If there was one word to describe this race it would be, humbling. This race was a true test of my will along with a great reminder of just how far I have come and why I love doing this so much.
This race I did not achieve a PR like I had wanted; in fact I was pretty far from PR standards and while I have to be honest with myself and say I am disappointed with my running this weekend I cannot say that I am disappointed in what I accomplished. I had a lot of time out there on the course on Sunday and I was able to spend a lot of time thinking about and appreciating the ability to run. It is very hard to have a rough race when the last 5 of my 6 races have been PR’s for me. But at the same time I have enough experience to know that not all races can be great races. But what really hit me was that the word experience came to mind. I may not be a great runner and I know there is always room for improvement but I do feel confident enough to say that I feel like I’m an experienced runner. But enough of that, let’s talk about this race, awful race shall we?
The race started at 7:00am which I really like, I love earlier starts and I wish more races would do this. I guess Houston does this because they usually have more hot and humid conditions, although neither were to be had that day at all! Karen dropped me off around 5:30 right next to the convention center. And can I just say that I am so very thankful for friends and family who are always around to support me and usually drop me off at races; I realize I am spoiled in this regard but not having to worry about parking and those types of things at bigger races is a huge welcome relief. I cannot thank my friends and family enough for coming and supporting me and making those things easy when they do. Anyways, I immediately went inside the convention center where it was warm and dry and where there were clean toilets with plenty of toilet paper. There were a ton of people hanging out and after using a real toilet I just found a place to sit and wait. At this point it wasn’t really raining yet, just a few drizzles here and there but man it was cold and the wind was fierce!
Inside the convention center was the bag drop and there were also plenty of port-o-potties set up inside. I also loved that there was a worship band playing in one of the corners of the building that was so awesome! More races should definitely do this (I’ve heard from my cousin that Little Rock does this and it makes me excited!) I used the real toilets one last time and then waited inside to the last possible minute before walking to the corrals. I was in an open corral so I wasn’t worried about them closing it so I waited until 6:47 to start walking outside. The marathon and half marathon has separate starting lines which I still don’t really understand, I guess it’s to avoid so much congestion at the start? Then there are A and B corrals and then an open corral. However, once the A corral took off they let the open corral and B corral merge together (they were set up on different side streets and both corrals had to make right turns to get to the starting line) and so I really saw no point in being in corral B at all. I had tried to move to corral B so that I could run with Landi but they wouldn’t let me and in the end I was actually ahead of her for a good 7 miles of the race even though she was running faster, it just didn’t make sense to me.
It was brutally cold outside and the wind was pretty strong and then about 100 yards from the starting line the skies opened up and it started raining. Swell. I don’t really mind the rain and running in it isn’t all that bad but when it’s cold, windy AND raining that just really isn’t all that fun no matter how to slice it.
I started off fairly conservatively since I was unsure how I would feel and because it was raining but I was keeping a decent pace of around 11:30 miles. I don’t really remember a lot about this course at all, there weren’t too many memorable things about it at all and it’s was raining which was distracting but I do remember the first mile being on a bridge/overpass type thing, boring. About a half a mile in I was soaked from head to toe and my hands were cold and my Garmin was freaking out on my because of the rain. I would obviously be wet for this entire race and my Garmin didn’t start working again until mile 11 so most of this race I just went with how I felt, which was just as well, it wasn’t a good day.
By the time I got to mile 4 I had to stop and blow my nose and thankfully Karen had given me a packet of Kleenex that I was thankful to have. This was also the point where I knew that any sort of PR was out. Initially I was running conservatively so that I could possibly bust out some late fast miles but at mile 4 when I started hitting a wall of exhaustion I knew my goal was going to be try for a decent time and forget a PR. I saw Karen right about mile 5 as we were turning to gone down the 4 mile stretch of the course. I wasn’t really looking forward to this portion and I’m not really sure why. I usually like out and back portions on race courses because I love being able to see the faster runners, it’s so encouraging to me. But for some reason I just felt like 4 miles was a long time to head down this road before turning around.
At mile 5 it started raining again pretty hard and kept up until about mile 6.5 or 7. I had to stop and walk again to blow my nose about the 10K mark and that was when I knew that I was really done for the day. My body was tired and my energy stores were going quickly thanks to being sick and I was cold and just really wanted to be done. My goal now was to just finish and get this over with.
