Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Texas "Winter" Marathons: BCS Marathon Review

       For the last several months I have been training for my second marathon this year, the BCS Marathon, held this past Sunday in College Station, TX. And by "training" I mean whining about doing long runs on my own, being semi-lazy about stretching, and dealing with a right hip imbalance. (The right side of my pelvis occasionally twists upward, causing my right leg to be shorter than my left. This brings on all sorts of fun issues, from my hip flexors down to my feet. Time for a trip to the PT!)

       My friends Jimmy and Veronica have run this race every year since it started 4 years ago and I was excited to be able to do it with them finally. Having not had the results I trained for back in February during Austin, I was shooting for a sub-5 hour marathon. That doesn't sounds that awesome, but apparently it's a real goal I need to set!

          Bryce and I left Austin on Saturday and drove to College Station to pick up my packet. The expo wasn't huge- compared to Austin, Dallas, or San Antonio, but there were great vendors and the whole experience was smooth. They had the shirts in the size I ordered, and everyone got an awesome pair of Swiftwick socks (wearing them right now. They're pretty dope.) My favorite headbands, Sweatybands, were there, and had some great stuff on clearance, so I was a happy runner after the expo!

My bib for the race!
         We dilly-dallied around College Station until it was time for dinner. I was supposed to go eat with the Mercy Project team, but the address for the restaurant simply did not exist on my GPS. I have never driven in College Station without getting lost or confused. I can navigate Houston and Austin with my eyes closed and have driven almost to Canada on my own, but BCS for some reason gets me every. Single. Time. We gave up and headed over to the New Republic brewery for some drinks and to meet up with our friends, then had a nice Italian dinner.
        Veronica loves pasta before a long run, but for me it's always been too heavy. To load up for a race, I eat bread (yea, the race is just an excuse, I love bread 24/7), and then typically lots of protein and carbs in meat and veggies. I had some meatballs with marinara, a tomato basil soup and salad for dinner and it was just the right amount. 
         Sleeping before the race didn't go that well, as the upstairs neighbors at Jimmy's place decided 2-4am was the perfect time to play Dance Dance Revolution, but I still woke up at 5:30 feeling ready to go. We all got ready, I kissed Bryce goodbye (his favorite races are the ones he gets to sleep in for) and we headed to the start line.
          Parking was super easy. The race has full use of the mall parking lot, so it's a simple matter to find a spot and walk on over. The directors make a point to have plenty of potties, which was great. We were running a little late, but thankfully I was able to go before we left the house, so we didn't have a start-line panic like we did in Austin. (Marathons: You will never discuss poop more often with your friends.)
Pre-race picture. We're so full of hopes and dreams.

           We crossed the starting mat and started our watches, heading off on a 26.2 mile fun run. It was so hot and so humid. Last year's race saw freezing temperatures and ice on the road. This year we were taking two cups of water per aid station and crossing our fingers for consistent cloud cover. That's winter in Texas for you. The moment we stepped outside and I realized there was no hope for cool weather, I knew our finish time wasn't going to be stellar. I am simply not a good long-distance runner in the heat. I just lose all focus after about 10 miles and start wishing I was done.
           Sure enough, the first 10-13 miles of the race were great. I kept up with my friends, we had fun discussing whatever came to mind, and I gave Veronica a hard time as she complained about the "hills" on the course. (Austinites read: There are no hills on this course. There are bumps in the road. Nothing like miles 12-19 on the Austin course. Or really, all the miles on the Austin course.) 
            My joking with her came back to bite me, of course. After around mile 12, my right hip was killing me. I developed a noticeable limp, as I was favoring my right side and my pace dropped from about a 10min/mile to almost 12. I started taking walk breaks- not a good sign this early on. We lost each other at an aid station and they pulled ahead of me for a couple of miles, slowing to wait for me after they passed at a turn-around. I stopped at one of the Scott and White medical stations, got some asprin, gatorade, and a good stretch in. Once I started back again after that, I felt much better for a while.
          The three of us stuck together until about mile 20. I saw Bryce at mile 16 and really needed that pick-me-up. He said he'd see us at the finish line and I said I may be hiring someone for a piggie-back ride. Jimmy got tired of our slow pace and handed Veronica her gus, leaving us to track down the 4:45 pacer. That was all fine with us, now we only had the pressure of each other to keep from walking. That pressure was pretty light. 
           We decided that since we were hot, sticky, achey, and starting to be a little miserable, it'd be worth it to slow down and enjoy running together, rather than trying to reach a time goal. The miles slowly ticked by. That was seriously the longest 10k at the end of a 20 mile run I have ever experienced. Our mantra became "running is stupid. Why are we doing this." That's not exactly the positive attitude we need as runners! But for real though, we were tired.
           Finally, finally we passed mile 25! We knew we needed to run the rest of the way, if anything to keep Jimmy from seeing us walk. The last mile took forever, but what a glorious sight it was to see the last quarter mile, and down hill! The Mercy Project sets up a display with photos of children rescued from bondage as you round the corner to the finish. It was really beautiful and inspiring to see, and a great reminder of the positive, wonderful things racing can do for the world.
          We got through the finish line, where the race director greats every finisher, and got our medals from the kids at the Down Syndrome Association- so fun! The medals are HUGE (Bigger than my Ironman 70.3 medal!) and really nice, and the finisher shirts were super cute too.
Biggest. Medals. Ever.
       The absolute only negative experience I had with the race was the after-party. There was no water for racers finishing when I finished. (There were icy towels, which were awesome.) Also, we could see that at one time there had been lots of food and fun at the end, but when we got in to the area, we pretty much had to wrestle the Double-Daves girl for a pizza roll, and that was it. The rest of the tables were empty, and most of the vendors were gone. I know we took a while (5:17 in the end), but we were certainly not last, and even if we were, there should still be the same things offered to us as there are to early finishers!
         This isn't an issue I'd place solely on the organizers though, as it is something race directors at all races are plagued with. Vendors get bored, have other things to do, or whatever, and start clearning out. However, it's hurtful to slower athletes, and robs them (us, in this case, since I was definitely slow that day!) of the same experience for our money as others. Vendors should have to sign on for a set amount of time in order to receive sponsorship benefits, or something. Just my two cents. To the lady who soldiered on through every last runner serving daiquiris and margaritas: you're an American hero. Thank you!
            Overall it was a great race. It's a beginner-friendly course with awesome support along the way (brownies, gummy bears, fruit, gus, everywhere!). It is absolutely a great value for your money, and I'd definitely recommend allocating part of your race budget to check it out. The directors put their hearts in to the race and really listen to the athletes who run it, which is always awesome.
         Now, it's time for a two-week break and then Ironman Training officially starts!
Best running friends for lyyyyyyfe, even if we hate it.


No comments:

Post a Comment