Monday, January 20, 2014

Houston Marathon race recap and FMM: Quick and Easy Questions

Well, I survived.  Marathon number 19? 20? is in the books.  Drove to Houston on Saturday, drove home yesterday.  Ran a marathon in between. 

I finished about 30 minutes slower than I did Berlin less than four months ago, which I think HAS to be some kind of record, particularly since the course in Houston was great and the weather was good (when I ran San Antonio in November, that was more than 45 minutes slower than Berlin, but it was also hot, hot, hot, and I had no intention of running hard even if the weather had been perfect). But given my lackluster month of training lately, I was fine with 30 minutes slower than Berlin. My plan of walking up the hills was a total fail. There just weren't any hills in the first 20 or so miles -- there was one at mile 12, and I walked it. But other than that, I had to just keep running, waiting for another hill. 

Weather before heading to the start (I don't know where Humble is, I swear, I was downtown).  Unfortunately, I didn't capture the screenshot that showed 100% humidity, but it really didn't feel that bad: 

The race itself was great.  The course reminded me of NYC in many ways -- lots of spectators, and very flat until about mile 20, then a few rollers.  Any "rollers" after mile 20 feel like mountains, but in reality, these weren't too bad.  It was a total of 3-4 (plus the 1 at mile 12) overpasses or underpasses.  At one point, it seemed we were running on an actual part of interstate or off-ramp, but instead of being miserable and ugly like San Antonio, it was actually kind of cool.  Overall, I was very impressed with the course and if the timing was different, I could see it being a race I'd run again and again in hopes of a PR -- but the bottom line is that I did not like training in December and January.  It meant my schedule didn't line up with my buddies', and I was driven to the treadmill when I was home and surrounded by many feet of snow.  So we'll see if I ever do it again. 

I ran miles 1-12 all within a 20 second spread (all about 30 seconds slower than Berlin pace).  Then miles 13-18 were all within about a slower 30 second spread (with the fastest being 15 seconds slower than the slowest of miles 1-12).   Miles 19-26 were all even slower, but all within a 60 second spread, but again, even slower -- the fastest of miles 19-26 was still slower than the fastest from 1-18.  By then, the sun was out in full force, and that was tough for me.  I have these mental images of the sun sucking out my energy.  Weather back at the hotel after I finished: 

My critiques of the race: 
  • More porta-potties at the start.  I didn't need to go because I walked right from my hotel, but the lines were bad. 
  • Instruct mile split volunteers to do something else besides calling paces.  Calling paces is probably nice for the first 2 minutes a volunteer sees runners, but after that, it's pointless, none of us started with the gun.  So when I was at mile 2, they were yelling that I was running a 10:13 pace (or whatever), at mile 3 it was down to a 9:48 pace (or whatever).  It was so clearly wrong and seemed to confuse a lot of people who didn't realize they were calling splits from the gun.  But it was funny when I noticed my pace stopped getting faster -- somewhere around mile 16 or 18, I had aligned with the splits they were calling, and then was slowing down. 
  • Close the streets.  Several times, we were running on a road that was 2 lanes each direction, and 1 of them was open, which just seemed to be a mess.  I'm fine with one lane being coned off for race or emergency vehicles, but this was actual traffic -- not a lot, but enough to create some chaos when a car was coming within the first 8 miles when the half and full courses were merged and it was fairly crowded.
  • More corrals at the start.  We were split into 4 (A-D).  One of my favorite things about the RNR races is their many start corrals.  It means when you start, almost everyone around you is running your pace.  While a few more corrals (maybe a total of 8?) would have meant less weaving and maybe less crowded conditions, I was very impressed with how the corrals were handled -- they were enforcing them strictly and I saw several people trying to get into corral A who were turned back. 
  • Sex-specific finisher shirts.  Seriously.  It's not that hard.  I probably won't wear mine because it doesn't fit well. 

But in reality, those are pretty minor things.  The race was very well-done.  Lots of volunteers who were helpful everywhere, on the course, at the expo, in the finisher building.  One of the other good things about the race was that you were funnelled into the convention center after the race.  There was room to stretch, a place to pick up your finisher shirt (and a glass small beer stein-style mug), to get water and bananas and cookies and ice cream, then a separate place for breakfast (all I got was a biscuit because it was eggs, sausage, gravy with meat).  I stayed at a hotel downtown so it was an easy walk for me to and from the expo, to the start line, and then back to my hotel from the finish. 

