Garmin Half Marathon

This morning I ran the Garmin Half Marathon in Olathe, KS.

Fun fact: the native pronunciation of "Olathe" is unknowable without first hearing it.

In addition to being the first fancy race I've run since Greg was born, this was also a key test trip to see how well our little dude could travel without relying on naps and be cool during group activities. It's also the first time I've been hailed on during a race.

"They're With Me"

Friday afternoon Julie was teaching the students how to program and I was responsible for coaxing our 2.5 year old through an abbreviated nap, waking him up, finishing the packing, and then heading for Kansas City - exfiltrating Julie from her teaching responsibilities as we drove by. The only thing that went wrong was a minor issue with semantic ambiguity.

All week we had been promising Greg "car snacks". He was excited. We'd been priming him on all of the things we had planned for the weekend and he was in a Disney World-esque frenzy. In his pantheon of All Things Amazing, car snacks were at the top. Explaining that "we need to get Mom before you can have car snacks" was the only reason he was willing to cooperate with early nap wake-up.

We picked up Julie. He asked for car snacks. We gave him Gold Fish. He got mad. "No fish. Want car snacks!" We realized he wanted snacks that looked like cars. We felt like idiots. However, it was the first in a long line of situations this weekend where Greg was an hero. He cut us some slack. I don't even know what to say. Proud feelings. He's a better person than me.

A few hours later, we arrived at the expo and connected with our friends. Rob had us taken care of. I walked into a busy room, my brain a confused mess of mis-remembered logistics and pre-race nerves, and he got me doing everything that needed doing and busted out a very fancy sounding "they're with me" to get us our pasta tickets -- all while doing his actual race organizer/volunteer job with the sort of quiet ease I've jealously observed competent people do things with. You made a great race/weekend Rob. Props.

And thus began the pasta dinner with guest speaker and recent Boston marathon winner Meb Keflezighi. My toddler and I were seated 5 feet away from the podium. I'd known all along that this would be a terrifying challenge, one that eclipsed the race. Meb got some laughs from the room. Greg got some laughs from the room and from Meb. Eventually, following the heroic efforts of his Mom, Donna's awesome kid skillz, Chris's delicious cookies, and everybody else, Greg's happy chattering during deep personal stories got weird and Greg and I migrated out of the room. Since there was no crying or yelling and nobody seemed mad, I called pasta dinner a big win. Sadly, I ate very little pasta.

I slept for about an hour that night. Friday finished.

"I Destroy Garmins"

With Greg happily sleeping in the hotel room and Julie remaining on watch, I bummed a 5:40 am ride from Amy and Will (running the half and the full, respectively) to to the race.

Once there, we found a delightful array of portable toilets -- one of which was the recipient of an unsettling visit by yours truly -- and a starting line. I lined up and prepared to gather real time telemetry data using a wrist-mounted, satellite-based speed monitoring device. A Garmin. It's ridiculous that these are watches that people just buy. They track your location using objects in space and have to compensate for Einstein's relativistic effects.

Despite GPS watches being basically Star Trek, I have bad luck with them. A few years ago, in Sacramento, my watch uncharacteristically drained its battery in 30 minutes and was useless during my race. This played havoc my my GPS-dependent pace scheduling. Today, the watch started up, the battery lasted well, but the watch didn't think I was going anywhere. It counted time just fine, but it logged the entire 13.1 miles as 0.78 miles.

Fortunately, having already learned my lesson in Sacramento, I just made a few mild attempts to get it working at the first mile marker and then managed my pace using the force. Julie later asked me why I'm so hard on the watches she lends to me for races.

"I Noticed it was Hailing"

The pace groups were spaced too closely together in the starting area and it was cramped. I ended up starting behind the 2:20 pace group and spent the next 3 miles working my way ahead of the 2:05 pace group. A woman I was standing next to at the start was painted green head to toe and wearing a witch costume, which I interpreted as commentary on greed's role in social inequality.

The course was a friendly combination of mostly level with occasional hills. The weather was beautiful - 50s and partly cloudy. Predictions said that it might storm later in the day but would likely hold off until Sunday. It held off until mile 7.

At some point I turned South and faced up hill. There was a surreal change from the earlier bright, partly cloudy weather to a serious-looking storm. It was dark and it was straight ahead. Over the next few miles the wind shifted and the rain began.

At mile 9, I briefly considered pausing to pour the water out of my shoes. I was soaked and everything was sloshing. There was abundant thunder and I overheard a discussion at an aid station about the possibility of seeking shelter.

A few minutes later, I started getting little stinging sensations followed by numb spots on my arms. It took me a minute to realize I was running through pea-sized hail. Fortunately, it wasn't the thick sort of hail where the ice just piles up and it didn't get much bigger, but with the storm getting worse by increments and now hail, I was starting to keep an eye out for places to hide.

By mile 12 the storm was gone. For the half marathon, I don't think it had a huge impact on times, but it was a spirit breaking sort of a storm. It also transformed the feel of the event away from a normal race and into something more along the lines of a Warrior Dash. For the full marathoners, I think that converts as a Spartan Death Race.

I coasted for most of the last 1.1 miles, comfortable in my position 30 seconds ahead of the 2:05 pacer because I had crossed the start line after her. Then, for the last quarter, that pacer started to pass people. She ditched her group and went rogue.

I have a special relationship with marathon pacers. They are handy as a way to tell time on the course and mark progress if I start too far back. But they tend to call out a lot of super dramatic advice and create clumps of people that act as road blocks. Also, I think getting passed by pace groups is the worst.

So this pacer was gaining and I surprised myself. I sped up. I held her off all the way up the yellow brick road at the finish line. I waved to Julie and Greg who had braved the weather to come out a cheer for me. And I crossed in what I think is my second best half marathon time: 2:04.

So many happy smiles.

The best parts were the other stuff. The course stayed open. My people all made it back. I got a chance to catch up with friends. Greg got to scamper circles around the finish area like tiny dudes do. It was a great weekend.


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