Sunday, January 31, 2010

Three Halfs Marathons in 14 Days - Race Review of Texas Half Marathon

Today I ran the Texas Half Marathon at White Rock Lake in Dallas.  When I woke up the weather was 25 degrees with about 15 mph winds, windchill in the teens.  As the morning went on, the temperature stayed about the same, the wind picked up even more, and we even had an occasional snow flurry.  It was a cold day for running 13.1 miles!

This race was day 26 in a streak of straight days I had run at least a mile (usually more), always outside.  More significantly, this was the third half marathon I had raced in only 14 days. 

Jan. 17 - Houston Half Marathon - new PR of 2:29:23
Jan. 24 - 3M Half Marathon in Austin - 2:35:57

I never should have tried to race the Texas Half.  The weather was not at all conducive to it.  The race started and immediately I could feel how stiff every muscle was in the cold.  I had packed on the layers too!  For my top: a tighter short sleeve tech top (Fort Worth Runners Club Labor Day 15K shirt) with a long sleeve tech top (Heels and Hills shirt) over it and then a good tech jacket (DRC Black Cocona jacket, made of recycled coconut husks) above that.  For my bottom: Under Armour tights with yoga pants over them to keep the wind from hitting my legs so bad.  I had my Pearl Izumi wind mitt running gloves and my Brooks ear warmer.  So I was prepared.  Now I should also be mindful that with my fibromyalgia, the cold makes my usual muscle stiffness worse and I'm more temperature sensitive also because of it.

But I went out at an approx. PR pace anyway.  I was so miserable out there, I just couldn't warm up.  You know it's a bad race day when I glance down at my Garmin and literally thought, "We're only 3 minutes into this?!? Only 2 1/2 more hours of this to go." Not a good mental place. 

Every other mile or so, I would come upon a runner friend just out training, so the quick hi was always a nice pick-me-up.  The wooden bridges on the west side of White Rock Lake were pretty icy and I had to briskly walk several segments after catching myself before falling.  I walked the mile 5 water stop while I took my Gu.  I wanted to try it out since I think gulping the Gu down quickly while still running race pace at the 3M Half the week before might have been partially to blame for my stomach/GI problems midway through that race.  My stomach held up, but my heart didn't.  By halfway through the race, I just wanted it to be over.

About a mile and a half from the finish, who's coming back my way but dear runner friend, EW!  I had run into EW about the same distance from the finish last May at North Trail Half Marathon and he had been a huge help at that hard half marathon by running me in.  Well, he immediately fell in step with me today and said he would run me in.  He had been on the fence about running the half or the 5K this morning, and now he told me he had "wussed out" and run the 5K.  I'm thankful for that because it meant he was very eager to get a little extra distance in with me!  He provided a steady stream of encouraging words this next mile and a half, as I struggled to keep the pace at the speed I'd had throughout the race, and I was nearly crying.  The last tenth of a mile is a big hill, a couple hundred feet elevation.  EW reminded me to breath with each step, keep a comfortable stride - he was such a help. 

As I ran into the finish, I was reminded again how blessed I am with this running family I've developed over the years ... The announcer, Cliff Couch, a wonderful guy I had worked with when I directed the DRC Half Marathon past years and still as I direct Heels and Hills Half Marathon, saw me coming in and, boy, what a welcome he gave me.  He announced to the whole crowd how this was my 3rd half marathon in only 14 days.  Cliff added, "Isn't that insane?" I was feeling pretty insane then.  I had finished in 2:31:55, faster than the PR I had set at White Rock only a month and a half before (although just a little slower than the newest PR I had set in Houston two weekends ago).  My three 2010 half marathons were already faster than I ever could have done even just 4 months ago.  This increased running to strengthen my legs was really paying off.

After finishing, EW wrapped an arm around my shoulder and basically dragged me into the building to get some food and deliver me to my chiropractor's table (so thankful my chiropractor was the official chiro at this event!).  I must have looked like how I felt, someone asked if I was okay. :-) My chiropractor worked on a couple sore muscles and adjusted me.  And I hung out for a long time by the space heater he had brought.  I just could not get warm for the life of me.  It was probably about 3 hours after I had finished the race before I finally felt like I was warming up!

What's Next?
Now that Half #3 of 2010 is done, I get the next weekend "off" before I go to the Surfside Beach Half Marathon on February 13.  I'm excited for my first beach race.  I'm currently not excited about the fact I have to run at all tomorrow to keep my running streak going.  But I have to say that the easy run, active recovery run, the day after the race really does seem to be helping me learn to bounce back.

Friend Elaine completed her 4th half 6 days after we ran 3M Half together!

Chip Finish Time: 2:31:55
NEGATIVE SPLITS - First six miles averaged 11:34, last size miles averaged 11:28
Mile 1: 11:35
Mile 2: 11:17
Mile 3: 11:30
Mile 4: 11:16
Mile 5: 11:39
Mile 6: 12:04 (walked the aid station to take my Gu)
Mile 7: 11:20
Mile 8: 11:25
Mile 9: 11:08
Mile 10: 11:28
Mile 11: 11:43
Mile 12: 11:40
Mile 13: 11:28 (Thank you, EW, for helping me push myself!)
Last 0.1 miles: 10:17 pace (forgot to stop the Garmin for 27 more seconds so mental note for myself that the Garmin will show 12:04 for this split)

Monday, January 25, 2010

3M Half Marathon - Interesting Start, Interesting Finish

I had very easily talked my friend Elaine and my sister-in-law Cathie into running the 3M Half Marathon in Austin with me.  This was very exciting for Elaine because it was her third half marathon, and her first half marathon was only last August.  Saturday Elaine and I headed down around noon, arriving at 4 pm, about 20 minutes before Cathie got in from Houston.  We were staying at the host hotel, Embassy Suites, which was wonderful because it was right in front of the start line.  Like literally 100 feet.  So convenient.

