Half Marathon #5 for me. It only seems like they get better as I get older. Or so it seems. Some races I've ran in the past were good, others were great. Then there those that I asked myself "why did I even show up"? Today was a race where I was so rewarded and humbled from start to finish, and I say that unapologetically.
This morning started like any other race. I get up at 430, shower, get dressed, and out the door. Normally, I would also include taking my two dogs out, feeding them, etc, but today I didn't. Long story short, it was just me going to this race and not my wife. Why? Well today was also my sweet mother's birthday, so together wife and mom had a girl's day today, which left her in charge of "doggie duty" before she left..
Got that out of the way, on to another issue. I've had my share of driving long distances to races, and even dealt with the heavy flow of traffic. Those of you who've ran some of Dallas' big races know what I'm talking about. Well, today was just a little different. This morning, I had to take detour after detour just to get on the main highway so I can get out towards North Dallas and head north on Hwy 75 to Fairview. Why the heck did the surrounding cities have to tear up the roads and shut down the highways, huh? LOL.. After that was out of the way, I felt good about time and that I was going to make it to the race early like I had planned. Race started at 730, I got there at 645.. BAM!! As a bonus, I even got "front row parking" for free as well. No gimmicks, no catches. I just happened to pull in per the directions and found a parking spot close to the Fairview city building that housed and hosted the race. Lucky me.
I had received a text from my boy Clay aka "The Nite Train" saying that he was there and was wanting to know where I was and where to park. I told him I had just pulled in and wondering where to head to myself. We just happened to meet up in the city building then looked for our race gear. Once inside the building, I met up with Andrew aka "Twentysix-Two" and he directed me and Clay where to go for our stuff. Since we were both pacers, we didn't wear the tradition race t-shirts that they hand out to everybody, no! We got the sweet hookup on the "Active Joe" tech tees that all the other pacers wore. This shirt was cool looking. As all of the pacers showed up, got our time flags, and group pics, there were in fact some last minute time swaps and accomodations for the pacers and last minutes fill-ins for those that couldn't make. I loved how this group takes very strong initatives and can improvise on a dime. Good work team. At first, I was partnered with Robin to run in the 2:30 time slot, but she had bumped down to the the 2:15 group with Clay. At first, I thought I was going to be alone, but then at the last minute I was partnered with another DRC (Dallas Running Club) member Jeff C. He and I hit it off right away with the jokes, one-liners, and even encouragement as we helped our group get through the race. Jeff was also gentleman enough to pace with his girlfriend, Heather, who was running her first half marathon today. Details will soon unravel throughout this blog about them two.
So, after the pace team got their group picture taken, the National Anthem was sung, the lines were formed, and the race was soon to begin. That in itself was an understatement. Before we knew it, the race was starting and the runners were off. Before I could even set my watch to go, I was thankful Jeff had his Garmin ready. About a split second after I crossed the starting line, I saw the RD announce the pacers were in full force taking off and getting the groups going. The crowd at the starting line was very supportive, cheerful, and even encouraging. For a smaller venue sized race, this one tops some of the big ones I've done in my career. Jeff and I were settling well into the 11:21 pace we needed to keep for the 2:30 group, which for me as I found out later on this course was just the right tempo for me with all the hills and wind I later endured. As we were getting to know one another, Jeff's gf Heather had mentioned this being her first half, and that her training wasn't quite up to par as she had wanted it to be. The most she had ran was a one time 10 miler and then other short distances as well. Not only that, she had some lingering injuries as well, so she felt a little nervous about this race. I told to just stick by us and we will coast her in. Not only that, there were a few other runners that stuck with us for a good portion of the race that were feeding off each other's energy, including mine. It was a great comraderie for Jeff and myself as we were pacing the group.
In running half marathons, I myself call the first 4 miles my "warmup phase". Back when I PR'd my 2 half, I used this approach and it paid off in the end. Different story today since I was pacing. Not only that, this course had a a lot of H I L L S. Even though I was still warming up, I was getting a fill for how the course was set out. The first couple of miles were relatively flat until mile 2.5 going into 3 and just shy of 4. One of the things I loved about pacing today, was I felt a little bit like a tour guide. As we passed up some beautifully structured homes and nice looking land features, I personally was taken in by it. So to keep the other runners enthused, I made light of the run and cracked some jokes about these "mansions" belonging to rockstars, Jeff even chimed in and made some jokes as well. After the 5k mark, per Jeff's Garmin, I hollered out the the group, by then was a handful of women and one other dude that we've hit the 3.1 miles and that we got 10 more to go. The one guy in the group was slowly inching his was past us and kindly thanked us for keeping the pace. That and later he would need us as he was tiring down. I told him, that's what we're here for.
