I partially signed up for this marathon because I was looking for a fun race, and well, it sounded like an interesting challenge. Like I shared in my goals post, here is what the elevation profile looked like:
Yeah, the Hill Country Marathon is definitely not a race you go to PR. 🙂
I picked up my packet on Friday afternoon from Rogue Running in Cedar Park and they assigned numbers based on the order that you picked up. I was pretty early as I ended up with number 8.
On Saturday, I had two beers throughout the day (which is usually a big no-no for me for the week leading up to the race) and pre-race fueled at a Thai restaurant in Austin (oh, how I miss NYC Thai!). Since I was going into this race with a mindset to have fun, I wanted to stay as relaxed as possible leading up to the race.
Race day gear:
Moving Comfort Juno | PRO Compression [similar sock] | PROBAR Bolt | Garmin Forerunner 220
Under Armour shorts [similar style] | Honey Stinger gels | Brooks tank [similar style] | Brooks Glycerin 13
Sunday morning… the race start is in Marble Falls, which was about an hour drive from where we live in Austin. I headed out the door around 5:09 a.m., eating a whole wheat bagel along the way, and got to the school around 6:15 a.m. I ended up taking a quick 10-minute cat nap, then headed to the restroom and started to stretch before the race.
Oh, perhaps one of the BEST parts of the race? REAL bathrooms that are heated before the race! The race starts at Marble Falls High School football stadium, and as you can expect in Texas, it’s a beautiful stadium with some super nice restrooms. It was a good place to warm up, too, since it was a little chilly outside (like high 50s, that’s cold for Texas ;)).
There were only 75 runners that signed up for the race this year (I’m not sure how many showed up on race day, but 57 finished) so it was a quiet start line. We were all a little timid to be the “first” off the line. I think I was in the second row.
And just like that, we were off! We did a 3/4 loop around the track, headed across some grass and down a rocky trail (which we were all warned about ahead of time) and headed to the road. The first three or so miles were not that bad — there were some slight hills but nothing too crazy so I was starting to get a little confident in my ability to run the race.
Then, mile 4(ish) hit. This hill I think is by far the worst hill I’ve ever encountered in my life. It was steep and just felt like it went on for-ev-er. I started to walk a little bit because my calves were screaming at me. There was a point where I started debating whether I should drop down to the half because if this was what the hills were going to be like… eesh.
Once we got over that hill, it was a steady climb… I had the same feeling we did when we were hiking in Utah, where it just felt really hard even though you couldn’t tell you were really going uphill. Luckily, the turnaround for this road was just a mile up and the way back? Smooth sailing. I also loved that we were able to see the other runners on our way back — everyone was smiling and so encouraging! It was great.
P.S., the hellish hill was not fun to go down. It was one of those that was too steep to take advantage of flying down it. Jennifer, who took first (overall) in the half marathon, flew past us at this point and looked amazing!
From there, the half marathoners headed left and we went right. At this point, there was not one person around me. I was running with a few people before the split, but they were all half marathoners. There was an aid station (I was wrong! There were aid stations, just you had to bring your own to fill up) with some people that cheered at the split. And then, I was alone. It was crazy. And kinda awesome.
At this point, the hills weren’t that bad. They were kinda rolling and again, that feel of it being hard because it was a steady climb. A woman told me at the start that miles 18 and on were pretty much downhill, which meant that miles 10-16 were pretty much uphill to make that happen.
Around mile 16, we hit the last turnaround point and I filled up my water bottle. Heading back, I saw more of the racers headed to the turnaround point and could see some people in front of me. All of a sudden, I saw one guy (who had passed me awhile back) headed toward me and immediately started thinking I missed something. He flew by, saying he forgot his phone at the water station a bit back.
I would say things were going pretty well until mile 21-ish. At this point, I had to start playing some mind games to get up the hills that were just some fun downhills about an hour before. I didn’t remember the hills we got to fly down before we turned down the road with the half marathoners, but oh man, they were rough. I did walk a little bit, only because I don’t think my legs would have made it otherwise.
I’m pretty sure the last .4 miles of this race was the hardest last bit I’ve ever run. You had to run back down the gravel path (which seemed way more tricky at this point), across the grass and another 3/4 loop around the track.
I ended up coming in at 4:04.54, fourth female and ninth overall. Because of my finish (fourth female), I got this sweet AG award:
This was not your traditional marathon. It’s not the type of race that you run for a PR (unless you are a beast at hills). It’s the type of race you run to fall in love with running all over again and enjoy the solo time with the road. After the stress of the past few weeks, I feel like it was exactly what I needed. There is something about putting yourself through voluntary physical pain in a marathon that makes it easier to find closure for emotional pain, I’m not quite sure what it is but even though I was in physical pain the last few miles, I was so proud and in the moment that there was a part of me that still was saying this is amazing.
Another question I know I’ll get — aren’t you upset by your time? I think there are races that we all have on our calendars that we put our heart and soul into training in order to hit a PR, but there are others that we run for other reasons. For a non-marathoner, I think this can be hard to understand… because how else can you you put yourself all that pain if you get a time that’s nowhere near your PR?
What to Know About the Hill Country Marathon
- It’s a super small race! And that means you get everything that comes along with that. Limited aid stations, roads that aren’t closed to traffic and a low-key finish area. I personally LOVE running races like this and so it doesn’t bother me, but it’s quite different than running a Chicago Marathon or NYC Marathon.
- Even though it’s small, it’s super well organized! I was very impressed with communication, event organization and the swag bag for runners.
- It’s HARD. I don’t even think I thought it was going to be as hard as it was going to be. It is a test of the mind and body… but if you make it through, only that much more rewarding.
Have you ever run a small race like this? What did you think?
Do you run races “for fun” and confuse everyone around you? 🙂
Weekend update! What did you do?
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