line.  And I was 10/98 in my division.  Was this the marathon I wanted?  Absolutely not.  But…it was the best marathon I could have given the circumstances I was under.  I ran smart…I listened to my body…and I crossed that finish line.



The Good Shepherd Run For The Gold 3K – Frankfort, KY (March 17, 2014)

Me crossing the finish line of The Good Shepherd Run For The Gold 3K - Frankfort, Kentucky (I'm totally smiling because I finished without pain!)

Me crossing the finish line of The Good Shepherd Run For The Gold 3K – Frankfort, Kentucky (I’m totally smiling because I finished without pain!)

Race: The Good Shepherd Run For The Gold 3K

Place: Frankfort, Kentucky

Date: March 17, 2014

Time: 13:09

I’m baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!!

Did you miss me?  I missed me.  So, I hope you missed me too.

This has been one rough year for me thus far when it comes to my running.  It just seems like it’s one minor ache then one major sprain.  And everything just spirals out of control from there.  For real!  UGH!  I’ve been in tears more than once over the amount (or lack thereof) of running I’ve been able to accomplish thus far this year.  Why?  Well…weather has been awful and treadmill running is not my favorite thing to do.  I will do it, yes…but it takes a lot for me to get on one because…BORING!  Secondly…a really bad sprained ankle.  Bad enough to require numerous physical therapy sessions.  I was on an “absolutely NO running” restriction for awhile…and then it was an “only run on the treadmill…and not too fast…or too far” restriction.  Finally, I got the “you can run outside, but only if the terrain is flat.”  Have you seen where I live?  There is no part of this area that is pancake flat that would allow me to run.  SO frustrating.

But yesterday…on a chilly, but sunny St. Patrick’s Day…I went to what would end up being my final PT session.  Yep.  I’m done.  And, my therapist told me…that very day before I got into the car to make the drive to Frankfort…to try running hills.  See how the ankle did.  Which…worked out because I knew of the one steep-ish hill we have to climb in Frankfort on this little sprint.  If it hurt…I was to continue my sessions.  If everything seemed okay…no pain or twinges…nothing felt off…I was done.  We shook hands, and I headed toward my race.

This is my traditional St. Patrick’s Day race.  Yes…it can be a bit of a hassle, especially when St. Patrick’s Day falls on a weekday…like this year.  Monday evening.  This meant leaving work for PT, then immediately getting in the car and making the journey to Frankfort.  It takes just under an hour if the traffic gods are smiling on you.  I packed dinner.  Gluten-free peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, to eat a little later.  My roommate and I made crazy-good time, actually.  We were in Frankfort long before we really needed to be.  With some time to spare, we stopped by the Kroger, where I went to use a flushing toilet and she went hunting for something to eat with the sammies.  She found me a banana…so I was a happy girl.

Anyway…we returned to the car and dined in the parking lot on my homemade sammies.  I saved my banana for a little closer to race time.  Once we noshed, we returned to the road and ventured toward downtown Frankfort, parking in our usual parking garage and hiking over to where packet pickup was being held.

I was in and out of there in no time.  And, since it was really chilly in the shade…we ventured over toward the sunshine across the street from where the race was starting.  A lot of runners also had this idea.  We stood around and just sort of discussed a few things, mostly my take on this race.  I had no great expectations being so fresh off my really bad sprain.  So…my goal was to finish it and finish it without doing further damage to myself.  While I was standing there, my super-speedy friend, Linda, came over to say hi.  We hugged and talked for a moment, before she dashed off to get her packet.  I pulled out my iPhone and was updating Facebook with a status about pre-race jitters when I got a tap on my shoulder.

Remember Kendall Hayes, the amazing young woman who won the Frankfort Trifecta last year?  It was her dad, her mom, the legend herself, and her brother, Connor (who is also an amazing runner and came in 6th overall this year).  Her dad wanted to thank me for saying such nice things about Kendall in my blog last year.  I said she definitely earned the praise.  Honestly…look for this woman in Bend, Oregon running with the Nike elites.  This will happen.  Mark my words.  In fact, Kendall won the top spot again this year!  Like I said, she’s incredible.  The two kids went to stretch, which reminded me I needed to do the very same thing.  I promised both of my physical therapists to be better about doing that before and after running.  Hoping to prevent future injuries.  So, I did a few of the usual stretches I normally would half-ass, but this time, really did them.  I could tell my hamstrings were tight, so I did the hamstring stretches my physical therapists had shown me.  And, I actually did something I never have done before…I did some warm-up strides.  Yep.  Me!  Doing those little dashes up and down the street before the start of the race.  It definitely helped loosen up those hammies a little.  Not a lot…but some.  And that was better than nothing.

