Monday, December 15, 2014

Half #10 with friends, Aggies....and some humidity

The half marathon distance is my favorite. I feel like I can actually race this distance versus just wanting to finish and feel okay. I can push my body and my mind over 13.1 miles and not be too fatigued to continue training a couple days after the race.

My original plan going into the Bryan College Station Half on 12/14 was to full out race it and see what I could do. The Houston Marathon qualifying mark is a 1:52:55 half, which would be a difficult time to achieve, but not out of the question (my personal best is 1:51:36). But I had lost some speed over the course of the year and wasn't quite sure I could pull it off. When Houston announced they were doing away with the lottery and would instead open registration up to everyone I realized that a qualifying mark wasn't really necessary anymore for the 2016 race. I decided then that I wouldn't go over the top in pushing myself for that 8:37 pace and would instead try to break 9:00 overall pace, with my "B" goal of under 2 hours.

As race day approached, the weather looked less than ideal. Low 60s and very high humidity - near 100%. Just trying to break 9:00 min pace was going to be an all out effort for me after all, but I would give it a shot.

I took it easy as usual leading up to race day so I'd be rested and ready for the distance. It was a cloudy morning and a touch warm. Not having the sun on us would be a very good thing!

I started off conservative but still a bit faster than my usual starting pace and my first mile came in at 9:28. Probably a bit fast but it didn't feel like that fast so I went with it. I sped up just slightly during Mile 2 and was actually quite surprised when my pace clocked in at 8:56 for that mile. I told myself if I could just stick right around that pace for the entire race I'd be fine, and I did think that I could. Within about 3 miles I realized that my Garmin was running a little fast and that it was probably a bit off on it's distance calculation. I know that I pick up a bit of extra distance during long races, but this was a little more than usual. I did a quick calculation and realized that the Garmin was probably about 5 seconds off per mile, although sticking to just-under-9-minute miles according to my Garmin was probably going to be just fine.

I also realized within these first 3 miles that this race was going to HURT.

I had some heaviness in my legs and my lungs were working hard to breathe through the 100% humidity. My miles came through consistently between 8:48 and 9:00, however, but it was not at all easy for me to maintain it. I wasn't particularly speedy, but this absolutely was "racing" for me.

At the halfway mark I was at 59:43, under the 1 hour mark that I wanted to see. Typically in a half marathon I can speed up quite a bit in the last 4 miles or so and have a sizable negative split. This time, however, I knew that if I could simply even-split this race I was doing well. It would still give me my B goal and I'd be thrilled. But I did have a shot at that A goal still. I merely needed about a 58 minute second half, not that much faster than the first half. I concentrated on just trying to not slow down at all.

The miles continued to click by in that same high-8's range, not dropping closer to 8:30 like I had hoped they would, but I was very fearful of speeding up too much and aggravating my asthma. As we entered A&M campus my spirits were certainly raised, however. It's such a great campus and the students are the best spectators. I was not a smiling happy runner at all, but I really did appreciate them cheering me on as I passed. We even had a Santa and Mrs. Claus! The wind was picking up at this point, however, and the headwinds kept the pace a little slower than I would have liked, but I was expecting the wind so I didn't let it bother me too much. I was glad I was getting a bit cooled off from it.

Every mile that I banked got me closer to my goal and I kept doing the calculations in my head knowing that as long as I just kept running I would be fine...10 miles, 11 miles, and 12 miles completed under 1:50. But with 1.1 miles to go I'd have to do a pretty solid pace to squeak under that 9 minute pace. I decided right then that meeting my B goal was definitely good enough and I just kept running.

That last mile actually flew by very quickly and we finally were making the final turn to the finish. I took the time to actually enjoy that stretch. The beneficiary of the race is Mercy Project, which helps get kids out of slavery in Africa, and there were pictures up of many of the rescued children. It brought a smile to my face. I didn't speed up on this stretch like I usually do and I was getting passed right and left but it didn't matter. I could hear the race director on the PA system telling us we only had a minute or two left, and I could see the clock at the finish just ahead of me.

As I crossed the finish line, I was so relieved. It was not the usual progressive pace half marathon I typically race. My official time was 1:58:27, for a 9:02 overall pace. My second half was about 1 minute faster than the first half, and my splits were very consistent, staying around 8:45-9:05 pace from miles 2 to 13. I didn't bonk, I didn't slow down, and I was successful!

I found my friend Tony in the finish area and he had raced just under 1:54. He typically is about 5-6 minutes faster than me in a half marathon, so this made me feel better about my race. I knew I left it all out there and ran a smart race. If I had pushed myself anymore in those last miles I probably would have ended up in medical with an asthma attack, and that would have sucked. And I broke that 2 hour mark, which is always a great feeling.

We hung out in the finish area for the next 2 hours, eating and drinking and greeting our friends as they finished. It was a tough day for everyone with the weather and the wind, but a great race regardless.

Half marathon #10 is in the books. 5 weeks from Marathon #11 and I feel pretty good about it. Will it be a PR race? I don't know, but I do know that I'll give it my best shot and just try to enjoy Houston like I always do.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


1. For my two children.

2. For my husband, the poor man.

3. For my health, even if it's not perfect.

4. For the miles I've run.

5. That I still have my parents and my in-laws.

6. For the roof over my head.

7. For my security.

8. That I'm able to be a stay-at-home mom...for the second time.

9. That I had my husband's support to start a second career, although it's on hold.

10. For those who allow me to be who I am, even if they don't agree.

11. For the freedom to express my beliefs.

12. For grace.

13. For freedom to worship.

14. For good therapists.

15. For my sensitivity, although it's not always a good thing.

16. For good books....and my Kindle.

17. For my snuggle buddy dogs.

18. For the food in my belly.

19. Texas.

20. And white sand beaches.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Another 50 things

I had so much fun writing the first list, that I started another list right away. Enjoy.

1. Always say "please" and "thank you."

2. Don't speed through a parking lot.

3. Try a new food at least once. You just never know.

4. Do something scary.

5. Baseball is better in person.

6. Most men get better looking with age.

7. Especially when their hair turns gray.

8. However, good looks are much less important than a good heart.

9. The right person will love you at your worst.

10. Expect delays and headaches when you travel, and then just deal with it.

11. Learn how to swim.

12. Learn how to shoot.

13. Be kind.

14. Things never take "just 10 minutes."

15. Pay your bills on time.

16. Don't buy it if you can't afford it.

17. Start your kid's college fund as soon as she's born.

18. Cut people some slack. You don't know their story.

19. Don't judge people with tattoos.

20. Bust out the crayons and color.

21. Ask yourself if the argument is really worth it.

22. It's never too early to start getting mammograms.

23. Even if your baby is past his due date, enjoy those last moments of pregnancy. You'll miss it.

24. Find a white sand beach and dig your toes in.

25. Always own at least one little black dress.

26. Don't use the word "diet."

27. You won't regret putting in hardwood floors.

28. Use your cookbooks.

29. Hugs are the best therapy.

30. Buy the house with a view.

31. Pay it forward.

32. He who has the most toys does not win.

33. Never ever ever start smoking.

34. Don't underestimate the impact having a child will have on your life.

35. Take a nap.

36. Listen to classical music.

37. Keep your toenails painted.

38. Big diamonds are overrated.

39. Never run out of coffee.

40. Proper grammar. Enough said.

41. Get your passport...just in case 

42. You can never have too many board games.

43. Or puzzles. As a matter of fact, go buy another one.

44. Charcoal grills are the only real grills.

45. Appreciate a good thunderstorm.

46. Run in the rain.

47. Take the scenic route.

48. Don't get stuck in a boring box. Peek over the top sometimes.

49. Fuzzy pajamas.

50. Tomorrow isn't guaranteed. So do it today.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

50 things

In the past 40+ years there are a few things I've learned about life.

