Texas Marathon 2014

Time: 4:22:30 [RESULTS]

Position: 83/301

Medal: Hell yes.

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I feel that it is necessary to mention that the photo above means absolutely nothing without something to give you an accurate sense of scale.  Something like my entire head.  So behold, in all its 3.3lbs of neck-breaking glory, the Texas marathon medal, as modelled by myself:

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I guess everything really is bigger in Texas.

Ridiculous medal aside, this race was not all happiness and glory.  In fact, quite the opposite.  I had a restless night, and awoke to some serious stomach cramping (again – I had been plagued by tummy troubles for a few days).  After the early morning drive to Kingwood for registration, I offloaded my belongings onto my parents to gain a little respite in the porta loo, somewhat grateful that the sun had yet to rise, as nobody would be able to see my face if they had the misfortune of entering the cubicle after me.  The UNFLUSHING cubicle, might I add.  I have no idea if this is normal for US races, but the UK porta loos all have a sort of flush mechanism.  I appreciate it more now.

After evacuating all of my breakfast and any fluids I had tried to take in, I met my parents, grabbed everything I needed for the race, and told them to aim to pick me up about 4.5 hours after the start.  Then I walked over to the growing crowd of runners and made casual chit chat with some of the locals (and not so locals – I met a guy with parents from Aberdeen!), trying to ignore how crappy (ha ha ha) I felt.

At 7:45 the race medal was unveiled.  Not normally a fan of seeing what the medal will look like until the finish, I genuinely feel I have to attribute feasting my eyes on this magnificent specimen to helping me finish the race.  Several times I almost talked myself into dropping down to the half, especially since there was no hope of getting a PB (in my mind) feeling the way I did, but I knew I’d be annoyed at myself for giving up.

After the national anthem and a welcome from the super friendly race organizers, Steve and Paula Boone, the marathoners set off at 8am (followed by the half marathoners at 8:15).  The course consists of four 6.55 mile loops on greenbelts in Kingwood, and although there were a couple of nice sections by lakes (during which I could watch herons flying low for snacks), the majority reminded me a lot of running along the Deeside railway line in Aberdeen – not very inspiring after the first mile of running between trees and other plants.

I completed the first loop in 1:02:08 and wanting to quit.  My breathing was heavy, my heart rate was high, and although my legs felt great, I was fatigued and out of fuel.  Bonking after 5 miles is not a great feeling.  Still, with a race cut-off of ‘sundown’, I thought at the very worst, I could walk the damn thing.

Lap 2 was a bit slower at 1:04:10, and just before I finished the lap, I ran past Raquel, who I met after she got in touch after reading my blog, and we stopped for a photo together.  I won’t lie, I was relieved for the short rest!

Rachel and Raquel

Rachel and Raquel

I had set myself the arbitrary goal of getting to the halfway point before I allowed myself to listen to music.  About a mile before the turnaround, however, I pushed this back to 15 miles.  Then the next water station (every 1.5 miles or so, and thankfully all stocked with porta loos).  Until, before I knew it, I had completed lap 3 (in 1:07:40 – body slowly failing), and decided to ‘treat myself’ to some tunes I had downloaded during the previously mentioned restless night.

Lap 4 was sheer agony.  I wanted to walk the entire thing.  I wanted to stop.  I wanted to be in a soundproof toilet.  After necking my body weight in Powerade at the aid stations in an attempt to put any kind of fuel into my body, I was sloshing around so much that at first I was getting annoyed at the person behind me for having such a loud bottle of water.  Until I realized there was nobody there.  And the sound was coming from inside me.  It must have made a slight difference though, because, despite more frequent walk breaks, my pace when I was running was pretty much constantly 9:30/mile.  I staggered to the end of the 4th lap in 1:09:38 to cheers of “Come on Rachel!”, only to realize my parents had arrived early and were both taking (numerous, it would seem) photos.  I was so, so happy to finish in under 4:30, and my second fastest marathon to date (fine – out of 4).

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Crossing the finish line, I was handed (and nearly floored by) my medal, and given a squeezy elephant with my finisher’s number on it.  While the official results say I was 83rd, I got handed the squeezy elephant for 82nd place, but since my chip time is faster (marginally) than the guy in 82nd place, I feel no guilt in sticking with it.

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There was also post race pizza, cookies, soda, and all sorts, but after a stretch and a few minutes to just stay still, all I could manage was half a slice of cheese pizza and a small cup of sprite.

