I had a great experience in Houston. It's a 5ish hour drive from New Orleans, and I took my wife and kids with me for this one. I'd like to travel a little more for races, and this was a test run for how the kids would do. They passed. Erica gave the green light for more. My 10-week old even gave us a late Christmas present by sleeping through the night.
We booked an Airbnb apartment in Midtown and arrived with just enough time to hit the packet pickup and make our dinner reservation. I've discovered that my body responds really well to sushi with the plus side that sushi restaurants don't get overcrowded with runners.
Morning of the race I had to adjust my usual warmup routine. I was in the ADP corral, and I had to be in the corral 25 minutes before the start. The corral offered almost no room for additional warmup. So I ran from the apartment to the start line at 5:45 and did my best from there to stay warm. It was about 35F, and that wasn't easy. But when the gun went off I found that I felt pretty good, and the poor warmup turned into a non-issue.
I was wanting to run 5:20ish from the start and ratchet up the pace as the race went along to try to get to sub-1:10, hopefully as low as 1:09:30. I met a friend who planned to start at the same pace, and from the gun we worked together through the first 6 miles before he dropped back. The start was crowded, and the first mile ended up a little slow as a result (Garmin showed 5:24), but from there we settled into several sub-5:20s.
Miles 1-6 Garmin splits
I felt fantastic. Plenty of spring in my stride, breathing was easy. There was a little discomfort starting to show in my legs, but things looked really good. And even though my pace buddy had dropped back, there was another guy with us who moved up and continued to push the pace. He was taking water at most of the stations, so I figured he had to be in the marathon. And sure enough at 8 miles the courses split and we wished each other luck.
At that point I found myself completely alone. There wasn't another body for what looked like 400m. I still felt good and wanted to push hard from 8 to 12. I kept my foot on the gas, trying to maintain what my marathon pal and I had done from 6 to 8. I hit 5:16 on miles 9, though cracks were starting to show.
Miles 7-9 Garmin splits
Heading into mile 10, I could feel my body trying hard to slow down. My turnover started to feel sluggish, and I didn't have another runner to gauge my pace on. I tried flipping my watch to instant pace mode, but it wasn't holding a steady reading. I was sure I'd reach mile 10 in 5:40, but was relieved to see 5:22. I can live with that. I felt like I'd banked some time to sub-1:10, and holding low-5:20s would still give me a chance.
Mile 11 had a slight downhill, but I only managed 5:23. A little discouraging, especially with mile 12 heading up a gentle hill. It was a very gentle hill, but it lasted the entire mile (and a little beyond). It felt like an eternity, and I was really hurting. I was relieved to see 5:25 flash at mile 12.... I was sure I'd bled off much more than that.
I finally caught the runner I'd seen in the distance during that long uphill mile. I invited him to hang onto me, which he did for about half a mile. Huge help having him there. Other than him, I'd only passed one other female runner in the last 4 miles. Once he dropped again, there were no other bodies in sight.
Mile 13 was a fight for survival. I kept urging my turnover to quicken and my legs kept rebelling. With a half mile to go I made another attempt to surge. Ultimately I reached 13 in 5:23 and finished the last 0.2 (by my watch) in 5:05 pace.
Miles 10-13 Garmin splits
Funny thing is, all the way through to the finish, until the clock came into view, I still thought sub-1:10 was possible. In reviewing the timing mat splits, it looks like my paces on the course were a little slower. 5k splits from the course were:
Which teaches me a couple things:
1) Run tangents better
2) Don't rely on GPS for splits
Things I should know by now.
I really wanted to at least crack 1:10, but obviously the fitness isn't quite there. I'm satisfied I ran the best I could, and I'm glad I was a little bit aggressive through mile 9. The fade in the last 6k is fixable.
This was my goal race for this training cycle, and in thinking back on how the buildup went, I rate myself a C on preparation. Not being overly critical, but I had a big drop in volume from October on (expected, enouraged even, with a new baby in the family), and then the illness over the last month or so has kind of nuked the last few weeks of prep. The drops in volume showed up.
I'm pleased with the race, and am looking forward to beginning a marathon prep cycle and trying to lower my half PR en route.