Sunday, October 22, 2017

Day 3,948: PNC Atlanta 10-Miler

Medal from my third Atlanta 10-Miler
I signed up for this race at the last minute to be a tune-up for the Nov. 4 Rock'n'Roll Savannah Half Marathon.

The course is new this year (incidentally the three times I've run in this race each time was on a different course), with the Atlanta Track Club marketing this as a race where you can run down Cardiac Hill, not up as in the Peachtree Road Race.

(It turns out that, according to Frank's blog, the old route up Cardiac Hill would have blocked access to Piedmont Hospital. Running down Cardiac Hill would leave this entrance open as runners ran along the opposite side of the road).

I also felt like my slow race in the Army Ten Miler two weeks ago was some kind of fluke because of the humidity, so I looked forward to trying to make a PR on this course.

As I did in 2015, I parked along Peachtree Street, this time right across from the High Museum of Art. Last time I did it was because of the huge backup of cars on the 17th Street bridge over I-75/85 and to be able to return home quickly without being in a big traffic jam.

I ran over the 17th Street bridge to get to the race start, stopping at a short row of porta potties the race put out. It was fortunate that I did because when I got to Atlantic Station the line was huge for the porta potties there.

This was the first time (ever?) that I used the gear check. I felt like it would be good to have some things accessible immediately afterward, including a change of shoes, a T-shirt and towel as well as a few nuun tablets and a container of Muscle Milk.

I had only a few minutes before the race started when I got to my corral, Wave A. It was packed. When the race started it was pretty congested. I wasn't in any hurry and felt like I would pick up my pace as the race went on. Mile 1 was 8:28.

We continued along Peachtree down the second hill that you get after running up Cardiac Hill in the Peachtree Road Race. My pace felt easy and I logged an 8:07. After here you went through the race's Cardiac Hill challenge, to be one of the fastest 100 people to run this 1-mile stretch. There were a lot of people increasing their pace here -- I thought it was fool's gold, considering the monster hills on the back half of the course (I ran down Cardiac Hill in 8:10).

At Mile 3 (8:08), you are on Peachtree Hills and there are two pretty big hills along this stretch. I couldn't remember exactly what this stretch was like so I ran up these carefully. Closer to Lindbergh Drive I recognized this area from some geocaching-related running I'd done in the past. The hills slowed me to 8:32 for Mile 4.

Then we finally got to Piedmont and the site of the I-85 bridge fire. I've run in this section in the past but it's a little tricky to go under the overpass when traffic is busy, especially on the west side where the I-85 ramp is. Mile 5 was 8:04.

After this there is a gradual hill up to Cheshire Bridge Road. I felt pretty good here, since I was close to my own neighborhood. But even on the downhill, lots of people were passing me. There wasn't much I could do. I logged Mile 6 in 9:04 and before this was the CLIF gel station.

I wasn't going to get one (I carried a GU gel for this purpose) but at the last moment I decided to get one and when I reached my arm out, my left calf started to cramp. I was a little surprised at this since I've been running the 10-mile distance recently with no problems.

Then the course goes up the Piedmont Avenue hill near where I proposed to my wife during a run 6 years ago. I ran this carefully, knowing that there would be the killer 12th Street hill outside Piedmont Park. The course cut into the Botanical Gardens and around the oval where Mile 7 was (9:10).

I slowly made my way up the 12th Street hill and then picked up the pace a little bit on Juniper, although I knew that right after you cross 10th Street it is a series of rolling hills for three blocks. But after that, you turn down 6th Street for a downhill section. Mile 8 here was 8:56. About a quarter-mile later I started to get subtle cramps in both my calves that would intermittently happen the rest of the race.

We cut onto West Peachtree and I was surprised for a second. My map that I downloaded before I signed up last month had Spring as the turn. But this is actually better since the part of 6th that goes to Spring is narrow and would bottleneck. Here my GPS watch started to go haywire and gave me ridiculous splits of 7:15 and 6:22 (I extrapolated that maybe I ran these last two miles at an average of 9:13/mile). It also said I ran 10.71 miles, which I know isn't true.

It was good knowing the end was soon. But I wasn't sure if I would run this slower than the Army Ten Miler. I ended up crossing in 1:26:58, about 30 seconds faster than my effort two weeks ago. I'm glad I did the race. It is hilly but I liked the course. I'm not sure it's USATF-certified, as there's nothing listed in the search but ironically they still have listed with USATF the old 2013 Atlanta 10-Miler course that was basically "do the last 10 miles of our marathon course."

