Monday, August 20, 2012

Up From the Ashes

Well, it has certainly been awhile since I have blogged, hence the appropriate title. My new job that I had with the Bank was so demanding and stressful that after work and training I barely had time for anything else. So, the good news is that I no longer have the job. Yeah! The bad news is, I no longer have that job. More on that later, but let's do some catching up.

I was very blessed in January to attend the Olympic trials in January. Yes, I am going back all the way to January. That is how long it has been since I blogged. The bank that I used to work for is one of the sponsors of the Houston Marathon and not only was I able to run the Marathon on Sunday, but I was able to get VIP treatment for the trials on Saturday. I would post some photos, but somehow I think it is a little late to post them of the trial after the Olympics is already over.

We were able to spend the weekend in The Woodlands at my wife's Aunt's place and be able to relax and enjoy the entire experience. On Saturday morning we headed out to the trials and we were able to park right next to the convention center due to our VIP passes. We ended up on the west side of the start line and found a VIP tent and helped ourselves to some breakfast before the race started. Little did we know that we were supposed to be on the east side. So after breakfast, we ventured out to the seating area to watch the men and women warm up. The start of the race for the men was 8 AM and temps were at 29 degrees. The women started at 8:10 and it had risen to 39 degrees in 10 minutes, Got to love Houston.

One of the highlights was seeing Ryan Hall warm up. It was amazing how big his legs were. He is pretty skinny up top, but he looked like he had cyclists legs. There were a lot of people I did not know, but I did see a lot of the heavy hitters, Ryan, Meb, Dathan, Shalane, Kara, and Desi. At 8 am the men were off and out came the women who hit the start at 8:10. They all did a little 2.2 mile loop before hitting the three 8 mile loops. When the men came back through on the first little loop, Michael Wardian tossed me one of his gloves. I am not for sure if it was snot lined, but I still have it.

In between loops we ducked in and out of the tent before we realized that we were supposed to be on the east side. So, we ventured over to that side to enjoy the VIP breakfast and the VIP port-potties. That is right, we had our own VIP toilets complete with running water to wash our hands. We are spoiled for ever.

Because of getting there late, a lot of people had already taken the front row spectating, but we were able to squeeze in and get some phone camera shots of the runners that came in. It was pretty spectacular to see them finish with all the emotion of making the team and of not making the team. Months of hard work and effort went into this race to only have three slots available. The emotion of making the team was quickly overshadowed by the heartache we saw of the those who came so close, but didn't make it. I am glad that those who came close were still able to make it in for the other track events at the Olympics. You could literally feel the emotion as they came across the line.

After we grabbed up all the souvenir items that came with the VIP pass, we headed back to The Woodlands to rest up as my day was coming up tomorrow. My training had been going well as I had a lot of vacation that I used in December after what I felt was not a good performance at the Route 66 Marathon in November. I managed a 3:10 in horrible conditions, but I knew I could do better. I think that is key factor of competitive athletes, they are always trying to improve and get better better. The moment of truth was at hand.

We got up bright and early to head downtown to Houston for our 7 am start and our VIP breakfast. That is right, we still had VIP privileges on race day. We were able to park in the VIP lot right next to the Convention Center and our passes got us access to the VIP breakfast before the race. I did not eat anything, but the family indulged as we all sat in the warmth and watched the Kenyans warm up inside. Being at the breakfast also gave us access to the upstairs restroom with no waiting lines. No lines and take your time. Sweet!

While I watched the family eat breakfast, I heard a familiar voice, I looked over at the other table behind us and it was the voice of Boston Billy Rodgers. Multiple winner of the Boston and New York Marathons. Over to the left of him was Olympic Marathon medalist, Frank Shorter. We were literally in the presence of running royalty. At 6:40 I decided it was time to leave the warmth and head to starting line. I will never be the same after having those kind of privileges before a race.

