When planning my Saturday run this week, I was faced with a difficult choice. On the one hand, I really needed to get about a 9-10 miler in and the Striders' Big Bear run seemed like the perfect recipe. On the other hand, I've been pumped all week about June's upcoming attempt at a sub-30 5K at the Houston Heights run Saturday morning.
I decided I couldn't pass up seeing June's face after breaking the 30 minute barrier so to have my cake and eat it too (no, Bill, I'm not eating cake. It's a figure of speech.), I figured I'd run from Memorial Park over to the finish of the Heights run via the popular Heights run route. It's a simple route. Leave from anywhere in Memorial Park, jump over to Blossom, up Jackson Hill to Washington, skip over to Heights Blvd and then you're home free. Just run up Heights as far as you want which in this case was the start of the race at 18th street, giving me 4.5 out. Then the return trip, according to my best calculations, would put me at a bit over 9 miles.
Now, the plan was to rendezvouz with June just after the race started, a little after 7:30, and then wait for her at the finish. I really didn't want to get there too soon as I'd be standing around too long and with the 2nd half of my long run staring me in the face, I didn't want to be completely cooled down. But, I wanted to surprise June early in the race and maybe spur her on a bit knowing that I had run all the way over to see her finish at 29:59 or better. This would take perfect planning. I calculated that at between 14:00 and 14:30 pace, it would take me 1:03-1:05 to cover the 4.5 miles to 18th and Heights. So, to reach my waypoint precisely, I knew I must depart the swimming pool parking lot at precisely 6:25 AM.
Guess what. I left late. Who'd of thunk it, huh? I ended up departing 9 minutes later than planned. Oh, well, that just meant I'd see June a little later in the race, probably just after mile 1. Leaving the parking lot out the back, I thought I'd save a little time and try to stay north of Washington. It's not as nice an area as running down Blossom but it might save me 5 minutes or so, I thought. There was only one problem with that plan. There are basically only 2 bridges that cross White Oak Bayou, the Heights Blvd. Bridge and the Shepard/Durham bridge. Of course, I didn't think of that at the time and made the mistake of thinking that as long as I stay between Washington and I-10, I'll make my way over to Heights Blvd. and shave some time off. WRONG!!!
I basically ended up running through the worst part of town and dead ended right into White Oak Bayou and the base of the I-10 overpass. I basically just stood there surveying the situation. To backtrack would have put me even later and that wasn't an option. I would have loved to just billy goat it under the I-10 overpass or run down the side of the bayou but, ugh, that was even too adventuresome for me. Besides, a 12 foot fence was blocking my way. Then I did the unthinkable. I ventured up a driveway in the worst part of town, along the fence that blocked my way, trying to find an opening. The further I walked along the fence, I noticed there was an overgrown sidewalk that paralleled it. I'm in business. The sidewalk opened up and I saw that it took me under I-10. Woo-hoo!! Or so I thought. This was no yellow-brick road. It was truly scary. I thought to myself, I'm sure glad I didn't drag anyone else into this mess but then I thought how it it sure would have been nice to have a running partner on a day like this. The goal at that point was to just not step on any syringes or needles and hope that I didn't run into the middle of a gang fight.
I hopped a couple of poo-poo diapers and finally emerged on some street this native Houstonian never knew existed before today. I still had my bearings and I knew that I was headed in the wrong direction. I had to backtrack all the way to Sheperd, then over White Oak Bayou. When I got to the overpass that goes over the old railroad tracks, I finally made a good choice. I decided to stay on the low road, under the overpass, through the industrial park and to see if I could possibly make my way East from there. BINGO!!! Under the bridge, I was able to hop onto 7th street which was just a hop and a skip over to 8th which goes all the way through to Heights Blvd.
At that point, I just wanted to get to Heights to catch June before the turnaround. I got to Heights and headed north. It was exactly 7:30 when I turned onto Heights so I figured the race was starting. Racers were heading South while I was heading North. It's such a straight shot up Heights Blvd that I could see the flashing lights of the lead escort waaaaaay in the distance. It wasn't 3 or 4 minutes when the lead runners came streaking by and very close to the front of the pack early in the race was butt-kicker Steve Schroeder. Now, Steve is a fast runner but he was looking particularly speedy at that point, early in the race..
In just another 2 or 3 minutes I saw June and Sarah. June looked real relaxed. Sarah did too for that matter. I waved and told June that I had run all the way over here to see her break 30 minutes so she'd better not hold back. They smiled and off they went. I was close at this time to 18th so I put the hammer down a bit to finish off this first leg of my run.
I waited at the finish, cheering on the runners. I watched Schroeder come in FAST with what ended up being a ~30 second 5K PR. Huge congrats, Steve!!! Steve got some water and then came back to where I was standing. He said he was going to go back out and run June in the last bit so off he went. I'm watching the clock and it's 28:00, 29:00, 29:10, 29:15... THERE'S SARAH!!! What? Sarah had intended to just hang with June as long as she could and then let June go on to her sub-30 but here was Sarah, nailing a sub-30 of her own. I figured June would be right behind but unless my eyes were mistaken, no June. My eyes weren't mistaken. Sarah came to meet me. Then, I see Steve walking back towards us. "Did I miss her?" he asked. It's 32, then 33, then 34, and still no June. Something was wrong. I tried not to think the worst but knew that she must have gotten hurt. Then we see June walking towards us, all pink and in tears. It turns out she majorly pulled a hamstring after about mile 2, I think.
After we got June some medical attention and some food, I headed out for my return leg. This time, though, I chose to go back the way I had originally planned. The run felt pretty good. Even though it was basically split up into 2 runs, I still count it as a long run. Here are the stats:
Total distance: 9.2 miles
Total time: 2:10:23
Mile 1 - 14:11
Mile 2 - 14:17
Mile 3 - 14:19
Mile 4 - 14:04
Mile 5 - 13:36
Mile 6 - 14:13
Mile 7 - 14:10
Mile 8 - 14:50 (including a brief walk break across Durham/Sheperd)
Mile 9 - 14:03
.2 miles - 2:37 (13:41 pace)
Average pace - 14:11
It was nice to do a long run again. I feel fine. Sufficiently sore but not incapacitated. Know what I mean?