Reflections after a difficult race (AKA Zooma follow-up)

When I shared my Zooma race report earlier this week, I got a bunch of comments I wasn’t expecting. Many were supportive, but others (vitually) rolled their eyes and said I was whining or need to toughen up. It’s always interesting to see how people perceive me through the words I write, which I didn’t think all that many people read to begin with. 😉 Fair enough. I try not to sugarcoat my experiences when I post race reports, but I recognize that this one certainly fell on the negative side.

Still, reading the responses got me thinking about how to rebound from a race that went awry. Yes, I trained for the race and the hills, but what should I do going forward to improve?


Zooma was my 17th half marathon. I’ve run about half of them slower and half of them faster, in temperatures ranging from 35 degrees to 85. I’ve run a couple when I wasn’t as prepared as I wanted (due to injury) but for most of them, I’ve done the work leading into the race. I’m slow and not a distance badass, but I’m stubborn. Preparing for Zooma, I had to miss a few days of training at the end of February due to a work trip, but other than that I followed my training plan. I’d run 3M in January, so I had the ability to complete the 13.1 distance well before Zooma. But 3M didn’t go very well either, in similarly-warm weather conditions. In my defense, a few days before that race it was 15* and schools were closed because of ice. February’s high temps were a bit warmer overall, and certainly it was humid and unpleasant during some of our quality workouts, but there were enough cooler days mixed in that I really didn’t acclimate to the warmer stuff we saw on race day.

So yeah, my performance definitely correlates to race-day temperatures. My half-marathon PR came on a day barely above freezing. I think it was actually below freezing the day I ran my 10K PR. And I ran a 5K PR a couple of weeks ago when it was in the 40s. But on the other hand, I’ve now been sick twice from overheating after a too-warm race. The first one was three or four years ago, yet despite similar conditions and post-race health, my finishing time was 30 minutes faster at Zooma. Clearly the last several years of training have been effective in the long game. But I still have work to do.

So what does my training look like? Core class on Mondays, quality workouts with Rogue Cedar Park on Tuesdays and Thursdays, long run on Saturdays and a recovery run on Sundays. I sometimes run on Wednesdays–adding the second quality workout in December took some adjustment, and for a while I was recovering on Wednesdays with lighter activities like walking the dog, although sometimes I did nothing at all–but the rest I’m pretty religious about. Now that it’s staying light later, I’ll go back to running 2-3 miles in the evening after core class as well. As far as terrain, when I run from my house, it’s mostly flat; Rogue routes vary between flat and hilly, and we run on both the road and at the track. Mileage-wise, I generally run 95-105 miles per month. Not bad. But I have several relatively hilly (although not on the Zooma scale) races coming up this spring, so I need to add in a few dedicated hill workouts in addition to those I do with Rogue. Since the May event is a 5K on Saturday and a half on Sunday, I also plan to increase my Sunday mileage to prepare for that back-to-back element.

Next, can I improve time and effort? I work a full-time job (at work by 7am) and on Rogue days I get home with just enough time to change clothes and head out again. I already wake up at 5:45, and don’t have any more evening time to give. So I try to maximize my return from the workouts I do–most Rogue workouts include a 1-1.5 mile warmup, then some kind of shorter speed repeats, and the same distance back. This winter, my weekday quality workouts averaged about 6.5 miles each, and I don’t have a lot left when I’m done, except sore legs. When the plan calls for 3-4 repeats, I do four–I rarely do just the minimum or baseline, and I don’t miss Saturday long runs even when I want nothing more than to sleep late. I think I have a pretty decent work ethic, although I will cop to the rare evening when I’m just too tired and I take an unplanned rest day.

