Austin Marathon – Third Time’s A Charm

I ran my third Austin Marathon yesterday, and it was good.

Marathon Outfit

My alarm went off at 5.30am, and I quickly dressed in the gear I had laid out the day before. I made tea and ate my oatmeal and faffed around with my water bottles and extra clothing and electronic gadgetry and waited for Elizabeth and Nora to show up. They arrived shortly after 6am and by 6.10am we were on the road, headed for the start line. We found a place to park not too far from the start and wandered around looking for a final potty stop before deciding to head into the Doubletree Hotel and avail ourselves of their facilities. Nothing so luxurious as an actual bathroom with toilet paper and access to soap and water on race day!

As we headed out from the hotel back, we heard the announcer count down to the race start, and the crowd off in the distance began to move forward. We hovered on the edge of the sea of runners, looking for a suitable pace group to jump in behind. Meanwhile, as we scanned the crowds, I went to start my Garmin, so it would begin the sometimes-lengthy process of identifying our location via GPS….and found that my Gamin had stopped dead at 6:30.24am and was not in the mood to be revived. Eek! I was depending on my Garmin to keep me on pace! And it wasn’t working at all – not even the stopwatch function. I had nothing! Fortunately, Elizabeth had a watch and Nora had her iPhone with MapMyRun on it, so we quickly decided to use those instead. I fished out a pace band I had picked up on a whim at the expo and had stashed in my racebelt as a ‘just in case’. Elizabeth put the pace band on, and was appointed as official timekeeper. We still hadn’t seen any suitable pace groups go by, but I was a flurry of nerves in the wake of the non-working-watch, and was anxious to start running before anything else went wrong, so after umming and ahhing for a few more moments, Nora and Elizabeth dived in and started moving towards the starting line, and I followed them into the fray, still holding a banana that I had been planning to eat but hadn’t gotten around to consuming yet.

We crossed the starting line at a jog and picked up pace to align with the surrounding crowds. I pressed my banana into the clapping hands of a random spectator who was standing along the fence a few meters away from the starting line, saying something eloquent like “Here. Please take this. I don’t know what to do with it.”. Once free from my banana, I glanced back to look at the official start time so I’d have some sort of reference point, pressed my green Galloway beeper to switch it on, and we were off.

The couple of miles passed quickly, as they often do in these situations. We didn’t take the first few walk breaks because there were too many people crowded around us for us to slow to a walk without getting in the way. The crowds thinned out a little as we streamed down onto South Congress and we were able to follow our race plan of running 4 mins, walking 1 min.

As we ran across the bridge and onto South Congress, I watched the stream of runners filling the street ahead of me, as far as I could see. I looked out at the water and up at the clear, empty sky. And I thought, “What a nice day for a run. How much further do I have to go?”. Ummm, about 24 miles.

We made our way steadily up the incline from the bridge all the way to Ben White, trying to make sure we didn’t go too fast and yet also stayed on or slightly ahead of our goal pace. There were a few bands along the way, and some early morning spectators standing by the side of the road, bundled in hats and coats, cradling cups of coffee. I spotted a few good signs in the early miles. A standout for me was the Grumpy Cat meme sign that read “I went for a run once. It was horrible.”. I also got a big kick out of the Why You No meme sign too, even though I can’t actually remember what it said. And of course I loved the “Ain’t Nobody Got Time Fo That!” signs, for example “Stopping? Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That!”. There were a few “Hey Girl!” Ryan Gosling signs, but I think we can all agree that those are so 2012. *Sigh* I think what we just learned from this paragraph is that I am an interweb nerd. Moving on…

We made it to the top of South Congress in good time, and settled in to enjoy the downhill run back down South 1st street. The weather really was lovely, and for the most part, I was feeling good. My left ankle was giving me the occasional twinge, and I was still silently fretting about my stupid Garmin dying on me, but overall, it was smooth sailing.

I had a little something to eat at around mile 8 and refilled my water bottles at the aid station on the 1st Street bridge. As we headed into mile 9, I started thinking about the upcoming hills. The marathon course has 3 distinct sections in my mind. (1) Pre-hills, miles 0-10 (2) Hills, miles 10-18 (3) Make it to the finish, miles 18-26.2. Fortunately, the biggest, loudest, most fun aid station is right at mile 9, and by the time I’d run through all that cheering and high-fiving and come out the other side to Salt’n’Pepa’s “Push It!” booming from the loudspeakers, I wasn’t thinking about the hills at all.

