I had one goal for this race: get back those thirty seconds from the Army Ten-Miler (2:00:29) and finish in under two hours.
Short version: I crushed it.
I slept like shit Saturday night. I twisted my elbow or something in my sleep, and it hurt all night. I think I woke up every hour or so, between discomfort and the early-rising cat who likes to get right in my face and hit me with his nose.
Then there was an accident on the highway and cars were backed up to the entrance ramp, not moving at all–that many brake lights at 6:30 in the morning is not a good omen. So we stayed on the access road and meandered around through some side streets to get back on the highway on the other side of it. Phew. Then we missed our exit and had to figure out how to get around the road closures. But we made it to our usual parking area without incident. Stuff like this is why I like to leave early though.
It was about 50* outside, so after S and I got organized, we walked over to one of the hotels and sat in the lobby for a while. Fearful of the stomach distress that got me at the end of 3M, I took an Imodium about 45 minutes before the start, then we headed out to meet another friend. Fortunately, M and B were our Sherpas, and we could keep our jackets on until the last minute, so waiting around wasn’t bad at all.
One of our race strategies was to run the tangents–take inside corners and avoid extra mileage by making wide turns. So S and I started on the right side of the road, knowing we’d be turning right somewhere in the first mile. We did this pretty well, because at least the first three miles our Garmins were dead-on with the mile markers.
Somewhere on Burnet Road, around mile 2.5, the leaders–at mile 5.5–passed us coming back the other way. It’s fun to see them because they’re so badass, but it’s also kind of deflating, know what I mean?
Miles 3-4 went by pretty fast, even though the band playing “Rocket Man’ blasted the lyrics “I think it’s gonna be a long long time” as we passed. We did a lot of winding around the same industrial area the first part of 3M goes, albeit a slightly different route. I remember being surprised by how quickly we reached the mile four marker. From there we headed back up the way we had come, except this time with a short dogleg down another side street, and then returned to northbound Burnet toward the Domain. I’m pretty sure several volunteers at this water stop were former students! And then we passed the five-mile marker. Yahoo, halfway done and still on target. By now the mile markers were ahead of our Garmins–the opposite problem from Army Ten-Miler. Either we were running tangents really well or the distance was off. We crossed our fingers that it was the former.
We saw M and B at about mile six, just as we turned into the IBM complex. The water stop had Gatorade and kids offering high-fives–I took both. I’d been good about drinking water at every stop, but at this point I’d warmed way up and Gatorade tasted like nectar of the gods. The band hit the first notes of “Sweet Child of Mine” as we ran by, and it gave me a boost. We hit the 10K split (two minutes slower than my PR from January but still on pace for this race) then turned the corner for the cold towel station. Ahhhhhh. Lots of runners discarded their towels, but I kept mine around the back of my neck. My concerns about a hot second-half were realized.
At this point, we both started flagging a bit, especially when a series of stealth inclines increased our effort level without increasing our speed. Knowing the rest of the course offered no shade, I just hoped I could hang on for three more miles.
We met M and B again right around mile 7 (I never saw the marker though) and steeled ourselves for the toughest part of the race. Another stealth incline, a slight downhill, then a loooong incline before looping around to the downhill again. The mile 8 marker was at the top of the first long stretch, and with the Garmin beeps we knew we’d definitely lost some time. We expected it, but considering the effort level, it was a little disheartening. Mile 9 wasn’t a whole lot better, even with the downhill segment, because we were both breathing hard and had to walk a few steps.
Finally, we made the last turn. It’s deceptive though–we still had about 3/4 mile to go. And most of it went slightly uphill, with a more pronounced uphill right at the end. We could see the finish line, but it was almost like a mirage in the desert. It was there, right there, but it wasn’t getting any closer. We tried to pick up the pace but the mirage had tricked us into speeding up too early, and we had to walk a couple of steps just to get enough oxygen to keep going. I wanted to be done, I wanted to just sit down, but I didn’t let myself walk more than about ten steps–what if I missed my goal by the number of seconds I lost right there??
Through the last intersection, lots of spectators and loud music and energy. Finish strong. Up the last hill–no walking now–and then we started passing people. I knew S was right there, even though I couldn’t see her.
Then I got close enough to see the race clock: 1:56.
We had definitely not started at the front, so chip time was easily a minute behind the gun time. And at that point I knew I’d done it. I had nothing left, but for once in my life, I crossed the finish line smiling.
Official chip time was 1:56:13.
We collected our medals, water, and snacks, then meandered over to the lawn to wait for the guys. As I sat there, a runner came up to me and said, “Thank you for that shirt. I was behind you most of the race, and I wanted to walk but I didn’t.”
This is one of my favorite race shirts (it’s from the Army Ten-Miler) and I’m pleased she took the time to tell me that. It’s awesome to know that I (unknowingly) helped someone along the way. I learned later another friend of M’s had been running behind me for a while too. After seeing my Instagram post about it, she replied, “That was YOU?”
Other than the PR, this race was significant in another way too. Everything hurt and I was dying the last
half-mile two miles, but after I finished I felt good. Upright. Not queasy or shaky or green.
I guess I finally found the right combination of fuel and hydration. Before I left my house I ate toast with peanut butter, then had a Fig Newton just before the start. I drank water at every stop and Gatorade twice (mile 6ish and 7ish) and popped a few Sport Beans roughly every other mile starting at four. And of course the Imodium.
I drank half a bottle of water and ate some fruit snacks as I sat on the grass near the finish, and we went straight from the race to scarf down some Mexican food. It was glorious.