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!

Prairie Fire Marathon Race Report

Ok…no more dragging my feet. This race report isn’t going to write itself.

People keep asking me “how did it go?” Honestly…it sucked. It didn’t go how I wanted it to go. The marathon definitely ranks in the top ten best worst days of my life.

Do you know what “worst case scenario” is when it comes to training 16 weeks for a marathon? Waking up with a stomach bug / food poisoning 12am the morning of the race. Worst case scenario.

I cried. I moaned. I lost 3lbs from 12am to 6am. Starting a marathon dehydrated was the last thing I thought I would deal with. I’ll spare you the gross bathroom details, but I will say I managed not to throw up. The minute I start puking, my body shuts down and the dehydration gets BAD. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve ended up with an IV in my arm from that kind of dehydration.

I considered my options. I googled upcoming marathons in 2015. Tulsa? Dallas? I even contemplated endless loops of Derby High Park with the crazy ultrarunners this coming weekend.

Ultimately, I pulled up my big girl pants, dosed myself with enough dramamine and zofran to put Tiny Boy to sleep for a week, laced up my shoes and headed to the starting line. Was it my smartest move? Nope. Was it my gutsiest? Yep.

Mr. Neon told me he wouldn’t leave me. He would do what we needed to do to get me to the finish line.

We started off fairly well, considering how I felt. Whatever illness I was fighting managed to ebb just enough that I was able to keep a sub-5:00-marathon goal pace for the first half of the race. Around mile 5, I started to experienced some low abdominal cramping that bordered on stabbing pain. We’d walk a little here and there for me to stretch out my sides. The low pain went away around mile 14, only to be replaced by intense lower back pain. I would have to stop every 5-10 minutes to bend over and then get down in a squat to stretch out my back. I had a cyclist aid person follow me around for a couple of miles to make sure I was ok. I was not ok, but I wasn’t going to stop moving. By mile 18, my run was done. We power walked. We played run to that cone, walk to that cone. The miles ticked by so slowly. We met some interesting people at the back of the pack. A guy from South Carolina who is trying to run a marathon in every state. He doesn’t even own a Garmin. Prairie Fire was number 27 for him. We met some Galloway disciples. Their beeps every 90 and 30 seconds made me crazy, but they were having fun. We walked for a while with a fellow sufferer. She was on pace for a 4:30 marathon when her hips started hurting. She walked the last half of the race at a seriously impressive steady walk pace.

Every time I had to stop to catch my breath or stretch or let a wave of nausea past, Mr. Neon would yell, “Up. One foot in front of the other.” The last mile took us 18+ minutes. Mr. Neon yelled at me to look up…”The finish line is right there! The Hyatt is right there. Don’t stop!” If he hadn’t stayed beside me, I would have stopped.

The bridge was in sight. I knew we were going to come in under 6 hours. I figured everyone else had gone home. But no…we had friends waiting. Blanca, Will, Monica, and Will and Monica’s two boys were there. They walked us to the bridge and then they got me running again. It was the slowest little jog I have ever done. But I ran up and over that bridge and there were my boys. Runner Boy was jumping up and down. I heard Tiny Boy scream, “Go Mommy! Go Daddy!” And I crossed that finish line at 5:55. Ouch.

I immediately doubled over. A volunteer girl put my medal around my neck (Oh…that big glorious medal. It’s the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen!), unscrewed a water bottle, and laughed when I barked at her that I didn’t want purple gatorade. I shuffle walked to the finisher tshirt tables and yelled at the lady that I wanted a small. My mom laughed and ran ahead to get it for me. (By the way, my badass mom ran a 2:44 half!) All I wanted to do was sit down, which I did on a curb in the parking lot.

I’m still a jumble of emotions when I think about those nearly 6 hours between the start and the finish of my first marathon. The whole thing was a blur of pain and frustration. But these are the conclusions I made in dwelling on all of it.

