Training Update: September – Do You Remember?

Well, I don’t remember… how my runs shaped up, that is.

This past month was like Murphy’s Law for my running in some ways (thankfully no injuries, but everything else). People often ask how I juggle running, work and the rest of my life. It seems running got the short end of the stick this month.

That’s okay, though.

The world that we portray on social media portrays the glossy version of the truth. However, we all have real lives and get off track sometimes. Perseverance it’s what’s most important.

Part of the challenge was that Chris and I took a short vacation, and then the following weekend I planned a visit to my parent’s house and was trying to run around and catch up with friends all weekend. My training got a little off, and then I got confused which week in my schedule I was on. And now, I’m looking back at what I got done and I’m even more confused.

I do remember the good runs and the bad, so I’ll do my best to piece it together for you guys.

From our trip to Magnolia Market.

Week of September 3 (Week 10):

6 mi. | 50 min. tempo | 9 mi.

This week was the week we were catching up from vacation. I don’t know where my runs are – I could have sworn I did them, but they aren’t on either app I use (Garmin and Nike Run Club). I think I was just so relaxed that I either ran a couple on the treadmill and forgot to track it, or I didn’t get them done. It’s all good though, right?

Total mileage: I honestly don’t know!

Week of September 10 (Week 11):

4 mi. | 3 mi. pace | 10K race

Well, this was the week I went to visit my parents, and I didn’t quite make it to doing the 10K. The morning I set out to do it was hot and humid (true to Houston style). But I did go ahead and do a 9 mile for the following week when I got back to Austin. Though it was also a hot one, I got it done and it felt great.

Total mileage: 12.2 18.7 mi.

Week of September 17 (Week 12):

6 mi. | 5 mi. | 9 mi.

I basically switched the prior week and this week in terms of total mileage. I think the positive is that I got a lot done. I remember all my runs feeling slow, and this was really the week I started to feel a little burnt out on training and work. Plus, it was Chris’ birthday, and all I wanted to do was relax together. This training cycle went so well up until September, and I was starting to feel the fruits of my labor in the form of burnout. It’s been hot, I’ve been tired from work, and I’ve been short on time to tend to things at home.

So it was definitely a tough week, but onward and upward.

Total mileage:  20 10 mi.

Week of September 24 (Week 13):

6 mi. | 6 mi. | 10 mi.

One of these runs was one I broke into two shorter runs, due to time and a hectic schedule. However, the big win here was during my 10 mile (which I also had to shorten to 9.5 miles due to time), I ran 9.5 miles in the time it took to finish 9 miles during week 11. The weather was amazing at 65 degrees because we got a cold front. It’s really encouraging to look back and see the improvement, especially when this month was so inconsistent.

Total mileage: 22 21.2 mi.

And that’s a wrap! I feel like I’ve gotten back on track since September.

Again, onward and upward; the Nutrabolt Oktoberfest Half Marathon is this weekend. Cheers to kicking off the racing season!

Training Update: July – Feels Like Summer

Hi guys! Now that I’ve begun training again for the Nutrabolt Oktoberfest Half Marathon and the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Half Marathon this fall, I’m ramping up my training updates once again.

One training plan that’s been effective for is the Hal Higdon Half Marathon 3 schedule, so I’ll be following a modified version of that (to make it longer). This is the schedule I followed when I PR’d at the Austin Half Marathon in 2016, so it definitely worked for me. I love this training schedule because it’s hard to make it into the gym to run more than three times a week (can anyone relate?). Cross training is also easy to do at home, like when I’m walking my dog, or through other activities.

But enough about the training schedule – let’s get started with the recap.

Week of July 2 (Week 1):

4 mi. | 3 mi. | 6 mi.

Getting back in the saddle is tough, and the heat makes it tougher. I was proud to officially get through the first week of training without having to shorten any workouts. I even finished the week with a nice run early Saturday outdoors, though that was a one-time thing on account of the soul-crushing heat. Though my new hat certainly helped! 🙂

Total mileage: 13 mi.

Chris loves my new hat.

Week of July 9 (Week 2):

4 mi. | 30 min. tempo | 6 mi.

Ironically, someone just asked me how I manage to run outside during the summer. Well, as of week two of training, I’m officially no longer running outside this summer. After week one of outdoor heat that took all of my energy, I opted for a long run at the gym and it was totally worth it to be able to sleep in a couple of extra hours.

Total mileage: 13 mi.

The view outside my gym.

Week of July 16 (Week 3):

5 mi. | 3 mi. pace | 7 mi.

During my 3 mile run this week, I challenged myself for the first time by fully committing to run at a good race pace. I’ve always just run these workouts at whatever pace I could muster, but I really want the speed work to pay off this fall. This felt surprisingly great and was a successful run; doing 3 miles netting out at 10:49 felt like a big accomplishment, even with some cool down time. And 5 miles easy at 11:03 also marked progress.

