Prairie Fire: A Pacer’s Story

Do you ever have something on your bucket list that you accomplish and cross off, but you loved the experience so much that you immediately add it back to the list?

Pace Prairie Fire Half Marathon.
Pace Prairie Fire Half Marathon AGAIN!

I do not race well in the spring. My body isn’t acclimated to the heat that often surprises Kansas the first week of May. So Mr. Neon and I begged Lacy to let us pace.

The 2:30 group was already taken, so we opted for the 3:00 group. 13:44 pace. I’m going to admit that I was concerned about going that “slow.” I use quotes because I have respect for all runners…the speedsters and the back of the pack. But honestly…13:44 is slow for me. My training has really picked up lately, and my usual training pace for long runs is right under 10:00. I was worried about keeping a nice even jog. I didn’t want to mess up anyone else’s race plans!

The morning routine was the same. Breakfast: coffee and bagel with PB. No decision on what tank to wear.

Mr. Neon called me Friday at work. “I’m going to send you a picture, but you have to promise not to cry.” He sent me this picture. The tanks were purple and pink for my mom and her fight against pancreatic cancer and another pacer’s wife who is fighting breast cancer. I didn’t fulfill my promise. Big tears. My mom felt loved. VERY loved.

Dream team…eat your heart out! We wore party hats because it was Fernando’s birthday. Mr. Neon wore his the entire race.

And we’re off. Right before the gun went off, I told Mr. Neon that I needed to pee. He said, “You’ll have plenty of time.”

We shuffled our way through the first two miles around Friends University. The stories started flowing. I ran with a retired Sargent Major in the Army. He is 65 and has done 58 marathons. He told me he’d quit when he does 100. Mr. Neon ran with a man from Germany. He was in Wichita visiting friends and signed up for the race the day before. His accent was fun. I ran with a library patron who brings her children to my storytime. We spent the first four miles staring at each other trying to figure out where we knew each other from.

I took a potty break at mile 2. We walked through aid stations. We ran with several first time half marathoners. They didn’t know about salt tabs or gels. We talked about race strategy, training plans, and Galloway. One of our runners had a blister. Note to self: next time pack the extra sticky big bandaids in my spibelt. One of our runners needed her blood sugar checked. We flagged down the EMTs.

We enjoyed the out and back and cheered for the speedsters and had sword fights with our other pacers. I got scolded for not staying with my pace group. I hollered for a sharpie. I’d change my goal time to 2:55.

We cruised through the first five aid stations and then the heat hit. The breeze stopped. The runners around us stopped talking. I could tell the struggle bus had arrived for passengers. I kept my nutrition and BASE salt plan the same as my faster paces. But at mile 10 my stomach wobbled. Seriously? I’m running the easiest pace I could run and my stomach is cramping?! I sipped water at the next aid station and took an extra hit of BASE salt. Crisis averted. Mr. Neon passed his third GU off to another runner. Note to self: pack two extra GUs next time.

More than once, I’d come up behind someone, only to see them turn, groan at me, and dash ahead. Mr. Neon and I were not a welcome sight with our 3:00 flags, but at the same time, I could tell they were glad we were there.

Mile 11 through 12 were long. We passed people whose race days had fallen apart. Sore feet, bad knees, cramping calves…we encouraged them all. The end was in sight. There was pizza and beer waiting. And a big shiny medal.

The smile says it all. I had the time of my life out there!

We rounded the corner and all that was left was the Lewis St. bridge. Mr. Neon and I kept hollering at people. We waved our sticks. Up and over and there’s the finish. I looked down at my watch and saw the 3:00 tick over. I grabbed Mr. Neon’s hand and we rushed for the finish line. We had pulled everyone with us that we could.

Lacy met us at the finish line and asked us how we felt. I think I said, “That was the best half I’ve ever run!”

And it was. Of course, my quads are sore. They feel like I ran downhill for 13.1 miles. The slow cadence on my Garmin data tells me that’s accurate. My left shin is cranky. Pacing is not without it’s aches and pains. My Trigger Point massage ball is doing its job.

