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Hill Country Half Marathon

October 20, 2013 Leave a comment

What a race! The Hill Country Half Marathon was hands down the most challenging course I’ve ever run on before. The title lets you know it’s not going to be a flat course, but these hills were intense!  I ran the race with two of my Rogue friends, Denise and Sheryl.  Sheryl and I drove up the day before and stayed at her co-worker’s place which was a serene escape about 7 miles outside of Marble Falls.  We ate dinner at the Bluebonnet Cafe, which didn’t disappoint.

I went into this race initially hoping to finally run a half marathon under 2:30.  I’ve always felt like my mental state was preventing me from performing like I wanted to.  I felt very strong, mentally and physically, going into this race so I thought it could be my chance.  My previous fastest half was a 2:37.  Once Sheryl and I drove the course on Saturday night, though, I knew my goal was pretty unattainable so I started thinking about plan B and maybe even a plan C.  I was hoping to at least beat my 2:37 so 2:36:59 was my plan B.  Plan C was to beat my worse half marathon time which was a 2:55 or so.

We went to bed a little late but I could not really fall asleep.  I felt like I was somewhere between awake and lightly asleep the entire night.  It was very frustrating.  My nerves weren’t helping the cause and I remembered the night before my full marathon I got less than 6 hours of sleep so all in all, I’d be okay.

When we got to the stadium, it was cold!  Like, BRRRR, 39 degrees!  Luckily, the bathrooms were heated so that was nice.  This was a small race.  I’d like to know the total participants but it had to of been less than 600.  It was the first year of the race but it was well run.  There were 10K, half marathon, and full marathon race options.  The gun didn’t work so we all just kind of took off to silence, which was funny.o

We ran around half of the track at the stadium and then out on some grass and eventually a dirt/rock road before we hit pavement in a neighborhood.  I had 3 Gu’s with me and ate a honey stinger waffle right before we ran.  I had some energy chews, too, but decided the Gu’s were enough.

Running out of town, you could tell the descending was starting and all I could think of was how hard it would be finishing a half marathon going so much uphill but I tucked that fear away and focused on the present.  I ditched my gloves and jacket @ mile 3 so I was running with a short-sleeved running T and capris pants. The combo was perfect for the weather.

As I said before, the hills were CRAZY!  Sheryl pointed to the hill to our right on the way out, letting her know we’d be running to the top of it, and I thought she was just playing around.  I think we turned a little early the night before and I didn’t think we’d have to go that high up.  Sheryl was right!   Our turnaround was at the very top of this beautiful hill outside of Marble Falls and the views were just breathtaking.  This race just reconfirmed my desire to retire out in the Hill Country years from now.  Here’s the course and elevation profile (scroll to the bottom after clicking on the link below to see the wicked elevation!)

2013 Hill Country Half Marathon course and elevation profile

I SURE WISH I would’ve remembered to wear my Fitbit One so it could calculate the equivalents in stair climbing and descending.  I think 1069 ft up would mean over 100 flights of stairs, though, and that was just going up!  It was out and back so whatever went up had to come down, too.  I ended up walking three separate times up different portions of the hills because it was just too much.  I love the challenge of hills, but even these got me.  If I run this next year, won’t happen again 😉

The weather was PERFECT.  It was about 40 degrees at start but beautiful clear, blue skies once the sun came up with a light wind.  I’m guessing it was about 55 when we crossed the finish line.  Just gorgeous weather.

I felt pretty fantastic until about mile 11.  I so wanted to get under 2:37 but Denise told me I’d need to at least run 10 minute miles all the way back and with the hills (again, check out the elevation profile – mean way to end a race!) it wasn’t going to happen.  I refused to give up though and knew I wanted to finish strong so I picked it up as much as I could (going uphill to some degree over the last 3 miles!)

As we made it back to the stadium and made our half loop around the track to the finish line, I picked it up as much as I possibly could.  Since my Garmin wasn’t working, I don’t know my times and they haven’t posted them yet but I think it was a 2:48 or so.  That included a readjustment of my timing chip around my ankle at mile 1, a port-a-potty break at mile 4, a rock in the shoe removal at mile 6.7, and a loosening of the shoe I just tied a short time later 🙂  Denise’s watch was on auto-pause and she had us running a 2:40.  I’m damn proud of that time.  Around mile 3 it did dawn on me that people PR races like 3M, not the Hill Country Half Marathon.  It’s not a matter of guts, it’s a matter of the course.  Note to self.

