I raced the 2015 Austin Half Marathon in Austin, Texas on Sunday, February 15. It was the most challenging half marathon I have ever done - more challenging than Cesar Rodney in 2012. Why was it challenging?
Hills. Humidity. Heat.
Well, it wasn't *hot*, but it was about 55 degrees at the start and warmed up even more. I'm not used to that kind of weather. The hills on the course were relentless, and I completely underestimated them. They don't call it Hill Country for nothing! And race day was very humid. Add to those conditions, I had a kind of angry belly. Things weren't 100% right and I'm not sure why. But the race is what it is, and I'm glad I did it and really glad I finished. This picture of me at the finish pretty much sums up the effort.
My race plan was to run the first mile at 8:20, then miles 2-6 at 8:10-8:12, then miles 7-8 at 8:00 and then go by feel and either hang on or really put the hammer down and race. Obviously, that didn't happen.
Mile 1: 8:28
Mile 2: 8:27
Mile 3: 8:19
Miles 1-3 were up a pretty steady, but not too punishing grade, hill. Mile 1 was also really crowded. I didn't worry much at this point about my paces being slower than the plan - I had to take the hill into account, and that definitely slowed me down. I figured I could make up some time on the next few miles, which appeared to be all downhill.
Mile 4: 8:17
Mile 5: 7:48
Mile 6: 8:01
And I did. I was able to let it go a bit and coast down some of the hills. Even though I was heading down a hill, around mile 5, I just felt off - I wasn't at the top of my running game and I could feel it. I wasn't enjoying the race. I wasn't enjoying my music. I was just running.
Mile 7: 8:18
Mile 8: 8:29
Miles 7 and 8 were supposed to be fast - like 8:00 miles. It wasn't happening. There were some hills here (because hills were everywhere!) and I would lose steam. I realized at this point that I wasn't going to hit the time that I really wanted unless I pushed super hard. I had to make a decision: I could either really race and push myself to the limit or I could continue as is and treat this as another training run. I did a sort of systems check of my body and determined that the latter was a better idea. My stomach wasn't right, my breathing was a bit labored and my legs were not feeling very fresh or strong. I listened to my gut (uh, kind of literally) and decided to scale back. I thought that if I held on to mid to low 8s, I could come close to beating my current PR. This picture was taken around mile 8 of the course. Not a happy runner.
Mile 9: 9:01
Mile 10: 9:04
Ba boom. I haven't seen a 9 minute mile pace in a half marathon in a long time. I was not happy when I did here, but I also could feel myself slowing. There were hills again in these miles - pretty steep ones. This is the point in the race when I took it mile by mile. Around mile 9, I wanted to stop running and walk. And then I turned myself into Nikki from Save the Last Dance and got all up in my own face and was like NO and turned on my resting runner bitch face ...
and refused to let myself walk. I told myself to get to the next mile and see how I felt. So I did. I hit mile 10 and felt OK - not great, not awful. I told myself just get to mile 11.
Mile 11: 8:43
Mile 12: 8:56
Mile 13: 8:51
Even in sparkles, I wasn't very sparkly. I felt a little better in the last three miles - mainly because I knew it was almost over and I knew I could do anything for 2 miles. I looked at my watch, did the math and knew hitting under, at or near my PR wasn't happening. I also knew hitting under 1:50 wasn't happening. I did figure out that unless something crazy happened, I would at least finish under 2:00.
I came around the bend and saw my friend and her daughter - seeing their faces gave me a huge boost to finish strong and fast. And to do what I do best: react with an incredibly and impossibly dorky smile and wave.
And then back to business. I am looking at my watch with contempt and disdain.
But this smile after the finish is actually real because I was so so so happy that the race was done! And the photographer was hilarious.
I feel a little bratty, but I'm just not thrilled with this race. I know that's part of the sport - I'm not always going to PR, and there will be really tough races where I walk away feeling a little defeated. I'll mope a bit and then move on.
But my time in Austin was terrific! I stayed with my friend, her husband (who ran the full marathon) and their daughter and they were wonderful, gracious hosts. I got to hang out with other friends in Austin as well, which was wonderful. And ... look at this weather.
I drank beer and ate yummy food with friends at the Hula Hut outside along the water! In February!
I went to a bar that had tons of specialty, house made donuts and got one with cream cheese filling, fruit on top and cream cheese frosting! And then had a Texas IPA! !!
The trip was really wonderful. And I think I'd like to run Austin again. Now I'm prepared for the course.
Next up is the Ambler Frostbite Five Miler in two weeks. And at the end of March is the Love Run half marathon. I've done both of those races before, so I can get a real apples-to-apples comparison to past performance and see how I'm doing.
See you swoon,