The weather conditions were nearly perfect for running. Low 40s at the start and low 50s by the finish. There was wind of moderate strength out of the north that gradually increased in speed as the marathon progressed. It was particularly windy during the last 5k when the route took us along the Trinity River, but I finished early enough that it wasn't too bad (the wind picked up even more later in the day). There was nothing but sunshine, without a cloud in the sky, which made for a pleasant morning.
Holden and I went out conservatively, going through mile one in seven minutes flat. Holden is a good friend of mine who I ran cross country and track with at TCU. Our goal was to average 6:40 - 6:41 per mile in order to finish in the high 2hr:54mins to the low 2hr:55mins range. So on the next five or six miles we averaged between 6:36 and 6:37 per mile. Once we were back on pace, we did a nice job of maintaining roughly 6:40 per mile through the half way point. We ran mid-6:40s on miles 14 & 15 before Holden began to struggle. From mile 16 to mile 19, we averaged around 7:15 per mile, at the end of which Holden began to realize that he was in trouble. Holden dropped out at 20 and I continued alone. I finished the last 10k in a remarkable 36:46, averaging under 6mins per mile. The race was paced beautifully (and conservatively): 10k in 41:36, 13.1m in 1hr:27:31, 20m in 2hrs:14:44; which means that I ran the second half of the race in 1hr:23:59 -- a negative split of three minutes and thirty-two seconds.
The race began at 7am with both marathoners and half-marathoners toeing the start line together. There were roughly 300 ultra-marathoners (running a 50k), 1,600 marathoners and 7,000 half-marathoners. Given that all 8,900 people (roughly) were starting together, and that a large number of those people were running half the distance, there was a hoard of runners that went out at a relatively quick pace. It wasn't until mile 11 that the half-marathoners split off from the marathon and ultra-marathon participants; thus, it wasn't until mile 11 that we knew what place we were occupying. As it turned out, we came through mile 12 in 11th and 12th place. To our surprise, however, there were seven people within eyesight, which meant (assuming none were ultra-marathoners) that we were within striking distance of 4th and 5th place. However, it was a mile later that Holden began laboring, and so the two of us were never able to significantly improve our position. By mile 15, we had managed to pass two runners, putting us in 9th and 10th place. But a few miles later we were passed by three or four runners and so we were again out of the top-ten. When Holden finally faded around mile 19.5 and gave me the green light to move along (it was his first marathon and I was trying to pace him to a 2hr:55:00), my legs were ready to respond (Holden also asked me for my watch. He later told me that he was totally incoherent and that he didn't know why he had asked me for the watch. This explains my reaction in the first picture below--I was unaware of my final time until I approached the finish line.). I moved from 13th or 14th place to 6th place in three miles. Unfortunately, I was never able to catch the eventual 4th and 5th place finishers, both of whom finished less than two minutes ahead of me.
I was viewing this race more as a high intensity training run than a race. My training over the past three months had been superb: I was running 60 to 80+ miles a week, 30+ miles on the weekend, multiple 20 mile long runs, weekly workouts at fast speeds (mostly two-mile repeats and mile repeats; occasionally some 200m repeats), and bi-weekly hill workouts or tempo runs (anywhere from 4 miles to 7 miles). I figured that I was in shape to run in the high 2hr:40min range. That might have been a conservative figuring. As we clipped off high 6:30s during early miles, I was gliding. My breathing was VERY calm and even up some of the small, seep hills and longer, gradual climbs I was not breathing hard. At halfway, I was ready to start passing people. But I stuck with Holden and the pace slowed, allowing me to feel even more relaxed and rested. By the time I was on my own, I was ready to let loose. As mentioned, I was able to average under six minutes a mile for the last 10k. And that last 10k didn't hurt too much (although I was working hard). My updated guess is that I was in shape to run in the mid-2hr:40min range.
26.2 miles on the pavement does not go without some muscle fatigue. After the race, my legs (and quads especially) were a bit sore; my hips were a little tight as well. I walked around for a while, which wasn't too painful, before sitting down to stretch out for a few minutes. I then walked around for a while more before jogging a little over a mile back to the hotel. At the hotel, I stretched some more and foam rolled. At that point, walking was no longer painful and only going up and down stairs was troublesome. The morning after the race I was a bit stiff, but after foam rolling and walking a mile and a half to my office, my legs were again in good walking condition. I think that I will be able to begin putting in miles again by Wednesday or Thursday.
I did, after all, work harder than expected. Even so, I still view the Cowtown has a training run for my races to come. In particular, I think the Cowtown served as an excellent indicator of what I can expect at the Mad City 50k at the end of next month. I had hoped to be in shape to run 3hrs 20mins, on the fast end, to 2hrs 25mins, on the slow end. I think now that I am certainly capable of running under 3hrs 20mins. So long as the next month of training goes well, and that I toe the start line with rested legs, I think I will again surprise myself with my level of fitness.
My reaction as I saw the clock on the final stretch.
Approaching the finish, still feeling strong.