Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Peachtree Road Race relaxes time standards

After making it tougher last year to get into the top waves, the Peachtree Road Race this year has eased back on time standards.

This year, a 10K time of 45:32 or a 5K time of 21:57 is needed to get into the first group called Wave A. Last year, you had to have a respective time of 45:23 or 21:52 to get into that wave. In 2015, the Wave A standard was 47:39 for a 10K and 22:58 for a 5K.

The time standards can be seen here.

Similarly, the Atlanta Track Club eased their Wave B standards by 38 seconds for a 10K, so you don't have to break 50 minutes for that wave. For a 5K, you can get in that wave with a time of 24:16, as opposed to 23:58 last year.

For the last several years, the track club's time standards have shifted yearly, presumably because of varying numbers of applicants for each start wave and to make sure each wave is properly filled and not too crowded.

Because the official standards are released a few months after the deadline to register has taken place, runners do not always know if the race times they submit will qualify them for a particular starting wave as those times may have in the past.

Without knowing the time standard for this year, I would have thought my 45:25 in Saturday's Possum Trot 10K would not have qualified me for Wave A according to the 2016 standards but it would have squeaked in by seven seconds this year!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Day 3,821: Possum Trot 10K

Map of the Possum Trot 10K course.
ROSWELL, Ga. -- I waited until the last minute to decide to run in the Possum Trot 10K this year, and was extremely glad I did. I'd wanted to run in the race that helps the Chattahoochee Nature Center for years now but just never was able to fit it in my schedule.

This year, however, the weather looked good (I wouldn't have signed up for it if rain had been in the forecast for race day).

My main reason was to see how realistic it would be for me to try to run a 7:17/mile pace for a longer run, including for the 10-mile and half marathon distance. For this race, my goal was to try to run at a 7:15/mile pace to see if I could break 45 minutes for the 10K. (My PR is 45:17 from the 2016 Charles Harris Run).

I left at 6:04 a.m. or so to get up to the race. I arrived after 6:30 a.m. and the overflow lot at a nearby church was nearly completely full. Luckily there were a few spots left (and after I parked no one else filled the spaces).

It was about a mile run to the start line, something that was perfect for my pre-race, pre-workout routine. When I got to the starting line I probably had five minutes until the race started. At this point with the humidity, my singlet already was sweaty.

The night before the race, I found an old race recap online from 2013. Of specific interest to me were the noting of hills just before the turnaround that leads to Mile 3, then a rise after Mile 4.5 and then a hilly last mile.

When the race started, I tried to keep my pace at 7:15, even with a slight hill in the first mile. It didn't seem too bad but I ended up a little faster for my split (7:11). The race continued down Azalea Drive and Mile 2 was similar (7:12).

Right around the turnaround before Roswell Road I passed a guy in a yellow singlet with a bald spot in the back of his head. The incline here did not seem to be too significant so I was happy about that.

After Mile 3 (7:10) a guy wearing a bright yellow Big Peach singlet passed me. He seemed to be trucking along and I was following along pretty well even though he was well ahead of me. It seemed like this is the kind of situation that normally helps me in a race, having a faster runner to focus on.

At the same time, I felt like I was struggling a little bit with my pace although when I looked at my watch it was pretty much locked on 7:15. Mile 4 was 7:16.

I felt like I just wanted to hold on and Mile 5 was 7:11. After this, there is the hill that was noted in the 2013 account. Here the author had some difficulty and for whatever reason, I was, too. The hill seemed very long and I was only able to run at an 8:00/mile pace. The guy with the bald spot passed me here and I felt like my chance to make my age group was dwindling with him doing so.

At about 5.5 miles or so there is the turnaround. It felt like a lot of work to be running and I was doing my best to keep running. When Mile 6 came I just wanted to finish. I ran this in 7:44.

Somewhere around this point, a middle aged female runner started to pass me and she said something like "Nice job" and I made a friendly reply. It was a little awkward since I knew I would be kicking soon. I did, passing her, and finished the last .28 miles at a 5:45/mile pace. I had been expecting this finish to be a little uphill but it looked like this section was entirely downhill! Something to remember for the future.

