Thursday, January 19, 2012

Houston Marathon, another race report and a bit about the weekend

This past weekend I headed to Houston to hang out with friends, to watch the Olympic Marathon Trials, and to run another marathon.  When I landed in the Houston airport, I started playing my favorite marathon weekend game:  who is here to run the marathon? One of the guys on my Super Shuttle looked like he was here to run, but it turned out that he was there to watch friends.

The expo wasn't too far from the hotel, so I walked over.  I didn't realize that convention hall B was a separate entrance from convention hall E, so I went into the first entrance I found.  Convention hall E had many people walking around with elite tags on, I rapidly realized that I wasn't quite where I should be.  I was redirected to the correct entrance. The expo wasn't too big but there were a decent number of free samples.  I picked up my bib, 2,076, and the event shirt.  The shirt was kind of lame, white cotton, but we would also be getting an Under Armor tech shirt when we finished and a glass beer mug.

That evening I got to start hanging out with my friends as they began coming into town.  I had dinner with a few friends at a great Tex Mex place, then went back to the hotel to wait for Amy and Kristina to get in.  When they got in, we chatted for a little while then crashed for the night.  Kristina and I had agreed to get up at 6 something to do our depletion run.  We were both awake before the alarm and ready to hit the streets.  We got in 2 easy miles then kicked it up for a few minutes.  Than we had a little time to clean up and get ready to watch the trials.

We headed out to a spot not too far from our hotel where we could get between 2 spots on the loop course by only going back and forth a block.  Probably not the best thing to be doing the day before a marathon, standing, rushing back and forth from one spot to another...  but it was pretty cool to see all of those amazing runners.

During the first two laps, there was a good enough size lead pack in each race that you couldn't guess who was going to take it.  The back half of the third lap was where things got sorted out.  Once the lead women had finished it was time to try to get off my feet, but friends still needed to head to the expo, so a bit more walking and standing.  After that, some lunch then time to relax.  That evening included a good pasta dinner and getting everything ready for race morning.  I slept moderately well for a bit, but then something beeped at 3:30 which brought me wide awake.  Since my alarm would have gone off at 4 for me to drink the Ultra Fuel, I just decided to do it then.  Ultra Fuel is not my favorite thing, but I think it helps me in the later miles of the race, so I drink it.  Afterward, I lay back down to try to get a bit more rest.  Trying to sleep with 32 ounces of liquid in my belly isn't the easiest thing, but I did get a bit more rest.

Kristina and I headed to her friends' hotel to meet up with her friends who wanted to run with us.  We headed toward the start area.  One of the guys needed to check a bag, so we waited while he went inside to do that. We headed to the corral, it was crowded getting there and the port-o-potty lines were long.  We kept passing  the long lines hoping that the ones farther in would be shorter, but they didn't seem to be.  When we got to the edge of the corral, we decided to use the ones right before the corral.  The wait was long, time was running low, but that last potty stop before the race is key.  Finally at 6:55 we were all out of the potties, then we needed to try to get into the corral near people of our pace.  We were by the sign for 9 minute pace, the race would be starting in just a few minutes, everyone was packed so close together.  We managed to squirm a little way into the crowd, but we were still behind the 4:00 pace group when the gun went off.  At that point I was pretty certain that this was not going to be a PR day.  We were walking to the start line, there were masses of people still walking in front of us.  We were getting closer to this archway that looked like the start, all I could see was people walking in front of that archway.  As we got a little closer to the archway, we realized it was just decorative, there was still a long way before the start line.  It took quite a few minutes to get to the start, but finally we were off.

The five of us worked our way through the crowd trying to run close to our planned pace.  Sometimes we went up on the median, sometimes over onto the side walk just trying to get around people.  The first mile was 8:15 or so, had been intending to start out at 7:40 pace.  Shortly after the first mile I lost Kristy and her friends, I just couldn't get through some of the tight spaces.  I knew they were ahead of me, so I just worked on passing people and trying to catch them, I think it took around a half mile.  We kept weaving through the masses for the first 10k it was humid, I was sweating pretty well, this was taking a lot of effort to be not quite hitting our paces.  Weaving through the crowd was taking so much focus I really wasn't paying attention to the course and I wasn't chatting.  I really enjoy talking to people during marathons but I think I talked to 4 people during the course of this race, only one or 2 statements each, bummer.

