The Dixon Half Marathon Training Plan

Disclaimer: Ok, first & foremost let me preface this post by saying this…we are not experts in this matter. We are not doctors. We are not (yet) certified trainers. We are not on staff at Runner’s World. We’ve never even run a full marathon (not yet anyways). We are just normal, regular people who love to run and eat a lot of chocolate. So, now that we have that cleared up…

We’ve had quite a few people ask us over the past few months how we train for our half marathons. Thus far, I have run 7 of them and Ryan has run 8. You can see the list of races here. Also, here’s an archive of all the posts we have about running. You can also find these in the sidebar category labeled “RUNNING”. We love it…I posted a blog with 10 reasons why.

13.1 miles is a fun challenge to take on. Trust me when I say, if I can do it – YOU CAN! Seriously, when I first started running about 6 or 7 years ago, I could barely make 1/4 mile without stopping. Training just takes time and patience, but it is well worth it! About a month ago, some friends of mine decided to register to run in the Big D Half Marathon in April and asked me how they should train for it. So, I put together a four month training calendar for them based upon books I’ve read, other training tips I’ve researched online, and what Ryan and I have done that works for us. This schedule is meant for people who are already up to running about 3 miles on average and here’s what it looks like:

Our method is to run about 3 to 4 times each week, depending on how much time we have. One of those runs should be a long one. What we usually do is run between 3-6 miles on these “weekday runs” and then run our longer distance runs on the weekend. An example of our schedule is I do Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday while Ryan does Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday.  The next week we rotate that schedule. Each weekend, we try to bump up the long run distance as you can see on the calendar. A little at a time, usually in mile increments.

For better overall fitness, it is a good idea to incorporate one day of cross-training and one day of speed work. What I mean by cross-training is anything from bicycling to walking to swimming to lifting weights. Speed work is my least favorite things and I usually slack in this area. But when I’ve done it in the past, I really can see a difference in my pace. On speed work days, we like to go to the local high school track and do quarter mile repeats. This is where you run a quarter of a mile as fast as you can, then walk for a minute and do it again. And again. And again. Run fast, walk. Run fast, walk. You get the picture…it’s not fun! Definitely gets your heart pumping and it will help you better you time on race day. More on speed in a minute.

Another piece of advice we give to everyone just starting out is to get you a GOOD pair of quality running shoes. This is essential! In order to prevent injury and just to have a more enjoyable run, you need good shoes. You can not skimp out on this! It will be worth your money but GOOD shoes are not necessarily the most expensive ones either. Saucony and Mizuno are our favorite brands. But I have friends that prefer Asics and some that like Nike…just depends on how you run, your foot arch type, whether you overpronate or underpronate, etc. They have to feel right with a little wiggle room for your feet to expand when they get going. You can read about my latest fav shoes here…and bonus they are only $40!

Hydration is important! Not just during the race but more importantly the day prior. We do our best to drink about 2 liters (yes) of water each day. Ryan runs with a water bottle for any run longer than 4 miles. You can see what his other running essentials are here. One of these includes the best tool we have, a GPS watch. This is great for knowing your exact distance and average pace which we value greatly. Many ask what a good pace might be for running distance. The best answer is to just get out and run, find your natural, comfortable pace. This is where you will feel as though your body just grooves. When you find that pace, get used to it, get the miles adding up, challenge yourself with speed work for better times.

So for those of you who are looking to take on the adventure of registering for a half marathon, I’d say go for it! Registering for a race is a great motivator to keep you on track with your running. Such a challenging, yet very rewarding experience. Here’s a clip from an article I read recently regarding the finish line of the Austin Half Marathon. I loved it and shared it with my friend Ame who ran in Austin her very first half marathon. I feel it sums up the feeling and accomplishment of crossing the finish line very well & thought I’d share it with those of you considering this venture…

“At the bottom of the hill, you turn left, and it’s a block to the massive finish line structure. Smile, wave, cry – whatever you do, you’ve done something phenomenal, that so few people will ever even try to do. You chose to train. You chose to run on many days when the weather, or your schedule, or your will, were pushing back. You got through a day full of choices – whether to slow down, whether to walk, whether to stop. Maybe you didn’t win each of those battles, but everyone that you did win says something about who you are, and who you choose to be, and that’s what’s great about this sport.”

Livestrong Austin Half: Recap

This past weekend was fast and furious! I’m still recovering. We left Tyler Saturday morning first thing, kid-free & caffeinated. Along the way, we met up with our friends Mike & Ame who were also on their way to the ATX. Ame had decided several months ago that she wanted to complete a half marathon before she turns the big 3-0. Well, she turns 30 in March, so she picked the Austin Half to be her goal. Awesome! I love it when my friends decide to take up running. In fact, some other friends are running their first half in April and I hosted an official “half-marathon training” meeting at my house several weeks ago – am I a nerd or what?!

We followed speed racer Mike & Ame the rest of the way and of course had to make a pit stop at Chuy’s before we could do anything else. I mean, nothing says pre-race food better than chips, creamy jalapeno, and spicy tacos, right? Then, we all headed downtown to the race expo. Oh my word, it was packed OUT downtown! So much traffic and so many peeps. We finally found a place to park in some neighborhood on some street and headed in for our packets. I know I’ve said this before, but I heart race expos. They always make me feel like an actual, real, legit runner. Such great energy at these events. Being around other people that enjoy the same hobby as you as you all prepare to embark upon another challenge together – I don’t know how to explain it really. It’s refreshing and inspiring! Check out our swag… (don’t mind the blurry photo, time to upgrade to iPhone 4)

After loading up on protein bars, organic cereal samples, and Greek yogurt, we headed back to our car. Then, on to watch my niece play basketball! We had such a great time catching up with my brother and his family. We laughed A LOT. Not sure if we were all just really tired or what, but everything was funny. I’d share stories, but you wouldn’t think they were funny, trust me. Definitely a had to be there kind of thing. Good times. That night, we headed back to their house and cooked spaghetti to carb-up. Enjoyed a glass of wine as we tried to rest and relax and head to bed as early as possible. The alarm was set for 4:15 a.m. – YIKES.

