Thursday, January 19, 2012

Race Report: Houston Marathon 2012

As far as the event itself, the Chevron Houston Marathon was excellent.  Organized, efficient, great volunteers and crowd support, plenty of fluid stops, potties and medical stations.  Start was on time and the corrals were enforced.  The finish line was well laid out to keep runners moving.  The recovery area was spread out, so you did have to look for what you needed, but there were no issues getting food, fluid and rest in the post-race area. 

My race experience could not have been better.  In fact, I may never have such great conditions for a marathon again.  That is why I decided to go all out on Sunday.  I was in the starting corral stretching and watching the other runners.  The 3:40 pace group lined up next to me.  I had multiple goals for this race.  My first goal was to finish in under 4 hours.  My stretch goal was to finish in 3:42, which was the fastest projected finish based on my previous races.  That would have been 8:29/mile pace, which I though would be a challenge for me based on my training.  My original plan was to keep a 9:00/mile pace for the first 13 miles and then see how I felt for the second half.  Well, that 3:40 pace team lined up next to me and I thought "Fuck it, I'm going to go all out and see what happens.  I may end up hobbling to the finish, but I'm going to give it everything I have." 

The pace team's plan was to run even splits for the whole race, hitting 8:24/mile.  I tucked in behind them and waited for the start.  We crossed the starting line in about 3 minutes.  It was crowded as people jockeyed for position and tried to find their pace while navigating the crowd.  There were at least 25 people trying to stay with the pace leaders, so it was an even bigger challenge until we started chatting and realized who all was in the same group.  In first 5k I saw sunglasses get smashed, a Garmin watch fly off into the crowd, water bottles kicked across the course and clothes thrown off to the side.  There was a guy in the group running in a neon green unitard with a matching tu-tu - hot stuff!  After the first 6 miles I find I'm feeling good and keeping up with the pace team easily.  The sun is up and lots of people are out along the course cheering on the runners. 

After the 1/2 marathon route splits off around mile 9 it finally feels like we have some room to move.  I get out next to the pace group to have some space and see the crowd.  I'm near Rice University and the neighborhood is nice.  I'm enjoying the run.  I get a little nervous here.  I'm going really fast, faster than I planned.

Split Time     Diff   min/mile   mile/h
5K 0:26:18 26:18:00 8:28 7.09
10K 0:52:09 25:51:00 8:24 7.15
15K 1:17:50 25:41:00 8:21 7.19
20K 1:43:08 25:18:00 8:18 7.23
HALF 1:48:39 5:31 8:18 7.24
I'm afraid I"m going to crash and burn around mile 20.  But the weather is perfect and I feel like this may be the best chance I get to rock a marathon.  I decide to keep up the pace as long as I can.  I eventually get in front of the 3:40 pace group and keep going.  I eat my Cliff Shots, Blocks and drink water from my pack.  I start listening to music at this point, now that there are less runners around. 

Miles 13-17 I'm mostly looking for Jenna, Jeff or the Batey's.  I spot Jenna around mile 16 and swoop in for a hug barely breaking stride.  After I pass her I realize I should have asked her to get the extra food out of my pack.  I've still got a Cliff Shot left, so I"m not too worried.  Around mile 17 I hear Jeff and the Batey's cheering, I wave and smile as I run past, then think "DUH! They can get my extra food!"  I spin around and demand assistance.  Bill and Jeff help me out and I take off. 

Split Time Diff min/mile mile/h
25K 2:08:42 20:03 8:17 7.24
30K 2:35:13 26:31:00 8:20 7.21

At this point my hydration pack is running low, so I start grabbing water and Gatorade at the aid stations.  I eat some of my peanut butter crackers and start seeing signs hung up around the course to prepare for "THE WALL".  I'm not comforted by these signs.  In fact, I just want to get it over with.  The sun is getting brighter.  My feet are hurting, my calves are burning.  But people are yelling "GO AMANDA!", so I can't walk. 

The rest of the run is sort of a blur of park scenery and runners backs.  People are starting to walk with a look of anguish.  I probably don't look so good myself, but when I see a race photographer I try to smile at least.  I pass a GIRL who is probably 12 running the marathon - CRAZY!  I see lots of funny signs, best one: "Worst Parade Ever".  The crowd is passing out orange slices, gummy bears and Oreo cookies. 

Split Time Diff min/mile mile/h
35K 3:01:09 25:56:00 8:20 7.2
40K 3:26:51 25:42:00 8:20 7.21

As I get into down town Houston there are a few rolling hills and some head wind.  I am now singing loudly to myself about being "A FIREWORK!", and killing it with Kanye's "Better, Faster, Stronger".  I probably look insane.  The Convention Center is ahead and there is a huge crowd in the bleachers around the finish.  I am pretty sure I heard Jeff yelling, and Jenna saw me finish, but I was all about ending the damn marathon!

Split Time Diff min/mile mile/h
Finish Net 3:37:48 10:57 8:19 7.22

Place (Gender) 265
Place (Div) 66
Place (total) 1315
Total (Net) 3:37:48
Total (Gun) 3:41:01

The course was a little long by my GPS, 26.4.  My final time was 3:37:48.  I am ecstatic!  So happy with my time and so glad to be done.  I definitely felt like I gave it everything I had left and ran HARD.  As I made my way into the Convention Center my legs feel stiff and sore, I have to keep moving.  I got a quick massage and texted Jenna.  I manage to get my finishers shirt and mug, find the food and make my way to the family meeting area.  I am so glad I have Jenna to take over from this point.  If I had to find my car and drive myself home I'm not sure I would have made it.  She steered me around, bought me a bag of ice and patiently waited for me to ice my legs, shower and pack up all my shit back at the hotel. 

Race Swag

Sign my Seester Jenna made

Meanwhile, Jennifer finished in 4:10:10, which is awesome!  We did not get to see each other at the finish and she rode home with her family.  But we caught up the next day and hashed out or experience.  She also had a good day and is already talking about "the next marathon"!  I've created a monster! ;-) 

All in all a great day and a great race.  I am super proud of myself and excited to have done so well.  A couple people asked if I qualified for Boston.  Not really.  I technically had a qualifying time for my age group for the 2012 Boston Marathon, but registration is long over.  For 2013 they are changing the qualifying times, so I would have had to run 3:35:00 or better to qualify to run it next year, and THEN get through the registration process.  So, I am not at all disappointed that I didn't qualify, I was not attempting it to start.  Maybe next time though!  It seems like a more manageable hurdle now.

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