Dallas Marathon 50th Anniversary

On December 12th, I ran the Dallas Marathon. This was pretty close to the date of my 10th anniversary of my first marathon (Dallas 2011) as well as the 50th anniversary for the race itself. Dallas went big for their celebration, and I went big myself with a return to the weekend series: 5k on Saturday, marathon on Sunday. I had not run the marathon in Dallas since my struggle in 2017, so some of my goals were to run better than I did that year, and walk away from the finish line happy with my result. I also wanted to crush mile 14 – more on that later.

On Saturday, my friend and I headed to Dallas for the 5k, and we cruised through the race. The weather was chilly, but not unbearable, and before we knew it we had finished three miles. It’s funny how fast 3 miles fly by when you’ve been marathon training. We ran a tad faster than I thought we would for a marathon shakeout, but it was fun.

The buildings messed with the GPS, but it was a good run.

Then we headed to the expo to pick up our packets. This expo was much better than RNR San Antonio. One of my favorite areas is where they have the banners for each year of the race. I found where I started my history with Dallas (first half 2010) and reminisced down the row. It was interesting to see the temperature, number of runners, shirt and medal designs and how those have changed.

All my Dallas races 2010-2019

Race day was forecasted to be a cold start, and I was super excited. The expected high would be in the 60s so I hoped I wouldn’t get too hot, especially since this race starts pretty late in the morning. I tend to heat up faster now than when I first started running. Regardless of the sub 40 degree start, I made my choice of race outfit and stuck to it. I wore a disposable jacket to the start, and I save my previous races’ heat sheets exclusively to keep warm at race starts. I made a definite fashion statement getting to the start corral, but at least I was warm.

Always save your heat sheets!

We also met up with some of our Texoma Runner friends and shared good luck vibes with each other before moving into our corrals.

Texoma Runners take on Dallas

The start was exciting! Dallas has done an excellent job of improving the runner’s experience over the past several years, and with BMW as the title sponsor, they have really kicked it up. The race now starts by City Hall, and there is a jumbo screen with a video countdown as each corral moves up to start. I was a little emotional watching the video, but also excited and ready to run. I remember feeling so happy before the race started, not really nervous. Once we were out on the course, I kept my disposable jacket on for the first mile and then tossed it. I was ready to roll, but I held back and paid close attention to my mile splits. I was not going to fall apart this year from going out too fast!

I kept an eye on my splits but also tried to take it all in. The race experience, the feeling of being out there again, running an official (not virtual) marathon. I was running with gratitude, but at the same time… respect for the distance.

At mile 14, my friend took my picture. I had previously shared with just a few of my friends how mile 14 had brought me down at my last few marathons and 20 milers. It seemed to be a mental block at this point. But when I crossed this mile marker, I felt great – smiling and full of energy. I also got a text from my friend who was tracking all of us. “Mile 14! You can do this!”

Once I was halfway around the lake, I began to pick up the pace. I was feeling good and following my race plan. I brought my pace under 10 minutes and was passing people around the lake. At the mile 20 marker, which is at the bottom of a big hill, I walked and took in my chews. This was the plan I settled on weeks before. I knew the hill would defeat me if I let it, so I had planned to walk it and that as an opportunity to refuel. At the top of the hill, I stuck to the plan and started running again. I was surprised at how quickly I was able to recover my pace again, and my legs still felt good. I just needed a little time for my lungs to recover from the climb.

The great thing about the current Dallas course (half and marathon) is that the last 4 miles are a gentle drop in elevation. I knew that once I made it to mile 22, I could hang on and grind it out to finish. At mile 23, I was passing people. Well this is new, I thought. But then I started to argue with myself, because I really did want to stop and walk. But I had no reason to. So I would slow a little, and then pick up the pace. My legs were tired, but I wasn’t in pain. (Strength work matters.) I didn’t feel sick, and my heart rate was fine for this stage of the game. So I told my brain to shut up. My pace was still hanging on. I looked at my Garmin once in the final mile, and didn’t do that again. It’s funny how you feel like you’re flying, look at your pace, and nope. Not flying. Pedal to the ground, just get it done.

I crossed the finish in 4:32 and was so happy I almost started crying! It was not one of my fastest marathons, but it was the way I ran and how I felt – that was what mattered. And after a string of marathons pushing the 5 hour mark, it was a turn in the right direction.

Always putting in the extra mileage…

Then of course, we celebrated our marathon finishes around the after party.

It was a good day.

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The Benefit of Tune Up Races

Do you ever run tune-up races while training for a marathon (or a half)? They can be a good tool to sprinkle through a training cycle for several reasons: to evaluate progress, practice nutrtion, and see how your pace and/or race times equate to the marathon goal.

