Friday, April 24, 2015

Review: Forks and Corks

God bless whomever invented stretchy jeans.

Spandex and elastic were necessary last night after indulging in a near 50-course food and wine fest, and I'm STILL in a food coma today.

Nom. Nom. Nom.

Not to mention, I think I put on 10 pounds in one night. Gah.

Hubby and I attended the 19th-annual Forks and Corks event last night, which features gourmet food and wine from more than 50 of Kansas City's finest restaurants and wineries, each offering their signature dishes and their finest wines. Forks & Corks was created in 1997 to support Harvesters’ hunger relief effort and is known today as one of Kansas City’s best Food & Wine Events! As their tag line says, "Eat, drink & feed many at this fantastic event where 100% of the proceeds benefit the hungry in our community!"

We attended this last year, and had so much fun - between the food, the wine, and the fellowship of other foodies - that we weren't about to miss it this year.

A VIP ticket got us Valet Parking, entrance to the VIP lounge, and a 30-minute "head start" at the food & wine booths. That 30-minute head start is HUGE, as the lines will get long and longer as the evening progresses…especially at the more popular food booths. We knew from past experience that a couple of booths would get hit HARD when the doors opened to the general public, and so that's where we made a bee-line at the get-go.

And those booths did not disappoint.

First up was the ever-popular Capital Grille, which featured some slow-braised beef and creamy, hot mashed potatoes:

This ended up being my favorite entree of the evening…it was pure perfection.

Although this one was pretty darned good, as well:

This was from Fogo de Chao, a Brazilian steakhouse here in town. You had me at steak.

For dessert, two standouts for us included a chocolate flour-less cake with a jalapeno-strawberry jam from Johnson County Community College Culinary school:

…and assorted chocolates from Kansas City's premier chocaliter, Andre's Confiserie Suisse:

Can I just take the whole table home with me???!!

One of those truffles was infused with Kansas City's own J. Rieger whiskey. This special whiskey began in 1887, but was killed by Prohibition in 1920. However, 95 years later - the whiskey is BACK!! And it's better than ever, trust me. These truffles came with instructions: "You MUST eat this whole - do NOT attempt to nibble."

Embossed with the J. Rieger monogram…how cool is THAT??!!

I soon found out why…there wasn't just a drop of whiskey in that sucker. It EXPLODED, with a SHOT of delicious, smooth whiskey that blended perfectly with the chocolate shell.

I may - or may not - have had a few of those. Hubby was worried that the Andre's booth were going to have to take out a restraining order on me…I was pretty much stalking that table for awhile.

The Melting Pot had these fabulous chocolate-covered strawberries:

Almost too pretty to eat. Notice I said, "almost." Hee hee.

As far as having to worry about gluten-free offerings, it was pretty easy to ask someone at the booth if their food was "safe" for Celiacs. There were definitely some booths I had to avoid - such as the pasta offering at Lidia's Restaurant - but I never felt cheated or short-changed. In fact, it may have been a BLESSING that I couldn't quite indulge in EVERY. SINGLE. ITEM. at this event.

Like the famous Rainbow Cake from Succotash:

Gah. I would have exploded.

But that certainly didn't stop Hubby from indulging in some deliciousness:

We could just not. stop. eating.

As far as the drinks - what's more fun than walking up to a booth that has 8-10 bottles of wine, holding out your wine glass, and saying, "Yes, please" as they refill it??!! Over. And Over. Again.

Fill 'er up, please. Squee.

A little white…a little red…a little buzz going on in my head...

Basically, the whole evening was like, "YOU get a drink! And YOU get a drink! And EVERYONE gets a drink!!"

Lots of happy people, trust me.

Except for a Kansas City policeman walking around, making sure no one was getting TOO out of hand. I assured him that the food, and especially the wine, was terrible, and he wasn't missing out on anything. He thanked me, and said, "Yeah - I see a whole bunch of people having a horrible time tonight."


Meanwhile, there was a live band, Lost Wax, who played some great covers of everything from Garth Brooks to Black Eyed Peas. They kept encouraging everyone to dance, but I think everyone was too busy eating and drinking to even THINK about dancing. Although dancing would have probably burnt off some calories, which was sorely needed at this point.

