The Long Strange Trip to the Cowtown Half Marathon…

Two years ago, this past January I started down a new path.  One that I had no idea where it would take me.  I was overweight, taking insulin for diabetes, pills for high blood pressure, high lipids and for GERD, among other issues.  A year and a half prior, my wife had surgery for a Vertical Gastric Sleeve (VGS) and had lost almost 100 lbs, and had gotten off most of her prescription medications.

My mother survived colon cancer x3 only to be taken by diabetes several years ago and in 2012 a good friend lost his battle to diabetes.  At that point, I made the decision to do ‘something’ and started my new journey.  The VGS surgery was on Jan 30, 2013 and there were some complications so another surgery had to be performed on Jan 31.  The road  to recovery was tough, I have to say.  But the weight started to come off (almost to fast), I returned to work but really did not have much energy so started to walk a little at a time just to build some strength.

Fast forward to Dec of 2013, after a 3rd surgery in Oct and I bought my wife and I both a Fitbit to help us track our activity a little better and downloaded MyFitnessPal app for the iphone so we could track how much we ate each day.  Both have been great tools to help us stay on track and keep the weight off we had both worked so hard to lose.  After the last surgery, the energy finally started to come back and I felt like I needed to do something, I was after 60 years old now.  So, I started to walk – slow at first and not very far.  Those first walks were not bad or uncomfortable.  I think the first time I completed a mile it took something like 20 min.  Everyone said I had been through a lot the past year and to not expect so much.

So, the walks became a bit of a routine for me, and I looked forward to them.  The Fitbit was telling me I needed 10, 000 steps a day to be ‘healthy’, so that was my goal – which was really hard to meet at first.  Then I started walk in all sorts of weather – cold, wet, it did not matter I was going to do this.  Spring came and I was reaching 10,000 steps more often so I decided to up my goal to 12,000 steps most days, then 15,000 steps.  By Summer 2014 I was getting 5 miles on Sat and Sun and feeling really good.  Fall of 2015 I had reach a few days with 10 miles each day and up to 30,000 steps and my per mile times had dropped to 14 min, even a few 13.5 min miles.

Jan 2015 rolled around and I had dropped almost 100 lbs from my high weight of 240 lbs and thought I would try a 10 mile walk, which I did.  Talking with co-workers about it they suggested I should consider ‘doing’ the Cowtown Half Marthon on Mar 1.  I thought about it and looked at the website and could see that it was a walker friendly event and so in early Feb sent my money in for the Cowtown Half Marathon and the Adult 5K (what the heck I walk a 5K every weekend anyhow).  I had just completed a 13.1 mile walk on a Sat, just to prove to myself that I could do it.  The blisters on both heels and both big toes made me question if I was really ready or not.  These were on top of blisters I had gotten on the 10 mile walk 3 weeks prior and 3 weeks before the Cowtown.

So, I talked with other runners that had gone the distance, stopped by Luke’s Locker Room in Fort Worth to look at new shoes.  The sales guy there was great, though he was a little surprised I wanted new shoes that close to the race.  I knew it was NOT a good idea, but needed some kind of help.  The shoes were great!

The week prior to the Cowtown we had freezing rain and sleet on Monday.  On Thursday/Friday before the race we had SNOW, SLEET and Freezing rain – Great I think, nothing like a challenge. Friday was the day to pick up my packet for the 5K on Saturday and the Half Marathon on Sunday.  Watching the website and social media, just before leaving the house I saw where the Expo was delayed, then canceled mid-day Friday.  Next the bad news, all of the races for Saturday were canceled and Sunday’s race was in question.  My first race might have to wait.

There were 3 races scheduled for Sunday – the Half, Full and Ultra Marathons.  Late Saturday, the staff of the Cowtown Marathon made the decision to cancel all races – EXCEPT the Half Marathon.  Game ON!!  Saturday evening I laid everything out I thought I would need, prepared to try and sleep before getting up at 5 AM, so I could be at Will Rogers Exhibit Hall for the 8 AM start.  There was all that snow and ice to drive through and wanted to give myself plenty of time to get there.

RACE DAY: I arrived with layers of clothes on – T-shirt, long sleeve T, another T-shirt and light running jacket (it works for walkers too!).  Running tights and short and of course those shoes that were already broken in by now.  Since I knew I would be walking and slower than most of the runner’s I gave myself time and was in the last corral – #8.  My goal for the day was to first finish and then if I could do it in under 3 hours.  The temp was 32 degrees F, cold damp and really not that bad.  But my hands were numb, even with gloves on.  At 8 AM the first group started and then each corral every 5 min.  So corral 8 was off around 8:35 AM.  Since most everyone was running I took off on a slow jog and then realized I would be spent before really starting and slowed down to a fast walk pretty quick.  The roads were in pretty good shape considering how bad it had been.  Before I knew it I was headed up the first step hill at mile 4.  My 5K split was about what I had hoped for, but then had to stop for a pit-stop (I did mention I am a 61 y/0 male, right).  The next few miles were kind of a blur as we moved through the Stockyards in Ft Worth and on to Main St.  This was the longest stretch of the race (and wouldn’t you know it had to make another pit stop).  There is a pretty good hill between mile 9 and 10 heading into downtown and I was determined to make up some time here and just focused on making up the hill at the pace I was at (according to the FitBit I was hitting 12:30 to 12:45 splits – walking).  Down Houston St. to Lancaster and almost there.  There was one more hill at Henderson to Summit on Lancaster and then the bridge on Lancaster to the finish.  By now I am a little more than worried I will not break my 3 hour goal, at mile 13 I see I have 6 min and change to make the last .1 mile and start pushing as hard as I could.  My wife was waiting for me just before the finish line but I could not see anything except the finish (she later told me she did not see me pass by either).  The crew waiting for us when we finished was GREAT!!  A bottle of water, a space blanket to keep warm and of course the medal for finishing – the lady that placed mine around my neck said – ‘You earned this’, and I thought to myself – yes I did.

I was tired, my legs hurt and I just wanted to keep moving because I was afraid to stop.  I stopped to check my time and saw that I made it in 2 hrs 59 min and 46 sec – 14 secs to spare.

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