Saturday, April 29, 2017

Day 3,772: RaceTrac Run for Research 5K

If I can't place in my age group, there's always SWAG.
I'd been wanting to run in the RaceTrac Run for Research 5K for a while now but the timing was not right the past few years on race day weekends.

This year, the stars aligned and I found myself driving to the Galleria to run this race on what looks like a brand new course for the event that raises money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's research.

Although I'd already downloaded the race's USATF certified course, I drove it after I exited on Cumberland Drive from I-75. And I was glad that I did. I remembered some of this course overlapped part of the Michelob Ultra 13.1 atlanta race that I ran in 2015. So I knew right away this run would be hilly.

What I didn't realize was how hilly it was in the last mile of the race, basically a double hill from Cumberland Parkway up Akers Mill. It turns out it increases 157 feet in elevation over a half mile.

When I pulled up to the 200 Galleria parking deck a little more than an hour before race start, there was a line of about 10 cars in two directions trying to get in. I was wondering if parking in the deck would be a mistake but once inside there was plenty of parking.

I then went up to the top/ground level of the deck and there were lots of vendors, mainly snacks and drinks as you might expect from a company that is a gas station and convenience store. There also was registration, which maybe ran 50-70 people long.

During this time, they offered up bibs to people who wanted to run without an official time, that shortened some of the line, even though the long line only took 5-10 minutes to run through before I had my race bib.

During this time some people with the Braves came by with a stack of hats and foam tomahawks. I got one of each and was happy I did so, because when I went to Braves Opening Day earlier this month I realized my old Braves hat (which was from a stadium giveaway) had started to show its age and I nearly bought a new one.

I was able to get out and do a 1-mile warmup, running down and then back up the big Akers Mill hill. Running slow, I didn't realize how hard of a hill it would be.

I'd timed my run to get back right before race start and soon we were off. My goal was to stay at a 7-minute or 7:05 pace for the first two miles to save myself for the last big hill. In doing so, a large pack of people ran up the first hill to Akers Mill and then down it to Cumberland Parkway, getting farther ahead of me. I decided to not try to chase, although I ran plenty fast during this time. My first mile was 6:53.

Near the end of Mile 1 and the turnaround, there was a taller guy with an unusual running gait who passed me. I passed him back on the uphill part near the turnaround and then on the downhill he sped up to pass me. I continued on a steady pace and passed him when the course went uphill again toward the Akers Mill intersection. In these kinds of races it pays to have a steady cadence and not try to gas and go with other people running.

After the intersection, the course went downhill a ways and then leveled out a little bit before the Mile 2 turnaround. (Mile 2 was 6:59) At this point I saw an older guy, shirtless, running ahead of me. At the turnaround cone I was literally a step behind him.

He sped up at this point but I let him go because I knew about the troublesome double hill ahead. At some point on this first part of the hill and before Akers Mill I passed him. Somehow in my mind I had him pegged as the guy I needed to finish ahead of to make my age group. I wasn't sure I'd be able to keep the lead.

The hill up Akers Mill was crazy. I looked at my watch and I was doing an 8:30, 8:45/mile pace, something that has not happened for a while. I wanted to quit but I knew that if I just got up to the top it would be downhill the rest of the way. I was gaining on a woman ahead and I told myself that they would have to pass "the first overall female" if they wanted to pass me (it turned out she did not place that way).

We turned back down toward the Galleria and there were three African-American men in front of us. Here it kind of gets fuzzy for me. I don't know whether we passed them or if they finished ahead of us but all I know is I made it down the hill, around the curve and then this guy who I saw way ahead in the race (at the time I thought he was the race winner, but he wasn't), came from the direction of the finish and ran back alongside the woman, to try to help her finish strong.

After Mile 3 the course goes straight and then makes the same 90-degree turn as it did in the start back to the finish. I'd been running alongside the two of them and the wheels were starting to fall off. But I was slowly passing the woman on the straightaway and for some reason, I turned to her and said "C'mon, C'mon!" to get her to keep pace before I passed her and finished.

I finished in 22:13 (7:43 for the third mile), with what my watch said was a 4:59/mile kick for the last .13 miles, something I've never done before. I was seriously woozy after the finish that people with the race tried to stop me and ask me if I was ok (I was).

I went to get a goodie bag near the registration tent and I didn't realize it until after the race, but it was filled with lots of snacks and treats as in the above picture! I picked up a few bags of chips, the water, and the Braves items but everything else was already in the goodie bag.

The announcer mentioned that people could check with the registration tent to see their times. So I did. There was a 35-year-old guy in front of me and he placed 25th overall and 10th in his age group. When it was my turn, she said I placed 22nd overall (they said 2,500 people were in this race) and 4th for my age group. (Edit: I placed 33rd of 1,453, I guess I misheard).

I was a little bummed but decided to stay in case it was a situation in which the Masters winner, etc. was in my age group and would bump me up to the podium. But it wasn't, and even worse, the announcer mentioned that 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the 40-49 age group finished with a race pace of 7:04/mile, 7:05/mile and 7:06/mile.

At first I was confused because my watch said my 22:13 was 7:06/mile but that was for 3.13 miles. For a 3.1 mile race, that is more like 7:09/mile. I haven't seen the results yet but I must have lost by 9 seconds or less (still an eternity in a 5K).

