Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Houston Marathon recap

Welp, the post-marathon blues have officially set in. Not because of my finish time; mostly just because it's over.

The short version: I finished my sixth marathon in 4:08:59, exactly 10 minutes and 30 seconds slower than my PR, but still my second-best time, and I actually managed to seriously enjoy the day on Sunday.

The long version:

Carla and my dad got here a few days before the race and we visited our usual restaurant mainstays, did some shopping and visited the expo.

After our traditional pre-race carb fest at Piola, I managed to fall asleep by 9 p.m. on Saturday night, only to wake up just before 3 a.m. and never fall back asleep. Still more sleep than I've gotten before most marathons, so I rolled with it. Carla and I coffee'd up, ate breakfast and got ready before heading out to catch the train at 5:30.

The scene inside the convention center was kind of a madhouse, and photo opp plans fell apart before it was time to head to the corrals. Carla and I got to Corral A and saw that the portapotty situation was ridiculous — not nearly enough of them. I'd had an extra cup of coffee at home and needed one last pee break before the gun went off. It wasn't going to happen.

It didn't happen. The gun went off, and as soon as we crossed the timing mats, we were greeted by troves of Houston's awesome spectators. One kilometer in, I peed my pants and thought to myself, "I hope I don't regret this later." (Black shorts for the win! Who wants to lose precious race time standing in line?!)

The miles ticked off slightly faster than I would have liked and I worked to try to rein it in. I hit the 10k mark right where I wanted to, in about 54 minutes. Between there and where the half-marathoners split off, I thought I'd missed three of my cheerleaders. My dad had moved to a different block and we completely missed each other. My friends Rachel and Maya were supposed to be either at mile 7 or mile 9 near Rice University, and I didn't see them at either of those spots.

We finally turned on to University Boulevard, revisiting the old marathon route and West U., the neighborhood Carla and I grew up in. I was surprised by Rachel and Maya and my other friends, Chris and Cathryn, just before mile 10 in Rice Village. I veered to the right and got a bunch of high-fives and a much-needed boost, even though I was still on pace for my goal. People had so many awesome signs in this area.
Grumpy Cat was a popular one this year.
At mile 10, I spotted a medical tent and a volunteer from Heaven gave me three sticks of Vaseline for the inner thigh chafe wounds from my pee non-break in mile 1. I continued on and watched out for my childhood friend, Barret, who told me she'd be in the West U. mayor's tent. I scanned the crowd and totally missed her because a band was playing and I couldn't hear her yelling my name. But she definitely caught me:

Woof, that form. It thankfully looked better in later parts of the race.
I continued on through my favorite part of the course, all the way to one of my least favorites: Mount Westpark Drive (what, it's not really called that?). If they change the race course one more time, I'd love it if they eliminated this part and had us continue on beautiful, flat Weslayan!

I took a deep breath, put my head down, and climbed up that beast. Once I got to the top, I thought to myself, "that really wasn't so bad." Then we headed downhill and my quads woke up and didn't stop screaming at me for the rest of the race. Holy ouch. I tried to keep it together, push through and not get too upset as I watched the pace slow down on my Garmin.

At mile 15, I took my third Gu and finished off the last of my handheld water bottle. It'd started bugging me after getting Vaseline all over my hands, so I handed it off to my dad at his second post, thinking I'd just take water from the aid stations the rest of the way through (mistake alert!).

Maybe next year I should have my bib say "Amelia," quotes included. I like to think my name's not that complicated, but I always get lots of Go "Emily," "Emil-a" "Emily-uh," etc. 
We made our way through the Galleria area on Tanglewood Boulevard and then through Memorial Park. I was seriously hurting at this point and started walking through each water station after taking cups to drink. My quads screamed at me every time I'd start running again, and this was where I regretted ditching my handheld bottle.

Miles 19 to the finish were very mind-over-matter for me. I knew I'd already kissed a PR goodbye, but I still wanted to finish strong and have a better experience than last year. The volunteers were amazing during this part of the race. As I got some more water at mile 23, one guy high-fived me and said "Emilia, you've made it this far, you've got 3 miles to go, you're going to finish this thing because you are awesome." It sounds so cheesy and stupid, but their encouraging words lifted my spirits more than they know.

I finally got an actual bottle of water from another volunteer, which helped me kick the walk breaks and tick off those final 3 miles. Believe it or not, I barely noticed the "hills" on Allen Parkway this year. Probably only because things already hurt, but it certainly didn't feel harder than the rest of the course. I also saw a few more familiar faces from RHC on the sidelines, which always is awesome.

Finally, finally, we got off Allen Parkway, turned onto Bagby and then Lamar, and I saw my dad, Carla, and friend Cipriana stationed at mile 26. I gave them (real!) smiles, pumped my fist in the air and somehow found my kick as I headed toward Discovery Green. I gave it all I had, passed a bunch of people, and crossed the finish line in 4:08:59.

When I crossed the finish, I got really emotional. Even though I all but fell apart in the second half, this was my strongest marathon in three years. I'd thought for sure my time would be in the high 4:1X's, and I never thought I could be that happy about a non-PR.

Carla ran a not-too-shabby 1:49 in the half marathon.

My dad comes in from Oregon to cheer us on every single year. Best support crew ever.
I've also never been as sore as I was on Monday. I felt like I'd been hit by a bus, and standing up and sitting down sometimes took me four tries. Despite this, I was tempted to go for a do-over in the coming months because I know I had a PR in me. But I also know that my body needs a break right now and I will eventually get that do-over ... at next year's Houston Marathon. For now, all I can do is recover and reflect on what I'd do differently next time around. I do regret not doing enough hill training and letting my brain win when it came to walk breaks. I do not regret peeing myself (but do they make in-case-of-emergency, travel-size BodyGlide?).

Proud of my friend and Chron run club co-captain, Ernesto, on his first 26.2!
Post-race celebration with some of my coworkers. We had over 30 people from the Chronicle run this year's race — an improvement from last year's 5!
Until next year, Chevron Houston Marathon!