aramcohalfmarathon

ABB 5K and Aramco Half Marathon – “His Story”

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My pre-race meal. Basically what I ate all week: almond-crusted chicken breast seasoned with FlavorGod and baked sweet potato.
My pre-race meal. Basically what I ate all week: almond-crusted chicken breast seasoned with FlavorGod and baked sweet potato.

Friday – Packet Pick-up Day: I get off work and head downtown to pick up me and Jennifer’s race packets. My first thought before I’m even there is, “How will I find parking?” Luckily I find a metered spot opening as I inch closer to George R. Brown (GRB) Convention Center. There is construction everywhere because of the race set-up. I enter GRB, and I’m in awe. I didn’t realize there would be so many people and vendors! I pick up our race packets and t-shirts for the ABB 5K and Aramco Half-Marathon and decide to walk around for a few minutes just to see what is happening. There are vendors and run shops posted up selling everything. Shoes, clothing, belts, KT tape, foam rollers, you name it. I was tempted to buy a little bit of everything, but I knew that I should just walk out. I leave and my day is pretty much over. I finish drinking my full gallon of water and loaded up on my usual pre-race meal (chicken and sweet potato). My alarm is set for 5:30AM.

Saturday – ABB 5K Race: The ABB 5K is set for an 8AM race time with roads closing at 7AM, so I planned to get there at 6:30AM. I’m up and out of the door. I am layered the eff up because it is freezing. I think my usual thought on race days, “Why the $*@& did I sign up for this again?” I text this to Jennifer, and she laughs because she had originally told me I was going to regret it signing up for this extra race. Indeed, I did. The real reason I signed up for this race was because I would get not two, but three medals for completing the “Houston Double.” I am such a sucker for those extra medals.

I'm a sucker for extra medals. ABB 5K, Aramco Half, and the double medal. Boom.
I’m a sucker for extra medals. ABB 5K, Aramco Half, and the double medal. Boom.

I am super early and arrive to a parking lot by the Toyota Center. Parking is $10. I shake my head at the price hike from the usual $5 a day. I drink about a fourth of my gallon of water already, and I’m ready to go. As I start walking to GRB, I see the Hilton hotel. I think to myself, “I bet they won’t let me in because I’m not staying there.” I enter anyways knowing that they have clean restrooms and not port-a-potties. Smart move. I start heading towards the starting line. I see the 13-minute mile time pace group and I keep walking. I am at the 9-minute mile pace and I stop. The crowd starts moving and all of a sudden I’m up at the 7-minute pace LOL. The 5K starts and I’m off. I ran at an 8:04 pace and completed the race with 25:03. I know I could have run faster, but I didn’t want to completely exhaust my legs before the next day. I can live with that time. After I grab my medal, I cross more streets than I need to to get back to my car.

I spend the rest of the day running a few errands with Jennifer. Lunch and dinner are the same meal and I am asleep by 7PM. Yes, you read that right. 7PM. I know that I’m about to wake up at 3AM to pick up Jennifer and leave by 4:15AM. I love my sleep.

Sunday – Aramco Half Marathon Race Day: 3AM. I highly suggest planning what you’re going to wear for a run. I didn’t know what to expect, so I didn’t do this. I turn over to my phone and see 50 degrees. I think to myself, “Hallelujah.” 50 degrees is perfect cruising weather. Don’t need a jacket or tights. I am completely wrong (for the time being). I eat two Honeystinger Organic Waffles because one just isn’t enough, and I start drinking my gallon of water. I pick up Jennifer who has barely woken up and I do my best to calm her already nervous nerves. I ran my first half marathon back in October so that I would know how to help guide Jennifer through her first half marathon. I try to just let her know that I will be there no matter what and we will cross the finish line. If she had to use the restroom I would wait. If she had to walk, I would walk. If she just couldn’t go on, I would carry her.

We’re driving, and we get to the same parking lot as yesterday. I see signs that say: “Event Parking: $30.” I say out loud, “WHAT THE !@#$!?” and Jennifer scolds me as if I’m a student lol. I am so salty at the fact that this $5 daily parking lot has its price hiked up. I knew that it would probably be $20, but $30. Runners and spectators are getting scammed. On the way back from the race, the price dropped to $20. SMH.