SHERYL AND DENISE ARE EXCELLENT RUNNING BUDDIES!  They challenge me and push me to do my best and I love that about them.  I really enjoyed running the race with them and having the help of their husbands (our domestiques!) was great, too.  Really appreciated all four of them today!

Next up is possibly the 3M (as I chase that sub 2:30 half marathon) but my main goal will be the Austin Marathon on February 16, 2014.  My last marathon time was a 5:38 and I really think I can beat it, even if the Austin Marathon course is harder.  If I make the training happen, I know it’s possible.

Finding my balance again…

January 7, 2012 Leave a comment

Before todays long run, I only had 30 miles under my belt since my marathon on Dec. 4th. This was due to my 2 week recovery where we ran less, me missing runs, and a 9-day period where I didn’t run at all because I was sick.  After being sick in November, I didn’t want to chance it this time so I took it easy.  I ran last Saturday, Monday, Wednesday, and cross-trained on Thursday this week so I’m getting back into the swing of things.  The Austin half-marathon is on 2/19 and I need to jump back into it with both feet to be ready.

I sure missed running.  I gained a few pounds over the holidays, which was to be expected with what I ate and the minimal running I was doing.  Now I’ll need to shave those pounds off before the Austin half.  I can do it.

But even more than the physical ways I missed running, my brain/psyche/heart missed it the most.  The majority of my holidays were filled with great times with family but unfortunately, there was one event that happened and it tore me up inside.  It was out of the blue, nothing I could’ve predicted, and nothing I expected.  It really worked me emotionally, big time.  I decided pretty quick that I wouldn’t let it shape this whole holiday for me so I focused on my family and made the best of it.  I had no control over this situation, all I could do is react and hope I was choosing right.  I was so fortunate to be surrounded by so many great family members though so it was easy to get distracted and wrapped up in what was going on around me.  But I was counting the days to when I would feel good enough to go run again because I knew I needed to press “reset” in my heart and a good run can always do that for me.

When I first started running, I cried almost every time I was out there.  I ran by myself, even after I started running with Rogue, because I had a lot of feelings and insecurities I had to work through first.  It touched me to my core that I was believing in myself, pushing myself far beyond my preconceived “limits”, and seeing success after success.  The tears just flowed and flowed.  I felt like running was an emotional and spiritual cleansing of sorts and once I worked through so much, I was able to join in with my teammates and open up more.  I’M SO GLAD I REACHED THAT POINT!  My Rogue ladies mean so, so, so very much to me.  I always love to see their smiling faces and hear about their successes on the road.  We have a true sisterhood and I know they’ve got my back.

But today, after everything that happened over the holidays, I had to go back to running by myself, turning up my iPod, and working things through in my head.  Over the first couple of miles, I chatted with Denise and Whitney and it was great!  But then I could feel I needed to peel off and just be by myself.  I also decided today that “easy pace” wouldn’t be my goal for this entire run.  This Coach’s Special route was TOUGH, lots of hills.  I ascended 2267 ft and descended 2397 ft, all in a SEVEN MILE span of distance.  But I still pushed past my easy pace because I needed to feel myself pushing hard those last handful of miles.  It felt SO GOOD, too.  I ended up running 7 in 1:22:45 and my overall pace was 11:49.  I’m leaving my Garmin on the whole time, no auto-pause or turning it off at lights/water stops.  Here were my splits:

12:33, 12:37, 12:04, 11:26, 12:27, 11:42, 9:52

This included two brief water stops and several lights, one that seemed to last forever.  I loved how I felt out there today.  I’m so grateful to have this outlet to help me celebrate the joys in my life and also to work through the tough times.

I did foot drills when I got back to Rogue and bought my Mac Attack shirt (it’s AWESOME and proceeds of this shirt go towards Rogues’ own Scotty Mac and Alison Mac, who are attempting to qualify at the Olympic trials soon – WOW!)  I think it’s double-cool that my last name happens to be MacAllister, by the way.  I’m wearing this shirt with pride.  Riding on the coattails, baby!  I sped home, took a 5 minute shower, and zipped Dylan over to his archery class by 9:35am.  Yes, I’m wearing my Super Mom cape today but I’m happy to be finding my balance again, spending time taking care of myself – body, mind, and soul.   Happy Running to you all!

