2013 LIVESTRONG Austin Half Marathon Race Recap

Yesterday morning I ran my third LIVESTRONG Austin Half Marathon.

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223I’m going to end up buying this one once all the photos have been uploaded, so don’t get upset that I borrowed it, MarathonFoto.

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While 3M may be my favorite race in town to really race, LIVESTRONG Austin is my favorite race to run. It starts just north of the Capitol building, runs south on Congress past many amazing restaurants + bars before turning to come back into the city on South First, heads west on Cesar Chavez to Mopac and then takes 15th Street back east to end up finishing just south of the Capitol building. It’s an awesome way to see this amazing city!

LIVESTRONG Austin Half Marathon Course

The course isn’t flat or fast, in fact, it’s pretty damn tough. Rolling hills miles 1-3, uphill miles 3-6, downhill 6-9, uphill 10-11.5, a little downhill followed by a hill that will make you cry at mile 12, a little downhill to recover and then back up the San Jacinto hill to the finish.

LIVESTRONG Austin Half Marathon Elevation

The weather was absolutely perfect yesterday – 42 at the start and roughly 55 at the finish, with beautiful blue skies and bright sunshine.

Miles 2-6

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Miles 6-9

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Miles 9-12

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Mile 12 (where “The Hill” lives) – Finish

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From my 2011 recap:

Austin Half Marathon Enfield Hill

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What I thought of the Enfield Hill:

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Austin Mile 12

Austin Finish 2

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And, DONE!

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Austin Finish

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Overall, I highly recommend this race, whether it be the half or the full. It might not be your goal race for the year or a super speedy PR-producing course, but I can promise you will NOT be disappointed. Everything from the expo to the finish line is incredibly organized and well executed. There may be hills but the course is scenic so there’s a lot to keep your mind off of the elevation side of things.

Never been to Austin? Sign up for the race, book a hotel downtown, and take in all this great city has to offer. You will eat the best food you’ve ever had in your life while you’re here. Yes, IN YOUR LIFE. No exaggeration. You’ll fall head over heels for the Live Music Capital of the World – I guarantee it!


The finish line of the LIVESTRONG Austin Half Marathon also marked the end of the Austin Distance Challenge. Brad and I covered 61.7 miles worth of races between October and yesterday, side by side, stride for stride. (I still feel bad that his first half marathon was Decker. Yikes!)

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If Brad thinks he’s going to hide four chocolate chip cookies behind his back in the picture and not get caught, he’s clearly mistaken. Busted.

I loved every minute and mile covered together over the past few months. I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish in the future!

2013 Rogue 30K & 10K Race Recap

The Rogue Running 30K & 10K was race #5 in the Austin Distance Challenge and 2013 is the first year it’s being held up in Cedar Park. I was really looking forward to this race, but unfortunately it was disappointing in a couple areas. Let’s back it up to packet pickup…

Brad stopped into the north location of Rogue Running to pick up our packets for the race. Each runner received a long-sleeved tech shirt, throwaway gloves, a ticket to a minor league hockey game, and discount card for a local men’s grooming center.

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The shirt was a little short, which tends to be the case with 90% of the tech shirts I get. While I appreciated the fact it wasn’t white, I noticed others tweeting & instagramming photos of blue women’s shirts. There wasn’t an option on color at pickup, only black was available, so I though that was strange. On race morning there were quite a few women wearing the blue shirt as well. Not a huge deal, just curious why some were different.

Also, when we registered for the race there was a list of things every runner would receive, including running gloves and a Rogue Running pint glass. I thought this made the $45 race entry fee a great value. The running gloves actually ended up being throwaway gloves, and that pint glass? No one seemed to know anything about it when I asked at the Rogue tent at the finish. Everyone looked at me like I was crazy. Eventually a woman walked up and told me they had pulled it down from the website recently and no one would be receiving them. Interesting.

The starting line was at Cedar Park High School and parking was pretty efficient. The 30K was scheduled to start at 7am so we made sure to be at the school and parked by 6:30. We met up with Jeanette and Trinity, hit the restrooms (indoors! awesome perk of having the start at a high school!) and waited around until our race started at 7:20.

