I came across this article cruising the Houston Fit discussion boards. Hope it's helpful for USA 10-miler noobies like me.
Tips for the United Space Alliance 10 Miler on October 15, 2006
By: Robert Key - Founder of Faithful Soles
As a resident of the Clear Lake City area since 1977, I have run all or part of this course more times than I can count in training (a course map is available by clicking on the link above and going to the race web site), so I am very familiar with what you are going to encounter. I believe what I have to share may help you in this race whether you are a beginner, intermediate, advanced or elite runner, and regardless if you are walking or running. You can have a great day in this event, but as with most distance events, you have to be very smart, put your ego aside, and listen to your body. For those of you doing this distance for the very first time, do not put any pressure on yourself to run a particular time, and remember that no matter how you do, since it's your first race at this distance, you are going to run a PR (Personal Record)!
I really enjoy running in this event. The sponsors put on a great race and it's fantastic to see people from all around Houston come down to our area. As far as the course itself, I personally really Iike the single-loop layout for this distance. With the exception of one very minor bridge at about mile 8.75 or so, the course is basically completely flat, so there is no need to be concerned about "hills" or rolling terrain.
I ran this race in it's inaugural year of 2003 and then again in 2004 (I did not run it in 2005 due to a stress fracture). In both 2003 and 2004, I ran negative splits (for those of you not familiar with this term, negative splits means you ran the second half of the race faster than the first half of the race). In 2004, I finished 17th out of 71 in the 40-44 age group, and of the 16 men that finished ahead of me, only the winner and I ran negative splits. Based on the times I saw for my age group, the vast majority of runners went out way too fast and their pace-per-mile on the second 5 miles in many cases was much slower than the first 5 miles. I was probably in good enough shape that year to have run almost 30 seconds per mile faster than what my pace ended up being, but I was smart enough to know that if I had attempted that type of effort I more than likely would have crashed and burned. I know the only reason I was able to accomplish negative splits both years is because I know and understand the course, and so both years I finished the race having had a positive experience.
To me, especially at this time of year, the biggest factor will be the weather. Of course all of us hope for a cool front, and much of what I have to say here is contingent on the weather being typical, which is warm and humid, not cool and pleasant. The race this year is on October 15, which is 10-12 days later in the month than the first two times I ran it, so hopefully that will make a difference. Having said that, here are the weather conditions at the 7:00 a.m. start of the race as I had them logged in my running journal for both years that I ran:
October 5, 2003 - 77 degrees, 100% humidity, 83 degrees heat index
October 3, 2004 - 79 degrees, 94% humidity, 85 degrees heat index
Those are definitely NOT ideal conditions for a fast time, regardless of your ability, so before either of the races started I had made up my mind to leave my ego behind and go out much slower than normal for the first 5 miles and then see how I felt for the second half. This proved both years to be a very smart strategy.
I think where most people make their mistake is by going out too fast in the first 2.75 miles of this course. When I am running this first part of the course, I will always ask the people around me if they have ever run this race before and if they have not, I advise them to slow down and save themselves, especially if I see that the skies are not overcast and the sun is starting to come out. Since a lot of them don't know me, or they feel really good at that point, quite a few of them do not take my advice and surge ahead anyway because at such an early juncture of the race, they feel strong and fresh. The sun is not yet fully out, and you are running through some commercial and residential areas that are still affording you a decent amount of shade, so perhaps you don't realize how warm it is already getting as 7:15-7:30 arrives and the sun is starting to rise. When you turn onto Bay Area Boulevard at about the 0.75 mile mark, the sun is on you for a little bit, then you are back in the shade on and off until about mile 2.75 where you turn off of Bay Area Boulevard onto Red Bluff Road.
In my opinion, the turn onto Red Bluff Road at mile 2.75 all the way to about mile 9.5 is pretty tough both physically and psychologically, but hopefully what I have to say here will help you to be better prepared for this stretch. First of all, from a physical standpoint, presuming it is sunny, the sun is now out in full force and once you get onto Red Bluff Road, there are very few stretches of any type of shade to speak of for the rest of the race. This is where the people who went out too fast start to get into trouble, and usually between miles 5-7 I have passed all those people that I told earlier to slow down. In 2004, I do not recall anyone passing me from mile 5 all the way to the finish, but I passed numerous runners in that stretch. From a psychological perspective, what makes this stretch starting at mile 2.75 so difficult are the LONG stretches of road where you literally can see as far as a mile or more in some places. I try to just keep my head down and concentrate on my pace and not focus too much on looking ahead to the next turn because if you keep looking up for it, it seems like you are never going to get there, and then when you do finally make the next turn, you are faced with another long stretch just like the one you got off of, which in and of itself seems defeating. The last tough test psychologically is after you pass over the bridge at about mile 8.75 and you can see the 9.0 marker up ahead. You will go around a road that curves for quite a long stretch to the left and it starts to seem as if you will never get to the final left turn back to UH Clear Lake and the finish line, so just expect this and be patient.
Again, this is a great race, and you will enjoy it if you are just patient and stay positive. If the weather is warm that day, do not let your time deter you in your training for the rest of the races coming up. The weather will get cooler and you will continue to improve. At the end of this race, you won't just be crossing a finish line, you'll be taking a step towards your next starting line. Good luck on race day!