Houston Marathon ABCs

Aspiration: My aim is to run a marathon or ultra in all states. Recently, I set a second stretch goal to achieve each of these in less than 4 hours. Upon finishing the first circuit, I'll need to go back and 're-do' states that didn't meet the time criteria for goal #2. With hopes of efficiency, I wanted to earn my 34th overall state and 20th sub 4 hour in a single race- the Houston Marathon.

Body Glide: Used a lot of it during training. Y’all know why!

Crossfit: I used an adaptation of Crossfit Endurance for training. It is very low volume compared to more traditional plans, with 4-5 WODs (met-con style group strength classes) and 2-3 interval sessions weekly plus a mid-distance run every other week. I've stayed uninjured since adopting CFE last Fall while improving my race times. Most important, I enjoy the variety.

Decision: This specific race was an invitation from my friend Monica, who I ran Alabama and JFK 50 with. We wanted to go to Houston because of the Olympic Trials; the marathon just happened to be the next day!

Expo: Easy in, easy out to pick up my bib, chip, bag, and event t-shirt at the Convention Center. You’d never know there were 28,000 people preparing to race the following day- this was a very organized, no stress stop.

Friends: Monica invited me to stay in the same hotel room with her and some other gals from Louisville. As runners, we naturally had a lot in common and the chatter was non-stop all weekend. It was great to make new running friends and share the experience!

Goals: Our individual goals for the race ranged from my own “3:45 finish time” to “just complete the distance” to “finish in less than 3 hours”. The difference between being a “runner” versus someone who laces up every so often? Simply having a specific goal and announcing your intention.

Houston: As a city that grew out rather than up, the downtown area seemed to be a weekend ghost town. Many of the restaurants and shops were Monday through Friday only.

IAH: I was able to get direct flights in/out of this airport from Charlotte. Score!

January: It’s always great to plan a race during this month because it means you train through the 'food holidays'- Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
Kara Goucher: my favorite member of our 2012 Olympic marathon team. It was amazing to be a spectator at the Trials on Saturday and see her in the flesh.

Line: Or lack thereof…there were plenty of port-a-potties at the start with little to no lines. Important stuff for a marathoner.

Managed chaos: This was a large race, but it didn’t feel that way. The corrals closed 20 minutes before the beginning of the race at 7 am, which prevented last minute stampedes. Half marathoners went a different direction and merged with full at mile 2, easing first mile bottlenecks.

Nutrition: Fueled by my usual peanut butter and banana sandwich sandwich, I never had any GI issues during the race. I rotated between water and the Gatorade Prime offered on course and eventually used a single Gu.

On course support: Spectators were awesome and had the most creative signs: “Hurry up! The Texans play at noon!”, “Enjoy the moment- this is the best you’ll feel all week”, "Baby, come back to bed!”, “26.2 miles- because 26.3 miles is crazy”, and (my personal favorite) “You are NOT almost there”

Priest: Set up just across from a Catholic Church on course, a Priest splashed holy water on us at one point. Should I assume he was praying for us also?

Quick: The first half flew by. I stayed with the 3:40 pace group and clocked in at 1:49:06 for 13.1 miles.

Reunion: When you do these races often, you tend to (literally!) run into the same folks over and over again. I found a number of fellow 50 State Club Members and Marathon Maniacs, including #1.

Splits: Held on to an 8:30 pace for the first 20 miles and then let ‘er rip. Until then, I thought the 'run the first 20, race the final 10K' strategy only worked in magazine articles (theoretically at that!). Picking up the pace to 8 minute miles and then 7:45 during the final 3 solidified a negative split.

Tunes: Prior to the start, I made a deal with myself that if I stayed on pace for the first 10 miles, I could use my headphones. It’s been awhile since I’ve ran with music and I enjoyed it.

Usual suspects: I’ve seen these signs over and over, but I still enjoy them: “Don’t Stop (that’s what she said)!”, “Chuck Norris never ran 26.2”, “I’m proud of you, total stranger”, “Nice legs!”, “You’ve got stamina- call me!”

Voldemort: Not even kidding, I spotted a sign that said “Run like Vodlemort is chasing you”. Even better? The gal holding it was very skinny, pale, and had thick glasses on that had obviously seen a lot of library books.

Wall: Never hit it.

X-train: As in ‘cross train’. The best thing I’ve ever done for my running was to incorporate a variety of other exercises, including strength and mobility, into my weekly routine (see also “C” for crossfit).

Year: This was an excellent way to begin my 2012 running year! With my husband returning from deployment, I’ll run fewer marathons than I did in 2011 so I want them to count.

Zoom: I zoomed (yeah, I’m stretching this one!) into the finishing chute in 3:35:34, placing 60th of the 511 in my age group and in the top 10% of females. We got additional swag post race: a moisture wicking, feminine cut Under Armor finisher shirt, an engraved beer mug, and Pavel's medal.