Run for the Water: a Ten-Miler to Remember

Your brain during a 10-miler:

Mile one: alright, let’s make this a good race.”
Mile four: “gee whiz, I hope the next 6 go by fast.”
Mile seven: “can I just be done already?”
Mile nine: “when can I do this again?”

That pretty much sums up my experience during the Run for the Water 10-miler.

Ready for race week with my fave pupper.

Don’t let the inspiring beneficiary, spot-on swag, or nice course amenities fool you – this race is a tough one. Despite the challenges at hand, the Run for the Water is an excellent way to sprint into race season.

My #flatrunner for the race.

Here are four reasons to run the Run for the Water next year:

  1. A healthy challenge. The course rolling hills and a monster of a massive hill during the final half of the race. You’ll feel accomplished no matter if you PR or just finish.
  2. The beneficiary. The race benefits the Gazelle Foundation, which provides water to people in Burundi. Can you imagine being without clean water? This seems like a basic human resource that everyone on the planet deserves access to. You can also donate the cost of your finisher shirt to the cause.
  3. The scenery. You’ll enjoy a mix of Austin landmarks (like Lady Bird Lake, Mozart’s and a view of the Austin Skyline, as well as some lovely neighborhoods. The course runs through Tarrytown, an affluent, hilly neighborhood with an eclectic mix of beautiful homes with gorgeous views when you crest the hills.
  4. A top-tier post-race party. The party is located at one of the best spots in Austin – S. 1st Street – where you can bask in the glory of downtown, looking back at all you accomplished and refueling before heading back home.
Tired, but feeling accomplished

How’d I do?

I’m honestly not ashamed to say I ran the slowest race pace I’ve run in a long time. I attribute this to a couple of non-race-related factors as well. My headphones crapped out before mile 4, which was AWFUL. I also wasn’t feeling my best after an impromptu night out with some dear friends the night before – call it run/life balance if you must. That hasn’t ruined a long run before, but it’s a little different when you’re trying to perform your best.

Overall, the Run for the Water is one you need to plan for, but one that you definitely should plan for! If you make sure to incorporate consistent hill work into your training, I think you’ll be in good shape.

Check out the race here and see you out there next year.


Picking up running? 5 pieces you need.

It’s a new year and you’ve decided to run a 5k this year. Or maybe a half marathon.

Awesome decision. When I decided to run a marathon, I couldn’t even run more than two miles at once, so you’re in good company if you feel unsure how to get there. I accomplished that goal less than a year later, and I learned a few things along the way that might help you accomplish yours!

These initial pieces will help you get started with your journey, even if you’re on a budget.

1. Shoes.

Running shoes are an investment, so visit a local store near you to get fitted. You might not realize which shoes are right for your foot type, and you don’t want to spend a huge chunk of change online to find out you bought the wrong shoe. Local stores usually will allow you to exchange shoes if you run 5-10 miles and find out the shoes you brought home don’t work. You can also purchase older models if you are looking to save some money. In terms of brands, I’m partial to Brooks because they consistently last for 300-500 miles, and are less expensive than some flashier counterparts.

2. Good Socks.

You might be thinking “seriously, why do I need special socks?” A good pair of socks with targeted compression is a game-changer; you can start with just one pair. The socks provide extra cushioning and help the blood circulate in your feet, so you don’t feel as tired and recover faster. Case and point: before I started using Feetures socks, I my feet would start hurting 4-5 miles into a long run, and they would be sore the next day. When I ran with my first pair, I went without any pain for close 12 miles, and felt 100% immediately after, I kid you not.

3. Tracking Device.

Garmin has a variety of great options for every budget. The affordable Forerunner 25 (less than $100) includes basic GPS and activity tracking. If you want something that looks a little more like an activity band or standard watch, try the vívosport or the vívoactive 3. the benefit for these is that they have more robust activity tracking data, with the inclusion of GPS for outdoor workouts. I personally own the Forerunner 735 XT, which also has the ability to load workouts right into your watch, estimate your workout effort and recovery time, and track swimming and cycling activities (and a ton of other stuff).

4. Safety.

Get some runner’s mace. You never know what you might encounter (animals sometimes freak out)! And make sure any clothing you buy has something reflective on it.