My body is sore, but my heart is happy. Running is good…no matter what the pace. 3:00 half marathoners…you all are my heroes. It was a tough day. That last hour was hot, but you did it! And I’m glad I was there to witness it!

Stay neon!

Mustache Dash 5K – Race Report

It’s difficult to write a race report for a 5K. Or at least one with much substance. 5Ks are short!

I had too many things stacked against me to have the race I had planned on. When you add sporadic running in the two weeks prior to an order from my ortho to not run for two weeks, you do not get a 25:00 5K. Nope, that math just doesn’t work.

I have also turned into a sissy when it comes to cold weather running. Brrr. I whined more than usual the morning of the race.

I threw on some capris and a new long sleeve shirt from Old Navy. After the race, I promptly ordered two more. I almost didn’t need gloves because the thumb holes and long sleeves almost covered my whole hand. Bonus…they are seamless too!

Runner Boy had agreed to pace me when I was going to run fast, but he told me he would stay with me even with my modified plan. He asked me what I wanted to do, and I told him to just keep me around a 9:00 pace. A 28:00 5k would be completely respectable at my current training pace and fitness level.

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We took off together as a family. Mr. Neon was planning on running comfortably hard, so I knew he would get out in front of us quickly. Neither one of us have run very many stand-alone 5Ks lately, so neither one of us have very good PRs to gauge our fitness level from.

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Runner Boy is already checking his Garmin. Ha. Tiny Boy tried really hard to stay with us, but that kid just wanted to run fast.

I had my headphones in and had made a playlist that was 28 minutes long, but quickly turned the iPod off. Runner Boy was babbling away at me. He told me that he could jabber to distract me, but if I needed him to be quiet to tell him.

Mile 1 = 9:04. Easy does it. I kept waiting for the pressure sensation in my leg to start, but I think it was just too darn cold for me to feel anything. Runner Boy asked me after the first mile how I felt. I told him we could pick it up a little. He said, “Ok. Let’s give 8:45 a try.” He’s such a good pacer.

Mile 2 = 8:44. See…good pacer! My leg started to feel a little off, but my cardio felt so good that I told Runner Boy to pick it up just a tiny bit more.

Mile 3 = 8:36. I told Runner Boy to go ahead and run the chute fast. He beat me by 10 seconds…crazy sprint, kid. Tiny Boy beat us by a good 30 seconds, which was nice for him because he came in first in his and Runner Boy’s age group. I love the little wings on their hats flying.

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My overall time was 26:54 (8:41 pace). My previous PR was 27:19. WHAT?! I didn’t think at any point in this race that I could have PR’ed. My brain just wasn’t working at figuring paces. Of course now I wonder what I could do when my leg is feeling 100%. FINALLY! A finisher pic with my pony tail flying!

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Mr. Neon PR’ed as well with a 24:22. 7:50 pace! However, I’m certain he could run substantially faster. It’s hard when you’ve been training for such long distances to run FAST for a short distance. I think we are both looking forward to focusing on short course triathlon, 5Ks, and 10Ks in 2017.

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My Ironman. His finish line pictures always make my heart go pitter patter. I love him!

Stay neon, kids! Get ready to share those 2017 goals. I’m working on mine!

My Favorite Half

It’s been two years since I ran the Prairie Fire fall half marathon course, and I’m more than a little sad that I have to wait another year to do it again.

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Race Morning: The alarm went off at 4:50. I got up, let the dog out, and started the coffee. Then I went back to bed and snuggled back under the covers for 5 minutes while the coffee brewed. I got back up and started my new race morning staple in the toaster. Mini blueberry waffle PB sandwiches. DELICIOUS! I also made sure to drink 8 ounces of water.

We took the boys up to my dad and picked up my mom. More about her later. We drove to the race and immediately got in line at the port-a-potties. We found ALL THE FRIENDS and got hugs, high-fives, and passed around words of encouragement. We did a tiny quarter-mile warm-up and some dynamics and hit the potties one more time. We got into the corral and lined ourselves up smack between the 2:00 pacers and the 2:15 pacers. I had made a race day morning decision to go for 2:05. I knew I wasn’t ready for 2:00 yet. 2:05 was going to be uncomfortable enough.

