Like last year, Carla flew in from New York a few days before the race, already planning to run the half. We woke up just before 5 a.m. on Sunday, got dressed and had some coffee, Gatorade and Nutella toast. After slathering on body glide (Gold Bond's version, way better than the real stuff) and Vaseline, we headed out to catch the first train headed downtown. It was 48 degrees and only drizzling at this point, so I was still optimistic about running in light or no showers.
When we got to the convention center, we quickly took care of business: running club group picture, final bathroom stop and bag check. Before we knew it, it was 6:35 and almost time to corral up.
As soon as we stepped outside, the rain started coming down hard. Before I ran my first marathon, Olympian Deena Kastor gave me some of the best pre-race advice I've ever gotten: pull two garbage bags over your head to stay warm while you're killing time. I remembered this for all three marathons I've ran and was cursing myself for forgetting on Sunday. Here we were, 20 minutes from the start and already soaked.
As Carla and I huddled together and tried to stop shivering, whining ensued.
"Why are we doing this?!"
"This is going to suck."
"There's still time. We can book it back inside and go home."
No. After dealing with double injuries in the second half of last year, losing two months of training and so much money on DNS'd races, I was pretty damn lucky to be back at a starting line, thoroughly prepared to cover 13.1 miles again. If I blew off a race because of rain, I never would have been able to live it down.
Once we made it to our spot (front corral, woot), the rain finally let up, and we stood there shivering while Olympian Ryan Hall and Mayor Annise Parker offered up some final words of wisdom. The clock hit 7:00 and the gun went off. Finally!
The first couple of miles over the Elysian Viaduct definitely flew by. My Garmin lost its signal almost immediately, so my plan to consciously start out slowly went out the window. Carla and I hit the first mile marker in about eight minutes and change and I lapped my watch as soon as I got the signal back to get an accurate pace. At this point, a familiar munchkin scurried past, just as the hard rain came back to haunt us, all but stabbing us in the face.
Carla and I stuck together for about the first 5K through the Heights neighborhood before she started to pull ahead. I pretty much zoned out during the next two miles. There was definitely a lot more crowd support all throughout last year's (sunny) race, and I can't say I blamed the people of Houston for staying in bed that morning.
|Race music. Yes, One Direction is in there. Shut up.|
At this point, I made sure to stick to the left side of the street so as not to miss the half-marathon turnaround. I knew it would be incredibly obvious, but I didn't want to risk it after it happened to me the last time I raced back in October.
Just before I hit the turnaround at mile 9, I cheered for Carla coming in the other direction. Once I finally made it around to the other side, the rain started to die down and we were hit with some serious headwind. I kept pushing through and got a much-needed boost when I heard one of the marathoners from my running club cheer me on from the other side. (I couldn't tell who it was, so thanks, White Shirt Guy!)
By the time I hit 10 miles, my legs were feeling it. The pace on my watch, though steadily slowing, was still a respectable one, so I told myself to hold it together since, cardiovascular-ly, I felt fine.
When I saw a sign above an overpass on Allen Parkway telling us we had 1.5 miles left, I felt like I'd crossed the threshold. This was the same distance I'd covered the week before and once again, it was pain-free. Hallelujah. "Carry on Wayward Son" came on my iPod and it felt so fitting. At the 20K mark (12.4 miles), I passed a couple of walkers and wanted to yell at them. We were almost done!
Once you begin to cover the last couple of miles and head back downtown, the half and full marathon courses run parallel to each other. Seeing the 26 mile marker admittedly stung a little bit. This was the spot where I unexpectedly saw my dad and Carla last year, when my legs felt absolutely fried and I cried a few tears of joy as I realized I was about to break four hours in the marathon. This time I was able to will myself to sprint it out to the finish, thinking about determined I am to be back on the other side of the barricade next year.
I crossed the finish line in 1:55:45, averaging 8:50 per mile. My half-marathon personal best is 1:45:57, which I haven't come close to beating since I ran it over a year ago. My sort-of-secret goal for Sunday's race was to finish in less than two hours and/or average 8:45 per mile. I hadn't seen consistent 8s on my watch since I got injured in October, so needless to say, I was very happy with my end result. Also, chafing was my biggest fear about racing in a rainstorm and I'm happy to report that I finished with zero chafe wounds. Vaseline, woo!
|Official results. My splits didn't go in the ideal direction, but I'm very happy with these numbers.|
|No joke, we got asked "Are y'all twins?" about 15 times last weekend.|
Now that I successfully got through the half without any injury drama, I'm ready to sign up for all the races ever. Okay, that's a slight exaggeration, but I am ready to finally start thinking about the goals I'd like to tackle this year. Specifically a sub-24 minute 5K, a sub-50 minute 10K and a marathon PR in Newport, Oregon (where I went to high school and where my dad still lives) in June. But first, I'm looking forward to taking the next month to continue to base-build. I didn't get to do this before I attempted New York City Marathon training post-foot stress fracture last summer, and that was probably the beginning of my downfall into my opposite leg injury in the fall.
Congrats to everyone who raced in such unfavorable conditions on Sunday, especially my old BCM running buddy, Laura, who I knew was going to absolutely kill her first marathon!