The Colony Half Marathon

This past Saturday, I ran The Colony Half. It was my first time running this race, and my first half marathon since the Bluebonnet Half in April. I talked some of my running friends into doing it with me, because races are more fun with friends. We weren’t disappointed.

My training has been going okay for the last couple of months, but between the heat and humidity, then loads of rain, plus band and football, I just felt blah on race week. Some of that was probably hormonal too, but I can’t avoid that.

Still, I was excited to go to the race with my friends, and was able to meet up with my coach Tim, and another team member of RunRelated, Julie, who were also running. 

Due to the huge amounts of rainfall in the couple of weeks prior to the race, parts of the course were flooded from the lake. For a while, it looked like we all might be running the 5 miler. But they were able to approve an alternate course the week before, so 13.1 miles was still the plan!

My game plan, and my coach’s, was to hang around 9 minute pace through mile 7, and then pick it up based on how I felt. He knew I felt blah going into the race. It could have partly been nerves too, due to the length of time since my last half. I’ve always been “half ready” since I started running. But with the foot injury, and then the triathlon training for off-season, I just didn’t have a lot of long runs. That was a good mental and physical break through the summer, it just made me nervous for Saturday.

The weather was great! Cool temperatures at the start (mid to upper 50s). The sun was coming up and we were ready to run!

I stuck to the plan of 9 minute miles, and was feeling pretty good. Then around mile 5, my stomach started talking to me. This is the point where I realized my nutrition mistakes from the day before. If there is a potluck at work the day before a race, just don’t. Trust me! At this point, I was ahead of the 2 hour pace group, and I knew that if I stopped, I should still be able to run under 2:00. I found the porta potty just before mile 7 and darted in. I’m not like Shalane, so I had a little more time to make up when I got back to the course. 😉

I recovered my pace for mile 8, and was back on track. Then I needed to refill my bottle. Between that and the incline before the turnaround, my pace started to slip. I was behind the 2 hour group. Then my stomach started grumbling again, and I knew I was going to stop again. Since the course was a partial out and back, I knew right where to go. Unfortunately, I got there right as someone went in, and lost even more time. Goodbye sub 2.

I don’t know if I was defeated by my tummy issues, mad that I didn’t do a better job eating the day before, or if the sun was starting to get to me, but miles 11 & 12 were a struggle. I would walk for 10-15 seconds, then pick up and run. I did that a few times, playing tag with the 2:05 pacers. Finally for the last mile, I was able to settle into a pace that was comfortable to run the whole time without feeling sick.

As I came back into the park, I saw my coach who ran (okay it was a jog for him) alongside me for a minute, with a little pep talk telling me to finish strong. I did my best, but after I crossed the finish I needed to walk to feel a little better.

The only part I didn’t like about the course was that it went almost to the finish line, but then you had to go out and back around a loop. I was ready to be done and that didn’t help.  But I did finish just ahead of the 2:05 group with an official time of 2:04:55.

Advantage of having a fast friend – free running pics 🙂

 

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Splits

I reminded myself it was a tune-up race. I need to practice and learn from my mistakes. I needed the reminder that my nutrition before, during, and after the race is all so important. So now I’m back on track in that area.

I still had fun though, even with all of that. And nothing beats hanging out with friends after a race.

Next up, I have Rock ‘n Roll San Antonio half with Team Chocolate Milk, as Houston Marathon training continues!

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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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Big Goals and Routine Changes

Toward the end of 2015, I saw a lot of posts/tweets/pics about goals for 2016, and race schedules, and plans. I started to feel like I was behind the curve because I didn’t have my race schedule mapped out for the entire year. All I knew was I had a marathon at the end of February.

Then when I wondered if I would ever get it together, things started to fall into place. Now I have the main arteries in place to map out my training for the first part of the year. I’m set with my big goals at least until the end of June.

My blueprint for the next six months to guide my training:

Train to get closer to a four hour marathon at Cowtown by strengthening more, improving overall nutrition, and pushing myself more on the hard and/or long run days.

Tackle a triathlon with an open water swim before June.

So…I can then compete in my first 70.3 race at the end of June – which I registered for before the end of the year to save some cash.

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That was the easy part.

My motivation is high. My training is back in full swing. I had an awesome long run the day after New Year’s. It was my first run over 5 miles since Dallas, and I’d say it went well. There are benefits when I run with a group who are all faster than me.

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I made myself run hills because I know it will prepare me for Cowtown.

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It totally sucked, but I got it done.

My long run Saturday helped me feel better about my endurance. The weather was nasty, but I found that I was able to push myself through mentally. I always wonder what people think when they drive past me and the weather is less than ideal. Then I saw some a softball game going on at the park, and I thought “Well, at least I’m moving.” IMG_7104

On the weekdays, I have been focusing on finishing my runs by a certain time – no matter if I finish the mileage or not – so I can be sure to get my strength routine done. That means if I oversleep, I run less. Since I noticed such a difference in my form during the Dallas Marathon from adding core training, I want to keep at it. It’s the little things that make the difference.

