2020 Cowtown Marathon

This is not my favorite type of race report to write, and sometimes it takes me a little while to relive not meeting my race day goal. But it’s important for me to get it written, so I can remember and learn from my experience. Here I go…

Cowtown was not my day.

Wait. Let me rephrase that statement.

If judging solely on my finish time, Cowtown was not my day, but there were some great (hard) moments to remember too.

The forecast for race day was steadily ticking upward throughout the week, so much in fact, that the race sent an email on Saturday afternoon addressing the high temperatures predicted for Sunday. Yuck. It’s no secret that I typically don’t perform at my best with temperatures over 60 – especially in a marathon. My silver lining was hoping the wind and clouds would keep it cooler for a while.

Even though I felt like I got plenty of rest throughout the week, my weekend was super busy. Saturday, I tried to sleep in but I was wide awake by 4:30. After a shakeout run and a quick trip to the grocery store, I plopped myself on the couch to watch the Olympic marathon trials. Those runners were so inspiring to watch, and even though none of my favorites made the team, I’m excited to see the ones who will represent USA in the marathon.

As soon as the races were over, I took my son to the park for his first day of games as a soccer referee, and stayed for moral support. Halfway through his games, I dashed home, heated my dinner in the microwave, and then took my daughter to work. By the time my son and I got home from the soccer games, it was after 7 p.m. and I still didn’t have my gear together. Fortunately, I had already decided what to wear, and the big time issue was getting all my nutrition ready. A quick nap before it was time to pick my daughter up from work, and then I finally got to bed for good around 11:00. Whew! This was bad timing for my husband to be out of town for work, but I won’t always have kids to chauffeur around. It is okay.

Looking back, I do think part of my race was affected by Saturday’s schedule. Normally when I wake up on race day, I am wired and ready to go. But when my alarm went off Sunday, I was just tired. It took me 10 minutes to drag myself out of bed to the coffeepot. I was glad my friend had offered to drive to the race. Once at the race, we met up with our other friend. This is one of my favorite things about race day – being with my friends.

I also managed to grab a quick picture with some of our RunRelated team, and then we headed to the corrals. My race day plan was to run with the 4:20 group, and pull ahead in the last few miles. All training indicated I should be able to run 4:12-4:15, but I wanted to play it safe. When the weather changed things, I decided to still stay with the pace group and see how I felt later on. I knew one of the pacers, Letty, who I met through social media years ago, and her pacing is solid.

Letty is awesome.

The starting temp was mid 50s, cloudy and breezy. I was a little chilly at the start in my tank and shorts, but by the second mile I was warm. I stayed with the pace group as planned. A few miles in, I pulled ahead and then I would have to reel myself back. The taper had worked. The big hill that everyone talks about is the Main Street Bridge – around mile 9. All the races are still together at this point. As I climbed the hill, I could see the pace group pulling away ahead of me, but I didn’t want to deplete my energy so I held back. By the top of the hill I was breathing way too hard for this early in the race. I let them go and worked on trying to settle back into a comfortable pace. It wasn’t happening.

I started to get in my head. “Oh great, just like the last one.” “Here you go again.” “Another mess up.” Then I switched gears. “No, it’s not over.” “Keep going.” “You’re fine.” Back and forth. Devil on one shoulder, angel on the other. I would walk to catch my breath and then try to pick up the pace again. Then the sun came out from behind the clouds and stayed out.

My phone rang at mile 14. Let me tell you, if I ever call or text in the middle of a race, it is not a good sign. It was my husband so I answered, and then I fell apart. Here I am halfway through a marathon, crying on the phone telling him I can’t keep doing this. “I’m tired of letting myself down. I should just stick to the half,” I blubbered. He asked me if I was hurt, did I need to stop. No, I would keep going and finish because “I’m stupid stubborn.” He told me, “No one is grading your performance. You’re out there doing what most people won’t even try.” So I dried my tears, took a deep breath, told him I loved him, and started to run again.

