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.

 

 

Morning and Evening

What’s your favorite time of day to work out? Morning? Evening? Middle of the day? Is it by choice or is your schedule dictated by other things in your life (kids, work, etc…)?

For the most part, I’m a morning runner. I like getting it done first thing and checking it off of my list. Otherwise, I have it hanging over my head all day.

Sometimes, I have to do some shifting though. Weather played a part this week, but other times it can be kids’ activities or their work schedules. It’s hard to get up for a 5 am run when you’re sitting outside the school at 10 pm waiting on a bus the night before.

Today, I moved my run to later in the day, because I thought there might be some slick spots on the road in the early hours. We actually got a little bit of snow yesterday! Since there were no activities planned, I told the kids it was fend for yourself night. They know exactly what that means.

I was going to get my longer weekday run done.

I got started 30 minutes later than planned, because something came up with one of the kids. It always does. I wasn’t sure if I would get it all done. I also wasn’t really excited about going for a solo run, so I made myself a deal. “Make it to 6, and then you can stop.”

I passed a few people out in the neighborhood. I don’t know what to say when I can’t say good morning. Everything else sounds forced, but I tried.

Then I was done. I finished all of it. I started in the daylight, finished in the dark.

I didn’t have to worry about what time it was. I didn’t have to rush. I came inside and did little bit of strength work, and [gasp!] stretched and foam rolled. Normally that’s all reserved for weekends when I’m not as rushed.

It was a nice switch for today, but I still prefer my morning runs. Most of the time I’m running with my friends, and the miles fly by.

Early mornings with less traffic and noise, are a great start to the day.

New Year’s Day Half

It’s amazing how getting enough sleep and a reducing some life stress can impact your running.

I found this out when I ran three half marathons within 4 1/2 weeks. With RNR San Antonio, I was dealing with both lack of sleep and a lot of outside stress. My heart rate reflected it in the race too. The next weekend at Dallas, I was still managing some stress, but was doing better in the sleep department. By the time the New Year rolled around, most of the stressful issues had been resolved, and I was doing much better with sleep (thanks to the holidays). But I also had the bonus holiday joy of the few extra pounds. I’ll blame marathon recovery, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. When I scale back on running, but still eat like I’m marathon training, I start to look and feel like Stay-Puft.

I digress.

I have never run the New Year’s Double in Allen, but I’ve had friends who’ve done it. I’m usually so wiped out by the end of the year, and the weather is historically cold and nasty. Plus, I work on New Year’s Eve. The New Year’s Double is two days of races: New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. You can run the 5k, and the half or full, or just choose one race for New Year’s Eve. Then you can come back and do it again the next day.

I had a free race entry to an Active Joe race from volunteering at Cross Timbers, so I figured why not? I used my entry for the New Year’s Day race, the half marathon distance, and signed up with no other expectations than to enjoy a mid-week long run.

The week leading into the race, I was trying to clean up my nutrition and building my mileage back up. I ran an easy 6 miles with a friend the day before the half, and headed to work. I told her I was expecting to be under 2:10, but I didn’t set any specific time goals.

Race morning was a later start than I usually have. I had plenty of time to have my coffee and relax before making the 30 minute drive. I decided not to eat anything, but drank my Ucan as usual. The 5k is up first, and I could see runners on the path, and the start/finish line from where I parked. I had plenty of time to get my packet, and hang out in the car. There’s a place for a bag drop, but I left my layers in the car and took just what I needed for the race. It was cloudy, low 40s, and a slight wind kept it chilly before the start. I grabbed my throwaway gloves, my handheld bottle, and my earbuds. I felt okay, not great, but I was ready to run.

I liked the way everything was set up for this race. There are assigned corrals, even though it’s a smaller race, to help ease congestion. The course is an out and back loop on a paved park path. 2 loops for the half, 4 for the full. I was in the second corral, and it felt a little strange lining up so close to the front for a half marathon.

