This morning I ran my 7th Houston Half Marathon!
I said a few days ago that while I didn’t expect to PR, I did expect to beat 2:15 and set a new PR for this particular race. Sadly that was not to be, and I finished in 2:21:40. I’m not really disappointed though. There were a number of factors working against me and in the end, it just wasn’t my best day. (This really underscores for me how everything came together JUST right at RunGirl to enable my awesome PR.)
I also mentioned that my training has not been very good in the past month. That was definitely a factor slowing me down today, but on top of that, the following things conspired against me:
First, my stomach was NOT a happy camper this morning. I think it actually started yesterday when I ate way too much for lunch. I had room service ravioli for dinner last night (we stayed at the Hilton; I love the mini-vacation) which was actually pretty good. When I got up this morning, I drank some water, ate a banana and then ate a Clif Bar. I ate a Clif Bar before RunGirl too, but somehow this one just did NOT sit well. I could feel it in my stomach and had some weird heartburn-like stuff going on. For the first half of the race, I struggled with some mild nausea. I debated whether to eat my first gel as planned at mile 5, and decided to eat half of it. That actually helped — by the time we hit mile 7, the nausea had faded and I felt a lot better.
Second, the weather was icky. Now, it could have been a LOT worse — as late as 10:00 last night when I went to bed, the weather service was predicting thunderstorms from 7:00-9:00 this morning. Jose and I spent time coming up with backup plans in case the race was delayed, or had to be suspended. In the end, the weather pulled its typical “I’m unpredictable” routine. The temperature was in the mid-60s (which is about 20 degrees warmer than ideal) and the humidity was through the roof (90%). We got rained on from around mile 4 until mile 10 or so; I was soaked from head to toe by the finish but fortunately escaped any blisters. But at least we got to run, and there weren’t any thunderstorms! Yay!
Finally, the crowds. Ugh, the crowds! This race has gotten bigger since I first starting running it in 2004, and while I’m happy that we have such a popular local race, the crowd of runners — especially in the last 2 years — is starting to get out of control. Congestion used to be a problem primarily in the first couple miles as everyone is squeezed onto the viaduct. This year, I felt crowded pretty much the entire race. For the first 4-5 miles, we were at the mercy of the crowd — we ran whatever pace they ran. Sure, we did some weaving back and forth, but it was hard to make any real headway. And running the tangents? Forget it. Impossible.
In the middle miles, people started to spread out and things were easier, but I can’t even count the number of times I had to swerve around people who were running slower or walking. I even got slowed down in the last mile when the road narrowed and everyone got smushed together. In the last mile! And on the finishing stretch, someone stopped right in front of me to walk — with less than 500 feet to go! Next year I either need to get into the first wave or head to the start area VERY early to make sure I’m at the front of the second wave. I think it’s time for the race to add a couple more waves to alleviate some of the congestion.
My splits are evidence of the crowds because they are ALL over the map: 11:52, 10:15, 11:05, 10:40, 10:29, 11:16, 10:59, 10:25, 10:47, 10:22, 10:44, 11:01, 10:47, and 0:59 for the last tenth. My Garmin went crazy as soon as we entered downtown and actually ended up measuring 14+ miles, but those splits are based on the mile markers. The only weird one is the second mile but I know I hit the lap button late at mile 1. Mile 1 was probably more like 11:20 and mile 2 something like 10:50.
But despite all my whining, it was still a fun day. I started the race with Kelly and Melissa and we ran the first four miles together. When there was finally room to maneuver, Melissa started pulling ahead and we let her go. Kelly had thought about stopping at mile 6 because she’s been having knee trouble, but she decided to keep going. I was happy she did so I still had someone to run with! We ran together until the “1.5 miles to go” sign, at which point I told Kelly to go ahead if she wanted to try to finish under 2:20. My watch read 2:06 and I knew I wouldn’t quite make it based on how my legs were feeling. She ended up finishing just under a minute ahead of me, but it was still a PR for her. And Melissa finished in 2:13, which was also a PR!
In the end, I’m glad I ran, and I’m also glad I had such an awesome race at RunGirl. Even if my training had been up to snuff, I wouldn’t have set any PRs today. But I’d really like to notch another half marathon in the 2:10-2:15 range this season just so my RunGirl time doesn’t look like a complete fluke!! Depending on how my upcoming training goes, I’m toying with the idea of running the Galveston Mardi Gras Half Marathon on February 20. It’ll be a much smaller race so the crowds won’t be an issue. There’s also the Seabrook Lucky Trails Half in March. We’ll see.