Downhill to Downtown to Deep Eddy

The 3M Half Marathon would be the first half I’d run solo in almost three years. Not even sure I can count the number of lackluster 13.1s on two hands in that span of time but holy crap, they were all terrible. I went into each just hoping to survive and finish with my legs still attached. Training for those was half-assed and the pace was slooowwww. It was a time in my life where I didn’t give two shits about running and really just did it because it was something I had always done. I lost the spark, the desire to really push myself, and those race times really reflected that.

But 3M was going to be different. Sure, my training could have been better and long runs, well, longer. But I don’t think there’s been a single training cycle which coincided with the holidays that went according to plan. I didn’t stress over it and convinced myself that, YES, I could do this. I would put in a solid effort and see what the past few months of Orangetheory + running really did for me. The bar wasn’t set high with hopes of a PR so the pressure was off in that department. I wanted to cross the finish line with a respectable time and not have to take any walk breaks. Seemed easy enough.

On Thursday Paula trumped my prior last-minute decision with an extremely last minute decision and booked a flight to Austin to run 3M. She joined me Friday night at happy hour where we discovered the magic of Deep Eddy Sweet Tea + Peach Vodka shots, and continued the party down on Rainey Street at Bar 96. Ended up being a later night than it probably should have been, but .. #YOLO [yes, that’s making a comeback]

Bar 96

Saturday we hit up the expo so Paula could actually register for the race, had mimosas at Moonshine, and then lunch at Silo on 7th. After inhaling a couple burgers we walked around at the Domain, bought things at MAC we didn’t need, and picked up groceries for dinner. The rest of the day was super productive – we started the most recent season of The Mindy Project and proceeded not to go to bed until finishing the entire thing. Overachievers.

RACE DAY

So many factors were working against me at 3M: I wore something new, didn’t eat breakfast, and didn’t take any gels / chews during the race. Basically [stupidly] threw caution to the wind. Race morning was a chilly 39 degrees but didn’t stop me from wearing a short-sleeved top and skirt. I had a throwaway zip-up hoodie but it lasted all of a 1/4 mile before I ditched that thing. So on to my race plan… I started much further back than I wanted, probably almost at the back of the race. I’m well aware of my propensity to haul ass in the first mile, try to hold on to said too-fast pace, and then burn out around mile six. So I marched myself to the back of the corrals in an attempt to rein it in and race smart for once in my life.

Miles 1-6 were uneventful. Here’s the thing: the 3M course is boooooring. It’s through residential areas, side streets, and pretty much wherever there’s nothing to look at except runners around you. Still for some crazy reason I love this goddamn race. It’s net downhill but don’t be fooled – there certainly are some hills. And each one crushed my soul a little. The one on 45th was more painful than I remembered in previous years. I focused on keeping an even effort on the uphills and recovered on the downhill.  After we hit mile 6 my brain slipped into a bit of a dark place where all I could think about was how I had to do the distance all over again – and then some more. My iPod volume was forced up a few notches and I kept moving.

The second half of the race was tough, but doable. I really didn’t want to walk but my right calf was super tight and desperately needed a stretch. After the water stop at mile 8 I pulled over to the side to give the calf some relief on a curb. I limited myself to about 25-30 seconds but it definitely helped. Once I hit mile 10 I started to get hungry but it would have been too late for a Gu to actually do anything – so I didn’t bother. Still not really sure how I made it through without breakfast or any fuel during the race… Also around mile 10 was where I resolved not to walk, even though when we were heading through the UT campus nearly every person around me had slowed to walk. So I kept running and took advantage of the opportunity to pass a ton of people. The final hill up MLK hurt like a bitch but the finish was just around the corner so I threw on my pain face and kicked up the pace.

Official Finish Time – 2:25:33

3M Half Marathon

Like I said, not a PR, but overall one of the strongest races I’ve had in recent years. This is my 2nd fastest half marathon ever [plus a negative split!] and I’m still not sure how I pulled that off. Coming off such a great time at the Rogue 10K, I’m still really high on running and excited for the next few races coming up. I have two weeks until the Austin Half, where I will likely walk 30 times and also cry a bit while crawling up the hill on Enfield, but if I can somehow squeeze out a course PR – I’ll take it!

Post-race we spent many hours at Jack Allen’s Kitchen destroying their buffet and enjoying pineapple mimosas followed by Deep Eddy cocktails.

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Mid-afternoon Paula rudely forced me to take her to the airport so she could head back to Florida. I only agreed because there’s already a Southwest flight booked to Orlando in March for another weekend of running, eating, and drinking.

My legs and liver cannot wait.

