Much tired, very exhaustion

I don’t know if summer heat is just catching up to me, or I’m tired from the change in routine since school started. But I can’t seem to make my legs move any faster.

I don’t seem to remember feeling this much fatigue in previous summers. I know historically I am chronically tired in September as I adjust to full-time teaching again, but this feels different too.

Last Saturday I managed 14 miles, but I can hardly describe what I was doing as running. Tuesday I did okay at the track, but Thursday was rough. It didn’t help that we’d been without AC at school half the day–90ish degrees, 30+ teenagers per class, no air circulation at all–which did not help pre-run hydration efforts.

Yesterday I was supposed to run ten miles, but around 3.5 I started to feel dizzy and nauseated, and my head pounded. I tried to tough it out to get to five and turn around, but after a water/electrolyte/salt tab break just past four, I decided eight would have to do. I shuffled along the return route for another mile, but it wasn’t long before I reached a point where I couldn’t keep running. My left quad was unhappy and I felt like shit.

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I walked the last three miles back to the car. As I sat in the grass waiting for my BRF to finish her 14 miles (not far behind me), I felt like I’d run twice as far, twice as fast. I wanted to take a nap, and if I’d had a longer wait I think I would have crashed right there.

At our post-run coffee date, a Venti coffee made the headache go away, but after a while I felt fatigue wash over me again. For a few moments I actually put my head down on the table. Not because my friends’ stories were boring, but because I couldn’t keep my eyes open.

tired-meme-2-1And in true fall fashion, there was no rest for the weary. After I came home and showered, I watched a little football on TV and then it was time to leave for the Texas – Oklahoma State game.

On the shuttle to the stadium, I wanted to take a nap except I’d put my hair up and if I leaned back in the seat, I’d have an uncomfortable lump in the way (#longhairproblems). I felt like I was walking through Jello as we made our way to the stadium. But we were a bit early so we wandered around Bevo Blvd for a while–Deep Eddy Vodka was giving out iced bandanas (sadly they were iced wtih water, not vodka) and a Coke truck passed out plastic shot glasses, your choice of several flavors. A shot of Vanilla Coke perked me up considerably; a Topo Chico inside the stadium helped too.

I managed to stay energized through three quarters. It was a close game and we were on our feet, making noise the whole time. The fourth quarter, though, found me sitting down, exhausted and anxious.

We took a 13-point lead midway through the fourth and I relaxed a little. But if the last eight seasons have taught me anything, it’s that no lead is big enough for me. And rightly so. We almost snatched defeat from the jaws of victory when we made some nearly-fatal errors that brought the game within six. It came down to an onside-kick (we recovered) and 1:30 to run out the clock. No one left early.

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“Don’t Stop Believing” via https://twitter.com/TexasLonghorns/status/1175600750094966784

By the time we started the hike back up 21st Street to the shuttle, my adrenaline was wearing off. It took another hour or so to get home; I slept for about 9.5 hours and feel less drained this morning, but I’m also not really inclined to do anything that requires exertion.

One of my BRFs is a nurse, and at coffee suggested perhaps I take more Vitamin D and iron. I’d been pretty good about vitamins until I got the plague, and then I was taking so many medications I just couldn’t juggle anything else. Oops. So I’m going to see if that helps, although it could be two weeks before I start to see improvements. I also found a multivitamin for active women–it may be bogus, but maybe not so what the hell. It’s worth a try, especially with Army Ten-Miler in a couple of weeks.

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Fourteen: not the F word I’m thinking

This school year has been off to a remarkably good start. Maybe it’s because I’m not training for a marathon (this time last year I was running 18+ milers) and I’m getting semi-adequate sleep. Maybe it’s because of a seismic culture shift at school. I don’t really know, but the dread I felt in early August has dissipated and things are going well.

But my running life is a hot mess.