1. Nap when the baby naps.

2. Let the baby sleep on you.

3. If the dog wants to snuggle, let him. The laundry can wait.

4. Spend the day reading a good book.

5. Run that extra mile.

6. Explore the unknown path.

7. Go out to dinner.

8. Buy the shoes.

9. Admit your faults.

10. Let the sink pile up with dishes so you can hang out with your kids.

11. Book a flight to go see a friend.

12. Send a care package.

13. Don't skip the weddings or the funerals.

14. Open the good bottle of wine.

15. Light a scented candle just because.

16. Let your kids bring in the new year...and then sleep in the next day.

17. Cook bacon every weekend.

18. Save your money for a ridiculous vacation.

19. Don't waste your money on an expensive car.

20. Rescue a pet.

21. If that pet is a chihuahua, buy him sweaters.

22. Take a road trip.

23. Take too many pictures.

24. Pray.

25. Vote.

26. Call your parents every week.

27. Say "I love you" every day. To your spouse. To your kids. To your friends. You can't say it enough.

28. Kiss your spouse at bedtime every night.

29. Appreciate your siblings.

30. Sometimes it's okay to drink too much.

31. But don't drive when you do.

32. Make your bed everyday.

33. Put your dirty laundry in the hamper.

34. Say yes to the dinner invitation.

35. Go see that movie.

36. Eat the cake, but not every day.

37. Exercise. Your heart, your figure, and your mind will thank you.

38. Never skip moisturizer.

39. Go to the dentist twice a year.

40. Appreciate the friends who love you and all your quirks.

41. Never take punctuality lightly.

42. Own at least one pair of really great cowboy boots.

43. Make sure you have a really great pair of jeans to wear with those boots.

44. Go on a hike.

45. Cry.

46. There's no such thing as too many pairs of cozy socks.

47. Turn off the TV and listen to music.

48. Always have a koozie in your car.

49. Don't apologize for your beliefs.

50. Remember every day is a blessing.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Time for Me

Tomorrow marks 4 months since my last day of work. I really did think I'd be back at work by now, but I don't foresee a change in my stay-at-home status anytime soon. And that's okay. It's nice.

Greg started his third week at his new job today. It's quiet around here during the day. I never have the TV on, I rarely play music. It's odd not hearing him on the phone during conference calls and not eating lunch with him. I have a lot of quiet time to just think. That's sometimes good and sometimes bad. But I'm not complaining. Things are different, but it's not bad.

I'm trying to spend my time doing things that make me happy, that are low stress, and help out our family. Reorganizing the house, getting errands done, shopping, training, reading, relaxing...

Speaking of training....

Marathon training is getting REAL. I'm now 9 weeks out from Marathon #11, and in my heaviest miles. My first 20 miler of this training cycle is this coming Saturday, and I'm racing a half marathon in 27 days. How has my running been lately?

AWESOME. Strangely, crazy awesome.

I'm sure it has everything to do with the cold weather we've been having, but running has just been easy for me the past few weeks. I'm running faster than usual when I think I'm running slow, my endurance has improved dramatically, and it's making me very happy. A few weeks ago I ran back-to-back 9 mile runs, then a 16 miler the next weekend, then 10 mile and 4 mile runs this past weekend. And all were at a decent pace, particularly this past weekend. My interval runs are more effortless, too.

Basically, I'M THRILLED.

Does this mean I have plans to go for the 1:52:55 I need at my half marathon in order to qualify for the 2016 Houston Marathon? I don't know. That would mean running 8:37 pace and I'm pretty sure that despite my improvements in running I'm not quite at that level. Although if the weather cooperates, I might go for it anyway. I have 5 weeks between my half marathon and my marathon, so plenty of time to recover and regroup before 26.2.

I've also been thinking a lot about what I want to do next year with regards to training and racing. I know I will focus on triathlons after my April marathon, and will hopefully get comfortable with longer distance ones before 2016. I'd really like to do a Half Ironman in early 2016, which means my marathon season will likely be very different. I'm excited and eager to see how the year shapes up, how I'm going to change things up, and how it will allow me the "me" time I so desperately need. It's fun to have things to look forward to and it makes me feel peace in the chaos.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The benefit of Facebook

There are a lot of annoying things about Facebook. But I've always maintained that the benefits outweigh the negatives. Sometimes it's my news source, it's how I stay connected with my training groups, I can easily keep up to date with friends and family, and we get to share a lot of pretty awesome things.

I had an epiphany this morning about a huge positive regarding Facebook. It can connect us with people that we may otherwise not have connected to, and their impact on our lives may be considerable.

On October 22, an old classmate of mine, Melissa, passed away from cancer. She and I were not close in school and hadn't seen each other since high school. But we connected on Facebook in recent years, as many of us do with our old classmates. Her struggle with Stage 4 cancer was well documented by her, and it was a huge struggle. Melissa was a single mother with two boys, one grown and one still very young.

Despite the daily pain and burden she felt dealing with the physical and emotional toll the cancer was taking on her, EVERY SINGLE post displayed an optimism and selflessness that I don't think I have ever witnessed in anyone else. She was a fighter and a damn strong one. No matter how many times the cancer knocked her down, she brushed it off as being "just for a season" and that she would continue to fight. If any of us was struggling, she was right there for you, saying prayers and offering encouragement. She would ask people to give her things to pray for.

She continues to remind me, after her death, that no matter what is going on in our lives, we are strong enough to get through it and there is always a positive to find in the midst of the struggle.

I wouldn't have connected with Melissa, and she wouldn't have had this impact on my heart, if it wasn't for Facebook. I'm a better person after being touched by her struggle. I don't want to forget the lessons she has taught me.

I dearly miss her daily posts. We need more Melissas in our world.

Monday, November 3, 2014


You all know about my struggles with my kids lately. I've been very open about that. But there's something that I haven't been at liberty to discuss until today. I can finally open up about it and let out a sigh of relief.

On September 23, my husband was laid off from his job. In the midst of trying to get my kids on the right track with therapy, medications, school, etc, our entire world changed with one phone call. For the past 15 years my husband has worked for the same company and has been happy and successful there, with the past 7 years out of our home office in Austin although company headquarters is in Silicon Valley. Back in August they announced they would be laying off a very big chunk of the worldwide workforce, and although we've weathered the past layoffs unscathed, my husband knew this time around his time was probably up. As a preemptive strike he started looking for another job. As the big layoff week loomed closer, it got a little more stressful as he just knew he was on the chopping block. He was the only worker on his team that was not based in San Jose.

September 23 brought with it the news and our world completely changed. He is our breadwinner and without him working there is no income. With a mortgage and two children we needed an income. Thankfully because he had already been looking he had a lot of contacts at other companies and quickly had interviews lined up. But it was stressful just not knowing what was going to happen.

In all honesty, we've gotten very comfortable with his work schedule. Working from home on mostly San Jose time was a true blessing. If I needed him to be home or to run an errand he was almost always available. We got to spend a lot of time together during the day, which is something we probably started to take for granted. He's also our main household chef.

