New Year’s Day Half

It’s amazing how getting enough sleep and a reducing some life stress can impact your running.

I found this out when I ran three half marathons within 4 1/2 weeks. With RNR San Antonio, I was dealing with both lack of sleep and a lot of outside stress. My heart rate reflected it in the race too. The next weekend at Dallas, I was still managing some stress, but was doing better in the sleep department. By the time the New Year rolled around, most of the stressful issues had been resolved, and I was doing much better with sleep (thanks to the holidays). But I also had the bonus holiday joy of the few extra pounds. I’ll blame marathon recovery, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. When I scale back on running, but still eat like I’m marathon training, I start to look and feel like Stay-Puft.

I digress.

I have never run the New Year’s Double in Allen, but I’ve had friends who’ve done it. I’m usually so wiped out by the end of the year, and the weather is historically cold and nasty. Plus, I work on New Year’s Eve. The New Year’s Double is two days of races: New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. You can run the 5k, and the half or full, or just choose one race for New Year’s Eve. Then you can come back and do it again the next day.

I had a free race entry to an Active Joe race from volunteering at Cross Timbers, so I figured why not? I used my entry for the New Year’s Day race, the half marathon distance, and signed up with no other expectations than to enjoy a mid-week long run.

The week leading into the race, I was trying to clean up my nutrition and building my mileage back up. I ran an easy 6 miles with a friend the day before the half, and headed to work. I told her I was expecting to be under 2:10, but I didn’t set any specific time goals.

Race morning was a later start than I usually have. I had plenty of time to have my coffee and relax before making the 30 minute drive. I decided not to eat anything, but drank my Ucan as usual. The 5k is up first, and I could see runners on the path, and the start/finish line from where I parked. I had plenty of time to get my packet, and hang out in the car. There’s a place for a bag drop, but I left my layers in the car and took just what I needed for the race. It was cloudy, low 40s, and a slight wind kept it chilly before the start. I grabbed my throwaway gloves, my handheld bottle, and my earbuds. I felt okay, not great, but I was ready to run.

I liked the way everything was set up for this race. There are assigned corrals, even though it’s a smaller race, to help ease congestion. The course is an out and back loop on a paved park path. 2 loops for the half, 4 for the full. I was in the second corral, and it felt a little strange lining up so close to the front for a half marathon.

I started a little too fast because I was so cold. My first mile was just under 9:00. I didn’t worry about my pacing though. I needed to warm up! Miles 2 and 3 were just a touch faster – 8:53 and 8:52. I didn’t worry about it being too fast and just went with how I was feeling. I was enjoying the run.

There was a timing mat and clock for the first loop. I switched my Garmin to see total time. 59:xx. Oh wow, I could run sub 2 if I could hang on or negative split the second half. I had a new goal.

The advantage of running a looped course, is that you know exactly what’s coming for the second half – where the hills are, aid stations, road conditions. Some people don’t like those kinds of courses, but for me on this day, it’s exactly what I needed.

My mile splits were consistently just under 9:00, but my Garmin is always off. Plus there was a little tunnel we went through four times total, and it threw my GPS off. There were mile markers though, and I used those to keep tabs on my time. At mile 11, I was still on track for sub 2. A couple of times, a thought would try to creep in that it was hard, or I wouldn’t be able to do it. But I pushed those thoughts aside, and I didn’t take my foot off of the gas, just like when I ran the 10k in Dallas.

 

Focused and Flying

My breathing sounded like I was running a 5k, and in the last mile, I was completely focused on getting through the finish.When I crossed the line and saw my time, I almost cried.

Look at that halfway split!

Ok, so I did cry a little. But it was because I feel like I won a mental race more than physical. I didn’t quit on myself when it got hard. My body cooperated, but my mind was the big win of the day. I wasn’t lamenting the “faster me” from several years ago. I was genuinely proud of what I ran, working from where I am now, not where I used to be. It felt like a turning point for me. Also, 40 degrees is my jam.

To top it all off, I placed 2nd in my age group!

Cutest medal! It’s a turtle!

So, I’m excited. I feel like my year was off to a great start. I didn’t have one half marathon last year under 2 hours. The closest I came was San Diego was 2:00:53.

I can’t wait to see what else 2020 has in store for me.

