Thursday, November 30, 2017

Day 3,987: Lottery winner: BMW Berlin Marathon (or "Off the fence and into the fire")

Today before I even was able to get in my run of the day (7 miles easy on the schedule), I received an email notifying me that I won an entry into next September's BMW Berlin Marathon. It was my first time applying for the extremely fast race that has netted world record times.

It's also the first time I've been able to win a lottery entry into one of the three international marathons that are in the Abbott World Major Marathon series (the other three are in the U.S., Boston, New York and Chicago). I've tried without success to get into the London Marathon for several years and did not get into my lone attempt to win a lottery draw for Tokyo a few years ago (I forgot to apply this year).

I put "Off the fence and into the fire" into the title of today's post because the announcement also pushed me towards running in a race that I've thought about for several months, the March 8 Snickers Marathon in Albany, Ga.

All month I've actually been following the Hansons Marathon Method schedule but hadn't signed up yet. This month's 166.85 miles that I ran is my highest mileage since November 2016, coming off of the Chicago Marathon a month earlier that year.

For the last four weeks I felt that running in a run-heavy schedule of 40+ miles a week was a good way to get in shape without necessarily committing to a race distance that I've yet to conquer.

But now that I have a chance to run in my second World Major Marathon (I've run in Chicago twice, in 2010 and last year), it seems logical to put myself through training over the winter to work out the issues I've had.

It would be nice to get through a marathon strong, without hitting the wall and without the painful calf cramps. I'd love to see exactly what the same kind of training I did in 2016 would have resulted in if I hadn't developed a stress fracture in my shin.

I'm really glad now I let myself take a break from marathons for a whole year and now am looking forward to being fresh for the two races next year.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Atlanta Track Club's great Cyber Monday deal

It's Cyber Monday, so that means great deals on the Internet, including at the Atlanta Track Club! There's a 30 percent discount that lasts today only for items on their site, including shoes, clothes and even New York City marathon winner Shalane Flanagan's Run Fast Eat Slow cookbook.

Everything means everything however, and that includes an item that usually is not discounted -- membership to the ATC, which provides guaranteed entry to the July 4th AJC Peachtree Road Race and member discounts on that race and others by the ATC, including the popular Publix Georgia Marathon and Half Marathon and the Thanksgiving Day Half Marathon. Certain other races are free for members as well.

Typically an individual membership costs $35; a dual (for two people) is $60 and a membership for the whole family is $75.

Many people probably don't realize the track club sells memberships in their online store. I learned of this last year when the club announced they were planning to raise their membership fees for 2017, so I bought a gift membership for the wife (that would cover the both of us), locking in the 2016 rate.

The code is CYBERMON30, if the picture above doesn't show up.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Day 3,980: Thanksgiving Day Half Marathon

My eighth running of this race in the last 10 years.
I signed up for this race last month at the last minute thinking it would be good to have some hill work leading up to December's JG13.1,

It turned out to be a race in which I was snakebit in all kinds of ways. But I was able to power through and probably ran one of the fastest times I've run this race -- if you take out the delays I had.

First, I thought I would be able to leave home and arrive with as little time as possible. I used my sneaky route up Georgia Avenue from Grant Park to get to the Gold Lot. Unfortunately, when I got here about 7:15 a.m. -- 15 minutes before the race start -- the lot was packed! I wasn't sure I would get a space but I ultimately did. Parking was kind of at a premium.

Then I waited in my car until five minutes before the race started. Where I parked was a little further from the start than I thought so no problem, I started trotting ahead and saw the Wave A sign, getting there with a few seconds to spare.

The only thing was on my side of the road, the corral was fenced off! I went to the sign thinking I could just enter there, but no!

Wave A started and I had a choice. I knew it wasn't kosher to hop the fence, but that's what I did and immediately started running ... for a bit. At .41 miles, the shoelace in my left shoe became untied so I stopped off to the side and tied it before continuing.

Just after 1.5 miles I really felt like I needed to stop and use the bathroom. This really hasn't happened to me since I ran the Portland Marathon in 2000. I saw a private lot with two porta-potties so I went over to those. But they were zip-tied! So I crossed back over the course and went over to CNN Center, where I have had bathroom stops on long runs in the past. But at first the guard didn't think it was open. Another guard said it was, so I went in.

