Each weekend in March, we had BIG PLANZ. This is my account of the second half of the month. Goodbye birthday celebration and hello fun races!
Warrior Dash – March 19:
We woke up around 7am, got our superheroness on, hopped in the car, and started driving to Conroe, TX. At least this one was right off the freeway, not in the middle of nowhere. We passed by some sort of bike race on the way, and it was pretty cool, it even got me kinda more excited for ours. It was a gorgeous place – everything was so green and lush. It was definitely a little… bible-belt-y up in there. It was pretty much church on every corner, Christian Automotive, Christian Books, Christian Grocery Store (ok maybe not but ya know…) – definitely a little different than Austin. When our fabulously flamboyant hotel clerk found out where the race was when we checked in later, he was like, “how, erm, progressive of them” considering the race was pretty much about mud and beer. Just a little different than Austin. It trips me out that different parts of Texas are so… Texas.
Anyhoo, we got to the race after getting a little turned around as to where the actual parking lot was, and had to board a shuttle to get to the race site proper. In school busses. Total warrior style! Once we actually got off, we realized that we left the sunscreen in the car, and didn’t have a lot of time before our wave. Bummer. We just decided to snag shade when we could (which there wasn’t much) and not stay too long (didn’t work either). Got through packet pickup, got our bags checked, and switched my tshirt for a kids L/adult XS – and it was PERFECT. One of the very few race shirts that will be anything but pajama fodder. XS all the way from now on…
We got the last bits of the costume on and as we walked to the starting area, the wave before us was taking off. We hung out for a bit in the shade, and then once the starting line area started to fill up, we headed to get into the pack. Our goal was to go hard and see if we could beat 40 mins. The countdown started, the flames went off, and we started. It was hot, the course was a BMX bike track so it was ridiculously hilly, and some of the obstacles were killer. However, we stuck together and we ran it harder than we had ever ran before, and got muddier than ever.
Unfortunately, since the course was the hardest yet, we ended up around 46 minutes. Oh well, next time! Totally proud of our performance, and it was DEFINITELY a slow course. The winning woman was at 25+ minutes – they’re usually in the high teens. We also ran it closer to the front because we didn’t get caught behind all the walkers who take their time with the obstacles, thus creating a long line and gumming up the works. Never had to stop, we definitely stayed ahead of the curve even if it was the worst time yet. Obstacles included the wind tunnel, sliding down a muddy cliff (on my ass… in a running skirt… didn’t think that one through… and, erm, there were dirt and sticks UP IN THAR gettin’ jiggy), the tunnel of darkness (and stinkiness and heat), rope climbs, and of course the traditional leap over the fire, and the crawl in the mudpit under the barbed wire.
After the race, we got a gigantic mug of beer, chilled on the grass, watched finishers and rocked out to the band. Unfortunately it was also in the sun so we did get some wicked sunburns. It was a very pleasant and awesome afternoon. Someone even proposed on stage! After a while, we boarded the bus and headed back to our car and drove on out of Conroe and to our hotel in downtown Houston. We got our room, showered, dresssed, applied a crap ton of aloe and makeup, and headed out on the town.
We walked about a mile and hit up the Aquarium restaurant. When we got there it was a gigantic tourist trap and a huge wait. I almost thought about telling us to go elsewhere, but we cozied up to the bar and had a few drinks and an appetizer. A huge plate of fried seafood – calamari, shrimp, crab dip, and bruschetta. Considering all I had was a little breakfast and a few snacks, it sure took the edge off. In that light, I decided to get a salad instead of something heavier. Honestly, though, I could have been eating twigs because our seats were in front of a 200k gallon aquarium with lots of awesome fishies. I may or may not have chased a manta ray around the tank after dinner. I felt like I was about 5 years old and I didn’t give a shit.
After dinner we used our phones to locate a dive bar (that’s kinda what we were in the mood for) and found our way to Warren’s Inn. A charming old bar that was all regulars and while it was a little the scene of the piano stopping, record screeching, and everyone looking at us when we entered, the barstaff ended up being very nice. The bartender was awesome, poured us drinks that were pretty much ice, jim beam, and a splash of diet coke for color, and as soon as we sat down, the “bar mom” kicked someone out for having sex in the bathroom on his birthday. It ended up being our only stop for the night, we didn’t move until we left around last call. Since it was the bartender’s birthday, we tipped him 50 bucks. He made our only night in Houston way fun. We were pretty soused but we made one more stop at the hot tub before passing the heck out.
