Plano Balloon Festival Half Marathon 2016 – Race Review
That is a long title.
The half marathon is held at 7am on a Sunday. The town is about an hour and a half away from us. In order to get there reasonably early, we had to leave home at 430am. The plan from the beginning was for the kids to go to the inlaws Saturday after baseball. They would spend then night either at their house or at a hotel in the town of the festival, and be there for the starting gun. The balloons launch at the start of the race. The week before we started seeing reports of rain. On Friday, the inlaws cancelled their reservation at the hotel because it was going to storm on Sunday, however the race was billed as rain or shine so we were good to go. Saturday the forecast looked clear. No rain on Sunday until late. We kicked ourselves a little about the kids not being there and the inlaws said they might drive out in the morning.
Sunday morning I woke up at 3am. I made my coffee and drank that while I woke Derek up. He got up about 330 and we started getting things together. I was drinking an (unmeasured) 4 oz of water every half hour or so – basically I drank water but tried not to drink too much. We ate cereal for breakfast and I had a single serving of frosted mini wheats (my favorite). We brought granola bars to snack on before the race since it would be hours before we actually ran. We left at 4:30 and the drive was uneventful. Checking the radar, there was to be rain at home but the skies were clear at the festival. They estimated there may be some storms around 10:30 but nothing showed on the radar heading that way.
We got to the race at 6am and finished getting ready (shoes/hr monitor/water belt/etc) before we went down to the start. It was a nice start. The weather was warm but not hot. 70s? 80s? It was comfortable. Everyone was milling around. There were plenty of potties and no lines to wait in.
The coolest moment (and only balloon moment) was at the starting line. As we took off, a balloon was firing it’s fire over the road where we were running. It was so cool to see and you could feel the heat as you ran past. That ended up being the only balloon we saw, and there wasn’t actually a balloon… just a basket and fire. Still awesome.
We chose to run the same way we did cowtown: 10 minutes running followed by 5 minutes walking. The beginning felt good. It was a little crowded but not bad. There were water stations about every 2 miles, and we carried our water belt with 4 small bottles on it. I also brought 2 packs of fruit snacks.
We started off on a road with a park on one side. The other side was decently empty. It was really a pretty spot. I mentioned to Derek that I didn’t know you could find places like that in the city. Around mile 3 we started in to a neighborhood. This particular neighborhood happened to have steep hills on every road! I’m sure that isn’t completely accurate but miles 3-6 were rough. A lot of people were walking. We chose to stick with our 10:5 mostly but on one particularly difficult hill I asked to walk. My legs were burning and my heart rate was really high.
Miles 6-8 were in a park. It was really pretty. The rain started somewhere in here. You could hear it before you felt it because the trees were thick. At first it sprinkled then it came into a pour. It dried up a little bit after that. We could hear thunder off in the distance as we ran around the lake.
The rest of the race is a blur to me. I was tired. I hurt. I wanted to finish but I didn’t want to. This was definitely harder than cowtown for me. I remember repeating to myself “run now, suffer later.” Thank you Kelly (www.runselfierepeat.com) for the great advice.
We went through another neighborhood and through more trees. I remember passing water stations. The people in front were yelling “water water water!” the people at the end were yelling “gatorade with a little bit of rain!”
Going into the woods past mile 9 there was some close thunder. It was loud and splitting and scary.
Looking at the map now, the run back from there must have been beautiful. I’m looking at the map online and it’s wooded on one side and clear on the other. I don’t remember this at all. The rain was coming down heavy again.
We got to the water station at mile 12 and were told the race had been called. The volunteers told us to stand there and wait for a bus to come get us. I started crying. haha! Not bad but I definitely teared up. It’s so hard to run 12 miles and be told “that’s it, it’s over.” It was pouring down rain. Not many people stayed. A lot of runners chose to finish the race and run back. Derek and I chose to run. I think we made it back to the festival grounds before the people who decided to wait. This part was pretty miserable. It was single file with limited visibility. The raindrops were huge and stinging. I got hit in the eye somehow and then chose to run with my arm up shielding my face for a while.
It poured the rest of the way in. When we got to the finish line, there were a handful of volunteers handing out medals as people crossed the line. I’m so thankful that they chose to stay for us.
I ran the race in 2:52:26 (chip time). Cowtown was 2:40:?? but I’m ok with the time. It was a difficult race and my first run in the rain. It was a good old Texas thunderstorm and I’m proud of the time we made running through it. I think I’m still on a bit of a high as I write this. I had a great time and, while I don’t think I would sign up for a run in the storms like that, it was a great experience and I’m happy that we had it.
I realized on the drive home that we never actually saw a balloon, although my kids saw them launch on the tv at home so apparently it happened. How’s that for irony? We’re all bummed the kids can’t go to the festival and they are the only ones who see actual balloons. And they stayed dry!
