Race Recap: Dad’s Day 5k- Dedicated Training = Personal Best. 

Thoughtful & consistent training pays off with a new PR.

Sunday I ran the race I trained for, and though the time I saw when I crossed the finish line marked the achievement of one goal, I took it as a bench mark of two different paths I want to continue on. The two goals are intertwined; I want to become the best competitor in running that I can push myself to be, and I also want to be a useful training coach for fellow amateur athletes who want to push their own boundaries. With training on myself, I hope that I might find good practices to pass on to my fellow athletes, whether they are full of fury for a medal, or just want to feel more confident and comfortable in community races.

Summary of the Race

I’ll write about specifics, including pacing and training, lower in this post, but first I wanted to give an overview of the race. It was the “Dad’s Day 5k” in downtown Houston, Texas. I love these community races- something always chokes me up, and this one got me good. The cause was prostrate cancer, as the race fell Fathers’ Day Weekend. My own father passed away over ten years ago, and it was from him that I got the running genes, so I thought about him a lot. I don’t doubt that soaring emotions helped me get to the finish line faster, I felt pretty inspired to do my best, just in case he was watching.

I found that it was a pretty big race, at least 1000 people running, more volunteering. There were men dressed up as Captain America & Batman, and I grabbed a pic with Batman after the race, while waiting for the times to be posted. It was hot and humid, the stats being 80 degrees Fahrenheit with 80% humidity. I felt it as soon as I opened my car door at the race site. Those guys in the superhero costumes were seriously heroic for donning facemasks and tights in that weather! Once the race got going I felt like I was running through a volcano covered in a wet blanket.

They did a kids 1k race before the 5k started, and it was of course adorable but also inspiring. The bigger kids ran really hard, and I was floored to see that a girl took 3rd place, flying in well ahead of the next kids and the pack.

Running the Race

Start line

I lined up at the front. I finally realize that is where I need to be. Choosing a spot close to the start line is a relatively new move for me. In the past I’ve been scared it would make me go out too fast, but I finally have confidence in my training that I know my pace and can hold it, letting go of my ego, so that the people that rush out in front of me oftentimes drift behind me after a mile or so. There were signs posted from 7 min pace on up, and I marched in between it and the 8 min sign. Even with the weather, I was counting on running at the very least 7:40/mile. My previous pace for a race on about the same course was 7:50, but that was in February when the weather was much more forgiving.

First mile

Never ending. It felt like forever, and I glanced at my watch, reading a 7:25 there. For a long time that would have alarmed me, as getting close to 7:30 too early in the race gasses me. I stopped looking at my watch. Legs felt good, breathing was ok. My only source of discomfort was the heat.

Second mile

The race was out and back, so the one mile mark meant only 1/2 a mile until I got to turn around. My pace quickened, and I didn’t really have to think about it. I was running in a pack that included a few women, and I had no way of knowing if they were hurting like I was and if they would suddenly take off. I would look at my watch, and still see times that were a little fast, 7:18 or so, and just leave the over-analyzing alone and ask the question- “Can I maintain this?”. I did, and I got faster. As I approached and rounded the turn-around, I counted nine women in front of me, making me ten. A little fear set in that I may drop out or I would get passed, which took my adrenaline up a notch.

Like I said, it was bonkers hot. I even saw the photographer, and this grimace was the best I could manage.

Third Mile & Finish Line

Or as I like to think of it, the oh-thank-god-its-almost-over mark. My focus became just running at my threshold. I wasn’t going to leave anything behind. I had passed a few women, and there was one in front of me that I figured would stay there, but something happened in the last 200 meters or so. I looked at my watch, and the time read 21:30. My goal PR right now is a sub-22, and though I really thought I had no more effort left to give, I surged. I got to the finish line with a 22:33, and I was really proud with that. It busted my old PR by 20 seconds, even with me being 5 years older since I set that mark. What a rush!

As I crossed the finish line, I realized just how overheated I had become. I never got water in the race, not wanting to sacrifice time or stop my momentum, and as I came to the stop I realized I wasn’t altogether sure I wasn’t going to pass out. I also had to use the bathroom, and deliberated on the odds of me blacking out inside the Port-o-potty if I even made it there. YOLO, in I went, out I came, and grabbed water.

“Outta my way, kids! My turn!”

The Training

As a starting point for my training, I read Jack Daniels’ Running Formula. I was mainly interested in his VDOT charts, which take performance as an indicator of VO2 max, then provide a comprehensive list of times to aim for in training for 5 different kinds of runs. Once you figure out where you land with your VO2 capabilities, you are only getting started in putting together a training program. I had to identify my strong and weak areas, and prioritize my training to condition myself what I  was worst at- holding a pace through discomfort. I know I’m capable, I just haven’t always been willing!

