The race I've been waiting for is finally finished! Yesterday, I ran the Aramco Houston Half Marathon, along with my JFR Crew...and about 25,000 other people. We had such a great weekend in Houston that this race is already on the list for next year! But wait - I'm getting ahead of myself. Our weekend started at 3:00 am on Saturday - that was wake up time for us, because we had a 4:00 am departure time for Houston. Everyone met at our house and we drove in a caravan to our hotel, the Hilton Americas, which also happened to be the host hotel for the race. Why in the world did we leave so early, you might be wondering (and rightly so)? Well, a few months ago, we signed up to run the Houston Double, which meant that we would run the ABB 5K on Saturday morning. I'll recap that race on Wednesday's post, but that's the reason why we were on the road so dang early.
So we got to the hotel, where we knew that we would be able to park, but check in time wasn't until 3:00 pm. I cannot say enough good things about the Hilton Americas - do you know, when we got there at 6:00 am, they let us check in? We all got our rooms, which was so wonderful...we figured we'd be working out of our cars all day, what with changing clothes after the 5K race, and dropping off our stuff from packet pick up. They also gave us a late check out on Sunday - 2:00 pm, which again, was wonderful. We didn't have to rush to get cleaned up right after the race - we actually got to hang around and enjoy the post-race atmosphere! Plus, everyone who worked there was so nice...we are definitely going to stay there again next year.
Participant race shirt front
We went to packet pick up at the expo, which was conveniently located across the street from the hotel. The expo was huge! Packet pick up was really easy, and we all did our thing with shopping and stuff - Jeff and CC even went for free massages! Most of our crew went in expecting to buy some Houston Half Marathon-branded merchandise, but there wasn't a whole lot to be had...and apparently they sold out of the half marathon shirts by the time we got there at 11:00 am! Boo on that. I spent a lot less than I'd budgeted for, which was OK, I guess. Here's my loot:
Sketchers jacket in a really pretty teal - this one has the half marathon logo on it. I love it, and was happy with the price - everything was 20% off!
Addaday roller - I've wanted this since I tried one out last September, when I was at a running store in California. It's more intense than The Stick, which is what I normally use to roll out sore muscles on my calves. I also got some new socks in fun colors - buy 2 get one free, yay! And one Sweaty Band.
Coffee mug - I admit, I have a thing for coffee mugs and these seem to be the souvenir I bring home most often.
Artsy shot of mug with Houston skyline, taken from our 10th floor room window.
Freebies - a towel that will be nice to sit my sweaty body on when I drive my new car to go run, an inflatable water bottle, and throw-away gloves.
I think just about everyone took a nap that afternoon, and then we reconvened to go to dinner at Carrabba's Italian Grill - we had 5:00 pm reservations, and by the time we were finished eating, the restaurant was jam-packed. Go us for eating at the old person time! Dinner was delicious, and I think I was in bed by 8:30.
Race day: We met up in the lobby at 6:00 am. It was so nice to not have the stress of driving in and finding a place to park - this was just about the most relaxed I've been on a race morning. We took some pictures before we walked to our corral:
JFR Crew - CC (in green - she took Amy's place, who unfortunately came down with the flu on Thursday), Julia, Andi, Cristy, Cary, Brian, me, and Jeff.
Jeff and I in our throwaway tops - I was happy we had these, as it was WINDY while we walked to our corrals. Luckily the wind died down before the race started.
In the corral - Cristy took these two pictures and I swiped them to show you. We were in corral D...so this was just one quarter of the people doing the race! Looks packed, but we never felt squished.
So I thought I would be running this race solo. Which is hard for this social runner, but I knew I was capable of doing it, since that's how I ran the BCS Half Marathon in December. But at the last minute, CC decided to run with me and hopefully pace me to an under 3 hour finish. She hadn't run since the BCS Half, and since this race was unplanned (she got the offer to run on Friday afternoon), she decided to be conservative...and help a friend - bonus for me!
