Houston Marathon 2015

Chevron Houston Marathon Double Medal, ABB 5K, Houston Marathon

When I crossed the starting line of the 2015 Chevron Houston Marathon, this was not the story I thought I would be sharing. When I imagined how my race would go, I really only considered two possible outcomes; I’d either push for a new PR of 4:15 or I’d take it easy and enjoy every mile. I trusted my training, knew I’d put in enough speed work and most (but not all) of my long runs had been exactly where I wanted them to be. My legs and body were more than ready, my only remaining question was if my mind was strong enough to see me through 26.2 miles at my goal pace. 

I never considered that it wouldn’t be my mind, or my legs that would let me down. 

We Run Houston luncheon, Meb Keflezghi

Just two old friends, having lunch.

I can’t talk about the race without first mention some of the other fun times I had during the three days I was in Houston. I started marathon weekend with the We Are Houston luncheon at the Grove, listening to Meb Keflezighi speak about his journey through life, running, and winning the 2014 Boston Marathon. I am so grateful to have been invited to attend as an ambassador, many of the things Meb said resonated with me and solidified how I wanted to run my race on Sunday. 

I spent the rest of Friday hanging out at the expo with my fellow ambassadors taking pictures, spending money and enjoying the pre-race atmosphere. I finally got to meet Emilia and Carla for dinner, after internet creeping on them for a few years. 

Saturday morning, Julie and I ran the ABB 5K at a very sedate pace, I even made her walk once we hit the 4K mark because we’d running at a pace above my prescribed “super easy, slow run.” Julie helped get me through two of my longest training runs in December, so it was nice to spend some time running together just for fun. 

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 After the post race bananas, we headed back to the expo where the other ambassadors and I took more pictures and I spent just a little bit more money. I blame Julie for not helping me resist temptation.

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Fellow ambassador Eileen is an amazing runner and an even more incredible person.

The rest of Saturday was spent carb loading and trying to rest my legs for Sunday and a little sight seeing. I really need to spend more time in Houston, it is a beautiful city. I was also able to spend a little more time with ambassadors Eileen and Lisa before Julie and I headed to dinner to eat even more carbs.

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 I woke up Sunday morning with a horrible headache after sleeping poorly due to some shenanigans happening on our hotel floor late (..err early?) into the night. I heard people in the hallway as late as 4:00 in the morning which might be an acceptable bedtime for party people but not for marathon runners. In a glorious spark of karma, a group of runners walked up and down the hall about 5:00 a.m. singing loud enough to wake even the deepest sleeper. 

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Not pictured: my determination to have a PR making day.

In hindsight, I should have paid more attention to the headache and maybe lied down for a bit longer instead of heading over to the convention center early. But I’ve run with a headache probably over one hundred times and never suffered any real ill effect. I hadn’t ever run a marathon with one though. 

The convention center was more crowded than I remember it being in 2014 and the lines for the port-a-potties were insane. I didn’t really want to head outside into the slightly chilly air because I’d forgotten to bring a throw away layer. I am the luckiest ever though because Julie walked most of the way with me and I was able to give her my jacket before getting to the corral where people were so smashed together I was plenty warm.

The weather was as perfect as we can hope for in Texas in January, nice and cool with very little humidity. I decided that I wanted that PR and I was going to get it no matter how much it hurt. My brain was finally on board with buying a ticket to the pain train, and I was going to take full advantage of the great race weather.

Ahh, the glory days, when running was easy.

 

The first half of the race could not have been much better. I remember thinking how easily each mile was ticking by, how it seemed as though I was hitting one water stop and then just a few minutes later there was another one. I jumped into an empty port-a-potty somewhere between the 10K and 15K mats, when I found a bunch without a line. I nearly tripped all over myself trying to get back out, I’m lucky I didn’t break something.

It seemed as though the entire city was out Sunday morning cheering for the runners. I love that Houston prints customized race bibs, so the spectators can call your name out as you pass them by. I saw Julie around mile 5 even though I almost missed her I was so focused. If I had to pick a favorite part of the first half it would probably be West University Place, but really it’s all fantastic.

