Strait Up Awesome :: The Cowboy Rides Away

Saturday afternoon Brad and I headed down to San Antonio for a concert. But not just any concert…

George Strait

This might mean absolutely nothing to you if you loathe country music, but George Strait is known as the King of Country. The man has 60 #1 singles. SIXTY! Last September he announced that his next tour would be his final tour, the first leg of it wrapping up on June 1, 2013 in his hometown of San Antonio, Texas. Obviously we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see him in concert. Thankfully I found a pre-sale code to buy tickets early because the Alamodome had their fastest and largest sell-out in history with over 72,000 tickets sold in under six minutes once they went on sale to the general public.

We stayed at the St. Anthony Riverwalk Wyndham courtesy of a sweet deal on Priceline for only $87. The historic hotel is currently undergoing renovations so it wasn’t the standard bright and modern hotel you’d expect from Wyndham.

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But for $87 on a weekend where every hotel in downtown San Antonio was sold out? It worked out just fine! Parking onsite was $26 a night for valet and $20 for self-parking, but we found a parking garage less than a block away for $8. Less money for parking = more money for beer.

We checked in at 4:00, changed, and were at the bar in the lobby having a cold Shiner by 4:45.

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The plan was to take a cab since the sun was blazing and the temperature was creeping up near 100 degrees, but once we walked out the door it was VERY apparent that that was not going to happen. The city was 100% gridlocked and not an empty cab in sight.

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So we walked from our hotel to the Alamodome. Not horrible considering it was just a mile away, but my cowboy boots were certainly NOT made for walking. Just after the halfway point we dipped into Bar Rojo at the Grand Hyatt to have a beer and cool down for a minute.

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That made the trek across 37 much more bearable!

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Our first stop was the beer line, obviously. My question of “How many can I order at once?” was quickly met with the standard answer of “two per ID” so we ordered four.

Hello, friends.

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We settled into our seats just before the lights went down for the first opener, Martina McBride. She had a short set, followed by a set from Miranda Lambert (who was AWESOME!) and then a quick break before George took the stage.

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I cannot even explain to you how loud the roar of the crowd was when he entered the arena – I’ve never heard anything like it. He opened with “Here for a Good Time” and played song after song after song for two hours. He led the crowd in a “Go Spurs Go!” chant. He performed Johnny Cash’s “Jackson” with Martina McBride.

In the middle of the show, he presented two families with keys to new homes in San Antonio as a part of the “Homes 4 Wounded Heroes” program, started by the Military Warriors Support Foundation. During each show on the Cowboy Rides Away Tour, George awards a wounded hero with a 100% mortgage free home. Pretty damn cool.

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George and his band left the stage for only a couple minutes before returning to the screaming crowd that was begging for more. The encore the included “All My Ex’s Live in Texas” and another Johnny Cash classic, “Folsom Prison Blues”. He finished the night appropriately with “The Cowboy Rides Away” and tossed his signature black cowboy hat into the crowd before exiting the stage.

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The concert was Saturday night and I’m still blown away by how amazing it was. Strait’s voice is just PERFECT and every single part of that show was incredible.

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We obviously threw all thoughts of getting a cab back to the hotel out the window and just followed the masses back across 37 and threw the streets of Downtown San Antonio. Having a couple more beers at the bar in the hotel lobby seemed like a good idea and we ended up making a few new friends there too. New friends who had never had a Jager bomb before and decided they needed to try them IMMEDIATELY. Brad and I haven’t done that shot since probably 2006 – I kinda wanted to keep it that way. So much for that.

Sunday morning consisted of multiple trenta-sized iced black teas and brunch at Cheesecake Factory. I think his face accurately depicts how we were feeling the morning after.

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Then I serenaded Brad during the entire drive back up to Austin. Seriously, I could NOT get “Give It All We Got Tonight” out of my head for the life of me.

After about 45 minutes I switched to belting out “Give It Away” and by the time we pulled in the driveway I was telling Brad to “Check Yes or No”.

