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Marathon Done

My Austin Marathon is in the books. I’ve had a good 24 hours to reflect on the experience, and the main thing I keep coming back to is how different it was than my first one.

Austin Marathon finisher!

I ran it in 4:45, which, although it was slower than my original goal time (before the illness and injury that marked this training season), is a PR by 9 minutes. More importantly, I finished it strong. I never stopped to walk* this time around, whereas I broke down after mile 20-ish in my first marathon and took several walk breaks. Plus, I am older and slower than I was 3 1/2 years ago, and I have had a baby since then. So yeah, I am pleased with my showing.

* Except to drink water at water stops, simply because I am not coordinated enough to do so without slopping it all over myself and having the water go down the wrong pipe, sending me into a coughing fit. Talk about counterproductive!

I’m tired, I’m sore, but I’m happy. I feel accomplished. The first 10 miles or so, as I now appreciate is usually the case, was a breeze. I barely even felt my feet hit the ground.

Then came the real hills. I knew they were coming, and I knew they’d be hard… but I was still having a good time. I took my coach’s advice and really had fun with this race — I whopped, I high-fived kids and just generally tried to make it a party around me wherever possible. And just before I headed up into the hills, I high-fived a guy holding a sign (“Free High-Fives”), and he said, “No hills for you!” Woot! There were still hills, but I attacked them. The clock at the halfway point said I was on pace to run a 4:35, and I really wanted to hold onto that.

Next, as our race plan termed it, was the “Great Northern mental madness.” The stretch in North Austin between the halfway point and 20 miles is a relatively bleak, sparsely-spectated section that looks flat, but is actually a net uphill. In a word, BLAH. But, I got to see my two very favorite people in the world twice on this stretch, so that helped a lot!

daddy and nora

I fell into running with the 4:40 pace group for a few miles, and the company helped, too. I lost them at a water stop and was never really able to catch back up, but I didn’t let that break me. In the stretch after 20 miles, which was supposed to be net downhill and fast, there was a serious headwind, so it wasn’t the relief I had anticipated it being. That said, I never really felt like I hit the wall — and I hit it hard in my first marathon. I just put my head down into the wind, stopped looking at my Garmin, and kept on truckin’. I saw my Rogue moms cheering at mile 25 or so, and then my mom was right on the finishing stretch! I cruised through the downhill, cursed through the brutal uphill right before the finish, and high-fived the announcer on the way in.

After that, it was time for a medal, water, a breakfast taco (Distance Challenge completed!) and some Chuy’s takeout on the way home. And then pizza for dinner later. Yeah, I ate my way through the rest of the day. I should’ve taken an ice bath, but I chickened out… and now my quads are screaming at me any time I go up or down the stairs. At least I don’t have a race next weekend! But, unlike last time, I do have a toddler to run after.

I’d love to run a 4:30 marathon, and I think someday I will. Yeah, I’m totally going to do this again. It’s just such an experience — there’s nothing else like it.

Not to worry — back to your regularly-scheduled tasty-food programming tomorrow!

Better Late than Never: Rogue 30K Race Report

Two weeks ago I ran the Rogue 30K, which is the second-to-last race in the Austin Distance Challenge. Since I imagine everybody is doing math in their heads right now, I’ll just go ahead and tell you that works out to 18.6 miles. But, since it was also our peak training week for the Austin Marathon, my group added on a few miles at the beginning and the end to make it a nice, round 22 miles. That’s my longest training run ever, and of that I’m pretty proud. When I trained for my first marathon, like many people do, I only ran 20 miles once. This time, I’ve done 20-plus miles three times, and I feel much better prepared. Last time I hit the wall hard at around 20 miles, and I’m hoping that won’t happen — or at least that it won’t be quite as painful — this time around.

Even though I pretty much treated the 30K as a training run, it was indeed a race, and a good tune-up race for the marathon. I finished in 3:18, which was basically with the 4:40 marathon pace group.* More importantly, though, I ran it with a good friend and running buddy of mine who is moving away soon (*sniff*) and we had a blast.

* My goal for this marathon was originally to PR, hopefully by a good chunk of time, over my 4:54 finish at the Nike Women’s Marathon in 2009, and to feel as good as possible doing it. That last goal is still intact, but with the illness and injury issues I’ve had this season, my real goal is just to finish at this point, whatever my time may be. Not saying I don’t have a super-secret ninja goal, too, but if I shared it with you, it wouldn’t really be secret, now would it?

