A cold run down a long hill or the 3M Half Marathon

So the weekend before the 3M Half Marathon I went out and ran a miserable unmotivated 15+ miles (yes, I was so unmotivated I didn’t even wear my Garmin so I don’t even know how far I went).  The way the Christmas and New Years holidays fell this year totally dismantled my training.  It’s not that I was sitting on the couch watching Law & Order marathons, but I wasn’t getting up at my normal work time then going to the gym, so my workout schedule was all over the place.  Although I was training it was not regimented and I wasn’t running near as much as I figured I should be.

After my 15 mile training run, I. Felt. Like. Poo.

Since I felt completely unprepared, I figured I’d run 3M as a training run. No pressure, no real goal, no PR.

The day before the half marathon, I got up and it was downright HOT outside.  70 degrees at 6:30am??? in January?? But also raining.  Herb and I were supposed to ride with the Austin Cycling Association (ACA) but they canceled their ride on account of the rain.  Herb and I waited for the rain to stop, then headed out at 10:00am.  We rode about 54 miles to Kyle, TX and back.  Not too hard or fast as the roads were still wet, but I felt pretty good.  I wasn’t super worried about 3M since it was just a training run.

“They” were predicting temperatures in the 30’s and rain for race morning.  Oh, joy.  I know how to dress for a cold run, but I don’t really know how to dress for a long cold, rainy run as I do not run outside when it is cold and rainy.

I laid out my SPI-race belt (race belt with a pocket for car keys and gels and the like), my gloves, visor, sunglasses, a tech short sleeve, my REI airflyte hoodie long sleeve (favorite shirt EVA!), my new cold weather running tights, wool sock and running shoes.  This is the exact outfit (minus the race belt) I would wear for a mid-20-30’s degree run on the Brushy Creek trail.  I figured if it was raining I would grab my windbreaker which is sorta waterproof. Thing is, the hoodie has sleeves that loop around your thumbs and can flap over your hands, so my Garmin was on over my hoodie on one wrist, then my watch was over the hoodie on the other wrist.  I had attached my iPod to my visor which was on under the hood.  There was no way I was getting that hoodie off while running without pinking shears if it was too hot.  Luckily the weatherman was as correct as he ever is, so although the temperatures were cold, it was dry, dry, dry.  Perfect running weather.

There was a pretty stout wind (15-20mph) but it was a North wind, which (a) is pretty rare in Austin and (b) meant we would have a tail wind for the great majority of the run!  Yay!

A half marathon is 13.1 miles.  I figured I would eat a Gu gel every 3-4 miles, so that’s mile 3ish, 7ish and 10ish.  3 gels, but I figured I would take a spare since you never know when you or someone else might need one.  My new running tights had little hidden pocket all over the place, so I put one gel in my SPI belt, the the others in all these little pockets.

I was out of bagels and oatmeal so I opted for a 1/2 of a PB&J sandwich, then had two cups of tea, and headed out.

I got to the venue and had no problem parking in the garage next to El Arroyo or Baby A’s or whatever Mexican restaurant was right near the start line.  There wasn’t even a line!  I determined I would hunker down and stay warm until the last minute when I would doff my fleece pants, my scarf and my jacket to hand off to the Post-Race Clothing people.  But then I had to go to the bathroom.  I hurried over to the Port-o-Johns and again, no line.  Wow.  I did my business, then was going to head back to my warm truck when I ran into Elle.  The trooper she is, Elle had forgotten to bring gloves and was ready to make a go of a 2 1/2 hour run with a mid-20’s degree windchill without gloves.  Of course, I had two extra pair of glove in my truck (doesn’t everybody?), so she walked back to my truck with me and I lent her some bright turquoise fleece gloves.

We headed back to the general area where people were congregating, and ran into Mohamed then JoAnne.  Joanne had scored a parking place in the parking lot right by the post-race clothing drop-off and Port-o-Johns.  JoAnne, Elle, Mohamed and I hunkered down in JoAnne’s warm SUV until about 7 minutes before the race start when we went and dropped off our warm clothes and headed to the start line.

My strategy was to run alone, and start way back.  You guys know I love you, but it seems that whenever I want to run easy, whoever I am running with feels like they have to step up their game and then tries to kill me (Yes, Eva I am talking about you last year).  I also planned on running how I felt, so if I felt good at the 1/2 way point, I might run faster.  I can never count on a negative split (running the second half of a race faster than the first) but I do generally run negatives, and I also would not want to kill any running mate that might not have planned for a negative split if I did feel good.

I cued up my iPod and got in line back behind the 2:00 pace group.  I figured I would at least make a 2 hour 1/2 marathon, but didn’t want the pressure for the pace group if I wasn’t feeling it.

A fella sung the Start Spangled Banner (did a good job), then at about 6:45 we were off.  It was still dark out as we started which if pretty cool as I like running in the dark.  The wind was in my face as we started so I had my hood up to warm my ears. I felt properly dressed and tried to glance at my Garmin to make sure I was not going out to fast, but due to the lack of light and my poor middle aged eyesight I couldn’t really see what it said. [shrug] It’s a training run, anyway.

