A slow runner's journey at the back of the pack

2021 Texas 70.3 Race Recap

TL;DR: I’m super proud of my race. I’m an official finisher. I didn’t eat enough on the bike. I took 3 gulps of beer on the run. All of the supporters, spectators, coaches, volunteers, triathlon community are amazing, but Adam is still my favorite.

I think I handled most things 2020 dealt me relatively well. I kept training as my brief outlet to get out of the house in the beginning. Then I just liked it, despite running in Texas heat. My Garmin said I was 100% acclimated to heat training at one point (and Garmin never lies). But in November, when Texas 70.3 was cancelled 3 days before the race, I was over it. I wasn’t upset it had been cancelled but mentally I was burned out. I didn’t want to train. I didn’t want to work out. I didn’t want to do anything that resembled any form of exercise. Two weeks off and a mountain bike later, I was feeling somewhat better. But man, those two weeks were DARK. Like, what’s the point of anything, dark. I say this because after completing Teas 70.3 on Sunday, I feel the complete opposite. I feel rejuvenated, euphoric, ready to keep going – once my muscles stop screaming at me and my sunburns fade to golden tans.

I won’t bore you with the history of my triathlon journey, or even the week I had leading up to Sunday so I’ll focus on the race recap as much as I can.

Morning of: Alarm goes off at 3:45, I finally roll out of bed about 3:52. The plan was to leave at 4:15 (which with my crew is never 4:15, but usually about 15 minutes later). I made some coffee, started getting everything out for the cooler, made my waffles, but realized I’d have to sacrifice a breakfast waffle to make waffle sandwiches for the ride. We loaded the kids straight from bed to car and rolled out about 4:28, pretty respectable for us. Of course we stopped at Bucee’s for a quick pitstop which in hindsight – BEST BUCEE’S STOP EVER! Parking was a disaster and we ended up on the other side of Schlitterbahn. It was about 6:05, transition closed at 6:45, I didn’t rush… I didn’t know I should have.

Bikes racked opposite for overnight winds.

Transition Set Up: Transition was supposed to close at 6:45. Athletes were supposed to remain at their bikes until their swim was called. THEN WHY DID THEY START CALLING SWIM WAVES AT 6:20?!?!?! The first few waves were already gone by the time I even got to my rack. My bike tires were pretty flat which I figured I could pump them up that morning because of all the warnings not to air up your tires overnight and have them pop (I’m terrified of flats because of my lack of basic bike mechanics and inability to change a flat). Anyways, by the time I threw my stuff down and grabbed my wetsuit, it was all I could do to lay out my shoes, find my swim cap and goggles and run to join my wave – at 6:30. All so I could stand along a sidewalk for the next hour, packed in, 6 cm (not feet) apart with 1,900 other athletes.

All smiles for Michelle & TC before the swim

Swim: I was excited for this. The swim is usually my favorite because I feel like a water baby, especially in the ocean. Even the fact we were jumping off the pier excited me. I would 100% rather jump off a pier, boat, whatever into water than have to wade out. The water was pretty choppy, but not whitecap choppy. I saw Charlotte in a kayak in the first 200 yds. I stopped, waved (because of course I did). Then went about my swim. I was steamrolled a couple of times by people who seriously swam directly on top of me. One guy actually grabbed my shoulders and pushed me underwater like he was leapfrogging over me. I was so confused. What the hell? Seriously? What the hell? What part of this means you should drown other people? Whatever. Baby shark do do do do… just keep swimming. This was probably my “best” swim in that I swam all of it freestyle, I didn’t take a break other than to float a bit to pee (you’re welcome), and given the waves, current, constant run-ins from other swimmers so I kept moving to the outside and swimming further than I should have, I did really well.

T1: What can I say? I’m glad I decided to put on my cycling jersey after the swim because it had all my food in the pockets, it wasn’t hard at all to get on while soaking wet, and it zipped right up. I never had a chance to deal with my tires so it was what it was. I didn’t even have time to mount the bike gear bag to the seat, so I stuffed it in my back pocket and let happen what it will. Everything worked out. I got out, somewhat slow, but I wasn’t in a HUGE hurry given I knew I still had a long way to go.

Heading out with Laura / Photo by Scott McMichael

Bike: So, my tires were partially inflated. But there was a tailwind on the way out. I probably could have gone a bit faster had my tires been up to par. I programmed my watch to remind me to drink every 10 minutes and eat every 7.5 miles (assuming a 16 mph average this is what I’d need to meet my hourly nutrition goals). I ignored the eating but maintained the drinking. I used Nuun Sport Wild Berry with Caffeine. I carried 2 water bottles and refilled them at the water stops, dropping in a new tablet each time after emptying a bottle. It’s amazing what you can do on a bike when you practice maneuvering water bottles and selfies during your regular training rides. The wind back sucked, but I knew that it would be based on experience and the fact there’s always going to be wind on the island. I didn’t eat nearly enough – ½ of a rice cake, 1 ½ waffle sandwiches, and ½ a banana.

T2: I’ll admit I was a bit delirious as I came into T2. The last ½ mile, I couldn’t get my eyes to focus straight but thankfully there was a guy in a bright red jersey to keep me on course. I dismounted without issue and started walking back to my bike. I must have looked pretty out of it because Rachel Olson offered me her water bottle. I didn’t take it because I probably would have dropped my bike. I was so glad to rack it and get out of my bike shoes. I reapplied some sunscreen, switched socks and shoes, grabbed my hat and race belt and ran (hahahaha walked) to run out.

