Saturday afternoon, we drove from Austin to College Station. It’s about a two-hour drive, and we went straight to the expo, which was held at one of the high schools. The place was crowded, but it was well-organized and we retrieved our bibs, participant shirts, and Swiftwick socks quickly and easily.
From there, we checked in to our hotel, then got ourselves organized for the race. We had dinner plans with friends later, but in the meantime we just kinda kicked back until it was time to go. Fortunately the restaurant–Grub Burger Bar–was only a block or two away, so we walked. I needed to move around a bit after the drive, especially since I hadn’t run in a week. I had a plain cheeseburger and some onion rings–nothing unusual or different the night before a race!
After dinner, we set our alarms for 5am. The race started at 7am, but their emails recommended we arrive by six. I slept better then I thought I would, and by 5:30 we were heading out. The weather was about 60*, but unfortunately the humidity was something like 95%. Yikes.
The race started at Wolf Pen Park, adjacent to the Post Oak Mall, which provided the parking. As promised, it was easy to get in and park, and it was only a short walk to the starting area. We met up with our friends, took a couple of pictures, made last-minute bathroom stops, and it was time to go.
The first three or four miles went by pretty quickly. My ipod was picking good songs and I tried just to get lost in the mile I was in rather than worry about how far I still had to go. I spent a long time contemplating the slogan on the back of someone’s shirt, and I wondered what possessed one homeowner to paint the house Highway Department Yellow. The streets were not in the best shape, and I had to pay attention to cracks and holes and other dangers.
At about Mile Four, the full split off from the half, and I still felt good. I was holding a decent pace and did not have any pain. This part of the course ran through residential areas, and neighbors had come out to cheer the runners. I could have done without the woman who was smoking in her driveway, but I loved seeing the one guy wearing a Longhorn sweatshirt. It seemed like every person in this town was decked out in Aggie maroon, so I waved “Hook ‘Em Horns” at him and he cheered.
By now my watch was ahead of the mile markers, and it hit six miles long before the 10K split. At this point I was starting to feel some soreness in my hip flexors and it slowed me down a bit. At Mile Seven we turned into the Texas A&M campus itself, where many of the streets were brick. Lots of spirit organizations had come out, and around Mile Nine volunteers had not only oranges and bananas, but gummy bears and Twizzlers. YUM.
As I ran around the football stadium, my ipod selected Django Walker’s song “Texas Longhorn,” which cracked me up. A&M and Texas are (were?) huge rivals, but we haven’t met on the football field since 2011 (a game Texas won). And I was tired of all the maroon everywhere, so I think my ipod was trying to cheer me up. Because by now my legs were really sore and I’d slowed down a lot. By Mile 10 I knew my loose goal was gone, but I had another problem: I was alternating between dizzy and queasy. I ran until I thought I would pass out or barf, then walked until I could run again. I usually don’t think three miles is terribly long, but today it was interminable.
The finish was downhill and I ran it in. I received my medal, then collected my finisher shirt. Unfortunately they had run out of my size (grr) so I ended up with one that’s probably a little too big. I grabbed some water, then continued on to the food area. Volunteers handed out styrofoam containers to runners, allowing us to wander around and collect breakfast tacos, burgers, pizza rolls, and some stuff I didn’t see. I got a few things, but I didn’t feel like eating just yet. There was a trailer distributing beer, and next to that were three margarita machines. They didn’t look terribly icy though, so I passed. I found several of my friends, then went to go find the others. I grabbed another bottle of water, then decided to sit on the curb. We were waiting for our last runner to finish, and as I sat there, I started to spiral downhill. Again. This happened after the Army Ten-Miler and the Cleveland half, but both times it hit later. Today, as I sat there on the curb, I knew I was in trouble.
Let’s just say the grape electrolyte drink was better the first time I tasted it.
My friends steered me to the medical tent, and I didn’t protest. Someone gave me a cold towel and sat me on a cot. They asked me a zillion questions, and they figured that even though I’d had water at every water stop, I was probably dehydrated. I sipped water, hoping the worst was over. I tried to stand up, but that was a no-go. I sat back down, and one of the doctors came over to talk to me. She had me lie down with my feet elevated and sip some more water. Someone brought me one of those space blankets–I was starting to shiver–and I sipped my water while I tried to get myself together.
See, we’d taken my car, but it is a stick shift. It was up to me to get us back to the hotel, then back to Austin. I needed some time, but the hotel had grudgingly given us just 30 extra minutes for “late” checkout, and time was running out. I didn’t feel okay to drive yet, so I called my husband–I had made the reservations under his rewards account–and asked him to call the hotel and explain the situation. He informed them we’d need some more time, and while they were less than compassionate, they said they would let the cleaning crew know. Thanks, Towne Place Suites, your efforts at customer service were underwhelming.
A few minutes later I decided to try to stand again. I didn’t immediately feel like falling back down, so I took a few tentative steps, then slowly walked through the park to the car. The space blanket flapped in the wind, but I was glad I had it. People looked at me weirdly though–this was a warm, humid race, and here’s this girl wrapped in a space blanket. But whatever, I didn’t care.
The drive back to the hotel took significantly longer than this morning because we had to loop under the highway, sit through a really long light, and make a bunch of left turns, but we got back and showered and packed up only 30 minutes late. I desperately craved an iced tea, so we set out to find sustenance. We settled on a Mexican place–I felt well enough to eat a couple of tacos by then, and although I didn’t finish them both, the iced tea helped a lot. By the time we set the GPS for home, I felt pretty normal. I’m pretty sure even now, half a day later, I’m operating at a calorie deficit though.
This was definitely not the race I envisioned. And clearly I need to rethink some of my fueling strategies. But even though I had to walk a lot, it was my personal-worst time, and I spent nearly an hour in the medical tent, I know I (literally!) gave everything I had to finish this race.
I heard later that the race director ran in with the final marathon finishers. Throughout the event, I was impressed by the organizers’ attention to detail–my performance was my own, not a reflection on their hard work. I’m also incredibly grateful for my friends who hung around the medical area, carried my stuff, made sure my finisher shirt didn’t get lost, and just generally looked after me. Thank you!
And with that, my 2014 races are finished. But don’t worry, it all starts up again in January!