Sunday, March 29, 2015

B&A Trail Marathon Race Report: In the Zone

This morning I ran my 19th marathon at the B&A Trail marathon in Maryland. I had run this race once before in 2013 and I liked it quite a bit. I like to run marathons of all sizes-- big city races with millions of spectators like Chicago, medium-sized ones like Richmond, and of course really small ones like this one.

I think there are only 300 runners and the whole thing takes place on a paved trail. The race is extremely well organized, with chip timing, mile-markers, aid stations, etc. But it's definitely no-frills-- no bands, no cheering squads-- nothing fancy. Just a small marathon for those who want something low-key. It's a USATF certified course, which means it's a Boston Qualifier.

My training for this race had gone extraordinarily well, with just a few hiccups due to all the snow and ice storms. This was by far the toughest winter I've trained in, with record-breaking low temperatures on a regular basis, along with our fair share of snow and ice. I did a few treadmill runs, but ultimately the treadmill started to hurt my foot so I had to steer clear of it. I averaged 50-60 miles per week, which each week including two speed work sessions. Many of the workouts were completely new to me, which made things both fun and challenging.

Weekly Training Mileage

Thankfully, I avoided injuries because I was religious about doing my hip and hamstring exercises, my two biggest problem areas.

11 days before the race, Greg broke his ankle by playing basketball. He hadn't played basketball in years (not since I've known him) but his co-workers asked him to play, and so he did. He rolled his ankle going for the ball and it broke. I was extremely upset about this for obvious reasons, and it also meant that he wouldn't be able to run the marathon. I'm down a training partner for the next 6-8 weeks at least and he's in a boot and crutches.

Despite his broken ankle, Greg still wanted to support me during this race. I was extremely grateful for his support, and I knew it would be hard on him to get around on crutches.

In terms of my preparation, I felt ready. I've been working hard to reduce my pre-race anxiety for the past three years now and finally I feel "normal" during the week of the race. Every night I slept wonderfully--sleeping straight through the night with deep, restful sleep. For years I struggled with this and it's nice to finally have gotten past it.

Major drama on marathon eve
Ironically, the night before the race didn't go so well. We stayed in a hotel room, and at around 11:00, Greg and I were awoken by the sound of men yelling at each other outside of our hotel room. Doors were slamming (make a choice people-- in or out!) and two guys sounded like they were about to get into a fight. So I called the front desk and they sent up security. We heard the security person go into their room and both men said "everything's okay". After that, it got quiet and Greg and I tried to go back to sleep.

A short while later, the yelling resumed again. This time, it was just one man yelling and I heard the muffled scream of a woman. It sounded like this man was attacking her. So, once again I called the front desk, and they called the police. The hotel manager and the police arrived, entered the room, and we never heard a peep after that. I can only assume they were quietly escorted out.

This is not how I wanted to spend the night before the marathon. And once all the noise stopped, it took me awhile to fall back asleep because of the adrenaline rush. I can't believe I got them to call the police. All in all- I think I got maybe 4 hours of sleep. Ugh.

Before the Race
Finally, race morning arrived. I got dressed, had my bagel with peanut butter, and drove to the race. The race is located in a suburban town, so the nearest hotels are 10 miles away. I kept debating over what to wear. My original plan was compression capri pants, a lightweight long-sleeved shirt and then a light jacket over it that I would throw off to Greg once I warmed up. But some of my friends were wearing shorts. I didn't want to get too hot! But it was 25 degrees with 10-12 MPH winds, so I stuck with my original outfit. I also had headphones. I don't train or race with music unless it's a marathon. I find that the music helps relax me and prevents me from over-thinking things.

Overall, I was pleased with the forecast. I'll take sunny and 20's over sunny and 60's any day. Heck, I'd probably even take it over sunny and 50's. The wind was going to be annoying, but I guess it could have been much worse. My friend Chad and I lined up at the start together 5 minutes before race start and it wasn't long before the gun went off.