There was also a silent auction, which had some pretty cool items, including tickets to The Jimmy Kimmel Show…wowza. Those went for a pretty penny. But for a reasonable $30, Hubby and I scored this cool basket, stuffed with some culinary delights, from Monin Gourmet Flavorings. I was happy - as I had fallen in love with the Honey Mango iced tea earlier in the evening:

I know they didn't consult with me, but if they'd put up a year's supply of those whiskey-filled chocolate truffles for auction, I may have cleaned out our life savings in order to win.

At some point, I was taking a much-needed break from stuffing my face, checking out Facebook, when I saw that a sorority sister from college was at the event. From her photos on Facebook, I saw that she was wearing a houndstooth dress - and looking up - saw that she couldn't have been more than 20 feet from me.


After about three hours of wining and dining, Hubby and I waddled back to the car and headed home…happy with our meal, happy with our basket, and happy knowing we'd helped stock the shelves at our local food pantry for another year.

And when we got home - we may…or may not…have looked like this:


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Garmin Half Marathon: A Review

Sometimes, life hands you a good kick in the a$$.

And sometimes, that kick in the a$$ is needed.


After setting a PR (personal record) the week prior at the Rock the Parkway Half-Marathon, I’d been somewhat cocky…struttin’ around like Foghorn Leghorn in a barnyard of chickens…ready to take on the running elites, confident that I was ready for the Big Leagues of Marathon Racing.


A little setback, otherwise known as the Garmin Half-Marathon, happened, bringing me back to reality with a cold, hard “plunk”. A cold, wet splash in the face – literally - but very much needed.

Flying Monkeys…bah. I hate Flying Monkeys.


The Garmin Half-Marathon, which was set for Saturday, April 18th, was Part 2 of the Heartland 39.3 Series…three half-marathons within five weeks that will earn me a huge-a$$ medal, but also some pretty tired legs when it’s all said and done, which will be on Saturday, May 9th.

It's all about the bling...

All week, I’d been watching the forecast for last Saturday, and it was not looking good. As Race Day drew nearer, the weathermen were ominously predicting severe thunderstorms, gusty winds, and pretty much doom & gloom for Saturday morning. Gah. I can deal with gusty winds…I can deal with rain…but what I CAN’T deal with is lightning. Now, I get that MOST people can’t deal with lightning, but I pretty much have a phobia of it. A flash in the sky can pretty much send me into full-blown panic, and the thought of running over 2.5-hours while having a heart attack was not something I was looking forward to.

So, having to not only mentally deal with how to dress for potentially being soaked and freezing for 13.1-miles, as well as how to deal with lightning-induced panic attacks, pretty much consumed my thoughts for the 48 hours leading up to Saturday.

We’d set the alarm to ring at 4:45 a.m. on Race Day, because we’re kinda’ stupid about that, but anxiety, nerves and adrenaline had me wide awake at 3:45 a.m. You can imagine how thrilled I was about losing an hour of sleep on race day. However, looking out in the pre-dawn darkness, I was somewhat relieved to see that the rain had not moved in yet…perhaps I’d luck out and it would hold off until the race was over??

I quickly donned “Flat Me” – the outfit I’d carefully arranged the night before. The bright yellow vest was a new purchase – but I was hoping it would give me an extra layer of warmth in the wind and the rain…as well as giving me some visibility in case the skies stayed dark. The vest was advertised as “glow in the dark” – and as I looked at later photos of me during the race – it DEFINITELY glowed. That sucker was so darned bright that I’m pretty sure the astronauts at the International Space Station could see me.

My eyes! My eyes!

After a 30-minute or so drive, Hubby and I arrived at Garmin International, the site of the Start/Finish line for the race. We were directed to a parking space that was literally 100 yards from the port-a-potties, which was a blessing, as that’s normally my first stop. While heading over to take care of business, I pulled out my phone so I could text Kristin, my BRB (Best Running Buddy), to see where she was…and imagine my surprise when she was literally right in front of me. What were the odds of THAT?? Four thousand runners, and here she was…in my path trajectory!!

