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Race Eat Repeat

March 10, 2014

The good thing about running two races less than a month apart – there is always a backup. If the first race does not go well, it could have been just a trial run. On the other hand, a good result the first time around can take the pressure off for the second race. 3M Half Marathon was by far my better race.

The bad thing about racing so close together is that there is not enough recovery time. The week before the Austin Half Marathon, I was feeling achy, sore and tired. Breaking in new shoes just before the race didn’t help the situation but my old shoes were completely shot.

The morning of the race, we followed the same routine as for the 3M – wake at 4am, pump, nurse, get ready, eat toast with almond butter and banana, and put on the lucky hat.

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The start was at 7am near the Capitol Building, so we were out the door by 6am. After hours of prep, digesting the text file of marathon-related road closures (somehow the organizers felt that a map would be too much to ask), Eric dropped me off exactly half an hour later (earning Awesome Husband title). The start area was one giant mess. There were over 30,000 participants. All the races (Half, Full, and 5K) started on the same street with no corrals separating pace groups. The too-few porta-potties were clustered in small groups blocks away from the start line. The gear check was probably at least a mile away in the opposite direction. There was no water anywhere in sight. After 10 minutes in a porta-potty line, I gave up and headed to my assigned pace group as I did not want to get stuck at the back and have to weave around the slower runners.

The first mile I spent looking for a porta-potty. Half a mile into the race, I spotted a few, but there was already a line, so I kept on running. By the end of mile 1, I found a free one, and then my focus shifted onto water. After finding some by mile 2, my thirst was quenched, and I could finally concentrate on the race. But something was not right… I was drenched in sweat already and my lips tasted salty. My phone reported that humidity was at a brutal 94%. At mile 3, I hit my usual sub-8 pace, and this is where things turned ugly. We were starting to run uphill on South Congress. It was a slight yet never-ending incline. At mile 4, I was dying to keep up the sub-8 pace. At that moment, I realized that I was not going to beat my 3M time, and definitely no PR. At first I got bummed, but then my inner goddess took over – “You can get all worked up and have a shitty race, or you can forget about the time and just enjoy it!” So I slowed down.

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This was probably the first race where I let myself fully take in my surroundings. A local bakery was giving out mini-cupcakes as fuel for runners. Some spectators had set up a keg with a local brew. There were tons of people on the streets cheering and holding up signs. Some signs were great:

  • “Run like someone just called you a jogger”
  • “Punch here for power” <Picture of Ryan Gosling’s naked torso>
  • “Your pace or mine?”
  • “Run like it’s the start of Hunger Games”
  • “13.1 because 13.2 would just be too crazy”

But some signs were extremely offensive:

  • “Run Biatch, run!” (Just plain vulgar)
  • “Run like your tits are going to fall off” (Stupid, rude and sexiest! IMHO)
  • “Don’t shit yourself!” <Picture of a pile of poo> (Held by a couple of high school boys. Yes runners often have to go during longer runs, but is it necessary to be so graphic?)

A girl about ten was holding up a sign saying “Run like you stole something.” I almost stopped to tell her that stealing is not ok and if I did steal, I would definitely not be running as it would draw attention to the crime. I still wanted to come in under 2hrs, so I kept on running. I did, however, loop back a few paces when I spotted a little shy boy, about 5 years old, standing with this hand out hoping for a high five. He gave me a big smile, and the crowd cheered which made me feel really good (and not crazy for going against running traffic).
By 6 miles, the uphill finally stopped and we all sighed in relief and picked up our feet, but not for long. At mile 8 we entered downtown again and picked up Gatorade energy packets shortly afterwards. I called Eric to let him know I was going slower and when to expect me at the finish line.

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After we passed the last of the downtown spectators, it was time for some serious hills. Eric warned me that there was going to be a hill at mile 12. Grr! At mile 12 you are either exhausted and can’t wait to be done already, or you are gearing up for a strong finish– either way, a big hill is the last thing you want to hit. What made it worse was that you could see the hill all the way from mile 11.

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A third of the way in, I began to walk. I must have looked really bad, as a fairly hefty younger gal tapped me on the shoulder – “You’ve got it!” she said as she nodded reassuringly and passed me. With my pride seriously wounded, I reved up whatever energy I had left and got back on mid-foot.  At the top, I felt relieved. But lo and behold, there were rolling hills all the way to the finish. We could not catch a break in this course. The end was near, so I kept pushing. I saw a cute little baby being held by his dad, which made me exclaim “Oh my goodness!” A male runner in his twenties turned to me “You can do it. We are almost done!” Oh come on people! I am a good runner– I promise!

Finally after a couple of turns I saw my orange cone of a husband holding up our precious gem, and I sprinted hard.

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I barely made my sub-two goal.

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According to the mapmyrun app on my phone, the mile markers were way off.

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This was the hardest race I’ve ever run, but it was an awesome finish. They had protein cookies at the finish line…

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and beer.

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But the best part of all were sweet kisses I got from this little guy.

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After a quick stretch, we headed right home as mama was soaked and needed a hot shower bad! Afterwards, it was time for a celebratory breakfast (Dad’s specialty).

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With my racing bug satisfied (for now), I’ve been lacing up for some leisurely runs with my little buddy. I still enjoy a longer stroller-free run on weekends, but there is no mileage to hit, no pace to strike for and no pressure of an upcoming race date. I wonder how long I can last until my competitive nature will demand another medal to hang on the wall.

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