I don’t know about you, but waking up before 6 is really hard for me. Well, waking up before 5 is just plain ridiculous. It’s the middle of the night for crying out loud! We threw on our race day attire, pinned on our bibs, drank some coffee, ate a Cliff bar and headed out the door as quietly as possible. We met our friends at their hotel and proceeded downtown to the starting line. Austin is such a cool city. Gotta love a race that starts in front of the state capitol building! National anthem was sung, introductions of all the race big wigs were made, and then it was announced that Lance Armstrong himself was there and running in the half marathon with us. Neato! I never actually saw him, but knowing that he was running was a cool thought.

The race itself was a lot of fun. Hilly, but fun. I decided to run with Ame, I wanted to be with her as she accomplished this pre-30 feat! The route was neat…running down Congress Avenue through downtown and by Lady Bird Lake. There was an insanely steep hill around mile 12. But, we conquered it and finished under her goal time! She did awesome. I was very proud of her. Ryan beat us, of course. I think he finished right behind Lance. ;)

After the race, we went back to Mike & Ame’s hotel to shower. Do you know how bad one stinks after one runs 13.1 miles? Peeeew weeee! I was craving a cheeseburger, so Ryan & I Stopped at Saltgrass on our way back to Tyler for this plate of deliciousness…

Crazy, but very good weekend. My hips were sore from climbing all of the hills! We’ve taken several days off from running, but I’m already itching to get back out on the road. Next up…Tyler Azalea 10k in March. H52S!

The middle miles.

Central Park, New York City

There is usually a point in distance running where you reach a pleasant plateau. The time when you have found your rhythm, your breathing is regulated, you are in the groove. Usually for me, this takes a good 3-4 miles. The first few miles on a long run are usually always tough for me. Thoughts flood my mind about what I have to do that day, how far I still have to run, how I wish I could get rid of that darn back fat that I’ve acquired from having two babies, etc. But after I crank up the music and start to relax and get in a rhythm, I am in a zone. My happy place. Then for several miles, I feel great, like I could run forever like Mr. Gump. This doesn’t happen every time, some runs are hard the entire time. Usually during a half marathon, I am in this zone from about mile 3 until close to mile 8 or 9. Then, the last few tend to be challenging…maybe because you know the end is near and reality sets in that you’ve run nearly 10 miles? Regardless, this is how I endure the long runs- the middle miles make it enjoyable.

I love these middle miles, they remind me why I love to run. During this time I can think clearly, I enjoy the time to myself doing something for myself, I pray, I think of my Dad, I think of all that God has blessed me with, and a lot of times I set new goals. Some of my best worship experiences have happened on long runs through the beauty of nature. This time has also been like therapy for me through the grief process. It’s good stuff. Good for me emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Because of this “me” time, I feel I am a better wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend. I seriously get cranky when I don’t run, just ask Ryan!

I hope you have something like this that you do just for you. Something that challenges you, pushes you, strengthens you, encourages you, calms you, relieves stress, gives you time to process and think. Whatever it might be, it obviously doesn’t have to be running. Although I always recommend it! I know as a mom, it’s hard to find any time for alone time. Trust me, I understand. But I think it’s truly important. So if you don’t do something like this already, I would encourage you to find those “middle miles” and set aside time to do it regularly!

Saturday’s Emotional 8 Miles in Quitman.

One of our favorite things about the 2 years we lived in Quitman was the running. The scenery there and the “slower” traffic is a nice combination. As with most places we live, (have lived) we have a few set routes for whatever milage you are wanting to accomplish. From just a few to 10 or more. Country roads with horses and cows, open fields seeded with grains, decreped barns and it’s vacant downtown adorn this East Texas route. Hilly at times, thankfully flat at others. Here is an old post showing some pics of these hot spots.

Deciding to run there on Saturday, Traci and I wanted to revisit some of our favorite scenes. In effort to plan out our 8 mile quota, I stumbled upon a great resource called  mapmyrun.com. This site allows you to mark your start then draw the route you want to run on a Google Map. When you design your route, it automatically displays mile markers. Once you are finished making the route, editing and tweaking, it shows the elevation and you have the option to see a 3D fly through thanks to Google Earth. Super cool! Here is the route we planned.

We arrived at the much adored “grandma’s house!” around 10 am, said hello and as the girls began to play, Traci and I walked out the door to start at the back of the property. The sun was shining and our muscles were shivering. My playlist included a Matt Carter message on the God’s ability to do the impossible followed by some old school hip-hop. 45 degrees and breezy we pressed start and began our tour.

This place invokes so many emotions. Most may not know of our “Quitman life” and the ups and downs we faced. Joy with the birth of Kamryn, depression with job struggles, thankfulness in the hospitality of Traci’s family and desperation as I struggled with the guilt of feeling unsuccessful. We passed 2 houses we lived in for brief times. One we miraculously and quickly sold in a flat market shortly after a layoff, and then another we lived in for only 3 days. We ran past houses of friends, former colleagues and family who care about our little family and still reminisce of our little coffee shop.

