2012 LIVESTRONG Austin Half Marathon Race Recap

Sunday morning started with quite an early wakeup call:

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Although I went into this race without any time goals, for some reason my stomach was still in knots. I could recite the course to you turn-by-turn from memory and should have had nothing to be worried about.

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I picked Carly up at 5:45 and shortly after 6am we were parked in a garage downtown by the finish line. In an effort to stay warm, we stayed in the car until 6:30 and then headed to the start. We decided to hit the restrooms before jumping into our corral.

Easier said than done. There weren’t any port-o-potties visible on either side of the corrals. There seemed to be a ton of runners coming and going from a building to the left of the corrals so we headed in that direction. After we waited in line for a few minutes, a police officer came in shouting it was a public building but not open at the time and we all needed to exit the premises immediately.

I overheard the officer tell someone there were port-o-potties to the left and across the street so off we went. At this point it was 6:50am and clearly we weren’t going to make the 7am start. There were about 9-10 port-o-potties and 5 lines of 50 people each waiting. Needless to say, it took FOREVER.

As the announcer declared “if you are running the half or full marathon, you should have already crossed the starting mat. The 5K is about to start!” we were full out sprinting towards the start, crossing the mat at 7:21am.

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Just like San Antonio, if there was anything we did well in this race, it was running positive splits.

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We didn’t slow down nearly enough, clocking our first mile in 9:47. Not ideal for the first mile of a notoriously hilly race. We pulled in the reins a bit on miles 2 & 3 (10:10 & 10:25), but could tell it was probably too late.

Miles 4-6 (13:25, 11:25, 12:54) were a steady uphill climb so we started incorporating walk breaks. I had a massive cramp which didn’t seem to want to go away, no matter how much I focused on my breathing.

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We decided to try and make up some time on the downhill stretch of South 1st Street, heading back into downtown. We ticked off miles 7 & 8 in 11:03 and 10:14, respectively.

Mile 9, the Yellow Mile, was nothing short of inspirational. Supporters lined both sides of the course and the road was covered in motivational phrases etched in chalk. Their cheers pushed us along to finish the mile in 11:58.

At this point, our legs were starting to feel fatigued. Earlier the walk breaks would leave me reenergized, able to go back to running at a pretty decent pace. After mile 9 the breaks made me want to walk more and run less. Our pace slowed considerably over the final miles (13:49, 12:48, 12:39. 12:12), which included the beast at mile 12.

Austin HM Enfield Hill

Please excuse these recycled photos from last year’s recap – my running camera had a timely death the day before the race. Lucky for me, the course was exactly the same and recycling was possible.

The course rose 80 feet in less than a 1/4 mile and drained much of what was left of the strength in our legs.

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Another recycled photo. Again, I’m sorry.

After this hill, we hit another (not as large) hill on San Jacinto, before making the right onto 11th Street. We started to pick up the pace, exchanged one knowing glance, and let our legs fly.

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Whoa, check out that heel strike. Nice form, Melissa, nice form.

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The last portion of our race was a 7:58 pace, 6:16 best pace. A tad faster than I thought I had left in those tired legs!

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Official Finish Time 2:34:37, 11:48 pace

It wasn’t a PR for either of us, but not a bad time for a challenging course. We also beat our time from San Antonio, which was a much flatter course.

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Another great race put on by LIVESTRONG and I can say with certainty I’ll be back for more next year. I’m thinking 2013 might be the time to conquer the full after completing the half in 2011 & 2012.

We’ll see how crazy I’m feeling come registration time!

2012 3M Half Marathon Race Recap

Race morning kicked off at 5am with a large mug of coffee, PB&J, glass of Nuun, and sparkles.

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I took my time getting ready and felt completely relaxed when I left the house at 6:15. By 6:30 I was parked near the start and a heavy dose of nerves had hit me like a freight train. I was less than prepared for a great race, but this wasn’t my first race. It wasn’t my first half marathon.  I had finished a race twice as long and my nerves weren’t half as bad as they were that morning at 3M. I don’t know what it was, but my stomach was in knots.

At 6:35 I made my way to the start and arrived just as the National Anthem was being sung. I positioned myself in the middle of 6,000 runners and took a few deep breaths in an attempt to relax.

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Once the starting gun went off, my nerves started to subside and were replaced with waves of excitement. My first half marathon of 2012 was underway!

Obviously I had no idea there were pacers for the race because before I knew it, the 1:50 pacer had passed me. A quick glance at my Garmin showed just below a 10:00 min/mile pace. It didn’t feel too fast, but for the first mile I knew I needed to reel it in.

It’s worth noting I set my Garmin to only display 2 stats on the screen: total distance and average pace. I was too nervous to run without it while trying to PR, but needed not to be staring at my current pace for the entire 13.1 miles. I compromised with distance and average pace, and only allowed myself to check it when I hit a mile marker. Best. Decision. Ever.

We were able to watch the sun come up during the first mile and it was a gorgeous sight. The weather was perfect, a cool 42 degrees, which made it a great morning for racing. My playlist kicked ass – super happy with it. I didn’t skip a single song during the entire race!

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By shifting the focus away from current pace, I was able to concentrate more on running comfortably and working on keeping my breathing under control.

At the 10K split (1:02 – hmm, pretty damn close to my 10K PR …) I ate an orange Gu Chomp. I’ve trained with these on countless runs, but for some reason my stomach let out a giant EFF YOU this time. It was enough to make me consider walking until I felt better, but I powered through. After a few minutes, the death feeling thankfully went away.

