Last year, this race was in August so it was pretty easy for us to spend a couple of days doing the tourist thing in Galveston. This year, they pushed it back a month–the idea was that hotel rooms would be more plentiful (and affordable) after Labor Day. While this is no doubt true, when I first heard about the date change, I wasn’t sure we would be able to make the trip since it was after school started. But in the end, we decided we could drive down Saturday morning and make a quick overnight of it.
We arrived on the island around lunchtime and headed straight to packet pickup. From there we dropped our stuff off at our hotel and walked down the seawall to Jimmy’s, one of the few remaining structures built over the water. The food and the views were excellent.
After lunch we met my friend J who had driven in from Houston to run her first 5K with us. My ten-year old is a sponge for all things WWII aircraft, so the four of us headed to the Lone Star Flight Museum. Earlier we had seen a few vintage planes fly overhead, and as we stepped into the museum–which is also a working hangar since most of these old planes fly a couple of times a week–we saw the flight crews returning the P-51 Mustang and T-6 Texan to their spots on the floor.
B raced around like a tour guide, telling us all about each plane. There was a B-17 Flying Fortress, a B-24 Liberator, a B-25 Mitchell (which was painted like one of Dootlittle’s Raiders), a P-47 Thunderbolt, a F4-U Corsair, the PBY Catalina (a sea plane whose fuselage was basically a boat hull), a Stearman biplane, an SPD Dauntless, a TBM Avenger, and an A-1 Skyraider. He explained each plane, what it was known for and what it could do, and insisted on having his picture taken with each one. He was in heaven.
The dark stripe near the bottom marks the water line from Hurricane Ike.
One of the most fascinating displays, however, was an American flag hanging on the wall, the bottom third marred by a dark, muddy stripe. Turns out that was the water line from Hurricane Ike. I thought of these priceless historical relics underwater–a mile inland–and stopped to look at their display of pictures taken right after the storm. I think they flew many of the planes out ahead of the storm, but it was obvious from the pictures that some stayed behind. We’d seen some damage–broken windows, mostly–on the Catalina, and I wondered if perhaps that was storm damage rather than old age. If its boat hull floated around the hangar in eight feet of water, it could have bumped into all manner of equipment. Upstairs in the gift shop, they’d painted an Ike waterline on a column–it was as high as B’s shoulder. Amazing.
From there, we decided it was time to play miniature golf. Magic Carpet Golf is one of those iconic places with giant obstacles shaped like conch shells, pirate ships, and flamingoes. I got a hole in one about halfway through the round, but the windmill proved to be a challenge for all of us.
The clouds had appeared threatening all day, in the distance. But as we played, they creeped closer. And then a water spout developed. Living in Tornado Alley, I was kind of freaked out by this sight. But over the water, evidently, they’re no danger to us on land. Still, freaky. And we began to wonder if these storms would impact our race that evening too.
After we finished our game, we headed back to the hotel to get organized for the Sand Crab. We’d planned to take the hotel shuttle to Porretto Beach, waaaaaay at the other end of the island, because I’d remembered parking had been so difficult–and expensive–last year. And since the city had begun charging for parking along the seawall, driving held little appeal when a free shuttle was available.
We packed up our flashlights (the weather had cleared up, but I tossed my phone into a ziplock just in case) and boarded the shuttle van. As we walked across the sand to the starting area, we noticed one crucial difference between last year and this year: the rain had packed down the sand, making it much easier to traverse. Excellent–no marshmallow sand this year! We took the obligatory pictures, and B built a couple of sand castles while we waited.
At 8pm, the kids’ race started. A girl of about eleven smoked the pack, running the kids’ mile in under six minutes. The littlest competitor finished about twenty minutes later. They were cute. And then it was time for the runners’ briefing. Unlike last year where they apparently expected us to run on the fluffy sand in the middle of the beach (but we all ran down at the shoreline anyway) the race director told us the official course actually ran along the water. We were told the water stop would be at mile one (so we’d hit it again on the way back, at mile two) and we must cross the timing mat at the turnaround, which would be clearly identifiable in the dark. And then it was go time.
