Here comes the rain again

Like I said last weekend, Texas doesn’t half-ass this weather thing.

After remnants of Hurricane Patricia dropped double-digit rainfall totals on my area, we had a few days of nice weather. My shoes dried out. I went to core class Monday and ran three miles afterward. Tuesday’s track workout felt slower than last week’s run, but I slogged it out. Then I got to have dinner with J, who was visiting Austin for work! I skipped out on my Wednesday workout to meet her for Mexican food, which made Thursday’s 5.5-miler a bit…sluggish. But it was worth it!

Friday, the rain returned, and it was worse than last week.

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This explains why my front yard is a lake and my garage is full of water.

Not only that, Friday morning a tornado developed nearby and my school went into tornado-shelter-mode. For more than an hour, we huddled in downstairs hallways, locker rooms, and the band hall. On Halloween. In middle school. The administrators had all dressed up as characters from The Wizard of Oz, so periodically The Scarecrow or Dorothy appeared in the hall, making their rounds. Irony level: expert.

S headed to packet pickup for Sunday’s race–I was supposed to go along during my planning period, but we were holed up in the hallway. But thankfully she got our stuff without incident, and then stopped by school to drop off my stuff.

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By the end of the day, I was fried. Toast. Cooked. Fortunately, while my drive home was rainy and puddle-y, roads my way were not flooded. I was nearly hit twice by jackasses who wanted to be in my lane but didn’t care that I already occupied that spot. But I made it unscathed, not counting the heightened stress levels. I changed clothes, fixed a sandwich, and crawled under the covers with my backlog of Sports Illustrated magazines and the World Series on television. It was still raining when I fell asleep.

This morning I felt a little congested when I woke up. The sun was out, so I decided to run over to the park from my Thursday route–I was curious how high the pond had risen.

A quarter-mile in, I met a friend coming the other way. She lives in that neighborhood and said the road was closed, but I could take a detour up the hill and around the block. And indeed, when I arrived at the park, I could see the pond was out of its banks, over the sidewalk and the road. Two houses were definitely flooded.

I had to take a detour.

That house has been flooded twice this week. 😦

I took a detour, probably a mile-ish loop around the back side of the neighborhood, then took my usual route home. I struggled with my breathing a bit, so I took it slowly. I ended up with 3.5 miles, a decent shakeout run before tomorrow’s 10-mile race.

Run for the Water indeed.

Could be worse, could be raini– oh, right.

“Alive! It’s alive! It’s alive!”

No, not my phone–somehow, even though it was 100% charged last night, it shut itself off overnight, taking my alarm with it. But about 45 minutes after it was supposed to wake me for my run with S, I raced around like a crazy person, throwing on my running clothes and shoes. I’m awake now…

I couldn’t text her to let her know I was running late–pushing buttons didn’t wake it up, plugging it into the charger didn’t wake it up, and I don’t remember the last time I memorized someone’s phone number. So I just got in the car and headed to our meeting place, hoping she didn’t think I’d blown her off.

While I sat at the light to get out of my neighborhood, I held down both buttons simultaneously, and after what seemed like forever, my phone turned on.

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Phew. One disaster averted. It was a stressful way to start the morning, but I didn’t encounter more than a handful of cars, and all the traffic lights went my way. I managed to arrive only about ten minutes late.

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And then it started raining, plus it was at least fifteen degrees colder than yesterday, and still dark. But I had my water, my watch, and a hat, so at least I’d remembered the important stuff. I grabbed my water resistant jacket at the last minute, and we headed out.

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We chose this route because someone from my running group had set out three water and Gatorade stops, so we had a couple of built-in rest points. At the first one, I tied my jacket around my waist since the rain had let up a bit.

The few drivers we saw looked at us like we were nuts.

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We turned around at 3.4ish miles, and the rain picked up on the return route. I didn’t bother putting my jacket back on, though, since it wasn’t too uncomfortable, temperature-wise. By the time we got back, my shirt, pants, shoes, and socks were completely soaked with rain. I’d run more than eleven miles in 12 hours, and I was tired.

