BMW Dallas Marathon

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Yes, Christmas, but it’s also that time of year for the Dallas Marathon. While my Facebook feed is full of people sharing Christmas memories, mine pops up with marathon memories.

I’ve been running the Dallas Marathon every year since 2010 (minus the ice storm of 2013) when I ran my first half. My first full marathon was Dallas in 2011 and I’ve registered for the full every year after. The race experience continues to improve, and this year was the best so far.

As I started my taper week, I had all kinds of stuff going on. Let’s just say it wasn’t the most relaxing race week. I didn’t really have the time I wanted to focus on rest, recovery, and preparing my mind for Sunday. But in a way, I wondered if it was beneficial that I didn’t have time to over-think and wonder if I was prepared. Basically I didn’t have a chance to worry.

We planned our trip to the expo on Saturday when the elite ambassadors would be on the speaker stage. I enjoyed this last year, and carried their advice through the race with me. I wanted that again.

I got my bib signed by Desi, Deena, and Ryan Hall. I met Deena and Desi last year, but this was the first time I’ve met Ryan Hall.

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To me, that made the 16 weeks of early mornings and long runs totally worth it. I also knew they would be handing out medals at the finish line, and that became one of my race goals since I was oblivious the last two years. I love that they are so willing to give of their time to the running community!

I snapped a picture of my Dallas Marathon history.

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I ended up missing lunch, but I made an early dinner when we got home. I never really felt bloated from too many carbs, but I felt like I was loaded and ready to run 26.2.

Race day weather was perfect for me. Temps in the 50s with a little wind. My husband and I got there early with time to chill in the convention center, then I met up with my friend in the start corral.

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We ran the first five miles together, and then I moved into race pace. My plan was to run the first 5 miles in the 9:20 range, then bump up to race pace (9:05-9:10). She’s been battling foot pain, so her plan was to finish. I felt good. It was overcast and there was a little bit of a mist to keep us cool.

I felt like I was holding back in the first five miles (which was a good thing) but at mile 10 all of a sudden my legs felt heavy. I took in my fuel about half a mile earlier than planned, and it seemed to help some. Then I was doing okay holding onto my pace, but it felt harder than it should’ve. My hydration was fine, my nutrition was fine, but my legs felt like I had on ankle weights.

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My pace started to fall off when I was running by the lake (miles 16-17). There was a crosswind and I got a little chilled, but it didn’t last long.  At mile 19, I made a quick porta-potty stop. I lost my sub 4:00 goal, and was losing my 2nd goal – to PR. I negotiated a third goal in my head, and then a fourth. I walked, I ran, I walked, and I ran. In the last four miles – straight into the wind – the goal became to finish the best I could and still be proud of my race. My legs were shuffling and so very heavy. The distance on my Garmin was almost a half a mile off from the mile markers. I finally stopped looking at the watch. I ran the entire last mile, and I felt like I was barely moving.

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Positive Splits (you’re doing it wrong)

When I was coming down to finish, I saw one of my Team Chocolate Milk members waving to me. That was encouraging, and so was seeing the announcer at the finish line.

This is my blazing fast finish (10:45 pace) captured by my husband.

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I spotted volunteers handing out medals, and then saw Ryan Hall. I waited behind two people to get my medal from him. Then I saw Leo Manzano handing out medals too. That experience was worth the pain of the race, and gave me a positive outlook for my finish. That was also my final race goal – to get my medal from an elite runner. 🙂

I am so grateful for all the volunteers, police officers, and spectators – and especially seeing those who cheered specifically for me. Thank you Jennifer and your pool noodle! 🙂 It made an unpleasant run much better.

 

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Team Chocolate Milk!

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I am so thankful to Dallas Marathon for a great race experience! It truly was a great weekend. There will be another race, and I’ll get that sub 4!

