Saturday, December 31, 2016

Day 3,653: Consecutive day streak, 10 years

My second Masters win, this time at the Stamp Out Poverty 5K.
I haven't run in a 5K race since the Fast Track 5K in May. But with a new year of races ahead, particularly a few that I really enjoyed last year, I wanted to have a baseline race to kick off my training.

So I chose the Stamp Out Poverty 5K today in Grant Park. It looked to be a small race, but one that was USATF-certified although it really wouldn't matter what my time was in it.

It also was nice to pick a race for the final day of my 10th year of my daily running streak.

I drove up 40 minutes before the 10 a.m. start. The race didn't start on time, however, because it turned out one of the gates in the park along the race course was still locked and no one had the key.

So the race director made a quick change to the course, promising he would have it re-certified by Monday.

When the race started we all took off, following the director's black SUV through the park's roads. I was about 6th from the head of the pack and it was apparent that my 6:50/mile pace was too much. We took the first uphill turn after a quarter-mile and I felt shaky, not a good sign.

The course took us to the large three-tiered parking lot in the park. We were to run up the highest tier closest to Boulevard and then turn where the parking lot is bisected by an accessway then curve down to the second tier, then curve down to the lowest tier, where we would run the length of the lot along the bottom and then back up to the middle tier and then back toward the park.

Confusing, huh?

What this meant was the lead pack knew what was expected but everyone else didn't. When we were running along the bottom, people in the middle of the pack were pouring down from the top tier to the bottom and then turning back into the park.

And then when we were running along the middle tier, we had to cross the main flow of traffic that now was pouring down to the bottom tier. It was interesting, to say the least, to time the speed of your run, running at full bore, to miss people running slower than you but crossing your path.

The first two runners were now out of sight when I entered the park. I was about 30 seconds behind two other guys and I felt like maybe we wouldn't end up running the full 3.1 miles but at least if I tried to keep up with them I would place somehow.

When we entered the park from the parking lot, I was shocked to learn that there were plenty of runners ahead of us who were running in the same direction. I think these runners were the ones who ran to the bottom tier of the parking lot and then back into the park instead of running along the bottom perimeter of the lot and back.

It worried me a little bit, since now I thought I would have to race these runners, who started out behind me, to place at all in the race.

I worked my way to pass people and then we ran up to the locked gate and turned around, going back up the hill from the first turn of the race, making our way back near the parking lot, running around a large tree right before the asphalt started and then making our way back down to the finish.

On the way back down, I could hear loud clip-clopping. I was hoping this was the female in her 20s who was just behind me as I approached the turnaround tree. But it was a pretty tall European guy. He passed me and proceeded back down the hill.

But when we reached the bottom, he turned right -- back towards the locked gate, instead of the finish. Everyone was yelling at him to go the other way. After a second, he finally did turn around.

At this point, I started running as fast as I could to try to reach the finish before he could. But even with what my watch said was a 6:16/mile kick, he caught up with me and finished about four seconds ahead of me. (It turned out he placed first in his age group but under 30 years old).

I made sure I finished strong to keep anyone else from finishing ahead of me. I waited around for the awards and it turned out I was the first Masters male, even despite my finish time of 23:34, which means I have a bunch of work to do this season.

I started with a 7:14 first mile, then slowed to 7:41 for my second and third miles. The course was a little hilly but I know I'm capable of running faster.

Still, it was a nice way to end 10 years of running every day. I ran 1,818.61 miles this year and have run 14,157.12 miles for the streak!

Time: 10:14 a.m.
Temp: 41 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, long (Atlanta 10-Miler 2013), Technical T-shirt, short (Rock'n'Roll Chicago Half Marathon 2010), shorts, Brooks Pure Connect 4.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Day 3,643: The 500th Mile (Saucony Zealot ISO 2)

A pair of Saucony Zealot ISO 2s with 500 miles on them.
One of the things I love about running shoes is getting a pair to 500 miles, probably the farthest you should run on a pair.

In doing so, I get the most out of them for the money (these shoes list for $130) and it helps me pare down what is essentially a pretty large horde of running shoes (I have six other active pairs right now, not including a pair of racing flats and trail running shoes).

It also gives me the most amount of time to really review the shoe and see if it met my needs.

This is the second version of the Zealot that I've worn, the first being the original Zealot that I bought in April 2015. Then and now my purpose was to have a light, neutral, low-drop shoe (this shoe advertises a 4 mm drop and 9.5 ounce weight) that also was cushioned as much as possible.

I felt like the original Zealots were clunkers and pretty heavy, although Saucony's rubber treads really helped in rainy races like the 2015 Hotlanta Half Marathon.

