The Jailbreak Half Marathon in Baytown, TX on Saturday was both exhilarating and humbling: exhilarating because it’s always amazing to cross a finish line and celebrate my accomplishment, and humbling because of the Fred Hartman Bridge.
Some of the other ladies in my running club were also running the Jailbreak Half Marathon; I was the lone veteran of the four of us. At 5:30 a.m., The Veterinarian and The Speedster were at my house, and I was actually somewhat coherent after eating a peanut butter and apple butter sandwich on Ezekiel bread and drinking half a bottle of Energy Vitamin Water. (As an aside, I was also the oldest in the group, by six years, which is also humbling.) Sweet E was going to meet us at the start line with a friend of hers. The drive was uneventful, although Siri did take us to a dead end. Thank you, Siri.
Sweet E had picked up our packets for us already, so all we had to do was show up. And it was the usual: eat my banana, finish the Vitamin Water, drink an e+ shot, find the porta-potties, find the start line. But we weren’t too busy for a starting line selfie, of course.
I felt really strong going out. My first mile was 8:19, faster than my goal pace of 8:20 – and I had to rein it in a bit to do that. Second mile, 8:11, and more reining, and I was able to keep a pretty steady pace after that. It was a beautiful course: uneventful for the first couple of miles (except for dodging walkers, some walking two abreast in the road, chattering, and blocking a good chunk of the course), but then past a golf course and along Tabbs Bay and the water, and up until about 7.5 miles in, I was feeling awesome.
Then, the Fred Hartman Bridge loomed above me. I had made the fatal mistake of thinking training on the Kemah Bridge was sufficient. It was not. The Fred Hartman Bridge portion of the Jailbreak Half Marathon was a 1.25 mile-ish ascent over the San Jacinto River Houston Ship Channel, and it was torture. My calves burned. My glutes burned. Everything in my body was begging me to stop running and hike up the bridge. Instead, I ate a gel. I pushed my legs to move. It wasn’t enough. I lost valuable time on that dang bridge (eight foot elevation to 205 foot elevation, according to my Garmin). But I flew down.
And I slowed. Miles 12 and 13 were 8:39 and 8:36, respectively. I had lost all my speed and speed gains. In retrospect, maybe I should have had another gel. I still took time to enjoy the parks we were running through and tried not to get annoyed with the signs the volunteers had carefully placed along the way, signs full of cliches. It was a small race, maybe 300 or so participants, so there weren’t a lot of spectators along the course. Still, I wasn’t lonely, just feeling it all in my legs and feet.
But that finish line? I floored it. Garmin tells me that, at my fastest, I was doing a 6:58 mile on that sprint. It wasn’t fast enough, because an old man pulled ahead of me, and I think I said to him, “Have at it, old man!” My official time was 1:52:23. I placed fourth in my age group, 34th overall.
I was so, so proud of Sweet E and The Speedster, who placed second in her age group – and it was her first half! And there aren’t really words to describe how proud I am of The Veterinarian. And I’m proud of myself – I’m like what, 40 seconds short of a PR? On that dang bridge? On a humid Texas morning that quickly topped 70 degrees once the sun came up?
Afterward, the four of us met up for post-race pictures, and I ate two Chick-fil-A sandwiches because, well, Chick-fil-A is delicious. I spent the rest of the day after the Jailbreak Half Marathon reading, doing laundry, and in an Epsom salt bath.
I’m glad I checked this one off the list. I’m grateful I could use my running to benefit Project Blue. And I feel blessed to have met such amazing people and honored to share their first half marathons with them.