Brutal. That’s the only word I can use to describe the LIVESTRONG Half Marathon course. Where other races have rolling hills (or all downhill), Austin’s half course goes for long, endless, steep hills that suck the life out of any runner’s legs. But I was considering this race as just a training run for the Vermont Marathon, so no pressure. I just wanted to run 7 minute miles, which comes out to 1:31:46. Piece of cake…
Saturday night we had a great dinner party at a friend’s house. In preparation for a race, it wasn’t what one would consider ideal. But the food and wine were delicious and midnight came around quickly. My new running friends, Cristina and Robert, were picking me up at 6:15am. Ugh. I got picked up and we drove over to the start near the capitol building. My carpool buddies had their own goals to run sub-1:40, so we weren’t really going to be running together. Well, as we were lining up in the starting chute, they walked up towards the front with me and changed their goal to 7 minute miles also. We decided to hang near the 3:05 marathon pace group to stay consistent and not go out too fast.
Start – Mile 4
After a brief “go get ’em” speech from Lance Armstrong himself, we were sent on our way. Although there weren’t a ton of runners at the front, people were packed in pretty tight in the first mile. After a few quick turns downtown, on our way up a hill, a fellow runner inadvertently dropped an elbow onto my Garmin sending it flying across the pavement. I hopped over to find it shut off but otherwise intact. I turned it on and was on my way, but the time/distance were inaccurate. Also I lost sight of Cristina and Robert after the incident. I don’t actually know how long it took to run the first mile, but I do know the second mile was too fast in 6:44, even with a few downhills. Mile 3 was also too fast (6:53) with a long, steady uphill the whole way. I was starting to doubt the pace group’s ability to run a consistent race so I dropped back a little from the pace group to recover a bit from the blistering pace. I was also feeling the fatigue from the higher training mileage. And the hills. We were still early, but the hills were unkind the whole time. Mile 4 was a more appropriate, if not a little slow, 7:12.
Miles 5 – 9
At this point it’s just a matter of getting to Mile 5, which marks the end of the 3-mile-long hill and the start of a 3-mile-long downhill. I guess the excitement got the best of me because my last uphill mile was 6:53. But that’s ok. Now it was time to bomb down miles 6 through 8 and recover a little more. I actually passed the 3:05 pace group, who I think realized they were going too fast. My sixth mile came in at 6:47, which was fine with the downhill, though I honestly wasn’t trying to hold back. I passed Robert around Mile 7. He was looking pretty strong, but my 6:34 mile (much too fast) took me past him. He mentioned that Cristina was hanging tough with the 3:00 marathon pace group (aka 6:53 min/mi). I had no intention of trying to run her down.
Mile 8 flattened out towards the end for 6:46 (taking advantage of the downhill). We crossed back over the bridge and turned towards the LIVESTRONG mile, which is a bunch of crazies (the good kind) in yellow cheering runners on like it’s the Tour de France (without all the doping). It adds a much needed boost before the dreaded hills.
Miles 10 – Finish
Ohhhh the hills. You get a little primer with a bump crossing the highway and then turning north towards to the Full / Half split. I think the race director decided to punish those runners who thought they’d take the easy road. Just before mile 11 the course splits and the Half Marathon gets some rolling hills. Then, after a bit of a winding road, there it is. At this point in the race, nearly at Mile 12, it looks like Everest. It was actually on this monster that I passed Cristina. She didn’t quite have enough in the tank to beat the mountain. The final mile retraces the first mile as it wraps around the Capitol. I was surprised to find I still had another gear and sprinted the end. My finishing time was faster than I was aiming for in 1:30:40. Cristina came in 15 seconds later and Robert crossed the line in 1:32:47. A great showing by the whole team, two of which were planning 1:40 heading into it.
And so the LIVESTRONG Half Marathon is in the books and the Austin Distance Challenge has come to a close (separate post coming soon). It’s a monster of a course. I’d say it’s harder than the Decker course, which is full of rolling hills. We’ll have to seriously consider signing up for this half again–it was that rough. I will say that the event is managed better than most (all?) other races I’ve done and really makes the runners feel like the center of it all. Thanks to the race director and all the volunteers for putting on a great event!
|202 / 10363 (1.95%)
|Age Group Place
|44 / 772 (5.70%)
|178 / 4496 (3.96%)