Nice hotel (Four Seasons Houston):

The best sign I saw along the course was actually a shirt (worn by a guy probably in his 20s), and I could only imagine the conversations and thought processes behind it:  SHOW YOUR LAZY SON HOW IT'S DONE.  A bunch of the spectators were in multiple places (a guy hitting a bell with a stick was in three places), so I hoped I'd see that guy again so I could tell him that I liked it, but I didn't. 

There were a bunch of good signs.  One that made me laugh was "what does the fox say?  Run-run-run, run-run-run-run."  "You might be tired but my arms are exhausted from holding this sign."  "I ran once.  It was horrible."  "You are the best at exercising." -- that one actually made me chuckle for probably a full minute after I passed it.  There were also several "go random stranger, go!" signs that made me laugh, as well as several others I'm not remembering right now.  There was also one particular runner near me for much of the race who was very funny.  Everytime a spectator yelled, "looking good", he'd say "you too" and occasionally ask if they were single. 

At the expo, I waited in line to see my favorite runner ever, Meb.  I told him that I'd met him last year in Dallas, and I wished him luck.  I bought another copy of his book because my copy hadn't been signed, so now I have an autographed copy.  I was so excited when I got back to my hotel to see that he won the US half-marathon championships, with a time of 1:01 and change.  Yes, at age 38, he is still killing it!  He's so amazing and inspirational. 

Here he is, less than 24 hours away from kicking @ss:

After the race, I walked back to the hotel, relaxed a bit, showered, packed up, and then drove back to Dallas.  I was so glad they gave me a late check-out.  Little things that make life SO much easier and better.  Big statue of Sam Houston along 45 on the drive home: 

But now it's Monday, back in Dallas, and back to work.  This week is going to be weird.  Reduced staff and we roll over to a new system, which is probably going to be painful...


If you’ve taken part in FMM then you know the rules. If you’re new, please take a moment to answer this week’s question on your own blog then add your link in the comments section here at: so we can all see your FMM questions and answers. Please invite your blog readers to add their links here too so everyone has to opportunity to be seen. The idea is to connect with other awesome bloggers so take a moment to post your own FMM post and comment on a couple of other posts. Now it’s time for this week’s topic!

Quick and Easy Questions
1. What time did you go to bed last night?  About 8:15.  And I slept until 6:30.  Marathons are exhausting! I was so excited that I woke up without an alarm.  To me, that meant I slept enough. 

2. What is the last thing that made you smile?  I was smiles for a lot of the day yesterday.  People calling my name during the race (sometimes it was more of a grimace I guess), but the funny signs I mentioned above, the nice comments I got on FB, reading about my friends who ran some of whom had AMAZING races, getting home and having my husband be so happy to see me. 

3. What is the last movie you watched?  Can I cheat and say the movie I want to watch?  Flowers in the Attic.  It was on Lifetime sometime in the last week and I read all those books and really want to watch it (it's waiting on our DVR for me for this weekend I hope!).  Not sure of the last movie I watched on TV or Netflix.  In the theater, it was The Secret Life of Walter Mitty over Christmas. 

4. What did you have for breakfast today? I am just now finishing my usual breakfast smoothie.  I'm also enjoying one of my last four pieces of stollen, a German Christmas bread my mom makes.  Coffee is next while I get ready for work. 

5. Would you rather mop all of your floors or do laundry?  Not sure.  I do laundry, husband does mopping (I do vaccuuming).  I think laundry is fine, but I bet mopping floors is faster. 

6. Do you drink coffee? I'm picky.  I'll drink espresso at home if my husband makes it, and I'll drink it in Italy at a bar or relatives' homes, but never coffee and never anywhere other than home in the US.  At home, we use a mocha for our espresso:

7. Will you watch the Superbowl?  Maybe, I couldn't care less about football but sometimes the commercials are fun. 

8. How often do you shop for groceries?  Never.  Well, less than twice a year.  Husband goes about once a week, sometimes twice.

