Today, I completed my first half marathon. Can I just say that again? Today, I completed my first half marathon. I guess it's still sinking in a bit. Last night, late, on my way to bed, I e-mailed coach Steeeve soliciting any last-minute advice on today's half. I did not check my e-mail again until after the race but when I got home, Steeve had responded. His response...
Guess I knew Steeeve would give that advice 'cause that's exactly what I did. I HAD A BLAST!!! Now, don't get me wrong. It was the hardest thing physically I've ever done but thanks to some great friends, an awesome running club, and my wonderful family cheering me on from home, this day gets filed way up at the top with some of the funnest days of my life.
I cannot say enough about how well this race was organized and run. I am so proud of my club, The Houston Striders, the organizers of the event. Barb, you put on a great show. Attention was paid to the smallest detail. Every mile marker had time keepers not only shouting out the clock time but also the pace. There were 2 time keepers at each mile marker. One would shout out the time, the other would shout out the pace. The person shouting out pace would read from a chart after her partner would shout out the time. So, you hear a resounding, "Forty-five, thirty. thirteen, twenty pace." Then 6 seconds later, "forty-five, thirty-six. Thirteen, twenty one pace..." Now, I'm not a very experienced racer but I don't think you get that at many races. There were well-managed water stops every one and a half miles with both gatorade and water, with energy gels at the stops around 8 miles. From the pre-race food to the post-race food to the band, and free massages from Koala Health and Wellness, packet pickup, chip pickup and drop off, results posting at the race, results acually online by midafternoon on race day... The whole thing was remarkable and made for a great experience. I'm so glad that this was my first half marathon. Aramco, you've got your work cut out for you. :) I know that behind the scenes, it must have been a logistical nighmare but Barb and the Striders made it all seamless to us runners. Great job, Striders!!!
I woke up before the alarm this morning, had a decent breakfast, and was out the door. I arrived in plenty time to mill around and visit with friends and talk strategy. It was like everywhere I turned, I saw a familiar face. I won't even attempt to name all the folks because this is going to be long enough. I met June in the parking lot and we picked up our chips. Pit stop and then back over to chip pickup area to meet one of my running partners, JoAnne. JoAnne and I have been doing long runs together. For the race, we agreed we wanted to start together and run a couple of miles together. Jo is an experienced runner and she knew that racing is individual so there was no pressure on either of our parts to stay together the whole race. Jo's normally faster than me so she worked her way up but I kept her in site and we were able to encourage each other at the turn around. Jo really finished strong which was her goal after crashing big time of dehydration on her previous half marathon. Jo ran so smart and patient and tough this morning and my hat is off to her. Way to go, Jo!!!
For the most part, Houston is flat. It hosts one of the fastest full marathons in the country. You really have to know where to go to get in any kind of hill work here in H-town. HOWEVER!!! Allen Parkway is a different story. The trails along Allen Parkway have a few gentle hills along Buffalo Bayou, but for the most part, running on the running trails is pretty easy and flat. But Allen Parkway, the street, has two underpasses between downtown and Shepherd that were killer. And given the fact that the course was 3 loops up and down Allen Parkway (well the first loop was just out Allen Parway and then it diverted south to complete), we encountered one of these underpasses 9 times. WOW!!! Is that right. Yep, one for lap one, then 4 for lap 2 and 4 for lap 3. This couse is not a walk in the park by any stretch, at least for this noobee!!!
My goal was to finish below 3 hours. That's right at 13:44 pace. A few minutes over 3 hours and I would have been ok. 2:50 and I would have retired. :) Glad to have the Garmin with me. Unfortunately, at the halfway point, I wanted to record my lap split but ended up pressing the STOP button. It was some time, maybe 2 or 3 minutes until I realized that I had stopped the clock. So the rest of my splits were off. Still, I continued to use the Garmin to pace myself, even though my miles were off. No matter. Like I said, the course was well marked.