This was all going to change and in the midst of all the other stressors we were dealing with, the thought of it just drained us. We quickly adjusted our spending and our usual way of life. Yes, there's a severance as with most layoffs and over the years we've saved our money but we weren't dumb enough to rely on that for long.

His official last day of work was October 10. On October 16, he got a job offer from another tech company.

Talk about a huge weight off our shoulders.

Today he started that new job. It's quiet in my house. I'm used to hearing him on conference calls all day long. I'm used to eating lunch with him most days. I'm used to him starting dinner around 5pm. Now it's all on my shoulders again. I get to be the kid chauffeur, the errand runner, the chef. But really, talk about first world problems, right?

So there you go. I could finally get that completely off my chest. The world threw us a huge curveball but we navigated it, have started a new journey, and because he got a new job so quickly he bought me a new bike. Pretty kickass.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Random Updates from the Loony Bin

Life is wild, isn't it?

I admit I got myself stuck in the thought that I was totally screwing up this life thing. My kids are a mess, I'm a mess, a lot of crappy things have happened (this year particularly), and I'm not quite sure where I'm heading.

And then I read THIS.

WAIT....I'm actually succeeding at life? Who knew!!

1. Your relationships are less dramatic than they used to be. 
Check! Drama is stupid and grownups who thrive on it are ridiculous.

2. You're not afraid to ask for help and support anymore.
I admit that I have a hard time delegating. But when I need help, I typically turn to the husband and he is awesome about it. I should probably turn to friends more than I do, but I'm glad that I have someone under my roof that just gets me and gets my needs.

3. You have raised your standards.
"You don't spend time with the 'energy vampires' in your life anymore."
Seriously, I don't need to have the life sucked out of me by passive aggressive, immature bullshit. Take a chill pill and call me in the morning.

4. You let go of things that don't make you feel good.
I'm am VERY good at this. I took stock of everything over the summer and realized I needed major changes for me and my family. I quit my job, focused more on them, put more passion into MY training, did little things that were just FUN, and ignored some of the stuff that just wasn't. Contentment happened, people.

5. You have moments where you appreciate who you see in the mirror.
I'm a 40 year old woman and I love it. I take care of my health and it shows. I am a caring, intelligent person, and I like me a whole lot.

6. You have learned that setbacks and failure are a part of self-growth.
"In reality there is no such thing as a setback. It's all just part of a wondrous journey."
I try to learn something from every challenge, and I know that all the stumbles have made me stronger and smarter and more empathetic. I'll take that.

7. You have a support system that includes people that would do anything for you.
I have a pretty kickass family and some pretty kickass friends. My circle has tightened over the years, but those who are closest to me are the best of the best and I love them to death.

8. You don't complain much.
I suck at this one sometimes. I really try to keep the worst of the worst off of Facebook (Twitter is a different story). I try to remain positive, but it's so tough when you're at your lowest. My poor husband and friends hear it all. But I do try to temper it with positives as often as possible, because there are always good things around me at every moment, whether I choose to see them or not.

9. You can celebrate others' success.
YES!! Not to say I don't want to occasionally punch the most cheerful and perfect people out there, but YES! It's great when things go well for others.

10. You have passions that you pursue.
DUH. I kick ass at this one. If there's one thing I've learned is that if I don't take care of ME, I can't take care of others. And pursuing the things that give me my spark is pretty amazing.

11. You have things to look forward to.
I don't want to live in the future, but I do like to have events and goals planned out that I can slowly works towards, whether that's a race or a vacation or whatever. I can look to a few months from now and say, yep, that is going to ROCK.

12. You have goals that have come true.
I am a wife. I am a mother. I am healthy. I am a marathoner. I am a triathlete. I am living in the great state of Texas. Just to name a few.

13. You have empathy for others.
Sometimes I think I'm too sensitive, that I internalize suffering a little too much. But I'd rather have compassion than to be completely selfish any day. I might joke that I hate people, but in reality, I love them to death.

14. You love deeply and open yourself up to be loved by others.
This is very true and it has burned me so many times in the past. I trust people a lot, sometimes too much, and it means that my heart is wide open for hurt. But because of this, I've also been able to love unconditionally and to BE loved beyond what I ever thought possible.

15. You refuse to be a victim.
Oh, hell yes to this one!! One thing that drives me completely bonkers is when others seem to fall into the same trap over and over and yet refuse to take responsibility for it. They are perpetual victims and blame everyone else for it. They thrive on the attention that victimhood provides. Um, NO. Ain't no victim here. It doesn't mean that I don't feel sorry for myself sometimes, because I definitely do, but I'll do my best to conquer again.

16. You don't care what other people think.
This has been very tough for me. I am a sensitive person and it cuts deep when someone doesn't like me or disses me in any way. I'm slowly stepping away from this mentality but I have work to do.

17. You always look on the bright side.
I fail here. Frequently. Probably a product of depression, but yes, I fail here. Not all the time, but too often.

18. You accept what you can't change.
It took me a long time to understand who I really am. I'm an introvert. I have a mental disorder. I need to stop being someone I'm not and this year has been about embracing myself, faults and all (although introversion is not a fault by any means). I am learning to live with the challenges that being me entails.

19. You change what you can.
ABSOLUTELY!! If something isn't working and it can be changed, I try to chip away at it until I'm satisfied.

20. You are happy.
Well....I'm probably unhappy more than I'm happy, but now that I realize that it's beyond my control a lot of the time, a big weight has been lifted. Some days the depression takes over and I've learned to recognize it and try not to beat myself up. So my happy days are pretty incredible. I hold onto those when it happens and enjoy every second of it. Overall, things aren't so bad really.

So, life in the loony bin isn't a complete failure really. I've done a lot of things right, and the fact that I can recognize when I'm not doing such a good job has to have its merits.

Where are we all right now?
Working with my kids' struggles is a daily thing. My son will take one step forward and two steps back at school, but after discussing a lot of these issues with his teachers I think we're getting cut a little slack. However, I am looking into school alternatives for him. I think he'll be happier and more successful at a smaller school and I need to give him some options.  My daughter is in therapy and we've gone through all the diagnostic testing to see where her tummy troubles are coming from. It looks like her anxiety and stress are having very negative health consequences for her. Therapy is helping, but her emotional episodes are still frequent and exhausting.

As for me, I'm tired. Incredibly tired. It's the worst of the depression symptoms for me right now. I have a combination of insomnia and excessive sleepiness, so it's kind of a mess. Daily naps are my reality, and while a lot of people do like to poke fun at me for it, I honestly can't avoid the exhaustion. Some nights I have horrible insomnia. I will wake up several times a night, so my sleep is quite disrupted. After doing a bit of research I discovered that this is common during depression. Sucks. I know that the emotional exhaustion I feel when dealing with my daughter's episodes is manifesting itself physically.

Training, surprisingly, is going well, however. I'm not as fast as I once was, but I'm strong. My mileage base is deep. I'm recovering well from my long runs and running volume. It's one thing that I am in complete control of and it helps me mentally and physically to put my effort and passion into it. I truly enjoy training days and being around my running friends...they give me positive energy and I embrace it.

I feel a lot better after writing this. Life really is pretty good and all the crappy things will get better, I know it.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

And another one!

