Sunday, November 16, 2014

Rockledge Rumble 30k - 2014

I wish I could tell you what made me want to run the 30k of this race. I think maybe it was actually wanting to run the Big Cedar 50k, but knowing I'm nowhere close to ready for that, but at the same time, realizing I was craving a new challenge.

Northshore is not my favorite trail, but it's fine and it's familiar and pretty consistent and runnable. So it felt pretty natural to attempt my longest race yet on familiar turf.

I calculated that the distance would take me about 5 hours to complete, and the longest I'd ever run/walked was about 3.5 hours stumbling around Isle du Bois. So I had to train. For the most part, my DRC half marathon training was good enough. I tacked on some extra mileage here and there, and did some weekends of back-to-back longer runs on Saturday and Sunday to bump up my mileage and run on tired legs.

Once I felt like I'd done enough of that, I knew I needed to get at least a 4 hour run in, so I set out to loop the lake twice a few weeks prior. I bought Scott Jurek's book Eat and Run from iTunes, and set about my business on a cool October morning with nothing but my hydration pack full of Tailwind and a sense of adventure. Sure, it was just looping the lake, but for me, this was kind of the deal or no deal run.

My hip flexors and pelvis had been getting more and more sore during and after runs, so I knew it was going hurt. But when? And how much? Well, about 3 hours in, they were quite tight and by the time I got back to my car at 4 hours (actually 3:57, so I had to trudge around for 3 more minutes to get my 4 hours), I could barely lift my legs to walk. It was one of those "hurts so bad, you're laughing at how ridiculously immobile you are" things.

I knew then that I needed to get into the PT, pronto. So I set about doing the doctor visits and whatnot to allow that. He showed me a couple of things (rolling hip flexors on a lax ball, and then a good stretch) and I did them religiously until it was time for the Rumble.

Because I'm so slow, even though I had faith in my Tailwind (seriously, if you're running trails and don't use this stuff, you're missing out... I'll have to do a review at some point), I knew I needed to have glycogen stores out the ying yang. So I carbo loaded pretty much all week. It was AWESOME. :)

Then race day came. Rosie drove me to the lake and volunteered at the turnaround aid station while I ran. The 30k route is Rockledge to Murrell and back twice.
Side note: For the life of me, I do not know why they don't just make it a 20 miler and let you run the full length of the Northshore trail once. That would be so much more appealing than being 100 yards from the finish and then having to go back and do it all over again.
The spot I always take a picture when I run Northshore, basically as an excuse to recover from the only rocky climb on the course.

In fact, that midpoint turnaround was totally in my head before the race. I really thought I was going to get there and feel like shit and have to drag myself back out on the course. But it ended up not being an issue. Recognizing it as a potential weak spot prior to the race helped me prepare for it mentally, I think.

I did, however, have to get my drop bag out and put some Aquaphor on the arch of my right foot. I've never had this happen before but a hot spot was rapidly developing there, and it definitely would have gone blister if I hadn't had something to put on it. Yay Aquaphor! Yay throwing Aquaphor in my drop bag on a last minute whim!

Renewed by the discovery that the Aquaphor was indeed going to prevent a pretty gnarly blister, I felt pretty good midway. It wasn't long, though, before I was Over It. I recall at one point, as a gust of wind blew through the forest, that I'd be sorta okay with a tree falling on me because then I could stop moving for a while. I know. Crazy talk, right? Imagine the crazy shit I'd think doing a longer distance! There are several emergency access roads you cross heading out to Murrell, and one is right before the aid station, so every. single. one. I crossed, I was like, "Oh, maybe the aid station is right up he... nope. Ugh. Keep moving."

This was not the best mental state to be in. By the time I got back to Rosie at the Murrell aid station, I was WAY over it and WAY ready to be done. None of the food looked good, though I grabbed an Oreo anyway because I'm an addict. It was too sweet. Bleh. I thankfully had them add water to my hydration pack (but not more Tailwind), because I sucked it dry the minute after I crossed the finish line, so I certainly would have run out without that little top-off.

I asked Rosie if she wanted to run back with me, but she told me to go on and she might catch up with me. So, onward I trudged, grateful to be on the home stretch but also feeling pretty tight and desperate for the signs on the trail that tell me "you're close to home." But of course, it was 4 miles of trail, so those didn't come for a LONG time.

In the meantime, Rosie the Speedster decided to join me. She said she was worried she wasn't going to catch up to me, but she really would have had to loaf it to not catch me. Tina had texted me to "run like a deer!" and I thought, "Yeah, I'm running like a three-legged, blind, and deaf deer, but sure, I'll run like a deer."

I was really happy to see Rosie because I knew it would boost me to have some company and get me out of my negative mindset. And she was SUPER excited for me and proud of me, which was awesome. But in the moment, oh man, I was just not excited about anything and I wasn't having any of it. Pacing a grumpy runner is a thankless task, I tell ya. You're the wind beneath my wings, Rosie!

I thought a lot on that final leg about why I was so grumpy and how worthless it was to spend the whole race wishing I was someplace else. I never understood before why distance runners get into meditation, but now I do. It's hard to be "in the moment" when you're suffering. Here I was, the weather lovely, the trail pleasant and easy, my good running buddy with me, about to accomplish something new and awesome, and all I could think was, "GET ME OFF THIS TRAIL." How silly.

This is why I run though... to learn these life lessons because I never learn anything the easy way. Be in the moment, Heather. I practiced this thought process the whole way back to the finish and I'm looking forward to working on it more. It really is a skill, especially for someone like me who, true to my Taurean roots, craves creature comforts and is stubborn! Sometimes my sense of discomfort just completely overwhelms me and I can't even think straight.

Slightly sunnier view from my picture spot on the second loop.

In the midst of all this, I'm getting texts from Tina asking me if I'm still running ("Well, it's more like walking now") and how close I am to making my 12:30 (5 hour) goal. I get the sneaking suspicion that she is planning a surprise appearance at the finish line, which would be incredibly sweet of her but I don't want to get my hopes up.

Finally, we get back to where we can see the lake, we start hitting my mental "I'm close now" milestones. My energy and positivity come back when we are heading around the cliffs toward the parking lot. I'm still saying, "Fuck it" a lot when my legs just decide they would rather be walking for a spell. We get on the pavement toward the Rockledge aid station, which is just down the hill from the finish, and Rosie says, "There's Tina!"


*sobbing* *running* *Rosie wondering what the hell is wrong with me*

I'd been fighting back tears the whole way back. I was just so tired, and so emotionally overwrought, both positive and negative. I'd already told myself that I was just going to let myself cry at the finish line. I never have before, but I am ALWAYS fighting back tears at the finish. This time, I said to myself, just cry. They're all runners. They'll all get it. It will feel good.

Well, all those tears I was saving up came out. Tina was there with the famous jalapeno cheddar biscuits from Whataburger, our post-trail run staple. And she was just so sweet to be there and I was overwhelmed by the support from these great friends who are so proud of me. I gave her a huge sweaty, sobbing hug, got myself together, and then carried on the finish by myself.

On my way to the Pavilion. 
Speaking of the finish, it's cruel to make you trudge up some of the steepest steps ever, but I really didn't care other than a bit of "Are you kidding me with this?" because holy crap it was OVER!

