Sunday, March 27, 2011

A "DNS" really sucks right about now

Ever since my second marathon of the season I've felt pretty darn fantastic. I signed up for the Capitol 10K awhile ago, figuring I would see how I felt come race day and decide if I wanted to attempt a personal best. I ran my very best 10k at the Cap 10K two years ago....a 53:45...but that was with some serious speed training the few weeks prior. This year I was merely relying on the relay and whatever I could pull off in the 5 weeks between the Austin Marathon and Capitol 10K.  In other words, I figured a 57 minute 10K was about what I would pull off. my huge surprise...I was feeling AWESOME.  I felt really good at the relay and posted respectable times in each of my legs.  I was barely sore after my second marathon and after the relay.  I joined the gym and started running on a treadmill to force some faster speed out of these legs.  Things were looking surprisingly good for a shot at a personal best.

On Thursday of this past week, while still sore was a pretty tough Pilates session the day before, I headed out for a 4 miler, figuring it would be a bit slower since I was sore.  I felt sluggish through the first mile and figured it was probably about 10 minute pace (if I was lucky), which was my typical pace for the first mile.  To my surprise I looked down at my Garmin when it beeped after my first mile....8:44.  WTH?  I never do that for my first mile of a run without realizing I'm running that fast. So I decided that I would just maintain that pace and do a 5K.  My time ended up being 26:50.  Not a 5K PR by a long shot but still a pretty good pace without intentionally meaning to do a fast run....and exactly half of what I needed to hit a 10K PR.  Hmmm....yeah, I could do it.

Unfortunately, things didn't work out that way.  For the past 4 years I have always parked in a particular parking structure before this race, getting there about an hour early.  I didn't alter my plan this morning....but it had a vastly different outcome.  I GOT STUCK IN TRAFFIC.

And because I hadn't come up with an alternative plan, I had no idea what to do.  I was alone, so I couldn't just ditch the car and then the driver figure it out.  There were going to be over 20,000 running this race, so if I didn't get to the start I was going to be stuck behind a lot of walkers.  Not that there's anything wrong with walkers, but having to navigate through them for the first couple miles would have absolutely killed any chance I had at a good time.  At five minutes until start time I was still stuck in traffic, and hadn't even moved for at least 5 minutes.  It led me to believe the parking structure was full....and unfortunately there really was nowhere else for me to park...I pretty much picked the worst street to be on.  I had to make the painful decision to bag the race, turn around, and head back home.  Devastated much???

This has never happened to me.

I always get to races early.

I really wanted to cry.

I decided that if I wasn't running the race, I could at least make a good shot at a fast time on a treadmill.  I would have run outside, but I knew the treadmill would force a certain pace out of me much better.  So off to the gym I went.  I wanted to get a full 10K in, but I figured that I could relieve my babysitter (my fabulous friend Heather) so she could head to church without having to drag my kids with her.  If I ran a full 10K it was cutting it close, so I ended up running 5 miles in 44 minutes.  Had I ran the last 1.2 miles in just under 8 min/mile pace, I would have had my PR.  I absolutely would have done it.  Although I may have puked trying.  When I got off the treadmill, I had to literally hold my hand to my mouth to keep myself from puking.  That gym is really REALLY warm sometimes and my adrenaline was sky high. 

But dammit, I got those aggressions out.

Now, many hours later, after reading about all my friends running a fabulous race today, and it seeming like I was the ONLY one who missed the race, I'm still sad.  I would have liked to have seen my friends, I would have liked to take picture of my Garmin to show off my new 10K personal best time of 53:30...or better....I'm just sad. 

Greg told me he'd pace me to get a PR out of me in the next couple weeks.  I'm going to take him up on that.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spring Break and History Lessons

No blog post in 11 days?  I'm ashamed! 

We hit up Washington, D.C., for the kiddos' spring break.  Last year our very good friends, the Nelsons, moved there (boo!) so we made sure we booked a trip to see them again. Nine months with no Nelson love was torture!

What an incredible city. I seriously do think it's the very best city in the United States.  Now, granted, there are many I have never visited, liked NYC, New Orleans, etc, but I truly think there is no other domestic city that offers what D.C. has in terms of history.  It's just beautiful and spectacular and it's impossible to see everything unless you're there for at least two weeks!

