San Antonio Marathon

My fifth marathon is now in the past after so many months of training and preparation. I spent most of the race ready to be over with it but also managed to enjoy myself and take it easy. We stayed at the historic Menger Hotel, just blocks from the start and finish lines, allowing me just enough time to shower before checkout. I struggled early on in this race so my mind shifted from seeking a PR to finishing with a good attitude.

Expo:  One of the better expos I’ve encountered lately. Lots of vendors (loved seeing nuun) and a celebration of Rock n Roll race series from the year. RnR had gathered all the banners from each race expo and put them together to celebrate their 20th anniversary and the final RnR race of the year. We found our banner from Dallas and I added a message to the San Antonio banner. The expo was also incredibly convenient. We walked past the 5K/10K race on the way to the expo (held at the convention center).

Weather:  Horrible! I had low expectations (Texas in December is incredibly unpredictable and the news showed the race was in a rainstorm last year) but hoped for maybe 60s. Instead, we got an incredibly humid start, two rainstorms during the race, a light sprinkling later, and a warm sunny finish.

Support:  Friendly volunteers and lots of water, but support ran out of Gatorade during the later miles (fortunately I drink Nuun instead). There were more medical tents than I usually see, which offered vaseline and salt packets along the way. During one of the toughest miles, mariachi bands dotted every corner and a folklorico dancer performed above us on a bridge.

Course:  Mostly a good tour of the city. We began downtown and ran right past San Fernando Cathedral (with the priests blessing us as we ran past) and the Alamo early on, then past UTSA before heading north into the newly revamped Pearl District. The next highlight was Brackenridge Park, a delight for anyone who thinks Texas doesn’t get a beautiful taste of fall. The trees were rich in autumn hues and American flags lined the way with photos of fallen soldiers. From there, we turned south along the Mission Trail. Unfortunately, we ran through the back way and could only spot one mission from a distance even though the missions were nearby. Miles 18-20 overlap with 20-24, providing more support than usual on some of the tougher stretches. The last mile took us through the gorgeous and historical King William Historic District to cheering crowds just in front of La Villita. Overall, a good pass through the city but would’ve liked to see more of the missions and run along any part of the river walk, even on its far reaches.

This was my first marathon completely and purposely without music. I planned to listen to the Rock n Roll provided bands every mile, but the frequency was lower than I expected. While it was my slowest marathon ever, I felt the greatest sense of accomplishment at the finish line. I’m so grateful for everyone’s support and excited for my next races in 2018. No more marathons for a very long time! I would run RnR San Antonio again in the future but opt for a shorter distance.

Turkey Trot

Running my first Turkey Trot was the highlight of the last couple weeks of training. Dallas hosts the largest Turkey Trot, with almost 50K people running either the 5K or 8-mile distances. There’s few moments more exciting than seeing so many people up early to run.

I chose to race the 8-mile distance, which ended up being a competitive and fast course. I’ve never done a race of that distance before (instant PR!) so I had to think carefully about pacing myself:  faster than a half-marathon but how much faster? I settled on an 8:30 pace and stayed there. I know I could push myself harder next time, but I feel great about how I did.

After eating lots of Thanksgiving pie, I took Friday as a rest day. We ran 10 miles Saturday morning. My legs will be taking it easy the rest of the week. I hardly believe marathon week has finally arrived! Sleeping (resting up for the race) will be the most important element of my training this week.

Trinity River Run

Racing at night has got to be one of the coolest race experiences ever. I closed out the weekend with the Trinity River Run Half Marathon and a finish through flashing lights and lasers. While the race started late afternoon and I spent most of it in daylight, night fell during my last mile. It was the perfect opportunity to debut my reflective running shorts!

Expo:  As basic as basic gets but with the benefit of multiple packet pickup locations or having your bib shipped to you (for an additional fee). PlayTri hosted, and I was in and out of my local location in five minutes. The race shirt is a really cool 360-degree print of the Dallas skyline at night. I saw many runners post jokingly they were running this race “just for the cool race shirt.”

