I made a challenge at the beginning of November to those runners who are doing the Austin Fit Magazine Distance Challenge. Pass me! (The post is “AFMDC: Take My Challenge.”)
I confess: I was one of those people kind of secretly hoping that the big Ice Storm of ’13 would hit the Austin area and I’d get to sleep in for the ARC Decker Challenge Half Marathon, race #3 in the AFMDC. This is what happens when you’re “not really running”; your focus is off and the wuss factor kicks in in a big way. Too many days I’d opted out of a run because it was rainy and cold, and here came race day, promising to be a big hot mess of cold wet stuff. Instead, the ice hit Dallas and Austin was spared. The race was on.
When you have no goals, though, there’s really no reason not to show up and so off I went on December 8. Though the drive out to the Travis County Expo Center was shockingly like a winter wonderland, the weather was Decker perfect, as the race is well known for its extremes. I’ve done Decker when it was hot and muggy and when it was downright frigid, windy, and rainy—the year that took the cake, though, was the fog year. Old timers will remember that runners appeared to be ascending into the heavens at the top of each hill, as they simply disappeared into clouds of intense fog. Good times, good times.
One of the HUGE benefits of a sub-freezing day is the short Port-o-Pottie line. You know you’re a dork when you exclaim, “I’m in the zone!” because you’re so pumped to be in and out of the john in the five minutes prior to race start. Since I wasn’t anticipating anything in the high-performance realm out on the road, I opted to skip a warm-up and mingle in the cozy, runner-perfumed interior of the Expo Center. There, I bumped into AFM reader Sandy Williamson as well as ARC board members and friends Jim Gelb and Vance Taylor and even a high school buddy—and owner of some of the most brightly colored running gear known to man—Don Lujan, to name a few.
I have to admit that race #2 in the AFMDC, the Gazelle Foundation’s Run for the Water 10 Miler, was still my longest run. Yes, I am truly representing the undertrained. I hope that I am also representing those who run with joy, as my entire set of goals for the day consisted of the following: to have fun, meet people who passed me, and finish with a smile on my face.
How was I to keep track of all those people running by? A key component was that the runner had to engage me in some way; the plan was to simply record race numbers via voice but I quickly realized my gloves hampered any phone use. As I was not about to take off and put on my gloves (and I sure wasn’t going to run without them), phone operation was out. I literally ran with a pad and pen, scrawling down names and bib numbers as I went. People who noticed were amused. For the first three miles or so, we runners all chugged along without much jockeying for position; that’s how you know you’re at a “runners” race as opposed to a “people’s” race—self-seeding seems to be much more effective. I had my “Pass Me!” sign on my back, and runners who came around were quickly divided into two camps: those who said something and those who didn’t. Everybody who spoke to me was nice—to be honest, I’d wondered a bit about what I’d get. Here’s the list of runners whose numbers were recorded, more or less, in course order:
#419 Maya Lin (first runner to talk to me when passing!)
#199 Scott Baldridge
#74 Esther Ortiz
#841 Clifford Walker
#246 Jorge Montalvo (I actually had the pleasure of coaching Jorge in the Tri Zones Training class “Finding Your Inner Runner” when he first took up running; nothing pleases me more than finding a former coachee who’s kept it up)
#646 Zane Trevino
#501 Kim Mathieson (Kim and I had a fairly long talk as we headed uphill. She works out with Rogue Training Systems and was running her 10th half marathon that morning)
#554 Kinaya Ulbrich (more about Kinaya later!)
#841 Clifford Walker (a lot of leap-frogging went on, as I am one of those people who does not stop at the water stops, and I wound up noting Clifford twice—he made an impression, it seems)
#572 Lucy Blum (Lucy was running her third half marathon of the year, and she mentioned she'd dropped 30 minutes off her PR—congrats! This is her first time to do the AFMDC, and she’ll rack up a few more half marathons in the process)
#368 Leslie Ashford
#510 Alice Hancock and #509 John Hancock, from Tomball (Alice was completely motivating, as we passed one another continuously. She had a look of total determination and a great pacer in John, who stayed right by her side the whole way. I believe this was her first half marathon, and I was not about to let her fall behind me in the final turns—Alice did not disappoint, as she kicked it in for a strong finish)
There was the young man in the final mile or so with knee problems who I worried about and offered to stay with (he said no; I failed to write down his number); I did, however, chase down Ayeesah Green (#367) in the finish area—she’d quietly passed me early on but she was so rockin’ her running tights (she said her son picked them out) that I wanted to get her info for possible modeling. [Note: Those of you who think we don’t use “real people” in the magazine have never seen me accost folks at events with the line, “Have you ever modeled? Would you like to?”] I absolutely adored the Stava “King of the Mountain” concept, where a split was taken for that final big climb at mile 10 (honestly, I’d much rather run it than bike it)—that challenge kept me moving along at what I fondly call my “mountain troll shuffle” instead of just walking. Genius!
For the amount of training I’ve been doing, I was quite pleased with my run. I felt great, met lots of nice people, and finished with a smile on my face. And unlike trail running, I was home early and had plenty of time left in the day for other things. Sweet!
Natalie England, assistant editor, drew one race number from those I listed above, and Kinaya Ulbrich is the “Pass Me” challenge winner for the Decker Challenge Half Marathon. Kinaya was running with a group of girl friends, all of whom train with Tough Cookies Fitness. This is not Kinaya’s first AFMDC; in fact, she signed up for all six early, thus thwarting my attempt to provide her with a comped entry to one of the upcoming AFMDC races. She will, however, get a free year’s subscription to Austin Fit Magazine (yes, you can subscribe and have it delivered to your door) as well as an “I Keep Austin Fit” T-shirt and an assortment of other goodies. She’s a triathlete, too, so once she’s finished the Austin Marathon (and race #6 in the AFMDC), she’ll move into multi-sport training, and she’s got her eye on the Longhorn Ironman 70.3 Austin.
Next up in the AFMDC is the Rogue Distance Festival on January 5, which starts at Cedar Park High School. AFMDC participants will either be running the 10K (those registered in the Half Track) or the 30K (everyone signed up in the Full Track). There’s also a half marathon distance and a free kids’ K, so there are a plethora of running options. Because I’m registered in the Half Track, I’ll be doing the 10K; to be honest, I wish I were doing the 30K. It’s a multiple-loop course that starts and ends at the high school. One of my all-time favorite races was the old RunTex Buda 30K—now THAT was a “runners” race if there ever was one! No spectators, all rural roads (with the occasional dog to outrun and roadkill to avoid), and a glorious finish on the track. I still have shirts and key chains from that run.
I admit that, such as it is, I can't help but have a performance goal: to beat my time from the first race of the AFMDC, the IBM Uptown Classic 10K. And, once again, I’m challenging you to pass me. I will seed myself accordingly (look for that woman with the “Pass Me!” sign on her back; I'll send a photo on race morning via Twitter, @Leahruns100, so you can recognize me), and you’ll need to say something—might I suggest “Hi, Leah! I’m passing you!”?—as you come around. I’ll draw another lucky winner from those friendly, speedier runners who stay ahead of me for the finish. If you take a photo, tag @AustinFit or #KeepAustinFit and, please, introduce yourself before, during, or after the race. I want to be sure I know lots of people at the 2014 AFMDC finishers’ party.
I'll see you at the Rogue Distance Festival!