Friday, November 19, 2010

Prelude to Philadelphia

I won’t have the time to write this on Saturday so it will get written today on Friday.

I’m less than 48 hours from the start of the Philadelphia Marathon. It will be my first marathon since the Chevron Houston Marathon earlier this year, which I wasn’t ready for.

This is different. I’m ready.

I've done probably 85% of the work that my coach has put out for me, but his targets were lower (i.e. slower time) and I've been fortunate enough to exceed them.

I’m prepared to accept what the course gives to me on Sunday, but I plan to try and take as much from it as I possibly can.

A big shout out to Dr. Dawn Schwab and Dr. Lisa Hanson with Spinal Care Chiropractic Center for helping me get physically ready for race day on Sunday. They've taken care of me as if I were an elite athlete.

As I’ve said before, 2010 has been different. Those that know, know this.

I have one person to thank for being the catalyst to signing up for this race in particular. The candle was already drawn so to speak, but they lit the match.

They know who they are.

I doubt that they’ll read this, but in the case that they do, “Thank you. Our friendship is different and unique, has taken some twists and turns, but it is very much appreciated and am honored to have it."

While I have a lot of friends, for which I'm very thankful, of course, two are particularly close to me - Kim Hager and John Laskowski. Kim, I've known for about five years and if I were to attempt an Ironman, she would be my coach (my apologies to Dana, Michelle, Trent and others) if she would have me as one of her athletes ... ;) I had the honor of watching her qualify for Kona this September at Ironman Wisconsin and her running with Waverly for the 2007 Houston Marathon 5K - while I ran the marathon - will always have a special place in my heart.

Close to my coach, John has been the most consistent and constant source of encouragement for me this year and has developed into a true friend since our first and often laughed about meeting in the last mile of the second annual Armadillo Dash in College Station (2008). It was an honor to travel with John to Ironman Florida to support the 27 triathletes from Montgomery County and Spring that stamped their names forever with the title of Ironman.

I get a third vacation this year because I had to burn an extra one because of a change in company policy in regards to the accrual of time.

All three have been or will be spent with the person in my life who keeps me from ever throwing in the towel, my daughter, Waverly.

I just hope that I can continue to be everything she would ever want from in a father.

Saturday’s marathon will be my 25th marathon. She was at the first one in Washington, D.C. for the Marine Corps Marathon. That was October 31, 2004.

Six years later, she gets to make another road trip for me to finish a marathon. I just hope that with some recent developments in my health, that it won’t be my last one.

Nothing to be alarmed about, but I’ll share them in a post-race report.

We’ll get to see my grandparents in central Pennsylvania, visit Penn State I’m sure (for more gear, of course) and then travel to the Big Apple to witness the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in person.

As most of you know, I love her more than anything else or anybody in the entire world.

I will get to stay with a friend of mine, Rob Jones and his wife, Lysa, on Saturday evening in the Philadelphia area. Rob was a co-worker of mine who came down and ran the 2001 hp Houston Marathon in like 2:51 (actually 2:51:23). It was the first year without any prize money and I think Jonesy finished 10th or something (actually 17th). The post-race Chevron Houston Marathon celebration at Pappasito’s every year still takes place after my parents took him there after his visit to Houston.

At 42, he just did the St. George Marathon in 2:47, I believe. On 30 miles a week running as part of triathlon training. He tells me he wishes he had gotten into tri's sooner.

Rob was one of the reasons why I finally decided to try and run. He ran out to the mile 5 mark of a 10K race in Kennett’s Square, Pennsylvania after a company meeting a number of years back and it appears that I’ll get some post 20-mile pacing help from him on Sunday. I’m so blessed.

While Waverly, of course, is the best, my last note of thanks is to perhaps my best friend.

He took my motivation for this race and helped me frame it appropriately.

His selflessness is absolutely incredible and sometimes knows no bounds.

Anybody who will get up and ride his bike with you at 3 a.m. in the morning -- and in the cold -- to help you achieve your goal is to be treasured as a friend.

While he has a lot of runners that he coaches who have a wide range of ability, his love and passion for them as athletes and, most importantly, people are equal and is as committed – if not more than - as any coach in our area (and we have some excellent ones).