Kristin and I made our way over to the Finish Line, where we hooked up with some more friends, Paula and Bill. Introductions were made, and we chit-chatted…all while I was still nervously assessing the skies and any impending danger. Did I mention that I HATE, HATE, HATE thunderstorms??!!

Partners in crime…Paula and Bill...

Here is where I made Mistake #1.

I spent so much time jabbering, that I really didn’t mentally focus on what was ahead of me. I normally like to go over my “game plan” inside my head…where I’ll suck a GU Energy Gel, when I’ll need to slow down or speed up, etc…but that’s all done best when you’re by yourself. Not while standing in a social circle, socializing. While we made our way over to the Start Line, with about 10 minutes before the start of the race, I told myself I’d do a quick mental focus when I got lined up in my corral.

This is when I discovered Mistake #2.

Normally, about 15-20 minutes before the start of a race, I like to nibble on some Honey Stinger Energy Chews. As we walked over to the corrals, it occurred to me that I had left my Stingers IN THE CAR.

This freaked me out a bit. NO STINGERS??!!


Oh well. Too late now. Tough it up, Buttercup.

Jumping into the corrals, I observed that a lady next to me had on a shirt that I also own – and it’s one of my favorite running shirts. Well, I HAD to compliment her on her excellent taste in clothing, and soon we were quickly becoming BFF’s. Diana (see, already on a first-name basis!) had driven all the way to Kansas from Georgia to participate in this race. I looked at her like she was crazy, and she explained, “Well – I liked the medal.” I’m sorry, but that made it even CRAZIER to me!! I mean, Flying Monkeys. On a medal. Gah.

As we were talking, here comes yet another friend, Tracy, and again, introductions were made, photos were taken – and I STILL had not gone over my game plan.

Tracy, me and Diana…STILL not focusing here...

“It’s okay,” I thought to myself. “I can still do it during the National Anthem.”


There WAS no National Anthem!!!

Okay, that’s not correct. Apparently, they played it – but they didn’t play it over a public address system…so those of us in the back of the corrals NEVER, EVER heard it. Hubby said that even in the front, where he was, they could barely hear it.

So…as I was chatting with Tracy and Diana, we looked around and realized that runners around us were starting to run.

“Hey!!” Tracy exclaimed. “We’re MOVING!!!”

Well, crap again. No Stingers. No National Anthem. And no Mental Focus/Game Plan before the race.

It was time to run.

I’m not going to go into a mile-by-mile breakdown of this race…suffice to say that it was long. And it was hard. Because it seemed to go uphill…a LOT. More than last week’s race, actually. At race time, the humidity was at 97%, and my lungs felt like I was sucking water every time I took a breath, which, when running uphill, happens a lot. Lots of breaths. Lots of huffing and puffing.

When I finally caught enough breath to somewhat analyze this, around Mile 3, I realized I was running with the 2:20 Pace Group – which is about 20-25 minutes TOO FAST for me. I was so stunned at this bonehead move on my part that I almost literally slapped myself right there. This was a Rookie Mistake – starting out too fast – and I am NOT a Rookie, and should have known better. No wonder I was sucking air – I was running way too fast than what my body had trained for.

I immediately slowed things down – but the damage had been done. My legs were spent. And I had ten more miles to run. Mistake #3.

At Mile 4, my knee was starting to make its unhappiness known – what with the hills and the earlier speed drills – and I instinctively reached into my pocket for my emergency Ibuprofen that I carry.

And it wasn’t there.

I’d lost my little bag of medicine somewhere along the race course.

Mistake #4.


At this point along the race, I was somewhat regretting wearing that yellow vest. A fellow friend and runner, Kathi, had suggested that I might get too hot in it, and I was starting to believe she was right. I unzipped it as far as it would go, and doused myself in showers of water every time I hit the Water Station.

By Mile 6, the raindrops started…light, at first…but increasing with intensity. Far off in the distance, I heard the rumbles of thunder. Yikes. It was coming. The lightning was coming.

By Mile 8, I was soaked…what with the rain, and the previous showers I had taken at the Water Station with the Dixie Cups. The wind had kicked up, and any thoughts that I had overdressed with the yellow vest were gone. I was now officially freezing. I was also congratulating myself for perhaps doing the only smart thing of the day – wearing that vest – as it gave me a little bit of warmth.