We went a mile or so away to Brick Oven restaurant for dinner to carbload the night before and were in bed by 10 pm.  We were very well-behaved runners. :-)

Pre-Race - It's All About Runner Safety, Ya Know?
We got up at 5:30 am for a race start of 6:45 am.  It was about 50 degrees with a cold wind at around 10-15 mph.  I performed my usual pre-race rituals of finishing breakfast before an hour to race start (so it has time to digest but not too much time that I'm hungry by mile 4) and took my Gu in the starting corral, with water, 15 minutes before race start. 

Me and My Girls Ready to Rock 3M Half! Left to right: Elaine Hillis, Me, Cathie Jones

And at 6:45 am, they announced a delay.  Eek!  And they kept us up to date in approximately 10-15 minute intervals as the delays continued.  It turned out that the winds had blown over or moved police barricades, and they would have to redo the whole course.  I was so sympathetic for the race director because your top priority is the safety of the runners even if the decisions you have to make aren't popular.  Most people stayed in the tight race corral because you never knew when they were going to say it was time and then you wanted to be ready right away to start.  We stood most of the time but I sat on the asphalt a little too.  I chatted with a girl ahead of me who was local and running Austin Marathon, her FIRST marathon, next month - exciting!  She warned me that there was a HUGE downhill at mile 4 and to take it easy on the downhill because people had been known to blow out their quads sprinting down the steep grade.  I was super duper hyper thanks to the caffeine in the Gu and was sad to feel the boost burning itself away, wasted.  After another warning of a 15 minute delay, it was getting sunny out (big difference starting at 6:45 versus 7:45), and I ran up to the room to get my sunglasses since most of the time we would be running towards the southeast, into the sun.

Me at the Start Line - Wow, that flash makes me look pale.  And a Bondiband may not be flattering, but the fly-aways and bangs aren't a lot of fun during a race either, so I'd rather run comfortably than run pretty if the two can't overlap.

To Run Or To Race, That is the Question
At 7:40 am, the race started.  I didn't know if I wanted to "race" or just "run" this race.  I've added a lot of mileage recently and had just taken 3 1/2 minutes off my time last Sunday at the Aramco Houston Half Marathon.  It was my first back-to-back half marathon weekend, which left me a little nervous.  But I decided to go out at 2:30 finish time pace (a harder race pace right at my current PR), and if I felt good through the uphills of the first 3 miles, then I would try to continue it.  After the girl at the start line telling me about the steepness of the downhills, I have to say it was never that much downhill to me.  Yes, there were downhills, but for a point-to-point race, there were a LOT of uphills as well.  It's a very hilly course.  So I was on 2 1/2 hr finish pace (11:27/mi) through until Mile 4 and then felt really good so pushed a little more on the downhills for a faster pace the next two miles.

And Then It was All Downhill (And Not in a Good Way)
And then we hit the aid station and I took my Gu, and my stomach literally screamed "Oh no, you didn't!"  Immediately felt horribly sick to my stomach and lower GI.  Not fun.  I saw about 30 seconds added to each mile as I struggled to continue at a decent pace.

Around mile 7, I caught up to Allison, a Heels and Hills Lucky 13 Run Team member.  She was having some knee pain so we ran together for a little and then I left her when she decided to walk for a little bit.  At about mile 8.5, I see a gal up ahead screaming, "Libby! Libby!" It's Lisa, who I had chatted with in the Twitterverse off and on about running and we had met when she passed me at Mile 4 in Houston the previous weekend.  I was happy she recognized me, I needed the distraction.  She asked how I was doing, and 8 miles in with pain, how do you lie? I replied, "Awful, I feel awful."  She asked me if I wanted an energy gel, and I said "Sure!"  It wasn't a brand I usually used, but how much could it hurt.  I needed the extra energy boost, and only had one last Gu on me.  After my tummy's bad reaction to the first Gu, I had been dreading the second Gu (same style, same flavor).

I "sipped" on the Raspberry Hammer Gel she had given me for the next mile.  And it actually settled my stomach a little and gave me a small energy boost.  But by mile 11, I was starting to just feel terrible again.  Allison caught up with me then and she was struggling too.  I knew at this point I shouldn't be racing so hard - having just done a half marathon last weekend, and with another half marathon coming up in 6 days - so we took it easy the last 2 miles to run each other into the finish.  I should note though that I had a good kick the last tenth of a mile with a 9:36 pace.  I'm getting much better at digging deep for that speedy sprint at the end, and I'm proud of that!

I was so glad it was over and I was pleasantly surprised with my time.  2:35:57.  A time I could not have run 6 months ago!  And now I had run that time with stomach problems half the distance and some pretty big hills!  And only one week after a hard race with a PR of only 6 1/2 minutes faster.

Overall Race Review
It is a pretty course seeing lots of different parts of Austin. You go along the highway frontage road, through neighborhoods, by businesses, along the UT campus, and into downtown. The crowd support was moderate, some spectators who lived along the route and then mostly families and friends of participants.

The water stations were well done, and the cold seemed nice and cold.  I did come up to the first Gatorade station, only to have them shout when I was about 10 feet away, "Out of Gatorade!  No more Gatorade!"  It blows your concentration, but it happens at a lot of races - as a fellow race director, predicting the amount of resources needed is not an easy task.  If a race is really important to me, I carry my own fluids, and I encourage others to do the same!

