Races

Shiner Beer Run Half Marathon

139781-127-027hTwo weeks ago I ran the Shiner Beer Run Half Marathon. After my relatively good performance at Virginia Beach in September on zero training (and zero sleep), I went into Shiner with the intention to fully train and to give it everything I had. I tried a different training strategy this time around, focusing on getting in quality aerobic runs and not starting speedwork until 6 weeks before the race. Speedwork included a tempo run on Monday and alternating hills and intervals on Wednesday (intervals were 1/4 mile repeats @ 5k pace and 1/2 mile repeats @ 10k pace). Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about the race.

THE RACE

Like the town it’s located in, Shiner is a small race which starts and ends at Spotzel Brewery. The course first takes you through the town of Shiner, then loops around the surrounding country roads. Y’all, this course is hilly – there’s no other way to describe it. I don’t think there was a single section that was truly flat. When coupled with the steady 15 mph north wind that was leftover from a cold front that came through the day before, this was a tough race. Honestly, I don’t remember much of the details. The only thing I remember is how much my quads burned after going up the giant hill into the wind at mile 5  – everything else is just a blur of thoughts that included but were not limited to: OMG, ouch and holy s%^!

The first few miles were relatively easy through town. Though there was some pretty significant elevation gain, I don’t remember it being difficult. Fresh legs and race adrenaline made things pretty easy. I tried to focus on utilizing the downhill portions to help make up time lost on the uphill.

Mile 1 – 7:14/mile (elevation gain: 57 feet)
Mile 2 – 7:06/mile (elevation gain: 27 feet)
Mile 3 – 7:13/mile (elevation gain: 47, elevation loss: 56 feet)

At mile 4, we left town and turned north. I found the wind. Thankfully it was a relatively flat mile but the change in pace was indicative of the extra effort it took to fight the wind.

Mile 4 – 7:41/mile (elevation gain: 15 feet, elevation loss: 28 feet)

OMG. At mile 5, the road started climbing. The wind combined with the climb made me feel like I was barely moving. In some ways, I’m happy I can run an 8 minute mile going uphill but the memories here aren’t good ones. At mile 6 we turned a corner and the wind went from being a headwind to a crosswind – which wasn’t much better. The wind blew me all over the road, running in a straight line was a fight and by the time I crested that hill I was in a significant amount of pain.

Mile 5 – 8:07/mile (elevation gain: 48 feet)
Mile 6 – 7:43/mile (elevation gain: 47 feet)

Most of the next mile was on a gravel road. Rocks were about the size of golf balls but in the ruts they were packed down nicely and relatively easy to run on. I was happy during this stretch that I’d been running trails for the last couple of months; nimble is good!

Mile 7 – 7:24/mile (elevation gain: 59, elevation loss 79)

The next couple of miles weren’t memorable. They were downhill and I was doing my best to make up some time. Unfortunately, my quads were shot and my legs felt like cooked spaghetti. Also, I almost tripped over a loose dog. That was fun.

In other news, I clocked my first ever sub 7:00 mile in a race! Yeah!

Mile 8 – 6:55/mile (elevation loss: 12 feet)
Mile 9 – 7:19/mile (elevation loss: 33 feet)

At this point, the race participants had thinned out so there was at least 100 yards between me and the guy in front of me so following the crowd wasn’t working. I was really having to focus on following the course markings on the road. The course turned into a park and I almost missed the turn.

Mile 10 – 7:28/mile (elevation loss: 37 feet)
Mile 11 – 7:41/mile (elevation gain: 8 feet)

Mile 12 never seemed to end. I knew I was close to the finish but since we were still out in the country, it felt like further than it really was. Toward the end of mile 12, we left the country roads and turned back into town, which as it turns out was completely uphill. Pain. So much pain.

Mile 12 – 7:42/mile (elevation gain: 53 feet, elevation loss: 14 feet)

The last mile was great. After we crested the hill at mile 12, it was literally all downhill from there. My legs had nothing left in them but I did the best I could to give that last mile everything I had.

