UCAN Half Marathon

Things have finally started moving for me in my first phase of building a better runner.¬†The scale is moving down – slowly – but it’s moving. My strength is building, and my run pace is dropping – a little. It’s progress.

Which is part of why I was frustrated with myself at the UCAN half marathon.

But I made a major mistake from the start, and there’s no one to blame but myself. I’m also frustrated¬†that I won’t have another half marathon to measure progress until late June, but the summer heat will slow that one down.

The race was well done, plenty of runners, pacers, and a mostly flat course through parks in McKinney. They had UCAN available before the race, and I had a backup GU if I needed it. I also carried my Nuun.

My first mistake was to line up behind the 2:00 pacers – and then try to stay with them! I did my Racing Weight 10k check earlier in the week, and my 10k pace is sitting right around 9:00 right now. Tack on temperatures in the 70s, and 85% humidity, and that was a rookie mistake I shouldn’t have made. The smart thing would have been to start out slower, and then steadily speed up.

The humidity was awful, and there wasn’t much of a breeze in the first few miles. If the humidity hadn’t been so unbearable, I would’ve enjoyed the scenery more. I started taking walk breaks in mile 6, and my race just went to pot (in my oxygen deprived state).

I’ve always held the opinion that I would rather walk in a race before throwing up, and that’s where I was. I had salt residue on my skin even with the Nuun, so I began dumping water over my head¬†at aid stations.¬†I tried to stay positive. I waved and called out to other runners I knew on the course, and I chatted with other runners around me. There were some out and back places which helped. I waited on the rain that was supposed to come¬†but never did. The sun came out and heated it up more. My sunglasses were in the car. ūüė¶

Then I finished

 

– and this is how I felt.

I found out later that my time (2:17 something) didn’t even show up on the results, but I didn’t care too much. I sent an email to the race director but it’s not that big of a deal.

I was upset, but after reading other posts on Instagram and Facebook, I started to feel a little better. I just need to realize that humidity does me in. Every time. FYI: This is not how your mile splits should look.

On a positive note, the race was well done. The medals were huge! The pacers were great. Free race photos! They just needed some chocolate milk for recovery. Fortunately there was a QT right down the road.

 

My next race will be a 10k on Memorial Day. What a great way to start a week off right!

 

 

 

Build a Better Runner

Consistency. Patience. Strengthen. Give Back.

This¬†sums up what I’ve been working on since RnR Dallas.

I had¬†a little chat with myself after that Dallas race. I was blunt and to the point. You could also call it a “come to Jesus meeting.” I know no one cares about my finish time (except me), but I also know I can get more out of myself. I have tried to figure out¬†why I didn’t “bounce back” after Cowtown like I have in the past. Most of my PR races were run in 2014, and then I dealt with plantar fasciitis and haven’t seen those speeds. It was exactly two years ago when I contacted Airrosti and cautiously came back to running 5 days a week. Then last year at this time I started¬†training for my first half-Ironman, and was only running 3 days a week. My average weekly mileage is lower and my workouts¬†feel blah.

In short: I’ve been giving myself a pass. I know that I’m a runner who needs to run to run faster. I also know that I run better when I weigh less than I do right now.

Enter phase one of Build a Better Runner: Lose the weight, do more strengthening, keep the mileage consistent. Which is hard as my body adjusts to eating less carbs and more muscular soreness. It makes the running feel harder. So when I go do speed work at the track and run 800s at my half marathon PR pace, my first instinct is to throw in the towel. This is where patience comes in.

…and foam rolling with Chloe.

I have a renewed vision of my goals and what I want to accomplish. Now I need to take the steps to get there.

My next race is a half marathon on the 29th. I won a free entry back in December, so I don’t know much about the course. I’d like to see my time back under two hours, but realistically I’m shooting for under 2:05. This is how my long run went on Saturday:

But it was great helping another runner get to 13 miles in preparation for her first half at Oklahoma City. She was so excited, and I was so proud of her!