The weather was very nice. Of couse, I'd rather it be in the 30's or 40's but I settled on dry and in the 50's at start. By the end of the race, it was closer to 70 but no humidity to speak of. I started out patiently. My first few miles were:
Mile 1 - 13:42
Mile 2 - 13:42
Mile 3 - 13:44
Mile 4 - 13:44
That was pretty consistent. I was feeling pretty good at this point and came to a place where a lot of people were passing on the other side of Allen Parkway. It was so awesome hearing my name and everybody encouraging each other out there. I swear, if someone wasn't shouting "looking good, Vic" from across the street, then someone was coming from behind (on their 3rd lap) saying "keep it up, Vic." Then, Steve was on the loud speaker around the halfway point and I hear, "...and here comes Vic Kaiser, right on pace for his sub-3 hour half marathon debut." One guy by the name of Dusty, I think, came up beside me and said, "are you Vic? Hello, I'm Dusty. Nice to meet you." It made me wonder if maybe he knew me from reading my blog or from reading an article in our club's newsletter and if just maybe he had ever been encouraged by something he read. I know one thing. It was meant a lot TO ME to meet Dusty and to get some words of encouragement from him. Thanks, Dusty. Anyway, for me this race really wasn't about my effort because I know if it weren't for the encouragement of runners and friends and my familiy, no way would I have been able to finish like I did.
Ok, on to the finish. Like I said, after mile 4, I was feeling pretty good. My next few miles were:
Mile 5 - 13:29
Mile 6 - 13:31
About here is where I screwed up the Garmin. It still recorded some miles they just weren't lined up with the course miles. I recorded a 13:26 and 13:40 next and then a 13:22. About here is where I started into my last loop and hit the first underpass. At this point, I started to feel something that kind of concerned me. My legs were feeling heavy. Now, I've run before with tired legs and with sore legs but never with HEAVY legs. It wasn't too bad but I was starting to feel it, especially after coming up from the underpass. Recorded a 13:59 which was good. I started replaying in my mind the thoughts I've had this week about being tough. To this point, I think I was patient but now was time to get tough
With about 5K left, I felt like the remaining distance would be familiar and manageable in my mind. 3 miles and some change. How many times have I done that? I can do 3 miles and some change. But I must admit, this was the toughest 3 miles I've every done. My legs were really starting to get heavy. I think if it weren't for the Garmin and knowin my actual pace, I would have thought that the effort I was putting forth was cerainly around 13:45 or so. I mean to me, I was picking it up a little and on my way to nailing these last 3 miles and change. But I looked down at my Garmin and it said I was cruising at around 14:05. Then at one time, I walked up the last half of the last underpass and my average pace for that lap jumped up to 14:20. I was realy losing it. So, once I leveled out of that last underpass, with about 1.5 miles to go, I started to concentrate, zone out even. I was running into the sun and it was taking it's toll. My legs reminded me of draggin big trash bags full of wet grass across the yard on a wed summer morning. Somewhere, though, I found a way to stay on pace, even pick it up a little. At about the 13 mile marker, things were a little vague. I heard some voices yelling my name but I did not look up. I don't know who they were but I think they were Striders and June and some of her friends. It's really kind of wierd thinking back on it now. I really don't remember much of that last .1 or .2 miles. I think June came out and ran a few yards with me. I'm not really sure. Some time before, Jon peeled away. He so kindly had run a mile or 2 with me down the home stretch. I don't really remember when he peeled off and let me run on to the finish. I do remember one thing, THAT BROWN MAT!!! It's just silly. I know I was just 100 yards from it but it seemed like it was 500 yards. I just looked at that mat and tried to pick up the garbage bags to make a b-line to the mat. As out of it as I was, I do remember looking down at the Garmin once in that last stretch to see my average pace. It was 13:38. I crossed the mat and everything came back into focus. Then I realized how heavy my legs really were. I made my way over to Lisa who so kindly untied my shoe and took my chip. Then she tied it back. I don't know if all this service was for me or if she was just scared I was going to fall over on top of her. LOL!!! Anyway, Lisa, ur a peach!!! Thanks for helping me out there.
Since my Garmin was so screwed up, I really didn't have a clue as to what my time was. I know the clock said 3:01:something but I didn't know my chip time. After 4 bottles of water, a banana, and a massage, my results were finally posted. Chip time, 2:59:56.3!!!. Can I say that again? Chip time, 2:59:56.3!!! Now, I would not have been down on myself at all for 3:02:00 or 3:05:00 but the 4-second, sub-3 hour half was SWEET!!!
Of course, I've heard others say this same thing. That was so hard and it was just half of a full marathon. How in the world would I possibly be able to do a full in January? Impossible!!! Well, if you asked me back in March if running a half marathon in 13:45 pace was in my future, I'd say you were crazy. Now, I'm starting to feel like a lot of things I never dreamed of may just be possible.