Monday, January 18, 2010

Chevron Houston Half Marathon recap

In November I injured my right calf and the wheels came off the training for the marathon. So, in December I switched to the half marathon.

Here's the results:

Overall: 2:23:24
The miles:
1: 11:07.59
We started in the crowd, of course, so the first mile was a little slow. That's ok, since this gave me a chance to speed up towards the end AND warm up in the beginning.
2: 10:15.51
3: 10:06.09
4: 10:14.40
These three miles blew by without much excitement. The first mile was over the Elsyian (sp?) viaduct and the next 3 were through the neighborhoods on the north side of town. It was all flat and crowded. I believe there was a water stop just after mile 2 and mile 4. At this point I'm cruising along just fine. I've fallen into a rhythm and separated myself into a nice clearing from the crowd.
5: 10:29.68
6: 10:22.56
These next two miles featured what little bit of terrain there is on the route. There were, if I'm not mistaken, 3 underpasses where the route drops below street level. The first one on the route is near mile 4, but these last 3 seemed to have slowed the crowd down a bit and bunched the runners back up. I remember being exceptionally crowded through the midway point until the crowd started to break up again. I also realized I had to pee real bad, but the lines at the bathrooms were all too long.
7: 10:38.77
8: 10:39.17
Here is where I finally decided to pee. I was thinking about needing to pee so badly I was beginning to get a cramp on my left side--which never, ever happens. So, just after mile 7 I tucked into a port-o-let that had a remarkably short line and emptied the tank. The relief was a relief, but 2 things happened at that point. My rhythm was thrown completely off which led to my times dropping off the cliff. Mile 8 is also near where I was expecting to see my lovely wife so that I could take in some frozen grapes and apple juice (the race fuel I expected to consume for a final kick). Unfortunately our timing was a bit off and I passed this point about 10 minutes before she arrived. This left me jonesing for some fuel that I had to go scavenging for further down the route.
9 & 10: 12:01.09
11: 12:05.55
I was too busy scanning the crowd for my lovely wife to see the 9th mile marker. Nonethless, these three miles were by FAR the slowest on the course. Once I realized I wasn't getting my fruit yummies. I had bypassed oranges and gatorade up to this point because I was expecting to get my afore mentioned race fuel. Had I known... Needless to say I was VERY happy to grab a drink of gatorade (only 1 cup for the whole run), 2 animal crackers, 3 pretzels, and 2 orange slices during this stretch of the route. The legs were genuinely starting to feel a little leaden by the end of the 11th mile. However, things started to perk up a bit when the fruits kicked in.
12: 11:26.97
13: 9:59.93
+.1: 0:54.73
This is what happens when the race fuel kicks in. The last two miles were faster than the previous 3 and I was cruising again. I was chugging down the route and into downtown when I realized that I was still tucked comfortably within the crowd. I had not been left behind, and that is a damn good feeling... until you get to the final chutes. What happens is the route gets a little narrower toward the end, which limits the amount of space you have to maneuver. All that elbow room you had a few blocks ago suddenly vanishes at the finish line. That didn't happen to me when I ran the full a few years back because it was just me and a few dozen other people finishing at the same time.
Anyway, we rolled into downtown and the finish line came into sight. That means it was time for the final kick. The girl next to me takes off a little bit, then the guy next to her takes off. Naturally I decide to give chase and put myself just ahead of both of them. She then presses forward for a couple of steps, followed immediately after him, followed once again by me. Except this second time I don't take my hand off the throttle and I juke to the left to avoid the person ahead of me and then bolt down the side. The bad part about finishing in the crowd is the very limited space you have to maneuver in. The GOOD part is ALL THE PEOPLE YOU CAN PASS AT THE FINISH LINE!!! I quit counting after 12. But damn I felt good.

What will I do differently before my next half marathon? Well, the next one will likely be in 3 or 4 days, so the only things I'm probably going to do very differently is pre-race fuel. I'm going to eat more fruits before taking off--probably about an hour ahead of time--to get that fuel into my system. It's remarkably liberating to know I can run a half marathon without manufactured products running through my system. Give me some grapes and a flask of apple juice and I'll do just fine.

So, now the question becomes whether or not I can break 2:00 before my birthday in June.

