ENOUGH WITH THE SMALL TALK. HOW'D IT GO?
It went about like you'd expect for someone who'd been averaging 6 miles a week for the last month and set out to run a hilly course on a warm day. I set a new personal worst of 4:23:25.
DID YOU WIN?
Nope. I was 61st of 212 overall, although 6 people ahead of me did not run the entire course (more on this later). I came in 5th place of 21 in my age group. It's pretty annoying to know that 3:54 would've taken home an age-group award and I certainly could've run that if I were in shape, but alas, I was not.
HOW'D THAT HAPPEN?
I stuck to my plan of walking up hills and running easily for as long as I could. I "cheated" a little with some of the small early inclines, feeling like I really didn't need to walk those. By mile 5 I encountered the first real hills and hiked up them, but I was feeling fine.
I ran with the legendary T.O. for a couple miles before the halfway point, chatting about the course and upcoming races and Boston and whatnot. I wondered who was holding whom back until he declared he was going to head off to catch someone. He finished about 40 minutes ahead of me. That's what happens when you reach machine status.
I crossed the mat at 13.1 in 1:50:42, which surprised me a little until I reminded myself I was supposed to be going this slow. I still felt OK, but the wheels would be coming off soon. I got to about mile 17 before the walk breaks started getting longer and more frequent. And by the final 4 miles, I was so out of whack from walking up hills and running down them that I had to start walking downhill too.
From there on out I could only manage to jog a couple of minutes per mile. Everything from the waist down was breaking down at one point or another. I did manage a good sprint across the finish line, flashing double horns down for the cameras to a responsive crowd (they were mostly against me, but this was the most noise I'd heard all day -- more on this in a moment also).
Not sure where to start, but here's one: The course was terrible. I don't say that because it was hard. Obviously it was hillier than almost anything we can recreate in these parts, and my undertraining of the last 5 weeks included pretty much no hills, so it was going to be hard, definitely. (I know that 1,081 feet of gain is comical to folks in most parts, but it's all relative.)
No, the course was bad for other reasons. Signage was abysmal. Twice I had to ask cops directing traffic which way to turn. It was nice of them to tell me but that's not their job and I shouldn't have to ask. Not everyone was so lucky, apparently, since at least 10 people cut perhaps 5 or 6 miles off of the course thanks to wrong turns or bad directions. When barely 200 people are running, you can't assume there will be someone to follow who's going the right way.
Another 3 or 4 times I found myself crossing paths with or running directly at half marathoners, at least one of whom refused to yield (I don't know what the rules are about who yields to whom, but I've gotta think if it's known that the other runner is going further and/or faster, you step aside, and both were true for me). On one side street, all the half marathoners were running one way and little ol' me was running the opposite direction, unbeknownst to the driver who eased out of her driveway just as I approached. I pounded on her hood as I ran by yelling, hopefully hard enough to leave a dent.
Also, there was no community support whatsoever. We could've just gone to the track and run in ovals for hours in front of empty bleachers and it would've felt the same. I watched the local news on Saturday night and didn't hear a word about the race. Not to say there's nothing to do in Tyler but when it's a slow news day and there's a marathon in town the next day and there's not even a mention of it, that tells me the race directors did nothing to promote it. That seems to be the standard for Mellew, which does a similarly poor job of pushing the Big D Texas Marathon. They should really just stick to 5Ks.
I was about a week removed from Lasik surgery and had no complications until right before the finish, when sweat finally dripped into my eyes. That hurts anyway, but especially so with eyes still in recovery. Fortunately I carried drops with me and got the sweat washed out a couple minutes after finishing. Oh yeah, the part about finishing.... The Rose Garden is certainly a scenic finish, but having the finish line down there means you're having to climb upstairs to get post-race food. People don't want to climb stairs after a marathon on a flat course, let alone one that hilly. Just more poor decision making.
One good thing worth pointing out was the stellar performance of my new Native sunglasses. I got the Sprint model and they didn't dare think of scooting out of place one millimeter the entire run. Totally worth it.
Also good, my best race photo yet:
12:49 pace last .37
OK, WHAT ABOUT THE REAL REASON WE ALL RUN, THE STUFF?
At least there was some good stuff to be had. Everyone gets a simple white long-sleeved tech shirt for entering and a genuine Tyler rosebush for finishing. The medal is a big heavy rose with a quality ribbon:
And this being the completion of my swim through the Four Seasons Half Marathon Challenge, I got another tech shirt and another medal:
13.1 Dallas, Oct. 22.