Monday, May 25, 2015

Race Report: Delaware Running Festival Half Marathon

Just prior to the race in my orange!
After the half in Fargo, Donna and Hollie brought me to the airport, which was less than ten minutes away driving for my 1:30 flight to Philadelphia via Minneapolis.  I arrived to a relatively empty airport, so I took my time getting some lunch (a sub from Subway!) and perusing the gift shop before going through security, which was a very simple single lane with metal detector as there were only four gates.

I met a gentleman from Chicago who ran the half (I was not alone being at the airport IMMEDIATELY after the race!), who was also working to get 50 states done.  He was trying to get standby on the flight to Minneapolis, so while he waited, we made small talk.  Soon, I boarded the flight (and in my mind said goodbye to the hot gate agent... btw, if you every fly Delta into Fargo, I hope you see him. Hahaha ;) ), and was off to Philadelphia, via Minneapolis.

Race start!
At around 7:30pm, I landed in Philadelphia and proceeded to get my rental car, picked up Donna's friend Lindsay, who was running the half with us at the Philadelphia Amtrak station, and then returned to get Donna before we made our way on the half hour trip down to Wilmington to check into the Airbnb we were staying at for the night, a historic home built in 1738 in the Quaker Hill section of Wilmington. We were recommended dinner at the Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant on the waterfront (with $2.50 draft beers, made on site!) and then headed back for a good night's sleep as we were all tiring out, especially Donna and I after traveling halfway across the country.

Pure concentration
(official photo by Ken Shelton
Photography)
The following morning, we were up early to get ourselves to the start and pick up our bibs and other race giveaways.  It was quite muggy as we left the house, humidity hanging in the air, as we made our way to the Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park, where the startline was located.  We retrieved our bibs and our race swag (which included a nifty tech hat, the customary t-shirt, and a pint glass!) and then made our way for a well-attended 50 States Half Marathon Club photo near the Harriet Tubman statue, as well as a Half Fanatics/Marathon Maniacs photo at the startline.  Soon, the race began, and I immediately started to feel the soreness in my legs from the year-PR setting race the day before.  It was a rough first few miles, as we curved our way around a road leading us south near the Waterfront area where we had dinner the night before,  making a u-turn on Beech Street at Mile 1 and entering the Wilmington RiverWalk by making a left at the large smokestack between buildings 2 & 3 through the Shipyard Shops, again traversing over alternating asphalt, brick pavers, and cement.  We made our way past the start/finish line festival along the paved waterfront path, crowded with spectators, cheering us on as we began our 13.1 (and 26.2, for some) mile jaunts through Wilmington.

South Park Drive
Soon, we came off of the waterfront path and onto the road that led through a much more industrial part of Wilmington.  Here's where the spectators thinned out... it was early, and it was also Mother's Day... We ran up Church Street, turned left onto 4th Street, and then went back into a northerly direction up 4th Street as we progressed through the 3 and 4-mile marks.

Just after the 4 mile mark, we turned onto 16th Street and then crossed Market Street Bridge over The Brandywine, and then followed the paved jogging path that curved westward through Brandywine Park.  Around this area, I caught up with Donna, who seemed to struggle with the heat as much as I was (it was HOT and excruciatingly HUMID, and we were most definitely not the only ones struggling)  We lamented our situation of going through our SECOND 13.1 of the weekend, before we continued on with our own interval racing.

Smiling for the camera, despite the heat!
(official photo by Ken Shelton
Photography)
Soon, we hit the 5-mile mark, and then we got to cross over the Brandywine once again, but this time on a "swinging bridge," a pedestrian suspension bridge that is over a hundred years old!  I'll be honest, it was a little jarring to feel the lack of steadiness running across it, but thankfully it wasn't a long bridge at all, maybe only 50-60 feet to cross.  We ran back on a jogging path on the other side of the Brandywine (one a little more "trail-y" as parts of it weren't fully paved!), and then the curvy and uphill S. Park Drive, from miles 6 to 7.  The leaders of the half and marathon were coming back in the other direction, speedily making their way downhill; marathoners, we would see again as, for them, the course was two loops of the 13.1 mile course.

