Cowtown Marathon 2019

Unlike the Houston Marathon post, my Cowtown recap has been a slow go just because of all the activity we’ve had and that I’ve inflicted upon myself.

I have a lot to write about, and I really had a great time running the Cowtown again this year. (***foreshadowing***)

I had the chance again this year to participate as a Cowtown Ambassador, and was grateful for the opportunity. I do love this race for so many reasons, and I think it’s a must do especially if you live in the North Texas area.

I started my race weekend on Friday at the expo, handing out race shirts.

You would not believe how hard it can be to pull those little tabs off the bibs. 🙂

Since I took care of the expo that Friday, that meant I could focus on rest and relaxation on Saturday. My energy was a little high though. I kept wanting to clean, but I forced myself to stay off my feet as much as possible. Tough job, but I managed it well.

Sunday morning, very early, my friend and I headed to Fort Worth. We would meet others from our group at the race. Some were running the half, and some the full marathon. The weather was perfect – for me! Chilly enough to need a jacket beforehand, but it would warm up enough to run in a tank and shorts.

I just settled into a comfortable pace from the start. No time goal, but I wanted it to be better than Houston. My miles ticked off in the range of 9:00-9:30s. I felt good. I felt strong running up the hills – even the one in mile 9!

Tackling the hill on the Main Street bridge

My first 10 minute mile was at the halfway point, to refill my bottle. I was cruising along. It was sunny, but not hot, and I was comfortable. Around mile 17, though, I passed a makeshift aid station – you know where the people who live in the neighborhoods cheer and hand out stuff. I spotted a table with a tub of Vaseline and shouted out “God bless you” as I ran over to it. They all laughed. It was a necessary stop. My arms hadn’t been in a tank top in a while, and it was starting to get painful. It may have cost me some time, but it saved my skin!

I got back on pace, and at mile 20 I was still holding my miles around the 10 minute pace, and I felt good. Such a contrast to how I felt in Houston when I was slogging through 11 minute miles after mile 10. Then the hills got me. Those last 4 miles of Cowtown whoop me every time. Those hills are tough! But I continued to smile and focus on getting it done. A walk break near the end of mile 22 and a dash into a porta-potty cost me a little bit of time, but then it was into the park for the final miles. Then my favorite part – the finish!

 

I accomplished three time goals at Cowtown:

  1. Faster than Houston (on a tougher course)
  2. Faster than last year’s Cowtown (I may be a year older, but I’m not slowing down)
  3. Under 4:30

A close look at my last several marathons shows steady, small improvements each time. They’re not big chunks of time, but it’s progress. I’m not giving up!

 

My 19th Marathon

Hanging with friends after the race

3 year medal series – complete.

 

 

 

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Getting Ready for Cowtown

This statement resonated with me as I dealt with my disappointment from Houston. I went from being okay, to a post-race meltdown with tears, to being fired up for the next one in just a matter of days.

So I took some time to really evaluate my goals, and find a way to still challenge myself in a new way (more on that part at a later date).

I eased back into the running after a good recovery week, but I’ve also added some new things to shake things up – like yoga classes and indoor rowing.

I went to my first yoga class a few weeks ago, and it was awkward. I can’t touch my toes, and stretching is something I’m not real consistent about. But I can see how this will be helpful for me to continue. So I’m going to keep at it.

I think we had one Saturday long run where I wore shorts and short sleeves. It was humid, but I was happy without all the extra gear.

I’m also making sure to not let my goal chasing consume me. Yes my running goals are important, but it’s also important to take a breather and relax in between.

So we took my son to a Dallas Mavericks game one Sunday evening. He had been looking forward to it for months, and it was a great game to watch. The hardest part was staying out past 9 p.m. 😉 Actually, the hard part was that the world’s most obnoxious fan was right behind me.

 

I also volunteered at a local area trail run this past weekend with one of my friends. We worked an aid station 2.5 miles from the start/finish and the theme was the Love Shack. It was freezing cold, but we had fun. It was interesting to see so many different types of runners on the trail. You have some that are completely focused on getting to the finish, and then some that are out there just for the experience. I made a lot of pb&j, and it was just like the good old days when I made my kids’ lunches.

I think volunteering is important for runners to do. Without volunteers, there are no races. I encourage you to find a way to help out a local race. Some of them have perks for volunteering (free race entries, free shirt), but some of them just need your time.

