San Antonio Weekend and Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Report 
Sunday, November 23, 2008, 11:42 AM
Posted by Administrator
The story begins Friday evening when I packed my bags and got to bed about 9pm...and tossed and turned until I finally decided to get up and watch TV, so that I could unwind and Paul could sleep. I returned to bed at 10:10pm and willed myself to fall asleep...but I did not and my stress level climbed. It is said that the quality of sleep you get two nights before a race is even more important than one night before - great. I got up again, surfed the web and had some warm milk before climbing back under the covers around 11:30pm. I think I drifted off around midnight and had a few short hours of sleep before waking to the alarm at 3:40 a.m. and heading to the airport.

We met up with friends, Chris & Denise... checked in at the Holiday Inn Riverwalk and walked to the Race Expo at the Alamodome where we picked up our race bags and checked out all of the vendors. I also got a photo with the namesake of my Yasso 800 track workouts, Bart Yasso!

We decided to rest for a while before dinner, until we realized that many of the 25,000 other racers also had dinner plans in San Antonio and the restaurants were pretty booked. So, we changed the plan - rest later, eat now. We had a late afternoon dinner at Rita's on the River on the quaint Riverwalk where I eyed some yummy-looking margaritas, but settled for water instead. Thanks to my insomnia the previous night, I was in bed and on my way to a good night's sleep at 8pm.

Race Morning - Chaos!
The marathon organizers had arranged shuttle bus locations throughout downtown San Antonio, including one right on the corner of our hotel. With the last shuttle leaving at 7 a.m., we headed out at 6:20 a.m. only to find an enormous line snaking down the street and back up again.

We were a little nervous, but the line was moving quickly...until it just stopped moving altogether. As the minutes ticked by, the crowd became antsy. I finally walked to the front of the line to speak with the race volunteer and brought back news that buses would continue to run until all runners were transported to the race. However, since the race would be chip-timed, the start of the event would not be postponed.

It was an angry crowd. For faster runners, starting late meant having to weave their way through thousands of slower runners on the course. For the rest of us, it would just be disappointing to miss the hoopla of the start. Suddenly, groups of people just started running - some to find cabs and others to the starting line 2.5 miles away. Paul and Chris asked me and Denise if we wanted to run to the start. We didn't even have to think about it - absolutely not! The boys took off and, just minutes later, lots of yelling erupted from the front of the line. I speculated with others in line - did a bus just arrive or is an angry mob overtaking the poor race volunteer? It turned out that five buses had just pulled up!

The shuttle bus debacle was a disappointment, but it also left me no time to get nervous about the race. I was just so happy to get there in time for Denise and I to reluctantly drop off our warm clothes (it was still in the mid-30's!), hit the porta-potty and sneak into corral 18 with about 10 minutes to spare. We later learned that Paul and Chris missed the start of their corral (#2), but jumped in with corral 4. There were about 25,000 people racing and they had us spread out in 35 corrals of 500 to 1,000 people each, with the fastest people starting first. They started the corrals at about one minute intervals. Denise and I finally started 40 minutes after the first runners crossed the line. (In the photo below, you can see the start line balloons waaaay up in the distance.)

Miles 1 - 3
Wow, there were a lot of people on the course! I'm still not sure how I feel about this. The company and camaraderie is great. The weaving in and out of runners and walkers is not. The road had a pretty good camber which tends to cause me IT band problems, and so I tried to run as close to the middle as possible, but then would make my way, frogger-style, to the side for walk breaks. The race organizers promised a tour of San Antonio, but I found that I had to keep my eyes on the road to avoid colliding with other racers or tripping over the vast amounts of discarded clothing and food on the ground. We ran right by the Alamo and I didn't even know it. But, I cruised along, feeling good and sticking to an approximate 10:52 pace which would take me to a 4:45 finish, my "Pie in the Sky Goal" (see previous post). My 5K time was 33:38 - right on target.

