2017 Ragnar Trail Hill Country Race Recap

This may go down in history as one of the most spur-of-the-moment race decisions I’ve ever made. A friend of one of my TIR teammates needed a few legs picked up at Ragnar Trail Hill Country due to late drop-outs and injuries. Apparently if you ask me to run an overnight relay two hours away in middle-of-nowhere Texas with 12 hours notice, I will have no problem saying yes.

I ran Hill Country its inaugural year in 2014 so I knew what I was getting myself into. I almost signed up with a team earlier this year but decided due to my clumsiness it wouldn’t be in my best interest to run a trail race so close to Indy Monumental. But at this point my registration had been downgraded from the full to the half so running Hill Country seemed like a good idea.

I initially committed to picking up the 7.5 mile Red Loop late Friday night and the 3 mile Green Loop early Saturday morning. However, upon arrival in Comfort I learned one of their runners was a no-show (?!) and wasn’t answering her phone. We had to do a lot of leg switching but the reworked assignment was Green Loop in the afternoon, Red Loop late night, and the 5 mile Yellow Loop on Saturday morning. I hadn’t run anything farther than 4 miles since June so it was probably ambitious (read: dumb) to take on all of that mileage, but I went with it. YOLO. Thankfully the team was not competitive so my game plan of “just don’t fall + hurt yourself” would work out just fine.

Green Loop
Creekside Trail
33:27 (2014 — 55:13)

As the shortest loop, it was obviously the easiest. My legs felt a little rusty, and just as I was starting to hit my groove? The leg was over. However – I’m glad I wasn’t running Red or Yellow because it was 5:30pm and 80 degrees.

Red Loop
Buckeye Canyon Trail
1:38:41 (2014 — 2:07:01)

When I ran this in 2014, I fell more times during the Red Loop than I can count on two hands. I am notoriously a clumsy human being, so despite being armed with a solid headlamp I just couldn’t stay upright for the life of me. That being said, I was very cautious on this leg since I’d be tackling it in the dark at 10pm. I am pretty sure Ragnar only rates their legs based on the distance because the Red is by no means hard. Sure there was a decent amount of climbing (like where you were basically climbing rocks and wondering if you were still on the course or had made a wrong turn somewhere) but this leg was glorious. There were enough single-tracks sprinkled in where you could really stride it out and make up some time. When I came through transition at the end, I was on Cloud 9. This was the runner’s high I had been missing for many months. I was BACK.

Yellow Loop
Pipeline Hill Trail
1:11:25 (2014 — 1:36:32)

I stayed awake until 6am, taking teammates to/from the transition, downing coffee after coffee, and keeping track of our pace with a fancy clipboard (Type A’s dream come true) to make sure we were on track. I slept for mayyyybe 45 minutes before I gave up. It was super humid but the temperature was mid 60s and I felt simultaneously hot + freezing. Not exactly ideal sleeping conditions. I inhaled 4 pancakes with butter + syrup, pretending this was a good idea before my hardest leg, and took off at 8:30am to knock out the Yellow Loop.

Oh. This trail is not my favorite. It was a death march for me in 2014 and it didn’t take long into it this year before I remembered why. It’s almost four miles of climbing, and when it’s your third leg – it’s not fun. The view from the top is pretty though!

The last mile is almost completely downhill and while it’s tempting to haul ass down it, you still have to remember you’re on a trail and could potentially hit a hole or twist your ankle on a rock. I did remember seeing some decent paces on my Garmin during that mile but forced myself to reign it in so I didn’t faceplant.

Official Finish Time — 22:57:40
13th out of 75 in the Mixed Category
49th out of 218 Overall

2017 Grandma’s Marathon Race Recap

Grandmas - Run Superior

I didn’t grow up an athlete. Running was a sport I took up in 2010 for a one-and-done half marathon. At the seven year mark, I’ve now run four marathons, twenty-four half marathons, and more 5ks + 10ks than I can count on both hands. This past weekend I finished my fourth marathon with a 40-minute PR, and while it wasn’t the time I was hoping for, Grandma’s Marathon is hands-down my favorite race to date.

