2011 Austin Marathon Race Report

February 26, 2011 by
Filed under: Run Bike Swim 

Just 10 days after finishing my first marathon last year I signed up for the 2011 Austin Marathon. The next day I got a text from Bill wondering if he it would be crazy to sign up for the Austin Half Marathon. No way I said. Neither of us can resist Austin, TX.

I hadn’t been this nervous before a race since my first 5K back in September 2008. The days leading up to this race, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to run, let alone finish due to the injury that popped up three weeks ago.

This time around for my second marathon I chose to use a higher mileage training plan, the up to 55-miles/week 18-week plan from Advanced Marathoning. I had read enough about this plan to know going into it, it would be a big step up in my training. The mid-week medium long runs were my biggest challenge. Trying to fit in a 2-hour run before or after work was tough. But I was able to mostly stick to the plan pretty closely, even through the holidays. I’m now a big fan of Uncle Pfitzy!

I noticed as the plan went along, my running felt stronger. And the 20-mile runs didn’t feel as exhausting this time compared to training for my first marathon last year. Things were looking great. I did my last 20-mile run on a Saturday three weeks out from the race, and it was a really solid run. I felt ready. But I had missed a 10-mile run that week, and tried to make up the mileage the next day on Sunday on top of my already scheduled run. Looking back, bad idea. I knew it. The following Tuesday’s run I was still incredibly sore. And by Thursday I knew I had hurt myself.

My left leg, mid-shin, had constant pain with every step I would run, beginning to end. By the end of the weekend, even brisk walking caused pain. The next Tuesday run was cut short and I was terribly sad. Less than two weeks before the marathon and I wasn’t getting better. All that work and I may not make it to the starting line. I wouldn’t get to run with Bill (his first half marathon). I cried, a lot. And the next day I went to get an x-ray. I couldn’t ignore the fact that I was injured.

Work had been getting increasingly crazy and I had been working overtime for a couple of weeks now. My stress level was close to maximum and I wasn’t even able to run to help relieve any of it. I felt like I was going to burst. It was Thursday and I was looking forward to the weekend, catching up on some work, getting some extra rest, and trying to get my stress level back down. Then something happened that shifted my focus completely.

I got a call from the mother of a good friend asking for my help. My friend’s health had deteriorated to the point where her husband could not care for her and their 1-month old daughter. They needed help with the baby. This was probably just about the worst time for me to be gone from work. But their situation sounded desperate. A few hours later my friend called asking for help. From the sound of her voice I knew I had to go. 24-hours later I was on a plane to Tulsa.

These were some of the toughest three days of my life both emotionally and physically. It was hard to see my friend in so much pain. I was already sleep deprived when I got there, and the first night I only got 90 minutes of sleep. Their daughter is wonderful, but it was a big change to suddenly be caring for a baby 24 hr/day. And my back was telling me that I really wasn’t used to carrying a baby so much. By the time I had left Monday afternoon, my friend was in worst shape than when I had left.

My x-rays had come back normal, and my doctor said to take it easy for a few days. Tulsa wasn’t easy, but I didn’t run at all and only got to go on two short walks, still feeling pain in my leg with walking. Back home I only had three days to squeeze in as much work as I could before leaving for Austin. Still no running or even time to get on my bike for some easy riding.

Friday we arrived in Austin, sunny and beautiful. But the one piece of luggage we checked (which included all of our toiletries, my gels for the race, and most of my clothes) somehow made its way to San Francisco instead. I had made sure there were a couple of key things not in the checked bag such as my running shoes and Garmin. It turned out that we didn’t get our bag until late the night before the race. So we spent some of Saturday buying a few things that I wanted for the race. I would have rather been sitting somewhere with my feet up, relaxing and knitting. Next time, I will make sure I have everything I need/want for the race plus a change of clothes not in a checked bag, lesson learned. This was more stress that I wasn’t looking for.

Friday before dinner I was ready to test my legs to see if it was going to be possible for me to at least start the race. I did an easy 4.5 miles around the neighborhood at dusk. My leg pain was still there, but it never got worse or better as I ran. And it felt better than my last run which had been 10 days before, by far my longest not running since I started running. It felt so good to be able to run again, despite the pain, good to sweat and good to move. That night I finally slept really well. It had been awhile.

Saturday afternoon we dropped off the kids at a friend’s house. That evening Bill and I ate at an Italian restaurant with our friend Katherine and some of her friends that were doing the half marathon. It was a nice, relaxing evening. Before bed I set out what I was going to wear for the race: Mizuno Wave Elixir 6 shoes, Injinji socks, Zensah Calf Sleeves, Atalanta Commitment Skirt, Moving Comfort Alexis bra, Asics Ecoline Sleevless top, Brooks Mesh Cap, and of course my new Garmin 310XT. I got to bed by 9:30, but didn’t sleep well. I knew I was going to start the race, but I didn’t know if I was going to turn right at 10.8 miles and follow the half marathon course to the finish or turn left and follow the full course, hopefully to the finish.

