I was a little more nervous than usual at the start of 3M. The previous distance challenge races had little discussion or conversation in the papers. I guess my consistency in winning the local races had some buzz going. The Statesman put a nice article up on Saturday prior to 3M. That started getting me thinking about how cool it would be to win a big race like 3M. I also was the “favorite” which can add pressure. I slept a normal amount and felt fine the morning of the race. I had been dealing with a foot injury that developed at the Bandera 25k trail race the previous weekend. I was a little concerned that it would be an issue.
I woke Ashley up to take me to the start (very sweet of het). Like a little kid, I talked to her about my nerves. I realized I was nervous because I was excited and wanted to win. My dad had come into town to hang out, and I was excited to have them both there. Ashley told me that it was normal to be nervous, and that it was probably weird if I didn’t get nervous.
People often look at me as a laid back dude, and I like to think of myself that way as well. Inside though I still get some pre race nerves. That is probably something that will never change and I guess that is why we race! It is a challenge!
I did my typical warm up of 15-20 min jog plus my warm up drills. The weather was perfect at 45 degrees and clear. I touched base with Scott Rantel, Chuy Martinez, and some other guys that were racing. I wore my typical 2XU compression shorts and singlet. No gloves or hat needed. For shoes I wore the Saucony A5 for the 2nd time. I wore them at the Rogue 30k and they worked fine there. Looking back, they may have been just a little thin, and I plan to run Austin Marathon in something just a little thicker. I threw my pack into Conley’s lead vehicle, so we would have it at the finish.
After the national anthem the race went off! I started off just as I had planned. I was comfortable just above 5 min/mile pace. 5:07 it was. I was chatting a little with Scott and others around. We hit a downhill at mile 2 and apparently I picked up the pace a little. I came through at 4:52 or so. I felt comfortable, but eased off the throttle just a tad. That separated me a little from everyone. I came across the first aid station and everyone was cheering and yelling. I heard a familiar voice screaming “Go Erik, Go Erik, You can do it!” like it was a song. Then I saw Gilbert pop out from behind the water stop. It was nice to see a familiar face cheering.
I didn’t stop for water the entire race. The weather was nice and cool, and my mouth was gross and full of spit. I didn’t feel like trying to drink anything. As I ran through the aid station I was trying to listen to how far the next cheer was to know how far ahead I was. I didn’t want to look back, so after listening I figured I was probably 15-20 seconds or so. I got to mile 4 and started drifting mentally thinking about the end of the race, breakfast, life transitions, etc and felt ready to be done. My calves were already pretty sore and tight early on. I was a little surprised that I felt that worn down so early. I guess that it how you feel after racing 3 weekends in a row. I also forgot to pack my 2XU socks, which would have helped.
I had no choice though but to carry on of course. I had to start breaking up the race. I began thinking about just getting to mile 6. I could feel the outside of my foot starting to bother me from my ankle sprain I had at Bandera the previous weekend. “Nothing I can do about it now, so just don’t think about it,” I thought.
Once I got to 6.5-7 though I started focusing on keeping pace until mile 10. I knew mile 7-8 or 8-9 was going to have some more uphill. I couldn’t remember the visual in my head I had of the elevation chart. I hit the mile 9 at 5:23 or so and was a little surprised. I heard James Dodds and McClung cheering right around mile 10. That snapped me out of my spell.
John Conley was in the front truck and he would yell out my name so that people could cheer for me. At first I just thought, “maybe all these people know me somehow.” I felt pretty “big-time” and then realized it was because of John. It was nice though to have folks cheering for me. Someone yelled that I was about 45 sec ahead…I still was not going to look back. I figured it would be pretty tough for someone to catch me then. They would have had to start dropping 4:45’s and I knew that was unlikely. I still just wanted to finish.
I got through mile 10 and then was looking forward to the run down Duval. I realized that I had forgotten to cut my toenails. I could feel the sock around my toes socking up the blood from my toenail digging into the toe next to it. Yummy! I was able to maintain pace through campus. I saw Dori just at mile 13 and she was really cheering loud! I had one last little climb up MLK and saw the finish line.
I saw Ashley and my pops just then. It was exciting for them to be there at the finish. It felt great to finish on top! I thought I would be a little faster, but that 5:23 mile from 9-10 put me back a little.
Overall I really enjoyed the course. I would’ve though a downhill course would have felt more downhill than it did. I will finish this week fairly easy and try to get some workouts and mileage in the next 2 weeks leading into the Austin Marathon. Should be a solid group of folks coming to run fast with the prize money this year! I think I could go 2:25 on a good day and low 2:20’s on a great day.
This will be my second road marathon, although I have run much further on the trail a handful of times. I am excited for a hilly course! Good luck to everyone getting ready for the big race! Hope to see you out there!