Nice finish line, good finish area.  They had run out of pizza by the time I finished, but that's okay - I don't usually eat much of anything immediately after a race.  All in all, I enjoyed the race and would do it again if I was up for a challenging course.
What's Next
This Saturday, 6 days after 3M Half, I have the Texas Half Marathon in Dallas at White Rock Lake.  I'm looking forward to a local race after two out-of-town races on back-to-back weekends.  And I'm excited for a new first of THREE back-to-back weekends of half marathons.

After Texas Half, I'll get one weekend "off" before Surfside Beach Half Marathon on Saturday, February 13.

Mile 1: 11:29
Mile 2: 11:45
Mile 3: 11:27
Mile 4: 11:08
Mile 5: 10:53
Mile 6: 11:52
Mile 7: 11:49
Mile 8: 12:11
Mile 9: 11:24
Mile 10: 11:45
Mile 11: 12:15
Mile 12: 12:46
Mile 13: 14:03
Mile 13.1: 9:36 (pace for last 0.1 mile of the race)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Why Doubling My Monthly Mileage is Okay for Me

November 2009 was my highest month's mileage for 2009 - 65 miles.
December 2009 I did 50 miles.
In 2009 I averaged 38 miles per month.

And for January 2010, with 9 days still remaining in the month and 2 half marathons still to come this month, I'm already above my highest month of 2009 - I'm at 70 miles!

So by all calculations, I will end the month with more than double the previous month's mileage (est. Jan. 2010 at 107 miles versus Dec. 2009 at 50 miles).

Not normally recommended, the standard you hear in the running world is to not increase weekly mileage by more than 10% week to week.  So why is this okay?
  1. I am listening to my body, and I am seeing my sports chiropractor regularly.  Obvious but important.  With each ache, I ask "Is this good sore or bad sore?"  Basically, is this the adjustment phase and my muscles are strengthening themselves through this process, or is something wrong.  Often, until it's full-blown pain, people don't stop long enough to ask and answer that question effectively.  With weekly checkups, my chiropractor truly is the unbiased objective observer to answering the question of "Is it good sore or bad sore?"
  2. I've learned to run easy miles.  In the past, my rest days were crucial because a lot of runs were speedwork, tempo runs, intervals - basically harder miles.  By running about 60% of my miles this month as easy miles, it's allowed me to get more miles on my legs with less stress to the body.
  3. Running is not a new thing to me.  One thing about the 10% weekly mileage gain rule is that this statement is most often given as a word of warning to newer runners, especially those following some one-size-fits-all training schedule.  I've been running regularly for years and have become very self-aware in my running, which is an entirely different situation, from the warnings given to those who would get excited and go out and just randomly run every day or run extra long one day if given a chance, when you are ramped up and just starting out.
Now I'm still having my cases of the "good sores" as my body adjusts, so the question is still what I will try to do Sunday at the 3M Half.  I'd like a decent time but if I'm sore that day or the weather sucks, I think I'll enjoy a nice scenic long run. :-)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Run It Hard... For Me!

It's mid-January in Dallas.  Two weeks ago we had 15 degree weather that had every runner shivering, and folks scampering to their treadmills and the gyms where all the hardcore runners mixed and mingled with all the New Year Resolution-ers in their bright white brand new sneakers.  But not me, I always run outside.  So I pushed through.  I dealt with it - I got my miles in.

But this week has been beautiful.  In the 60s, not much humidity, generally great weather.  And as I look outside right now, with temperatures in the mid-60s, I want to RUN... RUN... RUN.  And yes, I'm running every day, tonight's run will be day #17 in my first ever running streak.  But I have recently doubled my weekly mileage to almost 30 miles a week, ran Houston Half Marathon last Sunday, and I ran it hard.  I PRed, taking about 3 1/2 minutes off my time.  And now I'm running my first back-to-back weekends of halfs, with the 3M Half Marathon in Austin on Sunday (Jan. 24).  And then it will actually be back-to-back-to-back weekends really, because I have the Texas Half the following Saturday (Jan. 31).

So last week, this week, and next week are all about running just a few "easy" miles at a time.  So the last few days, this beautiful weather has been squandered by this poor girl, who is doing a couple slow miles at a time while her muscles feel like sludge.  But I am hoping now that I'm pulling out of that tiredness and will feel normal again.  And I have the itch for speedwork and tempo runs and a hard kick at the end of a run REAL BAD at this point.  But this season is definitely dedicated to being a smart runner, so I will run easy, and dream of 3 weeks from now - AND I WILL NOT GET INJURED! 

I'll have a weekend off from my multiple half marathon spring season in a few weeks (February 1-7), and I hope to get one speedwork run and one "purposeful pace" run in on that "off" week.  But of course, it's Texas, so that will probably be the week we get snow... and a blizzard... with a tornado... and 5 degree windchill. :-)  Here's my Spring 2010 race calendar if you need a review of the long list of races I have the next few months in my goal towards at least "10 halfs in '10".

So get out there today and enjoy this weather.  And... just for me... because I'm being a good girl... RUN IT HARD.  Do it for me!  I mean, don't get yourself injured, but give today's run a little push, or work in some speedwork or intervals if you haven't done that in a while and the mood strikes you.  Or even just do an extra half mile for me, while I'm stuck with 2-3 mile runs right now.  Because the weather's perfect this week, and I don't want you to waste it!

And then come back here and comment and tell me what you did, and if this blog post changed your intended workout at all.  I'm all about living vicariously through others' runs during this time!

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Half Marathon Dream Achieved! Aramco Houston Half Marathon 2010 Race Report

This Sunday was the Chevron Houston Marathon and Aramco Houston Half Marathon.  I was running the half, the first of my goal of "10 halfs in '10" after doing 8 halfs in 2009.  My parents offered to watch the toddler so hubby Steve was able to go down to the race with me!

