“If you’re behind me, you didn’t train either”

Today’s Austin 10/20 was the latest installment of Hey, Let’s Set a New Personal-Worst Time! Starring me! But I finished, so I achieved my only goal.

We arrived at the Domain and found parking by about 7:10, then got organized and headed toward the starting area. We took a pit stop at the Westin Hotel–this was no longer an original idea (in years past the place was deserted), but the line wasn’t very long. And when we got to the starting area and saw the line for the portapotties, we knew we’d made the right call.

For some reason, I’d gotten a lower bib (and corral) number than my friend S, who’s definitely faster than me. So we waited at the back of my corral and figured that was good enough. We spotted a few Rogues in the crowd, and our friend P had come out to cheer as well.

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The course was different this year–it had been more or less reversed from previous years. So instead of turning right, we turned left and made the loop around the Mopac access road first instead of last. I ran the first mile pretty strong, but the water stop wasn’t until the end of mile two. The morning was already warm and the water situation kind of bummed me out. Not only that, somehow a bunch of walkers had started at the front and even slowpoke me had to weave a bit that first mile or so.

As I made the turn back into the Domain, I saw P standing there on the corner (her shirt said “Just F*&#$@%! Run!”), and a few minutes later saw M and B outside the Starbucks. I saw them again a few minutes later (the course doubled around on itself a couple of times and they easily took shortcuts to catch me–not to mention I was poky-slow already) and by then I’d finished three miles. I turned past the Whole Foods, back onto the road we’d taken out, and my pace slowed quite a bit as I slogged up the slight incline. This point of the course we would actually run three times–out, back, and then back in toward the finish. Around mile 3.5, I looked to my left and spotted the police escort, cycle escort, and a group of about four really fast men. A half-mile from the finish. That made me feel even more tired. But I saw M and B again and that gave me a boost.

From here, we turned left (across the road where the finishers were coming in–fortunately most of even the fastest runners hadn’t reached this point yet) and started the long stretch down Burnet Road. It’s about a mile and a half in a straight line. The wind gusted pretty hard, and while I appreciated its cooling factor, at times I felt I was running in place. Most of the scenery along this stretch is industrial, but in front of UT’s Pickle Research Center (named for former Congressman Jake Pickle, not the food) was an enormous field of bluebonnets. Some folks stopped to take pictures, but I knew if I stopped I’d have a difficult time starting again. I amused myself by watching the runners returning on the other side of the road, looking for familiar faces or anything else that might take my mind off the fact that I was not even halfway done.

I hit mile 5 and made the turn into an even more industrial area. The 3M half goes back here too, so I’m used to it, but it’s not terribly exciting. I ran-walked my way around this loop, enjoying the ice-cold towels volunteers handed out. Lots of people tossed theirs in a pile, but I stuck mine under the strap of my sports bra and kept it there. Just before I reached the 6-mile marker, a police officer cheered and gave high fives to runners. It was easily the highlight of this section!

I finally came back out on Burnet Road headed the way I had come, and I finally had the wind at my back. But going this direction, we had to take a detour, down and up a side street. Seven miles done. Back on Burnet Road, I made myself run to the intersection at Braker Lane–where M and B were waiting again.The next stretch was mostly downhill, still with the wind at my back. At about 8.5 miles, I saw P again, and she ran with me a few steps, asking if I felt okay. Nothing hurt, really. I was just tired.

As I turned into the IBM campus, I passed a woman whose shirt gave me the title of this post. I told her I loved her shirt and I was completely feeling it. She laughed and agreed. By the time we got to the mile 9 marker, she was ahead of me. Gah.

IMG_0435[1]My iPod stopped for no reason, and when I took my phone out to get it going again, I passed these bluebonnets. You can see the crowd of runners just ahead is, um, sparse. Yeah, I was dragging.

But I only had one more mile to go.

Earlier, when we’d run the Mopac access road during the first two miles, it had messed with my head a little. Previous years, that stretch was mile 8-9, so at mile 2 when I turned back into the Domain I desperately wanted to be finished. But conversely, the IBM section used to be mile 6–and now it was mile 9 so that helped my tired psyche.

