Sunday, October 28, 2012

Houston Half Marathon Race Report

I was set to run the Cape Cod Marathon today, but the unpredictably of return travel to Houston Monday morning, as planned, hastened a decision to bypass it.  State no. 31 for marathon finishes will come another day.

Instead I drove to Luke's Locker on West Gray, just west of downtown, and registered for today's Houston Half Marathon.  Keith Willhelm, who was once again working late registration, told me that I had arrived just in time as they were down to about 50 entries.

It would be the third straight year that I have run the Houston Half. 

That's equal to the number of years that they've had the current course that runs up and down Allen Parkway to Shepherd and up and down Memorial Drive to Loop 610.

The Houston Striders, who have managed the race for many years, did a pretty solid job.

The volunteers that can make or break any event - those who work the aid stations - did an excellent job and it appeared that all had plenty of fluids.

I personally don't care much about post-race beer (I don't drink) and food, the medal and such, but my pet peeves revolve around image.

Two things caught my attention -- generic bibs and starting line sound.

I don't know either situation specifically with this race, although I have a strong suspicion on the first.

I'm a big fan of custom bibs.  I strongly dislike when I do a race that has partnered with a running specialty store and they use their generic bibs.  I'd almost step up and sponsor a smaller race's bibs just to avoid that!  (And the smaller races - under 1,000 - that I've been involved with I have.)

However, the timer, Jack McClintic's Run Houston Timing, was using the disposable IPICO device instead of the wafer card on the shoe.  Because I'm involved in races with a timer who uses the same system, they only have a certain inventory of chips.  I don't know if Jack's inventory is less than 3,500.  (I can ask.)

But the disposable IPICO chip takes a larger bib to apply it to the back of.

I just don't know when the timing of the bib order, etc.

A generic bib, of course, isn't a showstopper for me, but I'd like to see better.

Not enough starting line sound?  That can be avoided.  Trust me.  I know.

I have a JBL EON single speaker unit that cost a little under $1,000.  In the past, for the Toughest 10K Kemah, it has been OK to use to start the race - and finish line announce.  This year, though, was probably questionable based on having Waverly go to where the back of runners would be - and the sound was muffled.

When we started to plan for the Toughest 10K Galveston, I told Robby Sabban that mine wouldn't be enough and we engaged Peter Manry with "Other Brother" and his setup.  (We also did this because Peter is very good at what he does and I needed to be free to troubleshoot issues - and both paid off.)

But when you have 3,500 registrants (probably 3,100 made it to the starting line) - and when I clear the start line in a minute and a half - and you can't hear the person singing the National Anthem very well, it is a problem.

Do the math.  3,500 entries times average price of $60.  That's $210,000.  Somewhere in a six-figure budget, you can hire enough sound for that.

No big deal on the lack of a finish line announcer.  With 3,500 runners, if you don't have an advance mat, it is a crapshoot.  I can speak from experience.

So, now to the racing.

I ran a 30:16 5K Saturday morning and then added another hour on the treadmill - 6 miles - early that afternoon.  (I am getting ready for a 100-miler ... lol)

Therefore, I didn't know how things would turn out, but I knew that the cold weather should work in my favor compared to the past two humidity-stifling Houston Half Marathons.

My biggest challenge lately is that I've worked, especially while on the treadmill, on increasing my foot turnover and trying to run steady.  However, I'll inadvertently speed up, get ahead where I am aerobically and be forced to walk.  And repeat, over and over.

Mile 1 - 9:34.77

Large crowd and the wide street kept it kind of easy.  Joked with a Katy Fit coach who had Canadian Deb on the back of her shirt that they didn't sing "Oh Canada" for her.

Mile 2 - 9:43.39

We made the turn and headed back north and before we made it to the mile marker, I saw Jim Braden from The Woodlands.  Jim and I both passed Boris Balic, a long-time Chevron Houston Marathon veteran; however, Boris has a long-standing tradition of banditing races.  He didn't show up in the official results today.

Mile 3 - 10:09.35

A guy passed me who recognized my Maine Marathon shirt and acknowledged that he was there at the end of last month as well.  Pretty neat.

Mile 4 - 10:19.34

During one of these two miles, I passed a gentleman who had a Toughest 10K Kemah hat on.  I thanked him for running the race.  We talked a little bit about the event, its logistics, et. al., and I let him go.  This mile also included both underpasses at Montrose and Waugh.

Mile 5 - 10:10.31

Held in pretty solid to the mile marker, which put me on to Memorial Drive after crossing Shepherd.