On the non-running side, I’m wanting to give back to the running community where I can. My friend and I served as volunteers at the Big D Marathon earlier this month. It wasn’t the best weather, but it was out at White Rock Lake and it’s so pretty there.

I’m volunteering at Texasman (triathlon) at the end of the month. This allows me to still be a part of races while my husband and I are working toward our financial goals.

Also, congratulations to all the Boston Marathoners! I seriously admire all of you. I’ve kept it no secret that it’s my goal to qualify and run it. My motto right now: Don’t wish for it. Work for it.”

 

 

 

 

Rock ‘n Roll Dallas 2017

On Sunday, I ran the Dallas Rock ‘n Roll half marathon. It was my 5th time running this race, and third time as a part of Team Chocolate Milk. I look forward to it every year. Coming off of fall/winter marathon training, the energy and excitement of this race (not to mention that it’s a HALF)¬†can’t be beat. ūüôā

I went to the expo on Saturday, picked up my bib, and over to the We Run Social meet up. I saw several others from Team Chocolate Milk so that was fun.

It did seem like the expo has gotten smaller to me though. Some of the things we were needing to get weren’t there, but I did get a few Larabar samples.

I drove in with my daughter on race morning, after making a wrong turn and parking 15 minutes later than planned, then made my way to the VIP lounge to grab a snack and check my bag. I drank my UCAN, and had a few minutes to meet some other teammates as well.

Then I met up with my friends from my running group. I think this was the biggest group we’ve had go, and for some of them it was their first Rock ‘n Roll race.

 

We made our way to our different corrals, and I was so ready to run 13 miles (and not 26)!

Notice the tank. Yeah, it wasn’t cold. ¬†Like at all.

I had no idea what to expect to run, but I had set two loose goals earlier in the week:

1. Under 2 hours. (realistic goal)

2. 1:55 (stretch goal)

I thought these were manageable because a) it wasn’t a marathon, b) I ran 2:01 last year the day after a 2 hour trainer ride, and c) it wasn’t a marathon. ūüėČ

But I forgot to account for the warm weather. Temps were high 60s at the start. And I truly forgot about the hilly second half.

I cruised along the first several miles not really looking at my pace, just glancing down at the mile splits when my Garmin buzzed.

Miles 1-5: 8:57, 8:38, 8:50, 8:31, 8:42

I was definitely on track for sub 2.

Then the hill (on-ramp) to get to the bridge hit.

Mile 6: 9:24

The bridge is long and straight though once you get up there, but there are several hills over the next few miles. I never really recovered my pace from the initial climb.

Miles 7-9: 9:05, 9:41, 10:37

Mile 9 really got me and I walked up that little mountain for a minute to catch my breath. All the hills in Cowtown were still in my legs.

I took a couple more short walk breaks in the last few miles, a few cups of water dumped over my head at aid stations. The sun was bright and I lost the 2 hour goal. I focused on finishing and smiling. I was hot, but I knew there was a nice finish and cold chocolate milk waiting for me.

Miles 10-13: 10:04, 9:56, 10:53, 10:22

Then a downhill tunnel finish cheered on by the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders.

My official finish time was 2:06:37.

The chocolate milk was refreshing as always. Here’s why I always recover with chocolate milk – it’s¬†science.

For the first time ever I opted for a post-race massage, where I discovered I had a knot on the side of each calf muscle. Ow! I need to work on rolling those out.

I found my daughter and we spent some time on the lawn watching the concert before I took her back to school.

It may not have been the time on the clock I wanted, but it was a great race and a lot of fun.

 

 

Rock ‘n Roll San Antonio Half Marathon

I couldn’t think of a better way¬†to reward four months of marathon training, than to finish up my last long training run with a fun race!

