Last Thursday, the girls in my family flew up to Chicago for the Windy City National Qualifier. Alli and her teammates were looking to get a bid to Nationals in the 12s division. Luckily, I was able to meet some Twitter running friends and squeeze in some sight-seeing and drink A LOT of beer before the whirlwind trip was over! The weather was so cooperative and beautiful – it was *almost* like Texas!!
The Important Stuff: Volleyball
After a series of unfortunate events, we finally opened the door of our hotel room at 11:30 PM Thursday night. (Hint: this was NOT the way to start a weekend of virtually non-stop volleyball.) Luckily, Alli was asleep before midnight. Those few extra moments of sleep didn’t help much, though, because the team was meeting for breakfast in the lobby at 6:45 AM before heading to the convention center to start day 1 pool play.
We were at a disadvantage, as our first 2 matches were scheduled back-to-back. Our girls played like zombies, as if they had never seen a volleyball before in their life. We lost the first match in 2 sets (should have easily won) then had to go right into the next match, which would be the most difficult team in our pool. The girls still didn’t have their wits about them because they had not recovered from the first shocking loss and lost in 2 sets….again. Me? I was in my own zombie-like state court side, too tired to care that we had just screwed ourselves for THE ENTIRE TOURNAMENT.
After a break, we played again and this time, won easily (LIKE WE SHOULD HAVE THE FIRST TWO GAMES!!).
Saturday proved to be much better and we easily won all 3 matches, even though they still didn’t play up to their normal level. Sunday play was the same – the competition was a tad bit more difficult but we still pulled off wins easily.
When it was all said and done, we ended up 9th. Not too shabby, but still disappointing because we know how much better these girls can play – how much better they actually do play!!
Running Friends are THE BEST
I have some Twitter friends in Chicago that I was hoping to connect with and…..it worked out!!
Jenn came up on Friday after the tournament and drove me all around Chicago showing me the city. She even brought me some protein balls so that I could have healthy snacks for the tournament! She is just as fun and sweet as she comes across on Twitter! We made it back just in time to have dinner with Alli’s team. I enjoyed visiting with her so much and am so thankful that I was able to get that opportunity!
On Saturday, Elizabeth and her husband, Steve, drove in and actually spent the afternoon stuck in the convention center with me! I am so glad that I was able to meet them both!! I LOVE Elizabeth and would have been so sad if meeting up hadn’t worked out. She came bearing gifts as well. She definitely knows the way to my heart! (I feel the need to confess that we also had a beer in the hotel bar that is attached to the convention center! LOL)
I am SO LUCKY that my running pal, Rebecca, came along on this trip. I actually met her through this team and am SO THANKFUL that our paths crossed. We are actually very compatible runners (or at least I think so), and we had the most wonderful time running along the lake and river fronts early Saturday morning. This was the highlight of my trip (besides meeting new friends), for sure!!
Beer, Beer, more Beer and Other Things
I am not going to lie – I drank quite a bit of beer in Chicago and it was all DELICIOUS!!! In between my beer breaks, I managed a little sight-seeing.
I took Alli to Dylan’s Candy Bar on Saturday….not surprisingly she claims this as the most treasured part of her trip!
Sunday included a MUST – deep dish pizza at Giordano’s. It was SO GOOD. If I lived in Chicago, I would have to work out a lot more because I would be eating ALL THE FATTY FOOD!
Taylor and I managed to get to “Cloud Gate” in Millennium Park on Sunday before leaving for the airport. Most people call it “The Bean”, because of its kidney bean shape. Whatever you want to call it – it was cool!
And, of course, couldn’t resist a pic of the famous “L”!!
I still haven’t recovered from the trip, but it was so worth it! We had a great time!!
First, I want to apologize for this post being so lengthy. I try to keep my posts short and sweet, but I just couldn’t condense this much – plus I mostly write these for myself so when it shows up on TimeHop next year I will be able to relive the day in its full glory. I’m not quite sure why I am attempting to write this now, so soon after the race. I’m still trying to process the whole amazing experience.
Last week as the weather forecast became more and more favorable, I started gaining confidence that I would be able to hit my goal of 1:50. Still, I tend to doubt myself and my abilities and I just didn’t know if I would be able to run as hard as I needed to without having my teammates drag me along during the race. Running with them at Cowtown was instrumental to my success in that race, but I learned a lot, too, and hoped I could capitalize on that at RnR.