Flat tires? Don’t care! Photo by Scott Flathouse

Run: Once I got on the course, I took a few minutes to adjust my belt and find my running legs. I started out too fast. I couldn’t slow down. The atmosphere was so pumped from all the other runners, the finish line being right there as you started, so much crowd support. I’m thankful for all the spectators that showed up and Moody Gardens letting people congregate freely to support the runners. I’m especially thankful for Ron giving me a few gulps of beer in that first mile to help replenish all the carbs I didn’t eat on the bike. By the time I finished the first, of three, laps, I was toast. After mile 5, and another gulp of beer thanks to Hannah, I made a deal with myself to finish the remaining miles under 15 minutes. Surely, I could walk a 15 minute mile? LMAO. No. I could not walk a 15-minute mile.

But what I could do is power walk a 16-minute mile, then run a little bit here and there to get the overall mile itself under 15 minutes. And that’s exactly what I did. Until Mile FREAKING 11, which was up and over a hill, through a barren wasteland kickball obstacle spartan desert (whatever word, you pick) and then down an empty alley way with absolutely nothing but the sun. But it’s cool. I got through it. Mile 12 was pretty slow too. But Mile 13? That’s when I knew this was in the bag. I allowed myself to walk the hills, run the downhills, stick to tangents on a wavy course, I walked a bit which let Hiram catch up to me for the last .25, I caught the woman that had been condescending to me on the bike (or maybe she was supportive but it came out wrong), and OMG I got all the goosebumps as I got on that carpet, hands up, finishing with what I hope is the biggest finish smile I’ve ever had.

Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t call out my husband, Adam. He has been my biggest supporter throughout all of this. Even when things were DARK or when I flat out wanted to sit on the couch and not work out AT ALL, he would say nice things to me to try to get me to go. He spent countless hours keeping the kids in check so I could work out for hours on end. He was there all day with the kids in tow, and even handed me beer on that third and final lap.

Too bad we didnt get anyone to capture us at the Finish but he’s my #1 Fan – Always and Forever

Additional thanks to everyone who has encouraged or helped coach me along the way, especially my family, James with BC Fitness, Scott with Journey Multisport, Erika the bestest friend forever, Charlotte French and the “ladies of Journey Multisport, Brad and the other CMOBsters from Cypress Multisport Blender, Katie and Cody and the rest of Mind Over Matter helping me dig deep and silence the enemy within – and out – and of course all those anonymous, and some not quite anonymous, athletes on social media channels for going on there and posting their photos, inspiring others like myself to get out there, shut up, and do the damn thing!

Corona Tri #2

Instead of writing what should have been my Ironman Wisconsin race recap, I have a rogue race recap.

Journey Multisport had a group of triathletes gather at a fellow team member’s house around 6 am, I’m sure to the pleasure of the neighbors. We milled around for a bit with an unofficial transition zone – some people set up using a provided bike rack, others like myself, chose to leave the bikes on the back of our cars. We biked over to the dock of the lake for a course review. I was relieved because most of the Facebook chatter had been about the Olympic distance course, but I resigned myself to the Sprint. Go figure I would show up to a race without any idea about course direction.

The swim was ok. Honestly, I would probably be better if I swam open water more. I love swimming in clear water – as I think most people do. But when the visibility is so low you can’t see your hand in front of your face, ugh. I tried to think about my stroke and really pushing myself through the water but then I would be over not seeing anything, even with sighting, so I would switch to breaststroke. I managed to keep up with the pack which was my main goal since there had been an alligator sighting earlier in the week. 

I did not run out of transition so despite being 3rdout of the water, I was 4th out of transition. I also had to get help from another teammate to cut the duct tape I used to secure my shoes on my feet. My dogs had eaten one of my bike shoes in the weeks leading up to the event and despite purchasing 2 new pairs of cycling shoes, I did not love them enough to keep them. Apparently, I have mountain biking shoes (who knew ?!) but they have worked for 13 years and I want something similar. I am sure they have to be out there, but for now, duct tape works.

The bike felt fast, but then I was passed by guys doing 20+ mph. I was holding steady around 17 – 18 mph on the way out. I even got to pass somebody putting me back in 3rd. In true form there was a headwind coming back. I still kept it above 16 so I finished with an average pace of 16.9. Considering earlier in the year, I was pushing HARD to hit a 16 mph average pace, I was really happy with it. Also this wasn’t a closed course so I had a few red lights which also reduced my speed a few times.

I took a bit longer in T2 than desired namely because a) I forgot my water bottle for the bike (we biked to the lake when I realized I left it behind) b) I racked and locked my bike on the back of the jeep. Since I hadn’t taken in anything besides an Eggo waffle and ½ a bottle of Nuun for breakfast, I took a Huma gel and some sips off the Nuun I was supposed to have on my bike. While it was only a sprint, I hate feeling like I am out of energy so I’d rather fuel to be safe than sorry.

The run was going well. I could see the woman I passed shortly behind me – probably less than 1/10th of a mile the entire time. I thought for sure she was going to speed up since running is my slowest discipline of the three. At Mile 1.5 there was an ice chest with the perfectly balanced frozen water bottle that was the right ratio of frozen slush and water. I grabbed one and carried it with me for the rest – again, not having brought anything with me. I could still see the other runner just over my shoulder, but even though I was tired and in serious need of a bathroom, I wasn’t ready to give up just yet. Somehow I still had some biscuits left to burn and was able to finish and keep that number 3 spot.

Now granted there were only 5 of us doing the sprint, I finished THIRD. If I really wanted to brag about it – I was also the FIRST overall female. Right? Anyways, this was fun and who knew I could have a slightly competitive spirit I never knew about. I’ve always resigned myself that I’m a back of the packer but for once I got to be the winner of a super creepy bobblehead trophy.

