First off, thanks to Soleus Running for gifting me the race entry with the extra VIP signup (I’ll explain more later) and my athlete Sarah F for gifting me hotel points for the Hilton! I’d not have done the race without Soleus and I’d have stayed in a cheap hostel if it was not for the Hilton point donation!
Training: This has gone as well as it could during the South Dakota winter. I’ve ran more mileage than I’ve ever done, averaging 62 miles per week in the last 2.5 months (I averaged 52mpw in 2016). Workouts on clear/flat pavement were few and far between, so I had almost no workouts to hint at my fitness level. I’d ran 100% outdoors on hilly roads that are best cleared of snow/ice or crappy pavement that was not safe for fast running. Almost all in tights and winter gear.
I did have to take a few weeks with reduced volume + no hard running in early Feb due to illness and the taper was much much easier than I otherwise would have done because my left calf had been a little achey off and on in Feb. Race week it drastically improved and thankfully as of writing this it’s 99% fine. I actually didn’t even think about it during the race, at all 🙂
Getting to Austin: I flew in to Austin from Rapid City on Thursday. The flights were super smooth and nothing happened during travel to really mention. It was nice getting to Austin in the early afternoon!
Lodging: An athlete I coach who stays at hotels for work and gifts the points to friends (because the last place she wants to stay on vacation is a hotel) provided me with five nights at the Hilton. Her hotel booking gave me access to the Executive Lounge, which made me feel super spoiled. Food and drink available all day! The only food I purchased was two donuts from Voodoo. This Hilton was also literally right across the street from the race packet pick-up and only a few blocks from the start/finish. Location could not have been better!
Packet Pick-Up: This was a nice expo, plenty of various booths to check out. There was also a booth scavenger hunt where if you go to them all you get put into a drawing for some swag and a free entry. Getting my bag was super easy, no complaints here.
Goals: Initially my goal was to PR with a sub 1:23:10. I knew it was a harder course than what I’ve done, however, I’d ran within 1 and within 20 seconds of my PR in 2016. I hoped that with additional training (and mileage) I’d be able to PR on a more difficult course.
Austin: It was nice and cool when I arrived in Austin on Thursday, however that quickly changed with an 80 degree day on Saturday and a very high chance of thunderstorms on Sunday race morning. My goals shifted from a time to simply run conservatively, not mind the pace, and see what happens. I’m only going to run as fast as I am going to run, and with it being 70 degrees and 90% humidity at 5am on race morning, I was certainly not going to run with a goal pace in mind.
The Race: We’ll break it up into 5k chunks, since there were timing mats every 5k on the course.
0-5k – I started super super slowly with my mouth closed for the first half mile. With it being hotter and more humid than anything I’ve ran in…4-6 months I knew I needed to hold back at the start. The marathoners and the half marathoners run the first 10 miles together and I even let the 3:00 and then the 3:05 pacer + group go off a bit ahead of me. I was clicking off super easy 7:05’s for the first uphill 3 miles at came through 3.1 miles in 118th position for the half.
5k to 10k – The course turned downhill at mile 4, at which point I moved to a more moderate effort level. By 10k I was in 67th place and had cut my average pace down to 6:45. Thankfully the sun never came out so it was just hills and humidity to deal with.
10k to 15k – This was still a net downhill and I continued to speed up a bit, dropping my average pace a few more seconds per mile and passing another 19 runners. I think the only person to actually pass me after mile 4 was a much faster athlete than I who was having to stop at portapotties due to GI issues. He actually passed me twice, presumably after I passed him twice while he was in a portapotty each time.
15k to 20k – This was where the road turned up again, and boy they really cranked up the incline! I was warned about these and they lived up to expectations. At the start and here in the final few miles I would let nearby runners go off ahead but would catch up to them at the top and going down. I had no desire to maintain pace up a hill to simply expire at the top. Constant effort but fluctuating pace. Well, constant until the final 5k 😉 Those last few really short but steep hills are steep.
The Finish – I shifted to “best effort” for the final couple miles. Still being conservative on the hills but pushing it. I think I passed 7 runners in the final stretch.