Mile 13 – 7:05/mile (elevation loss: 70 feet)

Official Time: 1:38.04 (In case you’re interested, here’s the Garmin data)

I crossed the finish line and went immediately into the parking lot because I thought I was going to throw up. Thankfully there wasn’t much in my stomach so I didn’t embarrass myself too badly. Dry heaving for the win!

It took a few minutes after the race for my stomach to settle but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the great post race party. I was with similarly paced friends so I had some good company while I waited for Jason to finish, who was behind us by an hour. Once we found Jason, we all sat around for a couple of hours waiting for awards in the area near the brewery. We talked, ate a yummy lunch and drank plenty of Shiner. It was a fantastic time!

As it turns out my time was good enough to win my age group! My first real podium finish!

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It wasn’t the 1:35 I wanted but it was still an almost 2 minute PR. Being able to PR on a hilly and windy course is something I can be happy with. I know I have that 1:35 in me and I’m pretty sure I have a 1:31 in me…if I find the right course. Now, I’m on a hunt for a good flat PR course. I think it’s going to be Katy Half which is in February but I’m not registered yet so that’s still up in the air.

Will I run Shiner again? Emphatically yes. Sign me up for next year!

Rock n Roll Virginia Beach & Future Plans

Labor day weekend we made a somewhat regular trip to Virginia Beach to visit family. As is tradition Jason, his brother and I ran Rock n Roll Virginia Beach half marathon together. This year the race was unique because tropical storm Hermine moved through the day before, leaving behind a half assembled course and 35 mph wind gusts.

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As luck would have it, my daughter came down with something the night before the race and this momma got ZERO sleep. Needless to say, race conditions weren’t ideal.

Regardless, I was determined to do the best I could. This year, for the first time EVER I was in corral ONE. When I first ran this race 6 years ago I was in corral 13, I love seeing signs of progress like this. Races are unpredictable, once the gun goes off its anyone’s guess how they go but no matter how well I did that day I started in corral one and to me that was a big deal.

I had no idea what to expect of myself performance wise since I hadn’t really trained for the race. I’ve spent all my time lately on easy aerobic runs and I was sure that I was sure my legs had forgotten how to run quickly.

Here are the splits:

Mile 1 – 7:20
Mile 2 – 7:34
Mile 3 – 7:29

5k – 23:46 (7:39)

Mile 4 – 7:47
Mile 5 – 7:42
Mile 6 – 7:44

10k – 48:04 (7:44)

Mile 7 – 7:47
Mile 8 – 7:45
Mile 9 – 7:50
Mile 10 – 7:48

10 Mile – 1:17:25 (7:45)

Mile 11 – 7:51
Mile 12 – 8:21
Mile 13 – 7:55
Last .1 – 7:46

Official Results

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After the race, as I shivered while waiting on the boys, I had a lot of time to think about the race. Though 1:42 isn’t a PR it was only 3 minutes off

My PR was run while I was in the middle of training for the Chevron Houston Marathon. I was doing speed work twice a week, and was in nearly peak condition. That race was run under nearly ideal circumstances. I was well rested and the weather was a perfect 50 degrees with no wind. The course was flat and close to home. You couldn’t ask for anything better.

This race was the exact opposite. I didn’t train for it and am most certainly not in peak condition. It was 75 degrees and windy. I was 1,000 miles from home and exhausted. The course IS relatively flat but there’s a giant bridge you have to cross at mile 4 and again at mile 12 which slows things down considerably.

All those things considered, 3 minutes shy of PR is a great result. I was happy with the race and my performance and it leaves me excited about things to come because big things are coming!

November 19th, I’m running the Shiner Beer Run Half Marathon. I AM training for this race with the full intention to kick it’s butt. In April I’m running the BOSTON MARATHON! Registration was three weeks ago and I’m officially in! Excited doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about this. Training doesn’t start until January though so for the next three months I need to find something to keep me occupied so I don’t go crazy. I should have about six weeks of downtime after Shiner before Boston training starts and that sounds just about perfect. The countdown begins!

The Woodlands Marathon Race Recap

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Saturday I ran The Woodlands Marathon.

