My body woke up about ten minutes before my scheduled 5 am alarm, which was fine. I slept soundly, but still felt tired when I awoke, most likely a result of the travel and continued recovery from my sickness earlier in the month. I just needed a little while to wake up. Going through my regular routine helped…coffee, yoga sun salutations, breakfast, gearing up, etc. By 6:30 am I was ready. The temperature on race morning was only 39 degrees. Not exactly the warmth I was expecting in Austin, so I was somewhat unprepared, and by race end the temps were only expected to be in the 40's. Hazel and Marshall gave me a heavy duty garbage bag the night before, so donning my garbage bag, I went out to brave the cold.
|Race t-shirt and bib number.|
|3M sanding attachment for vacuum cleaner...from the goodie bag.|
|View of the starting line. Lots of cold runners in 39 degree temps!|
The gear bag check and starting line were steps from my hotel much to my relief. I couldn’t get a clear sense from the marathon map exactly where all the starting line action would be, so it was great to have it so nearby. I handed in my finish line clothes in their bag and went off to find my place in the starting corral. This race was a point to point race, starting the Arboretum area of Austin and cruising to the downtown area near the University of Texas campus.
|Me and my garbage bag in the starting corral.|
Knowing I’d most likely run a bit slow this time, I decided to play it safe and line up near the 1:55 finish line sign. With only ten minutes to the starting gun, I was set.
The starting horn went off promptly at 7 am and we were off. It took a minute or so to cross the starting line, as the crowd was some 6,500 people strong. But once we got up there, we were off. The first several miles paraded through corporate/industrial/retail complexes on roads that most likely aren’t heavily traveled on Sunday mornings. I tried to just focus on keeping a fairly steady but comfortable pace and breathing properly. I felt very good through mile 6. At mile 6 the 1:55 pace group caught me, which was no big deal, in fact, I expected that to happen, but whenever I get passed by a pacing group, it always messes with my mental position. After that, I felt like every mile got slower. (After reviewing my final splits post-race, that is exactly what happened. I slowed with each quarter of the race, but less than I thought.)
I was just happy to be feeling good at the halfway mark. The slogan of this race was “Down Hill to Downtown,” which I kind of think is a misnomer. Most of the race felt flat to me, and quite honestly, the second half of the race had its share of modest uphills. The hills weren’t horrible, but when you already feel yourself slowing, it makes things seem even slower.
The second half of the race boasted many more spectators than the first part, so that made things more interesting. One of my favorite signs said something like, "Blisters are braille for "AWESOME!"" Also, we entered some residential areas. The houses were mostly brick or stone bungalow or ranch style homes. I really like the trees in Austin, too. They aren’t really tall like the oaks back home, and they are shrubby but tree-like. I have no idea what kind they are, but they are pretty. We ran along these tree lined streets, and as we got closer to downtown, we passed some mighty delicious smelling restaurants and cafes. I was getting anxious for the finish line.
At mile 11 the time clock read 1:38, so I pretty much knew if I could keep up with my pace, I’d finish in just under my two hour goal. The last bit of the race was through the University of Texas campus. What an impressive school. The buildings were massive, and the stadium was completely intimidating! I could imagine being from the opposing football team and showing up there on the bus. Talk about feeling small. Right near the stadium I spied a guy on the sidewalk spectating and wearing a UConn sweatshirt. I shouted to him UConn! He yelled back Go Huskies! It was fun.Also during this stretch of the race, I passed my favorite musical act along the route: a Mariachi band just inside the UT campus. As I ran past, they broke in to a rocking version of "La Cucaracha" which was just the boost I needed at this late point in the race. I couldn't help but chuckle that all the runners must have looked like a bunch of cockroaches skittering through the streets. Too funny!
A couple of more turns and I was downtown nearly in the shadow of the Capitol building. As I ran toward the finish line and through the finishing chute, I scanned from side to side for Hazel. I had no idea if she made it in time or exactly where she’d be. Just a few feet before the final push, I spied her and her twins. We saw each other and shouted with glee. I crossed the finish line with a respectable net time of 1:56:52. Not bad for not much training. Needless to say, I was pleased.
Hazel and her kids caught up with me while I was stretching. They had all kinds of great questions about the race, and we chatted while I stretched. I made a quick trip to the porta potty to freshen up, and she graciously drove me back to my hotel. After a quick shower, we headed out for a quick lunch.
|Austin breakfast tacos.|
We ended up at a busy, fun place called Tacodeli. Breakfast tacos at last! I had a black bean, egg, avocado and pico de gallo taco, and it was spectacular! I’m a fan and can’t wait to make some at home for my kids. A little bit of Texas in CT.
|The breakfast club having final goodbyes and selfies.|
After our lunch, we said our final goodbyes for this trip, but this clearly was just the beginning of us really knowing each other again. I’m so grateful for that. As Hazel and her kids drove away, and I prepared to navigate back to the airport, tears welled up in my eyes for having the pleasure of seeing an old friend and for it being such a special time. Talk about a powerful moment in life. I hope she and her family can come out our way sometime so I can give them the royal treatment, too. What a trip!
My trip back to the airport was without incident and both my flights were fine, so I was home in no time. This race will be a meaningful one for me for a long time to come. Thank you Austin, TX for a well organized race, and thank you Hazel and family for my full heart.
|Race shirt and finisher's medal.|