Last weekend I ran the Houston Rodeo Run 10k for the first time. It was my least favorite of the three 10k races I have run to date, but it was still a fun experience.
My day began at 6 with cereal, almond milk, bananas, toast, avocado, and a banana. Normally I would have had an egg too, but we were out. This was only 500 calories or so, but it left me very full (in concert with all the water I was drinking!) and, besides, my energy for the race should have been coming from my meals of the previous 48 hours.
At 7 I drove downtown and parked at the office. The race wouldn’t start until 9:35 but hundreds of thousands of spectators were expected to take up all the parking pretty early and many of the major roads would be closed for the race route. I made it in before the road closures and was sitting comfortably in my office (conveniently located one block from the starting line) with easy access to water and clean bathrooms by 7:15.
I continued to hydrate, got some work done, and ran over my race strategy one final time: a 4:40/km “base pace,” slightly faster (4:35) for kms with net downhill slopes and slightly slower (4:45) for kms with net uphill slopes. I also intended to start with a strong anaerobic start (4:35), then use the middle 8 km for aerobic recuperation, and finally exhaust my anaerobic capacity at the end for a fast (4:26) final km. This strategy would have me finishing in 46:21 (25s behind my PR) with a 23:20 first 5k and a 23:16 second 5k.
At 9 I went down to the starting area, dropped off my warmup clothes and mobile phone (which would be waiting for me at the finish) and lined up near the sign that said 7:00/mile pace. As we moved closer to start time, many people who clearly weren’t going to run sub-7 miles lined up in front of me so I scooched forward a bit, close to the 6:00 sign. The temperature was in the low 60s F – a bit warmer than ideal but not too bad, all things considered.
When the starting gun (air horn) finally went off at 9:35, I was appalled at how slowly things got moving. People in the very front were very slowly running forward and many were even walking – WTF? It took me 26s just to reach the starting line! And then, once I did, I had to juke and jive to pass dawdlers. So much for my plan for a strong start! I was anaerobic all right, but I was wasting too much energy dodging rather than hitting my pace.
Finally, after the first turn, I found an outside “lane” and was able to get down to business. The sudden feeling of freedom that came with emergence from the pack made my feet feel light and springy and I bounded forward. The race organizers did an excellent job organizing “hoopla” teams to line the early parts of the race and this also motivated a faster pace. By the end of the first km, I had more than caught up with my target (4:35) by running a 4:32 with an average heart rate of 161 BPM.
The second km had a modest incline so my target for it was 4:45. Apparently my springy pace kept me going forward quickly, though, because, before I knew it, I had finished this km in 4:15 with an average HR of 171. Whoa, easy there, tiger! I was now 33s ahead of my target so, if I could just run my race plan for the rest of the race, I would beat my PR.
The third km had a modest decline so I prepared to stride it out for a 4:35. The hoopla teams were gone now and there were just 20 or so runners in my vicinity so now it was time to focus and execute. I finished this km in 4:31 with an average HR of 172. I was now 37s ahead of my target and 12s ahead of my PR pace but my HR was good so there was no need to adjust / scale back.
The fourth km featured our first real incline up the Elysian viaduct on the way out of downtown. My goal time was 4:45 and I passed many runners who were struggling up the hill, ultimately finishing in 4:41 with an average HR of 174. I was now 41s ahead of my target and 16s ahead of my PR.
The fifth km was pretty flat so my goal time was 4:40. It turned out there was still some incline, though, and I slowed way down to finish in 4:48 with an average HR of 171. Having lost some ground, I was still 33s ahead of my target and 8s ahead of my PR. My HR had declined a little so hopefully that boded well for kms to come. According to my Garmin I finished the first 5k in 22:47. However, the official D Tag pad didn’t come until a little ways later (22:57) so possibly I hadn’t been running quite as fast as I thought.
The 6th km had some downhill again so I shot for 4:35 and exceeded it with 4:27 and an average HR of 174. The race course included a shower mist station, which I avoided like the plague. As I understand it, sweat can’t conduct heat away from your body very efficiently when your skin is already saturated with water. I was now back to 41s ahead of target and 16s ahead of my PR – but I was starting to feel it.
The 7th km was largely flat so the target was 4:40 again. Unfortunately I finished in 4:45, again with an average HR of 174. The 8th km featured another steep uphill as we hopped back on the viaduct. My target was 4:45 and I finished in an abysmal 4:53 with an average HR of 175. I felt like I was running my pace and, in fact, I was passing runners who had been with me the whole way. It turns out, though, that they were just slowing down even more than I was. So, at this point I was 28s ahead of my target and only 3s ahead of my PR.
The 9th km was another slow one, finishing 4:49 at an average heart rate of 174. I was now only 14s ahead of my target and a full 9s short of my PR. Fortunately it was to be smooth sailing until the end so, with a final push, I might still break 46:00 for only the second time ever.
My goal for the final km was to finish the first 700m on pace (in 3:16), then kick up a bit for 60s to bring me within sight of the finish line, and finally sprint the final 50m in 10s. Thus my goal time for the full km was 4:26. Long strides on the final downhill portion helped me hit 700m by 2:58 (HR 179) but it took me 65s to cover the next 250m (HR 184). When my Garmin told me I had 50m left it turned out I really had 100m left, which took me 19s to sprint (HR 187). Thus I finished my final km (although my Garmin thought it was 1.05km) in 4:22.
I dry heaved once then recovered with water, bananas, and Honey Milk – but there was no beer there–LAME! My final time was 46:03 – just missed breaking the 46-minute barrier! While I beat my target time by 18s, I felt let down after my strong start had me on PR-breaking pace for much of the race. I’m especially disappointed in my much slower second 5k. It appears, though, that I wasn’t the only one to slow down in the second half (where most of the topography was experienced):
According to my Garmin I ran the first 5k in 22:47 and the second 5k in 23:16. According to the official race chip measurement, though, my splits were much closer: 22:57 and 23:06 respectively. I finished the first 5k #293 but the second 5k, which I ran more slowly, I finished #243 – so it appears that others were experiencing an even greater slowdown. I was passed by 13 people during the second 5k but I passed 143 runners – not bad.
I finished the race #262 out of 5,689 runners (95th percentile), #221 of 2,800 men (92nd percentile), and #33 of 445 men aged 30-34 (93rd percentile).
1. I just don’t really like the Rodeo Run very much. It’s set up more for recreational runners, the course isn’t great, and the afterparty was kind of underwhelming.
2. I need to crowd the starting line since apparently people will disregard the line-up guidelines. I don’t want to be caught behind so many slower runners again.
I’m battling a cold right now so resting up and not training. I should be over it with plenty of time to get back into form for next weekend’s Bayou City Classic 10k.