We are inside GRB. We decide to use the restroom early because we are well-hydrated runners, ha. We then went to a Catholic mass held in GRB. This was perfect. The homily was exactly what we needed to hear before the big race. The priest who seemed to be an ex-athlete reminded us to think “mind over miles” and “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” The latter was definitely a joke. I leave the mass feeling at peace spiritually and mentally. I decide to eat two more waffles because I’m hungry and for that extra energy. We go to the restroom again and the lines are ridiculous. I tell Jennifer, “Let’s keep walking closer to the port-a-potties.” Good choice. The lines are much shorter closer to the entrance but still a pain. There’s no real structure to it.

  • Side Note: During my time waiting for Jennifer to use the port-a-potties, I discovered an easy chick magnet. Hand sanitizer. Yes, I’m serious. Fellas, just wait outside the port-a-potties and display that you have hand sanitizer in your hands. Don’t be a creep about it doe. Ladies will flock to you asking for some of this magical soap, which is limited inside the port-a-potties. Strike up a conversation maybe and bam. You have just gotten yourself in the door. “Can I have some hand sanitizer?” “Sure, so uh listen, can I have yo numba?” I am half kidding, but half serious. I have something going on. Try it out.

JENNIFER’S EDIT: NOT THAT JOSEPH WOULD EVER TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS BECAUSE YOU KNOW… HE’S DATING ME. AHEM.

Last leg of the race. Jenifer is next to me... just completely covered by the guy in front us.
Last leg of the race. Jenifer is next to me… just completely covered by the guy in front us.

We go to the bag check-in and I turn in my one piece of warm clothing. Mistake. The weather has dropped to 40 degrees outside. Anytime the weather is in the 40’s I pretty much always wear tights. I’m in shorts and a tank. We start heading out to where the corrals are lining up and I feel naked. I am so cold and can’t feel a thing. I feel stupid. We walk, and we feel wind chill. I feel even more stupid. The corral feels like a mile away. We hear the race announcements starting at 7AM. Everyone is eggcited. We don’t cross the starting line until 30 minutes later. Are you serious?

During the race, I am chilling. I am right there with Jennifer racing along. Everything is feeling good. My IT band is not flaring up like usual. We get to about the 3 kilometer marker and I see one of the gym members from my workplace cheering me on. I feel really appreciative because I am always cheering on the gym members who take my INSANITY class (or yelling at them).

Proud of this girl!
Proud of this girl!

We get past mile 5 and see Jennifer’s co-worker and her husband. Jennifer gets an instant boost and her pace increases a bit. The crowd of the race is amazing. I am in such high spirits as I hear music and banter going on. I want to yell and jump and dance. I decide not to. I am just talking bit by bit trying to make sure Jennifer is okay. Her face tells me to shut up. I do. Her students know this face well. We get to mile 12 and I see signs for free beer. I didn’t get a cup, thinking to myself, “I’m going to keep this paleo thing going on.” I regret it. Never pass up free beer. During training, Jennifer only got to 11 miles so I knew this was an accomplishment for her already. I ask if she’s hit the wall and she nods. I tell her how great she’s doing and to keep pushing past the wall and break through it. We are about 13 miles in and I know she is tired. She sees her supportive friends near the finish line and pushes that last leg. We both finish at 2:31:32. Her goal was sub 2:40. At this point I have to help her walk because she is a bit lightheaded. Words can’t express how proud I am of her. To think that this girl has just had foot surgery in the summer, recovered, and trained until this point. To think that a few years ago, we were barely doing 5K’s. This girl accomplished something that she had talked about. She was walking the walk.

The race is over and I realize I haven’t sweat at all. WHAT A GREAT RACE. We grab our finisher shirts and there is an abundance of non-paleo foods being passed out. I check my Polar M400 and it says that I’ve burnt 2114 calories. I say screw it and eat till my heart’s content. Ice cream!!! I grab one for me and one for Jennifer, which ended up being mine hehe. I am in the fat burning zone after a long workout so I felt like it was a well-deserved meal.

