Category Archives: running

The Math-Impaired Makes a Difference

I found this in a dusty storage bin in a closet when I was looking for photos.

I found this in a dusty storage bin in a closet when I was looking for photos.

A funny thing happened to me several weeks ago: I gained another Houston half marathon finish.

Despite my obsessive running record keeping, I had managed to overlook it, because I thought the first half marathon (which I completed) was in 2003, not 2002. But my buddy Jack Lippincott found it for me again (records are kept online). And now I have to fix and update a bunch of blog posts that are all one race off.

Obviously, basic math is not my strong suit. I knew that 2014 was the 13th edition of Houston’s premier half marathon, the trusty companion to the Chevron Houston marathon. And I also knew that I had missed three of those 13 races. Yet somehow in my mind 13 minus 3 equaled 9.

Sigh!

Medals weren’t given out for the first three races, which weren’t sponsored by Aramco.

Medals weren’t given out for the first three races, which weren’t sponsored by Aramco.

So how did all of this come about?

I have been gently nagging the marathon’s race director, Brant Kotch (also known as my butterfly expert), the last few years to allow certain half marathon entrants to have an auto-in to the event, just like their marathon counterparts, instead of trying their luck with the lottery. Runners who have completed five to nine official Houston marathons (and that includes yours truly) are guaranteed marathon registration for the first month that it’s open (those with 10 or more, formerly called veterans but now are considered legacy runners, have until November 1 to register). But even though more finish the half marathon, we had no guarantee we’d be able to enter unless we met certain time goals that are waaaaay too fast for me.

When Brant boldly asked for suggestions to improve our already-excellent event on Facebook, I, of course, pushed once again for the half marathon guarantee. He said the marathon committee just needed a volunteer to help with the program.

Put me in, coach!

So, of course, I enlisted and attended a meeting with Jack and Arlen Isham, who are in charge of the marathon legacies, at the marathon office near Memorial Park to get more details. Quite honestly, all I wanted was for at least those of us with nine half marathon finishes to be guaranteed registration (not very selfless of me, I realize). But I was willing to advocate for those with 10-plus, figuring I only had one more to go to reach that status.

Lo and behold, the marathon committee was many steps ahead of me (not that hard to do, of course). They wanted to start a legacy program equal to the marathon’s! That means that runners who have finished from five to nine Houston half marathons have that same almost one-month guaranteed entry. Those with 10 or more (yep, that’s me!) can take their time plus get a special shirt and participate in a prerace group photo. What’s not to like?!?

My first “child”

My first “child”

When I was writing about the Houston-area running scene with my monthly magazine “Human-Powered Sports,” I learned that one person can make a difference, especially if he or she knows the right person to contact. It really is who you know. I was able to convince former councilman and avid runner Jim Greenwood to push the city to install a stoplight at the first entrance to Memorial Park. I also persuaded former Houston Parks Department head Don Olson to close the Picnic Loop at the park during certain hours so cyclists could ride without fear of getting hit by a car.

You know what they say about that old squeaky wheel? Consider me greased once again! Thanks to Brant and the marathon committee for showing that they care about the half marathoners, too.

A Love Letter to My Sons

And so it starts . . . after 13 minutes of waiting.

The 2014 Chevron Marathon and Aramco Houston Half Marathon start is just ahead . . . after 13 minutes of waiting in the C corral.

Dear Jake and C.J.:

During your entire lives, you’ve had one constant: Your mom usually sets a running goal during the summer and tries to achieve it on a day in January. When you were younger, it was the Houston Marathon. I doubt that you remember me passing by as you watched with your dad, but I always drew strength from it.

In 2003 when the half marathon was added, I gave in to the responsibilities of parenting and being available for your activities and concentrated on that event. It was so much easier to train for 13.1 miles, plus it didn’t take as long to recover from. It was the perfect long distance.

Sunbeams light the way, as the marathon and half marathon split at mile eight.

Sunbeams light the way, as the marathon and half marathon split at mile eight.

During the ensuing 12 years, you saw me finish one or two times, which was very special to me. But you don’t have to be on the course, because you’re always with me in my heart no matter what.