Mile 8 is where the race course took an interesting diversion…we’d been running along asphalt-coated streets, but suddenly, we were now on a bike trail through a park. The scenery though this area was incredible – trees budding out in beautiful spring colors, a bubbling brook and bridges, etc – but the trail was incredibly muddy AND slippery from all the runners.

It was like running on an ice rink.

I’m not sure how long this trail lasted, but enough to slow me down even more. By this time, I’d pretty much resigned myself that my only goal was to finish, period. Don’t worry about time. Don’t worry about setting any PR’s. Just finish.

By now, I'd settled into a good rhythm. It went something like this:

Run, run, splash, splash, flash, flash, BOOM.

It was my slowest half-marathon to date, but I didn’t care at this point. I was just happy to finish, in the rain, in the lightning, and in one piece. I was wet. I was freezing. I was tired.

And I’d qualified for Half Fanatics, my Bucket List item which was now complete.

Shivering, Hubby and I had just made our way to the car when a HUGE crash of thunder roared in our ears – and the skies opened up to torrential showers. I couldn’t have timed my finish any better – missing most of the worst of it.

In a lot of ways, I’m glad things went wrong at this race. Mistakes we make are teachable moments, and this race was certainly that for me. Things I should know better than, and things I should/could plan better for in the future, will all help me in future races. I’m still relatively a “newbie” when it comes to running, and I hope that my mistakes will help someone else in the future, as well – those “Don’t do THIS” moments are helpful.

Things I Liked About This Race:

1. The incredible volunteers. They were out there, in the rain, and I KNOW they had to be even more cold than we were. Their enthusiasm never wavered – so major snaps to them.
2. The theme: being that we were in Kansas, the Land of Oz, the race was focused on the Wizard of Oz, complete with a Flying Monkey medal. There was some great signage along the route that incorporated themes from the movie, such as courage, heart, etc. The Finish Line had been decked out as a Yellow Brick Road, which was pretty cool. There were also several costumed runners, which made things interesting.
3. Not too many runners. This was a smaller race, and I enjoyed not being surrounded by swarms of people…and we always had plenty of room on the streets to run. No pinch points.
4. The food & beer at the after-party…although I can’t have the beer (due to the gluten), Hubby really enjoyed his. Whole Foods were giving out bags of food at the end, which was incredible. There were also free chicken sandwiches and burgers.

Things I Didn’t Like:
1. It’s advertised as “Wickedly Fast” – but that’s not the case. They need to be honest about the “rolling” hills that are part of this course. It’s not flat. Not at all.
2. The weather – but there’s nothing the Race Director can do about that. That’s just my own phobias, which I need to deal with.
3. The course…that trail was just…gah. WAY too slippery to run on with any decent speed. It slowed a lot of us down.
4. The medal. It has a Flying Monkey on it. The Flying Monkeys used to scare the BEEJEEBUS out of me when I was little, so I’m not overtly fond of this medal.
5. Packet Pick-Up: It was at a Hilton Garden Inn – in the LOBBY. Four thousand runners showing up to pick up shirts & bibs in a small LOBBY is not good. It was crowded and crammed and chaotic. Not very many vendors, either – which that may have been good for my wallet. ;)

Note the back of the shirt: “A Wicked Good Time.”

Ummmm…no. Just no.



*Image from HERE

Monday, April 13, 2015

Rock the Parkway Half-Marathon: A Review

I ran my 3rd half-marathon last Saturday, at Kansas City's 6th Annual Rock the Parkway…one of the fastest growing half-marathons in the area.

And if I'd just been brazen enough to wet my pants…I would have smashed my previous record of running a half.

Darned bladder the size of a pea.

Darned long lines at the port-a-potty.

Darned peeps in front of me in line who took FOOOORRRREEEEVVVVEEEEERRRR themselves.

Let's back up, though, shall we???

So…Rock the Parkway…let's talk about it.