Those first couple of hours really were amazing, everything was unicorns and sunshine. My hydration was spot on, I was sipping my handheld slowly and methodically because in the past I have found I tend to forget to drink water and quickly become dehydrated. My GU was as delightful as ever, you just can’t go wrong with salted caramel. I was getting the occasional wave of pain from my head, but I tried to compartmentalize as much as possible and just focus on the pain in my legs instead. 

Complete and total collapse.

Complete and total collapse.

 

I’ve tried to understand and figure out what happened in the second half, and I’m still left shaking my head in confusion. Around mile 14 I was hit with a wave a nausea so strong that there wasn’t anything I could do but stop and heave at the side of the course. I walked for a bit after, trying to settle my stomach and get my head back into it. I saw the 4:15 pace group go by and knew I’d never see them again. At mile 15 I found Julie and begged her to take a Coke with her to mile 20. I can’t describe how much it meant to me knowing she would be there as I struggled through 5 miles of throwing up and dry heaving mixed with a side of running. Knowing my amazing friend was waiting for me was the only thing that kept me moving forward.

People say that running is an individual sport, that runners compete alone and against other runners, against the clock and against themselves. I’ve never really felt that way; my happiest runs have been shared with friends. On Sunday, when all I wanted was to be left alone to wallow in my misery my fellow runners continually checked on me, slowing down their own race to ensure I was ok. When my stomach hurt so much I couldn’t do more than take small, shallow breaths, another runner walked with me until the pain subsided enough and I could start running again.

I was at my lowest point, somewhere along Allen Parkway, sobbing and bent over, my stomach fighting against the water I’d managed to swallow. An angel wearing a volunteer shirt held my handheld and rubbed my back, telling me I’d be ok and asking if I wanted to go to the medical tent. I remember wanting the race to be over, remember cursing marathons and all the hours I spent training, but I wanted to cross that finish line so badly I couldn’t imagine any other outcome.

Finally, four hours and forty two minutes after starting I finally crossed the finish line. I leaned against the fence and cried for the loss of a goal, for the hours I spent training, hours away from my beautiful family, time I felt was now wasted. I accepted my medal, one I felt like I hadn’t earned, feeling as though I’d somehow cheated my way to the finish. I stood for the post race pictures faking a smile and hiding behind my sunglasses because I couldn’t stop the tears.

It’s hard to explain, even now, many days later the sense of disappointment I felt. It wasn’t just that I failed to run a PR or that I did NOT enjoy ever mile of the race. It was that my body had let me down, and there was simply no reason that I could understand and point to and say “this is why that happened.” 

I’ve asked myself dozens of times “was it really that awful? Really, you couldn’t just push through and keep going?” It took me a few days of reflection to understand that I did push through it, and that my mind, what I thought was going to be the weakest part of my race, was so much stronger than I anticipated. 

I’m surrounded by amazing, wonderful, kind people who have helped me realize that finishing this race was a huge accomplishment. Slowly I am finding pride in my performance on Sunday, where a time goal meant a lot less than my ability to keep moving forward. 

I might not be ready to run another marathon just yet, but I will be in Houston again in 2016. I hope to see you there!

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Houston Marathon Race Week!

Houston Marathon Race Week
After months of seemingly endless training it is finally race week! I have been counting down the weeks since late August wishing and hoping to be exactly where I am right now: looking forward to a fantastic weekend of celebrating hard, soul breaking training. Maybe that’s a little bit dramatic, but most weeks I questioned my decision to race another marathon, so it’s safe to say my runner’s soul took quite a beating this go-around.  I’m certainly looking forward to the weekend, it’s the whole run a marathon part that I keep forgetting to add to my to-do list.

The weekend itself should be a lot of fun, expo-ing, lunching with friends, running the ABB 5K (it’s not too late to register! Come run with me!), meeting all of the other ambassadors. My truly amazing friend Julie will be hanging out with me all weekend. We are planning to casually stroll the 5K together and then Julie hopes to meander from point to point to cheer for me during the marathon. That sounds fantastic, I wish I was going to be spectating!

