Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Plano Balloon Festival Half Marathon Race Report

For as much excitement as I'd had leading up to this event, it was ultimately sadly anti-climatic in the end.

I'd been dreading the hot weather this event usually has, with North Texas Septembers typically still in the 90s and the Sunday a week prior at a blistering 106°F for Grapevine's Grapefest. But when I checked the forecast that day, I nearly cried: race day would be in the mid-70s.

By Wednesday, though, the forecast showed a 95 percent chance of thunderstorms at race time. It's a rain or shine event, but because the course had been plotted through shady areas in anticipation of dangerous sun and heat, that meant much of it was also on flood plains. And if there was lightning, it would have to be canceled.

By Friday, though, the forecast showed a dry race except for maybe the last mile or so.

I set out my BAWG kit, runderwear, ENELL, and Vibram Five Fingers a few days before the event so I could get up and go quickly.

I met up briefly with a friend at the event, exchanged hugs, and then we trudged to our appropriate pace groups.

The hills on Los Rios that had me nearly in tears on my bike for last year's Blackland Triathlon was a piece of cake. I hopped onto the grassy curb and power hiked up the hills before stepping back onto the road to run down them.

I felt really good for the first 6 miles. I even met a woman running in bright turquoise Medieval Moccasins. She said she'd done several long races in them and highly recommends them for fans of minimalist running. She'd been inspired to put them to that purpose after reading the book Born to Run.

But at about 6.5, I felt my feet begin to blister, though I'd not had that problem before with these shoes. I sat down to pull them off and lube up with some Chamois Butter before continuing. A the 8-mile marker, I was just exhausted and pulled out my phone to say as much on Facebook. Not a minute after I put it back in its zipper-lock baggy, the sky opened up and flooded down on us. Farewell, iPod. (It had stopped working by then anyway.)

Before the mile was out, I was in absolute agony and bit back tears for the next two. I've been running for over 6 years and completed three prior half marathons and a15-mile Spartan Beast, but I had never run on so much concrete. The PBF course was entirely concrete with no break. I'd read that asphalt is softer but never really thought about it, since both seem like hard pavement to me.

My femur heads, where the leg bone connects to the hip bone, were screaming. I was walking way more than I wanted to. My tummy was yucky and I couldn't take the fuel I'd planned on.

After the 10-mile marker, we saw volunteers at the next aid station waving a red flag and they shouted that the course was closed and we had to quit. We were less than three miles from done, but they funneled us onto a trail leading straight back to the festival area. I was a little disappointed but in too much pain to be really upset by it.

As I came through the trees, I heard an announcer on a loudspeaker saying the festival itself was officially canceled. Everyone was ordered to take shelter. The volunteers had all complied, so I wandered toward the finish line and plucked a medal from a pile of open boxes left unattended there. I gathered my things and slowly, gingerly limped up the big-ass hill separating me from my car.

I took a few minutes to stretch every aching thing and stood a few minutes longer kind of lost and unsure what to do with myself. It was 10 a.m. on a Sunday, so I couldn't even go grab a beer, because Texas. I drove home through the deluge, drew a hot bath, dozed off in it twice, and dragged myself to bed.

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