In an effort to keep the happy thoughts going, I turned to chat with Nora and Elizabeth, only to find them deep in what seemed to be a heated discussion about politics and immigration. Um. No. So I started talking with the only random person near me who wasn’t wearing ear buds. My new found friend was a cello playing marathon runner. He told me about running the Chicago marathon and how it compared to the Austin course.

As we turned up Winstead at mile 10, I thought back to last year’s marathon and remembered how tired I already felt at that point in the course. And even though my legs still felt relatively fresh, I felt a little pang of longing as the half marathoners turned off and headed for home, knowing that they were almost done whereas I still had 15+ miles to go. As we veered left onto Enfield, some guy beside me on the course turned to me and said “Time to weed out the weak! Only the strong go on!”, which made me laugh.

Marathon Split

Our time check at mile 11 showed we had worked up a 2 minute cushion going into the most challenging section of hills. I realised that I just had to make it to the top of Exposition and then the terrain would flatten out somewhat. Just 2 miles. I could handle 2 miles of hills. “You are my hills and I will eat you!”, I said to myself. Except, I actually said it out loud. I don’t think anyone heard me though.

Then Nora and I had a little conversation in Spanish with an old guy from Mexico who was apparently running his 88th marathon. Nora did all the talking and translating. There were spectators giving out gummy bears and pretzels and other goodies by the side of the road along this stretch. I took a couple of handfuls gummy bears and they were delicious. Yes. I took candy from strangers. I think this is also the stretch where I saw another great race sign, which read “Run, Random Stranger, Run!”.

Victor and Penelope were stationed by the side of the road just before we turned off onto 35th street. I handed them my lifeless Garmin in the hope that not wearing it would stop me from glancing down at it periodically and feeling irritated all over again that it wasn’t working. Then just a little bit further up the road, waiting at the top of the hill, was Mark, Alexander, Suzanna and Rosie! Yay for family! They cheered me on with high fives and hugs and wags.

We ran on and hit the half way point in a respectable 2.25.44, still on track to manage a sub-5 hour marathon, and I was feeling strong.

I don’t remember many specifics about miles 14 – 15. We ran, we walked, I ate candy and snacks and drank water and Gatorade. Mile 16 was s l o w. I was falling off the pace slightly. I was getting tired. Yeuch.

Marathon Mile 17

And then, like an angel, Katie appeared! She ran alongside me, chattering away about how she’d come back from Houston late the night before to be there to see me run and how the rest of the gang was waiting for me on Great Northern. Yay! Partway up Great Northern, Matt jumped in with me and Katie and ran alongside us holding a mug of coffee and with big Sam (German Shepherd) at his side, straining at the leash. Seeing the Karli clan, Mark and the kids, and other friendly faces cheering for me on Great Northern was a real treat. A little further up the road, Mum and Billie were waiting to snap photos and offer words of encouragement. Katie took me all the way to mile 18 and filled up my water bottles like a good little sherpa before sending me on my way.

Marathon Mile 17.5

I rejoined Elizabeth, and as we hit the 19 mile marker, she let me know that we were about 30 seconds behind pace according to the 4.55 pace band. We still had some cushion to come in sub-5 hours, but I needed to stay on pace. Gah. Time to dig in. Meanwhile, Nora had dropped back for a portapotty stop.

I pushed on into mile 20. Run, walk, eat, drink, run, walk, run, walk. It was sunny and windy. My ankle hurt. We went past the AWDAT crew cheering in the front yard of a house along Woodrow at around mile 21. Cherie and Barb offered to go find Nora and make sure she was OK, and I felt better for knowing that someone was watching out for her as I chased down my time goal.

Elizabeth was running just ahead of me, keeping an eye on the time and my pace and our mile splits. She also kept me distracted by reciting some haiku. They were funny.

By mile 23 I didn’t give a crap about my time anymore. I just wanted to be done, so I could stop running and sit down. Fortunately, the stretch from mile 23 to mile 25 had several redeeming features. Firstly, it’s downhill. Downhill, good. Secondly, it had Amy (and Matt, but I didn’t really see Matt). Amy jumped in and jogged along side me, chattering away and taking pictures and saying nice, encouraging things. I figured I’d better keep running.

