Monday, January 16, 2017

2017 Aramco Houston Half Marathon Race Recap!

I really like this medal.  A LOT.

I ran my tenth half marathon yesterday!  For the third year in a row, I ran the Aramco Houston Half Marathon with my fellow Renegades.  We had another fun-filled weekend, so I'll break it up into a couple of posts, but of course I have to begin with the half marathon.  I'll write about the expo and the ABB 5K later on this week, but I wanted to get the race recap done while it's still fresh in my mind.

As you know, I have been dealing with race anxiety for years now.  No matter how much I try to reason with myself, logic seems to go out the window when it comes to racing and me.  This year, I decided to try something different, and that was to not run the ABB 5K the day before the race; I was hoping that by starting the half marathon out on fresher legs, I might feel better and thus not want to quit at mile two, as I have in previous races.  What was weird, and very telling about the irrational way anxiety manifests itself, is that when I woke up on Saturday morning, the day of the ABB 5K, I felt the all-too-familiar dread, which made no sense because I wasn't racing!  Jeff, Jimmymeow, and I were just going to spectate as the rest of our crew ran.  I was pretty upset at myself for feeling like this, but somehow, watching the race seemed to help.

The next morning, RACE DAY for me, was interesting.  I wasn't super nervous when I woke up, not like I was the day before, and nowhere near how I've been for so many races in the past.  I mean, a little nerves were there, but I was functional.  Maybe I tricked my brain into having its anxiety freakout a day early.  Any case, I got most of it out of my system the day before.

As usual, we got dressed and met in the lobby of the Hilton, which was bustling with runners.  We took a quick group picture:
Left to right:  me, Julia, Karen, Andi, Diane, Cristy, Cary, Brian, and Jeff

You might notice that not only were we not wearing any kind of throwaway sweatshirts, but a lot of the women in our group were wearing tank tops.  That's because Texas is crazy, and it was hot - yes, in January.  The race was under a yellow flag warning:
At the expo - a yellow flag for less-than-ideal race conditions.

Honestly, although it sucked that we weren't going to get good running weather, what the organizers were concerned about (temps in the mid-60s to begin, with 100% humidity) wasn't anything new to us; unfortunately, most of our runs have been in those same conditions.  So while we weren't worried about the conditions, we were disappointed to not get this race with ideal running weather...but oh well - it comes with the territory when you run in Texas.

Anyway.  We took our group picture and then headed out to our corrals.  Brian and Karen went to B, Jeff went to C, and the rest of us went to E.  This year, we were a little concerned about the cut off time - although you have four hours to finish the half marathon, the organizers sent out a notice saying that you needed to maintain a 13:45 pace for the first 8 miles, or you could be swept.  Which made no sense, as that's a three hour half marathon, and like I said, you had four hours.  So we moved closer to the front of the corral than we've ever been, just to be on the safe side.  Interesting note:  we started the race at 7:30; last year we started at 7:37, so it paid off to do that, although we were in a crush of people and at one point I honestly thought I might vomit - could have been a bit of race anxiety, or it could have just been being a short person smushed up against what felt like a gajillion people.

One last selfie before the race began:
Julia, Cristy, me, Diane, Cary, Andi - ready to go!

We wished each other luck, high fives went around, and then the race began!  Diane and I started off doing 1:30/45 intervals.  We'd experimented with dropping down our running interval over the last couple of weeks, and I was glad we made that change with the way the weather turned out.  It was muggy, warm, and foggy.  Rarely, very rarely, we'd get a bit of a breeze, but there would be miles in between that happening, so we were pretty conservative with our running.  I knew I'd spend my first mile trying to get my breathing in check, thanks to the anxiety, but we did really well with keeping ourselves calm, and I felt good.  I think it was partway through the second mile that my breathing got a little ragged and we took an extra walking break, but other than that, things were going as well as they could be, considering the conditions.

The Houston marathon/half marathon is a great race - spectator and volunteer support is amazing.  I have never had my name called out (it was printed on my bib) so many times as I did in this race - and every time, hearing "go Shelley" or "you've got this, Shelley" helped keep me moving.  That said, things did start to hurt - the underside of my middle toe as well as the arch on my left foot, my left hip, and eventually, my back - oooh, my back was killing me for the last four miles!  But I kept thinking that as soon as I got to the finish line, it would all stop hurting (spoiler alert - that was not true...I think I had runner's amnesia regarding that).