I sure do love small races, especially close to home. It's not nearly as intimidating as the larger ones, especially when you're doing something outside your comfort zone.

Last weekend was my second triathlon, Tri Doc Georgetown Sprint. It wasn't a long race, but still about twice as long as the super sprint I did in August. 400 meter pool swim, 14 mile bike, 4 mile run. I had a general idea of how I wanted to do in this race, and I did want to be competitive since it was a small race, but most importantly I wanted to have fun and not be freaked out by the experience. I wanted to fall in love with triathlons.

Leading up to the race the weather forecast did not cooperate and it looked like rain was going to derail things for a second year in a row. But miraculously, the forecast cleared and the temps looked to be just about perfect for race morning, with a very minor chance of rain. The humidity would still kill me, but at least wet roads wouldn't.

I surprised myself for not having nerves leading up to the race, at least not bad ones. I really didn't get nervous until I pulled into the parking lot race morning. I was one of the first racers there (just the way I like it) and it was still dark out. But as more of my teammates arrived, my nerves faded and I got excited.

I was a bit unsure about where to place myself for the pool swim. My practice laps were about 30 seconds per 25 meters, but I know that I would need a few seconds every couple lanes to catch my breath and my goal was merely to be under 10 minutes. I placed myself by my friend Joe, whose goal was around 9 minutes. I wanted to be sure I wasn't faster or slower than anyone while swimming, but could wave someone ahead of me at the end of the lap if necessary. I was swimming better in the weeks leading up to the race and hoped to do well. The swimmers were started only 5 seconds apart, however, which was okay for about the first 10 people or so, but then as you got near my pace it quickly got congested. Within four laps, we were swimming 5 or 6 deep in each lane, but because we had to swim down and back in the same lane before moving to the next lane, we couldn't pass while swimming. We quickly piled up at the ends of the lanes and it got crazy. I tried to keep my breathing as even as I could, and even switched to backstroke for about a half lap just to calm down. I mostly swam unilaterally just to get more oxygen as I tried to avoid resting at all. When I was swimming, I was definitely swimming well (for me) and I hoped my time reflected that. I've never been happier to get out of a pool!

Teammate Joe and I heading into transition from the pool

I immediately was nauseous when I exited the pool and got into transition. I needed to throw up badly, but tried to concentrate on getting my bike gear on. Coach Christine was there cheering us on and telling us to suck it up and get out of transition. She really didn't want to hear my bitching! It felt like it took forever, but I was finally mounting my bike and getting the heck out of there. I drank some water, took several deep breaths, and slowly worked up to my racing speed on the bike. After about 2 miles or so, I was feeling much better and doing well with my speed. I did ride more conservatively than in my first triathlon since the humidity level was very high and it was a longer distance. I didn't want to go all out and then blow up on my run. My goal was to stick to around 18 miles an hour for as much of it as I could, and try to pick up speed for the last two or three miles. I saw Joe ahead of me, but figured there was no way I was going to catch him on that split.

Joe quickly got way ahead of me on the bike

The bike course was great. A few hills, but nothing too steep and a lot of downhills where we could pick up some speed. I got caught behind a car that was driving extremely slow with no room to pass while in the park at the end of the first loop and that frustrated me a bit. I had been riding well over 20 miles an hour on this stretch and had to slow down to avoid riding right into his bumper and he just wouldn't speed up or move over, despite three of us right behind him. He eventually did move and I tried to pick up my speed again. My first loop was solid, and I hoped to do my second loop in the same amount of time. I was having fun!

Bike loop 2 was mostly uneventful. I had to barf up the rest of the pool water (gross!!) and when I made the turn to head into transition, I saw my teammate (and age group competitor) Tiffany off her bike and cheering me on instead of racing like she was supposed to be. I asked her if she was okay and she told me to stop talking and get my butt into transition (yep, that's Tiffany). I had a decent transition but I knew it wasn't as fast as my first triathlon. I was definitely shakier. Joe was in there with me but exited before me, so I knew I'd have to hunt him down on the run portion. Tiffany was now right by transition yelling at me to get out of there and start running already (seriously, she and Christine are drill sergeants!).

Confused when I saw Tiffany cheering instead of racing

Trying to get my crap together while heading out of transition

As I started my run, Tiffany jogged beside me (in her flip flops!) and explained that she had missed a turn on the bike and gotten off course, so she pulled out of the race. I was so bummed for her as I knew she had been doing very well in the race. She was mad but seemed to still be in good spirits and was being an awesome cheerleader for the rest of us still racing. Joe was ahead of me on the run and it took me probably about a mile to catch up to him. My legs felt like lead in that first mile and I hoped they would loosen up and I could pick up some decent speed. I definitely didn't want to have to walk at all.

The run course was just as great as the bike course, mostly on dirt trails through San Gabriel Park, with one hill to contend with but nothing too difficult. It was two loops just like the bike course, and my spirits were very high as I finished the first loop, saw my friends and family, and had only 2 miles to go to complete my second triathlon. About a mile into the second loop Tiffany decides to run with me again, in her flip flops, and she would not let up on me! She kept telling me that if I was able to talk back to her then I needed to run harder. She's really quite mean! With less than a mile to go we saw teammate Barb ahead of us and now my goal, according to Tiffany, was to catch her. But Barb is a beast and she didn't seem to be getting any closer to me. By the time the finish line was in eyesight, I got pretty close but Barb crossed ahead of me and Tiffany ran back to find Joe, who I figured couldn't be far behind.

I don't know why I kept sticking my tongue out at the photographers

Crossing that finish line and seeing my friends and family was just amazing. Two triathlons under my belt! And I felt like I had done very well in this one. My swim was solid, although slightly terrifying, my bike loops were evenly paced and relatively strong, and I ran negative splits on the run. I really couldn't ask for anything more than that.

Shocking enough, I ended up being the 2nd overall woman finisher. Because Barb had started ahead of me, my finish time was a few seconds faster than her. But she's in her late 50s, so basically she's ridiculously awesome! I ended up winning my age group (although that wouldn't have happened if Tiffany hadn't gone off course!). The overall female finisher completely kicked my ass by over 5 minutes. If it was a bigger race, my placing would have been much much I said, small races are awesome!!

It wasn't easy, and the swim was frightening, and my lungs were screaming at me, and barfing on the bike wasn't exactly pleasant, but I had an absolute blast during this race. I am so excited about what next season has in store for me!

So now what are my friends saying to me?

"When does Ironman training start?"

Thursday, September 18, 2014

And now for today's lessons, boys and girls...

Many, many years ago when I worked in corporate America, my boss said something very wise during a team meeting. He wanted to make sure his new team understood how he liked to manage and that he always wanted honesty and openness.

He recalled a recent conversation he had with his college-age daughter. He had asked her whether or not she had had sex yet. Her response?

"Dad, don't worry, I've never had unprotected sex."

He did a double take. It wasn't really what he had expected to hear from her. But it made him realize something. If he wasn't prepared for the answer, then perhaps he shouldn't have asked the question. He went on to explain to the team that if he asks them a question, even a difficult one, to shoot straight with him. He wanted honesty no matter how difficult the truth might be. Needless to say, he gained a lot of respect from his team that day, and over 14 years later I still remember the lesson.

This week, I'm again reminded of this lesson. A friend was asked to choose between "A" and "B," and the person doing the asking clearly expected "A" to be the answer. Unfortunately for this person, my friend chose "B"....and now the questioner is left with a few broken pieces and probably several pissed off people.