I won't go into a bunch of details, but I will say that if you haven't visited, you really need to make plans to go there.  And plan ahead!  We contacted our congressman over 4 months ago for White House and Capitol tour tickets and were very lucky to get them for this week.  I wish we had realized we could have done a Pentagon tour as well but thought of it way too late. Luckily the Pentagon Memorial is open at any time, and it was definitely the most meaningful thing we did while in D.C. The thought that went into every detail of the memorial was just amazing. The Capitol tour we did was a private one and totally worth the two hours.  I learned so many interesting things and the pictures I got were incredible.  White House tour was okay, but was self-guided and we saw very little. cameras allowed at all and phones had to be turned off until you left the building.  Boo to that.

Capitol Dome

The Pentagon Memorial is very symbolic in every single detail.
(If you look closely at the Pentagon, you can see the two different shades of stone from where it was repaired following the attack)

A few things I learned while in D.C.:

1. It's okay to honk at any time for pretty much any reason while you drive through the city. If you hesitate at all at any green light prepare for the wrath of the driver behind you.

2. Security guards at the Pentagon are anti-Democrat apparently (after stupidly forgetting I couldn't take pics of the actual building and getting caught doing so, a security guard said about us to the other guard, "Oh they're from Texas and Republican, so they're all right.")

3. Waiting in line for an hour to get the opportunity to go up inside the Monument is absolutely worth every minute, even when it's freezing out and you're underdressed.

The view from the Monument, complete w
ith a dyed green fountain for St. Patty's Day

4. It's very easy to overeat.

5. The White House tour kinda sucks, although the building itself is beautiful.

6. If you're not careful you'll end up on a bridge and in Virginia.

7. Jefferson Street is the best place to park. Hands down.

8. Speaking of parking, we have the best parking luck ever.

9. Running through Arlington Cemetery and National Mall is the best run route I've ever taken.  I plan to run the National Half Marathon next year.

It was easy to run 11 miles when I had this view.

10. Eastern Market - best way to spend a Saturday morning

11. I've never seen so many police cars in my life.

12. Every hour or so you can count on massive sirens, blocked intersections, and black SUVs racing down a street.

13. Wear waterproof mascara - you WILL cry at the memorials if you have a heart.

At the World War II Memorial. Breathtaking artwork.

Now...enjoy a few more of my favorite pics.  I took about 1700.

Our very first stop after we arrived. Featured on Man v. Food.

It's truly unreal how many names are on the Vietnam Veterans Wall

Good ol' Abe Lincoln

Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers

Arlington National Cemetery

To say the Space Shuttle is big is an understatement (this is at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum at Dulles Airport)

So when are YOU planning your trip?

Friday, March 11, 2011

And the finale - TIR 2011 COMPLETE!

It's now daytime, we're done with 33 out of the 40 legs in the Texas Independence Relay, and I've completed all four of my legs.  It's now time for me to cheer on the rest of my teammates and enjoy our time running and navigating confusing one-way streets through Houston.

Erica made sure to let us know that her leg 34 would not be in the 7:20 pace range and she would surely slow it down.  Yeah, 7:28 sure is slowing it down.  Did I mention she's a beast?

Our team really wasn't slowing down at all - it's like they had actually slept or something in the past 24 hours.

I feel kind of bad for Red on leg 36.  She totally rocked it of course, but I was a little wrong when I said the ghetto part wasn't that bad. Oops. I'm happy she made it through in one piece.  I think it made her run even faster.

I think everyone was getting pretty eager to start the real drinking because at Exchange 37 we were instructed by Jeff (who was running the leg) that he wanted a beer waiting for him.  So we did as instructed...Dan exchanged the wristband for a beer.

Only three more legs to go and we were definitely going to beat last year's time.  We were totally's was *almost* like we weren't totally sleep deprived and exhausted. Almost. 

Next year, however, I'd like to install a personal GPS on Dan.  We knew we needed to follow him on leg 38 since last year he tried to get lost.  Sure enough, this year he again tried to make a wrong turn.  Such a dude.

As we were following him, we encountered a very cute sight.  Look, it's Erica with her future ex-husband!

