Saturday, February 25, 2017

Day 3,709: Wiphan Warthog Waddle 5K

ROSWELL, Ga. -- I'd had this race on my calendar ever since falling short of first place in my age group last year by a single second.

I'd like to say I spent that year wisely, honing my 5K skills, but I really hadn't. I've been putting in some speedwork but nothing that will bring me to the next level yet.

Anyway, I left the house and there was light, misty rain. I wasn't sure if this meant I would have a rainy race but by the time I got to the race start it was looking ok. I got my bib and T-shirt from this well-organized race and put in maybe a third of a mile as a warmup.

The construction that was going on last year has been completed and the start and finish now wrapped around a different part of the church parking lot.

After running in two recent 5Ks in which I started out way too fast -- and paid for it -- I decided I would limit myself to about a 7-minute mile pace in the start. So when the start came I felt myself slowing down, and then slowing down too much. I worried I wouldn't be able to run anywhere near a 7-minute mile, but the first mile chimed at 7:01.

At the end of the first mile and throughout the second mile are rolling hills, which slowed me considerably last year. I felt like I was doing ok in them and no one was passing me, either. I ran this mile in 7:06.

By this time, I had a weird position. The really fast runners were at least 15 seconds ahed of me and the people behind me were back about the same amount of time. I worked to keep steady and when I entered the church parking lot again and neared the finish, I eased up a little bit as it seemed like no one was on my tail. Mile 3 was 7:03.

When I neared the finish I could see that 22 minutes had elapsed. I finished in 22:16 (my watch recorded a minute and three seconds for the last .17 miles for a 6:36/mile pace). It was 16 seconds slower than last year (Edit: it turned out it was exactly the same time as last year, I had no idea) but I didn't feel like I could have done any more.

While waiting for the awards, I looked at the monitor and it showed that I was second in my age group, behind a runner who ran in 20:15. I shrugged at that point, knowing that even if I wanted to, I would not have been able to run faster than that.

So I dutifully waited for the awards to come and I started to move forward after they announced the third place winner for my age group and then abruptly stopped in my tracks when second place was announced and it was not me. I was confused for a second but then elated when my name was announced for first place. The faster runner was first male masters.

It was a great race for a great cause -- the money goes toward the church's ministry in Zambia. I know that I'll have to work a little bit if I want to try for first in my age group next year.

I am a little confused, however, at my race tactics. I wonder how I would have done if I had just tried to run much faster in the first mile and then hold on the next two, as I usually do. I was glad that I had gas left in the tank for the rolling hills and the end of the race because I ran a little slower but am wondering if I need to take more risks to consistently run under 22 minutes.

Time: 8:30 a.m.
Temp: 57 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Marine Corps Marathon "Mission Accomplished" 2014), Patagonia Strider PRO shorts, cep compression socks, Saucony Type A6.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Day 3,692: A night with Nuun

It's a lot of fun to go to a company's event when you are a fanboy. Lots of swag here.
I wasn't sure what I was getting into when I shoved a tablet of lemon-lime Nuun in my mouth and started eating it.

Next thing I knew I'd won a pint glass from the Seattle-based company that selected me last month to be one of its brand ambassadors.

Nuun, pronounced "noon", was holding a free hydration class at the local REI to help prepare runners for April's Ragnar Trail Atlanta. I was just there because it seemed like a great way to learn more about a product I'd been using for the last few years training in Atlanta's hot summers. (I don't have plans to run in the relay but do have experience with relay races, having run in the 2000 Hood to Coast relay).

We learned about Nuun's array of products, from "Active" which is what you use to replace electrolytes after a run, to "Energy" which also contains caffeine to their new "Vitamins" which is more for everyday use.

They also have a Nuun Plus, which you use to add carbohydrates to another Nuun product to help your body absorb electrolytes better for longer runs of 90 minutes or more. (They told us that later this year they would be coming out with a powder form of this to make it easier to pour in a container of water).

I learned the trick of how you can chew a Nuun tablet to help replenish electrolytes in the middle of a run (hence the tablet eating contest) and we of course sampled different kinds of Nuun tablets mixed with water.

We also got to try mixing two or more different flavors with water and then we all did a blind taste test to see what concoction was the best. (I won that too, by just mixing together my favorites, blueberry pomegranate and blackberry citrus, which we learned about in last month's Hot Chocolate expo).