Weather:  Almost perfect! The race started in the high 60s and finished around 60 degrees with a light breeze. It was a little humid at times, but that’s Dallas for you. I only wish the sky had been clear for a beautiful sunset view while running. Instead, it was overcast all evening.

Support:  Water and Gatorade every two miles but the separation between the two wasn’t obvious enough for runners. I found myself grabbing Gatorade by accident multiple times. I don’t use water stops much in a half, so this wasn’t too big of a deal. Crowd support was minimal, probably because of the location and time of day, but there were several police officers all along the course. While working the course and directing traffic, the officers also seemed genuinely invested in spectating.

Course:  Nothing compares to racing at night with a perfect view of the Dallas skyline. If you need any more motivation to push yourself the last couple miles, just look ahead. Overall, I loved running this course along the Trinity River (“river” used loosely in its modern representation), through the Design District and parts of South/West Dallas. The trails don’t quite connect enough for the half marathon distance, so some of the time is spent on the road with a couple brief gravel patches. I would like to see completely paved trails in the future. Enjoy the cool murals along the Trinity Strand Trail and the finish by Trinity Groves. The course is flat, except for a few bridge ramps.

Fueling for an evening race takes a lot more planning than usual. I ate a typical pre-race meal the night before (fish and pasta) but had to think carefully about what I consumed Sunday:

  • All day:  hydrating with water and Nuun vitamins
  • Breakfast (6 hours before): eggs and a waffle
  • Snack (4 hours before): crackers
  • Coffee* (2-3 hours before): almond milk latte
  • Lunch (2 hours before): English muffin with crunchy PB (my typical pre-race breakfast) plus some pickles
  • Snack (1 hour before): Nuun performance
  • During the race: pretzel sticks and Honey Stinger chews
  • Post-race: amazing after party of food from Modern Market to Topo Chico

*I purposely stay away from caffeine the day before a race, so this coffee hit at just the right time.

I had so much fun racing at night! I can’t wait to find my next half marathon–and hopefully another night run.

DRC Half Recap, Pacing

I look forward to the DRC Half every year in part for the food at the end. It’s the only race I know of that has bundt cake–and the beer garden features local Lakewood Brewing! This year, I ran as a pacer. It’s a completely different race experience.

Pacing presents challenges of its own. I paced 2:35, and we finished exactly to the hundredth of a second. However, pacing is also about consistency throughout the race–not just a finish time. I learned from my first time pacing how we had to adjust and keep on track each mile. This year was an unusually humid (and record-breaking) hot race day, so I’m glad to have paced without the pressure of racing.

Expo:  Local running store Luke’s Locker hosted a small expo with coupons, DRC merchandise and a special store discount for runners. The race shirt this year is one of my new all-time favorites. It’s a soft dry fit long-sleeved shirt in a nice shade of green. The front has a design of White Rock Lake (where the race mostly takes place) with a heart and landmarks.

Weather:  Hot and humid in the 80s. These were summer racing conditions but atypical for this race. We did have a nice breeze most of the time, which helped significantly. Typically the weather is much cooler and contributes to many PRs.

Support:  Water and Gatorade every few miles plus a really fun unofficial stop around mile 11. The Dallas Dirt Runners hosted Fireball shots and other surprises. Overall, expect great support at every Dallas Running Club event. It’s a completely volunteer organization but full of runners passionate about the sport and supporting other runners. Where the course passes through neighborhoods west of the lake, several families and neighbors came out to cheer.

Course:  The course is very familiar to local runners because it mostly loops around White Rock Lake. To make the full half marathon distance, the course extends into some of the hilly neighborhoods west of the lake. Expect the hilliest portions in the first half of the race. The race starts and finishes in Norbuck Park. Prepare to ride the free shuttle to and from the race, since there is no finish line parking on race day.

The DRC Half is a local favorite. Register early for a good deal. The DRC Half is one of the two signature club races. Sign up also for the White Rock ‘N’ Roll 10 miler for a discount and special bonus medal. The DRC Half is a great choice for a first half marathon or an annual personal challenge. It’s also a great introduction to the club itself, which hosts training programs year round.

