DanMan Challenge

I never know what I’m capable of if I don’t try.

That was my motto going into DanMan. My goal was 50 miles, and even though it was a stretch, I knew I needed the mindset that I would complete 50. Otherwise, I was giving myself a way out the first time it got hard.

So on the morning of April 6th, my husband and I loaded up the car and headed north. He brought his mountain bike just in case. Good call.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, or how my body would react. My longest trail run leading up to DanMan was 13 miles a few weeks earlier, and the most time I had ever spent on my feet was a 5 hour road marathon in 2012. I did feel like I still had my marathon fitness from January and February though. The layout of the course, and the fact that it was free, kept me from freaking out too much. My main concern for that day was the weather and the threat of thunderstorms.

I met up with some of the guys I’ve run with on the trails/met through Strava who were also signed up for the 50 miler. That made it less scary knowing others there.

My kind of people! Donuts and Coke before the run.

Everyone ran the first loop, which was 10k. I was running with the guys, and we settled into a run/walk the hills rhythm. As we came back around to the start/ranch house, my husband had his bike ready to go out. I changed my hat (because it was starting to rain) to one that would cover my head better. We headed out together on the second loop, which was for half, marathon, and 50 milers. The course was mainly dirt roads around the ranch, so he biked on one side while I ran/walked on the other.

We made the turn off for the 50 mile loop, and that’s when the weather took a turn. Rain started coming down harder, and there was lightning and thunder. I got a refresher course on where to go/what to do if you’re out on the trail or road when there’s lightning. We counted seconds between lightning strikes and thunder. 6 miles away, then 8, then 10. The lightning was moving off, but it was pouring. Rain was dripping off my hat, and I was trying to just get through the muddy sections and stay upright.ย  We finished the loop and came back onto the main loop, and we even got to run with Dan (the Danman) for a bit. Then we made our way back to the ranch house/start.

Those hills though…

At this point I was close to 17 miles in 4 hours. My quads were aching from the hills and my inner thighs were sore. Most of my miles were averaging 13 minute pace.

My husband took a break while I headed back out on the first 10k loop. This time it was very different. I was slipping and sliding, and even fell back on my rear from sliding in the mud. It wasn’t much of a fall, more of a slip and sit move. I told the guys to go on without me. I knew the layout of the course by then. I started getting frustrated with the amount of time it was taking to cover the distance. Miles were ranging from 15-20 minutes. The long uphill back to the ranch house took forever. My shoes were heavy with mud. I kept trying to scrape them off, but it didn’t make much of a difference. The cars that passed me on their way out of the ranch would slow and wave, shout out encouragement or cheer, and that lifted my spirits. When I finished the loop, I found my husband by the car. “I need to change my shoes.” It was mile 23. I changed my hat again too, to a dry visor.

By this time, the rain had stopped and the sun was trying to come out. It was a little humid, but I wasn’t running much so it didn’t bother me as bad as it usually does. My husband headed back out with me on his bike. By this time I was expecting to make it to around 33 miles with the next two loops. But it was still so muddy.

I was hurting from my legs sliding side to side – I’m not used to that movement you know. I was walking a lot more. My quads were aching. I was covering miles in 20 minutes. I had an alert on my Garmin set for every 45 minutes to remind me to fuel. Thank goodness for that. I would’ve missed a lot of calories. I remember saying, “Didn’t I just take a gel a few minutes ago?” Time was moving fast, but my legs were moving oh so slow.

And the low points. I cried – more than once. I said, “I knew it would be hard. I just didn’t know it would be this hard this early.” I hadn’t even made it to the marathon distance.

But then I did.

My husband took my phone and posted pictures to Facebook for my friends following along. Before we reached the turn off loop for the 50 milers again, I told him I wanted to skip it. I just wanted to be done. He agreed.

For all the low points, I had just as many smiles of celebration. I cheered each mile over 26 as a new distance. Yes, I finished another mile. Yes, that was a 17 minute mile instead of 20. Little victories helped get me back to the ranch house – where all I wanted to do was stop moving.

When I came up to the ranch house from the mud and reached the aid station table, I stopped my Garmin. I was done.

By that point, I didn’t care that I didn’t make it to 50k, and for sure 50 miles. The mud had done me in and my legs were through.

