I get by with a little help from my friends

By Friday morning, I was about 90% sure that barring some weird setback, I’d try to run the 3M Half Marathon on Sunday. Which of course meant that my calf felt sore most of the afternoon.

Packet pickup opened at 2pm Friday. Unfortunately, this year it was held at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. I say unfortunately not because there’s something wrong with the museum–it’s really nice and I like going there. But it’s downtown–two blocks from the Capitol where the Legislature just went back into session, and it’s across the street from the University of Texas campus where classes also resumed this week–which means parking is impossible and expensive. When I read that packet pickup would be here, I predicted there’d be problems.

I took the day off work Friday–remember K from the 2013 Army Ten-Miler? She and her friend (also, and confusingly, K–so let’s go with KP and KC) were meeting up in Austin to run this race together, and her plane arrived Friday afternoon. With the dicey parking situation, I didn’t think we’d want to try parking two (or three) cars downtown, so S and I met up with KP at a Starbucks, left her rental car, and headed to the Bullock. As I drove down MLK Blvd, I could see a long line of cars waiting to turn left on Congress in front of the museum, so I decided to turn two blocks earlier. I used to park down here for football games, and while a lot of the landscape has changed over the years, I still knew the back way. And lo and behold, I scored a street space on a one-way street a block off Congress. I parallel parked–to the left, in a stick shift, in one try–and we fed the meter enough change to last 30 minutes. Haha, that was optimistic.

If you’ve ever been inside the Bullock, you know the three-story staircase winds around the outside of a dome-shaped atrium, much like the Capitol rotunda. There’s a map of Texas on the floor, and behind it is more open space, presumably to handle the ticket lines and hordes of field trip kids. Well, when we walked in, we were directed to the end of the line, which wrapped around the atrium and up all three flights of stairs. We got there 20 minutes after packet pickup began. After about ten minutes, museum volunteers rearranged the lines so they snaked across the floor like a line at Six Flags to accommodate more people.

After 20 minutes, we knew we’d need more money in the meter, so S handed me her printed confirmation and ran back to the car. By the time she’d returned, we’d made it about 3/4 up the staircase.

Is this Six Flags or packet pickup?

Is this Six Flags or packet pickup?

We finally made it to the “expo” which was really about six vendors crammed into the middle of what appeared to be a storage room, with two lines of runners moving around the outside edge. About 10 volunteers worked at the pickup booths, scanning bibs and packing the 3M goody bag. There really wasn’t much expo to peruse, so we bailed out. As we left, the line to drive into the Bullock’s parking garage (and paying $8 for the privilege) wrapped around the block.

3M goodies and a great shirt

3M goodies and a shirt with the course map

All in all, we waited just about an hour. Which meant it was now 3:15 on a Friday afternoon, downtown. Yippee. But eventually we made it home. I heard it got worse before it got better.

Sunday morning, we picked up KP and KC, then drove the 15 minutes or so to the start. As usual, M and B were our Sherpas–they dropped us off, then planned to meet us halfway and at the finish. We met up with some friends, waited in the porta-potty lines, and headed over to the start area. I had no idea what to expect at all–whether my calf would hold up, if my stomach would revolt again, how my six-week hiatus affected my endurance, nothing.

I’d been given the green light to run–the only caveat was that if my calf hurt beyond a three on the pain scale, I’d have to walk. I couldn’t begin to predict whether it would hurt on mile one and get worse, or whether it would stay constant all race. Constant was okay, but what if it deteriorated early? Would I have to DNF? So many unknowns that the Magic 8 Ball couldn’t clear up for me.

The race begins up a gradual incline, and while my leg felt a little sore, it was just a dull ache, not stabbing pain. Nowhere near a three. KP is much faster and ran ahead; KC and I stuck together. It was about 40* at the start but I warmed up pretty quickly.

Start--it was perfect running weather!

Start–it was perfect running weather!

Through mile three, I felt pretty good. By five, I was dragging and was elated to see G and A cheering and ringing cowbells. At the halfway point, M and B were waiting. But by then, my injury-reduced training began to rear its ugly head. I had to walk more and more, not because of calf pain–it stayed at barely a one the whole race–but because my quads were protesting. KC coaxed me to run to the street sign, run to the water stop, run to that mailbox. Each running interval shrank as the half- quarter-miles ticked by. I tried to send her ahead at mile 8 but she elected to stay with me. I was grateful for the company, but I feel bad that I held her back when she was running strong.

I’d hydrated really well on Friday and Saturday and had taken some electrolyte tablets pre-race, trying to avoid the disaster at BCS six weeks ago, but I still felt thirsty throughout the race. I grabbed two or three water cups at the later water stops and took a couple of sips of Gatorade too. Somewhere around mile 11 I texted M that I reeeeaaaaaalllly wanted a sweet tea.. I don’t normally drink sweet tea, but it hit the spot after BCS and I was craving it now. Regular water wasn’t sitting well with me and I was afraid to overdo it on Gatorade.

Right around 11.5, G and A were waiting again! This was an amazing surprise and I was so glad to see them. They ran with us down the hill to San Jacinto where B was waiting (with KP, who had finished and walked back to Mile 12 to see us!) to run the last mile. And Posse East wasn’t open yet but M had cajoled someone working there to make some sweet tea! It wasn’t quite ready so M said he’d meet me at the finish line with it. Oh happy day!

Now that B was escorting me, KC ran ahead. I’m really glad she did, because I could run very little of that last mile. And then another surprise awaited me–at the entrance to the UT campus, my Rogue friend S waited! The last mile, I had a two-person crew now, and while I barely ran, I loved that so many people came out to help me finish.

At the 13-mile mark, S headed back to look for other running friends and as I turned the corner into the last stretch down Congress, I saw the three other Rogues I’d met up with at the start. They’d waited to cheer for me at the finish! B peeled off to the sidewalk–he felt a little self-conscious finishing with me since he didn’t run all the way. He ran alongside though, shouting and encouraging me. I could see KC waiting just past the finish line. But wow, this was the most difficult .1 of my life. I could barely run, I don’t know that it looked like running, but it was as fast as I could go.

The announcer called my name and I saw the time clock. A new personal slowest, 45 minutes slower than my PR time at this race last year. I have mixed emotions about this. On one hand, I was so disappointed in the amount of walking I had to do the second half and with the pretty embarrassing time I’d turned in. But on the other hand, when I woke up this morning I wasn’t sure I could do it at all. Wasn’t sure I should even try. And yet I finished 13.1 miles under my own power, not limping. I know I should be proud of that, or at least mildly satisfied. And I guess part of me feels a little accomplished.

But now I have a goal for next year.




I’d like to give a huge shout-out to everyone who ran with me, encouraged me, cheered for me, and supported me today. There were so many of you! It wasn’t the race I wanted, but it was the race I finished under some measure of adversity. Thank you all. I’m proud to call you my friends. ❤


5 thoughts on “I get by with a little help from my friends

  1. Congratulations on finishing the race! Unfortunately, they can’t all be PRs (I haven’t had one of those in quite awhile!), but I feel like every race I do at least makes me a little smarter about training. I had no idea the packet pickup was such a mess until I read your comment yesterday and then overheard people complaining about it at the race today. I really must have gotten there at a weird time. I do hope that next year they move it back to a location with better parking.

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