It’s Almost Half Time

I took a little break after Danman.

I needed a little time away from the long distances, and the back to back weekend long runs. I had plenty of time for a break, and to still build up for my next half marathon (RNR San Diego). I also needed time to uncover the speed in my legs again. I couldn’t keep it sharp with all the fatigue from the buildup for Danman. Planned breaks are good. Forced breaks are not.

I did different things. I tried a new class at the gym, and it involved burpees and lots of other stuff out of my comfort zone. I also got back to the pool some. I worked with my kettle bell more.

Then I signed up for a local 5k on a whim with our local running group, so there wasn’t much time left to sharpen my speed. You know, there’s only one way to find out your current 5k fitness – and that’s by racing a 5k.

With literally no recent speed work to judge goal pace from, I thought I maybe could run under 25. I ran a few miles before the race, to get my slower miles out of the way. (It takes me a while to warm up.) My goal was to keep my eyes on the back of one of my fast friends, not look at my watch, and just hang on.

My lack of speed work was evident. Fast friend was gone when the gun went off, and I didn’t see her again until I finished! I mostly only looked at my Garmin when the mile splits beeped.

Splits and thoughts:

Mile 1: not too bad, just hang on to this pace (8:13)

Mile 2: Oh goodness, I can’t breathe (8:25)

Mile 3: Just keep it faster than mile 2 (8:22)

My official time was 25:59 which was slower than I wanted, but it gave me a baseline to work from for this summer. It was also enough for an age group win, and that’s not something I take for granted.

Beat the Heat 5k

The next race I had scheduled (to gauge my goal half marathon pace), was the Disco Run 15k. 2 weeks before the half, it would be a good chance to see how my planned pace would hold up over 9 miles. So I talked my friend into it, and we headed down to Dallas last Sunday morning. After I drank my Ucan, we went to the start area to wait. The humidity wasn’t too bad, but it looked like it might get warm. There was a breeze so that helped. Then they announced that the 15k course was flooded, so everyone in the 15k would get to run the 10k. My friend and I looked at each other with disappointment. My first thought was, “Dang, now I have to run faster!” Most people would probably be excited to run less than they signed up for. Not us, we’re weird. We ran about a mile to warm up, and then I was ready to go.

Before the sweat-fest

I made a mental note to try to come in under 55 minutes. I’m really not even sure where I came up with that number. It sounded like a good plan to be under 9:00 pace.

Then we were off!

The first thing I noted was that the course was gravel, and not smooth. There were some larger rocks on the path, and they were worse in the middle. It took a little while for the crowd to thin enough for me to realize this, and I moved over to the side. This slowed me down some, although probably not as much as I’d like to think it did. I was careful though, because I could feel my foot roll across some of the larger rocks and I didn’t want to risk rolling an ankle. My first mile was 8:40. Ok, hang on to that, I thought.

The sun was out and it was warming up. The course was an out and back, so when we made the turnaround just after mile 3, I knew what was coming. By mile 4, I was completely okay with running 10k and not 15. The rocks were doing my legs in, and they were aching. I walked up the steep hill in mile 5, took a deep breath, and then sucked it up to pick up speed again. That mile was my slowest. I made my way around the 5k walkers just past their turnaround, so I did more weaving from the middle of the path to the side again. But it wasn’t too crowded. When I could see the finish area, I picked it up as much as I could to finish strong. When I finished, I remembered how hard it is to run in the heat. This was my first hot race of the year.

We hung around for awards, because the results for age groups weren’t posted. I didn’t think I placed, because there were lots of ladies ahead of me. It’s a good thing we waited, because I ended up 2nd in my age group, and my friend won hers!

I’ve never actually stood on a podium, so that was fun. My official time was 54:52, meaning I met my last minute sub 55 plan.

Watermelon and pancakes at the finish were amazing, because it was a hot morning! They also had a costume contest and a great band. It was a fun themed race!