I was thrilled to discover that this race also netted me one of my favorite race photos ever (besides this one). I was almost to the finishing chute when this was taken, and I saw Nora and the hubby cheering for me, so I broke into a smile. I actually look like I’m both actually running and happy, which is more than I can say for most of my race photos.

Rogue30K-30K Mile 18#-329

It wasn’t all puppies and rainbows, though — a nagging foot injury got worse around mile 15 and I was in a good deal of pain by the end of the race. Even though it was only 3 weeks before the marathon, I had to make an emergency shoe purchase (a new pair of my old standby Nike model) and bench my Newtons for now. I’m still hoping the Newtons work out eventually, since I love them for shorter distances, but running that long in them just wasn’t working for me and my high arches. Also, my Garmin died just before we hit 18 miles. I’m a compulsive watch-checker, and having it go out on me just before the end of a race was not cool. Not cool at all. So I had to replace it with a new one that can hopefully make it 26.2 miles without freaking out. It’s brand new, so it should be able to!

That’s my brief and scattered race report. If you’re just here for the food, you won’t have to deal with these running posts for a while after this month, since the Austin Marathon is coming up on February 17. Yikes! I’m psyched but ready for it to be over… and now that I completed my last 20-miler this past weekend, taper madness can begin in earnest. Fasten your seatbelts!

3M Half Marathon

Four races down, two to go. Only the Rogue 30K and the Austin Marathon are left in the Austin Distance Challenge. Despite my concerns about bouncing back from my bout with pneumonia and not having run long in two weeks, the 3M Half Marathon was a success. It wasn’t my best race ever, but I had fun, and I finished only 4 minutes off of my PR, which, considering that I was a little worried about even finishing, makes me very happy indeed.

3m half

Whew.

I spent the first half of the race running with my good friend Ali, which really made it fly by. We were pretty much flying, too, as I was on pace to PR at that point! I held on to a great pace all the way to Mile 10 or so, when some rolling hills started, and my lungs just couldn’t keep up with the pace my legs wanted to run. So I slowed down a notch and reminded myself that my goal was just to finish and stay healthy. There was a nice downhill toward the finish, and my spirits lifted when I saw the hubby and Nora, all bundled up, cheering me on.

I crossed the finish line with a time of 2:12, with which I am pleased as punch, given the circumstances. Someday, maybe even next year at this race, I will get a PR, and someday I’ll break 2 hours, but today was not that day. That’s okay. It was a blast anyway. Now my goal is to take it as easy as possible, build my mileage and lung capacity back up, and be ready for the Austin Marathon in five weeks.

I took an epic nap, ate my way through the afternoon, enjoyed a couple of bowls of hearty veggie chili prepared by my wonderful hubby, along with some homemade tortillas (recipe forthcoming!), and now I am ready for bed. Back to your regularly scheduled programming soon. Zzzzzzz…

Should old acquaintance be forgot…

Can you believe it’s 2013? I can’t. Time has truly gotten away from me lately.

I’ve been reflecting on 2012, and all the big changes that happened over past year. We moved from Northern California to Austin and became homeowners for the first time. I started transitioning from being a stay-at-home mom to a freelance writer (although I do still spend the vast majority of my time in stay-at-home-mom-ville). Nora started preschool, and she turned 2. She went from barely speaking a few words to speaking in full sentences and having entire conversations about her day (or imagined happenings). We weaned, and ditched diapers (except at night, and I am probably jinxing the whole potty-training process by even mentioning it).

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been training for my second marathon, which will take place in 2013. I hit a pretty significant roadblock when I was diagnosed with pneumonia yesterday. I am on an aggressive course of meds and hope to recover quickly, but I’ll need to take at least a week off of running. I am hopeful that I will bounce back and be able to restart my training aggressively, but my hopes of a PR have pretty much been dashed at this point. I am just hanging on, hoping I can complete the 3M Half Marathon weekend after next without too much pain, ramp up to another 20-miler (my last one involved coughing fits… so not good), and then rest up and hope to finish the Austin Marathon with my dignity intact. If I can’t, though, I can’t. I’ve been pushing through for too long, and if there’s one lesson I can take from this, it’s that I need to take care of myself and rest when I need to.

