That seems like a lot when I write them all down at once. I’ve been having a fair amount of right ankle pain (almost entirely when I’m not running) and I’m not doing a very good job of balancing resting & healing that vs training. The good news is the IT band trouble I had with my left leg seems to have resolved itself.
Texas was colder than I thought it would be. I did not bring a long sleeve shirt with me – clearly this was a mistake. I’m down here to run the Austin Marathon – following, a brief recap.
Woke at 2am. Too early. Woke at 3am. Much better. I do not want for sleep the morning of a race. I can sleep later. YJP does not share this worldview, a fact I learn at 3:30am when she tells me to go away.
We have a rough plan to leave at 5am & be at the race site at 5:30. Stepping outside, I’m sure I can see my breath. I cannot get independent verification of this fact. I’m guessing she wouldn’t humor me just because she’s grumpy in the morning.
We park right off the interstate in downtown Austin, maybe four blocks from the capitol building. The start is north of the structure, the gear check to the south, by the finish. The problem here is without sleeves, dropping my thin jacket at gear check leaves me exposed. I compromise and retain my gloves.
There aren’t starting corrals for Austin. YJP & I have decided to start together, as we did for Baltimore. She humors me by moving up – we find a spot a dozen yards behind the 3:40 pace group. I briefly contemplate hiding my gloves in the bushes here but eye contact with a state trooper makes me change my mind. They’ll come along.
The star spangled banner, a press forward, and we’re off. The timing of the start is perfect, with early sunlight starting to hit the tips of the taller downtown structures.
The first few miles are spent winding around downtown. At mile 2 we cross the Congress St bridge (aka Bat Bridge) and begin a two mile climb south. This street is fascinating – keep Austin weird is a city motto and the businesses here fully embrace this ethic. I have no idea what any of them sell but I’m guessing retro lava lamps.
I’m running the hill with the 3:35 pace group. The leaders all are wearing cat in the hat headgear and are exhorting the crowd to cheer for them (the crowds obliges, which is actually kinda nice). I hadn’t planned to run this fast and wonder if I could run the whole distance with these guys.
At 5.5 we make a turn over and begin the descent back to the river. Here I pick up speed and leave the 3:35s behind. My GPS shows I was running in the 7:30s for this part of the course – this is closer to my half-marathon speed, not something I can sustain for the full.
At the half-marathon mark I’m across at 1:45:41, a decent pace, 8:04 per mile. I don’t calculate this average until later – had I I would have most certainly thougt it was too fast. For the next few miles after the half mark I follow behind a group of four people that I eventually learn are with Gilbert’s Gazelles, an Austin running group. The oldest dude here knows everyone along the course, random people along both sides of the course shout out to him from behind fences and BBQs. It’s pretty cool.
YJP and I had talked through the second half of the course the night before, which was far more helpful than me reading it solo. Maybe it’s auditory recall that helps. Regardless, I know two facts. At mile 18.5 I’ll be as far away from downtown as we’ll get, and at 19 it’s all downhill from that. The former turns out to be true, the latter not so much.
I’m struggling a bit at 18 and am worried about fuel. I take a half banana from a lady on the right of the course and a twizzler from two girls on the right. I pass up oranges everywhere – the acid of citrus holds no appeal to me. I’ve finished two of my three Gu’s and no more are forthcoming on the course which makes me nervous.
The hills beyond 19 are not large, but they are dispiriting. Since I dropped the 3:35s at mile six I’ve been telling myself I just need to build enough cushion between myself and them so that if I struggle later, the downhill will be my saving grace. Unfortunately this plan doesn’t work – I can hear them coming before they steamroll me at 21.5. I’m running 8:20 miles here, eight seconds off their pace, and won’t be able to regain them.
At 23 though, I turn a corner, taking my last gu. It really is almost all downhill from here, and by some magic I’m able to keep the 3:35s in sight. I know I started behind them at the beginning, so on some level am aware I can finish behind them and still be under their pace time.
The last mile is surprisingly desolate. I drop my headphones and focus on not breaking myself. On cue I have left calf & thigh twinges, threats of muscles that are contemplating seizure. This had happened a couple times before (the threat, not the follow through), and luckily enough that eventuality can wait for another day.
Crowds started to build around 25.5. I’m aware that YJP & her friends are likely here somewhere but I can’t see them, can’t focus on the crowd when I hear someone shouting at me. An unofficial pacer who ha been running nearby for the last mile exhorts his runner enthusiastically – at the second to last bend a race official escorts him off the course. We needed him, dude!
