Saturday, April 28, 2018

Day 4,136: Run for Research 5K

If you like free snacks that you can get at a convenience store, the Run for Research 5K is for you.
I ran in the RaceTrac Run for Research 5K last year and came within 9 seconds of placing in my age group.

This year the race was on a new course that started and ended at SunTrust Park, the home of the Atlanta Braves. It actually looked like the course was the one that I thought I was going to get to run last June in the Braves Country 5K.

I arrived early and was glad I did. I'd forgotten that RaceTrac's snack vendors were out in full force giving out freebies of Oreo cookies, Utz chips and other things like Payday candy bars. I picked up my shirt and bib and had a whole bag of snacks before the race started.

When the race started it was a screaming downhill. I tried my best to keep it under control -- I did 6:49 for the first mile and it felt good. Mile 2 had a little bit of uphill and while I wanted to keep pace I faded a little bit to 7:12.

Mile 3 has the huge hill at the end going over Interstate 75. I just tried to run up it carefully and made my way down the hill toward the stadium. There's another rise right before you turn into the stadium -- Mile 3 was 7:25.

I remembered though that in last year's Braves Country 5K I noted that you have to kick when you turn to go into the stadium because once you get on the warning track, there isn't much race left. So I did, passing three guys and a woman who'd been in front of me the entire race. I finished the last .19 of the race in 1:03, at a 5:52/mile pace.

I finished in 22:29, good for 6th place in my age group and while the hills were hard, I felt really good about my run. It was the first time I ran in Nike's Epic React Flyknit shoes and these were everything I thought they would be for a 5K. They were very smooth on hard surfaces and didn't give me too much squishy give that the Nike Vaporfly 4 percent did going up a hill at the end of the race.

Still, I marveled how eternally consistent I am in hilly races -- 22:30 is my going time.

Time: 8:30 a.m.
Temp: 55 degrees
Gear: T-shirt, technical, short (Ukrops 10K 2016), shorts, Nuun hydration PRO Compression socks, Nike Epic React Flyknit.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Day 4,116: Cherry Blossom 10-Miler (PR)

Third time is the charm! PR -- 1:14:52
WASHINGTON -- "Blue Leader," I said as I spied a guy in a blue shirt making his way past the other runners up the final hill of the Cherry Blossom Ten-Miler.

A guy in front of me turned around to look at me, likely not knowing that I was invoking Star Wars lore as I readied myself for a fast finish to the race. I'd only done this once before, streaking through the wooded trails of Nike's World Campus during what to me was an extremely fast 5K.

This time around, I was focused and running fast, on my way to breaking the 1:18:05 PR for the ten-mile distance I just set last month at the Snickers Marathon. I crossed with a kick equivalent to a 5:36 mile.

In December we saw the lottery had opened for this iconic race in D.C. and we knew that it would come at the tail end of our kids' spring break vacations. Why not, we thought? Less than two weeks later we received notification that we were in.

A few days earlier in November I'd just signed up for the Snickers Marathon. After training and running in that race, the timing wasn't perfect to run in the Cherry Blossom race but after completing the marathon I tried to maintain mileage and a few 6-mile tempo runs at the new pace (about 7:28/mile) along with interval training for spring and summer 5Ks I'd hoped to participate in. Even last week's 5 to Thrive 5K was in the hopes of aiding my quest for a new 10-mile PR.

What I wasn't sure about, however, was pace. When I trained for the marathon, I ran pretty much at a 7:40/mile pace with some strength interval work at 7:30/mile. I would be running much faster, at a goal of 7:28/mile to PR with the chance of making the Group A standard (last year was 1:14:40) in the Peachtree Road Race.

It was a plan.

After having trouble with my headphones during the Snickers Marathon, I thought I would go without music for this race since I planned to run in the 7:30/mile pace group. At the last moment I decided to bring the headphones with me and I was glad I did -- the pace group was in the corral in front of me, which started two minutes earlier than mine! I never caught up with that group (or the 8:00/mile group for that matter) in the race.

I walked with the wife from our hotel across the National Mall over to the Washington Monument where the start was. The corral was pretty crowded and even though there was time to warm up, it wasn't clear I would be able to get back in the corral if I did. So I went without the warmup, thinking that the longish walk would be ok.

