The 2023 500 Festival Indy Mini

The 2023 500 Festival Indy Mini

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What a weekend. Congrats to everyone who ran the 2023 500 Festival Indy Mini! It was my 15th Indy Mini and my 49th half marathon. The Mini is special because it's our hometown race. It signals the start of May in Indianapolis, which is a very important month for our city (the Indianapolis 500 is in May and is kind of a big deal). Last year was the biggest crowd in 20 years - 325,000 people. 

While I don't go to the race (I've been a couple times), I am usually watching at a race party up at Lake Wawasee in Indiana and hoping the drivers I drew in the pool make it through all 200 laps. Thankfully I made it through the one lap runners complete around the speedway during the mini. What the IndyCars do in a matter of seconds takes me 20+ minutes give or take. 

THE NIGHT BEFORE

This year was so much fun because my husband, Zach and I got to stay the night downtown on Friday night before the race. Usually, we make the 30 min trek from the suburbs and I stress about where we're going to park, but this year was so much more enjoyable. 

We stayed at the fairly new Bottleworks Hotel in the Bottleworks District. If you're local to Indy and haven't checked out this area, add it to your list for this summer. From the website, "Jim and Lee Yunker celebrate their 25th anniversary as bottlers of Coca-Cola Indianapolis and announced an expansion of the factory. In 1949, the main addition to the plant was made making it the largest Coca-Cola bottling plant in the world. It has since become an Indy landmark."

The hotel curated a full spread for runners with items I include in Athlete Bouquets - Gu, Liquid I.V., vaseline, extra safety pins, bananas, and water. When I checked in, I added a bouquet to the table and some Indy Mini stickers. My friend and former co-worker, Josh, the General Manager of the hotel, took me for a full tour. It's incredible how BIG the hotel is. From the outside it doesn't seem like it would be so massive. A lot of the history and original tile, etc. has been maintained which makes it so cool.

After dropping off my luggage, I went to the expo to pick up our¬†race bibs. The people watching this year was exceptional because there was also a comic convention taking place at the Indiana Convention Center. So, if you didn't know this and saw some people dressed up out and about this weekend - that's why. I beelined it to the back of the expo to grab the bibs first and then made my way around the hall. I spent time at the Fleet Feet booth with my Fleet Feet friends, Whitney and Larry. Then, I spent time with my CNO Indianapolis Monumental¬†team who were handing out very delicious Nuun mocktails for Cinco de Mayo. Shoutout to Rob Mullet for his 4th place finish in 65:20. ūüĒ•

 

I headed back to the hotel, dropped off my bib and then made my way down to the Woodhouse Spa, which is actually connected to the hotel. So fancy. I'm already a big Woodhouse fan, but I had two services I've never tried before. (Skip this next part if you're not into spa stuff.) First, I did Salt Therapy in their salt room which is meant to help improve respiratory and skin health - plus be really relaxing. It was. Then, I had a Nourishing Body Wrap which includes a cleansing full-body exfoliation (done with a dry brush you get to take home), followed by a calming, sea mineral gel mask that leaves skin toned and hydrated. Allison was fabulous and I would definitely recommend this treatment this time of year - my skin has been so dry lately and this helped a ton. And it was super relaxing. I have a post-race Woodhouse massage booked for 5/12 and cannot wait. 

Meanwhile, Zach finished up work and was on his way downtown to meet me at the hotel. Once he arrived we headed out to dinner at The Garage Food Hall across the street. One of the best things about the Bottleworks District is how much there is within walking distance. I had actually been to The Garage before (it's one of my favorite places to eat in downtown Indy). We settled on the perfect pre-race spot, Abbiocco Pizzeria. I got a deluxe pizza and ZB got lasagna. Then, we got beers from Axle's Garage Tap. It all hit the spot just right. Carb loading at its finest. We even ran into our neighbors who were on their way to eat at Modita for Cinco de Mayo. 

Once back in our room, I gazed longingly at the beautiful mini-bar and settled on some water and one more beer - a local and one of my favorites - Pachanga. No matter what my goal is for raceday, I always start to get nervous. Seriously, NO ONE CARES, but my pre-race jitters won't go away, so I do my best to embrace them. This is part of the reason why the "flat runner" is a thing - because you make sure you have ever single thing - down to the gel packets - ready to go for morning. 