  1. I love my family and my friends. I can’t believe they stayed.
  2. I’m stronger than I thought. Stubborn. Tough. If I can run a marathon in those conditions, what can I do in ideal conditions?
  3. I don’t hate running. No matter how many times I said it.
  4. I will run another marathon, even though I told my dad while sitting on that curb that I wouldn’t. Good thing, he didn’t make me write it down and sign it.
  5. Marathon training broke me. I forgot to love running. I made it a chore, another thing on the to-do list.
  6. When running stops being fun, it’s time to change gears.
  7. XTing is making a comeback. My bicycle and I are going to make friends again. The dust is getting blown off the PiYo DVDs.

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A smile? A grimace? I was so glad to see that finish line. Until next time, Prairie Fire. Maybe you’ll be kinder to me in 2016. Please?

2015 Spring Prairie Fire Half Marathon a.k.a. The Worst Race I’ve Ever Run

Third half marathon is in the books. And it was disappointing. For the last 48 hours, I’ve gone over and over what could have gone wrong, but I can’t put my finger on the exact cause for my sad performance.

The week leading up to the race went as usual. I gave up wine, dairy, and donuts. I got 9+ hours of sleep two nights before the race. I stretched. I foam rolled. I stayed hydrated.

Race day was normal too. We woke at 4:30. I had PB toast and coffee. I flushed out the system. We picked up Mom, who was running the 5K, and headed to the start. I did some warm-ups, took a selfie with our resident queen of selfies, Angi, and got ready to line up.

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Here’s where I might have made a boo-boo. I didn’t make one more blockhouse stop at the porta potties. I usually do regardless of if I need to. As I was standing in the chute, my stomach felt a little funny, but I figured it was just nerves. I was running this half on my own after all.

Mr. Neon didn’t end up running with me. He made the wise move to drop down to the 5K to avoid re-injuring his healing knee and foot. He had a 25 second PR in the 5K with a time of 26:48. So not a bad move on his part. He also got an adjustment from our awesome sports chiropractors that work all our big races. He’s feeling pretty good right now.

Back to me. The horn blew, and we took off. I let everyone get swept up in the moment and held my pace back. I ran a 9:50 first mile. A little faster than I wanted. I also developed a side cramp. Maybe I should have had a small glass of water before the race. I got to the first water station right before mile 2. They were out of water! They apparently miscalculated how fast ALL the runners were coming and were frantically trying to get cups out and fill them from the jugs. My second mile was a 10:07, but my pace was probably closer to my first mile, factoring coming to a dead stop at the water station. The cramp subsided a bit after I drank the whole cup of water. I took my chews at mile 3. I did all my jogs, but they felt off. The water stations messed them up maybe? Mile 3 was 9:48 and Mile 4 was 9:52. My legs relaxed at mile 4 like they always do, but I wasn’t able to turn on the juice. My juice was gone. I actually looked down at my body at one point making sure it was still mine. It wasn’t performing the way my brain had played the race out.

I trucked on through deciding to forget the PR and just run. I tried to relax, but my body just felt off. Mile 5 10:12, Mile 6 10:13 (second half of chews), Mile 7 10:28, Mile 8 10:46. Somewhere between mile 7 and mile 8, my stomach said NO. It didn’t hurt necessarily, but I had the strong overwhelming urge to go number two. Do you know how hard it is to clench your sphincter and run at the same time? I’m pretty sure I’d rather get a pap smear or go to the dentist than clench my butt for 5 miles ever again!

I thought about stopping at a porta potty, but every time I got near one the feeling would subside. I texted my mom and Mr. Neon at this point and said walking was going to happen and to not expect me for a while. Mr. Neon and I texted back and forth while I held in the demons trying to escape inside me. I fartleked my way to mile 12, convincing myself to run to the next tree stump, the next bench, the next lightpost. Mile 9 11:27, Mile 10 13:12, Mile 11 14:05, Mile 12 14:13. At mile 12, I texted Mr. Neon “1 left.” He said, “Crush it!” My brain said ok, my stomach said no. And the 2:30 pacer, an Ironman hero of mine, came up behind me and said, “You have 5 minutes of running left. RUN!” So I did. I ran the last half mile and finished in 2:30:07.

