I was fortunate enough to pick up my packet the day before the race, which offered a pretty sweet technical t-shirt. Little did I know that it would portend the events to come.
Saturday evening I had the misfortune of a migraine and napped from 8:30 until about 11 p.m. before heading to a friend's place in Irving to stay the night and shorten the morning drive. The Lone Star Race Series was held in Arlington and it took about 20 minutes to get there, and a panicky 20 minutes longer to find my way to open parking, lost as far as Grand Prairie based on the directions given by the organizers instead of an address for my GPS to take me to.
I arrived 7 minutes before the start of the Lone Star Race 10k/half, tears streaming down my face. I opened my car door and reached for my race belt, and the wind blew the door shut on my foot. Not terribly hard, but enough to set me crying afresh. I was SO stressed out, and I hadn't yet had a chance to use the bathroom. The portapotty line was fortunately short, and I pinned my bib while waiting in it, but there was no paper. It's a lucky thing I didn't have to go number 2, huh? And that I wore my fancy wicking runderwear.
I walked over to the start corral with seconds to spare, snapped a grouchy selfie, and then worried when the race began and the people in front of me weren't moving. Had I gotten in a corral for 5k runners only? I threaded my way to the front as the crowd slowly dispersed and managed to start about 2 minutes after the gun time.
Gloom and doom
The weather was in the low 70s with a stiff breeze and 85% humidity, which is just about the worst possible race conditions for me. Humidity saps my strength and typically adds several minutes to my pace. The Lone Star Race was a surprisingly hilly and ugly as sin road course that wound through the business districts surrounding the Ballpark at Arlington.
Around the 25-minute mark, the 5k leader ran past me. My shins ached and my calves were stiff and sore, but I soldiered on, setting a careful, smooth pace that I could maintain . . . at least until the uphill parts with headwinds. I embraced the suck, focusing on my stride and form, sure I would hate every minute of this race and recognizing that as an acceptable outcome. I knew I would finish anyway.
At the 2-mile mark, I checked my watch and my heart sank to see that I had been running slower than even a 14-minute pace. My goal for the day was 13. All three courses overlapped, and as we approached the halfway point, volunteers helpfully cheered, "Almost there!" I gave them a weak nod as other runners corrected them. Suddenly, as I reached the 3-mile mark, I had magically caught and beat my goal pace.
Now, I've always been a solid pacer, no matter the conditions. I may be slow, but my pace hardly varies even with elevation. I was tired by now and gave myself a long walk break up the next hill. I picked up my steady shuffle again and passed the 4-mile mark . . . and another 4-mile mark. Maybe one of them had been for the Lone Star Race half marathon, but we hadn't split courses yet. At the 5-mile mark I caught a second wind, having worked hard at going slow to start, and I hoped it would last me through the end. I picked up my pace and began to hope I could make my goal.
I had been dumping Powerade from the aid stations into my water bottle and now wished I had a little more water. I got some at the next aid station and a runner beside me asked worriedly if we had missed a turn. I confirmed that we'd passed the half turnoff and were all on track for the 10k, even though she thought we should have turned back toward the finish by now. I was too tired to do anything but trust and follow the course and tried to reassure her that we were probably close.
What else could we do but keep running? Well, soon after, I ran out of energy and could only walk. I thought I surely could make it to the end, but the course just kept going. And my watch just kept ticking. And my dreams kept sinking.
In the final stretch, I caught up with two run-walkers who were consulting their GPS trackers and comparing their 6.7 and 6.85 mile recordings. I remarked that it had been an awfully long time, though I only had my watch to go by. We shrugged and finished strong, stepping up the pace and smiling to cross the finish line. One confirmed for me then that it was exactly 7 miles. We hoped that our chip times were recorded at the previous timer we crossed a little less than a mile back.
I had just about 5 minutes to sit and rehydrate before the winds picked up and sprinkles fell from the sky. I headed back to my car and back to my nearby friend's place. It rained in earnest much of the way but lightened as I arrived. I walked to the pool, stripped off my outer layers, and jumped right in wearing only my sports bra and runderwear. Whatever. It was a little too cool for lounging but perfectly glorious on my overtired muscles. After a few minutes of frolicking alone in the pool, I gathered my things and headed up to the apartment for a warm bath and a nap. It was a lovely end to a less than pleasant race day.
We found out the next morning when results were posted that only the 7-mile finish line counted. And I found out on the Lone Star Race Series Facebook page that the half marathon had also run long and over a dozen 5k runners were directed to take a wrong turn and ran an extra mile when they might have placed for their age groups.
My finish time of 1:25:04 was freaking awesome for 7 miles and fucking useless as proof of time on a "10k" course. I was devastated. At Disney I'd have to start in the 16-minute pace corral with the walkers, trapped behind thousands of slow participants, which is not only irritating as hell but dangerous.
My whole month of May is booked up with obstacle races, and the Disneyland cutoff is June 1. I scoured the web for any mid-week races and contemplated skipping the Tough Mudder I'd already dropped a hundred bucks on. There was exactly one local run available on my one free day, May 11. It listed age divisions and an awards ceremony, but not a word on the page about chip timing. I emailed the listed contact to ask, and she said yes, it would be chip timed! I registered right away for the Bagel Run 10k and was especially delighted at the low fee of $20.
My Monday was saved, no thanks to the Lone Star Race Series and its weak apology email. I will definitely NOT be giving that event a second chance next year. May 11 will be hotter, but I'll have a little more time to train. I have a 5k mud run the day before, so I'll have to be careful to take it easy on that course. Ultimately, I should be able to make my pace, though.