Thursday, February 5, 2009

Chevron Houston Marathon Race Report

The Blow-By-Blow

I had set the alarm for 3:30 so that we could leave the house for the convention center around 4. Drank my coffee to get things moving, got all ready (everything was laid out the night before), loaded Mom and P-stone into the car and went.

I love how the Houston Marathon gets the use of the Convention Center the morning of the race. Had Preston drop me off near the entrance and just walked right in around 5am. I wandered around for just a bit looking for anyone I knew and getting my bearings, but then went in search of a restroom, which I found on the second floor. I decided to hang out in that general vicinity (there are these really cool windows where I could watch what was going on in the main holding area below). It was really quite interesting because it was near the elite athlete area, so I got to watch the elites run up and down the hall warming up. Very cool.

Used the restroom probably 800 times... oh, this was interesting (in a human study kind of way). There were two women's restrooms within about 20 feet of each other (both very clearly marked). There was a line out the door and halfway into the hallway on the one closer to the stairs. I just walked right into the second one and was completely alone. Humans are funny

Anyways, I finally decided to head down to the start around 6:15. It wasn't as cold as I had hoped (high 50's, maybe even low 60's), so I just wore one long-sleeved tech T that I got on sale at Target so I'd be warm at the start. My plan was to discard it as soon as I was warm.
I placed myself with the 4:30 pace group. My plan was to go out, try to stick with them, but if I needed to let them go, not to sweat it. Before long, I saw a few Yellows from Woodlands Fit. (Apparently 4:30 is the pace group of choice for Yellows.) They told me I looked nervous. I was!!

I ran with them for the first 3 miles, discarding my shirt on the Elysian viaduct only about a mile in. I knew then that we were in for a hot day. I left my friends around mile 3 to go high-five my Mom, Preston, and Billy who were screaming like crazy! I'm not sure what happened, but I just never saw the WFitters again.

I kept running along, walking the water stops, almost in a sort of daze. I had one problem at the 4.5(ish) water stop - there was only one table for Gatorade!! My nutrition/hydration plan was as follows: the water stops were 1.5 miles apart. Every 3rd water stop, I'd take a Honey Stinger and water. All other water stops I'd do Gatorade and an Endurolyte pill. My much more experienced friend from WFit warned me not to veer from my plan, and not to miss any water stops, due to the heat. So, I ran past the Gatorade table thinking there'd be another (the first few tables are always super crowded, but then usually there is a table fully loaded down the line... again, humans are funny sheep), but in this case there wasn't another Gatorade table, so I actually had to turn around, reapproach the stop, wait for the ONE volunteer there to pour the Gatorade, etc. I probably actually lost a few minutes in that mess. That grumpified me, but I reminded myself that I'd lose a lot more minutes if I didn't hydrate, and also that this is my first marathon - I shouldn't be worried about time anyways!!

I also got a rock in my shoe somewhere in the Woodland Heights (maybe 5 miles in?). I wanted to take it out the entire race, but never did.

Shortly after that, I looked down at my Garmin to see how it was going, and noticed salt crusting around it. Already.

Then the strangest thing happened: I stopped thinking. I am almost always thinking when I'm running. Worrying about stuff in my life, working out problems, fighting the urge to stop, etc. But suddenly I looked down and I was 10 miles into the thing, and I thought, "Where did the time and miles go?" Very surreal.

Then I started fighting, though. I got blessed by the sweet smelling holy water near Rice. I saw Robert from work around there too. But I was already starting to hurt, and it was too early to be hurting. I kept telling myself to just get to Rosa from work, who was supposed to be at about 15.5, and then I could sit down and get the rock out of my shoe. I did get to her, but I didn't get the rock out. After I passed her, though, is when I really started tanking. Somewhere in that
area, too, I stopped sweating. By mile 18 (Around 3:30), I was in so much pain that it hurt just as much to walk as to run. I would run half a mile, walk 'til I felt a little better, then go again. I called Preston, who was supposed to be with my mom at 22, and asked if he could walk towards me. Then I just kept telling myself to get to Preston. He found me around mile 20. I was running so slow that he could walk beside me. We talked a little, but mostly he just stayed with me.

Somehow this was very comforting. I had psyched myself out about the not-sweating, and I knew I was very dehydrated despite all the gatorade I was drinking, and I was starting to panic and think I should go to a medical tent. I knew, though, that if I did that I would sit down, and I knew that if I sat my run was over - I wouldn't be getting up any time soon. With Preston with me, I stopped worring about all the medical stuff, because I knew if something bad happened, he'd get me help. It really eased my mind (which clearly wasn't all there, at that point). We saw Laney from work at 22 working the water stop, and then my mom, and then shortly after that Preston left me. He said, "Amber, walk, but don't quit." I picked that up as a mantra and sang/hummed it to myself for the next several miles: walk, don't quit.

When I got to the Shepherd crossover, I saw my boss and gimped to a run to high-five her. That was a nice pick-up, mentally. Then on Allen Parkway my strategy was to run the downhills and flats, and walk the uphills. That was just brainless enough for me to accomplish. Then I ran to
the library. Then I walked Louisiana (big wind tunnel), then I ran/walked every other stoplight until about 3 blocks from the finish, where I decided to run it in. I saw a lady from work around 25.5, unexpectedly, very cool (and I was running!). Then my mom and Preston had made it to about 26, so I saw them one more time. And then I was across the line.

I had no emotional outpouring at the finish (5:22:49), surprisingly. I got my medal, then walked up to a volunteer, and stupidly said, "What do I do now?" I know it may seem strange, but I had been focusing on moving forward for so long, I didn't even know what to do. She was *wonderful*. She squeezed me to her side and explained what to do next. I went into
the GRB and got weighed (2.5 pounds down from my fully-clothed pre-race weigh-in two days before. On my home scale I was down 5 pounds from that morning after 2 pounds of water went in!). Then I got my finisher's shirt (no more smalls, boooo!) and mug, and called Mom and P to come get me. I had to walk almost 5 blocks to the car, and it hurt!! I was still humming
as I walked to distract myself.

When we finally got to the car, I climbed into the back seat, and let me tell you, it was the BEST sitting I've ever felt in my life!!!

I perked up in the car as the pain subsided, and by the time we got home, I was ready for food and a shower. I sent P to get Crispy Honey Shrimp from PF Chang's (One of my favorites that I don't allow myself because it is like 1300 calories!) while I showered and it was THE BEST FOOD EVAR!!

The Aftermath

I took some time off running, and all residual soreness was gone by Thursday morning. I went for a little 2 miler on Friday morning.

It was fun for everyone to ask/care how it went.

Lessons Learned

I was on track for a sub-5 finish until just after 18 miles when I slowed to a 15 min/mile pace and struggled through to the end. The problem wasn't that I couldn't run fast enough, rather that my body gave out too soon. With that in mind, I think that next time I need to do a few more looooong runs (Ideally, 2 30Ks, and at least one 20+ miler, maybe 2). I also did my
last long run 4 weeks out, and I think 3 (meaning only 2 weekends of taper and then the weekend of the big day) weeks out would be much better. Also, if the temps are slated to go over 60, I need to wear my hydration belt, despite the fact that it adds about 5 pounds.

This marathon was the single most painful thing that I've ever done on purpose. The only thing that hurt like this that I ever had the option to quit and powered through. I am proud of myself for finishing. But it only proved to me that I can do more, better. I will do more, better.