3M Half Marathon
I hadn't trained much in the mere two weeks between the RunTex 20-miler and the 3M Half Marathon. Sounds like a recurring theme of these notes, doesn't it? Sometimes I wonder how much better I could be if I would stick to training.
The 3M Half Marathon is a point-to-point marathon that starts up at Gateway (North Austin) and finishes downtown. So that means that overall, there are more downhills than uphills. Makes for a fast course. In the Decker Challenge Half Marathon, I finished in 1:19:01, which is just a bit slower than a six minute mile pace. Of course, that was a hillier course and it wasn't a downhill point-to-point. My goal for this one was to hold a six minute mile pace throughout, which would have me finish in around 1:18:30.
The race started at 7:00 AM. Before the sun came up. In January. Could you pick a colder time of year or time of day? Nevertheless, my faithful driver Peyton woke up early with me and took me there, took all the clothes I shed right at the start line for me, and after the start, drove downtown to meet me at the finish line.
There was some light on the horizon by the time the thing started. Still very cold though. This was a much more popular event than any of the previous four, so I wasn't able to be right at the front this time. Instead, I was a few rows back. The wheelchairs started, and five minutes later, we were off.
Since I was about six rows back from the front, I wasn't sure who to pace off of. Normally, I'm in the first or second row and I know to let a few people get away from me, but not to get passed from behind easily. This time, I figured someone in front of me was slower and I'd have to pass a few in the first mile as I establish my pace. I don't normally run 6:00 miles though, so it would be hard to do it by feel. I started just getting behind big bodies, and if I got bored or it didn't feel hard, I'd pass and go to the next one.
At one mile, my time was 5:54. Perfect. Just ahead of the 6:00 pace I want. I tried staying with the same few people for the next mile. At mile 2, my time was 12:20-something. WTF?!? Did I really run the second mile 30 seconds slower than the first? I immediately picked it up.
Somewhere between miles 3 and 4, I saw a really tall guy ahead of me holding a solid pace. I turned it on and it took me about a half mile just to catch him. When I finally did, I was beat and wondered if I could hold his pace. I told myself that catching him (running faster than him) was what made me tired, and if I merely hold his pace, and draft off him on top of that, it'll be much easier.
Somewhere after mile 4, a guy I'd passed about a mile ago started drafting off me. The three of us held a solid pace for the next 4-5 miles or so, right around 5:55. With every mile I was giving myself a bigger and bigger buffer to play with and still finish with a 6:00 mile pace.
Between miles 8 and 10 were some good hills that seemed to come out of nowhere. The lucky thing was that I've biked on those roads before and knew what those hills were made of. If I hadn't been mentally prepared and didn't know where they'd get steeper or actually end, it might've thrown me off pace, maybe for good.
Right before mile 10, the taller guy I was with fell off pace. At mile 10 exactly, we turned onto Duval from 51st and started heading outh. I knew it'd be downhill all the way from here, and it would end at 15th street. Just 36 streets to go. The guy in front of me picked up his pace just a little with the downhill. I was tempted to let him go. Told myself I was too close to the finish to let up now. Whatever pain and fatigue comes, I can put up with it for what'll be less than 20 minutes.
I stayed with the guy through the end of Duval until we were spit out onto San Jacinto, where it flattened out again. On one of the curves before 24th, I moved to the side of the guy and turned it up a bit. I heard him grunt a few words of encouragement and grinned. Turned it up a little more. Now just hold this for ten minutes. Just a mile and a half more.
Started passing people that were running out of gas. By the time we got through campus, I had three more behind me. Saw one more ahead in a red shirt, only he was still at a steady pace. Not sprinting for the finish, but not slowing down either. I tried speeding up a little. Could I catch him?
With the finish in sight, probably a 1/4 mile away, I caught him. Once he knew I was there, he sped up. I went to an all-out sprint. He topped it. I just said "Take it man," and let up just a bit, still running hard, but not as hard as I could. About 100 m later, he was still only maybe 5 m in front of me. Well, do you want to beat me or not? I went to an all-out sprint again and beat him to the finish line. Chip time: 1:16:42, almost two minutes better than I'd hoped for.
After a banana, two cookies, two breakfast tacos, a sample smoothie, and a powerade (all free!), we finally saw results. Looked like I'd come in 45th overall, and 1st in my age group. Sweet! We hung around a while for awards. When they finally came out, it showed that I was actually 6th in my age group. Must've read the thing wrong earlier.
One race to go in the Austin Distance Challenge. The Austin Marathon. I'm right where I want to be in the standings, but the Austin Marathon represents 30% of your score. And anything can happen in a marathon. The few minutes of lead I have over a few key people could be made up easily. It's gonna take a good race to do what I wanna do. And it'll take some good training in the next few weeks to make it happen.