Crazy Jen always finds a way to escape
People laugh when I talk about Crazy Jen, but she is a real part of my personality, on the running side anyway. I can’t actually say that I have done anything spectacular to keep her at bay – when I just stick to the plan and do the workouts my coach gives me, she stays hidden.
But taper…..taper is a time when the craziness emerges and even the most sensible people do un-sensible things (I am NOT sensible, even when I am not tapering). I was so proud of myself earlier in the week when I made the wise decision NOT to try Bulgarian Squats. I have tried new exercises during taper before and, to no one’s surprise except mine, it did not turn out well. So I was batting 1.000 for Smart Jen. <smiley face>
It takes a lot of energy to resist all the taper temptations, however, and I was completely exhausted by Saturday evening. All of a sudden, I felt anxious about not having hydrated enough during the day and went straight to work to try to remedy that situation. (Hint: the breakdown had begun.) I decided to try this “new” drink mix (called ZipFizz) that I bought at the expo. It was supposedly full of electrolytes, and of course I needed electrolytes!! At the expo, I had tried a “cocktail” of Blueberry/Raspberry and Citrus. It was sooooo tasty!! I decided this was what I should drink. Each tube is one-16 oz serving, so I made a 32 oz bottle in order to mix both of them in. When I had downed, oh, about 24 oz of this fizzy goodness – just as I was getting ready to crawl into bed, I remembered that it was also touted as an energy drink and was FULL of B12! I yelled at myself – WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!?!? I was hoping that it wouldn’t affect me, and I can’t say for certain that it did, but I was awake for about 1 1/2 hours between 11:00-12:30. I wasn’t stressed at all about the fact that I was to get up at 4:00AM! LOL
Sadly, the madness didn’t stop there. I didn’t have a hard and fast race plan, so naturally I started stressing about that around 8:30. I had a gut feeling that I was going to be able to hit 1:50, but hadn’t really set out about mentally preparing for what that would look like during the race. I pulled up the splits for a 1:49 half marathon (because what’s the use unless you can get under 1:50?) and then…..I PANICKED. Like literally panicked to the point that I had to tell myself to STOP THINKING. This probably contributed to my middle-of-the-night insomnia. I did revise my race strategy, though, by deciding to go out a little faster in the beginning than I had planned.
Race day jitters
In spite of the difficulty finding sleep early on, I managed to get some quality winks in before my alarm went off. I got up easily enough with plenty of time to meet my friends Erica and Dara in McKinney for my car pool ride to the race. I was increasingly nervous the closer we got to the race. I seriously thought I was going to throw up from nerves by the time we parked! Luckily, the feeling subsided after I got out of the car….kind of.
Erica talked me into paying for VIP, which I thought was ridiculous and stupid and never imagined I would be confessing that purchase to anyone. I’m so glad she did because parking was close and more importantly, we were able to wait inside until time to head to the corrals AND….bathrooms. Not port-o-pottys. REAL bathrooms.
Finding that “sweet spot”
It seemed like no time had passed before it was time to head to the corrals. I wanted to meet up with Lauren, a Renegade Endurance teammate of mine, then head to find my friend Rebecca in our corral.
Before I could blink, the National Anthem was being sung and the gun was off for corral 1. Rebecca and I were in corral 2, and luckily there was only 1 minute between each corral. This would prove helpful later in the race, because I knew I wasn’t much over 1:00 off the gun clock – I ended up using the clocks to see how close I really was to my goal.
I didn’t have much choice in starting out fast at Cowtown because I was running with my speedy teammates, but that experience taught me a lot about my heart rate. I was able to realize that I have been starting out too slow, waiting on my heart rate to get settled. I now know that I can run a faster pace and my heart will settle down after the first couple miles.
Originally, I planned to run the first mile at 8:40, then decide where to go from there. After looking up the splits on a 1:49, I knew there was NO WAY I could do that and hope to make it up. I revised my plan to run 8:30 the first couple of miles, then settle in and run with my heart rate around 160.