Background for This Race:
I had put into place a new plan three weeks ago of going from 10-12 miles per week to 20-25 miles per week.  In doing this, I didn't realize until late last week that I was many days into a running streak.  Turns out that the Houston Half Marathon's 13.1 miles also marked the 13th straight day of running!  So I went into this race with mileage for this year that was more than the mileage I usually had in a month!  I had run 14 miles since Monday, and I was sore.  I planned to see how I felt race day morning, and see what the weather was like and then decide if I was really going to race.  I very badly wanted to break 2 1/2 hours on the half marathon, and my PR from a month before was 2:32:51.  But again, I was sore, so I was ready to back off from that idea if I needed to.

Race Start:
The weather was perfect - 45 degrees at the start, clear skies, humidity didn't feel too bad, it wasn't going to warm up very quickly, light breeze.  I headed to the start corral about 25-30 minutes before the race.  For the half marathon, the green wave started at 7 am and the black wave started at 7:10 am.  I was in the black corral. 

Race compliment: Finding the corrals was nice and easy with great volunteers routinely shouting instructions and good signage. 
Race criticism: green corral folks had to travel completely through the black corral to enter.  eek! 
I followed a flow of people heading to the front of the corral from the back and then suddenly I found myself in front of a volunteer who said I couldn't enter the green corral because I had the wrong bib.  I was puzzled - I had actually found the very front of the black wave corral!  I backtracked about 10 people rows back and dug in to the crowd. 
Race criticism: For a race this size to have no pace signs to use to line yourself up surprises me.  I never saw them. 

Race criticism: If you have thousands of half marathoners, please consider providing pace teams.  I can understand smaller races not having them, no big deal, but at a certain race size, my expectations change.
I made some quick friends with the folks around me.  Jessica was from Houston and originally slated for the green wave.  But she had recently broken a rib (!) and was hoping to walk the race, instead of running it.  Another couple loved doing half marathons too and they inquired all about my spring half marathon schedule and gave me helpful info on the Seabrook Lucky Trails Halfs I have coming up in March, and it's a small race and I'll get to see them again there!

In the end, where I was in the starting corral worked out fine for me.  The race started, and I wasn't dodging tons of people. 

Seeing Old and New Friends
Two funny run-ins.  I knew other Dallas friends were there but everyone had different corrals, paces, races, so I went into this race very much alone.  I had become active on Twitter the last few weeks, chatting it up with a bunch of runners from Dallas and Houston about the upcoming race.  One of them, Lisa, had people comment on her outfit choices the day before and had warned us all she would be outfitted in a ballerina tutu also.  Race day morning she posted a pic of herself in her running outfit for the day.  Who knew that this would make our first "tweet-up" possible?!?  Mile 4, a gal in a bright yellow shirt and a ballerina tutu passes me to the left.  I yell, "Lisa?"  She turns and we have an impromptu, laughing introduction.  We wished each other luck and separated.  A fun moment.

Around mile 6, I was passed on my right by a recognizable gal.  Laura, who owns a marathon charms business and you'd know her because she's at every marathon expo, was running the race!  We had gotten to know each other over the years, she's a big Heels and Hills supporter since she's been friends with the H&H Founder Paula for a long time.  Another nice treat.

The First 5 Miles AKA "Nobody Said There Would Be Hills", "Where Did All These People Come From?"
Okay, I'm really not complaining.  But everyone talks about this super flat course Houston has and in the first mile we're climbing up and down bridges and overpasses?  Huh?  It was also very crowded the first, what, 9 miles!!!  But the worst was the first 5.

After slowdowns getting water/Gatorade at aid stations at Dallas White Rock Half Marathon and flat out problems with supply & demand at NYC Half Marathon last August, I didn't want to wear a full fuel belt, but I didn't want to go in unprepared either.  I knew it would be crowded and couldn't spare many seconds at the aid stations.  So Thursday before the race, I bought a very small 8 oz handheld Fuelbelt container that slipped around the palm.

I was so glad because at the first two aid stations, many panicked around me as the big sign labeled "Last Gatorade Table" revealed they were out of Gatorade and the water tables were a little chaotic as there was very little on the tables and the volunteers looked dazed and very few considering the crowd.  I was more than happy with my decision to steer clear.  And this has just happened too many times - 8 minute milers report to me no problems, 10 minute milers start to notice slight scarcity, and by 11:30 pace gals like me, we've hit a problem.  But it's led me to a general race criticism...
Race criticism: At this point, I just think you can not expect any race of, say, 10,000 or greater, to handle aid stations WELL.  Maybe OKAY, but not WELL.  It's just hard to possibly have enough volunteers, tables, and preparation.  You can stack cardboard and towers of cups 5 high, 5,000 cups on tables, and it will look like enough, way more than enough.  And by the time 8, 9, and then 10 minute milers come through, you realize you don't have enough and it's too late to recover.  You're sinking deeper and deeper in the quicksand.
An awesome participant ran through the crowd of runners about 2 miles in and yelled, "I am SO proud of you all for doing this today!"  We all WOOTed and hollered.  Then one guy yelled, "You and my mother!" And everyone laughed.  And then another guy yelled, "You and my kids!" And I think we were all just a little touched by that.  The original instigator proceeded through the crowd and before he disappeared ahead of me I heard him yell, "Most people are still in bed right now!"  Thanks to that guy for bringing us all a smile.
Race compliment: Houston did a great job of complete consistency at their aid stations of Gatorade first, Water second, with decent signage.  I appreciated having aid stations on both sides of the course.  While I rarely use port-a-potties at a race, I noticed and appreciated the short lines and large number of portapotties after each aid station.
Thank Goodness for My Sweet Husband

I had mapped out clear driving directions to get him all over the course race day morning. It was his first big spectating event. He'd come out to one spot on the Dallas White Rock Half Marathon course with the baby two years in a row. So driving to different course spots in an unfamiliar city and trying not to run into the course was a fun challenge! He told me afterward that he thinks it was a super hard task and spectators should get medals too!

