Houston Half Marathon 2014 Recap!

Here we are on January 20th and my second half-marathon is officially one for the (personal) record books! I am seriously still basking in the afterglow of an AMAZING weekend of running. I run for the glory of God and it’s He who makes it possible, but I can’t help feeling darn proud of what I accomplished yesterday.

I am a very social runner, so when my Katy Fit friends all decided to run the ABB 5k the day before the Houston Half, I gladly signed up. The whole point is to get three medals! I’m all about the bling, baby.

So on Saturday morning I woke up before the crack of dawn and drove downtown with my awesome friend Monica and her friend, Jody. It was chilly! We met up with lots of other friends and took off down the streets. I was pretty concerned about wearing myself out before the half marathon so I let Monica and Jody leave me in the dust. But then I ended up leaving my friend John in the dust and eventually I caught up to Walter and Robin. I ran faster than I really wanted to, given my goal of NOT overdoing it.

Katy TX Moms Run This Town
Katy Moms Run This Town
ABB 5k Houston
My BRFF Monica
ABB 5k
Lin, John and III freezing on Discovery Green.
Houston ABB 5k
Walter and I ready to 5k it.

I realized later that I don’t think I have ever actually run a 5k race before. So my time of 37:48 is a PR. That’s 12:10 min/mile while doing 5:1 run/walk intervals. A few friends made comments on my time being fast (for me). Not my intention. Then Monica and Jody and I walked the marathon expo and picked up our half marathon packets. I bought sunglasses for running and shoe charms. By the time we left my legs were officially tired.

I tried to nap when I got home but it was restless and filled with the sounds of two boys and one husband playing Minecraft right outside my bedroom door. I insisted on my favorite meal, Pei Wei kung pow chicken and brown rice, for dinner. I figured that should be the right balance of low fat carbs and protein to not cause any last minute G.I. distress. Turns out I was right.

I finally fell asleep around 9:15 and slept soundly until 2:55 am when I woke and couldn’t fall back asleep before my 3:30 alarm. So I got an early start on trying to make 100% sure every drop of liquid was out of my bladder before the race. I did NOT want to lose time at the port-o-potties. I really would not have been nervous AT ALL before this race, except for the fact that I set a rather ambitious “A” time goal for myself: 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Last year for my very first half marathon I ran 3:1 intervals and finished in 2:55:32 in freezing cold, sideways rain. My “B” goal would be to beat that. My “A” goal was 2:45 which would be about 12:34 min/mile. With 5:1 intervals I figured I’d need to run about 12:05 min/mile. That’s not impossible, but significantly faster than ANY of my very long runs this training season. So this self-imposed pressure made me jittery. What if I went out too fast and bonked? What if I had to waste five minutes waiting in line at a potty?

Thankfully, my friend Walter had the same goal and as luck would have it, he had a friend who was an official pace-setter for the Dallas marathon coming to run Houston with him. I knew I could just do my best to stick with them and if it didn’t work out, it would still be fun.

Before the race with Tanya.
Before the race with Tanya.
So proud of Cintia for tackling her first full marathon!
So proud of Cintia for tackling her first full marathon!

The weather could not have been more perfect. The new course was absolutely amazing.  The crowds of spectators were phenomenal. It was one hundred times better than last year in every way possible for me. I was smiling while bopping to the music in corral D and I smiled ear to ear as I crossed that start line.

At the start in Corral D with Kevin and Stella running their first half marathons!
At the start in Corral D with Kevin and Stella running their first half marathons!

I smiled all the way down Washington Avenue, running with my friends Kevin and Angela who were both doing their first half. I passed Catalina Coffee, a wonderful little java spot I’ve been to before. Scene of my friend Ryan’s amazing Serial Box video of David Ramirez. I yelled and waved as I ran passed my friend Brent Torrey who was coaching a high school student with Katy Students Run. I saw the abc13 news van and spotted the camera man in the middle of the road, so I made a BIG scene for the camera, waving and grinning as big as I could. I’m a dork, what can I say.

