Sunday, February 22, 2009

Park to Park 5 miler race recap

My main objectives going into the race were to get a top 5 finish and to average about a 5:18 pace per mile. Earlier in the week I had done a workout where I ran 2 x 1 mile at 5:18 pace. I wasn't physically spent or anything, but I had to do a lot work to maintain that pace. My legs either wanted to go a lot faster or a lot slower. That reared its head in the race on Saturday as I never felt comfortable with this pace. But overall I accomplished both objectives and I believe I did well overall. Let's start from the beginning.

The worst part of racing is actually getting up out of bed, getting everything ready and driving myself there. I still don't have downtown completely figured out yet but I'm getting better. I got there in good time, went to pick up my chip and I saw Gerardo Mora. He's a guy that I have been running races with since 2006 and he has some kind of streak where he has run 20 something HARRA races in a row. That takes a lot of durability. Anyway we exchanged pleasantries for a few minutes and went our separate ways. On the way back to the truck I ran into June, a fellow Kenyan Wayer and NY marathon finisher. She had her new kicks(shoes) the Adidas Boston shoes on, of which I also have pair. She was worried about them being appropriate for the 5 miler. I reassured her they would since I had run the marathon in them. She would end up PRing big time by 4 minutes in the race. I knew I was right about those shoes :) Well anyway I got back to the truck and began my 2 mile warm up and saw that Joe Flores, Chris Bittinger, and Vaughn Gibbs were also warming up. I ran by and said hello, while they were stretching out. I did my 2 mile warm up and then went to the start line. The race had  a little over 600 participants. When I spoke to June she said she was always surprised that this race didn't attract more runners. Even with that being the case a lot of the top runners come anyway. Sometimes I like a smaller race because it is easier to navigate to where you need to go. I kind of scoped out who was competing and here is who I saw in no particular order:

  • Luis Armenteros - local elite and definitely one of the top 5 runners in the city. Also a Kenyan Wayer and someone who I go to for good advice
  • John Hedengren - another local great, I believe he was a track contemporary to my brother. I also believe he was nationally ranked in high school
  • John Yoder - Strider buddy and team mate, also a 2:36 marathoner
  • Wilmer Bustillos - local masters star, 2:32 marathoner
  • Colin Carroll - fastest local time at the Houston Marathon 2:30
  • Tom King - fast masters runner
  • Tuan - another fast masters runner
  • Joe Flores - I believe 48 year old and able to still throw down 16:20 5ks?
  • Vaughn Gibbs - Sub 16 minute 5k runner
  • Chris Bittinger - fast master runner
  • Gerardo Mora - Highly decorated masters runner and one of my personal favorite guys. He loves to talk trash.
  • And some other fast guys who I don't know.

I lined up, listened to the Star Spangled Banner and after a few minutes the horn sounded and we were off. During the initial minutes I took my time to gather myself and settle in to my pace. The pace was supposed to be 5:20 so that is what I was running. During the initial minutes I was in a pack that included John Yoder and Tom King. The front pack were already distancing themselves by quite a bit from us. I really was not able to settle in to a rhythm. I just kept changing speeds. At first I would move ahead of our little pack, then I would realize I was going too fast so then I would slow down and John and Tom would run past me. It was a pretty choppy pace for me. I finished the first mile at 5:18.

By the second mile I had realized that there was no tail wind. The tail wind is what has given the course its reputation as a fast course. Not only was there not a tail wind but we were running into a headwind and you could clearly feel it. Early in the second mile into the race I caught up to Gerardo and another guy. They were moving pretty good, probably low 5:20s. The goal for the second mile was to put in a 5:20 mile. Because of the direct headwind it was really difficult to do this. I would end up speeding up, running too fast, then slowing myself down. When I would do this Gerardo and the other guy would let me go and then catch me and overtake me when I slowed down. We did this dance several times until we ended mile 2. My split ended up being 5:22.

At the beginning of the third mile when I saw that split I decided to pick up the pace. Headwind or no headwind I knew what I wanted to run and a 5:22 was not going to cut it. After I picked up the pace I found myself next to a high school runner. He was running pretty good. He didn't seem to be over exerting himself and had a good sense of pacing. I didn't run with him for long and after a few minutes I found myself about 50 meters behind Joe Flores and Wilmer Bustillos. They were still running pretty strong but I found myself still gaining on them. I really wasn't trying to gain on them as much as I was trying to settle in to 5:18 pace. This proved difficult to do with the headwind. I ended mile 3 at 5:19 pace.

By the start of mile 4 I knew that the wind was definitely playing a factor in my race so now instead of focusing on pre-race paces I now adjusted my plan to be less ambitious. Even with the abandoned plan I was still gaining on Wilmer and Joe. I finally caught them and ran with them for a little while. Directly in front of us, about 40 meters was Vaughn Gibbs. By now I realized that the important thing was to try to stay sub 5:20 for these last 2 miles. If I could do that then I would have a good chance against these 3 guys. The reason is there was still a lot of work to be done and if I could keep pushing and pushing the pace, these last 2 miles would be tough for anyone, me included. So I pushed. At times I would push too hard so I would have to slow down. Then Wilmer pulled up beside me. When he pulled up beside me I realized I was running too slow, over 5:20 so I put in a burst of speed. All during this time Vaughn was coming closer and closer. Eventually I was about 15 to 20 meters behind him and gaining. I ended mile 4 at 5:20 pace.

