4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

Austin Marathon Race Report – Prerace

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The Austin Marathon was this past Sunday, at 7am.  I always like to be at races early to make sure I don’t rush myself through my final preparations, so I set my alarm for the insanely early hour of 4am.  My plan was to be at the start area by 5am to be sure I got a good street parking spot close to the start and finish area.  Our hotel was about a 10 minute drive from downtown, so I had plenty of time to get ready and get out on my schedule.

I made sure to get all my clothes set up the night before so I wouldn’t forget anything.  Only problem was that I was still totally undecided on what to wear.  It felt very cold on Saturday, in the mid 40’s in the morning and not much higher than 55 in the daytime.  The forecast for Sunday morning was 44 degrees, so I was not sure if I would wear long or short clothes for the race.  I had them both ready to go.  First check was the weather, and the temperature was 51 degrees.  Great news!  At 51 degrees, and a forecast of sun later in the morning, I figured I would be fine with short sleeves and shorts.  However, I would watch the temps carefully.  As it was only 4am, it was possible that the temps could still drop several degrees by 7am.  That was a mistake I made before the New York City Marathon this past year.  On that day, the temperatures continued to drop in the wee hours of the morning and I was not warm enough before the race.

Next concern was food.  I had collected a bowl of cereal, oranges, a banana and 2 small bagels from Saturday’s hotel breakfast.  The cereal was not portable, so I ate it in my room.  The rest of the food would come with me for the 2 hour wait before the race.

Was out of the hotel by 4:35, and was camping for the best spot well before 5am.  At that time, downtown was still deserted and I could essentially park wherever I wanted.  The start was on Congress Ave and 1st St, and the finish was on Congress Ave and 8th St, so I decided to park 1 block off Congress, in the middle, at 5th St.  Turns out I was about a half hour too early, as the parking spots all filled up around 5:30.  I filled the time by constantly checking the weather, thinking through my race strategy, using the port-o-potties (3 times), eating, and reading my book.  By the way, I’m currently on book 2 of the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, The Great Hunt.

The temperature did not go down, but stayed right at 51 degrees.  So, I decided to stay in my short sleeve shirt and shorts.  It was a tiny chilly so I wore a throwaway long sleeve tee until just before the start of the race.  In terms of food, I was sort of stuffed from 3 days of eating BBQ like a pig, but I forced myself to eat.  1 orange, 1 banana, 1 small bagel, and half a bag of pretzels.  I did not drink anything.  This is a common strategy I use before races – I drink A LOT the day and night before the race to get nice and hydrated, and then do not drink at all before the race.  If I drink before the race, then I invariably need to use the bathroom during the race, which is no good.

Since I was parked so close to the start and finish, I decided not to check my bag.  That meant I needed to stuff the giant car keys in my amphipod holder, along with 3 Gu’s.  Luckily it fit, barely!  At 6:35 I left the car for the last time and went on the back of the bathroom line, which was starting to back up.  Took awhile to get through the line and was ready to line up for the race at 6:50.

I’m guessing the bib numbers were assigned based on the sign-up order.  I signed up for the race on the 1st or 2nd day it opened, and ended up with the most amazing number, 36.  In the pre-race materials, it clearly stated that anyone with a number <300 could line up in the first corral, and then everyone else was to self line up by pace.  Now I normally would not go all the way to the front of the race line like that, but I WAS INVITED, and so did not feel bad at all.  Truth be told, there was nobody up front checking numbers so anyone could have lined up there, and there were others that didn’t belong.

Being up front was a really cool experience.  There were 2 wheelchairs lined up for the wheelchair competition, which would start 5 minutes before everyone else.  A guy with bib 1, and a woman who looked really fit were posing for pictures.  While there were lots of serious looking runners there, there was nobody famous.  A big deal was made about there being no elite field for the race.  AT&T was supposed to be the title sponsor, but backed out.  Therefore, no prize money, and thus, no elite field for the first time in the history of the race.  In addition to the marathon, with 5000 people, the half marathon started at the same time, with 8000 people.  It was quite a sight to look back from the start line and see people lined up as far as the eye can see, seemingly all the way back to the Texas Capital building, which is back on 13th St or so.

At about 6:55, they announced that the race would start 10 minutes late.  Later it got pushed back another 5 minutes, to 7:15.  The start announcer was having lots of problems with his microphone.  It was some kind of wireless device that kept losing its connection to the receiver.  It apparently required a clean ‘line of sight’, and people or things kept getting in the way.  It was a big problem for the guy singing the national anthem, as it the microphone kept cutting out on him.  All the runners filled in the gaps and it turned into a true group rendition. It was also neat watching the final preparations of the race director and the lead vehicles.  The race director kept giving the announcer guy cues of exactly what time to start.

Finally, at 7:15am the horn went off!

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Written by SCL

February 18, 2009 at 10:02 pm

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