Ultra Half

The other night, a bunch of runners from my training group got together for happy hour. As runners do, we got to talking about our various upcoming races, including my Steel Challenge next weekend. And as runners do, they didn’t think it was bizarre that I plan to run a 5K on Saturday and a half on Sunday, for a total of 16.2 miles. Then one of my friends observed that since my combined distance is longer than a half-marathon, it should be called an ultra half-marathon.


That made me laugh perhaps more than it should.


Yep. A 5K medal, a half-marathon medal, and the Steel Challenge medal. 



Ready for the Steel Challenge

This morning was my last long run before the Steel Challenge in Pittsburgh next weekend, and I went out for 10 miles. I began with the run-walk thing (4:1) but a little before halfway I started running through the walk breaks–I think I only took three or four the last five miles. It didn’t hurt that the route was mostly downhill on the way back! After I finished, I definitely felt like I could run three more miles–not easily, but not painfully either.

I won’t be racing the 5K on Saturday, but even so it could impact the way I feel for Sunday’s half. Last year in Cleveland, running an 8K the day before a half wasn’t a problem, so I’m not too worried. I think my race plan will be to start off slowly, then pick it up a little each mile the second half, except for the hill at mile 11.5.

One of my BRFs found a great website–findmymarathon.com–that creates pace bands specific to your race and its elevation. Enter the race name, goal time, strategy (even-paced, conservative, etc.), and pacing strategy (even splits, negative splits, etc.) and it spits out a pace band. If I didn’t already know about that hill, I’d be able to tell from the pace band because its prescribed pace for mile 12 drops :20 from mile 11, then jumps a minute per mile to the finish.


I have a reeeeeeeally conservative time goal, and as long as I don’t blow it the first half, I should be okay the rest of the way. Especially considering Pittsburgh’s temperatures will be well below what I’m already used to. Barring a surprise heat wave, that is.

Having said that, it looks like we stay on the same road from mile 7.5 to almost eleven. I am not a fan of long stretches like this (see: Army Ten-Miler bridge) I guess because it feels so endless. The first part of the race seems to have quite a few turns and bridges and things to look at, but three miles basically in a straight line? Not fun. I looked at it on Google Street View–the first section is kind of industrial with occasional views of the Monongahela River. The second part looks a little … sketchy, but the last stretch seems nicer, more residential. Finally, we cross back over the river on the Birmingham Bridge and hit the hill before the finish.

Even though we don’t leave until Friday morning, I’m already starting to make piles and lists. We have a 5:15am (!) flight and I don’t want to forget things in my sleep-deprived state when I leave, basically still in the middle of the night. I’m traveling with my dad, who’s from Pittsburgh, and my two East Coast BRFs are meeting us there. So, you know, a party with a little running thrown in. 😀


A souvenir from 3M, part two

Remember after the 3M half-marathon I got a blister under my toenail?

Last night, that toenail fell off.


I put this image here so WordPress will select it, not a picture of my foot, for the thumbnail of this post. Did it work?

For the last three months the nail has looked weird–kind of white, like it wasn’t attached to the skin any longer. It hasn’t hurt, and it didn’t turn black. It was just sort of inert.

But of course it fell off now that it’s sandal season. Most of the time I don’t really care what my toenails look like, even when I wear sandals. I mean, I don’t work during the summer and I run a lot. Whatever. But tomorrow I’m in charge of a huge dress-up event at work and I was planning to wear open-toed shoes because they’re the only shoes I have that go with my outfit.

It’s one of the smaller toes and is not super-noticeable. Do I paint the place where the nail would be, and fake it? Or do I wear something else? It’s my first lost toenail and I have no idea what people do in situations like this!


It’s the second toe–it doesn’t look all that bad from here. But the only part that’s actual toenail is the little white spot at the bottom.

I guess I can call myself a real runner now? 😀


Every 2-3 weeks, the rear driver’s-side tire on my car loses pressure for no discernible reason. I’ll start the car, and dingding, the low tire alert flashes on the dashboard. And it’s truly low–I test it with the gauge before hauling out the air tank. The other three tires don’t do this, but when I brought it to the tire place (these were new in January) they took it all apart and couldn’t find a leak.


That tire is symbolic of my life right now. Every so often, I just deflate and run out of energy. This week was one of those times.

I don’t know why I was more exhausted than usual,  but a couple of mornings I could barely get out of bed. I rarely get enough sleep during the week and this week was no better or worse, so while I was not well-rested, that’s sort of my normal. K reminded me that I’m always tired at this point in the school year, so it could just be that it’s all catching up with me. I don’t know, but it was a tough week.

I (sort of) ran six miles with my group on Tuesday, but more than anything it was an exercise in suffering. My whole body felt drained. I’m not sure if it was lingering soreness from the somewhat hilly Longhorn 10K or what. Wednesday all I did was walk the dog for a mile. Thursday’s workout was slightly better, but then again I only managed four miles. So I wasn’t sure how well my Saturday long run would go. Still, I knew I had to run 12ish miles because the Pittsburgh Steel Challenge (5K and half-marathon) is two weeks away.

Since I’m not in half-marathon PR shape, and since I’m running a 5K the day before, I’m planning to run-walk the Pittsburgh half so I have been tinkering with the timing on runs over ten miles. The last time I ran 12 a couple of weeks ago, I ran for three minutes and walked for one minute; this time I tried pushing the running intervals to 4:1 to see if that improved my overall pace without sacrificing endurance.