Mile 4
Because I was so focused on avoiding people and debris, I missed the first few mile markers. When my watch beeped indicating that I had run 4 miles, I looked around and the 4-mile marker was no where in sight. Hmmm... I got to it about 1/4 mile later. Interesting... I realized that my shoe-pod calibration was not quite accurate. My first reaction was mild disappointment that I would not be able to use my watch to monitor my pace. A few minutes later, my reaction was more of a mild panic as it dawned on me that the calibration had been wrong for the duration of my training. I did some math in my head and determined that my 21-mile training run was probably closer to 19 miles. And the pace I had been running the past few months was not as fast as I had thought. My goals and my race planning were based on flawed data. Crap - this is not good.

Mile 8
"Your feet hurt so much because yer kickin' ass!" A spectator was holding this sign and it definitely made me smile. I was still holding onto my 10:52 pace, but my feet did, in fact, hurt at this point and this was somewhat concerning.

Mile 12
By this point, the 17,000 half marathoners had been routed onto a separate course and the roads were much less congested. For a few miles, the course doubles back on itself and I got to see Chris and Paul - they both looked strong. Of course, they were about 10 miles ahead of me.

Mile 13

I passed the halfway point at 2:22:41. I was still on pace for a 4:45 finish...and knew there was no way I could keep it up. But, it was okay. I knew that particular goal was a long shot. I could still plan for breaking 5 hours. I called my sister on my cell phone. (I don't typically carry phones during races, but Paul and I needed a way to reconnect at the finish.) Becky was not home and so I chatted for a few minutes with my brother-in-law. When he asked how I was feeling, I told him my feet hurt. He responded with one word - disassociate. I think he was kidding, but it reminded me that I had my MP3 player and had not yet turned it on. I put in my ear buds and tried to zone out to the music.

Mile 16
I was struggling and the pain was moving up my legs, but it was time to open my first surprise note! I had contacted some family members and friends asking them to email Paul with motivational messages that I could read during the race. I ended up with 11 notes (four of which, interestingly, were from dogs), and so I decided I would read one every mile starting at mile 16. This was a fun distraction and really gave me something to look forward to. A big thank you to everyone who took the time to send a message! The first note was from Paul and it definitely made me a little misty-eyed. I'm a lucky woman!

Mile 17
I reached this point in 3:06:13 which means my average pace slipped slightly to 10:57. Not bad. (All of my stats are taken from the official race results, not from my watch and show pod which claim the race was 28.67 miles instead of 26.2.)

Mile 20
I pass though "the wall" in 3:44:43 which brings my average race pace to 11:14. I had slowed dramatically in the last 3 miles - waking will do that. Everything from the hips down hurt and I really related to the sign that said, "Entering the 'Bite Me' Zone." I wanted to kill the people who yelled, "You're almost there!" Six miles was no way near almost there. I called Paul and left a PATHETIC voicemail letting him know that I was in a lot of pain and that breaking 5 hours was not looking good. However, the note I opened from my niece, Hannah, made me smile. She wrote that she wished I had wings so I could fly to the finish.

Mile 22
"It hurts to a point and then it doesn't get any worse." I saw this sign and realized that it was probably true. Amazingly enough, I found some comfort in this. The tough part was knowing that I had to endure this level of pain for four more miles.

Mile 23
I called Paul again and this time he answered and informed me that he was hanging out at the finish line drinking beer with Chris and Denise. This was not what I wanted to hear. I was still in agony with 3 miles to go. I did not want to know about other people kickin' back and enjoying life. Misery loves company, right? I strongly encouraged Paul to find a way to get out on the course and cheer me on. There was a bright spot during this mile as I opened a note that informed me of the pregnancy of some good friends - what a wonderful surprise!

Mile 26
It's so close! I turn a corner and hear Paul calling my name which gave me a boost. This was short-lived as I then saw a good-sized hill. Are you kidding me?!? I was amazed at the number of runners who actually ran up the hill. I was not one of them - I walked and was passed by a guy pushing another guy in a wheelchair. Impressive.

