Dallas Marathon Weekend 2019

My favorite race weekend of the year came the following weekend after RNR San Antonio. I have participated in a Dallas Marathon race every year since my first half marathon in 2010. I have a lot of history with this race: first half, first full, worst full, worst weather, first cancelled marathon, and so on. But the race is special to me because it was my first half and full, so I make it a point to run it every year.

Last year (2018) was the first time since my first half that I decided to run the half instead of the full. My training schedule this year was different too, since I ran the Fort Worth Marathon in November. So I went with the same plan for Dallas for 2019, with an added twist.

I received a complimentary entry to a Saturday race from Dallas Marathon late in the game. Since I don’t get to run many 10ks, and to make it worth the extra drive down, I registered for the 10k. I wasn’t considered a Weekend Series participant, but I would have the chance to do something different for me.

On Friday of race weekend, I went to the expo with one of my friends.

We picked up packets and had enough time to find our names on the car, sign the big race sign, and look at the history banners from past years. I always enjoy looking at these banners with the year, picture of the shirt and medal, the temperature, number of finishers, and winners’ finish times.

A picture of me taking a picture of my name. πŸ™‚

We were in and out, and back home in time to pick up kids from school. #momlife

Saturday morning, I headed back to Dallas with my other running friend. She was going to shop the expo and pick up her packet while I raced the 10k. My plan was to go ahead and go all out and see how I would do. After my disappointment from RNR San Antonio, I wanted to have at least one race in Dallas where I felt I ran to my potential. The weather was great. A little on the cool side, so I wore shorts and long sleeves. By the end of the first mile, I was pushing up my sleeves trying to cool down a little. I was surprised when I saw the split for mile 1 – 8:12. I hadn’t done any fast running since the marathon, and didn’t have any sub 9:00 miles in San Antonio. I told myself to just keep charging. It was 6 miles, so if I struggled near the end that was ok. The second mile went up a hill on a bridge. I thought this was supposed to be a flat and fast course! Then we made a u-turn and came right back down. That helped a little. My pace was still under 8:30 for the second mile. I held steady. I kept ticking off the miles, feeling strong, cranking out consecutive paces I hadn’t seen in a while. I was so excited when I made the turn and saw the banner with 100 meters to go.

My official finish time was 52:20 making my goal of sub 55 minutes a reality. Honestly, I got a little choked up because I was proud – and surprised – with what I ran.

That’s a great feeling!

The post-race chocolate milk was a nice bonus too. πŸ™‚

On Sunday, the three of us headed to the race to run the half distance. The weather was not as cold as Saturday had been. I was in shorts and my RunRelated tank. It was cloudy, but a little on the humid side. Once we got into the start corral, I was comfortable. That’s not necessarily a good sign, but typical for me at Dallas. But I was still riding the high from the 10k, so I was just going to run what my body would let me run. No excuses.

I was excited.

The first few miles went well. I was probably averaging around 9:00 with a little variation due to congestion and settling into a rhythm. The sun came out around mile 4 and it started warming up. I didn’t have my music, so I focused on the atmosphere around me. My legs were holding up pretty well, even through the big hills. Every aid station from mile 7 through the finish of the race, I took a cup of water – one sip, and I’d dump the rest over my head. It was heating up out there!

My legs started whining, but I didn’t take my foot off the gas. I was hanging between 9-9:15 minute miles. I wanted it to be faster than San Antonio, and I was on track. When the half split from the full, I knew the uphills were behind me. The last 4 or so miles are a gradual decline – so gradual you really can’t see it, but the climbing was done. At mile 12, my legs were really complaining. It was my slowest mile. But then I rallied and found another gear. We passed a big number 8, signifying 800 meters to go. The guy next to me asked, “are we almost there?” “Half a mile,” I said. “Let’s go.” Then the big 4 to show 400 meters. So close.

I had an advantage since the finish line was the same as the day before, so I knew how the turns led us to the finish. I made the final turn and saw the 100m to go sign, and kicked it in.Β  It wasn’t a negative split race according to my Garmin, but I was happy with the effort I pulled out in the final half mile of the race.