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I’m not sure what the cap on the 10K was. It started at 400, but Rogue eventually opened up more spots (an unspecified amount) after it sold out. Either way, the course was never crowded.

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The 30K runners started twenty minutes before us and ran a different course. The 10K had a simple out-and-back through a residential area. Rogue 10K Course

Less than a mile into the race I heard a car horn behind me. A quick glance over my shoulder and I saw a long stream of cars waiting for the runners to move so they could get through. Um, what?

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Cars in the middle, runners on both sides. I could understand if we had a lane blocked off with cones, but it worried me a bit that we were sharing the road with the cars. Not exactly the safest situation.

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Brad and I moved over to the right and continued running.

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While I had stopped to take some photos both Jeanette and Trinity had passed us so after the turnaround I made sure to snap a few action shots of them:

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Here comes Jeanette!

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As you can tell, the course wasn’t much to write home about. After the turnaround, the race was pretty uneventful.

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2013-01-27_08-54-42_620Once we crossed the finish line we headed straight to the Distance Challenge VIP tent to meet up with Jeanette & Trinity. And grab breakfast tacos + homemade chocolate chip cookies. Priorities. I’m going to miss these VIP tents after the Distance Challenge is over!

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On our walk back to the car we realized the first 30K finisher was about to cross so we ran back to cheer him on!

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Overall, it was a pretty good race. I was disappointed with the “running gloves” and the pint glass that wasn’t, but I guess you could say those were petty things. The traffic issue was my main complaint and think it’s a pretty valid one. If you’re not going to close the road completely to cars, at least block off a lane with cones so the runners feel a little bit safer. Still a little confused by the whole thing considering this isn’t the first race Rogue has sponsored. I’m willing to chalk it up to growing pains for the new location of the race (previously it was held in two different areas down south) and if they’re ironed out for 2014, I’d definitely return. It’s a pretty fast course so PRs are possible!

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Another race in the books for the Austin Distance Challenge. One more to go – the Austin Half Marathon!

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2013 3M Half Marathon Race Recap

Austin’s 3M Half Marathon is one of my favorite races and I couldn’t think of a better way to kick off racing in 2013. I mean, with an elevation chart like this, how could you go wrong?3M Half Marathon Elevation ChartThe temps on race morning were 35-40ish. Race start was scheduled for 6:45am, so we were parked by 6:25 and made the short (windy!) walk to the race site shortly after. It really wouldn’t have felt cold that morning – the weather was actually PERFECT – but the wind made it worse than it actually was.

3M Pre-Race with Paulaphoto courtesy of Paula

We dropped speedy Paula off near the 2:10 pacer and headed to the back of the line where we’d be able to settle in to our “fun run” pace.

3M Pre-Race with Bradphoto courtesy of Paula

We had absolutely no time goals for this race (although secretly I wanted to get Brad in under 3 hrs, which would be ~30 minute PR) and since it was only his second half marathon, we were planning to just run and have fun.

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from the 3M Half Marathon Facebook Page

3M Half Marathon Course Map

3M is a point-to-point race. It starts in North Austin at the Arboretum, right in front of NXNW Restaurant on Stonelake Boulevard, and runs south through Shoal Creek, along Mopac, past the University of Texas, and finishes just north of the State Capitol.

It’s by no means a scenic course, but the elevation more than makes up for it. The first nine miles are “mostly” downhill. I say mostly because there are a few minor uphills but you hardly feel them. The elevation map 3M provides is a little bit different than the one from my Garmin:

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For the most part, the course was exactly the same as last year. Except for one thing:

3M Half Marathon Course 2012 vs 2013

In 2012, 3M was held on the last weekend of January. This year, it was held on January 13, which happened to fall on move-in weekend for the University of Texas. Rather than continuing down Duval and running through campus as usual, we made a left onto 26th, right on Red River, and then a right on MLK to take us back towards the finish line. Unfortunately, this added an unwelcomed hill around mile 11. If there was a spot we struggled, it was certainly during this stretch. My legs were pretty fatigued once we made the turn onto Red River and the downhill didn’t feel as easy as it should have.

Paula finished quite a bit before us (you need to read the speed demon’s race recap) so she stationed herself near the finish where she could see us come in.

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We managed to sneak in under 3 hours, landing Brad a new PR!