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I found a dry sweatshirt in the trunk of my car and pulled a windbreaker on over that, and we headed over to the Starbucks to refuel.

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Storm troopers

Rain from Hurricane Patricia was supposed to arrive in Central Texas sometime Wednesday, but as the week wore on, forecasters pushed the storm (and suggested Austin could get something ridiculous like 21″ of rain from it) to Saturday morning. A week ago, wildfire burned thousands of drought-crispy acres in Bastrop County, and now we were preparing for flash flooding. Texas doesn’t half-ass this weather stuff, do we?

The warnings for Central Texas were not overstated–Saturday morning, parts of Austin set a daily rainfall record … before 6am. Rogue canceled its morning run, Formula One postponed qualifying races until Sunday, and several other events were canceled. But barring lightning, Texas would kick off at 11am.

We dug out the rain ponchos, hats, and boots and headed to the game. I’ve had season tickets since the mid-1990s–I have never been on the shuttle with only seven people, and I’ve never seen so few people in the stadium at kickoff.

Rain continued to fall.

At halftime, the Longhorn Band paid tribute to Bevo XIV, who died unexpectedly last week.

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The few, the proud, the very wet stayed until the end, but after sitting standing in the rain for four hours, I was completely soaked. Which was okay since Texas won.

While the temperature was less than ideal for a rainy football game, it was great for running. So when I got home, even though I planned to meet S for six miles tomorrow morning, I decided–since I was still soaking wet–to take advantage of it and go out for my 4.25-mile route.

Rain continued to fall.

The first 1.25 miles, my only obstacle was sidestepping a snail on the sidewalk. But then as I ran through the park to the far entrance, I was stopped by water over the trail. I backtracked, then ran into the same problem at the other entrance. So I ran back out onto the street and took the long way around to the reservoir trail. Which was blocked by water about a quarter-mile in. I reversed again, back to the street and around the block the long way.

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Turn around, don’t drown

I ended up with an 4.5 miles because of the backtracking, but the whole run was comfortable and I didn’t mind at all.

Finally, after a hot shower and a big bowl of crawfish etouffee, I finally felt warm and dry for pretty much the first time all day. Which will likely only last until tomorrow morning when we meet up for that six-mile run.

Tired ten

What does it say about my life that I’d rather run ten (point two-five) miles with a friend than six alone? Because that’s the choice I made this morning. I’m not sure it was a wise one, mind you, but it’s the choice I made.

After running a seven-minute PR on Sunday (let’s focus on that rather than missing my goal by thirty seconds), I got back to work. Monday I ran 20 minutes, then Tuesday I ran an easy-pace four miles with my training group. Wednesday I completed a beastly Fitness Blender workout (94 minutes!) because smoke from a wildfire 60 miles away had blown into Austin and turned the sky brown. My asthmatic lungs did not approve.

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Thursday, the air was better so I ran my usual 4.25-mile route. Not even a mile into it, my sore legs made me wonder if that was a good idea, but I stuck it out, albeit slowly. Friday’s rest day was a welcome relief.

But it wasn’t quiiiiiite enough rest.

I met S this morning–she “only” had ten on her marathon training schedule, so I jettisoned my plan for six and met up with her instead. The first mile I questioned my sanity, but then again, I always question my sanity the first mile, so I forged on.

Around 2.5 miles, we ran through some sprinklers that sprayed the sidewalk, then stopped for water. The sun finally peeked up over the horizon, so we turned our lights off. I wore my highlighter-yellow Army Ten-Miler shirt, so even without blinky lights, we were difficult to miss.

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This was the hilly section of the route (Running’s Third Law: Every downhill has an equal and opposite uphill) and by the time we climbed back out of it, my tired legs told me we’d gone further than five miles. Except we hadn’t.

Fortunately, temps were in the low 60s, so even though the sun was out and we ran at turtle speed, it was a lot more comfortable than the last time we ran this way together. We stopped for water again toward the end of mile seven, and I wondered simultaneously how we still had two miles to go, and how it was only two miles back to the starting point. It seemed so far away.

