Sunday, January 18, 2009

2:51 Chevron Houston Marathon 2008

First off, I believe the organizers got what they had hoped for when the marathon records were broken today. Merga ,who finished fourth in Beijing, tore it up. Unfortunately since I was racing I was unable see any of the top performances. Oh well, I was in for more than I could handle in my own race. Where to start?

My brother, wife, and son arrived at George R. Brown around 5:15 a.m. which was perfect because there wasn't much of a crowd. I ran into Lance Collins, Steve Schroeder, and Brian King. Lance Collins was ribbing me about my brand spanking new shoes that I never wore on any of my runs. I think my shoes worked out great today. So I arrived and did my pre race routine and then turned my baggage in. Now I was ready to make a trip to the Port o potty. To tell you the truth I was in there for 30 minutes. Unfortunately I had some sort of diarrhea. This was unfortunate because it was now 6:40 and the marathon was starting soon. Now I worried about being hydrated for the big task at hand today. After I got out I did a warm up jog straight to the starting line with only a bottle of water. I just hoped for the best. I ended up directly at the front of the race with no problems at all. I chatted with Brett Riley, said hi to fellow Kenyan Way member Geoff Steit. I had a chance to take a good look at some of the elites, with the more notable being the Ethiopian, Merga.

My plan was pretty simple. Start off a little slower and then ease myself into race pace and go for negative splits for as long as I could. The absolute optimal goal I was targeting was 2:49 and the secondary goal was 2:55. Also, I planned to do this without killing myself, just medium effort.

The gun goes off and everybody takes off hard. I had to do my BEST to not take off too fast. I was barely moving with any effort and my Garmin was reading low 5 minute pace in the first part of the mile. So I forcefully moved to a crawl and looked down and the Garmin said 5:50. I slowed down even more and finally I was at 6:39. The first mile clicked off at 6:36. We made our way up the Elysian Viaduct and the second mile clicked off at 6:37. Right now I'm just jogging and holding back. Miles 3, 4, 5, and 6 were run through the Heights. Right now there were quite a few people in front of me and they were moving pretty good. I still kept a low profile and was jogging. Eventually I was edging closer and closer to 6:30. Mile 7 my brother gave me my first bottle of Gatorade along Allen Parkway and Montrose. Currently I was using 0%(figuratively speaking) effort. This was good because I would need all of the energy I could muster at the end of the race.

I ran through Montrose and I was having a lot of fun. Lots of people were cheering us on and I was making peace signs, waving, giving the thumbs up sign, just eating it all up. There were a few people I knew along Montrose cheering me on and providing me a lot of motivation. I did notice that I had a tendency to speed up a little bit after seeing my friends. As I ran through Montrose we started entering the Rice village and University area. It was at this time I ran behind a couple of interesting guys. One of the guys was being called "Bird Dog" by all of the spectators. The guy was like in his 40's and everyone was saying, "Wussup, Bird Dog", "Hey Bird Dog". The guy he was running with was a white guy who kept telling everyone he was running for TSU. Miles 7-11 I ran in the low 6:30's. At mile 12 I received my second bottle from my brother and carried it with me for a couple of miles.

Mile 12 was the first time I dipped below 6:30, 6:28. At this time I ran by "Bird Dog" and TSU runner, but they did make a good effort to stay on my tail for another mile. Mile 13 I dropped a 6:24 and lost them. Mile 14 I hit the big Westpark hill. It had 0 effect on my split though because I ended up doing a 6:25. Miles 15, 16, 17, 18 I ended up doing low 6:20's through the Galleria. By this time I caught 3 or 4 really good masters marathoners. Most of them just let me run by. One kept with me for about half a mile before he let me go. There was a 30 something-ish runner named Jose that ran with me for a while through Tanglewood but he let me go as well. Right about now everything was coming to me easily. I felt a little bit of tightness here and there but otherwise I was able to put up whatever pace I wanted.

Eventually we made the turn to Woodway which turns into Memorial. Here is where things were looking great before they started falling apart. Mile 19, I passed a couple more guys as I clicked off a 6:19. Mile 20 I ran another 6:19 and a 2:49 seemed like it was just a matter of choice. My brother also gave me my last bottle of Gatorade. Mile 21 I clicked off a 6:20 as I ran up slight elevations on Memorial. At mile 22 everything came crashing down. If I remember correctly, it started with a slight elevation. As I was going up hill I was planning to respond at the top with another strong surge to finish the mile strong. But there was nothing left to respond with. At that point in time reality set in and I was ready to settle for not worrying about pace and just try to survive the rest of the mile. I finished that mile with a 6:34.

Mile 23 was probably the worst mile of the race. Now instead of thinking about just surviving each mile, I was going through some physical and mental pain. The realization came to my mind that at this point in time I had no choice but overcome the pain I was going through. Pre race I told myself if things were getting too difficult I would back off and not suffer too much, finish the race feeling good. The reality was, I was out of fuel, and no matter what speed I would run at, I would be doing much damage these last 3 miles. So I grimaced and winced and just took the race a half mile at a time. You would think with only 3 miles left, you wouldn't feel any mental torture. You would always have "There's only 3 miles left" in your back pocket. But at that point in time 3 miles might as well have been 8. Thoughts went through my mind about whether or not I would finish the race. These thoughts were fleeting, because logically I realized I could finish, but the thoughts entered anyway.

