Saturday, September 01, 2007

A dramatic finish

Last night Heidi, Julia, Anne, and I ran the Fila Relays at Zilker Park. It was the first time I'd run the relay, and I am glad I did. It was a well organized, well run event and lots of fun, to boot.

We set up our little encampment right near the start/finish chute, so we had a great view of runners as they came through, and we were able to see everyone on our team come in for the hand off, which made it a lot of fun.

I ran the last leg, since no one else wanted to and I was the one who talked all the others into doing the relay. I headed out on my leg with a specific plan: start off slow and work into my pace. I was tested immediately. As I left the exchange area, a runner blew past me, and I was tempted to pick up the pace and stay with her. But I didn't; I stuck to my plan. I started off nice and slow, keeping my breathing under control. During this stretch, I noticed that the wind had picked up a bit. When I made the u-turn just before mile 1, I saw why it had gotten windy. You know the scene in Ghostbusters when the sky goes black over Manhattan? That's what Austin looked like. It was the blackest, darkest sky I've seen in a long, long time.

I had trouble in the second mile because the wind was picking up dust and grass from the soccer fields and blowing them right at the course. I had to put my glasses on just to protect my eyes.

At about the 1.5 mile mark I caught the girl who had bolted past me at the start, proof that my strategy was working. I ran with her and another man on the part of the course that went behind the Nature Center. I'm glad they were there. It was very dark because of the storm, and there weren't any lights on that stretch. If I had been out there alone I would have probably freaked out.

When we got to the top of the last hill on Barton Spring Road, I decided I needed to just pass the girl I'd been running with. So I downshifted and took off. It felt good to really pick up the pace and see what I could do. It was about this time that it started raining, giving me an extra incentive to run faster. I almost missed the turn into the finish and had to ask spectators if I was headed the right way. I had taken off my glasses and couldn't see well enough in the dark to follow the route, which wasn't marked clearly. I sprinted to the finish with Heidi and Julia cheering me on.

After I grabbed some Gatorade we headed for the car. The beer garden had closed down, and the band was hurriedly packing its equipment. Taco Deli was trying to give away its food, but no one was taking any. We splashed our way back across the soccer fields and the pedestrian bridge to the car, laughing pretty much the whole way. We were soaked, but no one seemed to care.

It was a great evening, partly because of the dramatic and wet ending. I won't forget the race, that's for sure.

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