2016 :: The Pursuit of Happiness

To say I’m happy to have 2015 in the rearview mirror would be the understatement of the century. I’ve never been one to wish a year would end, but after so many consecutive good ones I suppose it was inevitable. The latter half of the year was better than the former but still felt myself anxious for the moment the calendar would flip over to 2016.

There are few people I’d book a flight across the country for on two days’ notice and this girl is one of them. On Tuesday night we researched the shit out of flights and eventually I booked myself a flight to Florida for New Years Eve afternoon. It was a bit risky arriving at 9:30pm but even after an hour-long baggage delay we still made it back to the party with plenty of time before the ball drop.

NYE

New Years Day was spent the way it should be: on the couch in pajamas. I’ve never enjoyed sweatpants so much as I did that day – and mimosas, many mimosas were had. Eventually we did get our shit together and put on real clothes for a delicious dinner at KASA. I’d show you photos of the million dishes we ordered but they’re currently being held hostage by my microSD card which I currently can’t find the adapter for. #firstworldproblems

Saturday we managed to convince ourselves [around noon, mind you] to go for a five-mile run. It didn’t feel like the right decision at the time but afterwards it was nice knowing we had done something productive other than put a dent in Paula + Fabian’s liquor cabinet. There was more lounging [YES!] and then made ourselves presentable [why is this always a struggle?] for an evening of German food. Despite my love for all things food-related, I had never had an authentic German meal. Willow Tree did not disappoint – except for those pseudo-Jager shots, could have done without those. But, when in Rome Germany…

Saturday Night

On our way home I suggested we swing into this country bar, The Barn, for “just one drink”. I’m sure you can imagine how that went. Despite me being the only country fan in the group, we somehow stayed many hours and spent a sizeable portion of that time on the dance floor. Or maybe that was just me. The world will never know.

so many rhinestones

I’m super happy I talked myself into making in impractical decision and kicked off the new year in Florida. Hopefully this will set the tone for the rest of 2016 and if all goes well, I’ll be making it an annual trip. Paula – please book my room accordingly.

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Last weekend I ran my first race since… the Houston Marathon? Which I still haven’t recapped, but maybe someday. And I did run Ragnar Vegas in December but that was more of a team event than a solo one. It was fantastic to finally pin on a bib again and run my ass off. I haven’t really felt like racing since 2012; every time I hit the starting line it was underwhelming and the idea of running hard was just something I did because I had been doing it for several years prior. Running had lost its luster for me.

But Sunday was different. I had no plan to PR since I’m not quite in PR-shape yet [but getting there]. My only goal was to push the pace a little and see where I am at fitness-wise. It ended up being a pretty solid progression run, starting in the upper 10s and finishing just below 9. I was passing people the entire time and despite the pace being a little faster than I’m used to, I didn’t slow down or ever consider taking a walk break. Like I said, no PR here, but it was the fastest 10K I’ve run in five years. And that’s something I’m really proud of. Hopefully this is a sign of great things to come on the running front considering I have four half marathons coming up in the next three months. Never said I was the brightest crayon in the box.

Rogue 10k

So maybe 2015 was a total shitshow of a year. And maybe it’s one I’d sooner like to forget. But it was filled with a lot of lessons learned and a lot of growing up. A lot of learning what I want out of life and what I don’t. I think it’s primed me for a stellar [knock on wood] 2016 and can’t wait to see what’s in store for the months ahead.

Things I’m Loving Lately

Lately I really like lists [you should see my color-coded to-do list] and I’ve been pretty lazy about taking photos. So here’s a lovely list of things I’m loving lately without any photos. You’ve been warned. But at least I bolded the items, so you can pick and choose what you want to read. What can I say, I’m a giver.

Orangetheory Fitness – I’ve never been a huge fan of group exercise classes. Most of my experience is based on classes offered at my current gym, like Body Pump + RPM, where you have to sign up 30 minutes beforehand. There’s a very slim chance of me making it to the gym 30 minutes prior to a class, especially if it’s in the morning where I value sleep or after work when I don’t have a set “end time” to my day. The classes always felt overcrowded and the clientele was clique-y. Not really my thing. Needless to say, I never went out of my way to get there. Lora had been posting a lot about supplementing her running routine with Orangetheory Fitness so I reached out to pick her brain about the pros/cons. She sold me on it immediately and only a few days later I took advantage of their free class offer. I was HOOKED. Sixty minutes have never flown by so fast. I’ve been a member for three weeks now and each class is completely different. It forces me to do strength training but also lets me run – ahem, sprint – during the hour as well. Sprinting at a 15% incline is absolutely miserable but I’ve seen a ton of improvement in daily runs since incorporating OTF into my workout schedule. Your heart rate [as well as everyone else’s] is up on a giant screen for you to check periodically and make sure you’re pushing yourself enough. Every night walking out of there I want to die from feeling destroyed, but by the time I get home I’m pumped for the next class. You have to sign up for classes in advance and it forces me to leave work at a reasonable hour [this is subjective … I go to the 8pm class, so you do the math] to be able to attend. If you don’t cancel a class with enough notice, you’re charged for the class anyway. This is key in keeping me accountable. I have an Elite Membership which is 8 classes per month, however I want to use them. I’ve been doing Tuesday / Thursday classes religiously and it works great with my schedule. Worth every damn penny.