I headed out into the 39 degree cold to make it to the starting corral. I was in corral A and I will have to say that the organizers of the race did a excellent job of signage to let runners and spectators know where to go. I made it to my corral and much to my surprise, there were port-a-potties in the corrals. What a novel concept. That was the first time I have experienced that and I think it should be part of all major races.

I made it to the front of the corral and waited for the start of the race. After the obligatory pep talk by the Mayor and the sponsors, Boston Billy gave a little talk and Joan Benoit started us off. The first mile of the race was so congested that I could not get into the pace I wanted and started to panic a little as I watched the 3 hr pace group go by. I managed to hit 7:03 for the first mile and little did I realize that it would be my slowest mile of the race.

After a couple of miles the race starts to spread out a little in the neighborhoods and I was able to get into a rhythm. I caught back up with the 3 hr pace group and considered running with them. Anyone who knows me, knows that I tend to go out real fast and hang on for dear life at the end. I considered the conservative strategy, but I was feeling good and went for it. I settled into a nice 6:44 pace and dropped the pace group. Most of the race at this point was pretty congested, but not too bad to where you couldn't develop a good pace of your own. Eventually we hit the spot to where the half turns around and we were on our own. At about 10 miles in, I latched on to a group that was running the same pace and headed off. Around the half way mark, I dropped most of the guys except for one. I am still not sure to this day what his name is, but his bib said Candy Man.

Now, I was running in front of him most of the time and I could not see his bib, so every time we ran by spectators, they would holler out, "looking good Candy Man." I thought they were maybe talking to me since I was wearing my Red, White, and Blue K-Swiss K-Ruuz's. I did not realize til the end of the race they were referring to him.

I went through the half in 1:28:44 and was still feeling good. I was like a metronome with my pace, mile after mile at 6:44 or 6:43. On the second half I started dropping some 6:39's and it was just me and Candy Man drafting off of me. He hollered at me and wanted to know if I wanted him to lead for awhile and I said I was good. He did not want to slow me down, but he wanted to do his fair share of drafting. I at least appreciate that as draft sponges can sometimes be annoying.

As we got close to the mile 22 aid station, I started to feel it a lot more in my legs, I ducked over to get some water and Gatorade and Candy Man kept going. I hurried through the aid station and caught back up to him. Little did he know that him leading me out, kept me going for a little bit longer. At about mile 23 Candy Man started to fade and I re-took the lead. I kept the pace going and he eventually faded back. At this point I had ran out of GU and expected some to be on the course. Nothing! That is the only thing I can say bad about the race, but I only took two GU's with me and that was my decision. I was slowly running out of steam and could have used one for a little boost. I kept hitting the aid stations to get some calories from Gatorade, but it was only short lived.

The last few miles do have some smaller hills and that slowed my pace a little. I was still hitting sub 7's, but they were not 6:43's. I hit the last little straightaway and suddenly realized that I was on the same streets as the trial competitors and that I was nearing the last turn to the chute. I turned the corner and realized that if I pushed it a little, I could make sub 2:57. I pushed with what little I had left and hit 2:56:56. At last I had hit sub 3 and I had negative splitted the second half in 1:28:12.

After getting the medal and my picture taken, it was time to head inside and find the family. One weird thing about this is that they serve breakfast to the competitors after the race. I don't know about you, but sausage and biscuits and gravy do not sound good after a Marathon. I got my finisher shirt and looked for the area according to my last name for the family to meet me at. Another great organization tool. I found my wife and kids and celebrated my victory. I finished 8th in my age group, but I could of have cared less as I had achieved my goal.

The Houston Marathon was a well put on race with a great course and organization. We were really fortunate with the weather as 2 days later the overnight low was 70 degrees with high humidity. That is one of the risks of doing this race, but if the weather holds out, I can guarantee you a great course and experience. Just get some GU on the course late in the race. LOL!

I was going to blog about our other happenings since the race, but I think this is enough for now and I will fill you in the rest with a new blog. After all, I have some time now.

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