Mile 1 came in at 8:33 while mile 2 came in a bit faster at 8:19 – I am pretty sure there were some downhills involved there! My heart settled into a steady pace in the high 150s and mile 3 came in at 8:23. I was feeling really good, the weather was AMAZING, but I knew that I still had A LOT of race to go. Mile 4 came in at 7:55 because it was ALL downhill through downtown. My left calf got a little crampy about halfway through – kind of ticked me off because I was going DOWNHILL, but I decided not to give it any mental energy, told it to stop and luckily it settled down. I kept rocking right along with mile 5 at 8:06, but running up the on-ramp to the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge slowed my mile 6 pace to 8:27.
At the 10k mark, I was right on track to run 1:49. I knew this because I had written the times I needed to hit for 6, 9, 10, 11, & 12 miles. I did this, because I never really know what to expect as far as finishing time and it just takes too much mental effort to try to figure mid-race (and I never figure it correctly anyway). But I was afraid to get too excited and too ahead of myself, because the mile 9 hill was still looming ahead. There was still so much left to race.
I decided to go ahead and take a gel just before the mile 7 aid station. After getting through the station, I realized that I was starting to get hot. The sun was up and I was in an area that didn’t allow for much wind to pass through. After I cleared the water stop, I peeled off my arm sleeves – I considered peeling off my shirt as well, but then I wouldn’t have been reppin’ my club! LOL Miles 7 & 8 came in at 8:05 and 8:16.
Then….I hit the MILE 9 HILL. Can I say that by this point I was SO OVER THE HILLS?!?! I made it up the hill, mentally and physically drained and then THERE WAS ANOTHER HILL. I was so tired. And I was getting so hot. Luckily, the aid station was right there and I poured a few cups of water on myself to try to cool down. Mile 9 came in at 8:38 – the hill really slowed me down. Honestly, at this point, I was starting to get very tired. Even so, I still managed to maintain my pace somewhat with mile 10 clocking in at 8:31. Mile 11 – ahhhhhh – downhill. Wheeeeeeeee!! This was my second and last sub-8 mile of the race AND the fastest at 7:51. Boy, did I ever need that mental break! Mile 12 evened back out at 8:11 before I SLAMMED into mile 13.
MILE 13. I can’t even think about it now without curling into the fetal position. IT. WAS. SOOOOO. BAD. It was over a bridge that *seemed* flat, but was NOT flat. It was a gentle, LONG, incline. I may have hallucinated or seen mirages. It was seriously like being stuck out in a desert. Every time I thought it looked like I was getting close to the end, MORE BRIDGE would come into view. To make things worse, I was so close to the finish line at this point, I could hear the finish line announcer and music. Torture. PURE TORTURE. To add to my despair, I was EXHAUSTED. I was starting to get side stitches (I rarely get side stitches) and I think I would have felt better if I could have puked on the side of the road. I wanted to stop right there and walk it in. I questioned my sanity and wondered WHY I voluntarily put myself into this situation. I even considered canceling all my upcoming races. And the thought that propelled me to the next phase – WHY do you think you have a chance at a 3:45 marathon??
I got PISSED. I was mad at myself for allowing that negative talk in my head. I was mad that I wanted to quit. I reminded myself that these few moments of pain were NOTHING compared to the regret and disappointment I would feel if I ended up missing this sub-1:50 goal because I quit on myself. I reminded myself that I have bigger goals than a sub-1:50, and this is just one more step in the ladder on my way to those goals. I started repeating the quote: Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional. I was in pain, but I DIDN’T have to suffer – suffering is mental. Thank goodness this was enough to pull me out of my funk. I was elated when I finally reached the end of that bridge!! Now it would be downhill to the finish line, and the finish line was not much more that .10 away!!
Errrrrr….that’s what I thought anyway. I had a nice little downhill happy rush only to round a corner and realize that I had to not only go UP to the finish, but I had to turn a corner AND go UP an even steeper incline as well!! I WAS SO MAD because I WAS IN PAIN and race finishes should be DOWNHILL. But when I rounded that corner, I caught a glimpse of the clock and knew that I still had a shot at my time goal, so I ran as hard as I could for those last yards.
I stopped my Garmin and was so tired and happy to be finished that I didn’t even think to look at it. As I walked to pick up my medal, I was so overcome with emotion that I started sobbing and I nearly shed a tear…nearly. I had just gotten my phone out when I got a text from one of my best friends. The first text was, “Oh my so close!” My heart sank. I had been so sure that I made it under 1:50. THEN the next ones came through…I was still so emotional – I was still sobbing. I ran that race with my heart and soul and the end was SO HARD. I sat down on the curb just trying to process the last hour and 50 minutes of my life. I was overwhemed with emotion.