 

Heart Rate Training – Not going to lie, I’ve always been a slave to the Garmin. For some reason pace is super important to me and as much as I try that whole “running on feel” thing – it doesn’t happen. But once I started focusing on my heart rate in Orangetheory, I realized it would probably be in my best interest to use this on daily runs. I set up my Garmin to only show HR and I begrudgingly wear that damn strap every time I lace up my running shoes. I’ve noticed my pace drop now that I’m more aware of how hard I’m working. This is completely different than staring at my watch and either cursing my slow pace or talking myself out of a faster one. This takes the guessing game out of everything pace-related. I’m a big fan.

 

Saucony Running Shoes – It would be impossible to count on both hands the number of running shoes I’ve been through over the past few years. From Asics to Mizunos to Brooks to New Balance to Skechers, I’ve had [multiple] pairs of each. In 2014 I finally tried the Saucony Guide 7 and they were everything I needed in a running shoe. I added my trusted green SuperFeet inserts and they were perfect. PERFECT. The lower drop helped me adjust my running form and quit the dreaded heel-strike. When I needed a pair of shoes for trail running, I went to the Saucony Peregrine. When I needed a pair of shoes with a little more cushion for long runs, I went to the Saucony ISO Triumph. When I needed a pair of shoes light enough for sprints + strength training in OTF, I went to the Saucony Mirage. Seeing a pattern here?

 

Non-Running Shoes – For some reason, I’ve been really into shoes over the past few months. This could probably be attributed to the number of fashion bloggers I follow on Instagram, specifically Emily Ann Gemma. It’s likely I’ll never be able to afford a majority of the items she owns but the shoes? I can afford the shoes. My current favorite pair is the Steve Madden Keenia, an obnoxiously tall wedge which increases my height by five inches and are surprisingly comfortable. I wore them out for a night of gallivanting around the streets of downtown Austin and for once in my life didn’t feel like throwing them in the garbage by the time 2am rolled around. These come in a close second – they pretty much go with everything. I won’t link the rest of the pairs because… coughcoughjessicasimpsonclaudettecoughcough … the sheer amount of recent additions to my closet is borderline embarrassing. Just know they are ALL fabulous.

 

And most importantly, my friends + family – the last few months have been rough, to say the least. Some have likely heard the same stories time and time again [Mayra, I’m looking at you] but I appreciate everyone’s love and support as I navigate this bullshit disguised as “life”. No one has asked for too many details, judged too hard, or tried to push their own individual thoughts on me. They’ve let me vent and deal with things on my own terms. I’ve conquered many situations and fell apart at just as many, but with the support of those around me I’ve made it through in one piece. This whole damn situation is terrible, but I’ll be okay. Not right now, not tomorrow, and probably not next month – but eventually. It’ll happen. I just need to figure out what’s most important to me and prioritize things according to how they’ll affect my overall well-being moving forward. I am a strong believer in karma and have been focusing on paying it forward with random acts of kindness over the past several months. I try to focus on those who have reached out and contributed to help make me feel whole again. Things would be a lot worse if I shut the rest of the world out and pretended like everything was a-ok, so as much as I hate to break down – it’s good for me. I hate talking about feelings as much as the next person, but I forced myself to do it. I knew I had to be open with what I was dealing with and the most important people came out to give me a shoulder to lean on when I needed it. And I can’t thank them enough for that.

Thursday Things

Every month when I fork over my hosting fees to BlueHost I think “I should probably blog” … and then I don’t. There are half a dozen drafts in WLW but once I get about a paragraph in I lose interest in my own story. I’m sparing you those boring posts. But maybe I owe my five readers an update? I think it’s time.