Total mileage: 15 mi.

Love melted covfefe? Move to Texas.

Week of July 23 (Week 4):

4 mi. | 3 mi. | 6 mi.

How fickle does this sound? I’ve only been avoiding the miserable heat for a little while, but I’m already getting sick of the treadmill at week four. My gym also has been having issues with the cable, meaning no HGTV or Food Network; first world problems, am I right? But I have to recognize that I’m fortunate to have a nice, clean gym with great equipment to work out in during the summer. Otherwise, continuing to train would not be bearable. Rising above the treadmill boredom, thanks to Spotify, was the real win.

Total mileage: 13 mi.

Bathing Daisy (in my Oktoberfest shirt, of course) for the sole purpose of cooling off.

Week of July 30 (Week 5):

5 mi. | 4 mi. | 7 mi.

I’ve been feeling a little slower and sluggish this week, but that’s alright. My long run pace was faster thank last week’s, so I’ll count that as an accomplishment. Also, I had to break up my four mile run into two because I was feeling sick to my stomach; luckily, rain in the area meant we saw some cooler summer weather this week. I was thankful to seize the moment and take the second half of that run outside. Long run went okay, and I’m actually looking forward to more speed workouts next week.

Total mileage: 16 mi.

In other news, Chris and I put money down on a house, so we’re excited and busy with that! That actually happened in June, but I realized I forgot to tell you guys. It’s been a busy and fantastic summer, full of growth and new opportunity.

Other landmark of this month was that I finished ALL of my runs, which never happens. Usually, I have to skip a workout or two due to conflicts popping up, or I honestly lack motivation to keep it up, so I’m feeling confident that I can stick with this schedule. I am also excited and anticipating that this training will serve me well come winter.

Anyone else take it indoors during the summer? Cheers to training during the summer in Texas.

They Pulled out All the Stops: BCS Marathon Review

Disclosure: I received a complimentary race entry for the BCS Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews! All opinions are my own.

When I attended school at Texas A&M (can I get an “a-whoop!?”), I had several friends slave away to run the BCS Marathon. I always thought it would be cool to run a half, but never, in a million years, did I see myself running a full.

Because I couldn’t even run three miles at the time.

Four years later, and I’m back to do just that. Funny how life works.

Anyway, enough about me. Let’s cut to the chase. I’m here today to review the BCS Marathon in College Station, Texas.


Pre-Race

A turn of events caused us to be in Austin late Saturday before the race, so I actually wasn’t able to attend the expo. Head over to Live Slow Run Fast if you would like a better idea of what that was like.

I can provide more feedback on the pre-race morning experience. Being in College Station, parking is a non-issue. There are a variety of hotels close to the start line at Post Oak Mall, so I was able to sleep in until a glorious 5 a.m. alarm. We left our hotel around 6:15 and parked by about 6:25. It was just a short walk to the start line, where I met up with Jessica. I noticed there were plenty of porta potties as we made our way to the start line – there was hardly even a line!


The Gun Goes Off

Soon enough, it was time to run. Jessica and I ran together for the first 5 miles or so; it’s always a pleasure to get to run with a friend. We went our separate ways and it started to look like I just might be able to pull off a 5 hour marathon.

The route was scenic and ran all over the Bryan/College Station area. We ran through the historic neighborhoods, then moved on to downtown Bryan. Later on, we made our way out to the Tradition’s golf course, which offered more nature/scenic views. Finally, we ran back to campus as people started to hit the dreaded “wall.” It’s planned perfectly because student organizations come out to cheer people on and staff aid stations. And everyone wants to be near campus, so they are really excited!

I truly appreciated the pacers. At my first marathon, there were no pacers for the full marathon, which felt lonely toward the end. I’m sure it’s quite rare for a marathon so small (less than 1,000) to have pacers. The attention to detail really helped me stay motivated. The 5:15 pacer and I kept passing each other, and he was super cool. The marathon relay group also made the course feel a lot less empty, which was well-planned.

Aid stations were also fabulous. They all had water and Gatorade, as well as medical staff (with Vaseline for chafing). Every few aid stations, they offered food – Gu, orange slices, bananas, gummy candies, etc. The race was small enough that the stations weren’t crowded, either.

Personally, I didn’t hit the wall until about mile 21, because there were barely any hills. My race felt pretty great the whole way, but at mile 21, my leg started to cramp. I stayed the course, got some Tylenol and drank some Gatorade at the next [perfectly-timed] aid station, and was able to power through the rest of the race.

I had to make it up one last hill to the 26 mile marker, and then I sprinted back downhill to finish.


