2016 Texas Marathon

StefRace Reports, Training

2016 Texas Marathon:

Lessons in┬áRacing, Pacing and Timing…

Texas Marathon Squeezy toys over the years...

Texas Marathon Squeezie toys over the years…

For the 5th consecutive year, I’ve started my New Year by running the Texas (full) Marathon (I did the half version 6 years ago). It’s one of the longer-lived marathons in Texas, put on by Steve and Paula Boone, 50-States Marathon Club legends. Logistically, it’s a very simple race for me to run, ~30 min from my house in Houston and at 8am (sharp) every New Year’s Day. It’s held on greenbelt trails, so though it can get crowded by the runners on this 4-loop course, there really isn’t any vehicular traffic to be concerned with and lots of friendly faces throughout the race.

As the race approached, I noticed the weather forecast trending towards pretty near-perfect running weather. Temperatures were forecast to be in the low-50’s and overcast with a bit of a North wind. Wind isn’t too big of an issue on this course, with a large chunk of each loop in the woods, but can make it feel a bit cooler.

For the first time, I actually went into this race with a little goal. With my strong training this season, I wanted to see if I could go sub-3:30 for the first time since Indy (pre-ankle snafu).

There were a couple of issues with this plan.

  1. A head cold was starting to take hold on NYE, making me wonder how I’d feel while running at pace
  2. The Houston Marathon being just around the corner
  3. No taper, I’d be peaking into this race. At Indy, I had ~10 days of taper leading to the race (already 22 quality miles that week)

Upon waking on New Year’s Day, I felt reasonably ok, so I decided to go out on feel and see where that placed me…

I started near the front of the pack, as this is a race that accommodates all runners and abilities, I wanted to make sure I didn’t have to weave too much in the first couple of miles. This strategy worked pretty well and I had clear pavement for much of the first loop. I was running a pretty even pace, ~7:55/mi and was feeling remarkably good. Like with year’s past at this race, I decided to see where that took me and keep on keeping on…

Near the end of the first loop, I was approaching half marathon runners headed out on their first loop. I didn’t really know where I was standing in the race (this race gives equal “bling” to all runners), but a few people were cheering me on as the “3rd female runner”.

Nice! I didn’t really know I was that far up in the standings, but just decided to keep on running my race and see what happened.

The second loop was a touch slower, but not by much. Around mile 9, I passed the woman holding 2nd place and moved up in the rankings. I told myself I’d just pick people off one by one at this point. I was still feeling great heading into the half marathon point in ~1:42.

As I crossed the mats at the end of that second loop, Jon Walk, the race announcer, noted that I had moved up into 2nd place and was 3 minutes behind the leading female. That helped me mentally quite a bit. That isn’t an insurmountable lead and I was determined to run a smart race, as even as I could muster.

The third and fourth loops were where things started getting a bit tougher. The course became a bit more crowded and congested around the tight spots on bridges and curves. I had to do a bit more weaving as a result. I didn’t let it get to my head though, keeping my heart rate under control. There were only a handful of times where people had music on too loud to hear my “passing on left” calls. My pace slowed a bit. Rather than 50-51 minute loops, I fell to 53 minute loops. Not bad pacing, but not my best effort either.

Just prior to the end of my third loop, I ran by a friend who informed me I was only 40s behind the leading lady.

That couldn’t be right? 40s? That was really achievable!

Jon Walk confirmed my time gap upon finishing that loop. I was pretty darn happy at this point!

Going out on loop 4, the third female, Suzy simply told me to “go get her”! It was becoming more real, I was confident I could make up the time gap and hopefully win the race.

A few moments later, a gentleman who had been following me for some time asked if it was bothering me that he was pacing behind me. Heck no, I said, he’d been helping me keep my pace up for most of the 3rd loop! He told me he was on a mission to help get me to my target pace and hopefully win the race. Around mile 21, we first saw the leading lady. I slowly made my way up to her and passed her with a congratulations for a job well done at mile 22. By mile 24, the gentleman pacing behind me decided to go ahead and do some of the pacing. I unfortunately didn’t have the kick he had and fell off his pace.

The last couple of miles were a bit rough. They were a touch slower and I didn’t really know what time I was looking at (GPS doesn’t do very well on this course). In retrospect, I should have tried harder to keep up with my race angel, but let my brain get the better of me.

In the final straight away, I tried to go for it! The trail was pretty crowded, so it was hard to get up to my full speed, but I did what I could given the constraints.

The finish line was in my sights, I saw a number of my friends lining the finishing chute. It was pretty surreal!

I did it, not only did I win overall female for only the second time in my racing career, but I made my time goal!

3:29:38…good for a BQ-10

If I had stuck to the gentleman I ran much of the final two loops with, I would have also achieved a PR (he finished in just sub-3:29). However, no quibbling here! I ran my second fastest marathon ever on no taper and with a lingering illness.

What a way to start out the New Year!

My friend Kristie met me at the end of the chute with the biggest bear hug I could have imagined and got to celebrate with many of my friends from the local running community.

Runner's High Club at the Texas Marathon

Runner’s High Club at the Texas Marathon

Me and German, with his awesomely braided beard

Me and German, with his awesomely braided beard

Lessons learned and/or confirmed –

  1. Run your own race…
  2. Pace yourself for the long run
  3. Give it your all near the end, there is still probably something still left in the tank
  4. Pick off the rabbits one by one, don’t rush things, let them come to you
  5. You can race with a head cold, just use caution and common sense

Bring it on 2016, I’m ready for the challenge!

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Thanks again to the Boones and countless volunteers for a fun-filled New Year’s Day.