Thanks to the Journey Multisport team for pulling this together complete with a race photographer, photos courtesy of Digital Knight Productions, and the post-race feast/party with a generous potluck of breakfast tacos, tequila-infused watermelon, water, beer, and doughnuts. Excited to go back out next weekend for my usual bike route, complete with a kolache stop!

Non-Race Race Recap – 70.3 FINISHER!

Last Saturday I finally tackled a distance that has been haunting me – the 70.3. This is going to be quite a long read, but it’s not like there are other race recaps to read lately (haha).

You may recall I attempted my first 70.3 in July 2013. I threw myself into training as a coping mechanism dealing with the miscarriage of my first pregnancy. A few days before the race I wasn’t feeling well but didn’t’ want to chuck it up to race day nerves. Sure enough, I was pregnant with English. I didn’t tell Adam, but he knew something was off as my usual race prep was off – no margarita the night before, lack of sugar free Red Bull (my vice at the time). After a grueling swim in Lake Michigan and throwing up everything I ate on the bike, I did not attempt the run out of fear.

For five years, I planned doing a triathlon in Mexico in 2015, and we embarked to Cozumel with the family in tow – English, then 18 months old, Adam, my parents, Adam’s parents, Trisha, Erika, the Wijnbergs… It was a party! There were a few hiccups with some last-minute flight changes, email glitches that my bike ended up in Lake Tahoe and not Cozumel, losing the bike tent and scrambling at the last minute to make check-in because we couldn’t FIND my bike, let alone cramming it in a tiny Mexican taxi to get from T2 back to T1…. But on race day, things fell into place. The swim was AMAZING, like a 1.2-mile snorkel trip. The bike was hot and windy but bearable. Then there was the run. The heat, the humidity, the lack of shade… and then there were blisters on my feet the size of the island. And I’m not kidding. Like the entire top half of my foot, in between my toes all massive blisters within blisters. At the turn around, my sister and I called it quits (she did the swim and run while Gerrit / Sam rode the bike).

Fast forward to 2019…. I have a stress fracture, so I agree to relay Ironman Texas 70.3 with some ladies and opt for the swim – my strongest of the 3 disciplines. One of my team members is training for Ironman Texas and her coach wants her to swim. No problem, I’ll bike.

That turned out to be a BIG problem as a tropical storm with hurricane like wind, hail, lightning all of it hit the course as I was approaching Mile 45. I have never been more scared for my life. It was all I could do to stay upright and not get hit by lightning, debris, barricades, cars, or other bikers. I was pulled off the course at Mile 54 AFTER the worst of the storm passed.

 

But this weekend? This weekend I did it. I completed the entire 1.2-mile swim in a pool – only my third time in the pool since March. Sure, pool swims are “easy” but it is mind-numbingly boring and then every 25 yards, you’re going back against your own current.

I did run out of the pool area to the transition area, AKA my jeep, where Erika met me for the 56-mile bike ride.

She got a flat around mile 12, and then another flat around mile 12.25. Our sag support, AKA Adam and James, picked her up while I continued. They dropped her off at Mile 20, so we could ride out the remaining 36 miles. The last 15 miles felt like they were completely against the wind. I was EXHAUSTED. Erika kept telling me “you’re almost done,” at which point I threatened to push her off her bike because I still had to run afterwards.

No surprise here, but I fell apart on the run. I think I struggled with my bike nutrition/hydration and fell behind which did not bode well for running 13.1 miles in 90+ degree heat. I was constantly thirsty – like CRAVING water. At one point an orange sounded phenomenal, so Adam who was no longer sag support, but our run aid station, ran out to get some oranges. And when I FINALLY got the orange at Mile 7, it was one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. Like trade my wedding cake for the orange delicious. I hate to admit that I walked most of the first 7 miles. Lesley and James were with me and kept imploring me to run trying to first settle into a rhythm (wasn’t happening), then trying to run/rest between different landmarks (somewhat happening but not really).

After the orange/water stop at Mile 7, I tried running 1 minute, walking 1 minute. It was doable for the 3 miles loop back to the aid station. With 3 miles to go, my legs started cramping up. Even 1:1 intervals seemed too much at one point. I knew I was going to get it done, but a lot of the fight had left. Even the idea of running .25 miles at the end seemed like an impossible task. I walked, and occasionally jogged, my slowest half marathon to date. But – that means I finished the 13.1 which is something I’ve not done ever before which means I COMPLETED A 70.3.

The day would not have been possible without a lot of people – Adam for providing support both throughout the entire day as sag, grocery store runner, coke zero getter, aid station, clean up, but also during this entire journey. There are plenty of mornings I’m out of the house before anyone wakes up but then 3-4 hours later, the entire house is bustling with activities. Our kids are a handful, so he allows me the time to get away and get in the training.

James coordinated most of the day. He showed up before 7 am, rode with Adam for the bike, and then walked my zombie pace for the run. He’s also helped me find my way back to me. Since completing the Houston Marathon in 2016, I had a series of setbacks – torn knee, high risk bed rest mandated pregnancy, lack of motivation, increased weight gain, inconsistent training, stress fracture that wouldn’t heal, near death hospitalization. I started working with James summer of 2019. The weight is slowly coming off. I’m stronger than I’ve been in years. I’ve adapted to a new style of injury-free (usually) running while being able to actually perform on race day. He’s also a source of positive motivation. During our “walk,” he reminded me that last year I didn’t perform running a 10k in October but then crushed it running a half marathon a few months later. Plus, he lets my kids wreak havoc while I workout on Fridays.

