The One With All of the Hills: Livestrong Austin Half Marathon Recap

i really, really don’t even know where to begin.

this weekend was insane. and incredible. i completed my 2nd half marathon, on one of the toughest courses i think i’ll ever see. i got to hang out with so many amazing internet friends and share in an incredible experience with them.

but most of all, i proved to myself what i’m capable of.

i actually know that i’m capable of more. i know i could have hit my goal of a sub 2-hour half marathon if it had been on any other course. but that’s the thing. on any other course. but it wasn’t, it was THIS course, and i still managed to do more by 9:11 am than i thought was possible at 7am when i was standing at the starting line. and i think that was the theme of this weekend. we overcame our fears and doubts and performed amazingly well. i’m so proud of us.

after frantically studying the course elevation and map the entire week beforehand, i decided that my race strategy would simply be to do as well as i possibly could. i knew it would be a mental challenge and i accepted that my personal goals just might not happen. but i was determined to not let the course get the best of me. i decided to break it up into 4 parts: miles 1-3, 3-6, 6-10, and 10-13. Each section presented it’s own challenges, and i decided to tackle them each individually rather than suffocating in doubt by thinking of the entire course as a whole beast. this is, i think, what helped the most. i even wrote my paces down on my arm— 1-3: 9:10, 3-6: 9:20, 6-10: 9:00, and 10-12: 9:15 (i think).

miles 1-3: my number one goal was not to go out too fast. i knew that was my biggest problem from last time, and it’s SO EASY to do because of ALL! THE! EXCITEMENT! i also knew there were hills even in these first miles and i really needed to reserve my energy, and that these miles would set the pace for the rest of the race. from reading a turn-by-turn blog post last week, i knew that almost immediately we would head up a “false flat,” and guess what, IT WAS NOT FALSE. those hills were visible and plentiful. i also knew that i’d have to do them again on the way to the finish line. *cue crying* after about 2 miles (i think), we headed downhill and across beautiful lady bird lake, on our way to start the next beast, a 300 ft incline over the next 3 miles.

sidenote: at about mile 2.5, this song on my ipod, and these lyrics really got me pumped up:

This is 10% luck, 20% percent skill
15% concentrated power of will
5% pleasure, 50% pain
And 100% reason to remember the name!

because really, it’s so true!

miles 3-6: it actually wasn’t as bad as i thought it would be. what WAS bad was how profusely i was sweating despite wearing a tank and shorts and it being 50ish degrees. so around mile 4 i ditched my makeshift armwarmers (former pink striped toe socks!) and immediately started to cool down. it was also here that i smelled some delicious barbeque, and i think i actually said out loud, “wow, that’s cruel.” anyway, these hills would…hill, then be flat for about a 1/4 mile, then hill again, and so forth. but no downhills, which made it harder to think about powering through. but knowing we’d get a 3 mile downhill on the other side DID help. it’s all mental, folks.

miles 6-10: after cresting the last hill, i did a happy dance in my head and prepared by body for some intense quad killing. it was in these miles where i picked up some speed, and logged my fastest mile, 8:44 (OOPS). forced down a Gu at 6.5, and just enjoyed the ride. i picked out a few people i wanted to keep up with and kept it a goal to keep them in sight. mile 9 was “the yellow mile,” populated by livestrong shirts and inspiring yellow chalk messages on the road. it was really, really cool. and necessary, because we were about to head into some TOUGH miles.

sidenote: right before the mile 10 hill, the new katy perry song came on my shuffle, and i got really, really emotional. running is something that is so very personal to me. it has been my free form of therapy during a time in my life when i badly needed it. these lyrics really resonated with me and got me through a major climb:

This is the part of me that you’re never gonna ever take away from me, no
Throw your sticks and stones
Throw your bombs and your blows
But you’re not gonna break my soul
This is the part of me that you’re never gonna ever take away from me, no

miles 10-13: honestly, just a blur. i didn’t hit my wall until 10.5ish, which is way better than after 8 from my last HM. this is where the hills finally got me, and i walked about 20 seconds up one. i tried to distract myself by doing the math in my head, knowing i had at least a few minutes banked away where i might be able to do sub-2. i had made it this far, i could pull through! and then i saw the killer hill at mile 12, and i whimpered, and walked up that one too. i chewed about 6-8 sport beans during these hills, which i attribute to getting me as far as i could up the hills.

i kept telling myself that it was OK, and i really did accept it. at this point, i just wanted to finish. after cresting the big hill, i knew there were still some hills left, and i was actually glad that i’d walked because i wouldn’t have had the energy to finish as strong as i had. i KILLED the last hills, sprinted around the corner to the finish, and just let out a grunt or something to that effect. i could barely move, but was filled with so much joy, adrenaline, and emotion that it kept me going. i was just so proud of myself.

officially, i crossed the finish line in 2:02:01. Two minutes and 2 seconds off of my goal. ALSO A PERSONAL RECORD – my first (and only other) HM was 2:04:32. A PR. ON THAT COURSE.

and THAT is why i know that i’m stronger than i think i am. because i faced one of the scariest things and still came out on top. and nothing can ever take that accomplishment away from me. AND that  i can go into future races without fear, only hope.

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