We left off last with some Texas fun – all except the main reason why we traveled to Texas! Sunday was the Rock ‘n Roll Dallas Half Marathon, which I chose to run partly because I’m a Rock ‘n Blog Ambassador (side note: I get three free race entries, hooray!), but also because Eric’s mom lives outside Dallas so it’s a two-for-one! Additionally, I figured it’d be a good time to test my fitness in regards to marathon training. Due to the fact that I work two weekends per month, I don’t race much, so I like to make them count.
This works out great since I can’t hold back when a gun goes off, so I never use a race to get in a supported long run, etc. However, it doesn’t work out so great when you’re having some pain, take a week off from running, and can’t decide if you’ve even going to run the race. Fitness assessments are overrated, right? Hmmm.
Anyway, on with the show.
The race started at 8am, so we planned to leave by 6:30 in order to drive into Dallas, park, find bathrooms, find the race start, etc. My alarm went off at 5:30, and I immediately got up and made some coffee. Drank that and ate a banana. Tested out my hip by running in place and doing all sorts of leg circles, still not convinced running was the best idea. (You can all say, “Duhhhh Susan.” I won’t blame you.) Eric’s mom has a handheld massage thing, so I used that on my hip/groin/leg to maybe loosen it up.
It had rained nearly all night, but it seemed to have stopped by the time we started the drive into Dallas. We got into the city and found parking a few blocks from the start and were on the move by 7:15. Eric’s mom, sister, brother-in-law, two nephews, and niece (and Eric, I hope that’s obvious, haha) came along, and it went quite smoothly for everyone (including three kids!) getting up so early. Props to those parents out there who race, it’s a lot more work than just getting yourself to the starting line! (Please note I didn’t contribute to the child supervision, just an observation.)
I wanted to find a bathroom, but we first headed in the wrong direction toward the start. When I ran RNR DC two years ago, the corrals all had bathrooms in them. This time, not so much. Eric and I made a beeline for the back of the corrals, where we found a bunch of bathrooms with eight million people in line for each one. I got nervous. I was messaging with Matt, who I’ve known through blogland for a long time, but I’ve never met. He mentioned that there were more bathrooms toward the back, so I sent Eric to check it out while I waited in line. Magic – the lines there were only about 3-5 people deep! I told the girls around me about the other bathrooms, but they didn’t seem interested. Pretty sure I would have missed the start if I stayed.
Bathroom, check. Over to the starting line, check. Realize you’re on the wrong side of the corrals – oops. They had huge plastic barriers on the right side of the corrals, so you had to go around to the other side to enter. Except that was kind of far away. A bunch of people were hopping over the barriers, so I did also. I handed a bunch of stuff off to Eric with a few minutes to go. And then I stood there and was too worried to be excited or to be thankful that so many people came to cheer. (Sorry, bad mood!) Never found Matt despite being in the same corral! Oops.
Since I listed myself as hopefully running fast (1:30 would be a nice PR), I was in the first corral. I knew that wasn’t going to happen (6:50 pace, bahaha, NOPE), and I knew that Deena Kastor was pacing the 1:45 group.
No pace sign, just Deena. (credit)
I don’t love pace groups since it gives me anxiety to run a pace dictated by someone else…so I just stayed in my first corral. It was a corral-by-corral start, so I didn’t feel too bad about most likely not being at the right pace. (Sorry, everyone.) Mostly, I was more worried about how long I would make it into the race before pulling out.
After the National Anthem, we were off! I had lined up more at the front of the second corral than at the back of the first corral, and a guy was yelling, “WAIT WAIT NO SECOND CORRAL” followed by, “You’re okay to go” to me, and I was off.
miles 1-4 – 7:51, 7:45, 7:38, 7:34
Eric and the cheering squad planned to be at miles 4 and 8, as well as the finish, that broke up the race nicely for me. I took a few uneasy steps at first – hoping my hip/groin would think it was a good day to run at least a few miles. To my surprise, it actually felt okay. Noticeable that something wasn’t 100%, but not pain. We’ll see how long this lasts.
The crowd thinned out pretty quick, most likely due to being in the first corral, as well as the corral-by-corral start, so I settled into a comfortable pace pretty quick without much weaving around. It was pretty good weather to run – 55-ish and overcast, although a bit more humid than I’m used to. Shorts and tank top, yes please! Back to running. The course was basically three large out-and-backs, so I focused on getting through mile two to the first turnaround. We passed under a bridge where a band was playing – I don’t remember the song, but the music was a nice change from races that are mostly silent.
I looked down at my watch a few times – the first mile clocked in around 7:51 and the second in 7:45. My test runs left me running around 8-8:20 and not feeling all that easy at the pace, so I was a little surprised with the sub-8 pace, but it felt okay. We made the turnaround and it was a long slight decline, so my pace naturally picked up. My groin felt okay, so I just went with it. A group of cheerleaders were on the sideline, which was fun and I appreciated their cheers!
