Monday, April 27, 2015

Day 3,041: A Monday morning race where I didn't expect one to be (Silver Comet)

More double-strollin' on another beautiful stretch of the Silver Comet Trail
ROCKMART, Ga. -- We hadn't even gone a mile when the first runner came by on what I thought was going to be a pretty desolate area of the Silver Comet.

Yet it was less than a mile from the trailhead where we parked and near another trailhead and a residential area. "Local runners," I thought.

But as we got further into our run, we noticed more people. A pair of middle-aged women. Then a guy with a "7" race bib.

That was a little weird. Then when the next guy came by with a race bib, I had to ask.

"Is there a race going on today?" As in "Is there a Monday race that I didn't know anything about?"

It turned out it was the Race Across USA Marathon Series. The web site says, "Beginning January 16, 2015 an international team of athletes will cross the United States with the goal of inspiring a generation."

People can join in the stages, including running four back-to-back marathons along the 61-mile Silver Comet Trail or across Georgia.

We saw a dozen people at most on the trail. Unlike many sections of the Silver Comet, this one has some decent hills.

We continued on our way and then back to the Don Williams Trailhead, about 7.2 miles for our own workout.

Time: 10:11 a.m.
Temp: 59 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Publix Georgia Marathon promo), shorts, Nike Zoom Air Pegasus+ 31/A.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Day 3,040: In love with the Saucony Type A6 ... but not so much with my stupidity

I'd been waiting for this day to come by -- the first time I would be able to do interval training and break out my new Saucony Type A6 racing flats that I bought online.

After training in last year's Saucony Kinvara 5s and running races in Skechers Go Run 2 and 3s, I knew I wanted to try out a minimalist racing flat. This shoe has the same 4 mm drop as the shoes I previously trained in.

I ordered them online because even the local running store doesn't carry them. Racing flats are a totally different category of running shoe and these specialized shoes aren't really things that are introduced to the average runner (Mizuno even doesn't really recommend them for the average recreational runner).

It was also confusing asking the guy at the store if they had the Saucony A6, which sounds a lot like the brand "Asics." (Get it?)

Yet one thing about this class of shoe was different -- the issue of socks. Many runners in the forums I looked into typically didn't wear socks with their racing flats. And why not? These sleek shoes felt really comfortable without the thin (protective) layer I usually train in.

So this morning I headed out to the park. I didn't know what was in store, but I surprised myself at first. The first of my 3/4-mile intervals (1/4-mile recovery) was at a 6:57 pace! Wow, these shoes are fast! The next interval was even faster -- 6:52/mile pace.

But then the blisters started to form and even without the blisters I knew I would not be able to continue the pace. My third interval was 8:13/mile and the last one I felt refreshed enough to do a 7:46/mile pace but not before completely loosening the laces of my right shoe, which had developed a quarter-sized blood stain right above the knuckle of my big toe.

I developed about four blisters by not wearing socks -- something that I will do in the future. And while I was happy that I had a really fast start to my interval workout I now know I was running too fast -- in the past it would have been crazy for me to think I was just mailing it in with a 7:46/pace but I really wanted the workout to end.

The shoes were amazing. They had the right amount of protection for my feet at exactly the right place and felt like they were crafted for the way that I run. I'm looking forward to doing more running with them -- but next time I'll eat the extra ounces that a nice pair of socks will cost me in a speed workout or race.

Time: 7:07 a.m.
Temp: 64 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Champion, blue), shorts, Saucony Type A6.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Day 3,030: A warm fuzzy

Today I drove by Phidippides to pick up my first place for age group (40-44) medal for the inaugural Atlanta Dogwood Festival 5K.

The race only gave out awards for first place in age groups so I didn't even think to stick around for the awards after I crossed the finish line. Frank let me know in the comments section that I won my age group, so thanks Frank!

It's the first time that I won my age group since the 2011 O'Highlands Jig and Jog 5K. It's a warm fuzzy, since the award comes after a hard year of marathon training and I'm hopeful for my progress in the months ahead.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Day 3,028: Chasing a very old ghost

I got an email today about the Michelob-ULTRA 13.1 Atlanta race and intrigued by the fact that the course has been moved to the Cumberland/Galleria part of Cobb County, I signed up on a whim.

I ran in the inaugural version of the race in October 2009 when it winded around Oglethorpe University. At the time I credited it with bringing me back into the running fold after a very slow 2008 running year. Yet I wasn't really that enamored with the course and never ran it again.

This time, however, I sense an opportunity. I've run some of my fastest 5K races since last year's two marathons and wonder if it's time to tackle my biggest running ghost -- to break the PR I set more than 17 years ago when I ran 1:46:30 in the Vancouver (Wash.) Half Marathon, my very first try at that distance.

