We knew going into this race that it wasn’t gonna be pretty. K dislocated her elbow a little more than five weeks ago, and her doctor has only allowed her to run under strict conditions. Since early December I’ve been battling a hamstring/knee situation that has limited my training–I got to eleven miles last weekend, but I wasn’t sure how well I’d hold up during the race.
It didn’t help that it was 68* with a bazillion percent humidity at the start.
We drove downtown with two other friends who have been training hard, so I knew they’d finish well ahead of us. And somehow we lost them between gear check and the race start. So we spent some time chatting with a woman serving as a Race Guard–volunteers trained to administer medical care between aid stations. With the too-warm weather conditions, I thought this was an excellent addition to the race.
The race starts at Congress Avenue and Second Street and runs south for about three miles, which is mostly a slow incline
through up the gentrified South Congress area, then past St. Edwards University to the Ben White access road. It was a tough beginning. K had set an interval on her watch, and we more or less followed it to run-walk that section. We took it easy, not wanting to expend too much energy this early in the race.
Once we turned back down South First, we made up a little time because it was mostly downhill. Mmmm, so. many. Mexican. restaurants!
This year’s edition of Crazy Yelling Guy took the form of a man pacing up and down South First yelling about the conspiracy of contrails, which he informed us cause a laundry list of ailments such as Alzheimers and Parkinson’s, and taunted us to “go ahead, just keep breathing all that poisoned air.” I thought I was breathing the magical scents of Mexican food, but woookay, dude.
Down South First, across the river, then left on Cesar Chavez. We kind of slowed down here–K was struggling a little with her fueling, so we walked more than usual. Then there’s that annoying hill up Veterans Drive to Lake Austin Boulevard, and we walked it too. We were doing pretty well heading west along Lake Austin (way better than the girl being treated by EMTs) although K was fading some.
And then disaster struck.
I’d been running on her left side so I didn’t accidentally bump her elbow. But as we passed the people handing out Clif Shot packages somewhere around mile 9.5, a woman in a purple shirt shoved past K to grab a mocha-flavored gel. She clipped her arm in exactly the spot that had been damaged. And the bitch of it was that there was no reason whatsoever for her to have gotten that close–by now the runners (and run-walkers) were pretty spread out. It wasn’t crowded, and no one ran immediately behind us. She just was clueless. K almost decapitated her, but that would have required the use of both arms, which she no longer had.
The sharp pain caused everything to go wonky–it made her nauseated, and she became nervous that someone would come up behind her and run into her again. Plus the impact with each step jarred the injured elbow. I started running on her right side, ready to throw a block like a linebacker if anyone got close. But she struggled to run.
At two of the water stops, we poured cold water over it, hoping to convince it to chill. I knew she’d need an ice pack from the medical people when we finished.
Fortunately after the Mile 11 marker there’s a long flat stretch, then a downhill to the Mile 12 marker. A couple with a dog held a sign that said “Puppy hugs!” so of course we stopped. On the bridge over Lamar, my 13-year old was waiting, and he tried to distract her as we launched ourselves up the last big hill. I suggested perhaps she could finish ahead of the purple-shirt woman. But she was having none of it from either of us. I tried to stay on her right, but since I had been running on her other side for the first ten miles, I kept getting a little ahead of her and drifting to the other side only to drop back into Linebacker Mode again.
We made it to the top of the Enfield hill, then tried to run a bit downhill and around the last few turns. On 12th I told her we just had three more turns and we’re done. I know she was in a ridiculous amount of pain, but she kept putting one foot in front of the other. Across Lavaca, right turn on Colorado. Past the Capitol, past the Governor’s Mansion, and left on 11th.
I knew M was waiting at 11th and Congress, at the final turn for the finish. B veered off behind the barricades and met up with his dad.
I again found myself on K’s left, but as we were a little more than three hours into this race with a city block to go, the half-marathon finish wasn’t crowded. She was running pretty close to the right-hand barricade and there literally wasn’t anyone running near us.
Until there was.
We crossed the timing mats and I turned to congratulate her. She started yelling, all kinds of pissed off. I thought maybe she was just angry-emotional after finishing such a tough race? But no. Some woman came out of nowhere (she’s not in the frame of the picture M took ten seconds before–I never even saw her) and jammed between K and the right side of the finish line archway thing. Which did not actually have room for another human. So she hit K’s right arm.
Why she didn’t pass on my left where a full traffic lane was empty, I don’t know. But her bump caused excruciating pain that made K stop and lean on the barricade (and yell some colorful language). A medic guy was standing right there, and I explained what happened. Another medic was there with a wheelchair and they took her away.
I got medals and took hers to the tent but they wouldn’t let me in. They promised they’d give it to her, so all I could do was wait.
I picked up food and water, skipped the official race photo, then met my family at the exit. We circled back around to find her, but privacy rules meant they couldn’t tell me anything other than whether or not she was inside. I already knew the answer to that, and I tried to explain that she’s from out of town and I didn’t want to leave her alone. But then she came out with ice on her arm and looking a bit better.
We met up with the others at–no surprise–the beer garden. After her two free beers and a change of shirts, K felt even better. So we headed out for Mexican Food Recovery. Enchiladas and a margarita FTW!
Considering the warm, humid conditions and our combined injury/undertraining situations, I’m not displeased with my time. I didn’t even notice my hamstring and my stride felt normal the whole race–yay!–and while I know I could have pushed harder, I wasn’t going to leave her behind. Not in an unfamiliar city, not in awful weather conditions, not in pain and miserable, no.
We’ll get another shot in May when we run the Cleveland Challenge Series: an 8k on Saturday and a half marathon on Sunday. Let the training begin.
P.S. Thanks to my BRFs who drove me around and my family who chased us all over Central Austin to cheer and support this crazy thing I seem to do for fun. 🙂