Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Lucky Number 7....well, maybe not so lucky...

December 9 was the day I planned to see a big fat 3 as the first number in my marathon time.


That SO didn't happen!

As we got closer to the date of the race, the weather forecast kept getting continually worse. It started out as a starting temp of 40s, then it moved to the 50s, and by the time race morning rolled around it was 69 degrees at 6am. Add in 95% humidity, and it was downright YUCKY. I've had a few good runs in conditions like that, but not a marathon distance...and not 9 minute average pace.

I knew in my heart a 3:59 was not going to happen, so I adjusted my expectations to a 4:15 or so, maybe a 4:20, but I did think I might still squeak in a personal best (4:26:27) since I was a much stronger runner this season. I thought I could maintain less than a 10:10 average if my asthma didn't bug me too much. I held out hope that the cloud cover would keep me from getting too overheated.

I started off the race fairly conservative, running about 10:00 min average pace for the first couple miles, dropping to around 9:20-9:30 for a few more miles, but then just could not maintain it. By mile 6 I took off my tank because it was already soaked with sweat. Running a race in my sports bra for the first time...not a pretty sight, but I didn't really care!

My coach, Tony, stuck with me for much longer than I expected him to. He's probably a good 10 minutes faster than me in a marathon distance, and I know it's been killing him to not have a sub-4 on the books yet, so I told him if he stuck with me and it screwed up his race I would have to kill him. But he knew he wasn't really shooting for that goal for this race, either. It was simply way too humid out to get into a good race groove at that pace. So he hung out for a while and was perfectly happy doing so.

We saw my family at Mile 6 and it was AWESOME. Always wonderful to see friendly faces along the course, especially when you aren't feeling great. And I wasn't really feeling great. I had a decent pace, but I knew my breathing wasn't where it should be that early on in a marathon. I should feel like I'd barely started running, but I was already laboring. And it didn't help when I thought to myself, "only 20 more miles." Ugh, 20 more freaking miles in this soup??

At some point between miles 6 and 10 we saw another friendly face, our friend Dorothy from Georgetown. I had no idea she would be out there on the race course cheering on her friends. She jogged next to us for awhile and chatted and gave us a great mental boost. I seriously love that woman! I hoped we'd see her again (I ended up seeing her twice more...and each time she jogged with me for a bit and gave me the encouragement I needed).

Between miles 7 and 12 there were rolling hills, not bad ones, just what seemed like a lot. The director warned us so we really couldn't complain...but we did anyway. Tony finally decided I was running too slow and went ahead of me at 10 miles. I just wasn't running fast at this point. 9:30 miles felt like 9:00's. I think Mile 10 was more like 9:45. Tony was still feeling okay and I'm sure it felt better for him to run a faster pace.

At the 13 mile point I saw my family again so I finally took a walk break. I felt pretty good that I managed to keep running and was right around 9:35 overall pace through 13 miles. Plus the family had cold wet towels for me....what a relief! I walked through the timing mat at 13.1 (2:07), shared my towel with a couple other runners, (one lady I talked to ran a 3:50 marathon earlier in the year...I wasnt feeling so bad about my performance after learning that!),and then started running again. Mile 14, at 10:54, was my slowest of the race so far since I walked for a couple minutes.

Small race, awesome scenery

Woohoo....a towel!!
At this point I knew I still had a PR in sight if I could keep my asthma under control. Could I pull off a 2:19 second half? Maybe I could. I told myself to run until I hit 16.2 and then I'd give myself a short break before tackling the last 10.

I passed the 16.2 mark, checked my watch and saw I needed a 1:50 for the final 10 miles to hit a PR. I could possibly do that, so instead of taking that break I kept running. It just wasn't comfortable, however. I couldn't run much faster than 10 minute pace without feeling like it was way too hard to breathe, although my legs wanted to run faster. I kept at it until about 17.7 miles and just needed to give my lungs a break. For the first time ever in a race I had to take a hit on my inhaler. I knew I would see the family again at either 18 or 22 so I started running again.

They were a sight for sore eyes at 18 miles and I got another cold towel. I think I said something to Greg about it being an 8 mile death march to the finish. I couldn't believe I had 8 miles left. But I had to push through. I felt the PR slipping away but tried to focus on the fact that the albuterol might give me magic breathing powers and that my training was great and that I was one tough chick. That thinking didn't last too long, sadly.


After crossing the timing mat at 20 miles (in 3:22), I kind of gave up a little of my toughness. I was so frustrated that my lungs couldn't keep up with my legs (which were fine). I didn't want to walk. I knew that the stopping and starting would hurt my legs more than just keeping a steady running rhythm. But every time I tried to pick up my pace, I felt lightheaded. I had no choice but to walk to give my lungs a break. If I wanted to finish this thing I needed to be smart. This mental and physical battle gave me my slowest mile of the race (14 min) but I sucked it up and vowed to stick to 11's or better for the last 5 miles. I'd have a time in the 4:30's, which would be my third fastest marathon time. Couldn't really complain about that!

Funny enough, with all the turns through A&M we were making on this stretch and all the fantastic spectators, that last hour of the race didn't really feel that long. I saw Greg and the kids again at 22 miles, got my cold towel (I got a couple more after that, too, from towels stations....genius!!), and knew I really was on the home stretch. I was seeing a lot of the same runners going back and forth with me, which was comforting. I knew Tony was a few minutes ahead and hoped he was still pulling off a PR (4:17). I was going to get a time in the 4:30's, which in these horrendous conditions was something to be proud of. I tried running 6-8 minutes at a time, then walking a 1/4 mile, and it was working well enough.

When I saw the 25 mile sign I really felt better mentally. At a mile to go I just ran. It hurt horribly but I needed to be done. That last mile was actually 1.2 (something wasn't right about that extra distance and I should probably ask the race director about it) and it felt so hard to finish it up. When I made my final turn I saw Karen (who ran the half) and Punkin. Punkin started running with me and then I saw Tony with a beer in his hand and it made me smile.

Crossing the finish line was such HUGE relief....and then I couldn't breathe. The medical staff grabbed me, a sweet child from the Downs Syndrome Association of Brazos Valley put my medal around my neck, and the med staff got me my finishers shirt and took me to the medical tent right away. A few cold towels on me and some Gatorade made me slowly feel better. I saw my friend Randall, who also had a bad race, and I could see Tony patiently waiting to see if I was okay. No wheezing so they released me after a few minutes.

Thank God I was done.

Marathon #7 in 4:38:15. 80 degrees, 80% humidity at the finish.

I wasn't disappointed. I know I did my best. It wasn't close to my goal but my training made me a stronger, faster runner. A year ago this would've been another 5 hour marathon. Looking back I realized my legs held up well, I never felt too overheated, and mentally I kept the doubts in check for the majority of the race. Those are all huge wins. And I beat the average finishing time by 7 minutes. I'll take it!!

Karen rocked her half marathon and got a PR, Tony didn't PR but posted his 3rd fastest time of 4:28, and we were done!

Tony and I agree that we are not right in the head.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Job and a Marathon

November 26.

That's my first official day of employment since August of 2001. 11 years since I have been on someone's payroll.

Although I'm very excited to start contributing to my household's income, I'm very nervous. Am I going to be a good employee? Are people going to like me? AM I GOING TO KNOW WHAT THE HECK I'M DOING?

I think I'll be spending the next week re-reading my NASM book because I'm pretty sure in the last 2 months I've forgotten everything I studied since March. Everything. I hope I don't go into my first training session with a client like a fool.

