2013 Cowtown Half Marathon Recap

by Kim on February 27, 2013

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I was initially going to do my long training run on Saturday (18 miles) and then do the Cowtown half on Sunday, but I decided that was too much and got a sub to pace my pace group for Saturday.  As a result, I got to sleep in on Saturday, which was much needed.  I had a really busy week last week and come Friday night, I was super exhausted.  Saturday morning, I woke up feeling a bit off.  I was pretty groggy, a little light-headed, and my entire left arm was aching, from my shoulder all the way down to my fingers.  It was a really bizarre feeling and it got me worried that maybe this was the first sign of the flu. Nick and I lounged around the house for the morning and then packed up and headed to Fort Worth around 1:30 PM, putting us at the Courtyard Marriott in downtown Fort Worth at 2:30 PM.  Normally, I wouldn’t get a hotel for a visit in Fort Worth, since it’s just an hour away (or less depending on where you are coming from in Dallas and where you are going in Fort Worth), but with the race at 7 AM and traffic being traditionally horrific for races, I decided a hotel was a good choice and Nick and I made a date out of it.  We got settled into our room.  Nick took a power nap and I got all my race-day gear set out and organized.  Before we knew it, it was time to head to dinner, a 2 mile walk from downtown to the Arts District.

RACE DAY WEATHER
As usual, I checked the weather the night before and set out my clothes accordingly.  The predicted temperature for the morning was going to be clear and in the 40’s.  I checked the weather again in the morning and the temperature dropped down into the 30’s so I changed my plans for what I was going to wear and I quickly regretted that decision.  When I left the hotel, it was chilly, but it didn’t feel in the 30’s.

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I was cold standing around outside before the race, but by the first half mile I was pushing my sleeves up.  As the sun came up, the temperature seemed to increase and without a cloud in the sky, I felt pretty blinded for almost the entire race.  My perfect running weather is in the low 30’s and cloudy.  At least the temperature was supposedly in the 30’s.

FEELINGS GOING INTO THE RACE
After setting a sub 2:00 Personal Record (PR) at the 3M half marathon, I wasn’t planning on pushing it for this race or be concerned with my finish time.  Instead I had two goals in mind.  I really wanted to have negative splits (start out slower and get faster as I go) and I wanted to focus on fueling well (eat at mile 3, 6, 9, and 12).  To address the first goal of negative splits, I am horrible about racing with negative splits.  I can do it in training runs, but I really have to focus on it and start out nice and easy instead of booking it from the very beginning.  I’ve only had one race where I almost had all negative splits and it was this 10k (mile 5 was just a tiny bit faster than mile 6).  My second goal of fueling well was stemmed from the idea that I’m also very bad about this.  In past races, I haven’t started to fuel until mile 7 or 8 or 9.  That’s really too late in the game, especially for these distance runs; a 5k, I don’t really think in the middle of the race is necessary (at least not for myself), but a half marathon, ideally it’s better to fuel early and have a steady stream of energy than to wait until I’m really low on energy before I start fueling.  I don’t really know why I’ve always waited so long in races to fuel, but it’s a terrible habit.

With those two goals in mind, Nick and I were heading out the door when I got a Facebook email from one of my old pace group friends, Michael.  He asked me what my plan was for the race.  I told him about my goal to have negative splits, but didn’t have any time goal in mind.  I asked him what his plan was and if he wanted to run together.  The two of us had a pretty similar pace when we were training together last season.  He responded back and said he was aiming for a sub-2:00 race.  I responded that I wasn’t sure if I could pull it off for this one.  I had some many things working in my favor for the 3M half that I figured those things (mostly downhill, cold, and strong tailwind) were what got me under 2:00 more than my actual ability to run a sub-2:00 half marathon.  But, I also told him that it couldn’t hurt to give it a try, so we made plans to meet up at the race the next morning.

