February 2016 - Austin Half Marathon

I have been wanting to run a race in Texas for quite a while. We try to visit Texas twice a year so I was hoping to combine that with a race. The Austin Marathon and Half Marathon is held in February each year, so it made sense since Dan’s niece has a birthday in February. There are a few other races in Austin that looked appealing but the date for this one was right on target. After stopping by a local running store last summer and talking area races over with an employee, I knew this race was a tough course. I run a lot of races with tough courses though. Have you seen Baltimore hills?

We booked flights to Dallas because it is far cheaper than flying to Austin. This means we had a 3 ½ hour drive from the airport to Dan’s sister’s house. We headed to Baltimore after work on Friday. Thankfully there was virtually no traffic ahead of our 8:15pm flight. What we didn’t really plan for was TSA having only one lane open. We fly in and out of Baltimore frequently and security is generally a breeze there. Even what looks like a long line usually moves quickly. We know the airport layout quite well, so we knew exactly where our gate was. The TSA agent overseeing the line was looking at boarding passes and sending some of the people in front of us to other terminals because their gates were in other areas. We got through security, without incident and went straight to our gate. Luckily, they were running a few minutes behind for our flight, which meant time to get my beloved iced tea and a quick trip to the bathroom. After an uneventful flight, we landed in Dallas. The car rental was offsite, so our current process of Dan gets the car, I get the luggage and we meet in the middle was a no-go. The car rental didn’t have any economy cars left so we got an SUV upgrade, which was nice for all of the driving ahead. We arrived at Dan’s sister’s house around 3:30am. I slept on and off through the driver but luckily 2nd shift Dan was in his prime. We got some sleep and got up Saturday morning ready to hit the expo and downtown Austin.

Finding free parking for the expo was actually pretty easy. The Austin Marathon put on a great expo. We walked every aisle checking out the booths and products. After the expo, we left the car in the free parking for a bit longer and walked around the area of town where the expo was. Once we were walked out, we drove through some more of Austin and saw lots of race preparations in action. The starting line was being set up and looking good.

Dan was hoping to hit a steakhouse while we were in town and I suggested doing it the night before the race. We plugged ‘Texas Land and Cattle’ into the GPS. There was a 20 minute wait but not bad for the night before Valentine’s Day. I had salad, bread, steak, and Brussel sprouts. I felt good, full but not stuffed. When we got home it was time for bed.

We were up early and after walking around outside deciding whether I should wear a skirt or capris, we were one our way to the race by 5:30 and I was dressed in a skirt. Again, we easily found free parking. On the way to the race, I drank my coffee and ate my Larabar and was ready for a nice brisk walk to the start. We found a bathroom area and I ran up and down the parking lot a few times. I got line and quickly realized that out of the 4 bathrooms, only one was open. I stayed in line because it seemed better than starting over. About 20 minutes out from race time, a lady came out of the bathroom and walked over to me in the line of mostly men and said there was no toilet paper. I decided it wasn’t worth waiting anymore. We walked further down the street looking for a bathroom. I was afraid we wouldn’t find one but down the block, we came across an entire row of bathrooms. I’m actually not sure the first set we stopped at was even part of the race. It was next to a loading dock and I think it may just been coincidence that they were near the race. The second line was sort of long but there were plenty of bathrooms and those lines generally move pretty quickly. I got to the starting area and was ready for the start.

At race time, the temperature was about 60 degrees and 85 percent humidity. There was a bit of a chill in the air but I was able to take my jacket off and leave it with Dan. My body was plenty warm through the beginning of the race but my fingers felt like ice for the first few miles. The first half of the race was smooth and my fingers warmed up. I was rolling at a really nice pace. I was hoping for a PR but also knew the hills were ahead. I took on the first few hills with ease. Around mile 8, we came to a killer hill. Then came another hill. And another hill. I decided to take the uphills as best I could and really capitalize on every yard of the downhills. I was right on the boarder of a PR. At 1 ½ miles left, I decided a PR was still possible but I had to dig deep and make every stride the best yet. There was still another hill between me and the finish line. In the end, no PR but still a time I’m really happy with.

During the race I felt really good. After I finished though I started feeling pretty crumby. I met up with Dan and switched to my flip flops and calf compression. For the most part, I am able to just carry about my day after a half marathon but this day I was moving slower as we walked to the car. We got in the car and I am usually talking non-stop about the race and what I saw and experienced. I was feeling some stomach upset and leg pain and just rode in silence. Looking back, I should have done a better job of fueling. I should have drank more and I should have eaten more. I have been avoiding Gatorade due to the sugar but now I’m thinking I need to start reintroducing some more electrolytes in longer runs. I took a very long shower and hobbled to the couch. I still had a banana in my bag so I slowly ate the banana and sipped a bottle of water. I started to feel better. We had planned to have lunch at a barbeque place and have a nice afternoon out and about. I told Dan I thought I needed to sleep a little. I slept only for about an hour but I awoke feeling like a completely different person, and we were able to pick up our plan for barbeque dinner at Salt Lick.

My next race is notoriously flat but it is a full marathon so I absolutely must do a good job of fueling. I feel I fueled well last year at the full marathon so I need to channel that again. I’m already registered for Austin Half Marathon 2017! Call me crazy but I am excited to see those hills again!

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