A year ago, Hubby and I ran the 5k at Rock the Parkway…which was one of my first, ever, official races…and I remember I about died, trying to complete a 3.1-mile run. I wanted to puke afterwards. What a difference a year makes…because here I was, attempting my 3rd half-marathon, 13.1 miles, in less than a year. And let me be honest - even after having ran two previous halfs, I was by no means confident that I could pull this off. Not at all. My anxiety and nervousness knew no bounds, as I knew that my training the last few weeks had fallen far short of where it should have been - what with my bum knee and my insane travel schedule.

Saturday, I woke up at 5:25 a.m. in order to begin the process of getting dressed. The night before, I had laid out "Flat Me" to look like this:

However, when I checked the temperatures, they were a tad bit chillier than I had expected…so I ended up throwing on a base layer underneath the shirt (which I would regret later, as I got WAY too hot during the race), and a pair of running capris under my skirt (which I never regret, as they're like a second skin). I also threw on a "throwaway" Mickey Mouse sweatshirt at the last minute, which would keep me warm before the race began, but could easily be discarded along the side of the road when needed.

I'd packed my Fitletic Running Belt (which is pretty awesome, by the way) with not one, not two, but THREE GU energy gels, along with some eye drops, chapstick, Ibuprofen, and a hankie. Energy gels are a no-brainer: my plan was to suck down a GU every 3-4 miles for extra energy, as this has worked great for me in previous long runs. My contact lenses demand that I run with eye drops, as the least bit of wind will dry my eyes out like the Sahara Desert - gah. The Ibuprofen was there in case my knee (or any other part of my body, for that matter) decided to throw a fit during the run…and the hankie is because my nose sometimes decides to run just as much as my legs. Nothing can be more distracting, to me, anyway, than having a runny nose when you're trying to focus on running a race.

So, once Hubby and I were packed, we hopped in the car and drove to the Starting Line, which was located at 9400 Ward Parkway in Kansas City, Missouri (a good 23 miles from our house). A good majority of the race would take place on Ward Parkway, a wide tree-lined boulevard that has some awesome homes, fountains and scenery along the route…hence the name of the race, "Rock the Parkway."

This was the 6th year for Rock the Parkway, and it had sold out with 7,000 half-marathoners for Saturday's race. There were an additional 1,400 runners signed up for the 5k, which is what we had participated in last year. There is a staggered start for the race - the 5k runners start 30 minutes after the half-marathoners - which is nice, leading to less congestion at the start line.

We had no problem parking, choosing to park in a local high school's parking lot that was within yards of the starting line. There's lots of other parking lots nearby, as well as tons of side streets that offer available parking. As soon as we parked, I immediately texted my BRB (Best Running Buddy), Kristin, to see if she had arrived yet. She immediately texted back, "I just parked at Rockhurst High School. Plenty of parking here." How funny - that's where WE were parked at, and after glancing around the parking lot, I found Kristin about one row away from us.

Kristin and I, pre-race, in our throwaway sweatshirts…

We made our way to the starting area, where we hooked up with our running group, KC Endurance. My Beast of a Trainer, Jessica, was there, and she gave me some last-minute strategy and advice on how to tackle the race…as well as calming my nerves. KC Endurance had an awesome tent set up, so it was the perfect place to drop my Mickey Mouse sweatshirt - he will live to see another race!!!

I went for a last-minute visit to the port-a-potty, hoping it would be my last trip of the morning…little did I know that all of the water I'd been drinking for the days leading up to this race would come back to bite me.

Soon, it was time to head over to the corrals…RTP is a wave-start, and you're placed in a wave when you submit an estimated finish time when registering. I was back in Corral F, while Hubby was in B…so after kissing him goodbye, I made my way back. Along the way, I ran into Dana, another Running Buddy that I met first on Facebook, and then "in real life."

Too bad Bruce had his eyes closed…!!

All too soon, the race started, although it was a good 10 minutes or so before my corral actually got close enough to cross the timing mat at the start line. A quick flip of the Garmin watch, as well as a quick flip of the tunes on my iPhone, and I was off.