At mile 2.5 we continued past the funeral home that we were forced to enter last June. Seems only yesterday we were running these very roads with Kip. He and I often spoke of how it was motivational for us to run past the town’s cemetery, nursing homes and ironically that same funeral home.

Mile 3 started our ascension of “Cate’s Mountain” to be visited by a familiar big dog that Traci often speaks of. Then we crossed HWY 154 close to dad’s wood shop where he created and felt “alive”. Addi’s beautiful baby bed was born there. Artfully cut and chipped away from large ruff planks of cherry and walnut woods. I was able to “work” there on occasion building studio acoustic panels for fun, and when I was between jobs, building cabinets for money he generously paid.

Mile 4 and onto a great country road with cows and naked trees; the sun shinning on them almost picture like. A major road and some Saturday traffic forced us to dodge a few cars, all the while with my beautiful bride right beside me. An exchange of thumbs up tells me she’s feeling ok.

We winded our way around the corner past the basketball gym where Traci’s sister Jen became a local hero and brother Jeff just graduated high school (2 years ago!). The graduation ceremony where the valedictorian’s speech included a reference to the “great times at the coffee shop after football games.”

Mile 6.5 and past 2 local churches and I thought of a blogsite I designed for a youth group. How that paid invoice and the one for designing the “Experience Quitman” light-pole banners provided yet another month of food and fuel in a time of unemployed and uncertain struggles. He has always provided. He promises He always will.

We continued through the lifeless downtown with thoughts of unreached potential. Past a building Kip and I dreamed of having for my studio reminded me to never back down from a challenge. This road took us into the park that was a part of a charity run our running group put together to raise money for a local 4 year old girl named Sophie with a stubborn brain tumor. How proud I was for the efforts there and how grateful we are for God’s mercy on her healthy life today.

As we passed the “fried food air” of Dairy Queen, 8 miles were complete. Success. With the milage complete we began our cool down walk; just a bit further to grandma’s. As we walked, we talked about the emotional roller-coaster-of-a-run we both just separately experienced.

“His fingerprints are all over this town. You know?” Traci said in reference to her dad with a tear induced, broken voice.

Indeed. Floods of emotions and stories swallowed us as we passed each significant and personal landmark. This town resonates from his influence. We discussed the buildings, the efforts, the struggles, the triumps and ultimately the memories that were just shaken awake on this hour long jaunt.

We turned left onto Meadowbrook Lane to view yet another house we lived in for nearly a year. Number 115, the red brick Clark house on the hill. The weight of that site still heavy with all its memories. The sacrifices that were made for us to feel at home there are still echoing. Lives were rearranged to get us there, rooms rearranged to make it “home”. Footsteps down the long hallway of this house along with voices were lightend to keep our babies from waking when they slept in their cribs. Awesome meals were provided when we had nothing to contribute and rooms and closets were built when we had to return after moving to an unknowingly unfit duplex.

Up the driveway and into the house we were cheerfully greeted by our precious girls hiding under blankets, eager to surprise. Happiness overwhelms my heart with the site of these crazy little women. When we made our decision to move East from Lubbock, we unanimously agree that it would be for the good of our children. Despite the struggles we faced, we are so thankful they brought us here.

Life has been drastically changed by our time in Quitman Texas. So hard. So good. So emotional. Thank you God. It’s been said that “life is a sum of our experiences.” That chapter has added no less than total trust for us. What an incredible route on this path of life. What an incredible 8 miles.

So now we continue on. Fight the good fight. Finish the race. Remain faithful.

3 in 3

As you know…late summer, Ryan & I set a goal to complete 3 half marathons in 3 consecutive months. Not sure why we decided to do this other than the fact that we wanted to run in these 3 specific half marathons for certain reasons…and they just so happened to be in 3 consecutive months!

October – Tyler Rose Half

November – Manchester Half

December- White Rock Half

It really was so much fun and honestly easier than I expected! All three races were so different, each provided a unique and neat experience. I can’t believe I’m even going to say this…but the thought of running a full marathon doesn’t scare me quite as bad as it did earlier this year. What??!!! Plus, having seen a couple of friends accomplish this feat has spurred me on even more.

We still have not committed to one yet, but are still researching. Both Ryan & I want to complete a full. We were looking at doing the Austin marathon in February, but decided that was too soon, too hilly, and too cold to complete 26.2. So, we will register for the half instead…which I’m super excited about. Sounds like a blast of a race w/tons of bands and swag! Plus, we have some friends doing it as well, so we’ll make a fun weekend out of it. Good to have a couple of months until our next race…nice little break!

We ordered each other running shoes for Christmas. Romantic, right? That’s the way we roll. Found a buy one, get one half off special & ordered them online! Even better. They haven’t arrived yet, but they should within the next few days and I’m pumped to try them out. We both got the Saucony Grid Raiders…here are mine:

So if you have any advice on which marathons are the best ones to do or ones we should definitely avoid..especially for the first one, let us know! The latest issue of Runner’s World has a whole section called “Marathon Guide” in it with a list of suggested first time marathons…I’m thinking Disney or D.C. would be fun options!

White Rock 1/2 Marathon. Number 3 of 3.

Today we conquered our last half of this season. White Rock 1/2 Marathon. Number 3 of 3.

