Thursday, March 1, 2012
2012 LIVESTRONG Austin Marathon: Race Report
The real anxiety I had about the race began on January 22nd, the day after my first long run in Colorado when I felt a new painful feeling in my Achilles tendon. I have a few theories on this since it was never bothering me (mainly running the entire 21 miles on a nice, but completely concrete, running trail that circumvents Fort Collins) but that’s for another report. It continued through the week and I couldn’t complete the following weeks 10-mile recovery run, nor could I get past mile 9 miles on our last 18-mile long run. I was doing the workouts during the week, but after not even getting through half of a long run I decided I needed some time off and let my foot rest. Not running more than 10 miles for three weeks before the race made me a bit anxious. I am not one to talk much about my injuries, but since it was the foundation of my thoughts through the race, I thought I would give the backstory.
Race morning was great! Not only was I excited about the race, but I had also been gone for a month and was super excited about seeing my running friends, and show off my beard to Chris. Julie and I had a nice breakfast, my trusty bagel, peanut butter and banana sandwich. Julie and I arrived at Rogue and it was great to see everyone and that eased the nerves a bit.
The race started out great. Stephanie, Julie, and I as usual ran together. Before the race started, actually weeks ahead while studying the map I decided to break the race into 5 sections: Start through Congress, down First St. and to the turn on Caesar Chavez, then Caesar Chavez to the Rogue Cheer station and beyond to crossing Mopac, third section being Mopac to the corner of Great Northern and Foster, then Foster to Duval, and finally Duval to the finish. The final section got split into two, but more on that.
1. The Congress beast to Caesar Chavez:
The Congress hill wasn’t too bad. It definitely got the blood flowing and the sweat dripping, but not too shabby. The past couple weeks I could feel my Achilles tendon start to get aggravated pretty quickly after starting, but today I didn’t even know it existed until the top of Congress. Maybe adrenaline, maybe the rest helped. It was nice seeing my family waiting at Oltorf and Congress. It meant a lot for them to get up early and make it to the beginning. At this point, I was thinking, hopefully the map and directions I gave them works, and they can figure out all the planned stops. Going down first was nice, good crowd support and I started feeling like I was getting in the groove. Again, saw the folks at Whataburger on First and Barton Springs. I guess they were figuring out the route.
2. Caesar Chavez to the second crossing of Mopac
I have done many races down Caesar Chaves as most people from Austin have done. So, this was a pretty familiar section. The LIVESTRONG cheer station at mile 9 was pretty awesome. Lots and lots of people and it just kept going down the road. The lady on the Mopac ramp holding the sign “Your running for me” who obviously had gone through some chemo therapy choked me up a bit, it reminded me we were doing a cancer charity run and a lot more people have gone through harder shit than what I was doing. So, then we were there…the hills of Tarrytown, supposedly the hardest part of the course. On the profile it’s the part that seems to just keep climbing mile after mile. F*$k it, it they weren’t so bad…until I finished them and realized how gassed I was, holy crap, they were bad. The Rouge Cheer station at the top of the Exposition hill was pretty awesome. Seeing my folks again, Bobby, the rest of my running group who had already done their marathons or weren’t running for various reasons was really nice at the top of the biggest hill on the course. I don’t have much to say about this section of the course, except it was the most talked about section and I didn’t think it was that bad. But the rest of the race was about to get a whole lot worse, yet somehow fun at the same time.
3. Mopac to Great Northern and Foster
This was also a pretty familiar part of the course, as I like to ride my bike over here a lot. I was impressed by the neighborhood crowd support. It was also cool to see my boss from the Wildflower Center sitting outside his house cheering. This section of the course was when I started feeling quite fatigued. After crossing Mopac we were passed by Tori and Katie. It was great to see them again as they were not at Rogue in the morning. I could also tell Julie was feeling good and was holding back just to run with me. Oh I must say, we lined up a bit in front of our pace group (4:25) that we planned on running with just because of the way the crowds worked at the stop. They passed us on Bull Creek and Julie and I managed to pick up the pace and stay with them for the next 4-5 miles. This gave me some confidence that I may be getting tired but I’ve still got some left in the tank. Great Northern sucked! That road just sucks…on a bike and on foot.