For right now, I’m enjoying hanging out with my family and our friends who are in town visiting, eating black-eyed peas (of course!) and taking it easy.

black-eyed peas

Gotta have black-eyed peas.

Here’s to a happy and prosperous 2013, and more good things to come!

I am not having fun

Running should be fun, right? It is. I like running. But not right now.

I have been sick, in one way or another, for the better part of a month, maybe more. That’s where it starts. Blame it on Nora’s first year of preschool and her bringing home new weird germs. Blame it on the start of cedar fever. And, sure, blame some of it on running. I’m sure my immune system is a little depressed from all the muscle rebuilding it is having to do after all those long runs.

The thing is, I have been powering through it. I have been telling myself it will get better, that next week I will get in every single run, and I won’t have a coughing fit or a fever or a nagging injury that makes it all un-fun. But next week never seems to come.

The Decker Challenge was a couple of weekends ago, and it suuuuuuucked. Big time. This race (a half marathon with a notoriously hilly course) marked the midpoint of the Austin Distance Challenge. Three races down, three to go, culminating in the Austin Marathon in February. I limped into the finish with my worst half marathon time ever — 2:24. About 10 miles in, my right knee started complaining loudly about the hills, and that was only after I had suffered through the brutal humidity* and slogged up hill after hill after hill. I was done in. By the time I could see the finish line, my only thought was of getting ice for my knee. Usually at that point, I’m thinking about snagging a breakfast burrito and a nice, cold water.

* Race temps are not supposed to be in the 70s in December, people!

But I made it through, and I got my medal. I’m proud of that. It may be my worst half marathon ever, but it was also the hardest one, on many fronts (not the least of which was the mental game).

Decker Challenge

Challenge accepted.

The knee thing is not a big deal (I think). My IT band was angry about the hills, but with a few days of rest, ice and foam rolling, it is pretty happy again. I got a shiny new pair of shoes I had been coveting for months (Newtons! I love them!), and was ready to hit the road again with new vigor.

Last week, Nora got sicker than I have ever seen her. Granted, that is not saying a lot, since the kid has an immune system built out of steel, but she was down for the count. She spent a whole day just wanting to sleep on my chest, which was weird and nice and annoying, all at the same time. Then, of course, I caught her cold. It was brutal for a couple of days, with a fever that came and went, and, above all, just total exhaustion. Not fun when you’re trying to parent a toddler or train for a marathon, let me tell you. By Saturday, I was starting to feel better, and I powered through 16 miles with my running club.

But now the cough just keeps hanging on. Last night I went on a run that should have been great. It was supposed to be an easy 4-mile loop around the neighborhood, and I was really looking forward to it after a long day. My knee nagged (why is this back now??), I was dizzy for a large part of the run (what?) and I went into a coughing fit when I got home that was so bad I thought I might puke. That’s when I said it: I’m not having fun. I’m not.

I’ve been here before, the first time I trained for a marathon. I took a weekend off and did a sprint triathlon instead of my long run (ah, carefree childless days), and I was good to go from there. Maybe I need a weekend off. Just pushing through isn’t cutting it, but I’m not sure what to change here. I want running to be fun again, and I want to actually be well for a change. And I want to run a marathon in February. Is all of that possible, simultaneously? Maybe. We shall see.

All I know is, if running were a lover, I’d be thinking about writing it a “Dear John” letter right about now.

2 down, 4 to go… and Happy Halloween!

This post is only minimally food-related, so skip out now if running or cute kid pictures bore you.

Okay then. The second race of the Austin Distance Challenge, the Run for the Water 10-miler, was this past weekend. Since the course is a hard one with lots of hills, and since we have a few injuries in the group (including my own nagging yard work-related hip issue), the coach suggested that we look at the race as a training run rather than all-out racing it. I am a competitive person by nature, though, so even though I accepted that advice in advance, once the starting gun went off, it was all out the window.

It was a beautiful, perfect day for racing — clear sky, temperatures in the low 50s, max — and the course was absolutely stunning. The route took us west out of downtown, along Lake Austin, and into the hilly surrounding neighborhood before winding its way back to the 1st Street bridge. When I wasn’t totally blissed out by the beautiful day and the gorgeous scenery (which wasn’t too often!), I was daydreaming about living in one of those hilltop mansions.

