Same Race, New Year – The 2016 Texas Marathon Race Recap

The Texas Marathon – January 1, 2016 – Kingwood, TX

Let’s just say 2015 was an interesting year.  It was loaded with good, but also had a lot of bad and some dark moments.  With this in mind, I was glad to shake the dust off of 2015 and get on with life…and what better way to do that than to do what I love most – running a marathon!

2016 was my third consecutive running of The Texas Marathon and I can think of few better ways to star the year (hence why I keep going back).  The race consists of a full and half marathon, with the field of 750 or so runners split fairly evenly across the two races.  The race is directed by Steve and Paula Boone, who are the founders of the 50 States Marathon Club.  The race takes on a family atmosphere as it draws many repeat runners from across the country including a strong showing from the Marathon Maniacs, Half Fanatics and of course the 50 States Marathon Club.  Fortunately for you, I used this race as part of my Team TROT Instagram Takeover, so I have lots of pictures!  Also fortunate for you is that I won the race…so I will drag you through all the details of an exciting contest!  I know you are pumped!  First, lets start with the race review though.

Race Review

The race is nothing more than fantastic.  Steve and Paula strive to make every runner welcome at this race and ensure they have a good time.  All the details are taken care of and the race goes off without a hitch every year.  The course is well marked.  The aid stations are well stocked, and there are plenty of volunteers manning road crossings and aid stations.  The course runs through the forrested recreational (paved) trails of Kingwood, a large suburb of Houston.  Most of it is in the woods and some portions run along lake Houston.  It is flat as a pancake.  The major draw of the race (besides the wonderful camaraderie) is the ridicuoulousy sized medal that is your reward for finishing.  It measures roughly 8″x8″ and weighs 3.3 lbs.  Steve and Paula firmly believe everything is bigger in Texas.  But the nice schwag is not simply limited to the medal…nope…you get a travel bag, shirt and hat as well!
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The giant medal is the prize – and a great addition to your collection!  Glad they went back to the Texas Shape this year…everything is bigger in Texas.

This race is for you if you love running for the sake of running, and love to talk with other runners.  The only knock on the race is that the trails can be crowded at times (given they are narrow and there are almost 750 runners on them), which can slow times a bit.  It is also a curvy course.  But, with that being said, if you are willing to live with a slightly slower time and just have some fun, you will want to run this race.
The post race festivities are nice because they take place in a neighborhood park.  There is ample pizza, soda and cookies to “aid” in your recovery.  This year was the year of the “squeezie frog” – so as you cross the finish line you are handed your dinner plate (medal) and a frog with your finishing place on it!  Call me campy – but I love these squeezy toys for some reason.
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The year of the squeezy frog.

So that’s the basics of the race – flat course, 4 out and backs on a concrete trail in the woods.  Fun times!  If you want to read about my race – the read on!
The Race – A Close Victory
I actually had 3 weeks between marathons to “taper” for this race.  I had done the Brazos Bend /BCS double back in December, and that beat me up a bit.  I spent most of the holidays doing lower mileage and slower running with some limited speed work mixed in.  I needed to recover.  In the week leading up to this race, I didn’t feel great, but the legs finally started feeling primed two days before the race.  At this point I knew I’d go for a sub-3 effort.
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Race kit included Altra Adams (shoes), Feetures Socks, Nathan Handheld and Julbo Dirt Sunglasses.

The weather for the day was darn near perfect.  It was in the 40’s at the start and was somewhat cloudy and cool.  While rain was forecast it looked like it was going to hold out.  With limited wind, the weather was perfect to lay down a fast time.  Since this was my 3rd running, I knew the course well, knew where aid stations would be, and how tight things could get given the comfy confines of the trail.  I also knew that when running fast on this course it was easy to miss water at the aid stations, so I chose to carry a bottle.
After the pre-race medal reveal, we went off right on time.  I went out at appropriate effort, and one guy shot past me running pretty fast.  Knowing most of the rest of the field, I knew I had a good chance at top 3 in this race, but I was thinking win all the way after a disappointing 3rd place effort in 2015 (after winning in 2014).  Not knowing the guy in front of me, I let him go and would see if he could hold on.  After a few miles of running, it became very clear that the dude was legit, as his pace was holding and he continued to gain.
At 3 miles in I was about a tenth behind (40 seconds).  By the completion of the 1st out and back, I was behind by over a minute (close to two tenths of a mile).  As I have learned, there is no need push this early in a race.  Despite being back, I kept my pace where I wanted it (6:40-6:45) and conserved energy.  I was going to run my own race and gun for sub 3 – regardless of what place this put me in.  The 2nd lap went much the same way.  I lost another 30 seconds on him by the 13.1 mark and was around a quarter of a mile back.  From experience, I knew I was still in this race and just kept on.  Loop 1 and Loop 2 had been amazingly consistent (43:25 and 43:33 respectively) and as I crossed the halfway point I decided it was time to make my move.  I kicked it up a gear and ran a few quick miles for the first few miles of the loop (6:20 pace) before I backed down to 6:45 or so.  This was enough to gain some ground.  At the completion of the 3rd loop, I had shaved 40 seconds from the lead and was less than a minute back.  As I started loop 4 I heard announcer Jon Walk say that I had gained and we were in for an exciting and close finish.  I didn’t know how true this would be.
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Looking strong on the last loop!

What happened next just seemed magical in my head (maybe it wasn’t at all, but it felt that way).  As I pushed hard in the last loop everyone running on the course was just pushing me and giving me words of encouragement.  More people said “go get him,” or “looking strong,” or “you got this!”  While some of these people were friends, most were total strangers.  I can only assume they were rooting for the underdog!  As I plowed through mile 20 and 21 the aid station volunteers and runners running toward me told me I was only 20 or 30 seconds back.  This got me going!  As I drew into Mile 22 I could see the leader!  I had caught him, he was slowing.  I was still running a consistent 6:45 pace and feeling strong!  Shortly after Mile 23 I was able to pass him.  I ran a few 7:00 miles and built a cushion.  However, by Mile 25 I was getting gassed and slowed down and started running an 8:15 pace.  As I looked over my shoulder at about 25.8, I saw the dude I passed!  He had caught back up!  At this point I dug deep and found a kick I didn’t think I had.  I ran a sub 6:00 pace from 25.8 through to the finish.  It was enough to notch the win in 2:55:28.  The race ended up being very close, as second place was just over 30 seconds back.  I congratulated him on his awesome effort and for keeping me honest in one of the closest races I had ever run.
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Done!  Frog #1!

I can’t thank the friends and fellow Maniacs enough!  Their words of encouragement pushed me through the final loop and helped me notch career win #6, and helped me start off 2016 in the best way possible.  I can tell this year is going to be wonderful…I’m ready to be epic!  So with that – let’s do the stats…
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After the race I found my date for February 14th!

Before the stats I want to thank the Team TROT sponsors.  Thanks to Altra for your wonderful Zero Drop shoes which keep my form in good shape and keep me running injury free.  Thank you Feetures Socks from keeping my feet warm, dry and blister free!  Thanks to Nathan for keeping me hydrated during the race.  And thanks to Julbo Eyeware for keeping the sun out of my eyes (at least on the drive home)!

The Stats

Career Marathon/Ultra #41 – 36th Marathon

Time – 2:55:28 – 3rd Fastest To Date

6th Career Marathon/Ultra Victory – Fastest Time in a Victory

3rd Time Running Race – Tied with The Chevron Houston Marathon and Cox Providence Rhode Races for most repeat races.

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