Miles 1-7 10:08, 9:55, 10:10, 10:11, 10:03, 10:00, 9:57

It was at this point I realized I still had not been passed by the 2:10 pacer. Was I really in front of them? I was pretty pleased with my performance up until that point. Aside from the Gu Chomp incident, I felt awesome and was confident I could hold this pace until the finish.

After mile 7, things started to get tough. I didn’t hit “the wall” but I was running out of steam. Of course I had a full package of Chomps, but I was nervous to see what would happen if I ate another. My A Goal was within reach, but could easily slip away if my pace slowed or I stopped for a few walk breaks.

Miles 8-9 10:14, 10:16

I caved and tested the waters with another Chomp. I was in the clear – for about three minutes. I was desperately looking for a port-o-potty just in case but there were none to be found. I took a few sips of Nuun from my handheld and hoped it would quiet the demons in my stomach. No dice.

The farthest I’ve ever run without a walk break was 7 miles. I tried to convince myself since I had beat that previous record, I could take a break to walk. Then I saw I was nearing mile 11: almost done! I wouldn’t allow myself to walk. I had come too far.

The 2:10 pacer passed me. Way to kick me when I’m down.

Miles 10-12 10:36, 10:16, 10:36

My pace was slowing considerably, but I wasn’t going to give up. I wasn’t going to walk. The finish line was SO close, I just had to suck it up and power through. I pumped up the volume on my iPod to drown out any negative thoughts. My heart was set on a brand new PR and it was going to be mine.

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Official Finish – 2:14:32
Six minutes under my 2:20 time goal,
nailing a new PR by 23 minutes.

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To say I was happy would be an understatement. I was ECSTATIC. Never in a million years did I think I would hit my goal. Maybe it was the Sparkle Skirt? I think 23 minute PRs are made of blood, sweat, and sparkle.

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3M Half Marathon Finish Photo

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Incredible race, 3M – I’ll definitely be back for round 3 in 2013. Well run, small race (capped at 6K), awesome volunteers, flawless logistics. If there was something to deduct points for, it’d be the race shirt. I’ll review that, as well as the expo, in an upcoming post. Overall, phenomenal day. Or maybe I’m just biased due to that MONSTER PR…

Up next: AUSTIN!

2011 Reindeer Run 5K Race Recap

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The Austin Reindeer Run 5k was my final chip-timed race of the year. (I have Operation Jack coming up next week but that is a satellite run).

This race was also my last chance in 2011 to crush the sub-30 goal that has been taunting me.

 

The race was at 9am which equals SLEEPING IN! Awesome. I left the house around 8:15 and made it to Camp Mabry in plenty of time.

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On the way to the parking area you ended up driving part of the race course. It was at this point when I realized it may not be a PR day. There were a few decent hills that could certainly give my legs some issues.

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I hit up one of the tents to grab my timing tip and strapped it around my ankle.

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Yep, the fun socks made an appearance at this race as well.

I searched high and low for reindeer antlers but surprisingly couldn’t find any. I settled on an old festive tee I found in my closet instead, which prompted many compliments. And because 50 degrees is a bit chilly to me I rocked the arm sleeves as well.

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I had turned on my Garmin on the drive down to the race to eliminate the satellite location problem that plagued me before the Jingle Bell 5k.

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I spied a lot of people with coffee mugs not quite dressed to run so I positioned myself in front of them at the starting line to avoid the old bob-and-weave issues.

The first mile was flat as a pancake. I kept my pace fast but comfortable to keep some in the tank for the rest of the race.

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I passed the Mile 1 marker in 9:46.

Shortly after that marker, we hit a water stop followed by a small downhill stretch. Part of me welcomed it while part of me knew this only meant the hills were about to start.

And they did.

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I cursed every step of the long, steady incline. It was at this point where I realized the course was an out and back. My freakin’ favorite.

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I hit Mile 2 in 10:10. Obviously the hills slowed me down.

Why don’t the hills look as bad in photos as they do in real life?

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At this point I could see the finish line across the field. It was SO. FAR. AWAY. A quick glance at my Garmin showed I was two minutes from the elusive 30 minute mark. I picked up the pace, but realistically knew it was probably too late.

Mile 3 in 9:48.

I had fifteen seconds to make it across that finish line, which was still SO. FAR. AWAY.

I was hauling ass but felt like I was running in slow motion. I just couldn’t turn my legs over as fast as I wanted.

.1 in 0:36. Not quite fifteen.

Official Finish Time: 30:20, 9:47 pace

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I was halfway through a banana when I came across this glorious sight:

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Yes please. I’ll take two.

I also grabbed a chocolate Zico.

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Well, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed with my time. I’d also be lying if I said I thought not doing any speedwork would have helped me get in under 30 minutes. Oh and that 7 mile run from the day before probably didn’t help either.

Oh and maybe I should have looked at the elevation map on the website:

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It wasn’t as bad as it looks – it was scaled a little poorly. But there will hills – you get the idea.

So, sub-30 5K goal will be accomplished in 2012. I’ll getcha next time.

2011 Jingle Bell 5K Race Recap

Two things I realized running the Jingle Bell 5K: I really love this distance and I really love racing in cooler weather.

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Let’s back up for just a minute to packet pickup. It was held at the Westin in the Domain. No frills, quick and painless. Parked, asked the front desk for directions, picked up the packet, and was back in the car in less than five minutes.

