report by Ryan Loehding
At the park, I find some familiar faces in the good people of Fort Bend Fit. One of the guys offers to let me stash my bag in their tent. I appreciate that because it can always rain in Huntsville and, a wet drop bag is no fun at the finish.
Finally, it is time to go to the start. A man asked about the course and race. I asked him if he had ever run a mile on a track. After a confused look he nodded his head. I told him to run this the same way. Go easy on the first lap. Stay strong on the second. Do not slow down on the third. Let it rip on the fourth. Too bad I never head my own advice.
We roll through the first cheerful mile. Mark Henderson runs by me and jokes about oversleeping. I find myself running behind John Yoder. I ask if he turned 35 yet and he tells me not until March. I tell him that my age group would be tougher with him in there and cussed a little about it.
Nikki Kimball and Connie Gardner catch me. They are running along at a steady pace so I coast along with them for a few miles. They are both fierce competitors. The also both like to talk. I find out that they both suffer from asthma. Who knew? I get the feeling that Nikki is pushing the pace a little harder than Connie finds comfortable. I am running too fast. I leave the ladies behind for now. At aid station 174, the last one before start and finish, I am running behind a guy who later tells me he is from New York City. He tells me to lead because he is a city boy and does not want to get lost on the trail. I tell him it is an easy trail to follow. I also tell him that we would soon run right into about 500 50k runners on single track. He follows me to end of the first lap.
The two ladies catch me again on the second loop. I notice that they are not as chatty on this loop. Nikki says the course is slower than she expected because of the congestion. I tell her that she is past the worst of it. I ride along for a few miles feeling the rhythm of the trail and the runners among me. The ladies get a few yards ahead so I stop to take a leak. I run alone until I hear a nose blow behind me. John Yoder catches me. John and I run together to Aid Station 174. I stop to grab a bite of power bar, and Yoder is gone.
I push through the third loop. This is the toughest one for me. I am tired. I need to focus. I am nowhere near the finish. I remind myself to be tough. Pick them up. Put them down. Stay smooth. Relax. Suck it up.
I am glad to start the fourth loop. Nikki is ahead of me. John Yoder is behind her, but still several minutes ahead of me. Connie is somehow behind me for now. I run the out and back. I want to stop. I pass Ken Ashby who tells me to eat and drink a lot on the way back to Dallas to refuel for White Rock.
Connie catches me at the 5th aid station. I tell her that I would help her catch Nikki if I could, but she would have to run fast than I could run to do that. She tells me it is nice to be ahead of Yiannis. I agreed. Of course, Yiannis recently broke more world records in Colac and had not recovered by the start of Sunmart. I try not to crowd Connie as I follow her. At times, I feel like passing but do not. She is a strong runner. I wonder if she lifts weights but donít ask. She pushes the pace and pulls ahead. I see her at AS174 and wish her well as she rolls away.
I finish. 7:11. New PR.
I eat the Sunmart food. Fried pickles are great. I forced myself to eat more than I want. I should have eaten more. I visit with old running friends whom I do not see very often. Jennifer comes with our kids to haul me back to Carrollton. I grab my pony and pour myself into the car.
My neighbor, Robert, knocks on my door and asks if I am still going. I tell him I am. He tells me that I look swollen. We decide to leave at 6:15 am. Tonic and gin does not seem to take much of the edge off. I try it anyway. A little rest is all I need.
I finally get rid of my bag at the bag check and we line up. Robert tells me to move ahead of him as he wants to start further back. I find the 3:30 pace team and decide to start near them. The fighter planes fly over and I wonder what I am doing here. We start.
I see Tom Crull before we even get through the first mile. He asks if I saw Ken Ashby and tells me that Ashby is getting married at mile 19. Crull tells me that I look fresh, and I believe him. I do not feel very fresh though. There is not much spring in my step. It is still too early. I run on ahead.
That hollow and hungry feeling is with me by mile 7. At the top of a hill, I grab and orange slice. That is better, but I will need more. The diluted power aid is just not putting enough calories in me. I find more orange slices at other water stops. At mile 15, I find a Clif shot. It tastes bad. It might have been banana flavor. I nearly hurl, but it does the job. I find some pretzels and begin thinking about the beer stop at mile 19. I wonder to myself if they will have pretzels with their beer. A beer seems like a pretty good idea at this point. After much anticipation, I see the beer. It is a small beer, but I am grateful and resist the urge to grab more than one.
We roll over the Dolly Partons and down Swiss Avenue. The finish line is close. I tell the guy next to me that we have less than fifteen minutes of this sh#@ left. I see the finish. It is hard to keep from smiling. (Finished 3:32.)
I drink the free beer with a couple of guys from out of town in the AAC while I wait for Robert. I am not big on low-carb ultra light beer, but it is going down easy and they are giving it away so I donít complain. My legs hurt less than before. I walk to the place where I am supposed to meet Robert. He is not there. I decide fresh air will do no harm and wait outside. I wonder if I am in the right place. Along comes Robert with his brother, Jimmy Pike and Jimmyís Hasher friends, Letha and Mark Dick. We make our way back into the AAC and I drink more free beer with Jimmy and Robert. I get home in time to fall asleep while watching the Cowboys and Chiefs game.