At 6:00am we left the hotel for the half-mile walk to the starting line. The corrals lined up on the back side of Browns Stadium (which won’t be named this for long–it has acquired a corporate sponsor and they’re already taking down the sign on one side of the stadium, preparing to call it something else). The stadium was open so we opted for these restrooms instead of porta-potties. Always a good call, I’d say. Then we checked out the field and we got a guy to take our picture. Several former Texas players had played for the Browns over the years, so it was kind of cool to be inside the stadium I’d seen many times on television.
Inside the stadium
J is quite a bit faster than K and me, so as we headed to the corrals, we hugged her, wished her luck (her Achilles worried me), and separated. K and I planned to run together with the understanding that she could run ahead if my injuries slowed me down. I was hopeful, but that hilly first mile concerned me.
Obligatory foot picture
The race got underway at 7:00 sharp; K and I crossed the starting line about eight minutes later. She had trouble with her Runkeeper app right from the start, and I grumbled about the hills and my hip. But the crowd was lined up and cheering–it was a great atmosphere! We fired up our playlists (which we’d agonized over the last week) and set off.
Check out the shirt in front of me!
As we ascended the highway ramp, we cracked up at the spectator holding a mannequin leg in one hand, and in the other a sign that said “This race is LEG–wait for it–endary!” in a hilarious homage to “How I Met Your Mother.”
The next two miles or so were not that exciting, scenery-wise, other than the girl we dubbed Rainbow Brite. Highways and overpasses, mostly. Occasionally a runner appeared from or veered off toward the trees next to the road–I’ve always said there’s no shame in distance running, although I’d have to be pretty desperate to take a roadside pit stop, I think. Especially at mile two. Somewhere around here I told K that if my hip didn’t loosen up soon, the rest of this race was gonna suck. My calf felt fine, although the increasing hip pain could have been obscuring it. The streets were cracked and uneven, and I was afraid I would twist an ankle on top of everything else.
The water stops were staffed by cheering, enthusiastic volunteers with both water and blue PowerAde. At first I stuck with water, but after about two miles the air felt warm and humid so I started grabbing a PowerAde and a water each time.
This part of the route ran parallel to Lake Erie, and the breeze was nice. Soon we reached Edgewater Park and the neighborhood beyond. Residents of huge, gorgeous houses stood on their huge, gorgeous lawns, cheering and holding signs. Little kids still in pajamas played with dogs. K belted out songs from her iPod. She may have danced too. It was festive.
Edgewater was as far west as we’d go, so soon the course turned south, then east. The neighborhoods got a bit, um, less affluent–one house was burned out, although it appeared the fire had occurred some time ago–but families stood outside cheering, ringing bells, and clapping. I appreciated every one of them. At the top of a short hill, a man stood holding a small dog. I was tempted to ask if he would carry me instead. Not a good sign when we hadn’t even reached the 10k split yet.
We hoofed it through the no-kidnap zone and crossed the 10k mark. I got the text (yes, I was tracking myself because the texts include a projected finishing time) and saw that we were behind our A-Goal pace. We could still do it, but it would require a slightly faster pace. I started to revise my goal, accepting that I was hurting and would probably only get slower from here. K was feeling good though, and when we reached the mile eight marker, I encouraged her to run ahead. I didn’t want to slow her down any more than I already had. This was her first half, and if she could do it faster, I wanted her to achieve that. I turned up my music, took two more Advil, and soldiered on.
The second half of the race is sort of a blur for me. Some folks handed out beer (“hydration AND carbs!”) and others blasted music. One woman held out a water bottle and a Gu packet, saying “Take it if you need it” to runners. Some people at a church had set up a stage and were singing off-key karaoke. A group of women flipped their hair to One Direction’s “What MakesYou Beautiful.” Drivers looked pissed off that intersections were closed. Streets still sucked–lots of cracks and potholes, and even a stretch of uneven cobblestones. I walked more than I wanted to.
Between miles 10-11, the course crossed the enormous Lorain-Carnegie bridge. About halfway across, I spotted K’s husband and the kids. They cheered and waved, and it was so motivating. I sped up down the other side of the bridge to the eleven-mile marker. Two-point-one to go.
At the end of the bridge I made the left turn at the baseball stadium and passed the Hard Rock Cafe, and soon I started seeing people wearing medals. I also saw a guy getting loaded into an ambulance, and I appreciated that I just had some leg pain. Then more sirens and another ambulance. Sirens during races have never meant good things, but now, for a minute, I thought of the Boston Marathon finish line. But the yellow-vested volunteers continued standing along the road’s center stripe, high-fiving runners as we passed. “Less than half a mile now!” they shouted. I was grateful for them.
