This post is just a brief summary of my individual race– I’m going to put my thoughts on the race itself and random logistics in another post after I’ve had time to rest up more 🙂
The week before the race I read this post on Texas Running Post. To summarize, the post (which was written by a coach) lists ways to deal with racing in sub-optimal conditions along with some general marathon tips. She describes two runners who ran the Dallas Marathon a couple years ago in similar conditions as this year’s Houston Marathon. One (Mark) stuck to original marathon goal pace, then crashed and burned at mile 9. The other (Shannon) ran a relaxed race and finished strong.
My attitude going into this race was that I wanted to be run like Shannon (albeit much slower). Even though I was consistently hitting 8:10-8:30 pace during my tempos and “fast finish” long runs– including workouts done in 60-70 degree temperatures like the race day forecast– I am not accustomed to running in incredibly high humidity. And, since this was my first marathon, I was also not very accustomed to running 26.2 miles! I felt like I put too much time and effort into my training only to fall apart mid-race because I started too fast and didn’t respect the distance and conditions. So that’s how my marathon pace went from “8:10 to 8:30” to 8:56.
I started with the 4 hour pace group and felt like I was already having to do some work. I could feel sweat dripping down my face before we even hit mile 1. This did not bode well, so at this point I gave myself permission to slow down if needed. Except, as usually happens, I started to settle into my pace after about 3 miles.
Eventually I found myself in front of the 4:00 pace group. I felt OK running 9:00 minute miles or slightly faster, so I decided to stick with that pace and hopefully end up with a sub-4:00 finish. I felt really good around the halfway point and dropped an 8:50 mile.
After the first 13.1 my master plan was to maintain my 9:00ish minute miles until mile 20, and then pick it up and maybe finish sub-3:55. There wasn’t really anything notable about miles 14-20 except that I passed one of the 3:40 pacers…because he was walking and had a medic on either side of him. Did I mention that the conditions were pretty dreadful?!
My rough goal here was to ease down to 8:45 for 5K and then 8:30 for the last 5K. Instead I ended up running two miles in the 8:30s, slowed to 8:40s for 3 miles, and then ran mile 26 in 8:29. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, it was really important to me to get through the whole race and finish strong, so I’m really pleased that I was able to rally at the end. Mile 26 was my fastest mile!
Here are the Garmin splits, which were definitely off from the course mile markers because I did a ton of weaving during the first few miles trying to stay with the pace group.
And here are the official results:
I should mention that I drank what seemed like an absurd amount of water during this race. I started with a 23 oz water bottle I’d picked up at HEB the day before. I’d planned to use that exclusively until mile 8 or so when the half marathoners split off and the water stations got less crowded. But then as soon as the race started I felt myself sweating a lot and getting thirsty. So I started grabbing a cup of water at every water stop and used my water bottle when I took a gel. (I’ve learned during marathon training that I need to drink a lot of water if I’m going to ingest more than two gels over the course of a run.) And then around mile 16 my water bottle started to feel frighteningly light, so I grabbed two cups at each water stop. Around mile 23 I finally felt okay to ditch the water bottle and rely only on the water stops. However, right after the last water stop at mile 24 I started to feel really thirsty again. Fortunately, there was one more medical tent at mile 25 where I was able to grab a water bottle (which I carried to the finish line and then the post-race area). That was really the only spot in the race where I felt bad. When I stopped running for about 2 seconds (so the medic could hand me the water bottle) I got a serious cramp in my left hamstring!
Anyway, it cracks me up that the few race pictures currently available show me carrying a gel in one hand and a water bottle and empty cup in the other hand. That was pretty much how I looked for the entire race!