I do have a few complains about how the cancellation was handled, and I will be contacting the race organizers about them. Firstly, when the race was cancelled (remember we were at the water station near mile 12), the volunteers immediately started dumping the water and gatorade. There were a lot of people coming in behind us. All of us had run 12 miles and arrived to “the end” with no water for us. I was thankful that we brought water with us because I needed a drink at that point. Also, when we arrived at the end, there were no volunteers to direct us to water/aid/anything. It was a rainy ghost town other than the few people handing out medals and a group of runners crowded under an awning. I am thankful that we had thought to bring snacks in the car, but I cannot imagine how hard it must have been for others to run 12-13.1 miles (depending on if they ran in or took the shuttle) and then be sent home without even a banana. I know there was food because the early finishers were walking around eating and came to the course to cheer us on. I was disappointed that it felt like once the race was called, everyone closed up shop and we were left to fend for ourselves.
That said, I had water and snacks in the car so Derek and I were fine and finished the race in a decent mood. The above complaints are just things that struck me as odd possibly not the best practice for cancellation.
Ok but complaints aside I had a great time. The start up was great. The course was great, although difficult. There were volunteers and police officers stationed EVERYWHERE along the course making sure we didn’t go down the wrong road or the wrong split in a path. These volunteers were out there in the rain and storms with us and I appreciate them so much! I particularly liked the PSHS cheerleaders who were cheering in the rain. I don’t remember what they said exactly but I remember they were towards the end and their cheer involved “yea yea yea!” They were laughing and we were laughing. It was pouring and it was cute and I just loved it. Another great volunteer was a police officer standing between mile 12 and the end. As we ran past him he asked if anyone had brought shampoo. This was during the hardest rain of the race but there he was standing in the downpour making jokes as we finished. There were people cheering and people with signs who showed up more than once on the trail to cheer us on. The race photographers held on for a good while. I’m not sure if they left at the cancellation or a little before (it was bad) but I know I ran into more than one hunkered under an umbrella/tree/bridge taking pictures of us crazy people running in the rain. The water stations were efficient and well stocked (with the exception mentioned above). There were porta potties on the trail although I didn’t need to use one. It really was just a great experience and I’m thankful for it. As we crossed the finish line someone yelled “welcome to the Plano pool!” haha! Actually the first medal I grabbed slipped out of my hand in the wetness. I apologized and went to pick it up but they just handed me another and said to go on. They were so nice and I’m really getting emotional thinking about the support that we had out there.
Ya’ll that race was hard. It was really hard. The hills were hard. The rain was hard. The storm was hard. But we did it and I am so grateful for the experience.
Also, the bling is awesome. I love it! Side note: what’s with spinny medals? Are they all like that? Is it a North Texas thing? Just a coincidence that the 2 I have are spinny?
- I started hydrating Thursday. I just focused on drinking lots of water all day long Thursday-Saturday. I got so dehydrated at Cowtown and I didn’t want that to happen again.
- We had chipotle for dinner around 4pm on Saturday, then watched a movie and were in bed at 7:30pm.
- At every water stop (even the beginning) I took a water cup and a gatorade. I drank as much as I could before the last trash can. I only finished all of it once or twice but I got a lot down.
- We also had 4 water bottles on our belt and they were empty when we got done.
- We ate half of the gummy bears around mile 5 and half around mile 10.
- There was applesauce available under the bridge around 7.5 miles in. We ate that but did not take more right before mile 10.
- After the race we were starving and went to Golden Corral where we got our money’s worth on steak, shrimp and the best sweet potato casserole I have ever eaten.
My biggest problem at Cowtown was dehydration. When we went to Costco after the race my pee was brown and I was cramping badly. After this race when I went to the restroom my pee was yellow. Maybe not as pale as usual but definitely not dark. So that is one huge victory for me in figuring out how to hydrate!
I saw my chiro today and got a great review. I have general muscle soreness and my mid back is sore wrapping around the sides. She said I look great. I also don’t have the foot pain I had after Cowtown.
So my time was better at Cowtown and the weather was better, but my body preferred the balloon festival. I consider that another victory, as I did not train well for this race and I was a little worried about injury.
My biggest disappointment is that I still do not have a 13.1 sticker for my car!!!!! I intended to buy one after the race but the festival was closed. Derek said he’ll buy me one online, unless maybe you can get them locally somewhere? I don’t know where to look. But that was a big excitement for me that I was finally going to get my sticker (I forgot to bring money to the Cowtown expo so I couldn’t buy one then) and then the rain ruined that! I just want my car sticker! lol
Ok I know this is random and rambing but I’m pretty sure this is the first race report I’ve ever written.