Yes, I know I'm freaking out for no reason.

I also officially own my own business, although it's really only a back up to my actual employment, for those people who really want to hire me but don't belong to the Rec Center where I'll be working. I have the LLC, I will be calling to obtain liability insurance, I'll check out gym rental space, but it's pretty bare bones for now. I would love to add a professional logo and website to it all soon....but I'm kinda burned out on spending money before I start making money. In the meantime, Coach Steph Personal Training is still legit and that's kind of a cool thing.

But in the meantime, I'm nervous as all heck.

On the marathon training front, I just completed my last 20 miler in preparation for BCS on December 9. Overall, it was a good run. I feel pretty strong. A bit slower than my other 20 miler but that was merely because of gastro problems with 6 miles to go. If that hadn't slowed me down, I'm certain my time would have been faster than my last 20 miler. I woke up today with little soreness. The next 3 weeks will be focusing on strength, a little more speedwork, some interval training, and some mid-distance runs. Hopefully the taper won't make me completely freak out.

Now, if only someone would do my Christmas shopping for me.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Where I am and where I'm going

A little post about where I am right now....

1. Marathon #7 is in 36 days. I'm scared yet eager, and need to focus on my mental strength.

2. I completed my first 20 mile training run of the season last week. It was 30 seconds per mile faster than last year's 21 miler. Translation....whatever I'm doing this year is working. Today I did an 11 miler 20 seconds per mile faster than I thought I would in very humid, warm conditions. And I felt great the whole time. Did I already say whatever I'm doing this year is working?

3. I'm almost done with my round of personal training...11 sessions complete, 2 to go. I've learned so much from my trainer Ryan, and I've gotten stronger and leaner in the process. Absolutely worth the money.

4. I'm slowly working on all the details of my independent personal training business. It won't take the place of actual employment, but it will give me a back up and more options for wherever I end up. It's an expensive endeavor but one I think will be totally worth it.

5. I bought my first iPad. It's just an iPad mini, but I'm still excited I'll actually own one. I've never felt like I "needed" one until now.

6. The weather is getting better and better. Except for today, of course.

7. I can fit into my cheerleading uniform from 21 years ago...for the first time since having kids. Yes, I still have my cheerleading uniform.

That last one is my favorite, too.

And what's coming up for me?

1. I interviewed for a personal trainer position over 2 weeks ago, with them telling me I'd hear something hopefully within a week, maybe a bit longer. I'm trying to be patient but it's time to start looking elsewhere. Since I applied for my LLC and will be finalizing insurance details next week, I can also start looking into gym rental space locations. And getting some guinea pigs.

2. I'm excited about next week's training. Excited and slightly frightened. Speedwork on Wednesday will involve 20x400 repeats. 400 meter sprints, 20 times. I've never done more than 10. I have gotten advice from running coach friends on how to tackle these so I'm going to go into them with a good attitude. My long run next Saturday will actually be a run/bike, something I've never done before. A 10 mile run followed by a long bike ride with my coach. I think I'm going to love it. That will leave us with 4 weeks until race day.

3. It's already November, which means I need to get serious about the holidays. I do love Christmas, but I'm starting to dread the shopping. I need to get an attitude adjustment about it.

4. Because I only have 2 more paid training sessions with Ryan, I need to decide if I'm going to fork over the money to continue with a few more sessions, or if I'm going to trust what I've learned and start applying it to my workouts. I have a feeling I'm really going to miss him. Even if he told my running coach that I whine during our workouts (he ran with my group this morning).

5. I'm seriously starting to think about signing up for a 50k before my 40th birthday. I picked 2014 as the time to run my first ultra, but I think I'm getting this itch to do it sooner.

6. I need to spend more time with my friends.

So there you have it....T minus 36....

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Too much of a good thing...what is "Overtraining"?

I keep getting all these blog ideas very randomly. Maybe it's the excitement of all the changes going on in my life, maybe I'm feeling my way into what I want to become to the fitness world...I don't know. But I keep getting ideas and I'm going to do my best to get them out on this blog when they come to me.

Today I've been thinking a lot about how people do tend to overdo it when it comes to fitness. I've certainly been made myself an overtrained athlete. Back in 2010, after a very emotional training year that involved a lot of healing, I went through a bout of exhaustion. It was incredibly frustrating, so much so that I took the rest of the year off of racing after the Austin Marathon in February. I had developed a decent amount of speed during a previous season, but I overdid it, gained a few pounds, lost about 30 seconds per mile off of my pace for the remainder of that year, and I started to question my entire marathon career. Exhaustion is no joke.

I surround myself with a lot of athletes, and while I don't ever want to judge what another person is doing with their training, I do see things that make me cringe. Not that I'm a perfect example of all things smart, by any means, but I worry about how others are going about training, or just working out in general.

The concept of REST is vitally important. I have a tough training schedule right now. It's the toughest I've ever had, but I also have a huge goal I want to accomplish, so I'm toughing it out. BUT ONLY TO MY ABILITY. I have honed in on when too much of a good thing IS REALLY TOO MUCH. This week Monday called for an 8 mile tempo run. I decided that since I also had a personal training session that day, I would tack on a 90 minute bike ride instead of the run. It would be 2.5 hours of working out for the day. Not a run, but still some excellent time sweating and getting my heart rate up. I knew my body needed crosstraining more than running, so I made it happen. A few weeks ago I was supposed to do an 8 miler mere hours after speedwork. Again, my body wasn't having it, so I took the day off of working out. And I didn't feel guilty at all. If I'm listening to my body I figure I can't go wrong.

One thing I'm definitely discovering is the benefit of resting your muscles after an intense gym session. Overtraining Syndrome will occur when one trains beyond their body's ability to recover. Any kind of resistance training requires sufficient rest and recuperation periods, and sometimes this period can be days. When rest is achieved properly, your body will react positively to the different stages of increased stress you're putting it through. Conversely, if you allow for inadequate recovery periods, training injuries can occur, such as connective tissue injuries. Other harmful side effect of overtraining include "decreased performance, fatigue, altered hormone states, poor sleeping patterns, resproductive disorders, decreased immunity, loss of appetite, and mood disturbances." (NASM Essentials of Personal Training, Fourth Edition)

You know what this also means? You won't hit your fitness goals. If you don't allow complete regeneration to occur, you will plateau or decline. You might have a protein or calorie deficiency, elevated cortisol, excessive muscle tissue breakdown....we can get really scientific about it. But the common denominator is all of this is the lack of REST.

There is a reason why I only run 3 or 4 days per week. My running workouts are intense...all of them. If I don't take care of my body in between workouts I am not going to improve. If I feel entirely too fatigued when I begin a workout and I don't loosen up within a mile or two, I'm not really going to be doing myself any favors by overdoing it. The idea of "more is better" does not always apply. By taking "more" to an extreme level (and that level is different for everyone) we will start to see diminishing returns for our effort.

Do you think this might apply to you? Take a step back and analyze your fitness schedule. Perhaps you need to let a workout or two go during the week, or focus on different muscle groups on different days. Add in crosstraining, or replace a workout with yoga. Take a look at your diet....are the majority of your calories coming from fresh food sources or do you rely on processed food too much? Try to get adequate sleep and if this means sleeping through a workout, maybe your body needs that rest instead. Perhaps this change for a couple weeks will be exactly what you need to jump start your fitness.