5. Headphones.

Running is a bouncy activity, and a lot of headphones come loose easily. In a pinch, the Panasonic ErgoFit Earbuds are some of the best budget buds out there. If you’re willing to invest, the Bose Soundsport Bluetooth Headphones have great sound quality, are comfortable as heck, and decent battery life.

That said, what goals have you set? I’d love to hear! Let me know in the comments.

FYI: FREE TO RUN uses affiliate links, so if you choose to make a purchase, we may make a small commission (at no cost to you). Thanks for helping us keep the lights on.


Decker Challenge: a Hill of a Race

At the bottom of a really tough hill, looking up, you may question why you run. That point may also come halfway up, as your muscles scream for mercy. But the reason people do it because of the feeling of finally making it to the top. The pain subsides, you can see for miles and you realize the downhill is going to feel incredible.

Apparently, the Decker Challenge Half Marathon is known for some punishing hills.

You may be surprised to know that after running the third race in the Distance Challenge series, I can confidently say it’s one of the first races you should try in Austin.

Don’t let the hills intimidate you – the race was truly designed by and for runners of all levels.

Here’s why:

  • There were reasonable hills.Everyone gets to the point where the same routes become too familiar and they want more of a challenge out of running. The course was a reasonable challenge, because only a couple of hills were really that steep. The course didn’t have steep, short hills back-to-back, so it felt much easier to pace yourself.
    • I ran a 5K in under 30 minutes – a personal record for me regardless of the race – so a PR is possible.
  • The course doesn’t get too packed. There are only about 1,000 runners in the field. The start line is always a little packed, but the crowd spreads out a little bit after about 1/2 a mile or so.
  • The post-race party was easy to navigate.The wait is 10 minutes for a free massage, there was no line for the photo backdrop and there were plenty of snacks. It was awesome!
  • There were a good amount of water stations,with Nuun at each station and porta potties spaced throughout each water stop. The race was in such a remote area that you could end up in a hairy situation if they didn’t space them out well. Race management thought that one through well.
  • High-energy volunteers made the crowd support possible.There were some really spirited groups that came out to cheer runners on. Note: if you’re looking for a race that has a really big-city feel with big crowds, this may not be it.

The perfect weather, combined with the just-challenging-enough course and none of the irritations of much larger courses make this one tough to beat.

As you may have seen on Instagram, I’ve been checking off all the boxes as part of the Austin Distance Challenge this year. If you’re not familiar with the Distance Challenge, it’s a race series through the Austin Runners Club to encourage local runners to tackle long distance races on a regular basis.

So far, the Distance Challenge has encouraged me to try several new races, which has been a good change of pace. Check out my recap from the Run for the Water 10-miler – a much more difficult race if you’re looking for an even bigger challenge.

What races are you looking forward to this winter?

Next stop for me is the 3M Half Marathon, and I can’t wait!

May Training Update – Amping Up the Cross Training

After the Cap 10K, I really felt like I needed a little bit of a mental break. I had a great race, but I’ve been training for one thing or another for quite awhile now. Even if you’re not perfect with training or staying on a consistent schedule, it’s still mentally taxing.

However, for my birthday, my husband got me the new Garmin Forerunner 735XT, which I absolutely love so far. Just having this updated piece of gear has helped me stay motivated without having a goal race in mind, because I’m able to learn more about my running with every workout. I feel like a completely different runner in a good way. I originally had the Forerunner 220 (newer model is here) before making the switch to the Vivosmart HR+, and liked the Forerunner with the exception of no activity tracking. Now that I’m back with the Forerunner series, I’m remembering how intuitive it is to use. There are so many more robust features (intervals, specific workouts like biking and swimming, recovery times, etc.) that I took for granted when I made the original transition to the Vivosmart series.

Basically, I’ve been playing around with different combinations of cross training (CT) and running, trying to rethink what schedule works for me to keep a little bit of variety in my life. Burnout is a real thing – I love running, but I don’t like it when I feel burned out, and CT helps with that.

Here’s how May shook out.

Total miles run in May: 20.2

Week of April 30:

2.1 mi. | yoga

I had a great run this week. I’ve been feeling strong on each run (even on the treadmill, I’ve been averaging 5.8 mph), and it’s been helpful to have my new watch. It assesses the perceived effect that each workout has on your cardiovascular training, so I can keep pushing myself to the next level.

Beautiful flowers from our Mother’s Day brunch with my MIL. Happy belated Mother’s Day to all of the amazing moms out there.