1. Let’s start with the bad news, shall we? I’m deferring my Marine Corps Marathon entry to 2016. I alluded to this in my last post, but the decision ultimately had nothing to do with those circumstances. My work schedule, lack of making running a priority, and summer in Austin made training pretty damn tough. I really wanted to stick it out but my end-game from the beginning was for the next marathon to be a determined journey to a long overdue PR. Unfortunately the cards didn’t fall in my favor and as much as I believe I could somewhat piece together a plan which would get me to the finish line of a “fun” marathon, that’s not what I had in mind. So I’m cutting my losses and looking for an alternative at the beginning of 2016. Preliminary front runner is LA Marathon in February because (1) I’ve never been to LA (2) it’s a point-to-point race and I really like those (3) I’ve never run a race in California. I’m open to suggestions though, anywhere from December 2015 through March 2016. Please, suggest away.

2. 2014 was the year of relays. And that might even be an understatement. But it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t run at least one this year, so yesterday I committed to Ragnar Relay Las Vegas in November. This lessened the blow a little bit of losing Marine Corps and once Jenny confirmed she was also in for another weekend of debauchery, it made me feel 100x better. I’m pretty stoked for a mini Hood to Coast ReNUUNion. Can’t believe it’s been an entire year since we conquered Mt. Hood to Seaside together but excited for the opportunity to be reunited with many of my fantastic teammates.

3. Can someone please help me enjoy decorating? Since moving into my own place in May I’ve made an effort on a handful of occasions to buy artwork, throw pillows – basically anything which will turn my apartment into more of a home. Usually after a couple stores and hours of scouring Pinterest I give up on everything and decide maybe the pillows that came with my new mini-sectional are enough. I’ve never been big into shopping and apparently even the need to furnish an apartment won’t sway me otherwise. Currently accepting applications for a personal shopper. Please apply within.

4. I decided to forego cable in favor of more affordable options like Hulu, Netflix [thanks, Germain!] and Sling TV. I’ve been revisiting old shows like One Tree Hill, most seasons of Real Housewives of Orange County [please don’t judge] and most recently Gossip Girl. And since I’ve already watched Gossip Girl through the end, I’m still not convinced the person who was revealed to be GG actually makes sense given certain things posted on the website. I know it’s just a TV show … but it doesn’t seem feasible. These thoughts won’t keep me up at night.

5. The first half of the year wasn’t my favorite and I’ve been making my best effort to plan exciting things in the future to look forward to. There’s only so much Netflix a girl can endure on nights + weekends [see #5] before becoming incredibly stir crazy. My airline miles have been piling up, begging to be cashed in. So I started doing just that: booking getaways for almost every remaining month in 2015. Why the hell not? Two weekends ago I took in a Red Sox game in Houston and enjoyed a night on a sailboat in Kemah. Last weekend I spent a few days with one of my best friends in Florida, which despite the torrential downpour from the moment my plane touched down in Tampa until I left two days later, was one of the best weekends I’ve had in a long time. At the end of August I’ll be heading back to Florida [twice in one month? yep] to visit this girl. It’s been almost two years since the last time I saw her and honestly – that’s way too long. She even put together an itinerary for me – that’s love, people. I love me a great itinerary. It’s the little things.

That’s all for now, kids. Maybe I’ll make an appearance more often than every 3 months, maybe I won’t. Only time will tell.    

End of We

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There’s a good reason for my several month absence. Brad and I split up. I’m not going to divulge details [a majority of you who read here have already played therapist to me – THANK YOU! – so you know the history] but it was… not terrible. Okay, yeah it definitely is painful for the both of us. It wasn’t mutual but I understand where he is coming from and at this point in my life I cannot give him the things he wants. Fine, one detail – a family. You know my stance on that.

It surprises most people to learn I don’t hate him. Sure, it’s tough to wrap my head around the fact I moved all of my shit to Austin to be with him 6 years ago, but things could be much worse. We still talk regularly, most of the time civilly [depending on my wine intake] and the end game is to continue what we’ve always been for the past 10 years – best friends. There was a brief hiatus while we were living in different states and dating other people. We caught up frequently via text or on the phone, swapping dating stories and just getting up to speed on each others’ lives in general. I want to be there again. It will take awhile for us to get there, but we’re working on it. The transition is pretty damn hard – no sugar coating that. Coming home to an empty apartment every day without a significant other or two human-sized dogs to greet you makes the new home feel empty. When it’s everything you’ve known for so long, it’s difficult to just wipe the slate clean and start over.

So over the past few months I’ve been getting out more. Reconnecting with friends I had fallen out of touch with. Accepting happy hour invitations I would have otherwise turned down. Dining at new restaurants I’d been dying to visit. I’ve been trying to touch all of the corners of Austin that Brad and I hadn’t encountered. Because when I go somewhere we used to frequent often, it sucks. Too many memories, too many good times, too many “what once was” moments. Do you know how many of those there are when you move to a new city and spend a majority of your time with your significant other? Good lord. Please don’t make me count. I bought tickets to two different concerts, one ticket for each. I’m not going to stop doing things I love because someone who used to be a part of it won’t be there anymore. I have to keep moving forward – or do my damn best to try. I’ll eventually figure it out, even it feels impossible right now.