I have a 20 mile run on Saturday. I have had 5 hard workouts in the last 3 days. Although my schedule called for a run today, I decided last night's speed session needed more recovery time. My hamstring has also been snapping at me, so I'm giving it a rest to be fully prepared to tackle my 3 hour run on Saturday. I'm listening to my body and doing what's right for it.

Monday, October 22, 2012


I suppose anytime one races, it's a competition. There are placings and rankings and we are compared to the others who ran the race with us. However, I have rarely set out to run a race with the intention to beat other people. I race against myself. Although I will admit the joy of having an age-group medal dangling around my neck after a race is very sweet indeed.

There are so many other competitions out there besides running races. Cycling, weight lifting, Crossfit, swimming....endless different sports. Some emphasize beating other competitors way more than others. Over time, it's actually started to bug me. I am not an elite athlete, I don't want to train like one, and I don't want to be expected to perform like one. And I don't want someone to feel pride because they beat me. Frankly, I'm just tired of hearing about how we must be faster or stronger to be considered worthy.

I am only competing against myself. 

As I was mulling these thoughts, I logged into Facebook and saw this, posted by Livestrong Austin Marathon:

It seemed pretty timely that the first post in my timeline pretty much echoed the thoughts currently in my head.

When I start a race now, I'm thinking not about the runners around me, or how old they might be so I can make sure I beat them in our age group, or if I can pick them off....although I have definitely thought some of this before....instead, I'm thinking about whether or not I can run a smarter, better race than the last time. Can I strategize better? Can I run better splits? Can I squeak out a personal best? Can I learn something new to take into the next race? Can I overcome my obstacles and continue to believe that I am strong enough to perform well?

When I was contemplating where I wanted to take my personal training certification, I thought about whether or not I wanted to be a bootcamp instructor or a one-on-one trainer. When it came right down to it, one-on-one is definitely more my style. I don't ever want anyone to feel like they need to compete with others, or that if they are falling behind the "stronger" athletes around them that they are failing in some way. I think bootcamps can be great motivators, sure, but I'm not so sure that's where my talent is. Perhaps that will change, or I'll find the right kind of group, but for now I only want to worry about people improving upon themselves.

I think we can certainly use others for motivation. I cherish the time with my running groups because they push me to work harder. I may pace off of sometime who is faster than me to see if I can keep up. But I try to never view it as competition.

Although, I will say, if my cute little 13 year old neighbor tries to pick me off in a race, I will try to return the favor...HA!

Friday, October 19, 2012

I found my "why"

I owe today's blog topic inspiration to my friend Dana. She is at a conference and one of the speakers today really got her to think. He was talking about why people continue in their unhealthy lifestyles, with poor eating habits and no exercise, even though we all know better. He said that they do this because they haven't found their "why."

Why should they bother changing those habits? Why should they be healthy? Why is one way better than the other?

Dana found her "why" after her first born child came into this world with gastroschisis. Gastroschisis is a congenital condition characterized by a defect in the abdominal wall. Babies with this condition are born with their abdominal contents on the outside of their body. Baby M is now nearly 11 years old and in excellent health, and I'd like to think that is due in large part to Dana's commitment to keeping her children (she now has 3) as healthy as possible, and modeling a healthy lifestyle for them. She is very careful with the diet of all her children, choosing to minimize any possible complications or inflammation to M's digestive system.

Dana found her "why" on December 14, 2001.

She asked me if I found my "why" when my sister died. It, of course, got me to think and then I knew I needed to write about it.

I remember back in Junior High learning about nutrition in one of my classes and wanting to make some changes in my family's habits. I think that was my first real commitment to taking care of myself. Many of my family members were overweight and I was not, and I didn't ever want to be. I was already very aware of the judgement and harshness of others towards overweight people...I didn't want to fall victim to that.

I had stops and starts to healthy living for the next 20 years. I was fairly active through high school and college, never had any weight problems, made sure I remained active through both pregnancies, gained the normal 25-30 pounds with each, and tried to continue a healthy lifestyle after my second child was born. Some years were better than others but overall I think I developed some pretty good eating and exercise habits.

In 2007, we moved to Texas and I let my exercise habits slide to basically nothing. I knew I was gaining weight. It was only a few pounds, but it was unusual for me. I had everything checked out with the doctor (I have only half of a thyroid due to a tumor in 2006, so I had to be sure it was still functioning properly). Everything was "fine" except my cholesterol. It was borderline high. For the first time in my life, I had created a health problem through lack of fitness. The next day I bought running shoes and went on my first run. Six months later I ran a half marathon and had shaved 33 points off my cholesterol number. This was my biggest commitment to a healthy lifestyle and my "why" moment. 

Why? Because I refused to be unhealthy when I could just as easily prevent it with better choices.

So now we're back at Dana's question....was my "why" moment when Trisha died? I'd already made a commitment, so in a way the answer is no, but it's also a "yes" in a different way.

I made a commitment to not only help myself but to help others.

The absolute biggest regret in my life will always be that I didn't help my sister, that I didn't push her more to change her habits, that I didn't get over my fear of her reaction and just call her out on her choices. No matter how many times someone tells me her death is not my fault and I could not have prevented it, I will always believe I could have done more.

I don't want anyone else to feel this way.

I want everyone I encounter to understand that no matter what, we have a choice to lead a healthy lifestyle, we have a choice to be a good example to our children, we have a choice to make changes in our eating and exercise habits, we have a choice to get to a healthy weight and be strong, we have a choice to not fall victim to age, we have a choice to be our very best every single day.


It doesn't matter to me what your "why" moment is...I just want you to find it. It can be superficial ("I want to look good naked"). It can be sad ("I lost my spouse to Type 2 diabetes complications). It can be anything, as long as you find it.


Because we're worth it. Every single one of us is worth it.

Monday, October 8, 2012

You Just Never Know

One of the perks of being on Team Luke's is that you they will offer free race entries throughout the year. When they offered an entry to run the IBM Uptown Classic on October 7, I jumped at the chance. Greg has run it the last two years and really enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to checking it out. To run as a member of Team Luke's (the main sponsor) was an added benefit. Unfortunately Greg needed to lead worship at church that morning, so the family could not go with me.

My plan was not to "race" this event, but rather use it as a good training run. I wasn't going to run slow, but around a 9-minute pace would make me happy. The previous day I ran 8 miles with our training group and felt so good during that run that I picked up the pace more than I normally would have. I was pretty tired and definitely underfueled when I went to bed Saturday night. I didn't think the race would be anything to write home about.

I'm not going to lie...getting out of bed Sunday morning was difficult. I felt a bit dehydrated, was hungry and fatigued. But I made a commitment to Team Luke's to run this race, and I needed to represent them well. I couldn't go around complaining about not wanting to be there, although I really could've crawled right back into bed. Greg offered to take a picture of me before I left, but since it wasn't going to be any kind of magical race for me, I declined.

It was a bit difficult to actually get to the race itself. The crew had prematurely blocked off Duval and Burnett Roads, so I couldn't even get to the parking lot I planned to use. Several other cars were clearly confused as well, and I ended following some of them around a barricade to get to the parking garage near the start. It was a little frustrating as I hate starting race morning with irritating setbacks. Luckily I had set out from my house so early that I had plenty of time to kill. After finally parking and getting my stuff together, I headed over to the start area and the vendors. I debated on taking my jacket with me and then just tying it around my waist during the race since the windchill was in the 40s. But I left it in the car...big mistake! I was FREEZING out in the windy cold. It was by far our coldest morning in several months and the wind was brutal. I didn't even think about bringing gloves, so I was starting to feel totally unprepared. Luckily Luke's had given us long sleeve technical shirts, so I was wearing that one rather than the team tank top. After milling around for several minutes and chatting with a friend I had run into, I decided to go back to my car and stay warm until closer to the start.