Let me start off by saying, I didn’t intend to run two marathons in two months. When I qualified for Houston back in December 2014 I knew I was going to run it- I’d been wanting to run for years and always said that I wasn’t going to run it until I qualified. I qualified so my decision to run the Houston Marathon was made.

Less than a month later I suffered my IT band injury and was forced to defer my entry into the 2015 The Woodlands Marathon to 2016, which just happened to be 7 weeks after Houston.

Marathons are HARD on your body. The distance is such that serious breakdown occurs and it needs time to heal. Though everyone says you’re “recovered” after four weeks, I still think that real recovery after a hard marathon effort takes closer to eight.

After the Houston Marathon, I suffered from some shin splints in my right leg which forced me to cut back on running significantly. I only ran seven times in the weeks between the two races and most of those runs were under three miles. To supplement the running I spent most days cross training (swimming, rowing, biking, elliptical, etc) and for the most part it did a good job of maintaining my fitness. Unfortunately, despite the cross training my running muscles began the process of de-training. I knew this was going to be a tough race.

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Pre-race with my hubby (he ran the half)

I wasn’t sure how much fitness I had left so I went into the event with the intention to race but to keep an open mind as I began to get feedback from my body.

I put KT tape on my shin and stood in the corral not knowing what to expect. They sounded the horn and we were off!

Pace wise, the first half of the race was great. At the halfway point I was second in my age group. My legs felt a little stiff but the KT tape did it’s job and kept the shin splints in check.

Mile 1 – 7:41
Mile 2 – 7:43
Mile 3 – 7:46
Mile 4 – 7:37
Mile 5 – 7:46
Mile 6 – 7:49
Mile 7 – 7:43
Mile 8 – 7:46
Mile 9 – 7:59
Mile 10 –  7:52
Mile 11 – 7:46
Mile 12 – 7:54
Mile 13 – 8:04

13.1 – 1:41

I could tell during those miles that though I was able to maintain my race pace, it was harder than seven weeks prior in Houston. I wasn’t sure if it was due to the detraining or the cold I’ve been fighting but nonetheless it was something that I was monitoring throughout the first half of the race.

Mile 14 – 8:04

At mile 14, I could feel some stiffness developing in my left knee – the same knee that I’ve been fighting IT band tightness in for the past year. The knee was reminding me that I hadn’t been running regularly.

When you run, especially distances like the marathon you become very aware of your body. When we repeatedly push ourselves to our limits  we need to the difference between challenge pain and warning pain. The sensation I felt building during mile 14 was warning pain.  My body was talking to me and it wasn’t happy.

At mile 15, the knee stopped talking to me and started yelling. I was forced to make a decision to run hard (and risk a DNF and most likely an injury) or run smart. I chose to run smart. Just past the mile 15 marker I did something that I’ve never done in a race before…I pulled off to the side of the road and started walking.

Mile 15 – 9:51

Immediately the pain subsided and I began to formulate a new plan. Run until it hurt, walk until it didn’t.

I could have been upset and felt defeated but it was hard to. I started training for these two marathons in June of last year. For the last nine months I’ve been pushing my body. I’ve asked it to do things that I wasn’t sure it could do and when it performed I pushed it harder. In the last 9 months, I had run three races and set three PRs. I qualified for the Boston Marathon and all the while my body did it almost without question.

At mile 15, it finally told me that it’d had enough. Instead of feeling sad when the 3:30 pace group passed me, I mentally wished them luck and made the decision to let it go.

For the next 11 miles I was hurting but happy. I soaked up the sunshine, high-fived spectators and thanked volunteers. I smiled and enjoyed doing what I love so much.

Mile 16 – 10:50
Mile 17 – 10:54
Mile 18 – 11:26
Mile 19 – 10:52
Mile 20 – 11:07
Mile 21 – 11:38
Mile 22 – 12:31

The final miles of the race were HARD. I needed to walk more than run and even walking was painful. Miles 23, 24 and 25 were particularly difficult – several times I caught myself fighting off tears.

Mile 23 – 12:50
Mile 24 – 12:09
Mile 25 – 13:16

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Mile 26 was easier as I got closer to the finish and the number of spectators increased. A half mile from the finish I saw my husband who was taking pictures with his phone. I walked up the final hill then ran the last third of a mile to the finish. I have never been happier to finish a race!

