Running with the Cows Race Recap

The Running with the Cows half marathon and 5k was this past weekend, and I’m here to tell you all about it!

This year was the 7th year for Running with the Cows, and I can attest to how well everything is run.  The pre-race and post race festivities are top notch, the course support was fantastic, and there were more spectators in the middle of nowhere, cheering for us, than I thought there would be.

Thursday and Friday, my parents and sister got to town.  We had a great pre-race dinner Friday night at Grinder’s, then headed back to my apartment to get our clothes ready to go.  While Mom and I were setting out our flat runners, Dad said he wanted to have a flat Dad, so Kristen got that all set up too.

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Very very very early on Saturday morning, we made it to Bucyrus Kansas, which is south of Kansas City, in the countryside just south of Olathe.  We were able to hang out inside the school until it got closer to the race.  There were tons of fun cow things to see near the starting line, including this huge Hiland Dairy cow.  It was chilly, but the sun was out and it looked to be a beautiful day.

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After a couple bathroom stops and bag drop, we made our way to the starting line.  Kristen was running the 5k, so she waved us off before starting her warmup.  I even met a few blog readers! Thanks for saying hi, ladies! I really enjoyed meeting you! (I should have gotten a picture, dang it! – I had some pre-race nerves, and wasn’t even thinking to grab a photo!)

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The race started right at 7:30, and we were off! I don’t have any pictures from the course, but it was sure pretty.  Rolling hills, vast countrysides, it was gorgeous.  It was also windy.  And chilly, and mostly windy.

I really really wanted to do well at this race.  I’d been working on figuring out my dizziness problems lately, and hoped to stay strong and get through the race feeling that strength.  I decided to hang with the 2:20 pacer, and not have to worry about my pace, I’d just have to hang with the pace group.  (I’ve gone back and forth on my thoughts about pacers and pace groups, but I’ll save that for another post).  I was able to hang with the pace group through mile 7, and then I just couldn’t anymore.

I was between the 2:20 and 2:25 for another mile or two, and had no dizziness issues, but just couldn’t hang onto the pace.  It wasn’t too crazy fast, but I just haven’t put in enough longer runs past 7-8 miles, so I had nothing left.  I do think I went out with a faster pace group than I should have – it felt good, but comfortably hard.  At the beginning to middle of a half marathon, I don’t think it should have felt comfortably hard, it should have felt comfortable to easy, then push the last half to comfortably hard.

The last 5 miles were rough.  I did a walk-run-walk-run through the last 5 miles, and unfortunately probably walked more than I ran.  The course was basically an out and back, and the out was mostly into the wind.  The wind was pretty strong, and that’s also where I was pushing with the faster pace group.  I think the combination of a faster pace, the headwind, and not having lots of long runs under my belt just wiped me out, and resulted in a rough last 5 miles.

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Photo courtesy Running with the Cows Facebook page.

I was feeling pretty discouraged during the last 3 miles.  I was tired, I wanted to be done, and I was frustrated that I wasn’t performing like I’d hoped.  I was happy that I didn’t get dizzy; I think I’ve figured out what my fuel, hydration, and electrolyte timing need to be, but I was very frustrated with myself that I couldn’t keep running.  I didn’t want to let my dad and sister down – Kristen had finished her 5k and she and dad were biking around the course to cheer Mom and I on.  I didn’t want to let my friends down, my readers, or myself.  I finished, and it ended up being my third fastest time, but I missed my PR by 7 minutes, and finished 3 minutes slower than Rock the Parkway.

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In the end, I finished, and I’m very proud of that.  This was my 9th half marathon, and it definitely won’t be my last.  I’m stronger than I was in my first half marathon.  I’m stronger than I was last month in my last half marathon.  I’m learning more every time I run a half marathon.  I’m learning about me, I’m learning what works and what doesn’t for a half marathon, and I’m learning about what I’m capable of doing.  I’m very proud of what I’ve done, and know that if I keep going, keep running, and keep working, I’ll run a half marathon that feels strong from start to finish.  When that happens, I’ll be on top of the world, but until then, and even after then, I’m going to keep on working and running and trying.  Running, just like life, is about the journey.

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After the race, we changed into dry clothes and hit up the feast in the church.  The entire town seems to come together to bring tons of food for the finishers and spectators.   There actually were cows along the course near the beginning and end, and I saw lots of horses in the fields as well.  This adorable baby cow was hanging out in the petting zoo area for the race too.