Mile 6 - 10:40.43
Mile 7 - 9:56.98

Unless the marker was slightly off, I struggled in mile 6.  Not sure if I was already starting to run out of gas, but I picked the pace back up in the next mile as I started to see the leaders - and other folks that I know.

Cassie Mondragon noticed this trend during the 2010 Houston Half.  She said that whenever I saw somebody I knew, I ran faster.

I was looking for my friend, Kimberly Mac Namee.  The women's leader, who had a Zapata Running singlet on, was far ahead, but a little while later Virigina Jones passed with Kim and Laura Bennett within a step or two of each other.

I shouted loudly, "Go Kim Hager".  When you're excited and going into oxygen debt, you revert back to what you know the most!  It must have gotten Laura fired up, as Kim told me after the race that Laura passed her and that Kim couldn't overtake her until mile 13.

Mile 8 - 10:15.56

In miles 7 and 8, I saw Lisa Yarrow, Lance Collins, Jacob Tonge, Ed Fry, Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, Lisa Fletcher and Vincent Attanucci.  At the turnaround just before Loop 610, I saw Kimberly McClintic overseeing the timing equipment - interestingly placed around the turn almost to where you couldn't see it at all - and she said, "It is a great day for a run."  I responded, "I hope so for a little longer. We'll see."  A guy to the right of me chuckled.

Mile 9 - 10:46.50

This mile is a fairly flat stretch, but it was my slowest mile.

Mile 10 - 10:23.70
Mile 11 - 10:34.18
Mile 12 - 10:37.66

The next three miles were pretty lackluster.  The only person that I noticed was Cypress' Thomas Des Lauriers, who runs the Seabrook Lucky Trails half marathons on both days every year.

Mile 13 - 9:07.27
Last .1 - 2:21.93

The last tenth of a mile marker was off, but I averaged 10:03 in the last 1.1 to finish off in 2:14:42 - my 9th best of 86 career half marathons.  Run Houston Timing had me at 2:14:39.

I said in my Facebook status that I ran like crap, but I still ended up with a good time.

I would have been trying to run about a 10:45 for as long as I could have had I been running the Cape Cod Marathon, but I guess that I can deal with a 10:17 per mile effort.  And it was only five minutes off of my PR.

Next up?  Right now, my third attempt at the Philadelphia Marathon in three weeks.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Late Year Checkpoint

Things always seem like a busy time for me, but that's because I tend to choose to stay busy.

I'm very thankful of the things that I'm given the opportunity to do. And a lot of times, I do a lot of juggling to try and make them all happen.

I had the quality vs. quantity argument thrown at me many, many years ago.

My response six years later is this: In the end, nobody is going to remember what race I did or what my time was, they will just remember what kind of person I was.

I'm not perfect. I've hurt some people - not maliciously, although I'm sure they probably think otherwise - yet I've been hurt too. Maybe causing some of the former.

I've been mocked before, "You'll hurt Jon's feelings." Sure, I'm a sensitive guy, but I credit my daughter for that - and my mother for the rest.

It doesn't mean that I haven't experienced failure or disappointment. I've had my fair share.

Probably more than some and not as much as others, but as I'm writing this I'm in as good of a spot as I've been in a few years.

So what's gone by the wayside?

My work has pretty much eliminated most of my writing. I just don't have time to invest to write with the informative style that I enjoy. It takes time to research and track down the information that I need.

I've been very fortunate to do a very good job at what I do for a living over the last 18 months. It is what allows for me to be able to fund Waverly's education.

Therefore, the (Conroe) Courier column that I wrote for almost five years, my columns with Texas Runner and Triathlete, editing HARRA's Footprints and even some of my blog entries have all paid the price.

If I was concerned about my popularity, maybe I'd be more disappointed about not doing much of that anymore. Have you heard of the term, "Under the radar?" I think I've trademarked it.

Nevertheless, I still get to do some of those things here and there.

I have probably moved more into event management and some of its various roles.

Gone also is most of my race directing days. Some personal challenges took two of the three races out of play for me over the last two years while it may have also affected a third. That's yet to be seen.

However, those abilities are leveraged for quite a few number of events:

+ Running Alliance Sport and its founder, Robby Sabban. It is probably fair to say that I've earned Robby's trust enough to handle RAS' communications and social media endeavors - short of the web site (which is admirably handled by Susan Bell and BJ Pearce). In addition, I'm part of a group that works from a strategy standpoint. 2012 has been a great year and discussions have begun for 2013.