I was trying to wait until my usual 9 mile mark to take my GU but I needed it at mile 7 so I decided to go ahead and take it. I actually didn’t take it all at once and would just kind of sip on it for about half a mile but once I finished my GU I got another stomach cramp like I had had the day before during the 5K. Thankfully this one wasn’t as bad but it still hurt so I walked so that it wouldn’t get any worse. My plan was to walk until mile 8 and then see how I felt. As I was walking I remember just being so incredibly cold! My jacket and gloves were wet and therefore the wind was making them cold and I just wanted to run to keep warm but couldn’t because of my stomach!
About mile 7.5 Landi passes me and says hi. I was shocked to see her and asked how she was doing. She said she was on track for her PR so I wished her luck. This is why I say the corrals didn’t really matter because she was in corral B and therefore should have been way ahead of me but was on her way to a 2:15 PR and just passing me over half way into the race!
I told Karen later (which makes sense to me now) that when I was walking there was not another person walking around me and I felt so weird. The course was actually pretty congested until about mile 11 but usually you see a handful or so of people walking at this point in a race but not a soul was walking. I realize now that’s it’s because the open and B corrals were so meshed together.
I missed mile 8 completely, I have no idea where the mile marker was or if there was one or what and since my Garmin was still freaking out from the rain I had no idea. Finally I looked up and saw the 15K flag on the other side of the street and realized that I must have missed mile 8 because we turn around at mile 9 and head back. So I picked up the pace and started jogging again and thankfully my stomach wasn’t cramping anymore. At the 15K I looked at my phone and Karen had sent a text saying she was between miles 9 and 10 so I was looking for her which helped that mile pass quickly. Finally I got to mile 10 and told her that I must have missed her somewhere and she said she was already at the finish thinking she missed me. I told her 36 more minutes and I meant that. I was feeling a little bit of soreness in my right hip flexor at this point which was something new but it wasn’t major.
At mile 10 I was just happy to know I was almost done and so I picked up the pace even more and started working my way to the finish. Still some soreness but again nothing earth shattering. I assumed it was from running on the slick streets all day. At mile 11 we made a right turn to head back downtown and we were also joined back with the marathon course at their mile 24 on the other side of the median. I also really like being able to see the marathoners but there weren’t many at this point, just a few of the elite stragglers coming in but it was still encouraging!
About 11.5 I started talking to a girl from Houston (Hi Casey Jo!) and she was telling me that this was her first half and something she has always wanted to do. She is a fitness instructor in the evenings and she was telling me how different endurance workouts are to the classes she teaches. She teaches my favorite class, BodyPump and I was telling her that I was interested in becoming certified to teach and she told me to go for it! She said that if I am familiar with the class then it wouldn’t be hard at all. So who knows, maybe I will pursue that certification. She said her hips were hurting so she slowed down and I wished her luck and took off. She really helped me make it to mile 12 for sure. Once I got to mile 12 I was just so ready to be done that I picked up the pace some as we were heading into the downtown streets.
The last 3 miles were some of the hardest but also some on my best miles for the day. I knew Karen was waiting at the finish area and at this point my Garmin was working again, although that didn’t really matter. I was just trying to get as close to 2:35 as I could now. I came to the 12.9 mark and saw Karen on the corner and then had a little ways left until I could make the left turn to the finish line. I ran as hard as I could which wasn’t very hard and finished barely under 2:38 with a time of 2:37:57 (official chip time). I have never in my life been so glad to finish a half marathon.
I wander down the finishers shoot and got my medal and half expected someone to hand me a space blanket but there were none which was a huge disappointment, it was cold people, come on now! All I could think was get warm so I made my way inside the building to get my finishers shirt and ask about my extra medal for completing both races. I found Karen easily, saw Ryan Hall again and then we made our way outside to where I needed to pick up my medal and to leave.
As we were walking to the tent to get my medal a lady came around with space blankets thankfully and I gladly took one! Once I got my medal we headed home so I could stand in a hot shower and get my lips back to their normal color.
So in a nutshell this race was very humbling to me; it was not what I had hoped it would be and it wasn’t my greatest race ever but I knew that no matter what I was going to finish. That was never a question in my mind and that’s where I feel like my experience really helped me. I have run enough races to know that they can’t all be perfect but they don’t last forever. This race, as rough as it was reminded me exactly why I love running; I love running because while some things are the same there are new adventures to be had at each race. I ran in the freezing cold rain, I did that so now I can just add that to my repertoire of things I have done and experienced and maybe next time that happens I will be better. There were many things beyond my control during this race such as the weather and being sick but despite all of that I feel satisfied at what I accomplished. I’m not sure if I will ever run Houston again, this race wasn’t too memorable for me and I wasn’t all that impressed but I am glad that I did it and I did have a wonderful weekend with Karen. Half marathon #19 is done and in the books. And I’m still looking for that PR!