Last weekend I ran my very first marathon… the Chevron Houston Marathon.
It was a full weekend affair. Friday morning started out with an e-mail from the marathon committee warning about the weather conditions during the race.
Friday night I had dinner with the hubs and some friends. Everyone was excited to carbo load with me. I made spaghetti for everyone and my special pre-race pasta bake for me. It was a pretty early night for me as I had the ABB 5k in the morning and needed to leave the house at 5:30. I laid out my outfit for the race in the morning and packed a bag with regular clothes to change into since I would be at the Expo after the race.
Race morning came early, but I woke up and had some warm lemon water and made a cup of yerba mate for the road. I wasn’t really hungry, so didn’t worry about eating anything for breakfast. I got on the road at my planned time and made it to Houston with plenty of time to spare. I picked up my packet and dropped it off at bag drop, and hung out until race start. It was already pretty warm (mid-60s), humid, and foggy.
As I made it to the starting coral, I opted to line up at the end of the 10:00 minute/mile section as I was planning on taking it easy for the 5k. Right on time at 8:00 am, the gun sounded and we were off. The race was a loop course through downtown Houston, there was one well manned water stop with both Gatorade and water. I kept what seemed an easy pace and before I knew it I was heading into the finisher chute. I was handed my medal and a bottle of water as I continued down the chute.
I headed to the We Are Houston RunFest for the post race festivities and pick up my bag from gear check. I was a little disappointed that the post race food only consisted of a banana, since I had skipped breakfast before the race. I ate my banana and wandered around a little. I did find a beer tent and indulged in a glass of beer. Afterwards, I headed back to my car to get my street clothes and head to the Expo.
So, I changed into regular clothes and hiked the few blocks to the George R Brown convention center where the expo was going on. I managed to get all the way to packet pick-up before I realized that my driver’s license was still in my handheld water bottle I carried at the 5k that morning. I said a mental Doh! and turned around to head back to my car.
I opted to find a spot to eat lunch as it was nearing 11am and my stomach was making some serious growling noises. I grabbed lunch, hit up Starbucks and headed back to the Expo, this time with my driver’s license. Packet pick-up was a breeze. It was getting close to noon, so I headed over to the Aramco booth, where Meb would be signing autographs and got in line. The line moved slow… we were told that he liked to spend time and chat with everyone. Once it was my turn I was able to ask him for advice for the first time marathoner and he provided me with some great advice that I took to heart the following day.
After I met Meb, I explored the rest of the Expo. I took advantage of every photo opp that there was. I met several people that I follow on Instagram too. It was a fun afternoon. I headed back home shortly after the “We Run Social” event at the Pro Compression booth.
Once home, I had a package waiting for me. My sister had sent me a gift and well wishes for the marathon. I had already been an emotional mess all day… but I lost it then.
I laid out my outfit and gear for the morning, got my bag ready for gear check, and ate dinner. I headed to bed at 8:30, I was exhausted.
Race day morning came super early… my alarm went off at 2:30. I don’t think I slept a wink that night, between nerves and excitement. It wasn’t hard to get out of bed. I got up and had some warm lemon water and toast with almond butter and a banana. I was so happy that there were no signs of the head cold that had plagued me earlier in the week! I was on the road with a cup of yerba mate “to go” by 4:30. I made it to downtown Houston in plenty of time. I pinned on my bib and headed to the convention center. Once there, I found bag check and dropped my bag. Headed for the port-a-cans, then found a place to chill for a bit.
I made another trip to the port-a-cans before heading out to the corrals. I was in the last one, so I had plenty of time to spare. I got to my coral shortly after 7am. We didn’t start heading to the start line for another 30 minutes. I crossed the start line at 7:40.
The weather was less than delightful, but exactly what the race organizers had alerted us to.
The first 8 miles went by so fast… it was very crowded as we were running with the half marathoners. There was so much crowd support, it was hard to keep watching out in front of me as I wanted to look at all the people cheering and the “hoopla” stations. The first hoopla station that I saw was a couple of Elvis impersonators.
It was right around mile 8 that we split from the half marathoners and got some breathing room. I also had to pull over and take advantage of a port-a-can on the road. I was doing well, maintaining an easy pace… walking through the water stops taking a few sips and pouring the rest down the back of my neck. At the halfway point I started noticing that my breathing was a bit labored, likely from the 100% humidity, so I slowed my pace down even more.
It had rained a bit on us earlier in the race, but by the time we hit the Galleria area it was pouring (miles 14-15). Thankfully, that didn’t last long. I was still maintaining pretty well at that point.
At mile 18, the wall hit… like a ton of bricks. My handheld suddenly felt like it weighed 20 pounds, my feet hurt, and I was getting tired. I pulled it together and took a walking break to eat some honey stinger energy chews, take some ibuprofen, and add a nuun tablet to my handheld. It was probably at that point that I started talking to myself (just little cheers – you’ve got this, dig deep, run strong, just keep running). At mile 20 I was feeling so much better.
Around mile 20, there was an official sign on the course that the conditions had been upgraded to red. The sun was coming out and it was getting warm and muggy. I continued on, and took .10 mile walking breaks at each mile. Before I knew it I was taking the turn back to downtown – I was going to finish this! Heading into the finish line, the crowds were cheering… even for us at the very end. I was able to push through and finish with a little bit of a kick at the end. I finished at 5:20:52.
We were ushered through the finish chute and given our medal and a bottle of water. I shed a few tears. This was an amazing experience. I had a smile on my face the entire time (well, maybe not from mile 18-20).
I got my bag from gear check and made my recovery drink, then found the changing area so I could get out of my wet clothes. I was not hungry in the least, so I didn’t stop at the food court. It was nearing 2pm by the time I made it out of the convention center. I was ready to go home.
I made it home and had time to take a shower and foam roll before some friends came over to celebrate my accomplishment with beer, veggies, pizza, and cake pops. I wore my medal the entire night.
Houston is a great marathon… they really do things up right. The race is very well organized. The volunteers are enthusiastic and friendly. The water stops were plentiful and well maintained. The med staff was everywhere (and quite busy). The crowd support is like nothing I had ever experienced – amazing. I enjoyed this race so much, I have already signed up for next year.
As with every race, I set some goals to meet – here’s how I did against them:
- Take it easy at the 5k, very easy. Achieved. I ran at an “easy pace” based on feel.
- Several of my IG friends are running the race, I’d like to meet some of them in person. Achieved. I met several!
- Meet Meb. He will be at the Expo on Saturday for 2 autograph sessions… I’ve got my book ready for him to sign. Achieved.
- Finish what I started. I really don’t have a time goal, my main goal is to make it across that finish line on Sunday. Achieved
- Have fun!! Why do it if it isn’t fun? Achieved… I had so much fun!