While this wasn’t the race I wanted it to be, it did reiterate to me how important it is to get proper fuel for longer distances.  With ultras on the horizon, fuelling is something everyone says makes or breaks your race, so I’m definitely keen to start practicing with different foods on my longer runs now.  However, as much as I do believe that getting enough calories down my throat is important, it’s good to know that I can claw through 26.2 miles on next to nothing, even if it was less than pleasant.

It’s also good to know that I have 26 miles clocked up for 2014 already.  And that tomorrow is a rest day.

Hasta la Vista, 2013!

Gallery

This gallery contains 10 photos.

I am currently gearing up for a raucous New Year’s Eve here in Houston.  I’m planning on whipping up some cinnamon spiced pancakes, courtesy of Chef John’s dulcet voice.  Or plain spaghetti.  It depends on how settled my stomach is … Continue reading

Santa Hustle Half Marathon (Galveston)

Time: 1:58:47

Position: 210/956 

‘Category position’: 7/74 (if my ACTUAL age was considered)

Medal: Yes

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As I was planning to be in Houston for the festive period (potential home invaders: my 6’2″ boyfriend is remaining in Aberdeen), I had scoured Houston Running Calendar for some potential races and discovered that there was a half marathon in Galveston the morning after I was scheduled to arrive.  My friend, Nikki, had signed up as well, and we planned to run it together, just like we did for last year’s Huntsville half marathon.

The UK was being hit by some pretty ferocious winds on the day I left, and I was a little anxious about flying (I am a really shitty flyer).  We were warned by the pilot before we took off for Heathrow from Aberdeen that we were “in for a bumpy ride.”  The dude was not lying.  Upon arrival at Heathrow, I collected my luggage, changed terminal, and checked in for my flight to Houston.  Which was significantly delayed.  It turns out the east side of the US was being hit by a storm system too, so any hopes of experiencing less turbulence was pretty much crapped on about 5 seconds after our (eventual) take-off.  I kid you not, my ass left the seat on more than one occasion during turbulence, and my butt-cheeks were clenched for about 90% of the flight in fear.  I hate flying, have I mentioned that yet?  Add to the mix the guy sitting next to me who kept falling asleep on my shoulder, and the kid in the seat behind me kicking my lower back every few minutes, and you ended up with a bedraggled and exhausted me upon arrival, nearly 4 hours later than anticipated.  And that was before the passport check.  Needless to say, I did not partake in much conversation with my family when we got home, and I finally made it to bed around midnight.

And then my alarm when off at 5:30 in the morning.  My mom, dad, and grandma came with me to Galveston, and I stifled yawns the entire way there.  I met Nikki under a giant inflatable snowman about 15 minutes before the start of the race and she handed over my race pack.  At least, we thought it was my race pack until I realized that I had entered as ‘Rachel Pidutti Williams’, and Nikki had been given the race pack for ‘Rachel Williams’, a 38 year old.  So Rachel, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry!  Once changed into our Santa shirt and hat (screw the beard), we headed to the start line:

(Photo stolen from Nikki)

(Photo stolen from Nikki)

This was Nikki’s first half marathon since she had her (adorable) kid, and she was aiming for sub-2, which kind of worried me because this was meant to be part of my taper, but she was determined, so I was happy to bust a gut at her side.  We had unknowingly lined up in the ‘walking’ corral – probably because we shuffled up to the back of the crowd close to the start – and admired the effort some of the runners had put into their festive look:

Apparently he had a brother who was dressed the same.

Apparently he had a brother who was dressed the same.

About 5 minutes after the first group had left, we were running, and I was huffing and puffing pretty quickly only to realize we were charging out at an 8:00/mile pace.  To risk burning out completely, we slowed down a bit, though it seemed pretty comfortable maintaining an 8:30-8:50/mile pace for the first half of the race.

The course heads towards the beach, and to my dismay, you started with an out and back along the beachfront which wasn’t too dissimilar to Aberdeen beach – the most uninspiring place to run in the world.  Nikki and I both told ourselves that we were lucky this bit was near the beginning because it would be pretty soul sucking if it were to appear at the end.  Ha.

After the first out and back we continued onto another out and back in the opposite direction along – you guessed it – the coast.  It was warm and muggy (95% humidity – delightful), and the Santa hat had by this point fused to my soggy head.  We stopped to walk through every water station, but ignored the cookie/candy stops because neither of us were really interested in eating anything.

