Thursday, March 01, 2007

02/24/07 Cowtown Marathon

Once upon a time, there was a marathon in Ft Worth. The course was boring, and it had a long history of poor organization and adventures in "no water" aid stations. So I put this race on my bad list.

I ran the Cowtown Marathon this past Saturday. And it was pretty darned good. The organization was good-to-great, and the aid stations were plentiful and stocked well. And while Ft Worth isn't the most scenic city on earth, the course ensured that we saw most of it - certainly lots of the good parts.
The forecast for race morning was grim - pretty common at my races. Thunderstorms, damaging hail, high winds. The only positive was that the temperatures were supposed to be mild. Mid-40s at the start, mid-60s at the four hour mark. I doublechecked the radar as I was getting ready to leave, and there it was... a line of "red" thunderstorms chugging into town. Sigh. It was going to be one of those days.

Or was it? It started sprinkling, but it never rained. I would find out later that this band of storms parted as it entered Ft Worth. Some headed north, and some headed south. Good luck for us in terms of precipitation. We wouldn't have good luck with the wind.

The race itself started at 7:30a. The skies were clearing up and the wind was moderate. The start was packed with full marathoners and half marathoners. Last week at Birch Bay, I just did an intentional long, slow run. At Cowtown, I wanted to bring my time back to 4 hours. I knew the course would be somewhat hilly and I was still unsure about the weather... so I wanted to run 'even effort' as opposed to precisely timed 'even splits'.
It turns out that Cowtown is really hilly (though because it is a loop, fair) course. And the first 2 miles were a gentle downhill. In fact, it was a straightaway with no trees - so we could see allll the way dowwwwwn. Very interesting psychologically. Big Sur is a viewed as a hard course by most people. I think it is, but I also think that the course plays mind tricks because you can see all the way up the big hills. Cowtown's start was a bit of a reverse. A nice long downhill to get you all comfortable.

And then we turned. The hills started. The breeze picked up. Most of the middle miles snaked through neighborhoods and skirted parks. Not a ton of spectators, but a few people were out. That was nice. At M4, we went by a big cemetery. At M8, we clipped the edge of a country club golf course, and the half marathoners split off. The breeze now became wind.

At M11, we passed the Cowgirl Museum. I wish I'd had time to linger there. Instead, we turned into the Ft Worth Botanical Gardens. This is a very cool place... though I have to say, it's neater in spring, summer, and fall. In winter? Well, it was still nice, but kinda brown :-).

We ran by the Trinty River. We ran through parks. We ran through neighborhoods. Around M17, we turned back towards the general direction of the start/finish. This was when the wind became more than just an annoyance. It was gusting somewhere between 30 and 40 mph from the west. We were running mostly north, so the cross wind caused me to stagger occasionally.

I hit M20 at around 3:04. I felt okay, but with the wind, I didn't think I'd beat 4. At M22, we crossed back under I-30 and ran on a trail next to the Trinity River again. Although to be clear, we were on a trail at the top of an embankment (the Trinity tends to flood) way above the river itself. The wind was blowing hard, and I actually got a little scared that I might fall down the embankment. That would be a weird way to end my day. I didn't. But now the gusts were over 50mph and the dust storm started. I staggered, but I did not fall.

At M24, we turned out of Trinity Park and headed back to downtown. It was warm and windy and dusty and I just wanted to be done.

At M25, we hit the bottom of downtown and started the final set of turns to the finish. At M25.5, I was caught by a woman who said simply, "I wanted to see what your shirt said." She took off. I tried to sprint, but I couldn't catch her.

Robert Lopez, Seattle Washington. Woohoo! I got announced! Finish time, 4:04:38. Sigh. The wind was a factor, but I thought I'd do a little better.
Afterwards, I ate Mrs Baird's donuts and cinnamon rolls. I haven't had those since I was 14, but they were quite tasty. I was sitting in a big tent when the whole thing started rumbling from the wind. It was time to leave. As I passed the start/finish portapotties on my way back to the parking garage, some portapotties blew over. And the bloo stuff splashed me. Ewwwwwww!


4:04. Blah. It is taking me a long time to get back to where I was last year (3:35-3:45).

Next up: Potentially Napa. I'm signed up. We'll see how real life goes.

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