The race bag included a cotton long-sleeved tee, bib, course map, and jingle bells. Let it be noted I did NOT attach the bells to my shoes for the race, although everyone else seemed to have done so. Nothing a cranked up iPod couldn’t fix…

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Austin hasn’t been blessed with a solid bout of rain since May.

Until last weekend.

I was up most of the night prior to the race listening to the wind howl and rain pound against my bedroom window. From 3-5am the thunder and lightning were pretty intense. Part of me hoped it would carry on through the morning and cancel the race since I hadn’t had much sleep at all.

Event is rain or shine.  Cancellation will only occur if conditions are deemed a safety hazard.  At that time, all registrations will be considered a donation. Thank you.

But part of me REALLY wanted to rock these socks for 3.1 miles.

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After lounging around in bed until 7am, I began pulling myself together. Before the rain entered the forecast, I had planned on running in a Santa hat. The thought of wearing it soaked with rain was less than appealing.

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The game plan was to avoid cotton at all costs (too heavy when wet) and dress warmly, in festive colors.

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Mission Accomplished.

I made my way down to the Domain around 7:20. I stayed warm and cozy in my car until finishing my Nuun a little after 8. My stomach was killing me and I would have loved nothing more than to go home and get back in bed. Of course, this wasn’t an option since I was already there. The only option was to suck it up and deal. Surely I could power through 30 minutes of running.

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The race was chip-timed, but not with the usual disposable B or D Tag. It was a Velcro neoprene strap you claimed at the start line, wrapped around your ankle, and returned after crossing the finish.

Picking up my chip took a few seconds and afterwards we were herded to the starting. There were probably 5 people in between myself and the start, which is easily the closest I’ve ever been in a race.

I turned on my Garmin, and it proceeded to try its damndest to locate satellites. The high-rise buildings and apartments apparently were making it difficult so I hopped out of my coveted starting position to find a more open area.

No such luck.

Runners had officially taken off and I decided to ditch the Garmin.

Once I crossed the starting mat I immediately regretted stepping out of my original spot. While this was a super small race (less than 200 runners) it was incredibly congested and I was bobbing and weaving my way around walkers for a majority of the first mile.

I was thankful for my hat which shielded most of the rain from my face. I was also thankful for the arm warmers I grabbed at the last minute before leaving the house. I would have been FREEZING without them. The wind was miserable.

The course was pretty basic (two out-and-backs) and luckily I had it memorized because there wasn’t a mile marker until mile 3. I had no idea how fast I was going or how far I had ran until the race was nearly over.

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My previous 5K PR was 36:13. I wanted to beat that time and/or go sub-30. Considering the weather and the way my stomach was making me hate life, I would have settled for ANY time as long as I crossed that finish line.

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Official Finish
30:08, 9:43 pace

Carly and I have the Reindeer Run 5K on December 18th and I WILL break that 30 minute mark!

2011 Thundercloud Subs Turkey Trot Race Recap

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Yet another humid fall morning greeted us on Thanksgiving as we made our way downtown for the 21st Annual Thundercloud Subs Turkey Trot. Brad and I have ran this race together every year since I moved to Austin.

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Last year’s race was fairly unorganized so I was pleasantly surprised to see actual corrals this year. In a race with 19,000 runners and 5-mile timed/5-mile untimed/1-mile walk options, corrals are definitely necessary.

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The timed runners pay a slightly higher registration fee than untimed, so their corrals were first and are organized by pace. Directly behind them are the untimed runners, also organized by pace. The walkers line up behind the untimed runners, and start 15 minutes after the runners to eliminate congestion.

We had the blue bibs for timed runners

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so we made our way to the 10 to 11 min. mile corral up front on the S. First Street bridge.

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It wasn’t long before thousands of runners were lined up behind us

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Shortly after the singing of the National Anthem, runners took to the streets of Austin.

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Race organizers changed up the route this year, and decided it would be a fun idea to incorporate a few hills right in the beginning.

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We ran north on Lavaca, and then made a left onto 15th Street, also known as Enfield.

If you’ve been reading this blog for more than a few months, you may recognize Enfield from my Austin 1/2 Marathon race recap.

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This monstrosity came around mile 11-12 of the half marathon:

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While we didn’t have to run up that particular hill during the Turkey Trot, we did have to run up a different one to get to the top, and then try not to fall on our faces as we came flying down the other side. Immediately after we hit the bottom we went right back up another hill, climbing steadily for half a mile.

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I’ll be incorporating some serious hill training for Austin 2012 so it doesn’t kick my ass like 2011’s race.

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Just after mile 2, Brad grabbed my arm and told me to continue on without him. The hills had done a number on his quads/knees and didn’t want to hold me back from finishing fast. As he slowed to a walk, I slowed right down with him.

I wasn’t about to finish the race solo; this was our annual tradition! He committed to running the downhills and straightaways as long as we could walk the uphills. I happily agreed. Brad isn’t a runner so I was thankful he was even keeping up with me to begin with.

So we ran here:

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and walked here:

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and ran here:

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You get the idea.

The great thing about the Turkey Trot is it doesn’t start until 9:30am so there’s no need to wake up at the crack of dawn. The bad thing is, the sun is already up and out in full force by the time you cross the starting mat. It was now after 10am and you can see in this skyline photo that the humidity was still thick.