Miles 1-6
My plan was to start the race at a pace of 8:20 for the first 6 miles and then gradually drop it down to 8:00 by the end. I wanted to average somewhere around 8:10. I treated these first six miles like a training run. It was easy to do because the race course was a trail, similar to one that I run on near my house, and there wasn't any fanfare. It was just chill and relaxed. I decided to focus on my music and just keeping things feel easy. I purposely chose music that wasn't too hyped up.

One thing that kinda sucked was that parts of the course were icy. I had to run around the trail on the grass to avoid the icy patches. This wasn't a huge deal, but it slowed me down because the grass was muddy and also icy. Just not easy to run through.

In terms of fueling, my plan was to take a Honey Stinger Gel every 40 minutes. I took my first one just after mile 5 and it went down well. I experienced digestive issues during my last marathon in Coumbus and I didn't want a repeat. I made sure to drink plenty of water with each gel.

Greg was waiting for me almost immediately after I finished my gel. He had brought our "game day" folding chair (which folds into something he can carry on his back) and was sitting along the side of the course. I ran past him and didn't say much, as I was in "the zone".

Mile 1: 8:21
Mile 2: 8:22
Mile 3: 8:27
Mile 4: 8:25
Mile 5: 8:14
Mile 6: 8:10
Power Songs: Rumors by Waking Ashland, Armageddon by Anberlin

Miles 7-12
Mile 8.2, grabbing a water bottle

This race has a few inclines, but only one major hill. I knew the expect it during miles 7-8. It wasn't nearly as bad as I expected. It was kind of long, but not all that steep. I was so thankful I had run the Reston 10 miler four weeks ago, giving my confidence to run hills strongly. Those Reston hills were steeper than this one, and it was a whole race of hills! So this hill didn't even affect my pace.

I saw Greg just after mile 8, and I took a water bottle from him along with a Honey Stinger gel. I always run marathons with a hand-held water bottle so I don't have to stop at the water stations. The challenge with this morning's race was that I wasn't able to hold onto a bottle for very long before my hands would go completely numb. I was wearing big gloves, with hand warmers inside the gloves (between my hand and the bottle) but it wasn't enough to keep them from going numb. So thankfully I was able to toss bottles and keep getting new ones every time I saw Greg. And I also didn't have to carry all 4 Honey Stingers, which was good because my capri pants don't have pockets. Usually I race in a skirt that has plenty of pockets!

I ended up taking the second gel at 1:20, right around the mile 10 mark.

Everything continued to feel good. The hill at mile 7 was a turnaround point, so miles 8-19 would be into the headwind. I was mentally prepared for it.

Mile 7: 8:03
Mile 8: 8:19
Mile 9: 8:18
Mile 10: 8:07
Mile 11: 7:56
Mile 12: 8:10
Power Songs: Miss Jackson by Panic! At the Disco, Favorite Record by Fall out Boy

Miles 13-19
Tossing my jacket to Greg at the halfway point
I knew I would see Greg at the halfway point or just before. I had a decision to make: should I toss my jacket to him? The headwind was making things very cold, but when the sun came through the trees, it felt hot. I told myself I wanted to start pushing at the halfway point and working harder. This meant I would get hotter, so I decided tossing off the jacket would be a good idea.

I tossed it off to him, and got a new water bottle and Honey Stinger gel. The wind was making things cold and my fingers started to get numb. I didn't let that phase me though, I just kept my hands in fists around the hand warmers inside the mittens, while still trying to carry the water bottle and the honey. Unfortunately, this didn't work and I dropped the honey. I decided not to pick it up because I had a spare tucked in my elastic waistband for an occasion just like this.

I crossed the halfway point in 1:48:30 which was in line with my plan. I was really pleased with how everything going, but I actually wasn't thinking too much about it. I was really just zoned out. I had my music, and I just needed to run straight. This course has very few turns, no distractions, and it's easy to just "go" on autopilot. I started running mainly by feel at this point. I was no longer worried about going out to fast and I had executed exactly as planned.