Back into downtown and back into reality, I was still feeling great. So great, in fact, that I was kind of kicking myself for not having left more on the course. I had been following a couple of people — guy in a singlet and girl in a running skirt and socks that made her look like a Catholic schoolgirl (not sure if the look was intentional or not) – who were setting a good pace since the second mile or so. At that point, I kicked it up a notch and passed them, and never looked back. Somewhere in mile 9 I saw my coach and she cheered me on, and I kicked it up another notch. When I rounded the corner and saw the finish line, I knew it was almost over and I gave it all I had and sprinted it in to the finish.

 

photo by Robyn Sutton

That’s me in the middle, kickin’ it.

A friend of mine caught that photo and I simply adore it. Instead of looking like the girl who is dragging along and about to puke (my normal race-photo effect), I look like a total bad-ass — just like I felt! So awesome.

Anyway, I kicked it and crossed the finish line in just over 1:34, which was pretty much my goal pace. Hurrah!

What is the food-related portion of this post, you ask? I stopped and got a half dozen piping hot Krispy Kreme donuts on the way home. I don’t usually crave them, but for some reason, I saw the sign and I needed them. Please do not ask me how many of the donuts I ate personally. It simply would not be polite.

After a nice hot shower and some coffee, I finally started being able to feel my fingers again. My legs have been a little heavy for the last couple of runs, but, all in all, I am pretty much recovered and ready to run 16 this weekend. Maybe cupcakes instead of donuts this time?

Also, since I do know it is Halloween (we’ll be enjoying some neighborhood trick-or-treating in a little bit), I just have to share a photo of my munchkin.

So speedy.

She’s a marathoner. My DIY butterfly costume was not exactly a fail, but I needed more time to get it in presentable shape, so we went with the same costume she wore for Rogue‘s brew and grill run last weekend. I do believe she is the cutest marathoner I’ve ever seen!

 

On the run

I’m in a really blissful place with my running right now. That’s a little shocking, given that it’s June in Texas, and it hasn’t been any less hot or humid than you might imagine. What’s my secret? Routine.

Yeah, I know. It isn’t glamorous. But, honestly, I do so much better when I’m on a solid schedule.* Generally, that means training for a race. I make out a training schedule in Excel (yes, I am a dork like that), print it out, and post it on the fridge. Every day, I check off my run. If a run was particularly good, it gets a smiley face, or a frowny face for an especially bad run. If I skip a run, I have to rearrange it. It keeps me on the straight and narrow.

* As does my daughter. Hmm.

I’m not training for anything in particular right now, but I found a wonderful running group when I moved to Austin. It’s a running group for moms — how cool is that?! We focus on strength and speed, and, presto, it comes with a weekly schedule!

On Monday evenings, I go to core class to work on my abs and cross-train a little bit. On Thursday mornings, I cart Nora up to the store and we go for a run with the other mamas (usually hills or some kind of speed work). On Saturdays, I go for a long run (presently 6 to 8 miles), and on the other days (minus Friday, my rest day), I push Nora in the jogging stroller, with or without a quick stop at the park to play, for 2 to 4 miles. It has turned out to be the perfect schedule for me. I am dealing well with the heat, getting out and running 5 days a week, and making some new friends in the process!

Last weekend, I ran the sMiles 4 Sammy 5K, which was only my third 5K ever. Several of the Rogue moms ran, and we tacked on runs to and from the store to make about 6 miles. Apparently, warming up properly agrees with me, since I managed to run it in 27:50. That’s a PR, and it was actually good enough to land me third in my age group! It was a small race… but still!

Nora cheered for me, so that helped.

This weekend, I ran 8 miles out at Brushy Creek Trail, and it felt great. Despite the early hour, and the fact that I arrived back home soaking with sweat and ready to guzzle water and collapse on the couch for a while, it was a great. It was one of those days where I loved running. Absolutely freaking loved it. Most days I like it, and some days I don’t, but the reason I keep running is for days like that.

This fall I’m planning to start the Austin Distance Challenge, culminating in what will be my second marathon next February, and I’m absolutely psyched. I’ve always pretty much been a solo runner, but I know that I’m so much stronger with the support of my Rogue mamas.

So here’s to schedules, new challenges, loving running, and keeping it up through the summer!

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