And then there was the swag, as seen above, which was a great reward for being present to listen to something the wife and I both love drinking after workouts.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Day 3,691: A gait analysis and finally wearing Newtons

I had some time on my hands today so I popped into Highland Runners, a local running store that specializes in selling Newton running shoes.

While I'm used to just going into stores and ordering what I need (I usually do a lot of research beforehand), the sales guy asked if I'd ever had a gait analysis.

Since I never had one, and I had a few more minutes to kill, I went ahead and did it. Basically I ran barefoot on a treadmill for a few minutes while he took video of my stride with an iPad. Then he showed me the angles of my stride -- possible minor supination, or my foot rolling outward during a stride.

I don't think there were any surprises here. I've been running for 30 years and I wear very neutral shoes -- I've even mentioned here that most of my running shoes show very little wear after 500 miles of running.

So he outfitted me in a pair of Newton Gravity V shoes, basically the shoe I'd researched would help me. The shoes have rubber "lugs" under the midfoot and they are to help guide your feet where to strike when you run. You replace the shoe when the lugs are worn down and he said they could go for 500 or more miles.

So I'm pretty excited about trying them out. I've been looking for another low drop shoe that is a little more cushioned than what I already have.

Below are a few pictures from Saturday's Tartan Trot:

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Day 3,688: Tartan Trot 5K

Win a medal, get a cake.
DUNWOODY, Ga. -- Ever since getting a free cake in last year's Tartan Trot 10K, this has been on my list of races to do this year.

It's such a nice community race and the donated cakes by churchgoers makes it even more fun to run in.

This year, however, I decided I would try my feet at the 5K distance instead of the 10K. After picking up the packet on Friday and driving the course, I was happy to learn the first two miles of the race would be all downhill, followed by what looked like a few uphill sections at the end of the race.

This meant the course was basically a lot like the Fast Track 5K in Duluth that I ran last May.

And I ran it nearly exactly. My first mile here was 6:27. Everyone was running hard! I felt like I was out of my element but I kept on chugging. Second mile slowed to 6:51 and a few people passed me. My last mile was 7:33 and I really wanted to quit.

Instead of two uphill sections, there actually are three on the latter part of the course. I was passed by three guys, then a few teenagers. I really thought my chance of winning my age group (and getting a free cake) were slim.

But I finished the race and waited around. When they finally announced my age group, I was concerned that after they read out the third- and second-place winners I was completely knocked out of the group!

I was elated when I heard the announcer fumble over my last name. Wow! I didn't expect to win my age group but yes, I will take a free cake!

I ended up the race in 21:57, which is a vast improvement over the 23:34 I ran at the end of the year in the Stamp Out Poverty 5K in Grant Park. Last year, it took until May before I broke 22 minutes in a 5K.

I decidedly dressed down for this race but maybe should have worn even less -- I learned during intervals last week that I needed to ditch the long-sleeve technical T-shirt because I got too warm running fast. I took off my gloves in the first mile but found my hands were freezing during much of the race.

The visor worked perfectly -- kept my head warm but also able to vent heat. And my Saucony Type A6 racing flats, which I haven't worn since last February, were excellent shoes this time around.

There are a few more 5Ks on my radar this winter/spring so I'm hoping to use this as a motivator to keep working on my endurance, especially in the third mile.

Time: 8:30 a.m.
Temp: 27 degrees
Gear: T-shirt, short (Falcons orbital), Techinical T-shirt, long (Locomotive Half), Brooks Spartan shorts, cep compression socks, nuun headsweats visor, Saucony Type A6.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Keeping fit at 32 cents per workout (FitStar by Fitbit)

Exactly two weeks ago, I received a notice from Google Play that my card had been charged $39.99. It was for FitStar, the exercise app that I started last year and helped me break my Diet Coke habit. My year subscription was up and I auto-renewed.

Last year I did 124 workouts, which comes roughly to 32 cents a workout. It was a pretty good deal to me.

All the workouts are body weight, maybe stuff I should have been doing anyway, but really needed some kind of organized program to get me going. I feel like during the year I've made vast improvements in all around strength, especially in my core, arms and legs. It was nice to read articles in Runners World about recommended exercises for runners and to know that I'd been doing them anyway.

