Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Las Vegas Rock n' Roll Half Marathon

People go to Las Vegas for many reasons: to get married, to relax, they may be feelin' lucky. I went to run. A December half marathon in Las Vegas seemed like a fantastic idea in August. Three girlfriends and I signed up with plenty of time to train and bring our mileage up to 13.1.

As it turned out, my longest long run before the race was about 7 miles or about half the distance I'd need to go. It's been tough to get motivated for the last few weeks, even with goals. Without a structured day, I find myself staying up later and sleeping through my early morning team runs- not good. And on December 5th, I was going to have to face the consequences of deficient training.

FRIDAY - Travel Day
We left Austin on Friday night and arrived in Las Vegas around 10:00pm. Our luggage had a craving for dungeness crab with an ocean view and took a detour to San Francisco before arriving at our hotel late Saturday morning. No worries, we were still in Las Vegas!

After a big breakfast at the Monte Carlo cafe, we moseyed over to the race expo for packet pick up and shopping! It was nearly impossible to stay off your feet. They structured the expo so you had to work your way through the packet pick up line, into the Brooks store and then through the main expo. I did my best to avoid the energy bar and gel samples that were handed to me. My biggest fear on race day is what I call "rumble-tummy" (and you never thought there was a cute name for diarrhea). Two days before a race I really pay attention to my diet and do everything I can not to upset the digestion gods.

Bib numbers in hand, we wandered over to a nice bar in the Palazzo called First and began our carb loading with a beer and some of their (free) homemade pretzels. I had a really good local brew- Tenaya Creek Nut Brown Ale. If you ever go, ask for Lou. He'll take good care of you.

We ate the pasta dinner at the official race hotel, the Mandalay Bay. Although the food was okay, I think next time we'll eat somewhere on our own like Il Fornaio (in New York, New York). The entertainment during the pasta dinner was really awful so we left soon after eating. The server gave me some bananas to take back to the room for the morning, making me feel more confident in my morning nutrition plan.
We got back to the room around 8:30 and were in bed ready for sleep by 10:30. Awesome! This time change really works in our favor! 

SUNDAY - Race Day!
When the alarm went off at 5:30- I felt great! Weird. I immediately ate a mini-Luna bar and began pulling on my run gear. I ate my banana around 6:00 a.m. We walked over to the race at 6:30.

35,000 people is a LOT of people. A lot a lot of people. They had numbered corrals for the runners stretching back a mile at least. With so many people we had a little trouble getting to bag check and the race actually started before we could get back to our corral (#28). However, it took nearly 40 minutes for our group to even reach the starting line so there wasn't a whole lot of concern.

The Blues Brothers kicked off the race singing some of their booty goovin' tunes like Gimme Some Lovin', Soul Man and Everybody Needs Somebody to Love. Awesome! And we were off!

The Las Vegas Strip is only closed twice a year. Once for NASCAR where the cars cruise the streets and once for the marathon/half marathon. Our race would take us from Mandalay Bay up the strip near Freemont Street (where it winds around a little bit) then back down. We would pass all the big casinos as well as a few people taking their early morning "walk of shame."

My friends practice the Galloway method of running and walking intervals. I've been training on the Lydiard method for the last year (no walking intervals- or only as needed) so we were separated after the 2nd mile. They are actually faster than I am, but my muscles feel happier in a run than a walk. I found a really cool woman running at my pace and we ran together for several miles. I was keeping a faster pace than her original but we stayed together a good while. But by mile 7 I was on my own again.

Along the course I could see brides and grooms in wedding-running gear. Some got married DURING the race at a "run in" wedding! The overall mood of the race was festive and fun.

I was pretty happy with myself. Tummy was just fine, breathing felt great and my legs were tired but steady. A few little twinges ran through my glutes and quads every now and again but nothing stuck.  Miles 8 and 9 were the toughest. By this time I was no longer continuously running. I'd run several steps, then slow to a walk. I tried to use traffic signals as intervals but even that was a little much.I still felt fine, but my legs were just done.