This week I’m tapering for Cowtown, with extra rest and a little bit of running. I’ll be at the expo handing out t-shirts on Friday, so if you’re there early come say hi! Then on Sunday, I’ll run my 19th marathon. It’s time to complete my medal set!

 

 

Houston Marathon 2019

A little over a week ago, I ran my fastest marathon this year.

Ha ha.

Yes, I’m aware it’s only January, but I’m pulling out all the positives from the marathon that I can find. 😉

It’s really easy for me to write up a race recap when the race goes well, when I run my goal time, or when I completely blow my expectations away. But then there are the races that don’t quite turn out like I expected (or hoped) they would. Those recaps are harder to put into words. If you’ve run several races, you’re probably familiar with that feeling. I think the hardest part for me is putting in months of work and then falling short on race day.

If anything, though, I’m stubborn. So regardless of the time on the clock, I will not give up.

Now, about race weekend:

Houston was great. The race was just as well supported as I remembered from 2014 and 2015. From the expo to the finish area, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.

When I originally planned the trip, I intended for it to be a family trip. Then we got my younger daughter’s swim meet schedule in the fall, and realized the district meet was the Saturday before the race. So only my oldest daughter went with me, and we had a fun mother-daughter trip.

We left Sherman early Saturday morning, because I wanted to go to the Another Mother Runner live podcast at the expo. I’ve been following them (blogs, podcasts, books) for several years, and I was looking forward to it. After a quick stop for lunch, we made it to Houston and the expo with a little time to spare before the podcast.

 

Sarah and Dimity 

I got a nice bag of goodies for attending, with some of my favorite brands.

 

After the podcast, I got my packet, found my name on the wall, and then met up with the members of RunRelated Team and my coach who were running Houston as well.

This made the expo even better.

Then my daughter and I met my running friend and her husband for an early dinner, and headed back to the hotel to relax. I laid out all my gear on the chair, fuel and all, so I wouldn’t forget anything.

The weather for race day had calmed down from earlier forecasts, and I went with long sleeves and shorts. I honestly have never run a marathon in long sleeves, so I was excited about the cooler weather. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know my body doesn’t agree with warmer or humid weather.

I got up early to eat and relax. I didn’t want to wake my daughter, so I used the light from my phone to get ready. She did wake up to ask me if I had eaten. That meant a lot, that she was checking on me.

When I was finally ready, I met my friend in our hotel lobby and we headed over to the convention center.

 

We were in separate corrals, so I made my way over to mine. I had on sweat pants and a heat sheet to stay warm until we got closer to the start. The best thing I noticed about Houston was the large amount of porta-potties in the convention center, the corrals, and there was even a last minute stop closer to the start line. As my corral moved forward, I saw those and made a decision to make one last stop. I kid you not, as I went into the porta potty, the DJ played Dexy’s Midnight Runner. I laughed at the timing, because I was trying to hurry and all I could hear was “Come on Eileen.”

I made it to the start line and I felt okay. The wind was a little chilly, but I had my ears and hands covered so I felt fine. I didn’t worry about the pace in the first few miles. It can get a little congested, and I didn’t want to waste energy trying to get around people. Because of where I started with the corral, I was a little slower than I wanted to be but I knew it would open up a little later. Also, my coach wanted me to start a little slower than goal pace. By the 3rd mile, my pace was getting closer to my goal pace. I felt fine as I went through those miles, taking in the scenery, watching the runners around me. I had a few slower miles in there, but around mile 11, I needed to refill my bottle. This is where things started to go south. I couldn’t get the volunteers at the water station to understand I just wanted them to pour water in from the pitcher, they kept trying to hand me cups. Then I dropped my cap on the ground, and because my  fingers were a little numb from the cold, I couldn’t get my Nuun tablet in the bottle either. I was flustered, but I should have been able to recover from that and get back on pace. I put my gloves back on to warm my hands up, because the shady parts of the course were still cold to me.

I checked my overall time at the halfway point – 2:07. Okay, I could still pull out a 4:15 and be content.