My mom graciously took my kids for the day on Saturday. They made a finish line sign for me and met me at the end. There was no medal for this day, but there were my kids eager to hug me and their arms around my neck is better than any $300 fabric with a paperweight. She also took them to the Y AND a play space to burn off energy which was great for after the race as they were tired and happy to just chill with me for the evening.

Erika joined me not only for the 56-miles on Saturday, but many early mornings, afternoon, and evening bike rides throughout George Bush Park, Terry Hershey, the Beltway and I-10 feeder roads. Some days she really didn’t want to, but with enough begging and continuous phone calls, I managed to get her back on her bike. She rides more than I do now!

Lesley joined in for the run. And while she’s fast compared to my abysmal pace, she stayed with me and encouraged me to keep on moving. #ForwardIsAPace Lesley is one of the reasons I believed in myself to even attempt this Ironman journey. She finished Ironman Texas and has always had a positive outlook on what can be done. Her positive energy fed into my own ideas that this is something I can do. I’m glad she was able to join me on the run and talk me through the struggles for not only the day, but what I can expect in September.

Final thank to the #BCFitFam and Champions Running Association who came out with signs, finish line, and cheer station at the end so I wasn’t simply “run back the jeep and go home.” They were there with noise and fanfare and I really appreciate it. I’m a pretty shy runner – though I’m trying to come out of that shell – so having some people show up really meant a lot.

Now that it’s done, and I can say I’ve FINALLY completed a 70.3, I am more focused on the work I need to do so it doesn’t take 4 attempts to complete an Ironman. I will become one. #AnythingIsPossible

Alone in the Dark

I do a majority of my workouts alone and in the dark. Unless you count a stray dog running loose, or a lifeguard sitting across the pool, I’m often left to work out by myself. I don’t mind it. In fact, it works for me because then I don’t feel the burden of screwing up somebody else’s training. I can do what I need to do for me, without having to wonder am I going fast enough, slow enough, is this weird, will they care about my failed snot rocket attempt?

But the other day I was listening to a podcast from a triathlon coach retelling the triumph of one his athletes at the end of Ironman Texas. It was starting to look questionable if she would meet the midnight cutoff. The tracker had her about 8 minutes after, so he decided to look for her. Once he found her, she was struggling so he encouraged her, stayed by her side (shush all the naysayers “no outside help”), and tried to get her to a pace where she would finish in time.  Ultimately, she had 8 minutes to finish 0.6 miles when he told her she couldn’t walk anymore and needed to get it done. The tracker had her estimated finish as 12:00:01 which would still be a DNF. She finished with 1 minute, 13 seconds to spare.

This last week, actually this entire month, has been a huge struggle bus, but I know I’m not on this ride alone. I could not do this without the support from Adam who helps with the kids – whether that’s getting them ready in the morning, picking them up in the evenings, entertaining them on the weekends – and allows me the time to get in workouts, regardless of their duration. He also does a lot of the cooking because I am usually hungry but too tired to cook. We do try to meal prep and plan out a lot of things that can be thrown together quickly, and I am so thankful he’s the one throwing them together.

Adam – enjoying time at Sunday Funday

My kids are the best cheer squad, hands down. I slip out in the mornings before they’re awake, but when I come home, the house is usually bursting with activity. Whether it’s my daughter yelling “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” as she runs into my sweaty arms, or my son saying, “Finally! You’re home, can we go run together now?”, they are constant reminders that I am setting an example of exercise, health, and commitment. While I’ve never considered a “why” for triathlon other than something I want to do (and let’s face it – look better naked), they always show me they’re picking up on the things they see me do. And shaping their lives for physical fitness and activity is so much better than having them buried in the screens all day – which they get a full dose of that too. But at least I can break it up a bit and show them that sweat and exercise can be as fun as watching other kids play with toys.

English running the Cypress Half Marathon Kids 1k Race November 2019
Rollins trying out her new trainer – Christmas 2019

My mom has encouraged me since I was playing sports as a child. She has always pushed me to dig deeper and center myself, knowing there is more talent and capability than what I think possible. She is the reason 98% of my race bibs say “GRASSHOPPER” because it’s a name she’s called me since 1996 when I needed to focus and do the work. I suppose I had outgrown “Robinski” by that age. It’s something I can think about while the minutes, miles, and hours tick by.

My mom ❤ Aruba 2019

There are countless other people who see me better than I see myself. I do not think I would have committed to longer distances, but rather mucked around in the sprint/oly world if I did not have inspiring friends and mentors. The list is longer now, but it includes friends, coaches, former bosses, and online triathletes, that have all given me the inspiration to believe this is possible for myself. Seeing their achievements, and hearing their words of encouragement really make me think I will do this.

When I’m struggling and I’m going to that place come race day, alone and in the dark, I’ll have their words to remind me:

I am not alone.

My kids, and others, see my light.

I can do this. I will do this. I am doing this.

 

2020 Aramco Half Recap

Seven and a half months ago, I was asked to right down my Top 3 fitness goals. The one I was most hesitant about was “run a half marathon without walking.” Going on 12 years, I’ve been a run/walker. I would run various timed intervals depending on my fitness, and give myself a walk break, and pick it back up again. I did ok. I wasn’t winning any races, but I was shuffling through.

In June I started running – just running. Very easy, low heart rate – as best I could – runs of about 30 minutes. Nothing else. I cringed when my watch said I was running a 14:30 pace. I was embarrassed when people passed me walking their dogs. On “long” days of 45 minutes, I would struggle. I questioned if I couldn’t make it through those runs, is it better to walk for the remainder or call it quits that day. But the more consistent I became, the more I could get through it. While my training pace never greatly improved, I could go for longer, and more importantly, continue to feel better afterwards.

