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California International Marathon 2015 race report.

Some time in 2014, I decided that 2015 would be the year I ran another marathon, and maybe tried again to qualify for Boston. I had vague memories that I suffered a lot the last time I ran a marathon (New Orleans in 2012), but it's been several years, so the pain had faded to where it seemed logical to do another one.

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Turkey Trot 2015 race report.

Turkey Trot! The only event I've done every year since I started this nonsense!

I never have any goals for the Turkey Trot beyond doing as well as I can, given the circumstances that year. Last year the Turkey Trot was less than a week after I ran a 50k trail run, which meant I was pleased my legs agreed to let me run at all. Some years I'm in the middle of marathon training. Some years I've done no running for months. This year, the Turkey Trot fell a week before California International Marathon, my current goal race. That meant no racing, nothing crazy, just some measured speed work.

In order to make sure we kept things easy and fun, we decided to dress up ridiculously.

Turkey Trot 2015 - Amy and Karen

Karen, Kate and I all had matching outfits, but Kate ended up in College Station for her Turkey Trot, so she had to look ridiculous on her own.

Turkey Trot 2015 - Kate

The bad news is, it was 72 degrees and intensely humid. Arm warmers and knee socks are not appropriate for that weather. But we were really cute, so we went with it.

Karen asked if I wanted to do a warmup before the run, and I told her my coach had given me a plan: 5 miles (which is how long the Turkey Trot is), with the first 2 being warmup, then progressive pace from marathon goal pace down for the last 3, ending no faster than 10k pace. (She is my coach: this was her plan.)

So Matt, Karen and I lined up together, and it started to rain as we waited, and then we all took off together when the gun went off. And were together for about 4 seconds, as Karen pulled away slowly into the distance. I tried briefly to stay with her, but with the intense humidity and immediate uphill, plus the way-too-warm outfit, I was breathing really hard immediately. And this was supposed to be 2 miles of warmup pace, so I just kept my ego in check and ran my pace, and Matt stayed with me. I was a little bummed about how slow I felt until we got to the mile 1 marker and my first mile was ~8:45. Since my marathon goal pace (MGP) is 8:30ish, I was warming up too fast.

The second mile continues to be hilly, and I continued to overheat and be pretty miserable. And run another 8:40something.

At mile 3, Matt took off to do his progressive pace finish, and I tried to do the same. And felt pretty horrible. 70-80 degrees with humidity in the 90s is my weather kryptonite. It started raining somewhat in earnest, which helped a little, but not much. I slid my arm warmers down to my wrists, then finally took them off completely and anchored them to my tutu.

The last 3 miles were just hard. I tried to run as strong as I could, but I knew I wasn't getting anywhere near half marathon or 10k pace in those last 2 miles. The last mile was that damn last mile from Run For the Water again, and I felt just as bad as I did then (fortunately with no sun in my eyes this time).

But I lived! And I think I managed to get in a decent speed workout, if not as fast as assigned. And I managed to do a "race" a week before my marathon and not injure or cripple myself in any way, aside from some pinky toe pain on my right foot, because those socks were not tech socks, and my feet were completely soaking wet for several miles. I'm sure it'll be fine.

Splits according to my watch, which didn't line up with the mile markers on the course at all most times:
8:20, 8:44, 8:19, 8:15, 8:15

42:41 (8:32/mile)

History!
2004: 52:24 (10:29/mile)
2005: 52:45 (10:33/mile)
2006: 47:54 (9:35/mile)
2007: 44:35 (8:55/mile)
2008: 39:48 (7:58/mile) (suspect it was short)
2009: 40:59 (8:10/mile)
2010: 36:35 (8:05/mile according to official time) (definitely short)
2011: 40:29 (8:06/mile)
2012: 38:58 (7:48/mile)
2013: 39:45 (7:57/mile)
2014: 43:51 (8:46/mile)

Slowest not-after-a-50k trot for quite some time. I'm gonna claim it's because I was being smart in light of my upcoming marathon, but honestly I'm not sure I could have run those miles any faster.
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Run for the Water 2015 race report.

Man, the last time I did this race was 2007 (the first year it was held!). Hell, the last time I trained for and ran a road race (so, not Turkey Trots) was the Donkey Dash in 2012. (And I only know that because I checked athlinks. Then spent a long time scrolling back and back and back, through triathlons and trail runs.) So I was surprised how not-all-that-stressed I was about this race.

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Pure Austin Open Water Race Series, September 2015 race report.

I actually didn't intend to do this swim. Our Tuesday runs have moved from earlyearly morning to afterwork (so much warmer, but less humid, and we often get post-run popsicles), so I expected to be running Tuesday night. Then Karen had a board meeting that evening, so moved our run to the earlyearly morning again. So I could swim. Did I want to swim? I wasn't really sure. But it was probably my last chance to do this swim this year, so I went.

