Tuesday, January 21, 2014

2014 Houston Marathon Weekend

Upon finishing Sunday's Houston Marathon, I'm now 36 states into my 50 states marathon quest.  It was my first full marathon of the year, and even though I was slower than I'd hoped, my plantar fasciitis didn't flare up, and I crossed that finish line.

After spending a couple days in Las Vegas for work, I flew directly to Houston to meet up with Scot.  He had already checked us into the hotel and picked up our race packets.  Good thing, as my flight arrived near midnight, and we had a 5K in the morning.

Las Vegas from the air en route to Houston
We were up early on Saturday morning to run the ABB Houston 5K as a warm-up for the following day's marathon.  More importantly, we dedicated our run to Meg Cross Menzies, the Virginia runner who was recently killed by a drunk driver while out on a run.  Scot had briefly met Meg at a previous year's Richmond Marathon.  Social media was used to get the word out to the country, and the world, asking runners to go out and run on 1/18/14, and dedicate their miles to Meg.  The Meg's Miles Facebook event was the central location for sharing information about our runs, and leaving tributes to Meg.  Scot and I ran into a runner named Jose at the start of the 5K, who was also running for Meg that morning.

With Jose, running the 5K for Meg
This 5K was also special for another reason.  Elite marathoner Meb Keflezighi fired the starting pistol for the race.  He would be competing in the US Half Marathon Championship the following day (and he won it, with a time of 61:23 - wow!).

I grabbed a quick pic of Meb after crossing the starting line of the 5K
Scot and I after finishing the 5K - here's to you, Meg
We hung around the finish area of the 5K for a while. There were many charity runners and walkers, and it looked like the first 5K for many of them. I'm sure, like us, they worked up a little hunger.  Scot and I were disappointed to learn that many of the restaurants were closed on weekends near our downtown hotel.  We had gotten our hopes up for a Chipotle burrito or bol, but that didn't happen.  Luckily, we found a friendly local who sent us to Bombay Pizza Co. for our lunch.  Wow!  We absolutely loved it!  Pizza and sandwiches with Indian flair and flavors - yum!  It was so good that we went back again on Sunday for our post marathon meal.  If you find yourself in Houston, by all means - GO to Bombay Pizza!

Left: Mr. Nehal's pizza (paneer, green peppers and pickled ginger). Right: Saag Paneer pizza
Cave Creek Chili Beer from Mexico comes with a whole pepper inside!  Served at Bombay Pizza
We spent the rest of Saturday meeting up with Scot's buddy Jesse and his girlfriend Sidonia for some billiards and bowling.  Then it was time for pre-race carbo loading at the Spaghetti Warehouse, and an early bedtime.

Sunday morning came early, as race mornings always do.  We dressed and walked the few blocks to the start and hoped to find some Maniac friends.  Unfortunately, the starting corrals were organized in a way that made it difficult to hook up with anyone from a different corral. Most of our friends would be in faster corrals, so we weren't likely to see them.

Scot and I ran our own races in Houston, and due to the lack of out-and-back sections on the course, we didn't see each other at all after the start.  I ran into a few Maniacs here and there, including local Maniac David, who said last year's Houston Marathon day was cold (in the 30s!) and rainy.  Our race day got a little warm for my comfort, but I preferred it to a bitter, wet cold. 

Tree-lined, flag-lined streets near Rice University
During the race, I seemed to have an adequate amount of energy, but nothing extra in my tank.  I was happy with my 5K and 10K split times, but my half marathon split was slower than I liked, and I seemed to get even slower in the second half, even though it felt like I was walking less in the second half.  I attribute this to lack of training and general fitness.  I lost what little speed and fitness I had due to all those months with plantar fasciitis, when I ran less and failed to make up the difference with cross-training.  Well, lesson learned!  If I want to bust my PR at Grandma's Marathon in June, I had better get to work!

In the last couple miles of the Houston marathon, I found fellow Maniac Leah.  It was nice to run with a friend in those last miles.  After we finished, we quickly reunited with Scot, and then bumped into Sherry and Ethan.  After sharing some friendly conversation and a few photos, we all had to get on with our post-race recovery plans.

Ethan, Sherry, Leah, Sandy, Scot: "Finisher Hirts".  Yes, we did!
ABB Houston 5K medal (left), Chevron Houston Marathon medal (right), Houston Double medal (center) for running both races.
Scot and I walked, or rather hobbled, directly to Bombay Pizza Co. for more good stuff.  This time we also tried the Purvi's Veggie Roll (spinach, chickpeas, etc. in a heavenly chutney) and had more of our favorite Mr. Nehal's pizza.  Then we headed back to our hotel and stayed in for the night watching football and Downton Abbey. 

If you're considering registering for next year's Houston Marathon lottery, don't hesitate.  The race was well-organized, had awesome volunteers and staff, lots of spectators, several bands and DJs, and was a really good experience.  Texas = DONE!

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