Not Running Around Houston

We all know (because I won’t stop fucking talking about it) that I went to Houston to run a marathon. That said, I only spent six hours of my time there running the race. What else happened in Houston, you ask? Well. We all know that what happens in Houston does not stay in Houston, so I am here to tell you about the great fun of a visit to my mom without my kids for several days. (Spoiler alert: It was awesome.)

I flew out on the Wednesday before the marathon because I wanted some time to get used to the climate and also because do you have any idea how many kids I have? Sometimes it’s nice to get away. (Just kidding, Alex!) I also, without going into too much detail, wanted to give my gastrointestinal system time to…let’s call it “normalize” prior to the race.

Check, check, and check!

I headed to the airport after work, where I was informed by the TSA that their little scanner had registered a “chest and groin anomaly,” which seems problematic, but could apparently be fixed by having every part of my body touched by a gloved TSA agent.

Then I went and ate a delicious hamburger for lunch at the terminal gate where I learned that my plane was being delayed because something about a cargo maintenance inspection and there was some placard that needed to be displayed and there was some confusion as to whether that placard was actually there and they needed to have someone drive over from another area airport to check on it. In my mind I was all, “I would be happy to give you a visual yay or nay on that placard,” but this was probably not what they needed. It turns out that my plane was one of four with this issue that day and at least two of the others had to cancel flights because of it, so I’m going to count myself lucky.

Then once we were on the plane and getting ready to taxi away, a flight attendant asked for two volunteers to go sit at the back of the plane just during takeoff for “weight and balance issues” and I immediately had some questions like, What happens if the weight and balance is off—like, is that a crashable offense? and Shouldn’t that cargo maintenance inspection placard have taken care of this issue? and lastly, Is this plane’s design so precarious that its ability to become airborne is dependent on the weight of two individuals and where they sit?

Why must there always be a problem, right? Anyway, I napped for a long time and then woke up to really pretty clouds, of which I took many photos, and all of which look exactly the goddamn same.

Photo of clouds and part of an airplane wing.

Also, none of my identical photos really capture how pretty it was, so altogether a worthwhile enterprise.

All in all, it was quite an eventful afternoon.

My mom and stepdad (Richard, remember?) picked me up, took me to dinner, then drove me to their home, which they had designed and had built themselves a year ago. Let me tell you, if you ever want to feel bad about your house, go visit someone who basically built their dream house. It is beautiful.

The next day we drove into Houston. My mom and Richard offered to drive me along the marathon route so I could get an idea of what it was like. I thought that was really nice of them because the only thing that sounds worse than running a marathon is driving the course in late afternoon traffic.

Incidentally, slowly driving a marathon route in a big city is a fantastic way to accumulate Pokemon.

Photo taken by me from the backseat of a car. I'm holding a paper with the race route on it. Richard is driving. My mom is in the front seat.

Additionally, it is a great way to see every part of the city!

I am actually really happy that they did this for me. We didn’t drive the entire route, but it was nice to know what was coming and how far I was when I got to certain landmarks in the race. It was more helpful that I realized it would be to know what was coming up. Also, I was able to truly, truly understand that the course was flat—like really flat.

Furthermore, we drove past this most awesome sculpture in the entire goddamn world.


This photo of Goode Company Barbeque is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Yes, that IS a giant fucking armadillo. It’s hard to see in the photo, but it also has steer horns. There’s a whole story behind said armadillo, but mostly it is just a tremendous sight to behold. It is really something. Weirdly, when I was running my race, I passed it without seeing it. I had actually considered stopping to take a selfie with it during the race because, well, c’mon, but somehow I ran past without seeing it. You wouldn’t think that is something you could miss when you’re traveling past at foot-speed but evidently it is.

We were all exhausted after our long drive so we pretty much went home after that.

Friday I had to run my last training run prior to my marathon. I was scheduled for 2 miles on Saturday but I didn’t want to run the day before the race so I went on Friday instead. I wore long tights even though it was hot to get an idea of how warm it was.

Me waving at the camera as I walk down a driveway.

My mom took photos of everything. It was adorable.

I discovered on this run that even though it wasn’t super hot, it was humid and that kinda sucked it all out of me. I decided then and there to not run with my Camelbak because I wanted to keep my back clear to be cooler. It ended up definitely being the right choice.

After that, I went to the backyard where Richard was busy with yard work, bird feeding, and pretending to chop my mom into tiny pieces.

Photo of Richard holding big clippers and my mom recoiling from him.

He isn’t, by the way, British, appearance to the contrary.

Richard was also cultivating some poison ivy under those gloves from his last gardening session, something that caused all kinds of distress for him and mostly resulted in my refusing to touch anything he had touched until after my marathon.

My mom and I went to see La La Land that afternoon. Guess who goes to the movies at 1 pm on a Friday? Lots of senior citizens. There was a preview of a movie with Morgan Freeman being rakishly adorable, which killed with that audience. There’s been a lot of hype about La La Land and I wanted to see it, but I was partly prepared to hate it. It was, however, completely charming.