I hadn't swam since Thursday, and while I'd run twice (including hills that morning), and felt decent doing so, I hadn't really used my arms. I got in the water early and warmed up, and .. my arms felt pretty rough. Tired, sluggish, sore. But I warmed up for 15 minutes, then headed back to the start.

MUCH smaller turnout this time, and I lined up 2nd row at the front, just figuring I'd see what happened. We started, and I began battling with everyone else. Amusingly, even though this was the smallest start group we've had, it was also the most aggressive and took the longest to spread out. I didn't really feel like I wasn't swimming on top of people until we got to the first dock.

Then I suppose I settled in, but I never really felt like I settled in. The whole swim felt difficult. I tried to stay as strong as I could, but I just felt like I was flailing the whole time. My form felt wrong, my arms felt tired and bad, and I just couldn't find any sort of rhythm. I wondered whether I'd even consider stopping after one loop, but I didn't feel THAT bad, so I just kept trying my best.

It seemed to take forever to swim those two loops, and I never really warmed up or felt better, but I got through it. Came out of the water at 26:04 on my watch (no official results yet), which is a full minute slower than last month, 1:04 slower than July. Given how consistent my last two were, I'd say it's pretty telling that this was an entire minute slower. However, I can't be at all upset about swimming a 26:04 out there, given that my slow and steady laps are still 15 minutes each, so yay!

In case I wonder in the future whether it's a good idea to do a swim race 5 days after swimming 10k? Yeah, maybe not. My arms and entire body felt worse the next morning than they had after the 10k. Definitely some resting in order now. Well, for my arms anyway. Marathon training continues!
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Colin's Hope 2015 got2swim 10k swim report.

Every year I've donated to someone doing the Colin's Hope swim, and been jealous because the training and the swim looked like so much fun. But I was invariably training for something else that didn't lend itself to so much swim training, or had just finished my big event. This year, however, all I did the first few months of the year was swim, swim and more swim (since I couldn't run due to heel pain), so I figured I might as well channel all of that swim training into something productive!

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Pure Austin Open Water Race Series, August 2015 race report.

Month one was popular enough that they did it again! I still don't love the pricing ($20 for a 750 or 1500m swim? There's gotta be more logistics involved for Splash'n'Dash, and it's only $10. Maybe if they can get more people to go, they can bring down the price. Of course, when does anyone ever DECREASE the price of something?) (woah, that was a long parenthetical there, what was I saying?!), but I do love the event, so I was back again.

After a nice 7 minute bathwater warmup, I lined up a few rows back again. My main goals for this month were to try to beat my time from last month, and to see if I could place in their new Masters division. My first race with a Masters division, since I became a Masters in February!

Just gonna spoil this.. I didn't accomplish either of those things. I swam strong and I felt good about my effort and my swim, but I ended up at 25:04, 4 seconds slower than last month. 6th woman overall, but I think maybe there was only the top masters, not 1-3 in masters, so one of the people who swims many lanes up from me in UT masters got that prize.

But I had a lovely time again. Got to see lots of friends, got to stretch my speed muscles, determined I'm quite consistent when it comes to my "fast" speed, and got some free PowerBar snacks on the way out. I'm sure I'll be back next month.

Pure Austin open water swim.
Treading water at the startline with Karen and Alissa
meatduck

Mystery Knit at Me & Ewe, July 2015

A few months ago, Betsy suggested we check out an Intro to Knitting class at a new yarn and fabric boutique store that had just opened, Me & Ewe. I figured, hey, this is a down year for me, and I have some spare time, so why not? So we went, and we learned to knit, and I discovered that I did not harbor a secret natural talent for knitting. I was pretty bad, really.

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Pure Austin Open Water Race Series, July 2015 race report.

I didn't particularly want to race. I've been having a good run of pretending that racing doesn't exist (as you can tell, based on the tumbleweeds blowing by on my usually-just-race-reports blog). But this was Pure Austin's first open water swim race, hoping to become a series, and I wanted to show my support and boost their numbers.

Plus it seems like when I do my long swim on Sunday, I end up not swimming again until Wednesday. Monday off, Tuesday morning run, then swim on Wednesday. I wanted to get another swim in, and paying someone to do it seemed like it would increase the odds that I did it.

And it did!

I did a little 5 minute warmup swim, then sat around chatting with Karen and Kristi and other folks. There were 35-40 folks doing the 1500, which started first (5 minutes before the 750), and when we lined up, I started maybe 3 rows back. Behind Kristi and Meghan, even though I knew I wouldn't be able to hang anywhere near Kristi.

Pure Austin Open Water Race Series, July 2015

They counted down and blew the horn, and we were off. My goal was just to try to be going strong the whole time. I think I did a decent job. I didn't really get any contact at the beginning, and I tried to fall in behind a guy to draft, but kept overtaking him, so just went around him ultimately.

