Up at 4:30 a.m. to get a little fuel and be prepped for the 6:45 a.m. start of the Austin 3M Half-Marathon. Slept pretty good last night - which is a little abnormal for me on the night before a race. As predicted, the winds shifted during the night (from South to North) and the temps dropped (from 71 degrees at 7:00 p.m. to 40 degrees at race time. And, the winds were a blowin' - 10 to 15 mph with gusts in the 20 mph range. But, on the upside - it meant a tailwind for about 75% of the race.
At 40 degrees and a 32 - 33 degree windchill, it was a bit chilly at the start (outside of Snow Joke, definitely the coldest of any of the full or half marathons that I've done). But, I had brought plenty of stuff to be prepared for any weather conditions - sometimes being an anal retentive geeky engineer type actually pays off :-). The one thing that was a bit disconcerting to me was the darkness - it's the first time that I've ever started a race before the sun came up. With 6,000 new friends at the start line however, it was just a matter of following the crowd and watching the feet and bodies within my 10' circle for the first couple of miles.
I lined up just behind the 1:30 pace group. I had two goals: the first was to hit the NYC qual. time for guaranteed entry for 50-54, which was 1:29:00 (6:47 pace). The "stretch" goal was to hit 6:40 pace - which comes out to 1:27:24. But, from my training block, I knew that I needed to be smart in how I got out. So, figured going for the first mile or two with the 1:30 group (6:51 pace) would let me get into a good rhythm and keep me under control.
The pacer was great, he was right on at the mile (6:56 gun time, about 6:50 chip time). But, there was some doorknob running alongside the pacer who just would not shut up. The guy was annoying the crap out of me - so, at about 2K I move up just a bit to connect to a small group. The next 2 miles were right on NYC pace - 6:45 and 6:46.
By this point, I was getting a bit warmer and had gotten into a decent rhythm. But, I was a little afraid of getting too comfy in the 6:45 to 6:50 range; and, didn't want to be cutting things too close to the 1:29 finish. So, decided to start moving up through the string of runners ahead of me. Hit the 4th mile with 6:41 split and felt good.
That's when I really got into a rhythm and found my groove. Mile 5 was 6:28; and, then I ticked off a the next 6 miles between 6:24 and 6:38. All the while I felt controlled and within myself. The whole time I just kept picking off people. Off and on was hooked up with a local guy from miles 6 to 11.
By 11, I was starting to feel the effort. Not at risk of blowing up; but, the late race fatigue was setting in; and, my right hamstring and pirifromas were both getting a bit tender. But, by this point all I had to do was finish the last 2.1 miles in 16:00 - wasn't worried that I could hit that.
But, at about 11.5, we came around a bend in the road by the football stadium at the University of Texas and there were 2 decent hills staring at me. Neither was terribly long (maybe each was 1.5 to 2 blocks long) or steep (maybe like going up a street overpass above a highway or railroad). But, as I said, by this point the fatigue was getting to me. And, perhaps the biggest thing that I've notice with my cardiomyopathy and the meds is that I tend to struggle on the hills.
I didn't give in though. Doing just like I tell my XC kids - I didn't worry about pace so much, I just tried to keep the effort consistent. And, it worked. It got me through the 12th mile with a 6:46 split. Then we turned a corner and there as one last hill looming ahead. Again, just focused on effort and getting over the top. Had some downhill until just a bit before 13 (which was a 6:45 split), then a bit of climb into the finish. As I hit the 13 mile marker, I could see by my watch that I was not just going to hit my goal of 6:40 pace (1:27:24); but, had a shot at sub-1:27. So, kept the effort strong for the last 200 meters and hit the line at 1:26:50. I gotta say - it was a good feeling.
But, it was cold and super windy in the finish area (glad I wasn't working the race today). So, I quickly grabbed my gear bag, put on some dry clothes, got a banana and some water and got on the bus back to the start area (and, luckily my hotel was within a block of the start).
A bit later, checked on the race results and saw that my chip time was 1:26:40, I was 114th overall and 3rd in 50 - 54. (Tim Mosbacher - I wasn't wearing my GPS watch, so don't know if the Houston time warp extended to Austin :-) ) That comes out to a 6:36.7 per mile. Hit 10K at 41:30 (6:40.6) and my last 6.89 miles were at 6:33 pace. So, a nice little negative split.
Yeah, I know that it's a net downhill. And, there was a good tailwind for much of the race. But, I don't care. After my last 2 + years I'm damn proud of this performance. Hit all of my time and performance goals. Physically felt good................muscularly and cardiac wise. I'm just really pleased with the day. It's been a long time since I've felt this good about a race.................guess I was finally due.
Now then, the only dark cloud. Went onto the ING New York City Marathon site later in the morning. They are still in a bit of chaos after cancelling the 2012 race. As it stands right now, they have guaranteed entry to all the 2012 entrants (subject to full entry fee) for the 2013, 2014 or 2015 full marathons or the 2013 NYC half marathon. They also have guaranteed entry for NY Road Runner Club members who meet certain criteria and runners who have finished 15 consecutive marathons. The deadline for the 2012 entrants to make their decision is January 25th. They'll then see how many runners choose to apply for the 2013 event. From there, they'll decide how to handle entry options for runners (like me) who have met their qualifying time criteria.
So, there is the potential that there won't be a slot for me in 2013. Guess I'll just have to wait it out and see what happens. But, I'm going to hope for the best; and, in the end, I'm sure that things will take care of themselves.
I'll have some good food tonight and a couple of beers and enjoy the feeling of a good run. Then I'll figure out what comes next. But, in the meantime.......................
I'll see you on the roads, tracks and trails.
The Muddy Buzzard