Running down Bancroft Parkway
We curved along Kentmere Parkway, and then after mile 7, were emptied onto Bancroft Parkway, in the exclusive residential neighborhoods of Forty Acres, The Highlands, and Wawaset Park.  This area was gorgeous - Bancroft Parkway has a massive median, lined with colossal trees, reminiscent of Savannah (funny, as Fargo, the day before had the beautiful tree-lined 8th Street also reminiscent of Savannah!) - the area is very well maintained, especially since Wawaset Park was listed on the National Register for Historic Places nearly thirty years ago.  Mile 8 went through more pretty residential areas, and then we progressed into a more commercial area, which I learned was Wilmington's Little Italy.


Wilmington's Little Italy
After Mile 9, I reached nirvana on the race course... THE local "water ice" retailer, Bernie's Original Water Ice ("water ice" is what those in the Philly vicinity refer to Italian ice) was along the course, serving small cups of lemon-flavored refreshment to runners.  I totally walked for a good five minutes, savoring every bit of that water ice, before I returned to running on the course that curved back on the northward side of Bancroft Parkway (and after catching up to Donna's friend Lindsay and fellow Fifty Stater Sophie)  Miles 10 and 11 went by a little faster, as they retraced the steps we took to get to this beautiful residential area, and were downhill (thankfully!)  At mile 11.5, we continued down S. Park Drive, passing the historical Wilmington and Brandywine Cemetery and the Wilmington Hospital.  Around this time, I was also passed by the leader for the marathon, Titus Rotich, who pretty much lapped me (and was also 25 minutes in front of the second place marathon runner!)

Water Ice at Mile 9!
Finally, we hit King Street and the 12 mile marker, which from there, thankfully, was a gradual downhill all the way to the finish line back to Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park.  I powered my way through an epic "strugglebus" of my last mile, to finish in 2:27:52, easily attaining my goal of finishing my second race of the weekend in sub 2:30 (and my third consecutive double weekend!)  After receiving my pretty medal, I was received by a much-needed bag of ice, and then sat down to enjoy another water ice.  Another plus after the race... free champagne!  I took advantage, and then proceeded to get my victory headstand out of the way (along with Sophie, as guest star!) and then headed back to the Airbnb for a much needed shower (which was painful... ouch to chafing, but that's all I'm gonna say about that without being too TMI, haha!) and retrieval of my bags and rental car to bring back to the Philly Airport.  Donna and Lindsay got a ride from fellow 50 Stater, Sandra (and her boyfriend Romeo), to the airport, where I met them, and then they were kind enough to drive us up to Newark for our respective trains back to good ol' New York City.  And with that, my 33rd lifetime half, and 26th state was complete!

Finish Line Photo! (official photo by Ken Shelton Photography)
Necessary cooling after a humid race!
#victoryheadstand with my guest star Sophie!
#victoryheadstand SOLO
A group of great friends at the finish! (photo by Sophie Draffin)

Me and Lilian immediately after finishing (photo by Lilian Shepherd)
Look at the pretty bling!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Race Report: Fargo Half Marathon

The day before my flight out to Fargo was my last day at a job that I held for nearly eight years.  I had booked my flight well before I had planned my last two weeks with the City, not realizing that I could’ve gotten a much earlier flight to get me from New York to Fargo by way of Minneapolis.  Originally, I would be leaving New York at around 3:45 in the afternoon, not arriving until 8:30.  I decided to cough up an extra $50 to fly standby if I could, so I stayed with my friend Donna the night before, heading to Newark airport at about 4:30am for her flight at 6:30 and my hopeful boarding of a 6:10 flight.

Quite hungover (I hosted a happy hour at a downtown bar after my last day with my coworkers), I begrudgingly got myself out of bed for the early ride to the airport.  It was a rough trip as we had to pick up five other passengers all throughout New York City, deal with a driver who incessantly smoked whenever he made a stop, and bumpy roads en route to the airport.  I got through security pretty quickly and then headed straight to gate and was able to get myself on the 6:10 flight to Minneapolis.  Huzzah!

The expo inside the Fargodome
Landing in Minneapolis, I headed straight to the connection for the flight to Fargo, where my friend Hollie would be waiting.  She had boarded a redeye from Portland to Minneapolis en route to Fargo, so she was similarly tired.  After waiting around awhile and seeing that I was being bumped out of my standby spots by folks with Medallion status, I decided to go get breakfast before trying another flight, at another gate on the other side of the terminal.