I'd only gone a few feet when I realized I was running with the 2:30 pace group…and I was immediately faced with a decision. My goal was to either tie - or beat - my time from the KC Half Marathon last October, which was 2:43. I had planned to run with the 2:40 pace group, but seeing the 2:30 pace group right in front of me, I quickly decided to hang with them for awhile, and if forced, I could always drop back and pick up the 2:40 group behind me. I wasn't sure how fast the 2:30 group would be going, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to "test the waters" for a mile or two, and then decide a final course of action.

The first couple of miles of the race are a long, gradual incline heading north on Ward Parkway…and I was having no problems at all running with the 2:30 group. Having ran with the Smart Pace Teams before, I knew what their strategy would be: they'll run a bit slower in the beginning of the race, walk through the water/aid stations, go really, really slow uphill, and go like hell downhill.

I could do that.

My only concern was my knee…and wondering how long it would take before it started hurting…and how much it would slow me down. Little did I know that it wouldn't be my KNEE that slowed me down…grrrrr….

So…I ran. And I ran. And I ran. Pretty much ran the entire first 4 miles straight, with no walk breaks - except for a brief walk through the first water station at Mile 2 - but at a pretty slow pace, considering it was all uphill. And I felt pretty strong…slammed down a GU gel at around the 4-mile mark, and grabbing water and Gatorade at the water stations. The Gatorade was for sipping; the water was for splashing on my face to keep me cool. And the 2:30 Pace Group was right there beside me the entire time, and I was starting to think that I could possibly, just possibly, shatter my personal record.

And then…disaster struck.

**insert ominous music here**

I had to pee.

As in…I had to really, REALLY pee…and it wasn't going to wait. Like, I had reverted back to being a newly potty-trained toddler and needed to go NOW. It didn't help that I had just passed the beautiful Meyer Circle Fountain at Mile 4, and the water was gurgling and bubbling and doing crazy things with my mind:


Frantically, I began looking for the nearest port-a-potty, and right around Mile 5, I saw a blessed sight: five little potties in a row. That was the good news. The bad news? A line of about 12 runners, waiting impatiently for those potties.


Having no choice, really, I ran over and joined the line…and then began waiting. And waiting. And waiting. We waited SOOOOOOOOO long that I seriously started thinking that the potties were empty, and we were being punk'd by some sadistic a$$hole. Minutes went by…precious minutes that I was losing on the clock, and I could see that 2:30 Pace Group disappearing off into the distance…a long-gone forgotten memory by now.


Finally, FINALLY, people began emerging from the potties, so the line began moving…but alas. By the time I hurriedly took care of business, I emerged and hopped back into the race in a sort of "No Man's Land" - not seeing any Pace Groups in front of me, nor behind me. I had no idea how much time I'd lost in that little venture, but I knew it had been over five minutes.

I should have just peed my pants. They were black. Who would know??

Okay. I kid. I would know. And that would be one too many people as it was.


Back to the race…the rest of it is sort of a blur. I knew we ran uphill…and uphill…and uphill…a lot. I know we didn't run downhill all that much, which kinda' pissed me off. But, knowing that running is 90% mental, I'd quickly try to squash the negative thoughts, so that I wouldn't sabotage my efforts. And it was getting hotter by the minute, so I was regretting that base layer I had on under my t-shirt. If I hadn't paid $99 for that base layer, it would have been stripped off and thrown away. But $99? No way, no how. I'd melt before I'd throw that sucker away.

One of my friends, Mary, lives along the route, and at a party the night before, had told me she'd be out looking for me to run by. Sure enough, I saw her standing on a street corner, anxiously peering through the crowd of runners parading by her, so I shouted and gave her a quick, sweaty hug - after first posing for an awesome photo, that is:

Do you see that girl with the dark blue top/purple sriped skirt to the front of me? I followed the girl the whole time - and I totally lusted after that skirt. It was pretty awesome. I. WANT. THAT. SKIRT.

Speaking of skirts…I got a lot of compliments and thumbs-up from fellow ladies on my own skirt. Which tickled me to no end, because as I always say - I may not be the fastest runner on the course, but I'll certainly be one of the most fashionable. Priorities, people.

Somewhere between Mile 5 and Mile 6, I came across a sofa…sitting in the middle of the road, really…with a table beside it and a giant sign: "Beer Stop." And on the table were little cups of beer. For the taking. Wha?? Was this legit? Apparently, this is a tradition that some mysterious benefactors do every year, but it doesn't take long for our local police department to find this little hidden gem and shut it down. Darn.