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We made our way back to the car, and stopped by this huge silo on the way home for some pictures.  I’m so happy that my parents and Kristen were here for this race.  It was a ton of fun to do it with my family.  I’m so thankful to have an amazing family and such supportive friends to have all of these adventures with.

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After the race, we celebrated with margaritas and Mexican food.  By the way, my sister WON the women’s 5k race! WON IT!  Congrats Kristen, you speedy beast!  She’s running a marathon (her second marathon!) this weekend, so she opted for the 5k last weekend, and completely rocked it.

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Sunday morning, after sleeping in a bit, we went out to Shawnee Mission Park.  Mom and I ran a bit of a shakeout, then Kristen ran 8 miles while Mom, Dad, and I biked along.  Mom snapped this picture while I was finishing my run and Kristen was starting hers.  Dad’s up ahead on his bike.

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Kristen finished her 8 miles, and I walked my bike up the big hill at the end because my quads were over it by then – they were a bit cranky after the half, and the bike ride just pushed them right over.  After our shakeouts, and Kristen’s run, we grabbed a late lunch and had to to say goodbye to Kristen at the airport.

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Between the fun with my family, meeting some awesome readers, and finding the beauty in the misery of the half marathon on Saturday, then a fun adventure at the park on Sunday, it was a great weekend.

Next up is the Hospital Hill half marathon, in 2 weeks!

Prepping for a Race

I have three half marathons coming up in the next three months.  I’m no expert on racing, not by a long shot, nor am I an expert on how to prepare for a race, but I do have some tips that have helped me prepare for the best of my ability, to perform the best I am able, on race day.  I’d like to share some of my race prep tips, and I’d love to hear any you have, too!

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3-4 weeks before the race:

Have your race outfit(s) ready to go.  Make sure you’ve worn them for test runs that are similar to race day conditions.  Definitely don’t go into the race wearing something you’ve never worn before!  It’s always best to have a “dress rehearsal,” if you will, run a long run, or a race-paced training run in the clothes you plan on wearing for race day.  Make sure you don’t randomly chafe or blister; make sure your shirt doesn’t ride up, or your pants slip around and feel uncomfortable.  There should be no surprises on race day.

Also, have your nutrition planned out; especially if you’re going to be taking fuel during the race.  Every long run, try out your pre-race nutrition, so that your stomach isn’t surprised by something weird.  For me, I can’t eat nuts/peanut butter before a race, and I also can’t drink a ton of water beforehand.  Knowing this helps me prep for my pre-race meal, to avoid extra bathroom stops or cramps during the race.

The week leading up to the race:

HYDRATE!  During the week before the race, I drink extra water to help me be as hydrated as possible going into race day.  As I said earlier, I can’t drink loads of water on race morning, so I make sure my body is properly hydrated before race day.  Also, eat good meals.  I struggle with my diet on a day to day basis, but during the week of a race, I really try to focus on getting good, solid, nutritious meals.

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Taper, if you’re running a long race, or a hard, fast race.  I feel my legs are freshest if I run 2-3 times at a slow, easy pace, the week leading up to a half marathon.  For a race shorter than a half marathon, I don’t really need to taper off, but taking an extra day off can help my legs feel fresher for race day.  I also try to wear my compression sleeves a couple times during the week leading up to race day, which just make my calves feel super happy.

1-2 days before the race:

Lay out your race day outfit.  Make sure you have everything you need BEFORE race morning! I lay out my clothes in “flat Renee,” pin my bib on my shirt, lay out the exact outfit I’m wearing, including shoes, nutrition, socks, underwear, visor…  Have it all out, that way you can see what you have before race day.

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Make sure your watch is charged, music is synced, headphones are working, etc.  I don’t listen to music, so I don’t need the music/headphones, but I do make sure my watch is fully synced and updated, and that if there is a timing chip, it’s on my shoes, ready to go.  No need to worry about electronics on race morning.

Get good sleep.  For lots of huge races, it’s difficult to sleep well the night before a race.  By making sure you sleep well the week leading up to the race, especially a few days before the race, your body is just that much more rested.