I looked at the table full of food that I had passed three times throughout the day. Pretzels, Nutella, trail mix, m&ms, pb&j, pickles, chips, crackers… So much food, but nothing sounded good. I wasn’t nauseous, and I knew I needed some calories. The man taking care of the table handed me a cup of Ramen with saltine crackers on top. It’s exactly what I needed.

After cleaning up and changing clothes, we headed into the ranch house where we could sit down and eat, and talk about the day. My legs were pretty mad at me and my feet were a mess, but I had a feeling of accomplishment that I haven’t had in a while. It was humbling for sure, but I don’t think my time on the trails, or with ultras, is through.

On a final note, I will say that trail race food is so much better than road race food.

Brisket, coleslaw, potato salad, pie. YUM!

 

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What’s Next?

We took my son to a Mavs game a couple of months ago, and had the world’s most obnoxious fan sitting behind us. At one point, she hollered at the ref (like he could hear her from our seats), “What are you? Stupid?” Then she yelled out “S-T-O-O-P-I-D.” My 13 year-old swung his head around and mouthed “she can’t even spell stupid.”

When I think about my next endeavor, that phrase runs through my brain.

Here’s how I got there:

Part of my post Houston race meltdown meant I needed to shift my focus. I’ve been chasing that BQ goal for several years, and I’m coming up short of where I want to be. My journey will continue though. Since my race schedule was wide open after Cowtown, I felt a little lost on what to do next. I made a list of what things I needed to work on, to continue to improve in the marathon specifically. But honestly, it’s easier for me to get out of bed to train when I have races on the calendar. I guess that’s why it seems like I’m always training for a race.

A friend of mine suggested the Danman Challenge. It’s close – maybe an hour’s drive from my home – and it’s free. That’s perfect for this frugal runner. It would also help take my focus off the numbers (paces) for a bit, while I could do keep doing what I love to do – run a lot. The drawback: the distance is a jump from the marathon to 50 miles. It is definitely a new challenge. No fanfare. No medals. Just testing my limits on going the distance – and that seems to be the point of Danman.

I’ve kept it kind of quiet on social media, without really putting out there what I’m planning. Admittedly, there’s a fear of falling short. I’ve never run more than a marathon, and here I’m going to attempt twice the distance – on a trail setting. I’ve been winging the training. Long runs on the roads on Saturdays, long runs on trails on Sundays. Lots and lots of miles. I treated Cowtown as a hard training week, and was running the week after. I don’t know if it’s enough, but I fit in what I could while keeping the household running.

One of my running friends recently asked me what I was training for next, and my answer was “I’m training for stupid.”

But on a serious note, I’m going into this challenge with the mindset that I’m going to complete 50 miles. If I don’t, I’ve already given myself permission to quit when it gets tough.

I’ll come out on the other side either all in for ultra distances, or I’ll be happy to step back to the marathon. I’m sure I’ll find out a lot about myself.

Here’s to being S-T-O-O-P-I-D. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Getting Ready for Cowtown

This statement resonated with me as I dealt with my disappointment from Houston. I went from being okay, to a post-race meltdown with tears, to being fired up for the next one in just a matter of days.

So I took some time to really evaluate my goals, and find a way to still challenge myself in a new way (more on that part at a later date).

I eased back into the running after a good recovery week, but I’ve also added some new things to shake things up – like yoga classes and indoor rowing.

I went to my first yoga class a few weeks ago, and it was awkward. I can’t touch my toes, and stretching is something I’m not real consistent about. But I can see how this will be helpful for me to continue. So I’m going to keep at it.

I think we had one Saturday long run where I wore shorts and short sleeves. It was humid, but I was happy without all the extra gear.

I’m also making sure to not let my goal chasing consume me. Yes my running goals are important, but it’s also important to take a breather and relax in between.

So we took my son to a Dallas Mavericks game one Sunday evening. He had been looking forward to it for months, and it was a great game to watch. The hardest part was staying out past 9 p.m. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Actually, the hard part was that the world’s most obnoxious fan was right behind me.

 

I also volunteered at a local area trail run this past weekend with one of my friends. We worked an aid station 2.5 miles from the start/finish and the theme was the Love Shack. It was freezing cold, but we had fun. It was interesting to see so many different types of runners on the trail. You have some that are completely focused on getting to the finish, and then some that are out there just for the experience. I made a lot of pb&j, and it was just like the good old days when I made my kids’ lunches.

