Congratulations to all the people who ran the Austin Marathon or Half Marathon on Sunday. 2664 people finished the marathon and 6692 finished the half. On our usual easy run that morning my friends and I all agreed that running an easy 7 miles was hard enough in the warm and soupy conditions. It was a day to manage your effort and pay close attention to hydration. The smart, experienced, and well-trained runner could have a decent race, but it was not a good day to push the pace and look for a PR.
The women’s winner was Allison Macsas, the definition of smart and experienced. She led from the start, coming through the half in 1:21, and slowing down in the last 10K to finish in 2:48, looking smooth and strong still at 23 miles. Caroline Veltri of New York ran essentially even splits, remarkably, and finished second, in 2:58. The next several finishers were local fasties Jen Harney, Nadia Tamby, Sarah Madebach, and masters winner Chris Kimbrough.
The men’s race started fast, with former UT runners Mark Pinales and Joe Thorne (pictured above) running about 5:30 pace for the first 10 miles or so. The Exposition hills and the conditions took a toll and Pinales slowed, trailing Thorne by a couple minutes at the halfway point. Pinales dropped soon after with hip and leg cramps, a sad ending for the winner of each of the earlier Austin Distance Challenge races. Thorne slowed down slightly throughout the second half of the race, but still ran alone at the front and finished in 2:31, about a minute ahead of Daniel Bishop. Jared Carson was third in 2:31. The masters winner was Diego Vanegas in 2:47.
I watched and cheered at a couple points on the course and marveled at the grace and effort of the runners. I was especially impressed with Chris Kimbrough, winning the masters despite a hurt knee, and Paul Rademacher who ran an amazing even-split 3:02:49, a PR by 2 seconds.
It was a tough day for the pacers as well. They are told to run even splits and hit the target time, even if all of their runners drop from the group. There were some lonely pacers at the 23 mile mark. Matt Fletcher was a pacer for the 3:30 group and answered a few questions by email.
1. What do you like about pacing?
If you hold the pacer sign stick just right, it can block the sun from getting in your eyes!
To be serious for just a moment, though, my early marathon memories are full of moments of respect for pacers as they prance effortlessly along, smile encouragingly, and wave at me as they pass me and my useless stumps of legs that will go no faster, and my smoldering marathon PR goal disappears in flames. One cannot absorb such an experience repeatedly, especially when high on endorphin and hydrocannibanoids, and not hold pacers in high regard. So naturally, to secure a precious spot in a pacer line-up is quite an honor. I deeply cherish the opportunity now to be that encouraging figure and return the favor back to this special community of runners who all give so freely their encouragement… to pay it forward.
2. You nailed the 3:30 time target with even 8:00/mile splits and still seemed happy when I saw you at 23 miles. 3:30 is well within your capabilities, but the conditions were tough. How did the race go from your perspective?
I’m always happy to see you, Sam!
I’ll be honest that I was worried about the weather leading up to a week before the race after having heavy mileage week before at 62 miles following the recovery and build up post-3M, so I decided to cut my mileage back more than I normally would have for a pacing effort, and having some work travel that week-of gave me an excuse to rest a couple extra days.
That morning I then became a little worried about too much rest and getting bound up and less mobile as we walked to the starting chute. As we headed up SoCo I was sweating early and feeling some tight calf tissue… about halfway up the hill it levels a little and the calf loosened up and I had no more issues until mile 26.0 when I got a wicked right hammy cramp that nearly knocked me down. I’d had 7 salt caps, 5 Powergels, and a salty slice of bacon from a super-cool spectator on Great Northern, but it still wasn’t enough salt. I sped up 20sec/mi and the cramp went away, thankfully, and was able to haul my “group” home to the finish.
