The Woodlands Half Marathon Review & Recap: Third Time’s a Charm


I ran my third ever half marathon on February 28, 2015, and my first-ever half marathon where I traveled more than a few hours’ drive: The Woodlands Half Marathon in The Woodlands, Texas, just north of Houston.

The Woodlands Half Marathon Finishers
That’s me on the left and my friend Vicki, who also crushed it.


Training

I live in Massachusetts. We’ve had a horrible winter, so almost all my training – and definitely the last five weeks leading up to it – were done on the treadmill. I did three runs per week: one interval run, one tempo run, one long run. Every four weeks, I replaced the intervals and tempos with recovery runs. The longest run I did prior to the half marathon was 11 miles, and I brought my iPad with me to the gym and watched videos I had downloaded to pass the time. My last run before the half marathon was actually outside; I went on a run with the Luke’s Locker group in The Woodlands on the Thursday evening prior. It was a very friendly bunch.

The rest of my training was resistance training. I did full-body routines with metabolic finishers at the end three times a week. I also spent a great deal of my time with my foam roller and stretching, especially since I started taking ballet classes just a few weeks before the race.

Packing

I brought everything I would need, plus extras. I have a Travel Roller, and I stuffed it with my running capris, sports bra, and two different tops: a short sleeve top in case it was colder, and a singlet in case it was warmer. (I wore the short sleeve tech top since the temperature at the starting line was 40 degrees Fahrenheit.) I also brought:

  • My trusty Asics Gel Nimbus 15s
  • Thorlo socks
  • Arm huggies/sleeves
  • Hair ties
  • My running/gym pouch, which has safety pins, lip balm, Body Glide, a giant wipe, Band-Aids, deodorant, Advil
  • A hat, just in case it drizzled
  • My running water bottle
  • FlipBelt
  • iPod, preloaded with my 13.1 playlist

My race nutrition presented a small problem, though. I didn’t want to stuff my GU in my bag and risk TSA stopping me, so in the end I left my hairspray and dry shampoo at home to accommodate 3 GU Roctanes. I didn’t want to take a chance that I wouldn’t be able to get them.

Pre-Race Fuel

My best-laid plans were sidetracked when my father and I went out to lunch on Friday (which is when I start fueling). I was unable to obtain a chicken burrito, so I opted for a chicken Caesar salad. It was delicious, but I was a little anxious about how it would fuel me. I stuck to the rest of my ritual nicely: a mini Clif bar for an afternoon snack, rice/salmon/green beans for dinner, pudding and a banana for a bedtime snack, and my peanut butter and jelly sandwich two hours pre-race. And I hydrated like mad.

The Race

I lined up in the C corral (which I suppose was the faster half marathon corral) by 6:40 a.m., just as the sun was starting to rise. I gave my dad a fierce hug, and I remembered why I was doing this: Grandma Ethel. I chatted with a guy who was doing his first half marathon. I did squats and split squats and stretches. I jumped up and down a little to stay warm, since I was freezing. And finally, we were off, and about two minutes after the gun went off, I was crossing the start line and picking up my pace. My first mile was a bit disappointing, but I reminded myself that it was just a warm-up. Then I began pushing a little harder, and a little harder, until I was somewhere near my goal pace. I went into The Woodlands Half Marathon with a goal of 1:57, which was my last half marathon finish time. Since I had spent so much time on the treadmill, I didn’t expect to be faster.

The Woodlands Half Marathon Course


The course was mostly flat. It was a nice change from the terrain I run in my neighborhood. There were the usual shivering spectators, cheering for us and high-fiving us, and I cheered with them. I chatted with a few fellow runners, and then we parted ways. I was admonished by one runner to save some energy for the bridge, which was supposed to be a killer but was more of a bunny hill. I had all the usual thoughts: wanting to nap, wanting to slow down, wanting to keep running, and hoping for a PR. Around Mile 9, I started telling myself, “Just four more miles, and a sprint.” And after I passed Mile 13, I went into a semi-sprint on my tired legs, wanting to cross the finish line. I forgot about my dad shivering in the cold; I forgot about everything but just moving forward.

My chip time was 1:55:38.2. I hit a PR by over 2 minutes. For someone who only took up running 3.5 years ago, the sub-2 half marathon is admirable. I placed 53rd in my age group, out of 397.

The Aftermath

I fully admit to being sore. Even after stretching and walking around and a hot shower, I was sore. My father and I went to the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and toward the end of our visit, I had to sit down. My legs were really tired, and my hip was nagging at me. I kept hydrating and eating and took Advil, and by Sunday, I was almost back to normal.

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