Race week: US Half Marathon Championship @ Houston, TX

In the sport of distance running, one learns to mark their calendars by training cycles.  Awaiting at the culmination of each cycle is a goal race.  I’ll be marking the end of my latest training period this coming Saturday morning at the US Half Marathon Championships in Houston, Texas.  I’m excited about what I’ve been able to do training wise over the last 2-3 months and hopefully I’ll see the benefits of all that work this weekend.  Regardless of the results, I’m more fit than I was 2-3 months ago and, hopefully, I’ll be in a better place 2-3 months from now….it’s an ever evolving process!

One of the advantages to running in Houston this week is the chance to familiarize myself with the course, and city, for next year’s Olympic Trials.  The race organizers decided to run this year’s half marathon on the same course that will be used for the Olympic Trials next year, which is an 8-mile loop through downtown Houston.  Being familiar with the course, and the surrounding area, adds an element of comfortableness that will undoubtedly help me a year from now.

As for this year, the race is shaping up to be a fast one.  Everyone who goes to Houston, goes there for one reason: to run fast!  There are 70 elite-runners registered, 27 of which have already run an Olympic Trials qualifying time.  Those who don’t have a qualifying time will be looking to get theirs this weekend and can do so by running 65-minutes or faster.  Having a qualifying time already under my belt, gives me the freedom to take some risks and run the race a little differently than if I was trying to hit a specific time.

So what does this week look like for me?  The training load becomes considerably lighter and with it comes a little more ‘pop’ in my legs.  I completed my last “real” workout today and I am feeling good.  More days than not during January in Athens, the track covered with snow, but someone at OU was looking out for us runners and graciously cleared off the first 3 lanes of the track – a big THANK YOU goes out to that person.  A few easy runs, along with some shakeout striders are all that stand between me and this race now.

Lastly, comes an explanation of the picture.  In my lead-up to the marathon in the fall, I decided to let me hair grow out (the other picture) and then cut it in the days before the race.  More or less, to me it serves symbolically as a visual reminder of what I am working towards.  For this race, I have put forth my best effort at growing whatever it is you want to call that on my face.  A haircut and shave are in order for Wednesday when I officially put on my “game face!”

I’m looking forward to some much needed relief from the harsh winter cold that has a stranglehold on the Midwest!  60s are on tap for Houston this week.  Check back in later this week for one last pre-race post, where I’ll be sure to include all of the different ways you can follow the race and get results come Saturday.

Until then, Godspeed!

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