When the race started, I was concerned there would be congestion in the first mile or so (this happened to me in the two previous races I did here) but that wasn't the case. What I found was that I had to dial my pace waaaay back and my Garmin said I ran 7:28 for Mile 1.

Over the next few miles I struggled to maintain my pace and I really thought that I was on the verge of blowing up and not being able to maintain a decent pace. I ate a gel at about 4.5 miles. The official splits show that I ran the first 10K at a 7:38/mile pace, definitely slower than my goal and more like my body wanted me to rein in the faster pace for the speed that I trained for the marathon.

At this point, however, we had entered Hains Point, an isthmus where the last few miles of the race are located. I was running behind a young woman who was maintaining a good pace -- I saw on my watch I was running 7:20/mile. I wasn't blowing up and I decided that I would try to hold onto this pace as long as I could. The woman had two red horizontal lines running across the back of her white tank and I dubbed her "Red Leader."

By Mile 8 or so I'd ended up passing her and was setting my mind up for the finish. I saw the race clock at this point and knew that I could run 7:30 miles the last two miles and be at or under 75 minutes. But this kind of went out the window at Mile 9 when I looked at my watch and it said "7:30." (My split time was 7:21 or probably more accurately 7:25 at this point since my watch recorded 10.12 miles instead of the official 10). I ate my second and final gel at about 8.5 miles.

The official split shows that my average time had vastly improved to 7:32/mile in less than 3 miles. I knew that when you leave Hains Point there is a sign that says 800m were left. This is where I saw "Blue Leader." I made my way up the last hill, which I used to dread, following him, but ultimately passed him.

I selected another target, "Orange Leader," and then passed him before I crested the hill. As much as I didn't like wearing my Nike Vaporflys last week in the 5K, they felt aggressive and fast in the last section.

I finished in 1:14:52 for a 7:29/mile pace and a PR. I missed my Group A target by 12 seconds. Despite that, I was elated the rest of the day. My marathon recovery in the five weeks leading up to this race was more like a taper for this race. I felt extremely fresh and confident on race day. The faster interval sessions also helped, especially in the last 800 meters of the race.

The new PR gives me much more to work with. I felt like I just ran out of race -- if there were three more miles in it, I might have been looking at a new half marathon PR instead.

Time: 7:32 a.m.
Temp: 36 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Nuun Pactimo '18), shorts, Brooks arm warmers, Headsweats visor (Cherry Blossom Ten-Miler) Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4 percent.

A trip highlight was meeting Boston Marathon and New York City Marathon champion Olympian Meb Keflezighi!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Day 4,108: Atlanta Children's Shelter 5 to Thrive 5K

5 to Thrive 5K: Not my best race.
"We should have fucking gone straight!" I yell to the lead two runners as we are well on our way along the Active Oval, running literally parallel to the finish line.

It's the end of the Atlanta Children's Shelter 5 to Thrive 5K, a race I've run in the last three years and had hopes for getting a new qualifying time for the Peachtree Road Race.

Already there were quirks, which should have been warning signs. First the race was going to be held in the afternoon, at 2:15 p.m. at the hottest time of the day. The last two years the race had been in the morning, the traditional time of races in the park. The weather is usually cooler and there are less people mulling about in the park.

The last time I ran in a non-morning race in Piedmont Park, I ended up off course before correcting and getting my first Master's win.

The next warning sign was they decided to have the same goofy age-group categories as last year, putting me in direct competition with guys in their 30s (typically age groups are five year spans, such as age 45-49). It looked like they were only awarding first place age group winners instead of three deep as last year when I placed third in the race for the hybrid age group but on Athlinks was first in my traditional age group category.

But whatever, I thought. The race is USATF-certified, meaning I can use it as a qualifying time if I run fast enough.

When I got down to the race, it was apparent the race was not going to be the same one as the one that is accurately measured and listed in the USATF archives.

Even then, I wasn't really nonplussed about this, just thinking I would use it as a tempo run and would just try to enjoy my first 5K since the Vinings Downhill 5K last August. I knew I would struggle a little bit but that these kinds of races have been extremely beneficial when run the week before a longer race.