Traci and I headed to Dallas yesterday to pick up our race packet (bib, t-shirt, other schwag) from the new location for the Dallas White Rock Marathon. Starting this year, the expo and the start and finish were located at Fair Park in Dallas. The same location as the famous Cotton Bowl. After pickup we headed to our hotel then to dinner at Bucca Di Peppo Italian restaurant for some tasty carbs. After dinner we (the food nerds we are) headed to Central Market to check out their awesome selection including more Ben and Jerry’s flavors than we have here in little old Tyler. Bed by 10pm.

We woke this morning to 3 separate alarms, brewed some hotel room coffee, woke to showers, got our running gear on and headed out by 6:00 am. Out into the COLD! Usually long sleeve running shirts are not my preference but it I erred on the side of warmth as the temps according to my Weather Channel Ap said it wouldn’t get above 50 by noon. Our car thermometer read 37 degrees. Onto the dark and barren interstate for about 12 miles to Fair Park. We followed the leader to the parking lots, parked, got our gear together and stepped out. Out into the COLD!

If you know anything about me I have a problem with direction. There. Also, I am quick to make a decision about directions and commit without really thinking it through. We headed out of the parking lot, crossed the street and then proceeded to find the Colosseum where we were told there was warmth and bathrooms to accompany our wait time. Apparently I went the wrong way (shocker!) and we ended up making a huge U as we hustled though the maze of Fair Park. It took about 3 times longer than it should’ve. Joy! We did finally make it to our destination. With about one and a half hours to wait, we did just that in hopes of seeing some of our friends we knew were going to be running the race too. We did find our great friend Lauren and had some time to catch up before heading out. Out into the COLD!

About 10 minutes till 8:00 am (stated race start time) we moved out to join the growing swarms. With 23,000 runners this race like many other big ones starts the crazies in waves based on estimated time of finish. When we registered I stated my run time around my usual pace of about 7:45 per mile which put me in the second wave – B. Traci was set for wave J and our friend Lauren, whom we were still hanging out with was in H. She was running her first ever MARATHON to which we are so proud.

Announcements began and continued past 8:00 all the while we all kept shivering. Like violently shivering. We recently ran in a Manchester New Hampshire 1/2 marathon. The temps were about the same but today was different. Windy, dry and cold. My upper quads and hip tendons were tighter than I have ever felt them due to the cold and my rocking back an forth trying to keep warm. I quickly talked myself into staying with this mid wave as I was scared to run my usual pace. I chickened out and was completely fine with that. I was hurting and we hadn’t even begun! About 8:30 am (that’s 40 minutes of blood thinning coldness), when it was our waves turn to start, we walked towards the starting line, the announcer counted down from 10 and said go. With that and some random pyrotechnics we were off.

One step at a time we began our jaunt. My teeth were chattering as I cautiously took my first few handful of steps. Literally chattering. My muscles felt like tight rubber bands, stretched to their limits. Not good.

This year, along with the new location for the race, the route was different. Having run this exact 1/2 marathon 3 previous years, I was super skeptical of this new location and route. Last year was just plain awesome and took us along some of my favorite running spots in big D. This route took us out of Fair Park, thru the adjacent ghetto hoods, down to the outskirts of down town, thru the hip uptown, the mansions of Highland Park and then back to Fair Park for the finish. This brought about the sites of old run downs, sky scrapers, pampered creeks adorned with covet inducing houses and good ol’ Dallas freeways.

After about 2 miles my legs were loose and my form was semi-normal. My breathing and pace were good, side by side with my beautiful running partner for the day. I was enjoying the downtown sites and as we crossed Woodall Rogers Freeway (I-35) around mile 3 my iPod died. Ironically, I was thinking to myself only minutes prior to this that I was really digging having some Damien Marley motivating my run. I rolled up my earbuds and clipped it back onto my shorts. Once again Traci began singing to me as to help with my recent loss.

About a 9:30 pace and mile 6 my left knee and ankle began to feel tweaked. Not good. Also, I for whatever stupid reason wore some thicker than normal socks which made my shoes tighter and tighter as they continued to swell thru the run. Not good at all. Typically my joints feel a bit more tender with the cold but this was different. Within my stride, I tried to bend and stretch (not bend and snap) these problem areas to keep them happy. My left knee and ankle have seemed to be trouble these days. Time for new shoes as I’ve exceeded the life expectancy of both my long distance pairs.

My pains did not subside. Time to grin and bare it and count down the miles as we passed the white markers. Traci did great with her usual consistent pace and seemed to be showing very small signs of fatigue. Mile 9, mile 10. Man my feet were hurting! “3 more!” I said to myself which at this point is internal yells of motivation. Mile 11, mile 12. “One more!” we started to see Fair Park in the distance and the end was immanent and boy was I looking forward to it. We crossed the street into the Park and rounded the barricade chute on our way to the goal. We finished! Thank the sweet Lord Jesus!

We headed into a building, received our customary metal, another “I finished!” shirt, some snack bars, bagel bites and out to our car for our iced down, post run chocolate milk we picked up at Central Market. A quick change and back to Quitman for lunch at mom’s and a viewing of the terrible Redskins game.

Our friend Lauren was successful and finished her first full marathon today too. 4 hours and 45 minutes of running! That’s determination and a whole lot of running.

Overall the experience for us was OK. Not my favorite 1/2 marathon of our running season due to the extreme cold and I am still pondering the new location and route. A bit too spread out and cheap feeling to me. I am however so thankful for the opportunity and the health to do it. My knee is still sore as of 9:30 tonight and am hoping it get back to norm ASAP.

Next up, Austin 1/2 marathon February 20th.

Some recent faves.

A while back, I posted about a few of my faves. Time for round #2!

