I woke up Saturday morning and headed out for my long run with my pace group before hitting the road for Austin. It was muggy and in the high 60’s; crappy running weather. The unexpected humidity made me really anxious for the half marathon the next day. I knew a cold front was supposed to be coming in, but I was starting to fear it might not come in until after the race. After my run, I headed home to shower up and kiss Nick goodbye for the night. His brother was supposed to come in for the night and they were going to do computer/app development stuff (geek-fest), but his brother, who works for an airline and was on standby, wasn’t able to make it out. It worked out just as well, because Nick came down with a bug and he looked so miserable when I kissed him goodbye. I felt bad leaving him, but I knew he’d probably be asleep pretty much the entire time I was gone. I hit the road and drove right into a torrential downpour for the first hour of the drive. It was that hard rain that makes it hard to see 3 feet in front of you. Miserable. I even questioned turning around and going home, with fear that the entire drive would be this bad, but eventually it let up and I made it the rest of the way to Austin fairly rain-free. After picking up my bib, I headed to my hotel, the Staybridge Suites, which was both right next to the start line and the same exact hotel I stayed in with my mom when we took a trip to Austin together a few years ago.
RACE DAY WEATHER
Around 9 PM I heard the wind start to pick up. I was checking the weather every 20 minutes or so to see if the temperature was dropping yet or not. (It was about 75 degrees in Austin when I arrived). By the morning it definitely cooled down. Without the windchill, it was in the 40’s, but the wind was still very strong.
Even though my Accuweather app says it was in the 30’s, I’d say, standing in the gusts, it was closer to the 20’s. Burr cold! The wind, about 15 miles per hour, was coming out of the North. Being a point-to-point race running mostly south, we’d have the wind to our backs, helping push us along. It was still dark out when the race started (6:45 AM), but as the sun came up, I observed that it was mostly cloudy for a majority of the race, with the sun breaking through once I hit mile 9 or 10.
FEELINGS GOING INTO THE RACE
Unlike the New Year’s Day race, I felt much more prepared and really excited about this race. I wasn’t looking forward to the 6-hour round trip drive to Austin, but other than that, I was eager to experience this race.
MEALS BEFORE THE RACE
After checking into my hotel, I headed over to Whole Foods to pick up a packet of Justin’s Almond Butter for the morning. (I figured the hotel wouldn’t have any peanut butter out, despite having some early morning goodies for the runners.) Then I walked over to North By Northwest to pick up dinner. I got the Vegetable Whole-Wheat Fettucini. Initially I was going to eat there, but then I decided to get it to go and eat it back at the hotel.
Dinner was good, but pretty rich! On race morning, I got up, got dressed and headed down to the lobby of the hotel, where there was a basket of breakfast items out for all the runners checked in for the weekend. I grabbed a plain bagel and banana and headed back to my room. Being an extended-stay-type hotel, my room had a little kitchen with a toaster. I toasted half of the bagel, spread some of my almond butter on it and topped it off with some banana slices.
It was a little different from my normal race day breakfast, but it was close enough.
WHAT I WORE
As usual, I had my Brooks Glycerine running shoes, and ProKinetics insoles. I also wore my thick pink Smartwool socks and my white cheap-o Target/Champion sports bra (all the same as the past two races… I swear, I have other socks and sports bras, but the socks are perfect for cold days and this sports bra is the only one that I don’t have to worry about chafing in.) I also wore my Nike thermal leggings. For my top, I wore my favorite long-sleeve shirt; a white Nike dry-fit shirt. I also wore a my blue Nike dry-fit zip-up over that. I questioned if I should wear the zip-up or not. Chances were, I’d get hot, but by the end of the New Years Day half, I was pretty cold, and since the temperature was going to be similar, I took my chances and wore the zip-up anyway. I did end up getting hot, but I just pushed the sleeves up and that helped me cool down. I also wore a pair of throw-away gloves, which I took off by mile 2.
I debated whether or not to take my water bottle with me or not. I left the little water bottles that go on my fuel belt at home as well as my Camelbak, but I did bring my hand-held water bottle (or as Nick likes to call it, the water bottle with its own backpack). In the end, I decided to ditch the water bottle and just rely on the water stops. I knew whatever way I went (with or without the water bottle), I’d regret my decision. I’d hate the “extra weight” if I had it on me and I’d hate not having instant water without it. No-win situation.
As I mentioned before, this is a point-to-point race. We started in the northern part of town, at the Arboretum. I should clarify, the Austin Arboretum is not what you’d think of when you hear the word, Arboretum. No flowers or gardens or anything like that. It’s a tech part of town that caters to business travelers who stay for weeks at a time. Anyway, back to the race. The course generally traveled south for the 13.1 miles, leading to the Capitol building.
One of the great draws to this race is that it is a mostly down-hill race, with a 4.5 m/km drop.
