When the gun went off, I went out pretty hard the first couple hundred meters. The first hill is about 1/4 mile into the race and it is pretty narrow so you don't want to be stuck in the back of the back. You really can only go up it single file and you could lose a good chunk of time if you don't get out hard. We take off on a straightaway at the start and then do a u-turn around a tree after about 150 meters. Last year somebody hit a small branch which bounced back and whacked me in the eye so I was careful to make sure I had good position. After we crested the first hill, I backed off the pace a little bit because I knew that I had no business trying to hang with the lead group - Colin Carroll, Gabe Rodriguez, John Hendengren and Jose Lara among others. I think I might have gone a little too hard the first 1/4 because I never really felt like I was recovered and relaxed the rest of the race. The lead pack had 5 guys in it and pulled away the first lap. Rudy Rocha was a little ahead of me and I don't think anyone else really stayed close. I passed the finish line area at about 7:20 for the first lap. The first lap is a little longer than the other two because of the start and how it loops around.
On the second lap, I really started catching Rudy on the first hill. I thought he was struggling and going pretty slow and I pulled to within a couple seconds of him. On the second hill of the second lap, I passed him near the top and I put in a surge off the top of the hill to try to drop him and I got a couple seconds ahead of him. As I was going up that hill, I noticed one of the guys in the lead pack had stopped and was stepping off to the side of the course so I knew that I was up into 5th place. When we were within about 250 meters of finishing the 2nd lap, Rudy had caught up to me and passed me. I was fine with him going ahead and doing a little more of the work because I figured that I could pass him off the hills again on the 3rd lap. I passed the finish line area at the end of lap 2 somewhere around 14:20 for about a 7:00 lap. Unfortunately for me, he either got a 2nd wind or had just been taking it easy on the hills on the 2nd lap because he didn't seem to struggle on the hills on the last lap. I was within striking distance going up the last big hill with 1K or so to go, but he wasn't going to let me get by him again. He ended up pulling ahead of me and beating my by 7 seconds. I finished about 40 seconds ahead of 7th place. My third lap wound up being about a 7:06.
Last year they had a timing mat we crossed at the end of every lap so we got our official splits. My splits last year were 7:15, 6:59, 7:09 and this year's approximate watch splits were 7:20, 7:00, 7:06. At least I'm pretty consistent. Last year I had taken almost 3 weeks off after the marathon and the only run I did between the marathon and this race was 4 miles the day before to make sure that I wasn't injured and could run the race. Between the warmer weather and having a full week of training with speedwork on Thursday, I think this performance is at least as good as last year's race. This was probably my best spring/summer race last year when you consider how I placed relatively to some of the other faster runners in Houston.
It was a tough race with the field really spreading out. 4th place was almost a minute ahead of me. In hindsight, I wish I had started out a little easier at the beginning. I don't think I would have lost too much time at the start and I might have felt stronger on the 3rd lap. I was watching the master's race and Wilmer Bustillos had a huge lead, but I missed the start of the awards and I didn't hear what the overall masters winner's time was. When I checked the results online, Wilmer wasn't listed at all and they listed Gerardo Mora as the masters winner. I don't know if they goofed on the results or if Wilmer got DQ'd or what happened. I was hoping to beat all the masters runners, but I guess I don't know if I did or not. I guess I'll have to wait until next year to take another shot at a sub 21:00 on this course.