All summer, my long runs were glacially slow. Like five minutes per mile slower than my PR pace. Some of that is due to walking breaks, but even when I am running–at least it feels like running–I think it’s more of a shuffle. My weekday workouts haven’t been a whole lot better. It’s well-established that I struggle in hot weather (it’s still in the 90s here) but even on Tuesday when a random rainstorm dropped temps into the high 70s I still couldn’t seem to move my feet any faster. I just was able to run all 6.2 miles without walk breaks. Unlike Thursday’s six-mile hill workout, when it was 93*.

My summer long runs have been around 8-10 miles; last week I ran 12, and yesterday’s long run was 14 miles–the furthest I’d gone since CIM last December. It took forever, and my legs were so sore afterward, I felt like I’d run 24 miles with my BRF, not just 14. I worked up to that distance over many weeks, I’ve done pretty well with hydration and rest–it shouldn’t have sucked that badly, but here we are.

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I started at 5:30. Up the overpass, crossed to the multi-use path, then hit BCT to the YMCA. Kind of creepy in the dark without a headlamp, but it was only half a mile. Then up Little Elm (yes, I ran on the new sidewalk even though spray-painted signs declared it closed) and ran the first of several loops through the Liberty Oaks neighborhood. I saw a skunk slink into a hole under someone’s fence, and a bunny in the grass near an open fied.

From there, the route followed Little Elm to Lakeline to Cypress Creek, then Nelson Ranch to some smaller streets that eventually deposted me back onto Lakeline and Fall Creek. When I reached seven miles, I happened to be in front of a house with its automatic sprinklers going. I used one of the sprinklers to rinse out my hand towel and squeeze water on my head, but sadly the water shut off and took away my excuse for a delay.

Back the way I’d come, my legs were feeling fatigue. My left quad, kind of where it meets my knee, was quite displeased–it didn’t really hurt, but the knee felt swollen and it had lost some range of motion. Every time I stopped for water or traffic lights I sort of flexed that knee to loosen it up, but it didn’t really work. The quad felt more and more sore as my return trip dragged on: Nelson Ranch to Lakeline to Little Elm, then more Liberty Oaks loops. Things briefly looked up when I got to pet a Labrador puppy for a few minutes.

As I refilled my water before heading back, my BRF caught up to me–she’d started half an hour earlier, is faster and a more consistent pacer, and had gone 20 miles to my 11.5. Honestly, my pace was so glacial that I was just glad it took her that long to catch me. I mean, I went through four podcasts.

Twice I managed to miss restarting my watch after a water stop (I hit the button but then three minutes later I got the power saver alert–damn!) so my distance was off by about half a mile. I wasn’t about to run extra to fix it though–I’d edit it on Garmin later.

Down the hill via the closed sidewalk, back on BCT for half a mile (yay shade!) and then the worst part of all: the multi-use path to Brushy Creek Road, up the overpass, and back to Rogue. Once we left the shade of BCT, there was nothing but sun and concrete. My quad hurt, my knee felt wonky, my Air Pods made that little low-battery sound, I was hot, tired, and a little shaky.

 

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I finished 14 miles, but neither “finished” nor “fourteen” was the F-word front and center in my brain as I foam-rolled (also not the primary F-word) and felt sorry for myself. I think I have to face facts–I’m slower than last year. My goal at Army Ten-Miler probably should be just to finish faster than last year. And that bar is low because last year (thanks to the 73* start-line temps) was my slowest ATM ever.

I watched college football and iced my knee all afternoon, and after a while it felt better. Then met a group of high school friends for Mexican food and margaritas. Texas Fooball beat Rice. And my faithful dog not only curled up next to me all night, he let me sleep late.

So hey, not all my F-words were bad.

Long short week

For a short week, last week was excruciatingly long.

After my failed lake trip, I went out for a trail run Monday afternoon. I’d been to Turkey Creek once before, although I’d detoured from the main trail a bit and ran more of an out-and-back route. This time I wanted to run the trail properly.

The access to the Turkey Creek Trail is from a small parking lot next to City Park Road about a mile before the park entrance. And on Labor Day, City Park was crowded–starting about two miles out, signs stated that the park was full, Go Away. But since I wasn’t actually going all the way to the park, I crossed my fingers that the trailhead was still accessible. And it was.

