Saturday, February 27, 2016

Day 3,345: Charles Harris 10K (PR)

Whenever I PR a race the bib with the safety pins used that day go into my scrapbook.
TUCKER, Ga. -- "Oh, this is a lucky number. Eleven was very lucky for me," said the lady at the Big Peach Running Co. store in Brookhaven when she pulled out my bib packet, reminiscing about a race that she'd done well in without providing me details.

It was Feb. 1 and I arrived on the first day in-store registration was available for the Charles Harris 10K, a race that I have now run in five times. In years past, I used it to qualify for Group A of the Peachtree Road Race. This year I was gunning for my best race time of the 10K distance.

I was a little embarrassed to get such a low number. Once, in the AIDS Run 5K in Piedmont Park, I was given the "1" bib, usually reserved for the race's top seed, and when I ran in the race, people would cheer me on specifically because of that.

After last year's quest to break a PR in the half marathon that stood for me for nearly 18 years and breaking my 5K and 10 Mile PRs in the process, this year I turned to the 10K distance. My 46:29 best time had stood since I ran in the 2011 Charles Harris race. I came close last year with a 46:42 time in the Peachtree 10K and a 46:48 in the Big Peach Sizzler 10K.

It helped to have run in the Tartan Trot 10K and the Wiphan Waddle 5K in the last three weeks. The former helped me feel that if I ran this race at a 7:20/mile pace I would make a PR.

The race started and from past experience I knew the start would be fast. I resisted going out too fast but in the middle of the first mile, I found myself relaxing too much -- a 7:40/mile pace. So I sped up a little bit and ran 7:18 for the first mile.

The second mile went pretty much perfectly to plan as well, I ran that in 7:22. I was enjoying the race, not working very hard and listening to my iPod via Bluetooth headphones when ... the headphones cut out.

I couldn't figure out what was wrong and in the third mile I saw that my pace had dropped to 8:00/mile trying to troubleshoot. So I just put the iPod in my pouch and then focused on running the rest of the race (wearing the headphones the whole way). My 7:29 Mile 3 shows that I lost some time trying to restore the iPod.

Right before Mile 4, the race goes over the I-285 overpass. It's never been a source of trouble for me but I realized that it could slow me down. I tried to utilize a technique I gleaned from the Garmin Connect data a 3:10 marathoner posted on Facebook. Basically it looked like he attacked hills with higher heart rate effort but also faster cadence. So I went stick, stick, stick, with the balls of my feet (I pretty much ran the entire race on the balls of my feet) up this hill. Mile 4: 7:14.

At the top of the hill I finally saw my speedy friend Anna. When she crossed the intersection at the CVS, I started to count. She had a 45 second lead on me with two miles remaining. The race then became perfect conditions for me to PR since I knew I could motivate myself based on her pace.

In the past, I would kind of slow up at Mile 5 knowing there would be two large hills right at the end of the race but here I just kept pushing. I didn't think I realistically had a shot at catching up with my friend. Mile 5: 7:12.

Entering the last full mile of the race I kept pushing. I could hear the labored breathing of the people I passed and knew that I would not be slowing for anything. I was a little concerned when we turned onto North Druid Hills since I've kind of lost a little momentum here but today I kept pushing. We entered the neighborhood and the first of the hills didn't feel like anything. Mile 6: 6:55.

At this point I was tempted by something new. The gun clock for Mile 6 said something like 43:30, making it seem possible that I could even break 45 minutes for the 10K. I kept the momentum, although I didn't run as fast as I had at this point in races past. The last .2 miles: 7:02/pace.

I finished sequentially as the runner right after my friend, although I trailed her by 7 seconds. I was elated though to have logged a 45:17 (45:1699999 according to the race) and felt like everything clicked for a good race. I think the two months of core and body workouts via the FitStar app have helped tremendously.

It was awesome to do what I came to do. I guess the Big Peach lady was right -- 11 was good for me.

Time: 7:45 a.m.
Temp: 34 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, long (Locomotive Half Marathon 2010), Technical T-shirt, short (Combat Flip Flops), shorts, Brooks Pure Connect 3.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Day 3,338: Wiphan Warthog Waddle 5K

Second-place age group award, hand carved in Africa.
ROSWELL, Ga. -- I saw the listing for this race at the last minute and decided that a little speedwork in the form of a race couldn't hurt before next week's Charles Harris 10K.

It turned out this was another nicely put-together church race, this one raising money for the wiphans, or widows and orphans in Africa.

The race starts at the Fellowship Bible Church and then winds a loop around neighborhood streets before returning. It has minor rolling hills and is a pretty fast race. It also happens to be USATF certified, which was another plus in my decision to sign on.

Even though I hadn't done too much speedwork since last year, I had high hopes of running a fast race, especially since I've put 6 weeks of core and HIIT work under my belt.

The race started and I knew I should have gotten a little closer than the 4th row from the start -- it took a few seconds to get going and as such, that small amount of time was the difference between 1st and 2nd in my age group. The start was a little congested with lots of kids in front of me and even some guy who cut me off trying to run from the inside to the outside of the race.

I started at a nice pace and wanted to keep it about 6:30/mile but I found myself slowing to 6:55 in the first mile. I steadied myself on the rolling hills but logged a 7:15 time for Mile 2.

At this point I had caught up with a 13-year-old, who was running at a good clip. I hoped he would spur me to a fast finish, like in last year's Bowerman Track Club 5K. But near the end I passed him and finished 5 seconds ahead.

For most of the race I could see the guy who won my age group and at the final turn, I ran out of race, finishing just a second behind.