Unfortunately, that flight was booked solid too, so third time’s a charm.  Luckily there were flights every two hours from Minneapolis to Fargo, so when I got to the tiny gate for the 1pm flight, I was happy to find I was number 2 on the standby list with 3 open seats on the plane.  After three tries, I made it onto the flight, and I was going to land at roughly 2pm, 6 ½ hours earlier than intended!

The earlier flight allowed me to run the Fargo Friday Night Tailgate 5K that was to occur at 6:30 that evening. After playing around at the expo, a late lunch at Panera, visiting the woodchipper made famous in the movie “Fargo,” and checking in at our hotel half an hour outside of the city in Hawley, MN, we returned back to Fargo to run the 5K, starting outside of the Fargodome.

Having too much fun at the Woodchipper from the movie "Fargo"

Yep, I'm in North Dakota!

Chilly start at the Fargo 5k
Boy was it cold. If this were any indication for the weather we would experience the following morning, we’d be in for a very cold and chilly race, not what we were expecting for a race in May. Then again, it is North Dakota. The simple 3.1 mile course took us from the west side of the Fargodome parking lot, down 17th Avenue North, turning onto North University Drive and into the NDSU campus with an out and back down Centennial Boulevard after the first mile.  We rounded the southern part of the campus, and then headed east on 13th Avenue North, turning onto 11th Street North, a cute residential neighborhood, before returning to the Fargodome west parking lot for the finish line.

Still chilly after finishing the 5k
I completed the 5k in a respectable 29:32, despite the lack of aid stations along those 3 miles.  I would’ve at least liked one… but anyway, it was fun, and I finished 828th amongst nearly 6,500 runners for the 5K!  Afterward, we headed to Buffalo Wild Wings, where I was reunited with an old college friend, Mary, who relocated to Grand Forks with her family for her husband’s job with the Air Force.  We parted ways when several of us started to get really sleepy, having been travelling pretty much all day, so we headed back to the hotel to turn in.

My kit, ready for the Fargo Half
We woke up early yet again to ensure we got to Fargo in time to not have to deal with traffic, and also to ensure friends were able to get their bibs from us with no problems. All of the races – the full, half, and 10k, would start 30 minutes from each other within the Fargodome, respectively, beginning at 7:30. After a few Fifty Staters photos and all the necessary stops – gear check, bathroom, etc., I headed down to the floor of the Fargodome to get on my way.

The startline inside the Fargodome!
Remind you, we’re inside the arena, and it’s just a shade over 30 degrees outside.  I started off with the 2:05 pacers, and off we went, through the start line and out the Fargodome, when immediately, we are hit by a gust of wind and what felt like a stab of coldness seeping into my skin.  I soldiered on, and we were off. My GPS didn’t start actually taking readings until we were finally outside in the parking lot. We took a right turn onto 17th Avenue North, and then a left onto Albrecht Boulevard, which we would stay on for a little over a mile, running through the NDSU campus, and then turning into the residential neighborhood surrounding the campus at 13th Avenue North.  Around here was the UPS sponsored “mile,” and FINALLY a water station at roughly the 2.5 mile mark. We would stay on this street for over a mile, and then turn again onto Oak Street North for another mile, passing Mickelson Field to our right.

NDSU Alumni band playing alongside the course - with a gnome!

The beautiful treelined 8th Street South, reminiscent of Savannah
The 9-mile mark and the Fargo
Theatre sign! And me looking a
little crazy...
Just after the 5k, we would turn right onto 6th Avenue North, and then turn again onto 2nd Street North, and the closest we’d be from the Minnesota/North Dakota border on the course, with the Red River of the North to our right. We turned onto 1st Avenue North through Fargo’s Civic Center, and then turn a few more times before going southward on the treelined 8th Street South for a long stretch of road, down a residential area, well supported by spectators alongside the course.  We would make a turn all the way down at 18th Avenue South and then make our way back northward on 9th Street South, equally as beautiful and cheered on by many well-wishers.  We looped back through downtown, and then approached some similar streets we had run on earlier in the course.  At around mile 9, we passed through downtown again, seeing the marquee of the Fargo Theatre, the inspiration of the medals that we received for the weekend. We made our way back to the Fargodome, retracing the first few miles of the race (with a short three block out and back after the 12 mile mark), before rushing back toward the finish line.

