I’ve started and stopped writing this race report at least half a dozen times. I’m still not sure that I’m happy with it. This report will take you through the end of the race, and then I’ll follow up with some post race commentary. Fair warning, this is a long one!
This past Saturday morning started off like most race mornings—up before the crack of dawn. However, unlike other race mornings, I was going to be running my very first half marathon, the Cowtown Half Marathon. Though I tossed and turned most of the night (thank goodness for getting to bed early all week), I managed to get up with my alarm at 4:20 AM. For once, I planned ahead, and had all of my stuff ready to go the night before, so that I had little to worry about while getting ready. Of course, with the temperature hovering around freezing, and not supposed to be a lot warmer by the start, I was a little concerned that I would wear too much…or not enough. Either way would not be pleasant.
Julie and I headed out the door at just after 6:00 AM—right on schedule. Our plan to park in our work parking garage worked out perfectly, and we were able to skirt around the traffic jams as everyone else tried to fight their way into downtown from the other side. After a quick stop in the office to use the restroom, and make a final decision on clothing, we headed to the starting area, where I ultimately decided to strip down to my running shorts and shirt, leaving only gloves on as extra precaution against the cold. Julie took a quick picture and gave me a kiss, and I headed to the starting corrals.
I made my way into the corrals, between the sign for Corral B and C (my corral), just as the wheelchair competitors started on the course. Any nerves that I had were now replaced with a feeling of excitement. Due to poor planning with the corral setup (no barriers separating the corrals), I ended up being held back with Corral D, along with a lot of other Corral C folks. Not to worry, the race was being chip timed, but it did mean I’d have quite a few more slower folks to work my way past. It seemed like I was in the starting corral forever before it was finally our turn to go, but eventually the starting gun sounded, and the race was on.
As expected, the start was quite congested, and there were a number of slower runners and even walkers to work past. Even with the extra traffic, as we exited downtown, heading down the bridge to the Trinity River, I couldn’t help but to have the biggest smile ever! This was going to be an awesome day, and I was going to soak up as much of it as I could.
Somewhere between miles 1 and 2 a spectator shouted that we were “almost there!” Seriously. If you’re going to cheer at a race, that’s great, but please don’t tell a runner that they’re almost there, unless you can see the finish line, and even then maybe not. Mile 2 felt a lot harder than I expected, and it had me worried, until I remembered that it was all uphill.
As I rounded the turn off of Main Street, and onto 20th Street, a girl wearing all pink, including a pink cowboy hat, ran past me. I remember thinking “please don’t let her beat me.” A little later, as we approached the fluid station around mile 3, I ran up on a woman whose t-shirt said “baby on board.” I really wanted to ask her how far along she was, but she stopped for water, and I didn’t see her again. The craziest thing I saw in the first few miles of the race, aside from all of the guys running between buildings and behind bushes to pee, had to be the guy wearing his bathrobe. At first I thought about considering him a “costumed runner,” and staying ahead of him, but he was too fast, so I let him go.
My primary focus through the first 10K of the race was to hold a steady effort up and down the hills, and through the water stations, which was easier said than done. It seemed like for every downhill section, there were at least two uphill sections. As I completed the first 10K, I refueled, and started to settle into a little quicker pace. My 10K split was 55:19, a new 10K PR by 3 seconds.
If I thought the hills in the first 10K were tough, the next 4 miles featured a series of unrelenting, rolling hills, and then the bricks of Camp Bowie! Before spitting us out onto Camp Bowie, this section of the race went through some nice neighborhoods, with quite a few people out in front of their houses cheering us on. This was also where I was finally in some familiar running territory, as the course overlapped with some of the Run for Dad 5K course that I raced in June, 2008.
It wasn’t long before we were through the neighborhoods and running down Camp Bowie, heading back towards downtown, and on the bricks. The bricks sucked. SUCKED! I knew from the Run for Dad that my hips and knees did not like running on the Camp Bowie bricks, and this was really the only time during the race that I felt any joint or muscle discomfort. I could not get off of them fast enough! My 10 mile split was 1:28:12, a new 10 mile PR (of course this was my first 10 miles in a race).
With 10 miles behind me, and only the final 5K between me and a finisher’s medal for my first half marathon, I finally let myself start thinking about finishing the race. As luck would have it, this is also when my stomach started to turn against me, and I seriously wondered if my fluids and Shot Blocks were going to stay down, and if I would even finish the race after all. As it turned out, luck was on my side, and everything stayed down.
My goal for this race was to finish under 2 hours. After passing the 10 mile mark with 31 minutes and change to spare, I knew I could cruise in at 10:00/mile, and meet my goal. There was a brief, but very real battle between the desire to slow down and take it easy, and the determination to kick this race’s butt. Fortunately kicking butt won the day, but just barely. As I headed down 7th Street, all I thought about was the hill looming up ahead—the 2nd to last hill of the race, and one heck of a good demotivator.
As I approached the hill, more and more people were walking. As I ran up the hill I experience the first of several little muscle spasms in my calves. This was new territory for me. I’ve heard too many horror stories of cramps and spasms taking people down towards the end of a race—I was worried, but I kept on running. Soon I was up the hill and only a mile from the finish. It was time to pick up the pace, but dang it, there was one more hill. Damn that hill up Lancaster. I thought the hill at the end of 7th Street was a good one, but it had nothing on the demotivating powers of the Lancaster hill. People were walking left and right, and encouragement from fellow runners did little to spur them on. It was time for me to turn my attention inward, and focus on my race.
I made it up Lancaster, and turned onto Throckmorton. I was now ½ a mile from the finish; it was time to pick up the pace again. As I rounded the turn from Throckmorton onto 10th Street, I thought about asking the guy next to me if he wanted to race it on in. Thankfully I kept my mouth shut, and instead picked up the pace a little more. At this point, there’s just a quarter mile to go; one final turn, and then it’s the home stretch! One time around the track—I knew I could do that. It’s time to pick up the pace again. I pass the mile 13 marker, there’s just a tenth of a mile to go “kick, kick, kick! Ok, at least try to kick!” I don’t even know if my Zune is still playing or not, because I’m so focused on the finish line, and all I can hear is the crowd. One last kick to the finish and it’s over. 1:54:57—my first half marathon is complete.
Here are my thoughts as I crossed the finish:
Check back later for the post race highlights!