Finisher Party (and boy, was it time to part-ay)

The finish line crowd was also spirited, as was the announcer (who high-fived me). It felt like a much larger race. Immediately after crossing, I was able to find my husband and parents, who had come in from out of town. I received my beautiful medal, banged the PR gong (heck yeah, 20 minute personal record), and headed to the party.

The post-race party was filled with food and goodies. It was easy to find my finisher jacket, which was also pretty well-made. There were pizza rolls, beer, margaritas, breakfast tacos, the list goes on. It was just awesome. I also liked that there was a little bit of a walk back to the parking lot from Wolf Pen Creek, where the party was. It helped me to cool down, which I too often do not do.

Overall, I would recommend the BCS Marathon to anyone.

It’s almost as well done as the big ones, but with a small town heart. There is truly something for everyone. Plus, Aggies are very friendly, and that spirit proved true for this race.

However, due to the race occurring during the holiday season, I would personally appreciate a packet mailing option; yes, running a marathon is obviously a huge deal, but it’s the time of year where things come up. It would have been helpful to have a way to work that out.


Well, I did it, you guys! I ran my second marathon – the BCS Marathon. Did not know how I was going to make it at times, but I did. With a final time of 5:21:38, BCS was the fastest marathon I’ve run yet. It was also a great value for the price; marathons are expensive, but they pulled out all the stops, just like at a larger race.

Cheers to marathon PR’s in your old hometown.

Nutrabolt Oktoberfest Half Marathon Recap and Review

Disclosure: I received a complimentary race entry for the Nutrabolt Oktoberfest Half Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews! All opinions are my own.

As most of you know, I’ve been training for the BCS Marathon, with the Nutrabolt Oktoberfest Half Marathon as a bit of a benchmark midway through. This past weekend (October 16) I finally made my way up to College Station for the race. Not only did I look forward to seeing how my former home has changed, but also to experience a city that I haven’t seen yet on the run. 

Pre-race

The race did a great job of communicating updates leading up to the race, through emails and social media. They also ran several giveaways with their sponsors on Facebook, which kept race goers engaged with the page. Actually, this is incredibly smart, because if timely messages need to be communicated, any page must have an active audience for Facebook to push out content.

img_4099In terms of the expo, it was held at the Nutrabolt headquarters. There were only 4 booths in total, including Nutrabolt’s area and the race packet pickup – not exactly what I’d call an expo. While signup and packet pickup were easy, the expo wasn’t anything to write home about. However, since there is no other way to pick up your packet for this race, it must be done!

Side note: we stayed at the Holiday Inn. It was clean, comfy and a 10 minute drive from the race. The staff were also friendly and accommodating.

Racing time!

The race starts at 7, but it’s a good idea to aim to be at the start line by 6:30, if you are meeting people, no later than 6:45 if you are riding solo. Parking and walking takes an extra 10ish minutes. You must pass through the underground tunnel leading to the start line before 6:45 to make it on time (it’s part of the race course).

Porta potty lines were as expected; there are plenty for the number of race participants, but there is always a line. Anyway, there were tons of announcements and of course the national anthem, the Aggie fight song (whoop!), and a prayer. Just get there early if you want to chat or use the bathroom. Unfortunately, I was running late… between all of the announcements, Erica at Another Half Please and I couldn’t snag much of a pre-race conversation, but we did catch up the first mile of the race and afterward. The race started, and we were off!

The first several miles of the course, we caught a view of the most beautiful sunrise as we ran through campus. That always makes the early mornings worthwhile. The course itself was fairly flat, with mild hills. For this Austinite, the course wasn’t particularly challenging.

The race field was not too big, and not too small (about 650 total for the half). There was no crowding on the course. The aid stations were consistently every 1.5 miles, and they were staffed with pleasant, friendly volunteers. I did not see any long lines for porta potties either; just 1 or 2 people total in line at a time, so they had an appropriate amount. They even placed Gu’s appropriately at around miles 4 and 10, as wells as oranges and bananas. This is a nice touch and an area where the race excelled. Any race I’ve attended that has fuel on the course puts it at mile 7 – kinda late to start fueling for a half. At the end of the course, where the path winds through a residential neighborhood, volunteers stood throughout to guide runners (also much appreciated)!

Finishing strong…

In terms of my time goal, I tried not to set one until I felt it out. Race morning was sunny and between 71 and 75 degrees. I did well before the sun was overhead. I tried to push myself in the last half to see if I could at least finish between 2:25-2:30. The heat got the better of me and I had to finish conservatively. I ultimately finished at 2:36:12. Not Austin 2016 at all, but I’m happy to have finished uninjured and enjoyed the experience overall. The finish line was also inside Kyle Field, which was really neat. I didn’t stay in there long though, because I was ready to get out of the sun and into the post race party. 

My face after my husband found me, drenched in sweat!

Post Race – Time to party!

