As we were driving to the airport on Friday morning we were reminiscing about the year and I mentioned how we had done remarkably well in only missing one flight the whole year when we overslept for our flight to Kansas for Heartland. I mentioned that I was glad that this would be the last time I had to drive to the airport for a while and so on. Well, when we got to the off airport parking place we use we got out of the car to load our luggage on the shuttle and Liz exclaims "Where's my suitcase!?" Crap. She had left her bag on the deck by one door and then left the house by another door and forgot to grab it. With a quick call to Airtran we made arrangements for a flight later in the day and drove the 80 miles back home and then back to the airport. Still, only two flights missed is pretty good, don't you think?
Once in Houston we checked into our room and drove to the race start as we usually do so we know where to go in the morning. Then we got a bite to eat and were asleep by 10 or so. We slept well, barely bothered by the freeway thundering by 200 feet away and woke up ready to get this last race done. I have to share a secret we have used for a good part of the year to get to sleep the night before a race. What we do is take a dose of Nyquil which knocks us out and usually we sleep through to our alarms. I suppose it helps that any pre race jitters which might wake us early had left us many runs ago! We drove to the start and grabbed our goodie bag with bibs as well as our timing chips and pretty much holed up in the car as the temp was around freezing and there was a stiff northerly wind blowing. Here's a pic of the aid tent and the beautiful sunrise.
The course was a flat asphalt bike path around a bunch of soccer fields and baseball fields. It had some straight bits and one section that snaked back and forth a bit but no really tight turns. It was funny how the course seemed completely flat early but by the end of the race the short slight inclines (we're talking 8 inch rise over 30 feet) were very noticeable! That said, this course is very fast. It would be a great first time 100 miler with such a short loop, great aid, chip timing so you don't have to worry about catching someone's attention each lap, and a high likelihood of good weather. We had cold temps and a 10 mph or so N wind during the day but short of rain this is probably as bad as it would get. I meant to carry the camera around a loop but never got around to doing it. With this being the last race of the year I had decided to push for as fast a time as I could since there were no more races to be put in jeapordy.
I did the first few laps running with Shannon McGinn at right around a 10 minute pace. Then after a few laps she stopped at her car and I continued on staying pretty steady for a good bit. Those first few laps I was eating and drinking very little usually passing by the aid table without stopping. As the day wore on it continued to be quite cold running north into the wind but got nice and warm on the long straight section heading south to the aid station. I kept a good pace and had visions of a sub 20 hour finish if I could stay strong. I believe my 50 mile split was about 9:17 while I was hoping for around 9 hours. Eventually it became obvious that sub 20 wasn't going to happen and I thought about backing off and taking it easy but decided to tough it out and keep pushing with this being the last race in such a big year. Crossing the finish line in 20:19 was sweet.
I got to run with several different people as the path was wide enough to run side by side easily and chat. Getting to know race winner Jeremy Blackford a bit better and local runner Trent McKenna was fun. At one point when I was starting my second to last lap I fell in with Jim Kern and he said that he wasn't sure if he had 2 or 3 laps to go. At this point I was in second place and I wasn't going to lose that position easily. I had visions of a push to the finish. As we ran along chatting I noticed that Jim was slowly increasing the pace and I matched him with some effort but no real strain. Eventually we were running what I would guess was about an 11 min/mile pace. I was still able to chat without being out of breath and after a little over a mile of this Jim started to fade back. I was able to continue on until I had a comfortable gap and eventually I wasn't even able to see him behind me. After I finished and he came by it turned out that he had another lap to go anyway. It was fun to race at least a little bit!
I had passed Liz a number of times so I knew that she would be a while finishing. I sat in the aid tent chatting and sitting next to the kerosene heater but eventually started to chill so I went to the car and changed clothes and warmed up the car. It was well below freezing by now and I kept the car running dozing, shifting in my seat from sore muscles, and drinking bottles of gatorade. I had a time estimate when I thought Liz would finish and though it was still early I noticed her coming to the timing mat and got out of the car to see how she was doing. It turned out she had pushed the last couple of laps and this was her finish in a nice 22:26. And so it was done. What a year.
Here is a picture after the race with RD Yen Nguyen the sweetest RD ever.
Yen and her crew were fantastic. They were there in the cold all through the night and always had smiles on their faces. The aid station food was your basic fare but there was pizza at dusk, grilled cheese, ham, quesadillas, and an array of drinks with a cup or two always poured and ready. Thank you so much Yen and all the others for making this end of the year run a special one!
Final race count: Liz (36) Scott (27)