Tuesday, February 6, 2018

USA Fit Half-Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 12; 1st Edition 
13.1 miles run in 2018 races
Race: USA Fit Half-Marathon
Place: Sugar Land, TX
Miles from home: 152
Weather: 60 degrees; cloudy; 100% humidity

When the year started I was one day removed from securing my 13th straight year of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. I wanted to keep that going and not wait until the last minute like I did in 2017.  For a variety of reasons I needed to stay relatively local to race in January so I looked around at Texas races. On the same weekend there were three marathons in Texas: one in Waco, one in McAllen, and one in Sugar Land.  The last one enticed me the most because of the relatively flat nature of the course. However, I was wary of what the weather would be like as Sugar Land (two words, by the way) was a suburb of Houston, known for its heat and humidity. I have reached the point on my life that running marathons for squirts and giggles is for the most part gone. I want to run marathons to run as fast as I can. If the weather is going to stink, well, I don't really want to run that race.

As the time grew near to choose a race, Sugar Land looked pretty enticing. Mid 50s for temps with 50% humidity was the forecast when I signed up. As the days brought me closer to race time, it changed a little but not much. Then 72 hours before the race, a storm started brewing. The day before, it was roughly 60 degrees with an absolute saturation of water in the air. Bollocks. It was too late now. I had to hope for the best.

Race Morning:

I had gotten the VIP package for this race which allowed for special parking and a tent with private bathrooms and food. This was a treat indeed. The course itself was two laps of a fairly straightforward down and back on a boulevard leaving and coming back to University of Houston's campus in the town. However, as I sat in the car, my mind was a whirl. I had gone through the worst night of sleep before a race I have ever had. I am an absolute night person so race night is usually a folly of me trying to get into bed long before my body would even allow me to sleep.  But with a 5 a.m. wake up call I had myself in bed before 10 p.m. Then I think I got 90 minutes of sleep. There were a litany of reason why this happened (personal stuff was playing in y head for one) but without a doubt the weather was a big factor. It was a comfortable 60 degrees. There was a nice wind at times. But the humidity was 100%. How it can be that way and not raining is beyond me. I just had to race.


Here I break as while I was writing this recap my uncle, who is also my godfather, passed away. I stopped writing here, flew home the next day and spent time with my family. Coming back, I didn't have much in me to write this recap. 


What I can say about my own personal race is that I made the right decision. As mile after mile produced times which were slower than I was hoping, and I could feel the beginnings of chafing set in, I knew simply finishing the marathon was about the best I could hope for. As such, I just said forget it and by mile 8 had completely mailed it. I didn't even care to attempt to run a faster last five miles as I was not 100% certain I could drop to the half distance. Fortunately, as only about ten people had gone through at the time, and there was virtually no one around me, I finished the race, grabbed the timer and told him I was done for the day. They switched me over to the half with a time of 1:36. 

So, instead of knocking out my 161st marathon and notching my 14th straight year of Boston Qualifiers, I instead got my 101st half-marathon under my belt and my 88th slowest half-marathon ever. I am disappointed I had to make the choice I did but am happy indeed that I made it. It was the right decision and I am always pleased in racing when I choose correctly. The race was extremely well-run with excellent volunteers. The course is not nearly as flat as one might think, which is actually to you benefit. Some small rises here and there allow you to utilize the muscle groups all through your legs. Don't run this race if you need spectators though as the two loop course seems to be completely bereft of them.  I can say, however, if the weather had been less humid, I would have probably run very well here. So should you.

Forty-eight hours later, hearing my uncle had passed it was still a shock even if it was not a surprise. His liver had been failing rapidly since last summer for no reason other than sometimes the body does things that it has no reason to be doing. There had been s small window for me to even consider donating a partial part of my own, which passed before I could really fully decide.  given my Gilbert's Syndrome my liver itself is hardly a winner. Nevertheless, it was a rather devastating blow to my family and, as I learned, an unbelievably large amount of diverse people in small communities all over Pennsylvania.
My family is a rather stoic lot not often prone to showing emotion. However, when I, who have been growing the wispiest of beards lately for no other reason than I hadn't really shaved, was told how much I looked like my uncle (who had a beard the entire time I knew him) it was hard for me not to get a little choked up.

When I gave the eulogy at his funeral, I kept it short, not expounding upon how much my uncle had asked about my running over the years or how he helped me put on a race in 2006 when I needed a marathon to keep my 52 Marathon streak alive. It is also not lost on me, that the last race I ran while he was alive was in my Penn State Alumni singlet. My uncle was a Pitt alum and we kept the rivalry alive long after the two schools ended it.

He truly was a wonderful man.