Sunday, February 2, 2020

Day 4,781: Hot Chocolate 5K

It turned out this race was over for me before it began! I planned everything pretty well, I thought, until I took a slightly longer than usual warmup before the race start and found myself outside a crowded corral with two minutes before the race started, giving me little hope of a fast start that is crucial for a good 5K time.

In that moment I decided to wait with a bunch of people outside the corral and only was able to get in after the gun went off, maybe getting to the starting line about 45 seconds after. When I started running I was stuck behind the 9:30 minute/mile pacers for the 15K. I decided to just run when I could and just enjoy the race.

I finished the race in 23:04, losing about a minute in the congested first mile (the 5K and 15K racers share the road until the 5K split at about 1K into the race). My splits were 7:51/7:12/7:07 This actually could be a positive in that I need to make sure I get into the corral early when I am running in the Publix Georgia Half Marathon next month.

Here's some notes just for my own planning purposes in the future:

Getting There: Free street parking is really scarce downtown now. I drove around a bit and finally found a space on John Wesley Dobbs close to I-75/85. Gonna have to plan better for this next time.

Prerace: I walked up to the empty corral at 7 a.m., about 30 minutes before the race started. Since it was cold out I decided to walk toward Centennial Olympic Park and the portapotty lines when I remembered before last year's Publix half I went to the Omni for the restrooms and to shelter from the cold. This year I stayed in the lobby until 15 minutes before the race when I did my warmup.

Warmup: I wanted to see the last couple hundred meters before the finish but it meant running 1.08 miles, a little more than I would usually for a warmup. It was valuable to see this downhill finish but this got me to the corral just two minutes before race start and that meant having to wait in a line outside the crowded corral.

Gear: It was cold out (36 degrees at race start) but I wore too many layers for the race. I wore a Mizuno Breath Thermo layer under a technical T-shirt. Over that I had a throwaway long-sleeved technical T-shirt. But after Mile 2 I really wished I'd just worn the short sleeved tech shirt and obviously couldn't discard the under layer in the middle of the race.

Course: It is a little hilly, it had some screaming downhill but a half-mile incline that included a huge hill overpass with a half mile left in the race.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Day 4,748: The runstreak is now 13 years!

A short 2-mile run today closed out 13 years of the runstreak! I ended up with 2,130.11 miles for the year, the most I've ever run for that time period (I ran 2,104.33 miles in 2014).

All in all, it was a pretty good year. I focused much of my training on two marathons (Revel Mt. Charleston and the Chicago Marathon) but was happy that my times in shorter distances were good, including an unexpected PR in the Peachtree Road Race.

I'm hoping to work on my half marathon PR (1:39:14) this year and am training specifically for a PR in the April Cherry Blossom Ten Miler (1:14:52). I got into the Chicago Marathon for next year and that will be my 11th marathon.

I hope everyone has a Happy New Year and a great 2020!

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Day 4,732: First Watch Kennesaw Locomotive 5K

KENNESAW, Ga. -- After a few 5K races under my running shoes I had my eyes on one last one for the year, the First Watch Kennesaw Locomotive 5K. My wife and I had been to the race sponsor's breakfast/brunch restaurant recently and I wanted to see if I could win a gift card promised to age group winners.

This race is held the same weekend as the Jeff Galloway half marathon and 5K. I decided that after running in the Chicago Marathon in October, I would never be properly trained to run a December half marathon. I could have run in the Barb's 5K scheduled on Dec. 14 but my wife already was signed up to do another 5K. So in order to keep my "streaker" status for the Galloway race series I decided to run a virtual 5K so I could show up to this one.

Nine years ago I ran in the Kennesaw Locomotive Half Marathon, back when the race was held in September. At the time I was gearing up for my first Chicago Marathon. I didn't remember really any of the race route although there is some overlap.

I was happy to know however that the race overlapped a good bit of the Summer Steamer 10K that I ran in June. It was helpful to know exactly where to park and how long it would take for me to trek out to the suburbs for this race.

