Having said that...the Austin Marathon course is NOT easy. The overall men's winner came in at 2:30 which goes to show that this 26.2 mile route is a challenge. (For those who don't DO marathons, the elite guys usually come in in under 2:08 on a course considered flat and fast.)
Arrived downtown Austin at about 5:30, for a 7am start. Organizers had warned that local free parking would go quickly after 6. Snagged a place three blocks from the finish line, and headed out in search of the Temple of Starbucks. Got in line there at 6th and Congress at 6. I was number 3 in line....outside a place that didn't open for a half hour. By the time it opened the line was a block long. Gotta get the fix.
Race was supposed to start at 7. Did start at about 7:15. I think audio problems were to blame.
Watching 15,000 people running up South Congress was awesome. The first three miles are on an incline, but no worries at the start of a race. At three miles we turned around, for three miles of downhill, through predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods, past the place where I had my first Breakfast Taco the morning before, and then, just after Hooters, we crossed the bridge back into the downtown area and turned left for a delightful 3 mile stretch paralleling Lake Austin. We then turned eastward, headed for Exposition Boulevard, where the half marathoners split off and went their merry way. We turned north and faced the first sort-of hill on the course.
About three miles farther on we hit our halfway point. My Garmin indicated I was at just about the same pace I had been for CIM in December, which proved to be my PR. I was hopeful I might best that here, even though the rumoured "hardest part of the course" was just beginning. This is also about the time the very comfy overcast lifted and Mr. Sun decided to join us. Things heated up pretty quickly, but conditions were still near-ideal.
Having driven the course the day before the race, I knew that I'd be happy to see the turn onto Great Northern Road, as it led to mile 17, the point where we'd be farthest out from downtown Austin. Everything after that was done facing the finish. Marked the 17 mile point with my customary English Mars Bar and walked a little extra, to give that sugary goodness time to work its magic.
For the first time on this course I now had only single digit miles to go (9), and felt pretty good about that, even though it was here that I pretty much gave up on any new PR. It was instead time to engage the cruise control and just ride this baby out.
Nothing much stood out for most of the rest of the race, until mile 24 when a woman came up from behind and introduced herself. She said she'd been trying to catch me for about 5 miles, and almost did it everytime I took a walk break. However, I only walk for a minute each time, and I kept taking off running again as she neared. Pretty cool that I was actually too fast for someone to catch me....for miles.
Running past the Texas Capitol I had one of those "look where I am, look what I'm doing" moments. I love those. Like running toward Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, along Loch Ness in Scotland, the Hungarian Parliament in Budapest, across Portland's St. John's Bridge and San Francisco's Golden Gate. I crossed the finish line in 5:23, my fourth best time out of 23 marathons in 6 years.
As a rule I usually avoid all contact with things Texas, but I will go on the record here admitting I could happily live in Austin. Not that that's going to happen. I just wouldn't be against it if it did.
Loose ends. I did make it to the Salt Lick BBQ place in Driftwood. A heck of a drive for a plate of meat, but well worth the effort. I did find and consume chocolate covered bacon. Tasty, to be sure, but somehow the bacon bit needs to be pumped up. The bedbug saga; I have listed the Super8 Downtown Austin as a place to avoid unless you love being eaten alive by little blood-thirsty pests that don't give up even when they're full.
Two weeks til Napa Valley Marathon, people. Let's do it.