The hood stayed up until the wind was at my back and it seemed safe to take it down.  After that, I can say that I was perfectly dressed for the weather.

I grabbed water at the random water stops (ok, I guess I should have checked to see where the water stops were).  As we approached the mile 3ish water stop I went for a Gu gel.  Did I mention I was wearing my new running tights with the hidden pockets?  Yeah, so after digging around (and passing the water) I finally found a pocket and pulled out a gel with my gloves hand and . . .  it slipped and went flying into the crowd of runners. Nooooooo!  And that was the one double caffeinated gel I brought.  But, it’ll be ok, because I packed a spare.

I dug another gel out of the other pocket (being careful  to have a good grasp) then carefully opened it.  By the time I got the gel down, ta-da!  I was at the 4th mile water stop, so I grabbed some Gatorade (I meant to grab water, but missed the water volunteers, so Gatorade it is!).

I ran down Shoal Creek for awhile past the 5 mile marker, keeping beat to the tunes on my iPod when a disembodied voice said “Battery low”.  Noooooo!  Dang it.  I had just recharged the mini and by “just” I mean I recharged it before I did that 3 miler, then the 15 miler, but that was only, like, 3 hours of iPodding and the iPod when full charged should be good for a lot longer than that, right?  Right?  Of course I had considered recharging the iPod but thought “Naaahhh, I don’t need that.”  Ok, better pick up the pace because I do not want to be running up those hills in the last two miles with no music.

The good thing about “Battery low” guy is that I know he gives me a LOT of warning, so I should have at least 45 minutes of music left, but I ain’t gonna be able to run 7 miles in 45 minutes (you do the math).  I lowered the volume – does that even save the battery?  I have no idea.  And picked up the pace a bit.

I passed the 6 mile marker and thought , “Woo-Hoo!  Half way done!”  The great thing about running a half marathon is that when you get hypoxic and can’t do math you don’t even notice things like Mile 6 is not half of 13, until you get to mile 7 and try to figure out how much further you have. So I had my little undeserved thrill at Mile 6, then was able to say, “Woo-hoo!  OK, now I’m a little more than half way done!” at Mile 7.

Mile 7, time for another gel.  I got my third gel out of my SPI belt and ate it with some water at the next water stop.  OK, that was one lost gel out of the left pocket, one gel out of the right pocket, and there is only one gel in the SPI belt.  Crap!  Where is my “extra” gel?  I checked the breast pocket on the hoodie.  Nope.  Dang it!  I know I was thinking about taking and extra, I even intended on taking an extra.  Did I really forget to put the extra gel in my SPI belt?  Damn.

I started taking Gatorade at the remaining water stops since i would not have a Mile 10 gel.  I wasn’t too worried as I didn’t have that far to go and the Gatorade would certainly get me to the finish line.

When I did finally get to Mile 10, I thought woo-hoo, only a 5k left!  My iPod was still pumping out the tunes and I started to kick it in, even though I knew there were the new nasty hills from 11.5 through the end of the race.  I was feeling pretty good and I would just see how I felt on the hills. When the batteries die on my iPod it somehow knows to finish the song it is on but will not start the next song.  I’ve never had this iPod die mid-song.  So every time a new song started I knew I had a guarantee of about 4 minutes of music. So every four minutes I had my own personal little thrill (you can see what kinds of things that get me excited).

It’s all a fairly steep down hill along Duval, so I was hoofing it, then we turned left onto Dean Keaton and almost immediately hit the hills with a bit of a head/cross wind, but it actually felt kinda good to use different muscles.  The next song started.  Whoop! After the Dean Keaton hills, I turned right onto Red River for two more nasty little hills, but again, I felt pretty good.

I took the final right onto MLK and knew I only had 1/2 mile left, that’s one song!  I’ve got this!  Of course MLK had a stout headwind and a slight incline, but I had also been running for almost two hours, so it felt a lot worse than it was.  Then  gust of wind took my TriZones headsweats ($20) visor!  Noooooo!

… but wait. I can still hear music. Yes, my headphones kept the visor from fluttering away.  I grabbed the cord then followed it to my visor and put the visor back on.

Final turn! Finish line sprint! And DONE!

1:51:52 (with a negative split 8:42 min/miles for the first 6.2, 8:22’s for the last 6.9)

I have to say, this is probably the first time I ran a long race without racing, completely on my terms, as fast as I felt like going, without racing anyone else.  I felt great when I finished.  I was pleased with my time.  Not a PR, but then this was a training run.  And of course I did much better than I thought that I would.

After grabbing two bottles of water I went and cheered for other runners for about 10 minutes at which point I was so freaking cold I couldn’t stand it, then went and got my post-race warm dry clothes.

Post script:  Upon donning my fleece pants I felt a lump at my back.  Oh, yeah, there is a zipper pocket back there, where I put the extra gel.  Ah, hypoxia, making people stupid one mile at a time. I guess this is why they say not to wear anything new on race day.

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About jredtripp

Triathlete Extraordinaire!
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