Monday, December 14, 2015

The love of a dog

On November 15, 2002, a wonderful ball of love and joy came into our lives and we named her Phoebe.

She stole my heart from Day 1.

My children have never known a life without her. My son was only 9 months old when we got her, and my daughter wasn't born until 2005. She's been our constant and our light through all our sad times.

We lost her on December 10, 2015 at age 13.

She had been in poor health for quite awhile. She has had cancer, infections, stomach issues, and her arthritis had been getting much worse this year. On Wednesday, December 9, she could no longer get up off her back legs. She was crying as she tried. Even with a double dose of pain meds she was still unable to really move. So we made the call.

On Thursday afternoon at 3pm, I said goodbye to her.

Watching the life leave my darling dog was absolutely excruciating. My face was the last thing she saw before the sedatives put her to sleep. I didn't take my hands off of her while she fell asleep. I wanted her to feel the love and warmth until the very end. When the vet said she was gone, it felt like my heart had stopped, too.

I got a few more moments alone with her before I had to leave her. I kissed her ears (oh, how I always loved her soft ears) and her sweet face (those wrinkles!), I buried my face into her fur, and I put the blanket around her.

The next morning the weight of her absence was heavy. I have gotten so used to her sweet face being the first thing I saw every morning and I felt empty. Those soulful eyes and those sweet doggie more.

She was the most perfect dog and there will never be another one like her.

Thanks for the love and the memories, my sweet Phoebe.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Depression is Ugly

I have never made it a secret that I have mental illness struggles. I have been diagnosed with depression and anxiety and get treatment for it. It took me a long time to realize it, but it's something I have probably struggled with for over 20 years, but just never recognized it as a mental disorder. Certain circumstances occasionally put me into a depressive or panic episode despite treatment. Many people can't really fathom what that means.

Since I'm in the midst of one of those episodes I thought this might be a good time to explain how it feels and what happens.

The only thing I want to do is be inside my house.

I want to sleep.

I want complete quiet.

I do not want to talk.

I do not want to socialize.

I find it hard to breathe.

I look outside my window and I fail to see the beauty that surrounds me.

I can't smile. If I do smile, it's fake....or someone told a really good joke.

I don't want to complete any of responsibilities, which means my house gets messy.

If I run errands, I fail to complete them because I begin to have a panic attack at being around people.

I don't want to make plans.

I will cancel plans.

I get sick.

My blood pressure rises.

The stress is suffocating.

I feel helpless.

I can't see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I shut down.

I will snap at you.

I cry, usually out of the blue.

My feelings get hurt easily.

I overreact.

Nothing I can do really helps, but I still try.

I can't "snap out of it."

Counting my blessings will not make me feel better.

The small problems add up exponentially.

I am angry I feel this way.

I wonder when it will pass.

I wonder if I will ever be normal.

I wonder how people can still love me when I'm this way.

That's depression and anxiety. It's a real bitch. It goes well beyond being sad, frustrated, or lazy. I know exactly why I've been thrust into this latest episode. There are circumstances in my life that are causing a tremendous amount of stress and anxiety and I feel very helpless on how to improve those circumstances. The stress has eaten away at me, especially for the last few weeks. Add in the monster of depression that lurks inside my brain, and this is the result.

I hope that the more people learn about mental disorders like these, the more understanding and forgiving they can become. There are so many people out there struggling and you won't even recognize it. Show kindness and grace.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Catching Up on the Race Season

How is it possible it's been 2 months since my last blog post? Time for a little catch up!

Triathlon season has come to a close, and after 5 official races and 1 team race this year I can honestly say I'm comfortable with triathlons and having a really great time training and competing. I only placed in one race, and it was a really small one, but I'll take it! I think my season was successful overall. I became comfortable, although not fast, in open water, I'm getting stronger on my bike, and I'm doing well transitioning to the run. There are definitely things I need to work on next year. I want to be a faster swimmer and I want to maintain a stronger pace during my runs. Whether I end up on the podium or not is not my biggest goal, although that is always really nice.

I have one race coming up this month, my first Duathlon in Boerne. I should have known that because it's called the Texas Tough Duathlon it might be a bit difficult. But I registered on a whim and now I'm a little scared of the course! A lot of steep hills and I'm not particularly strong biking up hills. It will be an interesting day for sure!

