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.

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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? 😉

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?

Well played, Mother Nature. Well played.

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I have written a race recap for the BCS Marathon three times and not been satisfied with any of them. The fact of the matter is that my race was awful. It was too hot for me to maintain race pace. I got dehydrated and my wheels completely fell off. I cried a lot, sat on a curb and felt sorry for myself. Did so much walking I felt like I was on a death march. But I’ve had a day to reflect on the race and I have changed my outlook on it.

Was it hot? Sure!
Was it humid? Yep, 100%.
Did the sun beat down? Check.
Did my once perfect race nutrition turn into an epic fail? Unfortunately, yes.
Did I get so dehydrated that I quit sweating? Sure did.
Did I PR? Nope.
Did I finish? YES.

I allowed conditions outside of my control to control me. I was trained and ready and was feeling sorry for myself.

The reality is the marathon isn’t just the final 26.2 miles. I am more fit than I was in July. I had an entire training season with no injuries. I made some lifelong friends and enjoyed the entire journey. I ran when others were unable and completed 26.2 miles!!! We raised good money for the race charities.

I am alive and there is no CAN’T in my vocabulary!! I am choosing to not measure this season’s success using my finish time this year. I have so many reasons to be happy!