Monday, March 31, 2014

Day 2,647: Back on the Silver Comet

DALLAS, Ga. -- I don't know why I let months go by in between running in this very beautiful rails-to-trails area.

Today I had to maintain two of my geocaches so I packed up the stroller and the little one and we headed out here.

Weather was perfect -- about 50 degrees when we set out on the trail. The last time I was out on the trail was on July 15, when I did a little bit on the section in Powder Springs, again to geocache.

We headed west to replace one of my caches then went about .6 mile more to look for another one that we couldn't find. Then we turned around and headed the other way, where there was another cache of mine that I thought was missing (it was there) and a few newer caches for me to find.

There were walkers and bikers and pretty much everyone was friendly. The little one would say "Hi!" to them as soon as they were within sight.

On the way back near the Rambo Trailhead there was a small white object headed toward us. It was one of those small smart cars.

Surely, I thought, no one would be foolish to drive a motor vehicle on this trail. It turned out it was from the local sheriff's office. It's always good to see these areas patrolled as well.

I waved and soon we were back at the trailhead. We had lunch at a Mexican restaurant in Hiram and it marked an excellent way to take advantage of spring's wonderful weather.

Time: 10:20 a.m.
Temp: 50 degrees
Gear: Techincal T-shirt, long (Big Peach 5 Miler), shorts, Nike Air Pegasus+ 30/A.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Day 2,639: Publix Georgia Half Marathon (or, "What 371.67 miles of training will get you")

Four months ago I struggled with the Atlanta Half Marathon, coming within seconds of finishing in over two hours, something I haven't done in more than four years.

Today I was a different kind of cat. The hilly course almost seemed flat to me and even in places where I thought I was going to lose pace I still ran consistent miles. I finished just a minute slower than my best course time of 1:51 and change in 2011 and my finish was a several minute improvement over last Thanksgiving's race.

All that running (371.67 miles) came through. I was extremely happy with this beta test of the program I will use to train for the Oct. 26 Marine Corps Marathon.

This morning I was worried about finding a place to park so I left at 6 a.m. and found a street parking space on Cone Street at 6:15 a.m. That meant I had a bunch of time before the 7 a.m. race. People were not even in the corrals when I walked over there. I tried to do a warm-up mile but was so tired that I ended up just walking around after .2 mile.

It's kind of weird to be downtown when it's dark out. I just waited around in the corral until we started to move forward. I took it easy for the first two miles but it was extremely congested anyway. On Central Park Street, in the old days of the ING you could run up both sides of the street. This time they only had one side open so that was a little congested. This used to be one of my most dreaded parts of the race. I went up these hills like it was nothing.

Because the Edgewood Avenue bridge is still closed, we detoured down past Jake's Ice Cream and then up Krog Street to Edgewood. There's a bit of a hill here but it didn't matter much.

Going up Freedom Parkway, I took to the curb going up the hill to pass people. One lady seemed surprised like I was pushing so early but I was just running my pace.

Off of Freedom Parkway to North Avenue there was a water station and volunteers were shouting "Sport Beans." Only I didn't see any so I kept on running. At this point I was debating eating my GU gel early but didn't.

At North Highland and Ponce de Leon, something happened that I think only has happened to me once before in a race -- an ambulance with sirens blaring crossed the intersection so the police officer at that spot halted runners to let the vehicle go by.

I finally at the GU gel at the top of the hill on Virginia Avenue. Running down North Highland and Virginia avenues seemed like a chore. But I knew that my family and our parents would be waiting there -- it was a nice place to stop and give the little one a hug. Another kind runner took our picture and then apparently after I continued down the course, little K took mommy's hand and ran all the way to Monroe Avenue, all the while imitating the huffing and puffing of the runners that passed him by.

The hill on 10th Street out of Piedmont Park seemed hard (add the fact the GU gel was churning my stomach at this point) and so did the hills on Juniper Avenue to 5th Street. There was only one other runner including myself pressing here. I ran hard up North Avenue by Bobby Dodd Stadium and there was only one huge hill left to Means Street.

At this point, somewhere around Mile 11, I had a slight tinge in my left calf muscle, which I guess was from not stopping at any of the water/Powerade stations the entire run. It kind of kept me from stepping up my pace after Mile 12 although I cautiously added power, especially in the last half mile of the race.

I was very happy with my finish but at the same time really feel this is too hilly of a race to do every year. The training really did pay off and almost eight hours after I finished the run, my legs are not sore, which is a huge difference compared with each of the other 23 half-marathons I've run in.

Time: 7:02 a.m.
Temp: 55 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Honolulu Marathon in training '14), shorts, Nike Air Pegasus+ 30/A.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Day 2,637: Back in it, and the Publix Georgia Half Marathon Expo

This year's race shirt for the Publix Georgia Half Marathon!