After the race, I stumbled around aimlessly, freezing, looking for beer (which was terrible, by the way) until I remembered that I BOUGHT VIP!!!
It was quite the obstacle course getting over there, but it was sooooo warm and there was food! The food didn’t really matter because I tried to eat and it made me sick to my stomach. Having a seat at a table in warm space was well worth the extra money I paid. I waited there, still trying to process my accomplishment, while I waited on Erica and Dara to finish.
I realized later that the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders were performing at the finish line. In my state of extreme pain, I developed tunnel vision for the finish line and had NO idea they were there!
Here I sit, one day later, so proud of my performance. I think I finally found that sweet spot of pushing just hard enough to finish my best. I have some pretty lofty goals, and meeting those goals will require me managing the pain of races and I think I did that pretty well, too. For the first time EVER, I am satisfied….for now 🙂
A little over a year ago, I added yoga to my running maintenance routine. I was desperate to do anything and everything I could to get myself healthy and keep myself healthy so I could stay out on the roads. I quickly found that I LOVED yoga and it has been a consistent part of my cross-training routine ever since!
I still remember the first time I did yoga. I have said so many times that everything in our bodies are connected, and that idea hit home even harder that day. I was stiff EVERYWHERE, and I knew those restrictions in my tissues weren’t a result of not doing yoga – they were all a direct result of my ITB injury. I remember specifically one sequence that started in Warrior 2 which worked into big arm circles before ending up in a half bind. I noticed that my entire left back side was tight and restricted when doing the arm circles (is it any surprise that my left ITB was the worst?). That pose and lizard lunge were the two poses that really opened my eyes that day.
Keep Moving Forward (In the wee hours)
As difficult as yoga was that first time, I was determined to stick with it, work through my issues and get myself healthy (and stay healthy) again. It was then that I decided to find a way to work yoga and strength into my schedule, consistently. Getting in all the strength and cross training had been easy when I was out of running because of the injury. Getting everything done when I added running back into the schedule was….challenging. My solution was to get up earlier than usual in order to do my stability/strength and yoga before work with my runs after work. I tried getting up at 5:00 am, at first, but quickly realized that it took me a few minutes to gain coherency <read: drink coffee/get caffeine infusion>. I then started getting up at 4:45 in order to start the caffeination process and hopefully be ready to work by 5 AM.
At first, this transition was tough. As time went on, however, getting up earlier got easier and I was able to settle into a routine. My eyes even began popping open before my alarm went off!
Yoga really helps (along with NOT over-training)
Ok….probably the best thing I’ve done is to hire a coach who keeps me healthy by not letting me over-train, BUT…. yoga has really helped, too. Doing yoga regularly has helped me dial into my body and it has helped me find those tight spots that I haven’t yet found with the foam roller. And yoga is soooooo relaxing. I love that loosey-goosey feeling when I am done. Ahhhhhh.
One thing that I noticed just this week, which spurred the idea to write this post, is that I relax my shoulders much more now (while running) than I ever did before yoga. I’ve learned through yoga that you don’t want to acquire tension in one part of your body while relieving it in another. For me, the tension almost always accumulates in my shoulders – in yoga and in running. Yoga has helped me become more aware of that accumulating shoulder tension (and tensions elsewhere) and my brain/body is now connecting that during my workouts. I feel that this might be the best benefit to date. I had been aware of my shoulders tensing up during runs and I always tried to keep that from happening. Since yoga, it is becoming more automatic and less of a conscious action. And that, folks, is a biggie for me!!
One of my favorite poses is rag doll. You can do it anywhere, anytime, to relieve tension and stress and just breathe for a few minutes.
I love ANY and EVERY kind of twist. Oh, the twists feel so good!!
One pose that I don’t quite *love*, but don’t feel I could live without is the Lizard Lunge. It is a hip opener and usually a tad bit uncomfortable because this girl’s hips are usually a little tight!