Honestly, I’m all over the place as far as a time goal. At the beginning of my training I was hesitant to even think about where I wanted the clock to be when I crossed the finish line. And that’s a bit of a problem when you’re using the Run Less Run Faster method because ALL the training runs are set at a specific pace with a specific marathon goal pace in mind. So I was a bit of a headcase and all over the place at the beginning of training. However, as the weather cooled and running became a little easier I became more optimistic and I really thought my A goal was doable. I’m lucky I have such amazing friends who support my neuroses and listen to me ramble about tempo runs, pace groups, time goals, all of the insanity that has been me for the last couple six weeks or so. 

And here we are, just a few days away from the big day, and my confidence is slipping big time. My last long run was not ideal, in fact it was down right miserable, which I’d like to blame on being horribly sick. Even though I was sick and that’s more than enough reason for how awful I felt, it has messed with my mind big time. And that has left the last couple weeks of taper to be anything but restful. 

Oh, the taper madness…where to begin with that? As I tiny glimpse into my mind, I offer this example: I have managed to disinfect my entire office and half of the other offices on my floor several times. Germs are my biggest enemy right now and I’ve stocked up on masks just in case anyone tries to breath their germs onto me. Is that tickle in my throat allergies or is it the flu? Naturally Google indicates that it is the flu and I’ll likely be too miserable to run on Sunday. Maybe I should start crowd sourcing my symptoms rather than turning to Dr. Google…Nah!

Race day weather has also been a fun topic of conversation in my house over the last few days. Are runners the only people who can have an hour long conversation about the weather and not get bored? Or is that just me? Things are not looking too good for those of us who do not prefer a side of heatstroke with our marathon medals. I’m trying not to go crazy obsessing over it (HAHA!) so I haven’t actually checked the forecast since yesterday evening, maybe a cold front will decided to move in. As long as it’s not 70 degrees when I cross that finish line I will be a lot happier. 

I have decided that no matter the weather, or what pace my body feels like running, I am going to do my best to enjoy the day. I have told all who will listen that this will be my last marathon for a while, so I really want to spend as much of my time on the course being as happy and joyful as possible. Of course, registration for the 2016 marathon opens Sunday afternoon and sometimes the endorphins make me do crazy things!

 

 

Houston Marathon training update 5 weeks to go

Five weeks people! Things are starting to get pretty intense over here. I’d say it’s time to get serious about the whole training thing, but five weeks out is probably a little late for that. Also, the fact that I have stopped taking my training too seriously means I’m not freaking out about marathon day rapidly approaching. Instead I’d really like time to speed up so that I can be done stressing over super long runs and always being tired. Oh and constantly being hungry, we can’t forget that part!

Always hungry marathon training

There’s never a wrong time to use this.

Now that I’m nearing the end of this training cycle, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting over the last few months of running. And I’m feeling pretty good about where I am right now compared to where I was in September. Those summer long runs were miserable and soul crushing, I lost all confidence in my ability to make it through training to even toe the starting line in January. However, over the course of the last 6 weeks I’ve gotten a lot more confident and might even be thinking about setting a time goal. I’d hate to rush that, ya know? Why would I even want to do that before January anyway? 

I was lucky enough to con the Amazing Julie into running 18 miles with me on Saturday, December 6th, the day before she ran the San Antonio RnR full marathon. Yes she is a special kind of crazy to agree, but I am so thankful she was able to run with me. Not every single one of those miles was fantastic, and there may have been a point where I said we had to stop running and reevaluate our life choices. However, after the run I was very happy with our average pace, and the relatively mild soreness from my legs. I do not fully understand how Julie managed to run a full marathon the next day, because standing around cheering for four hours was pretty draining. 

You’ve got to get up pretty early in the morning, and then run 1.5 miles if you want to snag a good spot on the RnR course.

Downtown Run Group Water Station RnR San Antonio

The marathon course was rerouted right by where one of our group member lives. So of course we set up a water station.

I am the luckiest, or perhaps I’m just very wise when it comes to making friends, because Julie agreed to run with me again this last weekend for my scheduled 20 miles. I’m even luckier that she is still speaking to me after I planned an incredible hilly route; I’m not sure what I was thinking but we pretty much ran straight up (and into a headwind and barefoot in the snow) for the first 13 miles.  As miserable as I was, and no matter how much I complained and asked to take a walk break, Julie stayed positive for me. I’m not sure I would have survived this without her. 

