This was the second year for me to run this race. Last year, it was 72 degrees and incredibly humid at the start. This year? It was 30 degrees. Oh Texas, your extreme weather keeps us guessing! While the Dallas Marathon, which was scheduled for the same day, had to be cancelled because of a massive ice storm, all systems were good here (we're about 3.5 hours south) - the race directors even allowed those who couldn't travel because of the storm to defer their registration at the last minute, and opened up those spots to other people who were registered for Dallas but couldn't get there (like Houstonians, who are even further south). That was very nice; people who, like us, had trained for months and months were able to get their race in. But then, WE got ice. It took everyone by surprise - Jeff and I went out for our pre-race dinner around 6:30 Saturday night (we split our usual burger basket) and when we walked back to the car, we felt light icy rain hitting us - eek! We drove home, and all evening as I sat knitting a hat to wear after the race (last-minute nerve-calming thing) I heard the sirens of emergency vehicles (we're close to the highway). I finally went online and saw that all the bridges and overpasses had iced up and there were lots of multiple-car pileups. Not good. We went to bed hoping that the race would be a go in the morning - remember, we're in south Texas and we don't deal with ice (or snow)...normally we just hunker down and stay home until it melts!
Long story short (I know, too late) - we woke up very early on Sunday and saw that bridges and overpasses had been sanded and the race course was deemed safe, so we were on - woohoo! We got to the starting area just before 6:00 am and set up our USAFit canopy, and our members started gathering. There was a fair amount of race nerves going on, but mostly everyone was trying to stay somewhat warm. My toes were frozen and my hands were pretty cold, even though I doubled up my gloves (I wore a cheapie pair of Target gloves inside of my windstopper gloves, which, I discovered the day before, were not great at keeping my hands warm). I also wore my 89-cent poncho to help insulate me, but took it off right before we went to the race start. It made for some funny sparkly pictures, though:
Amy and I; Jeff and I - layered up and ready to run!
The race started at 7:00 am and we were off! Amy and I ran for a few minutes until the crowd spread out a bit, and then we began our 1:1 intervals - we were pretty consistent with doing the intervals, but when we had a good downhill section, we'd run all the way. We had fun the entire time, chatting with other runners, thanking the police as they stopped traffic for us, enjoying the cheering from the spectators (who had to have been freezing - they didn't have the benefit of moving to stay warm like we were) - it was an adventure! Around the 2 mile area, we realized we were on ice - there was a small bridge that hadn't been sanded, and we were slipping, so we very carefully walked across it. Other than that, the roads, although rough in many areas, were clear. We saw a lot of people that we knew along the route which made it even more fun; we even came across Santa and Mrs. Claus in Northgate:
I asked Santa why his beard wasn't white and he said he's been using Grecian Formula - LOL! This was around mile 8 and I think we look pretty good, all things considered!
Then we ran through the campus of A&M University - there were lots of groups cheering for us (most ironic were the smokers who had hauled out an easy chair to sit in while they cheered us on), including one fraternity who formed a human tunnel for us to run through - now that was fun! I ran into my friend Lezlie after that - she hugged me and then patted the top of my head and said "you're frozen!" and I thought, well yeah, but I'm warm enough. Another half mile went by and we ran into my friend Joni (and baby Davis), she hugged me and said "your headband has ice on it!" - ooh, that's what Lezlie meant! Even though it was 30 degrees, I was sweating, and I guess my sweat was freezing on my headband. Amy's hat was the same - funny that neither of us noticed it! We saw our friend Andi, and saw Amy's husband and girls twice during the race...it's amazing how energizing it is to be running along and all of a sudden realize that you're seeing someone you know cheering you on!
Around mile 10, my legs started to feel heavy. We walked through our run intervals on a couple of hills; my hamstring was starting to bother me on them. No biggie - we were running this race the way we wanted, and if we wanted to walk a hill, we did. It also felt like it got colder, too...other runners were saying the same thing, so it wasn't just our long-distance delirium feeling that. We finally got near the finish line, which was downhill this year - what a fantastic way to finish! We rounded the corner and ran the whole way in - it was awesome! Jeff was at the finish line and got some great shots:
When you cross this mat, it registers your chip so the announcer can call out your name as you cross the finish line!
We'd unzipped our jackets so we could hold them open and show our SUPER RUNNER shirts as we crossed the finish line - we did, and got a big laugh...love it!
We finished and my first hug was from Amanda, one of the physical therapists who I worked for years ago - she hugged me at the finish last year, too. Then the race director hugged me, and then I got my medal. One of the beneficiaries from this race is the Down Syndrome Association of the Brazos Valley, and they hand out the medals. A very nice young man placed my medal around my neck and said "Congratulations!" to me, and I thanked him. Then, I just stood there...at that point, my brain had turned to mush. That sweet young man looked at me for a few seconds and then said "Merry Christmas!" - and finally someone else pulled me toward the thermal blankets. I laughed about that later because I thought, that poor guy had a job to do and I was keeping him from handing out more medals!
Medal around neck, Finisher's shirt on arm, thermal blanket around body, ice on headband (click the picture to see it really well) - one happy half marathoner!
Afterward, we went to the food area - thankfully, they had people there handing out bags to hold our stuff (gloves, shirt, water bottle) so we could hold the important stuff: the food! I had a pepperoni roll and it was the best thing EVER - warm, salty, doughy...I ate that thing up! Then I got half a cheeseburger - didn't think I would want it, but guess what? I ate that thing up, too! I also had a mini strawberry tart (like last year, and again, so tasty), and then went looking for the chocolate milk that was promised to be at the finish line. Now, they had craft beer and margaritas there, but I don't drink, so this chocolate milk was really important to me at that point. I finally found a bunch of ice chests containing half gallon cartons of it, but no cups, and no one around to help. One man came up looking for it and just snagged a carton - he said his wife wanted chocolate milk and by god, he was going to get it for her. Love that, completely understand it. I finally found a race volunteer and asked about cups - she went off to get some, and told me to take a carton, which I did, along with some cups. I found Jeff and Julia at the finish line and we had a little chocolate milk party there - and it was GOOD!
Remember the movie The Jerk, where Steve Martin carries several random household items, muttering "that's all I need" - that's what I felt like as I walked around the finish area, holding my half gallon of chocolate milk!
We waited for the rest of our runners to come in - it was so, so cool to see our first-time marathoners complete their race! Then we went home, took hot, hot showers, napped, and then went out for Mexican food because we were starving! This was the hungriest I've ever been after a half marathon (and it lasted through Monday, too) - I guess running in such cold weather really got my appetite going.
Two more pictures:
Jeff and I - he had a good race too, finishing in 2:12! Amy and I finished in 3:23 according to my Garmin; race timing says 3:28, so I don't know why there's such a difference. Any case, it was a good run and not bad considering I wasn't sure I'd even be able to do it after my hamstring injury!
Tired, happy, half marathon finisher - BOOM!