The best Medal Monday ever… or why you should #runlocal

I’m kind of a fan of bling. Really though, what running princess isn’t? But this weekend’s race tops them all.

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Running clubs across the country are in place to benefit so many local groups and they do great work. My local club‘s main beneficiary is the Tal Morrison Scholarship Fund. They award six scholarships (three boys and three girls) to area high school seniors that participated in their school running program.

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How I race when I’m not racing…

You don’t have the be the fastest on the team and you don’t have to commit to running in college, but you do have to be a great student. Tal, the founder of the club back in 1969, passed away last year and he has said that his greatest legacy was this scholarship fund.

 

Every April at our club race, I have gotten a little choked up by how awesome it is to give checks to these students. We can accomplish some pretty great things with our club and I’m proud to be a part of it all. But this year was special. My son was awarded one of these scholarships.

imageThree thousand dollars is half of his housing paid for. Three thousand is a huge chunk of the out of state tuition bill. I have seen that award become the reason a child went to school in the first place. These kids are fantastic. One of the girls will be attending MIT in the fall. One of the boys will go to Texas A&M and study math. Another girl plans to attend Duke. My son will be at LSU studying political science.

I know it’s fun to participate in the big national races, but for a moment, think about how much good you can do by running in one of your local club’s races. These small clubs all over the country do great things. They are changing lives one mile at a time. Real lives with real hopes and real dreams. I would say that the award received at this club race is better than any age group trophy or finishers medallion that could be won. It is an investment in the future. Alex and Daniel, well deserved boys. I’m proud of you both.

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Medal Monday: Crescent City Classic 10K

Heading to Louisiana seems to now be a habit, as this was trip three in three months. A year ago, I bid on an auction at the RRCA National Convention that included two entries to the Crescent City Classic and a hotel room. My sister has never been to New Orleans before and was starting to do 5k races doing run-walk intervals, so she was excited to join in on the fun. I didn’t really know anything about the race other than it was huge and billed as one really long party. It sounded like you could walk it completely and still not be “last.” Spoiler alert: this race is phenomenal!!!

Expo

imageSo, this race actually has an expo! In a time when even a lot of half marathons don’t have expos, this little 10k put on a two day expo. And unlike some of the other race expos I have been to, no one tried to sell me replacement windows or a body massager that looked eerily like an orbital car waxer. It’s held at the Hyatt on Canal St and took up the entire Elite Hall. The only weird thing was that it didn’t flow really well. I had to walk halfway through the expo to go pick up my bib, then walk through the other half to do get my shirt and bag. It’s hard to stay focused on those two items before you start shopping and sampling.

imageI liked that there were booths for all of the charity partners for the race and you could register to run with one of them and get into the charity corral. There were a bunch of booths with fun apparel and a ton of regional race groups. To me, that really makes an expo special because as a visitor, you get the opportunity to see what the local running community looks like. And ummm, yeah, there was free food. In true Louisiana fashion, I could get a bowl of red beans and rice and a beer (or in my case, an iced tea) and just chill while the local physical therapist gave a talk on injury prevention.

Race Day

imageLet me first say, this race really is huge; more than 20,000 crazies committing to 6.2 miles early on the Saturday before Easter. It’s a money race (significant money), so it attracts a lot of elites from Kenya and Ethiopia. To keep the focus local, they have two sets of prizes – money for the overalls and separate prize money for the the local overall winners. That makes this race VERY fast. I think the winners covered the distances in 28 or so minutes. But not to fear if you aren’t a speedy. The race is also VERY slow. They have a separate corral just for walkers and a costume contest that I think gives away just as much prize money as the overall runners win.