Marathon mile 23

At the mile 25 marker, Elizabeth announced that as long as I ran sub-13 min miles for the last 2.2 miles, I would finish in under 5 hours. I realised that even if I didn’t do that, no matter what, I was definitely on track for a PR. I cheered! Hooray! PR! Just 1.2 miles to go!

Oof, still 1.2 miles to go.

Run, walk, run, walk. No, keep running!

Oh look, there’s Cindy! On a bike! Hello Cindy! Talk to me Cindy! Distract me from this final mile! Cindy obliged with a quick summary of how the women’s elite marathon played out.

Big hill right before the finishing chute. Walk.

I felt sick. Ugh. Elizabeth was up ahead, cheering me on. I kept going.

And then there I was, in the finishing chute, barreling towards the finish line, grinning like a maniac.

I crossed the line in 4:58.31.

Marathon Time Splits


Lennie at the Commonwealth Games

Get the flash player here:

My sister Lennie went to Delhi with the Scottish Athletics team, and participated in the Women’s 3k Steeplechase. She came 6th. So proud!


My sisters and I all like to participate in running and triathlon and general sporty type events. My youngest sisters, Katie and Lennie, are much much faster and more athletic than Billie and I will ever be, but our Mum is our biggest cheerleader no matter how good we are or what the event actually is. She’ll be there jumping up and down and clapping on the side of the road at ridiculous o’clock on a Sunday morning to watch us zoom or plod by.

So when my Dad was out Christmas shopping with Lennie and spotted a t-shirt emblazoned with the slogan “support your girls”, it seemed only natural that he should get it for my Mum.

When Mum opened the t-shirt on Christmas day and held it out for all to see, a peal of laughter ran through the room from all the daughters.


Dad was defensive. “What? What is it?” he asked.

Mum clued him in.

“Lennie was with me when I got this! Why? Why didn’t you tell me Lennie?!”

“Because it’s a good shirt! And….it’s funny.”

[For the record, I would also like to point out that Lennie managed to get official t-shirts printed for her entire Women’s Track and Field team with [University Name Redacted] WTF on the front. Watch out for her. She can be tricky.]

Birth Story, Part I

In bullet point form, because the challenge of composing coherent sentences is more than I feel like attempting at the moment:

– Started having contractions early in the morning on Saturday November 28th, sometime around 6am.
– Told Mark I was having contractions at around 9am, via text message from the bedroom, so I wouldn’t have to get jumped on in the process by Alexander. Contractions were light at this stage, and were coming every 10-15 mins or so.
– Sent Alexander and Rosie off to play with Auntie Katie and Uncle Marcus around noon.
– Then not a lot else happened for a while, so I had a bath and tried to get some rest because I was expecting a long day ahead of me.
– When Mark helped me out of bed after my rest, I felt a small gush of fluid between my legs. Not very dramatic. Did my waters break? Did I pee myself? Hmm.
– Decided to walk up to Katie’s house to get some fresh air and sunshine and move around. About 100m out from the house, felt another gush of fluid. This time I was certain that it was not a bladder control issue.
– Called my doula, who didn’t reply. (I actually still have not heard from my original supposed doula. I am rather worried something may have happened to her or her family over Thanksgiving?)
– Called my backup doula, Erica, who suggested Mark and I go out and continue on our little walk to see if that gets things moving.
– Walked around the block, running into several neighbours who seem…concerned that I was out and about. Visited with Katie while Alexander was napping. The outing did provoke a few more contractions, but still nothing serious.
– Went back to the house. Contractions continued all evening on and off, with varying intensity.
– Watched some television – a few episodes of “Coupling” – from the comfort of my couch.
– Every time I got up, there was a small gush of fluid, which I soaked up with an old towel between my legs. I know. Nice.
– My mood turned more serious around 7pm, and although contractions were still not that intense, they were coming regularly at 6 minutes apart, and I was getting concerned about the fluid leakage. We spoke to Erica, our doula, and after some deliberation, Mark and I decided to head in to the hospital.
– We got to the hospital and checked in around 8pm. I lay down on the bed and as soon as I did, contractions more or less stopped. Pah.
– The nurse checked me and pronounced me to be around 2.5cm dilated and 70% effaced, with my bag of membranes still intact. In other words, pretty much the same as at my previous doc appointment. PAH.
– Erica encouraged us to walk the halls to see if that would help move things along. We walked loops around the Labor and Delivery floor for the next hour. Erica had me walk through my contractions, which was challenging, but possible. Labour definitely picked up while I was actively walking.
– We stopped back at the room around 9.30pm to check in with our nurse. I lay down again on the bed, and once again, contractions dissipated when I stopped moving. I felt a little discouraged. It was late, I was getting tired and feeling hungry and it really looked like we were in for a looooong night. I was silently berating myself for coming in to the hospital too early.
– While we waited for the nurse to come by, Mark, Erica and I discussed possible options for what we would like to happen next. We agreed that if possible, we would like to be discharged from the hospital and head home for the night to recoup. Erica prepared me for the possibility that the doc may not want us to leave, since it seemed possible that I had a tear or leak somewhere that was producing the little gushes of fluid.
– The nurse came back, checked me again and announced no additional progress. We said we would like to head home for the night and our nurse agreed to check with the doctor. The nurse tested my pad for amniotic fluid and it came back negative (not sure how, but yay!), so we were dismissed with doctor’s permission for me to head home, take an Ambien (sleep aid) and try to rest up before a later attempt.
– We left the hospital, came home, had a quick bite to eat and I popped an Ambien and went to bed. The truly amazing thing is that I slept! I actually slept from around 11.30pm until around 6am! I woke up a few times through the night with contractions, but nothing dramatic.
– When I woke up at 6am, contractions had picked up. I stayed in bed for another hour or so, timing contractions which were coming around 6 minutes apart, but with stronger intensity than the previous day. After the previous evening’s events, I was determined not to go into hospital until I really knew I was making progress. So I slowly and methodically worked my way through brushing my teeth, washing my face and then I had a bath. Contractions really picked up in the bath, and I could tell that Mark was getting concerned about getting me back to the hospital. He tried to shepherd me through getting dressed, but I was determined to go slow.
– We got into the car at around 8.15am and called Erica and my doctor to let them know we were headed back to the hospital. Mark dropped me off at the entrance and went off to park the car. I huffed and puffed my way through a few contractions in the lobby area, attracting the attention of a passing nurse, who seemed very concerned and wanted to get me into a wheelchair. I declined, explaining to her in my firm, I’m-in-labour-matter-of-fact way that “No. I’m fine. I’m just having a baby.”
– Check-in was a lot more challenging this time. I didn’t want to hang around and chat. Mark could tell and he dealt with me and the check-in person.
– Erica met us at the check-in station and we headed to our room. I was kind of dreading being checked by the nurse again for progress. What if nothing had changed from the night before?
– Our nurse (different one from previous evening) checked me and pronounced me to be 7cm dilated and 80% effaced. YAY! Finally, some progress!

To be continued….


My life in musicals:

My first musical obsession. What five year old girl doesn’t want to get gussied up and hang out at Daddy Warbucks fancy-pants house with a scruffy-yet-adorable pooch? Ok, so maybe not you. But I did. I knew all the words and could sing along to the movie. When my parents got us tickets to see “Annie” at the theater, I was thrilled beyond words. Say it with me: “I love you Ms. Hannigan!”.

Mary Poppins
Ahh, the finest Julie Andrews/Dick Van Dyke movie ever made. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. I think I could probably still sing my way through the entire score, even though I haven’t actually watched this movie in years.

The Wizard of Oz
Who can resist the Wizard? Wicked witches! Ruby slippers! A singing scarecrow! I used to hate that this movie started out in black and white, but now I love it. My Nan tells the story of how she went to see The Wizard of Oz at the cinema when it came out and it was the first colour film she’d seen. When the movie finished, she’d missed the last bus home, so she skipped the entire however-many-mile journey home Dorothy-style, singing all the way.

An entire musical about….cats? Really? This was the first London Broadway show I remember going to see, on a family trip to London around Christmas one year. I was somewhat skeptical going in, and a total Andrew Lloyd Webber convert coming out. It was amazing.

Starlight Express
Incredible. I had no idea what we were in for with Starlight, and once the show started, I wanted it to go on forever. Singing and rollerskates? Cool! Nobody can do it like a steam train, indeed.