Austin Marathon VIP: For $175 extra on your entry you receive some nice extra accommodations. The first of these that I took advantage of was the free cap from Greenlayer, who I believe was doing all of the race apparel. It’s a nice cap, I like it. We also received 20% off at the Greenlayer booth, but I did not need anything else.
The VIP pre-race lounge was at the Google Fiber Space less than a block from the start. Here the VIP’s had their own drop bag, breakfast, coffee, and I got to chat with some cool fellow runners. The regular dropbag location was a good 4-5 blocks away, at the finish. It was also nice to have our private and real bathrooms!
Post race, the VIP Lounge was on a balcony overlooking the finish + the hall. See the panoramic view below. It was cool. There was a table with coffee and tea + items, a table with various juices, and then two breakfast food tables. I just had some coffee and fruit after the run, but I came back later and ate a full tasty breakfast 🙂
Is VIP Worth it? Let’s see. The cap + massage would have been $25 and $20. $10 for pre-race coffee and a couple pastries, $20 for the post race coffee and filling breakfast. I would not have purchased any cap, massage, and the coffee/food would have been free for me but I would have had to go back to the hotel. But with those, that’s $75 in just straight up money. $100 extra for the convenience? That is up to you. It’s nice to feel special and to have private bathrooms, private places to chill, private massage, etc. If you’re up for gifting someone $175, this would be a really really fun gift for someone you know who is running the Austin Half/Full marathon!
Other Things About Austin:
Other Misc Photos:
When I travel I usually just live mostly normal, since I work from my computer. As you’ll see from the photos below I did some exploring, but typically doing what I’d normally do.
Each day I tried to see one touristy location within running distance of my hotel. This was Graffiti Park.
Staying around the same area for a week is fun because I get to know where things are at without having to use my phone. Congress, here, was the main stretch and the race start/finish street.
The executive lounge actually had really great coffee with a nice crema on top.
Visited the Mexic Arte Museum that was blocks from my hotel and on the same street as the race.
Kept track with this, thankfully, because the on-course timing was not correct at each 5k mark (but the results have it correct).
The capital was close so I ran there and checked out the University of Texas grounds as well.
I used the rollers on floor 8 once or twice every day. I think it really helped loosen up my legs.
Texans really love Texas.
Got to meet a founder of Janji, a clothing company you should check out!
Ran into the man who made and sent me this singlet!
The rolling + hot tub combo happened at least once daily.
The trails at Lady Bird lake were fantastic!
How I organized all of my stuff at my hotel room.
The famous Austin bats! Super neat site. The bridge unintentionally became the largest bat colony in North America.
More hot tub 😉
The man that checked me in at the Hilton said there were maybe 16 miles of trails with a great deal of variety, at Lady Bird Lake.
Many food trucks in Austin.
This free poster from Clif Bar will look great in my home office.
Why I Signed Up
In early October I ran my A race for the summer/fall, the Crazy Horse Half Marathon.
This run was my fastest 13.1 mile run in two years and only one second shy of my personal best. I was faster than I’ve been in two years and wanted to take advantage of my current fitness so began searching for another half marathon to run.
Enter The Good Life Halfsy on November 6. Registration had closed but men and women with certain race times (sub 1:29 and sub 1:40 respectively) could get in after it filled. So I emailed Pink Gorilla Events and signed up!
Training Between Races
I had never felt better after a half than I did after Crazy Horse. The more consistent longer runs paid off. I rested up for a few days and then got back into training, basically repeating the key workouts (minus the long runs) that I did the four weeks pre-Crazy Horse. I performed better during these workouts the second time around but always felt a bit more sore the day after than I did the first time. My volume was slightly reduced since I was not running the weekly 14-16 miler.
I was expecting a fairly flat event. The course has a few rollers during the first 5k, some slight climbs but a net downhill during the middle 10k, and then a bit of ascent at the end.
Since I just ran a 1:23:12 on gravel I did expect to best that on a net downhill pavement course.
I was staying with Paul and Molly, two friends who ran Deadwood and invited me to stay with them in Lincoln if I ever was in town. They lived about 10 minutes from the start and we drove there the day before to check it out.
