Sunday, January 13, 2008

Houston Marathon – Race Report

This year was much less stressful than last year. The weather was not in doubt. It was cold and sunny, so no last-minute dithering over whether I would need rain gear. Second, I wasn’t on the brink of bronchitis, so my mood and energy level were good and I wasn't having breathing troubles.

Dan dropped me off at the convention center and I had plenty of time to get ready, check my bag and even use a real restroom, instead of one of the port-a-cans. I waited until the last possible minute to go outside because the skyscrapers create a wind tunnel effect, making it feel colder than it really is.

I found the 4:30 pace group and stuck with them for the first few miles, concentrating mainly on not tripping over anyone because the pack hadn’t spread out yet. I swear I don’t know how people run the really big marathons like New York and Chicago, where the packs never seem to thin.

By around Mile 4 I was able to find my own pace and moved ahead of the 4:30 group. Between Miles 6-7 I kept pace with a guy who was trying to get a sing-along going and joked with the spectators, trying to get extra applause. Watching his antics kept me entertained for a couple miles, but I lost him after awhile.

When we passed the Palmer Episcopal Church between Miles 9-10 I made sure to get in a good spot for some of the holy water they were splashing on the runners. It’s a cute tradition and with still so far to go, anyone’s blessing was welcome.

Crowds were good through West U, and it was nice to see the folklorico dancers out. I was glad to get to the halfway point, though, and turn toward the Galleria. By now the part of my brain that had been arguing with me about whether this was a good way to spend my Sunday morning had finally shut up and I could just focus on getting the miles done. I was glad when we finally turned onto Woodway, though. From here it was a straight shot to downtown, down my old running routes.

The belly dancers were between Miles 19-20, as usual, and I was very happy to reach the Clif tent around Mile 21 and get a Clif Shot and some Clif Bloks. My hands were cold, making it hard to find things in my pack, so the easy calorie boost was welcome.

Dan met me between Miles 22-23 and I handed off some of my cold-weather gear I no longer needed. I stopped soon after Mile 24 to stretch my legs (hip acting up) on some stairs for a pedestrian bridge over Allen Parkway. And after that, no more stops, no excuses.

There’s always a horrible “so near and yet so far” moment when you turn onto the final approach to the finish line. You can see it several blocks away, but at this point, it seems like no matter how many streets you cross, it never gets any closer. This is always an occasion for me to mutter a lot of WTFs, but finally, yes, the finish line is there. I heard the beep as I crossed the mat, I remembered to stop my watch, and I immediately found it was a lot harder to walk than run.

I got my picture taken (I probably look stupid in it since I don’t photograph well) then I staggered into the convention center to get my medal, pick up my bag, and get my finisher’s shirt and cup. The finisher’s shirts made me happy because they had actual girl-cut shirts for female finishers. I hate huge shirts, and even a men’s small is too big. But the women’s small was perfect and so cute!

I found a nice place to spread out my towel and ice my legs with my instant cold packs. I called Dan and he told me where to meet him, but long runs cause temporary brain damage, so I just pretended I knew where he was and figured I’d have to hope for the best. Since my cold packs were still cold, I gave them to a nice young couple who had been stumbling around and watching me enviously.

Then I headed outside and started walking. Poor Dan! It’s a good thing he’s done the marathon before too, or I would’ve never gotten the amount of patience I did from him. I wandered a bit before finding a sunny spot and calling him. I read the street signs (thank goodness I could still read!) and he told me to stay where I was until he found me.

After a hot shower and some Indian food, I started getting my brain back and Dan’s original instructions made perfect sense. He later said he thought about telling me he was on the north side, but figured I was in no fit state to understand the concept of "north." "I probably would've cried," I said.

I noticed they’ve already opened registration for next year’s marathon. I’m conflicted about whether I should sign up early or even sign up at all. Each year I swear not to sign up again because I’m around so many sick people in December and early January that I end up spending Christmas and New Year’s in a state of paranoia. Running San Antonio in November would actually be a more sensible option. But marathons are funny things. No sooner are you done than you find yourself wanting to sign up again, no matter how much pain you were in at the end.

Well, no need to make a decision today. I’m glad I finished, glad I did better than last year, and glad the pressure is off and I can turn my thoughts toward other things.


the Bag Lady said...

BG: The Bag Lady seriously is in awe of your accomplishment - congratulations! And thanks for sharing it with all of us. I know that I will never run a marathon, but it's very cool to hear about. Get Dan to give you a hug from me!

Sarah said...

Congratulations! It was definitely good weather for running.

Anonymous said...

That is just so awesome. I'm grinning from ear to ear for you! :)

Sarah said...

Congratulations! I am going to run my first marathon in October of this year so hearing about your experience is very interesting. And I know exactly what you mean about "no sooner are you done than you find yourself wanting to sign up again, no matter how much pain you were in at the end"-- within five minutes of my finishing my first half last fall (about how long it took me to unscramble my head) I was already thinking about doing another one. Which I am, in May.

Crabby McSlacker said...

Great race report--I felt like I was there running it with you!

But without experiencing any of the pain and exhaustion. My kind of marathon--vicarious.

And congrats on improving your time!

Leah J.Utas said...

Good for you. Sounds like a wonderful experience.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! Its awesome to even finish!!
Andrewbun's Mum


Anonymous said...

Wow, that's fabulous, Auntie Bunnygirl! The only race I could finish would be a Tuddle-a-thon, to the other side of the house. *smile*

Purrs and snuggles from Marilyn.

Reb said...

Congratulations BG! Great description of the race and it's after-effects.

Anonymous said...

that feeling of finishing, being totally exhausted but feeling like you just conquered the world is so AWESOME. Congrats! I've never run but have done 15 mile walks and many LONG bike rides - including Azusa CA to Phoenix AZ and remember well the feeling at the end. good job

Church Lady said...

This is an AMAZING accomplishment!

AlannahJoy said...

I'm so glad you weren't sick for this one. I know what you mean about wanting to sign up for the next one right away. Back when I was teaching aerobics, I would barely finish a class before I was already looking forward to the next one, even though I was always in pain from some foot/lower leg injury or other.

Are you going to post a pic of that finisher's t-shirt? ;-)

Lola said...

Great job! You should be very proud of yourself!! We are!

Rabbits' Guy said...

Whew .. I think we all are exhausted and need a good rest! Congrats and good luck deciding! Do they have a reasonable Day-of-Race cost???

Great report too ... enjoyed it, especially the "wandering around dazed afterward" part!

And that time was well above the mid-packers!!!

WriterKat said...

Nice work! Congratulations. That is an amazing adventure.

Vickie said...

Congrats! That's an awesome time! Glad things went well for you! I don't think you're all that slow!

Ellie Hamilton said...

Way to go, BunnyGirl! You were a Rabbit! :-) Wanting to sign up for another one as soon as we finish -- why is that? I guess it's something everyone has, though!

Congratulations on a great race!