Monday, January 22, 2018

You never know your limits until you push yourself to them: More from Houston

I don't know if I can ever write only one post about any marathon I run!  My full Houston race report is here.
  • I liked the Houston course; it is certainly flat as advertised.  I'm so used to running on rolling terrain that flat terrain almost feels like decline!  I thought that after this race I'd know which type of course was best for me between a point-to-point net downhill with rolling terrain like CIM or a pancake flat loop like Houston, but because of how Houston went overall I am not sure.
  • Houston makes you earn the good shirt.  We received an average cotton t-shirt at packet pick up, followed by a tech shirt (along with a mug and finishers medal) after finishing.
  • Houston served a hot breakfast (eggs on an English muffin, with sausage also available) for runners after the race inside the convention center, which I really liked.  Eggs are my favorite post-long run meal!  There were also drinks available (water, coffee, chocolate milk), bananas, and ice cream.
  • The race was large but very well-organized, and you could tell they've done this before.  The expo overwhelmed me, as large ones always do, but it was well done.
  • I placed 30th female and 22nd American female, which I was happy about in this big of an event.
  • The elite field in the race was crazy inspiring; Molly Huddle set a new US record in the half!
  • My experience as a sub-elite was a little interesting.  We were given a specific location (intersection listed and marked on a map) to load into our corral, but we weren't let in at that spot.  I, along with several other ADP athletes, had to run around a bit frantically to get in the corral at a different location.  We were also told we could warm up in our corral, and while that was a little bit true, it required a lot of running back and forth over the same 50 meters.  A girl told me that the year before they had a few blocks to warm up, which is what it looked like on the map too.  Perhaps they forgot to update the map from the year before!  This all made me thankful I was running the full and not the half, because for a half I need a much better warm up. 
  • I learned that my strategy of always carrying one more gel than I plan to take is a good one, because I dropped half a gel during the race and it wasn't a problem.  In the end I ended up taking only 2.5ish gels instead of my usual 3 though:  one around the 10K, part of the dropped one around the 20K, and then the final one around 16.  I usually take my third around the 30K but took it early since I'd missed part of the second one.  I was planning to take the fourth, making it 3.5 total, around mile 20 but then I just forgot.  I don't think it would have made any difference.
  • Speaking of things I forgot, I made a pace band for the race but forgot it at the hotel!  I knew where I should be at given points well enough that I would have been fine without it even if I'd had a good race, and with how my race went I would not have used it.  I realized that I'd forgotten it during the first mile of the race.
  • Whenever I used to see people run huge positive splits in marathons, I used to wonder how that could possibly happen.  Now after splitting 1:23:27/1:30:39, I know it can happen even if you don't go out too fast -- clearly, I did go out too fast for what I had that day, but I ran my first half a touch slower than I did at CIM on a flatter course, so it was not beyond my capacity.  I also used to see splits like I ran and think, "that second half must have been so painful", but for some reason it wasn't for me; my body just wouldn't move any faster, but I was okay with continuing running.  I am not sure I'd have believed any of this had it not happened to me!
  • I have a difficult time running tangents on a curvy road.  My Gamin beeped right at the course mile markers through about mile 16.  As you can see on the course map below, the road became winding at about that point and then the final long stretch going east back to the finish was curvier.  After 16 my Garmin got farther off the course markers every mile.  If I run another marathon with a road like this I need to practice running the shortest route better!  In my post-race survey I noted that they should put a tangent line on the ground like I've seen on the marathon majors.
  • I learned that if I am really back and forth during the weeks leading up to a "maybe" race like this, it's possible I shouldn't run it even if I feel good about it at the last minute.  I second guessed this one a lot, and clearly my body wasn't ready for it.  I also already knew this, but the really good long runs I had kept me hanging on!
  • I also learned that the CIM + Houston double is not for me.  I will double dip off of a single marathon training cycle again, but one of the marathons will be a close to home race, and I will also not have a million life events between them.  Although I loved Houston, I don't know if I will run it again because of the timing with the holidays -- or if I did I would plan an easier holiday season, if that is even possible.  If I do run it again, I would probably fly instead of drive (it was a loooong car ride!), but the uncertainty of if we were going or not this year prohibited that.
  • However, I stand by being very glad and thankful I ran this race.  I learned some more about my limits, and with the fantastic race day weather I know if I hadn't gone I would have regretted it.  This was my sixth time running two marathons off of one cycle (I did multiple marathons close together on several other occasions too, but that was when I was just running a bunch of marathons while doing no actual structured training cycles, and was not surprisingly much slower -- stories for another post!).  It was the first time I haven't run faster in the second marathon.  I think it's clear that I had to chance it!
  • Sometimes you need a step back to fully appreciate how far you've come.  In retrospect, I didn't appreciate my 2:47:14 at CIM as much as I appreciated my 2:49:20 at Phoenix -- and I know that is because at CIM I did not accomplish my "big dream barely a possibility goal" of 2:44:59 for the race, but at Phoenix I exceeded my "big dream barely a possibility goal" of 2:49:59 for the race.  To steal a phrase I read here, I think the ignorant bliss of Phoenix was part of the magic!  Houston taught me to appreciate and be thankful for CIM more than I had been.  Instead of wondering why I couldn't have been one of 50 Olympic Trials Qualifiers at CIM, I'm going to be thankful that I have the opportunity to keep chasing a goal that sets my soul on fire.  Onto the next!


  1. Your Garmin mike splits sound exactly like what happened to me during my marathon. I was right on the first few miles and kept getting further and further off. I wondered if my Garmin was off but now I’m thinking it must have been not running the tangents. It was just hard to believe I added almost a quarter of a mile by not running tangents! I like the idea of the tangent painted on the course!

    1. With a lot of turns it can really add up -- and you know you didn't run the tangents in yours! Garmins definitely aren't perfect/exact, but I can tell a difference on mine when I run the tangents vs. when I don't. I want to run one of those marathons that has a line and sit on it exactly! CIM didn't have many turns, and those it did have had obvious tangents, so it was easier for me to do there.