As we made a few zig zags and got closer to West Gray, I knew to start looking for my friend Jen Evans among the spectators. Sure enough, just as we rounded the corner I heard her yelling my name, so I threw up my hands and yelled “Hey!” right back. She caught this shot:

My dorky self making a scene on West Gray.
My dorky self making a scene on West Gray.

At this point I was really starting to wonder if we weren’t going a little too fast. Every time I glanced at my watch I saw a pace in the elevens. I was ok, but worried that I would not be able to sustain 11 minute miles for 13.1 miles. According to the pace band tattooed on my arm, we were already a minute or so ahead of where we had to be to hit 2:45. Unfortunately around mile 5, Walter dropped off to use the port-o-potties when the stomach virus he had battled the day before returned with a vengeance. His pace-setting friend, Alyson, kept on trucking so our small band of Katy Fitizens followed her religiously. Kevin surged forward around that time and we never saw him again…he finished nearly twenty minutes ahead of us!

I got a text from Mike telling me that he and the boys were camped out on Kirby at Westheimer waiting for me, which gave me something to look forward to for awhile. I cut through the crowd to the side of the road and high fived my smiling little boys. I was so intensely grateful that my family cared enough to come out and support me. I bragged about it quite a bit to anyone who would listen around me.

Passing under highway 59 was something of a milestone marker for me…it meant we were halfway home and turning back in the direction of the finish. The smoke from the bbq pit at  Goode’s made me gag. I carried three bottles of water on my belt and never stopped for any extra water along the race. It turned out to be exactly the right amount. I consumed three Accel Gels in strawberry kiwi, one before we started and two mid-course. Definitely better than the sport beans I tried using last year.

I LOVED running down Bissonet in Southhampton. The crowds were out in force and the streets are lined with live oaks on both sides. After the marathoners split off we turned up Montrose…it was fun running the bridge over highway 59. There were several bands along this part of the route and tons of fun signs. I saw my family and a friend again at Richmond Ave, but started to get a little more tired as Montrose seemed to continue on forever. I knew we were on pace to hit 2:45 with plenty of buffer so I was tempted to slow down a bit, but I stuck to Alyson like glue. Sometimes a bit ahead of her, sometimes a bit behind.

Half-marathon Houston
Mike captured me flying down Montrose in the hot sunshine.

The turn onto Allen Parkway was completely different than how I remember it last year. It is narrow and steep downhill at first, then a long gradual uphill climb into downtown. The road was JAMMED with people screaming my name and making me smile and wave. The sun was shining brightly here and I had to keep my head down a bit and focus more on pushing ahead up the hill. Alyson decided she would extend our walk intervals by 30 seconds because she “hadn’t factored the humidity” into her plan. I was honestly like “what humidity? You call THIS humidity?”  She’s from Dallas, this is Houston. I was barely sweating. I was just remembering how badly I had to pee at this point last year and how happy I was NOT to have to this year. All I remember of Allen Parkway last year is pain…desolate, lonely, bonking. Not this year. The uphill was the hardest part of the race, but I still felt on top of the world.

Then it really hit me as we entered downtown…the crowd noise. It was LOUD! I didn’t remember that from last year at all either. The street was crammed with people cheering for us…it was almost embarrassing feeling like the center of all that attention!

Oh and I forgot to mention the whole passing people thing.  For the last three miles of the race, all we did was pass people…lots and lots of people walking. According to my stats I passed 644 runners over the second half of the race. How d’ya like them apples?! I felt strong coming into the finish…tired and ready to be done, but NOT hurting or dying. We slowed a bit and took a few extra seconds of walking and I still CRUSHED my “A” goal time.

2 hours 39 minutes and 5 seconds!!!

That may not seem that fast, but it was a PR of 16:27 minutes for me. I beat a ton of my friends that I never would have expected to. I am sailing on that time. Never in a million years expected that. Now I know I am capable of so much more than I thought I was.

Ok so, here are a few more photos.

We're done!!
We’re done!!
Lora and I showing off our medals.
Lora and I showing off our medals.
Kandi, Julie, me, Sarah, Angela and Alyson our awesome pace-setter.
Kandi, Julie, me, Sarah, Angela and Alyson our awesome pace-setter.