MEALS BEFORE THE RACE
So, from where I left off in the first part of this blog entry, Nick and I walked the 2 miles from downtown Fort Worth to the Arts District to go to dinner.  I made reservations for 5:30 PM at Lanny’s Alta Cocina.  The little story behind this place is that when I first moved to Dallas, my mom saw an article in Southern Living about Lanny’s and shared it with me.  I’ve wanted to try it ever since I’ve lived in the area, but never had the opportunity on any of my trips out to Fort Worth.  And, if you are familiar with Fort Worth, you probably know of Joe T. Garcia’s.  Well, Lanny is Joe T.’s great grand son.  Fun Fort Worth fact for you.  Dinner was a bit fancier than my usual pre-race dinner, but heck, why not.  I ordered a salad and the duck breast with spelt and butternut squash risotto and wild mushrooms.

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It was awesome!  Pretty salty, but awesome!  And the salt intake wasn’t a bad thing in my book.  I like to have salty meals before and after long races because I lose so much salt while running.  I really wanted to get dessert (to satisfy my recent sweet tooth), but Nick and I had tickets for a movie, and had to head out.  Dessert another time!

Packing for this short trip, I didn’t think the hotel would have much for the runners, so I brought my favorite Central Market whole wheat English muffin, along with a packet of Justin’s Honey Peanut Butter.  When we got to the hotel, I asked the lady who checked us in if there would be anything for the runners and she said they’d have some fruit and granola bars out.  Perfect!  I could snag a banana to complete my breakfast sandwich!  I wasn’t able to toast my English muffin, so it wasn’t nearly as yummy, but it’s still food.  I brought it down to the lobby of the hotel to get my banana and eat there so I wouldn’t wake Nick up.

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There was a really drunk guy in the lobby talking to all the runners, asking them what they’re goals were.  He wasn’t harmful, but annoying none-the-less and he REEKED of alcohol.  I guess he was staying at the hotel for a bachelor party.  There was another (nice) man in the lobby who had just walked his wife out to the shuttle.  I asked him the time and he told me 5:45 AM.  Crap!  I needed to go!  I only got halfway through my English muffin-peanut butter-banana sandwich.  The nice guy walked to the elevator with me and once we were in, he told me he didn’t want to leave me alone with that drunk guy.  I thought that was really kind of him.  I ran back up to the room, took one more bathroom break, brushed my teeth, kissed Nick goodbye, and I was off to catch the shuttle to the start line.

WHAT I WORE
Ugh, I totally regretted what I wore!  As usual, I had my  Brooks Glycerine running shoes, and  ProKinetics insoles.  I also wore my thick pink Smartwool socks and my white cheap-o Target/Champion sports bra (all the same as the past three races… I swear, I have other socks and sports bras, but the socks are perfect for cold days- although I could have gone with thinner socks- and this sports bra is the only one that I don’t have to worry about chafing in.)  I also wore my Nike thermal leggings.  Initially, I was planning on wearing a pair of Nike Tempo shorts, but when I saw that it was in the 30’s I opted for the leggings instead. For my top, I wore my short sleeve Nike dry-fit Luke’s Locker 2011 White Rock Lake Marathon shirt.  On top of that, I wore my new grey C9 pullover.  I pinned my bib to the pullover and I regretted that decision too.  I got really hot and wanted to pull off the pullover, but I wanted my bib to show for the pictures (so I could be identified).  The pictures ultimately won that battle and I kept my pullover on for the entire race.  I also brought a briefly wore my throw-away gloves (which I’ve kept for several races and didn’t throw them away on this race either).

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I decided to not to bring any fluid with me and just rely on the water stations. That worked out well.  I did, however, wear my new Flip Belt, which I bought at the expo.  I first learned about Flip Belts over at Clare’s blog and I’ve been eager for this race ever since, because I saw they’d be at the expo.  The Flip Belt worked out really well.  It rode up ever-so-slightly once, but other than that, it stayed perfectly in place… a rarity for running belts!  I stashed my Clif Shot Bloks and Gatorade Energy Chews, as well as my phone, in the Flip Belt.

THE COURSE
Cowtown is a pretty big race in Fort Worth.  On Saturday, there is a 5K and 10K and on Sunday there is a half marathon, full marathon, and ultra marathon (31 miles).  I’d say the majority of the runners on Sunday are running the half marathon.  The course starts and ends at Will Rodgers Memorial Center, over in the Arts District.