Somewhere between mile 8 and 9, Nikki was starting to struggle.  She felt like she was going to throw up, and running was not helping her situation.  Since we had made good time in the first half of the race, we had a little time to take back and still finish sub-2, but as we went further, she was feeling more and more sick.  She kept telling me to go ahead, but I refused to leave her until eventually she went off to the side because she thought she was going to throw up just after the 12 mile marker, and told me to go.

Seeing as it wouldn’t be long for her to finish, I went ahead, making it my mission for at least one of us to get a sub-2 finish.  I ran my fastest mile of the day – and saw my HR elevate significantly – in 8:21, and crossed the line in 1:58:47, feeling a bit like I was going to puke myself.  The humidity, the exertion in that last mile, the lack of sleep, and the jet lag all seemed to hit me at once, and I walked off to the side to drink some water and let my heart rate come down.  Nikki came in soon after in 2:01:25, and we celebrated the finish with a beer at 10:30 am (the bars had opened early for the occasion).

There was also a Santa and a snowman.

There was also a Santa and a snowman.

There was talk of an official after party, but we couldn’t find it, and we both had to get back to our respective homes, so we snapped a couple of photos of the ‘scenery’, and had a quick chat with my family before heading our separate ways.  After a Taco Bell stop (don’t judge me), I got home and showered, and managed to last until about 6pm, when I ‘power napped’ for 3 and a half hours before meeting an old school friend and his girlfriend for a beer and salted pretzel.

I can honestly say, I don’t think I’ve ever fallen asleep as quickly as I did when my head hit the pillow on Sunday night.  I didn’t even feel guilty when I blew off my run this morning to relax for an extra hour in bed.  Bliss.

Cross training

I am definitely not one of those runners that is guilty of ignoring their cross training.  In fact, cross training is what I do most of, because I actually really like everything else I do on top of running.  Because I am a creature of habit, my weekly workout schedule usually looks something like this:

Screenshot 2013-04-23 at 22.16.31Obviously in the run up to Paris, the only running I was doing was on Sunday, which is not ideal, but I think my fitness was good enough to let me get away with that.  The next time I attempt a marathon, I want to have trained properly for it.  This may mean that I will not have time for all of my group exercise classes which I am not happy about, but as my next marathon isn’t until January, 2014 (unless I make some unwise, flippant decisions in the coming months), I have a while to wean myself off of my current class addiction, and try to create similar exercises I can fit in when time is actually available to me.

In June, my bank account allowing, I hope to take a spin instructor course.  I have already completed an exercise theory course and my first aid, and this would allow me to earn a little pocket money whilst still getting to do the workouts I enjoy, and hopefully at a time more suited to my schedule.

I would also love to buy a decent barbell and some weights, so I can pump some iron to cheesy metal in my living room at 3am to satisfy my meat-head tendencies.

The final thing I’ve been starting to do is slotting mini workouts into my day whenever I have time.  Usually, I do a quick search on youTube for things like ‘butt workout’ and follow instructions for 10-15 minutes   However, youTube is also the graveyard of odd videos, and I have stumbled across some hilariously bad instructional videos.  Like this gem, which is equally hilarious and creepy.  Still, I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t feel my butt work when following along.  Yes, I’ve used it 3 times so far.

But following videos online is limiting, so this afternoon, after work, I met my friend Grant for a gym session after telling him I’d plan an hour of stuff for us to work our way through.  The result?  Success!  If you count working up a sweat before chicken fajitas a success (I do).  Here’s what we did:

20 minutes on the elliptical to ‘warm up’.  I once read somewhere that it takes about 15 minutes for the body to fully loosen up, and I tend to enjoy adding just a little bit extra onto everything.

3 sets of the following:

  • 20 squats
  • 10 lunges on each leg
  • 10 man push ups
  • 15 hip extensions on each leg (possibly the lamest exercise for a male to do next to his female friend in a semi-crowded gym, so props to Grant)
  • 30 second plank
Hip extensions

Hip extensions

5 minutes on the rowing machine

10 minutes of core (plank, side plank, toe taps, a bunch of stuff I don’t know the name for)

10 minutes on the step machine

But no running.  I’m still kind of fatigued after Paris, since I scoff in the face of sensibility and ignore all guidance that tells me that I should rest after a marathon.  I gave it 3 days, but then I was back at the weights and cross training.  However, I am still in my twenties (which I remind everyone about frequently, because February, 2014 marks my entry into my fourth decade of life), so I refuse to accept that I am not indestructible quite yet, thank you very much.