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Dallas Marathon 2015

The Dallas Marathon is my most anticipated race each year. It was my first half marathon in 2010 and my first full marathon in 2011. I have always said “I love the race, but it doesn’t love me back” because I’ve had kind of a rough run with it. (Unintentional pun)

For my first full, the weather was cold, windy, and rained the entire time. Then 2012 was warm and humid, 2013 iced out, and 2014 didn’t have the best weather conditions either (along with all of my other problems that day).

Needless to say, my standards this year weren’t set too high. I hoped for decent weather, and planned to run with my friend (who I talked into running her first marathon in Dallas). My goals became to run faster than last year and have fun. I still was hoping for the sub 4 hour race, but truthfully knew everything would have to go right for that to happen. But my friend and I talked about running together because that would help both of us pull through.

But first, let me talk about the expo because that was a big part of my weekend. Dallas has done a great job the past two years by bringing in elite ambassadors and adding some interest to the race itself with relay challenges. So on Saturday, we timed it to be at the stage for the introduction of the elites and then they gave some advice for the runners for race day.

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So much speed in one place!

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Desi!

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Deena! (My role model as a master’s runner.)

 

I soaked  it all in (foreshadowing), spoke to Josh Cox and Molly Huddle to thank them for being there, and got a couple of autographs on my bib. I was nervous being around so much running greatness. I wanted to meet Ryan Hall, but that line was longer, so maybe another time. I do love that in this sport, the elite runners that I’ve met are approachable and genuine. This totally made my weekend, no matter how the race turned out for me.

Storms moved in Saturday evening and overnight, so when I drove to Dallas early Sunday morning, it was in the rain. Of course. Thankfully there was no lightning and the wind wasn’t too bad. The temps had dropped though to low 50s with a forecasted high of 60. At least that part was manageable, and much improved from the oppressive humidity Saturday morning for my shakeout run.

I hung out in my friend’s hotel room for a bit, then we made the five minute walk to the start corral. Dallas has three start corrals – A, B, and C. We were in B, and lined up between the 9:15 and 9:30 pace. I’m always surprised by how fast time goes by in the corral! Before I knew it, the National Anthem was over and we were moving toward the start line.

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Rain, rain, go away.

I soon realized we should have started at the front of the corral. We both talked about how we needed to make sure we held back in the first few miles. I’ve got a history of going out too fast. There was no problem in holding back because I felt like it was bottlenecked for about five or six miles, but didn’t want to use energy trying to weave around people. The first mile pace was just under 10:00. We picked up the pace gradually and by the end of mile 5, we were averaging 9:30s which is where we stayed until just before mile 13.

At this point my friend started to fall back. I checked on her a couple of times and she finally told me to go ahead. She wasn’t feeling great. We had worked this out beforehand, that if one of us struggled the other one would go on. But I still worried about her and second guessed leaving her side. We had put in so many miles together that it didn’t seem right to keep on, but I also knew that if I was the one struggling I would want her to go on. So that’s what I did, but I said prayers for her along the way.

I noticed the breeze had cooled the humidity and the temperature felt good. I tried to pick up the pace, but the hills kept me grounded. I ended up averaging 9:25 from 10-15, and 9:33 from 16-20. At mile 19, it became harder to hold the pace down in the 9:30s. From that point on it became a fight to stay in the game. I saw the banner that I signed at the expo, and looked down at my Road ID that contains same message: Hebrews 12:1 Run With Endurance.