Last weekend, my running buddy and I headed down to San Antonio for a whirlwind trip to run the Rock ‘n Roll half marathon. We left early Saturday morning, and fortunately traffic on I-35 cooperated. ¬†We made good time even with the rain, and at the the expo we weren’t disappointed. I stocked up on more Nuun, and there was a sighting of US¬†Olympian marathoners.

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Jared Ward and Meb!

A high-five from Meb ūüėČ

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After we checked in to the hotel, we headed for a meet up with the other members of Team Chocolate Milk who were in San Antonio. Since the rain dampened (ha!) our plans for a shakeout run, we went to the Tower of the Americas to hang out. All the times I’ve been to San Antonio, this is the first time I’ve been to the tower. I didn’t realize it was a glass elevator that took you up to the observation deck. So I faced the back of the elevator, and tried not to look out until we reached the top. (I have a slight fear of heights.) Once we were on the observation deck, I was fine. But it was nice to chat with other team members and hang out a bit.

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Race morning was cool and breezy, but not too much in the way of rain. The roads were still pretty wet. After all, we were under a flood warning.

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It started sprinkling in the start corral, but once we started running, I began to feel a little warm, and wished I wore my tank. Running through the downtown streets, we would turn into the wind and then I’d cool off some. We ran right in front of the Alamo, which is¬†my favorite part of the course. The two hour pacer was in front of us, and my friend heard a spectator yell, “Way to go, two o’clock!” Ha!

Around mile 6 or 7, it started to rain harder and the rain was dripping off of my visor. The course is mostly flat, with the few climbs past halfway. I remember one tough little hill. Mile 11 maybe? But I was ready for it. I’ve been training on hills, and my legs were ready. There were also a couple of places we made a detour to avoid large puddles in the road, but I was completely soaked when I finished. This would be a great PR race because it’s so flat, and I’d love to try to do that one year.

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One of my favorite things about the Rock ‘n Roll races: I know there will be chocolate milk ready for me at the finish.

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Chocolate milk is¬†my go-to for recovery after a hard and/or long run. Not only does it fit in my budget, but I don’t have to worry about where to get it when I run out. Grocery stores, convenience stores, and even McDonald’s carries low-fat chocolate milk! If you want to know the science behind it, check out this article. I know that it makes my body¬†happy. I feel like I’m doing good for my muscles, and the soreness is less pronounced when I recover right. Try it!

Now that I’ve had my fun race (in the rain), I’m ready to focus on my goal for Dallas this Sunday. I’ve been chasing the sub 4 hour marathon for three years. At this moment, it looks like the weather might actually cooperate this year. I’m not going to hold my breath on that one, but I will focus on the things I can control: nutrition, rest, and following my race day plan. If I survive the taper…

 

 

 

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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Running it Out

The past two weeks of marathon training have been a series of ups and downs, and pretty much mimics my life right now. It also proves that you’ve got to know when to cut yourself some slack on training when life is hectic or stressful.

There was one week of running through grief over losing our dog of 15 years. I didn’t know it was going to be that hard on me. Running is my time to think, to work through problems, to deal with emotions. The high humidity made it even worse. One run didn’t even make it to three miles. But I tend to deal with stress and/or grief in ¬†one of two ways: emotional eating & running. I guess it’s a good thing I have the marathon training in place if I’m going to eat, right?

When it came to my long run that Saturday, I was still dealing with the grief but also a lack of sleep. When I showed up to the humid Saturday morning group run, I had 9 miles done already because I needed to get home by a certain time. I spent the rest of my run trailing the others, and I was just feeling “off.” But when I looked at my pace periodically, it didn’t seem too bad. I decided to bail on the race pace miles and just get the long run done. I was pleased to see my splits were all under 10:00 pace except for the first one (which is usually the slowest anyway).

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Hanging back and being okay with it

 

Later that¬†day, my husband and I started looking for a¬†puppy. The house was just too quiet! With two kids gone out of the house, it was just too much for us not to have a dog. We’ve always had one, and even though this is bad timing – hello sleep deprivation – we needed some joy in our home.