Showing off the bling!
The finish was ELECTRIC.  Running back into an indoor arena with hundreds of spectators cheering us on was one of the most memorable finishes I’ve had in over thirty half marathon races. I finished in 2:08:39, a brand new 2015 PR for me.  I had the unfortunate race side-effect though, of having a toenail cut into my skin and result in some bleeding into my sock, so I quickly got myself to the medical tent to get that taken care of.  After waiting around for some other friends to cross the finish line and my customary victory headstand (OMG, I did NOT want to go back outside, haha!), I was whisked off to the Fargo Airport, because I had a 1:30pm flight to my next race… in Wilmington, Delaware!


Victory Headstand outside the Fargodome!

Such pretty bling :)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Race Report: Flying Pig Half Marathon

Me and the ladies, upon our arrival
in Cincinnati!
When we last left off, we were in Indianapolis, having just finished the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, known as one of the largest (if not, the largest) half marathon in the U.S.  Hours after finishing, I took Buford, my rental SUV for the weekend, containing myself and three wonderful ladies - Shelita, Dana, and Lilian - on the hour and a half trip down to Cincinnati to pick up our bibs for the famed Flying Pig Half Marathon.

The drive down was very quick - and about half an hour before getting into the Cincinnati metropolitan area, the terrain definitely started to change.  There were actually hills around us - lots of them.  We made our way into downtown Cincinnati and parked at a parking structure near the Duke Energy Convention Center, Cincinnati's humongous two-block encompassing convention center, which housed the expo for the race.

MASSIVE expo!
The hall that the expo was in was GINORMOUS.  We took several escalators to get to the hall, in addition to taking a "catwalk" style mezzanine that looked over the expo hall.  Upon arriving, we quickly picked up our bibs, and I made my way to the Pump 'n' Run registration table, and lifting area onsite at the expo.  For the last several months, I have been in the gym, training for this moment.  The Flying Pig Marathon is unique as it has partnered with The Lord's Gym, a 501(c)3 faith-based organization, whose focus is to provide a daily refuge to many "at-risk" folks in the Cincinnati area who struggle with addictions; who have been incarcerated and can't find work; who struggle with living a destructive lifestyle; and who are recovering from a destructive lifestyle, through a weight-lifting, work out, and long-term discipleship program.  The Pump 'n' Run, in its eighth year, is a unique combination of weight lifting and running, offered to all racers. Participants bench press a percentage of their body weight, based upon an Age and Gender handicap, and earn a two-minute time reduction for each repetition they are able to complete.

10 reps at 115 pounds... and a medal!
For this year, I have been kind of stuck in a weight rut, stuck in the 145-150 pound range, having struggled to dip below my goal of returning back to the 135-140 range.  With this weight and my age, I'd be required to benchpress 115 pounds - no small feat, as I have been comfortable, yet still challenged, with lifting above 95 pounds - and only had gotten to about 105 in the couple weeks prior.  Having seen the technique of previous runners/lifters, I gingerly approached the weight bench and took my place, with one of the spotters there ready to help me take the weight if I couldn't handle anymore reps.  Off I went... 1... 2... 3... 4... 5... then struggle starting at 6... damn this is really hard... 7... I am really pushing myself to the limit... 8... come on Jim, two more... 9... and with a scream... 10!   I benched ten reps at 115!  This was my ultimate goal, just to get ten in.  It guaranteed me a "bronze" medal, joining the 10-pump club, and twenty minutes off of my half time (to compete against other Pump 'n' Run participants)

Ugh, don't wake me yet... it's 4am.
After making our way through the huge expo, and collecting as much free stuff as we could, I dropped off Lilian at her hotel, while Shelita, Dana, and I headed off to our hotel, at the Courtyard Covington - just across the Ohio River in Northern Kentucky.  After checking in, we took our time getting a little rest, as we decided to wait for Donna, who was driving in from Kenosha, Wisconsin, having finished the Wisconsin Half Marathon earlier that day, and was taking the five-hour drive down to Cincinnati to do the Flying Pig Full on Sunday.  While watching tv, we found a local commercial for an Italian restaurant, Pompilio's, in the next town over, Newport, where we could assemble for a small dinner.  We headed that way at 8pm, and had a nice time catching up before our tiredness started to catch up to us, and my hip flexors started to make me wince in pain when simply walking around...

