Saturday, February 28, 2015

Day 2,983: Hawks Fast Break 5K

The last time I ran a sub-7-minute mile in any race was ... 17 years ago. Yet this is what I was doing in the first mile of this morning's Hawks Fast Break 5K, my first 5K in 10 months and my hope for qualifying in Group A of the Peachtree Road Race, needing a 23-minute time or better.

It turned out my 22:44 time was my third-fastest 5K ever, only coming behind the race times that I posted in the months after the Bank of America Chicago Marathon in 2010. There's something about spending months of marathon training which provides great benefits in endurance and speed later on.

I entered this race as a lark. I didn't have any Atlanta Hawks t-shirts and I wanted to have one given the incredible season the NBA team was having this season. 

It turned out this race was wonderfully put-together. Like the Braves Country 4-Miler (now a Braves Country 5K) that I've run in the past, race entry includes a ticket to a game. But for the Hawks race, you could donate the ticket to a child in the track club's Kilometer Kids program, which I did (what was I going to do with a single ticket?)

Race registration was pretty straightforward. It was a little crowded in the small corner lobby of Phillips Arena where you picked up your race bib but there were restrooms there, which was nice. 

I made my way outside to do my 1-mile warm-up run. It was nice because I ran about .4 of a mile down the last part of the race, seeing the long hill at the end and trying to strategize what I would do at this point (I told myself at a stoplight a few hundred feet from the last turn to the end I would apply "max power" there but when the race came I did not have "max power" to do so).

I made it back to the starting corrals with a few minutes to spare. It was great since people actually observed the corrals. I got into the "A" corral, which was for runners who had a 7:30/mile pace or better. There actually was space in between it and the "B" corral.

The race started and it was a pretty fast first mile, since there was ample space to run with the wide lanes of Marietta Street and it did not bottleneck at all. I felt fine during it, although I was constantly checking my watch. One reason why I didn't try to slow up was that I'd posted sub-7-minute/mile intervals in the two previous speed workouts I had.

In the second mile it also didn't feel like I was working too hard but this time I was trying to make my pace closer to the 7:20/mile that I'd planned for this race. I told myself that my main goal was to qualify.

After I passed the marker for Mile 2, I felt even more relaxed, feeling that I could run an 8-minute mile and still qualify for Group A. There were two tough hills, one that lasted from miles 2.1 to 2.4 (ending near Paschal's Restaurant on Northside Drive) and then up Markham Street to Walker Street near the end of the race. I remember telling myself on the hills that I could do this because I push 90 extra pounds of stroller plus kiddos daily!

One great thing about this race is the landmarks helped. When you could see the Georgia Dome you knew you were close to finish!

The end of the race was nicely organized. They gave out a finisher's medal and the lobby where you checked-in was where you picked up your race shirt and food.

One thing for me is that I'll have to work on my general endurance. My splits were 6:51/7:23/7:36, meaning I was tiring out at the end of the race. But overall I am happy that since the marathons last year my running speed and intensity have not waned. I'm also a big believer that the initial work I've done with speed intervals and core strengthening exercises also helped!

Time: 8 a.m.
Temp: 36 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirts, long x2 (Big Peach 5 Miler, Atlanta Marathon giveaway). Brooks Grit shorts, Skechers Go Run 2.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Day 2,981: Free socks!

I'm not sure what I'm going to do with a pair of basketball socks, but I guess I will be collecting these -- lol.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Day 2,975: 19 degrees on the Silver Comet

DALLAS, Ga. -- It was another cold (19 degrees) morning again but I needed to maintain a few geocaches on the Silver Comet Trail and this was the best time to do it.

For one, the weather might not be as good(!) the next few days.

Anyway, we arrived at the Rambo trailhead (N33 54.905 W084 52.118) and then set up shop and started along the trail.

As expected, no one was about this morning. It wasn't so cold that I needed two layers of pants, so after the first half mile or so when I was turning around to go in the other direction, the khakis came off and all I needed were the single layer of my Brooks Spartan III pants underneath.

Yet when I got to the car at about the first mile I needed to put on my fleece hat. After about 1.5 miles we passed some rocks that had icicles on them. It wasn't too long before our geocaches were fixed and we were back in the parking lot and in the warm car.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Day 2,974: An Atlanta running trail you've probably never heard of

 In the southwest part of town is the little-known Lionel Hampton Greenway Trail. It runs north-south for about a mile and is part of the 7-mile Westside PATH trail.

 I'd only been on this trail once before a few years back, wondering what a Mile 6 PATH marker was doing in the middle of nowhere. This area once was part of The Battle of Utoy Creek in August 1864.

