Wednesday, January 20, 2016

2016 Aramco Houston Half Marathon Recap!

The medal - this is one of my favorites of all my half marathon medals!
 The finisher's shirt - much better than last year, in both design and fit.  I love it!
Participant shirt that you get at packet pickup - they were really into white cotton t-shirts this year.

Continuing with Monday's post, here's how the rest of the weekend went.  Jeff took Friday off from work, and we drove in to Houston, arriving just a few minutes after the expo opened at 11:00 am.  Having learned our lesson from last year, when we didn't go until midday on Saturday and all of the half marathon merchandise was sold out, we headed straight for the official marathon/half marathon booth, where I bought this cute T-shirt:
If you've seen my office, you'll know how much of a fan I am of lime green color.

I was also shopping for Cary and Cristy, who wouldn't be arriving until later in the afternoon, so I was modeling some items and texting pictures to Cary, just in case she wanted them.  I really liked this year's race jacket, but I restrained myself from buying it...I freely admit that I own quite a few running pullovers and jackets right now.  But look how cute it was:
Aw man.  Kind of regretting that decision, now that I see the jacket again.  Oh well...

The expo was fun - they had a giant skyline print, made up of all of the registered runner's names:
There we are!

We also played around with the gigantic 13.1 numbers:
You know, I don't go around feeling particularly short, but when I see a picture like this, I realize that dang, I AM short!

So you see the shoes I'm wearing in the above picture?  They are my old Hokas, pair number two of the four pairs I've bought since I switched to wearing them back in 2014.  I've been rotating these with pair number three, and in December, I'd bought pair number four, intending to break them in during my January runs, in time for this weekend.  Well, Hoka changed the model I wear (the Clifton) and when I put them on to go for a run, they did this weird pinching thing where my toes meet the top of my foot.  Needless to say, I immediately took them off, put on my older model shoes, and went for the run.

I looked everywhere for the old model in my size but had no luck, so I was resigned to running in some less-than perfect shoes for the next six months.  I didn't bring those shoes to Houston, though - no way was I going to run a half marathon in them.  But at the expo, I happened on a booth with a large display of Hoka boxes, so I took a shot and held out my foot to the saleswoman there, asking if she had that shoe in an 8.5.  Turns out, she had one pair, which even she was surprised to see.  I bought them and got 40% off because they were an older model, but honestly, I would have paid full price...I was so happy, you have no idea.  I then broke the cardinal rule of racing and wore them for the 5K the next morning.  They felt perfect, so I broke an even bigger cardinal rule of racing and wore them for the half marathon - and I was so glad I did!  While my legs got tired toward the end of the race, my feet felt great.  I wouldn't recommend doing this with just any shoe, but I was pretty confident that this model would treat me well, and they did.  I returned pair number four to my running store on Monday, and while I'm sorry I couldn't give them my business (because I will always support my local running store first whenever I can), I'm really happy to have the shoes I love.  And now, back to the recap...

Along with wanting to hit the expo on Friday to have a crack at the official race merchandise, the other reason was that last year, I felt like I was on my feet too much on Saturday, what with running the 5K, then walking to breakfast, then spending a couple of hours wandering around the expo - that is a lot for me on the day before a half marathon.  So after we were finished with our breakfast adventure, Jeff and I went back to our room to shower and laze around.  He went to the indoor pool, which was located on the 23rd floor, and eventually I wandered up there - I walked into the area, which was enclosed in floor-to-ceiling windows, just as a flash of lightening went that was a spectacular sight, being so high up in the sky!  A storm blew in, it rained for a bit, and dropped the temps quite a lot.  I also spent some time hanging out with CC and Loretta, with Jeff bringing us Starbucks for an afternoon treat.

We all went out to dinner at Carrabbas, just as we did last year.  We had reservations at 5:00 pm, which was perfect - we ate, had a great time, and when we left, the restaurant and the waiting area was jam-packed with people...not being a fan of crowds (races being the exception), it was nice to not have to deal with that mess.
Dinner selfie!  

