Race Report: ABB 5K

Houston Marathon weekend went differently for me this year. I took too long to decide if I wanted to do the half or full, and by late September the race was sold out. So, I opted to volunteer on Sunday with Team RWB at the 6.5 mile aid station. I wasn’t planning on running the 5K, but I missed a New Year’s Day 5K and was looking for an alternative. About two weeks before the 5K race, I checked the registration status and found that there were still a few spots left. I registered.

Online registration was easy, and I was happy to see that the organizers were offering race day packet pick up. I don’t know if they’ve done this before because I’ve always gone to the expo in the past. However, this year I had to skip the expo because of scheduling conflicts. I showed up early Saturday morning and had no waiting time. This gave me time to take pictures and check out the light installation, Enchanted Promenade, by the French art collective TILT.

Enchanted Promenade by TILT
Enchanted Promenade by TILT

Thirty minutes before the gun, I met up with Team RWB teammates for a group picture. There were a few out-of-towners that joined us. It’s always nice to connect with folks from other locales.

Team RWB
Team RWB

Afterward I began my final preparations. I went to the port-a-potties, only to find that there was no toilet paper. With the large number of runners expected, you’d think organizers would be sure to stock enough, but no. So, I went to line up at the start and hoped for the best.

As I entered my pace area, I saw a friend from boot camp. I hadn’t seen her since we ran the Gritty Goddess a few years back. It was nice to catch up in person. With only a few minutes to go, I started my watch and got ready to run.

Downtown Houston
Downtown Houston

Close to 6,000 runners started the 5K. I wove my way in and out of the crowds for the first ¾ mile or so. Eventually, I was able to break through. My first mile went very well. I had to run near 9 minute miles in order to PR. My first mile was 9:20.8. Perfect. I felt good and strong. Then my legs started to cramp right before the halfway point. I slowed down, knowing I could get away with a slightly slower second mile if I picked it back up in the final mile. Unfortunately, my calves never let up. I was hoping a short walk break and some Gatorade and water would help, but it didn’t.

Race conditions were hot and humid. Perhaps that contributed to my cramping. Or I may not have hydrated enough. Perhaps the PB&J I had for breakfast wasn’t enough to fuel my pace. I don’t know. What I do know is that even though I didn’t get the 5K PR I was going for, I did set a mile PR—9:20.8—a full 30 seconds faster than my previous PR. Yay!

Finished!

THE RUNDOWN

I had a good time at the ABB 5K. Sure, it wasn’t perfect, but I would definitely run it again next year. I’ve made a quick list of the things I liked and the things I would change.

The Good:

  • The medal, though the same design as previous years, was colored differently this year. And, as usual, the back is engraved with date and distance—“On January 14, 2017, I finished the ABB 5K.”
  • Course was well marked, and questionable surface conditions indicated with spray paint.
  • Course marshals and volunteers were cheerful and helpful.
  • Race day packet pick up.

Things I would change:

  • More toilet paper. Port-a-potties were out of toilet paper before the race, despite the numerous stalls provided.
  • Offer a protein or breakfast bar. Post-race food consisted of a 6 oz. bottle of water and one banana.
  • Hire better photographers. Course photographers were not taking photos—bad job, MarathonFoto.

Oh, parking is ridiculously overpriced, but I arrived early enough to find free street parking a few blocks away.

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