Tag Archives: Aramco Half-Marathon

Ready for 2011 to End

Almost time to gladly turn the page.

I have two words to say to 2011: Good riddance!

This has been my toughest year as a parent . . . possibly my hardest year ever, and it all relates to my younger son’s anxiety problem. That psychosomatic issue has kept him homebound and in online high school his junior year (so far). No aspect of it has been positive for our family. The stress on all of us has been off the charts.

I’m sure that eventually I’ll conclude that this sad, often-heartbreaking journey has made us all stronger. Couldn’t calcium pills accomplish the same thing, though?

My #2 son poses with his holiday Cookie Monster goodies.

We’ve found online high school to be extremely difficult, especially for an unmotivated boy. I think only two percent of high school students can be successful with this way of “learning” . . . and they’re all girls. I put the “learning” in quotes, because without a physical teacher, it’s hard to become competent in one subject let alone six of them.

Here’s a quick update as we blissfully end 2011 and look forward to a happier, healthier 2012 for my younger son:

• He’s almost ready to take his driving test. The trusty, old (1999) Mercury Villager sits waiting for him in our driveway.

• He’s completed four of his online courses. He needs to finish his Physics work and take finals in that class and U.S. History.

• He’s going to return to his old high school next week for second semester. Not that he wants to go back, but the Mister and I think it’s what’s best for him. Our job as parents is to guide our children, to embrace their strengths. We feel like we’re enabling his weakness when we let him stay home instead of facing his fear. We know it’ll be tough for him, and he might even hate us . . . for now. But one of my biggest regrets this year has been not fighting to keep him at his public high school for the fall semester; I don’t plan to make that mistake again.

• We’ve found a wonderful psychiatrist who has prescribed anti-depression medication that seems to be lifting his spirits (it’s supposed to lessen his negative thoughts and anxiety). He still won’t talk to a therapist, but at least he’s taken one big step towards getting back to his old self.

And, oh, do we miss my younger son’s old self! He was warm, bubbly, happy, almost always seeing the glass as overflowing. His eyes were bright with possibilities, and he always made us smile. Those grins have been in short supply in 2011. Let’s hope positivism rules our family’s world in 2012!

Happy New Year!

Run for a Reason

Listen to Pac-Man (he gobbles up cancer cells)!

Looking for a great tax-deductible cause as 2011 comes to a close? How about contributing to my fundraising effort? As I’ve noted before, I’m running the January 15th Aramco Half Marathon in honor of my friends Sheri and Janet E., who are battling breast cancer. Just click on the link below and help the Susan G. Komen Foundation make a difference:

http://www.chevronhoustonmarathon.com/Donate/PersonalPage.cfm?MID=8266&CRID=33

Thanks!

Houston Half-Marathon Finish #6 With a Heavy Heart

What happened to the top of this downtown Houston building?

My heart is very heavy today, and it has nothing to do with yesterday’s Aramco Half Marathon, which I finished in the second-slowest time of my six total mostly due to the first five miles that felt like we were running in a sauna.

Remember all that nerve-wracking pre-race weather watching, which included a warning from race officials that if there was lightning the event could be delayed or even, perish the thought!, cancelled? I awoke yesterday to dry conditions outside. Normally, that would be good, except this is Houston, home of horrible humidity any time of the year.

That meant that the Chevron Houston Marathon and my race, the 13.1-miler, would at the very least be run in the muggiest of conditions: Temperatures in the 60s (nice for spectators, not for runners) with the threat of rain. It finally, blissfully, started to pour after about an hour. That helped to keep us cool, but most of us were already cooked from the earlier steam bath.

Fortunately, the rain didn’t keep the spectators away. Houstonians love to support the runners! They hold up great signs (“Worst Parade Ever” was my favorite this year), make a lot of noise and even sing (loved the triple Elvis impersonators!), and encourage us to keep on going. The event showcases everything that’s right about Houston, which really boasts some of the nicest people in the entire world.

This year’s Aramco Half Marathon finishers’ medal

And, as always, the best feeling in the running world? Crossing the finish line and receiving a great-looking finishers’ medal.