The afternoon’s film led to a discussion of movie musicals wherein I learned that Richard loves the movie version of Les Miserables and my mom learned that I’d never seen the movie version of Les Miserables, something that Richard corrected that very evening. (No, you’re crying.)

The next day was Expo Day, which my mom kept referring to as, “Jean needs to check in.” I was all, “We call it packet pickup, Mom,” and rolled my eyes, but she kept calling it a check-in, so that’s what it was.

We went early in the day, which meant I was going to miss seeing Meb at noon. That’s probably for the best though because it is likely that I would have just stood in front of his little autograph signing table repeating “Meb Keflezighi, Meb Keflezighi” over and over because once I hear his name, I can’t stop saying it. I’m doing it right now.

The expo was fun. I picked up my packet checked in and then we did some wandering around the expo. I was mostly looking for some ostentatious gear that said HOUSTON MARATHON in big fluorescent letters, but they only had subtle, tasteful clothing. Very disappointing.

There was a shirt hanging on the wall that said “finisher” and had a map of the route on it and it was really fun and I wanted it but they didn’t have it on any of the racks, but the one on the wall was in my size so I climbed up and took it down with the intent to purchase it. I found a jacket to buy (“marathon” is in really tiny letters—why?) and my mom offered to buy the shirt for me. We went to different registers where I successfully purchased my jacket and the guy told my mom that the shirt wasn’t for sale because that is the shirt they give to finishers after they cross the finish line.

It looked really embarrassing. I pretended to not know her until we were away from the booth.

We took lots of photos at the expo. Let me explain.

Photo of me standing in front of a sign that says "Go run Houston."

Hey look! There is a backdrop of some sort! I should stand in front of it and have someone take my photo!

Photo of me standing in front of a sign that says "Go run Houston." My mom is taking a picture of me.

While that someone is taking a photo, someone else is taking a photo of her taking the photo.

Photo of my mom holding up her phone to take a photo. Richard is standing behind her taking a photo of her taking a photo.

Now I’ll take a photo of them taking photos.

Selfie of me, my mom, and Richard in front of the sign.

And finally, because no one is taking a photo of all three of us, Imma need a selfie.

We are super embarrassing to go anywhere with.

My nephew had a basketball game that afternoon, where he was similarly well documented.

Photo of a cute kiddo shooting a basketball.

Unfortunately, my phone camera is not so good at the zooming in, but you get the point.

We stopped by his house afterward where I met his rabbit and the rabbit GROWLED at me. I swear to God. I have never heard anything like it. I crouched in front of it where it was sitting on a chair and he was all “I DO NOT LIKE YOU GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH!” I didn’t even know rabbits could growl. Or hate. Sniff.

After this terrible rebuke, we headed back into the city to check in to our hotel. I had been all prepared for post-race hygiene by buying baby wipes to clean myself with and towels to sit on so as not to offend my family in the car after for the hour-long ride back to their house.

But at the front desk when we checked in, my mom was all, “Hey, can we have a late check out?” and magically we had a room until 3 pm the next day so I was able to shower before climbing into their car after the marathon. It may have been simple self-preservation on her part, but it was brilliant and I am very grateful for it.

I then forced my mom to walk with me to where my corral was going to be the next morning so I could time how long it took to walk there and then I had a question about procedure the next day that I’d already asked two people but wasn’t confident of the answer, so I made her walk with me back to the expo where I asked two more people until I felt sure I had the right answer.

(The runner info made it look like you had to go through the convention center in the morning to get through a checkpoint before you could go to your corral, but that seemed ridiculous so I wanted to make sure I could go straight to the corral and get through security there. It turns out that for corral E there wasn’t even a checkpoint at all.)

After our long walk, we went to dinner and then I went back to the hotel, showered, and was in bed by 8:15 for my 5 am wake up.

Then the next day I ran a marathon.

Afterward I showered and we drove home with a quick stop at the CVS for more poison ivy cream and a sweet gift for me.

Photo of me in a car holding a bear holding a flower.

Thanks, Richard! Love Bear lives on my office shelf now.

When we got back, I got into bed for a nap. I set my alarm for an hour and was pretty sure I didn’t fall asleep, but suddenly my alarm was going off so I set it for another half hour and was pretty sure I didn’t fall asleep for another half hour, but I’m thinking I probably did. And deeply.

My stepsister (Sara) and nephew (Elliot) had come over to spend the night. Evidently Elliot thought I was napping too long and should have been woken up to play Uno with them. Fortunately, calmer heads prevailed. I did wake up in time for dinner though. And did I mention my mom has a hot tub? If you’re going to run a marathon, you should totally get a hot tub. Highly recommended.

I wasn’t flying home the day after the marathon because when I made the reservations, my long run was, like, 12 miles and I had no idea how my body was going to react to being forced to run 26, so I gave myself a day to hang out before I flew.

