I’d like to start off this blog by tipping my hat to the folks who organize and run the 3M Half Marathon, one of my favorite half marathons I’ve run. It’s always been a great, well organized event. Normally great weather (this year was no different), downhill, and fast. This was only the 2nd time I’ve done it, but this may have to be an annual tradition. A quick getaway out of town, and a great race to boot.
Austin, if you are not from Texas or have ever been, is this unique, hippie, funky city. Their slogan (unofficially) is “Keep Austin Weird”, if that’s any indication. Good music scene, lots of younger folks (UT Austin, even graduates), technologically focused. Always makes for a great weekend trip. Not sure I’d like to live there, but a great way to get away from real life, if even just for the weekend.
Leading up to the race – we did some light carb loading. (IE, drinking and eating) Tried Roaring Fork in Austin – phenomenal food. We shared the fish tacos, burger, and green hatch chili mac n cheese. Absolutely fantastic food, service, and atmosphere. (You can view their menu here: http://www.roaringfork.com/ )
Stayed downtown Friday, and then moved to the Embassy Suites Arboretum next to the start line Saturday. Quick plug for the Embassy: fantastic place to stay at in Austin. I’m not just saying that because I work for Hilton, but there’s a reason this hotel is ranked #7th in Austin on TripAdvisor. The next time you are in the area, I highly recommend staying here: http://embassysuites3.hilton.com/en/hotels/texas/embassy-suites-austin-arboretum-AUSESES/index.html
One thing several people warned us about was allergies – apparently Cedar has been off the charts bad. I got hit pretty bad by it, despite loading up on allergy pills trying to build up an immunity. IE, sniffling and blowing my nose all day (and night) Saturday. I got maybe an hour of uninterrupted sleep, having to wake up at least once an hour to blow my nose. No excuses though.
Despite the lack of sleep and inability to breath Saturday night, woke up feeling ready to go Sunday morning. Quick breakfast, dynamic stretching, and got less than a mile warm-up in. At that point, my longest run had been 15 – I really wasn’t looking forward to pushing more than a mile to WU.
Another former Brooks ID member, now Fanatics member – Talmedge Matts, Austin native – recognized me at the start. (Thank you to the brighter than the sun Brooks ID singlet for making me easy to spot) We chatted it up and off we went. Great job on his race – he hit sub 1:40 when he was initially shooting for a 1:45.
I had 3 goals for this race:
2) Run fast, run hard
3) Leave nothing on the table
My previous PR had been a 1:40:05 at RnR Dallas 3 years ago. Given my lack of distance, not having come off of a full marathon training season, and lack of any speed, I really had zero idea of where I was at. The 5K I had run in November was the only mileage I had run under a 8 since starting back in August.
With my goal being to PR, my thought was to start with the 1:40 pace group. The wife was looking to just run marathon pace (her goal is RnR New Orleans – full – in 2 weeks), so she was going to run with the 1:45 group. Her Garmin also refused to turn on, so she was running blind so to speak. I was talking to her close to when the gun went off, and tried to make my way up, but quickly lost that pace group in all the crowd. No matter, I have my watch and know what my overall pace should be.
My goal starting off was to break 1:40, so I was aiming for a 7:35-ish pace, give or take 5 seconds. I’ll break it up into 3 mile segments as I’ve done in other race recaps:
Mile 1: 7:40
Mile 2: 7:36
Mile 3: 7:44
All in all, was surprised at how effortless mile 1 felt, despite having to weave in and out of everyone. Just the race adrenaline. Mile 2 and 3 went by fairly fast. I wasn’t going to concern myself too much with my pace the first few miles, as I was just trying to gauge what pace I could run and for how long.
Mile 4: 7:43
Mile 5: 7:40
Mile 6: 7:44
A bit of fatigue or legs just not moving hit me these 3 miles. Mile 6’s time also has a 15 second walk break through a water stop – I’ve normally made it a habit of walking every 3 miles through a water stop, but I was having a hard time stopping. Also took a Gu b/t 5 and 6, hence the water stop and walk break.
Some small self doubt started to creep in here. Slightly after Mile 6 I checked my overall pace on my Garmin and realized I was off. We were going down a street next to the train tracks and put my head down and tried to focus on leg turnover and overall form.
Mile 7: 7:38
Mile 8: 7:32
Mile 9: 7:39
A bit more urgency these next 3. Slightly after mile 8 I started to feel some tightness in my upper right quad, close to the hip. A slight adjustment to my running form helped it go away. At this point I was running with a small pack that was all pacing around the same. One guy was an Austin police officer, and had a ton of crowd support – he seemed to know quite a few spectators and cops alike, so it was a boost hearing them cheer him on.
