chevron houston marathon 2011
Marathon #6 and the first of 2011 is over and done. I had an awesome time in Houston and would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in running a big event. Going into it, I was concerned about my lack of training and how bad it was going to feel to run when I haven’t run more than 13.1 in a few months. I finished in 4:35:26, which is my slowest time to date, and considering that I didn’t “train” for it, that is fine by me. No use griping if you didn’t put in the work; I’ve trained my butt off and run only a few minutes faster, and I was really worried I was going to be walking a lot more at the end due to generally feeling crappy during my runs for the past couple of months.
My brother lives in Missouri City, which is south of Houston, and he dropped me off around 6:15AM on Sunday morning. They had been forecasting 50-70% chance of rain and thunderstorms throughout the morning and into the afternoon, so I flew to Houston not knowing if I was even going to run or not. They sent out several emails saying that in the event of lightening, the start could be delayed, they might stop the race in the middle and restart it when it was safe, or they might call it off and somehow get all 20,000 or so participants back to the convention center. None of those sounded like great options and it was weird to go through all the flying and preparing meanwhile not being sure if you were actually going to run or not. To be honest, this was the only time I felt badly about not being prepared for the race because if I were prepared, I would have been so stressed about my efforts being wiped out by bad weather. It was drizzling a bit before the race and I wore my rain jacket and shorts, ever the over-dresser.
The corral setup was surprisingly efficient, with two waves of marathon starters (7AM and 7:10AM) that were separate from the half marathon waves. The mayor of Houston gave a little intro before the race and said something to the effect of “at least the weather will be warmer than last year,” which elicited a collective groan from the crowd. Do people that don’t run think that runners just love to run and sweat their butts off? People are always saying to me, oh, nice day for a run, on the very hottest days. It’s a freaking terrible day for a run, give me 40 degrees over 70 any time. I think the temperatures ended up in the middle to upper 60s. It rained off and on the whole time I was out there. The rain was a huge improvement over how humid it was when it wasn’t raining.
The Houston course is flat, flat, flat. Elevation maps can be kind of deceiving and I picked out the spot on the map with the biggest hill (mile four to five), which ended up being just about nothing and I felt okay knowing that was by far the steepest section of the course. Anything else was running under or over another road for the most part. We ran through a huge cheering neighborhood around mile five and from here through where the half marathoners turned around at mile nine, there were TONS of spectators cheering. It was intense and fun. At this point I was thinking Houston might be a contender for new favorite marathon, but you know of course things died down immediately after the half marathon pulled a yooey and then it was just kind of rainy, dreary, and quiet with 17 miles sitting in front of you. Things picked back up within a few miles near Rice University and there were very steady sections of spectators throughout the remainder of the course.
Houston might have been the most well organized course I have ever run, especially considering the number of runners. There were water stations every mile for most if not all of the course (I didn’t get water until mile 5 so I am not sure of the frequency before that). You could see them coming for about a quarter of a mile and they must have been a quarter of a mile or so long in most cases, with signage marking the last Gatorade table and last water table. They were still a complete cluster when the marathon and half were together, with most people going to the first couple of tables and people on the left all of a sudden cutting perpendicularly over to the tables on the right, but that was just people being dumb and not disorganization on the race or volunteers’ parts. Once the races split, there were still a lot of marathoners but the crowding cleared out enough to where it was super organized and easy to get a drink or go around if you didn’t want it. I thought the water stations were the bomb.
I started walking through the end of most of the water stations at mile 11 and popped my earphones in, which had been in my jacket pocket. It had rained enough and was super muggy by mile 2 or 3 that I took off my jacket, wadded it up, and carried it. The main reason I wore it was so I could put my phone in the pocket to call my brother after the race, but in hindsight that was dumb because a) it was hot as hell b) it was lighter to just carry the phone in my hand. So, I ran with the jacket hoping to hand it off if and when I saw my brother and his family. He said they would probably get to the race around 9:45 and I tried not to convince myself that I would actually see them because I didn’t want to be disappointed if I didn’t. I guess I carried that thing for 15 miles because I saw them a little bit before mile 18 and was ecstatic to make them take the jacket. I’m sure they were glad to cart my nasty wet jacket around. I had requested my niece and nephew wear their luchadore masks because they look really scary/ridiculous in them and if you haven’t noticed, I like things that are a little bit ridiculous. My niece was wearing hers when I saw them. They had this nice bright sign so I could spot them…
My brother said that while we were trying to think of sign ideas and I thought it was hilarious. Marathons are totally boring. So are people talking about them and writing blog posts about them, and yet here we are. Anyway, I thought it was better than seeing yet another “Chuck Norris never ran a marathon” sign because I saw about 25 of those this weekend. I think my favorite sign was “run like an Egyptian.” I don’t know what it means, but I like the mental image and used to listen to that song on my Pocket Rockers tape player when I was little.
