Saturday, February 26, 2011

Race Report: ConocoPhillips Rodeo Run 10k

Today was race day - as part of a corporate team (sort of), I ran the ConocoPhillips Rodeo Run 10k.  It fits into my rest week nicely, and this is arguably the premier racing event in Houston after the marathon.  Large race - between the 10k and the 5k, about 14000 runners - and it's the opening event for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which is a pretty big deal down here.

I always go into every race with three goals.  One is a "reach" goal - something it will take a fantastic effort and a good race to do.  One is a solid but difficult goal - something that will take a good effort and requires something more than a hard training run but is within reason for a normal day.  And the third is something that is not time based - maybe effort or form based.

By way of example, for the race this morning, my reach goal was to break 46:00, my solid goal was to set a PR, and my non-time goal was to keep my mental toughness over the last two miles.  More on how I did below.

But before that, I want to talk about the actual race itself - and I have a few significant criticisms.  Some elements of the logistics of this race are poor at best.  The shortage of porta-johns was nothing short of scandalous.  Runners are used to long lines to pee before races start - nerves usually have plumbing working more than usual - so it's not reasonable to expect to get right in before a race.  Lines several people deep are usual.  But not like today.  Had to have been about 20-30 people deep per porta-john.  I've run big races and small races and I've never seen it this bad.  Unacceptable.

Naturally, I took a quick warm-up jog and did my thing under an overpass.  I was not the only one.

The other complaint is not specific to this race but more for big races in general.  I'm a reasonably fast runner.  I'm not the fastest out there by any stretch, but I'm typically in the top 20-25% of any given race.  And I try to line up accordingly.  They had pace signs out at the starting line, as they typically do, and I was right where I was supposed to be.

So why in the world did I have to spend the first mile and a half weaving in and out of all kinds of runners - and walkers! - who had no business lining up in the same zip code as me.  I must have passed 1000 runners in the first mile alone.  My split looks pretty normal, but the amount of effort and energy to get that split was incredible.  I wasted a lot of energy with stops and starts and dodges and jumps.  It's pretty hard to run a 7:20 mile in a crowd of people doing 9:30.  I don't wish to stereotype, but it's most often women who do this, although there are plenty of men who do as well.  And it's never the old grizzled veterans who have run a billion races - they know better (and as often as not they're still pretty damn fast).

Slower runners, I love that you are out there running and racing.  Please continue to do so.  But it's just plain rude when you line up somewhere you don't belong.  It makes me seriously consider jumping up into places where I don't belong just to get ahead of you.  Neither of us are going to win this thing, so there's no reason why we should care if we are up near the front.

This second issue didn't necessarily cost my my reach goal, but it was a major factor.  I finished with a 46:56 (a PR by some 20 seconds) but I estimate the effort I had to expend over the first mile cost me at least 30 seconds.  There were a couple of other things that cost me as well.  The temperature the entire time was 70 degrees - about 25 degrees higher than optimal - and that definitely affected me.  And there is a nasty hill (actually an overpass/viaduct) that you have to go over at mile 2.5, and again at mile 4.5.  All told, in a smaller race with a flatter course on a cooler day - like the one I ran in last year - I think I could have made my reach goal.  But that's why it's a reach goal.

I was very proud of my effort over the last two miles, though.  The last two miles of any race are more about mental toughness than they are about anything physical.  I desperately wanted to slow up at about mile 4.5, and again at 5.5, but all the while I had a quote from Pre in my head:  "A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest; I run to see who has the most guts."  Well known, sure, cliche, maybe, but definitely effective.

And two out of three for goals ain't bad.

Details of the race:

Other notes:

  • Raced in the Kinvaras, as they are the lightest shoe I own outside of the Vibram Five Fingers.  Great choice.  Light, quick, free.  No foot pain afterwards either.  At this point I could easily do a full marathon in them.
  • Calves were pretty sore afterwards - signs that there is still some strengthening of the calves that has to happen with the new stride.  Four hours later they aren't too bad.  Everything else feels fine.
  • Remember how I said I was somewhat skeptical of my latest metabolic test?  I ran 98% of this race above my anaerobic threshold, if the test is to be believed.  That's a long time to go anaerobic.
  • Felt my form break down over the last couple of miles, which is to be expected.  Still landed midfoot/forefoot, but my posture suffered a bit and my hips weren't underneath me as much as I would have liked.  I also started to let my knees and feet out of alignment with my direction of travel.
  • I didn't list this in factors weighing against my reach goal above, but I'm pretty sure this course was overly long.  Courses are measured on tangents around corners and generally have a little bit of extra distance added intentionally to ensure that they are the proper length.  So a 10k isn't exactly 10k - it's slightly longer in reality, and given that nobody runs exactly on the tangents, it's even longer still.  And I expect that.  However, my Garmin - which is wickedly accurate and consistent in measuring distance - read 6.30 miles (10k = 6.2 miles) for a difference of a tenth of a mile.  To put that in perspective, my last marathon - a race that is over four times longer - only had a difference of about .15 miles.  Even my largest run discrepancy (also during a marathon) was less than .3 miles.
  • Congratulations to my friend and former co-worker  Having never raced before, and apparently having never really run more than 5 miles at a time, he finished the 10k in a very respectable 55:09 (and he also lined up appropriately).  Good job, and hope to see you at future races.  


  1. I think humidity has a really effect on heart rate zones. My heart rate always seems to be higher when it's humid.

  2. Thanks for all the great details. My knees hurt just thinking about running that far.