My Garmin buzzed early for mile 15 (through some buildings) so I knew my mileage would be off after that. Then my race slowed even more. I’m still trying to figure this out. I kept up with my fuel, took my gels on time, and stayed hydrated with my electrolytes. But my pace had gone from 9s to 10s to 11s. I was running, just much slower. I didn’t feel sick, didn’t feel like I hit the wall, and I took very few walk breaks (mostly to take a gel or refill my drink). In the last 5k, I was passing people and felt like I was running strong. Then I looked at my Garmin and saw 11:36 pace for that mile. Oh, man is that humbling!

I finally switched my Garmin over to see the total time in the last mile. I was really hoping to be under 4:30.

Sigh.

I crossed the finish line with an official time of 4:33. It was a finish, and I got the best out of myself on that day. So I was okay with it. I was happy to finally stop moving, and get my chocolate milk.

When I got back to my hotel room, I saw my bag of anti-fatigue capsules on the chair where I laid out my race stuff. Oops.

I’ve used those capsules before every long run and half marathon leading up to the race. Now that I’ve had time to think through things, maybe I didn’t have enough calories beforehand either. I ate a banana with a little bit of peanut butter three hours before, and then applesauce an hour before.

Those are easy fixes for the next race – which is not very far away.

Even though I didn’t run the race I planned for, I enjoyed my time in Houston. And spending the weekend with my daughter really was the best part of the trip. 🙂

After a couple of days, the post race meltdown crept up and caught me off guard. I then resolved to do whatever I need to do. I’ll keep chasing my goals and not give up.

So up next, Cowtown!

 

Dallas (Half) Marathon 2018

The Dallas Marathon was my first half marathon in 2010, and my first full marathon in 2011. I’ve participated in it every year, always opting for the full marathon after the first one. This year, due to my goals, I discussed with my coach and we decided the half marathon would be a good way for me to still carry on the tradition, without compromising my training for Houston.

Results of my past full marathons in Dallas reflect my love/hate relationship with this course: 4:32, 5:12, 4:31, 4:17, 4:26, 4:46. So honestly up until before race week, I felt okay about running the half instead.

To be honest though, I was a little sad on race week. Nostalgia and all. But not stressing about running 26 miles while walking around the expo was kind of nice.

I made a stop by the Cowtown booth to “ooh” and “aah” over the 2019 race shirts and medals. Don’t forget, if you want to run this great race you can still register under my team “Anyone Can Run” and use promo code AMBASSADOR5 to save a total of $10 on a Sunday race. 

On race day morning, the weather was perfect – for a marathon. 🙂 High 30s, slight wind. The high for the day was only going to be in the 40s. I take credit for the great forecast, since I wasn’t running 26 miles. My friend and I lined up in the start corral, and I also met one of my RunRelated teammates who is also training for Houston. I was in shorts, with long sleeves (that I could push up), throwaway gloves, and my headband.

Tip: save heat sheets from previous races to stay warm at the start! (Mine was around my legs)

Then we were off. I focused on a consistent, steady pace, only looking at my Garmin once or twice a mile. I kept the Garmin on the lap screen so I didn’t see the total time, only lap distance and pace. Mile 3 went a little bonkers, because my pace showed some unrealistic 6 and 7 minute paces, then buzzed quite a bit before the mile marker. I knew that one would be off. But I didn’t let it bother me. The hills in the middle of the race can be tough if you’re not prepared, but I knew once we were past 15k, the course would flatten out. Much better than how San Antonio had that crazy hill at mile 11.

Throughout the race, I had pulled off my gloves and tucked them away. The sun peeked out, and I moved my headband to my wrist. I pushed my sleeves up and was starting to sweat.

When the half split from the full at mile 9, I wasn’t even sad. After the turn, I saw the mile 22 banner across the road (where the full course joins back up). I smiled when I realized I was running strong and I wasn’t crying on this stretch of road for probably the first time. 🙂 It cooled off a little with the wind and some shade, so pulled my sleeves back down as I covered this last part of the course. I tried to pick up my pace for the remaining couple of miles to finish strong. It looks like the hills took their toll. I didn’t look at my overall time until I crossed the finish line and stopped my Garmin.

As I made my way through the finisher chute, picking up all my post race goodies, I was smiling. I had run a good race at Dallas for the first time in a few years. It was my fastest half marathon all year – and my fastest half since 2016. I sat down on the curb with my chocolate milk and took it all in.

Yay chocolate milk!

Mentally, I would have liked to be a little faster going into Houston, but physically this is what I accomplished. Hills and all, I’m proud of what I ran. It was consistent, and it shows progress. I’ve basically decided the half is the way to go at Dallas, because I closed out my 2018 racing year on a positive note.