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We each ran with a water bottle filled with Nuun so we didn’t need to deal with the overcrowded water stops. Although, they appeared to be pretty efficient and well-stocked.

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The back half of the race was pretty much the same as last year’s, heading east on Cesar Chavez…

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…back over the South First Street bridge…

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…and finishing on Riverside Drive across from the Palmer Event Center.

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After crossing the finish line in 57:06, we grabbed a couple bottles of water and went back to the car. We stretched for 5-10 minutes in the parking lot before heading home to start cooking our Thanksgiving feast..

Another successful Turkey Trot in the books!

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Our post-run Thanksgiving Day meals:

First Course

Spinach Dip – Butternut Squash Soup with Smoked Sausage & Wild Rice –Baked Brie with Blackberry Jam

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Main Course

Oven Roasted Turkey – Mascarpone & Garlic Mashed Potatoes – Baked Sweet Potatoes – Bacon Jalapeno Cornbread Stuffing – Cranberry Sauce

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Dessert

Pumpkin Pie with Homemade Cinnamon Whipped Cream

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2011 Rock n Roll San Antonio Half Marathon Race Recap

Carly and I woke up on Sunday morning completely rested and fully recovered from our night out at the Riverwalk. A quick peek out the window revealed a thick layer of fog blanketing the city. A quick check on the weather revealed a temperature of 55 degrees. And 100% humidity. Ah Texas, you never cease to ruin my races.

We hit up the free breakfast in the hotel and then made our way to the start. It was much more enjoyable walking to Alamo & Market Street vs. parking at the AT&T center last year and taking a shuttle to the start. AND we were able to sleep in.

Winning.

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Carly was initially in Corral 15 but moved back to 19 so we could run the race together.

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I know the participant shirts are awesome and all, however, the amount of people wearing them during the race was insane. No matter where we were, there was always someone in front of us rocking the participant shirt. Crazy.

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Our obligatory “oh-look-at-our-shoes-and-D-tags” picture

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And another shot of the cheetahs:

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Cheetah power:

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The announcer urged us not to attempt a PR race today. Due to the unfavorable weather conditions, it was a day to race solely on perceived effort.

By the time the first corral was released at 7:30, the temperature had already risen to 63 degrees. The fog made it clear it had no intentions of going anywhere.

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Somewhere near when corral 16 or 17 was toeing the line, Carly and I made the executive decision to get one final bathroom stop out of the way.

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Somehow we managed to make it back just in time for our corral to be released.

Perfect.

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Moments later, it was time to run!

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Not even halfway through the first mile, that damn headband slipped off my head. I grabbed it before it had a chance to fall to the ground and wrapped it around my wrist.

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We went out fairly conservatively, clocking our first mile in 11:18.

Our plan was to run by feel and just enjoy the race. If we PRed, awesome. If not, it wasn’t a big deal. No matter what, we’d be beating the time of our last half together!

Despite the heavy humidity we were moving along at a sub-11 pace and with minimal effort. Since we weren’t running with our own water (finished our Smart Waters pre-race, hence the bathroom stop…) we decided to walk through the water stops to rehydrate.

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We hit the 2.9m split in 31:37 (10:54 pace) What’s this 2.9m split? What happened to 5k? Weird. Just weird.

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We hit the 10k mark in 1:09 (11:07 pace)

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We passed mile 7 in roughly 1:18 (11:08 pace)

In order for both of us to PR at this point, we would need to run 6.1 miles in under one hour. Basically repeat the IBM race after already running 7 miles.

No way in hell that was happening. But we trudged on.

I was really wishing I had ran with my handheld. The last water stop we hit only had water, and I was hoping for Cytomax. The overcast skies were diminishing, revealing brutal rays of sunshine. The humidity decided to stick around and join forces with its new friend the sun. The temperature was inching it’s way towards 80 degrees.

Not having my own water bottle to sip on the entire way was killing me. My energy level was plummeting. And fast.

Not happy.

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Our 7.9m split was 1:29 (11:15 pace)

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I prayed for Cytomax at each water stop we came to, but there was only water available.

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We crossed the mat at mile 10 in 1:54 (11:24 pace)

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We ran out for a mile on St. Mary’s and came back on Presa Street for a mile. You know my hatred for out-and-back routes, but it wasn’t too terrible. The only point it was really noticeable was the actual turnaround.

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Around mile 11.5, I saw something which made me incredibly happy: yellow cups littering the ground. You know what that means? CYTOMAX! I can’t say I’ve ever been excited to drink that stuff but at that particular moment I was dying for something to help push me towards the finish. I grabbed two cups and happily chugged away.

It took a little bit for the Cytomax to kick in, but just after my Garmin beeped for mile 12 I was ready to finish the race strong. We took off and picked up the pace for the final mile.

Our adoring fans cheering us on … or complete strangers…

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Up a damn HILL to the finish

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In the finish chute! Follow that tutu!

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We crossed the finish line in 2:37:14 (12:00 pace) with our arms in the air, cheetah bands displayed proudly. Unfortunately, Brightroom did a poor job of catching that on camera. Disappointing.

If there was an award for running perfect positive splits, Carly and I would have won it. I’m not sure if it was because we went out too fast in the beginning or if it was due to my hydration issues in the second half. Regardless, it wasn’t the time either of us had hoped for.

But did we beat our time from Wine & Dine, our last half together just a little over a year ago? Why yes, yes we did. And that my friends calls for a celebration!