This guy and I are sympatico, because after that run I fully understood how he felt.

This guy and I are sympatico, because after that run I fully understood how he must feel. I may have stayed in this position for a full five minutes after we took the picture because I was just too tired to move.

I have one more 22 mile run on the schedule, and I’m already lining up volunteers to keep me company. So if you’re in San Antonio on the 27th, I’ll be running for a long time and wouldn’t mind if you tagged along. And after that it’s taper time!

Though if we’re being honest, I think my brain has already turned the corner and started in on the taper craziness. Over the last two weeks I have thought about changing my hotel reservation no fewer than eight times. It’s not that I’m unhappy with my current reservation, but rather that I just can’t stop second guessing myself. “Is it too far away?” “Will I regret not having a free breakfast option.” “What if I trip on the way to the expo and break my ankle? How will I run!” So the upcoming taper should be full of laughs if this sort of internal dialogue keeps up.

Despite being unable to fully commit to a hotel reservation, I’m really looking forward to marathon weekend. I’ve decided that running a marathon isn’t challenging enough, so I’ll be running the ABB 5K on Saturday morning. I think we all know the real reason I’m doing it is to get two extra medals. The Amazing Julie will be hanging out all weekend with me and we’re going to run the 5K together at a very relaxed pace. 

Over the next week or two I think I’ll probably try to commit to a time goal, and I might even go crazy and share it with other people. I keep saying “I’ll wait until my long run goes this weekend” before really deciding on anything. But now that I’m feeling a little better about running in general I’m ready to get this whole marathon goal figured out. Give me a few days and I’ll probably change my mind.

Five for Friday

There’s no need for a long introduction, let’s just get right to it!

Things at work haven’t really gotten any better. Well, I guess I can’t say that entirely, since I am no longer leaving each day feeling miserable and beaten down. But that might be due to a change in my apathy level and less with the actual work.  I am still working solo and responsible for more than I am being compensated for. I know it’s not ALL about the money, but if I’m responsible for things that are WAY beyond the scope of my job description, I’d like it to be acknowledge. And it’s not. So things are stressful at work, but fortunately it’s the kind of stress that I don’t take home with me. And, one of my coworkers sent me chocolates, and I love sugar!

Halloween Candy

It’s not all bad if there’s chocolate!

I had jury duty earlier this week, and what a fun and exhilarating experience that is! The day started out well enough, dropped off Tysen at school and had plenty of time to get to work. Work. You know, at the same time I was supposed to be reporting for jury duty. Whoops. A slight freak out ensued as I frantically tried to figure out if I was about to be hunted down and arrested, followed quickly by a manic drive downtown and a mad dash from the parking garage to the Justice Center. I was already late, so when I was told I wouldn’t be allowed to take my soup spoon inside the building, I was forced to throw it away. Ugh. My good spoon, from my silverware drawer. I’m still pretty angry about that. This is how the day went:

Halloween is probably my all time favorite holiday, followed closely by Thanksgiving. I just really love the holidays that are celebrated with food. I have the Timehop app on my phone, and all week long I’ve gotten to look back on the last few years of celebrating Halloween with the kids. I love dressing up, and being silly, and I’m fortunate that both kids seem to feel the same. In the past, we’ve tried to have a family theme, and I’m glad my kids let us get away with that. This year Kaleena was having none of it and insisted on being a fairy princess.  OK, kid, just get me some candy!

Halloween

I couldn’t decide on just ONE photo to represent my love of costumes and candy. So your eyeballs are overwhelmed with a collage! You’re welcome.

Thursday was a schedule tempo run day, and I was not feeling it at all. My leg has felt kind of funny since Monday’s overly enthusiastic mile repeats. I can’t pinpoint the pain exactly, it’s in my calf, but I couldn’t tell you much beyond that. It’s sometimes painful to walk, sometimes not. Because I’m better at motivating myself when other people are involved, I texted a friend I have run with a lot in the past but haven’t seen much of lately because of our different schedules and training plans. He was meeting up with a group I’d run with once about two years ago and I asked him if I could tag along. I’m so glad I did! I nailed my tempo run (aside from the whole warm up and cool down part, but who needs that anyway?). The leg pain was there, but more of a whisper than a full on scream of pain. Afterward the group had plans to head for dinner, celebrating the fact that a bunch of group members just finished Ironman 70.3 Austin. It was so nice to be surrounded by these amazing people and honestly, if I owned a bike, I would have signed up for a triathlon right then and there.