We separated at the beginning of March and last weekend I moved all of my one million things into an apartment. Turns out those ‘one million things’ didn’t exactly fill up the space as I had envisioned them to. Thankfully I have a couch being delivered to me on Wednesday and I can stop spending my weekends curled up in bed because it’s the only place to lay down and get comfortable. I’m not even going to touch on how much I loathe AT&T right now after they missed three [yes, THREE] of my installation dates and forced me to contract for Internet with the devil – Time Warner. Shortly we’ll see just how much I regret that decision. But at least there will be Internet, something I will have gone without for two weeks. First world problems, indeed.

In the meantime I’m just trying to keep my shit together and stay busy. Work is kicking my ass more than usual and doesn’t look like it’ll be letting up until at least mid-August so at least I have something to keep me busy. I spent all of Sunday and Monday of this past weekend working, if that’s any indication of how ‘busy’ I actually am. I know some people hate that word. I kinda do too. But I’m thankful to have a job that challenges me and gives me a distraction when I’m housebound due to tornado sirens and ridiculous flooding. Seriously Texas, WTF is going on?

And because I don’t think I’ve mentioned this anywhere but on Twitter – I signed up for another marathon! Can’t say I’ve been running my ass off over these past few months but with the beginning of training looming on the horizon it’s time to get back to it. In October I’ll be running Marine Corps Marathon for the second time and spending the weekend with my Internet-turned-IRL friend Amy. After getting in through the lottery I went back and forth a billion times on whether or not I should actually run it. It was my first marathon, Brad was there, my family was there … a lot of happy memories. I just don’t want to get stuck in the “well last time, XYZ happened” or end up getting depressed when I get to mile 22 and Brad isn’t there to jump in with me to keep me company. In the end though, I think marathon training [as much as it is going to absolutely SUCK this summer] will be a good outlet for me to blow off some steam and keep my mind off of things. But if I end up deferring my entry to 2016, you’ll know why. Just sayin’.

And not that you asked [but if you were curious] – no, I am not dating, nor do I have plans to. I’ve heard painfully awful dating stories from friends about randoms they met on Match or OK Cupid. And I watch wayyyy too many episodes of Criminal Minds and CSI to know I’d prefer not to end up as a plotline for their show. There isn’t an ounce of my being that’s interested in dating right now and I anticipate it staying that way for quite awhile.

It’s time for the beginning of ME.

Thursday Things

1. One of my goals for 2015 [I may talk about all of them at some point, I may not – don’t hold your breath] is to put together a cookbook. I’m not a food blogger and have no plans to turn STAMT into one. But I am absolutely in love with cooking. Like, fanatical about it. If you knew the amount of time I could spend in Sur la Table on a Saturday afternoon you’d likely be horrified. If you ask me to recommend a kitchen tool, I’d suggest you sit down because I’ve done way too much research on almost everything. I could watch the movie Chef over and over again. The scene with Jon Favreau cooking like a maniac after storming out of his restaurant? Ah, MAGICAL. Anyway, I will butcher the crap out of a recipe from the internet until it’s no longer recognizable from the author’s but will still somehow fantastic. The more I thought about it, the more I realized putting together a casual cookbook was really exciting to me. So I’m currently in the beginning stages of planning out recipes, deciding which categories to break the book into, and working on my photog skills. The book will be casual and I’m not looking to sell anything, but will happily share the final product [and probably a few sneak peeks] with friends + family. Stay tuned!

Not a Food Blogger

2. I bought a FitBit Flex. And then I bought a Jawbone Up24. And then I returned both of them. This is incredibly typical of me since I return 90% of the things I buy. The FitBit was cool for a few days until I bought the Jawbone and realized I liked it much better. It was more comfortable on my wrist, easier to switch between awake/sleeping, tracked more specific details about my sleep patterns, and synced to my Strava account seamlessly. Oh and the app was much prettier than the FitBit one – if you’re a visual person. So I returned the FitBit. My decision to return the Jawbone came after the 3rd or 4th workout I completed. I proceeded to sync my watch to Garmin Connect, uploaded to Strava, jotted down some specific details in a journal, and entered the distance/pace into my 2015 Training Log in Google Drive. OMG DATA OVERLOAD. I track the data [for free] in so many damn places already – why did I need another tool? The answer was this: I didn’t. Sure, the sleep stats were nice to have and integrating the app with MyFitnessPal [to track protein/carbs/fat] was helpful, but $79 helpful? No. So back to the store it went.

