half marathon

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!

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 Hottest Half!

Hottest-Half-logo-2014-sI’ve always said that I like being half marathon ready. Meaning that I’m in good enough shape that I could hop into a half marathon with very little additional preparation. I’ve been in that place in my training for a while now and I’ve finally decided to pull the trigger.

I registered for the Hottest Half!

I officially have three weeks to get myself ready. Last night I crafted a three week training plan and am ready to get started!

Though this plan is only three weeks long it is by far the most technical plan I’ve ever undertaken. I’ve never actually tried to hit paces before during training, I’ve always just winged it based on feel but I’m at a place now where I won’t continue to improve unless I get slightly more serious with my training plans.

Hottest Half Training Shedule

Notice there’s no off days? That’s because I’m still streaking, today is day 107! I’m not sure how that’s going to affect my training so I’m giving myself the option of switching the Friday 4-miler to 1-mile if I feel my body needs the break.

The paces here are calculated off a finish time of 1:50 and honestly I think that’s realistic. I’ve been doing 800 meter intervals at a 7:34 pace once a week for the last several weeks so tomorrow’s run actually will be a bit easy (knock on wood) and the weekly mileage is spot on. I ran 40 miles last week so I don’t see the total mileage being a problem. I can easily maintain a 9 minute/mile while pushing the stroller so a race pace of 8:24 might be pushing it a little but not too far off.

I plan on doing the intervals on the treadmill at the gym, the remainder of the weekday runs will be done pushing the double stroller (including the tempo) and Jason can watch the kids on Saturday and Sunday for my long run and race pace run.

Despite the name, I’m not worried about the heat. I lived in Dallas for six years so I’m familiar with the weather. Now I live in Houston and I run outside almost every day, even during the summer. I’m as acclimated to the heat as I can get so it shouldn’t be much of a shock.

I am so excited about this! I’ve wanted to run this race for a long, long time but the timing never worked out for me. I’ve been either pregnant or recovering from having a baby during the training window for the last four years but this is the year! EXCITED!