4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

Posts Tagged ‘austin marathon

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!


Written by SCL

February 18, 2009 at 10:02 pm

Working on the race report…

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Time consuming stuff, so I’m actually dreading it.  Too busy with work and home after being away 5 days…  Anyway, see my Austin Marathon official stats below.  I want to frame it!

Notice that I not only beat my 4:30 time goal, but with my place of 1998 out of 4051, I beat more than half the runners, my other general marathoning goal!

Austin Marathon Details

Written by SCL

February 18, 2009 at 11:24 am

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Austin Day 3

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Saturday was day 3 in Austin.  Another great day.  The weather was cold, though.  We were very suprised when we stepped out into what could have been a New York winter day.  Cold and windy.  It was in the mid 40’s, so definitely warmer than your typical New York winter’s day, but colder than we were expecting, for sure.

My goal for the day was to drive the marathon course, and along the way, we would stop off at several touristy stops.  We drove the 1st six miles of the course, and then went to the Austin Botanical Gardens, at Zilker Park.  It was small, compared to others gardens I’ve seen, and since it is the tail end of winter, there was not a lot in full bloom, but it was still wonderful.  They have a great Japanese Garden, complete with a half moon bridge.  They also have a spectacular bamboo forest.  A few of the roses were in bloom, and we also went through the Prehistoric Garden, which has a statue of a dinosaur that was native to the area.

We then hit the marathon course again for another 8 miles or so, and turned off at Mt Bonnell.  It is a large hill with great views of Lake Austin.  It is more like a scenic overlook than a tourist destination.  We hiked up the many stairs to the top, admired the view for a bit, and headed back to the car.  Apparently, lots of people go there to picnic, and there was a couple with picnic basket, setting up for a Valentine’s Day lunch.

Finally, we drove the remaining 13 miles of the course.  We intended to stop off at the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum, but changed our minds at the last minute to get a head start on our late lunch / early dinner plans.  

It was really useful to drive the course ahead of time, to get an idea of the hills, the turns, and the different stages of the course.  You can only appreciate the look of the hills at the end of the course once you’ve seen the whole thing and can grasp how big they are and how late in the race they appear!

For our late lunch / early dinner, we went to Salt Lick BBQ.  This is the place that was most strongly recommended among the people we spoke to.  It is way out in the sticks, about a 40 minute drive south and west of Austin, in the hill country.  And yet, when we arrived there at 2pm and put our names on the list, we were told it would be a 1 hour wait.  1 hour (and even 2 hour) waits are typical, it seems, and they had a guy singing and playing the guitar for entertainment in a heated tent.  It was still quite chilly (low 50’s), so we stayed in the tent to listen to the entertainment while we waited.  The wait did end up being 1 hour, but it was well worth it.  Probably the best BBQ I’ve ever had!  And the meal was topped off with a great Pecan Pie for me and a Blackberry Cobbler for my wife.  Another fantastic meal.

We were back at the hotel early and watched Get Smart, before retiring early to bed.  Had to be up early the next morning for the Austin Marathon, which started at 7am.

Written by SCL

February 16, 2009 at 4:32 pm

Austin Day 2

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Friday was day 2 in Austin.  Had a great day.  The weather was stunning.  Early on it was in the 60’s and cloudy, but eventually the sun came out and the high was 79 degrees.  Thankfully the weather would cool before the marathon, but it was just perfect for being out and about.

In the morning, my wife had a business meeting on the campus of University of Texas, so I wondered around for a bit and just sat outside with my book, enjoying the weather.  Also got the worlds fastest haircut at some place on 26th and Guadaloupe.  Afterwards, we met up with another of my wife’s business contacts at Ranch 616, a diner style restaurant with great Texas food.  The special of the day was Chicken Fried Chicken, and I couldn’t pass that up.

After lunch, we had a couple of hours to kill before the Austin Marathon race expo, which was held at the Palmer Events Center, across the lake.  So, we did a lot of walking, and then spent an hour sitting in the shade just behind the expo location.  Just before 3pm, we headed into the expo, and it was a total mob scene.  Very crowded!  Waited about 15 minutes on line to get my bib, bag and shirt.

I went a little bit crazy at the expo and bought lots of stuff:

  • 1 tank top from the ‘discount’ guy.  Last summer I killed 2 of my tanktops from all the sweat, and I can’t get the stink out anymore.  So, I need some replacements.  Unfortunately, he only had 1 XL in a style that I liked.
  • 3 cheap pairs of ‘throwaway’ gloves from the same discount guy.  Figured I’d use one for the marathon on Sunday and then have 2 extra for future cold races or New York City Marathon.
  • Speed laces – I got this at Super Runners Shop last year, but have since had a hard time finding them.  These laces tighten and loosen by drawstring, rather than tying.  I absolutely loved them, and am glad I got some refills – 1 set of fasteners and 2 sets of laces
  • Austin Marathon branded mesh hat and gloves.  My old NYC Marathon branded gloves have gotten a bad case of the stinks, and need to go in the garbage.
  • 3 pairs of shorts (buy 2 get 1 free) from the sub4usa stand.  I love their DryLyte Compression shorts.  I bought 2 of these at the Big Sur Marathon expo in 2005 and after 4 summers of hard use, they were falling apart.  Should be set for a few more years now.
  • 3 pairs of socks – For my size 13 / 14 feet, extra large socks are a must.  I have a very hard time finding them in the running stores in New York.  I tried Super Runners Shop and Jackrabbit, to no avail.  At the expo, I splurged $20 for 3 pairs of super duper, toe reinforced, blister free, dry, etc socks.  Now I can throw away all of my old blister-causing socks.

