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.

 

 

 

 

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2017 Too Hot to Handle 15k

The Too Hot to Handle 15k is a race that I’ve done several times. I don’t mind running this race in July, because they do a good job of keeping runners cool. I also like to test out my fitness a few times in the summer with longer races to see how I’m progressing. My reasoning is that if I can run x:xx in the summer when it’s hot, then when it’s cooler I’ll be flying! I talked my running buddy into doing it with me, of course. Racing is much more fun with friends.

This year was definitely hot. The overcast skies from my last two races were gone, and the sun was shining when we started.

I didn’t really have a time goal, but I hoped I could finish around 1:24:00 or faster. I also knew the chances of placing in my age group were slim. This is a popular race and there are some fast runners in my age group! My first mile was 8:57, second in 8:34, and the third was 8:43. At this point I held to the idea that a 1:24 was possible. I focused on keeping each mile under 9:00 pace. I sipped on Nuun in my handheld bottle to stay hydrated, and ran under overhead sprinklers as I passed them. It was mostly an out and back course, so I made mental notes of the aid stations for the way back. Miles 4,5, and 6 were 8:37, 8:45, and 8:57. It was after mile 6 when the heat started to get to me. I grabbed ice cold towels when I could, squeezing the water out over my head and neck. Mile 8 was my slowest with 9:06 when there was a steep hill. I was super proud I didn’t walk it. I tried to drop my pace down more for the last two miles, but basically I was hanging on with what I had left. Coming around the last turn, I wanted to kick it up a notch but I had no more gas in the tank.

My first thought when I finished was, “It’s all good until the sweat drips into the eyes.” Oh my! I couldn’t see anything due to the salt burning my eyes! It took me a few minutes to cool down using the ice cold towels and sipping on my Nuun. I had the best two orange slices ever, and sat down on the curb to watch for my friend and another runner from our group to finish.

We survived!

My official finish time was 1:24:19. My Garmin showed I ran 9.55 miles at a pace of 8:50, so I feel like I ran well – especially for a race in July. I’m not back to where I was in 2014, but I’ll get there.

This past Saturday, I decided to run 10 miles for my long run. I had no specific pace, I just wanted to get a good double digit run in because I’d be gone the next weekend. Also, marathon training starts on the 24th and the first week has a 12 miler. Our group left from our usual place and the humidity was so thick! Then in mile 2, the sky opened up and we were running in a downpour. I did feel a little less crazy though since others were out there too. Some headed back one direction, and we went a different way to add a few miles. Then I started to feel blah.  My stomach wasn’t feeling great, and I found a timely construction porta-potty. By mile 7, I was ready to be done but we were still two miles from the park. Thankfully the rain had turned to a mist which kept us cooler. We made another pit stop at the gas station for my difficult tummy, and I was talking myself down from 10 miles. When we got the park, I made another restroom stop and we were at 8.7. We decided to loop around and then walk the rest of the way to the cars, but when we got close to mile 9, she says “Let’s just round it off to 10.” It was my fastest mile and the only one that felt good. If my friend had not been there to keep me going, I don’t know if I would have made it to 10. But we got it done, and then we rehydrated with watermelon. It was great.

It’s been a while since I felt that bad on a long run, so I guess I was due one. I am thankful for my running friend because we push each other to do more than we would on our own. We each have our good days and bad days, but we stick it out together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

Hot Chocolate 15K Recap

Lately, I seem to be on a “week on, week off” with my training for the Cowtown Marathon. Two weeks ago, I had good speed sessions and a knockout long run. Then for the first part of last week, every run felt flat, slow, and I was ready to be done with each one by mile 3. I was in a funk, and it was hard to get out of bed. So much so that two mornings I slept right through my alarm. I realized later in the week that part of my problem was an increase in pressure at work. Not a bad thing, just me not knowing what to expect. Since I started my new job function, a lot of the responsibility rests on the first part of the month. This was my first month to go through it completely, so I felt a little stressed. I also made the mistake of scheduling other things around this time that I had to adjust my schedule to: daughter’s eye exam, foundation repair…But now I know what to expect, so I’ll be better prepared at the beginning of March and I won’t be training for a marathon either.

I was somewhat ready for a race in the hopes that it would bring me out of my slump and put some motivation back in my body. I was super grateful to my friend who went to pick up packets on Thursday. There was no way that I could have gotten that done with everything else.

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I started to get excited Friday evening, but was still so tired.

Then I overslept on race morning – which has never happened! We were meeting at 5:00 and I popped out of bed at 4:34. At least I had laid out my clothes the night before and my friend was driving, so I had some time to chill on the drive down to Dallas. The car was loaded with some of her extended family (mom, aunt, cousin) who were running the 5k. The generations were all covered from the 30s up to the 70s.

