I know I’m a little late with this one as it was a week ago but this was a great run, and I am so very happy I had the opportunity to be there. The Azle Lake Run is a small run, but I think it’s a very good one. I grew up in the area, and this race has been run twenty-nine times, but I have never participated in it. This year my cousin Bambi asked me to run it with her, and she wanted to do the half marathon. I instantly said yes. We have talked about running a race together for years now, and we finally got that chance.
My day started with an hour-long drive at six in the morning to get to the race in time. The weather was a little worrisome as it was very overcast and even sprinkling on the drive. I was also keeping an eye on the phone because a couple of days before Bambi had said she was not going to be able to run. I was very sad about the prospect of now having to run this half by myself, but the night before she said if the rainy weather we had during the week caused her son’s game to be cancelled then she would run. The game got cancelled, and I was happy to have my running partner back. Now before you get mad at me for wishing her son’s game to be cancelled you should know that the little guy got to do his first ever 5k because of that!
Once I got there I ate my second breakfast, a snickers marathon nutrition bar, and downed some Gatorade with a Chaser Five Hour Energy Shot. The call came for us to head to the start, and I was a little surprised to see a small crowd there. It was the 10k and half marathon starting together, and there were maybe sixty to seventy people there. This made me very glad to have my partner with me because I could have really been running that race by myself.
Before the race I admitted to Bambi that my longest barefoot run to date had been about six miles. I know that I can basically run any distance at any time, but thus far in my transition to barefoot/minimalist running on pavement, six was my peak. So this race would nearly double my max distance to this point, and I felt it only fair to warn her. She let me know she too had only run about a seven-mile run to train for this so I figured we were kind of on the same level. The race started, and we settled into what felt like a nice pace, and we agreed that we would just hang there and see how it went. Neither of us are big warm up people so the first mile or so is used for that task. I watched a good-sized group start to pull away, and I wondered if they were running the 10k or the half. I decided to go ahead and not let the group go, and I sped up our pace.I don’t know if Bambi noticed this kind of stuff or not, but I was wanting to run a good time so I made sure that I kept our pace at a level that I felt would get us to the finish line in about two hours. This was all kind of guesswork since I was not looking at the watch and had never really paced a half at two hours before. About halfway through the race she let me know that her previous best in a half was 2:14 so I really wanted our run together to be her best ever both in time and experience. I took the opportunity to try and teach her as much as I could about making the course easy. We talked about how to get the most out of a hill and how to run turns efficiently so you don’t waste a lot of energy by changing your stride. I’ll say she is an amazing student and picked up on everything I said very quickly. So much so that later in the race she ran a turn better than I did, and I got in her way because of it. You cannot ask for a better running companion than that.
Parts of the course ran near the lake and gave us some fairly nice scenery. The course itself was really well set up. There were good flat sections and some crazy hills. There was a good variation in the scenery, the course was well marked, and the aid stations were perfectly spaced to keep me refreshed without ever having to wonder when I would see water again. I would have liked some mile markers as my Nike+ got a little off on the steep hills in the last few miles and led me to believe I was a little closer to the finish than I really was. Up until about the eight mile mark the Nike+ stayed very true, and that came in handy. At about the ten-mile point I checked the watch to realize that we were on pace to set a record for both of us. I told her that I was not going to say how good we were doing but that we were doing very well and much better than she thought. I wanted to give her something positive to go on as she was starting to get calf cramps and slowing down.
We made it to the finish line with a nice kick in a time of 2:03, and we were very happy. I know this is not the fastest time in the world, but this is only my second official attempt at a half marathon, and this was my fastest time out of the two. It was also my longest run and race in a minimalist shoe! Not bad accomplishments in my book. That time also got me fourth place in my age group, and she was first in hers! Afterwards I encountered my first taste of negativity towards my barefoot/minimalist activities, and I will share that tale sometime I’m sure, but I refused to let that take away from what I felt was a great day.
It was awesome to run with my cousin for the first time, and after that run I can say that she has an amazing runner in her, and I am very proud of her. I am also happy to have been able to get a half under my belt in my new Vibram Five Finger Bikila shoes. My quest is the Disneyland Half Marathon in September, followed by my second (first barefoot) Goofy Challenge at Disney World in January, and this race has given me all the confidence I need to meet those challenges.
My friend Tracy is the current race director of the Azle Lake Run, and she does a great job of making sure everyone has a great time and everything they need. I was glad that I got to support her little race that I think has the potential to be a big race. This was the first year she held a 5k and a half marathon, and I think the addition of these two distances combined with her energy will create a completely different kind of race in Azle. I recommend you look into it next year if you’re in the area and looking for a good race to run.