Rock ‘n Roll San Diego Half Marathon

I got to take my first destination race trip earlier this month, to the Rock ‘n Roll San Diego Marathon. I was excited for the opportunity to represent Team Chocolate Milk, and the whole weekend was so much fun.

My running friend, Leda, and I took this trip together. We both needed a break from reality for a few days.

This was also my first flight in years! I haven’t been on a plane in so long (pre-9/11) but with kids, etc. it’s just been hard to get away. So my first introduction to TSA involved a full pat down (welcome back to air travel) and then we were ready to head out of Texas. The only issue we had was a short flight delay, but we arrived in San Diego to cloudy skies and cool temperatures. I’m glad I grabbed a light jacket at the last minute before leaving home!

Our hotel was great and let us check in three hours early! We then headed to the expo at the convention center on foot, stopping to eat a slice of pizza on the way.

Palm Trees!

At the expo we picked up our packets, got some freebies, and bought some new socks.

Ready for Chocolate Milk!

We explored some more around the convention center, and found a place for dinner. As we made our way back to the hotel, we came across the Donut Bar. One of our running friends had suggested we stop there while we were in town. She said there would be a line but it was worth it. They were closed when we got there, but the sign said there was an encore ropening at 5 pm. It was 4:45 so we waited.

There are 2 donuts in that huge box – and a line out the door!

It was worth it.

 

Since we had decided against running the 5k, our Saturday schedule was wide open. The hardest part was waiting for the breakfast room to open, because we were both wide awake by 4:00 am. ๐Ÿ™‚

We took advantage of no time schedule and the opportunity to explore San Diego. I wasn’t too worried about my race time. It wouldn’t be my fastest half marathon, and I didn’t know if I would ever have the chance to come back to San Diego. So we said the heck with it, and looked at our options. My husband (a Navy vet) had suggested we go to the USS Midway since we were so close. It was a lot of walking, but so interesting! As the wife of a veteran, and mom to a Navy ROTC midshipman (she will be a commissioned officer this time next year), the Navy has had a lot of influence on my life. It makes me appreciate my comfortable life so much more, seeing what our service members go through to keep us safe.

USS Midway

The Hangar Deck

After about four hours touring the Midway Museum, we headed down the road for a late lunch/early dinner. We found the park where they were setting up the stage and post race party area.

Interesting art sculpture in a park

We trekked up the big hill back to our hotel, and my legs were tired! I laid out my flat runner and was ready to get some sleep!

RACE DAY!

I had no trouble getting ready for a 6:30 am race start, because we kept our body clocks on our own time zone. We had about a mile to walk to the start in Balboa Park, and it was a cool 62 degrees.

If you’ve ever run a Rock ‘n Roll race, you know the energy at the start line is great. I dropped my bag (with my jacket) at the VIP gear check. Thank you chocolate milk! Then we headed to our corral.

 

I was excited to run!

Once we started, Leda and I ran together for a minute, then we each settled into our own pace. I couldn’t believe how great the weather felt! I could run and breathe – at the same time! ๐Ÿ™‚ I didn’t worry about my pace too much, and just focused on settling into my pace. I gave myself a quick reminder to enjoy the run, and also gave myself grace for having tired legs, but I didn’t give myself an out for it either. I knew the course had some hills, but boy I was not prepared for that many! I think hills are one of my strengths as a runner, but I didn’t want to use up all my energy. I just worked on picking up the pace on the downhills to even it out. I knew from the course profile the last couple of miles were mostly downhill and I could kick it out then.

A little past mile 4 was the wear blue: run to remember mile. Do you know how hard it is to run at half marathon pace and try not to lose it? The combination of touring the USS Midway the day before, being a Navy wife, having a daughter who will be a Naval officer in a year, and knowing service members who have lost their lives, it hit me hard. There are pictures of those who’ve lost their lives. Their name, rank, age, and the year they died. Picture after picture along the road for over half a mile. All so young! I was trying to breathe and not cry. Then when the pictures stop, the people holding flags start. On each side of the road, cheering for you for the rest of the mile. Some of them were in uniform, some were wearing blue. I’m stumbling with my words here, so all I can say is I’m thankful, grateful.

I continued my foot tour of San Diego and navigated the hills with a smooth pace. There were lots of spectators along the way – and more hills. It was still cool and cloudy. I was happy to see that I was staying around a 9:00 pace. There was a huge downhill in mile 10 that I would have liked to fly down, but in my mind I could see me sprawled out across the pavement if I did. So I held back and took it steady. A guy flew by me on the way down, but he was young and it made my quads hurt just watching him.

