Rock ‘n Roll Dallas 2017

On Sunday, I ran the Dallas Rock ‘n Roll half marathon. It was my 5th time running this race, and third time as a part of Team Chocolate Milk. I look forward to it every year. Coming off of fall/winter marathon training, the energy and excitement of this race (not to mention that it’s a HALF) can’t be beat. 🙂

I went to the expo on Saturday, picked up my bib, and over to the We Run Social meet up. I saw several others from Team Chocolate Milk so that was fun.

It did seem like the expo has gotten smaller to me though. Some of the things we were needing to get weren’t there, but I did get a few Larabar samples.

I drove in with my daughter on race morning, after making a wrong turn and parking 15 minutes later than planned, then made my way to the VIP lounge to grab a snack and check my bag. I drank my UCAN, and had a few minutes to meet some other teammates as well.

Then I met up with my friends from my running group. I think this was the biggest group we’ve had go, and for some of them it was their first Rock ‘n Roll race.

 

We made our way to our different corrals, and I was so ready to run 13 miles (and not 26)!

Notice the tank. Yeah, it wasn’t cold.  Like at all.

I had no idea what to expect to run, but I had set two loose goals earlier in the week:

1. Under 2 hours. (realistic goal)

2. 1:55 (stretch goal)

I thought these were manageable because a) it wasn’t a marathon, b) I ran 2:01 last year the day after a 2 hour trainer ride, and c) it wasn’t a marathon. 😉

But I forgot to account for the warm weather. Temps were high 60s at the start. And I truly forgot about the hilly second half.

I cruised along the first several miles not really looking at my pace, just glancing down at the mile splits when my Garmin buzzed.

Miles 1-5: 8:57, 8:38, 8:50, 8:31, 8:42

I was definitely on track for sub 2.

Then the hill (on-ramp) to get to the bridge hit.

Mile 6: 9:24

The bridge is long and straight though once you get up there, but there are several hills over the next few miles. I never really recovered my pace from the initial climb.

Miles 7-9: 9:05, 9:41, 10:37

Mile 9 really got me and I walked up that little mountain for a minute to catch my breath. All the hills in Cowtown were still in my legs.

I took a couple more short walk breaks in the last few miles, a few cups of water dumped over my head at aid stations. The sun was bright and I lost the 2 hour goal. I focused on finishing and smiling. I was hot, but I knew there was a nice finish and cold chocolate milk waiting for me.

Miles 10-13: 10:04, 9:56, 10:53, 10:22

Then a downhill tunnel finish cheered on by the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders.

My official finish time was 2:06:37.

The chocolate milk was refreshing as always. Here’s why I always recover with chocolate milk – it’s science.

For the first time ever I opted for a post-race massage, where I discovered I had a knot on the side of each calf muscle. Ow! I need to work on rolling those out.

I found my daughter and we spent some time on the lawn watching the concert before I took her back to school.

It may not have been the time on the clock I wanted, but it was a great race and a lot of fun.

 

 

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!

Rock ‘n Roll San Antonio Half Marathon

I couldn’t think of a better way to reward four months of marathon training, than to finish up my last long training run with a fun race!

Last weekend, my running buddy and I headed down to San Antonio for a whirlwind trip to run the Rock ‘n Roll half marathon. We left early Saturday morning, and fortunately traffic on I-35 cooperated.  We made good time even with the rain, and at the the expo we weren’t disappointed. I stocked up on more Nuun, and there was a sighting of US Olympian marathoners.

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Jared Ward and Meb!

A high-five from Meb 😉

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After we checked in to the hotel, we headed for a meet up with the other members of Team Chocolate Milk who were in San Antonio. Since the rain dampened (ha!) our plans for a shakeout run, we went to the Tower of the Americas to hang out. All the times I’ve been to San Antonio, this is the first time I’ve been to the tower. I didn’t realize it was a glass elevator that took you up to the observation deck. So I faced the back of the elevator, and tried not to look out until we reached the top. (I have a slight fear of heights.) Once we were on the observation deck, I was fine. But it was nice to chat with other team members and hang out a bit.

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Race morning was cool and breezy, but not too much in the way of rain. The roads were still pretty wet. After all, we were under a flood warning.

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It started sprinkling in the start corral, but once we started running, I began to feel a little warm, and wished I wore my tank. Running through the downtown streets, we would turn into the wind and then I’d cool off some. We ran right in front of the Alamo, which is my favorite part of the course. The two hour pacer was in front of us, and my friend heard a spectator yell, “Way to go, two o’clock!” Ha!

Around mile 6 or 7, it started to rain harder and the rain was dripping off of my visor. The course is mostly flat, with the few climbs past halfway. I remember one tough little hill. Mile 11 maybe? But I was ready for it. I’ve been training on hills, and my legs were ready. There were also a couple of places we made a detour to avoid large puddles in the road, but I was completely soaked when I finished. This would be a great PR race because it’s so flat, and I’d love to try to do that one year.

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One of my favorite things about the Rock ‘n Roll races: I know there will be chocolate milk ready for me at the finish.

