Wednesday, February 25, 2015

NXNA Austin Garden Tour

May 2014
Our garden is going to be on a Garden Tour!! The NXNA Garden & Artisan Tour will be May 2nd from 10am to 4pm. I'm excited to share my garden and my love of native plants with visitors that day and I hope I'll be able to inspire more people to get rid of their non-native grass and plant Texas natives.
October 2014
I'm really happy with the front yard so far, it's not finished, but I feel like we've accomplished a lot in a year and a half, about 3/4 of the non-native grass is gone and has been replaced with Texas native plants that need less water and maintenance and attract things like butterflies and hummingbirds. And they look really pretty too.
July 2013

January 2015
One of my main goals with tearing out grass and putting in native plants is to attract wildlife like butterflies and hummingbirds. Last year, I counted at least 6 different species of butterflies in the garden, and caterpillars from at least 3 of those species, including monarchs.
Monarch butterfly on Blackfoot Daisy, October 2014
 A few of my favorite plants in the gardens:
Black-eyed Susans May 2014

Purple Coneflower July 2014
Fall Asters October 2014
Gaura July 2014
I don't have many pictures of the process of making the gardens- none of tearing out grass or laying newspaper, just a couple from the most recent bed just after planting the 4-inch plants from the Wildflower Center fall plant sale.
Front bed just after planting, October 2014
Front bed just after planting, October 2014
And one after laying newspaper and granite. It looks darker brown when it's first put down, and after a few rains it gets more pinkish.
Granite just added in front bed, October 2014
The proceeds from the Garden Tour will go to Walnut Creek Park and McBee Elementary school. There will be 15 gardens on the tour, tickets are $10 and can be purchased here starting March 1st.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Austin Marathon 2015

Austin Fit!! Photo by Nathan Choe
I'm just going to start off saying this didn't turn out to be the marathon I wanted. I had some fairly bad asthma issues and I was a lot slower than I'd hoped. But, I can't even come close to calling it a "bad race" because let's face it, finishing a marathon is a win no matter the time or conditions. And even though I didn't feel my best or meet my time goals, I still really enjoyed the marathon, in some ways it was fun to slow down and really see all the spectators and signs and stop and talk with friends along the course. I even got to "run" with Jeff for a mile or so. My number one goal at any race is always to have fun, so I did accomplish at least one of my goals!

Race morning was pretty typical, I had fun hanging out with all the other Austin Fitters and Coach Cassandra wanted to take all kinds of group pictures :) I was actually pretty happy with the weather, not too cold, but not warm either. I didn't really notice the humidity before the start. As we all lined up around the 5:00 hour pace sign, I got really excited. I'd planned to start the race with Cindy and Rosa, but as we waited to cross the start line, I kept inching further and further ahead without realizing it. When I looked behind me, I only saw 1 or 2 of my "Orange 11" group way behind me. I figured Cindy and Rosa would catch me in the first half mile and we'd run together at least for a while.
Waiting to start. Photo by Ed Swarthout
As I got to the start line, I waved at Logan and he announced "good morning Heather" :) it's fun knowing the announcer. Shortly after I crossed the start line, the 4:40 pace group passed me, guess I "inched" forward quite a bit! Good thing I'm good at running my own pace and letting people pass! I was able to enjoy the sea of people running up Congress for awhile and I saw some great signs in the first couple miles. Bart passed me and I told him to have a great race. I kept thinking Cindy and Rosa should be right behind me, but they weren't.
More Orange 11's with Coach Cass on the left and Cindy & Rosa on the right
Around mile 3 I thought my legs felt a little tired and I thought that probably wasn't good. I haven't had asthma issues in a really long time, so I didn't think about the fact that that weird tired legs feeling was always my first sign that my lungs weren't working well. Cassandra and a few of the Orange 11s finally caught me a little after mile 3. I chatted with Cass for a minute and realized I was having trouble talking, I'm a chatty runner, so I thought maybe I was going too fast (although my mile splits had been pretty much right on so far). I slowed down a little, but not much since South First is the fastest part of the marathon! I high-fived Rhonda on South First and hugged Julie at the Team Beef cheering section. She even made me a chalk sign in the road!

Julie's chalk sign for me!
The cheering section at City Hall was as awesome as I'd hoped, tons of people, lots of encouragement, it was great! I should have known that "Livestrong Way" would be "Freescale Way" this year since Freescale is the title sponsor this year-duh! Anyway, Freescale Way did not disappoint, tons of people, noise, encouragement, even singing.

