Galveston Sand Crab 5K

To mark our fifth year running the Galveston Sand Crab, we added an element: Bo the New Dog.

We got kind of a late start on Saturday, which turned a three-hour drive into a five-hour frustration fest thanks to construction on two major highways in Houston, then a several-mile backup over the Galveston causeway. We've only had Bo for two weeks so we weren't sure of his road-trip skills, but he was great, just chilling in the back seat the whole way.

When we finally got onto the island, we headed for Olympia Grill, a dog-friendly restaurant on the harbor side. Our waiter even brought Bo a doggie water dish!

Unfortunately Run in Texas only held advance packet pickup on Friday afternoon, which meant we couldn't get our stuff until we arrived at the race. So we checked in to the hotel and goofed off for a few hours before heading out to East Beach waaaaay early, trying to score a parking space in the free lot before collecting our packets.

We used the time to introduce Bo to beach sand and the Gulf. He was kind of baffled by sand at first, trying to shake it off like water. But a couple of warmup/test runs showed he was ready to race.

He was the only dog participant (but the Galveston Humane Society is a race beneficiary so we figured he was allowed), and he got lots of attention. We developed a quick answer to "What kind of dog is he?" Since he looks like a dachshund mixed with a larger (but as yet unidentified) breed, we call him "Dachshund and Sneaky Neighbor Dog."

Have I mentioned that my knee/hamstring/calf has been bothering me again? Not like it hurt last winter, but enough to make me wonder how well it would handle a beach race. So I took some Aleve and crossed my fingers.

Finally at 8:30, after the kids' race completed, we were off.

The sand was in good condition this year–it must have rained recently because it was pretty well packed down, even away from the water. This was good news for my leg, and so far it was holding up.

The first half of the race ran into the wind, and I dodged the usual sand castle obstacles. My headlamp is just one of those that clips onto my visor–every year I say I need to get a better one, and every year I forget. The guys carried a flashlight, and Bo was wearing a couple of glow necklaces. That made them easy to spot when they passed me going the other direction–yellow glow necklaces a foot off the ground could really only belong to Bo.

On the way back, I let a family of three pace me. Dad wore a nuclear-glow headlamp, so I just tucked in behind him. My music was kind of loud but I could tell that the daughter was struggling. I couldn't hear her words, but I recognized her tone. Mom matter-of-factly urged her on. And to her credit, at least while I was behind them she kept running.

I could see the flashing lights of the turnoff to the finish probably .25 away, and I picked up my pace, leaving the family behind. But the semi-packed sand had been churned up a bit by earlier runners (and one dog) so it was a little more difficult. The beach makes for a slower pace than usual, but I ran my fastest pace at the end, and I finished pain-free, about fifteen seconds faster than last year.

This race still uses a foot pod timing chip, so I had to stop and let the guy repossess the chip. I wish he'd have given me 30 seconds to catch my breath and walk it off, but I can see why they want to grab people before they abscond with the chips.

The first two or three years we ran this race, our registration fee got us beer and a plate of BBQ. Last year they still gave away beer but you had to buy BBQ from a food truck. This year, only beer. And a Kona Ice stand. Sign of the times, I guess. Still, we had fun.

Last year B placed in his age group, but this year he was fifth. So without food, we didn't have much incentive to stick around. We packed up our dog and headed out.

Bo did really well on his first road trip with us–and his first 5K means an automatic PR. Not only that, he finished first in his age species group. Win-win!

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Galveston Gal, part one

No, it’s not déjà vu.

This weekend we returned to Galveston, this time for the Sand Crab Nighttime Beach Run, a 5K we ran in 2012 and 2013.

We hit the road Saturday morning, encountered some traffic in Houston (shocking, I know), and reached Galveston by 10:45 or so. Packet pickup was at the Ocean Grille, a restaurant on the northern end of the seawall. Only two people were ahead of us in line, so it went quickly. One thing I really like about this race is they pre-pack runners’ shirts and race numbers so there’s no chance that they’ll run out of your shirt size. For someone driving 200 miles on race day (the fourth day runners could pick up their stuff) it’s good to know I won’t be stuck with whatever’s left.

