Run Houston! Clear Lake 2016: Sweet Humidity of Houston That’s A Good Run

Last weekend, Sunday, June 5th was a weekend full of sweat and magic. Nothing on earth is like a race weekend. Overly caffeinated, selfie loving, crazy sock wearing people of all ages gather happily in a giant wardrobe malfunction of what can only be explained away as the need to rise at an ungodly hour only to huddle together behind a timed start line. That said, I love these people, and I’ll gladly take them over an out of control crowd who can’t keep hold of their temper, liquor, or house keys.

I’ll admit it, I’m the last person who likes to wake up early any day of the week, but sometimes you just have to man up, take your gummy vitamins, put your shirt on right side out and stumble out the door in the morning with the rest. This particular morning J, F and I successfully made it into the Land Rover and onto the road. After silently determining that the road under construction was not jumpable, even with Ride of the Valkyries projected outward on the sound system, we opted for the less fun yet fairly saner roundabout. Metal thunkin’ and base bumpin’ we pull up to the University of Houston – Clear Lake, only the road looked more like a 7-11 parking lot. Trying to find a stylish, economic, used battle tank has been my dream for some time now. Who wouldn’t find it satisfying to give a neighborly “elbow” in a (pink) tank to others whose eyes are blatantly on Facebook while happily flying at warp speed, or just to make a little headway in a stopped up road? Ah well, since my obsessive scanning of Auto Trader has yet to reveal that magic gem and what could be one of Godzilla’s rollerblades, we resigned ourselves to a slow, nerve rattling, pre-race meander.

After crossing a lake, three sand dunes, a heard of sluggish deer and a bench taken out by a roving tree limb, we made it into the parking lot, tires squealing like an angry mongoose. Cresting sideways into a parking space, we hopped out and completed our pre-race warm up by sprinting PreFontaine style through the lot and around the port-a-pottys, until we found a nice solid starting area 100 feet behind the last person in line, with 30 seconds to spare. Unbeknownst to many, this strategic starting point proved to be a heavenly panacea for us to stretch and take unlimited selfies without the hassle of an actual race about to happen.

Once the race began, we put on our serious game faces and started our watches, skillfully maneuvering like ninjas with katana blades through the crowd. Five minutes into the run we split up, F and J picking up speed thanks to the shorter 5 k distance and the Uranium Ore they sprinkled on their Cliff Bars for breakfast. Their Mizunos and Brooks glowing with subhuman speed and the pesky side effect of radiation, they sped off down the street and to the eventual left hand turn that would lead them back to the finish line, the photographers, and most importantly, where the food is.


I continued on like a lost kid at the mall, passing up hundreds of runners and all the while skillfully missing the photographers poised precariously on the sides of the road, ready to capture the “Ohhh guurll I’ma dieee” and similar but more stern “resting &*%$# face” for future generations of web surfers to enjoy. I love those photos. The course was flat and fast, with plenty of room for the crowd to maneuver.


Three miles down and heading back, a group of women in sparkly skirts began insanely jumping in the air together about 2oo yards in front of me. That could only mean one thing – photographer spotted! The stranger next to me laughed at their antics, and I suggested to him that we should do the very same thing. Being a runner, and therefore naturally amazing, he agreed wholeheartedly. For the next 100 feet we worked with the photographer in what was the strangest photo shoot ever. When the photographer gave us the go ahead, we leapt upward like magical unicorns on a rainbow over a princess castle in the sparkling sunrise, my pink socks and his manly grace ripping a wormhole in the time space continuum. It was awesome. 


I continued on after the photo shoot, the bright blip in my otherwise sweaty struggle falling behind me like Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumbs as I ran on, hair completely doused with sweat and breathing ragged. I try not to check my watch, purple and beautiful and slip sliding over my skinny wrist. I love my Garmin, it’s easy on the eyes but when I glance down and see that what I thought was a mile is really .62 miles, I get sad. Really sad. Then I feel slow. Then I want to stop. Wah wahhhh. Not to mention that not looking teaches me the mysterious concepts of patience and faith. Nothing makes me happier than when that mistress of distance beeps and buzzes another mile down.

