Dallas Marathon 50th Anniversary

On December 12th, I ran the Dallas Marathon. This was pretty close to the date of my 10th anniversary of my first marathon (Dallas 2011) as well as the 50th anniversary for the race itself. Dallas went big for their celebration, and I went big myself with a return to the weekend series: 5k on Saturday, marathon on Sunday. I had not run the marathon in Dallas since my struggle in 2017, so some of my goals were to run better than I did that year, and walk away from the finish line happy with my result. I also wanted to crush mile 14 – more on that later.

On Saturday, my friend and I headed to Dallas for the 5k, and we cruised through the race. The weather was chilly, but not unbearable, and before we knew it we had finished three miles. It’s funny how fast 3 miles fly by when you’ve been marathon training. We ran a tad faster than I thought we would for a marathon shakeout, but it was fun.

The buildings messed with the GPS, but it was a good run.

Then we headed to the expo to pick up our packets. This expo was much better than RNR San Antonio. One of my favorite areas is where they have the banners for each year of the race. I found where I started my history with Dallas (first half 2010) and reminisced down the row. It was interesting to see the temperature, number of runners, shirt and medal designs and how those have changed.

All my Dallas races 2010-2019

Race day was forecasted to be a cold start, and I was super excited. The expected high would be in the 60s so I hoped I wouldn’t get too hot, especially since this race starts pretty late in the morning. I tend to heat up faster now than when I first started running. Regardless of the sub 40 degree start, I made my choice of race outfit and stuck to it. I wore a disposable jacket to the start, and I save my previous races’ heat sheets exclusively to keep warm at race starts. I made a definite fashion statement getting to the start corral, but at least I was warm.

Always save your heat sheets!

We also met up with some of our Texoma Runner friends and shared good luck vibes with each other before moving into our corrals.

Texoma Runners take on Dallas

The start was exciting! Dallas has done an excellent job of improving the runner’s experience over the past several years, and with BMW as the title sponsor, they have really kicked it up. The race now starts by City Hall, and there is a jumbo screen with a video countdown as each corral moves up to start. I was a little emotional watching the video, but also excited and ready to run. I remember feeling so happy before the race started, not really nervous. Once we were out on the course, I kept my disposable jacket on for the first mile and then tossed it. I was ready to roll, but I held back and paid close attention to my mile splits. I was not going to fall apart this year from going out too fast!

I kept an eye on my splits but also tried to take it all in. The race experience, the feeling of being out there again, running an official (not virtual) marathon. I was running with gratitude, but at the same time… respect for the distance.

At mile 14, my friend took my picture. I had previously shared with just a few of my friends how mile 14 had brought me down at my last few marathons and 20 milers. It seemed to be a mental block at this point. But when I crossed this mile marker, I felt great – smiling and full of energy. I also got a text from my friend who was tracking all of us. “Mile 14! You can do this!”

Once I was halfway around the lake, I began to pick up the pace. I was feeling good and following my race plan. I brought my pace under 10 minutes and was passing people around the lake. At the mile 20 marker, which is at the bottom of a big hill, I walked and took in my chews. This was the plan I settled on weeks before. I knew the hill would defeat me if I let it, so I had planned to walk it and that as an opportunity to refuel. At the top of the hill, I stuck to the plan and started running again. I was surprised at how quickly I was able to recover my pace again, and my legs still felt good. I just needed a little time for my lungs to recover from the climb.

The great thing about the current Dallas course (half and marathon) is that the last 4 miles are a gentle drop in elevation. I knew that once I made it to mile 22, I could hang on and grind it out to finish. At mile 23, I was passing people. Well this is new, I thought. But then I started to argue with myself, because I really did want to stop and walk. But I had no reason to. So I would slow a little, and then pick up the pace. My legs were tired, but I wasn’t in pain. (Strength work matters.) I didn’t feel sick, and my heart rate was fine for this stage of the game. So I told my brain to shut up. My pace was still hanging on. I looked at my Garmin once in the final mile, and didn’t do that again. It’s funny how you feel like you’re flying, look at your pace, and nope. Not flying. Pedal to the ground, just get it done.

I crossed the finish in 4:32 and was so happy I almost started crying! It was not one of my fastest marathons, but it was the way I ran and how I felt – that was what mattered. And after a string of marathons pushing the 5 hour mark, it was a turn in the right direction.

Always putting in the extra mileage…

Then of course, we celebrated our marathon finishes around the after party.

It was a good day.

2021 RNR San Antonio

The week before Dallas Marathon, my friend and I continued a tradition we’ve had going since 2015 – we ran our last long training run through the streets of San Antonio. In past years, I went as part of Team Chocolate Milk and it has always been a fun way to celebrate the end of marathon training. For 2021, we both had previous registrations (transfers/deferrals) to use, so even though there was no Team Chocolate Milk, there was still a Rock ‘n Roll San Antonio to run.

We headed down early Saturday morning and had lunch on the way. We chat nonstop the entire trip, so it seems like we get to San Antonio in no time! First stop: the expo.

Now, if you’ve run this race series in the past, you would have been disappointed with this expo. It was bare, with very little merchandise, and even fewer vendors. We already knew there was an issue with the race shirts, but that wasn’t a big deal to me. There is no shortage of race shirts in my closet. But I did want to shop to replace some items that I typically purchase at expos, and that wasn’t going to happen. So we picked up our bibs and moved on.

We walked around a little bit waiting for check-in time for the hotel. Since the course wouldn’t run by the Alamo this year, we walked there.