From there, we visited B’s nirvana, the Lone Star Flight Museum. This place was seriously damaged by Hurricane Ike in 2008, and they’re relocating to Ellington Field in Clear Lake next year. But for now,  it’s still in Galveston, and we enjoy checking it out every time we visit.

This time, one of the volunteers, I guess noticing B’s enthusiastic (and relatively knowledgeable) chatter, offered to take us out to the flight line behind the museum and tour the B-17, which was being prepped to participate in a flyover at the funeral of a B-17 airman later in the day.

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After that, we wandered around the hangars and checked out the vintage planes:

  • An ME-262, one of three that can still fly. I’d seen this exact plane (I compared the tail number to a picture I’d taken that day) at a Collings Foundation show at Austin’s general aviation airport a couple of years ago.
  • A Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero
  • U.S. Navy’s F4U Corsair, the SBD Dauntless, and the Hellcat
  • A PBY Catalina, an amphibious aircraft that was significantly damaged when the hangar flooded–it floated, then smashed into the roof as the water rose
  • A B-25 Mitchell painted to replicate a Doolittle bomber
  • An experimental plane built by Gene Krantz (the flight director of Apollo 13) who never could get FAA approval to fly it, and donated it here instead. Our guide told us Krantz still visits the museum on occasion.
  • Vietnam-era Cobra and Huey helicopters, and WWII Skyraider that saw combat in Vietnam as well
  • A DC-3 passenger plane
  • An A-26 Invader that participated in the Battle of the Bulge
  • A PBY-5 Privateer, the Navy’s version of the B-24 Liberator
  • A Russian MiG-17 whose owner bought it in Thailand and flew it home. It supposedly cost more to fly it back than it did to buy it.

We were invited back outside to watch the B-17 fly out. Altogether there were four planes in various stages of flight preparedness:

  • The B-17, named Thunderbird, that rolled off the assembly line the day Germany surrendered. This plane is depicted on a mural in the WWII exhibit at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum, and the painting has been reproduced at the LSFM as well.
  • A North American SNJ converted to a Japanese Aichi D3A Val dive bomber, one of the planes used in the film Tora! Tora! Tora!
  • An AT-6 Texan, which was a WWII trainer plane
  • PT-17 Stearman biplane, also a trainer

They moved the Japanese plane, then started up the B-17. A guy with a fire extinguisher stood in front(ish) of each engine as it fired up. After a few minutes, Fire Extinguisher Guy cleared out and the B-17 began to move forward. It taxied to the runway, turned out of sight, and then reappeared as it accelerated and took to the air. It circled around and passed overhead before banking toward the mainland and its funeral flyover.

I’ve visited LSFM three times now, and each time I’ve learned or seen something new and interesting, such as the flag that bears the Hurricane Ike high water mark. In 2013, B took a picture in front of the Galveston Gal, a P-51D that tragically crashed about six weeks later, killing the pilot and passenger.

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This time, the personal tour and the B-17’s flight made it a trip to remember–our last hurrah before they move to Houston. I couldn’t help but think, as hundreds of people waited in line baking in the sun at Schlitterbahn across the street, THIS was the place to be.

Next post: Galveston Sand Crab Nighttime Beach 5K

And with that…

… my trip to Galveston is over. 

This week I’ve run 20 miles on the seawall and on the beach, and I completed the Fitness Blender five-day challenge from my hotel room.  

Room with a view

 

Most of my runs were 3-4 miles, but last night I ran seven. In a straight line. With a maximum elevation change of 13 feet. Little kids wandered out in front of me, music (and cigarette smoke) blared from cars parked along the seawall, a friendly-looking dog tried to follow me, and a guy yelled “You’re doing great!” as I passed. 

Other than one stop for water each direction, I ran the whole way. Well, not including a stop at Rita’s.  

Seven miles = permission for ice custard happiness

 

The second half was slower than the first, mostly because I was running into the wind. But I won’t rule out post-custard lethargy either. 

