“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.


Noble Run 5K

I hadn’t run a 5K in a while, so when we saw the flyer for this race at one of our favorite sandwich shops a few weeks ago, I figured why not? It was inexpensive, and it started five minutes from our house. The only drawback was the May 1st date–it’s been warm and humid here, less than optimal conditions even for a short race.

But this morning it was in the low 60s, cloudy, and windy. This, I can work with.


As usual, M planned to drag B to a 30-minute finish time. S and I knew we couldn’t hang with them, so we stuck together–a successful formula the last three races.

We started out by looping 3/4 of the way around the high school track, exited through a grassy area to the parking lot, then out onto the road. I skipped the first water stop, and then my Garmin announced the first mile. 10:28. Oh shit. S said, “Well that can’t last.”

At the halfway point, I was pushing hard but hanging on. When I slowed for water at the two-mile point, S got ahead of me. I kept her in my sights but didn’t try to run her down. Mile two was a little slower but still well within PR range. I tried to distract myself, to not think about how much longer I had to hold this pace.

We made the turn onto Anderson Mill–the same road from the homestretch of January’s Rogue 10K–and I felt … not dead. Still a half-mile to go, though.

We turned into the parking lot, then back toward the stadium. Over the grassy spot again–I admit to walking 20 or so steps here, partly because it was uneven and partly to catch my breath for the final kick around the track–and then I picked it up. I told myself, it’s just  like a straights and curves track workout, one lap, no big deal. Later, S said she told herself the same thing about straights and curves.

Mile three clocked in the 10s again. I could see S not too far ahead, just at the other end of the straightaway. Then, as I came around the last curve toward the finish (which was halfway down the stretch) I couldn’t find the race clock. But… straights and curves. Just sprint the straight, and you’re done. 

I didn’t see a race photographer, just a guy with his iphone, but I smiled anyway. Then before even getting water, I walked over to the infield of the track and flopped down flat on my back, trying to catch my breath.

By Garmin time, I’d PR’d by 29 seconds. On the one hand, it felt like it should be more than that. But on the other, it was the difference between an average pace in the low 11s to one in the high 10s. There’s something pretty damn satisfying about dropping that number, you know?

I checked the official results later and gained a second back–an even 30-second PR. Turns out I was 11th in my division, too. Must not have been too many women my age out racing this morning, but still, I’ll take it.

J and I won’t be running that fast tomorrow. 😉


Outstanding in our field

The sun peeked over the horizon and temps were in the 50s as we drove to the park for our first 5K of 2014. It was a perfect morning for a race.

We arrived a little early and were treated to a sea of bluebonnets blanketing the field next to the trail. So like good Texans, we snapped the obligatory bluebonnet pictures.

Outstanding in the field

Outstanding in the field

Last year, the Tri Doc 5K was a tiny costume race–maybe thirty people–that B ran on his own. It was the week before the Cleveland half marathon and I didn’t want to aggravate my left calf, which had been giving me allllll kinds of trouble. I cheered him on as he placed second in his age group. This year, Rogue sponsored the race, which benefits Marathon High, a running program for at-risk teens. As a result, turnout was much higher–lots of my Rogue friends had signed up too. M had the injury this time, so instead of racing, he brought his camera and became the unofficial race photographer, staking out a great spot near the start/finish line. Thus B and I were tasked with upholding the family’s honor amid a field of about 100 runners.

I’ve been training hard all winter and had an ambitious time goal in mind; B wanted to run his first sub-30 minute race.

And we’re off! Photo via The Tri Doc.

The course was an out-and-back along Brushy Creek Trail, a location I’ve run a gazillion times. The first section had gotten a bit muddy due to a weird hailstorm that hit last night, but otherwise it’s mostly flat with a wide sidewalk, a really nice route.

I have a tendency to start off too fast, but if I had any chance of reaching my time goal, I needed to start fast-for-me and maintain it throughout the whole race. I held it for the first mile. So far, so good. During the second mile, I started seeing the super-fast runners on the way back–that’s always a bit demoralizing, but I focused on looking for B. He’s capable of a sub-30 minute 5K, but without his dad to pace him and motivate him, he faced something of a challenge. When I passed him going the other way, though, he was running hard and looked strong. I guessed he was three or four minutes ahead of me, but I couldn’t really gauge how close either of us was to our goals. We high-fived and kept going.

I made the turnaround knowing the next half-mile would be the toughest stretch because I couldn’t afford to slow down. A couple of small hills that don’t seem like much could be the difference for me, time-wise. I skipped the water stop both coming and going for the same reason.