 

 

 

Next up, Houston!

Rock ‘n Roll San Antonio 2018

The first weekend of December was packed with a whirlwind trip to San Antonio with two of my best running friends. This was one of my races for Team Chocolate Milk, and it was the fourth time I’ve run this race.

I love this weekend for so many reasons!

Chocolate milk (of course)

Nonstop running talk with friends 

We never got tired of talking about running, and didn’t bore anyone with it. 🙂

Unique opportunities (like meeting elite runners)

I have been a Des Linden fan for years, so I was excited to have the chance to tell her she inspires me to not give up on my Boston goal. #keepshowingup We talked about how tuneup races (like this half for me) are important. My friends also had the chance to meet and take pictures with Meb. I love that they give up so much of their time for everyday runners.

The beauty of San Antonio

I have a fear of heights (see also RNR ’16) and our room was on the top floor of the Westin facing the river. It was pretty with all the Christmas lights, but I would not step out onto the balcony.

Meeting up with my teammates

These are just a few of my teammates I was able to meet up with before the race. I enjoy catching up with and meeting new team members from all over. We may have our different race distances and goals, but still encourage and support one another.

Part of the Texas crew!

Running through San Antonio

I always enjoy this half marathon course. There are a couple of hills (and a big booger at mile 11), but most of the course is fairly flat. This year the weather was good – 50s at the start, and then sunny. But it did warm up kind of fast. I was running on tired legs since I’m training for the Houston Marathon, and I held on to a decent pace through mile 10. A combination of a nutrition/hydration issue and my tired legs, meant I didn’t hang on to my sub 2 hour goal. Plus, I had quite a bit of weaving around walkers, etc. They didn’t fix this issue from last year. Overall, though, I was okay with the pace I ran. I just wish my official race results showed it.

Recovery!

I sure appreciate when a race has chocolate milk at the finish! Here’s the science behind it, and how the mix of carbs:protein helps your muscles recover.

 

The Medal

 

Until next year, San Antonio…

We’ll be back!

 

 

Run Coach and Races

Goodness, the month of November was busy! I’m still in the middle of training for the Houston marathon in January, so not too exciting, but I did run a couple of races since my last half.

But first, let me share some exciting news of what has kept me busy this fall. I completed my running coach certification, so I am now a certified running coach with RunRelated! That’s who has coached me for almost a year now, and now I get to be a part of it from that aspect. Before having a coach, I had always planned my own training, and I’m really looking forward to this new journey and helping other runners reach their goals. Take a look and see if RunRelated might be a good fit for you. It’s affordable, individualized training, with access to your coach via email, text, whenever you have questions or concerns.

Through my training, I’ve run a couple of races. The first was a 5k Turkey Trot that I ran with my son. I ran my long run first, and then we went to the race. He wanted to set a new PR, but had been sick the whole week before. Once we started running, he realized that he wasn’t going to be able to run a PR. He would tell me to go on and run my normal speed, but I said I was going to run with him the whole way, just like we planned. During that race he learned a valuable lesson: sometimes the biggest challenge is just finishing a race when you don’t feel your best. I learned that he can out kick me at the finish. 🙂

I also realized, after looking at the pictures, that my little boy isn’t so little anymore.

The weekend after Thanksgiving, I ran the McKinney Believe 10k with a couple of friends. I’ve done this race several times, so I knew what to expect. This was also a last ditch effort to hit the qualifying time for front corral for Houston. It was a long shot.

I would need under 51:08, and the deadline was the end of November. That was an 8:15 pace. My 5k in September was just under 8:00. It would be a stretch.

Race morning weather was perfect. Mid 40s and sunny, so I ran in my shorts and short sleeves. The first mile is mostly downhill, so that’s misleading. But I hit my first mile in 8:14 so I focused on staying consistent. Miles 2 and 3 were both 8:07. If I can just hold this until mile 4, I thought. My coach’s goal was for me to run sub 52:00. When I hit mile 4 in 8:13, I thought at least I should have that. I had my screen set to show overall time and average pace, so I knew I was still on track and it would be close. But I didn’t take my foot off the gas. I ran those last 2 miles like it mattered, and even though the splits were 8:20 and 8:18, I managed a water stop (kind of) and weaving around 5k runners in the last mile. At least they were running and not walking though. The last stretch of the course goes up and down, and finishes straight uphill. I was not going to sacrifice my time because of a silly hill. I charged up the hill, complete focus on the finish line. I didn’t look at my watch until I finished. My last .3 mile was at an 8:06 pace.