He’s so lucky to have me.

Oh! And Governor Rick Perry decided backstage at the concert that May 18th, George’s birthday, will from now on be George Strait Day in Texas. Badass.

What’s the best concert you’ve ever been to?

What’s Next?

I spent July through October training my little heart out for the Marine Corps Marathon.

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Now that the race has come and gone, it’s time to look into the future at upcoming goals.

I fell ridiculously short of my sub 2:20 half marathon goal for 2011. I can tell you exactly why: lack of training. The first three races in the beginning of the year should hardly be considered as legitimate attempts. I barely logged any training miles and ran the races solely to finish. I had a few killer speed workouts and tempo runs during marathon training, but for the most part I only trained for distance.

Once San Antonio rolled around, two weeks after Marine Corps, it was clear this wouldn’t be the time to PR. It didn’t keep me from setting a few lofty race goals though. I managed to eek out a PR by one minute – not what I had hoped for. A less than impressive showing on my behalf. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed.

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Back to my original point – the sub 2:20 race didn’t happen. The only logical thing to do would be to slash some serious minutes off my current PR early next year.

Enter 3M Half Marathon on January 29, 2012.

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This will be my PR race, kicking the year off in a big way. The goal is a 2:15-2:20 finish. Yes, I realize that’s a 20 minute difference from the half two weeks ago, but barring injury {knock on wood} it’s attainable with the correct training.

Therefore, I present to you … the Operation Run Fast training plan.
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(click to view full training plan)

I’ve been tweaking it for over a month and aside from the long run paces, it’s finally done.

Three days of running (speed/tempo/long), two days of cross-training (elliptical/spin), and two rest days. While I always run three days a week, cross-training seems to fall by the wayside. It’s just as important as running, so I need to make sure I’m completing those workouts (not counting this past holiday week).

I jumped back onto the running scene this week:

Tuesday:   2 miles @ 9:55 pace (This run kicked my ass and reminded me what taking a few weeks off will do to you)

Thursday:  5 miles @ 11:25 pace (Turkey Trot)

Sunday:     6.5 miles @ 11:04 pace (Supposed to be 6-7 miles at 11:38 pace. I compromised with 6.5 and ran them a bit faster than what the training plan called for. Oops)

I’m ready to buckle down and train hard for the 3M Half. Operation Run Fast starts NOW.

Bring it on.

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.

Rock n Roll San Antonio Expo

Saturday morning I picked up some coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts and met up with Carly at her place. We packed our bags into the car and once Jeanette arrived we were San Antonio bound!

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First stop: the Alamodome for the expo.

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We went straight to the Check-In area to pick up our bibs

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Then we grabbed our shirts, swag bags, and headed into the merchandise/vendor area.

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Nutrilite was our first stop. I traded in an old bottle of GNC vitamins for a 90-day supply of theirs.

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As was the case with last year’s expo, it was enormous. Tons of vendors, a few freebies – basically anything your little runner heart desired was in the Alamodome.

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We admired Rock n Roll’s 2011 Heavy Medals collection

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And I fell in love with the one I’ll be receiving in the mail shortly for completing both Dallas and San Antonio this year:

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Oooh, ahhh. Sparkly.

I replaced my near-empty container of Strawberry Lemonade Nuun and picked up the Citrus Fruit as well. Added bonus – another free water bottle!

Josh Cox was speaking about hydration and nutrition the day before a race:

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Clearly I was very excited about my bag of swag:

381786_10150934775910045_592895044_21688661_450147115_nCarly invested in a very appropriate Slightly Inappropriate Mantras tee

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I invested in this Raw Threads shirt:

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Carly bought us cheetah (!!) headbands to wear during the race. We had searched high and low for cheetah kneesocks in the weeks leading up to the race but came up empty handed. Headbands it was!

About an hour and countless dollars lately, we decided we had seen all the expo had to offer.