When the race started, I intentionally told myself to hold back ... way back. I mainly accomplished this goal, even though I fell behind quite a few people. My first mile was 6:59 as we made our way down and around the splash pad in the northern part of the park.

I knew I was slowing after this, putting up a 7:22 mile as we rounded the bowl in the southeastern part of the park. Still I felt pretty good, as I passed a few guys that had been ahead of me or passed me earlier and was running behind a teenage girl as the course made its way back up the hill behind the tennis courts.

As the hill reached the top of the Active Oval, two guys who had been in the lead came up and ran by us. I wasn't sure where they came from but I think they had somehow been told to run down in between the Active Oval and the pavilion where the finish is and then been told to rejoin the course.

I passed the girl and was running behind the two leaders with the final turn toward the finish on the path that goes by Lake Clara Meer just before us when the leaders turned into the Active Oval. There were children's shelter signs with arrows pointing this way and as I turned I didn't see any signs on the path where the final turn was.

I followed the guys and then it dawned on me as I ran on the gravel of the oval we were way off course. I followed the leader up around the Active Oval, and out down toward the finish in between the tennis courts and the oval. My watch showed 3.1 miles on this path at about 22:44 for me. I ran Mile 3 in 7:34.

By this time I knew everything was screwed up. I could see runners crossing the finish from the proper way. I made my way around to the finish and maybe was 7th with a time of 23:44.

I'm not sure whether we three runners were officially disqualified as I left immediately after the race feeling it was pointless to stick around when I likely did not even win the age group. I took it in stride as this really was just a community fun run for a good cause instead of the Olympics. It happens, right? But not too often, since this is the first time in 30 years of running that I have ended up off course in a way that was not correctable.

It's too bad it happened, though and I'm really unlikely to run in this race in the future, especially since the design of the park always gets in my head somehow and I run 5Ks here in the 22:30 range, maybe about a minute slower than what I'm probably capable of.

Still, I could tell I was way out of 5K shape, I tried to take things too easily and not aggressive enough. While my Vaporfly shoes probably gave me a cruising cushion to run with, I felt like they were too soft and not responsive when I really thought I should be running harder.

Time: 2:15 p.m.
Temp: 64 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Big Peach Sizzler 10K), shorts, Nike Vaporfly 4 percent.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Day 4,080: Snickers Marathon (PR)


I ran the 2016 Bank of America Chicago Marathon with a stress fracture and while I came within 2 minutes of setting a personal record in that race, I'd always thought it was not a fair fight.

Four weeks leading up to that race, my training came to a standstill. I couldn't run with any intensity and I didn't know why I couldn't accelerate. I knew I would want another chance at the marathon distance.

I'd had the Snickers Marathon in Albany, Ga. (about three hours south, southwest of Atlanta) on my radar since last year. It's known as one of the top Boston Marathon qualifiers because of its generally flat course. When I learned last November that I'd been picked to run in the BMW Berlin Marathon I knew I wanted to run in a spring marathon to set the stage for that race.

From November I carefully planned out my mileage, using Hansons Marathon Method as the template, and carefully built my training up to avoid any chance of injury. My training was pretty lackluster, until in January when I did an 18-mile run on a park loop outside Las Vegas. At that point, everything clicked. It was like a sports team that finally galvanized after a win on the road.

For the next seven weeks or so, I was crushing workouts -- 10 mile tempo runs at a 7:40/mile pace, 6-mile strength intervals at 7:30/mile or better. I entered this marathon with a high level of confidence.

It was pretty easy to get to Albany, once I got out of Friday's rush hour traffic in metro Atlanta. The race expo keeps its doors open until 9 p.m. (maybe for Atlanta participants who travel after work?) and I easily got my race bib -- and a bunch of Snickers bars as per the race sponsor -- and settled into my hotel. The hotel offered a free late checkout of 1 p.m. race day and even opened their complimentary breakfast at 5 a.m. so marathoners could get a bite to eat before heading out.

Race morning it was pretty cold out -- my Garmin has 36 degrees as the official temperature. There was plenty of parking in the civic center lot (where the expo was) and while I didn't exactly know where the start line was, I just followed everyone else there. I did about a half-mile warmup, mainly to find a spot in the woods before the race began.

