Medal: Yes! (And technical t-shirt)
Despite being super tired from the Huntsville half marathon on Saturday (and getting next to no sleep, and BOTH of us failing to indulge in an afternoon snooze/early night), Nikki and I were totally looking forward to the Houston half marathon relay on Sunday morning. Why? Well, let’s see:
- Even though it started an hour earlier than Huntsville, it was significantly closer and we had already picked up our race packets, so we could sleep in an entire hour later than Saturday. I rose at the leisurely hour of 5:15 (Nikki was coming from her mom’s, so had to be up a smidge earlier).
- It was only half the distance.
- We were going to get another medal (Nikki is now firmly a medal whore, as she’s scouting for races we can score some at after she births what I can only imagine will be a super fast and super amazing child).
I was picked up just after 6am and we headed downtown, eventually following the enormous trail of cars trying to score free parking (we were successful). Then we started making our way to the race start, and began voicing our concerns over where to start, what happens with the relay teams, what to do with our stuff (I did not shed clothing as it was freezing), etc. We figured we would get all the answers we wanted if we followed the people in running gear and race bibs:
We found the start line and heard over the loudspeaker that all second leg runners on relay teams (Nikki) should meet on the grassy section by the start/finish line, where they would await first leg runners (me) after we’d run. Obviously. There wasn’t much time and people were already starting to line up, so I peeled my extra layers off, told Nikki I’d see her soon, and wedged myself into the hoard of runners for heat. The horn went, we edged forwards, and then the hundreds of ‘bleep’s went off, letting us know we should probably pick up the pace.
The sun was starting to come up, and it was pretty cool running through Houston’s downtown streets with zero traffic, weaving in and out of the skyscrapers. After about 3 miles I found myself passing the start line, beginning the second loop of my leg. I slowed down a bit to scan the crowd, and just when I’d given up hope of catching sight of her, I saw Nikki and heard her shouting encouragement! I waved and kept going.
We ran along the Allen Parkway until about mile 4, and that’s where the relay runners became separated from the group. We turned at a bridge, and started running back to the start line. It was pretty cool being able to watch the mass of runners going in the other direction while a grand total of about 40 people were on your side of the road. It did make for some pretty self-conscious photos around mile 5 (3 photographers aiming at you because there’s no one else around is less ‘I’m a Rockstar!’ and more ‘Fuck, where do I look?’.
After the stress of paparazzi, it was back under the overpasses and onto the home stretch. I started to speed up here because I didn’t want any of the 5 people I had overtaken (yes, I counted) to overtake me, and also, I had a flight to catch that afternoon and all extra packing/showering/relaxing time was appealing.
Here I am coming into the relay changeover area. For once, my face doesn’t look like it has melted, but this could be the sheer joy of seeing Nikki was there with my stuff mixed with the knowledge that I was done!
The woman organizing the handovers was apparently working alone but doing a kick-ass job, because Nikki was waiting for me and had her sweatpants off already. I reached her, grabbed our stuff, and yelled ‘Go, go, go!’. She sped off, and then looped around the start back onto the half marathon path for her lonely section until she met up with the half runners a few miles before the finish.
At this point I knew I’d have about an hour, so I collected my medal and headed to the event village where I had a free toothbrush thrust upon my person, and eventually found the food. I took a moment to have my first ever ‘official’ finisher photo since I’ve never had the opportunity to without a queue! Then I grabbed some water and a banana, then went back to the finish line to catch the freaks of nature that can run a half marathon in just over an hour.
Three guys came storming in about 2 minutes after I returned, and then more and more runners trickled in. There was a little girl who seriously can’t have been more than about 8 who came firing into the finishers chute under 1:30:00, and I felt beyond sorry for the fully grown dude trailing her looking totally used. Who lets kids do these things anyway?
I started noticing some relay bibs coming in (they were yellow instead of white), and kept my eyes peeled for Nikki, camera phone at the ready. Just after the 2 hour mark (gun time), I spotted her, and blindly aimed my camera into the sunlight hoping to get her in the picture while shouting ‘Come on Nikki!’ or something similar, and making my way to the finishers’ area. Here she is coming towards the finish:
After congratulating ourselves for getting a better time than yesterday on tired legs, I ushered her towards the food (bypassing the now heaving photo queue), and then we split (again, I had a flight…). It was only at the car that I looked at the photo I took of Nikki (I hoped) and we both realized that I had captured the most awesome, flattering, and as much as I hate the word, dynamic (it just sounds like what pricks use to describe themselves on resumes) race photograph I’ve ever seen. And that includes that ridiculously photogenic runner guy. Witness the beauty:
Anyway, back at my parents’ house we said our goodbyes and vowed to run again after she has become a mother. I showered, packed, cried at the thought of leaving sunshine, went to lunch with my parents, and then had a ‘carve-off’ with my dad. I stuck with the jail theme:
And then it was time to head to the airport. We swung by the diner my brother was working in so I could say goodbye (freaking out the customers with my crying weirdness), and then making everyone at the airport come to the conclusion that I had a fatal disease with more OTT crying. I am really trying to get on top of that.
The flight home seemed to go ‘around’ Hurricane Sandy, but it was one of the most turbulent flights I’ve been on. The ‘fasten seat belt’ sign went on after about an hour (of a 9 hour flight), and I can honestly say I never saw it off again until we landed. I’m terrified of flying anyway, so I was white-knuckling it the entire journey home, getting zero sleep.
Upon arrival (late) at Heathrow, I had to pick up my luggage (no checking through to my final destination available – great), and switch terminals, pretty much running to the bag drop with my purse, jacket, very full duffel bag (containing medals) and 47 lb. suitcase, dodging travelers throughout. I had to clear security by 8:05 to be allowed on the flight. I cleared security at 8:05. I was sweating quite a bit. And then OF COURSE my flight was delayed.
After finally arriving home, and having amassed a ridiculous 8 hours of sleep in three days, all I can remember doing is showering, eating a handful of candy corn, putting my three new medals on my rack, and then collapsing onto my beautiful bed. I knew work was going to hurt the next day*.