Sunday, January 29, 2006

Quote of the Week

"The trouble with jogging is that the ice falls out of your glass." - Martin Mull

2006 Chevron Houston Marathon

This was my first marathon, and though my training and taper hadn't gone as well as I'd hoped (injury, sickness, laziness), I was still hoping to come in under four hours. My running partner had put in more miles than me, but I was running significantly faster than him in training, so we thought we would finish together. The plan was to stay at 9:00 pace until 20 or 21, then make a decision to run a negative or even split to the finish. I'd found that I could hold that pace comfortably for miles, so I thought I had a very good chance of feeling good with 10K to go.

We started off in a huge crowd just as the sun came up. The first couple of miles took us through a run-down part of town, but by mile 5 we had entered the Heights, a nice old, restored neighborhood. My legs finally loosened up about the same time the traffic thinned out a little. Our 6 mile split was terrible, but we were both feeling good and we increased the pace gradually as we headed south into midtown. The crowds were bigger than I expected, and very loud. It definitely made the time pass quickly as we ticked off the miles. Before I knew it I looked at my watch and realized we had been running for an hour and a half.

As previously agreed we both ran through the water stops and quickly discovered the finer points of the pinch-and-drink method. I was going to bring a straw, but forgot in the pre-race excitement.

Around mile 12 I was beginning to feel a little winded, and realized why when we crossed the half-way mark: we had burned about 2.5 minutes in the last few miles, putting us 10 seconds ahead of schedule! By now i'd eaten my second Gu gel, but hadn't really noticed an effect. Bryan said his legs didn't feel good, but we continued running exactly 9:08 pace as we neared one of the only major hills on the course at Westpark. At the top of the hill we saw a woman with blood coming from the side of her head, and she was looking at her knee and arm. Someone (husband?) was next to her, helping her walk and looking at her injuries. An HPD officer drove to the top of the hill as we were coming down, so I assume she got medical attention soon after we saw her. I'm not sure why she fell, but hopefully she's ok.

We continued the outbound portion of the loop as the sun came out, making it feel warmer than it already was. A race volunteer had a sign that said "Conditions Optimal: Run Your Planned Pace", but I think they were full of it. We crossed the 18.6 mile timing mat at exactly the same pace we were on at 13.1, down to the second. I ate another Gu and hoped for a big boost. By now the winded feeling had left me but my legs weren't doing so well. Bryan was in good spirits though, and we continued at our rock-steady 9:08 pace.

Around mile 20 I felt the strong twinge of a cramp in my calf. We slowed slightly for 30 seconds to see if it would get worse, but it didn't and we got back on pace. I could only hold on for another minute or two though before I decided to stop and stretch my calves. After a quick stretch I increased my pace slightly to catch Bryan, but I was feeling worse with every passing minute. I ate a Gu without water (between aid stations) in the hopes the cramps would stay away. I decided to walk for 30 seconds to see if I would feel better, but I actually felt worse walking than I did running. I started running again, but by now I was 3-4 minutes off the pace and fading. At this point I realized I probably couldn't make 4 hours, but I continued to push as hard as I could.

I ran the last 4 miles in pain, knowing that I wouldn't make my 4-hour goal, and knowing that it was my fault for not having trained enough. There are some very small rises and dips the last few miles, but at this point they all felt like mountains. I walked through the last water station and gulped down two cups of Gatorade, and grabbed a third for the road. I felt terrible, and I think it was a little late for the Gatorade to really help matters. I stopped to walk and stretch my calves a couple more times, and think I'd still be there if the spectators hadn't cheered me on to keep running. Ethan, meet the Wall. The Wall, meet Ethan.

I ran the last mile through downtown Houston as fast as I could, determined not to stop again until I had crossed the finish line. The crowds here were loud, and running in the street between the buildings was fun. I crossed the finish at 4:11:33 (chip time) feeling like I was going to keel over and die, but still managed a weak smile for my brother's camera when he suddenly appeared and yelled my name. My finish line photo shows the real story though, as I completely forgot to smile as I crossed the line.

I later found Bryan and discovered that he'd dropped off the pace at 23 miles, finishing in 4:04. We were both very disappointed that we didn't make sub-4, but we both agreed that neither of us had really trained properly for that pace, and the warmer-than-usual temperature didn't help matters.

I was extremely sore for a couple of days, enough that rolling over in bed would wake me up. Despite all the reasons not to, I'm already eyeing the inaugural Marathon De Mayo this May in Reno. I doubt I can better my time at that altitude, but I can always give it a shot this fall at another marathon. Chicago?

I think I'm addicted :)

Mile Split Pace Predicted Finish