Thursday, February 24, 2011

Austin Half Marathon 2011 Race Report - First Postpartum Half Marathon

Livestrong Austin Half Marathon was my first half marathon back from having my baby. She was born 11 weeks ago by C-section. Post-surgery recovery means 6 weeks no running, no exercise. Needless to say, that means I've hit the road hard the last 5 weeks to try to get back in shape and decided impulsively late one night to run Austin Half Marathon as my first half marathon back when I saw there were only a few hundred registration slots still open.

So February 20, I headed to the start line with my friend Elaine (@girlruns5K) who was also running. 

Elaine was wanting to try going for a pretty good speed, and since I'm kinda good at consistent pacing at races when I try (take a look at Houston Half last year and you'll see 13 miles of splits within 7 seconds of each other!), so I said I would try to keep her at that pace, which would be more difficult with the constant up and down hills. First couple miles felt good going out with the crowd and taking the rolling hills one at a time. I'd never paced someone and I was having fun doing this for Elaine since I had no goal for myself. It was faster than I had planned on running for the day, but figured I could afford to crash and burn the last handful of miles if it helped her and she could hold on to that on her own at that point.

I was on the lookout and at mile 2.5 saw some of my Twitter friends. Seeing how we'd never met, I'm amazed I could tell who they were, but I'll talk about these special folks when we see them again in this race report at mile 8.5.

Elaine hadn't realized how hilly the course was. After mile 3 we stopped for a short bit for her to retie her shoes and walk a little. Mile 4 stopped a little bit for her to stretch. I told her at any point we could stop and take a more relaxed pace. She is running a full marathon one week after this half, so it was up to her to determine her energy level. In mile 4, she said enough so we slowed down. We were in the middle of a long uphill climb so I don't blame her. 

But for the sake of consistency, I was pushing for a little faster than 12 for the first few miles, then slow to 12:15ish for the long uphill. Splits for first handful of miles? 11:44, 11:46, 11:52, 12:17 for half a mile before walk break.  All the mile splits are at the bottom of the report.

Mile 6 we started the gradual decline for 3 miles. At this point, the muscles-lost-due-to-pregnancy started to show themselves. My upper abs were burning. My hip adductor on the left side was getting really tight. But most of all during miles 6-9, I was noticing this awful pulling feeling at my C-section incision site. The site of the sutures, as with any surgical incision, is bound to have some adhesions on the inside of the fascia and some scar tissue buildup.  That pulling is the fascia and scar tissue ripping apart, which was particularly noticeable with the style of stride in a downhill. Ow. Note that the rest of the day any cough or sneeze would be agony, like a stabbing pain in that area. Double ow.

At mile 8.5, I spotted the sign "@libbyruns, this is @acokertx". It made me laugh so hard - non-twitter folks would not have a clue what's going on. This was Arlyne, @acokertx, a sweet twitter friend out cheering everyone along with Shannon (@hendy2point0) and Marie (@irongirl11).

I pulled up to them and stopped dead in my tracks, declaring, "I need to stretch". They were so nice, giving me encouraging words, and they snapped some pictures while I stretched. Between sore muscles and upset stomach, I was so thankful for the distraction of seeing them. And their attitude brightened my day!

Then I was off again, but that nagging nausea and upset stomach plagued me. I took my second Gu - like the first, I had a bad gag response to ripping the top of the Gu open with my teeth. By mile 9.5, my stomach had completed betrayed me. I must have just passed an aid station shortly before this, because it was a long time to the next one. I can only walk because every time I start to run, I feel just awful. I'm guessing the mile 11 aid station had portapotties but I had total tunnelvision and they must not have been right there by the path because I missed them completely. At mile 12.25, I hit the next aid station and saw the portapotties this time. So that was 2.75 miles of pure walking, including the "death" hill at Enfield (8 stories, 80 feet, uphill over only 1/4 mile).

After a 4 minute stop, I managed a 12 minute per mile pace from mi 12.25 to 13.1. Can you tell I was feeling better? I passed so many runners during this part, and I had quite the crowd reaction. They thought I was having this super strong finish and I'm laughing because they have no clue I just walked 3 miles before this.

I finished the race in 3:01:30. Yes, a finish time I haven't seen since mid-2008. While the race experience was a bit of an adventure, I'm still proud of the accomplishment of a quick return to distance running regardless of the time it took to cross the finish line. 

I felt sick the whole rest of the day. I'm annoyed and confused. I ate a usual pasta dinner the night before, ate my usual race day morning bagel at least an hour before the race, took my usual Gu 15 minutes before race start - I did it all "right". Note, ironically, that I had serious stomach problems the only other time I've run this race, in 2009.

So where do I go from here? Figure out solutions for the sometimes stomach problems I'm having at race days. And keep hitting the training hard.  After my muscles and body recover from this race, that is. I'm looking forward to getting my speed (which may be your snail's pace, and that's cool with me) back and then going beyond that!

Mile 1: 11:45
Mile 2: 11:46
Mile 3: 11:52
Mile 4: 13:35
Mile 5: 12:58
Mile 6: 13:01
Mile 7: 12:18
Mile 8: 12:24
Mile 9: 13:38
Mile 10: 15:12
Mile 11: 16:18
Mile 12: 17:53
Next 0.1 - includes potty stop - took 6 min, 55 seconds
Mile 12.1 - 13.1: 12:00

Next Race: Texas Independence Relay - captaining the all-female team "Mad-Dames"


  1. Great job getting "back on the horse", Libby! Austin is not an easy race and I know that this experience will make you stronger. Can't wait for next weekend, when the Mad-Dames take on the Hill Country!

  2. wow. way to fight through that. those hills are murder even walking them, and to do it with nauseau & stomach issues? oy. WTG!!

    and we are going to have so much fun next weekend!!! WOOOT!

  3. Great race report. And I love that some twitter peeps came out to support you. Look forward to meeting you at the May H and H 10K. (provided we even happen upon each other!)

  4. just came across your blog! it's fabulous! you have some great insight on your posts! Great race report! xo

  5. You rock, let's just be honest. ;) Sorry that it was kind of a rough race, but, you're a rockstar for getting out there and doing it!