Instead of starting in the parking lot as in the Steamer, the 5K started directly on Vaughn Road, then turned down Cobb Place Boulevard NW before the hill at Auto Park Drive NW. Because I was following my power data, I let a huge group of people run ahead. Right before the turn I realized that I had not turned on my Garmin watch at all -- it was just showing my live power data. So with about a half mile in the race, my watch was finally on.

Running up Auto Park Drive I passed a man who was probably my age or so. I just kept going steadily up the hill, remembering how hard it was for me to run this section twice in the June 10K at a 7:15/mile pace.

The 5K turns southeast on Roberts Boulevard instead of going the opposite way in the Summer Steamer and I was greeted with another hill leading to Cobb Place Drive. At this point there was a boy ahead of me. I was running steadily but when he sensed I was close he would surge ahead. I didn't try to keep up with him since my experience with this (as recent as the previous weeks' race) is that surges in a 5K only serve to wear down the surger. I fully expected to overtake him at some point.

After Cobb Place we turned back on Cobb Place Boulevard toward Roberts Boulevard again. I ended up passing the boy on the descent and made my way through the Vaughn Road intersection to the turn-around point on Roberts maybe three-tenths of the way down the road. There was a clock at the turnaround and it said something like 17 minutes and change and it made me worry that I was going to run this race slower than 22 minutes.

When I reached the turnaround I saw that I was all alone in the race. The boy was not anywhere behind me -- when I turned on Vaughn Road to the finish I saw that he was only halfway to the turnaround -- and the lead pack was nowhere in sight. Tactically it was an interesting situation since I still had a bunch of running to do but really not the kind of running you would do if someone was close ahead/with or behind you. So I just plugged on. I tried to tell myself that the boy was about to pass me as I neared the finish (I finished almost a minute ahead of him).

I crossed the finish with a gun time of 21:51, on par with my last two other 5Ks. I was pleased with it but very unsure whether I had won my age group. I waited around for the awards and lo and behold I won my age group! There was a man in my age group who ran faster than me but he was the overall winner or the masters winner. I was seventh overall in the race.

During the wait for the awards I took a short stroll down the Noonday Creek Trail for a geocache -- this is part of the Summer Steamer course. I returned to the parking lot staging area and wasn't initially hungry but later decided to eat the very delicious pancake and chicken or turkey sausage First Watch provided for runners.

Because I started my watch late I only had partial data to work with after the race. My Garmin said I ran the first .4 mile at a 7:11/mile pace, then ran a full mile in 6:55 and the next mile in 6:48 before finishing the last .15 mile at a 6:27 equivalent pace. It was nice to win my age group but disconcerting that guys in my age group can run about an entire minute faster than me. Definitely more work for me in the future and this is as nice of a 5K I could hope to find in the area!

Time: 8:03 a.m.
Temp: 39 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Nike), shorts, Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit/B.

Running to the finish! (Photo by

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Day 4,724: Atlanta Running Festival 5K, my third Masters win

I signed up for this race about 10 hours before it started and it turned out to be my third Masters win!
I wasn't sure I was going to run in this race -- I ran a 5K a week the last two weeks and would another race in the park do anything for me? Still, I was buoyed by last week's 21:53 in the Leftover 5Ks event and wondering if my Stryd-paced footpod would come in handy again.

In the end I decided to register for the Atlanta Running Festival 5K the night before and I made sure that I got out to the park a little before sunrise so I could take advantage of street parking. I walked my way over to the registration table and got my bib and shirt (I felt a little guilty getting a shirt because of my very late registration) and returned to the car. It was only about 48 degrees out but it felt cold. Cold enough that when I started my warmup I debated running the race in my Under Armour running jacket that I was wearing.

Luckily after that mile I warmed up and ditched the coat in my car. It was really convenient to be able to change shoes from trainers to racing shoes and even, about an hour before the race, driving home to use the bathroom instead of a porta-potty. When I returned some minutes later, my parking space was still available!

When I got to the starting area, I grimaced, since the one guy who looked like he would win the whole race (and he did), wearing one of those Tracksmith sash tanks, also was wearing the exact same white Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit as I was wearing. I'm pretty sure we were the only ones wearing Vaporflys to this event. I debated wearing other shoes but after last week's great run I decided to see how the shoe would run in this race.

