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Houston Marathon - RunMarathon

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Houston, Texas
United States
Houston Marathon Committee
58F / 14C
Total Time = 3h 29m 25s
Overall Rank = 507/5406
Age Group = M50-54
Age Group Rank = 40/480
Pre-race routine:

Went ahead and spent the money on a downtown hotel room for Saturday night; so it would be an easy, no-stress race morning. Saturday night we ate at a jazz club 2 blocks away. Had an excellent shrimp & pasta dinner, but no late-night partying or booze, though, I had other plans.

Slept OK considering it was a strange bed in a strange place. I had slept very well the nights leading up, so sleep would not be a factor today. Even though I was excited about the situation; no pre-race jitters this time.

Up at 0500, ate a Clif Builders bar, Clif bar, drank a 19oz Power Edge, and a 12oz Gatorade; about 700 calories total. After the obligatory bathroom visits, I felt great and was ready to run.

When I put on my race watch and re-set the chronograph, it started blinking and chiming. Oh crap; the battery is burning out. Oh well, nothing to do except baby it along and make it last 6 more hours. If that's the worse thing that happens today; it's nothing.
Event warmup:

Walk 6 blocks from the hotel, drop off clothes bag, kissed my wife goodbye and walk to the start corral for some stretching. Slammed a gel and drank some water 20 minutes prior to the start.

Running races are so easy to get ready for.

It was going to be a warm morning and sunny with no rain, so it would have to be good enough. 15° colder would've been even better.
  • 3h 29m 25s
  • 26.2 miles
  • 07m 59s  min/mile

I had a goal and a plan...

The Goal:
Post a BQ time of 3:35 or better. I had set my sights on 3:30 just because I liked the way the math worked out and it would give me a 5 minute cushion.

The Plan:
Break a long race into 5 shorter ones of 5 miles each and focus on doing what I needed to do at each point along the way. A Marathon is too long to worry about 1 mile splits. I had written the split times on my arm with a Sharpie and carried 5 gels. 1 to be taken at the 5, 10, 15 & 20 mile markers and a back-up in case I dropped one. Drink something at every aid station and stay disciplined at the early part of the race, i.e., don't go out too fast.

I ran this for the first time in 2007 and did OK, but I never paid much attention to the scenery and surroundings; just kept my head down and pounded it out. This time, in addition to a specific goal, I was going to make it a point to notice where I was and what was going on around me. Really soak it in and enjoy it, because who knows when or if there's going to be another Marathon. I had memorized the street names, the neighborhoods and my 5-mile marker locations.

Got into the start corral for the first wave and stayed about 100 feet back from the line. No sense in getting up front to fight for a position that I didn't need or want. BOOM! The gun was fired and we were off.

0 to 5 Miles - Houston Heights:
It took me ~30 seconds to get to the line and it was typical big race crowding, but not too bad. Worked at getting into a rhythm and not tripping. As expected, I was running about a 7:30 pace and found myself along side the 3:20 pace group. A bit fast, but as long as I stayed comfortable, I was going to hang with them for a while.

Got a couple of drinks, took my 1st gel coming up on the 5-mile flag. Goal here was 40:00, I was at 37:XX. A couple of minutes deposited into the time bank. Great.

6-10 Miles - Montrose & Main:
The runners have spaced out and it's starting to warm up, and the sweat is starting to pour. Now is the time to focus on the real pace, reign in that race-start adrenaline and slow it down a notch.

A guy ran up beside me and said he had the same "birthmark" on his calf, too. He was referring to my IM tattoo and he had one almost exactly like it. We chatted about our IMs for a minute and then parted ways. Cool. At the 9-mile stage the runners doing the half turn off to the left and now it's just us real runners, so the road has really opened up. Another gel, some G-ade and water. Goal here was 1:20, I was 1:17:XX. Another minute in the bank. Excellent.

11-15 Miles - Rice University:
Two fifths of the race down and I'm rolling now. The 3:20 pace group is about 100 yards ahead and that's just right where I want them. This is a real pretty part of town with huge oak trees over the road and lots of shade. The next neighborhood had dozens of American flags set up in their yards and along the road.

Cross the 13.1 mile mark at 1:39 still feeling great, but I'm only thinking about the next 2 miles; finish this 5-mile segment, and only then worry about the next. Take a gel, grab some water. Goal here was 2:00, I was 1:57:XX. Outstanding.

16-20 Miles - Galleria:
Back into another business district and tall buildings. Lots of cheering crowds and plenty of music. This is where the race gets serious and things can start going wrong in a hurry. I'm feeling a little heaviness in the legs and according to the volunteers reading off the paces at the mile markers, I've settled into a 7:45 pace.

I made a decision to fast-walk the aid station between 18 & 19 to get 2 full cups of fluids and relax for just a second. I also decided to hold off on this gel until another mile and another aid station. It was here at mile 20 back in '07 that both my legs seized up with cramps and it was really bad, so I did not want a repeat of that ordeal. Goal here was 2:40, I was 2:38. I had made a small withdrawal from my time bank, but still doing fine.

21-25 Miles - Memorial Park:
More water and my last gel at mile 21. Four fifths of the race done, but now it's starting to hurt some as we go up and down a few of the "hills". I've been feeling a blister developing on a small toe and I know it's going to be bad. Time to harden up.

My watch is chiming as the battery is going out, so I really can't track the time, but I know I'm OK and there's nothing to do anyway except keep running as fast as I can. This is the point when you really have to dig deep and decide how bad do you want it. This part was hard and I'll admit it. It was work keeping the pace and focusing on getting to that next mile flag. The legs were close to cramping but I was able to maintain my form.