As I sat in the car, I had serious thoughts of just not running. I really don't understand what my problem was. I had kind of a frustrating week as I was pretty exhausted. You can read about it in my previous blog post. So I wasn't really in a good mental place to run. But again, I remembered that I had made a commitment and part of it was to run to the best of my ability for Luke's Locker. I had to live up to that commitment.

At about 7:40 I headed back over to the start (scheduled for 8:00). I chatted briefly with Gray from Luke's. He asked how I was feeling, and I said I was going to run to the best of my ability for that morning. He liked that, so that made me smile. As I found a good place behind the start line, I ran into another friend, Eddie, who is in Round Rock Fit, and that lifted my spirits a lot as well. It's a weird thing for me to be at a race totally alone, having driven there alone, with no plans to meet up with anything, no plans to run with anyone, and no one waiting at the finish line, so to see friendly faces is always a good thing. Eddie was going to run a much faster race than me, otherwise I probably would have tried to stick with him. I think I told him I would be happy with 2-3 minutes over my 53:33 PR.

The race start was uneventful. I got into a good rhythm right from the start, and even got to run with another Round Rock Fit friend for about a mile. I didn't overdo the pace, but I wasn't running particularly slow, either. As I entered Mile 2, I picked it up to a more difficult pace, but one I thought I could probably hold for a few miles. I knew I could always back off if it got to difficult. It was about this time I realized I had never used my inhaler that morning, but with the cold air I thought it would be okay. The heat and humidity is what tends to irritate my asthma. I was enjoying the course a lot. There were several turns and I wasn't being so good about cutting them close, but I didn't really care all that much.

During Mile 3 I still felt okay, but I honestly thought this wasn't going to be close to a PR day, not that I ever had any real thoughts of trying to PR at all. As I went through the 5K check point, I glanced at my watch and it said 27:44. I had already added on a little bit of extra distance because of my sloppy turns, so I'd definitely be running longer than a 10k. A quick calculation told me that I'd have to run less than 26 minutes to get close to my PR and I just didn't see that my pace could possibly pick up that much.

I stuck to my usual routine of not looking at current pace while I run, but rather just trying to run on feel. I would glance at average pace and was genuinely surprised that it kept dropping pretty significantly as I headed into Miles 4 and 5. When it dropped under my PR pace, I had a brief thought that maybe I really could PR this race. I knew it had to go quite a bit below PR pace, however, because of all the extra distance I had added, and that I'd have to keep increasing my speed. The brief thought faded very quickly when reality set in. It wasn't going to happen and I wasn't going to push myself to make it happen. That's not what this race was about.

I continued to run at a difficult pace, but one I felt I could maintain, never looking to see how fast it was. I was really surprised, however, at how great I felt. The course was awesome, with no crazy hills and what seemed like a lot of downhill. It really was a PR course, if you could cut the corners well or let the elevation work to your benefit. I figured with just a bit over a mile to run I had nothing to lose and wanted to finish strong.

When I had about a half mile to go I actually felt like maybe a 53 minute race was possible. I didn't think I'd have to slow down and I was running very well, right around 8 minute even pace. At the final turn, when I could see the 6 mile marker, I looked at my watch and saw a 51. With 2/10ths of a mile to run, I was going to easily break my PR. To say I was shocked is an understatement. I flew to the finish line, hitting a pace in the low 6 minute range for part of it. And I was certainly smiling.

As I crossed the finish line and stopped my watch, I couldn't believe it said 53:13, a full 20 seconds under my PR.

And I felt awesome. Nothing like my PR pace last November, when I could hardly breathe and thought I was going to throw up afterwards. No, I felt incredible after this race. I had a lot left in me and certainly didn't run as fast as I could have if I had set out to run a personal best during that race.

But I had done it anyway....even with adding a 10th of a mile!

I saw Eddie right away after the race and got a huge hug from him and I'm so glad. To have no one greeting me afterwards would have totally sucked, especially considering I had run so well.

My splits for the race were almost perfect: 9:15, 8:42, 8:33, 8:21, 8:04, 8:09, 2:06 (7:00 pace) for the final 0.3 mile. A 27:44 first 5K, 25:28 second 5K. Official time of 53:12, which made me 25th out of 149 in my age group. I honestly think this was the very best I have ever run.

So I run 8 miles the day before, don't fuel or rehydrate properly, I go to the race alone, it's cold and windy, I feel unprepared, I run alone for the majority of the race, I didn't use my inhaler...and I run better than I think I ever have. Just goes to show that when you have zero expectations, magical things can happen.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

My body hates me

I have a nickname for my trainer.


But I say that with affection, because I have no doubt this young'un is going to get me in pretty damn fine shape.

But right now, he's Little Punk and he's making my body angry. I guess it's a good kind of angry, and it will get better. But damn, it's ANGRY.

Friday the 28th was my first training session with Ryan. He knew he had a trainee in pretty good shape to start with so we skipped a lot of the preliminaries and just went right into an awesome training session. I warned him not to do too much damage to my legs since I had 25 total miles to run over the weekend. My legs are actually pretty weak, and too many squats would hurt more than expected. I can run for hours, but strength? Not so much there. I know, I know...I know better!

We went through a circuit of exercises focusing on legs, upper body, core, and quickness. A really awesome circuit and I gotta hand it to Ryan for being very creative and giving me some tough exercises to do. My heart rate was sky high and I was begging for those rest periods to come faster. It honestly made me feel like a sad little out of shape weakling.

Afterwards, Ryan did say he was pretty impressed I made it through the workout as well as I did. It was a tough one intentionally. I think he's going to enjoy kicking my ass.

I felt pretty great all day Friday, but as I went to bed that night I got the first twinge of achiness in my lower body. Uh oh....

Saturday morning I was scheduled to run 7 miles, but because of flooding from the rain at our training venue our group run was cancelled. I decided that I needed to try to shake out some of the soreness that was very quickly settling in and headed to the gym to run a few miles on the treadmill. I intentionally kept it at a very comfortable pace and completed 5 miles in just under 49 minutes. My legs were still pretty stiff, but a little bit better, so I foam rolled for about 15 minutes or so and headed home.

I spent most of the day foam rolling, using the Stick, and resting. I was getting pretty worried about what 18 miles would feel like on sore legs the next day. By the time I went to bed Saturday night, I was VERY worried. But I had no opportunity to reschedule the run. I had to suck it up and hope I loosened up after a few miles.

Sunday morning came....


At this point I realized I shouldn't have any kind of time goal. I just needed to get the 18 miles in. The good news was the temp was reasonable, there was a bit of wind to cool me off, and I would be at Brushy Creek, where I love to run.

As I ticked off each uncomfortable mile, I noticed that I wasn't speeding up like I normally do. It was taking effort to maintain a 9:45-10:00 pace per mile, when I normally would comfortably be cruising at 9:00-9:30 after a few miles. There was absolutely no comfort during this run. Every step hurt. Every single one. My thoughts of running 18 in 2:48? Oh hell no, that was not going to happen. I'd be lucky to break 3 hours.

