H-Town Run Tourist

Make the best of your COVID 19 quarantine by running a virtual race!

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Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. Check out her new blog, HTown Run Tourist. Follow her on Twitter @jovanabernathy. Instagram @HTownRunTourist. Facebook @jovanabernathy

I had so many goals for 2020. I was looking forward to doing more local and foreign races. Like so many other things, it would be put off until who knows when. But, where there is a will, there is a way.

Have you ever heard of a virtual race? It is a 5K, 10K, half marathon, or full marathon that can be run anywhere at your own convenience and pace. So how do you run one?

First, you would choose the virtual race that you want to run. Many people choose by the charity that it benefits. A portion of nearly all virtual runs go to charities like Make a Wish Foundation or to benefit Sea Turtles. I love charity, but I like the swag. I'm going to be dead honest. I'm going for the ones with the best medals. Because, we all deserve a medal.

Next, you would choose where you want to do your run. It could be on a treadmill in your garage, around your neighborhood, along Buffalo Bayou, or maybe even on the Strand in Galveston. Next, you would map out the correct distance to run your virtual race. You can use running apps like WHOOP, Map My Run or Strava. You can choose to run or walk your race.

The day of your special race, you can get some of your family and friends to drive by and honk to cheer you on. If not, just get some great tunes like Hip-Hop from the mid to late 90's. Now, it is time to enjoy Houston. After you finish, submit your results and take your picture and post. After everything is said and done, wait for your swag shipment.

Now, here is an even better question? Which races are out there to do? The list is endless, so I made a list of my top 5 races. Here they are:

Allstate Hot Chocolate Run: I have been spying this race for a while. Not only does it have a cool medal, but instead of a shirt, you get this awesome hoody! I'm in. Also included in your swag bag is a chocolate bar medal and some chocolate. You have to hurry because it closes on April 30. If you are anything like me, you really want that hoody.

Coffee and Donuts: This one is a unique run. Because you can choose your own course, you should end this run at your favorite Donut shop. I'm thinking VooDoo Donut on Washington Ave after a run along Buffalo Bayou!

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Zombie Apocalypse: I can see Fred wanting to run this one. Zombies are right up his alley. I'm pretty sure that you will come back alive from this run. You also get a pretty cool medal with a zombie chasing a man dripping with flecks of blood.

Run for Sea Turtles: This one is put on by the Bad Ass Running Company. It is encouraging you to run the 10K + 1 mile in one day or do it over 7 days. They just want to see you get out. There is a cute sea turtle on the medal.

Run Houston Clear Lake: Let's support Houston Races as well. You could actually go to University of Houston ClearLake and run on campus to complete your race. The Race Houston metals are always stellar.

So, don't let your COVID 19 go to waste. Use it for the downtime and choose the race you are going to run next. For more on races and touring Houston, visit my new website: HTown Run Tourist.

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The 2022 regular season is nearing its end and while for the Houston Astros the true test will begin in the postseason, now is a good time to look ahead at what the team’s starting rotation could look like in 2023.

The big question will be whether long-time ace Justin Verlander returns to the team. Heading into 2022, there was doubt whether he would even be with the Astros coming off Tommy John surgery. Verlander re-signed with Houston on a two-year deal with a player option for 2023.

His production in 2022 has been nothing short of sensational. Verlander has the most wins for the Astros with a week left in the season. He has a 1.82 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 5.2 wins above replacement. More importantly for both Verlander and the Astros, is that he has played in 26 games and counting this season.

Whether Verlander remains with the Astros will likely depend on whether Houston is willing to spend. It is highly likely Verlander opts out of his player option following the strong 2022 campaign he has put together and looks for a bigger payday. Houston has shown it is not afraid to let key players walk in the offseason, so let’s take a look at a potential rotation with and without Verlander.

If the 39-year-old, who will be 40 by the time the 2023 regular season starts, stays with the Astros, he will undoubtedly be either the No. 1 or No. 2 pitcher in the rotation along with Framber Valdez, who is right behind Verlander in wins this season at 16. If Verlander leaves, Valdez should be the new Astros ace at No. 1.

Behind those two should be pitcher Lance McCullers Jr., who in seven games in 2022 has a 2.38 ERA and has cooled the concerns about his right flexor tendon strain being a long-term concern. He suffered the injury last postseason.

After those three, things begin to get interesting. Let’s say Houston opts to stay with a six-man rotation. The fourth starter could be Luis Garcia, who has a 3.90 ERA in 2022. The 25-year-old has shown he is more than a capable starter for the Astros.

The big question is if Hunter Brown can lock himself a spot in the rotation. Numbers wise, he makes a solid case to be more than Houston’s fifth starter as he has garnered 1.13 ERA through four appearances and two starts.

Brown’s starts have been against the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers, so there is a bit of a caveat there, but the upside undoubtedly should put him in the conversation for a starting role in 2023.

If Verlander leaves Houston, it should be more of a guarantee that a spot in the rotation as a starter for Brown is locked. Another factor in whether Brown is a starter could be if the Astros keep Dusty Baker as manager. Baker has shown at times he is willing to side with veterans over younger talent.

Other factors in Brown’s role will also be Jose Urquidy and Cristian Javier. Urquidy has a 3.88 ERA in 28 games, all of which have been starts. Javier has a 2.65 ERA in 29 appearances, 24 of which have been starts.

Javier’s role for the Astros the last couple of years has involved starting and coming out of the bullpen, but this season he has shown that he is a capable starter. Based on this season’s play, Javier should have the edge for a starting spot, which leaves the question, what should the Astros do with Urquidy?

If Verlander walks, and Houston opts to keep a six-man rotation, then he just slides in and becomes starter No. 6. If Verlander stays, then is he willing to accept a role out of the bullpen, or do the Astros continue to use Brown out of the bullpen? Over the course of the season, both Brown and Urquidy will undoubtedly have chances to start throughout 2023.

Because of the long grind of an MLB schedule, the Astros should not trade whoever doesn’t get a starting role if Verlander stays, but how likely is it that it is even a problem for Houston? Regardless of who leaves or stays, the Astros should also continue with a six-man rotation because over the course of 162 games, it is what is best for your starters.

If the Astros bring back general manager James Click, based on how the Astros have seen players like George Springer and Carlos Correa walk in the past under his leadership, it is likely Verlander leaves Houston, but at the same time, many didn’t believe he was going to be back at all for 2022.

One thing is for sure, the Astros have a great problem to have. So many starting pitcher candidates, many of whom can be under team control for several years. So even if Verlander walks, an unforeseen injury happens, or a player ends up being disgruntled, Houston has more than enough flexibility to remain among the American Leagues’s best.

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