Back onto Burnet Road (oh, hello uphill section) and back into the Domain. This is where the Kenyans had been back when I was at mile 3.5. I ran-walked the next half-mile, and I cursed the course mappers who put the finish line at the top of an incline. I spotted S and P off to the left–S had finished and they were cheering like crazy. I tried to speed up, and I guess I did because my Garmin said this was my fastest pace of the whole race! My mile splits were all over the place and I was pretty miserable, but the finish line loomed just ahead.

Once again, this was my slowest attempt at this race and at this distance. But like the woman’s shirt said, I was undertrained, and finishing was my only real goal. I collected my medal and then spotted M and B at the end of the finishers’ area. They’d gotten me a sweet tea (my new post-race, don’t-get-sick remedy) and I was just so damn happy to be done.

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I’d taken a package and a half of Sport Beans in small increments throughout the race, and I drank water at every water stop plus Gatorade at the last two. After the race I felt okay but not great–we decided to skip the post-race Mexican lunch. On the way back to the car we re-visited the Westin hotel for another pit stop. About six women were sitting on the floor with their shoes off–everyone looked pretty hammered. Me included.

Quite a few things went decently well at this race:

  • The bands were all great, and none of them happened to be taking a break as I ran by (unlike previous years)
  • My Sport Beans seemed to stave off violent illness, although I still felt funky for an hour or so afterward
  • I saw M and B four or five times along the course–it was very spectator-friendly and lots of folks lined the course most of the way
  • I saw P a couple of times too, both when I was miserable and she cheered me up
  • When P asked me if anything hurt, I could honestly answer no. I was just tired.
  • The medal is pretty awesome

In the shower at home, I started to feel a little lightheaded. I got dressed slowly, ate a cheese stick, and drank more water. And then it was time to head out to B’s lacrosse game, where I sat in the sun for an hour and a half. We forgot to bring chairs, but thank goodness another parent had an extra one, since this field had no bleachers or seats. His team won, and by the time the game was over, I finally felt hungry.

So we had Mexican food.

And then I realized that tomorrow and Tuesday, my students are taking the writing STAAR test. I will be responsible for “actively monitoring” (click the link for an amusing take on the topic) the room from 8:15 until 12:45 while they test. What is “active monitoring”? Walking. Circulating. Observing. Ensuring no cell phone shenanigans. Making sure all students fill in all the bubbles and write their essays in the correct places. All without actually looking at or reading their tests. My teaching license is on the line, so guess what? I don’t get to sit down much.

I’m not sure which is more difficult–running 10 undertrained miles or pacing around my classroom for four hours while watching adolescents take a standardized test. But I think if I were given the choice, I’d run that race again.

Either way, I’m wearing my race shirt tomorrow.

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If 10/20 = x and 10-20 = y, what are my odds of finishing the race?

The other day, someone asked me if I’m running the Austin 10/20 this weekend, and my answer was, “Yes, but not well.” That’s at least partly because the temperature will likely rise 10-20 degrees during the race. It’s supposed to be in the mid-50s at the start but things will warm up quickly–the high will reach the 80s later in the day. I swear, they really need to move this race to the first week in March, not the last week!

This year's shirt is awesome!

This year’s shirt is awesome!

Last Saturday I ran eight cold and rainy miles–my longest run since January’s horrendous 3M Half Marathon. I’m fairly confident that I can complete ten miles tomorrow, but it won’t be fast and it won’t be without some walking. But that’s the way it goes after an injury, and I can live with it.

This race–in warmer conditions than the ATM and BCS races last fall–will be a real test of whether I’ve solved my fueling issues that added an element of misery to those events. I didn’t really have any issues at 3M, but I don’t know that I can gauge anything by that race. I moved so slowly, for one. And two, M magically acquired an enormous cup of sweet iced tea and I drained it within minutes of finishing–I think that made a huge difference in the way I felt post-race. Why I craved sweet tea, I don’t know. But I’m hoping he can do the same tomorrow.

I also have run-tested Sport Beans the last couple of weeks, and since I can actually stomach them during a run, I’m likely to ingest them during the race. Which, you know, will probably help. I’ve also got some Hammer electrolyte capsules (don’t worry, I’ve tried them in advance too) to take in the morning.