As for running races, I decided to take a break from marathons. I was registered for the Houston Marathon in January, which would have been my 12th marathon and 5th in Houston. But I haven't been particularly motivated nor feeling that great about my running and knew the right thing to do would be to downgrade to the Houston Half Marathon. To say I'm disappointed is an understatement. I hope to be back doing marathons again in a year or two.

On the bright side I have 3 half marathons less than 3 weeks apart and that will be so much fun to accomplish. New Years Double on December 31 and January 1 (with a 5K each day thrown in for fun), and then Houston on January 17. Training for the shorter distances doesn't overwhelm me right now and it gives me more time to work on my strength training again, which fell by the wayside during triathlon season and with tennis elbow cropping up a couple months ago.

I'm still amazed I've become a triathlete. What a bizarre shift my life took!

Friday, August 28, 2015

When something is missing

August is a tough month emotionally for me, every single year. My sister passed away August 5, 2009, and with that milestone date I tend to be a bundle of crazy emotions. It's hard to shake the memories and the grief. With so many other stressors right now, this month has been particularly difficult for me.

I came across this note I posted on Facebook on August 28, 2009:

"I've gotten many emails from my friends and those who knew my sister and each and every one is so meaningful to me. This one stood out to me, however, and I just had to share it. I made the mistake of reading it 15 minutes before I had to leave the house! :)

To Jim, Jocelyn, Richard, Karen, Stephanie and Mark,

In January 2001, I had one of those once in a lifetime moments. I met and hired Trisha Masen to work with at Ballard Spahr Andrews and Ingersoll. Five minutes into the interview, I knew we had a keeper. Sometimes you just know that you have been given a gift.

Trisha was so talented she could have run any IT department at any firm, but like so many of us, she wanted to work and be a Mom. And what a great Mom she was. There were pictures of Jocelyn and Jim everywhere. She used to talk about what a patient, great father Jim was...and gush about Jocelyn all the time...

I loved hearing her house hunting stories. When she ended up buying her house in Aldan, I couldn't wait to drive by and see it, as I had grown up in the town next door, Lansdowne.

Trisha and I had alot in common and we used to share some great conversations...She shared her March 2000 Mommies Favorite Recipes, "with a pinch of advice and a dash of wisdom with me" - and I pulled it out just now, to start reading it again at bedtime...When I had miscarriage after miscarriage, Trisha and I shared some teary eyed moments and then a great laugh when I finally had my red haired daughter, Hailey.

I always think of Trisha with a smile. She had a heart of a giant and was one of the most giving people I every worked with at Ballard. The firm was lucky to have her and I was luckier to know her."

The "On this day" feature on Facebook probably hasn't helped my emotional state this month, as so many buried memories are cropping back up and bringing those difficult moments from the past back to the present.

I miss my sister. I miss her wisdom. I miss her heart. I miss her being a phone call away. She was so wicked smart and such a great sounding board. She knew me and my quirks better than anyone, and even when we disagreed (which was often!) she loved me fiercely and only wanted me to be happy.

I could use that wisdom right now. Or even just her ear. I know I have so many wonderful people around me that support me, but there's just something about a sister that is so irreplaceable.

I was pretty much knocked to my knees in grief over reading this again. Yet another reminder that grief is a lifelong process.

You will never be forgotten, my darling sister.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Upcoming Training and Races

I wrote this several days ago, but didn't post it. It seemed a little whiny to me and I was unsure about sharing. BUT it's my blog, and I can do what I I have a positive update to it.


I can't believe it's August! I've completed three triathlons, plus a mock triathlon with my training group, and have one more to compete in this season. Then I have some decisions to make.

I'm really excited about competing in my first intermediate triathlon next month. I might not be super speedy, but I am strong enough to get through the distances....1000 meter open water swim (wetsuit legal!), 29 mile bike, and 6.4 mile run. Many other teammates will be there, which just makes it even more fun.

Then, at that point, I should be smack dab in the middle of marathon training. For the first time in 7 years I am not all that excited about it. This will be my first year where I'm not part of a marathon training group and not coaching. I moved on from my group for a number of reasons. Most importantly, I'm still focusing on triathlon training. Bike rides are on Saturdays, which is the day the marathon group meets for long runs. Second, I have a double 5k/half marathon race on New Year's plus I'm scheduled for the Houston marathon. Training for those races really doesn't fit in with my old group, as they train for the Austin Marathon. I really just need a lot more flexibility and can't commit to coaching or training every Saturday.