Back at the hotel, we played another game of Cards Against Humanity, before dispersing to our rooms so we could (not) sleep.  I fell asleep pretty quickly, but woke up at 11:25 pm and tossed and turned the rest of the night - pretty much the norm for me the night before a big race.  I had some pretty big race nerves going in the morning and was actually dry heaving in the bathroom, which was lovely.  Sucks to be me sometimes, what can I say?  We met in the hotel lobby at 6:00 am, took some rather dark group pictures:
Wearing our Renegade Running Club technical shirts!  We all had a lot of people comment on them during the race as well as throughout the entire weekend, since we also had RRC t-shirts and most of us had sweatshirts.  Hey, go big or go home, right?

We finally left the warm lobby for the walk to our corrals.  It was COLD - 37 degrees, but with the wind chill it felt like 33 degrees.  Jeff and I had fleece blankets wrapped around us to use as our throwaway gear, which worked well enough, but we were out in the cold for an hour before we started running, so I ended up half frozen.  Still, it wasn't raining, and it wasn't unseasonably warm and humid, so I was happy with the weather.

It took a long time for our corral to finally get started, so of course that meant selfies:
My smile belies my anxiety right here...  

We crossed the start line at 7:37 am - for reference, the first group began right at 7:00 am.  CC and I were doing a repeat of last year and ran together.  At first I thought we might try to beat three hours (last year we finished in 3:04) but very early on, I realized that I was struggling longer than normal.  Usually the first couple of miles are when I'm getting my breathing, nerves, and form under control, but we hit mile 3 and I still wasn't feeling it.  We did our thing, running 1:30/1 intervals, soaking in the cheering spectators, bands, and all of the hoopla along the route, but I felt clunky.  We hit mile 5 and STILL, I wasn't into my groove.  I told CC that my new goal was to just finish at this point - well that, and to beat the little boy who was running with his dad nearby.  I mean seriously, the kid was 7 or 8 years old - surely I could outlast him over 13.1 miles, right??  

Finally, around mile 8, I got in the groove and although I was a little tired because hello, I'd just run 8 miles, I felt better.  In fact, we'd come upon landmarks and CC would say "hey, this is where you had to walk last year" and "hey, this is where you really wanted to quit last year" and "hey, there's the medical tent that I wouldn't let you stop at last year" - and I have to say, the difference between how I felt in the last five miles of last year's race to this year's race was like night and day.  Now, if I could somehow manage to just combine those two races, I might actually finish a half marathon in under three hours!

What ended up being the most mentally challenging was that we were getting really far off from the official mile markers.  When we hit the first mile marker, my Garmin said we were at mile 1.03 - not unexpected considering we were having to zigzag around groups of walkers.  It stayed like that for a few more miles, but then we were .05 off, and by the time we hit mile 12, we were .15 off.  So when we were on that last mile, and we hit 13.1 on my Garmin, I told CC we should just stop and tell the race officials to bring our medals out to us - we'd run a half marathon, no need to go any further...but then, we didn't want to miss crossing the finish line, so we kept running.  Loretta was at the finish line and got a picture:
Almost there!

By the way, we beat the kid.  VICTORY!!!  Here's the breakdown:

Mile 1:    14:11
Mile 2:    14:29
Mile 3:    14:15
Mile 4:    14:37
Mile 5:    14:11
Mile 6:    14:47
Mile 7:    14:57
Mile 8:    14:59
Mile 9:    15:06
Mile 10:  14:51
Mile 11:  15:21
Mile 12:  14:48
Mile 13:  14:51
Mile .30:   3:42

Finish time 3:15, average pace 14:40.  I swore off running half marathons too many times to count between the hours of 5:00 am and 11:00 am Sunday morning, but now that I've had a couple of days to recover, who knows?  I might just do this one (ONE, and only one) again next year.  We'll see - I can't afford to sign up this week anyway, so the decision won't be made until June.

