Thursday, April 21, 2016

Day 3,399: Lottery Winner! (Bank of America Chicago Marathon)

I only see my goals, I don't believe in failure/
'Cause I know the smallest voices, they can make it major
 -Lukas Graham

It was late at night, a little like tonight, when I was a click monkey and entered the lottery for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

Why not? I thought. Sure it was a few months ahead of my plan to start training in August for possibly the Houston Marathon in January.

But what changed my mind were a slew of PRs this year, including my 1:42:40 finish last month in the Publix Georgia Half Marathon. I felt that my training was good enough right now and that I wouldn't want to wait until next year to try to run my sixth marathon.

Yet when the days creeped over to today's notification, I kind of hoped I wouldn't be selected. I would have more time to train in August as opposed to having to start in July after the Peachtree Road Race.

But that's not what happened. I'll be back this fall to run in my hometown's most famous race for the second time, with all thoughts of besting my marathon experience in 2010 in which I finished just minutes after four hours.

On that day, 10-10-10, I was sad. I was 39 years old and thought it was my best shot at breaking four hours in a marathon. Five and a half years later, I know how much my running has improved.

And I know, much better than before, that my running will continue, that a finish line is never the final chapter.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Day 3,387: Ukrops Monument Avenue 10K

My Garmin Connect data of the race course.
 RICHMOND, Va. -- After years of running in the July 4th Peachtree Road Race and when I ran in the Honolulu Marathon in 2014, I've discovered a joy in running in a community's biggest race. This was the case when the wife and I ran in the Ukrops Monument Avenue 10K.

It's a flat and fast course that runs along Monument Avenue, which features statues of Civil War generals such as Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, as well as that of tennis great Arthur Ashe.

The wife ran in it in 2006 as her first road race and I always thought it would be a neat race to do. So when we discovered our preschooler's Spring Break schedule matched the timing of this race, we planned our vacation around it!

It also has a wave time standard that is even more stringent than the Peachtree Road Race, as I qualified for the final wave of Group A (with a 10K time of 45:59 or under or a 5K time under 22:05). My wave was Group AB, which started out 750 runners just two minutes after the official race start.

After attending a nice expo the day before at the Arthur Ashe Center that featured rainbow cookies from the race's title sponsor and some cool race shirts, we made our way from the suburbs where my in-laws live to downtown Richmond just after 7 a.m.

Before the race, organizers informed participants of street parking and parking decks. They also had shuttles that ran from the expo site (which I think we would use in the future). I thought about being able to park on the street in last month's Publix Georgia Half Marathon and decided to head out to find similar parking.

But this was a true disaster. There are a lot of residential townhomes and apartments in the area and most residents park on the street to begin with. Then add people's cars from the race and it was apparent no easy parking was to be had. We were about to get into a long line of cars for one of the parking decks of VCU but at the last moment ended up turning on a grassy triangle that people were parking alongside. It looked like it might not be totally legal, but everyone was parking there, so ...

Out we went, only about a half mile to the start. We walked over in the cold and breezy air and maybe I should have tried to run a little bit for my warmup. I did so after walking back to Wave D and reuniting the wife with one of her girlfriends who lives in the area. But I only did .14 miles before it was only 4 minutes before the official race start.

So I hopped a fence and got in Wave AB. It was full but there was plenty of space around me. It didn't seem like the waves were stringently being checked so in theory anyone could have joined any group. But when the race started, everyone was running at the pace that I planned to run this race at, 7:20/mile.

It worked pretty well, almost like a metronome, with runners running a similar pace all around me, until almost the end of Mile 1. I ended up with a 7:25 mile at that point, but didn't worry since it was close enough to the goal and I wasn't trying too hard.

But then the next two miles came and I really was not able to sustain that pace. The early (and later) parts of the race run on brick-lined roads and I could really feel it on the bottoms of my shoes, something that I felt wouldn't bother me if I was not struggling. I also found it hard to concentrate on the playlist from my iPod because of all the great bands along the route. If I run in this race in the future, I might opt to leave the headphones at home, since music clearly is provided!

The miles went 7:53 and 8:03 (at one point I was running at an 8:30/mile pace) and I was starting to calculate in my head whether I'd finish in 50 minutes or greater. That being said, I wasn't worried about it since this race was basically a fun race that had the potential for a fast time since it was so flat.

The route turns around right before the 5K mat (which is on the other side of the turnaround). Right at this point, I felt like my legs had returned. I was able to speed up and the mile times responded appropriately (I ran 7:31, 7:35 and 7:20 for Miles 4, 5 and 6).