Finally I saw the 10 mile marker! It's just a 5K now! Woo! I could see the Mandalay Bay now and knew I was closing in.  When I hit mile 12, I decided to run the rest of the way in. It was more than a shuffle but just barely. A part of me really wanted to tie my last race time but at this point I was just happy to have come this far feeling as good as I did. I couldn't see the actual finish line until I turned onto the Mandalay Bay property so I kicked a little late but it wasn't a significant boost.

I crossed the finish line in 3:03:08, got my medal and wrapped the finisher's foil blanket around my legs. Although the weather was great, my legs were already starting to get chilly. I met up with my friends very quickly. They only finished a few minutes ahead of me. We took some times to regroup then eased over to the Miller GD 64 tent for our "reward."
Let me tell ya- that crappy light beer tasted sooooooooooo good. And, just our luck, we were right up near the front of the Stage when Bret Michaels began his mini-concert. He was GREAT! Last time I saw him live was at Arco Arena. I was 16, front of the pit, and may or may not have had several swigs of vodka. How things change...

I consider this race a success. I recovered very quickly from this race- especially as compared to my first half marathon in February. I really only had trouble going down stairs and getting up out of low chairs. I never had any significant tummy issues. Destination races really seem to be the way to go. The rest of the trip was also a complete blast, but of course, this is just a simple race report. It wouldn't be right to divulge what happened during the rest of the Vegas trip here, now would it?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sweet & Twisted 2010

Ah Sweet & Twisted, you have not yet failed to live up to your name. Why is it that the all-women’s races (I’m thinking of the Danskin and the Sweet & Twisted) are harder courses than the co-ed races?

I saw a shooting star on my drive out to Pace Bend- which I hoped would be a good luck sign. I noticed a LOT of athletes on their way to the race this time. Usually I don’t see anyone until closer to the site but there were quite a few of us caravanning in. I also passed the Kool Kones trailer, yum!

At the race site, I set up my transition spot, greeted friends (like my partner in crime, Buffy Weaver) and began to think about what kind of race I wanted to have. I visualized a swim with quick arm turnover, a bike with big power climbing up the hills and a run where I not only ran the whole way- but I spent more time running than jogging. Then I placed those thoughts in a little mental envelope and tucked it into my bra.

SWIM: I don’t know what my deal was. I was kept swimming off to the right for the first part of the swim. That was not part of my visualization. I made the turn to head back to the swim exit and I See Terri Stamm pass me on my left. She was haulin’! Again, I had to fight not to be pulled off to the right- those reeds were pokey! Good think I had on goggles! I must have a little imbalance in my stroke somewhere.
Hit the swim exit and ensured that I let the swim volunteers (who happened to be Austin firefighters) help me out of the water. I may have played it up a little. I checked my watch time and it read 00:00:00. Mermph.

Up to transition where a few ants had were curiously milling around on my stuff so I squirted them with my water bottle and got suited up for the bike.  Crap- forgot to take off the tri top (too hot to wear tri top and singlet) so off goes the helmet, off goes the tri top, on goes the singlet on goes the helmet. Sweet- let’s do this!

BIKE: Bike felt pretty solid. Although it took a while to get my legs back. The first time I hit the first hill is always the hardest for me because I’m not yet warmed up. But up and onward I went. A few friends passed me on the bike and we got to cheer each other on- I passed a few people and tried to give them some friendly encouragement. There was a little wind on the backside of the course but nothing daunting. By mile 9, I was already going through the run in my head. As I ran my back back to transition, I passed a bunch of Team Survivor and relay team athletes waiting for their turn and they gave me a big cheer. That felt great and really warmed my spirit.

RUN: On went the run shoes. There were now only 3.1 miles separating me from Lick It Bite It Or Both cupcakes. And that is 3.1 miles too many. I heard Ron on the loudspeaker announce that I was on the run course and that gave me another extra boost. Things felt okay until I hit the big hill- the only real hill on the course- but I could only manage a shuffle up that hill. In fact, I took a little break at the top of the hill to down more water and take in a Hammer gel. And harass Joey Trimyer. The run down was great- it re-energized my legs and I was able to keep a nice little pace for a while- until I hit the sandy part of the course. I tried to run on the more stable parts but the ground still shifted enough to make me work harder than I wanted to.

