Lots of great moments in Houston this weekend for the Chevron Houston Marathon and Aramco Half Marathon...hanging out with my amazing coach Mollie, meeting up with some Oiselle Volée teammates for brunch and a shakeout run, getting a group photo opp with THE Kara Goucher, and having a girls weekend with Julie, who joined the Volée this past fall. It was a warm, humid day to race, but we got it done and I finished with a 1:52:57 (an improvement by almost a minute and a half on the same course/tougher day). No PR for me this time, but will keep on pushing for that sub 1:50 in 2017.
The weekend started when Julie and I cruised down from Dallas on Friday night after work. Surprisingly, the Dallas-to-Houston route was not as congested as it could have been, so we made the trip in a little less than four hours. We checked into the perfectly located Hilton Americas hotel (right by the start and finish lines!!) and settled in for the night. Check out the baller status view of the finish line from our window:
Saturday morning was very laid back; we bucked our normal Saturday morning pre-dawn wake up alarms and stayed in bed a little longer since the shakeout run planned by our #HOUVolée leader didn't start until 10 AM. Later that morning, I was thrilled to meet up withmy co-TX Team Leaders Ellen and Emily (pictured below), and hang with both local and visiting birds from out of the city or state. After a little less than three miles of a shakeout, we headed over to a local spot for a good brunchy/lunchy meal at District 7 Grill. Julie and I kept it Texan and had some solid braised beef tacos.
Coach Mollie of Piece of Cake Running met us for lunch with her hubs Pete. I've been working with Mollie since April 2016, so it was so great to get to hang out with her in the flesh after emailing, texting and messaging through Final Surge (her preferred coaching platform) the last few months. She's not only a badass runner who knows her stuff and has taught me a LOT in the last eight months, but she's also just a cool chick. Somehow, Mollie strikes a really good balance between being encouraging and motivational for her runners while still keeping it very real and not taking EVERYTHING so damn seriously. We do this for fun, right?!?!?
After lunch, Julie and I headed over to the expo to pick up our bibs and meet the team for a picture. The Houston Expo is always awesome, with lots of vendors selling stuff I actually want to buy. Last year, I stopped by the Skechers Performance booth to say hello to Adam (a speedy guy in the same Auburn, AL running group I ran with before my move to Texas) and ended up buying my first pair of GOruns and GOwalks from him. I kept up the tradition this year and hit up Skechers Performance to say hi to Dave Ames, who was a special guest at Northeast Birdcamp 2016, and to pick up the Houston edition of the Gorun5. Gotta love getting the shoes you wear anyway at a sweet expo discount!
One of the highlights of the weekend was getting together with some Oiselle Volée for some pics at the Skechers Performance signature wall, which included a group picture with our Haute Volée Kara Goucher. Kara was signing autographs and taking pics with fans at the Clean Sport Collective booth, but broke away for just a moment to meet up with us (and yes, that's her depicted on the wall running with Meb!)
Saturday night called for an early pre-race dinner, so we returned to Coppa Osteria (which we also enjoyed pre-race 2016) with some friends from the White Rock Running Co-op. I discovered last year that Coppa has an *incredible* bolognese with ricotta dish, so I kept with tradition and ordered it again. Yum.
Sunday morning dawned warm and humid. We knew that there was no reason for us to wear any throw away clothes to stay warm at the start, and with our hotel so close, we didn't even need to gear check. Julie and I got up, got some fuel in us (including some orange UCAN for me; I am a true believer in this stuff) and headed over to the start.
So, the race itself. Houston is a great course and absolutely PR-worthy, as I saw last year. I started relatively strong and only slowed down a little to take in some fluids at mile 5. But when I got to about the 7.5 mile marker, I noticed that my heart rate was way higher than it should have been and I was starting to feel a side stitch coming on. I pushed knowing that around mile 8, I was going to see a dear friend on the course, but the stitch came on full bore for miles 10 and 11, which put me at a 9:03 and 9:06 pace for those two miles. This allowed me to recover enough that I was able to get back into the 8's for my last two miles.
All in all, I'm OK with how the day went. I definitely feel like I am in better shape than I was this time last year; I remember pushing myself for a 1:54:21 on the same course. But what's more - at my lowest points during Houston 2017, my slowest mile only averaged out to a 9:06 pace. I remember when I first started running that I had to get back into the 10:00s to get my heart rate under control and/or to deal with a side stitch, and now a rougher day with slower couple of miles still puts me in the 1:52-1:53 half range. I take that as a sign that training is going in the right direction!