Posts Tagged ‘Austin Marathon’

There are two marathoners in the office here at work.  They share a wall and have the same view from the 9th floor of the Tower of the Hills Building here in Northwest Austin. 

In fact, 6 bibs hang in frames across the shared wall between the two offices.  Each bib is from the runner’s PR race at the 1 mile, 5K, 10K, 10-mile, Half-Marathon and Marathon distances – the times and dates printed below.

In the center of that same wall is a frame holding the bib, race medal and a few race photos from the 2009 Pittsburgh Marathon – the race where the runner qualified for Boston for the first time.

In that office sits a marathoner deep in training for his next marathon.  Boston, 2012.

On the other side of the wall sits a marathoner who in 12 days will not be showing up for the next race he is registered for, the 21st running of the Austin Marathon.  He is on the shelf, injured, a little depressed, very frustrated and perhaps just a bit envious of the other runner.

So it goes. 

We train, we race, we suffer setbacks, we sometimes get injured, we regroup and we return.  We are marathoners.

For the past 10 months and 1 day, I have been healthy.  I have gone from race to race, event to event, training period to training period and I have been able to shake off the effects of those hard days, regroup over my easy days and keep the needle moving forward.

Over those 10 months of consistent training at the age of 44 I have set new PR’s in the mile (5:07), 10K (37:30) and a 6 minute and 52 second PR in the New York Marathon (3:08:09).  How is that happening?  How is that possible?  Shouldn’t I be getting slower?  Aren’t setting PR’s a thing of the past?

The key has been staying healthy.  Not having an injury set-back that robs me of the ability to train, recover, grow stronger and then train hard once again.  Every time a runner has to take 4 or 5 weeks off from running due to an injury – all of the gains made over the past 3-4 months can quickly disappear.

As the runner returns to training it takes another 3-4 months just to return to their pre-injury level.  Then as they start to move the needle forward again, oftentimes another injury rears its head and the cycle starts all over again.

Last March, as I logged a total of 5 miles for the month, battling some knee inflamation on my left side, I had to for the first time skip a race.  The Cap 10K here in Austin.  One of the largest 10K’s in the country, the largest in the state of Texas.  The day when the entire city of Austin is out running – I was home riding my tri-bike on the trainer in the garage.

I was on the shelf, injured, a little depressed, very frustrated and VERY envious of the other runners who were out there doing their thing.

I was also determined once and for all to learn from my past mistakes and do everything I could to reduce the chance of getting injured.

Now, to an extent, there is only so much you can do if you are training to “race” and not simply “run”.  Yes, if I dialed back the intensity at which I train and simply logged 8 minute and 30 second miles day after day, I’m pretty sure I could run about as far and as long as I wanted to without getting injured.

But as long as the goal remains to get “faster”, you have to train at an intensity level that is going to stress your musculature and your aerobic capacity enough to create change and force adaptation.  Then as you recover from those hard workouts, your body responds and you “improve” or “get faster”.

The trick is managing those recovery periods and knowing when to back off things a bit to minimize those injury risks.  To stay healthy – and in my case, to do so for an entire year. I set a goal for myself to be running and racing consistently for 12 months straight.  No injuries, no time off.

I felt that if I could do that, the results would come.  Being able to continue to train on a consistent basis would take me to another level, and if I had to religiously stick to a 5-day per week run schedule, and take every Monday and Friday off to remain off of the injury list – then that is what I would do.

Some of the best advice in racing is to block out everyone else and simply “run your race”.

Stick to your plan, stay with your pace and do not get caught up in what “everyone” else is doing.

For some reason however, the same people who recite that mantra at every race they enter do not take that same advice when it comes to training.  If they see someone running 10 days in a row, they want to do that.  If someone is running 60 miles a week, they want to do that as well.

Run streaks?  Someone has run 45 days in a row?  Boy – they must be fit.  I need to do that ….

Someone is running in minimalist shoes?  Man, I need to get a pair of those, my trainers are too heavy ….