+ The Woodlands Marathon. I handle media relations for this event. I appreciate the trust that Willie Fowlkes, Rick Frank, Don Wisenbaker and Danny Golden have placed in me.

+ The Gusher Marathon and the Pleasure Island Bridge Half Marathon and their founders and race directors, Richard and Amie James. They're doing great work in the Golden Triangle area and I've started to assist them by doing their race announcing for them. Great, compassionate and humble individuals that are doing really good things in their communities to inspire others to strive and make healthy lifestyle changes.

+ The Galveston Marathon. Jana and Kevin Landry are the race directors and are co-owners with Jay Lee of On The Run in Clear Lake. I finish line announced the inaugural event in 2011, but wasn't able to because of Rocky Raccoon this February. However, it is a week before Rocky this year and I'm looking forward to doing it again. Jana has intimated me doing the Space City 10-Miler if I'd like to, but I usually like to run it. Even with hating the typical humidity off the coast.

+ Roxanne Davis. In a few weeks, I'll get to once again race announce Thanksgiving Day's GE Run Thru The Woods. She actively embraced Bill Dwyer and my efforts to promote that weekend's races that she coined our Friends of the Running Community named so that we didn't have to put our names out there.

+ Texas 10 Series. After earning Willie's trust a few years ago, he let me finish line announce CB&I in 2010 and then I did it again in 2011 after he left Parks and Rec with The Woodlands Township. The first race is this coming weekend in Conroe and I'm hoping to bring my best "A game" to do a few more of the races that he, Rick Frank, Angie Henderson and Aaron Palaian are putting together.

+ Muddy Trails 5K. I've done this the last two years for The Woodlands Township, but we'll see if 2013 will happen after I stepped away from CB&I this year after a personal issue in the community. Kelly Deitrich and Angel Nicks really treat me well and I appreciate their enthusiasm and enjoy working with them.

+ Nike South and Nike Cross Regionals. Thanks to Jo Ann Blakeley, I get to move into high school cross country meets. I'm very thankful to have done an excellent job - with some great help from Raul and Meghan Najera with Run-Far -- at October's Nike South and am looking forward to a bigger stage even with the Nike Cross Regionals in three weeks (Saturday, November 17).

+ Texas Marathon. Steve and Paula Boone are great friends of Waverly and I. They've been so generous with their friendship that spending much of January 1 with them as much like Christmas with family.

And all of this doesn't even include the work that I'm geting back involved with regarding Texas private and parochial high school athletics again.

And along the way, I meet so many great and positive people.

There's only one thing - in my control - that would stop me from doing much or all of it and that's pretty easy to figure out.

And God knows that I've failed in that arena too.

I'm just trying my best to please God, be a good Dad, be a good friend to those who are able to reciprocate their friendship and be happy. It is of great comfort to know that your daughter - in her faith - is where I believe God wants and needs her to be.

I apologize for waxing poetic a little bit here, but I'm an indvidual that tends to need to get it out of my system - and this is the best way to do so.

Thanks for reading!

Lemm's Harvest Trail 5K's a Gem in Spring

Sometimes even the most jaded runner or triathlete - and I know a few - need to do an event like this morning's second annual Lemm's Harvest Trail 5K - supporting Klein ISD's Lemm Elementary School - in Spring.

It was what grass roots running and a small town Americana feel was all about.

I was a little surprised to see Sam Houston State University professor John Slate there, but he told me that a recent injury was keeping him from running the hills that predominate this morning's Huntsville Half Marathon (and companion events).

Even though he did Sunday's Harbor Half Marathon in Corpus Christi.

I then met H-E-B's Sean Robertson, who has done a number of Robby Sabban's races and mentioned the Texas Bridge Series before I told him that I was invovled with the events. 

Hmmm ... marketing works!

The start and finish line is just south of Lemm Elementary and near the Forest Oaks Swim & Racquet Club - also the home of Harris County Water Control & Improvement District 110.

But there are private trails and a park just south of the Enchanted Oaks and Lakes of Cypress Forest subdivisions that are really an oasis tucked away from the bustling Interstate 45.

The small town Americana feel?  The local boy scout troop presented the colors and it was pleasantly evident that these young boys were getting their earliest forms of patriotic indoctrination.

However, they'll likely be our next policemen, fire fighters, soldiers and hopefully government and community leaders.

The National Anthem was played and we were off on the two-loop, mixed-surface (asphalt and crushed granite) trail. 

There was a little terrain to half of the course on each loop and the cool air stung the lungs a little bit for the first time this fall season, but all in all it made me glad that I was going to try and squeeze it in before tomorrow's scheduled Cape Cod Marathon.

