I ran (I can say this without irony, minus some short walks because stupid hills are stupid) the Austin Half Marathon yesterday.
Two weeks ago, I was just getting back to the tail end of my training after Covid. I successfully did 10.5 miles, but the two mid-week runs that next week, my hip flexor felt… off. So, I decided to pull the plug on running until the race and aggressively rehab (boots, ice, massage gun, stretch, roll every day). I did a test run Wednesday off the bike and it didn’t feel bad during but didn’t feel completely awesome after. So, I went back to aggressive rehab and figured que sera, sera. I’d start the race and see what happened.
The day before, we ate very normal things: a rotisserie chicken, potatoes, and veggies for lunch, and a turkey sandwich for dinner (switched up the normal order though because the chicken arrived hot and fresh from the store, wasn’t passing that up!). We had planned to take a walk to stretch out our legs but sheeeesh it was frigid and windy, so we skipped it. It’s been in the 60s or 70s every day for weeks, but a cold front blew in Friday afternoon, taking it down to lows in the 30s and highs just barely at 50 this weekend. Back up to 70s today!
At first, I was fretting about the temps (32 at the start), and overprepared with layers forgetting 30s, sunny, and little wind is actually a great race temperature – it’s just been a minute since I did a run only race. I got to the gear check with about 20 minutes before official start time, deciding between two layers of sweatshirts and a garbage bag (which provides excellent disposable warmth) and ditched everything but the throwaway black hoodie I picked up at goodwill the day before. We got started about 15 mins after official race start, which meant we were close to the back, and that was fine with me – I didn’t need to get caught up trying to catch faster people.
However, that meant a lot of dodging and weaving, which actually seemed to be okay on my hip, it liked the variance of different surfaces and angles. The first three miles were mostly uphill going south on Congress from the bridge, and my pace was in the 11s, but I felt oddly fine. Happy even. A starbucks coffee pod – which is for me absolute overkill rocketfuel – was keeping me smiling and bopping to my music. I ate one small chew every mile I didn’t take a gel, and I took the first one at mile 4. More caffeine! Wheee! I really and truly thought I might just speed up and negative split the race with how I was feeling right around halfway.
Really and truly, up until a few miles to go, I spent the morning enjoying the weather, my caffeine buzz, and my playlist thinking, “gosh, this isn’t so bad, what the heck was I worried about?” Joel and I were running different race plans and paces, so we just kept texting back and forth with progress. I’m impressed texting and running is something I can do without falling on my face. Then around mile 8, I had to walk a hill, a very short steep one, and then got right back to running. I was well ahead of my (slower than normal but achievable) goal pace of under 2:30, so I didn’t worry about it.
Then, I was reacquainted with Enfield, which is frankly, just dumb. I’d blame it on the fact that I was underprepared, but I remembered walking some of these when I was in fighting shape. I am not sure why every race course that goes through downtown has to be on this street, but it has entirely uneccessary ups and downs. I saw my goal time feasibility slip away somewhere between mile 11 and 12, but I couldn’t really do anything when the steep inclines threatened leg/back cramping (both downhill and uphill).
The last bad hill at the mile 12 marker was the one where you have to run a very steep long downhill just to get to a steep uphill and you question WHY, for the love of peanut butter, why do we have to go so far down just to go so far back up again. As I was making the face pictured above, I noticed spectators were handing out Fireball shots. I took one, which I never do in races. Once I summited the hill, it was just enough to loosen me up and I ran the rest of the way in, no more crampies. I’m not saying it’s race strategy in the future, but it certainly worked for me this eighteenth of February in the year of twenty twenty-four and I will take it.
Somehow the Enfield hills weren’t enough and instead of sending us directly down Congress, we had to weave through other streets and find JUST A FEW MORE. My adjusted goal time was 2:40 and I hit the finish line at 2:39:54. Can’t complain.
Then, after making my way through the finisher corral, I sat on the ground, ate my pretzels, vibrated with too much caffeine still in my system, and was thankful I didn’t ditch my throwaway hoodie (it rode 12.5 miles with me tied around my waist) because I was shivering again by the time Joel joined me to make the trek home. Yesterday was a smorgasbord of air-fryer snacks and whiskey (it was a few glasses before I could actually walk around without cramping, heh). Today, I’m super hungry and imagine I’ll eat a little more than the calories say I should (1200 ain’t happening today and I am not exercising!) but will be back to normality by tomorrow.
Hopefully my legs get with the program. I mean yesterday was OWWWW my everything. This morning? Cranky hip is mildly cranky. I’m kinda shuffling around today because of general soreness. I think I’m probably going to skip running this week and prioritize walking and biking and weights and maybe get my arse to the pool for a swim, finally. Longer term (as in, maybe in a couple weeks), my run focus will be shorter (5-10k max) and faster. I want to try to keep that base over the summer if possible so I can try this again next year. But, like, 3M. Or something else late fall. Not this stupid race of stupidness.
All in all, glad I did it, glad it’s done. The main motivation for signing up was to get me to increase my run endurance over the winter, which I did. With Covid, and then my hip, I had feared I’d just limp this one in, but I was able to do more than that on the stupid hilly course of stupid stupidness. All smiles now.