9. What kind of workout will you do today? NONE!  Resting from yesterday's marathon.  Tomorrow I may go for an easy 6 miles, Wednesday I will go back to boot camp. 

10. Do you use a fitness tracker? I have a Jawbone Up.  It's kind of fun.  I use my Garmin to track all my running miles, but this is fun to see non-running steps.  I'm so sedentary when I'm not working out, sometimes it motivates me to move around more. 

Now it’s your turn to answer this week’s questions. Don’t forget to come back and link up in the comments! Happy Monday!


  1. So many comments about this post! Here goes:
    -You continue to amaze me with your running, and the nonchalant way you talk about marathons. So awesome!
    -I love that you have the weather app in Italian!
    -I saw Flowers in the Attic and it was pretty good. It reminded me what a freakshow those books were, and I can't believe I was reading those in high school! Crazy!!
    -This isn't mentioned in your post, but I wanted to let you know that I've decided to only watch The Bachelor this season while I'm doing the elliptical. Since I can't get enough of Juan Pablo, the elliptical and I are going to be seeing quite a bit of each other. LOL.

    Happy Monday, Carina!

    1. Yeah, I don't think my folks knew what was in those VC Andrews books, I was definitely too young, but I couldn't get enough. So disturbing!
      And I TOTALLY love your Bachelor plan! If I had an elliptical at home, I'd do that with you. Maybe I'll try to do arm weights or something.

  2. Congratulations on another marathon finish! I really enjoyed your recap. In Philly when I was hitting the wall at about mile 17 I told myself if I just kept running I could walk any hill ahead of me. I never came upon a hill!

    If there is one thing I miss when there are few spectators at a race it's the creative, funny signs. I also enjoy those runners who just have fun with the whole experience.

    I think it's so exciting how you and Meb keep "meeting!" He is incredible. I cannot even fathom running a half marathon in that time. It takes me double that to run a half marathon. I wonder what it feels like to move that quickly on your own legs.

    Is there a new Flowers in the Attic movie? You are the third person I have heard mention it recently. I read all the books when I was young too and saw a movie years ago. There are some rather disturbing themes running through that series!

    Enjoy your rest day.

    1. Meb blows my mind in a lot of ways. One thing I struggled with in Houston was how to push myself when I knew I wouldn't PR (I kept thinking, what's the difference if I finish in 4:00, 4:10, 4:20, 5:00, 5:30) (but I did know I had to keep it under 6:00, the cut-off!). And I thought about Meb in the Olympics -- running crazy hard when he knew the best he could manage was 4th, out of the money, and he did it anyway. And when I thought about his NYC experience, compared to so many elites who just stop if they're hurting or clearly out of the money. He's truly gifted, amazing, and seems to be so genuinely wonderful that it blows my mind.
      And yes, Lifetime just made its own FITA movie, debuted for the first time within the last week, but I'm sure they'll air it repeatedly. I was also young and disturbed w/ the books, but a love of reading is a love of reading! They kept me turning pages in awe!

  3. Congratulations!! Love your attitude even despite a slow (for you) run. Very inspirational!

    1. Trust me Megan, it would have been slow for you too! I think it might have been a BQ if I were 20 or 30 years older. Ugh. But it was so nice to scope the course and have the experience.

  4. omg, i LOVED the signs at the RNRSA! that guy that kept asking if people were single is hilarious...i would have loved to run next to him.

    how was The Secret Life of Walter Mitty? i really want to see it

    1. I liked the movie, a rare case where I liked the movie and the book. It's a modern adaptation, fun to see the book in film. I'd recommend it.

  5. Stopping by from FMM
    Congrats on the marathon yesterday - you rock :)
    I watched Flowers in the Attic - good film

  6. Congrats on your race! I ran it too...first time running Houston, my 9th full marathon. And I am from Dallas as well! I have to say the signs were so hilarious!! The volunteers did fantastic. I am wishing I had taken advantage of all of the post race goodies but I was pretty worn out and had to walk about 2 miles back to my hotel. Still, great race though! I am probably going to run the half next year to see how it compares to the full.

  7. Congrats on another marathon in the books! I loved reading your recap, especially having just written mine yesterday. I knew there was one thing I forgot to mention and your recap reminded me of what that was... names on the bibs... that was awesome! I loved it when people called me out by name!