The Finish

Thank God! I got my very cool medal and stepped off to the side, so that I could squat down and stretch my legs. I had been dreaming of doing this for about 4 miles and it felt so good! My final time was 5:07:52 and it took me almost 30 minutes to travel the last 2.2 miles. On the bright side, I did accomplish my "No Problem Goal" which was to reach the finish line uninjured. As an added bonus, I set a PR by almost 3 minutes! I know, it's not much...but I'll take it.

I slowly (and I mean slowly) made my way through the finishing corral, collecting food as I went, and then sat down for a beer with the others. Overall, it was a well-organized event. However, it would have been nice to have some soft grass to sit on after running 26 miles. Or a chair maybe? The pictures remind me of a Red Cross disaster area. I really appreciated that Paul, Chris and Denise hung out here and waited for me for a few hours.

Post Race

There were still shuttle bus issues and so we opted to walk the one mile to the hotel...again, very slowly. After cleaning up, we returned to Rita's on the River to swap race stories over dinner and enjoy one of those Texas-sized margaritas we had seen the night before.

After dinner, I emptied out my Camelback and realized that the shoe pod mis-calibration was not the only thing to blame for a tough race. I had only taken 20 ounces of my sport drink and 1.5 ounces of my gel. That's the downside of the Camelback - you cannot easily monitor your fluid intake. I knew that I was not drinking a lot, but my XOOD, with which I had trained on all of my long runs, was just not sitting well and I felt full. I did have some water on the course and a handful of trail mix at an aid station...but that still does not add up to very many calories. Strangely though, I never felt like I had run out of fuel. It was not fatigue that held me back - it was pain.

I know many of you are wondering why in the world I (and 25,000 others) choose, and actually pay money, to put ourselves through such agony. Marathons are meant to be difficult and completing one is a wonderful feeling of accomplishment. However, I don't think they're meant to be quite this painful and, if I thought they were, then I definitely would not run another. But, with better nutrition and more accurate training, I feel confident that I can have a much better race experience.

The Vacation
Chris and Denise flew out the next morning, but Paul and I opted to stay a few days to check out the city. The highlight was the Alamo, which had a great audio tour. The lowlight was Market Square. This might be more appealing if you don't live one hour from the Mexican border, but, for those of us who do, it was like Nogales, but cleaner and with all of the culture sucked right out of it. We also visited the Tower of the America's to catch a bird's eye view of the city.

We checked out of the Holiday Inn and spent our last evening at Chicken Paradise, a gluten-free bed and breakfast. We highly recommend it - even if you are a gluten-eater. It truly is a little paradise right outside the city with a large, beautiful yard, an outdoor shower (although it was too chilly for us to use) and the coolest tree house I have ever seen! We took a 20-minute nap up there after arriving. And, of course, there were chickens.

The hosts, Anne and Joe, recommended a gluten-free friendly Thai restaurant for dinner and left gluten-free lemon poppyseed cake in the room for dessert. Paul was a happy man. The next morning, they cooked us a delicious breakfast, which included gluten-free waffles, and even gave us homemade granola and more poppyseed cake for the road. We have found that people with the gluten allergy love to share gluten-free food with others who share this inconvenience. It was a wonderful stay and we only wish it could have been longer.

On our final day, we visited the McNay Museum before checking out another San Antonio gluten-free establishment, The Little Aussie. This is a quaint little business with a small, but yummy menu. We split a delicious salad and a pizza that was quite good (although the crust did not live up to that of Picazzo's). We finished up with a slice of cake at the table and some cookies for the plane ride - all gluten-free, of course. Our only complaint is that they are closed on Mondays and so we only got to eat there once.

