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. 🙂

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! 🙂 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. 🙂

 

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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. 🙂

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!”  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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 17 and Time to Taper

I just finished up week 17 of Dallas Marathon training, and I’m excited to get some of my Saturday time back. With the 18s and 20s, I forgot what it’s like to come home and eat breakfast after a long run. 🙂

We had a few cool days last week, or at least Chloe thought so.

But for the long run on Saturday, it was warm and windy.  The workout for the day called for a 16 mile run: 7 easy, 8 at marathon pace, 1 cool down. The marathon pace wasn’t happening. Temperatures were in the high 60s and the wind was up to 20 mph. Our plan was to do the long run as planned, then head over to the local Turkey Trot and have fun with it. I was going to run it with my kids (which would be a trot/walk/trot/walk).

Even though the marathon pace was a struggle, I felt like I put in marathon effort. At least we got to see a beautiful sunrise as we ran. I was short on time to get the kids and get to the race, so I stopped at 15.

I was frustrated that I didn’t have time to finish, but I figured I’d make up for it in the 5k. We had several from our group running the race, and I always enjoy local races with my running friends.

 

My son wanted to run with his friend, so I started the race with my daughter. She hasn’t been running, but I figured swimming and marching band kept up her fitness enough. About half a mile in, after our second walk break, she took off running and tripped on the railroad tracks. She face-planted and that was the end of our 5k. I gave her a hard time about giving me my first DNF.

After we got home from breakfast after the race, I did my strength and mobility work I should have done immediately after the long run. I got up on Sunday to walk on the treadmill for 45 minutes, and I felt pretty good. No sore muscles.

There are just three weeks of training to go! The second half of this 20 week training has flown by! This is the point of the training where I start to get anxious wondering if I’ve done enough. It’s time to trust the training.

 

More Summer Racing

It’s been an interesting mix of workouts the past few weeks. I’ve done a couple of bike rides, some trail running, track work, hills, and a little bit of racing to keep my motivation strong. 🙂

 

A few weeks ago, I ran my third half marathon of the year at the Jalapeno Half in Fort Worth.

It’s been a few years since I’ve done this race, and the course is different. I was expecting a hilly tough course on the roads. Instead, we got an overcast day along the Trinity Trails in Trinity Park. It was halfway out on the paved path, a turnaround, and back. I had a goal of wanting to run just under 2 hours. Spoiler alert: I didn’t quite make it, but it was my fastest so far this year. I held pretty steady around the 9:00 pace up until mile 8 and then there was a porta-potty stop in mile 11. But I didn’t quit on myself (no walking) and finished with 2:04:34. Since most of my long runs have been around the 10 mile mark lately, I’m happy with that.

I made sure to bring my own chocolate milk!

It was a big surprise when I checked my results and found I placed 3rd in my age group. I figured it was a small group, but online results showed more than 20, and about 400 runners in the half. Even though it certainly wasn’t my fastest half, it helped boost my motivation to keep working hard. So I’ll take that trophy! 🙂

My next race was a 5k in McKinney this past Saturday – the Red, White, Blue Run. This is why I’ve been working at the track every week – trying to remind my legs they can run fast.

We had some heavy rain the night before and early in the morning, so I wasn’t even sure if I was going to get to race. But the storms cleared out, and I got to the race site early enough to do a couple of warmup miles. My goal was to run under 25:00 based on my Strava mile (7:45) the week before, and my Memorial Day 10k. Prior to this, my last 5k was in September, so I was long overdue for a fast run.

As the start time neared, the early morning cool air had disappeared. At least it was still overcast. There were about 150 runners, so it wasn’t a huge race but enough people to engage my competitive side. The main trouble I had from the start was with my shoes through some wet places. There’s not a lot of tread, and I’ve only used them on the track. But they are lighter than all the other shoes I run in so they feel great! My Garmin buzzed the first mile right around 8:00 pace, and some quick math let me know I needed to hang on or drop it down some. My second mile was almost the same time, and I started to reel in some of the runners that were ahead of me. Right before the end of the third mile, there was a short climb. I knew it was coming, but boy did it hurt. In fact, the whole race hurt! When I saw my pace at the end of the third mile, I knew that to make my sub 25, I needed to bust it out to the finish. It was going to be close, and I thought there was a chance I wouldn’t make it. But then I crossed the finish and saw my time. 24:34!