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We took a peek at the finish line on our walk back to the car. It wasn’t done being set up yet, but still cool to see it completely empty and quiet.

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We then parted ways with Jeanette to check into our respective hotels. We clearly hit the jackpot with our mini-suite. Plenty of room for us!

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And courtesy of Carly, here is our fully stocked fridge:

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All of the pre-race hydrating essentials: Smart Water, Vitamin Water, and wine.

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While getting ready to head out to dinner, we dumped out our swag bags:

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We LOVED the shirt. Super cute. The rest of the contents of the bag weren’t incredibly exciting, but when are they ever? There was a Gu flavor we hadn’t seen before – Island Nectar. That was about it.

Next up – dinner on San Antonio’s Riverwalk!

Recaper

Don’t bother wondering what recaper means or attempt to consult Google for a definition. I made it up.

Daily Mile sent me this email:

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What they failed to recognize is my last logged workout was a damn marathon.

Which brings me to the title of the post: recaper. I could argue I’m still in recovery mode from the marathon and not in any specific hurry to jump back into working out as diligently as I had been. Although as Carly brought up yesterday, it’s race week (yet again!), so I suppose I’m tapering.

Recovering from one race + tapering for another = recaper.

I have a case of the taper crazies like you would NOT believe. You know, aside from actually wanting to run more during race week. Or run at all. I cannot stop thinking about this race, and it’s probably just as bad as the days leading up to Marines Corp.

I have opened my Pace Calculator app no less than 437 times since Monday.

I’ve been studying the elevation map:

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and mentally burning the water stop locations into my brain

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Weather.com is constantly open at work, on my laptop at home, and I’ve added San Antonio to the list of saved locations in the weather app on my phone.

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I’ve reread last years recap to absorb any details about the course I may have forgotten. I’ve studied my splits from my three previous half marathons this year to see where I seem to hit the wall. This taper is consuming my brain!

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I’m not really sure what’s going to go down in San Antonio on Sunday. I shouldn’t set goals for the race considering I am only two weeks out from my 26.2.

But I want to PR.

This shouldn’t be all that difficult considering my half PR is 2:38. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous to run side-by-side with Carly, Miss Speedy 2:21 PR.

We absolutely annihilated our 10k PRs at the beginning of October at IBM, but this is more than twice the distance. There’s no way I will be able to hold a sub-10 pace for the entire race. In order for Carly and I to both PR, we would need to maintain a 10:40 pace. Much more attainable, although still difficult. I haven’t exactly been training for speed lately, only distance.

And for Carly to knock yet another goal from her 2011 list, we would need to run San Antonio in 2:15, a 10:18 pace. Carly, I don’t know if my post-marathon legs can promise you this goal. But for you, I will try.

Like I said, I shouldn’t set goals. But I’m doing it anyway.

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Goal A: Beat last year’s time

Goal B: 2:30 (11:27 pace)

Goal C: 2:25 (11:04 pace)

Goal D: 2:20 (10:41 pace)

One thing is for sure – I am so damn excited to run this race! It will be so nice to hit 13.1 and be DONE.

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3 days til race day!

2010 Rock n Roll San Antonio 1/2 Marathon Race Recap

Saturday morning I made the drive down to San Antonio to hit the Expo (aka the money sucker). I arrived at the Alamodome just before 11, and the crowds weren’t too bad yet, I will say, however, I was less than thrilled about paying $10 to park. I’m sure if I was more familiar with the area I could have found somewhere cheaper. I mean, we’re paying enough money to participate in the race – I don’t think we should be charged to pick up our race packet!

 

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The Expo was absolutely massive; it totally blew the one at Disney Wine & Dine out of the water. Pretty much anything you could ever want or need before a race was being sold there. And, most importantly, there was plenty of freebies! You best believe I stocked up on the free stuff after I was robbed for parking 🙂

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Of course, I didn’t have the willpower to get out of there without buying something. I invested in these guys:

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I had them in my hand, and then put them back about three times because 1) I didn’t want to spend the money on them and 2) the line was ridiculously long. I was planning on buying these eventually anyway, so I rationalized it like this: they were 20% off at the Expo AND I wouldn’t have to pay shipping. Essentially I would be saving about $20. I’m so glad I did, because they helped immensely on the 90 minute drive home following the race!

