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Houston Half Marathon - Run

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Houston, Texas
United States
70F / 21C
Total Time = 1h 52m 14s
Overall Rank = 751/4428
Age Group = F30-34
Age Group Rank = 37/409
Pre-race routine:

Running has always been a weakness of mine, so I've committed to a run focus this winter. Plan for this was to get back into running after recovering from my last race (beginning of September), race this HM and get a baseline for where I am, and then put together a structured run plan for my goal race in January. This race was all about validating interval paces and getting a baseline to (hopefully!) see improvements when I race again in January.

Since the ultimate goal is to become a better runner, I didn't really treat this like a race -- I didn't taper at all (had one hard run earlier in the week, three swims, and three bikes). I'm also up in weight a bit from where I raced throughout the tri season.
Event warmup:

The RD recommended getting to the race site about an hour early....we pulled up 55 minutes before the race was set to start and were stuck in nearly completely stopped traffic for 53 minutes. Finally got to a place where we could move and went to a paid parking garage rather than the free one (which ended up being free...). Totally screwed my plan for warming up. I'd wanted to do 10 minutes of easy running, a few minutes of stretching, and then a few more minutes of running and getting settled into race pace.

Of course, being that we parked moments before the race officially started and still having to get to the start line meant that we missed the race start and ended up back in a thick crowd of people. The first couple miles were spent weaving through people until it thinned out and were surrounded by people closer to the pace I wanted to do.
  • 1h 52m 14s
  • 13.1 miles
  • 08m 34s  min/mile

After making it to the start line (late), Stephen and I started our race. It was really crowded, so we wasted some energy weaving in and out, trying to get to some open space. At this point, we were in the middle of downtown, surrounded by tall building and stagnant air. I made a comment that I wished it was cooler (forecast showed it was supposed to be high-50's, but it was actually high-60's at that point). I also noted that the first mile clicked off at 8:13 -- too fast. But I felt really good at this point....and I thought to myself, "Maybe it wasn't actually that fast and my GPS doesn't have good signal being surrounded by these tall buildings." Stephen asked if I wanted to drop the pace off a bit, but I told him I felt good so figured we'd keep at it.

The first five miles averaged sub-8:20 and I was starting to think maybe I was better prepared than I'd given myself credit for. But I also had a nagging voice in my head saying, "Don't let this be your best tempo run have 13.1 miles to do today and can't just quit cause you're tired!" I usually feel pretty beat by the end of a 30 minute tempo run, so I didn't want to hit that wall!

In the fifth mile, I could feel that I was starting to fade a little. I figured it was a good time for a Gu, so I ate one hoping that I could keep my pace up. That mile and the next clicked off at 8:30 -- I was definitely starting to feel it and only about half way done....uh-oh! Just before the turn-around, I said to Stephen, "At the turn-around, you should just go. I'm fading. I'm trying really hard, but it's just not happening." I knew I'd started too fast and was going to suffer!

We turned about 7.5 miles in and that mile came in at an 8:44 pace....jeez, this is gonna get ugly! I took a second Gu at mile 9, hoping it would hit me and I could finish out strong. Part way through that mile, I hit a dark place. I'm absolutely certain it was mostly (probably all!) mental....I know once I hit the 10th mile, I'm supposed to give it all I have left for the remaining 5k....but given how much I was hurting at this point, I couldn't imagine hurting more! So during my little mile-9 pity party, I told myself I could slow a bit and then walk through the mile 10 aid station....that mile was a miserable 8:53.

When I got to the aid station, I walked the entire length of it, drank two glasses of water, and told myself to get my shit together and start running again....that mile, with my long walk break, came in right at 8:50. I wanted to finish strong and try to go sub-1:52, so I pushed as hard as I could for the remaining miles. They weren't fast and they weren't pretty....and I didn't quite make my sub-1:52 (granted, that was my stretch goal, so I'm really not disappointed).

As I was running those final few miles, I was trying to think of what it was that made it so I couldn't go faster. My breathing was under control and my HR, though high, still seemed to have room to go up a bit. I'm pretty sure I just didn't have the muscular endurance to turn my legs over any quicker. And I'm hoping that with time and more training, I eventually will be able to do so.
What would you do differently?:

In hindsight, I would have gotten there well over an hour early so I had time to warm up and figure out what "race pace" felt like. Granted, at the time, I really had no idea if I could actually hold 8:30's throughout the race, but I suspect that if I'd started out more conservatively, I wouldn't have faded so badly on the second half..

That said, I think this was a good learning lesson for me. I also think it's probably the first race where I've gone out too hard and had to deal with the ramifications of it....I'm always the type to be ultra conservative and have huge negative splits (which is also not the best way to pace a race). I think knowing that my HM race pace is around 8:30's gives me a good starting block for the next race. And it's better than wondering if I went too easy or didn't leave it all out there....I definitely left it all out there today!
Post race
Warm down:

After crossing the finish line, all the pain of the race caught up with me and I went into this weird, "Is she crying? Is she hyperventilating? Is she laughing?" state. It took about 20 seconds for that to pass and then we headed out to stretch, drink some water, and eventually get some chocolate milk.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Muscular endurance to keep the legs turning over at the rate I wanted them to go. I'm hoping that with a structured run build between now and January that I'll be able to see some improvements.

Event comments:

I'm not sure I can really blame the RD, but I wish there had been someone to direct traffic in the morning -- it would have made for a less stressful situation if we'd been able to get parked faster.

Last updated: 2014-10-19 12:00 AM
01:52:14 | 13.1 miles | 08m 34s  min/mile
Age Group: 37/409
Overall: 751/4428
Performance: Good
Course: A little jaunt through downtown before a long out-and-back along Memorial/Allen
Keeping cool Average Drinking Not enough
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Below average
Mental exertion [1-5] 3
Physical exertion [1-5] 4
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Average
Race evaluation [1-5]

2014-10-27 1:06 PM

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Houston, Texas
Subject: Houston Half Marathon

2014-10-27 1:37 PM
in reply to: #5063213

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Subject: RE: Houston Half Marathon

I think this is a great place to start! I love how you took the time to do a race like this and evaluate the things you can work on in your run-focus.

You did a great job and I look forward to seeing you progress! 

2014-10-27 4:03 PM
in reply to: #5063213

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PEI, Canada
Subject: RE: Houston Half Marathon

That's great Nicole!  Tough to pace a HM not really knowing what you can do and you did fairly well considering!  Can't wait to see how your run focus goes for the next one.  

2014-10-27 7:34 PM
in reply to: #5063213

Northern IL
Subject: RE: Houston Half Marathon

Now you at least have something to start with. 

2014-10-28 6:54 AM
in reply to: #5063213

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Englewood, Florida
Subject: RE: Houston Half Marathon

Really nice job figuring stuff out. It looks like you've got a good idea of what you can do and what things will feel like in the next one. Congratulations.

2014-10-28 7:47 AM
in reply to: cdban66

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Subject: RE: Houston Half Marathon

Funny how those little voices almost always tend to be right - even when we try to avoid listening to them.  Good job on setting your benchmark, and something tells me you'll have the pacing figured out for the next one.

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