Anyway, Texas 2014?  I’ve got my eye on you.  And I WILL sort out a training plan for you that incorporates running regularly while I have my cross training liaisons alone in dark corners at unsociable hours while everyone sleeps.  And I’ll even throw in the fancy stuff, like hills, fartleks (never going to stop being funny), and mile repeats (sounds gross).  Because even though medals are sweet, I kind of want to see what I can do if I throw myself into one of these marathons, balls to the wall.

The Quest for a Good Running Photo… continues.

Don’t get too excited, the quest continues.  But I have just found an ‘almost’.  While stalking events online, I came across a man’s photo album from the Huntsville half marathon in Texas a couple of weeks ago (I can’t believe it has only been a couple of weeks since I’ve been back – it feels like months).  I believe this is just before the finish line for the quarter marathon (meaning Nikki and I still had another loop to run).  I have no idea why I’m so far ahead, because we pretty much ran this entire thing side by side, but what I really want to explain is this is MUCH CLOSER to how I imagine I actually look when I’m running than the typical race photos I come across.  If only my eyes were open, this would potentially be my best race photo yet!

In other news, despite feeling like I had immortal feet, I have finally lost a toenail.  Being a 10k junkie for years, I guess this is like a pretty ceremonial thing in terms of long(er) distance running, so it’s great to be part of the cool crowd.  On the other hand, in Texas, I went for a pedicure with my mom (and it was only, like, the 4th pedicure I’ve ever had), and I feel like it was wasted on my now sub-human toes. In fairness, the gross blood blister on the neighboring toe is doing my foot aesthetics few favours:

And finally, in an kind of ‘fuck you!’ to the clocks going back and having a staggering 45 minutes of daylight after I finish work (and I am a school teacher that finishes work at 15:35), I went out for an evening trail run with Ronnie with my new head torch:

No light + blinding flash = goofy expression.

It was an overall failure, as we only managed about 4 miles (we were aiming for 8), and I kept getting weirded out by strange sounds in the woods.  It is also pretty easy to get completely lost in the dark, so there was a bit of stop-starting whilst we tried to work out if we were going where we wanted to go.  Also, it’s nearly impossible to tell whether that pile of leaves you’re about to run on are just sitting on the trail, or disguising a shin-deep freezing puddle of stagnant water.  Spoiler: I got wet.

Good luck to those of you racing this weekend!  I just have some weights and a shortish run planned this weekend before a busy week at work and the Fraserburgh half next weekend.  It looks like the Fraserburgh half could possibly mark the beginning of training for my first ultra, but I’m only about 60% sure I’ll aim to do it this year, so I wont say too much about that now…

Houston Half Marathon (relay) 2012

Time: 2:00:48

Position: 17/57

Medal: Yes! (And technical t-shirt)

Despite being super tired from the Huntsville half marathon on Saturday (and getting next to no sleep, and BOTH of us failing to indulge in an afternoon snooze/early night), Nikki and I were totally looking forward to the Houston half marathon relay on Sunday morning.  Why? Well, let’s see:

  1. Even though it started an hour earlier than Huntsville, it was significantly closer and we had already picked up our race packets, so we could sleep in an entire hour later than Saturday.  I rose at the leisurely hour of 5:15 (Nikki was coming from her mom’s, so had to be up a smidge earlier).
  2. It was only half the distance.
  3. We were going to get another medal (Nikki is now firmly a medal whore, as she’s scouting for races we can score some at after she births what I can only imagine will be a super fast and super amazing child).

I was picked up just after 6am and we headed downtown, eventually following the enormous trail of cars trying to score free parking (we were successful). Then we started making our way to the race start, and began voicing our concerns over where to start, what happens with the relay teams, what to do with our stuff (I did not shed clothing as it was freezing), etc.  We figured we would get all the answers we wanted if we followed the people in running gear and race bibs:

We found the start line and heard over the loudspeaker that all second leg runners on relay teams (Nikki) should meet on the grassy section by the start/finish line, where they would await first leg runners (me) after we’d run.  Obviously.  There wasn’t much time and people were already starting to line up, so I peeled my extra layers off, told Nikki I’d see her soon, and wedged myself into the hoard of runners for heat.  The horn went, we edged forwards, and then the hundreds of ‘bleep’s went off, letting us know we should probably pick up the pace.

