Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Totals

We both made a lot of positive changes this year!  2014 will only get bigger and better!

Total miles: 1341
Race miles: 107.6
First: 50k -- Texas Trails Endurance Run

Total miles: 430
Race miles: 19.3
First: Half marathon -- Run Girl 13.1

Saturday, December 28, 2013

12k of Christmas Race Report

We really love events with kids' 1k races.  The 12k of Christmas was an excellent fit for our family.  Unfortunately none of the courses were stroller legal, so Christian ran the 12k and the oldest three were registered for the 1k.  The day of the race was supposed to have tons of rain, but it was just drizzling so we headed down to Discovery Green undaunted.  We parked in a hotel parking garage, which gave us a nice skywalk to the race start and lovely restrooms.  I know I sound like I'm obsessed with bathrooms, but if you have four kids you tend to prioritize clean bathroom availability.

There were tons of runners in holiday costumes and you could take your picture with Santa!  Since I'm not putting the kids up on this blog, here's the cropped version.

Even in the rain the kids had a great time playing on the playground.  Christian ran the race with a broken shoelace that refused his attempts at mid-race repair.  Despite the shoe issue, Christian finished in 1:02:29.  The race medal was very festive and the finisher shirt was a regular cotton long-sleeve shirt.

The kids' 1k was scheduled for 10:00.  I always prefer races like the Sugar Land Turkey Trot that have the kids' race before the main race.  It's so short that even the last finishers are done quickly and then the kids don't have to wait around after the adult race.  For some reason there was confusion about the start balloon being deflated and the kids' race starting at the finish, but lightning quickly rendered that moot. Since we were standing at the finish, the kids asked for their medals in the pouring rain and a volunteer handed them to us.  

The kids were real troopers about walking back to the parking garage in the rain.  Despite the weather and the cancelled kids' 1k, everyone had a great time.  We'll definitely be back next year, hoping for better weather!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

RunGirl 13.1 -- Race Report

Parking was plentiful and right next to the start.  They had a banner up where tons of people were taking pictures.  Apparently everyone wanted to use the real park bathrooms instead of the port-o-lets so there were some epic lines.

The looped course made it fun to watch the front runners as I worked through the miles.  The course was well marked and patrolled.  The best part of the aid stations was the tissue box people!  I know it sounds prissy, but being able to grab tissue on a cold day made me so happy.  Luna had a sponsored cheering area with music and inspirational posters, like "Those pants make you look fast." or "You dreamt it, now do it."  My favorite was "Embrace your pace."  I really needed to hear that today.  Everyone at the aid stations was friendly. The only thing that wasn't perfect was that mile marker 9 was misplaced.

I didn't get to stay long because my kids were really cold.  There was plenty to eat (I managed to grab an egg burrito and some sort of rice/egg bowl) and there was a photo station with props that looked like it would have been really fun.  There were also raffle prizes.  You could also buy some of the previous years' swag items, which I did gladly.

My Race
I went out excited but trying not to go too quickly, only to find that my first mile (by course markers) was about two minutes faster than my usual training pace.  I figured I'd gone out too fast with the pack and just kept trying to keep my cadence up.  When the second and third mile came in even faster, I realized that maybe I could keep this pace up -- it's amazing what a race can do for you!  If I could keep it up I would definitely be under 3 hours.  I got to see Christian and the kids again just after mile 5 and was able to drop off the layers I'd shed.  It was such a boost to see them that I got my fastest mile of the day.  

At the halfway point I noticed I was at 1:22:06, which meant that if I didn't slow down much I could make a 2:45 finishing time.  I had set some goals for myself in 15-minute increments from 3:30 to 2:30 and wasn't expecting to get anywhere near my *fourth* goal until next fall.  With every mile I calculated how much I'd gone over or under my goal pace to finish at that time and recalculated what I'd have to average for the remaining miles.  What, you don't do math in your head while you walk? When I hit mile marker 9 I had a pace that was almost two minutes slower than my mile 8.  Instead of freaking out (which I wanted to do) I told myself that since I hadn't noticed any huge difference in my pace it must be the course and not me.  Sure enough, I hit mile 10 almost two minutes faster than my mile 8 pace and the split for that mile was faster than I'm currently capable of walking.  