Some random thoughts while running:

  1. There are way too many people running in Nike Roshe Runs. I know it’s called a Roshe Run, but they are not meant for running. They are cheaper than real running shoes for a reason. I love Roshes myself and it feels like you’re walking on marshmallows when you wear them. Don’t run in them. Please.
  2. In two weeks, I will be doing double this at the USA Fit Marathon in Sugar Land. EFF MY LIFE.

It was such a great race weekend that I decided to sign up for the 2016 Chevron Marathon. I thought I was done with racing, but this was an awesome race. The support from the crowds was perfect. The signs were hilarious, although some repetitive. “I just pooped my pants too!” “Need more Vaseline, eh?” I remember people started cheering “Go Joseph!” and I was surprised. How do these random strangers know my name??? I remembered, “Oh, my bib has my name” lol. If there’s one thing that stuck with me the whole race, it was some lady shouting, “YOU RUN THIS CITY! YOU LITERALLY RUN HOUSTON!” I felt empowered by this for some odd reason. I run this city and I will continue to run this city in years to come. Cheers to all those that completed any races this weekend! Sign up for next year and run with me!

-Joseph

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Aramco Half Marathon Race Recap – “Her Story”

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Race recap blog posts will be written by the both of us! Here is HER STORY (i.e mine) first. Keep in mind this is coming from a first-time half-marathoner and noob runner to say the least. Next post will be Joseph’s point of view!

WAKING UP: Well, you already know how I was feeling the night before. Needless to say, it took me FOREVER to actually get to sleep. Awesome. I was supposed to wake-up at 4AM, but for whatever reason only my SECOND alarm went off at 4:15AM. By that time, Joseph was already on his way to pick me up, so I needed to haul my butt and get ready as quickly as possibly. Fortunately, I already had everything prepped from the night before, so all it took was to put my clothes on, grab my breakfast, and head out to Joseph’s truck!

ARRIVING AT THE GEORGE R BROWN (GRB) CONVENTION CENTER: It wasn’t as bad as we expected. I was worried about traffic around GRB and finding parking, but I think we arrived early enough (5AM) to avoid the main bulk of traffic. The HouMarathon offered a 5:30AM Catholic mass service, so Joseph and I attended that service before doing anything else. That ending up being an incredibly calming and peaceful way for us to start off our race morning!

THE PORT-A-POTTY ADVENTURES: Before the Catholic mass, before checking anything in, and before ANYTHING/EVERYTHING in general, we decided to use the bathroom because we knew that it would become congested as more people arrived. Smart move on our end. Now, I’ve never actually used them before. I’ve seen them, and I understand the concept behind them, but I’ve never had the need to use the restroom so badly that I was willing to use one. So, I go into the port-a-potty, do my thing, and I look around for the toilet flush. Confused. No toilet flush to be seen. Very confused. I quickly text Joseph:

Me: “Babe! Where is the button to flush the toilet?”
Him: “There is none.”
Me: Horror slowly dawning on me… “WAIT. WHAT. THERE IS NONE? But… but… I just… pooped… it’s down there… OMG WHAT. PEOPLE WILL SEE IT.”
Him: “Yea. That’s what happens.”
Me: Shamefacedly opening the door slowly and peering out. Man next in line immediately steps up to enter the port-a-potty. Avoid eye contact and scurry away. Don’t look down into the toilet dear sir. Please don’t.

WOW. Okay, so I guess I never thought about port-a-potties properly. And I hate to be a pansy about it but… OMG EW. EW. EW. And then we had to go again to the port-a-potties around 6-7AM and WOW the lines were crazy. Everyone and their mother was using the bathroom. And by that time since thousands of people had been using the bathrooms the whole area smelled… runners’ bowel movements, y’all. And you really have no option sometimes but to look down into the toilet because the area is so small… but try not to. Seriously… try not to look there!!! Scarred for life. Inside the cavernous toilet bowl, mountains of… wow. Yea. Yea. That was an adventure I’ll never forget, unfortunately.