Because I've run so many half marathons, I've figured out a thing or two about race pictures, and was hoping to get some good shots along the course.  I suspect that most of mine will be of me walking, as that always seemed to be when we saw a photographer, but there is one spot, just about at the halfway point, where there's an overhead photographer, with a blue carpet that makes for a good picture - if you can get it without a lot of other runners, because invariably they will be blocking you in the picture.  So when Diane and I were approaching that spot, I held us back while a big group went ahead, and then we ran for our great picture - only to see one of the photographers (there were two) flip his camera over to check something - DANG IT!!!  We'll see if that shot came out, but you can't say we didn't try for a good one.

We kept running, but I was starting to want to walk more.  We took some extra walking breaks, and then finally just flipped our intervals - instead of running for 1:30 and walking for 45 seconds, we did the opposite, and this saved me.  I was able to keep doing the intervals instead of walking more and more.  That said, I'd been telling Diane since about mile 4.5 that if she was feeling strong, to go on ahead without me.  I was fine with that, and had originally (like, since last January) been planning on running the race solo, so mentally I was prepared.  Finally, at mile 8.5, she decided to go on ahead - I was glad that she was feeling so good, as I was a hurting fool at that point.

I kept doing my reverse intervals, occasionally chatting with other runners.  I was proud of myself for not doing any extra walking - much as I was ready to be done running, every time my Garmin chimed, I ran that interval.  I also didn't consider quitting like I had during my previous half marathons, nor did I break down in tears, which I'd also done during the previous halfs.  I never went there emotionally, and for that, I'm grateful.  Running a half marathon is hard enough physically, but when you throw the emotional side into it like I seem to do, it just wreaks havoc with every part of my body.  Not having that happen yesterday was really wonderful.  Don't get me wrong, I was still hurting and my back felt like it was going to break in half, but I was able to push through all of that.

The last two miles were interesting.  This is where the full and half meet back up (after splitting off around mile 7.5), and it's exciting to see how the marathoners are doing.  There were a lot of spectators, plus that's the section where several beer companies are handing out Dixie cups of beer to the runners.  It's definitely a party atmosphere, if your party includes guests who look like the walking dead.

My Garmin chimed that I was at mile 12, but I knew I wasn't, according to the route markers - between weaving around slower runners throughout the course, plus we didn't run the tangents, I was off by more than a quarter of a mile.  It was at this point when a woman in an orange tank tapped my arm as she caught up to me and said "we've got this" - and we ended up running together for the rest of the race.  But wait, here's where it gets interesting:  as we were exchanging running stories while we ran/walked, a strong breeze came up, along with some sprinkles, which felt great as it cooled us down.  Then the sprinkles turned into big fat raindrops, and then the skies opened up into a torrential downpour!  It was funny, really - we were about .75 of a mile from the finish, so we knew we wouldn't be out in it for long, and it wasn't cold - but dang, we were getting drenched!

Normally, there are a ton of spectators at this point but they'd all retreated into the cover of building overhangs, so we runners were on our own.  We finally hit the finisher's chute and the timing mats were under water, with big puddles on either side.  Some runners ahead of us were carefully picking their way over them, but at that point my shoes were soaked through, so I just went for it, hitting the mat and splashing through the giant puddles of water.  My finish time was 3:33, but honestly, that is so secondary to the fact that I had a good race, mentally.  Finish times do not always tell the entire story, and that is definitely true in my case.  I'm really proud of myself.

I hugged my new runner friend, Becka, and then we got our medals and made our way inside the convention center, where the race organizers had just brought out an industrial-sized roll of thermal blankets - you pulled them off much like taking a bag off the roll at the product section of the grocery store.  I was happy to get this, seeing as the air conditioning was working very well in the convention center and I was soaked through.  I stopped and had my official finisher's picture taken, and met up with Jeff and the gang.  It was a rough race for most of our group - the hot, muggy weather just takes a toll on you.  But they all finished - and Diane managed to make it to the finish line just as the rain started, so she didn't get too wet, luckily.
You are looking at one happy half marathon finisher!

I got my finisher's shirt:
I like it, plus it's not super fitted, so it actually feels like it's one I'll wear!

And then we headed to the food area to get our breakfast.  Considering I'd run 13.38 miles on just three GU's and some Tailwind drink, I was not very hungry, but I got a biscuit and gravy and one breakfast sausage link, plus a chocolate milk, and chowed down.  We were sitting there, going over how the race went for everyone, when we looked at the clock and realized we only had an hour to get back to the hotel, shower, pack, and check out!  Ack!  The Hilton was not as generous with their late check out time this year, so we had to scramble, and didn't have time to take a group finisher picture with our medals.  That was disappointing, but we're planning on having a post-race victory dinner soon, and will wear our super sweet finisher's shirts and medals and relive our big day...and take some pictures!

Oh - I do have a funny picture to show you.  When we got back to our room, I took off my shoes and socks and discovered that my feet were blue!  Not blue from being cold, but blue because apparently my green shoes had leached color when they were rain-soaked:
Yes I know this is kind of gross - but the blue was too funny not to share.  Oh and after my shower, it was still there, although a little lighter.

