2013 LIVESTRONG Austin Half Marathon Race Recap

Yesterday morning I ran my third LIVESTRONG Austin Half Marathon.

2013-02-17_06-34-25_625

2013-02-17_06-36-05_72

IMG_20130217_063720

2013-02-17_06-39-17_470

IMG_20130217_064026

2013-02-17_06-50-22_330

223I’m going to end up buying this one once all the photos have been uploaded, so don’t get upset that I borrowed it, MarathonFoto.

2013-02-17_06-50-55_82

2013-02-17_07-07-34_363

2013-02-17_07-07-38_569

2013-02-17_07-07-45_611

2013-02-17_07-12-23_183

2013-02-17_07-17-40_607

While 3M may be my favorite race in town to really race, LIVESTRONG Austin is my favorite race to run. It starts just north of the Capitol building, runs south on Congress past many amazing restaurants + bars before turning to come back into the city on South First, heads west on Cesar Chavez to Mopac and then takes 15th Street back east to end up finishing just south of the Capitol building. It’s an awesome way to see this amazing city!

LIVESTRONG Austin Half Marathon Course

The course isn’t flat or fast, in fact, it’s pretty damn tough. Rolling hills miles 1-3, uphill miles 3-6, downhill 6-9, uphill 10-11.5, a little downhill followed by a hill that will make you cry at mile 12, a little downhill to recover and then back up the San Jacinto hill to the finish.

LIVESTRONG Austin Half Marathon Elevation

The weather was absolutely perfect yesterday – 42 at the start and roughly 55 at the finish, with beautiful blue skies and bright sunshine.

Miles 2-6

2013-02-17_07-46-56_188

2013-02-17_07-50-15_851

2013-02-17_07-50-17_872

2013-02-17_07-50-26_991

2013-02-17_07-58-41_644

2013-02-17_08-18-35_254

Miles 6-9

2013-02-17_08-43-32_315

2013-02-17_08-43-35_723

2013-02-17_08-51-46_826

2013-02-17_08-59-20_582

2013-02-17_09-04-23_576

2013-02-17_09-09-37_959

2013-02-17_09-12-01_520

2013-02-17_09-14-33_167

2013-02-17_09-14-58_937

2013-02-17_09-15-05_478

2013-02-17_09-15-38_333

2013-02-17_09-18-17_427

2013-02-17_09-18-53_858

2013-02-17_09-21-07_167

2013-02-17_09-21-53_682

2013-02-17_09-23-36_237

2013-02-17_09-33-16_17

Miles 9-12

2013-02-17_09-42-23_457

2013-02-17_09-54-11_953

2013-02-17_10-01-05_982

2013-02-17_10-03-46_517

2013-02-17_10-12-46_431

Mile 12 (where “The Hill” lives) – Finish

2013-02-17_10-16-03_679

2013-02-17_10-18-10_88

2013-02-17_10-19-07_98

From my 2011 recap:

Austin Half Marathon Enfield Hill

2013-02-17_10-19-17_383

What I thought of the Enfield Hill:

Austin Mile 12 2

2013-02-17_10-31-30_466

Austin Mile 12

Austin Finish 2

2013-02-17_10-41-59_56

And, DONE!

DSCN0576

Austin Finish

IMG_20130217_114753

Overall, I highly recommend this race, whether it be the half or the full. It might not be your goal race for the year or a super speedy PR-producing course, but I can promise you will NOT be disappointed. Everything from the expo to the finish line is incredibly organized and well executed. There may be hills but the course is scenic so there’s a lot to keep your mind off of the elevation side of things.

Never been to Austin? Sign up for the race, book a hotel downtown, and take in all this great city has to offer. You will eat the best food you’ve ever had in your life while you’re here. Yes, IN YOUR LIFE. No exaggeration. You’ll fall head over heels for the Live Music Capital of the World – I guarantee it!


The finish line of the LIVESTRONG Austin Half Marathon also marked the end of the Austin Distance Challenge. Brad and I covered 61.7 miles worth of races between October and yesterday, side by side, stride for stride. (I still feel bad that his first half marathon was Decker. Yikes!)

2013-02-17_10-57-23_881

If Brad thinks he’s going to hide four chocolate chip cookies behind his back in the picture and not get caught, he’s clearly mistaken. Busted.

I loved every minute and mile covered together over the past few months. I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish in the future!

2013 Rogue 30K & 10K Race Recap

The Rogue Running 30K & 10K was race #5 in the Austin Distance Challenge and 2013 is the first year it’s being held up in Cedar Park. I was really looking forward to this race, but unfortunately it was disappointing in a couple areas. Let’s back it up to packet pickup…

Brad stopped into the north location of Rogue Running to pick up our packets for the race. Each runner received a long-sleeved tech shirt, throwaway gloves, a ticket to a minor league hockey game, and discount card for a local men’s grooming center.

DSCN0367

The shirt was a little short, which tends to be the case with 90% of the tech shirts I get. While I appreciated the fact it wasn’t white, I noticed others tweeting & instagramming photos of blue women’s shirts. There wasn’t an option on color at pickup, only black was available, so I though that was strange. On race morning there were quite a few women wearing the blue shirt as well. Not a huge deal, just curious why some were different.

Also, when we registered for the race there was a list of things every runner would receive, including running gloves and a Rogue Running pint glass. I thought this made the $45 race entry fee a great value. The running gloves actually ended up being throwaway gloves, and that pint glass? No one seemed to know anything about it when I asked at the Rogue tent at the finish. Everyone looked at me like I was crazy. Eventually a woman walked up and told me they had pulled it down from the website recently and no one would be receiving them. Interesting.