Welcome to the family Chloe!

Welcome to the family Chloe!

Last week’s training felt better. Temperatures cooled a bit, and the humidity dropped. There were a few runs that just felt great. I tried out some of my new team gear on Tuesday – National Chocolate Milk Day!

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I felt good on my long run Saturday, even though my time wasn’t as low as what I hoped. But it was the first time I’d gotten close to 20. I have two other 20 plus mile runs planned this training cycle. I know my body, and I know that it needs those long runs to be¬†ready for Dallas!

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This Saturday, I’ll be racing my first half marathon since Dallas Rock n Roll in March. It’s the Showdown Half in Fairview, and I know they’ll have chocolate milk at the finish! I’m not adjusting my training mileage much, so I’ll be running on tired legs.

It will be interesting to see what I can do on the hilly course.

Have a great week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buffalo Springs 70.3 (Part 2 Bike and Run)

If you missed my last post about the start of my Half Ironman at Buffalo Springs, you can catch up on it here. The next part of the race was the longest and required some mental effort. I apologize in advance for being long-winded. I love to write and I love to give details. Double whammy here.

To sum up where I left off, I had completed the swim not knowing how long it took me, and made it to the bike with people still behind me. I was feeling pretty good.

THE BIKE:

I had a nice mental boost from seeing my husband and brother right off the bat,¬†then¬†I passed where we parked and¬†the downhill was followed immediately by another climb. This one got to me. I was breathing heavy, focusing on my turnover when a guy passed me and said “Easier gear.” The guy right behind him said “You have two more.” I acknowledged with “Thanks” and shifted – twice. I was calm and ready to tackle the ride. Once I completed that hill, I knew I had a while before the next one.

The weather was cooperating so far with a cloudy sky and low winds. It was a nice day for a bike ride.

As I moved forward into¬†the second major climb, I saw the athletes¬†coming down and it didn’t seem as scary as it had in the car. This was the one that curved around with a¬†guardrail that bordered¬†a cliff. The downhill that kept me awake half the night. The one I was most worried about. But focusing on my climb, I noticed some riders walking their bikes up the hill. I focused my legs on a steady cadence and stayed in my seat all the way up. I honestly could’ve run a flat road faster than my speed climbing,¬†but I got it done. My motto all throughout the ride became “the tortoise always wins.” I repeated it out loud as needed. I focused on my race, my speed, and my skills. After the turnaround when I began descending, I kept my confidence in place and braked all the way down. “That wasn’t so bad.” I knew that if I made it through that one, I’d be okay for the others. The next big climb had a sign “Spiral Staircase.” This one was steeper but there were no big drop-offs. I saw people walking their bikes up again. It definitely hurt going up, but again I focused on a steady climb. A straightway for several miles, and then a turn around right into the wind. Coming back down the Spiral Staircase was a little faster than the other hill, and scary in a roller coaster thrill way. Oh thank goodness it was a low wind day,¬†because the rest of the ride I fought the wind one direction or another. I¬†couldn’t get my average pace above¬†14.0. Even with the downhills.

By mile 50, the wind had taken its toll on my legs. They were done and I wanted to be off the bike. The sun had come out about 2 hours into the ride, and I was on my last bottle of Nuun. I was getting thirsty so I tried to ration the rest of my drink. I didn’t want to stop before I finished the bike. My bike was moving¬†slower than I estimated, and since I didn’t know my swim time, I hated¬†to push the time limits. Looking back, I should have had more chews on the bike instead of the extra Clif bar I never ate. At mile 55, I audibly groaned¬†“Oh no!” as I began to climb the final hill in the park before the downhill to transition. It was a straight up hill.

I crested the top, rode past our car and began the descent. Then I saw my oldest daughter¬†right as she turned around and saw me. She began to cheer, and I saw all the other kids, my brother, and my husband. They all began cheering so loud, people were turning to see who was coming. I felt like a superstar! I made the final turn and when I hit the dismount line, the volunteer said “Coming in smiling. That’s a good sign.”