Oh those steps....

Up the stairs and heading for the Pavilion. Thank goodness! Photo credit Shama Sattar 

I stumbled over to an empty table with my new medal and my empty hydration pack. Found some water. Was told there was beer, so Tina helped me figure the keg out. Ate my delicious even though it was a couple of hours old and cold jalapeno cheddar biscuit. The ART guy freed up so I jumped on his table and he worked on my hips, which had no pain beyond what I would expect for a race this distance. I ate some more and soaked it all in for a bit. I even got to see the 50k winners get their plaques. The both beat me by 15-20 minutes, despite doing an additional 20k past what I did. Beasts!

Anyway, it was an amazing experience. I learned a lot and I put my heart into it and I came within 8 minutes of my 5 hour goal, and when I think about the 8 minutes I might have wasted... putting Aquaphor on my foot, spending a moment or two with Tina or with Rosie at the aid station, checking on a hurting runner, etc. I'm okay with that.

Up next?

Plans were to recover from Rockledge, and then use it as a long training run as part of building up to the New Year's Day Marathon in McKinney. I had my training schedule all planned out, I'm doing my PT work like a good girl.

And then... I ran 10 miles with my group yesterday morning and I was dreading it. And it hurt and was hard, and all that not-hurting my hip flexors did last weekend came back with a mighty vengeance. I could barely walk when I got home and for the rest of the day. It still hurts today. I've never had to lag behind my group on a long run but for the final 4 miles, I was having to take walk breaks and drop back. I ended up finishing with them, but while we were out there, I realized... I don't want to spend the rest of the year doing this. I don't want to do 13, 17, and 20 mile training runs. Hell, I don't even want to run this marathon.

So... why do it, then? Well, that was it. I emailed Libby and asked to drop to the half. I don't even care about the medal. I'd mostly just signed up for the cool shirt anyway.

The new goal is a half marathon PR, which, on this flat course, I feel is very doable. And I'm actually excited to aim for that. And that's how races should be. So while I feel like sort of a jerk for being all, "Hey, I'm running a marathon!" and now "Eh, never mind. Too hard" I 100% believe it's the right choice. I'm looking forward to running again.

This weekend, I'll rest my legs and volunteer at Big Cedar 100, which I'm very excited about, and then look forward to some great runs that don't leave me injured and haggard through the end of the year.

Run happy, friends!

Catching up from late Summer...

Between work being busy, a 2.5 month house remodel, and DRC training starting up, I've been busy running but haven't had much time to sit down and write about it. So, I'll do a little chronology since late summer until last weekend's big adventure, which gets its own post.

Half Marathon Training

DRC training has been really fun this season. Debbie had a huge 2:30 pace group all to herself (usually two pace leaders, but this group really could have used 3, as it started out twice the size of a normal group) and since I was a "seasoned vet," I pitched in by being the caboose of our group, checking on stragglers, keeping tabs on who we lost so we could make sure they got back okay, etc.

It was a really rewarding experience to help runners reach new distance milestones, share some of the things I've learned along the way, and just enjoy the group's enthusiasm and hard work. I've considered being a pace leader next season, but I'm not sure I'm committed to the attendance requirements enough to do that. Plus, if I want to run the 20 miler at Whispering Pines in April, maybe it makes more sense to do the marathon training instead? I dunno. Still pondering.

Trails with Rosie

When I wasn't running with DRC, I was running with Rosie on a trail somewhere. We ran Eagle Mountain Lake, which she loved but I was only so-so about for some reason. I guess I like more woodsy trails and the terrain there was more hill country-like... scrubby mesquite trees, limestone, etc. It's very pretty and extremely runnable, but for some reason, I just couldn't get into it. Which make me seem super lame when you look at the pictures. Maybe I was just grumpy that day?

Then we went down to another Endurance Buzz race, the punishing Rough Creek. Rosie and I "only" did the 10k and were extremely grateful after the fact, because "rough" is right. Debbie did the half marathon and it was brutal. I have yet to see a picture that depicts how actually tough the hills were. Here's my best attempt, as I stood at the top and wondered if I could afford a helicopter rescue.

Had to bear crawl down this backwards.

And it's not so much that they were very steep, but that they were made of loose rock that just vanished under your shoes like wet fingers touching cotton candy. Plus, the day warmed up quickly and there was exactly no shade out there. The folks doing the 40 miler... oh man were they troopers.

During the boring part between the hills and the start/finish.

However, Rosie won 3rd overall in the 10k, but cracked her sternum in a fall at the top of the hill pictured above, so there was definitely collateral damage. Especially since the following week, we had plans to run the Lost Loop 12k and camp out at Lake Texoma the night before.

My first camping trip!

At the time, I didn't even realize how much pain she was in, but she was tough and we went ahead with our plans and I'm so grateful we did! It was a beautiful weekend and the Crosstimbers/Lost Loop trail is amazingly fun and diverse and challenging.

I could have done so much more with this weird floating rock formation. Disappointed in my lack of creativity.

Rosie wisely walked the whole thing (much to her chagrin), though I'm so slow and her legs are so long that we actually ended up together for much of the course, which was great because some parts were kinda scary and I would have been nervous to be alone.

So, I'm crushing hard on that trail and can't wait to get out there again. Unfortunately, I have a wedding to attend in Houston the weekend of Crosstimbers, so I'll have to wait a while. *sad face* I think most small races are 100% labor of love, but these two that Teresa puts on are even more so. It's the most low key race environment ever, but still well marked and great food and happy volunteers. Just wonderful in every way.

Somewhere in there, Rosie and I ran an equestrian trail up by Lake Lavon in northeast of Dallas. I hated it. Nothing but getting smacked by spider webs in the face. I spent most of the run shrieking and flailing. Never run trails without a tall, fast person ahead of you, kids! I have no pictures of this one, and I'm okay with that.

Showdown Half

Two weeks later, I got back on the road and did the Showdown Half Marathon (Hook 'em, Horns!) with Tina and Holly, both of whom were in varying stages of a nasty cold, so my time was pretty lousy, but since I was gimping a little bit, it was a good thing to hang back and take it slow. The rolling country course was very pleasant and not nearly as "hilly" as some claim, and the finish line goodies were first rate. Great medal, great shirt, great food, close parking. Can't really ask for more. It was my first Active Joe race and I'm looking forward to more (more on that in my next post).

Holly, Joanna (who I don't actually know), me, and Tina

Rockledge Rumble Tune-Up

Even though it wasn't her favorite trail, Rosie agreed to set out for Cedar Hill State Park with me to get some trail time in two weeks before my longest run ever, the Rockledge Rumble 30k. More on that in my next post, but I felt like mentioning this, because we actually both really enjoyed this trail the second time around. We did it in the spring and apart from some nice wildflower displays, it was rather ho-hum. But we'd only done the 8 mile loop. This time we did the 12 mile loop and it was really lovely! This is still a trail I'd avoid in the summer, though. It's more exposed than I would want and the snakes are aplenty, but it's pleasant, runnable, and nice vistas.

And that gets us up to last weekend...

Friday, August 22, 2014

Isle Du Bois (is the worst!)