And so goes the cycle.  Soon, before they know it, they have overburdened their body and instead of a 45 day run streak, they are now on a 45 day off streak, trying to fight back from an injury.

Now is not the time to get all self-righteous, as I continue to learn more and more about this sport every single day.  I KNOW that I am going to be injured again.  It is simply a matter of when, not if.  But the more that I can do to reduce the chance of that occurring as well as the frequency and most importantly the severity of those injuries – I will be able to continue to improve as a runner and keep pushing off the inevitable “slow-down” that is going to occur as I add birthdays to my ledger.

There will come a time when running a bunch of 8:30’s is going to make me smile.  Make me feel “fast” – as speed is all relative.

But that day is not today.  Not even close.  We are healthy and we are blessed.

I told myself the last time I was injured to never forget the gift that is being able to run pain-free.  I’ve held on to that tightly for 10 months and a day now, taking every day as the gift that it truly is.

Here’s to another 2 months – placing us on the other side of the Boston Marathon.  From there, we’ll try to go for another 12 months.

That is the only kind of “run streak” I’m interested in.

Sunday’s Austin Marathon has been long circled on this runner’s calendar.  I registered for this race back in August just after I got off the phone with my friend Jason Richey who told me that Dom had lost his battle with Cancer.

Now six months later and the race is almost here.  Training is complete.  Preparations have been made, even my pre-race batch of pasta gravy has long been prepared to be warmed and consumed on Saturday night.  My first ever “home-cooked” pre-race marathon meal. 

That has to be good for a few seconds on Sunday morning.

The Austin Marathon also marks the fifth and final race of the Austin Distance Challenge.

The Distance Challenge as you may remember is a 5-race series comprised of the IBM Uptown Classic 10K, The Run for the Water 10-Miler, The Decker Challenge Half-Marathon, the 3M Half-Marathon and of course the Austin Marathon.

Results are tabulated after each race and a cumulative time is awarded to each runner.  There are overall awards presented for the top Male and Female Finishers as well as age group awards for the top 3 in each group.

Our 1:23:55 time at the 3M Half two Sunday’s ago shook things up among the “Leading 10 Men” heading into Austin, moving us into 5th place overall just a handful of seconds ahead of the sixth place runner.

Austin Distance Challenge Leading 10 Men

After more than 4 1/2 hours of racing, two minutes separates us from a place in the top three or falling back to 8th place.   This sport never ceases to amaze me that the difference between reaching a goal or narrowly missing it all boils down to a handful of seconds spread out in this case over 42.4 miles with 26.2 left to go.

When I signed up for the ADC I really had no illusions of placing in the top-10 or “winning” anything.  I just wanted to use the races to continue to push myself during my training period and gain more race experience.  Still new to the sport in many ways with my first race coming in September of 2006, I am at a bit of a disadvantage when I am out there battling the course, elements and other competitors.

This series has been very beneficial this Fall and Winter as I know that without it, I would not be entertaining the type of goal on Sunday that I am.

As for my the Male 40-44 Division I am sitting in a pretty good position for an Age Group award of some kind after the Austin Marathon.

Austin Distance Challenge Male Standings Age 40-44

The chances of catching my friend Brendon Cahoon on Sunday boils down to his car not starting on the way to the race.  Brendon has run beautifully despite battling some soreness in his heels and has his eyes on a sub 2:50:00 time on Sunday.  Michael Andre Ford has been running exceptionally well and I know is going to be taking aim at second place come Sunday.

There is a good chance that my “gamble” at chasing a 3:00:00 hour marathon time on Sunday may very well cost me in the ADC standings.  If I miscalculate my pace and abilities, I may struggle to finish the race strong and drop several minutes over the closing miles.  Frankly, that is not even on my radar for Sunday. 

In the words of Def Leppard in deference to another great rocker Neil Young:

It’s better to burn out than to fade away.

