Tuesday, January 27, 2009

2009 Houston Marathon

I ran the Houston Marathon yesterday for the third time. I trained using Pfitz 18/55, and did a pretty good job of hitting all the big runs, though I missed one 18-miler and didn’t follow all of the pace advice for the runs, which is a mistake I will not repeat. My goal was to break 4 hours, and it looked like I had a very good chance given the two half-marathons and 10K I ran in the months leading up to the race. I felt good and was injury free until the last long run, when I both knees developed a slight case of tendinitis. They gradually got better during the taper, but I was forced to cut the mileage almost in half during those weeks.

I arrived at George R. Brown about an hour early with my fiancee and her friend. I felt great, my knees miraculously felt normal again, and I was ready to go. The temperature was 59F with 88% humidity. Not bad, but definitely warmer than I prefer. I lined up near the front of the second wave and waited impatiently for the 10-minute delayed start.

The first 10 miles flew by. My legs were tight for the first 3-4 miles, and I made a very fast opportunistic pit-stop at mile 2. The crowds seemed less dense than previous years, so I was able to hold a decent pace without weaving. I ran mile 3 with the 4-hour pace team. I wasn't sure who’s mistake it was, but we were going way too fast so I dropped back to my original pace once I realized the error. I verified later on the Runner's World Forums that the pacer was trying to make up lost time and ran that mile far too fast. Apparently he had a rough time later in the race and did not finish at 4 hours.

Mile Split Time Ave HR Notes

1 09:02 0:09:02 165

2 09:30 0:18:32 164 Bathroom Break

3 08:29 0:27:02 169 ???

4 09:12 0:36:14 166

5 09:02 0:45:16 168

6 09:01 0:54:18 166

7 09:03 1:03:21 165

8 09:03 1:12:25 165

9 09:18 1:21:43 163

10 08:57 1:30:41 166 Ate a Gu somewhere around here, was hungry

I was still feeling great as I started the second 10 miles of the race. My pace varied a little more than I would have liked, but I was relaxed and the pace didn’t feel too fast. I was drinking a lot of Gatorade and only taking very brief walk breaks at the aid stations. I passed through the half about 2 minutes ahead of 4-hour pace, right on schedule. I felt far stronger at this point in the race than I had in either of my previous marathons. The temperature was noticeably higher at about mile 15, though I also noticed that the humidity was dropping significantly. The breeze was not strong enough to be a time factor, though it did help cool everyone down a little. I was still feeling okay as we ran down San Felipe, but just after the turn toward downtown I felt a sudden twinge in my right hamstring. It didn’t cramp, but it wasn’t a good sign. I had serious muscle cramps in my previous marathons, and I was very concerned that I would experience them again. I brought 3 tiny baggies of salt (half potassium salt, half sodium salt in lieu of $20 Xceed pills) and I poured one in a cup of Gatorade at the next aid station and drank it down. I also noticed my quads started feeling tighter at this point, but nothing cramped. My pace had been slipping a little since mile 15, but I managed to get back on track at mile 20, still about a minute ahead of 4-hour pace.

Mile Split Time Ave HR Notes

11 08:52 1:39:33 167

12 09:08 1:48:42 166

13 09:09 1:57:51 166 About 2 minutes ahead of schedule

14 09:00 2:06:52 167

15 09:14 2:16:06 166 Noticeably hotter, though humidity dropping

16 09:20 2:25:27 165

17 09:14 2:34:41 166

18 09:12 2:43:54 167 Ate first salt packet, legs starting to feel like crap

19 09:17 2:53:11 167

20 09:04 3:02:16 170 About 1 minute ahead of schedule

My legs were definitely feeling the miles by now, and at various times I felt different muscles give a pre-cramp twitch, so I ate another salt packet at mile 21. All of my leg muscles were feeling hammered-on at this point, and I had a lot of trouble holding pace on the slight hills as we went past Memorial Park. At mile 22 I pulled a really slow split, and the next one was even worse. I started feeling dehydrated, and the temperature was becoming a slight problem, though the humidity helped offset it somewhat. I was still moving along at a decent pace, and otherwise was in good spirits. My brain wasn’t working well by now and I had a hard time figuring out my current pace/time/finish time so I just kept running at max pace. I really knew I was in trouble when I went well over 10 minutes for the next two miles down Allan Parkway. I was completely incapable of maintaining pace on the hills even though I was running as hard as I could. I also lost a few seconds when I walked through a whole aid station to give myself time to drink 4 or 5 cups of water and Gatorade and ate the last salt packet. I was feeling better as I went under the 1.5 mile-to-go sign, but my pace was still too slow to pick up the lost time. I was passing many other runners that were in way worse shape than me, and the volunteers and spectators helped my mood improve a little. I was in a pretty poor mood as I entered downtown, but when I turned the corner onto Rusk and saw the finish line I felt better. I wondered if I had made a mistake in calculating my pace and thought maybe I could make it. I was going as fast as my legs would go at this point, but still crossed the 4-hour mark while staring at the finish line in the distance. The last few hundred feet went by quickly, and I was extremely thankful to stop moving after I crossed the line. I felt absolutely horrible.

Mile Split Time Ave HR Notes

21 09:12 3:11:28 171 Ate second salt packet, legs REALLY start to feel bad

22 09:30 3:20:59 169

23 09:46 3:30:45 168 Ate third salt packet, legs are shot, feel dehydrated

24 10:25 3:41:11 164 Lost some time walking through a water stop

25 10:29 3:51:40 163

26 09:25 4:01:05 171 Looking at finish in distance as I went through 4 hours

0.2 01:53 4:02:55 174 $#%!

When I hobbled up to get my finisher’s medal, a volunteer asked how I felt and I for a second it looked like she was going to escort me to the medical area, but thankfully she changed her mind and left me alone. I’m happy with the race overall, and though I could have changed a couple of things in hindsight, I don’t know if I could have made up those 3 minutes. Although I missed my 4-hour goal time, I broke my PR by over 8 minutes. My legs feel great, my knees aren’t torn up, and I’m already looking for another marathon for the Spring or the Fall this year. I now have a much better idea of where I made mistakes when I was training. With a little more effort, smarter training, and a few less pounds, I know I can run a lot faster.

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