Race Morning

I’ve always struggled with eating breakfast in the morning before a race. I’m generally not hungry in the morning ever, so that coupled with minor race nerves usually results in me trying to eat something I have zero interest in. This has been completely fine for half marathons as of late, but I worried a couple bites of eggs and potatoes just weren’t going to cut it on Saturday.

Race Morning

Lora and I left our hotel in Canal Park just before 6am to catch the bus to the starting line in Two Harbors. We were both a little concerned with how calm we felt and the fact it didn’t feel like we were about to run 26.2 miles, but figured we should probably run (quite literally) with it. We arrived at the start around 7am leaving us with 45 minutes to kill. We immediately hopped in line for the portapotties which were super long but didn’t matter because, 45 minutes.

My main (C) goal for this race was to PR. It wouldn’t be hard, considering I was in much better shape than I was for my previous three, but the A goal was 4:45 and B goal was 4:59. The weather was not ideal, with temps creeping into the seventies and humidity at 95% from the minute we woke up. It was going to be a tough day, but these are variables you cannot control so you have to make the decision to either manage the conditions or let them ruin you. Running is a lot more mental than any of us care to admit.

Starting Line

Miles 1 – 8
10:38, 10:50, 10:57, 10:48, 10:42, 12:21, 10:55, 11:23

I wanted to start out slow, but thoughts of banking time filled my mind. I knew once the sun came out it was going to be a game changer. Unsurprisingly, the first mile was my fastest of the entire race but was still in the realm of where I wanted to be. I felt pretty solid through mile 8, taking my first Gu at the hour mark and a salt pill shortly after.

Miles 9 – 16
12:37, 10:38, 12:29, 11:42, 14:34, 13:12, 16:17, 11:31

Grandma’s will go down as the most sporadic splits in my racing history. At Mile 13, my body decided it was not interested in handling Gu. Apparently the sugar and my stomach were not getting along. Best news EVER with 13 miles to go and a mediocre breakfast under my belt. I took bathroom breaks at miles 13 and 15, and immediately felt better. Runners around me though? They were not doing so well. Everyone was walking and I watched so many struggle with cramps and nausea, some eventually dropping out. I could barely stomach my second Gu, but relied on salt pills (six total) through the rest of the race.

Miles 17 – 26.2
13:39, 12:30, 11:38, 14:13, 13:12, 15:07, 14:27, 12:14, 11:40, 11:27

These splits still make me laugh. I knew it was warm so I tried to be smart by walking when I needed to based on current heart rate and keeping the pace around 9:30/10:00 while running between breaks. My stomach was still a bit uneasy but it was manageable. I ate an orange at one point because I thought it was a good idea to consume some calories, but my stomach said NOPE. Legs still felt great, which is a complete 180 from every other marathon I’ve run. They didn’t need the walk breaks, but the last thing I wanted was to end up in a med tent because I pushed too hard.

Run Superior

Mile 22 is where Lemon Drop lives. Under normal circumstances, it’s a hill you’ll probably cruise up and then crush the downhill on the other side. But at mile 22 of a marathon, it’s the goddamn devil. The downhill afterwards still felt amazing and I passed a ton of a people.

We had arrived in downtown Duluth and the spectators were out in full force. It’s exactly what we needed at the end of the race. I was STARVING at this point which was the worst, but there was nothing I could do about it. Just before mile 25, I started to feel the rain and within seconds it was a torrential downpour. My sunglasses were covered in large raindrops but taking them off wasn’t an option. I figured the faster I finished, the faster I’d be out of the rain. So I kept the legs moving.

 

Grandmas Finish

Official Finish :: 5:26:04

Of course disappointment sets in when we set out with a lofty goal and don’t achieve it, but all things considered I’m incredibly happy with my finish time. I ran a smart race for once and my legs appreciate it. Two days after the race I was almost completely back to normal and could probably even run today (but won’t).

I always thought I’d be someone who needed a large marathon, with the camaraderie of fellow runners around me and spectators three rows deep. While Grandma’s doesn’t have the smallest field (roughly 9,000 full marathoners), crowd support through mile 20 was pretty sparse. HOWEVER! Those who made their way out to cheer along Highway 61? Super enthusiastic. Many cities loathe races shutting down their roads, but from Twin Harbors to Duluth, residents appeared to be overjoyed to support the insane runners who chose to run 26.2 miles for fun on a Saturday morning in June.