Still, as I was slogging away and trying to keep from falling on the uneven city streets, I couldn’t help but think about the two high school kids I was running for as I raised funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I’ve written about Stephanie, my younger son’s classmate, before.

Tanner plays percussion in our high school’s marching band.

But now I carried in my mind during the race a new young warrior whose battle is just beginning. Tanner, the high school freshman son of my good friend and masseuse Tina, was diagnosed with large B cell lymphoma today. Tina had told me last week that he had cancer and that they were waiting to find out what kind. Tanner and my #2 son played recreational basketball together years ago, so we know this fine young man. I feel terrible that cancer is hitting my friends’ children.

Along the half-marathon race route, Houston’s Christian radio station had two prayer stations. As I jogged past, I thought about Stephanie and Tanner and prayed that they will be healed (Stephanie is in remission from Hodgkin’s lymphoma). Maybe some day both of them will run and raise money for a cause that’s near and dear to their hearts, too.

I hope you’ll keep both of these brave kids in your thoughts.

Weather Watcher

The unanswered question: When will it rain on Sunday?

Just about everyone who is participating in, volunteering at, or organizing Sunday’s Chevron Houston Marathon and Aramco Half Marathon has had one website on the equivalent of internet speed dial (e.g., bookmarked) for the last month: AccuWeather.com.

Like everyone else, I’ve been monitoring AccuWeather’s Houston forecast almost daily in hopes of figuring out what to expect on race day when I hope to finish my sixth Aramco Half Marathon. It’s one thing to control your training (which for me was pretty good long runs and too-few short, daily miles). But you just can’t do anything about the weather except hope it won’t be too hot, too cold, or too wet. I’ve run through a couple frigid Houston Marathons (one was 27 degrees!), and I’ve finished several 26.2-milers and half-marathons that were a bit steamy. All of them were pretty tough.

My favorite running temp is around 50 degrees . . . for the entire time I’m out pounding the pavement. Which usually is impossible, because I’m a turtle, not a hare. As you can see from the above graphic, Sunday looks like a wonderful day for spectators, as long as the rain holds off. It’ll probably be too warm for runners, especially for us slow-bos in the half-marathon. Not that that matters. What’s important is crossing the finish line and hanging a medal around your neck.

Looks like a loooong way to run even on the map!

Checking Sunday’s possible weather for the past month has been interesting. It started out with the forecasters warning us that a norther could roar through either the night before or while we were standing at the starting line, waiting for the cannon to boom and disturb the downtown streets at 7 a.m. That would mean cold temperatures, wind, and probably rain. Not good!

Soon after that fortunately inaccurate forecast, the morning temp was expected to be 37 degrees. Then 31 degrees. Then 38 degrees. Then 40 degrees. Then 48 degrees. And, now, 53 degrees. Kind of like watching the stock market rise, fall, and rise!

The wild card in Sunday’s forecast is whether or not it will rain during the race, which rarely happens. A running friend wrote on Facebook that his mom always said that a little rain never hurt anyone. That’s true, but one thing rain can do is cause blisters . . . and those sure can hurt!

Good luck to my fellow participants in both races! May the temps stay low while we’re on the course, the wind be light and at our backs, and the rain hold off until after everyone finishes.

Oh, and may the second toe on my right foot not cause me pain, like it has on my long runs!

Sidebar: As I’ve noted before, I’m running the half-marathon as a fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. My honored patient is my younger son’s classmate, Stephanie, from whom I draw so much inspiration. Thanks to those of you who have helped me exceed my $1,000 goal (I’m currently at $1,300)! Anyone who still would like to support this cause, please click on the link and donate. It’s much appreciated!

A Charming Marathon Expo

Is that all we get? Half a t-shirt? (Olympus Stylus Tough camera)

One highlight of Houston’s annual marathon and half marathon is the expo, where we pick up our packets a day or two before the big event. As well as great deals on clothing and gear plus freebies and food.