THE MORNING OF

Wave 2 started at 7:40am, so I set my alarm for 6am (bonus hour of sleep since we were already downtown!). One of the first things I do these days when I wake up us take my AG1 Athletic Greens. They have travel packs I use when I'm not at home. Then, the most important race morning ritual is the coffee! Surely you're a runner if you're reading this and you know how important it is to go poop before you race. Bottleworks had a nice Nespresso machine that I used to make myself a couple cups of coffee (in my Indy Mini mug of course). For me, the sooner I drink them the better so I can get things moving while I eat and get ready. 

For breakfast, I usually eat a slice or two of peanut butter toast with bananas. My pre-race jitters make it tough to eat so I typically force myself to get it down. The toast part is funny when traveling because I bring my own toaster. ūü§£ If there isn't a toaster then I'll just eat the bread with peanut butter and banana.¬†

Next, is the waiting game. I pace around nervously while Zach isn't even awake yet. I scroll through Instagram and play Candy Crush and Wordle to distract myself. Once Zach is up I return to my flat runner and start to get dressed. A key step during this process is to coat my body in anti-chafe. The Bottleworks kindly provided some Squirrels Nut Butter for me to try and so I put it everywhere - feet, underarms, inner thighs, sports bra line. After getting dressed I hit up MY bathroom (remember there are TWO!) and finally I'm ready to roll. Zach is cool as a cucumber and just throws on a t-shirt and shorts. 

We head down and grab an Uber to get close to the start. We get there with the perfect amount of time to sneak into our corral (G) and begin to move towards the start.

THE RACE

It's go time! I almost forgot about my GPS watch because I started it right after we left the hotel. Usually it buzzes to let you know it's going to sleep but I must have missed it while we were walking. Thank goodness my frantic fingers touched the right buttons because I would have been really frustrated if I didn't get my workout going. 

If you don't use a Garmin you may not know that you can create a workout and sync it with your watch so it will buzz when you're not in the pace range you set for yourself. My coach, Rachel, had prescribed the following race plan:

  • 2 mile warmup - avoid weaving around people and give yourself time to settle in¬†
  • 4 miles at 8:40 pace
  • 4 miles at 8:35 pace
  • Last 3.1 as fast as feels good

So, for the first couple miles I tried my best not to think about speed and stay calm so I don't go out too fast. At the mini there are a TON of people. And sadly, a lot of them start out walking even if they're in the early corrals (don't do this people it's dangerous for everyone). I do my best not to weave much and settle in.

Mile 1 - 8:58
Mile 2 - 8:44

It's hot and humid compared to what we've all been used to in Indy. Around mile 3 or so, I feel like it's been a while since breakfast and I need to take a Gu. Usually I take them every 45 min (two during a half marathon). But I also know that it takes a minute for the fuel to work, so I want to take it before I know I'm really going to need it. Also around this time I encounter a man handing out small American flags. I decide to grab one without really thinking about how I'll need to carry it the rest of the way. It doesn't bother me. It actually provided me with additional motivation. 

Mile 3 - 8:37

The sun starts to peak out at mile 4 and I pray it goes away again. It does after a few minutes - thank goodness. The race would have been brutal in the sun. After mile 4, Speedway feels so close already. The on course entertainment leading up to the Speedway is always great. The Circle City Cloggers are a fan favorite. I make sure I stay to the right so I can see them and cheer them on. As we make our way into downtown Speedway there's a guy on a ridiculous unicycle-looking bike. I yell at him that he's cheating - when I really should have yelled at him to get the f*ck off the course. A friend of mine also encountered him at the finish line. Not cool, dude.

Mile 4 - 8:28
Mile 5 - 8:33

Once you're out of downtown Speedway you can see the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in all of its glory. I'm not a big race fan, but it's still majestic. It's huge. The cars round the track in a couple seconds, but for us runners - it's 2.5 miles of warm, sloped asphalt. You also encounter a downhill and uphill moment when you enter the Speedway, but it's short and the adrenaline from entering the track usually carries me.