Canal Park

Overall

The course was gorgeous! I was worried running almost 19 miles along Lake Superior was going to be incredibly boring. It actually was very peaceful and the slight breeze coming off the lake was perfect. The left side of the course was a little more shaded, but it also made running the tangents pretty difficult. You have to pick your battle there. I loved finishing the end of the race in downtown Duluth, although could have done without the 4 turns in mile 25.

Lora and I ran the Great Grandma’s Challenge, which is a 5k on Friday night and the full marathon on Saturday morning. While this may seem delusional to 97% of the population, I LOVED it. We received a finisher’s shirt + medal for both the 5k + marathon, a hoodie for completing the challenge, a pair of Grandma’s Marathon socks, and a 1/4 zip tech shirt for registering early. From the start through mile 20, there were aid stations every 2 miles with water, Powerade, ice, and sponges soaked in cold water. After mile 20 the stations switched to every mile. I’ve never run a race with an ice station but good lord, I think dumping a cup of ice into my sports bra every couple miles saved me. I really wish warmer races (ahem, Houston) would do something similar because it would make all the difference. I don’t know how they kept it from melting, but the fact I could still grab it at mile 24 made me unbelievably grateful.

It’s really hard for me to fault Grandma’s Marathon for anything. The execution of everything was flawless from the moment we arrived at the expo on Friday afternoon to when we left the post-race Rock the Big Top party Saturday night. Honestly, I cannot wait to come back in 2018. Oh and yes, that’s happening – we already booked our hotel room.

 

 

 

 

2017 New Jersey Half Marathon Race Recap

NJ Marathon Expo.jpg

Over the past few months, I’ve had some of the highest mileage weeks since starting running seven years ago. My primary focus was to build a solid base for Grandma’s Marathon in June and there wasn’t a single speed or tempo workout on the plan. Despite not working on pace I was still determined to make a PR (<2:13) happen in New Jersey. My goals were:

(A) 2:08
(B) 2:10
(C) 2:12

Race Day

The plan was to see my family at the start, mile 3 or 4, mile 10, and the finish. We arrived at Monmouth Park by 7 and the race kicked off at 7:30 with Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” blaring from the corral speakers.

Miles 1 – 4 (9:37, 9:34, 9:47, 9:35)

For the past two weeks I had been trying to come up with a pace plan but aside from ‘run 10s for miles 1-4’ the rest was basically ‘just don’t fly and die’. My legs wanted to run 9:05/9:10 and every time I saw that on my watch, I slowed down to a 10. The result was four miles NOT at a 10min pace. My bad. Road closures (& my faster pace) were giving my family some difficulty, so they headed to a later mile to wait for me.

Miles 5 – 9 (9:41, 9:46, 9:44, 9:46, 9:41)

My sister texted to let me know they were at roughly mile 9 so I put my head down and counted down the miles until I would see those familiar faces. Mile 8 is where things have been unraveling in previous halves so I was conscious of this and didn’t let myself fall apart / give up on the possibility of a PR.

Mile 9.png

Miles 10 – 13.1 (10:11, 9:49, 9:41, 9:31)

This happens in EVERY.DAMN.RACE so I’m not even surprised, but getting a salt pill out of my FlipBelt was impossible while running. I knew I needed it so I forced myself to slow to a walk during mile 10 and sadly clocked my ONLY 10+ minute split of the entire race. So sad, could have been some beautiful splits. My legs were starting to feel the mileage at this point but with only a 5k to go, it was not the time to slow down. I saw my parents just before the finish which gave me the final boost I needed.

NJ Half - Finish - 2.jpg

NJ Half - Finish.jpg
Official Finish Time – 2:08

My splits were oddly consistent, with the last mile being the fastest. Not sure how I executed this (honestly, still in shock) but I’m so incredibly happy with that five-minute PR.

2017 Texas Independence Relay Race Recap :: Blood, Sweat & Beers

I’ve lost count of exactly how many relays I’ve run (6? 7?) but my favorite one is hands down the Texas Independence Relay. It begins in Gonzales where the Texas Revolution took place and ends at the San Jacinto Monument in Houston where Texas Independence was won. While most other relays have 36 legs, TIR has 40. Each team is made up of twelve runners, 8 of which run 3 legs and 4 who tackle 4 legs.

