LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
The protein bar is something I rolled my eyes at for a very long time. My husband William, though, was a quick convert, and as I saw him chewing on bars in horrific flavors like strawberry shortcake and pistachio I told him again and again my life is too short to put any calories in my mouth that I don’t truly enjoy.
Then we participated in a 5K race, the night before which unfortunately involved a pot of split pea soup. It was fall 2010 and it seemed like the perfect comforting meal to welcome in the moody season. Until we both woke up at 5 a.m. with some pretty serious consequences from ingesting all those pulses. By the time we got to the race, I was pale and about 5 pounds lighter than I’d been a few hours before.
“Here,” William said, handing me a Parrillo bar. “Just try it.”
I clamped down onto the hard bar, tasting an intense rush of fudge brownie flavor before it was replaced with a disturbing texture I can only liken to hardened Styrofoam. But I chewed and swallowed, just praying that the pea soup was done with me and wouldn’t double me over in the middle of the race.
And it didn’t. In fact, it was the best run I had ever had, the first of which I completed and actually felt like doing over again.
Powered by protein bars, these will be my fourth and fifth half-marathons. The first I ran in Winnipeg in 2002 and trained intensely for six solid months, so scared was I that I wouldn’t complete it. Given that the race was in June and snow was on the ground until May, that meant all of my training occurred around a tiny track inside the steamy YMCA. But it paid off and at mile 8, I experienced runner’s high for the first time, which enabled me to sprint the next 5 miles to the finish. The second time was also in Winnipeg, with the route winding past my dad’s old house. As I ran past, he was there clapping away, and, today, I blink away tears thinking about just how long he probably stood there waiting for me to pass. Last November, I finally made my first attempt running long distance in Kentucky. The hills were what scared me and I trained intensely again. The run was in Louisville and was on a great route, which I’ll experience again on the 23rd this year. The other race will be in Mount Vernon, the Renfro Rock & Run, which will probably be the hardest route I’ve done with a 1-mile hill in the middle.