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The gun went off and we got moving. The 2:15 pacers were both good friends of ours, so they were chatting away and hanging right with us. About half a mile in, they realized they should probably slow down. Mr. Neon was in front of me and I yelled at him to get right behind me on my left hip. He was setting the pace without knowing what he should be doing! I switched my watch to lap distance/pace, so I’ll do a mile by mile breakdown.

The pace in parenthesis is what I was supposed to run according to the magical 2:05 pace band on my wrist.

Mile 1: 9:52. (9:52) I pumped my first in the air. No discomfort anywhere. First time in a half marathon I started at a sub-10 pace on purpose!

Mile 2: 9:33. (9:42) Oops. A tad fast. Still feeling good. HR was in Zone 3. Starting at mile 2.5 there was a half mile out and back, which was new for the course this year. I LOVE little out and backs like this, because it means you get to see all of your friends who are ahead and behind you. I told Mr. Neon that I was going to trip because I kept looking over the median at all our people.

Mile 3: 9:38. (9:42) Oops…again. I hit the water station at the beginning and end of the out and back. I perfected the pinch and drink from the paper cup without breaking stride. I also poured a cup of gatorade on the shoes of a volunteer. Oops! SORRY! She was hollering water, but was clearly holding gatorade.

Mile 4: 9:31. (9:32) Perfect. I ate half a Gu Stroopwafel at mile 3.5.

Mile 5: 9:31. (9:28) We “sucked some souls” up the Hillside hill and made the turn into the College Hill neighborhood.

Mile 6: 9:28. (9:28) Perfect pace again. I started to feel some discomfort in my left knee. I had KT taped it well that morning and was really hoping it wouldn’t give me trouble. I made some form corrections and relaxed my arms and shoulders as much as I could. We hit the water stop at 6.5.

Mile 7: 9:30 (9:31) Every mile beep was feeling good. I was getting good at this whole hitting pace thing, even though my knee was still feeling off. I ate the other half of my waffle at mile 7.

Mile 8: 9:30 (9:20) So…the wall came up and smacked me in the face. I got confused. I thought this was supposed to be another 9:28. Mr. Neon yelled at me. I said some choice words back. My knee was so tight. It felt like a rubber band stretched to the limit.

Mile 9: 9:15 (9:28) I told Mr. Neon I needed to run a 9:20. Apparently he thought this meant 9:15. I said more choice words.

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Mile 10: 9:39 (9:28) My eat alarm went off at mile 10.5, and I could not stomach my Huma gel. My belly was full. I realized had taken in too much water on course. There was no discomfort…no feeling of bloat, no need to hit the bathroom…just fullness. I kept taking in BASE salt and just swishing water in my mouth and spitting it out.

Mile 11: 9:47 (9:28) All aboard the struggle bus. I told Mr. Neon just to keep me below 10:00. I think he realized 2:05 was slipping from my grasp, so he stopped yelling and just kept me moving.

Mile 12: 10:18 (9:28) I chased the IM tattoo’ed calf in front of me. Stupid IM tattoo will haunt my dreams now.

Mile 13: 10:55 (9:29) I started counting my steps. Every 100 I would start over. I gave an audible “ARGH” when my watch clicked over. My HR had taken a dive back to Zone 3. My cardio was there. My knee was not.

I took a deep breath, pushed my knee pain to the back of my mind, and ran across the bridge and across my favorite finish line. A 5:15 PR and my first half marathon in 18 months.

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We grabbed our medals, handfuls of orange slices, and our finisher shirts. We were walking around looking for my dad who had Runner Boy and Tiny Boy when a lady motioned to us from the side of the finisher chute. She said, “I just want to make sure you guys are still going to be married tomorrow.” Mr. Neon and I both burst out laughing. He really is a fantastic pacer. He kept me going, kept me running, even when I wanted to punch him in the face. I love that guy.

