"It was cold," Gilbert Tuhabonye said after winning the RunTex 20 Miler Sunday.
Indeed. Just about 18 degrees when the field of nearly 600 runners — which included the accompanying 10 Mile race — took off from Georgetown High School at 8 a.m.
As the fifth race in the Austin Distance Challenge, the 20-Miler was designed to be a long, fast training run with support along the way. And that's just what most runners used it for.
Rather than racing all-out, Tuhabonye, running out front alone, opened up easy with a six-minute per mile pace, passing through the first 10 miles at 60 minutes before picking it up to around 5:50 or so. Navigating the rolling rural roads east of Georgetown, Tuhabonye averaged 5:57 a mile for the 20-mile distance, breaking the tape in 1:59:01.
"The cold bothered me somewhat," said Tuhabonye. "First, I probably overdressed. And second, it was so cold that it was hard for me to drink at the water stops. I'd say anything over 35 degrees would be ideal for me."
Tuhabonye, who placed second in the Austin Marathon last year in 2:31:58, is entered again this year and, like many others, used the 20 miler as one of his final long runs leading up to the marathon on February 14.
"The goal for me today was to see how I'll feel running the marathon and to get in a long run," he said. "I'll probably use the 3M Half-Marathon the same way — as a hard training run."
Tuhabonye will be joined by local favorites Keith Pierce and Derick Williamson on marathon day, and he plans on racing hard.
"I want to be competitive this year," he said. "Last year, I was just kind of running it for time."
Williamson, who leads the Distance Challenge series, finished second on Sunday in 2:01:45. Desiree Ficker finished third overall (2:06:01), topping the women's field.
Adam Reiser was fourth (2:06:02) and Todd Withycombe rounded out the top five in 2:08:23. Michael Budde finished sixth (2:10:09) and was the top master runner (40 or over).
"The goal for me was just to get in a good training run," said Williamson. "I started out at a seven-minute pace with a buddy, and picked it up near each mile marker. This week and next week are pretty big training weeks for me, and I plan on racing 3M, so the last thing I want to do right now is trash my legs."
Ficker used a comfortable 6:18 pace Sunday, running with Reiser much of the way.
"It was pretty cold out there. The first mile was really slow," she said. "I think I was still frozen. But then the sun came out, and I started running around 6:15 pace, clipping out the miles and enjoying it. I really loved the course. It was beautiful."
A nationally ranked triathlete, Ficker is planning on running 3M and then the Austin Marathon as she gets in shape for the triathlon season next spring and summer. Along the way, she may throw in another marathon.
"I'm thinking about doing London," said Ficker, who finished 10th in the New York marathon last fall, second among American women in a personal best 2:39:30.
Running conservatively Sunday, Jennifer Harney took second in 2:20:47. Ivi Kerrigan was third (2:26:22). And Marlene Hicks took the master's title in 2:32:51, good for sixth overall.
In the 10-mile race, Michael Madison topped the men's field in 58:07, with Jill O'Neal taking the women's title in 1:07:41. Next up in the Distance Challenge is the 3M Half-Marathon on Jan. 24, the final race before the full marathon.