The sun was starting to come up, and it was pretty cool running through Houston’s downtown streets with zero traffic, weaving in and out of the skyscrapers.  After about 3 miles I found myself passing the start line, beginning the second loop of my leg.  I slowed down a bit to scan the crowd, and just when I’d given up hope of catching sight of her, I saw Nikki and heard her shouting encouragement!  I waved and kept going.

We ran along the Allen Parkway until about mile 4, and that’s where the relay runners became separated from the group.  We turned at a bridge, and started running back to the start line.  It was pretty cool being able to watch the mass of runners going in the other direction while a grand total of about 40 people were on your side of the road.  It did make for some pretty self-conscious photos around mile 5 (3 photographers aiming at you because there’s no one else around is less ‘I’m a Rockstar!’ and more ‘Fuck, where do I look?’.

After the stress of paparazzi, it was back under the overpasses and onto the home stretch.  I started to speed up here because I didn’t want any of the 5 people I had overtaken (yes, I counted) to overtake me, and also, I had a flight to catch that afternoon and all extra packing/showering/relaxing time was appealing.

Here I am coming into the relay changeover area.  For once, my face doesn’t look like it has melted, but this could be the sheer joy of seeing Nikki was there with my stuff mixed with the knowledge that I was done!

The woman organizing the handovers was apparently working alone but doing a kick-ass job, because Nikki was waiting for me and had her sweatpants off already.  I reached her, grabbed our stuff, and yelled ‘Go, go, go!’.  She sped off, and then looped around the start back onto the half marathon path for her lonely section until she met up with the half runners a few miles before the finish.

At this point I knew I’d have about an hour, so I collected my medal and headed to the event village where I had a free toothbrush thrust upon my person, and eventually found the food.  I took a moment to have my first ever ‘official’ finisher photo since I’ve never had the opportunity to without a queue!  Then I grabbed some water and a banana, then went back to the finish line to catch the freaks of nature that can run a half marathon in just over an hour.

Three guys came storming in about 2 minutes after I returned, and then more and more runners trickled in.  There was a little girl who seriously can’t have been more than about 8 who came firing into the finishers chute under 1:30:00, and I felt beyond sorry for the fully grown dude trailing her looking totally used.  Who lets kids do these things anyway?

I started noticing some relay bibs coming in (they were yellow instead of white), and kept my eyes peeled for Nikki, camera phone at the ready.  Just after the 2 hour mark (gun time), I spotted her, and blindly aimed my camera into the sunlight hoping to get her in the picture while shouting ‘Come on Nikki!’ or something similar, and making my way to the finishers’ area.  Here she is coming towards the finish:

After congratulating ourselves for getting a better time than yesterday on tired legs, I ushered her towards the food (bypassing the now heaving photo queue), and then we split (again, I had a flight…).  It was only at the car that I looked at the photo I took of Nikki (I hoped) and we both realized that I had captured the most awesome, flattering, and as much as I hate the word, dynamic (it just sounds like what pricks use to describe themselves on resumes) race photograph I’ve ever seen.  And that includes that ridiculously photogenic runner guy.  Witness the beauty:

I mean, that’s the kind of photo that has motivational crap written over it in Nike posters.  Ridiculously good.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous – I’d love a good race photo!

Anyway, back at my parents’ house we said our goodbyes and vowed to run again after she has become a mother.  I showered, packed, cried at the thought of leaving sunshine, went to lunch with my parents, and then had a ‘carve-off’ with my dad.  I stuck with the jail theme:

My dad went for a traditional face emoting ‘surprise’, not a festive take on a blow-up doll, as it first appeared:

And then it was time to head to the airport.  We swung by the diner my brother was working in so I could say goodbye (freaking out the customers with my crying weirdness), and then making everyone at the airport come to the conclusion that I had a fatal disease with more OTT crying.  I am really trying to get on top of that.

The flight home seemed to go ‘around’ Hurricane Sandy, but it was one of the most turbulent flights I’ve been on.  The ‘fasten seat belt’ sign went on after about an hour (of a 9 hour flight), and I can honestly say I never saw it off again until we landed.  I’m terrified of flying anyway, so I was white-knuckling it the entire journey home, getting zero sleep.

Upon arrival (late) at Heathrow, I had to pick up my luggage (no checking through to my final destination available – great), and switch terminals, pretty much running to the bag drop with my purse, jacket, very full duffel bag (containing medals) and 47 lb. suitcase, dodging travelers throughout.  I had to clear security by 8:05 to be allowed on the flight.  I cleared security at 8:05.  I was sweating quite a bit.  And then OF COURSE my flight was delayed.