Last year, Endurance Buzz's Isle Du Bois trail race was set to be my first trail race. Rosie and I were all jacked up for it, but unsure of what to expect. The "plenty of roots and rocks" description should have been a tip-off... all trails have lots of roots and rocks, but when it becomes the description of the trail, well.. it's LOTS of roots and rocks.

Anyway, Mother Nature took care of us and sent an ice storm that canceled our race along with the Dallas Marathon.

Ever since, we've wondered what we missed out on. So, when the North Texas Trail Runners hosted a run at IDB a couple of weeks ago, we went for it.

It's not the worst drive out to Pilot Point, around an hour from Dallas. The lake is low but nice, with a lovely beach area, playgrounds, and restrooms that didn't make me run away screaming (though I also didn't dawdle).

The trail is 4 loops (A-E, but A and B are basically one), and they connect in sort of stacking loops that go out to the lake in the middle of loop E. So, if you want any kind of view, you have to go out to loop E.

Doing the full loop is about 10.5 miles, so you kinda have to be in it to win it if you want any scenic reward for your trek.

And this is where I start complaining...

Okay, the views are okay, and you can pretty much just walk down to the lake when you get out there on loop E, which is fine, but you are walking through basically a giant ant mound to get there. Like, literally, don't stop moving or they will eat you alive, probably.


So, there's that. But wait, there are more "no, thank you" moments at IDB. The temps were supposed to get up to 100+ the day we went, so we wanted to try and only do about 8 miles, so we were going to do 4 miles out and 4 miles back. But the 4 miles out were so grim and we had enough water left, that we decided to do the full loop just to avoid retracing our steps through not wonderful terrain.

And second half did getting a little more pleasant to look at, but by then, the rocks really started to get tedious. We found that we couldn't even run most of the trail. It was 10 yards of runnable dirt (or worst, sand), then 10 yards of rocks, over and over and over.

It was like running through a construction zone... like romping through rubble. Every time I'd start us running again, we'd hit loose rocks the size of lemons, which is just too unstable to run on safely (I'm sure plenty of people can, but I really don't know how). Especially as we got tired and our footing became less trustworthy.

There were a few nice inclines to mountain-goat up, but nothing special.

All in all, ugh. We weren't even done before we decided that we'd be volunteering at this year's IDB race. It's just no fun at all to run. So many better choices around Dallas.

That said, the beach entry to the lake was wonderfully refreshing after 3.5 hours of dragging ass around the rocks. I don't like being in lake water, but this hit the spot.

Anyway, at least now we know and, really, any time spent with good running friends is time well spent, even if our feet aren't fond of where we spent the time.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

My Crush on Big Cedar Wilderness Trail

I love me some brand spanking new trail. Well, new to me, anyway.  But I wasn't too sure about Big Cedar, which is just north of Cedar Hill and Cedar Ridge Preserve down by Joe Pool Lake. I just hadn't heard much about it compared to the other two, and assumed it was a lesser trail system.

AU CONTRAIRE, my friends! Big Cedar had all the things I long for in a trail, plus some bonus candy that I wasn't expecting.

But first, let me set the scene: Rosie and I met Debbie at 7. There are a bunch of other runners also meeting, but they're faster than us, so we plan to just do our thing bringing up the rear. Also, for mid-July in Dallas, the weather was absolutely perfect. Low humidity, nice breezes, sunny (but the trails we ran were 90% shady). Just a beautiful day!

We were running the Ranger (white) loop, and then would add on if we felt like it. We started out on Ranger, then the group tucked over on the Dragonfly loop, which was an extra easy mile. Most of the main trail is shady, but you do cross through some utility easements that, while sunny (boo) must just be bursting with wildflowers in the spring and early summer (yay) and offer up some really lovely views out across the hills and valleys around there (more yay). So, that little bit of exposed running is worth it, even in the summer.

Near the exit to the trail head is this brick-paved hill. I've since come to learn it's called the Brick Climb, but I have named it Beyoncé hill. Thankfully, the bricks (set sideways so the holes are exposed) offer fantastic traction on this steep but fairly short climb, but it is just shy of requiring you to bear-crawl up the darn thing. We walked up it, huffing and puffing and begging for mercy (as I semi-joked that I wanted to do it again), got to the top and had a choice of either going back to the car or taking a intermediate/advanced trail called Man Bites Dog.

We quickly found the "advanced" portion of the loop... a long gravel slope that you really have to fight your way down to avoid losing your footing in the loose gravel. From there it was smooth sailing back to a bypass that took us... right to the bottom of Beyoncé Hill! I surprised myself by doing a little fist pump in my head, and charged up that sucker, running this time, like a wild horse. Well, a wild horse with two tired legs and asthma.

WOO! Man, I felt so good after that climb, despite my big time wind sucking! I dunno what it is, but a tough climb just fires me up like nothing else. Especially to have done it running the second time. I guess any time you discover a well spring of "Fuck yeah, I got this!" that you didn't know you had, it gets you jacked up.

From there, however, we started following the (many) Exit to Trail Head signs back to the parking lot and called it a day, but it was clearly one of those euphoric trail runs that left us all craving more.

I can't quit thinking about Beyoncé Hill and Big Cedar, even with my sore quads reminding me of how tough it was. I thought CRP was my favorite trail in Dallas, but it's relatively short at only about 6 miles. Meanwhile, Big Cedar has many of the same features (rocky slopes, nice views, shade), but much more area to explore. There's comfort in knowing a trail (and still loving it for its difficulty and complexity), but there's also that sense of adventure running a new trail that I think I'll get to enjoy for a long time out at Big Cedar. Ranger is certainly the longest trail, as all the other trails loop off of it, but we barely scratched the surface of the rest of the trail system.

The only downside to it is that it's a DORBA trail, which is good because they do a phenomenal job maintaining the trails and building new trails. But it's bad because mountain bikers often do not realize they scare the shit out of us by not announcing themselves as soon as they see us rather than 5 seconds before they're slamming the brakes to avoid hitting us.
Dear mountain bikers,
Love you guys, really and truly. But please understand that as noisy as you THINK you may be, we absolutely do not hear you unless you announce yourself. One quick, "Bike back!" as soon as you see us gives us time to find a safe place (no poison ivy or snakes) to step off the trail and get out of your way. And believe me, we do NOT want to be in your way. 
Your friends,
Trail Runners
I feel better getting that off my chest.

Anyway, other notables from the run were seeing my first BIG snake. I'd seen a little one out at Rowlett a while back, but this one was "shriek and run the other way" worthy... unless you're Debbie, who walked right up to it and said hello. She said it was a rat snake, which is still too close to "rattle snake" for my taste. Luckily the big guy (and I mean big) was charging across the trail rather than curled up sunning himself or something crazy. So we let him on by and then zipped by so he didn't get a chance to change his mind and come kill us.

The other notable was that Rosie brought me a salted caramel Gu to try. Oh man, was that thing sweet, but so delicious and given my energy level at the end of the run, I'd have to say it was successful. I think for our 2 hours of running, I ate only half a Payday, that packet of Gu, and a Probar Bolt gel. And I still had at least half a liter of water left in my hydration pack and could have gone another 3 miles. So maybe I'll welcome some of those packages runner gu/gummies back into my life.