There was tons of parking and plenty of port a johns. I gave the volunteers a drop bag that I could pick up at the finish and went for a bit of a warmup jog. With about 15 minutes before the race I hung out at the starting line, bouncing around. Someone asked me if I make Youtube videos and that they had just watched one.
First 5 Kilometers
The early section section was in to the wind and had the bulk of the hills. In retrospect I probably should have ran a bit slower than 6:14 average, but it was a very very easy and comfortable pace. However with the hills and wind I was likely working harder than I felt…such is racing!
Through here we sort of got into our spots. I was in 49th place at the 5k mark under a cloudy sky.
The Middle 6.9 miles
I did run this slower than the first, my 6.9 mile time was 43:56 at a 6:22 mile pace and now in 45th place overall. I was running very comfortably and relaxed. Basically the same effort as the first 5k but of course at as lower pace once the race-start high was past.
This section was a net downhill but still slightly rolling the entire time. I grabbed a couple Gatorade cups and took a sip here and there but otherwise ran through most aid stations. The weather was a super comfortable 60 or so degrees. It was a bit cold at the start and I was a little chilly but once I was moving it was perfect. There were many people in tights and/or warmer tops and I suspect they got quite hot since they were running slower and out in the sun (that came out at about a half hour into the race) longer.
The Final 5k
During this final segment I cranked it up, especially so in the last mile. I knew getting a PR or not was going to be close. I was no longer looking at my watch and just running as hard as I could.
Covering the final 5k at a 6:30 pace and passed a few more people. After the net downhill last 7 miles the bit of climbing at the very end was tough! Especially that damned bridge at the end. I crossed the finish line in 1:23:30, 20 seconds shy of a PR but finishing within the top 1% of the 4100 participants.
I ran well, after everyone sort of got into their positions during the first few miles I think only one guy passed me and he had clearly started off super slow because he zoomed by like I was standing still. I wouldn’t even be surprised if he got to the start late and was just playing catch up, he was quick. Now that I think of it…I may have actually repassed him during the last couple miles…
I’m quite happy with this run, first off. This was my third fastest half marathon and my second fastest in two years. No doubt I’ve improved since my PR and I’m confident next year when I get racing again I’ll run better.
The course was much more rolling than I had expected it to be. The last five half marathons I’ve ran have been basically flat with any hills all at once. Fargo is pancake flat other than going under train tracks. Crazy Horse and Deadwood each have hills but other than the climbs and descents it’s super flat. Although the elevation change was slight each mile had some noticeable up and down.
I’m not sure if I would do anything different, looking back. Maybe tell myself to run a bit slower during the first 5k, but it’s certainly not like I overdid it.
This was my third running of the Crazy Horse Half Marathon.
My PR from here is 1:23:11 (6:20.94 avg pace) and I wanted anything faster. A 1:23:10 was the only goal. Only if weather conditions would have not allowed for a PR was I at all concerned with my placing.
It starts at the Crazy Horse monument near Custer, SD and then heads north to Hill City. You can see more of Crazy Horse here from Native American Day the following day.
While the course is a net downhill the last 10 being on gravel slows you and I consider it a fair course, especially with the extra slow first three miles. Towards the end when you’re really running fast the gravel footing is extra noticeable and they laid down new crushed limestone this summer/fall which made the last 5k more difficult than previous years.
The day was cool with a very light tail wind for most of the final 9.5 miles. Last year was a little wet for the start and it may have even rained a bit early on. I remember a lot of fog.
My gear from bottom to top
I didn’t use a GPS watch this time around. I’ve had two cases of GPS failure during events and I’m so over it. The watch is accurate and I simply hit the lap button at every mile marker.
This is a nice starting location since we can hang out in the visitor center. It’s also a great museum for the families to check out while they wait for the roads to open back up from the runners passing though.
I’ll break the race down into segments
Everything hurts and I’m dying
I turned down the home stretch for the final quarter mile and saw the time counting down. It was going to be close to my goal of a PR. I gave it my best effort and came in one second short of my PR and two seconds short of my goal of a new PR!
