2017 Ragnar Trail Hill Country Race Recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2017 Grandma’s Marathon Race Recap

Grandmas - Run Superior

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

Race Morning

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

Race Morning

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

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

Starting Line

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

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

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

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

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

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

Run Superior

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

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

 

Grandmas Finish

Official Finish :: 5:26:04

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

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

Canal Park

Overall

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Downhill to Downtown to Deep Eddy

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

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

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

Bar 96

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

RACE DAY

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

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

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

Official Finish Time – 2:25:33

3M Half Marathon

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

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

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

My legs and liver cannot wait.

2016 :: The Pursuit of Happiness

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

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

NYE

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

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

Saturday Night

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

so many rhinestones

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

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

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

Rogue 10k

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

Things I’m Loving Lately

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

2014 BCS Half Marathon Race Recap

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

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

BCS Marathon Finishers Shirt

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

BCS Marathon Expo

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

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

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

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

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photo credit: BCS Marathon Facebook Page

Double Digits + Reworking the Plan

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

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

Enter the Houston Marathon Training Plan, Version 2:

Houston Marathon 2015

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

Town Lake Boardwalk - Austin Sunrise

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

Town Lake - Downtown Austin Skyline

12 weeks and many, many miles to go!

2014 Ragnar Relay Cape Cod Race Recap

If you had told me five years ago I wouldn’t think twice about flying across the country to meet a group of strangers and proceed to spend 30ish hours in a van with 6 [we’re fancy & had a personal chauffeur] of them, I’d undoubtedly declare you crazy. Since the idea was tossed around back in the fall, our team went through several iterations and the final Flock You Like a Hurricane runners who met up at Union Fish in Plymouth the night before race day were Ali, Anne, Rebecca, Amy, Danielle, Carolyn, Jess, Jessie, and our team captain Stacey. Kelly was coming down on Friday morning, Lindsay was dealing with horrendous travel delays out of Dallas, and Deb would be meeting up with Van 2 at Stacey’s on Friday afternoon.

Union Fish - Group Photo

Our team started at 10am on a super foggy morning in Hull and Ali was our leadoff runner. This girl had just run a marathon [and PRed!] the weekend before and absolutely crushed all of her legs. Anne and Amy were seriously fast and as many times as they said they were going to “take this leg easy”, they flew from exchange to exchange ticking off miles consistently in the 7s. I loved Rebecca – her last leg was tough and she was definitely hurting, but was still all “I LOVE RUNNING!” Wish I could kidnap her and run with her in Texas every day. Kelly displayed her impressively strong running skills as she powered through a hilly first leg and finished out the race with about 32 miles under her belt.

Van 1 Runners
I went into the relay with a twisted left knee and achy right shin, both courtesy of a nasty fall I took when Sox cut me off during one of our early morning runs. The knee was my main concern because shin issues are the bane of my running existence. My first leg went off without a hitch and as runner 6, passed off the slap bracelet in Duxbury Beach to Van 2’s first runner – Lindsay.

Ragnar Relay Cape Cod - Duxbury Beach

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Van 2  Runners

Our van had a break from 2 to 8ish, so we grabbed a quick lunch at Driftwood Publick House and then attempted a nap in a field at the exchange where we’d start running our second legs. Napping is a skill I’ve never been able to master so I spent the downtime Stick-ing my calves and following Van 2 via the #FlockYouLikeaHurricane hashtag on Instagram. We kept in touch with the other van through text message but Instagram was a great way to follow along and see which runner was currently out there knocking out their miles. Despite not being able to nap, it was still nice to take my shoes off and just stretch out the legs. Once nighttime fell, it was time to dress head to toe in reflective gear and prepare to send Ali on her way!

Van 1-2 Night Exchange
The night leg seemed to be everyone’s favorite so I was super pumped by the time 11pm rolled around and it was time for me to run. However, my right shin was less than enthused and throbbing only a mile into it. I decided to walk/run to keep it somewhat happy but running quickly turned into a shuffle. My gait started to change in an attempt to relieve the pain in my shin and then I felt the strain on my other knee. The last thing I wanted to do was bail on the leg, so I grabbed some ibuprofen at mile 3 and Kelly jumped in to keep me company. She was a lifesaver and kept my mind off of running while we finished out the leg together. After the handoff to Lindsay in Hyannis, Anne grabbed me some ice from the aid station and we set up some sleeping bags in a ditch [no, seriously…] near a school to sneak in a couple hours of rest.