What about fuel and hydration? Well, I struggle with the latter not because I find it difficult to drink enough. It’s the effects of drinking enough. I teach 90-minute classes back-to-back and can’t just leave a room full of 7th graders while I visit the restroom, so I have to be smart about how much I drink and how often. After 20+ years I have this down to something of a science, but it’s an imperfect science nonetheless. During races I take water at every stop, but I don’t carry my own–maybe that’s something I need to start doing for warm races. I don’t usually have hydration issues on training runs, though. As far as fuel, I eat reasonably well–a protein bar for breakfast, a salad with chicken for lunch, and usually something easy like grilled cheese or tacos after I get home from my run. My sweet tooth is part of the reason I run, though. 😉 I have experimented with race fueling for a while, and I found success with Skratch gels during long runs–I guess they just weren’t enough to combat the temps of Saturday’s race. Perhaps continued tweaking is necessary in that department.

So while I feel like I do a lot of things pretty well, at least in my physical training, that’s not to say I should just throw up my hands and declare I can’t possibly do anything better because it was all the race’s or venue’s fault. By definition, self-reflection means considering my own behaviors and attitudes. For example, I’ve lived in Austin most of my life and I’ve been running here for seven years–I should be used to running in the heat, but obviously I still struggle with it. So since I can’t control the weather, somehow I need to improve my mental game–my response to tough conditions. Negativity is one of my biggest downfalls (shocking, huh?). My coach always says “We love hills!” and I growl. But the other day I was listening to Ali on the Run‘s interview of Gabe Grunewald–do you know her story? She’s a young professional runner who has been diagnosed with cancer four times. The most recent, I think she said Stage 4 on her liver, is inoperable, but instead of focusing on the zillion negatives inherent in a diagnosis like that, she has the most positive outlook. She keeps running and training through treatment because if she’s feeling well, she wants to be ready to race. She said something about no matter what happens in her future, she wants to live now with no regrets.

Sometimes it’s easier not to fight when things get tough, but if you keep pushing, great things can happen. – Gabe Grunewald

I recommend listening to the whole episode–she’s so inspiring, it humbled me that my biggest running complaint was that I felt like shit after a half-marathon last weekend.

Someone asked if I run because it’s easy or because it’s hard. And after some thought, I guess my answer is both, and neither. As a former couch potato I appreciate the physical challenge, I value the milestones I achieve in pace and distance, and I love the community of runners I’ve joined. There are days when every step is difficult, and it’s both exhausting and rewarding to finish a tough workout or race. But damn, I don’t want everything to be hard. I want to enjoy the time on my feet too. The destination and the journey.

With that, I’m going out for a run.

This post also appeared on Texas Running Post.


Zooma Texas half-marathon

Tracking the weather the week before the race, I suspected this race would be a shitshow. And I knew it was going to be a hilly route. I prepared for the hills (and distance) in my training, and I started hydtrating several days in advance. But even though this was my 17th half-marathon, I vastly underestimated the degree of shitshow.

The race itself was well-organized. Water stops were well-staffed and prepared, course markings were really good (especially considering there were three different race distances), and people were super friendly. It was geared toward women, but I saw a bunch of guys out there too.

But we had issues.

First, I ended up with a weird shirt situation–I wanted the unisex-size shirt (I don’t like the tiny sleeves on women’s shirts) but they gave me the wrong thing at packet pickup. When I went to exchange it the next day, they made me select something that was an entirely different shirt from the shirt exchange people, not from the packet pickup people, even though it hadn’t been my mistake. So I didn’t get the nicer pale-blue shirt with a little zipper pocket, even though I saw people wearing unisex versions of that shirt.  Not a huge deal, but somewhat disappointed–it was an expensive race.


Next problem: it was held at the Hyatt Lost Pines resort outside of Bastrop, Texas. This place is HUGE–our hallway had a roundabout–but for $300/night they couldn’t give us a late checkout past 11am. The half didn’t even start until 7:40, which is fine if you’re fast. Not fine if you’re me.

On top of that, the weather was ridiculous–66 and humid at the start, almost 90 by mid-afternoon. Not great temperatures, but also not the race’s or the resort’s fault.


The view from our room’s balcony (#shortcut?)