Another one is an IT band stretch. And, well, there really isn’t any reason to elaborate on that. LOL
Honestly, I have really good intentions of regularly posting here, but life just keeps getting in the way! It takes quite a bit of time to write a blog post – the proofreading is the worst part for me. If you read my blog much you know that I never actually proofread that well. Why am I still horrified when I find a gazillion mistakes after the blog is actually posted?!? (Welcome to the Life of Jen.)
I’ve been doing a fairly decent job of posting running updates. (IF you count race recaps! LOL) Running is going really, really well. I can only give credit where credit is due, and that credit is due to my coach. I find it such a relief that I no longer need to question my training plan (if you could call what I was doing prior to hiring my coach a *plan*). Probably the best part is that I am not constantly wrestling with my ego. It is NO secret that my ego got me into lots of trouble where running was concerned. I am still my own worst enemy, though, as evidenced in yesterday’s bike trainer workout. I had a pretty hard workout in which I needed to get my heart rate up past a certain threshold, but was unable to get it as high as needed. I would get very shaky and just wasn’t able to hold the intensity. Then it hit me – I had not eaten a pre-workout snack. I thought that my during-workout drink would be enough and I was WRONG. I was so disappointed in myself. I SUCK at nutrition in regards to my workouts. I’m not going to dwell on it, though. I’m going to do my best to fix it going forward. Yes, I’ll probably do it again. I’m not there yet but am getting better….I think.
I have another half marathon next weekend – Rock ‘n’ Roll Dallas. I’m hoping to drop my time just a bit from Cowtown, but this is also a difficult course and I’ll be relying on me, myself and I to push through this time (no Brent to drag me along)….anything could happen. Right now, the weather looks favorable, but this is Texas and the forecast will change at least 14 times between now and next Sunday. After RnR Dallas, I’ll have just a few weeks until Ragnar Relay in Austin – I am SO EXCITED!!
After that, and I have been keeping this under my hat (I am SO afraid of failure), my main goal is making a 3:45 marathon. I have no idea how close (or far away) I am right now. I know I am loads faster than I was at Dallas, but how much so?? It’s a mystery. I wish I could add a marathon in this Spring to get a good gauge, but Alli’s volleyball schedule makes it virtually impossible to train for a full. I have had trouble keeping up with half marathon training! LOL. I don’t know when I’ll be able to achieve this goal, but they always say if it isn’t just a little bit out of reach, you aren’t dreaming enough. So I’m dreaming big and I try to remind myself during every workout that any slacking won’t get me to my goal. I hope this will be the catalyst that helps me move past the tendency I have to let off the gas a bit when I start feeling fatigue.
So what’s been going on outside of running?
Life has been keeping me very busy! Alli’s volleyball team is really taking shape. They play SO WELL together, which is a direct result of the great coaching staff on the team. This is an 11s team playing in 12 Open (the most difficult division) and our region of USA Volleyball (NTR – North Texas Region) is known for its very competitive level of volleyball. These girls are consistently finishing 3rd or 5th in every tournament. Of course, they would love to finish 1st or 2nd and earn a medal, but the teams that knock us out are very talented teams that will likely go on to Nationals and finish very high. Our team is preparing to travel to the Windy City Qualifier on Easter weekend in hopes of earning a bid to Nationals. Whether we do or don’t, the higher level of competition will prepare us for our own road to Nationals.
Logan’s soccer team has one more game before play-offs, and they are also hitting their stride. Our new coach has been good for this team. I’ll be honest….when I attended the first scrimmage I was a bit worried about the season….but each game they play better and better! I am extremely proud of Logan. He was moved from midfield to defense this season and he has been playing some great soccer. He seems much more at home in defense and I believe he has positively impacted the team more there than he could have in midfield.
Spring Break is almost over 😦
I have enjoyed Spring Break SO MUCH, even though it has rained EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I haven’t even gotten that much stuff done, but Alli and I made time to go shopping, I was able to take my mom to her doctor’s appointment, and even seen Race and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. I LOVED Race!!! I highly recommend it to anyone, whether they like running or not! Whiskey Tango Foxtrot was good in a different way, but after having just seen Race, it pales in comparison.
And now, I need to get in my strength work and get out for a short run before the rains come once again!
In an attempt to catch everyone up to my crazy antics of late and to pick up where I left off in yesterday’s blog, I’m blogging two days in a row. <shocked face> That hasn’t happened since…….I can’t remember. I always have the best intentions, but you know what they say about that….
