The adventures of an unlikely pair. Follow us if you dare....

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The One With 2 Races In A Weekend

I know this is a little late but I really don't want to forget these races, so it's better late than never!

I have done quite a few races over the past 3 years and I have often done back to back races but I think the races I did last weekend will go down as some of my very favorite. Neither race was super duper scenic and my times were not PR’s but both races I was able to just really appreciated the run, the ability to run and those that have chosen to run with me and those things to me are priceless.

On Saturday morning my younger sister, Sara and I headed to Grand Prairie to do the Polar Dash 5k. When I first saw this race they were advertising a fleece jacket and a penguin hat as part of the swag bag - my sister LOVES {complete understatement} penguins and so I instantly thought of her. I asked if she would be interested in doing the race with me and at first she was apprehensive but ultimately couldn’t pass up the hat. So as her christmas present I signed us both us. I was so excited to be running with her this time, I have run countless times with my other sister, Rachel but I have never had the chance to run with Sara.
As we were driving out to the race Sara informed me that the last organized race she had done was the Turkey Trot over 3 years ago (I find it ironic because that race was the very first race that started my love of running!).

We had no trouble getting to the race site, parking was easy and we found our way to the start line and a warmish bathroom with no problems. It was cold but not too terrible that morning. The race started and finished on a baseball field of a minor league baseball team which was really cool. After a few pictures and the national anthem we were lining up to start.
Somehow we ended up at the very front of the sea of people but most people were there to walk so we didn’t start out too fast. Sara was a little worried about pacing and running the whole thing but I just told her that I’ve worked hard for 3 years to figure out how to pace and that we would do a walk run so she could feel comfortable to run to the finish. We started out doing a 6:1 run/walk at an easy pace, Sara did great and before I even knew it we were through our first and second walk breaks. After that we hit a small incline and Sara did great! The nice thing about going up is you always get to go down. The race route was not very scenic at all but we did go along a paved pathway for most of it. At this point Sara was getting hot but we were just approaching the halfway point. Once we reached the water stop we were just a little past 2 miles and so after walking through that we decided to finish up with 5:1 running/walking.

I’m sure Sara probably thinks I’m really crazy now because I was telling her all the ways I entertain myself during races to keep my mind off the fact that my body is tired and hurting; let’s just say most of the races I run are done on either the Boston Marathon course or the New York City Marathon course all with the Chariots of Fire soundtrack playing in the background…. What? Your races aren’t like that? You are really missing out!

Anyways… We took our last walk break and then picked up the speed a bit all the way to the finish! I was so proud of Sara for all her hard work and pushing through to the finish. We got our medals and our food bag goodies and sat down to stretch. Then we realized there was a shirtless hunk that we could get our picture with so we of course did. My sister said that made it all worth it ;)
I am not a huge fan of 5k’s, in fact I would gladly run a half marathon over a 5k any day but I would have to say that this was definitely one of the most fun and easy race experiences I have ever had. The start and finish area and parking and bathrooms were all so easy and convenient. The swag bag was awesome with a super soft fleece jacket, penguin hat, medal and food bag at the end. And of course sharing the experience with my sister made it hands down an awesome race!

On Sunday I woke up super early and headed down to Waco for the Miracle Match Half Marathon; I was originally supposed to run the full marathon as a training run for my ultra at the end of February, but since that’s not happening and since I was in no way in shape for a marathon, let alone one deemed as the toughest hills in Texas I dropped to the half. I really had no expectations for this race at all - I knew there were some hill but I had no real idea of what to expect. I had never run in Waco, I hadn’t run a half since November and the longest distance I had run since the beginning of November was 12 miles right before Christmas so yes, I was way under-trained heading into Sunday’s half. My good friend and running buddy, Kristie went with me for the drive, she went to Baylor University so she was definitely familiar with the area and up for being my driving buddy.

We arrived in Waco about 45 minutes before the start. I got my packet, switched my entry, used the bathroom and then it was about time to start. It was a smaller race but not too small which is great for me - I do like the energy you get from bigger races but I also really like the easiness of a smaller race for sure. It wasn’t too cold but standing at the starting line was colder so I made the last minute decision for gloves and thankfully Kristie had them for me.