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Chocolate milk is my go-to for recovery after a hard and/or long run. Not only does it fit in my budget, but I don’t have to worry about where to get it when I run out. Grocery stores, convenience stores, and even McDonald’s carries low-fat chocolate milk! If you want to know the science behind it, check out this article. I know that it makes my body happy. I feel like I’m doing good for my muscles, and the soreness is less pronounced when I recover right. Try it!

Now that I’ve had my fun race (in the rain), I’m ready to focus on my goal for Dallas this Sunday. I’ve been chasing the sub 4 hour marathon for three years. At this moment, it looks like the weather might actually cooperate this year. I’m not going to hold my breath on that one, but I will focus on the things I can control: nutrition, rest, and following my race day plan. If I survive the taper…

 

 

 

The Showdown Half Marathon (2016)

I recently ran my 2nd half marathon of the year, and it was the first race I was able to push myself and see how my running time has improved. Aside from the half Ironman, my last half marathon was Rock N Roll Dallas in March. So I was a little excited to run the Showdown half and check the reality of my four hour marathon goal.

As much as I hated the hills on this race last year, I decided to go ahead and do it again this year for several reasons:

  1. The race is well done. There are pacers, plenty of course support, and best of all – chocolate milk at the finish.
  2. I need the hills to prepare for the Dallas Marathon. It’s not a flat course, and the toughest hills fall after mile 13.
  3. My training partner was running it as well, so we rode to the race together. Races are more fun with friends.

The morning of the race, the weather was perfect. A cool front had moved in and it was around 51 degrees at the start. My perfect running weather falls in the range of 45 to 50 degrees. I couldn’t believe after all the heat and humidity, that we were actually getting a break on race day.

My friend and I talked about where to start the race. Do we start in front of the 2:00 pace group or with 1:55? I really had no idea what to expect out of myself, so she decided on 1:55 and we lined up behind the pacers. I hoped to be under 1:55, and secretly was hoping to be in the 1:53 range. After looking at my Garmin at the end of the first mile (8:37!) I wondered if I was screwing up my race too early. But the pace felt comfortable, great even, and I felt so light on my feet! We stayed with the pacers at least through mile 6. At times I felt like I was holding back. I had more. Close to mile 7, my friend pulled off to make a quick stop and told me to go on ahead. She’s been battling foot problems (most likely plantar fasciitis) for the last few weeks, and after stopping it would take her a bit to get warmed up again. I know that feeling all too well.

Being in the second half of the race, I decided to pull ahead of the pace group. I think it’s possibly the most miles I’ve stayed with a pace group. I tend to stay away from packs in races. I ran an 8:07 for mile 8 and still felt good for that point of the race. Spoiler alert: that was my fastest mile of the race. For the next few miles I kept my focus on staying ahead of the pace group and even effort through the hills.  Mile 10 was a little tough, and my slowest mile, but I made up for it in the last 5k. I crossed the finish with an official time of 1:53:04. It was my fastest half since November 2013 (when I was five seconds from my PR). Now that feels good!

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There weren’t as many hills as I remembered, but I think my training is paying off as well. The course seemed a little different in the last few miles, but it was still a challenge. I was so excited that I was so close to running under 1:53. I feel like the four hour marathon is still a realistic goal, so I’ll keep pushing. It was a good race, and I’m so glad I went. It totally energized my training.

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Oh, and then there are these race perks:

Free race photos

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and a Texas sized medal!

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A Tale of Two Bike Rides (and a run)

I’m taking advantage of my recovery week to catch up on my blog posting and other things around the home. The training started to take a toll on me last week, and was evident when I took my son’s Spider-Man towel to the pool. The dirty laundry was overflowing a bit and paperwork threatened to cover the kitchen counter.

This is week 8 of 16, and what I thought would be my biggest challenge of half Ironman training is turning out to be different from what I expected. I thought the hardest part would be in cutting back on running.  With only three runs a week, I thought I would miss it more. Actually, I have so much to work on with my weaknesses (swim and bike), I haven’t really had time in my brain to miss those extra runs. Even on Marathon Monday (Boston Marathon day), I was excited to track the runners from my group and I was again inspired to work hard, but it was my rest day and I needed the break.

Especially after a tough bike ride two days before.

As it turns out, I’m not great at cycling and I have a lot to learn. Every Saturday for my long ride, I have been dealing with the wind. But on this day, it wore me out. The route I ride, with a few variations, is out and back. That means if the wind pushes me one direction, I will be fighting it coming back. This day was especially hard, because some of the gusts and crosswinds made me wonder if I’d end up in the ditch if I took one hand off for a drink. Needless to say, I didn’t fuel enough either. In the last five miles, I tried to be positive. I tried to be excited about the new distance, but I wanted to cry because it was hard. It reminded me of when I trained for my first marathon, and with each new distance I was proud for pushing on, past the point of doubt and pain. I could feel the tension in my neck and shoulders as I finished up my ride, just from controlling the bike. When I pulled into my driveway, I stopped and straddled my bike with my head down. Glad it was done; feeling stronger than I did before.