Saucony says the new Zealot 2s feature "EVERUN topsole construction providing smoother landings in the heel and reduced pressure in the forefoot."

From the start I felt these shoes were much lighter than the original Zealots. They were cushy and fun to run in, whether I was doing tempo runs or pushing the double stroller around.

Still, the shoe gave my right foot some fits, reminding me of how the old Nike Air Pegasus used to be.

And then I finally wore them in a race, the Craft Classic Half Marathon. They felt great in the race but shortly afterward I developed my first serious running injury, what appeared to be a stress reaction in my right shin. I blame my marathon training load but it marked the last time I wore the Zealot 2s in a race.

I felt obligated to run them to 500 miles (262 more miles after that race). In the end, they are solid and dependable shoes. I didn't like how I wore friction holes on the inside of the heel (probably from not taking them off properly after runs) but they are dependable enough to keep around as non-running everyday shoes.

I have a second pair that I purchased pre-injury but I'm not as raring to take them to 500 miles ... yet. We'll see.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Day 3,633: Jeff Galloway 13.1

My 32nd half-marathon. 
My first race since the Oct. 9 Bank of America Chicago Marathon presented an interesting challenge -- what to wear for a chilly race morning. The low was to be 29 degrees, although it was 31 degrees when I woke up in the morning.

I decided to wear shorts instead of running pants as I've often felt that the pants have slowed my leg movement and speed in a race. And I didn't want to wear a windbreaker shell since I didn't want to have to run the race with it tied against my waist.

So what I decided on were two layers of long-sleeve technical T-shirts, which I call the "Zion Rules" after we went to the national park in December several years ago and I didn't have the luggage space to bring my heavy running layers. In place of the windbreaker, I decided to wear the Team BEEF short-sleeved shirt, also as a way to start chipping away at the $300 reimbursement that is allowed this year for races.

I ran to the start from home because I didn't want to worry about parking. It was 1.76 miles, a little longer than I would typically like for a warmup, but when I got to the start line I was pretty well warmed up and I only had to wait a few minutes. I brought a space blanket with me but didn't need to use it. A thin Outdoor Research watchcap and some old thin Nike gloves rounded out my kit.

When the race started my plan was to just run easily. The rolling hilly start in the first two miles seemed incredibly easy and I went back and forth with the 1:45 pace group. Since the race's namesake created the walk-run method, this was the way the pace group carried its business (suffice to say you don't normally see that in other half-marathons). 

While that is all fine and good, when it was the group's time to walk, they just stopped right where they were and walked. I suppose they only walked for a few seconds but it is the norm for walkers to move to the right during races. It created a little bit of a logjam in the early part of the race.

I felt pretty good throughout the race and tried to make sure I was running at no more than a 7:50/8 minute mile pace, even on downhills where lots of runners, including the pace group, picked it up. My main reasoning was I wanted to have something left for the last part of the race, especially the huge hill up St. Charles Avenue and later along 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue.

Around Mile 8 I ate one of my two GU gels that I carried with me. The space blanket took up a lot of space in my waist pack and I fumbled around for a while trying to get the gels (my hat and gloves were in there as well, having come off before Mile 2).

Around Mile 10, right after turning onto Piedmont Avenue from 10th Street, trouble hit. I started to get a cramp in my left leg. Then for the rest of the race they would alternate in both legs. I knew I had to slow down and I just tried to take it easy. I kicked myself for running such a long warmup, thinking that if I hadn't maybe the cramps would have developed a little closer to the finish line.

It led to an 8:30 Mile 11 and a very slow 9:39 for Mile 12. But I discovered that the cramping was going away near the end of the race, allowing me to pick up the race and finish with an 8:30 Mile 13, picking off three of the four people who'd passed me in the last mile.

I ended up finishing 20 seconds faster than what I ran last year, and improved my finish placing from 72nd last year to 62nd this year. After the results came out I counted and was chagrined to learn I likely will have placed fourth for my age group and maybe would have placed had I not been forced to slow down at the end of the race.

I basically did not prepare for this race at all, my last long run was a 9-mile run a month ago. Although that was the same way I prepared for my PR 1:42:40 Publix Georgia Half Marathon in March, I'd done much more plyometric work leading up to that race.

So next year I plan on running it again because it will be the fourth year for the race's streak. I'll be better prepared for the race and will count my lucky stars it will be enough to place in my age group (although in the 2015 race I would have had to run a 1:37 to do that).

Time: 8 a.m.
Temp: 31 degrees
Gear: Noted above, Brooks Pure Connect 4.