Back then, as a 27-year-old, I had no inkling of how to run the race. I remember during the race thinking I would take it easy for the first three miles then "make my move." I ran as fast as I could for the next seven miles before bonking hard.

Still, I ended up with a PR that I have never managed to break in 23 subsequent half-marathons (although I came within 30 seconds of breaking my best time in the February 2011 Run the Reagan Half Marathon) . Part of me always remembered the pain of that first race and just decided to "take it easy" for all of the other races.

But I never had a good plan to tackle that PR -- until now. Last year, I used Hanson's Half-Marathon Method to train for the 2014 Publix Georgia Half Marathon, but only as a way to beta-test what I would use to train for the Marine Corps Marathon. I also did not have much experience with the workouts involved and often did not pay heed to running at particular paces at the time.

This time I want to use the Hanson's method solely for this distance without having an eye on the full marathon. My thought is that I would train toward goal A, which would be to run faster than 1:45:47, the cutoff for Group A of the Peachtree Road Race's old time standards using a half-marathon time. Goal B would be to break my PR and run 1:46:29.  If I don't succeed on this hilly course, I'll have a second chance on another hilly course, on Dec. 14 in the Jeff Galloway 13.1.

Week 1 of the 18-week training program would begin on June 1. Unlike last year when I cleared my plate of all races except for the Peachtree Road Race so I could train for the marathon, I've already signed up for a few 5Ks and the city's best 10K.

In a sense, I came out of last year's marathons without a good sense of focus on what I wanted to do next but have gained confidence in recent 5K races with a lot better speed than I've had in recent years. It's probably the right amount of time to set a semi-reasonable goal. I guess we will see what will happen.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Day 3,027: The shoes I've been looking for (Saucony Iso Zealot)

On Sunday, I went for a semi-easy run with the wife up North Highland Avenue to the PATH trail to the Eastside Beltline.

Since she was pushing the double stroller, I wore the shoes that I usually wear when I'm not stroller-runnin' -- my Skechers Go Run 3s. These are the shoes that I've been doing intervals and racing in since last month, when I retired my Skechers Go Run 2s.

The last time she ran this way was during December's Inman Frosty 5K, and muscle memory must have been kicking in since we did Mile 3 in 8:58 and the last mile at 9:06. During that time, however, I could feel tinges in my right knee, which for me typically is a sign that my shoes have reached their limit.

Those shoes only have a little more than 230 miles on them, but I have heard that minimalist shoes have to be replaced sooner. I put more than 500 miles on my Saucony Kinvara 5s that I used to train for last fall's marathon(s) but my Go Run 2s only had 320 miles on them before they made comfortable slippers around the house.

So today I dug out a $10 off coupon and went over to Big Peach Running Co. and picked up the Saucony Iso Zealot, a shoe that attracted me three months ago when I heard about them from the running store's email.

Basically these shoes have more cushioning than the Kinvaras, which I wanted since it was not fun to roll over a rock on the road when I was training. They have the same 4mm drop as my other minimalist shoes and weigh a little more than the Kinvara at 8.3 ounces.

I see these shoes as my primary shoe to run in when I am not pushing a stroller. Since my Go Run 3s also were my main racing shoe, I decided to look into some more reviews and ended up buying online the Saucony Type A6 racing flat.

I haven't had a pair of racing shoes since 1998, when I bought a cool-looking pair of Nike cross-country racing shoes -- and proceeded to wear them unbroken in a 5K in the Chicagoland area. Needless to say I didn't wear them very much after that.

This will be an interesting experiment, since these shoes weigh 5.1 ounces and are said to have more firmness for racing, something that led me to ultimately run in my Nike Zoom Air Pegasus 31s last October in the Marine Corps Marathon instead of the Kinvara 5, which I did much of my training in. I felt at the time that the firmness in the Nike shoes helped me late in races, which is something that the softer feel of the Kinvaras did not.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Day 3,025: Atlanta Dogwood Festival 5K

I signed up for this a while ago when I learned this inaugural race would be in Piedmont Park. I mean, I love the park's flat paths where I train.

But then I learned that this course actually runs around the perimeter of the park on the streets, from 10th Street to Piedmont Avenue to Monroe Drive back to 10th Street. I ran this course once in July 2004 when the Atlanta's Finest 5K was held here (it's presently downtown). In that race, I ran it in 26:28.

So I wasn't sure what this course would have in store for me today. But I did bring one racing innovation into my routine -- beets. There have been articles on beet juice as a boon to race performance.

Yesterday I made a standard pasta dish but I also had roasted a few organic beets from Trader Joe's. I turned them into a yummy salad that I've made before, but never before a race. This morning, I ate about five small pieces of roasted beets (chasing them with a solid cracker) about 30 minutes before the race. Then I ran about a mile from my house (as a warm-up and a mode of transportation) to the registration tent.

