Hot Chocolate 15k 2018

This past Saturday, I ran my second Hot Chocolate 15k in Dallas. I regretted not running it last year, but I had cut back on my races for several reasons. This year so many of my friends were going, I wasn’t going to miss it! So I made sure I registered early to get the most for my money.

The only drawback to running a 15k race three weeks before Cowtown, was how to get the long run done. My coach gave me two options, since this was the 20 miler week. We decided to do the Saturday race and a Sunday long/tempo run to simulate the running on fatigued legs.

More on that later.

The weather was great on Saturday, temperature wise. It was a little on the windy side, but the sun was out and that helped. My friends from my running group made fun of me in my shorts. I had brought my capris just in case, but with temperatures in the 40s I knew shorts were best for me even with the wind.

We warmed up – leg swings, lunges – and made our way to the corral. When the race started, I smiled as we all spaced out into our individual speeds. I could see a couple of my friends ahead of me, but I was not going to try to stay with them. I was following my coach’s advice of running a smart race. 9.3 miles is a long way to go if you blow it all in the first half. Plus, there were hills coming.

I did feel like I was holding back for about the first three miles. I kept a check on my pace periodically, but didn’t obsessively check my Garmin. I ran the first mile in 8:42 and that felt good. I went into my usual mode of thanking volunteers and officers (so many police officers) and I was happy to hear so many other runners around me thanking them as well. Grateful is the best attitude to have when running. The race had Nuun on course, but I was carrying my bottle with Lime Energy so I wouldn’t need to stop.

I focused on effort going up the hills, while trying to keep my pace under 9:00. I knew I wasn’t going to PR, because that’s not where I am in my journey, but I wanted to run a strong, solid race and gauge progress. By mile 7, I was so glad I was almost done. It’s funny how 2 miles seems like a short way now.

I would check distance on my watch, but rarely look at the pace. I was in all out effort mode. Somewhere in the last mile, we made a turn into the wind and went up a nice big hill. Then it became all about the chocolate.

I told myself “don’t step off the coals now!”  I had set a time goal of under 1:23:00 and it looked like I was going to make it! I powered up the big hill, made a turn, and another turn, and then I was crossing the finish!

I was excited with my time, but mostly because I knew I ran hard and didn’t give up on myself. I said I was done settling, and this race helped solidify that mindset.

Of course my Garmin had a faster pace because of the 9.44 distance…

 

I heard my name, and was looking around for the friends I knew finished before me, but it was Leda who finished just seconds behind me. She ran a slower beginning and negative split her second half. She almost caught me!

Then I saw Chris (fellow Cowtown ambassador) at the finish. He set a pretty great PR!

All of us from our group finished within a few minutes of each other, so we headed over to get our finisher mugs, and enjoyed the treats while we recapped the race. That was a lot of fun, and the chocolate was worth that final push up the hill.

And since there’s a big marathon coming up at the end of this month, I ran 10 miles on Sunday with some marathon pace in the second half. Once I got a few miles in, the soreness from the 15k worked itself out, and I felt decent. Tired, but manageable.

I feel like I’m in a much better place this year mentally and physically, than I was a year ago when my running legs went MIA.  Cowtown weekend is in just two weeks, and it’s going to be great!

2017 Too Hot to Handle 15k

The Too Hot to Handle 15k is a race that I’ve done several times. I don’t mind running this race in July, because they do a good job of keeping runners cool. I also like to test out my fitness a few times in the summer with longer races to see how I’m progressing. My reasoning is that if I can run x:xx in the summer when it’s hot, then when it’s cooler I’ll be flying! I talked my running buddy into doing it with me, of course. Racing is much more fun with friends.

This year was definitely hot. The overcast skies from my last two races were gone, and the sun was shining when we started.