Closing in on that last mile, I willed myself to keep an okay pace. Returning to any type of distance after having to take time off for shin splints was not as scary as I’d thought, even though I could definitely feel that the past few weeks of lazy Summer days spent laying with a book on the porch had taken its’ toll. Smiling as I heard F & J waiting at the sideline and cheering, I passed up two more runners at the finish, got my medal, a cup of Gatorade, sunk to a Neanderthal like crouch on the pavement, downed the Gatorade in a few messy gulps, and stood up to face the day with my friends. Congratulations, it’s now 9am.



We left the area a happy, stinky, messy haired bunch and slid into the heavenly scented road chariot to head back to F’s for some much needed showers, brunch and little M&M* followed by lots of laughs at a certain gas station scene. If you haven’t seen it, go YouTube it, ASAP. What a great start to the day and a perfect Sunday Runday. Cheers!

*M&M is similar to R&R but with Mimosas and Magic Mike pt. II. 

Advertisements

National Running Day: A Day of Well Mannered Frivolity  

“The hills are alive, with the sound of music…….!” To that tune, Happy National Running Day! To celebrate this joyful occasion, we…run. At least that was the plan. For the last few weeks I’ve been battling (by battling I mean denying) a beginning case of shin splints. The inside of my leg was especially sore in a small area. I lowered my mileage by leaps and bounds, but alas, it was still not getting better. Hey, at least it wasn’t getting worse. I finally decided to take some wise and long overdue advice: rest, ice, and read something to distract myself, ha. A week has passed training-free, and it has been a yin yang of lazy and tough. Have you ever taken a week off and felt so out of shape? I really wanted today, being National Running Day, to be that first day back. But it wasn’t. It rained the whole day. My city is basically a lake. Come to think of it, something always happens on National Running Day so that I don’t run. Well, suck it up buttercup, because things happen, right? It’s not the bumps in the BMX track, it’s how you deal with them. Therefore, I’m using today to be grateful for the ability to be able to get out and do these things.Also, for those cool post-flood views:


I’m also grateful for people in the sport who broke boundaries to give us better opportunities today. In running, people like Katherine Switzer, Frank Shorter and Steve PreFontaine, and so many more. In BMX there are so many people who have advanced our sport, people like John Purse, Kyle Bennett (RIP KB), Dave Mirra (RIP), Cory Nastazio, TJ Lavin, Fuzzy Hall, Greg Hill, and of course that list goes on too. All in all, it might be raining, we might be turning into Atlantas, and the screamingly eternal force of humidity is upon our up-dos, but darn it if a double rainbow and a hair band didn’t fix it all. There is always something to be thankful for, really so many things. Don’t forget to remember that!:) See you out there.

Standard Byke Co. and The Girliest Bike Ever 

It’s aliveee! And if you get that reference your awesome. But really you’re awesome anyway. 

Meet Gwyn (yes, as in Stephani…and also known as my new bike)! Gwyn is a pretty fitting name, since she’s white, pink, floral, rainbow, and possibly sings 90’s music into a microphone in the garage in her spare time. Ok, I may claim a TAD bit of twisted artistic license on that last part, but the color combo is 100% true :). 


To me, Gwyn is a work of art one year in the making. When I started back in BMX last summer, my 20″ bike was too small. Since a good bike can be expensive, and I am doing the post college adulting thing full time now, I began collecting parts little by little up until recently. The tough part was making sure everything fit together. Not being around bikes for the last ten years makes you forget little things like that! 


The wheels are Profile limited edition floral hubs with hot pink Box rims. The forks are carbon fiber Sinz 20mm, and the Box brakes and Box seat post clamp are pink. There seems to be a pattern emerging, so I’ll give you one guess as to the crank arms ;). The brake lever, neck and chain tensioners are all oil slick/rainbow colored. The pedals are rainbow/oil slick colored & the clips (and clip shoes) are hot pink too. 🙂 My good friend C got me a really great deal on a custom made Standard frame, which I am really loving. The geometry on this frame is perfect, and it’s lighter than aluminum frames. 


My brother is amazing, and built everything up, as well as designed the custom pink decals on the frame, and he finished it off with a clear coat to prevent scratching and peeling off. There are even some decals left over for the helmet. Pretty awesome. And matchy.