So, it was a tough race, but a great weekend. For anyone considering this race next year, I suspect they'll have the bus issue worked out by then. I was disappointed that there were not nearly as many bands and cheering squads as I expected, and the post-race concert featured The Cult. Seriously, The Cult?!? But, it's a fairly flat course with good cheering sections in some areas and a cool finishers medal. We probably will not do this event again, but only because there are so many other race destinations on our wish list!

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San Antonio Bound 
Friday, November 14, 2008, 07:46 PM
Posted by Administrator
To avoid total post-race devastation after months and months of training, it is recommended to have three race goals in mind. And here are mine:

No Problem Goal - To reach the finish line uninjured.

Barring some unforeseen disaster, I feel very confident that I can achieve this...which is the whole point of this "3 goals" thing. I feel healthy, well-rested and totally prepared for the distance. Not that I have any illusions that it will be easy, but I will get there.

Realistic Goal - 4:59:59

In other words, I want to break 5 hours. I completed my last (and only) marathon in 5:09. This was at the Mayor's Midnight Sun Marathon in Anchorage in 2004. Where will those 9 minutes come from? The flatter course in San Antonio and the stronger runner - me! Reaching this goal means averaging an 11:26 pace.

Pie in the Sky Goal - 4:45

This will be a stretch. I have been basing my Yasso 800's on this distance and those workouts felt great. But, maintaining a 10:52 pace over the distance sounds tough. We'll see if the thousands of other runners and the 60 or so bands can pull me through.

If you'd like to follow me and Paul online, then there will (supposedly) be live athlete tracking on the race's website. Just in case you need our bib numbers to follow us, I am 18271 and Paul is 2100. The race takes place on Sunday and begins at 7:30am (San Antonio is one hour ahead of Tucson time and one hour behind for friends on the east coast). Please send positive thoughts our way!
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I Got a New Camera! 
Sunday, November 9, 2008, 09:39 PM
Posted by Administrator
Two posts in one day - this is unprecedented! But, as you can see, I'm excited about my new toy.

One of Paul's hobbies is photography which means we have a really nice camera that I don't know how to use. It's also a large camera which makes it difficult to bring on runs or bike rides. And Paul probably gets tired of me bugging him to download photos, so that I can post them on my blog. For all of these reasons, we bought a small, simple camera.

I tried it out this morning at The Blessing of the Animals at St. Philip's Church. What a neat event! There were a bunch of dogs, a cat, a horse, a fish in a fishbowl and a little furry creature of some kind in a cage. Here we are with our friend, Dave, who told us about the event and his dog Holly.

And this one is my favorite!

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Sierra Vista Charity Biathlon Race Report 
Sunday, November 9, 2008, 03:08 PM
Posted by Administrator
One thing I love about racing is the variety. Next weekend, I'll be in San Antonio running a marathon with 29,999 other people. Yesterday, I was in Sierra Vista for the Inaugural Sierra Vista Charity Biathlon, a 5K run and 14-mile bike race that drew only about 100 people. I enjoy events where you see people racing with the newest gear, the lightest bikes and Ironman apparel head to toe. However, I also enjoy events like yesterday's at which you see lots of first-time racers on ill-fitted mountain bikes wearing loaner helmets provided by the race organizers.

We typically would not drive 90 minutes for a small event like this, but I work for MDA, one of the race beneficiaries, and wanted to show my support and appreciation. So, we hit the road at 6:45 a.m. and arrived with just enough time to rack our bikes, hit the bathrooms and say hello to the MDA family that showed up to cheer us on.

At 55 degrees, the weather was perfect for running. The course was out-and-back on a fairly flat road with some gradual elevation changes. After one mile, I was surprised to realize that I was maintaining a 9-minute per mile pace...and actually felt pretty good. When I saw the front runners coming my way as they headed back toward transition, I started counting bodies, so that I could let Paul know where he was in the pack - number 11! I hit the turn around point at 14 minutes and realized this could be a fast 5K for me. That thought kept me motivated to push it on the now slightly uphill trek back to the transition area. With about 3/4 of a mile to go, I again saw the front runners - this time they were headed out onto the bike course. Paul had slipped back to 12th place, but he is strong on the bike and I knew he'd pick at least a few people off...especially the ones on mountain bikes.