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I started counting down the miles from my Garmin (which was a half a mile over already). Each one that ticked off meant I was closer. I remembered what Meb said at the expo about his phrase “Run to win” which means getting the best out of yourself. I checked to see if I was doing my best, and the answer remained yes every time. I surged when I could and willed my legs to go faster. At mile 23, I felt like I was flying. I looked down at my pace – 10:05. Oh, well, at least I felt like I was flying. I repeated “I can do hard things. I’ve done this before.” My lower back started to ache. I would count down the minutes with phrases like “Only 25 more minutes, I can keep doing this for 25 minutes.” I used every self-talk positive phrase I could think of to get my through those last 6 miles, and didn’t let my pace frustrate me. I continued to smile (which may have looked like a grimace at that stage), thanked the volunteers, thanked the police officers, and tried to encourage other runners as I continued. I stayed hydrated with Nuun and I fueled just like I trained. As I came to mile 26, I started to get emotional. Coming through the finisher chute, the tears started. I felt like a winner because I had run strong, and finished the race giving my all. There were no walk breaks, no talking myself out of my goals, or making excuses. As the announcer was calling out the finishers just ahead of the finish line, he gave me a high five and said “Way to go, Team Chocolate Milk.” Then I crossed the line.

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I saw Meb giving out medals, but he was busy getting photos with people too. I looked around but didn’t see any of the other elite ambassadors. I got all my goodies and moved to where I could check my friend’s tracking. I pulled my phone out and dropped a gel. I stood there staring at it on the ground, and another runner came over to pick it up for me. I thanked her and said, “I was trying to decide if it was worth it” because I couldn’t bend my knees.

I saw my friend’s finish on the tracker and went to find her. There was a hug and more tears! We had both done what we set out to do. She finished her first marathon in about the time she expected to. I ran a strong for me race.

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Meeting up with a fellow Team Chocolate member is always fun!

Meeting up with a fellow Team Chocolate Milk member is always fun!

I broke my curse. This was my fastest Dallas race by almost 15 minutes, with a fairly consistent pace. The weather turned out perfect for me because I never overheated. But the fact that I was able to run the entire course gives me hope for my future goals, and a return to my speed two years ago.

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My mind is whirring with the possibilities of what’s next! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

Training: Weeks 1-3

Last week I finished up week 3 of Dallas Marathon training, and had my first 40 mile week in months. At this point, I’m enjoying a cutback week and am feeling pretty good about my training so far.

When I wrote about my training plan that I was creating for myself, I failed to mention the resources I was pulling from. I started right where my summer mileage left off and used the Marathon Own It plan from the Train Like a Mother book as my guideline. I then used the McMillan Running calculator to plug in my training paces and recommended workouts.  I have had the McMillan Pro for a few years to get the extras, and for $2 month, it’s worth every penny. These two resources are what I used to train two years ago when I set my PR. The main differences for this year though – lower mileage with five days of running (instead of 6), and I’m still biking and swimming.

Of the two hard days last week, the one I was most worried about went off without a hitch. Early Thursday mornings follow late bedtimes on Wednesday. Generally, we don’t get home from church until after 8:00. Then everyone needs a snack before getting ready for bed. If I’m in bed before 10 pm it’s surprising. So when I looked closer at the training plan, and started to add up mileage, I didn’t know how it would get done. 4x3000m @ marathon pace (9:09) with 800m recovery. That didn’t include the warmup and cool down. I converted the meters to miles beforehand and gave myself a little over an hour and half to get it done.

Surprise! Not only did I manage to get the math right (my lap button will track lap pace but not lap distance – try adding 1.86 miles each set – I’m an English major), but I also got all the repeats done, and managed under race pace for all of them. That felt pretty amazing.

BAM!

BAM!

I wish I could have captured exactly how beautiful it was to see the moon throughout this run. From an orange glow, to a white Cheshire cat smile, to the early moments of dawn, I watched the crescent smile the entire time.

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At the end of my run, and I can still see the moon.

 

Saturday’s long run called for 16 miles, middle 6 at race pace. I thought about what miles I would be running with the group, and decided I probably wouldn’t be able to manage that pace. I also worried about pushing too far since my last week’s run was 13 miles. I don’t usually like to jump more than two miles up at a time. But then fall weather showed up, and there was a scheduling conflict too that needed me home earlier. The weather was wonderful! I forgot what it was like to be able to breathe while running. I posted this comment to our Facebook group after the run: Unless you have slogged through hot, humid summer running, I don’t know if you can truly appreciate how wonderful the weather was this morning. Based on the comments and feedback, others felt the same way.

