2021 RNR San Antonio

The week before Dallas Marathon, my friend and I continued a tradition we’ve had going since 2015 – we ran our last long training run through the streets of San Antonio. In past years, I went as part of Team Chocolate Milk and it has always been a fun way to celebrate the end of marathon training. For 2021, we both had previous registrations (transfers/deferrals) to use, so even though there was no Team Chocolate Milk, there was still a Rock ‘n Roll San Antonio to run.

We headed down early Saturday morning and had lunch on the way. We chat nonstop the entire trip, so it seems like we get to San Antonio in no time! First stop: the expo.

Now, if you’ve run this race series in the past, you would have been disappointed with this expo. It was bare, with very little merchandise, and even fewer vendors. We already knew there was an issue with the race shirts, but that wasn’t a big deal to me. There is no shortage of race shirts in my closet. But I did want to shop to replace some items that I typically purchase at expos, and that wasn’t going to happen. So we picked up our bibs and moved on.

We walked around a little bit waiting for check-in time for the hotel. Since the course wouldn’t run by the Alamo this year, we walked there.

A pigeon. Just because.

After an early dinner, we checked in to the hotel to relax for the rest of the evening.

The temperature when I woke early on race morning was already in the 70s. Sheesh. It was not going to be a faster half for me this time. Humidity was 83% at the start. The plan became to just run marathon pace and enjoy the race.

The Riverwalk is so pretty this time of year.
The photobomb! 😂

By mile 2, I was so sweaty, my tank was stuck to me. For the previous weeks our long training runs had temps in the 40s, so this was quite an adjustment. By mile 4, Garmin had my heart rate in the 170s. But it was the wear blue: run to remember mile that got me. Again. But this year, it hit different. This mile is where they line up the photos of service members lost. Each photo has name, rank, date they died or were killed in action, and age. So many. So young. And as a newer military mom, I didn’t make it through without crying. Once you reach the end of the photos, you see the wear blue volunteers on both sides of the road holding flags and cheering for all the runners. It really is something.

That really spiked my heart rate (the hill, tears, and heat) so I tried to slow it down some more and walked a little to bring it down. My legs felt good. It was the breathing (humidity) that got me. I walked a couple of times, mostly up hills, and just enjoyed the scenery.

Notice the ladies dancing on the bridge. It should take your mind off of the hill, but it doesn’t.

My finish time was 2:13 and I wasn’t disappointed at all. My face was as pink as my tank, and I was glad to be done. We grabbed our post-race snacks (but no chocolate milk) , grabbed a quick picture,and headed back to the hotel. I was in serious need of a shower.

You can see the humidity with the tower in the background.
The only finish pic we got. We dropped the ball this year!

On the trip back home, we discussed different race strategies for the marathon. I had to remind her that San Antonio’s temperature was 30-40 degrees warmer than what we had been training in, and the humidity was extra tough. It was just a training run, and we hoped the weather for Dallas would be much better.

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…