The walk to the start line itself was festive. I felt like this is what Mardi Gras is like a little. So much excitement and so many smiles. Also, for there being nine corrals, the start went very fast. Sean started in a few corrals ahead of us, but we really only had to wait a few minutes. What was hysterical was that there was a water station inside of the start line, and people were actually taking the water! But I guess that gets you ready to go because less than a quarter mile into the race, there was a Jell-O shot stop. Oh dear! Note: I didn’t take one. Only bad things could happen if I pulled a stunt like that.

imageThere was a timing mat at every mile marker as well as water stops (really, they had water!). But every quarter mile there was something going on, like spectators hanging off their balconies throwing beads, a mimosa stop, firemen handing out beers, guys dressed up in marching band uniforms handing out hot dogs, men in tuxedos handing out red and white flowers to the ladies, and more Jell-O shots. The course was a great route that went down Canal to the river, onto Decatur, along Esplanade and finally into City Park. You spend at least a mile in the park over by a kids’ amusement park.

The participants also take their costumes very seriously. For real, there was a group of guys dressed up as Vikings pulling a huge “boat” filled with kegs with full intention of partying the whole six miles. And yes, they did move that boat the whole six miles, as did all the groups pulling wagons filled with beer. Other costumes I ran into included a crawfish, a sparkly unicorn princess, a herd of cows and what appeared to be the entire cast of the new Star Wars movie. But my favorite had to be the families pushing strollers of kids. They got all kinds of creative and turned the strollers into giant Pac Mans. The runners dressed as the ghosts from the game. But what made the costumes completely work was the sound effects. Yep, you could hear the chomping as they ran!

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I probably should have been the one to take the photo with Humpty

So, in true New Orleans fashion, the streets are not great. About mile 5.7, I caught a piece of the uneven pavement with my shoe and did only what my sister described as a “graceful swan dive.” I have fallen once before (see the Drake Half Marathon), but that was after the race and I was texting. I’m not a klutz. But that was embarrassing!! Within seconds I had a ton of people around me trying to help and really I just wanted to go crawl in a hole. But I jumped up and laughed it off, declaring that the iPhone was ok! Maybe a touch of road rash along my leg. And my arm. Yep, my shoulder too. But you’re not a runner until you’ve left a little of you on the course, right?

Post-Race Festival

We were given our medals and Erica and I met the boys to walk to the post-race festival as the rain began to pour down. It felt so awesome! I felt like a kid again. And there was so much food: fruit, cookies, jambalaya, beer, Gatorade, food trucks. The music was great too!

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Mary and I met up at the festival unexpectedly

I lost my sister and Geoff, but ran into Mary, a Skirt Sports Ambassador from Baton Rouge that I only knew from social media, so we had to get a photo together. (Shameless plug: if you are interested in trying out a running skirt, use this discount code to get 20% off – 20MWT20).

The race provides shuttle buses back to the start line, but if you don’t time it right, you could be in the line a while. I didn’t want to wait, so we Ubered it back to the hotel.

I had such a great time at this race and wish more races were as fun as this one. We are already planning on coming back next year. Come join us!!

Rock n Roll New Orleans Race Recap

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Oh, Rock n Roll, how you tempt us. A year ago, friends convinced hubby and I to take advantage of the deep-discounted registration fee for Rock’n’Roll New Orleans and join all the cool kids. Never mind that I knew full well last January that 2016 would be completely crazy with Alex’s final semester of high school. Never mind that planning a year out for me is completely dumb. The only smart thing I did was register for the half marathon instead of the full.

Fast forward a year, NOLA was looming. A hotel was booked, although I didn’t know anything about the hotel. All I had to go on was that “it was on the list” of host hotels. I looked at the hotel’s site and the sparse photos. I just went for it. I had no idea how far away the hotel would be from the start line or the finish line or how any of this would work. We booked airfare and made sure my parents could watch our little girl. I figured my boy would be ok on his own.

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French Quarter shenanigans before our weekend went from adult to family

 

Two weeks before race weekend, my life (as expected) took a turn for the crazy. Alex was scheduled for an audition with the LSU marching band director for that following Monday. Oh, did I tell you, my sweet boy decided on LSU for college??? Hubby got a bad strain of the flu that knocked him completely out of running. I battled turf toe from mountain climbers. That is a whole-nother story!

