Chevron Houston Marathon recap

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It’s been a week since I finished the Chevron Houston Marathon, and I’m full of mixed feelings about this race.

The race itself was well-organized. The weather was perfect (exactly what I would have picked if I ever was so lucky). But I made a lot of mistakes. I was nowhere near my goals. And yet, I still beat lasts year’s time. I still found a lot to smile about despite the pain (and believe me, there was a lot of it). I’m calling the day a learning opportunity, and I’m really hoping my mistakes will make me a better runner in the end.

So let’s talk specifics. Here are the mistakes I made — I mean, learning opportunities:

Going out too fast.

I planned to run the race at an 8:47 pace all the way across in hopes of coming in at about 3:50. I trained with a 3:45 goal group, so it was still a conservative estimate. This wasn’t my biggest downfall, but everyone I know who did well started a little slower. So, I’m making a note of that for next time.

Fueling. Or winter weather apparel. Oddly, they’re very connected.

The weather was in the high 30s at the start of the race – about as cold as Houston gets. I tossed my gloves somewhere before the half. But at about mile 13, I went to grab my fuel out of my pouch and found that my hand was completely frozen. It was like a claw. I couldn’t unzip the pouch.  

I had to find some gloves. I didn’t want to waste energy moving my hands, trying to warm them up. For about two miles, I scanned the ground. Finally I found some, scooped them off the ground and put them on. They were a little soggy and completely gross, but they were better than nothing. Eventually, I was able to get my fruit snacks out. I tried to make up for the lost calories with gatorade, but I was already feeling weak.

Changing my gait.

This was my biggest mistake. I naturally have a lazy gait. I tend to tense up my arms and not fully bend my knees. Relaxing my arms was something I could fix for the race. The knee thing wasn’t. Because that wasn’t how I ran throughout my training, my knees couldn’t handle that for 26.2 miles.  

This was something I knew. But as I crossed the starting line, I completely forgot. To calm my nerves I just kept thinking, Bend your knees. Relax your arms. By the time I reached the half, my left knee was done. I was in pain. With each mile, I started getting slower and slower. I said goodbye to my 3:50 goal, then my 4:00. Each step hurt. I walked a lot. I actually wondered if this was something I wanted to do again.

But as I neared the finish line, I looked at my watched and realized I could still beat last year’s time. I wasn’t about to let another goal slip by. I crossed the finish line at 4:15 – five minutes faster than last year. I hit stop on my Garmin and was soon greeted the with the message: 1 new record! Fastest marathon! Seeing that made it hard to be too disappointed.   

Part of me is grateful that I made this mistake. (Once I realized what had went wrong. It took me about three hours of hobbling around after the race to figure out where I had went wrong.) Who knows if I’d be as concerned with fixing this if the race had went as planned.  

At times I can’t help but feel a sigh of disappointment. The time I got doesn’t reflect the training I did or the race I know I’m capable of running. But every setback I’ve had so far has made me a better runner. And this time won’t be an exception.

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