The next day, we got up right at checkout time, and it took an hour to get our car out of valet. At least I finished my book though! Then we drove out of Houston and to NASA!!! I had been looking forward to it mostly because Zliten wanted to go SO BAD and it would be adorable to watch him be all giddy. However, I had SO MUCH FUN!!! It was so cool to get the tour and see all the amazingly cool SPACE STUFF. I touched the moon. I walked through Skylab. I learned a lot. I figured we got there around 3, and we’d be over it in an hour or 2. Well, we were the last people in there after 7 and we wished we had way more time.
However, we had to go home, so we stopped for a quick bite at Panera and then started driving back. We got home around 11:30pm – drive was very uneventful, we were pretty much exhausted, and crawled into bed right away as it was back to work the next day! Awesome, awesome weekend. Houston reminded us of San Diego – while Dallas didn’t impress us (though we didn’t see all that much, so we’ll give it another chance), I’d definitely go back to Houston.
Du Loop, March 26th
Another weekend, another race. We packed up the bikes and the camping equipment and headed out to Flatonia, Texas, to our next door neighbor’s friends property. We got there around 1pm, set up our tent and camping area, had a little lunch, and relaxed. This is my kind of camping – we’re set up about 5o meters away from a porta potty, and just about as close to a hot tub. We have a double thick air mattress, comforters, and an ez up for shade. Not to mention – there is actually a house on the property. Yep, my kind of roughing it.
It was getting HOT. They had moved it from April to March this year in hopes of it being cooler, but by the time it approached 4, it was pretty close to 90 and humid. Happy fun race weather. I headed out for a mile on the bike to get my legs warmed, changed into my race clothes, got my icy camelback on, had my last porta potty pee (best line for potty potty ever – there was none!), and headed for the pre-race briefing. At about 3:30, we thought there was going to only be about 5 people, but everyone got there at the last minute and we got up to about a field of 25.
In a true Texas race fashion, we had the national anthem (not a singer like last year but still a nice touch), and we were sent off on the run with a shotgun fired in the air. I went out fast, but not too fast, pacing around 9 minute miles, and even found someone to follow who was right about there. I kept on her heels for about 1.25 miles but then the uphill started and the heat was getting to me, so I fell back to around 9:30s. I hit the turn around, and when I hit the next hill, it was more like fighting to stay under 10s. A while after we passed mile 2 it flattened out and the end was in sight, so I crept closer to 9s again. I passed a few people, sputtered a bit at the end (the course was .15 miles longer than a 5k and that honestly threw me), but got on my bike and out quick. 29:12 for 3.26 miles (9:01 pace overall). Was hoping for 27, but considering the heat of the day, I’ll take under 30.
Thankfully, the first section of the bike course was flat so I caught my breath while not being a complete lag ass, and by the first turn around about 1.5 miles up I felt good. I booked it on the flats, tried to go as fast as possible on the downhill parts without freaking out, and did my best to power up the hills. I’m extremely proud of my time – 31:36 for just under 8 miles. Over 15 mph pace – my fastest outdoor pace ever.
That pace took a lot out of me, so I was barely moving for the last 3/4 mile trail run. I didn’t walk, but I did run at about an 11 minute mile pace (8:31 for .77 mile). I was sweaty, tired, and hurting, but I ran it in for a total time of 1:14:27. Over 4 minutes faster overall! My goal was just to beat my old time. Considering it was my first outside hard run since I hurt my back, I was pretty stoked. Even though I ran it slower, I made up that time and more on the bike. Yay!
I ended up first in my age group (of 2), and I was so freaking proud of Zliten! He didn’t finish DFL! He beat someone! He had a really strong race… I hadn’t even cracked a beer yet when he transitioned from bike to run this year!
We had the awards ceremony, we had more beers and margaritas and dinner and hot tubz and discussing life and future drunkenly under the stars, and then actually a very comfortable sleep. It is always so great to reaffirm that my best racing years can be ahead of me – considering the gal I was trying to keep up with (and failed) is about my mom’s age and an ultramarathoner. In the morning, we packed up, and went home. Good times. Can’t wait until next year – maybe next time I can actually keep up with Patty on the runs. I just know my goal will be at least 1:14:26.