Zilker Relays: Team Injured Turtles

When we signed up for the Zilker Relays back in July, it sounded like a great idea. But by the time the race rolled around, we had become a collection of varied and unusual injuries. I developed this knee thing, S had a foot problem, P sprained her ankle, and in perhaps an attempt to one-up the rest of us, exactly one month before the race, A was hospitalized with a pulmonary embolism. But her doctor cleared her to run, and Friday night we headed downtown to Zilker Park.

The first thing we did was exchange t-shirts. The last few races, shirts ran really small, so I’d ordered a women’s XL. Y’all, it looked like it was made for a child. I put it on and it was obscene. Do they think all runners are tiny? Or did they accidentally use the Asian sizing?

No really, it's a thing

No really, it’s a thing

But I got a properly-sized shirt (a Men’s L, which appears to fit more like a M) and stashed our stuff at the Rogue tent. They’d ordered special singlets for us (also on the smallish side) and I heard more than 270 of the runners were Rogues. We milled around for a while, chatting with people we knew. And it struck me again that I am Someone who Knows People At Races.

Before the race got underway, we took a team photo.

And then we lined up. We’d registered as a Just for Fun team, so we were in a later corral. S and I were the least injured, so we decided S would run the first leg and I would run the second. P would be third, then all of us would run-walk the last leg with A to support her–and make sure she wasn’t out on the course alone.

Starting area

Starting area

The first wave took off. S and I both hoped to finish our 2.5-mile legs in under 30 minutes. Considering we’re both dealing with injury and haven’t run a whole lot the last two months, this was a reasonable goal. The course was basically two out-and-back segments, with the start/transition/finish area in the middle. So once I saw her come back through on her way to the second out-and-back, I knew I needed to start paying attention.

But as I stood there with other second-leg runners, the skies clouded over, the wind picked up, and it began to rain. I shoved my headphones into my pocket (my phone was already in a ziplock bag) and handed my sunglasses to A, who played sherpa until it was her turn to run. As Texans deprived of precipitation, we just laughed and danced in the rain–who doesn’t love cooler temperatures for a race?

By the time S came through the transition area, it had become a full-fledged downpour. And I didn’t care.

Photo credit: Austin American-Statesman Fit City

I started off too fast–so many cheering people at the starting line!–but I settled down a quarter-mile or so into it. My Garmin had shut off, I guess due to the rain, but I got it started again. Water sluiced along the street. At the first turnaround, I walked through it so I wouldn’t slip. On the way back, I had to navigate a new lake that had formed in the road since I’d come through the first time–it covered the road from curb to curb, ankle-deep and murky. I didn’t care about getting my feet wet–that ship had sailed–but I had no idea what the road was like under the water. Fortunately I got through with no mishap.

Coming through the transition area again, I heard more cheering from the spectators (including one of my honor society students) and felt pretty good. No knee pain, just the strain of pushing myself past my lack of training. It was still raining, although not quite as monsoon-y as it had been. Several times, the cyclist escorting the race leader passed me–I think all four of their runners were done before I’d finished my leg.

On the final stretch, I saw SO many familiar faces cheering for me, plus friends on the course as well–it was pretty cool. But still, I was glad to pass the baton (a Nuun tube) to P for her leg. A had grabbed Nuun bottles for all of us, and even though it was a funky flavor, I drank some of it anyway. I paced around a bit until the post-race queasiness had passed, and then I rejoined my team and cheered on the runners. My Garmin had lost about a quarter-mile, but when I finally looked at the race clock, I saw that it still read under an hour so I knew I’d made it right around my 30-minute goal.

By now the rain had stopped. It was just wet and humid. P came through, headed out for the second out-and-back, so S and I got ready to run again. Most of the teams had finished by this point–just a few fourth-leg runners remained in the transition area. We were pretty sure we’d end up finishing last, but we didn’t really care. Finish-and-not-die had taken on a whole new meaning after A’s diagnosis a few weeks ago–we were just happy to be out there together.

P passed off the Nuun tube to A and peeled off. I could tell her ankle hurt, and she needed a breather. A took off, practically leaving S and me in the dust. For someone who planned only to run-walk, she looked pretty strong! The puddles had receded and the road was clearer, but as we made the turnaround and headed back, we encountered people who were walking down the middle of the road, headed toward their cars. They were done and going home, and we were still out there. We started calling ourselves Team Womp Womp like the sad trombone sound.

As we ran through the transition area on our way out for the final segment, P rejoined us. We had solidly taken control of last place–that last mile, a motorcycle cop kept driving up behind us. For the final quarter-mile a guy in a golf cart followed us, his headlights illuminating the now dark stretch of road. I was feeling the extra effort of running two legs–which clearly I had underestimated when we decided to do the last leg together. The spectators were gone, but we finished strong, all four of us as a team.

They advertised this race as walker-friendly and family-friendly, but from where I stood it looked like most of the teams were pretty hard-core. We finished in (what I think is a respectable) 2:01 and they closed up shop behind us. But considering all that the four of us have been through, injury- and health-wise recently, it felt like an accomplishment all the same.

And whether you run a 50-minute ten-mile relay or a two-hour one, the post-race tacos still taste just as good.

Photo credit: Austin American-Statesman Fit City