Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Fort Bend Kia Half Marathon Race Report

Race #5 new to me in 2017 (Goal is 50)
Race #7 to finish in 2017
Race #9 to be in attendance for in 2017 (7 finish, 1 announce, 1 media)
128th career half marathon
6th best half marathon in raw time, 2:13:05.
Best ever half marathon in age-graded time, 1:57:42

Simply put, Sunday, January 29, 2017 was a great day to race and I'm fortunate enough - financially, schedule, etc. - to have been able to take advantage of it.

My regular routine is all about making the logistics work in my life and things kind of came clear so that I could race the Fort Bend Kia Half Marathon - part of the Memorial Hermann USA Fit Half Marathon.

There are a few half marathons that I want to do a little later in the spring and the best way - to me - to stay ready is to run them when possible.

This race, which features primarily a flat course, has either typically been on a weekend where I had a conflict with another race that I was running or announcing.

Last year, I announced races on both Saturday and Sunday of the last weekend of January.  The reasons why are, sadly, other stories.

I knew my good friend, Bill Dwyer, of Volte Endurance Training, was maybe not going to go to the first race of the Texas 10 Series in Boerne, due to family responsibilities.

And once I saw one of his runners, Criss Neumann, was going to run it, I was all in.

I registered Wednesday evening before online registration closed and picked up my packet the next day at Finish Line Sports in Sugar Land.  Got a nice even #1800 bib number!

Fast-forward to Sunday.  Up at 3:30 a.m., left the house at 4:15 a.m., picked Bill up by 4:35 a.m., stopped and got something quick to eat off University Blvd. in Sugar Land at around 5:30 a.m. and was parked shortly thereafter.

Race start time was 6:30 a.m.  A little odd, but actually perfect, to be honest.

The streets that the first two miles are run on are lit well enough that you don't have any issues seeing the ground below your feet.

Given the temperatures, somewhere in the low 40s, I stayed in the car until about 6:15 a.m. then made our way to the start line.

Saw Felix Lugo and Kevin Kline, then after the National Anthem, jumped in the corral and off we went.

Kingwood's Karen Berglund deduced I was in front of her and husband Ron and I waved, knowing that they were running the marathon (as they had done five times before at Sugar Land), as I wanted to get off to a good, clean start.

Pace felt a little fast for me for a half marathon, especially since I was able to keep Criss in striking distance for three or four miles.

Mile 1 - 9:44.64
Mile 2 - 9:46.11

I saw Bill before the corner as we turned on to University and told him that mile 1 was 9:44 and that it was too fast.  I tried to slow it down, but the pace - given the weather - felt pretty good too.

There wasn't a lot of wind, but when I needed to grab a quick breath and stopped to walk for a few you still didn't want to stay still for long.

Mile 3 - 10:06.70
Mile 4 - 10:05.37
Mile 5 - 10:01.71
Mile 6 - 10:09.32

Along the way, I saw RaceShots.Net's Lance Phegley, who commented on my Liberty Flames technical shirt selection, as he was behind his camera.

For me at least, when you're trying to hammer away at a steady pace which gets you close to some of the fastest times you've run at the distance before, the incline of a few of the bridges felt worse than what they really were.

Plus, I cheer people on when I see them - going the other way (David Raines, Steve Maliszewski, Leno Rios, Victoria Webster, Bennie Perez and Daniel Bucci) - at which time I tend to inherently pick up my pace throwing me out of rhythm a little bit.

The turnaround came just before mile 7, around which time Pearland's Donna Palmer - a steady, solid 4:15-4:30 marathoner - and Houston's Richard Oeschlin, both of whom do the Seabrook Lucky Trail Marathon that I announce, came upon me.

Mile 7 - 9:52.44

Donna asked me how things were going and I think I stated that all was good.

Knowing though that I had just gone through the last mile fairly fast, I thought that I would run with (or behind) them a little bit to get into more of a steady pace.

Mile 8 - 10:17.17
Mile 9 - 10:06.54

I did - for a mile it seems, but again the way that the weather was it was hard to not try and push the pace a little bit.

Mile 10 - 10:32.91

I wouldn't say that the wheels came off, but it proved to be the slowest mile of the race and this included the first of two short out and backs off of University.