We’re fortunate that the Chevron Houston Marathon is staged at the George R. Brown Convention Center, a great place to go before the start and after the finish. It’s also terrific for the expo.

Which one is Janet and which one is the mannequin?

My friend Janet and I have driven together to the expo now for six straight years. It’s become a ritual for us. We get to catch up on what’s going on with our kids (her daughter is the same age as my #2 son) and talk about our goals for Sunday’s race (she was running the marathon). It’s something to look forward to all year!

Got a proofreader?

One new expo wrinkle, at least for me, was that those of us who participated in the Run for a Reason program earned a special packet, which included a hat. I almost didn’t want to wait in line to get my goodies because of the “HEROE’S” mistake. Move that apostrophe in back of the S!

As always, Janet and I scored some bargains and a few cute freebies as we walked among the many booths and vendors.

Very charming!

Then we saw a new vendor that we just had to investigate. Marathon charms! What an interesting idea!! Well, until I looked a little bit closer at one of the “charms.”

Not so charming!

According to the website, the outhouse charm is “a fun way to remind you where you spend some of the time on the race course!” Yeah, right! Would any runner really want to proudly display a port-a-can charm on their bracelet?!?

Janet always says that going to the expo with me brings her luck. Did it work this year? Well, she finished the marathon in 3:50:54. She qualified for the prestigious Boston Marathon!!

Looks like that makes me a lucky charm!

Random Running Snippets & iPhone Apertures

Me pre-race (note Garmin Forerunner 205 GPS watch) complete with my Hero hat

Wondering how I did in yesterday’s Aramco Half-Marathon?

Short version: I finished with a wide smile on my face and tears in my eyes.

Longer version: I finished with a wide smile on my face, tears in my eyes, and with my left arch hurting almost every step of the way. That had plagued me in training. But numb feet had not; unfortunately, I suffered with those from miles three through six, forcing me to walk from time to time until I could feel my toes again.

Thankfully, my tootsies felt fine once I hit mile seven, so after that I only walked through water stops and when I ingested Gu energy gel. Oh, and when I took iPhone 3Gs photos, which I uploaded to Facebook along the way.

I wasn't the only one taking iPhone photos at the start.

I figured I’d try to take iPhone photos and keep updating my Facebook status during the race. In hindsight, it would’ve been much better to have used my Olympus Stylus Tough point-and-shoot camera. It was awkward stopping mid-race to take a photo, typing in a caption (especially considering I wasn’t wearing my reading glasses), and then hoping AT&T would allow me to upload it to Facebook. I missed out on lots of potentially good pix of cute signs and even cuter babies. And that guy at the half-marathon start wearing a Lion King costume. Wonder if he finished still wearing it? It got pretty warm.

Lots of people in front of me as we head towards mile two. Guess I'm not going to win!

We did have perfect running weather—it was about 45 degrees at the start at 7 a.m. and about 60 degrees when I finished around 10 a.m. Which means that probably half the participants overdressed. Those who were wearing tights, jackets, gloves, and beanies looked like the temps were still frozen over from last weekend!

I felt very comfortable in a short-sleeved t-shirt and shorts, complete with my Hero running hat that I earned by raising funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Oh, and my Garmin Forerunner 205 GPS watch. Why was that important? Because, as in 2008, it showed that I actually ran 13.3 miles instead of 13.1. Oh, that aching extra two-tenths!!

Heading up a hill just past 10K (6.2 miles).

The race starts with the half-marathoners and those running the Chevron Houston Marathon on separate streets. We mesh together around mile two until mile nine where the halfers blissfully turn around (180 degrees) and head for the finish. The organizers like to boast that the course is flat . . . but it is NOT! There are enough hills in the first seven miles to stretch out our legs and tighten our arches (well, my left one).

Cresting the hill over Allen Parkway nearing mile 7. As we're running outbound, faster runners are about to turn near mile 11.