I made the left turn onto East Ninth, where the half split from the full. Spectators were everywhere. I could hear music. Marathoners were coming in from the other direction–they ran on the right, half-marathoners on the left. I was impressed–these runners were finishing a full marathon in the time it took me to run a half. I crossed an intersection lined with SWAT team members in full gear, and I remembered why they were there. At the bottom of the hill I made the final left turn in front of the Rock Hall. Spectators were three and four deep, cheering and shouting and making noise. One guy banged a drum, and others held signs. The crowd support was fantastic!
My Garmin beeped for mile 13 but I still couldn’t see the finish line. My hip flexor screamed–I’m sure I looked awkward and pitiful. Bon Jovi shouted “It’s my life, and it’s now or never!” through my headphones. And then, there it was: the blue banner, the timing mat, the volunteers with the medals. Just after I crossed the finish line, about five texts came in–the tracking one, and congratulatory ones from people who had obviously been tracking me.
I gratefully accepted a medal, water, and pretzels, in that order. I made my way out of the finishers’ area and got a text from J–she and K were trying to find me. I headed to the firefighters’ memorial right next to the finishers’ area and told her to meet me there. I hoped that wasn’t like saying “Meet me at Big Tex” at the Texas State Fair, an impossible task. And then she and K appeared out of the crowd, and we had a three-way hug moment. We were a motley crew of injuries and emotions, and now finishers’ medals too.
The guitar spins around!
I saw some people with popsicles and made it my mission to locate the source. Naturally, they were inside the finishers’ area, but we stood at the fence and waved at one of the volunteers, who cheerfully brought over a couple of popsicles for us. I have no idea what brand it was or anything else, but at that moment it was the best popsicle on earth.
We gingerly and slowly made the half-mile walk back to our hotel, showered, packed up, and got in line to check out. As we stood there, a huge wave of nausea overtook me, and I leaned against the wall. K said I looked pale. I tossed her my credit card and asked her to put half of our room bill on it (J had another room for her and the boys), and I went in search of a restroom.
After a few minutes I felt a tiny bit better, so we walked over to Tower City in search of food. I wasn’t even a little hungry, but J was threatening to gnaw off her own arm, so off we went. I just ordered water and iced tea; I must have looked really bad because the waiter brought me a pile of saltine crackers too. As lunch went on, I just got worse and worse. I’m pretty sure at one point I put my head down on the table.
I’ll spare you the details, but a few trips to the restroom later, and I felt markedly better. Still had no appetite, but I wasn’t contemplating curling up in a ball on the floor, either. I don’t know if it was the Advil from mile eight, the PowerAdes at every water stop, or just my body’s way of saying ENOUGH. But there was rebellion. And it was not fun.
Unfortunately, J had a six-hour drive ahead of her, so she had to hit the road. We walked her back to the hotel parking garage and said our goodbyes. We piled in K’s car–I wasn’t flying out until the next day, so they were stuck with pathetic post-race me for a while longer. When we got back to their house, I curled up on their super-comfy couch for a while. I drank some water, and after an hour or so I ate half a breakfast bar. I started to feel more like myself, which was good for a number of reasons.
Aside from the obvious, I was hoping to meet my cousin for dinner–I haven’t seen her since we were kids. She ran the half-marathon too, but she’s much faster and we didn’t cross paths at all. We’d been texting and trying to arrange a get-together, but the universe hadn’t quite aligned right Friday or Saturday. Post-race Sunday was sort of our last opportunity. So when I started to perk up, I texted her and we worked out some dinner plans.
We went to B-Spot. I had packed light, so all I had was jeans and a t-shirt–I hoped that was good enough for the Iron Chef. Apparently not, as we had to wait about an hour for a table, then got stuck in the back with a server who never once refilled drinks. The food was good though, and the Vanilla Bean milkshake restored pretty much all of the 2000+ calories I’d burned (and otherwise lost). It was great to catch up with my cousin, and I hope she will come visit Austin soon. Our family is not close, geographically or otherwise, so I am glad I got the chance to see her this trip.
We were all tired, and the food coma didn’t make things any easier. We headed back to K’s house, where I slept like a rock. Around lunchtime Monday, we headed to the airport. Despite the things that went wrong for me, race-wise, I’d had a great weekend. Now it’s time to go back to the real world, until next time.