I started a little too fast because I was so cold. My first mile was just under 9:00. I didn’t worry about my pacing though. I needed to warm up! Miles 2 and 3 were just a touch faster – 8:53 and 8:52. I didn’t worry about it being too fast and just went with how I was feeling. I was enjoying the run.

There was a timing mat and clock for the first loop. I switched my Garmin to see total time. 59:xx. Oh wow, I could run sub 2 if I could hang on or negative split the second half. I had a new goal.

The advantage of running a looped course, is that you know exactly what’s coming for the second half – where the hills are, aid stations, road conditions. Some people don’t like those kinds of courses, but for me on this day, it’s exactly what I needed.

My mile splits were consistently just under 9:00, but my Garmin is always off. Plus there was a little tunnel we went through four times total, and it threw my GPS off. There were mile markers though, and I used those to keep tabs on my time. At mile 11, I was still on track for sub 2. A couple of times, a thought would try to creep in that it was hard, or I wouldn’t be able to do it. But I pushed those thoughts aside, and I didn’t take my foot off of the gas, just like when I ran the 10k in Dallas.

 

Focused and Flying

My breathing sounded like I was running a 5k, and in the last mile, I was completely focused on getting through the finish.When I crossed the line and saw my time, I almost cried.

Look at that halfway split!

Ok, so I did cry a little. But it was because I feel like I won a mental race more than physical. I didn’t quit on myself when it got hard. My body cooperated, but my mind was the big win of the day. I wasn’t lamenting the “faster me” from several years ago. I was genuinely proud of what I ran, working from where I am now, not where I used to be. It felt like a turning point for me. Also, 40 degrees is my jam.

To top it all off, I placed 2nd in my age group!

Cutest medal! It’s a turtle!

So, I’m excited. I feel like my year was off to a great start. I didn’t have one half marathon last year under 2 hours. The closest I came was San Diego was 2:00:53.

I can’t wait to see what else 2020 has in store for me.

Rock ‘n Roll San Antonio 2019

I know this post is a little late, but December got away from me with all the races, band concerts, and Christmas to dos. But I want to give each race its due, so expect to see some “catch up” posts in the next few weeks.

Rock ‘n Roll San Antonio is a favorite trip that my friend and I take each year. It’s a nice little quick getaway, and I get to represent Team Chocolate Milk.

This year had a little different feel to it, because we both had a lot of stuff going on. I had some stress and lack of sleep because of life stuff, and her new position at work is taking a lot of her time. So we decided we were going to just enjoy the break and relax. And by relax, I mean run 13.1 miles. 🙂

We left for San Antonio early Saturday morning, and made our way to the expo first for packet pick up and some shopping.

I think you can see how tired I am!

 

 

We decided to eat an early dinner before checking in to the hotel, because the line was pretty long. We found a new to us Italian restaurant on the Riverwalk, and it was so early, there was no wait. Then we hit up CVS for some snacks and headed back to the hotel.

It’s kind of funny, because this is the first year we haven’t really explored the Riverwalk or the Alamo area on foot. We were just worn out, so after checking in to the hotel, I kicked my feet up to rest and she worked on her computer for her job. I had one of those times when I was so exhausted that I just couldn’t sleep. But I was happy to just be still after the week I had.

The weather on race morning was a little cool, but humid. Tank top is pretty much a given in San Antonio.

We walked out of our hotel to the start corrals – 5 minutes tops. That has been one of my favorite things about where we stay each year.

Start Corral

For my longest run since the Fort Worth Marathon in November, my plan was to start conservatively and negative split to finish strong. I wasn’t sure if I could pull a sub 2 hour half, but the plan to finish strong would help me take my mind off of the time and put it on the effort. The course had changed from previous years, no running by the Alamo this year, and I think they stuck in more hills. What is it with Rock ‘n Roll Races and hills. Dallas, San Diego, San Antonio…just from my experience. But thankfully, I’ve been tackling hill repeats with one of my running friends lately, so I was prepared. What I was not prepared for was the Wear Blue: Run to Remember mile. Again, crying while running is hard. If you’re not familiar with this, my friend captured a picture of part of it. Basically it’s photos of service members we’ve lost, lined up on both sides of the road for a quarter to a half a mile. The picture also has their age and rank. As a wife of a Navy veteran, and mom to a soon to be Naval Officer, I didn’t make it through this section with getting choked up. When the pictures stop, then you have people on both sides of the road holding flags and cheering for you as you continue to climb the hill. Some of them are in uniform, some in the wb:r2r shirts. This section of the race means so much to me.