After two very light 1-mile days, I finally got myself back on the half-marathon schedule, which doesn't ease up even though the race is only two days away.

Today was another 6-mile run and for the first time in a long time I found myself procrastinating heavily to do this run. It probably didn't help that I have some kind of hay fever/allergy thing going on right now.

But when I finally made it out the door, things gradually fell into place. Running to Atlantic Station was a little bit of a struggle, but I felt light on my feet at the turnaround point near IKEA. My Garmin Forerunner 610 was working well again.

Later on in the afternoon I went with the wife downtown to the expo for Sunday's Publix Georgia Half Marathon. I've run in this race four years -- 2007, 2009, 2011, 2012 and the full marathon in 2010. Last year I paid my money for the race but we went to Jekyll Island instead since I didn't feel like I was properly trained for the half. I didn't even bother to pick up my T-shirt. (Although now doing a Google search for the shirts, I am bummed I did not run in the race and get a Shamrock-styled finisher's medal).

We parked by my old workplace on street parking ($2.50 for an hour and eight minutes, cheaper than two MARTA tickets) and walked over to the Georgia World Congress Center. (I actually almost walked on autopilot to the Georgia Dome instead!)

It's hard to tell what you'll get in an expo -- they seem hit or miss to me. This one was average.  I miss the earlier days of this race when the expo was held on the field of the Georgia Dome -- it was cool to look up into the stands and see the place from the same vantage as Roddy White.

We passed through Publix's main display -- they had a variety of juices available and one kind of food sample -- "Quinoa, it's good, man," the guy told me as I walked away from it, possibly thinking I was suspicious of the stuff. They also had a chef's demo, which was kind of interesting.

You make your way to the back of the expo and pick up your T-shirt and bib. Then we wandered back around to all of the vendors. Greek yogurt was a big thing this year -- Chobani and Dannon's Oikos gave out samples. I spun a wheel at a table promoting Jeff Galloway's half marathon (on the same day as the Honolulu Marathon) and won the wife a technical training shirt. (She spun the wheel and won me a "high five" from the lady at the booth).

With 16,000 expected runners, this expo wasn't nearly as crowded as the one for last year's Peachtree 10K. So we didn't have any trouble getting out of the cavernous convention center. Once back outside, we wandered by the finish line, which looked the same as it did in 2010 when Publix announced it was going to sponsor the race.

More than any other race, this event has created so many significant moments in my life. The 2 hours I ran in the inaugural race in 2007 helped motivate me to continue the streak in its earliest days. I'd never had to fight through a race like I did during the full marathon in 2010 when my calf muscles started to cramp at Mile 15. And the 2012 race will always be special since three days later my son was born.

This time around, it's just another race, a case where the end justified the means, to play test a training program I will adopt this summer for the full marathon. With more than 360 miles under my belt during the last two months of training, I have never trained so much for a race of this distance.

But when the gun goes off in the dark early Sunday, I'll be thinking of the 217-day road to the finish line of the Marine Corps Marathon. The person I will be on that day, standing before a uniformed Marine presenting a finisher's medal, will be crafted from all of my experiences from this personally epic half-marathon course.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Day 2,636: My Garmin Forerunner 610 went bonkers

Today was a simple 6-mile tempo run, the last workout before Sunday's Publix Georgia Half Marathon.

It all seemed like things were ok -- not a cloud in the sky to confound the satellites, not much waiting as my Garmin Forerunner 610 gave me the chirp that it was ready right away.

So away we went, down towards the Piedmont Commons portion of Piedmont Park. After I finished my 1-mile warm-up, I noticed something funny -- I was getting faster and faster, according to my watch.

Even though I was pushing a kid in a stroller -- 50 pounds extra weight -- I was picking up the speed, down to 7:38/mile pace. Yet I was hardly moving because I was glued to my watch in disbelief.

So I stopped the watch, reset a new workout and started off again. This time it said I was going slower and slower, at a 17 minute/mile pace.

So I tried to reboot the watch. How was that again? Push all three buttons? Two buttons? It turned out all I needed to do was push one button, the "Power" button.

But when it rebooted, all that would appear was the Garmin screen and nothing else.

So my 8-mile workout ended up being a 1-mile run plus a bunch of walking. I tried to use my backup, the Endomondo app on my smartphone, but it also did not record my distance as I ran. What was going on here?

I got home and looked online. I finally found a way to get my watch to work again -- I had to do a complete reboot, which erased all of my previous data.

Hopefully tomorrow I will be able to run like nothing happened.

Time: 9:40 a.m.
Temp: 49 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, long (Chicago Marathon in training), shorts, Nike Air Pegasus+ 30/A.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Day 2,635: Lottery winner! (Marine Corps Marathon)

First thing this morning I got the notification that I was selected in the lottery to run in the Oct. 26 Marine Corps Marathon.

