Cowtown Marathon Weekend 2018

After a crazy week of basketball last week (who knew that a playoff tournament for 6th grade basketball was a thing?) I’m finally catching up my blog. It was a busy weekend for the 40th Cowtown Marathon, and I’ve got a lot of info to pack into a post. It may end up looking more like a short story so my apologies, and hang on!

I had big plans going into race week of relaxing, keeping my stress levels down, eating right, and getting extra sleep.

The best laid plans….

It started that Monday, with some stuff going on with one of my kids. I couldn’t do anything about it, except worry. I’m really good at worrying. Then the crazy weather moved in and didn’t leave. A couple of runs were pushed to the treadmill. I can do cold (it was just above freezing) and I can do rain.  But I will not do cold and rain – especially on race week.

The more it rained, the more I worried. We have an area under our home that floods when we get heavy rain, and until we redo the drainage in our yard, I will worry every time it rains. When I worry, I also stress eat. So there’s that. I also had two children sniffling and sneezing all over the place.

Race week was not going well so far.

On Friday, I volunteered at the expo handing out packets. It’s interesting to be on the other side of the racing scene, always giving me a better appreciation of what goes into a race. While I was handing out 5k packets, I had a man ask me a question. The woman next to him jumped in and said, “Well, she’s a volunteer so she wouldn’t know, but I’m a runner. So let me tell you what to do…” Bless her heart!

SATURDAY 5K:

Early Saturday morning, after a night of little sleep, my friend Leda and I headed down to run the 5k as part of the Cowtown Challenge. We took another friend with us, so she could go to the expo and pick up her packet. I’ve never run a Saturday race for Cowtown, and I got pulled in by the fun extras. My dad was running the 10k, and with the weather delay, our races started at the same time.

We got lucky with a break in the weather. The 5k was rain free. I took it nice and easy, just like my coach told me to. We did a few pickups here and there, and ran alongside someone who was doing her first 5k in ten years after having five kids. We encouraged her, and Leda picked up the pace to pull her in to the finish. I watched the 10k winner finish right in front of me, which was humbling – and just like my first 5k. I guess I ran slow enough. I saw my dad after he finished his race, and then we got poured on walking back to the car.

My goal for the rest of the day was rest. I was sleep deprived and emotional from the week, and wasn’t the easiest person to get along with. I tried to take a nap. No dice. I ate an early dinner, and then we left for the Percussion Concert for my son. I enjoyed the concert, but it was 10 p.m. before I got into bed. With a 3 a.m. wakeup the next morning, it wasn’t ideal, but you do what you have to do as a parent. It’s the only time I’ve slept solid all night before a marathon.

SUNDAY RACE DAY:

Race morning was off to a great start! Temps were in the 40s and it was going to be sunny. No rain. Yay! I rode in with running friends and we met up with others from our group.

Texoma Runners take on Cowtown

I made my way over to where RunRelated was meeting for a group picture, and met up with my coach (who was running Cowtown as well).

How did I feel?

Tired, but ready. I didn’t have time to obsess over the race due to the craziness of the week. But I did try to spend some time visualizing my goal. I had “carbed up” more than I did for Dallas (wanted to avoid medical this time) and was well hydrated. I just hoped I didn’t swing the pendulum too far the other direction.

It was time to take on 26.2

The three of us who have been training together started together. We had planned to run the first half together.

Photo credit: Brian Luenser (sent to me by Kevin Whitley on twitter)

After the third mile, I noticed my friends pulling ahead and my pace was right where I was supposed to be. I knew if I ran faster than I was supposed to, I would pay for it later. I had a plan to follow. Nothing faster than 9:45 in the first half. So I held back and ran my own race.

I made my way up the monster hill that so many hate at mile 9. Strong and steady, still feeling like I was holding back. That had to be a good sign! I was still watching my splits, and I only dipped under once with a 9:36.

After the split and a turn, I heard a runner behind me yell, “Is this whole city uphill?” I laughed, because I knew there were more to come.