Half Full Ultra 2013

The half marathon followed the same route as the full and ultra until about mile 10.5 and then we split off and headed back to the Will Rodgers Memorial  (green line on the map).  I’ve never done Cowtown before but I heard all about the dreaded hill at mile 9 from my friends who have run it.  I was really nervous when I saw the elevation chart.

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The course took us all over the central part of Fort Worth, most notably through the Stockyards, downtown, and the tip of the Arts District.

THE RACE ORGANIZATION
As I mentioned before, the Cowtown marathon is the biggest race in Fort Worth and this year marks the 35th anniversary, so they’ve got their system down pretty well.  The expo was held on Friday and Saturday.  I went on Friday because I actually had to work at the expo (more on that in another post), but while I was there, I picked up my registration packet, participant shirt (which was a dry-fit short sleeve shirt), and checked out a few of the vendors that I knew I wanted to hit up.  I planned this expo out very strategically since I didn’t have a lot of time.

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My only complaint about the expo is that they didn’t give you a bag to put your stuff in until you walked all the way to the end.  That was kind of annoying because my hands were already full.  On a side note to that, they did a virtual goody bag, so participants got an email with links to the flyers that would otherwise be in the goody bag.  I actually really liked that because I toss 99.9% of all those things anyway, so it spared the landfill.

One thing I did at the expo that I wasn’t planning on, was I visited the booth next to where I was working before I left for the evening.  It was a wellness center booth that was doing free 5-minute massages.  I didn’t get the massage, but they had this cool gismo that looked like tasers that read the muscle strength in your neck and back.  I had them do the assessment on me.  Apparently my left side is normal and my right side is working too hard.  The lady asked me if I experienced pain on the right side of my body over the left.  I told her that it was quite the opposite.  When I have problems, it’s on the left side of my body.  We concluded that my right side overcompensating for my left side.  She wanted me to make an appointment, but they only have offices in Fort Worth so I declined but assured her that I’d look into getting my muscles checked out.

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The back on the left is ideal, the back on the right is my back.  Green is perfect, yellow is weak, pink is slightly over-stressed, and red is the danger-zone for being very over-stressed.  I’ve got a lot of red going on on my right side, but my left side is fairly normal.

I have no idea how many people ran in the races and registration was never capped.  I debated using the bag check, but ended up not checking anything.  We weren’t given large bags for bag check at the expo so I’m not sure if you were supposed to bring your own or not.

The water stations were placed at a predictable rate of at every 1.5 miles.  They didn’t get too terribly congested either, which was really nice.

CROWD SUPPORT
The crowd support was awesome for this race!  Since I ran with my friend, Michael, I wasn’t paying nearly as much attention to the crowd support, but people were out cheering along the entire route, especially in the Stockyards, downtown, and on the way to the finish line.

THE RACE
The shuttle dropped me off in front of Will Rodgers Memorial Center at 6:00 AM and I headed in to meet up with my running friends who were also running this race.  We stayed warm in the expo hall for about 45 minutes (minus a somewhat quick trip the port-o-potties outside) before we headed out to the start line.

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The corrals had staggered start times and I was supposed to be in corral 3, but we all piled in corral 2 and at 7:05 AM, the horn blew for corral 2 to begin.  Michael was a few steps ahead of me and I lost him almost immediately, but Jessica and I stuck together for the first half mile or so as we wound down towards the Trinity Trail.  At this point, I began regretting my clothing decision.  I pulled off my gloves and shoved them in my pullover pocket and pushed the sleeves up on my pullover.

I’m not sure when I lost Jessica, but I kept going and while I intended on having negative splits, I was feeling comfortable at the pace I was going so I chugged along.  At mile 2 I finally found Michael again.  He was just up ahead and I did a quick sprint, called his name, and caught up to him.  We stuck together pretty much for the rest of the race.  It was so helpful running with him.  Although I can’t really remember what all we talked about, having the conversation flowing really made those miles tick by!  On that note, I should mention what I call runner’s brain.  I don’t know if this happens to other runners, but when I run, I have a hard time thinking.  So while I remember talking with Michael for a good majority of the race, most of the conversations didn’t stick in my brain very well.  I do remember checking with each other every now and then to see if we were both feeling okay and asking each other if the other wanted to pull over at the water stops.  I think I remember those conversations specifically because we repeated the same thing over and over again!

