I’ve done back to back races before, but the times I’ve done it, it has been a shorter distance (like a 10k) followed by a longer distance (like a half or full marathon), so this was the first time I attempted back to back half marathons with the Nike Women’s Half a week before. I would have spaced my April and May half marathons out more if I could have, but since Nick and I are about to head to Peru and will be gone for the remaining weekends in May, this first weekend in May was my only chance at fulfilling my monthly goal and that just happened to be the weekend of Heels & Hills.
Race Day Weather
We’ve had a freak cold front come in to North Texas earlier in the week that lingered over the weekend. I expected this race to be 20 to 30 degrees warmer than it was, so I appreciated the 45 degree start temperature! I imagine this is the last of the drastic cold fronts for a while. The skies were clear and sunny, which was the only thing I didn’t like about the weather.
I prefer overcast skies when I run because it is easier to see and helps keep the temperature cool over the duration of the race. I didn’t think there was going to be much of a wind, but we definitely did have a head wind on the way out. By the end of the race, it had warmed up several degrees and once I cooled down, I was freezing from the cool air and the blowing wind.
Feelings Going Into The Race
With my knee injury, this race wasn’t that important to me; not like the Nike Women’s Half. I put more value of Nike Women’s because it was a bigger race in terms of participants, I was traveling for it, and I had family out spectating. Heels & Hills, to me, wasn’t a big deal. I wasn’t nervous about it and at points on Saturday, the day before the race, I forgot that I was going to run a race the next morning. Sometimes that lack of excitement or nervousness helps me from getting psyched out, but in general, I haven’t really had nervous feelings towards races like I used to, especially with the half marathon distance. I guess doing one a month really takes the nerves out of it. Last month, any nervousness I had stemmed from my knee injury.
On another note, almost all of my running friends who were racing this weekend were doing the Cinco de Miler, so I was bummed that they wouldn’t be out, but luckily, I knew I was going to know some of the pace leaders… or Men in Skirts as they are called and I had a friend from my early morning Plano group that I run with every now and then who was running Heels & Hills too.
Meals Before The Race
I made a vegetarian feast the night before the race, which included Miso Soup with Button Mushrooms,
For breakfast, I had my usual: A Central Market whole wheat English muffin, jam (raspberry), and nut butter (Justin’s Maple Almond).
Normally I save these little single serve packets for races away from home, but we are out of nut butter and, while it will keep, I decided to wait until we get home from Peru before I make any more. (I am a big fan of making my own nut butter now!)
What I Wore
I wore my C9 white sports bra, as usual… I really do need to get more of this model sports bra since I wear the same exact one every time I race. On top, I had a raspberry and purple colored Nike Racer tank top and on bottom I had my grey Nike capris. I also wore my raspberry-colored Features socks with an older pair of Brooks Glycerine running shoes and a new pair of ProKinetics Posture Control insoles. I also wore my grey Flip Belt.
This is an out and back race, with a small loop at the top instead of a U-turn at the halfway point. The race also had a 5K and 10K component to it which was also on the same route with U-turn turnarounds at their respective points. The course was 99% on the Campion Trail in Irving, with a short stretch starting and finishing on the street.
Because it was mostly on a trail, the course had to be significantly limited in size due to fire code or something like that, so the number of participants was minimal compared to other races.
The Campion Trail is fairly flat with a few very small hills over drainage pipes, with lowest elevation at 410 feet and the highest elevation at 433 feet.
There are large stretches that are wide open and other stretches that are covered with tree cover. The stretches with the tree cover were my favorite parts. Since the temperature was comfortable, theses wooded stretches were beautiful and enjoyable. Had it been hot and muggy, I probably would have hated the wooded area because heat would have been stuck in there, despite the shade.
Another feature of the wooded area that I enjoyed was the fact that the trail wound more in here, adding for a sense of “adventure” (for lack of better words) at each curve. I don’t know if it was the weather or what, but I enjoyed this trail much more during this race than when Nick and I came out here for a walk a few months ago.