The starting line was at Cedar Park High School and parking was pretty efficient. The 30K was scheduled to start at 7am so we made sure to be at the school and parked by 6:30. We met up with Jeanette and Trinity, hit the restrooms (indoors! awesome perk of having the start at a high school!) and waited around until our race started at 7:20.

2013-01-27_07-14-59_646

I’m not sure what the cap on the 10K was. It started at 400, but Rogue eventually opened up more spots (an unspecified amount) after it sold out. Either way, the course was never crowded.

2013-01-27_07-17-56_646

The 30K runners started twenty minutes before us and ran a different course. The 10K had a simple out-and-back through a residential area. Rogue 10K Course

Less than a mile into the race I heard a car horn behind me. A quick glance over my shoulder and I saw a long stream of cars waiting for the runners to move so they could get through. Um, what?

2013-01-27_07-42-29_134

Cars in the middle, runners on both sides. I could understand if we had a lane blocked off with cones, but it worried me a bit that we were sharing the road with the cars. Not exactly the safest situation.

2013-01-27_07-42-35_369

Brad and I moved over to the right and continued running.

Rogue30K-10K Mile 1#-334

While I had stopped to take some photos both Jeanette and Trinity had passed us so after the turnaround I made sure to snap a few action shots of them:

2013-01-27_07-57-03_118

2013-01-27_07-57-04_554

Here comes Jeanette!

2013-01-27_08-00-55_345

2013-01-27_08-01-00_281

As you can tell, the course wasn’t much to write home about. After the turnaround, the race was pretty uneventful.

Rogue30K-10K Mile 5#-762

Rogue30K-10KFinish-538

2013-01-27_08-54-42_620Once we crossed the finish line we headed straight to the Distance Challenge VIP tent to meet up with Jeanette & Trinity. And grab breakfast tacos + homemade chocolate chip cookies. Priorities. I’m going to miss these VIP tents after the Distance Challenge is over!

2013-01-27_08-48-56_348

On our walk back to the car we realized the first 30K finisher was about to cross so we ran back to cheer him on!

2013-01-27_08-55-34_390

Overall, it was a pretty good race. I was disappointed with the “running gloves” and the pint glass that wasn’t, but I guess you could say those were petty things. The traffic issue was my main complaint and think it’s a pretty valid one. If you’re not going to close the road completely to cars, at least block off a lane with cones so the runners feel a little bit safer. Still a little confused by the whole thing considering this isn’t the first race Rogue has sponsored. I’m willing to chalk it up to growing pains for the new location of the race (previously it was held in two different areas down south) and if they’re ironed out for 2014, I’d definitely return. It’s a pretty fast course so PRs are possible!

DSCN0374

Another race in the books for the Austin Distance Challenge. One more to go – the Austin Half Marathon!

DSCN0464

2013 3M Half Marathon Race Recap

Austin’s 3M Half Marathon is one of my favorite races and I couldn’t think of a better way to kick off racing in 2013. I mean, with an elevation chart like this, how could you go wrong?3M Half Marathon Elevation ChartThe temps on race morning were 35-40ish. Race start was scheduled for 6:45am, so we were parked by 6:25 and made the short (windy!) walk to the race site shortly after. It really wouldn’t have felt cold that morning – the weather was actually PERFECT – but the wind made it worse than it actually was.

3M Pre-Race with Paulaphoto courtesy of Paula

We dropped speedy Paula off near the 2:10 pacer and headed to the back of the line where we’d be able to settle in to our “fun run” pace.

3M Pre-Race with Bradphoto courtesy of Paula

We had absolutely no time goals for this race (although secretly I wanted to get Brad in under 3 hrs, which would be ~30 minute PR) and since it was only his second half marathon, we were planning to just run and have fun.

616762_10151311913399192_1441024388_o

from the 3M Half Marathon Facebook Page

3M Half Marathon Course Map

3M is a point-to-point race. It starts in North Austin at the Arboretum, right in front of NXNW Restaurant on Stonelake Boulevard, and runs south through Shoal Creek, along Mopac, past the University of Texas, and finishes just north of the State Capitol.

It’s by no means a scenic course, but the elevation more than makes up for it. The first nine miles are “mostly” downhill. I say mostly because there are a few minor uphills but you hardly feel them. The elevation map 3M provides is a little bit different than the one from my Garmin:

image

For the most part, the course was exactly the same as last year. Except for one thing:

3M Half Marathon Course 2012 vs 2013

In 2012, 3M was held on the last weekend of January. This year, it was held on January 13, which happened to fall on move-in weekend for the University of Texas. Rather than continuing down Duval and running through campus as usual, we made a left onto 26th, right on Red River, and then a right on MLK to take us back towards the finish line. Unfortunately, this added an unwelcomed hill around mile 11. If there was a spot we struggled, it was certainly during this stretch. My legs were pretty fatigued once we made the turn onto Red River and the downhill didn’t feel as easy as it should have.

Paula finished quite a bit before us (you need to read the speed demon’s race recap) so she stationed herself near the finish where she could see us come in.

DSCN0069

DSCN0070

DSCN0071

We managed to sneak in under 3 hours, landing Brad a new PR!