YAAAAAAASSSSS!
We woke up incredibly early since the race start was at 6:30, and were out the door hoping to catch the trolley to get to the startline, but ended up just getting a cab, as we were needing to assemble for a photo with the Fifty States Half Marathon Club members running the race at... 5:45 in the morning.  Thankfully, I was moving quickly as the Aleve I took the night before (thanks Dana) worked its magic and got my leg muscles and hips back in check. As early as that was, it was actually perfect when managing my time before the race start - including getting stuff to gear check and doing a last minute bathroom trip.


Dressed as an actual Flying Pig.

Before I flew out on Friday, I made a trip to Party City and purchased a couple items to help complete my look, specifically for the Flying Pig race.  I got a hot pink tech t-shirt in Indianapolis to finish the look off.  I dressed... like a flying pig.  Complete with wings.  The outfit was a hit - though, I was not looking forward to the amount of sweat I'd be building up in the piglet hat, as well as how much the sunglasses (with attached moustache) might bother me.

The startline, and the sun still
hasn't risen!
I made my way into my corral after trying to search for some other friends with no luck (so many people!) and found another Fifty Stater, Dee, chatted her up moments before starting, and soon, we were off.  Gingerly, I took my first steps past the starting line and down Mehring Way toward the "Great American Ballpark," where the Cincinnati Reds play.  Somewhere along here someone actually had a real live pig with them, cheering the runners on with its high pitched squeals as we ran by.  We curved around the park and then passed through an underpass with ribbons of highway overhead.  The first mile came upon us as we began to cross the Taylor-Southgate Bridge into Newport, Kentucky, as just under two miles of the course was through the northern Kentucky suburbs of Newport and Covington, before returning to Cincinnati.

Squealing and cheering on the course,
it's a pig... named "Bacon." I mean...
why not? (Photo by Donna Dullys)
As we ran down 4th Street westward, I began to notice how problematic my hot pink shorts were getting.  I chose an awfully hot weekend to be doing two races with really short shorts, and I was struggling with the fabric hitting a sweet spot between my thighs, causing some very uncomfortable chafing issues.  As we passed a few fun spectators (someone offering strips of bacon out of a steel pot, and a bunch of smiling geriatrics cheering us on from the senior living facility along the route), I seemed to remember a medical station somewhere prior to the 3 mile mark as we ran back over a bridge into Cincinnati.  Turns out - the medical station was two people wearing race apparel along the side of the road that had a makeshift first aid kit.  I asked them if they had any vaseline - which they didn't - but luckily they did have a special anti-chafing towelette that helped for a bit, and they gave me an extra which I was able to use a little later.

Crossing over into Kentucky for about
10-15 minutes...
As we crossed the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge back into Cincinnati, this was where the route began to get higher and higher in elevation.  It was very gradual, as the elevation change of nearly 400 feet would happen over the course of miles 3 to about 8.5.  We took West 3rd Street through a rather industrial looking area west of the central business district, then around to the 7th Street viaduct, which took us right through the middle of downtown Cincinnati heading eastward and into the rising sun, perfect time to get my shades+moustache on.  This part of the route was well supported on both sides by people cheering the runners on, remind me of the long stretch of downtown Philly I ran at the Philadelphia Half Marathon back in November.  At the mile 6 mark, we began a steeper climb for about one mile up Gilbert Avenue, until we reached the entrance to Eden Park.

What a view of the Ohio River!
This would be the toughest part of the race, climbing further up through Eden Park.  We climbed more and more, and then finally to the most amazing view from the race course, from the top of the park, just before the mile 8 mark.  I stopped to take a picture of this gorgeous view of the Ohio River, as a gospel choir entertained us alongside the course route.  I continued on my way further up onto Victory Parkway, past a spectator cheer zone staffed by residents of the Edgecliff condominium, who blew bubbles as we passed their area.  We continued through this cute residential neighborhood of East Walnut Hills, passing through their little neighborhood center at Woodburn Avenue and Madison Road.  We turned onto MLK Drive, passing another group of feisty spectators in front of a Baptist church.  We had one more tiny little hill to climb, before turning back onto Gilbert Avenue, passing a water station manned by a high school football team, and luckily some wise spectators handing out sticks with swabs of vaseline on them, which I was quick to use.