The course was also a challenge–two loops around the resort area and surrounding roads. Y’all, two loops of a distance race is tough. Add in the temperatures (it was cloudy and drizzly the first loop, but sunny and awful the second) and the hills? It was brutal.



That flat part at the end of each loop was actually a golf cart path. It did this crazy switchback thing for 2.5 miles, and it felt endless. THEN WE HAD TO DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN.

The best part was when I came around the golf course the first time, I was surprised by two BRFs who had come out to cheer for us! So happy to see them! ❤ And they could catch us multiple times on those damn golf cart switchbacks by walking about ten feet, so I loved seeing them several times. They were basically the only thing I loved about the thing, really. That, and having dinner with my dad the night before.

The second loop was definitely a much greater challenge. By then the sun had come out in full force, much of the crowd had taken the split for the 10K finish, and the hills had gotten taller. So much for my goal of running the second loop faster.

I found myself run-walking with a similar-paced woman for a couple of miles, and a guy pushing about 100lbs of kid in a double-stroller hung with us around for the better part of mile 9. I lost her on the golf course, but it was nice to have company for a while. In fact, everyone on the course was really friendly, and at least five people commented on my shirt.


Toward the end, I was walking more than I was running, and I felt some low-grade queasiness whenever I tried to pick up the pace. Not surprising, considering the conditions.

My friends were waiting at the finish, and I collapsed on the ground for about 93 seconds before realizing I had 20 minutes to shower and check out of my hotel room. So I had to skip the post-race refueling–I barely even got a bottle of water. Back upstairs I went, friends in tow.

For much of my shower, I sat on the floor under the water. I just couldn’t hold myself up. I got dressed, sort of, and this picture should tell you how I was doing.


I’m the pale one with enormous dark circles under my eyes

My smile was an illusion though. BRFs had to leave, and S went down to deal with checkout even though I wasn’t completely out of the room. And then everything caught up to me. I curled up on the bed and couldn’t move. At one point Housekeeping knocked on the door and asked if I had late checkout (!) so I said yeah and they went away.

I think I’d missed my window to eat and refuel, and now my body was rebelling. The next two hours involved me trying to re-hydrate and then not keeping anything down. Fun times, but not the kind S had signed up for. I felt awful on several levels.

I’ve been sick after a too-warm half marathon, but I’ve never been continually sick. We decided I wasn’t going to get better unless I could keep liquids in my system, so I got out my Aetna app and found the nearest Urgent Care place about 15 miles away, mostly in the direction of home. S was an angel to deal with me.

When we arrived, I could hardly stand at the counter and give them my basic medical information. They took me to a room where I could only lie on the examination table. I’d accidentally-on-purpose walked out of the Hyatt with a pool towel that I was now using as a nap blanket–sorry Hyatt, but I was throwing up, not sure you wanted it back. And a half-marathon medal is a perfect accessory to wear to Urgent Care, right?

They told me they couldn’t do an IV to rehydrate me (I found out later that’s primarily due to a shortage of IVs from Puerto Rico, not a failing on the clinic’s part) but could give me anti-nausea meds so I could rehydrate myself. Fine with me–I hate needles. The Zofran had me sitting up and almost feeling kind of human in about 10 minutes. I drank a cup of water and it stayed down, so they let me go and we had a much more pleasant drive home. Miracle meds, for sure. And now I have some extra to stash in my race bag (thanks, Nurse J!). Immodium before the race, Zofran after. 😀

I didn’t think anything could top that awful Hot Chocolate race, half of which was off-road, all of which was in way-too-hot temps. But a post-race Urgent Care visit is a telltale sign that I didn’t have a good day. So when Facebook reminded me that I’d recently visited Hyatt Lost Pines and did I want to write a review? that was a no-brainer.

Let’s recap: I spent $95 on the race, half of a $300 hotel room, $17 for a pancake breakfast I didn’t get anywhere near, and $60 at urgent care. S did all that, and also drove me around (twice three times on a toll road), carried my stuff, and took care of me. I am uninterested in doing this one again. Lesson learned.