And I’m borrowing this one from MarathonFoto in all it’s watermarked glory because I like it but not will-pay-$34.95-for-it like it.3M Half Marathon Finisher Photo

And then a non-stolen photo (unless you count me jacking it from Paula) of her and I before brunch:

DSCN0075

And the standard post-race shot with fellow Austin Distance Challenge runners, Jeanette & Trinity:

IMG_20130113_105331

Yet again 3M put on a great race! With roughly 7,000 runners, it’s the perfect size – not too small, not too large. The race start is self-seeded and everyone seemed to line up accordingly. Water stops were well-stocked and had plenty of volunteers. APD did a great job of blocking off the streets and rerouting traffic so we could get our 13.1 miles in that morning. We waited less than 5 minutes to hop on a shuttle back up north to grab our cars, so that process was efficient as well. Absolutely no complaints from us!

DSCN0358

If you’re looking for a January race which pretty much guarantees you a fast finish & PR, the 3M Half Marathon is one worth looking into! Registration opens June 1st for next year’s race, which will be held on January 19, 2014.

2011 3M Half Marathon Race Recap

2012 3M Half Marathon Race Recap

2012 ARC Decker Challenge 1/2 Marathon Race Recap

December 9, 2012 marked three weeks post-marathon.

It was the morning of half marathon #10.

But most importantly: it was half marathon #1 for Brad. Shortly after running the IBM 10K in October, we discussed the possibility of him joining me for the Austin Distance Challenge. The furthest he had ever run was 10 miles, so the thought of three half marathons looming on the horizon made the decision difficult. After some convincing on my part (and mayyyybe a text that said “it’s definitely a possibility” interpreted as “sign me up”) I was registering him for both the Run for the Water 10-miler and the Austin Distance Challenge.

I then came to the realization that half marathon #10 was no longer going to be 3M as planned – it was going to be the next race in the ADC: the Decker Challenge.

Decker Challenge 2012

From the race’s website:

The Decker Challenge course covers 13.1 miles of rural roadway on and surrounding the Travis County Expo Center grounds. The course is USATF certified. Be prepared for rolling hills for the first half of the race, followed by several steady downhill miles at miles 7 and 8. Large hills at the end of Mile 8 and Mile 10 are the highlights (or lowlights, depending on your perspective) of the tough final 5 miles.

death-march

I’ve been avoiding this race pretty much since I started running. The hills that surround Decker Lake are no joke. Mile 10 is dubbed “Quadzilla”. Due to the location, course support is pretty much nonexistent. But since it’s race #3 of the distance challenge, there’s no avoiding it.

It was a December morning that felt like June. What should have been a frigid 40 degrees with a biting wind was actually 71 degrees with 84% humidity and a warm breeze. Not exactly “winter” here in Austin.

The car was exceptionally quiet on the 30 minute drive to the race Sunday morning. I think Brad was still trying to wrap his head around the fact that he was about to run 13.1 miles. I was tweeting and constantly refreshing the Weather Channel app in hopes that the forecast was some sort of joke. (It wasn’t)

Decker Challenge Half Marathon Weather

We arrived around 7:35, which was just enough time for a bathroom stop before we jumped in line at the start. An elite runner who was announcing the start of the race commented how happy she was to only be running the 5K. Um, NOT something you want to broadcast to a sea of half-marathoners. She might as well have said “Look at you morons running 13.1 miles. I’ll be done with my race before you even hit mile 2!”

I pumped positive thoughts as best I could into Brad’s head. You’ll be fine. You’ve run 10, it’s only 3 more. I’ll be right next to you the whole time. You’ve got this! I had two goals for this race: (1) no time goal – just finish and (2) make sure Brad doesn’t hate me (or running) when he’s finished. It wasn’t a PR day; it was a day to get Brad across the finish line of his first half marathon.

DCIM\101GOPROThe horn blew and we were off! A quarter-mile into the race we were already sweating. ALREADY. The humidity just would not break. We were super thankful for the Nuun (Tropical for him + Orange for me) in our handhelds. Right before the Mile 1 marker, we took our first walk break. I had thought about running 3:1 intervals but decided we should just walk the mountains, and run the downhill/straightaways. Unfortunately, there were more mountains than anything else so I knew early on that our finish time wouldn’t be the speediest. (see goal #1)

Decker Challenge Half Marathon Course

We made a few friends along the way, chatting it up with fellow runners. I received countless compliments on my Pro Compression Holiday Marathon socks! One runner even commented: “I’ve been chasing you and your candy cane socks the entire race – you kept me moving!”

Here’s what we were up against:

Decker Challenge Half Marathon Elevation Chart

It’s safe to say we did NOT like this race. 99% sure that our first time running the Decker Challenge will also be the last. Brad let out a “F*CK THIS RACE” at mile 12. I assured him not all races are like this and that 3M will be a dream in comparison!

Once we came around the bend to head towards the finish, we began to pick up the pace. The announcer boomed over the loudspeaker “This guy coming into the chute now, I saw him before the race. Wearing a BOSTON RED SOX hat. I thought to myself, I have a friend here.” Brad and I started laughing.

As we got closer to the finish line, Brad grabbed my hand and we threw our arms in the air as the announcer called out our names “Coming across now is Brad Sawyer and Melissa Carlson, way to finish it together! Congratulations!”

Decker Challenge Medal

The Decker Challenge was a PW (personal worst) for me but the finish time stamped on this race means absolutely nothing to me. Brad and I conquered 13.1 miles of hills in less than ideal weather, side by side. We crossed the finish line TOGETHER. And that’s all that matters to me.

