Tag Archives: Elysian Viaduct

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!

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.