So....back to my hesitation. I know I have a lot of time to train before Houston, and I really shouldn't worry about it too much right now. I completed 10 miles yesterday without any trouble, a day after cycling 40 miles, so I'm well on my way to being able to handle endurance. But marathon training is a tough beast and venturing out there solo is daunting to me.

Sure, I have friends here and there who will run with me, but it's just not the same as a structured meeting every single weekend. I don't have a solid training partner that will be on the journey with me every single weekend. I'm not trying to's just reality.

Also weighing on my mind is that I have many upcoming out-of-town races. My husband and I are making some big household decisions right now, including a potential move, and that's making me overanalyze a lot of expenses. Out of town races can get pricey and I don't want to waste money that could go towards the changes we're mulling.

It's a lot to think about, that's for sure.

For now, I'm going to continue to build my training for Kerrville Quarter Ironman. I want to feel good during that race and pull off a respectable performance. I'm going to start doing back-to-back long runs in preparation for the New Years Double (32.4 miles in 2 days!). Lots of time for me to decide if I'm deferring Houston until 2017.

It's a weird feeling being ambivalent about a marathon. Marathons were my babies! Now my focus has shifted so much to triathlons. I love it, but it's weird.

UPDATE!! I have a super awesome friend and training buddy named Jeff who I had a long talk with a few nights ago. I told him my ambivalence about marathon training training, and he told me how he needs something to focus on. He told me he would run some of those long runs with me, and he doesn't care about pace. He just likes to be focused on something. I might not get him to do 20 miles with me, but I can count on him for support. Plus after talking to my husband about my concerns, he told me I have his support to do all the races I have planned. Feeling much better about things right now! I definitely surround myself with the right people!

Monday, July 27, 2015

A Tale of Two Races

It's triathlon season....that's still a really weird thing for me to say. No running races for me this summer. I'm sticking strictly to triathlons and for the most part I'm having a really great time.

If you had asked me two weeks ago, however, I would've just groaned and complained about how crappy I felt. On July 12 I competed in the Couples Triathlon, which was similar to May's Rookie Triathlon, just a bit longer. A 500 meter open water swim, 11.2 mile bike, and 3.1 mile run. My hope was that I could have a panic-less swim, a faster bike, and just maintain a decent pace for the run. The swim was great, the bike was great up until 9 miles, and I completely fell apart on the run. The end result was a crappy overall race. My time of 1:31 was just not good compared to what I knew I was capable of.
Georgetown Triathletes

In the days following I tried to cut myself some slack. I had an asthma attack on the bike that I just couldn't overcome during the run. I didn't have my inhaler or my essential oils to help support my lung function, which was a really stupid mistake on my part. I probably was too dehydrated when I started the race and that just added to my already weakened state. It was humid and hot, although the heat actually really didn't bother me that much. It wasn't my day.

My next race would be Tri Aggieland in College Station on July 26, so I had two weeks to get over myself and get prepared. It would be a 400 meter swim, 12 mile bike, and 3 mile run. Thankfully the Texas A&M course was mostly flat, and the swim would be in the A&M Natatorium with 50 meter lengths versus the normal 25 meter lengths in most pools. It would of course be hot, and probably humid, but I was pushing that thought out of my head and focusing on the positives.

I'm not a strong cyclist as I just haven't put in the real work to improve, so having a flat course would play to my strengths. I wasn't sure about the run course, but I do pretty well on running hills so I didn't worry too much there. I was really looking forward to swimming in that pool as I had never swam in a 50 meter pool before and I knew I would like that so much better. Truth be told, I actually now prefer open water swimming because I've finally gotten comfortable enough with my breathing and stroke to just get into a rhythm without stopping. Having to make a bunch of turns in the pool really bugs me.