1. Life is Good Snuggle Socks. Soft, warm, thick & cozy. My Aunt Debbie bought these for me at the Life is Good store in Boston and I heart them. I have pretty much worn them every night for the last two weeks. So comfy!

2. Keurig Coffee Machine. A friend of ours has a business where he provides companies with a commercial version of this machine and then supplies their coffee pods to them on a regular basis. Clever huh? He has asked us to help him with some marketing ideas and ways to make more sales and in return bought us a machine so we could try out all the coffee…bonus! It has been awesome to have a fresh, hot cup of coffee on these cool Fall days whenever we want without having to brew a whole pot. Plus, the coffee is really, very good!

3. Chocolate Milk. I’ve always read that drinking chocolate milk post-run helps aid the body in muscle recovery. So, a couple of months ago we decided to give this a try after our long runs. Do you know how good a tall, cold glass of chocolatey goodness taste after running? Surprisingly, its awesome and has honestly helped me a ton. I used to have stomach issues after running anything past 8 miles (I will spare you the details). But since I’ve started downing some good ole creamy chocolate milk…no more tummy probs! Now, I crave it near the end of a run. I’ve officially added it to the list of my running “must-haves.”

4. Andy’s Pumpkin Pie Concrete. Imagine some delicious vanilla custard. Now picture a whole piece of tasty pumpkin pie. Ok, are you ready for this? Imagine someone putting the piece of pie, yes the whole piece, into the custard and mixing it up and handing it to you with a spoon and a smile. That’s the way Andy’s does it and oh my word. Its ridiculous. And sadly seasonal, so we plan to go there often over the next few weeks!

A very special weekend.

This past weekend’s trip up north was awesome. From laughing hysterically to sharing memories to finishing 13.1 in honor of Dad to shedding tears together – it was a fabulous and very special time. The healing continues.

Ryan summarizes it so well, I figured I’d just send you over to his blog to read about it here.

Thanks to everyone for the prayers and for those who sent us encouraging texts, emails, and FB messages! I’ll leave you all with some pics.

Headed East. Boston & Manchester, NH.

We are off ! Headed for the East coast. Our second of the three fall 1/2 marathons will be Sunday morning in Manchester with Boston site-seeing to follow. We are excited and nervous at the same time as this one’s for Kip.

Marathon Elevation Comparison Chart.

As you may have heard (correctly), Traci and I are considering our first FULL marathon late winter/early spring. The one that comes to the forefront with the timing of the year and location is the Austin Marathon in February. Houston is super flat and perfect for first timers but is already sold out for this year.

The main gripe about this one is the elevation. IT’S HILLY! I needed to do some comparisons with courses that we were either familiar with (the 1/2’s that is) and other Texas or famous marathon courses, so I graphed them in Illustrator. I figured someone else out there in the running world might appreciate them one as well. These elevations are approximate according to the information provided 10/10. If you are interested in me adding any other specific routes to this, leave a comment and let me know. Enjoy.

Ryan’s Early Morning Run Essentials.

Ozarka Water Bottle: Tasty hydration. Easy grip water bottle design is a must for any distance over 4 miles. I like the disposable aspect though a bit frowned upon these days.

Mini-Mag Flash Light: It’s dark in the Fall, especially before 6am and in the tree covered South Tyler Trails. Useful for avoiding the bountiful carcasses of squished squirrels.

Garmin GPS Watch: Best training tool for runners. Instant stats such as pace, distance, time of day, etc.

Red Blinky Light: Gives me a sense of safety when running in the dark. This thing is bright and drivers know there’s something coming.

iPod Shuffle: The best iPod design for running. Clip it and forget it. Perfect companion for long lonely runs. I typically rock podcasts from Chandler or Carter. Cheap earbuds only as these things get nasty and are easier to replace in the $10 category.

What are your must haves?

Tyler Rose 1/2 Marathon. 10.10.10.

This Sunday marked the first 1/2 marathon of our Fall race season, the Tyler Rose. We have been looking forward to this one for some time now. In anticipation of registering we had briefly glanced at the course map. We noticed that it would take us on many of the roads of our “Azalea” training route and some down town stuff but really didn’t pay too much of attention. I like the element of surprise when running distance. Sometimes not knowing is best.

Saturday night we had dinner at Joe’s Italian with our new friends Alison and Stuart from Lubbock. Allison or “Running Ali”  was registered for the full! We had a great time with them talking race non-sense and what not. I don’t know how much you know about Lubbock but it is seriously flat and as a runner from that distant world training for the hills of Tyler, well, good luck. Got home from dinner, built upon my ever growing 5 hour “Running” playlist laden with Anberlin, Chevelle, P.O.D., BEP, and other adrenaline inducing music and then headed to bed around 10.

Sunday morning we arrived to find a “front row joe” parking spot, got acclimated with the starting line and then started seeking some familiar faces. As the day grew older the scene was set. Plenty of anxious runners, all shapes and sizes. It is amazing to see the variety that races seem to attract; a beautiful picture of community. We love down town starts and finishes (no matter how small the DT) and this years Tyler Rose course fulfilled this. Bonus too, our favorite coffee shop (Down Town Coffee Lounge) was right on the corner and open in support of the day’s festivities. Plus it being open provided a ridiculously short bathroom line (shhh!) in lieu of the port-a-potties.

7:30 marked the start of the marathon. 7:29 and the countdown to the start began. No starting pistol or big hoorah here. A couple less than adequate speakers with blown tweeters amplified “Runners! 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO!” and those crazy runners were off. They headed down College and right onto Front,  fading behind the buildings. These runners had to jaunt all the way around the airport and back then do the 1/2 marathon course! Gross!

