Race time!!! The time FLEW by while we were waiting for the start and I was so glad that we got to the start village as early as we did. I have no idea how it went for the rest of the masses trying to get over there but my experience was stellar. I did hear that there were long lines at the shuttles but it's hard to make any judgments about the process since my experience was so good. I understood that last year was a fiasco as shuttles were still arriving 1 hour after the start of the race. I don't think that was the case this year. So if you had to wait in a long line, I think that's just the nature of running in a BIG race. If you want to park a block from the start so you can sleep in, pick another race. Or register as an elite and get escorted to the start. That may be hard.
About the only think I did differently on this run was take Endurolytes before and during the race. I really have no idea how to take these and with what frequency. I figured I'd play around with them. I took two before the race and two caps at two points during the race. More on this later.
I hit the port-a-can shortly after arriving and then again just as the lines were forming. By that time, it was starting to get light out and we were starting to see LOTS more people milling about. Even though I was starting to get excited, I tried to just calm down, relax, stay off my feet, and basically chill up until time to enter the corral. Fortunately, all the corral entrances were from the side and you could enter and exit at will. It's not like some corral starts that I've heard of where you have to enter through barriers from the rear and once you're in, you're in. In no real hurry to get in the corral, we kept our spot on the curb until we just couldn't stand it anymore. Catherine went her way and Amber and I headed over to the UPS bag drop-off trucks. Bag drop-off was very well organized. There was no wait, and it was very clear where to leave your bag. Oh, and another thing. I forgot two very important pieces of equipment, band-aids for the nips. I was really fretting about this and then I had a brilliant idea. Two words...Medical Tent. I walked up. They were eager to help me. I asked for two band-aids and the volunteer obliged. This was turning out to be a perfect day...
...Except for the weather. By 30 minutes before start, it was already in the upper 60's and quite humid. I definitely resigned myself to the fact that today was going to suck weather-wise and that no records were going to be broken. For a number of reasons including my inconsistent training in October as well as the warm and humid conditions, I knew I would get nowhere near my PR. But it is a RACE. And I don't treat races like training runs. I treat them like RACES!!! So, I reviewed in my mind what would be a reasonable expectation for a finishing time. I landed on anything under 3 hours. That's 13:45 pace for 13.1 miles.
Before we got in the corral there was enough time for another potty break. Plus, we heard the Houston Fit Fall folks were over on the baseball diamond so we went over there to wish all those peeps good luck. Elisa was being a good girl and was off her feet, getting ready for her marathon debut. Alan, Doreen, Anna, K, and a bunch of others were chillaxin' so we all did some trash talking and took some pictures and that was that.
We were still strolling around when we heard the gun sound. No hurry!!! It was another 40+ minutes before we would start and the corrals were such that you could go in and out at any time. I got a bottle of water to down my Endurolytes and we jumped in our corral. Luckily as our corral moved up, all along the starting line, there were rows of port-a-cans. Believe it or not, I had to go 3 times over the next 40 minutes before we got to the start line. I can't know for sure if it was possibly the Endurolytes or if I drank too much sitting around before the race or some combination of the two but I've never had to go so many times before a race. I'm so glad they had the potty's along the way to the start. And there were no lines at these potty's so it was a very quick jump out, do your thing, and jump back in.
The start was GREAT. I thought it would be crowded but they let a minute or so lapse between corrals and it spread people out. I never at any time felt crowded or jammed up. Of couse at some of the turns, EVERYONE wants to take the shortest route but I kind of just picked my line got through. Amber and I were running together and had little trouble running side by side. When it was time to pass, we just took turns taking the lead through the gaps.
I took it real easy on miles 1 and 2 and still managed right at my goal pace, 13:42 and 13:41 respectively according to the Garmin. After getting warmed up, 13:13 and 13:26 min/mi pace felt really easy for miles 3 and 4. I lost about a minute and a half on mile 5 due to another required restroom stop. The port-a-potty's on the course ALL had lines so I scoped out an opportune place to duck behind an abandoned building, out of sight of course and took care of business. Also, before finishing mile 5, one of the GREATEST cheering sections of all times was positioned on the sidelines. Evidently, one of the local nursing homes brought out around 20 or so of their residents and they were on the sidelines cheering us on. It was such an inspiration to me that just about EVERY runner stopped their run, came over to the side and for a brief moment, in such a small way, touched the lives of those sweet souls. You should have seen the smiles on their faces. The fact is they touched MY life even more. I fought back a few tears as I crossed the 5 mile mark in 15:07.
Mile 6 was 13:10. There was a pretty nice, gradual hill in mile 7 and I decided to walk up it instead of burning out which resulted in a 14:24. When I got back to level ground, I knocked out a 13:24. I was feeling a little fatigued but stayed strong through mile 9. I ended up seeing Jan and stopped for a smooch and some chit chat and lost a little under a minute on my target pace but no worries. At around mile 10, I started walking some and shortly after that, pretty much lost it. I got nauseated at a water stop and wondered if it was from the Endurolytes back at mile 7 or what.
Once I realized sub-3 was out of reach, I kind of lost it mentally. Don't get me wrong. I was going hard and I DID leave it all out there but it was tough mentally. I have to admit there were a lot of negative thoughts swirling around in there. The last couple of miles, I did play the "I'm running to that stop light" game and I did make it to every waypoint as I promised myself. Miles 11 and 12 were in the 16's but I dug deep and picked up my pace a full minute for mile 13 and ended my finished the last stretch (.1) at around 14:30 pace. My finish time was 3:12:18.
There was a lot to take in at the finish. I almost walked past my medal. My legs were really cramping and my right let was twitching and cramping. I got my medal and a COLD towel and proceeded with the rest of traffic into the finish line area. There was really a ton of food, everything you could possibly want but I was feeling like crap. I managed to smile for our picture but that was it. I walked past ALL the goodies and was just looking for a place to sit down. They didn't want us sitting down until we got through the food area so I kept moving. I did come across what sounded good to me and that was chocolate milk. I grabbed a bottle and it was good. Could have been colder. All I could think about now was walking back to the hotel and how hard that was going to be.
Amber and I got our bags and I cop'd a squat for a few. I got up and headed toward the exit. Unfortunately, we had to go DOWN 2 flights of stairs and then back UP two flights of stairs to get out of the Alamodome complex. My right let was really cramping up. If it wasn't my calf, it was my shin. It really hurt. Good thing is I actually loosened up a little once we got onto Market St. and started the walk back to the hotel. I made it back to the hotel and was never happier to have a place to SIT down than when I got to the room. It was HEAVENLY.
The only thing left in this report is Lessons Learned...stay tuned.