Dallas Marathon Weekend 2019

My favorite race weekend of the year came the following weekend after RNR San Antonio. I have participated in a Dallas Marathon race every year since my first half marathon in 2010. I have a lot of history with this race: first half, first full, worst full, worst weather, first cancelled marathon, and so on. But the race is special to me because it was my first half and full, so I make it a point to run it every year.

Last year (2018) was the first time since my first half that I decided to run the half instead of the full. My training schedule this year was different too, since I ran the Fort Worth Marathon in November. So I went with the same plan for Dallas for 2019, with an added twist.

I received a complimentary entry to a Saturday race from Dallas Marathon late in the game. Since I don’t get to run many 10ks, and to make it worth the extra drive down, I registered for the 10k. I wasn’t considered a Weekend Series participant, but I would have the chance to do something different for me.

On Friday of race weekend, I went to the expo with one of my friends.

We picked up packets and had enough time to find our names on the car, sign the big race sign, and look at the history banners from past years. I always enjoy looking at these banners with the year, picture of the shirt and medal, the temperature, number of finishers, and winners’ finish times.

A picture of me taking a picture of my name. 🙂

We were in and out, and back home in time to pick up kids from school. #momlife

Saturday morning, I headed back to Dallas with my other running friend. She was going to shop the expo and pick up her packet while I raced the 10k. My plan was to go ahead and go all out and see how I would do. After my disappointment from RNR San Antonio, I wanted to have at least one race in Dallas where I felt I ran to my potential. The weather was great. A little on the cool side, so I wore shorts and long sleeves. By the end of the first mile, I was pushing up my sleeves trying to cool down a little. I was surprised when I saw the split for mile 1 – 8:12. I hadn’t done any fast running since the marathon, and didn’t have any sub 9:00 miles in San Antonio. I told myself to just keep charging. It was 6 miles, so if I struggled near the end that was ok. The second mile went up a hill on a bridge. I thought this was supposed to be a flat and fast course! Then we made a u-turn and came right back down. That helped a little. My pace was still under 8:30 for the second mile. I held steady. I kept ticking off the miles, feeling strong, cranking out consecutive paces I hadn’t seen in a while. I was so excited when I made the turn and saw the banner with 100 meters to go.

My official finish time was 52:20 making my goal of sub 55 minutes a reality. Honestly, I got a little choked up because I was proud – and surprised – with what I ran.

That’s a great feeling!

The post-race chocolate milk was a nice bonus too. 🙂

On Sunday, the three of us headed to the race to run the half distance. The weather was not as cold as Saturday had been. I was in shorts and my RunRelated tank. It was cloudy, but a little on the humid side. Once we got into the start corral, I was comfortable. That’s not necessarily a good sign, but typical for me at Dallas. But I was still riding the high from the 10k, so I was just going to run what my body would let me run. No excuses.

I was excited.

The first few miles went well. I was probably averaging around 9:00 with a little variation due to congestion and settling into a rhythm. The sun came out around mile 4 and it started warming up. I didn’t have my music, so I focused on the atmosphere around me. My legs were holding up pretty well, even through the big hills. Every aid station from mile 7 through the finish of the race, I took a cup of water – one sip, and I’d dump the rest over my head. It was heating up out there!

My legs started whining, but I didn’t take my foot off the gas. I was hanging between 9-9:15 minute miles. I wanted it to be faster than San Antonio, and I was on track. When the half split from the full, I knew the uphills were behind me. The last 4 or so miles are a gradual decline – so gradual you really can’t see it, but the climbing was done. At mile 12, my legs were really complaining. It was my slowest mile. But then I rallied and found another gear. We passed a big number 8, signifying 800 meters to go. The guy next to me asked, “are we almost there?” “Half a mile,” I said. “Let’s go.” Then the big 4 to show 400 meters. So close.

I had an advantage since the finish line was the same as the day before, so I knew how the turns led us to the finish. I made the final turn and saw the 100m to go sign, and kicked it in.  It wasn’t a negative split race according to my Garmin, but I was happy with the effort I pulled out in the final half mile of the race.

My finish time was about 4 minutes faster than San Antonio, and neither course was flat. For Dallas, I had no stops, no walks, no talking myself down from a time goal, no excuses – not even the weather. I just dealt with it the best I could. I felt strong and confident the whole race. After the tough previous races, I sooooo needed that. My mental attitude was strong in both races, and I felt like my old self.

