Sunday, March 1, 2015

Austin Marathon Race Report- Hill Country is no joke!

The road back to long-distance running was long and filled with physical therapy exercises but the Austin Marathon proved that I can go the distance.  Over the past year, I fought back the urge to blog and post updates because I was unsure if my hip issue would sideline me again; I built a solid mileage base and took it week by week.  A few months ago, I attended the RRCA running coach certification course and decided to write a training plan.  I was having a great training cycle and saw my speed coming back until I hit the peak of training being during my Christmas trip to Memphis.  Over Christmas, I skipped a couple of longer runs to spend time with family, thinking I could make it up since my training plan had numerous long runs.  Then the flu knocked me out and I totally dropped my training plan in order to recover.  I was disappointed in how much fitness I lost but I knew the Austin Marathon was hilly so I chose courses for my longer mid-week run and weekend long-run that incorporated hills; I hoped for the best, even after my 20 miler left me lying on my living room floor with aching legs.

The trip to Austin was filled with seeing the city (aka. LOTS of time spent in the car and walking) and Saturday night I had low expectations for the race.  My hotel was at the start line and I enjoyed sleeping in before the 7am race start.  The weather forecast called for a high in the 70s with humid conditions giving way to rain—not ideal conditions but better than many of my warm, sunny runs.  The race start was well organized, which surprised me since there was one wave of marathoners and half-marathoners starting together.  My goal for the race was to finish feeling well enough to enjoy the remainder of the day and I projected to finish between 4 hours and 4 hours and thirty minutes; 4 hours was my “if all the stars align and the hills are not bad” goal.  I wore my Garmin but mentally focused on letting my legs guide my pace, not my watch. 

The first 3 miles were a straight shot down Congress and I got an immediate taste for the hills; we turned and ran back towards the Colorado River and I hit the 10K mark feeling good.  A sign along the way (Jeremiah…) gave me a huge boost.  The race advertised a flat section from miles 8-10 but I never felt that; it felt like a slight uphill that wore at my legs and, hitting mile 10, I wondered if I went out too fast but refused to check my watch since I ran by feel during training. 

One thing I was unable to do well in training was nutrition; in fact, I never ate during my long runs and only had a half of a Honey Stinger gel during a 14 miler.  I knew that would not work for the marathon and focused on getting in calories and salt.  It was very humid so I took a salt pill at mile 10 and I ate a Honey Stinger chew.  I ate two more over the next few miles because the hills continued and I recalled the hills were bad until mile 18.  At mile 13, I sipped on a gel and completed it over the following three miles.  The hills were wearing on me and I was shocked at how hilly the course was and I focused on letting my legs guide me and keeping my energy level up.  Unfortunately, my stomach starting hurting me and I could not try and stomach another gel.  Around mile 21, I had a chew and kept waiting for the advertised downhill to carry me through the last 5 miles.  The course was heating up (humid!), so I took advantage of the frequent and well manned water stations to get water to dump down my back.  

The latter miles were not very pretty but crowd support was decent until mile 24 and I smiled at the lone guy sitting with free beer.  I never felt the advertised downhill and miles 24-26 were tough physically and mentally; thankfully, I had my ipod with me in case I hit a mental wall.  Going through the University of Texas campus, I longed for more crowd support but turned to my ipod for an energy boost.  At mile 26, the crowd support picked up right as I saw the looming hill in front of me; as I topped it, I felt extremely dizzy and saw another hill in front of me.  My legs slowed and my mind told me to walk; I realized that I had not walked at all during the race and I could push it up the hill slowly. I hit the top and saw the 400 meters sign and cruised down the hill and around the corner.  Normally I can pick up the pace for a sprint to the finish but I let my legs overrule my mind and cruised down the final stretch.  I saw Alan smiling and cheering and I crossed the finish line ecstatic when I checked my watch and saw my time – 3:49! 

Tough course!!!

I was shaking and my quads felt trashed but the endorphin rush carried me the 10 block walk back to my hotel.  After a quick ice bath and session with the Stick, I was starving and wanted fruit and granola.  Alan picked a restaurant with great reviews and we decided to walk to avoid the traffic and loosen up my legs.  Almost two miles later, we arrived at the Counter CafĂ© and waited 30 minute for a table.  The walk and wait was worth it for a phenomenal brunch.  

We ubered it back to the hotel and I summoned the energy to go for a walk later for dinner, drinks and live music.  Austin’s downtown is one of the best I’ve visited and I was happy that my legs, despite being sore, felt good enough for me to go out on the town.

The marathon was very well-organized with fantastic aid stations and good crowd support; the course was not always very scenic as it meandered through commercial areas and neighborhoods but it was a good road course.  Though crowd support was limited during the final miles and I wish that there were more students out cheering during mile 25, I was grateful for the ones out there.  Crowd support at mile 26 until the finish line was fantastic for a small marathon since many of the half marathoners were long done.  I would definitely recommend this race for anyone looking for a moderate size race (15,000 half and full marathoners combined) but hill training is a necessity.  

Marathon stats:

Overall Place:529Chip Time:3:49:08.36Pace:8:45/M
5K Time Rank:9365K Time Time:27:46.715K Time Pace:8:54/M
10MI Time Rank:85110MI Time Time:1:27:15.1810MI Time Pace:8:44/M
13.1MI Time Rank:77413.1MI Time Time:1:53:17.2413.1MI Time Pace:8:39/M
18MI Time Rank:65118MI Time Time:2:36:28.2218MI Time Pace:8:42/M
20MI Time Rank:60820MI Time Time:2:53:47.8820MI Time Pace:8:41/M
23.1MI Time Rank:55123.1MI Time Time:3:21:20.3923.1MI Time Pace:8:43/M
26.2MI Time Rank:52926.2MI Time Time:3:49:08.3626.2MI Time Pace:8:45/M

I'm recovering well and eyeing my next race!