Decker Half Marathon

December 13, 2010 5 comments

As many of my friends know, I was seriously worried about this half marathon. My first half marathon in November last month left me feeling blah. I thought I’d do better and I never was able to just enjoy my run. It’s crucial for me to enjoy myself out there because who wants to put themselves through almost 3 hours of misery? Not me. So going into the Decker half, I was a skeered chica. 

The SA half had temps in the 50s, sky was overcast 95% of the time, think it was humid, too.  The course was mostly flat and had lots of turns with @30,000 runners/walkers.  I had my friend, Stef, with me during almost the entire race plus my friend Dawn at the start line.  I also knew about 20 other people running and heard lots of stories from people who’d run the race before.  For the Decker Half, it was a dry 41 at 8am, 10 mph north winds with higher gusts, and sunny skies the whole time.  The course was the equivalent of climbing an 895 ft building over 13.1 miles (thanks, Joe!)  There was a big hill @ mile 6 and “Quadzilla” at mile 10.  And I think there were less than 800 runners, total.  I knew one person who would be running (Joe!) and thankfully ran into a fellow Roguer (Tia) who I’ve chatted with before, so I had someone to hang out with the last 10 minutes before the race.

Before the SA half, I wasn’t nervous. I felt prepared, good.  For the Decker half, I was nauseous over the weekend more than once just thinking about the race. I was a nervous wreck!  I didn’t feel as prepared.  I got about 6 hours of good sleep the night before.

When I finally crossed the start line, I felt good.  I felt confident.  I’m not sure what happened, but once I crossed that line, my nerves left.  Maybe I was happy to start running so I could warm up?  Not sure, but this wave of calm washed over me.  Then I thought my arch support slipped up under my big toe and I started to worry.  This was a new thing for me to wear (first long run with it in my shoe) so I decided to just stop @ the .5 mile mark to check it out.  I thought it would be better to get it out-of-the-way early than to have it continue to bother me throughout the race.  Plus, if it had moved, it would probably cause a blister in short time.  I sat down on the side of the road, took off my shoe, and removed the insert – arch support was exactly where it was supposed to be!  GREAT!  I guess it was my sock and an active imagination?  I pushed the insert back in, untied my shoe, stuck my foot in, laced my shoe back up, and got up to start running again.  The group I had started with were a good minute in front of me and it was hard to know that my chip time would not be a true reflection of 100% of my effort, but it would’ve been a big distraction if I’d thought something was wrong so I’m glad I decided to check it out.

Once I was running again, the calm came back.  I felt so good.  There weren’t that many people on the course so I knew I wouldn’t be dodging people like I did the entire 13.1 miles of the SA half.  But then…here came 4 Tough Cookies.  The Tough Cookies were running, then walking, at timed intervals. I have no problem with their method, but they were running around me and then stopping to walk.  It was really annoying b/c then I’d have to run around the person who stopped to walk in front of me.  Fortunately for me, they picked up their pace and moved far enough in front of me that I didn’t have to worry about it anymore.  By mile 2, I was mostly by myself. 

I was wearing a tech tank under my long-sleeved race shirt, plus capris, gloves, and a head band that can cover my ears.  By mile 4, I removed my gloves.  I had one small hydration squeeze bottle in my hand so I took advantage of the water and sports drink being handed out every 2 miles or so.  That way, I never ran out of water (something else I learned the hard way after the SA half.)

I learned from SA half and brought a peanut butter sandwich with me which I ate @ 20 minutes before the race and that was a great idea!  I was never hungry.  I also ate a vanilla bean Gu (yum!) 15 min before we started and every 45  minutes afterwards. I think it helped me quite a bit.  I ate power jelly beans at the SA half but trying to chew those things and swallow them isn’t much fun when you’re running a half marathon.  Gu is definitely better.