The main trail is basically a lollipop shape, so I knew which way to go out. But things got tricky on the far end, and at first I passed the turn to make the loop. But eventually I found it and indeed discovered the part of the trail I’d missed before.

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I made friends with lots of dogs along the way–several wanted to run with me–but I think I was the only person who was trying to run the trail vs walking/hiking. Probably because it was about 1pm. When I’d started, it was overcast and I knew the trail was shady. But yowza the sun came out and on some of the more exposed parts of the trail, I baked like a cookie.

I ended up with 3.5 miles and lots of dog pets. Balance is key, y’all.

Tuesday was a different kind of endurance exercise: Back to School Night at work. A full teaching day capped by six 10-minute presentations to the adult humans in charge of my students. My slideshow is meme-heavy, starting with Katness Everdeen and Effie Trinket (middle school: may the odds be ever in your favor) and finishing with Bob Ross turning mistakes into birds. Buzz and Woody make an appearance, as does the What If I Told You guy. The biggest laugh usually comes from this one:

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Parents think I’m either really funny or super-weird. But after 24 years teaching middle school, I can live with either assessment.

Wednesday night we turned around and did it all again, this time as parents at B’s high school. I don’t know that I really need to attend these things anymore–he’s a junior–but it’s likely the only contact I’ll have with his teachers. Other parents take furious notes and ask questions, so sometimes I feel like I’m not involved enough in overseeing his school stuff, but then again he’s an A/B student who reads on a post-high school level, so I think he’s doing pretty well without my micromanaging him. Besides, if he doesn’t know what he’s doing by now, he needs to figure it out with less intervention than me, not more.

Thursday was my first run since Monday at Turkey Creek. And it was gross. I ran two miles to the elementary school where my coach had set up a water cooler. Then I ran (haha) a 1.5-mile loop. It was about 100* and the whole thing felt hellish. I could barely plod along. I ended up with six miles.

And then came Saturday.

This week’s long run was 12 miles, with a workout in the middle. I was supposed to run an easy pace for 4.5 miles to a water stop, then run a three-mile loop at HMGP. Take a water break, then run the first three miles of the return trip at HMGP, and take it easy the rest of the way back. Unfortunately, I don’t have a clue what my HMGP is–I got the Plague that screwed up my pace all spring, and then it got hot and my pace truly went to shit. My next race is mid-October when temps should suck less, but I don’t really know what pace I will be capable of sustaining in cooler conditions.

Last week I felt okay–just slower than an elderly turtle–during my 10 mile long run. Yesterday was … much less okay. Humidity returned, so from the start I felt like I was running underwater. I tried to maintain some kind of pace during the three-mile loop, but if that’s my HMGP, I am not going to perform well at Army Ten-Miler in about a month.

And then the sun came out.

If there’s any consolation, it’s that everyone was miserable. Tough, fast Rogues were walking, suffering. This picture screams screw it, let’s stop and take a selfie on the highway overpass because it’s too fucking unpleasant to keep running, doesn’t it?

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My final total on my feet was a little over 12 miles, pretty much at the elderly turtle pace. I’ve run all but two of my 19 half marathons faster than I finished 12.3 yesterday. Let’s not even consider that was moving time, not elapsed time.

But I finished it, then spent four or five hours sitting in a hot football stadium only to watch Texas come up juuuuuust short against LSU, another long day in a week of long days.

But I slept late this morning, I’ll go out for a trail run later this afternoon, and maybe things will get a little easier this coming week.

Welcome to the Jungle

Summer is over, and the craziness that is fall has begun.

Mind you, the weather doesn’t think it’s fall–it was still 100* at Texas’ 7pm kickoff Saturday night–but I mark fall by three main events: we’ve been back in school for two weeks. Rogue Running kicked off its training cycle for winter half-marathons. And college football has returned.

I went back to work August 13th–we had a week of professional development and prep stuff before the students returned the 20th. Last year was chaotic, and I won’t lie. I wasn’t ready to come back. I was also worried about some of the ugliness from the summer (a la “send her back” types of chants) bleeding over into our diverse school community. But our new principal set a perfect tone from the beginning, and I’ve never had such a positive, hopeful start as I did when I began Year 24 two weeks ago.