I’m pleased with both race efforts. I believe I got the best out of myself on both days – no matter what the time was on the clock. This is my current fitness, and that’s where I’m working from. I’m going to try to fit in another 5k in July or August before I move age groups, and see how my speed has improved.

 

This coming weekend, I’ll be racing my first half marathon since Dallas. I’m excited for this trip! I’ve never been to San Diego, and I’ve never gone to run a race without driving there. I’ll be there with Team Chocolate Milk, and you can follow my race updates on Instagram all weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

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What’s Next?

We took my son to a Mavs game a couple of months ago, and had the world’s most obnoxious fan sitting behind us. At one point, she hollered at the ref (like he could hear her from our seats), “What are you? Stupid?” Then she yelled out “S-T-O-O-P-I-D.” My 13 year-old swung his head around and mouthed “she can’t even spell stupid.”

When I think about my next endeavor, that phrase runs through my brain.

Here’s how I got there:

Part of my post Houston race meltdown meant I needed to shift my focus. I’ve been chasing that BQ goal for several years, and I’m coming up short of where I want to be. My journey will continue though. Since my race schedule was wide open after Cowtown, I felt a little lost on what to do next. I made a list of what things I needed to work on, to continue to improve in the marathon specifically. But honestly, it’s easier for me to get out of bed to train when I have races on the calendar. I guess that’s why it seems like I’m always training for a race.

A friend of mine suggested the Danman Challenge. It’s close – maybe an hour’s drive from my home – and it’s free. That’s perfect for this frugal runner. It would also help take my focus off the numbers (paces) for a bit, while I could do keep doing what I love to do – run a lot. The drawback: the distance is a jump from the marathon to 50 miles. It is definitely a new challenge. No fanfare. No medals. Just testing my limits on going the distance – and that seems to be the point of Danman.

I’ve kept it kind of quiet on social media, without really putting out there what I’m planning. Admittedly, there’s a fear of falling short. I’ve never run more than a marathon, and here I’m going to attempt twice the distance – on a trail setting. I’ve been winging the training. Long runs on the roads on Saturdays, long runs on trails on Sundays. Lots and lots of miles. I treated Cowtown as a hard training week, and was running the week after. I don’t know if it’s enough, but I fit in what I could while keeping the household running.

One of my running friends recently asked me what I was training for next, and my answer was “I’m training for stupid.”

But on a serious note, I’m going into this challenge with the mindset that I’m going to complete 50 miles. If I don’t, I’ve already given myself permission to quit when it gets tough.

I’ll come out on the other side either all in for ultra distances, or I’ll be happy to step back to the marathon. I’m sure I’ll find out a lot about myself.

Here’s to being S-T-O-O-P-I-D. 😉

Cowtown Marathon 2019

Unlike the Houston Marathon post, my Cowtown recap has been a slow go just because of all the activity we’ve had and that I’ve inflicted upon myself.

I have a lot to write about, and I really had a great time running the Cowtown again this year. (***foreshadowing***)

I had the chance again this year to participate as a Cowtown Ambassador, and was grateful for the opportunity. I do love this race for so many reasons, and I think it’s a must do especially if you live in the North Texas area.

I started my race weekend on Friday at the expo, handing out race shirts.

You would not believe how hard it can be to pull those little tabs off the bibs. 🙂

Since I took care of the expo that Friday, that meant I could focus on rest and relaxation on Saturday. My energy was a little high though. I kept wanting to clean, but I forced myself to stay off my feet as much as possible. Tough job, but I managed it well.

Sunday morning, very early, my friend and I headed to Fort Worth. We would meet others from our group at the race. Some were running the half, and some the full marathon. The weather was perfect – for me! Chilly enough to need a jacket beforehand, but it would warm up enough to run in a tank and shorts.

I just settled into a comfortable pace from the start. No time goal, but I wanted it to be better than Houston. My miles ticked off in the range of 9:00-9:30s. I felt good. I felt strong running up the hills – even the one in mile 9!