The first one took us out to a "cheater mat" at approximately the 15K point.  I guess mile 9 was on the way out to it, but when you made it back to University the immediate left-hand turn was up the incline of the bridge.

Just on the other side of the bridge and beyond it was the mile 10 marker.

Mile 11 - 10:14.79
Mile 12 - 10:31.67
Mile 13 - 10:26.95
Last .1 - 1:08.43

From there, I knew I had have one of my better times ever if I could just keep it all together.

I think mile 12 included a shorter out-and-back in the parking lot of the park where the Snowdrop Ultra 55 is held each year.

Also, pretty much everything after the first turnaround - into the finish - was on a wide path and off of University Drive itself, which I'm surprised that it didn't bother me as much as I thought it would.

Saw Bill taking pictures to the right as I got ready to make the final left-hand turn to head towards the finish on the campus of the University of Houston-Sugar Land.

Legs look solid, if nothing else does!
(Photo courtesy of Bill Dwyer)
The funniest thing (in a very good way) of the day, though, was Hugh Fraser's finish line call.

Since I didn't get out of the car until late, I didn't stop over and see Hugh - who has spelled me a little out at Kingwood a couple of years ago when I ran with Waverly, Jack McClintic and one of the Zarate brothers (likely Greg) before the race.

So as I cross the announcer mat, which Run Houston Timing has working well now it seems, I hear Hugh call the two runners in front of me and he goes, "Jon Walk."

And then in a bit of a surprised, excited tone:  "Jon Walk.  Who announces marathons around the state and country."

Well not quite the country, Hugh, but I waved back overhead in appreciation.

It put a big smile on my face.

Kind of like Patty Godfrey, who was handling the post-race awards ceremony (and doing a bang-up job doing so) on Sunday, did giving me No. 1 at her Frontier Fiesta 5K on the University of Houston campus two years ago.

I appreciate the love from the running and triathlon communities and something Bill and I had a good laugh about on the drive back to Spring.

Saw and talked with Peter Manry, who told me he heard Keith Schreiter and I on the radio (from our public service programming spot we did with The Bull 100.3 FM) that morning.

Also had a chance to talk with a local runner (who it took me a while to get her last name announced right over the years) about her faith - which is being attacked - and what the latest immigration issues mean to her.

So I came away with much more than a good time, knowing that the 2:13 was pretty solid and of which I was really pleased with the effort.

Of course, I wondered (seriously, not for long) if I had rested and not done two 5Ks the two days before if I might have gotten closer to 2:10.  Who knows?

The bottom line, though, is I had fun doing the other two and I was able to support a couple of different efforts in different ways and those are good things.

Ten years ago, I had folks in the community criticizing me for as much racing as I did - the quality vs. quantity argument.

To me, if I had something to prove or to specifically achieve, like those individuals did, maybe they might have been right.

Variety is the spice of life, right?

These are my best eight half marathon times all-time:

2:09:45 - 9/11/10 (43) - Elroy Tunnel-Trails Half Marathon, Elroy, WI - 74
2:09:58 - 3/18/06 (39) - Wheatfield Half Marathon, The Dalles, OR - 24
2:10:57 - 12/11/10 (43) - Schlotzsky's Jingle Bell Run Half Marathon, Temple, TX - 76
2:12:06 - 1/29/06 (39) - 12th annual 3M Half Marathon, Austin, TX - 23
2:12:26 - 1/28/07 (40) - 13th annual 3M Half Marathon, Austin, TX - 31
2:13:05 - 1/29/17 (50) - USA Fit Half Marathon, Sugar Land, TX - 128
2:13:17 - 1/31/15 (48) - Minden Run For St. Jude Half Marathon, Minden, LA - 103 (2:13:21)
2:13:45 - 2/9/14 (47) - Biggest Loser Half Marathon, Mobile, AL - 94

The two fastest weren't necessarily on cold days, like the following six were.

The race in Oregon had come after doing four marathons in five weeks, which included my 4:48 marathon PR.

However, as I came into the finish on Sunday, I remembered the effort in Mobile, Alabama, which was the first race after Holly, my sister, had passed away three years ago.

And the day was similarly cool and clear too - and even more flat than Sugar Land.

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