Mr. Neon was waiting for me at the finish line with my medal. He put it around my neck and crushed me into his chest. I can’t tell you how good that felt. He told me later that he was more proud of me in that moment than he was at our last two halfs we ran together.

I grabbed a couple orange slices and sucked out the juice. My mom came up with my dad and Runner Boy and Tiny Boy. I got hugs, and Mom immediately asked, “Do you need to go to the bathroom?” I looked at her funny and said, “No! What the heck!”

We walked around runner’s village for a bit. I had brought a scoop of Vega hydrator in our checked bag, so I dumped it in my water bottle and sipped it. My stomach calmed down almost immediately. I had a couple more slices of orange, and we headed back to the car. I ate pretzels in the car and drank my Vega protein shake when I got home. After me cleaned up, we went for Chipotle.

All of that settled fine on my stomach. So what on earth happened?!

Beats me! The only thing I can think is maybe I had a small bug. Runner Boy had a tummy ache Sunday night, but we chalked it up to him eating too much while he was bounced between grandparents while I ran. I didn’t take my Vega One on Friday or Saturday, so maybe my body was missing those nutrients. I don’t think it was dehydration because I never got nauseous.

Either way, I need to just let it go. I’ve decided to just run for the next month or so until we start the training plan for our full in October. Just enjoy myself. Not put any pressure on myself. Just enjoy running to run. Run fast, run slow, run hard, run easy…just run for the feel of it. Lots of my fellow runners gave great advice, boosted me up, told me not to sweat it.

I still love running. I still love racing. I’ll get redemption soon. I always do. 🙂

Prairie Fire Fall Half Marathon – Race Report

I really have no idea where to start. It’s been two days since I crossed the finish line and I’m still on cloud nine. I’m still processing my thoughts and feelings. I’ve had several really good races, but I must say this half marathon was the best yet. Everything went right. Every goal was met. So let’s get started with the report.

Thursday night we had pizza for dinner. I woke up at 2am with a stomach ache. Not a good start to a weekend full of races. I decided to go dairy-free until after the race. But then I woke up at 2am Friday night with a stomach ache. Ugh. I dramamined and immodiumed myself. We had signed up for the Run for the Roses 1 mile. It’s our town’s local Fall Festival / Homecoming race and it’s a blast. They do a 5K too, which was my first real race a year ago. It’s a fast out and back on the road we live on…literally 5 minutes from our house.

Noel bet John 10 bucks that he couldn’t run under an 8 minute mile. So he ran a 7:27!! WOAH! Mark ran an 11:31. I’m so proud of that little kid. He wants to love running and tries his hardest! Noel ran a 7:18, his fastest mile yet. I ran an 8:10, which was good considering I didn’t feel great. Noel and I got first in our age groups! My first podium. John got third, and my Mom, who ran with Mark, got first as well. Lots of hardware headed back to the Compound!

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We spent the rest of the day resting with the exception of hitting up the Expo to get our Prairie Fire packets. I LOVE race expos. We ran into several friends, including Ironman Dale Bing who gave me a great piece of advice. “Leave nothing in the tank.” Challenge accepted. I snatched up one of the new GoRun 1/4 zips. After the expo, we dropped the boys off with my inlaws who were keeping them overnight. We headed home, watched Neighbors, ate chicken parm for dinner, hydrated, and went to bed.

I woke up at 2am…not with a stomach ache this time…but with butterflies. Oh my gosh…I was so excited. I managed to convince myself to doze off until the alarm went off at 4:45 and then I was up and ready to go! BEAST MODE ON! I forced down my PB toast and coffee and did the other pre-race TMI ritual. I double checked all of our gear and then we headed down to the start.

We got there around 6:45 and there were already LOTS of people there. We hit the porta potties as soon as we arrived and then checked in with the pace groups, hugged a few friends, danced around trying to stay warm in the mid-40 temps, did some dynamic warm-ups, and then got back in line for the porta potties with about 15 minutes until gun time. My stomach was fine, but my bladder has not been cooperating on long runs and I knew I wanted to have it as empty as possible before we took off.