During mile 7 I wanted to cry. No, really...I just about had the tears flowing. It took every ounce of willpower I had to not call Greg and beg him to come pick me up. But as I crossed the dam I starting feeling a little bit better and relaxed. I cruised for the next few miles trying to block my discomfort and as I got closer to the Y at the end of the trail my mental attitude improved, although it was still painful. I let go off the rest of my expectations and just focused on getting through each mile one at a time.

The good news was that I wasn't feeling WORSE. Usually the fatigue will start to set it after about 2 hours and you can feel a definite difference in your legs. Mine weren't feeling any worse, and actually were probably a bit better at this point, so I held onto that for a few miles.

When I realized at the 15 mile point that I only had 30 minutes left I definitely had an attitude improvement. The sun was coming up, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I was going to get all 18 miles in. They weren't fast miles, there were a few spurts of walking up the inclines, and I may have reveled in the water stops a few moments longer than normal, but all in all, the miles were pretty consistent. When I ran, I ran at a smooth pace. I spent a lot of time focusing on my form, making sure I kept my core strong and didn't further hurt myself by getting sloppy.

Just because they were slower-than-normal miles didn't make them any less important. I completed 18 miles, all on my own and while feeling less than awesome. I can pat myself on my back for that one.

I also showered, ate, and made it to church by 9:45am....with both my kids all by myself. Not too shabby.

I took very good care of myself for the rest of Sunday, rehydrating and refueling, foam rolling, and using my Stick as often as I could. I was hurting pretty bad, but hanging in there. Actually, I think I felt better Sunday night than I did before I even ran.

Monday morning brought with it Personal Training Session #2. Little Punk was actually a bit shocked I was as miserable as I was. He didn't expect that my leg muscles were as weak as they were. But of course he had a plan to get those suckers in shape. I mistakenly assumed there would be no squats on the schedule. WRONG....the majority of the workout was upper body and corework but we did do squats at the end. Surprisingly, they were okay. I was moving pretty well at that point.

The real test came on Tuesday morning, during my Interval workout with Georgetown Triathletes. The workout was going to be a tough one...intervals of 12 min, 10 min, 8 min, 6 min, and 4 min at Threshold pace, which for me would be around 8:20-8:30 pace, inching down to 8:00 pace for the last 2 intervals. The break in between each interval would be only one minute. I knew this would probably be a little ambitious so I decided to try to keep up with Christine, who would most likely run 8:30-9:00 pace. I actually didn't expect to even run the full intervals, but rather cut a minute or two off and increase my rest period.

Surprisingly I felt okay. Slower than normal, but definitely okay. I got through the first interval just fine, then the next interval and was still feeling good. I was right on Christine's heels the whole time and even passed her a couple times. By the time we got to the last interval I was ahead of her and running probably 8:00 pace (my Garmin was broken so I'm not totally sure). My legs felt a bit heavy and tired, but were working well. I didn't feel like it was a big effort to maintain 8:30-8:45 pace.

Wednesday brought with it another personal training session in the morning and then Speed Work at the track Wednesday night. Ryan has me up to 7 min circuits now, which are absolutely killer, but I'm hanging in there. The workout was great. The track work was REALLY great (mile repeats: 7:33, 7:55, and 7:40).

I put the skids on Thursday (today), however. On the schedule was an 8 mile tempo run, which I planned to run at 5:30 in the morning. My goal was a 1.5 mile warm up no faster than 9:45 pace, then a slow progression to sub-9 average pace for 5 miles, then a 1.5 mile cool down at 9:30 pace. I got about 6 houses down and turned my butt back around. That butt was HURTING. Not so much that a mile or two wouldn't have loosened it up, but after the death march of 18 miles on Sunday I just didn't have the heart or desire to suffer through another run. I figured I could hit the gym tonight.

Am I going to go to the gym? I don't think so. My body is saying to rest. I have an 8 mile run on Saturday and a 10k race on Sunday.

Sometimes my body is smarter than my head.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Certifications, Bikes, Swim Lessons, and a lot of Miles

Wow...the last few weeks have been CRAZY.

Several weeks ago my coach warned me that my schedule was going to start looking like an Ironman schedule. No kidding...yesterday I took a look at what a typical week will be for the next 6 weeks and it does amaze me that I'm going to be doing this week after week...and I'm going to LIKE IT....well, mostly.

Mon: Personal training session, 20 mile bike ride
Tues: Interval training - 5-7 miles
Wed: Personal training session, Speedwork - 4-6 miles
Thurs: 8 mile Tempo run
Fri: Swim lesson, core work
Sat: Coaching plus Long Run (12-20 miles)
Sun: Long Run if not done Saturday

Some weeks there is no day off, although there is enough variety that I shouldn't burn myself out.

You'll notice that there are two very big new things in that schedule...personal training and swim lessons. That's right. I signed up for both. $900 poorer but I have 13 personal training sessions and 6 private swim lessons to look forward to. I had my first PT session yesterday and my trainer, Ryan, completely kicked my butt. It was a circuit type workout that focused mostly on upper body and core, with squats thrown in for good measure and my heart rate was sky high for a lot of it. I feel like not only am I going to get a great workout twice a week but I'm learning a lot of valuable tips for when I start work as a personal trainer.

That's right....I'M CERTIFIED!

On September 13 I took the NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) certification exam and passed on my first try. It was a tough test, I spent countless hours over the last 6 months studying everything you can imagine about the human body and exercise, and now I can begin work training others to find the fitness that is within us all. It's almost surreal. I've talked to friends about employment possibilities and I'm looking forward to where God leads me to be. After 11 years with the "Mom" and "Wife" moniker, I get to add "Trainer" to feels good to have something of my own and to help contribute to our household.

Next Friday I start swim lessons. I decided to sign up for private lessons at a local swim school. Daniella takes lessons at this pool and they have many hours during the day where they conduct private lessons while kids are in school. I thought this would be a perfect fit for me as I'm very nervous about learning to properly swim. The less people around, the better! I hope my instructor, Donna, is ready for me!

Purchasing training sessions and swim lessons wasn't the last of my "bleeding money" week, however. I have a pretty new addition to my family.

Isn't she beautiful?? My very first road bike. She's brand new but I found her on clearance and she's perfect for what I need right now. And she's purple. Because of course I would buy a purple road bike. I'm very excited to get her out on the road next week and see how it feels to ride faster than 13 mph (love my mountain bike, but I'm ready for a bit more speed!). I did a spin workout (my first time!) a couple weeks ago and maintained a 21+ mph average over the course of the hour class so I'm wondering how I will fair out on the open roads. I know I'll be wary of traffic and it'll take awhile to get comfortable but I think it'll be a great experience.

I've enjoyed this view for the past few weeks on my mountain bike, but it's time for the road!

So between running 20-40 miles per week, riding 20+ miles per week, 2 hours of personal training, a swim lesson, and seeking employment, my house should sufficiently go the hell, right?

Poor Greg. 

My weeks haven't solely focused on training, however. I'm trying to find the blessings in the little things and have been taking opportunities to appreciate what and who is around me.

The kiddos started school. I have a 5th grader and a 2nd grader now.
I got to spend a day exploring Austin with this fabulous lady, Tricia
Went to an Eric Church concert with friends Heather and Bre. SO MUCH FUN!

Next up?? I get to wear my Team Luke's gear in my first race representing them. The IBM Uptown Classic, sponsored by Luke's, is next Sunday. Tricia and I get to run together (if she can handle all my chatter!). Really looking forward to it!


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Bucket List

Every time I read about an awesome adventure or experience, I always think "add that to the bucket list." But I've never actually sat down and written a bucket list.