I finished in 45:25, which is my second fastest 10K. I guess I need to look into my endurance and doing hill repeats but I'm pretty confident I would have broken 45 minutes without that last hill that gave me pause. When I looked at the elevation profiles on my Garmin data, the hill barely registers anything!

I skipped getting water at the last aid station after Mile 4, which may have been a mistake and I wonder if taking a GU gel would have helped me in the latter part of the race.

I felt like the race was a good tune-up for what will likely be an equally hot and humid Peachtree Road Race on July 4. I was happy that I was able to run five miles at or under the 7:15/mile pace although I would honestly say only three of those miles were cleanly run at that pace. I'll probably start my tempo runs at three miles and work my way up from there.

After the race I walked the half-mile from the nature center back to my car, changed out of my completely soaked singlet and put on a dry shirt, some more cushiony running shoes (Hoka Hoka One Clifton 3s) and drank some nuun. I walked back to the nature center pavilion in the unlikely event I might have placed but they announced my age group right when I walked up.

The three guys who placed all ran in the 42-43 minute range so me and the guy who passed me were fighting for 6th place! You never know, however, as third place in my age group last year ran a 45:24.

After that it was nice to run into Frank from Running for the second half of my life. It was a nice way to catch up and celebrate the running of a nice race.

Time: 7:04 a.m.
Temp: 68 degrees
Gear: Singlet (Saucony), shorts, cep compression socks, Newton Gravity V.

Monday, June 12, 2017

25 percent Nuun discount!

The Nuun hydration friends and family discount is back! 25 percent off at nuunlife.com until June 23!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Day 3,814: Braves Country 5K

This was not the course initially shown on the Atlanta Track Club site.
Although I skipped the final year the Braves Country 5K was held at Turner Field last year, I knew I wanted to do the first iteration of this race at the new SunTrust Park.

At the same time, I was a little apprehensive of the race, knowing that it would likely be hilly since course looked like it overlapped the Michelob ULTRA 13.1 atlanta half marathon route that I ran in 2015.

So I decided I would just do this one as a fun run and not worry about the time so much. Last month I'd planned to leave my Saucony Type A6 racing flats at home (to save on wear from meaningless races) and I decided to wear my Brooks Pure Connect 4s, which I haven't worn in a long time. (Even during the prerace warmup, I felt like the shoes were causing my heels to be sore but in the race these shoes were very comfortable and there was very little contact with the heels).

A few days before the race, I printed out the course map. But it turned out this was not the right course map! The map had the race starting in the battery and making its way down to Cobb Parkway before going up Circle 75 Parkway and out to Windy Ridge Road.

Then it would turn on Interstate North Circle and Interstate North Parkway before going back to Windy Ridge Road. I drove this route and then walked and ran the last half mile or so as a warmup.

So imagine my surprise when the race started and went in the other direction, directly over Windy Ridge Road and then out as far as Powers Ferry! It wasn't that big of a deal, since I knew that the race would have to come back to the stadium. I decided to hold back a lot in the first mile and I ran that in 7:03.

The first big hill was at mile 1.38, a short but steep incline of 67 feet. The rest of the way is not too bad but on the elevation profile it looks pretty rolling. I ran Mile 2 in 7:19. The next, and worst hill, is back over Windy Hill Ridge over the interstate at about 2.3 miles. It rises from about 864 feet to 1,004 feet over .6 miles.

In the middle of the hill, I was running at an 8:30/mile pace, similar to what I did in the huge hill at nearby Akers Mill (157' rise over .5 miles) over the interstate during the April racetrac Run for Research 5K.

After that it was downhill all the way to the stadium where you enter and then run on the warning track that separates the ball field's grass from the wall and seating area to the finish. My third mile was at 7:30 and I ran the last .13 miles at a 5:29/mile pace, although I could tell my shoes were not optimal for the crushed gravel of the warning track.

