Kind of a complicated day yesterday but a good one, a 5K race sandwiched inside a long run. I intended to run long Friday night but I thought it would put too much stress on my recovering legs after already running yesterday morning. So I ended up with a race and the need to get in a long run.
The race is a local charity event to raise money for the Women's Center. It is well-backed and it is for a good cause. I usually don't pay attention to these sorts of things, but this is an important cause and one that doesn't get enough support. These institutions hide battered women and their children, in addition to performing a host of other services. They do a good job and have always been well-funded in this community. I liked the atmosphere at the race, very positive but you could tell people were serious about this issue. I was happy to participate.
This is the first time I have run a 5K race, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I thought it would be good to get there early and do a few slow miles so as to be loosened up for the race. What I didn't want to do was re-injure my groin, especially since running fast got it injured in the first place. This turned out to be a pretty good strategy. I got there an hour and a half early and ran about 10K before the race, 6.22 miles, average pace 10:58 per mile, range 11:09 to 10:39, basically a steady pace. I felt ready to go.
Then I went to the start line. The race started in downtown Houston and headed west and back to the start line, basically an out and back with a loop in the middle. Weather was perfect, about 50F with a light breeze. I met up with some people from work (our firm was a contributor) and suggested a team strategy session, which suggestion was politely ignored. That's why they call them fun runs, nobody was interested in taking out the other law firms. That was the last I saw of any teammates. I lined up fairly close to the front. After the gun went off there was a little bit of jockeying around as people tried to find their pace. I wove in and out for a couple of hundred yards, accidentally elbowed and apologized to a woman who wasn't too happy (especially given the subject matter of this particular charity), then I was free to run my own speed. Lots of practice from Fort Worth last week and from driving an old sports car with a radar detector, but I digress.
Even though there were lots of runners, most of them were either good or purely recreational, then me running alone in the middle. I marveled that I had so much room to run in a short crowded race like this. After the first half-mile I passed very few people and even fewer passed me. I felt like I was pushing the pace a little but it wasn't too bad. I was afraid given my recent training adventures that the first mile would be low 9s, but it came in at 7:24 (171 bpm). This is by far the fastest I have run a mile since high school. Something paid off big time. The next mile was 7:44 (184 bpm) which I also thought was good. By then I figured I could make this happen. I was very tired and lactic acid was building up, plus the last mile was a little bit uphill, but I hit 8:03 (187 bpm) and then a 7:57 (188 bpm) pace for the stub split at the end. (My heart isn't supposed to beat that fast at my age, but it does and I am not complaining. It gives me more upside, I think.) Total time was 24:22, average pace 7:44. This is not a fast time by the standards on this blog, but it is faster than I thought I could run and I am happy with the result. I measured 3.15 miles on my Garmin -- admittedly not the most accurate measuring tool but I still think the course was a little long, and I won't get an official time or place for 2 weeks. That's what you get when the sponsor is 501(c)(3) -- nice people but not razor's edge in the organizational aspects.
They gave out age-group awards right after the race. I didn't see any old guys running fast, so there is a possibility I might have placed, but I didn't stay around. You can bet I am going to check the times of my co-workers as soon as I can.
I went back out and finished my long run as soon as I cooled off a little bit. By this time it was getting hot. I ran from downtown along the course route and then west to Memorial Park, which is the primary running location in Houston. That place was more crowded than the race. It was truly a great morning for running here. Altogether I did another 10.35 miles, average pace 10:25, progression from 11:25 down to 9:42 pace. I was pretty tired but felt a lot better once I sucked down a chocolate milk shake. I tell anybody who will listen that I run drug-free, but that isn't entirely true. Chocolate is a drug