More experimenting ahead! Happy trails!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Headband Review: Halo vs. Bondi Band (and a gear update)

Since I started running, I almost always wore a cap or visor (usually a visor, so my head stayed cooler) when I ran. It makes me batty to have sun or sweat in my eyes and that took care of both!

But now that I'm running more trails (shady), and during the week I'm running mostly in the dark, visors seem like overkill, but I still needed to keep the sweat out of my eyes. When I did boot camp last year, I got a terry cloth sweat band that made me feel like I was doing a LeBron James impersonation and took 2 days to dry. I like the headband in theory, but that was not the right one.

I knew I could do better, so I researched and the two that came up the most were Halo and Bondi Bands. I picked up one of each at Luke's Locker and set about experimenting.

Near the finish (hence the smile) at
Whispering Pines 2014 wearing my Halo.


The Halo is made of a heavy-ish neoprene fabric, which means lots of absorbency but also some heat retention. Breezes aren't getting through this thing. The sneaky awesome feature it has is this plastic strip across the bottom on the forehead side that redirects sweat away from your eyes.

It's basically like a rain diverter you'd have over an exterior door on your house. And it works! I may have learned to love to sweat, but I practically get the shakes when it's pouring off my head and into my face faster than I can mop it up. Once it gets in my eyes, I'm just a big baby, and especially on trails where vision is so critical, eyeball sweat is just a non-starter.

They have a few styles. One ties in the back, the newest velcros in the back, and mine is just a sewn up circle. I have a pretty large noggin (thanks, Dad), and it fits me just right. I guess those with less well-endowed skulls should get an adjustable or know how to sew. They come in several colors but nothing particularly fancy. These are not "look cute" headbands, as you can see from my picture, but when it's 90% humidity and 85 degrees out, I'm not looking cute anyway. Might as well be comfortable.

Bondi Band

I could tell from the moment I picked up a Bondi Band, at least the "fashion lycra" version that was in plentiful supply at Luke's, that it was not a headband meant for serious sweat. It's very thin, light material. The upside to that is that once it's wet with sweat and you meet a breeze, it feels nice and cool on your forehead.

I've only used the Bondi for cooler, shorter runs. My weekday runs, it's fine. If it's 55 degrees out, it's fine. Despite the promise of "no drip, no slip," I do find it to be pretty slippery. It stays in place for the most part but it takes very little to shift it around.

Also, because the fabric is so thin and stretchy, the edges curl up, which isn't the best look. And while looks shouldn't matter, you're not buying these in one of the dozens of patterns and colors they offer because you don't care about how you look. They're cute and flattering and they're extra wide so they hold your hair back very nicely. The rolling edges aren't a big deal but it still just sort of annoys me and adds to the flimsy feel.

Despite using my Bondi for less sweaty endeavors, I have still managed to outsweat it to the point where sweat was dripping into my eyes. The flip side of it being thin and light and cooler is that it just doesn't have enough heft to absorb a lot of sweat. One thing I considered, if I see some lying around, is cutting a piece of ShamWow fabric and sandwiching it between my forehead and the Bondi Band. Not only might it help it stay in place better, but it would definitely increase the sweat absorption. Or... I could just wear my Halo.

Looking at Bondi's site, they do have some lines of "wicking" sweatbands that look sturdier and honestly look a lot like Halos minus the plastic diverter band. If I see one of those around, I'll pick one up and try it, but those don't come in fun patterns, so the Halo seems like a better choice.

Bottom Line

I actually like having both. For long runs and trail races, the Halo is the obvious choice. For shorter runs or cooler weather, Bondi Band is a less "industrial strength" solution. If looking cute is a high priority and/or you aren't a heavy sweater, Bondi might be enough.

More gear notes

I've been shopping a lot lately. I recently discovered Left Lane Sports, which has amazing deals on good quality sports products, and now am the proud owner of a Nathan Intensity hydration vest and, winning their way to me at the moment, a pair of Hoka Stinson Trail shoes.

The vest I ordered because my waist belt drives me crazy shifting around, plus it really doesn't hold that much water given the heat. I still have to plan routes around water fountains, which isn't really a "thing" when it comes to trails. This one has great reviews, is made specifically for the female physique (though I'm not sure how), and was around $50 on Left Lane.

The Hokas... I'd been skeptical of these silly looking shoes. But man, that race in Tyler last weekend beat up my feet and calves so badly. It's really taken me a full week to start feeling normal again. When I got the email that Left Lane was doing a big Hoka sale, and then when I saw that the Stinson Trail model was working for a lot of people with wide feet, and that I could get them for basically $100 off retail price (I had $30 in referral credits), I couldn't resist. Which turns out to be a really good thing, because unless they're out in my car, I'm afraid I left my trail shoes in the changing stall at Tyler State Park!

So, I'm looking forward to testing out my vest today and then getting the Hokas next week and, if they fit, giving them a try on the rocks and roots.

Also found a replacement set of my road shoes (NB1080) for way cheap and one of the 4 sizes left happened to be mine, and I got a second pair of compression shorts (I LOVE Road Runner Sports R-Gear brand... great quality and a HUGE pocket). I had lots of capris already, but in the summer, the shorts feel a little better. Wish I had the thighs to wear regular running shorts. They look so breezy! Alas, thunder thighs would chafe to pieces in those. *sigh*

Anyway, I'm off to run Arbor Hills with Rosie. First time up there, so I'm excited to check it out. Looking forward to some hill work!

Happy trails!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Whispering Pines 10M - 2014

In my head, I'd chalked this race up to be 10 miles of pine needle-covered smooth, easy trails. Maybe some hills, a root here and there, but otherwise, fast running. I was going to float through the woods like a woodland nymph and finish in a sturdy, slow-girl 3:00.

I got literally none of those things right. The terrain was consistent, I'll give it that, but it was almost non-stop roots and plenty of rocks. It was the kind of trail where you hear that there's lots of beauty around you but you never see it because you don't dare look up for fear of tripping or stepping on the wrong thing. There were some fast areas where you could at least look ahead 15 feet as you ran rather than every little step, and those areas you could book it pretty well and gain some ground.

(For pics of the trail, see Running Myself into a Coma blog from his photos last year. Though I don't remember that much open space. It felt like we were in deep woods 95% of the time. Maybe the trail changed some this year?)

I've never seen so much falling in a race before. Everyone in our group fell at least once, sometimes twice, except for me. I chose to step poorly a couple of times and twist my ankle instead. Feels okay after some ice, rest, and a good night's sleep though, so it was only a minor annoyance.

Oh, and the hills? Okay, they were there but they weren't all killers. However, there was one late in the race that felt like climbing stars. The legs were burning, we were huffing and puffing. Oh it was a doozie.

As usual, the aid stations were fantastic, as they always are at an Endurance Buzz event, and really well placed for this distance. First one was ~3 in, and the next was ~7 in, so even though there was a 4-mile gap in the middle, those are the comfortable miles (runnerly speaking... you're warmed up but not too exhausted yet). Debbie and Tina, my running companions, wanted to keep moving, so we blew through the stations pretty fast, which was fine by me. I had my Payday bars on me, too, but only ended up eating one.

