Races

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.

Houston Half Recap

DISCLAIMER: This is long. I’m sorry.

A couple weeks ago my husband and I ran the Houston Half Marathon. Yes, I realize it’s been a full two weeks since the race so this post is rather belated. But, hey right now my life is just a little crazy. Getting this up at all is a small victory.

There’s only one word that can describe the experience. Rain. The race was planned to start at 7 am but thanks to a line of thunderstorms and heavy rain that moved through the area the start was postponed an hour to 8 am.

So, we sat around for an hour in the parking garage (it was warm and dry in there!) waiting for the rain to let up.

The delay wasn’t really a big deal except that I ended up eating my pre-race banana an hour too early and by the time the race started I was starving.

Because of the rain I have almost no pictures of the event. I wasn’t too motivated to take my camera out in the epic downpour. I think this one sums it up the best.

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My husband hung his shirt on the baby gate to dry out.

THE RACE

The race is an out and back which started and ended at Sam Houston Park in downtown Houston. The first bit meandered around downtown and then finally down Allen Parkway to Memorial Park and back to downtown.

The weather was a very cool 60 degrees and it rained during the ENTIRE race. I don’t mind racing in the rain, it kept my body cool and the clouds kept the sun away but being wet after the race wasn’t fun at all.

This was a smaller run, about 5000 runners and since it was small there wasn’t a waved start which was a little frustrating. The funnel effect of the downtown streets and the crowd of people running different speeds made finding my pace almost impossible for the first two miles. I bobbed and weaved around people just trying to settle in. Around mile three the crowd thinned out a bit and everyone was starting to run in a group of people their own pace. My husband found me around mile two and ran with me for about a mile but then he peeled off at a rest station and I didn’t see him again until the finish.

The race itself was organized well. Rest stations were about every 1.5-2 miles and were well stocked with Gatorade and water. The course was well marked and had police at every intersection. EMTs were patrolling the course on bicycles looking for people in need of medical attention.

I think the worst part of this race was something the race organizers couldn’t control – the mud at the post race party at Sam Houston Park. It was horrible. It made the post race “party” more of a grab a donut and go home type of event. This wasn’t mud in the traditional sense. This was brown primordial goop that was slippery! Oh so slippery! You couldn’t get to the food tent or any of the vendor tents without risking a fall in the muck. That and there was no toilet paper left in any of the portable toilets by the time the race was over.

MY PACE

My stretch goal for this run was to break two hours. I set the virtual partner on my Garmin for a 9 minute mile and made it my goal to beat it. I knew if I could average 9 minute miles then breaking two hours was a given.

My racing strategy was to run 9:30 the first mile, 9:15 the second, and then settle into 9 for the remainder of the first half. The second half I could focus on negative splitting and making up the lost time.

This was a small race (less than 5,000) and therefore didn’t have a
wave start. The crowd during the first couple miles made intentional pacing almost impossible. It was more of a do-the-best-you-can kind of situation but the rest of the plan worked out well.

Splits were: 9:23, 9:12, 8:53, 9:08, 8:40, 8:43, 8:55, 8:48, 8:45, 8:33, 8:32, 9:02, 8:37

Official time – 1:56.28

Overall – 924/4543
Gender – 252/2378
Age Group (F 30-34) – 48/391
Avearage Pace – 8:53 min/mile

1st Half – 59:09 (9:01 min/mile)
2nd Half – 57:22 (8:45 min/mile)

PR by a whopping 13 minutes! 

I stopped at every water stop through the first half of the race and then only one in the second half. Took a Gu (Roctane Cherry Lime) at mile 7.

My legs felt surprisingly good throughout the race. Around mile 10 I started cramping in my left shin and foot but was able to run through it. By the time I finished the race though my thighs felt like someone had been pounding them with a hammer. My pacing strategy worked well; at the finish I had the perfect amount of energy left. I felt like I had pushed my body as hard as I could and left the course with absolutely no regrets.

THE AFTERMATH

Since the post race party was more of a muddy shiver fest we grabbed a few bites of food and then left. I changed into dry clothes in the car so at least I would be dry on the way home.

After picking up the kids at my parents house and visiting for a little bit we finally made it back to our house around 2. We immediately laid Evie down for a nap. I laid down with the baby for a nap around 3 and we all woke back up around 6.

We had planned on grilling burgers for dinner but we were both so tired we ordered pizza instead.

At 8:30 I laid down in bed to nurse the baby and fell asleep again. This time for the night.

I was so tired that I accidentally slept in one of my contacts. When I woke up I couldn’t see a thing out of my right eye and was a little freaked out. I kept putting eye drops in my eye thinking it was just really dry. It took me an hour to finally go look in the mirror to figure it out!

For those of you wondering, yes I wear a contact in each eye. I thought I took them both out before I laid down to feed the baby. I succeeded in removing the left one (which I put in the right side of the contact case?) and failed at removing the right one entirely, even though I distinctly remember taking it out. I must have been very, very tired.

