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. 😉

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 Dimity 

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 of RunRelated Team 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 my  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. 🙂

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!

 

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Dallas (Half) Marathon 2018

The Dallas Marathon was my first half marathon in 2010, and my first full marathon in 2011. I’ve participated in it every year, always opting for the full marathon after the first one. This year, due to my goals, I discussed with my coach and we decided the half marathon would be a good way for me to still carry on the tradition, without compromising my training for Houston.

Results of my past full marathons in Dallas reflect my love/hate relationship with this course: 4:32, 5:12, 4:31, 4:17, 4:26, 4:46. So honestly up until before race week, I felt okay about running the half instead.

To be honest though, I was a little sad on race week. Nostalgia and all. But not stressing about running 26 miles while walking around the expo was kind of nice.

I made a stop by the Cowtown booth to “ooh” and “aah” over the 2019 race shirts and medals. Don’t forget, if you want to run this great race you can still register under my team “Anyone Can Run” and use promo code AMBASSADOR5 to save a total of $10 on a Sunday race. 

On race day morning, the weather was perfect – for a marathon. 🙂 High 30s, slight wind. The high for the day was only going to be in the 40s. I take credit for the great forecast, since I wasn’t running 26 miles. My friend and I lined up in the start corral, and I also met one of my RunRelated teammates who is also training for Houston. I was in shorts, with long sleeves (that I could push up), throwaway gloves, and my headband.

Tip: save heat sheets from previous races to stay warm at the start! (Mine was around my legs)

Then we were off. I focused on a consistent, steady pace, only looking at my Garmin once or twice a mile. I kept the Garmin on the lap screen so I didn’t see the total time, only lap distance and pace. Mile 3 went a little bonkers, because my pace showed some unrealistic 6 and 7 minute paces, then buzzed quite a bit before the mile marker. I knew that one would be off. But I didn’t let it bother me. The hills in the middle of the race can be tough if you’re not prepared, but I knew once we were past 15k, the course would flatten out. Much better than how San Antonio had that crazy hill at mile 11.

Throughout the race, I had pulled off my gloves and tucked them away. The sun peeked out, and I moved my headband to my wrist. I pushed my sleeves up and was starting to sweat.

When the half split from the full at mile 9, I wasn’t even sad. After the turn, I saw the mile 22 banner across the road (where the full course joins back up). I smiled when I realized I was running strong and I wasn’t crying on this stretch of road for probably the first time. 🙂 It cooled off a little with the wind and some shade, so pulled my sleeves back down as I covered this last part of the course. I tried to pick up my pace for the remaining couple of miles to finish strong. It looks like the hills took their toll. I didn’t look at my overall time until I crossed the finish line and stopped my Garmin.

As I made my way through the finisher chute, picking up all my post race goodies, I was smiling. I had run a good race at Dallas for the first time in a few years. It was my fastest half marathon all year – and my fastest half since 2016. I sat down on the curb with my chocolate milk and took it all in.

Yay chocolate milk!

Mentally, I would have liked to be a little faster going into Houston, but physically this is what I accomplished. Hills and all, I’m proud of what I ran. It was consistent, and it shows progress. I’ve basically decided the half is the way to go at Dallas, because I closed out my 2018 racing year on a positive note.

 

 

 

Next up, Houston!

Rock ‘n Roll San Antonio 2018

The first weekend of December was packed with a whirlwind trip to San Antonio with two of my best running friends. This was one of my races for Team Chocolate Milk, and it was the fourth time I’ve run this race.

I love this weekend for so many reasons!

Chocolate milk (of course)

Nonstop running talk with friends 

We never got tired of talking about running, and didn’t bore anyone with it. 🙂

Unique opportunities (like meeting elite runners)

I have been a Des Linden fan for years, so I was excited to have the chance to tell her she inspires me to not give up on my Boston goal. #keepshowingup We talked about how tuneup races (like this half for me) are important. My friends also had the chance to meet and take pictures with Meb. I love that they give up so much of their time for everyday runners.

The beauty of San Antonio

I have a fear of heights (see also RNR ’16) and our room was on the top floor of the Westin facing the river. It was pretty with all the Christmas lights, but I would not step out onto the balcony.

Meeting up with my teammates

These are just a few of my teammates I was able to meet up with before the race. I enjoy catching up with and meeting new team members from all over. We may have our different race distances and goals, but still encourage and support one another.

Part of the Texas crew!