Lesson 1 - if you're not prepared for the answer, don't ask the question.

Lesson 2 - if you issue an ultimatum, be prepared to lose.

However, it's not all drama and regret in these parts this week. I'm learning a couple lighthearted lessons as well and I'm trying to keep my chin up.

Lesson 3 - if a race is canceled due to weather one year, you can bet your ass the same weather will appear the next year. 

Oh, yes. What was supposed to be my very first triathlon was canceled last year due to a thunderstorm. Guess what's on tap for the same race this coming Sunday? You guessed it! Thunderstorms! I'm hoping that we get some clearing, but it'll be an exciting couple of days for sure. And I might not ever sign up for this race again.

Lesson 4 - when one thing falls apart, everything falls apart.

My right leg hates me. First plantar fasciitis, then an ITBS flare up, now my ankle is angry, all in the last few weeks. Good news is that the PF seems to be clearing and my IT band is loosening up with home therapy. But WTF is with my ankle? I felt the first twinges during the end of my run last Saturday, it had a few hiccups during Sunday's long run, was fine on Tuesday, but is now angry and making me slightly limp.


I didn't run today and will skip Saturday if I must to prepare for the race-that-will-be-canceled-Sunday, but seriously. It's annoying. Myofascial release therapy is thankfully scheduled for next week and I continue to treat myself at home, but clearly I've got some kind of imbalance that needs a little work. Or I could just amputate my right leg.

Any good lessons you've learned recently?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Trail Freakout and a Thank You

In October I'm running Ragnar Trail Hill Country, a 120 mile relay of teams of 8. My husband is on my team and I'm sure it's going to be a lot of fun. But since it's trails, I figured I should probably get my trail legs under me again since it's been over a year since I ran on one.

This past Thursday I headed out to Goodwater Loop on Lake Georgetown, a trail I've run on many times before. It's pretty technical, but shaded, which is a must in summer after the sun comes up. When I arrived about 8:30 it was already into the 80s with high humidity. It would be a tough run for sure. The plan called for a 10K.

I started out slowly and tried to get used to the rocky trail. And when I say slow I mean really slow. I was very cautious about not twisting my ankles or falling and it definitely was making me tense up. I hoped I'd loosen up by about a mile into the run, but even mile 2 was very slow and very tense. There were so many huge bugs that kept running right into me, and lots of creatures making noise in the brush. Don't even get me started on the spider webs I kept running through. Talk about major heebie jeebies. During Mile 3 the weeds along the trail were very overgrown and all I kept thinking about was snakes.

After turning around 3.1 miles into the run I hoped I'd stop being so freaked out, but no....I never loosened up. The whole run was just kind of a mess. I had to walk a lot during the last couple miles because of how hot I was getting. I really just wanted it to be over.

The good thing is that I got time on my feet on the trail, which is what I needed. But I'm pretty sure next time I'll be dragging someone else with me so they can be the one to go through the spiderwebs.

I also wanted to take a moment to say thank you for the huge outpouring of love shown to me after my last blog post. I really let my true feelings show, in all their ugliness, and it was a difficult thing to do in the age of the "perfect social media life." I lost count of how many texts and private messages I received of people who are going through similar things and wanted to show support. I don't feel so alone. THANK YOU. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

This is my heart

High needs.

That's not the label anyone would want to put on their child. But that's what I have to come to terms with. I have high needs children. And it has broken my heart as a mother.

Typing this is very difficult. I have many emotions and thoughts running through my head. My stress level is sky high. My kids and their dad and I are struggling every single day to figure this all out. The little girl still inside of me is feeling very, very lost. 

My son is a middle schooler who was recently diagnosed with ADHD, although we know this disorder has plagued him for years. This past week we added another official disorder to the mix. Anxiety disorder. What does this mean? It means treatment is beyond the scope of our family doctor and now we venture into the realm of specialists. We have choices on which route to take and we are weighing those choices. Just when you think you're making steps to help alleviate the symptoms of one disorder, something new pops up that completely overshadows the progress. The cry of my sweet pre-teen cuts through me and brings me to my knees in helplessness. 

My daughter is in fourth grade. For a very long time now we have known that her "issues" are not normal. People laugh and warn us "just wait until she's a teenager." Yes, she's a girl so she gets emotional and obstinate and difficult. I have blown off a lot of the misbehavior as merely being a product of her gender and age. But this year is different. I can't blow it off any longer. Something is seriously wrong and it's beyond my capabilities as a mother. She is defiant to an extreme level, she throws temper tantrums for hours, she cries at the smallest problem, she blames others for everything, she says very mean and hateful things to her parents and brother, she thinks life is unfair, she fails to listen to any kind of reasoning, and I believe these problems are now manifesting themselves in physical ailments like acid reflux and extreme insomnia. Just about every single day she displays these behaviors....for us. But rarely does she do any of this at school. On the flip side, she can be incredibly affectionate and loving and the majority of the time this is what she displays to the outside world. But home is different. This is where the rage comes in, and it's broken me as a mother. The worst part is that it's making my son's anxiety even worse. He can't deal with having a sister who treats him so poorly. 

I am in my own state of depression and anxiety and the stress with my children is preventing me from getting better. I want to be better, and I'm doing everything I can within my own power to improve my emotional problems. But I'm out of solutions and I need help. I am armed with the names of many different doctors and am lining up as much help as I can get.

Why am I writing all this out? Because I'm tired of hearing how wonderful my kids are and then feeling guilty for being so unhappy. Because I hate feeling like I have failed them and I need to know I'm not alone. Because I need a name for what is wrong with my daughter and I need to know how to fix it. Because I need people to understand why I had to quit my job and why I'm not sure if I'll be going back to work anytime soon. This has consumed my focus and it's unfair for others to depend on me right now. 

I created brilliant and wonderful children and I want to be a happy and content family unit. I love my children with every ounce of my being. But none of this is normal and it's not going to "pass" anytime soon. So if you think I seem distracted or distant or's because I am. 

Admitting all of this feels good in a way. I don't want to feel like I'm hiding anything from my loved ones. But admitting it has also been incredibly difficult...the feeling of failure is ever present and putting it all out there makes me feel naked and vulnerable. I am not a perfect person nor am I a perfect parent. I've been dealt some crappy cards. I'll take it one step at a time trying to find the light at the end of the tunnel.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Positives and Negatives

My training has kind of been all over the place this summer. After my April marathon I knew that I would be drastically cutting back on my running so I could focus on cycling and swimming more, in the hopes I'd get up the nerve to sign up for another triathlon. Last summer was very rough on me and I knew I needed to do something different.

It's been good and bad.

First....the positives....

I have really enjoyed my Saturday bike rides with my triathlon group. Sometimes I stick to the group, sometimes I branch off with one or two others, sometimes I end up solo. But it's been fun and challenging and a really nice break from the difficulty of running in the summer weather. I don't typically have too much trouble cycling for two or three hours in the heat. I've noticed that I've gained a lot of strength and comfort with my cycling over the course of the past few months.

As for swimming, I was very reluctant to get back in the pool. I just wasn't a great swimmer last year, although I improved dramatically over the summer. My first few swim workouts this year were pretty mediocre and it was a bit frustrating to me. But the last few weeks have been completely different. It's like something just clicked in the pool and I now feel like a real swimmer. I've gotten compliments on my form and ability, and that just makes me feel very good about my progress. I felt strong and comfortable during my first triathlon last week, and I'm feeling confident going into my next one at the end of September.