With that resolved, I buckled down because my paces were drifting a bit slower and I was not going to give up on my time goal now.  This is when my legs really started to hurt, but I kept pushing as hard as I could.  When I went past the Luna cheering station the fourth and final time around mile 12.5, I started crying.  I have no idea why I was so surprised that I was going to finish, but it just felt so unreal.  I managed to stop crying before I got to mile 13 because I wanted to finish happy.  I also just barely had enough time to finish under 2:45.

With my elbows flying and walking as fast as humanly possible (if I am not running, I'm not running, period) I finished at 2:44:56.  I grabbed my medal and slowed down and my legs felt like they weren't mine.  A bit of very slow walking helped that, though.  I think my hips and knees aren't going to be the happiest with me for the next few days, but it was so worth it to find out that I was able to do.

What I Learned
My elbows really stick out too far when I'm pushing my pace, so I'm going to focus on keeping them in check while I train for my next race.  I'm also going to work on increasing my cadence.  I don't know if I'm going to do every race trying to push as hard as I absolutely can, either.  The second half was not fun at all.  Christian says I will get used to the distance and it won't feel so hard after I've done a few more half marathons.  We'll see if he's right.  

Monday, December 9, 2013

Salted Bananas

I've always enjoyed being outside - not necessarily outdoors (camping, etc), but I just really like being outside regardless of weather or conditions.  This is one of the reasons I decided to go to school in Colorado.  The other reason was that the college application to my alma mater (Colorado School of Mines) was (a) 2 pages long, (b) $25, and (c) required no essay.  The location of this school happens to be nestled between two table mountains and the foothills of the Rocky Mountains - a paradise for someone who enjoys being outside.

Fast forward 3 years, and I was watching 60 Minutes, I believe, about the Marathon du Sable in Africa.  I remember watching people run through sand and pushing themselves, only to rest in the medical tent getting IV fluids, then going out and attacking the dunes some more.  My first thought seeing these athletes was "this is bad ass" - that's when I got bitten by the ultra bug.  I ran throughout high school, college, and graduate school.  Not competitively, mind you, but just ran for fun.  I'm not particularly good at it - I just derive great pleasure from it.  I like being outside, even in there rain, moving across the ground.  I played other sports as well, wrestling, tennis, rugby, but I always enjoyed running.  I've always felt liberated that I can, if I needed to or wanted to, just go by my feet.  Unfortunately, I am not built like an archetypal runner, but rather, more like a flanker in a rugby scrum (which position I played).  I ran anyway, even though I'm sure I look like a trash barge sailing off towards Staten Island.

I ran until we moved to Texas when graduate school finished.  That was in May 2005, and it was still cold in Colorado, but already steamy in Houston, at least to my temperate senses.  I tried running, but couldn't keep my paces and quickly got discouraged.   Couple discouragement, a first child, starting a career, and frequent travel and you start to put on weight.  I was probably about 190 lb. when we moved to Houston.  I peaked out last November when our 4th child was born in November 2012 at about 275 lb.  Too much brisket, duck, and sloth (the deadly sin type, not the animal).

At the behest of my best friend from college who works in the same facility as me, I began running with her at lunch.  Three times a week, and man did it suck.  Any fitness I had was laid bare out there on the running path behind my office, and it was pitiful.  Kind of like trying to gather kindling, and coming up with 5 cents and some pocket lint.  With a little help from my lovely wife (who was still recovering from a caesarian birth), I continued running.  Finally, a co-worker asked if I'd like to do a half marathon with them.  I didn't have enough time to ramp the milage up, but I found another one in April.  She signed me up and put together a plan from modifying a Hal Higdon plan.  

My last half Marathon was the 2004 Nike Boulder Backroads Half Marathon.  I trained and finished in 2:07 hrs.  I was pleased, and didn't run another one until the April 2013 race - the 2013 Davy Crockett Bear Chase.  I trained and strictly stuck to my training plan - only missing workouts for a short bout of strep throat.  Finally April 21st rolled around, and a friend of ours came up to the race as well.  We raced, and I was able to pull out a 1:59:10 half.  With no speed work, I was able to trim about 8 minutes from my half PR and I felt electrified.  I would have been happy to make roughly the same time, but for me to drop under two hours made me feel giddy.  At this point, I decided that I needed to try for something that I had meant to do for years but never worked out the courage to try.  

