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Race Report: ZOOMA Half Marathon, Austin, TX

March 29, 2010

From tallest to shortest: half-marathoners enjoying celebratory Tex-Mex dinner

Standing at the start line under an overcast sky, I turned to our pal Sheila, a speedy 28-year-old runner who is weeks away from running the Boston Marathon. I put a hand on each of her slender shoulders and half-jokingly told her, “I know you can run to greatness. I’m expecting you to win your age group—maybe even the whole race.” Of myself, I had no such expectations: I’d been cramped on a plane for most of the previous day. I’d had two generous glasses of pinot gris the night before. I was in the midst of marathon training so no taper. I’d put all my energy and focus into our RLAM reading the night before, not race prep. I had excuses to spare.

Yet once the race started, none of them seemed to matter. Having started at the front of the 1,000-runner pack, I easily found my groove. An immediate downhill quickly morphed into a gradual climb that set the tone for the rest of the 13.1-miler: hills, hills, and more hills! But I was ready since I’ve been training for the hills of the Pacific Coast Highway in the Big Sur Marathon. Climbing one longer, not-too-steep hill, I was pleasantly surprised to see I was running 8:25. A few years ago, my pace had always dropped to 10-  or 11-something on any sort of uphills. Wow, this hill-repeats actually work!

A blonde with a ponytail in a white tank and black shorts passed me around mile 2; I vowed to catch up with her. She stayed about 75 feet in front of me until we hit a mile-long stretch of rollers, some of which got pretty steep. After she started walking toward the tops of the hills, I knew I had her. I passed her around mile 5, and she never gained on me again.

Around mile 6.5, on an out-and-back stretch, I was delighted–and somewhat amazed–to see Sheila in the lead. I hooted and hollered for her, getting a big surge of adrenaline. This made me switch into corny-enthusiast mode. I spied a runner in a bright pink top off my left shoulder. I yelled out, “Come on, Pink, stay with me! Let’s go get Miss Blue-Shirt!” We started running together, with me occasionally yelling out for other friends who were in the top 10. I apologized for being so hokey, but Pink said she was digging it. Finally I couldn’t control the adrenaline surge and I took off.

A monster hill at mile 8.5 slowed me considerably, but I vaguely remembered the course map and told myself it was the last major one. I cruised a slight downhill and ate another Roctane gel. As I hit the 10-mile mark, I saw Sheila speeding toward the final half mile. More hokey cheers, more adrenaline. The final 5K of the race wound its way through a golf course. Pink had caught up to me by this point, but she didn’t have a surge in her, but she enthusiastically encouraged me. I started picking off runners. A woman in purple shorts. A guy in a grey shirt. Two more women in white tanks.

With 100 meters left to the finish line, a woman in a bright blue tank started sprinting. I knew I couldn’t catch her, but she inspired me to hoof it. I crossed the line in 1:47:39. Sure, it was 80 seconds slower than I ran a pancake-flat half in January. But freed of self-imposed expectations, I had given what I had and was elated with what I’d found.

(Oh, and throughout the race, whenever I felt fatigue getting the better of me, I spurred myself on with thoughts of finishing in the top 3 for my age group. Sure enough, I was the #3 female in mine. Yippee-yahoo!)

9 Comments leave one →
  1. SUSAN KOKESH permalink
    March 30, 2010 7:18 am

    I really enjoyed your book reading last night – a great turnout on a rainy evening in Portland! Jacki Herb and I were happy to have attended. Wanted to chat – but the line afterwards was a bit long (which is a great thing for your book) and I had to get back home to the kiddos.

    Great job to you on your 1/2 marathon! A fast time on a challenging course, you have to be proud of that! Hill repeats are an amazing training tool.

  2. bowenshea permalink*
    March 30, 2010 7:41 am

    Susan–I’m SO bummed we missed chatting last night! But I hear you: I was astonished when I lifted my head from signing and saw line!! Exciting.

  3. March 30, 2010 7:55 am

    Way to go!! That’s a fantastic race and you have some great tips embedded into your report – cheer on others and indirectly you cheer yourself on. Congrats!
    PS – where’s a the pic of your finisher’s medal? What did you get for 3rd place?

    • bowenshea permalink*
      March 30, 2010 2:17 pm

      Funny you should allude to medals/awards: Sheila (brunette next to me) and Katie (striped top) didn’t even know there was an awards ceremony or anything. The next day, we all had to urge them/force them to go ask if they won anything. Sure enough, they won….copies of our book! Ha, ha.

      I don’t think I got anything for third other than bragging rights! “;>)

  4. March 30, 2010 10:56 am

    Love the “corny-enthusiast mode.”

    Great job on those hills and your AG finish!

  5. March 30, 2010 11:53 am

    Way to go, Sarah! You had a great time – especially with those hills! I love to “run happy” which sounds like exactly what you did during the race! That’s awesome. I love to be in the middle of training & then just throw in a race, no expectations, just getting some nice mileage in…sounds like the weekend was a great success on all fronts!

  6. Jenny C. permalink
    March 30, 2010 10:19 pm

    Nice job, Sarah! Congrats on an AG placing – that’s awesome. And your report shows how much you enjoyed running that race. Can’t ask for more than that!

  7. March 31, 2010 7:20 pm

    Wowzie, Sarah!! Congratulations on an excellent time and age group placement! Very proud of you, girl! I am getting so excited for Big Sur for you, can’t wait!!

  8. April 2, 2010 2:05 pm

    LOVE it Sarah!! And huge congrats on placing!

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