As I rolled out of bed at 5:10 am, I knew my buds Vic and June were probably parking at the GRB already. :-) I checked the weather, then dressed quickly, gathered my multiple bags and headed out. I have to admit, I wished the weather was about 10 degrees cooler and the humidity was nasty, but what can you do? As I drove, I tried every radio station, but there was nothing on that really made me want to run. So, I put in the Black Eyed Peas cd, cranked it up and "danced" to the tunes all the way to the GRB. I also realized that I forgot to take an anti-inflammatory before I left the house, but remembered that I had some Aleve in the car and took two. I stashed a couple more in my pocket for later, just in case. Anything to keep the shin quiet!
At the GRB, I quickly found the Houston Fit group and staked out a place to stretch. Shortly after I arrived, I started to see the rest of my running buds arrive one by one. One of the 1/2 marathon coaches, Margo, came up to me and told me she read my blog! I was so flattered! Later, I was surprised to see my good friend from my days at HISD, Nora! She was a Houston Fitter a few years back and her stories of running the marathon in the freezing rain inspired me when I was training for my 1st 1/2 and 1st full. You should see her pics of the icicles hanging from the stop signs on marathon day! She and her friend Suzanne were running the 5K, so we wished each other luck. I also had an opportunity to meet fellow blogger Gary before the race. It was great to meet you Gary! One of the Houston Fit Coaches did the "Blessing of the Quads", which I always look forward to - "Legs be Strong, Head be Stronger!!!". Finally, my friend Amy, who was walking the 1/2 arrived. The next thing I knew, it was time to go to the start.
The start was the usual standing around with all that anticipation and nervous excitement. I wasn't even sure I was in the right corral until the gun went off and we began to push forward. Amy and I were wwwwaaaaayyyy in the back. We eventually made it to the mats and I wished Amy luck and was off. I always love seeing the huge crowd of runners in front of me when running on the Elysian Viaduct! All these folks pushing themselves to accomplish a common goal...I'm starting to sound really cheesy, but it really does make me excited to be a part of it! I had to weave around quite a few walkers for the 1st mile or so. It made me think of Jamoosh and how he would be really annoyed by folks not moving to the right side of the road. I finished my 1st mile in 11:40, which was slow, but to be expected in the crowds. I remember seeing a group of people on a porch on Quitman drinking mimosas and I have to admit, I was a bit jealous. About this time, I heard a lady tell her friend, "Hey, I heard Kid Rock was running today!" I had to laugh - surely Marshall Mathers was not among us. Of course after the race, I did check the race results just to confirm that.
Somewhere on Quitman, I found familiar faces. It was the Red Group 5/1 crew! Kay, Courtney, Gigi, Rebecca, Tricia and Amy...we jogged together for a bit and I ran on. They were running the full and I knew they had to maintain a pace that would get them across all 26.2 miles. Not long after I made it over I-45, I heard someone call my name. It was Vic! We said hello and I continued on. A few minutes later, right after entering Woodland Heights, I ran into Claudia and Trina. I ran almost the whole marathon with them last year, so that certainly brought back memories! The next thing I remember seeing were the Desperate Housewives singing and dancing. That was priceless!
I made it through the Heights and onto Studewood, and found another running bud, Curt. It was great to have someone to talk to for awhile. Curt and I ran together quite a bit on the last 2 long training runs, so we just kind of picked up where we left off with our conversations. He saw his cousin as we approached Washington, so again I was alone. Somewhere in here we actually caught up to Felix Lugo and his flag. Of course, one walk break later and he was way ahead again. My goal was to maintain an 11-minute pace as long as I could, but at this point almost every single split was either an 11:11 or 11:14 mile...hey, at least I was consistent!
Not much happened between Washington and the turn around. I remember a spectator using his hands as a megaphone as he belted out the tune to Rocky. I did see Fitters, Jon and Alisa, running toward me before the turnaround, as well as a few other familiar faces. I remembered what Cassie had said when I blogged about having marathon-envy last week. You were soooo right Cassie, I was more than happy to reach the turn around point! Before then, I saw some students cheering at the University of St. Thomas and grabbed a Tootsie Roll from them. Man, are they hard to chew when you're running! Once I turned around, I started to look for my buds running the full coming in the opposite direction. I finally saw the Red Group 5/1s again and we cheered for each other across the street. Then, I heard June yell my name. It was great to see her smiling face! Next, I heard my name and saw Coach Gaye and Coach Allen. Next I saw the 1/2 Marathon 5/1s. It was fun to cheer for folks and gave me a bit of pep as I was starting to feel a bit tired. I also tried to give high-fives to anyone with their hand out. The Rocky guy was still singing the tune, which made me laugh. I must have been really distracted looking for familiar faces in the on-coming runners, because I heard someone call my name from behind and it was Jon! Somehow, I passed him and didn't even realize it. We stayed together for quite a bit of the rest of the run. It was good to have someone to talk to again.
