For the second year in a row I really enjoyed the 3M Half Marathon. My husband was able to attend with me this year and he took a lot of great photos. We also had time to sightsee afterwards and some of those photos are included as well.
We arrived in Austin on Saturday afternoon and went straight to packet pickup at the 3M Innovation Center. Everything went really smoothly there. I was in and out in less than 5 minutes. I really like the fact that they used the D-Ring disposable timing chips.Those are much more convenient than the old Champion Chips that attach to the shoelaces and have to be cut off by volunteers at the end.
The race packet had all kinds of wonderful goodies again. I was almost out of the 3M sticky notes from last year's packet. So now I have a new supply. I use those for everything from grocery lists to "don't forget" lists. And there were two new kinds of energy bars I had never tried before. Both were delicious, and I'm going to look for the organic one next time I'm in Whole Foods. They were right in that they offered one of the best race packets. There was even a coupon in there for some free $200+ sunglasses.
We stayed at the Courtyard Marriott which was on the same street as the starting line (about 200 feet away). Our balcony looked out onto the street and we could see runners lining up. We waited until 6:25 to head down to the start line. It was extremely crowded. I found where the 01:50:00 pace group was lined up and squeezed into a spot next to them. The problem with self-seeding is that not everyone does it. That means a lot of weaving around people in the initial miles in order to maintain pace. I should have lined up closer to the front like I did last year, but I didn't want the faster runners to have to weave around me. I guess I'll need to line up further in the front in the future though if I want to maintain pace. As you can see, my first mile last year was 8:20/mile and this year it was 8:53. All of that was from trying to get around the crowds in order to run my pace. But live and learn!
The only down side was that the start was delayed 55 minutes due to wind blowing the barricades down along the course. Instead of starting at 6:45 AM, we started around 7:40 AM. Since no one was sure how long the delay would be, most of us just kept standing in line waiting for the start. As we stood around for about an hour, I started to become chilled. Luckily I had a lightweight jacket that I was able to give to my husband once the race started.
The weather in Texas is very unpredictable, so I thought that the race officials did a good job of handling what Mother Nature threw at them. They were able to secure the barricades in less than an hour, in spite of wind gusts up to 28 mph. The announcer had a good attitude about it all. When he announced the delay, he said "Don't shoot the messenger! This year it's wind. Next year I'm ordering up pestilence - maybe a hoard of locusts". Actually I was happy about not running in the dark. I like to see where my feet are stepping. Race officials did a good job of directing traffic and making sure the course was secure.
There were many more spectators this year than last year and I'm sure that was due to the warmer weather. Last year it was much colder (about 37 degrees). For me that's better running weather, but worse spectator weather. The spectators were very encouraging, most of them shouting "You can do it!", "Looking great!", "Go runners!". It was actually kind of refreshing when we rounded a corner around mile 9 and a couple of guys were shouting "You look like crap! Get moving!". A couple of other runners near me laughed and said "Finally...someone telling the truth!".
The photo above was taken near the end of the race as we approached the finish line. I need to find a way to keep my running form from degrading in the latter stages of a race. I start out with the correct running form but then as I become fatigued and try to run faster in the last 3 miles or so, I revert to the incorrect running form. I was totally unaware of the fact that my arms were swinging up too high and that I was starting to land with my foot in front of my body. I'm in the "float phase" of the running form above, where neither foot is touching the ground as your body floats over what will become the support foot. As you can see, when my foot lands, it will be in front of my body and my right leg is way too straight. The two runners on either side of me have more correct running forms. Time for more running drills/strides. I need the correct running form to be second nature.
