Sunday, January 14, 2007

Houston Marathon – Full Report

Dan drove me to the George R. Brown this morning in a light drizzle. I didn’t feel anything. No excitement, no nervousness, nothing. I think my ongoing sinus problems could be partly to blame, because for days I’ve been feeling like my head is in a glass jar.

Anyway, I went inside and went to the Houston Fit area. I haven’t run with them in years, but I still have friends in that group, so it seemed as good a place as any to park myself and get my gear together. I suppose it’s telling that Felix asked, “What brings you here?” then acted shocked when I said I was running.

Yeah, it’s been six years, don’t rub it in, dude.

My big dilemma of the morning was what to wear. All the weather reports were promising cold, wind, rain and even thunderstorms. I had two different rain jackets in my bag (my fancy Tyr transition bag—great bag!), but since it was only misting and foggy at 6:30, I decided to carry a trash bag with me instead, and see how things went.

There was a line at bag check, and it seemed to take way too long for just handing over bags and saying thank you. And I could find no lines for the port-a-cans that weren’t a quarter of a mile long. I needed one, too. The line I chose moved along fairly well for awhile, but then some slowpokes all got in there and we got our five minute warning with only one person in line ahead of me. So I waited and ended up having to run with another girl to the start.

The gun had already gone off, and of course we were in the back with the six-hour folks. It took me until Mile 2 just to work my way up to the 4:45 pace group, and I hung with them for a couple of miles, trying to find my pace in the crowd. By now I was able to think and do a mental check of how I was feeling, and it wasn’t good. My hips and IT bands felt tight and heavy, and my problematic right hip was hurting.

Hurting? Before mile 4? Great. And my asthmatic lungs were stubbornly refusing to open up, even though I’d had all my meds. I wasn’t in any huge difficulty with my breathing, but it was about 85% and it wasn’t going to be pretty if I had to deal with that the whole way. Luckily my lungs started clearing at around Mile 6, but I would deal with heavy legs the whole way.

I know the Houston Marathon course isn’t “new” to anyone who has run it in recent years, but it was new to me and I liked it. In 2001 they took us through downtown within the first three miles, but the “new” course goes through the Heights and up Montrose, which is a lot of fun. Crowd support is good, and I have a lot of positive associations with the area.

At the turnaround for the half-marathoners, I confess I got a little tempted. The way I was feeling, if I had been doing an ordinary training run, I wouldn’t have gone much beyond ten miles. My body just didn’t want to run long today. But the marathon is all about mind over matter. Or over common sense, take your pick. So I pushed on.

Outside the Palmer Church on Main, the priests were using branches to flick holy water onto runners. I figured I could use a little of that, but I declined the communion wafers they were handing out. It was a nice gesture on the part of the church and it made me smile.

The run through the Village and West University was crowded with supporters, which dwindled considerably once we got to the 59 feeder road. The Westpark overpass gave me no trouble, which surprised me. I couldn’t help thinking how awful it had been for me in 2001. But I hardly felt it.

By the time I got to the Galleria, I was ready to be done. The crowds were good, though, and helped me stay on pace. I was glad to get to Chimney Rock and Woodway and turn toward downtown. Now I was on a familiar training route, heading the right direction! I found Jill in this section and we hugged each other and ran together for a few minutes before I continued on my way.

Passing under Loop 610 was fantastic. I’ve lived inside the loop since 1986, and I always feel like I’m home when I’m back in the inner loop.

Home. What a troublesome thing, because from Memorial and Shepherd, I can see my apartment complex. Luckily Dan was waiting for me at this corner, along with a friend who wished me a happy birthday. Dan had a “special needs” bag for me, but I didn’t need anything but for the race to be over. I was getting a blister on my foot (WTF? I don’t get blisters in training!) and I was tired. I could no longer open my gel packs with my hands and was having to tear them open with my teeth. So I stopped for just a moment to talk with Dan. Or rather, he talked and I answered in the fewest syllables possible. And then I continued.

Mile 23. Underpass. More running. Passing Waugh Drive, then Montrose (another underpass). Mile 24, finally! A little further down, I stopped to stretch out, and had some trouble getting back to running. I walked more than I should’ve and it was this stop that probably cost me a sub-4:30 finish. Oh well.

From Mile 25 in, no walks, no stretching, no nothing. Just run. I crossed the mats with an official chip time of 4:32:21. Not great, but not bad at all.

