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.

 

 

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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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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70.3 Training: Week One

Last week I started my half Ironman training for Buffalo Springs Lake, and I ventured into uncharted territory.

I have never put my focus completely on training for a triathlon. I use the word “never” like I’ve been doing triathlon for years, but this journey started over a year ago with my first running injury. Cycling was a substitute, then a supplement, and it evolved into triathlon.

When I was trying to pick a plan a few weeks ago, I hit panic mode when I saw the quantity of workouts. They all pretty much follow the same format of three bikes, three swims, three runs weekly. I talked to a friend who assured me I wouldn’t be able to get it all in. “You’re a mom. You just do what you can.” That means I will run the miles scheduled even though I will crave more running. I will pay attention to my body and not push myself to injury point. I will take recovery seriously, and continue to hone my nutrition and eating patterns.

With last week being spring break, I lucked out in being able to get in the groove of training. I actually completed all the workouts. One child was gone from Tuesday through Sunday, and the other two went to visit grandparents from Wednesday through Saturday. So I was able to get my three bikes, three swims, and three runs done – guilt free. Some of those were two-a-days, which I know will not be possible on a weekly basis. None of the workouts were too long or too hard, but the quantity of work began to contribute to some soreness. It’s an adjustment for sure.

On a more positive note, I am eager to see how the increase in swimming and biking will enhance my fitness. Last summer when I trained for my first triathlon, I was surprised to see some definition in my arms and shoulders for the first time in my life. I am also hoping the change in training will help my metabolism and get this marathon weight gain off. It’s been hanging around far too long.

On Sunday, I will be running the Rock ‘n Roll Dallas with Team Chocolate Milk. This is one of my favorite races all year! I’m not going to adjust my triathlon training, so I will be running the half marathon on tired legs. I think that’s good practice for a half Ironman, don’t you?

 

 

 

Rock ‘n Roll San Antonio with Team Chocolate Milk

I had the opportunity to run Rock ‘n Roll San Antonio this past weekend as a part of Team Chocolate Milk, and that race now falls in my top 5 for best race experience. A lot of factors went into making it a great weekend, where the only major hiccup was the 45 minute traffic delay 20 minutes away from home Sunday night.

I asked my best running friend along for the trip, and she was able to register with a good discount. We have been training for the Dallas Marathon together, so it seemed appropriate that we should do our last long training run together in San Antonio.

When I picked her up Saturday morning, we laughed about we looked different from our usual Saturday morning attire. Hair fixed, makeup on, regular clothes…mostly. We clean up well.

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This was her first experience with a large race expo, and it was great! We shopped a little, stopped by the Another Mother Runner booth and met Sara, walked right past Meb, and I picked up some of my favorite hydration, Nuun. We stopped by the Chocolate Milk booth and I helped my friend win a towel by answering all the quiz questions correctly. I was happy to see so many people at their booth learning all about the benefits of chocolate milk!

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After checking into the hotel, we made our way down to the Riverwalk in search of an early dinner. We found a nice little restaurant with no wait and split a pasta dish and bruschetta.

When in San Antonio...eat Italian?

When in San Antonio…eat Italian?

I’ve been to San Antonio a few times, but always in the spring or summer. The city and the Riverwalk were absolutely beautiful this time of year. Everything was decorated for Christmas, and I loved walking around just taking in the sights. The pictures don’t do it justice.

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After our brief tour, we headed back to the hotel for some time off our feet and to get ready for race day!

We made our way to the VIP area so I could meet up with the other team members.

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It’s neat to meet people in real life that I first met on social media, but I sometimes wonder if they think I’m weird. After a group photo, and some talk about the race and goals, my friend and I headed to the start corrals.

Our number one goal for the race was to have fun and run it together. I’ve never had company for an entire race. Usually when we go to a race together, we start together but run our own times. I wanted to be able to bring her in for her first sub two-hour half, but we kept our expectations light. We started off slow, and enjoyed the views of running through a new city. Downtown and running right in front of the Alamo were my favorite parts. By mile five we were averaging around 9:05 pace. I started to worry if we were running too fast, but my legs felt great – like I was holding back. Then THE HILL showed up around mile 5. We didn’t talk at all, and by the time we crested the top, my quads were burning. From someone who runs hills on a regular basis, this was surprising. For the next two miles, there was a series of ups and downs. One of the hills, by Trinity University, was loaded with spectators from the school. Their signs were great, and they were lined all the way up the hill. I focused so much on reading signs that I lost sight of the pain of the hill. A favorite said: TU Counseling-Tell me how you feel about this hill. Another was “You’re not over the hill yet, unlike us” from an older couple. I smiled all the way through. Then after mile 7, the course was flat again. Our pace had dropped to 9:09 average, but we gradually began to work it down.