Mile 26 – 10:42

26.2 – 4:07

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Marathons are dangerous and unpredictable. It’s a short enough distance to race but plenty long enough to seriously injure yourself if you don’t give the distance the respect it deserves. They’re not something to be taken lightly regardless of your fitness level.

When I signed up for two marathons in two months, I honestly had doubts if I could even do it. I knew it was going to be hard. I knew I was going to have to dig deep. Saturday, I did it. I came home with a new shirt, a medal, a good story  and most importantly without an injury. I will live to run another day…but I might wait until next week. Ouch.

Houston Marathon & Boston Qualifier!

(I’ve been working on this post for several days but it took me a while to get it finished. We’re in the process of moving and not having internet is seriously cramping my style.)

On Sunday, January 17, I ran the Houston Marathon!

Official time was 3:29.33 (7:59/mile) and I qualified for the Boston Marathon! It was easily one of the best and most memorable days of my life.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I hadn’t run a full marathon in two years and the last one I ran was a 4:16. Two years is a long time in the world of running. I’d had a couple of half marathon performances since then that indicated I might be close to qualifying but I had nothing concrete to give me confidence and running is all about confidence.

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The morning of the race I was a nervous wreck. I knew I had a shot at qualifying and I’d spent six months getting ready for this race. I was terrified I’d waste six months of training and not qualify.

The weather was PERFECT – 39 degrees F at 7 am and 50 by the time I finished, a slight north wind and sun with cloudless skies. Perfect. I lined up in the corral slightly in front of the 3:30 pacers, not because I was confident but because I was afraid to get stuck behind 100 people trying to keep up with the pace guy.

The race began and the pace of the group was FAST. 7:30/mile. I tried to slow myself down to my planned 8:10/mile pace but no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t make myself go slower than a 7:55. So instead of fighting it, I went with it. New race pace was a 7:55. That wasn’t in the plan. Yikes.

The large field of runners made maneuvering the course difficult. Until the half marathon/marathon split I was constantly dodging stuff (curbs, potholes and people). The first 6 miles flew by. I don’t remember much about them. My body felt strong and the pace was easy. Surprisingly easy.

Mile 1- 8:06
Mile 2- 8:03
Mile 3- 7:55

5k- 25:13

Mile 4- 8:01
Mile 5- 7:57
Mile 6- 7:48

10k- 49:58

I had done a lot of research on fueling during the race and determined that in the past I hadn’t been taking in enough calories and I’d been waiting too late into the race to take them so I highly modified my fueling strategy. I took a Gu every other water stop and the stops were about 1.5 miles apart. 7 total. My first Gu was only 3 miles into the race.

Racing a marathon is all about being strategic with your glycogen stores and I figured that by fueling early and often I’d give myself a bit of an advantage. By the time mile 6 came around I was breaking into my second Gu and absolutely flying.

Mile 7- 7:58
Mile 8- 7:53
Mile 9- 7:49

15k- 1:14

At the water stop just past mile 9, I reached down for my third Gu. My belt only has space for 6 fuel packets and I brought 8. The first two I carried in my hands so the fuel I took at mile 9 was the first I had to retrieve from my belt.

My hands were numb from the cold and I couldn’t really feel my fingers. When I pulled the Gu out of the belt it flew out of my hand and onto the ground. I immediately stopped to pick it up. Going from almost 8 mph to 0 in a matter of 5 feet caused the muscles in my left hip to seize up and almost immediately upon returning to a run I felt a pain shoot up from my knee into my hip. It hurt so much that if this had been a training run I would have stopped and gone home. It was now or never though so I ran through the pain. It hurt, almost unbearably for the next four miles.

Mile 10- 7:55
Mile 11- 7:54
Mile 12- 7:52
Mile 13- 7:52

13.1- 1:44

The pain in my leg slowly subsided over the next several miles and I was able to run with no problem but I knew it could resurface at any time so I was trying to be careful with every foot fall.