With this being my fastest half marathon in two years I’m still very happy with the result as it shows I have improved 🙂 That’s the most important thing, I’m my fastest since the PR here two years prior.
Hours and day after, how do I feel
Better then I have after any best effort half marathon, no question. I certainly attribute this to the more frequent longer runs.
What I did different
4th out of 685 people.
Shoutouts to Emily Wheeler (left in red, above) who is the RD of a few fantastic events out here in the Black Hills. This is definitely my fave though 🙂
Also to all of the volunteers who made the event possible!
And of course to my wife Desi who finished this as her first half marathon! She was inspired after volunteering at this run last year and began training for the 2016 edition the next week and has trained well and crushed her goal! It was nice to see a text her from “I might be early….” and she said she passed about 70 people during the final stretch and was feeling really good!
I’m going to run The Goodlife Halfsy in Lincoln, NE November 6th. This is a similar course to Crazy Horse with rolling hills during the first few miles and then a net downhill after that. As long as there is no snow it should be a good run and another chance at a PR. This event is very fast with nearly 4,000 finishers and a 1:23 would not have even put me in the top 30 last year.
If you’re an athlete I coach and I sent this to you, please fill it out for your recent goal race.
If you’ve happened upon this post some other way and wish to fill it out, please do! I’ll happily reply back with any thoughts or suggestions. You can also of course save the questions for your own personal reflection.
Yes, I’m a lucky guy.
Three chocolate hearts and a cute lady by my side 🙂
Today’s run is a Valentine’s run but they do it the weekend afterwards because the Hospital puts on a 5k for Heart Health Week, plus the RD can get the big chocolate hearts for super cheap after Valentine’s Day!
It was Desi’s first 5k race ever, after about 3 months of being a runner. Her goal was to not finish last, which she accomplished.
My goal was to run as hard as I can to judge my fitness. I’ve not done a hard workout in a few months and have been averaging more weekly miles than ever, so I wasn’t sure how today would turn out.
I started the race, literally I started the race by firing this super old starting pistol. Everyone took off and I walked the gun to the timing guy, so I started in last place 😉
After that I started my GPS since I wanted an accurate pace/distance measurement of me running without the walk to the timing man. I took off and started passing people, catching up and passing the leader before the mile mark.
It was a lolly pop loop so I got to see many people once we joined back up and Desi gave me a high five!
The final mile was a bit slower and lower effort than the first two since I was solo and not 100% sure where to turn, but it all worked out.
I’m super happy with how the race ended up. My 5k time was 18:45, :09 off my PR and I’ve done absolutely zero running at this pace for longer than :30 strides in a few months and I’ve been running much higher weekly volume than I ever have before. I’m really looking forward to some more 5k’s and some PR’s!!!
Also super happy with the last week of training.
Just over 10 hours and felt great! My average weight this week was a quarter pound less than the average the previous week and 5.6 pounds less than the average for the final week of 2015.
Now comes a slight unloading week, and then back at it!
This was a great week, but most weeks are 😉
Lots of running on Skyline Drive recently. Can’t beat that view up there!
The highlight of the week was the final race in the Black Hills Trail Running Series. This event has a 10k and a 16k option. I signed up for the 10k since I cheated a bit and waiting until the last minute to sign up. so I could see who else was doing each event 😉 I was either going to run for the win or jog it in.
I was within about thirty seconds off Brandon in 1st place until that first hill, then totally lost him. I was not going to wreck myself for 2nd place, so just jogged it in after that. When I got back to the finish I grabbed a bottle of water and went back out on the course to get a few more miles in and pick up flags.
These last few miles really allowed me to enjoy being out there. The Flume Trail is very beautiful and has some interesting history behind it. Only once going back out and jogging the trail did I notice that I was running on a built-up path (see below). I also realized I could see Rapid City from the course. I also came across some fun cairns on the side of the route!
On the weekend of Oct 10 I spent the morning volunteering at the Deefield Lake 11 miler.
This is a great loop around the man-made lake. Most of the trails are pretty non-technical and there isn’t a huge amount of ascent and descent. Not like some of the other trail races in the Black Hills Trail Series.