As we were driving by both Dan and then John on leg 39, I was frantically adding up all our legs (I don't know why the TIR requires you turn in times of every single leg, but they do).  By the time I added in leg 39 (which John absolutely killed at 8 minute pace, by the way), we realized that Brandon could very well get us to break 27 hours. Last year he ran leg 40 in 36 minutes (mind you, it's 5.3 miles, so that's a pretty crazy pace).  He wanted to beat that.  I determined that if he ran 36 minutes even, we'd be at 26 hours, 59 minutes, and 59 seconds. How's that for cutting it close?  We decided that we needed to let Brandon know how close it could be, because if he came in at 10 seconds over he'd be pissed we didn't tell him.  We found a good spot to drive alongside him and Tony very kindly yelled out the window, "If you run 36 minutes even we break 27 hours. But no pressure. We love you. God loves you."

We finally made the turn onto Battleground Road and could see the San Jacinto Monument ahead. FINALLY.  After navigating the chaos at the monument we parked the vans and tried to patiently wait for Brandon to make his way down to the finish. 

When he came across the finish line and told us that he ran leg 40 in 35:33 I think I may have made him deaf by screaming in his ear. 

(Side note: our official time actually came in at 27:03:13...I'm not sure why there ended up being a discrepancy, but I'm totally thrilled that we took over 30 minutes off last year's time and finished the course in 8:00 minute pace overall)

WOW - WE WERE DONE!!!  For the second year in a row, we completed over 203 miles in well under 28 hours, had a phenomenal time, and felt absolutely euphoric at the accomplishment.

I had decided at about leg 38 that I was most definitely going to get drunk when we were done.  I realized my running mates had never seen me drunk - wait, WHAT???  Oh, they were in a for a treat.  So as soon as we were done getting our medals, getting our pics taken, we headed over to where Tony's family was parked, we popped out the beer and my boxed wine and spent about an hour or so just relaxing.  By the time we headed out to look for food, I was definitely in a very good mood.  And getting louder by the second. 

We hit up Chuy's before making the final trek back to the Austin area.  I vaguely remember an echilada and a really strong margarita....and not being able to focus.  When we got back into the vans, I told the others that someone else needed to drive because I was finally going to nap.  I think the response was "good."  Thanks, buddies. Good thing I was so hydrated from the weekend or the road trip could have ended badly.

We're now in the midst of a big runner's high.  It happened last year...we felt fantastic, bugged the crap out of our spouses with our stories of the weekend, and began the countdown to the next TIR. 

A few things I learned from this year:

1. It's really smart to write down all the funny little things everyone says throughout the weekend.  Everytime I read through the list I start laughing until the tears flow.  "Ass-man wears no pants" holds a lot of meaning.
2. I WILL be taking at least 30 seconds off my average pace for next year.
3. We need to eat more meat.
4. Hotels on Friday night. Definitely.
5. There are some really great teams out there...always eager to help out other teams and be supportive while maintaining competitiveness. Like a big family!
6. I need to bring my Snuggie. And a pillow pet.

TIR 2012 is in 51 more weeks.....

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Part Deuce: TIR 2011...203 miles of Blood, Sweat, and BEERS...

Before I continue on in my Texas Independence Relay recap, Tony wanted to be sure I let everyone know that yes, I really did get my hair done on Friday afternoon...just in time to sleep on a cement floor, not take a shower before we began, and sweat a ridiculous amount over the course of 28 hours. Yes, yes I did do that. But dammit, my hair looked good (on Friday...).

So where were we?  Boom Boom Pow has distracted me. 

At this point, it's starting to get late.  We were now on the legs that required lights, blinkies, and reflector belts, so there weren't anymore pictures for awhile. Which is really a bummer because ASS-MAN CHANGED INTO A G-STRING. And let me tell you....the spray tan was pretty even. 

At Exchange 16 we switched up the vans a bit.  4 of our runners would go to a high school in Wallis, take showers, get coffee, and rest up a bit before meeting back up with us at Exchange 22, where the rest of us would then have our turn at showers, etc.  Last year I got to be in the first van to hit the showers...not so lucky this year. 