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We watched some friends cross the finish line, found my dad who was holding a box of donuts, and waited for my mama. She’s kind of a big deal. My mom was diagnosed with lupus and fibromyalgia during my senior year of high school. She and I were both overweight at the time. Her doctor told her the number one thing she could do to combat her diseases was to get more active. She definitely took that to heart and pulled my competitive butt along with her. She’s done more 5Ks than I can count, a couple of 10Ks, and two half marathons. She also rides her bike around 100 miles per week. She’s a BADASS. She PR’ed her half by 2 minutes. I’m a proud daughter. Isn’t she adorable?! 57 years young!

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A PR should always be celebrated with donuts. Mr. Neon already ate his. He takes big bites.

Until next year, Prairie Fire. I’m coming for you and that elusive sub-2 hour!

Titan 10K

Oh, Southside Scorcher. You beat me again. One of these days I will break an hour in July. One day…

I worked late on Friday at an after hours library event. I fell into bed, exhausted, much later than I normally would have the night before a race. I did not want to get up at 4:30, but I pulled myself out of bed and started the coffee maker. I went for Earth’s Best blueberry waffles and PB for breakfast. Yes, the ones with Cookie Monster on the box. No, my kids don’t eat them. They are just for me.

Surprisingly my foggy brain was in top form. I got my small handheld water bottle out and filled the pocket with a Honey Stinger kid waffle and a tube with a heaping scoop of BASE salt. I donned my favorite neon tank and my need-to-be-replaced Under Armour 7-inch compression shorts. I noticed when I put my shoes on that the inner liner of the heel of my left shoe had worn all the way to the outer sole. Ugh. The shoes had less than 80 miles on them and were my only pair of running shoes that were still in commission. I slapped a bandaid over the would-be blister spot and hoped for the best.

The minute I stepped out the door I knew it was going to be a rough race. It was already hot and humid before the sun was even all the way up. When we got to the race location, I set off for an easy half-mile warm-up. I did some strides, chatted, and waited to line up. The boys and Mr. Neon were going to run the 1 mile, so I had company.

The race was small, so it was only going to be gun-timed. I lined up near the front and set off at an easy pace. I purposefully ignored my HR monitor knowing it would be high with the heat and instead focused on effort. Mile 1 was 9:33. Good…the pace felt relatively easy. My breathing was controlled. Mile 2 was 9:36. Holding steady. Thanks to my handheld, I ran through water stations, took a big sip, and then dumped the rest on my head, chest, and neck.

The course was an out and back, so I was able to see the front runners come back at me around the 2.5 mile mark. I like courses like that. Mile 3 was 9:38. I hit the turn around which was a little loopy woopty-woo around a bridge. Apparently this is where the temperature reached runner’s boiling point. I forced myself to eat my waffle. I had been licking salt every mile and sipping water. I felt fine, but I couldn’t get my legs to move any faster. The suckfest began. Mile 4 was 10:11. Mile 5 was 10:16.

The last 300 meters of the course is run on the South High track. The surface is black. It’s hot. Mr. Neon, Runner Boy, and Tiny Boy were standing at the stadium entrance. I tried to smile, but all they got was a grimace and my handheld thrown at them. I was ready to be DONE. Mile 6 was 10:29.

I crossed the finish line in 1:02:33. This was my third Titan 10k. Every year has been slower than the year previous. One day I will break an hour. One day I won’t be a new runner, marathon training, or injured.

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I may not be overly pleased with my finishing time, but something wonderful did happen at the end of the Titan 10K. MY HIP DOESN’T HURT!

It’s been a magical revelation over the last two weeks. My hip pain is almost completely, totally, 100% gone. I’m almost afraid to think about it or talk about it, for fear that it’s just a fluke and the pain will be back.

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Oh…and those boys of mine. They all placed in their age groups. Mr. Neon ran a 6:39 mile. Runner Boy ran a 7:26. And Tiny Boy ran a 8:29. Mr. Neon said it hurt more than his 100 mile bike ride a week later, and he isn’t going to let Runner Boy forget that he beat him until October when Runner Boy will surely PR his mile again.

