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.


TX Runner Mom said...

Great job Jon! I skipped the race the past few years and was happy, because the weather has been warm. This year, I actually wished I had run it - the weather was pretty perfect for it!!!

Jon Walk said...

Christy, I did the math later on and figured out, by age grading, it was my third best half ever! :)

Positive spin no matter what!

I'm actually surprised that I've run this race three times because the course are the ones that we always do - Allen Parkway and Memorial (for the Marathon).