We hit mile 3 and I dug out my first shot blok.  I was determined to be good about fueling.  We skipped the first couple of water stops, but finally pulled over for the mile 4.5 water stop.  I got just enough to wet my palette and then we continued along.  the 2:00 half and 4:00 full pace leaders were in front of us for quite some time and we both griped that they were going too fast.  We judged that they were going at about an 8:30 pace instead of 9:10.

I took Energy Chew at mile 6 and then we wound our way into the Stockyards.  The Stockyards area is “paved” with brick; uneven brick.  I tried to watch my footing because it is easy to roll an ankle on this terrain.  Michael said we’d be out of the Stockyards quickly, but man, that brick seemed to go on forever!  Oh and as we passed the actual stockyards where the livestock is, it sure did smell like manure!  Yuck!  We wound our way out and made a turn.  We saw runners going in the other direction on another street and for and for a few minutes we got jealous of seeing them pass in the other direction.  We thought they were ahead of us.  Turned out, we were ahead of them!  That made us feel better. :)

We turned onto Main Street and I knew we had a big stretch to go before the infamous hill.  We pulled over at the 7.5 mile water stop, got a good sip of water and Powerade, then rounded the corner to see the hill straight ahead.  It was right around here that we got in front of the 2:00 half and 4:00 pace leaders and stopped focusing on what they were running.  So back to the hill straight ahead: Prior to this race, I looked on Google Maps Street View several times to see just how bad it was.  Based on the street view, it looked pretty flat.  Ha.  Definitely not flat.  While it wasn’t nearly as steep as the mile 12 hill in the 3M race, it was pretty long.  And the kicker is, right when you think you are at the top by the courthouse, you have to climb a little more as you round the corner.  I was well warned for the kicker.  I took another Energy Chew at the base of the climb, at mile 8.7 or so and Michael and I started our way up.  Although we slowed down to get through the hill, Michael and I ran the entire way.  We hit downtown and let up our speed to let heart rates drop from that long climb.  Michael suggested we pick it back up once we got to a certain stop light and I agreed.  We were coming up to the block that Nick would be at.  I started scanning but didn’t see him.  At that point, I almost felt relieved I didn’t see him because I knew he was most likely deep in sleep in the room.  He hadn’t been sleeping well the week leading up to this race as he was pulling late nights, working on game development.  Him getting a good night’s sleep was more important to me than having him see me for 15 seconds during the race.

We wound our way down Houston street, near the end of downtown to the point where the half and full/ultra split apart, right around mile 10.25.  We had a few rolling climbs and a nice long downhill as we made our way in (not in that order).  The climbs were smaller than the mile 9 climb but I was feeling ready to be done that those climbs just weren’t my cup of tea.   Michael and I checked our watches and we were for sure going to come in under 2 hours, even if we slowed down quite a bit. We continued to push through and just past the mile 12 marker, Michael suggested we shoot for 1:55.  There was a hill straight ahead.  I told him I didn’t have the sprint in me up that  hill, but I was fine for him to go ahead and shoot for 1:55.  He took off and I made my way up the hill at my steady pace.  I skipped my last mile-12 Shot Blok, but I think I was okay without it.  The chews and bloks take about a mile to kick in for me, so I would have been crossing the finish line at that point.  The end of the race took us on the east side, south side, then finally over to the west side of Will Rodgers Memorial center.  I started booking it for the last two turns of the race.  I was ready to be done and I was eager to get my final time!  I crossed the finish line and Michael was standing right there waiting for me.  He ended up finishing about 45 seconds before me.  I didn’t get my official finish time until I was back at the hotel, but my watch read 1:57 (the seconds get cut off on the display after I hit 1 hour because I have so many panels displaying on the screen).  Woohoo, a new personal record!  And I really hadn’t set out to make that a goal for this race because of the much harder hills and not ideal elevation map (a.k.a. not all downhill).  Water was in my hand in a matter of seconds.  We had to walk a little further to get to the space blankets and medals, but the distribution was pretty quick and we were in front of the cameras before we knew it.