Additional race notes:  I wore a thin long-sleeved shirt under my Renegade Running Club shirt, and I was warm enough – in fact, when we were in the sunny areas, I almost was overdressed.  But then we’d run back into a shady area (there were more shady areas than sunny, between the tall buildings and trees), and it would be so cold that I could see my breath, so I was glad for the double layers.

At one point, a man and woman caught up to CC and I – we noticed them because they were carrying balloons – yes, balloons.  The man was holding a gigantic Mylar Stormtrooper (I swear it had to be 5 feet in height) and the woman had a cluster of Mylar pink flamingos that were bobbing all over the place.  We were shocked – I mean, these things were adding major drag to their pace, but eventually they pulled ahead of us and we lost sight of them after a while.  Well, I was watching the replay of the race on ESPN, and noticed that they were in our corral before the race started.  They were at the very back, and waited until the last runners crossed the start line before beginning their race.  I have no idea how many people they passed, but dang!  Obviously they were very strong runners (the man had an Ironman tattoo on the back of his calf) to do this.

There were a lot of spectators with funny race signs; I came up on a woman holding a sign with Donald Trump's face on it, with his hair made out of something - raffia, maybe.  The sign read "Touch Trump's Hair For Luck" and as I ran by, I said "ewww, that's nasty" and she laughed, which in turn made me laugh and put a little more pep in my step.  I can't tell you how many people called out my name as I ran by, and it all helped...the spectators make this race really special.

After the race, we picked up our finisher's shirts, extra medal (for doing both races), and got some hot breakfast - I'm telling you, Houston does it right when it comes to this race!  Then we went outside for some more pictures:
The Renegade Running Club - half marathon finishers!
My partner in, running, CC.
Jeff and I - when we got married nearly 32 years ago, I'd never have thought we'd be posing for post-race pictures like this - crazy times!   

We weren't hungry enough to make our traditional stop at Red Robin for burgers, fries and shakes while we were still in Houston, so we drove home and went straight to Grub Burger Bar for our post-race meal:
Strawberry and chocolate shakes - we earned them!

Once home, I immediately cleared a spot on my wall to hang up my new medal hanger that Loretta and CC made for each of us:
 Such a sweet thing for them to do - my new medals look perfect hanging from it!

This was the best racecation weekend so far with our running peeps!  Laid-back, relaxing, crazy, adventurous...oh and with some running thrown in for good measure.  I can't wait for our next trip with my fellow Renegades!


  1. Wow I just love love love this. You have such a fantastic group and I won't believe you will never do a half again. How could you not with such great people to run with?

    I really love this post, there's so much fun and happiness in it. And happy for you you had such a great weekend.

    1. Thanks, Fran! Yeah, my running peeps make it all worthwhile. :)

  2. Congrats on another great race! I love the race shirts and medals such a cool design.
    I bet you do another one some day with such a great group of friends to run with.

  3. I just love this whole post! What a wonderful time and an amazing race! Congratulations!! You are such a strong woman, mentally and physically! I just love your running group! You all are so lucky to have each other for support! I just knew you could take that kid!

    1. Thanks, Lori! Apparently a 7-year-old beat Jeff, so I was particularly happy afterward to get to tell him that CC and I beat our little kid. ;)

  4. I think your running friends alone make it worth it to train for this half - I just wish you could find a way not to be in "training" for so long. I also still think doing that 5K the day before the half definitely affects your half time. But honestly, none of that matters as long as you get the satisfaction you're looking for from the race. Besides, having fun is probably more important than time especially when it comes to us non-elite runners!

    1. Oh believe me, there will never be another long training season like we just had...that was ridiculous. And as much fun as I have with the 5K, I do agree that it's too much, for me, to do the day before a half marathon.

  5. It sounds like so much fun!!! You are sooo lucky to have such a great group of running buddies! I haven't had luck finding a running buddy or a running group!