The end was downhill and while I was running steadily, I wasn't really killing the course either. I did surprise myself at the end, though. My data says I ran the last .26 miles of the course at a 6:28 pace.

After crossing the finish, I waited with a bottle of water and my finisher's medal for the wife and her friend. My time of 47:29 wasn't my best outing this year but it was an honest effort and I liked that I didn't lose hope after my pace slowed down in the middle of the race. I probably haven't totally recovered from the half marathon and I also put in about 36 miles biking along the Virginia Capital Trail in two days this week.

It was neat though, after the race when our family met my wife's friend's family at a diner in suburban Glen Allen to see all the people in the eatery wearing bibs, or the race's medal or T-shirt. It's stuff like that that really energizes me about having participated in an event that so many people enjoy.

Time: 8:02 a.m.
Temp: 43 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Champion grey), shorts, cep compression socks, Brooks Pure Connect 3.


You get a pack of Ukrop's signature dinner rolls after the race!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Day 3,373: 5 to Thrive 5K

This was my Garmin data for the race on an overcast day.
In the future I need to remind myself that it could be difficult to run a 5K race six days after running a half marathon at a PR pace.

The wife and I decided to participate in the Atlanta Children's Shelter's 5 to Thrive 5K after seeing an email from the mom of our preschooler's classmate. This course happens to be USATF certified and the Piedmont Park paths are where I set two PRs in the 5K in the past.

So ... easy, right?

After running three very good races in the last month, I was looking forward to this one, believing that it may be possible to PR again for this distance.

I was pretty relaxed and ready to go. At race start it looked like several hundred people were in the race (I was later told it was more than the 500 max the group sought permission from the park for).

When the race started, however, it was a little surreal since I was maybe fifth or sixth in front! I could tell that this first mile was going to be rough. I felt a little weak and shaky like I do sometimes running intervals cold.

Still, I decided to keep on churning and see what happened. By the time we got to the top of the Active Oval and down the slope, a young man who possibly was in high school and then a middle-aged man with gray sideburns and a dog passed me.

I tried very hard to keep up and it seemed difficult to do so. My watch said Mile 1 was 6:55. Somewhere in between another man who looked like he could be a masters runner passed me (he was the first overall male, it was the second consecutive 5K I've been to in which a female was the overall winner).

We ran into the bowl where Wild Bill Hickok used to have his Wild West shows and before the foot bridge, another masters runner passed me (he was the male masters winner). I really could not keep up very well although I brought what I believed was a 7:30 pace to what my watch ultimately recorded as 7:08/mile pace for Mile 2.

On the hill by the tennis courts I was still struggling and my watch said 8:00/mile pace and even 9:00/mile. I felt so out of my element that I believed this could be the case that I was really bonking badly.

Right before the Active Oval the canine who was running with the middle aged guy really wasn't looking like he was wanting to do a fast 5K either. The guy gently tried to coax his dog to continue but their pace slowed and I passed them.

Right before the finish line the course forks. A young male teen took the wrong fork to the right. I was trying to tell him to go left and he eventually heard the announcer tell him as well. When he realized it and turned back I was right by him ... and I took off!

The announcer yelled out, "You have to catch that old man (me)!" I made my way through the finish line first but gave the kid a high five after we passed through the chute.

From the Atlanta Children's Shelter Facebook page.
A few minutes later the wife came through. I was certain that she placed first in her age group since I really didn't see any other female runners in front of me other than the one who won the race and another one who ran pretty close up front with her.

I remarked to her that my watch said it was a short course at 2.86 miles, even though I knew it was USATF certified. She showed me her watch, which did not act up in the race, and it said 3.13 miles. So my potential splits, although the watch was messed up the entire race, may have been 6:55/7:08/7:40.

We waited for the awards and we were both pleased to win first place for our age groups! Although this race was not optimal for me (I ran it in 22:14, which would have been a PR for me last year but I really thought I was going to run sub-22).

I do chalk it up to having to run so close to the half and not having done more intervals. It also tells me how different aerobically the 5K is from the longer distances and that having good results in one is not indicative of being able to have great results in the other.

Time: 8 a.m..
Temp: 54 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Charles Harris '16), shorts, cep compression socks, Brooks Pure Connect 3.


Sunday, March 20, 2016

Day 3,367: Publix Georgia Half Marathon (PR)

There have been a lot of changes in the Georgia Marathon/Half Marathon series in 10 years.
I can't tell you how many times I've rolled over exhausted, sweat pouring out of my body, after -- and during -- a FitStar workout. All the things I loved to hate -- burpees, mountain climbers, one legged pushups -- carried me today through a race that I had no designs on, especially making a PR.