I think volunteering is important for runners to do. Without volunteers, there are no races. I encourage you to find a way to help out a local race. Some of them have perks for volunteering (free race entries, free shirt), but some of them just need your time.

This week I’m tapering for Cowtown, with extra rest and a little bit of running. I’ll be at the expo handing out t-shirts on Friday, so if you’re there early come say hi! Then on Sunday, I’ll run my 19th marathon. It’s time to complete my medal set!

 

 

Dallas (Half) Marathon 2018

The Dallas Marathon was my first half marathon in 2010, and my first full marathon in 2011. I’ve participated in it every year, always opting for the full marathon after the first one. This year, due to my goals, I discussed with my coach and we decided the half marathon would be a good way for me to still carry on the tradition, without compromising my training for Houston.

Results of my past full marathons in Dallas reflect my love/hate relationship with this course: 4:32, 5:12, 4:31, 4:17, 4:26, 4:46. So honestly up until before race week, I felt okay about running the half instead.

To be honest though, I was a little sad on race week. Nostalgia and all. But not stressing about running 26 miles while walking around the expo was kind of nice.

I made a stop by the Cowtown booth to “ooh” and “aah” over the 2019 race shirts and medals. Don’t forget, if you want to run this great race you can still register under my team “Anyone Can Run” and use promo code AMBASSADOR5 to save a total of $10 on a Sunday race.ย 

On race day morning, the weather was perfect – for a marathon. ๐Ÿ™‚ High 30s, slight wind. The high for the day was only going to be in the 40s. I take credit for the great forecast, since I wasn’t running 26 miles. My friend and I lined up in the start corral, and I also met one of my RunRelated teammates who is also training for Houston. I was in shorts, with long sleeves (that I could push up), throwaway gloves, and my headband.

Tip: save heat sheets from previous races to stay warm at the start! (Mine was around my legs)

Then we were off. I focused on a consistent, steady pace, only looking at my Garmin once or twice a mile. I kept the Garmin on the lap screen so I didn’t see the total time, only lap distance and pace. Mile 3 went a little bonkers, because my pace showed some unrealistic 6 and 7 minute paces, then buzzed quite a bit before the mile marker. I knew that one would be off. But I didn’t let it bother me. The hills in the middle of the race can be tough if you’re not prepared, but I knew once we were past 15k, the course would flatten out. Much better than how San Antonio had that crazy hill at mile 11.

Throughout the race, I had pulled off my gloves and tucked them away. The sun peeked out, and I moved my headband to my wrist. I pushed my sleeves up and was starting to sweat.

When the half split from the full at mile 9, I wasn’t even sad. After the turn, I saw the mile 22 banner across the road (where the full course joins back up). I smiled when I realized I was running strong and I wasn’t crying on this stretch of road for probably the first time. ๐Ÿ™‚ It cooled off a little with the wind and some shade, so pulled my sleeves back down as I covered this last part of the course. I tried to pick up my pace for the remaining couple of miles to finish strong. It looks like the hills took their toll. I didn’t look at my overall time until I crossed the finish line and stopped my Garmin.

As I made my way through the finisher chute, picking up all my post race goodies, I was smiling. I had run a good race at Dallas for the first time in a few years. It was my fastest half marathon all year – and my fastest half since 2016. I sat down on the curb with my chocolate milk and took it all in.

Yay chocolate milk!

Mentally, I would have liked to be a little faster going into Houston, but physically this is what I accomplished. Hills and all, I’m proud of what I ran. It was consistent, and it shows progress. I’ve basically decided the half is the way to go at Dallas, because I closed out my 2018 racing year on a positive note.

 

 

 

Next up, Houston!

Run Coach and Races

Goodness, the month of November was busy! I’m still in the middle of training for the Houston marathon in January, so not too exciting, but I did run a couple of races since my last half.

But first, let me share some exciting news of what has kept me busy this fall. I completed my running coach certification, so I am now a certified running coach with RunRelated!ย That’s who has coached me for almost a year now, and now I get to be a part of it from that aspect. Before having a coach, I had always planned my own training, and I’m really looking forward to this new journey and helping other runners reach their goals. Take a look and see if RunRelated might be a good fit for you. It’s affordable, individualized training, with access to your coach via email, text, whenever you have questions or concerns.

