Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Race Report for the Race that Wasn't Run - 2011 Austin Half Marathon

When I registered for the 2011 Austin Half Marathon in September, I had no doubt that I would be in my best shape to date. After all, it was to be my launch pad for my half Ironman training for Barb's Race in late July. If I was in peak condition going into tri season, I'd be practically unstoppable come race day. Theoretically speaking.

When I deferred my race entry to next year's Austin Half Marathon two weeks ago, all kinds of doubt flooded my being. This was the first time since I'd begun this multi-sport journey that I didn't race because I simply wasn't prepared. I've had setbacks due to injury but never because of attitude. And I say attitude because there really is no other reason for it. I didn't have other time commitments that got in the way. No financial reasons for not training. There were plenty of people to run with during the week- even if we ran a different paces. So what was the deal?

Well, truthfully- I'm still figuring it out and that discovery may be shared at a later time. But what's more important is that even though I'm still struggling with an attitude adjustment, I'm changing my actions. If I wasn't going to race, I was going to do the next-next best thing. The next best thing would have been to volunteer, but I'm a little volunteered out. The next-next best thing was to spectate and cheer on my training buddies and friends. Even though I was unable to get myself out of bed to make my 7:30 am long runs on a consistent basis, on race morning I hopped out of bed at 6:15 am, grabbed the hound and headed downtown.

It was important for me to catch both my marathon and half marathon friends so I started at Cesar Chavez and 1st Street. This way I could see both groups of runners twice potentially. As I walked toward my spot, I could see the runners running down Guadalupe I got really emotional. This is *always* my initial reaction to sporting events, whether or not I am competing. (The same goes for video of horses running in slow motion- don't judge me). But there was another layer there- shame maybe? Jealousy? Meh. Whatever. Time to move on from that crap.

I was happy to see Jen, Angela and Kristy as they rounded the corner and headed to the Congress Avenue Bridge to begin their climb up S. Congress. Jen and Angela waved but Kristy had headphones on and was deep into her "race place." I don't think she saw me. When the runners began to come back down the 1st Street Bridge, I shifted my position to the west.

At this stretch I saw Buffy, Missy, Megan, Donnie, Stacey, Terri, Marion, Marta, Steve, David, Rachel ... and with each passing athlete, I felt just a little more renewed. This self-imposed distance I'd placed between myself and my running began to shrink. Each wave and smile and hug pulled me closer and reaffirmed that this is where I need to be- in whatever capacity I can manage.

I hopped in the car to move to my next location- the Enfield Hill. I remembered how hard this hill was when I ran the race last year and knew that I could give my friends a boost when they needed it. I yelled people up the hill, I ran people up the hill- people I didn't even know. I saw Emlea, Sarah, Brenda and Christina digging into that bastard and, after already running nearly 12 hilly miles, continue to push themselves to the top.

While I didn't get to see all my friends on the course, I hopped on Facebook to read their statuses. Before the race I had avoided their posts- it was hard to share in their pre-race excitement but now I felt like I could share in their experience- I was there too!

Some people had a great day, many had a rougher-than-expected race- but they are all wearing the same medal. I'm so proud of all you! And I'm so thankful to be inspired by each of you. You really have no idea how much I needed to be present on race day- in whatever shape it took. Sometimes the most important races are the races you don't run.

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