Running through San Antonio

I always enjoy this half marathon course. There are a couple of hills (and a big booger at mile 11), but most of the course is fairly flat. This year the weather was good – 50s at the start, and then sunny. But it did warm up kind of fast. I was running on tired legs since I’m training for the Houston Marathon, and I held on to a decent pace through mile 10. A combination of a nutrition/hydration issue and my tired legs, meant I didn’t hang on to my sub 2 hour goal. Plus, I had quite a bit of weaving around walkers, etc. They didn’t fix this issue from last year. Overall, though, I was okay with the pace I ran. I just wish my official race results showed it.

Recovery!

I sure appreciate when a race has chocolate milk at the finish! Here’s the science behind it, and how the mix of carbs:protein helps your muscles recover.

 

The Medal

 

Until next year, San Antonio…

We’ll be back!

 

 

Rock ‘n Roll Dallas 2018

Rock ‘n Roll Dallas half marathon is one of the races I look forward to each year, and this year was no different. I’m a little slow on the recap, but I’ll just leave this right here as my excuse.

 

 

Meet Cleo

Do you know how hard it is to get anything done with this little one scampering around my feet, begging me to pick her up? Cleo joined our family on race day after I got home. My family has been trying to talk me into another dog since before Christmas, and I finally caved. Needless to say, I’m not sleeping as soundly as this.

Anyway, back to the race stuff…

RNR Dallas is one of my races sponsored by Chocolate Milk, and I always look forward to it because I have so much fun. This race holds my fastest half marathon time, but that was before they changed the course and added all the hills. I kind of miss the flatter course.

I went down to the expo with two of my friends on Saturday, and we had a good time talking about running, checking out all the gear that I’d love to buy, but really don’t need.

Then on Sunday, the three of us went down to the race together. Once there, I met up with some of my teammates before the race. I think all of us in this picture are from Texas. 🙂

Temps were in the 60s and humidity was high, but there was a slight breeze. I hoped the overcast skies would hang around, because the sun cooked me last year with the same temperatures.

 

We squeezed into the front of our start corral, because I didn’t want a repeat of the San Antonio weaving.

Cheese!

Leda was going to take it easy with her knee. I wanted to run right under two hours, so my other friend (who’s training for Boston) said she was going to stay with me. I’ve set several PRs in local races trying to catch her, so I didn’t object.

The first few miles went off without a hitch. We settled into a rhythm. Some miles a little bit faster than I thought was ok, but maybe I could hang. My fast friend said she’d pull me up those hills by my braid if she had to, to keep me going. 🙂

The first big climb was in mile 5 when you run up a ramp to get to that darn iconic bridge they keep putting in this race. I don’t like that bridge. I scooted over as far on the inside as I could to make the circular climb, and wondered why so many people were running along the outside edge. It’s just like a track –  you run on the inside lane for the least distance. Especially on a hill. But maybe that’s just me.

On the bridge, my friend got some good pictures. It really is pretty once you get past the climb, but oh man…

The Iconic Bridge

I refilled my bottle around the halfway point, adding 1 1/2 tablets of Nuun. So far I was hanging on to a 2 hour pace. Then the hills kicked my butt. On the last steep hill I couldn’t hang with my fast friend, but I kept running. I took my coach’s suggestion that if the weather was too much, slow and just have fun. When I crested the top, she came back to me. “You’re not getting rid of me,” she said. She ran alongside me, chatting and making sure I was good. I took a couple of short walk breaks, mostly to keep from throwing up. I can tell when the heat/humidity has gotten to me when I feel like puking. I also don’t think it’s worth it to puke in a race. That’s not fun to me. So we slowed down and focused on other things. We saw a few runners down surrounded by medical/runners in the last couple of miles, and we would exchange concerned looks. That always gets to me, because I think about them and hope they’re okay. After the race, my friend told us she kept looking back at me to make sure I still had some color in my face.

We made it to the last bridge and began the descent down to the finish. I do love the way they run the course through to finish. Spectators cheering on both sides, a nice downhill, Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, and then the last turn. I didn’t have any gas left in the tank, but I pushed through and we finished together.

Then I got my chocolate milk!

Side note: Chocolate milk is my number one choice for recovery after a long or hard workout. More on the benefits of chocolate milk for recovery can be found here: https://builtwithchocolatemilk.com/science/workout-recovery

 

Even though I didn’t hit my time goal, I still had lots of fun with my friends. Finish time was 2:06, which was the same as last year. It’s a tough course, but I did feel like a stronger runner this year. I just need to get my body to cooperate in the humidity. The finish on Reunion Lawn is a great place for a post-race party.

So, what is next?

