Thursday, February 21, 2008

Austin Half Marathon

I ran my first half marathon (13.1 miles) on Sunday. I have been training for it since the end of October. I have been really excited about it for the past couple of weeks. Jeff and I got to Austin on Saturday afternoon and the weather was awful, cold, windy, and raining, and the forecast for Sunday wasn’t looking much better. We went to pick up my packet, with my race number and timing chip, and check out the expo, lots of cool free samples of food and stuff, advertisements for other races, lots of running clothes and shoes on sale, etc. We checked in to the hotel and had dinner at Panera and coffee at Motzart’s, then we drove part of the course, it was the hilliest part, some of the hills were super steep, but I was glad we drove it so at least I’d know what to expect tomorrow. We went back to the hotel and I planned what to wear, the forecast was looking better at this point (about 45 for a low and 60’s or so for a high), and Jeff was mapping out the points where he could meet me and cheer me on. He came up with 4 points to see me, start, mile 5, mile 12, and the finish. I told him that at mile 12, I’d probably be hurting and tired, but even if I didn’t seem happy, I’d be happy to have him cheering me on especially at that point. I actually slept pretty well the night before the race, which is rare for me.

We got up at 4:45 on race morning. I decided to wear shorts instead of long tights, I’d be cold at the start, but more comfortable in the middle and at the end. So I wore shorts, a short sleeved thin tech shirt and a thicker long sleeved tech shirt over it. This was perfect for me. I was a little cold the first couple miles but once I warmed up I was fine. I thought about taking off the long sleeved shirt a couple times, but I never got warm enough to bother with actually doing it. I ate a cranberry orange muffin from Panera and a banana on the way to the race.

The race start was really interesting, there were 14,000 people running the race! The bigger triathlons I’ve done have had maybe 800 people at the most, so this was definitely different. But the organizers did a great job, I think I only waited in line for the restroom for about 5 minutes and other lines during the day went really fast too. We got to the race early enough to park, but then had to wait around for about an hour. When the race was about to start I handed Jeff my warm clothes and lined up near the 5:00 marathon pace group. The gun went off along with lots of cool fireworks! The fast runners line up right by the starting line and slower runners line up further back, so I figured it would take about 10-15 minutes for me to cross the starting line, it only took 6 minutes! It was so exciting! Everyone running was cheering and all the people watching were cheering too! The best part of the first couple miles was coming down a slight hill you could see the first big hill ahead and all the people in front, it’s just amazing to see over 10,000 people running like that. Jeff got a really good picture.

You can see the Texas capital in the background here.

This is Jeff's picture of the start, it's a cool picture, but it looked WAY cooler in person!

I was hoping to finish somewhere around 2:45, so I wanted to run the first 9 miles at about a 2:30 pace (11:45 minutes per mile) because I knew the last 4 miles would be tough especially with all those steep hills. My first 2 miles were a little slower, mostly just because there were so many people and it was a little hard to get around people sometimes. I had planned to take a 1 minute walking break every mile to give my legs a rest. The first few miles I really had to FORCE myself to take the walking breaks, I was so excited and felt so good, I just wanted to keep running! But I knew the walking breaks would help keep my legs strong for the tough miles toward the end. Somewhere between miles 3 and 5 I caught up to my 2:30 pace. There was a band playing at every mile and a water stop at every mile. The bands were all entertaining, I’m not sure they were all good, but I appreciated all of them, they just made the race more fun. I stopped for water at mile 4, had an energy gel and some water and kept going. I was really having fun by this point, the weather was beautiful and the race atmosphere was awesome! I saw Jeff at mile 5 and he surprised me by coming over to a spot just past mile 6 also! Somewhere between mile 6 and 7 the blister that has been bothering me (I got it 2 weeks ago on a long run and it just hasn’t completely healed yet) started to rub. It wasn’t bad so I just ignored it and hoped it wouldn’t get worse.

Jeff saw this Great Dane puppy at mile 5, he's only 10 weeks old and his name is Nike!

At mile 8 I stopped again for gel and water. I still felt great but this was the point where I expected it to get tougher, and the blister was hurting more. So far I was still at my 2:30 pace so I was really happy about that. Mile 9 is where the steeper hills started, I was doing fine and planned my walking breaks to fall on some of the steeper sections. At mile 10 I stopped at the aid station and put a band aid on the blister, it helped a little but after about .5 miles it slid around on my sweaty foot so it didn’t help much.

Between miles 10 and 12 I didn’t pay as much attention to my pace, just did the best I could, some of the hills were really steep. At this point I was still feeling good, but I was really looking forward to the walking breaks. I stopped for water at mle 11. At one point you could see a really steep hill ahead and a guy behind me shouted “don’t look up! Look at your feet! Whatever you do, don’t look up!” That made me laugh. I was really glad we drove this part of the course the night before so I knew to expect the steep hills. I was still feeling great, which surprised me because at this point in all my training runs I felt tired and sore. When I saw Jeff at mile 12 I yelled “I feel great! This is so much fun!” Later, Jeff told me he had a bottle of water to give me at that point, but I was “too busy telling him how great I felt” to even notice.

I really tried to speed up at this point because I thought I had climbed the last hill and it should be downhill to the finish, I really didn’t know what my time would be but I was thinking I might finish at about 2:35 if I really pushed. But there was one last hill just before turning onto the finishing stretch, I walked part of it so I could finish faster. I ran toward the finish as fast as I could and crossed the line and felt great! My time was 2:32:17! I was hoping for a 2:30 half marathon at some point, but I knew it wouldn’t happen at my first or in Austin with the hills, so to come so close to 2:30 is really cool!

This is just a few feet before the finish!

Yay! The Finish!!!

After the race, I got my medal, some water, my t-shirt and took care of that blister. I checked out some of the festivities and found Jeff. We had to get back to the hotel so I could shower before we had to check out. On our way to the car we ran into Frank, a diving friend who we haven’t seen in years! We knew he was running and Jeff saw him on the course, but out of 14,000 people we figured we’d never see him. So we talked with him for a few minutes then headed back to the hotel. We had lunch at the Hula Hut, a Mexican food place right on Town Lake, the food was great and we got to sit outside, which was cool because it turned out to be such a nice day.

Click on this link to see my "official" race pictures.

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