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Carly

Good: starting at the back of the corral (no one behind you until the next wave start), overcast for the most part, well-organized race, minimal out-and-backs

 

Bad: poorly paved streets of SA made for an uneven course, lack of refreshments towards the end of the race esp. Cytomax, GU all over the ground at the GU energy stop

 

Ugly: the amount of runners. As the race went on, it seemed to get more congested and felt like I was suffocating. In all honesty, I’d rather run a smaller race with more intimate settings.  The immensity of the race doesn’t really excite me – it overwhelms me.

Overall: I had a good time, but wouldn’t run another Rock n Roll race unless they came to Austin.

 

Melissa

Good: flat course, great spectator support, sweet medal & participant tee

Bad: hill to the finish line, course a little crowded in some parts

Ugly: 100% humidity + warm temps (unavoidable, but uncharacteristic of a November race), not enough Cytomax. That’ll teach me not to run with my handheld.

Overall: It was a fun race, but I may be done with San Antonio. I would rather explore Rock n Roll races in other locations. Although it IS a convenient, close-to-Austin fall race… we’ll see.

2011 Marine Corps Marathon Race Recap

I think I only slept for an hour total the night before the marathon. I was so nervous and excited and anxious that my mind would not stop racing long enough for me to get some solid shut-eye.

Brad and I discussed his spectating game plan before finally deciding to get our morning started around 4:30am. He went straight to the kitchen to prepare my breakfast and I began getting ready.

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The temperature was a brisk 30 degrees so I went with a t-shirt, the longest capris I owned, a throwaway sweatshirt and pair of gloves. I think even if I had added a pair of throwaway sweatpants, it still wouldn’t have been enough to keep me warm. Hello, I came from Texas – it was 82 there!

I ate a bagel and drank a bottle of Nuun while I double and triple-checked to make sure I had everything. We skipped making coffee in the room because they were supposed to have a few carafes set up in the lobby by 6am. Unfortunately, the security guard misinformed us and it wouldn’t be ready until 7. It wasn’t important enough to hang around for, so Brad and I headed out on the cold trek to the starting line.

In the hours leading up to the race, the only thing I was really focused on was how cold I was. Thankfully this helped to keep my mind off the fact I was about to embark on my first marathon. Brad stayed with me for about an hour, heading back to the hotel around 7:30. I strategically placed myself behind the exhaust pipe of an MCM Straggler bus to keep my legs warm.

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Also, I bought the whole damn CD of photos from the race so I don’t feel a tiny bit guilty jacking these pics from Marathonfoto until I get the real ones in the mail.

At 7:45 I headed into the 5:30-5:59 corral. My only goal for this race was to cross that finish line in an upright position. This, however, did not stop me from grabbing a 5:30 pace bracelet at the expo on Friday and slapping it on my wrist Sunday morning. It was an attainable pace, and it never hurts to have an ‘A’ goal.

The opening ceremony was incredible:

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Yes, that’s Drew Carey with the starting gun. It was his first marathon too!

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All photos courtesy of marinemarathon.com

And we were off!

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Once I crossed that starting mat, I was overwhelmed with emotion – I am running a marathon! The race was a culmination of all the hard work and dedication I had put in over the past 4 months. A huge smile spread across my face.

The crowd support was phenomenal. I’ve never seen anything like it (firsthand) in a race. Sure, Austin has it’s fair share of spectators, but nothing like this. I fed off the crowds infectious energy for several miles.

The first 7.5 miles included a few hills:

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We started in Arlington, then ran through Rosslyn, Clarendon, and across Key Bridge into Georgetown. The beginning miles ticked away like they were nothing. Every time I glanced down at my Garmin it was about to switch over to the next mile. Time was flying by. Every mile split was within 10 seconds of what it should have been for a 5:30 finish, and felt effortless.

At mile 4, I was finally starting to warm up so I tossed my sweatshirt. At mile 8, I tossed the gloves. And at mile 9, I made my first (of many) stop at a portopotty. I didn’t feel like I was hydrating too much, but clearly I had to have been.

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After the stop, I was about 1:20 minutes off of my pace. I didn’t stress over it though – that’s not what this race was about. Just after mile 9 they were handing out orange slices. Somehow I managed to grab one from the Marine, peel it with one hand, and devour it mid-run.

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Based on the plan Brad and I had discussed, the first place I would come across him and my family would be between mile 10 and 11. Sure enough, just around the corner there they were!

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My sister was in charge of being paparazzi for the race, and she did an awesome job! Now if only I could hire her for all of my races…

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And there I go!

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I continued on to Hains Point. I recalled countless race recaps and training runs on DC natives’ blogs which referenced this out and back trek. None were positive, and I mentally prepared myself for it.

Honestly? It wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be. This probably had a lot to do with how gorgeous the weather was. I took in the sights and enjoyed the beautiful views. Just past the 20k mark was the second food stop, and I grabbed a chocolate Clif Shot.

When I hit the timing mat at the halfway point, the “oh my god I’m running a marathon” feeling hit me again. And I felt great.

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The members of my awesome spectating family planned on setting up camp at mile 15, so I kept my eyes peeled for them.

Apparently I flew by too quickly!

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As I came up on Tidal Basin bridge, I came across the most memorable sign I saw during the race:

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I laughed out loud when I saw it, and when I ran by someone yelled “Go Melissa!” (By the way, putting my name on my shirt was a great idea – I definitely recommend it!) Every time someone encouraged me along the way during the race, I made sure to wave and thank them. When I turned to thank her, I realized it was Megan from MegaNerdRuns! Thank you Megan and Jess for coming out to support the runnersspectators make all the difference!