Apparently I like things with "extreme" in their names.

Apparently I like things with “extreme” in their names.

I’m going to drink a lot of water today while I tinker with my playlist and figure out what to wear for a ten-mile race with a 10-20 degree temperature swing. Ah, spring races in Texas.

And don’t make me solve the math in the title. I have an English degree for a reason. 😉

Here comes the rain again

I knew it was going to rain this morning. It rained for our Detox Dash yesterday morning, it was raining when I went to bed, and it was raining when I woke up. The Weather Channel went out on a limb and predicted a 100% chance of rain during the time I’d be out running.

Pleasant.

Pleasant.

I had planned to wear a dark (i.e. not transparent–that’s a mistake you only make once…) shirt and capris, but to be visible I added my white Columbia jacket and white hat. And I dragged out a slightly older pair of shoes–I saw no point in wearing the newer ones when there’s a 100% chance of rain.

It rained pretty hard on me as I drove out to Rogue, and I remembered a previous cold, rainy, and miserable long run. No one was in a huge hurry to take off, but because it was just rain and not lightning, I had no excuse. I really had to get out there and do this. So I found my waterproof headphones, dropped my phone in a ziplock bag, and headed out.

The first mile felt okay. It rained steadily, not quite a downpour but more than drizzle. The second mile, I warmed up a bit and the jacket was too much. The rain was light enough that I tied my jacket around my waist and kept going. Slowly. Remember, I hadn’t really taken a rest day since Friday of last week, unless you count Wednesday when I bailed after a mile. So my legs were tired, and I just couldn’t move very fast. I walked some of the hilly sections, I stopped for water after the first mile and around 3.25, and I eventually turned around after four miles. I’d brought a package of Sport Beans and took a couple every mile or so. My stomach felt okay, so I’m cautiously optimistic that I’ve resolved the fueling issue.

The return trip was more of the same. Slow, some walking breaks, a little drizzle, more Sport Beans. I’m kind of concerned about running a ten-mile race next weekend–between today’s snail-like pace and tired legs after single-digit mileage, I can’t imagine it will be pretty.

Unlike the trees that have decided it’s spring!

Spring sprung

Spring has sprung

I spotted a few bluebonnets on the way back too–the rain should really help the wildflower season this year, even if it’s not filling the lakes. But ugh, since I’d abandoned the waterproof jacket, I was soaked. I’d brought a dry shirt and changed into it right away, before I did my foam rolling. But I had no dry socks and my feet kind of squished. I’m pretty sure I was one of the last people back–the trio who came in behind me had run something like 20 miles, although they’d started an hour or so before I did. One of the vendors (a guy from Skechers) had brought bagels and coffee, which hit the spot. Again, good news on the fueling front, since my stomach still felt well after eight miles.

After a cold, wet run, nothing is better than a hot shower, dry clothes, compression socks, more coffee, and my couch. I have to go out later today, but my exertion level will be low and my evening will involve the couch and Netflix.

I declare tomorrow a rest day.

Changes in latitudes

The last part of spring break looks a whole lot like the first part–getting up early and driving downtown, following the siren song of free stuff. This time it was a Rogue event–the Detox Dash, a 5K 3.6-mile run around Zilker Park.

Because it’s a Friday morning, we weren’t sure what traffic would be like, so we left my house at about 6am. Fortunately spring break (lack of) traffic allowed us to make the drive without even slowing down (!) and we were early enough to find parking at Rogue rather than having to scrounge street parking, always a challenge downtown. Sometimes being an early bird pays off.

This is a fairly new space, and it’s much larger than both their original location and the suburban one where we train, so we kind of felt like the hayseeds comin’ into the big city. But I ran into a chum with a bottle of rum two of my former coaches, and a bunch of Rogue CPers made the trek as well, so at least I knew a handful of people.

We’ve already set a precedent that we’ll get up early and drive some distance for good times and riches and free stuff, and we were not disappointed this morning. ASICS brought goodies–including tech shirts and wear-test shoes–and some other folks were setting up post-run wine, breakfast tacos, and coffee. This defines Rogue events in a nutshell–run to detox, then have wine.

