Saturday, January 21, 2012

Houston Olympic Marathon Trials

Last weekend my friend Chris Montgomery and I headed down to Houston to watch the Mens and Womens Olympic Marathon Trials on Saturday and then run our own marathon on Sunday.

It was an exciting and fun weekend despite a my poor racing on Sunday.

We even had time to see the ocean just before dark.

Beach at Surfside, Texas

The trials were great as we watched the best men and women runners in the entire country race a loop course in downtown Houston.  A little bit of a surprise as expected favorite Ryan Hall was edged by Meb K. who ran a PR to win in 2:09.

Ryan Hall in the lead at mile 2

My friend Chris and I were both excited to watch the race and I think it helped to energize us about our own race.  This would be the largest (most people) marathon I had ever done and it had a reputation for being flat and fast and I thought I might have a shot at my 2:44 PR.

After the trials we watch the NFL playoffs at a raucous bar with my brother Greg who was celebrating his birthday with friends from work.  Greg graciously hosted us for the two nights and it was great catching up with him, Kyler and Tamara - Thanks Guys!

Sunday morning we had to get up at 4:30 to be sure to be ready for the 7:00 am start.  I was more nervous than usual and maybe I sensed something was not right.  There were so many people.  I am used to easily getting to the front of the crowd to start a race but it was so packed, I spent all of my time trying to get toward the front.  Finally I made it to within 50 feet or so of the start wjust behind the three hour pace group.  I figured that was good enough.

The weather was perfect and so I had high hopes.  The gun went off and I hit the first mile in 6:29 so I was about 20 seconds off my hoped for 6:07 pace.  But that was mainly because of the crowds and a little uphill at the start.  The second mile was somewhere near 6:03 and I thought I must be trying to make up for mile one.  So I slowed my effort and I thought mile three would be a good barometer for how I was doing.  I hit that mile in 6:07.  Perfect and it actually felt pretty easy so I still had high hopes at this point.

But it was not long after this that my sciatic began to hurt.  I hit 6:11 and it became painful.  I told myself to just try to run 6:15s and that would give me a shot at my PR.  I did that for two more miles but by mile 8, I had slowed to a 6:30 pace.  Now I knew a PR was out of the question and I was really beginning to hurt a lot.  I hit 15K in 58:55 so I was nearly 90 seconds off my hoped for pace. 

At the half I was 4 minutes off my pace and hit it in 1:25.  I really had thoughts of quitting at this point as I was struggling to hit 7:15 and 7:30 miles.  I was in agony and it seemed as though everyone was passing me.

The sciatic pain was causing me to kind of limp along as I just tried to make it to 15.  At that point I just tried to not think about everyone passing me and just zone them out and think of it as a good long training run.

I did revive a little bit after drinking a beer at mile 21 and managed two more sub 7 miles but then struggled to keep 8 minute miles the rest of the way because of the sciatic pain.

The Houston Marathon course is very flat and fast and it is a great marathon and very well run although a bit too crowded for my tastes.  I could definitely see setting a PR there on a good day.  Also, make sure you pack your own gu as there will be none at the aid stations.
It's just too bad.  Very frustrating because I was so hoping for a PR day but I was certainly proud that I finished.  I stumbled in in 3:04 and it was a much harder effort than when I am running well.

When running well, it is a seemingly effortless and focused effort that is really enjoyable.  Make no mistake it is not easy but it is enjoyable.  That's how most of the races are but not this one.

My sciatic pain just seems to come on like that a couple of times a year.  There is no predicting it and nothing I can seem to do about it because it always disappears as suddenly as it started.

Next up is White Rock 50K.  Hope the sciatic feels better then.

Start and Finish at the Trials would be same as for us.

Chris ran a 3:29.  He was hoping for 3:10 so it was not a good day for him either but it was a great weekend for running in spite of the three plus hours of suffering.


  1. Sorry to hear you didn't hit your PR.
    How did Athens-Big Fork go?

  2. Just now saw your ABF result posted. Good job. Question: According to the ABF website, the total elevation gain is around 9000. The R2R2R is about 1,500 more. I'm sure that it's different kind of climbing. I'd like to hear your comparisons/contrasts of the type of climbing on these two courses (accounting for the difference in distance).

  3. I'm sorry to hear about your bum race. Those are a necessary evil that make the good ones that much better. Unfortunately, they sometimes occur during the races that you anticipate the most. Missed you at ABF (unless you were cleaned up and gone by the time I got in). See you at WR. Looks like a good weather week, crossed fingers for no mud. KH

  4. I would say that the ABF and Grand Canyon are pretty similar in that you really can't run some of the steeper sections but need to power hike them. Of course, the Grand Canyon really only has two big climbs and ABF has it broken up into 16 climbs. I also felt the altitude at the Grand Canyon especially going up the North Rim. Definitely worth the trip though!