This past weekend I went to Austin for the Austin Half Marathon. Unfortunately, my early plans went awry due to having to work Saturday morning, meaning my daughter and I did not get to leave the Houston area until after eating lunch. Right after arriving in Austin, I called my friend Heather who drove by with a few other friends of hers who were also running the half marathon, then we drove to pick up one more and we all went to the expo for packet pickup. After the expo we stopped at a local pub for a drink (waters all around--don't say us runners can't aren't high-living big-spenders!) and a snack before dinner (OK, we might be big eaters!). Then off to the Spaghetti Warehouse for a large group dinner, and, finally, back to hotels/home to get some rest for the race in the morning.
I might have denied it a few times, but I was excited to be running the Austin course. I come to the city on business periodically, but have never deviated out of the basic areas I have had to go to. So, I was really looking forward to seeing some of the local sights, and just generally trying to have a great time. I had a little breakfast early (bread, half a Lara Bar, and a few gummy bears). Then I left the hotel and walked several blocks through downtown until I met up with Heather, her husband Jeff, and several other friends I had started to get to know this weekend (Ingrid, Cassie, Kim, Stephanie, Jane, Matt, sorry if I forgot other names). After a good while of intermittent talking, stretching, porta-potty breaks, etc... it was off to the start line, which had been delayed for about 10 minutes for unknown reasons.
This photo is of myself, Heather and Cassie as we were walking to the starting line with the Texas Capitol Building as the backdrop. I swiped this photo from Heather's Blog and it was taken by her husband Jeff.
Getting ready for the start I walked up with Heather and Cassie, learning that Cassie also wants to do the Disney marathon. It was nice to talk about 2 of my favorite topics--running and Disney--with a new friend. In the end Cassie moved closer to the front, being a much faster runner. Heather and I were left to run together, which worked out well since we were aiming for the same goal and have PRs about a minute apart. As we ran down the first 3 mile straightaway Heather pointed out several local sights; it doesn't surprise me that the ones I remember from that area are food related, especially finding the site of Hey Cupcake [where I took my daughter after the race for my second cupcake of the day!]. After about 3 miles of slight, but steady uphills we were only a few seconds off of goal pace and ready to enter a good downhill portion. Heather is really good at downhills and pulled me along in some areas. Just past the mile 4 marker I had to pull over to try to fix a shoe/sock issue from a developing hot spot I could fell on my left foot instep. This ended up developing into a thumbnail sized blister, but I did not feel it until after the race. I started back up after losing about 90 to 120 seconds I tried to catch up with Heather [running a 10:30 mile] but I just could not [I had told her not to wait for me, as she was running well and I would have hated to be responsible for her missing her goal by a slight amount] and so I went to my backup plan which was a 4:1 run:walk ratio. I then proceeded to try to run well and enjoy the run, and succeeded on both counts. Somewhere in mile 8 I managed to finally catch back up with Heather, having many time "found" her previously, but only to find out it was someone similarly dressed. From that point we ran a couple miles together again. By mile 10 I could tell that I was just on the edge of some cramping in my right calf, which is never a problem for me [Except for that other time I also ran with Heather in November. Hmmmm.....] and Heather was having some breathing issues while running, likely related to being sick recently. Around mile 11 I went ahead [OK people before anyone complains about abandoning a friend in need, I did know that she was fine before I left her.] I tried to run as much as I could, although I walked up this huge hill that seemed half a mile long to reenter downtown. After that point, neither calf would let me run uphill again, and when I tried they cramped and I only stumbled forward. So the last mile to mile and a half was walking the uphills and running the rest. My sprint to the end was not really a sprint, but I was able to pick up the pace a bit in the last 500 meters or so.
I ended up finishing in 2:40:16, which was 3:57 slower than the easier course in Houston last month. Overall, I had hoped for a faster time but I was satisfied with my effort. This was my 4th fastest half marathon of 9 attempts. It proved to be a great educational experience with all the hills, had I known the course ahead of time I never would have thought I would have expected a slower time.
Following the race was a post-race cupcake party put together by Heather while a number of us rested and chatted.
From the perspective of a couple days later, my calves aren't quite as sore as expected, however, my quadriceps are more sore than expected. Maybe that is just because I live and run in a flat area and don't have much first-hand experience with hills like on that course. What I did not expect were the 2 blisters I ended up with, one on each foot's instep. I did apply body glide to my feet and am sure I got that area. I am not sure if I can blame that one on the hills, socks, shoes, or whatever. I do know that I have never gotten blisters in those shoes and only once in those (or that type of) socks before now. Were the hills the difference maker on the blisters? I can't say right now. Finally, the area of soreness I didn't expect-- but maybe should have expected--was how sore my ankles are now. My ankle soreness is pretty close to what I feel after a long trail run (25K or more) when I have not been training on the trails. Of course the soreness is only temporary and not as bad as the positives I feel for the great time I had with friends and family.
I am already looking forward to next year...