I didn't win my age group this time around but I felt extremely good in this race. I passed between six and nine people at the end of this race and am happy with two sub-7 miles. Who knows what will happen when I run that combination and do not find a 157' rise at the end?

As you may know, I'm a hill runner who is not fond of hills so I don't know what to think about running in this next year. But it was a wonderful family event for a good cause (raised $350K!) and the treats were really great!

Time: 8 a.m.
Temp: 68 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Atlanta Beltline Southwest 5K 2013), shorts, cep compression socks (green), Saucony Type A6.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Day 3,758: Atlanta Children's Shelter 5 to Thrive 5K

It's been six years since I was in the same age group as guys in their 30s so I'll take third place in the M35-49 age group!
Six weeks after running in my last 5K and right in the middle of a half marathon training cycle I put on my racing flats for the Atlanta Children's Center 5 to Thrive 5K at my training ground of Piedmont Park.

We learned about the race last year when a parent of our son's preschool classmate told us about it. She raises money for this race each year.

It seemed like a decent crowd for a community race -- I heard before the race that maybe 300 people had registered for it. I stood and waited while they had pre-race warmups -- I almost never do anything that I wouldn't normally do in other races.

And then the race was off. I remembered from last year's race that I started off way too fast and paid for it at the end, so I tried to slow myself down. Still there were a bunch of runners way ahead of me and I was still running at a 6:30/mile pace!

We went around the tennis courts and then back up around the Active Oval. There was a young guy, maybe 10 or 12 years old, who kept on zooming past me and kind of in front of me every time I would start to get ahead of him. It was maybe the first mile when I passed him.

 I could feel myself slowing but I looked down at my watch at this point and saw a 6:55/mile time and thought that was pretty decent effort. (It actually was 7:04 for the mile). I didn't look back at my pace the rest of the way.

I kept plugging along, entering the bowl near Park Tavern. At this point last year a guy passed me who later was the Masters winner. That didn't happen this year but later on, when we exited the bowl and took our last turn around Lake Clara Meer near Mile 2, a white guy in a yellow Ironman shirt passed me. There was really nothing I could do.

In addition, all race I'd been behind an African-American runner in a bright yellow shirt. He pretty much had me the whole race and there wasn't anything I could do about it. But right at Mile 2.41 (I looked at my watch at this point), when we were climbing the hill next to the tennis courts, he stopped for a second. I never got a chance to ask him later what happened.

I made my way to the top of the hill around the Active Oval and knew this would be a pretty fast finish. I felt my effort was good but it was nothing like the last race when I was able to run right behind a really fast runner (for a 6:45 mile!). The closest people ahead of me were at least 12 seconds ahead of me. I counted this as we neared and passed each orange cone on the way to the Mile 3 sign.

I was a little surprised when we finished and I looked up at the sign and it said 22:16! I didn't think I was running that slow (but now when I look at my Garmin data for some reason I really dropped off pace after exiting the bowl and running around Lake Clara Meer).

I finished at a steady effort (22:26 on my watch), not knowing until I saw the photo below that two guys were right behind me! (The last guy in the picture said as much to me after the race but I didn't have any idea how close it was!).

Almost at the finish.
We waited a little while and then when the awards came, they came with a twist. First they announced the top Masters runner as someone age 50 or older (instead of 40 or older typically). Then there were non-traditional age groups. Age groups typically are every 5 years or 10 years. My age group was the 35-49 category -- I haven't had to race against guys in their 30s for 6 years now!

So it was no surprise when they reeled off the names and first and second place went to someone else. I was relieved to have been named third place. My splits were 7:04/7:05/7:37 (with the last tenth at a 6:33/mile pace).

Even though 5Ks are no longer my focus this training cycle, I feel like I need to do a little more work on them, since I have three more races coming up before my half marathon. I am happy that my cadence was an average of 184 steps per minute, something that I would never have done in years past.

The post race stuff was excellent, with IceByrd frozen yogurt and KFC chicken tender sandwiches and even tiny cupcakes from a local baker. They had Easter baskets for children who registered for The Bunny Run.

Definitely made for a great start to the morning!

Time: 8 a.m.
Temp: 57 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Doug Kessler 10K), shorts, cep compression socks, Saucony Type A6.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Day 3,749: Another half marathon, for cheap

It's a good time to be a half marathon runner.
Up until yesterday, I wasn't sure what had happened to the Craft Classic Half Marathon in Atlanta. Last September's race seemed to be a success but when it came time to announcing the dates for sister races in San Diego and elsewhere, Atlanta's name was nowhere to be found.

But the race is back! It will take place Sept. 9 and is now owned by Junction 311 Endurance Sports with Roadrunner Sports as a presenting sponsor. Plus, they announced that the first 100 registrants would be able to run it for only $50.

As of this evening, there were still spots left at that price.

I have good memories of that race, running it in 1:43 for my second fastest half-marathon in 32 tries. The beer afterward was really good, too. The race starts and I think ends in Grant Park. There's no details of the course on their site.

Still, I'm on the fence whether to run in it again this year or not. I think I want to get through this spring's races before making definite plans for the fall. Still, very tempting and something to think about.