Bill Dwyer, thank you for being an incredible friend, coach (yes, coach … strange for me to use those words) and consistent and committed source of encouragement to me and my daughter.

We’ve been blamed for a lot of things over the last few years, but the one thing that nobody will ever take away from us is that everything we’ve done has come from the heart and has been to give back to people who have given so much to both of us.

I hope that I can put forth the effort on Sunday that comes close to the support that you have given me this year. Without that support, I wouldn't be ready to step to the starting line as prepared as I am. Thank you.

And thanks to all of you who have read this. I hope that I can give you something to talk about me ... finally! :)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

USA Space City 10-Miler PR Race Report

2010 will eventually go down as one that has been the most challenging, yet action-packed, of them all, and there's still two and a half months left.

As I may have mentioned before, there was one specific incident this spring that fueled me to commit and sign up for the Philadelphia Marathon the third weekend in November.

Its been said not to do certain things in anger, but I'm not sure if road races were ever part of that definition. However, the results have been mostly pleasant.

I asked my good friend, Bill Dwyer, to put together a range of overall miles and long run targets, which would give me a guideline to get to where I wanted to be.

I'm too fluid of a person to follow a regimented schedule, but give me some guidelines and let me figure out how to get there. While I always appreciate the support and encouragement from many, it'll mean even more to me in the end if I can be successful with my own approach. We all get to the same, yet different places in our lives so many different ways. Who's to say that one person's is better than the others?

November 21 will be here in six short weeks and there's lot to do in the interim. I'm already looking forward to flying to Philadelphia with Waverly the day before, running the marathon on Sunday, and then going to visit my grandparents for a couple of days before going to New York City for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

With a recent College Night this past week at Waverly's high school, I know that the volume of these days will soon dwindle. Bittersweet, but eager to achieve them still.

Achieve. An interesting word.

Is hitting a specific time or completing a specific event all that makes us who we are? I'm afraid for some it is. I spoke with a coach this summer at a race and he said that he has clients that they've thrown so much into achieving one thing that they look in the mirror afterwards, having abandoned all else to get there and go, "Wow. What's next?"

I don't want that ever to be me. And I've got a tons of friends and supporters who will ever keep that from happening.

I had no clue how today was going to go. Monday, the discovery of what I already knew - that my hips were out of alignment - also revealed a very tight right piriformis muscle. I hit the bike for an hour and a half ride on Monday, followed by another hour and a half on the eliptical machine on Tuesday before adding a 14-mile ride on Thursday and 7.5 miles on the treadmill Friday.

Saturday would bring covering the fifth annual Memorial Hermann Ten For Texas, which included more than I can adequately explain (and that you have time to read), and then co-hosting an online forum, produced by Woodlands MultiSport, to follow John Laskowski and Amy Barr while they competed at the Ford Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.

Bill wrote me on Friday with the following note: "Might depend on how tired you are from watching Kona. 1:36:45."

I had been up at 4:30 a.m. on Saturday, took a short nap at 12:15 a.m. on Sunday morning trying to catch Amy's finish after John had, and might have ended up getting three hours of sleep overall at best.

I had posted on my Facebook status a goal time of 1:38 or better, but really didn't know for sure with the slight physical setback.

I got to Clear Lake a little bit before 6 a.m. on Sunday, was clearly tired and my leg was not in very good shape from sitting most of Saturday afternoon and evening. I tried to stretch it as much as I could while visiting with Joe Carey and Adrienne Langelier for much of the pre-race time.

Actually, I felt surprisingly good and warmed up about 10 minutes before the start of the race.

A couple of minutes before the start of the race, I thought about the job that my friend, John Laskowski, did at Kona just a few short hours before. Absolutely incredible. It was an inspiring performance. I just wanted to run as well as what John had been running - both in his last race and an amazing 4:18 marathon at Kona.

And I had hoped that there was a little bit of magic left in the "magic hat" - an Ironman Texas visor.

After a short prayer and the National Anthem, I quickly realized that I should have more farther up in the queue: I'm running faster now.

Mile one came and went in 8:53.61, but I spent a lot of energy passing and dodging people. A mistake that I know better from having participated in as many races as I do.

The temperatures were still cool, but not as chilly as they were the day before for Ten For Texas. The second mile was 9:13.76 and I started to realize that this might be a long day.