The next morning I was up by 4:30, eating and drinking my usual cereal and chai tea. But I forgot my banana. Bill couldn’t find coffee filters and had to find a 24-hour place to get his coffee. I knew drinking his coffee this close to the start time meant he’d be stopping at a porta potty on the course. Once we parked and got out of the car I noticed how windy it was. I grabbed my throw-away shirt to keep warm. Dropped off our gear bags, stopped at the porta potties, and made our way to the start area. I was nervous and excited. It was probably around 63° at the start, a little on the humid side, but cloudy.

We were in the middle of the 4:30 pace group, and it took us over 18 minutes to get to the starting line. And then we were off. I love the excitement of the beginning of the race. My leg hurt some, but nothing I couldn’t manage for now. Bill immediately was looking for a place to pee. I told him that when he stopped I would continue to walk until he caught up again. I had noticed from my run the other night that my leg hurt more if I started up running from standing still compared to starting from a walk. Half a mile in he found some porta potties with lines that didn’t look too bad. He caught up to me shortly after his 5-minute pit stop. We made our way through downtown and across the Congress Avenue bridge. The first 3 miles had some hills up and down, but mostly down. (Miles 1-3 splits: 12:42, 11:23, 10:15)

Now we began our 3-mile ascent up S. Congress to Ben White Blvd. This race had many water stops, and my plan was to alternate with water/Gu Chomps and Gatorade. Plus I would take a Mint Chocolate Gu about every hour. With 6,000 marathoners and 13,000 half marathoners, the water stops were really crowded. Bill and I didn’t have much of a plan as to how to stay together as we moved through the water stops. We lost track of each other at the 3.5-mile water stop and definitely lost some time trying to meet up again. The plan after that was to assume that I would keep moving through each water stop staying by the side of the road until we were together again. This worked out well for the remainder of the water stops. I was surprised how easy the hills were and how good I was feeling. When Bill asked what my plans were about how far I was going, I was still not ready to commit to the full or half. The next 3 miles felt like they went by quickly too. Making the turn from Ben White onto S. 1st meant we were almost done with our first big incline. Things were going well. (Miles 4-6 splits: 11:38, 10:17, 10:20)

The next three miles were down, down, down S. 1st Street, across Lady Bird Lake, and making our way down Cesar Chavez. I let gravity do its work and move my legs comfortably down the descent. I knew our pace had increased, but it still felt really easy, and Bill reminded me when we needed to slow down. Around mile 8 the sun started to come out. I was hoping it would go away. But it was out for a lot of the rest of the race, warming things up more than I wanted. Once we crossed the bridge, I knew I would continue onto the marathon course. So very happy. (Miles 7-9 splits: 9:43, 9:44, 10:06)

Between miles 9 and 10 was the Livestrong cheering section. They were so enthusiastic. It was awesome. Maybe it was a combination of them and that I knew I would probably be reaching the finish line today, but I started to get weepy. This never happens to me during races, so it caught me by surprise. I needed to calm down since I still had a lot of work to do, especially since I was approaching the hilliest portion of the course. After Cesar Chavez, we worked our way up Winsted Ln and started seeing the signs for the courses to split. At 10.8 miles I kissed Bill goodbye wishing him luck. I’m so proud of him and loved all the runs we got to do together during our training. I’ve got a great partner. The next couple of miles were going to be the hilliest so my plan was to just keep the pace nice and easy. (Miles 10-13 splits: 10:29, 10:26, 10:19)

Now I had gotten through the hilliest portions of the course. The next 6 miles were a steady incline heading north. I really got into a nice rhythm here, picking up the pace and feeling great. I also noticed my leg wasn’t really hurting much at this point. I knew I was going to finish now. The wind started to pick up at this point too. As I crossed over Mopac, a gust came up and blew my hat off. Amazingly I reached behind me as it came off my head and was able to save my hat. I liked this stretch of the run, winding through the quieter neighborhoods along the east of Mopac. Even the straight stretch on Great Northern Blvd that runs next to the train tracks was good. I was really happy with my pace going up this steady incline, feeling relaxed and not pushing it. (Miles 13-18 splits: 9:50, 9:51, 9:36, 9:49, 9:54, 9:37)

Shortly after the 18-mile mark we reached our most northern portion and turned right onto Foster Ln. After the next two miles, I would start the descent. Shortly after that I would reach the water stop where my kids were waiting with our friends. I knew they had some special items for me too. I was getting really excited now. (Miles 19-20 splits: 10:10, 9:40)

Turning the corner onto Woodrow was so exciting. I knew we would be heading south the rest of the way to downtown. But that is also when I turned into a terrible head wind. It felt good cooling me off a bit, but really felt as if it was pushing me back. I kept my head low and pushed through, trying not to let the wind whip my hat off again. As I reached the water stop on Arroyo Seco, I could see Ella and Liam enthusiastically passing out water to runners. I reached Liam first where he said “Good job!” and gave me water to drink. I walked through most of the water stops instead of running, but here I took even more time, hugging my kids, saying hi to my friends. They had some animal crackers and bagel chips in baggies; I chose the chips, something not sweet with crunch is what I thought I wanted. But even better was the cold, wet washcloth. I wiped my face and arms and it felt amazing. I even took the time for a picture with Liam. And then I was off again.