While the group Jeff and I were pacing was winding down, it was mainly just me, him, and Heather running together, and keeping her occupied with the run. As I mentioned before, this was her first half, so her mechanisms were unsorted at the time. She had asked me prior to the race starting if it was ok to walk part of the run if needed. I told that I've done it before and that there is nothing to be embarrassed about it. She had said that she wasn't going to do that and if she had to, she could shuffle step. I reassurred her that this was common in most long distant races such as this. By mile 6, Heather was beginning to struggle with her foot as she had her toe wrapped up and that it was bothering her foot. After the one and only split mark in the race has occured, Heather had to stop and readjust. Jeff took the initiative to stop and help her out. It didn't seem like it took long for them to reset, but by mile 7.5 going into 8, they were right back in the race just booking along. For the brief stint I was pacing by myself, I had a chance to chat with one lady runner who had said that this was her 35th half marathon she has ran. I humbly told her that she's got me beat by 30, and that I admired her talent for running that many races. This I have to say was the 2nd toughest part of the race. This was where the biggest portion of the hills had occurred. The wind for the most part was going in and out, depending on the direction we were going. Still again, for that part of the race, it had come down to just me, Jeff, and Heather just chit chatting about the race, our lives, family, etc.. Great conversation guys!!
Miles 9-13.1 (finish)
As we we're coming up the same hill we had gone down on from mile 4, we were basically looping it back to finishline. At that point, I starting struggling with my gait, and maintaining form. My haunted battle injury from past races came back with a vengence as my IT Band reared it's ugly head. I yelled out to Jeff to take the pace flag and take off so I could stretch out my leg/knee. He told to stretch and hold for 30 seconds and I would be fine. Sound advice well taken. After shrugging it off and climbing that big hill the WIND at my face, I was able to catch up to them at around the 15k (9.3 mile) mark. At that point, what comes down, must come up. Yes, that happened in this case as we climbed some hills heading back to the finishline. Unfortunately, that triggered my IT band to roll or mess up again. Stopped and stretched one more time and then I jogged to catch up with Jeff and Heather as they took off. I was able to catch up with them at mile 11.5ish going into 12. I told Jeff that I had a job to do, and I was not going to sit out on it. That same stretch, thank God was flat, but it wasn't easy to maintain much less gain speed. This race was a definite make you or break you kind of course. If the hills didn't get you, the wind surely did. The thing that motivated me to catch up to Jeff and Heather was the fact that I was indeed a pacer and that I had runners counting on me to help them. I was no use to them if I couldn't do my duty. That alone fueled me to ignore the pain in my leg, which by then had surprisingly subsided and also ignore that crazy head wind that could've easily knocked anybody over.
Once I caught up to Jeff, he had encouraged me greatly by calling me "Timmaay" and getting me to keep pushing. I told him, I was gonna run this time in with him cuz we were the pacers and we finish together. As we reached the cutoff to the finishline, he said that we had less than 2 minutes to hit our pace time and that we needed to gut this out. Talk about motivation, he grabbed a piece of the pace flag, and so did I as we paced step for step into the finishline with an exact 2:30 finish.
After we crossed, I felt a great since of pride in this race not only accomplishing yet another half marathon finish, but the pride I felt in overcoming an obstacle on the course and catching back up. Mostly the pride I felt in being a pacer.
After I got my finishers medal, pics, and snack stuff, I mingled with the other pacers and runners. High 5's all around, and just a great feeling of having a great race today, overall. Despite the hills we climbed, the wind we dealt with, and even a slight injury that slowed me down for a what seemed like a brief moment, I couldn't have asked for a better race to run. I definitely walked away with a greater appreciation for running hills.
I was greatful for the friends I have met along the way that were at this race, it was a blessing of a reunion, and after today, some new friends I was happy to have made. Words can not truly express of how grateful I was for this race. Can't wait to do this again.
Me with my pace flag, and medal. Sorry it got cut off
The pace team. See if you can find me..
From right to left. Me, Clay, Jeff, Heather, and Rick (another awesome pacer)
Here's a closeup of the bling. Big isn't it?
Back to the routine of this running thing. I think I've found my calling in the sport. I loved pacing today. It was nice to take a step back and remember where I had started from way back when. It was great seeing runners set PRs and running their first halfs today and knowing we as pacers helped them achieve their respective accomplishments. More to come on May 5, when I pace the 2:20 group at the Heels and Hills half marathon.... To be continued
Stay awesome frunners.....
HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!!