This year the race was moved to the Will Rogers complex. In theory I thought this would be a really nice change from the downtown location where the start/finish has been the last few years. Not only is Will Rogers more accessible, but where previous years all races were run on Saturday - this year the 5K and 10K were run on Saturday and the half, marathon, and ultramarathon were run on Sunday.
Packet pick-up was on Friday - I went to pick up my folks race packets since they were doing the 5K on Saturday - and my packet for the ultra on Sunday. The expo was running behind with set-up and the volunteers told us they would be opening the doors late. I noticed a side door that was opened and managed to sneek in and have the entire expo to myself :) This year's expo was MUCH improved than the make-shift tent expo in a downtown parking lot of previous years. Lots of vendors - lots of room - everything running - loved it!
Saturday morning I went to cheer my folks on for the 5K. We left in plenty of time with about 45 minutes to spare. The parking situation was TERRIBLE! The road to get to one of the parking lots crossed the 10K route which was already in progress - so we sat and sat and sat for about 20 minutes. With the start of the race quickly approaching - I finally had to give my folks the boot out of the car and send them on their way so they wouldn't be late. I continued to sit and sit and sit in the car - and then finally managed to make a U turn and park about 1/2 mile away. Good thing I had on my running shoes. I took off running - actually ran the last part of the 10K race - and got to the start line just in time. Whew... :)
Somehow in the frenzy to get to the start/finish line my folks got separated. I found my mother but couldn't find my dad. I decided to walk with my mother the first half of the race - and within the first 5 minutes we found my dad!
The race on Saturday was great - and my folks finished right before the wind picked up. They really weren't walking as fast as they could have and finished in just over an hour which I thought was a great time. I walked the last part of the race with them to the finish line.
Overall the 5K race was great and my folks really enjoyed it. One complaint in addition to the parking which was a nightmare - the finish line was in a TERRIBLE location. The whole focal point of a race is the finish line. This should be the highlight of the race - the center of the activities - where all of the hoop-lah is. Instead - the finish line was way off to the side bordered by a chain link fence. When participants finished - you couldn't get to them to congratulate them because they were directed through the livestock barns. It made it really, really hard to participants afterwards with thousands of people walking around. Bad organization!
Parking for the ultra wasn't any better on Sunday morning. I ended up having a friend drop me off so I could make it to the corral in time - even though we had left in plenty of time. I was in the corral with the 3:40 marathon pace group. My goal for the ultra was 4:30 - so I figured if I could keep up with the 3:40 group I'd have a small cushion of time to complete the last five miles.
Since we were in the first corral we took off when the gun sounded marking the start of the race. The 3:40 pacer had a sign which was really helpful - even though they had supposedly put the faster runners up front - I still had a significant challenge keeping up because there were so many people running a slower pace. After about the first mile or so the crowd thinned out enough that we could pretty much keep together as a group - there were probably about 8 - 10 of us running.
The first nine miles of the race were very easy and quick - up towards the Stockyards - down Exchange - a very "Ft Worth" route heading south into downtown. Around mile 9 the course headed uphill towards the courthouse - this is when I could start to feel the legs a little bit. Uphill - a strong headwind - temperature starting to creep up - yah this was going to be a fun last 20 miles :) Running through downtown the course continued to head uphill - every time we would turn the corner it was more uphill - another corner - and more uphill. C'mon - let me catch a break! I saw some friends along the course with signs - that got my spirits up a bit!
So uphill we went for a few more miles. There was still a group of about 8 or us running with the 3:40 marathon pacer until somewhere around mile 19. The pacer asked me something - I had no idea what he said since I had my headphone blaring - by the time I shut my IPOD off I realized he had asked someone else to hold the sign while he took a bio break. So - we kept on running without him - not really knowing if we were staying on pace or not. I could tell I was starting to get dehydrated and the legs just didn't want to move. I had to walk a little bit and regroup - then a jog - then a walk a little bit. Part of the problem I had were tired legs - the other problem I had was that I was tired of carrying the hydration pack. I really just wanted to stop carrying it - it was hot, restrictive, and just overall annoying me. Around mile 24 or so I saw my support crew and asked for a handheld water bottle and my belt to carry my IPOD. The belt was in another car and a friend locked her keys in the car - so no belt. Wha??? Really? Either way the hydration pack was going - so I ditched the hydration pack and ran while carrying my IPOD in hand = very annoying. I When I made it to the aid station around the marathon mark I knew we would double back through the same aid station so I ditched the IPOD.
After a few more walk/run sections I finally buckled down and ran the last few miles. I had a goal of 4:30 for the 50K and I fell just short finishing in 4:34. Overall about a 15 minute improvement from 2010 and a respectable time considering the warm temps, humidity, wind - and no IPOD the last 5 miles or so! Although I really don't like road races - Cowtown is one I'll definitely keep on my race calendar for many years to come.