My finish time was about 4 minutes faster than San Antonio, and neither course was flat. For Dallas, I had no stops, no walks, no talking myself down from a time goal, no excuses – not even the weather. I just dealt with it the best I could. I felt strong and confident the whole race. After the tough previous races, I sooooo needed that. My mental attitude was strong in both races, and I felt like my old self.

Yay for chocolate milk!

Very Important Information!

Then I celebrated with my friends.

Next year is going to be Dallas Marathon’s 50th Anniversary. It’s going to be a big deal.

I’ll be celebrating an entire decade of running, and I’ll be there for it. Maybe it’s time to go back to the full marathon…

 

Rock ‘n Roll San Diego Half Marathon

I got to take my first destination race trip earlier this month, to the Rock ‘n Roll San Diego Marathon. I was excited for the opportunity to represent Team Chocolate Milk, and the whole weekend was so much fun.

My running friend, Leda, and I took this trip together. We both needed a break from reality for a few days.

This was also my first flight in years! I haven’t been on a plane in so long (pre-9/11) but with kids, etc. it’s just been hard to get away. So my first introduction to TSA involved a full pat down (welcome back to air travel) and then we were ready to head out of Texas. The only issue we had was a short flight delay, but we arrived in San Diego to cloudy skies and cool temperatures. I’m glad I grabbed a light jacket at the last minute before leaving home!

Our hotel was great and let us check in three hours early! We then headed to the expo at the convention center on foot, stopping to eat a slice of pizza on the way.

Palm Trees!

At the expo we picked up our packets, got some freebies, and bought some new socks.

Ready for Chocolate Milk!

We explored some more around the convention center, and found a place for dinner. As we made our way back to the hotel, we came across the Donut Bar. One of our running friends had suggested we stop there while we were in town. She said there would be a line but it was worth it. They were closed when we got there, but the sign said there was an encore ropening at 5 pm. It was 4:45 so we waited.

There are 2 donuts in that huge box – and a line out the door!

It was worth it.

 

Since we had decided against running the 5k, our Saturday schedule was wide open. The hardest part was waiting for the breakfast room to open, because we were both wide awake by 4:00 am. πŸ™‚

We took advantage of no time schedule and the opportunity to explore San Diego. I wasn’t too worried about my race time. It wouldn’t be my fastest half marathon, and I didn’t know if I would ever have the chance to come back to San Diego. So we said the heck with it, and looked at our options. My husband (a Navy vet) had suggested we go to the USS Midway since we were so close. It was a lot of walking, but so interesting! As the wife of a veteran, and mom to a Navy ROTC midshipman (she will be a commissioned officer this time next year), the Navy has had a lot of influence on my life. It makes me appreciate my comfortable life so much more, seeing what our service members go through to keep us safe.

USS Midway

The Hangar Deck

After about four hours touring the Midway Museum, we headed down the road for a late lunch/early dinner. We found the park where they were setting up the stage and post race party area.

Interesting art sculpture in a park

We trekked up the big hill back to our hotel, and my legs were tired! I laid out my flat runner and was ready to get some sleep!

RACE DAY!

I had no trouble getting ready for a 6:30 am race start, because we kept our body clocks on our own time zone. We had about a mile to walk to the start in Balboa Park, and it was a cool 62 degrees.

If you’ve ever run a Rock ‘n Roll race, you know the energy at the start line is great. I dropped my bag (with my jacket) at the VIP gear check. Thank you chocolate milk! Then we headed to our corral.

 

I was excited to run!

Once we started, Leda and I ran together for a minute, then we each settled into our own pace. I couldn’t believe how great the weather felt! I could run and breathe – at the same time! πŸ™‚ I didn’t worry about my pace too much, and just focused on settling into my pace. I gave myself a quick reminder to enjoy the run, and also gave myself grace for having tired legs, but I didn’t give myself an out for it either. I knew the course had some hills, but boy I was not prepared for that many! I think hills are one of my strengths as a runner, but I didn’t want to use up all my energy. I just worked on picking up the pace on the downhills to even it out. I knew from the course profile the last couple of miles were mostly downhill and I could kick it out then.