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My students wrote six-word memoirs the first week

Saturday morning, Rogue kicked off another harbinger of fall–its Austin Marathon training cycle–and while I’m not running that race, I’m still training for a November half so we all went downtown for the event.

I’m still struggling through the heat and feel horribly sluggish, so I can’t tell if I’m slower than previous years or any gains I’ve made are masked by the temperatures. I do know that in 2016, the year I PRd at Army Ten-Miler, I was running faster overall that summer, but my long runs were a bit shorter–usually seven or eight miles, with 3-5 during the week. This summer my weekday runs are between five and 6.5 miles, and my long runs are 10. Not sure how that will work out when I get to test things out later this month.

Anyway, Saturday’s route wound through downtown from Rogue on West 5th, across Lamar and Congress, under IH35, past Festival Beach, up to East Second Street to Pleasant Valley to Tillery. I reached five miles and turned around at Tillery and Fifth Street. If I had gone three more miles, the route would have taken me past my old high school. But I didn’t want to run 16 miles–I could drive by JHS later if I really missed it. 😉

It took me forever, I was completely drenched in sweat (sweet Jesus it was humid) and I was barely plodding along the last two miles or so, but I finished ten. Rogue DT’s demographic skews to fast people who blew by me regularly, only a few runners even acknowledging my existence. Glad a bunch of my CP friends were there too, so it felt less like high school cliquery.

News flash, I didn’t win anything in the raffle.

After breakfast and coffee, I headed home for a shower and a brief rest before driving downtown again. Because Texas Football had a 7pm kickoff.

I pretty much can’t hear the first 45 seconds of “Welcome to the Jungle” anymore without picturing guys lining up for a kickoff–it’s a stadium staple. And apparently we’ve started a new tradition of “Don’t Stop Believin'” flashlight karaoke, which began spontaneously the last game of last season (the one time I went to the bathroom, dammit) and now has become a thing. Glad I didn’t miss it this time.

My seats are on the left side of whoever’s got this camera–I basically face this view of the end zone. Can you see all the phone flashlights? The modern version of waving a lighter at a concert!

Offensively, Texas looked pretty good–we have a potential Heisman candidate at quarterback, a stellar receiving corps, and we even threw in some Wildcat formation trickery using a converted QB at RB. The first quarter was the Devin Duvernay show. Later, I thought Sam Ehlinger was throwing the ball away at the end of a busted play–it looked like it was sailing out of bounds–but Collin Johnson made an amazing diving catch anyway, keeping one foot on the ground inbounds. It looked like he was stretching to make the out at first base. Ehlinger ended up with 28 of 38 for 236 yards, four TDs, and zero interceptions. He also, for once, was not our leading rusher. We had such a comfortable lead that the backup QB played the entire 4th quarter.

The defense had some holes–LA Tech burned them with the same little inside pass play over and over–but they caused two turnovers and kept LA Tech off the scoreboard until the backups allowed two TDs in garbage time. They’d better have their shit together next week for a slightly more challenging state school from Lousiana.

I was supposed to drive to the lake house this morning, but halfway there my car started making an insane amount of noise, a rattling come from the dashboard region. Gauges were fine, temp was fine. I turned the AC off, still rattling. Engine sounded fine and it drove normally. But to be safe I stopped at a gas station and looked around. Nothing under the car. Wheels and tires were fine. All lugnuts present. I’d already checked the oil before I left—plus none of the warning alerts had gone off. Turned the AC back on, and everything seemed normal again so I continued on. But over 40 MPH the rattle came back. Kind of like when something is stuck in the AC vents—leaves or something in an old car?

So I stopped at the next gas station and looked around at everything again. And I discovered that the weatherstripping on the top part of the windshield had completely failed—chunks of it were missing and what was left was cracked and loose. It went from fine at home to completely failed 60 miles later.

