(Last?) One and Done…

3:30 this morning I awoke to rumbles of thunder and the steady splash of rain pouring off  the roof into a puddle outside my bedroom window.  My first thought: gratitude that the Chevron Houston Marathon and Aramco Half Marathon was yesterday.  I have run my share of races in the rain,  even had one cancelled due to conditions, but with my imminent departure from Houston (we listed the house today, and my realtor had three prospects already),  there is a very good chance that this year’s event was my last time across the finish in front of the George R. Brown Convention Center, and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to go out. 

Race weekend begins on Saturday with the ABB 5K, Part One of the Houston Double Challenge. Participants who complete both the 5k on Saturday and either the half or the full on Sunday receive a third medal, as pictured above. I guess I’m a medal whore, since I have four of these challenges under my belt now  🙂 

Every year I tell myself I’m going to take it easy, just cruise along and enjoy the experience of a 5k with 5000 runners; and every year, the act of pinning a bib and toeing the line triggers my competitive side. Last year I came within a minute of my PR, but such was not the case this time around.  I did put a bit more effort than was strictly necessary,  as a way to test conditions for a possible PR attempt at the half on Sunday…Let’s just say that I came to terms with the fallacy of that idea around mile 2 and leave it at that, ok? I finished under 30 minutes  (my baseline acceptable time for 5k) and left feeling satisfied with my chances for the next day. 

This was after the race. There are tall buildings back there somewhere!

Sunday morning’s alarm went off far too early for my taste (maybe staying out until 10 pm at my god-daughter’s Sweet 16 wasn’t the best idea, but some things only happen once) and by 5am I was at the GRB, soaking up atmosphere and energy. Both running clubs I belong to had their group photos, and then off to the corrals!

Runners High Club

Houston Striders

I had registered with a fairly conservative finish time,  so I was in D corral again this year.  I thought it interesting that the Committee had added a fifth corral, but it was noticeably less crowded than previous years (and much shorter lines for the porta potties!!!) so big kudos for that.

As I said in my last post, the forecast was rather warm and humid,  and for once they nailed it: 67°, 90% humidity, and a good chance of actual rain as the day heated up. Still,  I was glad I brought a long-sleeve shirt for the wait;  the wind whooshing between the downtown buildings left me chilled as we waited for the chute to clear. I quickly tossed it to the donation pile as we neared the line ,  and 20 minutes after the gun I was off! I held a steady, easy pace for the first 2 miles,  letting the noise of the crowd carry me along; high fives to the kids waving,  singing with the bands lined up along Washington Avenue’s nightclub district, and generally eating up every moment – something I have missed out on in previous years because I was so intent on myself…it made me think again about my motivations,  a recurring theme this year. 

The full and half share the course for about 7.5 miles, and I felt a twinge as the marathon turned off while we continued back towards the finish. (sniff) Fortunately I have run much of this part of the course during training the last two years, so it wasn’t unfamiliar, and the miles just rolled along.  My pace had steadily increased but I was running easy; sweating hard but I always carry my own water and refill along the course as I go. At about mile 8.5 though, just as I was wondering if that 2:00 goal might not be out of the question, my old friends Karma and Hubris joined hands and punched me right in the gut. That’s what it felt like anyway, but actually my stomach was finally rebelling – that third gel was probably one too many. Someday I may work out an effective fueling strategy; today wasn’t that day.  I walked until I was sure was ok,  then set off again,  determined to push when I could and walk when I needed to. I’m not a big fan of walk/run, but I recognize the value, and when times are rough you do what works, right?

The last 3 miles went very smoothly,  and I got to experience another first: cheering crowds in downtown! My last three attempts have all gone to ruin long before I neared the finish, and by the time I got there most people had already left.  This year I actually saw the marathon winners go screaming past me on the way to glory – what a privilege! I count a few elite runners among my acquaintances, but running beside near them in full flight is awe-inspiring to say the least! (Pardon me while I swoon a little at the memory; I didn’t know I was a fanboy until I met these extraordinary men and women in person 🙂 )

I made it over the line under 2:10, which was my middle goal for the race, and more importantly I made it running, not limping or staggering or lurching as had been the case in previous years. I felt good;  no, I felt great, and as I sat in the hall, eating inhaling a plate of eggs, sausage and gravy, I realized that perhaps I’m not cut out for the marathon after all.  I don’t feel ashamed of that; I can accept that not everyone can do everything. The secret of success is to find what you can do – what I can do – and then do it as well as possible. I may run 26.2 miles again, but I believe for a little while at least I’ll stick to shorter races,  and run without the watch more often,  and rediscover the joy I found in the beginning.  I won’t call it a resolution – how about a promise instead? While I’m changing everything else in my life,  why not that too? 

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