Joseph And His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat
My first exposure to ‘Joseph’ was in Primary 7, when my school staged it as our end of year theater production. I was in the general chorus, along with the rest of my year. I remember Pharoh’s role as being a standout performance. I switched schools the following year, and guess what the new school’s play of choice was? Yup. ‘Joseph’ all over again. This time I sang the part of the narrator. Good times.

Les Miserables
I saw this for the first time in my first year of university in Edinburgh. One of the girls in my hall of residence got a couple of student price tickets to Les Mis for a random Wednesday afternoon and asked me to go with her, so I went. I had no idea what I was in for. As soon as the stage started to spin, I was swept away with the story and the music and never looked back. I’ve since seen Les Mis in NY and in Berlin, where the show was unexpectedly in German. Unexpected for me anyway. Everyone else seemed to be expecting it to be sung in German…y’know with it being Germany and all. The language barrier didn’t mar the experience one bit. *That’s* how good Les Miserables is.

Moulin Rouge
Ewan McGregor, Nicole Kidman, crazy costumes and awesome music. Because we can can can.

Loved the movie. Love the soundtrack. Love The Swell Season.

Don’t stop believin’, hold on to that feeling. It’s sweet. It’s funny. It’s escapist entertainment at it’s television best.

Always In Bed

This morning, Alexander woke up and started shouting for me from his crib to announce his readiness to start the day, per standard procedure. I went through to his room and found him sitting up in bed.

“Good morning, Alexander.”

He scrambled out of bed and made a beeline across the room to his box of train toys.

“Good morning Mummy! I play trains!”

“OK. Sounds good”, and with that I retreated back to my bed to wake up slowly with a little extra duvet time.

After a couple of minutes, Alexander started looking for me.

“Hello? Hello? Mummy?”

“Hello! I’m in here.” I called back.

Soon his little head popped around my bedroom door and he spotted me snuggled beneath the covers.

“Mummy. You always in bed.”

He sounded vaguely disapproving. I tried not to laugh.

“I’m getting up now.”

“Come play trains!”

“OK, but first I need to get dressed.”

He looked at me briefly as if to assess whether this was a legitimate delay to his plans, and proclaimed his findings: “Yeah. Mummy nudie.”

Satisfied that I was indeed now out of bed and going to get dressed, he raced of back down the corridor to get started on the train playing.

(For the record, I was not nudie. I was wearing my PJs.)

Day 2: Sendai

A very Waite-girl approach to the morning – get up, have a light breakfast, get out for a workout. Katie wanted to run around 10miles, and roped me in to biking alongside her on Marc’s townie bike (no gears, hard saddle, heavy frame). Katie took me on a little tour of Sendai from her apartment. We went by the Baseball fields and then across town through neighbourhoods and backstreets and down to the river before winding our way back over to the apartment building where we started. It was a very pleasant excursion.

After the exercise portion of the day was taken care of, we had showers and then got dressed to tackle the next requirement in a typical Waite-girl day. Food. And some shopping.


We had an enjoyable high tea at the AER building, with dainty little sandwiches and delicious cups of English tea. Katie’s friend Rachel joined us, and we had a lovely girly chatty lunch. After lunch, Katie and I had a wander through the Sendai shops, window shopping and people watching in equal measures. Our only purchase ended up being a selection of ice-cream mochi dessert cakes. Mmmm.


We came back to the flat feeling tired after our morning adventures, so I vegged out in front of the telly and got caught up on Tour de France action while Katie had a lie down, then Katie cooked us some yummy dinner and we chatted with Mark and A-train on Skype, which is always good entertainment.

Favourite Engrish t-shirt phrases of the day “Fruit’s Of One’s Boring Labour” and “Let Cat Out Bag?!”

[looks like I accidentally forgot to post this, and it’s been sitting in my ‘draft’ folder for a couple of weeks, so now the posts are out of order. I might fix that later. Or not.]

Day 4: Narita to Singapore

Early start to the day, since we needed to get me from the hotel in Tachikawa to Narita Airport, which invovled taking a local train from Tachikawa to Tokyo Station, and then changing trains to get the Narita Express. All in the middle of peak rush-hour morning commuter traffic.