On Sunday I’m running the San Antonio Road Runners Member Appreciation Race. Originally I signed up for the 15 mile distance, thinking to align it as closely as possible with my training schedule. And at the time, that seemed like a really good decision. I wouldn’t actually “race” the whole thing, maybe a few MGP miles in the middle, but overall I’d treat it as a really crowded training run…A couple months later though, my body is feeling pretty off and I’m needing a step-back week. I think the smartest thing to do is drop down to the ten miles, and just run it at a very easy pace. Over the last few weeks I’ve been pushing a bit harder on my long runs in an attempt to see if I’m capable of holding faster training paces. I think I am, but I also think it’s starting to make everything ache a little bit.

Houston Marathon training update

I know what you’re thinking, you didn’t even know I’d started training for the Houston Marathon, and here I am about to unload an update on you. Oh well, these things happen and we just have to move on.

Training actually started at the end of August, making for a pretty long training cycle. I know some people don’t like a long training cycle, but I prefer to have extra weeks built in to my schedule in case the wheels fall off and I need to change things up. Technically I have 22 weeks of official training, but the first few weeks were more base building than anything else.

I’ve hesitated to make a time goal, and I’m sure my running friends are tired of hearing about it. When I registered back in the spring, I felt like somewhere around 4:15 was within my abilities. But then the summer happened…and I feel like I’ve only gotten slower. I’m not sure how hard I want to push myself in my training and on race day. I feel as though I COULD run a 4:15 if I put in the required effort to get there. But see, that’s the thing, I also feel like I could comfortably run 4:30…Do I want to be comfortable or do I want to make the training and time spent away from my family worth it?

 I’m using Run Less Run Faster again this time, because I like the idea of being faster and I like the idea of running less. I used this last year as well, and I managed to get to the starting line feeling 100% prepared and injury free, always a positive. I’ve already experienced a few setbacks with an ankle sprain (hello Ragnar Hill Country), some quad pain, and pain in my right hip flexor. Mostly these can be traced back to my slacking off on cross training days and strength training. I know this is not smart and I need to fix it before I get seriously injured, but I have failed to make it a priority.

Here we are 12 weeks out from race day and all I feel is a confusion about my running. I’ve yet to have a long run where I felt good the whole time. And on every.single long run I question if I should drop to the half instead of the full. Cooler weather is finally within our grasp, and I know that will have an impact. At least I hope it will.

 

Five for Friday

There is a lot of stuff going on in my life, keeping me crazy busy, but none of it I’m ready to share yet. Hashtag vague blogging.

Here’s a list of random stuff I do want to share! It has been so long since I wrote up a post that WordPress went and changed on me, so rude.

1. I saw this article yesterday and I immediately shared it with my Saturday running buddy. I can relate to every one of those, so I was reading it and cracking up at my desk. I’m sure that was highly appreciated. 

2. Who knew swimming was so great? I’m not exactly ready to turn pro or anything, but I have a very new found love for lap swimming. I’m 100% horrible at it, but I love it in a way that I can’t even explain. It’s never going to replace my love for running, but I find myself wishing I could get to the pool more often. I’m sure once it’s winter and cold I might change my mind, but for now, I’m very excited about it.

3. This is my kind of triathlon. I could do that in one sitting, so it’s pretty much perfect for me.

4. Um, hello August! Where did your friend July go? This makes me sad for many reasons; soon school will start and that means busy schedules and packing lunches, and even worse we are inching closer to official marathon training. I’m so not ready.  I attempted to run ten miles last weekend after not being consistent with long runs. That was stupid for so many reasons, but hey, we learn from our mistakes, right?

5. I mentioned this on the twitters (so sorry for repeating information, but a girl’s only got so much randomness in a day), but July was a much better running month for me. June was bad, really, really bad as far as consistency and desire to run. You know when people say “things can only go up from here,” well my running in June is a prime example of that. I ran SIX TIMES more miles in July than I ran in June. That sentence looks strange, hopefully you get my point.  And July was still relatively lower than many of my “average” months. 