As we made the right-hand turn on to Red Bluff and before I made it to mile three, Paige Krekeler, who was part of HARRA's AED/CPR team today, commented that I was "flying" and asked if I wanted my picture taken while I was running. I told her, "Maybe a size down from now".

Mile three came in at 9:20.14. I wasn't redlining yet, but I was really worried about being able to slow things down and run controlled, like the 16-miler the Sunday before and like John had run at Avia on Labor Day.

I know. Do the math. With a nine-minute mile for one-tenth (:54), I had just run a 28:21 5K. Not real smart.

My biggest concern was keeping it from falling apart. I saw John Isgren with at the next right hand turn off of Red Bluff. Nice encouragement from John and shortly after that I started to set my sights on a legend in the Houston running community, Jack Lippincott.

Jack is 64 and has been slowing down of late, and, of course, I should get myself into even better shape so that it isn't an issue. In his prime, Jack ran the early Houston Marathons in the 2:30's and 2:40's. I caught Jack before the mile 4 water stop, which was ably manned by the Bay Area Running Club. 9:29.72 is what the watch would say for the fourth mile.

Have I said yet how I thought it was going to have been the longest 10 miles that I was going to run? Well, there, I said it.

In mile five, there was a police officer on his motorcycle that went by me in the left-hand lane of traffic and he had country music playing. God Bless. I said something to him and finally it clicked to him. He circled around and came up aside me again and I got to hear the strains of Merle Haggard's "Okie To Muskogee".

It also made me think of a February 2007 event that Kim Hager, Bill Dwyer and myself put on at Luke's Locker called "Spin For ALS" and Kim joked that you couldn't spin to country. Yeah right. You like Eminem. I like George Strait.

9:38.88 is what mile 5 came in, but I was concerned. I had to stop and take a quick blow just past the timing mat. It would later reveal that I ran the first five in 46:36.11 - a definite 5-mile PR.

But I wondered if the bleeding had begun.

I grabbed fluids from the Clear Lake Fitness Club water stop just before mile 6 and turning on to NASA Road 1 and the tired feeling from Saturday hit me. I was exhausted and I really began to think that hitting 1:38 might have even been in question.

Mile 6 was 9:57.82 for a cumulative time of 56:33.93. One good thing is that I hadn't started to do the math for a projected finishing time.

I went through the 10K marker at 58:34.45 and 2:00.52 from the mile marker. That concerned me because that means that I was now running at a 10-minute per mile pace.

I thought to myself that there were others that I knew that had just as long of a day as I had the day before and their world was currently quite a bit more challenging than mine.

I didn't necessarily find another speed gear, but I made the next right-hand turn off of NASA Road 1 and capped off mile 7 in 9:49.50.

Miles eight and nine were the same -- 9:46.96 and 9:48.20.

I had three songs going through my head - one George Strait song and two of the recent cuts off of the new Zac Brown Band CD - as well as thinking about running controlled and tall like John has been doing so well.

The 15K marker came 3:11.76 into the mile and I really started to fear a collapse. So I started to pick it up as much as I could.

The weekend before during the 16-miler, I saw a woman cross the street in front of me a ways away and I tried to catch her. I didn't, but I put down a strong finish into Terramont Park.

But the push caused me to stop twice to get a quick blow. The second of which saw me to the right of a foursome from the Tornados Running Club, including Leno Rios and Francisco "Paco" Garza. Leno left me no option: "Find a way to the finish line."

When you have the respect of some of the Tornados, you run.

Penn Stater and HMSAer Ed Fry was to the right offering encouragement. Terlinguan Ben Harvie to the left. I could see Adrienne ahead. I heard her say something, as I made the right-hand turn to the finish, about not being able to pace me in for this one.

Approaching the finish line, I was so surprised to see a 1:35 on the clock, but it went to 1:36:07 before I crossed.

However, I was incredibly satisfied with the result.

I knew the offset time at the start was 37 seconds; therefore, I had just posted a 1:35:30 time -- for a 6-minute, 5-year PR.

I headed north as quick as I could after a little socializing, made it home and to church in time to hear Waverly sing during this morning's Communion service. And then we followed it up with breakfast at our favorite place -- The Egg & I in Shenandoah.

A great day.