But he really saved me for what was a good race but a hard goal. At Mile 5, I found him easily in the crowd, gave him a beaming smile, and passed him my handheld water bottle that was now empty. Funny how the perception of handing that off made me instantly feel so much lighter! With the happy feelings of seeing a friendly face and that lightness, I whizzed through the next half mile!

I hadn't realized how many spectators there would be at my designated spot at around Mile 8 (Mile 10 after the turnaround too!). So I missed seeing him then but it was a great distraction of just trying to look for him that got me through that mile. And when I DID find him at Mile 10, it was a pleasant boost!

Miles 6-10 AKA "Where It All Fell Apart in the Last Half Marathon..."
Going down Montrose, a major street, the roads were lined with spectators, and the crowds were slightly less congested.
Before the turnaround, we hit mile 8.5 and this was the moment I had dreaded how I would feel.  At the Dallas White Rock Half Marathon a month earlier, this was the spot where the 2 1/2 hour pace team, who I had been barely ahead of the whole time but didn't know it, caught up to me.  And then I sadly had to watch them pass me and run away into the distance.  I fell off my goal 2 1/2 hour half pace at that point and couldn't recover because I just didn't have the strength and stamina in my legs.  For this race, I continued to plod along at goal pace and didn't feel too bad.  I was holding it together.And with no half marathon pace teams, there were no indicators of how far forward ot back to sign up.  I didn't even know the qualification pace for the differentiation in corrals.
Race compliment: Thank you for having such great spectator support.  The city of Houston really loves that race!
Right about mile 9, the marathoners continued straight and we turned around on this out-and-back section of the course.  I love that moment of an out-and-back.  I visualize slingshotting around that turnaround point and I tend to hold the pace a little faster for the next half mile.  It mentally always feels like a fresh start right at that moment.

At mile 10 I see my husband and while I give him a thumbs up, he could tell in my eyes that I was in mental anguish and physical pain.  Nothing was TOO hurt, just everything was just hurt enough.  I was TIRED and struggling to keep the pace at this point.

The Most Important 5K - The Last 3.1 Miles
We enter in the downtown area and I'm loving how the crowd of runners has thinned.  So many spectators are cheering us all individually by name, and it's making a world of difference.  Which also reminds me...
As we go between the buildings, the Garmin starts acting "wonky" as it's having problems verifying my location for its calculations of pace.  This has happened to me before.  It was swapping between telling me I'm running a 7:30 pace and running a 13:00 pace.  Frustrating!  What I do when this happens is switch my Garmin to another screen that shows the current lap's elapsed time and the mileage.  From that I can roughly tell if my lap pace is on track by eyeballing it.
Race compliment: I am so happy that this race made the names on the bibs so clear and easy to read!  I've been amazed at big races that do not bother putting the names even when a race sells out months ahead of time (ahem... NYC Half) or you can't read the name on the bib due to the color blending into the bib's background color!  So Houston excelled at this!

I passed a lot of people losing steam and walking these last couple miles.  It was a nice touch to have the "1.5 miles to go" sign on an overpass we went under.  And once the finish was in sight, it felt like we would NEVER get there.

The last tenth of a mile I relaxed my form and moved into all-out sprint, something I've been getting better at.  I went from an 11:23 pace to a 9:42 pace that last 1/10 mile!  I was happy that the announcer noticed my sprint at the end and even with so many crossing the finish at the same time as me, he called out my first name from my bib as I crossed.  Awesome.

After The Finish - Justifiable Tears
I had finished the race in 2:29:23.  My dream of breaking a 2 1/2 hour half marathon had been achieved!  And I had taken 3 minutes, 28 seconds off of my PR set just a month earlier!

I stumbled forward, past the paramedics, and scanned the volunteers there, the "Houston Angels", for my friend Kay.  Kay had been a member of the Heels and Hills team at the Texas Independence Relay.  She had told me they were helping out participants right past the paramedics and I had told her my goal time, so we knew to look for her.  I saw her, we locked eyes, I froze, put my hands up to my face, and started bawling!  Kay asked if I hit my goal and I told her I had.  She gave me a huge hug, and I'm so appreciative that she was there for me.

Kay went to walk me into the Convention Center post-race area and then I heard my name.  In another surprise moment, there was Valarie, a friend from high school, standing there.  Unfortunately, I was such a mess that I could barely have any conversation and basically had to excuse myself and head inside since I explained I was "an exhausted mess".

I can't compliment or criticize the post-race area.  I didn't get the food, I didn't take a picture, I didn't bag check, I didn't use a portapotty.  I grabbed a cup of water, found my husband and sister-in-law (who lives in Houston and had also run the race) and I just wanted to go back to the hotel.

What's Next?
I'm sore, I'm tired.  I also seem to have found myself now on Day 13 of a Running Streak that I'm considering continuing.  I also have the 3M Half Marathon next weekend in Austin.  Not sounding like fun at this second, but I know I'll be excited by the end of the week!