I was happy with my time, it wasn't great but I knew it wouldn't be a PR since I am only a few weeks out from running in a half marathon.

PARKING; Before the race they warned people to come early because parking was limited to the Red deck. But when I went to packet pickup on Friday I was given a slip of paper that said as a thank you for getting your bib and T-shirt early, you could park in the Delta deck, which is separate from the Red deck (and not advertised as a parking option).

I left home at 6:14 a.m. and when I got to Circle 75 parkway about 15 minutes later, there was a long line going to the Red deck. But virtually no line when I drove by the Delta deck. That gave me the confidence to drive the (wrong) race route and then come back and park in the Delta deck.

The only problem with this convenient deck was when it was time to leave. The police and volunteers did not know what to do with cars exiting the Delta deck and we waited for a bunch of walkers to make their way on Circle 75 before officials opened up a lane of traffic that already was blocked off to the walkers. It made for a slight delay but a pretty minimal one.

Time: 7:34 a.m.
Temp: 63 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Team BEEF), shorts (Mizuno), cep compression socks, Brooks Pure Connect 4.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Day 3,811: RnR Savannah Half Marathon sale

It's hard to beat a great deal for a half marathon.
This morning when I opened my email I saw the Rock'n'Roll race series was throwing a huge sale on their race slate for Global Running Day.

The international lineup includes a race in Georgia I've wanted to run in for a long time, the Nov. 4 Rock'n'Roll Savannah Half Marathon.

The limited offer price is $50.99, for a $35 savings. (A steep online registration fee of $9.99 also applies, putting the price slightly above $60).

But still, it's a decent price for a half marathon. I paid $113 (base $109) for last month's Boston's Run to Remember half marathon.

So it's definitely something to think about!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Day 3,801: Boston's Run to Remember half marathon (PR)

I PR'd in 1:39:14. A 6:53 Mile 13 saved the race for me.
BOSTON -- "You came all the way to do this race?" the lady at the expo who gave me my race bib asked me when she saw I was from Atlanta.

I nodded. As soon as we'd decided to come up to Boston for our vacation I checked to see what races would be held while we were here. This race came up. It looked interesting, mainly in the city and mainly flat.

When I PR'd with a 1:42:40 time at the 2016 Publix Georgia Half Marathon, it was all by accident. I hadn't trained for a specific pace.

With this race, I saw an opportunity to do one of three things: 1) Break 1:40 in a half marathon 2). Make the Peachtree Road Race Group A time standard for a half marathon (last year it was 1:40:18) or 3). Set a new PR.

I'd also used a race time predictor that showed that with a 5K time of 21:44 I should be able to run a half marathon in under 1:40. So I set my goal for a 7:36/mile pace, for a projected 1:39:33 time.

That said, it was far from easy or certain. I started Hanson's Half Marathon method in Week 7 of an 18 week schedule. I found that while I could run at a 7:36/mile pace, I frequently broke my tempo workouts or even the easier pace (8:20/mile) long runs. The only thing giving me confidence was the strength workouts, where you run mile or longer repeats at 10 seconds faster than your goal pace.

Many times after a workout, it would take me two days to be ready for the next hard workout, throwing me off schedule.

Still, I felt strangely confident I could rock the race, even though I had little to show for it workout wise.

On race day I ran from our hotel, about 1.3 miles, for a workout. I felt pretty good, just as I had a week earlier doing an easy eight mile run in Bar Harbor, Maine for my last long run before the race.

The corrals were organized well. They basically had three waves and I settled behind the 7:30/mile pace sign.

My goal was to just try to replicate the tempo runs. The most I'd run at a 7:36/mile pace was four miles and I thought my goal would be to do that or maybe string together seven miles at that pace (the longest tempo at that pace you do under Hanson's).

We started out and it was a little congested. I was a little concerned but salvaged a 7:41 mile. The race continued and I was surprised at how easy it felt. There were some hills but they were pretty tame compared to what we have in Atlanta. I ran Mile 2 a little too fast in 7:19 and tried to slow down a little bit to conserve myself. Mile 3 was 7:30 and we neared the Harvard bridge that crosses the Charles River.