My next leg was Leg 20, which means when I was done we'd be halfway through our journey.  It was about 11pm at this point and we were more than 12 hours into the relay.  I was feeling really great, but didn't want to jinx myself so I started off my leg pretty slow.  I told Erica (who was ready to take the hand off and run leg 21) that I'd probably complete the 4.57 mile leg in about 42 minutes.  That gave me an opportunity to take it easy for the first mile and then build up to a strong finish.  This was an interesting leg through Eagle Lake....nothing like running by bars with drunk guys hanging out in their trucks.  No whistle calls, but I admittedly was a bit frightened.  There were a few runners in my sights so I wasn't alone.  I liked the fact, however, that the leg wasn't just a straight shot down a highway as was my first leg.  Once I made my final turn at 3.9 miles I just went for it and ran a very strong final 2/3 of a mile to hit my target time exactly.  9:09 average pace on my second leg made me very, very happy.  I was still the slowest member of our team, but if we have our slowest at a sub-9 minute average pace I'd say we were doing pretty darn well.

It was Erica's turn again, now her third leg, and no one expected her to keep pulling 7:20's.  She did it again, however....6.76 miles at 7:24 pace. The woman is ridiculous.

Remember how I mentioned that Jeff has eaten a hamburger bun earlier in the day?  Yeah, it had now come back to haunt him.  He was scheduled to run a 5 mile leg 22, but things were not looking pretty.  He was in some serious discomfort - stomach pain, nausea, the intense feeling of needing to barf.  It was like last year's pizza was rearing it's ugly head again (yes, the pizza from 2010 TIR made many of us sick).  Before Erica has started her leg she offered to run both and then just be done, giving Jeff her last leg Sunday morning.  And then I figured I might have to run it, giving myself only about a 50 minute break between two legs.  I could do it since I felt really great, but I was a bit frightened by the thought.  However, Jeff was determined so he started out on the leg with instructions to check on him a mile up the road.  He was moving along pretty well and waved us off when we checked in.  He finished the leg in just under 45 minutes....9 minute miles while dry heaving.  NICE, JEFF.  Do us a favor next year....stop being a food sissy!

One more leg and then it was time to hit the showers.  I turned to Erica and said "Let's go get naked," and of course that was a pretty exciting thing for the guys in the van to hear. Typical guys. Oh, those showers were AWESOME.  To get out of gross clothes, wash the sweat out of our hair was the wake up we needed to push through the middle of the night.  As soon as we were finished, I grabbed a cup of coffee and we headed back to the vans.  Rather than camp out on the gym floor we planned to just rest in the van at Exchange 27, where we would meet up with the rest of the team.  I would be the first one from our van to have to run again, on leg 28. 

Unfortunately, Erica and I couldn't sleep.  The boys, on the other hand, had absolutely no problem sleeping and snoring.  Tony was smart and camped outside on the grass in his sleeping bag  If I hadn't been too lazy to set up my sleeping bag I probably would have joined him.  I had well over an hour before I needed to run again, so a short cat nap would've been good for me.  Instead I ate.  I was getting pretty hungry and it was hard to find food that would fill me up at this point.  Luckily my next leg was only 3.6 miles, so even on an seemingly empty stomach I knew I could push through it.  I planned to drink my recovery drink following the run to try to replenish, especially since I'd only have a 4 leg break between my 3rd and final runs. 

Leg 28 was just awesome.  It's through Cinco Ranch in Katy and it's a very nice neighborhood.  There were a couple turns that broke up the monotony.  About a half mile into the run another team's runner passed me at a pretty decent pace.  I would have paced off her but it was a bit early for me to speed up that much, but I wanted to keep her in my sights for later in the leg. My legs felt awesome, but my lower back was definitely tightening up, which I think was preventing me from moving too much faster. I did manage to keep up with her better than I expected, however, and actually started having thoughts of catching her.  I got pretty close, but she was speeding up at a similar rate to me, so instead I just maintained a short distance behind her. My stupid back just wasn't loosening up very much.  I think she finished the leg only a few seconds ahead of me....I was glad she was there to push me to be a bit faster than expected.  I finished the 3.6 mile leg in about 32 minutes, so I was pleased.  At this point in the relay, I was at an 8:58 overall average pace with only one leg left to run.  And I really did feel great.  Tired, but my legs weren't fatigued at all.  I really think I could have run that leg closer to 30 minutes if my back hadn't been so tight.