Before I left, I learned that my 18-year old cat, who’d been in very poor health when we left on Saturday, had crossed the Rainbow Bridge. It was not unexpected, but that didn’t make it any easier. So when I saw this note spray-painted on the sidewalk, it made me think of her. I wasn’t there to comfort her this week, but I hope she knows I did indeed love her very much.  

RIP Samantha

  

Time to head ’em up and move ’em out. 

Life’s a beach

After Monday’s hot and sunny morning run, I decided Tuesday to see if conditions would be friendlier in the evening. I did the second day of the Fitness Blender five-day challenge in the morning, then spent much of the afternoon at the pool before heading out around 7:30. 

I knew right away this had been a wise decision. 

We are coming back in a couple of weeks for a beach 5K, so to practice some beach running I ran south until the seawall ended–about half a mile–then dropped down onto the beach and ran along the shoreline for another mile as the sun slid behind the dunes. 

 

I look tall

 
Thanks to the cool(ish) breeze blowing in from the Gulf, I never had that omg I’m going to burst into flames! feeling, unlike Monday. I hardly even touched my water bottle. 

I dodged sand castles, kids, and dogs. Once, to avoid clotheslining myself I ran behind someone’s fishing pole rig only to get my feet tangled in a net. But the sand was a forgiving surface–no seaweed piles mountains this year!

I felt strong, and each mile my pace improved. On the way back I slowed to scale the little hill from the beach up to the seawall, and then I sped up even more, pushing myself to an even 5K. My last half-mile was more than 2:00/mile faster than my first! It wasn’t a record-setting pace or anything, but I was especially pleased because this was my second workout of the day, three days into our trip full of restaurant meals and tempting beach treats. Not only have I stuck to my plan, this run felt good.

Next up: day three of the five-day challenge, and maybe an easy-pace run. And more beach!

Running into the sun

Sunday afternoon, we drove from Austin to Galveston to take B to shark camp. While we waited to check in, we chatted with another shark camp family, and it turns out, the kid recognized B from a 5K we ran this spring. B had placed second in is age group–this was the kid who beat him. What are the odds, 200 miles from home?

Once he was safely delivered to his dorm room, we headed over to our hotel–our home for the next five days. 

Monday morning, I woke up around 7:00 and decided to run along the seawall. Our hotel is at the southern end of the island–there’s only about a half-mile of seawall to the southwest of us. So I headed the other way–northeast–instead. What I did not consider, and what I quickly discovered, is at this time of morning, running that direction pretty much means running straight into the sun. 

 

I’m big on getting unpleasantness out of the way up front–running a little further before I turn around instead of having to tack on extra distance after I thought I’d finished, running hills on the way out instead of on the way back, that kind of thing–so if there’s any saving grace here, it’s that I ran into the sun for the first two miles, not the last two. 

I turned around after a little more than two miles, glad to have the sun at my back. I told myself to run to the next traffic light (there were only three my whole run) and when I got there, I kept going, promising myself a water break at the restaurant further down. 

Running in a straight line along the coast makes distance appear somewhat deceptive. “The next traffic light” was visible ahead, but it took a while to actually get there because it was actually a mile away. Same with the restaurant I used as my landmark–it was the only structure in the distance, distance being the key word. For a while, it felt like it really wasn’t getting any closer. 

When I finally reached it, I stopped briefly for water, then took off again knowing I had put the longest stretch behind me. Another half-mile to go. Up ahead I could see a guy I’d passed earlier who’d turned around before I had, and I made it my mission to catch him before I reached my hotel. 

I focused on the palm tree in the distance and sped up. He had gotten a good head start, but he didn’t know we were playing this game. He was 20 yards away when I approached that palm tree at the edge of the complex, and 10 away at the pedestrian entrance where I originally planned to stop. But I kept going and passed him just before I reached the driveway at the other end. Mission: Accomplished. 