Ladies and gentleman, I present you with the certifiably insane members of Blood, Sweat & Beers:

We packed up the vans Friday night and left Austin around 5pm. We stopped in Moulton for dinner at Kloesel’s Steakhouse, hit up the Texas Independence Party and then headed to our hotel for a final night of sleep before the craziness would begin.

Race Day

Leg 4 – 5.38 miles

Before the first leg of every prior relay, my anxiety was always an all-time high. I have no idea why this happened but it was different this weekend. I was READY to run my ass off.

The 1pm handoff made for an extremely sunny run. It was almost entirely on dirt roads with rolling hills that just wouldn’t quit and annoying gravel which made you wonder at what point you’d twist an ankle.


After my first leg, I knew my next one wouldn’t be for awhile since it was Leg 24. Or so I thought. Steph quickly informed me that my next leg was actually 15. My bad. 

Leg 15 – 3.7 miles

This leg was pretty forgettable. It was 8:30pm, the sun finally had gone down and we were in the middle of BFE Texas. My Garmin even forgot about the run; when I finished it said I ran 0.01 miles. Nailed it.

Leg 24 – 4.75 miles

By far my FAVORITE (and fastest!) leg. It was a straight shot from Simonton to Fulshear so I was able to zone out and just run. It’s always a little creepy running in the middle of the night with only red blinky lights marking other runners in the distance. But night legs will always be my favorite! How my third leg was my fastest – I will never know. But I’m going to assume it had something to do with the Whataburger I had at 1am.

Leg 39 – 4.66 miles

I went into the weekend with only three legs, but after finishing my third I volunteered to pick up an additional one from anyone feeling not up to running their last leg. This seemed like a great idea at 4am, but once the sun came up I began second-guessing this decision. I think this photo displays exactly how pleased I was to be running on the surface of the sun that afternoon:

The only reason I survived this leg was because my badass vanmates stopped frequently to give me water to drink and dump on my head. It was SO hot, and the fact I was already so sunburned didn’t help my body temperature. Thankfully the last two miles had a killer breeze so that made me happy. Well, as happy as I could be coming up on almost 20 miles for the weekend.

And that’s a wrap on TIR 2017!

Relays are a different kind of beast. They test your endurance, your patience, and your ability to run (literally) on little to no sleep. You never want to stop pushing harder because this race isn’t about you – it’s about your team. Day 2 is a sufferfest (runners love pain, apparently) but everyone sucks it up and powers through. The encouragement and support you get from your teammates (and even other teams) is unrivaled. I always come out of relays incredibly inspired and this weekend was no different. Our team was made up of badass rockstar runners and I’m so glad they let me be a part of it. And also let me drink their beer 🙂

Our team captain Tony and Steph took care of every detail imaginable (and some we may never have thought of). As an extremely Type A person and one who usually takes control during relays, it was amazing to know we had absolutely nothing to worry about. I know how much work and planning goes into races of this magnitude – it’s no joke. So THANK YOU to Stony (celeb nickname FTW!) for making sure we were so well taken care of and set up for success during TIR!

And an immeasurable amount of gratitude goes out to Kalynn’s mom, Ginnie, for being the best race sherpa in all the land. She followed us around basically the entire weekend, snapping amazing photos (90% of the ones above), delivering Whataburger in the middle of the night, going on a much-needed beer run, and making Starbucks + kolaches magically appear Sunday morning when we were all in desperate need of a pick-me-up. She is pretty much our hero.

Hope to see everyone in 2018!


 

2017 Boneshaker Pace Bend 10k Race Recap

As is the case with a majority of my PRs, the 10k one has been collecting dust for six years. I can run a 5k any given weekend of the year but for some reason races of this distance are few and far between. So on Saturday I made the hour drive out to Spicewood to run some rolling hills around Lake Travis. Not entirely sure why I willingly keep running all of these hilly races but whatever, it is what it is.

This was the inaugural year for the Pace Bend 10k and it drew roughly 100 runners. Small crowd for sure but likely due to the fact it’s pretty far from Austin city limits. There was plenty of parking and from start to finish everything was really well organized.