2016 is finally taking shape
If you knew me this time last year, you would know that I was still clawing my way back from that nasty ITB injury. I was still attempting to build some sort of base fitness level and was doing those gosh awful run/walk intervals, so any kind of racing was out of the question.
2016 is a completely different year, though, and I am getting close to getting the framework of my race calendar set. A couple of things are still up in the air but I’m hoping to schedule one last marathon toward the end of the year – I’m waiting to see how the rest of the season goes before I make any rush decisions on that one. (Which will be a *first* for me, as one of my friends calls me “Trigger” because of my hasty race sign-up tendencies.)
My next race is RnR Dallas HM on March 20. Even though the weather will likely be much warmer, I am going to see if I can continue the progress that I made at Cowtown, step out of my comfort zone and take a few risks.
Ragnar Austin is quickly approaching! This 200-mile, 12-person relay will start in Fredericksburg in the wee morning hours on April 15. We will race South then back North, ending the race in Austin sometime late Saturday. I am beyond excited for this experience, as a Ragnar has been on my bucket list for quite some time now.
After Ragnar, I am planning to run Skyline HM on May 1. I ran Skyline last year. While I didn’t really care for the course, this race has a special place in my heart because it was my first race post-injury. Of course, it will be hot and I always need practice racing in the heat.
I’ll have a dry spell on the road race front until the Rochester Marathon on September 18. This will be my first full marathon of 2016 (am hoping to schedule another one in late December). It is on track to be my favorite and most special race of the year because it will mean a reunion with my Sole Sister Jenn! AAAANNNNNNNNDDDDDDDD – this race will be her FIRST full marathon and I get to be there when she punches her ticket as a marathoner! I could not be more honored or excited!
I am considering at Salinas Valley Half Marathon on August 6, if a college visit trip to Cali pans out. If I make it, I will get to meet my good friend, Marci, in person and hopefully a few other Cali friends!
Tri-ing the Tri
Oh, the things I let my coach talk me into….
I am officially signed up for Pioneer Power Sprint Tri at the end of July. This will be a special induction into the world of tri because Taylor is doing it with me! Another meaningful twist is that this event is held at TWU, which is Taylor’s college alma mater. I’m still scared to death of swimming 200m AT ONE TIME. Swimming is coming along so quickly, though, that by the time July rolls around I should be MORE than ready!!
Transitioning to Trails
WHEN will I learn to never say never?!? Because once upon a time I am pretty sure I said I would NEVER run a trail race. I am ABSOLUTELY POSITIVE that I said I would NEVER run a 50 mile race. I did, in fact, sign up for a 50 mile race just a mere 3 days after declaring that I would NEVER run a 50 miler. I completely and unequivocally blame my coach and my crazy teammates for this.
As scary as this monumental mound of miles may seem, I am still more frightened of swimming 200m in my July triathlon. Go figure.
In any case, I’m fairly excited about this challenge. It’s fun to run with teammates and this race will give me A LOT of QT with them! LOL We are actually planning to stay together during the race to lend support to each other.
Looking to the horizon
I have another exciting goal up my sleeve that I’m not ready to share with the world just yet. I guess deep down inside I need to find the confidence in myself to actually believe I can do what I’m hoping to do.
Stay tuned…… 🙂
Two more days until Spring Break!!! I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…..
Since when is half marathon training harder than full marathon training?
I’m not sure what happened between the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016, but this half marathon training cycle seemed MUCH more difficult for me to manage mentally and physically than full marathon training last fall. It’s probably less related to the actual training and more related to the fact that I am wayyyy over-scheduled. Alli’s volleyball went into full swing in January and we are burning up the roads to practice and tournaments.
As a result, I really enjoyed taper week. Yes, I actually said that. I REALLY enjoyed taper week. And when I finally toed the start line on Sunday, I felt mentally and physically fresh and ready to run the course.
Cowtown isn’t the easiest course out there, but it is my favorite half marathon course. I love running through the Stockyards. Plus, the support from the city and its citizens is nothing short of amazing – some of the best race support I’ve been able to be a part of.
I had some pretty lofty goals for this race. I wanted to run a sub-2 hour half, which I was sure I could do because my training had been going well. Deep down, I really hoped to get 1:50 or at least close to it. I knew that to run 1:50 would have to be PERFECT race conditions and even then, I felt the course difficulty might hold me back.
