2014 Aramco Houston Half Marathon Race Recap

I’ll start with this: going forward, it’ll be tough deciding whether to run 3M or Houston every January. 3M has always been one of my favorites: a net-downhill course, comfortable field size (6-7K), perfect weather, affordable registration fee, and a start line less than 20 minutes from my house. Living in Austin, running 3M is a no-brainer – especially if you’re interested in a PR.

Then Houston happened and I’m not sure I can put into words how awesome this race was. From the beginning it seemed like your standard “big box” race in a busy city, complete with the pricey registration fee and a lottery for runners not meeting the qualifying times. But “big-box” race it was not. It was the complete opposite of what I expected.

Aramco Houston Half Marathon

Pre-Race: Our original plan was to take the rail into downtown on race morning. Then the Pats/Broncos were announced as the early game on Sunday and we wanted to be on the road back to Austin ASAP post-race. We ended up parking in a garage near the GRB / finish area. I used the distance to the start as a warm-up jog and settled into Corral B just before it closed.

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Race: Well, this was certainly the most painful race I’ve ever run. My arches were killing me pretty much from the get-go, an issue I haven’t run into since last March. I’ve been running/training in the same shoe model (Brooks Ravenna) since April and my current pair has ~100 miles on it, so they should have been fine. No idea what the problem was on race day. I saw Brad (and Luke!) cheering on the side of the course in the first mile or so and somewhere during mile 2 heard a familiar voice yelling my name. I turned to see Courtney on the right side of the course running with her friend Cateline. Seeing her smiling face was just what I needed at that moment because I was super pissed about my arches ruining the race for me. We chatted excitedly for a couple minutes before wishing one other good luck and heading our separate ways. Wish I could have stuck with them for the rest of the race!

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Despite the fact I was hating life, I fell in love with this race. It was flat, shaded with beautiful trees, and the spectators were packed deep along both sides of the course. I truly believe the friendly & enthusiastic spectators are what kept me moving forward in the race. My arch pain resulted in the internal “do you want to run this race or do you want to run forever?” debate. I REALLY did not want to end up injured. Around mile 7, I stopped attempting to run (which was more like a shuffle at that point anyway) and worked on perfecting my power-walking skills. And took the opportunity to pet every.single.dog I came across. And cheered on the marathoners hauling ass to the finish, trying to qualify for Boston. If I couldn’t run, I was going to enjoy the final miles and race experience in Houston. And it was in those final miles where I decided I’ll be entering the lottery for 2015.

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Crossing the finish line was bittersweet because while I was super happy to be done, I was also disappointed in my finish time. But it is what it is.

Post-Race: Immediately after the finish line, you’re ushered into the GRB where you can grab food, collect medals, pick up your finisher shirt, etc. Everything was really spread out and not congested at all, which was great.

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After receiving the medal for the half, I grabbed a bottle of water and an ice cream sandwich <—- weird, but it tasted amazing that morning. Then I waited in line to pick up my second medal for running both the half and the 5K on Saturday. The booth behind it was for the finisher shirt so I picked that up and made my way to the HEB Food Court for the free hot breakfast. Eggs & Sausage > Doritos & Granola Bars

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Overall: I’m struggling to come up with anything negative about this race. For such a large event, they seem to have all of logistics nailed down. I’ve run comparable sized races which have fallen short in countless departments so I went into Houston with low expectations and ended up very impressed. The Houston Marathon and Half Marathon is everything the Rock n Roll races should be but can’t figure out how to execute.

The lottery opens on June 4th for the 2015 race … who wants to head to Houston with me?

Weekend in Houston & the ABB 5K

On Friday afternoon we headed down south to Houston for the weekend. We should have been pulling into the race expo around 4pm but due to congested highways and the population of Houston being incapable of operating a vehicle correctly, it ended up being just after 5. When traveling somewhere new, you should definitely experiment with using the maps app on your phone without turning the GPS on. Turns out all of the GPS usage and iHeart radio streaming on our road trip to/from Florida in December drained the crap out of our data for the month and we had to navigate downtown Houston GPS-less. It was REALLY fun.

