Tuesday, February 02, 2016

USA Fit Marathon Review

January 31, 2016

USA Fit Marathon Review

This is a nice-size marathon, not too big and not too small, in the city of Sugar Land, TX, a suburb of Houston.  USA Fit has a training program to help people get fit for a marathon.  Then they hold the marathon, with a time limit of 8 hours, and the half marathon is equally generous.  I didn't take advantage of the training program, of course, but we wanted to come to Sugar Land and support their efforts.

This is a flat marathon - the only hills are bridges, and none of those are very high.  It would be a good Boston qualifier if I were trying to qualify, which I am most definitely not.

I finished second in my age group of men 70-79, with a time of 6:21:37, the best time of my last four marathons.  I'm happy with that.  This was marathon number 92 since my myeloma diagnosis - eight more to 100.  The girls did fine too.

We do have five more marathons scheduled for this spring, but we can't be sure that we will run them all because my myeloma treatment regimen is rather undecided.  I'm on a study of new drugs at present, but we have no idea whether it is working.  I sure hope it is, because it's the easiest regimen I have ever taken, with no detectable side effects of any kind.  We will find out more with a PET scan on Wednesday, February 3.

My Race:

I took the early start, which began at 4:30 am!  The regular start began two hours later and allowed only six hours to finish - I can't count on making that right now.  Indeed I mostly walked this race, at an average pace of 14:33 minutes/mile, which means that I probably walked at about 13:30 or so because I stopped three or four times for nature breaks and took several minutes off for two little photo/video shoots (for https://www.facebook.com/ERACECANCER).

Because of the darkness we early starters were sent down a sidewalk trail alongside the main road to avoid risk from vehicles that shared the same road, and I never saw a mile marker until Mile 7, nearly two hours into the race.  Happily, though, I ran/walked much of that way with a man who had a Garmin watch that told us the pace, so I knew that I was going fast enough.

That guy had a bad knee that was scheduled for knee replacement in March, but was doing this marathon anyway, and another in a few weeks.  He was in pain, but explained, "I'm going to get all of the mileage out of the old knee that I can."  He said that a new knee is good for just a certain number of steps - I've forgotten how many.  It was a lot, many millions, but not infinite, especially for a very active guy like him.  One marathon takes about 22,000 steps on each foot for a person with a three-foot pace (like me), more when walking because steps are shorter.  Training for a marathon takes far more steps than does the marathon itself, of course.

We got up at 2:30 am for the 4:30 start, but I didn't mind at all because it meant that I could finish before 11:00 am, while the temperature was still in the low 70's.  It reached 80 later in the day, nearly a record, and I was very happy to be on the way to the airport by then.

Whining: Several weeks ago I stubbed my left little toe, going to the bathroom in the dark.  Most accidents happen at home, don't they?  The toe was black and blue, and the foot swelled somewhat.  I wore a wool sock on it in bed at night, to promote healing, and it gradually improved.  Although the toe isn't quite well yet, I never thought about it during the race, not even once.  I did feel a little muscle ache in my back in the last six miles, and soreness in the bottoms of my feet, but those little pains are normal for my marathons and go away quickly afterward.

The USA Fit Marathon:

I would do this one again.  Race packets could be picked up at several different locations.  The race is well organized, flat, and reasonably safe.  The start and finish are in the same place, and there is plenty of parking.  Although race-bag checking was offered, there is little need when your car is right there.  Volunteers were wonderful, of course, and the early start is a big plus.  The medal is spectacular.

Nearly all of the race is along a parkway, two lanes on each side of a wide grass median, with one lane on each side coned off for runners and with vehicle traffic in the other lane on each side.  I never feel comfortable with only cones between myself and the cars that are on the same 40-mph road, but in this case it did help that the cars were facing us rather than coming from behind.  Somehow I would rather be hit by a car that I can see coming :-)

On parkways like this I have seen the traffic organized differently for some marathons, with runners going both directions in the two lanes on one side of the median and vehicles going both directions on the other.  Honolulu does this, for example.  It's definitely safer for runners - but I don't know about traffic management issues for the vehicles - drivers would have to be clearly apprised of the change in traffic, with barricades at every intersection.

Other suggestions:

  1. Race shirts were handed out at the finish, but were a little hard to find and easy to forget.  At the end of a marathon it's hard to think about anything but getting cold water and getting home. Happily my sweeties had come in a few minutes before me, so they reminded me and showed me where the shirts were located; and 
  2. Age groups were 10-year intervals, and this race seems large enough to support 5-year intervals.  It matters.
Two cute things we hadn't seen before:
  1. Little lights to be attached shoes of the early starters (it was DARK at 4:30 of course); and 
  2. Special flags to be flown from the driver's window for people who had paid $10 extra for VIP parking, as we had.
 Again, we liked this race!

Mile splits:  1:44:38 (7 miles & nature breaks), 13:48, 15:07 (photo shoot), 13:56, 28:32 (2 mi), 13:37, 13:59, 14:05, 14:00, 14:27, 14:11, 15:13, 16:23 (photo shoot), 14:31, 14:01, 14:32, 14:00, 14:38, 14:35, 3:23, total 6:21:37.

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