The race start was getting close, so Cathy went to find a spot to cheer from.  As I was heading to the starting line, I felt a little tap on my shoulder.  It was my dearest friend, Debbie Brown, who helps put together the 5K race that is part of this series.  She asked how my ankle was doing and asked if I was running.  I told her I was going to attempt to run and see how it felt.  I was so glad she spotted me, as I had been looking for her while we were standing around.  The pace signs were being held aloft so people could line up appropriately.  I wasn’t sure what to do about lining up, so I just picked a spot and went with it.  A blessing was given for the runners and walkers, tied in with a nice Irish Blessing.  It was nice.  Then…we were awaiting the pistol.

It fired…and we were off.

It felt so weird to be racing again.  Not just racing…attempting a sprint without getting hurt.  Cathy had brought some KT Tape to tape me up, but I told her it was a short race…I’d be fine.  At this point, remembering this was more of a sprint than a distance race, I was second-guessing this.  Call it ‘first official run after the injury’ concerns.  Or minor panic.  I just found a decent stride and fell into it.  I was trying not to focus on my time this year…as I was really just released to run.

Linda blazed by me within the first hundred feet and said, “Don’t you dare hurt yourself.  I will beat you if you do!”  It made me laugh and it was just what I needed to settle my nerves.  And I was proud of Linda.  Last year she was the one trailing me.  This year, I have a feeling I’ll be the one trailing her (because she kicked my ass in this one!).  With that little boost, I was rounding the corner and making my way up toward that incline.  My first incline since the injury.  I almost held my breath…but then…pushed…up…the…hill.

No pain.  Just felt really winded.  Man…I must have lost some fitness in that entire month I was off from running.  It sure seems like I lost fitness.  I just haven’t been able to run like I did last year.  And it drives me mad.  But…slow, steady steps.  Rush it and risk reinjury.  So…I just sort of made my way up the street to the turn around point.  I made the turn and headed back down toward the bridge.  As I was passing some spectators, I heard one of them shout, “First place for pigtails!” at me.  I pumped my fist and smiled.  Awesome.  Down the hill I went and back into the town.

A 3K is a very short distance…around 1.84 miles.  Last year, I ran this race in 13:02.  I didn’t think I’d come anywhere close to that this year.  I was huffing and puffing like a rookie runner at this point and felt myself get so angry at that fact.  But…pushed onward.  And forward.  I came around the final turn and attempted to pick up my pace to dash into that finish line.  I saw my numbers tick by as I crossed.  Not too far off of last year’s time.  No improvement.  And…a part of me felt so good about the run.  And another part of me felt so disappointed.

It’s hard to explain when you come back to a race…but you’re not up to where you were the previous year.  I was so happy to have finished with no ankle pain, no twinges…nothing.  And then, there was that part of my brain that said…if you had pushed that hill harder…if you had maintained that initial speed you took off with…you could have…you should have…you would have…

It wasn't the race I wanted...but it was the race I had...and I finished strong and without pain.  That was the important thing!

It wasn’t the race I wanted…but it was the race I had…and I finished strong and without pain. That was the important thing!

And then you just need to tell that voice to shut the hell up!  Because, while I am a little disappointed that I didn’t place in my division this year…that those I passed last year were passing me…that I feel like I’ve lost my speed…that I may never find my speed again…I have to remember…I sprained the hell out of my ankle and being able to run that race was a gift in and of itself.  That being said, finishing only 7 seconds slower than last year isn’t bad.  It’s not great…but that’s really damn impressive for someone who hasn’t been able to do much running on varied terrain…or even outside…or even at all.  Yeah, part of me is very sad, upset, and wants to throw a fit…but the bigger part of me is proud of what I accomplished and managed under the circumstances.