One of my favorite parts of the Nutrabolt Half was the post race party. Karbach beer was on tap (4 different types). It would have been nice to have a cider choice available, especially to serve gluten-free folks. However, I sat down with a wheat beer, Weisse Versa, which was refreshing and appropriate, as my time in College Station was the peak of my beer drinking days. For runners, they also had pretzels and bratwurst, complementing the Oktoberfest theme, in addition to the other runner food staples of bananas, muffins, etc. There was only a line for beer, which also made it easy to enjoy the party!

This recap cannot be complete without a note on the wonderful swag we received. Before the race, we received a nice Nutrabolt bag (similar to lululemon shopping totes). Inside the bag were a couple of FitJoy bars, and a large beach towel. After the race, we received a super soft, triblend finisher’s shirt, a ceramic beer stein and a sweet medal. Even though none of these pieces were super technical, they are actually pieces that I will use outside of running, which is awesome. I prefer to get a few quality pieces of non-running swag than one tech shirt/jacket that is not made well, because I’ll just never use it! I’ve been wearing the t-shirt to sleep in all week, actually.

Overall, it was worth the trip to Aggieland; I will absolutely make the trip back if given the opportunity in the future. Thanks again to the race director for making this possible. I’m excited to return to C-Stat for my 2nd marathon in December.

Today’s question – what was your hottest race experience?

Cheers to “fall” races in Texas (and the beers that follow)!

 

A Belated Blogiversary (and a Special Announcement)

Welp, it’s July, you guys! And you know what? Time has flown by and I just realized I never posted about my blogiversary.

It is hard to believe it’s been two years since I started training for races, running distances longer than 2 miles, etc. and of course, blogging! Reflecting on the past couple of years, I feel incredibly blessed to have come so far in such a short period of time, both in my blogging and running. I ran my first half marathon, then went on to run my first full marathon. Mostly, I have learned so much about myself (go figure).Me after I picked up my first race packet for the Houston Half Marathon!

Oh, and here is my super excited pace when I smashed my goal at the Hot Chocolate 15K earlier this year.

Through running, I have learned the value of hard work, commitment and perseverance. Pre-running, I was never able to stay committed to an exercise routine; not only have I gotten better at that, but I am also leaps and bounds better at understanding problems, and setting reasonable goals in order to solve them. Just this weekend, my husband and I proudly made the last payment on my student loans… We are now debt free! Of course, it has taken a lot of personal commitment from both of us to stay diligent together; I believe running has challenged me to be a better wife during tougher times, which has made times and accomplishments like these even sweeter. I could go on, but I will save the novel of words I could easily write for another time, because I have other exciting news to share this evening!

One of the highlights of this past year was running my first race in my new hometown of Austin, the Austin Half Marathon.

In light of my two year blogiversary, I have been aching to set a date for another race. While I don’t race THAT often, I do find that setting races gives me a solid goal to work towards. AND I really wanted to see what a difference nearly two years would make in my marathon time. I am excited to say that I’ve had the opportunity to sign up for not one, but two races on my list through BibRave.

The Nutrabolt Oktoberfest Half Marathon on October 16, 2016

AND

The BCS Marathon on December 11, 2016!

I am both excited and nervous at the same time, because I want to train hard and continue to set better records for myself. But I am mostly excited, because Aggieland holds such a special place in my heart (and the post-race party for the Oktoberfest Half will have special steins with 10 craft beers to choose from, so what’s not to like).

Right after I became a marathoner in Irving… Looking forward to doing that again!

Both of these races will take place in Bryan/College Station, Texas, which I am also super pumped about (’cause I’m an Aggie, duh)! Seriously though, Chris and I have been trying to find an excuse to take a weekend to go back, reminisce on our college days, and take part in all of the wonderful (and fairly inexpensive) things that there are to do in C-Stat. I plan to post info on things to do in BCS in a separate post from my normal reviews, so you can get a better idea of not only why the race is great, but why you should make a trip to College Station to run it.

Oh and then there are discount codes. If you already were planning a fall or winter half or full marathon, and this seems like it might be for you, you can use the code RAVE2016 (for the Nutrabolt Half Marathon it expires on 9/16 and for BCS Marathon, it expires 11/11). That makes the BCS Marathon $85 if you register before August 31, which is totally reasonable if you have been wanting to give it a go. If you think you might want to run either of these with me, feel free to ask any questions, or check out the race websites: nutrabolthalf.com and bcsmarathon.com.

What races are you looking forward to this fall?

Cheers to personal growth through physical fitness!

Statesman Cap 10K Race Recap & Review

Hope you’ve all had a great week so far! I’m coming back off of an awesome race at the Statesman Cap 10K, the largest 10K in Texas.