I loved competing in my first triathlon and can't wait to see how I do during a full triathlon season next year. I haven't picked my races yet, but I do plan to do several throughout the season. I want to be a real local competitor in the sport.

But there have been negatives....

My running. It kinda sucks. I'm battling plantar fasciitis and that is discouraging, but it has improved in the last couple weeks. I am struggling greatly in the heat and humidity, but I'm thankful this summer has been much better than the past few years. Except for August. August has been atrocious. Some workouts have gone very well, but my "long" runs have not gone well at all. The longest run I've had since April is 7 miles, which was my choice and I don't regret that choice at all, but I do think it's putting me at a disadvantage going into marathon training. I'm going to suck it up and keep increasing my mileage slowly, and know that with the cooler temps around the corner I'll be feeling much better.

I have two marathon in the coming season, Houston on January 18 and San Luis Obispo on April 26. These are the same marathons I ran this year and I'm looking forward to improving upon my times in 2015. Both are awesome races, but they're completely different from each other and involve very different racing strategies. Also, with them 3 months apart, I have a long training cycle...37 weeks. But I did it this year, and ran my two fastest marathons so far, so I'm confident I can hang in there and hopefully be just as successful. Most importantly, I want to enjoy the whole journey!

I'm trying to focus more on the positives. My marathon training group starts up on Saturday and for the fifth year I'll be coaching. It's always better for me to be surrounded by inspiring athletes every Saturday morning. One step at a time...I'll get my running mojo back!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Something for me

I've been throwing around the idea of turning my blog into a book for a long time. In my head I've come up with different categories my posts would fall into, and I think compiling it in an organized way can really help to lend a hand to my voice. It can paint a better picture of who I am, why I race, and how my training and goals have progressed over the past few years.

Today I started organizing my blog posts. Since January 2011, when I started my blog, I've published 97 blog posts. Something that really caught my eye is that only six of those posts were written in 2014. Only six.

It makes me sad that I've let my blogging fall away while I worked. I love writing, I love chronicling my training and racing, and especially working through my struggles by writing about them. But my free time over the last year has been very limited, and I've put aside blogging.

No more! I miss my blog. Now that I'm taking a hiatus from working, I'm putting more time into ME. Into my family. Into training. Into EXPERIENCING.

It's been so awesome going through old blog posts, seeing how I handled training in the nasty heat of 2011 and 2012, how I've dealt with my personal demons, and how my goals have progressed. Not all my posts are easy to read...I've laid a lot of heartache out in some of them....but I think it's important for me to see where I've been and where I am now, and how I can keep creating memories and experiences, particularly through my athletic endeavors.

I don't expect anyone else to necessarily read this "book" but I'm excited to create something like this.

A triathlon! It was about time

Over two years ago I started running with a local triathlon group. One of my closest running buddies was a member and convinced me to check out some of the workouts. I was convinced that no way would I actually ever do a triathlon. I was delusional.

Of course I would do a triathlon. 

After learning to swim, buying a bike, and slowing getting more comfortable with the idea, I did register for a triathlon last year. Unfortunately, it was canceled due to thunderstorms and my bucket list item was put on the back burner. 

All my confidence going into that race pretty much disappeared through the winter. I didn't even get into the pool for 4 months. And by the time I did, my swimming endurance had suffered considerably, although I thankfully hadn't completely lost my form. Several swim workouts later, I was gaining back some confidence. But I still didn't sign up for another triathlon. I spectated a local race with some teammates and that started to get me excited. I spent a lot of time on my bike, doing the Saturday group rides, and I felt my strength increasing in that discipline considerably. My run speed was mostly holding on through the heat of the summer. 

I sucked it up and signed up for the same Georgetown race that was canceled last year, scheduled for September 21. And then the next day, I signed up for the shorter Bucket List Triathlon in August in College Station. And when I say short, I mean short....a 200 meter pool swim, an 8 mile bike, and a 2 mile run. I was still a nervous wreck, but it seemed like the perfect first triathlon for me.

I felt like I had a swimming breakthrough three days before the race. I decided to time my 200 meter swims, and was pleasantly surprised by what I was seeing. I still had trouble completing the 8 lengths without a short break, but I was swimming them under 5 minutes. It's not fast, but it was good for me. I felt a million times better going into race day.


I arrived at the College Station Middle School well in advance of transition opening - I wanted a good spot for my bike! I set up transition, talked to several other racers, and found my teammate Joe. I scoped out the timing mats, and planned my strategy. I wanted to race well. I wanted to place in my age group. Even though it was my first triathlon I couldn't turn off my competitive side. Joe and I warmed up for 4 lengths in the pool and my nerves were calmed. Greg showed up with the kiddos about 45 minutes before the race started and everything was ready.

I was definitely nervous as we lined up around the pool, but I calmed quite a bit as I watched the faster swimmers in the pool. I was number 74, so it would be several minutes before I started the race. Watching the other swimmers made me feel a bit better. By the time I hit the water, my nerves were gone. I just swam! And I felt good during the swim. Whenever I felt like I was breathing poorly, I switched from bilateral breathing to unilateral and my form improved. I had sloppy lane changes but I knew that I could improve upon that for the next triathlon. Before I knew it I was on my last length of the pool and I just flew through the water to finish up. Running out of the natatorium towards transition was the best feeling I've had in awhile!

It was a very long run from the pool to my bike, but switching out my gear didn't take too long. After going over the timing mat out of transition, we couldn't mount our bikes right away, so it was a little frustrating to be running in my cycling shoes and not riding (probably my only complaint from the race). As soon as I could get on my bike, however, I just went all out.

The weather was pretty bad. Humidity in excess of 90% and the temp was over 80 degrees. I had taken a hit on my inhaler, but I was breathing heavy right away on the bike. I got up to about 20 miles per hour and tried to hold it for as long as I could. Although the course is a fast one, the downhills are too short to gain a considerable amount of speed. I think my speed topped out around 25 mph. But I tried to hold on as best as I could and did find myself passing several people. Going all out for 8 miles is a lot more difficult than I expected it to be, but I'm hoping the thick air had something to do with that. The most surprising part about my bike split was that I didn't get passed by anyone.

Seeing the middle school parking lot after my last turn put a huge smile on my face. I was almost done with the second discipline and about to start my run, which I assumed would be my best split. I switched out my shoes and head gear as quickly as I could in transition and sprinted out to start the 2 mile run.

As soon as I started the run, however, I realized that this measly 2 miles was going to be anything but easy for me. It was hot. It was humid. And it made my legs feel dead. I was breathing heavy and just couldn't build up a very good pace. I had hoped to be no slower than 8 minute pace on the run, but I was struggling to run faster than 9 minute pace. I just kept telling myself that I'd be done soon and to just hang in there and do my best.

Thankfully that 2 mile run went by quickly and I was soon heading onto the track at the middle school for the finish. I could hear my family cheering me on and I saw Joe and DeDe (my neighbor) by the finish. I tried to pick up my pace, but I'm pretty sure I wasn't moving any faster. As soon as I crossed that finish line, I just about threw up, and then decided laying down was the best remedy. But despite how horrible I felt, I was the happiest I've been in a very long time.


Although I definitely raced this triathlon and I wanted to be a true competitor, I still didn't think I could've won my age group. Masters women are a tough bunch to beat, and although I think I had done well, would it be enough?