This is about the time last year at the Vermont marathon where I started to slow down and was losing steam. But this time I still felt good. And I had just passed the 4:30 pace group. Was it actually possible to get a PR? But looking at my watch, I think the 4:30 pace group was a little behind. (Miles 21-23: 10:05, 9:50, 9:49)

Turning the corner from North Loop onto Duval I was running through my old neighborhood. It was great to see the street numbers getting smaller and smaller, 45th, 38th… But the wind, humidity, and miles were starting to take their toll. I no longer felt I was running at a comfortable pace. I was pushing it now. But I was also so close to the end. The final half-mile was really tough. The two short hills here that I did easily at the beginning of the race now felt nearly impossible. Midway up the first I started walking. But behind me I could hear a guy yelling to his partner “Go. Go. Go.”, helping them get up the hill. I listened and picked up my feet again, back to a run. The next hill I focused on his voice and got up that hill too. Then we turned left onto Congress and I was crossing the finish line. I did it! I knew it wasn’t a PR, but close. I never felt so good about not getting a PR. Extra bonus, I didn’t end up in the med tent this time. What a great race with incredible crowd support, a challenging course, and so well organized. The water stops were frequent, full, and friendly. There were lots of bands and music along the way, my favorite was the church choir on Exposition. Favorite high-five was from a baby on Woodrow. (Miles 24-26.2: 10:12, 9:56, 10:02, 9:56)

Now comes the geeky number talk. My final Garmin distance was 26.48, a little off of 26.2 miles. Final marathon time was 4:30:33, just 43 seconds slower than my first marathon. Here are my mat splits and rankings. I love a negative split race.

Chip Time 4:30:33   Gun Time 4:48:21
Overall 2215/4796  Top 46%
Division Place 83/271  Top 31%
5K Rank 3618, 35:50
10M Rank 3665, 1:47:51
Half Rank 3303, 2:19:32
20M Rank 2577, 3:27:41
Final 10K Rank 2215, 4:30:33
Total Pace 10:20

For the Vermont marathon, my overall rank was the top 61% and age group rank was top 50%. No PR for me, but definite progress.

So what’s next for me? I’m not actually sure. I’ve signed up for a half marathon in July that I got a free entry to. Otherwise nothing is on the schedule. I know I would like to do another marathon in the fall. I’ve entered the lottery for New York, but assume I won’t get in this year. There are lots of more local marathons I can choose from too. I’m also toying with the idea of doing the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championship in Burlington in August. It may be a stretch to qualify, and if I do I would be at the back of the pack. But it would be a lot of fun and an opportunity like this may not happen again. So until I get back from SXSW next month, I’ll take it easy and get my leg to heal fully.

I’d like to do a Half Ironman (70.3) someday. But I’d really like to do it under 6 hours. I have a few things I want to accomplish before I would sign up. I’ve already gotten my half marathon time under 2 hours, twice now, last time on a hilly course. I feel good about my run. For the bike I want to work on my overall speed. How I’m going to do that I’m not sure: cadence work, longer rides, and a lot more time on my bike? Betty still feels so new to me; I know there’s room for improvement. Attempting NCC B rides last year didn’t work out great. They were usually a bit faster than I was and I would always get dropped. So I need to try to do more this year. The swim is my weakest part of triathlon. I still don’t feel comfortable in the water. My endurance in the water is not good either. I think some swim lessons this year and a lot more time in open water will help a ton. I was actually really happy with my swim times last year, but I would love to feel a lot better getter out of the water. I would also like to do more Olympic distance races before attempting a 70.3.

I’m looking forward to spring, more time in the pool and on my bike. And I want to work strength training back into my schedule. I dropped it completely with my marathon training. With the higher mileage, I didn’t have the energy or time. But now that I belong to a gym again, it would be fun to work more of my body than just my legs. Once my leg feels good enough to start speed work again, I’ll enter a few local races. But for now I’m going to enjoy a little down, finish up some lingering knitting projects and relax. Then I’ll be able to jump into my next training schedule full of enthusiasm.

You can view photos and video (good and bad) of Bill and me on the Action Sports site.


3 Comments on 2011 Austin Marathon Race Report

  1. Marisa on Sun, 27th Feb 2011 7:53 pm
  2. Dena, You are awesome! Such an inspiring race report… that you were able to run that well with all that crap behind you says a lot. Your next marathon is going to be a huge PR, I’m sure of it!!!

  3. kelli ann on Sat, 12th Mar 2011 9:26 am
  4. Oh, Dena– what a story. You continue to be an inspiration! Hope life gets simpler and you get back to MASS for more rest and time for yourselves. Bravo Bravo!

  5. Denise on Tue, 20th Dec 2011 5:49 pm
  6. Keep up the good, hard work.

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