Have you?

Now is as good a time as any to start one, I suppose.

I'll start with fitness related hopes and dreams:

1. Run a sub-4 hour marathon. I've been training to do just that in December, and I'm pretty sure I'm capable with a bit more training. But the wheels started to fall off just a bit, with an injury that kept me from any speed whatsover for a few weeks, plus I was just fed up with the warm summer weather. My injury seems to be mostly resolved and the weather is getting much better. We'll see what the next 6 weeks holds and I'll make a determination on if sub-4 is still reasonable.

2. Run an ultramarathon. I've been saying that I'll do a 50K for my 40th birthday. If I can get my husband to stop saying I'm crazy for wanting to I just might make this a reality in 2014.

3. Boston Qualify. At my age I need to run a 3:40 marathon, pretty much impossible for me at this point in training. I'm simply not that fast and if I tried, I would get seriously hurt. BUT I know I can do it in my lifetime. At 45 I would need a 3:50. I think that sounds really great. I'm not necessarily gung ho about running the Boston Marathon...but qualifying for it would be a huge achievement.

4. Complete a triathlon. I made it a goal to do one in 2013. I need swim lessons and a good road bike. Bring it.

5. Run around Lake Georgetown in its entirety. I think it just looks awesome. 'Nuff said.

6. Run the Rome Marathon. I'm thinking 2020. I'll have an 18 year old and a 15 year old. They can be my cheerleaders.

7. Century Ride. If I can do a marathon, with a little (or a lot) of training, I can ride a bike for 100 miles. Ouch.

8. Run Rim to Rim (to Rim?). Grand Canyon. Beautiful. Amazing. Incredibly difficult. Perfect.

9. Back to back marathons. That means two in one weekend. Yes, really.

10. Complete an Ironman. Hahahahaha!!! Totally kidding on this one. No freaking way.

Stay tuned for a Non-running Bucket List.....

What's on YOURS??

T minus 89 Days

89 more days until Marathon #7. You know, the one where I said I'd run sub-4 hours?

That's 12 weeks, 5 days.

Or about 50 more training runs.

Okay, so 50 more runs before the marathon actually sounds okay. I'm going to focus on that statistic.

Since my last update I've run a 10k night trail race (so much fun!!) and logged my longest training run of the season (16 miles). I've worked through about 90% of my piriformis issue and THE WEATHER HAS BEEN GREAT! During my 16 miler two days ago it never crept above 67 degrees and was just wonderful. You know, as wonderful as 16 miles of running can be.

This week will be one of my biggest training weeks so far. In a 7 day stretch I will run 45 miles and I've never even gone above 40 miles in a week so this will be huge for me. I'm doing a tempo run the day before a long run, which will either be really dumb or just make me tougher. And strangely, I'm at the point in training when 12 miles is a "step down" week. It's all just getting really REAL right now and I'm trying to keep perspective and just focus on my workouts.

Will I be in shape to run a sub-4 on December 9? I really don't know, but I'm going to continue to train like I can and hope it all comes together. Strength, core, foam rolling, stretching, biking, running....and repeat.

Friday, August 24, 2012

An Update on Runner Steph

I'm 15 weeks and 2 days from Marathon #7.

I have piriformis syndrome.

I'm not nailing my paces on my runs because of it.

I'm starting up coaching again, but my training group is 10 weeks behind where I need to be for this marathon, which means I've got to get creative on when to do long runs.

I'm trying not to freak out.

I think I need to meditate.

So, the piriformis thing. I self-diagnosed. I thought it was a glute strain, but during my studies (for my personal trainer cert) I came across the piriformis muscle and googled information on it. I pretty much fit the mold on piriformis syndrome, which is when the muscle compresses your sciatic nerve. So I'm going with that and treating it as such.

And by "treating" I don't mean resting. We all know I hate rest. I'd rather alter training than stop it altogether. Treating it means a lot of foam rolling, stretching, using a tennis ball, walking during my runs, and a lot more core work.

10 days later and it seems to be working. I ran for 40 minutes straight yesterday at close to my goal pace. I completed a run/walk 9 miles this past Monday. I plan on doing 10 miles with hopefully minimal walking breaks on Sunday. If I can get my pace in the 9-9:15 range I will be a happy camper.

I love coaching. I'm super excited for our training group to be starting up again Saturday. But I'm also thinking about the fact that I was probably crazy for agreeing to run a December marathon, since we'll only be a little more than halfway through with our group training by then (we train for the Austin Marathon in February), and will be at about 13 miles for a long run the weekend of my marathon. I'll need to complete 3 or 4 18-20 milers before my marathon. Could get tricky with the schedule as I may have to do them on different days, which means unsupported runs and possibly alone. Or I start some at 4:30am to get in miles before our group and complete the run with the group. I really don't know which sounds worse!

I'm trying not to focus on the fact that I planned to run sub-4 hours in this marathon. It just seems CRAZY right now. But I know my body can do it...I just need to get it pain-free and I need to get my mind back in the game. NOW.

So I will continue my foam rolling, my tennis ball massage, my core work, my stretching, and my freaking out. No, not really the freaking out. Well, maybe the freaking out.

Be thankful you don't live in my house right now.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Part 1: Things that Piss Me Off

I actually wrote this a couple months ago and never published it. Today I feel like publishing it. Enjoy!!

There are days when I have so many negative things rolling around in my head that I just really need to get them out. Usually these thoughts center around my irritation at other people. I don't have any notion that I'm not also an incredibly irritating person, and I know I have many MANY faults, but seriously...holy crap....sometimes I just really hate other people.  So I decided, how awesome would it be to write a blog post about all the things that just totally piss me off. I'm going to title it "Part 1" since I do have the intention of following it up with things that make me happy (ha...we'll see if that actually happens or if I keep y'all hanging).

1. Tailgaters - now that I own a MINI I seem to be getting tailgated A LOT more than when I was driving my Armada. Especially by dudes in huge trucks who think they are badass but really are just sadly overcompensating for their shortcomings. And if they aren't tailgating, they are trying to race me or cutting me off. It's really pleasant.
2. People who CONSTANTLY COMPLAIN on Facebook. It's okay to let out a vent or two...we all do it from time to time, me included. But if every single week you're complaining about your children, your life in general, how nothing is going right, how you're still fat, how people who don't share your opinions are the devil, or anything related....and it's become what you're "known for" on Facebook...well, isn't that kind of a problem? Can't you find a way to feel blessed or be witty? Or do you really want to be known as that person who bitches all the time?
3. Arrogance. You know what? You aren't better than anyone else just because you might be faster or stronger or richer or prettier. And coming across like the rest of us could be as cool as you if we do the same things you do just makes you a jerk. And not someone we want to be around.
4. When I'm told I'm addicted to running. Yes, I love to run. It's a passion of mine. But I also am finding love in other forms of exercise. If I'm addicted to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and pushing my limits physically, then I'll take that addiction. I'm sorry you can't find the time or willpower to do the same, but don't insult me just because I do make it a priority. I find an incredible amount of joy in it.
5. When people joke about being out of shape, unhealthy, overweight, etc. It's not funny. It never will be. It's sad and you need to do something about it, for yourself and for your loved ones. Spend more time changing it rather than joking about it. It's a defense mechanism and it's unnecessary. People die from being unhealthy...I should know! Do something!!
6. Bad grammar. Yes, I hate bad grammar. I do my best to not correct anyone publicly, because that's just being a douche. But IT MAKES ME CRAZY when I see mistakes like "their/there", "your/you're", "y'all/ya'll", "loose/lose", and things like that. CRAZY!!! If you're "losing" something, you're not "loosing" it! And if you're in Texas and you spell "y'all" with the apostrophe in the wrong place, well then shame on you.
7. Clueless grocery store shoppers - stop leaving your cart on one side of the aisle and "shopping" on the other side. Keep the cart next to you so you aren't being a jerk and blocking the entire aisle, especially in a busy grocery store under construction.
8. Chicks with tight and too-short shorts. Did you realize that even if you're thin, these kinds of shorts make your thighs look huge? It's not attractive. Sadly, this seems to be the way 95% of teenage girls dress.
9. Along the same lines...gladiator sandals. Oh, my, those are just ugly and they don't look good on anyone.
10. People who talk loud in public, whether to the person they're with or on their cellphone. I don't need to hear about your problems, opinions, experiences, etc. At all. Be quiet, have some self-respect.
11. Constant negativity. I realize it's ironic that I would post this when all I'm doing is bitching and moaning, but seriously...there are some people out there who are just NEGATIVE. And about little tiny things that have no significance in the big picture. Not every little thing needs to be picked apart and complained about. Some things need to just be let go. You can think things in your head all you want....but have more discretion when you open your mouth.