I christen thee "Swag Whore"

Visions of good times that brought so much pleasure makes me want to go back again

But first we had to actually run.

It was 70* and drizzling as we headed west on Fifth Street. I suggested perhaps we just hang out at El Arroyo and wait there for everyone to come back, but sadly they weren’t open yet. So we kept going, under the highway and across the lake to Zilker Park.

There's just too much to see waiting in front of me

There’s just too much to see waiting in front of me

The rain picked up a bit as we looped around the park, but I figured if it’s going to be humid, it might as well rain and cool us off a little. And if the sun had come out, I think it would have been steamy and miserable, so rain was fine with me. I was feeling kind of poky–remember, I’d run almost four miles just 13 hours ago–so I took it easy, especially on any section that might put extra stress on my calf.

Running Man looks a little like Iron Man to me.

With all of our running and all of our cunning, if we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane.

Rogue coaches joke that any given distance is a best guess, so a “Rogue 5K” could be three miles or 3.7 miles. This time it was on the high side–my Garmin said 3.6. When we got back, we dove into the coffee and tacos, then milled around, chatting with friends and making some new ones. And grabbing goodies! I ended up with the official Detox Dash shirt, another ASICS shirt, chap stick, and an ASICS string backpack. So thanks to Rogue and ASICS for enticing us downtown on a Friday morning!

Now, to enjoy the last day of Spring Break. At least until I have to get up early again tomorrow. To run again. Yep, if we weren’t all crazy, we would go insane.

Side note: this song has amused me most of my life–I was allowed to sing allllll of the lyrics when I was a kid. 😉

Running buddy

Yesterday afternoon I planned to run my usual three-mile loop around the neighborhood, but a half-mile into it, everything felt just … wrong. So I bailed.

After a fun family day today, I decided I wanted to try again, and I convinced B to run with me by promising we’d go through the park with the water fountain and the ducks instead of the usual route. It was warm and humid, so building in a bit of a break usually helps me get him to come along.

Quack

Quack

The park is about 1.25 miles from home, so it’s a perfect point to get some water and take a bit of a breather. It was warm and humid, and the break helped. From there we followed the new(ish) path between a small reservoir and a new apartment complex. It was cooler back here, under the shade trees, but B was still tempted to jump into the reservoir to cool off.

Scout bluebonnet

Scout bluebonnet

We looped around the apartments and headed back the way we’d come, stopping for water again and walking a little. He hasn’t run at all (other than for lacrosse) probably since September, so I didn’t want to burn him out with one run today.

He chatted about Minecraft, about the rockets he’s building, and whatever else popped into his head. I felt good (none of that off feeling from yesterday) and we were running a decent pace–it was an enjoyable time together. He’s almost 12 and I know these experiences will be less frequent in coming years, so I’m really glad we had this time today.

“But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks”

This time last year, I’d set PRs or beaten my goal times in five consecutive races–two half marathons, a 10-miler, a 10K, and a 5K. It never occurred to me that those might stand as my PRs for a while.

Last summer when I signed up for my fall/winter distance races, I entered goal times that were ambitious but–I thought–doable based on my recent performances. Little did I know I’d spend the next six months dealing with three separate injuries that decimated my training. Not only did I not come close to last year’s successes, a couple of my races clocked personal-worst times. So I’ve taken to calling the last few months the Winter of My Discontent, from the opening lines of Shakespeare’s Richard III.

And it’s frustrating the hell out of me.

I’ve  been back at regular, consistent training for about three weeks now. And yes, I’ve improved from my dismal showing at 3M in January, both pace- and endurance-wise. But every training run reminds me just how much I’ve lost.

Last night we ran 1K repeats. This meant a one-mile run to the neighborhood starting point–this used to be the easy part, but now I find myself struggling up the hill, lagging behind everyone else–and then the workout. Run each 1K loop at 10K pace, take a 2-3 minute rest, then repeat. I ran five of them, but my average pace was almost a minute per mile slower than the pace I ran to PR the Cap 10K last spring.