I continued to string together miles at or under pace. (Mile 4 was 7:27). I knew that I would probably pay for it at some point but decided to just go with it. Mile 5: 7:22.

Mile 6 rolled by at 7:27 and I felt surprised at the next mile when I completed the old T7 workout with a 7:32 mile.

At this point we were on our way back toward the Harvard bridge and I started to wonder if my luck would hold out. Mile 8 was 7:33. At Mile 9 I took a GU gel  (7:28/mile) and I decided that with the temperature being relatively cool I would continue with previous practice and not drink any water. I had to lick my fingers a few times to get the sticky from the gel off.

At Mile 10 I started to wonder how much slower I could be and still break 1:40. It seemed close! I ran that mile in 7:35 and it looked like 24 minutes for the next 3 miles would put me right at 1:40.

When Mile 11 came I was just trying to hold on. I ran that in 7:38 and still was in the ballpark where 16 more minutes would put me right at the line.

At this point I knew I was slowing. I ran Mile 12 in 8:01 and hoped for the best. It wouldn't be any big deal if I couldn't break 1:40 since it looked likely I would definitely PR.

My legs were so heavy as we crossed the bridge on Seaport Avenue. I decided to truck in as best as I could but I really wasn't sure.

When you cross the bridge you can see the finish arch. There are about three or four stoplights before then. When I had two stoplights left, about two blocks, I looked at my watch. It said 1:38:34, which meant I had less than two minutes to break 1:40.

It would be a photo finish!

I ran as hard as I could and was really happy when the clock said 1:39:14. I could not believe it! Later on when I checked my laps, I did Mile 13 at a 6:53 pace! It saved my race and I slowed after that (my watch has me running the last .27 miles at a 7:05/mile pace).

I'm glad to be finally off a training schedule and it'll take me a few weeks to decide what I want to do from here. I'll probably have to alter the traditional training schedule to give myself more recovery in between hard workouts.

But a significant milestone for what I want to do ahead has been reached.

Time: 7:05 a.m.
Temp: 56 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Pactimo nuun hydration), shorts (Mizuno), cep compression socks, Newton Gravity V shoes, Headsweats nuun visor.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Day 3,772: RaceTrac Run for Research 5K

If I can't place in my age group, there's always SWAG.
I'd been wanting to run in the RaceTrac Run for Research 5K for a while now but the timing was not right the past few years on race day weekends.

This year, the stars aligned and I found myself driving to the Galleria to run this race on what looks like a brand new course for the event that raises money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's research.

Although I'd already downloaded the race's USATF certified course, I drove it after I exited on Cumberland Drive from I-75. And I was glad that I did. I remembered some of this course overlapped part of the Michelob Ultra 13.1 atlanta race that I ran in 2015. So I knew right away this run would be hilly.

What I didn't realize was how hilly it was in the last mile of the race, basically a double hill from Cumberland Parkway up Akers Mill. It turns out it increases 157 feet in elevation over a half mile.

When I pulled up to the 200 Galleria parking deck a little more than an hour before race start, there was a line of about 10 cars in two directions trying to get in. I was wondering if parking in the deck would be a mistake but once inside there was plenty of parking.

I then went up to the top/ground level of the deck and there were lots of vendors, mainly snacks and drinks as you might expect from a company that is a gas station and convenience store. There also was registration, which maybe ran 50-70 people long.

During this time, they offered up bibs to people who wanted to run without an official time, that shortened some of the line, even though the long line only took 5-10 minutes to run through before I had my race bib.

During this time some people with the Braves came by with a stack of hats and foam tomahawks. I got one of each and was happy I did so, because when I went to Braves Opening Day earlier this month I realized my old Braves hat (which was from a stadium giveaway) had started to show its age and I nearly bought a new one.

I was able to get out and do a 1-mile warmup, running down and then back up the big Akers Mill hill. Running slow, I didn't realize how hard of a hill it would be.

