Before I get into the nitty-gritty of my 11th half marathon, I need to rant for a second. Not a bad rant, just a poo-poo complain-y rant.

Living in rural east Texas, even the most suburban, bustling part of east Texas for 100 miles, makes wanting to get back into a serious fitness routine tough. There are a couple parks around here with beautiful paths to run – but only about a 4 mile distance before you’re looping back around. There are gyms – but few with group classes.

Partly I blame social media and partly I blame lack of resources. Today I randomly discovered a pilates studio that only has classes during work hours, I guess for stay-at-home parents and retirees, and no private sessions on weekends. Also, it was buttload expensive. There are a couple of crossfit gyms – also buttload expensive. There is one runner’s group – and I’ve yet to meet up with them because they are mostly all faster than me and run early in the mornings, while I prefer evenings (for now). The last one is in my control to fix, but still.

I’m spoiled. I come from DC, where you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting a fellow runner (and then you’d have to explain why you just threw a rock at them). DC and its suburbs has ClassPass. It has November Project. It has 5 different running store chains that all have evening fun runs plus other independent running and training groups. It has tons and tons of fellow runners. And I feel like I didn’t take enough advantage of it at the time. It has gyms specifically for PiYo and HIIT and TRX and Barre and Pilates and Yoga. It had yoga meetups on the National Mall and running trails that could go for 20 miles out and 20 back.

Instagram makes this contrast between cities and the country even more striking. Not just DC, I see the fitness scene from SoCal to Chicago to New York to Florida. A short sample from my Instagram feed alone:

PicMonkey Collage
Top row: Pure Barre studio in my hometown of Rockville, PiYo class in SoCal, Susie from SuzLyfe at yoga in Chicago. Second row: TRX in Brazil, core work in Florida, November Project Boston. Bottom row: Pilates in Dallas, CrossFit in DC, Bootcamp in NYC.

I’m roughly 100 miles from Dallas, where there is no shortage of high-end yoga and pilates boutiques, running groups, beautiful running trails, social sports leagues. But that is 100 miles each way. And my weekends are limited due to the nature of my job. Hard to make it up to Dallas for, you know, a Tuesday evening barre class.

I took so little advantage of all the fitness community had to offer in the DC area, even when my core needed it so bad.

Which brings me to my recent runs in Texas and ultimately, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Dallas Half Marathon yesterday.

256543_188703170_MediumI knew going in this was going to be a weak half marathon for me. Not only had the FRESH 15K been a huge struggle due to most of my recent running being indoors on a treadmill, but even since that race I had done even less training to keep up the benefit of that long run before the day of RNRDAL. I could blame it on the move and the new job, but it’s been over a month since I started the new job. It’s time to stop making excuses and making my fitness a priority.

In the meantime, I knew RNRDAL was going to be nowhere near my decent half marathon range. Even before RNR NOLA I had gotten in an 8 mile outdoor long run on hills to make the flat course a cakewalk. But my longest run in two weeks was a 4 miler outside that had been a struggle, and Dallas is still part of Texas’s hillier region. I hoped I could pull it out under 2:40, as my benchmark for “not horribly terribl]y slow” is to make things faster than the Princess Half, when I was in great shape but running the day after a 10K. Princess Half is to date my second slowest HM time, at 2:40:33, behind Las Vegas which was over 3 hours because I was injured and shouldn’t have done it. 😉

I consider my “solid HM time” to be in the 2:20’s. My PR is 2:18. Then I’ve got 2:21 at RnRDC 2014, 2:24 at Brooklyn Half 2014, 2:25 at Richmond Half 2013, 2:26 at Disneyland Half 2014, and 2:27 at RnRNOLA 2015. The two most difficult halfs I’ve struggled through mentally were Nike Women’s at 2:30 and Frederick Half at 2:37. I knew RnRDAL was going to be in the 2:30’s if I was lucky, more realistically in the 2:40’s.

