January 16-18, 2015.
It was over four months out from Ironman Wisconsin, and I still had not reached my off-season. I was beat-up, sore, and tired. My goal was to force myself back into a regular running training routine post-IM. I wanted to avoid a prolonged off-season where I landed back on the couch and stayed there. For the most part, it worked. But, winter training is hard, and I entered this weekend undertrained for the task at hand.
Houston Marathon has a great reputation. It is a flat and fast course, and one of the biggest marathons in the country. There are 25,000 registrants the the full and half marathons, and it is a lottery to get in. A fellow runner bragged about how great it was, and then I qualified (10k time of 47:40). So, I had to register as it was the only time I have ever qualified for a race. I signed up for the 5k as well so was running the Houston Double (and would get more swag and a extra bonus medal). I subsequently qualified for coral “A” for the 5k by running a 5k in under 23:00 (22:49…good enough!) I was automatically in coral A for the marathon since I registered via time qualifying.
The weather was cooperating. The week before, the jet stream was blowing in from Siberia all the way down to the Gulf Coast. It was -20F back home two days before I left, and it was below freezing down in Houston. The weather corrected itself and would be well into the sixties by race weekend. It was the first thing I noticed getting off the plane…I didn’t need the jacket! The second thing I noticed was the terain…or lack thereof. I was driving on a pancake. The only hills were the overpasses. The ride in from the airport was nothing special, but that changed when I got downtown. There is some serious oil money here, and the downtown core reflects that wealth.
After checking into the hotel, I headed to the expo. It was a big expo…much bigger then Route 66. I love wandering these places. I got my bibs, chips, and participants shirts (I would get a separate finishers shirt at the finish line!) I wandered around a little. The sponsor for the 5k was handing out some throwaway gloves (it was the only thing I needed to get sine the mornings would be cool). Sports clips was doing free haircuts (bummer! I made a point of getting a haircut just before I left Minneapolis). Once I was done, I grabbed some food and headed back to the hotel. I needed to catch up on my sleep.
I was up early on Saturday for the 5k. Weather was a little cooler then I expected and I could have used an extra layer for the walk down to the race site and the standing around before the race. I was wearing shorts, a t-shirt, and a garbage bag (only one I saw, but a lot of locals were dressed up like they were going skiing!) I was assigned coral “A” only to find that there was no coral “A”. It was just one big self seeding coral. No biggie. I had decided to just use this as a warm up. I wanted to be ready for tommorow and didn’t want to burn out my legs. An 8:30/mile pace should be about right. Once the sun came up, it warmed up a little and I shed my garbage bag. The course was a basic set up. Run out, shift over one city block, and run back. The course was fairly scenic and I pretty much held to the plan. By the end, I wasn’t tired but felt like I had worked out the butterflies and was ready for the main event.
Finish Time: 25:50
Age Group-48/224 (21.4%)
The post race party wasn’t much of one. The medal was boring, and we got a bottle of water, a banana, and two mini muffins. I went back to the hotel and showered. I wanted to get back to the expo since Meb Kefmezgee (Boston Marathon winner and US Olympian) was having an autograph signing. I got in line early and was practically at the front. The line ended up being quite long but he sure took his time with everyone (at least at the start…he would have had to pick up the speed or barely anyone would have met him). I got the marathon program signed (unfortunately, it was very glossy paper and the autograph bubbled).
He he had copies of his book for sale for charity, and I picked one up as well. He autographed and personalized that too. Finally, he posed for a few pics:
Really, really nice guy, and a great ambassador for the sport. After this, I killed a little more time at the expo before calling it a day.
Chevron Houston Marathon:
I was up again at 3:00 am. The convention center was open at 5:00 am and it was recommended that everybody get there early. Temps would start in the mid 40’s but climb into the mid 60’s during the run. I elected to forgo a bag drop and simply wear shorts, t-shirt, trash bag and throwaway gloves. There was little wind on the walk to the convention center, and it felt warmer then the day before. Upon arrival, I was able to ditch the trash bag for awhile. We had the entire convention center and it was pretty bare. The place was huge… Like a massive airplane hanger. It took me over 5 minutes just to walk end to end. Despite the size, this place filled up fast. I found a nice place to wait until it was time to leave for the corals. At 6:25am, the overhead page was heard. It was time to go.