Unfortunately, I still was having a lot of doubts about racing. I was having a hard time shaking my dismal performance in the Couples Triathlon. Trying to focus on what was in my control was proving to be challenging, but I was doing my best. I was eating better, hydrating better, getting myself even more acclimated to the heat. I ordered extra lung-supporting essential oils and put them in my new transition bag (finally bought one!) so they'd never be forgotten, I visualized some strategy for the race, and I kept telling myself I would be just fine this time around. I thought a lot about what a reasonable time goal might be for the race, with some wiggle room.

I did come up with some goals and I do think they were reasonable. I wanted to be out of the pool in under 10 minutes. I wanted to have smooth transitions, no more than 2 minutes for T1 (I knew there was a long jog from the pool exit to the transition area), and no more than 1:15 for T2. I wanted to hit 18.5 mph on the bike, and finally, I wanted to be under 10 min pace for the run. If I did all of this, my final time on the course would be 1:22. My "A" goal was 1:19. I did not have any hopes of placing in my age group for this race....the field in College Station is pretty competitive and it really was going to depend on who showed up to race that day.

Doing all of these things was certainly helping me calm down about the race and forget my fears of falling apart. I was prepared and could do well.

Long story short....I had a great race and I'm really very pleased. I didn't come even close to placing, but I put in a strong performance and I pretty much got my mojo back!

The swim was a good one for me. That pool is just plain awesome. To be able to do my swim workouts there would be incredible! I did have a couple of panic moments when I couldn't get my breathing under control, but it didn't stop me and I just kept going. I was out of the pool in 9:50, right under my target. My teammate Joe and I finished the swim at exactly the same time and ran to transition together. It took about 52 seconds to run to the timing mat, so my actual results show a swim in 10:42.

T1 was awesomely fast! From the timing mat to bike exit was 1:00 flat. Perfect.

The bike was fun. I loved the course, which ended up being two 5.8 mile loops for a total of 11.6 miles. I just tried to keep a nice steady 18-20 mph pace with as little slow down on the turns as possible, really focusing on my control and efficiency. There weren't any big downhills so I couldn't capitalize on that type of speed, but that's okay. Joe passed me during the bike and I lost sight of him in all the turns. I secretly hoped he didn't get too far ahead and I could catch him on the run. Overall, I did the bike course in 36:26 for a speed of 19.1 mph. I was ahead of my goal at this point and it was looking like I might hit my A goal. I knew the bike course was a bit short of 12 miles, so that meant my A goal was now a lower number.

I had a quick T2 but not as quick as I hoped. I was in and out in 1:23.

Now for the run, which you'd think would be my strong split. I just focused on keeping a steady cadence, with steady breathing, one turn at a time. There were actually two pretty good hills on the course, and mostly everyone was walking them. I refused to walk at all on this run, no matter how slow my pace was. I wasn't feeling overheated, which was awesome. When my first two miles came in well under 10 minute pace I was thrilled. I knew I would be way under my A goal. I had Joe in my sights the entire run, but just couldn't catch him!

I ran the 2.9 mile course (it was a little short) in 26:21 for a 9:12 average. My overall time was 1:15:54. To say I was thrilled was an understatement! Joe finished in 1:14:40.

I got my ass handed to me in my ultra-talented age group, however! Out of 31 competitors, I was 8th. A respectable performance, but just like I expected not anywhere close to the podium. The great thing about the results is that they rank you on every split, including transitions. These are the stats that make me happy. My age group teammate Tiffany (who scored 2nd place with a 1:06), was the only one faster than me in T1. I was 10th on the swim, 8th on the bike and run, and 12th in T2. Out of 31 competitors, I'll take it! 61 out of 263 females, 187 out of 554 total competitors.

Me and Tiffany

I am not registered for another event until Kerrville Quarter Ironman in 9 weeks. In the next two months my focus will be on adding distance and strength to my cycling workouts, continuing to be comfortable in open water, and heat acclimation on my runs. I'm not sure what my goals will be, but I do know I'm going to enjoy the journey and I'm going to have faith in myself.

Six triathlons done, countless more to go.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


We live in a society where we are expected to always be BUSY. We have to work hard, we have to keep our home spotless, our kids need to be in sports, we have to schedule social outings, we have to take lots of trips....BUSY BUSY BUSY.

You know what? I'm tired.

I don't want to be busy. 