A pigeon. Just because.

After an early dinner, we checked in to the hotel to relax for the rest of the evening.

The temperature when I woke early on race morning was already in the 70s. Sheesh. It was not going to be a faster half for me this time. Humidity was 83% at the start. The plan became to just run marathon pace and enjoy the race.

The Riverwalk is so pretty this time of year.
The photobomb! 😂

By mile 2, I was so sweaty, my tank was stuck to me. For the previous weeks our long training runs had temps in the 40s, so this was quite an adjustment. By mile 4, Garmin had my heart rate in the 170s. But it was the wear blue: run to remember mile that got me. Again. But this year, it hit different. This mile is where they line up the photos of service members lost. Each photo has name, rank, date they died or were killed in action, and age. So many. So young. And as a newer military mom, I didn’t make it through without crying. Once you reach the end of the photos, you see the wear blue volunteers on both sides of the road holding flags and cheering for all the runners. It really is something.

That really spiked my heart rate (the hill, tears, and heat) so I tried to slow it down some more and walked a little to bring it down. My legs felt good. It was the breathing (humidity) that got me. I walked a couple of times, mostly up hills, and just enjoyed the scenery.

Notice the ladies dancing on the bridge. It should take your mind off of the hill, but it doesn’t.

My finish time was 2:13 and I wasn’t disappointed at all. My face was as pink as my tank, and I was glad to be done. We grabbed our post-race snacks (but no chocolate milk) , grabbed a quick picture,and headed back to the hotel. I was in serious need of a shower.

You can see the humidity with the tower in the background.
The only finish pic we got. We dropped the ball this year!

On the trip back home, we discussed different race strategies for the marathon. I had to remind her that San Antonio’s temperature was 30-40 degrees warmer than what we had been training in, and the humidity was extra tough. It was just a training run, and we hoped the weather for Dallas would be much better.

The Benefit of Tune Up Races

Do you ever run tune-up races while training for a marathon (or a half)? They can be a good tool to sprinkle through a training cycle for several reasons: to evaluate progress, practice nutrtion, and see how your pace and/or race times equate to the marathon goal.

I usually have at least one or two half marathons in the lead up to the marathon I’m training for, but this year has been a little different. Partly because of family plans and partly because I wanted to focus more on the longer runs this time around, I haven’t raced a half marathon since Cowtown in May. Other than the Paris Pair 25k, I had not run any other races. But I kept seeing ads for the Fort Worth Marathon on my social media, and checked to see where the 20 mile race would fall in my training. It was a good fit. It would be a good gauge of my marathon goal pace, and a nice way to break out of the training rut. Also, races add that spark back into training and tend to energize me.

The race was on a Sunday, and since most long runs have been on Saturday, we adjusted the week for an extra rest day. Other than that, there wasn’t really any taper for this one. Race morning was cool – starting temperature was around 48 degrees. I was in a tank and shorts and felt amazing. The sun was coming up, and I was glad I remembered to put on sunscreen. My friend and I started the race together, as we usually do, and settled into a rhythm over the first several miles. The pace was faster than I planned (9:30s instead of 10:00s) but I felt like I was holding back and conserving energy, so I stayed with it.

The 20 mile race follows the out and back lap for the half marathon (and marathon) but on the second loop, there is an earlier turnaround. On the return path after the first turnaround near mile 7, I started to feel the heat of the sun on my shoulders. There was no breeze and I was heating up. I managed to maintain the same pace through mile 10, and then it slipped a little closer to 10:00s. At mile 14, I started to feel just icky. I had made the pass by the finish to end the first lap and was headed out on my second (shorter) lap, when I took a walk break to lower my heart rate. I had started feeling a little nauseous and woozy at times. I continued to hydrate but noticed I was going through my bottle faster on the 2nd part.

At one point, a guy running next to me said something. I took out my earbud. “Do you want to chat?” he said.

“Sure”

He was running his 10th marathon, he told me, and he had Parkinson’s. My mind instantly went to my mother-in-law who passed in October after a 10 year battle with Parkinson’s. I didn’t say anything about her, but I thought about how I admired his mindset, and his drive to keep moving. His goal was to qualify for Boston with the 6 hour time limit. We chatted for a few minutes about marathons, but I lost him at the aid station. That moment was a good perspective shift for me. Here I was just trying to finish this race, perfectly healthy, and kind of whining about the heat, and this guy is fighting a terrible disease and chasing a huge goal. It was humbling.

When I tried to take my gel at mile 16, I couldn’t stomach it and tossed it in the trash before I finished it. With four miles to go, I was out of fuel, but I had my electrolytes covered at least. I settled into a run/walk to cover the distance. I would walk anytime I felt nauseous and pick up the pace to run when it subsided. In the last mile, my stomach went crazy, and I darted into a porta-potty as soon as I came across one.

When I finally crossed the finish line, I was just barely under my time from last year. It felt good to be done! A 29 second PR and 2nd in my age group was the result, along with a renewed plan to stick to my goal pace at Dallas darn it. I will also be playing around with my nutrition for the next couple of weeks to get it right. I don’t know if it was the heat or what, but I can’t be having gels that make me sick. It actually took me a while after the race before I could take in any calories at all. That’s not normal for me. I usually can at least stomach the banana.

I’m also super grateful for the many training miles the two of us have put in together. You know you have a great training partner when you can be okay running side by side sometimes and not feel the need to say anything at all.