We lined up right with the 2:15 pace group, knowing full well that we planned on leaving them in our dust. We managed to see Karlee from Running Connection and she snapped this picture…the only picture we have from the whole day. We were so in the moment and soaking it up that we didn’t even take one selfie. This picture says it all! Such a happy, fun day!!

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And then we were off! We immediately got to work. Noel and I had several very clear goals going into the race. We talked about it for a solid week beforehand. I think this is the most planned out race we have ever had. Often times we won’t know our strategy until the morning of the race, waiting to see how we feel. But this time…we knew what we wanted to do.

  1. Under 2:15.
  2. Negative split.
  3. First mile is the slowest.
  4. 9:1 run walk. Run needed to be 9:50ish and walk needed to be 15:00 or less.
  5. Walk through water stations and adjust as needed.

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And we did just that. We cruised through the first 3 miles, powered up the hill, and just enjoyed all the sights and sounds. Watching all the runners ahead of us up the hill was so inspiring. Every race through downtown makes me fall in love with Wichita all over again. I only brought one bag of Stinger cherry cola energy chews with me. I ate four at mile 4 as we wound our way through College Hill. After we popped back out on Douglas around the half way point I saw the lead cyclist coming through. My heart literally skipped a beat. And then came the marathoners. The lead guy was just flying. It didn’t look like his feet were even hitting the ground…so effortless. It seemed like a long time before the second guy came through. And then pretty soon we saw the lead girl come through. I hollered at Noel over my headphones that it was Raquel from First Gear!! Prairie Fire had brought in an elite pro to run the race, and I think most people were expecting her to break the course record. She ended up dropping out and Raquel not only won, but broke the state record! I love a local hero story like that!

I kept waiting for the wall to hit, but it never came. At mile 7, Noel and I just kind of looked at each other and picked it up. There was very little talk between the two of us. We just kept nudging each other forward. I ate four more chews at mile 8. Once we hit the mile 10 marker, my legs started feeling stiff and tired. I ate my last two chews somewhere between 10 and 11. My mind went to the quote, “Run the first half with your legs and the second half with your heart.” My legs were just about spent, but my heart had plenty of umph left. I said outloud, “Warm-up over, just a 5K left.” Noel just nodded his head and pulled a tiny bit ahead of me, sensing I needed a chase.

We passed the mile 12 marker and the tears came. I was almost there. We were barely over 2 hours and I knew the 2:15 pace group was about 2 minutes behind us. There was a water station, but I just ran through it. I knew that if I stopped running to walk, my legs would give out. The turn onto the bridge to finish seemed so far away and yet before I knew it, we were cruising around it. I saw the finish and I lengthened my stride and pictured my John sprinting to the finish of all his races. I’m pretty sure I ugly cried, but I didn’t care. I didn’t even see the clock. I was so focused on that finish chute.

I stopped my watch as soon as we crossed, and this is what I saw.

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PR! BOOM! We ran the spring half in 2:24:01, so it’s not quite an 11 minute PR. We shaved almost a whole minute off our pace in just five months! Hard work for the win!

We grabbed our medals, two handful of oranges, and our finisher shirts. The adrenaline wore off, and I realized both of my calves were cramped up like rocks. We wandered over to one side and stretched them out. My sweet husband got down and rubbed them as best he could. We walked over to the Back2Back VIP tent and got some pizza, more oranges, and some water and gatorade. I stretched some more and finally got my calves to loosen up.

We wandered about for a bit longer. We watched the lead marathoners come through. We ran into some friends. We waited for a bit for the results, but they were slow. We hobbled to the car and headed to the inlaws to pick up the boys.

The rest of the day went like this. Clean up. Stretch. Stick. Chipotle. Home. Ice Bath. HOT Shower. More stretch. Foam Roll. John’s Flying Angels practice. Homemade chicken and waffles. More stretch. More Stick. More Foam Roll. BED!

The only minor issue I had was my IT band was tight in my left leg for about 24 hours after the race. My left knee hurt on the outside. I RICE’d it for 24 hours, and it seems to be a non-issue now. That seems to have gone away, and now I’m just dealing with overall quad soreness. Oh…and my abs are sore. That’s a new one.