Deerfield is the third race I’ve volunteered at this year, after Victoria Secret and Crazy Horse, where joined my wife after my run as she volunteered. It’s so fun to be out there helping the runners along. Honestly, one of the main reasons I volunteer at this is so I don’t run them. I’ve learned that it’s difficult to take a race easy, and taking them hard often requires too much recovery and missed running, afterwards. But, I dare say volunteering is more satisfying than actually running. Plus as you can see, iI still get some miles in!
After helping set up the registration and start on the south side of the above mp, a few of us headed out on a side x side to set up a few aid stations. This 11 will take most people what a flat half marathon would, so there were three aid stations along the course.
At the green circle above, we put up a station. I ran west to check flags and meet the RD at the end of my red route to man the final aid station and direct runners. Another volunteer headed east along that red route to check flags and man another aid station.
For the most part it was an uneventful race. You can see in the above route that hard left I took to go south towards the lake. A few runners missed that and ended up running straight west to the road instead of south west to the road. It’s possible cattle in the area knocked down the flat, or it just was not marked as clearly as possible. Luckily only a few people went off course and for the most part everyone had a good run.
Last weekend was my final, and honestly only, big race of the year.
I ran other events, but did not truly train for and peak for an event other than the Crazy Horse Half.
You can find my race report HERE at my company website.
At my personal website, here, I’ve included some more personal notes.
I could talk about how it was a disappointing finish to a disappointing year, but I’d rather talk about some more of the positives.
First, two of my women athletes placed in the top 1.5% of females, meaning they placed better than I did with a top 6% finish among guys (2% overall). Well done to Melanie and Kris, it’s an honor to be able to work with such successful local athletes.
The highlight of my entire day though, was hanging out at the mile 7.5ish aid station where my wife Desi helped direct traffic at, cheering on the marathoners for a few hours and being able to meet in person my athlete Cathleen from California, who was running the full!
I heard her yell HI to me at the turnaround right away within the first couple miles, but I really wanted to be able to chat with her later on. She came through and I ran with her for a couple minutes and chatted. Got to meet her husband as well. She seemed in good spirits considering being at mile 21, and that made me feel great.
Later on we ran into them at a coffee shop, so I was able to chat with Cathleen and Manuel a bit more, and they’re both super cool. It’s alway really fun meeting my online athletes in person!
Not the race report you thought you’d find.
Instead of running the event, I actually volunteered as a course marshal!
This was something I’ve been wanting to do for a while. So, when the RD did a call for volunteers I jumped at the change to not run the most difficult half marathon in South Dakota.
There was a fast descent from an out and back spur that I was making sure people took a right at to go up and then a sharp right at to get back onto the main course. It’s a good thing they had someone stationed there, as multiple people had to be put back on course by myself! When you’re running hard downhill, you often don’t think or notice the signs.
We were pretty much up in the hills in the middle of nowhere, with spotty reception. The aid-station workers and course people had to drive for a good 20+ minutes on sketchy gravel roads to get out there.
After the last participant came through I gave my gear to a fellow course marshall & ran back 7k to the finish. It was nice to get my run in & see a bit of the course. I’ve never done this event, but have been out on the path during other trail runs. There’s a cool view in a big clearing.
There is quite a bit of elevation change on the course, with a great deal of rocks on the path as well. It’s likely the course would have taken me about a half hour longer than a flatter half marathon. One lady said this was even more difficult than the Big Horn 30k.
The last mile featured three or four creek crossing as well as a few blocks distance worth of flooded path which was actually quite fun to run in!
Funny enough, I spent some time contemplating if I wanted to save my new SKORA Phase shoes for clean casual wear or for running in them. Clearly I chose the latter.
This was a great experience and I’ll definitely be back out there to volunteer at other runs. It was such a fulfilling day, giving my time to make the race a better experience for the athletes out on the course. The tents, tables, signs, etc don’t get put up magically, it’s interesting to see what happens behind the scenes. I have always tried to thank volunteers out there, and it was cool to be on the receiving end of it while making the day about the runners.