Around mile 16 I made another bathroom stop, and this one cost me nearly nine minutes. There were only three portopotties, and the lines were a mix of runners and spectators. Again, I wasn’t worried about the time so it didn’t make me too anxious to have to wait.

My cheering brigade was now stationed at mile 17 waiting for me. I don’t know what I would have done without them; they gave me something to look forward to every few miles!

Mile 17 – still going strong:

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And still smiling!

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My family headed to hang out near mile 20 to wait for me, and I made my way down Madison towards the Capitol building.

I started taking frequent walk breaks after mile 18. I tried to tell myself it would hurt just as bad to run as it would to walk, and if I ran I would be done quicker. But the only thing my brain could process was that I was less than two miles away from that damn bridge and I was going to beat it.

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There were so many photographers lined up down this stretch. They positioned themselves on the ground in the center of the road about 6-7 feet from each other. I was so paranoid I was going to end up tripping over one of them!

Somewhere around the 19 mile marker I grabbed a packet of Sports Beans from the third food station. I don’t think I would have been able to choke down another Gu if I tried, so I was thankful for something different.

Once I made the left onto 14th Street, I spotted my family! Brad had been holding onto a pack of Shot Bloks for me so I slowed to a halt to grab them and tuck them into my handheld.

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Nice face. I must have just remembered I still had more than a 10k to go:

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Stretching out my back before I take on the bridge

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Ah. So let’s talk about that bridge, shall we? Once I crossed the 20 mile marker, my mind registered that point as the finish line. Before I knew what was happening, I was walking. I tried to pick up the pace but I felt I was running slower than I had been walking.

The 14th Street bridge took FOR-EV-ER. I had heard for many months about how I needed to “Beat the Bridge” but I had never realized how long the damn thing was. Long, as in, we passed the mile 21 marker while STILL ON THE BRIDGE. I graciously accepted a package of Skittles from a spectator and inhaled them. The spectators on this stretch were few and far between but I appreciated each and every one of them.

I flipped through my playlist and finally came to a song that got my legs moving faster than a snails pace. I powerwalked the uphills and ran the downhills. After what seemed like thirty minutes (and it very well could have been), I arrived in Crystal City. The homestretch! Ha – not quite.

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I grabbed a chocolate munchkin at the fourth and final food stop. It tasted like a little piece of heaven.

Brad jumped in with me as I came up on mile 22.

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I had heard a lot of good things about Crystal City, but I wasn’t that impressed. Having to watch the runners coming back in the other direction KILLED me. Out-and-backs like that mess with my head. All I kept thinking was “where is the turnaround?!” I knew Morgan would be in Crystal City with her sparkly silver pants but unfortunately I never saw her. I think I was in my own little world at that point.

At mile 23, I said goodbye to Brad. And to my water bottle. I knew there would be two more water stops and really didn’t feel like carrying it anymore. Honestly I’m surprised I didn’t ditch it sooner.

Stretching my quads before heading out to tackle the final three:

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More stretching…

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Then I hit the road again to finish up the race! To give you an idea of how much I had slowed down, it took me 20 minutes longer to finish the last 5k than it did the first. Those miles were ROUGH.

I do NOT look happy

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But I managed to slap on a weak smile for this photographer:

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I spent most of the last miles reflecting on how far I had come in just over a year as a runner. It’s hard to believe that I finished my first half marathon last October, and I was in the midst of finishing a marathon. My thoughts were nothing but positive, and not once during the race did I think I wouldn’t finish. My legs were going to fight me until the end, but my heart was in it 100%.

Once I passed the mile 26 marker, I kicked it into high gear and headed towards the finish. The uphill finish. I contemplating slowing to a walk, at least until the top of the hill where it turned towards the finisher’s chute, but the Marines lining both sides of the hill were yelling to stay strong and keep moving.

So I did.

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As I neared the finish line at the Iwo Jima Memorial, a huge smile appeared on my face and I threw both arms up in the air

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And as I crossed the finish line of my first marathon, I received high fives from two Marines at once. Amazing.

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I finished in 6:16:07. I know, it’s not the fastest time. Could I have pushed myself harder? Yes. But I didn’t want to hate my first marathon and swear them off forever. I enjoyed every single moment (even those last 6.2 miles) of that race, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

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I am a marathoner!

2011 IBM Uptown Classic 10k Race Recap

To recap the race goals:

Goal A: Beat last year’s time

Goal B: 1:10 (11:17 pace)

Goal C: 1:07 (10:48 pace)

Goal D: 1:05 (10:29 pace)

Carly and I discussed the race a bit on Saturday during our run, and one of our non-negotiable goal was to run the entire race without stopping. We both agreed breaking an hour would be phenomenal, but probably not too realistic. Carly said even 1:05 would be a great time. We were on the same page.

Packet pickup was quick and painless at Luke’s Locker in downtown Austin. Here’s the contents of the swag bag and the race tee:

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Race season started off with a bang!

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We made it to the race site about 20 minutes before the start. The great thing about the IBM Uptown Classic is that while it draws a decent sized crowd, it is extremely organized and everything is executed well. This year marks it’s 12th anniversary.

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Ready to run!

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After the national anthem, the YMCA began blasting from the speakers and it was time for us to kill 6.2 miles.