Runners are a selfish lot. We pound the pavement for our own goals and satisfaction. It’s just the nature of the beast . . . even when we raise money for charity. Crossing the finish line is a great feeling, but it’s just for us. The medal is put around our neck. We wear the finisher’s shirt. It’s really our own accomplishment.

It’s finally the end!

It’s finally the end!

Yet I do share these triumphs with you, my precious sons. I want you to understand that if you set a goal and work hard to achieve it that you can make it happen! No matter what your age is.

While both of you were sleeping in your respective college towns yesterday, your mom was finishing her ninth Aramco Houston Marathon, her fifth straight (13th overall half marathon). The weather was perfect (48-55 degrees), and the new course was amazing, with great volunteers and spectator support (my favorite sign was “Run Like It’s the Start of the Hunger Games!”).

Despite turning 60 last August, I ran my fastest time ever for the event by a couple minutes, 2:40:03 (for 13.2 miles on my Garmin watch). Having long runs of 9-12 miles in my legs (perfect preparation) and a solid plan to run four minutes/walk one minute made the race almost fun. Almost!

I thought about the two of you during the final very loooooong mile in downtown Houston. I’m so proud of what both of you have achieved so far, and I look forward to your future accomplishments. I hope that both of you have taken away positive lessons from my running. You know that even though I’m slow, I tend to finish what I set out to do.

More bling for my office doorknob

More bling for my office doorknob

And I hope you’re proud of Mom, too! Love you forever, like you for always!!

Breathe In, Breathe Out

Dream . . . or nightmare?

Dream . . . or nightmare?

The self-doubting, as usual, started a couple days ago. The self-loathing will wait until, oh, maybe mile six.

Yes, friends, it’s time for my annual loooooong morning of self-induced torture, also known as the Aramco Houston Half Marathon.

“Race” day (in quotes because I wobble more than run) is Sunday morning, starting and ending at the George R. Brown Convention Center. Today I travel there with my friend Janet B. to pick up my packet at the marathon expo. I’ve attended almost every expo since 1986 (after moving to Houston), and it’s fun to be in such an energetic atmosphere. Plus it’s nice to share my nervousness with others who speak my language.

Thanks to a great half-marathon sponsor (they missed out on the first couple years).

Thanks to a great half-marathon sponsor (they missed out on the first couple years).

I’ll be trying for my ninth Houston half-marathon finish, which also will be my fifth straight. You would think that running this event would be old hat by now, but it’s not. Every year presents some new wrinkle (and not just on my face).

This time it’s a biggie!

New and improved?

New and improved?

For the first time since the half marathon debuted in 2003, the course has radically changed. The city told the marathon committee not to count on having the evil, devil-designed Elysian Viaduct available (it’s scheduled to be demolished, thank goodness), so the race has to start in another direction. The end result? The first nine miles are different and, thankfully, flatter.

It’ll be nice having a change of pace (which might cause me to have a faster pace), not that I really remember the course from year to year, because I so often have my head down as I try to avoid the potholes. I do have a plan to try to help me deal mentally with the unrelenting concrete:

The first six miles are for me. Just as I finish beating myself up for having too many pounds and not enough miles in my legs, I’ll turn my thoughts to my friend Janet Ely, who recently passed away after an amazing, long-term battle with breast cancer. I’ll count on her help from mile seven through eight.

After that, I’ll be thinking about my buddy Steve Terese, who unexpectedly died last fall from cancer. Steve was a Houston Marathon veteran and triathlete, a wonderful runner and a caring friend. I’m hoping he’ll carry me through miles 9 and 10.

Before I take back the mental reins for the final 1.1 miles, which I always dedicate to my beloved father, who passed away from leukemia in 1991, I’ll be reflecting on a similar battle that my former brother-in-law, Howie, has just begun. He’s been diagnosed with a different form of leukemia and will start chemo soon. I pray that his outcome will be different and that he’ll live to watch his grandchildren grow up.

A Chamber of Commerce day

A Chamber of Commerce day

Here’s hoping that Janet, Steve, and Howie can help get me to the finish line. The weather has decided to cooperate (Mother Nature owed us big after last year’s miserable conditions), thankfully. Now it’s up to me to do the rest.

Good luck to all the marathoners and half marathoners on Sunday!