When the race started, I made sure that my wattage was under 300 and I pretty much kept it this way.. We made our way around the Active Oval and during this time I caught up with a younger African-American guy. He kept surging to stay in front of me and at times I would drop back, especially up the hill on the Active Oval, to keep my wattage down. I wondered if the entire race would be this way, with this guy pacing me. Eventually after Mile 1 and before the turn into The Meadow, I dropped him.

In past races without the footpod I would run way too fast around the Active Oval and then get dropped by people in the Meadow, only to have my slowest mile be Mile 3. This time I was passing people, but carefully and once I made my way back out of The Meadow, I caught up with a guy in a Georgia shirt. We basically ran step by step the rest of the way back to the Active Oval where we had to loop back around it toward the start.

Here I started to disregard my wattage up and back down the hill around the oval. Once we made the turn along Lake Clara Meer, I started to pick it up a little bit, waiting for the last turn as I did in last December's Jeff Galloway 13.1. When the turn came, I made for the tangent as fast as I could and outkicked this guy -- who was 14 years younger than me -- by two seconds to finish in 21:45. I was 6th place overall and first Masters male (the overall winner was 47 so the Masters win fell to me).

I was elated when I saw the results. I was worried that with only awards for the top runners in each age division I would walk home without an award, as I did the previous week in the Leftovers 5K. It helped that the popular Eastside BeltLine 10K also was held today, just an hour or so after my race started.

The Masters win was unexpected and great -- I got an award and a gift card to Phidippides running store. It also was my third Masters win, after the May the 4th Miler Be With You race in May 2015 and the Stamp Out Poverty 5K in December 2016. It's certainly the first time I've won a gift card for a race.

I felt extremely comfortable running this distance at this pace and this time around I used the footpod data to tell me when to increase my wattage and I included pace to appear on the screen to give me a sense of what the actual pace was during the race. My splits were incredibly even -- 6:57/7:04/7:00 and the last .13 miles I was running at a 5:50/mile pace. It will be nice to use this tool in a ramp up for longer distances -- and new PRs.

Time: 8:30 a.m.
Temp: 48 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Doug Kessler 10K), shorts, Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit/B.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Day 4,717: Leftover 5Ks and 2,000 miles for the year

Put a sticker over an unused race bib and voila! A new race bib!
Since running in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on Oct. 13 (I know, marathons take a long time for me to process) I haven't stuck to much of a schedule, preferring to just get regular runs in for Strava badges or even volunteering in the Thanksgiving half marathon (that post soon to come as well).

This race, however, intrigued me. Run Social Atlanta offered up the post-Thanksgiving Leftover 5Ks, two 5Ks that consisted entirely of leftover race bibs, T-shirts, medals and swag from the other races they've hosted over the year. Better still, a 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. race allowed the wife and I to participate while the other watched the kiddos.

Although I've owned it since before I ran in the 2018 BMW Berlin Marathon, I've started training with a Stryd foot pod. It basically calculates wattage of power similar to power meters for cyclists. The intent is to provide you with a smoother guide during your race to allow a very even experience without bonking.

A week before, I calculated my critical power doing a virtual 5K on a track at St. Pius X High School. This gave me a base number with a recommendation to run at 279 watts per kilogram for a 5K. So when this race came, I only had three sets of data on my Garmin -- the distance, my race power and the time elapsed. It would be the first time that I ran a race without knowing my pace.

The race started in Piedmont Park and we looped around The Meadow before heading down past the dog park and up the ramp next to the splash pad. Then we came down the hill, looped around the tennis courts and around the outside of the Active Oval before running back around Lake Clara Meer to the Meadow and the finish.

When the race started I saw I needed to back off, as I was running at 322 watts! I settled myself into about 272 and found it was nearly impossible for me to run at my recommended wattage. One lady passed me up the ramp next to the splash pad -- I let her go since I was running close to the power that I needed to run. Two men had passed me also during the race and I was able to pass one with less than a quarter-mile left in the race.

