The Beach Boys were a essential part of my growing up, especially in Galveston and the surrounding areas. You could not go to the beach when I was in high school without some Beach Boys tunes blasting on your car radio (AM/FM if you were lucky) or your fancy 8 track tape player. I think I owned every one of their albums or tapes (younger set: please don't ask, "what's a tape?" Thank you).
I Get Around was a perfect song to play in my head during the 13.1 miles of the run portion of my 70.3. The course wound around and through Moody Gardens, the parking lots, the driveways, some sidewalks, a short construction sand pit, for four loops. So it's not like you didn't know what was coming after the first loop.
After I managed to get off the bike and trot to my transition spot, I was in and out of T2 in 4:31, which was 29 seconds better than planned. It seemed longer. My patient spouse managed to video my whole T2, which was the only video he took of me the whole day, while I was standing still. I shrugged off those bike shoes with joy, and slipped on the running shoes, which I had powdered up the day before, and was pleased to discover that my painful bike hotfoot had completely and totally left the building. Grab the Garmin GPS off the bike stem and then fasten the watch band that goes with it around my wrist--took a couple of tries to do that--and slip the Garmin onto it and punch it to "run" mode. Visor on the head, number belt twisted to the front side. Fuel belt fastened around waist, full of my blue Gatorade small drink bottle, candy corn and baggie'd Luna Bar, once broken into bits, now fused back into a funny shaped bar. Gel bottle in back jersey pocket.
During the ill fated 1912 expedition led by Captain Robert Falcon Scott to the North Pole (all in the expedition perished), one of the gallant explorers, a Captain Oates, seeing that without help all would be lost, volunteered to go for help (the nearest help being over 200 miles away) in the middle of a -40 blizzard. According to the journals, as he left the tents, in typical British fashion he said to the shivering occupants: "I'm going out now. I may be some time." Patient Spouse and I have borrowed his understatement a lot.
As I trotted out of my transition area for the run, and yes, I was indeed jogging, I turned to Patient Spouse and said, "I'm going out now. I may be some time." It was a bit warmer than -40, although the winds were pretty blizzard like. However, now they were a blessing rather than a curse (except for one particularly windy corner) as it was getting pretty toasty warm out there.
I had a Plan for the run, and except for the last freaking mile, I managed to stick to it. I knew this was a run where negative splits were just not going to happen. I was tired, but fortunately not terribly so, and I wanted to finish upright, smiling, with no major injuries or strains. So my Plan was for the first loop (about 3.3 miles) I would run 7 minutes and walk 3, run 7 and walk 3, the entire loop. The second loop would be run 6 and walk four, the third loop run 5 and walk 5, and the fourth loop run 4 and walk 6.
I started out with an easy run pace, about 11:35 min mile, which was pretty much my standard run pace every time I did run. I felt okay, nothing hurt too badly, and I was focused on finishing this event. Every time you started a new loop, you passed the finish line about 20 yards to one side, and it was tough to turn at the sign that said "2,3 and 4 loops this way." Of course, people were finishing right and left; the pros had finished long ago.
The first loop went as planned. Every walk break I sucked down my Gatorade, which was warm but wet, and every aid station I grabbed ice water and tossed half of it on my head and half of it down my gullet. Somehow, and I don't know how this happened, I never managed to pass an aide station during my walk breaks except once, so I had to toss and gulp on the run, until I ran out of Gatorade, and then I was forced to walk briefly while I refilled my carry bottle from the aid station cups.
There's one small hill on the loop, and a couple of what I would call uprises but not hills, and otherwise it's fairly flat. There was one corner I immediately named Windy Corner as the wind simply punched you in the face as you turned it, but as hot as it was, that was not necessarily a curse.
Each aid station was well stocked and the volunteers on the course were awesome. They all cheered and clapped for you and had something inspirational to say, even after seeing you four freaking times.
The first loop was crowded as the faster runners, especially the women, were still out on the course.