Chip offset -- 37.61
Mile 1 -- 8:53.61
Mile 2 -- 9:13.76 (18:07.37)
Mile 3 -- 9:20.14 (27:27.51)
Mile 4 -- 9:29.72 (36:57.23)
Mile 5 -- 9:38.88 (46:36.11)
Mile 6 -- 9:57.82 (56:33.93)
10K -- 2:00.52 (58:34.45)
Mile 7 -- 7:48.98 (66:23.43)
Mile 8 -- 9:46.94 (76:10.37)
Mile 9 -- 9:48.20 (85:58.57)
15K -- 3:11.76 (89:10.33)
Mile 10 -- 6:20.02 (95:30.35)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Elroy Tunnel-Trails Half Marathon Race Report

Today's race in Elroy, Wisconsin (population 1,578) was one about friends. I drew on my experiences and friendships with a number of different people as I posted a new personal best at the half marathon distance. It wasn't by much, but 13 seconds still count!

The Elroy Tunnel-Trails Half Marathon had 85 finishers a year ago, and I'm not sure that they might not have been too many more starters than that. Once I had made the decision to go and cover Ironman Wisconsin, which is in Madison on Sunday, September 12, I quickly signed up for this race. It would allow for me to run a half marathon in my 34th state.

Google Maps had suggested to allow myself approximately two hours to get there, but it didn't really seem that I needed that long. I pulled into town at approximately 7:15 a.m. and drove around for about 15 minutes until I found the park where the race would start and finish at. Buses would take us out to Hustler, Wisconsin. (Just stop right there. There was Amish children there set up to sell items for the town's regular Farmer's Market.) I started to get a little discouraged because I didn't know the condition of the trail and it seemed like we were being bussed out about 15 miles.

I actually had come into the race expecting to PR. Yes, a dangerous thought given that I had pretty much rested the entire week. Not by design, though. As I was expecting to run on conditions that were more like a road surface, I actually ditched the PR notions and focused on just having a good race.

On the way, I saw that Bill Dwyer had called to wish me well. I returned the call (after Juliee Sparks answered the call to try and throw me for a curve) and we talked for a little bit, and I thought that all great coaches do things like this. I had watched Andrew Strong, Fred Johnson and Walt and Lisa Yarrow's coach, Muddy Waters, watch them at the bike exit at Ironman Louisville and then retreat to his hotel to call his athletes that were doing Subaru Ironman Canada. Bill's phone message that I got later went like this, "Good luck today. Don't get too greedy too soon with it. Be patient, and hopefully run a PR. That would be really cool. But just good luck and have fun, that's the main thing."

The course description is as follows: The half marathon is unique in that it uses three different bike trails and features a fascinating tunnel. The event begins in the charming village of Hustler, Wisconsin. The runners will begin the race on the peaceful and secluded Juneau County Omaha Trail and head south towards Elroy for about 10 miles. Runners will pass through the tunnel after about three miles of the run. The tunnel was built in 1876 and is 875 feet long! There is a gradual incline up to the tunnel and a gradual decline afterwards. Flashlights will be given to the runners while in the tunnel to increase safety. Furthermore, runners should use caution and good judgment while running in the tunnel. Upon entering Elroy, the course will take a short wind through Kimball Avenue and then a one-mile trek on County PP. There, the runners will take the Elroy-Sparta Bike Trail into Elroy, pick up the 400 Trail, and enter the Elroy City (Schultz) Park for the finish line.

As we started the race, I was surprised that the trail was actually pretty good surface, but not what I was expected. I tried to keep it calm because I usually go out too fast. However, it was becoming readily apparent, after passing mile 1 and getting a time mark, that I needed to urinate.

Mile 1 -- 9:30.11

During mile 2, I was making decisions, based on trying to hit a PR, on whether or not I would be able to hold things and for how long. I made the realization that I would probably slow down focusing on it the longer I went. Once we passed the mile 2 mark, we had to cross a highway. I picked a strategic angle behind a vehicle along the open road and did what I needed to do. Once done, I got some fluid at the aid station and took off trying to "make up" as much time as I could.
Mile 2 -- 9:40.75
Mile 3 -- 10:45.65

The one thing that I noticed, though, is that in mile 3 a steady incline was occuring and did through most of mile 4 until we came to the tunnel. It was dark enough that you had to grab a flashlight from a volunteer and about three-quarters of the way, it was necessary to slow down a little because you were unsure of your footing. The mile 4 marker was a little beyond the end of the tunnel and I kept telling myself that this was like running out Lake Woodlands from Market Street during my long runs to date.