At mile 20, I still felt strong, and was just over 10:00 pace. I had refilled my bottle a few times at aid stations, dropping Nuun in as I went. My Garmin was set to only show my current mile. I had no idea how what my total time was. My splits were off from the mile markers though, and I was running a half mile over so far.

Then at mile 21, I went up a hill and a turn to go up another one. At the top, I couldn’t recover my breathing. My energy level was zapped, and my pace dropped. But I was still running.

At mile 24, one of my friends who ran the half, came alongside me for over a mile, encouraging me. I told her to go on back and run with the other two, that I would be fine. She said, “No, I’m going to take you to the corner first” and that’s exactly what she did.

When I came around to the finish, I was reminded again of why I love this race. You have people cheering on both sides of the fencing, and the announcer calls out your name. I always see someone I recognize when I’m finishing. I was also impressed with the medical team. One stepped up to walk alongside me. “Are you okay?” I nodded. “I’m good.” Then he stepped off and another one picked up to walk with me. “Really, I’m fine.”

Then I saw my coach and for the first time, I switched screens on my Garmin to see my overall time. 4:35. My initial reaction was disappointment, but then I thought about how I felt through the race: how strong I felt at mile 20, how I probably needed more calories for the last 10k, how I ran up ALL the hills. I also thought about how I felt during Dallas (starting at mile 14) and just feeling defeated for the last 10 miles as I plodded through that race. Then my trip to medical after I finished…

I didn’t feel that way this time, and even though I didn’t hit my time goal, I feel like I ran a strong race. I didn’t fall apart at mile 16 like I have for my last 3 marathons, and I ran a little faster – and a lot smarter – than I did at Cowtown last year. I’m working my way back, baby! One step at a time.

Huge thanks to my coach Tim with RunRelated!


Cowtown Challenge and my 17th marathon finish!

I’m also super proud of my running friends. The one in the middle ran her first full marathon at Cowtown, and Leda had hurt her knee after Hot Chocolate, missing almost two weeks of training. We weren’t even sure she was going to make it to Cowtown. I’m so thankful I have them to run with. 🙂

Marathoners!

If you made it this far in the post, thank you for taking the time to read this. I am grateful I had the opportunity to serve as an ambassador for Cowtown. I look forward to returning next year to complete my medal series. It’ll be the full marathon again. You know, so they all match.

 

 

 

 

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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!

Kicking off 2018 and Some Cowtown Training

It’s been a while since I updated my blog, and I wanted to do a year end post like have in the past. But honestly, I was kind of frustrated with my 2017 year of running. I spent the first half of the year trying to figure out why my “speed” was missing, and working to bring it back. The second half of the year was almost all training for the Dallas Marathon. My biggest win of the year (in my mind) was getting Rock ‘n Roll San Antonio under 2 hours. But at least I felt like I didn’t lose any more ground. My shorter distance times are mostly the same they were a year ago, and that’s okay. On a positive note, I replaced the battery in my scale the week after Dallas and I had lost 3 pounds! That never happens while marathon training, and I really think it was the SAM (strength and mobility) work done as part of the Simple Marathon Training. I am definitely keeping that up.

After Dallas, I took a bit of recovery time, and then it was time to get to work for Cowtown.

I won an Instagram contest for a free month of coaching from RunRelated. Hiring a coach is something I’ve talked about with my husband for a while, so this was a great opportunity to see how it would go. I decided to continue with my coach after my month was up, because what I’ve been doing isn’t working for me anymore. It’s nice not worrying about what workout to do, or what the long run should be. I just check the schedule and go do it.

The major challenge for Cowtown training lately though has been winter.  We have had so many below freezing days this year in Texas. I did a track workout in 16 degrees one morning, and was surprised when the buff I used to cover my mouth and nose came off in a frozen block. My Nuun bottle also froze! Rookie. Lesson learned. On a positive note though, I nailed those 800s! 🙂

Then on January 13, I ran my coldest race to date. It was the Resolution Run half marathon in McKinney. A smaller race to give me a little motivation to start my year. My goal was to run under two hours again, because this will be the year of the sub 2 half marathons. The temperature on race morning was below freezing and it was windy which brought real feel temps into the teens. Brrr! We hung out in the car as long as we could, because the start was right by the parking. Love small races! I wore two long sleeve tops under a jacket, my long pants, CEP knee high socks, my buff, fleece headband, fleece mittens and hand warmers. I have never worn so much gear!