At least the medal is pretty

It was an epic shitshow, but my friends are the best. Thank you for everything. ❤

“Saturday will be the hottest of the year so far!”

Of course it will, television weatherperson. Of course it will.

Because I am running a half-marathon tomorrow.

Let’s see. Since February of 2017 I have run four half-marathons (Austin, Cleveland, Kildare, and 3M) and for each one, the weather was unseasonably warm. Even in Ireland, where the June temps are typically in the high 50s to low 60s, it was almost 20 degrees warmer for my race. Not only that, the days preceding and following each race were all much cooler. It’s like the Running Gods are looking at my race calendar and toying with me. Mark my words: heat wave in Pittsburgh the first weekend in May.

But tomorrow it’s the Zooma Half-Marathon at Lost Pines, between Austin and Bastrop. BRF and I signed up forever ago because two other friends suggested we all do it–stay at the resort, run the race, hang out at the pool after. Then a few months later, crickets from them. So now we’re grudgingly running a race that is rapidly shaping up to be a shitshow.

For one, they only released a course map last week, and it’s not exactly to scale. They have the half-marathoners running the 10K course twice, but even as an English major I know that 10K + 10K does not equal 13.1 miles. When I asked about that on their Facebook page, they informed me the map was only an approximation of the course. Well that’s good, because my run will only be an approximation of something decent.

And two, the aforementioned weather.

This morning I’m wearing a sweatshirt and the forecasted high is barely over 70. Then stick a pin in Saturday, “the hottest day of the year so far.” Sunday? It’s supposed to be 20 degrees cooler. Because of course. 


The race should be any day but tomorrow.

We’re leaving straight from school today–it’s an hour drive out to Lost Pines–so I brought all my race and overnight stuff with me. I’m sure I looked weird coming in to the building with a suitcase, especially since today is the last day before Spring Break, but we want to get there for the course preview meeting at six. I’m picturing an approximation of people giving an approximation of a talk–kind of like that 1980s A-Ha video where the guy is half cartoon.


But maybe I just need more sleep.


Scenes from a hat

Welcome to my life, where everything’s made up and the points don’t matter.


Last Thursday, my honor society crew caught a 5:30 am flight (!) to Washington, D.C. for our annual trip. It was the largest group we’ve ever taken–73 eighth-graders, 12 parents, and five staff members. And as usual, every day was packed with activities from 8am to 10pm. But unfortunately, we had to defer our Asscrack of Dawn 5K to next year since J is still recovering from surgery. In fact, I didn’t get to see her at all.


Anyway, after another whirlwind trip in which I think I ended up on students’ Snapchats at least twice, I got home about 1am Sunday night Monday morning. Fortunately I took Monday off from work because I slept until 1pm. And even then, I had no issue falling asleep eight or nine hours later.

The rest of the week was more of the same. Core class resumed Monday, and I paid for that during Tuesday night’s workout with my running group. My quads and hips were super sore, probably from some combination of our crazy travel itinerary and core class–and of course we ran a hilly route. It was also warm and humid. I ended up cutting it short–two one-mile laps instead of three–and only ended up with about 4.5 miles. Ugh.


Wednesday I could only muster the energy to take the dog for a walk–I hoped the lighter activity would help my muscles feel better for Thursday night’s workout.

Generally with the Tuesday-Thursday thing, I do the speed workout Tuesday and then something less intense but perhaps a longer distance with the group on Thursday. But I was so underwhelmed with my performance on Tuesday that on Thursday (when it was about 20 degrees cooler) I made myself do the workout over again, but three laps this time, for 5.5 miles total. My legs were still tired and sore, but I powered through it in the cooler weather.


Which brings me to this weekend.

My BRFs made me start at 5:30am. I’d struggled to get out of bed every day this week, and 5:30 did not appeal to me at all.