Running the splits was pretty straightforward using the mile signs to calibrate any Garmin error and adjusting pace a little faster or slower to get back even over the next couple miles. The only tricky spot was the mile that started as we rounded from LAB to Enfield, heading up that first grinder hill, which was followed by a congested aid station, and we found ourselves 13 secs slow at the next mile marker, so Ted, my pacing partner and I debated should we pull that gap back in now, going over the Enfield rollers and Expo hills, or wait until Shoal Creek or GNB? It would have been nicer to go with Ted’s defer approach, but I wanted to hit the the 15k and half splits a little closer so we pushed the pace down a smidge through those lovely hills. Frankly a runner really targeting 3:30 had no business running flat 8:00s through Enfield and Expo anyway, so I think it worked out better.
Before the half split around mile 10 it’s hard to know how many runners are really with us, but by midway up SoCo it was 25-35 folks in our train, and starting down SoFi by the time we cleared the water stop at the top, I was tracking maybe 8-10 who I could see without turning completely around. For their benefit and everyone in earshot i shouted the sage Chris McClung advice to just run naturally letting the downhill take you, and DON’T use your “brakes”… don’t use your quads to slow you down. That’s a huge energy waster and you’ll really need those quads in a couple hours! I don’t know if anyone listened to me, but I tried 🙂
Probably the best advice was telling everyone I saw at the expo who came by the pacer booth that they’d need to take a LOT of extra salt during the race. At the start line I reminded everyone around that if they were racing for 3:30 I shouldn’t see them until they go bounding by me on San Jac, having managed a good negative split race execution. In race, I told everyone to dump water on their head. “Effective” would imply they listened, and I don’t know that any of them did, so that answer may ultimately remain a mystery.
Oh, yes! At that pace I don’t get the wicked-depletion and muscle damage so don’t have to recover a long time — it’s like a 3.5 hour longrun, right? At 35-45F it would have been a much lower heartrate effort with more aerobic base-building benefit, but I think at 70F+ it was still pretty solid base-building. Coach Stanley worked this into my training plan for Boston as a longer longrun knowing I’d recover quickly and get back to the faster work again soon. Wish me luck — after a failed PR attempt in Tulsa in November and 3M with a headcold, I don’t have a good fitness measurement just now, but I’m praying for good weather in Boston and the unrivaled crowd support bringing me across that hallowed blue finish line in PR time.
Jury is still out! I know Robyn and Michelle also nailed the 3:55 finish with only 9 secs error, beating my and Ted’s 14 secs finish error, and Nora and Patrick killed it too. The final competition is determined by split time error aggregated across all the 5k timing mats and the half as well as the finish, and there’s zero margin allowed above the finish goal time, and many of our 5k splits were 7:59/mi to an 8:01/mi target, so we may be too far off. Frankly, there are so many really good marathoners on the pacing team who had terrible days out there, that just being within a minute is to have survived a perilous journey. But we’ll have to wait for the pacer party to lick our wounds, vow to never let the team suffer as much carnage as this year, and open the envelope from PriceWaterhouseCooper to see which pacers pulled it off best.
Flotrack covered the race and has a bunch of great videos and reports available. Full results are here.
This was the last race in the annual ARC Austin Distance Challenge. The preliminary results are up here.
Interesting News and Articles
I wrote recently about an article describing the making of a trail running movie. Now here is the movie: Dakota Jones running and experiencing Patagonia. Yes, I still want to go.
Another good article from David Roche in Trail Runner Magazine, this one on tapering.
Here is the second article from Rhielle Widders in iRunFar on Building a Trail-Worthy Body.
I’ll be racing the half marathon at Saddle Blazer by Spectrum Trail Racing , held at Parrie Haynes Equestrian Center up near Killeen. There are also marathon and 10K events. The weather forecast looks great and these trails are supposed to be special.
Get Your Rear in Gear is a 5K this Saturday at Camp Mabry, benefiting the Colon Cancer Coalition.
Fellow TrailRoots runner Fred Riethmiller, the White Stallion, is running the Orcas Islands 100M this weekend. This race is held on an island near Seattle and features over 26,000 feet of elevation gain. Pam Kirby from Austin Trail Running Company is also racing.