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The expo was massive and super organized. I loved how a volunteer could scan the barcode from my confirmation email on my phone rather than having to print out a hard copy. We picked up our 3 (5K x2 & the half for me) race packets in less than five minutes and were released out into the sea of vendors. I chatted all things Oiselle with Sara at the Fleet Feet booth, browsed the USTAF merchandise, and pretty much breezed through the rest. Skechers, a new sponsor for this year, provided all of the official race merchandise. The LE shoes created specifically for Houston were pretty cool and a lot of the apparel looked great too, but I wish there would have been other items like pint glasses or magnets. Something cheap that wasn’t clothing-related. A Skechers employee working the area said they’d keep it in mind for next year. Luckily on our way out I saw Chevron putting free magnets out on their table so I snagged a couple.

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I saw the Nuun booth but it was pretty busy so I skipped over it, only to realize later that night they were giving out Texas-specific water bottles with the purchase of two tubes. Now I need another water bottle like I need a hole in the head, but guys: this one said Texas on it. Somehow this justified the purchase and we went back the next morning to grab one.

Nuun Hydration - Run Texas

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After the expo we made our way to the hotel. Initially I booked the Residence Inn downtown so we wouldn’t really have to drive at all and could walk to the race start both mornings. After a little research, I realized I could move us out to a SpringHill Suites near Reliant Park and save $300 on the hotel/parking. It was about 10-15 minutes away and only two blocks from the rail station. I don’t regret this decision at all – $300 is $300.

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The next morning was the ABB 5K, which was by no means a goal race for either of us since Brad was coming off a sprained ankle and I had the half the next day. We grabbed coffee in the lobby and took the rail downtown.

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The race was a super flat out-and-back and the weather was perfect. Beautiful morning for a run! We were pretty surprised with how many spectators were out cheering but it got me excited for crowds the next day. The National Guard handed out medals at the finish, which I thought was pretty cool.

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We had lunch at Freebirds and then went to see Lone Survivor. Okay, so I had heard this movie was pretty intense. I imagined intense like Act of Valor. Definitely teared up at the end and it was sad, but I was able to compose myself in less than five minutes. Let me just say that “pretty intense” does not even begin to describe Lone Survivor. I don’t cry at anything (owner of a black heart) and no amount of sniffling or deep breaths could get me back to normal before the lights came on. It was heart wrenching. Incredible movie, but heart wrenching.

For dinner I had my heart set on Italian and luckily there was a Carrabba’s only a few blocks from the movie theater. Once we cracked open the menus I realized we were at the most expensive Carrabba’s in all the land. Had I done a little research I might have noticed that this was the original restaurant and not under the same management as the chain. But since we were already there and every other Italian restaurant in town was probably swarming with runners, we stayed. At a normal Carrabba’s our exact dinner would have cost us $54 plus tip but at the original we were hit with an $85 bill. Good thing I saved a few bucks on the hotel.

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After dinner we returned back to the hotel so I could buy more songs on iTunes, tweak my playlist for the billionth time and try to get to bed early. Pretty sure Brad fell asleep before I did, but what else is new?

Next up, the Aramco Houston Half Marathon Race Recap

Tuesday Things

1. Are you sick of me talking about the office? Well sorry, I’m not quite done yet. The project is still unfinished but we’re much closer than we were a week ago. I bought a twin comforter set and while I’m sure it’s the norm, it bothers me to no end that it only comes with one pillow sham and no option to buy an additional one. The daybed looks dumb with just one pillow at the top and definitely requires 2(+) pillows in the middle. Currently I’m on a hunt for two red decorative pillows to match the sheets, but not really red … maybe cranberry? Or wine? In any case, it’s proving to be impossible to find pillows to match. Don’t even get me started on how expensive effing Euro Shams are. WHY?! It’s a piece of fabric. Also, please kill me for caring this much about a bed in a room we rarely go in.

