...maybe tackle isn't exactly the right word. More like survived. This week was an "unoffcial" Katy Fit meeting time. What that means is because of the holiday, there was no official meeting, no gatorade and water after the run, and no seminar, but some of the coaches were there and many of the Fit'ers were meeting to run. I decided that this would be a good opportunity to try out one of the other venues in town so I decided to run the Houston Fit 9-mile course with a slight modification. The modification was departing and arriving from the tennis center instead of the HF meeting place. Turns out, this makes the route a little over 9.5 miles. Here's the course, probably familiar to many.
Couple of highlights to report. The first was seeing the graceful and speedy Cassie during my first mile. It was kind of dark but I recognized that perfect stride a mile away. Well, maybe .005 miles away. Then, as if that wasn't enough good fortune, I ran into (almost literally) the strong and beautiful June at the Memorial/Park loop intersection. June is just so much smarter than I was. She started well before 5:30 and was finishing up about the time I was starting. Read about her well-executed run on her blog.
There were a lot of firsts on this run as well as a season/lifetime distance PR. This was the first time I ran with my new Amphipod RunLite Hydration Belt. Steve, you talk about people "running shalessly", that was me on this run. I've never used a hydration belt before for one reason. They don't make 'em big enough to fit my waist. Well, for the first time, I am able to get one around my waist comfortably. That's a victory to me! The shameless part is that despite my shrinkage (quiet, all you Seinfeld fans out there!!) my still ample belly really sticks out when wearing the belt. Hey, at least it doesn't hang over the belt and you can see the belt but it's still "shameless" to be out in public looking like that. Don't get me wrong. This is not a pity party. I'm thrilled that I can fit into one now comfortably. Now I just have to continue to shrink this gut.
Another first was taking a left at the southwest corner of the Memorial Park loop instead of continuing around the loop. I've always sort of envied the folks who would turn left. I always wondered where they were going, what it was like "out there, when will they be back." It was sort of surreal to be venturing out towards downtown. I really did not know what to expect.
I made my way down Crestwood to Blossom and turned towards downtown. The mile or so down Blossom is nice. I saw several runners and bikers. The little townhomes and gated apartments all seem pretty new and must be expensive due to the location. Blossom is very flat. I think that contributed to my poor pacing and going out too fast, too early in the longest distance of my life. I forgot to turn on my mile auto-lap feature until 26 minutes into my run. Still, I don't really trust the polar footpod accelerometer. I don't think it responds well to changes in pace or stride or hills. I think as long as you maintain a consistent stride and pace, it's accurate but when you have to walk up a hill or stairs or want to shorten your stride, it's not accurate. I've gotta get a Garming some time soon. Anyway, I think I was doing around 14:50 pace for the first 2-2.5 miles. I felt really good and continued to be excited about what was ahead.
After turning on Jackson Hill, I consumed a gel and water and trucked on. I didn't mention but I was doing 5/1's for this run. Looks like even with the walking, I was maintaining an good sub-15:00 pace. That is good. Looking back, I should have been a little closer to 15:45-16:00 pace for these first miles and been in better shape by the end. Still, I felt really good, running strong for each 5 and walking quickly on the 1's. The first "hill" I came to was the Memorial crosswalk at Jackson Hill. It's not really a hill but you've got to get up to get over so it was a bit of work. When I got to the other side, I experienced what would become a theme for most of the remainder of the morning. The trails along Allen Parkway and Memorial are not smooth and flat. In a way this is bad on my weak ankle but in another way, I think it helped to work out those accessory muscles in my lower leg. Still, my confidence on the uneasy surface just was not there and I really felt myself working harder with each step on certain parts of the trail, not wanting to twist my ankle. So, this part of the run was really difficult for me. I never really got in the groove like I did on Blossom. Nevertheless, the view was awesome as the sun was coming up through downtown and the adventure was what my running needed at the time.
It seems that I really did get a late start as many of the runners were already off the trails. I did run into several runners. One notable who flew past me with a couple of other guys was Drew Prisner, winner of the 2002 Houston Marathon. I knew who he was because Jon pointed him out to me at HARRA's Party in the Park. These guys were beautiful the way they were running. I passed them at a lower point down by the bayou where they appeared from a distance. The ground they closed in just a few moments was incredible. God definitely made those guys to run. I also ran into a couple of Striders. I'm so bad with names. I believe the man's name is Noah. He was running with his wife. I know I've met them and we recognized each other but I can't for the life of me remember their last name and her first name. Oh, and I passed the kind gentleman from the Woodlands that was so nice to give me all that advice during the HRB RTW 5K. You may remember him from an earlier post. I think his name is Nick. Anyway, he shouted as we passed, "Hey, Do I know you from up north at the Woodlands? Keep it up!!!" I appreciated that. I'll bet I was the last 300+ lb'er he expected to see out in no man's land.
Although this was unchartered territory for me, I did recognize parts of the course. One stretch in particular was part of the Buffalo Wallow 6K Cross Country race, the last race I ran before falling completely out of running and having surgery on my ankle. Well, there I was, kind of back where I left off. Also, I believe I ran part of the HARRA Cross Country Relay course on the calendar for Sept. 30. I think they already had the course marked and it looked like there was a group either running the course or starting to work on the event. Anyway, there was a fairly large group gathered at the start, either getting ready to do something or wrapping it up.
The uneven surface and hills pretty much did me in. I walked a lot up Memorial once I got past the Starbuck's water fountain. I really had no idea if I had gone 9 miles or 7 or 10 or what. My wind was there and my muscles were just sore and tired but my bones and mind were taking a beating. I think it was mostly my mind. I just could not find anything else to think about, no more songs to sing, and regretfully, no more prayers to pray. Here's wher running with someone would have paid off big time for me. Doug, where were you? I know I had more in me though because after I crossed Memorial, back onto the granite Memorial Loop trail, I ran pretty well. After about .7 miles, I was done though and I walked the rest of the way to the car. Of course I stopped at the shower and to sit down for a few minutes first. I had no idea if I made it or not. No idea how far I went, what my pace was. Who cares, right? When I got home and mapped the course, I found it was 9.396 miles plus the walk to the car (doesn't count). So, that's a new lifetime distance PR for me. I did 9 back in 2004 before the Houston Press 5K.
I still have a lot of doubts about the upcoming months. But, I'm just going to keep on digging. As these runs get longer, I'm going to have to find a partner to run with. I've gone it alone up until now but running 3, 4, 5+ hours straight by myself is going to take some mental fortitude and I don't think I'm that strong mentally.