Race day started early–at about 5:45am, five of us crammed into the car. My friend J and I were running the race, and my husband and son plus her son (who are great friends) made up our support crew/cheering squad. My virtual cheerleaders also represented with texts and Facebook messages–I loved that people got up early to wish us well!
When we got out of the car, it was 41 and really windy. I hadn’t planned on wearing my jacket, but the wind changed my mind at the last minute. Yet as we walked to the general starting area, we noticed a lot of people wearing shorts or short sleeves. Brrr. We waited in line for the port-a-potties (which would have gone faster if one woman hadn’t allowed her two friends to cut the line–snarl), and by then it was nearly time to start. The race was capped at 7000, but they were still taking late registrations at packet pickup, so I’m not sure if they actually reached that number or not. But a whole lot of people huddled together in the dark, like penguins trying to stay warm. At 6:45, we ditched our ratty sweatpants, I fiddled with my Garmin, which turned out to be a big fail (more on that later), and we were off.
For me, the first mile is the hardest. Everyone else is so much faster, and we’re all jammed up together. I got over to the right almost immediately, to stay out of the way, but at one point, maybe a quarter-mile into it as we ran directly into the wind, my hat blew off. Thankfully a woman behind me grabbed it and I don’t think I slowed anyone else down.
I guess the port-a-potty lines were too long for some folks, because even before we reached the first mile marker, a bunch of guys veered off into the woods. Eh, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, there is no dignity in distance running.
Anyway, my main goal was to beat my San Antonio time with a secondary goal to beat it by 16 minutes. To achieve those I planned to run to the mile markers, then walk for a minute, lather rinse repeat. I’d had to walk more than I wanted in San Antonio, so I figured if I could just run more, I’d easily make that first goal. The second was going to be more difficult.
The first five miles passed pretty uneventfully, although I saw EMS treating a guy for something–he was standing up, so it probably wasn’t too serious. Then, just past the water stop at mile five, I realized that my Garmin was paused and was just over a mile behind. I guess when I’d taken my gloves off, I’d inadvertently hit the button. Damn damn double damn. I had a good pace going and I could guess, but I knew it would be close and guessing might not be good enough for that second goal. Not knowing exactly what I had to do kind of sucked.
At mile six, my support squad waited. They’d been out there a while in the cold–J passed by about 30 minutes ahead of me–and I was so happy to see them, especially considering I was almost halfway done! I took a chance and gave them my jacket–I was a little too warm with it, and I figured if I got cold again, well, I’d just have to go faster.
This part of the course went through a residential area, and lots of people stood outside with signs, cowbells, and once, Kleenex. I’d dropped my little sweat towel somewhere around mile three, so I really appreciated the Kleenex! All the way through mile 10, I felt pretty good, maintaining my plan of running to the mile markers and walking for a minute. The only other time I walked was at the water stops. I felt like I was way ahead of my San Antonio pace, but I was still just guessing. The best news was that my hip flexor didn’t hurt AT ALL.
Somewhere around mile 11, as we approached the University of Texas campus, the course got a little hilly. But my Texas Pride reared its head as I crested a hill and saw the Tower a couple of blocks away. Almost done! But I’d made the classic mistake of thinking “Only a 5K left!” at mile 10. Three miles doesn’t sound like much, but after running 10, it’s no simple 5K. And this one was a doozy. The mile 12 marker was at the top of the hill at 26th and Red River–a lovely two-stage incline. Red River went up, down past the LBJ Library, up again past the football stadium, and down to 19th Street, so I walked up and let momentum push me down as fast as I could go. At Trinity Street, my 9-year old joined me. The hills had kicked my butt and I didn’t have much left–I admit I walked some at freaking 12.75. But with the 13-mile marker in sight, I gave it everything I had. I turned the corner into the chute, hand-in-hand with my kid, and we crossed the finish line together. I got a high-five, a space blanket, and a medal, in that order.
The temperature had not warmed up at all, and the wind blew my space blanket around my shoulders. The gun time on the clock at the finish line was better than my San Antonio time, so I had a shiny new half-marathon PR. But I didn’t know how much time had elapsed between the gun and my crossing the starting line, so I had to wait for them to post the results before I knew whether I’d achieved my second goal. In the car on the way home, I found the official results on my phone. I’d gotten close–I knocked 12 minutes off my San Antonio time, and I’m pretty happy with that. I wonder, though, if my Garmin had been accurate, if I had known exactly where I stood the second half of the race, could I have pushed myself a little more?
Still, I have a lot to be proud of. Twelve minutes is a big difference, and my overall pace was faster than I’ve ever maintained over a long distance, in races or training. And now I have not one but two hard-earned half-marathon medals on my bookshelf.