I want it to be okay to spend a day hanging out with my dog, catching up on TV, reading, doing whatever. But not doing anything that I'm expected to do. I don't really want to get the vacuum cleaner out, I don't want to schedule that happy hour get together, I don't want to spend hours shuttling my overscheduled kids to their activities, I don't want to feel guilt because I'm not THAT volunteer mom.


I want to live in a society where down time can be celebrated, where our children are not expected to be in two or three different activities, where I can let the laundry pile up and not feel guilty, where I can say no to social invitations "just because" and not because I have an actual conflict. If someone asks if I have anything on my schedule today, I want to answer "nope...and I'm planning to keep it that way" and IT'S OKAY.

I'm not trying to be anti-social by any means. I love my friends and I love seeing my friends.

I just want to BREATHE. I want my kids to be stress-free. I want to wake up in the morning and not have to be anywhere at any particular time.

I wish this was okay in our society. I wish being more carefree and unencumbered wasn't viewed so much as laziness.

Our kids are stressed out. Parents are stressed out. Maybe if we all took a mental health day or two, we could see how much better it is to JUST BREATHE.....JUST BE....JUST RELAX.

Then when it's time for that game, that happy hour, and that trip....we are happy and excited and ready.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A "Real" Triathlete

Before this past weekend's triathlon, I had done two other triathlons. This technically earned me my "Triathlete" title, but because both races were pool swims, I didn't really feel like a true triathlete. Stupid, I know. But open water is a tougher beast, especially for a novice swimmer. I needed to conquer that type of race to really feel like I earned my wings.

Enter The Rookie Triathlon.

Seriously, this name is a misnomer. They do have a separate division and awards for rookies, but that bike course? That ain't no easy thing.

Unfortunately, according to the official rules, I had to register as a Veteran. You could only be a Rookie if this was your first or second triathlon.

Dammit. I was going to be with all the fast masters chicks. Dammit dammit dammit. I just hoped I didn't make a fool out of myself out there!

I did a handful of open water swims with my wetsuit to get used to the feeling of being out there. I liked swimming in a wetsuit. I felt safe with it on, and it was a confidence booster. I figured having to get it stripped off on the way to transition wasn't a big deal and would only lose me a few seconds. Totally worth it.

As for the bike, I didn't get it out on the road as much as I had hoped. But when I did ride it, I loved it. It's a bit faster, but I'm still scared of aero position so it makes shifting trickier since the shifters are on the aerobars. I'd have to wing this part of the race. Of course, I sort of forgot about how hilly the bike course was. I really needed to have a bit more experience riding this bike on hills. I considered riding my road bike in the race, but with as great of a bike as my tri bike is, that would've been dumb.

I was nervous as hell the morning of the race, but as the start approached, I calmed down a bit. The swim really didn't look so bad. The waters were calm and it was so short. I wanted to swim well, but was still scared a bit about the other swimmers. How could I get into a groove with all those other people splashing around?

Confident Steph

Nervous Steph

The morning went by fast, and the race started and before I knew it, there I was being told "Go!" and I had to swim. It took a few seconds for me to just go, and once I did I was surrounded by all these people.

My turn!

I'm out there somewhere

 I could not get into any kind of rhythm and my heartrate skyrocketed right away. Not so good. I tried to do one sided breathing to calm down a bit but I was just nervous out there and a bit panicky. After the first buoy turn I hoped I'd feel better, but I panicked even more and had to breaststroke and backstroke for a few seconds. Once I felt my breathing had calmed I reverted back to my freestyle, sighting periodically to be sure I wasn't going off course at all. Thank God for the last buoy turn, because I was just totally done with being out there! Only about 6 minutes had passed but it felt like an eternity. I wasn't having a good swim at all.

Almost done!

Eight minutes of swimming and I was out of that water. About a minute longer than I had hoped, which bummed me out. Transition is after a long run up a grassy hill and I was breathing way too heavy to have to run up a hill. Once I got to my bike, I switched out gear as quickly as I could and got myself out of there.

Now for the bike hills. Ugh, those sucked. But surprisingly I found myself passing people on them, which was a great feeling! The great feeling would pass, however, when those same people would blow by me on the downhills. Yes, I'm still fearful of speed. It sucks. It's stupid. I'll get over it. I did bike my fastest downhill speed ever during this race, however, so there's that.