Tackling the hill on the Main Street bridge

My first 10 minute mile was at the halfway point, to refill my bottle. I was cruising along. It was sunny, but not hot, and I was comfortable. Around mile 17, though, I passed a makeshift aid station – you know where the people who live in the neighborhoods cheer and hand out stuff. I spotted a table with a tub of Vaseline and shouted out “God bless you” as I ran over to it. They all laughed. It was a necessary stop. My arms hadn’t been in a tank top in a while, and it was starting to get painful. It may have cost me some time, but it saved my skin!

I got back on pace, and at mile 20 I was still holding my miles around the 10 minute pace, and I felt good. Such a contrast to how I felt in Houston when I was slogging through 11 minute miles after mile 10. Then the hills got me. Those last 4 miles of Cowtown whoop me every time. Those hills are tough! But I continued to smile and focus on getting it done. A walk break near the end of mile 22 and a dash into a porta-potty cost me a little bit of time, but then it was into the park for the final miles. Then my favorite part – the finish!

 

I accomplished three time goals at Cowtown:

  1. Faster than Houston (on a tougher course)
  2. Faster than last year’s Cowtown (I may be a year older, but I’m not slowing down)
  3. Under 4:30

A close look at my last several marathons shows steady, small improvements each time. They’re not big chunks of time, but it’s progress. I’m not giving up!

 

My 19th Marathon

Hanging with friends after the race

3 year medal series – complete.

 

 

 

Getting Ready for Cowtown

This statement resonated with me as I dealt with my disappointment from Houston. I went from being okay, to a post-race meltdown with tears, to being fired up for the next one in just a matter of days.

So I took some time to really evaluate my goals, and find a way to still challenge myself in a new way (more on that part at a later date).

I eased back into the running after a good recovery week, but I’ve also added some new things to shake things up – like yoga classes and indoor rowing.

I went to my first yoga class a few weeks ago, and it was awkward. I can’t touch my toes, and stretching is something I’m not real consistent about. But I can see how this will be helpful for me to continue. So I’m going to keep at it.

I think we had one Saturday long run where I wore shorts and short sleeves. It was humid, but I was happy without all the extra gear.

I’m also making sure to not let my goal chasing consume me. Yes my running goals are important, but it’s also important to take a breather and relax in between.

So we took my son to a Dallas Mavericks game one Sunday evening. He had been looking forward to it for months, and it was a great game to watch. The hardest part was staying out past 9 p.m. 😉 Actually, the hard part was that the world’s most obnoxious fan was right behind me.

 

I also volunteered at a local area trail run this past weekend with one of my friends. We worked an aid station 2.5 miles from the start/finish and the theme was the Love Shack. It was freezing cold, but we had fun. It was interesting to see so many different types of runners on the trail. You have some that are completely focused on getting to the finish, and then some that are out there just for the experience. I made a lot of pb&j, and it was just like the good old days when I made my kids’ lunches.

I think volunteering is important for runners to do. Without volunteers, there are no races. I encourage you to find a way to help out a local race. Some of them have perks for volunteering (free race entries, free shirt), but some of them just need your time.

This week I’m tapering for Cowtown, with extra rest and a little bit of running. I’ll be at the expo handing out t-shirts on Friday, so if you’re there early come say hi! Then on Sunday, I’ll run my 19th marathon. It’s time to complete my medal set!

 

 

Dallas (Half) Marathon 2018

The Dallas Marathon was my first half marathon in 2010, and my first full marathon in 2011. I’ve participated in it every year, always opting for the full marathon after the first one. This year, due to my goals, I discussed with my coach and we decided the half marathon would be a good way for me to still carry on the tradition, without compromising my training for Houston.

Results of my past full marathons in Dallas reflect my love/hate relationship with this course: 4:32, 5:12, 4:31, 4:17, 4:26, 4:46. So honestly up until before race week, I felt okay about running the half instead.