My time was a pedestrian 30:16 - evidence of work- and health-abbreviated training the last two to three weeks post-Maine Marathon, but I'm glad that I went.

Keep an eye out for this event in 2013. 

There were about 100 or so signed up - I was bib number 111 and didn't get a T-shirt (believe me, I have more than a small village), but it would easily withstand about 300-400 runners.

These types of races are the kind that are worth giving up a couple or three or four Starbucks and supporting a local community cause that makes healthy lifestyle choices appealing to young people.

Have a great Saturday!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Busy Times Ahead

Lots of busy times ahead, but many that will also likely promise good times too.

Saturday, I’ll take part in a small 5K close to the house.  It is the Lemm’s Harvest Trail 5K, which is hosted by Lemm Elementary that is part of the Klein Independent School District.

The 7:30 a.m. start will allow for me to make it home, shower and head to the airport for an 11 a.m. flight to Boston.

And that will deposit me close to East Falmouth, Massachusetts, the start of Sunday’s Cape Cod Marathon.  Going for state no. 31.

The following weekend – November 3-4 – will be a double race announcing weekend as I’ll be calling a pair of inaugural races -- the Texas 10 Series race in Conroe on Saturday followed by the Pleasure Island Bridge Half Marathon and 10K in Port Arthur on Sunday.

Willie Fowlkes, Rick Frank, Angie Henderson and Aaron Palaian manage the Texas 10 Series while Rich and Amie James are the race directors of the new race in the Golden Triangle.

Waverly will sing the National Anthem at Saturday’s event in Conroe.

Saturday, November 10, I will be helping Beth Whitehead with the sixth anniversary Run For Hans 5K at Barbara Bush Elementary in The Woodlands.

I missed the original Run For Hans 5K in 2006 while working in Vancouver, British Columbia. 

It brought out over 600 runners and walkers in support of Hans Weberling, a blond-haired young boy who was fighting a rare form of cancer, neuroblastoma.

Recently and sadly, Hans passed away and his parents will be making the trip in from Seattle for the fundraiser for the Children’s Neuroblastoma Cancer Foundation.

I think Sunday, November 11 is an off day!  This means I’ll be in church to enjoy Waverly singing as part of the worship team at North Park Baptist Church in Humble.

Announcing at the Nike Cross Regionals the following Saturday, November 17 at Bear Branch Sports Park in The Woodlands is a big deal.  Later that afternoon, Waverly and I will board a plane to Philadelphia for me to run the Philadelphia Marathon the next day for the third year in a row.

There will be a large contingent from the area, including Leanne Rosser and Scott Campbell, as Geri Henry and Tony Allison will be completing their 50 states there.

And, then, Thanksgiving week brings the 7th annual Montgomery County Triple with Run Thru The Woods on Thanksgiving Day followed by the City of Conroe Turkey Trot 5K on Friday and Run The Woodlands 5K on Saturday.

All for the coveted Pine Cone Award!

I’ll be race announcing Run Thru The Woods and Waverly will be singing the National Anthem.

A big deep breath is needed for Sunday, December 2 and the third annual La Porte By The Bay Half Marathon – the third and final race of the Texas Bridge Series.

Needless to say, there’ll probably be some place to run on Saturday, December 1.  It is just how those things tend to work out.

Like I said, having fun!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Maine Marathon Race Report

Sunday's Maine Marathon was a very satisfying run for me.

Lots of people I know, of course, have run a lot faster than I did on Sunday, but I about cried after crossing the finish line and having seen a gun time of 4:49:59 just before doing so.

It wasn't one of those magical races, like my PR (4:47:32) race in Austin at the Freescale Marathon in February 2006, but it was one that I worked pretty hard to achieve.

My chip time on my watch was 4:48:44, but the event credited me with a 4:48:42 finish.  They are the kind of numbers that sound really nice less than 24 hours after the race.

And while many have been tempted to try and agonize over the 71 seconds short of my PR, I choose not to.  Why?  I entered the race with no set expectations, nor time goal.

So the time was just a blessing of a well-managed race.

One of the two mantras that I had in my head all day was, "Manage the distance.  Don't let the distance manage you."  And now I remember the other, it was "Run within myself."

There were times that I felt really strong, but I knew that I would jeopardize the entire race if I expended my energy foolishly in a short-lived sense of pride.

I probably heard the first mantra from either Bill Dwyer or Kim Hager, but it really helped me to stay focused while having a good day.

