Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Austin Marathon

The Mario Recap, Marathon #12:
Great race! Great finish time! Great swag!

It's a little hard to tell with the shadows, but Mario is wearing a cowboy hat ornament I bought

The Full Recap, Marathon #12:
Austin was a very spur of the moment decision (Boyfriend and I, through 6 text messages on my lunch hour, decided we'd take short trip for the race) mainly geared to prevent me from having to do a 20 mile training run in Hawaii. Yes, I am Hawaii-bound this Friday! We all know how much I'd love to do a 20 miler in Hawaii!

We didn't arrive into Austin until 9 pm Saturday night. The Austin airport was a ghost town when we landed. All the eateries were closed up for the night. As we were walking through the empty terminal, Boyfriend asks me, "What do you think of the music?" I replied, "I feel like I'm walking in Frontier Land at Walt Disney World." Seriously, that stuff they were piping through the airport sounded like it was straight out of Disney's idea of a Western!

We made it to the hotel with no problem and I knew I had to eat even though it was past 10 pm by the time we got settled in our hotel. We were staying close to the University of Texas so luckily there were tons of clog-your-arteries places to choose from. I usually like to eat a simple marinara sauce pasta dish before races but wasn't sure if that would be possible to find so late at night. So I decided the next best thing (and readily available) was McDonald's.

Cropped Boyfriend out, but he wanted a photo with the statue in front of the McDonald's. Yep, we're in Texas!

Two of my previous half marathon PR's (not the most recent, though) were pulled off after a lovely McDonald's feast the night before so I knew it was agreeable. I ordered two cheeseburgers, fries, and an apple pie for a quick dinner. I laid out my race stuff and probably nodded off a little after 12 am. It was hard to fall asleep because we had Olympic coverage in the hotel room! Yep, I don't get the Olympics in my apartment. Long, sad story. Don't ask.

We left the hotel around 6 am to head to the start (1 mile walk away from the hotel). The start area was awesome because Boyfriend could hang out with me until the bitter end -- or start -- as it were. It wasn't too chilly but not comfortable weather to be standing around in a skirt and sleeveless shirt (about 39 degrees, I think) I got to wear my real, warm jacket since I handed it off to Boyfriend before the gun went off! So much nicer than the garbage bag I wore at Disney.

There were a few guys dressed up as cupid for Valentine's Day

We met briefly with Sam of Operation Jack. Please check out his site! He's running 60 marathons this year to raise funds to help fight autism. I thought 15 marathons this year would be hard, but he's doing 60! and he's been doing them fast!

The Austin course has a lot of rolling hills:

I had broken up the course into three bits in my mind. Miles 1-6 (was going to see Boyfriend once on the course at around the 6th mile), miles 8-18 (generally going uphill) and miles 18-26.2 (generally going downhill). I thought I'd average maybe a 10:35-10:40 pace for the race.

Mile 1: 10:35, 10:38
Mile 2: 10:39, 10:09
Mile 3: 9:59, 10:17
Mile 4: 10:10, 10:29
Mile 5: 9:36, 9:43
Mile 6: 9:55, 9:44
Mile 7: 10:06, 9:59

I found myself running much faster than I had anticipated, but I felt really good! Boyfriend had even commented that I'd be feeling good when I saw him because it was the end of that first downhill segment. I was feeling great about my pace until about mile 5.5 when I felt like my legs had just powered down (insert that powering down machine sound). I actually didn't feel so grand and told Boyfriend when I saw him, "I'm doing 10:10's now, but will probably be slowing down on the uphills soon." Translation: I went out too fast and will have to walk my butt up the hills later.

But that feeling was relatively short-lived and I continued to average about a 10:10 pace as the race continued. The course itself was nothing too special -- some small business area in the beginning, running along a freeway, residential areas, the University of Texas, and then the State Capitol at the end. They had a fair number of bands out which was nice. The guy at mile 8 was playing "Take it Easy" (in a slow, soothing sort of way) which I thought was the absolute worse song to be singing on the sidelines of a marathon.

The marathoners run with the half marathoners for about the first 10 miles of the race. I have stated before and will state again that I dislike this arrangement. The mind frame and energy levels are just so different for the two distances. The roads were pretty crowded and since I was going faster than I thought I would I was passing people constantly. I kept having to veer to the side to get around people which was adding distance to my day. I was really looking forward to the point in the race when the half marathoners turned off the course so that things could settle and clear up a bit.

From miles 8-18 I kept counting them down every two miles (I eat a shot blok every two miles). I kept telling myself just get to mile 18 and the course will feel easier. There were maybe two really steep, short uphills. The rest of them were fairly gradual, but they just kept coming! In a way it was a nice course with rolling hills because after most uphill segments there was a nice little downhill to reward you.