We didn’t even get a reprieve at the big intersection–the Walk signal changed only a few seconds after we got there. Ugh. We (wistfully) passed two coffee shops and a Dunkin Donuts. Then we turned into the neighborhood adjacent to mine. If I just turned left, I could walk through the empty lot across the street from my house… but no, S wouldn’t let me. Onward.

My watch hit 10 miles at the bottom of a hill, short of our starting point. Cruel. But I ran up the damn thing, then made the final turn for home. Well, not home, exactly, since I could have done that a mile an a half ago, but the place my car was parked.

We ended up with 10.25 miles–for those counting at home, that’s more than 24,000 steps on the Vivofit. Nothing like doubling my step goal before 9:30am! But then again, the rest of the day will involve sitting on the couch watching college football, so yin-yang.

The thirty second commiseration

Saturday morning, we ran 2.5 miles around Arlington. The temperature was in the 50s–so pleasant, it felt easy and comfortable. Then we went to the race expo and got our stuff–I love the long-sleeved race tech shirt every year. We scored freebies (I did ten push-ups for a t-shirt!) and a fluorescent yellow ATM shirt just jumped into my hands. So of course I had to buy it. Then later in the afternoon, in a completely unexpected turn of college football events, Texas beat Oklahoma. I was happy.

I hadn’t slept well Friday night, so by 8 P.M. I was exhausted. I set my alarm for six and crashed early. Considering I felt nervous about my sub two-hour race goal that I told the free world, I slept decently well.

By 7:15, we were parked at the Pentagon City parking garage with several thousand of our closest friends. I took a picture of the nearby column marker so we wouldn’t repeat last year’s mistake of walking extra flights of stairs looking for the car.


“Level P4” turned into “P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way” in my head, for no other reason than I thought it was amusing.

K and I spent much of the pre-race time waiting in a porta potty line, and when we finally got out of there, the purple balloons of our wave had long since moved on around the corner. We had to jog to catch them–the waves seemed to be moving much faster than last year–so I called it our warmup. We never did find our other friends, though, which was kind of a bummer.

Even though the overnight low had been in the 40s, it was warming up quickly and I took off my arm warmers before we started. I’d gotten them for free at the expo and almost just tossed them, but they were pretty nice so I tied them to my belt instead. I had also brought my headphones, but my plan was to only turn them on once I turned onto the 14th Street bridge, with about 3.5 miles to go. I queued it up, took a picture of the start line banner, got my Garmin ready to go, and waited.


With the cannon blast, we were off.

The first mile traveled parallel to the Potomac, then looped up onto the Arlington Memorial Bridge. This is, hands down, my favorite view in road running. Arlington National Cemetery behind us, the Lincoln Memorial ahead, and thousands of runners moving between the two. It’s truly an awesome sight.

We hit the water stop around mile two, and I slowed briefly to take a couple of sips. Then I was moving again, up toward Virginia Avenue with its slightly rolling hills. Three miles in, and my pace was good. But I noticed that before each mile marker, my Garmin beeped slightly earlier than the last. This will be important later.

Around the Watergate, past the Kennedy Center, another quick slowdown at the water stop. At one point, along the stretch between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, I passed a spectator who held out a small tray. His sign said, “Take candy from a stranger!” which made me snort out loud.

I didn’t look at my watch a whole lot–other than checking it each time it ticked off another mile, I mostly ran by feel. Halfway done, and I was running a pretty consistent 11:45ish pace. To finish under two hours, I needed to average just under 12:00/mile, so I felt like I was on track.

I lost K somewhere before I hit Independence Avenue and the Smithsonian museums. I forged ahead, running along the center line to high five people coming back the other way. A high school band played “Livin’ on a Prayer” in front of the castle. I slowed through the water stop, then made the loop to double back. At the 10K mark, I was within seconds of my 10K PR.

But I could tell I was slowing a bit.

Before the left turn leading to the bridge, I fired up my playlist. I’d called it ATM Bridge because this segment is mentally difficult for me. It just seems to take forever before we’re over it, and then we have to climb an overpass. At nearly mile nine, this rattles me a little.