dumb bed

2. I accidentally became a VIB member at Sephora. Seriously, it was accident. My online account said I had 92 points – clearly not enough for VIB. Once I dug a little deeper it looked like they issued me a new BI card at some point and never linked it to my other account. So I was earning points in the store with one BI card and earning points online with another. While I was in there stocking up on moisturizer recently, BAM – they handed me a shiny silver VIB card. I have no idea what this card gets me except a private shopping event in November (which is REALLY far away) so I don’t know whether to be excited about the new status or upset I spend so much time in the store. I blame my sister mostly. In any case, I’m getting a post together about all the fun makeup-y things I’ve bought over the past few months. Makeup? On the blog? There’s something new.

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3. Oiselle, Oiselle, Oiselle. A few items from the S14 line hit their website recently and the colors are ridiculously beautiful. It’s taking quite a bit of self restraint to keep myself from putting every single new item in my cart. The newest Stripey (now Earn Your Stripes) comes in two of the best colors Oiselle has put out: brill blue + jade green.  I’ve figured out how to wear 90% of my Oiselle wardrobe to work, which is AWESOME. The seamless flyte tank is perfect for layering and much more exciting than a standard cami under a cardigan. If you’re currently Oiselle-less, this is a great piece to start with!

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4. It’s race week! For some reason even though I’m only running the half, this feels like a bigger race than usual. Maybe because there’s been so much build up since the lottery last summer. I’ve heard so many great things about Houston so I’m really excited to finally be able to run it. I’m also running the 5K day before – hello, bonus medals – with Brad. Well, Brad is a maybe. He sprained his ankle playing basketball while we were in Florida (probably trying to get out of having to drive on the way home) so he said he’ll make the final decision on Saturday. Either way he’ll be heading down there with me, so Houston here we come!

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5. The Verizon Wireless ambassador program is wrapping up this week and it was definitely a great experience. I learned a lot about the Verizon Edge program and new Isis Mobile Wallet, both of which I look forward to using in the future. One of the perks I received as an ambassador was a Samsung Galaxy S4 to use for the duration of the program. I’m not going to list out all of the technical specs because (1) your eyes will glaze over and (2) I don’t even understand what a lot of it means. The main thing I say to everyone who asks what I think of the S4 is that the battery is horrible. This may be because I came from the Droid Razr MAXX which had a much larger battery. I could stream Pandora in my car for 90 minutes on my way to work, use the phone intermittently throughout the day, stream Pandora for 90 minutes on my way home, and still end up at around 50% battery. With the S4, if Pandora is used on my way to work, the phone will need to be charged by early afternoon – even if I’m connected to the WiFi at the office. Hashtag first world problems. So now I listen to the radio in the morning instead. I’ve tweaked many of the settings but even with minimal use I’m usually at about 40% after 12 hours off the charger.

Okay, so now on to the non-battery related things. The camera is excellent! It’s just average in low-light (concert photos turn out not so hot) and at night, but for everything else the pictures are great. The screen is huge and super bright, even when the setting is at 50%. The Samsung-affiliated apps are nothing to write home about, with the exception of S Memo and WatchON. S Memo is exactly what you’d expect, a note-taking app. WatchON allows you to turn your phone into a remote for your TV. Rather than scrolling through your provider’s channel guide, WatchON recommends shows to you based on your preferences. You just press the photo of the show you want to view and voila, your TV switches to that channel. Pretty cool feature and the recommendations are always spot on.

WatchON App

Also (this is minor) since I own a Samsung Tablet, I really appreciate that the two run on the same operating system. When I had a Motorola phone, it was somewhat annoying to go back and forth between the two devices. Now everything looks almost identical. Also minor, but there are a lot more options when it comes to cases. My current favorite is the Spigen Neo Hybrid – very simple and lightweight.