 

This is probably the best (evenly) paced 5k I’ve ever run. My first mile is always the fastest – by more than a few seconds – but not this time. I didn’t step off the coals!

Strong finish!

I went back to get my yoga mat out of the car and do my strength and mobility (SAM) work. Then I headed back over to the site to check my results. I won Female Masters! More motivation for me to keep working hard – and a pretty nice award too!

 

Later, I compared my time to that September 5k. It was on a flat course and my time was only 11 seconds faster than this one. Even though I have felt slower this year, I’m really running about the same as I was last fall. I think it’s just that I’ve had several races (marathons, half marathons) where I let myself off the hook, and quit chasing my goals with passion. I settled for comfortable, and I’m not okay with that anymore. My running is kind of like my math classes were in high school. I could make good grades, but I had to really work hard to get those good grades. It wasn’t natural for me (like reading and writing). So when I don’t put forth that effort to work on speed, or race, or just push myself period, then I’m just not going to get any better. I want to improve, not stay the same. I don’t know if that makes sense, because I really need to get some sleep right now, but basically I need to be as intentional with my running as I was with my math classes.

This coming Sunday, I have one more race before marathon training starts – Too Hot to Handle 15k. It’s going to be a warm one! But I’m going to do my best and stay on the coals.

 

 

 

Remembrance Run 10K

Building a better runner has meant that I am going against my natural instinct to run a lot of miles, and instead focus on the little extras that will make me stronger and faster. To start off, I went back to the Racing Weight book. I wrote down my weight and body fat percentage, and ran a 10k time trial. Four weeks later, I did it again. At my third measurement, I had only lost a total of 2 pounds and 0.6% fat, but had dropped my 10k time from 57:00 to 54:36. The marathon fatigue is out of my legs, and I’m moving in the right direction. It’s coming off slowly (thanks to being over 40), but it’s still progress.

My mileage has ranged from 22-30 miles a week. I typically do a faster run on Mondays and speed work on Wednesdays. Thursdays are for cross training and strength. Tuesdays and Fridays are easy runs with a group long run on Saturdays. The other thing I’ve added is taking my daughter to swim about 3 times a week. She made the swim team for high school, and the coach wanted her to work on building strength and endurance. I can handle the endurance part – it’s the only way I know to train! It’s been a nice bonus to my training, because it is in addition to everything else I’m doing. Going to swim after a 10 mile run is a stimulus that I’m sure will pay off in running. I’m not fast in the water, but swimming  makes me feel good.

A week after my last 10k time trial, I raced a 10k. The Remembrance Run on Memorial Day was my first 10k race since last August, and I was excited. My goal was to run under 54:00 based on my most recent Racing Weight check, and to negative split the second half. My husband took the day off and went with me, his mountain bike in tow. The course was an out and back on a concrete path through a park system in McKinney. It went through some of the same areas as the UCAN half marathon. When I was talking about the race and my goals with my friend, she reminded me “Don’t step off the coals.” This is from a book we’re reading to work on the mental part of the running, because we have big goals.

Medals of Honor was at the race, and they had so many bibs of fallen service members you could run for. My race medal would be donated to the family of this young lady:

 

When I lined up to race, I made sure to position myself ahead of small children and people who looked like they would be walking or running in groups. It was an out and back race. I was going to run mostly off of feel, but also check my Garmin to make sure I was consistent. My first mile was 8:32. Then the second one made me nervous – 8:13. But I reminded myself not to step off the coals. Mile 3 was before the turnaround in 8:28. My turnaround mile with the water stop was an 8:47. Then my husband rode alongside in the grass, playing his music, distracting me from my pain. I focused on the runners ahead of me, and caught a few of them gradually. No one passed me. Miles 5 and 6 were 8:33 and 8:38, and I finished the final .2 feeling strong.

So while I didn’t negative split the second half, my overall time was 52:51 which is an average pace of 8:32. I was so excited to meet my time goal – and it showed on the finish line.

I guess I nailed stopping my Garmin too, because it only differed from my chip time by one second. 🙂

My focus was to stay strong even when it hurt. I’ve had too many races lately where I’ve fallen apart halfway. I wasn’t going to let that happen this time. I wanted to be confident that I ran my hardest for where my fitness is right now, and I feel good about it. I didn’t step off the coals. Second place in my age group felt pretty good too!

I have a 5k coming up on July 1st, and I may try to get in a few more short races before marathon training starts again.  But for now, I’ll just have some fun with it and enjoy the change of pace. 🙂