After training for marathons from August through February, then RNR half in March, and a half coming up in two weeks…I’m actually ready to cut back and run some fast races: 5ks, 10ks, even a sprint triathlon. I’m also working on some other things to get ready for fall. I’m not losing sight of my big goals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hot Chocolate 15k 2018

This past Saturday, I ran my second Hot Chocolate 15k in Dallas. I regretted not running it last year, but I had cut back on my races for several reasons. This year so many of my friends were going, I wasn’t going to miss it! So I made sure I registered early to get the most for my money.

The only drawback to running a 15k race three weeks before Cowtown, was how to get the long run done. My coach gave me two options, since this was the 20 miler week. We decided to do the Saturday race and a Sunday long/tempo run to simulate the running on fatigued legs.

More on that later.

The weather was great on Saturday, temperature wise. It was a little on the windy side, but the sun was out and that helped. My friends from my running group made fun of me in my shorts. I had brought my capris just in case, but with temperatures in the 40s I knew shorts were best for me even with the wind.

We warmed up – leg swings, lunges – and made our way to the corral. When the race started, I smiled as we all spaced out into our individual speeds. I could see a couple of my friends ahead of me, but I was not going to try to stay with them. I was following my coach’s advice of running a smart race. 9.3 miles is a long way to go if you blow it all in the first half. Plus, there were hills coming.

I did feel like I was holding back for about the first three miles. I kept a check on my pace periodically, but didn’t obsessively check my Garmin. I ran the first mile in 8:42 and that felt good. I went into my usual mode of thanking volunteers and officers (so many police officers) and I was happy to hear so many other runners around me thanking them as well. Grateful is the best attitude to have when running. The race had Nuun on course, but I was carrying my bottle with Lime Energy so I wouldn’t need to stop.

I focused on effort going up the hills, while trying to keep my pace under 9:00. I knew I wasn’t going to PR, because that’s not where I am in my journey, but I wanted to run a strong, solid race and gauge progress. By mile 7, I was so glad I was almost done. It’s funny how 2 miles seems like a short way now.

I would check distance on my watch, but rarely look at the pace. I was in all out effort mode. Somewhere in the last mile, we made a turn into the wind and went up a nice big hill. Then it became all about the chocolate.

I told myself “don’t step off the coals now!”  I had set a time goal of under 1:23:00 and it looked like I was going to make it! I powered up the big hill, made a turn, and another turn, and then I was crossing the finish!

I was excited with my time, but mostly because I knew I ran hard and didn’t give up on myself. I said I was done settling, and this race helped solidify that mindset.

Of course my Garmin had a faster pace because of the 9.44 distance…

 

I heard my name, and was looking around for the friends I knew finished before me, but it was Leda who finished just seconds behind me. She ran a slower beginning and negative split her second half. She almost caught me!

Then I saw Chris (fellow Cowtown ambassador) at the finish. He set a pretty great PR!

All of us from our group finished within a few minutes of each other, so we headed over to get our finisher mugs, and enjoyed the treats while we recapped the race. That was a lot of fun, and the chocolate was worth that final push up the hill.

And since there’s a big marathon coming up at the end of this month, I ran 10 miles on Sunday with some marathon pace in the second half. Once I got a few miles in, the soreness from the 15k worked itself out, and I felt decent. Tired, but manageable.

I feel like I’m in a much better place this year mentally and physically, than I was a year ago when my running legs went MIA.  Cowtown weekend is in just two weeks, and it’s going to be great!

Rock ‘n Roll San Antonio 2017

What a fast, fun weekend I had running Rock ‘n Roll San Antonio.  My friend and I went together for the third year in a row to run the half marathon. This is one of my Chocolate Milk sponsored races, and it’s a fun way to cap off  marathon training – using a race as the last long run before Dallas Marathon. No worries about weather or time goals, but just to have fun.

We left Saturday morning, and made a stop in Austin to see my daughter. She works at a pizza place right off campus, and it was perfect timing for lunch.

The weather was beautiful (80 degrees!) and there were a lot of people out. For dinner, we managed to get in to Joe’s Crab Shack without a wait, but when we left there were a lot of people waiting. The Riverwalk is so pretty with all the Christmas decorations and lights. We walked over to the Alamo to see a little more of the city at night.

Then just like two party animals, we went back to the hotel and were asleep before 10 pm.

Race morning was foggy and humid. I know if I’m standing in the corral in a tank and I’m comfortable, it’s not a great sign.

We found our friends from our running group!