Nutrition. Well, I was doing fine after Christmas and up until last week. I lost a couple of the pounds I gained after the marathon. Then I hit a few bumps over the weekend (s’mores) but I’ll get back to it.

My biggest challenge right now has been my work schedule – which affected my blog. This post was started last Monday.

I’m starting my second week of working between two offices. When the owner approached me a few weeks ago to ask if I’d like to broaden my horizons, I said yes. I will not turn down opportunity to learn new functions. The hardest part for me has been adjusting my schedule. My workday is starting earlier (right after I drop the kids at school), which is fine with me, but I lost some of the time I would use to make and eat breakfast, finish getting ready, etc. In a way, it’s forced me to get my act together earlier. On the other hand, my appetite is all out of whack, because I’m eating breakfast earlier, and taking my lunch later. The major benefit to this though is that I’m a two minute drive from home, and I can go home for lunch. Larabars to snack on in between meals is the norm now. I also carry almonds, greek yogurt, and fruit. If you have any more good ideas for healthy, portable snacks, please share!

I’m sure in a few weeks, my schedule will settle down and I’ll be in a routine. That should be right about the time I get ready to start Half Ironman training, which starts right after the Cowtown Marathon.

I sure do love a challenge!

 

Scale Lies and Small Changes

Yesterday, my training for the Dallas Marathon hit the halfway point. 8 weeks down. 8 to go. I feel like I’m rolling along to my goal, while keeping up with the other stuff life sends my way. Last week I was fighting off a stuffy head/congestion for a few days. One morning, my youngest asked me if I was okay because I never sneeze that much. Tuesday, my boss reminded me I had sick hours I could use. I didn’t feel bad though; I just had the sneezes. I was glad to have a cutback week in my training, and really tried to get extra sleep. I finally started to feel like myself again on Friday.

Saturday’s 16 miler went better than expected, as I was trying to catch the group that was moving a little fast. I was trailing behind, feeling like a turtle, but talking to myself (yes, out loud) about how good I was doing. I’m trying to work on my mental game too.

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I surprised myself with this average pace.

All day long, I expected my appetite to kick in, but it didn’t. For this training cycle, I just haven’t been as hungry. This is highly unusual behavior. Most of the time after a long run, it’s hard for me to eat much at all. I recover with chocolate milk, and maybe a banana, and that usually holds me over until lunchtime.

So what has changed?

A lot, actually.

I’ll start with this contrast:

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By the way, free race photos are a great perk! Maybe one day I’ll be able to pin a bib on straight.

The picture on top is from a race 6 months ago. The Fairview Half. A race that fell after a high mileage marathon training season that started in August and ended in March. It may not look like a huge difference to anyone else. But at the time of the race in April, I felt terrible about myself. I was injured, and hobbled through the last mile. I was frustrated with my size, because all my shorts were tight and I was chafing in new places every time I ran. I had been running for over four years, and my weight had hit its highest point since I started. So I started making little changes.

The second picture is from last Saturday’s Showdown Half. While it wasn’t my fastest half, I felt stronger than I have in a long time. My clothes are fitting again, and I feel better about myself and my body.

The weight difference between the two races: 4 pounds.

The scale tells lies.

So how did I manage to change without losing the 10 pounds I so desperately wanted to get rid of?

I started doing planks and pushups every night. Forward planks, side planks, pushups on my knees. Anything I could do that would help boost my metabolism. Over the summer I focused more on strength: squats and lunges several times a week, donkey kicks, leg lifts. All the fun stuff. The triathlon training brought more changes in upper body strength. For the first time ever, I had definition in my arms.

I ate more fruits and vegetables. Tuna, almonds, spinach, spinach, spinach, yogurt, string cheese, sweet potatoes. This type of lunch is normal now:

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I also found that I just feel better when I eat this way. I think by running fewer miles per week, adding the swimming and biking, it has helped sustain my appetite. My gut is still there – I don’t think it’s going anywhere ever – but now it’s not the only thing I see when I look at a picture. The changes may be minimal, and this may all sound vain to some people. For me, though, it means I am healthy and stronger. I feel more like an athlete – more balanced. And I’m doing it the way I should. With my history of disordered eating, it really is a big deal.

Okay enough of a rabbit trail, time to get back to training.

I’m looking forward to my second triathlon this Sunday in Denton – Monster Tri. I’m excited to see how the swim portion of the race goes this time.

Have a great week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Changes That Stick

I admire those who can post updates on their blog on a regular basis. I have every intention of posting weekly – on Monday or Tuesday. That should be doable, right? But sometimes, life gets away from me and before I know it, it’s Friday night and I’m ready to go to bed at 7:30.

So here is the post I wanted to write last week, but it was a tough week. I can report that I’m back on track now.

