2015 Freescale Austin Marathon

Ow.  This year’s Austin Marathon beat me up good.  I have a whole list of excuses as to why, but the only one that matters is that I didn’t train enough.  Life and all that comes with it took priority over consistent training and it took its toll in the race.  Here’s how it went down in excruciating detail, emphasis on excruciating.

2015 Austin Marathon 4 amigos

Race morning I picked up 3 of my rockstar neighbors who were also racing — 2 full and 1 half.  We took advantage of my office’s prime parking garage location and moseyed over to the starting area.  After a group photo we parted ways and I looked for the 3:25-pace group.  My plan was to stick with them to successfully hit my goal of “under 3:30”.  Amazingly, among the 15,000+ runners packed into four blocks, I found myself next to two friends also running the full, Robert (his first marathon) and Cristina.

2015 Austin Marathon start crowd

The course shoots you straight into a 3 mile uphill slog.  Halfway up I passed the 3:25 group but saw (what I thought was) the 3:20 pace group and figured I’d hang with them for a bit.  By the time I caught and passed that “3:20” pace group, I saw they were the 3:15 group and I was going way too fast.  Also, Cristina left me in the dust.

2015 Austin Marathon early

You can see early on my spirits and leg-kick were high.  Around Mile 8, as I settled into a groove, Marcus, a former coworker / running nemesis, recognized me and we ended up running together for the next 9 miles.  In that time I spotted several friends and neighbors along the course — thanks for cheering Ben & Walker, Katie, Cherisse & Mike & Will, and Dave!  But just after the halfway point I realized my legs were struggling.

By Mile 17 Marcus pointed out the 3:15 pace group had caught us, so I made a pro move and hopped into a porta-potty.  That way they never really caught me because I was off the course.  Boom.  From then on, with 9 arduous miles ahead, I prepared myself for the battle ahead by filling my thoughts with fear and dread.  The course is supposed to be all downhill from Mile 19 until the end, but they modified it and they are liars.  Not long after Mile 20 I passed Marcus (who didn’t stop at the bathroom — heh, amateur).  And then, who’s that up ahead?  Cristina?  Yes!  At one of the deceitful hills on North Loop I made up a lot of ground, and within the next mile I tracked her down and passed her.

2015 Austin Marathon late

At this point I (and everyone around me) was in rough shape.  I walked a few water stations, stopped once or twice to stretch, and barely got my feet off the ground in a classic “marathon shuffle”.  One silver-lined humblebrag is that I actually continued to pass people all the way to the finish.  At the 5K mark I was in 240th place.  By 13.1 miles I was down to 189, Mile 18 in 184th, and so it went until the finish where I crossed the line in 166th place.  So the race hurt, but it hurt me slightly less than others.

2015 Austin Marathon finish

The last 0.3 miles of the course punches you in the gut with a few brutal hills before the finish line appears in the shadow of the Capitol building.  I definitely beat my goal of sub-3:30 and nearly hit my “everything goes perfectly” secondary goal of sub-3:20.  But holy moly did it hurt.  Punishment for not training properly.

2015 Austin Marathon watch-medal

But totally worth it.  Check out that medal!  It’s my favorite one I have (other than Boston (duh) and the Ironman (duh)).  With marathon #15 under my belt, my “What’s Next?” goals are: 1) sub-3 hour marathon, and 2) 20 marathons.  But those are a long way off.  Until then, I’ll hobble around a little more until I recover from this one.

2015 Freescale Austin Marathon
Distance 26.2 Miles
Time 3:21:27
Pace 7:41 min/mile
Overall Place 166 / 3147 (5.3%)
Age Group Place 32 / 286 (11.2%)
Gender Place 151 / 1896 (7,9%)

Run Like Someone’s Chasing You

The 2010 San Antonio Marathon took over the streets of, you guessed it, San Antonio on Sunday. Colin flew down to run the race with me, and it was the first marathon for both of us in quite awhile — Miami, Jan 2010 for me, Chicago, Oct 2009 for Colin. The worst part has been that Colin’s been holding the title of fastest marathon time between the two of us for 13 months. From my race preview, you know my goals were to beat Colin this time and beat his best time, so really I’m racing Colin twice.

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Logistical Changes

Quick logistical update! I didn’t mention it previously, but our original plan for San Antonio was to set sail from Austin to San Antonio bright dark and early on race morning. That would mean leaving my apartment no later than 4:30am, which would put us in downtown San Antonio by 6am, assuming no traffic. Seemed like a pretty sound plan, except for basically every review we’ve read about the race. The main theme is that the downtown area is a cluster. Some even mentioned leaving their cars on the side of the highway and walking/running 2 miles to the starting line. Night. Mare.