The Finish "Swine!"
Then, at mile 10, it was cruise control.  The last 5k of the race was all downhill, and I used that to my advantage, clocking some of my faster miles in this race.  We continued back down Gilbert Avenue, eventually coming to where we had first entered Eden Park, and even saw some folks who were gradually making their way up Gilbert Avenue in the other direction.  We turned onto Elsinore Drive, an overpass over the busy I-71, and onto Reading Road, continuing downhill, as we returned into the downtown area.  We made our way on a small out-and-back, passing the Hamilton County Courthouse at around the mile 12 mark, then turning onto Eggleston Avenue for the long stretch before the last turn onto Pete Rose Way.  I hoped that the finish line was right there when we turned, but no, it was still further down the road.  So I took all my energy I had within me to take me to the end of the "Finish Swine," and I completed my 31st lifetime half and 24th state in 2:26:54.

Showing off the wings and "tail"

Done!
Cozette, Lilian, and I for one quick
photo at the Dayton Airport before
parting ways...
After the race, I met up with my partners in crime for the weekend, for some post race amenities (namely, BEER), and then of course did my Victory Headstand, one of them on the really cool completely closed off and empty Taylor-Southgate Bridge, as we returned back to the Kentucky side to get back to our hotel.  After the race, I took myself and two others up to the Dayton airport (stopping for lunch at a Red Robin....yum), where we had flights out to get back to our respective hometowns.  Another awesome double weekend, check!




Cozette and I, pretty in pink

Victory Headstand on the empty bridge... and the first one actually on part of the course!

Victory Headstand overlooking the Ohio River...

Bringing home some more booty!

Essential post race fluids!


Monday, May 11, 2015

Race Report: OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon

Indianapolis!
I had Friday off, so I spent Friday morning sleeping in (finally!) and then running some errands before my flight out in the afternoon.  I managed to even fit in a trip to Party City around noon to get some last minute essentials for my outfit for the Flying Pig on Sunday (as this was, again, going to be a double weekend!)  More on Flying Pig a bit later... but in any case, I got to LaGuardia, got to Terminal B, ended up at the wrong concourse, had to take a shuttle bus to the right concourse, and then finally got on my flight, getting on the plane right on time.

The Indy Mini Expo!
We landed in Dayton, Ohio, at about 4:15pm, and I proceeded directly to the car rental stand at Alamo to get my vehicle for the weekend.  I ended up renting a pretty blue Ford Escape midsize SUV that we nicknamed "Buford" for the weekend.  The hour and a half drive to Indianapolis was uneventful, save for the fact that there are a TON of semi-trucks on I-70, and they all somehow do not enjoy staying in the right lane, backing up traffic trying to pass them in the left lane.

I got to my Airbnb for the weekend, a modest room on the second floor of a house just off the interstate, but about a 15-20 minute walk from the Indiana Convention Center and the startline (and finish line festival) for the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon.  The Indianapolis Colts' stadium, Lucas Oil Stadium, was within striking distance of the house, and was a notable marker in trying to find my accommodations when navigating back after the race.

Nuun represent!

Runner recovery? Yes please!

Running for Equality! #WhyIMini
Not long after getting settled, I headed out to go to the expo at the convention center to pick up my bib.  It was a sizable expo, taking up Halls A & B, and showing off the best that local exhibitors had to offer.  I managed to get a few more items from this expo in preparation for the Cincinnati race as well.  I met Mike from Nuun, who was the regional field marketing manager promoting the product, too, and grabbed a photo.  I also came upon Cryotherapy Indianapolis, who was offering folks a chance to try out the Normatec Compression System, a pair of leg sleeves that inflate much like a blood pressure test, and help runners with their recovery in a short period of time. After a little while, I headed out and went to the nearby Victory Field and got to hang out with my childhood friend Angela, and her husband T.R., who live in Indianapolis, and just had a baby two months ago - it was a nice opportunity for them to be out of the house (while the baby was with the grandparents) and socialize for the evening!

With the race being held in Indiana, I initially was hesitant to participate due to the strong backlash against the governor and the bill passed through their state legislature, effectively allowing discrimination by businesses against people based on their sexual orientation.  I decided that boycotting wasn't going to do anything, and to make a stand and make a difference by publicly voicing my support of LGBT citizens in the state.  I wore a "Legalize Gay" shirt and proudly displayed rainbow colors wherever I could in my sunglasses and headband!
What you wear when you want to take a stand, make a difference...
...and politicize your hobby to fight injustice! #freedomindiana

In front of the Indiana State Capitol.
I tweeted this photo to Governor Mike Pence

Bright and early, at the startline!

Fifty Staters assemble for a picture!