After the Houston Marathon, I started to second guess myself. Why was I running slower? What was I doing different? Had I reached my full potential and started a steady decline in speed? I also noticed while I was running the marathon I felt different with my body composition – heavier. Sure, it was probably due to a few Christmas goodies here and there, but I didn’t like it. It motivated me in a good way, and the day after the race, I made some changes to my diet. These are changes that I want to be permanent, but I also know how I can get sloppy after a while. I need my changes to stick.

In the past four weeks, I have been tracking all my food, eating more fruits, veggies, and whole grains, and I have felt much better. My energy level has been up even though I’m not getting ideal sleep. My easy run pace has dropped to what I consider normal for me and I have started to see some speed come back. I haven’t been able to get a mile near 8:00 range yet, but it’s getting closer. I don’t want to push the speed too hard since I’m still training for the Cowtown Marathon.

I’ve lost a pound or two, depending on which week it is. I’m trying not to focus on the scale too much. As long as I stay within a specific range, I’m not going to worry about it.  I have picked back up on regular core work (planks, bridges, pushups) and after Cowtown I will expand my strength training to replace some of the running miles.

The last two Saturdays, my long runs have given my self confidence the boost it needed. A week ago, I ran an 18 miler with 12 miles around a 9:15 pace. It was nice to know I could push and do what I set out to do.

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This past Saturday, I pushed again by running with a faster runner for 10.5 miles of my 16 total. Overall we averaged 9:09 pace for that segment, but I know there were some fast miles in there because the first 3-4 were 9:30s. Negative splits are a great confidence builder. I was wiped out at the end, but it felt great!

Now I’m ready to taper for Cowtown. I plan to take this Saturday run a little easier to rest the stress I’ve built in my legs the past few weeks. I will also focus on keeping my nutrition in check so that’s not slowing me down.

Have a great week!

 

 

 

The Not So Cold Too Cold to Hold Half

Do you ever sign up for a race and then realize it probably wasn’t your smartest idea?

In all fairness, my primary motivators to register for the Too Cold to Hold half marathon were running with my friend around White Rock Lake, and the medal (which fits with a race in July). A PR, two weeks after the Houston Marathon, was out of the question.

I still expected to be ready to take on 13.1 miles, but as race day approached I still wasn’t sure what my plan was for running it.

In Texas, when you register for a race in the winter, you can expect to either be wearing long sleeves or a tank. Earlier in the week, it looked like it was going to be cold, but race morning ended up being rainy and just under 60 degrees at the start.

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I stuck to my usual plan: stay around a specific pace for 5 miles at a time, then bump up the speed. The first five averaged 9:05 pace, but I felt fine. I enjoyed the view of the lake. Through mile 8 I continued running close to 9:00 miles. Then there was a steady gradual incline between miles 8-9. It didn’t look like much, but it sure knocked my pace off and I could feel it in the effort. I am always amazed at how quickly I can lose speed running up a hill. Around mile 10.5 I felt a strange cramping in my lower abdomen. I’ve never had that happen before, so I slowed to walk until it subsided. It could’ve been due to my diet changes the past two weeks or something I ate the night before. At that point, I no longer cared running under two hours, so I just ran/walked my way through the finish. I was glad to be done and was ready for some chocolate milk.

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I found my friend and then we gathered our post race snacks. It was on the way back to the car that I realized my mistake in parking at Flagpole Hill. That uphill was a bit rough on the legs, but it was finally cooling off because the cold front had blown in. Just in time, right? Thankfully my friend’s husband was at the top of the hill with coffee for her and chocolate milk for me. Awesome!

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In trying to figure out what to fix for next time, I came up with a couple of excuses scenarios of what happened:

1. I haven’t been sleeping well due to some stresses with one of my children. This text from my friend sums it up: You do need a break. When you consider 13 miles in the cold rain a break – you’ve had a tough week.

2. The same child that came down with the flu the day of the Dallas Marathon got sick again that Wednesday and didn’t start feeling better until Saturday. It was probably the flu again.

3. I overhauled my eating habits the last two weeks and I lost 2.5 pounds, but I questioned how to fuel the day before a race. More on that in my next post. This change may have caused the cramping, or it was due to the renewed strength training.

4.  It was warm and humid – based on the amount of salt residue on my skin.

5. My brain quit before my legs. I need to work on my PMA and stinkin’ thinkin’. I also need to find my Zig Ziglar books. Self doubt is getting me down lately.

6. I ran a marathon 2 weeks ago. I need to cut myself a break.

I sure hope this post doesn’t come across as whiny. I wanted to make sure that I was still enjoying myself out there. I tried to encourage other runners – benefit of an out and back course – and thank the volunteers as well. It was a well run race and I’m looking forward to getting the medal in July at the Too Hot to Handle 15k.

I saw this quote last week, and it resonated with me and my feelings about the last couple of races. I’m going to focus on what I can change and try not to worry about what I can’t.

 

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