The third mile was pretty flat. By now I knew I had success in my sights, and I just kept visualizing the finish line’s race clock, the subsequent fist pump of achievement. I kicked it up a notch. Around the curve, under the highway, back on the muddy trail. I spotted B standing off to the side. I high-fived him on the run, and then I saw the race clock.

Home stretch

He makes me look like a slacker, but I was really only about four minutes behind him!

I finished with a PR of more than three minutes, beating my ambitious goal by more than a minute. And B met his sub-30 minute goal by about 30 seconds. He even placed third in his age group!

I know his 29:xx finish is just barely adequate for a lot of runners, let alone my 34-minute one. But we think our performances were pretty outstanding.

Next week: the Capitol 10K. Can we PR that race too?


My training calendar called for a 20-minute recovery run today, after yesterday’s six miles. So yeah, I raced a 5K instead. Rogue sponsored the race, and Rogue runners got a special shirt, so how could I say no to that?

Go Rogue!

Go Rogue!

But it wouldn’t be easy. Last night B and I went to the Texas-KSU football game, which got a little hairy there at the end. So the adrenaline was pumping well past bedtime. B fell asleep in the car on the way home, and it was after midnight when we crawled into our own beds. Probably not the best scenario for a race the next morning. As I fell asleep, I considered offering to volunteer instead of actually running.

Six-ish hours later, we woke up to positively chilly temperatures–the car thermometer read 59* and dropped to 55* before we even got out of the neighborhood. No rain, no clouds–it was perfect running weather.

We’ve run this race the previous two years, but this year with Rogue as the big sponsor, it got a lot more publicity and attracted quite a few more runners than in the past. At least 25 of us were Rogues in our matching singlets. Lots of familiar faces, which means I have finally become a Person Who Knows People At Races.

We ran an easy warmup, and then it was time to start. I fired up my race day playlist and set it to shuffle (“Love Somebody” by Maroon 5 kicked things off) as we crossed the starting line. M and B took off to attempt a sub-30 minute finish, and I set my own pace. It was cool, I had my favorite music, and even though I’d run six miles yesterday, I felt good. We turned the corner and Avril Lavigne’s “Here’s to Never Growing Up” gave me the perfect cadence. I felt myself moving almost as if someone else were propelling me–kind of Zen, you know? Of course, it was slightly downhill so that didn’t hurt. But I had a steady, solid pace going and felt really strong. I slowed for the water stop, but kind of wished I hadn’t–I worried it would break the momentum. So I took a couple of gulps of water, tossed it, and kept going.

Most of the race winds through a residential neighborhood, and a couple of families had come outside to cheer us on. But mostly it was quiet. The faster runners (like this guy–I saw him on his way back as I was hitting the first mile marker) were way ahead, the slower runners and dog-walkers way behind. The crowd had spread out a bit, so it was just me and Bon Jovi, Barenaked Ladies, Train, more Maroon 5, and “Danger Zone” from Top Gun.

Last year, I’d spent much of the race passing a mom and her son–they’d run by me, I’d pass them when they slowed to walk, repeat. About a mile into today’s race, I realized I was behind them again. But by the mile two marker, I’d left them behind. This made me irrationally happy. But a woman in pink had taken on that role this year, and I was determined to stay ahead of her the last mile.

Normally I take advantage of the water stops for brief walk breaks, but as I rounded the corner I realized I didn’t want to slow down. Let me say that again: I skipped the water stop because I didn’t want to slow down. Besides, slowing down would allow that woman in pink to pass me again.

Remember the downhill Zen feeling I had earlier? Well, I had to go the opposite way up that street, and it was decidedly less Zen. But as I was losing steam, Katy Perry’s “Roar” came on. I kid you not, this song pushed me up that street to the last turn. It’s cheesy bubblegum pop, but it was just what I needed right then.

I intentionally hadn’t been paying attention to my overall time on my Garmin–just pace and distance. But I realized that I’d started off strong and never really let up, except for that first water stop. I knew I was having a good race (even though the woman in pink had gotten in front of me again) and the finish line was in sight, maybe .25 to go. Katy finished roaring and those first distinctive notes of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin‘” came through my headphones.

This race ends on a slight incline, but even though I’d pushed pretty hard over three miles, I still felt strong. Rogues cheered from the sidelines, and I spotted B and M near the finish line. I saw M do a double-take at the time, so I suspected I might be finishing faster than any of us expected. I got my high-five from B and broke into a sprint.

