Sometimes, well-meaning friends and family members have asked me why I keep training, and pushing myself, and signing up for races that start at ungodly hours on a weekend morning…
…and the answer, my friends, is bacon.
I confess…I have a love affair with bacon.
The aromatic smell, the crispy crunch as I snap a piece off in my mouth, and then...the smokey taste…nom. Nom. Nom.
I run so I can eat bacon.
And the Trolley Run, a 4-mile downhill race here in Kansas City, offers an opportunity to run WHILE eating bacon.
Let me back up.
The Trolley Run, now in it's 27th year, is one of the largest 4-mile races in the country. With a plethora of 5k's (3.1 miles) and half-marathons (13.1 miles) around, it's always awesome to find a 4-mile race, as it offers that perfect (for me) distance that's a tad bit more challenging than a 5k, but not near as grinding as a half marathon. The race benefits the Children's Center for the Visually Impaired (CCVI), so it's not unusual to have blind runners, along with their guides, running along beside you. Way cool.
The course follows the old streetcar/trolley tracks, and for the most part, is a gradual downhill course. SCORE! I love downhill courses. Almost as much as bacon. Almost.
I wasn't sure how my legs were going to be for this race, after having ran two half-marathons the two consecutive weeks prior to this. They were tired, but I figured that four miles was tolerable…surely, I could do this, right? Hubby and I had done this in 2014, and it had been my longest race at that point, to date. I had finished last year in the blinding speed of 49:10, with an average of 12:18 mile. I had placed 114 out of 264 women in the age group 50:54.
Me, last year. I hadn't discovered the beauty of Sparkle Skirts yet.
Could I top that this year?
I had certainly spent the last year training hard…so would it pay off?
Or would the two half-marathons I did the first part of April slow me down?
The night before race day, I had laid out "Flat Me":
If you haven't figured out by now, I have a serious addiction to Sparkle Skirts. They are da' BOMB. Built-in running shorts underneath, with POCKETS - SQUEE - that do NOT ever, ever ride up. And they sparkle. With glitter. Which is awesome.
Watching the weather conditions, it was going to be a little cooler than I liked…I began second guessing that tank top I had planned. When we woke up at 5:15 am, we also discovered that there was a northwest wind that was creating a windchill of 40 degrees. Yikes. I decided to add a base layer under the tank top, as well as a running hat to keep my ears warm.
I would end up regretting that base layer…and I'm learning that I really, really need to trust my initial gut reaction on what to wear, and to QUIT second-guessing myself.
Hubby and I made the 25-minute drive to the Country Club Plaza, which is where the Finish Line was located. This is a point-to-point race, so we needed to park at the Plaza and then ride a free shuttle bus the short 4-mile distance to the Starting Line, located in the Waldo neighborhood of Kansas City. We had no problems finding a parking spot on the Plaza, and then walked a short distance to where the buses were lined up - and HOLY COW.
We were met with mass pandemonium, as thousands of other runners all squeezed, pushed and shoved, trying to get on the few buses available. This race is organized by waves, and one of the race organizers began barking loudly that anyone with a red or blue bib needed first dibs on the buses, as those were the first two waves. Well, Hubby was red, and I was blue, so we hopped to the front of a line and quickly got on a bus, and although we didn't have a seat, we were just happy to be on one, and not still in the mass chaos. I used this short ride to go over my mental game plan, after having learned my lesson at the disastrous Garmin Half-Marathon.
Arriving at the Starting Line, a light drizzle was falling from the sky, and most of the runners were huddling under the awnings of nearby shops. It was surreal to see the Starting Line near empty this close to the start of a race:
Seriously. There's over 5,000 runners, so where the heck is everyone??!!
I almost had one of those, "Am I here on the wrong DAY???" moments, which NO runner ever wants to have. That's the stuff of nightmares.
Plenty of port-a-potties were available, and after making a quick visit, Hubby and I went to a side street to begin warming up. I've found that this is crucial, CRUCIAL, to how I'm going to perform in a race. When I first start trying to run - no matter how slow, or no matter the occasion - my entire mind and body will go into somewhat of a state of shock, and immediately rebel against this forced exercise. Seriously, it's like my legs don't even know how to function, and they'll stumble blindly down the road, each one going off in a different direction. My brain will be all, "Whah??!! What the He$$??!! What IS this foreign thing you're trying to do right now…RUNNING??!! We don't know what that is, and we DEMAND that you STOP!!! NOW!!!"
I've learned that if I warm up for 5-10 minutes, and push through these treacherous thoughts and motions, I'll eventually settle into a rhythm, and my mind & body will be all like, "Oh…we get it now! Running!! We know how to do that!! Silly us. Okay - we're good. Continue."
So. I warmed up. And I got into the groove with about 15 minutes before the start of the race…at which time, I kissed Hubby goodbye so he could go up to the Red Wave, while I settled into the Blues.
Sometimes, Selfies are NOT your friend.
While waiting, I checked Facebook, because, I mean…well…isn't that what everyone does before a race??!! I discovered that one of my Red Cross buddies was also at this race, so I texted her so we could say hello before the race:
Meghan and Me
It wasn't long before the national anthem was being played, sung by THIS guy, and he was really, really good - and I could HEAR it, which was even MORE awesome:
After that, a drone flew overhead, which, although drones are a bit creepy, they're also a bit cool:
SMILE! You're on CAMERA!!!
It was about this time that I started to get my Garmin 220 Forerunner watch started…and to my horror…it DIDN'T start!!! Ack!!! It was somehow…frozen…and it would NOT turn on! A brief panic attack ensued, as I wondered how I would ever, EVER hope to run four miles without a watch.