I’m so happy and thankful to have this amazing bike. It was hard work to get, but very worth it. I’m also beyond thankful to C, J with Standard Byke Company, and my brother for making all this possible. Now its time to get used to riding it this weekend. It should be okay, I heard it’s like riding a bike. Haha 😛

Diva Half Marathon 2016

Pink everything, tutus, boas, tiaras, champagne, epic medals handed out by shirtless firemen with more ripples to their abs than a cheese grater (oh yes, thank you for my medal!)…..you could say this run was right up my ally, and getting to do it with three of the coolest ladies made the weekend so memorable. 

This run marks the end of a goal I set for myself in January. As of now I finished 3 BMX nationals and 4 half marathons. There was also a 5k and a cross country road trip with my bestie in there as well. I’m so excited that I got to accomplish this, and it’s safe to say that I will be gladly taking a little time to rest, but back to the Diva run!

F, J, G & I picked up our packets at the Expo on Saturday. It faces the beach, and it was such a pretty view. We got to take pictures, shop, and basically freak out internally with happiness at the all  pink errything theme. After, we got to check out the Strand, do some shopping, see some live music, and rescue some much needed chocolate from the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Co.! 🙂

Race morning arrived bright and (too) early. We became divas in our head to toe pink, and headed out to the starting line at Saengerfest Park. 3….2…..1….go!

The first few miles were the toughest. Being used to running in 45 degrees, 70 was a hard pill to swallow. Nevertheless, we ran on until our muscles warmed up and we each found our pace. 


We ran down to the beach, and from there we followed the sea wall on a long out and back route. Carrying water this time helped a lot since it was hot out, and it started at 6:30 ish, half an hour earlier than last year. Without that water I would have been suffering between hydration stations. The course was flat and fast; there was very little elevation. The trick to this course was to watch your time. Avoiding gravel and too big cracks in the sidewalks helped lots. A biker rode by, hit a crack and he went flying, poor guy! A bunch of us made sure he was okay and could get up. J and I ran into each other (no pun intended, ha!) on the course and finished it together.



After the sea wall, we ran back up through town to the strand and, after stopping to pick up our tiaras and bias, crossed the finish line WOOHOO!!!! We got champagne, then water, then hot firemen put our medals on us. The dance contest was next, and J hopped in while we cheered her on. Next on the list was to congratulate the overall winner and get our hands on some grub. 

Despite a few bumps, and the lack of cold, this is one of my all time favorite fun runs. We all had a blast, and it will definitely be on the “to do again list” in the future. Big thumbs up! Way to go all you pinked out Divas! 


Running for Fun: City Post Flood

Houston, Texas. A humid, burning concrete jungle where people pay to go to hot yoga. A “cruel, crazy town on a filthy river in East Texas with no zoning laws and a culture of sex, money, and violence. It’s a shabby, sprawling metropolis ruled by brazen women, crooked cops and pansexual cowboys who live by the code of the west – which can mean just about anything you need it to mean, in a pinch.” ~Hunter S. Thompson

Despite the daily dose of sticky humidity slowly tip-toeing back in, signaling an end to the blessed 40-50 degree weather that is our winter, no gently cooling springtime showers were meant to be. In Houston, the proverbial “when it rains, it storms”, is the typical rule. Not so typically, we received a shocking 20 inches in under 24 hours no more than 2 days ago! Floodplains filled, man-made lakes overflowed, and streets and houses became unwilling submergeable hosts to myriad waterlogged wildlife – most likely just as confused at the loss of their homes.

I have been 2 days now rained out of work; there is indeed a downside to neighboring with a flood reservoir and pretty parks and trails – that downside I’m guessing you’ve already put together by the heading of this blog. Don’t misunderstand though, there are plenty of things to do when one is not at work. If I happened to win the lottery tomorrow I promise you I would have plenty of things to do without that annoying 7am alarm calling me to it!

A major (seemingly earth-shattering if my closet has anything to say about it) item I checked off my to-do list was spring cleaning. Gone are the days when I can’t see my closet floor, or decide what to wear based on its’ relative proximity to the door. Gone are five extra bags of items for charity. I have flood induced house arrest to thank for that. I do realize that some lost major items, lives, or everything they own, and I am not making light of that. My heart goes out to everyone who has suffered in this. However, I write about what I know, and this is my experience.

Today being the second day inside, a serious case of stir-crazy began to set in. You know the feeling – nothing satisfies, no idea works, napping has lost its’ appeal (which isn’t often). With almost every major road surrounding me shut down, I decided to grab the running shoes and take off to the east.