As it turned out, two friends of mine were the most crucial volunteers (for me) of the day. Tanner Hunt was on the course handing out icy cold towels and giving cheers to everyone and Angela Laidecker was the key volunteer at the final turnaround point. Those two could not have been in better positions as I needed a little extra oomph.
Once I left Angela, I began to open up my stride.  I finished pretty strong and aside from the break at the first water stop- I ran the whole thing.

Unfortunately, I ran it really slow. It’s my only disappointment of the race- my run time. Everything else had improved (I think my swim improved- the run to T1 and T1 times are currently included with the swim time). It seems that my run got slower from last year- when I walked most of it.

What an amazing turnout! It truly was a party- with so many great people from RLE, Rogue, Team Survivor and my friends form other training teams. And getting friendly cheers from strangers- it makes all the heat and burrs and sweat and hills more than worth it!

Truthfully I’m a little discouraged but I’ve decided to stay in the Austin Tri Olympic distance this coming Labor Day. My overall paces are faster at the longer distances and I think if I really focus over the next 2 weeks, I can improve my time over last year. After that… its back to focus on running to get ready for the Warrior Dash in November! Rawrr!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ring of Fire: I Rode Luckenbach!

The morning arrived too early, as always. I didn’t have the usual race day jitters as on this sticky Saturday, I planned to just ride, not race, the hills of Luckenbach and the surrounding areas. I felt prepared for the 40 or so miles of rolling hills but I was mildly concerned about the heat. I’ve learned my lesson about hydration this year and took the time to drink plenty of water and nuun in the days leading up to the ride. I was already slathered in sunscreen when I got into my car at 5:15 am and would reapply just before ride time.

I arrived at Luckenbach in plenty of time- despite a few missed turns and improvised paths. I’m not at my best until 7 or 7:30. Luckenbach isn’t so much a town as a collection of buildings- a dance hall, a bar, and a barn. It has a very Western feel. In fact, scratch that- Luckenbach IS Western. It feels like any minute a trio of cowboys will come loping into town on snorting horses, tie their mounts to the tie post and order three fingers of whiskey at the bar. But instead of dusty faced cowhands, today Luckenbach was filled with brightly colored bike jerseys, two wheeled steeds and water bottles filled with nuun, pure sport and other sports drinks.

Red Licorice Events Brand Ambassador Buffy Weaver and I decided to ride the 40 miler together. Michelle and Terri were also riding the 40- but they set a pace that I was not eager to match. After all, I was simply riding! We rolled out and started on the first part of the course- a lovely little 12 mile loop though the hill country. It was most flat-ish with a couple of short but steep hills. With shady vistas and pastures of goats and cows, I was definitely in a happy place.

I rolled up to the first rest stop managed by AJ’s Cyclery and got a big hug from Tough Cookie and Team Survivor Leticia Olivarez. I downed a couple of Nutter Butters- my favorite, then pedaled on to the next part of the course- a tough out and back. I don’t know if I like out and back or not. In one sense it’s good because you know what the return ride will be like. On the other hand, it’s bad because you know what the return ride will be like! Every hill I flew down made me grimace because I know that on this course, what goes down must come up. One downhill in particular made me wince. I’m normally all for downhills, but as I descended and descended for what seemed like ten minutes I knew this would become my white whale of the race.

The next rest stop was Eli Cohen’s REI Meet Rack and home of my birthday cake! Eli brought a cake for me and his coworker Sarah. I regret that I couldn’t eat more than 2-3 bites but I didn’t want anything that was not essential in my tummy. Pretty soon we began to see some of the other riders heading back our way. These would be the fast 40 milers and the 110/65 milers headed home. They were cruising! Michelle Lopez blasted past us looking strong as ever. What an athlete!

After some merriment and photo ops, we continued along. The sun decided to stay behind the clouds for most of the ride and a pleasant cross wind kept me comfortable. I was sweating heavily but never overheated or felt unduly hot. The hills rolled under my wheels as I passed by more farms and fields and groves of trees. The next stop was hosted by the Ronald McDonald House. I gratefully accepted an icy cold towel from an insistent little girl. I did not need to be asked twice, but she did because I wasn’t fast enough!