Mile 4 -- 10:15.91

With a little downhill, I started to pick up the pace a little bit and focus on form. I remembered the gutsy performance that Kirsten Krause had during CB&I earlier this year. She really hammered things on the run and I used that effort the following day when I ran a 2:13-and high change in a half in Dallas to push through the last four miles. My legs were feeling it again here because I hadn't run the entire week after putting 36 miles on in about 72 hours at the end of the previous week.

I don't know if I'll blame her for the bee sting that came as I crossed a bridge. I looked and there was a bumblebee attached to the upper front portion on the inside of my left leg. I swatted it away and now I'm surprised it didn't come back for more. I kept an eye on it for a little bit to see if it was going to swell up or not. (I learned later from the EMS guys is that if I was going to have a reaction, it is likely I would have taken a DNF.) I actually stopped at the mile 6 aid station for a few seconds to get some advise and then I tried to get back and push things a little bit.

Mile 5 -- 9:44.63
Mile 6 -- 9:50.00

I could feel the pain of the sting a little bit, but I chuckled about the magic hat - a Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas visor that I was given at the night of the event announcement - that I was wearing. As a result, I thought about John Laskowski's performance on Monday at the Avia Austin Triathlon and how smooth he handled the run portion of the course that day. While wearing the hat, of course! I tried to mimic that calm, cool form as much as I could. You'll note that mile 7 was my fastest mile all day.

Mile 7 -- 9:38.44

There was another little incline in mile 8 and about midway through the mile, I thought about Vanessa Gnatzig, who is training for Ironman Florida and was a pretty good high school and college cross country and track athlete, and her comment on my Facebook this morning and how she said to enjoy the beautiful state. I was doing my best to, and just as I thought that I turned to the left and there was a pool of water covered in algae. Yes, the algae, I swear, was Team Strive green. Mile 8 I really hustled to get to the cone that was in the middle of a foot bridge to keep the split under 10 minutes.

Mile 8 -- 9:58.90 (1:19:24)

The trail from Hustler to Elroy was about 8 miles a sign said. But during mile 9, we were still on it. A little bit faster. Not sure I really remembered why. At the beginning of the mile, I talked with an aid station worker very briefly about Penn State-Alabama. Yes, I was wearing my Penn State running shirt.

I also remembered here about what I've heard Kim Hager has said about enjoying the experience. Sure, racing is supposed to be hard, but enjoy it.

Also before I got to mile 9, I also thought about Adrienne Langelier running me in a couple of races three to four weeks ago and the annual tradition that Waverly and I have of finishing the last three miles together of the Chevron Houston Marathon.

Mile 9 -- 9:44.42 (1:29:08)

This mile took us to the roads a little bit, which I loved. However, it had three good inclines on it. After we passed those, and entering a downhill, I started to run more strong and more confidently. And once the mile marker came in the view, I made a deal to the euphemistic running gods that I was going to run a 10-mile PR, perhaps even at the expense of a half marathon PR. There, of course, was an incline to the marker, but I kept the split, again, under 10 minutes.

Mile 10 -- 9:55.61 (1:39:04)

Shortly thereafter, we met a stiff headwind before a left-hand turn on to another trail. This trail was a better crushed and packed surface than we have in Houston at Memorial Park, which made it pretty good to run on. Miles 11 and 12 were steady. Mile 12 had a little bit of a dip right before the mile marker.

Mile 11 -- 10:04.44 (1:49:08)
Mile 12 -- 10:03.40 (1:59:12)

As I crossed the main drag of town, I had to take a quick break to catch my breath - actually twice - before getting back to work and trying to meet the PR. At this time, I could also begin to feel my legs to begin to cramp and, of course, making me to question the wisdom of not getting my work done earlier in the week. Just the last half mile or so, I could see volunteers on the trail. There was a string of a flags on both sides of the trail and it was on the other side of a street crossing. I was visually focusing on that and ran towards it. I quickly came to find out that I ran right past a sign to make a right-hand turn. As you can imagine, I was livid.