4. Foster to Duval
I had figured this section would be the worst for me. Not just because of the mileage it is at, but it just meanders through neighborhoods that I am not familiar with. I thought it would be boring and hard…and it was! I hit THE wall on Foster and told Julie to go on. I was determined not to walk, but was going to slow down a bit and I could tell she was ready to pick it up, and she did. I thought I could get through the wall and maybe catch back up to her. I bitched and moaned and ran and bitched and moaned and ran. It was a lot harder to break through that wall than I thought it would be…I am not sure I ever really did. A few cool things happened on this section, a few of the folks in the crowd had great signs and said some great encouraging things, a man ran by me singing opera (obviously his way of getting through the pain) but it was greatly appreciated by me, and everything else started hurting. My Achilles was getting to the pain threshold where I would have usually stopped during a workout, but it managed to hang on until my other foot started hurting, my quads started stiffening up, etc, etc, etc. So, instead of it being a nagging pain in the ass it just fell in with all the other aches and pains, which was actually quite a relief. Also, I came around the corner on 51st and Cam’s family was there with some Gatorade and Gu with caffeine, and I had been jonesing for some caffeine for the past hour. The Gage family was saviors! I realized I wasn’t catching Julie and was ok with it. I was so proud of her at this point.
5. Duval to Finish
Turning on Duval was such a relief. I had been looking forward to that intersection since the moment I started, maybe even two months ago. I was a lot more tired than I had expected and still hadn’t made it through the wall. I watched a video of Steve Sisson talking about how the race will not go how you expect, and this was apparently obvious. I thought seeing Duval would be an energy booster, but it was still a long, long three miles. Within the general group that I was running with 4:30-5:00 groups, carnage was taking place. People falling out, stretching, cussing, moaning, walking, all around me. Just plain carnage! This was not good for the psyche, but again my family showed up on Duval and I ran into a group of friends that I was not planning on seeing. Big spirit booster! My 5th section was broken into two so…
6. San Jacinto to Finish Line
Since the beginning of training, San Jac back from Double Daves, by the stadium until MLK has been a bugger for me. Not sure why but I always struggle there on the way back into the shop. So, that little section had become my nemesis. It was apparent running down Duval I still had this portion ahead of me and I was beat. So, I told myself to get there, beat the nemesis and then I would be finished. When I got here I knew I had done it before and I was going to make it, still hopefully without walking. Again, another friend I wasn’t expecting was sitting on a bench cheering. So, Coach Bobby had talked about and done some cheesy things, and I thought the whole “running in your teammates” thing was super cheesy until about San Jac and 21st, and man did I want a teammate to run with me! I couldn’t think of a mantra while on the road, but now after the fact I realize that I was probably saying over and over “where are they, where are they, where are they”. Seeing Daniel coming out to run up the final San Jac hill was an amazing thing. Another lesson learned, Bobby’s cheesiness works. Trust the coach. The Finish Line: not sure I can describe how I felt finishing my first marathon. Great, but in extreme pain? That’s probably the best way to describe it. I didn’t think I would be in that much pain after it was over. But hanging out and drinking beer with my teammates was fabulous, and it was a nice excuse to take a pedicab for the first time even though I have lived in Austin for 4.5 years.
According to most I talk to say 20 miles is physical and the last 6 is mental (in more ways then one). Bobby talked about dedicating the last 6 miles to someone or something (again, thought it was cheesy) and I ended up doing the same thing. Here is the breakdown:
6: Our troops and that they get home quickly and safely. I started college two weeks before 9/11 and things have changed a bit. I have had 37 friends and/or acquaintances go to either Iraq or Afghanistan. All have made it home safely or are still there. I hope this trend continues until it’s all over. Probably the whole race should have been dedicated to them.
5: President Obama. Yes, I love our president.
4: I was hurting and frustrated at this point. I didn’t dedicate this mile to anyone, but I did bitch in my head about a certain political party that I will not mention so not to offend.
3: Was for my Rogue teammates. Without training with them, drinking with them, and learning from them I couldn’t have done this. I have been amazed since day one that a group of folks that otherwise have nothing in common can be such good friends just based around running.
2: Was for Julie. She has amazed me through the whole training and kicking my ass during the race earned herself her own mile.
1: My family. If they can see me do this then maybe they will be inspired to get in shape and be healthy.
Last 0.2: That section was for me. I feel like I deserve the last 0.2 all to myself.
1. People go through worse things than this.
2. Trust the training.
3. Trust the coach and his cheesiness.
4. My wife can now kick my ass in running!