 Today, on one of Atlanta's coldest mornings, it was an ideal place to revisit. For one, I knew I would have the place to myself since it was so cold. And for another, when you have a nearly 3,000-day running streak, you have to run somewhere, right?

It turned out the run was beautiful, with skinny trees lining the path's rolling, semi-steep hills. They just opened another spur of this path, it's apparently a 4-mile or so connector to the Southwest Beltline.

 I wasn't sure I would be running so soon in the day so my running kit was a composite of running clothes and everyday stuff. I had on my Brooks Spartan II running pants under a pair of khakis. I wore two long-sleeved technical T-shirts underneath a wool sweater and topped that with an old Columbia ski jacket.

 I wore my old Niki Climafit gloves and tried to pull down my Outdoor Research fleece hat over my ear tips (that got pretty cold) but after a mile I didn't need the gloves or hat. I ran in my street shoes (a pair of Solomon Sense Mantra 2 trail running shoes).

I imagine this area doesn't get too many visitors because when I made my turnaround on the Beltline connector trail, something greeted me and probably chuckled a little before jumping off into the woods:

Because it was so cold I didn't stick around for too much longer than I needed for the streak but I am happy to have ventured outside my comfort zone to run in what ended up being a delightful park.

(Getting there: The best parking is at the corner of Flamingo and Willis Mill Road Southwest. If you know how to program coordinates into your car's GPS, parking is at: N33 44.078 W084 28.158).

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A special stretch of street, at night

As I crossed Marietta Street, it dawned on me -- the conditions tonight were almost exactly what it's like to run in the Publix Georgia Marathon or Half Marathon.

Because you have to assemble at the starting line early, it's always dark out. And it is usually pretty cool outside. Tonight it was about 35 degrees. In years past, I've remembered standing for warmth in the lobby of the CNN Center right in the picture above.

Or a few times we wizened up and got a room at the Omni Hotel next door so we could just pop down to the starting line without having to get very cold.

On race day, of course, the street is filled with people in running corrals and so are the sidewalks, as there are always well-wishers seeing runners off and other runners trying to get to where they need to be.

But tonight, it was just me and this street, filled with memories of training for marathons (I still use this course for long runs) and having had to line up here five times (when I ran in the inaugural ING Georgia Half Marathon in 2007, the start was in a different location) in years past.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Day 2,970: That thing about the River Styx ...

One of my favorite things to say in the winter is "When my momma dipped me in the River Styx she did so by the tips of my ears, because they're the only things that get cold."

It felt true this morning, running six miles on a day that was 20 degrees and only got up to 23 degrees by the time I came home.

I was fully bundled -- two technical T-shirts, my Marine Corps Marathon mock turtleneck and a windbreaker but I could feel the cold as I alternated wearing my fleece hat and gloves.

One of the nicest things about running early, in cold weather, on a Sunday morning, is that Piedmont Park is pretty empty, lol.

It was a nice way to start the day.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Day 2,968: I should have worn shorts on a day like this

This morning I ventured out to the park to do the second workout of my speed interval session.

It was a crisp 28 degrees out yet by my second or third interval around the bowl in the park where Wild Bill Hickok used to do his western shows I was wishing I had worn shorts instead of my trusty Brooks Spartan II pants.

My windbreaker did go around the waist and I debated throughout the workout taking off one of my technical T-shirts.

I felt like the session went well, although I almost blew myself up when the fifth interval came around and wondered if I would be able to finish the workout. But I rallied, telling myself even if I needed to just jog it it would be beneficial. and had a good overall session.

My split times (in per mile pace):

6:59, 7:09, 7:06, 6:56
8:02, 7:26, 7:13, 7:09

Time: 8:06 a.m.
Temp: 28 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirts, long x2, Solomon windbreaker, Brooks Spartan II pants, Skechers Go Run 2.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Day 2,962: Getting some "grit"

As a runner, I'm a true fan of good gear. But this stuff is usually never very cheap. There's a true opportunity cost to the running stuff you buy -- you can go with the stuff you have and enter increasingly expensive races or you can pick up new gear along the way.

And the wrong clothing choices can be equally tragic -- I still have about a half-dozen running windbreakers that aren't very waterproof from my days living in the Portland area where staying dry on the run was pretty important.

One thing that I like for running is pockets on shorts. For whatever reason, Nike didn't seem to make pockets with shorts anymore and most of my running shorts are Nike and don't have pockets.

About a year ago, I lost two of my best running shorts -- a New Balance pair and a pair of Mizuno shorts that were part of the ING Georgia Marathon collection -- when my luggage was stolen at the Atlanta airport after a flight from Rochester, N.Y.