Then we had to go back up. Again.

Course elevation from my Garmin. Note the big drop near the end.

Finally, in the last 5k I kicked up the pace. Mile 12 was almost all downhill and I was booking it. I knew I was close to being under 2 hours, and there were no excuses. At the beginning of mile 13, there was one more tough climb, but the rest was a smooth descent to the finish. I crossed the finish line pleased with my effort. No stops, no walks. Negative splits.

 

Negative Splits!

I found my chocolate milk!

 

And why do I love to recover with chocolate milk? You can read the research here. I also like that it’s ready to go. It’s affordable, can get it anywhere, and it is easy on my stomach when I can’t always eat after a hard run. It took me a while before I was ready to eat, so I was glad to have started the recovery process with my chocolate milk.

I then headed over to the VIP tent, which was set up near the stage. I got a post race massage, and a little more food to tide me over. I saw Meb with his family, and some of the elite runners I follow. But I’m a chicken when I don’t have anyone to push me out there to meet them. I later saw where Meb had paced a family member in his first half marathon. How awesome is that!

I found Leda and we enjoyed some time sitting on the grass, listening to the music from the stage, and chatting about the race.

Then we went down to the harbor so I could get a few souvenirs, and my medal picture.

 

And the trek back up the hill to the hotel with what was left of my quads.

Our hotel was near the building at the top of this picture.

 

Then we found a great place for lunch and another wonderful place for some gelato. I definitely indulged, and I’m not even sorry.

How do you choose?

Pick 2 flavors!

Also, my Garmin showed I had 22 miles total for the day.

I really enjoyed this trip so much. We had great food everywhere, good service, and no issues at all.

It was a nice break; all centered around doing what I love to do: run.

…and eat. ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Cowtown Marathon 2019

Unlike the Houston Marathon post, my Cowtown recap has been a slow go just because of all the activity we’ve had and that I’ve inflicted upon myself.

I have a lot to write about, and I really had a great time running the Cowtown again this year. (***foreshadowing***)

I had the chance again this year to participate as a Cowtown Ambassador, and was grateful for the opportunity. I do love this race for so many reasons, and I think it’s a must do especially if you live in the North Texas area.

I started my race weekend on Friday at the expo, handing out race shirts.

You would not believe how hard it can be to pull those little tabs off the bibs. ๐Ÿ™‚

Since I took care of the expo that Friday, that meant I could focus on rest and relaxation on Saturday. My energy was a little high though. I kept wanting to clean, but I forced myself to stay off my feet as much as possible. Tough job, but I managed it well.

Sunday morning, very early, my friend and I headed to Fort Worth. We would meet others from our group at the race. Some were running the half, and some the full marathon. The weather was perfect – for me! Chilly enough to need a jacket beforehand, but it would warm up enough to run in a tank and shorts.

I just settled into a comfortable pace from the start. No time goal, but I wanted it to be better than Houston. My miles ticked off in the range of 9:00-9:30s. I felt good. I felt strong running up the hills – even the one in mile 9!

Tackling the hill on the Main Street bridge

My first 10 minute mile was at the halfway point, to refill my bottle. I was cruising along. It was sunny, but not hot, and I was comfortable. Around mile 17, though, I passed a makeshift aid station – you know where the people who live in the neighborhoods cheer and hand out stuff. I spotted a table with a tub of Vaseline and shouted out “God bless you” as I ran over to it. They all laughed. It was a necessary stop. My arms hadn’t been in a tank top in a while, and it was starting to get painful. It may have cost me some time, but it saved my skin!

I got back on pace, and at mile 20 I was still holding my miles around the 10 minute pace, and I felt good. Such a contrast to how I felt in Houston when I was slogging through 11 minute miles after mile 10. Then the hills got me. Those last 4 miles of Cowtown whoop me every time. Those hills are tough! But I continued to smile and focus on getting it done. A walk break near the end of mile 22 and a dash into a porta-potty cost me a little bit of time, but then it was into the park for the final miles. Then my favorite part – the finish!

 

I accomplished three time goals at Cowtown:

  1. Faster than Houston (on a tougher course)
  2. Faster than last year’s Cowtown (I may be a year older, but I’m not slowing down)
  3. Under 4:30

A close look at my last several marathons shows steady, small improvements each time. They’re not big chunks of time, but it’s progress. I’m not giving up!

 

My 19th Marathon

Hanging with friends after the race

3 year medal series – complete.

 

 

 

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!”ย  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.ย ย Cowtownย weekend is in just two weeks, and it’s going to be great!