Leading up to yesterday’s race, I was hesitant to say I had a goal. Running 13 – 14 minute miles, I wasn’t confident that I could hold a pace of 11:45 over the distance of 13.1 miles. My 11-mile run was a complete disaster due to poor nutrition, lack of hydration leading up to the day, unexpected humidity, and pretty much all the things that could go wrong leading up to a race. Even my shoes broke the day before, but I still laced them up for that run. My 12-miler, and longest training run, was ok, but only the last 2 miles were at race pace. My last long run was 8 miles which felt FANTASTIC, but I was still holding back in my expectations for race day.

I think around 10 pm the night before, I finally put what was ready of my race clothes together, waiting to the switch the wash and have some dry clothes come morning. I went to bed late after making sure the dishes were done, kitchen cleaned, floors mopped, kids’ bedrooms picked up…. pretty much anything to distract me from thinking about the race.

Where are the clothes?!

My super awesome free parking was full when we arrived downtown about 5:25. I’m going to encourage everyone to pre-purchase parking from now on and keep my awesome free parking spot a secret. Hint: street parking is free on Sundays. After hanging out at the GRB for photo ops, check-ins, and bag drop, I walked to the Westin for a final bathroom stop. Then it was on to Coral C. I’ve always been in Coral D so this was a welcome change. I overestimated my finish time, but I was glad to know there were several thousand people behind me that would have yet to start when I was already well on my way.

I tried to settle in slowly to Mile 1 but I was 30-seconds ahead of pace. The goal was 12:30, but I was pushing 11:57 – 12:05. I worried about what this would mean for the later stages of the race, but I felt good. I saw Adam along Mile 1 and was glad to see he waited to “see me off.” I wasn’t sure if/when I would see him again before the finish. I looked for a friend’s husband at HFD Station 6, but missed him so I waved as I passed along there in hopes maybe he saw me. Apparently, he did because he was videoing a part of the race to my friend when he saw me and shouts, “Oh! There she goes!” A little after the first 5k, there was a sign for Steps for Students, E’s first 5k he’ll be running in February. (You can donate to his fundraiser here). He’s very excited so I veered across the road to grab a picture.

I listened to runners around me. Some talked about how they felt. Others talked about counting runners along the way as if they were herding their classrooms. I recognized a few friends, so I chatted with them a little. But really, I was focused on my own running, was my form ok, was I keeping my head down, were my arms going backwards and not too far forwards, breathe.

I missed Adam at Mile 6, saw a friend manning the 10k time station. He had his back to me as I ran up, so I grabbed him on the shoulder as I passed for a hug. I didn’t want to commit a runner faux pas with a playful pat on the butt. Finally, I turned on Bissonnet which is two important milestones for me. It is where the half marathon splits from the full, weeding the crowds a little bit, but it’s also where I fell apart on my training run so I was happy I was still feeling strong. The few times I’ve run the half, I’ve always had some issues coming on or off Bisssonnet. NOT THIS YEAR! I saw Adam a little after Mile 7 and stripped off my ear warmers and long sleeves. I made the turn through the Museum District and headed up Montrose.

Running Montrose, I could not believe I walked this entire stretch during training. I felt good and it seemed so short during the race.  As the miles clicked by, my pace was still picking up. I saw Adam one last time along Montrose and told him I was 1:45 ahead of my goal pace. I started to struggle with my pace around mile 11. You could see the crowds along Allen Parkway approaching Mile 12. I thought surely this would help me push through. I was still struggling with my pace, when I realized: Dummie! You’re running UP Allen Parkway. This entire mile is one long gradual uphill. Give yourself some grace! And that is what I did. For the first time during the run, I resorted to tuning out the hurt, settling into the uncomfortable, and getting lost in my Hail Mary’s. I took 30 seconds off my mile from Mile 12 to Mile 13. I pushed through the last two tenths of a mile at a 9:28 pace. My watch recorded a distance of 13.27 miles in 2 hours, 34 minutes, 26 seconds (official race time is 2:34:19). I had 0 walk breaks. I stopped only for: Mile 7.5 – shed clothes to hand off to Adam; Mile 9-ish something – Give Adam a kiss; Mile 13.05 – pick up a penny. I ran through every aid station, only taking water at 3 of them, but even ran through those with a pinched cup, pinky up. With the exception of Mile 12, I ran consistently progressive negative splits. Looking back through my Aramco Half results, I finished with a 7-minute PR. I am on top of the world and beyond ecstatic with my results.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While I’m still reeling in the runner’s high from yesterday, I’m channeling the energy into a minor freakout because with Houston out of the way, it’s time to focus on Galveston. In 10 weeks I will be attempting my FOURTH half Ironman. If it’s anything like the Chevron Houston Marathon, perhaps the 4th time will be a charm. But with the knowledge I gained yesterday, I am definitely more confident in my fitness and my ability to get through whatever sufferfest Galveston throws at me in April.

Race Week Jitters

I’m running my first half marathon since April 2018. This seems like no big deal, but keep in mind in 2014 – 7 months after having a baby – I ran a half marathon every other weekend for 4 months. My longest run in training is 12 miles which was 2 weeks ago. I ran 8 miles this last Saturday and everything lined up pretty well. I ate heartily the day before. I nailed the shake out run. Despite being busy around the house, I felt well rested. Much like the night before a race, I got about 3.5 hours of sleep. But the temperature was just right – 50 degrees with a bit of wind and my pace was on point.