THE SURPRISE

I think the biggest surprise of the day was my husband! He didn’t train AT ALL – like he maybe ran a total of 20 miles in the three months leading up to the race. He was planning on running/walking since he was so out of shape but somehow he still ran a 2:04! 2:04!!! No walking involved. Mind blown.

Big D Texas Marathon

Sunday was the day I’d been waiting for since Christmas, the Big D Marathon! 16 weeks of training and the day had finally arrived!

This weekend was special to me in so many ways. Not only did I accomplish something I wanted to do for a long time but I got to share it with my family. Having them there made the experience incredibly special and, though it would have already been memorable, their support made it unforgetable.

Before race day even arrived we questioned if I’d even get to run thanks to severe thunderstorms predicted for the exact time of the race. Though the race organizers would send us off in the rain, they wouldn’t send us off in a thunderstorm. As race day approached and the weather prediction got more accurate, it became clear that this would be a very wet marathon, if there was a marathon at all.

Sunday morning I woke up at 4:30 and just couldn’t go back to sleep. Nervous and worried about the weather, I laid in bed thinking about everything that could possibly go wrong.

At 6 a.m. we all met in the lobby of the hotel and by 6:20 we arrived at the start/finish area – just as it was starting to sprinkle. At 7 the race organizers announced that the thunderstorms had weakened to just rain and the race would kick off at 7:30 as planned.

At 7:15 we lined up at the start line and at 7:30 the horn sounded! We were off!

The first three miles were brutal. My heart rate was high because of nerves and I could do nothing to control it. I tried slowing my pace. Nothing. I tried to control my breathing. Nothing. A bit of doubt creeped into my head, can I really do this??? Around mile four I shoved my ear buds in my ears and turned on my marathon playlist. The music helped relax me, my heart rate slowed and I finally settled into a rhythm.

Meanwhile, my family grabbed breakfast tacos and raced me to their first observation point. Jason had spent an hour the night before looking at the route and mapping out locations where they would try to catch me as I ran. His planning paid off, so well in fact that I lost track of the number of times they just showed up as I was running. I’d turn a corner and there they’d be, cameras in hand! It was such a treat to have them watching me and cheering me on!

My super creative and forever awesome sis-in-law even made everyone “Run Joni Run!” t-shirts and me a hat, which I wore for the entire race. She also made about a half dozen signs!

The beginning of the race was dry. The rain at the start dissipated and I thought for a while that it would stay that way. Then at mile 7, I turned a corner and saw a big, black rain cloud coming right at us. At mile 11 the bottom fell out. By mile 12 my shoes were squishy.

At the halfway point I felt great. My legs felt nice and loose and I was enjoying my Sunday morning run. When I looked down at my watch I was slightly surprised 2:14! I figured I couldn’t keep that pace up. No way. No how. I’d hit the wall and then slow to a crawl, right?

At mile 18, my brother, Andrew, decided to get his Sunday exercise by running a bit with me. As I ran by he pulled in right beside me.

“I’ll run with you ’til you get to Swiss Avenue.”

At this point I think it’s important to note that my brother had never run further than 3 miles at a time, ever. Swiss Avenue was 5 miles away.

By mile 22 (my longest training run) I felt a little fatigued and my legs felt like spaghetti. Meanwhile, Andrew was developing a blister.

He was a great coach and motivator. Despite his own pain and fatigue he was there for me, reminding me to check my heart rate and telling me how awesome I was. Both of those things I desperately needed.

At mile 23, he found the rest of my cheering squad and left. 30 seconds later, he was back!

“I’m gonna run the rest with you.”

“That’s three more miles! You’re gonna run 8 miles?”

“Yup.”

Have I mentioned that my brother rocks??? I’m still not sure why he decided to push himself that hard. Because I told him I needed him at the end? Maybe. Because he was worried I’d keel over and die? That’s also possible. Either way, I sure am glad he was with me. He kept my mind off my wobbling legs and the raw spot on my right ankle. He reminded me not to push too hard, too early and to keep an eye on my heart rate.

At mile 24, I realized I was actually going to finish and when I saw the mile 25 sign I fought back tears of joy.

“Hold it together for one more mile. Crying won’t help you finish any faster,” my coach said.

So I did.

As I rounded the last corner, I stretched out my legs and ran like I’d never run before. I felt light, quick and nimble. I didn’t feel like I’d just run 26 miles…I felt invincible.

Just before the finish chute Andrew peeled off. I crossed the finish line alone…and then immediately burst into tears. I had done it!

All those years of wondering…

Can I complete the training?
Can I get through the race?
How fast can I run it?

…all suddenly had answers.

Yes, I can! 4 hours, 35 minutes!