Wow. I feel better.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Cold Weather, a Bridge, Too Many Hills, and a SHINY NEW PR!

After I finally felt comfortable at the marathon distance and was able to push through some tough mental spots to meet my marathon goals this year, I knew it might be my year to achieve a new half marathon personal best. My previous PR was 1:59:26, set back in 2008 on a flat course. It was a great race, one I’m very proud of, but it was years ago. After 2009 I didn’t run another half marathon until March of this year…and came so very close to another sub-2 hour time…2:00:21. But tough weather conditions and a hillier than expected course made the difference in 2:00 hours vs a 1:57, which is what I wanted.

But coming that close to my goal and feeling pretty great for nearly the entire race made me realize I am perfectly capable of a 1:55. I had already signed up for San Francisco on July 29. Another hilly race, but I was going to be even more prepared.

I spent the next few months busting my ass in hill training and speed work. I tried my best to not let the warm, humid conditions of summer get me down and with the exception of a couple of runs, I remained strong. There really wasn’t anything else I could do to get to my goal on race day.

Our summer vacation to California was planned, with family time, a high school reunion, and a concert on the schedule...and really awesome weather. I was SO excited about the weather! We road tripped it out there...yes, from Austin to the Central California coast with 2 kids and a dog. It was pretty damn fantastic.

Greg and I were able to leave the kids in my hometown with my parents while we drove the 4 hours to San Francisco to stay overnight and do the race. We hit up the expo at about 1pm the day before the race. I was able to leisurely check things out with worry about the kids being bored, which was really fun although I didn't really buy much. I was able to meet a few people I had only interacted with in the running community online, which was fantastic. It's always nice to put faces with names. Loved meeting you Libby, Wes, Brent, and Renee!! I got to walk to Little Italy from my hotel and meet an old friend, Jen, for dinner. I hadn't seen Jen in years. The restaurant was perfect and it was the best gnocchi I have ever had, hands down. Perfect race fuel for me.

Me, Renee, and Libby
Me and Jen

We decided to stay at the host hotel, which was right at the start line. With the super early start time (5:42) I wanted to be sure I could get as much sleep as possible race morning and just being able to walk out of the hotel and right to the start without having to negotiate parking or possible traffic jams. It was a great decision.  Nice view, huh?
Bay Bridge and the Ferry Building...I love it!

We walked out of the hotel at 5:15am ready to go.

Runners need lots of crap

The start line was on the Embarcadero at the Bay Bridge. Brought back memories of driving into the city from Dublin when we lived there!

San Francisco weather was pretty great, at about 53 degrees in the morning, but the humidity wasn’t so great because of the fog. It can be deceptively tough to run in the fog even though the temperature is to your benefit. I hoped all my long runs in the humid conditions had prepped me for it.

Greg was running with me and his job was to make sure I kept my pace on target. I was afraid if he didn’t keep track of it (I hardly ever look at my pace during a run), I would burn myself out. Although I didn’t want to admit it before the race, the elevation chart had me a bit freaked out. Although the Embarcadero was flat and we’d be on it for 5 miles, there was a nasty hill to contend with at mile 6 and the Golden Gate Bridge supposedly feels uphill the entire way, although it’s gradual. For some reason, until the day before the race, I completely forgot the last two miles of the race were uphill.  But hey, I know hills…I live in Austin!

San Francisco hills are a bit different. As I would find out.

The race started off great. A 5:42am start meant getting up at 4am, but our hotel was right at the start line so we had no stress over trying to find parking and getting there early enough. The temperature was about 55 degrees, the fog didn’t seem too thick, and it was generally a very nice morning. We ran into a couple friends and were getting excited. It was going to be fun!

An uneventful first 3 miles, right on target, gave me a lot of confidence. Mile 1 came in at 9:40, which was my goal pace, and miles 2 and 3 were right around 9:12. Greg thought it was a bit too fast, but I wasn’t worried. I felt very comfortable and the pace seemed slower than it was…always a good sign.

We encountered a hill at Mile 4 I totally didn’t expect, and it was kind of yucky. I did my best to not slow down, and thankfully it was short. I knew the one after 5 miles would be the sucky one. My friend Libby warned me I’d want to walk it. Along the side of road during Mile 4 were the military of fallen soldiers, with their ages and when they passed away. I looked at every single one of these pictures to remind myself that I was privileged to be running in this beautiful city while these men and women sacrificed themselves. Right after the memorial, I encountered a runner with a sign on his back...he was running in memory of his wife. I noticed him carrying a rose in his hand. I patted him on the back, said "good job" and then spent about a 1/4 mile fighting back tears. I mentioned something to Greg, who said he was about to cry, too. Powerful moment...probably one of my most memorable of the whole race.

I had hoped to be right around 9 min even pace at miles 4 and 5, and they both came in at 8:53. We were a bit ahead of pace, so that was really good to know going into the hell of Mile 6….a long, steep 200 foot elevation gain over less than a half mile. Can we say OUCH? By the time we hit 6 miles we were on the bridge, and there was never any relief from the incline during that entire mile. It was 9:27…about 30 seconds off pace. But that was okay…I still was right where I needed to be for nearly halfway through the race.

The bridge most definitely feels like its on an incline for the entire length, which is just bizarre, but I tried to block that strange feeling out and keep my pace even. My hope was for Mile 7 to come in around 8:45-8:50 and it was on target, then mile 8, which offered a little relief with a couple downhills was at 8:30. We were back in business, and going back across the bridge. During mile 9 I definitely started to feel a bit of fatigue, but kept concentrating on keeping an even pace. An 8:44 mile 9 was a bit slower than I wanted, but still okay.

Coming off the bridge

I look so unhappy...and Greg is pretty much in front of me for the entire all the pics

Then I saw a hill I forgot all about.

I think the only thing that kept me from falling completely off pace but knowing that on the other side of this hill was a 1 mile downhill, with a 200 foot elevation loss. I really did not like this crappy hill…I wanted to punch it, but I did my best to get as close to 8:30 as I possibly could for mile 10. It came in at 8:43. Well, crap. I was certainly feeling some hill fatigue. My breathing, thankfully, was just fine, however. No wheezing, no overexertion. Just some muscle fatigue in my legs.  I wanted to be just short of 90 minutes at the 10 mile point, but it was over. 25 minutes needed for the final 5k…yikes.