Mile 8: 10:14, 10:10
Mile 9: 10:29, 10:31
Mile 10: 9:58, 10:22
Mile 11: 10:04, 10:18
Mile 12: 10:19, 9:57
Mile 13: 10:03, 9:49
Mile 14: 10:13, 9:56
Mile 15: 10:18, 10:15
Mile 16: 10:21, 10:00
Mile 17: 10:06, 9:51
Mile 18: 10:27, 10:04

I was pretty shocked at how strong I was running. The 10:10ish average pace felt comfortable. I wasn't pushing but I also wasn't holding back. My body kept taking the hills in stride -- I never had the urge to take a break and walk any of the uphills. Guess there is something to living and training in San Francisco!

I don't remember exactly what mile it happened at (guessing maybe about 14 or so), but something amazing happened this race! I caught up to, and passed the 4:30 pace group! I have never passed ANY pace group that started with 4:xx before! I wasn't going much faster than them but slowly but surely caught up. For a little bit I got stuck up in their cluster which was sort of frustrating. I had to ask a guy to please excuse me as I pushed my way through to clear them. Victory!

I've decided that miles 16-18 are the hardest miles mentally for me in a marathon. You've come a long way and still have a long way to go. Around this time I sort of started thinking about how I had three more marathons in March coming up and what was I thinking?!

I hit mile 18 and rejoiced for a second that the course should now start feeling a little easier. I also reminded myself that while we had net downhill coming up, it was still rolling and uphill segments were definitely still present from miles 18-26.2.

At around mile 20 I realized that I was within striking distance of my San Francisco Marathon time. If I could beat that, I'd have run my second best time at Austin. I kicked my effort up one notch, though I wouldn't say I was truly pushing the pace at all.

Mile 19: 10:51, 9:42
Mile 20: 10:17, 9:50
Mile 21: 10:02, 9:53
Mile 22: 9:50, 10:15

I carried my small hand-held 10 oz bottle during the race. It is the size I generally like to use when I'm not trying to run a PR. Not big and heavy and I stop to refill it as necessary. The weather warmed up quite a bit as the race went on. There was not one cloud in the sky. I'm thinking the temps went up to about the high-50's, low-60's by the latter parts of the race. Not bad weather by any means, but warmer than I prefer for running. I was stopping to drink water at the water stops to supplement the water in my hand held.

At one water stop where I stopped to both drink some water and refill my hand held, the 4:30 pace group passed me. Boo. What a let down after passing them! I'm not sure what a 4:30 pace is exactly, but I had a sneaky suspicion they were going too fast. Their group had really thinned out since the last time I had seen them. I knew I was still making good time, regardless, since I had crossed the starting line much further back from them. But it made me realize I was losing time by stopping at the water stops. And of course I wanted to say I passed a 4:xx group for once in my life!

At mile 23 I decided I wouldn't stop at any more water stops the rest of the race. I had enough in my hand held to get me through. I re-passed the 4:30 pace group again at some point (Victory!) though again, I don't remember exactly when.

Mile 23: 10:06, 10:21
Mile 24: 9:32, 9:54

The crowd support at Austin, while thin and spread out, was totally awesome! What a great community that came out to cheer! After running a race like NYC it is really easy to scoff at the crowd support at other marathons, but I feel that the cheering at this race (considering we were running a huge loop through residential areas) was a huge plus of this race.

At one point we passed a man in a wheelchair who was out cheering. He was probably in his 30's and I heard him yelling things like, "You're doing it! You look awesome!" I know that there is a wheelchair division at events like this, but it really touched me that he would come out to cheer for us runners. If I were in a wheelchair I think watching a road race would make me feel a little bitter and sad. I thought it was so admirable that he would come to cheer. They say you have to run because you can and that sort of put it in perspective for me.

I started cranking the juice the last 2 miles. I was pretty sure I'd beat my San Francisco time and once you know you've got something like that coming, there is this feeling of, "I have to beat it by as much as I possibly can." At mile 25 I changed the display on my garmin to show the time. I usually have the distance in nice, huge numbers showing. But in a race those numbers generally don't match up, and I didn't want to see "26.2" displayed when the finish line still wasn't in sight.

I checked the time at mile 25 and added 12 more minutes to that to get my estimated finish time. To be honest, I don't remember what number I came up with. I just remember thinking, "I'm going to make it." In retrospect I must have been comparing the number to my San Francisco time because I was safely under that. I thought the number I came up with was 4:25 because I told myself that if I really started to push, I could probably run a sub 4:25. Because you know, 4:24:59 just sounds so much nicer than 4:25:01 (slight sarcasm here). So I really started to push the pace. I think my problem lay in the fact that in my I-just-ran-25-miles delirium I didn't look at the seconds column of my time, just the minutes.

The race approached the Capitol from the back, we ran around the left side of the building

This is the view of the Capitol from the front, we came running down this road

This is the view going down the road from the Capitol. Right before I took this, a group of college-aged guys came running by -- one of them was wearing the marathon finisher's shirt (day after the marathon) -- I suddenly felt very stupid walking around with mine on!