This whole exchange cost me about eight minutes and an extra half mile to my half marathon. When I came back to the race (I made sure I entered at exactly the spot I left), I was running with the 2:15 pace group!

I decided that I would treat this as a fun run but I also wanted to run as steadily as I could. I eventually started catching up with the 2-hour pace group (I was passing pacers in this group from Mile 4 to Mile 10) and I wondered if I would break 2 hours because of my detour.

But I continued. I felt great, churning away the miles into Piedmont Park. Just before Mile 7, the shoelace in my right shoe became untied so I stopped on the side of the course (just under the basketball courts) and tied my shoe and went on. It was great to be running on my home turf and I didn't have any signs of slowing like I did in the past.

When we exited the park I made sure I ran carefully up the hills on 10th Street and Juniper. In the past running on Courtland Street back into downtown would wear me down but I ran one of my fastest miles of the race here in 8:05 for Mile 9.

We continued up the steep hill right when you get on John Wesley Dobbs and onto Irwin Street. Right before Mile 10 I decided to take off my long-sleeved technical shirt and just wear my short sleeve Team Beef technical shirt. I'd never done this in a race but I was starting to get uncomfortable wearing the layers.

It resulted in me juggling my Headsweats visor, my sunglasses, my wireless headphones, my short sleeve shirt and then my long-sleeved one. It actually felt great to be wearing no shirt at all for the short segment that I didn't have it on. Then I finally figured out the right way to put on my red shirt and for a few seconds I couldn't see anything around me! Luckily I didn't run into anyone or anything.

At Mile 10 I decided to eat a GU gel because I felt like I neede an extra boost. We turned down onto the suicide lane of DeKalb Avenue just like we ran the other way in the Craft Classic Half Marathon. I still felt pretty strong here and by Mile 11 I reasoned I would have a good shot at breaking 2 hours if I could just run 10-minute miles.

At Mile 12 I was still running strong and knew I only needed to negotiate the double stacked hill on Mitchell Street near the Capitol Avenue. Just on the first part of this section a burly guy running ran into my left side and instinctively I pushed him away with my arm and continued up the hill.

On Capitol Avenue going down to the Memorial Drive intersection there were two young women who were starting to run fast. The section over the interstate is basically hill, hill over interstate, then downhill. I don't think I caught them but I really started to kick it on the last portion of the race, but really waiting until I passed the Mile 13 sign. I had lots of energy for the finish and negotiated the final .13 miles at a 5:48/mile pace, which was a great sign of my running. Finished in 1:55:48 and this easily could have been in the 1:47/1:48 range without stops.

It was a real relief to finally get a good race in, even if circumstances won't reflect it in the final time. I really didn't know what to say after the last three races in which I constantly was being blown up after the first five miles of the races. I think being back on the Hansons program has been helpful with additional weekly mileage and speed/tempo work.

Postscript: I see this race is called the "Thanksgiving Day Half Marathon" but will always be the Atlanta Half Marathon to me. Plus the Atlanta Track Club changed the course again (a straight section on John Wesley Dobbs to Irwin Street instead of turning down Boulevard), the third different course I've run on in the last 10 years).

Time: 7:30 a.m.
Temp: 43 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, long (Locomotive Half '10), Technical T-shirt, short (Team BEEF), shorts, visor, sunglasses, Newton Gravity V.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Day 3,961: Rock'n'Roll Savannah Half Marathon

SAVANNAH, Ga. -- After major disappointments in October with the Army Ten Miler and the Atlanta 10-Miler, I hoped to rebound with a race I've always wanted to run: the Rock'n'Roll Savannah Half Marathon.

I'd always wanted to run in it but never was able to have my schedule work out for it. This year there was a kind of serendipity, some friends were going to be in town and the race was introduced at a heavily discounted price of about $50 after another company purchased the Rock'n'Roll series.

Despite that, we had to plan the trip around the race expo. We arrived on the expo's first day, Thursday, since we'd heard horror stories of the traffic jams that happen on the second day, Friday, when most people from out of town attend the expo. The expo is across the river from Savannah on Hutchinson Island and the only way you can get there is by car over a highway bridge or by ferry.