It's only an 11.2 mile route, so it did seem like it went by very quickly. I never looked at my watch so I had no idea what kind of pace I was going. I was hoping it could be over 17 mph, but those hills were bad and long enough to mess with overall pace when you're not used to them,  and when you can't make up for that slower pace on the downhills (like me). The results showed I biked 16.7 mph. Not what I had hoped, but I did learn a lot on that course of what I need to improve upon. Better next time!

How sweet of them to make us finish on a hill

Bike done!

I pulled a rookie mistake coming into T2. I lost my spot and had to search for it. I figured that cost me 20 seconds and I'm still kinda pissed about that. The actual gear switch was quick, however, once I found my stuff, and I was off on the run. Easily my best discipline, and I hoped for a solid pace.

Coming out of T2

I glanced at my watch right after I hit the run course and saw it said 53 minutes. Not what I was hoping for, but I could still break 1:10 overall on the course. I was going to try!


It took that entire first mile to get into my groove and it was a slow first mile. With it only being a 2 mile route, I knew I just needed to suck it up and I sped up considerably on that second mile. It was all dirt and grass, with several spots where you needed to watch your footing, but during that second mile I felt so much better. Rather than being passed, I was finally passing a lot more people.  That second mile flew by and with the finish line in sight and Christine screaming at me to run faster, I had a solid finish.

Thank God, because I really needed that race to be over!

My splits - 300 meter swim in 8:19 (timing mat was after wetsuit stripping, so my swim was actually right at 8:00), 2:46 T1, 11.2 mile bike in 40:11 (16.7mph), 1:44 T2, and 2 mile run in 16:10.
Overall time of 1:09:13
6th out of 30 in my age group of Veteran women 40-44

I'm conflicted about the results. I'm very happy with my placing. It was an extremely competitive veteran race. But I'm not really happy with how the race felt. I need to not be hard on myself, however. This was my first open water swim triathlon, my first time on my new bike, and I'm still really kind of a rookie in this sport. It was a solid race. I guess I just wish I had felt better!

My teammates did a phenomenal job today and I'm proud of each and every one of them. Everyone pulled off a solid race and it was a very fun day (even with the swim!). I'm so glad I did it and I can't say enough great things about the organizers, my teammates, and my competitors.

Me and my fearless Captain Christine

Georgetown Triathletes

I'm going to compete on this course again in July, with a slightly longer swim and run, but the same bike course. I do plan to do better and I'm looking forward to it!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Hometown Race Weekend...Again!

In 2014 I had a great time racing my hometown marathon, the San Luis Obispo Marathon....their motto is "Small Town, Big Race," exactly my kind of race. I was looking forward to an even better race in 2015.

ITBS derailed my hopes for a full marathon, unfortunately, and I downgraded my registration to the half marathon. As race day approached and I couldn't run more than 6 miles without being in pain, I knew I had made the right decision. I was still disappointed. I would not be running through the most beautiful parts of the vineyard-dotted course.

But that didn't mean I couldn't fuel with SLO County wine!

I signed up for the 5k the day before and knew that despite injury I would have a very fun weekend. Plus, since I was only running a half marathon, I could run a bit harder during the 5k and pull a more respectable time this year. For the half marathon I had no time goal. I would run a comfortable pace and if I felt good would try to speed up, but I would still keep myself in check. No sub-2 hour goal or expectation this time around. I was definitely okay with this. The course is fantastic...and hilly...and brings back lots of childhood and teenage memories....and its freaking HILLY. I would enjoy every mile, although because of the hills (did I mention there are HILLS??), definitely some miles more than others.

Hello rainy race morning!!

The 5k was 3.1 miles of chilly rain through Madonna Inn property, a really great 5k course. There's one yucky hill that is run twice, but it's followed by a really nice downhill. Because of the rain I wanted to run as hard as I could just to be done but I held back a bit. I didn't need to aggravate the ITBS and truth be told, I was nervous about slipping on the wet road on the downhills. I still ran a strong 5k, far off my PR pace, but a negative split nonetheless, with a sub-8 mile thrown in. I even ran into an old high school friend!

Overall, I ran a 25:27, 8:11 pace , 8th overall woman and 1st in my age group. I was happy!

