This Sunday marked the first 1/2 marathon of our Fall race season, the Tyler Rose. We have been looking forward to this one for some time now. In anticipation of registering we had briefly glanced at the course map. We noticed that it would take us on many of the roads of our “Azalea” training route and some down town stuff but really didn’t pay too much of attention. I like the element of surprise when running distance. Sometimes not knowing is best.
Saturday night we had dinner at Joe’s Italian with our new friends Alison and Stuart from Lubbock. Allison or “Running Ali” was registered for the full! We had a great time with them talking race non-sense and what not. I don’t know how much you know about Lubbock but it is seriously flat and as a runner from that distant world training for the hills of Tyler, well, good luck. Got home from dinner, built upon my ever growing 5 hour “Running” playlist laden with Anberlin, Chevelle, P.O.D., BEP, and other adrenaline inducing music and then headed to bed around 10.
Sunday morning we arrived to find a “front row joe” parking spot, got acclimated with the starting line and then started seeking some familiar faces. As the day grew older the scene was set. Plenty of anxious runners, all shapes and sizes. It is amazing to see the variety that races seem to attract; a beautiful picture of community. We love down town starts and finishes (no matter how small the DT) and this years Tyler Rose course fulfilled this. Bonus too, our favorite coffee shop (Down Town Coffee Lounge) was right on the corner and open in support of the day’s festivities. Plus it being open provided a ridiculously short bathroom line (shhh!) in lieu of the port-a-potties.
7:30 marked the start of the marathon. 7:29 and the countdown to the start began. No starting pistol or big hoorah here. A couple less than adequate speakers with blown tweeters amplified “Runners! 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO!” and those crazy runners were off. They headed down College and right onto Front, fading behind the buildings. These runners had to jaunt all the way around the airport and back then do the 1/2 marathon course! Gross!
Our turn. As usual, Traci and I lined up about 1/2 way back in the mob of half marathoners as the moments to the start approached. A good luck kiss and “5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO!” We were off. Pressed start on my Garmin watch (now mysteriously working) and play on my iPod shuffle as we leaped across the first chip receiver and started down the first hill.
This was a maze of a course. If I didn’t see a map or readout from my watch I could have never told you how we got from start to finish. It seemed as though it is up a block, turn right, down the block, turn left the whole time. There were at least a handful of places on the course that were confusing and poorly guided. Some runners took wrong turns and even lost their way due to some unmanned turns and blocked signage. More on that in a few. Exciting too for the out-of-towners, we ran though some park-your-car-in-the-yard streets accompanied by a few trash rummagers enjoying the early Sunday morning aluminum can round-up. In stark contrast the next section took us beside schmuckety homes with garaged Mercedes Benz and overly pruned hedges though the Azalea district.
The weather was perfect. Mid 60’s and sunny. I love how the trees on some parts of the course seemed to hold a cool burst of freshness to their proximity. Almost a 5 degree difference and a great opportunity to take deeper than normal breaths of the moist air. Running against the sun is never fun and we saw the affects of its beating on both 1/2 and full marathoners as the race and day progressed. I fought through 2 (rare for me) cramps. One in my right shoulder and one in my stomach. When I was a young lad I never knew you could fight through cramps; I’d always stop and therefor did not learn to run till my adult years.
The hydration stations were placed well with a cheerful support staff at each location. I always run with a 1/2 liter water bottle (part of my strategy) but there seemed to be plenty of opportunity to quench thirst with some paper cup flavored water and even nibble on some fruit if desired. A few brave Tylerites were scattered throughout the course to cheer on family and community members and encouraged us all. It was great to see some familiar faces there too. Nothing conquers negativity like having some yell “Good job Ryan!” as you wrestle with the idea of slowing down to even stopping to walk for a minute. I really had hoped to see more support and felt for the marathoners who had that lonely trot to airport and back.
One thing I really try to focus on is a consistent or increasing quicker pace throughout the race. As my leg muscles break out of their “we are not in bed anymore” state, one of my main motivators is passing people. Not with a demeaning or trumping haughtiness but as a mini-milestones. I like to use passing as bursts of energy and motivation to keep my pace within my goals. It’s motivation both before and after the pass. Before to see if you can do it. After to make sure they don’t pass you! Plus, it just feels awesome.
As the mile markers moved into double digits the countdown began. 3 more miles. 2 more miles. 1 more mile. The last stretch of this journey was trying. We headed back across Front street and up College. In the distance you could see the starting/finish line balloon banner as you tracked up the hill. Unfortunately that was a cruel joke. There were a few more turns (left, right, right, right) to make before you actually got there. The main one (the left) was sorely obscure and caused many to keep running strait to the finish missing nearly 1/2 mile of the race! As I climbed up the last set of hills my calves began to twinge. Fractions of tightness degrees before cramping. Both of them. From past experiences in San Fran and Dallas White Rock, I began to change my stride to keep my clave muscles more strait and from pulling me to defeated walk across the finish. Nothing a few ounces of knowledge, determination and Skillet couldn’t fix! I managed to break through and finished unaffected.
All in all it was a great run. Challenging both mentally and physically. I achieved my lack-luster goal of under 8 minutes per mile with an average pace of 7:45. Finished 53 of 800+. Traci finished her run with a personal best pace of 9:45. We were there at the finish for our friend Alison who was able to complete this beast of a marathon course. Mission accomplished. Off to Momma Clark’s to pick up our babies and eat some yummy post run lunch. Some football, nap, pizza, pasta and cookies completed the great day.
Next up, November 7th. Manchester, New Hampshire 1/2 marathon. That one holds great value as this was the last race my father-in-law was registered for. I’m betting on a roller coaster of emotions. Never-the-less we will be victorious with our head held high as we cross the finish with a giant high 5 to the sky!