But I showed up anyway. Because I have a half-marathon next Saturday and probably should get one last double-digit long run done before the race. I was tired, poorly recovered, and after about two miles, in pain. My quads were still sore, and now my left hip hurt a bit as well.


I didn’t remember to pick up a map, but I was pretty sure I knew where I was going. Four of us started out together, and at the first water stop another friend caught up to us as well. I was definitely the caboose in this little train, and at one point I lost them in the dark. The coach had told us to add a little detour to the route, just a loop, and when I reached that intersection well behind the others, I couldn’t tell whether they’d taken the detour or gone straight ahead–their blinking red, green, and blue lights didn’t travel very far I guess.


So I turned left for the detour. I mean, it’s a neighborhood I’ve run in for years, so I knew I couldn’t really get lost and I’d catch the others eventually when I came back to the main road. But then I saw blue shoe lights coming toward me, and I was confused.

Turns out they’d gone straight, then noticed I wasn’t behind them coming up the hill. So one pair backtracked and the other came around from the other direction, and those were the blue lights I saw. It was sweet of them to look for me–I knew where I was and how to get where I wanted to go, but it was dark and I appreciated that they didn’t want to lose me.

Back on course, we stopped for water, then headed down the hill for the last mile and a half before turning around. It was hilly–what’s with hilly quality workouts the same week as a hilly long run route??–and my legs were fried. I was grateful for having to wait at a stoplight or two. When I finished, I felt like I’d run 100 miles, not ten.


I vowed to take it easy this coming week so I can have semi-fresh legs for the race on Saturday. That includes sleep–I know getting good sleep is key to running and recovery, but because of the trip and work, I fell way behind and just couldn’t catch up. I still haven’t, actually.

I keep reminding myself that I always have at least one crappy long run leading into a race–usually it’s two or three weeks out, but the last two weeks I didn’t do a long run. I ran a 5K PR, then didn’t run at all while I was in Washington. So hopefully I got it out of the way today.

I don’t have a time goal for Saturday’s race, but they (finally) published a course map the other day (no elevation map though) and I learned that the half-marathoners run the 10K loop twice (nevermind that 10K x 2 does not equal 13.1) so my only real goal is to run the second loop faster. My current jelly legs situation doesn’t give me a lot of confidence in my ability to pull that off, but if I can be semi-rested going into the race, I have a improved chance of success.


Ryan Stiles:
Talking about traffic, it is boring all the time,
It’s hard to think about something that’ll rhyme.
Traffic, ah, who cares? It’s got no kind of class,
Ah, once again, I gotta mention Melissa’s ass.
All: Mention Melissa’s ass!


Friends, fun, and f**kery: volunteering at the Austin Marathon

My Vivofit said I walked 23,855 steps Sunday, but I think half of those came from shaking my cowbell at the bottom of the hill just before the mile 26 mark.

I don’t know who came up with this course change, but wow, putting a steep hill at the end of the marathon was just mean.


Next to the traffic light at the top of the hill was a sign for .25 to go

The rest of that step count came from volunteering at the half-marathon finish line.


So, now that I’ve gotten the pictures out of the way, let’s talk about volunteering.

I love volunteering at races, whether it’s filling cups at a water station, giving out bibs and shirts at packet pickup, or handing out medals. It’s fun to be able to participate in a race I’m not running, so when I got an email from the 3M/Austin organizers inviting me to apply to be a race ambassador (perk: free race entry if I worked two shifts at the expos), I jumped at it. My friend got a response, but when I didn’t hear anything I figured I wasn’t selected. No biggie. But then maybe a week before 3M I got an email asking if I was still able to participate. So yay! I made sure I was scheduled for the same expo shifts as my friend, and we worked the 3M expo together, mostly sitting at the Austin Marathon booth answering questions about the race and signing up a few people.

