Houston, My New Home Away From Home

from Marathons and Mechanisms

I arrive in Houston, Texas on Monday, January 4th and I will be here until February 10th, when I fly to LA to prepare for the Trials Marathon happening on Saturday the 13th. So, 5 weeks to go until the big dance and Pat Goodwin, Team USA Minnesota founder, Dennis, and some of our sponsors decided it was cruel to have us prepare in the cold Minnesota winter and instead relocated us to a warm climate. We chose Houston for a few reasons, including the temperature, but also because the amazing, fantastic, helpful, etc Houston Marathon Foundation offered to help us fund room, board, and more while we are here. The Armco Houston Half Marathon takes place here while we are training in town, so we will all be able to race in that without traveling too far to the race hotel. Additionally, Houston happens to be quite humid, and is a great alternative to altitude training.

Humidity, or relative humidity, is the amount of moisture in the air. When humidity is high, the volume of water in the air is closer to its maximum capacity. When we are running, our body temperature increases and we attempt to sweat to cool down. But, the evaporation rate of the sweat goes down, leaving us sticky with sweat and over heating. It is another method of stressing the body in order to force it to adapt. Then, when we head off to races, we can push harder and run faster (ideally) in humid conditions or just be extra efficient with racing in dryer conditions. So, as strange as it is to be running in my sports bra on January 7th, it is forcing me to work a little harder now in order to not work as hard in races to come. But let me just tell you how THANKFUL I am to have my GenUCan Hydrate electrolyte mix available in the 30 serving tub, because I sure need it after each outing.

I arrived in the afternoon on Monday and Biya, my teammate, and his cousin met me at my baggage claim and got me to the Modern B&B. This bed and breakfast is pretty great. It’s less like your mental picture of a B&B which is quiet, homey, and frilly, and is instead trendy and modern (go figure). There are three buildings, a main building with 4 floors and an additional building with three floors. There is a main kitchen where we are welcomed each morning by Roxanne, the talented chef, and a table full of brightly colored napkins, bowls of fresh fruit, a daily smoothie, and much much more. The buildings also have their own private, fully-equipped kitchens with fridge space, pots and pans, and cooking elements. Each of the room has a queen bed, its own bathroom, and good closet space. We have helpful house cleaners who come each day and tidy up the place and Lisa, the owner, is always around with a great story, helpful tip, organizing a game night, and more. I am so thankful to be so well taken care of here.

In addition to the great space she has created, Lisa also had a strong connection with the amazing running community here. She knows everyone and everyone knows her. I have talked to a dozens of new runners about how great this place is to run and I have heard about all the best places to go. Wednesday morning I needed to do a track workout, but didn’t have any idea of which track to access, where they were, and if I was going to have to trespass to get onto it. I talked to Lisa and her boyfriend and they were ON IT. they got me in contact with the head coach at Rice, I texted Becky Wade myself whom the Houston Marathon Foundation connected me with, Subbu (a local runner who knows Lisa that found all of us on Facebook) texted me 3 different tracks and multiple people who could answer my questions about access. It was so warming to know that people so genuinely wanted to help me out. I ended up at the Rice track in the downpour, but happy to be able to run on a track without the fear of being kicked off or yelled at (all of us track athletes know exactly what I mean).

Then, this Friday morning I got prescribed a 22 miler workout for Saturday including some paced sections. Ryan, my fantastic boyfriend whom arrived yesterday for almost a full week visit, is not in the position to be able to complete that workout with me, so we ran through some options. Lisa was at breakfast and before 9 am she had us a bike for Ryan to use to ride with me, a workout location with 50+ other runners prepping for the Houston Marathon, a workout partner for 18 of the miles, and a ride to and from the workout. I am so lucky to be in this place and I am grateful to get to be so involved in the community of runners here. The weekend before a big marathon is a really defining time. Everyone has been doing long runs on the weekends and this weekend they won’t be. They have been doing workouts and paced stuff, and this weekend they won’t. This is where the taper starts to really hit home and the magic of the marathon starts to soak in. I can’t wait to chat with some of these awesome people about the journey and adventure that lies ahead. Also, it takes a village to prepare for a marathon and I am so lucky to have Katy, another teammate, Ryan, and the help of all of these other runners to get me through this monster workout. The workout went well, with the busy traffic of the running path and the soft surface affecting our pace slightly, but in the end I felt really strong.

Sunday morning, Lisa invited Katy, Biya, and I to attend the BCRR group run which started at 630am from the same Memorial Parkway path. They have a tradition of running the last 6 miles of the marathon course (which included the last 2ish miles of the half marathon course) and back. Running nice and easy, we were able to meet more of the running team and talk a lot about the Houston Half and Full Marathons coming up this weekend. I am excited and nervous to race on Sunday. The weather will be beautiful, hopefully it won’t be too windy, and the temperatures will be moderate. I know it is going to be a tough effort, but I hope to tuck into the great elite field and let my legs and fitness carry me.

Hoover the resident cat at Modern B&B

In my first two days here, I embraced the down time. I read an 400 page book in three days, easily, and was able to do core, glute exercises, nap, and recovery consistently. I broke up my days with second runs, exploring the neighborhoods, and cooking. Anyone who knows me well knows I like to eat often, on a schedule. I am flexible, and was especially in California during the holidays because of all of the eating out, with family, big meals at weird times, etc. It is nice, though, to be back to my routine. I notice I sleep better and my energy levels are better when I am able to eat every 2-3 hours in the volumes I desire.

Well, this morning I woke up, had breakfast with Ryan, Lisa, and some others, and then wanted to wait to run. I had only a single run and I wanted to break the day apart with it. But by 10:20am I was bored to tears. I started a new book but I couldn’t focus and social media is boring at that time of day. Thankfully now Ryan is here, so we took a trek out to Starbucks together and we meet his aunt and uncle for dinner a few evenings this week to add some excitement to my life. I know that these five weeks are about recovering, resting, and preforming well in my workouts, so this boredom must be embraced. I thankfully have a huge GRE workbook, this blog, more books, and some teammates here to help break it apart. Plus, the surrounding area had a lot of cool little shops and restaurants meant for exploring. I am really looking forward to getting to know the area more. The Bike Barn of Houston graciously donated road bikes to all of us for transportation and exploring and we have every intention of making the most of them!

Ryan and I took a trip out to Galveston Bay Sunday afternoon and finished up at a tasty Mexican restaurant west of Rice University. We decided to take a walk from the car out around Hermann Park and through the University campus. It was 45-50 degrees with the wind and people were talking a lot about how cold it was. There was a chill in the air from the gusty wind, but man, if they only spend a bit of time in 0 degrees (the high in Minnesota that day), they would appreciate the balmy 50 here. I know I am thankful for the Houston Marathon Foundation and Team USA Minnesota for getting us to Houston and taking such good care of us here.

Biya being interviewed for the Houston Chronicle, The press and the mascots at the Chevron Houston Marathon media event

Today I am celebrating my 23rd birthday! Another year of running and another year of experience. I was so happy to start it with a surprise gift from Lisa, Biya, and Katy, some family cards, and media day with the Houston Marathon Foundation. We chatted with the local newspaper and two local news stations about why we were in town and about the race coming up this weekend. We even were entertained by the local sports teams mascots that are preparing to run relay legs in the marathon in FULL COSTUME for charity. And of course, I am so thankful to get to spend this special day with Ryan and I am looking forward to spending more birthdays with him in the future.

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