More Summer Racing

It’s been an interesting mix of workouts the past few weeks. I’ve done a couple of bike rides, some trail running, track work, hills, and a little bit of racing to keep my motivation strong. 🙂

 

A few weeks ago, I ran my third half marathon of the year at the Jalapeno Half in Fort Worth.

It’s been a few years since I’ve done this race, and the course is different. I was expecting a hilly tough course on the roads. Instead, we got an overcast day along the Trinity Trails in Trinity Park. It was halfway out on the paved path, a turnaround, and back. I had a goal of wanting to run just under 2 hours. Spoiler alert: I didn’t quite make it, but it was my fastest so far this year. I held pretty steady around the 9:00 pace up until mile 8 and then there was a porta-potty stop in mile 11. But I didn’t quit on myself (no walking) and finished with 2:04:34. Since most of my long runs have been around the 10 mile mark lately, I’m happy with that.

I made sure to bring my own chocolate milk!

It was a big surprise when I checked my results and found I placed 3rd in my age group. I figured it was a small group, but online results showed more than 20, and about 400 runners in the half. Even though it certainly wasn’t my fastest half, it helped boost my motivation to keep working hard. So I’ll take that trophy! 🙂

My next race was a 5k in McKinney this past Saturday – the Red, White, Blue Run. This is why I’ve been working at the track every week – trying to remind my legs they can run fast.

We had some heavy rain the night before and early in the morning, so I wasn’t even sure if I was going to get to race. But the storms cleared out, and I got to the race site early enough to do a couple of warmup miles. My goal was to run under 25:00 based on my Strava mile (7:45) the week before, and my Memorial Day 10k. Prior to this, my last 5k was in September, so I was long overdue for a fast run.

As the start time neared, the early morning cool air had disappeared. At least it was still overcast. There were about 150 runners, so it wasn’t a huge race but enough people to engage my competitive side. The main trouble I had from the start was with my shoes through some wet places. There’s not a lot of tread, and I’ve only used them on the track. But they are lighter than all the other shoes I run in so they feel great! My Garmin buzzed the first mile right around 8:00 pace, and some quick math let me know I needed to hang on or drop it down some. My second mile was almost the same time, and I started to reel in some of the runners that were ahead of me. Right before the end of the third mile, there was a short climb. I knew it was coming, but boy did it hurt. In fact, the whole race hurt! When I saw my pace at the end of the third mile, I knew that to make my sub 25, I needed to bust it out to the finish. It was going to be close, and I thought there was a chance I wouldn’t make it. But then I crossed the finish and saw my time. 24:34!

 

This is probably the best (evenly) paced 5k I’ve ever run. My first mile is always the fastest – by more than a few seconds – but not this time. I didn’t step off the coals!

Strong finish!

I went back to get my yoga mat out of the car and do my strength and mobility (SAM) work. Then I headed back over to the site to check my results. I won Female Masters! More motivation for me to keep working hard – and a pretty nice award too!

 

Later, I compared my time to that September 5k. It was on a flat course and my time was only 11 seconds faster than this one. Even though I have felt slower this year, I’m really running about the same as I was last fall. I think it’s just that I’ve had several races (marathons, half marathons) where I let myself off the hook, and quit chasing my goals with passion. I settled for comfortable, and I’m not okay with that anymore. My running is kind of like my math classes were in high school. I could make good grades, but I had to really work hard to get those good grades. It wasn’t natural for me (like reading and writing). So when I don’t put forth that effort to work on speed, or race, or just push myself period, then I’m just not going to get any better. I want to improve, not stay the same. I don’t know if that makes sense, because I really need to get some sleep right now, but basically I need to be as intentional with my running as I was with my math classes.

This coming Sunday, I have one more race before marathon training starts – Too Hot to Handle 15k. It’s going to be a warm one! But I’m going to do my best and stay on the coals.

 

 

 

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. 😦

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. 🙂

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. 😉

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 😉

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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!