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.

Showdown Half 2017

This past Saturday, I ran the Showdown Half. I sure could’ve used the cold front that blew in Sunday morning on Saturday, because it was sunny and warm. Not my ideal running conditions, but I made the best of it.

There was a group of us that rode to the race together, and that made the race so much more fun. My running friend, her mom (who was doing the 5k), and two others from our running group.

Starting temp was 68 degrees, and of course the humidity was high. The sun shone bright the entire race, but at least there were a few shady places to help out.

My friend and I started between the 2:00 and 2:05 pace groups, and I had my goals in mind. We hadn’t adjusted our training at all for the race. Marathon is the goal. But I was hoping to get back under 2 hours again. Last year on this course I ran a 1:53, and the year before it was 1:54. Of course those were on cooler days. My goals for this year were A) 1:55 B) sub 2 hours or C) fastest half this year.

I was rolling along with around a 1:58 pace until mile 10. That’s when the heat and hills took over. I honestly forgot about the hills. I knew they were there, I just didn’t plan for them. My mile splits went from around 9:00s to 9:30s, and then mile 13 was just painful. My breathing sounded like the last mile of a 5k, and I think this was just due to the heat. I was trying to keep my foot on the gas, but as I came around and spotted the finish, I realized I had no gas left in the tank. There was no fast finish for this race!

I ended up with 2:03:30, so it was my fastest half all year – barely. I’m going to have to be okay with that, because I just don’t know if I could have done any better. I didn’t slow that much in the last four miles, until the last mile when I lost a minute, but it was enough to knock me out of a sub 2:00. But I look at the elevation chart on Strava, and I can tell where it got me. It was hot, it was hilly, it was a half marathon race in the middle of marathon training. At least I had chocolate milk at the finish!

I had such a good time with my friends too, and one of them even set a PR!

Now it’s back to the training plan! I’ve got a marathon to get ready for. ūüôā

 

 

 

 

The Showdown Half Marathon (2016)

I recently ran my 2nd half marathon of the year, and it was the first race I was able to push myself and see how my running time has improved. Aside from the half Ironman, my last half marathon was Rock N Roll Dallas in March. So I was a little excited to run the Showdown half and check the reality of my four hour marathon goal.

As much as I hated the hills on this race last year, I decided to go ahead and do it again this year for several reasons:

  1. The race is well done. There are pacers, plenty of course support, and best of all – chocolate milk at the finish.
  2. I need the hills to prepare for the Dallas Marathon. It’s not a flat course, and the toughest hills fall after mile 13.
  3. My training partner was running it as well, so we rode to the race together. Races are more fun with friends.

The morning of the race, the weather was perfect. A cool front had moved in and it was around 51 degrees at the start. My perfect running weather falls in the range of 45 to 50 degrees. I couldn’t believe after all the heat and humidity, that we were actually getting a break on race day.

My friend and I talked about where to start the race. Do we start in front of the 2:00 pace group or with 1:55? I really had no idea what to expect out of myself, so she decided on 1:55 and we lined up behind the pacers. I hoped to be under 1:55, and secretly was hoping to be in the 1:53 range. After looking at my Garmin at the end of the first mile (8:37!) I wondered if I was screwing up my race too early. But the pace felt comfortable, great even, and I felt so light on my feet! We stayed with the pacers at least through mile 6. At times I felt like I was holding back. I had more. Close to mile 7, my friend pulled off to make a quick¬†stop and told me to go on ahead. She’s been battling foot problems (most likely plantar fasciitis) for the last few weeks, and after stopping it would take her a bit to get warmed up again. I know that feeling all too well.

Being in the second half of the race, I decided to pull ahead of the pace group. I think it’s possibly the most miles I’ve stayed with a pace group. I tend to stay away from packs in races. I ran¬†an 8:07 for mile 8 and still felt good for that point of the race. Spoiler alert: that was my fastest mile of the race. For the next few miles I kept my focus on staying ahead of the pace group and even effort through the hills. ¬†Mile 10 was a little tough, and my slowest mile, but I made up for it¬†in the last 5k. I crossed the finish with an official time of 1:53:04. It was my fastest half since November 2013 (when I was five seconds from my PR). Now that feels good!

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There weren’t as many hills as I remembered, but I think my training is paying off as well. The course seemed a little different in the last few miles, but¬†it was still a challenge. I was so excited that¬†I was so close to running under 1:53. I feel like the four hour marathon is still a realistic goal, so I’ll keep pushing.¬†It was a good race, and I’m so glad I went. It totally energized my training.

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Oh, and then there are these race perks:

Free race photos

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and a Texas sized medal!

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