Brynne signed me up for the Soler's Texas Endurance Trails Race.  In previous years, this race was the hallowed Sunmart - a huge ultra marathon in Huntsville State Park just north of Houston.  Near the famed facility where many a murderer met their untimely demise.   I signed up and told co-workers that I had done so.  I wanted accountability.  I wanted to basically remind myself that if I let myself down, then I'd have to fess up that I blew it.  I trained and diligently worked towards this race. 

This last Saturday, I towed the line at 7:30 AM in 35 degree weather in a forest.  A lot different from the last time I raced there in June for a 15 km trail race.  Hopefully different, because last time I raced there I needed 2 shots of steroids to help clear up a poison ivy rash that made me look like a lycra clad leper.  The race began and I started talking with people around me.  Another guy like me who had lost about 75 lb. running this year, a guy who was a personal trainer, and psychiatrist, and lots of other friendly people out on the trails.  

In the sake of friendliness, I turned around at 18 miles to encourage a runner on the 20 km race who looked like he was having a terrible time.  I tripod, and caught myself, but felt a pain in my right knee.  The pain subsided, but soon I felt twinges in my right quad.  Soon thereafter, I'm sure because of a modification to my gait from the pain, I started to feel another pain in my other quad as well.  This pain haunted me through out the last 12 miles of the run.  Where I had started at low 10:00 min/mi and worked into 9:50 min/mi for the first & second 10 miles, I was reduced to a Fred Sanford hobble after several hills.  The pain was relieved by stretching the quads, as well as lots of pleading.  Finally, I was able to run without stopping for about the last 5 km, when the pain vanished after 3 minutes of stretching.  And several salted bananas.  

One feature I had heard about endurance running events was the veritable smorgasbord of food at aid stations.  This race was no different.  Fritos, Wheat Thins, chips, cookies, bananas, and a bowl of salt.  I know that bananas have salts that help with muscle soreness, and I also had read that salt seems to help with cramps.  I thought to myself, why not roll the bananas in salt and eat it?  These yellow hypertension bombs went down pretty easy, and I have reason to believe they carried me to the finish line in about 5:37 hrs.  

I've learned some lessons for my next 50km race in February.  

* Don't turn around.  Just don't.  
* Salt is your friend.  I'm not going to make that mistake.  I didn't intake much salt, and I have a fairly low salt diet.  My blood pressure is like 90/60.
* Eat early and often.
* Lose 20 more lbs.  Even if it means going to bed hungry.  Your body will thank you on the hills.

RunGirl 13.1 -- Swag Report

I love race stuff.  I loved race stuff when it was all cotton t-shirts back in the day, too, so I'm pretty easy to please.  I even still have my shirt from my first triathlon, the Pigman Sprint Triathlon in Palo, Iowa. Oh, 1999, you were a good racing year.  I wore that shirt to bed the night before this race because I was so nervous before that one, too.  But back to the present, and the fun swag from the RunGirl 13.1 race.

It's cute, it's pink, it says that I can go 13.1 miles.  The singlet is comfortable and I can see it getting a ton of use through the summer as I replace my generic running clothes with race souvenirs.

The house socks are cozy and I was so impressed that they actually fit me -- I have size 10.5 feet!  Really tiny ladies might find them too roomy.

The custom pendant is really cute, the chain is sort of cheap.  I don't mind, since I'd rather have them put the bulk of the cost into the custom part.  I'm thinking about putting it on some waxed cord.

My husband is a huge car sticker collector.  He also drives a tiny car, which makes his collection look even crazier.  This is the first sticker I decided to put on, mostly because I'm proud of finishing my first half and the pinkness implies that it's my sticker and not my husband's.

Race Number
I love custom race numbers -- this one wasn't customizable by me (I choose MOM OF FOUR when I get the chance) but it does say my name, which I think is fun.

Everything Else
There was a tiny s'mores Luna bar I shared with my daughter and this sample of something called Shave Secret that must come in a lot of race packets because we have a half dozen of them sitting around.  People who enter races value hair removal?  I have no idea.  One of these days I will have to get around to trying it.

Pink, glittery, removable charm.  Although this race also had a pendant, I like the idea of being able to wear part of your medal all over the place.  Back when I used to be an age-grouper with a chance of placing I'd wear my medal for the entire car ride home.  Now, I will never win my age group again unless I'm the only one in it, but I really like the charm that lets you keep wearing it as a reminder of your accomplishment.