However, I do have to note that 2 out of the 3 women in the top results were in my age group. Because of that, they were awarded overall medals, while I was able to claim the top spot in my age group. There's something to be said about Masters women - all three top spots were claimed by women over 40! It's pretty awesome!

And my teammate Joe claimed the top spot in his age group as well - not too shabby for a guy who broke his hip in March. Neighbor DeDe won her age group, too. Great day for my friends!

The final stats from my first triathlon - 119 women, 71 men, 190 overall finishers
Swim - 200 meters - 4:43 (2:21/100m)
T1 - 2:01 (fastest woman and 5th fastest overall)
Bike - 8 miles - 24:40 (19.4mph)
T2 - 24sec (SAY WHAT??)
Run - 2 miles - 17:09 (8:34/mi)
Total - 49:00 - 1/23 AG, 7/119 women, 17/190 overall

Yeah....this makes me happy.

Now, if I can maintain those paces for the Georgetown race next month (about twice the distance), I'll be REALLY happy! I don't expect to, but I'll do my best and try my hardest!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Back in early 2012 I had an itch to do and be something different. I had spent nearly 11 years as a stay at home mom, and while I wouldn't change that for the world, I felt it was time for a change. So I became a personal trainer, group exercise instructor, and certified running coach over the next year.

While all of this has been very fulfilling and sometimes a lot of fun, I was feeling discontentment again this year. My son had a rough first year in middle school (he was diagnosed with ADHD) and my daughter has been, for lack of better words, an emotional wreck occasionally. I was gone every morning for work, and while this wasn't a huge deal during the school year, once summer arrived and my kids were home everyday with my work-at-home husband, things began to crack. It became very stressful for me to be gone every morning, and when I did get back home I was tired from teaching and training and having to be so personable for hours at a time. Finding the energy and desire to train for my own fitness goals was getting harder and harder to do when I spent so much time in a gym already. It wasn't how I envisioned my second career at all.

On July 6 I decided that it just wasn't worth it. I quit my job. Talk about a huge weight being lifted off my shoulders. My kids needed me to be home with them, to eat breakfast with them, to take them to the park, to guide them with chores, to make sure they were getting what they needed emotionally on a daily basis. My husband is an incredible father, but he also has a demanding job that requires hours at a time to be spent on conference calls. Kids at home plus working husband was getting to be very stressful for everyone.

Part of the reason that I decided to pursue a second career was that I felt I wasn't contributing enough to our household. I wanted to be able to say I was a financial help in addition to my mother and wife duties, and for awhile I enjoyed providing that for the first time in over a decade. We took a few vacations and I used my income to pay for all of my fitness hobbies. It felt good to "earn" something and give back to the family.

But at the end of the day, the best thing I could do for the family was just to be here everyday, to make sure the house is running smoothly, to be a support for my children and help them in their struggles, to just play with them more. I'm only on Day 2 of my "stay-at-home mom" role, but I can already feel more contentment in the house, more peace.

I've also decided that after many years of shunning the kitchen, I'm going to spend more time in it, learning to cook healthy dishes for the family, learning to make my own endurance training fuel so my marathon and triathlon seasons are the best they can be. I'm excited about this venture and I'm enjoying my time spent in the kitchen so far. I never thought I'd be one to get excited about buying a food processor!

So what does this mean for "Coach Steph"? She's still alive and well and isn't going anywhere. I have a private training, coaching, and weight loss consultation business that will remain in effect. I love coaching runners, and I'm happy to train people out of my home or theirs as time permits, plus I will still be volunteer coaching for Round Rock Fit. But my priority has shifted back to being with my family, and this makes me the happiest.

I'm hoping to blog more (that has definitely slipped in the last year), I need to research more about ADHD for my son, I'm going to learn as much as I can about healthy endurance fueling, I'm going to kick the crap out of this upcoming marathon training season, and I'm about to finally officially become a triathlete. My family is going on a vacation before the school year starts up again, and my husband is going to see his wife in the kitchen a lot more than he's used to....I think it all sounds pretty darn great.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Hometown Race Weekend

I grew up in a little coastal California college town called San Luis Obispo. Very few people here in Texas have even heard of it and have no idea where it is. I've said "it's halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles right along the coast" more times than I can remember. I love my little town. It's perfect in every way and the only place in California I'd ever want to live.

In 2012, after a 26 year marathon hiatus, San Luis Obispo held a new marathon and half marathon race, and my mom finished her first half marathon. I regretted not being able to come out there to race with her, but vowed to get my butt out there sooner rather than later. 2014 became that year! As soon as registration opened, I was in. It would be my 10th marathon and my second of the year.

Training went well leading up to the marathon, despite being the only one among my usual long run buddies doing a spring marathon. It was a bit of a mental challenge to keep going with training after completing two half marathons and another full marathon during the season. I was ready for a long run break! But I felt strong going into what would surely be a very tough marathon. Hilly Hilly HILLY.

I traveled to SLO by myself for six days to relax, hang out with my parents, and just enjoy being home and doing something different than my usual marathon routine. I got a chance to see my niece Katrina and her two sweet kiddos Hunter and Cambria in Santa Barbara after I arrived the Wednesday before race weekend.

I also got to see my girl Dennette while in SLO - friends for almost 20 years!

My mom and I drove the race course and I think the only thing I said the whole time was "wow" and "there's another hill." It was SO BEAUTIFUL, and despite the massive number of hills that just wouldn't quit, I was getting so excited to experience my hometown on foot like that.

But before I could run my marathon, I had to race a little 5K on Saturday. I had spontaneously decided to register for the Mo's Smokehouse Chase the Pig 5K the day before the marathon, figuring that if I was in SLO for a race, I might as well make it really worth my time and race both days. It wouldn't be a fast 5K but it would still be fun and give me a chance to loosen up and relax.

My mom headed over to Madonna Inn (if you've never heard of Madonna Inn, you're missing out. Google it!) for the 5K on Saturday morning. It was a beautiful day already and I was looking forward to a short, easy race on the Madonna Inn property. Years ago I actually worked here, and the property still fascinates me.

I figured I'd run about a 9 min pace, maybe a bit faster, nothing that would overly fatigue me. It was really fun running around the property, although the long steep hill in the beginning wasn't all that much fun. I figured it would just be a preview of the marathon hills. We had to hit that hill, plus a second one twice on the two loop course, so this wasn't much of a PR course anyway. I didn't really feel all that bad about not "racing" it at this point. I kept up a nice, slightly fast, not too uncomfortable pace and sped up as we crested the second hill to the fast finish.

It would be another 90 minutes before they did the awards, and even though I was sure I didn't place with my 26:59 time (8:43 pace), I'm glad I had the good sense to check the results before taking off for home. I ended up winning my age group! I was pretty happy, but surprised. a 26:59 5K is a very solid time, but I really didn't think it would get me a medal. What a pleasant surprise!

Now comes the marathon....

A lot of people asked me what my goal for the race was. In my mind not every race is an automatic PR attempt. If I plan to PR a big race, that's my focus for training. For this particular race, my focus was to maintain my fitness enough to just have fun. It was a challenging course, and a PR attempt (4:17) would hurt. I wanted to enjoy running in my hometown, to soak in the beauty of the wine country. I thought maintaining about a 10 minute per mile average would be a really reasonable "A" goal, and I definitely wanted to run under 4:30 ("B" goal), and at the very least, NOT WALK. So...could I do a 4:22? I'd give it a shot, but overall, I just wanted to enjoy myself.