(Photo courtesy Rico Photo.)

RnR Montreal Half Recap

This was supposed to be a recap of my fifth marathon, but the story ended up a little differently. Instead, the delayed review of my 14th half marathon (and second Canadian race–I ran SeaWheeze in 2015):  RnR Montreal Half Marathon.

Expo:  Smaller than most RnR Expos, and I was disappointed that neither of my favorite brands (Honey Stinger and Nuun) made an appearance. While the site itself was easy to find, navigating within the convention center took awhile. I don’t like expos that make you walk so much just to get to the entrance. Shirt distribution also seemed a little disorganized.

Weather:  Unseasonably warm for Canada, which led to the cancellation of the full marathon. The race stayed in the 70s all morning with high humidity and the temperatures continued to creep up throughout the day. It felt exactly like running in Texas; I checked, race day temperatures were the exact same in Montreal and Dallas!

Support:  Canadians were very scared of the unseasonably warm temperatures, so they added extra water stops and support. Every fire hydrant along the way was open, which seemed a little bit overkill but were fun to run through like a child in the sprinklers. Local run clubs and Lululemon staffed cheering stations near one of the final hills. I ran the free Lululemon Shakeout Run the day before, so it was nice to look forward to seeing new “friends” along the course. They even invited us out for drinks and poutine after the race, which we declined in favor of recovery naps. The city showed up to support this race, which made it one of the most fun I’ve ever run.

Course:  I’d been planning to run this race for a couple years because of how much I love Montreal. The views did not disappoint. We began* on an island, circled around to another and then crossed into the main city (technically also an island)–running along the old port most of the way. One of my favorite parts was through the art installation over Saint Catherine Street in Gay Village. We finished in the park with a large beer garden and plenty of entertainment. *Take note that this is a point-to-point course, and the start line is accessible only by metro then walking about 20 minutes. Neither the start nor finish is close to the old port, but the finish does have a metro station nearby. The race provided every participant with a free one-day metro pass.

I would run Montreal again and again, especially if the temperatures lived up to a true Canadian fall next time. My only complaint is the distance from Dallas makes it unfeasible as an annual tradition. Marathon finishers (in this case, half finishers who had originally registered for the cancelled marathon) received a finishers jacket written in French, unique to other Rock’N’Roll race events.

The Wurst Race Recap

The half marathon is a strange beast:  just long enough to challenge any runner but a cakewalk compared to the full marathon distance. I ran my 15th half marathon over the weekend, and I’m still chasing my next PR.

The Wurst Race is an Oktoberfest-themed 5K and Half Marathon in the tiny German town of Muenster, Texas. This year marked only the second annual running and my second time as well. I won second female overall and came in faster this year, but the competition field was slim.

Expo:  None; bib pickup the day before or race day morning. However, the race includes free entry to Oktoberfest after the run and a coupon for two free beers or sodas. Enjoy German food and dancing and expect to see plenty of lederhosen!

Weather:  Low 30s all morning and chilly winds some of the miles but nice amount of sunshine. “Texas” may be misleading to those travelling from out of town. I wore a short sleeve tech shirt and kept on my arm warmers the whole race.

Support:  Water every few miles seemed to be the right placement for me. Powerade also available. Pickles and bananas at some of the stops, but I stuck to water. Expect a few families cheering along the way. The race is a fundraiser for a local school, so there’s a decent amount of community support but the chilly temperatures kept most people inside. Many of the miles felt lonely.

Course:  Beautiful rolling hills, fields of wind turbines and many animals! Cows, ponies, goats and more are plentiful. I also got chased by dogs twice (not for very long). If you had any doubt, this is definitely a countryside race. Watch out for gravel on the farm roads. There’s one tricky turn at the last mile, so it’s worth looking at a course map ahead of time. It’s not a closed course, which makes for a different experience.

The race is a pretty easy drive from the DFW Metroplex. Overall, I would recommend it to those looking for something different–and the thrill of winning! It’s still in its infancy, so my hope is that it will continue to grow and attract more runners as the organizers get the rest of the kinks out.