And now I’m already looking to the future. We’ve got some shorter races coming up. On November 1st, I’m going to run a 5K and hoping for a big PR. Then we’re doing the Hangover Half series of two 5Ks and a half marathon in the 24 hours from New Years Eve to New Years Day.

But I’m also thinking about Prairie Fire 2015. As soon as registration opens up, I’m signing up for the Back 2 Back Half-Full. I WILL run a marathon in 2015. And I’ve got plans for another big PR in the half marathon. Sub-2 hour is gonna happen some day! Hopefully if things keep going the way they are…someday SOON!

Rock N Route Triathlon – Race Report

I think it was only a matter of time, but I have officially been bit by the triathlon bug. I never thought I would tri…haha, get it…but my husband and friends finally convinced me to just do it. And do it, I did!

I did the Rock N Route Triathlon in Derby. It was a good first attempt because it was a pool swim. A 400m serpentine swim in the 50m pool at the Rock River Rapids water park, then a 12.8 mile bike ride around the rural part of Derby, and then a 5K run down to High Park and back. Pretty much my home turf.

The day started at 4am. I woke to the sounds of Noel making oatmeal and coffee. He wanted to get to transition early, which I thought was a bit silly, but I suppose it was worth it. I had my usual PB toast and coffee. I put on my poor man’s tri suit (post on that coming later this week) and pulled on a soft cotton sweatshirt. I double checked my transition bag. Noel loaded our bikes onto our bike rack, and off we went.

We were some of the first people to arrive. We had about 30 minutes to wait before transition opened, so we hung around with the other early risers and talked about all things triathlon. Does that ever get old?? NOPE! I had brought The Stick, so I rolled out my legs and did a few laps around the parking lot, first on foot and then on my bike.

Once transition opened, we got our bikes racked in the first spots near the bike out and I laid out my stuff. I walked myself through everything twice. I was most nervous about transition since it’s hard to practice. I had brought a Honey Stinger Waffle to eat before the race, but once the nerves hit, I knew my stomach couldn’t handle anything.

I got body marked and got my ankle chip. I hit the bathrooms twice, milled around talking to people as they arrived. I double checked my transition a couple more times. Mostly just nervous shuffling around. Eventually transition closed, we did the athlete briefing, and then lined up for the time trial start.

I was number 118 out of 138. I had a while to wait before I got in the pool. I talked with the people around me. Number 117 was a sweet older man who gave me lots of pointers after he learned it was my first triathlon. My friend Keri was the last to get in the pool. It was her first time too, so she and I did the nervous pacing and hit the bathrooms one last time together. They had loud music playing, so I danced around and sang to distract myself.

FInally it was my turn to get into the water. I jumped in and turned to wait for the go. A zen fell over me and I was ready. I was in my element. Two years ago, I would have NEVER imagined that getting ready to start a race would be one of my happy places. But oh man, it is. I could literally feel the adrenaline hitting my muscles. The surge of endorphines hitting my brain. That natural high that I crave.

I got the go and I just started swimming. Dory was in my head. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming. I counted down every length, using my combination of crawl and breaststroke. I passed the older man in front of me in the second lane. I passed two other guys in the middle of the pool. No one passed me. I got to the last length and started visualizing transition.

I pulled myself out of the water, yanked my swim cap and goggles off, and ran to transition. My friend Lisa had told me right before we lined up to just go for it in transition. She told me not to stop and take a breath. Just keep moving and use the bike to recover from the swim. I stopped my watch when I hit the mat and was VERY happy to see a 10:23 swim.

Transition felt smooth. I dried my arms off with Noel’s extra towel (note: bring a smaller towel next time to dry my arms off with), dried my feet off, got my socks and shoes on, tied my shoes. Helmet on, sunglasses on. I threw my shirt and Bondi band on top of my race belt, deciding to just ride in my bra and shorts. I remembered to grab a long drink of water too. T1 time was 1:30. YES!