Then something great happened. At mile 16, I recognized another runner from the pace group. We had kind of been leap frogging for a while, and we chatted about how tough of a day we were having. We had both lost the pacers going up the same hill. With 10 miles to go, we decided to finish together. We ran and walked together, walking up the hills and through aid stations, taking cold towels when needed to handle the heat because it was heating up. When my run pace got a little carried away, I walked to keep the gap from getting too big. When I needed to stop at a porta-potty, she walked for me to catch up. We celebrated little milestones along the way too: single digits remaining, a 10k, a 5k, and finally the last mile! We finished together and high-fived. We had made it.

Now for the fun part – medal, food, finisher shirt. Cowtown is an excellent race, and I have never been disappointed at the finish. The shirts are top notch, and the marathon finisher shirts make up most of my supply of long sleeve shirts. The medal was huge, and there is plenty of post race food. I had a couple of bags of snacks, a cup of chicken noodle soup and some chocolate Blue Bell ice cream.

A picture with my friend who came with me, and she killed it like always! We clinked in our medals (which are also bells) all the way back to the car while we talked about how the hills got us like always, how hot it was, and how we would be back again next year because we love this race. 🙂

And the best part: all the texts and messages from my friends who were tracking me and knew how hard of a day I had. The support and encouragement I have is something I don’t take for granted. I can be pretty hard on myself, but I had so many reminders to give myself some grace and be proud of what I accomplished.

Marathon number 21 is complete.

Ready for Cowtown!

It’s race week! Sunday will be my 21st marathon and my 8th time running the Cowtown Marathon. I love this race!

I first ran it in 2013, and have gone back every year. This course, even with all its hills, has my 2nd and 4th fastest marathon times. My dad has also participated in this race for several years, running the 5k, 10k, and his first and second half marathon.

2016 with my dad (his 2nd half)

Both of my parents are from Fort Worth, so there is some nostalgia. But I think a big part of why I keep going back is that it’s a big city race that doesn’t feel like it. I feel like the runners are valued, and when you come in to the finish there’s still a lot of activity and support. The race shirts are great – you get a short sleeve race shirt, and then a long sleeve finisher’s shirt. You can see a lot of past years’ shirts just scrolling through my Instagram feed, because they make up most of my winter running gear.  🙂

I’m feeling pretty good about my training this time around. I’ve done more hill work earlier in the training, and pushed myself on some long runs. Overall, my weekly mileage is higher than it was in the fall for the Fort Worth Marathon. It helps that this is my best weather to train in too. My longest run was 22 miles with 10 at marathon pace, and it went well. I know that’s a longer run than most people do or need, but it helps me with my mental wall on race day.

Then last week, I had my last hard workout with 800s, and I was happy to see that I still have some leg speed.

The hard work is done, and I have my race day plan. Now if the weather would cooperate, that would be great. I’m not letting that deter my goals though.

 

 

Fort Worth Marathon

“Tell me about your worst marathon.”

It was an effort to take the focus off of how I felt, and to also know that I’m not alone in having bad races.

I was running my 20th marathon this past Sunday, and having another bad day. It feels like it’s becoming more of the norm the past few years, somewhat of a streak: not having the result on race day of what I’m capable of running, of what I’ve trained for.

There have been races where I knew exactly what went wrong. Dallas 2012 – too hot and humid, and I didn’t adjust my goal. Houston 2015 – plantar fasciitis. Dallas 2017 – warmed up too fast. Days I went out too fast, days my nutrition was off, etc, etc…Same song and dance, different day.

But I didn’t have any of that this year. In fact,  I still can’t pinpoint the issue from Sunday. I kind of felt the same in Houston in January.

So here’s my recap of the Fort Worth Marathon: the good, the bad, and everything in between.

RACE WEEK

I found out earlier in the week that one of my running friends, who originally was going to run the 20 miler, signed up for the marathon. She said we were running together. My first thought was that I didn’t want to hold her back. She’s a lot faster than me. In fact, I’ve set my 5k and 10k PRs chasing her in local races. The more I thought about it though, the more I realized I would do the same thing. So my plan for race day was not to look at my Garmin and let her lead the way. I told her my goal times for the race, and I wanted to start off slower. My A goal was 4:20 or better, B goal was to beat my Cowtown time from February (4:29), and my C goal was to finish with a smile.