I was still gaining on Vaughn, but it wasn't necessarily because he was slowing down or falling apart. As a matter of fact I was a little surprised with how long it took for me to gain any ground. By the start of mile 5 I knew that it was now or never. I was going to run 1 mile as fast as I could. No slowing down. This didn't mean I was going to go all out in a blaze of glory. Rather it meant I was going to go as close to 5:10 pace for as long as I could go because this was the last mile. A quarter into the mile there was a left turn we were supposed to make. It was a drive way with an exit lane and an entrance lane. The cop at this drive way motioned for Vaughn to take the first entrance. Now Vaughn still had a gap on me and this probably could have made a difference in the race but he made a mistake. Instead of taking the first left he took the second left. I saw what he did and I took the cop's direction and took the first entrance. By the time we had converged on the course we were side by side! Uh oh, now the race is really on! We still probably had about .75 to go so this was going to be a case of intense tactics. Vaughn now moved very close to my left shoulder. We were almost touching. We were side by side. I relaxed and just started measuring the distance we had left. By now I was moving pretty good. I had hit my stride and for the first time in the race I was moving smoothly. To Vaughn's credit he ran stride by stride with me. We eventually could see the finish line. Nobody made a move. We both stayed pretty cool. We got closer, nothing. We got closer, nothing. About 150 meters from the finish Vaughn made a break and he went. So I went. It was close. We both kicked.

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I narrowly eeked by. The finish happened pretty quick. I had no idea what place I had gotten because the lead guys had already broken from my view before mile 1. Rather than wait around I did a 2 mile cool down and hoped that I got top 5. After doing the cool down the results were in.

  1. Luis Armenteros 25:46
  2. Colin Carroll       25:56
  3. John Hedengren 26:06
  4. Me                    26:51
  5. Vaughn Gibbs    26:52

One thing I ended up finding out was that in addition to it being adversely windy, the course was probably at least .07 too long. Quite a few Garmins seemed to agree as well. My Garmin read 5.07 miles and here are my splits:

  • Mile 1 5:18
  • Mile 2 5:22
  • Mile 3 5:19
  • Mile 4 5:20
  • Mile 5 5:14
  • .07 4:15

Race Average 5:18

I'm pretty happy with my result. Although I couldn't help but think I ran an inefficient race. At the end of the race I had a lot in the tank. Also I never got into a groove until the last mile of the race. The first 4 miles felt like a contrived pace. This is probably due to my lack of experience at 5 miles. All in all I'm happy with my results.


June said...

One of my most favorite things is seeing you out there and it was great to see you before and have the chance to talk. I have a LOT of respect for you and your ability to push when it counts. Guts I think some call it..something a lot of people dont have when it matters. I heard about the finish with Vaughn as it permeated throughout the people I know...

Like you I had something left and couldnt help but beat myself up a little...

GREAT job as usual!!

Bill Blancett said...


Thanks for the kind words. You definitely have made an impact on me. For instance I used to post sporadically, but with your kick in the pants I started posting more regularly. I'm also impressed with your racing strategies. I look at your splits and they are pretty similiar to mine, in that they are very evenly run with the last split the fastest often times. Anyway, keep kicking me in the pants when I need it and keep up the good running!


Anonymous said...


Excellent race and excellent report, albeit with one incorrect detail. Tuan is just another master runner.:-) Thomas King is a fast master runner. Now, that's correct.

I might have jinxed the race by hyping the good conditions (cool temp and northerly wind) we had the last 2 years to my running partner Ed Fry. But I also warned him about the crazy mile splits that we had last year when I established a bunch of 1-, 2-, and 3-mile "PRs" in the race. There are a couple of changes in this year's course as well. Last year the start was in front of Minute Maid Park. The new start at Discovery Green Park might explain the additional .05-.07 mile that some GPSs registered. Last year from the Science Museum, we went straight onto the trail whereas this year we turned right and stayed on the street until the Sam Houston statue. I think this minor course change is negligible and doesn't affect the total distance as much as the new starting line.

Anyway, congratulations on a great race in less than ideal conditions. It's not easy to maintain a steady pace running on an unfamiliar course and into a slight but persistent headwind. Great job on maintaining your focus, though.

See you at the park.


Bill Blancett said...


I consider you fast. It's like I say I say to everybody. Speed is relative and I definitely remember the time you went by me in a 5k a couple of years ago in Sugarland. I thought to myself, that guy can move for a masters runner.


Anonymous said...

Either you misremembered or are being respectful of old folks.
Or maybe you're just getting old.:-)

Thanks for the kind words.


geoff said...

Great run Bill. That was a great time and you're probably one of the few people in that ran consistent splits. I've noticed in some races that some of those guys tend to go out like bats out of hell and I always seem to get stuck in no man's land. I saw the results and I could have just about won my age group if I were doing this as a training run. The winner of my age group had something like a 6:34 pace. I turn 30 in May and it's going to get a lot tougher to get age group awards then.

Bill Blancett said...


Keep up the good work training for Boston. It definitely will pay off dividends on the shorter races.


Day Dreamer said...

Great run out there man. You're rockin' every race you get to.

Great job. Looking forward to racing with you again.

Bill Blancett said...


I'm looking forward to it too. Keep up the good training.