I mean, I was fully ready for a letdown, especially on a course that I've run six previous times that had often bested me. My last long run was more than two months ago at the Red Nose Half Marathon in Columbus, Ga.

Yet today when I crossed the finish line at the 10th annual Publix Georgia Half Marathon, I beat the PR I set on Jan. 9 by more than two minutes, a time I really hadn't expected to challenge.

I wasn't planning on running in this race but registered at the last minute in December after the Atlanta Track Club purchased the race and offered it to members for $38.80. Even still, I didn't have much motivation for training for it since I'd already broken a nearly 17-year PR at the Red Nose race.

After reading what I did the last time I ran in this race in 2014, I left at 6:10 a.m., a little later than normal and planned to take advantage of free street parking, which was readily available two years ago. But in the last two years, everyone seemed to get the memo about the free parking -- when me and the wife drove up there was nothing around!

I was going to park in my old work parking deck but it was $10 cash only (I only had a credit card -- who wants to be handed sweaty money?). Luckily we turned near the Landmark Diner and there was a free space open! It only was a block or so more than where I parked two years ago.

This year the start was cold. The wife brought a mylar blanket and I neglected to do so, so we were just huddled together until the start in Wave B.

Unlike in previous years, the waves were held two minutes apart. We easily could have run with Wave A but eventually we were brought to the starting line and we were off!

I decided to just try to do what I've been doing the past few races and run at an 8-minute mile pace. It was a little congested at the start and I really couldn't see my watch very well in the dark but tried my best. Mile 1 (8:16).

In between Mile 1 and 2 I saw my friend Anna, who was doing the marathon. We ran together for a few blocks and then she said she wanted to stop at the water station. I thought she wanted to save her pace a little bit so I kept on going.

But before Mile 3, she ran by and said she was going to run ahead up Central Park. I could tell though that her marathon pace (8:18 at that point) wasn't going to be faster than my half marathon pace, so I nodded to her and moved to the other side of the road and kept going at my half marathon pace.

This was the first test because of the two hills here and it felt effortless. I took this as a good sign. On the Jackson Street bridge, I even brought a small geocaching container to replace one that had gone missing, jumped the sidewalk at the spot and placed the tiny magnet in mid-stride, without stopping! It was nice to kill two birds with one stone.

By this point I'd run two miles in under my 8 minute pace (7:48, 7:51) and was a little concerned but felt ok. After the March 6 Intown Ten, I knew from my heart rate data that my lactate threshold pace was 7:59/mile, so I felt ok with this slightly faster pace.

Before Mile 4, we ran up Auburn Avenue. I turned as I always do running here and paid my respects silently while passing the mausoleum of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King.

At Mile 5 I took my first of two GU gels that I normally take during half marathons. I'd continued to run at a 7:50 pace and just decided to go with it. At Mile 6 going up Freedom Parkway, I noticed one benefit of the separation of race waves was that this one lane stretch was not as congested as it was in previous races.

I continued with a pretty good pace up the North Avenue hill which I always think is pretty hard and ran Mile 7 in 7:43.

Turning onto North Highland, it's downhill from here and I decided to just go with the flow and pick it up a little bit. It was here something weird happened. This middle-aged guy with a dad bod came alongside of me to pass but turned into my running path.

I did what I normally do and just slowed down to let him go by and then I went around to the right around him to pass. This happened again but this time his arm bumped me lightly and I slowed and passed him.

When we were on Virginia Avenue, he caught up with me again and said, "It's like intervals, you keep speeding up." I told him it was because he kept bumping me when he passed and so he said, "Run faster then" and then sped up.

I let him go at his pace but did speed up to keep it close. I've run for a few decades and really thought it was not possible that he'd be able to keep this pace up the 10th Street and Juniper Avenue hills. So my Mile 8 and Mile 9 were faster than I would have normally run in this race (7:30, 7:10 respectively). I took my second GU gel at Mile 9.

Going up 10th Street I could tell this guy was trucking up the hill and I thought to myself, "This guy is going to give me a PR!" Especially since I felt like I could keep my pace for the next few miles and not blow up like I did in last November's Thanksgiving Half Marathon.

I went up Juniper past Mile 10 (7:51) and then turned onto 5th Street when I saw a woman in a Big Peach shirt that I thought about buying for my aunt in Hawaii yesterday at the expo. Then I recognized her, it was EB from Running on EB.