At 10k I wasn't too far behind pace, so I decided to try to stick to my plan and drop my pace to 7:30s.  Things were starting to clear out a little so I was able to do that.  We were in a section of the course where the lead 1/2 marathoners were starting to come back at us.  I heard someone yell out to one of them and realized I should be looking for my friends.  Right then Jay ran by so I shouted to him.  Shortly after that I saw Chad and thought I saw Erin, didn't manage to see anyone else.  That meant that soon the road would be much less crowded since I would reach the 1/2 marathon turn off, yay!  I did look at some of the signs people were holding.  A couple that I liked were "you trained longer for this than Kim Kardashian was married" and "run total stranger run."

The 7:30s were clicking off, but I still thought that this was taking a bit too much effort.  Still kept at it, what else was there to do. Around mile 11 I passed Ilana, she was having a good race so far.   Around mile 12 I caught up with my friend Harry, he was shooting for a time at least 5 minutes slower than what I was hoping to run.  It looked like he was running well, but he said his garmin had died.  Just after mile 13 Amy was spectating, let her know Harry wasn't too far behind me (she was going to hand a bottle off to him) and that Kristy and I had been stuck at the back.  She told me I was looking strong and smooth.

Ok, halfway through, guess I should try to drop the pace down a bit more.  I was still feeling alright, but not as fresh as I had in my last 2 PRs.  I think mile 8 was the first time I managed to get a drink from one of the aid stations, a cup of gatoraid I still enjoy letting myself walk for a few seconds while I drink from a cup.  I had my hand bottle, so I had been drinking from it all along.  I also took a gel around mile 5 and mile 10.  Continuing to work, trying to keep the pace where I wanted it.  I've been passing people consistently since I had started so far back in the pack.  Around mile 13 I started eating some of my shot blocks, wanted to make sure I got through at least 6 of them before the finish.   I was starting to count down the miles, 10 to go, 9, 8...  only about an hour of running left.

20 mile mark!  Only 10k left, do I have anything left to pick up the pace again?  Not sure, I will give it what I have.  I say to one of the guys near me, "only 45 minutes left", he said, he hoped so.  Only 5 miles left, you've got this, not that much longer.  Hmm 7:30, if I can just keep this I can still pull off a PR.  Only 4 miles left, less than 40 minutes, keep working.  Mile 23!  Just over a 5k left, keep working.  It is kind of sunny, wonder if Rich is finished yet, what about Jeff and John.  7:45, not what I want to see, but only 2.2 miles left.  You have worked hard for 3 hours, don't throw it away in the last 15 minutes.  Focus, you can do it, keep working.  8:00, not even looking at the watch that much other than to see how much farther I have to go.  I will push hard enough to finish under 3:20, I will, keep working.  I see a whole bunch of mu friends who had run the half cheering right around mile 25.  I try to smile for a picture and continue to give it what I have.  I run by my friend Joe from Rochester who tells me that I am running a great race, then I run by Amy.  It is so nice to have friends there cheering me on but I have nothing left to kick it up with.  Where is that 26 mile marker, it has to be here soon?  An older guy flies by and I can do nothing about it.  Finally the 26 mile marker, 8:15.  I give it what I have left, push for those last .2 (garmin said the pace for the final bit was just a little over 7 so I guess I sis have a little left to give).  3:19:10, not my A goal, but my second fastest race.  Considering the day, I will take that and think I did well.

Things to remember:
Spectating the Olympic trials is probably not ideal the day before a goal marathon.
If you are not familiar with a race, show up earlier than you think you need to.
Don't give up hope if things don't start the way you want them to.
Bobbing and weaving takes a lot of effort.
Give what you have and be happy with what you accomplished.
Being on a team helps with motivation when you aren't going to get a PR.

Kristy managed to get a new PR even with how our race started!  I can't wait to see what she can do with a better race start.