But when we got to the Palmer Events Center for the Austin expo, we were assigned to the picture-taking station, where runners and families could stand in front of an Austin Marathon backdrop and have their pictures taken with their own phones. It was a lot more work than sitting at a booth talking up the race! Most people were really nice, and if they were alone, had cute kids, or it was their first race I took several pics from different angles. The big families who wanted pictures with every person’s phone (pro tip: take one and text it around) or who required multiple retakes so they could jump in the air just right… well, that was less fun.

Three observations: one, I am surprised at how many people don’t have cases on their phones. I was terrified I’d drop one of those slippery suckers. Two, a high number of people waited in line for 10 or 15 minutes, only digging around in their backpacks to retrieve phones and crumpled bibs when it was finally their turn. And three, cluelessness abounds. A bunch of folks wandered in front of cameras as we were taking pictures. Others came up from the side and asked us to take their pictures, completely oblivious to the line. And one guy asked me whether we were emailing pictures or how did that work?

After several hours of standing on concrete and leaning this way and that to take pictures, my back was sore! We also never saw the guy who checked us in at the 3M expo and told us he’d have information for us after we completed the second shift at this one, so I hope we’re still good for that free race entry. Especially considering traffic on Barton Springs was a nightmare, parking was chaotic, and I ended up parking about half a mile away just to avoid most of it.

Which brings us to the morning of the race. We left my house just after 6am and made the drive downtown–we had to check in at 7. We parked at a free garage and walked however many blocks to the volunteer tent at 8th and Congress. We signed in and picked up shirts, then were asked to leave our belongings (think small string backpacks) behind before heading to the finish line area to organize the medals. It would have been handy if they had mentioned “no bags” in the (otherwise informative) email we received a couple of days before, but alas they did not. They did give us a claim ticket, basically like bag check, so it wasn’t total anarchy.

When we got to the finisher area, about half the volunteers carried bags and string backpacks, so clearly that request was inconsistently enforced. Anyway, we had about eleventy-thousand medals to unpack, so there wasn’t a lot of time to dwell on it.

The medals came in boxes of sixty: six bricks wrapped in bubble wrap and sealed with packing tape. Each box had to be sliced open, then the tape had to come off each brick. Inside? A stapled bag of ten medals. Each medal was individually wrapped with plastic stapled shut. It was not a fast process, and plastic packaging collected at our feet like snowfall.

Race organizers had provided us with three or four metal medal racks (say that three times fast) probably six feet high with three rows of arms. Each rack had wide metal feet to keep it steady. After we’d unpacked about half of the medals, the area captain told us to stop hanging medals on the racks–so they wouldn’t be too heavy or fall over–and just pile them on the tables (which were your basic wooden folding tables). After one of the tables began to bow in the middle, volunteers started draping the medals over the boxes from which they’d come. It was a rather inefficient and ridiculous system, especially considering those racks were probably built to hold a lot of weight–more than they held, for sure–while the tables were not.

About this time, the first half-marathon finishers came through (I think the winner’s time was 1:04 and some change–yowza). As finisher traffic picked up, a group of us took armloads of medals to hand to runners as they finished. Other volunteers brought more medals out to us so only a few people were running back and forth to the racks and tables. This was helpful during that huge pack of finishers running between 1:45 and 2:30.

It was less helpful when the area captain told volunteers to stop unpacking medals (dozens of unopened boxes remained) since “there’s only an hour left,” as if the medals wouldn’t be needed. Then scrambling to get more unpacked because, oddly, those of us handing out medals needed more to, you know, give to finishers. This happened multiple times. Efficiency also would have improved had the medal racks been placed near the area they wanted us to stand and hand out medals rather than requiring volunteers to dart in front of the runners to collect more medals as others frantically unpacked them.

The fun part was handing medals to a bunch of Rogue friends (at least one of whom PR’d), the mom of one of my students, and so many others. I loved congratulating people on their accomplishments. Smiles, tears, exhaustion, all of it. One runner identified my friend as the person who had taken her picture at the expo. “You told me I could do it, and during the race I thought about you and that you said I could do it.” My arms were tired from holding so many heavy medals, but these things made it worthwhile.