I turned around, made a left turn (which should of originally been a right), crossed the road still complaining, and then missed going a little further off the road once I crossed the street and instead ran alongside the road into the park. A volunteer, who I had talked to before the race, opened the gate. Looking at the two events together, I don't think I lost any distance that would have put the PR in jeopardy.

They then made you do a lap and a half at and by the finish line. Painful. It was just a little bit bigger than a track, but a little bloated in the middle. So you had to run by the finish line once. They said it was about .4 miles. So when I looked at my watch, as I made my first pass, it read 2:05. I knew I had a chance. I basically ran it like a 400, even though it was really more like 640. I passed three women who might have been doing their half loop before the finish. All I can say is the speedwork pays.

Last 1.1 -- 10:33.48 (2:09:45)

That was half marathon number 74 and in state 34. Here's my top six half marathons:

2:09:45 - 9/11/10 - Elroy Tunnel-Trails Half Marathon, Elroy, WI - 74
2:09:58 - 3/18/06 - Wheatfield Half Marathon, The Dalles, OR - 24
2:12:06 - 1/29/06 - 12th annual 3M Half Marathon, Austin, TX - 23
2:12:26 - 1/28/07 - 13th annual 3M Half Marathon, Austin, TX - 31
2:13:55 - 5/2/10 - Heels and Hills Half Marathon, Irving, TX - 71 (Mostly flat, 60s)
2:14:09 - 1/11/09 - First Light Half Marathon, Mobile, AL - 56 (Flat)

My last racing day, which I ran three in the same day, was with Bill Dwyer and Adrienne Langelier.

Today, of course, to Wisconsin, I came alone. A friend wrote about that concept last night and they said, "That makes going alone fun, it's more of an adventure."

I'd say that they're right. ;)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Three Races, One Day - August 14, 2010

Running three races in one day really wasn't that big of a deal, especially when you've done multiple legs during the Texas Independence Relay. However, part of the fun was sharing with the experience with great friends -- and the looks from people when you told them what you were doing!

I'm very blessed to know a lot of people in our area athletic communities and it always seems that I get the opportunity, as a result of that, to meet many more. That, my friends, is why I do all of the things that I do.

I actually haven't been doing a lot of racing because I've been seriously training for the Philadelphia Marathon on Sunday, November 21. It has been a goal of mine since the second weekend of April and I hope to do well there and at the Chevron Houston Marathon on Sunday, January 30, 2011.

When Bill Dwyer said that Adrienne Langelier and Juliee Sparks were planning on running the Friends Helping Friends 5K/10K in Clear Lake, I thought that I might go along and run the race as well.

As the time drew near, I had very easily seen the information on Run In Texas' Sand Crab 5K/10K in Galveston that evening. It was on The Woodlands Running Club website, but I stumbled on an "under the radar" 5K in Humble that started at - 6 p.m.! It was for a brand new middle school in the Humble Independent School District. I saw it on a community blog on the Houston Chronicle web site one day while I was at work.

The wheels were then set into motion: three races in one day!

I have run two races in a day many times. The first that I can remember was back in 2005. I drove to San Marcos early on a late September Saturday morning to run the Country Roads 10K, which is hosted by the San Marcos Runners Club, and then came back to run on a four-person relay at the HARRA Cross Country Relay. My three teammates are still very good friends of mine - Holden Choi, Jessica Alexander and Cassie Mondragon (she was Cowan then).

The difference of this experience, though, is that I am right on the cusp of being in the best running shape that I've ever been - and the first race of the day would prove that.

Adrienne, Bill, Waverly and I left from my place at about 4:45 a.m. As Adrienne mentioned in her blog, cross country and track dynamo Lauren Smith, who will be running for Stephen F. Austin next year, was there. And after deciding not to run the 10K and instead the 5K, it was evident that Adrienne would be running for second place. Bummer! But Lauren has been getting faster all summer and Adrienne has spent about 40% of it preparing for and running a marathon.

I was a little skeptical about how I would do, especially after doing a loop of the Fred Hartman Bridge with fellow BARCers on Friday morning. (Yes, I joined in late June or early July.)

The plan, though, was to run the first race of the day for time and the other two for fun.