The course straightaways
Bright and early the next morning, I got up to get myself to the start to gather for photos with my virtual running groups, the Half Fanatics and the Fifty States Half Marathon Club.  Thankfully the meeting spots were close to each other, and only five minutes apart.  The downside - they were EARLY photos at 6:55 and 7am (and my wave wouldn't get going until 8:15)  But I did get time to stretch and take my time to get my stuff to gear check before the start!  I took my place in Corral M in Wave 3, and we started to move along toward the start.  Finally, we were off!

Inside the Indianapolis Motor
Speedway
The race starts off along Washington Street and moves westward, crossing the White River, with the White River State Park and Indianapolis Zoo to the right.  Almost right at the turn along White River Parkway West Drive, was the one mile mark.  The first mile was pretty congested, with many runners angling for position and getting into a steady pace.  We progressed northward alongside the river before turning again onto Michigan Street and hitting the two mile mark.  All along the course were well marked "pit areas" where water and/or gatorade would be handed out by the race's thousands of volunteers.  We headed westward along Michigan for two miles, and I stayed true to a 5:00/1:00 run/walk to conserve my legs for the two days of racing.  We seemed to cross a few railroad tracks along the route as well - not sure if these were active tracks, but nonetheless, I had to make sure to keep an eye out for my footing, as there were definite gaps in the street where the wooden track had warped away from the asphalt and metal.

Linedancing seniors along the course!
We turned again onto Holt Road, heading northward, and while on this slightly curvy road, worked on my tangents.  We turned again onto 10th Street, heading westward along a pretty industrial looking area, which turns out was the town of Speedway, an enclave of Indianapolis, that is also the home of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  Along this road, runners encountered our first line dance group, a group of about twenty seniors providing some fun entertainment along the side of the road!

Just before entering the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway!
We turned onto Speedway's Main Street, hitting the five mile mark, and in the distance could see the IMS! I hurried along, turning onto 16th Street, the last straightaway before the turn into the most anticipated part of this race! We entered down a steep downhill into the interior of the venue, and then ran about a quarter mile through an interior track before finally starting to run on the oval. And that racetrack was AWESOME. The asphalt was so soft and smooth, it felt like running on trails. I clocked two of my fastest miles while running inside the Indy Speedway, stopping only momentarily to take a picture at the eponymous Brickyard, where I stopped to kiss the bricks before continuing on my way.  Kissing of the bricks is an Indianapolis Motor Speedway tradition, started in 1996 by Dale Jarrett, paying homage to the fabled history of the place.  It's said to bring good luck!


Kissing the brickyard!

By the time we left the Speedway, we were about 8.5 miles into the race, and we made our way out through some side roads before getting back onto 10th Street, for a two mile stretch that was probably one of the more forgettable parts of the course.  My friend had warned me that parts of the course went through some less desirable neighborhoods, and this was evidence of it - just not very scenic for this stretch of the race.  By mile 11, I decided to pick up the pace and just run out the last two miles as best as I could.  The course returned to White River Parkway West and then crossed a bridge over the White River onto New York Street all the way to the finish line just after Blackford Street.

I completed the course in 2:15:04, still a very consistent pace based off the results of the previous three races.  A first - after getting our finisher medals, we were given bags that we could use to throw our food and waters that we were getting through the finisher's chute!  I made my way into Military Park to walk off my exhaustion a little bit and then found my way to the massage tents and fell in line, where I waited about 15 minutes before getting to a table and getting a nice ten minute massage by a rather attractive masseuse named Addison.  I think he gave me extra time - his boss was not happy that he was spending too much time with me rather than working through the rest of the runners in line... but of course, I was not complaining.  AT ALL.  Hahahaha :)

While in line, I met a guy named Tony who was very appreciative of my support of marriage equality and gay rights from my shirt.  He informed me that minutes earlier, he proposed to his boyfriend of two years, Jacob, at the finish line of the Indy Mini, after they both ran the race together.  A really touching way to end the race, and a great moment that I was so thrilled to know about! 

I got in touch with three other runner friends of mine who had coordinated travel between Indianapolis and Cincinnati and gave them an approximation of time to be ready at their hotels for me to pick them up before I headed back down to my airbnb for a quick shower and pack-up of my bag, and then I was off to go grab them to head off for our next excursion an hour and a half away in a new state... Ohio!


Earning a medal for my 30th Half marathon!
#victoryheadstand at a necessary spot! :)