So, I registered Alex on the very last day of on-line registration for the RnR NOLA half marathon. It was oh-my-god expensive, but worth it. But then came the next chapter of crazy: boy had a track meet for his high school the day before the race. No big deal, I’d just shuffle around flights so that he could fly to NOLA after he ran. It would be tight, but we’ve done stupid stuff like this before. Flights had to be changed and a rental car had to be booked because we would now fly home from Baton Rouge on Monday. Hindsight being twenty-twenty, I should have just cancelled the trip and eaten the $50 race fees paid a year ago.

Race Recap

Expo: Well, it was just hubby and I at the expo. Boy wasn’t able to make it because of

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RRCA RoadRunner at the Expo

his track meet. The volunteers and race director were dead-set that I would not be able to pick up my son’s bib without him with me. While I understand policy, there is always room for a race director to show a small amount of compassion and reasonableness on a one-off situation. Not even a quick facetime with the boy would have swayed them. Instead I was given the “show up at 5:30 am on race day and add a little more stupid to the day.” The expo was smaller than I had expected, considering there were so many registrants. Even worse, they shoved all the vendors they did have in an extremely tight part of the convention center. It was worse than Manhattan at rush hour. You couldn’t move and the effect was beyond claustrophobic. I was able to register for a couple of races I already planned to run in the coming months while I was there and save a little money, but after the debacle with the bib for my son, I was pissed off and not really in the mood to be there so we didn’t stay long. (For the record, no volunteers were harmed in the making of this blog post. For real, it wasn’t their call on whether or not to be completely unreasonable, so I let it be.)

 

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How is it that this kid still needs help pinning his bib?

Pre-Race: 5:30am came pretty damn early. There were something like 25 or 30 corrals and they were completely open with no one to ensure that we were going into the right ones.  I can only call the process “stupid.” For a race director that purports to take the rules pretty seriously, one would think they would enforce people going into the correct corrals. But being the rule follower I am, I went dutifully into my assigned area. It was chilly enough to need a ditch shirt or jacket at the start line. I elected to just go with my tank, a pair of arm warmers, ditch gloves and my favorite running skirt and shiver until the race started. My 2:30ish estimated finish time landed me in corral 19 which resulted in not even beginning my race until 47 minutes after the start of the race. It’s always a little disappointing to think that the first place winner would likely cross the half finish line before the last runner crosses the start line. Insert eye roll and pursed lips here – whatever…

 

Mile 1: The race began along Poydras and made a couple of turns to make it over to St. Charles Ave. I was a little faster than my target pace for the race, but I always give myself the first mile to settle in to the race and it wasn’t so fast that I would tire.

Mile 2-almost 8: This is an out-and-back along St. Charles through some really pretty old homes. I feel like I missed a lot of the course because the road was so crummy that a lot of people chose to jump into the median and run on the trolley tracks. I remember seeing a band early on and they were not bad. I think the balance of the music was mostly piped in, which is kind of a bummer. My pace was just about what I was looking to target, considering I didn’t really have much of a goal time. The temperature was really climbing fast, so I ditched my gloves and arm warmers early on and made a conscious effort to stop at the water stops and ensure I was staying hydrated.

Mile 8-10:This stretch was through the streets where all the hotels were at. I had to giggle a little as we passed right by our hotel and I “offered” myself an out to just go back to bed. It was at this point I was getting a little hungry and craving a taco. My pace was picking up and I felt really strong. I remember distinctly hitting the 10 mile mat and looking at my watch. I had never run ten miles that fast (ok, we’re talking about only shaving off a couple of minutes here, but it was faster!) and I actually pulled out my phone to text hubby about it! Yep, this is what it’s like to run with me – be ready for texting and selfies! But then I got to thinking, that’s only a 5K left and I know how fast I have been able to run that distance lately. A PR was possible! Are you kidding me??? That poor little half marathon PR has stood for years! The phone immediately went back into my skirt and I began to focus.

