“If experience was so important, we’d never have had anyone walk on the moon.” — Doug Rader
Will Nation can relate. Road-racing experience? Local knowledge? Forget about it. Who needs it?
Certainly, not Nation. The 22-year-old recent UT grad won the 3M Half Marathon on Sunday and believe it or not, it was the very first road race of his life. Not just recent college life where track coaches tend to frown on extracurricular activities, such as a frivolous road race. But Nation, growing up in the running hotbed of Spring and going to distance power Klein, had never even run a little 5-K fun run as a kid in and around Houston. He had been to a few; just never dipped his toes in.
Never. Not one.
At least not until Sunday when he ran away from a pack of four at the top of Duval in the last two miles to win his maiden road race in 1:07:01.
Nation raced plenty at UT on the track and cross-country, but his greatest success came in the classroom where he earned a computer science degree (he works for a start up in Austin) and was named all academic first team in the Big 12.
By his own admission, Nation left something on the table in terms of his running, choosing a challenging major. Still, his collegiate running wasn’t too shabby with track bests of 14:20 (5000)/29:33 (10,000).
“Not bad for a month of training,” said an elated Nation to his parents—Jean and Joe—who now live in Canyon Lake. “It felt great out there and didn’t have the same kind of hurt a track race does. Actually, a half marathon felt easier to me—especially mentally—than a track race.”
Nation warmed up for 3M along with Jeff Sadler, a former Baylor runner, outside the Gateway Shopping Center in north Austin. Conditions weren’t perfect on Sunday—it was a little breezy and the air was filled with that troublesome cedar pollen—but it was clear and dry with temps in the high 30s.
A big lead pack consisting of Bryan Morton, Collin Smith, Sadler, Jacob Bradosky and Jeremy Daum and Jacob Buhler (both from San Antonio) led the field, which was announced at 7,000, on the north-to-south course. In the quick early miles, the leaders were flying south on the gentle downhills of Shoal Creek and Great Northern at a five-minute pace, but the crosswind was buffeting them a bit.
“It didn’t really bother me because I was behind those guys,” said Nation. “I just sat back and relaxed. I wasn’t exactly sure what to do so I figured they’d know.”
Maybe so, maybe not.
The pack began to splinter at about eight miles when Morton—who won the 5-K in Houston last weekend—made a bold move. But he couldn’t shake Nation or Collin Smith, Nation’s former teammate at UT, who was racing his straight third weekend. (He won the Rogue 30-K two weeks ago and last Sunday ran the USA Half Champs in Houston.)
When the three reached the top of Duval for the final two mile-plunge past DKR and on to the finish outside the Bob Bullock Museum, Smith moved first and Nation went right with him. But Smith had to be feeling the cumulative effects of his prior weekends and, at the 12-mile mark, Nation pulled away to win in 1:07:01. Morton came back to catch to snatch second in a three-minute PR of 1:07:16 and Smith held on for third in a PR of 1:07:28. Sadler was fourth in another PR of 1:07:45 and Bradosky of Great Falls, Montana took fifth in 1:08:22.
“It wasn’t blazing fast,” said Nation, “but I didn’t really know what to expect because it’s such a new thing for me.”
For Allison Macsas, 3M was a new thing for her too. Although the 30-year-old is a vastly experienced road runner with Olympic Trials credentials, she had simply never ran 3M. Nor has she raced much lately as her world wide duties with Rogue have taken her all over the planet to lead running expeditions. Macsas, paced at the Rogue Distance Festival 30-K two weeks ago, but her last competitive race was in early October at the Twin Cities Marathon.
She and Allison Mendez were clearly the best women in the field and the two ran stride for stride, churning out 5:30 mile after mile. But Mendez, the former UT runner, was coming off a shin injury which kept her out of the USA Half Champs last weekend in Houston. Although Mendez refused to make excuses, she had barely run as most of her training in recent weeks had been on a zero gravity treadmill or she had cross-trained.
When Macsas made her move at the top of Duval with two miles to go, Mendez couldn’t respond. “At that point, I had no turnover,” said Mendez.
Macsas ascended the short hill on MLK and finished in 1:13:02—a PR by more than two minutes. (Previous best was 1:15:21 at Vancouver.) Mendez held on for second in 1:13:20—also a huge PR by more than two minutes.
“Because I had Allie with me,” said Macsas, “I was much more aggressive today than if I had been by myself. I’m not surprised I PR’ed, but I am surprised I PR’ed by so much. I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in and have had all my PRs in the past 12 months.”
After Mendez and Macsas, was Nora Colligan in 1:15:46, Dr. Andrea Duke of San Antonio finished fourth in 1:16:12 and 45-year-old wonder woman Chris Kimbrough was fifth in 1:17:35.
Kimbrough was, of course, the first masters woman, followed by 40-year-old Keri Rimel who ran 1:25:12 and 42-year-old Andrea Fisher in 1:27:19. Other age-group winners Sunday were Amanda Marks of Lafayette, Colorado (45-49) in 1:28:01, Katie Hegg of Boulder, Colorado (50-54) in 1:35:15, Linda Wagers of Austin (55-59) in 1:35:35, Candace Grant of Austin (60-64) in 1:40:32, Susan Kohagen on the comeback trail (65-6) in 1:58:45 and Kathy McWilliams of Austin (70-74) in 2:19:13.
The men’s masters were led by Campbell Ilfrey, a 41-year-old from Louisville, Colorado who was 14th overall in 1:12:54. San Antonio’s Todd Heintz, 43, was second in 1:16:03 and 53-year-old William Moore of Dallas took third in 1:16:30.
Age-group winners were Byrne Decker of Yarmouth, Maine (45-49) in 1:18:19, Moore (50-54), John Potts of Georgetown (55-59) in 1:20:47, Lou Kohagen (60-64) in 1:33:45, Chris Wolfe of Ann Arbor, Michigan (65-69), who spends his winters here, in 1:34:46, Scott Beachy of Round (70-74) in 1:43:14 and Cedar Creek’s own John Perkins (75 and up) in 1:58:50.
The 21st annual running of this great, PR-laden race was the fifth of six races in the 2014-15 Austin Fit Magazine Distance Challenge. The big enchilada is—of course–the Austin Marathon (and Half) in three weeks (February 15th).
[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”1″ gal_title=”3M_Half_2015″]
Full Results HERE