Texas Hill Country
October 12, 2020
Decker Challenge Half Marathon
The Decker Challenge was my next race in the Austin Distance Challenge, a half marathon on a hilly course. I was worried about the hills going into the thing. I was also worried about my competition. I was leading my age division, but the guy right behind me wasn't too bad in the 10-miler. I thought maybe he'd continue making up ground in the half marathon, especially if he's a hills guy.
The weather that morning was about as perfect as it gets for a long race. Air a little dry. About 50 degrees. Sunny. I was in my shorts and short-sleeved running shirt, cold at the start line, hands still cold after a few miles, but perfect otherwise.
On the way to the race, I realized I'd left my watch at home. Oops! Guess I'd be pacing by feel today. That's kind of OK for this one, since the hills would force you into judgement calls anyway.
The gun sounded and I took off. Unlike last time, I told myself that it was OK if people got away from me. Half a mile in, I was probably in about 12th place (last time, I was in 3rd for the entire first mile). Right about where I wanted to be. And before I knew it, a mile flew by.
It wasn't until mile 3 that I saw my first race clock. 18:12. Wow! I was hoping for a 6:20 mile, which would put me at 19:00 at this point. OK Rob, calm down. Run your race.
But it wasn't hard. This pace seemed easy. I kept going by feel and cruised, pushing myself just a bit. I'd noticed that the guy in front of me was changing his speed a lot. Or at least it seemed that way, since the gap between me and him kept getting bigger and smaller. Right about mile 4, he crashed, hard. I passed him easily.
Not one minute later, a pack of five passed me slowly. I recognized them from other races and remembered that they finished well, obviously experienced runners. I jumped on their pace and started drafting. A tall guy next to me was loudly panting. Less than a mile later, he fell off the pace.
The group I was with was holding 6-minute miles. Damn! I figured I'd just stay with them for as long as I could, taking the draft they gave me, and let them get away from me when the hills picked up in the second half. I was able to stay with them for quite a while though. Right around mile 7, my stomach started to turn, and it slowly was getting worse. I feared a similar result as last time. Somehow though, at mile 9, I just told myself "NOT NOW!!" and willed my stomach to rest. It went away. Weird.
It was right about then that the hills were getting biiiig. I was mentally prepared though, since I bike over them frequently. We started passing folks that were doing the full marathon, who had started a half-hour before us. On one of the uphills, a fresh-looking dude caught up to us with ease, then stuck with us for about a half-mile before leaving us in his dust. Turned out he was doing the marathon relay, and therefore was only doing about 6 miles.
The pack was still together until around mile 11, where it started breaking up. No one said anything, some people just dropped and some started running harder. I did my thing and wound up somewhere in the middle of them. As we were closing in on mile 12, I saw the guy in front of me slowing down on an uphill. The competitive side in me came out, I dug deep, and passed him with a satisfied devilish grin on my face.
For the last mile and a half, I could hear furious footsteps behind me. This guy didn’t like being passed in the last two miles. I ran harder. I almost caught up to another guy in front of me, who looked like a very, very seasoned runner. He kept running faster and faster in the last mile, so it was something just to keep up. The last mile was tortuous for that reason, mostly a lot of winding around a complex. Every time we took a corner, I kept hoping that the finish line was just around it. It wasn't for the longest time, until I finally heard some music, and there it was. I ran hard to the finish to make sure I didn't get passed at the last second and saw Peyton there cheering me on. Crossed the line smiling in 1:19:01.
Peyton had to meet her family for breakfast, so I took a sink shower and we headed there, not waiting to get results or see the award ceremony. I scarfed down a humongous plate of breakfast tacos with her family of 362,897 and then drove back out to see how I did. Won my age division and came in 5th overall! Best of all, I obliterated my nearest competition in my age division of the Austin Distance Challenge by 8:40. My lead more than doubled to 14:17. Then again, less than a third of the miles are behind us in this thing.