The race started and because we were all corralled in one lane of 10th Street, it was a little bit congested. But it didn't take too much to break free on the hilly incline in the first few minutes of the race. When I looked at my watch at Mile 1, it wasn't the sub-7 from my last two races but 7:17. I kind of just shrugged and kept going.

Before mile 2, this younger, tall guy passed me and he seemed to have a pretty good pace. I was hopeful that this would be a situation that would drag me into a PR. There also was a woman in her 30s who passed me and eventually passed him near the end of the race.

With about .3 mile left to go, a young black guy in sweats and big headphones passed me and I finally gained something of a kick only near the end of the race. I got in at 22:57, which was not a PR for me but still is my second consecutive 5K in which I've qualified for Group A of the Peachtree Road Race (and probably something like my 5th fastest 5K ever).

I made it past the Park Drive bridge when I remembered that I forgot my T-shirt. So I turned around and ran back and then ran the rest of the way home (1.5 miles total). My single anecdote of using beets is that my legs were not sore or tired and I felt like I could run more miles. Last month when I ran in the St. Patrick's Parade 5K, I walked all the way home because I felt like I couldn't run.

So it's something to think about.

Time: 8 a.m.
Temp: 55 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Champion gray), shorts, Skechers Go Run 3.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Day 3,021: Another beautiful stretch of the Silver Comet

ROCKMART, Ga. -- It's been three weeks since I ran with the double stroller on the Silver Comet and thankfully today the weather was nice enough to give it another try.

Today's section began at the Don Williams Trailhead, which is about halfway between Rockmart and Cedartown probably about 20 miles from the Alabama border.

I'd never been to this section so I wasn't sure what to expect. I even was wary of leaving my car at the trailhead parking lot (although the porta-pottie that accompanies the lot seemed pretty new and well-taken care of).

We set off east back toward Rockmart, passing along idyllic farms, really green grass and cows. One stretch was partially flooded from the recent rain.

It kind of reminded me of places I've run in Europe. The only people on the trail today were a few bikers just before our turnaround at 2.72 miles. Near there also was a Corgi that came out of his home to chase us for a few feet.

In all it was a 5.5-mile run and I was grateful for the change of pace with the double stroller. When we got back, the car was fine. It wasn't anything I needed to worry about.

Time: 11:17 a.m.
Temp: 66 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (CS yellow), shorts, Nike Zoom Air Pegasus+ 31/A.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Day 3,017: The blue in my Garmin data is the Pacific Ocean

I enjoyed my post-run cooldown with soft sand in between my toes at this beach.
KAHULUI, Hawaii -- Nearly four years ago, an early-morning 6-mile run along the ocean in Maui started off the day that included one of the most important (and best) events in my life -- my wedding.

Today, I was back, running six miles along a different stretch of beach for a different event -- later in the day I would attend my grandmother's funeral.

There was short notice for this trip and a quick turnaround. It was one of the few times in which I threw a single technical T-shirt, running shorts and socks in my carry-on bag as the bulk of my running gear. I flipped through pages of Jack Daniels' Daniels' Running Formula in the first class seats of United flights from Atlanta to Denver and on to Maui.

Thanks to the 6-hour time difference, I was up very early in the morning and was ready by the time I headed out in the dark from my hotel to the beaches of Kihei, on Maui's south side. The only people out and about were those waiting to catch the first waves at daylight.

Running in the dark reminded me of my trip last August to Munich, where I finished a 10-mile run to keep on my marathon training schedule. The sun rose at 6:16 a.m. in Maui so I didn't have too long to run before it was easy to see where I was going.

From the beach parking lot, I ran down the road toward the resorts of Wailea. The wife and I had run this section five years ago when I was training for the 2010 ING Georgia Marathon. We ran farther that day, more than 13 miles, but the heat and a lack of water really affected me.

This time the weather was cooler because of an earlier start. I also felt like I was low on energy near the 3-mile turnaround and was in need of water (I brought a bottle of water with me but left it on the front seat of my rental car when I started the run).

I kept running, hoping to find an entrance to a resort hotel, vowing to even eat an entire buffet breakfast if I had to. Luckily I came across a Honolulu Coffee Shop where I got some water, a bagel and a banana before heading back.

Just like the morning of my wedding, today's run accomplished what I'd hoped -- a chance to relax and focus through the mechanics of an easy run to prepare myself for the events ahead.

And it wasn't like I was slogging through my same ol' routes in Atlanta -- I was in Hawaii. So it was pretty awesome!

Time: 5:54 a.m.
Temp: 64 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Champion red), shorts, Skechers Go Run 3.