Both the mileage map and the elevation graph are pretty boring: a straight line along the seawall, at sea level. And even though I hate running in the morning into the sun, it felt good to finish 4.3 miles before breakfast. 

We spent most of the day at Moody Gardens (walking!), and after my first Fitness Blender workout of the five-day challenge and some time in the hotel pool, we walked back to that restaurant for dinner. Fish, shrimp, and crab cakes. And you’d better believe I rewarded myself with ice cream too.  

The half-mile walk back to the hotel was far more pleasant 13 hours later. A breeze blew in off the water and the sun dropped behind the buildings. I think next time I’ll try running in the evening. 

  

Back to life, back to reality

After Monday’s 7-mile walk and Tuesday’s short run where the sidewalk seawall ends, my knee started to feel a little better each day. IMG_8823Wednesday I repeated the seawall-beach run surrounded by a gorgeous sunset, and Thursday I tried a longer run, from our hotel to the pier (to Rita’s…) and back.

I ran in the evenings–I just don’t have it together enough in the mornings (at least before it gets too hot) and there’s no shade along the seawall. But the drawback to that? The seawall and its sidewalk are not well-lit. Some sections are busier at night (the Historic Pleasure Pier and its nearby restaurants attract a lot of nighttime activity) but others are practically deserted. At our end of the seawall, it’s the latter. And I got a late start on Thursday evening’s run, which took me 2.5 miles from our hotel to the fishing pier. Because I was taking it easy on my knee (and because I took a side trip to Rita’s…) it was dark for much of my return trip. On Monday when I walked more than seven miles, I walked on the seawall side going out, then took the sidewalk on the other side of the street–lit by restaurants and businesses–going back. But this was a tactical error because I had to navigate a zillion driveways and side streets, hoping drivers would see me in the dark. Yes, I wore a light-colored shirt, my shoes are white, and my Road ID has a reflective stripe, but I still needed to be extra vigilant. So Thursday night, I stuck to the seawall both directions–even though it’s a bit darker, I didn’t have to worry about cars.

I took Friday off–it’s my usual rest day, plus B’s camp finished with a completion ceremony that evening. We could have checked him out afterwards, but he decided he wanted to spend one more night in the dorms with his new friends. So we left him there, then had a late dinner, and running afterwards–entirely in the dark–didn’t hold a lot of appeal.

Saturday morning, we got up, picked up the kid, and left the island. I had grand plans to run in the evening, but instead we attended Rogue’s third birthday party. Have you ever had a Nuun-a-rita?

Let’s just say I had plenty of hydration. And I didn’t feel like running when I got home.

But this trip was my last major event of summer vacation. So it’s back to life, back to reality my training schedule now. For reals.

No better, no worse

Tuesday morning we took a dolphin cruise, then I spent most of the afternoon reading on my Kindle by the pool. You know, resting the knee.

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Later in the evening, I decided to try a short run to see if there’s been any improvement. But I didn’t want to retrace my steps from Monday’s walk, so instead I went the other direction along the seawall.

After about half a mile, I ran out of seawall. Literally, there was a barricade, and past it, the wall just stopped. The beach widened and without a protective barrier, the buildings sat further back from the water. But there’s a path that winds down to the sand, so I followed it and ran along the beach for another mile or so.

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I ran most of the way back to the hotel, except when I had to pick my way across the seaweed and the encroaching tide. Once, my shoes sank into the sand a little deeper than I expected, but I jumped back in time to avoid a gloopy shoe disaster.

In the end, I ran 3.1 miles. The knee isn’t really any better, but it’s not worse. However, I’m no longer sure it’s the IT Band. I mean, I think that’s what bothered me at first, but the pain alongside the outside of my knee has dissipated. Now it’s sort of behind the kneecap? That worries me because I had surgery on this knee about 14 years ago to clean up some cracked cartilage. I hope THAT problem isn’t rearing its ugly head again. It doesn’t feel like the same injury, but at this point I really have no idea.

I hope if I stick to short distances (and walk if I need to) over the next few days, I’ll be ok. Then when I get home I’ll see my sports doctor for real treatment.