This is the course elevation map that is on the 3M Half Marathon race website. Obviously it is a rough outline of the elevation. The land wasn’t THAT straight!
THE RACE ORGANIZATION
The 3M Half Marathon is sponsored by 3M; shocking news, right!? Packet pickup and expo were held on the Friday and Saturday before the race.
The expo was pretty small, with maybe 20 vendors.
Having driven straight from Dallas to the expo, I wasn’t too interested in sticking around at the expo very long, but I did walk by all the booths to see if there was anything worth really checking out. Nothing stood out to me. Being sponsored by 3M, the goody bag has become famous! It was loaded with all kinds of 3M products: tape, glue, shammies, ankle brace, etc.
Basically, it was full of a lot of random stuff that you wouldn’t normally expect in a race packet, and even though it wasn’t stuff I was dying to get my hands on, it all was useful stuff. The race itself was capped at 7,000 participants, all running the half marathon distance. I don’t believe the event sold out, but it came close with 6,400 or so participants. The morning of the race, I headed from my hotel to the start line, carrying my bag check bag. The bag check was a fun little system. Basically, they had about 6 school buses all lined up, each representing a range of bib numbers. I went to my designated school bus and handed the person my bag through the window in the side of the bus. At the end of the race, the same bus was waiting and I picked up my bag through the same window from the same person. I meandered my way over to the race corral. I noticed there weren’t any seeded/staggered corrals. Rather, there were signs with estimated finish times. I went to the 2:00 sign and hoped for the best! There was lots of music; an announcer giving plenty of information about time left before the start, weather, etc; and loads of water. Throughout the race, there were lots of volunteers aiding with directions, water/Gatorade stops, and officers controlling auto traffic. At the end of the race, again, lots of volunteers handing out space blankets and medals. My overall impression of the race organization was awesome. Being the 19th year of this race, I can tell 3M has their system down!
The crowd support was awesome for this race! I was surprised at just how many people were out cheering the runners on, especially with having such an early start on a cold, windy day! I didn’t notice people handing out miscellaneous food or drinks in this race, unlike the Dallas Marathon, but I also wasn’t really looking for it either, so those people may have been there and I just didn’t notice them. The volunteers at the water stops were great and the flow through these stops went well (unlike the first part of the Dallas Marathon). The crowd support at mile 12 was over the top, almost annoying. A bunch of girls (probably in their 20’s) were cheering runners on. They were super peppy, which was fine, but the annoying part is they took over nearly half of the street, causing runners to move over. That annoyed me!
I planted myself right next to the 2:00 sign at the start of the race, hoping to pace with the 2:00 pace leaders.
I couldn’t find the 2:00 pace leaders, but figured they had to be close by and I’d see them eventually.
At 6:45 AM, the race began. It was still dark out and for the first little stretch, we were running North, straight into the wind. Still no sign of the 2:00 pace leaders. I did spot the 1:55 pace leaders and stayed fairly close to them for the first couple of miles. I didn’t spend a ton of time looking at my Garmin those first couple of miles, but I figured if 1:55 was in sight, then 2:00 must be somewhere behind me.
Before the race started, I talked to two Austinites who were familiar with the race and had run it before. One said it was flat, which I knew wasn’t true based on the elevation map, and the other said it was a gradual decline. From the elevation map, my first guess would be that this is seriously a down-hill race. Even looking at my official Garmin elevation, I still would have thought the same thing, but the second person was right. It was more of a gradual downhill race. It was that kind of down-hill that you only notice when you are running up it. For a comparison to all the Dallas runners, it is like running down Swiss Ave compared to running up it. You only notice the elevation going in one direction. There were a few small uphill points along the way, which made the elevation map provided by the race seem even more deceiving.
Around mile 3.5 we turned and headed west on a nice, noticeably downhill stretch. However, this turn put us back into the wind. Even though it was a significant decline at this point, it still felt like a struggle to run through the wind. But we quickly turned under the highway and had the wind to our backs again.
Soon we were in the residential neighborhoods. Normally on my long runs with my pace group, I spend a lot of time looking at the houses as we run through the residential neighborhoods, but I barely noticed the houses on this run. At about mile 6, I took my first Gatorade Energy Chew. Immediately after, I heard a spectator yell, “Woohoo 2:00!” The 2:00 pace leaders were right on my butt. By this point, I’d been watching my Garmin and thought I was roughly halfway between 1:55 and 2:00. I hadn’t had many miles over 9’00”, so I figured 2:00 (which is an average pace of 9’09”) was a ways behind me. I turned my head and sure enough, they were right there. How the heck is that possible, I thought to myself. I sprinted ahead. At this point I was determined to not let them beat me. A half a mile later they were right by my side again. Damn them!!! I gave in this time and ran right beside them as my watch continued to buzz at well under 9’09”. UGH! The Gatorade Energy Chew left me craving liquid so I took my first water/Gatorade stop at the 7.5 mile stop. This is when I lost the 2:00 pace group. I quickly walked through the stop, taking in some liquid, then picked back up again.