256208_10100234765864455_89028065_o

2012 Philadelphia Marathon Race Recap

IMG_0237

It’s hard to believe last weekend I completed my second marathon. It wasn’t the picture-perfect race I envisioned, where I’d cross the finish line with a huge PR feeling like a million bucks. In fact, if you can believe it, I actually finished slower than my first marathon. My training runs weren’t as fast as I’d hoped. Work was kicking my ass in the weeks leading up to the race, leaving me drained and wanting nothing but to be in bed as early as possible. I abandoned all pace goals for Philly and decided to simply focus on finishing. Also, on the Tuesday before the race I came down with a sore throat, cough, and a cold. Of course I did. I armed myself with Vitamin C, cough drops, and enough meds for an army in an attempt to stop the illness in its tracks. Unfortunately, the illness carried right through race day.


Sunday morning Brad and I met up with Shannon, Ashley, Ritsa, and Kara in the lobby of my hotel. I was oddly calm despite the fact I was about to, you know, run a marathon.

62221_10100844290282570_122868070_n

We made the mile trek to the start line, talking about the race and trying to keep warm. Once we arrived at Eakins Oval in front of the Art Museum it started to feel a little bit more real. Ritsa and Kara were running the half, Shannon and I were running the full, Ashley had plans to be the World’s Best Spectator (and she was!)

pm1

Ashley, Shannon and I

pm4

And my race shirt:

215941_10100844290307520_1574329381_n

The race officially started at 7am but since our corral was a little further back, we didn’t cross the starting line until nearly 7:30. The first few miles were fairly congested but once everyone settled into their pace it seemed to space out a bit. I was fueling with Honey Stinger chews, which I had used religiously throughout training. Unfortunately that morning my stomach decided it didn’t like them. I knew there would be Clif Shots in the later miles but it wouldn’t have been smart to go without until that point. So every 30 minutes I ate 2-3 chews.

Around mile 7 (after several miles of trying to talk myself out of it) (and pleading with Shannon not to kill me for having to stop) I decided to make a pitstop. The portopotty lines were ridiculously long so I took my chances on a Starbucks bathroom. Thankfully the women already in line ushered me to the front since they knew I had a race to get back to – so nice of them! Shannon and I were on our way very quickly afterwards.

My stomach felt a bit better but my legs were already feeling heavy. Great feeling to have when you aren’t even halfway into your race. My walk breaks became more frequent and I continued fueling as planned, hoping the sugar & carbs would keep me moving. Shannon was trucking along in front of me, killing it – feeling GREAT! I was so proud of her. I felt like I was holding her back but she insisted she wasn’t going to leave me. So thankful for her – she definitely saved me.

As we neared the halfway point, I heard the crowds cheering. Half-marathoners filtered out as they made their way to the finish. I really hated how close we had to run to the finish line. But not as much as I hated the miles I was about to run…

Miles 13-17 were hard, but I was going to see my family at mile 17 so that kept me moving. Shannon was still a bit in front of me, basically my carrot, pulling me through the miles. On a walk break, I texted Brad to let him know I wanted him to jump in at mile 17. Shannon and I discussed that she was going to push ahead and meet a friend at mile 20, and then we’d meet back up again at mile 23. I was so happy that she was going to run ahead because she was doing SO well – she needed to keep going and not worry about me.

The graceful water bottle swap for fresh Nuun at mile 17:

IMG_0203

Why yes, I DID wear sparkly leg warmers.

Brad handed his jacket to my parents and jumped in with me to tackle a few miles.

IMG_0206

IMG_0207

Brad was smiling. I’m pretty sure I was not.

IMG_0208

Had I done a bit more thorough research on the course for Philly, I would have noticed miles 13-26 were an out-and-back. I absolutely LOATHE out-and-backs.

out and back

When you’re heading out at mile 13, watching runners hauling ass to the finish near mile 26 is brutal. And then you continue to watch those faster runners all the way to the turnaround in Manayunk. So tough. Mentally it tore me apart. Thankfully I had Brad with me, who listened as I rehashed the first half of the race. Around mile 21 I realized my phone was vibrating. I had a text from Shannon, saying she couldn’t stop at 23 or she might not be able to finish the race. I completely understood (I even mentioned to Brad a few miles back that I wasn’t sure how she was going to stop and wait for me, because it would be tough to start running again) and wished her luck. Go check out her race recap – she did amazing!!

I was going to drop Brad back off at mile 22 with my parents but he offered to stick with me until 23 and then I’d fly solo to the finish.IMG_0209

Could have been a good shot, if Brad wasn’t blocking my face.

IMG_0210

I was trying to fuel but my stomach didn’t want the Honey Stinger chews and it wasn’t a fan of the Clif Shots either. I tried sipping Gatorade instead of Nuun at water stops for the extra calories but (unsurprisingly) my stomach couldn’t handle the way-too-sweet Gatorade. I’m pretty sure miles 20-26 were 90% walking and 10% running shuffling. Every time I tried to run, I could hardly lift my legs off the ground. I had hit the wall at mile 18 (WAY too early) and every step after that was a struggle.

The last three miles were quiet, lonely, cold, and LONG (18:21, 19:51, 20:23 – NOT an exaggeration). I wanted so badly to be done, to see the finish line, to sit down. Once I came up on mile 26, I saw Shannon + her boyfriend, Ashley, and Kara screaming their heads off for me. They gave me the push I needed to start running again. Ashley jumped in with me for a minute, telling me to keep running and haul ass to the finish. So I did. Heel strike and all.

pm2

yup, didn’t buy that photo. stolen.

I got my medal, a heat sheet, and quickly made my way out of the finisher’s chute.