Mile 10-12.5: This portion of the race was all down Esplanade Ave. and the French Quarter area. It is probably my favorite part of the race because there is so much activity. This is where I remember hearing the bagpipes. For real, I’m a sucker for a drum line or bagpipes. I realized that I had watered down my Tailwind over the last six miles through refills to the point where I absolutely had to stop and refill my water bottle at the final water stop. I was sweating pretty badly and fading fast, and I don’t use any other nutrition than my trusty Tailwind. It took a little more time than I would like to deal with my little Ziploc baggies of white powder (LOL), but it was a must. Note to self, I must figure out a better way to deal with this stuff on my road races… Up til now, the marathon and half marathon course was shared, but I was never so happy about my decision to run the half as when the branch off occurred. My pace was good, but not good enough for that PR. No biggie since I hadn’t aimed for a PR in the first place.

Final 3/4 mile: Yep, so this is where we enter City Park. It’s really big and pretty. It might officially qualify as the longest “finisher chute” ever. After such a strong race, I almost cried when, with more than a quarter mile to go, I took a step and my leg wouldn’t move. Yep, calf cramps! Are you kidding me??? I must have looked like a complete lunatic shaking my leg like a wet dog out there mid stride. This was just going to be one of those races that I couldn’t speed up at the end or give that little extra kick. The one thing Rock n Roll generally does well is the finish line. Plenty of water and Gatorade, bananas and salty snacks. I got one of the coveted finishers medals with the Mardi Gras beads. Some of the later finishers got a printed ribbon instead.

Finish: The tough part about a point-to-point race is the travel back to the start line. As in most cases, the race used school buses to transport everyone back. I feel bad for the kids on Monday, because we sure were a stinky bunch! The bus ride was a very long thirty minutes that we shared with an extremely loud guy that had far more energy than the rest of us. My son and husband said they enjoyed the concert put on by Preservation Hall Jazz Band, but I was tired

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You know you’re in NOLA when a girl is willing to run 26 miles with a veil and a bouquet.

and really just wanted a shower, so we didn’t stay for the party after the race. I felt like I had run a trail race, I was so beat up. Overall, I didn’t remember a whole lot of bands on the course (mostly it was just music being played like a DJ) and the water stops felt sporadic at best.

 

Hotel

We stayed at the Old No. 77 Hotel on Tchoupitoulas St. It was listed as a race hotel on the site and looked pretty modern and edgy. I was able to get two queen beds at the last minute when my adult weekend went family. It was fairly spendy for my taste. If I spend $250 a night, I better be treated well. We weren’t. Check-in was delayed because rooms weren’t ready. We were exhausted from an early morning flight and being on our feet all day and the best they could do was say they were sorry. Ironically, I saw plenty of people checking in quite early, so I’m not sure why they couldn’t just find us an available room if the original one was still dirty. The hard wood floors were sticky and we didn’t have enough towels. Thank goodness we were able to run down a poor housekeeper on another floor and beg for a few more. The walls were a bit thin, but at least the beds were comfortable. Or I was too exhausted that I could have slept on cement. Who knows.

Travel from the airport

OK, so this is what you need to know about traveling to New Orleans for races. Parking at the hotels is stupid expensive and it is a solid eight hour drive, so it just didn’t make a ton of sense to drive for a short weekend trip. But, airfare is fairly pricey from Dallas if you don’t get it on a deep-discount sale that Southwest does periodically. And even with the sale, the best you can do is about $73 each way. However, I was able to secure airfare on American Airlines from Baton Rouge to Dallas for less than $100 per person a week out! I’m not a great planner when it comes to travel and really just fly by the seat of my pants. I figured we would use Uber from the airport. However, know that it is a minimum trip of $75 from the airport to the French Quarter and surrounding areas. A cab is about $45 each way. There is a shuttle that you can book online with 24 hours minimum advance notice that is $24 per person.

Would I do this race again? Well, that’s a big question. I felt like everyone I knew from Dallas was in New Orleans for this race. So it’s no surprise that the group is already planning their trip for next year and taking advantage of the $50 race entry. Sure, it’s a flat course. But it wasn’t anything to write home about. The cost of the race wasn’t bad but all the rest of the costs really add up. Ultimately, I won’t run this race again. It wasn’t as great as it should have been. But every race teaches us something about ourselves. This race taught me that running a smaller, local, more personal race is what I crave. I prefer to be a runner and not just another damn bib number.

