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The 2023 Austin Half Pt. 2

It's kind of funny how the universe guides you in certain ways. Two weeks before the Austin Marathon the universe was doing just that.

I have this lovely friend Leah. She is a breath of fresh air on a warm spring day, which I desperately needed during the ice storm that broke all the trees in Austin. My husband and I found ourselves without power for several days and on day three of sitting in my house without heat, and nothing to do, I was freezing. It was a nasty day out. Windy, drizzling, and 38°, but I called Leah up and asked if she'd go on a run with me to get some heat flowing through our bodies. We were hardly a mile in and the run was working. My body was finally starting to defrost. Plus, it was nice to catch up with my friend. On our run around the Mueller neighborhood hike and bike trail, as my body slowly warmed up, I was challenging her to run the Austin Half just for fun.

She was hesitant because the previous year she contracted a gnarly hamstring injury a month before the race and the race had made it even worse. She's been working on recovery for nearly a year, and had finally gotten to a point where she could run slowly and be okay.

Leah is extremely competitive with herself though, which makes it hard for her to pull back. I imagine she feels like she's half assing it so, if she's going to do something she's either going to go all in or not at all.

I was trying to convince her to last minute to sign up for the race anyway. She'd been training with Team Delta and was able to run 10 miles pain free. I was encouraging her to do it and to walk when she her body wanted to and jog when she could.

"Sonya, you know I can't do that," Leah told me, "If I'm going to pay all that money and go out there I want to give it everything I have."

"Yea I get that and everything you have right now is not as fast as it was last year, but you would still have an awesome time being with everyone."

We went back and forth like this for a while, but I finally convinced her to sign up and surrender to her circumstances. I should note that my friend didn't end up getting to run because she had a work obligation she needed to attend but she was ready to pull the trigger nonetheless.

I had sort of forgotten about this entire conversation until the night before my own race as I was beginning to spiral into an uncontrollable panic about my glute not being where I thought it would be. This encounter popped into my head while Lauren and I were rolling out before bed. In that instant, I decided to just surrender to the moment. There was nothing more that I could do and if this was how my body was feeling then I needed to listen to it and do what would be right by my body.

As a former D1 athlete I'm constantly having to ask myself if pushing my body that hard is worth the risk of a serious injury. In college, I would push myself to the limit and risk injury at almost any meet. I loved competing that much. But as I've aged I've realized that there are far smarter ways to train than just pushing yourself to the limit all the time. It's a hard pill to swallow, but it must be done sometimes. And I'd decided that this was one of those times.

It's as if I was talking to myself when I was telling Leah to just have fun. I couldn't help but chuckle as I was rolling out my glute the night before the race.

I woke up the next morning feeling excitement not dread, which is where I was beginning to go as I laid my head down to sleep. I was going to go out there and do right by my body. I was going to start the race like I had been training, 9:45-10:15 mile paces, and after the first couple of miles I was going to see how my body felt about pushing the pace. I'd decided to surrender to the moment and enjoy the outcome no matter what.

Before the race Team Delta met at the start line to warm up and get a pre-race team photo. The energy was all over the place. Two of my athletes were running their first ever races and they were a bit nervous. Lauren was aiming for a hefty PR and was also a bit nervous. And the rest of us (myself only recently deciding this) were there just to have fun. I was doing my best to stay in that mindset and keep everyone focused on warming up.

It was time. We headed to the start line and took off!

For the first 3 miles I ran with one of my athlete's Rob whom I'd been doing most of my long runs with. He was awesome. He kept checking in on me and my glute. It was like I had my own coach running next to me. Things were feeling good at the third mile marker, so as we turned to run down south first street, I decided to increase my pace. This stretch is 3 miles of decline, so it was easy to pick up the pace a lot. Somewhere along this stretch Rob and I got separated. I kept checking my watch and at mile 6 I was surprised to see that I was running an 8:12 pace without pain. My body felt fine.

Between mile 6 and 7 I could feel my glute tightening up, but it wasn't hurting. I decided that I didn't need to push the pace anymore. Along the 3 mile flat stretch between miles 7 and 9 the tightness started to come in waves. I looked at my watch to find that I was running faster than I had ever run in practice. As I came upon mile 9 I started to get nervous. I hadn't run over 10 miles to prepare for the race and we were rapidly approaching the most difficult section of the race.

The Enfield hills.

I wasn't sure how my glute would hold up, so I just kept telling myself to listen to my body and do what was right by it. At the top of the first incline I looked at my watch and it dawned on me that I was running fast enough to run a 1:55:00 race. I couldn't believe it! That was the original goal I'd set for myself way back when I started training! If I could just hold on and maintain then I would do it! If I could hold onto this pace I was going to hit my goal.

The last three miles of the course are brutal. It's a non-stop steep incline to sharp decline, until you climb the steepest hill of them all to get to mile 12. This is what you think is the last hill and relief rushes you for a brief moment because you've conquered the final hill! Then surprise! You turn around and climb one more baby hill just before you turn the corner to the 100m straight away to the finish line. That baby hill is probably the worst of them all!

The last 3 miles were really tough. I hadn't run that far in my training and I was feeling it in my gut and my abs. I was feeling it in my ankles. I was feeling it in my back. I was feeling it everywhere and my chest. I wasn't sure if my heart muscle would be able to handle the pace I was trying to keep.

In these moments I remember the speed workouts I've done over the years on the track. Speed days sometimes make you question why you enjoy running at all. The only thing I do is repeat over and over again, You know this feeling. You are stronger than this. You can handle it.

That's what carried me through the finish line. I crossed with an official time of 1:55:55. I could hardly believe it! I ran an average pace of 8:43 through the course and although my glute was tight I wasn't in pain. I was in a little bit of shock.

As I stood at the railing watching the other Delta Athletes finish the race I teared up with pride. Running a race no matter the distance, or how seasoned of a runner you are is an awesome feat. Getting to that finish line takes so much more than most people realize.

All of the Delta Athletes had been through their own trials and tribulations to get them there. They're a strong bunch and I couldn't have been more proud of all of them. To run beside them on this journey has been a true blessing.

The moral of the story? Don't just trust the process, surrender to it.

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