    1. I hope you find a group of like-minded running peeps soon. I'll be honest, it's taken years for this one to form...I met Julia back in 2010 and then the others several years later. Worth the wait, though. :)

  6. Haha - I would run faster to get away from Trump's hair, too! Great job to finally get to the actual race. It sounds like a fun weekend and to find 'your' shoes was a great bonus!

  7. You definitely have a fun group of runners to hang out with. That hanger is great too.

    Keep up the good work.

    1. It wouldn't have been nearly as much fun without our friends, that's for sure!

  8. GREAT REPORT!! I love that medal too--such thoughtful artwork. and the skyline with all the runner's names in it.

    You know, it kind of reminds me of a fun weekend at a big quilt show--the vendors, the fun with friends, the great meals out. Oh, the only difference is that you are getting a lot of exercise in, while quilters are just sitting on their butts :) Anyway, I love hearing about the whole thing, especially the way you all enjoy each other's company. So fun that you found your favorite Hokas, and I am still super impressed that you kept up such a consistent pace--at the beginning, when you weren't feeling it, and at the end, when you would be tired! CONGRATULATIONS!!!

    1. LOL at you and Jeannie - hey, being a butt sitter sounds pretty good, too!

  9. I was smiling from ear to ear reading this post - so happy for you and worth the wait for the recap :D Hugs!!

  10. So impressive - way to go, Shelley! And yes, you should have bought that running jacket. It looks good on you.

  11. Great job! Don't you love when something makes you laugh at a race? Makes those miles seem suddenly much easier.

    And you should have bought the jacket. Maybe you can find it online?

    1. Dang it, I just checked their online store and no jackets are remaining...see, it WAS cute!

  12. Look at that schweet medal hanger and schweet medal! Congrats! Ugh, sorry it was so tough until the last 5 miles! You do need a half that puts last year's and this year's race together! :)

    That is so fantastic you found your shoes at the expo! I wish they would have had a zillion pairs for you!

    Ha! I have seen that giant Stormtrooper! Not running a race though.

    1. Seriously, I would have bought another pair if they'd had more than one! The Stormtrooper balloon was a first at a race for me.

  13. Way to go! It sounds like it was a really great experience!

  14. Did you like the new route? There's so much construction going on, I'm sure it made the route a little more challenging. I wish they would change the route of the 5k, however. So glad my little city could treat you right. Maybe next year we'll meet in person!

    1. I think it was the same route as last year (which might have been new then?). I like the route for the half fine - just wish it wasn't so long - HAHAHAHA. I crack myself up...

      I saw too late that you and your mom did the 5K - we'll have to plan to meet up next year!

  15. thanks for all the details, it was so fun to read- but the peeps with the balloons, what the heck?

    1. It's a little disheartening to see people carrying gigantic balloons get so far ahead of you...I mean, come ON, act like they're slowing you down at least! ;)

  16. That is one sweet medal!
    I had to laugh when you said you were short because I actually pictured you in my head as a tall person! Pictures can be so deceiving, eh?
    So let's talk about these Hokas. As you know I've been having sore feet during higher miles. This never happened to me while I wore my Altra Olympus shoes. I can no longer wear the Altras cus they are those zero drop shoes. I have switched to the Mizuno enigma. The Mizunos have treated me well up until this sore feet during high miles issue. I am thinking perhaps I should try the Hokas because they look like they have lots of cushioning. Are they zero drop? I am a neutral runner, which Hoka would you suggest?

    1. I love that you pictured me tall! :) :) :)

      Hokas are zero drop, and I have never been happier with a pair of shoes as I have been with my Hoka Cliftons. They are a little "less shoe" than some of their other models, but super cushy and comfortable. You should try a pair on, and if your running store has a generous return policy (as mine does), buy a pair and give them a few test runs!

  17. Congrats on your successful half marathon, Shelley! And the 5k as well :-)

  18. Love that medal! And hanger! My husband has been talking of moving due to his health. I told him one requirement I have is that they have a running group in the area that has people my pace. He thot I was crazy, but I'm dead serious!


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