After I left the Expo, I met up with my friend who I was staying with for lunch, and then we did a quick Target run so I could grab bread/peanut butter/bananas for my pre-race breakfast. Of course in the rushed morning I managed to leave all my supplies at home.

At 6, I headed to Chris Madrid’s to meet up with a few Operation Jack supporters, as well as founder Sam Felsenfeld. Since I had a chicken sandwich for lunch, I wasn’t in a burger mood which was unfortunate since their burgers are extremely popular. I ordered some nachos, which were just okay, but the company was great 🙂 Back to my friend’s house I went, and I was in bed by 9:30.

The alarm went off at 2:45, and I immediately snoozed it and went back to sleep. Carly texted me just after 3 to make sure I was up, and then I decided it would be best to get out of bed and get moving! I had breakfast and started getting my hydration on with a 33oz bottle of water.  I dressed in a red tech shirt, UA compression capris, and a throwaway fleece.

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I got to the satellite parking lot super early, as you can see above. The shuttles to the start line began at 4, but I wanted to make sure I got there early enough so I wouldn’t have to wait in line. It was 56, which seems fairly bearable but there was a wind whipping around that made it feel much, much chillier.

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The shuttle ride to the start took about 15 minutes, not too bad. I met up with a few gals from Twitter: Marci, Megan, and Cassie. Here’s a photo from Marci’s phone of us livin’ it up in Corral 26 (and actually the only pic I have of me on race day!) Seriously, I am a midget.

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I was initially in Corral 20 but I moved back so we could all hang out pre-race. Smart move, considering the first corral was released at 7:15 and we didn’t even cross the start line until 8:02. We kept each other company!

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We ran past the Alamo! I’m pretty proud of this picture because I didn’t realize it was there until I had passed it so I tossed my camera over my shoulder and snapped a pic. Not bad, right?

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Somewhere after this point, I want to say probably near the end of mile 8, I decided it would be a good idea to stop to hit the port-o-potty. I figured I would have to stop eventually, so might as well get it out of the way now. Big mistake. This added a little over 5 minutes to my time. And THEN when I tried to start running again, my legs just weren’t having it. They were rebelling hardcore, and they felt like lead.

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Heading towards the Alamodome for the second time…

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So just when you are breathing a sigh of relief when you see the mile 13 sign, you see this up ahead of you:

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Yes, that’s an uphill finish. Are. You. Kidding. Me.

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Annnd the finish line!

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And the medal? Oh yes, it’s beautiful. It’s sparkly and glittery and I love it.

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Here are my splits:

Mile 1 11:12

Mile 2 11:36

Mile 3 11:58

Mile 4 11:37

Mile 5 12:23 <—hill!

Mile 6 11:58

Mile 7 12:12

Mile 8 11:12

Mile 9 13:04 <—here’s where the wheels fell off

Mile 10 12:39

Mile 11 13:15

Mile 12 13:23

Mile 13 13:25

Mile .1 1:03

I finished in 2:47, a 25 minute PR – hell yes! Would I have been more pleased with 2:42 (or less) had I not stopped at the restroom? Of course. But there was no avoiding that. A PR is a PR, and I’ll take it! Plus, it makes it easier to PR in my next race 😉

Post-race, in order to get your bag from gear check you had to walk down one large flight of stairs and then up another. Just what we were all in the mood for, stair climbing. I contemplated having my free celebratory beer after the race, but honestly I was ready to get the hell home. I took the shuttle back to my car, slipped on my compression socks, and spent the 90 minute drive home overcome by a little thing called runner’s high. Gotta love it 🙂

Half marathon number two is officially in the books, and it’s time to start training for the third!