3. THIS. Do you remember trying to sing ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat’ with 3 or 4 classmates in grade school? I couldn’t for the life of me focus on my own song [which makes me a realllyyyy stellar eavesdropper as an adult] and inevitably messed it up every time. So, this? This blows my mind.

4. My Houston Marathon playlist needs some TLC. And no, I’m not talking about ‘Waterfalls’ or ‘No Scrubs’. My current playlist has taken a beating over the past 3-4 months and some of the songs make me want to rip out my headphones and throw my iPod to the side of the trail. The logical solution would be to create an updated playlist. But all I care about when returning from a run is getting something to eat and taking a shower. The next time I think about my running music is when I’m starting my Garmin and hitting play on the iPod. SO! I need suggestions. Note: I spend 3+ hours a day in the car listening to the radio [both pop + country stations] so pretty much every song on the iTunes Top 200 list is out.

What song[s] on your current playlist are considered must-haves for running?

Houston Marathon: Training Update + Race Goals

Whew, the last few months FLEW by. Training, as it rarely ever does, did not go as planned. The holiday season and an unexpected shakeup at work kept my schedule bursting at the seams. The weather was a bit crazy by Austin standards and forced us to shift several long runs to the middle of the week. This was less than ideal, but better than bagging them altogether. It would have been really helpful if Brad had a gym membership so we could move our long runs indoors when the weather wasn’t cooperating. I’m still baffled at how many thunderstorms we had this fall and how many of those fell on the damn weekend. It’s also forecasted to be much warmer on race day than the weather we’ve been training in. 70 degrees? In January? You’ve got to be kidding me.

Despite a few missed training runs, the BCS Half Marathon in mid-December went surprisingly well. As I crossed the finish line feeling strong and proud having nailed my goal pace, there was still a lingering thought in the back of my mind: how could I possibly ever run 13.1 more miles? The marathon is a dangerous beast and no matter how well prepared you may be, you never know what’s in store for you on race day. Everything could fall into place and you could end up with a well-deserved PR. Or things could start to unravel at mile 12, a distance you’ve done so many times that it seems unfathomable your legs and/or stomach aren’t cooperating. If only there were a crystal ball…

Chevron Houston Marathon Course Map
On Sunday morning Brad and I will line up at the start on Congress + San Jacinto to take on 26.2 miles through the streets of Houston. We’ll each bring something to the table on race day which will help push the other past their limits, past their pain, past their doubts. We will lean on each other [perhaps literally at some point] for the entire distance.

Let’s talk race goals. Quite simply, our main goal is to cross the finish line in an upright position. I’d be lying if I said the time limit for the course [six hours] didn’t terrify me. I’m confident we can finish but neither of my other marathons were sub six. It’s a mental thing more than anything else. We’ve mapped out a pace plan which allows us to walk through each water stop and includes a 5 minute cushion for a potential bathroom stop. If we stay on pace otherwise, we’ll come in under six hours without a problem.

All pacing thoughts aside, I’m incredibly excited to head back to Houston for the marathon. The course is great and spectators come out in droves to cheer for the strangers running through their city. It’s almost go time!

 

Join the 2015 Race Crew! If you’re in the area and unable to participate in this year’s race, sign up to volunteer at Houston’s largest single-day sporting event. Perks include free parking, a Race Crew T-Shirt, Race Crew social media badge, Volunteer Certificate Entry into RunFest festivities upon completion of the volunteer shift, and a virtual goodie bag with exclusive offers including tickets to Houston Astros and Houston Dynamo. More details here: http://bit.ly/14lzozi

Registration for the 2016 Houston Marathon and Half Marathon opens on January 18, 2015. The runner cap has been increased to 27,000 and unlike previous years, it won’t be limited to qualifying times and lottery entries. More details here: http://bit.ly/14JqHzS

2014 BCS Half Marathon Race Recap

10401509_682998915098996_8724804038291868205_n I’ve heard nothing but good things about BCS over the past few years and decided in 2014 I’d finally make the trek out to College Station to see what the hype was all about. It’s touted as the “Best Race in Texas” by MarathonGuide.com and spoiler alert: it was pretty damn awesome.

College Station is roughly two hours from our house so initially we had planned to leave Austin super early on race morning. Unfortunately race day packet pickup was non-existent so we ended up getting a hotel room that night. Since it’s a college town there were plenty of options to choose from and we ended up booking a room at TownePlace Suites which was approximately 1.5 miles from the start. The full kitchen allowed us to have breakfast and coffee in the room on race morning – super convenient. Two hotels were already sold out when I was looking in September so I’d recommend booking early to be safe.