There were more runners at this event than was anticipated -- good for the charity, but it throws havoc into pre-race planning if you truly didn't expect it. I sized up the crowd and figured that I needed to be towards the front. However, it was a good 24 seconds before I crossed the starting line.

The race started literally in front of On The Run's store and went east out of the parking lot. I spent that entire time passing people, most of it by hopping up on the strip center sidewalk curb and back down. As I made the left-hand turn out of the lot, the cones weren't situated at all properly - and there was nobody there to guide. Therefore, I did what any prudent runner would do: take the shortest tangent and I hugged the left-hand side of the road. I didn't look back to see if anybody followed.

We made a left and then a right on to the northbound lanes of Space Center Blvd., north of Bay Area Blvd. The course was a simple out and back.

I was moving right along, staying close to the orange cones in the center lane so as to run on the part of the street with the least amount of camber. I didn't see the mile 1 marker, but by that point some of the runners were heading back. I saw Lauren Smith and when I didn't have a visual on Adrienne, I knew that there was no sense in trying to count and see how far back she was. I finally saw her and hit the turnaround in 13:59. I didn't even compute that this might have been a sub-28 effort.

I took a quick 18-second walk break and took off. Aside from that, this might have been the first 5K that I can remember that I otherwise ran the entire way.

On the return trip, I really don't remember much other than 1.) one guy didn't do a great job of yielding in the single lane that we were given to run, 2.) I didn't see the mile 2 marker and 3.) I was looking for where to make the left hand turn off of Space Center.

I was still surprised how strong I was feeling as I made that left hand turn off Space Center. About halfway down the street, I saw a familiar individual as I started to run a tangent to the corner. It was Adrienne. At first I thought she was going out for a cooldown run, even though it was a little late after she finished! But she was coming out to run me in. I was pushing too hard to get emotional over it! We made the right hand turn and then about 200 yards to the next right hand turn into the parking lot.

As I made that right hand turn, I was just hoping that I wouldn't feel like I was falling apart at about the 250 meter mark of my most recent 400s.

But I didn't and I made it under 29 minutes in gun time. Take away the 24 seconds in "chip difference" and my time was 28:32.66 - just 15 seconds from my PR. (An adjustment to the race's clock and Bill's watch, but the time at 28:34.48.)

After trying to get fluids replaced, I found out that the winner Lauren Smith felt that the course was about 20 seconds long and Adrienne's Garmin said that the course was 3.18 miles long. That means that the turnaround might not have been put exactly in the right location.

28:34 for 3.18 is a pace of 8:58 a mile. Wow! For a 5K, that's 27:50. Well under my PR of 28:17 from Run The Woodlands 5K in December 2005!

I had commented after the race that I didn't recall anybody ever in the greater Houston area that had come out to run me in, which I really appreciated. It meant a lot to me. I did forget two instances - other than my daughter running in with me every year during the Marathon. They included Edwin Quarles running in the last three miles of the Surfside Marathon in 2006 and John Laskowski waiting for me to finish the Muddy Trails 10K - the first weekend that I really began to bust my butt to get into shape.

Before and after the race, I had a chance to visit with Toughest 10K in Houston and Seabrook Lucky Trails race director Robby Sabban and help him a little bit work the finisher's chute and talked to On The Run co-owner Jay Lee. Great guys to work with on the La Porte By The Bay Half Marathon coming up this December.

Adrienne's mom, Grayson, had come down to support Adrienne and all of us, including Waverly, made a post-race Starbucks visit before heading back to Spring.

On the drive back, Ms. Langelier made a decision to cross over to the dark side of road racing -- more than one race in a day (that didn't include a relay)!

Since I had to get Waverly to our church for a special band and choir practice close to 5 p.m., Bill and Adrienne drove over to Humble's Woodcreek Middle School together and I followed a little later.

The temperature in the truck read anywhere from 95 to 102 degrees as I made the drive east.

Bill had already done the course reconnaisance by the time I had gotten there and said that they had a pretty good out-and-back course setup.

The participating middle schoolers and their families were very spirited about their school and the P.T.A. had done a good job of getting everything ready.