Bonus Swag
Since this was my first half marathon and I find race gear incredibly motivating I also bought some things from previous races they had for sale.  Hat, gloves and Polar water bottle.  I will be wearing all of these things decades from now just like my Pigman shirt.

Saturday, December 7, 2013


As I gathered up the enormous pile of clothes I was bringing to combat the elements at my first half marathon tomorrow, I found myself looking at everything there and thinking there was no way that could all be mine.  Those things surely belong with some faster, fitter, more confident person.

Never mind that those shoes have carried me almost 300 miles or that I've had that yellow rain jacket since college.  I felt like such a poser, like this race was for anyone but me.  In the course of processing all of this, I ended up dragging out my junior high yearbook (Go Vikings!) and forcing poor Christian to look at the PE teacher who was so discouraging to me.  In 7th grade (aka the year where halfway through I got all self conscious and realized my many, many limits) I ran for student council, having no notion that I wasn't one of the cool kids and stood no chance.  I tried out for basketball in sixth grade because my best friend wanted to, which is hilarious in hindsight given my complete lack of coordination.  I'd heard on the announcements on our school TV show (we were SO cool!) that cross country was starting up.  I asked my PE teacher if anyone could join the team and she said "Not anyone as slow as you!"  Maybe she was having a bad day, maybe I was an annoying 12-year-old who complained in PE too much.  For some reason, although she wasn't even the coach of the team, I let that convince me that I shouldn't even try.  Looking back I'm pretty sure cross country was a no cut sport, so why she would be discouraging to a girl about sports as a PE teacher is beyond me.  This was less than two decades after Title IX passed -- school sports were supposed to let girls learn that they had potential!  I moved my focus to the things that came easily, that brought me immediate praise.  It wasn't until college that I started going to the gym and got bored of step aerobics and finally decided to step outside and run.

So, tomorrow, this one's for Mrs. T and all the other kids who didn't think they could hack being athletic.  I may still have many, many limits.  At least now I can talk myself into ignoring them.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Race 1: December 2013

RunGirl 13.1

December 8, 2013
Houston, TX
4 hour course limit

Why This Race?

Before my oh-so-triumphant return to racing last spring, I'd only done one women's race -- the Danskin triathlon.  I didn't really care about the concept of women's racing, other than that I preferred races with gender-specific wave swim starts.  Getting mauled by some huge guy in the water was not how I liked to start my races.  Since becoming a mom, though, I see something so wonderful about racing with a bunch of other women.  It felt like a kinder, gentler place to start back and I had a great race.  This isn't to say that women's races aren't competitive (I'm sure they are at all levels, even down to a middle-of-the-pack competition between friends) or that men aren't supportive (my husband brings our kids out to watch me race and nothing says supportive like watching four kids in the high-energy, crowded environment of a race).  The races just have a sense of camaraderie, especially at the back of the pack.  I figured that will help me with any first half marathon jitters I'm having.  Also, everything at this race is pink.  A cliché, perhaps, but I love pink.  The pink 13.1 sticker that comes in the race bag will also subtly let everyone who ever sees my minivan know that I earned that sticker, not my husband.


My obvious goal is just to finish.  The best thing about a new race distance is the automatic PR you get from finishing!  I am setting a stretch goal of finishing in under 3:30, since two races I'm doing next summer have that shorter course limit.


My plan is to try to start slowly and have a negative split.  I'm adding nothing new -- my shoes have about 300 miles on them, I've worn everything I'm wearing on long training walks.  I'm carrying one water bottle and a couple of gels so I don't have to stop on the course.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that they still make tangerine PowerGel, since I last ate one over a decade ago.  Christian is always trying new gels, but I like to stick with my tried and true favorite.  For a while I felt that since I am walking, I didn't need to replace calories.  Christian talked me into trying it when I did my first 8-mile walk and it made such a difference with how I felt at the end.  

Starting the week after my Esprit de She race, I started training with this race in mind.  Assuming I make my three walks next week, I will have put in 289.75 miles specifically working up to this race -- that number somehow makes me feel more ready.  I can hardly believe I'm going to do a half marathon a week from today!