We walked all around downtown in the evening and then headed to South Congress St to go to Guero’s Taco Bar for dinner.  Unfortunately, the place was packed, as was all the other restaurants in the area.  So, we went back to the hotel and had a great meal at Texas Land and Cattle, a chain restaurant, but still very good.  We ate in front of a fireplace, and topped it off with a great brownie with ice cream.

All in all, a wonderful kid-free day!

Written by SCL

February 16, 2009 at 3:47 pm

A ‘fiery’ marathon

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Have a few hours to kill in the airport before heading back to NY tonight, so will try and post details of my trip and the Austin Marathon yesterday.

But first, check this out: http://nofearofthefuture.blogspot.com/2009/02/fortean-fireball-weekend.html – during the marathon, there was some kind of meteor or space debris that fell in the northern sky.

Written by SCL

February 16, 2009 at 3:14 pm


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4:22:10ish – I would get my official time, but the marathon site appears to be down 🙂 – perfect day in every way.  Will provide details later on.

Written by SCL

February 15, 2009 at 4:16 pm

Austin Austin Austin

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Woo hoo!  Despite the gale force winds in NYC today, made it out only 2 hours late and arrived safely in Austin.  This will be a fantastic trip.  My wife and I left the kids at home with mother-in-law for 5 days!  Too good to be true.  Will top off the trip with the Austin Marathon on Sunday.

Today we looked at real estate, one of our fun common interests.  In addition to my New Jersey house, we own some rental houses in Asheville, NC, and we’re scouting about for other cool metro areas that might also double some day as a retirement base – Austin is very nice in the wintertime, and after the January we just had, I think we may eventually try to find a warm weather destination for the winter seasons.  

Had dinner at an awesome BBQ spot, Iron Works BBQ.  As horrible as it may sound, it is nice to have a few days without the kids.  It feels very liberating to not be on their schedule, listen to them fight and argue, and just simply do the things we want to do for a change!  I miss them for sure, but will enjoy the time away.

Will try to get the Expo out of the way tomorrow, and also go for a little run.

Written by SCL

February 12, 2009 at 11:27 pm

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Just a regular training run

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This time of the year, on Tuesday nights, I run in Central Park with NYRR for a speed workout.  Had to skip it today, though, and for a good reason.  My 13 year old got accepted to one of the NYC specialized high schools, and now has a decision to make regarding which school to choose.  I had to go with her to an open house to learn more about the school.  Fun, fun fun.

Was able to get out for a late night training run – 2 loops around Stuyvesant Town.  Each loop is 2.6 miles, so my total run was 5.2 miles.  First loop was at a very nice steady training pace, 24:35.  However, the competitive juices started flowing and I turned it up at least 2 notches for the 2nd loop, which was finished a minute and a half faster, at 23:03.  In all, 5.2 miles covered in 47:38, or a 9:10 pace.

43 degrees with little wind.  First time in a long time I ran sans gloves and only a single shirt layer.  Felt nice.  Still don’t know how I’m going to dress for the Austin Marathon on Sunday.  Should be in the upper 40’s at the start and then go up to 60 during the race.  Should be perfect!

Written by SCL

February 10, 2009 at 11:12 pm

No Bronx Half Marathon For Me

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Since I’m tapering for the Austin Marathon, which is in 6 short days, I skipped the Bronx Half Marathon yesterday.  Of course, the one I skip would be the nicest weather New York has seen for a February race in years!  I’ve had a lot of fun reading all the race reports, but I’m a little sad I missed it.  It was my first missed Grand Prix event since Manhattan 2007 – I ran 10 in a row.  I’m sure I’ll run it again next year.

I did get some runs in this weekend.  Two six-mile hilly workouts.  Friday night I did my 5.9 mile out and back over the Williamsburg Bridge.  It was 31 degrees, and quite comfortable.  Didn’t push too hard and had no issues at all.  Finished in 56:29. 

Then, last night, I went to Central Park for a rare training run on my own in the park.  I run the park for races often, and I also often do group speed workouts with the NYRR class, but I don’t often do a training run in the park on my own, as most of my training is downtown, on the lower east side, or in east river park.  While not mid 50’s, like it was in the morning, the temp was a very comfortable 44 degrees.  I did a full loop of the park in 54:25, just over 9 minutes per mile.  Again, since in taper mode, did not go all out.  Just wanted to get the extra hill work in.  I passed 13 people on the way and only got passed 6 times.  I thought that was a good ratio!

My plans for this week include a run on Tuesday or Wednesday.  Then I fly out to Austin on Thursday and will run there on Friday.  Weather outlook for Austin on Sunday is for a low of 51 and a high of 70.  Since the race starts at 7am, it will hopefully be mostly in the 50’s during the race.

Written by SCL

February 9, 2009 at 3:24 pm

Taper mode!

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In taper mode for the Austin Marathon, which is in 9 days. 

Last run was Tuesday nights speed workout in Central Park in the snow!  Central park was absolutely stunning after the storm we had Tuesday.  At least 5 inches of snow everywhere!  The road was sort of plowed, but still snow covered and pretty slippery.  All the trees were completely covered.  The cat statue (really a panther), at Cat Hill, was covered in white!  Our workout was repeats up Cat Hill.  The going was quite slippery (like running on sand) and since I was coming off my 20 mile training run from Sunday, I just stayed in the back of the last group and took it easy.  It was a lot of fun.

Current temp in Austin Tx?  56 degrees!  Looking forward to the trip and to some warmer weather.  Hopefully the temps on marathon day are right in the 50’s.

Written by SCL

February 6, 2009 at 9:47 am