It’s been a crazy year for weather all over the States but in Florida we have been relatively fortunate. Although it’s been rainier than usual we’ve had no snow, no ice, and just a few frigid (for us) temperatures at night. Daytime temps have been quite decent. So it was a surprise to travel to Texas in late February in the midst of a winter snow and ice storm.
After an early morning drive to Jacksonville, we boarded a flight to Atlanta. Our connecting flight to DFW was due to leave at 11 am. As we stood by the gate, the Delta agent announced that our flight was overbooked by 8 passengers and an offer of 800 Delta dollars towards a future trip was on the table. My husband and I looked at each other and I could sense we were both thinking that was a pretty good deal. As we pondered, the gate agent raised the stakes to 1000 Delta dollars and then 1100. That did it! We volunteered to take a later flight so we could take advantage of such a good offer. That meant that we would get into DFW around 6 pm. With snow and ice in Dallas all day on Friday, we were uncertain whether we would actually make it to our hotel, the Residence Inn in Ft. Worth, the same evening. Fortunately, we had a terrific taxi driver who carefully maneuvered the cab around the very icy roads from Dallas to downtown Ft. Worth with ease. He deserved and received a very generous tip from us!
I don’t envy the problems faced by the race director; she certainly had her hands full this past weekend. The expo hours were canceled on Friday and shortened to only afternoon on Saturday. The 5k and 10k runs on Saturday were completely canceled. It was touch and go as to what would happen with the Sunday races.
The Residence Inn was one of the race host hotels, conveniently located in the Cultural District, only a short walk from the expo at Will Rogers Memorial Center. Our plan was to wait until the weather ‘warmed up’ to just over freezing on Saturday afternoon and then we would attempt to walk to the expo. We tried but the walk turned out to be impossible because of the icy sidewalks. On the less traveled streets, I could walk on the streets, but when we arrived to the major highways in front of the Center, the traffic was too treacherous to stay on the roads and the sidewalks had a thick glaze of ice. We got close enough to see the Center but couldn’t manage to get to it. We had to turn around and slide our way back to the hotel. Fortunately, packet pickup would open at 5:30 am on Sunday so we decided to just bide our time and wait until then.
Meanwhile, rumors on the Cowtown Facebook page abounded. The races were canceled – no, they were on – no, they would be ‘virtual’ – and so on. The race director was diligently working with the city of Ft. Worth and the weather service to keep us apprised of the latest info but I am sure she was hoping for the weather to warm up (it was supposed to) before making a final decision. It was not until later that evening that we learned that the full and the ultra would NOT be held but all racers who were registered for any of the races that weekend would be able to do the half marathon. The courses for the full and the ultra were through neighborhoods with lots of shady areas so the streets would continue to be dangerous to run and walk on. The half marathon course was on major highways and through the downtown area and the roads there could be sanded and de-iced.
Although I was disappointed not to be able to do the full marathon, I was also relieved. I had no desire to fall and break any bones trying to walk on ice. At 5:15 Sunday morning, Darcy and I took a taxi to the Will Rogers Center. We found our way into the building and I picked up my bib and shirt (white tech short-sleeve) with ease. Just a handful of people were at the expo with us so we took a seat at one of the round tables and I browsed the handful of vendors that were setting up their wares. It was wonderful to stay inside the toasty warm building while we waited for the race to start at 8 am (the starting time was pushed back an hour from an earlier 7 am time). While we were relaxing, Rob from Oklahoma whom I knew from the Walking site and UltraCentric stopped by and joined us. We spent the time chatting, mostly about races, while we watched more and more people enter the room
Around 7:40, we marched outside to one of the 8 corrals. I was dressed for the cold but even so I could feel my face and fingers start to chill. After the singing of the Star Spangled Banner, each corral was marched to the start line and the countdown begun. It took my corral, #7, over 30 minutes to cross the start, but the longer lead time allowed runners to be spaced out pretty evenly, and with over 6000 participants, that was fairly important.
Considering the abysmal weather over the weekend, the course itself was in good condition. There were just a few corners that were slippery on the turns and a couple of spots where the slush was precarious. I stumbled once and slid a few times but slowed down, watched my feet, and took my time. Only two places were especially troublesome to me. One was my favorite place, the Stockyards, because the cobblestones tended to be tripping hazards even in dry weather. The other was the long bridge around miles 11-12. Just the nature of the bridge freezing before the roads made this a little difficult. I crossed the finish line in just under 3 hours, which pleased me immensely. It was certainly not a PB, but neither was it a PW, and I remained upright the entire route.
Somehow the RD managed to get medals for everyone and they were impressive. We also got finisher shirts (green tech short-sleeve), and a plastic bag that we could fill with fruit, bagels, and other goodies. The weekend turned out to be a very good one, although not quite what I expected. I would definitely recommend the Cowtown races for walkers. The time limit for the half is 4 ½ hours, for the full (in normal years), 7 ½. Ft. Worth has some great steak restaurants but our eating was curtailed this trip because of weather. We had to rely on places we could get to easily – Tex Mex at Chuy’s and burgers and beer at BoomerJack’s Grill, both short distances from our hotel.