I kept marveling at how good I felt.  I was climbing the hills with minimal problems.  I kept focusing on picking up my speed going down the hills to make up for going slower up the hills (thanks, Coach Carolyn!)  I didn’t have my Garmin (embarrassed to admit it, but I haven’t figured out how to use it yet) so I had to pace myself with my cheapo digital watch, the mile markers that had the time showing, and how I felt.  I could tell I was running a respectable race so far and was really trying to conserve my energy so I could feel good about facing Quadzilla.  I also figured out that the wind would be its worse at the end of the race but thought if I was smart with my pacing, I could pick it up, even against the wind.

Once I passed mile 9, I knew Quadzilla was closing in on me. I also knew that my family, if they’d made it to the race course, would hopefully be somewhere near Quadzilla so that helped me more than I expected.  Once I was about a 1/4 up the monster hill, I could see in the far distance at the top (it’s a LONG way up this hill!), a man in a light-colored jacket and a short person beside him.  I KNEW it was my dad and Katie. I knew it!  I started crying immediately.  I was sooo happy!!!  Tears of pure joy!  Once I made it up to them, I bent down and gave Katie a big hug, squeezed my dad’s hand, and kept going.  Talk about putting some wind in my sails!  It meant so much to me to see them out there, supporting me.  Katie is probably my biggest running support with Dylan and my parents being a close 2nd.  She gives me pep talks sometimes and everything!  I was so lucky to have them there, at the top of Quadzilla.  I honestly didn’t think the hill was that bad.  That’s how happy I was to see my family =)

Glad I had some wind in my sails because I was about to make a right-hand turn and run against the north wind for the next 2 miles.  Those 2 miles were the hardest miles of the race for me.  Forget about picking up my pace – I had to just make it through the wind. I had a great pace though.  My effort to pick up the pace vs. the north wind and rolling hills probably averaged out to about a 11:45-12 min mile and I’m satisfied with that pace.

When I had less than one mile left to go, the 1st marathon finisher passed me. I clapped for him and shouted out a “woo-hoo” and meant it from the bottom of my heart.  To know that someone finished two laps of that course in under 2:40 is IMPRESSIVE!

I finished the race in 2:41:02 (12:17/min avg pace), one minute less than the SA half. My goal was to finish in 2:45 but I thought I might be happy to break 3 hours, to be honest.  Out of the 765 runners, my time put me in 714th place over the first 6.55 miles and 680th place over the second 6.55 miles.  That made me happy!  I can tell you there weren’t a lot of walkers on this course.  Most of the people doing this race were serious runners.  My overall place was 698.  I’ll take it!

After I crossed the finish line, I found some grass and started doing foot drills when Tom, a friend of mine from dailymile.com, came over and introduced himself in person.  It was so great to meet him!  He’s training for his first marathon (Austin, in Feb) and a year ago at this time, he was working on a Couch to 5K program!  Talk about inspirational!  I really enjoy following along with his training so to finally meet him in person was a treat.  I also found out that his awesome daughter was one of the kids who was passing out water @ mile 8 and I always made a beeline for the few kids who were braving the cold to volunteer at the hydration stations.  Very sweet!  Also have to mention my other dailymile friend, Joe.  He kicked some serious butt at the race!  He finished in 1:27 for a 6:37/min pace! HELLO, JOE!  I’ll have to include a link to his blog when I figure out how to do it.  He also runs for a friend of his that was diagnosed with cancer, but unfortunately, Dom didn’t make it.  I didn’t know Dom, but I know, without a doubt, that Dom is with him and so proud of Joe’s accomplishments.  He also has a super supportive wife and a precious baby girl. I’m so happy to have his support/advice and the ability to follow his story.  Great guy!

I loved this race!  I felt a sense of gratitude the entire time.  I thought about my kids, parents, grandparents, my extended family that I’ll get to see over the holidays, and my dear friend, Nancy.  I always think about Nancy.  I still wear the bracelet I made in her favorite colors and I don’t think I’m taking it off until it falls off by itself.  She gives me strength.

This post is long enough so I’ll wrap it up for now, but in the future, I’m going to elaborate more on what I think about while I’m running.  I swear that every time my running shoe hits the pavement, I shut the door a little tighter on the cloud of self-doubt that used to envelop me.  Makes the wind, hills, cold, and occasional pain seem not so bad, after all =)