We hung out by the finisher photo area for a while, waiting for our other friends to finish.  We couldn’t find Shea, but met up with Jessica and Alyson and then we headed into the expo hall for the food and our finisher’s shirt.

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POST FOOD AND VENDORS

I wish I’d taken a picture of the food area.  This race has been the best to date for the post-race food.  As soon as you enter the expo hall, you are handed a bag and you walk down the line and the volunteers start putting food in your bag: two different brands (both with a few flavors) of granola bars, yogurt, oranges, apples, bananas, ice cream, bagels.  They had hot soup and beer, but I skipped both of those.  I got so much food, I didn’t know what to do with it all.  I ate the mini bagel right away, had a banana and the ice cream on the bus, and offered the granola bars to Nick when I got back to the hotel.  Everything that wasn’t eaten came home with me.

NO PAIN NO GAIN
I didn’t have any muscle pain during this race at all.  My feet were fine until about mile 12, when they started to get tender and the balls of my feet started to ache a little.  My main issue was from the zippers on my leggings.  From about mile 3 on I could feel the zippers on my ankles rubbing me raw.  I wanted to unzip them so badly during the race, but I pushed through and tried not to think about it too much.  While we were standing around at the end, I turned to look to see how bad the chafing was and my left lower calf/ankle had bled.  I put Body Glide on my calves because I’ve had similar irritation before at this race, but it wasn’t nearly as bad then.  Upon stopping and standing around, my hamstrings were pretty tight, but other than that, this was a pretty pain-free race!

OTHER RANDOM THOUGHTS
This was the first longer race that I didn’t bring my headphones.  I had no intention of listening to music during this one, even if I wasn’t running with Michael.  I’ve been getting in the habit of not listening to music during races.  I find that I do better and the time passes by just fine without the musical distraction.  The past few races I brought my headphones with me, but never listed to music, so I decided I wouldn’t even bring them for this race.

On another note, I loved having friends in this race.  Having people I know run it too makes the experience that much more fun, even if we aren’t all together for the entire race.  Running friends are the best! 😀

OVERALL OPINION
This was a good race.  As I mentioned above, I gave a lot of my 3M sub-2:00 credit to all the factors working in my favor and I sort of doubted my ability to run a sub-2:00 again on a difference course that didn’t have all those things going for me.  Reaching sub-2:00 AND setting a new Personal Record on this course really boosted my confidence about my pace.  Staring with the “big” group of friends and having Jessica with me at the beginning and Michael with me for almost all of the rest of race really helped.  It kept me moving along and their support was awesome!  Thanks guys!  3M is still my favorite just because of the elevation map, but this was a really great all-around race!  (Maybe I can convince everyone to go to Austin next year for the 3M and we can all run it together!)

RACE STATS
Bib Number: 4645
Division: Half Marathon Female 30-34

Official Chip Time: 1:57:12
Official Race Distance: 13.1 miles
Official Average Race Pace: 8’56”
Overall Rank: 1607 out of 6870
Sex Rank: 434 out of 3603
Division Rank: 97 out of 628
5k (3.1 Mile) Split: 28:05
10k (6.2 Mile) Split: 55:41
11 Mile Split: 1:38:40

Garmin Time: 1:57:13
Garmin Distance: 13.22 Miles
Garmin Average Pace: 8’52”

Garmin Splits
Mile 1: 9’08”
Mile 2: 8’47”
Mile 3: 8’50”
Mile 4: 8’56”
Mile 5: 8’55”
Mile 6: 8’39”
Mile 7: 8’40”
Mile 8: 9’03”
Mile 9: 8’56”
Mile 10: 9’19”
Mile 11: 8’30”
Mile 12: 8’46”
Mile 13: 8’58”
Mile 13.22: 7’55”

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