Mile 14- 7:37
Mile 15- 7:52

25k- 2:04

Mile 16- 7:56

My calves started to tighten up. Not badly but enough to care about but as the miles ticked by the tightness started to get worse. It wasn’t anything to worry about but it was pain that I needed to manage throughout the remainder of the race.

Mile 17- 7:43
Mile 18- 7:49

30k- 2:28

Mile 19- 7:50

At mile 20 the route crossed under the inner loop and I stepped on a reflector in the road trying to dodge someone who had started to walk. The pain in my leg came back immediately and didn’t go away for the rest of the race. Between the leg pain and the increasing calf tightness the rest of the race hurt.

Mile 20- 8:00
Mile 21- 8:01

35k- 2:53

Mile 22- 8:06
Mile 23- 7:56

Though I certainly slowed down in the last 6 miles, I didn’t slow down nearly as much as in previous races. I kept waiting to hit the wall – that moment when you feel like you’ve come to a standstill. It should have happened around mile 20 but it never did.

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Mile 24- 8:06

40k- 3:19

Mile 25- 8:02
Mile 26- 8:10
Last .2- 7:05

26.2 – 3:29.33

Overall: 920/7808
Overall Female: 191/3026
Age Group (35-39): 50/632

I had enough energy left to run the last bit of the race (the last half mile, according to my Garmin) at 7:00/mile. Somehow, I raced a marathon and never hit the wall.

I crossed the finish line and immediately began crying. I needed a 3:40 to qualify for Boston. I finished in 3:29.33, I qualified by a full 10 minutes – all but guaranteeing myself entry. I have never been so proud of myself as I was in that moment.

Almost immediately my phone began dinging. People, who I had no idea were following my race, began sending congratulations. It dinged, pinged and made other sounds as various forms of messages came through. Facebook messages, text messages, gchat messages, posts to my Facebook wall, posts to my MOMS club page. So much love from so many people!

One of the trainers at the YMCA was spectating at the finish line and saw me come through the chute. I’m generally pretty reserved when I’m at the gym. I’ve only made a couple of friends there but when I showed up on Monday he cornered me. Let’s just say I’m a lot more popular at the Y now than I was the week before the race.

RECOVERY

The day after the race my muscles in my calves were so tight I couldn’t bend my ankles and the damage from running through the knee pain was evident. Though I could bend my knees it hurt wildly. I walked around all day sort of like a zombie. I went to the gym that day and spent 30 minutes on the bike with no resistance just so I could try to re-establish some range of motion, then spent 30 minutes stretching out my legs and on my way home went to the chiropractor. I by the time I left I felt somewhat normal.

I went for a six mile run on Thursday, which was extremely painful to my tight calves. Sunday, I ran eight miles and my calves felt much better. I have some lingering shin pain that showed up in the second week of taper (it didn’t cause a problem during the race) and I want to let it heal before I hit the mileage hard again so I’m cross training for the next several days until it goes away.

 

 

Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Half Recap

What a whirlwind few weeks we’ve had around here! One Saturday morning, a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, we were sitting around the kitchen while I made breakfast. Evie was whining, Alvy was crying, Jason had his head buried in the computer and I was trying my best to ignore all of them so that I didn’t overcook our eggs. Just when I was about to snap, Jason, who had been extremely quiet all morning, handed me a sheet of paper. Airline tickets to for us all to go to San Juan. We were going on vacation! In two weeks! Ack!

Puerto Rico

We had a great time on the beach! It’s amazing what a week in the sand and sun can do for your morale. BUT this post isn’t titled Puerto Rico Vacation Recap so I’ll skip to the important part. We were to arrive home just 48 hours prior to the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Half Marathon, which I’d been training for since September. Hmmmm. Interesting.

The end result? Apparently copious pina coladas and unlimited beach time are good for tapering because I ran a 5 minute PR! 1:48:33! Granted when I began this training cycle my first long run was 12 miles so I wasn’t training for distance, I was training for speed – which worked!

We ran this race in 2011. Since then the course has changed so I was unfamiliar with the route. On Saturday morning before we left our house for San Antonio I looked at the route online and printed out our confirmation sheets. When I grabbed the confirmation sheets off the printer I saw my corral. 4?!?! I felt my heart skip a beat.