I usually have at least one or two half marathons in the lead up to the marathon I’m training for, but this year has been a little different. Partly because of family plans and partly because I wanted to focus more on the longer runs this time around, I haven’t raced a half marathon since Cowtown in May. Other than the Paris Pair 25k, I had not run any other races. But I kept seeing ads for the Fort Worth Marathon on my social media, and checked to see where the 20 mile race would fall in my training. It was a good fit. It would be a good gauge of my marathon goal pace, and a nice way to break out of the training rut. Also, races add that spark back into training and tend to energize me.

The race was on a Sunday, and since most long runs have been on Saturday, we adjusted the week for an extra rest day. Other than that, there wasn’t really any taper for this one. Race morning was cool – starting temperature was around 48 degrees. I was in a tank and shorts and felt amazing. The sun was coming up, and I was glad I remembered to put on sunscreen. My friend and I started the race together, as we usually do, and settled into a rhythm over the first several miles. The pace was faster than I planned (9:30s instead of 10:00s) but I felt like I was holding back and conserving energy, so I stayed with it.

The 20 mile race follows the out and back lap for the half marathon (and marathon) but on the second loop, there is an earlier turnaround. On the return path after the first turnaround near mile 7, I started to feel the heat of the sun on my shoulders. There was no breeze and I was heating up. I managed to maintain the same pace through mile 10, and then it slipped a little closer to 10:00s. At mile 14, I started to feel just icky. I had made the pass by the finish to end the first lap and was headed out on my second (shorter) lap, when I took a walk break to lower my heart rate. I had started feeling a little nauseous and woozy at times. I continued to hydrate but noticed I was going through my bottle faster on the 2nd part.

At one point, a guy running next to me said something. I took out my earbud. “Do you want to chat?” he said.

“Sure”

He was running his 10th marathon, he told me, and he had Parkinson’s. My mind instantly went to my mother-in-law who passed in October after a 10 year battle with Parkinson’s. I didn’t say anything about her, but I thought about how I admired his mindset, and his drive to keep moving. His goal was to qualify for Boston with the 6 hour time limit. We chatted for a few minutes about marathons, but I lost him at the aid station. That moment was a good perspective shift for me. Here I was just trying to finish this race, perfectly healthy, and kind of whining about the heat, and this guy is fighting a terrible disease and chasing a huge goal. It was humbling.

When I tried to take my gel at mile 16, I couldn’t stomach it and tossed it in the trash before I finished it. With four miles to go, I was out of fuel, but I had my electrolytes covered at least. I settled into a run/walk to cover the distance. I would walk anytime I felt nauseous and pick up the pace to run when it subsided. In the last mile, my stomach went crazy, and I darted into a porta-potty as soon as I came across one.

When I finally crossed the finish line, I was just barely under my time from last year. It felt good to be done! A 29 second PR and 2nd in my age group was the result, along with a renewed plan to stick to my goal pace at Dallas darn it. I will also be playing around with my nutrition for the next couple of weeks to get it right. I don’t know if it was the heat or what, but I can’t be having gels that make me sick. It actually took me a while after the race before I could take in any calories at all. That’s not normal for me. I usually can at least stomach the banana.

I’m also super grateful for the many training miles the two of us have put in together. You know you have a great training partner when you can be okay running side by side sometimes and not feel the need to say anything at all.

Keeping it Easy (Training Update)

My training cycle for Dallas Marathon just hasn’t had a lot of excitement. Tune up races haven’t been a part of the schedule, mostly to keep building stronger legs for the long runs. It’s been kind of boring actually, with the exception being the friends I get to run with. Lots of easy runs by minutes instead of miles (10:30s-11:30 paces are the norm). Strength and mobility (SAM) work after every run. Easy paced long runs on Saturdays and hard (speed) workouts once a week.

From Saturday’s perfect weather run

But I feel really good. The SAM work is a game changer and I highly recommend it. Or at least some regular strength and mobility work. I don’t feel the stiffness that usually comes with marathon training and prolonged sitting. Other than my hamstrings, which usually need some extra TLC anyway, my legs feel good and strong. And I don’t feel “fluffy” like I usually do at this point of training. Thank goodness for that!

I’m also putting better effort into nutrition. After struggling to lose a few pounds over the summer, I’m following a different approach. Common sense eating, actually, and it’s helping. My metabolism just hasn’t been kind to me the past several years – honestly, it never really has. But I’d take my 35 year-old metabolism over this one for sure!

I’m making sure I’m taking in calories before the long runs and longer weekday workouts. Last week I ate a Picky Bar about 45 minutes prior to the 800s workout. It was actually 1/2 mile repeats on the road, because our track access disappeared. But still…

It was my best workout thus far in the training. It could’ve been due to the weather or improved nutrition, or maybe fitness, but either way I am feeling good about my progress.

This weekend, I’m testing out my planned marathon pace with a 20 mile race in Fort Worth. I ran this race last year and I’d like to improve on that time. The weather looks great too! I’m excited to see what I can do.