We set off doing 1:30/1 intervals (run for 1 minute 30 seconds, walk for 1 minute). CC did the math and said we needed an average pace of 13:43 to finish in under 3 hours, so we ran at a pretty fast pace and tried to walk quickly, too. We did OK for a while, especially in the beginning when we were having to dodge around other people doing intervals. Although it was fairly cool when we started, it did warm up, so we made sure to get Gatorade and water at almost every aid station. Our splits started out good:
Mile 1 - 13:28
Mile 2 - 13:51
Mile 3 - 13:14
Mile 4 - 14:18 (we think this was where we got caught up in the crowds, plus there was a bit of a hill and we saw a man fall so we slowed down - luckily a bicycle medic was there almost immediately)
Mile 5 - 13:38
Mile 6 - 14:03 (we walked a bit extra while fueling, I think)
Mile 7 - 13:22
And then it started getting tough:
Mile 8 - 14:23
Mile 9 - 14:17 (although this mile felt like it went by in a split second - we were routed around a museum, and it was just beautiful to see the grounds and art...and I guess very distracting, too)
Mile 10 - 14:32
At mile 10, I saw my friends Terry and John! I was so happy to see them!!! Here's the good picture:
Yay! Friends!!! (sorry for blocking your face, CC)
And this is my "oh dear god why oh whyyyy am I doing this?" face. Terry had an ice-cold bandana in that blue bag for me and it was heavenly! I wiped the salty sweat off of my face and then tied it around my neck for the rest of the race. She did not get the good end of that exchange, as I handed her my fuel trash that I'd been holding. She did get a sweaty hug, so maybe that made up for it? LOL.
We started running again, and then I hit the wall. I have never hit the wall like this - we'd get about one minute into our running interval, and the backs of my legs would turn to Jello. They lost all energy and I just couldn't run. It was terrible! I tried to eat another Shot Blok but I couldn't even get it down. I felt really bad. My lips were chapped but I couldn't even muster the energy to take out my lip balm and use it. Toward the end I seriously thought I was going to have to go to the medical tent after I finished, I was feeling that awful.
Mile 11 - 13:53 (that time does not show how terrible I was feeling)
Mile 12 - 14:15 (OK, that time does show it)
Mile 13 - 13:45
Mile .27 - 3:49
So close! But no cigar. We finished in 3:04, which was still a post-ankle injury/surgery PR for me. Our average pace ended up being 13:56. I was really glad to have CC alongside for this run - had she not been pushing me toward the end, I probably would have added another 10 minutes to that time, because I bet I would have stopped running completely and just walked the last mile.
When we were almost at the finish line, the announcer called out both of our names and high-fived us, which was fun. The crowd support and the volunteers were amazing, from start to finish. This was by far, the best half marathon I've ever run, and I was really impressed with how well everything went. The marathon committee has it down when it comes to race day!
Once we finished, we got our medals and were routed inside the convention center, where we posed for an official race picture, got some much-needed water, and then found Jeff and the rest of our crew. It was really nice being inside that building - we got our finisher's shirts, then went and exchanged them because the women's sizes were really small. Then I got my additional medal (I got one for running the 5K, one for the half, and a third one for doing the double), and Julia, CC, and I went to get our hot breakfast - HEB (a Texas grocery store) is the food sponsor, and they had scrambled eggs, breakfast sausages, biscuits and gravy, along with hot coffee, sodas, chocolate milk, yogurt and ice cream sandwiches ready for the runners. I ate a couple bites of my biscuit, one sausage, a banana, and some chocolate milk and felt pretty decent.
More pictures - in our finisher's shirts and with our medals:
CC and I
Jeff and I
Me and Julia
CC, Julia, Jeff, me, Cary, Brian, Cristy and Andi - the JFR Crew looking good in our finisher's swag!
After we showered, we checked out of the hotel and went to my favorite out-of-town post-race restaurant, Red Robin. Jeff, CC, and I chowed down on burgers and bottomless steak fries:
And I even had a chocolate milkshake for dessert. Yum and YUM!