I'd never met her before and it was great to do so. We ran through Georgia Tech and Mile 11 (7:52) and it was a pretty good pace. I was glad to run into someone familiar, especially after the weird exchange with that guy earlier and this took my mind off of that.

Right before North Avenue, she mentioned I could run ahead and I told her, "This is fine, in fact I've been gambling a lot already" with my pace. But on the slight incline to North I moved ahead and continued up toward the last mile of the race.

On the turn to Marietta Street at Mile 12 I concentrated on finishing the race strong. I waited until the last half mile, there are four stoplights. I focused on those. Finally near the end, right after the Mile 13 sign, I started to run harder.

I could see as I approached the finish line that it was nearly 1:45 in the race. I thought that would be an excellent finish time. But as I crossed I realized that I started two minutes after the gun and when I looked down at my watch I saw I'd crossed in 1:42:43 (the official time was 1:42:40). I let out a huge yell, probably to the amusement of spectators but I didn't care.


This finish on this hilly course was something I could not have expected. My best time on the half here was 1:51 and change and I would have been satisfied doing what I did last year on similarly hilly local halfs -- 1:47 in the Hotlanta Half and the Jeff Galloway 13.1.

Since I hadn't really devoted long runs or speed work (although a trio of 10Ks and a 5K definitely helped toward this) I was really pleased with the result.

It's made me a continued fan of continuing with the FitStar workouts and possibly even training for a faster race ahead.

Time: 7:02 a.m.
Temp: 45 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Team BEEF), shorts, cep compression calf sleeves, cep compression socks, Brooks Pure Connect 3.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Check out the Piedmont Park coaster in Brooks' spring catalog


Props to the wife for checking out something that I normally wouldn't have paid any attention to -- the Spring 2016 catalog from Brooks that came in the mail.

Inside is a cool coaster that on one side details a map of the park (with some other odd things added like the Fox Theatre, the Olympic Torch and the Georgia Aquarium).

On the back is a Mad Lib-style running invitation you can fill out before sliding it down the counter to your running buddy.


Thursday, March 10, 2016

Coming soon to a neighborhood near you ... another 10 mile race!

Residents of this Atlanta neighborhood were quick to point out to race officials there's no "s" in the name.
There was an interesting thing during the online signup for the Intown Ten (10K) race. Within the signup was a very short survey asking runners if they would be interested in a 10 mile race in the neighborhood in September.

Without hesitation, I clicked, "Yes."

Nary a word was spoken about this at Sunday's race but they posted the above image on Facebook last Friday. Apparently the September time frame still is in the works.

I've always thought the 10 mile distance was a good one for this city and this race will join the Atlanta Track Club's Atlanta 10 Miler in October and a race I've always wanted to run in, Monday Night Brewing's Westside 10 in December.

I wonder if the course will be similar to the Intown Ten with a few extra miles added to the course or if it will be completely new. There's plenty of space in Va-Hi for it and based on what I know about the 10K course, it will pretty much be hilly.

Can't wait, though!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Day 3,353: The Intown Ten

The first 100 finishers were awarded flags. I placed 44th.
When the Intown Ten was created five years ago, I decided to stay away from this race. Costing $40, it was a little more than I was willing to pay for a 10K and being in my neighborhood, I knew it was way too hilly for me to enjoy.

This year was no different. I'd already paid $33 to run in the March 5 Chattahoochee Road Race 10K in Sandy Springs. I guess I hadn't seen that race's course, or thought about it much, and when I did I decided it might be better for me to run in a hilly local race as opposed to one a drive away with hills in the second half of the race.

So last week I signed up for the Intown Ten, with its exorbitant late fee of $50 (although I had an $8 neighborhood discount code). I skipped the Chattahoochee race, although I stopped by a day early to pick up the race shirt since I'd paid for it.

For the Intown Ten, I did my homework, running the entire course in three different easy runs and then looking up the elevation on my Garmin Connect data. I plotted out 10 hills on the route and the climb for each and made a gameplan.

I'd learned a few things running in the Feb. 6 Tartan Trot 10K, namely of how much large hills really put me out of the race. So this time around I decided I would run the first three miles, much of it downhill, at a 7:30/mile pace, much slower than the 7:20/mile I planned to run last week's Charles Harris 10K.

When the race started, I could not believe how fast the pace was. I was constantly trying to slow myself down and still there were dozens of people running far ahead. I battled running at 6:55/mile and then 7:00/mile before finally settling into the first mile at 7:16. Mile 2 (7:21) was no different but at least I was at a pace that I was pretty used to. Before this milemarker, some guy pushing an orange BOB stroller passed me and zoomed ahead.