As we turned onto Allen Parkway, we saw the winner of the marathon running by. He made it look so easy! Not long after that, we saw another truck coming and the women's leader running by. I yelled out a "Wooohooo, you go girl!" and for a moment, I felt like running faster. But only for a moment. At some point, I saw my running bud from the 2006 Marathon, Tina. She and her hubby are expecting their 1st kiddo later this year, so she wasn't running this time. Thanks for the cheers Tina...I needed it! We ran past the Houston Fit tent where it was great to see more familiar faces! Debbie, Coach Cheryl and Rebecca were there. Thank you for the delicious oranges!!! Now, from my experience on our Saturday LRs, I know Jon is one of those folks who gains momentum toward the end of a LR and speeds up. I am not one of those people. We stayed together until the water station on Allen Parkway, then I started to lose him. Even after he gave me the "hey, it's painful now, but it will soon be over" pep talk. Overall, I felt pretty good. Just not good enough to push harder. So there I was, amid the sprinkling of other 1/2 marathoners on Allen Parkway. For the 1st time in my life, I thought about how it would be nice to have an ipod right about now. Once I entered Downtown, those thoughts left my mind, because I knew I was almost there. I took an extra walk break somewhere in there and then decided to shut off the 5/1 alarm on my watch and just run. I think I took one more quickie walk break in there before making that final turn and heading to the finish. Woohoo, another race under my belt. It felt good to be done and I was very thankful that I was doing the 1/2. :-) I have to say that it was one of the most enjoyable races I've done. I decided early on to just have fun and I did! My finish time was 2:27 and some change. Definitely no PR and I have to admit I was a bit bummed at 1st for not making my 2:25 goal, but considering my lack of December training during finals and my slow, sluggish training LRs for the past few weeks, I finally decided that it wasn't too bad.
Afterwards, I decided to take advantage of the situation. This was the very 1st time, I did not have friends and family waiting for me at the finish. Much like the Expo, I was free to lounge around a bit, eat the free food and just soak in the atmosphere. I picked up my medal, which promptly fell off it's ribbon, so I had to exchange it. Next, I headed to the chow line where I saw Jon. We loaded up on cookies, eggs, sausage, etc and sat down to eat. Jon and I swapped storied with the other folks at the table and enjoyed the food. I either really worked up an appetite or those eggs and sausage links were really yummy! Next, I grabbed my awesome finishers shirt and made my way back to the car.
My day wasn't over yet! I maneuvered through the road closures and headed to Memorial Park for a quick shower at the tennis center. Then, I maneuvered through the road closures yet again to the Taft and Allen Parkway. I grabbed my 2nd bag (the one with gatorade, pretzels, glide and gu) and my homemade signs and made my way to the Houston Fit tent. This was probably the high point of my day. I had so much fun dancing to the music and cheering for runners as they went by. And, I saw Margo again, who told me she registered for Chicago - her 1st full marathon!!! (Ummm Margo, I think you should start a blog to journal your adventure to Chicago!)
Among the folks I spotted on the course were Jon Walk looking strong, Felix with his flag, Bob crusing by and my bud Kay. Damn, Kay was hauling butt and looking really strong. I knew she was going to blow her time from last year out of the water! (And she did, by almost 40 minutes, finishing in 5:03!!!) Next, I saw Kat, Marlo and the more of my Red Group 5/1 buds. Then I saw June! She was looking super strong and still smiling. I knew she would kick butt on her 1st marathon! Some runners were really looking strong, others looked like the were unsure if they were really almost there. Many were doing that survival shuffle that I know very well. Next, we saw Coach Fred and then Pam. The course was opening up, but I was determined to stick around till I saw Vic. In no time, I saw him heading my way! Vic, it was great to see you and an honor to run with you for a bit! While he looked tired, he had that look of determination in his eye that told me that he was in fact going to finish...not that I had any doubts. He's one determined guy!
Next, I headed home. The hubby and kiddo were still hanging out in their PJs which made me laugh. We headed to Pappasito's for a late lunch so I could have the fajita's and margarita that I had been craving all week. It was delicious! Afterwards, we headed home where I played with the kiddo for the rest of the day. All in all, it was a great day. Congrats to everyone who ran the 1/2 and the full...especially those 1st timers - Amy, Bill, June and Vic! Welcome to the club - you are now MARATHONERS!