Considering my typical 5K time is between 30 and 33 minutes, I was thrilled to enter transition in 28:31. My workouts at the track are paying off! I definitely lost some time in transition by changing shoes. I clocked it at 1:44. Many racers used toe cages or just plain ol' fashioned pedals and they gained some time on me because of it.

I quickly discovered that it's much easier to bike after running than the other way around, which is the usual order of triathlons. My body was warmed up and I could really push it without worrying about another leg of the race. Unlike my husband, I'm not strong on the bike, but just focused on slowly gaining ground on other racers. I passed a total of nine people, and was passed by only three - not too bad! I don't know if other people keep track like this, but knowing the tally keeps me motivated. I started counting for Paul again when I saw the front runner, but I didn't get very far - he was number TWO! Go Paul!

I was definitely losing steam toward the end, but focused on trying to catch a woman in front of me who looked like she could have been in my age group. I never did catch her, but she definitely kept my heart rate up those last few miles. The finish line was precarious as there was a left turn about 20 feet before it. This is no way to end a bike race - it's a recipe for disaster. People sprint at finish lines, which is why they are typically placed on a straightaway. I slowed to safely make the turn and was pleased to finish in 1:26 and 50th overall. (Click here for results.)

Paul finished second overall - the highest he's ever placed in a race! However, it was a bittersweet victory as the first-place finisher drafted off of Paul and then broke away in a sprint just before the finish line. Drafting is typically illegal at races like this, but there was no mention of it in the pre-race instructions, and so this guy sat on Paul's wheel until the very end. Had it been on a straightaway, Paul feels confident he could have held him off. But he was not prepared to risk life and limb to go screaming around that final corner, and so he let up just before the turn and the other guy squeaked ahead of him. It ate at him all day, but I am so proud of Paul for a kick-ass race and for making the smart decision at the end. A crash could have taken him out of next week's marathon...and scratched up his nice tri bike too.

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Two Weeks and Counting 
Sunday, November 2, 2008, 09:22 PM
Posted by Administrator
Last weekend, I did my final long run for the marathon - 21 miles - and then went to a festival and a going away party. I couldn't believe how good I felt and how much energy I had! Sure, I was a little stiff for a few days, but it was nothing like the pain I had anticipated - the kind that turns your walk into a shuffle and forces you to descend stairs backwards.

I had good workouts this week and was feeling optimistic about my final speed workout as I jogged to the track yesterday morning, intending to do nine or ten Yasso 800's. During my first 800, it became abundantly clear that I was NOT recovered from the 21-miler. My legs felt dead. I stuck with it for 4 x 800 and then headed back home for a total workout of 6-miles. Not exactly what I had planned...but I'm tapering, right?

This morning, Paul and I headed out on the tandem. Now that it's not insanely hot (the high was only about 90 today), we slept in and headed out with a plan to ride for a few hours and then stop for lunch. Paul has taken the past few days off from exercise and so, feeling rested and strong, he pushed it while I, still having dead legs, enjoyed an easier ride on the back. Ahh...the beauty of a tandem.

We wound up at Down Home Delights, a restaurant I've driven and biked past a number of times and have always wondered about. It turned out to be a tiny little restaurant with excellent food. I highly recommend the spinach, strawberry and blue cheese salad!

Next Saturday is a short "biathlon" in Sierra Vista. No, we are not cross-country skiing and shooting rifles. Yes, that is typically what happens during a biathlon. No, I don't know why they chose the word. Yes, it makes me a little nervous about how well organized it's going to be. This race will be a 5K run followed by a 12 mile bike, and it benefits the MDA, the organization for which I work. Stay tuned for the full report!
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