Week of May 7:

1.6 mi. | 2.1 mi.

I may have only clocked 3.7 miles this week, but I made each one count by pushing it a little bit with some speed intervals. Sometimes you just have to do the best you can to make it to the gym and make each workout count. Quality seems more important to me than quantity of workouts, and so far the data from my watch is backing that up.

My outfit: Tank | Tights | Shoes

Week of May 14:

3.1 mi. | body pump | 1.9 mi. | 3.1 mi.

Felt like I was getting back in the swing of things, and capped off my fit week with the Beef Team retreat over the weekend. It was a lot of fun, and I thoroughly enjoyed our 5K Sunday morning (even though the humidity was killer). Everyone is so encouraging.

Have I also told you guys how much I LOVE body pump? Talk about a killer workout. My arms have gotten so much stronger (even though I can barely make it through a class sometimes) since starting body pump.

Week of May 21:

2.9 mi.

I guess 8 miles the week prior was too much? I had some major elbow soreness from body pump that persisted for a week, so I definitely skipped out on strenuous CT. And then it was just a really busy week – I was on call for work, had to travel one evening, etc. and that didn’t leave much downtime, much less, workout time.

If there’s one thing I love about warm weather running, it’s the scent of honeysuckles/jasmine/whatever this is in the evening. It is intoxicating.

Week of May 28:

3.4 mi. | 5.4 mi.

3.4 miles in the 90-degree weather wasn’t as bad as you’d think, and it was awesome to be back outside for a run. Or at least, that’s the story I’m telling myself. Getting back home afterward, my face definitely told a different story. A coworker even saw me during my run as I looked like death, I found out the next day. Technically, this is June news, but I also put in my longest run since the 10K over the weekend, which felt surprisingly easy. Every time I have a good run like this, I wonder if I could qualify for Boston. Anyone else do this?

Cool graffiti on the trail last week.

The highlight has definitely been the last week, and it has reminded me how much I enjoy distance running. I don’t think I could be a strictly 5K runner – they’re just not long enough.

How did your month shake out? Cheers to warmer weather (and learning to tolerate it).

FREE TO RUN is a participant in the Amazon Associates program, which allows me to make a small commission on products you purchase and keep the lights on, at no cost to you. All opinions are my own.

Austin Half Marathon Race Recap & Training Update

It’s hard to believe more than a month has passed since my unexpected PR at the Austin Half Marathon. As I write this post, I’m reminded of how far I’ve come, and how much the sport of running continues to both inspire and humble me.

What happened?

I woke up the morning of the Austin Half Marathon fully complacent with whatever outcome awaited at the finish. I resolved to give it my best. The day before, I’d analyzed how closely I’d kept up with my training plan, and the conditions (humid to the max) that awaited the next morning.

As I entered the fray, I realized my headset wasn’t paired, so I had to pair it before starting the course. I also wore my Beef Team jersey for the first time during a long distance, and newish pants.

I did so many things that I probably wouldn’t recommend,but in the end, my mental grit is what allowed me to get past the finish line more than five minutes faster than I had ever completed a half marathon.

Only my training mattered.

The more I run races, the more I am reminded of this.

I almost psyched myself out though into thinking the times I made mistakes were what would come to define that day, and ultimately that wasn’t true. I get off track, I move around my schedule. Sometimes, I eat things I probably shouldn’t, or I work too late and don’t get enough rest. But I’m more than my weaknesses, and I can still challenge myself and overcome obstacles.

My new PR was 2:16:27, from 2:21:59!

If you want a full review, my analysis of the race really hasn’t changed much, so you can check it out here. It’s definitely a race I’ll come back for again and again. Something about the hills gives me the ability to surprise myself.

I still loved the course (minus the ‘stairway to heaven’ as it’s called – the huge, steep hill above within the last two miles of the race) and all of the course support. It seemed like there were even more people out this year than the last time I ran it two years ago.

Additionally, this was my first race as a Beef Team member, and I definitely felt the love. There were some Beef Team members spectating/cheering on other runners, and the encouragement definitely lifted my spirits when I wasn’t sure how I would do.

What’s next?

Next up, the Statesman Cap10K (aka the largest 10K in Texas) is coming up this weekend. I’ve been running a pretty consistent 12 or so miles, and incorporating cross training like Body Pump when there’s time. Running has finally become such a part of my life that I don’t feel as much of a need to map out a specific schedule quite as much as I used to. I just push myself during the short workouts, and go at an easy pace for the long ones. It seems to work and I’m enjoying this renewed sense of the unknown.