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An early mistake we made was starting too far back. It was really congested and hard to settle into our pace. After struggling through the masses, we passed the Mile 1 marker in 10:31.

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We then headed into the Domain which gave us something to look at and distract us from the race for a few minutes.

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We covered mile 2 in 9:45. Sub-10 pace? Awesome. We kept on truckin’, full speed ahead.

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We flew through mile 3 in 9:25.

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The race also had a 5k option, and as we ran next to their finish chute I heard “Melissa loves to sweat!” from the announcer over the loudspeaker. Why yes, yes I do. Want your own I ♥ Sweat shirt? This sweaty girl is the creator!

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Mile 4 was a speedy 9:23.

Mile 5 is where things started to get tough. We encountered a grueling hill, and I heard a few expletives fly out of Carly’s mouth as it first came into view. My thoughts exactly.

We didn’t stop to walk, just kept focused on powering up the hill. Once we came over the top, my legs let out a few expletives of their own. I was SPENT! I wanted to walk so badly but kept going – it’s almost over, suck it up Melissa!While we didn’t stop running, our pace still dropped dramatically for mile 5: 10:40.

Halfway through mile 6, I glanced down at my Garmin and realized finishing under an hour would be out of reach. (Although, if it weren’t for the hill I think that goal would have been attainable.)

Mile 6 was another sub-10, 9:53. Once we passed that mile marker, we kicked it into high gear and hauled ass towards that finish line as fast as we could.

Official Finish Time: 1:01:36

We were ecstatic! Doing the happy dance all of the way back to the car. It was a 12 minute PR for me, and 9 minute PR for Carly.

I can’t think of a better way to kick off race season.

October 2nd marked our runniversary – it has been officially one year since our first race. It’s incredible how far we have come as runners in that time, and I’m glad we crossed the finish line next to each other yesterday.

2011 Rock n Roll Dallas Half Marathon Race Recap

I felt less prepared for this race than I have for any other one I have done. I only laced up my sneakers once since the Austin half on 2/20 – and it was for a 5k. I wasn’t running, I never went to the gym, I was incredibly stressed, and as a result of the stress, I wasn’t eating as well or as much as I should.

Generally as a rule of thumb, I avoid alcohol the day before a race. But as I mentioned yesterday, I indulged in a mid-afternoon margarita. I also like to get to bed around 9:30 or 10. Saturday night I was up until 12:30. I usually hydrate like a crazy person the day before a race – on Saturday I had coffee, a small glass of water, half a glass of iced tea, and a margarita. Hydration FAIL.

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On four hours of sleep, Megan and I began getting ready for the race. PB&Js (strayed from my PB & Banana!) were consumed, water was downed, and I took a couple Tylenol for my aching back that had been bugging me since Thursday. On race mornings, okay every morning, it’s a necessity to start my day with a cup of coffee and Sunday was no exception. We stopped quickly at a 7-11 and then we were on our way to Fair Park to catch the shuttle to the start.

This is where the morning began to get a little stressful. I’ll let our tweets explain the situation:

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We FINALLY made it to the start line and met up with Marci & Suzanne.

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It was now just after 6am, so we had a little under 2 hours until the race started, plus an additional 20 minutes due to the wave start. We huddled together to keep warm (it was 48 degrees!), tweeted to kill time, and had a few fellow runners take photos of us in our tutus.

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This person clearly didn’t get the memo that we were trying to get a picture of the tutus too… and it didn’t help that I’m a midget.

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There they are!

This is the first race I haven’t brought my camera with me, and I have to say, it was nice not to have it in my hand the whole time. I did, however, bring my own water bottle (½ water, ½ Gatorade) again. It worked so well for me in Austin, and the annoyance of carrying it the whole time was outweighed by the fact I would be able to avoid the stress and congestion of the water stops.

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The course was awesome. Megan had told me to save some energy for miles 5 through 9 since that was where the hills were. I didn’t dread them that much since I have a whole new appreciation for hills after the mountains I climbed in Austin. It made the course slightly challenging, but it was welcomed – it kept things interesting. The spectators loved the tutu, everyone was yelling to me and smiling.

Miles 1-4: 10:38, 11:20, 11:11, 11:36

I went out a little too fast, but I couldn’t help it – I was feeling great!

Miles 5-9: 12:00, 12:44, 12:16, 12:54, 12:14

Then came the hills. I slowed my pace down to power through them. I have to say, the amount of time I put into tweaking my playlist really ended up paying off. I remember bouncing around to Shots (LMFAO/Lil Jon) and Stand Up (Ludacris) on mile 9, and it helped keep my mind focused on something other than the hills.

Miles 10-13.1: 11:55, 13:06, 12:19, 12:20, 2.03

Mile 11 is when I hit the wall a little bit, and it pissed me off because it was downhill. I was sick of carrying my water bottle, it started misting a little, I hit a string of songs on my playlist that just weren’t pumping me up, and I was just drained. Once I saw the mile 12 marker I ate two shot bloks and tossed my water bottle into a trash can – it was time to MOVE!

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I spent a lot of the last mile checking my Garmin like a maniac, calculating how much time I could take off my PR. Obsessed much? I think it helped me to really push through.

I crossed the finish line with a brand new PR: 2:38:49, 9 minutes faster than San Antonio.