Do they have the right person? Me? 4? Are they sure?

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The last time we ran this race I was in corral 13. Corral 4 is….not 13. I wasn’t nervous about the race at all until then. Then I started second guessing my pina coladas and every other ounce of my training. Did I run enough intervals? Would my feet give me problems? Should I back off a corral or two?

No. You trained to run a 1:49, your corral is for a 1:49. Do not let the corral intimidate you. Do not be afraid of the pain. Don’t be a wuss. Put on your big girl panties and go do it.

I didn’t really have much of a plan, just stick as close to an 8:00 minute mile as I could.

Right off the start line I could tell it was going to be a great day. My legs felt fresh, running was easy. The weather was perfect for racing (low 50s). I was keeping a nice pace and it wasn’t difficult at all. I was focusing on my pace and my form and those first few miles flew by. I was so focused that I ran right past the Alamo and never even saw it.

Mile 1 – 8:08
Mile 2 – 7:44
Mile 3 – 7:59
Mile 4 – 8:09
Mile 5 – 8:04

HILLS. HOLY HILLS. Living in Houston I forget that hills exist. The course was relatively flat but I think the event planners found every single hill in San Antonio. There’s nothing like that here shy of an overpass and I just can’t train for them. They kicked my butt and are the reason that I’m still sore. I haven’t been sore from a run in YEARS.

Elevation

Mile 6 – 8:41
Mile 7 – 8:33

I recovered from the hills…kind of.  Thighs felt a little wobbly but I had no joint pain, no cramping, no big cause for concern.

Mile 8 – 8:04
Mile 9 – 7:55
Mile 10 – 7:50
Mile 11 – 8:11

I started doing math in my head. If I can keep this pace for two more miles……then I hit a wall.

Almost instantly things became exceptionally hard. Around the same time I found myself in hole in the pack, practically running alone. It was me and two male runners both of whom were just a couple of paces in front of me.

Male runner #1 turns his head towards me and says, “You go girl. You got this!” He obviously could tell I was beginning to struggle.

Male runner #2 musters his best high-pitch female voice and says, “Thank you. I think I’ll be just fine.”

Male runner #1 says, “Not you. Her.”

I started giggling. Thanks guys. I needed that.

Runners are awesome.

By mile 12 I was completely spent. My legs were moving but I couldn’t feel them. My energy was completely drained and I really had nothing left to give the course. I did the best I could to maintain my pace to the finish. When I saw the finish line up ahead I started crying simply because I was almost done.

Mile 12 – 8:28
Mile 13 – 8:36

I crossed the finish line and I could no longer stand. Two very nice volunteers held me up while I convinced my legs that they really needed to walk back to the hotel.

I left San Antonio with absolutely no regrets. I gave that race every bit I had, all my energy both physical and mental was left there on the course. I can say for certain that I could not have run a better race.

Standings

My next goal is a big one. According to McMillan to qualify for Boston I need to be able to run a 1:44 half. Time to shave off 4 minutes!

Hottest Half Recap

recap imageI understand it’s been six weeks since I ran the Hottest Half and my recap window has long since past but I do want to talk a bit about this race. I’ve wanted to run this race for quite some time but the timing never seemed to work out. A few weeks prior to the event I finally decided I was going to do it and I spent all of three weeks training.

The race was August 24. The high for that day was 100 degrees F but the race was run early in the morning so the temperature at the start was only about 80.

This was a small race, only around 1,000 participants which started and ended in the design district just west of downtown Dallas. The course went through the flood plain along the Trinity River which had very few trees and only partial shade. I don’t normally race wearing a shirt but for this particular race I chose to wear a very sheer Nike tank because I wanted to keep the sun off my body. I wore sunglasses (and I took a hat but I never put it on) and my Enduracool towel. Before the race began I made sure the towel was wet and I wore it tied around my neck like scarf. At every water stop I took two cups of water. One to drink and one to pour over my towel to keep it wet. This strategy worked well and I never had a problem with the heat.

Begin rant.