I had a work event the night before. The day had started at 9am for setup. I had a brief 2-hour window where I could go home, “get ready for the ball,” feed my cat, and pick up more stuff for final setup. Then by 5:30 the event began and I was wining and dining with our donors and was on the road to Dallas at 10. I got to my hotel in Dallas at 11:30, having picked up my race packet the Friday before when setup for the event wasn’t in as dire crunch time.

11083874_10100524602903553_656996461299290599_nI was up and at ’em with the bagel and peanut butter and banana I’d brought from home by 6:30 the next morning, wishing for just a half hour more of sleep. But I had my super fun Ninja Turtle fairy outfit to pump me up for having a fun-if-slow race. In the middle of the day Saturday I’d even considered getting myself a beer or two and just really belatedly celebrating St. Patrick’s Day right, screw my time. But I decided to go for it as best I could and protect myself from any hinting injuries when the mileage got long.

I was happy I’d decided to dress so silly. It pumped me up at the start line and made people around me loosen up and laugh a little. The music at the start line had me breakin’ it down and getting my groove on in my $15 Spencer’s tutu, especially during Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off.” When the announcer remarked that a corral a few ahead of us looked very serious, I announced to everyone around me, indignant with my hands on my hips, “I take this VERY seriously!” and a few people chuckled, seeming to appreciate the fun I was making of the situation. It was 8am on a Sunday and we were choosing to run 13 miles! Why not embrace the crazy!

256543_189033297_MediumThe race started and the first mile felt tough. I was surprised at how hard I was breathing right from the start until I realized the whole first stretch was uphill. I stayed in a really good mental place for the first 6 or 7 miles, taking it one mile at a time, noting to myself that if I kept running up the hill, I’d feel so much better cresting it and getting to run downhill.

The first four miles took us through south Dallas and Deep Ellum, the latter of which is the kind of cool, hipster district with neat bars and shops and cafes. At mile 4 they had a “selfie station,” where you could take pictures with giant cowboy boots and horseshoes. I did take a selfie with a horseshoe, but since I have AWESOME luck with my cell phone during half marathons (see: Disneyland 2014) my phone ended up short circuiting somewhere around mile 10 or 11 and I had to replace it after the race, losing all my photos.

I took a GU every 5K, since it was taking me about 35-40 minutes on average for each 5K of the race. I stayed at a steady pace-ish, slowing down a little, for the first 10K, but still feeling mentally strong. At mile 5 I put my music on for the first time and Sara Bareilles’s “Brave” powered me up a pretty tough hill.

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Around the 10K mark was when I first noticed a) my music skipping on my phone, and b) my lower back acting up a little. My lower back has been acting up ever since my hip injury in October, a result of my poor posture and long distances still not mixing well because I still need to be doing more cross-training. It acted up during NOLA but I had my friend Ali’s PR to pursue so I focused more on engaging my core during that race, whereas this race, the pressure was way lower so I simply took slightly longer walk breaks. I switched from a 10:1 interval to a 9:2 for the next mile, then a 6:3 interval, which felt great until around 9 miles.

Between the 10K and mile 7 marker we went over Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, another great photo opp spot. The following couple of miles were truly un-scenic until we got into the major downtown district again, and in the mean time, I was just trying to power through on six hours of sleep, a raging period, lower back pain, and lungs and legs that were mad at me.

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I inched under 2 hours at the 10 mile marker, and figured I could take it easy for the last 5K and make it to 2:45. Then I noticed my phone was completely wonked out – it was on and receiving texts, but the screen was flickering at best, usually dark. I also got it in my head that there was no way that with no real active injury I should come in slower than my Princess Half time when I stood in line for 20 minutes just for a photo opportunity, so I kept powering through on 3:3 run/walk intervals. This was a really good place for my head, and I wish I’d had the wherewithal to try it during Marine Corps Marathon. 1 minute would go by like a breeze and then I’d think “you can do anything for 1 more minute,” then again, “you can do anything for 1 more minute.”