We didn’t push ourselves week after week, race after race, mile after mile to lay up short and play it conservative.  I don’t plan on doing anything foolish on Sunday if our goal time starts to slip through my fingertips, but I’m not planning on backing down either.

A couple of housekeeping items before Sunday’s race.

If you are wanting to track me or anyone else running Sunday’s Austin Marathon or Half-Marathon you can click HERE to be taken to the tracking page.  You will just need to enter the runners name or Bib Number.

My Bib for Sunday is 641

For you iPhone users, there is a free APP that you can download for your phone that is located HERE that will provide you with updates throughout the race and alert you when your runner finishes the course.

I was asked earlier this week if this really would be my final “Run for Dom” race.

The answer to that is,sort of”.

This will be the final race where I am accepting donations strictly for a race I am running.   Also the last opportunity for you to sponsor a mile during a marathon. 

There are 10 miles remaining that are still without sponsors if you are interested!  You can support Run for Dom by clicking HERE.

Now, I certainly have race plans after Austin.  I am far from “done” as a runner, and far from “done” honoring Dom.  His initials are on my race shoes for Sunday and will stay right there on every pair I own as long as I continue to run and race in his memory.

I will be looking for new ways in the coming months and years to carry on, notably in an effort to organize a race in his name each year back in his hometown of Pittsburgh, PA.  That is something that can and will live on long after I am able to lace ’em up and chase down new challenges.

So don’t worry.  We’re not going anywhere – but I will not be officially “fundraising” during my races going forward.

It is not too late to help however, so if you have been putting it off, now is the time to act.  I’d love to see all 26.2 miles on Sunday spoken for by race day.

I promise you this.  No matter what mile you choose to sponsor, I will leave everything I have out on the race course.  There will not be a single second that I “take off”.  You can help ensure an education for Dom’s children Sierra and Nico by clicking HERE or by visiting:

Thank you for all of your support and generosity. 

I’ll be checking in on Saturday with some final pre-race thoughts. 

Clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose.

I remember back in 2005 when I first started running I had this crazy notion that I could run a marathon.

I spoke to a few people who had run one in the past and thought to myself, “you know, I could do that”.

I kept those thoughts to myself for a few weeks and when I decided that I was going to go for it I said it aloud for the first time to my wife.

“I’m going to run a marathon.”

From that moment, that second really, it became real.

It went from a notion, idea or abstract concept to something tangible.  Something that I could visualize, virtually touch and feel.  By putting it out there I was committed.  I was going to become a marathoner.

And I was afraid.

I was afraid of failing.  I was afraid of not being able to handle the pain.  Afraid frankly that I did not have inside of me all that I needed to in order to complete the mission.  Would I quit when things got tough?  Or would I be able to look inside myself to find whatever it was that I needed to keep going?

November 19, 2006 after suffering a training injury to my IT Band just two weeks before the Philadelphia Marathon I found out.  I ran 10 mostly pain-free miles, followed by 16.2 miles in constant, sometimes throbbing knee pain.  I found out a lot about myself that day.  Mostly that it was O.K. to be afraid.  In fact, it was right to be afraid.

I also discovered that I did in fact have something inside of me that allowed me to keep going.  To not quit when perhaps others may have been tempted to.

Five years and 3 months later I find myself in an eerily similar position.

I have been struggling and struggling every day for the last two months trying to decide what to do about my marathon on February 20th.  I am just a few runs shy of completing a very successful training cycle and I am 100% healthy.  I am running better than I ever have before, and quite frankly, better than I thought possible at my age and my experience level.

Runners far more experienced and accomplished than I look at me and see a sub 3 hour marathon as a possibility.  A goal that is within my grasp if I want it badly enough and if I “believe”.

Five years later and with a race 17 days away I have that same feeling.  I am afraid.

It is different this time as I am no longer afraid of not finishing or of having to fight through discomfort and pain.  Fast or slow, it hurts just the same.

I’m not even sure that I am afraid of “failing” so to speak. 

