The race started at 6:30 am, with an early start at 4:30 am for marathoners who would take longer to finish. It's billed as "Everyone's Race" and they are very encouraging of all runners/walkers, which, knowing what I do about USAFit, I would expect nothing less. That said, it was a little weird to see the early marathoners crossing our path when we were driving to the race that morning! Normally I'd worry that we'd missed the start, but we knew what was going on. We were encouraged to arrive by 5:30 am. Parking was very easy for us because we had a VIP parking flag:
And now we have a car flag souvenir from the race.
Table with lots of food - I don't eat before I run, but I did snag a Kind bar for later, and a pair of disposable gloves that I left on the course after a few miles.
We ended up splitting into two groups - Jeff ran with Kasey, who was wanting to hit 2:30 for her race, and Love, who wanted to go a little faster than she does with her mom. They did 5:1 intervals and they finished in 2:30! This course had a lot of out-and-backs, so we were able to see them several times throughout the race, which was fun - lots of cheering going on. Except that when we passed them as they were around mile 11, they all looked spent. I wondered if it was just because they were pushing themselves, or if the course got more difficult. I soon got my answer...
Amy and I ran with Becky. We did our standard 1:1 intervals, but over the last couple of weeks, we've been doing them faster. We were challenged to slow down, because we didn't want to burn too much energy during the first part of the race and have nothing left toward the end. As it turns out, we ran the first 8 miles faster than we did at the BCS, and guess what we encountered at mile 8? A short, steep hill, argh! Then another, and another...and then? We got to the turn around (where the course marshal said something like "welcome to the turnaround, now go away" - gotta love anyone who can make you laugh after you've run nearly 11 miles!) and then we got to do those hills all over again. Spoiler alert: We walked up them. No shame. Didn't care. By that point, I'd developed blisters again and each step was painful. Here's another
Good riddance, blister-shoe! Showing my timing tag - it was a plastic card that you put on with twist-ties. Volunteers cut it off at the finish line.
Except for the hills from miles 8 through 11, this course was mostly flat, and we could see the finish line from a mile away. Not sure if that was a help or a hindrance, because that mile took FOREVER to cover. Again, I can deal with tired legs (because who wouldn't be tired after running that far?), but the blisters made the last few miles feel much worse than they needed to. My hamstring was getting tight, but manageable. If only my darn feet weren't hurting so much with each step! We finally rounded the corner to the finisher chute, and as we crossed the first set of timing mats, heard our names/cities called out, which I love - makes me feel like an athlete. Pictures:
This is cute - Becky is waving to her son on the sidelines!
Half marathon #6 (for me) is finished!
Becky, me, Amy - we made a good trio out on the race course!
Love, Becky, me, Amy, Kasey, and Jeff - team USAFit BCS!!!
Once we'd received our medals and had a chance to breathe, Jeff told us the news: Love placed third in her age group and won an award!!! This girl started training in June, when she was 10 years old. She kept up her training, even knowing that she'd have to go longer than the rest of our group, before she'd get to run her first official half marathon. She showed more strength and perseverance than a lot of adults I know (including myself), and she got a great reward as a result:
So proud of her!!!
After we got our finisher's shirts, we went back into the VIP tent, where lucky for me, the
He said I'd be bruised along the IT Band, and he wasn't kidding - I look like I've been through the wringer. But if it helps me to get back to normal, then it was worth it.
Jeff and I, enjoying our last moments in the VIP tent.
The dynamic duo with our medals!
Because the race started so early, we had time to return to our hotel and shower before hitting the road. We made our traditional post-race stop at Red Robin:
We split a strawberry shake (thanks to the talk about shakes from Becky during our run, it needed to happen), had lots of bottomless fries, and a burger. Yummm!
The good: The support on the course was wonderful. Water stations about every 1.5 miles, lots of spectators and signs (we laughed because USAFit Montgomery had a couple "GO AMY" signs on the course, and as it turned out, that Amy was running intervals near us, so anytime someone would yell out "Go Amy!" our Amy accepted those cheers as well), there were random snacks offered during the race (everything from animal crackers, peanuts, Oreos, pretzels, orange slices, banana halves and candy), and there were several areas with music playing (Amy and I serenaded Becky with the "hey-hey-a-hey" chorus from the song "Shout")(I'm sure she appreciated it, especially after we sang our traditional "Whoooah, we're halfway there..." chorus at the 6.5 mile mark). The weather was perfect - 45 degrees to start. Couldn't have asked for a nicer day to run 13.1 miles!
The bad: Ugh, those hills toward the end. And after hearing about the issues a few years ago with the Rock and Roll Las Vegas race, where they used water from fire hydrants for the water stations and lots of runners ended up getting sick, I have to say I was a bit dismayed to see hoses hooked up to the fire hydrants at this race and realize that this was where our water was coming from. At that point, I'd already had some water so just figured I'd hope for the best. Luckily, everything was OK, but afterward, Jeff expressed the same concerns. I wish they could get a water sponsor for the entire race (and not just the finish line) - better safe than sorry, in my opinion.
The "I've been spoiled by other races": The bib was just a bib! No race name on it - nothing to distinguish it from a general 5K bib. And the first part of the race was really crowded - generally you have room to spread out once you cross the start line, but we were packed in there for quite a while. I didn't want to start doing our intervals until we had room to walk without impeding other runners, so we ran for longer than we normally would have...not a huge deal, but you know. Spoiled.
LOVE this Texas-shaped medal! Plus the Lone Star spins - and on the back it says "2014 USAFit Half Marathon Finisher - Kicked Asphalt!" - you betcha we did!