I swiftly made it out of my subdivision, the only peculiarities being some downed branches and a stalled car in the middle of a street closer to the highway. I crossed the highway and headed further east through a neighboring subdivision. Everything seemed normal; an exhausted looking woman covered in a huge wrap hat was mowing her yard, and I nodded back to an old man out for a walk.

Coming out to the intersection of a major road, I will call it Sandy Road, cars began turning back. Both directions of this road were blocked off. I ran around the barrier and looked out before me. It was the strangest sight, you see this particular road is never without cars. Gazing as far down Sandy Road as I could, sun glancing off bare cement was all that existed. I took off running down the middle of Sandy at 2:30 PM, something that definitely made me feel like a brazen woman! It was the strangest and most peaceful thing, to be surrounded by nothing but wide empty road and waterfowl and bullfrogs. It felt like I was running by myself in a race. Perhaps this is what Callum Neff feels like when he’s winning races. Hmm.

To my left was nothing but woods, and to my right a half-submerged golf course, with wild ducks and cranes dotting the landscape. I slowed to a walk as I tip-toed accross a long thin 2 inch deep stream of clear water traversing the two halves of the road, being very careful to avoid three or four small snakes sliding along with the water. I briefly stopped to speak with a group of hikers walking in the opposite direction, and ran on. The hikers continued on their way and I was alone, with the exception of a huge county work truck loudly and easily making its’ way through the knee high water. The area had an almost post-apocalyptic feel. It got me thinking about 1984, and other such books with a similar theme. The code of the West would most likely change as well. Imagining is key, but I don’t think I’d like to find out.

I simply kept running in the sticky oppressive heat. I ran until the sidewalk ended. Literally. And the road, and the grass. I ran until sweat stung my eyes and it was hard to see without wiping my hand below the brim of my hat. Eventually, deep water appeared everywhere, gently lapping against the unburied road, owning my field of vision. It remained obstinately in the way, as if to say, “I’ll go when I please, and don’t you forget it.”. It was dangerous, and natural, and solitary, and beautiful. Too much of a good thing. I had to turn around, but by then it felt like a good time to head home anyway, to grab a bottle of ice cold water and chug it down. To cook dinner and move on. An entire world away for me, but in reality 5 miles complete.

I like to ride and run, and to work on speed, and hills, and endurance. But sometimes it’s fun to just get out there, explore something new, and go where you feel like going. Whatever your hobbies are, change them up so they remain new and interesting. A big change isn’t necessary, it can be something as small as how you choose to see it. Always try to remember why you began something. As we grow we change, and sometimes the reasons why you continue doing things aren’t the reasons why you are still doing them. It’s important to remember your roots. Sometimes it’s just as important to remember your original reason for beginning, and your reasons now, take what matters and merge the two. I think that’s a pretty good code of the west.

 

 

 

 

USA BMX Lone Star Nationals

The BMX Lone Star nationals were last weekend in Pflugerville, TX, just north of Austin. This was a 3 day national, so Friday was also a national race instead of the usual double point (I believe) race. I was dead tired from the trip earlier that week, so I decided to figuratively pull myself up by those bootstraps (well, I own booties so hopefully that counts!), and hold my crap together for the weekend. This was easier said than done, btw. 

I woke up Friday morning, displaying the usual level of 4am cranky, loaded the car and bikes up amid lightening closer than I’d like, sheets of rain and thunder. The weather followed me all the way to the Austin area, into the overpriced parking of a mud hole field. I was greeted by rude parking attendants who seemed to have the bright idea each day that those who arrived early needed to park as far away as possible from the track, and slog through thick, sticky mud in mtb shoes to get anywhere. Let’s just say that I got tired of this lunacy very quickly, and decided to park away from the mud, closer to Central Texas BMX. 

I have never been to this track before, and I really liked it. The starting hill was the most fun! It was tall and you can get going super fast down it before you hit the first jump. I squeezed in a cruiser practice before the rain and alarms began and we had to run for cover to our cars. Despite the rain and the delayed start, the track workers worked really hard and our race was on! I ended up getting 1st on cruiser and 2nd in class. Got to the hotel at around 9, got a much needed shower and food, and was out like a light. 