I think what I am afraid of is choosing a goal that I am not quite ready for.

Is this a goal that is just too big of a jump right now for me?  Facts are that:

Less than 1% of all human beings on earth will ever run a marathon.

Less than 5% of those marathoners will ever run a time under 3 hours.

Sometimes when I look in the mirror I still see that runner from 2006.  The one who limped home in 3:58:08 on one good knee at Philadelphia.

Other times when I look in the mirror I see the runner who came through the chute at Pittsburgh in 2009 with a personal best 3:17:43 and a ticket to the Boston Marathon.  Arms raised, stride strong, leg muscles rippling under the strain of a best-ever race.

But I have yet to see a 3 hour marathoner stare back at me from that looking glass.

Others look at me and see it.

I for whatever reason do not.  Not yet.

Winston, Bob, Caleb, Greg, Steve, Brendan, Maddy, Jodi, Sean, Jenny, Nina, Erin and so many others believe in me.  Not to mention Dawn and Little Landry.  What do they all know that I don’t?

Just yesterday however a good friend sent me a message and told me that he truly believes that I have this time in me.  He remembers the IBM Uptown Classic as a “groundbreaker” as he put it.  The day when I stood at the starting line hoping to run a sub 40:00 minute 10K to earn a spot with the elite amateurs at this year’s Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston, SC on April 2nd.

The day I ran “my race” and came through the chute with a time of 38:06 experiencing my first real personal victory since Pittsburgh in 2009.  I gained a lot of confidence in myself as a runner that day and I know that Steve is exactly right.

It was a big turning point for me.  I started to believe.

After my exchange with Steve Speirs yesterday I decided once and for all that I was going all in.  I am going to try my best to come through the chute better than 2:59:59.  A sub 3-hour marathon.

If running for Dom last year taught me anything it is that I have to try.  It is a moral imperative. 

I read a post yesterday that I wrote back on August 18th, just three days after Dom passed away.  I read it once every month or so to help remind me what this is all about.  You can find it by clicking HERE.

The final passage states:

“So today and tomorrow I am going to spend more time in the air than I will awake on the ground.  It’s a sad time right now, perhaps the saddest I’ve experienced in my 43 years.  I am going to take these two days to mourn the loss of an amazing person.  I will grieve with family and friends, and pay my last respects to Dom.

When I get back to Austin late tomorrow however it is time to get back to living my life in the way that Dom and Monica would if they had the chance.  Shame on me if I don’t.

Before packing for this trip I registered for my next marathon.  February 20, 2011 in Austin.

I am going to train my ass off for that race and I am going to absolutely crush it.

Shame on me if I don’t”

Exactly right.  Shame on me if I don’t.

If I make it I make it.  If I don’t I don’t.  Those miles will be my miles however and that time will be my time.  I’m still not sure how this whole thing is going to turn out, but it sure as hell is going to be a lot of fun finding out.

Dom, if you’re not too busy up there, I’d sure appreciate the wind at my back over those last 10 kilometers.  This one’s for you buddy.

The most recent update to the Austin Distance Challenge was posted this week.

The distance challenge is the 5-race series that I have been competing in that will culminate with the Austin Marathon on February 20, 2011.

The further I progress in the race series, the more I am starting to appreciate how helpful it has been in preparing me for Austin. For first time Marathoners, this series is tremendous. I would strongly recommend it to any local runner of any ability level wanting to run Austin.

The race distances are challenging with a 10K in October, a hilly 10-Miler in November, a hilly half-marathon in December, another half marathon at the end of January featuring a fast downhill course and of course the Austin Marathon on February 20th.

Each race and distance poses a different challenge for the participants. The IBM Uptown Classic is a first-class 10 Kilometer race on a speedy course. There are some hills thrown in over the last half of the race to test the runners, where learning about pacing and racing is important to run a good time.

