Friday, March 25, 2016

Run Houston! Minute Maid Park Race Report

I originally signed up for this race, because I wanted to work on my speed at shorter distances after the Aramco Houston ½ Marathon and I figured this would be a good race to check on my progress.  Unfortunately, my hip bothered me even more after the ½ marathon and I didn’t really get in the quality training I had hoped for.  I did get in about 5 weeks of decent, weekly tempo-runs.  But, I didn’t get to push my pace as much as I would have liked.  Because of this, I went into this 5K knowing that I might be able to beat my virtual 5K time of 29:59 (a 9:39 pace), but not really sure by how much…
The start!
The weather for race day was looking a little iffy throughout the week…this is something I’ve learned to not worry about until race day.  This is Houston…if the forecast looks one way on Monday, it is sure to change drastically by Friday.  At least 10 times.  First, it was going to be a gorgeous morning, then a chance of rain, then a larger chance of rain and then no rain. 

The actual race day weather?

Cloudy, cool and extremely windy.  Not too bad, but with the course going over a bridge with two inclines, the wind could be interesting!  And because it’s an out and back course, you get to do those inclines twice.  The inclines aren’t super steep or anything, but they are just a bit of a long, gradual climb.

I arrived early, so that I could warm up a bit before the race and meet up with my running peep, June.  I found parking quickly, probably because I didn’t go to the recommended parking lot…I’m familiar with the area and parked at the first lot I came to, which I knew would be close to both the start and finish.  I heard that there was quite a traffic jam getting into the recommended lot, so I was glad I parked where I did!  Once I was warmed up, I ran into a couple of friends and we headed to the start where I ran into another running/tri peep and finally, June.  Before we knew it, the anthem was being sung and the race was starting.

Me and June before the race

***My PSA for the day…if you are a new runner (we’ve all been there) and you’re not sure where to stand at the start, stand in the back.  Unless you’re super speedy, it’s best to start there.  I was somewhere in the middle of the pack before the race and had to weave around people who started out running, but slowed to a walk within about 1 minute of starting the race.  I’ve also been a run/walker…if you’re a run/walker, that’s cool…just please move to the right side of the road when it’s time for you to walk.  It’s common courtesy.  If you’re planning to walk the entire course, that’s cool, too.  But, for the love of God, please, please, please start at the very back!***

This course is definitely not one of my favorites.  The Elysian bridge is known for its ups and downs.  It used to be part of the Houston Marathon and ½ Marathon course, as well as the now defunct Race for the Pennant.  Unless you’re a runner who loves hills, you probably hate the Elysian bridge.  I hate it.  But, it’s a challenge and most runners do like a good challenge, right?  Besides, the downhills are fun!

As expected, the wind was brutal on the way out on the highest points of the bridge.  This is where I just dug in, leaned forward and tried to suck it up.  Honestly, while it sucked, the time seemed to go pretty fast.  Before I knew it, we were at the bottom of the 2nd incline and making a u-turn.  Back up the bridge we went…

On the way back, the wind was at our backs.  This was so much better!  I looked at my watch on one of the downhills and I was at a sub-8 minute pace.  For some of you reading this, that’s perfectly normal.  For me, that’s pretty dang fast!  It helped that I was 1) going downhill and 2) the wind was at my back!  My goal had been to finish in 29 minutes or less.  I finished in 28:45, with a 9:14 pace.  
That’s a PR for me, hilly/windy course and all!

The final time


The awesome bling!

The post-race festivities were great!  Since the race also offers a 10K option, those of us completing the 5K found that the post-race party wasn’t crowded at all. There were bagels and peanut butter, fruit, water and sodas.  And, Minute Maid park was open!  Runners were allowed to walk around the concourse area and even walk down into the seating area and take pictures near the dugout.

Minute Maid Park...the field up close!





I feel that Run Houston! Does a great job of coordinating these events.  I am also scheduled to run the remainder of their 5K/10K series, which I am really looking forward to!  And, I will be participating in Finish Strong Racing’s spring running program, so I am hoping for more 5K and 10K PRs!  

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