I walked around outside for a minute, then went in and got my medal, shirt, mug and bottle of water. I got my bag and called Dan, who inexplicably had not already driven to meet me. He had stayed to watch for some of our slower friends, and I was annoyed. In retrospect, though, I was glad he wasn’t waiting because it gave me a chance to ice down. I had packed some chemical ice packs in my transition bag—smart, huh? But I was too tired to activate them by squeezing, and had to put them on the floor and stomp on them instead. Hey, whatever works.

So I iced down and marveled that my legs weren’t cramping on me like they had for my 21 and 23 mile training runs. And when the ice packs started losing their cold, I decided it was time to change my shoes and socks.

OMG. That blister I had been feeling was a HUMONGOUS, marble-sized blood blister on the ball of my foot! And there was another one that took up a dime-size area of my second toe! I couldn’t even get blister pads on these puppies, they were so big! I had felt some discomfort while I was running, but nothing to indicate the problem was this bad, or I would’ve stopped and put on a blister pad during the race.

I found a restroom and tried to clean up a bit, but it was too crowded to do more than change out of my wet top and put on a dry one. When Dan came for me, I changed into dry pants in the back seat. (Tinted windows. No, I didn’t flash anyone.) By the time we got to the Indian restaurant for my post-run meal, I was cleaned up as well as could be expected. I didn’t eat all that much, though. I guess my stomach was still full of Hammer Gel.

Tonight I’m getting around slowly, but the blisters are a bigger problem than my legs. Once I’m in motion, my legs do their job just fine. But the blisters hurt even when I’m just sitting here doing nothing! I’m tempted to lance them, but I know you’re not supposed to do that, so I’ll wait a day and see if they go down.

So that’s it. My birthday marathon. My first race in the Master’s Division.

Happy Birthday To Me!


nancytoby said...

What's not GREAT about a 4:32!? That's fantastic! The average women's marathon time is about 40 minutes slower than that, you know!! Well done!

bunnygirl said...

I didn't know that, Nancy. Thanks!

From Here to There said...

You poor little thing! You are some tenacious chicka to push through with IT, hips, lungs and blisters trying to slow you down! Wow!

From Here to There said...

You poor little thing! You are some tenacious chicka to push through with IT, hips, lungs and blisters trying to slow you down! Wow!

From Here to There said...

My comment does not want to stick! We try again.

Amazing job on your race. With lungs, IT, hips and blisters going against you, you still pulled out a great time!

I hope you did enjoy your birthday :)

Jessica, a Houston Runner said...

You finished and you finished well and in much less pain then me. Congrats and hope to meet you one day at a race. Maybe a tri?!

From Here to There said...

My comment does not want to stick! We try again.

Amazing job on your race. With lungs, IT, hips and blisters going against you, you still pulled out a great time!

I hope you did enjoy your birthday :)

Jill said...

I am so glad you saw me out there on the course and said hi! It was great to finally meet you!

BTW - job very well done! Congrats!

Jill said...

Another BTW - I saw Dr. Dan Jordan on the course (he whizzed by me somewhere in West U)! He finished in 3:32:07!! He just missed Boston! WOW!!

somebunnysloveDOTcom said...

Wow! I am in awe of your ability to stick with something like that with all that pain. Wish we knew sooner it was your big day. Happy Belated Birthday from our warren to yours!!

LauraHinNJ said...

A bit late to the party, but Happy Birthday!

Glad you got to do your run and finish with a good time. Sorry about the blisters. Ouch!

Sarah said...

Found your blog via Jill. Big congrats on the marathon! Are you going to be doing any of the area tris this spring/summer? Maybe I'll meet you at one...

Spider63 said...

Congratulations! You are amazing, and you did great. Just the thought of blood blisters made the short hairs on the back of my neck stand up. You are one tough lady!!

TX Runner Girl said...

Wow, 4:32 is great IMO...especially with all the issues that were thrown your way. Ouch on the blisters! Been there and they suck! And HAPPY BIRTHDAY to you, you fellow Capricorn!

Ellie said...

Excellent run! I'll be pretty happy if I can do a 4:32 soon... You pushed through all your issues and pulled it off and we're all darn proud of ya!

GeekGirl said...

WoW! Congratulations. I think the time has come for a name change - I don't know that you are (slow) any more..