We ended up finishing much faster than we expected. We'd walked a lot, it seemed, but I guess the areas where we could run, we ran pretty darn fast, which I don't think I would have done on my own, so I appreciated the pushed pace. We all came in right at 2:30-2:31, a good 30 minutes faster than I'd predicted, so that was fantastic. That just shows how much more difficult Possum Kingdom was. Only 2 more miles but took 52 minutes longer! Plus it was a bit warmer and more sun exposure in PK, which added to the fatigue.

I actually felt great after this one. Tons of energy at the end, but my legs were toast from the hills. I can certainly see the appeal of the 20 mile distance. I think the absolutely beautiful cool, breezy weather was fooling me a little, though. If it had been muggy and warm, it might have been just as exhausting as PK was and I would have sworn off such distances past March.

Rosie came with me to volunteer at one of the aid stations, but I drove this time, and I actually felt fine coming home, which I was very worried about after I was a zombie post-PK. I even had the energy to change clothes and eat a couple of tacos before we left the park. No nausea or any of that stuff I had from PK. I took an Endurolyte tablet at the second aid station, and I think that helped a lot, along with drinking a little Heed. I got plenty of fluid at PK, but not enough electrolytes for how much I was sweating.

Slowly but surely, I'm figuring this stuff out, maybe? Or maybe I just got lucky. Either way, that's the last one for a while. I'll be volunteering at Cedar Ridge in July, and might do the same at Rough Creek, both of which will be too hot for my taste, thank you very much, but I can earn free race entries by volunteering. I still want to give Isle Du Bois a go, and I'd be happy to do PK and WP again.

If I had any complaints about the race, starting with the 7k runners was tough. The course was very crowded the first 3 miles until they split off. But that's literally my only gripe. Very minor. The finish line area was wonderful. Very cozy, and as usual, I choked up when I crossed and Dave handed me my bottle of honey. :) Some day I'll be not choked up enough to ask him if he's Canadian. He definitely says "aboat." <3

Anyway, today I'm sore. My upper back and calves and feet are very achy, but I'm headed out to the Rangers/Jays game later, so I'll count all that walking as a recovery effort. Also, beer. Beer good. Go Jays!

Happy trails!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

JCC Bagel Run - 2014

For the first time ever, I repeated a race Sunday. The JCC (Jewish Community Center, which is about a 10 minute walk from my house) holds the Bagel Run every May, a 5k loop through my neighborhood, which is pretty hilly. It was my first race after we moved to Dallas last year.

It's cheap and I of course want to support a race that I can leave my house 10 minutes before it starts and still be early.

It has a 5k and 10k option, and since I don't get my legs for 3 miles, I go for the 10k. Last year, it was my very first time running the 10k distance. It was steamy and I hadn't brought any water, AND I didn't realize it was a double loop, so I got to the end and they said, "10k, keep going!" Ugh. Mentally, that was tough. I finished last year in 1:08, which is far from a PR at this point, but given the Triple H in effect (heat, humidity, and hills), I was happy if I could just beat that 1:08.

The thing is, I've gained 20 lbs since I ran that race last year. *sigh* It's been a tumultuous year. Moving, losing my job, and then starting a VERY sedentary job. So, I knew it would be tight.

Well, officially, I finished about :30 slower than the previous year, but I'll call it even. I ran it in 3/:45 intervals, didn't push particularly hard, other than to keep my pace on the hills. I really kinda treated it like a hill workout and put my energy into powering through those bad boys. And indeed, I felt strong on them.

I finished feeling strong, too, and I beat the two ladies I had my sights on. Hey, it's the small victories sometimes.

The race itself is very small. Maybe 200 people, with only a handful doing the full 10k. But there is a nice bagel buffet at the end. They even have a very cute "Fastest Rabbi" award for each distance. :) Mazel tov!

The bad side of the race is that they have run out of water at the last water stop both years, and they ran out of water at the finish last year. As warm as these races have been, that's really unacceptable to me. I ran with my handheld bottle this time, which I don't like to do, but knew I needed to because I knew that was a possibility. I nearly parched to death last year and got yelled at for dumping one of the cups of water on my head at the last stop last year. Sorry, phone somebody and get some damn water in that jug!

Next year, I'm going to make hubs bring our little cooler to the final stop to make sure ALL the 10kers get to hydrate for the final mile and a half and even get to dump water on their heads if they want.

All in all, it was a good race. I felt good, but I was happy to see the finish line. I had half a bagel with hummus on it, which reminded me why I can't eat hummus. I used to eat hummus as a snack before hockey, and found myself getting REALLY tired during games. So I quit buying the stuff. But I figured after a race, it wouldn't be a big deal. Well, how wrong I was! I spent all day in a zombie-like state of exhaustion. More than is normal for a 10k. Heck, worse than a half marathon! Finally caved and took at nap at 3 p.m. to try and get some humanity back. Woof. I'll stick with peanut butter or something. Something about exertion and hummus, man. Knocks me on my ass!

Apart from being a decent race, it definitely hit home that I have to get this extra weight off, so those efforts have commenced in earnest. And boy am I hungry. Ugh, I hate limiting my calories.

Ah well, it's about the journey, not the destination, right? :) Happy trails!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Possum Kingdom 20k - 2014

Well, after a false start due to ice at Isle du Bois, I finally ran my first trail race yesterday. I had some reservations the day before when I realized I was going to a place called Possum Kingdom where the starting line is at Bug Beach. Possums and bugs. Things I'm not super fond of! Alas, I ran into exactly zero possums (well, maybe one roadkill version while driving), but plenty of mosquitoes in the bathrooms at Bug Beach (so tip #1 for PK: use the porta-potties).

Naturally, there is a cold front moving in the day AFTER this race, so while it was nice at the start, it got warm quickly, especially as the start is pretty much straight uphill for the first mile and a half.

And worse, the downhills from that just pounded my knees. I should have taken those slower, I guess, because I ended up having some bad pain in my left knee for a couple of miles after that. I ended up walking for probably half a mile, wincing every time I planted my foot/leg in a way that made it hurt, but eventually, it just... went away! It was bad enough that I thought if it didn't get better, I was going to have to DNF at the 6 mile aid station, which would have sucked. But I wasn't about to trash my knee.

Luckily, I fell back with a couple of other friends (and even behind both of them for a while), but caught back up as my knee started to behave, and stayed with them and a few other folks the rest of the way. As per usual with running, the latter miles fell into a nice rhythm and the prospect of a nearby finish line was enough to pull me through the sandy finish.

I ended up with a 3:22 finish for 12 miles, exactly 1 hour longer than 13.5 on the road. I went into this one with almost zero compete level in my heart, and mostly stayed that way from start to finish, though I really thought 3:30 was the best I could expect, time-wise, so I was pleasantly surprised. Still, I really didn't care much about the time, and didn't look at my Runkeeper at all. I put everything into Rock 'n Roll, so this race was just my reward for all that work and progress, and it was really a perfect marker for that.

