Monday, January 25, 2010

3M Half Marathon - Interesting Start, Interesting Finish

I had very easily talked my friend Elaine and my sister-in-law Cathie into running the 3M Half Marathon in Austin with me.  This was very exciting for Elaine because it was her third half marathon, and her first half marathon was only last August.  Saturday Elaine and I headed down around noon, arriving at 4 pm, about 20 minutes before Cathie got in from Houston.  We were staying at the host hotel, Embassy Suites, which was wonderful because it was right in front of the start line.  Like literally 100 feet.  So convenient.

We went a mile or so away to Brick Oven restaurant for dinner to carbload the night before and were in bed by 10 pm.  We were very well-behaved runners. :-)

Pre-Race - It's All About Runner Safety, Ya Know?
We got up at 5:30 am for a race start of 6:45 am.  It was about 50 degrees with a cold wind at around 10-15 mph.  I performed my usual pre-race rituals of finishing breakfast before an hour to race start (so it has time to digest but not too much time that I'm hungry by mile 4) and took my Gu in the starting corral, with water, 15 minutes before race start. 

Me and My Girls Ready to Rock 3M Half! Left to right: Elaine Hillis, Me, Cathie Jones

And at 6:45 am, they announced a delay.  Eek!  And they kept us up to date in approximately 10-15 minute intervals as the delays continued.  It turned out that the winds had blown over or moved police barricades, and they would have to redo the whole course.  I was so sympathetic for the race director because your top priority is the safety of the runners even if the decisions you have to make aren't popular.  Most people stayed in the tight race corral because you never knew when they were going to say it was time and then you wanted to be ready right away to start.  We stood most of the time but I sat on the asphalt a little too.  I chatted with a girl ahead of me who was local and running Austin Marathon, her FIRST marathon, next month - exciting!  She warned me that there was a HUGE downhill at mile 4 and to take it easy on the downhill because people had been known to blow out their quads sprinting down the steep grade.  I was super duper hyper thanks to the caffeine in the Gu and was sad to feel the boost burning itself away, wasted.  After another warning of a 15 minute delay, it was getting sunny out (big difference starting at 6:45 versus 7:45), and I ran up to the room to get my sunglasses since most of the time we would be running towards the southeast, into the sun.

Me at the Start Line - Wow, that flash makes me look pale.  And a Bondiband may not be flattering, but the fly-aways and bangs aren't a lot of fun during a race either, so I'd rather run comfortably than run pretty if the two can't overlap.

To Run Or To Race, That is the Question
At 7:40 am, the race started.  I didn't know if I wanted to "race" or just "run" this race.  I've added a lot of mileage recently and had just taken 3 1/2 minutes off my time last Sunday at the Aramco Houston Half Marathon.  It was my first back-to-back half marathon weekend, which left me a little nervous.  But I decided to go out at 2:30 finish time pace (a harder race pace right at my current PR), and if I felt good through the uphills of the first 3 miles, then I would try to continue it.  After the girl at the start line telling me about the steepness of the downhills, I have to say it was never that much downhill to me.  Yes, there were downhills, but for a point-to-point race, there were a LOT of uphills as well.  It's a very hilly course.  So I was on 2 1/2 hr finish pace (11:27/mi) through until Mile 4 and then felt really good so pushed a little more on the downhills for a faster pace the next two miles.

And Then It was All Downhill (And Not in a Good Way)
And then we hit the aid station and I took my Gu, and my stomach literally screamed "Oh no, you didn't!"  Immediately felt horribly sick to my stomach and lower GI.  Not fun.  I saw about 30 seconds added to each mile as I struggled to continue at a decent pace.

Around mile 7, I caught up to Allison, a Heels and Hills Lucky 13 Run Team member.  She was having some knee pain so we ran together for a little and then I left her when she decided to walk for a little bit.  At about mile 8.5, I see a gal up ahead screaming, "Libby! Libby!" It's Lisa, who I had chatted with in the Twitterverse off and on about running and we had met when she passed me at Mile 4 in Houston the previous weekend.  I was happy she recognized me, I needed the distraction.  She asked how I was doing, and 8 miles in with pain, how do you lie? I replied, "Awful, I feel awful."  She asked me if I wanted an energy gel, and I said "Sure!"  It wasn't a brand I usually used, but how much could it hurt.  I needed the extra energy boost, and only had one last Gu on me.  After my tummy's bad reaction to the first Gu, I had been dreading the second Gu (same style, same flavor).