It definitely showed in my running. Last year, I broke my PR for the half marathon twice, set a PR for the 10K and later in the year set official PRs for the 20K and 30K distances during the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

One thing I found was that during marathon training it was hard to keep up with the workouts. In those months I did between four to six workouts a month. But now with a more open schedule (meaning I'm not actively training for a marathon right now) I find it's nice to continue the FitStar workouts. Tonight was my ninth workout of the month.

In tonight's workout, there was a twist -- the workouts were formerly led by former Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez, but now there are new trainers leading the way, maybe as part of changes after Fitbit acquired the app last March.

Some of the dialogue is exactly the same but there are slight changes in technique, including during Muay Thai kicks, bench dips and bicycle kicks.

Last year I told myself I would do this for a year before deciding whether to enroll in a CrossFit gym. I think given my running goals and the time commitment I'll continue doing these exercises and might instead opt to hire a running coach to get the most out of my feet.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Hot Chocolate expo (rainfest)

With fond memories of going to last year's Hot Chocolate 5K/15K expo, I looked forward to this year's event. After all, who can turn down free chocolate?

The only thing was getting there. It poured for much of the morning today, drenching me in a 6-mile run (my shoes were not dry until four days later).

But without really knowing when it would let up, we decided to make the best of it and get in and out of the expo quickly.

Unlike last year, we were unable to park in the Gold lot, which is protected from the elements. So we parked across the street from the Georgia World Congress Center in the blue lot ($10). But at this point, the rain was just pouring down in sheets. Just getting the double stroller out of the car got my jeans totally drenched.

The water was pouring down the side of the street and on the sidewalk, so when we crossed our shoes were totally drenched! At least the weather -- and the rain -- was warm so it didn't make too much difference when we finally got inside.

When we did, we were greeted by someone at the expo handing out the little squares of chocolate as pictured above. The best was yet to come, as they had vanilla wafers dipped in chocolate and hot chocolate near the expo's exit. The little ones of course loved this!

Overall, the expo seemed small in size. I signed up for this year's Big Peach Sizzler 10K as I did last year at this time -- when you sign up at the expo you get $5 off entry and get a free T-shirt. The only shirt I don't have from this race is the orange one, so that's the one I chose!

I was also happy to see the Nuun booth in action. They had samples of their regular tablets plus ones with vitamins, which at least was new to me. I didn't introduce myself as a Nuun Ambassador but we found a couple flavors we liked (blueberry pomegranate and blackberry citrus) so we bought two tubes and got a free Nuun water bottle.

My favorite flavor of Nuun, at least until I tried the new versions.
 When we got outside, the rain had totally stopped! If we'd waited we could have gotten to and from the expo without a drop of water but that's the way it goes. Still I'll take rain and warm (about 57 degrees) over the 27 degrees it was last year.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Day 3,671: Best. Lasagna. Ever. (Run Fast. Eat Slow.)

It may not look like much but this lasagna from the new Run Fast Eat Slow cookbook is one of the best I've had/made.
The other day I was flipping through Run Fast. Eat Slow., the new cookbook by Olympian Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky and saw the wife made a comment above the recipe titled Marathon Lasagna.

This gave me pause. I'd made it the other day, for the first time, for her and my in-laws and it really was an experimental undertaking for me. For one, I can count on my fingers the number of times I've ever made lasagna myself and two, there was an ingredient in the recipe that made me wonder if I could pull it off: sweet potato.

The recipe is a nod to what Flanagan apparently likes to eat before running at an elite pace in the Boston Marathon, something that sounds a lot like a Thanksgiving meal I would eat in November instead of on the eve of running 26.2 miles on Patriot's Day.

But lasagna is lasagna and ever since Garfield declared his love for it when I was little, I've loved scarfing down pans of it myself.

It turns out this recipe is pretty easy. It uses ground turkey that you turn into a meat sauce, and then you layer the tray with no-boil noodles (really helpful for a lasagna neophyte like myself), a mixture of ricotta and mashed sweet potatoes, wilted spinach and of course, cheese. There are several layers and when I most recently made this dish on Monday I really was worried everything was going to spill over out of the pan and all over the oven. This didn't happen.

The result is something spectacular. The sweet potato and ricotta make it gooey and cheesy and delightful. It's going to be in the dinner rotation for months if not years to come and may become the reason I need to crank out a few more long runs every now and then.

Looking forward to trying more recipes from the pros!