The other day I finally saw a pair of shorts that seemed to meet my needs -- the Brooks 5.5-inch Grit short.

Even better, the shorts were on sale from $50 to $25. And better than that, they had the "M" size that I typically wear (on the Brooks site, they don't even have M sizes left in the shorts that they feature).

So I took a chance and they arrived today. I wore them during a short run in which we got rained on. But anyway, I loved having front pockets on my shorts (very helpful when you are out of town and need to carry a hotel card key). They also have a zippered back pocket.

They were so great that I just tried to go back to the Brooks website to buy some more -- but no surprise here, the vaunted "M" men's size is all sold out.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Day 2,959: Like Fighter Weapons School for runners

It took me three weeks to do this workout, one of my first tests on the road to last year's Marine Corps Marathon.

This time around, I wanted to find out where I was at via the 12 by 400 (with a 1/4-mile recovery) intervals.

Doing intervals last year had a fighter aircraft feel to it. I'd jog down to Piedmont Park for a warmup mile and then would turn on the afterburners for the required distance, jog the required distance and repeat until I had to trot back home for a final mile.

I always thought the speed workouts as prescribed by the Hanson Marathon Method would be incredibly beneficial for shorter races.

I felt sluggish going into my first interval, but near the end I really felt like I was getting the hang of it. I could have done 14, 16, or more of them. When I was running fast, I was not breathing hard. It made me wonder just how fast I could do it.

When I got home, I felt like there was validation that my speed was still there. Here are my quarter-mile splits in a pace per mile format:

Mile 1: 7:45, 7:24, 7:25, 7:11
Mile 2: 6:57, 7:11, 7:15, 6:36
Mile 3: 6:58, 7:20, 7:31, 7:41

Although I'd heard about speed work in my nearly three decades of running, I really never was motivated to do it until it was prescribed for marathon training. It makes sense that if you're trying to accomplish a certain time in a race that you practice that pace until it's old hat on race day.

Time: 3:44 p.m.
Temp: 52 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt short (Doug Kessler 10K), shorts, Skechers Go Run 2.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Day 2,957: Sneaking a run in the botanical garden

After a blissful five days in which I ran 31.67 miles (including wonderfully grueling back-to-back 8- and 9-mile runs) because my in-laws and parents were in town, today was back to the double-stroller grind.

I didn't mind too much because I kind of needed the rest and it's nice to look forward to some easy days to balance out the week.

Anyway, we found ourselves in Piedmont Park and after checking on a geocache, the little one asked if we were going to the botanical garden.

That wasn't my initial plan, but unlike many times when I run, I actually had my wallet on me and our family membership card for the garden.

It turned out to be wonderful, late afternoon in the middle of the week, one of the few times in which no one was around at all. When you enter the garden there usually are people about and it really, really doesn't feel right to just be blazing your way through the paths.

But just this once ... We ended up at the children's garden, where I let the little guy out to play and then on the way back when everyone was back in the stroller, cut loose once again.

On the main path, we careened past a guy in a suit. That felt a little bit naughty, and soon we were past the gates and on our way to see the ducks of Lake Clara Meer in Piedmont Park.

Time: 2;53 p.m.
Temp: 50 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, long (Big Peach 5-miler), shorts, Skechers Go Run 3.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Day 2,956: 27 degrees!

As much as I like to wax poetic about running, this blog primarily is a running gear blog so I know what to wear in different temperatures.

Today was one of the colder days and I didn't really have the luxury of trying to wait until the afternoon to run when it was warmer.

So I bundled up -- two long sleeve technical T-shirts and my trusty Nike windbreaker, threw on those great Brooks Spartan II running pants that I bought with my own money and headed out the door.

Today's run was 6 miles, to Atlantic Station and back, along the 17th Street bridge. It's one of my favorite routes, since it was part of the long run course that I used when I trained for the 2010 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. It's also nice that going out and back makes for an even 6 miles.

The best thing about having finished five marathons and running every day for more than eight years is that the running route playbook is large and it doesn't take much time for me to think of where I want to run when I want to run a particular distance.

By the time I got back the nifty weather sensor the wife got me for Christmas said the temperature had risen to 33 degrees. No matter, I kept everything I was wearing on during the entire run.

Yet just the day before, it was 37 degrees during my 6-mile run and my thick Marine Corps Marathon finisher's mock turtleneck ended around my waist by the time I got to Piedmont Park. The air felt good wearing just a single long-sleeved technical T-shirt and I was shocked to learn it wasn't 50 degrees by the time I was home.