The Houston Half Marathon on Sunday, October 30 was a humbling experience. It’s also forcing me to revisit my marathon goals. I’m going to try to recap this as best as I can, but I’m still as foggy from the experience as the fog that was settled over Houston for pretty much my entire time on the course.
The day before the Houston Half Marathon, I followed my usual ritual: chicken burrito for lunch, trail mix for snack, tofu stir-fry for dinner, pudding before bed. I also ate my usual peanut butter and jelly sandwich and banana for breakfast, and I hydrated like mad.
Sweet Eureka met me at my house for 5:20 a.m. (The gun time was 7 a.m. This would give us time to park and use the porta-potties.) We had a comedy of errors parking; we were going to park at an open lot, but the credit card machine was down. The lot’s ticket machine only accepted exact change. So I pulled into the parking garage next door.
Once we got to Sam Houston Park, we briefly said hi to some other members of our running group. Remember the hydration? The need to use the porta-potties was strong. We ended up in line from about 6:20 a.m. to 6:45, giving us barely enough time to take care of our needs. I’ve mastered the art of shallow breathing through my mouth, but Sweet Eureka has not, and I could hear her gagging at the smell. These porta-potties were rank.
With less than 10 minutes until the gun, we scurried as much as we could to the start line. It was crowded, and spectators were giving their loved ones last-minute encouragement. That’s nice and all, but we wanted to find pacers, and it was still dark. We parted ways, and I elbowed my way in near the 1:55 pacer.
The Houston Half Marathon Begins
A fog had settled thickly over Houston. If you’ve ever seen Stephen King’s The Mist, you know how spooky it can be. When the gun went off, those of us in our mid-pack position walked to the start line. Once I crossed the timing mat, I was feeling good. So, so good. So I pulled ahead of the pacer and tried to get into a groove. The fog was messing with my head.
Here’s what I remember from the actual running part: The fog. The Houston Half Marathon is billed as a gorgeous course, and under normal circumstances, I would have been able to see Buffalo Bayou and the Houston skyline and all sorts of neat sites. What I saw was fog. I knew we were crossing Waugh Drive when I smelled bat guano. I gagged; I wasn’t expecting the guano smell from the street.
I crossed the 5K mark with an 8:39 pace.
Somewhere along the way, my stupid right hip started hurting, so I slowed down. My legs started feeling like lead. Speedy K passed me, like she did in the Space City 10 Miler. I crossed 10K timing mat with an 8:46 pace. Not great.
Some time after that, with the fog swirling around me, I started re-evaluating whether or not I wanted to run a full marathon. I wondered if this was, indeed, a smart decision. My hip wasn’t hurting more, but it was alerting me to its presence. At a water stop around Mile 10, I actually walked to sip my water.
Basically, my head started to mess with me. I felt like I could barely lift my legs to run. I didn’t want to run. And then I saw the 10K walkers ahead of me, and I knew I had to run for them. I pushed myself, just a little, and cheered them on as I ran.
I crossed the finish line with a 1:57:50.9 chip time, a 9:00 average pace.
I stumbled over to the taco line and availed myself of two delicious bacon and egg breakfast tacos. I walked around a bit. Then I headed home to foam roll properly.
About the Course
The course itself was very well planned and marked. There were plenty of water/gatorade stations, and I did see porta-potties along the way. The race directors did a fantastic job; the only way it could have been better would have been more porta-potties at the start. Also, the breakfast tacos from Taco Cabana were excellent. I would have loved to see more bottled water available in the food/eating area as well.
Yes, I’m disappointed in my time. I ran the Amica Iron Horse Half Marathon in 1:51:43, and that beast was hilly. Even through February, I was running half marathons in 1:52 and change. So what happened? I have a couple of theories:
- I weigh more. When I crossed the finish line at the Jailbreak Half Marathon in February, I weighed at least six pounds less.
- My April injury affected me more than I want to admit.
- Age is not on my side.
Since age isn’t on my side, and I don’t want to lose the weight (that would mean losing muscle mass), all I can do is accept that I’m not going to be Speedy McSpeederson. It also means I’m revising my marathon goals. A sub-4 is out of reach at this point. In the best of circumstances, I could get a 4:03.
You know what? That’s fine. I’m going to keep training, and hopefully I can cross the finish line in 4:30. At this point, I can’t put too much stress on myself. Age is definitely not my friend. Neither are my various aches and pains. First and foremost, I have to stay healthy.