And I’m borrowing this one from MarathonFoto in all it’s watermarked glory because I like it but not will-pay-$34.95-for-it like it.3M Half Marathon Finisher Photo

And then a non-stolen photo (unless you count me jacking it from Paula) of her and I before brunch:

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And the standard post-race shot with fellow Austin Distance Challenge runners, Jeanette & Trinity:

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Yet again 3M put on a great race! With roughly 7,000 runners, it’s the perfect size – not too small, not too large. The race start is self-seeded and everyone seemed to line up accordingly. Water stops were well-stocked and had plenty of volunteers. APD did a great job of blocking off the streets and rerouting traffic so we could get our 13.1 miles in that morning. We waited less than 5 minutes to hop on a shuttle back up north to grab our cars, so that process was efficient as well. Absolutely no complaints from us!

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If you’re looking for a January race which pretty much guarantees you a fast finish & PR, the 3M Half Marathon is one worth looking into! Registration opens June 1st for next year’s race, which will be held on January 19, 2014.

2011 3M Half Marathon Race Recap

2012 3M Half Marathon Race Recap

Exiting the Comfort Zone

In reflecting over the past year of running, I can’t help but be disappointed with my race (and even training) performances. 2012 started off with a bang, knocking out a 5K PR on the first day of the year and a 23-minute half marathon PR on the last weekend of the month.

After that though? Things sort of fizzled out. My half marathon times gradually slowed, I stopped racing shorter distances, and after a not surprisingly spring burnout, I ran myself right into my first ever DNF at the New Jersey Marathon. After getting my ass kicked at the Spartan Race, I took a full month off of running. This ended up renewing my love for the sport and fueled the fire to begin training for the Philadelphia Marathon.

Halfway through July I began to reassess my goal time for Philly. The 90-degree evenings were beginning to take their toll on me at the track and my long-run pace was nowhere near what it should have been. I’m not the fastest runner to begin with, so to say this was discouraging is an understatement.

Once September rolled around, I threw all pace goals out the window. My goal for Philly was to finish. I registered Brad and I for the Austin Distance Challenge, putting races on our calendar every month through the middle of February. We knocked out a 10K and 10-miler in October, I ran Philly in November, and then finished an incredibly hilly half marathon in December. I closed out my running year on December 29th with the Operation Jack 10K, as I do every year.

So now I’m here. It’s January 8, 2013 and I’ve got a blank slate for the year. So how am I going to tackle it?

Here’s the plan:

  1. {spring} Focus on the half marathon distance. I really want to get my PR (2:14) down. Ideally, I’d like to get it under 2:10 at the Long Branch 1/2 Marathon in May. (NJ Marathon course redemption? I think so.) I have 3 half marathons in between now and then (3M, Austin, and ZOOMA) but plan to use those as training runs. Long Branch will be my spring goal race.
  2. {fall} run FAST. Yeah, this one is kinda huge. A sub-2 half marathon. Coming from someone with a (year old) 2:14 half PR, it’s terrifying to consider crossing that finish line in 1:59:59 or less. Sure, I have other race goals for the year – but this is the important one. Before December 31, 2013, I would like a sub-2 half under my belt. The race is TBD but I have the Shiner Beer Run tentatively penciled in. Any other suggestions for a fast fall half marathon? Open to traveling!
  3. Do NOT register for any full marathons. This one directly stems from item 2. I would like my half PR to be under 2 hours before registering for another full marathon. In other words, I’m shelving the 26.2 distance until 2014.
  4. Stop running races just to finish. Do you know what kind of problem this is? An expensive one. The city of Austin makes it incredibly hard for me to resist clicking that “Register” button. Obviously you can’t commit to racing every.single.race you enter, but I need to work on managing my schedule better. 4 half marathon in 4 months? Not necessary. It definitely makes achieving my goals harder by putting this much stress on my body. This being said, I probably need to adjust my 13 Races in 2013 goal. Quality > Quantity.
  5. Find the perfect pair of running shoes. Good lord, I’ve been searching long enough. Right now I’m running in Brooks Adrenaline GTS 12. Great shoe that keeps my shin splints at bay, but my arches HATE me after about 3 miles. Lose one pain, gain another. I also have a pair of the Mizuno Wave Inspire 9 that I bought back in November. They’re still in the box, with a fresh pair of Oiselle laces, ready to go! I’ll probably test them out at the end of January and hopefully (as long as I’m shin splint free) use them for the Long Branch 1/2 training cycle. Maybe they’ll be my perfect pair? Only time will tell but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
  6. Dig deep & exit the comfort zone. While reviewing my current PRs, I noticed the paces are VERY similar. {5K 9:29, 10K 9:55, 13.1 10:13} I nearly hit my 10K PR during 3M last year! I’d love to drop the 5K pace to high 8’s, 10K to low 9’s and 13.1… well you know where I want that one to be. I know I have more in me, but I need to dig deep, push harder, and exit the comfort zone. I need it to feel uncomfortably hard. I need to really RACE.