The first part of the bike is flat and fast. I averaged close to 18mph for the first 2 miles. I knew I would need to reel that in. I slowed down and worked on slowing my breathing. I turned onto Greenwich and watched my cadence on the hills. I kept it around 85 and shifted to my small ring when I hit the big hill. I got passed by three people, but I passed a couple of guys on mountain bikes and passed one lady who appeared to have bonked on Rock Road.

I did feel a small bonk coming on around the halfway mark on the bike. I realized then that I had forgotten to open my bag of trusty cherry cola Stinger energy chews in my cute little speed bag that Noel got me the week before. I got the bag out and managed to rip it open with my teeth WITHOUT FALLING OVER ON MY BIKE. HAHA! I shoved three chews in my mouth and got a swig of water. Again WITHOUT FALLING OVER ON MY BIKE.

The last half mile is a hill. I powered up it and pulled into transition. Bike time was about 49 minutes. Not quite the 16mph that I was hoping for, but it was under the fastest training I had done of the same route. I was happy with it.

My T2 time was 0:57. It should have been A LOT faster. In hindsight, I should have just racked my bike, taken off my helmet, grabbed everything, and run. I put on my shirt, Bondi Band, and race belt while standing in transition. I should have just done that on the run. I did almost forget my sunglasses which came off with my helmet. Thankfully a cycling friend of Noel’s was working transition and hollered at me to put them back on. I saw Noel finishing as I ran onto the course. He yelled my name and told me to “go get it!” Love that guy!

I figured the run would be my favorite part, and I was partially right. It felt good to end on my strongest leg of the race, but I was tired and ready to be done. I made a deal with myself that I wouldn’t walk except at the big water station at the entrance to the park. My legs felt wobbly and heavy, but the cadence from the bike kept them moving. My first mile was a 9:10. I had brought my bag of chews with me and ate the rest over the course of the run. My second mile was a 9:18, and my third was a 9:50, mostly up hill.

When I rounded the corner into the parking lot and the finishing chute, Noel was standing there with a bunch of our friends and training buddies. They all hollered at me to turn on the jets. I didn’t think I could, but my body always surprises me at the end of races. My pace for the last bit was 7:40! My run time was 29:25. First official sub-30 5K is on the books.

My overall time was 1:31:09. My goal was 1:40 and my DREAM goal was 1:30, so I’m VERY pleased with how I did.

I’m still basking in the glory of the triathlon experience. It’s truly a non-stop adrenaline pumping experience. I didn’t stop moving or thinking for a solid hour and a half. And my whole body was tired and happy when I was done. Someone asked me yesterday if the triathlon was harder than my half marathon, and my answer is no. Running a long race is tough. You are doing the same thing over and over until the end. It’s a true test of endurance. Triathlon is three events. As soon as I was done with the swim, I was done with the swim. I didn’t think about it again. As soon as I was done with the bike, I was done with the bike and my brain switched to the run. I never had a chance to hit a wall. Now I’m sure walls can happen in half Ironman and Ironman distances, but the sprint triathlon is just that…a SPRINT!

Am I ready to do it again? You betcha. I’m ready for the Tiara Triathlon at the end of the month, which will include my first open water swim during a race. Bring it on!

The only discouraging part of the Rock N Route is my official split times. They are funky (12:26 swim, 49:13 bike, 27:06 run). I think something happened when I crossed the T1 mats. My swim time is two minutes long and my run time is two minutes short. The split times are impossible too, when compared to the people around me. I passed no. 117 in the second pool lane, but he finished in 10:40something. And I started the run at almost exactly the same time as Keri and she finished in 28:something. As exciting as a 27:06 5K would be for me, I think it’s pretty much impossible at my current level. Noel has encouraged me to let it go…ala Frozen. I know what times I did and my overall time is right. I know where I can make improvements for the next race and next year’s tri season, which I foresee being even bigger!!

I should have some pictures to share with you all later this week. Our amazing local photographer that I have met through my job at the library was there, and he took a bunch of shots of me on the course. I wanted to get this recap written and posted though while it was still fresh in my mind!