I was up early Sunday morning. My mom drove me to the high school to drop me off about an hour before the race start. I saw my friend Sarah right before lining up in the corrals (she was running the half) and got a hug, so that was great. Since there were less than 1000 people running the race, and we weren't starting with the half marathoners, I knew it would be a very different experience that the other marathons I've done. I wouldn't have to jockey for position in those early miles, wouldn't have to worry about getting stuck behind slower runners or getting in the way of any faster runners. It would be awesome. I surprisingly wasn't very nervous, just excited, although as we were in the start corral and I was around people I didn't know, I definitely started to miss my marathon buddies. It would have been extra special to have them there with me. These thoughts went through my mind several times during the race.

At 6:00 sharp, we were off!

As soon as we turned down Monterey Street I just soaked in the fact that I was running IN MY HOMETOWN. The old art deco Fremont Theater came up on our left and it made me smile. I could see the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa ahead. We were running through historic downtown, then through the old charming neighborhoods, then back by the high school, and I was loving every step of it. Our first long big hill was about 3 miles into the race, and I knew if I tackled that feeling good, the rest of the hills would be fine (I was certainly optimistic!). It really wasn't so bad at all, and it gave me a confidence boost. I waved to a friend's mom at mile 4, and before I knew it we were running out into the wine country, where we would spend the bulk of the race.

I snapped a pic while I ran down Orcutt Road in the early miles

Did I mention the weather was absolutely perfect? High 40s at the start, with lower humidity than expected. The sun was rising and the day was gorgeous. By the finish it would only be about 60 degrees, with some winds.

The hills were definitely daunting, and it seemed like as soon as we were done with one, we'd have to climb another, but none were too steep or too long (well, maybe the mile 7 one was a little rough). And the views around us made every one of those hills totally worth it. Blue skies, rolling hills of vineyards, mountains, horses....just perfect. Because the roads were completely closed and we were out in the country, there weren't very many spectators. That's very different than what I'm used to. However, we did have many, many volunteers from a local Youth Academy that were out cheering us on every mile or so. They would sing, cheer, and high five us and it was a great boost to see their smiling faces. The aid station volunteers were top notch as well, and even helped me refill my handheld water bottle a couple times so I didn't have to slow down too much. I got to chat with many fellow runners, as I seemed to be around many of the same people for much of the race. I even got to experience the half marathon leader fly by me at twice my speed about an hour into the race (CRAZY fast).

Around Mile 6

Aid station about 7.5 miles into the race. Pic courtesy of SLO Marathon

I was running exactly the pace I wanted to for the race, keeping my miles between about 9:35 and 9:50. It wasn't difficult to continue to run those miles, I was comfortable and happy, and I wanted to hold that for as long as I could during the race. I suppose if I did that, I actually had a shot to PR.

I hit the halfway point at about 2 hours, 9 minutes. Double that and I had a very solid marathon performance, but I knew that the later hills could really take a toll on me so I tried to just keep my head in the game. I honestly was not tired yet and not getting bothered by the hills. I had been hydrating and fueling well up until this point. We started running down another road on the course (Tiffany Ranch) that was dotted with some country homes and was very shaded and it was a nice change from being out on the main road (Orcutt). I just felt GOOD. I saw another friend right as we crested the steepest of all the hills (thankfully it was a short hill), and that gave me another boost. 15 miles in and I was pretty darn happy.

Around Mile 13

Around Mile 14

Another uneventful few miles with more and more hills, and my pace continued to hold steady. I really didn't start feeling the real effects of the marathon until 18 miles. My stomach started bothering me right after I fueled, and I just didn't feel so great all of a sudden. I had forgotten that from miles 16 to 20 is a steady incline, and I think it was finally starting to take its toll on my legs. I tried not to slow down, but I could tell I wasn't quite running the same pace that I had been. But I was still running, and that's all that mattered. I just hoped the yucky feelings would pass in the next couple miles and I'd get another energy boost to finish this thing out. But for the meantime I focused on the landmarks and the mile marker signs and just tried to make it from one to the next.

As I passed Mile 20, I knew I had definitely slowed. I was running about 45-60 seconds per mile slower now and my A goal was teetering on the brink of not happening. I was at 3 hours, 17 minutes when I hit Mile 20. It would be close, but I really needed to start speeding up again. I did remember that the last 10K was a net downhill and I hoped that this might give me a bit of a boost. Sadly, that elevation chart doesn't tell the whole story. There were still uphills and they were starting to kill me slowly.

Faking a smile at Mile 21

I saw my parents right before Mile 22. My sweet dad asked if I was okay and I was so happy to see them, even for a fleeting moment as I ran by. This was where I was supposed to fuel again....and there you have my one big mistake for this marathon. When you feel like crap and you start slowing down, YOU FUEL. I needed to eat again and I didn't. Perhaps my pace would have picked up if I had fueled my muscles when I was supposed to. But when you're in those later miles in a marathon you're not always thinking clearly.

At Mile 23 I saw my friends Erin and Jason and I yelled to them "Why do I keep doing this?" How awesome is it that Erin snapped a couple pics? What a sight for sore eyes she and her family were!

Thanks for the pics, Erin!

At this point, the course took us on a biking trail, and what a wonderful, peaceful change that was in these later miles. Spectators lined the trail and many had posted some funny, inspirational, motivating signs for us to see. Despite feeling so fatigued, I still managed several smiles on this stretch. To get off the trail, we had to cross over the Jennifer Street bridge, but to get up on the bridge required a steady climb on a switchback...definitely unusual for a marathon course! But thankfully it was an easy incline and nothing too taxing. I knew that we had less than 2 miles to go in the race. My miles were still coming in way over pace, but I was well under my "B" goal and well within hitting a second fastest marathon time, so my spirits were still up.

The best thing was that I still hadn't walked at all. Every step of this marathon was RUNNING.

Another couple of miles through neighborhoods before we would hit Madonna Inn property and the finish line. Just a couple more miles.....

I was SO DAMN TIRED. Every step felt like a crawl (it actually was a crawl....Mile 25 was 11:20!), but at least I was still moving forward.

My mom warned me about the very last hill you climb as you enter Madonna property. It doesn't look bad until you have to run it after 4 hours. And she was right....that hill was short and AWFUL. I was barely shuffling as I trudged up it. But I knew as soon as I crested it, it was a downhill quarter mile to the finish and I would finally be done.

You couldn't wipe that smile off my face if you tried as I finished out those last couple minutes of my 10th my hometown....with my parents waiting at the finish line.

4:25:33 - my second fastest! During what was by far the absolute most difficult course I had run. 

It was worth every single hill!

I'm already registered for the 2015 SLO Marathon. There's no way I'd miss running this race again. It was perfection.

And those friends I kept wishing were with me while I was running? They better get their butts out there with me.

How could they possibly resist THIS the day after the race???....

Baileyana Winery on Orcutt Road

Edna Valley Vineyards at Mile 19 on the course

Spending time with my family, with friends, winning my age group in a 5K, completing my 10th marathon, conquering hills, running through vineyards in my hometown....I'd say I had a really REALLY great weekend. I even read 3 books while I was gone. Sign me up for next year (oh wait....I DID)....