Somehow I managed to get all 16 miles done, and ran miles 6-12 at 9:11 average pace. Not quite my race pace of 9:09, but gosh darn it was close enough!

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My legs had forgotten what a long run feels like, and they were tingling all day to remind my brain. Compression socks were on and I was wiped out. But, boy did it feel good!

On Sunday afternoon, I took my bike back out for cross-training day. This time I didn’t fall, and no dogs chased me. The funny thing is, I wasn’t afraid of falling until I did. I also wasn’t really afraid of dogs chasing me until it happened. Now I’m more hesitant, but I suppose it gets easier with time.

I’ll be racing my first 5k since May this Saturday. I don’t expect to set any records, but I’m going to have fun. I love local races.

Oh, and congratulations to those who are getting to register for the Boston Marathon this week. I admire the hard work and dedication it takes to get there. Someday, I hope to be there too.

Have a great week!

 

 

 

Marathon Training and My Plan

I made it through week one of marathon training and the first week of school. No one was late and we didn’t forget anything major, and I got all my planned miles in. The first few days of ironing out the routine were a little shaky, but I’d say the first week was a success.

I completed the outline of my training plan for the Dallas Marathon, and my weeks will be made up of 2 easy runs, 2 harder runs (1 speed, 1 other), and the long run. I threw in a cross training day too. This is different from what I’ve done in the past, where I’ve run for six days and taken one rest day. My mileage won’t be as high as it has been in the past either. Goal is to get to race day healthy and happy – and with my family still speaking to me. This is not the year for me to try to qualify for Boston. Physically, I’m not there. But also, this is my daughter’s senior year. There will be a lot going on this fall/winter and I want to be present. Not just in body, but my mind too. This is her year, not mine.

That being said, a sub 4:00 marathon is my goal. It is in reach, if I’m smart. That’s why I designed my training. I did the same thing two years ago, and ran my PR of 4:02:03 in Houston. I know my body and I know how I can push my limits – most of the time. Occasionally, I have surprised myself with a faster than I thought possible race. So this will do until the day I can justify spending money on a coach (see above high school senior – followed by two more siblings).

Last week, I had some pretty good training days. It was a nice mix, and I kept my easy days at slower pace. Mostly due to the humidity, but also because I want to be able to have good paces on the other days.

I threw in a hill day.

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Saturday’s long run was faster than I expected.

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The face of the watch doesn’t tell the whole story. My hips were sore from standing and working the concession stand at the football game Friday night. I only got 5 hours of sleep that night. I ran the first 5 miles with the group, and I was at the back of the pack running 9:20s. That was a blow to my ego, but I had to remind myself that I was running farther and needed to do my pace. Then there were some slower miles with my running friend. I picked up for the last mile and a half at race pace. Overall, I’m pleased with how it went. It was the longest run I have had since the Wounded Warrior half in June.

I outlined the rest of my year by sprinkling in some races throughout my training plan. This is my tentative plan to get through December:

September 19th – local 5k – Sherman Autumn Arts Fest Run. This one I do every year. It’s a family event.

October 10th – Showdown half marathon in Fairview

October 25th – Monster Tri (?) in Denton – Why yes, I am still biking and swimming, just not as much as when I was training for my first tri.

November – This month is still up in the air. Last year I ran the Blue Red Run half marathon, which is exactly four weeks before the Dallas Marathon. I’ll see how the training goes as it gets closer.

December 6th – Rock ‘n Roll San Antonio half marathon – With Team Chocolate Milk! This is a taper week for me, and what better way to make sure I run easy than enjoying the scenery of a city I’ve never run. I will probably even take pictures at this one.

December 13th – Dallas Marathon! This will be the year for perfect running weather. 😉 It’s long overdue.

I’m looking forward to my training and the races.

Do you have races planned out through the end of the year?