Arriving on Thursday was a breeze. We got in, got our bibs, enjoyed the expo, including a crazy booth sponsored by Brooks where you had to grab as many colored tickets as you could while they swirled around you (one of them was a ticket for a free pair of shoes). I didn't get to do this, but the wife did ... and I probably don't have the permission to post the pictures, lol.

Afterward we checked into our hotel, which was the Courtyard by Marriott, which was convenient since it was about three-quarters of a mile away from the race start at Bay and Bull streets and a half-mile from the finish at Forsyth Park.

On race day I made my way down to the start. It was pretty crowded but my corral was conveniently the first one. I felt a little concerned given my recent race performances and the fact that when I applied for the race I thought a 1:35 half marathon time would be a good goal. (When the race started, I saw a 1:45 pace flag in the first corral so I didn't feel too bad about being there).

This year because of heat concerns, the race announced the start would be 10 minutes earlier than the scheduled 7:30 a.m. start. No big deal. It was actually a little cool and breezy and the conditions really reminded me of some years doing the Publix Georgia Half Marathon.

We started and it wasn't crazy fast. Visibility was pretty good, I think it was only 30 minutes before sunrise there.

The first five miles are out along an industrial area, which is not really that interesting. My hope was to run maybe an 8-minute mile pace and I largely succeeded in going about 8:05/mile for the first three miles. Mile 4 was 8:13 and I was a little worried about the dreaded slowdown.

Mile 5 was 8:36 and so I knew I would be slowing. Incidentally a third of a mile into Mile 5 you are in the downtown area and this included some brick-lined streets, which reminded me a lot of running in the Ukrops Monument Avenue 10K last year in Richmond, Va. Fortunately I was wearing some very cushioned shoes that I'd never before used in a race, my Hoka One One Clifton 3s because of a weird happenstance.

When I checked into the hotel on Thursday, I immediately realized something was wrong -- I had a bag containing my Clifton 3s, which I only have used on very easy runs, and a pair of flip flops. The shoes I'd planned on using in the race, my Newton Gravity Vs, were nowhere to be seen. I lamented leaving them at home in the study while carrying the other bag instead.

So here I was in the race, clip-clopping along with a pair of shoes I had never raced in. They actually felt fine.

By Mile 7 I'd slowed to about a 9-minute mile pace and I stayed at this rate for two miles until I slowed to 9:45 for Mile 9. When you go 1-2 minutes per mile slower than you started out, you get lots of people passing you. I slid into the slowest mile time for a non-marathon race in recent memory at Mile 10, 10:20.

But it was here that I realized that if I somehow kept my running under a 10-minute mile for the last 3 miles I would at least break 2 hours. So I focused on this and told myself Mile 11 would be crucial (9:21) to set up a good Mile 12 (9:06) to make sure I had enough time banked to break 2 hours in case I had a bad last mile.

But I continued at this pace (9:05) for Mile 13, despite being warned that this last mile has a gradual hill. It looked like two separate hills, really nothing to be concerned when you run in Atlanta every day (and have experienced the mega-hills of the Atlanta 10-Miler).

I was glad to see the Mile 26 sign for the marathon portion of the race, since it meant I had .2/mile to go! I waited until I passed the Mile 13 marker and then just kicked it the last tenth of a mile at a satisfactory pace (6:34/mile).

I finished and I was glad! 1:56:04, which is my slowest half marathon in two years but definitely something that has been instructive to me. I did the distance, running at least 10 miles in training runs and having done two 10-mile races prior to this race. But I did not do very well with interval training (when I tried to do 7:15/mile interval runs for a 1:35 half pace it did not work out as well as I wanted) and my speedwork was choppy.

I remain confident that I have the speed to run the way I would like (I've run under 1:50 in 11 of the 34 half marathons I've run) and sometimes a(nother) slow race is a good kick in the pants to get myself going. Of course, I've been saying this and writing this since August, so I will have to focus and make sure I put down the right road work for a good spring.

As a postscript, it was only after I returned back to Atlanta that I discovered I had brought my Newton running shoes all along! They had fallen in between the second and third row of seats in my car and I did not notice them in my rush to unpack the car when we had to leave it with the hotel valet (the only parking option we had with the hotel).

Time: 7:20 a.m.
Temp: 57 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, sleeveless (Team BEEF), shorts, cep compression socks, Phidippides Headsweats visor, Nike X1 sunglasses, Hoka One One Clifton 3.