Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The luck of the Scottish

Sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes the moons and stars align and your ducks get in a row all on their own. This is what happened Saturday at the ConocoPhillips Rodeo Run. The weather was sunny, not a cloud in the sky. The crisp, cool air had a bit of a bite to it at 45 degrees. And something truly awesome happened. These are ideal running conditions if you ask me. Ask others? “Oh, that’s too cold!” Meh…to each his own.

race start in front of Hard Rock

I met up with a former co-worker and her husband at the starting line and we got ready for the historically terrible start to this race. Someone sang the national anthem, I think, and then the race started. I was lined up about 10 feet behind the 7:30/mile pacer sign, which was too fast for me but I knew people didn’t line up correctly for this race anyways. That’s what make the start of this race so consistently scary. You have little old ladies and kids lining up near the front of the group in the 5:30/mile pacer area not realizing how they’ll adversely effect each and every one of us behind them who actually want a decent time. In the past, I would run this race with friends and not worry about my time or the slow-pokies in front of me. This time was different; I wanted to get a legit race under my belt because it’s been too long since I’ve competed at anything.

photo from Brightroom

The gun shot was fired to signal the beginning of the race and we take off. Except not. Instead we slowly inch forward for about 2 minutes before finally crossing the starting line. I try to take off at my goal pace of sub-8:00 but can’t. I’m deterred by blockades of little old ladies and kids clearly running a 23:00/mile pace. It was absurd. You know me—I wanted to go-go-go! But I had to wait in frustration until little pockets of resistance finally gave way, providing me a winding route and giving me a keen resemblance to a pick-pocket thief dodging his way through the masses after his latest lifting. “Excuse me!” and “Left!” and “Right!” were met with many, many nasty faces. I saw so many bitter-beer faces, scolding me in disgust for asking them to get the hell out of my way, politely. It’s not like I was yelling “MOVE!” (even though I sooo wanted to)…Ludacris’ “Move *****” song would’ve been very appropriate theme music had this scene been in a movie.

photo from Brightroom

Around the 1-mile mark, the throngs of slower, this-is-my-one-race-of-the-year runners are gone and it’s just us serious runners left. (Wait, that’s it. I’m a serious runner. Someone sent me a piece the other day about ‘What type of runner are you?’ with 10 different types of runners you typically see in a race. I didn’t fall into any of the defined categories, but that’s because there was no serious runner type talked about.) I feel a little bad, because at this point I’ve inadvertently trampled maybe a half-dozen women and children in my quest to leap-frog the ‘competition’. I quickly get over it though and get into my run. I can zone-out now. I can enjoy my new playlist. I can admire the beautiful Houston scenery (ha). I can enjoy the run now, period.

photo from Brightroom

A positive to the Rodeo Run is their course. You start out in downtown’s Theater District and meander through the Energy Corridor until you head north into the Historic District and into the Heights, ending up over on the other side of Minute Maid Park. Once you leave downtown, you head out on to the Elysian Viaduct, which is a rickety bridge also used for the Chevron Houston Marathon/Aramco Half-Marathon to lead you into the Heights. The bridge leading out of town is mostly an uphill one, which can destroy your pace if you’re not conditioned for hills.

Me? I love hills. I don’t love running them, don’t get me wrong…but I love how they help me shave seconds off my finishing time. I always try to take full advantage of hill situations, especially Austin races like the Cap10k (check out picture 91 of 121 to see and my broseph running it last year!). Coming back in to downtown, you take the same bridge only this time it’s mostly downhill where you can pick up a lot of time if you’ve still got some gas in the tank. Luckily I’ve practiced with carb gels enough to know that I wanted to pop a Hammer Gel around mile 4.5 in order for it to kick in nicely for the last mile or so.

mmm... caffeine!

As for my hill approach, I don’t slow down going up the hill and I don’t slow down going down the hill. I make the most ridiculously long strides going down (which is, as Joe puts it: Ricky Bobby “fast”) and I make a strong effort to pump my legs (knees high) and a have a straight back when I’m going up. This cuts time off where others are struggling to keep pace. I always have my best 10k time in Austin because of all the hills and using this approach. But this past Saturday I finally beat my Austin race times! Yes, I PR’d like a crazy man beating my old PR by almost 2 minutes! Even with a terrible start and weak training mileage, I pulled some Scottish luck and finished with my head held so high I could taste the clouds (and they were heavenly)

photo from Brightroom

I’m still not entirely sure how I pulled it off, considering the amount of training mileage I actually put in leading up to the race (not much), but it may have something to do with my cross-training. I’ve spent a lot of gym time lately punishing my legs on lower-body days—my chiropractor can attest to this when she adjusts my lower back! I also have put in a lot of time on the stair master, so I think that may have helped as well. It looks like the hard work is paying off!

Alas, I think this was my final Rodeo Run. The first mile is just too dangerous and my heart is too big to trample anymore helpless old women and kids. And it’s not like it’s the only 10k race around…it’s just the only one with the most poorly organized starting area. So like Craig Biggio getting a double in his final game ever (btw he’s 5th all-time in two-baggers. yes, 5th all-time in over 100-years of baseball!), I’m going out on top with my best 10k time ever!

final race bib 
Stats for the 2010 ConocoPhillips Rodeo Run (because we all love stats, right?):
-46:30.29 chip time
-23:40 1st half
-22:49 2nd half
-7:28/mile pace
-73/479 in my division (top 15%)
-341/2819 all 10k men (top 12%)
-404/5529 overall 10k (top 7%)

I also want to congratulate Casey and Courtney on their 10k and 5k finishes, as well as Ashley and Jessica on their 10k finishes—great job you guys! My apologies for those of you I’m forgetting…

1 comment:

  1. I agree! The start was not what I imagined and I was too for the first mile having the same problem. I think if it weren't for that and trying to get my ipod to work for the 1st two miles, that I would have easily taken time off my final. But this too will be my last rodeo run! :-) Great stats and nice blog! Thanks for sharing!