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It wasn’t like this when I left the house

I pulled off the flapping chunks but was still leery of continuing—it was another 45 minutes to the lake, and if that *wasn’t* the cause of the noise I’d be further from home, still with a problem. I also could see a huge rainstorm between me and my destination and I decided I was not interested in adding another complication so I turned around and drove home. I’d rather be wrong and home than stranded even further away.

It rained for a few minutes here (I wonder if that was the storm I saw earlier) but not even long enough for me to put on my running shoes and take advantage of it. The temperature has dropped though, so maybe I should take a short run anyway.

 

 

Capt’n Karl’s Reveille Peak Ranch 10K

“Those who don’t take a chance won’t get a chance.”

That’s the slogan on the Capt’n Karl’s Trail Series medal ribbons, and after running all four races in the series, it resonates a lot with me.

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I had no idea what I was doing when I signed up for the first race, the Pedernales Falls 5K. I had a pair of trail shoes with like four miles on them and I’d run a couple of miles on a local trail. But I figured I couldn’t do too much damage at a 5K, so why not try something new while my friends ran the longer distances?

The first race was a success, so I signed up for the next one–Muleshoe Bend 5K–with a friend who’d been joining me for Trail Wednesdays. Then came Decision Time. The third race, at Colorado Bend, didn’t offer a 5K. Did I want to try the 10K with only two trail 5Ks under my belt? Yes, yes I did. And it was a super challenging course. But after I finished it successfully, albeit slowly, it was a lot easier to rope my friend into doing the 10K at Reveille Peak Ranch this weekend.

Reveille had three advantages: it was by far the easiest drive, it had the nicest restrooms, and because it was private property (not LCRA or state parks) there were no restrictions on alcoholic beverages. Not that I am a party girl, but I’ve had half a bottle of watermelon vodka sitting in my kitchen for a couple of weeks and it seemed like a great way to celebrate our completed race series. The others packed a selection of cider, so we were covered no matter what.

Like I said, the drive was easy–I think we made four turns total–at least until we got inside the park. Earlier in the day, it had rained briefly and the dirt road was a mess. We pulled into the parking area, skirted a downed limb, and found a place to park. Then my friend dragged the limb out of the way, dodging cow patties as she did so. We had about an hour before our race–the 60Kers started at 7, the 30Kers at 7:30, then 10/20K at 8. The kids’ race and the 5K were last. We picked up our stuff–the shirts are my favorite of the four, I think–then we got set up and went through all our pre-race rituals.

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After testing it at the Galveston race, I wore my headlamp sans visor again. And I’m glad I did. The visor brim blocks some of the light, and I really needed every bit of visibility I could get on this course.

We started by running over a small earthen dam, then across a bridge that, quite frankly, did not look completely safe. There were two places the boards had collapsed and someone had marked it with “avoid this spot” tape. Trail races are a different breed, I guess. 😉 Anyway, from there we had a bit of a flat trail, then turned onto the kind of terrain that would mark the rest of the run. A little uphill, a little rocky, some slabs of granite, and a little downhill.

IMG_4767[1]And cows.

As you can see, three cows actually blocked our route at one point. It was a mama and two adolescents, and they just stood in the middle of the gate like they were in line for the next available cashier. We lost several minutes waiting for them to mosey along.

There was an aid station about two miles in–a lovely sight–and then we made a loop around and up a granite dome similar, geologically, to Enchanted Rock about 50 miles away. Thankfully, though, it was smaller. Or at least the ascent trails zigzagged up the dome rather than virtually straight up, which is how most people reach the top of Enchanted Rock.

Even with a headlamp, it was sometimes difficult to see the path across the granite. Tejas Trails does an excellent job marking their trails, and they’d done so here too, but in many spots the dark granite just seemed to suck the light out of everything around it. But between Tejas’ trail markings and the reflective road turtles that had been permanently affixed to mark the trail, we didn’t have too much trouble finding our way, even on some tricky switchbacks. It was slow going though. Between the elevation and the uneven surface, we spent more time hiking than running.