I did not wear my ipod because the brochure and race web site said they weren't permitted and could be reason for disqualification. However, many of the other runners had on ipods. The rule was relaxed by USATF in December 2008: "USA Track & Field has amended Rule 144.3, which pertains to the use of headphones and other electronic devices, to enable race directors to choose to allow the use of headphones by runners in non-championship races." For a full description of the rule change, click here: USATF Amends Headphone Rule
I also forgot to bring a running hat/running visor with me. By the time I realized I was hatless, it was too late to go somewhere to purchase one. I had to settle on a ponytail. That would have been okay except the wind was so strong that it kept blowing the layered hair around my face into my face. I'd take a drink out of my sports bottle and end up getting hair in my mouth. Lesson Learned: Keep a spare running hat/visor in my car.
I decided to wear shorts and a singlet because the temperature was 53°F at the start. I'm heat intolerant and running in heat and humidity has always been an issue for me. I was actually way too warm by the end of the race. I wish I knew why my muscles generated so much heat during exercise. It makes it really hard when I'm training in the summers. Experts say to dress for running like it's 20 degrees warmer, so I always follow that rule. It makes for an uncomfortably cold start, but after about a mile I'm happy with my choice of running clothes. "As much as 70% of the total chemical energy used during muscular contraction is released as heat rather than as athletic endeavor."*1 Your body has to dissipate that heat through sweat or evaporation or both.
There were musicians playing bagpipes along the course and they were quite good! And there was one spot where a guy was playing a guitar with some speakers. He was also very talented. My favorite music was from the band at the park at the finish line (photo left). They were simply outstanding! And the song "I Will Survive" seemed really appropriate when you just finished 13 miles at the fastest pace you can manage.
The post race party in Waterloo Park was wonderful. In addition to the great band, there were several booths offering all kinds of food. There was the standard fare of bananas and oranges. But there was also some non-standard food choices that the runners loved. Austin Pizza was there with some pizza rolls. There was a line for those! And there was another booth with really large cookies.
Other entertainment in the park included people juggling. Two guys were juggling these objects that looked like bowling pins. And another lady was juggling some brightly colored balls. All 3 were very talented. I don't know how they do that. It's a good thing running doesn't require a lot of hand/eye coordination or I'd have to find a new sport.
My chip time for the 2009 3M Half was 01:47:22 (8:12/mile). My chip time this year was 01:48:34 (8:17/mile). I should be thrilled with that considering I just started running again October 1st after 6 months off for pelvic stress fractures and torn tendons. I like to document how I did and why so that hopefully I don't repeat the same mistakes in future races. I don't want it to sound like whining. I feel like I did well (my goal was 8:30/mile or below), but I could have done better.
The factors that affected my performance this year were:
- I lined up too far back from the start line. I lost over 30 seconds on the first mile just tryng to weave in/out of people in order to maintain my pace. Even with a timing chip on your shoe, once you cross the starting mat, the clock is running. If it's crowded, you waste time trying to get around people in order to maintain your pace. I lined up too close to the front last year. But I wasn't sure what pace I could maintain this year, so I lined up too far back.
- It was much warmer this year than last year. I run best if the temperature stays below 50°F. Otherwise, I overheat. The delayed start time put me in the sun longer. My internal thermostat is a little different. If I'm not exercising, I'm cold (even in the middle of the summer). Once I start running or cycling, I have a tendency to overheat.
- There was a very strong wind this year with gusts up to 28 mph. A few times we were running directly into a headwind. The wind also created havoc with the water cups at the aid stations. I never stop to get water/Gatorade at an aid station, preferring to drink my EFS Sports Drink from my fuel belt. But I had to slow slightly at the aid stations because the wind was blowing the cups all over the road and I was trying to dodge them. Also, ever since the stress fractures, if I slow down or stop to get a drink at an aid station, my hip starts hurting. So I haven't been slowing/stopping on any of my runs. It's hard for me to get going again.
- I started to tire around mile 8. I should have taken a gel, but I didn't want to take the time. Every time I drank from the bottles in my fuel belt, it seemed to add a few seconds to my average pace. So I opted to not take any gels during the race.