“Yes, because I’m done,” I said.

The tortoise always wins.

Here’s some of the data from my Garmin. Ignore the elevation gain, because it’s not correct. It’s actually just over 1000′ of gain, but I wanted to show¬†the hills on the graph!

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Side note: I can’t say enough about how wonderful it was having my family cheer coming in off of the bike. I needed that lift going into the next part of the race.

THE RUN:

Coming off the bike, I was surprised my legs didn’t feel more wobbly. My first mile I stayed busy trying to make sure I was headed in the right direction, and I didn’t pay attention to my pacing. I knew the run was two loops so when I saw the first mile marker I relaxed a bit. Not paying attention to my pace was a mistake. The first mile averaged 9:30. In the second mile, I slowed to grab a cold towel at the aid station. My second mile pace was in the 10:30s. Then I guess you could say my wheels fell off. (Good thing this wasn’t on the bike. Ha!) The third mile started the walk breaks and I had an 11:30 average pace for that mile. Oops!

My legs were fine. It was my breathing I was struggling with. I was getting hot, and somewhat nauseated at the thought of taking in my chews. I tried a couple of them after the third mile, and kind of gagged a little while chewing. I took in some more around mile 5 and had the same problem. This is the same stuff I trained with, but my body wasn’t handling it at this point. Ever since before the swim, I had felt like my food was sitting at the back of my throat. I handled it ok on the bike, but the jostling from the run made it worse.

With¬†this kind of trouble on the run with the heat, I quickly shifted my plan to run/walk/smile. I walked through almost every aid station. Wet cold towels, ice in my visor, and taking in¬†Gatorade to get the carbs. My stomach did okay with that and I still had my Nuun in my bottle along with some Nuun Plus. As I came across the bridge to finish my first loop, I saw my husband. I called out, “You know that 2 1/2 hour half marathon I planned? Not gonna happen.” But I was okay with it. I was the tortoise. As he ran alongside me for a minute, I told him about being too hot, and my nutrition problems. My legs were still okay, but my effort felt hard even staying around a 12 minute pace.

The second lap was even tougher. The crowd had thinned out as most people were done by now, and I still had well over an hour to go. I talked to other runners, and fell into a run/walk pattern with another athlete for a while. We chatted about goals. Mine was to finish. She added, “finish with a smile.” I thanked all the volunteers. They were so uplifting at that point in the race. The ice was wonderful and I would grab handfuls at the aid stations and put it in my hat and down the front of my tri top to stay cool. I walked up the monster hill along with everyone else and noticed one of the hand cyclists rolling up the hill backward to get up. That was a game changer for me. There I was, walking to get through the tough parts of the course with all my limbs functioning, while those guys didn’t have that option. They did¬†the swim, the bike, and the run all with their arms and upper body. It was so inspiring to see him working up that hill, and I know he was tired but he kept going!

I began to feel a little energized in the last mile. Two of my kids ran alongside me for a couple of minutes. They told me they had been swimming in the lake. Then I saw my other daughter, then my husband, then my brother, then his wife and kids were near the finish line. I felt like I was flying at that point. According to my Garmin, it was my third fastest mile. I made the final turn and saw the finish line, crying and smiling at the same time. I heard the announcer call out my name, and just like that I had a medal on my neck and a finisher shirt in my hand.

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The finisher shirt was an XL, and I tried to exchange it for a smaller size. Then I found out when you’re near¬†the back of the pack, you don’t have much¬†to choose from. I could have XL or XXL.

My husband has a new shirt to wear.

That evening, I finally saw¬†what my swim time was and it completely surprised me. Overall, I expected I would finish in about 7.5 hours, and I wasn’t too far off the mark. I was surprised at how the run knocked me out, but my goals were to finish.¬†I was the tortoise, and that was quite all right with me.

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