Our turn. As usual, Traci and I lined up about 1/2 way back in the mob of half marathoners as the moments to the start approached. A good luck kiss and “5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO!” We were off. Pressed start on my Garmin watch (now mysteriously working) and play on my iPod shuffle as we leaped across the first chip receiver and started down the first hill.

This was a maze of a course. If I didn’t see a map or readout from my watch I could have never told you how we got from start to finish. It seemed as though it is up a block, turn right, down the block, turn left the whole time. There were at least a handful of places on the course that were confusing and poorly guided. Some runners took wrong turns and even lost their way due to some unmanned turns and blocked signage. More on that in a few. Exciting too for the out-of-towners, we ran though some park-your-car-in-the-yard streets accompanied by a few trash rummagers enjoying the early Sunday morning aluminum can round-up. In stark contrast the next section took us beside schmuckety homes with garaged Mercedes Benz and overly pruned hedges though the Azalea district.

The weather was perfect. Mid 60’s and sunny. I love how the trees on some parts of the course seemed to hold a cool burst of freshness to their proximity. Almost a 5 degree difference and a great opportunity to take deeper than normal breaths of the moist air. Running against the sun is never fun and we saw the affects of its beating on both 1/2 and full marathoners as the race and day progressed. I fought through 2 (rare for me) cramps. One in my right shoulder and one in my stomach. When I was a young lad I never knew you could fight through cramps; I’d always stop and therefor did not learn to run till my adult years.

The hydration stations were placed well with a cheerful support staff at each location. I always run with a 1/2 liter water bottle (part of my strategy) but there seemed to be plenty of opportunity to quench thirst with some paper cup flavored water and even nibble on some fruit if desired. A few brave Tylerites were scattered throughout the course to cheer on family and community members and encouraged us all. It was great to see some familiar faces there too. Nothing conquers negativity like having some yell “Good job Ryan!” as you wrestle with the idea of slowing down to even stopping to walk for a minute. I really had hoped to see more support and felt for the marathoners who had that lonely trot to airport and back.

One thing I really try to focus on is a consistent or increasing quicker pace throughout the race. As my leg muscles break out of their “we are not in bed anymore” state, one of my main motivators is passing people. Not with a demeaning or trumping haughtiness but as a mini-milestones. I like to use passing as bursts of energy and motivation to keep my pace within my goals. It’s motivation both before and after the pass. Before to see if you can do it. After to make sure they don’t pass you! Plus, it just feels awesome.

As the mile markers moved into double digits the countdown began. 3 more miles. 2 more miles. 1 more mile. The last stretch of this journey was trying. We headed back across Front street and up College. In the distance you could see the starting/finish line balloon banner as you tracked up the hill. Unfortunately that was a cruel joke. There were a few more turns (left, right, right, right) to make before you actually got there. The main one (the left) was sorely obscure and caused many to keep running strait to the finish missing nearly 1/2 mile of the race! As I climbed up the last set of hills my calves began to twinge. Fractions of tightness degrees before cramping. Both of them. From past experiences in San Fran and Dallas White Rock, I began to change my stride to keep my clave muscles more strait and from pulling me to defeated walk across the finish. Nothing a few ounces of knowledge, determination and Skillet couldn’t fix! I managed to break through and finished unaffected.

All in all it was a great run. Challenging both mentally and physically. I achieved my lack-luster goal of under 8 minutes per mile with an average pace of 7:45. Finished 53 of 800+. Traci finished her run with a personal best pace of 9:45. We were there at the finish for our friend Alison who was able to complete this beast of a marathon course. Mission accomplished. Off to Momma Clark’s to pick up our babies and eat some yummy post run lunch. Some football, nap, pizza, pasta and cookies completed the great day.

Next up, November 7th. Manchester, New Hampshire 1/2 marathon. That one holds great value as this was the last race my father-in-law was registered for. I’m betting on a roller coaster of emotions. Never-the-less we will be victorious with our head held high as we cross the finish with a giant high 5 to the sky!

This weekend…

Busy weekend coming up! Tonight is our Date Night Co-op. On Ryan & I’s agenda for a date tonight? Run 5 miles at the trails, cook chicken lettuce wraps, then end the night at Andy’s for a pumpkin pie concrete…delish! Sounds like a perfect night to me.

Tomorrow is the Grand Opening event at Brown’s Landing, so I’ll be working there. Excited about this new venture! It’s been a great first week, by the way. Loving my new job and the girls are loving their new school! Back to Saturday…Ryan has a studio mix session that afternoon with a band he recorded live recently. Tomorrow night, we are looking forward to hanging out with the Blalock’s! Alison is coming all the way from Lubbock to run in the FULL marathon this weekend. We are going to Joe’s to get carb-loaded before the race with them.

Sunday is race day! This will be the first of three half marathons Ryan & I are registered this Fall. We went this afternoon to pick up our race packets. So exciting. Have I told you how much I love running?!

Our Training Schedule, Routes and Todays 13.1.

Traci and I alternate days for running as our girls (obviously) cannot be left alone for hours at a time. If I have Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Traci will have Tuesday and Thursday. The next week we swap. Running in this town is amazing. We have some favorite routes for sure. We have mentally engrained maps for 3, 4, 6.25 and 10 mile jaunts though the beautiful Azalea district and to the South Tyler Trails. Morning is best for both of us as this is the coolest time of the day and I love the feeling of getting the miles out of the way. A great feeling for both work days and weekend relaxation. Usually we set aside the weekends for our longest runs though I have managed to get a few in during the week. With three 1/2 marathons right around the corner, it’s time to consistently surpass double digits for long runs.