Soon, we were running through the mansions…the houses that are 10,000+ square feet that I can only dream of…I was swinging my head back and forth, overwhelmed by the house porn that was on either side of me, when I stepped in a pothole and rolled my ankle. Crap. That's going to hurt. Fortunately, another water stop was on the horizon, so I quickly downed one of those emergency Ibuprofen. Thank God for modern drugs.

Telling myself to quit paying attention to the houses, and pay more attention to the road in front of me, I carried on. Soon, I had passed Mile 7, and as I was rounding Loose Park, I looked up…and up…and up. There, in front of me, was a monster of a hill, that seemed to go on forever. Jeremy, our KC Endurance guru, had warned us about The Hill in his pre-race pep talk, telling us to not go all out on this, because this wouldn't be the last hill of the race…there were more. Crap. Well, he needn't have worried about me going all out on this…I was getting hot. And my legs were getting a bit tired.

And my lower back was starting to hurt.

As in, major pain. Like, I want to cry, pain. What the hell was this???!! This was new. This was unexpected. And this was not good. I still had 6 more miles to run, and I couldn't be dealing with a sore back.

Time to push on.

As I was somewhat slowly trudging up The Hill, I heard someone yelling my name, and I looked over to see another friend, Kathi, making her way up The Hill. Kathi's a Red Cross buddy of mine, and a fellow running fanatic. We chatted for awhile, more to take our minds off The Hill than anything, and soon I was taking off, hoping to get to the next water station at the Mile 8.4 Mark, so I could down another GU and another Ibuprofen.

Gah, I sound like a junkie.

Miles 9 - 11, I don't remember much, although I know the crowd support along the sidewalks was incredible. So many people, with so many amazing signs. Some were encouraging, some were motivating, and some were downright funny. "Smile if you've peed a little" - duh. I broke out in a HUGE smile.

Taken somewhere after Mile 8.4, because I'm down to my last GU in my belt…I'm amazed at my detective skills here….

Around Mile 12, I knew that a downhill was coming - soon - and I broke into a bit of a happy dance:

Wheeeeee!!!! I'm flying!!!

I also knew that I was going to be close - but it was possible to set a PR (personal record). Even more happy dance. Although my back felt like a thousand needles were being stuck in it, so I couldn't do the happy dance TOO much. It was agony just to move at this point.

Soon, I was running the last mile - a long, downhill stretch - that took me to the raucous finish line:

Pointing to my Angel in the Sky, my Dad...

My official time?


I HAD DONE IT!!! I'd shaved three minutes off my time from last October, and if I hadn't had to wait so darned long in the potty line, who KNOWS what time I'd had??!!

I was happy. Deliriously happy.

And looking for Hubby in a sea of 8,000 runners and 10,000 family and friends…it was a moving mass of humanity as I made my wait to get my medal and banana.

Hubby and I…with our bling. He found me, fortunately, as I would NEVER have found him in the mass of people...

So, I rocked the Parkway. #3 under my belt.

Woot! Woot!!

Happy dance, people!!! Happy dance!!!

Post-Race Thoughts:

Race Bling:

The Half Marathon shirt (different than the 5k shirt) is a royal blue tech shirt, and came in a men's or women's cut. The mesh sleeves are a nice touch.

It's pretty awesome, and will likely become one of my favorite shirts.

The back of the shirt:

I rocked it, indeed….

The medal is nice and solid, as well as heavy. A decorated ribbon is a nice touch:

Course Support:

Amazing. Lots of police presence at intersections, lots of volunteers at the water stations, and lots of people to cheer and yell on the sidelines. Couldn't ask for better support.

Race Organization:

The Kansas City Running Company sponsors this race, and they are truly the pros when it comes to organization. They know how to do it - and they do it right.

As for me, my only concern after this race is my back…what was causing it? And how can I prevent this in the future? Unsettling, to say the least - but certainly something I need to explore as I continue with my running adventures.

As far as Rock the Parkway goes - I would definitely do this race again. And maybe, just maybe, hold my pee.