I’ve never been so happy to finish a race.

pm3

It wasn’t the race I hoped for – not even close. I’ve decided I’m going to hang up my 26.2 shoes for awhile. Ideally until 2014, but knowing myself I probably won’t be able to hold off for that long. I want to not dread 3+ hour training runs. I want to focus on running faster in shorter distances. I want to PR in the 10K and half marathon. I’ll certainly have plenty of chances in the spring: 3M, Austin, and ZOOMA.

I don’t want to run races to finish. I want to give them my all – leave everything I’ve got out on the course.

My calendar is full of races and I’m ready to put in the work. I’m ready to push hard. I’m ready to dig deep and run strong.

I’m ready to RUN.

Better than a PR

Saturday morning I willingly popped up out of bed at 6:25 and got dressed to run. This hasn’t happen since, oh I don’t know, maybe April? I was quite enjoying my lazy weekends “sleeping in” until 8am and spending quality time with my couch. After a solid nine months of early morning training runs, I needed that break.

Unfortunately now that I’m ready to start running as the sun rises, Texas is transitioning into summer. This means 4:30-5:00am wakeup calls, 80 degrees/100% humidity at the beginning of my run, and hydrating like my life depends on it. Wait, why am I training for a fall marathon again? Oh, for the fantastic food, delicious cocktails and the glory of nailing that 26.2 PR on my 2012 Goals list.

Philadelphia Marathon

Anyway, back to the story…

Saturday morning I got dressed and pulled on my Mizunos (what a decision this was, choosing a pair of shoes to wear), but I wasn’t alone. Brad was getting ready also. We were about to run our first 5K race together. This isn’t the first race we’ve done side by side, but it was the first where he had been running with me on a fairly regular basis AND where he had proper running shoes. A few weeks ago we went to a local running store and had him fitted for an obnoxiously bright pair of Green Lantern Saucony Ride 4s.

Saucony Ride 4

We met up with my friend Leslie and her boss and headed north to Georgetown to run Vern’s No Frills 5K at Berry Springs Park.

Verns No Frills 5K

Leslie and I had run it back in January and we both really enjoyed it. Hard to beat a monthly 5K race for only $1! All proceeds go to back to the park, which is pretty cool. It really is a “no frills” race but an awesome one nonetheless.

It was a warm and humid morning surprise surprise so Brad and I started slow, running 3:1 intervals and getting our legs loosened up. The first mile was pretty slow but once we found our stride, our pace quickened and we were cruising. This is seriously a dream come true for me, to be running with my boyfriend and have him actually enjoy it. He even mentioned to me the other day “I like that we’re doing stuff together and getting out of the house at the same time. I’m really warming up to running” Cue my happy dance.

Near the end of the final mile we decided to ignore the beep of my Garmin and continue running. Once the finish was in sight we picked up the pace and kicked it into high gear, crossing the finish line in 36:01. It wasn’t my slowest race, nor was it my fastest. That’s not what was important that morning.

I crossed the finish line with my boyfriend, who is not a runner, but slowly warming up to the sport.

And that is much better than a PR.

2012 Texas Spartan Sprint Race Recap

Back in March I took advantage of a sweet deal on the Texas Spartan Sprint at Reveille Peak Ranch out in Burnet, Texas. Last weekend, the race pushed both Brad and I to our physical and mental limits.

1337536726251

Parking was in a huge dirt field and a “shuttle” took you out to the race site:

305675_10100101487205955_1294994846_n

485795_10100101487270825_1862176155_n

575104_10100101487290785_33409352_39398143_295749624_n

The race let a group of 300 Spartan-to-bes go in 30 minute increments, starting at 9am. Our heat wasn’t until 2:30pm so by the time we arrived at packet pickup, the event was in full swing.

536420_10100101487470425_33409352_39398149_2136025794_n

545093_10100101488353655_33409352_39398178_385911236_n

We dropped our bag off at bag check and then posted up at the barbed wire / finish line gladiators to see what exactly we were up against.

317979_10100101488483395_33409352_39398183_1101093388_n

546018_10100101487635095_33409352_39398154_1442891180_n

It was just over 80 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. The weather was perfect for say, a few beers by the pool or a day out on the boat on Lake Travis. It was not, however, perfect for the journey we were about to embark on.

485751_10100101487994375_33409352_39398166_244655820_n

Around quarter after two we headed to the starting line, where a crowd of people were already waiting. Although I had marked my forehead (and arm, calf, and both hands) with my bib number, I decided to cover it up with a bandana to keep the sweat and my hair out of my face.

The announcer told us to keep our eyes peeled for tarantulas and rattlesnakes, both of which were spotted on the race course on Friday. Um, what? (We didn’t end up seeing any, but heard rustling in the high grass along the dirt trail pretty much the whole time).

After an “I am Spartan” chant, our adventure began! The way the course was set up near the finish, we were under the impression we would run the 3 miles, and then hit all of the obstacles leading up to the finish. This was not the case.

Side note: when we registered for the race, it was being advertised as 3+ miles. When the Participant Guide came out during race week, it was advertised as 4+ miles. Per one of the race officials, the final official mileage was 5.8 miles. Just a heads up…

We started off climbing a steep hill on the trail and after our hearts were pumping hard and we were drenched in sweat, the obstacles appeared. The first one was a set of walls “under the first, over the next, under the next, etc” which were fairly easy. This was the only set of walls I was able to conquer on my own because of the height. Thank god for Brad, who I was able to use as a stepstool and/or personal launcher over the walls, especially the final few which were 8 feet tall.