Then- it was time to go back. Now, it seemed as though the majority of the hills would be in my favor on the way back- many more downhills than uphills. Except the one. That one. I rode along, trying to remember which hill it was but when we came to the base, there was no mistaking it. Holy cow! That was a long hill. More than a mile of up. So I popped Skippy into an easy gear, looked about 5 feet ahead of my front wheel and dug in.

When I go uphill, I usually like to get a mantra going, or a peppy song of some kind. Sometimes it’s Metallica, sometimes it’s Beastie Boys, sometimes it’s Tool. Today, it was John Denver. For real. WTF? The ONLY song I could get my head to play was “Sunshine on My Shoulders”. Yeah, you know it- you just don’t know that you know it. Here’s a listen.
Yeah. Rock on.

But John somehow crooned me up that hill- I even got some props from a rider who said I inspired him to get up that monster. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that it was really because of a bespectacled folk singer with a bowl cut.

I felt incredibly satisfied with myself after that hill and although I knew the worst was over, the course taunted me with several more short steep hills. With quads rapidly turning to jello, I finally pulled into Luckenbach and finished the ride. A sweaty, satisfying 45 mile ride that I cannot wait to challenge myself with next year! Perhaps if I bump up to the 65 miler next year, the Carpenters will serenade me.


Friday, August 6, 2010

Jack’s Generic Triathlon. 2010

Sunday was my return to triathlon after a two month break from racing. I was so frustrated with my performance at the CapTex Tri on Memorial Day that I vowed to stay away until I felt truly ready to race again. (You may ask, “Carol, where is your CapTex  Tri race report?” To that I say, the dog ate it). The best thing that came out of that race was what Ginny Rolich told me: “It's the races that you want to quit but don’t, that are your real successes.”

So what did I learn from CapTex?

Pre-race: I hydrated like a – well, I hydrated big time. The whole week leading up to the race, I increased my water intake to drinking 5-6 water bottles worth of water (at least 2 of them with nuun).

Race Prep: I practiced transition and had my race bag packed before dinner on Saturday night. Dinner was light, lean and consumed before 8pm.

Swim: We’ve been practicing bilateral breathing during workouts and I put it to use. No surprise- it works! I got into a really good rhythm: stroke stroke breathe, stroke stroke breathe, stroke breathe sight. My time was a full 10 seconds faster per hundred than my last swim at the Ski Ranch at the Rookie!

In order to stay cool, I stripped my tri top off and slipped my running singlet over my jogbra. This was a HUGE help. I’m not comfortable in just my trisuit for the run so I usually wear my singlet over it but that gets HOT. This time- although I was hot, I was never at risk for over heating. Maybe someday I’ll feel secure enough in just a trisuit but until then, I’m doing the top-swap!

Bike: The bike felt good but ultimately proved to be my slowest MPH. I remember there was one point when I was really moving with a good cadence and I couldn’t suppress a “woohoo!” Although I felt pretty solid, a fair portion of the bike course is incredibly bumpy which makes for a slow ride and tired legs.

On my way down the hill I saw a sight that none of us ever wants to see- medics on course. I could see a bike propped up but two police cars, an ambulance and a civilian car blocked my vision. I know it sounds cheesy, but I had a really weird feeling. I couldn’t see who was down or even how many people were involved but given how close our tri community is, I had a feeling I knew someone involved.

Run: Ah the run. My old nemesis. At CapTex it defeated me and I ended up walking most of the way- but not today. Today I was determined not to walk. I would jog, I would shuffle, I would trot- but I would not walk. Along my run I crossed paths with many friends and we gave each other cheers. In fact, just about everyone I made eye contact with returned my thumbs up or encouragement.
A few minutes into the run, I saw Jen Ritchie coming back towards me. “It was Stacey!” she shouted. “Stacey crashed.” I was stunned. My friend Stacey is has been a training buddy for two years. She’s a cheerful, positive bundle of energy who just completed her first 70.3 (half Ironman) earlier this year. She is currently training for her first marathon and now she’s on her way to a hospital. Knowing there was nothing I could do at this point, I kept on and decided to catch up with Jen once I was done.

Soon I realized that I was at the turnaround point and my legs were still cruising along. So yeah, I took a few walk steps in order to get some water down but other than that- I did it! I ran the whole thing!

