As with Woodlands, I really wasn’t like super jazzed for this one. I had been coming off some pretty solid run training in March with a pretty healthy body, so there was that, but this course is pretty hilly and April weather can be variable (so either 30 and rainy, or 75 and humid), so I had no idea what I’d be working with. Add to that it’s a ~4-ish hour drive from Austin to Allen and we’d be doing it straight after work, after the week from hell, and I had zero expectations.
The plan was just this: show up, and run (and eat In-N-Out). Nothing more.
If you asked me to predict my time, I’d say 2:10 on a great day, 2:15 on a decent day, and 2:20+ if shit went bad, due to all those factors above.
We got up there without much incident (a little traffic, but that’s to be expected on a Friday night). This time, we brought sandwiches with instead of waiting to get there, which meant we ate earlier instead of trying to stuff dinner in our bellies late. We got a little snack (I had a salad) right before bed, took a shower, relaxed in the room, and got off to sleep around 10:30pm.
Lucky us, our hotel was right across the street from the race, so we slept in until about 6am, did our normal pre-race stuff: poop, purple stuff, half a cliff bar, and then we walked across the street to get our shirts and bibs… and it was further than we thought. So we hightailed it back to the hotel (warmup run), dropped our shirt, grabbed the rest of our gear, and actually took the car over since we were running super late.
Pictures care of me being silly…
We parked, and then realized the race was starting without us, so we picked it up to a jog, and then heard “are there any more half marathoners?” to which we screamed “yes” and broke into a sprint and were two of the last people across the line. Not the finest start to a race ever, and very reminiscent of my first half marathon ever. At least I got to see Libby and say hi as I booked it past the arch.
I looked down at my garmin, and 8’s were not what I wanted to be running, so I settled down, and soon Zliten did too. We were in the back, so we spent the first half mile dodging walkers and slower runners (not that we’re fast, but slower than us). We passed the 3 hour pacer, then the 2:50…
…and then my garmin died. Yep, I have been talking all big lately about trying a race without mine, and joking that I didn’t care if my garmin was dead for the race, but when it actually happened without me planning for it, it bummed me out a little bit, being that I didn’t have a pacer to latch onto, or really, ANY IDEA of what pace I was running.
However, I know how to run a half marathon, it’s a distance I’m comfortable with, and I know the pacing strategy – hurt a little at first, hurt a little more in the middle miles, then hurt a lot in the last few miles. I told Zliten about my garmin and ended up sticking with him because that’s what “hurt a little” felt like. He tried to tell me splits a few times but I shushed him. If I was going to sans-garmin this thing, I wanted to totally try “run by feels”.
The first half of this course was rolling hills, but generally downhill. Not good for the last half, which meant rolling hills, mostly UPHILL, but I tried to keep myself in the moment. We passed 2:45, and the next one I noticed was 2:30, then 2:25, then 2:20. Nice. Around mile 5, I finally got curious and asked Zliten if we were under 10s, and he nodded his head. Solid. I think that motivated me to push the flats in the middle hard to try and gain some time, and apparently, I dragged Zliten a lot through here and we were running in the low 9s. We passed the 2:15 pacer around mile 6.5. Cool.
Around 7-8, he pulled in beside me and said “how good do you feel?” and I said “pretty good”. He asked if I wanted to shoot for a PR, I asked mine or his (2:08 vs 2:11) and he said mine. I asked if we were close to on pace, he said yup, and I said, let’s give it a try. However, I knew the last 4 miles had some pretty decent hills, so I told him he’d probably have to drag me and I’d try and keep up.
I did my best, but he pulled away around mile 9-10, because he has this superhuman ability that hills don’t faze him (he actually prefers hills to flats or downhills – that JERK) and my glutes started cramping after really hammering up one hill, so I backed off ever so slightly on the inclines and with each one, he got further away. Once it flattened out, I tried to push it to catch up, but those friggin orange compression socks kept going further away because there was too much UP and not enough FLAT to gain ground.
I made a turn, and saw the road flatten out, and thought we had about half a mile left and was going to turn it on and kick, but then there was the mile 13 marker and the finish.
Official time: 2:08:50. Zliten’s official time: 2:07:02. Yep, he now owns the official house record for the half marathon (besting my 2:08:07). He totally earned it though, he ran a GREAT race.
I am pretty dang happy with mine too. This is 43 seconds slower than my PR from 4 years ago. This is on a much harder course than the pancake flat RnR San Antonio where that happened. I’m 15 lbs heavier now. I didn’t taper. I had no garmin. I also placed in the top 1/3rd of my new age group and top 1/3rd of my gender. Can’t sneeze at that.
I actually loved running without the garmin – I think the faster paces I was pushing in the middle of the race would have scared me, and I don’t think I would have been able to fight the slowing on the hills even by being more conservative. That’s just how I run. I know how to run a race effort, and I think it may pay dividends to run how I’m feeling right then at a certain effort, rather than trying to hit a pace.
I do think it might have made *some* difference in the later miles knowing how close I was to PR, but maybe it wouldn’t have. Maybe I would have been disheartened about being so close but not making it I would have let off the gas and been more like 2:10-2:12. Who knows?
I race this weekend (Austin 10/20) and that’s the one I really want to hammer, so bring it on! This pace will PR me easily, and the run is shorter (10 miles) and significantly flatter, though the weather is looking to be hotter. I am a little sludgy in the legs right now, but the order of the week is recovery work, so hopefully I’ll have another great tale of awesomeness to tell next week!
Big shoutout to Libby, aka The Active Joe, who puts on amazing races where I always have a good day. She does this one, Showdown (which I did 1.5 years ago), and The New Years Double. If you ever get a chance to participate in one of her races, you ABSOLUTELY should. I mean, look at that sweet medal – the windmill spins (I verified that by spinning it about eleventy billion times that day)! Good times.