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To say I was excited is an understatement. My last three half times were 2:47, 2:48, 2:48. It felt AMAZING to finally break 2:40. Tequila, no training OUA(L) style, four hours of sleep, PB&J, and a hot pink tutu = PR material? Who woulda thought?! I tweeted to Sarah after the race that I thought about her while I was running. She had a less than lengthy training schedule for her last marathon and she killed it, even in a monsoon. Seriously a rockstar. I kept thinking that if she could PR, so could I – and I did!

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Once I crossed the finish line I decided to bypass the photo with my medal and head straight for a banana and orange slices. I was FREEZING, but just my luck, they ran out of mylar blankets. Megan had went back out on the course to run the final miles of the race with her parents, so the only logical thing to do while I was waiting was to go here:

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Ah yes, free beer. MGD 64 isn’t exactly my first choice, but it was free and I needed a delicious adult beverage to celebrate my new PR. I did a few laps around the parking lot to keep my legs loose, and then watched Bret Michaels rock out on stage for a bit.

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I met up with Megan about an hour later and grabbed a quick lunch before going back to her apartment. I packed up my stuff and it was time to hit the road L So sad, I had such a great weekend with her, she’s such a sweetheart! The ride home took longer than expected due to an accident that shut down both lanes of the highway, but I spent 2 ½ hours of it on the phone with Carly so the time flew by. Surprisingly after four hours in the car, my legs didn’t hurt AT ALL. I unpacked a little bit, and even managed to cook dinner. Amazing. The next morning though? I woke up feeling like I was 90 years old. It seriously took about 15 minutes to muster up the energy to climb out of bed.

Overall, I really loved the Rock n Roll Dallas ½. The weather (aside from the misting)/temps were perfect, the course was great, AND I PRed! I would definitely consider running it again next year.

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The tutu gave me wings.

2011 Austin Half Marathon Race Recap

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Yesterday started with the usual pre-race fueling: tall glass of water, cup of coffee, and PB & Banana on wheat toast

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I arrived downtown at 6am, one hour prior to the start. I decided not to check a bag since my car was parked only one block from the gear check tent. I later learned I might as well have checked a bag, but we’ll get to that.

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The start line was interesting. No wave start – 18,000 runners and walkers started all at once. It took quite awhile for me to cross the starting mat after the initial fireworks went off. As you can see below, the 9-10 min mile area is where all of the runners from two lanes merged together. I think that’s what the holdup stemmed from.

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I decided to do run/walk intervals, the opposite of what I did at 3m. The first six miles were pretty much all hills, and I was cursing the race directors the whole way. At the starting line, the announcer mentioned the intense winds would be at our back the whole race. He was a big fat liar. LIAR. We were running up hills, into the wind. This pic below is looking back down a hill on South Congress.

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I think this was around mile 3, and it was also when we were running past dozens of restaurants. All I could smell was bagels, pizza, and breakfast tacos. Pure torture. I wanted to throw in the towel and go have a delicious meal.

Combined with the hills was suffocating humidity, warm temperatures, and a whipping wind. Not ideal race conditions.

Once we hit Ben White and were on our way to South First, I was pumped. For a couple miles we’d get a break from the inclines.

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After heading over the 1st Street bridge back into downtown, we made a left on Cesar Chavez. Just past Lamar Blvd, we hit Mile 9 – The Yellow Mile. The crowd support was amazing! They had written inspirational words on the road in chalk to help push us along as we ran. I was focused on just taking it all in, and didn’t snap any pictures of them. The one below is from an Austin Marathon email I received.

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I know I had a smile on my face for the entire length of mile 9, so a BIG thank you to those who cheered us on!

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Another hill, surprise surprise.

At this point, I realized the turn on Enfield was coming up and I’m not gonna lie – I started to freak out a bit.

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THE hill, the one that would destroy whatever was left of my strength, was just around the corner. The one that someone (who had clearly been drinking) decided would be a good idea to place at mile 12 of a half marathon.

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It looked like the runners were seriously running towards the sky. My heart started to race.

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I tried to distract myself by looking at something other than the hill I was about to crawl up.

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Ok yeah, there was no avoiding it.

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I approached it running, hoping I could just focus and get myself up it. Halfway up, my legs felt like lead and I slowed to a walk. Walking up it was the equivalent of climbing stairs, lots and lots of stairs. Nearly everyone around me was walking.

One of the spectators was yelling that it was “all downhill from here” but I knew better. I had studied the elevation chart, and we still had two more hills to tackle before it was over.

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After a grueling two hours and forty-eight minutes, I finally crossed the finish line. I received my medal, grabbed a bottle of water, and made my way to get my finisher’s shirt. I started having flashbacks to the disastrous Wine & Dine finish.

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So as you can see, the Finish Line goes: Medal –> Water –> Gatorade –> Food –> GEAR CHECK –> Finisher’s Shirts.

Well what if you didn’t leave your bag at Gear Check? Too bad. You were stuck waiting in the sea of people who did. It took a good 30 minutes to move half a block. All I wanted to do was stretch out my poor legs, but the crowds did not allow for such a thing. Once I grabbed my shirt, I hightailed it out of there. I was getting really claustrophobic and just wanted to get the eff out of there.

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I’ve done a lot of complaining on Facebook, Twitter, and text about the race course. HOWEVER, not once did I say I would never do this race again. That wouldn’t be true.

I 100% plan on running this race next year. It was a very well run event, great swag bags & expo, and although it was challenging, the course really was a fun run through Austin. I’ll be back, and I’m dragging Carly with me!