 

 

 

A Great Year in Running (2014)

So I’m a little behind on posting a year-end summary for 2014, but I wanted to take a few minutes to reflect on the year I had. I may have missed my big time goals, but I still had a pretty great year. I ran 18 races which included 4 marathons, 5 half marathons, a 15k, two 10ks, five 5ks, and a trail race. So here’s my recap of 2014 – mostly with pictures.

January: Houston!

Meeting Meb in Houston!

Meeting Meb in Houston at the Expo

Feeling great and smiling!

A 20 minute marathon PR in Houston

February: Cowtown Marathon

Cowtown does a medal right!

Cowtown does a medal right!

March: Rock ‘n Roll Dallas 1/2

PR!

My half marathon PR

April: Finding out I was picked to be a Houston Marathon race ambassador, part of Team Chocolate Milk, and running the OKC Memorial Marathon.

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All the Gear

Becoming part of Team Chocolate Milk

Straight into the wind

OKC Marathon

September:

Some first time 5kers

A few first timers (5k)

October: My first half marathon as a pacer

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November: First age group award in a half marathon (benefit of getting older)

IMG_5344December: Dallas Marathon and finding out I will be a Nuun ambassador for 2015!

Marathon Number 9

Marathon Number 9

2015 looks to be pretty great as well as I start with the Houston Marathon. Next week, I’ll post more about my goals for that.

Have a great week everyone!

 

 

My Best Gift

After I wrote my race recap from the Dallas Marathon, I had a pretty rough week. My daughter had the flu (which started on race day) and I had a few days of just feeling blah with some sort of chest cold/congestion and couldn’t taste or smell anything. It made the Christmas goodies less desirable to eat.

I want to thank everyone for the encouraging comments on my blog, on twitter, Instagram and in person about my Dallas race. I was ready to get back up and dust myself off. I have a better attitude about what happened in Dallas, and a new determination for Houston.

I also decided it was time to get ready for Christmas. It’s amazing how quickly time life goes by when you’re training!

In the midst of all the activity, I received one of the best gifts ever. My husband and I went shopping for running shoes the weekend before Christmas. But not for me!

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After all the early morning wake ups getting me to a race, or hanging out waiting on me to finish, listening to me drone on about what went wrong in a race, or talking his ear off when I PR, he has taken the plunge! I count this as my greatest accomplishment as a runner.It’s not about me or what I did. It’s about sharing the love of something I love with someone I love. It’s about seeing someone else discover the joy that running can bring. I don’t care if he runs a mile or a marathon. All I care is that he is taking a step to a healthier lifestyle and sharing that with me.

Christmas with my family was nice. I had a few tempting indulgences that resulted in a few rough runs. I learned that a few cookies (and fudge) do affect my pace. Several members of the running group met on Christmas day in the afternoon and I ran five miles. FYI: Two hours was not long enough to wait to digest that meal. It’s hard to run when you’re full.

On Saturday, I planned to run 18 miles, but the weather started off cold and rainy. I ended up running 8 with my running buddy. We decided to put the longer run until Sunday.

Sunday was cold!

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I was determined to get close to my marathon pace. I managed to start early and had almost 6 miles when I met up with my friend Leda who was planning to do 7 or 8. We did our normal five mile loop and then circled the park for a few miles. She kept running. I knew she was past her mileage plan, and she had a half marathon coming up this Wednesday, but she kept going. “Okay, just around this little loop here and we’ll add another 1.75.” Or “what’s the distance to your house from here?” We kept going. She was ahead and I was dragging behind trying to hang and keep an eye on my pace. We made it back to her car when I had just about a mile and half to go. She had run 11 with me. How awesome was that?!?

After a quick breather, I headed home. I focused on running a strong last mile. Every muscle hurt when I was finished, but I felt confident – and strong.

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Last week, I created a mini “training plan” to get me to Houston with confidence. This week I will focus on hitting specific paces, and some easy runs. Then I’ll start to taper. I’m going back to what I did last year that worked for me.