So that’s it. My running goals for 2013. My list of non-running goals is a work in progress, but I’m getting there. The running ones absolutely deserved their own post though – hey, this is Melissa RUNS after all.

2012 ARC Decker Challenge 1/2 Marathon Race Recap

December 9, 2012 marked three weeks post-marathon.

It was the morning of half marathon #10.

But most importantly: it was half marathon #1 for Brad. Shortly after running the IBM 10K in October, we discussed the possibility of him joining me for the Austin Distance Challenge. The furthest he had ever run was 10 miles, so the thought of three half marathons looming on the horizon made the decision difficult. After some convincing on my part (and mayyyybe a text that said “it’s definitely a possibility” interpreted as “sign me up”) I was registering him for both the Run for the Water 10-miler and the Austin Distance Challenge.

I then came to the realization that half marathon #10 was no longer going to be 3M as planned – it was going to be the next race in the ADC: the Decker Challenge.

Decker Challenge 2012

From the race’s website:

The Decker Challenge course covers 13.1 miles of rural roadway on and surrounding the Travis County Expo Center grounds. The course is USATF certified. Be prepared for rolling hills for the first half of the race, followed by several steady downhill miles at miles 7 and 8. Large hills at the end of Mile 8 and Mile 10 are the highlights (or lowlights, depending on your perspective) of the tough final 5 miles.

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I’ve been avoiding this race pretty much since I started running. The hills that surround Decker Lake are no joke. Mile 10 is dubbed “Quadzilla”. Due to the location, course support is pretty much nonexistent. But since it’s race #3 of the distance challenge, there’s no avoiding it.

It was a December morning that felt like June. What should have been a frigid 40 degrees with a biting wind was actually 71 degrees with 84% humidity and a warm breeze. Not exactly “winter” here in Austin.

The car was exceptionally quiet on the 30 minute drive to the race Sunday morning. I think Brad was still trying to wrap his head around the fact that he was about to run 13.1 miles. I was tweeting and constantly refreshing the Weather Channel app in hopes that the forecast was some sort of joke. (It wasn’t)

Decker Challenge Half Marathon Weather

We arrived around 7:35, which was just enough time for a bathroom stop before we jumped in line at the start. An elite runner who was announcing the start of the race commented how happy she was to only be running the 5K. Um, NOT something you want to broadcast to a sea of half-marathoners. She might as well have said “Look at you morons running 13.1 miles. I’ll be done with my race before you even hit mile 2!”

I pumped positive thoughts as best I could into Brad’s head. You’ll be fine. You’ve run 10, it’s only 3 more. I’ll be right next to you the whole time. You’ve got this! I had two goals for this race: (1) no time goal – just finish and (2) make sure Brad doesn’t hate me (or running) when he’s finished. It wasn’t a PR day; it was a day to get Brad across the finish line of his first half marathon.

DCIM\101GOPROThe horn blew and we were off! A quarter-mile into the race we were already sweating. ALREADY. The humidity just would not break. We were super thankful for the Nuun (Tropical for him + Orange for me) in our handhelds. Right before the Mile 1 marker, we took our first walk break. I had thought about running 3:1 intervals but decided we should just walk the mountains, and run the downhill/straightaways. Unfortunately, there were more mountains than anything else so I knew early on that our finish time wouldn’t be the speediest. (see goal #1)

Decker Challenge Half Marathon Course

We made a few friends along the way, chatting it up with fellow runners. I received countless compliments on my Pro Compression Holiday Marathon socks! One runner even commented: “I’ve been chasing you and your candy cane socks the entire race – you kept me moving!”