Similar to the Austin Half Marathon, this race had a little bit of everything I love about ATX… but it was shorter, which made it much easier to run. I was grateful for this, as I’ve been slacking on my training for the last month or so.

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Pre-Race:

Signups were easy-peasy, and there was actually a small expo with convenient times to pick up your packet! This would have been an accurate taste of the half marathon experience for someone who thinks they might want to run a longer distance someday. As far as swag goes, the tech shirt they gave us was nice, though it was a unisex shirt. That was pretty much it for swag, but the race only costs $45 tops if you sign up at the last minute, so I didn’t have super high expectations.

The Cap 10K also has a blog, which isn’t totally unique to this race, but I noticed they were updating it pretty regularly. Maybe this has to do with the Austin-American Statesman being the sponsor; whatever the reason, I liked it!

Race Day!:

With 20,000 runners trying to get to the start line, I highly recommend finding a method of public transportation to take. Traffic to public parking areas was awful! Luckily, though, the parking area at the Palmer Event Center was close to the Cap 10K starting line.

Once I got to the start line, it was easy to find my corral. I was in corral B, which was supposed to start at 8:10. Oh! That’s another thing that I loved about this race… it didn’t start until 8. I am not a morning person, so when races don’t start at the crack of dawn, that’s a huge bonus.

Anyway, the gun went off with much fanfare and excitement, and my corral entered the course at about 8:05. I’m not sure if 8:10 was an estimated start time, but whatever. I was fine with starting early – sooner to brunch, right?

IMG_3186The course itself was lively, and there was TONS of live music (more than at the Half). The first half was very hilly, and the latter half I felt pretty tired. Overall, the course was scenic with a nice view of the capital, 6th, and the skyline near the end. If you ever run this race, make sure you look back at some point; there is a SEA of people, and it is an incredible sight.

There was also great course support – lots of volunteers handing out water (no Gatorade though). The aid stations were spaced out fairly frequently, just under 1.5 miles from each other.

I came in at 1:06:47 (10:45 average pace). I’m sure training more consistently would have shaved a few minutes off my time, but I will take the improvement! It was great to get a benchmark time down for the 10K, and it is a time that I am proud of. Somehow, I was near the top 3rd percentile overall… maybe there are a lot of walkers, because I usually am lucky to get into the top half (not that it matters, I just like to look at the metrics).

Post-Race Party:

After crossing the finish line, there was a fab Cap 10K post-race party waiting! I met my husband and in-laws and we walked around a bit. There was food, water, live bands and many vendors. I didn’t stay too long, because brunch, but it was a great party. If you run the race with a friend, you would have a good time if you just stayed after to hang out!

IMG_3188And that was that for my first 10K! Definitely check it out if you are ever wanting to visit Austin and run a fun, not too intense race. Not sure if 10K is my favorite distance, but I would run this race again.

What’s your favorite race distance and why?

Cheers to trying shorter distances! 😉

Training/Life Update: Free to Travel!

Man, oh man! The last 2 months have been SUCH a whirlwind. [I say this a lot, but] where has the time gone?! It’s currently April 10th, and I just finished the Cap 10K today. Once again, life has been crazy and I’ve been traveling a ton.

I honestly did not complete much formal training for the 10K. Really, I’ve only been running a couple times a week (at least 3 miles when I can get a short workout in and a 5-7 mile long run on the weekend). No real improvements to report, but I’m okay with that. The Cap 10K was my first ever 10K, so I was excited for the experience. It’s the largest 10K in Texas, with almost 20,000 participants. More on the race will come in an upcoming post.

Part of the reason for the absence of training updates/a consistent schedule is because I have been busy, busy busy, and traveling like crazy. So, instead of doing a training update, I’m going to spend time focusing on my travels over the past couple of months.

img_2732First, my trip to Waco and Magnolia Market! I took a day trip with some ladies I know through a mutual friend. If you’re not familiar with Magnolia Market, it’s the retail store owned by Joanna Gaines from HGTV’s Fixer Upper. We arrived early on a Saturday, between 9 or 10, and were fortunate that the line was nonexistent. Inside was a shabby-chic decorator’s heaven. They even sell those custom signs you see on the show in practically every house they renovate. 

The market is all about the experience; I didn’t want to spend money on everything I saw, but I enjoyed the decorations and atmosphere (like this garden area – only Joanna could make salad look this pretty).

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After we had our fill (I bought a t-shirt and a cute milk glass vase), we grabbed brunch at Cafe Cappuccino, a local Waco spot down the way. I had the BEST sweet potato pancakes; highly recommend the place if you ever find yourself in Waco. Then, it was time to drive back to Austin. I can’t wait to come back to Waco when I have more time to explore, and a house of my own to decorate. Make sure you get to Magnolia Market early though – when we left, the line was wrapped around the block to the nearest stoplight.