Occasionally if the girls are spending the night at Grandma’s on the weekend, Traci and I will run the same weekend day and which allows us to start at the same time. Today was that day for us. With our princesses off in Quitman last night and their sweet uncle Jeff volunteering to bring them to us in Tyler this morning, we were set for our longest run this training season, 13.1 miles.

We had talked through how to add 3 more miles to our 10 mile course last night on the way home after dropping off our babies (romantic kidless conversation huh?) and had it set. We came home watched a movie, passed on our usual weekend wine and were in bed by 11. It is interesting how that even with our girls in good hands both last night and all morning we still ended up going to bed at a reasonable time and getting up to run early this morning instead of sleeping late. Sacrifices of a runner I guess.

Laced up and ready, we walked out the door at 6:30, sunk our Garmin GPS watches, untangles our earbuds and began our warmup walk. We start about 1/10 of a mile down the street which is typically enough steps to stretch, get the blood flowing and wake up those deeply essential joints and muscles that are still upset that I’m up and ready to strain out every bit of their stored up energy. After a kiss from my beautiful bride and at our starting line position it was time to press start and play and get going.

You can listen to a lot in about 2 hours. I am a fan of the Austin Stone and Village Church podcasts as I believe that both of those Matts are awesome teachers. I often use my running time to feed on the Word as that is one of may favorite ways to absorb it. I listened to part 2 and 3 of Matt Chandler’s (Village Church) series on the book of Colossians and then some good ol’ Jack’s Mannequin. Our path took us through the rich folks neighborhoods, down Sunnybrook, across Broadway, down Donnybrook, across the Loop, 5 miles on the trails and then back the way we came.

The temperatures were fine, not great; About 75-80. My ankle joints start yelling at me around mile 11. After enduring the full milage I popped some ibuprofen, drank a cold water and 2 small glasses of chocolate milk. Uncle Jeff was soon to arrive with my 2-still-in-pajamas cuties. Traci finished a few minutes after sporting her “I was successful and made it” smile which I  always hope to see and am so proud of. This chick is good!

From there we had breakfast, got cleaned up, cuddled with our girls and were off to Grace to worship our great God. So thankful that Christ is who He is! What a freeing and captivating truth. Rarely do tears flow from my dried-up eyes while proclaiming my thankfulness in song, but today was an exception. If you were in front of me I apologize for my tone deficiencies as it is tuff for me to be on pitch when I’m choked up. Some days I just get overwhelmed by His love. The greatest days are the ones when you can praise Him at the top of your lungs when your world continues to crumble.

Now the girls are napping and ribs are on the grill. Onions, tomatoes, garlic and peppers are roasting in the oven for homemade salsa. Octoberfest in hand, Redskins vs. Cowboys at 7 and Traci is making homemade Butterfinger ice cream. Family day at its finest.

How great is our God? How great is our God indeed!

The Uphill Battle

Yesterday, I went out for my long run for the week. I was actually really looking forward to this run. Sometimes you dread it, sometimes you are pumped up. This particular morning, I was pumped & ready to attack the 8 miles ahead of me. I woke up before my alarm clock (rare), threw on my running clothes, pulled my hair back, grabbed a bottle of water and headed out while my husband and kids were snuggly and sleeping away in bed. I walked up the road, stretched, took a sip of water, hit play on the ipod, start on my garmin and took off.

Nice and slow, I had determined I was going to enjoy this run. And I did. There are hardly any cars on the road at 6:30 on a Sunday morning. Very peaceful. I did pass an occasional person walking their dog or other runners here and there. Tyler really is a beautiful place. I love running here. There was a slight breeze and it really wasn’t unbearably hot yet. Great run.

It wasn’t hard until the very end – when I got to the big…no, make that the HUGE hill. We like to name hills on our running routes. Usually if someone we know lives near the hill, we dub it with that person’s name. In Quitman, there is Wilson Hill and Cates Mountain. Here in Tyler, we have Death Mountain- 1/4 mile uphill by a cemetery. Well, Death Mountain was in the last stretch of my 8 miler. And it inspired this blog post.

As I approached this hill (or what really feels like a mountain after 7 1/2 miles), I took a few deep breaths before I started uphill. I focused my eyes, leaned my body forward and went for it. I have found that if I keep looking up ahead, I see how far I still have to go uphill and it discourages me. However, if I focus on a just few feet ahead of me the whole time, before I know it, I’ve made it all the way. The hills tend to slow my pace down some, but that’s OK. After I get up to the top, I regulate my breathing again, take a drink and finish out the run strong…all the while thinking, I just killed that mountain! And I’m going to be stronger because of it.

Isn’t this how life is really? We have mountains to climb and they are absolutely tiring, and hard to get over. Life is hard. There are many ups and downs, no doubt.  The older I get, the more I realize this. But the good news for us is that God promises to never give us anything we can’t bear…and He gives us the strength to get uphill. We don’t have to go at it alone. If we stay focused on Him and not look at how far we have left to climb, we will be over the hill before we know it. He is using the mountains to mold us and grow us…making us better runners in this race of life.

I have experienced many hills in life. But the death of my Dad has been the hugest mountain by far for my family and I. One that we are still climbing and stumbling on. It’s hard, I’m not gonna lie. There are times we are out of breath, don’t know how to go on, and want to quit. But through prayers, encouragement, and love, we press on. And I know, because we press on and press into God, we will be stronger because of it.

