Monday, January 31, 2011

Houston Marathon 2011

After Chicago I decided to kick up my training a bit. Mileage would still be in the 70-85 range with very hard Track, Hills and Tempo runs each week. I was going to run the hills and long runs faster. I was going to eliminate the need for good weather for a marathon PR and sub3. Training went great and I put up PRs in the Half, 5K and 10k twice. The week before the marathon I made the mistake of working too hard in the yard and pulled my back a bit. Not something I couldn’t manage as my weak back gets like this now and then. I flew down to Houston on Friday for work. I went to the Expo during the day and spend the night with my Uncle Nickey. I got up Saturday and got in my 3 mile Aussie carb load run. Met up with the crew and we all watched Dawn PR at the Half Championships. When I got up the next morning for the race I was well rested but my back was very tight. I was very angry about the weather and I was talking to Sunny and praying to God to calm me down and go run my race. Both of my marathons this fall and winter were very warm. I run much better in the 40s. Got to GRB convention center by 6:15 and got out to the starting line by 6:45. It was 63 degrees, 100% humidity

Mile 1 - 6:58. This was one of the toughest miles of the day. My back was killing me and I thought about quitting. The pain was shooting down my left leg. I remembered all the tough track workouts and how everyone in DRP and 320 were tracking me. Pain I can live with.
Mile 2 - 6:47. Back was starting to loosen up a little but my stride was still very bad. We were coming back off the bridge we climbed the first mile so I made up the lost time.
Mile 3 - 6:53. I take my first gel here. I am just trying to find 6:52 pace without pushing too hard.
Mile 4 - 6:50. I hear some Christian rock music and it lifts my spirits.
Mile 5 - 6:43. I am starting to think I need to hit the 10K on pace cause everyone tracking me will get that split.
Mile 6 - 6:48. A few rolling hills around here and the rain picks up a little.
Mile 7 - 6:49. I figured by now if I feel it I can pick up the pace a little and keep it up till 18. I plan to bank 30 seconds by mile 18 and run even splits thru the last 8 miles. This is a change due to the warmer weather.
Mile 8 - 6:47. I see the family for the first time here. This is the first time my 5 year old twins have come out to see me race. Wow, did that ever give me a boost. I instantly went from sad and no confidence in myself to thinking I am a pretty big deal to these two little boys. I raced by and tried to give them a high five but I guess I stepped in a hole and turned my ankle and almost went down. I think I heard Luke say out loud that high fives while running was dangerous. I was fine.
Mile 9 - 6:52. Heading into Rice University. I lived in this area till I was 5 years old. I take my second Roctane gel here. Followed by a belch ¼ mile later.
Mile 10 - 6:54. I had problems in this mile the year before. I don’t think it is up hill.
Mile 11 - 6:44. The 3 hour pace group comes flying past me in this mile. As you can see my pace picks up but they are going even faster. I finally tell myself that I am just under 3 hr pace and they are banking time. I know that I will catch and pass them before the finish.
Mile 12 - 6:49. I feel pretty good here even with the pace group a couple hundred yards ahead.
Mile 13 - 6:47. So they have a clock at 13 mile mark and not at the half. I cross the half at 1:29:36. Now if I could just run another 1:30 half.
Mile 14 - 6:52. This is the big hill and I am starting to feel even better. All those hill runs pay off and I catch up a lot of ground on the 3 hr pace group.
Mile 15 - 6:43. See the family for the second time here and again you can see the pace really pick-up. High fives go much better this time. I take my third Roctane gel here.
Mile 16 - 6:49. I am caught up to the 3 hr pace group and I figure I can run with them for a while. Surly they will finish with time to spare.
Mile 17 - 6:54. Last mile till we turn toward the finish. I am confused why the pace group would slow here.
Mile 18 - 6:59. Another slow mile. We still have 20 seconds in the bank. My goal from here on out is nothing slower than 6:52.
Mile 19 - 6:54. I pull to the front of the pace group as people are falling off right and left.
Mile 20 - 6:50. The hills are starting to roll but I feel very strong and confident.
Mile 21 - 6:52. I take my 4th Roctane gel here. No more food or water from here on out.
Mile 22 - 6:59. I see the family for the last time here. About a 1/3 into the mile I pull away from the pace group as we are doing a 7:15 pace. What are they doing? Why is the pacer letting it die like this?
Mile 23 - 6:58. I look back and wonder why I let those 6 seconds a mile slip away here. I am sure at the time I am giving all I had.
Mile 24 - 7:00. I remember pushing in this part and still pace is not good. Lots of bridges in the last 4 miles till the last mile in downtown.
Mile 25 - 7:01. I see the clock and I am 6 seconds behind on pace. I figure with the difference between gun and chip time I am probably even I just have to cash in all my chips now. I am still ahead of the pace group by 10 seconds so I must be OK.
Mile 26 - 6:34. This tells me I had I little left in the tank. We hit a spot we had cheered for Dawn the day before and I figure this should be flat and fast. We hit a big head wind and I am all alone so no one to tuck behind.
Mile 26.2 - 6:10. For the last .35 mile. Yeah, Garmin’s are not exact but I was taking my overall time off the mile markers so I figured I had a shot. I sprint with all I have down the finish. We hit the first mat before the clock hits 3 hrs but it is 100 yards before the big finish line. I was hoping that was the line but I guess not.
Total - 3:00:11. PR by 5:37. A few seconds off my goal but I am very happy with my performance and effort.
I finished 111 out of 6899 finishers; 13th in my age group

I am very satisfied with this result. My training was perfect with my only error was manual labor one week out. I can’t control the weather and my pacing was pretty good. I have come to the realization that I will always have a little fade unless the course ends downhill. Houston is not a flat course but it is fair. That is eight marathon PR’s in a row: Chicago 2008 (3:28); White Rock 2008 (3:25); Austin 2009 (3:23); St George 2009 (3:11 - first BQ); Houston 2010 (3:09); Boston 2010 (3:06); Chicago 2010 (3:05) and Houston2011 (3:00). Next goal will be sub 2:56. I am not sure if that will be this spring or next fall. As I get older I will only get faster. A special thanks go out to my wife Sunny who makes a lot of sacrifices so I can train so hard.


  1. Wow, what a great race. Congratulations again, Nick!! Your string of PRs is really amazing, I don't know how you do it. And I especially love this "As I get older I will only get faster." Beautiful.

  2. Fantastic effort, and great perspective on your performance. Eight consecutive marathon PRs? Now THAT'S mighty impressive.

    See you in Philly in November, maybe?