I knew that the other turnaround was at mile 19 and I was counting down the miles to get there. This entire section was into a headwind so that made running harder and it was making my hands numb. I'm not complaining because the wind could have been much stronger. I would guess this was a 10-12 mph sustained wind, so it was definitely run-able, just not necessarily pleasant. But marathons aren't supposed to be pleasant!

I saw Greg at mile 17 and took a water + Honey Stinger. This would be my last gel of the race. Holding that cold water bottle with my practically numb hand was nearly impossible. And it was definitely uncomfortable. I wanted to take my honey/water combo earlier than planned so I could toss the bottle. But I was very disciplined. I wanted to avoid digestive issues at all costs and I wanted my 2:40 fueling to be the last one-- hold me through those final miles. Finally, my watch read 2:40 just before the mile 19 turnaround and I took the honey.

Mile 13: 8:10
Mile 14: 8:19
Mile 15: 8:05
Mile 16: 8:03
Mile 17: 8:08
Mile 18: 8:01
Mile 19: 7:59
Power Songs: Half-Light by Vertical Horizon, Time to Dance by Panic! At the Disco

Miles 20- Finish
Mile 22

It felt so wonderful after the turnaround! The wind was at my back, I didn't have to carry the water bottle, and mentally I was running toward the finish instead of away from it.

I felt strong at this point. I was pretty sure a PR was in the bag, but I didn't want to think too much about it. I wanted to just focus on pushing and getting to the finish without slowing down. I saw Greg at mile 22 for the final time before the finish. I threw off my gloves to him since the wind was no longer making my hands cold and it had warmed up a few degrees. I took a water bottle and had a few sips and tossed it.

What they do to you during mile 24 of this race is just cruel. They veer you off the B&A trail to this side bike path. Not only are they taking you off your path to the finish, but that section was directly into a headwind, and this was the strongest wind of the race. It had to be at least 15 mph sustained. And it was up a hill. It. Sucked. This was much harder than the mile 7/8 hill. Having to deal with all that wind so late in the race and to be taken "off track". I didn't let it phase me though. I just let the music motivate and energize me to keep pushing.

Finally at mile 24 marker I was back on the trail and ready to hammer it home. Things were tough. My legs hurt. I was tired. I had to really dig deep to keep the effort up. It would have been so easy to slow down to a 8:30 pace and still PR. But I didn't want to do that- I wanted to continue to push to my max. Thankfully all the ice on the trail had melted, so I didn't have to run through the grass again.

When I saw the mile 26 marker, I turned off my music so I could hear the volunteers direct me where to go. Wouldn't that be horrible if I missed the finish line because I didn't her the course marshals and went the wrong way!

That last 0.2 was directly into a headwind, but I was so motivated to get there that I just tore right through it.

Mile 20: 7:52
Mile 21: 8:04
Mile 22: 8:11
Mile 23: 8:18
Mile 24: 8:27
Mile 25: 8:07
Mile 26: 8:09
Last 0.31: (8:00 pace)
Power Songs: Medication by Waking Ashland, Twin Skeltons by Fall Out Boy

The Finish and Beyond
I crossed the finish line in 3:35:29. This is a PR by 4:31 and a Boston Qualifier by 4:31. My previous PR had been a BQ on the dot, so these two numbers match!

When I finished, my spirits were so high! I was so happy to be finished and to have gotten my goal time. I can't wait to run Boston in 2016! I was iffy about it after my previous BQ time, but now I am pretty sure I will get in.

I found Greg and my other friends and everyone had PR'ed! It was such a great day. I looked at the
Age Group Award: A blanket!
results and assumed the age groups were 10-year, which means I didn't win one. We left the race pretty quickly because my legs hurt so much and I had no desire to stick around.

One of my friends later posted on Facebook that I won 2nd place in my age group (they were 5-year groupings) so we drove back to the race site and I picked up my award. It's a nice travel blanket with the race logo! I love winning "things" instead of gift certificates.

This was such a wonderful day for me. I have been working for a race like this for so long. Finally I had a race with good weather, no digestive issues, I slept well, and my training went well. It all came together for me and I executed flawlessly.