New this training cycle, I’ve focused on heart rate. While it’s been annoying, it also means I don’t have a lot of experience of really pushing myself so I’m going into the race somewhat “blind” in terms of my expectations. Can I run 12 miles at a conversational pace and pick it up the last 3 miles? Sure. But can I push myself at race pace for 13.1 miles? I guess we’ll find out.

aramco

I don’t have any strict goals because again, I’m not sure if the wheels will stay on. It seems lame to say “I’ll be happy with a finish,” because let’s face it, I KNOW I can finish. But will I be happy with a 3-hour finish? Not likely. Will I be hoping in my heart I can hit 2:30? 100%. Do I believe that I’ll hit 2:30? Not really. But that would be like a caramel syrup with sprinkles topped vanilla ice cream in a waffle bowl. Will I be happy to PR at 2:34? Definitely. But I’ll pretty much be content with anything 2:45 or under. But say the wheels come off and I resort to conversation pace (13 min/mile) and maybe I do come in shy of 3 hours… it’ll be ok.

Training for the half has taught me a lot more in the last 6 months than I’ve progressed in 10 years of running. I have worked hard for consistency, hitting 14 of my last 15 workouts, but hitting EVERY workout on the calendar for 2020. I have ditched the Galloway method of run/walk intervals and have focused on strictly running. Sure my 12 miler I walked twice – once while taking down a Huma gel, and another while removing a layer of clothing – but I was able to pick up and run again without having to take another break for the sake of a break or because I was listening to a watch.

I only have 2 more races this year besides Sunday’s half marathon and both are bigger goals. In April I will be racing the Texas Ironman 70.3 in Galveston and then gearing up for the “big one” which will be my first attempt (and hopefully completion) of a full Ironman in Wisconsin. I have some other races sprinkled in, but those will be more fun runs, namely a 5k with E for his school, maybe a half marathon or relay to run for distance so I’m not always running alone, but not necessarily “racing” it, biking MS 150 to get more miles on the bike. I’d like to think I’ll do the Cypress Sprint Triathlon in July, but after having 3 years plagued with illness, injury, and infection, I’m saving it for a week-of decision.

Anyways, I’m excited to see what I can do on Sunday and looking forward to cheering on my friends. What are some races I can cheer for you this year?

10K Tuesday

Was hoping to have a #MedalMonday post, but I’ve never been one to follow the crowd. 10KTuesday will have to do.

This weekend I ran the Toughest 10K Galveston. It is Race 2 of a 3 race series, culminating in a half marathon in November. It is one of my favorite events of the year. The team at Running Alliance Sports do so an amazing job from the registration costs ($100 for 2 10ks AND a half marathon – TOTAL!), swag, and the best post race finishes. They also provide proceeds and fundraising for the events to a local charity, Bridge Over Troubled Water, which provides shelter and assistance to domestic and sexual violence victims and families.

The drive to Galveston early on a Saturday is never my favorite, especially with two kids in the car, but I was somehow able to wake up, get dressed, walk the dogs, and get on the road by 4:50 am. The roads close at 6:30 with the parking lot closing at 6:45 am so the early wake up call is a necessity. I also like to leave a little extra cushion time for a bathroom and kolache stop at Bucee’s. Though in hindsight, I might wait until AFTER the race next time for the kolache.

There are two options for parking at the race. You can make an additional $25 donation to Bridge Over Troubled Water and park at the race site, or you can park at a strip center a few miles down the road and take a bus to the site. The start/finish are at the same spot, so if you bus to the start, you’ll bus back after the race. I’m willing to make the donation and park across the street. Plus that means no waiting in lines and riding back in a sweaty seat after the race.

The start was pretty awesome. The sound system kept cutting out during the national anthem, so everybody in the crowd started singing along. Then we were off.

The game plan was to keep my heart rate mid-140s. I wasn’t trying to actually race this or give it an all out effort. This was going to be a training run in preparation for January’s Aramco Half Marathon. I stayed within the zone for about 5 minutes. Then I focused on really trying to go easy. This was the first of four years I was able to run the entire distance of the Galveston Causeway Bridge up and over without walking. I slowed at the aid station and walked a huge portion of Tiki Island to get my heart rate back under control.

I tried running again getting back on the bridge, but my heart rate did not want to cooperate. I decided to take on speed walking so at least I wasn’t lollygagging at the back. About half way up  the bridge, I gave it a go again and made it to the top. You’d think I would be thrilled to have speed running down, but I didn’t. My legs were heavy. I was having a pity party that I had walked so much on the way up. I was annoyed. But something magical happened as I was coming off the bridge.

I decided that rather than give in to negativity (I’m slow, I can’t run anymore, I can’t keep my heart rate down), I told myself only positive thoughts. I told myself I could make it to the aid station after the bridge. It wasn’t THAT far and come on, heavy legs? What did I think I’d have coming off a bike ride and trying to run a marathon? I can push through this. So what I did 96 squats the day before. I can DO this. When I got to the aid station, I splashed some water on my head (It was a brisk 90o October morning), and kept going. But I also tried to rally the people around me. I kept finding people and rather than “picking them off,” I talked to them. I told them that we were so close, it was time to run. I told them they could do it. By being positive with myself and others, I picked up my pace. And I’m not talking a few seconds. My last mile was my third fast mile. The last quarter mile was nearly 3 minutes faster than my average pace. At one point I did get tired during that last 1.25 mile stretch from the bridge, but by that point I’d feel pretty silly if I slowed down, so I picked it up. My heart rate was shot, but my positive thinking really got me through.

This race wasn’t my fastest time, nor was it supposed to be. It did  teach me a lot about positive thinking and being able to turn around a negative mind hole. And for that, I’m really excited. I know the speed will come. My runs have all been fairly limited to no more than 6-miles since September. I’m recovering from a weird fascia soreness that was presenting like a stress fracture. I’m confident in my progress, both running and mentally. I can’t wait to do this series next year and see where my fitness can come back into play.

