Saturday, February 4, 2012

Aramco Houston 1/2 marathon - 1:16:59

I ran my 2nd fastest 1/2 marathon and hit my goal going into the race, but I felt I could have done a little better.  Race weather was absolutely perfect - mid 40's, not windy - couldn't ask for anything better.  Going into the race, I didn't know what kind of shape I was really in and I wanted to be sub 1:18 and I told myself I'd be very happy with sub 1:17 since I only had about 2 months of healthy, pain free training going into the race.  My mindset going into the race was to treat it as a fitness test and not have unrealistic expectations and my primary goal was to run a decent time and be able to hold my pace and not blow up.

I woke up a little earlier than normal because I wanted to make sure I got downtown with enough time to get a warm-up in before the race and be able to get to the starting line early enough to be able to get up to within a few yards of the start line.  Walking into the GRB, I ran into Jena, a guy I had trained with some last year who had moved to Denver and was back in town for the race.  I made sure I signed up to be part of the ABB team challenge because last year they had about 20 - 30 port-o-potties inside the GRB with no lines and it was pretty much the best thing ever.  Unfortunately this year they had no port-o-potties inside the GRB and the ABB only got you access to one of the restrooms and they only had 4 toilets in the men's room.  I think I would have been better off just getting in line for the port-o-potties somewhere outside.  I ended up spending so much time in line, I didn't have time to get my planned warmup in and I had to head straight to the start line after dropping off my bag to make sure I got into my starting corral before the 6:40 cut-off time.  I got about a 47 second jog before the crowds were too thick to keep running.  The only good thing is with 3 corrals this year instead of 2, I had no trouble getting up to the very front of the corral with time to spare.  I saw my friend and co-worker Scott who is training for his 2nd Ironman and one of my primary goals was to beat him since I don't think I've ever been beaten in a race by a co-worker.  I thought I would be able to beat him, but it wasn't a sure thing with my lack of training coming into the race.

I had my Garmin for the sole purpose of making sure that I ran my target pace for the first 2 miles of the race.  After that I'm pretty much in a groove (or rut) and am locked into the pace I'm going to run and am not going to be making any major adjustments.  Since I didn't really get a warmup in, I wanted to be around 6:00 pace for the first mile and then hold 5:50 - 5:55 pace for the first 8-9 miles and then pick it up if I could the last part of the race.  I came up on mile 1 and the clock said 5:32 and everyone was freaking out, but the actual time was about 5:52 and the clocks at each mile were about 20 seconds off.  I was running with Jena and felt relaxed and really good the first few miles.

I hit my first 5k at 5:54 pace. I had to make a conscious effort not to pick up the pace too much early since I was feeling well and wait until later in the race.  I grabbed water and gatorade at a couple of the water stations early in the race because I wanted to make sure I was well hydrated and could finish the race strong.  My second 5k split was 5:53 and I was feeling pretty good.  Around mile 7, I felt like I was picking up my effort a little bit, but I was running with a group of abou 8 - 10 guys, most who were running the full marathon and it was easier just latching onto the pack.  I threw in a little surge at the turn-a-round, a little before mile 9 and put a little gap between Jena and myself.  At this point, I started to think that I might have a chance at a new PR and running a sub 1:16 and might be able to make a run at 1:15 if I could negative split the race and run low 5:30's my last 5k.  My 3rd 5k split was 5:52.

Unfortunately between miles 9 and 10, all the gatorade and water I'd taken in started to bother my stomach a little bit.  After I hit mile 10, I was dry heaving while I was running and I stopped for about 12 seconds to try to throw up and clear out my stomach but I only kept dry heaving and nothing came up.  Jena had caught up with me a little before mile 10 and started to pull away and I was terrified that Scott was going to catch me while i was on the side of the road.  6 or 7 guys went by but I quickly got back onto pace and turned onto Allen Parkway with less than 3 miles to go.  I could see Jena a little ways ahead, but I just couldn't seem to catch many people.  My 4th 5k split was 5:52 (probably about 5:48 pace when I was actually running and not dry heaving on the side of the road) and I passed 2 guys and I was hoping to have a really fast last mile since there were a lot of people just ahead that seemed within striking distance.  Unfortunately I just didn't have enough left to pick up the pace and it was all I could do to stay on pace and not drop off.  I caught one last guy just before the final turn with a couple hundred meters to go but then he found his legs and started sprinting in and I couldn't stay with him.  I crossed the line in 1:16:59 and I didn't realize how close I was to 1:17.  I probably would have sprinted a little harder the last 50m if I knew but fortunately I came in under it.