I had a negative split of 1:31. First half in 1:48:30 and the second half in 1:46:59.

A big part of my plan was just to get in the zone and stay there. I wasn't overly happy or chatting with Greg. I didn't really smile at him that much either! I was all business. Emotion-neutral.

And now, I am so elated! I am looking forward to some time off now. I might not even run a fall marathon and just wait until Boston 2016.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Rock 'n Roll DC "Dress Rehearsal"

A few weeks ago, when I received my training plan for the month leading up to the marathon, I noticed that there was a half marathon "time trial" scheduled for Saturday, March 14. My coach told me it would be ideal for me to run a half marathon at marathon pace so that I could practice hydration, nutrition, and pacing. The race would be great "mental" and "strategy" training-- with less of a focus on the physical training.

I tend to focus very heavily on the physical aspects of training, and it's important for me to remember that things like strategy and mental preparedness are also key elements of the equation.

So Greg and I registered for the Rock 'N Roll DC half marathon that was occurring on the day of the "dress rehearsal" run. Greg was excited because he recently bought a GoPro, and he was going to wear it during the race to film everything that happened. (Scroll down to the bottom to see the final product!)

My strategy for the marathon will be to go out at a pace of around 8:20 and then gradually speed up from there. I'd like my marathon pace to be somewhere around 8:10. Therefore, my strategy for this race would be the same. Of course, it's not's apples to apples because the RnR DC course is hillier, curvier, and more crowded than my marathon will be. I'm also not tapered, so my legs aren't as fresh as they will be for the marathon.

Before the Race- We almost missed the race
We left our house 15 minutes later than planned. And my original plan didn't leave much time for wiggle room. Normally in a situation like this my anxiety would rise tremendously, but since this wasn't a goal race, I stayed pretty calm.
We drove to the metro and parked, and realized that we might not have time to check our bags, as the gear check closed 10 minutes prior to race start. We had packed a set of dry clothes and towels because we knew we'd want to get out of our wet clothing as soon as possible. It was in the mid 40's and raining. I know from experience that this type of weather can feel colder than temps in the 20's and even cause hypothermia. We decided to leave our more valuable clothes in the car, and just bring our towels and dry t-shirts.

We arrived at the metro station just in time to see the train depart. We literally missed it by 20 seconds. The next train wasn't scheduled for another 12 minutes! This definitely meant that we wouldn't have enough time to check our bags, and we could potentially miss the start of the race. We started chatting to another couple who was in the same boat, only the woman wasn't running (she was spectating her husband) and she offered to hold our bags for us. We figured we'd probably never see her again, but at least we could contact her in the future to get our t-shirts and towels.

I didn't even want to think about getting to the finish line completely cold and drenched, with nothing dry to change into!

We boarded the metro, and by the time we arrived in DC, it was 7:25. We had only 5 minutes to get into our corral! We got there just in time for the National Anthem. I've only cut it this close two other times, and both were half marathons.

Miles 1-4
Mile 2, Memorial Bridge
It was crowded! We were in corral 5, which I was happy with because I didn't want to go out too fast. However, it was so crowded that we weren't able to go as fast as planned initially. As I started running, a former co-worker of mine spotted me and started chatting with me. It was nice to catch up with him and we ran together for almost the entire first mile. Greg stayed behind us for most of the time, capturing us on the GoPro.

Eventually we parted ways and I recognized the course as part of the Cherry Blossom 10-miler. My main focus was passing people because the race was still quite crowded throughout these early miles and it seemed as if most of the group was going at a pace of about 8:30.

Mile 1: 8:48
Mile 2: 8:17
Mile 3: 8:08
Mile 4: 8:10

Miles 5-9
Greg stopped to go to the bathroom during mile 6. We typically don't race together but since this was technically a training run, I was fine to stop and wait for him. It was hard not to cringe as I saw all the runners go by and I was just stopped, but I kept reminding myself it was just a training run! I stopped my Garmin so that I'd have an accurate record of my pace. 1 minute and 14 seconds later, he emerged from the porta potties and we were on our way again.