Long-Time Logger

My new running log

My new running log

Today is more than just Monday, December 30. More than just two days before the end of one year and the beginning of another.

In addition, today is the start of a new running log. My 36th one, to be exact. Hold your applause, please!

I’m finishing up this year’s log still.

I’m still finishing up this year’s log, too (it’s actually a planner with lots of my photos).

I’m not very organized with most things, but I do tend to be a tad obsessive when it comes to logging my mileage. My first “official” record book dates back to 1979 and was an old spiral notebook from my University of Illinois days. Since then my logs have run the gamut from notebooks to ones I desktop-published and printed to ones I’ve gotten free from “Runner’s World” to ones I’ve bought.

An obvious favorite

An obvious favorite

The log I’ve preferred is “The Complete Runner’s Day-by-Day Log and Calendar.” The first one was compiled by running guru Jim Fixx and published in 1979. As you can see from the photo, I’ve been a bit sporadic with my collection, but to me it’s really the best running log. Especially because it begins the week on a Monday, which is the way I think of my jogging/walking weeks (Monday through Sunday). Some logs are Sunday through Saturday, which seems so odd to me, probably because big races are on Sundays (like the upcoming Aramco Half Marathon).

I asked for the log for Christmas (I’ve loved the Blurb planner that I made for 2013, but without a spiral, it’s impossible to write neatly in, and that really bugs me). My older son, Jake, bought it for me. When I asked him to write me words of wisdom and sign it, this is what he penned:

Always love a quote from Toy Story (2)!

Always love a quote from “Toy Story” (2)!

Hopefully, those wise words will spur me on in 2014!

Winner Winner Turkey Dinner!

Lots of people ahead of me, even a turkey!

Lots of people ahead of me, even a turkey!

A funny thing happened to me on Thanksgiving: I won a trophy at the Sugar Land Turkey Trot. For running!

Yep, pokey, old me! I haven’t hit the podium at a road race in years. And even that was rare, because I was pokey, young me back then.

Here’s proof!

Here’s proof!

I’ve participated in our local five-miler a handful of times, with my best showing in 1997 (45:34). But even though I’ve slowed a lot, something important happened on August 15: I turned 60, which put me in a new age group.

Plus it helped that all the really fast 60-64 gals decided to run at a turkey trot in Houston. I gave thanks for that.

Pretty cool!

Pretty cool!

As I lined up for last Thursday’s race with about 800 others, my mantra was: “Not fast, not last.” I managed to keep a steady albeit slow pace until I crossed the finish line with a pathetic 57:20 chip time. Then I grabbed a few treats, chatted up a couple friends, and headed for home so that the Mister and I could head to the movie theater and see “The Book Thief” (powerful; bring lots of Kleenex).

At no time did it occur to me that I should stay for the awards presentation. Race director and long-time friend Andy Stewart has never come close to calling my name before at any of his events, whether for a trophy or a door prize. Why would I think this year would be any different?

A cute trophy topper

A cute trophy topper

But I forgot about that new age group. The first-place finisher trounced me by about 11 minutes (ouch!). But I bested third place by about eight minutes. Talk about your degrees of separation!

Wonder if I should look for a trophy case. 😉

One-Word Wednesday

Yesterday morning I fell during my run. Just tripped over nothing and landed hard on my right knee and arm.

Yesterday morning I fell during my run. Just tripped over nothing and landed hard on my right knee and arm.

Ouch!

Fortunately, a guy was nearby to help me up . After I recovered on a park bench, I walked the mile back home.

Fortunately, a guy was nearby to help me up. After I recovered on a park bench, I walked the mile back home. Painful and embarrassing!

Proofreader Needed STAT!

Who’s celebrating?

Thanks for the heads-up!

When I saw this marquee as I jogged on a walking path across from a local elementary school, I immediately crossed the street and had to snap a photo with my iPhone 5S. Well, after I stopped laughing.

Now, I realize this is Texas and all, but really . . . “bulling?” Is that a rodeo term? Plus it’s a week-long event! Who knew?

Did the person who put up the letters just forget to insert a “y” to make it “bullying?” Or is this a sad example of our Lone Star edukashun system? Sure hope it’s the former and not the latter!