Lake vista early on in the run

This was my first Endurance Buzz race (which figures, since it was my first trail race), and what a great job they do. Even though I only knew 3 other people there, it was a very familial environment with people taking care of each other. Amazing to me was that the folks running 52 miles or 52k would pass us with big smiles and a "Looking great! Keep it up!" as we 20k folks are slogging along. Different animals, these trail maniacs.

I found it very helpful to have memorized the mile markers where the aid stations would be, especially with water bottles running dry much faster than I'd been used to. Plus, the stations had a buffet of wonderful food choices, from Oreos to dill pickles. It's nice to have a selection, because you never really know what will sound good. I grazed there (mile 6.5 and 9.5) and ate two of my Payday mini bars, which as usual were exactly the boost I needed. I seriously need to get Payday to sponsor my running. I can sing the praises of those little guys all day long.

One thing I did wrong was not eating soon enough. It was 4+ miles before I even ate 3 jelly beans (Happy Pills) at the first unmanned aid station, and was 6.5 before the first full aid station where I ate more. Should have tucked into my payday bar at mile 4.

Also wonder if I need to down some endurolyte tablets or something along the way. I don't really like Gatorade or Nuun or things like that, but I know the salt in my snacks probably aren't enough for warm runs.

The course itself is certainly the most diverse I've ever run. From soft, easy single- or double-track to deep, annoying sand, to small rocks, boulders, and roots/stumps, this course had everything but mud and water. There are some really nice views along the way, though Possum Kingdom Lake was VERY low and has been for several years, so it's a little sad to think how much nicer it must have used to look.

There was a fair amount of two-way traffic on the trail, which was good and bad. I think I enjoyed the areas where it was a loop and we were on our own and not having to get out of the way of faster runners in the opposite direction. But it was cool to see how easy they made it look and how friendly they were, so that definitely enhanced the "newbie" experience for me.

For this race, I'd probably invest in some gaiters or plan to stop and shake sand out of your shoes after the Hamilton Rd. crossing (that's where the sand is done with for the most part, until the final couple of miles). It felt like I had sandpaper socks on and I HAD to stop and dump my shoes out or I would have had raw feet by the end. Maybe my shoes are more porous or something.

Rosie, who finished 30 minutes ahead of me and 5th in her division, because she's awesome, and I had talked about doing Whispering Pines next month, and after the race, she said, "No way. I'll come volunteer if you run, but I'm done." And I said, "Yeah, I have no interest in doing that now. I'm done."

Well... I woke up this morning, my quads throbbing, and thought, "Yeah, I want to do Whispering Pines." It's only 10 miles! :) I really didn't feel nearly as bad yesterday for how hard the race felt, if that makes sense. And today, the day after, my quads are sore, but that's really it. I feel great otherwise.

So, I need to see how it fits into my schedule, but yeah, WP's probably going to happen. I'm going to have to find recipes that use lots of honey if I keep running these EB races. I think I'm kinda hooked. Of course, all it may take is a confrontation with a snake to send me back to full time road running. :)

Happy trails!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Rock n' Roll Half Marathon - Dallas 2014

Nothing like a great race to make up for a lousy one. I won't bury the lead: 2:22:14 (and according to Runkeeper, I really ran 13.57, so I totally did 13.1 below my stretch goal of 2:20 -- Woot!)

I ended up running 3/:45 intervals pretty much the whole way. My only mistake was not bringing my ear buds (there was music provided on the course, so I didn't figure I'd need it), but it was a crowded, noisy course and I couldn't always hear the cues to run or walk. Fortunately, I had a pretty good sense for it and was able to fake it pretty accurately when necessary.

I really wanted to try and cut the tangents but man, the course is way too crowded, start to finish, for that. As you can see, you really can add a lot of mileage between that and dodging slower runners. That's the only frustrating thing about run/walk: I'm running a pretty good clip when I run (9:30 min/mile on average), so I'm doing pretty much nothing but passing for 3 minutes. Then *SCREECH* I'm walking for 45 seconds and half of them are passing me again, so I have to wind my way around them all over again.

The course was tough, but tough in the way you'd want a course to be tough. Mostly uphill (with a couple of good downhills) the entire first half, and then pretty much flat/downhill the second half. Or at least that's what I thought looking at the elevation. But really, the downhill/flats don't start until mile 8. So we hit mile 7 and I'm still looking at the crowd ahead of me going uphill. It was not super steep but by then, you're feeling it and my walk breaks were getting longer. It definitely affected me mentally. Lesson learned to be more precise when I look at elevation charts before a race! I think if I'd known it was coming at mile 8, I could have stopped the, "What if it never comes?" negativity in my head.

Does that number seem right? The low elevation was 400 something, peak was 600 something. How did I possibly climb 5000+ feet?
Luckily, 2 things saved me. The first was my beautiful pal Rosie on the side of the course, giving me a hug and cheering me on and generally being her usual encouraging, wonderful self. What a sight for sore eyes and flagging spirits. She'd ridden her bike there, and then rode to another point to see me again. This time, I was already pumped up from an encounter I'd just had, which was "thing that saved me" #2:

I was on a walk break (45 seconds, mind you), and this girl runs past me, turns back to me and says, "Keep at it! Walking only makes it take longer!"

Now, I suspect she thought she was being encouraging or helpful somehow, but I looked her in the eye and said, "I do run/walk. It's fine." Another girl next to me said, "Yeah, me, too." We rolled our eyes at each other in understanding, and the offending girl smiled sheepishly and plodded on.

And a few seconds later, my run prompt sounded and I passed her and never saw her again. But I did see my run/walk friend again, who said, "I guess we left our 'runner' friend behind." Hahahaha!

So, thank you, judgy girl, for lighting a fire under me for the last few miles. If all else failed, I knew I'd still won because I was beating you. xoxo

As far as the race organization and whatnot, it was good. My only beef is that the exit from the post-race festival led you to a parking lot at the opposite end of Fair Park from where the train comes. So I added two miles, during which I called my husband and cried in frustration, as well as stopping twice just to sit down and rest for a minute. But that's my fault for being too out of it to be aware of my surroundings. A sign would have been nice though. Like a really big sign.

It was pretty funny though watching everybody walk to their cars. It was like the Walking Dead... a huge crowd just sort of lurching slowly along.

One more note on my interval strategy: LOVED it. More to the point, the :45 second walk break instead of 1 minute felt great. It was enough to recover, except in a few hilly parts, without feeling like I was leaving any speed on the table unnecessarily. Like, I think :30 would be too little to properly recover and sustain that run pace the full distance.

I also ran the downhills regardless of intervals. There were a few good ones where I knew I could steal some time without putting much extra energy in, so I just kept going through the walk intervals.

What this race does is show me that if I can find a less crowded race so I can cut the tangents and keep the distance down, or a flatter race where the hills don't suck so much energy out of me, I can get that sub 2:20 officially.

But I'll worry about that later, in the fall, most likely. For now,  it's only 3 weeks until the Possum Kingdom 20k, which I have no time aspirations for, other than probably to get it over with at some point. Really looking forward to that and getting back on the trails a bit for something different.

All in all, very happy with my race today. Really couldn't have expected better from any aspect of it. I'm feeling very grounded in my running now. I'm healthier than I've been (THANK YOU, ERIN!!), and while I'm stiff today, I know a good night of rest and I'll be much better tomorrow. I definitely feel better than I expected to after that pace.