The Run for the Water 10-mile race was one of the more difficult race courses I have ever run. Climb after climb the runners test their strength and climbing skills while still “racing” over the 10-mile distance. Longer than a 10K to really let it all hang out, but shorter than the half-marathon, where runners could really put the hammer down to test their fitness level. I loved this race.

Race number three was the Decker Challenge Half-Marathon on December 12th. In its 32nd running, this race was absolutely as advertised – as one of the most difficult half-marathon courses in Texas. Hilly, windy, cold – Decker had a little bit of everything and really prepared runners for what the middle miles of the Austin Marathon will be like.

All throughout the series for runners who are new to racing, the Distance Challenge provides valuable lessons are to be learned.

What a large “race day” experience is like. How to handle water stops. How to dress appropriately for the weather on race day. What it feels like to run at 10K pace, half-marathon pace. Even what it feels like to struggle over the final miles of a hilly course. All great practice for the Austin Marathon in February.

All participants in the Austin Distance Challenge are required to register for, race in and complete all five events. If you miss one event, you are out of the challenge. Again, a great lesson in stick-to-it-ive-ness and perseverance. Every runner who completes all five events receives an Austin Distance Challenge Jacket and are eligible for overall as well as age-group awards, similar to what you would find at a single running event or race day.

After three races I feel pretty good about where we are right now. Seventh Place overall in the Male Standings, 2nd in the Male 40-44 Age Group.

Overall Standings after Race 3 of 5

As much as I would like to place in the top 10 at the end of the challenge or even take home an age group award, I am much more excited about “how I have raced” than the results from those races.

At IBM we were able to chase down a goal set during the hot Austin summer of running a sub 40:00 minute 10K time earning my spot in the elite amateur corral at this Spring’s Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston, SC.

At Run for the water, I was able to really test myself in the hills of West Austin and start believing that I was in fact ready for Decker.

At the Decker Half-Marathon I again surpassed my expectations by running a sub 1:27:00 half-marathon on a tough, tough course. That effort earned me a guaranteed spot in the 2011 New York City Marathon which I will be able to run with my good friends Winston and Bob in November. That will also by Landry’s first ever trip to NYC, and an opportunity for my then 15 month old daughter to see a real-live Broadway show.

Next up on January 30th will be the 3M Half-Marathon my final run before entering the 3-week taper period leading up to race day. 3M is a course where a smokin’ fast time is very possible if I am able to stay healthy over the next month. Something sub 1:25:00 is certainly “possible” given the right conditions and a little bit of race day magic.

Male 40-44 Age Group Standings

We’re going to keep pushing to see if we can hold on to that number two spot in the rankings above, but I’m sure Michael Andre’ Ford is looking at the same standings I am looking to chase me down. As for Brendon Cohoon, a 2:59:00 runner at last year’s Austin Marathon, congratulations Sir!

You are simply crushing out there right now, I look forward to raising a glass to you at the post race Austin Distance Challenge party. Just some tremendous running you are doing out there – you give this aging Marathoner something to shoot for down the road.

The marathon is a cruel, cruel race.

At its core, racing 26.2 miles is in and of itself “unnatural”.

Our bodies carry enough energy or “fuel” if you will to expend about 2,000 calories.

Caloric burn is simply a function of weight over distance.  It really doesn’t matter if you are walking that distance, jogging that distance or running that distance.  Once the body has depleted its glycogen stores, it is forced to burn whatever fuel is left.

That fuel is your fat stores.  A much, much, much more inefficient fuel than that of glycogen.

The goal of the endurance athlete training for a marathon is to improve the body’s efficiency at burning fuel, and push “the wall” as far off into the future as possible.

It is there for every marathoner, lurking at the 20 or 21 mile mark.  The point where those 2,000 calories have been exhausted as well as any calories that the runner has ingested during the race.  It is gut check time at that point.  The time where all of that marathon training comes to the fore.

It is that final 10 kilometers or 6.2 miles that separate the men from the boys, the women from the girls and the goal achievers from the dreamers.

