Thursday, March 14, 2019

Race Re-Cap: The Woodlands Half Marathon

On Saturday, March 2nd, 2019 I gathered my wits about me, rolled out of bed at 5 am, got dressed in my pre-picked running gear, and drove the 45 or so miles up to the Woodlands, TX to run the Woodlands Half Marathon. (Click on the photo/caption below to visit their website.)

This year, as a Woodlands Marathon Ambassador, I was privileged enough to see and hear more of what goes on behind the scenes to put on such a well run, amazing event. I felt so incredibly lucky to be chosen as an ambassador to a race that I've always considered to be a top of the line event. In fact, ever since I began running a few years ago, every single race I have run in the Woodlands went off without a hitch. The races have always been so organized, started on time, the food was always beyond delicious and everyone there was so kind and helpful.

Specifically for the Woodlands Marathon/Half/5k, I have run 2 half marathons (including this one) and a 5k. I wouldn't say no to a possible marathon there in the future, but since I just started running marathons this year, my time and schedule hasn't allowed for it.

With that said, if you're curious about my volunteer experience and race day adventure, read on (I'll keep things short and sweet). 😄


On Friday, March 1st (the day before race day), I signed up to volunteer at the Expo. I signed up as a "floater", meaning that I did anything that needed to be done, and I also picked up my own race packet. At one point I stood by the exit door to direct foot traffic, as well as next to the swag pickup table, asking people to have their bibs out and ready. After that and a light lunch (thank you taco guys!) I was asked to manage some of the newer volunteers. The volunteers were so nice, and they made end of the day trash duty actually somewhat enjoyable. I plan on volunteering again after this, because it made me realize how much goes into a race like this. In the future however, I'll try to volunteer two or more days before the race. I didn't  get to eat well that Friday due to being so busy, and after 4 hours of work and 8 hours of volunteer time I was pretty much lightheaded and dead by the time I got home. After I got home, which was about a 1 hour drive, I ate and quickly got into bed to get as much sleep as possible before race morning. 😵 

Race Day

As always, race days are early days. I was really happy to have my VIP badge since it made parking super easy by allowing me to park in the garage nearest the race. It was so hard to wake up that morning, and I stayed in bed longer than I should have because by the time I drove there and parked I headed right to the start line as the front runners were already taking off. I also couldn't make it all the way up to my correct corral, and had to start in the back instead. This was enough to make me not be late again, because with such a large crowd it was so hard to pass anyone. There were a few others like me too who were late, so I just followed them through the crowd, bobbing and weaving until I got a good pace going. 

With the cooler weather and slightly rainy drizzle it felt great out that morning, and my legs felt great for the first 10 miles. Around the time when I hit mile #11 my stomach started to hurt, and everything seemed to seize up. Let me preface this by saying I was rushing around so much that morning I didn't take the time to stop and think about having my usual breakfast (oatmeal or a cliff bar and juice), and I had been eating the intermittent GU gel here and there - something great for fueling but not so great as to replace an entire meal. At this point I had been successful run/walking for about a half mile, but it got to the point where I would start to run, take 5 steps, then have to walk, a situation that had me gritting my teeth and power walking the last two miles like an old lady with a cane around the mall on Sunday (see horrendous photo below, please). I finally made it to the finish line with runners trying to energize me and talk me into running (sorry guys, I would have if I could), made it across the timing mat, collected my medal, skipped the photo and shirt line since they were so long and my stomach wouldn't stop seizing up, and hightailed it to the VIP tent for food (the pure thought of sickened me at that point, but I was NOT about to miss out on all the good stuff 😀). 

Random thought: I hope for the next race that the t-shirt pickup is back at the expo. Waiting in line after a bad (or even good) race, all sweaty and feeling like crap doesn't really make one happy about collecting the rest of their stuff. 

Riiight about the point when I started to slow down. This run was a toughy but I learned from it.

Finish & VIP Tent

At this race I've never been happier (or more frustrated at myself-given the issues) to make it across this finish line. I was trying to get a sub 2, but with my walking disaster the last 3-ish miles I ended up with around a 2:20. 

I'm not even sure if I'm in the official results because there had been a mix up that gave me two different bib numbers. I searched through my emails, talked with the packet pickup people, made an educated guess, and just picked one. I was going to wear them both but that might have been an even bigger problem, lol! 

The VIP tent was a tented off structure located on an elevated ramp right next to the finish line, making it super convenient. The food here was the best post race food I have had by far as well, with different companies there catering, including Kirby's (those mashed potatoes...mmmmmm😍- I had 2nds- my stomach hated me but I didn't care, the potatoes the filet were too good to pass up). I got two bottles of Element Kombucha, a drink which, with its good flavors and low sugar count, has now become my favorite brand by far. I saw some really nice people I had volunteered with the day before but didn't stick around to talk to them, mostly because I wanted to lay down and die and was trying to act normal. All said and done I would definitely do the whole thing again (just with breakfast lol). 

An overview of the VIP tent. It was pretty crowded but I found a space to put my stuff and watch the runners come in.

Kirby's food mmm 💗💗💗

My view from the tent. It was perfect since it was misty out that day. 
My finisher's medal. I LOVE the sea monster on the front, how cool is that?! 😎

Ambassador Experience

Long story short, I loved being an ambassador for this race! We had a Facebook group where we communicated; everyone was so nice and I loved meeting some in person at the Expo as well. I love the running community so much and love meeting people I normally would not have the chance to meet.

I do wish there were more options, or even a mail option to pick up our ambassador jackets and t shirts. Meetups seemed to fall on a time when I was working (and once when I was legit out of town- so that's my issue) and there was NO way to make it to the Woodlands in rush hour traffic on I-45 by 6 pm. I don't live or work anywhere remotely near the Woodlands, and as much as I loved my experience it would have been great to be able to actually have and wear the gear for the race I helped represent -I know I wasn't the only one who couldn't pick up their stuff.

Maybe most lived in the area, but it would be good to have an alternative option. That being said, I still loved the experience. If I ever do it again I know I will need to take a half day off work to make one of the meetups.

Not my favorite photo - basically trying to look like I wasn't going to keel over. 😲🙅😷

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