Water logged with the Cal Poly mascot

Now for the half marathon. I didn't want to be nervous, but it doesn't matter how many of these races I do...I still get nervous! Even without a time goal, my nerves were a bit shot. I wanted to have fun, but I also wanted to run a respectable race. And above anything else, I didn't want to be in pain.

Representing TEXAS!!

I arrived at the start right before 6am, when the full marathoners began their race. The half didn't start until 6:45, so I spent some time walking around, chatting a bit, and getting my nerves under control. I looked for friends before the race but sadly couldn't find them. It was a chilly morning and I waited as long as I could before taking off my sweatshirt and turning in my race bag.

By the time we lined up at the start and listened to the national anthem and race director's final words, my nerves were fading and I was getting excited for the race to start.

I lived in San Luis Obispo for 14 years, so to run through the downtown area and past the Mission was very very cool. I absolutely love the first couple miles of the race and can't help but smile. It was everything I had to hold back for those first two miles, especially since it seemed like everyone was flying by me.

I was right on target to where I thought I would be for those first few miles, before the first big hill hits. I felt good, wasn't running too fast, and was prepared to tackle "Cardiac Hill," a 3/4 mile long hill that gains about 140 feet in elevation. It's kind of a beast, but thankfully comes early in the race. There's a nice downhill after you crest the top so you can get your breath back. I felt pretty darn great when I hit 4 miles. I was having a blast!

Right about mile 5 is when we had a chance to see the leader in the half marathon, Cal Poly alum-turned pro athlete Ben Bruce. Part of the race was out-and-back, so he was at mile 9 when he flew by us. He was FAST, and there wasn't anyone even close to him. He was literally running away with the victory. Not too long after seeing him, we saw his 19 weeks pregnant (and also professional runner) wife Stephanie just behind the women's leader. You'd never know she was pregnant! Crazy awesome athletes and very cool to see them on the course. They both ended up winning.

Right before the turnaround at 7.3 miles is another nasty evil hill. It was at this point that I realized my knee wasn't hurting at all yet. I was running a fairly decent race, at about 9:35 pace overall at the halfway point. I was perfectly content with this pace, especially since the race gets easier after the turnaround. There's much more downhill and flat sections, so I felt that as long as my knee held up I'd be able to speed up and run a negative split.

I'm looking down but I still love this pic because

Aaaaand, I'm still looking down....

Hello, crazy awesome course! Nice hill, huh? (photo from SLO Marathon)

After the turnaround and with that nice downhill approaching, I really let myself relax a bit. I was honestly having a lot of fun, although running a half marathon is never really easy. The beauty of the course was breathtaking and I was soaking it all in. We also got a bit of a headwind after the turnaround that cooled me down a bit, not that it was very warm out. Really couldn't complain about the weather at all.

My knee finally starting snapping at me 9 miles into the race. Stupid knee. It wasn't bad pain, but it was annoying.

I think one of my favorite parts of the course, besides running by vineyards, is getting to go on the railroad bike trail. It's narrow, but it's away from traffic so it's relaxing to me. I know some people feel like it's a bit frustrating for the faster marathoners because they have to navigate the half marathoners as they pass us (they started 45 minutes ahead), and I can understand that. We did have a few of the marathon leaders weave through us, but the half marathoners started to move over to the right a bit more once we realized they were coming through. We are on this trail for about 1.5 miles and it ends on a railroad pedestrian bridge, with a switch back up to the bridge and a switch back down to the road. Because the winds were really picking up, the bridge was actually swaying and making me a little nauseous as we crossed it.

Jennifer Street Bridge at 11.5 miles

Once we were back on the street and I realized it was only about 15 minutes to the finish, I picked up the pace. My knee wasn't feeling any worse, so I didn't think speeding up by another 20 seconds per mile or so would be a big deal, and I felt good! There were lots of people out cheering us on through the neighborhoods and I was on a pretty big high knowing the race was almost over and it was going to be a good race for me.

With a half mile to go, I just smiled and RAN.


I can't begin to tell you how incredibly happy I am about that time. There was a point when I hated the thought of running another half over 2 hours, but I've gotten older and wiser since then. I ran over 5 minutes faster than my awful Austin Half Marathon in February. And this course is tougher. I'll take my 2:03 any day!!

Half Marathon #12 done and conquered. What a fabulous race!! My hometown always makes me proud.