18 weeks of workouts, specifically designed to allow the marathoner to peak for race day.  Some workouts are easy, some are difficult, some are tedious, some are exhilarating.  But every once in a while, those workouts are quite simply in a word, humbling.

I knew going into my marathon training cycle that Thursday morning’s hill repeat session was going to be the most difficult workout of the 97 runs and races I had on the calendar leading up to Austin.

Just 4 days after Sunday’s Decker Half Marathon, Thursday’s Hill repeats would follow Tuesday’s 10 Kilometer Tempo run at 6:55 pace/mile and Wednesday’s 10-mile run.

My legs were tired.

I was tired.

But it is these workouts, the ones when you don’t feel perfect, that show up on race day.  I have learned to enjoy the three-week taper period before the marathon as I feel as if it is a gift that I have earned.  I have worked so hard over the previous 15 weeks, that a reduction in mileage and intensity is just what my body needs to repair itself and be ready for race day.

My friend Bob from Riverhead, NY reminded me of a quote from Dean Karnazes first cross-country coach who said:

“On the days you don’t feel like giving 100%, those are the days you need to give 120%!”.

In that spirit I laced up my Brooks Ghost 3’s and headed on my 3.5-mile warm-up that would drop me at the bottom of the hill where I run my hill repeats on Thursdays.

As I made the loop and turned toward the 3/10 of a mile hill leading up to the top of Water’s Edge, I gave a quick nod to the early morning Texas sky filled with stars and thought about our boy Dom.  What he wouldn’t give to have the chance to battle it out with 10 hill repeats this morning.

As I took off at 5K race effort I didn’t even make it to the half-way point before my legs let me know that they were protesting.  Usually this does not occur until the middle of my third repeat.

As I hit the watch under the street lamp I had clocked a 1:41.  Solid.  Right on my previous pace from weeks past, but I knew I didn’t have more than 1 or 2 at that pace left in me.  Not like the 7 or 8 I can normally knock out.

After a slow recovery jog back down to the bottom of the hill, I turned, hit my watch and headed up again.


My first ever repeat on the hill under 1:40.  I took a minute to smile to myself, fully knowing that would be the highlight of my workout.  The next 5 repeats came in at:


Just three repeats to go, but each one was going to be more and more difficult.

My quads were burning, my calves were feeling tight.  From a cardiovascular standpoint we were in great shape.  Breathing was normal, endurance was fine.  If someone could just give me my legs back I thought, we would have no problem knocking out this last set.


As I climbed to the top of the neighborhood and began my 1 mile cool-down back to the house my legs felt absolutely fried.  I struggled to get them turning and locked in on a pace around 7:20 min./mile.

Humbled on Thursday

Close to :40 seconds a mile slower than my closing mile at the Decker Challenge Half-Marathon only 4 days before.

I felt as if I was running the final mile of a 5K race.  Legs heavy, hips sore, calves tight – I pushed my way back onto the turn at the bottom of Palmbrook Drive and pulled up at our driveway.

10.2 total miles, 1 hour, 18 minutes, 12 seconds.

The toughest 10.2 miles I will have to run during this training cycle.

I took a moment to stretch against the garage and then bounded inside for a Gatorade and a shower, ready to start the day with Baby Landry.

Way to go Dad!

9 miles on Saturday, 19 miles on Sunday and we will have put a 54.4 mile week in the book.  Our most mileage ever in a single week.

Today served as a great reminder that training for a marathon is hard work.  From the outside it can look like a runner is simply cruising through their training.

IBM Uptown Classic 10K – PR 38:06

Run for the Water 10-Miler – PR 1:03:47

Decker Half Marathon – PR 1:26:45

But those performances don’t just “happen” by accident.

They are forged during the workouts like this mornings, when you keep pushing knowing full well that others would give in.  They would be tempted to only do 8 repeats, or only 6.  Some would not run them at all.  Tell themselves they will do them tomorrow or on Saturday, knowing full well the workout would be skipped.