I started my Garmin a few steps before the starting line and quickly veered off towards the water. I settled into a comfortable pace, the wind in my face and the Gulf to my right. The beach was much more deserted this year, although a few families remained on the beach after dark. Occasional obstacles appeared in my flashlight beam–plastic buckets and shovels, a couple of sand castles and moats, and once, a pole from some abandoned fence or pier. Somewhere along the first mile, I saw a guy taking a picture of something white on the sand, and as I got closer, I realized it was a dead shark. It was about 18 inches long, but still. Shark.
My Garmin beeped one mile, but no water stop was in sight. Finally, around 1.25 it appeared in my lights. I slowed to grab a cup, but I knew if I walked too long I’d be doomed so I gulped some water and kept going. Then I started seeing returning runners–I saw M, then got a high five from B. I didn’t see J, but later she said she saw me. And still no 5K turnaround. I kept wondering if my Garmin was acting up again because by the time I reached the halfway point, I was past the expected 1.55 miles.
It seemed to take FOREVER to get back to the water stop. I passed a few people, and a few people passed me. I felt kind of gratified that others were still on their way out, although the woman who stopped me to ask where the turnaround was kind of irritated me. Dude, keep going until you see it, then turn around.
At the three-mile mark, my Garmin beeped its usual acknowledgement. I was pushing hard, trying to finish strong, but I was damned tired and the finish line was nowhere in sight. I started to think someone had mis-measured the course. An entire song (Maroon 5’s “Love Somebody” if you’re curious) played on my ipod before I spotted the finish line and began to veer away from the water’s edge.
My compadres had finished ahead of me and were cheering at the finish line. I think I actually smiled as I crossed, thanks to them. As the volunteers removed their timing chip from my shoe, I looked at my Garmin. It read 3.27 miles. Um, what? I caught up with the others–they too had been shocked at what appeared to be slower-than-expected times. I could chalk mine up to the quirky things my Garmin had been doing, but not when three of us had the same issue. Something was definitely off. But I’d have to wait until I got home to compare my Garmin data from last year’s race, and to check the race organizers’ website after official results were posted.
We got in line for our BBQ–yum–and tried to find somewhere to sit. Last year they’d set up tables and chairs, but this year we were on our own. We were sweaty–sitting on the sand did not seem smart. So we ended up sitting on the big rope that separated the parking lot from the beach, with our plates propped on what appeared to be a seaweed dune. As we ate, we watched an actual sand crab scuttle along underneath the BBQ caterers’ pickup truck. That was kind of cool.
After we ate, we called the hotel to have the shuttle pick us back up. It took more than 45 minutes, and by the time we got back to the hotel and took showers, it was close to midnight. Needless to say, we all slept well.
After breakfast, we went to the beach down by the Pleasure Pier. We swam, collected shells, and watched a beach wedding. But after an hour or so, the huge thunderstorm we had seen off in the distance rolled in, ending our morning on the beach. We packed up and checked out of the hotel, then found a place to eat lunch on the patio. After a stop at Rita’s for gelato, it was time to head home.
This evening, I had a chance to compare my Garmin data from this year’s race and last year’s. A couple of things stand out. First, it says last year’s race was only 2.94 miles to this year’s 3.27, but I finished both races with EXACTLY the same time.
2012 vs 2013
Then I looked at the maps. I zoomed in close enough to see the same text or landmark on both, and it’s obvious that this year’s race was longer–the 2013 turnaround was much further down the beach. So even though I’d taken it easy this summer, I was able to improve my overall pace. Not bad.
But while we’re miffed about the distance (and that my inaccurate time will live on the internet forever), we really just came down to run this race and have fun. And that we did. Thanks, Galveston, for another great trip.