‘Category position’: 7/74 (if my ACTUAL age was considered)
As I was planning to be in Houston for the festive period (potential home invaders: my 6’2″ boyfriend is remaining in Aberdeen), I had scoured Houston Running Calendar for some potential races and discovered that there was a half marathon in Galveston the morning after I was scheduled to arrive. My friend, Nikki, had signed up as well, and we planned to run it together, just like we did for last year’s Huntsville half marathon.
The UK was being hit by some pretty ferocious winds on the day I left, and I was a little anxious about flying (I am a really shitty flyer). We were warned by the pilot before we took off for Heathrow from Aberdeen that we were “in for a bumpy ride.” The dude was not lying. Upon arrival at Heathrow, I collected my luggage, changed terminal, and checked in for my flight to Houston. Which was significantly delayed. It turns out the east side of the US was being hit by a storm system too, so any hopes of experiencing less turbulence was pretty much crapped on about 5 seconds after our (eventual) take-off. I kid you not, my ass left the seat on more than one occasion during turbulence, and my butt-cheeks were clenched for about 90% of the flight in fear. I hate flying, have I mentioned that yet? Add to the mix the guy sitting next to me who kept falling asleep on my shoulder, and the kid in the seat behind me kicking my lower back every few minutes, and you ended up with a bedraggled and exhausted me upon arrival, nearly 4 hours later than anticipated. And that was before the passport check. Needless to say, I did not partake in much conversation with my family when we got home, and I finally made it to bed around midnight.
And then my alarm when off at 5:30 in the morning. My mom, dad, and grandma came with me to Galveston, and I stifled yawns the entire way there. I met Nikki under a giant inflatable snowman about 15 minutes before the start of the race and she handed over my race pack. At least, we thought it was my race pack until I realized that I had entered as ‘Rachel Pidutti Williams’, and Nikki had been given the race pack for ‘Rachel Williams’, a 38 year old. So Rachel, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry! Once changed into our Santa shirt and hat (screw the beard), we headed to the start line:
This was Nikki’s first half marathon since she had her (adorable) kid, and she was aiming for sub-2, which kind of worried me because this was meant to be part of my taper, but she was determined, so I was happy to bust a gut at her side. We had unknowingly lined up in the ‘walking’ corral – probably because we shuffled up to the back of the crowd close to the start – and admired the effort some of the runners had put into their festive look:
About 5 minutes after the first group had left, we were running, and I was huffing and puffing pretty quickly only to realize we were charging out at an 8:00/mile pace. To risk burning out completely, we slowed down a bit, though it seemed pretty comfortable maintaining an 8:30-8:50/mile pace for the first half of the race.
The course heads towards the beach, and to my dismay, you started with an out and back along the beachfront which wasn’t too dissimilar to Aberdeen beach – the most uninspiring place to run in the world. Nikki and I both told ourselves that we were lucky this bit was near the beginning because it would be pretty soul sucking if it were to appear at the end. Ha.
After the first out and back we continued onto another out and back in the opposite direction along – you guessed it – the coast. It was warm and muggy (95% humidity – delightful), and the Santa hat had by this point fused to my soggy head. We stopped to walk through every water station, but ignored the cookie/candy stops because neither of us were really interested in eating anything.
Somewhere between mile 8 and 9, Nikki was starting to struggle. She felt like she was going to throw up, and running was not helping her situation. Since we had made good time in the first half of the race, we had a little time to take back and still finish sub-2, but as we went further, she was feeling more and more sick. She kept telling me to go ahead, but I refused to leave her until eventually she went off to the side because she thought she was going to throw up just after the 12 mile marker, and told me to go.
Seeing as it wouldn’t be long for her to finish, I went ahead, making it my mission for at least one of us to get a sub-2 finish. I ran my fastest mile of the day – and saw my HR elevate significantly – in 8:21, and crossed the line in 1:58:47, feeling a bit like I was going to puke myself. The humidity, the exertion in that last mile, the lack of sleep, and the jet lag all seemed to hit me at once, and I walked off to the side to drink some water and let my heart rate come down. Nikki came in soon after in 2:01:25, and we celebrated the finish with a beer at 10:30 am (the bars had opened early for the occasion).
There was talk of an official after party, but we couldn’t find it, and we both had to get back to our respective homes, so we snapped a couple of photos of the ‘scenery’, and had a quick chat with my family before heading our separate ways. After a Taco Bell stop (don’t judge me), I got home and showered, and managed to last until about 6pm, when I ‘power napped’ for 3 and a half hours before meeting an old school friend and his girlfriend for a beer and salted pretzel.
I can honestly say, I don’t think I’ve ever fallen asleep as quickly as I did when my head hit the pillow on Sunday night. I didn’t even feel guilty when I blew off my run this morning to relax for an extra hour in bed. Bliss.