256543_189109171_MediumI faked smiles for the photographers even though I was starting to freak out about how much it would cost to replace my phone (I forgot it was under warranty) and how annoyed I was that instead of spending my free time for the rest of the day in Dallas shopping and exploring I’d be tracking down the Verizon and Apple stores and waiting in lines. I was mentally switching back and forth from being excited that I could whip out a half marathon on no training and looking forward to the finish line, to freaking out about what I would do when I got back to my hotel. Was it water damage? Should I do the rice trick? What did they say about the rice trick? Was I supposed to have shut my phone off? Was I going to be able to pop out that little card on the side?

I'M SO WORRY-FREE I SWEAR
I’M SO WORRY-FREE I SWEAR

Nearing the finish, tons of photographers were standing around. I’m so used to seeing tons of tutus and sparkly skirts at Rock n Roll races but for some reason Dallas seemed short on them, so, as one MarathonFoto photographer had told me at the start, “photographers get bored and look for people like you!” I hammed it up for photogs to take my mind off my back and my worries, and focused for the last mile just to try and come in under 2:40.

I couldn’t break into a sprint for the final .1 mile like most people around me, but I was able to keep running steadily through the finish line to finish in, no joke, 2:39:37. A hair under 2:40 indeed.

256543_189063829_MediumI was toasted. I wanted chocolate milk and a cab ride and a hot shower and a working phone. I grabbed my medal and kissed it. A lot of work in a single morning for some hardware. I knew I’d lose all my photos so I lined up for a finish line shot with my medal.

256543_188765608_MediumDid I mention how much I loved my outfit? Not just because it was goofy – I had cut the sleeves off and cut down the sides low, initially because I like an opportunity to show off my ribcage tattoo but turns out, it feels really good when I put my hand on my waist during a walk break, to feel my cool skin there instead of a sweaty shirt or tank top. My $3 knee socks from Spencer’s I used as arm warmers didn’t chafe at all unlike my expensive Oiselle arm warmers, and my favorite capris stayed in place and prevented any chafing whatsoever. I was dressed perfectly for the weather, which was cool at the start but climbed into the 60’s and humid.

256543_188768647_Medium (1)Determined not to go into an anxiety attack over my phone, I searched for the Got Chocolate Milk stand (vegan cheat day) and unapologetically took two cartons instead of one.

Eventually, I did find my way back to my hotel thanks to the help of a very nice group of friends from Houston who had come in for the race and chatted with me for a few blocks. My feet and quads were aching and eventually I did find a cab, but walking some of the ways from the finish saved me some cab fare. I thanked the Lord I hadn’t checked a bag and had only brought my hotel room key and debit card with me and that Dallas cabs take plastic.

A desperately needed shower, a trip to the Apple store handwritten by a hotel employee from his working phone, a desperately needed carwash in the city for this country girl and a manicure while I waited for said carwash later, and I was a new woman, with a basketball game on TV back in the country to catch and a much needed Monday off from work the next day.

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I’ve said it before but I’m saying it again now: no more excuses. If I can’t afford the Pilates studio here in Tyler, well, I have a yoga mat in my apartment and plenty of space to do my own floor exercises. I have access to a weight room and a nice park and when event season is over at work, can treat myself to some hiking in Hill Country and trips to Dallas for various “first time!” drop-in classes at different studios. It’s on me now, no move or “settling in at work” excuses anymore.

I have a 10 mile race in Austin this weekend. I’ll take it a week at a time. Today was a recovery day from yesterday, though after I finish writing this I’m going to do some planks. But tomorrow is a 4 mile run in the park, Wednesday evening I’m going to Dallas for a drop-in Barre class, Thursday is another 4-miler, or maybe speedwork at the high school track, and Friday I will do home core workouts found on Pinterest. Saturday is the trip down to Austin for the Expo and rest, and Sunday I’d like to at least meet my Cherry Blossom 10 Miler time from 2014, which was my first run after injury and stupid to do, so if I’m coming off a 13-mile long run and a solid week of training with no injury, I should be able to meet it.

One week at a time for the climb back to my peak shape.

 

 

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