October – The Scariest Time of Year

Do something every day that scares you… Well, I’ve done something “scary” and I feel like even though it’s 49 weeks away, it looms over me everyday.

What is it, you may ask? I have finally registered for an Ironman.

For years I told myself I couldn’t possibly do one. I struggled through marathons at a snail’s pace – or even slower. I bonked on 70.3 distances not once, but twice, never fully completing the run. So why now?

Because I’m no longer filling myself with doubt and negativity. I faced setbacks from knee injuries, high risk pregnancy, life-threatening infections, and I’m still here to write this today. I’m still here to register for an Ironman.

I have started to fill my corner with individuals who focus on the positive. I’ve been influenced by mentors at work who have shown me what is possible. I have friends who have conquered the distance and have demonstrated it can be done. I have a job that requires me to promote health and wellness activities and encourages participation in such events by sharing accomplishments globally. I stalk people on Instagram, following not only individual accounts, but hashtags of #triathlon #ironman #IMWI.  I have two amazing kids who look up to me and talk about “mommy’s races.” I have an unbelievably supportive husband, who even through my so-called failures, still sees me as a success.

So I’ve done it. I’ve planned my 35th birthday in Madison, WI to punch and kick my way through Lake Monona, attack the hills of Verona (not Italy), and bask in the glory of the finish line on the steps of the capitol that is Ironman Wisconsin.

Over the last few months, I’ve started working with a trainer who has helped me build consistency in my workouts. We have mapped out a plan for the next 49 weeks and what each training block looks like essentially. Right now, it’s all about consistency and aerobic fitness. And of course, obsessing over everything like the planner that I am.

Chevron Houston Marathon

The Chevron Houston Marathon has come and gone. Only this time I can say, “I AM AN OFFICIAL FINISHER!!!”  
I’m not going to lie – it was hard for me for a little while. I thought surely I would come in around 5:45-5:50. The chip time has me with a 5:56:04 finish. Adam started and stayed with me the entire race and his Garmin died at 26.33 miles with a time of 5:48. I like his time better. My Nike watch died at mile 23 and I had to use my phone for the remainder of the run. Except I forgot I even had my phone before it clicked I could use the running app. Go me.
We arrived early and got our awesome free street parking. We stayed in the car where it was nice and warm, but then I wanted to drop off a change of shoes at gear check. They blocked off the bathrooms to only have people use the porta-potties. So we walked over to the Westin by our parking spot and used their restrooms. Then back to the car to stay warm.

We arrived in our corral in time for the Star Spangled Banner. Then we waited for another 33 minutes to cross the start line. It was a good thing we had so much time because it took nearly 28 minutes for my watch to find a signal – something I’m definitely NOT happy about. Once we got moving, my hands were still numb. I saw a pair of small gloves on the street and yes, I stopped to put them on. I kept them on for 5+ miles and I do not regret my decision. 

The first miles were packed and fun. There was lots of talking. Saw a funny sign in front of a church saying “You know He’s all about that grace, ‘bout that grace, no devil.” I thought it was clever. It’s also one of my son’s favorite songs so it was nice. Adam had to use the restroom but all of the porta-potties had lines. I saw the coach I trained with between miles 3 and 4. We played leap frog a lot. At mile 5 along Kirby, he REALLY had to go, as did I. So I told him we could pull off at the Whole Foods on West Alabama – no line and FLUSHABLE toilets. So we did.

I knew after 10k, we would turn on Bissonnet and somebody along there would have a beer. And of course, the same people from last year were there handing out cans of beer. Thank you generous people!!! I saw my mom working the marathon/half marathon split along the course. She was dressed as a penguin because she’s that awesome.  

 After the split, it became lonely. It seemed a majority of the runners around us had gone straight for the half marathon. I was surprised how quiet it was through Rice University. I guess I expected more students out there. Once we entered West University, THOSE people know how to cheer on a marathon. There were several lawn parties and one place even had their church band come play in the front year. The Astros had set up a tent along the course and were giving out free towels – thank you very much!

Westpark was tough, but not unbearable. It was mostly quiet. Then we reached the half marker about 2:40 which is pretty good considering last year I think we finished the half in about that time and we still had another 13.1 to go. The 5:30 pace group passed us around mile 15. They were trucking too. At that point we were still on target for a 5:30 finish. I started fading after the Galleria though. I saw a co-worker who ran alongside me for a block and talked to me about how I was feeling. After we turned on Tanglewood, I started to go downhill. I think I walked from 16.5 to mile 17. I was stuck in my head.

At Mile 17 I decided to turn it around though. I was afraid I would hit the wall so I tried out a trick my mom taught me before Cozumel. It’s basically singing “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” but instead it’s “99 Prayers to God I Lift Up.” I would sing this for 5 minutes – 10-15 “prayers”, then I would walk a minute and thank God for a variety of things – for my strength to run the marathon, to my family, to my friends, to my knowledge, etc.” It sounds cheesy but it took me another 3 miles to finish the song and apparently our pace matched those of the first few miles.

At Mile 20 I took a bag of chips from somebody. I was so hungry and I really appreciated it! At Mile 21, I took one of the last beers from the beer tent. They were closing down and out of beer when I told the volunteers sitting there drinking beer that they were drinking it all so we didn’t have any. I guess my guilt trip worked because a lady offered me her cup. I definitely felt like my pace was dropping but when we were running, we were still averaging 11 minute miles. At one point, we were running uphill with an 11 minutes pace at Mile 22. 
 My watch died at Mile 23. Like I said, it took me awhile to remember I had my phone in my running belt and could use my app for the remainder of the run. The last 3 miles of the marathon course are the hardest. I ran Marine Corps twice and this was still the hardest because of all of the hills. Houston is flat with the exception of overpasses and Allen Parkway… and this course finishes along Allen Parkway. It would be nice if we didn’t have to run the underpasses, but what’s the fun in that? There are two underpasses in addition to 2 noticeable hills along this 3 mile stretch. And after 23 miles, it’s severely unpleasant.