Overall, I really like the phone. My main issue is with the battery and it’s probably only because I was majorly spoiled with the Razr MAXX. I carry a portable charger (purchased with my own dollars, not provided by VZW) with me when heading to concerts where the camera will drain my battery or when I’ll be away from an outlet for most of the day. I also connect to WiFi at the office and at work, which helps avoid battery draining caused by roaming. Would I recommend the phone? YES. But if you’re a heavy data user, you may want to look into an extended battery or portable charger so you aren’t SOL mid-day.

Tell me something about your Tuesday. Or Wednesday, since this went up way later than I originally planned.

In 2014, I Will Run

And that’s it.

In the past I’ve declared a certain distance or time as my goal for that particular year. Whether it be to run a full marathon or PR in the half, I was always worked towards something running-related with a number tied to it. In 2013 I stepped away from that approach and simply wanted to focus on quality over quantity. Unfortunately, I didn’t exactly follow through on that.

2013 Austin Races

I jammed a million races into the spring and didn’t PR any of them. Don’t get me wrong: I know not every race is going to be at a hard effort and yield satisfying results, but at least one of them should have in order to meet my goal of “quality > quantity”. Sometimes I get registration happy and want to sign up for every single race out there.

I managed to restrain myself from registering for the Rogue Distance Festival, and a handful of local 5Ks & 10Ks. All were fairly affordable and probably could have been squeezed into the budget, but somehow I made it into the spring with the same two races on my schedule that have been there since July: Houston Half & Austin Half. And I’ve decided not to “race” either of them. The holidays/road trip threw somewhat of a wrench in my training and running was put on the backburner. ALL MY FAULT. Not blaming anyone but myself. If Houston let you defer without having to pay again next year, I’d defer to 2015. But since they don’t and the hotel is already booked, to Houston I go.

So what’s next? Ragnar Relay Cape Cod with Oiselle Team

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FINALLY! My first relay. I had hoped to run Hood to Coast with Nuun the past two years, but that didn’t pan out. I had planned on applying again in 2014 but we booked a trip to Mexico for that same week, and well, Mexico wins. Always. Back in the fall Jill tweeted about getting together a team of Oiselle runners for Ragnar Cape Cod. After countless emails back and forth, team Flock You Like a Hurricane was born + registered. So in the beginning of May I’ll be heading up to Cape Cod to run a 200-mile relay with Oiselle teammates I’ve never met. God I love the internet.

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And then after that? Who knows! I’m forgoing a spring goal race and focusing solely on Ragnar. I’ll probably have a goal race in the fall (in addition to Ragnar Trail Hill Country in October, depending on whether or not my sister decides to get married that weekend) but I don’t want to rush into it or even start thinking about which race until April or May. I don’t want history to repeat itself so instead of racing the crap out of the spring and being burnt out by May, I want to enjoy no-pressure miles in the spring.

So that’s the plan for 2014. I will run, plain & simple.

Looking Ahead & Reevaluating My Goals

While reviewing my training log in Google Drive on Monday night I realized the Shiner Beer Run was NEXT WEEKEND. Obviously I knew it was soon since we recently flipped the calendar over to November, but  didn’t realize just how close it was until counting long runs between now and race day. Yikes.

Shiner Beer Run

Shiner was supposed to be my 2013 goal race but it’s been downgraded into a training run for Houston in January. We’ve done all of our runs with the dogs (the puppy desperately needs this time to get some energy out) and while the miles have been at a decent pace, we’re still taking breaks every mile or so for the dogs.

dogs on the run

This hasn’t prepared us enough to properly “race” Shiner, so we’ll be using it as a training run. After next weekend, I’m going to start doing treadmill runs during the week to supplement our puppy runs. This way I should be able to get in some speed/hill work that will boost my potential to run a fast race in Houston.

Do I think I’m going to go sub-2 in Houston? No I don’t. And I’m okay with that. It was a lofty goal I hesitated to put out there in the first place – but it’s still a goal.

Do I think I’ll PR in Houston? I’m not sure. My 13.1 PR was set last year after a really strong marathon training cycle. I’m nowhere near that fitness level right now. And I’m okay with that.