I didn’t really have a time goal, but I hoped I could finish around 1:24:00 or faster. I also knew the chances of placing in my age group were slim. This is a popular race and there are some fast runners in my age group! My first mile was 8:57, second in 8:34, and the third was 8:43. At this point I held to the idea that a 1:24 was possible. I focused on keeping each mile under 9:00 pace. I sipped on Nuun in my handheld bottle to stay hydrated, and ran under overhead sprinklers as I passed them. It was mostly an out and back course, so I made mental notes of the aid stations for the way back. Miles 4,5, and 6 were 8:37, 8:45, and 8:57. It was after mile 6 when the heat started to get to me. I grabbed ice cold towels when I could, squeezing the water out over my head and neck. Mile 8 was my slowest with 9:06 when there was a steep hill. I was super proud I didn’t walk it. I tried to drop my pace down more for the last two miles, but basically I was hanging on with what I had left. Coming around the last turn, I wanted to kick it up a notch but I had no more gas in the tank.

My first thought when I finished was, “It’s all good until the sweat drips into the eyes.” Oh my! I couldn’t see anything due to the salt burning my eyes! It took me a few minutes to cool down using the ice cold towels and sipping on my Nuun. I had the best two orange slices ever, and sat down on the curb to watch for my friend and another runner from our group to finish.

We survived!

My official finish time was 1:24:19. My Garmin showed I ran 9.55 miles at a pace of 8:50, so I feel like I ran well – especially for a race in July. I’m not back to where I was in 2014, but I’ll get there.

This past Saturday, I decided to run 10 miles for my long run. I had no specific pace, I just wanted to get a good double digit run in because I’d be gone the next weekend. Also, marathon training starts on the 24th and the first week has a 12 miler. Our group left from our usual place and the humidity was so thick! Then in mile 2, the sky opened up and we were running in a downpour. I did feel a little less crazy though since others were out there too. Some headed back one direction, and we went a different way to add a few miles. Then I started to feel blah.  My stomach wasn’t feeling great, and I found a timely construction porta-potty. By mile 7, I was ready to be done but we were still two miles from the park. Thankfully the rain had turned to a mist which kept us cooler. We made another pit stop at the gas station for my difficult tummy, and I was talking myself down from 10 miles. When we got the park, I made another restroom stop and we were at 8.7. We decided to loop around and then walk the rest of the way to the cars, but when we got close to mile 9, she says “Let’s just round it off to 10.” It was my fastest mile and the only one that felt good. If my friend had not been there to keep me going, I don’t know if I would have made it to 10. But we got it done, and then we rehydrated with watermelon. It was great.

It’s been a while since I felt that bad on a long run, so I guess I was due one. I am thankful for my running friend because we push each other to do more than we would on our own. We each have our good days and bad days, but we stick it out together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wrapping up 2016

Once the dust from last Sunday’s race settled, I went through a bit of a period of disappointment. Trying to examine what I could’ve changed, yet trying to still be proud that I did something big. Dallas was my 14th marathon, and even though I didn’t reach my time goal, that’s still kind of a big deal. So I decided to do some reflecting on my year as a whole to help myself move on past the post-race funk.

2016 was a big year for tri-ing new things and facing fears. (See what I did there.)

I conquered my first open water swim. In a group. Of strangers. Very fit triathletes. I didn’t die from embarrassment.

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I did my first Olympic triathlon – which coincidentally was the first time I swam a mile.

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I rode in my first bike rally. It wasn’t what I thought it would be, but I survived. I also learned not to grip the handlebars too tightly.

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I completed my first half Ironman. Now that was a hard day, and I didn’t even know I could do it.

Until I did.

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I set a new PR at the Hot Chocolate 15k back in February. And I took a “shot” of M&Ms in that race too. That was a first, and not recommended. At least not at a fast pace.

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I also drank a whole lot of chocolate milk this year! 🙂

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The triathlon adventures brought renewed passion to my running. I have decided to continue to pursue my running goals while keeping up my fitness in the pool and on the bike. I learned that I can continue to improve in many ways and continue to find new goals to challenge myself.

It’s been a pretty busy year, and I’m looking forward to 2017!