I came into the finish and saw fellow RLE Brand Ambassador Buffy cheering me on at the end. I gave it just a little extra across the sand and it was over.  I was very pleased with my run but anxious to find out about Stacey. I soon learned that she was taken to a local hospital and several of our friends were either there with her working to help get her car and gear back to her house.

Buffy and I gulped down our burgers (hers veggie, mine cow) and beers and decided to call it a day. I checked in on Stacey’s status and learned that although she had broken her collarbone and suffered a fair amount of road rash, she was handling it well.

So all in all, a good day for me but with a little more road rash than any of us would like to see. I’ve been in touch with Stacey and she’s managing very very well. None of us are surprised to know she’ll be back at it in a few weeks. That’s just how Rogues roll.

Monday, May 17, 2010

First Rookie

The Rookie is an unusual race. Not because of the distance or the location- but because of the competitors. Although its short distance (300m swim, 11.2 mile bike and 2 mile run) is appealing to the novice triathlete, they seem to be far outnumbered by the elites. Truthfully, the event is a little early in the season for most beginners to get their feet wet (heh heh), but the tough ones are still out there. 

I wasn't even supposed to be at the Rookie. I had spent all day Saturday under the covers trying to get over either major allergies, the beginnings of a flu or a cold. Or all three. I have no idea but I knew I was miserable.
When the alarm went off, I snoozed for an extra 30 minutes then convinced myself that I should at least show up. thankful that I had laid everything out the night before so all I needed to do was feed the pooch, make a peanut butter pita sandwich and load up the vehicle.
Few things are as morale killing as driving in the rain to a race you aren't sure you'll be able to finish, let alone start- but there I was, driving through alternating patters of sprinkle and drizzle, drizzle and sprinkle. But somehow, I arrived at the Texas Ski Ranch and things began looking up.

I was greeted enthusiastically by the Red Licorice volunteer transition crew. I hung out with Buffy and her groggy but supportive husband Terry, Jennie from PAC, Angela from Rogue and Sally- a woman I met at the Champions Du/Tri. Then it hit me- I am truly part of the tri community. Boosted by this realization, I tucked my swim cap and goggles into the shoulder strap tri top and marched out to watch the first few waves.
And go to the bathroom about 10 times.

The Swim:
My swim wasn't perfect, but it went a lot better than many of the swimmers who immediately swam to the first jump dock and clung to it while they calmed down or caught their breath. I could have gone out harder but my head and shoulders felt so achy- I wasn't sure how hard to push it. Then I got boxed in by TWO breast-strokers. Uhg. I finally swam over the left arm of one of the ladies and tried as best I could not to kick (too hard) until I was sure my feet cleared her face. I didn't want to totally ruin anyone's experience but I needed to get moving!
As we crawled out of the water, everyone told us to wipe the sediment off our faces. Gross. But my head felt a lot more clear! Interesting. I guess the waters of the Ski swamp have healing powers- temporary ones at least.

The Bike:
Second time to use my clipless pedals in a race! My transition went smoothly and I trotted out to the mount line. Leilani and Joey were there to send me off with some encouragement and off I went to hunt down the mountain bikers- my favorite prey. 
The course was nice- a good ratio of hills to flats, horses, cows and sheep. All the volunteers had foam hands pointing us in the right direction - very cool!
Question: Is it wrong to be happy when you pass a 14 year old on the bike? (Answer: No, because she will pass you on the run).
I end my ride, averaging 15 miles per hour. A little slow for me but I'm okay with it. Leilani is on the megaphone announcing my arrival and telling me to "show 'em how it's [bike dismount] is done." As I struggle to clip out- but I make it in time, halt my bike, slip off just before the dismount line and head on in for the run.

The Run:
Two miles. Two little bitty miles. A warm up for most. The best thing I can say about my run performance is that its the first tri where I never stopped to walk. What made the run tolerable was that it was an out and back so we could cheer people on! I saw Buffy barreling towards me on her way back home and we slapped a high 5. I heard cheers of "nice job, Red Licorice!" and "looking good!" from the other runners and the volunteers and i gave it right back to them. It was like a mini-Danskin (sorry guys- you just wouldn't understand).

I finished well- not exactly strong but with a smile. At the finish line I reunited with my friends and we congratulated each other, some sipping beer, some sipping PureSport recovery drink but all wearing our Rookie medals. 