I just want to say how grateful I am to God for giving me a body that can run, for my family for supporting me, and for my Katy Fit friends and coaches who journeyed with me this year. Here’s to taking on huge challenges in 2014!

Punching Fear In The Face, While Running

This is me at mile ten of the 2013 Houston Half Marathon, high fiving my kid.

This past weekend I got nervous. I started to feel an undercurrent of anxiety on Friday that increased to a more noticeable level Saturday evening. I attended a conference here in Houston all day Friday and Saturday called Empowered to Connect, about parenting kids from “hard places”, meaning adopted and foster kids. But that wasn’t what made me nervous at all, that was encouraging and exceptionally helpful.

Why was I nervous? Because my marathon training schedule called for me to run ten miles that weekend and I couldn’t do it with my usual group at my usual time due to the conference. I asked around to see if someone would run with me on Sunday at 5am, but so far I had no takers. I was facing the prospect of running all ten miles alone.

Nevermind the fact that I’ve done exactly that before. Last year during training I had to run one ten mile run on my own, in my own neighborhood. I got it done and felt amazing for accomplishing that. But it was cooler weather and I was running during the day. This will be at 5am, in the dark, at 80 degrees and 95% humidity (as it is every day before dawn, at which time it heats up to 95 degrees).

Nevermind the fact that I ran 9.5 miles just two weeks ago. Forget the fact that I ran ten miles or more MANY times last training season. Forget that I ran my fastest 10k ever last weekend and a very fast (for me) tempo run just a few days ago. Suddenly all my progress was being drowned out by one voice in my head: fear.

I kept thinking of ways to get out of doing this run. I kept thinking maybe I’d just end up cutting it short. I was afraid I’d be late for church. But I knew that Sunday morning was the only time I’d realistically be able to get it done, alone or not. I knew the following weekend I had a conference again and the week after that is my ten mile race.

So how did I drive back the voices of fear and doubt? Well, first I took some necessary baby steps. I skipped the alcohol the night before. I reluctantly filled my water bottles and popped them in the fridge and freezer. I set out my hydration belt, my headlamp, my Garmin, my oatmeal for breakfast, my running shoes and clothes. I forced myself to go to bed at 9:30, and I set my alarm for 4am.

So when that alarm went off? I knew it was time to run. Luckily a friend of mine, Carla, was also running ten miles at 5am with her much speedier running partners, so I chose to at least start with them. When I arrived Carla asked if I wanted her to run with me. I knew she was used to going faster and I told her I’d be doing 5:1 intervals and left the choice up to her. She said she’d start with me and see how it went.

ten mile run in cinco ranch

We started off faster than I normally would for such a long run, and I worried I might pay for it later. Her running friends took off and were out of sight pretty quickly, but Carla stayed with me. We had plenty to talk about and I didn’t even listen to my music. I kept my pace strong and she did my intervals with me. Five miles clicked by like it was nothing. We tried to stop at McD’s for me to use the bathroom but it wasn’t open yet, so we backtracked a little to Denny’s. I noticed her breathing harder than I was, but she didn’t seem to be struggling too much. I tried a new kind of gel, which wasn’t bad but made my hands incredibly sticky. She didn’t use any nutrition.

At about eight miles I noticed I was pulling ahead of her just a bit so I backed off our pace a tiny bit. She wasn’t carrying much water so we stopped at a gas station and bought some more. For the last two miles she struggled but I still felt amazingly strong. I talked her ear off and slowed up a bit, and when we hit ten miles she was done even though we weren’t back to our cars yet so we just walked the rest of the way.

I am SO glad she ran with me. It might have been completely different if I’d been alone, but it ended up being one of my best runs yet. All the training I’ve been doing paid off in spades. Having someone to talk to makes all the difference in the world for me. But if I hadn’t fought back the voice of fear, I never would have even showed up and I never would have experienced the huge surge of energy and accomplishment I felt that lasted the entire day.

So don’t listen to those voices of fear in your head! Punch fear in the face and just do it!