When I ran into exchange 28 I fully expected to see a couple of the guys cheering for me.  At every exchange there has been at least a couple team members, in addition to the person about to run, to cheer us on.  Karen (who was running leg 29) was the only one there.  As she took the wrist band from me she yelled out "I think we're the only ones left, Steph".....sure enough, no one was there to greet me.  I have to be kinda hurt.  I knew we were all so tired and it was likely many of them were still trying to sleep and I tried not to begrudge them that.  I made my way back to the vans and ran into Tony (who was in my van).  He knew that he needed to get to Exchange 29 quickly to start his leg since leg 29 was only 2.3 miles and Karen was burning it up.  So in order for me to take a moment to recover he sent me to the other van...I think he felt kind of bad about it.  Dammit....I wanted my recovery drink (or anything for that matter!) which was in MY van.  But off I trekked and woke up the folks in the other van.  The bright point was that Dan was getting some free breakfast tacos at Luke's Locker and he kindly shared a few bites.  Oh, my gosh, those were so good. I made the van head straight to Exchange 29, however, because I still really needed my drink. 

Once I got some nutrition back into me and got over the fact that I felt pretty lonely there for a few moments, I started feeling better.  Karen was now done with all her legs and I knew she was going to be our cheerleader.  She always makes me feel better.  I can't remember who drove our van from Exchange 29 to Exchange 30 but I did say that I wanted to at least try to nap for a bit while Tony was running.  That was kinda short lived because as soon as he was done he banged on the van's windows and all the rowdiness started up again.  It looked like everyone was going to be awake for the duration.  We had 10 legs left to, we were cruising right along.  The sun was coming up. It's amazing how once that sun rises again how everyone's moods are instantly lifted.  It's tough to get through some of the night runs and find our way through our exhausted fog.  I know my mood was definitely getting pretty low...I was just so darn tired.  But the excitement of it being Sunday morning will quickly make you snap out of it.

Howard was due to run leg 31 and I felt pretty bad for him.  This guy is strong and an awesome sprinter, but leg 31 was 6.8 miles long....and this was after he'd already run 3 other 4+ mile legs, way more running than what he was used to.  I just hoped he was going to be able to push through and not want to totally kill us when he finished.  He did push through in 64 minutes - so awesome!  And now he was done with running...probably for his entire life, I'm sure!

Only one more leg (Brandon's) before it was my turn for the last time.  I was getting to run leg 33 just like last year and I was pretty happy about it.  It's 4.48 miles along Briar Forest and Memorial Drives through a very VERY nice part of Houston.  The houses are just spectacular and it's a great mood lifter before the ghettos runs start.  Tony is good to me....he doesn't ever give me ghetto runs. 

This leg was pretty amusing.  Almost right from the start a dude on another team passed me at probably about a 9 minute pace (I was probably running 9:45 pace).  He was going to be the one I kept my eye on, but it was still a bit early for me to push to 9 minute pace.  Funny enough, he started walking about a mile into the run.  So for the next couple miles we went back and forth, with him running past me, walking, and me catching up. About halfway through this run my fatigue started catching up to me.  I really wanted to be done and I still had over two miles left to run. The dude hanging with me was keeping me motivated, however.  I figured if he kept this up I would certainly beat him to the exchange.  Yes, nearly 24 hours into the relay I was still being super competitive.  I think at about the 3 mile mark of the leg he just gave it up and hung behind me and paced off me.  At this point I was running at more of a 9:10 pace and he realized I wasn't going to give up the lead to him anymore.  Rather than trying to kill himself and continue to have to walk, he figured he'd just let me do the pacing.  Fine by me.  With a half mile left I planned to drop him for good (I did). 

I finished my leg strong, with a good sprint to the finish, with an overall pace of 9:26 for that leg.  I probably could have gone closer to 9 minute pace, but it was nice to hold back just a bit and try to enjoy the run.  I knew we were very far ahead (well over an hour) of our expected time, so to have a couple legs run at a more comfortable pace wasn't going to be a big deal. 

