December 9, 2012 marked three weeks post-marathon.
It was the morning of half marathon #10.
But most importantly: it was half marathon #1 for Brad. Shortly after running the IBM 10K in October, we discussed the possibility of him joining me for the Austin Distance Challenge. The furthest he had ever run was 10 miles, so the thought of three half marathons looming on the horizon made the decision difficult. After some convincing on my part (and mayyyybe a text that said “it’s definitely a possibility” interpreted as “sign me up”) I was registering him for both the Run for the Water 10-miler and the Austin Distance Challenge.
I then came to the realization that half marathon #10 was no longer going to be 3M as planned – it was going to be the next race in the ADC: the Decker Challenge.
From the race’s website:
The Decker Challenge course covers 13.1 miles of rural roadway on and surrounding the Travis County Expo Center grounds. The course is USATF certified. Be prepared for rolling hills for the first half of the race, followed by several steady downhill miles at miles 7 and 8. Large hills at the end of Mile 8 and Mile 10 are the highlights (or lowlights, depending on your perspective) of the tough final 5 miles.
I’ve been avoiding this race pretty much since I started running. The hills that surround Decker Lake are no joke. Mile 10 is dubbed “Quadzilla”. Due to the location, course support is pretty much nonexistent. But since it’s race #3 of the distance challenge, there’s no avoiding it.
It was a December morning that felt like June. What should have been a frigid 40 degrees with a biting wind was actually 71 degrees with 84% humidity and a warm breeze. Not exactly “winter” here in Austin.
The car was exceptionally quiet on the 30 minute drive to the race Sunday morning. I think Brad was still trying to wrap his head around the fact that he was about to run 13.1 miles. I was tweeting and constantly refreshing the Weather Channel app in hopes that the forecast was some sort of joke. (It wasn’t)
We arrived around 7:35, which was just enough time for a bathroom stop before we jumped in line at the start. An elite runner who was announcing the start of the race commented how happy she was to only be running the 5K. Um, NOT something you want to broadcast to a sea of half-marathoners. She might as well have said “Look at you morons running 13.1 miles. I’ll be done with my race before you even hit mile 2!”
I pumped positive thoughts as best I could into Brad’s head. You’ll be fine. You’ve run 10, it’s only 3 more. I’ll be right next to you the whole time. You’ve got this! I had two goals for this race: (1) no time goal – just finish and (2) make sure Brad doesn’t hate me (or running) when he’s finished. It wasn’t a PR day; it was a day to get Brad across the finish line of his first half marathon.
The horn blew and we were off! A quarter-mile into the race we were already sweating. ALREADY. The humidity just would not break. We were super thankful for the Nuun (Tropical for him + Orange for me) in our handhelds. Right before the Mile 1 marker, we took our first walk break. I had thought about running 3:1 intervals but decided we should just walk the mountains, and run the downhill/straightaways. Unfortunately, there were more mountains than anything else so I knew early on that our finish time wouldn’t be the speediest. (see goal #1)
We made a few friends along the way, chatting it up with fellow runners. I received countless compliments on my Pro Compression Holiday Marathon socks! One runner even commented: “I’ve been chasing you and your candy cane socks the entire race – you kept me moving!”
Here’s what we were up against:
It’s safe to say we did NOT like this race. 99% sure that our first time running the Decker Challenge will also be the last. Brad let out a “F*CK THIS RACE” at mile 12. I assured him not all races are like this and that 3M will be a dream in comparison!
Once we came around the bend to head towards the finish, we began to pick up the pace. The announcer boomed over the loudspeaker “This guy coming into the chute now, I saw him before the race. Wearing a BOSTON RED SOX hat. I thought to myself, I have a friend here.” Brad and I started laughing.
As we got closer to the finish line, Brad grabbed my hand and we threw our arms in the air as the announcer called out our names “Coming across now is Brad Sawyer and Melissa Carlson, way to finish it together! Congratulations!”
The Decker Challenge was a PW (personal worst) for me but the finish time stamped on this race means absolutely nothing to me. Brad and I conquered 13.1 miles of hills in less than ideal weather, side by side. We crossed the finish line TOGETHER. And that’s all that matters to me.