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Chicago!  Land of Opportunity!  Might’ve made that up, but it got the ball rolling.  Just got back from the Chicago Marathon and there’s lots to tell.  Let’s back things up a bit: exactly 15 days before the race we started checking out Accuweather for the preliminary weather report.  Nice!  50* and clear skies.  As the race approached, the weather was all over the place, so we gave up.   All told, it was unnecessary worry.  Race day came and the sky was clear.  Clear and 31 degrees…as in -2*C.  We headed out of the hotel in our gloves, hats, and 55-gallon trashbags for warmth.  We looked like a black, shiny Grimace.

Colin and I were in Corral B, starting in a reserved area for the top 5,000 runners.  That means we’d be chased by 35,000 people!  Talk about motivation!  We got special treatment by “qualifying” in a previous race, and not on our good looks like you probably assumed.  Understandable.  Our goal for the race was 3 hours 30 minutes.  My previous best was 3:37 and Colin’s was 3:43, both from last year’s Marine Corps.  We saw the 3:30-pace group (8-minute/mile) and decided to stick with them, no matter what.  Early on we focused on staying with the group and keeping warm.  Starting in downtown we got to run through the enormous buildings.  Unfortunately about half of the first mile is underground, effectively incapacitating all GPS watches and throwing off any reliable splits.

Luckily, we chose a hotel right on the course, so Ev and Brittany were able to fall out of the hotel to see us at mile 1.5.  They could scurry 3 blocks over to mile 2.5, and then run inside to stay warm.  Yay fan support!  (Note: After the race, they said we looked like crap early on.  We blamed it on the cold.)  Speaking of fan support, the entire 26.2 miles reminded me of the finish line of other races.  There were just so many people cheering the whole time, even in the semi-Ice Age weather.  The first 7 miles took us from skyscrapers to the burbs up by Lincoln Park.  To this point we were both feeling strong, but I pointed out that we should be feeling strong after only 8 miles, with another 18 to go.

On our way back into the city Colin and I found we were getting a little too far ahead of the pace group.  We took the opportunity to refill water bottles around mile 10 by walking the water stop and reloading.  By the time we were back up to pace, the group was only a few steps in front.  The pace group was less than consistent early on, which worried us a little; not so much that we’d be going too slowly, but more that we didn’t want to use too much energy early on.  I guess they felt our fears through some running ESP because they started hitting their splits.

We saw Ev and Brittany again at mile 12.5 for a much-needed boost!  From there we hit the half way point at exactly 1:45, which made me a little more nervous considering our track record of finishing long races (read: fall apart and struggle to walk…).  Into Greektown we saw some generic-named restaurants, Agora-this, Zeus-that.  It was actually the quietest part of the course as we got out near Malcolm X College.  Colin dropped back again to… get more comfortable, while I stuck with the pace group.  He actually caught up pretty quickly, around mile 16.  If I remember correctly, not much happened until mile 20, when Colin said that we can wait about 2 miles to see how we’re feeling and maybe pick up the pace.

BAM!  Felt like I got hit in the face with a 2-by-4 by the ridiculous crowd support entering Chinatown.  For a second I thought we actually ran into the REAL China based on the number of people.  I estimated there were anywhere between a few thousand and 1.4 billion people cheering us on.  Well that was all the motivation we needed to pick it up.

From mile 21 until the finish, every mile split got faster. We realized that’s how you’re supposed to run a race, and not do what we did in Nashville.  The miles (for me) went 7:53, 7:48, 7:47, 7:42, 7:29, 7:28.  Yes, I was able to finish the race with two sub-7:30 miles.  Makes you wonder if I had more in the tank.  Well stop wondering.  I didn’t.  During this time, Colin took off on me.  I could see him the whole time, but I couldn’t make my legs go fast enough to catch him.  He ended up finishing 34 seconds ahead of me.  In order to minimize his victory, it took him 12,448 seconds and it took me 12,482 seconds.  Virtually identical.

Chicago 09

I finished in 3:28:02, a full 2 minutes ahead of my goal and 9 minutes faster than my previous best!  Wow!  Amazing!  Out of sight!  Tubular!  Radical!  Colin finished in 3:27:28, an unheard of 16 minutes faster than his previous fastest time.  The race was great, the weather cooperated, and we both did exceptionally well!  Next on the docket is likely the Miami Marathon at the end of January.

The picture is straight, we just can't balance right now.