So I'm back in a puzzle. It wasn't even 5 months ago that I posted a half marathon PR of 1:39:14. I guess my training has taken a hit, I've been sick and this was pretty hilly. Yet I know that I still have that old cat speed and endurance. It just might take a little more prodding than usual to see better results.

Time: 7:15 a.m.
Temp: 57 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Team BEEF), shorts, cep compression socks, visor (Headsweats nuun), sunglasses (Nike Show X1 Pro), Nike Zoom Fly.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Day 3,934: Army Ten Miler

The Army Ten Miler course.
ARLINGTON, Va. -- I'd first heard about this race a few years ago from a neighbor whose family had run it many times over the years.

At the time I went to the website to find out when it was. Unfortunately that was when registration had started and the whole system was frozen! I was never able to tell when the race was held!

So when this year's registration started in June, I decided to register for the race. I got in and started planning, noticing that I could rely on my experience in the 2014 Marine Corps Marathon, namely that both races start in roughly the same place, one of the outer parking lots of the Pentagon.

For the 2014 marathon, I stayed at the Residence Inn in Arlington, which was a great place since it was within walking distance of the Pentagon lots. This year, the hotel was booked and I stayed a little further down in Crystal City at a hotel called the Americana. It was a great place to stay since it is only a few blocks from the Metro station and also a brand-new Whole Foods Market where I filled up on beet salad and spaghetti the day before the race.

I knew it was going to be warm the day of the race but on race morning the temperature was similar to this year's Peachtree Road Race -- 76 degrees and humid. Even though I was less than a half-mile's run from the Pentagon, I had to make sure I got there in plenty of time since the cutoff for entering into the first four waves (I was in the first wave) was at 7:30 a.m. Plus, given recent security concerns, I was not sure how long it would take for me to get through security.

So I started out at 6:50 a.m. and really breezed through security. I got to my wave in plenty of time and waited around a little bit before the race started. When it did, it was crushingly humid. I didn't have a set time in mind -- with my training I knew I was going to be slower than what I'd intended on training -- but I was surprised that I was having trouble running faster. An early glance at my watch said I was running about an 8 minute mile.

I finished the first mile in 7:50 and then struggled to get speed on the second, finishing a little faster at 7:40. After that, it started to rain lightly but with the rain came a nice breeze that lasted the rest of my race. I took my first water at about 2.4 miles.

By this time I could tell trouble was brewing. I finished Mile 3, which has the only significant rise in the race, at 8:17 and just told myself to take it easy. I forgot to bring a GU gel with me and only had a caffeinated Run Gum packet. I'd originally hoped to use this for later in the race but the way things were going I ate it before Mile 4. It helped boost my confidence.

At this point I divided the race up into two mile sections and this one was very familiar to me. It overlaps the course of the Marine Corps Marathon and the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler, which I've run twice.

It was nice to just trot through the National Mall and when we exited onto the highway that brings you over the Potomac River into Crystal City, I noted that although I was running slow (Mile 7 was 9:10), at least on this stretch I did not have to struggle with calf muscle cramping like I did in the 2014 marathon.

I made my way into Virginia and soon you could tell the finish was coming. I finished in 1:27:30, which was a far cry from my 1:22:16 PR from a few years ago in the Atlanta 10-Miler. Coming into this race I thought it would be nearly a given I would PR on a flat course (and) only having to run an 8-minute mile pace.

But of course no race is a given and I was pretty fortunate to have slowed down and run carefully in the humid conditions. During the race I passed by three people who were receiving medical attention, something that I have seen in hot races in the past such as the 2010 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

After I finished, the race trimmed a mile off the course because of the hot conditions, diverting people from the mall directly onto the highway back to Virginia.

If there's a silver lining to my race performance, I've nearly always rebounded from slow races with much better results in subsequent months. Today's race reminded me of the pretty slow showing I put up in the Atlanta 10-Miler in October 2013, followed up by almost not being able to finish in two hours the Atlanta Thanksgiving Half Marathon.

Those races set me up for a marathon push that ultimately led to my first sub-4 hour finish in the Marine Corps Marathon the following year.

But if anything else, I need to recognize that I have to remain more diligent with my training, especially getting in the right amount of weekly miles and tempo runs.

Time: 8:01 a.m.
Temp: 76 degrees, light rain
Gear: Singlet (Nuun, Pactimo Sports), shorts, Headsweats visor (Phidippides), Newton Gravity V.