2021 RNR San Antonio

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

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

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

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

A pigeon. Just because.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bluebonnet Half and Towne Lake 10K

At a glance, it may look like I have weird ideas, but I usually have a plan and purpose to what I do. Before the Irving (half) marathon was in the works, I wanted to run a half marathon in the spring. When the Capital 10k (in Austin) went virtual, my weekend opened up and I found a race close to home. Actually two races.

There were incentives to running both races. They were less than 30 minutes away, fairly inexpensive, and an added opportunity to earn an extra medal for running both. The Bluebonnet half on Saturday had a 5k and half marathon. The Towne Lake race on Sunday had a 5k, 10k, and half marathon option. Since I am training for my second ultra, running both races would add to my training, and I wanted to support the smaller, local race companies that are coming back.

I first thought about running back to back half marathons. I’ve never done that before! Then I remembered it’s springtime in Texas, and there is a 50/50 shot at having a warm, humid race. So I settled on the half on Saturday for Bluebonnet and the 10k at Towne Lake. That way if my legs or the weather didn’t cooperate, I could turn it into a recovery run.

I barely had to talk my friend into it, and she was on board too. She’s usually up for my crazy ideas – not all of them – but she has jumped into her share of adventures with me.

The weather for Saturday morning was nice and cool, but a little windy. Temperatures were in the mid 50s and I hoped it would hold steady for the morning. The race winds through the McKinney park system with some of the course going through school parking lots. I was familiar with this course from some other races, and from running this same race in 2018. This was also kind of a redemption for that one because I hobbled through the final miles in 2018 thanks to my plantar fasciitis flareup.

The first mile was a little slower than I planned, just due to some congestion from the start and the width of the path. I didn’t want to go around in the grass because it was a little high. We were also behind two runners who were running with American flags, and the wind was whipping the flags back to us. So we waited until it opened up and then picked up the pace.

My goal for this race was to better my time from Irving (2:03:54) and get myself closer to the two hour mark. I ran steady through this race, most of my paces were 9:15s-9:20s. The wind was a factor in the last couple of miles, and my stomach started rumbling a little, but I tried stay steady. Then there was a little hill to climb to finish and whew! Done.

2:02:07 according to my Garmin. Faster than my finish time in Irving and closer to two hours. Goal accomplished.

The rest of the day, I focused on recovery. Refueling with carbs and a little protein, and resting my legs as much as a mom can do on a Saturday.

Sunday morning, a group of us headed back to McKinney for the Towne Lake race. Two of us were running the 10k, and two were running the half marathon. I was so glad I didn’t register for the half, only because I didn’t want to run that far. 🙂

The weather was still nice. Cool and not nearly as windy. We saw our friends start the half, and then waited for our start window with a warmup mile. The first mile, I could feel the miles from the day before, but I settled into a comfortably hard pace. My goal was to run under 55 minutes as long as my legs held up. I decided to carry my bottle with me and was so glad I did.

The 10k course was an out and back with the turnaround at the halfway point. My breathing was pretty hard before the turnaround, but I kept pushing as long as I could. Some of the course was the same as the day before, but the start was from a different location so it felt different. I saw one of my friends from our running group out cheering around mile 2.5 and again after the turnaround. That’s always fun!

At mile 5, my legs started to complain and it was my slowest mile. But I reminded myself to hang on for one more mile. I couldn’t quite get my pace down to where I wanted, but I was trying. I ended up running just over my goal time, but on the day after a half marathon, I was satisfied with it.

And I ran almost even splits for each half.

The best part was since we ran the 10k, we were able to cheer in our runners in the half marathon. That was so much fun!

And we all placed in our age groups.

You can see our bonus medal here too. It’s a spinner. 🙂

It was a fun weekend, and I achieved my training purpose by racing on tired legs and putting in some longer miles with the added bonus of medals, shirts, and snacks. 🙂

New Year’s Day Half

It’s amazing how getting enough sleep and a reducing some life stress can impact your running.