There was a Starbucks the finish of this leg and I put in my order to my guys before I ran.  Hmmm....there was no Starbucks waiting for me.  TEAM FAIL.  First they all abandon me and then they don't even get me Starbucks?  Sheesh, what's the world coming to when the Team Mom is dissed like that?

Hmmm...notice there is no Starbucks in any of their hands...

(Thanks to John for getting me a recovery drink at CVS, however - yay!). 

7 more legs to go.....stay tuned for the finish in part 3...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Texas Independence Relay 2011 - 203 miles of Blood, Sweat, and BEERS...Installment 1

When my friends and I began our marathon training back in August 2010, we secretly knew we were doing it to not REALLY prepare for the two marathons we planned to run, but to get ourselves ready for the experience that is the Texas Independence Relay. Many of us had run together on a team (Blood, Sweat, and Beers!!) in 2010 and it was by far the absolute best race experience we'd had.  40 legs, 203 miles, non-stop, from Gonzales to San Jacinto Monument following the Texas Independence Trail. To say we were excited about 2011 was putting it mildly.

FINALLY it was time for our adventure to begin, so 8 out of our 11 team members met up in Taylor on Friday to begin our journey to Gonzales, TX, for the start of the relay Saturday morning.  Unfortunately due to a family emergency we lost one team member, so we were down to 10.  Our other two members would meet up with us before the race began.  We weren't too worried about four of us having to add an extra leg - it was a much bigger disappointment for Andrew to not be joining us and I know it saddened him as well.

We were sure to stop for dinner in Moulton to make sure we were nice and well fueled with beer and wine before our 28 hour journey began, and it was a blast.  We saw another team there and quickly began the smack talk - all in good fun, of course.  We were seriously pumped up! I think I might make a pre-race glass of wine my tradition.

After hitting up the tent party with other teams and seeing far more debauchery than I really wanted to...Catholic school girls and Mullets are a scary combination....we headed to a nearby college to sleep on the common room floor. 

At first this seemed like a decent idea. We had slept on the floor in sleeping bags the year before and got a decent amount of sleep and it really is part of the experience.  But for some reason this year it really pretty much sucked. No one got anything near a good enough amount of sleep.  I don't remember who said it first when the bright lights were turned on at 5am but we all agreed - NEXT YEAR WE'RE GETTING HOTEL ROOMS!  I think part of the problem is that our start time this year was 10:34 as opposed to last year's 7:50 start.  No reason for us to be forced to get up at 5am.  HOTELS NEXT YEAR, DAMMIT!  I'm pretty sure Captain Tony is already booking them as we speak.

We had hours to kill, so we got ourselves ready and headed out to eat breakfast, pick up last minute supplies, and tag our vans. 

Have I mentioned the wind yet?  Yeah, the wind....25-35 mph winds that were in no hurry to die down anytime soon.  And they were coming from the north.  There are four legs in the beginning of the race that are due north - including mine.  I was freaked. And I was seriously pissing off Tony with my constant comments about not expecting my times to be faster than last year on that leg. I just needed to shut up, suck it up, put on my big girl panties, and DEAL.

When Karen showed up with my box of wine I knew the weekend would be spectacular! 


Just as last year, we started the race off with a bang (or a gong, I suppose)....everyone was just killing it on their legs.  I feel bad for poor Howard and Red, who's "expected" times were probably freaking them out.  I tried to remind them not to look at what the time sheet said since mine and Karen's were definitely way over what we were planning on running.  But I know they wanted to do their very best regardless.  I personally think they were phenomenal!  After the first 8 legs we had to have been at least 20 minutes ahead of our expected time.  We were just killing it!

On a side note, I have to mention our stop in Moulton to pick up some food for some of the guys.  They were craving burgers were grubbed.   Jeff, Mr. Paleo Diet Boy, mentioned to me that he ate the bun on the hamburger. This is our dude who doesn't eat wheat anymore.  I'm pretty sure I let my mouth hang open after that.  I had a bad bad feeling that this boneheaded decision was going to come back to haunt him in a few hours. Yes, Jeff, I think I just called you a bonehead.  Stay tuned for how that all turned out....