Day two: The weather was the complete antithesis of day one; it was sunny and beautiful. Parking was still a mud hole, but by now I just ignored the rude attendants and parked somewhere that my car could actually escape. Practice was so much fun, and I got to visit the USA BMX trailer and harass my favorite people lol!! Between practice and motos, I took a lot of time to take naps in the car. I really needed it, and just tried my hardest on the track despite not feeling prepared for this one. I ended up qualifying out and getting 1st in cruiser and 2nd in class. The track is a definite power track, with lots of pedaling needed. When I got off after a lap, all I can say is, whew! It gave me a few ideas on what I can do to get better, and in the end that’s really what I love, the proscess more than the end result.

Day three: Sunday was a tad warmer; the sun beating down can take its’ own toll, so I made sure to drink lots of water and snack on (mostly) healthy items with natural sugars. The track dried up even more, and there was almost no wind. Racing went off without a hitch. I qualified out again, and was able to repeat a 1st in cruiser, and 2nd in class. By this day I was dead tired, so there can be no other social commentary. There were, however, naps aplenty, lol! 

All in all, it turned out to be such a fun weekend of racing. The track operators and USA BMX staff were wonderful, and went above and beyond to put on such a fun weekend! I have never been happier that the drive home was only 3 hours. I took off this past week and weekend from doing anything athletic. Sometimes you just need a break. 🙂 Until next time! 
Photo above courtesy of BMXNews.com. And yes, I make weird faces when I race. 😜

Houston to San Fran…part II

By now third day road trip brain had set in; this means crazy hair don’t care and second day floral sweatpants fashion, topped off with large sunglasses. We got up around 5 am, which sets the Guiness Book of records for highest consecutive amount of days Erin has ever got up early. We packed the car and were off, adios Grand Canyon!
We rolled into California through Hinkley and Barstow, with Flume floating from the speakers, courtesy of J. This area was desert; while J was power napping we crossed an area of road where sand surged across like waves on the bay. A tumbleweed rolled by in front of the car, and a few minutes after that a white wooden sign with peeling paint came into view. It read, “PG&E did it, and we knew about it since 1952. Supporting the people of Hinkley.” After watching Erin Brockovich about a million times, it felt so surreal to actually see this town, as well as the factory I can only guess was or is PG&E. If you haven’t seen this movie, I highly reccomend it! 

We went through beautiful Bakersfield, full of green rolling hills, through a literal wind farm close to Palm Springs. California is so varied, sort of like Texas; you never get bored, especially after having to stop at the state border for a citrus fruit check!
We made it into San Fran around 8pm, and carried everything in J’s life into the second floor bedroom of the bubble house air b&b, spoke with the owner perhaps too long, and collapsed into bed with absolutely NO alarm set for the next morning – definitely deserved. 
I must state the obvious, San Francisco is AMAZING. No small paragraph can do this 14 square foot city justice. We ran all around the city, beginning with a late brunch at the Cliff House. They have these popovers that are hollow inside and doughy and steamy when you break them open; add in a pat of butter and strawberry preserves and we were in heaven! We saw the Sutro Baths, Twin Peaks’ windy beauty, the Japanese Tea Garden, Fisherman’s wharf, and had bubble tea in Chinatown. 

For dinner on the first day, we met up with C for Peruvian food. The lowdown on C; C and I were best friends since we were 4. She moved to California right before I turned 6, and we wrote letters to each other ever since. That is very rare, and I value it so highly. We had such a blast at dinner, oh that paella and civeche and bubbly was perfect – a perfect ending with wonderful friends! 
Flying home was very sad. Saying goodbye to my best friend I know isn’t final, but my heart was so heavy none the less. I think in a day and a half I had already felt so at home. I don’t feel like that often; I have lived in Texas almost my whole life and have always felt so out of place.  Who knows, maybe one day the stars will align. 

Returning early to race the Lone Star nationals in Austin a day later. Talk to you soon J & C!! Miss you guys already!

Houston to San Fran…just a hop, skip, and a hike! Part I

Whew! This last week has been a whirlwind. One of my best friends in the world, J, decided to move to San Francisco, so I took off a week of work to pack her car full of her whole life, and drive there with her. Houston to San Fran in three days, yep, we got this. The first day was long. We woke up at the crack of dark (not a typo!), prepped breakfast, packed up and got on the road. We drove through Dallas and Amarillo, and made it into New Mexico to spend the night. 