Can we talk a little about finisher medals?


You do not get one for your spouse. And you sure don’t get yours PLUS FOUR more for each of your children. 

And if you registered for the full but dropped down to the half, it’s really crappy of you to cross over to the marathon side of the chute and collect a full marathon medal. 

Our shift ended at 11:00, but a few finishers were still trickling in so we stayed a while longer to make sure they had someone to congratulate them too. In a lot of ways, it takes more to finish a half in four hours than it does in 90 minutes, you know?


When we couldn’t see anyone else coming down that last half-marathon stretch, we decided it was okay to leave. We walked a few blocks to the aforementioned hill at Red River and 11th Street where we found some more Rogues, including our coaches.

Our friend who had PR’d the half earlier held a neon pink sign that said “F**k Yeah!” and we shook cowbells, yelling and cheering for the next hour and a half. I admit I started to get grumpy though–I hadn’t eaten anything except a package of Oreo Thins (really, thins? The icing is the best part!) since the protein bar I had for breakfast. But eventually the stream of runners dropped to a trickle, and we walked up the hill with one last guy.

The finish line was between us and the car, so on the way back we stopped by the race’s gear store. The guy said he’d give us the VIP discount so he’d have less to pack up, and I helped him out. I’m nice like that. 😉


And then it was time for Mexican food. I mean, 23,855 steps race volunteering with friends totally deserves Mexican food.


“I promise to be careful.”

That’s how Coach Bill starts Vern’s No-Frills 5K the third Saturday of every month. The first time I ran this race, I expected more to the pledge, but no, that’s it. I laugh every time.

I left my house wearing short sleeves and capris, but before the race started I got rained on twice, the wind picked up, and the temperature dropped into the mid-40s. I changed into a long-sleeved shirt and dug my gloves out of my bag a few minutes before paying my dollar and making the above-mentioned pledge to safety.

I ran the first half-mile with my friend who was taking it easy, recovering from shin splints. Yeah, her “easy” pace was close to my race pace. But after we weaved and dodged around a bunch of folks, I sped up to pass someone else on the narrow sidewalk and this time she didn’t follow.

When my watch ticked off my first mile at a respectable but not anywhere near my best pace, I realized that I probably wouldn’t get a 40-degree race morning again anytime soon and I should take advantage of it. So I sped up.

After I made the first turnaround I could see another friend up ahead of me. By the time my watch informed me that I’d run my second mile :23 faster, I knew I was closing the gap on him. I picked it up again, and a half-mile or so later, just after the second turnaround, I passed him.

Adjusting to Tuesday-Thursday workouts has left me with some leg fatigue the last few weeks, but this time I felt like I was running strong the whole way. I started to think that maybe I had a chance at a PR, so I cranked up my music and pushed pretty hard down the last stretch. I hit three miles (:18 faster than mile two) and made the turnoff to the finish, the final .1 on a crushed granite path.

I crossed the finish line (literally a line drawn in the dirt) pretty pleased with my effort. But here’s the funny part: I couldn’t remember what my PR actually was. In my defense, I ran it back in 2016, at the Shiner 5K which is downhill the whole second half. So I opened up my Garmin app to search for it, but it turns out that wasn’t necessary. Garmin asked me if I wanted to accept today’s time as my new PR, so that answered that. Still, I was curious about how close it was and whether the official time would hold up as a PR. See, Vern’s is timed, but everyone starts with the gun time and they hand-time the finish. It’s a small race and I didn’t think I was more than a second or three behind the gun time, but I wasn’t sure.

Since I’d accepted this as my new Garmin PR, I had to do some searching to find that old Shiner time. Eventually I calculated that I’d PR’d by eight seconds, at least according to Garmin. I’d also run a spiffy negative split. My friends urged me to go ring the PR bell, and I figured what the hell. Overall PR or not, it was my fastest Vern’s so ringing it was legit.