I shed my layers (long sleeve shirt, arm warmers and a visor) and was a little slow to the corral and was in the 8:12/mile pace group. Up ahead was my goal, the 7:50/mile pace group.

Although I'd trained for this race at a 7:40/mile pace which is the pace for a finish of 3:21 or so (my age group standard for the Boston Marathon is 3:25), for some reason there was not a 3:20 pacing group, the lowest was 3:25. I'd previously talked to my friend Anna who was doing this race and she was planning to be in the 3:35 pace group that I was currently standing in before the race started. I didn't mention my ambitious plan to be in the 3:25 group but instead ran up to that group after the race started.

Since the 3:25 pace group existed (and the 3:20 one did not) I decided to run in that group because a 3:25 marathon time would qualify me for Boston (although probably still not fast enough to run in the race because of the sheer number of qualified runners who do apply) and would give me guaranteed entry into the Chicago Marathon. I also felt like it would give me a little physical cushion for a time that I'd never before tried to do.

The race started and a bunch of us were off in the pace group. I'd never run in a pace group before simply because many times the pacers were too fast for me (I have many memories of seeing the group slowly fade away in the distance from me). This time it was pretty exhilarating. A bunch of us were all running with the pacer, who was a 2:50-ish marathoner, all in time. We did a bunch of surges depending on how close we needed to be to our mile pace.

Sometimes I felt like it was too fast and I tried to slow a little. I probably should have slowed more, but was relieved when I made my way back to the pack. One thing was sure though -- I was not confident I could maintain this 7:50/mile pace on my own. To get separated from this pack would be death.

We crossed the race's first official timing mat at 10 miles. Timing mats give you an idea of how you are doing and also serve to prevent anyone from cutting the course to get an ill-gained race time. I crossed in 1:18:05, which gave me a four-minute PR for that distance, one that I was unsuccessful in breaking last fall in the Army Ten Miler and the Atlanta 10-Miler.

At the half marathon mat, I felt like we had increased our pace a little. It felt a little harder to keep up but I still felt like I was doing well. Maybe around Mile 15 I felt a slight warning -- a small tinge in my right calf. In the next mile, a few things happened that I think set me up for doom.

I was wearing a set of wireless headphones and had my iPod clipped to my shorts waistband. We were at this point running in a residential area and up to Mile 16 the headphones cut out three times. Each time I would have to pull my right hand up to my ear and hold down the part of the headphones to turn it back on. It would have to re-establish its connection to the iPod and I would also have to play the track before trying to tuck it in my waistband.

Each time I did this I would lose a few seconds from the pack. The first two times I caught up with not much effort, but the third time my right calf started to cramp and I knew my goal of a 3:25 marathon would be over.

At this point I reached into my hip pouch and pulled out a bottle of what's marketed as "Pickle Juice." It basically serves to help alleviate pain from cramps. I'd never tried it before and popped open the top and drank it. It basically was pickle juice. Drinking it reminded me of the drink in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy -- the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster -- and that's what I called it the rest of the race.

I only had two bottles with me -- I threw them in my pouch almost as an oversight, since I'd run 18 miles, then 20 miles and 17 miles up to three weeks before this race with no calf pain. At Mile 16, I had to stop when the last remaining bottle popped out of my pouch onto the street. Then my iPod fell on the ground. The pack was nearly out of sight now. I will never wear headphones in a marathon again.

I've never run a marathon without calf cramps and I should have known better. But one thing for sure is that when you have had as many bad races as I have, you know better than to just give up. I trotted along, each time surprised that my watch hadn't shown double-digit split times. Sure, my time had gone up but not by too much. Mile 17 was 8:13. Mile 18 was actually under 8 minutes and I wondered if I could continue this pace with my calves playing ping-pong with each other.

At Mile 19 I ran 8:32 and I was just trying to get to Mile 20 to eat the fifth of the six gels that I carried with me. I continued on until Mile 21, when I decided to use my last pickle juice. People were passing me, in ones and twos and I knew at some point my friend Anna and her 8:12/mile pace would too. I prepared for this by thinking I would say "You're doing great -- I'm still going to get a PR." At one point, a guy in a small group of spectators at the side of the road said aloud, "That guy isn't doing too well." (Anna's friend later mentioned the same thing to me when he saw me crossing the finish).