Jena beat me by about 25 seconds, my friend Dan ran the race of his life and had a 3 minute PR and ran 1:13 and I managed to hold off Scott who ran a 1:18.  After the race my quads were pretty beat up.  I think the combination of running that hard for that long with the good weather and the race being pretty much on concrete for most of it was harder on my legs than any of my training.  I was a little disappointed with the stomach issues and I think I could have run about 30 seconds faster without them.  In hindsight I didn't need to drink so much fluid when I was well hydrated coming in and the weather was so cool.  Being the uber-competitive person I am, I still felt a little disappointed at the end even though I hit my goal times because I think I could have had a legitimate shot at a new PR if I'd done things a little differently with a better warmup and limiting my fluid intake.  Overall I was happy with the results and where I was with my fitness level with limited training and I was extremely happy that I had no injuries or discomfort after the race and I feel 100% healthy.

Since the race my training has been going well.  I took about a week and a half of easier running to recover and I'm back on pace to get up into the mid-60's for my weekly mileage.  Last Monday I did a 400, 800, 1200, 1600, 1200, 800, 400 workout with about a 400m slow recovery and 800m after the 1600.  My splits were 78, 2:38, 3:58, 5:27, 4:06, 2:40, 76.  On Friday I ran a 2 x 4 mile tempo run with 5 minutes recovery.  The weather was in the mid-70's and over 80% humidity and it was pretty miserable.  My good weather goal times were run the first 4 miles at 5:45 - 5:50 pace and the 2nd 4 miles at 5:40 - 5:45 pace.  With the warm weather I wanted avg 5:50 - 5:55 pace.  My first 4 miles were 5:52, 5:46, 5:44, 5:45 and my second 4 were 5:45, 5:49, 5:50, 5:50.  I'm feeling good about my next 1/2 marathon in 4 weeks, but the weather is going to be a crapshoot and I'll just have to wait and see how that turns out.


  1. Great update and race. The weather was great at the Aramco race. It seemed like there were faster times in the half and full this, fast visitors due to the Trials, something else?

    I'd love to see more of your training results as well as the race results. Us 1:30 guys wonder what the faster folks are up to.

  2. I noticed there were a lot of fast times. I'm pretty sure my time would have have put me in the top 20 last year although the weather wasn't as good last year so maybe I would have dropped down a little further. Last year they had a separate race for the US 1/2 marathon championship and they didn't bring in any world class elite runners like they did this yr. There were probably only about 10 elite runners that they brought in, but there were a lot of times from 1:09 - 1:14 that are in what I would call the sub-elite range that are really great times, but not national or world class (excluding masters runners). I think the combination of Houston getting a reputation as putting on a really great marathon/half-marathon, having a fast flat course and a high probability of good racing weather along with the Olympic trials brought a lot of out of towners to the race. I was perusing the results and really didn't recognize a lot of the names and I'm pretty familiar with most of the locals. If I were looking to run a fast race or PR and could pair it up with watching the Olympic trials I'd be signing up for this race.

    I'm going to make an effort at updating my blog at least weekly with my training. Between being crazy busy at work and trying to keep up with a 17 month old, my blog hasn't been up as high on the priority list lately.

  3. Hey Geoff, great job at Houston. It's always good to see people improving and striving for something even better. I was in Houston that weekend and had an okay experience at the Trials, but I wish I could have seen everyone else race the next day. Keep up the great work, and I know you'll reach your goals!

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