Van 2’s night legs weren’t that long so we only had a few hours before it was time to run again. Shaun (Kelly’s husband and our fantastic driver) woke us up and we tried to quickly get our shit together after realizing we weren’t even at the right exchange. I had a minor meltdown when I realized my phone was missing, but while we were driving to the exchange Amy found it rolled up in one of the sleeping bags. Crisis averted. Once we pulled in, Ali hauled ass to the exchange and made it there just in time to grab the slap bracelet from Jessie as she ran in.

I spent the next couple hours trying to convince my teammates I could run my final leg, since it was “only” 3 miles. The response was a resounding “NO” and eventually I accepted it would be for the best if Kelly picked up the mileage. After she was done, we handed off to Van 2 for the final time and headed to brunch in Wellfleet. This was followed by a killer cheer session on either leg 33 – or was it 34? This is what I get for not writing the recap right away. We positioned ourselves at the top of a huge hill and busted out the megaphone and cowbell, blasted music from the van, and yelled at the top of our lungs for every runner that came by. Definitely a lot of fun and one of the highlights of the weekend.

It was also at this point where we started playing #SELFIE by The Chainsmokers on repeat. I entered the weekend with an extreme hatred for this song, but now every time I hear it I think of Van 1 rocking out and it makes me happy. But first … let me take a selfie! We made it to the finish in P-Town around 12:30 and just after 3pm Van 2 joined us. We backtracked on the course to find Jessie and then jumped in with her to cross the finish line together! Pretty sure this one is going in a frame – so many freakin’ amazing women in one photo:

Ragnar Relay Cape Cod - Finish Line

Ragnar Relay Cape Cod - P-Town
I have to send a HUGE thank you to Kelly’s husband, Shaun, for being our chauffeur all weekend. He navigated us from exchange to exchange flawlessly and surprisingly didn’t seem irritated at all to be stuck in a van all weekend with a group of girls he barely knew. He also was our professional photog, snapping 200+ pictures of us on our journey from Hull to Provincetown. He was a rockstar and made our lives so much easier.

Also a big shout out full of gratitude to Stacey, who despite being unable to run stayed on as captain and helped keep our team organized over the past several months, as well as through the weekend. She was Van 2’s driver / photographer and provided a place for Van 2 to stay between legs 1 & 2. She also took in 6 internet-turned-IRL-friends on Saturday night, which all of us appreciated SO MUCH. Her and her husband cooked us dinner, all while keeping the champagne and wine flowing as we recapped the incredible race. Best hosts ever, hands down.

I had always heard that team relays were a life-changing experience and couldn’t help but write it off as an exaggeration. How could spending almost 30 hours in a van with people you didn’t know be enjoyable? All of my skepticism flew right out the window while we were dining at Mamma Mia’s on Thursday night. The conversation flowed effortlessly and everyone’s passion for running caused us to bond instantly. The transition from ‘strangers’ to ‘friends’ was almost instantaneous. I couldn’t have asked for better teammates – each and every one of them are phenomenal. A reunion [Ragnar location: TBD] for 2015 was already in the works before we had even left the cape.

 And I absolutely cannot wait.

Ragnar Relay Cape Cod - White Crest Beach

All photos courtesy of Stacey Hedman, Shaun Gallagher, and Jess Clarke.

The Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step

Disclaimer: Runner’s World provided me with a copy of this book and no additional compensation has been received. All thoughts, opinions, and awkward running habits are my own.

When running first became a priority to me in the spring of 2010, I was completely winging it. My runs were done in a pair of Nike+ running shoes that synced to my iPod, which never produced accurate mileage on outdoor runs no matter how many times I calibrated the damn thing. I trained with Gu on 5 mile runs and ran in cotton T-shirts until finally discovering tech tees several months down the road. Five days a week, as fast as I could, and wondered why I could never finish a run without walk breaks. No one ever told me running would be easier if I just slowed down. That I didn’t HAVE to maintain a 9 minute mile as a brand new runner. No one told me not to judge running shoes by their color. I wanted to be a runner and figured the best way to get there would be to put one foot in front of the other.

Runners World - Big Book of Running for Beginners

One thing I wish I would have had in my corner back when I started is The Runner’s World Big Book of Running for Beginners. It serves as a fantastic reference for beginners and even a source of inspiration for experienced runners who might be in a rut. I’ve had a subscription to Runner’s World for several years and while some of the information in this book I already knew, it was still an informative read. It’s split into three sections: Getting Started, Nutrition / Weight Loss, and Staying Healthy / Managing Injuries. One of my favorite parts of the book is the testimonials from normal non-athletes, explaining how and why their journey to become a runner began. Many used running as a tool to lose weight, stop smoking, and overcome illness. As someone who has absolutely no sports background, I found these testimonials to be very relatable and inspiring.

