Downhill to Downtown: 3M Half Marathon Race Report

wp-1485451544108.jpgName of the race: 3M Half Marathon

Where: Austin, TX

Date: Jan 22, 2017

Time: 7:30 am

Distance: 13.1 miles

Terrain: Net decline with a few gentle inclines

Entry fee: $105 ($65-$125)

Swag: Gender specific short-sleeve t-shirt, various 3M products (post-it notes, sandpaper, Scotch-Brite scrubbing pad, hanging hooks, 3D mounting blocks, self-sealing laminating pouches, ear plugs, mini lint roller, and super glue)

Post-race Food: Water, bag of chips, Clif bar, and a fruit cup

Time: 1:50:10

Performance: Overall 1001/5068; Gender 302/2967: Age (35-39)  69/549

Weather: 59 degrees, 33% humidity, winds 11 mph with sudden sharp gusts of wind

I’ve wanted to do this race for a few years, but I couldn’t make it work with my work schedule and other commitments that we had. But starting in December, I thought perhaps we could make it work and in January, things aligned up so that we would be able to go. Ben and I like to go somewhere warm in January as a way of breaking up the long East Coast winter, so while Texas may be an unusual choice for a winter getaway, it was a good trip.

Our two-week sojourn took us to Miami, then to Boulder, then San Antonio, and finally Austin, the bastion of liberalism in the red state of Texas. We rented a gorgeous home in North Austin and entertained friends at our place. In New York, you don’t get to entertain at home all too often, so it was fun having friends over and then immediately being able to go to bed after they leave.

I was interested in 3M Half Marathon because 1) it’s a downhill course and you know how I love my downhill courses and 2) they promised me lots of 3M product swag. It’s at this point that Ben points out that buying the individual items in the swag bag would have been cheaper than my race entry fee, BUT THAT’S NOT THE POINT (AMIRITE?). Another reason why I was keen on registering is that with the cold weather, I’m not all that motivated to do long runs, so a race is a good, albeit expensive, way to make sure I keep running all throughout winter.

Our AirBnB was quite close to the start line, so we had a short drive. Another thing about this being Texas was that there was PLENTY OF PARKING. As we walked toward the start line, we found an open running store that was filled with runners and food. It was a nice warm place to wait before the start. I had been looking at the weather. It was difficult to predict what we would have gotten. Usually January in Texas is great racing weather — cool, but not cold. The weather forecast made some wild predictions bouncing from warm to cold before settling on 50s with high winds. I kinda freaked out a few days out because the forecast was for winds of 30 mph, but the day of, the wind was around 15 mph. I know officially we had 11 mph winds, but it honestly didn’t feel that way. There were several strong sustained gusts of winds that I’ll talk more about later.

Ben and I found a “secret” port-o-potty by the start line that not too many runners knew about so I had a fairly short wait. Pro tip: it’s on the other side of the start line away from the general wait area. What I found interesting was that people didn’t get into their corrals until the very last minute. At NYRR races, you find people in corrals long before the start time. Anyway, when people starting trickling in, we went in too. I settled myself just behind the 1:50 pace group leaders.

I wasn’t entirely quite sure what I was going to do because I hadn’t done a long run in several weeks and I ran very little two weeks prior to this race. I figured I could probably do 8:30 pace, which would get me around 1:51 half. I wasn’t focused on running a particular pace, as much as I wanted to run what felt good.

The sun came up and everything was lit by a beautiful golden light. I was excited and eager to run. The first mile was on the slower side, despite my initial burst of speed, because of a slight incline. The second mile was the fastest because of a generous decline and a HUGE tailwind. I didn’t feel like I ran that second mile at all, instead the wind blew me down.

The other miles passed fairly uneventfully. Because the course is a net decline, it would be easy to assume that it’s a straight downhill shot to downtown. Au contraire. The elevation map provided by 3M demonstrates two small inclines on the course, but even that elevation profile is deceptive because it’s the smoothed out profile. They don’t show you the actual step by step inclines and declines. There were several small inclines throughout the course. Nothing to freak out over, but if you weren’t expecting them, then it’s calamity.

The wind was an interesting factor in this race. With the temperature in the upper 50s, it’s a bit too warm for optimal racing, but the strong winds cooled me off so much that the temperature didn’t affect my racing. Without the wind, I would have found it too warm. The wind steadily blew and it was mostly a tailwind. The course twists around a bit and occasionally the wind changed direction, so we got a faceful of headwind at times. You don’t remember the tailwind, just the headwind.

I don’t remember all that much about this race. For what is considered to be a “big” race, the field is on the smaller side with just over 5000 racers. At my pace, I’m always running with people, but a friend of ours who was also running this race (and came in 15th overall!) ran alone for most of the race. There was some crowd support scattered throughout and vaguely remember that were a few bands playing music as well.

I was pretty tired and really looking forward to finishing. One of the things that 3M brags about is having a downhill finish. This may have been true in the past before the course change and may still technically be true, but it’s not fair to say it’s a downhill finish. There’s an incline just before a left-hand turn that takes you down the straightaway to the finish line. By the time I hit the incline, there was a hard gust of wind hitting my body that slowed me down substantially. I had nothing left in me. I finally make it up and chug down to the finish line. I had been hoping (based on how well I had been running) to do a sub-1:50, but I missed it. I came in at 1:50:10. Still, I’m pretty pleased, considering that the day before I was thinking 1:51 was a good goal to have.

3M’s post race food sucks to put it mildly. They hand you a sad little plastic bag of cheap chips, a fruit cup, a Clif bar, and a bottle of water. No fresh fruit whatsoever. Considering that 3M charges like a major race, I would have expected better quality post-race food. There were several food trucks, so there was delicious food to buy. Because of the wind, we found it too cold to hang out so we headed for the shuttles that took us back to the start line where we had parked.

In the afternoon our friend who came in 15th came over with his son. He used to live in Jersey City and ran with our running club in Jersey City. It was fun catching up with him and hashing over old memories. We had a fun visit to Texas and this was a good winter race.

8 thoughts on “Downhill to Downtown: 3M Half Marathon Race Report

    • Thanks! I have a mental list of many of the downhill races in the US. I’ll be doing Run for the Red Poconos in May — this race has the steepest downhill of all the races that I’ve done.

  1. This sounds like so much fun! I like the idea of the themed swag bag. I could be down with that. However, crappy post race food for a pricey race is pretty lame. Your trip sounds like a blast!

    • I now have lots of post-it notes. Do it for the post-it notes. Yeah, I was kinda surprised by the paucity of post-race food for the race fee. Had it been a cheaper race, I wouldn’t have complained, but I had certain expectations for what I pay for.

  2. Now that’s a solid trip. Always have to be happy when you come in under your expected time. That stinks about the post race food. I usually like to grab something for a local restaurant after a rsce so I don’t ever pay much attention to the hand outs in the finisher chute.

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