There was a nastily placed little uphill segment to the capitol which slowed me down a bit, followed by a relatively screaming downhill segment. I was flying down that hill (last picture above). I don't think I've run faster in my entire life. I'd be running and think to myself I should run a little faster, and I miraculously found another gear. About 100 feet from the finish I looked at my watch and saw something like 4:24:5x and I knew I wasn't going to make it. But I kept up the push to the line.

Boyfriend took video of me running to the finish. He's done it many times before at other marathons. Whenever I watch the video I always think, "Man, I thought I was sprinting but I look like I'm running so slow!" Not this time. I was sprinting to that finish! I actually look like I'm running! Amazing!

Mile 25: 9:20, 9:12
Mile 26: 9:18, 9:44
Mile 26.4 (per Garmin) 8:00 <-- faster than my 5K PR pace and faster than any of my 400m repeat times

Official Time: 4:25:11 (10:07 pace)

I also ran a negative split marathon for the first time ever. I finished the second half 3 minutes and 19 seconds faster than the first half.

I will be honest here and say that I am a little disappointed I didn't break 4:25. That is sort of ridiculous when you think that I had estimated about a 4:40 finish. I think it is mainly because I ran so hard at the end just for that number. I also really thought I was going to make it. For some reason I remember thinking I was going to finish at about 4:25 but since I was pushing I was fairly certain I'd get there earlier (I based my calculation off of a 10:00 min/mile). I guess when I did that little number calculation at mile 25, I was either comparing the result to 4:27 or had the seconds column way off. Or maybe I just couldn't add for beans. Who knows? That's the thing I hate about missing a goal by a few seconds -- if you had just known 20 miles earlier it would have come down to that, you could have done something about it. One hundred feet from the finish? Not a lot you can do about it then.

Even though the course was sort of "Meh," I have to give the Austin Marathon two big thumbs up. Great organization, great crowd support and GREAT swag! Check it out:

The backpack is by far the nicest bag I've ever gotten from a race. They also had WOMEN'S XS shirts!! Huge props for that in my book. I can also say with 100% certainty that the medal is the nicest I have ever gotten.

You can't tell from the photo, but it has a really nice weight to it. And it is so shiny! And the red portion is sort of glassy, not your usual enamel coloring.

I'm not sure what the point of these were, but they asked you to put it on your back. I love the Valentine's love theme and the little heart for the "point" in 26.2

Overall I am very, very happy with the way I ran. I tweeted that running a second fastest marathon time on that day was almost as good as a PR and I totally mean that. I wasn't even really trying the first 20 miles and was able to pull that off. I don't feel like my body has been in marathon shape the last 1.5 months, but it keeps proving me wrong. I had a lot of gas left in the tank the last few miles and was able to finish really strong. And the hills? Hills schmills!

I recovered pretty quickly after this race (not as sore as I was after San Francisco or CIM, but a little more sore than post-Disney) and am going to start gearing back up for my three marathon March!


audgepodge said...

You did such an awesome job!!! Yay Roadbunner!!! I guess you can have both quantity AND quality, huh? ;)

Love the cowboy hat ornament!

Marlene said...

Congratulations! Running your first negative split with a HUGE pick up at the end is quite the accomplishment, <4:25 or not!

Sounds like a great race and love the swag!

ShirleyPerly said...

Great job in Austin!!!

The course has change a LOT since I ran it back in 2005 but it appears they're still giving out the nice race schwag. Congrats on your marathon!

The Bunns said...

Isn't it hard to make your mind work after about 16 miles or so? - like remembering things very long or being able to add or calculate?

Tough course with those hills.

You probably have some faster times coming up - especially since this one did not seem to be REALLY hard work.

(What is you Boston qualify time???)

EndorphinBuzz said...

Awesome race... You are getting really strong! I can't wait to see how you will do in LA!

cliff said...

great job! you should do commercials for mcdonalds. if you had an extra cheeseburger, who knows!

or maybe even an egg mcmuffin right before the race.

have fun in hawaii! i'm extremely jealous... again!

Marathon Maritza said...

Wow, great job on this marathon!!! I loved this race report too, it was such a nice play-by-play of your thoughts throughout the race.

Congratulations on your first negative split marathon and 2nd fastest time!!!!

Looks McD's is it for you, girl!

bunnygirl said...

Sorry to be so late chiming in on this - my blog reader has been really flaky lately.

Anyway, thanks for this RR. A lot of runners here in Houston also do Austin, but I never have. It's reported to be one of the fastest courses in the US.

If you're ever in Austin again, give me fair warning and maybe I can get up there and meet you. I can at least put you in touch with friends there who can make sure you get better food than McDonald's!

Alisa said...

Wow, what to go! You have taken on the marathon and totally crushed it.

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