The only confusing part was when we finished the loop. At the top of the hill, where our current path intersected with a wider trail, I saw a sign with an arrow pointing to the left. But if a runner missed that and/or looked off to the right instead, they’d see the 10K signs pointing the other way. It took me a second to realize we’d come out the way we came in–we’d followed those signs already–and the left arrow sign was for runners on the return trip. We met up with a guy who’d run an extra mile because he’d missed the left turn arrow. Oops.

From there we hit the same aid station again. A few minutes later we reached the Cow Gate–thankfully the cows had indeed moseyed away so we didn’t have to contend with them again. But at one point, a (different?) cow bellowed from fairly close by (spooky coming out of the dark) and a guy running near us kind of freaked out. “What was THAT??” Just a cow, NBD.

From there it was mostly downhill the rest of the way back. Wider, flatter trails meant we could run more than a few steps at a time. Past Vomiting Guy (sorry dude), over Danger Bridge, across the little dam to the finish line. Got our medals and some snacks, waited to stop sweating, then changed clothes and busted out the watermelon vodka. Also known as Victory Vodka.

It turns out, that even though my finishing time was about a minute and a half slower than Colorado Bend, which was already my slowest 10K ever (I blame the cows), I placed third in my age group. OUT OF SEVEN. On a super challenging course!

Whoa, this means finished in the top four of all four Capt’n Karl’s races! I was first in my age group for both 5Ks, and I was fourth and then third for the 10Ks. Not bad for a trail rookie!

Huge thanks to my Rogue friends who encouraged me, kept me company, took turns driving to the Middle of Nowhere, Texas, and made the whole experience pretty damn fun. Trail running got me out and moving throughout the hot summer–and now I have 61 miles on those trail shoes.IMG_4768[1]Happy trails, y’all!

 

Back to School

I didn’t go all summer without running.

I went all summer without working.

I know summer vacation is a luxury not everyone gets. But I also know that I need that time to recover from the madness that 10 months of middle school brings every year. And last year was particularly rough both at school and healthwise.

The first day of summer I turned off the alarm clock. Most days I was awake by 8am, chilling with my coffee and skimming the news. I had all day to read a book, go to the pool, catch up on errands, schedule appointments, clean up around the house, meet friends for lunch, hassle the teenager, whatever. Plenty of time to change clothes and head to Rogue in the evenings, and on Tuesdays I even joined my teammates for tacos after the workout.

My summer included running through a thunderstorm in Fredericksburg, around downtown Austin with my BRF on Global Running Day, in cool weather in Ohio, and during a downpour in Virginia on my short trip to see the Musketeers on the east coast.

Then I decided to run some trail races in the Capt’n Karl’s series, beginning with the 5K at Pedernales Falls State Park at the end of June.

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And even through the tough summer temperatures, I kept running. I struggled–triple digit running is no joke. But I could summon the energy to push myself (or at least muddle through it) on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturday mornings when I had zero obligations–or alarm clocks–the other days. I even tackled the giant hill at Ladera Norte on the Run from Hell.

I ran two more Capt’n Karl’s trail races–another 5K at Muleshoe Bend and a 10K at Colorado Bend. To prepare, I tried new routes on Trail Wednesdays by searching the AllTrails database. It’s amazing the number of running trails I found around here that I never knew existed until this summer! And trails gave me an excuse to be a little slower, which made summer running a lot more fun.

I also participated in July’s Sportsbra Squad ATX run, became a Skirt Sports ambassador, and wrapped up my summer by running a 5K on the beach in Galveston.

But school started this week (staff returned early so I’m a week and a half in at this point) and I am back to juggling my professional life, my family life, and yes, my running life. Even when the place has been given a fresh start and is filled with positivity, re-entry is difficult.

So yeah, I’ve turned on the dreaded 5:50am alarm clock, leaving the house by 6:30. My kid is a junior this year, taking classes like Physics and AP English and some kind of engineering class. He’s still not driving to school though, so dropoff and pickup remain part of my commute. Today I learned that his theater class has some afterschool obligations that are throwing wrenches into my schedule too.