Most of the obstacles throughout the first few miles were climbing walls and beams:

spartan race 13

We also hit monkey bars (which I fell off of, resulting in the need to do 30 burpees. oy), ten stumps of different heights which you had to walk across without falling, a cargo net

spartan race11
cinderblock hauling (which I carried on my shoulder, as did Brad)

spartan race 14

crawling under barbed wire

spartan race 16

and through a PVC pipe a couple hundred yards long

spartan race 17

cinderblock lifting

spartan race 15

wading through countless creeks

spartan race 12

including one where we had to climb over a set of buoys, under another set, and over the final set. There was someone helping people over the final set and he let me know there was a rock to step on after I made it over. Unfortunately my foot missed the rock, but my lower leg became best friends with it – resulting in a golfball sized lump and a beautiful bruise on my shin.

It’s worth noting that after we hit the first set of obstacles, we pretty much stopped running. It was hot and we decided it would be best to keep it slow and steady in order to finish in one piece. By the time we hit the final obstacles, we were SO happy with our decision. If we had hit it hard, we would have been totally gassed.

This wall (well, the one on the race course – this particular one was at the start for people to practice on) crushed me:

534304_10100101487834695_1091767818_n

Basically you started at one end and make your way to the other side without falling off. Well, when you have T-Rex arms like me, it’s very difficult. My midget legs weren’t much help either. I ended up using the top of the wall instead of the pegs until about halfway when I couldn’t reach my foot to the next peg and called it quits. And by quits I mean I went off to the side to knock out my 30 burpees for missing an obstacle. Ugh. This wall also tore up my hands, blessing me with glorious blisters that would hinder my progress in all rope obstacles to come.

We then had to carry a sandbag uphill about a hundred yards and back. It felt like a mile at this point. I alternated between carrying it on my shoulder and my head. Following the sandbag carry (or maybe before? memory is a little hazy) were 5 muddy, slippery hills, with 3-ft mud pits in between each one. Basically scale up the hill, slide down the other side into the pool, scale up the hill, slide down, etc. This wasn’t too terrible, mainly because the mud bath was oddly refreshing due to the sun beating down on us. Gross but true.

We were FINALLY in the home stretch! It was time for the tractor tire flip. Each tire was on a peg, and you needed to flip it twice (off the peg, on the peg, off, on). Then another mud hill, followed by a mud bath, and then a rope climb.

spartan race10

I tried wrapping the bandana around my blistered hand but it kept slipping off. I couldn’t get a firm grip on the rope, so I (yet again) headed over to the side for another set of wonderful burpees.

Once Brad finished the rope climb and I finished my burpees, we ran over to tackle the fire jump.

spartan race

spartan race2

Next we needed to walk across the river on a balance beam, which was easier than I thought it would be, especially that late in the race.

Then was the spear toss. One shot, and if your spear didn’t stick? 30 burpees.

295084_10100101488767825_1491535727_n

Brad and I both missed, so burpees it was.

Once we were done we took off running through waist deep muddy water towards one of the final obstacles.

558704_10100101487410545_33409352_39398147_888317906_n (1)

545093_10100101488353655_33409352_39398178_385911236_n

A combination of my ripped up hands and the inability to keep my weight in my arms helped me lose the battle with this obstacle. My feet slipped out from under me more times than I can count and eventually I accepted defeat. Burpees. Again. AGAIN!! Brutal.

It was time to assume the horizontal position and roll through 100+ yards of barbed wire.

536420_10100101487470425_33409352_39398149_2136025794_n

spartan race5

spartan race6

Then we had one last obstacle to bust through – the gladiators:

spartan race7

Oooh, gut shot. My face says it hurt. Also I was completely regretting ditching the bandana at this point – my hair was allll up in my face.

spartan race8

spartan race9

My bib was desperately holding on by only two safety pins by that point.

spartan race3

spartan race4

Spartan Sprint Success!

550364_10100101011688895_33409352_39395548_1461786947_n

This race was TOUGH, but so much fun! I’m still a little achy and have plenty of bruises, scratches, and calluses. Would we do it again? Absolutely. But definitely earlier in the day, and we’d train a little better next time. Next time as in May 13, 2013 – we’re already signed up for the 9:30am heat. What?! It was only 30 bucks!

We’ll see ya next year, Texas Spartan Sprint.

f3bc05fca21d11e1af7612313813f8e8_7

2012 New Jersey Marathon Race Recap

Here we are two weeks post-race, and I’m just getting around to writing up the recap. There’s a reason. If you follow me on Twitter, you already know how this race played out. If not, here’s the short version: the New Jersey Marathon was my first DNF.

Race morning began with my alarm blaring at the ungodly hour of 3:15am. I think I slept about 30 minutes the night before, and 12 hours total between Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. I was up pretty late and my nerves were out of control. Ashley was picking me up at 5am so I wanted to have enough time to eat something, get ready, and spend a bit of time freaking out with my fellow racers on Twitter.

I was having the same feeling I had prior to the Austin 10/20. I wasn’t really in the mood to race. In the weeks leading up to the marathon I went back and forth on switching to the half no less than 800 times. My training hadn’t been geared towards New Jersey; I was focused more on the many half marathons and shorter races. My longest training run had been 17 miles. But I was convinced since I had conquered the 26.2 in the past, mentally I’d be able to latch on to that fact and power through.