On day two we peeled ourselves out of bed…or maybe that was just me. J is happy and bubbly and ready to listen to party music in the morning. This is something that I will never understand, as I strive for simple morning duties such as not running into the door or looking overly cranky. Fast forward five hours and our mid trip destination awaited us, the Grand Canyon. 

For anyone who’s been there, I bet you would agree that pictures don’t do it justice. We decided to go on a hike a mile and a half down and back up, on the South Kaibab trail. The red dirt path was roughly two people wide, with a wall on one side, and a straight shot for miles down on the other. The entire path went down for 6+ miles, but we did not have enough water, or enough time before sundown. Personally, I’m not much of a hiker so the 1 1/2 miles down was perfect. My favorite part was when we got to our mid point before ascending back to the rim. It was beautiful the way only nature can be beautiful; vast and expansive, with the peaceful the sound of the wind sliding like silk ribbons through the canyon. J climbed onto a huge downed branch to lay down, and I climbed up onto a large boulder, sat down and took in the view. If the impending evening and our diminishing water supply hadn’t been calling, we could had have stayed there all day. The lack of animal life in the canyon was shocking. In the forest all around the actual canyon, animals are everywhere. It is illegal to feed them, but they will walk right by, unafraid. Very refreshing too, I might add. On a side note, I did see two birds and two squirrels on the trail. One was gigantic, but I guess that’s what happens if you share a canyon with one other squirrel, ha!

Leaving the national forest, we ended the night inhaling anything we could get out hands on at a Mexican restraunt. The chips and salsa were extra good that night! 

Next stop, California!

Sugar Land St. Patty’s Day Half Marathon

The second run of the weekend went off without a hitch. Sunday March 20th was the Sugar Land Memorial Hermann St. Patty’s Day Half Marathon with J and G, and was J’s first ever half marathon. The run began and ended in Sugar Land Town Square, and had about 800 entrants. Parking was in a garage normally reserved for an office building, and was a breeze to find. The national anthem was beautifully sung and we were off! I ran with J, and G took off up ahead. It was a nice crisp 45 degrees with no wind, a.k.a. perfect running weather. Alas, lazy summer days are approaching, so appreciate the cold when you can. The course was 2 roughly 5-6 mile loops surrounded by huge mansions on all sides, and a beautiful fountain close to the turn around. Since this race was St. Patty’s themed, we were serenaded by kilt clad bag-piping kids every few miles near the water stations. I thought this was a great touch, especially since in my wildest dreams I never thought I’d be running by fountains and mansions while bagpipers played to me/us all! The entire course was beautiful, sunny and flat, with people cheering us on when we most needed it. G and J ended up getting a PR, and we all got free beer, food, and a beautiful green and rose gold clover charm. Finisher Charms was there selling a charm for the event. It is an exact replica of the medal, but in sterling silver, and really good quality. I love charms, and am definitely picking one up in April!

Run Houston! Minute Maid Park

As a new(ish) runner, there are lots of firsts. First race in a new distance, first PR, lots of better PRs, first podium, first travel to a race. Well, you get where I’m going with this. Last weekend was another first for me; I had two races back to back. Absolute lunacy? Maybe. Pure unadulterated fun? Absolutely! (Except for the little detail of two 4:30 am wake up calls back to back. Not gonna lie, those are the antithesis of weekend goals!) These last few months have been beyond busy with work, 2 bmx nationals, and 2 other half marathons. Back to the first of the weekend runs…

Saturday March 19th was the Run Houston! Minute Maid Park 5k with F. Since it was downtown, I was surprised at how easy it was to find the parking lot and walk over to Minute Maid. I really love the Run Houston! Series; the runs are well organized and always begin on time. Our 5k consisted of an out and back loop over two bridges. It was a very cold, windy morning, so that combined with bridges definitely made me work for it. We were expecting rain, but fortunately it decided to hold off. There were two water/Gatorade stations, since the 10k runners had to run the loop twice. I’m so glad F ran with me, and I ended up getting a PR of 27 minutes. Time to add in some hills and speed work to the training! We picked up our medals, water, and some El Pollo Loco and a fruit plate. What a way to start off the weekend! Not to mention best breakfast ever! If you are ever in the Houston area and have a hankering for a good 5 or 10k, check out the Run Houston series.