On the return, the long stretches in the open sunshine were a bit grueling as we were running right towards the sun. I don’t wear sunglasses when I run so I felt like I was squinting the entire time on these long, open stretches as sweat dripped down my brow (again, this is why I prefer overcast days).
The Race Organization
Heels & Hills is a woman-focused race (another back to back element for me) that supports the Operation Homefront charity. As far as I can tell, the only other event put on by the race director/management of Heels & Hills is Heels, Hills, & Him. Heels & Hills started in 2007 so this year’s race was the 7th year running. To add to the fun, Heels & Hills recruits male runners for the pace team and has them dress up in women’s running attire. It’s pretty amusing, especially since I knew a handful of the pace leaders this year.
Besides the pace leaders, men are allowed to register and run in this race, however they don’t qualify for any of the awards. Since it is a women-focused race and because men can’t qualify for the awards, there are very few men who participate. I did run into my fellow pacer from the Big D Marathon who ran it with his son and his wife. Both he and his son set new Personal Records and probably placed for their age groups, but they were okay without the awards as they were out there supporting the wife/mom.
Packet pickup was held at a Holiday Inn in Irving.
There wasn’t too much there, but I did snag a couple of pictures.
They had a few products and samples out as well as some Heels & Hills merchandise.
I got my bib, timing chip, and race shirt and headed home.
There wasn’t a ton of crowd support for this race. Most of the crowd support gravitated around the water stops and I assume most of the spectators were family members of runners. One nice thing about this race in terms of the crowd support was that our bibs had our names printed on them so the people who were out there cheering runners on called runners out by name.
The race was scheduled to start at 7:30 so I slept in as late as possible, getting up at about 5:45 AM. I made my way to Irving, about a 30-minute drive, parked my car in the farther of the two designated race-day parking garages (skipping out of the long traffic jam into the closer garage) and jogged over to the start/finish area. As I started to jog, I heard some women comment on not wanting to run any more than the race distance. Haha. First off, I was in a tank top, so I was cold and second, while it was still a while before the race started, I figured a light warmup might do me some good!
I got to the start/finish area and started to look around for the pacers I knew as well as my friend, Suzanne, from my Plano running group who was running this race as well. The pacers were pretty easy to spot!
I got a picture with my old pace leader, Johnny and I was about to get a picture of him with another one of the pacers who I know when someone behind me suggested that all the Men in Skirts get together with me for a picture.
Next thing I know, we started a trend. After my picture with them, a bunch of women were eager to get their picture with the Men in Skirts too! I took a few more pictures of the start/finish area to show you how small and simple this race was.
The crowd started to fill in and we were just a few minutes before the start of the race.
I placed myself somewhere towards the front, between the 2:00 and 2:10 pace leaders.
I knew it was way too small of a race for 5 minute splits between pace leaders, but I really hoped there would be a 2:05 leader that I could stick with. Being such a small race, I needed to be running with people to get through it! Luckily, as it turns out, my friend, Suzanne was standing almost right next to me. She spotted me first and I was so happy she found me! We got a quick picture together and then the gun shot and we were off!
Suzanne is a total rock star. She ran the Oklahoma City marathon last week (the full, not the half), did an 8 mile run the day before this race, was doing this race, with the hopes of setting a new PR, and planning on doing a 20-mile run next weekend to support another Plano runner who is training for her first marathon. Total bada**, right?! Anyway, she kept telling me to go on ahead if I needed to as we started out, but I told her the pace we were going was fine for me and I really enjoyed having the company! We chatted as the miles ticked by. We passed the first three water stops, all of which seemed to be concentrated early on and decided to take water a the fourth stop…. but, as it turns out, that fourth stop was FOREVER away. We were both pretty irritated about that long stretch despite the cool weather. We finally hit it and walked through it before we started up again. I kept my routine of eating a ShotBlok every 3 miles and we were holding a good pace. At the rate we were going, I knew Suzanne would definitely set a new PR.