- My hip is still not 100%. It always starts hurting after about 6 miles. I felt the pain, but managed to run through it. I'm always worried that the pain indicates a returning fracture.
- It was so crowded at the beginning that I couldn't run the tangents, which made the 13.1 mile marathon about 13.2 miles. Several of the runners cut a corner underneath a bridge. I wasn't sure if that was part of the measured route so I stayed on the road inside the cones, but that had me playing catchup once I rounded the corner.
I forgot to turn my Garmin off at the end so it kept running for about 20 seconds after I crossed the finish line. Luckily the timing chip recorded an accurate time. The splits on my Garmin are accurate except for the last 0.21 miles where I didn't turn it off at the finish.
I'm in a really fast age group (45-49). The women in this group are faster than the women in several of the younger age groups. The female winner of this age group averaged 7:11/mile. How do I get to where I can run that pace for this long of a distance? I'll keep doing my speedwork until my speedwork paces become easy. Then I'll increase my speedwork paces. Experts say it takes 10 times for a training effect to occur. So I'll need at least a year of remaining injury free to get my pace to a competitive level.
After the race, we went sightseeing. We toured the state capital and took lots of great photos. Security was more evident due to the recent incident with some guy shooting a gun up into the air outside the building. But at least they were still letting people inside for tours.
Then we went to Town Lake (photo right). I had really been wanting to see the 10 mile running trail around the lake. It's a finely crushed dirt/gravel soft surface. I loved it! It's not so mushy that you sink but still provides the benefits of a soft surface. It's like a packed dirt sidewalk. There were several joggers on the trail. And the lake itself had some rowing teams practicing. There were also a couple of beautiful swans. I took several photos. Here is a link to the Town Lake Trail Map.
After that we went to find a place to eat lunch. We found a great restaurant: Terraburger of Austin. Everything is organic and/or natural. I was actually able to eat the quality of foods I eat at home. I had the best hamburger I have ever had in my life. Even my husband, who normally doesn't care for the taste of most "health foods", loved the hamburger. And if you don't eat meat, they have a veggie burger. And if you want organic tea or coffee, they have that too.
On another non-race related note, Austin seems to be a very bike friendly town. There were bike lanes on several streets, as well as street signs letting cars know to share the road. In addition, a lot of people (mainly students) seem to use bikes as transportation. Most of them were on commuter type bikes without helmets. We saw a few people training on road bikes, but there were many more people using bikes as transportation. And there were bike racks at many businesses for locking up your bike. Motorists seemed to expect to see bikes. That was refreshing. I feel like I'm tempting fate every time I cycle around our city and the neighboring cities.
The other thing I found interesting was Austin CarShare. I had never seen something like that here in DFW. You basically reserve a car using their on-line system, unlock the car with the key fob, make your trip, and then return the car to the same location you found it. They call it "The Low Car Diet". "The average American spends nearly $8000/year owning a car. (Source: AAA, 2006) This is money that could be used to buy a house, earn a degree, or invest in retirement. You can gain personal and financial freedom by embracing a multi-modal transportation strategy."*2 They have a pyramid that has Austin CarShare at the top, followed by Capital Metro/carpool, biking, and walking.
I didn't see Governor Perry in this year's race. But he ran really well in the 2009 3M Half Marathon. I'll be back for this one next year because I can't resist a predominately downhill course. So maybe we'll see him again next year.
I realized the other day that running is the only sport where the average runner gets to compete in the same event with professionals like the elite runners. Can you imagine NFL football if regular people were allowed to play? Or what would the Tour de France be like if the recreational cyclist was allowed to complete? Running truly levels the playing field. If you register early enough and pay your entry fee, you can run the same race as the professionals. And people from all walks of life are competing alongside each other. Celebrities and politicans are running alongside "the average joe". It doesn't matter what you do for a living. Everyone is just out there trying to run their best.
*1 Tim Noakes, MD (Lore of Running)
*2 Austin CarShare