A little past mile 4 was the wear blue: run to remember mile. Do you know how hard it is to run at half marathon pace and try not to lose it? The combination of touring the USS Midway the day before, being a Navy wife, having a daughter who will be a Naval officer in a year, and knowing service members who have lost their lives, it hit me hard. There are pictures of those who’ve lost their lives. Their name, rank, age, and the year they died. Picture after picture along the road for over half a mile. All so young! I was trying to breathe and not cry. Then when the pictures stop, the people holding flags start. On each side of the road, cheering for you for the rest of the mile. Some of them were in uniform, some were wearing blue. I’m stumbling with my words here, so all I can say is I’m thankful, grateful.

I continued my foot tour of San Diego and navigated the hills with a smooth pace. There were lots of spectators along the way – and more hills. It was still cool and cloudy. I was happy to see that I was staying around a 9:00 pace. There was a huge downhill in mile 10 that I would have liked to fly down, but in my mind I could see me sprawled out across the pavement if I did. So I held back and took it steady. A guy flew by me on the way down, but he was young and it made my quads hurt just watching him.

Then we had to go back up. Again.

Course elevation from my Garmin. Note the big drop near the end.

Finally, in the last 5k I kicked up the pace. Mile 12 was almost all downhill and I was booking it. I knew I was close to being under 2 hours, and there were no excuses. At the beginning of mile 13, there was one more tough climb, but the rest was a smooth descent to the finish. I crossed the finish line pleased with my effort. No stops, no walks. Negative splits.

 

Negative Splits!

I found my chocolate milk!

 

And why do I love to recover with chocolate milk? You can read the research here. I also like that it’s ready to go. It’s affordable, can get it anywhere, and it is easy on my stomach when I can’t always eat after a hard run. It took me a while before I was ready to eat, so I was glad to have started the recovery process with my chocolate milk.

I then headed over to the VIP tent, which was set up near the stage. I got a post race massage, and a little more food to tide me over. I saw Meb with his family, and some of the elite runners I follow. But I’m a chicken when I don’t have anyone to push me out there to meet them. I later saw where Meb had paced a family member in his first half marathon. How awesome is that!

I found Leda and we enjoyed some time sitting on the grass, listening to the music from the stage, and chatting about the race.

Then we went down to the harbor so I could get a few souvenirs, and my medal picture.

 

And the trek back up the hill to the hotel with what was left of my quads.

Our hotel was near the building at the top of this picture.

 

Then we found a great place for lunch and another wonderful place for some gelato. I definitely indulged, and I’m not even sorry.

How do you choose?

Pick 2 flavors!

Also, my Garmin showed I had 22 miles total for the day.

I really enjoyed this trip so much. We had great food everywhere, good service, and no issues at all.

It was a nice break; all centered around doing what I love to do: run.

…and eat. πŸ™‚

 

Houston Marathon 2019

A little over a week ago, I ran my fastest marathon this year.

Ha ha.

Yes, I’m aware it’s only January, but I’m pulling out all the positives from the marathon that I can find. πŸ˜‰

It’s really easy for me to write up a race recap when the race goes well, when I run my goal time, or when I completely blow my expectations away. But then there are the races that don’t quite turn out like I expected (or hoped) they would. Those recaps are harder to put into words. If you’ve run several races, you’re probably familiar with that feeling. I think the hardest part for me is putting in months of work and then falling short on race day.

If anything, though, I’m stubborn. So regardless of the time on the clock, I will not give up.

Now, about race weekend:

Houston was great. The race was just as well supported as I remembered from 2014 and 2015. From the expo to the finish area, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.

When I originally planned the trip, I intended for it to be a family trip. Then we got my younger daughter’s swim meet schedule in the fall, and realized the district meet was the Saturday before the race. So only my oldest daughter went with me, and we had a fun mother-daughter trip.

We left Sherman early Saturday morning, because I wanted to go to the Another Mother Runner live podcast at the expo. I’ve been following them (blogs, podcasts, books) for several years, and I was looking forward to it. After a quick stop for lunch, we made it to Houston and the expo with a little time to spare before the podcast.