Since I’ve only seen them a couple of times, I don’t know any of my students’ names yet. And it will take a while to learn them all since my classes are all right around 30 kids each. Depending on the day, I teach either three 90-minute classes or six 45-minute classes with about 25 minutes for lunch. They’re seventh-graders, so my days are pretty high-energy. Then I leave work about 4:15, pick up my own kid, and we’re home by about 5-5:15pm. Three days a week I quick-change my clothes and head right back out to Rogue by 6:00–Monday is core class, and Tuesday/Thursday are running workouts. I’m home (again) by about 8:30pm and I have about an hour to shower and grab something for dinner. Lather rinse repeat.

But even though school has started, no one told summer that we’ve moved on. Last night I ran seven miles–it might have dropped down into the 90s by the time I was finished, but I’m not sure. And there’s no rest for the weary–I’ve got the last Capt’n Karl’s race this Saturday night (the forecast high is 98*) then Texas Football kicks off its home opener next weekend. After Labor Day I’ll have my marathon workday–a full teaching day, then my school’s Parent Night in the evening. The next night I’ll flip roles and attend as a parent at B’s high school. I missed August’s Sportsbra Squad run because I was in Galveston, but I’m definitely attending the September event on the 15th. And I’m still going to core class and running with my Tuesday and Thursday groups. After all, I have a 10-mile race in October and a half-marathon in November! No rest for the weary indeed.

So I’m not struggling with re-entry to running like I would be if I were returning from a trip or after an injury. But re-entry to my school (work) reality and all the busy life stuff that fall brings … that’s my challenge right now. It’s like trying to accelerate from 0 to 60 when the car hasn’t been driven in a while and it needs to warm up first. Eventually the engine will fire properly–just not yet.

Galveston Sand Crab 5K

It’s that time of year again. Back to School, you ask? No, our annual pilgrimage to Galveston to run the Sand Crab 5K on the beach. This was our seventh year to participate, and the second year they gave out finisher medals.

We dropped the dog off in the morning, then hit the road.

Because hydrating and road-tripping don’t go all that well together, we stopped at two different Buc-ee’s along the way. Once we reached the island, we decided to try to check in to the hotel first. But they were having some staffing issues and rooms were not ready yet. So we left the car and walked down Seawall Blvd to find some lunch. At Fish Tales, I had a salmon-stuffed crab-fried shrimp concoction–yum. Then we walked around a bit, finally ending up at the Hotel Galvez. I’d passed it many times but had never been inside, so this seemed like a great chance to check it out.

The Galvez opened in 1911, part of the island’s reconstruction designed to bring tourism back after the 1900 hurricane. It struggled in the 1940s after the illegal gambling industry (popular across the street at the Balinese Room) was shut down, but was revitalized in the 1960s. The Galvez survived Hurricane Ike with some flooding on the lower level, but nothing much worse. That must have been a relief considering Ike completely destroyed the Balinese Room and the Flagship Hotel, both on piers literally across the street on the seawall.

I’d heard that like Austin’s Driskill Hotel, the Galvez in haunted. We didn’t spot any ghosts, but we did find an interesting historical exhibit about the hotel and the island.

Attempt #2 at checking in to our hotel (sadly not the Galvez) also failed, so we changed into swimsuits and walked across the street to the beach. After an hour of accumulating sand everywhere, we returned again. The third time was the charm, which was good because it was past 5pm and we needed to head out to East Beach for the race soon. Packet pickup started at 6, but the real problem was parking. There’s a free lot, but it fills up quickly. That means a lot of waiting around before the 8:30pm start, but they have restrooms, water, and picnic tables so it’s pleasant enough.

Side note: I love the way Run in Texas organizes packet pickup. Each registrant’s bib and shirt are pre-packaged into a bag, and volunteers don’t have to mess with piles of shirt sizes. Plus, those of us who do same-day packet pickup don’t risk their running out of shirts–since everything is pre-packaged, it basically already has my name on it.