The half split from the full course at mile 11, and I can’t tell you how glad I was to turn for the half. It’s been a long time since I’ve done that. I was running down the right side of the road, and I looked up to see a vehicle (like a gator) coming right toward me. I moved over and then realized Meb was leaning out of it giving high fives to the runners. I yelled for my friend to get over there and we both got a high five from him. I told her that was our speed boost.

And it was! At mile 12, I knew she would be under two hours, and asked her how she’d like a new PR. She said she hadn’t even looked at her watch, and didn’t want to know. As we crossed the finish, I congratulated her on smashing her old record. We picked up our medals and headed straight for the chocolate milk. If you’re new to the blog, or unfamiliar with the benefits of chocolate milk as a post workout recovery, take a look at this information. It has helped me with my training whether after speedwork at the track or a long run, or swimming, or biking, and it’s delicious! I love being a part of this team. It’s something I believe in, and they always make me feel important. 🙂

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Rock ‘n Roll San Antonio was one of my best race experiences, and the fact that it wasn’t tied to my own PR reminds me that racing can still be fulfilling as I continue down the road. Here’s a little data to go along with it:

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A successful training run.

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What hills?

Nicely executed negative splits!

Nicely executed negative splits!

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A beautiful medal!

Up next: Dallas Marathon on Sunday! Have a great week!

Showdown Half 2015

For the second time in as many years, I ran the Showdown Half in Fairview. Last year, I was a pacer and this year was a totally different experience.

Gone were the jitters of being able to lead others to their goals, and instead were the nerves of seeing what my body was capable of over 13.1 miles. My half marathons so far this year have been few in number, painful (plantar fasciitis), inconsistently paced, hilly, or just had poor weather.  So far, my fastest half in 2015 was the Dallas Rock ‘n Roll with a 1:53:27. I still don’t know  how I managed that with my foot pain.

After my Thursday workout last week, which consisted of repeats based on minutes and effort, I decided I liked the way the miles ticked off without me watching my pace. I can’t explain it, but it just felt better. So I decided I’d try running by effort on Saturday instead of pushing a pace. I didn’t foresee a PR, and since I’m in the middle of marathon training, I didn’t know what to expect.

Saturday morning I was ready to race. I have found that by cutting back my races this summer/fall, I look forward to them more.

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I had two loose goals in my head. 1) Break 2 hours. 2) Stay under 1:55:00.

I lined up with my friend right in front of the 2:00 pace group. Once we started I let the pace come naturally. By mile three, I had pulled ahead of the 1:55 pace group, and that’s where I stayed. I didn’t check my pace. I gauged my effort on my breathing. The temps were in the mid 50s, so it was wonderful running weather. The only area I had trouble was with the sun. I felt like a vampire, since I do most of my training in the dark. The sun was blinding me, and we were running right into it for most of the first half.

The downfall of my running by effort plan was forgetting about the hills. The second half of the race was extremely hilly. I guess I didn’t notice them so much last year because I wasn’t pushing as hard. By mile 10, I thought I might cry if I saw another uphill. Then there it was. I kept pushing, breathing like I was in the last mile of a 5k. It was rough. I reminded myself of my fast finish long runs, and running up a hill to get home. This is what I’ve been training for – races like this. I kept going, periodically checking my overall time with the mile markers in the last two miles. Up until mile 10, it seemed I was on track to run under 1:53, but the hills were zapping my energy. I finally took a few walk breaks in the last mile until the nausea subsided. I was out of Nuun, and my last gel (from mile 9) didn’t seem to make its way down smoothly. I was so happy to see the flat area that led to the finish line.

I grabbed my food and found a curb to sit on. I was wiped out, but so glad for the chocolate milk!

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The medal was pretty great too!

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Then I hung out with others from our local group. One runner ran her first half marathon, exceeding her goal. I love seeing the joy from doing more than you thought possible.

My official time was 1:54:28 so I met my two goals. I think if the course was flat I could’ve run under 1:53. But I’m happy with my progress, and so excited to finish a half marathon pain free. My foot is doing excellent this time around. It really was freeing to run without checking my pace constantly. Although I did have an idea of what my time was, it was good to tune in to body and effort level. I still need to work on my mental game though. I had a few arguments with myself over the last three miles.

I’m trying to decide if I want to add one more tune up race in my training in early November. There are a few good ones to choose from. It also seems that I’m in a good position to keep my 4 hour marathon goal for Dallas.