Nothing new on race day. That’s what the coaches at Rogue kept telling us. It basically means if there’s anything you want to experiment on – running nutrition, shoes, accessories, running paces etc. – you should have done it all at training.
Can’t say I wasn’t nervous about the race. I’d been to PT on Thursday and she said I could run it, but to take care. And then we went off to San Antonio for the next 2 days where I promptly forgot all about doing the PT exercises. We bought new shoes, Bharath and I the previous weekend. I tested them out on a 5 mile run on Tuesday night which didn’t feel great. I cramped a bit and the run was no fun. So yes, all of these things including the fact that I was making a 100% jump on the distance from the previous weekend.
There are tons of things people recommend that you do to prep for your big race day. Get a few miles in the days before the run (I didn’t except for the Tuesday night run), visualize the course and plan each mile. That is way too much planning for me. So my plan of attack was to go out there and run it like a usual weekend run.
That’s not to say I did not prep:
1. I did visualize parts of the course that I knew. While I didn’t have a game plan for each mile, I mentally decided when to have nutrition.
2. Ate a high energy breakfast of 1 slice of toast with butter and jam (yeah, I need the butter!). Drank lots of water and got all morning duties out of the way (cannot underestimate the importance of this when you’re out running for more than 2 hours). Also couldn’t have had a better dinner of pasta with soy and lentils.
3. I pre-emptively took a painkiller – maybe recommended or not, but was worth it.
4. Did my PT exercises to open up the muscles a bit.
We reached the starting line and it was milling with people. I tried looking out for my running partner but couldn’t find her. I pretty much knew then I’d be running alone. I started slow, slow, slow. As we began running, it started to drizzle and I took a deep breath. This was it. It was almost the race I had been training for. I felt extremely emotional in those first few minutes. As I ran, I ticked off the people who had donated for my run, those who regularly followed the blog, who had been encouraging me from the very first day. And most of all, I dedicated the run to my Coach Lorrie.
I had my first gel pack before the race began. And I think it had a LOT to do with my easy warm-up. None of the annoying cramps or breathing issues surfaced. I was surprised but suspicious. If it felt good now, I knew it would suck later. But I kept running.
I changed my running style consciously. I realized earlier my footfalls were extended out, beyond the knees. Probably what gave me knee pain. So I consciously did smaller steps, reasonably faster turnover and made sure my feet never fell beyond the knees. It made such an incredible difference in comfort level even though I’d to get used to it.
And I got my runner’s high. The sole reason I kept going back to the run and I had it. I made the 5 mile mark at gun time (time that the gun goes off which is what is displayed on mile markers) at 1.08. This was incredible for me. This meant I’d been running at an even pace of a little over 12 minutes a mile. I knew I’d slow down further on.
People came out to cheer their families who were running or if they lived in the neighborhood. Running down Spicewood Springs which is a nice downhill felt awesome. I also made sure I didn’t race it, as instructed by Coach.
Around mile 5 I took my second gel pack. An enthusiastic Indian gentleman was cheering for everyone and cheered me on saying ‘Come on Asha’. Brought back memories of graduate school when people addressed me as Asha, when I was the chapter coordinator.
I began feeling really tired at the half mark. From half point onwards, I knew the course as we’d run it the previous weekend. And that’s when Rogue advice on a mile-plan kicked in. I decided at mile 9 or 10 I’d take the 3rd gel pack. So until then, I needed to make the second one work. I slowed down a lot. Kept running but varied the pace. All those Rogue workouts with varying pace came back to me. I don’t know if I ran HMGP or 10K pace, but I knew, by effort the first 5 miles were faster. Burnett Road went on forever. As we turned on North Loop, an elderly Indian gentleman began talking to me and running with me. He ran a good but slow pace so I decided to run with him for a bit. We exchanged running stories and I learned he’d been running 30 years, he was 60 years old, had torn his ACL but was running both 3M and the Austin Half. We talked about running in India (he’d had a better experience) and that he’d run the Decker Challenge one of Austin’s brutal races.
I ran with Ginger Gautam (cute name :)) until mile 11. Then he said he was going to walk for a bit, but I wanted to speed up the last 2 miles. Around then or a bit before I began to badly want a painkiller. The knees were aching quite a bit so I kept stopping and massaging them as my PT had suggested I do.
I walked to the last water stop and then it was less than a mile. I began running furiously on small but faster turnover steps. At San Jacinto I could see the finish line and hear the announcer. I saw Murali who challenged me to pick of 5 people to the finish line. So I began sprinting. Memories of school races rushed back into my head. Finish well and finish strong. I sprinted into the finish line having picked off 6! I crossed the line at 2.56.44. For most folks that’s no record, but it belied my expectations. When I ran 10 miles with Rogue, it took me around 3 hours each time. I had no expectations of finishing the HM in less than 3 hours! And I did it because I hardly walked this time. This was the most amount of running and distance I’d ever done!
I have to add how proud I am of Bharath, who with minimal training did it in 2.39 or so. Perhaps with training he can beat that easily.
So thanks to everyone for all the encouragement and support. This has been the most fun but the most challenging thing I’ve done – beats the PhD experience even (mostly cos its voluntary). I had a fantastic first race and I only hope the next one in 3 weeks is as good! I hope there’s nothing new on race day on Feb 20, including how good the run felt!!