I headed into the Austin Marathon today knowing it was going to be a tough day. I’m coming off of a two-marathon weekend, I’ve had a hectic week behind the scenes, and the course is far from easy. But I did what I always do — I went out and ran as fast as I could.
My gameplan was the same as it always is. Go out, try to keep the heart rate between 170 and 172 and keep on rolling. I know not to worry too much about my time, because I’ll max it out if I run my race correctly. I was concerned about how strong I’d be. My legs felt a little heavy, which I expected. I ran two marathons last weekend, and the last time I came off a double, I had the same problem from about mile 2 (Arizona Rock ‘N Roll, January 17) and I struggled through a long, painful run.
The course looks very challenging on the profile view. Some quick stuff early, but then a long, slow death from miles 6 through 18. Afterwards, it’s a big, gradual downhill finish. In a way, it reminded me of Boston. You have those four hills in Boston late that will chew you up, but if you can make it through, you can fly the last five miles. With that 12-mile stretch in Austin, though, I wasn’t expecting an easy day.
This doesn’t look like fun!
I felt kind of OK early, moving at a fairly good pace through those first few miles that had some uphill. My legs didn’t feel like they had any spring, but they were turning fairly well. I think my pace early on was averaging somewhere around 7:10/mile. Coming down the fast part of the course early into mile 6, I was moving quicker and staying within my heart rate target. I don’t remember my miles, but I remember one at 6:36 that I was happy about.
By the 6-mile mark, my pace for the race was about 7:01 and I was feeling fairly well. But I knew the long uphill was coming. Well, mile 7 was a breeze, probably something in the 7:10 range, and I started getting (gasp!) a little bit of confidence. I ran a few miles in that 7:15 range and then I consistently start turning miles right around 7:30 through the bulk of that uphill stretch.
All day long when you’re running, you can kind of guess where you’re going to finish, and the way my pace was slipping, but the way I was taking the downhills, I really though I had a chance to push for a 3:06 or so. It looked like I was going to come out of 18 at about a 3:08 pace, but I figured I’d turn it on.
Well, something happened. I’m not sure what, but I totally ran out of gas by about 19. In that first downhill mile, when I thought I’d run in the 6:40s, I went 7:05 (I think). Right when we crossed the 20-mile mark, I could feel that I was totally out of gas. I couldn’t pound the legs hard enough to get my heart rate up to 170. I started ticking off miles at 7:47, 7:51 and another 7:47. I knew I was slipping, but I didn’t know how far. That 3:10 was disappearing pretty quick and I was doing the math and thinking I was going to get my third 3:13 out of nine races this year.
A tiny bit past 25, I turned it on and went for broke. I hate doing that, because that means maybe I left something out on the course earlier, but I was really stiff and I think I would have really struggled if I tried to push it harder earlier in the 20s. There was nothing there. But for that last mile, I got my ticker going past 180 and picked off quite a few people. I hit the finish strong, which is fun, but also an indicator that maybe I left a little bit out there.
Whatever the case, I went 3:12:38. I’m totally content with this run individually, because it was a tough course and I’m not 100 percent right now. And now that I’m 35, it’s a Boston qualifier! Not the sub-3:10 I like to run, but I’m content with how I’m doing. And of course, I’ll get another shot next week in Pasadena!
Time to eat!