This is my 70th marathon. The first time I ran this Woodlands Marathon was 3 years ago in 2015 with a time of 4:43 and I was about 10-15lbs lighter. It was a much cooler day, in fact some Texans were wearing sweat shirts/pants then. Today the temp would've been ideal if not for me having trained in colder and dryer climate this winter. Starting temp was in the mid 50s, sunny. Finish temp for me was 73F.
Got up at 3:45am. Ate a yogurt and 6oz water. Larissa's friend, Jill, picked us up at 4:15am, in her snazzy BMW convertible! Nibbled on a banana, breakfast bar and 6 oz gatorade on the drive. Got to the start with an hour to do pre-race prep. The potty lines were long so we barely had enough time to make one potty trip, took couple of selfies and headed over to the corrals. Larissa went to Corral A which closed at 6:40am. Jill and I went to Corral B and stood for over 20 min. before the race started at 7am. We started with the 5:15 and 5:45 group. Either the corral was smaller or there were not as many participants so the pace groups were bunched together. Jill has had some knee issue so she was planning to walk most of the race. She ended up taking a ride after run/walk the half.
Jill and I ran together the first 0.25 mile with the 5:15/5:45 pace groups and then she started to walk and urged me to go after the 4:45 group. It was such a pleasant run under sunny blue sky, with friendly runners. The first mile goes around a posh neighborhood in a giant U-shape. Last year the lead motorcycle cop missed the first turn of the U inadverdently leading the whole marathon field off course by 0.8 mile short. This unfortunate mistake caused many BQers (my daughter included) to not be able to register for Boston 2018. They remedied this debacle by painting big red/pink arrows on the pavement at every turn this year.
I went out too fast. I think my body was conditioned to run fast in this training cycle which had me running 2 speedworkouts at VO2max and threshold paces and one long run at marathon pace a week for 8 weeks. There was no step down or recovery week. The mileage and pace build up for 8 weeks then a 4 weeks of tapering in mileage but pace intensity still increased. My last long run was 20 miles 4 weeks out and I was not able to maintain the prescribed marathon pace of 11:00. I think my body was just too trashed from the weekdays' speedworkouts to do marathon paced long runs on weekend (it's like racing a 5K or 10K every week). Anyway that's my theory, I feel like I don't know how to dial in marathon pace anymore. I soon caught up to the 4:45 group within the first couple miles and hang with them for most of the first half.
My feet started to burn after about 10 miles. I felt hot spots forming in the ball of my feet perhaps it from wearing new shoes on concrete road or the warm and humid weather. I finally stopped at a med tent somewhere before mile 13 to take off the socks and shoes and put bandaids on my forefeet. I also took a salt cap and ibupofen. While sitting there I watched the 5:00 pace group ran past.
I slowly reeled the 5:00 group in over the next mile and decided to hang with them after the hair-pin turn around (mile 15) when the course turned direction and I found myself running into headwind and sun in my eyes (I had forgotten to put on sunglasses but thankfully had running cap).
I was good at hydrating remembering what Slick told me to do in warmer temp. I would walk and drink 3-4 oz gatorade/water and dump water on my head at every aid station. The aid stations were spaced about every 1.5 mile apart after the first 3 miles which was more frequent than I'm used to. I planned to take Gu every 5 miles but the aid stations were not positioned near any mile marker. At one point I started to take a Gu in my 20th mile seeing a nylon flag ahead thinking it was an aid station coming up, but in fact it was a relay exchange point. That really confused me. The course is a giant loop with many turns and road crossings which were manned by police or volunteers. I found myself thanking and highfiving them, taking fluids from little kids. This was such a well organized and friendly race with big city style but hometown feel. The pacers were from local running clubs and have many followers. The 5:00 pace leaders were an older man (60s) with a right sided lean (like his spine was crooked) and a younger girl (40s) who's originally from Utah. She and I chatted up a storm. Anyhow, I was feeling good until after 20 miles. I think the lack of volumes in my mileage affected my stamina, and started out too fast finally caught up to me. My calf started to cramp and my breathing was a bit labored (did I mention there was a headwind in the second half).
The older pacer began to have the group take walk breaks. He was really good at keeping pace and counting down the seconds to when we walk. I really welcomed the walk breaks. However with my shorter and fatigue legs, I could not walk as fast as the group. They started to gap me with each walk break. I stopped at the mile 23ish aid station and fumbled around to take a salt cap and ibuprofen. And when I resumed running, the group was about 400-600 meters ahead. I kept them in my sight and would walk when they walk.
The last 5K was a death march with me fighting calf cramps and way behind the pace group. My watch battery died and with more turns in the course, I couldn't see the group, I lost track of my time/distance. I leap-frogged with a lady and we started to talk a little and encourage each other. At the south end of the park, with less than a mile to go, I saw my hubby who told me Larissa finished in 3:43 which put a smile on my face. There was also a clock tower indicating a time of 7 min. to noon. So I thought there's no way I could finish by noon or under 5 hr. I started to walk a bit more. The finish was around a curved cobblestone pathway. A lady sprint past me by a pedestrain bridge urging me to go with her. As I do so my calves started to cramp. I was scared to death of charlie horse seizing me. I mustered up enough energy to jog to the finish with a smile. So happy to see my son-in-law and 4 grandchildren cheering me by the finishers fence. They told me Larissa was being tended to in the med tent.
After gathering my shirt, medal and some food, I sat down with my family at the tables and ate waiting for Larissa. So glad that I finished upright, although not meeting my A goal, and had a wonderful time with my daughter and grandchildren.
Mile 1 to 5: 10:38, 10:30, 10:41, 10:29, 10:49
Mile 6 to 10: 11:13, 11:05, 10:27, 11:44, 11:07
Mile 11 to 15: 11:27, 11:43, 14:53, 10:40, 10:35
Mile 16 to 20: 11:00, 11:10, 11:56, 11:27, 11:42,
Mile 21 to finish: 11:16, 11:33, 11:44, 12:47, 12:25, 12:38, 11:55