It was an out and back course, and I felt good starting off so the first few miles were a little faster than they should’ve been. Plus we were running into the wind. Dang it. But I did begin to warm up, and started to remove gear when we turned out of the wind. The buff went in one pants pocket, hand warmers in the other. I even took my mittens off for a bit and considered ditching my jacket at a water stop. I met another one of the Cowtown race ambassadors during the race, and we all ran together for a few miles chatting about Cowtown. That was fun.We were behind the 2 hour pace group, and I kept them in my sights planning to catch them in the final miles.

Then we made the turn around to come back, and I was glad I didn’t ditch my jacket. I was doing good to hold onto my pace, keeping my miles right around 9:00.

The plan was to run as hard as I could for the last 5k, but I couldn’t find another gear. I stopped looking at my pace and focused on catching the next person in front of me. I tried to reel in the pace group. They weren’t getting farther away, so I knew I was at least on target. Also, there were a couple of floaters (pacers) who were running along encouraging us at different points. It was nice to have someone alongside me telling me to keep it up, because it was getting hard. At one point I was seriously ready to chunk my heart rate monitor in the grass. It felt tight around my chest, even though it wasn’t. I was so glad to see that finish line, because I was ready to get out of the cold!

 

I met my time goal – barely. But I am okay with that, because I was probably carrying about 10 lbs of gear that I don’t normally run with. Plus, when I took my jacket off to put on dry clothes, my layers were soaked in sweat.

 

Last week’s training wasn’t any warmer. The temperatures hit the point that I had to go shopping for better gear. I went to TJ Maxx and found some fleece lined tights to wear under my pants, and a warmer fleece lined jacket that wasn’t bulky. I got to try it out at the track on Wednesday, and it was a better layering combo than what I wore in the race. I would rather run outside if I can. For the amount of money I spent, I won’t be too mad if I only wear them a couple of times a year. 🙂

Thankfully for Saturday’s long run, temps were in the 50s. I was in shorts and short sleeves, and my visor! I was happy, because I’m just over sub-freezing weather. I felt so much lighter without all that extra clothing, and the sun was out! My legs felt good, and even though my stomach didn’t quite cooperate, I had a good day.

This week is a recovery week, and I’m going to take advantage of the extra rest. Recovery weeks are my favorite!

Quick question: What’s the coldest race you’ve ever run? Do you try to train outside when the temperature drops?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dallas Training Continues

This past week wrapped up week 7 of 20 for Dallas Marathon training. It’s been a pretty good couple of weeks.

We had one of our largest Saturday groups (in week 6) that I’ve seen in the 5 years I’ve been a part of Texoma Runners:

A decent 16 mile run with some nice weather:

Week 7 included

a #RunforTexas 10k for Harvey relief:

A second 16 mile run with a good-sized group surrounding us the whole time:


 

It was nice to have so many with us as we went into the double digits, since usually it’s just my friend and I finishing our long run by ourselves (during marathon training). Because of the way this run worked out, we had an early group and a later group keep us company. 🙂 The weather was absolutely wonderful for an early September run in Texas. We also had another runner join us for all of both 16 milers, as she is prepping for her first half next week. I think she’ll be ready.

I have been working on my fueling for long runs, and it looks like Ucan is going to be my go-to. I used it the last two weeks, as well as a few other times, and it seems to be working well. I also supplement my hydration/electrolytes with Nuun of course.

This coming Saturday is a local 5k. I would say it’s the biggest one all year. We have tried to figure out how we’re going to work in our 18 miler, but it looks like we’re going to abbreviate it and run the 5k in there somewhere. It won’t be the fastest I can run, but I need to look at the big picture. Marathon.

 

 

UCAN Half Marathon

Things have finally started moving for me in my first phase of building a better runner. The scale is moving down – slowly – but it’s moving. My strength is building, and my run pace is dropping – a little. It’s progress.