Ashley picked me up and we went back to her house for a little bit. It took me nearly 30 minutes to choke down half a bagel with peanut butter. We piled into the car with two of her friends, and picked up another two girls on the way to the start in Oceanport. Everyone in the car with the exception of Ashley and I were running the half. I was a bit jealous when they all ran to the start. A half marathon sounded much more feasible at the time. I should have taken that as a sign.

We checked in all of the half marathoners bags for them and then jumped in line for the portapotties. At this point we were surrounded only by marathoners and I started to get pumped up a bit. Maybe it wouldn’t be that bad. We met up with Ashley’s friend Sky – the two were attempting their first sub-4 marathon. Spoiler alert: they succeeded!!

download

download (2)

I ran into my family and Brad on my way to meet up with Libby, who I’d be starting the race with. It’s amazing to be surrounded by such a great support system. It really gives you something to look forward to you and keep you moving along the course. I appreciate it so, so much!

008

Once I found Libby and Eva, we headed into our corral. We heard the National Anthem and then it was time to get the show on the road. No turning back now!

018

019

Libby and I had decided to start the race together since we’d be shooting for a similar pace but if either of us decided to hang back or speed up, no problem. No commitment. Eva stuck to her intervals and was always a little behind or a little ahead of us. It was awesome running with Libby. We chatted the whole way and kept a decent (faster than we had planned on) pace. The weather was cool and clouds kept the sun at bay. It was a perfect day for running.

Around mile 7 or 8 I needed a walk break because of a side stitch, and this was where things started to unravel a bit for me. Once I took that first walk break, I knew I’d need to take them regularly after. This worked out fine until around mile 11. Libby decided to keep on going. We wished each other good luck and parted ways. (Libby ended up with a PR on her 3rd marathon in 3 weeks. Such a rockstar!) I clicked my iPod on and tried to zone out until mile 12 when I knew I’d see my support crew. Somehow we missed each other and Brad ended up having to break into an all-out sprint to catch up with me. He had desperately been yelling my name but Luke Bryan was singing in my ears and I couldn’t hear him.

I stopped with him at a nearby water station while he caught his breath and ate a few of the Shotbloks he handed to me. My family arrived shortly after and we chatted a bit.

029

After a few minutes I said my goodbyes and continued running. My iPod went back on and I tried to just focus on the music and the scenery around me.

Side note: after I left, Brad needed to lie down on the sidewalk and recover from his sprint session. I’ll turn him into a runner someday! They just happened to be near a hospital at the time and my sister took full advantage of the photo op:

032

I passed the split for the half and full marathoners and it was hard not to sail into the finish and call it a day. My walk breaks became longer and more frequent. The negative thoughts started creeping in. If I’m walking this much, what are the chances I’ll still come in under the time limit?  I didn’t run anything over 17 miles – how can I finish 26.2? I’m exhausted, haven’t slept well in days, legs feel like lead. So on and so forth.

We began the long out-and-back (my favorite! ::sarcasm::) portion of the course. At mile 13, the full marathoners coming at you in the opposite direction were at mile 24. I had nearly 10 more miles before I hit that point, and would have to watch all of the faster runners run closer to the finish line for the next 6 miles before the turnaround in Ocean Grove. It was disheartening.

img_0306

I tried to draw in some positivity, repeat motivating mantras, pump myself up – halfway done! But nothing was working. I was drained both physically & emotionally, my pace slowing dramatically. I felt defeated. I knew my heart wasn’t in it and didn’t want to push it. I wasn’t ready for the race and my mental game was off too. It was time to make the decision I’d been prolonging

Just past the mile 14 marker I texted Brad “I’m going to stop. It’s not my day. Will you think less of me if I quit?” He replied, “Absolutely not. Where can we meet you?”

I immediately felt as if a huge weight was lifted. No more pressure to finish. But at the same time I was overwhelmed with disappointment. It was my 2012 goal marathon race. And now it was over.

I removed my bib, folded it up, and carried it with me as I made the walk of shame towards the boardwalk where my family and Brad were waiting. I saw Ashley and Sky killing it, well on pace for a sub-4 and looking STRONG!

pic1

Photo Credit

In hindsight, I probably would have fared better switching from the full to the half at the expo. I should have swallowed my pride and chose the distance I was better prepared for – not the one I was registered for. My DNF was incredibly humbling but thankfully I learned a lot from this race. At least the walk to meet up with my family was scenic.

035

One thing is for sure – there will be sweet, sweet marathon redemption in my future.

Inaugural Austin 10/20 Race Recap

austin-1020

Friday on my lunch break I headed downtown to Luke’s Locker for the Austin 10/20 packet pickup.

2012-04-13_11-32-42_416

One thing I really appreciated about this race was they provided six different dates for packet pickup: Friday & Saturday the weekend before the race and Wednesday through Saturday of race week. This made it super convenient to make it to packet pickup on whichever day worked best for you.

2012-04-13_11-34-01_569

2012-04-13_11-36-33_585

Packet pickup was very efficient and I was on my way in less than 5 minutes. Under Armour was a race sponsor so both the bag and tech tee were furnished by them. Packet contents were nothing to write home about, but when are they ever? I did, however, enjoy the personalized bib and race program.

IMG_0272

IMG_0276IMG_0277

IMG_0274

IMG_0275


As I mentioned earlier in the week, the forecast was less than desirable for race morning. It only became worse once Sunday morning rolled around.

run fast

When the alarm went off at 5am I was overwhelmed with “I don’t want to run today” feelings. I was tired, thirsty (um, never good the morning of a race), and just plain cranky. I listened for thunder or even just rain hitting the roof. Nothing. Deep down I was hoping the race would be cancelled so I could head back to bed. But it was dry as a bone outside and the Austin 10/20 Facebook page mentioned nothing about cancelling or postponing.

