Sunday, November 22, 2015

Day 3,248: Brave new toy! (Garmin Forerunner 630)

Putting the brand-new Garmin Forerunner 630 to work.
I mentioned previously the foibles of my previous running watch, the Garmin Forerunner 610. It basically wouldn't download my workouts to Garmin Connect and even lost satellite signal in the Atlanta 10-Miler last month.

The watch finally downloaded a month's worth of runs a few days ago but it was too late ... my new Garmin Forerunner 630 had already shipped from REI.

This watch is a pretty nifty piece of technology. Paired with a heart-rate monitor (which I'm using for the very first time), it can determine your VO2 max and your lactate threshold, the running pace and heart rate at which you will start to tire. And from this it can offer predictions on how you will do in a 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon. These are offered to help you determine the best training possible based on how your run.

It also determines your running cadence and estimates how high your feet are off the ground with each bound.

The things I love the most about this watch, however, are the simple things. For one, it quickly acquires satellite signal and it also automatically downloads your workouts to Garmin Connect via Bluetooth with your smartphone. (No more having to deal with an ANT+ stick and the peculiarities of Garmin Express on your computer to wirelessly download).

I also like the fact the watch is light. It displays its battery power right on the watch face -- in the old 610 I would have to power up the watch and flip a few screens just to see if I needed to charge it up.

As you can see in the picture above, it has a red color lining when the watch is stopped and a green one when it starts, so no more confusion over whether your watch is recording or not.

I'm sure I'll have more thoughts on this watch in the days ahead but I'm happy that I made the purchase!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Time for a new watch? (Garmin Forerunner 610 quirks)

This Garmin Forerunner 610 has been great, but also has had its quirks.
As I mentioned in my race recap for the Atlanta 10-Miler, my GPS running watch lost its satellite signal halfway through the race, forcing me to pace on my own. It's had its quirks but I'm thinking it's time to look for the next running watch.

The watch was released in 2011 -- I have no idea when I bought the one shown here -- and it was novel for its time, including wireless downloading of your run data and novel magnetic charging pins.

I also loved the ability to program my interval schedule into the watch so I wouldn't have to keep track of how long I needed to run fast and when I needed to jog easy. The touch screen bezel works great and was a tremendous improvement over its predecessor, the Forerunner 405, which had a bezel that at least on my watch would react if rain hit it.

This watch's problems increasingly have caused me to look for a new one. The charging pins drive me crazy -- if the pins do not align just right the watch doesn't charge. Plus in Atlanta's hot and humid summers, the pins develop corrosion. I have to scrape off the connections on the watch and the charger with a nail or a pin for it to connect properly.

The wireless downloading of data to the ANT+ stick on my computer worked really well for a while. But now I'm having trouble having the watch download to Garmin Express -- it just doesn't do it. Right now the last set I have up on Garmin Connect is Oct. 24. So the next day's run -- the Atlanta 10-Miler -- didn't show up. (For the running streak this isn't such a big deal -- you can manually enter data onto Garmin Connect and my running calendars have always held the definitive data on the streak).

And when I just looked at the watch's history, it now only shows data from April 11. In August, after running in the Bowerman 5K, I realized that somehow my watch lost that data set, so I have no idea how I ran in that race.

So ... just a long way of saying in about 30 days, expect a review of the next watch! :)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Atlanta 10-Miler: If you're gonna outkick me, try not to win an age group for the other gender

At the end of the race, this guy outkicked me. It turned out he won the 60-64 female age group.
Like I've mentioned before, all races are different. I mentioned in my recap of the Atlanta 10 Miler that I was outkicked by a guy at the end of the race and while I couldn't catch him to the finish line, I was thankful because that surge helped me beat a 17-year-old PR.

The photo proofs came up yesterday on MarathonFoto and while I didn't really want to see pictures of me being outkicked, I did look and was a little surprised at what I discovered.

In the Michelob ULTRA 13.1 atlanta earlier this month, I also got outkicked by a guy at the finish line. I almost wrote a post about it since it turned out that because of chip time I ended up finishing the course ahead of him by an entire minute in the race. It's funny that you never know how you will do until you see the race results.

So anyway, I decided to look up this guy's bib and see how fast he ran, etc. Only thing was I couldn't come up with a bib representing a guy. The bib matched a woman who ended up placing first in her 60-64 age group with a 1:19 race time.

