Medal Monday: Big D Half Marathon

Big D Half Marathon - DONE!I think I might have lost my mind. I’m not sure what happened that I find myself looking at April with a little apprehension. I signed up with Marcy to run the Diva Half Marathon in Galveston on April 19th. This would be our goal race. But I am also going to Des Moines, Iowa for the National RRCA Convention the weekend of the 25th and there is a race. Knowing that it would be a week after my goal race, I smartly signed up for the 10K. Safe, right? But then my fellow board members of DRC talked me into upgrading to the half (It will be slow! We will have fun! – famous last words before I always seem to pull that trigger… hahaha). So imagine my surprise when I get asked to then also pace the Big D Half Marathon…the week before Galveston. I didn’t want to run. In fact, I had the perfect spot picked out to go cheer everyone on at! But here I am, running Big D.

Pretty cool that even my boy got to pace this morning!

Pretty cool that even my boy got to pace this morning!

The Big D Half and Full Marathon has been run for a number of years and this year they changed up the course, promising a flat course for your fastest half marathon finish. In Dallas, that’s usually code for “this is gonna suck, we’ve found every elevation change we could and shoved it all into this awesome course.” True to form, there was no elevation map included with the course map online. However, a quick perusal of the streets, I knew it wasn’t flat. I’ve run West Shore before. Seriously. After my calves nearly blew up on the Rock n Roll Dallas course, I started to dread the race. I know what my legs are capable of and no amount of training or running slower or faster or ingesting various forms of electrolytes or water is going to change that my legs and I have a love-hate relationship. My kidney’s decision to sometimes not function on all cylinders typically causes most of my angst. It’s certainly a delicate balancing act of water, salt and other electrolytes to keep from cramping up because of the toxin build-up inside my pesky kidney.

Best Pace Sister EVAHH!!Determined to make this a great race, Marcy and I grabbed our blue running skirts (Skirt Sports, of course!) and our orange flowers. The orange flower from FellowFlowers.com represents runners “fiercely united.” It’s one of my favorite flowers to wear when I am with my running friends. Marcy and I set out doing 2:1 intervals. We were pacing the 2:50 finish group and this interval made the most sense. Within a quarter of a mile, we had been asked by people running near us about the intervals and asked if they could join us. The answer is always “of course!” Pacing a race is hard because you HAVE to have a great race. You can’t be the one to fall apart because runners who paid to run are counting on you to help them reach their goals. But, pacing a race is also one of the most rewarding things I do. That pace stick breaks down barriers, pulls headphones out of ears, and lets you meet the most amazing athletes. Every walk of life can be found out on a course, all running for various reasons, all with great stories of obstacles overcome.

The nitty gritty of the race: this was hilly! OK, not San Francisco-hilly, but for imageDallas, there were some inclines! Training with Dallas Running Club, we run those hills every weekend. If I was running by myself, I would likely skip those streets and only run on flat land. But that wouldn’t make me a better, faster or stronger runner, so I could do the hills, but I certainly felt inclined to complain a little under my breath as we approached each one. The day was exceptionally humid. In the end, this was the deciding factor for a whole lot of runners Sunday morning. The higher than expected temperature with 85% humidity was like running through pea soup. The water stops were spaced really weird. We would go almost three miles with no water then hit two stops in less than one mile. Stuff like that is why I ALWAYS carry my own water. That and the pesky kidney. Every water stop, I grabbed water, took a sip or two and then dumped the rest of it on my neck to try to keep cool. I really struggled with cooling myself off during the race and looking back at my Garmin, my heart rate was really high too… curiouser and curiouser.

imageAs Marcy and I approached mile 7, we got a text from my hubby who was pacing a much faster group. The humidity caught up with him and he had gotten sick on the course. He was unable to keep going at his pace (that’s why we have two pacers for each time – anything can happen on race morning). Marcy and I told him to just walk and we would catch up with him. He could finish with us. Ironically, he has never finished a half with me (he’s speedy, even if he is having an “off” race). We picked him up about mile 9. Marcy and I were really happy that everyone who wanted to run with the group was still with us and doing really well. We tried to pass the time with some jokes and I called out the miles with elapsed time as we got there.

We had just passed mile 12 when a girl collapsed to her knees right in front of us. She had been in front of us the whole race and she looked really strong, so the three of us immediately ran over to help. Her leg was cramping up and she was crying. It had locked up and she couldn’t move her foot and the cramping was so bad it was beginning to radiate to her hamstring and quad. I knew exactly what the cramping was like and hoped I could help her get it to subside, but it would take a minute. We agreed that Marcy would get the stick and the others across the finish line at the goal time and Sean and I would stay back with the injured runner. Thank goodness, the final water stop of the course was just ahead. We worked the cramp back a little and I ran ahead to get her water and Gatorade. She said she didn’t have any more energy gels left. Quick thinking prevailed. As a pacer, I always carry extra pretzels and jelly beans in a pouch for anyone that needs them. I knew she needed salt, so I offered her the pretzels, which she thankfully took. They quickly helped and she wanted to try to run it in. Sean and I assured her we would not leave her side until she crossed the finish line to her family.

Marcy, Sean and I with Elizabeth. She is truly an inspiration!

Marcy, Sean and I with Elizabeth. She is truly an inspiration!

