My First 5K Race – A *Run* Report

To give some background, ever since I got Lucy, I’ve been casting around for ways to make sure that she gets enough exercise to keep her from bouncing off the walls of my apartment. Along the way, I decided to make a major push toward improving my own fitness levels. 
In late April I discovered and began the Couch to 5K program. Over 9 weeks, I worked up from running very short intervals all the way to 40 minute training runs (5 minute warm up walk, 30 minute run, 5 minute cool down walk). To give myself even more motivation, I signed up to run in a 5K race that a couple of friends were also doing. Lucy has been running alongside me this entire time, but for some unfathomable reason, the race organizers do not permit dogs on the course.

This morning’s Dad’s Day 5K race in downtown Houston was my first 5K race and also my graduation run from the Couch to 5K program. 

Chip Time: 40:35
Gun Time: 41:16
Overall Place: 630 / 725
Division Place: 33 /44 (F 30-34)
I met up with friends Michelle and Jesse at the race start under the Wortham Arch around 7:40 AM. We were standing towards the back of the crowd (past the 10 minute/mile pace sign) so we hadn’t been able to make out what the announcer at the front was rambling on about. When the gun went off at 8 AM, it was a little unexpected.
As the crowd started to slowly edge forward, I quickly put my headphones in and started my music. My trusty Polar F11 HRM was queued up, requiring just a one button push as I crossed the start line about a minute later.
I emerged from under the arch and was immediately presented with brilliant sunshine and a fairly steep (compared to the few other hills I’ve covered during my training) climb up and over 6+ lanes of Interstate 45 through downtown Houston. I knew I would be slow compared to other runners, so I stayed to the side, but I will say I was a little surprised at how very many people were passing me on each side. Michelle and Jesse quickly disappeared into the crowd ahead.
The run had started over an hour later than my training runs. The sun was beating down and there was very little shade on Memorial Drive. I estimate that it was already in the high 80s or low 90s. I kept telling myself that just like my initial *long* runs, this would be a mind over matter experience. I was capable, I just had to keep my mind on running and off my aching legs.
Passing the first mile marker, I was shocked to see that I had run it in only 12:15. This was my fastest mile ever, at least two minutes faster than my training pace. My heart rate was also much higher than it has been during my training. I started to constantly remind myself to slow down and save my energy for the rest of the race. I finally gave myself permission to walk about 16 minutes into the run when I glanced down at the HRM and saw it in the 180s, higher than I’ve seen it since my first week of C25K. 
I started paying a lot more attention to the HRM at that point. Even at a brisk walk, it was high, at running rates. During the rest of the race, I ran only in brief spurts. I’d set a goal: run to that water station, run to that overpass, etc. Once I made the goal, I’d walk for several minutes. Despite walking large portions of it, I took only 14 minutes to get through the 2nd mile.
Climbing back up the I-45 overpass, I spied the Wortham Arch in the distance and saw that my time was still under 40 minutes. I decided right there to make a big push at the end and try to come in under 42 minutes (14 minute/mile pace). A few moments after starting to run, I found myself getting chills, and thought “This can’t be good”. I ignored it and the feeling soon went away.
Michelle and Jesse were on the sidelines cheering me on as I approached the finish line. I’m still a little surprised that I had the presence of mind to hit the “end” button on my HRM as I crossed it. I didn’t make it in under 40 minutes, but my chip/HRM time of 40:35 far surpassed my original pre-race estimate of 42 minutes minimum, 45 minutes probable.
After I’d cooled off a bit, I looked more closely at my HRM results and was slightly horrified to see that over the 40 minutes, I’d averaged 91% of my max heart rate and even hit 101% at some point during the race. To compare, my recent training runs have averaged 80% and maxed out at 89%. I know that none of this is where I *should* be running, but as my body continues to adjust, average HR is trending slowly downward.
Anyway, the 5k was a lot harder than I expected. I need to work on not getting excited about running in a group and keep my pace slower and more sustainable. I hate to make excuses, I but I feel the weather was a big factor in my inability to run as much of the race as I would have liked. Houston in summer is pretty brutal. The organizers might have done better to schedule the race an hour earlier.
Lucy and I will continue to run and plan for another 5k in July or August. I’d like to improve my time and aim for actually running more of the race.
For my readers who are more interested in motorcycle topics, I have not been riding much lately, but I do have a 9 day trip planned for late August. I will be heading toward the east coast this time.
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