I’m not sure I would run this race again just simply because the course included three miles of running off road (miles 8, 9 & 10). This wasn’t a nice stretch of gravel either it was on a service road that was peppered in rocks the size of golf balls. Since no one wanted to risk a twisted ankle it forced everyone onto a muddy shoulder, set on an incline, in a single file line. This reason alone would keep me from running this race again.

But unfortunately, I’ve got a second reason I don’t want to run this race again. The distance. It is a given that a runner is never going to be able to run the shortest possible route in a race. I get this. I understand that races are measured for the race distance to be the shortest possible route and most runners will run further. I get that. I don’t expect my Garmin to tell me I ran exactly 13.1 miles. I am familiar with the USA Track & Field requirements for measuring a course. I know all these things. I also understand USATF states that GPS devices always measure long and that their accuracy can be questionable due to tall buildings or trees.

When I ran the Woodlands Marathon earlier this year my Garmin told me I ran 26.46 miles. Somehow over the course I picked up a quarter mile by not taking the shortest possible route. I was okay with this. It seemed reasonable. In the Houston half I ran a tenth (.10) of a mile too far, again reasonable.

In the Hottest Half I ran a full half mile too far. A HALF MILE. I just don’t see how I can only pick up a quarter mile in a full marathon but double that in only half that distance, especially in a race this small where I didn’t have to dodge other runners every time I went around a corner.

Let me also clarify that this wasn’t an issue with my watch. This race took place in a flood area where there are no trees and tall buildings to interfere with the GPS and I know it wasn’t just my watch that recorded this discrepancy. Since I ran without headphones I could hear all the other GPS watches chiming every mile within just a few seconds of mine. It wasn’t just me.

Along with that, the mile markers along the course weren’t anywhere near where they should have been. The early mile markers were almost a full quarter mile off and the later ones weren’t anywhere close. Mile marker 12 was only a half mile from the finish line. These two factors left me not trusting the course measurement. I’m sure the race organizers will say the course was measured correctly and I have no way to prove them wrong but what I can tell them is no runner, especially one trying to PR, wants to be forced to run an extra half mile over a half marathon distance – it’s an issue with the course. For that reason, I won’t be running Hottest Half again.

Rant over.

Post Race PhotoSomehow I still managed to PR with a 1:54:00 so it’s not all bad.

Overall: 108/1197
Gender 27/631
Age group: 9/127

{Splits}

Mile 1 – 8:39
Mile 2 – 8:11
Mile 3 – 8:12
Mile 4 – 8:04
Mile 5 – 8:10
Mile 6 – 8:07
Mile 8 – 8:30
Mile 9 – 8:30
Mile 10 – 8:40
Mile 11 – 8:19
Mile 12 – 8:26
Mile 13 – 8:38

I’m glad I finally got to run this race, it’d been on my radar for a while. I was nervous about the “hottest” part of the Hottest Half but that didn’t turn out to be a problem at all. We had fun playing in Dallas as a family for a couple of days – we went to all our favorite places, ate at all our favorite restaurants and reminisced about our life there. I’d like to make a race in Dallas an annual event, maybe I’ll try to run Big D Half in April. Big D is always a favorite!

The Woodlands Marathon, Race Recap

20140301_065725Saturday, I completed my second marathon. What a race it was! The weather was less than ideal, between 70-80 degrees and 100% humidity. Not exactly perfect racing conditions.

The day didn’t start out quite like I expected. I was supposed to pick up my training partner, Meycy at her house at 5 AM, at 4:55 my eyes shot open and I looked at my watch. I bolted out of bed and didn’t even have time to wonder why the alarm I set didn’t wake me up.

I brewed a pot of coffee, threw on my running clothes (which I had thankfully laid out the night before) and by 5:07, I was sitting in her driveway.

We were parked by 6 AM. Even though we got there an hour early by the time I’d pumped and we’d waited in line for the restroom we barely made it to our corral before the horn went off. It made for a very frantic morning.

The Result

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Official Time – 4:16.33/9:42
A PR BY 20 MINUTES!

Age Group Results: 19/96

Gender Results: 110/513

Total Rank: 393/1230

 

The Race Summary

Miles 1-4, were a planned warm up. Meycy and I stayed together as we bobbed and weaved our way through the crowd. Sometime around mile 4, she stopped to do something to her phone and I lost her. I didn’t see her again until the finish.