I found this out when I ran three half marathons within 4 1/2 weeks. With RNR San Antonio, I was dealing with both lack of sleep and a lot of outside stress. My heart rate reflected it in the race too. The next weekend at Dallas, I was still managing some stress, but was doing better in the sleep department. By the time the New Year rolled around, most of the stressful issues had been resolved, and I was doing much better with sleep (thanks to the holidays). But I also had the bonus holiday joy of the few extra pounds. I’ll blame marathon recovery, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. When I scale back on running, but still eat like I’m marathon training, I start to look and feel like Stay-Puft.

I digress.

I have never run the New Year’s Double in Allen, but I’ve had friends who’ve done it. I’m usually so wiped out by the end of the year, and the weather is historically cold and nasty. Plus, I work on New Year’s Eve. The New Year’s Double is two days of races: New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. You can run the 5k, and the half or full, or just choose one race for New Year’s Eve. Then you can come back and do it again the next day.

I had a free race entry to an Active Joe race from volunteering at Cross Timbers, so I figured why not? I used my entry for the New Year’s Day race, the half marathon distance, and signed up with no other expectations than to enjoy a mid-week long run.

The week leading into the race, I was trying to clean up my nutrition and building my mileage back up. I ran an easy 6 miles with a friend the day before the half, and headed to work. I told her I was expecting to be under 2:10, but I didn’t set any specific time goals.

Race morning was a later start than I usually have. I had plenty of time to have my coffee and relax before making the 30 minute drive. I decided not to eat anything, but drank my Ucan as usual. The 5k is up first, and I could see runners on the path, and the start/finish line from where I parked. I had plenty of time to get my packet, and hang out in the car. There’s a place for a bag drop, but I left my layers in the car and took just what I needed for the race. It was cloudy, low 40s, and a slight wind kept it chilly before the start. I grabbed my throwaway gloves, my handheld bottle, and my earbuds. I felt okay, not great, but I was ready to run.

I liked the way everything was set up for this race. There are assigned corrals, even though it’s a smaller race, to help ease congestion. The course is an out and back loop on a paved park path. 2 loops for the half, 4 for the full. I was in the second corral, and it felt a little strange lining up so close to the front for a half marathon.

I started a little too fast because I was so cold. My first mile was just under 9:00. I didn’t worry about my pacing though. I needed to warm up! Miles 2 and 3 were just a touch faster – 8:53 and 8:52. I didn’t worry about it being too fast and just went with how I was feeling. I was enjoying the run.

There was a timing mat and clock for the first loop. I switched my Garmin to see total time. 59:xx. Oh wow, I could run sub 2 if I could hang on or negative split the second half. I had a new goal.

The advantage of running a looped course, is that you know exactly what’s coming for the second half – where the hills are, aid stations, road conditions. Some people don’t like those kinds of courses, but for me on this day, it’s exactly what I needed.

My mile splits were consistently just under 9:00, but my Garmin is always off. Plus there was a little tunnel we went through four times total, and it threw my GPS off. There were mile markers though, and I used those to keep tabs on my time. At mile 11, I was still on track for sub 2. A couple of times, a thought would try to creep in that it was hard, or I wouldn’t be able to do it. But I pushed those thoughts aside, and I didn’t take my foot off of the gas, just like when I ran the 10k in Dallas.

 

Focused and Flying

My breathing sounded like I was running a 5k, and in the last mile, I was completely focused on getting through the finish.When I crossed the line and saw my time, I almost cried.

Look at that halfway split!

Ok, so I did cry a little. But it was because I feel like I won a mental race more than physical. I didn’t quit on myself when it got hard. My body cooperated, but my mind was the big win of the day. I wasn’t lamenting the “faster me” from several years ago. I was genuinely proud of what I ran, working from where I am now, not where I used to be. It felt like a turning point for me. Also, 40 degrees is my jam.

To top it all off, I placed 2nd in my age group!

Cutest medal! It’s a turtle!

So, I’m excited. I feel like my year was off to a great start. I didn’t have one half marathon last year under 2 hours. The closest I came was San Diego was 2:00:53.

I can’t wait to see what else 2020 has in store for me.