I suggest getting a cup of coffee or a snack and settling into a comfortable chair because this post is long.

Pre-Race:

We flew into Austin Friday afternoon. With the race still two days away, I was surprisingly calm. My only thought on the way from the airport to our lodgings, “I don’t remember Austin being this hilly” (Ok, so I was outwardly very calm).

We didn’t do much else that day.  The race expo was on Friday and Saturday so there was no rush to pick up my race packet, and I preferred to just unwind from traveling.  For dinner, sushi from Midori Sushi.  Perhaps the best sushi I’ve had, though as a desert dweller I do not count myself an expert on raw fish.

Saturday we attended the Race Expo. This was my first big race expo event.  It was really cool to walk in and almost immediately see Bart Yasso from Runners’ World Magazine selling books and signing autographs.

After pickup up my race packet and shirt and doing some preliminary shopping we listened to Bart give us some advice and talk about his book,  My Life on the Run.  Rebecca gave me the book for my birthday last year, and I read it just as I was considering training for a marathon. I actually choose the Austin Marathon in part because the book names it specifically as having the “Coolest Host City.”

I bought another copy of the book for the sole purpose of getting a picture with Bart Yasso.  Totally worth it!

Bart Yasso and Me

Bart Yasso and Me

For dinner Saturday, Rebecca cooked what has become my most common pre-race dinner: Pesto chicken and whole wheat pasta.  It was a great Valentines day dinner with the Fam.

Race Day

The only major hiccup in my preparation was that I did not plug in my Garmin the night before the race.  I had charged it all day Saturday, then used it for a short jog Saturday evening.  I must have left it running, however, because Sunday morning it was dead, and there was not enough time to charge it up before the race.  Fortunately, I brought my regular digital watch that has a lap button, but without the Garmin I would not know my pace in between miles and be able to adjust accordingly.  I wasn’t too phased by this, I just figured I could run by feel if I needed to.

We arrived downtown early.  There was plenty of time to walk around a bit, drop off my extra clothes, and use the restroom (twice).  I was not particularly nervous, but once I lined up for the race I was focused.  I did not even see Rebecca walking up to me to give me an extra Gu packet and a kiss good luck. There is something very focusing about the nervous chatter of 15,000 runners waiting for the gun to go off.  Eventually those of us lined up in the middle of the pack heard a distant air horn, and we began the slow press forward to the starting line.

Mile 1-10:13 min./mile

I had intended to start near the 4 hour pace group (approx. 9:10 min/mi) and run somewhere behind them, but within sight, for the first half of the race.  Unfortunately, I lost sight of them as we walked toward the start line, and shortly into the first mile they passed me.  I decided to keep it easy in the first mile, and passed mile marker 1 at 10:34.

Mile 2-9:32/Mile 3-9:17/Mile 4-8:59/Mile 5-8:44/Mile 6-8:45/Mile 7-8:44

I felt great through these early miles.  Maybe too great.  I gradually brought my minute per mile time down to the low 9’s where I wanted it.  For some reason, though, I started to push a little bit and I strung together four miles at a sub 9 minute per mile pace leading up to the first of the hills.

After mile 6 I saw my family for the first time.  The sign they held had one of my favorite running mantra’s, “He’s the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.” It was a great time to see them.

Mile 8-9:33/Mile 9-9:03/Mile  10-9:24

As we began to run up and down hills, I started to pray.  Mainly because on the first steep hill I felt my hamstring start to cramp ever so slightly.  I needed something to relax my mind and my leg, and so I prayed through the hills of Austin.  Fortunately, my leg relaxed and was not a problem again after mile 10. But the praying was far from over.

Shortly after mile 10 the marathoners and half-marathoners split up. I tried not to think about how close to finishing I would have been if I was just running a half marathon, and conversely, how far left I had to go on now hill-weary legs.

Mile 11-9:32/Mile 12-9:53/Mile 13-9:32

It was in these three miles that I began to feel some fatigue set in. I passed the halfway point at 2:02:16 which is three minutes faster than my Half-Marathon PR.  I took my first walk break at the water stop after mile 13.  It was also at this point that I began to wonder if I went out too fast, but I knew there was no getting those miles back so I pressed on as best I could.

Mile 14-9:33/Mile 15-10:18/Mile 16-10:31

I honestly do not remember these miles. I’m not sure if that means they were really good, or really bad. My split times show that I was steadily slowing down at this point.

Mile 17-10:20/Mile 18-11:8

By mile 17 I had started to go down hill (not geographically, there were still plenty of up- and downhills left).  At this point, I decided to run “mile-to-mile.” I would do the best I could each mile and not think about those that were to come afterward. At first, this meant I was now walking at each water stop.

Mile 19-10:50

A much needed pick me up:  The Fam was here to cheer me on, and Rebecca ran with me for about a quarter of a mile.  It was great to talk to someone, as I had been mostly a loner for the bulk of the race.  Unlike some people I find it hard to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger who, like me, is running, sweating, and most likely bleeding from awkward places.

Mile 20-11:27/Mile 21-10:05/Mile 22-13:33/Mile 23-14:19/Mile 24-12:06/Mile 25-12:40/Mile 26-11:02

Though I did not admit as much to Rebecca at the time, it was just before she ran with me at mile 19 that I began to question whether I could finish the race.  I didn’t question my determination, or my willingness, or even my training.  I only questioned whether my body would make it to the finish line before deciding to shut down.

These latter miles are mostly a blur.  I ran with my head down, mostly.  I walked when I needed to.  I counted to keep my mind occupied.  I high fived strangers to keep my spirits up.  I ate Gu and drank enough powerade to last me a lifetime.  I did everything but stop.  Because I knew that if I stopped I might not start back up again.

Things started to clear up on a hill after mile marker 24.  About halfway up the hill I heard a photographer tell a person who was walking up ahead of me “I only photograph runners.” I, too, was walking at that point, but when I heard that I put my head down and started running again and did not stop until the finish line.

In the final stretch, I heard and then saw my family, and though I was completely spent I grinned all the way across the finish line.  Not because I could finally stop but because I had finished, and that made a world of difference.

This was perhaps the first race I’ve run where, upon finishing, I did not immediately think, “What’s next?”  Instead I reveled in my aching legs, ate some BBQ, and enjoyed the satisfaction of doing something I once thought impossible.

Picking up my T-Shirt

Picking up my T-Shirt

Pre-race photo op

Pre-race photo op

I am sure my cheering section always has the most interesting signs

I am sure my cheering section had the most interesting signs

"Sprint" to the finish

"Sprint" to the finish

Ahhhhh . . .

Ahhhhh . . .

The long, slow walk back to the car

The long, slow walk back to the car

Now time to figure out what's next

Now time to figure out what's next

Advertisements