Since this was more of a community race, I opted to leave the Vaporflys at home. Instead I wore a pair of Nike Zoom Fly/SP shoes that I bought on sale on Amazon. They had been intended to be a replacement for the two previous pairs of Zoom Flys that I've owned; instead they appear to be some kind of hybrid that lends itself to faster running. I decided to wear those to test the shoes out. I found they were comfortable to run in although for the last mile it felt like my right shoe might come off my foot at any moment. Additionally, I didn't like the plush squish of the shoes as I was kicking my way to the finish.

I finished in 21:53 which is the first time I've run under 22 minutes in any 5K in Piedmont Park. Using the power meter kept me from using too much energy early on in the race and I felt pretty fresh during all points of the run. I need to find out how to be more comfortable running at my recommended wattage.

It turned out my time was only good for fourth in my age group -- if I'd run the 10 a.m. race instead I would have won the whole thing since, a male took that down with a time of 26 minutes. (EDIT: Actually the first male masters ran in 27:10, the male winner ran 22:44).

Still it was a great idea for a holiday weekend with great weather! With that race I reached my goal of 2,000 running miles this year with a month to spare and am only 50 miles or so away from running 20,000 miles for my near 13-year-old running streak.

Time: 9 a.m.
Temp: 55 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (rabbit), shorts, Nike Zoom Fly/SP.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Day 4,568: My 15th Peachtree Road Race (PR)

My decision to wear Atlanta United's King Peach kit in the race was rewarded with a PR.
It was hot out, running down Peachtree Street and somewhere around Mile 2 I noticed all the runners around me. We seemed to be running slow. I glanced down at my watch for my pace and saw the numbers 6:55, leading up to one of the fastest mile splits I've ever run in this race or any race for that matter.

Alright, I thought, and continued on.

Today was my 15th AJC Peachtree Road Race and what I thought was going to be just another ordinary race turned out to be epic, breaking a personal record that has stood for three and a half years and besting my Peachtree course record by more than a minute and a half.

There were hints this could happen as I ran 45:28 in last month's Summer Sizzler 10K in Kennesaw, proving that even without any speedwork since April's Revel Mt. Charleston Marathon, I was in good race shape. Yet the last time I ran a similar time -- 45:26 in 2017's Possum Trot 10K, it turned into a dud come Peachtree time with a 47:49 race that July 4th.

The weather looked like it would conspire against me, however, with morning temperatures at 75 degrees. Already the Atlanta Track Club's event system was at yellow, warning runners to take precautions because of the heat and humidity.

Still, I decided I would just see how things would go in the race. Even though I knew it was going to be hot and humid, I decided to wear the Atlanta United soccer team's King Peach kit -- I'd worn it on a similarly humid day and ran home after a game and thought it could be something I would run in. I'd actually worn most of my singlets in previous Peachtree races and thought it would be nice to wear something different.

I debated on my shoes for this race. If this race didn't matter very much to me, why not just wear my Hoka One One Carbon X shoes I wore in the Summer Steamer? But in the end, I decided I might need to rely on the Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4 percent Flyknit's much better ability to accelerate when I needed it most. So that was that.

Another thing I did was that I made sure I got into the Group A corral early. The last two years I got in late because of lack of time or because I wanted to try to warm-up beforehand and would end up at the very back of the corral. This led to me inevitably running at a 7:30/mile pace in the crowd, much slower than what I'd planned on running and my time for the first three miles would suffer accordingly.

Today I was in the middle of the corral and when the race started, I was running at a good clip. I struggled early, my breathing was too hard and I wasn't really running that fast -- there are slight rolling dips before Piedmont Avenue, (something I dislike about the last part of the Labor Day Big Peach Sizzler 10K course) and it looked like I was going to have my typical Peachtree Road Race with Mile 1 ending at 7:19.

After this I tried to not look at my watch just to avoid disappointment and so I just kept going by effort, and was surprised that Mile 2 ended at a 6:58 pace. Mile 3 came really quickly, down to the bottom of the hill by Peachtree Battle and a little bit up the first incline. I ran this mile in 6:59.