Yay for chocolate milk!

Very Important Information!

Then I celebrated with my friends.

Next year is going to be Dallas Marathon’s 50th Anniversary. It’s going to be a big deal.

I’ll be celebrating an entire decade of running, and I’ll be there for it. Maybe it’s time to go back to the full marathon…

 

Rock ‘n Roll San Antonio 2019

I know this post is a little late, but December got away from me with all the races, band concerts, and Christmas to dos. But I want to give each race its due, so expect to see some “catch up” posts in the next few weeks.

Rock ‘n Roll San Antonio is a favorite trip that my friend and I take each year. It’s a nice little quick getaway, and I get to represent Team Chocolate Milk.

This year had a little different feel to it, because we both had a lot of stuff going on. I had some stress and lack of sleep because of life stuff, and her new position at work is taking a lot of her time. So we decided we were going to just enjoy the break and relax. And by relax, I mean run 13.1 miles. 🙂

We left for San Antonio early Saturday morning, and made our way to the expo first for packet pick up and some shopping.

I think you can see how tired I am!

 

 

We decided to eat an early dinner before checking in to the hotel, because the line was pretty long. We found a new to us Italian restaurant on the Riverwalk, and it was so early, there was no wait. Then we hit up CVS for some snacks and headed back to the hotel.

It’s kind of funny, because this is the first year we haven’t really explored the Riverwalk or the Alamo area on foot. We were just worn out, so after checking in to the hotel, I kicked my feet up to rest and she worked on her computer for her job. I had one of those times when I was so exhausted that I just couldn’t sleep. But I was happy to just be still after the week I had.

The weather on race morning was a little cool, but humid. Tank top is pretty much a given in San Antonio.

We walked out of our hotel to the start corrals – 5 minutes tops. That has been one of my favorite things about where we stay each year.

Start Corral

For my longest run since the Fort Worth Marathon in November, my plan was to start conservatively and negative split to finish strong. I wasn’t sure if I could pull a sub 2 hour half, but the plan to finish strong would help me take my mind off of the time and put it on the effort. The course had changed from previous years, no running by the Alamo this year, and I think they stuck in more hills. What is it with Rock ‘n Roll Races and hills. Dallas, San Diego, San Antonio…just from my experience. But thankfully, I’ve been tackling hill repeats with one of my running friends lately, so I was prepared. What I was not prepared for was the Wear Blue: Run to Remember mile. Again, crying while running is hard. If you’re not familiar with this, my friend captured a picture of part of it. Basically it’s photos of service members we’ve lost, lined up on both sides of the road for a quarter to a half a mile. The picture also has their age and rank. As a wife of a Navy veteran, and mom to a soon to be Naval Officer, I didn’t make it through this section with getting choked up. When the pictures stop, then you have people on both sides of the road holding flags and cheering for you as you continue to climb the hill. Some of them are in uniform, some in the wb:r2r shirts. This section of the race means so much to me.

I continued to keep an even effort, not draining my energy on the uphills. My pace ranged from 9:05-9:20 for most of the miles. My plan to negative split the second half didn’t pan out, but I tried to not lose any ground. Then at mile 11, on the way up another (final) hill, I dashed into a porta potty, and lost some time. I came out and walked for a few seconds up the hill, my heart rate was so high, and then I rallied my strength to finish. Only when I crossed the finish and stopped my Garmin, did I look at my total time – 2:06:42 (official). I’ll admit I was a little disappointed with my overall time, but I sat down near a tree with my water bottle to catch my breath and evaluate the race. My heart rate had been high for most of the race. I was tired. I was under a lot of stress with factors out of my control. It was my longest run since early November. It was humid. By looking at it this way, I actually felt pretty accomplished completing the race.

I headed to the chocolate milk tent to start my post race recovery. You can read all about the science here: https://builtwithchocolatemilk.com/science/workout-recovery

Time to Recover!

 

It’s important to remember that I do this because I enjoy it. Not every race is going to be an outstanding time. Sometimes my body isn’t on board. But I enjoyed my trip, time spent with my friend, and running through San Antonio. I will celebrate my half marathon finish, and keep doing what I love. 🙂