But in the race, it was just me and this guy on the breakaway. And the bib number is pretty clear in this picture.

I ended up submitting the possible discrepancy to the Atlanta Track Club since I thought it would be unfair to the woman who placed second in that age group if she got beat by not one of her peers but someone of a different gender.

The track club responded today, saying they are going to flag this bib number for review and that official race results won't be finalized for two weeks after the race. If they determine someone else other than the person who signed up for the race ran with the bib, the race result (and presumably the first place award) will be disqualified.

It still raises questions. The most likely scenario is that this guy decided to run at the last moment and had to buy a bib from someone else since the 10 Mile race was sold out. But it also seems this guy was a pretty decent runner, too, and wouldn't you want your race time to count? I think in many cases I would just skip a race that's sold out and focus my efforts on one that is available.

And if it didn't matter to you, why sprint to the finish?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Day 3,220: Atlanta 10-Miler (PR)

It took five races spanning 17 years but I finally broke my old PR.
I was running the metronome during today's Atlanta 10-Miler, with really even splits of 8:06, 8:04, 8:10, 8:07 and 8:08 when something happened to me that I've never experienced during a race. My running watch lost satellite reception in the overcast sky. And did not pick up a signal the rest of the way.

It was a weird feeling, to suddenly lose my ability to pace myself in a race in which I believed I'd have a pretty good shot at breaking a 17-year-old PR. And there was nothing I could do about it but run the best I could the rest of the way.

I ran in the inaugural 10-Miler in 2013 and my lack of fitness in it put me on a 2-year running push that let me break personal records in nearly every distance. Last year I skipped the race because of the Marine Corps Marathon. This year I nearly missed it since we originally had travel plans. (In honor of the MCM, I ran in bascially the same gear that I wore in last year's race).

I signed up for this race since I felt that since I ran within 76 seconds of my half marathon PR in this August's Hotlanta Half Marathon I would have a good shot at breaking my PR for the 10-mile distance.

But it wasn't a certainty since I've had a bout of plantar fasciitis in my left foot and a left hamstring/glute issue after running in the hilly Michelob ULTRA 13.1 atlanta earlier this month.

I've been taking it easy since then and things felt fine until Friday, when I re-aggravated my left foot on a 4-mile run in a barely broken-in pair of Brooks Pure Connect 3 shoes.

Anyway, race day came and I decided I would just try to run at an 8:15/mile pace for as long as I could. The race started nice and cool and thankfully there wasn't any rain. I'd been studying last year's post about the race from Frank's blog so I felt like I knew what to expect with the hills on the race.

One thing that confused me were the starting corrals -- they went from A to F -- only thing was my race bib did not have a letter on it. Finally I asked a volunteer and she told me that my bib would let me join any corral since it was part of the Triple Peach Race Series.

I'd signed up for the series in which you get a special medal and T-shirt if you complete the Peachtree Road Race, the Atlanta 10-Miler and the Thanksgiving Half Marathon. I completed the inaugural Triple Peach in 2013 and didn't really think it was that big of a deal. I signed up this time since doing so made it cheaper to enter both the 10-Miler and Half Marathon than doing so individually.

But the any corral perk was also nice. I jumped in Wave A and although I stood a little too close to the loudspeaker, we were off in no time. The 10-Miler and 5K races started at the same time, so it was disconcerting to see all kinds of runners darting around in the first mile.

At this point I regretted going for a more cushioned shoe (Skechers Go Run 3) to run my race instead of my Saucony Type A6 racing flats. The Skechers shoes really showed their age and with more than 337 miles on them now, this will probably be the last race that I wear them.

The 5K runners split off right before Mile 2 and the 10-Mile course resumed through the neighborhood behind Atlantic Station. Right after Mile 3 there was a substantial hill. The hills rolled the next few miles until Peachtree Road at Peachtree Battle. After my watch stopped giving me pacing information, I just tried to keep up with the pack of runners around me.

At Peachtree, we entered a mini race-within-a-race -- the conquering of Cardiac Hill. Basically, you could win a special mug if you were one of the fastest 100 runners of this mile-long route. This was an interesting part of the race for me. In the Hotlanta Half Marathon, they had a similar mini-race to run up the 12th Street hill and I was surprised that even though I finished the race in 112th place out of 1,088 runners, I was the 59th fastest person to run up that hill (no award, though).