Something else that has been on my mind lately is my racing strategy. For my fall races and even up to Cowtown, running slower at the beginning of the race and slowly increasing intensity throughout has given me some pretty stellar results. But every time I finish, I am haunted with thoughts wondering if I pushed myself hard enough. When my coach suggested that I should let him pace me and run with some of our Renegade teammates, I realized immediately this was my opportunity to test pushing myself early on in the race. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about falling flat on my face and tanking before the end. This is my year of uncomfortable, though, and I am working to develop a more aggressive approach to my running. Fears aside, I wholeheartedly accepted the challenge!
I was understandably concerned about race conditions. (Understandably for me, anyway! LOL) Weather was predicted to be partly cloudy with temps in the mid 50s and climbing throughout the morning. In addition, winds were gusting up to 20 mph. I don’t care to race in temps above 50. I like training in the heat, but racing is an entirely different story. It all worked out, because throughout my time on the course, the sky was overcast, temps were mid-50s and the winds didn’t affect me much. The humidity was an entirely different matter. I don’t think it was a huge impact on my performance, but the air was heavy enough that I noticed a change in my breathing.
We started out a lot faster than I would have, had I been racing alone. Of course, I wondered how long I could keep that up. We managed to settle into a pretty steady pace, clocking around 8:45/mile for miles 1-4. After a short bathroom stop for a teammate, mile 5 came in a little bit slower, but we made up our time with 8:30 & 8:11 for miles 5-6. By mile 7, I was starting to feel a tad bit of fatigue which kind-of freaked me out. But thinking about it after the fact, I always feel that way so it really wasn’t out of the ordinary. We ran 8:12 & 8:43 for miles 7-8 and somehow we found ourselves, already at the dreaded MILE 9 HILL. My coach ran off and left us on the hill – LOL!! I was SURE I was running a turtle’s pace, but Garmin says I ran 8:31, and who am I to disagree with Garmin?? Even though mile 10 was mostly downhill through downtown, I slowed on that mile and ran 8:41. During the race, I really felt I was slowing down at this point, but miles 11-12 clocked 8:19 and 8:17. I used every ounce of energy I had left for mile 13 and my lack of energy showed in the slower pace of 8:42. But when it was all said and done, I was very pleased with my new PR of 1:52:38!!! My previous *official* half marathon PR was 2:13:22, although I ran 2:04 in the last half of the Dallas Marathon.
Learning the lessons
Every race teaches me a lesson. This race taught me that I’m a little stronger than I think. I really didn’t believe that I could start out that fast and maintain a steady pace throughout the race. I would never have had the courage without my coach there pushing me. Going forward, I am going to try to find that delicate balance between pushing too hard, too early and holding back too much. I like to finish strong and I do well when I give myself some “warm-up” time at the beginning of the race, but this race performance clearly showed me that I’m not giving enough effort early on. Luckily, Rock ‘n’ Roll Dallas is coming up in less than 3 weeks, so I’ll be able to put it to the test!
Beyond the finish
I took this pic as I snaked through the food/finisher shirt line at the end of the race because I knew my Northern runner friends would NEVER believe it! Finisher shirts were being handed out in the livestock barn.
One thing that was disappointing to me was the LACK OF BEER available after the race. I was in quite a panic but quickly learned beer wasn’t being served until 10am – WHAT THE HECK. By the time we all began the mile-long walk back to our hotel, the beer booth was open but had a line a mile long. (Sad Jen) I’m nothing, if not a problem solver, though, and I remedied the beer problem during Alli’s practice Sunday evening. It was MUCH better than I would have gotten at the race anyway!
The closer we got to our hotel, the more sirens I began to notice. We were walking on a trail that snaked behind the hotel that was a part of the full and ultra route. When we were close enough to see the parking lot, we quickly realized that the parking lot was full of hotel guests (STANDING OUTSIDE) and FIRE TRUCKS! Thankfully, there was only a small fire in a laundry area and we were allowed into the hotel within minutes of our arrival.
Even though there are several things that I could beat myself up over, I’m choosing to relish in my accomplishment. But I’m ready to get back to training because I think exciting things are in store for me this year!!