Tire(d)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

 

Night and day

I don’t know what happened today. But I’ll take it.

My hip bothered me during both Tuesday’s and Thursday’s runs–in fact, Thursday I cut the workout way short because it felt pretty bad and I wanted to be able to run 12 miles on Saturday. My coach told me not to force 12 if it hurt, that I could still hit that distance another weekend before my upcoming half-marathon. But I wanted to make it happen, considering the last time I ran this route, I also had 12 on the schedule but dropped to 10 because I felt awful.

Both last weekend and today, because of my hip I adopted a run-walk strategy–three minutes of running to one minute of walking. It feels weird to take the early walk breaks, when I’m barely past the first cross street, but lots of people who have tried this say the early ones are important. Two of my BRFs ran with me and adopted the same strategy.

It was in the high 50s and windy and we started an hour before sunrise, so I felt pretty comfortable the first couple of miles. At the first water stop, I added my package of DripDrop to my handheld water bottle–hydration test #3. We plodded along for the next couple of miles, and I didn’t have any trouble restarting after each of the walk breaks. Much better than the last time I ran this route.

At the second water stop (mind you, these are just big coolers bike-chained to corner street signs) we were warned that one of the nearby neighbors was upset because people running past his house woke him up. Apparently he also threatened to turn his dog loose on us. No word on what he might have said to his next-door neighbor whose diesel truck made far more noise than a dozen running people.

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Unfortunately the way this route looped around the neighborhood, we had to pass his house at least three times.

Midway around the first loop, the three of us kind of drifted apart, with me as the caboose. Back at the water stop, the middle person stopped for water and two of us kept going, knowing we only had to go about half a mile before the turnaround. We got further separated as the rest of the run progressed, so for the last four miles or so I was on my own.

But I did okay. Later, looking at my Garmin data, I saw that my mile splits were fairly consistent the whole way. Doing the run-walk thing isn’t going to get me a half-marathon PR, but I finished feeling good. I skipped the last two walk breaks, and my last mile was my fastest. My hip was barely noticeable, and while I wouldn’t say it was easy, I felt like I could keep going. And the rest of the day, I practically forgot that I’d run 12 miles–I didn’t feel sore or anything. The difference from Thursday to Saturday was like night and day.

Considering the mental factor against me–my previous experience with this route–and the physical one of my hip, it easily could have gone to shit. But it didn’t, and I was pleasantly surprised!

The hydration experimentation

I don’t have a good track record of successful hydration.

After the debacle at Zooma, I have decided that this summer, I will get it under control. Since Sunday is April 1, that basically means we’re done with 50-degree running days, so now’s as good a time as any to start trying a few things.

But how on earth do I figure out what might work for me? There are so many options–gels, drink mixes, bars… most of which taste like cardboard. So I did some Googling reading and discovered there’s a lot more out there beyond Gatorade and GUs. I mean, I knew that, but I didn’t realize that these products don’t all do the same thing.

This article and this one both explain the concept of slower-acting carbohydrates and why traditional sports drinks lead to GI distress in some people, me included. Here’s the TL;DR version:

Here’s the back-story: As you run the marathon, your gut gets dehydrated and blood is shunted away from it to the working muscles. This is a positive for your muscles but is a big negative for your GI tract. It can no longer tolerate as concentrated or as much carbohydrate as it could earlier in the race. You hear this when runners mention that the gel or drink that tasted so good at mile 5 made them want to vomit at mile 20.

In this strategy, you aren’t using fast-acting carbohydrates that create the quick shuttling of carbohydrates from the gut to the blood stream (and creates the spike/crash cycle). Instead, you use slow-absorbing carbohydrates that maintain a steady blood glucose level and are kinder on a dehydrated GI tract.

It kind of goes along with my earlier strategy of using real food–Fig Newtons, pretzels, etc. as running fuel–but I never really found the right combination to make carrying all of that stuff worthwhile. Since hydration and GI issues continue to plague me (sometimes simultaneously), this slow-carb concept seems right in my wheelhouse.

Some more reading and I’ve narrowed my search down to three products.

The first is Tailwind, which is both fuel and hydration. You’re supposed to sip it a little at a time during an endurance event, not chug it at an aid station like Gatorade, and supposedly it’s more gentle on the GI tract. It’s also a fuel source, so it covers all the bases and eliminates the need for gels, etc. I tried the Naked Unflavored first, which tasted a bit like diluted seawater, but the caffeinated green tea flavor was tolerable at least at first when it was cold. After a few miles it got warm (even in an insulated handheld bottle) and tasted less appealing though, so I’m not sure whether it will work for me through the summer. But one test does not a decision make, so I will give it some more trials.

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Tailwind Green Tea Buzz

I have to say that the company’s introdcution cracked me up. “The three most traumatic moments in my stomach’s career: Spring Break Palm Springs ’91, Lechuguilla at the bottom of the Copper Canyon ‘93, and Gel #6 Leadville ’04.” Gotta love someone with a sense of humor about barfing.

