Monday, February 15, 2010

Race Report - Austin Marathon (2010)

Production Company: Conley Sports
Date: 2/14/10
Location: Austin, TX
Length: 26.2 Miles

This was my first marathon and it was every bit as difficult as I expected it to be. I did not train as well as I could have - taking 3 weeks off 1 1/2 months prior to the race proved not to be a good idea. I also bruised the ball of one of my feet during a 24 hour adventure race 3 weeks before the marathon and took about a week off of running to allow that to heal as much as possible without aggravation. So I went in a little under-prepared.

The race itself was impressively produced. Check-in went smoothly and the volunteers were chipper and professional. The pre-race vendor expo was impressive (how much equipment can runners need?) and the swag was pretty sweet. Every racer got a nifty little backpack with a dirty-shoe compartment. Finishers got sweet technical shirts and a really nice medal.

The start was pretty intense - 15,000 racers crowded onto Congress Ave, roughly organized by pace group. Pre-race jitters were the most intense I'd ever experienced. I was glad I visited the port-o-john before finding my pace group! After the gun went off and some pyro signaled the start, we walked briskly to the arch and then we were off!

The course was rumored to be pretty topographically intense and the first few miles proved the rumors true. Luckily Chrissy and I had trained on the best hills in town pretty devotedly and I fared better than most of the people I started with. Near mile 6 my breakfast started giving me grief. I'd had 1 1/2 bagels with peanut butter and apparently I hadn't given my wound-up stomach enough time to come to terms with it. I could feel a ball of breakfast bouncing up and down in my gut with each step, unless I was going uphill. With each mile, the crowd I was running with thinned, but so did the port-o-john availability, and I was clearly not the only one having stomach issues as each can had a substantial line. I decided to push through and kept putting it off. This tactic will severely reduce your ability to enjoy grueling tests of endurance that would otherwise not be all that enjoyable to begin with, let me tell you.

The weather was great though. I think it was around 37 degrees (F) when we started, and after a couple hours of running and sunshine, I felt quite comfortable in my tights and two long-sleeve tech shirts. The volunteers at each mile's station were great, full of motivation and indifferent to getting splashed with each failed water hand-off. The crowds that lined bigger intersections provided a huge boost of energy. There were even a few live bands scattered along the course, mainly in the first 3rd.

In terms of my race, by mile 19 I was daydreaming about disemboweling myself when I remembered there was an easier way to find relief. I slowed up and stopped for the first time since the start, careful not to walk a single step in the direction of the finish line (my own personal rules). I waited for about 3 minutes for my turn, and made the others wait a few too. I felt like a brand new person. Dashed out the door, and the next two miles flew by with ease. Shame I didn't just suck it up and deal with breakfast earlier - I would have enjoyed more than just those two miles.

Before the marathon I'd run a couple of 20 milers, and by mile 23 I was having a hard time. Luckily the organizers stacked the hills early on in the course, so it was mostly level after mile 18. Severe muscle fatigue was taking hold though, and my calves were quite cramped. I couldn't quench my thirst and almost threw my goal out the window to walk a bit. The fundraising Chrissy and I had done for MSF (Doctors Without Borders) for this race got me through this though. Our friends and families donated so much money that we EXCEEDED our target amount by almost 18%! That generosity and faith in my fortitude really convinced me that I HAD to do this, and on my terms too - NO walking. I had to RUN the entire thing to really do it.

A 1/2 mile down hill around mile 24 was just about the most difficult part for me. My thighs were so angry with me that each compassionate step felt like some one was throwing a roundhouse to that thigh. I rounded the corner at the bottom of that hill and then I could see the Capital - the final landmark. I'd seen a great variety of beautiful Austin neighborhoods and landmarks, but this was by far the most thrilling. A steep two blocks uphill, around one corner, and I was running towards the Capital building.

I gasped a gulp of pain/joy/determination, held back an almost tear, and switched off my brain. Autopilot. Faster. Breathe faster. Head down. Pump arms faster. I am not my body; I am in my body. Faster, faster, FASTER. DO NOT FUCKING STOP. Circling the capital, the crowd was ecstatic. I felt like I was the first runner they'd seen. The noise was most delicious thing I'd ever heard.

No way could I slow down now. The course turned and suddenly it slanted sharply downhill. I was flying. I was passing other runners like they were crawling. I couldn't even touch the ground - going way too fast. Faster and faster. Now I could see the finish gate. I could hear the crowd screaming. The announcer was cheering and calling out names as people finished and then he saw me ripping towards him and his bellowing turned to yelling "Hey! YEAH! Look at this Guy - HE WANTS IT! HOW BAD DO YOU WANT IT BUDDY? COME ON!!! Holy CRAP Ladies and Gentlement - GIVE IT UP FOR NUMBER 830!!!!!!!" I stomped the finish mat (the race was chip-timed) and started walking. My vision clouded and I felt a heave coming, but it passed. I grabbed a medal, got a hug from a random runner, grabbed a banana and sat down.

Finisher. Hell yeah.

Only 4040 people finished the full marathon. I came in 1193rd place. 924th out of all of the male finishers. Final time - 4:00:59 - just 59 seconds over my arbitrary time goal. ARGH!!

Lance Armstrong said that running a marathon was the hardest thing he's ever done. I'm glad it's not just me.


Chrissy said...

You are the man! Love that smile in the last photo. :)

KB said...

Woo-hoo, reading that was so exciting. I hope my half is ... well ... at least half as exciting.