Moody Gardens Holiday Half Marathon Recap

Sunday I ran the Moody Gardens Holiday Half Marathon, and I have very mixed feelings about it. On one hand, it was a small race, very few people to dodge, and I had a great time running this half marathon, if only because I saw a definite improvement in my running and pacing. But on the other hand, there were some definite drawbacks to the Moody Gardens Holiday Half Marathon.

Moody Gardens Holiday Half start line

First off, the race itself: it was held at Moody Gardens in Galveston, TX. The course was a two-loop course that went around the park and some surrounding roads. It was not, however, as scenic as I had hoped, but there were still some really pretty views of Galveston Bay that made it worth it. There were a couple of out and backs, too, and a lot of parking lot, which wasn’t very pretty at all.

The Moody Gardens Holiday Half Marathon course had aid stations at nearly every mile with water, Gatorade, and GU (the pre-race information said Hammer Gel, but that wasn’t the only thing they got wrong). That turned out to be both a positive and a negative, I suppose. It was positive because, if I hadn’t brought my giant FuelBelt water bottle with my own GU in the pocket, it would have been very convenient to stop and grab fuel or hydration. However, I did have my bottle, and I didn’t stop because the crazy wind would have blown water and Gatorade right into my face. And it was too cold to be running with water on my face.

It was a really windy day, too. At the 8 a.m. start time, the temperature was around 46 degrees, but the heavy winds meant a wind chill of 34 degrees. I ended up running my first half marathon as a Texas resident in Massachusetts weather. That was… not so good. There were some serious headwinds, but there were also tailwinds, so it kind of balanced out. When I picked up my packet, I was so cold in my hoodie and jacket over my tank top that I considered a couple of options:

  1. Run in the tank and my arm huggies, and pray I don’t freeze to death;
  2. Run with my hoodie and chuck it later;
  3. Put the race tech t-shirt on over my tank and pray that my rookie mistake won’t cause serious chafing.
I chose Option 3, donning the arm huggies that would eventually become wristbands around Mile 3 of the Moody Gardens Holiday Half Marathon. (It was fine, thankfully, because the shirt was nice and loose.) I also rooted around in my car and found a winter hat my husband had left – I chucked it about 2.5 miles into the half marathon, but since it was a two-loop course, I saw it on the side of the road and scooped it up. Needless to say, I’ll launder it before I return it. Also, a kind man at the Athlete Spot sports medicine tent let me borrow his gloves, which got pulled off and stuck into my waistband about 4 miles in. When I returned those, I advised washing them before wearing again. (I did feel bad about that.)
So. We had the National Anthem in the giant ice rink tent to protect us from the wind, then got ready to race. Properly fueled, caffeinated, and hydrated, I lined up at the start, cued up my music, stuck in my Yurbuds, and got a satellite reading for my Garmin. I actually ended up pretty close to the front, which made me a little nervous. I had no reason to be nervous, though. We started, and I had some awesomely consistent splits: 8:20, 8:18, 8:30, 8:15, 8:12, 8:18, 8:12, 8:19, 8:13, 8:33, 8:15, 8:13, 8:10, and the last bit? 4:49.73.
Wait, what?
Pretty early on, I noticed that my Garmin was showing that the course was off. Like, first it was a quarter mile off, then by the end of the half marathon, it was an extra half mile. I had a chip time of 1:52:30, but I absolutely would have run a 1:48:30 had the course not been too long. I asked some other runners as we descended hungrily on the breakfast tacos and pizza, and they noticed it, too, so it wasn’t just me. Usually, I end up foolishly adding an extra tenth of a mile or so by zigzagging through boneheads, but there weren’t boneheads. So it was the course, which lacked the promised music and real-time results as well.
Whatever. I still finished with a time that would qualify me for the A corral for the Houston Marathon.
It was that extra half mile that really stuck in my craw. Ultimately, though, as I neared the finish line of the Moody Gardens Holiday Half Marathon, I still gave it everything I had. I still made the Top 10 women, and I placed second in my age group (by default, according to another age group award winner as we walked to our cars – all the elites stayed home thanks to the wind). It was still cool, though, and I got my podium moment:
Moody Gardens Holiday Half Marathon: My podium moment was kind of funny
Where’s #1?

I also got a nifty little plaque to hang on my wall, plus the obligatory race bling. I ran my best effort on this one, and I did really well, even with an extra half mile thrown in. I feel very strong right now, with very little discomfort (just a little fatigue and muscle soreness). I’ll run another half marathon in early 2016 and see if I can actually get an official PR time. If I hit 1:45, which seems like it is within real reach, I’ll start talking about training for a full marathon. But until then, I love the half marathon distance: it’s challenging and exhilarating. And I did have fun running this race, lonely as it was (small field…), but I have fun running even the suck-fests. Which, with the wind, this one kind of was.