We hung out with Sara and Elliot that morning until they had to go do things. Left on our own, my mom and I made the day an exploration day, even if most of the exploration was mine because my mom apparently has already driven around the area where she lives.

First we went on a walk to the marina in her neighborhood. (She lives on a lake.)

Photo of me and my mom at a marina in front of boats.

Hey look, Mom! It’s that boat you love in the background! (Private joke.)

We then drove a few miles away where there is a left turn and a right turn. The left turn goes to a small town that my mom and Richard go to a lot. The right turn had a sign that gives the name of another small town 17 miles away. We had gone out to dinner in the first small town a couple of nights before and when we passed that sign, my mom had told Richard that she wanted to check out the other town some time. (Foreshadowing.)

We turned left and my mom gave me a driving tour of the town—the grocery store, the post office, the restaurants, the museum that looked exactly like a regular house. Then we found something she’d never seen before.

Photo of a well with a bucket. There is a statue of a white goat standing next to it.

Yep. That’s a statue of the town goat. I love small towns.

Apparently that goat showed up in the town in the early 1900s and learned that if he hung out by the well long enough, people would give him water. Then he learned that if he hung out at the bar long enough, people would give him beer. It is unknown if or what the townspeople named him. Repeat: I love small towns.

After the excitement of discovering the statue, my mom was ready to go home but I insisted on fulfilling her dreams and demanded that she drive me 17 miles each direction to the other town. If one town had a town goat, God only knows what the other town would have.

Turns out it had a very run down main street and a guy sitting by his driveway who eyed us suspiciously as we drove by.

Photo of several store fronts in rough condition.

No statues in sight.

There were also two different signs that promised historical markers four miles away, but they were both lies and we never found anything historical. Frankly, I don’t know why my mom insisted we take that drive all the way out there.

All was not lost though because there was a fudge shop near my mom’s house that she’d never been to and, because I’d mentioned it on our way out, she was determined to stop there on our way back. Unfortunately, she didn’t remember that until after we had passed the turn, so she had to back up in the turn lane so we could get our candy. Because fudge.

Photo of my mom driving and eating fudge.

It was worth it.

Altogether, it was a completely worthwhile adventure.

But we were not done with our day, oh no. We still had to go get me my sopapillas and margaritas, which I had insisted upon as a condition of running a marathon. Happily, my mom and Richard knew a place where I could get both.

A close up of a margarita and some sopapillas.

I think the waiter was taken aback when he took our order and I said, “We’re going to need some sopapillas for the table immediately,” but he brought them and they were plentiful and delicious.

Because Houston was experiencing some sort of weird fucking heatwave, we ate on the patio. I had to take off my jacket because it was so warm. Fucking Houston.

Selfie of my mom, Richard, and me.

I’m wearing the finisher shirt I got after the race. I hear someone tried to buy one at the expo.

And that was it. We got up early the next day so I could go to the airport. I considered wearing my medal, but settled on wearing the race shirt.

Photo of me at the airport curb wearing a shirt that says Chevron Houston Marathon.

The shirt isn’t that exciting, but at least the word “marathon” is in big letters.

You’ll be happy to hear that my chest anomaly had gone away by this time, but sadly my groin anomaly remained. Seriously. What is that about? I did some looking into it online and it sounds like these scanners are all kinds of problematic for trans people, which is really unfortunate. I’m not sure what happened with me though, especially twice on the same trip when it’s never happened before. Maybe I’ll wear different pants next time I fly.

Anywho, I returned home safely where I was immediately assaulted by the day to day realities of public transportation, responsibility, and parenting teenagers.

Thanks for the adventure, Mom and Richard!

Photo of Richard and my mom.

Next time I’ll bring the munchkins too.

10 thoughts on “Not Running Around Houston

  1. OMG that picture of your mom and not-British Richard is the best thing ever. They make me smile.

  2. I have so many thoughts. Here they are in no specific order.

    1. Not-British Richard does a very good job of looking British
    2. Did you poke your chest in everyone’s faces on the way home hoping they’d ask you if you ran the marathon?
    3. How cute are you guys?
    3. That GO RUN sign is missing exclamation points. GO! RUN!
    4. Your house is amazing so your mom’s house must be AMAHZING.
    5. Seriously, you guys are adorable
    6. You talk about CVS a lot. Weirdo.

    • 1. Agreed
      2. Yes. It was awkward.
      3. SO cute
      4. It really, really is.
      5. Aw.
      6. At least I didn’t travel from another country to go to one.

  3. This is more than wonderful! Loved reliving your epic visit. Just yesterday I was wondering why you didn’t write about the goat or the armadillo. Of course. Your other post was about the MARATHON!

  4. My niece’s bunny was an ornery little sh*t who bit, scratched and growled at anyone who came near it! I did love the armadillo…

  5. Jean, I laugh out loud so much when I read your writing. thank you, I need to visit more often.

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