Sunday, March 15, 2009

Trail Challenge at the Seabrook Marathon

At the start line of the marathon. Gavin is snuggled up in my Rocky Raccoon sweatshirt

I seem to like doing things in threes. First there was the "Texas Trilogy" series of ultra races, and then the "Texas Marathon Triple", which comprised the Texas marathon on New Year's day, the Surfside beach marathon on Valentines day and the Seabrook lucky trails marathon this morning. While signing up for Seabrook I noticed they had something called the "trail challenge". Basically, if you ran the half marathon on the Saturday and the full marathon on the Sunday you would get 3 medals. I love a challenge, so of course I signed up.

Friday afternoon, Nancy, Gavin and myself made the drive down to the coast. I don't know what the weather was like in Austin, but it was pouring with rain when we hit Houston and continued to rain for the rest of the weekend. We stopped at Clearlake to pick up my packet - it had one of the best technical running shirts I've ever gotten (a Brooks), a nice pair of running socks, and a hat. Top marks for the goody bag.

I'll be honest, I'm feeling pretty burned out on races at the moment. This was my last racing weekend for a long while, and I really wasn't looking forward to it. Nevertheless I left Nancy and Gavin asleep in the lovely warm hotel room and drove down to the freezing cold race site early Saturday to run the half marathon. At least the rain had stopped.

I've been hitting the running really hard since last summer, peaked for the Rocky Raccoon 100 miler a month ago and kept on going. But I've been feeling tired over the last few weeks, and my running has not been good. It continued in a similar vein for the half. The half marathon was two loops around the trails. I did ok, and finished in 1:47:05 (8:10 pace) but I never got a rhythm going and never found the extra gear I usually have - a month ago I would have hammered this race and knocked 30 seconds to a minute a mile off that time. Sure, the trails were heavy from all the rain, but still. It didn't bode well for the marathon.

But I was done and dusted by 9:30am which left the rest of the day for playing. I drove back to the hotel, took a quick shower and then we set off to explore. Unfortunately it soon started raining, and it didn't stop until the next morning but we didn't let this spoil our fun. In fact we thoroughly enjoyed Seabrook and Kemah and had a great time. Here are some pictures of the fun we had.
Visiting with "Bruce" the shark and the Seabrook pelican. The kind gentleman at the Seabrook visitor's center came out and offered to take the latter picture for us, then invited us in. We got to pet his dog "Dinghy" while he told us stories of old Seabrook, and what happened to the town during Hurricane Ike.

Gavin and Nancy "in jail""Shooting ships" in the marina

Riding the rails at the Kemah boardwalk

We visited Galveston in the afternoon. It's 43F, freezing cold rain is hammering down and Gavin wanted to go in the sea. And he wanted daddy to go in with him. Did I ever mention I love the sea? We were in before you could say "crazy". Gavin wanted to swim, but we had to draw the line somewhere. It was actually colder once we got out. We put the heater on in the car, had some deli sandwiches and watched the rain and the waves.

On a more serious note, evidence of Hurricane Ike was everywhere. Many of our favorite places were damaged or completely gone, and the State park had shut down. On the plus side, Gaido's seafood restaurant survived, along with the most fun mini golf course we've ever played.

We drove back to Seabrook in torrential rain and found a great little Italian place for supper. While we waited for our meal, they brought Gavin a piece of pizza dough to play with. We had a great time shaping it and playing, and the food was excellent. I just wish I'd had room for dessert.

The rain finally stopped sometime during the night, and when I ventured outside in the morning it was nowhere near as cold as it had been on the Saturday. I only hoped that the trails would hold up after all the rain.

The marathon got underway and I decided to take it easy and see how things went. I didn't carry any water bottles with me and decided to treat it as a fun run. I still didn't feel great at the start, but the further I went the better I felt. The course was 4 loops around the trails, and by the second loop I was cruising. I began to enjoy the different sections, especially the part that took you out along Galveston bay. The volunteers were all super enthusiastic and a lot of folks were decked out for St. Paddy's day. Your name was printed in big letters on the bib, so all the spectators cheered you on by name. I amused myself reading off other runner's names as they came toward me so I could do the same. I was having a blast and it was turning into a fun race.

By the final loop I was firmly back in the groove and realized I could take it easy and still snag a sub-4 hour marathon. At mile 24 I decided to kick for home, and started reeling people in. This is the bit of the marathon I love - if you manage your race correctly, this is where you will reap the benefit and start going past people like they're standing still. Just before mile 26 I passed a bunch of runners (including the girl who was about to win the women's race) and sprinted into the finish line in 3:48:44 (8:44 pace). Not my best time, but who cares.

I got 3 medals for my efforts - one on Saturday for the half, one for the full and another for completing the "trail challenge". And these are really nice unique medals and each different - two of them have a rotating piece in the middle that you can spin (Gavin is playing with them as I write). I also got a fantastic puma jacket and hat for completing the Texas Marathon Triple.
Me with the Texas Triple jacket and hat

Random Bits and Pieces
I've said it before, but you just can't beat these small town races - so personal, great quirky humor and just fun. This was a gem of a race that I would do again in a heartbeat. It was really an enjoyable weekend that just happened to include some running - I didn't spend days beforehand hydrating or carb loading, and I certainly didn't rest up between races. I didn't push myself and just ran it for fun - I wasn't even that bothered about my time. It was a good reminder of why I enjoy running.

I'm wondering if I've just gotten out of the habit of running shorter races. In all honesty, the marathon was easier than the half (and much easier than the legs I ran in the Independence relay).

I met a number of really nice folks who recognized me from other races and introduced themselves. I was in a very chatty mood and spent a good part of the marathon jabbering away to other runners.

The post-race food was good - grilled chicken, hot dogs and hamburgers along with rice and beans. They also had free massage.

A special mention for Steve Boone (race director of the Texas Marathon). He ran the marathon and every time I saw him out on the course he had a smile on his face and was full of encouragement. They had posted trivia questions along the trail, with the answers posted a little further on. One of the questions was what had Steve Boone achieved during the 2009 Houston marathon. The answer was he'd completed 400 marathons. That's just mind boggling.

And finally, I knew it was going to be a good day when I got an early St Paddy's day kiss from a pretty girl I'd never met before. Nancy - if you're reading this, it wasn't all that great. Honest :-)

1 comment:

clea said...

Congrats. Great report. I'll keep you posted, but it sounds like a long trail run is brewing for the weekend. Hopefully you can join us.