This was the hardest part of the course. The first four miles were flat, and there was a steady climb for a good chunk of mile 6 and mile 7. Mile 7 had a very steep hill. It was so steep I think I was running at an 11:00 pace at one point. I almost had to walk it. My legs definitely felt it and I was glad that I wasn't trying to go at half marathon effort!

Mile 5: 8:08
Mile 6: 8:10
Mile 7: 8:58 (the hill!!!)
Mile 8: 8:06
Mile 9: 8:05

Miles 10-Finish
Once I got to mile 10 I decided to turn on the gas. I had just finished my second Honey Stinger gel
Approach the finish, photo by C. Young
and I felt energized. Plus, that meant I was able to toss my water bottle (I always run with a disposable hand-held) and it felt great to not have to hold it anymore.

This part of the course wasn't nearly as scenic as the first part. I actually ran this half marathon back in 2007 before Rock 'N Roll took it over. Back then, the entire race was run in southeast DC, which isn't the nicest area of the city. Anyway, my main focus on this point was passing people. I wanted to run faster than goal marathon pace, because I had started out slow. This will be my strategy in the marathon: first 6 miles slower than marathon pace, middle miles at marathon pace, last 6 miles, faster than marathon pace.

Mile 10: 7:46
Mile 11: 7:54
Mile 12: 7:59
Mile 13: 7:31
Last 0.23: (7:22 pace)

My Garmin finish time was 1:47:50, with an average pace of 8:10 for 13.23 miles. This equates to a 3:35:40 marathon at 26.46 miles, or 3:34:07 for 26.2 miles.

Based on how I felt, I think this is totally within my reach. As long as I don't have digestive issues and the weather isn't ridiculously windy or hot, then I should be okay. Hopefully, on a flatter course with fewer curves and people to dodge, I will do even better!

After the Race
The walk from the finish line to the metro was over a mile! We were cold and soaking wet. It was so uncomfortable that we even started running! We didn't have any towels or anything dry to change into, so it would be a very cold metro ride.

As we entered the metro, we were very surprised and very happy to see Lara coming toward us! Lara is the woman who we left our bag with. She said she decided to wait in the metro where it was dry and she figured she'd see us. We were so grateful! We never thought we'd see her at the finish, given that this race has over 20,000 runners and probably twice as many spectators.

We hurried to dry ourselves off with the towels and I changed into my dry t-shirt. It felt so good to get out of that wet long-sleeved running shirt! Did I mention we were drenched and it was only in the 40's? After a 15-minute metro delay due to a track issue, we finally made our way back to the car where we cranked up the heat as high as it could go.

We're both very glad we ran this race as a training one. It was definitely fun and it was great to practice my race strategy and nutrition on a course that was more difficult than my marathon. Check out the GoPro video below. I would have loved to have stayed for Better Than Ezra, but it was just too cold and rainy to stick around outside.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Reston 10 Miler Report: Hilly, Snowy, and Fun!

I just posted a post a few hours ago about Greg and my crazy adventure yesterday in the search for a half marathon that wouldn't be canceled because of the weather.

Original Plan
We were supposed to run the Cowtown half marathon this morning, but the weather there was very questionable, so we decided not to fly out there and risk getting stuck in an ice storm. We quickly developed a backup plan of registering for a half marathon in Roanoke and driving 3.5 hours to get there.  Once we got there and picked up our bibs, the forecast turned, and that race became a cancelation risk, plus we were worried that we wouldn't be able to safely drive home afterwards. So we drove another 3.5 hours back home.

Decisions, decisions
Yesterday was full of tough decisions. All of them based on a forecast that was "50/50" and varied among forecasters. This morning I woke up and immediately looked at the local weather. The revised plan from last night was to run a 20-miler before the snow/sleet arrived. It looked like the nasty weather would start at around 9 or 10, so I thought 20 miles would be unlikely. Plus, I wanted to run a race! I was tapered and raring to go.