After retrieving our stuff we checked out the condition of the sand. The first .2ish goes from the East Beach pavilion to the waterline, then sticks to more solid sand through the turnaround and back. The finish is sort of the beach equivalent of uphill–slogging through the fluffy sand again. And unlike years past, there’d not been any recent rain so that sand was all dry and unstable. Like running in marshmallows.

My foot hurt a bit as we wandered–not sure if it was my shoes (I wore an older pair of Mizunos because sand) or just the unstable nature of the walking surface. It hadn’t bothered me all week at work–I wore my Chacos–but it wasn’t happy for the first mile of Thursday’s five-miler (also in Mizunos, albeit a newer pair) either. Probably should stick to the New Balance for a while longer, since my foot responds better to those.

I usually put my headlamp over a visor, but the brim blocks some of the light and affects visibility. Plus it’s hot. I don’t like wearing any headgear and avoid it whenever possible, so a 5K seemed like a good time to see if I could tolerate the light solo. I also carried my handheld water bottle, mostly out of habit.

The kids’ race started around 8pm, and then the 5K and 10K began at 8:30, just after dark. As I predicted, the first section was marshmallow-y, but it wasn’t too bad if I kind of ran on my toes, high-knees style. Once I hit the wet sand closer to the water, I was able to settle into a comfortable pace. The main obstacle was sand castles and moats left behind from beach visitors earlier in the day.

On this far end of Galveston Island, long beyond the seawall that protects the populated part of the city, there’s not much out here–the East Beach pavilion, a neighborhood, and a high-rise condo complex called The Galvestonian that you can see the whole run. It marked the water stop/5K turnaround, so it gave me a good visual on the way out.

I’ve felt sluggish all summer, and I haven’t been able to figure out if it’s just typical running-in-Texas summerness or if I’ve for-real lost some speed. I mean, last year’s Army Ten Miler was my slowest (in my defense, it was also about 30* warmer) but three months later I finished the 3M half in the top three or four of my 18+ half marathons. Still, I am beginning to think it’s the latter–my pace for this race was about a minute per mile slower than the last two years, which were within seconds of each other. My finishing time was smack in the middle of the previous six. I guess having the Plague all spring is still taking its toll.

On the way back, I could see the flashing blue lights of the beach patrol vehicle that marked the turn for the finish. It seemed to take forever before it appeared any closer. By now I knew I was not going to beat last year’s time, but I at least wanted to make my last mile my fastest. I skipped through a couple of songs on my playlist to help me finish strong. And not only was my last full mile my fastest, the final .1 was even better. Now “fast” is relative, but I was pleased with that final kick.

Verdict on my naked headlamp? It felt fine, but I had a little trouble with sweat on my face since, unlike a visor, the band didn’t absorb anything. But considering a visor makes my head sweat more, I think overall it was a net improvement in sweat production.

I collected my medal and met back up with my family– neither of whom trained, yet they both finished before me–and got some water. After official times were posted (I was something like 14th out of 37 in my age group) a woman came up to me and said she ran behind me the whole race, and I held such a consistent pace that by keeping up with me she was able to finish 3rd in her age group. It’s not often someone can say that about my pace–usually I’m all over the place–but I looked at my splits and realized that there was just a five-second difference between my first and second miles, and eleven seconds between the second and third. Who knew?

We waited around a while–B finished third in his age group with a 29:xx and we weren’t sure if they still gave out awards–but in the end, hunger won. We hadn’t eaten since our late lunch at Fish Tales, and long gone are the days that Sand Crab entry fees got us free BBQ, so we took off.

I like coming to Galveston for this race. The hotel situation, not so much. While it was a good location, we didn’t get our room until after 5pm. We just kind of rolled with it, but all three (!) times we tried to check in, a bunch of people around us were loudly displeased. It seems to me, a good manager in the hospitality business would throw in comped breakfast or something to smooth things over, but they didn’t even offer use of the hotel pool while we waited for our room. 🤷‍♀️

Our dog certainly had a good time without us though:

Monday is my last teacher-prep day before the kids come back Tuesday, and next Saturday is the final race in the Capt’n Karl’s trail series. Should be a restful week 😄