Lest I get super confusing for newer runners or people whose lexicon is different, here is how I describe and interpret my training. This is taken almost directly from JD Running Formula, I just adapted a few things within my training becuase his book describes a program for people who run way more volume (miles) than I do right now. I give a description of how interpreted and adapted the workouts for my purposes, and the paces I used, which were determined from Daniels’ charts in the book.

Interval Run: 400-1000 meters run at slightly faster than 5k pace with 60-90 seconds of recovery.

  • 7:20 pace for this training cycle

Tempo Run: runs of 20 minutes at hard but comfortable pace

  • 8:00 pace

Reptition Run: short intervals on the track. I used 200 meter sprints, with a 200 meter recovery jog.

  • 50 seconds/200 meters

Easy/Recovery Run: should be self explanatory, but runs of half an hour to an hour a few times a week.

  • 9:30/mile.

I ran maybe 20 miles a week. I was able to get away with relatively low mileage because I  supplemented resistance training in the gym. The resistance training was more or less targeted to not just strength, but endurance, including short to no rest periods between sets targeting different muscles. What I found was that training this way conditioned my mind to push through pain and fatigue, which is just what I needed!

For this race, I went in knowing what I was working with, because I had been training consistently, with progressive paces individualized to my workouts for months. I wasn’t as interested in where I placed in the field for this race. I knew this would be my last 5k for awhile, and I wanted to beat my best time. The big picture: If I placed last and ran faster than my fastest, then the race would be a success. The race was a total win. I ran hard the whole time, held on when it got really rough, and somehow found the grit to rev up even more at the end. I start training for the Houston Marathon next month, and I’m really excited to work out my training details for that race!

Do the Things. Run the Miles.

Recently I posted a picture to Instagram of a post-it I placed on my mirror a few months ago, with a phrase I’ve lived by for years. It reads,

“Do the things you don’t want to do, to do the things you do want to do”.

This has been on my mirror since I moved to Houston. I wanted to be more active in making my life what I wanted it to be, no longer relying on luck or chance for good things to happen.

Yesterday I struggled to start my 8 mile run. I wavered back and forth. The plan had been to run to a local run club (2.8), do mileage with them (3), and finish off the mileage on the way home, walking the difference once I reached the 8 mile mark. At 3pm I was sure I was going. By 4pm I was fading and ready to cave. I took a quick 25 minute nap, just dozing, while my thoughts nagged at me. It wasn’t even the distance that really bothered me, it was the time. For no particular reason I was in a cranky mood with negative running rampant, and I didn’t want to be alone with just my brain for that long! In the end I realized I wasn’t going to change my attitude by skipping the run, so I just did the damn thing.

“How will I feel if I go to bed and I didn’t work on (insert task) today”? This question catches all the excuses that my motivational post-it doesn’t. I can procrastinate, and put most things off till tomorrow, without dire results. When I know I let opportunities or time windows go by, I get anxious. At some point, I got sick of feeling that way, and though my way of living now is pretty intense, I go to bed every night feeling confident in the direction that I’m heading.



I ran a last minute trail 5k that was part of the San Felipe Shootout with Trail Racing over Texas this past weekend. I signed up for it at 8pm the night before the race. It was a good move. The 5k was part of a larger event, the “Shootout”, which consisted of a 5k, followed by a 10k and a ½ marathon. Many talented runners showed up, and I had to work harder to keep up. I went out too fast, but was glad I did- I saw the 10k go out, and realized that if I had held back I would have gotten caught in a cluster-fJck in the first couple hundred meters! My pace in the second and third mile suffered because of the fast first – times were: 7:39/8:18/8:09. Not bad for me on trail, it was definitely the fastest I’ve run off road up till now, but I still need to work on getting my mile times both closer together and faster within a race.

Trail Runs in Houston, TX: Cullinan Park and Brazos Bend State Park

This past week I explored two new places to trail run in the Houston area. The first, Cullinan Park in Sugarland, was recommended to me by a friend, which is great because I was unaware the park existed, and the second, Brazos Bend State Park is very well known, at least in the area.