Mile 24 I had a brief resurgence as I refueled with Gatorade and water. Now I believed the worst was behind me. I wasn't going to be able to do 6:20's or lower for the rest of the race, but I felt like I could still do low 6:30's and I finished that mile at 6:33. When my Garmin clicked off at mile 25 I was going through mental torture because 2 miles and change seemed sooooooo long. I grinded through it at 6:38. Now I had 1 mile and change left and even this seemed so long. Now here is where the real mystery started. For some reason as we entered downtown with all of the buildings, it said I was running at over 7 minutes per mile! I knew I was tired, but I was not running this slow! No way. So I sped up and ran as hard as I could but the mile clicked off at 7:15. I'm still not sure about this mile. Maybe I did run a 7:15, maybe I didn't. But it felt like I ran another 6:30 something. The last .60 was torture. Absolute mental torture. Each tenth of a mile seemed like a half mile long. .60 left, .50 left, .40 left, .30 left. As I was running down the last straight, a friend(I didn't see who it was), said Go Bill! Immediately I tried to pick it up and finish strong but my hamstring tightened up and I leaned back and grabbed it. Not a pretty sight. My friend probably thinks they caused me to pull my hamstring. So I slowed it down and decided to just jog it in. At this point in time I just told myself, if anyone passes me just let them go. An older guy passes me and I was going to let him go. But he didn't pass me convincingly enough. He hung around just in front of me to give me thoughts of passing him again. So I did a very mild kick at the end and I passed him. I looked back to see if he was coming again. If he had responded then I would have to make some tough choices. But he couldn't respond and I finished at 2:51 and change.

My legs were hurting and the realization was evident that I might not be running the Rockets 5k January 31st. I did damage those last 3 miles so I'll have to wait and see how my body recovers from this marathon. My brother asked me how I felt about running a 2:51. I told him I'm pretty happy, but I feel the same. I don't feel the same gratification and sense of accomplishment as when I ran my first marathon. The marathon felt like I put in my work, accomplished my goals, and that was that. Maybe in the coming days it will all sink in. We'll see.

Here are my splits:

  1. Mile 1: 6:36
  2. Mile 2: 6:37
  3. Mile 3: 6:36
  4. Mile 4: 6:35
  5. Mile 5: 6:33
  6. Mile 6: 6:33
  7. Mile 7: 6:32
  8. Mile 8: 6:31
  9. Mile 9: 6:30
  10. Mile 10: 6:30
  11. Mile 11: 6:32
  12. Mile 12: 6:28
  13. Mile 13: 6:24
  14. Mile 14: 6:24
  15. Mile 15: 6:25
  16. Mile 16: 6:23
  17. Mile 17: 6:21
  18. Mile 18: 6:24
  19. Mile 19: 6:19
  20. Mile 20: 6:19
  21. Mile 21: 6:21
  22. Mile 22: 6:34
  23. Mile 23: 6:41
  24. Mile 24: 6:33
  25. Mile 25: 6:38
  26. Mile 26: 7:15
  27. .22 Mile: 6:39

Splits on Marathon web site:

  1. 0 - 6.2 miles 6:38 pace
  2. 6.2 - 13.1 miles 6:31 pace
  3. 13.1 - 18.6 miles 6:22 pace
  4. 18.6 - 26.22 miles 6:37 pace


June said...

bill, i was just talking at dinner about that on race day anything can happen, good or bad.

the race does not define us, but we have to remember to look back at the process that got us to that point, and my friend, you DID EVERYTHING AND ANYTHING to do superb today and in my book, you did.

i said also at dinner, that "Bill is one guy who is the epitomy of a well oiled machine"...

That is where I feel the most respect for because I saw your 'process' over the past few months and THAT is what makes your marathon a HUGE SUCCESS....

it was great to see you out there!!

kayry said...

Hey Bill - that was me yelling at you at the end - I saw you try to surge then grab your leg - I was feeling for you - but at the same time I was super impressed with a 2:51 first marathon - incredible job out there!!!

Bill Blancett said...


Thanks for the words of inspiration. It's funny you mentioned the word machine. I've always told people I wanted to be like a machine. Just do the training regardless of the good or bad results.


That was you!? Wow, I wished I would have looked up and gave you a thumbs up and a smile. I was so mentally focused on finishing, that I was in my own zone and could only hear, not see anyone. Thanks for your support, buddy.



Steeeve said...

huge huge huge!

Gerardo said...

Smart first marathon. At least you were feeling good at mile 20. I started feeling crappy at mile 7. :-)

Bill Blancett said...


Hard to imagine you felt that way at mile 7 and still managed a 2:43. Mahta told me you were shooting for 2:39, your time was still impressive no doubt.


Gerardo said...

Yeah, I'm blaming it on the warm weather - some of us are required to wear singlets and easily overheat out there. ;-)

I pretty much tossed in the towel at around mile 16. I figured I could have "pushed" and ran 2:41, but I had already lost the sub 2:40 goal.

When someone finds a good marathon racing shoe, please let me know. Wilmer and I were both discussing it and we both wished we could find puddles of water to put the flames out down there!

Bill Blancett said...


Speaking of Wilmer, that guy is outstanding. He's really turning a lot of heads.

Pony and Petey said...

Way to go, Dude!! Really exciting reading = )