So I decided to run the Reston 10 Miler and register on site. I had known about this race yesterday and that had been one of our options, but we really would have preferred a half marathon to a 10-miler.

I asked Greg if he wanted to run it and he said he was mentally settled on a 20-miler, like we had discussed the night before. He had missed a few runs due to the weather and really wanted to get in the added mileage as part of our marathon training. So we went our separate ways.

Before the Race
Things went very smoothly. Before leaving the house I had a banana and the last of yesterday's bagels. (That's 4 bagels in 24 hours!)

I arrived at 6:45 and registered on site, and the race was scheduled to start at 8:00. I warmed up for about 20 minutes and realized that even though it was only 25 degrees and overcast, I was too hot in my fleece-lined shirt.

I had planned a slightly longer warmup but cut it short so I would have time to go to the bathroom and change into the other shirt I brought, which was lighter. This of course involved un-pinning and re-pinning the bib, and the announcer was counting down the minutes to race start. I stayed calm and focused on making the change and arrived to the start line about two minutes before the race started.

Miles 1-3
It wasn't until I started running that I began to think about my target pace and finish time. This was a first! Not having thought about my goal time at all!  I had a plan for my half marathon pacing, so I just adjusted it for a 10-miler.

I had heard that this race was very hilly, so I wasn't going to run it at my tempo pace (7:15). If the course had been flat like the Cherry Blossom, I would have gone for that because I have been running long tempo runs at that pace and it's felt good. I figured I would shoot for 7:25/mile which would give me about a minute PR.

So yes, the race was hilly and I wasn't surprised. I didn't have the chance to look at an elevation map before hand, so I didn't know when the ups and downs were. I just decided I was going to put out a very hard effort and see what I could do.

I eased into it and I felt very strong. I thought about everything that had led me to this moment, doing this particular race and I wanted to make it all worth it by giving 100%.

Mile 1: 7:30
Mile 2: 7:24
Mile 3: 7:28

Miles 4-7
Okay, mile 4 was just insane. According to my Garmin, that mile had a 112-foot climb. It wasn't a particularly steep hill, but the entire mile was just all up hill. This was truly a test of mental will. It
Mile 6, Photo by =PR= Races
got so hard on those hills it felt like I couldn't possibly maintain that effort for the whole race. But as soon as I was over the hills, I felt better.

I attacked the downhills because I wanted to make up for lost time on the uphills. I focused on having a really fast turnover, and letting gravity do its thing. Sometimes when running fast on a downhill, I put the brakes on and don't lean forward enough. So I focused on really just flying down those hills. I think my quads will hate me tomorrow.

Just after mile marker 5, I ran right by my office! I was so excited! That really pumped me up for some reason. Yes, I love my job, but I had this overwhelming feeling of pride to be running right next to where I work. This was also right around the time when it started snowing. Fun!

I hit the 10K timing mat at around 45:55. Not a bad 10K time!

Mile 4: 8:08
Mile 5: 7:06
Mile 6: 7:23
Mile 7: 7:47

Miles 8-Finish
Mile 7 and 8 were both uphill. I was really, really, hoping that the finish would be downhill to make up for it. The hills were physically and mentally exhausting. Every time I got discouraged, I just did a mental reset and told myself it was going to get better and to keep pushing at 100%.

Photo by =PR= Races
I was very pleased with the energy I had during that last mile. 6:55 pace!!! In fact, I feel like I could have run another 3 miles at the same effort that I had been giving, but I couldn't have run any faster up those hills. This shows that my high mileage training has paid off.

Thankfully, the last mile was very much downhill. The actual finish was tricky, though. We ran past the finish line, down a hill, hairpin turn, and then up a hill. And this part had speed bumps on it and was beginning to get icy.

I was also monitoring my Garmin and I thought I was on track for a PR (sub-1:15:25) but the race ended up being 10.08 according to my Garmin, so I came in just six seconds shy of it.