It still was an excellent race, for a really good cause and a first race like this is a good way to gauge what to focus on the rest of the season. I should be hopeful, too, since last year I ran 22:44 in the Hawks Fast Break 5K and that spurred me onto a season in which I made new PRs in the 5K (a few times), 10 mile and even half marathon last month.

Time: 8:30 a.m.
Temp: 54 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Publix Georgia Marathon white), shorts, Saucony Type A6.

Monday, February 8, 2016

How I broke my Diet Coke addiction

I started drinking diet sodas way back in high school during a beach trip -- one of my travel buddies would often raid our rental's refrigerator and eat and drink anything that wasn't his. But he would always spare the diet drinks.

It grew into a true fondness for Diet Coke -- I still remember the days before the liquid carry-on ban on airplanes -- on the few times I've been to Europe I would bring a six-pack of Diet Coke in plastic bottles because I hated the way Coke Light -- a version of Diet Coke in Europe and Asia -- would taste.

One of my favorite things of the 11 times I've run in the July 4th Peachtree Road Race was being able to crack open an ice cold Diet Coke that was offered with all the other postrace goodies after the finish line. For a long, long time, the drink has been like water for me.

Anyway, there's a running related reason why I don't drink Diet Cokes anymore. Late last year, I read an article about exercise apps for your smartphone. All last year I'd been doing basic exercises like crunches, push ups and planks on my own to improve my running speed and endurance. I didn't think I did it very consistently.

The article mentioned FitStar was the best of the apps, and it was free, so I tried it out. What I liked about it was that there were various sessions you could do and it took very little time to do them -- some of the workouts are only seven minutes long.

There are even workouts for runners to improve core and body strength, sponsored by Strava and the San Francisco Marathon. Many times when I've clicked on articles in Runners World detailing great workouts to help improve running form, I find I've already been doing them via the app.

To make it even more interesting, the workouts are narrated by former Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez. He's always had a reputation as a health nut and it's a natural fit to have him give you encouragement and even demonstrate various exercises.

So I finished December with two workouts. When January started, they had a campaign to try to do 20 workouts in the month to be placed in a drawing for a prize. Only thing was this was impossible to do in free mode, as you only get three free workouts a week. So I decided to pay the $39 subscription fee for the year and completed 22 workouts in January.

Sometime last month, after doing workout upon workout (in addition to my daily running streak), I noticed something funny when I would sip a Diet Coke. I would still get the same pleasurable hit of carbonation and caffeine but could not drink it. I started to brew tea in bottles and chill it in the refrigerator.

I'm not sure why this happened. It could all be coincidence. I wonder if it has to do with the extra core workouts and my body trying to discourage me from consuming extra sugar or artificial sweeteners. But I like the fact that I'll save money on not buying diet sodas and that I've possibly made a change for the better.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Day 3,324: A cake and a medal (Tartan Trot 10K)

DUNWOODY, Ga. -- I'd heard of the Tartan Trot from a fellow geocacher and thought it might be a great way to get my feet wet in advance of the Feb. 28 Charles Harris 10K.

The $25 entry fee also helped sway me. For whatever reason, I also thought this course would be relatively flat and would be a shoo-in to try to break my PR of 46:29 that I set in the Charles Harris race in 2011.

I also wanted to test my clothing choices for the next race. It was somewhere between 33 degrees and 36 degrees at race start and I decided to wear shorts and two long-sleeved technical T-shirts. This actually worked out pretty well, although next time I will go with previous blog posts and wear a long -and a short-sleeved technical shirt.

At the start, the 5K race also joins the 10K for a little more than the first mile, so it was hard to tell how many people were at the front of the pack. I decided to go for a steady 7:20/mile pace that would definitely put me on pace for a PR.

I kept my pace, even up the first large hill of 110' elevation rise right at Mile 2, through the third mile of the race. But somewhere around Mile 3.5 the second hill came and at a 128' elevation rise it was one of the largest elevation changes I've seen in a while. Two runners were walking up it (although they resumed running near the crest and passed me) -- and it really took me out of the race. My pace dipped as slow as 9:35/mile before I got to the top of it.

And it affected the rest of my running -- I ran 8:07, 8:02 and 8:02 mile splits the rest of the way. I got passed by two more runners, a guy who looked like he was in his 40's and a woman of about the same age (who ultimately I finished the race four seconds behind and was the female Masters winner).

Near the end of the race I saw one of the guys who was walking up the hill and felt like I would be looking at fourth place for my age group. But on the final turn he was not accelerating and I decided to put everything into it, including an experimental kick on a descending turn basically throwing my entire weight through my calves, to get me to the finish line in 47:48. (The time qualifies me for Group A of the Peachtree Road Race, although I will probably submit my 21:18 5K time from the Vinings Downhill 5K last year).

I stuck around for the awards, since last year I knew 2nd and 3rd place in my age group ran 47-something to place. I was relieved when I saw the second guy (not the one I passed) who was walking up the steep hill get an award in a different age group. My 3rd place award is the first time I've received an age group award for a 10K race since the Salmon Creek (Washington) 10K I ran in 1999.

They had been awarding cakes/pies of choice for age group winners and overall winners. But at the end of the awards they had too many left over, so they opened it up for award winners -- and that's how I won a cake!

This was a great community race. I think next time I will opt to run in the 5K since the 1-2 combo of hills was brutal. It gives me a lot of data on what I need to work on and what I can continue doing leading up to the four 10Ks I'm currently signed up for through the Peachtree Road Race.

Time: 8:30 a.m.
Temp: 33-36 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, long x2 (Locomotive Half 2010, Williams Walk 5K), shorts, Brooks Pure Connect 3.