But I tried to put it into perspective–earlier I’d come up behind a group walking eight or nine wide, and I was briefly grouchy about it. Then I noticed one of the young women walked on what was obviously a very new leg. Nope, never mind. Walk 25 wide, I’m good.

I made it up the overpass, but my pace had tanked. I don’t remember any of the songs from my playlist except one, as I crested the damn overpass: “Hurricane” by Lifehouse, with the lines “We made it through hell and back again” and “it just gets better” which felt appropriate considering my feelings toward the bridge.

I tried to take advantage of the downhill portion of the overpass, but the even that was difficult. My playlist wasn’t shuffling, and I was tired of hearing songs in alphabetical order so I shut it off and focused on absorbing energy from the spectators. Crowd support was terrific here, at the turn into Crystal City. I slowed one last time for water, then looked at my watch. One forty-eight and some change. Oy, with a mile to go, it was gonna be close.

I ran as hard as I could. I passed people. I noticed a shirt that said Will Run for Beer and the name Elaine on the back, and I remembered running behind her on the bridge last year. I passed her too. I didn’t look at my watch, even when it beeped 10 miles–well short of the finish line.

When I finally crossed, I didn’t look at my time. I wasn’t sure I wanted to know. I kept walking, trying simultaneously to catch my breath and keep from throwing up. I made my way through the chute, which seemed ten thousand miles long, and finally found volunteers with water.

Then I looked. Garmin time was 2:00:31. It said I’d gone 10.16 miles. Remember how it beeped a little earlier before each mile marker? While it was telling me I was running 11:50/mile, it was also ahead distance-wise. Which meant it took longer than 11:50 to get from marker to marker. Which meant I was thirty-one seconds too slow. THIRTY-ONE SECONDS.

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I made a beeline shuffled to the people handing out finisher coins. No one took the tab on my bib for the coin, which was fine with me because that meant I didn’t have to stop longer than was strictly necessary. I found an empty table and rested my head on my arms. Someone asked me if I was okay, and I nodded.

Eventually I found K, then the others. They’d run out of finisher coins (!) sometime between my and K’s finish, and I could hear the announcer calling for a race official. Who had apparently left. K left her bib tab with the poor woman trying to sort it all out, then said sardonically,” I really did do this for a fucking banana.”

We climbed over one concrete barrier, then a second on the way back to the Pentagon City parking garage. I found the picture I’d taken of our parking area. I could only repeat “P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way” over and over as we climbed the stairs.

It took more than half an hour to escape P. Sherman Level P4 of the garage, and for much of that time I couldn’t get a phone signal to check ATM’s website for results. I wanted my chip time to be :32 faster, although I didn’t hold out a lot of hope. But eventually I found them.

2:00:29.

Thirty seconds from a sub two-hour race and my goal.

If I’m being optimistic, I could remind myself 2:00:29 is a seven-minute PR and 12 minutes faster than this time last year. But damn. Thirty seconds.

In the end, though, I love this race not because of my personal accomplishments. K struggled for ten miles through a foot injury, and it was J’s first big race after almost a year of recovery from surgery to repair her Achilles. Thousands of people ran in memory of loved ones, and some completed the race on artificial limbs. Run in the shadows of Lincoln, Washington, and Jefferson, this race represents friendship and energy, perseverance and strength.

Thirty seconds? Maybe next year.

Respect

As I sat at Gate 12 waiting for my flight to Washington, D.C. for the Army Ten-Miler, I watched a busy airport pause while a processional of WWII veterans made their way down the concourse. Escorted by Honor to Flight Austin, they too were headed to Gate 12 on their way to see the WWII Memorial.

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Last year on my way home from this race, I shared a flight with returning Honor Flight veterans; this group was even larger. “Because we are running out of time,” the Commander said.