Anyway, the official results of The Good Shepherd Run For The Gold 3K are that I finished in 13:09.  I was 48/708 finishers overall.  I was 4/109 in my division.  Once again, the 30-39 women’s division was the largest overall for the race.  So…I’ll take this.  My brain might not like it…but my heart tells me…I did good just to run it.  Running is a gift, and I’m thankful I can do it again…even if it means slowing down for a little while to allow myself ample time to heal.

Another hell of a sprint this year.  Already making plans to come back next year…and maybe best my time from last year.  With a little work…anything is possible!

Thank you again, Frankfort, for this very fun race!



Physical Therapy – 2 Weeks In…

Stepping out with weights...

Stepping out with weights…

Ever since the ankle sprain heard around the world (okay…not really, but…it seems like this just isn’t going away), I have gone to the doctor, been X-rayed, and now am going twice a week to physical therapy, where I am working with two very good therapists, Jill and Shawn.

The good news is…no fractures. No stress fractures. NOTHING…I repeat…NOTHING…is broken.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is…I seriously sprained my ankle.  Yep.  Seriously.  And not the typical inversion ankle sprain either (that would be on the outside of the ankle).  Nope.  I’m a special case.  I do the more uncommon and rather quite rare, rolling the ankle outward and doing the damage to the inside of my ankle.  Because, why do things the way 80% of the population does, right?  I will not conform.  *sigh*

So, last week I went to my first physical therapy session.  And was immediately discouraged.  There were measurements taken of both my feet an ankles, and I was given a couple of exercises to do, and given some of the bands to really work my ankle some more.  I left not really sure how I felt, but had another appointment set up to meet with Shawn, who would go over some other things I could do and work with me a bit further.  Needless to say, I had my doubts, but that Friday evening when I went into my session, Shawn really did make me feel better and did move things along.

I have about 30 minutes of stretching that I am doing, twice a day, every day.  Then, I am doing 3 sets of 20 reps of each ankle flexing exercise with the various bands (they each provide a different bit of resistance and strength) twice a day.  That’s a lot.  But…I do it.  Despite not always feeling like doing it.  I still do it.  Why?  Because I am seeing improvement.

That being said, today was going to be a very important session.  I went into my session and did my warm-up on the bike.  Then, Shawn got me strapped into a weight machine and had me do some forward, backwards, and side stepping, while hooked up to some weights.  Resistance to make it a little tougher and to test that ankle.  Then he had me doing some ankle exercises while hooked up to some weights around each ankle, to work on some balance and strength.  I managed these, no problem at all.  The hard part was talking and counting my required 20 reps.  It’s the little things.

The moment of truth came after that.  Shawn took me over to the treadmill, which he told me he was going to do today, to have me walk…then up the pace…then up it to a very light, very easy, very gentle run.  He put it on 5.0 mph and I sort of just jogged…for three minutes.  And I did okay.  The ankle twinged (nothing painful, it just didn’t feel right…) a couple of times, but it was progress.  Good progress.  I felt good about it.  I was hoping…praying…that I’d get the okay to start running again.

And I did.

Kind of.

A deliberate-paced run on the treadmill...

An easy, deliberate-paced run on the treadmill…

I’m still not permitted to run outside.  Not yet.  Nope.  That’s a negative on the one thing I was really, really hoping to get the go-ahead on.  Yeah, I was a bit bummed when he delivered that news to me.  I know, he wants to make sure I’m ready, and I understand that, but, God, I miss being out there.  I really do.  However…I am cleared to easily run and do some intervals of run/walk on the treadmill.  Completely cleared to do that.  And when I go in on Monday, I get to report on how the ankle is feeling after spending a weekend doing that.  This is progress.  It just wasn’t the progress I was hoping to make.  But…baby steps.  Rome wasn’t built in a day and this ankle won’t get back up to speed (pardon the pun) overnight.  It just doesn’t work like that.  At least I’m cleared to do some deliberate running…even if it is at the gym on the treadmill or around the tiniest track in the world (FOR REAL!).

Progress is progress…no matter how small, right?  Right.

That’s what I keep reminding myself.  I am also learning to get used to a little disappointment (like the news delivered today).  But, in the end, it just means I’ll have a lifetime of running…and not do damage to myself that I can’t come back from it.  My physical therapy sessions are definitely helping.  And I hope…come next week…I’ll see a little more progress as well.  Maybe get out in the fresh air.  Maybe.

