I’ve run the Austin 10/20 every year except the first one, and each time my friend and I said we won’t do it again. The course isn’t terribly scenic (Burnet Road, anyone?) and there’s not a lot of crowd support other than inside The Domain. Miles 8-9 follow the Mopac frontage road up the kind of gradual incline that sucks at miles 8-9. And the last half-mile takes two years. But every spring, we run it again. Probably because of the medal.
But after today, we won’t have to make that decision.
The race director announced a few weeks ago that the 2017 race would be the last. It sounds like it was getting more difficult to arrange road closures, especially since The Domain has grown so much since the first year of the race. And I think registrations have dropped–I remember my first or second year, the corrals wrapped around the street into a parking lot, and it took 5+ minutes to even get to the start line. This year, they dropped the corral ropes and we moved forward, maybe a minute or 90 seconds back. It’s an expensive race–early registration was around $80–so that probably turned people off too.
Regardless, I’ve run a 10-mile PR at this race at least twice, so even though I detest parts of the course, I have some fond memories of the overall event.Last year, the weather was pretty cool before the race, which definitely contributed to my PR, although the sun was out and it warmed up quickly. This year we haven’t had winter (except that one weekend in January) so it’s not a shock that it was 66* at the start. Did I mention the humidity? And the wind? Super-great conditions. In other words, my expectations were low.
For some reason, the race started about 15 minutes late. But by about 8:15 we were underway.
We actually run on this stretch of Alterra Parkway three times during the race–we’d see it again around mile 7 and again at 9 to the finish. I had to be careful not to start too fast, but that was only a problem until we turned right onto a short, hilly street that dumped us out on Burnet Road. We ran this section of Burnet three times too, now that I think about it.
Near the first mile marker, crowd support was pretty good. As we ran south on Burnet, though, it was down to us, the police officers, the bands, and the race leaders already at their halfway point, heading the other direction. And the wind.
The third mile weaves through an industrial area, then back out onto Burnet for the return trip. I had skipped the first water stop, but I took advantage of the rest of them. I think every other water stop also had Gatorade, which I appreciated in these humid conditions.
Honestly, through mile 5 or so, I was feeling good. It was almost fun.
Around mile 6, just before the turn into IBM, I saw my family, then some Rogue friends–it’s great to hear spectators call my name. But I was flagging. By the 10K split I had hit something of a wall, and I was glad for both the water stop and the cold towel stop to rest briefly. Lots of people tossed their towels, but I hung on to mine, wrapped around the back of my neck.
I rallied a bit as I exited IBM–back on Burnet–and turned right into The Domain. And hey, another water stop! Then I made my second trip down Alterra toward the Mopac frontage road. By now quite a few people were coming back the other direction toward the finish. I was sooooo ready to be done too.
I knew the last two miles would make or break my goal, so I kept an eye on my overall pace. But have you ever reached a point in a race where you just say I DON’T CARE ABOUT THE GOAL ANYMORE because it’s sucking so bad? That’s how I felt after I looped around at Duval and headed back up the frontage road. It’s about a mile-long incline and while I ran most of it, my pace was off. I was also experiencing a little bit of stomach distress, and I worried about a repeat of the near disaster at 3M last year. Not to mention the damn headwind the whole way.
After the road curved under the highway I struggled up yet another incline, then got a little bit of a downhill before turning back on to Alterra for the final time. This stretch is deceptive though–it’s at least three-quarters of a mile from there to the finish. And while it looks flat, it actually has a gradual incline, then the last block goes up a larger hill to the finish line. (Note to race directors: hills at the end of distance races are NOT cool.)
With about a half-mile to go, my teenager jumped in and ran alongside me. He’d picked up a giant zip tie and was carrying it as he ran, chattering about some computer thing he and his friends are building. I appreciated the distraction–but yowza, I was suffering. I could see the finish line, still so far away.
At the bottom of that last hill, a huge group of Rogue friends yelled like crazy for me. I had my own cheering section–and damn did it feel good (it was kind of the only thing that did….). My kid saw his dad and peeled off; I was on my own the last 100 yards or so. By now I could see the clock–still under my goal–so while I didn’t kick it into a sprint or anything (unlike two girls who blazed by me) I managed to push all the way through and across the finish line.I finished about two minutes off my PR from last year, but it was also about 15 degrees and a billion percent humidity higher than last year too. Thank goodness for the cloud cover or this would have been much uglier.
As finale races go, I am pleased with this one. I mean, the weather was soupy and the second half was kind of rough, but I went into it with pretty low expectations. The last 10-mile race I ran was in October, after which I lost two months to injury over the winter. So I didn’t know what to expect in race conditions. Now I have a better gauge of what “goal pace” might look like as I train for two upcoming half-marathons.
But now it’s time to eat all the things and enjoy a lazy afternoon. Because there’s no rest for the weary: tomorrow we’re running after core class.