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,ย  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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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. ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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. ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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. ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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!