Miles 1 (9:33) and 2 (9:50) were relatively uneventful. There were definitely rolling hills but they weren’t horrible. There also was a bit of a headwind which sucked but I tried to tuck in behind a tall guy pushing a stroller. Really, I enjoy being slower than people pushing their children. It’s great for the ego. Anyway, I was happy with these paces given the course I was working with.

And then mile 3 happened.

Oh, mile 3. You were a bitch. There was an extremely long gradual climb that wound around corners so just when you thought your quads were done burning, you were surprised with another hill to climb. Everyone around me was walking which was (1) motivation to keep moving + pass them but also (2) made me consider taking a short walk break. I gave myself a quick profanity-laced pep talk and decided to keep running. This unfortunately was still my slowest mile at 10:19.

It took a few minutes for my legs and lungs to recover from mile 3, but once I did? It was time to drop the pace. Miles 4 (9:24) and 5  (9:37) were much kinder to us, with a sweet downhill and several long flat stretches.

Mile 6 by some miracle was my fastest at 9:09. The finish was UPHILL and so goddamn rude. My previous PR was 1:01 so obviously anything under that I would have been okay with. HOWEVER. My 10k goal for 2017 was 59:xx. My pace felt so slow coming up that last hill and I knew it was going to be really freaking close.

Official Finish Time: 59:51

And with that, I can check another PR off of my list for the year! All I could think on the ride home was “what if I had been on an easier course?” and wondered if I could chip away at that PR a little bit more. Not even 30 minutes after crossing the finish line and I was already wanting more. Runners are a crazy breed.

 

Wake Me Up When It’s All Over

Alternate Titles:

  • Official Confirmation – I was Delusional
  • 2017 Mercedes Half Marathon Race Recap

Yes, I was a little overzealous in assuming I could pull out a PR on tough course in less than ideal conditions. I knew halfway through mile 1 when my 9:30 pace felt like an all-out sprint that, today? Was not a PR day. It was a “Please God let me survive this” day.

Rachel and I were 110% not interested in running this race when the alarm went off at 4:15. We were completely on board with going back to sleep but by some miracle we got out of bed. MIRACLE. We made it downtown around 6:45, which gave us the perfect amount of time to stroll to the start, jump in our corral and not have to wait around for too long before the race kicked off at 7:03.

Miles 1-3

As mentioned above, mile 1 was when the 93% humidity smacked me in the face and brought me back down to reality. Rachel, Erin, and I all started together but I dropped back during the first mile because I knew I needed to slow down. I made the decision early on to walk through every water stop to both drink and dump a cup of water on myself to stay cool.

Miles 4-9

I came up on Rachel around mile 6 and she did NOT look happy. We ran together for about a mile and then parted ways again. The hills in this race were no joke but to be honest, they weren’t as bad as expected. They were long and gradual, but had a beautiful downhill on the other side. My legs welcomed the changed in elevation since it gave me a chance to vary muscle groups. Side note: if you had told me two years ago I’d be happy about rolling freaking hills during a half marathon, I’d laugh in your face.

Miles 10-13.1

I didn’t have anything concrete in ways of goals but basically it was (A) PR (B) 2:15 (C) 2:20 (D) 2:25. Aside from the PR at 3M, my second fastest time in recent years was 2:25 so I just wanted to come in under that. This race FLEW by (why can’t they all be like that?!) and I cruised into the finish at 2:22. Incredibly happy with this time considering how warm, windy, and hilly the course was.  The course support was great and it was fun to race somewhere new!

I felt stronger in the final 3 miles of Mercedes than the final 3 of 3M. Likely because of not pushing the pace as hard, but 3M is a MUCH easier course than Mercedes and I should have been dying.

The post-race party was pretty awesome. You had your choice of a BBQ pork or turkey sandwich from a local BBQ restaurant, Jim ‘n Nick’s, with coleslaw, chips and a fruit cup. I could have done without the slaw/fruit, but those salty chips hit the spot. Local brewery Good People set up shop in the auditorium, serving complimentary Bearded Lady + Urban Farmer beers. We didn’t hate it. Nick Saban made an appearance on stage before the overall + AG awards were given out.