I thought that I might have a shot at an award in this race, believing that the race participation would be similar to when I ran it in 2013 -- about 1,000 or so. It turned out there were more than 4,000 runners in this race -- I placed something in the 300s for Cardiac Hill, running it at a 7:40/mile pace. Thankfully, having run in the Peachtree Road Race 11 times plus again in the 2013 10-Miler and the old Thanksgiving Half Marathon course, I have plenty of experience trying to run up this hill!

The good news about cresting the huge double set of hills on Peachtree was that the race was nearly over. At Mile 8, it looked like I had a so-so shot of beating my PR time of 1:22:39. After climbing the grueling hill to Mile 9 (which I called soul-killing in 2013), I think I had 8 minutes to beat the time and I gave myself a 50-50 probability.

All I thought at this point was to try to run faster after running over the 17th Street overpass near IKEA. Two things happened that helped at this point, first a guy passed me and was running at a good clip, so I followed him. At about a quarter-mile left in the race, I started following a pretty tall dude and even was trying to draft behind him since it was pretty windy near Target. When we saw the finish, we both kicked at the same time -- he finished a second ahead of me but I knew that by following this guy I made my PR!

I beat my PR by 23 seconds according to the official finish. Despite Cardiac Hill and the huge hills in the second half of the race, I ran a relatively even split, covering the first 5 miles in 40:46 and the last 5 in 41:30.

After the race, I felt good although my feet were pretty banged up and I walked gingerly to my free parking spot on the side of Peachtree Road and 17th Street (when I drove up to the race at about 6:20 a.m., the street was jammed with so many cars that instead of trying for the Atlantic Station parking deck I turned back to seek parking on Peachtree).

It was a nice feeling to work my way into a PR. But I think I'll have to pay better attention to properly training for this race if I want to run in it again.

Time: 7:30 a.m.
Temp: 61 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Publix Georgia Marathon white), shorts, Skechers Go Run 3.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Day 3,206: Ten miles at the beach

PENSACOLA BEACH, Fla. -- I had a perfect opportunity to run in a 5K race during our Florida vacation (it would have been my first race of any kind in that state) but I decided not to at the last moment because I still had some glute/hamstring soreness just a week after running in the Michelob ULTRA 13.1 Atlanta half marathon.

It freed me up for a long run on Sunday and it turned out to be a treat, a nice flat run with very cool weather and for the most part, not many other runners out. Doing a long run in a place I wasn't very familiar reminded me of my 10-mile run in Munich last year.

I started about five minutes after sunrise, which was good since for the first two miles or so I didn't have to worry about the sun and after the 5-mile turnaround, I had the sun at my back.

After the workout was over, I could look forward to eating some nice food, reading about how people did in the Chicago Marathon and taking a dip in the pool!

Time: 6:50 a.m.
Temp: 61 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Champion blue), shorts, Skechers Go Run 3.

This actually was from a shorter run the day before but you get the idea of the running conditions here.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Day 3,199: Michelob ULTRA 13.1 atlanta Half Marathon

Wearing the Team BEEF shirt for my second race!
There was one thing I knew coming into this race -- if it was raining hard before it started I would stay at home nice and dry.

But when I woke up at 5:30 a.m. it wasn't raining. So I decided to get my gear ready -- a poncho that folds up into a square, a hat, a ziploc bag for my cell phone -- and drove over near the Cobb Energy Centre to get ready to race.

This race was one of the few times in which I didn't feel 100 percent -- my left glute/hamstring was slightly sore coming into race day and I wasn't sure if running 13 miles would aggravate it.

It was still dark when I got to the race start and there wasn't really much places to do a warmup (I decided I wasn't going to do too much of one anyway because of the distance) and when I did it was disconcerting to be running against the stream of people headed to the starting line.

When the race started it was cool and a little misty, nearly perfect conditions. I actually felt like I needed to use the bathroom during the first mile but I told myself to just wait. Usually in hot races by Mile 3 the urge would go away, perhaps by dehydration? There were portapotties at nearly every water stop and by the time I reached the first one I didn't need to stop.

The hills in this race were no joke.
I didn't get too fast of a start in the race and by Mile 2 I could see that this would be a long race, so I just decided to stick to running by feel instead of any particular pace.