Through Mile 24 I plodded along and wanted to just drop out of the race, although I still wasn't seeing double-digit split times. I mentally broke down the remaining distance at this point in two-mile segments, much as I did in November when I ran a very slow Rock'n'Roll Savannah Half Marathon (in 1:56). Just get to this mile and the next two miles will be crucial.

Unlike in the Chicago Marathon when the whole crowd around me started to speed up at Mile 25, there was really no one to do so. I knew that at this point I could walk and still get a PR as long as my last mile was under 30 minutes. I really wanted to drop out at this point but remembered the sections from Alex Hutchinson's book Endure about human endurance and thought, "Why in the world would my brain want me to drop out of the race when I'm so close to finishing it?"

And so I plodded along, my split now dropping to 10:25 for that mile and finally 10:57 for Mile 26. At the end you run through an archway into a park and can see the Mile 26 sign, followed by the 13 Mile sign for the half marathon.

At this point I knew there was just a tenth of a mile left, but I really didn't have any speed in me (I finished the remaining tenths of the mile at a 9:42 pace). There was a timing clock at the slight turn before the finish and I could make out the seconds ticking. I'd thought that I was probably running at a 3:44 pace but it turned out the clock was still on 3:40. (Had I known that I was close to running a 3:39, I might have run faster but I didn't know and thus didn't care).

I finished with a 17-minute PR despite the calf cramps. It was a relief to be done and after the finish I stood for a second, not knowing whether to backtrack to the medical tent or to just get a draft beer (I chose the beer but I just didn't feel in regular health at that point).

Later, I saw my friend Anna after the finish. She finished in 3:43 and I thought about that whole section of the race where I just knew she was going to pass me. In the parking lot, a lanky guy asked if I ran in the 3:25 group. I told him my predicament and he mentioned that he was one of the last people who ran with the pacer but in the end, the pacer was the only one to run 3:25. The cool weather was near-perfect but many people ended up a little slower than they'd planned.

It was an amazing day, such a nice community event where all the organizers and volunteers were extremely friendly and helpful. Because of the calf cramps, I went through a range of thoughts on whether I should do another marathon again but I have an idea now why they've happened to me in every marathon I've raced, whether I've tried to run fast, too fast, or slow.

I came back home happy and refreshed. I didn't get the PR that I wanted but was super pleased with the result. After the 2016 Chicago Marathon it took me months to determine if I ever wanted to run in another marathon again ("I don't think this is my distance," I told my wife). I delayed for so long that I missed the October application period that year to run in the 2017 race.

This time around, I set another running-related record -- it only took me a day before thinking, yeah I want to run in another marathon again.

Time: 7 a.m.
Temp: 36 degrees
Gear: Techncial T-shirt, short (Nuun Pactimo 2018), Mizuno shorts, cep compression calf sleeves, Nike Vaporfly 4 percent.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Day 4,018: Eleven years for the runstreak!

The vest I'm wearing is from the 20th Portland (Ore.) Shamrock Run. It's 20 years old.
It was fitting that I began Week 11, Day 1 of my marathon training today, since today's easy 6-mile scheduled run meant the completion of 11 years of my daily running streak.

I meandered through my neighborhood before making it to the sign in front of Piedmont Park where I've taken my picture at the end of years of my run streak.

It was a particularly cold day, 33 degrees, and I wore running pants, two long-sleeved technical T-shirts and a running vest, as well as gloves and my running visor. I thought I would certainly shed the vest during the run but I needed all of the clothing to keep me going.

If anything, the visor was a mistake -- usually I like to have the open nature of the visor to vent out heat when I run, but running in such a cold day, all it did was keep my head cold!

I was happy to be able to run after running 18 miles on the Silver Comet the day before. That was my longest run since the 2016 Chicago Marathon and I was pretty happy with the workout (ran in 2:34:34 for an 8:35/mile pace). It's probably one of the fastest long runs I've done in training and it deserves a write-up that will probably be backdated.

I ended the month with 216.91 miles, the most since the 243 miles I put up in August 2016 in the height of my Chicago training. Also closed out 1,668.98 miles for the year and 15,824.69 miles for the runstreak.