That’s o.k., because on February 20th, I’ll beat every one of them.

Thanks for the push this morning Dom.  We’re looking good right now my brother.  I wouldn’t bet against us at Austin.

Sunday’s 14-mile long run at 7:08 pace wrapped up a great third week of training for Austin and took us one step closer to race day on February 20, 2011.  Monday’s training called for 16 miles on the tri-bike in the morning, followed by strength training in the afternoon.

This is the part of marathon training that seems to drag for me just a bit.  Still four weeks away from the first “real” long run of 17 miles on December 5th, I find myself looking ahead at this point toward what is coming next instead of looking behind me at all of the great training that is already in the books.

As much as my training schedule looks familiar stuck to the refrigerator door when compared to past training cycles, there are quite a few differences this go round.  There are more tempo runs sprinkled throughout the calendar when my legs are fresh and I am not in need of a recovery run.  Hill Repeats are featured on Thursdays in seven of the next fifteen weeks, replaced by pace runs on weeks where we are running 20 or 21 miles on Sunday as well as the final three weeks of the taper period.

But the real difference is the three race days that are on the schedule:

Thursday – November 25:  Hopewell, PA Turkey Trot 5K

Sunday – December 12:  Decker Challenge Half-Marathon

Sunday – January 30:  3M Half Marathon

The Thanksgiving Day 5K race in Hopewell, PA is the inaugural running of the event.  The race will start and end on the very football field where one Dominic V. D’Eramo, jr. did battle for the Hopewell Vikings.

Dom #13 Bottom Left

This was a race that will be pretty special for a lot of reasons on Thanksgiving morning.  Even though I will have to run home from the race back to my Mother and Father-in-Laws house, and probably throw in an extra couple of miles along the way to reach my 10-miles for the day, it will be well worth it.

For those of you in the Pittsburgh Area, I will be writing a feature about the race in a week or so with all of the registration details.  The race will benefit the Humane Society, so if you are looking to race, walk or simply meet-up with the Run for Dom crowd, we’ll be back together at the event for the first time since the Pittsburgh Marathon in May.

The remaining two races on the schedule are the next two events in the Austin Distance Challenge.

The Distance Challenge is something that I decided to participate basically “last minute”, but I am getting happier and happier about my decision as the weeks move on.  Racing is something that is going to help me really zero in on my pace for the Austin Marathon. 

The two half-marathons that remain are very, very different.  The Decker Challenge, one of the oldest races in Austin, features a traditionally very windy and extremely hilly up and down course around Decker Lake.  The 3M half-marathon is known as one of the fastest half-marathons in Texas due to its downhill course starting in North Austin and finishing a point to point route just past the University of Texas.

By the time those two races are in the books, I will have completed my three 20+ mile training runs and started my marathon taper.  I should be able to look back on the Distance Challenge and our performance at the 10K, 10-Mile, Half-Marathon (2) races and zero in on exactly the pace and race we are capable of for the Austin Marathon, barring any adjustments for health and weather.

As of the second update to the Austin Distance Challenge Standings we are currently in 10th place overall among all male runners:

As for the competitive 40-44 Male Age Group we are firmly in third place.  Still chasing a couple of runners ahead of us and fending off a challenge from the fourth place runner:

Male 40-44 Top 5

As much as I would like to run within the top 3 in the 40-44 age group and win a series award, the prize is truly Austin on February 20th.  We have set two consecutive PR’s running in the Distance Challenge, and the way things are shaping up, we might very well set two more at Decker and 3M.

As great as achieving those times would be, it really is all about Austin and earning another shot at the Boston Marathon in 2012. 

Stay tuned, it is going to be one heckuva run over the next 15 weeks.

Peer pressure is a funny thing.  I remember back in High School it revolved mostly around girls, beer, girls, cars, girls, smoking, girls and well, girls.

Now 43 years old, a beautiful wife and baby daughter at home, you would think that I would be more or less “immune” to the trappings of peer pressure.  But alas, I guess I am not as strong as one would think.