OK, I can't end this post with that picture, so here's our participant shirt that we got at packet pickup:
Top is the front, bottom is the back.  Super soft, lightweight cotton shirt, great color - I'll wear this one often.

This was a memorable race - not only because it was my tenth half marathon, but also because I finished it feeling good about my performance.  I haven't been able to say that for a long time!

34 comments:

  1. Congrats!! As I always say, finishing is winning!

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    1. It definitely felt like that yesterday! :)

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  2. I'm so happy to read that you feel good about this race and that the anxiety didn't overwhelm you. I'm sure that made all the difference for you, especially when you started hurting. Hurting and anxious would be a terrible combination!

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    1. No kidding. I remember one year doing this race I was hurting so bad I wanted to stop at the medical tent at mile 12, but CC wouldn't let me...she probably guessed that I wouldn't want to get going again, and she would have been correct. At least this time I could deal with the physical pain better since my brain wasn't going into overdrive.

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  3. I always enjoy your race recaps. Makes me want to start running, but then I remember I don't like running much! Great job Shelley!

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  4. I read about the weather and I was worried about you. But you did it. You are a rock star!!!!!!!

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    1. I found out today that they bumped the weather warning to red before the end of the race - those poor marathoners REALLY suffered with the humidity, especially after the rain stopped and the sun came out and steamed up the city.

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  5. I do love reading your race recaps! I'm so glad you had a good experience, and especially that a woman you didn't even know joined with you at the end to make your finish extra special.

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    1. Yeah, that was a fun bonus to the last crazy, rainy mile!

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  6. Great job and awesome recap! I've run this half once in the past and would love to run it again in the future!

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    1. The race is truly the best half marathon I've experienced - Houston does it right, no question.

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  7. Congratulations on doing so well on the race! It's great to hear that you were feeling better emotionally--what a relief!

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  8. Wow, that is a nice medal! Congrats on a race well run. I can't wait to see your race pictures! Hopefully your "money shot" turned out..lol.

    Why do you suppose you were nervous before the 5K? Is it just race day excitement whether you are running or not?

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    1. I don't know why I had race nerves for a race I wasn't doing...my brain is a strange creature, that's for sure.

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  9. What a great read! Thanks for sharing and congratulations on the race! You are amazing! :)

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  10. That is a sweet medal!! I'm glad you had a good race this year, well done! Are your feet still blue?

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    1. Two showers later and they're still a bit blue!

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  11. Wow, so impressive that you powered through, and that is indeed a lovely medal. Andyou've completed ten of the dang things, that's amazing! Kudos, congrats, and hope you're enjoying a well-deserved rest.

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    1. Usually I'm ready to run in a couple of days, but I'm sore and plan on talking most of the next week off. Feels like I've earned this one, LOL.

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  12. This has been of your best half's if you ask me. So happy to read it was a good race for you and that you felt good about it. Can't believe you have done 10 already, so impressive.

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    1. Thanks, Fran - it really was my best half - I felt like I overcame a lot with this one. :)

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  13. Congratulations! You did amazing! I am so surprised that the anxiety came a day early for the race you weren't doing this year, and didn't come again. That is awesome! And it's awesome you stuck with those intervals. That is something to be very proud of!

    I love doing a race with a new friend! I have met quite a few people in my life that way! :)

    Both shirts are awesome! Can't wait to see the pic with everyone in their finisher shirts with the medals.

    And that weather. Eek. It's horrible it was that way, but like you said, unfortunately, that is what you guys run in most of the time :( Hope your next half has better weather!

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    1. I definitely do not understand race anxiety, but I was soooo glad to get it out of the way a day earlier.

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  14. Yay!!! This was the most victorious race recap! I loved it! Less nerves and you didn't give up when it got rough!!!! Yay!!!!

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    1. Thanks, MaryFran - it was my best race, times be damned. :)

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  15. CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!!!!! YAY YOU!!!! (oh, and I hear blue feet are all the rage on the runways of NYC, Paris and Milan this season!)

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    1. Haha, good thing - those blue feet lasted for several days!

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  16. Congrats, Shelley!! You always inspire me in the way you just.keep.going. Race anxiety, weather, pain - you just keep on pushing through. Your brain may play nasty nervous pre-race tricks on you, but you've gotten so good at out-smarting it. #10 will be one to remember for a long time :-) Great job!

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    1. Thanks, Emmaclaire - I think you're right, #10 will be my most memorable half. :)

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  17. Woot Woot High 5 sister I knew you could! Congrats on every hard earned step and crossing that line!

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