The 5k was scheduled to start first, so we made our way to the start area to find where they would need to line up. The we went inside the building to stay warm a bit. The temps were in the low 40s. A little chilly for a 5k, but good enough for 15.

While they headed over to start, I stayed in the building to stay warm. I met a man who asked me about Team Chocolate Milk. He was 72 and running his first 5k! I was able to share about the benefits of chocolate milk for recovery.

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After the 5k started, my friend and I ran a couple of warmup miles. We were both low for the week, so it wouldn’t hurt to have a double digit day overall. I spied the Nuun setup near the start, so I was able to get some electrolytes before the race.

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I went into this race with zero expectations on my time, but with the anticipation to enjoy a fun race regardless. I decided not to carry my handheld because Nuun was the hydration sponsor. I can not tell you how happy I was to run with my hands empty. No bottle, no pepper spray, no gloves on. It was wonderful!

We lined up between the 8:30 and 9:00 pace groups, and I told my friend our goal was to keep the 9:00 pacer behind us. Other than that, let’s have fun.

And that’s what we did.

The 9:00 pacer passed us after the first mile, but we pulled ahead and didn’t see him again. I grabbed some Nuun at the second aid station, which was followed by the m&ms stop. They were handing them out in a little cups. I passed on by, but my friend grabbed two and said we couldn’t pass them up. “Just take it like a shot!” I managed to get a couple in my mouth, and to be honest, it was rough. That was a first for me! It took me three miles to get past the chocolate taste while running.

I hit my lap button at mile 5. By that point we were averaging 8:47 per mile – and there were some hills. Up and right back down. Then again, and again, and again. I wasn’t expecting all of those, but we talked about how it was like the hill we run every Saturday morning together (sometimes more than once). As the course began to flatten out, we managed to pull a faster pace. I was hitting the Nuun stops whenever they came up – my only problem was the amount I kept getting up my nose and all over my face. I obviously need more practice.

Between mile 6 and 7, I told her if we kept running like we were, I had a chance at a PR. She said she was on track too. At mile 8, our last three miles were averaging 8:28. I hit the lap button and we made our move.

I don’t know if it was the motivation to finally set a new PR, the stress of the week, or the fact that we were running together, but in that moment I became focused on getting to the finish under 1:21:00. My body was recalling negative splits, speed work, strides on tired legs, and every other type of workout I’ve been pulling out. I took a quick sip from the last aid station, knowing that I would need that little bit of umph! from the Nuun. In the last half mile, we started passing 5k walkers, and zoomed around calling out encouragements. I was breathing like I was in the final mile of a 5k. But I was still focused. Right before the finish chute, my friend pulled ahead. My legs were like jelly and I could not catch her! My finish was still strong – hers was just a little stronger. I saw 1:20:xx on the clock and I knew I had it. That last mile and change was in 8:07. The dry spell was over and I set my first new PR in almost two years!

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Now for the fun part! A little Nuun, some water, and a whole bunch of chocolate. The medal was a nice touch too!

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Double PRs!

Double PRs!

The whole group

My friend’s mom (next to me) won her age group! They all look cold!

I am so glad I decided to do this race. It was well done, well supported, and even though I didn’t register in the cheapest price, I still feel like it was a good value for what I paid. I’ll be looking forward to it next year. I also hope to see Nuun as a hydration sponsor in more races, because that was great! The only problem I’m having is that the race kicked off a chocolate frenzy for me and I’m still trying to get my eating back to normal. It didn’t help though that we had a chili cook off (with desserts) and a Super Bowl get together in the same weekend.

Ahhhhh! Now it’s time to taper for Cowtown. I’m so ready!

 

 

 

Too Hot to Handle 15k

All the rain we had between May and June had me spoiled with cooler temperatures. Then all of a sudden everything dried up and July got hot. Thank goodness we have been doing group social runs at 6:30 on Tuesday evenings. I believe that helped with my heat acclimation for the Too Hot to Handle 15k on Sunday.

This was my third year in a row to run this race. The first two years, I set a PR. This year, I knew it was out of the question. Since I have been building back my strength, I set out to enjoy my July race.

According to my Garmin connect, for the 7:30 start time it was 81 degrees with 70% humidity.

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Oh, the things we do because we love to run!

 

For the first five miles my friend and I ran together chatting just like we do on our Saturday long runs. It was nice to talk about observations throughout the race with someone else, instead of mentally tweeting and blogging through the miles. Without really focusing on speed, by mile five our average pace was 9:01. We both carry a handheld as we run, so it was the aid station just after the turn-around – near mile 5 – before we slowed so I could add some water to my bottle. Just before that, I realized I forgot my additional Nuun tablet to refill my bottle. Not a smart move for a heavy sweater.