I never run with my phone (and hate racing with it), but I figured I should take it in case I needed to drop out. This was convenient because I was able to text Eric – something I can’t do well on the run! He had texted me that they were “by the big cowboy hat,” and I texted him as I passed mile 3 so he knew I would be coming. Initially I told him I was going to run around eight minute miles, so I was a little ahead of myself. We took a turn before mile 4, and I saw the giant cowboy hat…as well as a cowboy with a microphone in the middle of the road suggesting we stop to get a selfie with him.
No one was going to the right of the cowboy in the middle of the road, and I wanted to swing by Eric to pick up the energy chews I dropped off with him. Luckily I noticed that everyone was staying to the left of the cowboy not only because the turn was heading left, but also because the microphone had a wire…and I’m clumsy enough to trip over it, so I headed to the left also. I apparently didn’t communicate well to Eric that I wanted the chews at mile 4, as I went running up to him (as he was videoing…) yelling, “Chews chews chews!” and he said, “I thought you wanted them at mile 8!” “No, mile 4!” I’m the worst, sorry. I figured if I dropped out at mile 4, there was no need to carry them for the first four miles, but I would know by then if I was going to keep going. Needless to say, I got the chews and carried on. And ate a few shortly thereafter, hooray.
I have some super cute pictures of the kids with the signs they made for me, but I’m not one to put someone else’s kids on the internet, so here are the signs they made me:
Please note that they signed their initials, and Eric’s niece signed her initials (MB) and then her mom’s initials as MB as well…for “Mommy B” because her first name doesn’t actually start with an M, haha.
miles 4-8 – 7:33, 7:31, 7:33, 7:24
After mile 4, I definitely felt good in the race and tried to lock in. My hip/groin felt okay, and I figured I was in it for the long haul. I took some chews then tried to figure out how to carry them – my phone was in one hand, and having things in both hands is a bit much for me, so I shoved them in my sports bra. My effort felt good – 7:30’s felt a little harder than I would like them to, but since I’d taken some time off and wasn’t 100%, I guess I’ll take it.
Since I was trying to not think about the race, I hadn’t really paid much attention to what the course would be like. I knew it was mostly flat, but that was about it. We hit the 10k and then passed the relay exchange. I always think relay exchanges in bigger races are kind of funny…you would think there would be a lot of cheering, but everyone is so busy looking for their runner that it’s kind of quiet. Oh well.
I don’t remember exactly where it was, but I believe it was in this segment…people had some great signs for this race, but my hands-down favorite was one that said, “Run like someone just called you a jogger.” I actually laughed out loud at how true that is. And I might need to steal that idea for my next cheering event.
The most visually interesting aspect of the race was also in the miles 4-8 segment. The Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge is quite stunning, and I didn’t know we were running over it until we got there!
I like bridges. Unless I have to run up them…
I thought about taking out my camera to take a picture, but that seemed like a lot of work (chews in one hand, camera in plastic bag in the other…), so I didn’t. Luckily, a photographer was on the bridge, and I don’t look too terrible in one of them:
I only felt a little bit of an incline on the bridge, so that was nice, but we did have a nice off ramp complete with a downhill. That was certainly welcome! I texted Eric at mile 7 to let them know I was coming, and they were shortly after mile 8. He had said they were right after the band, but to be honest, I didn’t even notice a band. Fail. I spotted them in the distance and waved my arm so they knew it was me. They cheered loud and Eric snapped some pictures that actually make me look like I was running:
I’m running! Amazing!
Pro tip: Use “burst mode” on your phone – it’ll take a gazillion pictures (depending how long you hold it down), but you’ll likely get a couple good ones! Woohoo.
miles 9-13.1 – 7:28, 8:58 (…oops), 7:26, 7:53, 0:45 (6:50 pace)
I turned the corner after seeing the cheer crew, and I knew I was in it until the end. I felt good, but I wondered how long I could last at 7:30-ish pace and how quickly you lose fitness after taking a week off. A week isn’t that long, but I still get nervous. I felt okay in mile 9, then we hit a bit of a hill in mile 10. It wasn’t a huge hill, but despite having run hills well in the past (and by “past” I mean like five years ago I ran hills well…probably a confidence thing), I mentally wasn’t doing so hot. The elevation profile isn’t even that bad:
But for whatever reason, the hill in mile 10 got to me. And it got to my stomach because I needed to go to the bathroom ASAP. I spotted a port-o-potty, it was empty, then it was no longer empty because I was in it, I texted Eric to say I was off schedule because of a bathroom break, then I got back out. I know I lost about 60-90 seconds by making the stop, but I felt much better after and was able to get back on pace in mile 11. Plus going to the bathroom in my pants is not my MO, especially in a race where I’m not exactly flying. So that was that.
