Leading up to the marathon, I have to admit that I was having a difficult time being excited about it. My training was going fine, but with all the other stress going on around me it was hard to focus. I just wasn't excited about racing a marathon at all, and actually contemplated dropping down to the half marathon. But I decided to stick with my plan and do my best, but not put too much pressure on myself. I suppose I could PR this race with good weather conditions, but I did not make that my goal.
I again opted to stay in the host hotel closest to the expo and finish area and only a few blocks from the start. I was able to check in very early on Saturday, which was a nice surprise. I enjoyed a day spent at the expo, eating some yummy food, napping, and getting prepared for race day. My running buddy was in the same boat as me mentally about this race. We had both PR'd the year before but neither of us wanted that kind of pressure this year. We wanted to enjoy ourselves with a decent but manageable race, not hit the wall, and still feel pretty good at the finish. If a great race time resulted that would be a big bonus, but it wasn't the "A" goal. I knew that if we maintained about a 10 min pace, not difficult for us, and be able to hold it in those later miles (anything can happen!), then I'd still end up with my 2nd best time and he'd have his third best. At the very least I wanted to beat my SLO Marathon time of 4:25. And I really didn't want to walk at all!
Race morning arrived and conditions were perfect. Temps in the 40s, to rise to the upper 50s by the time we finished, with hopefully minimal sun hiding behind the high clouds. It really was a PR day and a PR course for those gunning for that goal. I had high hopes that my sub-4:22 goal was truly possible.
We started at a very conservative 10:20 pace for that first mile, with the plan to drop to about 10:00 min pace for the remainder of that first 5K. The timing mats come at every 5K so I always break up this race in those small chunks. With the next few 5K splits I wanted to keep the pace just under 10:00 in case I needed to slow for the final few miles. If I could accomplish that, then the 4:22 would be mine.
To make a long story short, that is exactly what we did. After a 10:07 overall pace first 5K, we kept our 5K splits just hovering below 10:00 pace....9:49, 9:55, 9:58, etc. At the halfway point we were at 2:10:23, which is about a 9:57 pace. But it wasn't all that comfortable. I wasn't overtaxing my body and I wasn't breathing heavy, and my legs were working fine, but things definitely weren't easy. I had to use a lot of mental energy to keep myself moving. I focused on anything I could to keep my mind off what was still left on the course to run. I watched the spectators, I sang the songs on my iPod, I counted down the kilometers markers (so much easier than waiting for mile markers). I wasn't really having the kind of fun I usually have in Houston and it was disappointing. But I was determined to keep moving and to not slow down.
I had quite a few good miles in there in the 9:40-9:50 range, so my overall pace was creeping every-so-slightly downward as I approached the later miles. Tony, my running buddy, patiently ran the first 22 miles with me and was feeling very good, so he scooted ahead of me with just 4 miles to go. I kept him in my sights but I knew it wasn't wise to speed up with him. I just needed to focus on maintaining as best as I could. Mile 23 was around 10:20 and Mile 24 was 10:12 so I was slipping on my pace slightly, but not badly at all. With only 2.2 miles to go I tried to speed up again and I had a great final push, going back below 10:00 pace and even hitting 8 minute pace for the final 1/4 mile of the race. Once I was on Lamar Street for the last mile my mood lifted. I didn't hit the wall, I was moving well, albeit in a lot of pain, and I was going to finish the race well under my goal.
As I crossed the finish line and saw that I ran a 4:21:05 I was elated.
My 2nd fastest marathon. My slowest miles were 10:20, which is the best that I've ever done in any marathon including my PR race (which had a 10:30+ mile). My splits were ridiculously consistent. I ran the second half only 19 seconds slower than the first half, which is so negligible that it can be said I ran even half splits. I wanted a consistent effort and I delivered. I have to focus on these positives!!
In the days following the race, I felt pretty crippled. I think this was the worst I'd felt after a marathon. My IT band and leg muscles ached horribly, and the nausea and exhaustion was a bit disconcerting. It does make me question why I do this stuff, that's for sure. I have 3 months until my next marathon, the SLO Marathon on April 26. I need a stronger core, stronger hips, and hill repeats will be added into my workouts soon. I want to feel decent following what will be my toughest marathon (so many hills!!).
Ah, Houston....you are GOOD....but OUCH!