My first leg was #9, leading us into Flatonia.  The wind totally sucked.....I know it was bugged the crap out of Red and Tony, and as Karen was running #8 to hand off to me I'm sure she was swearing under her breath.  It's simply not easy to run directly into such strong winds, and Tony told me that it was brutal to try to breathe.  In addition to the wind, I had to contend with what was probably the most technically difficult (although thankfully short, at only 3.86 miles) legs on the course....6 hills that seem to just keep coming.  My plan was to do my best on the uphills and use the downhills to my advantage.  I'm actually a very strong runner in hills and I was trying to remember that as I got pumped up for the leg.

Okay, so I kinda did great.  It may have been the slowest leg of the day so far but I knew that would be the case.  I was in the company of some very strong runners.  There was a girl from another team who started the leg about 2 or 3 minutes ahead of me and my words to my teammates was something like this...."I'm gonna get her, just watch"  I could see her about a quarter mile ahead of me when Karen handed off to me.

About a mile into the leg I hadn't caught her yet, but I was definitely closing the gap.  Then the girl STARTED WALKING.  Really?  On a 3.86 mile leg?  Yes, that's me being a racing snob, but really she shouldn't have WALKED. Did she really want me to catch her?  As soon as I saw that I sped up.  I was gonna get her, no doubt.  I had already had two guys pass me and I needed to even the score (and thanks so much to my teammates for capturing one of the kills on camera - really nice, guys). 

The wind was incredibly irritating but it was moving from north winds to northwest winds, so I used that to my advantage and sped up when I could.  At about a mile to go the girl in front of me started walking again and was screwing around with her phone for some reason (why she had her phone is beyond me....).  That was the only thing I needed to see and I pushed myself to finally catch her and move right on by.  I did ask if she was okay since I'm not a total meanie - yes I am - and braced myself for the final hill.  Oh my, that hill was awful.  The wind came at me in a massive gust just as I was trying to crest the hill and just about stopped me in my tracks.  Thankfully as soon as I crested it the wind shifted and I turned on my afterburners.  Only about 3/4 of a mile to go and I knew I could maintain a much faster pace at this point.  I realized that I had every capability of beating last year's time on that leg. 

When I handed off to Brandon at Exchange 9 and stopped my watch I was truly shocked that I had beat last year by 7 seconds.  I felt like I had contributed to the team.  My expected time on that leg was in the 36 minute range and I did it in 33:43, an 8:44 pace....all in 20+ mph headwinds and on a hilly stretch.  To say my confidence was boosted was an understatement!

What was even more exciting was that we got to now see what Brandon could do out on the course.  He's our strongest and craziest runner.  What he can accomplish when he sets his mind to it is just phenomenal.  My teammates had told me that while I was running my leg one other team had smack-talked about their runner, saying she was a 6:30 miler and that Brandon wasn't going to pass her. Yeah, dudes...well Brandon runs 6 minute we'll see how that leg was going to pan out.  After we got back into the vans and cruised down Hwy 90 on Brandon's leg we were so excited when we spied him about to catch up to this supposedly fast girl.

I managed to get the whole kill right on film and Brandon had a big ol' smile on his face as he was passing her.  Just priceless. 

Of course, later we come to see that this girl ended up running 3 legs back to back for a total of about 16 miles.  But Brandon still killed her.

So now we're up to Leg 11, Erica's second leg.  Erica ran her first leg at a ridiculous, envy-inducing 7:21 pace. 

See....she's fast

She's a strong runner, but even that pace shocked the crap out of us.  Erica wasn't on our 2010 team, but many of our runners already knew her from marathon training so they knew she was strong, but still....a 7:21 pace run?  She definitely outdid herself on that one!  Leg 11 was a longer leg than her first one so we certainly didn't expect something quite that fast, which was fine since we were absolutely blowing our expected times out of the water.  What a nice surprise for us to see Team Boom Boom Pow on this leg.  They have a very freaking hot special runner on their team who favors underwear, a cowboy hat, and spray tan.  The ladies on the team were not complaining about this.  As a matter of fact, I made sure I leaned over Tony (who was driving!) to get plenty of pictures of this perfect creature runner. 

After he passed by Erica and showed off his undies to her, it sure kept her motivated to keep him in her sights.  The result?  A 7:22 pace run.  SWEET.  Thanks, sexy cowboy!!

And there's the first installment on my race report....stay tuned for tomorrow's installment #2!!