The goal was 3:20, and I was right at it. I had made the final withdrawal from my time bank and it was time to spend it all. Told myself I can do anything for 10 more minutes.

1.2 Miles - Downtown:
Barring complete malfunction, I knew I had my BQ, but I still wanted the 3:30. I had let the 3:20 pace group go awhile back during the last 5 miles, but the 3:30 group was still behind me somewhere.

It felt good getting into the shade of the tall buildings and hearing the crowds yelling, "JUST 1 MORE MILE!". Kept a steady pace despite the left foot wanting to curl up with a cramp. A couple more turns and I could finally see the finish arch at the end of the road and was able to bring it on in.

What would you do differently?:

Put a new battery in the watch.
Post race
Warm down:

My wife was at the finish line and got some pics of me. Talked with her a minute and then hobbled through the finish chute area and into the convention center. Stepped on a scale to confirm that I had lost 4 pounds; pretty typical.

Made my way through the lines to get food and my finisher stuff. Finally met up with my wife in the reunion area. Walked (slowly) back to the hotel.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

There is nothing I could have done that would have made much difference. I had prepared well, had the proper experience, and I was a little bit lucky. There are so many things that can go wrong in a long race, but I managed to pull it off. How else do you explain coming within 31 seconds of a goal time in a Marathon?

I'm glad I made my goal and felt like I had accomplished something. It's doubtful I'll go to Boston for several reasons, but the fact that I made the time qualification says it all.

I also PR'd by 28 minutes, so that's good.

Event comments:

Really good race organization and layout to handle such a large number of people. A very good idea to put portacans right in the start corrals. Lots of crowds on the course, great volunteers, and sponsors. Shop @ HEB!

It's pretty neat to be a part of a big-city event like this. If I ever do it again, I'm going to slow down even more and really enjoy it. Why does every race have to be so hard?

Last updated: 2008-12-16 12:00 AM
03:29:25 | 26.2 miles | 07m 59s  min/mile
Age Group: 40/480
Overall: 507/5406
Performance: Good
Course: Typical road course winding through local neighborhoods, parks, and big-city buildings. Mostly flat with a few minor inclines/declines.
Keeping cool Good Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5] 5
Physical exertion [1-5] 5
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 5

2009-01-21 7:37 AM

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Waller County, TX
Subject: Houston Marathon

2009-01-21 8:24 AM
in reply to: #1919675

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Atlanta, Georgia
Bronze member
Subject: RE: Houston Marathon
Great RR - Really felt like I was there.

Man, within 30secs of goal time for a mary is no small thing..Awesome execution and a BQ to boot! I saw this one coming..

Congrats on the day.
2009-01-21 11:57 AM
in reply to: #1919675

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Extreme Veteran
Round Rock, Texas
Subject: RE: Houston Marathon
Awesome job executing your plan and goal.  Great report as well.  I bet that felt good for everything to go so well.  Way to HTFU at the end, only an IM could understand
2009-01-21 2:30 PM
in reply to: #1919675

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The Woodlands, TX
Subject: RE: Houston Marathon

Glad you had a great race. It was a really nicely organized event, and a great day! Although I thought it was a little warm.

I was there doing the half so I guess I guess I'm not a "real" runner. 

 "At the 9-mile stage the runners doing the half turn off to the left and now it's just us real runners, so the road has really opened up."

I must not be a "real" triathlete either since I only do sprints.

2009-01-21 4:28 PM
in reply to: #1919675

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Fishers, Indiana
Subject: RE: Houston Marathon

AWESOME JOB!! Great race report...way to execute the plan and come in just like you wanted! Wow! Incredible PR, exceeding the goal, and qualifying for Boston!

EXCELLENT! Congratulations!!

2009-01-22 8:31 AM
in reply to: #1919675

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Subject: RE: Houston Marathon
Well executed race and way to tough it out when things began to get hard! Rest up my friend and get ready for the next adventure.

2009-01-22 8:57 AM
in reply to: #1919675

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Frisco, Texas
Subject: RE: Houston Marathon
Congratulations on your BQ!  Excellent training, planning, goal setting and execution.  Not much luck involved there.  Great job.
2009-01-22 12:34 PM
in reply to: #1919675

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Basking Ridge
Subject: RE: Houston Marathon
Nice race report - by giving a description of the areas the course went thru - i now know pretty much the route you took. I lived in downtown Houston (allen prkwy) in the early 90s and your report reminded me of all the areas I used to go thru - espcially running loops at memorial park (that felt so long back then) and playing golf there and down by the Rice Univ area. I will likely do the race sometime in the near future.

great finish - way to have a goal and meet it.

pete - NJ
2009-01-23 4:12 PM
in reply to: #1919675

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Roswell, Georgia
Subject: RE: Houston Marathon

Wow what a great race report! Congrats all around... the BQ, the PR, the (what other two-letter abbreviation can I use here?)

Well done!!!


2009-01-24 9:41 AM
in reply to: #1919675

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Subject: RE: Houston Marathon
nice race pops! you are correct about how ez it is to prep the morning of a run race. you feel like you are lost b/c you didnt have to setup a transition area. and great thinking on the xtra gel. when i did the 20miler this guy dropped his gel at mile 15 and i teared up as i watched him attempt to pick it up in front of me. needless to say his pace went down the shitter after that. glad to see you set a solid goal and hit it. the BQ was the cherry on top. and super thanks to PR'ing by more than 22min 27sec
2009-01-24 11:29 AM
in reply to: #1919675

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Fort Collins, CO
Subject: RE: Houston Marathon

Way to tough it out and finish strong! Crushing goals feels so good.


2009-01-25 4:36 PM
in reply to: #1919675

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Dallas, TX
Subject: RE: Houston Marathon
Great RR! Congrats on your time!!!
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