On any other day, I would have stopped around mile 11 to get a hug from my friend, Angela Tortorice of Dallas, who did the early start at 6 a.m. after running the New Hampshire Marathon the day before (yes, she's crazy), but I was running with a lot of confidence at that point.

After passing through the first 13 miles in 2:18:43, I knew that I had run a lot of marathons where the time on the back half was far greater than that on the front half.  But it was about taking the race a mile at a time and trying to nail as many 11-minute miles or better as possible.  Or just keep "running within myself".  :-)

One of the things that I didn't do, though, was miss a water stop.  I've learned that even on a cool day with rain that you still need to manage the fluid intake like any other long distance race.

To that end, I succeeded.  I took in lots of Gatorade to make up for not carrying a Gu or anything.

And surprisingly I didn't cramp despite a solid hour on the stationary bike Friday afternoon in the gym that had left my calves tight.

It looked as if we might dodge the rain for a little bit, as we were set to start just off the campus of the University of Southern Maine, but as the National Anthem was performed the rains started to fall.

The first two miles (10:36 and 10:29) came easily, even though it was hard to run the tangents on a wide street filled with runners doing both the marathon and half.  In mile three, I had to find a quick bush near a highway overpass to duck behind, but still managed an even 11-minute mile.  And then followed with an even 10-minute mile for mile four.

The one thing that is nice about the generally out-and-back course that race officials had put together is that the road surface primarily is asphalt that is as smooth as could be.  No dodging potholes and such.  With the rain, the only real danger were manhole covers -- and the potential to slip on them.

Otherwise, it is basically a fairly flat course with some slight undulations in the middle.

The end of miles 10 and 17 is where you get the biggest incline in the road to overcome going out and back.  My mile 10 to mile 11 was 11:16 to 10:18 and mile 17 was 11:50 booked between a pair of 10:44 miles.

I started to run out of gas in mile 21, which was one of only three 12-minute miles.  But even then, it was just a 12:01.  And mile 25 was only 12:04.

I think one of the things that has helped me the most is doing 10 kilometers on the track on Wednesday evenings.  It helps me stay focused because 25 laps around takes a little discipline to finish, and it is discipline that helped me push through some pain on Sunday that I had from not taking any pain medication prior to the race and wearing shoes that I had been racing shorter distances in.

In the end, I was most happy about nearly an even split in the front (2:19:50) and back (2:28:52) halves.

I was also happy that I didn't let any negative self-talk take over during the race.  I seem to be getting more mentally strong as each marathon goes by.

The scenery in the far northeast part of the country is incredible, but you don't pay too much attention to it while trying to run through rain beading up on your glasses constantly.  (Yes, no hat!)

The volunteers at this marathon are truly incredible.  Plenty of water stops with both Gatorade and water.  The only negative, albeit slight, is that the order of the fluids flip-flopped occasionally from one stop to the next.  Minor detail on a well-managed race.

It wouldn't be a race report without a few stats:

+  Second fastest marathon ever - just 70 (or 72) seconds off the 4:47:32 from Austin in 2006.

+  Fifth time under five (5) hours from 45 marathon finishes. (January 2005, February 2006, November 2010, October 2011 and today.)

+  30 states for marathons and 37 for half marathons.

+  5th time where I ran the same event to record a half and a marathon in a particular state (Little Rock, AR; Sioux Falls, SD; Greenville, SC; Oklahoma City, OK and Portland, ME). 

And for those of you still reading, here are my splits:

Mile 1 -- 10:35.74
Mile 2 -- 10:29.29
Mile 3 -- 11:00.73 (quick stop to pee)
Mile 4 -- 10:08.17
Mile 5/6 -- 21:15.03

Mile 7 -- 10:40.63
Mile 8 -- 10:39.13
Mile 9 -- 10:28.05
Mile 10 -- 11:16.49
Mile 11 -- 10:18.40
Mile 12 -- 10:58.34

Mile 13 -- 10:53.09 (~2:18:43)
Mile 14 -- 10:54.62
Mile 15 -- 11:02.25
Mile 16 -- 10:44.66
Mile 17 -- 11:50.50
Mile 18 -- 10:44.88

Mile 19 -- 11:09.49
Mile 20 -- 10:52.06 (~3:36:01)
Mile 21 -- 12:01.19
Mile 22 -- 11:06.12
Mile 23 -- 11:34.78

Mile 24 -- 11:54.82
Mile 25 -- 12:04.54
Last 1.2 -- 14:01.00

Thanks for reading!