 

Rock n Roll San Antonio

This weekend was the much anticipated Rock n’ Roll San Antonio Half Marathon. We left our house Saturday morning and began what turned into a 5 hour drive to the Alamo City (it’s really only a 3 hour drive but thanks to me forgetting an important piece of the breastpump we had to turn around after we’d already been gone an hour). Evie cried almost the entire trip and by the time we arrived I was about ready to jump out of the car.

We immediately checked in to the hotel and went to pick up our race packets.

A little sidenote: Evie discovered the power of her voice on Friday. By this I mean she discovered how to scream (not cry) at the top of her lungs so loudly that it makes you suffer temporary hearing loss. She now does this at every possible opportunity. Sidenote over.

My parents are awesome and came with us to babysit during the race so after we picked up our packets we all went to dinner. Unfortunately, we spent the entire meal trying to get Evie to stop screaming. How do you teach a 6-month old baby that it’s not okay to yell in a restaurant?

“No honey, we don’t yell. It’s not considerate to the other people here.”

Uh no. Let me just go ahead and tell you that doesn’t work. Instead my mom, the saint, bounced, sang to and played with her so I could eat. Thank you, mom.

On the way back to the hotel we walked by the Alamo which is beautiful at night. My dad, being the very proud and loyal Texan he is was determined to have little Evie touch it. Apparently it’s a “federal offense” to have a 6-month old baby put one finger on the structure, we were sternly warned by a policeman who was hiding in the bushes. Uh huh. Poo-poo head. That’s what I think about that.

We woke up at 5:30 the next morning for the race. We dropped off the baby with my parents at 6 and by 6:30 we were at the start line.

For me, the race was great. My carb loading on Friday and Saturday was extremely successful and if you can call 13 miles easy, I think this race qualifies. I finished in exactly 2:10:00  which oddly enough is my EXACT same finishing time for the Virginia Beach half we ran a year ago, down to the second! I am still perplexed by how odd that coincidence is. I was mildly sore the remainder of the day Sunday and Monday but by Tuesday afternoon I was ache and pain free. Yay!

For Jason, the race was slightly different. After developing a massive leg cramp around mile 4 he limped through the remaining 9 miles. Though somehow he still managed to break the 2 hour mark, go honey! This small personal victory was overshadowed by something much, much more serious. As he was crossing the finish line Jason saw a fellow runner collapse and die. Not figuratively. Literally. It’s one thing to know that a runner dies during an endurance event but it’s something entirely different to actually see it happen. Right there. The man who had been running beside him for the last mile just keeled over and died. It has been haunting him for the last 3 days. It’s a shockingly real reminder of how dangerous endurance running is, especially in the heat. Not something to be taken lightly.

After the race, we reunited with my parents, showered and went to Tony Romas on the Riverwalk where we proceeded to eat a massive hamburger. A small reward for months of training and one really long run.

My parents left after the burger and our little family spent the remainder of the afternoon laying in bed sleeping off our exhausting morning. I had a massage that evening and the most wonderful husband ever babysat. Early Monday morning we hopped in the car and drove back home. This time, with a much more content child. Thank goodness.

Virginia Beach Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon

Remember how excited I was about the Virginia Beach Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon? Remember how I had super ambitious goals for myself?

Yeah, that race kicked my butt. Serious butt kickage. Look how happy we were before the race started! So naive as to the impending pain to come…
By mile 8, I was in extreme pain and questioning my own sanity.
Why did I decide to do this?
Should I walk?
Why does my knee hurt so badly?
At one point, Jason caught up to me and said, “How are you doing?”
I replied, “If I don’t slow down I’m not gonna finish.” It was a very true statement. That was the last time I saw him.
He replied with something along the lines of, “Yeah, my legs are dead” and then off he went. I watched him until I lost him in the crowd and I was officially on my own.
Somewhere around mile 10 my thoughts escalated in severity to:
Is it socially unacceptable to cry while I run?
During mile 11 we had to run over a bridge which brought along with it, a literal uphill battle.
Am I going to die?
My pace slowed to a near crawl and by the time I hit the 13 mile marker, I was ready to give up running all together. 
Finally, after 2 hours and 10 minutes I crossed the finish line where I was met by a young man named David who, I think, sensed the possibility of my collapse in the finish chute. He grabbed my arm, got me a bottle of water, found me find a finisher medal and helped me walk around until my heart rate slowed down to somewhere near normal.
After the race we all walked, I mean hobbled, to the beach where we lounged, drank a beer (or three), took a nap, and frolicked, painfully, in the ocean.
I use the phrase “Am I going to die?” lightly. Actually, someone did die during the race, a very sobering reminder of the severity of what I am doing.
Overall, I think it was a good preview as to what it’s gonna take for me to finish the marathon. It also taught me that I am nowhere near ready. I’ve really got to step up my training if I have a prayer of finishing. I plan on allowing my legs to rest one more day and then back into training tomorrow!
A lot more happened on our trip but I will save that for a blog post tomorrow!