We got back to the house around noon and broke out the champagne for celebratory mimosas. Rachel napped while Erin + I crushed an entire pizza in record time.

Thoughts on Running

I talked about this a bit in previous posts, but over the past year my running has taken a turn in an extremely positive direction. From 2012-2015, running was a chore. It went from something I did for myself, to something I did with my significant other. Don’t get me wrong; it was nice for awhile. But having to share a hobby with someone else who didn’t enjoy it as much as I did took a lot of the appeal away. I’m glad I’ve come full circle and it’s become something I truly enjoy again. So much so that I may be running two full marathons this year.  More on that later once I pull the trigger on registration.

While Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness” was a song I’d play endlessly on repeat while running in 2016, this year it’s Aviccii’s “Wake Me Up”. It reminds me how far I’ve come in the past couple years, which makes me really happy.

“So wake me up when it’s all over, when I’m wiser and I’m older. All this time I was finding myself, and I didn’t know I was lost.”

3M Half Marathon 2017 Race Recap

I’ve been sitting on this half marathon PR (2:14) for five years now. FIVE!! To be honest, I’m still not sure how it happened in 2012 because I never trained for the paces I ran in that race. The only explanation is I was coming off of a strong marathon training cycle and in somewhat decent shape.

In the past year, I’ve run 3M Half (2:25), Austin Half (2:41), Best Damn Race Orlando (2:30), NYC Half (2:27), and Rock n Roll Las Vegas (2:27). The only one I intended on potentially PRing at was Vegas and it was really adorable I thought I could drop some fast miles while in Sin City. And by adorable I mean dumb – very dumb.

So I set my sights on 3M this year. It’s a fast course, but just like the last five times I’ve run it – training fell off during the holidays. Before Sunday’s race the last time I had logged any miles was December 26th. SMART. Thankfully my obsession with spin classes kept my endurance up.

Race Day

The weather was a little warm for my liking (around 60) and there were some lovely 30mph winds (NOT at our backs) which made running pretty goddamn difficult. But in any case, I decided to just wing it and see how I felt.

Miles 1-4 :: 9:52, 9:26, 9:42, 9:42

I really had no business running this fast this early in the race but it was comfortable so I went with it. I started doing the math after mile 4 clicked by and thought maybe by some sort of miracle I could break 2:10.

Miles 5-8 :: 9:40, 9:55, 9:44, 10:21

When I hit the 10k mark I realized I broke my 10k PR and had two thoughts: (1) I really need to run a 10k soon and (2) Melissa you’re probably going too fast, don’t die. I was taking water at every stop but when it came time to take a gel I couldn’t get it out of my FlipBelt. I knew if I stopped to figure out where the hell it was hiding I’d likely lose momentum. Around mile 8 they were handing out Clif gels on the course so I grabbed one from a volunteer. I wanted to take a salt pill at this point but again couldn’t get it out of my belt. I pulled over, untwisted the FlipBelt and dug one out. I think I lost ~45 seconds here and logged my first mile with a 10 in front of it. Shit.

Miles 9-13 :: 10:09, 11:01, 10:35, 10:29, 10:46

Annnd the wheels fell off. Despite the course being mostly downhill, there are a few hills in the later miles that feel a lot steeper than they actually are. At mile 10 the 2:10 pacer passed me and I started to mentally give up. I busted out the math again, trying to see if there was even a slight chance of eeking out a PR. The sad, soul-crushing truth: it would be goddamn close.  My quads were dying, my arches were pissed, and the wind was still being a little bitch. I legitimately thought I was going to blow away while running behind the UT football stadium.

Rounding the corner heading to the Capitol building I realized I had less than a minute to get to the finish if I wanted to PR. Less than a minute with dead legs. NBD. But I somehow found another gear, kept pushing, and crossed the mat in 2:13:37.

Do I think there’s a faster time in me? Yep I sure do. But am I happy with this time? Yep I sure am. I have the Mercedes Half Marathon coming up in three weeks but have zero expectations to PR. There are a fair amount of hills and with my luck it’ll be summer by then in Alabama. So this spring I’m going to work on the 10k + 10 mile distances, and hopefully knock out a faster 13.1 in the fall.

Onward + upward!

 

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.

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!