After some downtime at our hotel, we changed clothes and headed out to East Beach, the new location for the Galveston Sand Crab Nighttime Beach Run.
I’d done some reconnaissance two weeks ago and knew East Beach had two entrances. The race info hadn’t really specified which one to use, but I knew the southern one had a small free-parking lot, and, always averse to paying for parking, I wanted to try there first, before shelling out $8 for the larger lot. And I was rewarded with quite a few parking options. The soft sand presented a bit of a problem for M’s car, but we found a spot on some of the more compacted sand. No signs of an impending race presented themselves, however, and I became concerned that we should have gone to the other entrance. But B spotted two folks wearing the race shirt walking toward a building a quarter-mile away. I remembered the building from my recon trip–it’s near the second entrance–so we followed.
As we reached the building–restroom, shower, and food facilities for beachgoers–runners wearing race numbers and running shoes mixed with those in swimsuits and flip flops. Someone handed out glow necklaces while the race director announced the kids’ race was about to begin.
The starting area appeared a significant distance from the water (moreso than in years past) , a fact we confirmed with a stroll through dry, fluffy sand. Running one-tenth of a mile isn’t usually a challenge, but I had a feeling snowshoes might be more appropriate footwear for the first and last leg of this race.
The kids’ race seemed to take forever (I think they ran longer than 1K) and while we waited, I started to wish I’d brought some Sport Beans. Lunch had been many hours ago, and all of a sudden I worried about crashing mid-race. I saw a kids’ race finisher get a bottle of sports drink from a long row of coolers and grabbed one for myself. I drank about half of it and felt like I was good to go.
By 8:30 the sky was dark and it was time to start.
Yep, the first tenth or so felt like running through marshmallows. Or the foam blocks that fill up a rope swing pit at one of those Jumpoline places. Some people–naturally, they were at the front–elected to walk. I found that staying on my tiptoes kept me from sinking quite as far into the sand. I tried not to think about running through this again to the finish line.
Finally, mercifully, I reached the blue lights of the beach police vehicle that marked our right turn. Here, the sand was more densely packed, and after another 100 yards or so, we were running along the water’s edge. I dodged a few sand castles and moats, plodding slowly against the strong headwind. I knew I wouldn’t be running a PR race, but now that I was out of the deeper sand, I felt good.
After a while I watched the returning runners and eventually, amid the bobbing (sometimes blinding) headlamps and flashlights, I spotted M and B. After the turnaround, I decided that Braid Girl was using me as her pacer. Faster than me but unable to sustain it, she’d run past me, walk until I caught up, and run again. I thought I’d ditched her at the water stop, but alas she reappeared.
I came up behind a family walking six or seven wide, taking up the full width of the compacted sand. I couldn’t really get around them, so I tried to dodge between two of them. As I did, their dog (which I hadn’t seen until now) swerved in front of me. Only my ninja-like sideways leap saved me from tripping on the leash and crashing to the sand.
The blue lights of the turn toward the finish (and the loose sand) flashed ahead, and Braid Girl still shadowed me.
I made the turn ahead of her, then felt my Chapstick fall out of my pocket. I hesitated, then grabbed it. The sand became impossible to navigate even on tiptoe. A group of tween girls leapt up and ran with someone nearby, shouting encouragement. I didn’t know how close Braid Girl was–I just kept churning ahead. The last 50 yards or so, the sand compacted again and traction improved. I could see M and B cheering, and I sped up, knowing now, under the lights of the finish line, that Braid Girl was behind me.
I crossed the timing mat grinning like an idiot–definitely the most genuine finish-line smile I’ve ever shown. Usually I’m grimacing, trying to catch my breath. This night, I felt strong. I had fun. And I beat Braid Girl.