Random useful tips:

  • Go as early as you can. 5AM was perfect because there was virtually no wait. It’s also when the port-a-potties are the cleanest and have the least amount of waste piling up down below. YUCK.
  • Bring personal cleaning wipes! I felt much better using cleaning wipes over toilet paper in the port-a-potty. Peace of mind.
  • Bring hand sanitizer. They offer hand sanitizer in the port-a-pottys, but 1) it’s weak hand sanitizer and 2) it runs out quickly as the morning progresses.
  • GO TO THE BACK PORT-A-POTTIES. This applies to you if it’s 6AM-7AM and you see a congested line towards the front. There is not just ONE line to the bathroom. There are dozens! So keep walking FURTHER into the port-a-potties to find a good chunk of bathrooms that have shorter lines!

    7AM-7:27AM... taking selfies while waiting for our corral to be released. Gun went off at 7AM... STILL WAITING.
    7AM-7:27AM… taking selfies while waiting for our corral to be released. Gun went off at 7AM… STILL WAITING.

THE START OF THE RUN: Heading out to the race itself was beyond awe-inspiring. There were thousands, literally THOUSANDS of people streaming down the streets DT Houston. It was so cool to see. People of all walks of life, different races, different ages, people running for different reasons. It is quite beautiful to witness and be a part of. But all those people also meant shoulder-to-shoulder crowds in the streets. Really… shoulder-to-shoulder. It was insane. And unfortunately, Joseph and I were in corral D, the LAST corral that is released to run, so when the gun actually went off… because of the sheer amount of people in the race, we were unable to actually move anywhere until around 7:27AM… whomp whomp buzzkill.

MILE 2: Took a pit stop at the port-a-potties for the first time during the race. I wanted to get more out of my system as early as possible, so I wouldn’t break my stride too deep into the race. Smart idea. The lines were not long (they were longer at other stopping points), and again, it was early enough so not many people used those port-a-potties in the first place. Relatively clean and not smelly. HOORAH!

A shot of me waving to Katie and Jay at mile 6! THANKS FOR CHEERING!
A shot of me waving to Katie and Jay at mile 6! THANKS FOR CHEERING!

MILE 5-6: Feeling a little tired and stomach is empty. Losing energy. Took some Honeystingers Organic Energy Chews to boost up the energy. Also passed by my co-worker, Katie and her husband, Jay, who came out to cheer for us! More energy boosting. THANKS KATIE AND JAY!

MILE 7-8: Knowing I still had halfway to go was rough. During the race all I did was play games with myself. “Pass up one person, you can do it! Run more step because you can. Okay, another one. Another one. There’s another person. Pass them up!” I also read the signs that people were waving about, listening to people cheer, looking at all the dogs spectators brought with them, and just pondering about life. I had good moments and bad moments during the run. Moments where I was coasting and feeling good and then moments where I was irritable and grumpy because there was still X amount of miles to go.

ALMOST TO THE END (Mile 10 and beyond): This was rough. Incredibly rough. The hardest part of my race by far. I took another few Honeystingers Organic Energy Chews for more boosts of energy. I felt so close but so far away, and my legs were at this point trying to give out on me. I really wanted to give up. I wanted to just call it a day and walk it home. But Joseph wouldn’t let me. He knew I had more in me and encouraged me to “push past the wall.” And he also kept weaving in and out of people, and I had to catch up. I think that was his way of going, “I KNOW YOU CAN STILL RUN, SO STOP SLOWING DOWN!” I also thought about my friends at the end of the race. I had to at least still be running when I got to them! I couldn’t just have them come all the way out to see me just walk the end of the race! And I knew that deep down, if I gave up, I would be so disappointed with myself. I knew that I wanted to be able say, “I ran the half-marathon. All of it. I did it.” So I kept running. And I kept playing my game, “Pass this person up. Now this person.” And this is when I really took stock of the signs around me. “BRING IT HOME! YOU CAN DO IT! KEEP GOING!” And I used those as mantras to fuel me to the end. That very last mile though… I thought it was almost over. Pain was shooting through my leg muscles, my hands felt weird/tingly (hot? cold? they were confused), I started getting this raging headache… I think I cried out in pain and frustration a few times while running that last mile. Geeze, thinking about it again makes me cringe in pain.

