Austin race report (Read 590 times)


    This being my first marathon, my newbie report is a bit lengthy and full of ramblings.

    Woke up at 4AM. I found a nice free street parking spot near the start/finish line when I got there around 5, a full 2 hours before the start. I felt a bit nauseous probably from pre-race nervousness, I didn't think it had anything to do with my rather ordinary breakfast. Temperature was at 45F. I was one of the very few with a trash bag on, and I was still cold. I seeded myself between the 4:00 and 4:10 pace groups waiting for the fireworks to go off... except it didn't.

    This year the organizers got rid of the firework at the start, making it kind of anti-climatic since everyone around me were expecting it. The nice simplistic flowchart I had imagined of how I would run the race went to hell pretty quickly... so much for planning ahead with zero prior experience. I didn't quite fully appreciate the size of the running group until a mile or so into the run when I got a good view of the flood of runners in front of me. I think there're about 20000 participants this year (6k marathoners and 12k for the half). I had no clue at what pace I was running at, I just followed the flow of people like a lemming. Soon I saw the 4:10 leader passing me, that's when I realized I needed to speed up by weaving around (I had the intention of running with the 4:00 group, which I lost sight of at the start). It was quite hard to run inside the crowd, and I found myself running next to the shoulders more often than not. Tripping over and falling into the gutters did appear to be a real threat.

    Running across the bridge over the river as the sun rose was quite exhilarating. Crowd support was everywhere, and especially heavy for the first half and near the end. There were at least a sprinkle of supporters even in the quietest neighborhoods later on. There were bands along the route, although I hardly recalled what they were playing. The "enjoy the sights" part of my plan did not quite come to fruition. Whenever I came across those time-check thingie on the ground, I stomped on them as I crossed. I knew they weren't pressure-sensitive, but nonetheless I get quite a sense of satisfaction out of it.

    Miles 2-6 is a gradual uphill south away from downtown, with a return between miles 6-10. Then the path continues north uphill again till around mile 19, and then going downhill again returning to downtown for the last 6 miles stretch. Around mile 9 or 10 I finally caught up with the 4:00 group. My pace had been quite uneven until then, so I was happy to settle down and just follow and turn my brain off for a while. After a couple miles I realized I was just not comfortable running in the packed crowd. I ran ahead of the group a little in order to find some open space, and maintained my pace there. Although I didn't look back I always knew the pace group was not far behind, because every so often I would feel threatened by the sound of stampeding footsteps behind me and got the urge to sprint ahead or jump into the bushes...

    The crowd finally thinned out a bit after mile 13, and the steady pace allowed time for me to engage auto-pilot and re-assess my condition. I had run similar pace and distance during training before, but my current run had taken more effort. I could feel my quads working, which was not a good sign. I had not done any hill trainings at all. Whenever I did any high effort training runs, I always ended up with sore calves and shins, but my quads had never given me any trouble. I was quite under-prepared for even the mild hills. I was hoping to hold on until mile 23 before I start fading, and in the meantime tried not to dwell on the inevitable.

    I observed lots of interesting tibits along the way, such as:

    My first attempt at drinking from a cup while jogging resulted in a fairly wet collar. Then I snorted my second gulp through my nose. I eventually got better at it...

    I ran past a lady in running tights who apparently had forgotten to bring her own toilet paper...

    Saw a line of male runners in front of some tall bushes along the road, oblivious to the huge crowd running past them just yards away...

    It was awkward snatching a cup of gatorade from a kid who did not seem to want to let go of it...

    Overheard someone commenting rather loudly: "Is that even legal?" And her companion responded: "Well, it doesn't have wheels on." I scanned around and saw a lady running on these...

    A spectator offered beer at around mile 19. I didn't take it but the good chuckle lifted my spirit a bit...

    Noticed two different marathoners speeding past me carrying the American flags (on poles, not draped on shoulders). Very impressed...

    My wandering mind returned to focus when my quads got off cruise control around mile 19, much too early to my chagrin. It got worse quickly and by mile 20 it started affecting my pace. I did not hit the wall, and I didn't have trouble with breathing. My quads just felt like they were about to cramp or crumble beneath me everytime my feet pounded the pavement. Before the race, I had not even comtemplated that my quads would get trashed so badly and so soon. The 4:00 pace group passed me afterward as I slowed. I was in no condition to try to keep up with them anymore. I walked every water station from then on and more often during the last couple miles. My idea that the gradual downhill would help was a complete fantasy. I had to walk down parts of them. My thoughts alternated between counting my steps and "oh my quads! oh my quads!"

    With about 1 km left moonwalker passed me on the final uphill.

    I sprinted the last 100m at the finish for the photo-op.

    The marathon medal is hefty, now I get to figure out where to put it. My thought of the post-race organization is kind of mixed. Dry bagels and banana were adequate but not very satisfying. I'm sure all the pubs and restaurants next to the finish line benefited from that. I saw some runners covering themselves with those shiny aluminum-foil-like sheets to keep warm. I asked several volunteers who had no knowledge of where to get it, meanwhile the security guards kept trying to herd me out the exit chute. I eventually found the sheet by following some runners to an unmarked box on the ground closer to the finish line. Even with temperature being in the mid 50s and with full sun I was shivering. It felt even colder than before the race and my teeth were actually chattering as soon as I stopped running. It took me a good 5 to 10 minutes to warm up. That was not in my plan either.

    I'm very happy with my time. 4:07:43, which surpassed realistic expectations. Better pacing could have helped a little but no strategy was going to compensate for inadequate training. I think this is a very fun and wonderful course because of the immense crowd support. Just running for finish and not racing for time would have made it much more enjoyable.

      Congratulations, Wing, and nice report!  I enjoyed reading it.

      Well at least someone here is making relevance to the subject. - S.J.

        Wing -- good report and more importantly you had a VERY GOOD first marathon experience.....


        Your right - better pacing up front and it 'might' have lead to a better time but at this point who cares....you did a really good job and now have some experience to fall back on next time around....


        Enjoyed the report and Congrats on a very good first Marathon.....

        Champions are made when no one is watching

        Interval Junkie --Nobby

          Wonderful write-up, Wing.  As someone expecting to do his first marathon in a few weeks, I found it really enjoyable and enlightening to read.


          Sounds like you had a great time. Wink

          2016 Goals: Lose the 10lbs I gained for not having goals

          fake it till you make it

            Great report!  I'm always impressed by the details people notice- I seem to forget it all once I cross the finish line.  


            Moon shoes- definitely one thing I haven't seen in a race yet!

              Great race report, Wing--and congrats on your first marathon!

              "When a person trains once, nothing happens. When a person forces himself to do a thing a hundred or a thousand times, then he certainly has developed in more ways than physical. Is it raining? That doesn't matter. Am I tired? That doesn't matter, either. Then willpower will be no problem." 
              Emil Zatopek