Which is part of why I was frustrated with myself at the UCAN half marathon.

But I made a major mistake from the start, and there’s no one to blame but myself. I’m also frustrated that I won’t have another half marathon to measure progress until late June, but the summer heat will slow that one down.

The race was well done, plenty of runners, pacers, and a mostly flat course through parks in McKinney. They had UCAN available before the race, and I had a backup GU if I needed it. I also carried my Nuun.

My first mistake was to line up behind the 2:00 pacers – and then try to stay with them! I did my Racing Weight 10k check earlier in the week, and my 10k pace is sitting right around 9:00 right now. Tack on temperatures in the 70s, and 85% humidity, and that was a rookie mistake I shouldn’t have made. The smart thing would have been to start out slower, and then steadily speed up.

The humidity was awful, and there wasn’t much of a breeze in the first few miles. If the humidity hadn’t been so unbearable, I would’ve enjoyed the scenery more. I started taking walk breaks in mile 6, and my race just went to pot (in my oxygen deprived state).

I’ve always held the opinion that I would rather walk in a race before throwing up, and that’s where I was. I had salt residue on my skin even with the Nuun, so I began dumping water over my head at aid stations. I tried to stay positive. I waved and called out to other runners I knew on the course, and I chatted with other runners around me. There were some out and back places which helped. I waited on the rain that was supposed to come but never did. The sun came out and heated it up more. My sunglasses were in the car. 😦

Then I finished

 

– and this is how I felt.

I found out later that my time (2:17 something) didn’t even show up on the results, but I didn’t care too much. I sent an email to the race director but it’s not that big of a deal.

I was upset, but after reading other posts on Instagram and Facebook, I started to feel a little better. I just need to realize that humidity does me in. Every time. FYI: This is not how your mile splits should look.

On a positive note, the race was well done. The medals were huge! The pacers were great. Free race photos! They just needed some chocolate milk for recovery. Fortunately there was a QT right down the road.

 

My next race will be a 10k on Memorial Day. What a great way to start a week off right!

 

 

 

Training Update: Getting ready for Cowtown

The past few weeks have been hectic with life and training. It seems like my weeknights have been more chaotic than they were in the fall. Typically, the blog lands at the bottom of the to do list. Apparently these other people in my house like to eat dinner and such. Now that my oldest daughter is back at college, and my husband has started his new job, maybe I can get back into my routine.

Training for Cowtown has been going strong the past few weeks. I’ve been working on some strength and mobility work, because I plan to follow the Simple Marathon Training this fall. I’ve been doing the SAM work after every run for at least four weeks, and I can tell the difference – at least when I’m running up my hills.

I had some trouble getting back to my usual paces after Dallas, but all of a sudden it clicked one day and running felt good again. It’s been difficult for me to get my mileage up with everything else going on, and running twice a day won’t work right now. So to up my training game, I started swimming again.

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It had been two months since I’d been to the pool, but once I got back in the water I remembered why I enjoyed it. I am slow, and swimming without the concern of a time cutoff had a different effect on me. When I get out of the pool my legs aren’t mad at me, and my glutes don’t whine. Now my arms are another thing. But for now I’m supplementing my running, and working my way back to the strength I felt during half Ironman training. I don’t have any triathlon races planned so far this year, but I believe the swimming can only help me for the marathon.

My running buddy and I haven’t been able to get together for a long run in a few weeks, so this past Saturday I had to tackle a 20 miler almost solo. I did meet up with the group for a few miles, but everyone was going different directions and paces, so I stuck to my plan. It was nice to see some of them out in different areas though as I checked off the miles. I was pleased with my time.

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The plan was to just do the distance, and not worry about the pace. I missed an 18 miler the weekend before, so I didn’t want to shock my body too much. The first and the last mile were the only two miles over 10:00 pace (and the last one had a steep uphill). I discovered a great new gel flavor!

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Tastes just like Nutella!