Now go and get your weekend on!

Five for Friday

1. Today is an early release day from work, which means I get to leave at 2:00 and don’t take a lunch. I really like getting to leave early, but it always seems like these days drag on and on; probably because there is the whole no eating lunch thing.  I do like lunch. Hopefully I can get my mind off of food long enough to write the rest of this post!

2. I may have been whining and complaining last night that the South Texas area wasn’t getting any of the cold weather that the northern part of the state was getting. I think the weather gods decided to punish me by giving me a giant storm around 2:00 in the morning, complete with flash flood warnings and alerts on my phone. Yippy! I do love a good rain storm, and I’ll be the first to line up on the porch to watch the lightening roll in.  But I do not like it in the middle of the night when I am trying to sleep. I really like sleep. I forced myself out of bed to set up our improvised water diversion system so that the playroom doesn’t flood, which it usually does anytime we get a few drops of rain. I stood outside with lightning crashing all around me hoping that if I did get struck it would be quick and painless. But considering I was drenched from head to toe, I think it probably would have hurt pretty badly.  I’m going to need extra coffee today. 

3. Last night’s run was pretty miserable, due to the unbearable pre-storm humidity and 98* day. Here’s a breakdown of my mental process:
Mile 1 – This isn’t too bad, lots of shade and, hey, is that a gentle breeze I feel? As long as I just take it nice and easy I can survive six miles of this.
Mile 2 – Why is it so hot? I wish it would rain, I know those are rain clouds over there. Was that a drop of rain? No, just my water bottle leaking. Oh, crap, my water bottle is leaking and now I have no water. Why does it smell like horse poop?
Mile 3- I wonder if I can run to the rain, it doesn’t seem like it’s that far away. But then I’d have to run back. I don’t want to do that. Oh good, the sun came out. Now I can melt and die of dehydration all at the same time.
Mile 4 – Why is the car so far away? I should just run one mile out and back routes from now on, that way the car is never so far away.
Mile 5- Five miles is almost like six, I could just walk back to the car. Whose dumb idea was it to run six miles, that’s just a stupid arbitrary number. If I stop and walk maybe I will get rained on, that would be great. But if I walk, then it will take me even longer in this oppressive humidity. Keep running, maybe the wind will come back.
Mile 6 – Why am I still not back at my car. I suck at math.

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Every time.

4. I’m not much for vague-blogging, usually if I have something to say I’m more than happy to share it. But this one is a little vague, but I feel like I need to share some parts of it, if only to hold myself accountable and follow through.  I’m looking to make some changes, professionally, and go in a completely different direction with my work life. Fortunately I have Justin’s support 100% and both kids are on board. I am not entirely convinced I’m going to be cut out for what might come from these changes, but it’s time to take control of my happiness. I’ve been pretty miserable during the 8:00-5:00 hours, and that’s seeping into my home life; I get home unhappy, I crankily make dinner while being short with the kids, and then I’m mentally exhausted so I sit on the couch and think about my miserableness. That’s not doing anyone any favors. Hopefully the promise of a better tomorrow will make me get through this challenge.

5. By now I’m sure you’ve heard about the Runner’s World  cover contest, and you probably have your favorite friend who you’re already planning to vote for every day. Just in case you haven’t chosen an entry to support, I’d like to point you in the direction of Edward Lychik.  I wish I could put into words what an inspiration Ed is, but I know I’ll fail miserably.  On his 21st birthday, while serving in Afghanistan, a rocket hit the vehicle he was travelling in. The resulting injury made him a hip disarticulation amputee (you may not want to click that link if you are squeamish). Doctors told Ed he’d never run, that it was simply impossible, and yet he has completed four marathons as well as Spartan races, mud runs, ultra trail runs as well has many road half marathons since his injury. When I think of Ed, I don’t see an amputee, I see someone who has embraced life and all of its challenges, someone who refuses to listen to the words no, can’t, fear or doubt. 

hip disarticulation amputee, Edward Lychik

Shamelessly stolen from Ed’s Instagram account. You know you want to go see more, this man is amazing.