By the way, it’s still not too late to sign up, and you’ll get $5 off with the code “BibRaveRunsCap10K.”

Now bring on the hot temps of summer and ask me how I feel in a month. 😉 Looking forward to sharing with you all how the Cap10K goes.

Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Half Marathon – Race Recap and Review

Disclosure: I received a complimentary entry to the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio 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.

Growing up with both sets of my grandparents in San Antonio, I’ve been more times than I can count. And since I moved to Austin (less than two hours away), I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to make it down to San Antonio for a race. After enjoying the race in Dallas so much earlier this year, I couldn’t wait to see what Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio had to offer.

Pre-Race

Sign ups were easy and there was ample communication beforehand, though it was almost information overload! As it turns out, a conflict came up and I wasn’t able to make it to the expo, but from my last experience, I’m sure it was expansive and I wish I would have had time to stop by and shop around.

Race Day

Race day morning this time was a bit more complicated than last time, as we were driving from New Braunfels to San Antonio (we’d driven to New Braunfels late the night before). However, thanks to all of the information that they sent ahead of time via email, the morning wasn’t as frantic as I thought it would be to make it to the race’s 7:15 a.m. call time. We followed the directions to runner drop off areas downtown, and found ample surface parking lots along the way. The walk to the start line was short, but when I got there, I couldn’t believe how massive the crowd was. The race was one of, if not THE largest I’ve run and felt much larger than RNR Dallas, which also felt large. It was pretty tough to get around to my corral because there were just so many people.  They prepared though – there were so many porta potties and I was even able to find a section without a line (*gasp*).

Side note: you may be wondering how I got my packet. It’s not commonly known, but there is a solutions tent that can be utilized in extenuating circumstances on race day morning to pick up your packet.

 

After taking a quick restroom stop, I headed to my corral to wait for the crowd to move up. I was in one of the earlier corrals, but it still took about 30 minutes for us to make it to the start. Knowing that there was a course time limit, it’s tough to imagine what the runners even further back (who were likely run/walking or running at a slower pace) would have to do to finish within the time limit.

However, the emcees were still spirited and once I made it across the start line, the real challenge began.

Selfie with the Alamo!

Overall, the course was interesting and relatively flat, which was quite enjoyable. It wound in and out of downtown San Antonio, which was beautifully decorated for Christmas! There were also not too many hills. Due to the size of the race, I found that there was a ton of crowd support the whole way through.

My favorite part of the course was running through the park (I believe it was Brackenridge Park). The leaves normally change colors around Thanksgiving or in December here in Texas, so all of the tree leaves had turned into a lovely yellow canopy. At the same spot, a veterans group placed memorial signs for fallen service members that ended with a lengthy flag salute. We were running through a picturesque fall canopy surrounded by reminders of those that have given everything for our country’s safety and security. It literally took the breath from my lungs because it was so beautiful and is a sight I’ll never forget.

Pictures are not doing it justice, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

The weather itself was not ideal, with rain for about three miles soaking everyone and creating so many puddles on the course. It wasn’t the race’s fault of course, and I think this race would have been nearly unbeatable on a good weather day.

Oh, and who could forget the music? All of the bands stationed on the course were fantastic, and there was a good amount of variety. There was even a local mariachi band spread out all the way up one of the course’s only hills, which was a fun, festive and local touch.

Post Race Party

Tucked away a little bit behind the finish line, the post-race party was on point. There were so many snacks once I crossed and so many places to grab a photo with the photographer. Meb was there (Kolbe met him!) and there were great live bands playing. I had to head back to Austin for a baby shower, but was really happy to see that the finish line festival lived up to my expectations. The swag did not disappoint either – the shirts provided were so nice and the medal was too!

Ultimately, no PR for me this time, but I’m still thankful that I got the opportunity and truly enjoyed everything from the race’s perspective. This would be a fantastic race for just about any runner, due to the simple course, amazing crowd support, and organized race management. If you’ve never run a race before, I caution you to bring plenty of water (especially if the Texas weather takes a turn for warmth), because there aren’t as many water stations as other races provide.

Once again, cheers to the unexpected challenges of each race day!

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)!