We learned that her name was Elizabeth and this was her first half in five years. Sean told every story he could think of to take her mind off of any pain she might have been experiencing and gave her tips on running form and we invited her to come run with us at DRC. The best part was seeing the kick she had left in her as she saw that finish line. I could almost not keep up. As we crossed the mat, I grabbed a medal from a volunteer and put it on her neck. Elizabeth hugged me tight and just started to cry. She whispered that she hadn’t run a half in five years because she was looking for a kidney in that time and had just had a kidney transplant. Everything began to make sense and I told her I understood more than she knew. I was so proud of her and what she had accomplished. Marcy met the three of us at the finish line for pictures and we got to meet Elizabeth’s husband. The orange flower made so much sense at that moment. My orange flower was my declaration that we were there for all the runners out there that needed a boost, a little laugh, a few pretzels, or someone to just help you across the finish line. I was reminded that every day I get to run is a good day. Everything happens for a reason and I am now certain that I was meant to pace and be there to meet Elizabeth.

Seriously, the blog is called The Cupcake Mile. How does one not add the cupcake-after-the-race pic? ;)

Seriously, the blog is called The Cupcake Mile. How does one not add the cupcake-after-the-race pic? 😉

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Dirt in My Skirt: My First Trail Race

“It will be fun,” they said. “You will love it,” Vishal said. This began my foray into trail running. Oh, and the promise of dessert.

Where is my cake? I was promised cake!

Where is my cake? I was promised cake!

Marcy and I decided smartly to begin with a 25K for our first race because, if I had to hear that a 50K was only five more miles than the marathon, I would probably punch someone. The last marathon I ran was traumatic. It was too hot with humidity over 95% and I made every mistake I could have possibly attempted that day. I had no idea what I was getting into, but I know people. 😉

imageMarcy and I, along with hubby and son all signed up for the Millican Trails 25K in College Station, along with a small handful of friends who signed up to do the 10K. I asked probably more questions than I was allowed of some very experienced trail runners and made a list of the trail shoes I would need to get and the best hydration packs. I must have researched the stuff I would need for weeks. I had no idea how to train for running a race on trails. Vishal told Marcy and me to just keep up my base miles on the road and get time on our feet for the trails. Oh, and quit looking at the Garmin.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature dealt us some of the rainiest, coldest, iciest weather in Dallas that I can remember in recent years. I’m no stranger to running in whatever Mom throws at us, but apparently the trails close completely in that kind of weather. So, from December through the first weekend in March, the nearby trails were open a total of four weekends and I had the flu for two of those weeks. I silently thanked our wisdom of choosing to only run the 25K for the first trail race.

To add a wrench to the whole weekend of crazy, Alex (the kiddo), had a track meet Friday night at University of Texas in Arlington. No worries, right? I’ll just send Marcy to College Station early and have her pick up our race packets and we will meet everyone late Friday night. After doing well at the 2 Mile on Friday evening, we made the three hour trek to BCS, arriving after midnight to the hotel. Passing out really is the only way to describe what happened, because 5am was going to come pretty quickly.

Seriously, a beautiful pink sunrise with great friends is the best way to spend a Saturday morning.

Seriously, a beautiful pink sunrise with great friends is the best way to spend a Saturday morning.

Yep, 5am came really fast, but we were all awarded with one of the most stunning pink sunrises out there. Mother Nature threw us a bone after the atrocious winter and the temperature was beyond perfect with no hint of rain. Marcy and I set off and the first 1K was more of a cross-country style run through tall grass. By mile 2, I was pretty proud of myself for staying relatively dry as we crossed the creek beds. I was rewarded with stepping into ankle-high mud with both feet. This could be a long day, but I was proud of myself for packing an extra pair of socks in my hydration pack just in case. We made our way through the first six miles or so enjoying the scenery and talking with everyone else out there. imageThat is definitely a difference between road running and trail running – camaraderie. As we approached a bunch of old cow bones, we just had to take our picture, so two girls offered to help. We laid on the ground to take the picture and texted everyone that the trail was going to kill us. The first aid stop was about 7 miles in and had real food! That alone is enough to give up road racing. Cookies and M&Ms and pickles, oh my! By the way, I discovered that pickles taste awesome seven miles in…

My yellow flower from #fellowflowers for this race with a best friend.

My yellow flower from #fellowflowers for this race with a best friend.

After thanking the volunteers, we took off again. Most of the race was spent just walking because the trail was extremely technical with lots of tree stumps about an inch and a half high, roots, twists, turns and elevation changes. The most exciting elevation change was a steep descent into a creek bed followed by the equal and opposite reaction that had to include a rope to the base of a tree at the top to help get up to the top. There were a few f*bombs dropped as everyone approached this point in the race. All Marcy and I could do was laugh and go for it. It was a BLAST!!!

We made it to the next aid station about mile 13 and I ate a quarter of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich – just what I needed. The last two miles were around a small lake, so we had to take a quick picture before we got back to the finish, where Marcy’s boyfriend, my hubby, Alex and our other friends were waiting and cheering us on. By the time it was over, I had dirt in my skirt and I had sanded off part of my pedicure.

imageVerdict? We have fallen in love with trails and can’t wait to sign up for another race. It was wonderful to not care what the pace was on our Garmin or where we were in our age group. Nothing mattered but being out there to enjoy the day. Oh, and cupcakes. Seriously. I was promised cake.

imageAlthough “fast” is not usually part of my world, my boy did awesome with a 2:17 finish (first in his age group) on his first trail race and only the second time he had ever run on a trail. I, on the other hand, finished with a smile on my face. And in the end, is there any other way to finish a race?