My sister and I headed out to Cullinan on Sunday. I had looked at park online and from my friend’s report gathered I would probably be running around 3 miles. Arriving there, I realized there was a main trail consisting of a 1.5 mile loop, but there were off-shoot trails and connectors, so the total amount of mileage was a little over 3 miles. One of the trails, the red trail, appears to end on the map, but it actually continues through the woods and around the lake, and I recommend going the whole way, which will bring your right around to the parking lot.


This is a great park for people looking to get some easy, fun, trail running in. It’s in Houston, so its flat. But it offers a variety of scenery; especially considering the small area the park takes up. It’s not far out of the way of anything, being just a few miles from I-69, and parking was free. The only bathroom available was a porto-potty, so if that turns you off, just go before you arrive and you should be fine for such a short run. We went on a Sunday with pretty pleasant weather, and the park was not crowded. Most of the visitors stayed near the parking lot, as there are viewing decks to see wildlife- we saw baby alligators!


As you can see from the map below, these trails have names, but I appreciate the simplicity of their color-coding on the map and will use that for reference. When you get out there, you will find colored bands on trees for the individual trailheads.



From the parking lot, we went to the main trailhead, and took the green route to the first off-shoot of the blue route, and from there took the red route. On the red route we came across a pretty interesting scene, but I wont give away what that was here! As I said, the map shows the red route ending, but we were able to make it around the lake and back to the parking lot, still on trail, where we started at the main (green) trailhead again, this time taking an immediate left to go in the other direction on the green trail. We followed that around to the lavender trail. This was the least interesting trail in the park, to me. If you want to get the mileage, great, but if you’re looking to cut something, it’s just wide and flat, and dead-ends at a canal with a view of the road. We went back towards the green trail on the lavender trail, I took a little side jaunt to check out the turquoise trail, which had a pretty enchanting vibe, before we headed back to the parking lot on the green trail.


It was a fun run. Aside from the lavender trail, you’re looking at mostly single track or close to it. There’s plenty of shade, and for its size and location, I didn’t feel like I was running anywhere near a city (save a few glimpses of neighborhoods on the red route). There were some tricky areas to navigate, If you want to get to the other side of the green trail from the trailhead, take the second or third crossover, the first took us off the path as we had to navigate around some muck and water, but you’ll see that from the main path. The only path we didn’t take was the yellow, and as I ran ahead and doubled back to join up with my sister a few times, I was able to turn 3.3 miles of trail into 4 easily, and it’s worth repeating that the scenery changes often, and it’s all very pretty.



The second trail run of the week took me out to Brazos Bend State Park, southwest of Houston. It’s a very well-known park in the area, the upkeep and amenities are fantastic, and the staff is friendly and helpful. When I arrived, I purchased an annual Texas State Parks pass ($70), and the ranger assisting me was able to recommend trails to run on, as well as which ones to avoid because they were still recovering from heavy rain.

The website claims 37 miles of hiking trails in the park, which I believe includes the paved areas as well, and I covered around 6 or so. I’ll share what I did that day and update the blog once I explore and find out more. I’m including an image of the map the ranger gave me, with his recommendations highlighted in yellow, and what I actually ran in blue marker. (I ran out a bit on some other trails to get a look around, which is how I covered 6 miles). The black “X” marks trails I was to avoid.



I parked behind Elm Lake, right at the turn-around, and took the Elm Lake Loop Trail to the Spillway Trail. If you didn’t know, Brazos Bend is known for its wild alligator population, and I was not disappointed. Not one mile into my run, I saw two from a bridge on the Spillway Trail, then came across one right on the path. I wasn’t sure what to do, as cautionary signage insisted on giving the animals a birth of 30 feet, which was impossible with water on both sides of the trail. I don’t know how fast alligators are, but I remembered a friend saying he just ran by them in the park all the time. I started to approach, and at that moment the formerly still reptile started moving its legs and opening its mouth at me, and I was done. I had planned to take the Spillway Trail around 40 Acre Lake, but I turned back and made my way back to the Elm Lake Trail.


When I came to the Pliant Slough trail, I took that. The ranger hadn’t mentioned it as good or something to avoid, and I’m glad I ran it. The ground was super springy, and I was reminded how much better it feels to be off of concrete. The trail was only a mile long, and I was loving the stretch so much that I was tempted to run it twice, but instead took the trail back around to the observatory, where I made my way back around Elm Lake once again. When I got near my car, I ran past to the Horseshoe Lake Loop, trying to get to at least 6 miles.


I didn’t even cover a third of the mileage in the park, but of what I did see, none of it was single track, and it was all very flat. Still, it’s a great place to get in long runs off of the concrete, if the pretty scenery doesn’t interest you, watching for alligators will keep you from getting bored!