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Yep, could have slept anywhere after this weekend

Medal Monday: Drake Hy-Vee Half Marathon Race Recap

Race ready!This weekend I found myself running a third half marathon in a fifteen day stretch. My biggest concern was being able to end the third race injury free. It’s no secret that I don’t do anything in moderation and have found myself sidelined on a few occasions because of it. The body part I hear the loudest is usually my calves.

The race this weekend was the Drake Relays Hy-Vee Half Marathon in Des Moines, Iowa. It is held in conjunction with the Drake Relays (the 106th this year!) on the famous blue oval track. This was never any sort of bucket list race and I had frankly never heard of it before a few months ago. However, I was in town for the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) National Convention and this was the race the convention paired up with. Side note: More to come on my adventures at the convention – I learned so much!!

So, I believe there was a small expo before the race, but as a conference attendee, there was a volunteer that brought our packets directly to us. This was a sweet perk in light of the icky, cold rain Des Moines decided to bring on Saturday. The race bag included my bib, a drawstring bag to be used for bag check, a long sleeve tech shirt and a few small goodies. Nothing big, but I’ve certainly received less for a race. The only bummer about the shirt is that it was unisex sizing. I’m usually a small in that case, but it was still too big and they ran out of extra smalls. Ha ha ha! That’s awesome that my name and extra small were in the same sentence. Seriously, a big boost to the ego!

imageThe morning of the race, my travel and running buddy for the weekend ditched me for the 10K. It was apparently a great night after the dinner Saturday night! I decided to wear my regular long-run shoes for the race rather than my new Cloudracers. They are a lot lighter, but I second guessed how I would feel at race time and erred on the side of “I could be out here a while.” Let me just begin by saying I am a complete baby in the cold weather. And by cold weather I mean anything under 50 degrees. Really. Run tights in the 40s. However, I didn’t remember to bring them to Des Moines because it was nearly 85 in Dallas. (I am seriously proud of the packing job…) So, I sucked it up and put on my adorable new purple polka-dot running skirt and two layers of tops. It was a little chilly, but I figured I would warm up – I totally felt like a real runner with so little clothing on!!
imageAs the race was beginning, I ran into a couple of girls that also attended the convention and I had run with them on the social run two days earlier. We began chatting and I made the decision to stay with them rather than push ahead for a PR I’ve been chasing for two years. Almost immediately I noticed that there was no back of the pack. Really. We went out with the 2:45 pacer and there were only a few of us. This didn’t look good. Maybe I should have downgraded back to the 10K???
The course was really pretty. We ran by the river and over a couple of That's a really big shovel!bridges, though a park, around some amazing buildings and through a large sculpture garden. I just had to stop and take pictures a few times. Although the water stops were small, they were well-run and well-stocked. There were even a few musicians along the course playing for us. Add in a couple of hills and you had yourself a race. The most notorious hill was about mile 11ish – Bulldog Hill.  Everyone kept warning us of this hill. When I finally got there, yep, I didn’t really need a sign to let me know I was there. This thing was STEEP! Like, steep Welcome to Bulldog Hill is right...enough to probably be a good idea to set your parking brake on your car; maybe half to three quarters of a mile in length, just enough to be a real pain. I stopped for a second to take a photo of the signs and began to hear the Drake drum line. I will tell you that I LOVE drum lines. I don’t know why, but it’s just awesome to hear and feel that beat. I closed my eyes and smiled. I remembered everything I had been taught about powering up a hill and I went for it, matching my cadence with the drum line. IT WAS GLORIOUS. I totally had to stop What hill? Hahaha!and catch my breath when I got to the top and a nice spectator was more than happy to take my photo after I gave a high five to one of the drummers. My pace was actually faster up that hill
than it had been the entire race. The final mile was a hot mess. The small group of us still running had to ask several times where the next turn was and if we were still on the course. There were just a ton of people milling about and not enough course monitors. We finally made it to the entrance of the famous blue oval track and it was so cool! The stands were filled in anticipation of the elites that would finish the 5K about 10 minutes later (and had just started the race as we were trying to find the entrance to the track). It was definitely a highlight to be able to run on the very track in which world records were broken on two days earlier. Many of the greatest track runners have run this track. If we are really lucky, my son will have an opportunity to run there in the next several years while in college. It was imagereally an amazing location for a finish. I made it through for my medal and a bottle of water and then kept going along the track to the other side where the post-race tents were set up outside of the stadium.

