Tuesday, March 12, 2013

“Run, Random Stranger, Run!”: The 2013 Armadillo Dash

2013 Armadillo Dash Medal

The big race day has come and gone, and man, what a good one this year!  What an unexpectedly wonderful day.  I do wonder, at least a little bit, if in the wake of 2012, my expectations have slid toward not-so-good news.  Maybe I need a recalibration of my soul.  Do they offer those at Target?

I’ll put it on my list.  Said Target list will now read pink strawberry candles, Brita bottle + filter, pens, push pins, and soul adjustment.

But back to the topic at hand: the 2013 Armadillo Dash Half-Marathon!  It was a chilly morning for a race, but I have a bad habit of overdressing for my long runs.  The night before the race, as I was gathering all my gear for the early-morning start, I decided on a running skirt, performance t-shirt, and long-sleeve tee.  I figured that my legs would warm up fast, but my upper body was likely to feel the chill for a longer period of time.  To get to the start line, I decided to do something new this year: I rode my bike to Veterans Park rather than take a cab.  Last year’s cab ride was not pleasant, and Veterans Park is pretty close to my apartment.  I packed a bag with my gear, crossed my fingers that nobody would steal my stuff, tucked my valuables (phone, keys, twenty-dollar bill) into my new SPI belt, and off I went.

I left a smidge later than I should have and felt harried right before the race.  I was still walking over to the starting area when a powerful male voice started singing the national anthem.  Slipping into the masses of half-marathoners, I made it with a few minutes to spare.

At well-attended racing events, it’s always really crowded at the start.  I don’t think it’s a good idea to expend a lot of energy throwing elbows and trying to nudge people out of the way.  With five half-marathons now under my belt, I have a bit of a racing strategy, and it looks like this:

Miles 0-4: Take it easy, settle into position.  Pass people as needed in order to feel comfortable.

Miles 4-9: Cruise control.

Miles 9-13.1: The faster you run, the faster you’re done!  Also, pick ‘em off, one by one.

And that’s exactly how this year’s Dash went.  The first few miles were a slow warm-up, only passing people if it was effortless and made it easier for me to settle into a good race pace.  By the time I was into mile 4, I felt good, and my pace was just a tad slower than 9-minute miles.  At the halfway point, I saw a man wearing camouflage running tights which looked an awful lot like the printed skinny jeans that are in style right now.  He had been waiting at a port-o-potty, but as I was running toward him, he turned and booked it, almost sprinting, which seemed like a dangerous move to me, considering that we were only at mile 6.something.  But there he went, in his camouflage skinny jeans running tights, and I thought to myself, I will catch you, Mr. Camouflage Tights.

But not at that moment.  At the halfway point of 13.1 miles, it was far too early for me to be running hard.  I kept moving forward with my steady pace.  6 miles turned into 7, 7 miles turned into 8, 8 miles turned into 9…and then it was time to step on the gas, little by little.

I love the last few miles of a half-marathon because that’s when I feel like I can really race.  I can give those last few miles everything I have left, and at the end there will be water and bananas and bagels and that glorious feeling of leaving it all on the course.  I love that feeling, and that’s why the half-marathon is my favorite race distance.  In the last few miles of this race, I gradually passed lots of people with my steady pace.  Mr. Camouflage Tights himself was one of the last people I was able to catch and pass—seeing him again was fun.  The last mile or so of the race was a blur as I booked it in an attempt to set a new PR.  I really didn’t think this year’s race would be a PR performance for me, but the clock thought otherwise.

What the Watch Says

Me Happy After the Race

It was a great, great feeling to see those numbers on the clock.  I maintain that I run for fun, for my sanity, for that healthy feeling it infuses into my life, but sometimes?  I run just to see how low that number can go.

From here, my training will shift toward a distance that I didn’t think I’d ever try: 26.2.  After the race (and a shower and an early lunch!), I pulled my big calendar off the wall and started writing down the weeks of marathon training that await me this year.  I “officially” begin training for the full on June 10, 2013.  Before that, I’ll be laying down a base of 3-4 sessions of 30-minute runs.  I anticipate that I’ll be biking around town as usual, so I’m okay with 3 runs and a few bike sessions as my marathon base.  (My running book says I should have a solid base of 4 30-minute runs per week.)  I am excited and nervous to train for such a big race: the marathon feels daunting to me, especially coupled with the heat of a Texas summer.  But this summer promises to be a summer of change in more than one way, and the marathon will be part of that new set of experiences.  Bring it on, I say!  

PS  The title for today’s post comes from one of my favorites signs at the race.  Along mile 1, two women were holding a sign that said, “Run, random stranger, run!”  It made me laugh.  I love our race spectators and volunteers!


  1. That sign would have totally cracked me up, too! I love it when spectators are enthusiastic and/or funny along the route of a race. Congrats on catching the guy in the camo skinnies and again on that awesome new PR! :)

    1. Thanks, my dear! For race support and fun spectators, the Armadillo Dash really is a great race--big enough to feel like an event, enough hype and help for runners to feel cared for, but small enough to not be completely chaotic and crazy. Also, part of the race takes us through some lovely quieter and more country-esque areas of town, and I enjoy the feeling of those roads.

      I'm off to read about YOUR half-marathon now! :-)

  2. Congratulations! You ran an excellent race and earned a kick ass PR! I will try to employ this strategy in my race this weekend, though I'm not expecting to set any records. Mostly I just want to 1. run the whole time, and 2. have a good attitude. (Thus avoiding a repeat like my last, disastrous half marathon.)

    Thanks for the motivation. Yay running!

    1. You are most welcome, Chrissy! I think your modest goals sound perfect and will set you up for a great race. Good luck and have fun! I'm already looking forward to reading your race report :-)

      Yay running indeed! I'm been off from it all week, due to a combination of laziness and feeling busy with other stuff, but I'm hoping to get out there tonight for a nice run.