Here’s what we were up against:

Decker Challenge Half Marathon Elevation Chart

It’s safe to say we did NOT like this race. 99% sure that our first time running the Decker Challenge will also be the last. Brad let out a “F*CK THIS RACE” at mile 12. I assured him not all races are like this and that 3M will be a dream in comparison!

Once we came around the bend to head towards the finish, we began to pick up the pace. The announcer boomed over the loudspeaker “This guy coming into the chute now, I saw him before the race. Wearing a BOSTON RED SOX hat. I thought to myself, I have a friend here.” Brad and I started laughing.

As we got closer to the finish line, Brad grabbed my hand and we threw our arms in the air as the announcer called out our names “Coming across now is Brad Sawyer and Melissa Carlson, way to finish it together! Congratulations!”

Decker Challenge Medal

The Decker Challenge was a PW (personal worst) for me but the finish time stamped on this race means absolutely nothing to me. Brad and I conquered 13.1 miles of hills in less than ideal weather, side by side. We crossed the finish line TOGETHER. And that’s all that matters to me.

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Austin Distance Challenge

Back in the fall of 2010 when I first embarked on my running journey, I discovered the Austin Distance Challenge. It was a bit ambitious for someone just starting out, but kept it in the back of my mind for the next year.

Once the fall of 2011 rolled around, I realized one of the races in the ADC fell on the same day as the Marine Corps Marathon, making me ineligible to enter.

That brings us to this year. Fall is just around the corner, and it looks like the stars may FINALLY be aligned for me to take part in the Austin Distance Challenge.

ADC

So what exactly is the ADC? It’s a series of six races of increasing distances leading up to the Austin Marathon & Half Marathon. Everyone registered for the challenge receives the following:

  • long-sleeved tech shirt
  • 1 year membership to Austin Runners Club
  • access to ADC VIP Tent post-race
  • invitation to Celebration Party in March

And pending completion of the challenge:

  • custom printed runners jacket
  • certificate of completion
  • Overall, Masters and Age Group Awards


Austin Distance Challenge Races

IBM Uptown Classic

October 7, 2012

This is a staple in my fall race schedule and is actually my goal 10K for 2012; I have my sights set on 6.2 miles in under an hour!

Run for the Water

October 28, 2012

Run for the Water happens to fall on the same day as a 20-22 miler for Philly Marathon training so I’ll probably run 5ish miles pre-race and 5ish miles post-race.

Decker Challenge

December 9, 2012

I’m not gonna lie: this race scares the crap out of me. Last year when I volunteered at IM 70.3 Austin, I caught a glimpse of the Decker course – holy freakin’ hills.

To quote Joe Marruchella:

The Decker Challenge is one of the longest running and most well-respected races in Austin.  A windy course with historically poor December weather on the lake, can make Decker a tough race.  But it is the hills that put the“challenge” in the Decker Challenge.

Decker Elevation

Photo Credit: Joe Still Runs for Dom

Sooo… yeah. That should be a fun race. Oh! And it’s two weeks after Philly. I won’t be breaking any records at Decker, that’s for damn sure!

3m Half Marathon

January 13, 2013

Another repeat offender on my race schedule, and most likely my half marathon goal race for 2013. 3M’s elevation chart is pretty easy on the eyes:

3M Half Marathon Course Elevation

Oh heyyy PR City. Can’t wait to visit you again in January!

Rogue 30K Logo_final

January 27, 2013

The Rogue 10K & 30K will be a new race for the ADC this year, and a new race for me as well. Since I won’t be training for a full marathon in January, I highly doubt I’ll be inclined to choose the 18 mile route. 10K for me, please.

And last, but certainly not least…

Austin Marathon

February 17, 2013

I’ve run the half twice now – incredible race!! Earlier this year I said I’d be taking on the full in 2013 but I think it’ll be 13.1 for the third time. Ashley is talking about flying in for it so we’ll most likely run the half together. Exciting!

And that’s all. Just a few races – no big deal.

Have you ever participated in a race/distance challenge like this? Fellow Austinites – have you ever done the ADC? Are you planning on it this year?