Through my training, I’ve run a couple of races. The first was a 5k Turkey Trot that I ran with my son. I ran my long run first, and then we went to the race. He wanted to set a new PR, but had been sick the whole week before. Once we started running, he realized that he wasn’t going to be able to run a PR. He would tell me to go on and run my normal speed, but I said I was going to run with him the whole way, just like we planned. During that race he learned a valuable lesson: sometimes the biggest challenge is just finishing a race when you don’t feel your best. I learned that he can out kick me at the finish. ๐Ÿ™‚

I also realized, after looking at the pictures, that my little boy isn’t so little anymore.

The weekend after Thanksgiving, I ran the McKinney Believe 10k with a couple of friends. I’ve done this race several times, so I knew what to expect. This was also a last ditch effort to hit the qualifying time for front corral for Houston. It was a long shot.

I would need under 51:08, and the deadline was the end of November. That was an 8:15 pace. My 5k in September was just under 8:00. It would be a stretch.

Race morning weather was perfect. Mid 40s and sunny, so I ran in my shorts and short sleeves. The first mile is mostly downhill, so that’s misleading. But I hit my first mile in 8:14 so I focused on staying consistent. Miles 2 and 3 were both 8:07. If I can just hold this until mile 4, I thought. My coach’s goal was for me to run sub 52:00. When I hit mile 4 in 8:13, I thought at least I should have that. I had my screen set to show overall time and average pace, so I knew I was still on track and it would be close. But I didn’t take my foot off the gas. I ran those last 2 miles like it mattered, and even though the splits were 8:20 and 8:18, I managed a water stop (kind of) and weaving around 5k runners in the last mile. At least they were running and not walking though. The last stretch of the course goes up and down, and finishes straight uphill. I was not going to sacrifice my time because of a silly hill. I charged up the hill, complete focus on the finish line. I didn’t look at my watch until I finished. My last .3 mile was at an 8:06 pace.

My finish time didn’t meet the cutoff, but my average pace was right on. Had I run closer to 6.2 instead of 6.3, I would have made it. But more importantly, I saw the runner that I’ve been searching for the past 4 years. I ran a race time I haven’t come close to since 2014, and I’m finally starting to see the results of my efforts. I’m starting to believe in myself again, and that matters more to me than a specific corral. When I posted this on my Instagram, I said “it’s not always about race times, but sometimes it is.” My official time was 51:38, and a quick search on Athlinks confirmed it.

Plus, I had a nice little age group win too.

 

In my next post, I’ll recap my Rock ‘n Roll San Antonio weekend. It’s a busy month of racing!ย 

Craig Ranch Sprint Tri

Sunday, I completed my first triathlon in about two years. Mostly to let my plantar fascia completely heal, but also because I needed a mental break. My coach was on board, and actually encouraged this switch.

The training has been good for me. I’ve seen progress in the pool, and on the bike when I took it out to the roads. I’ve run some shorter distances: track workouts, brick workouts, and haven’t run for more than hour. I was a little nervous earlier in the week, and it was about stuff that’s pretty much out of my control (flat tire, etc…). By the time Saturday rolled around though, I was excited.

I laid out all my gear after my Saturday morning easy workout, and I practiced transition a few times. I had a pretty good handle of going from bike to run (from weekly brick workouts), but I needed to refresh going from swim to bike. Once I was comfortable, I packed everything up and didn’t think about it the rest of the day.

Sunday morning was a little windy and overcast, but still warm. I met my friend Leda there. I’m so glad she lets me talk her into these adventures. We were only able to bike together once – the day before. I also had other friends at the race, including my friend who talked me into doing my first triathlon three years ago (when I was dealing with PF in my other foot).

 

The swim, which used to scare me, was 350 meters in an outdoor pool. I had some trouble in the first lane trying to get around a lady doing the breaststroke. I almost got kicked in the face a few times, and couldn’t get around because of the guys coming up behind/next to me. It was hand to foot combat! ๐Ÿ˜‰ After the second length of trying to get by, I was able to make a big push from the wall to get ahead of her. It took me about 200 meters into the swim to get into a rhythm and slow my breathing down. It wasn’t ideal, but I survived.