Mile 6 is now known as The Gold Mile. This mile gives runners the opportunity to honor and celebrate the lives of Indiana service members who gave the ultimate sacrifice. I'm happy I have my American flag. It's a small way I can show my gratitude to all of the family members who line the course. Some are crying, some are smiling and cheering. They are all standing next to the picture of the person they lost. I wave my flag and shout "thank you" to as many of them as I can. 

Mile 6 - 8:46 
Mile 7 - 8:37

And "just like that" we're halfway. There are jumbotrons throughout the track, so I often find myself watching the winners finish at this point in the race. Typically they're finishing in just over an hour whereas I'm around 2 hours. They haven't finished yet so I know I'm on pace to finish well under two if I can execute the second half of the race plan. I'm feeling ready for my next Gu, but they ask you to wait until you're outside the track, so I do. 

During this part of the race I also encounter a guy who is bopping along cheering everyone on. He passes me not once, but twice and I happen to catch the second encounter on my Ray-Ban Stories (sunglasses Zach gifted me that take videos and are my headphones). After the race I found out the guy was Andrew Peterson. He inspired me during the race but now I'm in awe of him. 

Mile 8 - 8:58

As soon as I leave the track I down my second Gu. I've stopped at every single aid station for water and/or Gatorade so far, and I'm feeling decent. I know I have some gas left in the tank for the final 5 miles (pun intended). This is when I meet a guy who is wearing a Fly Pig t-shirt. I run up beside him and ask if he's running the race the following day and he says yes. Now, I wonder if it was the full or the half and how it went for him given the monsoon and thunderstorm conditions... At some point, I would really like to do the Fly Pig half. Glad it wasn't this year though!

Mile 9 - 8:44 

Somewhere between miles 9-10 I finally spot my friend, Christi Dee, and her Ainsley's Angels team - Team Emmalyn. They are in bright pink and I'd been looking out for them the whole race. We chatted for a few seconds before Christi urged me to keep going and finish strong. So, I set out to do just that. 

I had one more mile at my current pace (which was a little bit all over the place) and then I would give it everything I had left. At this point I can tell that training with Rachel has paid off because the workouts she has me doing and the race plan have helped me tremendously. What a lot of people don't understand is that ~80% of runs are supposed to be easy with the other 20% hard. The same with a race. The first part is the "warm up" and the race starts at the 10 mile mark (or the 20 mile mark for a full). This is the part you've trained for - to give it everything on tired legs. I was ready to see what I had left. 

Mile 10 - 8:24

Rachel had told her runners that she was going to be around mile 11 on the left. So, after hitting the 10 mile marker I start the running math - less than 10 minutes until I see Rachel. Less than 30 minutes until I cross the finish line. "The faster you run the faster you're done." I continued to take water and Gatorade from every aid station.

Mile 11 - 8:17

A little ways past the 11th mile marker I spot Rachel. No idea what she says to me and I think I say something like "I'm going" or "I'm doing it". I was picking up speed and feeling strong despite being ready to finish. 

Where the hell is the 12th mile marker?
Was there a 12th mile marker? 

Mile 12 - 8:08

What a mind f*ck so late in the race. I never saw it - I must have missed it somehow. By the time I was heading over the New York Street bridge I knew I had less that a mile to go. My legs and lungs were burning but I kept telling myself that this is the part I trained for. I focused on turning my legs over and breathing. Just keep moving. 

Despite doing this race 15 times I started questioning whether there was one more turn. Is the finish line straight ahead? It is, right? I hit a power up poster and kept flying. I am cruising. It feels really good. I spot my friend's family and yell for them to see me. It takes a moment for them to register who they're looking at before they start cheering for me and capture a picture of me heading into downtown. 

Mile 13 - 8:08

Up ahead I see a guy with a big black flag. I can barely make out what looks like "22" on the flag. It must be Jay from Mission 22 (@every_day_jay22). I focus on trying to catch him. It would be fun to finish with someone I've only met on Instagram. But I can't quite do it. Once I realize I won't catch him, I switch over to the right finishers shoot.