I "sipped" on the Raspberry Hammer Gel she had given me for the next mile.  And it actually settled my stomach a little and gave me a small energy boost.  But by mile 11, I was starting to just feel terrible again.  Allison caught up with me then and she was struggling too.  I knew at this point I shouldn't be racing so hard - having just done a half marathon last weekend, and with another half marathon coming up in 6 days - so we took it easy the last 2 miles to run each other into the finish.  I should note though that I had a good kick the last tenth of a mile with a 9:36 pace.  I'm getting much better at digging deep for that speedy sprint at the end, and I'm proud of that!

I was so glad it was over and I was pleasantly surprised with my time.  2:35:57.  A time I could not have run 6 months ago!  And now I had run that time with stomach problems half the distance and some pretty big hills!  And only one week after a hard race with a PR of only 6 1/2 minutes faster.

Overall Race Review
It is a pretty course seeing lots of different parts of Austin. You go along the highway frontage road, through neighborhoods, by businesses, along the UT campus, and into downtown. The crowd support was moderate, some spectators who lived along the route and then mostly families and friends of participants.

The water stations were well done, and the cold seemed nice and cold.  I did come up to the first Gatorade station, only to have them shout when I was about 10 feet away, "Out of Gatorade!  No more Gatorade!"  It blows your concentration, but it happens at a lot of races - as a fellow race director, predicting the amount of resources needed is not an easy task.  If a race is really important to me, I carry my own fluids, and I encourage others to do the same!

Nice finish line, good finish area.  They had run out of pizza by the time I finished, but that's okay - I don't usually eat much of anything immediately after a race.  All in all, I enjoyed the race and would do it again if I was up for a challenging course.
What's Next
This Saturday, 6 days after 3M Half, I have the Texas Half Marathon in Dallas at White Rock Lake.  I'm looking forward to a local race after two out-of-town races on back-to-back weekends.  And I'm excited for a new first of THREE back-to-back weekends of half marathons.

After Texas Half, I'll get one weekend "off" before Surfside Beach Half Marathon on Saturday, February 13.

Mile 1: 11:29
Mile 2: 11:45
Mile 3: 11:27
Mile 4: 11:08
Mile 5: 10:53
Mile 6: 11:52
Mile 7: 11:49
Mile 8: 12:11
Mile 9: 11:24
Mile 10: 11:45
Mile 11: 12:15
Mile 12: 12:46
Mile 13: 14:03
Mile 13.1: 9:36 (pace for last 0.1 mile of the race)


  1. Great job!! Are you running the Rock and Roll Dallas?

  2. I was able to get in at the $50 rate with the first 500, otherwise I would not typically register for a for-profit race that has such high entry fees. However, an opportunity came up for my husband and I to go to Napa with friends, so I'm going to miss that race! I will be running Big D a month later - my fourth time to run that race!

  3. As usual, great blog post. I enjoyed it!


  4. Awesome job! Besides the wind it really was a beautiful day! Good luck with your half this weekend, I bet you're looking forward to a break, hehe.

  5. I've been looking for your blog all day. So glad to read it...I felt like I was there.

    Good luck this weekend!!!

  6. Libby - great race report - three back to back - that is awesome. Had a good time out there on the course during the race myself - so sorry you had stomach issues - that is definitely no fun.

    We'll have to try to hook up for this event next year if you run it again - I have my race report here also if you want to check it out with some pretty good pics my wife took.

    Take care, will tweet soon! Joe

  7. Loved doing this run with you ladies!! Thanks so much!

  8. I started my running "career" with the 3M in 2007. What a great race. I haven't run it the last 2 years due to conflicts with my training schedule (I have been on a marathon kick). However, I volunteered last year and cheered my wife on this year. It was an extremely windy race this year, but fortunately it was coming from the side/back for most of the race.

    Having run 6 marathons in a year, I can appreciate your desire to run 3 races in 3 weeks. I'm sure you are like me, and just love the experience. Good luck on your future races, and I hope you come back and run the 3M again next year.