The second product I’m trying is Generation UCAN. It’s designed to deliver electrolytes evenly to prevent the blood sugar spike that faster-acting carbs provide, and as a result is more gentle on the stomach. This one is an electrolyte-only, which means I still have to use gels or other fuel sources, but I like the Skratch gummy gels and don’t find that to be a significant turnoff.

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UCAN lemon lime

I tried a serving of the lemon-lime UCAN Hydrate during an 85-degree workout, and found that it tasted pretty good even after it got a little warm. Huge plus, considering my flavor pickiness. They have a buy-one-get-one-free promotion going on through tomorrow and I’m tempted to stock up (I’m a sucker for a discount), but since I’ve only tried it once I’m not sure I want to to double down on it without more testing on longer runs.

My third experiment is with DripDrop. I hadn’t even heard of this or come across it in any of my research, but a training friend (who’s a pediatric ICU nurse) brought some to a workout this week and shared it with all of us.

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DripDrop

I had just mixed up my UCAN though, and didn’t try it, so I’ve put the DripDrop in my bag to test out during tomorrow’s long run. Their website doesn’t specify that it’s a slow-acting carb like the others I’ve researched, but it explains the science behind delivering rehydration via the small intestine, which is the same way Tailwind and UCAN work. And since it’s formulated for children, I’m thinking it’s gentle on the stomach as well. Like I said, I’m weird about tastes, though, so that will be a big factor when I do try it.

All three are more expensive than traditional hydration and fueling products like Gatorade. A package of 12 Tailwind packs (two servings per pack) is $30 on Amazon Prime. Like I said, UCAN Hydrate is $25 per container (30 servings) plus shipping, and for another day is buy-one-get-one-free from their website. With Amazon Prime the 30-serving container is $28.95. DripDrop’s website sells an 8-serving box (each package mixes with 8oz of water) for $9.99 or Subscribe and Save for $7.99. Amazon Prime‘s page is confusing–it says there are two sizes–a four-count box for $10.99 and an eight-count box, also for $10.99. Why anyone would pay the same price for four as eight is beyond me, but Amazon can be weird so I’m not sure what’s really happening there.

All this to say that my Stage One trials are underway on these three products. Summer lasts half the year here, so I have some time to tinker with them and see what works. And if all else fails, I still have a small supply of Zofran to pick up the pieces. 😀

Stay tuned.

Spring has sprung

Yeah, I know some parts of the country got a foot of snow yesterday, but not Texas. It’s pollening here, though, if that makes y’all feel better.

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But no school cancellations

Fortunately I’m one of about twelve people in Austin not really affected by seasonal allergies. But the bane of my running existence, heat, is already here–it was 68* and 100% humidity for yesterday’s run–and it’s only gonna get warmer. Pretty soon I will be wishing for 68* mornings.

Still, I have races this spring: two local 10Ks on consecutive weekends in April, then the Steel Challenge in Pittsburgh the first weekend in May.

This Saturday I had ten miles on the schedule. While (for once) my legs didn’t feel sore and tired, my hip hurt so I modified it to a run-walk most of the way. I actually set my Garmin alerts (3:00 running to 1:00 walking) so I wouldn’t walk too much, because we all know I can easily default to lazy. It was a hilly route, and of course hills exacerbated the discomfort, so sometimes I ran through a walk break if the road was flat or downhill, then walked through some of the running interval if the incline was especially steep. Overall I kept the 3:1 balance pretty well, then foam-rolled and lacrosse-balled the hell out of the hip muscles the rest of the weekend.

Today I looked at my calendar and realized that March is almost over. How did that happen so fast? I feel like that scene from Top Gun: Where’d he go? Where’d WHO go?

Where’d March go? It seems like I just got back from my February NJHS trip, yet here we are a week away from the last grading period of the school year.

So I had to think about my April training schedule:

 

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Yeah, that is a 5:15 AM flight… :/

Because I have those back-to-back 10K races, I don’t think I can get more than two 12-milers done before May 5-6. I’ve learned that tacking on mileage before or after a race is not for me, so I instead I’ll just consider the race effort enough to offset the shorter distance. I will shoot for 12 next weekend and again in mid-April.

I don’t worry about jumping from 10K to 12 miles because it’s not like this is the first time I’m reaching those distances–I ran a half two weeks ago. But I am concerned about a different kind of back-to-back: the fact that the Pittsburgh event is a 5K on Saturday and a half on Sunday. Last year when I was training for Cleveland’s version of this, I completed my regular long run on Saturday, then instead of an easy 1.5 or 2 mile recovery run on Sunday, I went out for 3-4 miles with a little more intensity. I haven’t been doing that this spring, for a bunch of reasons. The good news is that Pittsburgh’s first race is a 5K (Cleveland’s was an 8K) that I won’t really be racing, so it’s slightly less demanding. Still, I’d like to be more prepared than I feel right now–although that could just be the Zooma hangover talking.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go shovel some pollen off my driveway.

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.

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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.

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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.

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Ugh

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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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But maybe I just need more sleep.