I’d been taking water at the aid stations and had taken about eight chews – around mile 10 I knew they wouldn’t take effect if I ate them anymore, so I threw them in a trash can at an aid station and got a “Nice shot!” from a volunteer. Hooray. (I also had when people drop their gels on the ground after eating them. I also don’t understand why it’s acceptable to drop peanut shells on the ground at baseball games, but that’s just me. Okay, tangent over.) Now just to get to the finish.
Mile 11 got me back on track, and mile 12! We’re almost there! But there’s another hill first! Susan, you’re the worst! My mental game is awful at times, so I took a 15 second walk break in mile 12 (who walks in mile 12? Why? WHY?), and got back on track. It didn’t cost me much, and I did feel better after, so I guess it was fine. Right? Right.
There was a lovely downhill to end the race – maybe the last half mile? Not so sure. But I knew it was almost over and I was so excited. I picked it up as we made the final left into the finish. Eric told me they were on the left side of the finish line, so I stayed over that way and waved as I passed. I hit sub-7 pace in that last 0.1 mile, so hooray! Funny how you can feel good in that last half mile when a mile ago you hated everything…ha.
I got my medal (hooray!) and then got handed seven different beverages (or three…water, Gatorade, and chocolate milk) plus some chips and a banana. I sipped some of the Gatorade because I realized that I was DRENCHED (hello, humidity) and how terrible I can feel when electrolyte depleted, so I wanted to prevent that. I found Eric and the crew outside the finishing area, where we proceeded to take pictures:
Then I made sure to take a picture with Eric because we are really bad about taking pictures together, and his cheering definitely deserves a picture:
I called my parents to let them know my leg was still attached to my hip (Eric had sent them updates/pictures during the race as well…best boyfriend ever), and my dad (in his typical dad fashion) asked what we were going to go eat after. (For those newcomers here, when my dad first heard that my half Ironman would take 6-7 hours, he asked if I got to stop for lunch. Oh Dad…haha.)
We were walking toward the car and my hip felt a little tight, but nothing crazy. It definitely feels worse when walking than when running…who knows. Once I got off the phone with my parents, one of Eric’s nephews took my hand to cross the street, and we spent the rest of the time talking about the nearby trains and trolleys…and making sure we both crossed the street in a timely fashion. (Him because he has little legs and me because my legs weren’t moving all that fast anymore!)
stats and such
13.1 miles in 1:41:06, avg pace of 7:43
Overall: 426/8501 – Top 5%
Division: 21/891 – Top 2.3%
Gender: 81/5169 – Top 1.5%
Overall? I’m just happy I got to run. I know I probably shouldn’t have even tried, and I know people have feelings about running when injured, but I wanted to try. You could debate that I might not have dropped out if my hip/groin did start to hurt, but I like to think I would have. Eugene is my goal and I still want to run that, so I would have been at least a little smart. I’m happy with my effort throughout the race – I would like to think that 7:30 pace would feel easier than it did (and that I’d be able to keep it up for 13.1 more miles…and faster), but given the circumstances, I’m happy. My mental game wasn’t quite there at the end, but it’s also not like I was pushing to PR and didn’t. I’m happy with 7:43 pace and the ability to run a half marathon. I bought the “Run Happy” visor both to keep the rain (that stayed away!) out of my eyes and to remind myself that running is more about enjoying yourself and having the ability to get out there. I love training hard and reaching for PRs, but sometimes just being able to run is what you get, and that’s pretty awesome in itself.
You know what was also awesome? The shirt and medal! Check it out:
And a RED shirt! A women’s specific tech race shirt that is RED. Thank you, Rock ‘n’ Roll, for recognizing that not all women want pink/purple shirts. Red is one of my favorite colors, and this is glorious. I don’t even remember what color the men’s shirts were (red as well? Who knows.), but I am thrilled with a red shirt. Not that I would pick a race based on the color of it’s shirt, but this was a pleasant surprise. And the design is pretty cool too.
As previously mentioned, I did get this race entry for free as a part of the Rock ‘n’ Blog program. However, this really was a great race – well organized, as RNR races tend to be, and I liked the music along the course. Sometimes I didn’t notice it when I was in the zone, but it was fun when I did hear it! I specifically remember Blink-182’s “All the Small Things” and then another ska/punk song that brought me back to my high school years. A little distraction is always helpful! The course was also great for spectating – Eric and the crew only had to walk a few blocks to get to the three spots they were at, which I consider a plus. Minus the hills (which weren’t really that bad despite my dramatic response above), it’s a good course. I don’t know what typical Dallas weather is, but 55 degrees is great racing weather. Had I been in better shape/not questioning injury, I definitely think I could have had a really strong race here.
In not so many words: I highly recommend Dallas. Good course, good organization, good for spectating, potential for speed. Done!
And just to wrap this up: Thanks to my cheer crew – you were great! You’re welcome at any and all events, and I promise I’m not always a grump at races. (Okay, sometimes I am. Nerves are the worst.) But thanks for the cheers and the early morning smiles!