After a 19 year hiatus, The Woodlands Marathon was reborn yesterday in a big way! I have no doubt that as wonderful as the the former Woodlands Marathon was, it could not have out done the new, revitalized version that was unveiled yesterday.
The race directors should be very proud of how the event came off. I was so impressed at the organization that I witnessed in every aspect of the race as it affected me as a participant.
Receiving an email just a few days before the event stating that the marathon was in need of 500 volunteers, I was a tad concerned over the success of the race, however, if there was a shortage of help, it was not on the course. Again, the volunteers came through in a big way, the way that they always do to make a runner's day as enjoyable and as successful as they possibly can.
The cheer stations were a great concept so that the community could be totally invested as they watched. There was not much of the course that didn't have someone on it to support the runners with high fives, cow bells, signs, water, gatorade, music, gels, etc. It was definitely one of the best road race experiences I have ever had, yes, even better than Houston. There I said it.
Most of you know that I am don't typically run road races. I'm just a trail nerd at heart. In fact, this was to be my second marathon, my first being Houston in 2008. I ran a 4:36 that day after 6 months of marathon specific training and quite frankly swore I would never do another one. I didn't enjoy the venue at all and I didn't "get" the whole Houston experience.
A few months later, I ran Hog's Hunt 50K and fell in love with the trails. So, the trails have been where I've stayed, save a few shorter distance community races. If there is one thing I enjoy just as much as the trails, it is running with friends from the community and sharing the experience with them.
When I heard The Woodlands was bringing back the marathon, I had to register. It's a hometown event, put on by great people at the best time of the year to run in Houston. What's not to love?
At the kick off, I had the great pleasure of meeting Ryan and Sara Hall. They are such a sweet and warm-hearted couple, another good reason to want to be a part of this event.
I also considered that I would be coming off of Rocky 50 and not knowing how I would be feeling after that race, I didn't set any hard and fast goals. If I could run it I would, no matter what the speed.
After Rocky, I have felt pretty good. Ran a 14 day streak beginning before Rocky which only ended due to some family situations that required my attention. My legs felt great, I felt strong, and I thought perhaps I would shoot for a PR.
Friday night, I decided I could really give the BQ a go. I knew it would be close, but I figured it was worth the try. I told Richard about my goal and being as crazy, I mean as supportive as he is, he offered to run with me for as long as he could. I told him I was holding nothing back and he promised to drop off if he needed to. (Richard is currently training for his 2nd IM Texas) Plan was set.
Saturday morning showed up with cool temps in the 50's and a steady north wind. It was a bit chilly for me, but not for long. I met up with Richard and after the pre-race walking around and finding a bathroom, we headed into the corral just in the nick of time. The marathon started right on time. In fact, the announcer mentioned that they would be starting the other races (half, 5K) about 5 minutes early! How's that for being organized?!
They shouted go, and we were off. We were to run two 13.1 mile loops along the beautiful back drop of The Woodlands. Coming out of East Shore, it was very nice to see an entire lane and shoulder blocked off for the runners. Allowed for plenty of room for the numbers of people who were on the course.
The first loop felt great, seeing the friends working aid stations, friends who were running, family and friends who were out to support us. This is what community is. I pray that those who were "stuck in race traffic" weren't too upset and could appreciate the hometown spirit that was present.
I saw Mark and Emma twice on the first loop as Richard and I were right on pace (9:00) for the entire loop. Richard was strong and I felt great. We ran through the 13.1 mark at 1:58. Not too shabby for the first half of a 4:00 marathon.
As soon as we passed the half way point, a cold, light rain began to fall, with little mention by Richard or I. We had just run and very rainy and muddy Rocky together, so this was not to be an issue for us this day. My only concern was that I felt cold. We seemed to be hydrating well, but chose to carefully plan our port-a-potty break. I sensed we were slowing a bit, and looking at our splits post race, my sense was correct. We had slowed to a 9:40 pace mile 15 and 16. I chose to conserve at this point thinking that I could make up time after mile 23 when I would drop the 8/2s and run in the last 5K. At mile 17, we were afforded the perfect chance to use the cans and we lost our pace there. (10:17) For some reason, this is where I started to struggle some. My legs, especially my hamstrings were beginning to tighten and I had to slow a bit in an effort to avoid an injury. I think the cold I was feeling was probably the culprit.
Miles 18 and 19 we picked it up a bit, (9:33), but still were not on pace. We were pushing hard, but couldn't manage more than this. We knew we still had a long way to go. Miles 20-23 were the toughest for me, though we did provide negative splits for those three miles, I was feeling very low. Having Richard there to pull me along was very helpful.
Mile 23 did not see fit for me to drop the 8/2s. My hamstrings were beginning to cramp and I had to change my gait to ward off more severe cramps in the entire left leg. Mile 24 and 25 saw 10:11 and 10:19 splits. And then something kicked in for me. I felt the heaviness lift, the cramps subsided and we ran it in for a 9:19 finishing mile. I don't know what changed, but I did see a lady with my verse scrawled on it in very primitive handwriting..."I can do all things in Christ"... The woman was a tiny little lady, whose eyes barely peeked over the sign. I thanked her for the motivation and then charged off. Of course, Florence and the Machine "Dog Days" was a huge boost as well!
I pulled ahead of Richard to cross the finish line in 4:06:and something. I saw my family on the right and it wonderful! As I turned to see how far Richard was behind me, he almost ran me over!!! He hadn't dropped off at all!
Post-race festivities were very nice. My Fit Foods provided the food. I wasn't a huge fan as it seemed very spicy to my liking, but my taste buds were probably not in prime working order after the race.
I was able to visit with several friends and shares moments about their races as well.
I didn't grab a BQ this time. But I did manage a nice 31 minute PR with a very good friend who took a HUGE 90 minute PR from his marathon time in January!!!
I make no excuses for coming up 6 minutes short on this BQ attempt. I am happy with my effort, as I do not feel I could have pushed any harder than what I did. I ran a 4:06 marathon PR while using a run/walk method of running, no speed work, no marathon specific training. I will take it as a great day!
Gear: I ran with my Brook Pure Flows and had no issues whatsoever. These shoes are amazing! Injini socks left me with no blisters, and Lululemon cool racer back coupled with their speed short provided a nice comfortable experience.
Nutrition: S caps every 48 mins, did double up a few times, especially when I could "feel" the hamstrings. Responded well to this. Honey Stingers every 58 mins. Could have used some caffeine the last few miles I think. Drank only water.