“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:13

Cookies burned per mile.

I have been back in my running routine for a few months now. Its great when waking up earlier than the sun becomes a habit again. Recently I have been challenged (by myself) to step it up. Distance is great, but even my usual 6.25 mile route has been too comfortable. For whatever reason, I feel lame coming back from a run not dripping of sweat. Maybe its a misconception maybe not, but I equate sweat to a valuable workout and how many cookies burned.

It’s easier for me to reference the foods that I love to miles I must run to burn those foods. I am a sucker for sweets! Cookies, yum… Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, yum… cake, yum. I rarely have Dr. Pepper and Cokes anymore and I only have my mom-in-law’s bomb sweet tea on Sundays. Some people think calories (typically 110 calories per mile depending on heart rate, sex, weight), I think food and beer.

Example:

  • 1 bottle of Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat… 2 miles!
  • 3 of the Dixon famous chocolate cakies… 2 miles!
  • 1 can of  DP… 2 miles!
  • 2 chunks of momma Clark’s sopapilla cheese cake… 4 miles! etc.

Anyways, I have determined that the speed needs to increase because I LOVE TO EAT. Does anyone else think like this?

Running with the family.

Lately, when we go walk/run at the trails, the girls will ask to get out of their stroller at the end so they can go “running” too. I love this! So adorable to see them run with their rosy cheeks. Of course, Addi always wins. But Kam has the cutest little stride and arm flail that you’ll ever see!

Ryan & I strive to promote a healthy lifestyle in our family. This is very important to us as a couple and a goal we set as parents – take care of our bodies the best we can. For the most part, our weekly menu is pretty healthy. Whole grains, proteins, veggies, fruits. We do have our splurge days and enjoy our fair share of sweets often – but we try to steer clear of fast food, fried foods, and cokes. We also drink a lot of water, take vitamins, and run/workout often. We feel like including our kids in exercising is a great way to get them involved & enjoy fitness as well. Since our sweet friends gave us a jogging stroller, we have been going out a lot more often as a family to run/walk around the neighborhood or at the trails – we love it. And they love it. I hope that when our girls grow up, they will remember the times we would “go running” as a family!

Running Update

Ok, I have to admit running has taken a backseat over the past few weeks. Since the Capitol 10K in Austin, there has not been any kind of “routine” going on. One week, it seemed like we had something going on every night of the week…you know how it goes, life gets crazy!  Then, I was sick for 6 days and running was completely out of the question. Then, I had to recover from being sick.

But, now things are about to change. Over the past few months, we’ve been running in the evenings or on lunch breaks, which sometimes gets difficult when schedules won’t allow enough time. Now that its not pitch black at 6:15 a.m., I can start back to running in the mornings – which is so much better. Knock it out first thing. Plus, before we know it, it will be sweltering summer heat & mornings are really the only option if you want to survive.

I actually started up the morning routine again yesterday. Ran 2 miles at a slow pace…trying to get back into the swing of things & not wanting to over do it since having had bronchitis. Honestly, it was pretty hard & I struggled through it. Hoping my next run will be a little easier and not make me feel like I’m starting over from scratch! Good grief, I’ve been running for about 5 years now – you would think a girl could take a few weeks off & not struggle to do 2 miles!

I’m excited to get back on a legit schedule & start adding in some long runs on the weekends. I read through my latest copy of Runner’s World while I was out sick last week & got all pumped up. As far as upcoming races…Komen Race for the Cure 5K is next weekend here in Tyler. Then, we’re talking about doing Too Hot To Handle in Dallas again in July, which is a 9 miler. I’d love to find another 10K to do – that is such a fun distance for a race! Also, I’m looking at the Chosen: Half Marathon for Adoption in October in New Braunfels. And of course the White Rock Half in Dallas in December.

For those of you runners that read this blog–I’d love to hear how its going for you, what you’re training for, what schedule you try to stick to, etc. Comment me!

Capitol 10K

We had a great weekend in Austin! Ryan wrote a post all about it – you can read it here.

The Capitol 10k was a complete blast! Wow, this was such a fun race. Awesome city. Great route. About 20,000 runners. Cool weather. Plus (the best part), Addi & Kam were anxiously waiting for us at the finish line along w/my Dad & Jeff. You should have seen the smiles on their little faces – it made crossing the finish line even more special to this Mommy! We finished right at 9 minute miles…Ryan slowed his roll so he could run with me.

So so glad we were able to do this…its definitely one I’d like to do year after year. Next race on the calendar? The Tyler Komen Race for the Cure 5K in May!

Before…

During…

After…

This weekend in Austin.

Friday we left town to head down South to the great land of Austin. We stayed with Traci’s brother Kelly and his family in Georgetown. While there we enjoyed pit fires and conversations in their backyard and laying in the sun Saturday on their trampoline. Very relaxing. The weather was perfect! Our main purpose for going there this weekend was to run in the Austin Capitol 10K which was this morning (Sunday) at 8:45am. Traci’s dad Kip and brother Jeff strolled Addi and Kam around the race start and finish as Traci and I ran the route. Up to the capitol, around the down town area and back around by Town Lake trails. 6.2 miles. Traci and I ran together through the drizzle and mist, finishing at a 9 min per mile pace. We quickly changed clothes and made it to the 11:15 service at the Austin Stone for yet another incredible message and worship session. This evening we were able to hear Kelly speak at this church in Georgetown at TXT3 and then a 4 hour trip back to Tyler. We had a great time this weekend despite Addi being sick with a cold and fever. I love Austin!