Without much ado we were off and on our way. I was a bit tense at the starting line simply because I really had no idea how the next couple of hours would play out; I didn’t know if I was capable of running the majority of the race or if I was going to be doing a lot of walking. And I think in my mind a lot of my confidence for the rest of my training period weighed on this race and how I felt and how my foot felt. Talk about putting pressure on myself…

Mile 1 as usual was cold and a little fast but I knew I was going to see Kristie at mile 2 when we got to the Baylor campus. I actually really quickly into the race realized I had forgotten to grab a GU that was in my backpack so I called Kristie and she was able to grab that for me and give it to me at mile 2. She actually ran the portion around campus with me which was nice - I got a personal tour of the campus, which was really pretty, and a little bit of company for 2 miles.

She left me about mile 4 and then we were headed back towards the start area. It was actually really deceiving and a bit frustrating because about mile 5 we actually ran back through the start line on our way to the other side of town. We ran along the river for a while and I was feeling pretty good actually. The weather was great and so far the city had been pretty flat. At mile 6 we actually entered the Waco Zoo which we got to run through for a mile. Here there were a few small but steep hills but honestly running through the zoo and seeing all the animals was just so incredibly awesome that I didn’t even think about it. I think that this could hands down be one of my favorite running experiences. My pace actually picked up here a bit because it was just so cool.

Right before mile 7 we left the zoo; I actually saw a bathroom and really had to go so I made a quick detour which took me about 60 seconds all together. Anything is better than a port-o-potty right? Then once we left the zoo the hills started…. HOLY HILLS! They were tough that is for sure! Miles 7-10 were hills just up and down. Now if you have ever run Austin, or if you have read my reports on Austin you know there are tons of hills, I mean the first 5 miles you just climb one giant hill! But I think that this race may in fact give Austin a run for their money when it comes to the hills. For starters the hills come late in the race; with Austin you get the hills over early and then it’s basically downhill the rest of the way (except mile 11). Also, these hills were short and steep whereas Austin is a slow, long, gradual climb.

I was able to run up the first 2.5 hills and the downhills were definitely fun. But when I got to what I thought was the top of the second hill and turned a corner and the hill kept going I just had to walk. I was definitely feeling some glute muscles that I hadn’t felt in a long time! So from miles 8-10 I would run up as much of the hill as I could then run the flat or downhill portions which worked well for me. I didn’t seem to lose that much time. This was a really pretty part of town and again the weather was just perfect and it was a gorgeous day, I was really enjoying myself.

And then right as I was approaching mile 11 I hear lots of yelling and cheering and there were people jumping around and being crazy and I thought what in the world is going on…. It was Jacob’s ladder. Now I had no idea what this was and I hadn’t even heard of it before the race so I didn’t know what was going on other than I saw a bunch of people climbing some stairs. I quickly asked and all I heard was, “climb up and get an extra medal…” DONE! So up I went. It was a 100ft straight up climb and if my glutes weren’t already on fire then they were now. This was actually a detour portion of the race so once you got to the top you had to run down a big hill to get back on the course and I think it’s pretty safe to say that fun downhill run was definitely worth the 100ft hill climb!

At this point I only have about a mile and a half left and although I’m tired I’m feeling pretty good. I just told myself to hang on and I’d be done soon. We ran the last portion back along the river and again I just kept thinking how pretty it was. I did a walk/run the last mile and then ran across the bridge to the finish. I finished in 2:34:30 for an average of 11:34! That was definitely better than I expected or had hoped, even with the hills so I was definitely happy with that.
Kristie was waiting for me at the finish and we went and got my finisher’s shirt, and the extra part of my medal for doing Jacob’s ladder AND I got a frozen margarita. Yep, I did! Overall I thought this was a really great race and I would definitely do it again. The hills were hard, yes, but I’ve always been a strong hill runner and so I know with a little training, or even just any training at all I would do a little bit better. However, I would not underestimate those hills!

Have you ever done back to back races?
Have you ever been surprised by a race that you had no expectation for? Maybe having no expectations makes it better?


Leigh said...

Nice job on both races! I love the hats that you got too. I have never two races in one weekend, but I ran a 15k, half and half in three back to back weekends. It went better than I thought it would!

Leigh said...
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armyamy said...

I was going to ask how the hills compared to Austin since I ran that one a few years back. It was a beast! I can't imagine a running a race harder than that. Great job! And in a double race weekend!

I ran the NYD (two halves) in 2011-2012. It was pretty challenging, but I followed their plan so I went in totally prepared. I'd love to do it again some day!

Tyly said...

Way to go!!! I love the penguin hats, and your time was awesome for being undertrained + a very challenging course. Great job, as always!!