After the veterans and their guardians got settled in the gate area, we were notified that the flight would be delayed about 90 minutes. Our plane was there, but some weather issue at our destination affected our travel. I went to get a snack and some coffee, and when I returned, I spotted a gentleman with a Clive Cussler book on his lap. Why did this catch my eye?  See, my child is not a typical 12-year old. He is a voracious reader, and WWII and Cussler are his favorites. He can tell you anything you want to know about WWII, particularly specs of planes, tanks, and battleships, plus details of the Pacific and European campaigns. In sixth grade, his teacher asked him to teach some lessons on WWII, so he created more than 50 slides and took over the class for several days. His other main interest? Clive Cussler novels. So I spent a few minutes speaking with this gentleman, knowing how much B would love to be there too.

I’ve never had a flight un-delay, but at some point well before the rescheduled departure time, they decided the weather issue had passed and the crew began boarding the Honor Flight members. It took some time before the rest of us boarded as well, and the Commander thanked everyone for their patience. We were still late, and by then I knew I wouldn’t arrive in time to make it to the race expo. But these men and women of the Greatest Generation (and the organization taking them to the memorial) put the trip into perspective for me.

As we taxied toward the runway, two Austin Fire Department trucks lined up on either side of us and turned on their hoses, arcing water over our plane much like the fire boats welcoming troop ships and ocean liners to New York harbor.

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I sat next to a veteran and his guardian, whom I later learned was his grandson. Across the aisle sat several of the leaders of Honor Flight organization. At one point during the flight, they pored over a list of the veterans and their medals and awards. These guys had been in Normandy and on Iwo Jima, on the ground, at sea, and in the air. They saved the world. I had a book to read, but just listening to the voices of the men and women who were making this meaningful trip was far more interesting. My grandfather was a RAF airplane mechanic in WWII, but he died 25 years ago. I wished I’d asked about his stories.

Behind me, a Marine Corps general and his assistant chatted with one of the Honor Flight leaders across the aisle, also a USMC veteran. The general asked if he could get involved–when given a choice of speaking engagements, he’d choose speaking to veterans every time. They exchanged business cards, and then the Honor Flight leader gave the general a WWII Honor Flight version of the challenge coin. As the general extended his hand in a return handshake, I could see that his palm was not empty. He had given the Honor Flight leader one of his challenge coins. Even to someone who knows nothing about challenge coins, this was obviously a huge honor–he kept turning it over in his hands, staring at it.

But I knew what I’d just witnessed. See, instead of medals, finishers of the Army Ten-Miler receive challenge coins too. I have two of them at home, excited about earning my third this weekend.

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It was oddly poetic, this exchange of coins, surrounded by WWII veterans as I flew to Washington. But my role was insignificant–I would be running a race, not saving the world.

As we taxied to the gate, the Arlington Fire Department arced their water over our plane just as their  Austin peers had done. It was a memorable way to start off a weekend that would be important for many people. I feel lucky to be a small part of it.

Ready as I’ll ever be 

Tuesday evening was my last speed workout before Sunday’s race. I ran a total of 4.5 miles: 1.5 out and back, then 1.5 of what my coaches call Marshes.

This route was a little different than the Marshes we’ve done in the past, but the concept was the same. Three parallel streets connected on both ends make a roughly half-mile figure eight, so we ran hard effort (for me this was supposed to be 10-mile race pace) up the first hill, left along the upper side street at an easy pace, left down the next street at race pace, right along the lower side street at an easy pace, right up the next hill at race pace, right along the upper side street at an easy pace, right down the middle street again at race pace, then left back to the start at an easy pace. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Except I ran it at a liiiiiiitle faster than 10-mile race pace.

It wasn’t easy, but I kept reminding myself that on Sunday I’ll need to be able to power up the overpass at the end of the 14th Street bridge–and mile nine. So I ran that sequence three times, with a water break after each one. I took it easy on the way back, running and chatting with a new friend, and even then my overall pace was well below what I’ll need to run on Saturday.

I know the transitive property doesn’t necessarily apply here–just because my speed workout (or my 8-miler last Saturday, or my 8K race two weeks ago) was fast enough doesn’t mean that I’ll be able to sustain it over ten miles, straight through. But it doesn’t mean that I won’t, either.

This is a huge, giant, mega-goal for me. But there’s nowhere I’d rather attempt it than this race, with its energy and sights and sounds.

And the weather. Oh happy day, the weather.