The best part? I've done very little other than eat and sit around. And we're going out for milkshakes in a bit. :) Yay running!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Speed Class Wrap-Up

After 8 weeks of training, we had our end of training 5k Tuesday night, with the promise of pizza, beer, and a little social time after. It was just a neighborhood route (thankfully the track was taken, so we didn't have to circle that damn thing 12+ lousy times), and maps out about right, so I feel good when I say that I PR'd that sucker!

Finished with a 29:40, which is well above the 8 minute/mile goal pace they somehow calculated for me. I can run about 1/4 mile at that pace and I'm wheezing, so that's clearly way off. But a sub-30 5k has been my goal pretty much since I started running, so it was cool to see that come to fruition.

I learned a lot from this class, but very different things from what I expected to learn. I thought it would be like picking up my current range of paces and shifting them all down together. But I found that my fastest pace didn't improve at all. In fact, between gaining some weight in going back to work and sitting at my desk 50 hours a week and having considerably less time to work out, I feel like my fastest pace actually got slower.

What happened, though, is that my easy and moderate paces have improved, in that they're a little faster and they feel a little easier. And since, as a distance runner, those paces are my bread and butter, I'm okay with that outcome. It's not a huge difference, but I feel stronger in general and I have more trust that I can push myself when I need to. Breathing hard, even for several miles, doesn't scare me like it used to.

The other thing I've learned is that I hate doing all run. Hate. It. And if I hated it but it made me measurably faster, I might be willing to suck it up. But it doesn't. I guarantee I'll run a faster half marathon Sunday doing 3/.45 intervals than if I tried to do all run. And I'll enjoy it more and finish feeling victorious rather than beaten down.

So, there you have it: My principle takeaway from 8 weeks of all-run speed training is that I'm going back to run/walk. Ha.

Seriously though, that Levee Run 10k was so shitty. I can definitely take some positives away from it, but the negatives, along with what I've learned about myself through this speed class, actually made me re-evaluate what I'm doing, what my goals are, what's best for me long term.

I realized that the fastest I ever want to run is what I think of as my "I'm free!" run. I have no idea what pace you'd call it, but it's my "running feels good and I'm not going to think about form or pace or anything. I'm just going to gallop along like a little kid." It's not so much a pace as a state of mind that's not beholden to timers and PRs and goals.

It's just running because it's fun and feels primal and epic.

I'm genuinely excited about Rock and Roll Half on Sunday. The weather is supposed to be perfect, I don't have any injuries, I feel like my head's in the right place. I'm just ready to have a great time and get back to having fun out there. And then eating ALL THE THINGS afterward.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Trinity River Levee Run 10k - 2014

Some races come into your life to make you love racing, and others are there to teach you some lessons. Levee Run was one of those lesson teachers, and since I've never learned anything the easy way, I'm not gonna lie... it sucked. And I PRd. But it still sucked.

I was SO jacked for this race. I'd been doing my speed class and getting stronger. I'd been continuing to get work done to fix my janky body, reducing pain and increasing efficiency. There was an Athena division, so I actually had bling to race for. I was feeling GOOD.

And then, from the starting gun, I fucked it all up. Ran a SUB-9:00 mile for mile 1 (with an uphill start, too boot). Way WAY too fast! I knew I was doing it while I did it, but I thought, "You've worked hard! You can handle this for six miles!"

Uh, no you can't, princess. I was struggling hard, even with a walk through the first water stop at (inexplicably) mile 1, I resumed that pace and finished mile 2 right around 18:00. Another 9 minute mile. This time, without a noisy water stop, I could hear my pace and said, "Whoa nelly!" and took my foot off the gas. But it was too late. I'd burned so much fuel on that start, I ended up having to take walk breaks to recover enough to keep going.

I probably took 3-4 walk breaks, including water stops, and I honestly felt like I was crawling at times. Which is actually the good part, because when I finally worked up the nerve to look at my splits, they were really quite respectable for feeling like a crawl.

You can see where mile 3, I struggled a bit more as I tried to recover. And then again for mile 5.

BUT, for a "struggling" pace, with walk breaks, 10:30ish isn't terrible for me. It makes me realize that if I can pace myself better (and I can, I just got excited and overconfident... normally I'm a consistent pacer), I can "comfortably uncomfortably" run 9:30-9:45 for a 10k distance. And I also know that I can run around 9 for a 5k. I definitely could have kept that pace up for another mile, but I would have been completely spent at the end.

It was very surreal to be in the throes of "OMG I fucked up that race so badly, I'm so disappointed in myself, that was awful, how many times did I think, 'I'm never running again after this!'"  and then to have Runkeeper show this:

Um. Yay? I knew I could have done better and this PR was just an eyelash over my last PR, and it was SUCH an unpleasant run, it was just like, "Yuck. PR, shmee are."

I spent the rest of the day just exhausted to the bone. We went to a Stars game and thankfully that woke/cheered me up a bit. But it's still a blur the rest of that day. It's amazing how hard 10ks are. I think that's why I like them so much. You can really just wring yourself out in that hour (or less, hopefully, next time) and feel like you've accomplished something.

As for the race itself, I cannot recommend it. Other than going over the bridge, there is nothing to look at. It goes mostly through the warehouse part of the design district. *yawn* The big white bridge is the highlight, and it was so foggy you couldn't see it. Plus they bussed in all these people to cheer on the bridge since it was near the start and finish, but I was struggling so badly, it was mostly just an annoyance to have cowbells and screaming when I just wanted to finish and crawl in a hole.

It's well organized with some good booths and apparently beer after, but the route just can't make up for it. Maybe it would be better as a 5k.

Despite my exhaustion, I came out the other end fairly unscathed. My calves both hurt after, and still do today, but I've been dynamically stretching them to get those muscles to loosen up and they don't feel any worse this morning after a hard tempo (ladder drill) speed class last night.

This weekend, I have a crazy running schedule. Since my half marathon is well before it's supposed to be in our training schedule, but I don't want to overtrain, I'm stealing from ultra marathoners and doing a longer "tired leg" run of 6 miles on Sunday after 9 miles (including 4 at HM pace) on Saturday. At least, that's the plan.

But the next weekend I'll taper with just the Greenville Dash 5k with my coworkers, which I don't think I'll be able to race that due to the crowds and craziness (which, if I'd known, I don't think I'd have bothered to sign up... too early out of bed for a 5k that I can't PR). And then the weekend after that is Rock and Roll! And then a couple of trail runs before Possum Kingdom! Amazing how my dance card fills up with training!

