Thursday, February 21, 2013

Austin Trip: Austin Marathon Spectator Recap

I'll admit that after picking up my packet on Saturday, I was sad to not be doing the Austin Half Marathon.  It's hard to want something so much and not be able to do it.  I know I could have run this race, but it would have been slow and it would have set me back so far in my healing that it just wasn't worth it.  Still, it was hard to not be able to run.  Val and Julie can relate because they were both supposed to do the half as well, but they too are injured.  

Come marathon morning, however, I was extremely excited that I had a 6:00 am wake up call and not a 4:00 am wake up and I was just damned excited to cheer for my friends.  In some ways cheering is even better than running!

The girls and I made our signs the night before.   I was trying to be funny, but neither of them really got the joke.

Isabel's said, "My mom runs faster than your mom."  The girls added little I love yous at the bottom too. 

Ella's said, "Run faster my arms are getting tired."  We got a bunch of points and a few chuckles along the course so I guess the signs were appreciated.  I'll have to remember when I'm running in the future to let the sign holders know how much I like their signs.  Ha!

David (Bianca's husband) worked his sign too.

Little Sophia (Karla's daughter) looks a lot better.  Sorry David.

The first place we set out to see the girls was at mile 8.  We arrived just at the first male runner was passing and let me tell you that sucker was FAST.  I swear if I hadn't seen his legs moving on the pavement, I would have thought he was riding a bike.  He was so fast and just glided along.  It was amazing to see.

Pretty soon, however, the "regular" runners started coming by and we waited anxiously to see our girls.

Shortly, we got their 5k split and they seemed to be right on pace (maybe a little slow, but I assumed that was due to traffic).  Nevertheless, they showed up at mile 8 just at the time we expected.

Of course at mile 8 everyone seemed happy and full of energy.  They handed off their long sleeve shirts and gloves (it was 40 degrees at the start) and were on their merry way.

Our goal was to see them next at mile 12.  Julie had planned out where/when we would see them and she did an AMAZING job.  We basically parked 100 yards away (or less) from each spectator location and it worked out PERFECTLY each time.  

We got to mile 12 with plenty of time to spare.  Julie and I stopped in the restroom at the grocery store close by and the kids played while we waited. 

The temperature was warming up nicely and the sun was shining.  It was an absolutely perfect day for standing around and cheering on the amazing athletes.

We had a lot of fun cheering on strangers.  I know how much it means to hear your name called and to be given words of encouragement so I tried to cheer and clap as much as possible.  

The 12 mile mark is just at the top of a killer hill, so people were looking for a little love from the spectators at this point.  2 thumbs up for spectating!

Pretty soon we saw OUR ladies coming and they all looked happy again.  They seemed to be in great spirits and, as far as I knew, there were no complaints.

I was so happy that Tracey was running with Karla and Bianca.  It felt nice knowing everyone was together. 

I left them at mile 12 no longer feeling anxious, but feeling relaxed.  Everything seemed to be going well and everyone seemed happy.  Our next spectator spot was at mile 22.  I'm so glad we decided to go to mile 22.  Mile 22 is where things are usually pretty ugly during a marathon and I wanted to be there at that time to offer my words of encouragement.  

Obviously there was plenty of time between miles 12 and 22.  We stopped at Starbucks and got a coffee and still had a long time to wait for the girls.

We were getting the girls' splits on our phones so we knew that Karla and Bianca had split off from Tracey.   The only thing is we didn't know why.  Tracey was running about 2 minutes ahead of Bianca and Karla at the half marathon split.  I started playing out every scenario in my head as to what may have happened.  We wouldn't allow ourselves to think anything "bad".

As the 20 mile split popped up and Tracey was now 8 to 9 minutes ahead of Bianca, I knew something was "wrong".  Obviously, they hadn't just gotten split up due to traffic on the course.  It was clear that Bianca had slowed down.

Again, waiting and agonizing over what it could be just sucked.  I hoped that it wasn't something terrible and that Bianca wasn't suffering too badly.  I should state that I wasn't really worrying about Karla because Karla is accustom to running a much faster pace.  Karla was running this race just to support Bianca.  Her goal was to literally stand by her friend's side during this race.

Despite my worry over Bianca, I was also excited.  I was excited because at the 20 mile mark Tracey was right on target to meeting her goal of finishing in less than 4:00.  I was so giddy with excitement for her.  I was anticipating what I would see at mile 22. Would she be ok? Happy?  In pain?  What?

So many people were coming up on mile 22 looking strong, but so many were also limping, cramping, asking for cheers of encouragement and just down right suffering.  So I had no idea what I'd see when we saw Tracey.

When she finally came up, she seemed to be running strong, but as she rounded the corner she gave me a head nod that said no.

She was smiling, but I could tell she wanted it to be over.  As she ran past we all yelled and screamed and I told her she "had this", but that head nod made me worry.  I started to cry.  I cried because I knew she was tired and struggling as anyone does in the last 4 miles of a marathon and I cried because she was so close to making her goal and there was nothing I could do to help her.  I just prayed.  Prayed she had enough left in her to stay strong for the last 4.2 miles.  