We eventually made it up to the turn around point, hoping there would be another water stop. But there wasn’t. Suzanne started to have doubts about holding our pace as she was needing water and fuel pretty badly. She pushed through and we stuck together through the loop, the rejoining for the out and back again and the small split of the course again. It was here that she needed to let up and fuel up, somewhere between mile 7 and 7.5. She told me to keep going, so I did.
The entire time Suzanne and I were together, there as an overdressed woman (long-sleeve shirt, long running tights, fleece pullover, ear warmers, gloves, etc) about 30 to 45 feet ahead of us… if that much… I’m bad at guessing distance. I caught up to her and for the remainder of the race the two of us were back and forth. I’d pass her, she’d pass me, and so on. As I mentioned above, the long stretches in the open sun were tough, especially on the way back, and this was when that overdressed woman usually passed me. At about mile 8.5 I was feeling pretty decent. Only 4.5 miles to go, I told myself. Easy, peasy. Then I stated to fade at mile 9. 4 more miles to go. Ugh. Clearly, it was ShotBlok time. I also noticed either on mile 8 or mile 9 that my watch was buzzing about a 10th of a mile after the mile marker sign, which NEVER happens. Earlier in the course, my watch was buzzing just under the mile markers which was normal, so I thought, well maybe I’m running super efficiently for a change. Anyway, the ShotBlok finally hit my system and I was feeling okay again, but still needing water. Since it was an out and back, the water stops did double duty, which also meant the concentration was at the end of the race and I had a long stretch without water. Grr. The miles ticked by and my watch was consistently buzzing after the mile marker signs, so I concluded that I, in fact, was not running efficiently, but the course was short. In some ways I was happy about that, since I’d be done sooner, but in some ways I felt like I was getting short-changed.
I finally came up on the 3rd/6th water stop and gratefully took water. The overdressed woman and I continued the back and forth game… at least it entertained me for the remainder of the race that I was without a running friend. Looked at my watch and calculated that I might be able to make a sub-2 race if I skipped the next water stop the 2nd/7th and 1st/8th water stop were fairly close together from what I remembered, so I skipped the 2nd/7th, passed the overdressed girl by what felt like a long shot and continued on, hoping to cross the finish line before 2 hours. I was pretty sure I could do it if I skipped the 1st/8th water stop too, and, being a little over a half a mile from the finish line, I was hoping I could push through without the water. But I fatigued at mile 12. My pace dropped and the overdressed woman passed me again. I desperately needed that last water stop, so I took it and so did that overdressed woman. Just 0.6 of a mile to go. We had about 0.35 left on the trail before the last quarter-mile stretch on the road to the finish line. I told myself, once I got on the street, I needed to pick my pace back up again. I gave myself the 0.35 to “drag” and let the final ShotBlok sink in. I hit the ramp up to the street, made my way up, and tried as hard as I possibly could to beat the overdressed woman, but she too picked up her pace and she crossed the finish line two or three seconds before me. As I was steps away from the finish line, I saw the clock turn 2:00:00. Ugh, by gun time, I was over 2 hours. BUT, by chip time, I still had a small window of hope that I broke 2!
Upon crossing the finish line, I had a cold wet towel and a bottle of water in my hand a medal around my neck.
It took me about 3 or 4 minutes to cool down. I texted Nick that I was finished and I made my way back over to the other side of the finish line to cheer on Suzanne as she came in. She was hoping to break 2:10. She whizzed by and I saw the clock read 2:08 and change right as she crossed the finish line. WOOHOO! She set a new PR. She was so happy and I was so happy for her. I went back over the other side of the finish line to congratulate her and we gave each other huge hugs. After a little bit of stretching we wandered over to the food table.
Post Race Food And Vendors
They had the usual bananas and bagels as well as some other Power Bar items.
I took half a banana and left it at that. There weren’t any vendors out so the finisher’s area was minimal, but being so chilly and breezy, I didn’t have any desire to stick around for long anyway. Speaking of which, I’m sure they weren’t anticipating the cold front this late in the spring, but a space blanket sure would have been nice at the end of this race. Suzanne was going to watch one of her other friends come in (who was intending to be between 2:30 and 2:40). At this point, I’d run into my fellow Big D Marathon pacer and we were chatting. I tried to find Suzanne again, but I’d lost her, so I headed to my car.