Mile 1 – 9:45
Mile 2 – 9:24
Mile 3 – 9:54
Mile 4 – 9:29

After I lost Meycy, I plugged in my headphones and started to focus on the task at hand.

Mile 5 – 9:18
Mile 6 – 9:18

10k Split – 59:40.08

Mile 7 – 9:02
Mile 8 – 9:03
Mile 9 – 9:13
Mile 10 – 9:20
Mile 11 – 8:57
Mile 12 – 9:05
Mile 13 – 9:04

13.1 Split – 2:02.55

The first half of the race was uneventful. By the halfway mark I felt great. My legs were loose and my energy was high. I didn’t realize how hilly The Woodlands is; I swear we climbed a mountain (by Houston standards) at mile 10! I called my husband halfway and told him I was running a relatively easy 9 minute/mile pace and I’d call him back at mile 20.

Mile 14 – 9:04
Mile 15 – 8:58
Mile 16 – 9:30
Mile 17 – 9:16
Mile 18 – 9:05
Mile 19 – 9:33
Mile 20 – 9:47

Around mile 20 I started to feel fatigued. My legs became heavy and my hips were on fire. I called my husband to inform him my pace had slowed and that my legs were starting to give out.

Mile 21 – 9:52

35k Split – 3:24.98

The sun, which had been nicely hidden behind an overcast sky, suddenly came out and we found ourselves without any shade. The temperature went up from a bearable 70 degrees to a scorching 80 degrees in just a matter of minutes.

Mile 22 – 10:39
Mile 23 – 11:01

I felt like I was barely moving. The only sensation coming from my lower body was pain. I had to actually look down at my feet to make sure I was still running. Whatever little energy I had left was being sucked out by the sun.

The other runners were clearly suffering the same fate. The pace of the entire field slowed; almost as many people were walking as running. Over my headphones I could hear heart rate monitor alarms going off as heart rates maxed out. On the side of the road I saw a woman vomit.

I tried to focus on the music in my ears and just stare ahead. I could hear myself audibly groaning as I struggled to put one foot in front of the other.

Mile 24 – 11:43
Mile 25 – 12:10

photo (6)I saw a spectator sign that said, “You’re an inspiration,” and I fought back tears. I tried to remind myself that wasting energy by crying wasn’t going to get me to the finish line any faster. Instead I tried to use those emotions to push myself through. Just use it, I kept telling myself. Just use it.

Mile 26 – 10:26

Going around the last corner a volunteer said, “Just 1/4 mile. You can do it!” At that point I couldn’t hold it back any longer. Tears started flowing like a waterfall. I started hyperventilating trying to hold them back but it was no use.

Another volunteer stood in the middle of the finish chute saying, “Smile! You just finished a marathon!”

I did my best to conjure a smile for the camera as I crossed the finish line and just like that, it was over.

The Aftermath

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I hobbled out of the finish chute and over to the food tent. With a breakfast taco in hand I went over to where I promised Meycy we’d meet up and sat down on the ground and waited.

45 minutes later I saw her limping over toward me. She looked like you’d expect for a woman who’d just finished her first marathon to look, exhausted but elated.

“I hate you,” she said.
I replied, “I know.”

This wasn’t just a marathon. It was an 18 week journey, an adventure.  We spent dozens of hours away from our kids and husbands as we pounded the pavement during a brutally cold winter. We were chased by dogs, almost hit by cars and scared out of our skin by a pair of donkeys on a country road in the total darkness of early morning.

It was awesome.

Two days later, I am still sore and exhausted. I’m not exactly sure where to go from here. I plan on taking a full week off to allow my body to heal and then after that I don’t know. I’d love to qualify for the Houston Marathon and I think now I’m in good enough shape to do that in either the 10k (51 mins) or half distance (1:53). But I haven’t made any concrete plans to try.

What I DO know is that some time around Halloween, you’ll find me in the darkness of early morning, running the streets of my neighborhood preparing, yet again, to do something extraordinary…complete marathon #3.