Looking forward to more running in the New Year!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Day 4,004: Jeff Galloway 13.1

Jeff Galloway 13.1: This pic sums up my race, basically pacing behind faster runners for a 1:41:47 finish.
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your hometown/
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way
 -Pink Floyd

The last time I ran in the Jeff Galloway 13.1, I was running at a projected 1:45 pace when calf cramps struck at Mile 10 and I was forced to slow down.

Had I been able to run 1:45, I would have placed in the top three for my age group. So I lamented having to take it a little easier after running in the Chicago Marathon with a stress fracture in my shin a few months before that race.

I had the 1:45 mark for this year's race on my mind the entire year. I added two extra races, the Atlanta 10-Miler and the Thanksgiving Day Half Marathon to help give me some additional work with Atlanta's hilly streets.

Yet often plans don't go the way you think they will and instead I suffered a four-race streak of sub-par race times, starting with October's Army Ten Miler (1:27:28) in Washington; the Atlanta 10-Miler (1:26:58); the Rock'n'Roll Savannah Half (1:56:03) and the Thanksgiving Day Half (1:55:49).

While those times were disheartening, I kept my head up and worked through a new marathon training segment, running nearly 300 miles in the last 5-1/2 weeks. On Dec. 6, I'd hit seven tempo miles out of a 12.63-mile run in what was my first 50-mile week in more than a year.

So I had confidence going into this race but I still was wary of being so snakebit the last four races. My plan was the same as last year, to go out at an 8-minute mile pace, something that would give me a 1:45 half.

The race starts downhill and it is a fast start. I've learned to not just fly down it and so I played it carefully. As we continued down Juniper I recognized ahead of me, maybe 20 seconds or so, a female runner who I know only on Instagram who has a consistent 7:40/mile pace. It was extremely helpful to guide my own pace, even if I had no plans of keeping up with that pace.

We went up Juniper's rolling hills (Mile 1: 8:00) and then later on up Central Park's hills, which I've always disliked as they are also part of the Publix Georgia Marathon/Half Marathon course. This time they felt extremely doable and Mile 2 went at 7:48.

We turned on Baker-Highland and then onto Freedom Parkway where Mile 3 is (7:53). Here I could tell people were pushing the downhill section and I felt like I wasn't properly warmed up.

I ran 1.13 miles into the park on my way to the starting line and ran into my friends Frank and Bonnie. I ended up walking with them up the big 12th Street hill and then it turned out that the race didn't start at 7:30 a.m. that I thought it did, instead at 8 a.m.! So I basically stood around and shivered for a half hour.

Mile 4 (7:59) is right before the North Highland Avenue intersection with Freedom Parkway. I kept running pretty well and it was here where I saw Frank making his own way toward the intersection. I gave him a wave and a thumbs up and then I entered the Eastside Beltline trail.

Here I felt like I was cruising pretty well (Mile 5: 7:35). I ran back and forth with a female runner down this stretch but the weird thing about this race is it happened pretty often even though I kept running my own pace without worrying about the jockeying. Each time except at the end of the race I ended up passing the jockeying runner.

At the end of the Beltline Mile 6 came and I ran it in 7:48. I'd been mentally preparing for this series of uphills, up to Virginia Avenue. Although I brought my trusty visor to the race to warm my head (it provides enough warmth while letting heat vent out the top), it was really sweaty at this point and I had been holding it in my hand for a while. So I found a big bush with a tree in it and chucked it in it. I hope it's still there, I'd like to get it back!

I also had been toying with the idea of trying to take off my long-sleeved shirt under my short sleeve shirt mid-run, as I did in the Thanksgiving Half. Next time I'll have to just wear a short-sleeved shirt and my Mizuno arm sleeves and maybe have a throwaway layer while I wait for the race to start.

We turned onto Ponce de Leon and then the big hill up St. Charles Ave. Here I gave the hill a lot of respect (Mile 7 8:00) and just worked my way back up to North Highland Ave. It was nice to be back in my home turf and this stretch down to Virginia Avenue is always fast. I ran Mile 8 in 7:23 and was starting to feel extremely good. I'd whittled down the distance of the Instagram runner (she had stopped briefly on St. Charles) and when she accelerated down Virginia, I followed in kind.