Near the end of Mile 3 I could hear the clip-clop of footsteps and it was this tall guy in red passing me. There was an older guy in a yellow-orange singlet who still kept ahead of me. Even though this part of the course was downhill, I felt that if this stretch lasted any longer I would not be able to keep up in the race.

Fortunately, the course turned up one of the largest hills of the course and I reached Mile 3 at a 7:39/mile pace. I didn't worry too much even though it was slower than what I wanted since I'd inadvertently "banked" several seconds from Miles 1 and 2.

It was here where I started to pass people, and then a few more going up the next gradual incline to Mile 4 on North Morningside Drive. The people I passed included that tall guy in red and we were back and forth for a while, me maintaining my pace, when we reached Mile 4 on Courtenay Drive (7:31).

The course here was pretty steeply downhill. I ran in a pack of four people, including the red shirt guy and then another guy in a blue "Endurance" shirt. It seemed like he was really intent on making sure I didn't pass him and he was constantly speeding ahead.

Coming up the short hill on Amsterdam Avenue
As we came around the corner to the short, 45' rise on Amsterdam Avenue, I thought to myself to that guy, "You're headed for a trap!" as the worst of the hills were about to come. When I turned here, I felt like I had great footwork here for negotiating the hill, product of doing countless "scissor kick" sessions over the last two months on the FitStar app. I passed him and ...

... then I saw my family on the sidewalk waiting for me. Almost to show the people behind me that this surge up the hill didn't bother me, I blew my family a kiss and then turned on Brookridge, getting myself ready for the winding hill on Elkmont and Park drives. Mile 5 was right at the top of the hill here (7:10).

Running up Amsterdam Avenue
At the intersection of Park Drive and Virginia Avenue I could see runners negotiating the Ponce De Leon Place hill ahead. I could also see the guy with the orange stroller and I thought to myself how I needed to catch up with him.

I did so right before the turn to the final hill on St. Charles Avenue. The guy mentioned to me, "One last hill," and I chuckled with him before pushing on ahead. I really wanted to say that I wanted to train with him since I do a lot of stroller running myself.

This hill was hard. It's only a 50' rise according to my old elevation data but it was every bit as daunting as doing Cardiac Hill in the Peachtree Road Race. I just set my sights on the stoplight at the turn on Barnett.

Here the course goes into a deep downhill that levels off and then rises slightly to the finish. You can see the finish line here and I didn't immediately push down the hill as I needed to catch my breath as the marker for Mile 6 passed (7:32).

At this point I caught up with a guy who looked like he was in his 30s. As he turned to me, I told him, "Let's take this," and would have run with him into the finish. But I could tell that his response was more of a "I'm going as fast as I can" and I decided then to just push as fast as I could.

I ran down the downslope and had the funny feeling like I kicked too much too soon. I had about two blocks to go before I would finish and I felt like I could only kick for one more block.

So I decided to fake it. I slowed a little and during the first block, tried to move my arms faster to make it seem like I was running fast. As soon as I saw the stop sign for the last street before the slight uphill finish, I gave it everything I could. I kicked even harder when I saw the gun clock was at 45:40, giving me a very good chance of finishing under 46 minutes.

When I finished (45:55) I was out of breath and could not even stand up straight. I looked around for a place to lie down but didn't find any. It turned out that this last part was one of the fastest quarter-mile intervals I have ever run. I did that final distance in 1:26 for a 5:45/mile pace. Normally it takes me 20 more seconds to do what I consider is a pretty fast interval for the distance.

After the race I went to the staging area at John Howell Park to grab some water. I heard some people talking about checking their age group place at the finish line so I went to look. I saw that I'd placed third in my age group and was pretty psyched to have run a fast race on a course that I thought I would run a few minutes slower. I waited around for the awards but it turned out they only awarded age group winners (and gave the first 100 finishers flags as in the picture above).

It was nice to run in this race, as it was comfortable knowing the entire course since it is in the neighborhood and it's surely going to help me when I run in the March 20 Publix Georgia Half Marathon.

I have to give props to the FitStar app's core and body workouts that I have been doing for the last two months. Although these hills were hard to run up, my legs did not feel fatigued like they have in the past.

The hills are one of the cons of this race -- it's pretty brutal at the end. Also, it irks me that they don't have three-deep age group awards.

So it was nice to run this once.

Time: 9 a.m.
Temp: 46 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Honolulu Marathon '14), shorts, cep compression socks, Brooks Pure Connect 3.