This one was kind of funny.
“Funny” in the sense that it was strange. I didn’t really follow my race plan but still managed to follow through on #sub1:17orbust and managed–by the skin of my teeth– to also meet my reach goal of sub-1:16. I’m still not too sure how I pulled that off because things got ugly towards the end of the race.
But let’s back up:
The night before the race was good. I had my usual pre-race veggie sandwich from Thundercloud and watched Villanova annihilate Oklahoma. I didn’t sleep very well but that’s typical for me before a goal race. And I got 9+ hours of sleep on Friday night.
This morning I got up at 6 AM and had coffee and one piece of sourdough toast with peanut butter and 1/2 a banana. I also had approximately 8 oz of water. The weather at the race start was sunny and around 50 degrees F. This will be relevant later on.
The start/finish are at The Domain. Since it’s a shopping area, I like that there’s ample parking but every single time I go to the Domain I get lost because all of the buildings look the same and there are lots of tiny roads and seemingly random walls and fences. For example, at the finish area I could see the lot where I’d parked my car but to actually get there I had to zig-zag around a bunch of buildings. When I finally got to my car someone who’d just parked came up to me and asked how to get to the finish line and all I could do was point in a general direction and tell him to listen for the race announcers.
I got to the race pretty early (7:15 AM for an 8:00 AM start) but after trying to find parking, trying to find the start line, and waiting for a port a potty I only had about 5 minutes for a warm up. This would have been more concerning for a shorter race. For this one, I just made a mental note to remember to get there super early in the future.
This race has corrals (1-10 plus an E for “elite” right at the front) based on the estimated finish time you provide during registration. I think I gave an estimated finish of 1:16:30, which put me in corral 1. I stayed toward the very back of the corral though– there are a LOT of paces between me and elite runners and I definitely didn’t want to get swept up with runners who are a lot faster than I am!
My original plan was to go out a bit faster than goal pace and “bank” time before the dreadful, uphill mile 9. However, I realized pretty quickly that 7:30 pace felt a bit too fast. So instead I focused on trying to stay under 7:40 for as long as could. (10 miles in 1:17:00 is about 7:42 pace, so an overall pace of 7:40 or faster would definitely mean a PR). The first 8 miles went pretty well. My legs felt a little sluggish in the first 2 miles, which may have been because my warm up was so short. Around mile 3 things started to click and I felt like I was keeping a good pace without checking my watch too much.
The website for this race says the course is “flat and fast”. It’s definitely faster than some of the other big races in Austin and there aren’t any huge hills but I wouldn’t call it flat. I felt like I spent most of the race running on gradual uphills or gradual downhills. I don’t like to check my watch when I’m running uphill– too demotivating!– but I did keep an eye on my pace on the downhills to make sure I wasn’t flying during the early miles. I think that hurt me during this race in 2014. Miles 1-8 were between 7:31 and 7:40 pace, so I’m pleased that I was able to run more consistent splits this year…at least until the last 2 miles.
I hit mile 8 in just under 61 minutes which, barring disaster, easily put me on track for a PR. The problems were that a) mile 9 is mostly a terrible gradual uphill in direct sun right next to the highway and b) I was starting to feel really tired. Some fatigue when I’m 80% done with a race is to be expected but today I was feeling woozy and a little dizzy and even thought I was seeing spots at one point. This has never happened to me during a race! I’d taken water at all of the water stations except the one by mile 6 that had water on one side and Gatorade on the other with unclear (or zero?) signage leading up to the stations, which of course meant I didn’t realize that the water was on the other side of the road until I’d run past all of the volunteers. I typically don’t take in any calories during anything shorter than a half marathon but clearly I need to work on my hydration and nutrition pre-race and during races a bit, especially if I’m running in warmer weather.
Needless to say, mile 9 was rough (7:54) but I managed to stay with a little group of two other women and one man I’d been running with for most of the race, so it felt good to know I wasn’t the only one who’d slowed down. There was a final water station right before the mile 9 marker where I grabbed some Gatorade. I was a bit nervous about drinking Gatorade during a race when I haven’t used it at all during training but I figured at that point I really needed the sugar and my stomach only had to hold it together for about 10 more minutes.
Mile 10 was another series of gradual uphills and downhills. I tried to really push it on the downhills here since I was so close to being done and I desperately wanted to stop running and sit on the side of the road as soon as possible. The finish line is basically a straight shot from the 15K (9.3 mile) mark and you can see it from the end of the street, which is very motivating but also really hard because 0.7 miles feels like a really long way to run when you’re so depleted.
I didn’t look at my watch at all during the last mile– all I cared about was being done, preferably in the very near future. I worked the downhills but felt super, super slow on the uphills, especially right before the finish. I did not have a finishing kick at all until I was about 15 feet from the finish line and saw that the clock was nearing 1:16:00 and somehow summoned the strength to push a little. My Garmin shows that my last mile was 7:24, which seems completely wrong given how slow I felt!
After finishing I got a bottle of water and a race medal and took my long awaited seat on a curb. After 3 minutes or so I managed to stand up, chat a bit with one of the women who’d been running near me, and head over to check my finish time. My Garmin had me at 1:15:57, the computer at the race had me at 1:15:58, but now the official results online say 1:15:57, so I’m sticking with that 🙂
1:15:57 is a 66 second PR, so I’m very happy with that. Thus far in 2016 I’ve knocked more than a minute off my 10 mile and half marathon PRs and I’ve stayed injury free. I’m very excited about this. My next two races are shorter (10Ks) and the rest of the late spring and summer should be pretty light on racing aside from maybe a 5K here and there. I do plan on maintaining more of an endurance base than I did last summer and I’ll definitely be using those long runs to experiment with different fueling options and hopefully avoid completely bonking in future races like I did today.