To be honest though, I was a little sad on race week. Nostalgia and all. But not stressing about running 26 miles while walking around the expo was kind of nice.

I made a stop by the Cowtown booth to “ooh” and “aah” over the 2019 race shirts and medals. Don’t forget, if you want to run this great race you can still register under my team “Anyone Can Run” and use promo code AMBASSADOR5 to save a total of $10 on a Sunday race. 

On race day morning, the weather was perfect – for a marathon. 🙂 High 30s, slight wind. The high for the day was only going to be in the 40s. I take credit for the great forecast, since I wasn’t running 26 miles. My friend and I lined up in the start corral, and I also met one of my RunRelated teammates who is also training for Houston. I was in shorts, with long sleeves (that I could push up), throwaway gloves, and my headband.

Tip: save heat sheets from previous races to stay warm at the start! (Mine was around my legs)

Then we were off. I focused on a consistent, steady pace, only looking at my Garmin once or twice a mile. I kept the Garmin on the lap screen so I didn’t see the total time, only lap distance and pace. Mile 3 went a little bonkers, because my pace showed some unrealistic 6 and 7 minute paces, then buzzed quite a bit before the mile marker. I knew that one would be off. But I didn’t let it bother me. The hills in the middle of the race can be tough if you’re not prepared, but I knew once we were past 15k, the course would flatten out. Much better than how San Antonio had that crazy hill at mile 11.

Throughout the race, I had pulled off my gloves and tucked them away. The sun peeked out, and I moved my headband to my wrist. I pushed my sleeves up and was starting to sweat.

When the half split from the full at mile 9, I wasn’t even sad. After the turn, I saw the mile 22 banner across the road (where the full course joins back up). I smiled when I realized I was running strong and I wasn’t crying on this stretch of road for probably the first time. 🙂 It cooled off a little with the wind and some shade, so pulled my sleeves back down as I covered this last part of the course. I tried to pick up my pace for the remaining couple of miles to finish strong. It looks like the hills took their toll. I didn’t look at my overall time until I crossed the finish line and stopped my Garmin.

As I made my way through the finisher chute, picking up all my post race goodies, I was smiling. I had run a good race at Dallas for the first time in a few years. It was my fastest half marathon all year – and my fastest half since 2016. I sat down on the curb with my chocolate milk and took it all in.

Yay chocolate milk!

Mentally, I would have liked to be a little faster going into Houston, but physically this is what I accomplished. Hills and all, I’m proud of what I ran. It was consistent, and it shows progress. I’ve basically decided the half is the way to go at Dallas, because I closed out my 2018 racing year on a positive note.

 

 

 

Next up, Houston!

Rock ‘n Roll San Antonio 2018

The first weekend of December was packed with a whirlwind trip to San Antonio with two of my best running friends. This was one of my races for Team Chocolate Milk, and it was the fourth time I’ve run this race.

I love this weekend for so many reasons!

Chocolate milk (of course)

Nonstop running talk with friends 

We never got tired of talking about running, and didn’t bore anyone with it. 🙂

Unique opportunities (like meeting elite runners)

I have been a Des Linden fan for years, so I was excited to have the chance to tell her she inspires me to not give up on my Boston goal. #keepshowingup We talked about how tuneup races (like this half for me) are important. My friends also had the chance to meet and take pictures with Meb. I love that they give up so much of their time for everyday runners.

The beauty of San Antonio

I have a fear of heights (see also RNR ’16) and our room was on the top floor of the Westin facing the river. It was pretty with all the Christmas lights, but I would not step out onto the balcony.

Meeting up with my teammates

These are just a few of my teammates I was able to meet up with before the race. I enjoy catching up with and meeting new team members from all over. We may have our different race distances and goals, but still encourage and support one another.

Part of the Texas crew!

