I went into the Houston Marathon knowing that I wasn’t 100% physically conditioned and injury free. I only had a few good runs on my knee since the New Years Eve bowling mishap. However, I still thought that I could crack the 4 hour time. I really wanted to do this so that I could experience the first Sub-4 Hour marathon for a fellow runner friend of mine, Matt Gray. He wanted to hit that goal, but he wasn’t completely injury free either.
Ursula and I left our house early and headed to pick up one of my best cheerleaders, my daughter Briana. It was a nice uneventful drive down to College Station. After we picked up Briana, we made our way over to the A&M college campus. I wanted to see if I could pick up a new marathon race shirt. This is one of my favorite things to do for a marathon… get a new race shirt. I found an awesome black A&M Under Armour shirt that I fell in love with. Knowing that we’re only 90 minutes from College Station I knew that there’d be a lot of Aggies to cheer me on. I was definitely not disappointed! I knew that I would need the extra encouragement on the course for this race.
When we arrived in Houston, we parked near the hotel and walked to the race expo. It was a fun expo being the right size. I was good and did not buy anything. That was pretty much a first for me. I was going to get my knee taped up by the KT Tape people, but there was about a 30 minute wait. I’m not very good at waiting so I figured I could do it myself since their online videos are really helpful. Ursula actually had fun at this race expo... she found a place where they were giving $20 haircuts. My race haircuts are catching on!!!! She loves cutting hair as much as I love running. The entire time that I walked the expo floor, she watched and studied the techniques of the hair stylists. She had a great time in her own way. As well, I had a good time walking around with Briana. She even picked up a pair of pink running shoes for $40. Score!
As we were walking away from the expo we saw a news crew standing at the corner. Lo and behold, the local Fox news channel reporter asked me a series of questions. It was pretty cool to be interviewed. He asked about the heightened security measures since the Boston Marathon. He also asked general questions about why I run. I don’t think much of my interview made the news, but Ursula’s cousin saw a few seconds of it and took a picture of the TV screen. Below is a video that Briana took on her phone. The video and audio aren’t that great, but you get the idea.
What!?! No bath tub!?!
One thing that I believe in is having an ice bath after a marathon. Even though the freezing cold is a killer, I really think that my recovery is sped up by it. On the way to Houston I grabbed a couple of bags of ice in anticipation of the post-marathon ice bath. I figured bringing the ice in my cooler would be so much easier than trying to deal with the hotel ice machines. As well, we were staying downtown, so there weren’t going to be any nearby convenient stores.
We got checked into the lovely Embassy Suites. This is one of my favorite hotels as I love their made to order omelets. We got to our room and checked everything out. The over my budget room was definitely nice, except for one major problem. There was no bath tub, but a shower. Yikes! Really!?! I called down to the front desk to see if I could get another room. They said that their double rooms had tubs, but unfortunately the entire hotel was booked because of the race. Ughh! I wasn’t going to fret about this since it was post race and not going to mess with the actual race. However, I never thought of asking the hotel if there’d be a tug in the room. In previous marathons that I travelled to, the tub was there. This is something that I’ll be checking out for future race hotels.
We had a wonderful carbo-loading meal with our Frisco Running Club friends at Maggiano’s. There was definitely plenty of food to consume. I’m sure that I ate my fill of bread and spaghetti. We had a lot of laughs in preparation for the next morning.
While all of the other runners headed to their hotels to try to sleep, we headed over to Ursula’s cousin’s house for our second dinner. :) It was great visiting with Christi, Kem, Christi’s co-worker, and Uncle Phil. I told myself that we’d stay about an hour until 8:30 or so. I was paying attention to the time, but next thing you know it’s 10:00pm. We were all having a great time. One thing that I really want is for Ursula and Briana to enjoy themselves while we go to these running events. I wasn’t too worried about the amount of sleep that I’d be getting. I’m usually too excited to sleep anyway.
I got up pretty early to get ready for the race. I snuck out the room to allow Briana a few more minutes of sleep before Ursula would get her up. I walked over to another hotel where all of the Frisco Running Club members would meet. We were definitely excited and rearing to go. The three-something guys made our way to the race corrals. The starting corrals were very interesting as they only allowed one corral in at a time. We were all Corral A so we were in line first. The other corrals had to wait at the side streets. That was the first time that I saw this type of setup. We only had to wait a few minutes before we crossed the start line.
I love the marathon start! There’s so much excitement and anticipation in the air! You cannot help but get caught up in it. The start was crowded, but unbelievably comfortable. We actually had room to run and we weren’t always trying to get around people. I loved this start! We all talked about running 9:00-9:15 at the beginning miles, however, we had to keep reeling ourselves back as we were doing better than this pace. Sub-9 minute pace for the beginning miles. My thought was that we were definitely banking some time on our way to Sub-4 hours. We saw our families somewhere during the sixth mile. It was great seeing them! As we started back running, this is the first time that I felt pain in my knee.
Getting back into the run of the things was pretty good, but I kept thinking about my stupid knee. I was doing pretty well, but as I was watching Matt McGhee and Jeff running, they looked so effortless and further out/faster than I wanted to run. I was hitting sub-9 minutes, but they were really hitting sub-8:50’s. At one point, I think I told Matt McGhee that I wouldn’t be able to keep the current pace up for the whole race.