Chevron Houston Half Marathon epilogue

In January of 2009 one of the ambitions for the year was to train for a marathon. I started training with the 2010 Chevron Houston Marathon in mind, but then became inspired to take it a step farther.
Way back in the late 1990's I started riding my bike--far. I started participating in the MS150 events in Texas, which are a series of 150 mile or longer bike rides across this fair state. I rode in a pair of MS150 rides and decided the next year that I wouldn't "train" for the Houston MS150, but rather would train to be able to ride MS150s whenever they might come up so that I could ride the Houston ride, then follow up with the Dallas ride 2 weeks later.
When I began my marathon "training" in 2009 I stumbled into a "natural man" philosophy of running that suggested man's natural state is to be able to traverse long distances while running. This intrigued me because I had always assumed that running marathons was beyond the natural grasp of man. It was, effectively, an extraordinary feat. The reality of the thing is that long distance running is man's natural state and man should be able to simply just run.
Granted, under today's conditions of 10 hour work days and constant, frenetic activity that accomplishes nearly nothing, running ANY distance is an extraordinary feat and a full marathon is superhuman.
Nonetheless, I embarked on a "natural man" philosophy of running. Not so much training for a particular marathon at a particular time, but training to be able to run ANY marathon, ANYTIME. In November the wheels came off of that preparation and I realized I would not be ready for the Houston Marathon (it takes time to rub off the modern patina of industrial life). I chose to switch to the half marathon instead.

How did I do? Remarkably well. My time was 2:23, which the fastest 13.1 miles I've ever run. My last mile was the fastest of all the miles. But that only tells half the story.

You read the stories of the people who train for months and torture themselves on the roads doing all kinds of invented training methodologies. They train their stomachs for GU and carbo fuel bars. They lay it all out on a Sunday morning to nail that 5 hour marathon time and this extraordinary effort leaves them wrecked for a few days, unable to climb stairs or move freely for several days. And they call themselves heroes.

And for the most part they are heroes. They've accomplished an extraordinary feat that few will ever try. I do not wish to diminish that feat whatsoever. The ability for a desk jockey to rise up over the objections of his own body to do something magnificent should ALWAYS be applauded.

However, I've already done that. I wanted to do something more. I wanted to be able to get up the next day and live a normal life. And that is precisely what I accomplished.

I ran 13.1 miles fairly well, but not expertly. I am not wrecked. I will likely go out in the next few days and run ANOTHER 13.1 miles. In 6 weeks I am going to travel to Fort Worth and run 13.1 miles and set another PR. I did not train to run a half marathon, I ran a half marathon because I trained to be a natural runner.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

2010 is upon us

Ok, so 2010 is here. The half marathon is just a few days away and I'm as ready as I'm going to get. In January 2009 I wrote down that I "would train for a marathon". I never committed to actually running a marathon, and had my training not jumped the tracks back in November I still think I'd have done fine running the marathon this weekend. As it is I'm satisfied that I accomplished that goal.

In a broader sense, in 2009 I discovered what it means to "be a runner". It has nothing to do with training for a specific race. It has nothing to do with ticking off certain goal, mile markers, or personal achievements. Any task oriented person can do that, given enough time. Running, in and of itself is no special thing.

No, BEING a runner is a different animal entirely.

I have come to learn that we are all, fundamentally and undeniably, runners. So running, per se is no special feat for a human to do. It is, after all, what makes us human and separates us from our cousins from the Neander valley.

But for 99.9% of us, we have no special talent to run 2:00 marathons. That's what separates the elite runners from the mere mortals. No, most of us merely possess the standard tools that have been handed down for centuries from the first group of hunters who chased down an antelope and watched it die from heat stroke right before their eyes. That's all, and nothing more.

We are ALL capable of running a marathon. Most of us, however, have cars and, therefore, no need to travel 26 miles on foot. And that's probably what separates me from most of my fellow runners. I agree that most of us have no special talent. I just have a higher opinion of what our natural talent happens to be.

There are other things that separate me from many of the other runners I know and over time I may explore those differences further.

So, were do I go in 2010? That's a good question.
I've signed up for the Houston Half and the Cowtown Half in February. The Cowtown Half was my concession to myself for dropping from the full to the half for Houston. In March there's a half marathon in College Station. That's 3 half marathons in 3 months without a major adjustment to my "training" schedule. They're really just an extension of the running that I've been doing. Rumor is that there are half marathons in the Dallas Metroplex area just about every month of the year. There's also a pretty decent (and slightly longer than a) half marathon route that starts and ends at my front door that doesn't cost me anything.

Maybe I'll run a half marathon a month, every month, for 2010. And, while I'm at it, I'll maintain an easy preparation schedule and continue to prove that you can be average to above average, compared to the general population, without torturing yourself on a daily basis. In 2009 I logged 193 miles and probably ran closer to 215 miles. This represents the most miles I've run in a year, ever (as far as I know).

I think my goal for 2010 will be 216.