I continued to keep an even effort, not draining my energy on the uphills. My pace ranged from 9:05-9:20 for most of the miles. My plan to negative split the second half didn’t pan out, but I tried to not lose any ground. Then at mile 11, on the way up another (final) hill, I dashed into a porta potty, and lost some time. I came out and walked for a few seconds up the hill, my heart rate was so high, and then I rallied my strength to finish. Only when I crossed the finish and stopped my Garmin, did I look at my total time – 2:06:42 (official). I’ll admit I was a little disappointed with my overall time, but I sat down near a tree with my water bottle to catch my breath and evaluate the race. My heart rate had been high for most of the race. I was tired. I was under a lot of stress with factors out of my control. It was my longest run since early November. It was humid. By looking at it this way, I actually felt pretty accomplished completing the race.

I headed to the chocolate milk tent to start my post race recovery. You can read all about the science here: https://builtwithchocolatemilk.com/science/workout-recovery

Time to Recover!

 

It’s important to remember that I do this because I enjoy it. Not every race is going to be an outstanding time. Sometimes my body isn’t on board. But I enjoyed my trip, time spent with my friend, and running through San Antonio. I will celebrate my half marathon finish, and keep doing what I love. 🙂

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.

 

 

Catching Up

It’s the final week before my next marathon, and I realized that my blogging kind of went to the wayside for a few months. School activities – mostly football and marching band, have taken up a lot of my evenings and Saturdays. With early morning training, on my free nights, I chose sleep. In all honesty, I knew it wasn’t the best idea to train for a marathon date that was so close to the end of football/band. I knew I would be tired. I knew marching season would take up a lot of my time. What I didn’t factor in, was how the Thursday night concession stand would wear on me. That was new for me this year, because in the past I’ve done either a couple of nights or every other week. I’ve been pacing myself as a band mom. But since I’m in my 7th year of band, I figured it was my turn to help out more. Also, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time when they needed someone to take Thursdays. 😉 But even with all of this, I tried to limit the amount of frito pies and nachos I ate, and I set up my rest days for Fridays. That was a good plan.

 

Those are some of the things I could control.

The stuff that was out of my control with this training was the weather, plumbing problems, late night band pickups, early Saturday morning drop-offs, husband’s work schedule, and did I mention the weather?

18 miles in the summer that wouldn’t end.

While my training hasn’t been full of knock out workouts and fast long runs, I’ve settled with the fact that it’s been good enough. Flexibility has been the overall theme. My tune up half to test my fitness had a 9 am start and temps in the high 70s. That was a bust. The weather cooled off a week later. Of course.

A couple of my long runs in the past month had to be switched around at the last minute, including the longest one. But I do feel like they were decent enough for me to go into the race hopeful to hit some of my goals. I also tried to keep my sense of humor, even when the distance didn’t pan out.

JAWS!

 

As I wrote on one of my Instagram posts, training is rarely perfectly smooth – kind of like life. It’s important to remember that running is just a part of my life; it’s not my entire life.

So I set my A, B, and C goals for this marathon coming up Sunday. I’m ready.

 

Testing the Water

This has been a strange, quick summer of running. I have done a little more racing than I originally intended, but also have taken a few baby steps out of my comfort zone (more trail). To use a metaphor, I’ve been testing the deep end of the water with my toe, while safely maintaining my seat on dry land.

