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.

 

 

Cowtown Marathon 2017

Normally I like to write up my race recaps the week immediately following the race, but to be honest early bedtimes won out last week. I’ve noticed that I tend to get a headache the day after a marathon. So last Monday (with my head pounding) I told the kids they were on their own to get into bed on time, and my light was out before 8:30 p.m. That kind of went along with how the previous week went. After my post about Cowtown, I focused on sleep and nutrition. I went to bed early as much as I could, ran slowly without looking at my watch, and ate all the healthy stuff. I received encouragement and supportive comments from several who read that post, and it all made a difference.

As race week continued, I began to get excited. My husband and I went to the expo Saturday morning – and so I could see my dad after he finished the 10k.

I was happy to get 3 new tubes of chap-stick (which works great for preventing chafing) a Kind bar, and a free tank from the Dallas Athletes booth. If you didn’t know, I love free stuff! Especially right now since we have some financial goals we’re trying to reach. Free is good.

I had decided not to do a traditional carbo-load this time because I had gained enough weight, and it wasn’t like I was going to PR, so I ate a couple of Clif bars and some Swedish Fish and called it good on excess carbs. Then I set about getting everything ready for the race. I pretty much knew what I was going to wear, as did my running buddy who sent this text:

She knows me well.

I added arm warmers just in case the wind made it too cold for me.

I rode in to the race with friends who were running the half. My husband had planned to go to work before I got back, and even though I enjoy him being there, I’m in a lot better shape after a race than I was five years ago. Riding in with my friends helped build my excitement for the race. Neither one of them had ever run Cowtown. For one, it was her 2nd half, so we talked about the course, the hills, and the size of the race. Then we met up with my other friend when we got there. She and I were both doing the full marathon. We also had others from our group we saw beforehand who were doing the ultra.

Ready to Run! Am I in a different climate?

The race start didn’t disappoint. Cowtown’s corrals are organized and efficient. I never felt bunched up. I had decided beforehand to run on effort and just do whatever – probably not an advisable plan, but I was there to have a fun race. I glanced down at my Garmin occassionally when the splits beeped, but didn’t let that determine my speed.

I felt good. Really good. Light on my feet like I hadn’t felt in weeks. Looking back at my splits, the first several miles surprised me. Then I made a quick dart into a porta-potty in the 8th mile. I didn’t get my last minute trip out of the way before the race. But since I was running for fun it didn’t matter.

 

In the second half of the race, I was still running. One of the runners I knew doing the ultra blew by me around mile 10. I briefly thought about trying to keep up with her for a bit, but decided I was good. I started slowing down, but I was still running. There was one small walk break near mile 19 when I was on the lookout for a porta-potty. Again. I continued running. Feeling ok, not great, but not anywhere near how I felt in Dallas after mile 16. Because I was still running – albeit slower, but it was still running! About mile 22, the marathon pain set in. I was hurting, but continued running, even up every hill! I continued thanking officers, volunteers, and smiled at spectators. Oh, and I scored 3 Gu Energy gels along the course. My ROI was getting better. Ha!

Somewhere near the final miles a spectator told me, “Team Chocolate Milk, I’ve seen you at several races and you always inspire me.” That meant so much to me!

I ran out of Nuun near mile 20, so I walked through some water stops in the final miles. Other than that, I was still running. I made a decision to stop at another porta-potty with a mile to go. My stomach wasn’t as happy as my heart was. :0

When I came into the finish area, I started searching for my friends. Then I spotted my husband! I was so surprised, and happy, to see him.

 

 

My official time for marathon number 15 was 4:40:50. It was one of my slower marathons, but the fact that I approached it with a different attitude changed everything about it. I was hurting, yes, but I was happy. I’m pleased with the fact that I ran all the hills. The strength and mobility work is paying off.

Oh, and I did PR in porta-potty stops!

It’s a great race and of course I’ll do it again next year. I have to get the next two medals in the series. 🙂

 

 

 

 

Wrapping up 2016

Once the dust from last Sunday’s race settled, I went through a bit of a period of disappointment. Trying to examine what I could’ve changed, yet trying to still be proud that I did something big. Dallas was my 14th marathon, and even though I didn’t reach my time goal, that’s still kind of a big deal. So I decided to do some reflecting on my year as a whole to help myself move on past the post-race funk.

2016 was a big year for tri-ing new things and facing fears. (See what I did there.)

I conquered my first open water swim. In a group. Of strangers. Very fit triathletes. I didn’t die from embarrassment.

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I did my first Olympic triathlon – which coincidentally was the first time I swam a mile.