Here were my plans for the race: First goal always is to finish. My second goal was to break three hours. That’s a slow pace and nowhere near my personal best, but my training had been done at snail speed. Mentally, I was going to concentrate on just getting into the swing of things for the first two miles, which includes the much-hated (by me) Elysian Viaduct. At least two people slipped and fell behind me as we approached the first mile on the viaduct. I’ll bet they hate it, too.

Sidebar: Years ago there was talk about getting rid of the viaduct, which is a concrete overpass. I volunteered to be the one pushing the plunger when it came time to dynamite it! But, alas, it still stands if only to torment me every year.

After the Elysian, I was going to think about the six people in whose memory I raised funds for LLS. The first was Dick Jones at mile three, then my dad, my stepdad, my cousin Lisa, Don Queen, and Ron Kalteyer at the subsequent miles. After that I felt like all of them were on my back spurring me along to the finish.

The halfers will turn around in 200 yards!

Two of the best aspects of Houston’s premier marathon/half-marathon event are its volunteers and spectators. We couldn’t have a successful race without thousands of helpers. And those watching make us feel like running gods and goddesses, as well as providing plenty of distractions. I saw so many great signs along the course! Some I remember were “Run like you stole something!” and “So easy a caveman could do it.” There also were live bands and boom boxes providing great music along the way.

No balloons for my pity party at mile 10?

Once I made the turn at mile nine, I focused on one sight: That mile 10 banner. I just couldn’t wait until I was able to have my very own pity party and feel sorry for myself and my aches and pains. Funny thing, though—by mile 10, I was rolling along at a decent clip for me. Sure, my arch was hurting, but it wasn’t slowing down my pace any, and I knew that in a mere mile we would be on Allen Parkway running along with the fast marathoners across the median. Plus I had those six precious souls riding on my shoulders whispering in my ear, “You can do it!” Cancel that pity party!

Mile 11 is a good time for prayer!

Houston’s Christian radio station had several prayer stations set up along the course. What a great idea . . . even for those of us who are Jewish! All runners are grateful for divine intervention late in a race.

My biggest disappointment once we got off Allen Parkway and headed through downtown towards the finish line at the George R. Brown Convention Center? No Elvis sighting! That’s the first time I haven’t seen the supposedly dead rock ’n roller during either the half (now five finishes) or marathon (eight finishes).

Disappointment reigns for those who finished behind me.

Finally, there was the most-spectacular sight of the entire 13.1-mile race: The finish line! Why do we run races? To finish them! As always, when I crossed the line, I looked to the sky to thank my dad for being along with me.

And then I thought of Dick Jones, who I had hoped so much would be there at the finish watching me run for him. He was there in spirit, of course, interrupting his golf game in heaven to ride on my shoulders. I couldn’t help but break into a wide smile and start to cry.

Planning My Pity Party

Dick Jones celebrates his birthday.

Sunday is a day I’ve been looking forward to since last July. It’s our annual Chevron Houston Marathon and Aramco Half-Marathon, the premier running event in Houston.

Originally I signed up for the marathon, because I wanted to try to inspire and take inspiration from Dick Jones, the beloved father of my then-neighbor JJ the organizational whiz. So much has changed since that mid-summer day!

Now Mr. Jones sadly has passed away, JJ and her family have moved away, and I’ve switched from the full to the half-marathon. I’ve been having problems with my left leg, which has meant I haven’t enjoyed exactly stellar training. I’ve finished quite a few long runs, but I don’t have a lot of everyday miles in my legs.

Hopefully, this will be my fifth Houston half-marathon finish. No one is sick in my family, so I don’t expect to have another stomach flu debacle like last year knocking me out of the race. My goal, as it is with every race I’ve run, is to finish, hopefully with a smile on my face. It’s hard to set a time goal when I don’t know how much my leg is going to bother me—the more it hurts, the more I’ll have to walk. And that means a slooooow time.

Of course, this particular race isn’t just about me. I’m running for a reason: I’ve been raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in memory of Mr. Jones, my father, my stepfather, my cousin Lisa, my neighbor Tami’s father, and my friend Karen’s brother. All of them died from these dreaded blood cancers. When I’m out pounding the streets of Houston and hurting, my thoughts will be with them every step of the way. I’m hoping that they’ll lift me up and help lessen my load.

