Sunday, January 17, 2010

Houston Marathon Race Report

Earlier today I had the distinct pleasure of running the 2010 Houston Marathon.  This was my fifth Houston and seventeenth overall marathon or beyond event, and was undoubtedly the best.

The weather was good, with clear skies and temperatures ranging from an ideal 43°F at the start, to a bit hot upper 50s peak.  A Houston record of more than 20,000 runners participated, with the full and half marathon events selling out in less than 3-days! 

This huge crowd gathered before the race with great enthusiasm and excitement, and celebrated afterwards at the George R. Brown Convention Center - a well appointed facility that ranks as the best such marathon hosting facility (perhaps explaining Houston's consistent draw of top global athletes).

As a key part of my race strategy I ran with the 3:20 pacing group, and absolutely credit that group for helping me achieve this goal - with a personal record time of 3:19:38!  As a consequence of running with the 3:20's my split times were extremely consistent, and I achieved a rare 38-second negative second half split!

  • My wonderful family, and especially my fantastic wife, for all their support.
  • The excellent KenyanWay program coached by Sean Wade.
  • Gu's Roctane Vanilla/Orange - which I love!  Encouraged by my recent PRs, I took one packet every four miles - or eight in total - with absolutely no stomach upset!  I believe that frequent Roctane consumption runs helps by minimizing losses of muscular glycogen, sodium and potassium - while maintaining concentration and focus.  NOTE: Especially in the critical area of nutrition a runner should try-out different strategies during long training runs well in advance of a race!
  • My Newton running shoes - which I continue to swear by on race day!
  • My iPod Nano and its highly motivating fast-beat rock playlist.

HYDRATION: Weighing in immediately before and after the race revealed to my huge surprise that I had lost four and one-half pounds - more than one pound beyond the maximum recommended (typically cited at two percent of body weight). I had been very thirsty and a bit light-headed in the final four miles, and in retrospect should have slowed down and drunk more through the final aid stations! Lesson learned: Trust your thirst - an excellent gauge to assuring appropriate yet not excessive hydration! Don't worry about slowing down a bit to drink sufficiently so-as to fully quench your thirst - particularly in the final miles of an event under warmer conditions.  Whatever time you might lose will be fully compensated by a safer - and a faster performance. NOTE: On the opposite side of the fluid hydration spectrum lies hyponatremia. Recognizing its potentially extreme dangers a runner should certainly not drink beyond one's thirst (evidenced by gaining weight during a run), and weighing in before and after a variety of runs builds understanding of appropriate fluid intake.  If interested in more on-topic I made a contribution to the excellent Extra Mile Podcast (, and my ~10-minute contribution largely on hydration lessons learned can be found on Episode 61, beginning 12-minutes into the recording.

CLOTHING: With clear, bright, humid and sunny conditions in the final miles, and the temperature rising to the upper 50's, I was sweating profusely so at aid stations poured water over my head while taking 4-Oz. of Gatorade.  While doing so brought immediate relief I should have first removed my sleeveless running shirt and run bare-chested to maximize heat losses.

  • Geek Report - The day before the event I purchased a Garmin Forerunner 310XT which proved to work well.  It provided better accuracy than my prior Forerunner 405, and I was relieved to notice afterwards that I had used less than 25% of its battery life (as contrasted with the 405, whose battery was consistently more than 75% depleted after a marathon).
  • I was very encouraged to see a factoid by which reinforced the benefits of Kenyan Way and of the pacing group strategy, i.e. of 99 other runners surrounding me as I began the final 7.5 miles of the race only 7 crossed the finish line faster.
  • I enjoyed several encouraging and humorous T-Shirts on the course, the best of which was: "This isn't sweat; my fat cells are crying!"
  • Official Stats:
    Overall: 390/6287 (top 6%)
    Males: 345/3911 (top 9%)
    Division (50-54): 27/473 (top 6%)
With speedster Xabier narrowly edging me by 18-seconds we both celebrate a personal record marathon time of 3:19!

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