Fortunately, only one more week of speed class. It's been fantastic, but starting that AND a very busy new job (working 11 hour days lately), has been a lot. I feel like I have zero free time. In fact,even this is stolen time, as I woke up at 2:30 (not on purpose) and decided to try to get some trim painting done that I've been working on since last Friday, but decided to update the blog instead. I think I'll go grab a few more winks before I have to go back to the office. :)

Happy running!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Hot Chocolate 15k Dallas - 2014

Lots of catching up to do, but I'm tired, so let's just bang it out:
  • Started a new job that I have to go into the office for about 3 weeks ago. Absolutely love it, but I definitely don't have the free time I used to. Lots of runners in the office, though, so that's fun. 
  • The same week I started my job, I started my speed training class on Tuesday and Thursday night. On night #3, I tripped on a curb and went splat on my face and broke my nose and scraped up my face. Not cool! 
  • Really enjoying the speed class, or at least getting a lot out of it. I don't exactly dread it, but it's hard work, so I don't really look forward to it either. It's been brutally cold and windy for a couple of sessions, but our coach is great and there's only 5 of us in the class, so we got lots of individualized attention. 
Anyway, on to the race report. Officially, my time was 1:36 with a 10:30/mile pace. Per my Runkeeper, it was 9.54 miles (rather than 9.3) in 1:36 at a 10:08 pace. Either way, it's a solid PR over my 10:52 pace in the DRC 15k in October.

My legs felt heavy at the start after waiting out in the cold for 30 minutes between trains (more on that at the bottom), but I found my groove. There's a big hill at mile 6 that should not be underestimated. It's long and tough. I pride myself on running hills when others have to walk, but I knew if I kept running, it was going to sap too much strength. Other than that, it was pretty flat and smooth sailing apart from the odd bridge. 

As for the race, it's a very nice route and very well organized. The swag is the best I've ever seen. Really nice hoodie pullover, a good mug (used a code to get that added on as a freebie), and of course, the "mug" of hot chocolate, and chocolate fondue with dipping goodies. No medal, but who needs it?

Already drank the hot chocolate and ate the marshmallow

Only two drawbacks I could find were:
  • If you're the type who doesn't like big, crowded races, you might skip this one. I was always able to run my pace due to a good corral system, but the route was busy, start to finish. Didn't bother me, but it's worth noting.
  • The packet pickup is a bit of a hassle. I work just a handful of miles away from Fair Park and it still took over an hour to drive there, park ($10), walk seemingly .75 miles to the expo, pick up my packet (a 3-step process), walk the .75 miles back to my car and drive back to work. And the hours are unfriendly to working folks: 2-7 Thursday, 11-7 Friday. And no pickup on race morning. I get why they don't have race day pickup, but still... it irritated the crap out of me to have to take so much time out of my work day for that.
Otherwise, I was very impressed with the whole shebang. It's an expensive race, but for the 15k, I think it's worth it. Then again, if you're just in it for the goodies, the 5k is a lot less work for the same reward.

The "Chocolate Station" that's only on the 15k course was just low quality, crumbly squares of bland dark chocolate. Skip those and bring a gel or something if you need sustenance for a race that length. I was very much wishing for one of my little Payday bars.

Another tip, if you're running it in Dallas and taking the train... take the one that gets you there at 7:25 or so. There's absolutely no need to get there any earlier, and the train that gets you there at 7 is packed to the gills. I could have slept an extra 20 minutes AND avoided standing an extra 20 minutes in the cold waiting for the next train.

As I usually am after a long, hard race like that, I'm crazy exhausted. Had to take a nap in the middle of this post! Most everything hurts and I need an Advil bath. Been a while since I raced. Forgot how worthless I am the rest of the day. Luckily, a couple of days before I have to run again. I think I'm gonna need them.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The End of an Era

Last month, almost 5 years to the day I played my first game in net, I played my last.

I suppose it's nice to go out on top, with a women's league championship, but if you know my passion for the position and how hard I worked in the early years to become even moderately adequate at the position, you can imagine how bittersweet it is.

There's not a lot of benefit to me getting into all the reasons, but it will have to suffice to say that it was taking more from me than it was giving and that, to me, is when it's time to walk away.

But there's no doubt that, through the years, goaltending gave me more than I ever expected. I met amazing people, I learned more about the position than I ever could without playing, I learned so much about myself (primarily the depths of my humility), and made friends for life with other goalies for whom I have so much respect and love. It really is a fraternity of folks who "get it" when nobody else does.

Since my last game, I feel like I've actually grown to appreciate the position more. I can watch goalies play with full appreciation for the skill set required, but when things go badly for them, my first thought is no longer, "Yeah, that happens to me, like, once a game. Ugh." In fact, just in general, I enjoy watching hockey more now because there is less "ugh"... I appreciate goals more because I'm not putting myself in the goalie's shoes all the time and feeling their pain.

It's hard to explain, but so far, no regrets. I do feel like I'm leaving a lot of hard-earned experience to waste, but I've come to grips with that aspect of it. Life is about evolution, right? It's time to emerge from my goalie cocoon and become the runner I want to be.

Best part: No hand-eye coordination required.

My beautiful mask sits on the credenza in my office now. One of these days, I'll send the back plate to Jessica's mom, but for now, it still means too much to me.

This week, I'll start selling my gear and spend the money on massages and race registrations. This prospect feels more like a catharsis than something sad, so I'm taking that as a good sign.

Say goodnight, Goalie Heather.

Goodnight, Goalie Heather.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

DRC Fridgid 10k 2014

This first club race of the year would normally just be a "go run, do your best, whatever" kind of race for me. Just burn some calories.

But because of the muscle activation work I had done last week, it carried more importance: The big test of all that work. Setting the baseline for the year. So, I raced the hell out of it and had a blast doing so.

So as not to bury the lead, my chip time was 1:03:35, which is about 10:25 minute/mile, but Runkeeper had the route at more like 6.5 miles, so I stopped it at 6.3 miles and got 9:58 minutes/mile. Really kinda makes me crazy how far off race routes are from the "advertised" mileage. Makes it hard to compare apples to apples, but whatever. I was 4th in the Athena division, because, of course, some tall, thin girl doesn't realize she can probably place in her age group with her 8:30 minute miles.

By comparison, the Saturday before, I did 6.2 at a 11:02 pace. So this work (plus race-day vroom) shaved a full minute off my pace. What's more, I had almost no hip or groin pain after. In the past, I would have been hobbling around with straight legs, unable to lift them without searing pain in my hips and groin muscles. Yesterday, I could tell I ran hard, but wasn't debilitated or cringing every time I stood up. My calves are sore, still today, but that wasn't an area we worked on. That might require another visit.

Anyway, as DRC races usually are, it was informal and pleasant. We did an out and back to the east, basically over the spillway and to the Boat House and back. My approach was to just reel in every girl I thought had any chance of competing as an Athena. And in the last half mile, I reeled in one who clearly wasn't, but I just wanted to beat her anyway.

Got a high five from a couple of guys I ran near most of the race. One was a guy in a Flower Mound Fire Dept. shirt, who apparently had been on my heels for most of the race. He approached me beyond the finish line while we were both winding down and catching our breath. Really felt special for him to compliment my race like that. Next to seeing my sub-10 pace, that was the highlight of my day.

The other was a guy pushing a stroller who I must have let pace me for 3 miles. Pretty heroic effort to be pushing a kid the whole time. Finally passed him on the spillway hill and didn't see him again. In fact, my fastest split was 9:50 for mile 5 where that hill was. Boom! Hill Crusher! :)

DRC training starts Saturday, and I'm looking forward to meeting my new group and, frankly, to slowing down my runs a bit. I've only run twice this past week, but they were hard runs. My calves are telling me I need to dial it back.