It’s important to remember that I said the stadium was full at this point. I must not have been fully paying attention to where my feet were going because I ended up tripping on a large metal bar that I think was part of the high jump apparatus that was dismantled. “Ass over teakettle” tripped – I flew. I was MORTIFIED. The sound of the metal rattling on the ground was loud enough that a few people stopped to help. All I could do was laugh it off and pretend it didn’t hurt, but it really hurt. I’m still crying. I landed on my hip and the inhaler that was in my skirt pocket punctured the skin in my leg. I was bleeding and hurting and so darn embarrassed. My only hope is that no one caught a I'm actually on the track!!!photo of that perfect-ten. Determined to high tail it out of the stadium as quickly as possible, I ran to grab a cookie from the food tent and then made sure my speedy friends that were waiting for me weren’t in the stadium when I fell.
Overall, this was a great race! I made some wonderful new friends, shared my love of all things Skirt Sports, took lots of photos and almost ended the race injury free. For speedier runners, I would definitely recommend this race. For those of us in the back of the pack (2:30+ finishers), I would say bring some friends.

Medal Monday: Divas Half Marathon, Galveston

When we last spoke, I had finished the first of three half marathons in fifteen days. I still think I’m kind of silly for doing this many races in three weekends, but it’s been a fun ride so far. For the record, I am already a Half Fanatic, so I can’t say this is any sort of challenge or bucket list item. I’m just truly certifiable sometimes. I am really susceptible to the whims of my running buddies (seriously, I signed up to run a full marathon two years ago because Kathy said “it will be fun and have you seen the size of that medal???”).  But I digress; so without further ramblings, my race recap of the Divas Half Marathon. And maybe a few other ramblings. LOL

Along the seawall on Saturday.

Along the seawall on Saturday.

When Marcy and I signed up for the half marathon in Galveston, Texas in April, it was likely somewhere in the twenty degree range in Dallas and we were on day three of icepocalypse. I blame the cabin fever, but we just didn’t even consider the likely heat and humidity of running on the Gulf of Mexico. Or maybe I can blame the blinding light of the tiara I was promised or the hotties that would be at the finish line waiting??? But no matter what, Marcy and I have run a couple hundred miles this spring with our eyes on a PR in Galveston… and a girl’s weekend.

imageThere are a bunch of hotels on the island, but they tend to be pretty pricey. Add a race full of women and the hotels booked up fast. Marcy and I were able to get a nice hotel on the beach for about $225, which is about average. It was about six miles from the race start and finish line, but parking is quite plentiful in the Strand, so it didn’t seem like a big deal to be that far away. And parking ranged from $5-7 per day.

Officially a cheap date - one margarita and I'm riding the carousel horse in front of the restaurant...

Officially a cheap date – one margarita and I’m riding the carousel horse in front of the restaurant…

We got to the Expo early Saturday afternoon. The expo was a lot smaller than I envisioned, but it was packed. Getting our bibs and shirts was very efficient. Marcy and I then worked our way through the vendor tables and picked up a couple of new shoe charms and other goodies. I mentally made a note that the space was about the size of the expo we put on for the DRC Half in November, but it felt so much more crowded and

claustrophobic. It was good to see that the layout makes all the difference because I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

Marcy and I spent the afternoon after the expo just wandering through the Strand, walking along the seawall and the beach, and enjoying a banana margarita. A BANANA MARGARITA! This is ingenious… a girl needs potassium and salt to ward off calf cramps during the race, right??? This seems like a win-win. 😉 We spent the evening at a big group dinner at the Fisherman’s Wharf with the other Divas from Dallas Running Club. It was a complete blast being able to hang out with such great friends. But the time came for us to hit the hay if we were going to do this race in the morning.