I'd timed my run to get back right before race start and soon we were off. My goal was to stay at a 7-minute or 7:05 pace for the first two miles to save myself for the last big hill. In doing so, a large pack of people ran up the first hill to Akers Mill and then down it to Cumberland Parkway, getting farther ahead of me. I decided to not try to chase, although I ran plenty fast during this time. My first mile was 6:53.

Near the end of Mile 1 and the turnaround, there was a taller guy with an unusual running gait who passed me. I passed him back on the uphill part near the turnaround and then on the downhill he sped up to pass me. I continued on a steady pace and passed him when the course went uphill again toward the Akers Mill intersection. In these kinds of races it pays to have a steady cadence and not try to gas and go with other people running.

After the intersection, the course went downhill a ways and then leveled out a little bit before the Mile 2 turnaround. (Mile 2 was 6:59) At this point I saw an older guy, shirtless, running ahead of me. At the turnaround cone I was literally a step behind him.

He sped up at this point but I let him go because I knew about the troublesome double hill ahead. At some point on this first part of the hill and before Akers Mill I passed him. Somehow in my mind I had him pegged as the guy I needed to finish ahead of to make my age group. I wasn't sure I'd be able to keep the lead.

The hill up Akers Mill was crazy. I looked at my watch and I was doing an 8:30, 8:45/mile pace, something that has not happened for a while. I wanted to quit but I knew that if I just got up to the top it would be downhill the rest of the way. I was gaining on a woman ahead and I told myself that they would have to pass "the first overall female" if they wanted to pass me (it turned out she did not place that way).

We turned back down toward the Galleria and there were three African-American men in front of us. Here it kind of gets fuzzy for me. I don't know whether we passed them or if they finished ahead of us but all I know is I made it down the hill, around the curve and then this guy who I saw way ahead in the race (at the time I thought he was the race winner, but he wasn't), came from the direction of the finish and ran back alongside the woman, to try to help her finish strong.

After Mile 3 the course goes straight and then makes the same 90-degree turn as it did in the start back to the finish. I'd been running alongside the two of them and the wheels were starting to fall off. But I was slowly passing the woman on the straightaway and for some reason, I turned to her and said "C'mon, C'mon!" to get her to keep pace before I passed her and finished.

I finished in 22:13 (7:43 for the third mile), with what my watch said was a 4:59/mile kick for the last .13 miles, something I've never done before. I was seriously woozy after the finish that people with the race tried to stop me and ask me if I was ok (I was).

I went to get a goodie bag near the registration tent and I didn't realize it until after the race, but it was filled with lots of snacks and treats as in the above picture! I picked up a few bags of chips, the water, and the Braves items but everything else was already in the goodie bag.

The announcer mentioned that people could check with the registration tent to see their times. So I did. There was a 35-year-old guy in front of me and he placed 25th overall and 10th in his age group. When it was my turn, she said I placed 22nd overall (they said 2,500 people were in this race) and 4th for my age group. (Edit: I placed 33rd of 1,453, I guess I misheard).

I was a little bummed but decided to stay in case it was a situation in which the Masters winner, etc. was in my age group and would bump me up to the podium. But it wasn't, and even worse, the announcer mentioned that 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the 40-49 age group finished with a race pace of 7:04/mile, 7:05/mile and 7:06/mile.

At first I was confused because my watch said my 22:13 was 7:06/mile but that was for 3.13 miles. For a 3.1 mile race, that is more like 7:09/mile. I haven't seen the results yet but I must have lost by 9 seconds or less (still an eternity in a 5K).

I didn't win my age group this time around but I felt extremely good in this race. I passed between six and nine people at the end of this race and am happy with two sub-7 miles. Who knows what will happen when I run that combination and do not find a 157' rise at the end?

As you may know, I'm a hill runner who is not fond of hills so I don't know what to think about running in this next year. But it was a wonderful family event for a good cause (raised $350K!) and the treats were really great!

Time: 8 a.m.
Temp: 68 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Atlanta Beltline Southwest 5K 2013), shorts, cep compression socks (green), Saucony Type A6.