We didn’t have a lot of kid activities during the week, so I was able to take time to relax and enjoy no concession stand duty, games, or swim meets. I was able to go to bed early every night except Friday. It was a nice calm week compared to what we’ve had the past few months. I ate most of my meals at home where I could control what went into my food. The only exception was lunch on Saturday when we ate out. I pulled my gear together early Saturday evening, and went to bed early.

RACE DAY

I felt okay race morning when I got up. Not great, but okay. I wasn’t too nervous, but I was ready to run. My friend and I drove down that morning and picked up our packets. Small race perk! For my previous marathons, I’ve only done four different races (Dallas, Cowtown, Houston, OKC). This was a new one for me, and I decided to do it because I’d heard good things about it. My friend had run the half and the 20 miler in previous years.

Race Ready

The temperature was 50 degrees and there was a slight breeze. I had hoped for a little cooler weather, but it was manageable. We met up at the start with a couple of other runners from our group, but once we started they were gone. We’d see them a couple other times throughout and wave. For the marathon, the course was out and back, 2 laps.

The first few miles we settled into a rhythm. I didn’t feel like we were going too fast, but I remember saying that my legs hadn’t joined the party yet. I don’t know if it was the concrete trail or what. Finally around mile 7 or 8, I felt like I had a little spring in my step, but it didn’t last long. We made the turn at the halfway point (lap 1) and I said, “I just feel flat.” Our half time was somewhere around 2:10. I should have been perfectly fine. I had just paced a 2:10 in October and felt wonderful running at that pace.

We took a couple of walk breaks, and I kept apologizing. I felt so bad. I tried to convince her to go on without me and she wasn’t having it. She said “No, we’re running together.” In later miles, when I felt worse, we would pick markers along the trail to take walk breaks. Anytime I could go past those markers it felt like a little victory. I asked her about her worst marathon, and then talked about mine (which wasn’t even this race). Then we talked about our best races, our favorite ones for whatever reason, and how it’s so hard fitting in marathons when we both run better with cooler weather. We saw other runners struggling, and tried to encourage those around us. At a couple of the aid stations we had the best orange slices and some Coke. Oh, and the volunteers were so great!

At mile marker 23, she said “Ok, just a 5k” and while it sounded short, I knew it wasn’t going to be quick. At mile 24, I was so ready to be done, but unable to run as much as I wanted to. I looked down at my Garmin which I had set on the time of day. I was pushing the 5 hr mark if I slowed down any more. After mile 25, I switched over to distance. My watch had been beeping the splits just before the mile markers so I knew I was pretty close. We had 16 minutes to make it 1.2 miles. It was going to be close at the rate I had been going. There were a few first time marathoners around us, and I put my energy into cheering them on. “You’re awesome! Almost there.” Did you know it’s only acceptable to say you’re almost there in a marathon in the last half mile? I think that taking the focus off of myself helped me get through the last bit. I was able to run most of the last mile, which was probably the fastest one of the second half. We finished with a strong push for the last .2. Then I stopped my Garmin and dashed behind a fence where I almost threw up. Thankfully I didn’t and avoided that embarrassment. We had made it under 5 hours.

We finished just in time to get our numbers in for the prize drawings. I thought it was pretty cool that they do cash drawings for each race distance. How cool to win $1000 just for finishing a marathon! They also did cash prizes for the half and 20 mile races as well as other gifts.

We didn’t win, but I did get this great medal/belt buckle for finishing!

My friend and I learned a lot more about each other along the way too. She got to see a different side of me through the race. Thankfully, I never made it to the cussing stage. 😉

On the drive home after the race, we had already started planning the next one. Hers for a BQ, mine to have a better day.

 

There will be a next time for me, because I’m a bit of a stubborn runner. The thing is, I know I can run a smart, faster marathon.

Because I have!

So I’m not giving up. It’s there. Somewhere.