It is fall in Dallas! Or one would think with the mid-September race date for the annual Tour Des Fleurs benefiting the Dallas Arboretum. The Dallas Arboretum is a 66-acre urban botanical garden along White Rock Lake in East Dallas. It happens to be walking distance from my house! All proceeds go towards supporting the garden and programs the Arboretum puts on for the community. One of the greatest benefits of this race is the discounted membership as well, a whopping $30 off an individual membership (includes a plus one) which is normally $99 a year. Individual tickets are $12 in non-peak seasons, so it is a no-brainer to get the membership at $69. Supporting my community is also a significant factor in signing up and retaining annual membership. The race itself boasts an excellent course (all along White Rock Lake), great race swag including a T-shirt and race hat, as well as a bumping afterparty overlooking the lake with live music and access to the gardens.

ZimSculpt season

The Tour Des Fleurs comes at an helpful time for the Dallas running community. Our namesake Dallas Marathon is the second Sunday in December, about 12 weeks away from the Tour Des Fleurs. Runners participating in both events can benefit from the supported training run that TDF offers, which is what my dad and I did as we are training for the 2021 New York City Marathon. Prior to race day, we were staring down the barrel of a needed 18mi (me) and 16mi (dad) training run according to our Hal Higdon plan. When you start getting up into the 15+ mileage range, you can’t help but dread the long run. That is longer than any human should be running.

Outdoor amphitheater where the race begins and ends

I sign up every year and knew the race was coming, and after weeks of pestering my father, he signed up to participate as well. Our timeline for the morning as follows:

  • 4:30AM Wake Up
  • 5:15AM Run 1mi over to Dad’s house
  • 5:25AM “Pick up” dad and run 3mi
  • 6:05AM Drop off Dad and run 1mi home
  • 6:15AM Change clothes, feed pup, drink water
  • 6:30AM Pick up dad in vehicle to ride over to the arboretum
  • 6:40AM Arrive, park, bathroom
  • 7AM Race Start!

We had quite the morning laid out ahead of our race alone. Running between 3-5mi we had to pace ourselves for a long day. In years past I had friends training for early fall season marathons who were running several miles before the TDF started, and I thought they were crazy! Well look at us now.

The morning greeted us at 72 degrees and already humid. The difficult thing about humidity is that it amplifies the heat much more than you expect. 72 felt much more painful than 72. We did a quick run up along White Rock Lake, turned around and then did a change of clothes considering we were already soaked through just from our short run. In my prep for race day I had the following in my go bag:

  1. Race Bib
  2. Sunglasses
  3. Spi Belt
  4. Valet Key (to keep in spi belt with my phone rather than my big set of keys)
  5. Two towels (to sit on when returning to the car super sweaty)
  6. Extra water and nuun
  7. Sunscreen
  8. Vaseline

The luxury of being able to park on property was great, as we could be more relaxed with comfort items like the towels and extra bottles. There is no baggage check like you would see at a larger race, this is truly a small town vibe despite it being around the iconic lake in Dallas.

We arrived about 15min before the gun went off at 7am and got in the last bit of hydration and bathroom we needed as we walked over to the start line at the bottom of the outdoor amphitheater. The Dallas Running Club graciously volunteers each year to run pace groups, so we weaved our way through the crowd to get to the 2:15 group. In the very short amount of time between us lining up and the gun going off, a woman came up behind us and asked why my dad and I were wearing our JDRF shirts. Could it be a new friend?? Dad and I intentionally coordinated to get a photo op to post on our family’s JDRF Fundraising Page, the charity that we are running with for the New York City Marathon. As it turns out, this woman named Leigh was on the same exact charity team for the NYC Marathon as well! There are only a small handful of us in the state of Texas and what are the odds we ran into each other at the start line? Pure serendipity.

Leigh also offered us a massive distraction. The gun went off at 7am and the masses of people headed North towards Mockingbird and counterclockwise around the lake. The first 5-6mi we were chatting with Leigh on her experience as a type 1 diabetes (T1D) athlete, her training for NYC, our own family connection with T1D and how excited we were to travel and experience the race this fall. The route we took for those first several miles was shaded, and a combination of lake trail, through the neighborhood streets of Peninsula, and eventually up and over Mockingbird road to get in a few extra miles, given the lake itself is only ~9mi around. Our pace was around the 10:15/mi mark with the excitement of a new friend. The pace group stuck together with periodic water and Gatorade stations every 2mi or so. Another fun moment, we met a different charity racer in our pace group that was running the NYC Marathon as well! Who knew we had such a great community of runners in Dallas?