The race turns up Park Avenue and then out to Monroe Avenue. This flat section has caused me a little trouble in the past but I ran Mile 9 in 7:22, feeling great. Frank's wife Bonnie was taking pictures along 10th Street on the edge of the park, so I decided to ham it up while running on the uphill slant.


Maybe a minute or so later I'd caught up with the Instagram runner. This wasn't really my plan at all but she'd stopped briefly twice so far during the race and kept running. There was a point where we ran side by side for a second but then she pulled behind me and stopped. I kept running and made my way to the Piedmont Avenue turn.

Here on Piedmont is Mile 10 (7:47) and where I developed calf cramps last year. The section goes downhill and then is a little rough uphill past 14th Street and up next to the Atlanta Botanical Garden. I worked my way up and on the way down saw my friend Anna further down Piedmont Avenue. On this downhill stretch (Mile 11 7:24) I went back and forth with another female runner and this continued as we turned into Piedmont Park Commons.

Just then a young guy in his 20s passed us and made his way up on the paved trail that leads to Mile 12. I settled in a few steps behind him and it felt effortless following him up the trail. Right before the dog park he moved to his left and I wasn't sure if I needed to take the lead and do some work so I did but he ended up passing me again. It felt ok. Mile 12 as we entered the park's bowl was 7:47.

At this point I could tell on the watch that this guy (and myself) were fading a little bit. I also could see that wow, there was a remote chance that I could even break 1:40 if I played things right. But I was also fading and really wasn't able to get the 6:55 surge that led to my PR in Boston last May. The young guy got about eight seconds ahead of me as we entered the path around Lake Clara Meer.

On one of the corners we'd caught up with Anna and I could tell that she saw me as she turned the corner. Here I pretended that I was in my 800 meter interval set and ran down the length of the lake, thinking I would kick at the turnaround that leads back along the other side.

It was here that I finally ran alongside Anna and I told her, "We have 400 (meters) left. Let's do this." But her reply was almost like a painful cry and I left her alone. It turned out to be the first time I ever finished in front of Anna in a race.

I started down the downhill stretch with about a quarter-mile left in the race. I could see the younger guy ahead and was surprised that he didn't kick after the first curve. It gave me a little scare as maybe the finish was further back than I thought it was and I'd expended too much energy.

But when I made the turn myself (Mile 13 7:47), I could see that there was only a little bit of race left. I started my acceleration but there was no way I would catch the younger guy. As I approached the finish I let out what really was more of a roar as I worked to summon as much energy as I could to pound out to the finish (the last .16 miles on my watch was at a 6:38/mile pace).

And just like that, a 1:41:47 finish. It is my second fastest half marathon time after the 1:39:14 that I ran in May on a flat Boston course.

Also good enough for 6th place in my age group! lol I was still extremely proud to have placed 39th overall, especially when my last two halfs were in the 1:56 range.

I'm happy with the Hansons program, if anything in the future I would just use the marathon program instead of the half marathon program because I think the extra miles and speed/tempo work really helped.

I'm not sure I'll be able to run this kind of race next year, since I have plans to run in the Berlin Marathon in September. If I do, I'll have to train to be faster to place in my age group, possibly having to break 1:40 to do it.

Time: 8 a.m.
Temp: 34 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt long (inaugural JG 13.1), short (Big Peach Sizzler '09), shorts, cep compression socks, Headsweats visor (Phidippides), Nike Zoom Fly.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

My runstreak is now 4,000 days!

I still have hat head from my visor after today's 7-mile tempo run.
I had a 7-mile tempo run on schedule today and after that workout, which totaled 11.37 miles, I reached my 4,000th day of my running streak.

In the beginning, the streak had a practical purpose. I used to run and then, thinking I was super-fit, I would stop running and then weeks and months would go by before the next time I ran again. Each time I would start running it would take four to six weeks before it was painless to run again, whether it was pain in my legs or my lungs trying to catch up.

Now it's just something I do. I was asked today when it is going to end, and I really don't know the answer to that. I like the idea of continuing my runstreak as I'm continuing (and hopefully crushing) my running goals. I like that I'm a much faster runner than I was in my 20s and even in high school.

So who knows when it's going to end? I'm looking forward to more miles and adventures in running!