Turns out, it wasn’t too bad. It was raining and about 60 when I started, and I stuck to the 4:1 pretty well the whole way. I drank my own electrolytes (this time it was DripDrop, which I think is my favorite) and ate a couple of Skratch gels along the way.

It was also a pretty morning for scenery.


The bluebonnets are fading and won’t be around more than a week or two longer, so it was nice ro run past a few fields of them before they’re gone.

How’d the interval thing go? My overall pace was only about six seconds per mile faster than my last 12 miler at 3:1 and my quads were pretty tired by the end. I can’t tell if the tiredness was the result of the increased interval or the exhaustion from the week, or both. But I don’t know that I gained a whole lot by running a minute longer each time. And while my stomach was okay afterward, I didn’t feel like eating a whole lot until more like dinnertime. That’s with a cool morning, too–it stayed about 60 and rainy the whole time. Not sure how that would have gone in warmer conditions.

So I’ve got one more long run, a couple of team workouts, and some easy runs ahead of me before travel and back-to-back races. If I’m lucky, I’ll catch up on some sleep too.

Longhorn Run 10K

I’ve never run this race before–I figured it was all fast college students and I am neither of those things. But I was persuaded to run it this year, despite its proximity to the Cap 10K, because supposedly a lot of those fast college students start too fast and burn out on the hills. I don’t know if that’s what really happened, but I was not last.

I knew the first half would be kind of hilly–I went to school here, and one look at the course map told me this is a challenging race. Especially six days after the (also hilly) Cap 10K and 36 hours after a crappy Thursday night workout. But the weather gods smiled on me and gave me 55* temps as we made our way to the steps of Gregory Gym to meet up with some other Rogues.


The 10K started at 8:00, after the national anthem and “The Eyes of Texas.” The band was in the middle of “Wabash Cannonball” as I crossed the starting line. It was an uphill start–in fact the first half-mile was a roller coaster. Up 21st to University, down and up to MLK, down to San Jacinto.

It was difficult to miss the two water polo players running in their Speedos. They looked very … athletic.

The second mile wound around the football stadium (hello happy place!) and Bass Concert Hall (see you May 3rd for Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me!), down to 26th and north on Speedway. Even though some Rogue friends were cheering just before the turn, for me the toughest part of the course began here. Not only did it have a couple of steep hills, most of Speedway was out-and-back so the faster runners were coming back toward me as I was trudging my way out. This always makes me feel slow. But after I turned around at 45th Street, my outlook improved. More than halfway done, I faced more downhills than uphills, and I was able to pick up my pace a little each mile.

My Rogue friends waited at the top of the hill just before Mile 5, and that helped. This section made a little loop kind of around Kinsolving, and from there, we had a sweet descent on 26th to San Jacinto. I know this stretch pretty well from 3M–the Mustangs, the art building–then we looped around the traffic circle below the East Mall fountain. I passed a bunch of 5K walkers, including one group that was seven-wide.

Just after we turned back on to San Jacinto, in front of the football stadium and Ex-Students, I passed the 11:30 pacer. He was not running 11:30, but I still felt good about leaving him behind. Then we had one final turn–up 21st Street to the finish.

Yeah. Up.

I knew this was coming–this stretch of 21st is my route to and from every home football game. I’d taken it easy on some of the earlier hills so I’d have a little left for this one, so I turned the corner and charged up, passing a friend and dodging a few people that last .2.

Several Rogues stood at the corner of Speedway and 21st and cheered for me, which carried me through to the finish. I wasn’t sure how far back my friend was, but I didn’t want to relinquish my lead. And it turns out, even with the hill my last mile was my fastest. It wasn’t a PR, but I finished two minutes faster than last week’s Cap 10K time.

The finishers’ area steered us straight up the South Mall to the Tower, where every college student on the 40 Acres posed for pictures.


We cut through the crowd and headed to Kerbey Lane for breakfast. Priorities.


Austin Cap 10K

For the first time in eleventy-nine races, I woke up to a morning temperature in the 40s. And it was glorious.

Our corral started at 8:30, so it was kind of a chilly wait. But once we started running, I was glad I’d worn short sleeves.


As we started, we heard the announcer say that the first finisher had just come in. Which is both kind of demoralizing and impressive.

The first mile is a gradual incline, then it’s mostly either flat or downhill. But the Mile 2 marker is at the top of the wicked Enfield hill. Ever hear your grandparents say that they walked to school uphill both ways? Yeah, this one is uphill whether you are coming from the west like the Austin Half Marathon, or the east like Cap 10K and the Turkey Trot, and it is equally steep either way.

The third mile is the toughest–a steep downhill, then about half a mile uphill before kind of leveling off the rest of the way to Mopac. This was my slowest mile for good reason. Mile Four is not flat, but the hills don’t compare to the earlier ones.

It used to be pretty common to see people wearing funny costumes, but today I only saw a few. This one, a construction crane I saw right around the Mile 4 marker, nailed the state of things in Austin.


The last two miles are the flattest of the race, running behind Austin High and along the lake to the First Street bridge. By then my legs were a little tired from the hills, but I maintained a pretty consistent pace. Then as I turned onto Riverside, I picked things up for the last .2. The Teenager had to be first so he ran a little ahead, but Spouse and I finished together.

I didn’t run it to PR the 10K distance–the hills make that super difficult–but I did want to perform well. And it turns out I ran my fastest Cap 10K. I was three minutes off my 10K PR, but this is a much tougher course. The past few years I’ve struggled during this race, so I am pleased with my results today.

And then there were medals.


Congrats to all the finishers today–it was a great day to run!