Pack a bag of supplies for race morning/post race.  After a half marathon, all I want to do is change into dry, clean clothes, and put on sandals.  I also just want to sit/lay down, but sometimes I can’t do that, so having fresh clothes and something comfortable other than running shoes makes things feel better until I’m able to shower and lay with my legs up a wall.  I recommend having a change of clothing, sandals or some kind of comfortable footwear, deodorant, face/body wipes, and a snack that you know your body can handle.  You never know what, or if, the race is handing out after you’re finished, so you want to make sure you have something to snack on if you’re in need.

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Photo courtesy ActionSportsImages.com from the KC Half Marathon.

Race morning:

Get up, eat your meal 1 1/2 to 2 hours before the race (or earlier/later, depending on what your body can handle), get dressed in your clothes that are already laid out, grab your supplies, and head to the race!

No stress on race day, and nothing new on race day.  That’s the best advice I can give.  Plan as much as you can before the race to put as little stress on your mind/body as possible.  And don’t ever do anything new on race day, everything you do, from eating to clothing to pre-race warmup should all be routine and normal.  Don’t do sprints or calisthenics if you see someone doing them, if you’re not used to doing them race morning.  Don’t eat/drink something just because the person standing next to you is; your schedule/plan is not based on theirs!

Best of all, HAVE FUN and ENJOY the race!  Best of luck to all those racing this weekend, or coming up soon.  If you have any other pre-race tips, please share!

Half Marathon Tips

The KC Half Marathon is right around the corner! 2 days!  I’ve completed a handful of half marathons so far, so for today’s Thursday’s Things, I want to share some tips I’ve learned, and some tips I’ve heard that I’m going to utilize this weekend.

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KC Half Marathon, October 2014.  My second half marathon.

My #1 main goal for a half marathon, any half marathon, is to finish! My #2 goal is to run the whole thing without walking.  So far, I’m 5 for 5 on my #1 goal, and 0 for 5 on my #2 goal! I feel like I’m in the best running shape I’ve ever been in, and am going into the KC Half Marathon with high hopes, but I’m not putting pressure on myself.  I want to go out there, have fun, enjoy the beautiful October weather, and run with thousands of my running buddies!

Start slow.  Don’t start out too quickly.  It is nearly impossible to “bank time.” Usually, you run too quickly, positive split, and run out of energy in the tank.  It is hard for me to slow down at the beginning, because the excitement of starting a half marathon and tons of people around makes me want to run faster.  Use that garmin and make sure you start slowly!

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Hydrate before and during the race.  The days and weeks leading up to a half marathon (or any lengthy race) are very important.  I pride myself on drinking lots of water and staying well-hydrated, but in the weeks, and especially in the few days before my race, I up my water intake even more.  And during the race, it is important to drink, and fuel, for that matter, BEFORE you are thirsty, and BEFORE you feel like you need fuel.  In the past several weeks, I’ve been using fuel on long runs to know what my body can handle (more on this in another post later) and to practice my water and fuel intake.

Nothing new on race day. Nothing at all should be new on race day.  No new shoes, no new outfits, no new fuels.  Don’t eat something weird or new before the race, don’t try running with (or without) music if you’re not used to it.  Race morning needs to be as routine and boring as possible.  Race morning is not the time to try out a new sports bra or a new pair of running shoes.

Get some good sleep.  And be nice to your body in the week leading up to and the week (or two) after the race.  Sleep, and being rested, is very important, but really, who sleeps well the night before a race? I sure don’t!  Research has shown that a good night’s rest two nights before the race is more important than the night before.  Be nice to your body, don’t do any crazy new workouts the week before a race.  Respect at least a bit of taper; slow your times down and/or run less mileage the week to 10 days before the race.  This allows your body and legs be rested for race day.

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Always use the bathroom before the race. Always a good idea to use the bathroom or port-a-potty at least once before the race starts.  I have a nervous tummy, and use the bathroom approximately 240957 times before a race.  Don’t pass up that opportunity, because you don’t always know if there will be a spot to stop on the race course when you might need one, and who wants the time to keep ticking while you’re doing your business?

HAVE FUN! Remember, most importantly of all, running is supposed to be fun! You’re racing for fun!  Unless you’re an elite athlete, where running is your career, the rest of us mortals are running for fun!

Now, there are hundreds of tips, tricks, and things to remember for training, racing, fueling, running, etc.  I only highlighted a few that I find very important, and want to remember, going into my sixth half marathon this weekend.  If you have a tip for me or the readers, please leave a comment!

For those running or racing this weekend, GOOD LUCK!