No Pain No Gain
As we started out, I had some dull pain in my knee, but I told Suzanne that based on my past few runs, the dull pain wears off after a couple of miles and, fingers crossed, I should be fine and pain-free in my knee once the stiffness eased up in a few miles. Sure enough, after a couple of miles, I couldn’t feel the pain in my knee anymore. Since my injury, though, I’ve been pretty tight in my left hip flexor/butt area. I’m sure it is related. At about mile 8 or so, this spot started to ache, but it wasn’t bad enough to stop me.
Post race, my hamstrings, quads, and hip flexor/butt were tight. The second I got in my car, I noticed my sacrum was aching as well. Hmm. I should have foam rolled right when I got home… This usually helps with my post-race restlessness, but I didn’t. I should have done an ice bath as well, but a hot shower sounded WAY more enticing! So even though I had Nick stretch my hamstrings for me, my legs were pretty tight for the rest of the day.
We went to bed super early (8:30 PM) and I fell asleep almost immediately, but I woke up at 4:30 and was very tight and restless. I dug out the foam roller and rolled around on it for a few minutes before heading back to bed. My legs are still tight today, which I guess should be expected since my mileage has been so low since the Big D marathon. Other than that, this was a successful race on a nearly recovered knee!
Other Random Thoughts
Hmm. Oh, I know, the water stops! There should have been more water stops. Since the 5K and 10K were on the same course, 3 of the 4 water stops were concentrated within those two distances. That was NOT COOL! It would have been even worse if it was hot out. Regardless, there should have been at least 1 more table (to hit twice) in the stretch between the 10k and half turn-around points. The concentration of water stops within the 5k was nice on the way back, but senseless on the way out. Had I done the placement of the water stops, the 5k would have only had 1 water stop at their turn around instead of 2 (or really 3 if you count the fact that they hit that first water stop both out and back).
Oh, also, there were not track pads other than the start/finish line, so anyone could have easily cheated during this race… Of course, I didn’t cheat, but I was thinking about that fact as I noticed the lack of timing track pads.
I’m really happy with my time. I know the course was a little short (other people were commenting on the distance on their watches as well, so it wasn’t just me) and I probably would have finished over 2:00 if the distance was accurate, but even still, 3 weeks off an injury, I’m thrilled!!
Based on the time of year for this race, I probably won’t do it again. It was a fluke that the weather was so cool, but May is traditionally not a cool month in Texas and I am not a fan of hot-weather running, so if it weren’t for my half marathon a month goal, I probably wouldn’t have done this race and probably won’t do it again. With that said, my expectations of this race were much lower than how the event actually turned out. The weather did play a factor it in it, but also having a friend to run with helped a lot too! (Thank you, Suzanne!) Like I said, I enjoyed this trail during this race more than I did when Nick and I came out to walk on it a few months ago.
For a small race, minus the water stop and distance issues, I thought this was nicely organized and well-run race. While I don’t have plans to run it again, it is definitely not at the bottom of my list of favorite races!
Bib Number: 295
Division: Female 30-34
Official Chip Time: 1:59:54
Official Gun Time: 2:00:04
Official Race Distance: 13.1 miles
Official Average Race Pace: 9’09”
Official Rank: 135 out of 492
Sex Rank: 117 out of 446
Division Rank: 22 out of 63
Garmin Time: 1:59:57
Garmin Distance: 13.04
Garmin Average Pace: 9’12”
Mile 1: 9’19”
Mile 2: 9’18”
Mile 3: 8’59”
Mile 4: 9’11”
Mile 5: 9’03”
Mile 6: 9’21”
Mile 7: 9’01”
Mile 8: 9’12”
Mile 9: 9’03”
Mile 10: 9’03”
Mile 11: 9’20”
Mile 12: 9’21”
Mile 13: 9’32”
Mile 13.04: 6’48”