Pre-race dinner with DRCDivas!

Pre-race dinner with DRCDivas!

Ready to run!

Ready to run!

Race morning was glorious. We were all decked out in our skirts and pink flowers and met in the Wave 2 corral. I felt bad for the announcer because he had a really tough job to do. Convincing thousands of women to get in their corrals because the race was starting in “three minutes” was a lot like herding cats. A quick pre-race picture was an order and then in was time to run. Marcy and I took off at the pace we were targeting for a PR, but three and a half miles in, we knew it was not

Look who we saw along the seawall? One of our adoring fans!

Look who we saw along the seawall? One of our adoring fans!

going to happen. We could see the seawall ahead and there was not a cloud in the sky. The temperature was already climbing rapidly and sweat was dripping from us already. I looked down at my Garmin and my heart rate was 180! This was not good. We made the decision to walk briskly until the rest of the group caught up to us and then we would finish with them. My only goal for the morning was to cross that finish line with a smile on my face, ready to run another day. The decision was declared a smart one when we passed by three different girls that were on the ground in pain or dealing with heat exhaustion, waiting for medics. I just didn’t want that to be how my race ended and the heat was definitely a factor. As we walked, we

Priscilla's first "Mile 10"!

Priscilla’s first “Mile 10”!

discussed taking this show on the road internationally (Paris, baby!) and everything else under the sun. Sunny, Suzanne, Denise and the others caught up to us as we left East Beach and we began running again. One of Suzanne’s friends from college, Priscilla, was with the group and running her very first half. She hadn’t run double digits before, so we had to take pictures at the mile markers and generally enjoy the morning.

For the most part, the water stops were plentiful and well stocked. The volunteers encouraged people to take two waters, one to drink and one to cool down with by dumping it on our heads and backs, which really helped with the humidity. We finally made it to mile 13, where we went through the tiara and boa

Ready for the finish line

Ready for the finish line

station and could see the finish line ahead. Champagne and hotties with medals awaited us at the finish line (seriously, I’m really not one to go for a race with firemen waiting for us, but dang they were cute!). The weird part was the food tent was a block away, so it seemed kind of disjointed.

imageThis is a race that is clearly focused on women and caters to a lot of first-time half marathoners. The course time limit is generous at 4 hours and allows you to completely walk the entire race should you choose to do so. There were definitely some fast women (but when they passed us by, my smile was far bigger than theirs) and there were about a dozen men that had great senses of humor and wore tutus to run with the divas. The only downside to the race was the drive back to Dallas when it was over – I so didn’t want this weekend to end! Overall, I enjoyed the race. I don’t typically like the big national events from for-profit entities because I’m more a fan of the underdog, the little races put on by local non-profits – they are important. But this race was really fun and I would definitely do it again. Especially with my divas!

Thirteen hot, sweaty miles done!

Thirteen hot, sweaty miles done!

As this was also the weekend of the Boston Marathon (I know a lot of fast friends, lol), this was also a “virtual” run through Skirt Sports to honor women’s running. They have a campaign called 261fearless because Kathrine Switzer was the first female to register and run Boston and her race number was 261. Because she had used her initials when registering, it wasn’t discovered that she was female until mid-race and the pictures of her being bullied off the course by a race director are iconic still today. I began reading her book, Marathon Woman, last week and will give more thoughts on the issue soon, but let’s just say I am blown away by her courage and the courage of all the women runners back in the 60s and early 70s that dared to buck convention and pave the way for all of us to push our own limits physically and mentally. Every race we do honors what she stood for that day in Boston.image

Next stop: Des Moines for the National RRCA Convention and the Hy-Vee Drake Half Marathon!

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? 😉