 

 

This weekend I’m going to do 22 miles, and then I’ll start tapering. My running buddy and several from our group are running the Hot Chocolate 15k in Dallas on Saturday. I hate to miss it, but I’ve got a lot going on and I wanted to make sure my Cowtown training included one more long run of 20 plus.

In other news, I am happy to report that I’m returning as a Nuun ambassador for another year.

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I bought my first tube of Nuun at the Dallas Marathon expo in 2012. I almost DNFd the race the next day due to dehydration. You know, nothing new on race day. After that painfully slow race, I tried Nuun on a long run. I haven’t had any issues since then. It’s easier on my stomach than other sports drinks and without the sugar. Right now, my favorite flavor is Grape.

Finally, have you been following along the World Marathon Challenge this past week? I heard Ryan Hall talk about it at the Dallas Marathon Expo stage, and it was inspiring to follow this journey. Then Mike Wardian made history as he ran all 7 under 3 hours. I can’t even imagine covering that kind of distance! This is a pretty good article about it. And if you check out Ryan Hall’s social media accounts, he did videos along the way. It was interesting to see how he went through some of the same stages in a marathon. “I told myself I wouldn’t go out too fast. I went out too fast.”

He also talked about how he admires the everyday runners who get out and run marathons in 4, 5, and 6 hours.

Again, that’s one of the things I love about this sport. There’s a connection and a community, no matter what pace you run. 🙂

 

Buffalo Springs 70.3 (Part 2 Bike and Run)

If you missed my last post about the start of my Half Ironman at Buffalo Springs, you can catch up on it here. The next part of the race was the longest and required some mental effort. I apologize in advance for being long-winded. I love to write and I love to give details. Double whammy here.

To sum up where I left off, I had completed the swim not knowing how long it took me, and made it to the bike with people still behind me. I was feeling pretty good.

THE BIKE:

I had a nice mental boost from seeing my husband and brother right off the bat, then I passed where we parked and the downhill was followed immediately by another climb. This one got to me. I was breathing heavy, focusing on my turnover when a guy passed me and said “Easier gear.” The guy right behind him said “You have two more.” I acknowledged with “Thanks” and shifted – twice. I was calm and ready to tackle the ride. Once I completed that hill, I knew I had a while before the next one.

The weather was cooperating so far with a cloudy sky and low winds. It was a nice day for a bike ride.

As I moved forward into the second major climb, I saw the athletes coming down and it didn’t seem as scary as it had in the car. This was the one that curved around with a guardrail that bordered a cliff. The downhill that kept me awake half the night. The one I was most worried about. But focusing on my climb, I noticed some riders walking their bikes up the hill. I focused my legs on a steady cadence and stayed in my seat all the way up. I honestly could’ve run a flat road faster than my speed climbing, but I got it done. My motto all throughout the ride became “the tortoise always wins.” I repeated it out loud as needed. I focused on my race, my speed, and my skills. After the turnaround when I began descending, I kept my confidence in place and braked all the way down. “That wasn’t so bad.” I knew that if I made it through that one, I’d be okay for the others. The next big climb had a sign “Spiral Staircase.” This one was steeper but there were no big drop-offs. I saw people walking their bikes up again. It definitely hurt going up, but again I focused on a steady climb. A straightway for several miles, and then a turn around right into the wind. Coming back down the Spiral Staircase was a little faster than the other hill, and scary in a roller coaster thrill way. Oh thank goodness it was a low wind day, because the rest of the ride I fought the wind one direction or another. I couldn’t get my average pace above 14.0. Even with the downhills.

By mile 50, the wind had taken its toll on my legs. They were done and I wanted to be off the bike. The sun had come out about 2 hours into the ride, and I was on my last bottle of Nuun. I was getting thirsty so I tried to ration the rest of my drink. I didn’t want to stop before I finished the bike. My bike was moving slower than I estimated, and since I didn’t know my swim time, I hated to push the time limits. Looking back, I should have had more chews on the bike instead of the extra Clif bar I never ate. At mile 55, I audibly groaned “Oh no!” as I began to climb the final hill in the park before the downhill to transition. It was a straight up hill.