But as I made my way around Austin High, I knew I was way too out of breath and even during walk breaks I wasn't catching my breath- not cool. I had to walk more than I wanted and it was only mile 8. Kim & Marie caught up to me on Lake Austin and as always, they were encouraging and awesome, Marie said "I'm so happy to see you're having an awesome, wonderful race too!" I thought, "the wheels are falling off for me" but I said "thanks, you're looking great" or something like that instead, I didn't want them to worry about me or to dampen the awesome day they were having.

My Orange 11 group, with Marie in Orange front and center and Kim behind her grinning :)
About mile 11, I finally saw Jeff, I told him I was slower than I wanted to be, but I was ok. He walked up one of the Expo hills with me. By the time I got off Expo, I was really having trouble breathing and not feeling great. I saw Jeff again at mile 13 and told him I couldn't breathe well. He asked if I had my, no, I haven't been carrying it for over a year now, because my asthma just hasn't been an issue. (Yes, I know...lesson learned, it's back in my fuel belt now.) He offered to go home and find my old inhaler and bring it to me at mile 18. I wasn't sure it would help, but it was worth a try!

On Bull Creek I ran into Ed, a guy I know through Coach Cindy. We passed a spectator aid station. There were tons of spectators with their own tables set up with small aid stations offering oranges, gels, bananas, water, kleenex, mimosas, beers, bandaids, etc. It was really awesome and much appreciated! This spectator's aid station had beer and as we ran by he called out what he had to offer, Ed made a quick u-turn and when he caught back up to me, he had a cup of beer in his hand, "it looked like a nice IPA, I couldn't turn it down" he said. I've always admired runners who can drink beer during a race!

Just after the mile 16 race aid station- which was awesome, with lots of volunteers and spectators, and even another contingent of Freescale spectators- I saw Jeff riding toward me, I stopped to talk to him, my voice was actually hoarse from not being able to breathe well. He had found one of my old inhalers and by some miracle it still worked. It took me 4 tries to get a deep enough breath to get the albuterol into my lungs, but once it did, I could tell it was going to help. By this time I knew my lungs wouldn't fully recover before the end of the marathon and I had no hope of a PR, so I just planned to finish in however long it took and have a good time along the way.

I stopped and talked to Devon at mile 16.5, Annette at 17 and Shayla, Kendra & Will at 17.5. I enjoyed running/walking through Crestview, with all the spectators still out in full force, lots of house parties and awesome signs!
Mile 16.5, running toward Devon, she later said "For an extra-tough marathon, you sure made it look easy!" Photo by Devon Bijansky
 Around mile 20 Lisa and Adrenne caught me and I ran/walked with them for a few miles. My voice was still very hoarse, and Adrenne suggested her peppermint breath spray might open my throat & lungs a bit. I took the spray and proceeded to spray the side of my face! That stuff burns on the skin! I did get another spray into my mouth and it did seem to help a little.

Photobombing Adrenne pre-race
Jeff found me again on North Loop and jogged/walked with us for a little while. I introduced him to Lisa & Adrenne. On Duval, I saw David & Betsy and expressed my disappointment that they didn't have jello shots for the runners this year! Betsy walked with me for a little while too and reminded me to look at all the pretty houses on 49th street. At this point I only had about 3.5 miles to go, but man my legs hurt and I knew I was going to finish over 6 hours which was disappointing (even though I said I just wanted to finish). But I kept moving forward and eventually got to campus and then to San Jacinto and the BIG hill near the finish, I turned the corner, and ran into the finisher chute and across the finish line! It may not have been the marathon I wanted, but crossing the finish line was still spectacular!

My third Austin Marathon finisher medal
Me, Adrenne & Lisa, so happy I had these girls for company those last few miles!
Special thanks to Jeff for being my biggest supporter and always being there when I need him! Photo by Nathan Choe

Friday, February 13, 2015

Austin Marathon Pre-race

I'll be running the Austin Marathon for the third time on Sunday. Before my first marathon in 2010 I did a post on things I was looking forward to seeing on the course. There were 12 things on the list, I don't know why 12, but Jeff said I should have had 26 things, 1 for each mile. So this time I've got 26 things I'm looking forward to seeing during the race, roughly corresponding to each mile.
1. Crossing Town Lake on the Congress bridge and seeing ALL those people running up Congress-so cool!! I loved this during my first few Austin Marathon & Half Marathon races and now the start line is back to the perfect spot to see the full effect of ALL those people running :)
from the 2009 race, if you look up Congress you can see the sea of runners
 2. Passing Home Slice and Guero's, Guero's usually has breakfast tacos going and they smell great!
Guero's at night, obviously it will look a little different on marathon morning!
3. Turning onto S. 1st St and getting a few miles of DOWNHILL!!