Then I went home and went to bed. 
The end.

And it never rained!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The 2010 Champions Duathlon (a.k.a. The Wake Up Call)

Ladies and gentlemen, I have a stunning revelation for you. In fact, have a seat because this is life changing information.
If you take more than two weeks off your steady training, your race will suffer.
Shocking, I know.

Having an active lifestyle requires a commitment to that lifestyle. When you are a person like myself who is struggling to make fitness a priority but has a life full of distractions, it is easy to fall off the wagon. And you cannot rely on the training you did a month ago to get you across the finish line successfully.

Which excuse do you want? Had to stay late at work? Had to go home let the dog out? Didn’t eat a good lunch so don’t feel like working out? I got a million of ‘em and not one of them is insurmountable. So why am I in this predicament? Why am I sabotaging myself?

So here’s what happened:
I’ve run a few times since my half marathon in February- including the most awesome Texas Independence Relay at the beginning of the month, but I’ve done nothing longer than 5-6 miles and only a few runs at a pace faster than 11 minute miles. Cycling? Just a little since getting my new pedals. Swimming? Don’t get me started on the list of excuses there.

I signed up for the Red Licorice Events Champions duathlon (run-bike-run) because I didn’t want to rent a wetsuit and I haven’t so much as dipped my toes in a pool since September. I knew something was off at packet pick up. I didn’t have the same pre-race “high” that I normally get. In fact, it felt a little more like dread. Like I knew I wasn’t really ready but the roller coaster ride had started and there was no stopping it now.

When the alarm went off, I snoozed for 45 minutes- resulting in a harried exit from the house and complete lack of parking once I arrived at the race site at Lake Pflugerville. I was able to greet my friends and set up my transition with plenty of time, however. I was excited to try my first timed transition with bike shoes!

The Sprint distance duathletes waiting in the chilly air at the top of the dam trail until 9:30 for our mass start. When the horn sounded we all took off- except me. My legs would not move. Each step I took felt like I was trying to drag anchors across the sand with my feet. My breath wouldn’t settle in. Everyone was leaving me behind.

Before I go any further I need to tell you about the kind of person who attempts to race this early in the season. The Champions Sprint/Olympic Du and Tri was limited to 325 participants (I think). Most of these athletes train year round and have goals of Irons and half Irons. I think about 6 people including myself carried extra body fat. So I expected to be towards the back of the pack versus somewhere in the middle. But I didn’t expect to be THE back.

Okay- so by now I’ve gone maybe 200 meters and nothing feels right. I try to distract myself by watching the swimmers. They were struggling, too. The wind was causing the normally serene Lake Pflugerville to be alive with small choppy waves. My situation is clearly better on land. All I had to do was run .75 miles out and .75 miles back. But my body was not having it.
I could see the runners ahead of me turning around and coming back my way. This feeling is a little like the walk of shame. The first few runners who cruise by are so focused on their run that they don’t look up. A few may give a curt nod, but that’s about all. Several gave a word of encouragement- which was pretty cool- but they can all see you as “the last person.”

I finally rounded the turnaround cone to the cheers of the volunteers and trudged back toward transition. I really looked forward to not running anymore and the bike is my strongest event. I reached transition and reached down to swap my running shoes for my new biking shoes. My next big test was coming up. How would I do with my clipless pedals.

Well, my first three miles were outstanding. I clipped in pretty easily and zipped off. I glanced down at my speedometer and saw that I was cruising at 24 MPH. And I was hardly working! Wow! Maybe things would be okay! Then I took a right turn and slammed into the wind that had been helping me out. Crap. The rest of the bike was tough. The wind always seemed to be at my chest, as if I needed more resistance. The course was nice- come country roads with some nice hills- all were manageable but there were lots of them. I did a good job of getting my much needed water, thanks to nuun and I tried out the vanilla Hammer gel (great flavor- tastes like pudding!)

I passed a few cyclists and that made me feel better. After just over 12 miles, it was time for the second run. I wheeled towards the dismount line and easily clipped out. I passed my first test with clipless pedals, woo! I ambled back to my transition spot, swapped out my shoes and stiffly trotted to the run out.

