Race Recap: Zilker Relays

I started running in June, and completed Couch to 5k a few weeks ago. Since the end of Couch to 5k was right before the Zilker Relays, Whitney tried to talk me into joining a team with her and two other women. After checking and double-checking that the team didn’t actually want to win, I agreed.

It was only after I agreed that I realized the race started at 6:00 P.M. Now, Austin is known for many things, not the least of which is the sizzling summer heat. It’s been 100+ degrees for over eighty days this summer. At 6:00 P.M., the sun hasn’t set, and the temperature hasn’t dropped out of the triple digits. All of my running up to this point had been done in the miserable-enough eighty degree pre-dawn hours.

For weeks Whitney assured me that the temperature would come down. Week after week of 100+ degree heat didn’t dissuade her. And, sure enough, Monday of race week, the forecast for Friday (race day) was 93. It was a miracle. However, the miracle didn’t last. All week the forecast kept climbing, until it culminated in a race day temperature of 102. One. Hundred. Two.

To add insult to injury, while I was running my Thursday morning practice run, I got sick halfway through. I barely ran two miles before I had to give it up. I tried going to work, but went home defeated after half a day. I had a stomach bug I couldn’t shake. I slept for five hours Thursday afternoon and woke up still sick. That did not bode well.

Friday, I woke up feeling better, but only slightly. I munched on crackers all day and ate the lightest food possible. My stomach behaved, but it was still up in the air if I was going to be able to run.

After getting ready at a teammate’s house, I ate half an energy bar and sipped water. I felt okay, but not great. I was determined to run unless I wouldn’t be able to finish, so I kept a close watch on my body. I was running the third leg of the race, so the temperature was supposed to drop to a downright chilly 97 or so by the time I had to start. My stomach thanked the gods that I wasn’t going to have to run in the sun and hottest heat.

While I was waiting my turn, I got to watch the other teams compete. Let me tell you, the Zilker Relays are fierce. The first person to come in did it in under twelve minutes. Two and a half miles, under twelve minutes. My mind boggled. I was hoping to run it in forty minutes or less, especially with the sickness and heat. The fastest team could almost finish the entire race in the time it took me to run my leg, never mind the time my teammates would take.

Around the fifty minute mark, I saw Whitney approaching. She was the second leg of the race, and that meant it was showtime for me. We high-fived, and I was off. I had my phone tracking my run, playing music, and giving me interval information. Or so I thought.

I started faster than I should have, but I was hyped up on adrenaline. What no one mentioned was the fact that after about a quarter mile, the course took a vertical turn. The hill was steep and long. I kept at it, waiting for my five minute interval to finish so I could walk for a minute. I was wheezing, but stubbornness kept me going.

Finally, close to the top, I couldn’t take it any more and decided to admit defeat and walk. I had given myself a side stitch, the first one I’ve gotten since I started running. My interval timer app failed me; there was never an indication to walk. I didn’t take the time to fix it, so I walk/ran the rest of the race based on how I felt rather than a timer.

My first mile was fast, faster than my training, but it took a toll. I couldn’t shake the stitch in my side. Another hill, not as steep, but just as long, slowed me down. I fought through the second mile. Dustin and Whitney were cheering at about the two mile mark. I got a brief burst of energy, but I still had to run the final half mile.

I saw the fourth member of our team waiting for me at the finish line. All I had to do was make it to her, and then it would be over. It was the longest shortest distance ever. I crossed the line and someone removed the timing chip from my shoe. I forgot to stop my tracking app, so I knew my time was around thirty-eight minutes, under my forty minute goal, but I didn’t know exactly what it was.

I walked around and tried to catch my breath and get rid of the stitch in my side. By the time our fourth member finished, I was feeling better. There was an after party with free tacos and beer. I made a plate of tacos, then promptly thought better of it. I ended up carrying them home, because I couldn’t trust my stomach. No go on the beer, either.

I drank a couple bottles of water and Nuun (an electrolyte replacement drink) and called it good. When I got home, I ate a Nutrigrain bar, showered, and collapsed into bed.

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend it as a first race. It was short, which was nice, but it was hotter than hell and there were some very elite athletes. Everyone was super nice, so that was amazing, but our team of fast, moderate, moderate, and slow runners came in close to last.

My official time? 36:53.6. Booyah!*

*Yes, I’m aware that’s still slow as hell.

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