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.

Running Emojis

Officially dressing up as the running emoji has been a desire of mine since the long-awaited release of the female runner emoji. It’s probably my most used emoji, and the costume is still subtle enough to run comfortably.

We joined one of our favorite social runs tonight, “Pint Striders,” for a costume-themed evening. The weather was nice, but I took it easy with 4 miles at recovery pace. Then we enjoyed cupcakes and drink specials at the pub.

I’m looking forward to a rest day tomorrow before racing a half marathon Saturday. I won my age division last year in the race’s inaugural year. The field may be larger this year, but I’m still hoping to reclaim my spot and maybe even move up in overall results.

Raising My Race

Marathon training is a bit like raising a child, pet or even plant. Every training decision–from nutrition and hydration* to specific running choices like long runs or speed-work, cross-training or rest–directs how I want my race to go.

The latest debate is if the long run, especially the infamous 20-miler, is necessary: Should I train hard every day instead of prepping my week around a big weekend long run? Should I race fast instead of training long and slow? Should I go for an easy run or hit the gym? For the record: I would rather run another marathon than run a 20-mile training run.

I’m constantly reading the research and have talked to coaches and other runners with various opinions. My conclusion is to train more and worry less. Sure, try it all and see what works best, adapting with each cycle. Making running fun is about remembering it’s worth enjoying along the way–and there’s always next season.

One rule I do live by is hydrating throughout the day, making deliberate choices about what and when I have certain beverages. Mostly I stick to water and try to avoid caffeine in the evenings. An exception is when I have an evening run like tonight. I add a nuun energy electrolyte tablet* to my water for a slight boost. The rest of the time, I stick to a pattern of adding a nuun vitamins tablet to every third or fourth bottle of water.

*Now through October 31, 2017, use discount code myfriendslovenuun to take 25% off Nuun. My favorite flavors are ginger lemonade (vitamins energy), blueberry pomegranate (vitamins) and fresh lime (electrolytes energy).

Confidence Lap

We ran a ladder workout (400, 800, 1200, 1200, 800, 400 with 400 recoveries) for our last track night of the fall training season. The weather was perfect, and I struggled to resist pushing our group faster than our training paces. We stayed perfectly in pace (7:23-7:55) until the very last 400 where we flew ahead (6:58) into what I call a “confidence lap.”

Once you’ve properly trained, racing becomes mostly a mental exercise. Being able to look back on the season and find moments where you pushed yourself harder than you imagined helps you get through tough races. Even more so, it’s important to see where you pushed yourself after struggling.

Two 1200s in a row can be tough and the last 400 of a ladder isn’t exactly a walk in the park. A ladder workout is a mental game in itself, savoring how each rep gets “easier” (shorter) once you’ve peaked out. Of course, short and easy are actually very different, but it’s a solid lesson in perspective.

The race is what you make it.

Trying Again

The Montreal marathon did not go as planned, mostly because it did not go. I ran the half distance after the full got cancelled. I spent a few hours feeling very angry before reaching a shameful sense of relief.

Missed training runs? No worries. Sore legs on the flight home? Not a chance. The pressure to PR? Off my shoulders. After enjoying the shorter distance on a beautiful (but warmer than usual) day in Montreal, I celebrated with my Canadian beer and French marathoner jacket. I didn’t run a marathon that day, but I am still a proud 4x marathoner.

By about the fifth time of explaining why I ran the half instead of the full, I realized I wouldn’t feel satisfied until I completed my fifth marathon. Rock’n’Roll San Antonio had been on my mind so I pulled the trigger and parted with more of my money.

Sometimes you don’t reach your original goals only because there’s other goals out there to chase instead. I’m realigning, reorganizing and ramping up my training for a race day that will probably be just as warm as Montreal–except Texans can handle the heat!

Arrived in Montreal

We made it safely to Montreal only for a race cancellation. I’ve never seen a race cancelled for heat before, especially temperatures I would consider mild. The high on race day will be in the mid-80s, so Canadians have decided that’s too hot to run. I’m not sure that any of my training runs took place at lower temperatures!

The race has allowed marathoners to run the half distance, which will start one hour earlier than planned. My new focus is to PR (or PB, as they say in Canada) at the shorter distance and give it everything I have. I’m very disappointed I won’t get the opportunity for the full distance.

We ran intervals Tuesday evening for a total of 8 miles. It was hot and humid, but we pushed through for the faster paces and enjoyed the recovery. I got up for BoMF Wednesday again and did a cool 2 mile run/walk. Flying took up the rest of the day, and then we celebrated our arrival with a walk through old Montreal to dinner in Chinatown.

Race Week

Montreal is finally upon me, and my flight is less than 48 hours away. The preparation is really complete at this point. What I do the rest of the week will help me more mentally than physically.

Saturday we mixed in some race pace miles toward the end of our training run. Even though it was hot and humid, the pace felt great to me. That gave me more confidence for my marathon. After training, I added on a few miles to get a total of 12.7 for the morning.

Sunday, I was intentional about walking and keeping myself active without overexerting my body. This morning, we did 1.5 miles with with BoMF. I have just a few workouts left until race day. Now my biggest question is what to wear for race day. I’ve already got the manicure to match the finishers jacket.

I Love Track Night

Hamster-style has become one of my favorite aspects of training. While most people begrudge having to run around the track at exhausting speeds, I think it’s really a lot of fun. It’s nice to go fast and there’s always a period of rest.

We ran 3 sets of 4×400 with declining rests in between each 400 (60 sec, 45 sec, 30 sec) for our first fall track night. The paces felt great and the humidity was low. This was my first real run since Saturday’s long run so my body was very ready.

Sunday I took as my typical rest day. Monday began with BoMF and finished at CycleBar. I enjoy mixing it up and working out my legs on the bike to give them a break from running. Before Tuesday’s run, I also got in a good amount of Montreal planning. The trip itself is now only one week away!