But there it is. Last hill, corner, corner, finish. Final time, 3:34:10, an 8:10 split and new marathon PR for me. I’m paces behind the 3:35 group and hear one of the girls in that group tell the pacer that she qualified for Boston with his help, this almost makes me cry in the moment. I’m still a long way from that myself, I’ll have to knock almost a minute per mile off my pace to get down to 3:10 that men my age need to run, but there’s such an odd feeling of possibility – this goal is simultaneously unfathomable and completely achievable. Two years ago I could not have thought I could run a marathon through with strength, one year ago I had never broken 4 hours or run a marathon under 9:00 minute splits yet here I am. I can’t run a 7:15 pace for a marathon yet, but in the bigger sense I know I can do it, it is possible, I am on a trajectory that will take me there. It’s an achieveable goal.
Post race is blur. I stumble through grinning deliriously and find my people. Reclaim bag & phone and drink some water. The finish line band is The Derailers playing to mostly empty tables in the middle of an empty street. We rest a while and progress onward for beers and other less important calories.
I’m short on miles this week which is probably for the best given the Austin Marathon is a week from today. Our little blizzard (Nemo!) forced an extra day off yesterday and made today’s run into a bit of a sloppy challenge at times. I had a slight ankle roll over on the Cambridge side but I think I’ll be ok. Tapering down this week in terms of miles & intensity, will be flying to Texas this Friday.
Song of the week, How to Live Alone by the Pernice Brothers. Not any sort of official video but I like this guy’s dogs.
I was up early for a pre-Superbowl race in Cambridge this morning, at the Super Sunday 5. I ran this race last year and had a great time so came back out this time around. Last year the Pats were in the game and their win was supposed to cap the day – this year the game was of no importance to me so the race was pretty much the highlight. It was cold again but this time around, snowing fairly heavily at the start. I texted Hondo that I wasn’t going to push the pace since the footing was likely bad – she said that was ok. Somehow having permission to be slow is freeing. The footing ended up being just fine.
Five miles is an interesting distance – long enough to catch a grove and short enough to burn a little anaerobic at the end. It’s probably the most common distance I train on outdoors, as it’s the exact distance from my house up around the BC reservoir back to Harvard Ave. My best prior time at the distance was a 34:32 at the Ring Around the Neck in Marblehead last summer. Today I was able to go considerably under that at 33:25, a 6:41 pace. So a new 5mi PR, and at the fastest pace I’ve run in any race to date. I placed 78th overall (of 1187), or 21st of 172 in my age group. So not quite top 10% of the group, but getting there.
Maybe the best part though was Team HB (including the two little dudes) came down to cheer at the finish, and we met up after with the ex-Walthamites for brunch at the Cambridge Brewing Company. Cheers to Superbowl Sunday day-drinking & the Super Sunday 5! I’ll hopefully get to run it again next year.
Mileage this week was good, just over 40 where I’d like it to be. Only two more weeks until the Austin Marathon, almost time to taper.
I had a big (for me) race this week – the Boston Prep 16. Last year VK ran this with me but this year he’s too busy having a baby or whatnot so I drove up to Derry alone. It was bitter cold but I wore my new black longsleeve top which has some magic flocking inside it so I was pretty much alright once we got moving. My water did freeze near the end of the race though, which was unfortunate.
This course is fairly hilly, or “moderately challenging“, but I like it. Next time I’ll remember that mile 9 has a particularly wicked turn up a hill – pretty much 9 through 12 was up up up but the last few were fast. You can see the turn I’m talking about above – three quarters of the way through where the green line of my pace takes a dive and the blue line climbs in elevation – that’s a serious hill at 10 1/2, the 9 mile hill is just prior to that. Regardless, I ended with a 2:02:39 (a 7:40 split), some 7+ minutes faster than I ran last year. It’s not exactly a fair comparison but for context my half marathon PR split is 7:18 and my marathon PR split is 8:13 so this was comfortably in the middle of those two. I came in 116th overall (of 555) and 24th of 66 in my age/sex group. From these numbers it’s clear that the folks who are motivated enough to run this particular race are a little more serious than many of the others I do.
Mileage this week was pretty decent. Austin Marathon is three weeks from today.
Song of the week, 1940 by The Submarines. Very motivational when this song kicks on in my long run mix.
The Pats lost in the AFC championship today to the Ravens, of all teams. But that’s ok because YJP & CNHB joined me for a good portion of today’s long run which was a decidedly good thing. Four weeks til Austin and the Livestrong Marathon.
Song of the week, Got Some by Pearl Jam (“new stuff”, circa 2009).
I was very sick last Monday so didn’t get any miles in until Wednesday of this week. It’s tough for me to hit my goal of 40 starting the week with two days off. That said, I’m supposed to be resting to let my ankle & IT band heal so I’m not too upset with going low for a second week in a row.
There’s just over two months until my next big race, the Livestrong Austin Marathon. Perhaps it time to starting thinking about a training plan for that. But first, five weeks until Ragnar Key West. I put in my requests for my leg choices today (3, 2 or 4) – it’ll be interesting to see how that works out.
Song of the week, Quelqu’un m’a dit by the former first lady of France, Carla Bruni.