Up until this point, the weather was still kind of dicey and I was crossing my fingers that the race wouldn’t get cut off and then I would have a worthless tshirt for a marathon I didn’t really run. My wardrobe is limited, what can I say. Around mile 20, the sun came out and I cursed mother nature. My shirt, shorts, sports bra, shoes, and socks (so many s-words) were all completely soaked and now it was sunny and hot and humid. That is some honky business right there. Luckily the sun went away and I didn’t have to be indignant for too long. I am pretty sure it rained some more, but it was pretty clear that it was not going to be canceled mid-run. The last eight miles were all on the same street, I think. I didn’t feel too miserable considering my state of preparation, but I was not feeling awesome, either. My feet were pretty much feeling like rotten meat at this point from being in wet shoes for so long. I didn’t think I would see my brother and them again, but apparently this is what I look like when you surprise me:
I am both encouraged that my shorts were not as see through as I feared they were after several hours in the rain and dismayed that I had an armpit roll, apparently. I think I am about to wave to them and yell hi. Or eat a small child in the crowd while doing jazz hands, I dunno.
There were some hashers giving out beer around 24.5 miles. I figured what the hell, drank a little, then I figured out “what the hell” was going to happen if I drank anymore (vomit), and chucked it. Felt like a rebel, though. At this point we were back in the downtown area with big buildings, it was super windy and off/on hot depending on whether the wind was blowing or not. There were tons and tons of people in the last half mile of the course. I finished and was scared to remove my shoes and see what my feet looked like.
I think Houston is a great race for a couple of reasons. One, super organized in general. Two, spectators are awesome and so many people cheer for you by name, which is really nice. I think it is so cool that people stood out there in the rain to cheer for someone they know and will also yell out other peoples’ names and be encouraging – more people were doing that in Houston than I remember anywhere else. And the weather was terrible for them. Three, good schwag. You get a cotton tshirt when you pick up your race number and when you finish, you get your rad heavy race medal, shuffle on inside, and they give you a finisher’s shirt (Under Armour brand, ladies cut if you’re a lady…or just female) and a glass mug/beer stein looking thing. They had other stuff inside, but I didn’t check it out (got an apple for my plane ride, which I didn’t die on, if you hadn’t noticed yet). It was easy to meet up with my brother outside, so that was a plus.
Choosing to squat down for a photo was probably a bad idea. My nephew said I walked funny and asked if I was going to run some more. I told him I was going to give him a quarter to pop all the blisters on my feet, but apparently that was not a lucrative offer.
I read this today from the winner of the race and thought it was funny: “I was not ready for my first marathon last year.[He ran 2:14 at Amsterdam in October.] I only trained a month. This time I trained two and a half months. It would have been better if it was not cold and rainy, and if I had someone with me to push me. This summer I will train to run 5,000 meters in 12:56. If I have to choose in the future between 5,000 and marathon, I will choose the marathon. I think I have too much kilos [I weigh too much.] I weigh 58 kilos. Some of my friends who run fast weigh 54 kilos.”
Too many kilos! I hear you.
In the interest of having already written a ton, I will note that all four of my flights were pretty reasonable except for the chronic over-sharer on my flight to Houston who would not stop telling me his life story. I made it home on time and had my first day at the hospital today and feel pretty good physically. I am a little sore, but would probably fell better if I didn’t sit on a plane for so long yesterday. My left IT band is a little unhappy from sitting with my leg at an angle. Yes, I thought about signing up for another marathon today.