When I got up Cardiac Hill, I was beyond sweaty in my Adidas Climacool kit. I kind of regretted wearing it but there was nothing I could do. I made my way up the best I could and slowed a little to get a cup of water to pour on my hands (they felt hot) and then took 3 sips from the next cup of water I grabbed. When I got to the top, I tried to hammer the decline and flat stretch before the next hill.

The next big incline, which goes all the way up to 14th Street, didn't appear to be as steep as I thought in years past, so I kept going as best as I could. I didn't look at my watch the whole time but I ran Miles 4 and 5 in 7:34 and 7:35, which gave me 10 more seconds of cushion over what I usually have run those hilly miles in years past. In recent years I'd thought about taking a gel at Mile 4 -- I actually had two gels with me on this race, one to take before the race started and one at this point but I decided not to take any this time around.

At 14th Street you could see that people were really pushing. I looked up and I was at 12th Street already and I just told myself to get to the 10th Street turn. From here, the course is all downhill to the finish. I made my way to the photographers at Piedmont Avenue and then I told myself I should be kicking from here, as I had just seen this part of the course the day before cheering my son along as he completed the Peachtree Junior One Mile race.

But I kept waving myself off. A little bit further was the "Yoshino Cherry" pokestop and Mile 6 (7:05), where I kicked in last year's race. I really couldn't do it here either. I kept pushing though and finally I could see the finish line at the bottom of the hill I started to accelerate. It wasn't really much of anything, though.

When I crossed the finish I finally looked at my watch and was startled to see the race time start with the numbers "45." (I ran the last .29 miles at a 6:05 pace). It felt like I had run a 46- or 47-minute 10K yet again.

It's a huge confidence boost to crush a course on an extremely hot and humid day. It's a little surprising I hadn't done any speedwork in a few months but the 230 miles I posted last month in the first few weeks of my Chicago Marathon training block certainly helped. And most of those miles have been under the same humid conditions.

At the same time, I could have done better. If I'd looked at my watch near the end of the race I might have pressed harder or at least understood what some of the runners who were kicking ahead of me were trying to do -- break 45 minutes. That's out there and I know if I can run so close to that mark under extreme weather conditions and a brutally hilly course, I have what it takes to PR again in a more favorable situation.

Time: 7 a.m.
Temp: 75 degrees
Gear: Atlanta United King Peach jersey (Adidas Climacool), shorts, Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4 percent Flyknit/B).

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

For 3rd year, Peachtree Road Race relaxes time standards for early waves

For the third year, the Atlanta Track Club has relaxed time standards for the first four waves of the Peachtree Road Race. This year you needed a "projected 10K finish time" of 46:39 (about a 7:30/mile pace) for Wave A or 51:07 (8:13/mile pace) for Wave B. Even seeded runners caught a break, needing a time of 39:52 this year compared to 39:35 last year.

The new time standards can be found here. In applying for the 50th running of Atlanta's annual July 4th road race you had to submit a recent race time in order to not be randomly placed in a late starting wave of a race that attracts about 60,000 participants.

It makes a huge difference since the later the start wave, the later you start and the warmer it is on the course as the summer morning temperatures rise.

Presumably the 10K's time standards shift each year because of various numbers of applicants for each start wave and to make sure each one is not too crowded. Yet runners don't know if the race times they submit will qualify them for a particular starting wave because the time standards aren't released until a few months after the registration deadline in the spring.

Last year you needed a 45:47 (7:22/mile pace) for Wave A and 50:41 (8:09/mile pace) for Wave B. The time standards for the first four waves have been declining since 2017, when a time of 45:32 was needed for Wave A or 50:21 was needed for Wave B.

It's a little harder, however, to be placed into the next six waves compared to last year. This year, you need to have a projected 10K finish breaking 1 hour for Wave E (last year it was 1 hour, six seconds) and Wave K is four seconds more stringent at 1:20:04.

Also this year, a 10K time breaking 2 hours will get you into Wave N and a submitted time of 2 hours or more is good for Wave P. Runners without submitted race times are placed randomly in the remaining seven waves (R through Y).