The picture is straight, we just can't balance right now.

The Details:

2009 Chicago Marathon:


Distance: 26.2 miles
Time: 3:28:02
Pace: 7:56 min/mile
Average HR: Didn’t wear HR Monitor

What a (HOT) Marathon

Well, the 10th Country Music Marathon in Nashville was hot.  Let’s get that out of the way.  Race temperature at the start were in the upper 60s and in the low to mid 80s at the finish.  After training all winter, there wasn’t much anyone could do to be ready for those temps (save training in Dubai, and that wasn’t exactly an option.  Best I could have done was the United Arab Emirates Embassy four metro stops away… but I digress).  To be clear, it was hot and it affected everyone.

Having run the half marathon here twice before I knew what the starting area would offer.  We got there early because the anticipated traffic was nonexistent.  Lots of free food and drink for the runners, which was nice.  Dropped off our gear bag around 6:20am, got into the (long) bathroom line, and made our way to Corral #3 (out of 32!  32 corrals of 1000 people each!)  That means we started towards the front of the pack.  The race uses a wave start, meaning each corral goes out, one at a time, with a short break between each, in an effort to prevent crowding on the course.  One of the most amazing images is standing towards the front and looking back down the street and seeing a sea of people, filling in from curb to curb going at least 6 blocks back.  Amazing.

I had the goal of finishing under 3 hours 30 minutes, but realized that wasn’t realistic about two steps into the race.  Colin and I decided to dial it back about 15 seconds per mile for the first 6 miles, just to get acclimated and see where it would take us.  We averaged 8:12 min/mi, so I consider that a success (although our pace was all over the map).  One change to the course was the extended distance downtown by the, er, honky-tonk bars, if you will.  It definitely showed off more of what makes Nashville unique (+1), but it also showed off some more hills (-1).

By mile 9 Colin’s shirt was a thing of the past and the sun was out in full force (or so we thought).  Around mile 11 we saw the best spectators at the race (note: may be biased).  Evelyn, Barrett, Robert and Jenelle were cheering for us right after the half marathoners split off.  At this point Colin and I agreed we were feeling strong holding our 8:00 min/mi pace (that changed quickly).  Also at this point Barrett joined us on his mountain bike and kept us company.  Throughout the rest of the race he’d ride ahead to fill water bottles and give a lot of moral support, but we’ll get into that a little later.

Apparently when the half marathoners split off, they take all the shade with them.  From mile 12 through 20, the marathon course is completely exposed to the sun.  I mean completely. We did a pretty good job holding our pace but it definitely got harder.  We saw the support team again around mile 19, which served as a (small) boost until…  At mile 20 I opted to walk the water stop and Colin kept going.  He said he was cramping up and decided to run as far as he could with the fear that walking would cause his muscles to seize up (like Vince’s car engine…).  From then on he was in my sights and I slowly chipped away at his lead.  Barrett bounced back and forth between us giving updates on how the other was feeling.

I think I caught back up to Colin around mile 21.  Neither of us were looking good; it was a matter of just finishing the next 5 miles.  Running through Shelby Bottoms Park offered much-appreciated shade and the crowd support picked up after the nonexistent crowds in Metro Park.  The problem here is that the course is out and back from mile 22 until nearly the end, meaning I was watching people running towards me who were like 3 miles ahead.  A bit demoralizing to think of how much was still ahead.  By far the award for “Worst Idea Ever.  In the History of the World.” goes to the photographer who thought it was a good idea to park himself at the top of a hill at mile 23.  He might as well have been taking pictures of a trainwreck.. it was ugly.

Around mile 24 I saw the clock approaching 3:30:00, so my new goal was to hold it together and just finish as fast as possible.  I made friends with another runner around mile 25.5 when we were both struggling to jog.  She yelled at me not to stop and walk and we motivated each other to get to the finish.  As I rounded the final turn and saw the finish I felt a surge of energy and was moving at Olympic sprinter speed.  Like Usain Bolt fast.  As I crossed the finish line my body all but gave out.  It definitely took 15 minutes to travel through the finisher area and meet back up with the amazing support team.

The rest is history.  My finishing time was 3:47:12, which was pretty good considering the heat.  Got my medal, met up with everyone, and headed out to Baja Burrito for some epic refueling.

Finish Time: 3:47:12
Overall Place: 324 / 4146
Overall Men: 259 / 2341
Overall 18 – 24: 28 / 217

5k: 25:21
10k: 51:01
10m: 1:21:50
Half: 1:47:09
20m: 2:46:15