Not only that, the furthest I’ve run since 3M is seven miles. Not ideal preparation for a 10-miler in a week and a half, no?

I’m planning to run eight miles on Saturday, but I’ll be on my own because most of my group is running a 5K instead. But I guess if I can run eight, I can run ten. So I am reasonably confident I can finish the 10-miler, but once again it will probably be my slowest attempt at that race.

I keep reminding myself that my only real goals are to finish the races I signed up for before I was hurt, and not get hurt again. But I have a habit of looking back, of comparing myself to others. And because last year’s races ended in almost respectable finish times, it’s hard to accept this regression.

But even Richard III points out that perhaps things will improve for me. Most people only quote that first line, but actually the next few lines offer a hint of optimism.

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.

Here’s hoping for a glorious summer, one in which I shake off the clouds and the bruises and dreadful marches.

Hey, I have an English degree. If I don't quote Shakespeare now and then, UT might take away my diploma.

Hey, I have an English degree. If I don’t quote Shakespeare now and then, UT might take away my diploma.

My only contribution to SXSW

I moved to Austin when I was a kid, long before SXSW was a thing, and generally I’m not a fan. The crowds, the traffic, the hipster vibe, no thank you. I’m sure many of the musical acts are great, but I’m long past the age in which I find it fun to booze it up on Sixth Street. Yet when my friends asked me to run the Brooks SXSW Morning Runspiration 5K this morning, I said what the hell.

We drove downtown, dodging SXSW road closures, and found parking between Seventh and Eighth Streets. Thus we had to walk through the roadblocks at Sixth to the starting point on Fourth Street. The bars, always slick and vibrant at night, looked kind of sad in the light of day. The only people moving around were police officers at the roadblocks (increased after a tragic accident last year) and the folks charged with cleaning up from the night before. Instead of music blasting from the bars, a strong odor of bleach and disinfectant permeated the air. A fire truck, lights flashing, pulled out of the fire station as we approached. As soon as it got out on the street, its siren started blaring too.

We were a little early for the run so we ducked into the Hilton for a few minutes. Hotel bathrooms beat portapotties any day! Closer to the 7:30 start time, we headed out to the Brooks tent across the street. My friends who ran this last year said the crowd was a lot bigger this year–it was nice to see some like-minded folks out there bright and early!

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I’m behind the guy in the orange shirt–he’s completely blocking me, except that might be my hand sticking up over his shoulder.

After a group Instagram photo, the 10Kers went one way and the 5Kers another. Two of us had run six miles of hills yesterday and weren’t particularly interested in racing this thing–I felt a little sore and decided to call it a recovery run. So we headed west on Fourth Street, dodging bicycles, guys with ladders, and random pedestrians. At San Jacinto we turned north. From Fourth to about Eighth, we really had to pay attention to the sidewalk–dropped food, stray beer cans, and the occasional vomit puddle made me glad to be running in the morning instead of partying at night.

Oh yay, a hill at Eighth Street.

From there it was mostly flat, although it seemed that we hit every red light at every block–drawback to urban running, clearly. Along with narrow sidewalks, cracked concrete, and random trees.

We ran down the hill that was part of the Austin Half last year (where I encountered the marathon runner who was struggling to finish), passed Scholtz’s Garten, crossed 19th, and followed San Jacinto onto the UT campus past the west side of the Texas football stadium. At the entrance to the alumni center, my watch said 1.55 miles so we turned around and reversed course.

And had to go back up that San Jacinto hill. Yarg. At this point I was really sick of hills.

Fortunately at Eighth we got to go downhill, and at Fourth we turned left for the last two blocks of the run. We were so slow, I’m pretty sure some of the 10Kers got back before we did. But at least we were out running, not nursing a hangover, right?

The Brooks folks had shirts and water bottles for us–woo, free stuff!

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Gotta love free stuff!

From there, we went for breakfast. Coffee and tacos, naturally. I’m pretty sure we ingested many more calories than we burned on our run, but I’m okay with that. It was a fun morning with friends, free stuff, and Mexican food. What’s not to love?

It definitely beats barfing on Sixth Street.