The train was pretty crowded from the get-go, but it was manageable for the first 20 minutes or so. People were climbing on and off, squishing and nudging their way through the commuting masses. It wasn’t exactly pleasant, but it was bearable. And then suddenly, things spiralled out of control. The already crowded train pulled into a station, and no one got off, yet people still pushed their way onto the train, cramming everyone in together, smooshing bodies the length of the carriage with no extra breathing room. At 5′ 10″, I was a good 6 or more inches taller than everyone around me, and so I pointed my head at the ceiling and instructed myself to breathe.

I do not do well in constricted spaces. I suppose it is a touch of claustrophobia. It rarely gives me much trouble, but every now and then it strikes in full force and I find myself battling against a rising wave of undiluted panic. In the midst of my internal battle to breathe and stay calm, I caught Katie’s eye. She looked almost as terrified as I felt, but she spoke to me and sounded calm. “Don’t worry. It’s not far to the next stop. We’ll get off the train.” And finally, after what seemed like an eternity, but was probably less than 8 minutes, we pulled into a station and the congestion eased. The door was too far away for Katie and I to make a break for it, so we stayed put, calmer in the knowledge that we were both committed to getting off the train if it got that crowded again.

Shortly after that, a guy near me got up from his seat, and Katie pounced on it, waving her hands at nearby commuters, telling everyone in no uncertain terms that this seat was to be given to me, since I was pregnant. For a split second I was mortified, but this quickly gave way to relief as I sank out of the crush and into the comfort of a hard plastic seat. The rest of the journey passed in a pleasant blur as passengers got on and off and jostled for space without any further impact on me. Soon we pulled in to Tokyo station and tumbled out onto the platform with all the other crumpled commuters.

Once we were free from the crowd, Katie turned to face me and started in on a lengthy rant about just how awful that train ride had been. I could see she was gathering steam, but rather than join in I just laughed and laughed and laughed, I think just because I was so relieved it was over and that we had survived. We made our way towards the Narita Express train, and got some snacks and drinks from a little shop on the platform while we waited for my next train. We said our goodbyes as the train pulled in, and I boarded alone to head out to the airport.

The Narita Express was a vision of spacious delight. It was quiet and air-conditioned and comfortable. The journey to the airport passed quickly as the train clicked steadily through the outskirts of the city and then through green fields and countryside before pulling into the airport station. Check-in, security and boarding all proceeded painlessly, and since my flight was relatively empty, I was able to nab 3 seats together and spread out for the flight to Singapore.

The flight was extremely bumpy, so I was very glad to have the extra room to lie down, since reading and watching movies were totally out – just the thought of looking at a magazine was enough to start my stomach churning. I napped fitfully for most of the flight, and as we got closer to Singapore and the turbulence finally subsided, I watched bits of a really bad in-flight movie and did a little work on my laptop before landing.

Passport control. Baggage claim. Taxi to hotel.

Shower. Change. Back out the door to head to a work dinner at East Coast. Eat. Drink. Talk. Taxi back. Bed. Sleep.


Last time we came to Australia, Alexander was 11months old. We were supposed to leave Austin around 6pm, but our flight from Austin to LA was delayed by 2 hours. Then our flight from LA to Sydney was delayed by an hour, and encountered bad weather en route and was forced to land in Brisbane for refuelling before continuing on to Sydney. We landed in Sydney about 4 hours behind the original schedule, so of course we totally missed our connecting flight to Canberra. We eventually landed in Canberra a little after 2pm, totally exhausted. And our luggage didn’t make it on the same plane. Grr.

This time, Alexander is almost 2. We were supposed to leave Austin at 6.55pm, and we did. We were supposed to land in LA a little after 8pm local time, and we did. Then we got a random upgrade to business class for the LA to Sydney portion of the flight, which was TOTALLY AWESOME. We slept, ate, watched some telly and arrived into Sydney a little behind schedule, but we didn’t care. Because, hello? Business class. And our original flight to Canberra was cancelled, but we didn’t care, because we still felt mostly human thanks to getting real sleep. We caught the next plane and arrived into Canberra a little after 11am and felt tired, but otherwise fine.

This time was much better than last time.


Business class = WIN. Shame we’ll be back in the back for the return leg. Unless we get lucky again? That would be nice.