It was the wife's idea to seek out a marathon that wasn't as hot or as crowded as the Dec. 14 Honolulu Marathon.

So I entered the lottery for this one and (still) wasn't sure of the odds that I could get in. As a backup plan, I thought that if I didn't get into this one, I could enter the lottery for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, which began today.

I'm pretty excited, though. The full marathon training program is way crazier than the one that I just spent the last two months doing, logging 360 miles in the process.

When I look back at my training logs for the Chicago Marathon, I mainly see a bunch of 4-mile runs and long runs every 5 days. It's almost like there was no logic with that training. Even with that, I came within 6 minutes of breaking 4 hours.

I don't know how much it will mean if I don't do it, but I think I can do better.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Day 2,631: St. Patrick's Day 5K

For the first time, this race that previously was held in the Virginia-Highland neighborhood was moved to beautiful Piedmont Park.

Before I started my half-marathon training several weeks ago I had this race on my list because this is a course that I have run really fast times in the past.

This morning we saw the many runners waiting for the gun to go off along what is a pretty narrow stretch of road in the park and I had a feeling I would not have a fast first mile that I was hoping for.

Plus I really didn't feel too motivated to run fast.

The start came and it was pretty congested. I didn't really feel too much like accelerating until about halfway in the race when I started to move forward. The last mile was a blur and I finished pretty strongly.

It was nice that I'd already qualified for Group A of the Peachtree Road Race in last month's Charles Harris 10K, so that took a lot of pressure off.

It was a nice race on a beautiful course and I was glad I did it!

Time: 8:30 a.m.
Temp: 50 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Honolulu Marathon '14 training), shorts, Nike Air Pegasus+ 30/A.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Day 2,627: Hottest day of the year (so far)

Today I had to wait for workers to finish putting the final touches on our newly painted house (!) before I could start running.

By then, it was late in the afternoon and already 73 degrees, easily the hottest day that I've run in this year. Obviously it will get even hotter but I decided to go through with my 4 x 1.5-mile strength training run anyway.

Today I didn't spare any hills, particularly the ones going up Johnson Road toward Briarcliff and Rock Springs. I also cut down Lanier to do the Summerfest 5K route before joining the PATH trail and then the Eastside Beltline.

I planned ahead and put two bottles of water in the stroller and by the time I was on the 1/2-mile recovery segment after my fourth 1.5-mile interval, I really needed one of them. I was pretty spent after having run 9.2 miles in the heat but it really felt wonderful to have done it.

Today was the last strength training interval run that I'll have before the upcoming half marathon. It's kind of weird to have spent weeks in such a mile-heavy and strenuous schedule only to have it go away as the race nears.


I was looking at my race time for last month's Charles Harris 10K and noticed there were only 588 finishers. In previous years there were twice that. I'm wondering why that was. It's interesting to see the ebb and flow of races sometimes.

Time: 4:42 p.m.
Temp: 73 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Southwest Beltline 5K), shorts, Nike Air Pegasus+ 30/A.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Day 2,625: 10-mile run

Today was the last double-digit run I will do before the March 23 Publix Georgia Half Marathon. I followed the course from Piedmont Park to the finish.

I plodded around until the turnaround outside Centennial Olympic Park. The way back seemed a breeze, since a lot of it was downtown. I let myself increase my pace for the last five miles. I ran the entire 10 miles just seven minutes slower than I ran the inaugural Atlanta 10-Miler in October.

It's definitely been an interesting several weeks of some of the hardest training I've ever done for a race in my life. I'm hoping that after the half marathon I will be able to keep up the mileage in some way before my marathon training begins in earnest in June.

Time: 9:45 a.m.
Temp: 46 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Publix Georgia Half Marathon in Training, 2014), shorts, Nike Air Pegasus+ 30/A.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Day 2,618: 12-mile run

Today was my last 12-mile run that I will do before the March 23 Publix Georgia Half Marathon. It comes as a relief because it's kind of hard to fit in that kind of run all the time.

Each of my three 12-milers have been on different routes. On Feb. 2 I ran to Decatur and back; on Feb. 16 I ran downtown on the half-marathon course. Today I ran up to Buckhead and back, climbing some serious hills along the way.

It's interesting to me that when I look at a lot of my workout data, I see average pace times of 9:45 or so all the time. I guess that is what I typically will do with my gait.

I felt a little dehydrated near the end of my run and I really wore too many layers even at the start. Hopefully I won't make that mistake next time.

Time: 8:01 a.m.
Temp: 46 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirts, long x2 (Winship 5K, 2008 Atlanta Half Marathon), Nike windbreaker (took off after 1 mile), shorts, Nike Air Pegasus+ 30.