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Then, in February, we went away for our anniversary to Cancun. I love all-inclusive, and this was no exception. It was the perfect temperature, the food was delicious, and the drinks were on point. One of my favorite parts of the week was our actual anniversary – we adventured into the water for a snorkeling excursion that was fantastic, and ended the day with a relaxing sunset massage.

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The only thing I would have changed was I wish we could have stayed a whole week, but I was so glad we got to go to begin with. That, and I was face down in the water so long for snorkeling that my backside got a bad sunburn (oops!). It was really nice to get away with no responsibilities. Just the beautiful white sand, crystal clear water, and of course, my wonderful husband.


Finally, my spring travels ended with a trade show in Chicago. I’d never been to Chicago and it was incredible. It reminds me a lot of New York City, but much cleaner and with friendlier people. I had a few hours off to explore one afternoon, so I got to walk from my hotel to The Bean/Cloud Gate. I looked like a total tourist, I’m sure, because I was taking pictures of the Magnificent Mile the whole time (see below). The architecture was just so cool – art deco details, classic sculptures, modern skyscrapers – there was a little bit of everything.

And then, there was the Giordano’s pizza. That was also fantastic. I’d sneak some back for every pre-race carbloading session if it were possible.

They even have a Garmin store – I’ve never seen one of those before!

Other than working and getting plugged into a church, that’s the majority of what I’ve been up to. I love to travel – it’s freeing to immerse yourself in another place – but I’m also glad to be home for awhile and continue settling in Austin.

Did you do any traveling this Spring? Where’d you go?

Cheers to exploring the world, through running and otherwise! 🙂

Austin Half Marathon Recap and Review

When I found out we’d be moving to Austin, I wanted to jump in and experience the city, so I quickly signed up for the Austin Half Marathon! This time last year, I was knee-deep in marathon training. After finishing the marathon in April, I decided to focus on half marathons for awhile. My fall race was (sadly) cancelled. After running a “virtual race” to earn my medal, I wanted to keep working to get better, so when I finally got to run a real race again, the victory was that much sweeter.

I trained hoping to a.) improve my overall time and b.) stick with a schedule more consistently. When the Austin Half Marathon weekend rolled around, I felt more confident and prepared.

Pre-race (jitters and all)

From signing up to packet pickup, the pre-race process was a breeze and well organized. The race admission fee was not extremely steep, considering it is a large race in the city. I also saw consistent updates and emails on social media in the month/weeks leading up to the event.

One aspect that drew me to the Austin Half was that they had a large expo. The expo took place at the Palmer Events Center on both a Friday and Saturday, which was accommodating for runners that were traveling and Austin residents. Paid parking is available, but the line to get in is quite long – you’ll get there faster by parking elsewhere and walking.

The expo was expansive, with a variety of vendors and local running companies. When I went, there was a Q&A session taking place with the race ambassadors, and several other presentations were scheduled for the day (including live music). It was even dog-friendly! If I had known that, I totally would have brought my beloved pooch.

Checking in was a simple, efficient process. The swag was also surprisingly good – a nice tech shirt and drawstring backpack that I think I will actually use (marathoners were gifted an even sweeter one-shoulder bag). Then, thanks to a handy pamphlet, parking and finding the start line the next day were a piece of cake.

Race Day

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After taking my place at the start line in the appropriate corral, the gun went off promptly at 7 a.m. for both races. The corrals were not strict; we were instructed to gather ’round the appropriate marathon pacer, and everyone gradually funneled through the starting line into the course. The start line was crowded, but all the participants were evenly dispersed into the course, making navigation
smooth sailing.

The 13.1-mile course was basically uphill or downhill at any moment – steady incline for the first 3 miles, then a steady downhill for 3 more… some flat-ish miles and then rolling hills to finish off the race. The hills at the end aren’t nearly as long – pretty short in fact – but boy, are they steep! I advise training on hills (especially if you’re coming from somewhere like Houston). The positive for me was that I didn’t face the knee aggravation that sometimes follows me on flatter surfaces. The final hills were a challenge, but there was a crowd to keep me going. Below, I’m breezing through the downhill halfway point.

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My favorite part of the half marathon was the energy! The scenery was the epitome of “Keep Austin Weird.” And there were random bands on the sides of the course playing music – after all, Austin is the Live Music Capital of the World. There was no shortage of spectators, either, and the pamphlet from my packet even pointed out where spectators could spot runners at multiple points. Seeing my husband a couple of times was a nice surprise (usually he sees me off at the start line and catches me at the finish).

My one complaint was there were not nearly enough porta potties. I’ve been to races with far more on the course… and I had to result to drastic measures as a result of my over-hydration (oops).