And then my brain settled down, and I realized it was NOT my watch that was doing the running, but my legs. And my legs were fine. Rather than trying to run/walk with intervals, I told myself that my new strategy would be to "run" the course…run as much as I could for all of the downhills, and walk, if needed, only when there were uphills or I was just too freaking exhausted to run anymore.
Whew. Panic attack averted.
The gun started, and the Red Wave took off…and a few minutes later, it was our turn - the Blue Wave. I had settled towards the back of the corral, not wanting to get caught up in a deluge of runners at the beginning of the course. My strategy was to get a good "pocket" of space around me, so I wouldn't waste time bobbing and weaving around slower runners or walkers.
There are a few uphills on this course, and most of them are at the beginning. Compared to the hills I'd been running the last few weeks at the Rock the Parkway and the Garmin, these hills were NOTHING. I just ran. And ran. And ran. I kinda' felt like Forrest Gump, in that it seemed that all cylinders were firing, and everything seemed to be settling into place: I just felt like running.
Before I knew it, I was already past the Mile 1 Marker…I was so focused on running, that I TOTALLY missed the race photographer stationed along the sidelines…
I know. I'm shocked, too. I'm normally on top of those things. No cheesy smile for the photographer?? I'm so disappointed in myself.
However - take a second look at that photograph, and notice the visually-impaired runner behind me, alongside his guide.
That is WAY cool.
Although my legs were feeling really good at this point, I was getting pretty hot. As in, this is how I felt on the inside:
So hot. So freakin' hot.
This is the 2nd race in a row I've worn that base layer, and the 2nd race in a row that I have COOKED. I obviously heat up on the inside like a race engine, and I need to just leave that thing at home - or send it to some needy kid in Siberia next winter. Gah.
I had to resort to my old standby…at every aid station, I would sip the Gatorade, and dump the water - over my head. As in, let's get totally soaked in 40-degree temperatures. Smart, huh?
By now, we were heading north on Brookside Boulevard, which is one of the prettiest streets in Kansas City. Not only are there some really cool houses along this stretch, there are some pretty awesome residents, who pull out all the stops to cheer the runners along every year. They'll set up lawn chairs and boom boxes, and sit there with their kids, their dogs, and their friends, yelling encouragement to everyone who passes by. They have awesome signs of encouragement, and the kids all offer their hands for "High Five's" as you run past, and I, of course, being the Queen that I am, happily obliged, high 5'ing every kid I passed. Ah, my loyal subjects - thank you for coming out on this chilly Sunday to support your Queen.
Not to mention, I got lots of compliments on my AWESOME skirt.
And as awesome as the music, and the signs, and the pooches, and the high 5's from the kids, and the skirt compliments were - there was one thing, and ONLY one thing, on my mind, at this point.
It's a well-known tradition at the Trolley Run for one house, along Brookside Boulevard, to set up their grill and fire up bacon. Which they then pass out & distribute to anyone and everyone running along the course.
I had missed this famous "aid" station last year, but there was no way in H.E.L.L. I was going to miss it this year - so I kept my eyes - and nose - peeled. And I found it.
I know. I look like a wild-eyed crazy bacon stalker.
However…a curious thing happened. I discovered that attempting to run - really fast - while chewing on crispy bacon - is not the best combination. My mouth was too busy trying to focus on sucking air, and I was now attempting to force it to chew, and SWALLOW, bacon.
Yes. Instead of walking and chewing gum…as the saying goes…I was attempting to run and chew bacon.
I failed. One thing had to go, and if you think I would sacrifice the bacon in order to race faster - you thought wrong.
I sacrificed some time on the clock to savor the bacon.
As I was slowing down to savor the bacon, a woman ran by me and said, "NOOOO!!!! Don't slow down NOW!!!!! You've been my pacer!!!!!"
Which totally shocked me, as I'm normally the one globbing onto someone in front of me like a cat on velcro, and here someone had been globbing onto ME!!!
After my bacon break, it was time to push on…and before I knew it, I was approaching the Finish Line at the Country Club plaza. Without the use of my Garmin watch, I had NO CLUE as to how fast I'd been running…had I been running too slow? Too fast?
I crossed the finish line, and you can somewhat see the doubt and confusion on my face here…I haven't had time to get my official results to see how I'd done. Had I sucked? Had I rocked it?
Okay. Not my best look. But I was still very, very confused.
As I stumbled through the long chute at the end, grabbing a water bottle, a banana, and whatever else they were throwing into my hands, I frantically looked for Hubby, and couldn't find him anywhere.
This was odd. Normally, he's RIGHT THERE at the Finish Line, ready to greet me with open arms and the adulation that I deserve. Huh. Weird.
As I was looking for him, though, the lady that had said I'd been her pacer approached me and thanked me, AGAIN, for pacing her. I said, "But…you passed me! When I stopped for my bacon break!" She replied that I'd soon passed her, and as I'd been running the "perfect" pace, she'd tagged behind me the rest of the way. And she'd managed to set a PR, so she was extremely appreciative.
Not to mention, she liked my running skirt.
I made my way to the spot where Hubby and I had agreed to meet up, in case we got lost, and as I sat waiting for him, I managed to check my results.
And I was Blown. Away.
I finished this race in an amazing time of 42:04, with an average mile of 10:34. I had placed 89th out of 311 in the 50-54 year old females.
I had shaved almost seven minutes off from last year.
Soon, Hubby found me…and he admitted that he'd missed me at the Finish Line, as he didn't think I'd be finishing that fast.
It was the Sparkle Skirt.
Or the bacon.
Things I Liked About This Race:
1. Pretty much everything. The course is awesome, the aid stations are situated just right, the crowd support is amazing, and the after party is to die for.
3. Did I mention bacon?
Things I Didn't Like About This Race:
1. The only negative thing is the bus situation at the beginning…always a bit chaotic. I don't like point-to-point races for this exact reason….