I had 14 weeks from the time I finished Ryanman in October 2015 to the Houston Marathon (has it really been almost a year?...yeesh, time flies!). My base was good. My miles were where they needed to be. I just needed to focus only on running for a while.
It was (mostly) awesome. For about 12 weeks, that is. Then, it was Christmas. I was in Florida visiting my folks. Twenty miles on a steamy, early Sunday morning ended up as a painful 11. Nothing else during vacation was longer than about 6 miles. Too many other things to do...including sleeping in.
So, for that reason, among others, I headed to Houston with some trepidation. Even though I had managed to get some good runs in, I was unsure I would be able to run the full distance. I already knew my original goal of a Boston Q-time was not going to happen (has a lot to do with those other reasons). The handy-dandy McMillan Calculator had me at what seemed like a reasonable goal. But I was afraid. Worried. Really didn't want to go. Needed another month at least...
Luckily, this was a group effort, and I had with me, two good friends. One who had been running by my side since the first day of training and would run with me for the entire 26.2, her goal, my goal; giving up any chance at her own PR and a much faster time to run with me. The other, coming to support us during the race, holding all of our junk, passing gels to us, taking awesome pictures along the course, and running his own marathon+ just as a spectator.
The people in my life. I am lucky. I am a lonely person. By choice. By character and personality. But I have a "tribe" (as Meg would say) that is there for me when I need them...even if I don't know that I need them. And to all of them, thank you.
Turns out Houston is a pretty cool city, and the Houston Marathon is a top-notch event. I prefer smaller races. Being in the midst of 40,000 people kinda' gives me hives, but if I am there, I am grateful for race organizers who set it up so it doesn't seem too intense.
Race-day weather was perfect. Temperatures were in the 40s at the start, the sun was out, and there was little to no wind. Despite the gazillion people on the course, there were only a couple of spots that felt congested. The course is friendly and flat. At every single point for 26.2 miles, there are spectators...lots of them...cheering everyone on.
|Thanks, Perter and Meg, for these pics! And thanks Meg's friend for the sign!|
As we made our way into our corral, it occurred to me that marathons have become an event and a journey for people...more than an actual race. People were in costume, taking selfies, taking pictures of the crowd, the helicopter overhead. The music was loud and energizing. The announcer was loud and energizing. This was probably good for my brain. "Hey! It's just a traveling party! No big deal. It might be 26.2 miles...but it's just a party."
TMI alert. But, for me, an essential part of the race story. My standard long race M.O. is to pee every 5 minutes leading to the actual start and then one more time within the first couple of miles. I've always attributed it to nerves. I remain calm on the outside. My bladder becomes overwrought. However, I'm not exactly sure what happened on January 17, 2016, but I ended up having to pop into a porta-john four different times. Four. I'm convinced my finish time would have been at least 10 minutes faster if I hadn't been quite so well hydrated.
After that, though, the rest of the race was uneventful, and we were able to speed up a bit for a negative split overall. One of Meg's friends was on the latter part of the course and had signs with our names on them, which was cool since she had never even met me. Then, near the end, Peter jumped in with us and ran the last few miles before breaking off so he could meet back up with us in the Convention Center.
Right before the finish, in a rare moment of extreme clarity, I killed Peter's cows. Sorry, Peter. (See, on the drive west from Mississippi to Texas, Meg and Peter introduced me to a driving game called, "My Cows." I learned from them that you claim your cows as you see them grazing peacefully in the fields, trying to have more cows than everyone else. If you see a graveyard, you can "kill" your competitors' cows. If you see a church, you can "save" your cows. I saw a graveyard during the last part of the marathon, and I decided that was an excellent time to continue the game we had begun two days prior.)
We got our medals, our finishers' shirts, our finishers' mugs, got in the car, and Peter drove us back to Mississippi.
And that's the story of marathon #21.