I ambitiously hoped to clock in at under 2:20 if everything went perfectly, but, alas, it didn’t. My secondary goal was to finish under 2:24 (sub-11 minute miles) and to push myself through the water stations/not walk too long. I’m proud that I did accomplish both of those goals, despite my 5 minute detour. I crossed the finish in 2:21:59 – shaving almost 10 minutes off my PR (personal record) of 2:31:34! So, yeah, it’s possible to do well on a challenging course, and hard work still pays off, even if race day doesn’t go as planned. The finish line was totally surreal; it was very professional (and it made me feel as if I was crossing the finish of a much larger race… but maybe that’s because one of the marathon winners crossed at the same time I did, haha!).

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Post Race Party

There really wasn’t much of a post-race party. You can bring a water bottle to fill up, or you can drink water from little sippy cups. Supposedly, this effort reduces waste – typical of Austin – but I found it inconvenient. They have runner food (mini bagels, chips, bananas, etc.). You can have your photo taken, but you’ll have to pay for the proof later if you want a copy. Then, it’s time to venture outside of a designated runner area to meet your people. I found the PR gong in one of the few vendor booths, and there is a food truck area where you can pay for food, but that’s really about it. Nothing too special… My husband and our friends high tailed it to our favorite pancake spot, Kerbey Lane, and that was that.

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Overall, the Austin Half Marathon provides a tour of the sights that make Austin uniquely Austin. It would be a fun race to travel for, and if you’re up for the hills, I’d recommend it!

Cheers to setting new records in a new city!

 

Hot Chocolate 15k Recap and Review

Disclosure: I received a complimentary race entry for the Hot Chocolate 15K as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews! All opinions are my own.

Howdy friends! Last weekend, I had the sweet treat of running the Hot Chocolate 15K in Dallas, Texas. This is the shortest race distance I have run to date, and I think I might be hooked. 🙂 When I heard about the opportunity to run the Hot Chocolate 15K, I quickly researched the race and discovered there was chocolate on the course, cool swag, etc. They had me at “chocolate”, and I signed up! My expectations were pretty high, because I read so many things that were positive about the race, including the great swag, fun atmosphere and all-around deliciousness.

PRE-RACE:

Signing up itself was pretty easy. Ram Racing has a portal and ways to change your jacket size. I had a couple of questions that I messaged the social media person about, and they were fairly responsive. Leading up to the event, they also gave consistent updates until race day. I even got a training plan sent to my inbox every week, which was nice.

One issue I did run into was with the expo. I was not able to attend because I recently started a new job and couldn’t take time off yet, so I had to drive in Friday after work for the Saturday race. The expo on Friday closed at 6, which seems really early to me (I could not have been the only person in the state of Texas trying to drive in at that time). There is a way to have your packet mailed to you, so I had to pay an extra $15 for that service.

Ultimately the packet came almost 2 weeks before the race, which was nice. However, the jacket I received was huge. If you are able to attend the expo, you can switch it out with other sizes that are available. My options were to either pay to send the jacket back and pay again to have the right size sent to me, or have a friend switch it. These are not totally unreasonable options, but since I didn’t have any Austin friends attending, I would have had to ship it to a friend in Dallas. At that point, the jacket seemed like something I could replace with all of the shipping charges I was going to incur, so it wasn’t worth it. These issues could have been avoided, though, if they would have the expo open later. They could open later in the morning if they had to worry about staffing shifts. I don’t see this being an issue for non-traveling folks, but it was inconvenient due to my travel schedule.

RACE DAY:

While traffic was a bit scary for some of my fellow Bib Rave Pros, we were fortunate and got in pretty quickly. Around 7:15, we started the walk to the start line. It was a pretty long walk. My poor husband didn’t realize he was going to have to walk a 5K to see me off. We finally made it, and I had to use the bathroom. Luckily, there were SO MANY PORTA POTTIES. The line went super fast, and I made my way over to the starting line, met up with some other BRP’s and new friends and found my corral. Side note: it was so great meeting Sarah (Run Ginger Run), Jen (Crazy Cupcake Runner), Erica (Another Half Please) and a new friend, April, at the race. 

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As for the race itself, I had A BLAST! The gun went off, and one by one the corrals entered the course. Aid stations were spread out roughly every 2-2.5 miles. I was nervous about this, but because it was chilly and I was well-hydrated, it ended up being fine. nuun at the aid stations was a nice touch, as was the delicious chocolate and marshmallows.

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The course was not overly scenic the first few miles, which were also flat. I semi-held back my pace, while feeding off the energy of the large runner crowd. Around mile 3 or 4, we got to a gorgeous, semi-hilly neighborhood and I felt fantastic! The hills here were nothing big for me, now that I’ve been running in Austin. I was passing people, but they might give Houston/flat area runners trouble. Miles 3-6 flew by, and soon enough, I was starting the last 5K with a lot of energy! We ran through another flatter area that wasn’t exactly scenic. The course reminded me of Houston with its diversity. The last large hill of the course peaked with a view of the Dallas skyline and Texas Star ferris wheel, so I stopped, took a picture, and pressed on to the finish line.