This was the only picture I was capable of taking right after the half. This was after 50 feet of Joseph half-carrying me after the finish line when I realized, "Oh let's take a picture!"
This was the only picture I was capable of taking right after the half. This was after 50 feet of Joseph half-carrying me after the finish line when I realized, “Oh let’s take a picture!”

THE END: Seeing that finish line and the crowds of people surging with their cheers… was breathtaking. I tried to smile at my friends as I ran by… I think it looked more like a scary pained grimace. But finally crossing that finish line and knowing that I DID IT was… an indescribable feeling. I felt proud, empowered, exhausted, relieved, all these emotions rolled up together in one tiny brain. I looked to my left and grabbed Joseph’s hands, both in part because I was happy he was with me but also because I actually couldn’t stand up anymore. Romantic, huh? I think my brain couldn’t handle those emotions so it ended up going with the, “Let’s make Jennifer feel lightheaded and woozy and not capable of walking” reaction. My legs were as wobbly as Jell-O, and I needed Joseph to help me walk back to GRB.

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My amazing friends who waiting for me at the finish line! Appreciative of the support I always have!

REUNION: It was so great being done! Legs and feet were definitely in pain, and I wobbled and hobbled around to grab my belongings and meet up with my friends, Krysten, Karmina, Jessica, Angela, and David at the reunion. I felt so thankful that they were there to cheer me on and support my race! I wish I could have seen everyone else I knew that was running the race, but there were so many people the chances of finding people by chance were slim.

My tips to others (and myself) if I were do another half-marathon:

  • Train consistently. Really try and stick with a training program and don’t YOLO it the way I did during some weeks.
  • Run with someone. Friends, significant other, find a stranger in the race and befriend them. It’s nice to have someone with you during the race.
  • Eat more. I think I didn’t eat enough prior to my race. I had a small helping of potatoes and eggs and a Honeystinger organic waffle at 4:30AM, but I think I should have eaten something small a little closer to 6AM. Maybe another Honeystinger organic waffle?
  • Stay hydrated! One of my biggest weaknesses/flaws in life is not hydrating enough. I definitely did NOT drink enough water the weeks leading up to my race, but on race day as well. Joseph always tells me I never drink enough. I’m just bad about it! I also hate having to go the restroom all the time.
  • DON’T FREAK OUT. I’m a person who freaks out a lot by nature, so I don’t know if I’ll ever not freak out. But I can at least try and be calm and just let it happen.

The Chevron Marathon/Aramco Half Marathon is such an amazing race. The environment is great; the crowds are so positive; it really is one of the best races to run in Houston. It was the perfect race to run my first half marathon in! I feel really proud of myself. I’ve grown a lot in the past year, and I’ve accomplished goals i never thought were possible. Was the training and the pain worth it? Yes. I think so.

I DID IT. Rocking my half marathon finisher medal and shirt. I AM OFFICIALLY A HALF-MARATHONER!
I DID IT. Rocking my half marathon finisher medal and shirt. I AM OFFICIALLY A HALF-MARATHONER!

And, in a strange race-induced haze or something of the sort, Joseph signed up for the Chevron marathon next year, and I signed up for the Aramco half marathon once again. Do I want to do this? I don’t know. I really think that some part of me is a masochist, and I think I like torturing myself. UGH. But will I do it? Yes. I will. Is there a full marathon in my future? That… I don’t know. 13.1 miles was close to impossible for me… 26.2 miles? I can’t even begin to imagine that. But I said that about a half marathon a year ago… who knows.

I also still have another half marathon to run in exactly a month! Joseph and I signed up to do the Glass Slipper Challenge at Walt Disney World this February 2015. Saturday will be the Enchanted 10K race and then Sunday will be the Disney Princess Half Marathon. Back-to-back races. Am I excited about the run itself? Meh… slightly terrified again. Am I excited about Disney World and all the characters at the mile stopping points? UM HECK YES. THIS IS THE RUN FOR ME. THE HAPPIEST RUN ON EARTH AT THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH! Stay tuned, we’ll writing recap blog posts for that. And maybe even a video because we’ll be GoPro-ing that race!

Thanks for staying with me this entire post. AND JUST KEEP RUNNING! Who is going to run the Aramco Half with me next year!!!

-Jennifer