After the race, 12 or 15 of us went out to breakfast. Mexican food, of course. And coffee. Later in the day Coach Bill texted me to confirm that my official time held up and I have a new 5K PR. On a day I didn’t expect it, wham.

I know eight seconds for a 3.1-mile race doesn’t sound like a lot. But since that Shiner race I’ve suffered through two injuries and a lot of lost training time. Knowing I’m eight seconds ahead of where I was pre-injury makes me happy, and it reminded me that the hard work I’ve been putting in is worth it.


Catching up

After 3M I took a little bit of downtime for recovery–I felt like I had run my first half-marathon, not my 16th–but was back to more or less normal training runs about ten days post-race. And my toenails are, remarkably, still intact.

This past week, though, I was just so tired. Tuesday’s (5.7 miles) and Thursday’s (7 miles) workouts were tough–hilly and longer than my usual mid-week runs, but I did nothing on Monday or Wednesday. I have no good excuse for Monday–core class is on hiatus so I easily could have come home from work and run a couple of miles before dark. But I didn’t. Wednesday, I still felt a little sore from Tuesday night’s effort and decided to rest knowing Thursday’s workout would be on the same hilly route. It didn’t help much–a seven-mile speed workout on a weeknight turned my legs to jello.

Friday (M’s birthday) was a staff development day at work–no students–and we spent most of the day sitting in meetings. Which was fine because my hip was still sore from the night before. My only exertion came when we walked the dog after birthday dinner Friday night.

I knew Saturday’s 12-miler would not feel good. But the thing is, I have a half-marathon on March 10–five Saturdays away. Which sounds like a lot as far as preparation time, except February 17th we’re doing my coach’s 5K then volunteering at the Austin Marathon expo, and the 24th I’ll be in Washington, D.C. with my 8th-graders. That leaves one more Saturday before the race, and while my shorter-run paces have been pretty good, I feel like my endurance isn’t quite there and I didn’t want to cut it that closely. So that left this weekend.

It was 60* and eleventy-billion percent humidity when we set out on the route we hate the most. Hills, then long, straight stretches of sidewalk? Of course.

Two miles in, my hip was no better but no worse, and my legs ached. Not the best indicator of success with ten miles still to go. Just before four miles we ran down a long hill, and all I could think of was how much it was gonna suck on the way back. To illustrate the difference between me and my BRF: at the same time I was dreading that hill on the return, she said, “Coming back up, I’m going to have to count or some other mental thing to get myself up that hill.” I called it wimping out when I walked half of another hill to take it easy on my hip, while she called it persevering to run half of it. She’s all positive-affirming mantras, and I’m Ugggggh….

We got a short rest crossing through three pedestrian signals, then ran another long stretch of sidewalk past two Mexican restaurants, two fast-food places, Costco, Starbucks, and Whole Foods. At the last water stop, just before turning down another long stretch of sidewalk, we were at 5.25 miles; she cheerfully observed that we just had to go 3/4-mile, not very far, before turning around. But as we made the turn I could see, waaaay off in the distance, the traffic light that marked our turnaround. This did nothing for my “we’re almost there” confidence.

On the way back, my phone made an unauthorized phone call and I had not one but two close calls with cars who would have mowed me over if I hadn’t been paying attention. I ran about 1/3 of the way up that awful hill (BRF ran up it like NBD) before my hip yelled at me, and I played “run to the next fire hydrant” game between miles 8-10. Considering my legs felt fatigued almost from the start, the fact that I ran halfway up the last hill–at mile 11.5–was something of an achievement, albeit minor.

As always, the best part of my run was being finished with it, then having coffee and breakfast with friends.


Of course a cold front blew in as we sat at the coffee shop, and this morning it’s 30* and windy. Guess I need to get to work on that recovery run. We’re almost at the end of Austin’s “cold-weather” running season, so I guess I should enjoy it while it lasts.