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Coming into the race, I realistically hoped to finish in 1:42:00, if it was a good day. My last 9 miler, I ran in about 1:39. I shattered that goal by over 4 minutes and my final time was 1:37:18 (10:27 average pace)… What the what?! I guess my half marathon training has paid off, as that’s over a minute per mile faster than my half marathon PR pace.

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Chris almost missed me at the finish line because he thought I was going to be coming a couple minutes later. Luckily I saw him and he was able to snap some quick pics.

POST-RACE:

I crossed the finish line, took my awesome medal, and found Chris (see my super-excited face below). We picked up my finisher mug, which was delicious and the lines were speedy! The hot chocolate was a perfect way to toast a great race. Skinny Pop was also giving samples away, which was wonderful. Tip: if you want to eat your snacks without freezing (or having your fondue freeze), go take a seat by the bag check. It’s warm in there! We weren’t able to stay too long for the post-race party because we had to check out of our hotel, but everything we saw was awesome.

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Overall, it was well-done, had a great vibe, and met almost all of my expectations. I loved the race itself and distance, though I thought the pre-race procedures needed some tweaking (and the jacket quality had room for improvement). I will absolutely try to make it back next year and recommend it to friends. It would be a great introduction to a longer distance, or a first race!

Now, I’m looking ahead to Austin tomorrow. Hoping I can surprise myself again on the hilly course, but starting to get nervous.

Have you ever surprised yourself during a race?

Cheers to new distances, new races, and new records! HUGE thanks to BibRave and Hot Chocolate/Ram Racing for this opportunity.

Becoming a Runner Step 2: Finding a Schedule that Works

Want to tackle a half marathon, 10K, or even a full marathon in 2016? You’ve probably spent some time trying to find a method to help you accomplish that goal. Or perhaps you haven’t! Either way, I’m here to try to help take some of the guesswork out of that process, so you can get to running!

The longer I have been running consistently, the more I realize that running works for me because I’ve found a schedule that fits my lifestyle. When I was training for a marathon, I was running at least four days a week, and I did not have much time for anything else at a certain point. It was worth the commitment to accomplish my goal, but that rigorous workout schedule was one that I knew I couldn’t sustain for years and years.

Ask yourself the following questions to help determine the right distance and schedule for you.

What are my goals? Are they realistic?

If your goal is to go from 0 miles to a marathon runner in 3 months, that’s probably not realistic. However, maybe 0 to 6 miles is possible! Basically, the longer the distance you want to run, the more time you need. If you are starting from zero and want to run a marathon, give yourself a year (or two!). If you want to run a 10k, then that might be possible in 2 months. Just set your goal, and give yourself more than enough time to accomplish it. When I started running, one practical way I figured out how much time I needed was by finding the longest training schedule I could find, and giving myself an extra month in case I end up facing injury (I did this for the half and full marathon).

How often do I want to run?

There are many variations of training schedules for just about any distance. Are you super busy, like me? 5 days a week of running is probably not going to work for you! You’ll run a little longer/more miles each day if you run 3 days a week, but you won’t have to go to the gym nearly as often. If you work out every morning before work, then 5 days a week might work a lot better for you. Just find a balance that fits your current schedule.

Do I want to incorporate other activities?

If you do, it might be wise to pick a 4 day a week plan and incorporate 1 day of cross training, like a class, in place of a shorter run (3 days running, 1 day CT). Regardless of whether you want to incorporate a cross training option, or not, I would definitely make sure you are lifting weights some time during your training, so that all of your muscle groups stay strong.

Ready to get started? Here is a list of resources that you can use to find the a schedule that works for you:

Runner’s World

Hal Higdon

Competitor.com

Cool Running

Jeff Galloway

Women’s Running

Most of these resources should have free options available. I have used Hal Higdon’s several times and really like his plans. Keep in mind that all of these websites (and individual plan authors) will have different philosophies on what works best. Jeff Galloway, for example, is built around the idea that taking walk breaks can help prevent injury and burnout. With any plan that sounds like a fit for you, try to steer clear of plans that have mileage increases of more than 10% each week. 10% is not a scientific number, but for most people, this number strikes the balance of  increasing mileage while building cardio endurance, without causing too much stress on the body too soon.

What kind of running regimen works for you?

Cheers to another year of great running!

Disclaimer: I am not a physical therapist, running coach, or a medical professional. I’m a runner sharing my personal experiences, and this does not replace advice from a licensed healthcare professional or running coach. Please consult a licensed professional if you are in need of in-depth advice on an exercise regimen that works for your personal needs.