Mile 10: 8:00
Mile 11: 7:42
Mile 12: 7:30
…and the wheels started to come off. B/t miles 9-10 I took my last Gu and had about a 20 second walk through the water stop, and the time reflected how I felt. I started to feel it at this point – a bit tired. The pace wasn’t overly difficult – but at the same time, it was never uncomfortably comfortable.
That last statement seems like a bit of a misnomer, so let me explain. At some point in every half or full I’ve run, the pace gets “easy” as the race gets on. I get comfortable running X:XX pace at least halfway into it, meaning you hit your stride and everything is clicking. Even though it’s uncomfortable to have to run that the entire distance.
Maybe that makes sense, maybe that doesn’t. Either way, I never felt that “comfortable” at any pace. Mile 11 was about the same. Once that time clicked off on my watch, reality set in that the PR was not in the cards today. Not this run anyway. So I decided to just push it as hard as I could to finish the race. Mile 12 was quite uncomfortable, but kept pushing on as we hit the UT campus.
Mile 13: 7:19
Last .1: 6:54
Final Time/Distance: 1:40:49 – 13.2 | Officially: 1:40:48 – 13.1
I hit Mile 12 at a good pace, but my watch read 1:32:30 when I passed the actual 12 mile marker. I did some easy math in my head and had an “Oh Shit” moment, which meant I had to run the last 1.1 in 7:30 to hit a 1:40. Pretty sure it wasn’t happening, but I gutted it out and just gave it all I had left in the tank. My legs were definitely tired at this point. That small uphill before Mile 13 was a bit cruel, but it was the final turn before the last .1 stretch home. I crossed the finish line, hit stop on my watch, looked down, and was a bit disappointed. I knew I hadn’t hit my goal time, but just started replaying various scenarios in my head.
Garmin said 13.2 miles, and a 7:38 pace, but the reality of running the course meant the course was 13.1 miles, and my actual pace was a 7:42.
Stacey came through about two minutes later, much to my surprise. Her response: “Marathon pace was boring, I picked it up about 4 miles into it.” With no watch, we suspected she was on the cusp of breaking 1:43, but couldn’t validate it until the official results came out. (1:43:01, still a PR, and without trying/much effort – she easily has a sub 1:40 in her)
So what did I learn about myself and about the three goals I had in mind?
PR, Run Fast, Run Hard, Leave nothing on the table
Obviously, no PR. Let’s just get that one out of the way and state the obvious. I wanted badly to finally go sub 1:40. Didn’t quite happen, but a good first effort. I’d probably be ok with not having PR’ed, than having PR’ed but not broken 1:40. (IE, somewhere b/t a 1:39:59 and 1:40:05)
Run Fast, Run hard and Leave nothing on the table: given a few days to think about it, I’m not sure what to think. I’d like to think I could have shaved off a few seconds each mile by running with the 1:40 group. I’d like to think I would have PR’ed and gone under 1:40 by running with them. In fact, I know I could have.
I was a bit inconsistent with my pace, and all in all, started off a bit slow in the beginning. Heck, even the first half of the race. The following graph is my elevation and pace for the race. Red is elevation, blue is pace. X-axis is time, Y-axis is elevation and pace.
And really, that inconsistency was my own fault. Not having a baseline to compare against. Not knowing whether I could hold that pace or not. Hell, I did some simple math on the last 3.1 miles of this race – the time combined for that 5K portion = my Tulsa 5K time back in November. I grossly underestimated what I was capable of (or have improved slightly) in the ~2 months since then.
But in the end, shoulda woulda coulda doesn’t mean anything. I ran hard and fast, but didn’t quite leave it all on the table until the end.
I’m happy with my time, but not satisfied. Could I have done better? Yes. How much better? A minute? Two? I don’t know. I accomplished my true purpose at 3M though – to use it as a benchmark to see where I am currently at.
Next race? RnR New Orleans Half in two weeks. Racing halves so close together doesn’t give any real room for improvement, other than whatever this race did to benefit me. My only concern is a full recovery in two weeks, which should happen. (1 day of recovery for every mile raced, as a general rule of thumb)
In the end – I’m confident a PR will happen at NOLA. I know (approximately) where my limits are and what I think I’m truly capable of now. I know tempo runs are in order to help with lactate threshold and get me “comfortable” running hard again. Happy to be healthy again. Happy to be running again. Happy to see how the rest of winter/spring training plays out. Happy that you are (hopefully) reading this.