Mile 1: 11:23
Mile 2: 11:25
Mile 3: 11:24
Mile 4: 11:25
Mile 5: 11:17
Mile 6: 11:28
Mile 7: 11:26
Mile 8: 11:28
Mile 9: 11:27
Mile 10: 11:23
Mile 11: 11:26
Mile 12: 11:17
Mile 13: 11:28
Last 0.13 miles (as measured by the Garmin): 9:42 pace

Friday, January 15, 2010

Psychological Warfare to Prepare for Houston Half Marathon Sunday

After many "easy run" miles the last two weeks, rather than a few more, I did 2 miles this morning, in perfect weather, at a couple seconds faster than my goal PR Half Marathon pace (11:27 pace needed to hit 2 1/2 hr half).  Breathed easy, relaxed, enjoyed the view, calmed myself, and told myself that Sunday I need to remember what this felt like.  And then told my body that on Sunday just go do exactly that an additional 5 1/2 times.  This is part of my psychological warfare on a race - I'm breaking the 13.1 mile race down into that relaxing happy 2 miles I did today, done 6 1/2 times over and over again.  :-)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Mixture of Emotions as Houston Looms Large on Sunday

This is a weird week for me as my change in training is taking a strong hold on me and throwing me for a loop all at the same time!

Previous training was: Run lightly.  Typically 10-12 miles a week.  Speedwork and faster runs to get me faster for my half marathon pace.  Take race weeks off and run halfs a little under one a month on average.  PRed 5 of 8 half marathon in '09.

New training is: Mo' miles to build endurance and help get my half marathon pace faster.  Going to 20-25 miles a week (defined big picture style as the goal of 500 mi by 6/30).  Run a large amount of half marathons this spring, about 7 or 8, including back-to-back weekends the next 3 weekends.  This will help my half marathon endurance as I cement a base of 13 miles on my legs.  Don't race EVERY half, just race the good days! 

Given this, I am spending this week before the Aramco Houston Half Marathon this Sunday, January 17, with the following feelings:
  1. I'm tired!  My legs are tired.  To put it in perspective, until 3 weeks ago, my average weekly mileage for November and early December was 12 miles, and November was a high mileage month for me and I ran 2 half marathons during that time!  The last three weeks were 16.7, 17.3, 20.3.  Definite mileage increase!  And I'm already at 7.3 miles 3 days into this week!  Typical pre-race routine in the past was to hardly run, if at all, during race week.
  2. I'm sore! Sports chiropractor checked me over yesterday, nothing feels injured to me, and we've agreed it's "good sore", not "bad sore".  Again, I've never done 13.1 miles whether just a run or a race with midweek thoughts of being sore.  It's mentally a little scary.  How do you think about your Sunday race when you are sore all over?  Messes with the brain!!!
  3. I'm itching for speedwork or at least faster running!  These have been slower easier miles the past week because of the increase in total miles.  I don't do EASY RUN well.  So I've had to completely change my thinking.  Yesterday was the first day I really started to have that feeling... made me feel like an episode of "Intervention"... "I just need a little fast running, c'mon, just a little to get me through."
  4. I'm excited!  Last year, I assisted the head of Public Relations during the event which was a ton of fun, I learned a lot, and got to be there at the official press conference and interact with the winners.  Too cool.  But it was kinda sad not to get to participate!  So I signed up within 12 hours of registration opening back in July.  This will be my first time to run Houston!
  5. I'm not throwing the idea of setting a new personal record (PR) at Houston out yet.  After #1, #2, and #3 above, this is the one that mentally ninjas my brain the most.  Who would go into a race with those mentally and physically draining conditions and try to set a new personal record?  Well, I didn't say I'm going to try to PR.  I'm just not abandoning the idea of PRing.  I will toe that start line (well as much as you can toe it from way in the back of the corral!), see how the weather is, how I'm feeling, and then decide.  Maybe it won't be the right day, but who knows?  Maybe it will be!
So as a gal who is entering unfamiliar territory in her training and racing and who is a bundle of emotions, forgive me this week.  I'm readjusting to my new goals!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Spring 2010 Race Calendar in Focus

Cementing my Spring 2010 racing, running, and running-related calendar, here is the plan...

1/17/10 - HALF #1 - Houston Half Marathon - running (registered)

1/24/10 - HALF #2 - 3M Half Marathon (Austin, TX) - running (registered)

1/30/10 - HALF #3 - Texas Half Marathon (Dallas, TX) - running (not registered)

2/13/10 - HALF #4 - Surfside Beach Half Marathon (Surfside Beach, TX outside Houston) - running (registered)

2/27/10 - HALF #5 - Cowtown Half Marathon (Ft Worth, TX) - running (registered)

3/05/10 - 3/07/10 - Texas Independence Relay - coordinating two teams for Heels and Hills

3/14/10 - was going to run Rock N Roll Dallas Half (already registered) but going on vacation with good friends to Napa instead!

3/20/10 - HALF #6 - Seabrook Lucky Trails Half Marathon #1 - running (registered)

3/21/10 - HALF #7 - Seabrook Lucky Trails Half Marathon #2 - running (registered)

4/11/10 - HALF #8 - Big D Half Marathon - running (registered)

4/17/10 - Kennedale Art in the Park 5K - chip timing

4/22/10-4/25/10 - RRCA (Road Runners Club of America) Annual National Convention in Lakeland, FL

5/02/10 - Heels and Hills Half Marathon - race directing

It's going to be a busy, fun Spring!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Conflicting Running Goals? Houston Half may be interesting

In the goals I set for 2010 in my running, I included running 500 miles by June 30 as one of them.  Note that I ran 460 goals in ALL of 2009, so this is a happily moderately aggressive goal.  I also set the goal to not only PR by half marathon time (current PR is 2:32:51), but to break 2 1/2 hours on at least 3 half marathons, i.e. try to learn to consistently come in faster than 2:30.  Add to that the 2010 goal of "10 halfs in '10", and I have a lot of work ahead of me!