As I noted in a previous post, I got assigned coral “A” based on a 10k time. My marathon time placed me squarely in coral “C”. I elected to go where I belonged…coral “C”. My PR for a full is 4:26. I usually end up around 4:30-4:35. I hoped for a PR, and there were a few things in my favor. The weather was perfect and the course was pancake flat. But, I was undertrained and had not run more then 10k in about a month. No, I did not expect a PR here, but I could hope. I optimistically lined up with the 4:15 pace group…
The participants for the full and the half would start together and stay together for 8.5 miles. It was a big race with 25000 registrants. Despite this, the start went smoothly. I was on my way within 15 minutes of the starting gun.
The first part of the course was downtown before heading into some nicer neighborhoods. I easily kept pace with my group (I knew that I would have little trouble keeping up until after the halfway point). Crowds were plentiful. There were a lot more people then at Route 66. They estimate the spectators to be about 250,000 for this race bit it didn’t seem that big to me. Twin Cities Marathon seemed to have more plentiful spectators, but only they only estimate 200,000.
The course was as flat as promised. I know nothing of Houston, but we got a nice mix of concrete jungle, tree lined neighborhoods and hip shopping areas. The split at 8.5 was a relief. It was nice to have a little breathing room on the course as we lost over half of the running field. I was already struggling by the halfway point. The sun was up and I was not acclimated to warmer temperatures (or properly trained for that matter). I had been struggling with some foot/ankle problems (I am starting to suspect plantar fasciitis) and my knees kept threatening to buckle. By mile 15, a waved goodbye to my pace group as they disappeared into the horizon. I knew I would have needed too hang with them a little longer then this if I were to have any chance at a PR…
At this point, we were running thru one of the nicest shopping districts in town, and crowd support here was great. We then went into McMansion alley with homes the size of small shopping centers. This Was followed by some beautiful parkland for the next few miles.
The aids stations we’re spaced every 1.5 miles or so. They had the basics (Gatorade and water) but would go on forever. Some of the early combined stations went on for 2-3 city blocks. Fortunately, the gatorade was always first. The pavement was soaked with spilt beverages and my shoes would get all sticky. But then we would get to the water station and the soles of my shoes would get cleaned off. These are the wierd little thing you notice during a 4 1/2 hour run.
We were heading back into town, and I was taking more walk breaks. My feet and legs were killing me. Even though the course was flat, there were an awful lot of overpasses and underpasses dotting the final part of the route (or maybe I was just starting to notice them). We rejoined the half marathon route for the final few miles back to the convention center and the finish line. By this point, the Mercury was in the high sixties. I was definitely feeling it. It was still ideal weather and we had the green flag for the whole race.
Age Group-381/610 (62%)
Once we finished, be received some water and our medals as we were swarmed by photographers. We were herded back into the convention center for bananas, more photos, our finishers shirt and beer glass. The medal was very nice, and an improvement from prior years. I also got a “Houston Double” challenge medal for finishing the marathon and the 5k the day before. That medal is awful (it’s huge, but just has the logos for the marathon, half marathon and 5k on it). The finishers shirt was much nicer then the participants shirt. It was a technical running shirt and had no advertisements on the back (all of the ads were on the back of the cotton participants shirt).
I then moved to the food court. We received scrambled egg and salsa, sausages, biscuits and gravy, chocolate milk, ice cream, more bananas, yogurt, and a few other food options. Overall, it was one of the best post-race buffets that I had ever seen.
My 2014 race season had finally ended, four months after Ironman Wisconsin. This was my 10th marathon and the first of 6 for 2015. My next race (half marathon) is not until March, and then Pittsburgh Marathon in May. But, for the next few weeks, I can rest my aching body and enjoy the offseason…