Along Allen Parkway a woman was next to me crying. I asked her what was wrong. She saw the time clock at Mile 24 and it was approaching 6 hours. She was scared she wasn’t going to make the official cut off time since it took her 30 minutes to cross the start line. It was her first ever marathon and she really wanted to finish and get her medal. She was convinced they wouldn’t give it to her. I told her it was ok, she needed to keep going because they would use her chip time, not the clock time. And then she took off. Then a woman from Sweden was cramping along the side of the road saying she couldn’t go any further. We were approaching Mile 25 so I told her to run with me, I was going to run for 4 minutes. She ran and we talked about her trip and her boyfriend and this was also her first marathon. At the end of 4 minutes, she walked with us for our 2-minute break, and then she took off to finish.

Once we got downtown though I was done. I didn’t want to run anymore. I asked Adam if we could do 3/3s, which really turned into walk, run as much as I could, walk, run as much as I could, walk… Then I saw the 6-hour pacer coming up behind us so I decided to run it in. We crossed together and I have never been so glad to be done. Of course I was also super emotional. It’s only taken me 4 times to register for this race to actually be able to run it.
  I am super proud of Adam who with very little – AND I MEAN VERY LITTLE – training, was he able to complete the 26.2+ miles. I also may be slightly jealous, but I figure most people would be had they put in months of early mornings and training. I am excited that we did it. I’m excited I finished under the gun. I am excited that I don’t have to do another marathon for a long while. Up next I’m pacing the Katy Half Marathon so that should be fun.

My Marathon Weekend Plans

The weekend is here! The weekend is here! Technically. What’s another 9 hours at the office? 

I don’t know if it’s because I’m FINALLY running Houston or if it’s because this is my hometown, or if because throughout all of my training I have covered all but 3-4 miles of the marathon course, but I am feeling the most prepared I have felt for a race in a long time. I am relaxed. I am confident in my plan. I am ready. I AM EXCITED!!!!!

 So my plan for the weekend is as follows:

My mom is volunteering at the expo today so I have signed off on my packet release for the 5k. I’ll meet with her this evening so I can avoid Saturday’s packet pick-up. I’ll either eat some more Italian or make the black bean, squash and sweet potato enchiladas from Thug Kitchen (only my most favorite cookbook recently!!!). Last night we had simple spaghetti with Ikea veggie balls and some vegetable marinara. Oh and garlic bread and wine. I’m in full carbo-load mode.

 Saturday morning Adam and I are heading downtown (downtown! Doooooowntooooowwwwwn a la Macklemore) to race the 5k. I know, I know I should treat this like a shakeout run. But my 5k runs have been so good lately and I’ll be running with Adam who always pushes me to run faster. Maybe – MAYBE I can break 30???? After that, we’ll swing by the expo to pick up our marathon packets and look at all of the goodies.

 Then it’s back to the house full of the wonderful expectation of resting and relaxing but I already have a long list of things to do – laundry, change the sheets, vacuum, clean the ducts and put the vents back on (they’ve been off since we bought the house… oops), clean the bathrooms since I won’t want to do it Sunday. I also would love to go to Saturday evening mass. Then there’s the whole grocery shopping thing to tackle.

 And OMG the eating!!! I am almost excited about the marathon of eating I will get to do on Saturday. So much that I am already hungry for tomorrow. I’m sure I’ll eat whatever post-5k food is offered – stale bagel anyone? And then I’ll probably stop for some actual breakfast – doughnuts? I’m not sure what, but I’ll be eating. Not to mention the samples at the expo. Then I’m going to drive down to Pearland – yes ALLLLLL the way to Pearland for lunch. It’s a good 35 miles from my house. But there’s a doughnut shop that has the BEST veggie burger I’ve ever had. It seriously tastes like a real burger. And sweet potato fries. Yummm. I may hit up Sonic for happy hour and a hot fudge sundae too. Later after mass, I plan on eating at a hole in the wall Mexican restaurant that has pretty much been my Friday go-to before my long runs. I used to hate this restaurant in high school, but now it’s one of my favorites. And they have great margaritas.

 Sunday. Sunday. Sunday. The marathon. I plan on arriving around 5:00-5:15 so I can find free parking on the street. Otherwise I’ll have to pony up and pay for a lot. I haven’t decided if I’m going to drop off a gear bag. I’m considering it only because I know how much I will want to take off my shoes at the finish. Then it’s really a matter of hanging out until my corral starts. Since I’m slow, I’m obviously in Corral D. Once things get going, I hope to relax into my run and trust everything will fall into place.

 I reviewed the course earlier this week and with the exception of Weslayan to Westpark to the 610 Feeder, I have run all the other miles of the course. How is that for a great training program? I know one of my friends will be at mile 5. I’m looking forward to seeing my mom at the marathon / half-marathon split around mile 8. After that, I don’t know who I may see, but I’m sure the City of Houston will turn out like they have all the years in the past and cheer on the runners. I really feed off the energy of the crowd support. It’s no wonder Houston is always my best race. And this year, I’m looking to make it my best marathon everrrr! 

 If anyone is interested in tracking, you have to download the Chevron Houston Marathon app. Gone are the days of text alerts I suppose. So sad. Anyway, here are my numbers: