How fast is this course? This morning, the winner of the half marathon (which shares most of the same course) ran a 59:41. For comparison, I was approaching M7 when the guy finished 13.1.
Last weekend, I did Disney's Goofy. My 1:48 half was alright, but I lost my duel in the sun with Mickey during the following day's full - 4:40.
This weekend's race was Houston. I last ran Houston in 2004, and pulled a 4:03 at a time when most of my races were closer to 4:20. It was a great day and, yes, this is a fast course.
The weather was predicted to be cool at the start, but to progressively decline during the race as a front moved through. So I dressed for the front... and it didn't materialize. The weather remained foggy, overcast, and 52ish for the whole race. Pretty much perfect, except for the high humidity.
My goal was originally 3:40-3:46. However, December was a bad month and I adjusted my goal to "around 4" (though secretly, I wanted something better than that 4:03 from 2004). After the beating that Mickey gave me, I knew this would be difficult... but marathons aren't easy.
The race started at 7a. 6:45a found me trying to navigate unclimbable fences and a sea of people to get to the red corral. Made it with a couple minutes to spare. They didn't do this corraling back in 2004, and I'm glad they do it now. Very crowded start anyway, and I almost didn't make it.
At 6:59, the cannon fired and BOOM we were off. Sort of. Almost two minutes later, I made it over the mat. And my first observation about this course completely changes what I've been telling everyone. I have consistently told people to come run Houston because it is very flat. And it mostly is... but pancake flat it ain't. In fact, the first 1.5 miles are basically uphill. Gentle, but that's a long hill to travel in a moving sardine can. We ran through some neighborhoods in the early miles that aren't high class, but they are really interesting in their own way.
"Around 4". I decided to run as evenly as I could today, since (I thought) the course was flat... so 9:10ish miles. My first 6 miles: 9:35 (uphill, sardine), 9:18, 9:10, 9:23, 8:59, 9:06.
The half marathon starts at the same time... but in a different place. The courses merge at M2 and the race would stay packed until the halfers peeled off at M9. Actually, it stayed fairly crowded until M20 or thereabouts.
Around M5, I met a faster Maniac, Dave. We ran for a couple miles until I had to do the potty thing. That would be the last I'd see of Dave. Dave's not here, maaan.
At M10, we approached a church ringing its bells. There's something enormously cool and inspiring about church bells in a race. The BEST bell is at M25 of Twin Cities. It's a serious BONG (no, not that kind). These bells weren't that earthshaking, but they were cool. And in front of the church? Dudes slinging (holy?) water on us with branches. And then... people giving communion. You could take your wafer on the fly, just like a water stop.
Body of Christ? Hmm. Never had that during a race. I barely tolerate Gu. So. "Don't try anything new on race day." No Body for me.
Right after, we turned off for a brief trip through Rice University. Unfortunately, it was so foggy that I didn't see much.
M7-13: 9:35 (potty), 8:50, 8:57, 8:48, 8:52, 8:57, 8:58... a little faster than I wanted overall, but I made up for the brief stop.
Then we headed up towards the Galleria and beyond... around M18, we made the big turn towards the parks... a straight shot to downtown and the finish. No view of downtown, though. Fog.
M14-20: 9:05, 8:53, 8:55, 8:59, 9:09, 9:13, 9:06
Two things happened at M20. The course started rolling. No big hills, but as I noted before, certainly not pancake flat either. Also, lots of runners started slowing down, doing the hands-on-hips thing.
I hit M20 at 3:01:55. Now, I usually know that if I hit M20 by 3 hours, I'll beat 4. Being two minutes over meant that I'd have to focus a little more, but it was still possible. Except that I was one of those runners feeling the urge to slow down and put my hands on my hips.
I also learned at M22 that although Hammer Gel is my fuel of choice, the tropical flavor is completely nasty.
I ran next to a guy and a gal during the last miles... their shirts let everyone know that this was the first marathon they were running together... and that they were just recently married. Cool.
I also ran next to That Guy. He was wearing headphones and weaving around getting in people's way. Sometimes he'd scream out random lyrics. Every few minutes, he'd just scream. AAAAAAAAA! Like the annoying guy in the weight room. Uncool.
We hit downtown proper in the middle of M24. A spectator said "when you turn the corner, you'll be at mile 25!" Not unless I was running a 5 minute mile. We did turn the corner, we did run a little further, and M24 became M25. Nice straight shot to the finish... although again because of the fog, it was hard to see.
M21-26.2: 9:12, 9:15 (focus, dammit), 9:06, 9:29 (uh oh), 9:40 (double uh oh), 8:46, 1:40.
As I approached the finish, I thought I recognized the announcer's voice. He was standing in the finishing chutes (as opposed to up high). Sure enough, it was the announcer from the Maui and Kona Marathons. In Houston! I know this guy!
Big shaka, and a scream of KOOOOOOONAAAAAA as I crossed the finish.
That's "around 4". And better than 4:03.
The line for food was long, but the food was good. Nice medal, extra shirt (two total), and a glass mug.
Not as "fun" a race as Disney, but much more of a "race". Hopefully next year, I'll feel more like I am racing.
And the dude ran a 59:41.