As the Houston Half Marathon approaches on Sunday, I found this weekend that I was confronted with a dilemma:
  1. Take it easy race week to make sure my legs were super fresh for PRing at Houston.
  2. Continue racking up the miles toward my pretty aggressive goal of 500.
It seemed I might have to choose between two goals.

But I'm seeing the big picture now.  Part of the reason I set the large six-month mileage goal was because I felt that I needed to get more miles under my feet which would make me a stronger runner and, in the long-term, a faster runner as well.

But why was I nervous and contemplating a super easy week before Houston?  Because of everyone's continued promises that it's such a fast, flat, PR-worthy course!  And yes, I'm sure it is, but I've woken up, and other races are favorable for a fast time too, especially if you are stronger and faster by the time those races come around

So rather than take it super easy this week, I've instead had one of my highest mileage weeks ever - 22.4 miles in the last 7 days.  While my legs are a little tired, I'm not too sore.  I plan to go into Houston Half on Sunday and see what the day has - that race will end up my highest mileage week ever (around 30 miles by the end of that race).  If the weather is good, and I'm feeling good, I'll try for the PR.  If it's not, and my legs are tired, I'll take it easy on this one.  I'm looking at all the half marathon opportunities this spring, and see many other PR-worthy courses ahead, and knowing that I'm working towards delayed gratification, but probably not instant gratification this weekend. :-)

Happy Running!

Me (right) with sister-in-law Cathie (left), who lives in Houston, at the 2009 Houston Marathon Expo.  Cathie's also running the half marathon this year!

A Race Shirt I Guarantee No One Else in the World Has

Friday I went for a run in the evening and wanted to be warm.  I had just found a shirt I had been storing for years and had just washed the other day for the first time, so I thought I would wear it.  It was a nostalgic moment for me because it was a shirt that had some history...

In 2007, I had just become the President of the Dallas Running Club and it was also the first year that I was the Co-Race Director of the DRC Half Marathon with Paula Robertson, my very good friend who I work with on the non-profit Heels and Hills now.  Sublimation was a trend going on with shirts at the time, you take a panel of a shirt and they take white fabric and basically dye both the foreground image and the background shirt color INTO the fabric.  I worked with a vendor early in the year to give it a try and I just wasn't 100% in love with the production sample we ended up having created.  The sublimated logo was just a little less crisp than you want the image to be and the yellow of the shirt wasn't the greatest match to the yellow in the race logo.  Still, I kept that production sample, because it was a good shirt.

So last night, 2 years and a few months after the fact, I wore the shirt for the first time.  And it was kinda cool to be out running around in what truly was a one-of-a-kind!

Pic of me after the run in my "special" shirt

Friday, January 8, 2010

A Year to Being a Hardcore Runner - A Test of Will, of Drive, and I'm Winning

The thought has been spilling around in my brain after Mark O. and I had a discussion where I was putting myself down a little about my own running in being complimentary about someone else's.  I said I wasn't a hardcore runner or a real runner like "so-and-so".  He immediately V8-smacked me in the forehead mentally by asking me why I thought that.  And I couldn't really answer.  Obviously, I still have confidence issues in my running.

I hate running in the heat.  I hate running in the rain.  I hate running in the cold.  I hate running in the really cold.  I hate running really hard until your lungs hurt and you think you might fall over.  But I've had almost a year now of doing just that consistently.  And my husband points out I kinda revel in celebrating the runs that I just described I hate.  So why?

Because I HAVE turned into a hardcore runner.  I've transformed in the last year.  This is a test, this is all a test....of my will, of my drive, and I AM WINNING.  And those harder runs or harder elements allow me to keep reproving it to myself. 

Question for a future blog entry someday: do I need to keep proving it to myself?  and if so, why? and is that okay?

hard-core [hahrd-kawr, -kohr] –adjective unswervingly committed; uncompromising; dedicated

hardcore - Intense. Relentless.

I may not be fast.  I may not do the number of miles many runners do.  I may play little games to keep myself motivated.  I surround myself with like-minded folks to help me be supported in pursuit of my goals.  But I'm hardcore, and I'm finally ready to admit it to myself.  The hardest piece of that puzzle is that being hardcore has nothing to do with whether or not I run a 7 minute pace, or run 7 days a week, or run 9 miles around White Rock Lake every Saturday... what a mental breakthrough.

After a 3 mile run last night in 22 degree weather, I followed it with a 3 mile run this morning in 16 degree weather (5 degree windchill).  I obsess about my race calendar and my running goals to keep that momentum.  I annoy everyone in my virtual life with Facebook status updates of my latest running exploits because they keep me accountable.  I have become way more dedicated and committed to maintaining and improving my running base in the last 12 months.  Intense? Relentless? Dedicated? Unswervingly Committed?  Yep, hardcore it is then. :-)

So if you aren't hardcore about your running and you want to be, why aren't you?  And if you want to be, how are you going to get there?  Because if a caterpillar like me, the one quoted as saying "I don't like to sweat" and who has joked about half marathons that I'm "just there for the food" (yay, quarter-bagel), can turn into a hardcore running butterfly, I know you can.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Motivation Found During Arctic Blast

With all the hype about an arctic blast coming to Texas (Thursday through Saturday), I was getting nervous about my weekly mileage.  Jan. 1 I had just set the goal to hit 500 miles by June 30.  I did not want to feel behind one week in!  I only run outside - 457 miles run in 2009, ALL outside.  So I was in danger of three days of not running!