This was a very low-key event and it didn't appear that there was any stud high school male or female runners showing up. Therefore, it looked as if Adrienne had a good shot of winning overall. I won't go into all of the detail of pre-race discussions, but I think it was some of the most spirited laughter that Bill, Adrienne and I had ever shared. Everyone was very relaxed and having a great time.

As for me, I didn't know what to expect. I had run sub 29-minutes in Washington, D.C. a few weeks earlier, and in effect, run sub 28 for the first time ever earlier that morning. I did know that once again, I needed to get towards the front of the pack with a bunch of youngsters participating.

I got out to a good start and felt pretty good despite the heat. I passed up all of the water stops because they were handing out full bottles of water. Too much hassle. I do 4 miles or so at the track on Tuesday nights without it; therefore, I figured that I would be fine. I don't think that I walked once.

And once again, Adrienne came a short ways out to run me in. I crossed the line with a time of 28:45. Yes, that merits another Wow! I even surprised myself. :)

While we were waiting to see when they were going to start the awards ceremony, I had a chance to meet and talk with Chevron Houston Marathon course coordinator David O'Conor. David also picked up the race management for many of the races that Howie Ryan directed after Howie passed away two years ago. A really nice guy who was having a nice time at a low-key road race. He said that this was the kind of event that was prevalent in the 1970s where people just came out and ran. And, you know, he's right.

It got to be 7:10 p.m. and Bill and I needed to jet. Literally. We didn't get a picture of Adrienne getting her award for the overall win. Taylor Cloy was the second place finisher and Taylor was like Taylor Swift. She was a young lady to give the women a 1-2 finishing punch.

Meanwhile, Mr. Dwyer and I were moving as quickly as possible to Galveston. I think we pulled into a Valero station on 61st Street for me to get something to drink and something quick in my stomach at 8:05 p.m. When nobody knew where Poretto Beach was (although we knew that it was off Seaside), we went to Seaside and took a left and kept driving until we saw the lights on the beach.

Once we got parked on a side street, I made a mad dash to the packet pickup line as it was about 8:35 p.m. - and the race started at 9 p.m.!

There were two long lines - one each for the 5K and the 10K. I was looking for the 10K line! The volunteers, one of whom I recognized to be Mark Coleman, were very, very patient in getting people their bib numbers and chips while others worked to get people a race packet.

While in line, we saw Najat Shayib, George Roffe and Trudy Regnier. Najat wasn't running, but a friend of hers was and she was there to support. I also saw BARC's Ben Harvie and Pam Smithwick before the race too.

Race director Bill Gardner made an announcement close to about 9 p.m. that the race would be delayed. I think that there was a complete underestimation of the number of runners and how things would play out. More volunteers would have been a huge help.

Runners, with headlamps and flashlights galore, began to line up at about 9:15 p.m. I just happened to be towards the front and there I talked to Karen and Tim Bowler as well as Santos Hernandez and Hillary Gerhart - all of whom are still Houston Striders.

We were off and the first two miles were OK, even though that I know that the miles were sub-11 minutes (10:47 and 10:51). But, hey, we were running in sand, right?

Mile three is when I started to feel the effects of the day, even though I got in a little bit of a nap in the early afternoon. However, the last 1.1 was 11:54; therefore, I guess it wasn't that bad as I hit the turnaround in 33:32. But I did a lot of walking in the next nine-tenths of a mile.

That is, until I saw Clear Lake Fitness Club's Susan Bell - a friend and veteran ultrarunner. She just goes and goes and goes. I started to run with her, but I told her at one point that I needed to let her go and that I needed to walk for a second. But to Susan's credit, she stayed with me.

Eventually, we both were running - and did so the rest of the way in. Sure, I slowed down to 37:57 on the return trip, but it was satisfying to get in the 20K the hard way!

After the race, I sat down and talked at length with Ben and Pam. Steve Brammer from Katy and of the Tornados had stopped by the table that we were sitting at, as well as Bay Area Running Club's Steven Milford - one of the best triathletes in the area.

I went and found Bill. He used the meal ticket from Evan Guy's unused bib and we both had some pretty good barbecue.

I think that we left the Island at close to midnight and I didn't get home until 1:30 a.m. We both laughed about how it seemed like the first night of the Texas Independence Relay.

So it was up at 4 a.m. In bed just after 1:30 a.m.

But all in all, a day spent with three of my best friends.