As we approached mile 6, I started to get the nauseous “I’m running too hard for the heat” feeling, but I kept steady with my friend. I vowed to cross the 10k timing mat before I took a walk break. I sent her on ahead and for the next 3 plus miles I ran/walked with no rhyme or reason to the ratio. I ran until I felt too hot, then I walked until I felt better. I noticed that I could run faster if I took walk breaks, than if I just ran slower. Somehow, even with the stops at aid stations for cold towels, I kept my average pace for those last miles under 10 minutes a mile. That’s progress.

My finish time was 1:29:08 which put me 13th in my age group (out of 72). Not too shabby for a race with almost 800 finishers. Even though I ran slower this year – by several minutes – I decided not to sweat it (ha!) and be content with where I am.

I ran over 9 miles, with a pain free foot, in the summer heat, without throwing up. That, my friends, is a win.

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Plus, I now have this nice medal combo to show for it.

 

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The next race on my calendar is the sprint triathlon on August 9th.

 

 

 

 

A Great Year in Running (2014)

So I’m a little behind on posting a year-end summary for 2014, but I wanted to take a few minutes to reflect on the year I had. I may have missed my big time goals, but I still had a pretty great year. I ran 18 races which included 4 marathons, 5 half marathons, a 15k, two 10ks, five 5ks, and a trail race. So here’s my recap of 2014 – mostly with pictures.

January: Houston!

Meeting Meb in Houston!

Meeting Meb in Houston at the Expo

Feeling great and smiling!

A 20 minute marathon PR in Houston

February: Cowtown Marathon

Cowtown does a medal right!

Cowtown does a medal right!

March: Rock ‘n Roll Dallas 1/2

PR!

My half marathon PR

April: Finding out I was picked to be a Houston Marathon race ambassador, part of Team Chocolate Milk, and running the OKC Memorial Marathon.

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All the Gear

Becoming part of Team Chocolate Milk

Straight into the wind

OKC Marathon

September:

Some first time 5kers

A few first timers (5k)

October: My first half marathon as a pacer

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November: First age group award in a half marathon (benefit of getting older)

IMG_5344December: Dallas Marathon and finding out I will be a Nuun ambassador for 2015!

Marathon Number 9

Marathon Number 9

2015 looks to be pretty great as well as I start with the Houston Marathon. Next week, I’ll post more about my goals for that.

Have a great week everyone!

 

 

4 before 40 and a 15k

It has been a week.  Somehow, I’m keeping my training and goals in place as life keeps throwing curveballs. At least this is a good week to have air conditioner problems. Thank you cold front.

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Those low temperatures were nowhere in sight for Sunday’s Too Hot to Handle 15k, but I was still excited about the race. I was looking forward to a nice new PR and my friend was running her longest distance in preparation for her first half marathon in September. This delivery earlier in the week added to my excitement.

 

All the Gear

All the Gear

Now I would get my first chance to represent Team Chocolate Milk.Ready to Represent!

Ready to Represent!

The nice thing about a 15k is that it’s not a half marathon. I have little experience racing this distance so I went out too fast – for the heat. My first five miles were the fastest. With starting temps around 80 degrees, the heat did take its toll on me. There were plenty of opportunities to cool off along the course – shaded areas, sprinklers at the aid stations, and ice cold disposable towels.

I made a decision a couple of years ago after a difficult humid marathon that I would always pay attention to my body. I would rather finish a race feeling good than throw up or dehydrate. That means when I start to overheat I will slow down, dump water over my head, and walk if necessary. That’s exactly what I did. I started feeling the heat after the 10k mark, so I lost my negative splits. That was fine, because my focus stayed on my overall time goal.

 

I’m changing age groups in less than a month, and I am trying to run strong and PR the shorter distances. I call it my “4 before 40.” It’s a fun way for me to stay motivated through the summer heat while I’m working on building strength and speed. My new 15k PR gave me the motivation I needed. I still can’t believe I was 6th in my age group!

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1:21:06

The race was great. A lot of runners out in the Texas July heat. Run On knows how to put on a race. At the finish there were ice cold terry towels, a sprinkler cooling station in the shade, plenty of ice cold water, popsicles, and post race food. I made sure this time to have my post race chocolate milk in a cooler in the car. At a race earlier this year, I found out the hard way that the 4:1 combination of carbs and protein is exactly what my body – and gut – needs to recover. Chocolate milk really does make a difference.

Post Race Celebration

Post Race Celebration

 

I have two races left in my “4 before 40” – 10k on July 26 and a 5k on August 2nd. Meanwhile, I’m upping the protein and strength training for the next four weeks.

Happy summer running!