Sunday, March 1, 2015

The crazy things we did to run 13.1

Well, not exactly crazy. They seemed logical at the time, and even in retrospect they were. I think I learned a lot yesterday in my quest to run a half marathon.

Greg and I registered for the Cowtown half marathon a few months ago. The plan was to visit his sister and her family while also running a race we'd never done before. We found the idea of going to Texas in late February very appealing, and this was even before we knew how extraordinarily cold and miserable the month would be.

Training had been going amazingly well. Despite all the crappy weather, I had found creative ways to get all my runs in. I had three 60-mile weeks in a row, the last week of January and the first two weeks of February. I even ran after work when the mornings were icy or in the single digits. And I am not a fan of running after a hard day of work. I'm a morning person, and that's usually when I have the most energy.

Needless to say, I was definitely looking forward to escaping the miserable weather and seeing what I could do in a half marathon after my training had been so solid.

Weather in Texas: Worth the Risk?
Fort Worth had some bad storms early in the week, but everything was supposed to clear up by the weekend. But on Friday, a huge ice storm hit them, paralyzing the entire Dallas/Ft. Worth area. In
Crews preparing for the Cowtown marathon on Saturday night
Texas, they don't have the infrastructure and resources that we have in the Washington DC metro area to deal with snow and ice. They don't treat the roads, and so any amount of frozen precipitation is highly problematic.

On Friday, they called off the Cowtown race events for Saturday. I looked at numerous different forecasts and all of them said that the temperatures would rise above freezing on Saturday afternoon, and everything would melt and be perfectly fine for Sunday's races.

I woke up on Saturday continuing to believe that everything would happen as planned. Thankfully, we had booked a later flight (landing in Dallas at 2:00) so I wasn't too worried about it based on the forecast. They extended the expo to Sunday morning, so even if our flight was delayed, we could get our bibs on Sunday morning.

Greg, however, was worried. The weather app that he was looking at showed the temperatures hovering around 34 with continued rain all throughout Saturday into the evening. His main concern was the drive from Dallas Love Field airport to Ft. Worth, which is about 45 miles. The last thing he wanted to do was to wreck a rental car, or be sitting in 3 hours of traffic because of ice on the roads. "It's not like the ice instantly melts as soon as the air temperature gets above freezing," he said, and he had a good point. We figured we could potentially be looking at a very bad situation. Stuck at Dallas Love Field airport, or even major flight issues.

One person posted to the Cowtown Facebook page that her flight got her halfway to Texas and then turned around and brought her right back home!

Plan B: We'll Fly Anywhere!
Greg and I spent several hours that morning going through all of our options. We were willing to be spontaneous and fly to somewhere like Florida to escape the cold and run a different half marathon.
We looked at doing the Little Rock half marathon, but there were no direct flights, so we couldn't get there in time. There was a very small race in New Jersey, but it looked questionable because it didn't even have its own website. There were some in Florida that we could have flown to, but the race weather was for high 60's, which I don't do well in. There was one in California that looked amazing, but no direct flight, so we wouldn't have made it in time.

Roanoke Half Marathon Course
Finally, we found one in Roanoke Virginia, which was about 3.5 hours southwest of us by car. We briefly researched it and it looked legit. We looked at their Facebook page and they said the course was free and clear of ice. They even posted a picture of it, with all the ice and snow removed. The hourly forecast was predicting freezing rain, but that wasn't supposed to start until later in the day. We registered online at $90/each and reserved a hotel room.

Road Trip to Roanoke
We had to completely re-think our packing strategy. Instead of weather in the high 30's, this race was going to be in the mid 20's. So we packed warmer running clothes (well, actually I packed everything I had originally, plus 4 additional shirt options-- you just never know!)

We left our house at about 10:00. We stopped to get some bagels and bananas for the trip and for our race morning breakfast. It was fun. It was going to be an adventure. We were both very happy and confident with our decision. I followed the Cowtown's Facebook page and they ultimately decided to cancel the full marathon and the ultra marathon and only run the half marathon. I wasn't sure how I felt about this, but our decision had been made, so it was pointless to think about what could have been.

3.5 hours later, we arrived in Roanoke and picked up our bibs. We overhead one of the race directors on his cell phone saying how he was nervous about the weather the next day, and that it could be freezing rain before or during the race. I looked at the forecast again on my phone and it was iffy. 50/50 chance of freezing rain at race start.

Greg and I checked into our hotel room and I started to feel really discouraged. We drove all the way there, and now the race might not even happen! Greg suggested that we just go run a 20-miler while it was still nice out. I didn't feel up to it as I was exhausted (mentally and physically). Plus, I didn't want to ruin our chances of running the half marathon. So we went out and ran for 30 minutes as planned.

Plan C: Let's not get Stuck Here!
When we came back from our run, we saw that a winter weather advisory had been issued and freezing rain was to start as early as 4:00am. And in fact, the entire I-81 corridor that we would be driving home on was under an advisory for all day on Sunday.

Once again, we worried that we'd be stuck on I-81 for hours and hours, or that we'd get into an accident since there are so many large trucks on that road.

We called the race officials to get an update, and they said they weren't going to make a call until tomorrow morning at 6:00am. We thought "how awful would it be if we stayed overnight, the race was canceled, and then we wouldn't even be able to drive home?" If I hadn't been training for a full marathon, I would have probably been willing to stay two nights in Roanoke. But I wanted to be able to do some form of long run or race on Sunday. I had already tapered and I wanted to keep my fitness up.

Ultimately, we decided it wasn't worth the risk of the race being canceled. At least by driving home then and there, we'd get home safely and in time to do some form of run on Sunday morning before freezing rain hit the DC metro region.

So we checked out of the hotel room, and thankfully they didn't charge us because of the weather advisory. Now I can officially say that my husband and I rented a hotel room for just a few hours!

Homeward Bound
This whole day had been a true test of my mental toughness. There were so many times when I just wanted to break down and cry, but I didn't. I cannot control the weather, and all I could do was make the best decisions I could with the information I had. No one would ever be able to say I didn't try to run a half marathon on Sunday.

Every time I thought about the 7 hours in the car, the wasted race entry fees, and the fact that we could have maybe done Cowtown, I just stopped my thoughts, and refocused on looking ahead.

To pass the time on the way home, I found that New York Times article about "36 Questions That Make You Fall In Love" which was a psychological experiment. Apparently, if you and a stranger have a date and ask each other these 36 questions and answer honestly, you fall in love. So Greg and I fell in love all over again. That list of questions took well over an hour to go through and it was nice having some quality time with Greg, rather than thinking about how our plans got ruined.

In order to get home at a reasonable hour, we decided not to stop for dinner, but to eat the rest of the bagels and the bananas. Not ideal, but we just wanted to be home.

After driving 400 miles that day and running just 3.5 in Roanoke, I was very ready to just collapse into bed. And I did.

I fell asleep in Greg's arms feeling completely at peace. My mental stamina had been tested, and I believe I passed.

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