Wednesday, January 4, 2017

How I Spent My New Year's Day

I need to be careful. This could become a tradition. Or at least a very bad habit. Last year on New Year's Day I ran a local marathon called the Texas Metalsaw Marathon, getting back into the 26.2 mile marathon "game" again after a 12 year hiatus. I truly thought that, once I'd completed that race and a second one the following weekend to qualify for Marathon Maniacs, I would be ready to run that Rome Marathon, get that checked off of my bucket list, and then be done with the 26.2 mile distance. I'd retired from that distance 12 years previously, and thought I'd retire for good after Rome.

Famous last words, I guess.

I really enjoyed doing that New Year's Day marathon, so much so that I signed up to do the 1/2 marathon distance this year. But then I thought, "I really should do the full marathon, not the half." The fact that it was just up the road from home, did not entail any travel expenses, and had a generous completion time limit got me to thinking.  So I emailed the race director, changed my registration from the half to the full marathon, and then worried about how I was going to train for it.

Lack of meaningful training aside - I'd been staying with 13.1 mile races ever since I ran that full marathon in Rome back in April - New Year's Eve was suddenly upon me. I'd been watching the weather all week. In typical Texas fashion, the weather forecast for New Years Day - race day - was changing hourly. I had my clothes laid out on top of my dresser, but that pile changed three times as the forecast went from warm (shorts and short sleeve top), to cold and wet (capri's and long sleeve shirt), back to warm (bring the shorts out again).

Race day was indeed going to be warm and extremely humid. I set my alarm for 5:00 AM, giving myself an hour to dress and eat breakfast, then got on the road at 6:00 AM to make the hour drive up to the north side of Houston and the race venue.

I parked and then walked the 1/2 mile or so to the neighborhood park where the race starts/finishes and where packet pickup was being staged in the pool house. I put my purse into a zipper-top tote along with some extra power bars, sports gel, socks, a long sleeve shirt in case I'd miscalculated the temperature, and a windbreaker. This fit very nicely into the very nice duffel bag we're given as part of the excellent race swag, which also included a nice long sleeve shirt. This year's race theme was "portapotty" so there was a very large inflatable portapotty at the start line and we each were given a portapotty squeezy toy at the finish line, a cute little souvenir.

Very nice microfiber running hat with embroidered race name, and a very
well-made duffel bag with lots of pockets.

I tied pink ribbons around the handles of my duffel for easy identification, placed my zip tote inside, and then positioned it in the bag drop area, cordoned off but accessible to us at the race route turnaround point. This is a very nice touch, since nearly every other race have sequestered bag check.

A few of us from the 50 States Half Marathon Club were there, but we were having a hard time rounding them up for a club photo. We succeeded in only getting 3 of us into the photo.

Three of us at the start line. The cute, inflatable portapotty with Santa at the start line.

The race started at 8:00 AM sharp. The same 4 loops as last year, but in temps that were almost 30 degrees warmer and 96% humidity. It was going to be a very long 26.2 miles!

I got through the first two loops okay, the midway point at 13.1 miles, but just like last year, it was very hard to turn around and head back out for that 3rd loop, knowing that once I'd finished that one, I'd still have one more to go. And if I quit at the end of the third loop, I'd never be able to forgive myself for getting so close and quitting. It was a real struggle.

The race route, captured by my Garmin GPS watch. Four loops
on paved trails in Kingwood.
At the turnaround point at "home base" they had a tent canopy set up with lots of snack foods, several different choices for beverage - water, Powerade, soft drinks. I grabbed a cup of Powerade and a piece of banana and took the time to consume these, giving my legs a rest and my resolve a chance to fire back up.

Then I started that 3rd loop. It was harder than I remembered it from last year. I was really struggling at that point. And then in order to finish the second half of that 3rd loop I was REALLY having to psyche myself up. There are benches scattered here and there along the paved trail, so when I got to within a mile of the turnaround point, I sat down, pulled out a sports gel from my little pack and forced myself to consume it. I realized that I'd not been fueling enough for the marathon this year. I'd not been taking these sports gels at my usual pace (usually every 1.5 hours) and not consuming enough liquids for some reason. This little respite gave me a chance to remind myself how upset I'd be with myself if I quit after 20 miles, and didn't go the full distance.

This short little break and the little shot of calories really seemed to help. I no longer felt so heavy-legged and as I made that last turnaround to start the fourth loop, I was pretty sure I was going to finish it.

There was a drink station 2 miles out on the loop. We passed it going out and again coming back, passing it a total of eight times. As I neared it on the outbound leg of this last loop I was really starting to crap out again. A long-ago friend from the running club I used to run with was there chatting with one of the volunteers. He was also doing the race, but because he was also one of the organizers, he was taking his time, checking up on the various aid stations as he passed by.

I grabbed a cup of water and as I resumed, he fell in with me and chatted non-stop which was a God-send!! He totally took my mind off of just how miserable I was. I apologized whenever I had to slow down for a little bit, but he stayed with me. Even when I sat down on a bench briefly he sat with me. He said he was in no hurry, to just take my time. He was definitely my saviour!!

As we crossed the finish line together, I thanked him profusely for staying with me through to the end. His wife was one of the volunteers and she took care of both of us, getting us cold drinks with ice, offering pizza and cookies, which are part of the post-race food. I sat a bit, enjoying the cold soft drink and food, then gathered my duffel bag, now 3 lbs heavier with the finisher medal, and slogged my way the 1/2 mile back to where my car was parked.

My massive finisher medal, and my cute little squeezy portapotty

I crawled into my car, changed out of my running shoes and into a pair of sandals, and then just sat there and considered what I'd just been through, and congratulated myself for not quitting. I didn't quit! It was a very warm and humid day for a race, and I didn't quit!

Once again a Texas Marathon finisher!

I headed for home. My initial thought was to stop at Starbuck's near my house, but as I got to the freeway exit, and had to make the decision to turn right toward Starbuck's or left toward the house, the thought of getting out of these sweaty running clothes and getting into the shower easily won out over rewarding myself with a Starbucks.

Another full marathon done. Next up: trip to Jackson MS and Mobile AL to do a "double" - two half marathons in one weekend. Mississippi Blues Half Marathon on Saturday in Jackson, and First Light Half Marathon in Mobile, and a special "double" finisher medal for doing both.

1 comment:

  1. I think you are in the best shape out of anyone i know.

    Great job on finishing the full marathon!! That is quite the medal too. Looks good.