After Tracey passed I sat with worry over Bianca.  Where is she?  When would she be coming?  We got her 20 mile split, and despite slowing down, the wheels had in no way fallen off the bus.  She was still running a pace I could only dream of.   I didn't know what to expect when I saw her.  I just hoped she looked happy.

And she did.   She put on a smile for all of us and waved, but as she passed and David ran up to her I could tell by the look on her face that she wasn't happy.  Again, this is mile 22 of a marathon.  I wouldn't expect anyone to look happy.  The fact that she could be smiling at all (fake or not) was a good sign.

Apparently at mile 11 Bianca started to cramp up in her calves.  The pain was so intense she had to stop several times to massage it.  When they'd stop Karla could actually see the ball of muscle tightness and you could see it actually moving (pulsating?) inside her skin.  I give her credit for running through that. Bianca is one tough cookie.  I have no doubt about that.

As soon as Bianca and Karla passed we hightailed it out of there to make it to the finish line.  We made it to the fishing area in what I thought would be just under the 4:00 mark.  I prayed that I would see Tracey.  I waited and waited spying everyone coming down the hill and I didn't see her.  I kept asking Julie and Val if there was anyway we missed her.  They assured me there was no way we could have missed her.

Suddenly 4:00 pace group came up and I still hadn't seen Tracey.  I was so sad, she hadn't met her goal (or so I thought).  I hit refresh one last time on my phone and her time popped up.  She had already finished and must have shortly before we came up on the finishing area.

My friend, my awesome, awesome friend Tracey, finished in 3:56 crushing her previous marathon PR by 9 minutes and beating her gaol by 4 minutes.  In case you don't know Austin is a VERY hilly and challenging course and I am amazed at what this woman was able to accomplish!  You are so inspiring Tracey.  I am so glad I got to experience this with you!  I knew you had it in you all along.  I will always believe in you and be here to support you!

I got so flustered knowing that Tracey had already finished that I immediately bolted to the actual finish line to greet her.  I didn't want her to be there at the end with no one there to say congratulations.  I handed off my camera to Julie and went to see Tracey.

It turns out Tracey waited inside the finishers chute for Bianca and Karla and I should have waited to see Bianca and Karla finish.  So yeah, I didn't get to see anyone's big finish, but I know those moments are for THEM anyway and not me.

As you would expect, Bianca and Karla were pretty emotional.

 Karla had seen her friend suffer for so many miles, yet they had made it to the finish line.

How awesome to finish a marathon holding your best friend's hand.  AMAZING!

Bianca is an amazing woman on so many levels, but she had all kinds of obstacles going into this marathon.  She injured her IT and was sidelined for awhile. She came back, but her longest training run was just 18 miles and she only did that once.  Her training wasn't what she hoped it would be.

Her race also wasn't what she hoped physically.  Although her IT held up, her calf cramping was pretty severe.  To hear Karla describe it was painful and Karla would tear up telling us how much pain Bianca was in.

Amazingly, despite all the hardship, Bianca still PRd this race and finished in an astounding 4:14.  I mean seriously!  How does one have that kind of time even though her legs didn't work starting at mile 11?  I'm awed and inspired by Bianca (and Karla of course).

It should be noted that Karla was also injured going into this race.  Karla sat out over 4 weeks prior to this marathon doing no running AT ALL.  Her longest training run was just 13 miles.  She didn't even start running again until about 2 weeks before the marathon.  Sheer will and determination got Karla through.  I also think it was her big heart and the love she has for Bianca.  She wanted to be by Bianca's side and she was, literally every step of the way!

Thank you ladies for allowing me to be part of your special day.  Thank you for being my inspiration and thank you for allowing me to be your friend.  Races may come and go, but our friendship will be here for a lifetime.  I may not have run this race WITH you, but my heart ached in your pain and it jumped for joy in your success.  I love you both and couldn't be prouder of your accomplishments!  


Amy Z said...

Hi! I found your blog today as I was googling Austin race re-caps, as I ran it on Sunday. This is a great perspective from the spectators! I missed those signs, though. Aside from Austin what really draws me to your blog is that you are from PITTSBURGH! Yay. I grew up there and am often back, but I have yet to run the Pittsburgh Marathon. I will someday soon and it will be awesome.

David said...

Susan, this is David. What a beautiful job capturing the myriad aspects of this event. It was a great day for everyone. I observe the friendships that exist amongst you gals and am left speechless. The actual running at times seems to be the backdrop to a comaradarie that has a much deeper purpose. Whatever...., its wonderful.

momswimbikerun said...

I can't believe you haven't tried Pittsburgh. I haven't done the full at Pittsburgh but have done the half twice. I've done both the austin half and the austin full. While I enjoy the half, the full about killed me. Sorry you missed our signs (haha) but maybe I cheered for you. Congrats on completing Austin and I hope you will come to Pittsburgh some day to do the half. I know I'll be back in Austin!!!

momswimbikerun said...

Thanks David. It was such a special day. I didn't even touch on how much fun we had as spectators and all that was going on with US. There was just so much to talk about, but I enjoyed spending the day with you (and everyone else) cheering on the ladies.

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