Saturday, January 20, 2007

10th Houston Marathon, The Rest of the Story

This is still a work in progress, but I wanted to start getting some of the details down.

I didn't really know how to run this marathon. We had a very strong cold front predicted, but very warm and humid air in place. After running the very warm marathons of 1998, 1999, and 2000 I promised myself I would never race another marathon if the dewpoint was above 60 degrees. I was torn between saving myself for another marathon (New Orleans) or just running my best for the conditions and getting it done. On Saturday, the forecasts changed and predicted the cold front would arrive in time for the race. I decided then that I'd give the race my best shot regardless of the conditions.
At 5AM Sunday morning when I left my house near the coast, it was still in the upper 60s and foggy. But just a few miles inland it cooled down quite a bit and I was happy to turn on my car heater. I ate a couple pieces of toast and a banana and drank a quart of Gatorade on the drive up toward Houston. About 15 miles from Houston, I noticed several cars coming back the other direction; very strange for early on a Sunday morning. A couple of miles later, two Pearland police cars had the entire Nolan Ryan Expressway (Texas 288) blocked off and were forcing everyone to turn around. I was already running a little later than I planned and now the road's closed, arrrgh! I drove back a few miles to Texas 6 and headed up toward Sugarland. I was able to take the Fort Bend Parkway in to Beltway 8 and then pick up 288 again after a detour of about 15 minutes. I parked east of 59 and ran to the convention center. The convention center was already pretty crowded with runners and I went for the first Porta-can line I could find. By the time I made it through the line, I only had a few minutes to check my bag and head for the starting line.

I missed the Houston Marathon last year, so this was my first experience with the starting corrals. There seemed to be a pretty big bottleneck at the corral entrance and it wasn't very clear where each corral entrance was. Once I got in, though, it was a pretty clear walk up to the red corral. As I entered the back of the corral, there were several people lined up along the back fence relieving themselves. In 16 marathons, I've never had to resort to public urination (although the "World's Longest Urinal" at NYC was pretty close). But with the little time I had available this morning, I had to line up with the others. I worked my way up to a pretty good position near the front of the red corral, but as they pulled the barricades, everyone around me started jogging towards the elites while the people in front of me just strolled forward. By the time we bunched up again, I was about 15-20 heads back from the starting mats.

The Fun Race, Miles 1 through 9
1) 6:36 I tried hard to keep myself under control and avoid weaving around people at the start.
2) 6:27 - 13:03
3) 6:26 - 19:29
4) 6:34 - 26:03
5) 6:33 - 32:36
6) 6:21 - 38:57
10K in 40:27
7) 6:29 - 45:26
8) 6:30 - 51:55 Despite my hat, my glasses are covered with mist and fog. I catch a few glimpses of the elite half-marathoners speeding back up on the other side of the street. When the lead women came by I could see WillL on the press truck.
9) 6:30 - 58:25 I'm feeling pretty good and running by myself, passing the occasional half-marathoner.

The Race Suddenly Gets Tough, Miles 10 through 12

10) 6:38 - 1:05:02 The half marathoners have turned around and the course is much lonelier. I haven't had a problem with stomach cramps (side-ache) since High School, but just after passing the half-Marathon turnaround, I get some bad pain in the right part of my abdomen. I try changing my breathing and dropping my arms but it persists. The Museum/Rice University is one of my favourite parts of the course and I usually pick up the pace here, but not this year.
11) 6:45 - 1:11:47 As we turn onto University boulevard my forefoot keeps on slipping. My glasses are still foggy and I try looking under them to see if there is mud on the road. I try to run on each side of the road but my foot feels like it's slipping every time I try to toe-off. My stomach is still cramping and I'm not having much fun at all.
12)6:40 - 1:18:27 The footing improves as we leave the Live Oaks around Rice and enter the Village. The misty weather seems to have kept the crowds more sparse here than in years past.

Getting Back on Track, Miles 13 through 19
13)6:33 - 1:25:01 A wonderful woman was passing out tissues from her front yard in West University Place. Bless her! I was able to wipe off my glasses and my head cleared along with my vision. The stomach cramp went away too.
Half marathon in 1:25:43
14) 6:39 - 1:31:40
15) 6:47 - 1:38:27 I passed a wheelchair athlete struggling up the Westpark Overpass. She (?) sailed passed me on the downhill side and I worked my way back up to her and another woman runner along the 59 feeder. This helped make this boring part of the course go by pretty fast.
16-17) 13:23 - 1:51:50 I missed the mile 16 marker on Post Oak. I was passed by two guys running together with Tshirts and big baggy shorts. 18) 6:42 - 1:58:32
30K in 2:02:47
19) 2:05:12

The Real Race
20) 6:51 - 2:12:02 I was passed by Juan Carlos. He must've really torn it up on Allen Parkway because he finished almost two minutes ahead of me.
21) 6:52 - 2:18:54 I was able to work my way back up to the two guys running together. They helped pull me along through a few miles here. I heard Leno shout to me that I was on PR pace. I thought Leno was running the marathon, but he was right. I am on PR pace. That really gave me a lift.
22) 6:45 - 2:25:39 There were 3,000 small flags set up for the Iraqi war dead. The field of flags was very impressive, even through my mist and fog covered glasses. I thought of my son's friends who are gone; of the day in June when I knew there was one KIA and two DUSTWUN (captured) from my son's platoon and I spent all day in the driveway scraping paint off patio furniture so two in uniform couldn't knock on our door; and I thought of all of the runs over the past year that as I neared my house I'd look for a government car parked in the street. And I thought of how many other families are still going through this every day.
23) 6:49 - 2:32:28
24) 7:00 - 2:39:29
25) 6:51 - 2:46:20
26) 6:47 - 2:53:07
26.22) 1:25 - 2:54:33

I decided to go for 6:30 pace, hoping the predicted cooling through the day would hold. That forecast didn't pan out, but it wasn't bad. 55 degrees at the start with a 54 degree dewpoint and it warmed up to 59 degrees with a 57 degree dewpoint at the end. A little warm for a heavy-weight like me, but not too bad. If I'd known the dewpoint would be near 60 degrees, I probably wouldn't have tried to run 6:30 pace. But I'm glad I did. I gave this marathon my best effort. I think I can run faster, but I'm really happy to a run a marathon faster than I've ever run one before.


equarles said...

nice race. liked reading those fast splits.

GB said...

2:54:33!!! Holy fast runners, Batman! That is an awesome achievement. Congratulations!!! said...

Such a powerful and unique perspective in your comments about mile 22. I had read that the display was going to be there a week or two before. It was pretty impressive.

Congratulations. One heck of a run!

Anonymous said...

Just noticed your blog reference on a RW post, and I always like to look at people's blogs.

Uh, 2:54? Not too old, big or bald, obviously!