Mile 8: 7:50
Mile 9: 7:28
Mile 10: 6:55
Last 0.08: (6:25 pace)

After the Race
Official finish time was 1:15:31, which is only six seconds off of my Cherry Blossom PR from last spring. Given that the Cherry Blossom course is pancake-flat, and that my PR was set in ideal weather conditions, I would say this result shows major improvement!

I placed 5 out of 121 in my age group. It was actually a very competitive field, with a good number of the =PR= running athletes showing up. I was pleased with this, and happy to have not won an award so I wouldn't have to stay there! I wanted to drive home before the roads got bad, so I nixed my cool down too.

Just thinking about everything I went through to get to this race and run such a hard effort is an accomplishment in and of itself. Everything that happened yesterday was mentally exhausting, but I stayed cool and ended up getting a good night's sleep without stressing over things. Two years ago, I think I would not have handled things nearly as well.

What I'm most proud of isn't my race result, but my strong will to get out there and give 100% on a tough course, even when the situation was nothing like what I had planned for.

I think I'm well prepared both physically and mentally for a marathon in four weeks!

The crazy things we did to run 13.1

Well, not exactly crazy. They seemed logical at the time, and even in retrospect they were. I think I learned a lot yesterday in my quest to run a half marathon.

Greg and I registered for the Cowtown half marathon a few months ago. The plan was to visit his sister and her family while also running a race we'd never done before. We found the idea of going to Texas in late February very appealing, and this was even before we knew how extraordinarily cold and miserable the month would be.

Training had been going amazingly well. Despite all the crappy weather, I had found creative ways to get all my runs in. I had three 60-mile weeks in a row, the last week of January and the first two weeks of February. I even ran after work when the mornings were icy or in the single digits. And I am not a fan of running after a hard day of work. I'm a morning person, and that's usually when I have the most energy.

Needless to say, I was definitely looking forward to escaping the miserable weather and seeing what I could do in a half marathon after my training had been so solid.

Weather in Texas: Worth the Risk?
Fort Worth had some bad storms early in the week, but everything was supposed to clear up by the weekend. But on Friday, a huge ice storm hit them, paralyzing the entire Dallas/Ft. Worth area. In
Crews preparing for the Cowtown marathon on Saturday night
Texas, they don't have the infrastructure and resources that we have in the Washington DC metro area to deal with snow and ice. They don't treat the roads, and so any amount of frozen precipitation is highly problematic.

On Friday, they called off the Cowtown race events for Saturday. I looked at numerous different forecasts and all of them said that the temperatures would rise above freezing on Saturday afternoon, and everything would melt and be perfectly fine for Sunday's races.

I woke up on Saturday continuing to believe that everything would happen as planned. Thankfully, we had booked a later flight (landing in Dallas at 2:00) so I wasn't too worried about it based on the forecast. They extended the expo to Sunday morning, so even if our flight was delayed, we could get our bibs on Sunday morning.

Greg, however, was worried. The weather app that he was looking at showed the temperatures hovering around 34 with continued rain all throughout Saturday into the evening. His main concern was the drive from Dallas Love Field airport to Ft. Worth, which is about 45 miles. The last thing he wanted to do was to wreck a rental car, or be sitting in 3 hours of traffic because of ice on the roads. "It's not like the ice instantly melts as soon as the air temperature gets above freezing," he said, and he had a good point. We figured we could potentially be looking at a very bad situation. Stuck at Dallas Love Field airport, or even major flight issues.

One person posted to the Cowtown Facebook page that her flight got her halfway to Texas and then turned around and brought her right back home!

Plan B: We'll Fly Anywhere!
Greg and I spent several hours that morning going through all of our options. We were willing to be spontaneous and fly to somewhere like Florida to escape the cold and run a different half marathon.
We looked at doing the Little Rock half marathon, but there were no direct flights, so we couldn't get there in time. There was a very small race in New Jersey, but it looked questionable because it didn't even have its own website. There were some in Florida that we could have flown to, but the race weather was for high 60's, which I don't do well in. There was one in California that looked amazing, but no direct flight, so we wouldn't have made it in time.