On Thursday I registered for the Austin Distance Challenge.

The Austin Distance Challenge is a one of a kind series of races here in the Austin area that are put on by local businesses, non-profits and supporting charities.  To participate runners are required to compete in and complete all five races in the series, wrapping things up with the Livestrong Austin Marathon on February 20, 2011.

The five races that make up the series are the:

IBM Uptown Classic 10K 10/17/10

Run for the Water 10-Miler 10/31/10

Decker Challenge Half Marathon – 12/12/10

3M Half Marathon – 1/30/11

Livestrong Austin Marathon – 2/20/11

Truth be told I had the first and last events of the series on my race calendar already.  It was a matter of whether or not I could work the 10-Mile Run for the Water race as well as two winter half-marathons into my training schedule for the Austin Marathon.

IBM Uptown Classic

I was vacillating back and forth, thinking about all of the pros and cons until I saw my friend Mick in the starting area prior to IBM.  During our conversation Mick got me excited about the prospect of running my first distance challenge. 

As my future marathon plans become more and more murky as I contemplate a return to Boston and several other races I would “love to run” in the coming years – this may in fact be my one and only Austin Marathon.

It seemed like a now or never proposition, but I still wasn’t sure.

After IBM I traded a few messages with my friend Andy, the same Andy who I came upon in the late stages at IBM, and he asked if I would be “Running for the Water” this coming Sunday.  He offered to meet me for a run over the extremely challenging course this Sunday as a “training run”, but I had to beg off as we will be christening our baby daughter Landry this weekend with Uncle Keith and Aunt Kim coming in to serve as Godparents.

Andy shared the course with me and how it will serve as a great training run for Austin in February.  Huge elevation changes over the middle portion of the 10-miler, as well as a killer ascent up over 150 feet in less than a half-mile at mile 6. 

The back side of the course is downhill returning along Town Lake to the 1st street bridge.  What a great test for a great cause I thought …. You know what …. I’m in.

So with very little fanfare and a few clicks of the mouse I was registered for the ADC.

I found out that at each of the races in the series I will gain a little “VIP” treatment in the form of tents and refreshments and even a special post-race party after the Austin Marathon at one of our local restaurants.

The race series results are tabulated after the Austin Marathon; there are overall winners of the series as well as age-group award recipients.  I’m not sure if we have what it takes to compete at the Age Group level, but we will receive one of the Austin Distance Challenge Jackets for our trouble – which is definitely a nice touch.

So thanks to Mick, Andy, Shelly and a few other runners here in the Austin Community – I’m in.

Next up, The Run for the Water 10-Miler on Halloween Morning.  It will be my first ever 10-mile race, and yes, I’ll have to run an additional 4 mile workout afterwards to hit my Austin Marathon Training Mileage for the day, but I can’t wait. 

This won’t be a “goal race” for me obviously as I won’t be able to truly taper and recover properly given my marathon training to “Go Big or Go Home”, but I do expect to run well and enjoy the event. 

I am going to try to gain a little something from each of these races, and for this coming Sunday it will be to stay with my race strategy and pace even though I know I am “capable” of running faster.  That will be a very valuable lesson for the early stages of the Austin Marathon when I want to attack the course and chase down a new PR.

That is foolish in the early stages of a marathon.  No matter how foolish that may be, it is also a trap that many an experienced marathoner falls victim to on race day. 

The next 17 weeks will have a lot of smaller “steps” that lead to the starting line.  The first 20 miler, my 21 mile longest of long runs, recovery weeks, hill repeats and tempo runs.  All geared toward showing up on February 20, 2011 ready to run the race of our life.

The journey has begun, we’ll just be taking a slightly different path to get there.  Thanks guys for the motivation (peer pressure), to take on the Austin Distance Challenge.

By all accounts Dom personified the adage it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog …. I think he would be proud of me to be participating in this series of races. 

I’ll do my best not to let him down.