I crested the top, rode past our car and began the descent. Then I saw my oldest daughter right as she turned around and saw me. She began to cheer, and I saw all the other kids, my brother, and my husband. They all began cheering so loud, people were turning to see who was coming. I felt like a superstar! I made the final turn and when I hit the dismount line, the volunteer said “Coming in smiling. That’s a good sign.”

“Yes, because I’m done,” I said.

The tortoise always wins.

Here’s some of the data from my Garmin. Ignore the elevation gain, because it’s not correct. It’s actually just over 1000′ of gain, but I wanted to show the hills on the graph!

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Side note: I can’t say enough about how wonderful it was having my family cheer coming in off of the bike. I needed that lift going into the next part of the race.

THE RUN:

Coming off the bike, I was surprised my legs didn’t feel more wobbly. My first mile I stayed busy trying to make sure I was headed in the right direction, and I didn’t pay attention to my pacing. I knew the run was two loops so when I saw the first mile marker I relaxed a bit. Not paying attention to my pace was a mistake. The first mile averaged 9:30. In the second mile, I slowed to grab a cold towel at the aid station. My second mile pace was in the 10:30s. Then I guess you could say my wheels fell off. (Good thing this wasn’t on the bike. Ha!) The third mile started the walk breaks and I had an 11:30 average pace for that mile. Oops!

My legs were fine. It was my breathing I was struggling with. I was getting hot, and somewhat nauseated at the thought of taking in my chews. I tried a couple of them after the third mile, and kind of gagged a little while chewing. I took in some more around mile 5 and had the same problem. This is the same stuff I trained with, but my body wasn’t handling it at this point. Ever since before the swim, I had felt like my food was sitting at the back of my throat. I handled it ok on the bike, but the jostling from the run made it worse.

With this kind of trouble on the run with the heat, I quickly shifted my plan to run/walk/smile. I walked through almost every aid station. Wet cold towels, ice in my visor, and taking in Gatorade to get the carbs. My stomach did okay with that and I still had my Nuun in my bottle along with some Nuun Plus. As I came across the bridge to finish my first loop, I saw my husband. I called out, “You know that 2 1/2 hour half marathon I planned? Not gonna happen.” But I was okay with it. I was the tortoise. As he ran alongside me for a minute, I told him about being too hot, and my nutrition problems. My legs were still okay, but my effort felt hard even staying around a 12 minute pace.

The second lap was even tougher. The crowd had thinned out as most people were done by now, and I still had well over an hour to go. I talked to other runners, and fell into a run/walk pattern with another athlete for a while. We chatted about goals. Mine was to finish. She added, “finish with a smile.” I thanked all the volunteers. They were so uplifting at that point in the race. The ice was wonderful and I would grab handfuls at the aid stations and put it in my hat and down the front of my tri top to stay cool. I walked up the monster hill along with everyone else and noticed one of the hand cyclists rolling up the hill backward to get up. That was a game changer for me. There I was, walking to get through the tough parts of the course with all my limbs functioning, while those guys didn’t have that option. They did the swim, the bike, and the run all with their arms and upper body. It was so inspiring to see him working up that hill, and I know he was tired but he kept going!

I began to feel a little energized in the last mile. Two of my kids ran alongside me for a couple of minutes. They told me they had been swimming in the lake. Then I saw my other daughter, then my husband, then my brother, then his wife and kids were near the finish line. I felt like I was flying at that point. According to my Garmin, it was my third fastest mile. I made the final turn and saw the finish line, crying and smiling at the same time. I heard the announcer call out my name, and just like that I had a medal on my neck and a finisher shirt in my hand.

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The finisher shirt was an XL, and I tried to exchange it for a smaller size. Then I found out when you’re near the back of the pack, you don’t have much to choose from. I could have XL or XXL.

My husband has a new shirt to wear.

That evening, I finally saw what my swim time was and it completely surprised me. Overall, I expected I would finish in about 7.5 hours, and I wasn’t too far off the mark. I was surprised at how the run knocked me out, but my goals were to finish. I was the tortoise, and that was quite all right with me.

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