For now…as much as I hate the treadmill…it sure is better than nothing.  Now to just train my brain to keep it easy and slow and ease back into it.  Running smart means sometimes running with your head and not your heart.

Progress!

Progress!



I am Ryan Hall…

I am Ryan Hall.

No…not because I have his speedy gazelle-like stride…

Ryan Hall

Ryan Hall

(Because…let’s face it…if I was Ryan Hall…I’d have endorsements and big money wins at races…and a much better race PR in ALL THE RACES…of which…I have none of those things…)

…or that my coach is God…

Coach God

Coach God

I am Ryan Hall because I seem to be running less…running easier…and getting hurt doing it.  Continuously hurt.

I blame winter.  Really.  Every injury that I’ve incurred has happened in December through February…and it’s been because I chose to run outside…on snow…on ice…and just managed to hit something wrong.  That’s how I strained my Achilles back in December.  That’s how I twisted my ankle last week too.

And that’s why I’m sitting out a race I chose to run today in honor of my parent’s 40th wedding anniversary.  I wasn’t even bothering to train for it.  I have been running on a treadmill for short distances, which is really no way to train, but the weather this year has been SO awful for running outside.  But…I also have been dealing with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), so…sometimes I just need to be outside.  It’s been a struggle this year.  I feel like my running is really starting to falter.  Not only do I keep going out and getting hurt, but I don’t feel light and fast like I used to. I just feel…like I’m really starting to slow down.

And it sucks.  Not being able to run this morning…SUCKS!  Big time.  I’ve cried all week over the possibility that I might not be running.  I made the trip anyway…with ice packs and KT Tape.  I went to get my packet.  I limped my way through it all.  But last night…last night I knew…I knew that no matter what…that ankle was not going to be up to par.  If I ran…I’d do further damage.  It would put me out longer…perhaps forever.

And while it wasn’t an easy decision…while the tears are still flowing as I type this blog…I know it was the right decision.  It doesn’t mean I don’t feel like a disappointment and a failure.  I do.  Honestly.  I do.  And my confidence in my abilities and my running is more than crumbling at the moment.  I’m down.  I’m depressed.  And I feel like I can’t…I won’t…come back from this.

And then…I find a quote from one of my running idols:

Kara's Words of Wisdom

Kara’s Words of Wisdom

So, maybe this is just a bump in the road.  It feels more like a sinkhole, to be honest.  But…you know…I can sit here and feel miserable about it or I can do what I can do…it might not be running…but something…and focus on moving on…to the next thing.  Sure, I can be disappointed…and I am.  Sure, I can feel like a failure…and I do.  But…I can’t let this defeat me.  I can’t let this define me.  I know I can run.  I may not be the fastest or the strongest.  I might eat too much gluten-free pizza and ice cream.  But I’m a runner, dammit.  And for a 5’3″ girl with short legs…I’m pretty damn fast when I’m on top of my game.

Life isn’t always fair.  In fact…it more often isn’t.  And life comes at you fast.  Life is unpredictable.  Life…can honestly suck at times.  And it’s in these moments of darkness that you realize…there is a silver lining.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel.  It may not seem like it…you may not see it…but it’s there.

Coming out of the dark...

Coming out of the dark…

My good friend, Jesse Hall, said this to me just now:

There is always another race, another time, another horizon. What there is not is another you, therefore there are people who look up to you and see a brave woman. You have taught us today that you do your best, and sometimes do your best is not doing anything. Sometimes it requires time to heal.

His words mean so much to me.  I literally started crying all over again…but for different reasons.  He’s right.  I can sit here and feel miserable about myself and the situation…or I can continue to inspire those who tell me in small ways that I inspire them.  I’d rather be the brave, strong woman who returned to race another day.

It is just all a matter of perspective.

It’s still not easy.  And I’m still crying over it.  But…it won’t define me.

However…I will be upset about it.  I will shed tears over it.  I will not let myself think I am weak for crying and feeling disappointed.  It’s natural and normal.  But I will come back.  In time.

Until then…

Free Hugs?

Free Hugs?