If you look at my Garmin graph, my splits are almost dead-even all the way through. Except that last tenth. The blue line shoots up like the Matterhorn. Not only did I run three miles at a consistently faster pace than ever before, I also had enough left to sprint the last 20 yards or so!

I’ll be honest–I have no idea what happened to the woman in pink. That last tenth, my vision narrowed to my Rogue friends and my family cheering me on, and the finish line. I didn’t see a race clock as I finished and stopped my Garmin. I walked a bit, trying to shake off that foggy, slightly nauseated feeling that comes with physical effort while I waited for M and B to catch up. B asked if I wanted water, and only as he led me away did I look at the overall time on my Garmin.


Not only was it a new PR, I’d beaten my old one by almost a minute and a half. Roar, indeed.

Her Flintstones top probably isn’t good running attire, though.


Polar Express

I planned to run an easy five miles this evening, along the path that goes through the complex where my son had lacrosse practice. But you know what they say about the best-laid plans, right?

As B went off to practice, I left my insulated Polar water bottle by the front tire of my car. This is Central Texas–I always have access to water when I run. The running path goes off in both directions from the parking lot, so I can run a mile or so, then stop for water, then go off in the other direction without having to carry water with me. I park in an end space, so it’s easy to swing by and take a quick drink as I pass through.

I headed up the westbound path, past the ROTC kids and over the bridge that does weird things to my sense of balance. The first mile is always the hardest for me, and today was no different. I felt really slow, but I looked at my Garmin and was shocked. One, that it was pretty fast, and two, that I wasn’t dying at that pace. So I just kept it going, figuring I’d see what I could make of it. I hit the turnaround, eventually going back through the parking lot and out the eastbound path. I forgot to stop for water because I was distracted by the pace I was maintaining. I felt good–no fatigue, no lead-legs. It wasn’t hot, but at this speed, I started getting thirsty. As I made the turnaround at 1.5 miles, I told myself, “Just run to the water.”

I charged up the creek bank and headed toward the parking lot. As my car came into view, I could tell that my water bottle was not where I had left it.  Like I said, I’d parked in an end spot and could see the entire passenger side of my car. No large white Polar bottle.



What the  hell? Who would take someone’s water bottle? It clearly wasn’t an abandoned Dasani bottle or whatever. It was an insulated Polar bottle, filled with ice and water, and left an inch from my front tire. I paced around a while, astonished. Another lacrosse mom walked by–she had extra water in her car and shared some with me. I thanked her, then bitched and moaned in my head on Facebook, irate that I’d had a great run going and it got screwed up by a jackass water thief.

Then I decided it was unproductive to stomp around the parking lot. The damn thing wasn’t going to magically reappear by my tire, so I might as well channel this energy into something useful. I restarted my iPod and my Garmin and took off down the western path to the sounds of Journey urging me not to stop believin’. Turns out it was kind of a blistering pace, at least for me. If my first mile was surprising, my third mile blew my mind. I started to think I could (unofficially) beat my 5K PR time from last September, so I poured it on the last half-mile. I ended up smashing that PR. Yeah, I know it was only a training run and not a race, but I’m still going to let Garmin assign it a PR. 😉

Out of breath and with no water, I wandered back to the bleachers near B’s practice field. He still had 30 minutes of practice left, but I was not excited about running a couple more miles without hydration. Besides, I kind of didn’t want to mess up my pretty 3.1 PR time on my Garmin. 😉 So I just walked around the various fields, looking for a stray Polar bottle. It’s a huge complex–big enough for multiple baseball, soccer, and lacrosse teams to play simultaneously. And this is Central Texas–kids parents are good about bringing water. But I saw nothing resembling mine. Until I walked over to the bleachers at the next lacrosse field. I picked up a familiar-looking bottle and heard ice rattling. I asked if someone had brought this one from home, and one of the moms said no, someone had found it in the parking lot and brought it to the fields in case it belonged to one of the lacrosse boys.

Okay. Um. I have several unanswered questions here. Who was going to drink out of a random water bottle? Why would someone assume an iced water bottle next to a stranger’s car had been accidentally left behind by a teammate? And why would it be a parent’s first instinct to pick it up and take it, just in case? I’m guessing these are the same parents who carry their kids’ gear for them too? Never in a million years would I pick up a bottle in a parking lot and take it with me. If my kid forgot his, well first of all he wouldn’t drink from one I’d just found, and two he’d have to deal with the consequences–while carrying his own stuff, I might add. The whole thing left me shaking my head.

But I got it back. And when I was pissed off, it fueled the last leg of the fastest 3.1 miles of my life. I shall call it the Polar Express.


Not that I drank out of it after I rescued it…