I told myself to run comfortably and run my race. My times were slowly slipping with each mile. I felt bad for Matt Gray as he had hopes of hitting Sub-4 hours. He was staying with me instead of Matt and Jeff. I really wanted him to break that goal.
During the 15th mile I decided to respond to nature’s call and take a squat. It was definitely needed. I told Matt to go on without me. The last thing I told him was to run comfortably and enjoy the race.
Inner voice thoughts: It’s really weird to not to be able to run at a pace that I was able to run just 9 months before when I was at my peak. It’s weird to even think that I ran a marathon at a 8:22 pace. Yes, I know I’ll be back, but this is the crap that goes through your head when you’re in the moment.
It was during mile 17 that I saw Ursula, Briana, and Christi again. My knee pain was really flaring up at this point. It was the first time that I considered quitting the race, however, I didn’t tell them. I just told them that I was in pain and couldn’t believe that I had 10 more miles to go. They were an awesome encouragement!
When I started back up running after seeing them, the pain was tremendous. I almost turned around and went back to them, but didn’t. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. Shortly after seeing them, I saw them again driving by me. They waved from the comfort of the car. I again thought about telling them that I quit, but I came all this way… I wanted to finish despite the pain.
I alternated between running and walking during the next few miles. I kept telling myself to get to mile 20 and then it’s only a fricking 10K. That sounded very appealing at that time! During this stretch of miles I made peace with myself. I told myself to just shut up and enjoy the day. It was a beautiful day and it was a wonderful race. Not every race that I run is going to be a PR or going to be perfectly executed. My only job for the rest of the race was to enjoy it. Back during miles 7-17, I stopped joking and having fun. Now was the time to quit wallowing in self-pity and enjoy the marathon experience. I started to play along with the spectators, enjoying their signs and encouragement. One of the signs said to touch here for power. I pretended that I could barely get to the sign, but once I tapped the sign, I sprinted after touching it. It was fun again! You’ve got to find your joy during periods of pain.
I loved all of the Aggie love that I got. It was a great decision to wear the A&M shirt.
During mile 22, I got to see my family again. It was so good to see them! I complained about the pain some more and they did their job of encouraging me to finish. I started back up running and loved it when Briana joined me for a bit. She got to run with me during a point where there were a lot of spectators. It’s so awesome to get caught up in the cheering that you forget about the soreness and the pain. I loved running with her at my side. It was one of biggest highlights of the race. I think we ran together for about a quarter mile. She swears that it was a mile. :)
At just about the point when I told her that she should run back, here comes the 4:15 marathon pacer. I made a joke to her about not passing me. I stayed with her for a while, but I had to get back to my run/walk pattern. I really wanted to stay with her as I thought 4:15 would be pretty darn cool! The conversation with her was great. I enjoyed our time together, but unfortunately after walking through one of the water stops, I couldn’t keep up.
The final miles of a marathon always seem to take forever. This race was no different. I allowed myself some good walking during the 25th mile and was going to walk some during the 26th mile. However, the 26th mile became a grin and bear it mile. I struck up a conversation with a younger guy and we talked about how we just wanted to get the race over with. I really had planned on walking a bit so that I could finish strong, but I just kept talking and running. Then it became show time when there were more and more spectators lining the streets. I didn’t want to walk, but run. Seeing the finish line was awesome! What a welcome sight! I had so much fun with the crowds… yes, I thought they were cheering just for me. I thought of Cairo, my son, as I was finishing… I kicked it out for a Cross Country style finish! I missed him during the race as he had to work, but I’m sure he would’ve been proud of my finish.
It was great catching up with Ursula, Briana, and Christi after the race. I was so glad that they really seemed to enjoy themselves. I know that this not Ursula’s favorite thing to do… follow me around during a race with all of the street closures and figuring out where I’m at. I’m so glad that she love me as she does! It was super helpful having Christi drive the Houston streets. Thanks, cuz!
Running Into Meb
We stayed Sunday night as I really didn’t want to have to rush home after the race. It’s fun to just enjoy yourself after the race. When we were packing up the car… who do we see running on the sidewalk? None other than Meb Keflezighi! I couldn’t help, but yell out, MEB! He was super nice as he stopped to talk to us. I congratulated him on his race as he won the Houston Half Marathon with a time of 1:01:23. Incredible time! He was very humble and asked about my race. I told him about my knee and he mentioned ways to strengthen your leg muscles. It was very surreal getting to meet him.
There were long lines at the marathon expo to meet him. This chance meeting was so cool. It was fun to watch as he ran off from us. What looked like a sprint to us was probably a nice cool down as his hotel was only a couple of blocks away from us. What a way to end the marathon weekend!
My 12th marathon was quite the experience! It was everything that a marathon is hyped up to be. It cracks me up when people ask me about my time… it’s not just about the clock time, but what happens before, during, and after. I enjoyed the heck out of those 4 hours and 27 minutes! :)
I’ll find out in the next couple of days about my knee. I know that I didn’t do myself any favors by running on it.