4. Spectators on S. 1st St. It's no secret that I LOVE seeing spectators out on the course and I get a lot of energy from them. S. 1st seems to always be full of spectators...many of them in full "Keep Austin Weird" fashion :)

5. Passing Gourdough's on S. 1st, it was our indulgence after the marathon in 2010, haven't been there in a loooong time.

6.  Crossing Town Lake on the First Street bridge. I just love to look at Town Lake.
Taken during the 2009 Cap Tex Tri

7. Austin City Hall! I love our city hall, it's a really cool building, it's actually shaped like an armadillo and has awesome Texas gardens and seating around it. It's also a perfect spectating spot, so I'm hoping to get a lift from the cheering section there :)

8. I loved seeing the HUGE crowd of spectators on "Livestrong Way" (Cesar Chavez) in 2013, there were hundreds (if not over a thousand) people out wearing yellow, with yellow signs, yellow chalk on the ground and all cheering their hearts out- it was amazing! One of the highlights of my 2013 marathon! I really hope they're back this year!
"Livestrong Way" 2013
9. Lake Austin Blvd is part of an iconic Austin running route called "scenic loop". I always enjoy racing on Lake Austin because I can look around and try to catch a glimpse of Lake Austin since I don't have to worry about car traffic on race day.

10. The adorable houses on Enfield and Exposition (many of them are huge mansions now, but it's still a pretty area). I love this area, before my first Austin Half, Jeff and I drove the course and I thought this was one of the cutest neighborhoods I'd ever seen.  

11. Getting up the steepest hill in the race! In 2013, I had a spectating crew cheering me up that hill, so I'm hoping for some great spectator support there this year too!
Jim, Jeff, Ingrid  & Shayla (Katherine & Kristen not pictured) cheering me up Expo in 2013
 12. Finishing the Exposition hills! I've never loved running Expo and I haven't run a lot of hills this year, so I'll be happy to get through that section! 

13.  Bull Creek means over halfway and finished with the steepest hills-Yay!! I've been offered a beer on Bull Creek both times I've run the marathon- that's a little early in the run to start drinking :)

14. Shoal Creek Nursery on Hancock. I love plants and it's really pretty there.
Shoal Creek Nursery
15.  Turning onto White Rock, I run and bike the next 5-6 miles of the course all the time, it's close to home, so it always feels good to get to this point.

16.  Seeing Devon at Greenlawn & Great Northern, I love seeing all the spectators out there, and it's fun to see people when I don't expect it, but it's also fun to look forward to seeing someone in a specific place :)

17. Seeing Annette at Foster & Rockwood, it wouldn't be the Austin Marathon without Annette at Foster & Rockwood!

18. I really hope I get to see Domino the GIANT Violet Crown pig somewhere in Crestview.


19. Jenny Corner. Jenny is off in New Mexico skiing this winter so she won't be at her corner to give hugs this year, but of course I will think about her when I turn onto Arroyo Seco.

20.  The Peter Pan house. It has a really pretty yard, lots of butterfly and hummingbird plants, a very cute and sweet golden retriever who is always on the porch and it says "Second to the right and straight on till morning" on the porch.
The Peter Pan House

21. The Teddy Bear Guillotine!! It hasn't been up for almost 3 years, but I'm hoping this house will do something fun for the marathon. North Loop just has a funky, fun, Austin vibe and some of the houses really show that. There is still an impaled witch from Halloween on the top of the pole to the right in the pictures
The Teddy Bear Guillotine, 2012
 22. The cute houses on Duval, 41st & Red River.  After living in Austin, I think I actually like this neighborhood (Hyde Park) better than the Enfield (Tarrytown) neighborhood. 

 24. The house parties on Duval are always entertaining. And I hope to see Amy & Betsy again this year, maybe I'll really take one of their jello shots this time :)
pretending to take a jello shot during the 2013 marathon

25.  Running down San Jac on campus and seeing the Capitol! Less than 2 miles to go!

26.  I hope someone as much fun as Tracy is around to encourage me when I run/walk/crawl up the insult hill on San Jac!

26.2.   The Finish Line!!!!!!
My first Austin Half Marathon in 2008
Good luck to everyone else running this weekend and an early THANK YOU to everyone planning to be on the course volunteering or spectating!