After finally arriving home, and having amassed a ridiculous 8 hours of sleep in three days, all I can remember doing is showering, eating a handful of candy corn, putting my three new medals on my rack, and then collapsing onto my beautiful bed.  I knew work was going to hurt the next day*.

* Spoiler: It did.  We even had an after-school meeting.  Ugh, jet lag.

Huntsville Half Marathon 2012

Time: 2:18:04 (New PW!)

Position: 156/224  Category Position: 10/19

Medal: Yes! (And a technical t shirt)

This was never going to be a PB race.  This was going to be my first ‘international’ half marathon, and it was also going to be the first half marathon I would run with my friend Nikki, an old school chum that I hadn’t seen in years who happens to be 4 months pregnant.  But this wasn’t always the plan.

Initially, Nikki and I signed up to the Huntsville half marathon because it was a relatively small race, and looking at previous results, we had a chance of actually placing!  It was also pretty cheap to enter.  But this was all before she got knocked up (nb. by her husband; she is not some trashy harlot who knows she’s going to have to part with a lot of money on DNA tests to determine paternity).  She let me know about a month beforehand, and secretly I was relieved, because I was:

a.) still broken from the Loch Ness Marathon, and

b.) NOT accustomed to Texas heat and humidity.

Luckily, for me and everyone else running, a freak cold front hit the day before the half marathon.  I stepped outside bracing myself for instant sweat and sweltering heat only to realize I needed a sweater.  Whatever voodoo trickery was at work, I was grateful.

Nikki traveled up to Houston from Lake Jackson on the Friday afternoon, and we went straight out for food at Star Pizza.  Due to the aforementioned bun in the aforementioned oven, we did not have a pre-race beer.  I mean, I’d feel like such an asshole enjoying a cold one while my jealous, pregnant friend looked on, drooling.  After food, we went where any self-respecting runner who is in need of a Halloween costume goes for supplies: Wal-Mart.

Avoiding the indigenous Wal-Marters, we found what we came for: two black t-shirts, and white duct tape.  A pair of mummies?  Bondage fanatics? No chance.  For Huntsville, home of several prisons and dubbed the most well-known ‘gated community’ in Texas, we would be dressing as convicts.

My good self

Nikki (+1)

It seemed only appropriate as the half marathon root was 2 loops taking in sights such as the Huntsville Prison Unit (also known as the Walls Unit), which was the first state prison built in Texas, and the only prison older than 100 years surrounded by a wall.  The course also took in the Death Chamber, where all executions in Texas have taken place since 1924.  Cheery, right?  The full ‘Historical Tour’ of the route can be found here.

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.  We got to bed at a reasonable hour, and then woke up again at 4:30, which was a bitch.  By about 5am we were on the road to Huntsville, stopping only for gas (and some junk food, which is really hard to choose when you have to ‘browse’ through the bullet proof glass and pay through a reinforced drawer).  We arrived with plenty of time for packet pick-up, a toilet break, and a half hour power nap in Nikki’s kick-ass car (kick-ass rating increased by heated car seats because it was 44 degrees Fahrenheit – normal for me, ice-age by Texas standards).

About 20 minutes before the start, we decided to acclimatize.  We headed to the start area where we realized nobody else was in costume.  We got many appreciative comments, however, and it was pretty sweet being a minor celebrity (‘those chicks dressed as escapees’).  Before we knew it, we were listening to the national anthem (totally not used to this), and then we were off!

We had decided to aim for anywhere under 2:30:00, and to do this comfortably, we thought 10 minute miles was a good decision.  Unfortunately, we were running sub 9 minute miles for the first few, and Nikki hadn’t been running as much as usual due to, well, carrying around a human parasite and all.  We were also a bit taken aback by all the freaking hills!  Why were there hills?  Texas is supposed to be flat!  In hindsight, the fact that the running club organizing the race is called ‘Seven Hills’ should have tipped me off.  Either way, by mile 5 it was time for our first walk break. Nikki’s back had started to hurt, and she was suffering.  But I didn’t travel 4,000 miles to ditch her next to a prison, right?  Besides, we were nearly done with loop one of two, and we were doing alright!