BCS Marathon Finishers Shirt

Race Registration: Once we finally pulled the trigger on registration in October it was $90. This is generally more than I like to spend for a half but in hindsight it was a great value. Registration included a long-sleeved cotton participant shirt, a short-sleeved technical New Balance finisher’s shirt, medal, a pair of Swiftwick socks, beer and food [more on that later] at the finish. I would gladly pay that price again, but when registration opens in May the fee is much cheaper. Sign up early and save yourself a few bucks!

BCS Marathon Expo

Expo: It was small and efficient. We picked up our shirts, bibs and socks in less than 5 minutes despite it being pretty busy. I gave a couple pairs of Hoka One Ones a test drive but ended up not buying either. We probably spent 20 minutes total at the expo and it was more than enough time to see everything.

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Race: The course is flat and fast, running through and around the Texas A&M University campus. Spectators in the last two miles were a little sparse which was disappointing but we were still riding the high from the crazy students screaming on campus. There were plenty of water stops and all of the volunteers were great. The finish is a sweet, sweet downhill and it was glorious. Both of us were pretty happy with the course and definitely will be back to run it again in the future.

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Post-Race: This was probably the best post-race party I’ve experienced. There were pepperoni pizza rolls, a variety of breakfast tacos, cheeseburgers, margaritas, and beer. And not the crap beer that most races have; this was real, legitimate beer like Karbach’s Hopadillo Black IPA and Mother in Lager. And everything was free – EVERYTHING. It was fantastic.

Overall: I can’t recommend this race enough. Austin has a couple super hilly races in December but I don’t care for either of them [Decker has forever traumatized me]. BCS is held the same day as the Dallas Marathon so if that’s your usual December race I’d encourage you to stray from your comfort zone and give this one a try. The race director pours his heart and soul into this race, updating the Facebook page updated daily and personally responding to every question. Every aspect of this race is excellent.

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photo credit: BCS Marathon Facebook Page

2014 Reach the Beach Relay: From Cannon Mountain to Hampton Beach

It’s safe to say I’ve been bit by the relay bug. Or I’m certifiably insane. I’ll let you make the call on that one. Ragnar Cape Cod was an absolute blast and blew my expectations out of the water, which only made the excitement level rise for Hood to Coast in August. I soaked in every moment on each of my three legs in Oregon during HTC since it’ll probably be the only time I’m lucky enough to run that race. And by the time my flight home from Oregon touched down in Austin, plans were already in the works for relay #3 in 2014.

New Balance extended an invitation to be a part of their media team, Pumped Up Kicks, for the Reach the Beach Relay in New Hampshire. There were only three weeks between the two relays and while my legs were screaming “I don’t think so!” I just couldn’t turn down the opportunity. They went above and beyond all weekend, from outfitting us head-to-toe with apparel + shoes to making sure we had everything we needed [vans, snacks, safety gear, etc.] to get us to the finish line successfully. Every possible detail was taken care of and it made the race much less stressful than it could have been.

Now, let’s meet the members of Pumped Up Kicks!

Team Pumped Up Kicks - New Balance Factory

[Van 1] Jess // Carrie // Theodora // Gia // Christine // Melissa

[Van 2] Allie // Caitlin // Marissa // Melissa // me // Lorraine

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From Cannon Mountain to Hampton Beach

Reach the Beach -  Starting Line

RTB - Pumped Up Kicks Van 2

Leg 1 – 4.8 miles

I don’t know what my problem is, but for  some reason I get unreasonably nervous before my first leg of each relay. The thought of being Runner 1 or 6 seems absolutely horrifying. This was my first time being in Van 2 and… can’t say I loved it. There was a lot of ‘hurry up & wait’ and it felt like we were sitting around for most of the day. Needless to say, I was really anxious to get the hell out of the van by the time it was my turn to run. Melissa handed off the slap bracelet to me after finishing her leg uphill on a grassy knoll [rude] and I took off in the other direction.

The first half mile was a steep uphill and even though I wanted to haul ass to the top to get it over with, I kept a steady pace and tried not to waste energy. At the top we turned left on Chocorua Rd and then right on White Mountain Highway, where I’d stay for almost the rest of the leg. The views were GORGEOUS. I wanted to get my phone out and snap a few photos, but I knew I’d either [a] trip/fall trying to get my phone out of my belt or [b] have to stop to walk and never be able to start running again. Yes, I realize how dramatic option b is. My nerves were trying to get the best of me but I focused on the beautiful New Hampshire views and chatted with fellow racers along the way. I couldn’t get over how great I felt. I mean, the miles felt hard but my legs were handling them well and it was impossible to wipe the perma-grin off my face. Ahh, running. Sometimes you are oh-so-amazing.