 

Sarah and DimityΒ 

I got a nice bag of goodies for attending, with some of my favorite brands.

 

After the podcast, I got my packet, found my name on the wall, and then met up with the members ofΒ RunRelated TeamΒ and my coach who were running Houston as well.

This made the expo even better.

Then my daughter and I met my running friend and her husband for an early dinner, and headed back to the hotel to relax. I laid out all my gear on the chair, fuel and all, so I wouldn’t forget anything.

The weather for race day had calmed down from earlier forecasts, and I went with long sleeves and shorts. I honestly have never run a marathon in long sleeves, so I was excited about the cooler weather. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know my body doesn’t agree with warmer or humid weather.

I got up early to eat and relax. I didn’t want to wake my daughter, so I used the light from my phone to get ready. She did wake up to ask me if I had eaten. That meant a lot, that she was checking on me.

When I was finally ready, I met my friend in our hotel lobby and we headed over to the convention center.

 

We were in separate corrals, so I made my way over to mine. I had on sweat pants and a heat sheet to stay warm until we got closer to the start. The best thing I noticed about Houston was the large amount of porta-potties in the convention center, the corrals, and there was even a last minute stop closer to the start line. As my corral moved forward, I saw those and made a decision to make one last stop. I kid you not, as I went into the porta potty, the DJ played Dexy’s Midnight Runner. I laughed at the timing, because I was trying to hurry and all I could hear was “Come on Eileen.”

I made it to the start line and I felt okay. The wind was a little chilly, but I had my ears and hands covered so I felt fine. I didn’t worry about the pace in the first few miles. It can get a little congested, and I didn’t want to waste energy trying to get around people. Because of where I started with the corral, I was a little slower than I wanted to be but I knew it would open up a little later. Also, my coach wanted me to start a little slower than goal pace. By the 3rd mile, my pace was getting closer to my goal pace. I felt fine as I went through those miles, taking in the scenery, watching the runners around me. I had a few slower miles in there, but around mile 11, I needed to refill my bottle. This is where things started to go south. I couldn’t get the volunteers at the water station to understand I just wanted them to pour water in from the pitcher, they kept trying to hand me cups. Then I dropped my cap on the ground, and because myΒ  fingers were a little numb from the cold, I couldn’t get my Nuun tablet in the bottle either. I was flustered, but I should have been able to recover from that and get back on pace. I put my gloves back on to warm my hands up, because the shady parts of the course were still cold to me.

I checked my overall time at the halfway point – 2:07. Okay, I could still pull out a 4:15 and be content.

My Garmin buzzed early for mile 15 (through some buildings) so I knew my mileage would be off after that. Then my race slowed even more. I’m still trying to figure this out. I kept up with my fuel, took my gels on time, and stayed hydrated with my electrolytes. But my pace had gone from 9s to 10s to 11s. I was running, just much slower. I didn’t feel sick, didn’t feel like I hit the wall, and I took very few walk breaks (mostly to take a gel or refill my drink). In the last 5k, I was passing people and felt like I was running strong. Then I looked at my Garmin and saw 11:36 pace for that mile. Oh, man is that humbling!

I finally switched my Garmin over to see the total time in the last mile. I was really hoping to be under 4:30.

Sigh.

I crossed the finish line with an official time of 4:33. It was a finish, and I got the best out of myself on that day. So I was okay with it. I was happy to finally stop moving, and get my chocolate milk.

When I got back to my hotel room, I saw my bag of anti-fatigue capsules on the chair where I laid out my race stuff. Oops.

I’ve used those capsules before every long run and half marathon leading up to the race. Now that I’ve had time to think through things, maybe I didn’t have enough calories beforehand either. I ate a banana with a little bit of peanut butter three hours before, and then applesauce an hour before.

Those are easy fixes for the next race – which is not very far away.

Even though I didn’t run the race I planned for, I enjoyed my time in Houston. And spending the weekend with my daughter really was the best part of the trip. πŸ™‚

After a couple of days, the post race meltdown crept up and caught me off guard. I then resolved to do whatever I need to do. I’ll keep chasing my goals and not give up.

So up next, Cowtown!