So, in search of motivation for myself and the others freaking out about running (whether outside or on the oh-so-aptly-named "dreadmill"), I put out feelers to see if anyone would be interested in a virtual race with two results divisions: outside and inside.  I'd gather the times people sent me from Thursday through Saturday (the days of sub-freezing temperatures) and post the results, so anyone could use it as motivation to get out there.  I actually got a decent little bit of interest!

So the Arctic Blast Virtual Almost 5K was born.  I used Heels and Hills website to post the "rules" (if a non-race "race" can have rules, that is!) and will use it for the results.  Here's the info, in case anyone else wants to participate...

I have to say that without this, I never would have run tonight.  And right now I'm still motivated to run tomorrow morning and on Saturday!  And I wondered today if anyone would participate.  If they didn't, that's okay, I knew it would give me the motivation I needed.  And I thought that if it provided the same motivation to even just one other person, it was SO worth it.  But I've actually received many emails, messages, and posts today of people's times, so that's pretty cool.

Sarah and I went out at 7:15 pm. 

Weather Conditions:
Temperature: 23 degrees
Windchill: 16 degrees
Wind: 5 mph from NNW
Wind Gust: 14 mph

Bundled up, we completed 3 miles at an easy 11:59 pace.  Here's me, just in from my run...

 Here's hoping I find that same motivation tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Two Lessons Learned Today

1) Put on chapstick before runs in freezing temps with wind.
2) EAT before a run.

#2 should be obvious, but on this rare morning that I ran (typically night runner), I didn't eat anything before because I'm not normally good about eating a breakfast.  Need to not do that again!

2 miles done - first one fast, second one ssllloooowwww...  Time to energize with some food. 

Sunday, January 3, 2010

I Just Don't Even Want to Be Here

I didn't really want to run today.  I'd had my highest running mileage week after the past week, including 8 miles two days ago.  And, as we all learn through training, sometimes the second day after a run leaves you more sore than the immediate day after the run.

So I was not in the mood to run but had committed to training partner Sarah to run, plus needed a few miles to keep my mileage up generally.  A half hour before the run I looked up the weather (39 degrees, brrr) and put on my running tights and other gear.  15 minutes before the run, she texted me that she had to cancel.  Aw, man!

I spent the next half hour grumbling to my husband comments the likes of "I don't even want to run today, but I'm already dressed, I really ought to go".  Finally decided to go but drove one neighborhood over for a change of scenery on a small stretch of trail I rarely run.  I got out of the car and still didn't want to be there. 

Although I was sore and probably should have taken it a easy, I went ahead and did some speedwork but low mileage.  I did 2 miles only with speedwork at half-mile repeats with 1 1/2 minutes recovery inbetween.  (and I promise lots of stretching and ice the rest of the day!!!)

The best part was seeing the splits for the three segments of half-mile speedwork - I didn't look at the Garmin except to occasionally glance at current pace to make sure I wasn't slowing down and just ran hard.  Splits for the three half-miles ended up being all within.5 seconds for a half-mile!  Woo hoo! 

I tend to judge a run's difficulty by three components: legs (how sore, tight, tired), heart (cardio intensity), and lungs (difficulty talking on the run, gasping for breath, etc.).  This one surprised me that my legs and heart actually felt pretty good, but in terms of my respiratory strength, still gotta get stronger there.  Someday a 9:30 mile will be mine!  And then hopefully with enough training, someday a 9:30 pace half marathon will also be mine. :-)

First half-mile: 9:26 pace
1 1/2 min. walk: 17:11 pace
Second half-mile: 9:28 pace
1 1/2 min. walk: 15:02 pace
Third half-mile: 9:36 pace
2 minute walk: 18:43 pace
Easy jog back to car for 0.23 miles: 11:54 pace

Total: 2 miles at a 10:53 pace

Friday, January 1, 2010

Tired Dead Legs But a Milestone Nonetheless

Today's 8.3 mile run - it wasn't easy, it wasn't fun, but it WAS - it existed - which is a new thing for me in the whole scheme of things.

Let me explain. The past week's workouts went like this...
  • Saturday, Dec. 26 - 5 miles - half marathon goal pace with hard fast mile long kick at the end at 1 1/2 min/mi faster than rest of pace
  • Sunday, Dec. 27 - 5 miles - half marathon goal pace with hard fast 1/2 mile kick at the end at a pace about 2 min faster per mi than typical pace
  • Wednesday, Dec. 30 - 7 miles - half marathon goal pace - PRed my 10K time, great splits, felt super strong.
So I was already at 17 miles in the week, which is a lot for me, and fairly hard, fast runs for me.. I could have not run today or run just a couple miles. But instead I set out on this run with Sarah with the goal to do between 7 and 10 miles. A few miles in we settled on 8 because Sarah had somewhere she needed to be at a certain time.

About 4 miles in, I just started to drag. Me, who enjoys my rest days and typically keeps low weekly mileage, suddenly understood what tired, dead, overused legs feel like!

We ran/walked and towards the very end, we just plain walked. But that was fine. I still got the miles in. So 8.3 miles done. Total mileage for this last week was 25.3 miles.

To put this in perspective, this week's mileage was... more than my March 2009 MONTH's mileage, about equal to my May 2009 MONTH's mileage, and about half of my total December 2009 MONTHLY mileage. A great start to 2010!

Total Time: 1:48:39
Mile 1 - 11:16
Mile 2 - 11:23
Mile 3 - 11:32
Mile 4 - 11:30
Mile 5 - 11:52
Mile 6 - 13:17
Mile 7 - 13:06
Mile 8 - 18:40
Last 0.3 mi - 19:56