Life happens. Things came up that were unexpected (like adopting a super high energy but ridiculously adorable puppy!) and sometimes I chose those things over my running goals. I chose to bring our dogs on all of our runs because I absolutely LOVE exploring Austin with them and how excited they get when I lace up my running shoes.

So, am I disappointed that this 13.1 won’t be the grandiose race I expected it to be? A little bit. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to run strong and enjoy every scenic, hilly mile through the Texas countryside.

There are a lot of exciting things on the horizon and I’m really excited to see what 2014 has up its sleeve.

Tuesday Things

1. I registered for my first 2014 race.

Austin 2014

Using that word “register” fairly loosely considering I didn’t have to put out a dime for next year’s Austin Half. Race organizers were trying to bring in some more registrations (possibly down due to their previous title sponsor and Lance’s PED scandal in the media – that’s just my opinion though) so they ran a BOGO one-day deal: register for the 2013 race and they would comp your entry into 2014.

Austin Marathon One-Day Deal

Brad and I jumped on that IMMEDIATELY. For once in my life, procrastination paid off. I don’t expect that to happen again. Ever.

In any case, this race is one of my favorites in town and I’m excited to run it for the 4th year in a row!

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2. I entered the lottery for another race in 2014.

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I went back and forth on this one probably a billion times. It falls on the same day as 3M, which has the fastest half marathon course in Austin and is where my current 13.1 PR is from. As much as I’d love to run 3M again, I was itching to try something new. Obviously running Houston will be a little more expensive since it requires a hotel stay and 3-hour drive, but the change of scenery will be worth it.

And if my luck plays out the way it does 99.9% of the time, I won’t get selected in the lottery and will be running the 3M Half Marathon for its 20th Anniversary.

Either way I’ll be racing on January 19, 2014. Location: TBD.

3. I’ve become slightly concert obsessed.

I’ve seen more concerts in the past six months than I have in probably my entire life. It started last fall when I saw Jason Aldean & Luke Bryan in San Diego. Holy crap. SO MUCH FUN. Country concerts are so much better than most Top 40 artists because they actually sound the same as they do on the radio.

615971_10100183422831305_388190108_oWe came back from San Diego and immediately bought tickets to see Brantley Gilbert in October. And Easton Corbin in November. And Chris Cagle in December. It helps that the venue we go to sells tickets for $8-12 so it’s not like we’re breaking the bank.

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Then in March the Austin Rodeo happened. We saw Kip Moore one weekend and Gary Allan the next.

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Last weekend we saw George Strait, Miranda Lambert, and Martina McBride put on a killer show in San Antonio. And two days later I bought tickets to see Justin Moore in July. And the day after we jumped at the chance to get tickets for Dierks Bentley and Miranda Lambert at the new Austin 360 Amphitheater in September. Then in October we’re going to see Jason Aldean, Jake Owen, and Thomas Rhett in Dallas.

AND! I saw Fallout Boy at Stubbs on Sunday night. They don’t quite fit in the country genre but the show was A LOT of fun.

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Hi Pete Wentz.

So yeah. I may need a concert intervention at some point. But it’s so hard to say no when tickets are only ten bucks!

4. We added a new member to our family.

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Meet Sox! We’ve been talking about getting another dog for quite awhile now and finally pulled the trigger on it this week. I freakin’ love her. How cute is that face?! I’m fully aware it might be less cute when she starts chewing on my running shoe collection. But for now … how cute is that face?!

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Bo isn’t too sure what he thinks of Sox yet. Probably has something to do with him being 104 pounds and her only being 10. She’s basically a toy.

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Our love for the Red Sox isn’t apparent at all. {Boston Red Sox}

5. I’m flabbergasted over this “Tebow to the Pats” announcement.

I have no doubt that Belichick has a plan up his sleeve, but I’m still in the WTF phase of acceptance.

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That seems about right.

Maybe in signing Tebow Belichick & Brady can get some inside info from him. Like why God hates the #Patriots so much in recent years.

And that too. Find out for us, would ya Tebow? K thanks.