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I rode in my first bike rally. It wasn’t what I thought it would be, but I survived. I also learned not to grip the handlebars too tightly.

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I completed my first half Ironman. Now that was a hard day, and I didn’t even know I could do it.

Until I did.

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I set a new PR at the Hot Chocolate 15k back in February. And I took a “shot” of M&Ms in that race too. That was a first, and not recommended. At least not at a fast pace.

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I also drank a whole lot of chocolate milk this year! 🙂

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The triathlon adventures brought renewed passion to my running. I have decided to continue to pursue my running goals while keeping up my fitness in the pool and on the bike. I learned that I can continue to improve in many ways and continue to find new goals to challenge myself.

It’s been a pretty busy year, and I’m looking forward to 2017!

BMW Dallas Marathon

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Yes, Christmas, but it’s also that time of year for the Dallas Marathon. While my Facebook feed is full of people sharing Christmas memories, mine pops up with marathon memories.

I’ve been running the Dallas Marathon every year since 2010 (minus the ice storm of 2013) when I ran my first half. My first full marathon was Dallas in 2011 and I’ve registered for the full every year after. The race experience continues to improve, and this year was the best so far.

As I started my taper week, I had all kinds of stuff going on. Let’s just say it wasn’t the most relaxing race week. I didn’t really have the time I wanted to focus on rest, recovery, and preparing my mind for Sunday. But in a way, I wondered if it was beneficial that I didn’t have time to over-think and wonder if I was prepared. Basically I didn’t have a chance to worry.

We planned our trip to the expo on Saturday when the elite ambassadors would be on the speaker stage. I enjoyed this last year, and carried their advice through the race with me. I wanted that again.

I got my bib signed by Desi, Deena, and Ryan Hall. I met Deena and Desi last year, but this was the first time I’ve met Ryan Hall.

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To me, that made the 16 weeks of early mornings and long runs totally worth it. I also knew they would be handing out medals at the finish line, and that became one of my race goals since I was oblivious the last two years. I love that they are so willing to give of their time to the running community!

I snapped a picture of my Dallas Marathon history.

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I ended up missing lunch, but I made an early dinner when we got home. I never really felt bloated from too many carbs, but I felt like I was loaded and ready to run 26.2.

Race day weather was perfect for me. Temps in the 50s with a little wind. My husband and I got there early with time to chill in the convention center, then I met up with my friend in the start corral.

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We ran the first five miles together, and then I moved into race pace. My plan was to run the first 5 miles in the 9:20 range, then bump up to race pace (9:05-9:10). She’s been battling foot pain, so her plan was to finish. I felt good. It was overcast and there was a little bit of a mist to keep us cool.

I felt like I was holding back in the first five miles (which was a good thing) but at mile 10 all of a sudden my legs felt heavy. I took in my fuel about half a mile earlier than planned, and it seemed to help some. Then I was doing okay holding onto my pace, but it felt harder than it should’ve. My hydration was fine, my nutrition was fine, but my legs felt like I had on ankle weights.

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My pace started to fall off when I was running by the lake (miles 16-17). There was a crosswind and I got a little chilled, but it didn’t last long.  At mile 19, I made a quick porta-potty stop. I lost my sub 4:00 goal, and was losing my 2nd goal – to PR. I negotiated a third goal in my head, and then a fourth. I walked, I ran, I walked, and I ran. In the last four miles – straight into the wind – the goal became to finish the best I could and still be proud of my race. My legs were shuffling and so very heavy. The distance on my Garmin was almost a half a mile off from the mile markers. I finally stopped looking at the watch. I ran the entire last mile, and I felt like I was barely moving.

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Positive Splits (you’re doing it wrong)

When I was coming down to finish, I saw one of my Team Chocolate Milk members waving to me. That was encouraging, and so was seeing the announcer at the finish line.

This is my blazing fast finish (10:45 pace) captured by my husband.

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I spotted volunteers handing out medals, and then saw Ryan Hall. I waited behind two people to get my medal from him. Then I saw Leo Manzano handing out medals too. That experience was worth the pain of the race, and gave me a positive outlook for my finish. That was also my final race goal – to get my medal from an elite runner. 🙂

I am so grateful for all the volunteers, police officers, and spectators – and especially seeing those who cheered specifically for me. Thank you Jennifer and your pool noodle! 🙂 It made an unpleasant run much better.

 

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Team Chocolate Milk!

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I am so thankful to Dallas Marathon for a great race experience! It truly was a great weekend. There will be another race, and I’ll get that sub 4!

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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!