The miles ticked away and before I knew it we were turning into White Lake State Park towards the transition. I came in slightly under my projected time [which previously felt a little ambitious] and sent Lorraine on her way to finish out our van’s first set of legs.
 Reach the Beach

Leg 2 – 8.8 miles

I mentioned in my Hood to Coast recap just how much I loved the night leg and wished it was longer. Welp, ask and you shall receive! We didn’t find out our leg assignments until the week before the race and when I saw the almost 9 mile leg, it instilled quite a bit of fear in me. The last time I ran that far was… January? My projected pace definitely felt ambitious for a leg this long, but I tried not to think about it.

Side note: I have to commend my vanmates for their dedication to support each runner during these night legs. Everyone was beyond tired and borderline cranky, but we all took turns driving and making sure the runner who was ‘on’ had everything they needed. 

I broke the leg up mentally into three 3-mile sections which somehow made it seem manageable. My teammates leapfrogged me in the van, waiting at miles 3 and 6, which gave me something to look forward to every half-hour. The first six miles were a freakin’ breeze. It was pitch black out and there were red blinky lights lining the road as far the eye could see. My legs were starting to feel a little fatigued at this point but the sun was starting to come up and I tried to just focus on the view to keep me moving along. By some sort of miracle I managed to cruise into the exchange right on time – despite all of those negative thoughts about the pace being too fast for a leg this long. Allie was the only one awake when I got back in the van so she was the lucky person who got to hear about how much I OMG LOVE RUNNING for 10 straight minutes without taking a single breath. 

New Balance RTB Relay - Team Pumped Up Kicks - Van 2

Leg 3 – 3.4 miles

Not even going to bother sugarcoating this: my last leg was MISERABLE. Sure, it was the shortest, the least hilly, and the sun was perfectly hidden behind the clouds. But it also came when my legs already had 13+ miles on them. They were done running, they had had enough. I boarded the struggle bus and slogged my way to Exchange 35, handing off to Lorraine for the last time and sent her on her way to Hampton Beach.

Reach the Beach - Pumped Up Kicks - Finish Line


Team Pumped Up Kicks - Van 2

 

I have to extend a HUGE thank you to New Balance [especially Mary + Caitlin, the dynamic duo who made the magic happen] for the opportunity to be a part of their media team for this year’s Reach the Beach Relay. They put together a stellar team of women to document the journey from Cannon Mountain to Hampton Beach and I couldn’t have asked for a better group! 

Double Digits + Reworking the Plan

Last night I overhauled our training plan for the Houston Marathon. Again.

Sunday long runs just weren’t working for us. The only thing we really enjoyed was the ability to sleep in on Saturday morning after a long work week filled with 3:45am alarms. Let’s not talk about how at 30 years old I now consider ‘sleeping in’ to be 7 or 8am. Any form of plans on Saturday night had to be turned down and the thunderstorms that kept showing up on Sunday morning meant we didn’t have another day to push the run to. Also, Brad plays softball on Thursday nights and most of the time doesn’t get home until 11pm. There is a 0% chance of him being able to run the following morning. We were constantly flip-flopping run days and it was frustrating not having a set schedule anymore. So things had to change.

Enter the Houston Marathon Training Plan, Version 2:

Houston Marathon 2015

I’m still toying with the idea of adding a 22-miler to the plan in Week 9. That would put our 20-miler the weekend after Thanksgiving and all of that delicious food would be great fuel for those miles. However, that would mean a 3-week build [rather than 2, which I prefer] so I don’t know. BCS isn’t a goal race so I don’t think we really need an official taper for it. We’ll just need to cross that bridge when we come to it. As long as we have one 20 under our belts before race day I’ll be happy.

Town Lake Boardwalk - Austin Sunrise

Last weekend we set out for 10 miles downtown around Town Lake. It should have been 12 but coming off of Ragnar Trail Hill Country the weekend before, 10 seemed like a more reasonable number for our trashed legs. The first 5 miles went by quicker than expected considering how heavy my legs felt and the pace was right where we wanted it to be. Around mile 6 the sun started to come up and we decided to take a water break during each mile. This dropped our overall pace a little bit but helped us finish out the run strong. Somehow mile 10 was our fastest one despite wanting to curl up into a ball and take a nap on the side of the trail. It’s been a LONG time since we’ve run double digits and I’m really happy with how well this one went. That being said, I fully expect to have a ridiculously awful 14-miler this weekend.

Town Lake - Downtown Austin Skyline

12 weeks and many, many miles to go!