Happy training and Happy New Year!

Dallas Marathon 2014

Oh, Dallas Marathon how you continue to steal my heart every year!

I look forward to topping off months of hard training and knocking out a great race. After sweating through the summer, I love to watch my pace drop as hard runs become easier. I get pumped for race week. Then the Dallas Marathon has to go and break my heart.

The difference this year is how I handled it.

The lights on Reunion Tower celebrating runners with 26.2 and 13.1

The lights on Reunion Tower celebrating runners with 26.2 and 13.1

My time goal for the marathon this year was to break four hours. This was my fourth attempt. I trained harder and longer than I ever had. I was primed. I was ready. I was rested, hydrated, and carb loaded at the start line.

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The temperature was in the low 60s, south winds, with 88% humidity. (Garmin data nerd) Around the start corral I saw several other runners from our local group which was great! Most of them were running the half, and yes I was a little jealous. 😉 I met up with the other runner from the group who was running the full. Our goal times were pretty close, but she is faster than me in all the shorter distances. I debated if I should run with her and push myself or just run my own race. In the end, I decided to push myself, and if I needed to pull back in the later miles then I’d still be okay. We hit the first 5 miles right on target pace. Shortly after I took my first GU, I started to feel funny. I couldn’t explain it. I told her, “Go on ahead, I’ve got to pull back. This is not my day.” She asked me if I was all right. I was, but I knew sub 4 would be a fight. Soon after the 10k mat, I took my first walk break. My legs were heavy and I felt like I couldn’t move. I watched my average pace drop significantly on my Garmin. I decided that I would hang on to the 4:00 goal as long as I could, but by 15k it was gone too. I walked up hills and ran down until I could catch my breath and run for most of a mile. I watched the 4:00 pace group pass me. Then later the 4:15. The rain became heavier in the last two miles and I was splashing through puddles. My final two goals became to stay under 4:30 or make this my fastest Dallas finish – under 4:37.

Nice to know I could pull it together at the end.

Nice to know I could pull it together at the end.

My finish of 4:31:55 was way off my time goal. It turned out to be a really long training run for Houston on January 18th.

Marathon Number 9

Check: Marathon Number 9

But it became my fastest Dallas time out of the three full marathons I’ve done there. I cleaned up nicely: 3 medals, 2 Clif gels (saved from the aid stations), a banana, an orange, a tech shirt, and a backpack with packaged snacks. I got my money’s worth. 🙂

2013 Medal, 2014 Medal, Dallas Duo (for completed Rock 'n Roll 1/2 in March)

2013 Medal, 2014 Medal, Dallas Duo (for completed Rock ‘n Roll 1/2 in March)

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The only thing missing was the chocolate milk. So we made a stop on the way out of town, because I need all the benefits of recovery.

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I appreciate the efforts the Dallas Marathon staff went to in order to make up for the ice storm of 2013. Discounted registration, previous year’s medal picked up after this year’s finish, and mailing out the participant shirts last year. They went above and beyond to make up for something that was out of their control.

I was also impressed with the elite runners that were there participating/serving as ambassadors or racing. Ryan and Sara Hall, Deena Kastor, and Meb! From some pictures I saw on Instagram, they were handing out medals at the finish. Unfortunately, I missed meeting them.

I haven’t figured out what happened to my body during the race. If I went out too fast, I would’ve made it at least past the half way point before I blew up. I can run a half marathon around 8:27 pace. My tempo runs at distances from 6-10 miles have ranged from 8:35-8:45 pace. I did come home to a sick child though who is still running a fever a day later. I can only guess that maybe my body was fighting something and I needed to slow down to stay well…?

So what now? I had my cry on Sunday, and Monday I moved past it. I’ll take a week of active recovery – slow walks on the treadmill, stationary bicycle, and sleep. Then look out Houston! I’ve got a redemption race on my radar!