About a year ago I decided to participate in this year’s Austin Distance Challenge (5 races in 5 months, Oct – Feb). I’ve been obsessing about the Decker Challenge ever since I made that decision — yes, for about a year now. Well, today was finally the day. Know what? It wasn’t so bad after all. Or shall I say, I trained really well for it. Here’s my recap: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
One of the things that makes the Decker Challenge so notorious is bad weather. Today we lucked out because temps were in the mid- to upper-40*s. It was drizzling rain on our drive out there, but the rain stopped completely by the time we arrived at the race start. The cloud cover remained, which I like for running. In past years, the windy has been a real factor (so I hear) but today, it wasn’t bad at all. There was one stretch that was a bit windy (and cold), but I didn’t think it was a major factor.
The scenery of this race course was so beautiful. It’s on the east side of Austin, and out of town a bit so we ran on country roads alongside large grassy fields (for the most part). There were even cows in one field. It was beautiful and peaceful. This was probably the best part for me.
The race starts/ends at the county expo center where they have a huge parking lot and all the post race food and stuff was inside a nice warm building. Loved that! They also had a special area for Distance Challenge participants. I don’t usually eat more than a banana post race, but I did manage to grab a chocolate chip cookie in the “special” area. I really just wanted to go in there cause I could.
Hills. Oh yes, lots of hills. Basically you are in one of two modes during this race. You are either running up a hill, or you are running down the hill you just ran up. I had been warned and did plenty of hill running to train for this. I guess it worked cause I didn’t have any trouble on the hills. There are 3 “serious” hills amongst the rest, at miles 6, 8, and 10. The hill at mile 10 has a nickname: Quadzilla. (It’s never good when runners nickname a hill.) I was kind of dreading this one. It comes at mile 10 when your legs are already pretty tired. I could see it coming from a distance and I thought, “This is it?” I was no no longer intimidated but I did wonder if the real Quadzilla was coming around the next turn. Nope. A few more smallish hills was all that was left. All those hills did leave my legs feeling very tired, but I never felt bad or was even tempted to walk a bit. Never.
Other highlights of the race: I saw Santa along the way. He was on the side cheering us on. Also, Carl was waiting for me just before the finish. It made me so happy to see him. I had told him to meet me inside the expo center where it was warm. But he came out to give me some final encouragement. I was tired but when I saw him I really poured it on (for the last few yards.) One of the first things I said to him after the race was, “I’ll bet you’re now happy with me for talking you into all those hill runs before this race.” He had to admit it because he had a great race too.
For the first time during a race, I had to stop to pee and thankfully there was a port-a-potty at mile 6. I probably could have made it without stopping, but once the idea was in my head it was very distracting. I decided to just make the “pit stop” so I could stop thinking about it. I only had to wait for one other person so it was no big deal.
For my fuel, I bought along a Larabar in my pocket. I ate a piece of it at mile 6 (right after my pit stop). Gah! It was too sweet! I forced down a piece at mile 6 and another piece right before “Quadzilla”. In general I like Larabars, but they will not be my source of fuel in future races.
On a final, funny note I want to tell you that I was lapped by a marathoner. More than one, actually. The Decker Challenge is a half-marathon but a few crazy people do the “Double Decker Challenge” which means they run the same course, twice. The marathoners start 30 minutes before us “half-ers”. At mile 10, while I was running up Quadzilla, I saw a cyclist come up behind me. My first thought was he was a lone cyclist out for a Sunday ride. I quickly realized that didn’t seem quite right and that’s when I saw the lead marathoner cruise past me. I said to the man running next to me, “I think we just got lapped by a marathoner.” He shook his head and replied, “I don’t even want to think about it.” Yeah, ditto. About 10 minutes later the second place marathoner cruised past me (also paced by a cyclist.) I’m guessing at least 6 marathoners past me, maybe even more. It’s OK, they make me smile. I’m slow and I own it.
Decker Challenge is done. Phew!