My glasses / headphones die which I'm bummed about because I wanted to capture the finish, but it doesn't matter at this point because I can see the finish line up ahead. I plaster the biggest smile on my face as I run the last 400m or so. The crowds are great. I finish. 

HALF MARATHON NUMBER 49 DONE! 1:53:24 
A postpartum PR of 2 seconds. 

POST-RACE

I make eye contact with a medical guy and it reminds me to catch my breath and focus on getting my heart rate to lower. Going to the medical tent after a race isn't fun (I've been twice after full marathons). I tell myself I raced smart. I'm ok. I'm done. 

Up ahead I¬†spot Tracie Hunter (@indianarunnergirl). She's wearing the race outfit I voted for on Instagram¬†ūü§£ and she's looking towards the finish line. She sees me too and we hug and congratulate each other before taking a picture. Tracie is waiting for her friend's 14 year old son to finish. Turns out he crushed his first half in 1:47 with Tracie as his coach. A stranger recognizes Tracie and says "hey aren't you that Instagram runner?" she smiles and chats with him for a moment, still scanning the crowds of finishers for her young athlete.¬†

I hobble my way towards the medals. Someone next to me thought we passed them and I pointed up ahead where they were being distributed. Volunteers hand out other refreshments - water, Gatorade, cookies, dates, bananas. I grab a bag and take one of everything. I get pictures from the photographers since I already prepaid for my photos. I'm a sucker for photos.

Similar to my pre-race routine. I have a post-race routine too. Each year, Zach and I agree to meet in the family reunion area by the "B". But before I make my way over there, I MUST have a chocolate milk. It's my favorite finish line drink (tied with milkshakes). After grabbing a milk I run into Gabby Behr, president of the Carmel Runners Club and one of my Fleet Feet friends. We take a picture of our special Indy Mini shoes and I meet some other members of the club. 

On my way to the "B" I spot my friend, Greg and Millie. Greg runs every year too and this year scored a PR of 1:43:02. Although he was pissed about those 2 seconds. We went to the B and waited for Zach to finish. I was surprised when he showed up not long after we did. He finished in 2:13 which shocked us all since Zach had barely trained (3 miles 3 days in a row the week before...). 

My friend Alex Baker also met up with us after the race and I got to meet his son, Riley, and girlfriend, Lindsey. Alex and I met on Instagram and he was recently a guest on the Finish Lines & Milestones podcast - Episode 6. He was the first person I interviewed that I really didn't know very well, so seeing him before recording the episode put me at ease. 

 

Now it was time for the post-race meal. We walked to Millie's car and headed back to Bottleworks. My preferred post-race meal is a cheeseburger and beer. So, we went to Clancy's Hamburgers in The Garage - obviously still donning our race medals. Alex and his family had the same idea and we ran into them again (pun intended). 

We wanted to show Greg and Millie our sweet hotel room, so they came up with us after lunch and Zach and I gave them the grand tour of the hotel and our room. Sweet Millie agreed to be my "Instagram Husband" and helped conduct a photoshoot with me and all of my Indy Mini finisher medals (which I obviously traveled with for the occasion). The results are hilarious. Thanks, Mill. 

Once Greg and Millie left it was time for me to use the beautiful soaking tub and epsom salts. I didn't want to leave. But I planned to try the Stretch Lab after the race and had a 1pm appointment. So, I soaked up as many minutes as I could in the tub and frantically packed up my stuff to check out of the hotel (thank you for the late checkout, Bottleworks!).

If you haven't tried a Stretch Lab, you should. I was very skeptical because I'm a cliche runner and despise stretching. However, having someone else do it for you - that is actually something I can get behind. First, they do an assessment with a special camera by watching you do a few squats (which was laughable post race).  Then, the stretcher(?) leads you through a 50 minute full body stretching session. They also offer shorter, 25 minute sessions. 

After the tub and the stretch I knew I was going to feel WAY better the next couple days than I normally would. Zach admitted he didn't think he was going to be able to walk when he woke up on Sunday. ūü§¶ūüŹĽ‚Äć‚ôÄÔłŹ He also admitted he needs to train better next year. Like that will happen...¬†

What a weekend. This is how you do the Indy Mini! I already registered for next year. See you there?

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