Still, I know that I’m going to throw myself a pity party somewhere along the course. Every long run I’ve done has included one of these negative “celebrations.” I allow myself to pick one—and only one—mile during which I can feel sorry for myself. Sunday it will be mile 10. That’s a good time to assess the first nine miles and then try to re-energize for the final push along Allen Parkway to the finish line.

Ah, the finish line! The reason we do these races. I don’t care how much you’re hurting and cursing your lack of training and good eating habits during the event. Once you cross that blessed finish line, everything feels so much better. That pity party at mile 10? Forgotten! All is right in the world.

Well, until you start walking and find that you can’t climb up a curb, because you can’t lift your legs that high. That’s when it’s time to hit that ibuprofen bottle!

Good luck to my fellow marathoners and half-marathoners Sunday. May the weather be great and the wind be light.

Building Excitement By Watching a Race

Marathoners and halfers are bundled up as they walk in my community.

In a mere six days, I’ll be running the Aramco Half-Marathon, the shorter version of the Chevron Houston Marathon. The Sunday before that pivotal day is one of growing excitement, as the reality of the upcoming event crashes head-on into the reality of one’s lack of good training and fitness (e.g., an ever-hurting left leg).

In years past, I would stew and grumble about how awful my training had gone while wondering how race day a week away would be. But this year all of that changed . . . thanks to a long-distance race that involved our community.

Cory May is on his way to winning the marathon in 3:02:44.

This is the second-straight year that USA Fit, which is a national marathon and half-marathon training program, has put on its USA Fit Marathon and Half-Marathon in the Houston area. Dubbed as “everyone’s marathon,” its draw is that it has a generous eight-hour time limit. That’s two hours longer than our Chevron Houston Marathon allows. USA Fit especially appeals to walkers; the Houston Marathon doesn’t, as is its right. When Houston decided to finally strictly enforce its six-hour time limit two years ago, USA Fit jumped in with its own event.

Sidebar: Every year around this time I read where faster runners snootily decry slower runners and walkers, saying that anyone who finishes a marathon slower than they do isn’t a marathoner. Last time I checked the dictionary, the definition of “marathon” is a distance, specifically 26.2 miles. Complete that distance? You’re a marathoner, no matter what your time is.

Last year the race was at a small, cramped venue. This time it was moved to our local University of Houston campus. The course was such that it circled our four-mile loop during its out-and-back route (twice for the marathoners). With only 1,500 runners and walkers, it didn’t inconvenience us very much. But it did serve to inspire me!

Walkers approach the 11-mile mark in our community. Numbers should NOT be on your back!

That morning, which was a chilly 25 degrees, I ran six miles while watching the runners and then walkers travel parallel to me (I was on the sidewalk, while they were on the coned-off street). Even though it was cold, they were ready to try to achieve goals they had set months ago when the temperatures were much too warm.

Sidebar: Oh, how we long for those too-warm days when the temps are in the 30s and below!

It's nice to have some noisy support!

As I watched them, I discovered that I couldn’t wait until it was my turn to be out on the streets of Houston, traveling 13.1 miles from start to finish. I was cheering them on as I jogged along only to find that they were the ones spurring me on! I just hope it’s going to be good karma that will push me towards the finish line Sunday.

Here is a runner's lifesaver: A water stop.

After I finished running, I stopped at my house and grabbed my Nikon dSLR with its Nikon 105mm lens. I wanted to document this event that was happening a mere five minutes from home. Unfortunately, the participants were so strung out once they reached our community at a little over seven miles from the start that there weren’t many groups to shoot. Ah, the loneliness of the long-distance runners! I know it well, being as slow as I am.

Is it an energy drink or is it milk?

Even though I didn’t get to take many photos, it was nice being among the competitors and thinking about what they were experiencing as they pounded the pavement. My final thoughts as I headed home? In one week that will be me going the distance and, hopefully, finishing my fifth Houston half-marathon. Sure glad it won’t be as cold!!