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40 miles done.

You can tell where the wind beat me up on my bike splits.

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The next week, my plan had a 45 mile ride followed by a 15 minute run and I wasn’t looking forward to it. I tend to get nervous before my long ride every week, and I should be over that by now. I easily expected to be out there for almost four hours (including the run). My husband worked on my bike, and I asked him if he could tilt my saddle forward just a tad. I’ve had some pain toward the end of my rides, and I know I need to go get a bike fit. But this would suffice for now. Then I headed out.

I don’t know if it was the weather (calm and sunny), the adjustments to the bike seat, or the smoother shifting that helped, but this ride was nice. My legs were sore for the first couple of miles (after a 5 mile run the night before), but then I settled into the ride and my head for the next few hours. I finished a 45 mile ride in 3:05:44 – average 14.5 mph – only 5 minutes slower than the previous week’s ride of 40 miles. What a difference! I ran inside to my makeshift transition area, and came back out for my 15 minute run. It was hot outside, and I was sweating. But I got it done! I even started some new tan lines from my cycling shorts. 🙂

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A lot of chocolate milk for recovery all weekend!

My pace was pretty good for the run. It’s such a different feeling going from the bike to the run. I don’t know if you ever get used to it. I’m trying not to think too much about the half marathon I’ll be doing after all the biking (and swimming).

Sunday morning I did my long run of 11 miles. It was so peaceful out – just me and the squirrels. It’s been a while since I’ve run that many miles solo, and it was different.

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But for the remainder of my training, I’m going to move the long run to the afternoon – in the heat. That’s what my Ironman friend told me I need to do. Train when you will race. So my days of cool early morning runs are over, and I’ll be sweating it out in the heat from now on.  Oh yeah!

Now I’m off to try to reduce this laundry pile. Have a great week!

 

 

 

 

Rock ‘n Roll Dallas with Team Chocolate Milk (2016)

Last Sunday I ran the Rock ‘n Roll Dallas half marathon for the fourth year, and my second year as part of Team Chocolate Milk. As I wrote in my last post, this is one of my favorite races of the year.

I kept up with all my half Ironman training workouts, and I did my long bike ride on Saturday on the trainer – because the temps were in the 30s. I also wasn’t ready to get my bike on the road yet. I didn’t really want to race Sunday with any injuries from tipping over on the bike. I’m still working on that.

Because I dawdled getting out of bed Saturday morning and spent my time on the bike trainer (1:40:00), we got to the expo a little later than I planned. I missed the #werunsocial meetup, and the chance to meet some runners from Instagram. But I did stock up on some of my favorite hydration, Nuun. I remember a time when I got on to my kids about using my Nuun bottles, but we have a nice little stockpile now. So I find them all over the house…

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I focused on nutrition and rest throughout the day. My legs were feeling pretty good after the bike time and expo, so I was hopeful they would be good for race day.

I met up with some of the team before the race. I enjoyed hearing where others were from, and then there were a few of us locals who run into each other at races throughout the year.

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Race morning was cold! The temperature was right on the bubble whether I should wear long or short sleeves, so I went with long sleeves and shorts. It was a little windy, but not as much as it had been the day before.

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My friend and I ran together to start. I had a loose goal of sub 2 hours. I figured with the triathlon training, that it was a manageable time goal. We were rolling along really well, with an average pace of 8:48 for the first five miles. But I forgot about the hills. Around mile 6, we began the climb to the Margaret Hunt Hill bridge. This was an interesting hill to climb. On the service road, taking the on-ramp by foot. You could see the runners down below, and the view was different, but in a good way. Once we reached the bridge, my hamstrings reminded me I rode the bike the day before. My friend was just ahead of me and I was struggling to keep up with her. At one point she turned around to wait for me, but I sent her on. I didn’t want to hold her back because I could tell she was feeling great at that point.

The next hill was pretty steep, but I plowed on. I could still see my friend up ahead, but couldn’t muster the strength to speed up to her. My stomach started acting up around mile 9, and I knew my race nutrition was off. At mile 11 I darted into a porta-potty (better safe than sorry) and lost my sub 2 hour goal. It was out of my control though, so I’m not beating myself up over it. My official finish time was 2:01:45. My friend ended up setting a PR (several minutes ahead of me). She can sure knock out those hills!

The finish was amazing, with a nice downhill and a turn, and crowds of people gathered on both sides of the road, cheering their hearts out. It was much improved over previous years I thought. It made me feel like a superstar. Then I got my chocolate milk, and all was right again. 🙂

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If you aren’t familiar with the benefits of chocolate milk for recovery, take a look here. I know the importance of replenishing my muscles after a hard or long workout or race, but for me one of the main benefits is that I can stomach it immediately after. Especially if my race nutrition is off, or my stomach is upset (as was the case here).

I gathered up with some other team members who finished right about the same time. I feel priveleged to be a part of this team:

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I then got my extra medal for running San Antonio and Dallas, which is always a nice treat. Rock ‘n Roll does it right, and it was another great experience for me.

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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!