Out of the pool, I made my way to my bike. Transition went well. The hardest part was running on concrete to get to my bike. My bare feet don’t like hard surfaces!

It takes me a few minutes to get settled in on the bike and feel comfortable. Then I start hydrating with Nuun. My plan was to finish my bottle about 10 minutes before starting the run. The bike was 12 miles. There was a little bit of climbing, but I consider this one of my [few] strengths on the bike. I liked the fact that it was two loops, so I knew what to expect on the second one. I settled into a decent for me speed, and didn’t wear my legs out. The wind was a little tough in places, but nothing like Buffalo Springs!

Back in transition, I swapped out my shoes, grabbed my visor and race number, then headed out to the run. This was my sport! Since my first triathlon, I’ve always looked forward to the run. It was the first time throughout the race that I felt it was hot outside. I settled into my pace, and my plan was to increase speed a little each mile. In the third mile, I picked it up and focused on finishing strong. My first and second miles were around 9:00 pace, and I averaged 8:54 overall for the 5k run. Negative splits. Yay!

I loved the finish area! I got my water and medal, then found my husband. I was able to see my friends after the race too. We had watermelon, pancakes, and Nuun. I was a happy finisher!

 

I had a lot of fun, which was the ultimate goal! I forgot how much I enjoy triathlon (when I’m not worried about swim cutoff times). ๐Ÿ™‚ I was mostly pleased with my results. I was hoping to have a better swim time, but I don’t typically time myself jumping in and climbing out either. I was also happy with my overall placings. Usually I’ve been at or near the bottom of my age group. Progress.

 

Now, it’s time to shift back to running. I’ve got a whole 4 days of running this week, and I’m ready! I have some big goals to crush.

 

 

 

Summer Running

We finally made it to the end of the school year, so we are finished with band concerts, banquets, awards, etc, etc…I’ve just been plugging along with my training in the meantime. I raced my second 5k for the year in May, and it was about 20 degrees warmer with much higher humidity than the one in April. I hit the first mile at a pace that kind of scared me, but ended up slowing in the second mile when there was no breeze and the humidity took over. But anyway, I was happy to see my running friends out there, and that my overall pace came down a bit. It was a smaller local 5k, to raise funds for the Denison Animal Welfare Group (DAWG).

Texoma RunnersThere were dogs everywhere and it was fun. I was surprised to see several run with their dogs and place in their age group. One woman ran with two! Maybe Cleo will be ready to run it next year. I know she likes to run, and last week I discovered she likes my Feetures running socks, when she ate one before I realized I dropped it!

Don’t let the cute face fool you!

 

My foot seems to be back to normal. Yay!! All my runs since the Bluebonnet Half have been 5 miles or less, and two to three times a week at most. I’ve been doing some strength work, along with swimming and biking too. I’ve been biking enough that I can’t wait to get back to more running! ๐Ÿ™‚

I will say this about triathlon: I like the training, and I feel like a better athlete when I’m training this way. More balanced. Triathlon allows enough respite from running, that my passion for it is rekindled and I will be excited to get back to heavy training. I’m still working on those big goals.

Which brings me to my other news. If you didn’t see my posts earlier this month on social media, I am now an ambassador for RunRelated!

I’ve been working with my coach since mid-December, which means I haven’t had to plan any of my training since then. After more than 7 years of doing it on my own, I am happy to turn that over to someone else. I have some big goals I’m reaching for, and my coach didn’t laugh when I told him what they were. Now, I just need to show up for myself.

Since this is the time of year when a lot of runners are planning for fall/winter races, take a look to see if it’s for you. It’s affordable coaching (you know I’m frugal), it’s specific to me and my goals/schedule, and I can text my coach with questions about workouts, planning races, etc. In the case of my injury, he immediately made changes to the next week’s training to cut the running, and upped the intensity of swimming and biking (more than I would have done on my own). If you’re looking for help meeting your goals, check out RunRelated.

I’m running another local 5k this Saturday to support a marching band. I’m trying to take advantage of this time of year to get in and support the local races. It is getting hot, so my expectations may need to be adjusted. Then, the sprint tri is a few weeks after that. Summer is here!

Stay hydrated!