Running through San Antonio

I always enjoy this half marathon course. There are a couple of hills (and a big booger at mile 11), but most of the course is fairly flat. This year the weather was good – 50s at the start, and then sunny. But it did warm up kind of fast. I was running on tired legs since I’m training for the Houston Marathon, and I held on to a decent pace through mile 10. A combination of a nutrition/hydration issue and my tired legs, meant I didn’t hang on to my sub 2 hour goal. Plus, I had quite a bit of weaving around walkers, etc. They didn’t fix this issue from last year. Overall, though, I was okay with the pace I ran. I just wish my official race results showed it.

Recovery!

I sure appreciate when a race has chocolate milk at the finish! Here’s the science behind it, and how the mix of carbs:protein helps your muscles recover.

 

The Medal

 

Until next year, San Antonio…

We’ll be back!

 

 

Run Coach and Races

Goodness, the month of November was busy! I’m still in the middle of training for the Houston marathon in January, so not too exciting, but I did run a couple of races since my last half.

But first, let me share some exciting news of what has kept me busy this fall. I completed my running coach certification, so I am now a certified running coach with RunRelated! That’s who has coached me for almost a year now, and now I get to be a part of it from that aspect. Before having a coach, I had always planned my own training, and I’m really looking forward to this new journey and helping other runners reach their goals. Take a look and see if RunRelated might be a good fit for you. It’s affordable, individualized training, with access to your coach via email, text, whenever you have questions or concerns.

Through my training, I’ve run a couple of races. The first was a 5k Turkey Trot that I ran with my son. I ran my long run first, and then we went to the race. He wanted to set a new PR, but had been sick the whole week before. Once we started running, he realized that he wasn’t going to be able to run a PR. He would tell me to go on and run my normal speed, but I said I was going to run with him the whole way, just like we planned. During that race he learned a valuable lesson: sometimes the biggest challenge is just finishing a race when you don’t feel your best. I learned that he can out kick me at the finish. 🙂

I also realized, after looking at the pictures, that my little boy isn’t so little anymore.

The weekend after Thanksgiving, I ran the McKinney Believe 10k with a couple of friends. I’ve done this race several times, so I knew what to expect. This was also a last ditch effort to hit the qualifying time for front corral for Houston. It was a long shot.

I would need under 51:08, and the deadline was the end of November. That was an 8:15 pace. My 5k in September was just under 8:00. It would be a stretch.

Race morning weather was perfect. Mid 40s and sunny, so I ran in my shorts and short sleeves. The first mile is mostly downhill, so that’s misleading. But I hit my first mile in 8:14 so I focused on staying consistent. Miles 2 and 3 were both 8:07. If I can just hold this until mile 4, I thought. My coach’s goal was for me to run sub 52:00. When I hit mile 4 in 8:13, I thought at least I should have that. I had my screen set to show overall time and average pace, so I knew I was still on track and it would be close. But I didn’t take my foot off the gas. I ran those last 2 miles like it mattered, and even though the splits were 8:20 and 8:18, I managed a water stop (kind of) and weaving around 5k runners in the last mile. At least they were running and not walking though. The last stretch of the course goes up and down, and finishes straight uphill. I was not going to sacrifice my time because of a silly hill. I charged up the hill, complete focus on the finish line. I didn’t look at my watch until I finished. My last .3 mile was at an 8:06 pace.

My finish time didn’t meet the cutoff, but my average pace was right on. Had I run closer to 6.2 instead of 6.3, I would have made it. But more importantly, I saw the runner that I’ve been searching for the past 4 years. I ran a race time I haven’t come close to since 2014, and I’m finally starting to see the results of my efforts. I’m starting to believe in myself again, and that matters more to me than a specific corral. When I posted this on my Instagram, I said “it’s not always about race times, but sometimes it is.” My official time was 51:38, and a quick search on Athlinks confirmed it.

Plus, I had a nice little age group win too.

 

In my next post, I’ll recap my Rock ‘n Roll San Antonio weekend. It’s a busy month of racing!