My finish time didn’t meet the cutoff, but my average pace was right on. Had I run closer to 6.2 instead of 6.3, I would have made it. But more importantly, I saw the runner that I’ve been searching for the past 4 years. I ran a race time I haven’t come close to since 2014, and I’m finally starting to see the results of my efforts. I’m starting to believe in myself again, and that matters more to me than a specific corral. When I posted this on my Instagram, I said “it’s not always about race times, but sometimes it is.” My official time was 51:38, and a quick search on Athlinks confirmed it.

Plus, I had a nice little age group win too.

 

In my next post, I’ll recap my Rock ‘n Roll San Antonio weekend. It’s a busy month of racing! 

The Colony Half Marathon

This past Saturday, I ran The Colony Half. It was my first time running this race, and my first half marathon since the Bluebonnet Half in April. I talked some of my running friends into doing it with me, because races are more fun with friends. We weren’t disappointed.

My training has been going okay for the last couple of months, but between the heat and humidity, then loads of rain, plus band and football, I just felt blah on race week. Some of that was probably hormonal too, but I can’t avoid that.

Still, I was excited to go to the race with my friends, and was able to meet up with my coach Tim, and another team member of RunRelated, Julie, who were also running. 

Due to the huge amounts of rainfall in the couple of weeks prior to the race, parts of the course were flooded from the lake. For a while, it looked like we all might be running the 5 miler. But they were able to approve an alternate course the week before, so 13.1 miles was still the plan!

My game plan, and my coach’s, was to hang around 9 minute pace through mile 7, and then pick it up based on how I felt. He knew I felt blah going into the race. It could have partly been nerves too, due to the length of time since my last half. I’ve always been “half ready” since I started running. But with the foot injury, and then the triathlon training for off-season, I just didn’t have a lot of long runs. That was a good mental and physical break through the summer, it just made me nervous for Saturday.

The weather was great! Cool temperatures at the start (mid to upper 50s). The sun was coming up and we were ready to run!

I stuck to the plan of 9 minute miles, and was feeling pretty good. Then around mile 5, my stomach started talking to me. This is the point where I realized my nutrition mistakes from the day before. If there is a potluck at work the day before a race, just don’t. Trust me! At this point, I was ahead of the 2 hour pace group, and I knew that if I stopped, I should still be able to run under 2:00. I found the porta potty just before mile 7 and darted in. I’m not like Shalane, so I had a little more time to make up when I got back to the course. 😉

I recovered my pace for mile 8, and was back on track. Then I needed to refill my bottle. Between that and the incline before the turnaround, my pace started to slip. I was behind the 2 hour group. Then my stomach started grumbling again, and I knew I was going to stop again. Since the course was a partial out and back, I knew right where to go. Unfortunately, I got there right as someone went in, and lost even more time. Goodbye sub 2.

I don’t know if I was defeated by my tummy issues, mad that I didn’t do a better job eating the day before, or if the sun was starting to get to me, but miles 11 & 12 were a struggle. I would walk for 10-15 seconds, then pick up and run. I did that a few times, playing tag with the 2:05 pacers. Finally for the last mile, I was able to settle into a pace that was comfortable to run the whole time without feeling sick.

As I came back into the park, I saw my coach who ran (okay it was a jog for him) alongside me for a minute, with a little pep talk telling me to finish strong. I did my best, but after I crossed the finish I needed to walk to feel a little better.

The only part I didn’t like about the course was that it went almost to the finish line, but then you had to go out and back around a loop. I was ready to be done and that didn’t help.  But I did finish just ahead of the 2:05 group with an official time of 2:04:55.

Advantage of having a fast friend – free running pics 🙂

 

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Splits

I reminded myself it was a tune-up race. I need to practice and learn from my mistakes. I needed the reminder that my nutrition before, during, and after the race is all so important. So now I’m back on track in that area.

I still had fun though, even with all of that. And nothing beats hanging out with friends after a race.

Next up, I have Rock ‘n Roll San Antonio half with Team Chocolate Milk, as Houston Marathon training continues!