The second run wasn’t much better than the first. I felt like I couldn’t get any extension in my legs but I vowed that I would finish and that I would not walk. Seriously- six weeks before I ran 13.1 miles and I was struggling with a mile and a half.

As I ran toward the finish line, I knew my friends and teammates would be keeping an eye out for me so I tried to pick it up. Lindsay H. saw me and directed me to take a hard left turn and into the finish chute I went- over the timing mat and under the arch. I accepted my medal and a Jack & Adams water bottle but all the while my wake up call was ringing off the hook.

So I’ve answered. If I am to have a better season than last year, I’ve got to make training more of a priority. Add in morning workouts. Get to work early so I can leave in time to make my workouts. Eat better. Reach out to friends and teammates for motivation.

It’s time to do this.

Author’s note: So far this week I’m 2 for 2: I’ve made my run workout with Rogue and my spin workout with P.A.C. 
I wasn't actually last either. But I wasn't far from it.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The First 13.1

The morning was chilly and crisp. I hopped out of bed without the weekday morning dread and glanced over at the clothes I’d layed out the night before. Today was Austin Half Marathon Day! In five hours I’d be crossing the finish line on Congress Avenue!

While I’ve never had any doubts about finishing, I did have concerns about the weather. I haven’t had much experience running in cold weather and finding the right combination of clothes to wear for a 13.1 mile run is a challenge! Fortunately, I had a good luck charm.

Three weeks earlier I cheered for my friends running the 3M Half marathon. At some point, a woman shed her blue fleece jacket right in front of me and tossed it on the ground. Knowing I had my half coming up, I picked it up and it was just my size! So I wore it to the Austin Half and planned to “pay it forward” so someone else could have a chance to wear it, too.

So there I was- running up Congress Avenue with my borrowed fleece for miles one through three. Things felt good. I dropped off my fleece somewhere around Bird’s Barbershop. The air felt good. The Austin Half is special because at nearly every mile, a non-profit team is there to cheer you on and a live band is not far away. There is something to look forward to at each mile!

I knew I was going to have a great race when I rounded the turn from Ben White to South 1st Street and I could hear “Sweet Caroline” coming from the LIVESTRONG water stop. The volunteers gave me some extra cheers when they read my name on my bib. “There she goes!” yelled one of them.

I walked the water stop at mile 6 and ate a few shot bloks. I was still feeling pretty fresh after the long South 1st downhill and was ready to being the second half of the race. “The Question” came up for me around mile 7.5. What ever made me think I could do this? What was I thinking? I cleared my head of the negative thoughts and attempted to appreciate the fact that the weather was amazing and that I was fulfilling a goal I never even knew I had. The doubt quickly evaporated. When you push your boundaries, you in effect, remove them.

I also began to truly appreciate my friends who were racing, volunteering and simply there to cheer me on. How wonderful it is to see friendly familiar faces and hear encouraging voices when you’re in a tough spot. They were my witnesses.

The back side of the race, the rolling hills of Enfield, was the real challenge. Not only did I have to stop to take my first potty break ever, but I also walked for about a minute. I didn’t want to walk, but I started to feel really frustrated and I needed to collect myself. It was a good decision. I resumed my run and climbed up the second-to-last hill under Mopac. I had to really dig but I knew the BIG challenge was coming.

When Enfield changes to 15th Street, it might as well turn into Mt. Shasta. But its all mental. The hill is just a hill. I considered walking it for a brief moment, but it was actually easier to run up than walk. About ¾ of the way up I could hear my friends cheering for me and that fueled me enough to finish strong.

When I topped that hill, I kicked into gear and I ran my last mile with just about everything I had left. Counting down the streets: Guadalupe, Lavaca, Colorado and Congress! I ran down the West side of the Capitol and into the finish line alley- the cheers were incredible! Then, across the finish line and it was over. My first 13.1!

My final time was 2:59:41. My goal time for a half marathon is 2:15, so I have some work to do. But considering that two years ago I could not run ½ mile without stopping, this is pretty impressive. It hit me on my way home from the course. I think I was listening to “Hard Sun” as sung by Eddie Vedder and I began laughing. Laughing then crying. Even as I write this, I reach out to touch my finisher’s medal and I get a little lump in my throat.