I left the house nice and early at 6:20. Yes, the race started at 8am, but I’ll be damned if I’m one of those people whining about sitting in traffic because I left the house late. I was one of the first cars parked in the garage at the Domain and killed some time by tweeting and inhaling a Honey Stinger waffle. Or two. It’s hard to say.

I drank a glass of banana Nuun before I left the house, drank a water bottle of lemon-lime Nuun in the car, and was STILL thirsty. I had citrus fruit Nuun in my handheld as well, and a backup tablet in the zipper pouch for a refill. It was going to be hot, and I was determined to be prepared.

At quarter after 7 I made my way to the starting area and did a warmup mile. It was at this point I realized my headphones were shot. I could hear music but the lyrics were missing. This infuriated me beyond belief – I know, first world problems. I thought my kickass playlist would have helped me snap out of my cranky non-racing mood but nope. Not a chance.

The race started just after 8am and roughly 7,000 runners took to the streets of Austin. I slowed down for my first walk break at the Mile 1 marker. I was angry. I thought about how close I still was to my car. I could run back, head home and get back into bed. Pretend this whole morning never happened.

But I trudged on.

I zoned out for the next mile but when I came up on Mile 3? The rage returned. I just did NOT want to be running. I was taking far too many walk breaks and it was clear my heart just wasn’t in it. I made a command decision to throw all time goals out the window and just FINISH. Oh and maybe you’re wondering about that additional 10 miles I was supposed to run that day. Yeah. They didn’t happen.

I ran when I wanted to and walked a ton. I bumped into a few friends out on the course and chatted it up with them. This helped make the time go by a little faster. It never rained. Well it did, but I was already on my way home at that point. In the end, I’ve ran a half marathon faster than I ran/walked those ten miles on Sunday. It happens. Not all races can be great ones. I FINISHED and that was all that mattered.

IMG_0271

Aside from my little temper tantrum, the Austin 10/20 was a phenomenal race. Dare I say better than any Rock n Roll race I’ve done? Yes. Absolutely, 100%. The course wasn’t very exciting but with two bands rocking out on each mile, they kept everyone’s spirits up. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t expect much. It was an inaugural race and 9 times out of 10 anything that can go wrong, will. With the exception of the long BBQ & Beer lines at the finish (and possibly running out of bananas? I saw that on the Facebook page) I really didn’t see any major problems. Here’s what I posted on their Facebook wall post-race:

Incredible race this morning. I was beyond impressed with how everything came together logistically, especially for an inaugural race. Bands were great, volunteers were plentiful, tons of water stops to keep us hydrated, cool towels during the race AND at the finish, awesome presence on FB keeping everyone updated – the list goes on. I’ve run races that have been put on for years and couldn’t come close to the race you delivered this morning. I will 100% be back next year. THANK YOU!!

austin 1020 bib and medal

Austin 10/20, I will be back for redemption next year.

2012 Statesman Capitol 10K Race Recap

Last weekend was the 35th Annual Statesman Capitol 10,000, also known as the Cap 10K.

cap10k

Leslie and I registered for this one last minute, deciding to use it as our final training run for ZOOMA. The training plan called for an 8 mile run, so we parked a little over two miles from the start to hit our mileage for the day.

I played tourist as we hit the streets of UT:

IMG_0079

IMG_0083

IMG_0085

IMG_0087

IMG_0092

IMG_0091

IMG_0101

IMG_0102

IMG_0104

IMG_0106

and before we knew it, we were downtown on Congress Avenue. It was so nice to have the streets all to ourselves.

IMG_0109

IMG_0110

IMG_0111

IMG_0112

IMG_0114

IMG_0117IMG_0116

IMG_0122

IMG_0121

We then ventured down onto the trail to finish our run:

IMG_0123

IMG_0124

IMG_0128

The official runner count for the race was just over 23,000 and the Congress Bridge was PACKED!

IMG_0129

We ran into a few other members of the HEB ZOOMA Texas Girlfriends Program while we were making our way to Corral D. Photo op!

IMG_0133

IMG_0132

The temps were creeping up to a range I was hoping not to see until the end of April and the city was covered with a thick blanket of humidity, both characteristic for 95% of Austin-area races.

The course for Cap 10K was nearly identical to the Thundercloud Subs Turkey Trot, with the exception of the bridge we started on: north on Congress, east on 11th, north on San Antonio, west on 15th/Enfield (cue dramatic music), south on Atlanta, back east on Cesar Chavez to the Congress Bridge, and then west on Riverside to the finish:

2012-03-23_21-54-33_332

Now that you have the turn-by-turn course, here’s a photo tour of the race:

IMG_0145

IMG_0150

IMG_0151

IMG_0152

IMG_0158

IMG_0162

IMG_0167

IMG_0173

IMG_0176

IMG_0179

FINISHED!

IMG_0186

IMG_0187

IMG_0181

IMG_0182

IMG_0185

IMG_0188

IMG_0189

IMG_0191

The Cap 10K was a great race! It was a bit crowded (as can be expected with 20,000+ runners) but went off without a hitch logistically. Water stops were plentiful and volunteers encouraging. HEB provided post-race snacks: bananas, granola bars, water, and energy drinks.

Overall I was very impressed with the race and provided I’m in town next year I will definitely be registering for it again.