I finished the first loop feeling fairly strong, and started my second loop knowing I had less than 10 miles left on this epic journey. Every walk break I would first slug Gatorade, then eat something (mixing up my candy corn, my gel, and my Luna bar bites--it was a nice distraction while running to ask myself, "what treat do I get this next break? Oh, candy corn time, yummy!"). There were about four robust looking (nice word for a bit overweight) supporters on one stretch blowing long horns very loudly. And often. As I ran past them, I said to a fellow runner (large African American lady whom I cheered into the finish after I finished), "do you think they know how obnoxious they are?" Silly question on my part. Look at my watch and be amazed it's only 2 something; seemed like I had already been out for a million hours.
Second loop run six walk four. Eat, drink, breathe, move. Grab water and pour over head, gulp the rest. Thank the volunteers. Hand slap a couple of kids, although one eager youngster came at me with both hands and I feared I would get knocked backwards. Try to read the inspirational signs, none of which were as funny as I wanted. Try to read the chalk markings on the sidewalks, wondering why Easter Eggs was spelled Easter Egges. Try not to notice the course was getting less crowded. Smile and say "good job" to anyone you pass, or anyone that passes you. Hold up 2 fingers to Patient Spouse (who was always waiting in a different spot, which made it interesting to wonder where he would pop out next) to mean 2 more loops after this one.
Third loop run five walk five. No problems, but hamstrings getting a bit tight and IT bands starting to sing the blues a bit. Jive to the music from the Disco Bus set up at one corner (another place also had music playing, but he closed shop after my second loop; I guess he thought all the important people had finished). Consider walking the uphill and find that my walk break coincided exactly with the uphill, what awesome news. Little things like that make a big difference. Watch a spectator dressed in a shaggy dog suit come toward us with high knee jogging saying "pick it up, pick it up, pick it up." Watch a guy spectator try to talk his girl into a jog Windy Corner and asked her if she wanted me to kick him for her (got a laugh from them both). Had a guy come up and tell me I was making it look easy, and then run off of course. Run for awhile with a nice lady in a blue striped top and discuss that we would definitely make course time, even if we had to walk the whole rest of the way, which we were not going to do. Tell the nice lady in the big hat that I would only see her one more time. Mug for the photographer on the back side. Run for awhile with 81 year old Lew, who curves away for his finish line while I still have one more loop to go. Tip of the visor to him and I'm on my way.
Now I've passed the sign Loops 2,3 and 4 this way for the last time--last loop! 3.3 miles to go and it's not 4 p.m. yet; I'm on cruise control. Run 4 walk six, no worries, lots of walk time. Grab a defizzed Pepsi from an aid station and do the "no Coke only Pepsi" routine with him (anyone younger than 40 won't know this). Tell a fellow runner that I don't think I'll do this again tomorrow. Course more crowded now with walkers and watchers and non-racers than racers; have to dodge strollers and kids and spectators; wish they would do a wee bit better course control for the late runners but try not to let it annoy me too much. Three bikers getting their bikes from transition blocking the course ahead. A polite, "I know we're slower than you, but can you let us through?" and they jumped out of the way. However, several very fit earlier finishers are standing or sitting at course side encouraging the later racers which I found awesome.
One mile to go! Suddenly the right IT band says, ya know, we've done 69.3 miles today and we don't think we should do any more. Try to jog anyway and find the pain is just too much. Think about the fact that I have over an hour and a half until they close the course down, and I don't think that the pros need to worry about me beating them anytime soon, and so I settle into a hobble walk for most of the last mile. Not the Plan, but I came pretty close to it. 2/10s of a mile to the finish gimp to Patient Spouse and hand slap, grit my teeth and start running as there is no way I am gonna cross that finish line at a walk.
As you come across the finish line, the announcer announces your name and your home town and says "You have JUST COMPLETED the Lone Star Memorial Hermann 70.3!" It sent chills up my spine and I thrust both fists into the air and had tears in my eyes as I ran across the final mat. A full year of hard work, six days a week, never quitting, always pushing, and I'd done it. I was a 70.3 finisher.
Next up: post race and some lessons learned.