El Dorado Tri Race Report

Hey! So I did a triathlon this past Sunday. I didn’t drown. I didn’t fall over on the bike turn arounds. And I didn’t have any hip or knee pain on the run. WIN WIN WIN!

Before: Mr. Neon and I got up WAY TOO EARLY. Coffee, waffles with PB, and double check all the gear. We roused the boys right before we left and started the 50ish minute drive to the state park. We made a pit stop halfway at McDonalds so I could have one more nervous bathroom stop and the boys could get breakfast. Poor Mr. Neon had missed out on the last two McDs breakfast runs, and he was jonesing for a Egg McMuffin BAD.

We got there about 45 minutes after transition open. I wasn’t in a hurry since I was just doing the sprint and started 30 minutes after the athletes doing the oly distance. I realized shortly after getting my bike on the rack that I had forgotten our bike pump. I borrowed one and proceeded to break off both of my bike valve stems. I started panicking just a little bit. (Understatement!) Mr. Neon assured me it would be fine. And then we saw our saving grace. One of the local bike shops was setting up a tent. She changed out both of my tubes! Thank goodness for Ruth from Bicycle Pedaler!

Swim: Right before the oly athletes were ready to line up the race director announced that the ten lifeguards hadn’t shown up. I’ve been swimming since I was six years old, so I wasn’t worried. But it must have put a bug in my brain. I could not get my stroke settled. I felt heavy in the water. I dog paddled for a bit, trying to catch my breath. The first buoy seemed SO. FAR. AWAY. Finally I flipped onto my back and just took some deep breaths. After I made the turn at the buoy, everything relaxed and I was able to freestyle all the way to the second buoy. I got tired on the home stretch and ended up doing breast stroke for a good portion, but I made it back to the beach.
15:05 (2:01 pace) – I wanted to be at 2:00, so I’m happy with this time. But I’m ready to make progress on the swim.

T1: I jogged my way up the path, mentally prepping myself for everything I would need to do. Socks, shoes, helmet. I brushed as much of the sand off my feet as I could. I knew if I didn’t take the time, it would rub and chafe. I got everything settled and headed off for the bike.
1:57 – I’m always happy with anything under 2:00 for T1.

Bike: It felt so good to be doing something other than swimming. I FINALLY remembered to get my watch set to bike, so I actually had data running for once. I kept glancing down and seeing 17. Hmmm….I hope I’m not pushing it too hard. I never felt like I was, but my time did slow a bit near the end when the day started to heat up. The worst part of the bike was the three turn arounds. I do not corner well so I really had to slow down, especially on the last tight one. And the last hill was a witch with a capital B. I had to shift into my front little ring and was still barely going 6mph.
47:52 (15.5mph) – I was really hoping for 16mph. But I was on my road bike. Poor Rose is continuing to have issues. I need a new saddle and some other minor adjustments.

T2: I racked my bike, dumped my helmet, and grabbed my race belt and GU chews. Mr. Neon yelled at me to grab my rocket fuel and chug the rest of it and throw the bottle at him. So I did.
0:32 – WOOHOO!

Run: Lead legs. I felt like I was running through quick sand. I finally got them loosened up about a half mile into it. Right before the turn around, my pace slowed to 11+ minute miles. It was getting hot. I grabbed two cups of water at the aid station, drank one, and dumped the other on my head. Everyone I passed just looked tanked. I slowly ate my chews and just kept moving forward. I turned onto the bridge before the finish and heard Mr. Neon, Runner Boy and Tiny Boy yelling my name. I couldn’t help but break into a smile.
31:42 (10:14 pace) – I was hoping for an under 10 pace, but it was much hotter than I was expecting.

Total time: 1:37:08

I definitely have a starting point now. I feel like my bursitis recovery is continuing in a positive direction. I can only get faster from here on out. I’ve been able to add a tiny bit of speed work back in on both the bike and the run and I’m officially back on a training plan!