Then we made our way to our corral. I really wanted to run under 2 hours, because I hadn’t been able to do that this year. I knew it may be harder with the warmer weather, but I didn’t want to leave all my goals for the marathon. So I tucked that in my head as my A goal, and just decided to see how it went. The first mile was slower than I wanted, but it was so crowded. We were weaving around people just trying to get a good pace. It’s hard to do that solo. It’s even harder trying to keep up with another person. Somehow we stayed together for about 5 miles, but Leda would pull ahead, and then I’d get stuck trying to get around someone, and surge to try to catch up. We have an agreement that if one of us feels good, we will go on. I didn’t want to hold her back because her training has been going so well. I looked at my Garmin, and decided I was okay at that pace, and told her to go on. I could see her just ahead of me for the next mile, and then the rain started. At first it was a light rain, and the next thing I knew it was dripping off of my visor and I was soaked. On the positive side, it was just what I needed to cool me off. I think it saved my race.

I focused on even splits and effort for the next few miles. Then I can upon the Wear Blue: Run to Remember section. There was a gallery of photos on each side of the road of service members we’ve lost. So many lives lost. Where the photos stopped, a line of people in blue shirts on each side of the road picked up. Each person was  holding an American flag and cheering – louldy – for the runners. This is the point of the race where I completely lost myself and became emotional as everyone cheered the runners, waving their flags. It was probably a half a mile of people lined along both sides of the road, and I choked up. I was doing good not to lose it completely.

After a short little climb, I settled back into my pace, weaving around people when necessary. There were some slick spots to watch out for from the rain. I slowed down running over a metal drainage grid that was slippery, and a dirty flat road altered my pace as well. Near mile 10, I spotted my friend up ahead and focused on trying to catch her. I had been watching my splits (and doing math) so I knew I was running steady. There was a little monster of a climb about mile 10.5 and just after the top of that hill, I called out to her. When I caught up with her she was struggling a little. I told her, “We are right at two hours.” She stayed with me, and I picked up the pace a little. As close as I was, I was not going to let that 2 hour goal go! Don’t take your feet off of the coals. I wasn’t running at full race pace for a half, but I was pushing to get that goal. The last two miles, which were slightly downhill, ended up being the fastest with both of them around 8:40. It was also the only time of the race I wasn’t weaving around people and could run straight down the road.

My official finish time was 1:59:40. It was close, but I made it. Correction, we made it. We finished within one second of each other. Both of us had run our fastest half of the year.

I got my chocolate milk at the finish. It was so good!

…and we really did have a lot of fun. The only bad part about it was all the weaving through people for so much of the race. My Garmin distance actually showed 13.42 which is higher than it usually is for a half marathon. So I did run faster than 2 hours, but reaching a goal is such a great feeling nonetheless.

Now, it’s on to the Dallas Marathon this weekend. I’m running the 5k Saturday, and the full marathon Sunday as part of the weekend series. The weather looks promising so far! I’m working on my mental game this week, and trying to get as much rest as I can with band concerts and basketball practices.

Have a great weekend everyone, and if you see me in Dallas please say hi!

 

Showdown Half 2017

This past Saturday, I ran the Showdown Half. I sure could’ve used the cold front that blew in Sunday morning on Saturday, because it was sunny and warm. Not my ideal running conditions, but I made the best of it.

There was a group of us that rode to the race together, and that made the race so much more fun. My running friend, her mom (who was doing the 5k), and two others from our running group.

Starting temp was 68 degrees, and of course the humidity was high. The sun shone bright the entire race, but at least there were a few shady places to help out.

My friend and I started between the 2:00 and 2:05 pace groups, and I had my goals in mind. We hadn’t adjusted our training at all for the race. Marathon is the goal. But I was hoping to get back under 2 hours again. Last year on this course I ran a 1:53, and the year before it was 1:54. Of course those were on cooler days. My goals for this year were A) 1:55 B) sub 2 hours or C) fastest half this year.

I was rolling along with around a 1:58 pace until mile 10. That’s when the heat and hills took over. I honestly forgot about the hills. I knew they were there, I just didn’t plan for them. My mile splits went from around 9:00s to 9:30s, and then mile 13 was just painful. My breathing sounded like the last mile of a 5k, and I think this was just due to the heat. I was trying to keep my foot on the gas, but as I came around and spotted the finish, I realized I had no gas left in the tank. There was no fast finish for this race!

I ended up with 2:03:30, so it was my fastest half all year – barely. I’m going to have to be okay with that, because I just don’t know if I could have done any better. I didn’t slow that much in the last four miles, until the last mile when I lost a minute, but it was enough to knock me out of a sub 2:00. But I look at the elevation chart on Strava, and I can tell where it got me. It was hot, it was hilly, it was a half marathon race in the middle of marathon training. At least I had chocolate milk at the finish!

I had such a good time with my friends too, and one of them even set a PR!

Now it’s back to the training plan! I’ve got a marathon to get ready for. 🙂