And then I was basically alone for the rest of the swim, at the first buoy. I was a little afraid I'd get out there and everything would just feel hard. I'd swum 4 miles two days before, and run 6 miles that morning, with 3 miles fast. But I felt just fine. And I pushed as much as I felt was maintainable.

As I came by the dock after the first loop, I sighted and noticed a ton of people on the dock, probably cheering. For some reason that made me nervous, so I made sure I breathed only to the right, so I couldn't see them again.

And then after a second drama-free loop, I was headed back in to shore. There was a guy ahead of me, and I tried to see if I could pick it up and catch him, but while I managed to get closer, I could never quite get to him.

When I got to shore, I crawled out of the water and across the finish line, and was done!

Results show I swam a 25:00 even! I think that the course is a little short right now, with the last buoydock being a bit in from where it's supposed to be. But regardless, I was 9th woman, which I'll take!

Kristi the crazyfast swimmer who I will never be as fast as was schooled by 3 young little hotshot swimmers who were completely in a league of their own. They beat Kristi by 5 minutes, and she beat me by 5 minutes. Crazy.

Even though I don't think it was a full 1500 meters (and who knows if it ever is), if each loop was ~12.5 minutes, it was my fastest loop, beating my old record of 12:36.

And it also beats my only previous 1500 race out there, which was a 25:43.

Overall it was a fun night, a fast swim, and I'm glad I ended up doing it!
(And then I went home, shoved food in my face, went to bed, got up at 4:30 the next morning, rode my bike to campus and did Masters. Ouch.)
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Colin's Hope 10k: Swimming with Laura for Connor.

I'm busily training for the Colin's Hope Got2Swim Lake Austin 10k swim. It's still 2 months away, which is a good thing, because my longest swim so far has only been 1.75 hours, 3.1 miles. I have some work ahead of me to double that distance.

And also some logistics to figure out! My normal kayak guardian wasn't available for guardianing me this time, since he decided to do the swim, as well. Fortunately my second choice was available and interested.

Laura and Amy as Swim Angels

My main qualifications for a guardian were someone who knows me well, with whom I'm very comfortable, and who is genuinely enthusiastic about being there and ensuring my success. Someone I can have fun with. And then last on the list, someone who can kayak or SUP 6.2 miles down a river. And while my sister has never done that last thing, she has all the other stuff in spades, and is happy to train with me to get to the last thing.

So I'm super, super excited to have Laura as my guardian. We always have fun together, and we love to do events together, and she's excited about getting to yell at me. She's already started practicing.

Amy and Laura, back at the top!

With that taken care of, my next order of business was motivation. Raising money to increase awareness and help prevent childhood drowning is very motivating, but in order to make the swim a little more personal, to give it more meaning and a face, Alissa matched us all up with children who had drowned. She asked if I had any preference, boy, girl, little kid, older kid, and I asked for an older kid. You hear a lot (sadly, too much) about small children drowning, and there's a good amount of awareness out there, but not as much for older kids. I felt they needed a champion, as well.

And so I'm swimming for Connor Gage. When he was 15, he jumped off a dock into a lake, and he never came back up again.

I never knew Connor, or his family. But I've read a lot about them now, and his story hits close to home. He grew up on a lake. He spent his childhood in a lake. He was an excellent swimmer, and very comfortable in the water. But he always wore a life vest. And then one time he didn't. One time. That's all it took.


Texas Parks and Wildlife video about the importance of wearing life vests. It speaks with Connor's friend and his mom; so tough to watch, but so important.

Connor was a swimmer and a runner. They hold a 5k run in his honor every year, to Honor Connor. His family lives near Fort Worth. I can't help but think that if he were still here, one day our paths would have crossed. We might never have known it, but I bet we'd both have done the same run or swim event.

This isn't ever how I would have chosen to learn about Connor, but if I never got to meet him, I'm glad I get the chance to know about him. And I'm doing my swim in celebration of his life. Since he's not here to swim for himself, I'll do it in honor of him. And when things get tough out there on the water, I'll think of Connor and his family, and find strength in their strength and their bond, and push just a little bit harder and further.


Connor (behind) and his brother Riley in 2008

So thank you, Gage family, for letting me swim for Connor. I've made a donation to Connor's foundation, The LV Project, which encourages people to live buoyantly. To wear life vests on lakes, yes, (LV for life vest), but also to live like Connor did, "funny, happy, silly, full of life". I think that's a notion we can all get behind.

To support The LV Project (here's a list of projects they've supported in the past), please click here.

To donate to my swim and support Colin's Hope, please click here.

And if you can't donate, take a little time on Thursday morning, September 3rd, to send good thoughts to Lake Austin, to support me, my paddler and sister Laura, and our guardian angel Connor.

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