One of my favorite parts of having a really good race is doing the math. I spend a lot of time looking at my watch and thinking, “even if I slow way down now, I will still PR.” That is an awesome feeling. I started doing this somewhere around mile 8 or so. I also spent a lot of time thinking about how the heck the 2:00 pace group passed me. There was no way they were going 9’09” the entire time. In fact for the short spurt that I was with them, the two pace leaders were saying their pace was 8’45”. Damn you!! You aren’t supposed to beat me!!
I took a longer water/Gatorade break at mile 9.5. I walked right up to the beginning of the water stop and walked to the last trash can. I wasn’t particularly tired, so I don’t know why I took so long at the water stop, but I took my time guzzling liquid down. And then I was off again.
At mile 10.5 I took my second and last Gatorade Energy Chew and at mile 11 I enjoyed the last water stop, but went through it much quicker than the mile 9.5 stop. I kept playing the math/watch game in my head. Even if I slow WAY, WAY down now, I’ll still PR.
Mile 12 brought two killer hills. Actually, scratch that, it was one MEGA GINORMOUS hill with a small plateau in the middle. So for Dallas runners to compare it to, it’s basically like running up Flag Pole Hill, having a super short plateau and then running up Flag Poll Hill again. Major killer!! This is also where the annoying street-hogging spectators were. GRR! I made it over the hill, had a nice, small dip, then a small rolling hill and then a HUGE decline, followed by yet another incline (but not nearly as bad at the 12 mile hill) before the straight-away to the finish.
As I turned into the finish chute, I say the 2:0o pace leaders standing there, just feet from the finish line, waiving their 2:00 signs. WHAT THE HELL!!! How are they done before me. I was beyond irritated! I crossed the finish line, stopped my Garmin, grabbed a space blanket, and got my medal around my neck. I looked down at my watch and sure enough, I finished before 2 hours. All my 2:00 pace leader frustration went out the door. I’d set a new PR and finally, finally, finally broke 2:00!
Several hours later, when I was home, safe and sound, I checked to see what time those two pace leaders finished at. 1:59:46. They stood feet from the finish line for a few minutes before they actually crossed it. GRR. It still annoys me, but I’m trying to let it go.
Oh, and here is the elevation chart my Garmin produced so you can see the one from the race website was more of a rough estimate.
POST FOOD AND VENDORS
There was the usual bananas and oranges. HEB had a huge tent of recovery food, including the bananas and oranges, plus crackers with peanut butter and cookies. I took a banana and some peanut butter crackers for my drive home.
There were a few food trucks out at the finish line, but I didn’t even walk over there. After getting my bag-checked sweatshirt and my road trip snacks, I headed straight for the bus to take me back to the start line/hotel.
NO PAIN NO GAIN
I actually didn’t have much pain during this race. I had a couple of side stitches/cramps, but that’s normal and usually from my total dehydration. If anything, I’d say my feet were bothering me the most, but I think this was from the shoes I wore the day before, on my drive down to Austin. They support my arches oddly. (FYI, they are my grey Privo by Clarks.) Driving home was not fun and I got pretty achy in my lower back/hips. My hamstrings were particularly tight from this race, but other than that, I really didn’t have any post-race soreness and felt back to normal by Monday.
OTHER RANDOM THOUGHTS
I ran into a bunch of DRC people at this race; people I’d never met before, but either recognized or saw they were wearing a DRC shirt. It’s fun spotting out people from an organization you belong to!
Oh, I should also mention I ran without music for this race.
I might be biased now that this is my PR race, but I thought it was great! Well, minus the mile 12 road-hoggers and the -2:00 pace leaders. There were plenty of challenges along the way to make this race seem more difficult than a breeze, but running downhill most of the way, even if it is really gradual did have its perks! And having a strong wind on to my back for 90% of the race was also helpful! I’d totally run this race again. Hopefully I can rally up more people to go with me next time to make it even more fun! Between this race and the New Year’s Day race, this one is my favorite!
Bib Number: 4994
Division: Female 30-34
Official Chip Time: 1:59:08
Official Race Distance: 13.1 miles
Official Average Race Pace: 9’05”
Overall Rank: 1907 out of 4982
Sex Rank: 765 out of 2891
Division Rank: 151 out of 605
10k (6.2 Mile) Split: 56:06
Garmin Time: 1:59:10
Garmin Distance: 13.28 Miles
Garmin Average Pace: 8’59”
Mile 1: 9’04”
Mile 2: 8’50”
Mile 3: 8’58”
Mile 4: 8’55”
Mile 5: 8’53”
Mile 6: 9’03”
Mile 7: 8’44”
Mile 8: 9’05”
Mile 9: 8’52”
Mile 10: 9’18”
Mile 11: 9’00”
Mile 12: 9’04”
Mile 13: 8’57”
Mile 13.28: 8’50”