By the time we got to the bridge near the dog park (around mile 6) the group of 2:15 pace got jumbled in the water stop. The narrow bridge that crosses over the water and leads to the dog park left Dad and I going solo onto the West side of the lake. The interesting thing about the bridges around white rock are the reverberation effect that takes place with all the runners pounding it. You have to really focus as the bridge will bounce with your step, and create a sea sickness effect.

Not far from the dog park and split from the pace group were we starting to feel the effects of the heat, humidity and general lack of shade on the second half of the run. By the time we got to mile 7-8, my Dad offered to walk run. This man is highly competitive, so the offer to walk run is VERY concerning and a red flag for his health. He was getting overheated and we still had 5-6 miles to go in the hottest and most exposed part of the race. We weren’t the only ones making this choice either, we saw many bibs walk running at this point since the heat caught up with everyone. We walked through every aid station double fisting with Gatorade and water, and stopped at the water fountains as well. The entire time my dad was apologizing for needing to walk, which is unfortunate he felt he needed to do that. I have “goals” in theory, but the ultimate goal is to finish happy and health with my father. It wasn’t about this September race, we had to play the long game and protect ourselves and our health for our November “A” Race that is NYC.

We limped along with a walk run 8-12, with the 2:15, 2:20 and 2:25 pace groups slowly overcoming us along the way. The final out and back stretch over garland road was particularly humbling because we could see the pace groups that were not far behind us (2:30, 2:35).

Our walking stretches got longer as my Dad was experience more serious over heating, and our final two miles were in the 14min/mi pace range. We managed to get to the finish line, jogging it out to the end and were immediately greeted with a hat, medal and lots of water. Not 15 feet past the finish line did my dad find a trailer hitch to sit on. I turned into water girl, running back and forth between him and the finish line to get more bottles of water. He left a huge puddle of water underneath him and drank 4 bottles before we left the finish line area. The rest of the post-racers were checking out vendors and enjoying the live music along the amphitheater while we were making sure Dad was ok to walk.

We noticed one elderly gentleman who finished around the same time as us end up in a stretcher and was taken away by the medical personnel. The heat and humidity factor impacted everyone. After our 20 minute squat at the finish line, my dad was finally able to move, and we headed up the hill to where the vendors were. The Dallas Arboretum does a great job bringing in local vendors and running vendors to support. There were nearby restaurants giving out free samples, free finish line beer for 21+ and companies like Brooks, Headsweats and Nuun. When we made it up the hill Dad had to sit down for a second time. This time his calves plagued with cramps. I could see with my own eyes the twitching and flickering in both.

After 10min of sitting, I took a moment to film a JDRF fundraising video, and we continued on to the parking lot which was ~10min walk away. We got 5min down the path and Dad had to sit down a 3rd time. This was not looking good. His calves were jumping out of his skin with cramps. Eventually we made our way to the car and I took him back to his house only 3min from the start line. I gave my Mom a heads up that it was not looking good and came into a huge lecture-y glare from her at both of us for not adequately hydrating or taking in electrolytes. I certainly experienced a degree of over-heating but my dad was seriously impacted by the weather conditions.

Thankfully my Dad took a long afternoon nap, put his feet up and drank plenty of water. He felt some of the lingering fatigue from an overheating perspective, rather than the mileage on his legs.

Overall I really enjoy the Tour des Fleurs race, despite our overheating situation. The race has a very local feel, is well organized and is in a great location. I would take the heat seriously if you’re considering it, and certainly prepare ahead of time with extra fluids. The folks that don’t often train outside (even those that do!) will feel the intensity of the heat. As I was racing this year, I was reminded how dying from the heat is a common occurrence. My memory came back on how tomato-red my face is at the finish line and how chugging water is never enough.

Our final time: 2:33:04

All in all it was a successful long mileage day. Have you had a similar experience at a steamy half marathon? Would love to hear about it.

Montage of Arboretum pictures below!

Posted by:Allie

One thought on “Tour des Fleurs Half Marathon Race Recap

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