I have an upcoming race this weekend (12K of Christmas Houston —see what they did there?) and decided that I should probably research a bit of race theory or whatever in order to better prep myself for this daunting run. For those of you who don’t like math 12K translates to 7.45 miles—which is the longest distance I will have ever run to date in one go—and even more importantly it’s more than half of a half marathon. Happy Half-Way!
This upcoming race also has me nervous about getting warmed up properly for the event. So in preparation I consulted in the interwebs. Generally, when I go on my long runs I just jog slowly first mile or so, stretching for a few seconds at stoplights, and count that as my warm up. But since this is a race, I don’t really have the luxury of being stopped by traffic to pause mid run and stretch. I know with water polo, I would never jump into a game cold (we always warmed up 40-45 minutes before a game), so I should probably do myself the same justice and warm up thoroughly before my race as well. In my research for how to warm up properly for a run, I found it interesting that they recommended waking up at least two hours before the event so that your body has enough time to wake up fully. Also as the ever land-sport noob, I learned that a thing called “Strides” exist. Strides are basically this revolutionary super-easy drill (that most recreational runners forget about) where you build to about 95% of your max speed gradually and then slow down over the course of about 100m. The best part? Strides parallel a warm up drill my team calls “MCs” which involve building to a fast speed and slowing down just to build again to a sprint. I feel so at home with them. And they are as a great warm up and a great opportunity to focus on running form.
I also read a really interesting article about pacing. What stood out most to me is that super experienced runners have the ability to sense their pace near exactly and were off by only 10 seconds per mile. In contrast, inexperienced runners were off in their estimates by nearly 40 seconds per mile. I most certainly fall into the later category of runners (I’ve never really had the need to know this information before) but the idea of pacing reminded me so much of my swimming days. I honestly experienced a serious bout of nostalgia as I was reading the article because I know my swimming paces down to a t (or whatever that phrase is). In a typical 100 yard drill, I can tell the difference between swimming 1:25 pace and a 1:20 pace. In swimming a 50 yard distance, I can tell the difference between a 40 second sprint and a 45 second one. Heck, I can hit the wall and tell you if I swam it in 42 seconds or 43. I’m no stranger to knowing my pace but I am in completely foreign territory when it comes to running. Something I won’t be worried too much about this weekend, but something I’ll be conscious of improving as I go on my long runs in the future.
My searches were prompted after an exhausting seven mile run through Buffalo Bayou Park. I wanted to determine the best way to cool down to prevent soreness. As an avid yoga practitioner, I was pleased to discover several yoga poses recommended to stretch out tight muscles, refresh circulation, and restore the body. My favorites are:
- Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall Pose): Great for stretching out the hamstrings and cramped feet and calming the heart rate.
- Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose): Good for opening up the hips and releasing tension in the groin and knees; stimulates heart and improves general circulation.
Buffalo Bayou Park
The 12K of Christmas Race is set to take place in Buffalo Bayou Park, which I think is the best place to run in Houston. It’s easily accessible from Downtown Houston and Midtown. The Bayou running trails are well lit and generally populated during all hours of the day—so you feel safe. The scenery is interesting and there are lots of different bridges so you can loop back easily and hit whatever distance you need and never run the same route twice (or at least too many times within the same week). The best part? The stellar views of Downtown Houston. I run in this park at least once a week and every time I shamelessly act like a tourist to snap a pic of the skyline. I’ve run here many times during the afternoon and evenings, but never during the morning. Thus, I’m pretty excited to be running here on Saturday!
Have you ever been running in Buffalo Bayou Park? What do you think? Tell us! Where is the best place to run in Houston?