My original plan for summer was to drop some weight, gain some strength, and work on speed for a 5k. Here’s what has actually happened:

A couple of weeks after RNR San Diego, I ran a 15k trail race with two of my running friends. This was only my 2nd official trail race. A sharp contrast to the cool, low humidity weather in San Diego, the Frisco Trail Race was hot and sunny. There were a lot of open places on the trail, and the sun was draining my energy. I felt fine up until mile 8, then I was ready to be done. The deep ruts in some places on the trail were not good for my ankles, so I was happy to be finished. Lots of switchbacks too. The map and the drone footage from the race looked cool, but it wasn’t as fun to run the course, in my opinion. At least there were free pictures from it, and I did enjoy time with friends.

At the end of June, I went to run “Trails and Tacos” hosted by the McKinney Running Club with some other running friends. It was a free, 15k distance trail run at Erwin Park. The running club had breakfast tacos afterward. I enjoyed this trail more than the one in Frisco. More coverage, no deep ruts. There were still some places out in the open sun that made it tough, and so many mountain bikes! No time goals here either, so I just enjoyed my time on the trail.

In July, I ran the Too Hot to Handle half marathon in Dallas with a couple of my other friends. This was mostly for my friend who wanted a race to check her training progress. She likes to run in the heat. My goal was to finish without getting sick. I have set the bar high for summer racing. 😉 I am probably going to write a whole other post about responsibility on the road because of what I witnessed with the bikes and runners around White Rock Lake, but here I’m just going to focus on my race. I felt pretty good until about mile 9, then the heat got me so I ran/walked it in. My heart rate got a little too high and it’s not worth the risk. If I can’t keep my sense of humor or smile, then I don’t need to be out there. I want to be able to run for years, so I try to pay attention to my body. When it says slow down, I do.

 

I made sure to cool down after the race under the sprinkler with a popsicle and a cold towel on my skin.

This was pretty close to being one of my slowest half marathons and I am okay with that. I didn’t set out to run a time goal. I set out to complete a half marathon. I like being “half ready” year round. I’m back to the point where a 10 mile run feels normal, as it did several years ago. Everyone is different though. What’s good for me may not be what’s best for you! The nice thing about doing this race, is that I didn’t feel sore later or the next day. My recovery was good, it was just the heat that got me. That’s kind of an expectation of summer running.

A little over a week ago, we took some trail time out at Cross Timbers. The last time I ran there was in March. There were no monster horse flies then, or worries of snakes, or clearing spiderwebs. The flies are awful now! It didn’t matter how fast you ran in some places, you were still swatting and dodging the massive flies.

And Cross Timbers has a way of making you feel out of shape. We covered 4 miles that took well over an hour. There is some climbing! My quads were sore for two days after that run!

I’ve enjoyed my time on the trail these past months, but I can’t seem to make the jump to go farther yet. Officially.

 

As far as the rest of my summer goals:

On dropping weight, I’ve lost about .3 of a pound. I’ve had more trouble with this than anything. I don’t know how I can fit all my runs in but can’t turn down an ice cream cone. It’s about discipline, but my metabolism has slowed down which makes it hard. Oh, and I really really like peanut butter.

On building strength, I’ve started going to the gym with one of my friends on Sundays to lift. It’s not something I’ve ever done consistently or made a priority. So this is our fight against age and slow metabolisms. We’ve gone two weeks in a row, and it’s much easier to agree to meet a friend than go on my own. I also did some RIPPED classes at the gym earlier this summer with my daughter who was home from college. It’s good to change things up once in a while.

I’m winding down a bit this week to get ready for the 5k this weekend. I’ve been doing track workouts just about every week to get my speed back, because I need the speed in the shorter distances to get faster for the longer ones. Track work the past two months consisted of variations of 5k goal pace. 400s, 600s, 800s. Last week was 5 x 1000m. It was tough, and I hit the paces on all but the last one. These workouts have given me a specific focus for the majority of summer.

Saturday’s 5k will be my last race in my current age group. After this, it’s time to move to the longer, marathon focused work.

So there’s my summer running in a nutshell. Band has started for my high school junior, and football for my youngest. This is my gauge that summer is basically over in our house. Routines and schedules are back in place, and my running will be more structured.

It’s going to be a busy fall, but I really don’t know how to do it any other way.