We kept up with the run some, walk some (the walk breaks becoming longer and more frequent the more Nikki’s back became an asshole), and started to brace ourselves for the hills we knew were coming on our second run around the course.  We sensibly opted to walk the hills and not waste any downhill sections.  As always, the race photos depict the glamour of running:

Gorgeous!

Smouldering!

Erotic.

There is one particular uphill section near the 6/12.5 mile marker where a speed detector (for cars) picked up on the runners.  First time around, Nikki and I hit 7mph.  The second time it didn’t even register.  It was at this point that Nikki was really suffering, and I think I even offered a piggy back over to the finish.  We just kept moving forwards, passing the group of drunk college dudes that called out things like ‘Your hair looks nice!’ and ‘You have beautiful smiles!’.  As soon as we saw the 13 mile marker in the distance, we just went for it.  And for once, my asshole gene did not kick in and have me sprinting full-force across the finish line.  Nikki and I finished together, as a team.  And then hit the pretty sweet post-race spread!

Drunk college boys

Fairly certain that it was unnecessary for us to hang around for the awards ceremony, we decided to get out of the cold and get a couple of ‘tourist’ shots along the course.  We stopped outside the old prison, but a guard in one of the towers yelled ‘No photos!’.  So we crossed the street and pulled the old ‘reverse camera’ trick, capturing a senior runner, still on his second lap, in the background:

We also had to go in search of a t-shirt a girl had mentioned on the run.  A tourist shirt that we eventually found in the prison museum saying ‘I did time in Huntsville’.  It was only right.

And finally?  We did what we had promised ourselves we would do after the half marathon, because, after all, we had a half marathon relay the next day and we needed energy…..

 

Mighty Mud Dash Houston 2012

Time: 43:04

Position: 302/3193  Gender Position: 80/1757

‘Rachel’ position: 1/14

Medal: Yes! (and cotton t-shirt, and wrist band for free beer)

This was race 2 of 2 on Saturday, October 20th, and I had scheduled to run in one of the later start waves to give me time after the West U Halloween Dash earlier.  By the time I arrived, however, most of the participants were gone or drunk, and the organizers didn’t seem to give two shits about when your wave was; when you were ready, you start.  Instead of risking more bitterness that day, I opted to skip the costume contest and start straight away.

Obviously, my Garmin had issues starting, but I didn’t really care about pace, more heart rate in the mid-day Houston heat.  It got going after a few minutes, and by then I was already hyperventilating in a ditch of freezing water.  The course was definitely not congested by this time (it seemed like most people were trying to clean up by this point), and for the first mile I overtook about 5 people, and I was taking it relatively easy.  The obstacles rolled by, but nothing near as horrendous or dread-inducing as what I faced during Tough Mudder Scotland.  In fact, this was pretty much a walk in the park.

And then I reached the ropes that I was supposed to navigate over a pond of muddy water.  I got to chatting to the photographer who was telling me about a half marathon in Dallas next weekend, whilst snapping ultra-unflattering action shots:

This isn’t so bad, I expected to get muddier, I thought, stupidly, to myself, tempting fate.  And then came the mud pits.  Whilst gross, they weren’t too difficult to navigate, and I jogged along in soggy shoes that weighed approximately 50lbs. more than when I started.

Eventually I scraped some mud from my Garmin to realize that I was over 2 miles into the 5k course, and that’s when we swerved around by the spectators.  There was my brother, checking out the scantily clad girls, and my mother taking yet more unflattering photos of me hauling myself over a 6 foot wooden wall.

A couple more pits of mud, another wall, a rope web to climb over, and one final crawl through mud and I was crossing the finish line and accepting my (huge) medal.  I was disgusting, and my brother seemed to want me to clean myself up before getting into his car for the ride home, so I joined the masses in a qiant queue to get hosed down by firemen.  With big ass hoses.  I can confirm that firemen’s hoses have exceptional cleaning power.

Cleaned up (kind of) and soaking wet, I sat on a couple of trash bags and we set off home, via Taco Bell for some (un)healthy refueling.

Overall, I felt that the volunteers had had enough by the time my wave time came around.  The majority of water stations were unmanned and out of water by the time I ran, which was disappointing and would have mattered had the course been longer than just 5k.  I also the feeling we were being ushered along like cattle, but whatever, I entered early so I got cheap rates.  I doubt I would do the Mighty Mud Dash again because it didn’t really feel like much of a challenge, and I have discovered (for the second time) that it is a complete pain in the ass to clean muddy shoes and clothes thoroughly.  And mud in your ears sucks.