Roanoke Half Marathon Course
Finally, we found one in Roanoke Virginia, which was about 3.5 hours southwest of us by car. We briefly researched it and it looked legit. We looked at their Facebook page and they said the course was free and clear of ice. They even posted a picture of it, with all the ice and snow removed. The hourly forecast was predicting freezing rain, but that wasn't supposed to start until later in the day. We registered online at $90/each and reserved a hotel room.

Road Trip to Roanoke
We had to completely re-think our packing strategy. Instead of weather in the high 30's, this race was going to be in the mid 20's. So we packed warmer running clothes (well, actually I packed everything I had originally, plus 4 additional shirt options-- you just never know!)

We left our house at about 10:00. We stopped to get some bagels and bananas for the trip and for our race morning breakfast. It was fun. It was going to be an adventure. We were both very happy and confident with our decision. I followed the Cowtown's Facebook page and they ultimately decided to cancel the full marathon and the ultra marathon and only run the half marathon. I wasn't sure how I felt about this, but our decision had been made, so it was pointless to think about what could have been.

3.5 hours later, we arrived in Roanoke and picked up our bibs. We overhead one of the race directors on his cell phone saying how he was nervous about the weather the next day, and that it could be freezing rain before or during the race. I looked at the forecast again on my phone and it was iffy. 50/50 chance of freezing rain at race start.

Greg and I checked into our hotel room and I started to feel really discouraged. We drove all the way there, and now the race might not even happen! Greg suggested that we just go run a 20-miler while it was still nice out. I didn't feel up to it as I was exhausted (mentally and physically). Plus, I didn't want to ruin our chances of running the half marathon. So we went out and ran for 30 minutes as planned.

Plan C: Let's not get Stuck Here!
When we came back from our run, we saw that a winter weather advisory had been issued and freezing rain was to start as early as 4:00am. And in fact, the entire I-81 corridor that we would be driving home on was under an advisory for all day on Sunday.

Once again, we worried that we'd be stuck on I-81 for hours and hours, or that we'd get into an accident since there are so many large trucks on that road.

We called the race officials to get an update, and they said they weren't going to make a call until tomorrow morning at 6:00am. We thought "how awful would it be if we stayed overnight, the race was canceled, and then we wouldn't even be able to drive home?" If I hadn't been training for a full marathon, I would have probably been willing to stay two nights in Roanoke. But I wanted to be able to do some form of long run or race on Sunday. I had already tapered and I wanted to keep my fitness up.

Ultimately, we decided it wasn't worth the risk of the race being canceled. At least by driving home then and there, we'd get home safely and in time to do some form of run on Sunday morning before freezing rain hit the DC metro region.

So we checked out of the hotel room, and thankfully they didn't charge us because of the weather advisory. Now I can officially say that my husband and I rented a hotel room for just a few hours!

Homeward Bound
This whole day had been a true test of my mental toughness. There were so many times when I just wanted to break down and cry, but I didn't. I cannot control the weather, and all I could do was make the best decisions I could with the information I had. No one would ever be able to say I didn't try to run a half marathon on Sunday.

Every time I thought about the 7 hours in the car, the wasted race entry fees, and the fact that we could have maybe done Cowtown, I just stopped my thoughts, and refocused on looking ahead.

To pass the time on the way home, I found that New York Times article about "36 Questions That Make You Fall In Love" which was a psychological experiment. Apparently, if you and a stranger have a date and ask each other these 36 questions and answer honestly, you fall in love. So Greg and I fell in love all over again. That list of questions took well over an hour to go through and it was nice having some quality time with Greg, rather than thinking about how our plans got ruined.

In order to get home at a reasonable hour, we decided not to stop for dinner, but to eat the rest of the bagels and the bananas. Not ideal, but we just wanted to be home.

After driving 400 miles that day and running just 3.5 in Roanoke, I was very ready to just collapse into bed. And I did.

I fell asleep in Greg's arms feeling completely at peace. My mental stamina had been tested, and I believe I passed.