Time to burn it up a little on that downhill, which would either be smart or incredibly stupid and kill my legs for the final uphill 2 miles.

That downhill was glorious and fun and I felt great all of a sudden. I wanted an 8:15 on that hill pretty badly and when my watch chimed an 8:11 at me I was thrilled. Thrilled for about 2 seconds, until the next uphill. And then another and another.  I needed a sub-8 minute final 2+ mile pace, and that was going to be incredibly tough.

My legs pretty much told me to knock it off, they were done, and I needed to go lay down. I simply could not push them to run any faster.

It was at this point that Greg stayed in front of me and told me to stop looking at my watch and just let him do the pacing. The poor guy wanted me at 8:15 so badly, knowing we needed to run faster if I had any shot at a 1:55. He would get up to pace and then had to back off because I simply could not keep up.

Hey look, Greg is still sort of in front of me

Mile 12 came in at 8:48….we were definitely off pace at this point. But I knew I was doing everything I could. Plan B was now to simply stay under 9 minute pace overall. I’ve never run sub-9 for a half marathon before….or even 11 or 12 miles, so this was an awesome and exciting goal to shoot for.

Once I knew we had only a little over a mile left my mental energy got a recharge. If I could maintain this pace we were golden. There were still hills during Mile 13 but they didn’t bug me as much. I started counting down the 10ths of a mile, and Greg did the same to me (by the way, HE WAS AWESOME COACHING ME!!!).

Mile 13 was in 8:38…it didn’t feel that fast and although it was originally supposed to 8 minutes even, I was a happy girl. Just 1/10th of a mile to go and I had a 1:57 and a sub-9 minute pace overall. It was actually raining a little at this point, which was just weird to me. July and it's in the 50s and raining on us.

That dumb last 1/10th of a mile was long, about .15 miles from the 13 mile marker. My Garmin showed a total mileage of 13.25 miles for the day. I always expect it to be a little long and I calculated what I needed to run based on 13.2 miles, so this was even a bit longer. I probably would have been more mad about that final sprint had it been the difference between 1:55 and 1:56, but I had a 1:57 no matter what the distance there. My final pace in that last 1/4 mile was 7:36...just about exactly what I wanted to run for that stretch. Somehow I found a little kick at the end!

I found my happy place...and a happy pace

My Garmin showed me at 8:52 pace for 13.25 miles in 1:57:32. Official race results are 8:58 pace for 13.1 miles...either way, I did it! On a flat course, I had 1:55 in the bag. More work to do for sure, but I'm getting there.

After catching my breath, the first thing Greg I scouted out was the Irish Coffee. Any race with alcohol at the finish is my kind of race.

A pic where I don't look like a complete dumbass
And one where I look like a total dumbass but you can see the whiskey!

We took the shuttle bus back to the start line, got cleaned up in the hotel, and decided to catch out the action at the finish line for the 2nd half marathoners and full marathoners, which was right by the start line. It was the first time I've actually watched the finish line of a marathon before and I wanted to be on the other side for once, to see the faces on these people as they accomplished something so awesome. We hung out for probably about 30 minutes. There were some interesting San Francisco characters, that's for sure.

This race was great. I will definitely think about running it again. Well organized, beautiful course, awesome finish area (the food was crazy! So much variety). But I'm pretty sure I'll try out the second half next time (net elevation loss!).

I'm pretty much sick of hills for awhile.

Friday, August 3, 2012


I wrote the first part on Tuesday, July 31 while driving through California on our road trip back home:

I got on my computer with the intent of writing my race report for the San Francisco Half Marathon, but I’m distracted by the real things that matter in life right now.

Yesterday there was a terrible accident in Bastrop County, and although I was in California at the time I read the Austin news on Facebook and Twitter so I was aware of the accident pretty quickly. Something about it made me incredibly uncomfortable, and when the reports came in that two children were killed, it made my heart sink. 

I had no idea those who died were part of a good friend’s family until last night. My friend lost her younger sister, two young nephews, and an unborn niece or nephew. Just like that, a man is left without his entire family, just when he was preparing to become a family of 5.

I can imagine the pain of losing a sister – the third anniversary of Trisha’s death is in a mere 5 days – but losing babies, too? The heartache is truly unimaginable. All I want to do is wrap that family in my arms and I am 3 states away.

When I got up this morning and hit the shower, I lost it and the tears would not stop coming. That family is experiencing a loss most of us could never ever imagine. And they are such incredible people.

I’m angry. It’s unfair. It HURTS. The thought of what the suddenly childless widower must be feeling is overwhelming to me. I truly can’t imagine such an enormous loss. My heart hurts so very much.

Please say prayers.

This part was started last night and finished today, August 2-3:

As my family and were driving through Arizona yesterday morning, I had a huge urge to try to make it to the funeral, which was set for 11am today. The problem was that I was still nearly 1000 miles away...a very long drive with two children when you are only expecting to drive 650 miles.

I think fate intervened and made the decision out on a stretch of was closed due to a big rig fire 4 miles ahead. We were stuck, for possibly hours. The irony of it being a fiery accident did not escape me. Greg and I quickly realized that if we were stuck out on I-40 for much longer we weren't making it to Lubbock and our booked hotel room before it got late. By the time we would get there, the kids would already be asleep and it would be incredibly disruptive to move them and all our stuff into a hotel room for a few hours rest. It suddenly became clear...we needed to keep driving, and I was going to attend that funeral.

Now, hours later, with a million thoughts in my mind, I sit feeling numb, sad, emotional, and heartbroken. Not for myself, since I did not ever meet Liz or the boys, but for the family and for the widower left behind. I buried my sister 3 years ago this month....but today's funeral was the most gut wrenching experience of my life. 

The Dowdy and Herro families are exceptional. Liz was married to Sam, who is brothers with Dan, who is married to Lauren, Liz's sister...did you catch that? Sisters married to brothers. One amazing family connected to another amazing family. I'm friends with Lauren and Dan, have spent countless hours with them as a runner and as a friend. They are two of my very favorite people in the world. Through Lauren's photographs, I was able to get a view into Liz and her spirit. She was always someone I wanted to meet and I know had I had the opportunity to spend time with her and the boys, I would love them. Lauren's photographs are just breathtaking.

Liz's dad, Jeff, spoke first. He spoke not of grief but of miracles. Julie, Liz's mom, spoke as well. She gave us a window into who Liz was. There were countless photos to beautiful music, comforting words from the pastor, and a beautiful speech and song by Liz's father-in-law, Sam Sr. We sang worship songs and watched in heartache as the caskets left the sanctuary. The service was almost 3 hours long and words can't really describe the true beauty of the celebration of 4 lives. I'm not even going to try to describe it. If you were there, you know. 

I woke up this morning so profoundly sad. The tears come easily. It amazes me that although I never knew Liz or the boys, I can feel this level of grief. Perhaps it's because it hits close to home, perhaps it's part of who I am to be that sensitive, I don't know.

I have walked away from that experience a different person. The family's words on who Liz was and how we should all be echo in my head. She and Sam were the best of the best when it comes to being parents, the best of the best when it comes to being committed and we should all learn from their example. They have shown mercy, compassion, and unbelievable love. LOVE was a common theme during the service. Sometimes life is as simple as that....just LOVE.