If I had to fault the book in one area, it would be the lack of training plans. There’s a Run for 30 Minutes plan in the appendix, but nothing for a beginner looking to complete their first 10K or half marathon. One might not use the terms ‘beginner’ and ‘half marathon’ in the same sentence but the 13.1 distance has become more popular over the past few years and a basic plan might be helpful for a runner looking to complete their first. It does reference The Starting Line, Runner’s World’s online training program for beginners which range from $9.99 to $19.99.

Overall, I definitely would recommend this book to runners of all levels. My skepticism was pretty high initially as it appeared to be geared towards beginners, but found a considerable amount of value in it as someone with a few years of running under their belt. I’ve flagged many of the pages with post-its to easily reference when training starts to ramp up (base building for marathon #3!) over the next few months.

Not Enough Time in the Day

I need help. And suggestions. And if it’s possible for you to insert an extra day into my week, that would probably be the best course of action. After Houston, my training came to a screeching halt. The arch issues I encountered on race day tapered off after a few days but the pain migrated over to the side of my right foot and made itself comfortable there. Grocery shopping required a cart to lean on and even just walking from my desk to the kitchen was sometimes painful. I RICE’d the crap out of that thing, with a major emphasis on the rest. I haven’t run a single step since the half last month and my first pain-free day was Saturday. With Austin just around the corner [this weekend, yikes – snuck up on me] I knew a decision would have to be made and I wasn’t going to like it. Nope, I wasn’t going to like it one bit.

I’ll be inking a big fat red DNS next to the 2014 Austin Half Marathon. It’s really for the best because I want to be 100% healthy to run Ragnar Cape Cod in May. But that doesn’t mean I’m not disappointed skipping this race. Deferring my entry would cost a pricey $60 [$120 for both Brad & I] and that unfortunately isn’t in the budget right now. Hopefully I’ll score an early-bird discount for the 2015 race when registration opens later this year.

finding the time to workout

Okay, so back to the part I need help with. I’m basically starting from scratch with a workout/running plan because my schedule has been out of whack since mid-December and being out of commission the past few weeks didn’t help either. This is the perfect time [hi, 12 weeks til Ragnar] to get a plan in place and work some classes into the mix. Here’s where I’m running into an issue: there aren’t enough hours in the day.

Morning: My gym opens at 5am so morning workouts are basically limited to anything I can squeeze in between 5 & 6. I need to be home by 6:10 to let Sox out of her crate and get ready for work. This scenario requires leaving the house with wet hair by 6:45, which could possibly suck if it’s cold outside. I can’t take any classes because they start at 5:30 and end at 6:30, leaving hardly any time to shower and drive to work – let alone going home to free Sox from her crate one last time.

Lunch: A Gold’s Gym just opened across the street from my office, which is awesome but ideally I’d need more than an hour. A run could definitely be squeezed in but taking Body Pump or RPM would be out of the question. I suppose an option would be to stay at the office 30 minutes later in order to justify a long lunch, but since I usually leave work around 5:15 or 5:30, I’m already pushing my ETA at home pretty far out. That 75-90 minute commute ruins everything…

Evening: All of the classes I’m interested in across the street don’t start until 6pm, so there’d be some time to kill after work. With classes running from 6-7 and at least an hour drive home, that puts me walking through the front door around 8pm. Brad is in bed by 8:30 at the latest and passed out cold by 9, so the amount of time we’d see each other during the week would be pretty scarce. I guess there’s always the option to go to the gym after he goes to bed, but let’s be honest: it probably won’t happen. The chance of me leaving the house again after getting home from work is slim.

I can fit running in pretty much anywhere, but structured classes are harder to schedule. Let’s recap: Sox the Pillow Eater cramps my style in the morning, midday classes are too long to fit into my lunch break, and evening gym sessions cut into time spent [which is already pretty short] with my other half. On Wednesdays I work from home, so taking a class that morning is definitely doable. The thought of waking up early on a day I usually look forward to sleeping in isn’t exactly appealing but sacrifices must be made. Here is the [tentative] plan:

Mon: RPM // Tues: run // Wed: BodyPump // Thurs: run // Fri: rest // Sat: run // Sun: rest/yoga

Monday I’ll try to get into work a little early and stay a little later to account for the lunchtime RPM class. On Tuesday and Thursday I have the option of running before work or at lunch. Wednesday morning I’ll reluctantly drag myself out of bed at the crack of down to get my ass kicked at BodyPump. And the remaining days are a non-issue.

Since this plan is just tentative, I’m looking for some tips & tricks to squeeze workouts into a busy schedule. Are you a morning, noon, or night runner/gym-goer?