Just after Mile 7 thankfully my hamstring wasn't sore anymore. It also started to mist hard enough that I pulled out my hat, and then put it away just after Mile 8. At that point my legs started to feel a little sore so I ate a gel (this one was a green tea Clif Shot that I got in last year's Honolulu Marathon) and it tided me over the rest of the race. I also drank a cup of Powerade at the Mile 6 station.

Although the hills were monstrous, I knew I had a bunch of energy left in me since I was running slower than my typical pace so I started to pick it up at Mile 12. Only I dropped my hat at Mile 12.7! I was able to kick it in front of me then stoop to pick it up.

I made it over the final hill and thankfully it was downhill to the finish! My time was probably typical for hilly races but like the Hotlanta Half Marathon I felt pretty good afterward. In both races I felt like I probably could race three more miles beyond the finish.

It was a nice race with dedicated volunteers but the insane hilliness of it probably will make this a one-and-done race for me.

Time: 7 a.m.
Temp: 64 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Team BEEF), shorts, cep compression socks, Skechers Go Run 3.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Day 3,191: Red Hare Chase 5K

Trying a sample of Red Hare's Long Day Lager after the short race!
MARIETTA, Ga. --  I'd been looking forward to this race for quite a while, mainly to get a race shirt from the Red Hare Brewery.

Racewise, I wasn't sure what to expect. My last 5K was two weeks ago on a hilly course that I ran in 22:31. And that race had left me with a minor case of plantar fasciitis that luckily had managed to go away before race day.

And then there was the rain. Although I brought rain gear and a change of clothes with me I didn't think it would be raining on the morning before the race. But it was on the drive up and when I went to get my race bib.

Luckily right before the race started it seemed like the rain had gone away except for a minor mist so I ditched my windbreaker prior to the start.

The night before I had four different pairs of running shoes out, not knowing which ones I should wear in case of rain. Since my foot felt better I decided to wear my Saucony Type A6 racing flats and it turned out to be a good move since the outersole is made of rubber, which gave me excellent traction on the wet course.

When the race started I felt crazy running fast up the first hill but it felt ok. I wasn't sure if later on I would be caught by faster runners like in my previous race but I continued on anyway.

The race format involves two "hares" -- one male and one female -- in the race. The female one totally dressed the part (I overheard her say after the race that she lost her tail somewhere in the middle of the run), while the male just wore rabbit ears or a mask. If you finished before your gender's hare, you would be invited to take part in a special cask sampling after the race. I passed the male hare early before Mile 1 (but didn't stick around to crack the cask).

After running on Delk Road past Mile 1 (6:51 for me) of the race, the road goes up a short on ramp to Cobb Parkway. Here we ran for a half mile and it seemed like forever until we turned and I was sure I would get passed by someone.

As promised by the race director in his announcements, the first half of the race was indeed uphill. I just worked the best I could, although it did feel like these hills were less strenuous than the ones in my neighborhood during the previous race.

You eventually turn through an apartment complex and then just after Mile 2 (7:12) it turns onto Franklin Road, which is basically downhill the rest of the way.

Since I hadn't really burned myself out yet, I was confident that I still had a fast mile in me. Another guy passed me halfway down the hill to the end and I trailed him, keeping him in my sights and keeping my pace up.

Near the final turn back to the brewery, I passed another guy who told me jokingly that my shoes were untied. I ended up gaining ground past him but was worried that eventually he might catch up at the end.

So I kicked a lot earlier than I usually do and crossed the finish line in 22:01 (Mile 3 was 6:46). If I hadn't been following the guy who passed me, my race time easily could have been identical to the 22:31 that I ran two weeks prior.

The after-race party was great. Runners received a special Red Hare pint glass for the race and a pour (or more?) from the taps there. They also had pulled pork sandwiches, hot dogs, and 'jangles sausage biscuits.

I changed my clothes and waited in the rain for the awards. It turned out I was 16th overall and first in my age group. I think I missed being the Masters winner by about 30 seconds and two runners.

It was a great race and one I'll look out for next year, although I'll keep in mind the hills!

Time: 8:30 a.m.
Temp: 64 degrees, rain mist
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Big Peach Sizzler '09), shorts, Saucony Type A6.